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Catch the Stars

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 Trailer made by @mimimiruku_

 

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The bus hits a pothole and Mingyu stirs, bangs his head against the window from where he was trying to take a nap. He lets out a sigh of frustration; it isn’t like he would’ve been able to fall asleep, anyway.

A few other people in the bus grumble in annoyance and the old driver from the front shouts “Don’t complain to me. Learn to vote for the right man next time!”

Another debate about their current president not taking care of the roads in this area because of political reasons arises and Mingyu sighs, tilting his head back and closing his eyes in hopes of getting a few more minutes of sleep in before they arrive.

The sun filters through the leaves and branches of the trees, shadows dancing across Mingyu’s face, his skin altering between cooling off and warming up. He brings a hand up to rub at his stinging eyes, raw and burning from the lack of rest they received in the past few nights.

Mingyu almost feels like he’s six again.

Back when there was nothing more exciting than spending his summer at the place they’re driving towards now.

But it’s different now, isn’t it? His parents are back at home because of their work and someone will not be there to greet him like he did last time.

Something lodges itself in his throat and he yanks his earphones out, gulping as he directs his gaze outside instead.

The fields around them seem endless, mostly just huge spaces of nothing but grass with the occasional cluster of sparse trees and bushes, followed by yellow cornfields, or a sea of rainbow colors where flowers are blooming on the untouched lands.

If he wasn’t seeing this with his own eyes, he’d almost think it was a scenery right out of a movie, the ones where Hayao Miyazaki was at work.

The sky is blue, a few harmless clouds sticking around and a droplet of sweat runs over Mingyu’s temple in the sweltering heat inside of the bus.

He remembers all of this, remembers sticking his head out of the window and touching the flowers to pluck them, while his dad was driving the car up these hills.

It smells like chocolate and orange cookies in the bus because the mother behind him opened up a pack for her toddler who’s happily munching on them and scattering crumbs all over the place while he’s eyeing his surroundings with wide eyes.

The bus is filled with what Mingyu doesn’t want to call villagers, but one look at their calloused hands from manual labour, probably, and their clothing is enough to confirm where they are from and where they’re going.

And here he is, a twenty-one year old boy from the city, listening to his Spotify playlist on the newest iPhone model, his Macbook and sleeping pills stored securely in his bag, wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt and jeans he bought for 70’000 Won when they were on sale.

He doesn’t miss the curious looks the mostly older people in the bus keep shooting him, doesn’t miss the hushed discussions about who he might be and what business he has up here in the mountains in a village that has a population count of about 100.

His mom warned him about this; that his visit might attract some attention since it’s not every day that the villagers get to see a new face. So Mingyu doesn’t let himself be bothered by it and shoots them polite smiles whenever he catches them staring.

It would be different if he'd bothered to drive up here from time to time. Like, he hasn't stepped a foot in that village in fifteen years. And why? 

Yeah, Mingyu would like to ask his past self the same question. 

The sun starts to fade little by little as sudden fog settles down around them, thick enough to block Mingyu’s view from everything outside. He shoots a mildly concerned look to the front where the old driver is sitting but the man is still generally speeding up the narrow road like he doesn’t give a single shit, like there isn’t a dangerous slope on the side, and Mingyu thinks he might not even get to see his grandmother after all.

The woman next to him chuckles at the obvious distress on his face. “Don’t worry, son. Uncle Changho has been driving these roads for thirty years. He knows them like the back of his hand.”

Mingyu gives her a smile. “Is it always so foggy up here?”

She hums, her face full of wrinkles even though she doesn’t seem to be that old yet. “The weather does what it wants up here. Once we’ve passed Cheumsan the sun will be back out again. That’s why we tell newcomers to bring some winter clothes, too, when they visit during summer.”

Mingyu blinks at her like an idiot. He didn’t bring any winter clothes. His mom didn’t say anything about that.

She chuckles. “There are a few clothes shops in Cheumsan if you want to get yourself a jacket.”

“Okay. Thank you.” He mumbles awkwardly, nodding his head.

The bus comes to a stop after another ten minutes and Mingyu realizes that they’ve arrived in what has to be Cheumsan. It’s very small but seems to be quite busy since there are people and cars everywhere despite the heavy fog lingering in the air.

Mingyu stretches his back and shivers, still completely baffled by how cold the weather’s gotten in a matter of minutes the higher up they drove.

“It’s the only town in this area that has a hospital, or proper shops. That’s why all the people from surrounding villages come here.” The woman from before explains. “You should really consider buying a jacket. It’s cold out there.”

Mingyu nods his head and picks up his bag, waiting for the elderly to get off the bus so he can get out too. He shivers when he’s outside, his bare arms prickling with goosebumps.

It isn’t just a little chilly; it’s absolutely freezing, full on winter mode when it was practically thirty degrees a few hours ago when he boarded the bus.

Most people from the bus have already rushed inside the grocery store while Mingyu is eyeing the buildings for a shop that might sell clothes. Once he spots once, he rushes inside to get away from the cold.

There’s a young girl sitting behind the counter, tapping away on her phone which she quickly puts away to shoot Mingyu a curious look.

“Hey,” Mingyu greets awkwardly. “I need a jacket and uh, a hoodie or something.”

The girl nods her head and gets up to show him a few options and Mingyu doesn’t even bother trying them on before he takes the jacket and two sweaters.

He grabs his wallet and hands her a couple of notes once she puts the items inside a bag. The girl stares at the notes, her face falling a bit. She grabs half of them from his hand and pushes the rest away. “You’re from the city, aren’t you?” She huffs. “It’s 40’000 Won.”

Mingyu’s mouth drops open, and he feels absolutely stupid. “But that’s—“ So cheap.

“It’s what people around here can afford,” She snaps a little, before sitting back down behind the desk, picking her phone up, her interest in Mingyu having diminished rather quickly.

Mingyu stands there like an idiot, contemplating wether he should say something but figures he already looks like an asshole in her eyes. He sighs and leaves the store feeling like a prick. He didn’t mean to come across like that.

He shakes it off and walks back to the bus where he sees the woman from before carrying a bunch of bags on her own. He hurries to help her and receives a warm, thankful smile.

Mingyu gives a smile of his own and carries the bags inside, sitting down and waiting for a few minutes until everyone is back inside so they can hit the road again.

The weather gets better after that and once they’ve driven through the fog, clear sunset-sky greets them again. Mingyu doesn’t even bother questioning it anymore. This place always felt kind of mystical to him, almost unreal to a certain degree, so it makes sense for the weather to be this crazy.

“Look, uncle Hui’s shop!” The little kid behind exclaims, pointing at a tiny building ahead, the only sign of civilisation around them. “Are we home now?”

“Yes, sweetheart, we’re back,” The mother answers.

Mingyu lets his eyes travel over the yellow-green fields, the setting sun bathing everything into warm shades of orange and pink. He spots a bunch of abandoned train tracks and railroad crossings amidst flowers and growing vegetable fields and other  modern things like high transformation towers and seemingly endlessly long power lines stretching across the sky among all the nature.

They drive past a Canola field, men and women wearing cute white hats working in between the rows of yellow flowers.  

His eyes then catch a skewed and rusted blue sign.

Welcome to Gungsan.

The first thing he sees of the village are cows hanging out at the tiny bus stop where a sad looking red bench is situated. The driver honks to make the cows leave the middle of the road, cursing under his breath when the animals take their sweet time making way. Mingyu grins to himself and the boy in the passenger seat reaches his hand out the window, patting the side of a brown cow that’s chewing on some grass.

There isn’t much to the village. It’s tiny; in fact, it’s so small and insignificant that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, let alone a mark on whatever map you look at. Like the village doesn’t even exist, completely unnoticed and sadly forgotten between the forests and fields and how it’s situated somewhere between the mountains.

The houses are small and look like they desperately need some work done on them, but they’re all very colorful and Mingyu thinks they’re okay considering how little money the people living here have. A middle aged woman wearing one of those comfy looking, flowery pants is taking down laundry in her garden and shoots them a curious look when they pass. Mingyu has no idea who she is, even though he should technically know every person living in this village.  

He spots a group of kids playing on the soccer field in front of the old school of the village, hears them scream and laugh. He distinctly remembers playing there with some other boys whenever he visited as a kid, though he doesn’t remember any faces or names.

He briefly wonders what happened to them, if they’re still living here.  

He doubts it.

When he gets off at the bus stop, his grandmother is already waiting for him with a big smile on her face, a straw hat sitting on top of her head to protect her from the sun. Mingyu grins back at her and before he knows it, she’s already trying to squeeze the life out of him, fussing over his height and how handsome he is.

She seems more alive here in the village. Mingyu sees her every year but only during Christmas when she's staying in her other house in the city.

He never visits her up here but it seems like she's in her element here, blooming and vibrant.

Mingyu feels a pang in his chest, because it should be his granddad’s turn next for a hug, but his granddad is somewhere far away now.

His grandmother doesn’t miss the dull look in his eyes and pats his cheek. “Come on, let’s go home and get you settled in.”

When they walk off together Mingyu spots a group of guys hanging around the bus stop, all of them eyeing Mingyu like they’re watching a lion step out of his cage. One of them scoffs and rolls his eyes before turning away and Mingyu just groans in the inside.

Great. All the guys his age already hate him. Usually he gets that kind of reaction after he opened his mouth but this time, he didn’t even get that far.

 

 

If there’s one thing Mingyu knows, it’s that his grandparents belong to the… more wealthy part of the village.

In other words, they owned the most land and consecutively also the largest house.

It made sense, because Mingyu’s granddad used to be the mayor, before he passed away six years ago. 

Mingyu saw him that winter, visited them in their house in the city where they always used to move whenever it got too cold in the mountains to stay there. That's the only thing he's glad about, that he got to see his granddad one last time before they received a call in the middle of the night five weeks later, informing them about his sudden passing. 

Mingyu walks through the metal gate and can already see their garden with the tree he remembers through his grandma’s crops. The house looks very peaceful; painted in a pretty red brick color, surrounded by neatly cut grass (who cuts it, though?) and colourful flowers.

Mainly sunflowers. They’re everywhere, vibrant and in full bloom and it makes Mingyu smile because there’s probably not a single person in this village that doesn’t know about his granddad’s love for sunflowers.

And then there are two tress, where the swing Mingyu used to play on is still hanging.

He remembers it because they have a picture of him swinging on it at home. His granddad put that up for him, probably hoping it would make Mingyu visit him more, but Mingyu never did, because the city was more exciting.

There’s a sudden bark coming from the side and Mingyu whips his head around, heart rate already accelerating at the prospect of meeting a dog.

And sure enough, there is a full grown dog with orange fur at the top that transfers into white fur at the bottom, it’s tail wiggling widely as it looks up at Mingyu from where it’s tied up on a long leash, jumping around in excitement and Mingyu may or may not be tearing up.

“You have a dog?” He squeals and runs over to crouch down and pet it, cooing when the dog gets so excited it’s paws get all tangled up in the leash. “You have an Akita! Why didn't you tell us? Grandma, oh my fuck—“ He trails off at the glare he receives from her and chuckles awkwardly, still hugging the dog.

She chuckles and reaches out to let the dog nuzzle into her palm. “One of the farmers had a litter of puppies last year and since it gets a little lonely here I decided to take one. His name is Pumpkin.”

Mingyu pouts and squeezes the dog’s cheeks and swears the puppy is smiling at Mingyu and Mingyu wants to cry from happiness. “He’s so cute! Grandma, I love him. I’m gonna have to take him home with me when I leave, I’m sorry, it’s not even debatable.”

His grandmother laughs and ruffles his hair. “Come on, you can play with him later. Let’s get your things inside.”

Mingyu reluctantly lets go of Pumpkin and follows his grandma to the front door. He’s careful to walk behind her up the stairs so she doesn’t trip or anything.

There aren’t many rooms inside but they’re all very spacious. There are two floors, two bathrooms, a kitchen, three bedrooms and one large living room. The walls are all painted in a warm shade of yellow, a sort of pastel tone, and he remembers his mom telling him that his granddad chose the color because his grandma wouldn’t let him paint it in the bright yellow sunflower shade he originally wanted.

His grandmother shows him his room and Mingyu can’t stop smiling when he steps inside; it almost looks like they prepared it just for him because it reminds him a lot of his own bedroom back at his parents’ house. There a king sized bed in the middle, a table under the large window with an office chair in front of it.

“You have your own bathroom,” His grandmother explains, pointing at the door inside the room. “I tried to make it as comfortable for you as I could—“

“Grandma.” Mingyu’s bottom lip almost quivers. He just feels so bad. Where is his granddad? It’s been years since his death but coming back here rips open old wounds and bring memories of his grandfathers’ warm laughter back. “It’s perfect. I love it, I promise.”

She smiles at him, relieved. “Good, I’m glad. Now I’ll leave you to sort your things out. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.”

“Okay, thank you,” Mingyu says, waiting for her to leave the room before he walks to the bed and falls down on it face first. The sheets smell… like home. Like childhood. Like careless days spent outside in the sun, his granddad pushing him on the swing and his grandma bringing cut up fruit and banana milk outside for him.

But he’s an adult now; an adult whose doctor advised him to take a break from school before his insomnia can do too much damage on his body, he was too busy growing up and chasing after popularity and wealth in the city to spend more time with his granddad before he passed away, and he’s not even a fraction as happy as he was back in those days.

He can’t help but feel like little Mingyu and his grandfather would be really disappointed to see what he turned into.

 

 

When Mingyu joins his grandmother in the kitchen half an hour later after taking a shower, she’s busy cooking dinner and gently singing along to the radio playing somewhere in the house.

“Can I help you with something?”

She says no, of course. “I’m sorry but dinner isn’t ready yet. I had a lot of work to do on the field today and I—“

“Grandma, please. It’s okay. I won’t starve.” Mingyu smiles at her reassuringly.

“It will be ready in an hour. Why don’t you go outside and explore a little?”

“Explore?” Mingyu juts his lower lip out. “I don’t think I remember my way around.”

She gives him a long look before nodding her head. “Let me call Wonwoo, he can show you around,” She says, drying her hands to pick up her phone.

Mingyu squirms around a little, feeling uncomfortable. He’s not that good with strangers, and so far he’s been met with mixed reactions for being from the city, so he can only imagine that other guys his age won’t be welcoming him with open arms.

“Grandma, it’s really okay—“

“Oh, nonsense.” She shakes her head. “Wonwoo is a good kid. He’s a bit closed off but he’s been helping me out on the farm a lot since your grandfather passed away. I already told him you were going to visit—Oh, yes, Wonwoo!”

Mingyu sighs and sags against the wall, looking out of the open window to see a truck driving through the village. The back is filled with people and it looks like they’re coming back from work.

“Yes, Mingyu just got here. Are you busy right now?” She asks and Mingyu stops listening in order to go and use the toilet again. He just went but he tends to pee a lot when he’s nervous or stressed, which he basically is every hour of the day, anyway.

Mingyu takes his sweet time washing his hands and freezes a little, wondering if he can be as wasteful with water as he is in the city. He decides not to take any chances and turns the faucet off quickly before leaving the bathroom.

“He’s waiting downstairs for you,” His grandmother says, back at the stove. She hasn’t sat down once ever since Mingyu got here. “Be back for dinner, will you?”

“Yeah, okay," Mingyu mumbles, nibbling on his lower lip. Should he go hug her? Who cares. He goes and hugs her, feeling her relax in his hold. “Bye, grandma.”

She gives him a warm, loving smile, that makes some of Mingyu’s anxiety ebb away. He might feel a bit distant to her but every word from her is filled with so much love that Mingyu can’t help but feel at home already.

Mingyu puts on his shoes and grabs his phone before walking down the stairs, opening the door and stepping outside into the setting sun to find a boy crouched down in front of Pumpkin, petting him.

He looks like any other guy from the back; a pair of dirty sneakers, worn out jeans, a brown plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His hair looks like a light brown, but not dyed, more like bleached by the sun.

Mingyu clears his throat and the guy turns around and gets up to reveal his face, his eyes quickly scanning Mingyu from head to toe.

He has a handsome face; full lips, sharp eyes, bronzed skin. Mingyu can’t help but notice those things about him, and a dark voice in the back of his head scolds him for it. It sounds a lot like his dad, but Mingyu blanks it out before it can give him the jitters and chase away any chances of sleep tonight.

Pumpkin barks, making them both flinch and stop staring at each other.

“Uh,” The guy awkwardly starts. “You’re Mingyu?” He asks, his face still mostly blank. His voice is deep but warm and he doesn’t sound too hostile.

Yet.

"I sure am." Mingyu nods his head. “And I'm guessing you’re Wonwoo?”

Wonwoo blinks at him, and smiles a bit, even though it looks painfully forced. “Yeah. Uhm. I’m supposed to show you around. Because our village has many exciting things to see, apparently.” He has a very strong accent, one Mingyu already knows from his grandparents (and sometimes from his mom, whenever she gets angry), but it sounds rather strange when it’s a young person like him talking.

Mingyu chuckles awkwardly and Wonwoo starts turning away, motioning for Mingyu to follow him.

Pumpkin gives Mingyu actual puppy eyes and Mingyu can’t resist. He doesn’t even try.

“Can we take Pumpkin with us?”

Wonwoo stops and looks at the dog, shrugging his shoulders. “Sure.” He walks over to the dog and gets the leash off of him.

“Doesn’t he need a leash?”

“He doesn’t run off.” Wonwoo says. “He follows you around wherever you go, so don’t worry.”

Which turns out to be true; Pumpkin walks ahead of them but he stops and waits for them to catch up every now and then and Mingyu’s already making actual plans on how to take Pumpkin back with him and if Seungcheol will be okay keeping a dog at their apartment.

There aren’t many people out and about; just a couple of elderly couples that stop them to ask who Mingyu is. Mingyu does a lot of bows in the next few minutes, introducing himself to all of them, letting himself be hugged and welcomed warmly by all of them once they hear that he’s the late Kim Jungho’s grandson.

Wonwoo smiles next to him and it’s apparent by the way he gets patted on the back or hugged by everyone that the people around here seem to love Wonwoo.

They pass a sad looking playground that looks like it’s in desperate need of some color and just renovation in general and Wonwoo catches the look in his eyes.

“There aren’t any kids around to play on there,” Wonwoo says. “The youngest kids are fourteen so they never bothered to maintain it.”

Mingyu nods his head. “It's kind of sad.”

Wonwoo sighs and nods his head but doesn't say anything else, so they start walking again.  “What do you do back in the city?” He asks a moment late.

Mingyu purses his lips. “I’m in college. Or… I was.”

“You dropped out?”

“No, I’m taking a break,” Mingyu explains. “It’s… health related.”

“I see.” Wonwoo nods his head and Mingyu can’t tell if he’s genuinely interested or just asking to fill the silence.

“What about you?”

“Me?” Wonwoo looks at him, an amused grin tugging at his lips. “Are you asking if I’m in school?”

“… Yes?”

“I’m not,” Wonwoo snorts, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I graduated from high school and that’s it.”

“What do you do, then?” Mingyu asks. He knows there’s no college in this area but he also knows for a fact that a lot of young people from the village move out to pursue a university degree.

“I work,” Wonwoo begins, sounding a little more reserved now. He’s clamming up. “Don’t have time for school.”

Mingyu decides to drop the subject, seeing as it’s obviously something Wonwoo doesn’t like talking about. “So, why are being so nice to me?”

“What?”

“Most guys I met so far looked at me like they wanted to whoop my ass.” Mingyu scoffs, almost tripping over a stone that’s lodged into the ground if Wonwoo didn’t grip his arm to steady him.

“Who looked at you like that?” Wonwoo chuckles in amusement.

“Dunno.” Mingyu shrugs. “A bunch of guys were at the bus stop when I got here. It was really weird.”

“Oh. That was probably Seokmin and the others,” Wonwoo sighs. “Don’t mind them. They’re not mean or anything, it’s just not every day that someone new gets here. Also, people from the city kind of tend to have an attitude when they come here, so.”

“Attitude?”

“You know,” Wonwoo shrugs. “Acting all high and mighty around here, like we’re a bunch of hillbillies who’ve got no idea how the real world works.”

“Well, those are assholes.” Mingyu huffs, his eyebrows twitching in irritation at the thought.

“Yeah, you don’t strike me as the type,” Wonwoo hums. “You’re also uncle Jungho’s grandson, so you can’t be that bad.”

Mingyu sighs and kicks at a pebble on the ground. Everyone speaks so highly of his granddad.

And Mingyu gets it, because you know that saying about someone having a heart of gold?

Mingyu’s granddad had a golden heart, even if it stopped beating way too soon.

His grandfather was that kind of person that valued honesty and justice over anything else. He remembers his mom telling him that the villagers used to seek him out whenever they failed to solve an issue or come to an agreement in an argument.

His granddad, despite his age, fought for the rights of the villagers to get as simple things as running water or electricity and no one could ever really say no to him because he was that kind.

Mingyu thinks it’s a nice way to be remembered; when people talk so highly of you and remember you for your good heart and the great things you’ve done in your life.

Wonwoo shows him around some more but the thing is; it’s just a village.

There isn’t much to it except for the abundance of nature and bugs and cows and a few odd adorable little huts here and there.

“I can show you the waterfall tomorrow, if you want.” Wonwoo shrugs. “It’s too late today and I got work to do.”

“Work?” Mingyu pulls out his phone to check the time. “But it’s almost eight.”

“I have to go and bring back our cattle,” Wonwoo explains and snorts at the dumbfounded look on Mingyu’s face. “We take them out to our field every morning. We gotta bring them back before the sun sets, otherwise the wolves are gonna get them.”

“Wait, there are wolves here?”

Wonwoo shoots him a smirk, pulling down a string of wire so Mingyu can step over it without ruining his jeans. Pumpkin crawls through underneath, watching Mingyu climb over it almost like he’s concerned he’s going to get hurt. “Foxes, wolves, mountain lions. You name it.”

“You’re just messing with me.”

“You can ask your grandma if you don’t believe me.” Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “But I really have to go now. You’ll find your way back on your own, yeah?”

“Sure.” Mingyu nods his head, even though he has no idea how to get back, but he’s not going to embarrass himself like that in front of Wonwoo. He’s also pretty sure Pumpkin will lead the way for him, so he’s not too worried. “Thanks for showing me around.”

“Sure thing.” Wonwoo snuffles, something he seems to be doing quite a lot. He kind of scrunches his nose up when he does it, and it makes him look like a rabbit. “Uhm, I’m working the whole day tomorrow but I’ve got time after five or so. If you… Uh, if you want to…”

Mingyu starts smiling at Wonwoo’s sudden shyness. He doesn’t seem like the type to get embarrassed but it’s kind of cute—it’s kind of nice to see that Mingyu isn’t the only one kind of lost here. “If it’s not too much of a bother for you. I don’t really know anyone else yet.”

“Yeah, no, sure.” Wonwoo shrugs. “I don’t mind showing you around.”

“Okay, cool.”

“Okay.” Wonwoo clears his throat and starts to back away. “It, uh, was nice to meet you." 

Mingyu blinks at him, his lips tugging up into a smile. "Yeah, it was."

Wonwoo nods. "Bye."

“Bye.” Mingyu says and watches Wonwoo turn around, walk off with his head ducked and he doesn’t realize he’s still kind of smiling until Wonwoo is out of sight.

Pumpkin tilts his head at him curiously, staring at Mingyu.

“What?”

Pumpkin stares at him for another second before turning around and waiting for Mingyu to move before he starts walking.

In the end, Pumpkin does take him home, because Mingyu has absolutely no sense of orientation and would’ve probably wandered around for half an hour before finding his grandmother’s house again.

 

 

His grandma is still in the kitchen when he gets back and Mingyu leans against the doorframe, silently watching her move around like a tiny whirlwind with a smile on his face.

She turns around and shrieks when she sees Mingyu standing there, holding her heart. “Jesus, Mingyu!”

“Hey grandma.” He smiles and laughs when she throws a towel at him.

“That’s not funny. You could’ve given me a heart attack.”

Mingyu walks over to hang the towel on the little hooks on the wall, his stomach grumbling at all the delicious smells attacking his nose. “I’m starving.”

“Of course! Go sit down, I’ll make it ready for you.”

“I can do it myself—“

“I said go sit down.”

And Mingyu knows better than fighting his grandma when it comes to him eating food as she usually tries to see how far Mingyu’s stomach can be stretched before he falls into a food coma. So he goes and sits down in the living room, listening to the radio playing in the background and checking the few messages he has received from his friends, mainly Seungcheol, who happens to be his best friend slash roommate and who also happens to be very pressed about Mingyu spending his summer up in the mountains in a barely there village.

His grandma walks in a moment later, carrying a gigantic tray full of everything she’s cooked and Mingyu hurries to get up and help her carry it but she gets so angry that Mingyu pulls his hands back with a pout on his lips.

The food though—if he thought his mom was the best cook in the world, then this right here is on another level. She made Japchae for him and fresh vegetable dumplings, and there’s some chicken stew too which Mingyu hasn’t eaten in a while but remembers loving whenever he came here.

Mingyu whines at all the amazing food in front of him, not really knowing where he’s supposed to start. He settles for taking a bite of the Kkakdugi because he knows for a fact that she makes them the best.

“Grandma I could live off of your Dakjjim I swear.” Mingyu moans later through a mouthful.

“Ah, nonsense. Try the noodles,” She urges and starts going full on grandma mode on him, filling up his plate until he feels full just from looking at it.

“So how was it?” She asks after a while of them eating. “Wonwoo’s a nice boy, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he’s cool.” Mingyu nods his head after a brief moment of hesitation because of her wording. He still doesn’t know if his grandmother actually knows. His dad definitely warned his mom not to tell any of their relatives but his mom tends to not really listen to his dad, so Mingyu can’t be sure.

“He’s been a great help around here. That boy’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders but a heart even bigger than that.”

Mingyu stops chewing for a moment, his eyebrows furrowing. “What do you mean?”

His grandmother sighs and waves him off. “Oh, you know how it is around here. Life isn’t easy, and our Wonwoo could write an entire book about it. Please be nice to him, you hear me? I don’t care that you’re my grandson, I won’t stand it if you’re rude to him.”

“Why would I be rude to him?” Mingyu pouts and stuffs his face with some more rice. “I’m a very nice man.”

“I’m just warning you.” She chuckles. “I know you are. Just be careful.”

Mingyu doesn’t think he really understands what she’s saying, but he doesn’t actually plan on being an asshole to Wonwoo.

Unless he gives him a reason to.

 

 

 

There could not be a better night to catch some peaceful sleep.

Mingyu has the most comfortable mattress on the planet — or in this village, at the very least — under him, the air inside his room is fresh and crisp, the sheets are all new and pressed, there are crickets chirping outside and Mingyu’s body is tired from the whole journey today and the overload of pollution-free air.

But Mingyu’s mind… his mind is more awake than ever before.

He sighs and opens his eyes after another pathetic attempt hoping for his brain to play along for once and succumbing to sleep. How could it, when it’s doing a re-run of his whole life, analysing the shit out of every instance he fucked up somehow, when his feet won’t stop dancing, his fingers tapping against his stomach anxiously.

His body is on edge and far from relaxed. Of course he can’t sleep.

Mingyu rubs at his sore eyes with one hand and picks up his phone with the other.

It’s two thirty.

Everyone in the village must be asleep by now.

Mingyu is the only person awake.

It’s different from the city, where he knows that no matter what time it is, there’s at leat another person that’s going to be awake as well. The thought always provides a sense of comfort whenever his insomnia keeps him awake. It makes him feel less lonely, it makes him feel better about his brain’s inability to function like a normal brain should. 

But right now, as he listens to the crickets outside and his head is starting to feel all light and fuzzy, he feels extremely lonely.

His gaze drifts to his bag, where he knows his box of sleeping pills is waiting for him. It’s so tempting… so tempting—

Mingyu kicks the covers off and grabs his hoodie from the floor, pulling it over his head before sneaking outside.

 

 

When he comes back an hour later, his hoodie is soaked in sweat and his legs are aching from his run. Pumpkin is sleeping in his small hut and looks up at Mingyu, his puppy eyes hopeful and his tail starting to wag once he recognizes him.

Mingyu takes pity on him and takes his leash off and lets him inside the house despite his grandmother telling him not to. He’s careful not to make any noise and wake up his grandmother and pulls his nasty clothes off once he’s back in his bedroom, skipping the shower because he knows it’ll be too loud.

He falls back into bed with a tired groan, his body aching, and falls asleep when the clock strikes four.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Living up to it’s name as a farmer village, Mingyu wakes up the next morning to the sound of repeated and unrelenting crowing.

Like the rooster wants to make sure that every single soul in the village is awake at — Mingyu grunts and presses the home button of his phone – seven in the morning.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad night.

Mingyu must’ve fallen asleep somewhere around four, that means he managed to stay asleep for three whole hours, which is more than he could’ve hoped for in the previous weeks.

So maybe the change of scenery did help, but it was only the first night and Mingyu knows better than getting his hopes up.

He gets out of bed to take a shower and brush his teeth before going downstairs to see what his grandma is up to. He knows from what his mom told him that his grandmother likes to wake up at six every morning to make the most out of every day.

But when he walks into the kitchen, she isn’t there. She also isn’t anywhere else in the house and Mingyu frowns, grabbing his jacket to jog down the stairs and check if she’s in the garden.

It’s still so early and chilly that fog is hovering above the ground and the sun is hidden behind a thin sheet of clouds, turning the sky a milky shade of orange and pink.

Mingyu shivers and stills when he hears— nothing.

Everything is so quiet. There are no cars engines disturbing the silence, no people rushing to work or some other sort of appointment they need to be at.

He can hear the faint tinkling of the bells that are attached to the cows in the village, birds chirping, a tractor driving down a road out of Mingyu’s sight.

It’s just the peaceful scenery of wide, green fields, clusters of trees and small houses and the mountains in the background.

Pumpkin is running around in the garden, disappearing inside the sunflowers only to come running out again like something scared him. Mingyu snickers and pets him when he runs up to him, playing around with him for a while until he hears some noises coming from the back.

“Grandma?” He shouts, his voice cracking, his eyes wanting to slip black closed, refusing to be awake (for once) at this time of day when he’s supposed to be on vacation.

“Back here!” Comes her voice from behind the house.

Mingyu yawns and puts on a pair of random slippers next to the door, making his way to the back of the house where his grandmother is—

Feeding chicken.

“We have chicken?” Mingyu asks intelligently, watching her usher the animals out of their house.

She smiles and closes the gate to the house once all of them are out. “We sure do. You didn’t know?”

“No.” Mingyu mumbles, scratching the back of his head and stumbling away when one of the chickens starts getting too close for comfort.

Pumpkin seems to be kind of scared, too, since he’s currently hiding behind Mingyu’s legs, watching the animals move around warily.

“Well, now you do.” She wipes her hands on her floral, breezy pants and straightens her back with a mildly pained expression. “Good morning, by the way.”

“Oh! Sorry, good morning grandma,” Mingyu rushes out. “Can I help you with something?”

“No, no.” She shakes her head and links their arms together to walk back to the front. “You’re here on vacation. I’m not going to make you work.”

“Hey, come on,” Mingyu says. “What am I supposed to do, then? Sit back and watch you work? No way. I’d be bored out of my mind, anyway.”

She laughs, her cheeks rosy from the cold morning air outside. “We’ll see. Let’s have breakfast first, okay?”

Mingyu hums and helps her back upstairs despite her protests. She’s holding up well for her age, a lot better than most people would, and Mingyu feels kind of proud in an odd way.

They eat breakfast in the living room, his grandma watching one of her health and lifestyle related morning shows on the TV where the man tells the viewers about the benefits of ginger and tumeric while Mingyu checks his social media next to her, his mouth stuffed to the brim and his stomach complaining for him to stop putting more food inside his body.

“So, do you have any plans for today?”

Mingyu shrugs, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. “Dunno. I feel weird just walking around on my own.”

“Why?” She asks. “You can’t get lost, and no one is going to bother you here. All our kids are very well mannered.”

Mingyu hums, scoffing internally after thinking about the group of dudes that sent him those death glares yesterday. “I’m sure they are.”

She takes a sip from her tea and gives him a long look. “Did you go outside last night?”

Mingyu gulps and looks up at her innocently. “I’m sorry. I tried to be quiet.”

“That’s fine, Mingyu.” She shakes her head. “But what did you do outside so late? I was worried.”

“Did mom not tell you?” Mingyu asks after a moment of hesitation.

“Tell me what?”

Mingyu has an inner conflict whether he should tell her or not. People tend to make a bigger deal out of it than it is and he definitely doesn’t want to worry her when there isn’t anything to worry about. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping, but it’s nothing bad. I go out to run because it tires me out and helps me sleep.”

As expected, a frown appears on her face. “That’s not good, dear. How long has this been going on?”

Mingyu chuckles and shrugs. “Half a year?”

She shakes her head. “Is that why you’re taking a break from your studies? When I asked your mother she only said that you’re currently not going to school but wouldn’t tell me why.”

“Yeah,” Mingyu mumbles, averting his eyes. “My doctor recommended me to take a semester off. Look, grandma, I swear it’s already getting better. It’s just stress-related.”

She doesn’t look convinced at all, the concern still apparent in her eyes. “I’ll make you some tea to calm your nerves tonight. You’ll sleep like a baby! Don’t sneak out anymore, it’s dangerous out here at night.”

He chuckles and nods his head to humour her. He’s tried everything there is under the sun, he doubts some organic tea will help much. “Yeah, okay.”

Mingyu helps her clean the table (and they nearly get into a physical fight over it because she’s so adamant on not letting him work) and decides to just go out on his own and kill some time, taking Pumpkin with him to keep him company after checking with his grandmother.

He sees a lot of people guiding their cattle through the village, all of them shooting him smiles like they’ve known him their entire lives, and Mingyu doesn’t really know how to handle all the warmth and love people seem to be giving out in this village. People in the city are so busy and closed off they’d probably think you’re crazy if you gave strangers a smile on the streets.

Everyone also seems to know Pumpkin since Mingyu has to stop each time to let people pet him and smother him with love.

There are a few guys his age that walk past him, carrying tool boxes and other utensils for work, and Mingyu tries to ignore their rather dirty looks.

He can’t help but feel bad since he’s here on vacation while everyone else is obviously working, but what is he supposed to do? Just ask some random stranger if they need help at their job?

He’s way too awkward and socially inept for that, so he’d rather come across like a lazy city-boy that can’t be bothered to be a decent human being with manners, even if it hurts to think that people will see him that way when really, he’s just way too fucking shy.

After a while, he sits down on the steps of the school Wonwoo showed him yesterday. Apparently, it’s not being used as a school anymore. It’s like the town hall of the village; it’s where weddings and other celebrations are being held because of it’s big garden and central location.

Mingyu is busy scrolling through his instagram feed and carding his fingers through Pumpkin’s fur with his other hand to notice someone opening the gate and approach him, at least until that someone whistles to gain his attention.

He looks up and notices that there are two guys walking towards him, one of them being the one from the bus station yesterday. He’s really tall and Mingyu’s always felt threatened by tall people because that’s basically his only advantage point.

“Is that Pumpkin?” The guy asks once they’re standing in front of him.

The dog perks up at hearing his name, his tail starting to wag excitedly.

Mingyu puts his phone away and briefly wonders if this is going to end up in a fight. “Yes?”

It’s two against one and Mingyu usually doesn’t get into arguments, mainly because he doesn’t have a lot of friends and doesn’t talk enough to get him into any sort of trouble. One of them doesn’t look like he’s very strong though so maybe Mingyu might stand a chance.

“Why is he with you?” The guy wants to know.

“He’s my grandma’s dog.” He says carefully.

The guy narrows his eyes. “Aunt Youngja is your grandma? Wait— You’re Mingyu?”

Mingyu slowly nods his head.

The guy sighs and tilts his head to the side. “Why didn’t you say so from the start? We were about to whoop your ass.”

“… Why?”

“Because you’re from the city.” The guy shrugs, like that’s a valid enough reason.

“But I didn’t do anything to you guys.”

The guy snorts. “Sorry but look how you’re walking around. Brand clothes from head to toe. Are you trying to show off and mock us?”

Mingyu looks down on himself and curses himself for not choosing something else to wear. Even his shoes are Vans. “Uh, sorry? I didn’t mean to.”

The guy glares at him for another moment before relaxing and reaching his hand out. “I’m Seokmin. I don’t think we’re related but your grandma treats me like a grandson, so might as well be.”

“Nice to meet you,” Mingyu says, shaking Seokmin’s hand.

“This is Chan.” He points at the smaller, younger looking guy next to him who grins and waves at Mingyu.

“Hey.” Mingyu waves back.

“So, what do you do in the city? You’re still in school, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Kinda taking a break right now but I’m studying public health.”

“Public health?”

Mingyu bites back a yawn. Shit, he’s really tired. “Cancer prevention in my case, if that helps.”

“Woah, not bad! Gonna save the world, city boy?” He nudges Mingyu’s arm with his elbow, waggling his eyebrows.

“Don’t hold your breath.” Mingyu snickers, rubbing at his eyes.

“So, have you met anyone else yet?” Seokmin asks.

“Yeah, I met Wonwoo yesterday,” Mingyu says. “He showed me around a bit.”

“What? Why did hyung not tell us anything?” Chan frowns and shakes his head.

“I’m kinda boring.” Mingyu snorts. “He probably didn’t think it was worth mentioning.”

“Dude, Wonwoo is the definition of boring. I don’t think he’s in a place to judge you.” Seokmin laughs.

Mingyu chuckles. He didn’t find Wonwoo all that boring, to be honest. He kind of enjoyed his company since he didn’t talk too much but still managed to make it not be too awkward between them.

“You should come hang out with us tonight!” Chan suddenly exclaims.

“Tonight?”

“We usually meet up in here.” Chan points at the door of the school behind him. “Drink some beers and stuff.”

“Beer?” Seokmin snorts and nudges Chan’s head. “You mean we drink beer and you sip at your little can of coke—“

“Okay, I think we get it,” Chan grumbles, making Mingyu chuckle. “So, are you up for it, Mingyu hyung?”

“Sure,” Mingyu says. “Why not.”

Seokmin’s phone starts buzzing. “Hey, look. It’s Wonwoo.” He grins at Mingyu and picks it up. “Hey man, guess who I’m with right now. City boy! I mean Mingyu, you idiot.” Seokmin exchanges a few other words with him before hanging up. “Huh, weird.”

“What did he say?” Chan asks.

“Usually nothing can get Wonwoo to drop his work, but he said he’ll leave earlier today to hang out with us. He must like you.” He wiggles his eyebrows and nudges Mingyu with his elbow.

Mingyu laughs awkwardly. He knows Seokmin meant it as a joke, which is what makes it even worse. The fact that the idea of a guy liking another guy is so absurd to them that it’s actually nothing but a joke and it makes his stomach twist itself into knots.

They spend most of the afternoon just chatting about their lives. Mingyu mostly just listens, because he’s better at that than talking about himself. It’s mostly just a form of self-protection. He’s kind of learned the hard way that the more you talk about yourself, the more you’re prone to slip up and share something you didn’t actually mean to say out loud.

He learns that Seokmin is a junior at college and Chan is in his last year of high school. When Mingyu asks why they’re not at work like everyone else, Seokmin laughs.

“Why would we be working?”

“Why not?”

“We’re here on vacation,” Seokmin says.

“You guys don’t live here?” Mingyu asks.

“Oh, fuck no.” Seokmin scoffs. “We live in Kyangju, come here almost every summer, though. Our grandparents live here, so we stay with them.”

“What about Wonwoo?” Mingyu asks without thinking.

“Ah, that’s a bit complicated.” Seokmin sighs heavily. “His family does farming from spring to summer, so he lives here most of the time. They move back to Cheumsan during fall and winter. They have a car repair business down there.”

Mingyu nibbles on his lower lip and thinks about how Wonwoo told him that he didn’t have time for school. It looks like he wasn’t lying when he said that.

“Dude’s got a fucked up life,” Seokmin mutters.

“Yeah, well, what can you when god gave him a father like that?” Chan suddenly scoffs, having silently listened to the conversation so far. “Fucking prick.”

Mingyu wonders what they’re talking about, but he knows his place, and he knows better than to pry so he just stays silent and wills himself not to jump to any conclusions.

True to his words, Wonwoo shows up in the afternoon when the sun is hanging low in the sky. He’s wearing workers’ clothes, which is weird, because Mingyu thought he was farming but it looks like he came straight from a construction site or something.

There’s dust on his cheeks and sticking to his bangs.

His eyes flicker to Mingyu and he mumbles a quick “Hi” before looking away again. Mingyu smiles and looks away just as quickly, not really sure why he’s so awkward again all of a sudden.

“Hey, can you give me one?” Wonwoo asks, sitting down next to Seokmin on the grass in front of them. Mingyu doesn’t miss the flicker of pain on his face.

“Is this your first one today?” Seokmin asks, reaching into his back pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes, handing Wonwoo one.

Wonwoo nods. “I promise.” He adds with an annoyed look when Chan and Seokmin seem unconvinced.

He smokes.

Mingyu cringes on the inside when he sees Wonwoo inhale the smoke; he does it so deeply Mingyu feels like he’s producing cancer cells just by watching him do it and a part of him want to reach out and pull the cigarette out of his fingers.

“Tough day, hyung?” Chan asks, eyes mildly concerned as he takes in Wonwoo’s appearance.

Wonwoo gives a noncommittal grunt. “Kinda.” He catches Mingyu’s gaze for a second and blows out some smoke to the side so it doesn’t bother any of them. “Do you still want to go see the waterfall?”

Mingyu shrugs. “It’s okay. You’re probably tired.”

“But do you?” Wonwoo asks, flicking off his cigarette and holding Mingyu’s gaze.

“Yeah, why not?”

Wonwoo grins and gets up. “Okay, let’s go, then.”

Chan and Seokmin decide to tag along and they drop Pumpkin off at home first since Wonwoo says it’s too dangerous and he doesn’t want the dog to get hurt.

It kind of breaks Mingyu’s heart because Pumpkin gives him a betrayed look when Mingyu puts the leash on him again.

“I’m sorry, buddy.” Mingyu pouts and pets the dog’s head. “I’ll let you sleep inside today again, okay?”

Pumpkin huffs and lies down in the grass.

The thing is; the village might be small population and civilization vise but damn, when it comes to the forests and fields it seems endless. Which is why it takes them almost half an hour to get to this waterfall Wonwoo was talking about, and the walk there isn’t easy, either.

Either they’re half crawling down steep hills or they’re ducking their way through stinging nettles and other plants with thorns. Wonwoo seems to know the way by heart though, warning them before they can slip or hurt themselves anywhere. At one point their path is blocked by a wired fence with the wires sticking out sharply everywhere and Wonwoo goes ahead to pull the wires down so they can step over it.

“Careful,” Wonwoo mumbles when it’s Mingyu’s turn. “Don’t wanna ruin your designer jeans.”

Mingyu meets his eyes and sees the glimmer of mirth there and scoffs. “Fuck off.” He hears Wonwoo chuckle when he climbs over the fence and turns around so he can hold the wire down for Wonwoo, but the guy doesn’t need his help at all. He holds it down with one hand, not caring about the sharp metal digging into his palm, and climbs over it like it’s nothing.

“I know I’m cool, just say it.” Wonwoo grins when he catches Mingyu looking.

“People who call themselves cool usually are the exact opposite, you know,” Mingyu says, falling into step beside him.

Wonwoo smiles and kicks a little stone out of the way. He snuffles again, scrunching up his nose, and Mingyu kind of wants to take a picture of it but obviously doesn’t. The last thing he wants is for anyone to suspect anything.

See, the thing is; Mingyu isn’t in denial about his sexuality.

He knows he likes boys. He’s had enough girlfriends to come to that conclusion long ago.

He came out to his best friends when he turned eighteen, and told his parents as much two years later, which was approximately when his insomnia started. It’s probably connected, somehow, but Mingyu doesn’t like thinking about it too much.

While Mingyu doesn’t have a problem with his sexual orientation, and his friends have all been nothing but supportive and accepting about it as well, the same can’t be said about his parents.

His mother started crying when Mingyu told them, and his father raised his voice and told him to stop fooling them. They’ve never had anyone in their family coming forward about something like this and whenever a famous person came out publicly his dad used to sneer at it in distaste and rant on about how kids were going to get brainwashed and think that it was normal and acceptable.

So yeah, Mingyu was crapping his pants when he finally scraped up the courage to tell them.

Once his father realized that Mingyu was being serious, he told him that he should go and give them some space, so Mingyu went back to his own apartment, feeling like he’d swallowed a huge stone and a part of his heart just died.

His mother came around quicker than Mingyu expected her to; she called him a week later, saying she loved him no matter what, assuring him that his father would come to understand as well.

That day has yet to come.

And Mingyu has always been a realist; he knows what would happen if these people here found out. Because homosexuals already have it hard in the cities and more westernized places of the country, he doesn’t even want to think about the reactions in a tiny, conservative village like this one.

Either Wonwoo and the other two would just straight up beat him up, or they would tell him to fuck off and stay away from them, and he’d rather not risk any of those things happening.

“Mingyu, you still there, dude?” Seokmin shouts, making Mingyu startle and realize he’s fallen a couple of feet behind the others. “Get down here!”

They’re already at the waterfall. Mingyu can hear it but it’s still covered by the trees and bushes in front of them.

Seokmin curses and shrieks all the way down, grabbing an exasperated looking Chan’s hand like a lifeline.

“Hey, Mingyu, you need help?” Wonwoo asks, waiting at the bottom with a shit eating grin on his face as he watches Mingyu frown at the steep drop in front of him. “Need me to carry you like a princess?”

“Fuck off. I’m like a head taller than you,” Mingyu says and turns around so he can climb down the same way Wonwoo did.

He doesn’t hit the gym four times a week to be called a fucking princess.

Wonwoo gives him an impressed look when Mingyu stands in front of him a minute later. “Not bad, city boy.”

“How about you just call me Mingyu, okay?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Wonwoo grins at him, his nose scrunching up, and Mingyu finds himself staring at it for a second too long.

He quickly pushes past Wonwoo and follows Seokmin further down, willing himself to focus on the pretty nature and not the way Wonwoo snickers behind him.

The waterfall is really something else. It’s hidden between the trees, runs down the massive rocks from a small river somewhere higher up. It’s not a big one, that’s not what makes it so amazing. It’s like someone photoshopped the water, it’s that clear and has a strange green tone to it.

“It’s because of the specific kind of algae in it,” Wonwoo explains when he sees Mingyu’s quizzical expression.  “You want to get closer?”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” Mingyu mutters, looking at the shiny rocks in front of them. “I’m really fucking clumsy.”

“Nah, you’ll be fine. Come on.” Wonwoo walks ahead, expertly stepping on the stones like he knows which ones are secure, which he probably does. “Here, grab my hand.”

Mingyu makes sure his phone is securely tucked away in his pocket before he takes Wonwoo’s hand and briefly thinks this would be an embarrassing way to die if his shoe slipped on one of the rocks. “Dude, if I slip—”

Wonwoo laughs and tightens his grip on Mingyu’s hand. “You won’t. I got you, come on.”

And true to his words, Mingyu doesn’t slip. He hears Seokmin whine somewhere above them where Chan is trying to coax him into climbing down but doesn’t focus too much on their bickering, way too entranced by the beauty of the nature in front of him.

“You like it?” Wonwoo wants to know from where he’s sitting behind him.

“Heck yeah, I do!” Mingyu says, turning to shoot the boy a wide smile. He watches the water cascading down the rocks for a while, listening to the calming sound of rushing water and birds chirping in the woods.

He rubs at his sore eyes and curses himself for not bringing his eye drops with him; they’re kind of burning like hell.

“Are you okay?” Wonwoo asks, throwing a small pebble into the small lake in front of them. “You look kinda tired.”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Why?”

Mingyu sighs, closing his eyes and moving to lean back on his hands. “Got something like insomnia.”

Wonwoo turns to give him a strange look. “Wait, seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, wow. That sucks,” Wonwoo mumbles. “There’s nothing you can do?”

Mingyu shrugs. “I tried pretty much everything except for therapy.”

Wonwoo scoffs and lies on his back, closing his eyes. “I thought everyone in the city had a therapist anyway.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Because you guys don’t have any real problems so you like to create them in your head.”

Mingyu falls quiet to process what Wonwoo just said and feels irritation prickle in his chest after a while. He kind of wants to push Wonwoo into the lake for his statement. “That’s a fucking asshole thing to say.”

“And you’re also offended about every little thing.” Wonwoo snickers.

“Yeah well, you gotta be when you’re surrounded by ignorant pricks like you.” Mingyu lies down on his back, too, closing his eyes. He hears Seokmin cheer behind him where he’s finally made it down to join them.

“I’m just joking.” Wonwoo sighs. “I just find it funny because no one from here has those kind of problems.”

Mingyu opens his eyes to turn and look at Wonwoo. He still has dust on his cheeks. “Is it that or do you guys simply not acknowledge them?”

“Nah, I think it has more to do with the fact that we’re not in a place to spend our money on stupid things like therapists.” Wonwoo scoffs, but his sneer vanishes when he sees how Mingyu’s face falls. “But I mean, if it’s gonna help you and you can afford it, why not give it a try?”

Mingyu doesn’t say anything anymore. He stares up at the sky and the tree branches covering it, hears Chan and Seokmin play fighting somewhere next to them, and feels like he could fall asleep, if he just… if he just—

“Hey,” Wonwoo gently says, suddenly leaning up to look at him. “Do you wanna head back? You look like you’re gonna pass out.”

Mingyu rubs a hand over his face and shakes his head. “I’m okay. Just sleepy.”

Wonwoo’s eyes flicker over his features for a moment. “You can sleep, if you want.”

“Yeah, sure, so you can leave me here and the wolves can get me?”

Wonwoo laughs. “I didn’t even think about that. Good idea.”

Mingyu smiles and closes his eyes.

“Seriously. Sleep. I won’t leave you here, ” Wonwoo assures him and Mingyu tries to ignore the way it makes his chest tingle and focuses on the sounds of the waterfall.

He falls asleep within two minutes.

 

 

They don’t leave him there. Wonwoo nudges him awake when the sun is starting to set and Mingyu looks around to find Seokmin and Chan gone.

“When did they leave?”

Wonwoo snuffles and shrugs. “An hour ago. They got bored.”

Mingyu gapes and moves to get up. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

Wonwoo doesn’t meet his eyes when he gets up. “I don’t know. I thought I’d let you sleep a little longer.”

And Mingyu honestly didn’t expect that answer. He feels really bad, making Wonwoo wait like that because of him for an entire hour. “You didn’t have to—“

“Hey, don’t sweat it.” Wonwoo chuckles. “Let’s go before the sun sets. I don’t have my knife with me so I can’t protect you from the wolves.”

Mingyu sighs and follows him back without needing to hold his hand this time. “I actually know martial arts so I think I’d be the one protecting you, but whatever.”

“You’d be the first one running for your life if we saw a wolf, you idiot.” Wonwoo snickers. “Those things are huge, let me tell you.”

“Like the ones in Twilight?” Mingyu asks.

“In what?”

“Twilight?”

“What’s that?” Wonwoo asks, looking genuinely confused and Mingyu kind of falters, staring at Wonwoo like he’s trying to figure out if he’s being serious.

He is serious.

Well, it’s not like he’s a huge fan of the movies himself (Seungcheol made him watch all of them) but there was such a hype around them at the time, he thought everyone knew about them.

Looks like he was wrong.

“Ah, nothing.” Mingyu shrugs it off. “Forget it.”

He’s not sure why it makes him feel so bad, but he suddenly feels crushed because Wonwoo doesn’t know about something as stupid and meaningless as Twilight. Like, who cares?

Apparently Mingyu does.

 

 

After Wonwoo drops him off at home, Mingyu spends his night chatting to his roommate Seungcheol back home and watching stupid videos on Youtube until his brain feels like mush. He does this in the living room to keep his grandmother company while she’s watching a drama she’s currently obsessed with.

She brings him tea and fruit and the window is wide open, the curtains fluttering gently in the breeze and Mingyu briefly thinks he’s going to miss the sound of crickets when he’s back in the city.

Chan did ask him to hang out tonight, but they didn’t talk about it again, and Mingyu’s pretty sure he can hear people laughing somewhere in the distance, but he’s not about to just go there uninvited, even though a part of him kind of wants to see the guys again.

Mingyu somehow falls asleep shortly after midnight and stirs awake sometime around two, knowing very well that it’s all the sleep he’s going to get tonight.

So he does the only thing he knows to do in these situations; he grabs a sweater, and sneaks out to run, and when he comes back, he lets Pumpkin in again and sits down in front of the window in his bedroom with Pumpkin’s head in his lap, waiting for the sun to rise.

 

 

 

 

The next day is characterized not that differently  from the day before.

Mingyu helps his grandmother carry a basket full of oranges from their garden to an old lady in a house further away and sees Chan and Seokmin bickering together at the bus stop. They spot him and call him over and his grandmother assures him that she doesn’t need his help for anything, so Mingyu walks over to join them since he doesn’t have anything else to do and he thinks they’re both nice anyway.

“Sorry we left you hanging yesterday,” Seokmin says. “I was just really starving and Wonwoo was really fucking stubborn about not leaving for some reason.”

Mingyu looks at the ground, wondering if Wonwoo seriously just didn’t wake Mingyu up to make sure he got some more sleep.

“Why didn’t you come hang out last night, though?” Seokmin asks.

“Was I supposed to?”

“Uhm, yes?” Chan pouts. “I invited you, didn’t I?”

“Well, you didn’t mention it again.” Mingyu shrugs. “How was I supposed to know?”

“Stop being so stuck up.” Seokmin snickers. “We’re always at the school at night. Just come say hi, the others don’t bite.”

“The others?” Mingyu asks. “How many others are there?”

“Not that much,” Chan says. “There are a couple of guys who are older but they’re not always here  so we’re not really close with them, and there’s also Joohyun and Yerim.” Chan shrugs. “Yerim’s Wonwoo’s sister, by the way.”

“Huh, I didn’t know he had a sister.”

“Yeah, she’s the same age as me.” Chan hums.

Seokmin narrows his eyes at him. “Don’t get any funny ideas. Wonwoo will cut your dick off before you can even think about that.”

Mingyu rolls his eyes and he just really wants to say Dude, don’t worry, I’m probably more interested in her brother but he knows better than ruining his reputation here over a stupid joke. “So are they the only girls here?”

Seokmin nods his head. “I mean, technically there are more, but let’s be honest; who wants to spend their summer here? Joohyun said Seulgi might still come.”

“Oh man, I hope so.” Chan sighs, falling off the stairs when Seokmin shoves him harshly.

“That’s your noona, you brat,” Seokmin snorts, turning to look at Mingyu again. “You seriously have to be careful what you do or say around here. Word gets around so fast. They might all be nice but they’ll tear you apart like a hungry pack of wolves if there’s a rumor about you.”  

Mingyu laughs nervously and feels a drop of sweat run down his spine.

“Yeah, do you remember what happened to Sunmi noona?” Chan asks and shakes his head. “There was this girl, I think she was twenty-two back then?” He glances at Seokmin for affirmation and the latter nods his head. “A rumor went around that she was pregnant. I mean, I guess it was true, given what happened after that. Do you know what happened to her, hyung?”

Mingyu looks up and shakes his head.

“Her parents married her off to a random dude ten years older than her,” Seokmin continues. “She didn’t even get to say anything. The wedding was fucking horrible. She couldn’t stop crying the entire day. And then she was just sent off to live with that man.”

“Are you serious?” Mingyu asks, eyebrows knitted together in disbelief. He knew stuff like that used to happen a lot back in the days but he had no idea it was still a thing. “How the fuck could her family do that to her?”

“That’s how things run around here, man.” Seokmin shrugs. “I know it’s horrible, but people are really fucking behind with their mentalities and beliefs. I only realized that when I went off to study in the city. Before that, I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with the ways things are handled here.”

“Yeah.” Chan agrees, eyebrows knitted together. “Sometimes I don’t even feel like coming back because of it.”

Mingyu falls silent, doesn’t even realize his hands are shaking with anger until he looks down at them. He knew people were kind of old-fashioned with their beliefs but not to this extent.

“What do you think Joohyun Noona’s parents would do if they found out?” Chan asks, a worried look in his eyes.

“Damn, Channie, we’d have to hide her somewhere on the other side of the country,” Seokmin says and gives Mingyu a long, careful look but ends up shaking his head and changing the subject.

Mingyu once again feels like an idiot.

He doesn’t even know who they’re talking about, let alone what any of it means, so he just closes his eyes and hopes to fall asleep like he did yesterday.

Surprise; it doesn’t work.

 

 

Wonwoo works longer today, and Mingyu tells himself he’s not disappointed when Chan tells him as much.

He goes back home to check up on his grandmother and make sure she isn’t doing anything dangerous and finds her peeling garlic in the garden, the neighbour’s cat lazing around on her side.

“Do you need help with that?”

She smiles at him and shakes his head. “You don’t want your hands to smell like garlic the whole day, trust me.”

“I don’t care.” Mingyu shrugs, picking up a clove, only to have his grandmother slap it out of his hand. He pouts and pulls it back like it actually hurt him, which it obviously didn’t.

“Oh, don’t give me that look.” She laughs. “I just want you to have a nice vacation!”

“Peeling garlic is my definition of a nice vacation. Just let me help so I can feel like a waste of space, please?”

“If you want something to do, how about you go and set up that hammock your granddad bought a while ago? He never managed to hang it up and I think it would fit nicely between those trees.” She points at the two small trees in their garden.

Mingyu feels a small wave of sadness touch his heart at the mention of his granddad and sighs, nodding his head before walking inside to look for the hammock in the basement.

After failing to find it for almost half an hour, he’s standing in the garden between the trees, feeling kind of clueless as to what he’s supposed to do, Pumpkin watching him flatly from where he’s lying in the shadow of the tree.

“How about you help me instead of just lying there, hm?” Mingyu scoffs at the dog.

Pumpkin blinks at him, and goes back to sleep.

Maybe Wonwoo was right about him being a city-boy. Like, he knows his way around the darknet (just because he was curious, okay?) but he has absolutely no idea how to hang up a freaking hammock.

“Need a hand?”

Mingyu lets go of the hammock because it scares him so much, turning to give Wonwoo an unimpressed look. “Why are you here?”

Wonwoo snorts and leans down to pick the hammock up. “What, didn’t you miss my face?”

“What? That face covered in dust?” Mingyu raises his eyebrows and laughs when Wonwoo reaches up to clean his cheeks with an embarrassed look on his face. “Where do you work, anyway?”

Wonwoo nudges him out of the way to look at the distance between the trees. “I’m helping on a school construction site in another village.”

“I thought you were a farmer.”

“I am, but we need the money,” Is all Wonwoo says before he walks over to one tree and starts lacing the ropes of one end of the hammock around the trunk. “Would you mind giving me a hand?”

Mingyu takes the other end and does as he’s told but Wonwoo stops him with an annoyed expression. “What?” Mingyu snaps.

“Are you blind?” Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “Hold it higher up.”

“That’s too high.”

“No, it’s not. Trust me.”

“It’s too high, Wonwoo—“

“Are you the expert here or me?”

Mingyu rolls his eyes. "Yes I'm a fucking hammock expert. Come on—“

“Put it up higher!” Wonwoo glares at him until Mingyu sighs and does as he’s told.

In the end, Wonwoo turns out to be right and the hammock hangs perfectly high enough for it not to touch the ground when you sit in it. He raises an eyebrow at Mingyu, who rolls his eyes and lies down on the fabric.

Wonwoo sits down on the grass in front of him, pushing the hammock with his foot so it’s swinging back and forth lazily. Mingyu turns to lie on his side so he can look at Wonwoo, dangling his arm down to try and get a daisy from the ground.

It’s still warm despite the sun having started to set, a gentle breezing making their bangs ruffle in the wind and Mingyu feels like falling asleep again.

“If I didn’t know it better I’d think you’re bored by my presence. This is the second time you’re falling asleep on me,” Wonwoo says and Mingyu doesn’t have to open his eyes to know he’s smiling.

He still cracks one eye open to look at him. “You should take it as a compliment.”

“How’s it a compliment?”

“Don’t know.” Mingyu shrugs. “You have a calming presence.”

“Oh.” Wonwoo nods his head in amusement. “Do I?”

Mingyu smiles. “I think you do.”

They look at each other for a moment before Wonwoo averts his eyes. “Are you going to come out tonight?”

“Do you want me to?”

Wonwoo shrugs, still not facing him. “I guess, it’s better than sitting around at home and doing nothing, right?”

Mingyu hums. “Chan told me you have a sister.”

This gets Wonwoo’s attention almost immediately. He narrows his eyes at Mingyu. “No.”

“No what?”

“No, as in don’t even think about it.”

Mingyu chuckles, shaking his head. “That’s not what I meant. I’m not a fucking pervert, Wonwoo.”

Wonwoo still doesn’t seem satisfied but he stops glaring at Mingyu, at least. “Guys from the city are the fucking worst. There was a wedding last year and a bunch of them came to stay here, thought they could treat our girls like fucking objects or something.”

Mingyu frowns. “I’m sorry. That sucks.”

Wonwoo meets his eyes again. “But to answer your question… yes, I have a sister. Yerim.”

“How old is she?”

“She’s turning eighteen soon,” Wonwoo says. “You can meet her tonight, if you want.”

“Yeah, sure.” Mingyu nods his head. “Can you… like pick me up?”

A smile tugs on Wonwoo’s lips, his eyes squinted because the setting sun shines directly in his face. He looks really peaceful like that, sitting in grass surrounded by flowers and his fluffy hair. “This isn’t a date, Mingyu.”

Mingyu feels his cheeks heat up, trying to reach out and grab Wonwoo’s shoe but he only pushes the hammock harder with his foot, bringing him out of reach. “I’m not good at stuff like that. I’m probably not gonna show up if I have to go myself.”

“You’re like a baby.” Wonwoo snorts. “But yeah, sure, I can pick you up. Do you want me to bring you flowers too or—“

Mingyu pushes himself off the hammock and grabs Wonwoo’s legs, making the guy laugh when they start wrestling on the ground, grass and dirt getting all over them.

“Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.” Wonwoo is panting heavily underneath him, smiling up at Mingyu. There is still some dust stuck in his hair and Mingyu is  tempted to reach out and brush it off. “I gotta go, though. Still have to bring back the cattle.”

“Oh, yeah,” Mingyu says, rolling off of Wonwoo and helping him get up.

His grandmother steps out on the balcony just then, waving at Wonwoo who waves back with a bright smile.

“Come eat dinner with us, Wonwoo!”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “Sorry aunt Youngja, gotta take care of the cattle.”

She smiles sadly before looking at Mingyu. “Take Mingyu with you, he can help you.”

Wonwoo snorts and points his thumb at him. “Not to be rude but I don’t think he would be much help.”

“I actually agree,” Mingyu mumbles, making Wonwoo snicker next to him.

“Oh, don’t be like that. Your friend’s been working the whole day! Go and help him out!”

“Grandma, I really don’t like cows, okay? They freak me out!”

“Well you like them alright when you eat them!”

“Yes, because they’re dead!”

“No food for you tonight if you don’t help Wonwoo.”

“Grandma—“

Wonwoo’s smile softens as he looks at Mingyu and he turns to shake his head at Mingyu’s grandmother. “Auntie, it’s okay. You know I can handle it myself.”

Mingyu feels a bit conflicted. When he looks a bit closer, he can see how exhausted Wonwoo looks and what has Mingyu been doing all day? Wasting time together with Chan and Seokmin to the point where they ran out of things to do and started looking for four-leaved clovers in the grass.

“I mean, I don’t think I can help much but I could keep you company?” He offers. Pumpkin barks quietly and Mingyu rolls his eyes. “We could keep you company.” Wonwoo gives him a contemplating look before shrugging his shoulders.

“Sure, I don’t mind,” He says and starts walking.

The field where their cows are is almost as far away as the waterfall from yesterday except it’s basically in the other direction of it. Mingyu counts sixteen cows in total while Wonwoo opens the gates, picking up a long stick that’s balanced against the gate outside.

Pumpkin runs inside and scares the cows, looking way too happy as he runs around. Wonwoo looks up at Mingyu with an amused expression when he finds him standing in the safety on the other side of the gate.

“You’re not coming inside, are you?”

“I’d rather not.”

Wonwoo smiles and turns around. “Kids! Come on. Let’s go home.” He shouts while he approaches the cows.

“Kids?” Mingyu whispers to himself, watching Wonwoo drive the cows together and towards the gate.

“Can you open the gate for me?” He shouts once most of the cows are steering towards it.

Mingyu pulls a face but does as he’s told, walking backwards so the door of the gate is protecting him if a cow should decide to attack him.

They seem to be well behaved. They all walk through the gate without a fuss and Mingyu panics for a moment when they just start walking off without waiting for Wonwoo. “Wonwoo, they’re leaving,” He says like an idiot.

Wonwoo laughs and grabs the door Mingyu is gripping to close it. “They know the way to our house. I’m basically just here to let them out and make sure they don’t decide to run away or something.”

Mingyu didn’t think cows were that intelligent and he suddenly feels like an asshole for thinking that. He wants to go and pet them to make up for it but he’s still kind of scared shitless of them and he also fears for Pumpkin’s safety who seems to think that the cow’s legs are some kind of parkour for him.

“Oh, get over yourself.” Wonwoo scoffs when Mingyu cowers behind him when a cow gets a little too close on their way back. “They’re cows, you idiot, they don’t do anything as long you’re nice to them.”

Mingyu sighs and starts walking next to Wonwoo again instead of behind him, that is until one of the cows decides to just stop walking and turns around to look at Mingyu. “What is it doing?”

“Nothing.” Wonwoo chuckles. “Just keep walking.”

“I can’t, it’s in the way!”

“It’s a she, you insensitive prick. Her name is Arielle.”

“You gave them names?” Mingyu whisper shouts, the cow slowly starting to approach him. “Wonwoo, it’s going to fucking attack me!”

Wonwoo sighs and walks back to his side, taking his hand to lead him away from the cow. “Was that so hard, you freaking baby?”

Mingyu is about to defend himself but realizes that Wonwoo is holding his hand.

Wonwoo is holding his hand.

His palm feels warm and a little rough against Mingyu’s, probably from all the work he has to do and Mingyu resists the urge to hold it a little tighter.

Wonwoo gives him a curious look when Mingyu doesn’t budge, and then his gaze shifts to their connected hands and he lets go like he was burned. “Come on, let’s go before it gets dark,” He mutters and walks away without waiting for Mingyu.

Mingyu clears his throat to stop himself from blushing over something as stupid as holding hands and catches up with Wonwoo quickly. “So, what do you do with the cows once farming season is over?”

“We sell them.”

“For slaughter?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“But… don’t you get attached to them?”

Wonwoo shrugs, pursing his lips. “I guess I do, but I’m not there when they die so I usually pretend they’re just changing their owners or something.”

“That’s kind of sad.”

Wonwoo hums. “We don’t get to be sad when we’re the reason they have to die, don’t you think?”

“But they taste good.” Mingyu cringes a little. He sounds like a prick.

Wonwoo chuckles, glancing at him. “Yeah, they do, don't they?”

And Mingyu's eyes flicker to his smile before he clears his throat and turns his face away. 

Nope.

Wonwoo's fingers keep jittering against the stick; Mingyu picks up one those things fast because he himself gets the jitters after a few days without proper sleep, but he’s pretty sure for Wonwoo there’s an entirely different reason.

“You seem nervous," He comments a few moments later.

Wonwoo huffs out a humourless laugh. “I just need a cigarette.”

Mingyu refrains from telling him that it’s cancerous; everyone knows that, but the addiction’s usually stronger than the fear of destroying your lungs and losing your life. “Don’t have any on you?”

“Seokmin keeps them for me.” Wonwoo sighs and shakes his head. “It was his idea. To get me to stop smoking or something.”

“Seems like a good idea.”

“Yeah, sure.” Wonwoo lifts his hand and it’s shaking like a dry leaf in the wind. “Pathetic, isn’t it?” He asks, looking at Mingyu.

Mingyu lifts his own hand. It’s trembling, too. “I don’t think I’m in a place to judge you.”

Wonwoo looks at their hands for a moment. “It’s different. Yours isn’t your fault.”

Except it kind of is, but Mingyu decides not to say anything.

At one point the cows start walking down a path that leads away from the direction of Mingyu’s house and Wonwoo stops walking. “My house is this way. If you’re still up for hanging out tonight I’ll wait for you at your door at nine, is that okay?”

“I was just joking,” Mingyu says. “You don’t have to come pick me up. I’m a grown ass guy.”

“Are you sure?” Wonwoo lifts an eyebrow, hands placed on the stick he’s holding and pressing into the ground.

“Yeah.” Mingyu smiles even though it’s a lie.

Wonwoo grins and shakes his head. “I’ll pick you up at nine, Mingyu.”

Mingyu stares at him for a moment before sighing. “Yeah, okay. Thanks.”

Wonwoo just grins wider and turns around to catch up with the cattle and Mingyu watches him until he disappears from his sight.

Pumpkin nudges his thigh with his snout and gives him that same strange look from the first day.

"What?" Mingyu sighs and starts walking home alongside the dog. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

Yeah, he's talking to a dog and yeah, he's aware he won't get an answer and yeah, Mingyu's kind of an idiot.

Pumpkin barks softly and Mingyu thinks if the dog was human, he’d be rolling his eyes right about now.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

There are certain times during the day where Mingyu feels like his insomnia is going to end up crushing him. He usually felt that way during classes back when he was actually still attending them and used to fall asleep halfway through until one of the teaching assistants called him out and the professor threatened to give his spot to someone else.

When he got an E-mail from his school telling him that he wouldn’t be able to start the next semester if he didn’t get his grades up in three of his classes, Mingyu remembers thinking I can’t do it. I don’t even remember my fucking name—

At that point, he’d went through a whole week running on nothing but roughly eight hours of proper sleep, and his brain just started to switch to slumber-mode whenever it wanted to. It didn’t matter if this was in the middle of an exam or while he was driving.

That’s also when his doctor told him to take a break and not sign up for any classes for the next semester, and Mingyu felt like his whole life was ruined after that.

He’s just come out to his parents and now he had to tell them that he was taking a break from school just because of “simple sleeping problems”, as his dad likes to call it.

But then again, his dad doesn’t know what kind of messed up thoughts the brain starts to come up with when you don’t do anything but think the entire night, when the lack of sleep already is messing with you.

It gets fucking scary.

His insomnia got a bit better once he didn’t have to deal with the pressure of attending classes and upcoming exams, but now he was haunted by thoughts about him being a failure, him not amounting to anything when he couldn’t even bring himself to sleep like a normal person.

His doctor did recommend him to consider going to therapy but a part of Mingyu feels like he needs to solve this problem on his own. Just to prove himself something.

Or maybe just to prove his dad wrong.

He’s scrolling through his Instagram feed while he’s waiting for Wonwoo, and his eyes are tired because they always are but his brain feels like he just took four shots of Espresso and he just knows he won’t be sleeping tonight.

“Mingyu!” His grandmother calls from the living room. “Wonwoo is here.”

Mingyu takes the hoodie his grandmother gave him as a present and pulls it over his head, grabbing some disposable eye drops before he leaves.

Wonwoo is leaning against the wall next to their door when he steps outside, the screen of his phone illuminating his face. He’s wearing a soft looking sweater and looks like he just took a shower, the tips of his bangs still a bit wet.

“Hey,” Mingyu mumbles, slipping into his sneakers.

Wonwoo regards him with a long look. “Did you take a nap?”

“No.”

“You look really tired.”

Mingyu gives him a weak smile. “I am.”

Wonwoo sighs and pushes himself off the wall. “Come on. Maybe a few beers will do the job.”

So they walk to the school, and the village feels kind of eerie at night and if Mingyu walks a little closer against Wonwoo’s side they both don’t mention it.

It’s a class room where everyone’s gathered, a few tables shoved together in the middle with cans of beer and snacks scattered on top of it.

The smell of smoke cuts through the air inside and Mingyu feels his eyes burn.

“Alright kids,” Seokmin exclaims when Wonwoo and him walk inside. “This right here is Mingyu. He’s from the good old city, but we already checked him, and he’s alright. So be nice!”

Wonwoo rolls his eyes and grips Mingyu’s wrist, pulling him along to sit at the other end of the table. He helps Mingyu introduce himself to everyone; he can’t really keep up with all the guys’ names. They all sort of have the same haircut going, which doesn’t help, either. Most of the new faces look a few years older but they seem nice enough.

Then there are Joohyun and Yerim, both names faintly ringing a bell.

Joohyun just turned twenty-three and has been living the village her whole life, her family not having the money to move or send her off to college. She’s really pretty, almost intimidatingly so, but her smile is warm and welcoming.

Yerim immediately starts pestering Mingyu with questions about his life in the city and Mingyu doesn’t really mind answering them as long as he’s still sober because drunk Mingyu tends to do and say regretful things (like going ahead and liking a bunch of gay shit on Instagram for all his relatives to see, good one).

Since Joohyun is a bit older than them it seems like she’s the only one at the table with common sense, telling them to stop smoking inside and opening the windows from time to time.

Yerim is just kind of cute, really. She seems to be holding back because of Wonwoo’s presence but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to hear everything about the city Mingyu lives in and how the girls dress there, at least until Wonwoo leans in and presses his index finger against her forehead, forcing her to lean back in her chair.

“Enough questions, Yerim.” He sighs, giving her a very brotherly look that has her pouting and taking a sip from her Coke. Wonwoo smiles and grabs a beer, opening the can before handing it to Mingyu.

Mingyu watches him make a sign to Seokmin, who sighs and reaches to grab the box of cigarettes from his pocket once again, tossing a stick together with the lighter into Wonwoo’s waiting hands. Wonwoo gets up to walk to the open window, lighting the cigarette and inhaling the smoke like it’s making all his physical pain vanish.

His shoulders relax instantly and Mingyu can’t help but be kind of fascinated by how quickly his fingers stop trembling.

He doesn’t realize he’s staring at Wonwoo until Yerim kicks him under the table.

“You’re staring,” She says, cocking an eyebrow at him and Mingyu panics for a fraction of a second; was there something on his face that gave him away?

“I’m just worried about him.” Mingyu shrugs and drinks some more beer. “It’s not good for him.”

“Trust me,” She mumbles. “We’ve been trying to get him to stop for years. There’s no point if he himself doesn’t want to stop.”

“How long has he been smoking?”

“Since he was…” She purses her lips, the cute bun on her head bobbing when she tilts her head. “Eighteen? I think.”

Mingyu bites the inside of his cheek, his eyes flickering to Wonwoo again. He’s just staring into the night, looking tired. “How old is he, actually?”

“Twenty-three,” She says. “He’s getting better. He used to smoke a whole pack a day, can you imagine that?”

Mingyu feels his heart drop at the information. What the fuck is Wonwoo doing?

Does he want to die?

“He wasn’t always like this,” Yerim mumbles, lowering her voice like she’s telling him a secret. “It’s because of dad.”

“Your dad?”

“Because he left us—“

“Yerim,” Joohyun speaks up next to her, giving her a warning look. “I think that’s enough, sweetie, yeah?”

Yerim sighs and nods her head, giving Mingyu a sad shrug and a cute smile.

Mingyu’s eyes find Wonwoo again and they stay there even though they shouldn’t.

He doesn’t really notice the pair of eyes on him on the other side of the table, has no way of knowing that Joohyun is having certain thoughts as she follows Mingyu’s line of sight.

He also completely misses sly grin on her face.

 

The rest of the night passes with Seokmin and Chan being too loud and drunk, everyone exchanging funny stories about things they experienced in the village and Mingyu listens to all of it like an outsider, because that’s what he is.

He might be a part of them tonight, or for the next few weeks, but he isn’t really part of them. He’s just a visitor, nothing more.

“Mingyu!” Seokmin shouts unnecessarily because Mingyu is literally sitting two seats next to him. “Did you know that this school is haunted?”

Mingyu purses his lips. “Oh, is it?”

Joohyun rolls her eyes. “He’s an idiot, don’t listen to him.”

“No! But hyung’s right,” Chan says, his eyes wide like he’s being one hundred percent serious. Mingyu chuckles in amusement and he hears Wonwoo snort next to him. “Just last week we were sitting here again and something really fucked up happened! You guys were here too—“

“Chan, that wasn’t a ghost, oh my god.” Joohyun laughs and covers her face with a hand, shaking her head.

“What else was it, then?” Chan snaps at her, turning to look at Mingyu again. “So this is what happens; we’re all sitting here, drinking beer—“

You were drinking orange juice.” Joohyun interrupts, grinning when Chan flushes in embarrassment.

“Anyway, we were sitting here and suddenly, Seokmin hyung’s chair makes a weird sound and just breaks under him.” He gives Mingyu an expectant look, like he’s waiting for some sort of reaction.

Mingyu glances at Wonwoo who just shrugs his shoulders before turning to face Chan again. “Okay…?”

“So, the chair breaks and Seokmin hyung obviously lands on the ground. We all start laughing at him and next thing we know, Yoongi hyung goes flying to the ground as well!” He points at the guy sitting at the end of the table who just rolls his eyes and calmly sips his beer. “At this point we’re pissing ourselves and then, get this, Wonwoo hyung’s chair breaks! Everyone started screaming—“

“Everyone? You were the only one screaming.” Yerim rolls her eyes, causing Chan to falter mid-speech and a blush to bloom on his cheeks.

Mingyu grins; that right there is a crush. How cute.

“But Mingyu hyung, that’s strange, isn’t it? Three chairs just breaking like that? Within, what, thirty seconds? This school is haunted, I just know it!” Chan wraps his arms around himself and looks around with a scared expression.

“I mean.” Mingyu chuckles, shrugging his shoulders. “That’s pretty weird, but I’m guessing the chairs are just old? It’s normal for them to break.”

“Thank you!” Joohyun exclaims, shooting Mingyu a wink that has him pausing, but Joohyun just laughs at his expression and Mingyu relaxes again, realizing she was just teasing.

“But three? All at once? Come on, hyung. I’m not stupid and you aren’t either.” Chan rolls his eyes.

This causes a whole debate arise about the existence of ghosts. Mingyu and Wonwoo both lean back in their chairs simultaneously, sharing an amused look.

At one point Mingyu just sits there, listening to the others laughing about a joke Chan told them, and feels the faint buzz of alcohol in system and all he wants to do is take a nap right there.

Wonwoo and him don’t really talk but Wonwoo’s elbow is pressing against Mingyu’s arm, and somehow that’s better than exchanging words between them. Chan leaves early together with Yerim, nodding his head when Wonwoo tells him to drop her off at home and not let her walk alone.

He seems to care a lot about his sister and Mingyu once again wonders if he would’ve been a good brother, if his parents didn’t decide to stop making babies after him.

Mingyu must’ve been such a damn disappointment that they were scared how their second child might turn out, so they probably just didn’t take the risk.

He knows that’s not it, his mom loves him more than anything, but it’s a funny thought if you ask him.

He brings a hand up to rub them over his burning eyes and reaches into his pocket to pull out the bottle of eye drops, Wonwoo watching him quietly from the side.

“You okay?” He asks, his voice low and warm between the laughter and shouts from he others. “Wanna go outside for a bit?”

“Yeah, my eyes just—“ Mingyu shrugs and Wonwoo just nods his head, already pulling him up on his feet by his arm.

They go outside wordlessly, away from the stuffy air inside and into the chilly night but not before Wonwoo demands another cigarette from Seokmin who shoots him a glare and says “Last one.”

They sit down on the steps again, Wonwoo lighting up his cigarette and Mingyu ripping the tip of the small plastic bottle open. He has no idea how he’s supposed to do this; he usually has a hard time putting the drops in his eyes with a mirror, let alone without one.

Wonwoo seems to sense his inner struggle. “Want me to help?”

“Uhm.” Mingyu hesitatingly hands him the eye drops. “Yeah, just three drops in each eye.”

Wonwoo sticks the cigarette between his lips and nods his head, motioning Mingyu to lean back. He moves closer until he’s looming over Mingyu, one of his hands coming up to cradle Mingyu’s cheek and tilt his head back.

Mingyu tries no to think about how close their faces are right now, tries not to focus on Wonwoo’s palm against his cheek because Wonwoo probably isn’t even the slightest bit aware how intimate the position is. But he can’t help but stare up at him, at Wonwoo’s dark eyes that are narrowed a little like he has trouble seeing clearly, the way his light bangs cover his eyebrows, the tiny scar on his right cheekbone.

“Look up.” Wonwoo slurs around the cigarette between his lips, eyes meeting Mingyu’s for a second before quickly looking away again. Wonwoo gently drops the liquid into Mingyu’s eyes and finally leans back to give Mingyu space to breathe.

“Thank you.” Mingyu’s voice cracks and goes an octave higher and he kind of wants to fling himself down the whole set of stairs, especially when Wonwoo glances at him with a smirk.

“Is that because of the smoke in there or because of your insomnia?” Wonwoo asks, taking another drag from his cigarette.

Mingyu watches him tilt his head back and blow the smoke out and it really shouldn’t be that attractive; it’s gross, but it’s kind of breath taking and Mingyu has a hard time taking his eyes off of Wonwoo’s prominent Adam’s apple.

“I don’t know. Both?” Mingyu shrugs and puts the empty eye-drop container away in his pocket. “I feel like the air up here isn’t helping either.”

“Is it too clean for you?”

“Probably.”

Wonwoo hums and Mingyu watches him smoke like a creep.

“You really need to stop,” He can’t help but say.

“Stop what?”

“Smoking.”

Wonwoo blinks at him before snorting and turning away again. “What’s it to you?”

“It’s gonna send you to an early grave.”

“Good.” He thinks he hears Wonwoo mutter but he kind of hopes it’s just his ears playing tricks on him.

Wonwoo finally stubs the cigarette out and leans back to rest on his elbows, looking up at the night sky. “Do the stars look like this where you live?”

Mingyu directs his gaze up to the sky as well and suddenly feels like all the air was knocked out of his lungs. He scrambles to sit up, narrowing his eyes. “What the fuck?”

“What?”

“Is this real?” Mingyu asks, his lips parting. “How— How are they so big?”

Wonwoo sits up as well, smiling. “I guess that means no?”

“Fuck no!” Mingyu exclaims, unable to close his mouth. The stars are— they look at least three times bigger than the stars back home, and there are so many In the city you’d be lucky to see a single star in the sky because of how heavy the pollution usually is. But right now, it really feels like Mingyu could catch one if he simply reached his hands out. “This looks like something straight out of a movie!” He turns to give Wonwoo an excited look and finds that he’s already staring at Mingyu with a strange look in his eyes.

Wonwoo looks away as soon as he gets caught and tilts his head up instead. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”

“It is.” Mingyu nods. “You don’t get to see anything like this in the city.”

“I bet.” Wonwoo hums and stares at the sky for another few seconds before turning to look at Mingyu. “How long are you staying?”

“Five weeks.”

“Five weeks,” Wonwoo repeats quietly.

Mingyu nods and meets his gaze, opening his mouth to say something but ending up letting out a huge yawn.

Wonwoo wrinkles his nose. “You’re tired.”

“You’re the one who’s been working the whole day.”

“Yeah, but I know I’m going to get some sleep later.” Wonwoo answers. “Could you fall asleep right now? You know, surrounded by my calming presence and all?”

Mingyu tilts his head in confusion before closing his eyes, immediately feeling a heavy pull in his mind, drawing him into dreamland. He startles and opens his eyes when he hears Wonwoo’s muffled laugh. “Sorry. Shit, I’m just…”

“Tired, yeah.” Wonwoo grins at him. He turns around so he’s leaning against the railing of the stairs, nodding his head. “Try to get some shut-eye.”

“But what about you?” Mingyu tries to stay awake, but his eyes keep falling shut, Wonwoo’s face growing blurry in front of him.

“I’ll play piano tiles or something,” Wonwoo says. “Go to sleep.” He leans in to push Mingyu’s upper body back until he’s leaning against the wall, their legs kind of tangled between them.

“I’m sorry. I keep falling asleep on you,” Mingyu mumbles, his eyes already slipping closed and mind shutting down.

Wonwoo says something but Mingyu doesn’t hear it anymore.

 

 

“Hey, Mingyu.”

Mingyu sucks in a breath and opens his eyes when he feels someone shaking his shoulder. “W-What?”

Wonwoo is looming over him, gently squeezing his arm. “Let’s go home. It’s late.”

“Fuck.” Mingyu quickly rubs the sleep from his eyes, scrambling to stand up on unsteady feet. “Shit, how long was I out?”

“Just an hour,” Wonwoo assures him. “Don’t worry, the others are still inside, but I need to get up early tomorrow, so.”

“Oh, yeah sure.”

“You can stay if you want—“

“No, no. Let’s go,” Mingyu says, his mind still clouded with sleep. He hopes it stays like that until he’s back home. He feels like he could fall back asleep. He really, really hopes it’ll work.

They say goodbye to the others before they leave and Wonwoo doesn’t say anything when Mingyu keeps stumbling into him on their way back. He seems amused more than anything.

Wonwoo opens the gate to his house for him. Mingyu’s tipsy state combined with his sleep-deprived mind is definitely not a good mixture. “Alright, think you can manage the rest?”

“Mhm.” Mingyu walks through the gate and starts closing the door, the metal rattling a little in the silence of the night. He grins at Wonwoo who is looking at Mingyu with an amused expression through the bars of the gate. “Goodnight, hyung.”

“Hyung?”

“A little birdie told me you’re older than me.”

“I am?” Wonwoo tilts his head.

“Yup. By two years.”

“Oh, shit. You are a baby.”

Mingyu reaches his arm through the gate to hit Wonwoo, but the boy only laughs and steps out of his reach. Mingyu pouts but then Wonwoo comes closer again, his fingers curling around Mingyu’s wrist, and the simple touch makes Mingyu’s breath falter.

“Go get some sleep, yeah?”

Mingyu tears his eyes away from where Wonwoo is still holding his wrist. “I’ll try.”

“Good.” Wonwoo nods his head and lets go of him. “Bye, sleepyhead.”

“Bye hyung.” Mingyu grins and Wonwoo stares at it for a moment, before he laughs and turns away, shaking his head.

Mingyu watches him disappear in the shadows before forcing his feet to walk back to his house, greeting Pumpkin and taking him inside with him again.

He’s sure he’s going to get his ass whooped by his grandmother soon because Pumpkin’s hairs are sticking to every surface inside the house, but Mingyu would take any ass whooping if it meant Pumpkin stops giving him that sad kicked puppy look whenever he passes him.

 

 

Sleep doesn’t come tonight, like, at all.

He pulls the hood of his sweater up and hides his fingers in it’s sleeves, pulling up a chair to sit down in front of the window, bare feet buried under Pumpkin’s warm tummy where the dog is sleeping on the ground.

The sun takes it’s sweet time to rise, and by the time it does, Mingyu’s eyes are dry and burning, and he kind of feels like a part of his soul has left his body.

 

 

 

The next morning, his grandmother asks him to go and pick up a delivery of her medication at the tiny shop Mingyu spotted from the bus when he got here.

“But that’s gotta be like, a thirty minutes’ walk.” Mingyu mumbles, wiping his mouth on a napkin after finishing his breakfast.

“Oh, you don’t have to walk, silly,” She says. “Just catch uncle Changho’s van. He drives to Cheumsan every day at noon.”

His social anxiety tells Mingyu that it sounds like a very bad idea. That he would rather walk half an hour in the summer heat than doing something as terrifying as driving in uncle Changho’s van.

“Okay, sure,” Mingyu says because he doesn’t want his grandma to think of him as a freaking baby.

So by the time noon rolls around, Mingyu leaves the house and acts like he’s in a hurry to catch uncle Changho’s van, and for a while he actually considers just walking up to the man and riding with him, but then he sees how many freaking people are climbing inside the van and he quickly disregards that idea.

And he does what any other normal person would do; he hides behind a tree and waits for the van to drive away before he leaves his hiding spot and—

walks.

Mingyu walks and instant regret kicks in when he feels sweat trickling down in his back ten minutes later.

He’s standing in the middle of nowhere, no sign of civilisation around him. Just wide and endless fields and the sorry road he’s walking on right now.

And it’s so hot. The sun is hanging at it’s highest point in the sky, blazing and absolutely unrelenting and Mingyu wonders if he would sizzle like an egg in a fry pan if he would take his top off and lie down on the pavement.

“Great job, Mingyu,” He mutters to himself, kicking at a pebble angrily. “You fucking moron. I hope you get a sunstroke.”

He makes it to the shop regardless, thirty minutes later with his shirt soaked in sweat and his bangs sticking to his temples.

Mingyu sighs and feels like collapsing on the spot when he steps inside the shop, the old man behind the register giving him a curious look.

“Jesus, son, did you walk?”

“Yes.”

The old man laughs and gets up to grab a bottle of water from the beverage refrigerator behind him, handing it to Mingyu, who nearly whines at the immediate condensation on the bottle.

“I don’t have any money on me.”

The man furrows his bushy eyebrows and simply shakes the bottle until Mingyu takes it. “It’s water, boy. I’m not going to charge you for that.”

“Thank you,” Mingyu says, probably looking like an idiot with the surprised look on his face. He opens the bottle and almost empties it entirely in one go.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.” The man regards Mingyu with a curious look. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Mingyu shakes his head after lowering the bottle. “I’m from the city. Visiting my grandmother.”

“What’s her name?”

“Youngja.”

“Oh!” The man exclaims. “You’re one of the Kims! Why didn’t you say so before? Come here, kid.” The man suddenly walks up to him and envelops him in a bone crushing hug.

“Uhm.” Mingyu awkwardly lets himself be hugged.

The man laughs and pulls away again. “Yeah, you definitely aren’t from around here. What did you need?”

“I’m just here to pick up grandma’s medication. She said it usually gets dropped off here?”

“Yes, of course. They delivered it this morning.” The man walks back to his register and reaches underneath it, pulling out a small plastic bag before handing it to Mingyu.

Mingyu takes a quick look at the contents but just sees a bunch of random boxes with weird names. “Thank you.”

“Why on earth did you walk all the way down here?” The man chuckles, shaking his head. “It’s going to be hell to walk back! I’d drive you but I can’t leave the shop.”

“Oh, no it’s fine. I have good stamina.”

He does, but not when it’s thirty degrees out.

The man doesn’t seem to believe him since he laughs again and hands Mingyu another bottle of water. “Here, for the road.”

Mingyu kind of wants to kiss the man’s chubby cheeks but decides to settle for a friendly smile. “Thank you, really. You’re very kind.”

“Don’t mention it, son. We’re all like family here.”

“Okay. Thanks again. Have a nice day!” He waves and leaves the shop, his body refusing and wanting to hurry back inside when the sun touches his skin. Mingyu contemplates just dumbing the whole bottle over his head.

He’s about to start walking when a car pulls up in front of the shop, and Mingyu wouldn’t have paid it any mind if the person getting out of it didn’t call his name.

“Mingyu?”

It’s Wonwoo, because of course it is.

Mingyu turns to look at him, squinting his eyes against the blinding sun and Wonwoo slowly approaches him, his shoes scrunching against the gravel on the ground. “Hyung.”

“What are you doing here?” Wonwoo asks, tilting his head. He has sweat clinging to his temples, his shirt sticking to his torso a bit and his hands are streaked with what looks to be car oil.

He gives Mingyu a quick once-over but not in a checking-out way.

It’s more like an older brother checking a kid for injuries and Mingyu decides he really doesn’t like it.

“Picking up grandma’s pills.” He lifts up the plastic bag.

Wonwoo frowns and looks around as if he’s looking for a car. “Did you walk?”

“… No?”

Wonwoo blinks at him, a smile tugging on his lips and he mutters “Idiot” under his breath. “Just wait here, okay? I’ll drop you off at home.”

“No, hyung—“

“Shut up. You’re not walking home in this heat.” Wonwoo scoffs, shaking his head as he turns around and disappears inside the shop.

Mingyu groans to himself. He should’ve just listened to his grandmother, now he’s wasting Wonwoo’s time because of his stupidity.

Wonwoo emerges from the shop a few minutes later, carrying a few large water bottles and something that looks like cookies. “Come on, hop in.”

It’s cool inside the car and Mingyu sighs in relief, leaning his head back against the seat when Wonwoo starts the engine and drives off.

The radio is playing the current charts, making Mingyu hum along when he hears the same song playing that’s been in the background in every store and restaurant and TV ads.

“Oh, man,” He mumbles, looking at the audio system. “You can’t even play CD’s in here, hyung.”

Wonwoo turns to look at him, following his line of sight before breaking out into a tired smile. “Yeah. Only cassettes.”

“Jesus,” Mingyu’s hand hovers in front of the cassette slot unsurely. “Do they even sell cassettes anymore?”

Wonwoo shrugs. “No idea. I don’t listen to anything but the radio, anyway.”

Mingyu juts his lower lip out. How does Wonwoo survive like that? He’s the type of person to get frustrated when there’s no AUX chord in cars to plug his phone in.

But freaking cassettes?

Mingyu honestly has no idea the last time he saw one apart from being forced to watch Thirteen Reasons Why by his lecturer in class as part of their suicide prevention project.

He suddenly gets a brilliant idea.

“Hyung!” He exclaims, more like shouts, because Wonwoo’s hand slips on the steering wheel and the car swerves for a second, Mingyu laughing awkwardly at the glare Wonwoo shoots him once he’s in control of the vehicle again.

“What?”

“My grandma has a cassette recorder in her basement,” Mingyu explains. “I saw it yesterday. I’m sure she has some cassettes left. I could make, like, a mixtape for you.”

Wonwoo hums. “Not sure if I trust your taste in music.”

“My taste in music is absolutely brilliant,” Mingyu scoffs. “But I can put some of your stuff on there, too. How about it? Then you don’t have to listen to the same overplayed charts eyer single day.”

“Okay.” Wonwoo sighs. “Why not?”

Mingyu grins and focuses on the wide fields again, the wind ruffling through Mingyu’s sweat matted hair through the rolled down windows.

He blinks his eyes open and turns to look at Wonwoo again; he’s holding the steering wheel with one hand, his other arm perched on the open window.

“What’s with all the oil?” Mingyu asks, pointing at the black smears on Wonwoo’s skin.

Wonwoo grunts and turns the volume of the radio down. “There was an emergency. A tractor broke down and the farmer’s screwed if we don’t have it running by tonight.”

Mingyu hums and purses his lips. “You seem to work a lot.”

Wonwoo just shrugs his shoulders. “I guess.”

“You should take a break from time to time.”

“I can’t afford to take a break, Mingyu.” Wonwoo looks at him, smiling, exhaustion written all over his handsome features.

Mingyu averts his eyes, his dad’s disappointed face popping up in his head at his own thoughts. “Do you… owe someone money or something?”

“No.”

“Then why do you work so much?”

“Gotta bring food to the table, don’t I?”

Mingyu frowns. “How is that your job?”

“Someone has to look out for Yerim and my mom.” Wonwoo’s jaw tightens, a clear sign for Mingyu to change the subject.

“What about your dad?” He can’t stop himself from asking, remembering what Yerim was about to tell him yesterday night.

Mingyu sees how Wonwoo’s entire posture stiffens before he turns his face away and looks out of the window. “He’s not around.”

And Mingyu can take a hint; it’s obvious this isn’t a subject he should’ve breached, so he shuts his mouth and sticks his head out of the window.

“What are you doing?”

“Drying my hair.” Mingyu shouts.

He hears Wonwoo’s muffled laughter and smiles.

Mingyu grabs his stuff when Wonwoo stops the car by the gates of his grandmothers’ house, the engine still rumbling. “Thank you, hyung. And sorry for wasting your time.”

“You didn’t.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “But don’t go walking around like that again. You get a sunstroke really fast up here. High altitude and all that.”

Mingyu nods his head and climbs out of the car, walking around it until he’s standing at Wonwoo’s side, ushering a few of their neighbours’ chicken out of the way. He clears his throat, scratching the back of his head. “Are you… am I gonna see you tonight?”

Wonwoo’s eyes flicker over Mingyu’s face for a moment, eyes flashing with something. “I don’t know. I’m not sure how long this job’s going to take, you know?”

“Oh. Yeah, sure.” Mingyu shrugs. “I’ll just see you whenever.”

Wonwoo nibbles on his lower lip. “Did you sleep alright, last night?”

“Like a baby.” Mingyu lies.

“Good.” Wonwoo smiles, the wind ruffling his bangs. “Alright, I gotta go. See you later.”

Mingyu nods and steps away from the car, watching Wonwoo drive off, not really able to wrap his mind around why the hell he feels so frustrated all of a sudden.

 

 

He’s lying on his bed with his laptop balanced on his lap a few hours later, watching an episode of Black Mirror with the psycho woman who killed a baby when he hears a familiar voice in their garden.

“Hey, aunt Youngja!” Seokmin is shouting. “Can Mingyu come out to play?”

Mingyu snorts and shuts his laptop, getting up from the bed to go downstairs and see what Seokmin wants.

“Hey guys,” He says, careful not to step on the dirty ground with his socks once he’s downstairs.

Seokmin is standing there, together with Chan and Yerim. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Wasting time.”

“Wanna do nothing together?” Seokmin asks.

“How about you guys help me with my cabbage instead of doing nothing?” Mingyu’s grandma suddenly says, popping up behind him.

“Cabbage?” Yerim warily asks.

 

Which is how the four of them end up sitting in the garden, wearing colorful kitchen gloves, surrounded by radish and various containers his grandmother intends to ferment her vegetables in.

Pumpkin is chasing butterflies around, not a care in the world.

“I can’t believe this is what my life has come to,” Yerim mutters, rubbing salt in between the cabbage leaves.

Seokmin agrees. “I came here to have fun and this is what I get. I’m literally spending my summer break making Kimchi.”

“I dunno, I think it’s kinda fun.” Chan pipes up, dodging the cabbage leaf Seokmin throws at him.

Mingyu sighs and falls back to sit on his bum instead of on his heels, his back complaining about his crouched position. “Grandma, look, not that I don’t want to help but what on earth is all this? There’s no way you’re going to eat this much Kimchi on your own!”

His grandmother shrugs and puts down two huge basins in front of them. “I don’t make all of that for myself, silly. I give a lot of it away to others in the village, and some of it I sell at the fall market down in Cheumsan.”

“Wait—“ Seokmin freezes and looks up at here. “Is my grandmother’s Kimchi hers or yours?”

Mingyu’s grandmother gives him a bashful smile. “Oh, but that doesn’t mean her Kimchi isn’t good—“

“I feel so fucking betrayed.”

“Don’t fucking swear around my grandma.” Mingyu snaps, ducking his head when his grandmother pinches the skin on his nape.

“I’m going to go finish the sauce. Make sure to wash the leaves properly, okay? I don’t want any dirt left in them.” She sighs and walks back upstairs.

Seokmin grumbles under his breath and continues spraying the leaves with the garden hose.

“Hey, can I ask you guys something?” Mingyu finds himself saying after a while.

“Sure, what is it?”

“It’s about Wonwoo.” He glances at Yerim who just blinks at him curiously with her big eyes.

“Of course it is.” Seokmin smirks and Mingyu frowns at him in confusion before deciding to shrug it off.

“Is your dad— I mean, Yerim, yesterday you said he left but did you mean that in a literal sense or…?”

Chan and Seokmin get conflicted looks on their faces, seemingly very uncomfortable with the question.

Yerim breaks the awkward silence by shrugging her shoulders. “Oh, he’s not dead, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Mingyu clears his throat. He didn’t want to say it out loud but Yerim doesn’t seem to be too sensitive so maybe he’s just worrying too much. “So, where is he, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I don’t know.” Yerim juts her lower lip out, playing with the water from the garden house. “He was just gone one morning and he never came back.”

“He basically left their mom years ago,” Seokmin further explains. “He was a fucking coward. The only thing he left behind for them was debts Wonwoo has to work off now.”

Yerim’s shoulders sag a little and she fails to keep up her cheery attitude. Chan looks a little helpless next to her and splashes her with water to distract her. It works, because she starts grinning and directs the hose at Chan’s face, who falls on his back and starts crying at her to stop.

Mingyu sighs and lowers his head. He’s such an idiot. Why the hell did he have to ask Wonwoo those things earlier today?

“Don’t tell Wonwoo we told you,” Seokmin says, strangely serious. “He doesn’t like talking about it. He’d probably kick our asses if he knew we told you.”

“No, don’t worry,” Mingyu answers. “I won’t tell him.”

The others fall into a different, more light hearted subject rather quickly, but Mingyu has a hard time joining them.

He can’t stop thinking about Wonwoo and Yerim and their entire life situation and he can’t really stop the flare of irritation in his chest at how fucking unfair all of it seems.

Seokmin snaps his fingers in front of his face to gain his attention, laughing when Mingyu throws half a cabbage away from how hard he startles.

Mingyu helps the others move the clean cabbage into the basins his grandma brought earlier, his eyebrows knitting together in concentration as he looks at the bright red plastic container.

“Hey, I know this basin,” He mumbles, making the others look at him curiously. “My grandma used to wash me in this one when I was a baby.”

“Hyung!” Chan half laughs and half cries in disgust.

“So your dick was in here?” Seokmin points at it. “So the whole village is tasting your dick, essentially. Good to know.”

“I was a baby, you pervert!” Mingyu rolls his eyes, seeing Yerim cover her ears.

“But man, I remember getting baths in these things, too,” Seokmin mumbles. “It used to feel like a freaking swimming pool when I was like, four. Look how tiny they are, it’s fucking depressing.”

“The perks of growing up poor, right?” Chan laughs, making them smile.

His grandma brings the sauce a while later, and they spend another thirty minutes thoroughly covering the cabbage with it before they start stacking them inside the airtight containers.

Mingyu feels absolutely knackered by the time they’ve carried all the containers into his grandmothers’ basement and he just hopes that the physical exertion will get him some sleep tonight.

 

 

It doesn’t.

The crickets chirping outside start to sound like they’re mocking him when he’s still wide awake as the clock strikes three that night, and Mingyu swears he can feel his pulse everywhere.

Whenever he goes this long without proper sleep, it’s like his body develops a seventh sense, he can feel and hear things that aren’t there.

Others call it growing paranoid, but Mingyu thinks developing a new sense just sounds way cooler and less like he’s slowly but surely losing his mind.

He doesn’t run this time, just sits down in his sad char and buries his chin in the bend of his arm, blinking up at the stars and pleading them to tell his mind to shut up and let him sleep.

And maybe the stars up here aren’t just there to look pretty; maybe they’re kind of magical.

Because Mingyu wakes up along with the sun three hours later with a horrible crick in his neck, but he slept.

That’s really all that matters.

 

 

 

“Mingyu!” His grandmother shouts and Mingyu slowly blinks his eyes open from where he was trying to let his body rest a bit on the couch the next day when afternoon blends into the evening. “Wonwoo’s here!”

Mingyu gets up so fast he ends up knocking himself over, toppling to the ground with a loud thud.

“What was that?” His grandmothers asks.

“Nothing!” Mingyu shouts back, trying not to think too much about how fast his heart is beating all of a sudden. He makes his way down the stairs and opens the door to see Wonwoo sitting on the hammock in their garden, his head tilted to the side and eyes closed with Pumpkin lying at his feet, tail wagging lazily.

It’s early in the evening, the sun’s going to start setting soon but the air is already cooling down to a more comfortable kind of warmth.

Mingyu puts on some ugly slippers and approaches Wonwoo.  It’s only been a little more than a day since he last saw the older so Mingyu honestly doesn’t know why he’s so excited about the fact that Wonwoo came to see him.

“Hyung,” He says to get his attention, chuckling when Wonwoo stirs and gets up comically fast.

“Hey,” Wonwoo mutters, looking a little awkward. He’s not wearing his working clothes anymore, just some jeans and a white shirt, making him look really young. “Did your grandmother wake you up? I told her not to.”

“I wasn’t sleeping.” Mingyu shakes his head. “You look tired.”

“So do you.” Wonwoo watches Mingyu lie down on the hammock, almost losing his balance and falling backwards if it weren’t for Wonwoo’s fast reflexes. He laughs as he steadies the hammock, his smile only widening at the glare Mingyu shoots him. “I thought you were sleeping well. You told me so.”

“Well.” Mingyu shrugs. “I’m a good liar.”

Wonwoo stares at him, long enough to make Mingyu squirm in his seat. “What do you do the whole night, then?”

“Nothing?” Mingyu purses his lips. “Wait for the sun to rise, mostly.”

“Mingyu.” Wonwoo sighs. “That’s not good.”

“Well, yeah.” Mingyu chuckles weakly and rubs at his eyes before shuffling over. “Lie down, hyung.”

“That’s not gonna hold us.”

“Oh, come on. You look like a beanpole.”

“Is that a way to talk to your hyung?” Wonwoo asks but sits down next to him anyway. The hammock holds them, just as Mingyu predicted. They secured it tightly around the thick tee branches, so it barely even budges at the additional weight.

“I said lie down. Why are you sitting?”

“Because we won’t fit.”

“Why are you so pessimistic?”

Wonwoo groans but finally gives in and kicks off his shoes, lying down and mirroring Mingyu’s position by resting his head on the opposite side.

It’s a tight fit, to be fair, but they make it work, even if it means Mingyu’s feet are basically all up in Wonwoo’s face. Wonwoo swats them away when Mingyu pokes his cheeks with his dirty socks and Mingyu laughs, watching a smile tug on Wonwoo’s lips.

The hammock swings gently in the wind and Mingyu feels the warm summer breeze brush against his skin and it messes up his hair but he doesn’t really care. Pumpkin is lying underneath he hammock and Mingyu reaches down to pet him every now and then so he doesn’t feel too neglected.

He feels warm and comfortable and like… he could fall asleep.

He forces himself to keep his eyes open and looks at Wonwoo, who is already staring at him. “What?”

Wonwoo shrugs. “Just wondering if you’re gonna sleep.”

“I might.”

“Good.” Wonwoo takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.

“Hyung.”

“Hm?”

“Do you—“ Mingyu shouldn’t ask, but he’s an idiot, so he asks anyway. “Do you ever want to leave this place?”

Wonwoo doesn’t react at first, but he slowly blinks his eyes open to meet Mingyu’s gaze. “Why are you asking?”

“Just wondering.”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “Where would I go?”

“I don’t know. You could go anywhere.” Mingyu shrugs.

“My family needs me. I couldn’t leave them.”

“You could take them with you.”

“I don’t have the money for that.”

“But you—“

“Mingyu, stop.” Wonwoo frowns at him.

Mingyu bites the inside of his cheek for a moment, his eyes challenging, but he nods his head. “Okay. Sorry I asked.”

Wonwoo sighs and closes his eyes. “Stop staring at me,” He mumbles after a while.

“How the hell did you—“ Mingyu splutters as heat rushes to his cheeks.

Wonwoo grins. “Close your eyes, sleepyhead.”

And Mingyu does, and falls asleep.

 

 

They both fall asleep, actually, which is how his grandmother finds them two hours later when it’s dark and considerably colder outside.

She looks at both sleeping boys, their arms hanging from the hammock and brushing against the grass underneath and gives a sad smile at the obvious dark bags underneath both their eyes.

Mingyu stirs awake at her voice, feeling mildly disoriented at first before he finds his bearings and his gaze lands on Wonwoo’s peaceful features, the slow and steady rise and fall of his broad chest.

He almost doesn’t have the heart to wake him up, but it’s cold outside and he doesn’t want him to get sick, so he gently shakes his ankle.

Wonwoo yawns and stretches adorably, rubbing at his eyes.

“What time is it?” Wonwoo asks, his voice low and raspy from sleep.

And Mingyu just kind of sits there like an idiot, unable to move and unable to look away.

He stares at Wonwoo’s ruffled hair, his shirt that slipped and is now exposing one of his collarbones and his sun-kissed skin, stares at Wonwoo’s oil stained hands and fights the urge to reach out to hold them when his heart starts beating against his ribcage rapidly.

Oh, shit.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

When Mingyu goes running that night, he quickly realizes that Wonwoo was actually telling the truth when he said there were wolves in the forests around here.

He thought the older was just taking the piss out of him, trying to scare him, so he didn’t bother asking his grandmother about it.

He’s been running for about half an hour when he passes the village’s cemetery. Mingyu isn’t easily scared, so things like darkness or old cemeteries don’t frighten him at all, but just as he’s about to run past it he hears a strange rustling sound coming from the thick bushes behind it.

It’s not the wind.

There is no wind at the moment.

Mingyu slowly comes to a stop, his chest heaving heavily as he tries to catch his breath. He can’t see anything but the general shapes of his surroundings in the darkness, so he steps closer, bringing the hem of his shirt up to wipe the sweat from his face.

It’s completely silent; his loud breathing is the only thing he can hear.

For a second he thinks his ears just played a trick on him and he’s about to continue his run, but then he hears it again; the rustling, and then a crunch, like twigs breaking under too much weight.

Mingyu narrows his eyes, holding his breath so he can listen closer.

The rustling stops.

And is followed by a low, very much animalistic growl.

Yeah, okay, Mingyu isn’t easily scared, but fuck him there’s a fucking wolf in those bushes and Mingyu isn’t ready to die yet.

He curses under his breath when the rustling gets heavier, like something is about to jump out of it, and in his haste to get the hell out of there, he stumbles over his own feet and falls, bracing himself with his palms so he doesn’t split his head open on the ground.

Mingyu hisses at the sharp pain in his palm but he can’t really see anything in the darkness, nor does he really care about a small cut on his hand when he’s about to get eaten by a freaking wolf. He quickly scrambles to his feet and runs off, his heart still beating way too fast.

At least he’s got an interesting story to tell his friends when he gets back home.

 

 

The cut on his hand looks worse than it is; his grandmother still loses it when she sees it the next morning, hastily cleaning it in the garden and putting too much ointment on it.

“No more running!” She says, pointing a stern finger at him.

“Okay.” Mingyu says, but goes running again that night.

 

 

“What happened to your hand?”

Mingyu is accompanying Wonwoo to go and get their cattle, brushing the tips of his fingers over the high grass they’re currently walking through, Pumpkin leading the way but kind of getting swallowed up by the tiny grass forest around them. He hopes there are no ticks here because his ankles are very much exposed right now.

“I fell.”

“Fell where?” Wonwoo asks, his eyes focused on the healing, red cut on Mingyu’s palm.

“I went running,” Mingyu says, curling his fingers closed so Wonwoo will stop staring at it. “I told you I’m clumsy.”

Wonwoo looks up at Mingyu, like he can tell Mingyu isn’t telling him the entire truth, but he drops it and averts his eyes again.

Mingyu uses the chance to let his eyes roam over Wonwoo’s profile. They don’t see each other as much as they did during the first few days. Wonwoo is working a lot and he’s usually too exhausted by the time he gets back to hang out with them, which means Mingyu got closer with the others, and he gets along with Chan and Seokmin just fine, but he… well, who the hell is he kidding?

He likes spending time with Wonwoo.

“Are you any good, then?” Wonwoo asks.

“Good at what?”

“Running.”

“Oh. I’d say I’m pretty fast.”

Wonwoo raises an eyebrow at that. “I bet I could beat you.”

Mingyu scoffs. “That’s cute.”

“Okay. Race you to that tree over there.”

Mingyu rolls his eyes. “Hyung, just don’t. You’re going to embarrass yourself—“

Wonwoo starts running before Mingyu finishes his sentence and Mingyu stands frozen for a second, before he springs into life and moves his legs.

It doesn’t matter that Wonwoo had a headstart; even if it looks like he’s going to win, Mingyu catches up within seconds, grinning wildly at the angry look on Wonwoo’s face when he sprints past him.

Mingyu wraps his arms around the tree trunk once he gets there, smiling at Wonwoo who has already given up and walks up to him with an annoyed expression on his face. “Aww, hyung it’s okay. My legs are way longer than yours, you didn’t stand a chance.”

“Fuck off.” Wonwoo huffs, looking up at the tree.

Mingyu follows his line of sight and spots the few apples hidden in between the leaves. He absentmindedly pats Pumpkin’s head. “Woah, can we eat those?”

Wonwoo purses his lips. “We shouldn’t.”

“That means we can.” Mingyu grins.

“No, that means uncle Changho will chase our asses through the whole village with his hunting rifle if we touch his apples.”

“Come on. Just two! There’s a bunch up there. He won’t even notice.”

Wonwoo grunts before he shrugs his shoulders. “Okay, just… help me up.”

Mingyu walks over and lets Wonwoo manhandle him into a crouching position, spluttering a bit when Wonwoo just goes ahead and sits down on his shoulders. “Fuck, what the hell did you eat today? You’re heavy!”

“Says the one who called me a beanpole the other day.” Wonwoo laughs, steadying himself on Mingyu’s head while Mingyu struggles to get up on his feet. “Stay still.”

“You’re going to break my neck,” Mingyu mutters, trying to ignore the fact that Wonwoo’s dick is currently pressing against his neck. Blood starts rushing to his cheeks but he tries to calm down and reaches up to grip Wonwoo’s legs to hold him in case he falls.

“You’re the one who wanted an apple.” Wonwoo shrugs, reaching out to steady himself on the tree once Mingyu is standing at full height. “Step a little closer.”

Mingyu holds Wonwoo’s ankles securely while the older chooses two unmarred, green apples. “What’s taking you so long?”

Wonwoo grumbles under his breath. “Okay. Let me down.” He slides down from Mingyu’s shoulders once Mingyu is crouching again, rubbing one apple against his shirt before handing it Mingyu.

He wishes he could say the apple is the best apple he’s ever tasted in his life, but really; it’s just an apple.

It’s a green, sour, juicy apple, and it tastes good, and that’s it.

They sit down on some rocks a few minutes away from the apple tree so uncle Changho doesn’t get to spot them and throw away the cores, watching who can throw further.

Surprisingly it’s Wonwoo and Mingyu does not sulk about it, okay?

“What was your dream when you were a kid?“ He asks after a few minutes of them doing nothing but lying on the grass and watching the clouds move in the sky. Pumpkin is snoring softly next to him, ears twitching when a fly lands on his head.

Wonwoo shoots Mingyu a wary look. “My dream?”

“Like,” Mingyu shrugs. “What did you want to become?”

“Why do you want to know that?”

Mingyu shrugs, scrunching up his nose in distaste when he notices that he’s lying very close to a pile of dried cow shit. “Well, I’m trying to get to know you a bit better.”

“Why?”

“Okay, if you ask me why one more time—“

Wonwoo laughs and leans down to pick up a large tree branch, moving it to the side. “I’m just not very interesting. I don’t know why you bother.”

“I find you interesting. Kind of.”  

Their eyes lock for a moment before Wonwoo clears his throat and looks away again. “A police detective.”

Mingyu’s eyebrows shoot up at that. “Really?”

Wonwoo nods, shrugging a little awkwardly. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if you can call it a dream…”

“Sure you can. So, why didn’t you give it a try?” Mingyu asks, making Wonwoo give him a long, unreadable look. Mingyu feels like he’s missing something judging by the intense, inquiring stare he receives from Wonwoo.  “What?”

“I don’t know what you want to hear from me.” Wonwoo huffs. “No one’s ever asked me shit like that.”

“Yeah, well, maybe they should’ve,” Mingyu answers, not really sure why there’s such a bite to his voice.

Wonwoo falls silent at that, and Mingyu wishes he would’ve just kept his stupid mouth shut, because it’s like he just ruined Wonwoo’s mood.

The sun hasn’t set yet, so they have a little more time before they have to go and get the cattle. Wonwoo starts playing with a blade of glass while Mingyu is still lying on his back, his eyes closed, starting to fight sleep again.

He doesn’t know why he always feels so sleepy with Wonwoo around. Maybe his theory about Wonwoo having a calming presence wasn’t just a theory after all.

Mingyu opens his eyes when he hears a weird sound, glancing at Wonwoo to see him hold the blade of grass between his palms against his mouth. He scrambles up into a sitting position, shuffling closer so fast Wonwoo has to lean back with an irritated look on his face.

“Did you just do that?” Mingyu asks in excitement.

Wonwoo pushes him away with his knee. “Yes. Don’t get up in my face like that.”

“Hyung! Do it again!”

Wonwoo frowns but does as he’s told; he brings the blade of grass up to his mouth and blows, creating a strange whistling sound, and Mingyu is just way too impressed by it.

“That’s so cool,” He says. “Can you teach me?”

“You just place the blade between your thumbs and blow.” Wonwoo lamely says.

Mingyu rips out a blade of grass and tries it out and… fails. “Hyung.”

“What are you whining about?” Wonwoo shakes his head. “You’re doing it wrong, look, watch me.”

It looks easy when Wonwoo does it, but when Mingyu tries it again a moment later, the only sound he creates is a pathetic puff of air. “Why can’t I do it?”

“Because you suck.” Wonwoo smirks, but he spots the pout on Mingyu’s lips and gets a conflicted look on his face, groaning in the end and slapping Mingyu’s hands away. “Man… okay, look. I’ll help you.” He positions a new blade of grass between Mingyu’s thumbs. “Look, there needs to be a tiny space on each side of the grass, see?”

“… Okay?”

Wonwoo chuckles and guides Mingyu’s hands to his mouth, his fingers curled around Mingyu’s wrist, and they’re sitting quite close like this and Mingyu suddenly catches a whiff of what has to be Wonwoo’s body wash of cologne. Either way, it’s something earthy and manly and it makes Mingyu shudder like an idiot. “Mingyu? I said you have to press your lips right here.”

“Uh— y-yeah.” Mingyu clears his throat and does as he’s told, and when he blows this time, he manages to create a sound. “Hyung, I did it!”

“Yay.”

“Woah, I’m such a fast learner.”

Wonwoo rolls his eyes and Mingyu just grins and whistles again. And again. And again.

“Okay, you can stop it now.”

“No way. I’m doing that until I get back home.” Mingyu whistles again, and he has to admit the sound gets annoying after a while. It sounds like a sad duck or something, but he used to be that kid that was entertained for hours by a roll of toilet paper so he just keeps whistling with it.

“Mingyu, stop!” Wonwoo groans, probably already regretting teaching Mingyu.

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“You’re a fucking brat, you know that?”

Mingyu throws the blade of grass away and moves before Wonwoo can so much as blink, tackling the older to the ground with all his weight. “Wanna repeat that?”

Wonwoo is laughing on the ground, trying to kick Mingyu off. “I said you’re a brat.”

Mingyu jabs his hands into Wonwoo’s sides, smiling when Wonwoo throws his head back and starts laughing. “Oh, you’re ticklish. That’s cute.”

“Stop it!” Wonwoo whines, pushing at Mingyu’s shoulders. He knees Mingyu in his groin on accident and uses the moment to roll them over, getting grass and probably all sorts of nasty bugs all over their clothes, but it’s not like they really care. Mingyu groans in pain when Wonwoo pins him down, his chest heaving and a bright smile on his face.

“Hyung, my balls! I think you broke them!”

“Serves you right. You need to be taught some manners.” Wonwoo says, still trying to catch his breath, and fuck… he looks so handsome like this, with the collar of his shirt hanging low an exposing part of his chest, his hair all over the place, cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling and Mingyu feels like his heart wants to burst.

He licks his lips, watches Wonwoo’s eyes flicker to catch the movement, and tries to move his hands but Wonwoo suddenly grips his wrists and presses them into the ground.

Mingyu is kind of impressed by Wonwoo’s strength; he doesn’t look like a typical muscular guy, and Mingyu could probably easily break free from his grip, but it’s still surprising. “You gonna respect your hyung from now on?” Wonwoo asks, slightly breathless.

Mingyu smiles despite his nerves and the fluttering in his chest, hopes he’s not as transparent as he feels because he really can’t remember the last time he felt this attracted to anyone. “Are you going to punish me if I don’t?”

Wonwoo’s eyes flash with something and Mingyu regrets the question as soon as the words leave his mouth. He feels Wonwoo’s grip on his wrists tighten and the air between them suddenly grows heavy and thick, and Mingyu’s heart stutters when there’s a tug of something at the pit of his stomach. Wonwoo is warm and firm on top of him, both their chests brushing on each heavy inhale and Wonwoo’s eyes look like a storm while they hold Mingyu’s gaze and it would be so easy to just— to lean up and—

Wonwoo pulls away so fast Mingyu gets blinded by the sudden brightness of the sky. He lies there, feeling shaken and confused as to what the hell just happened and he can’t decide if the heaviness in his chest is from dread or excitement.

Mingyu gulps and sits up after catching his breath, turning his head to see Wonwoo already standing at the wooden fence separating the field here from the one his cattle is grazing on.

Pumpkin nudges Mingyu’s arm with his snout, like he’s urging him to get up and follow Wonwoo, so Mingyu does.

He stands up and dusts off his jeans, slowly approaching the older and cursing himself for not being in control of his stupid thoughts and emotions.

“Hyung,” He says because Wonwoo isn’t looking at him.

Wonwoo climbs over the fence and wipes his nose on the back of his hand, briefly glancing at Mingyu but it’s enough to catch his flushed cheeks and the troubled expression on his face. “We need to go. The sun’s setting.”

Mingyu sighs and nods his head.

He feels like he just ruined things and wonders how the hell the next four weeks are supposed to pass if Wonwoo decides he doesn’t want to see Mingyu again.

 

 

 

 

He’s not surprised when he doesn’t see Wonwoo in the following couple of days.

Not because Mingyu doesn’t leave the house or anything; Wonwoo seems to just have disappeared.

Even the others pick up on his sudden absence and whenever Chan or Seokmin call him to ask where he is, Wonwoo tells them that he’s busy with work.

They asked Mingyu if he knew what was up, if anything happened between them and Mingyu said the truth and explained that he had no idea.

Mingyu tries to tell himself that he was telling the truth, but then he remembers their stupid last encounter and can’t help but feel like Wonwoo’s absence is his fault anyway.

He knows he’s not that important to Wonwoo that the older would go out of his way to avoid him, but the last time Mingyu saw him, Wonwoo barely talked to him on their way home and even his goodbye was rushed and it felt as if Wonwoo was extremely uncomfortable around him.

Mingyu sighs and closes his eyes, the hammock swinging gently in the whisper of the wind.

It’s his fault.

Because Mingyu undeniably has a hard time not thinking about Wonwoo, especially at night when he’s unable to sleep, and he has no idea what that means for him.

The lack of naps he’s been taking during the day when Wonwoo was around really are starting to take a toll on him; he feels like he might pass out from exhaustion if he doesn’t get some real shut-eye soon.

He stirs when he hears the gates to their garden open, hope flaring in his chest, but it quickly deflates once he realizes that it’s Joohyun.

She smiles and waves at him from afar where Pumpkin is running around her in excitement and Mingyu gets up and puts on his grandmothers’ ugly red slippers that are way too small for his feet.

Joohyun seems to think so too, because she raises and eyebrow at his attire and gives him a judging look. “You’re turning into one of us.” She grins.

“I really am.” Mingyu sighs, pointing at the black, lose linen pants his grandmother made him wear because he wouldn’t stop walking around in his skinny jeans despite the sweltering heat.

Joohyun hums and tilts her head. She’s wearing a high ponytail and pink heart earrings and her clothes overall make her look like she’s a tourist just like Mingyu rather than someone living here. Mingyu also notices that she isn’t wearing make-up but she has this stunning kind of natural beauty that forces you to do a double-take; big eyes and full lips, sharp eyebrows. Mingyu briefly thinks his mother would be really happy if he went back with Joohyun’s number in his phone; she always wanted him to marry someone who would keep their traditions going. “You must be bored. Do you really plan on staying another four weeks?”

Mingyu nods. “It’s not that bad. I wouldn’t be doing anything exciting back home either, so it’s okay.”

She nods and looks up at the balcony of their house. “Is aunt Youngja here? My mom sent me to pick something up.”

“I think she’s at the back.” Mingyu nods and walks to the back of their garden where his grandmother is crouched on the ground, diligently taking care of her vegetables. “Grandma, Joohyun’s here.”

His grandmother turns around and gives the girl a warm smile, pointing at the plastic bags that she stacked against the house. “You came to pick those up, right sweetheart?”

Joohyun puffs out her cheeks. “Auntie, I thought it was supposed to be just one bag of tomatoes. What on earth is all of that?”

“I packed some green onions and lettuce and other things, too,” She says. “Oh, don’t give me that look. Mingyu can help you carry them back.”

“Oh, yeah sure,” Mingyu says when Joohyun glances at him, walking over to pick up all the bags at once. Joohyun laughs and takes one bag each from his hands, waving at his grandma before she turns to walk.

“How many people live in your house?”

“Just my parents and me,” She says and smiles at the confused look Mingyu gives. “They do this all the time. My mom gives her homemade butter and cheese because aunt Youngja doesn’t have any cattle and in return we basically raid her garden.”

“These tiny bags probably didn’t even hurt her garden.” Mingyu chuckles. “I swear she could feed the entire village with everything she grows back there.”

Joohyun laughs but she stops when they walk through the gate and she spots two old men walking towards them. Her smile fades and she suddenly puts a ridiculous amount of space between her and Mingyu, ignoring his confused look.

They both stop to bow when the old men walk past them and suddenly Mingyu understands what Joohyun was doing; the men turn to give them curious and mildly judging looks.

Because Joohyun is a girl from the village and Mingyu is a stranger from the city.

It doesn’t look good.

“I’m sorry,” Joohyun says once they’re out of sight, walking closer to him again. “I know it’s ridiculous but you can’t imagine how fast rumors spread around here.”

Mingyu feels a weird sort of anger flare in his chest. “But we were just walking together.”

“Not in their eyes.” Joohyun scoffs, a shadow crossing her face. “We might as well have been holding hands or something. They’re all just… completely crazy.”

“That’s fucking stupid,” Mingyu mutters. “What century do we live in again?”

Joohyun chuckles, some of the humour back in her eyes. “This village is always like, 100 years behind the normal world, so just do the math yourself. I can’t wait to get out of here.”

The last part is so quiet Mingyu isn’t sure if he was meant to hear it or not. “You’re leaving?”

Joohyun freezes for a second before she clears her throat and puts on another smile. “I’m definitely not staying here forever. They’ll turn me into an early housewife and then I won’t have a chance of getting out at all.”

“They, as in your family?”

“Yeah,” She says, her smile turning infinitely bitter. “They’ve been pestering me about getting married for the past two years. Preferably to someone from the village.”

“Seriously?” Mingyu tightens his grip on the bags, waiting for Joohyun to open up a gate in front of them since both his hands are full.

She hums. “I grew up with these people, you know? Just the thought of marrying Wonwoo makes me sick. He’s like my brother for god’s sake.” Joohyun jumps in surprise when Mingyu trips over his feet when he hears the name. “Jesus, you okay?”

“Yes!” Mingyu rushes out. “They want you to marry Wonwoo?”

“Yes.” She sighs. “Of course it’s never going to happen. It’s just what our parents want. I already made it clear that I’m not interested. I think they’re slowly starting to accept it.”

Mingyu clears his throat, trying to calm his racing heart. “And… does Wonwoo feel that way too?”

She nods her head. “You should’ve seen him. He was ready to fight people when they brought the subject up because he knew I couldn’t say much in front of our families. But Wonwoo doesn’t want to get married, anyway. I don’t know what it is with him. He’s never shown interest in anyone, really.”

Mingyu just silently nods his head, not really knowing what he’s supposed to say. “Well, fuck. That’s just crazy. I’m sorry you have to put up with nonsense like that.”

“Oh, it’s fine.” She gives him a reassuring smile. “I’m stronger than I look. I’m not letting them and their old traditions ruin my life.” She winks at him, laughing when Mingyu gets a bit flustered by the gesture. Joohyun’s smile turns into a surprised look and she stops walking. “Oh!”

Mingyu follows her line of sight and sees none other than Wonwoo standing in front of them.

Wonwoo, who’s been missing in action for almost four days.

Wonwoo, who’s wearing casual clothes, whose hair seems to always be kind of a mess and who’s currently staring at Mingyu like a deer caught in the headlights.

Mingyu must look the same because he can’t take his eyes off, and he also thinks his heart grew a pair of wings because something is definitely fluttering against his ribcage and he kind of wants to slam his head into a wall.

Joohyun glances between them curiously before clearing her throat, breaking them out of their reverie. “So, where have you been? Haven’t seen you around, lately.”

“Work,” Wonwoo says, back to avoiding Mingyu’s eyes. “Things are busy these days.”

“I’m sure they are.” Joohyun nods her head, raising an eyebrow at Wonwoo, who only furrows his own in confusion.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Joohyun shrugs. “Come on, Mingyu. Let’s go.”

Wonwoo still looks confused and he briefly glances at Mingyu, the same troubled look crossing his features he had on his face when the thing happened on the field, but it’s gone as quickly as it came. “Where are you going?”

“Just dropping these off at home,” Joohyun says and brushes past him.

Mingyu moves to follow her and is walking past Wonwoo when the boy suddenly stops him.

“Are you going back home after this?” Wonwoo asks without looking at him, his gaze directed to the ground. They’re standing shoulder to shoulder, facing opposite directions.

Mingyu stops and shifts on his legs. “Yeah. Why?”

“Can I—“ Wonwoo starts but stops, and when Mingyu glances at him he sees him swallow heavily. “Do you want to hang out for a bit?”

Mingyu catches Joohyun’s gaze and she seems to know more than he does because she looks so amused about all of this while Mingyu is kind of dying on the inside. “Okay,” He says.

Wonwoo hesitates and nods, and walks away, and only then Mingyu feels like he can breathe again.

“You okay there?” Joohyun asks when Mingyu finally gets his legs to move and catch up with her. “You look a bit red in the face.”

Mingyu grumbles under his breath, Joohyun’s teasing grin only amplifying the horrible flush of his skin.

 

 

When he gets back from Joohyun’s place, he can already see someone talking to his grandma in their garden as he opens up the metal gate.

Both of them look up when they hear Mingyu’s footsteps on the gravel, Wonwoo shooting him a nervous smile that makes Mingyu’s heart rate go through the roof.

Mingyu goes to stand next to him like an awkward teenager. “Grandma, do you need help with anything?”

She immediately shakes her head. “No, thank you. I think I’m going to go upstairs and put my legs up a little.”

“Oh, are you okay? Come I’ll help you—“ Mingyu rushes out, worry flooding his chest at the faint flash of exhaustion and pain on his grandmother’s face.

He receives a glare in return. “Do I look like I need your help?”

Wonwoo bites back a laugh and Mingyu contemplates smacking his arm. “I was just being nice.” He pouts, his grandma chuckling and reaching out to pinch his cheek.

“There are leftovers in the fridge if you boys get hungry, okay?” She says and with that leaves them alone to go upstairs.

Mingyu rubs at his eyes and turns to face Wonwoo, who meets his gaze after a moment. “You’re not working today?”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “There’s like a festival in town. Most of the workers took the day off, so.”

“I see.” Mingyu hums, eyes flickering over Wonwoo’s gentle features. “Why didn’t you go?”

“I’m not really into, uhm, social gatherings.”

“Why am I not surprised to hear that?”

Wonwoo cracks a smile and Mingyu can’t help but find it cute, how the corners of his lips tug up and his eyes crinkle the tiniest bit.

They end up sitting on the hammock again, Mingyu leaning back until his head is dangling down from it and it’s slowly starting to turn red from the rush of blood.

Pumpkin is with them like a constant presence, lying on the soft grass, his snout slowly creating a wet spot on Mingyu’s forehead and judging by the look in his eyes, Mingyu can’t figure out if the dog likes him or is just constantly rolling his eyes at Mingyu.

Wonwoo’s thigh is all pressed up against his own and he pushes the hammock with the hand he has curled around the tee branch above them. “Have you been sleeping alright?”

Mingyu reaches his arms out until they’re touching the ground, the tips of the grass tickling the back of his hands. “Define alright.”

“So that’s a no, then,” Wonwoo mumbles.

Mingyu hums and tries to sit up again but because of the hammock’s movements and because he’s just too tired, he ends up falling back with a groan.

Wonwoo laughs. “Need a hand?”

“Please?” Mingyu reaches his hand out and Wonwoo curls his own around it, pulling Mingyu up. Mingyu grips Wonwoo’s shoulder on instinct because gravity tries to pull him back down and ends up nearly knocking their heads together, their faces suddenly only inches apart.

He watches Wonwoo’s eyes widen at the proximity and Mingyu notices the tiny little mole on his right cheekbone. He thinks he can smell something like lemon drops on Wonwoo’s breath, no tobacco like he expected, and his heart thunders away in his chest when Wonwoo squeezes his hand tightly before letting go all at once.

Mingyu still feels breathless even after Wonwoo puts some space between them, can feel how uncomfortable Wonwoo feels again and expects the older to jump off the hammock and get away from him. But Wonwoo does none of that; he just coughs nervously and continues pushing the hammock, like nothing happened.

“Hyung?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we go back to the waterfall?” Mingyu asks, picking at a lose thread of the hammock.

“Sure.” Wonwoo nods. “The guys wanted to go anyway—“

“No.” Mingyu clears his throat. “Just you and me?”

Wonwoo freezes next to him, the muscles in his thigh tensing up against Mingyu’s and Mingyu once again curses himself from hell to back; he keeps forgetting that this isn’t the city. He can’t just spew shit like that when it could get him in so much trouble.

“Okay.” Wonwoo answers in a small voice. Mingyu’s head snaps up at that and he catches Wonwoo look around nervously, his pink tongue darting out to wet his lips. “When do you wanna go?”

Just as friends. They’re just friends, Mingyu can’t fucking delude himself into thinking this could ever turn into anything else but that. “Tomorrow?”

Wonwoo nods his head and turns to look at him and in any other situation Mingyu would’ve found it cute how he can barely meet Mingyu’s eyes. “Okay.”

“Cool.” Mingyu smiles casually, even though his stomach is currently doing backflips.

Wonwoo’s eyes drop to his mouth and the tension’s suddenly so thick Mingyu can almost taste it at the back of his throat, warm and sticky and kind of suffocating. “Do you wanna take a nap?”

Mingyu starts grinning, this time genuinely. “Thought you’d never ask.”

Which is how they end up lying on the hammock again, heads resting on each end and legs twisted together a bit uncomfortably. Mingyu’s eyelids grow heavy almost immediately, just from Wonwoo’s presence, Wonwoo’s calve pressing up against his arm.

“Your socks smell like peaches.” Mingyu mumbles, eyes slipping closed.

“Fucking weirdo.” He hears Wonwoo answer, but he can tell he’s smiling, and that’s how Mingyu falls asleep seconds later.

His lips stretched into a goofy smile.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Snakes.”

“Yes.”

“Please tell me you’re joking,” Mingyu stammers, looking at the bright coloured lake in front of them.

“Nope,” Wonwoo says, a shit eating smile on his face as he lowers himself to sit down on the massive rock. “A kid even got bitten like, two years ago. It was just a kind of water snake, though. Their poison isn’t strong enough to kill humans so no need to be scared.”

“Wow. I feel so reassured now. Let me just jump right in there and befriend them!” Mingyu huffs. “What is this place? Why are there so many wild animals here?”

“Because we are in the wild?” Wonwoo snorts, his eyes squinted cutely as he looks up at Mingyu. “Stop being such a baby. We swim in there all the time.”

Mingyu crouches down to touch the water. It’s not as cold as he expected it to be.  

“Also, it’s been a while since I last saw a snake. I don’t think there are any around, right now,” Wonwoo continues speaking, watching Mingyu play with the water. “They must’ve been scared away by your ugly face.”  

Mingyu smirks and splashes some water in Wonwoo’s face, who jumps and closes his eyes against the sudden wetness.

“What are you? Twelve?”

“Don’t call me ugly. I’m beautiful.”

Wonwoo snorts, wiping his face with the hem of his shirt.

Mingyu rolls his eyes and turns back to to the lake. “So you’re saying it’s safe to swim in here?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Let’s swim then.”

“We don’t have swim trunks.”

“Hyung,” Mingyu says. “Our underwears are essentially swim trunks.”

“No, they’re not.” Wonwoo scoffs, furrowing his eyebrows.

“Yes. They’re like shorts, what’s the difference?”

 “Underwear gets fucking see-through when it’s wet.” Wonwoo says. “And I don’t want to see your junk.”

Mingyu sighs and gets up to remove his shirt. “Fucking buzzkill.”

He glances at Wonwoo after stepping out of his jeans, trying not to smile when he sees the boy pointedly looking the other way.

The water might’ve felt warm enough on his hand but once it touches his torso Mingyu really regrets this whole going-for-a-swim idea. He lets out an unmanly whine, much to Wonwoo’s amusement.

“Cold?”

“No.” Mingyu snaps, hearing Wonwoo cackle behind him.  

He wades further into the water, the waterfall a few feet away sprinkling water on his arms and decides to stay here where his feet can still touch the rocks beneath. Mingyu lowers himself until only his eyes are peeking out of the surface and stares at Wonwoo like a crocodile eyeing it’s prey.

“You look stupid.” Wonwoo dryly comments, but there’s a curl to his lips, like he’s trying not to smile.

Mingyu ignores the what he hopes is a half hearted insult. “Can I ask you something?”

“You would ask even if I said no.”

Mingyu grins. “So… Joohyun might’ve said something about both your families wanting you two to get married.”

Wonwoo’s eyes flash with bitter annoyance and he tilts his head back with a roll of his eyes. “Why would she tell you that?” 

“What? Is it not true?”

“No. I mean, yeah, I guess.” Wonwoo sighs. “They always pull that sort of crap with everyone. It’s complete bullshit.”

Mingyu hums. “I’m glad to hear you don’t support that kind of mindset.”

“Of course I don’t.” Wonwoo frowns at him. “If anyone tried to force Yerim into something like that I’d teach them a fucking lesson.”

“Good to hear.” Mingyu’s smile turns genuine. He didn’t peg Wonwoo as an asshole anyway but he was a little worried he might support that sort of thinking since he grew up here and doesn’t really know anything else. “Joohyun seems like a nice girl, though.”

He’s definitely not sneakily trying to figure out Wonwoo’s type.

It makes Wonwoo raise an eyebrow at him. “She’s off limits.”

Mingyu laughs. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I’m not hitting on her.”

 “I’m just saying.” Wonwoo shrugs. “She already has someone, anyway.”

“Really? Who?”

Wonwoo hesitates and looks like he regrets giving away that piece of information. “Uh, not from here.”

Mingyu nods, feeling like Wonwoo wants to change the subject. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Do you have someone?” Mingyu asks, trying to sound casual even though he’s not sure if he wants to hear the answer.

“You’re asking me if I have a girlfriend?”

“No, I’m asking if you have a boyfriend.” Mingyu snorts, his heart skipping a beat at the sharp look Wonwoo sends his way.

Yeah, he needs to shut the hell up.  

“I don’t.” Wonwoo answers, leaning back on his palms and looking down at his jeans.

“Why not?”

“What do you mean why not?”

“Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“That’s a stupid thing to ask.”

“Is it?”

Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “What the fuck do you mean? I just haven’t met anyone I’m interested in. It’s not rocket science.”

Mingyu studies his face for a moment, thinking about Joohyun’s words from yesterday. “Well, I imagine meeting new people up here is kinda hard, isn’t it? Maybe you just need to go out more. I mean, go to the city or something.”

There’s a brief moment of silence where Wonwoo just stares at his own lap, the waterfall rushing in the background and birds singing in the trees above them.

“Maybe.” Wonwoo mumbles and finally looks at him with his sharp eyes. Mingyu tries not to flinch even though the eye contact makes him feel extremely giddy. “I’m guessing you don’t have one either. You probably wouldn’t shut up about her if you did.”

Mingyu shrugs his shoulders. “True.”

They both stare for a moment before their lips tug up into smiles at the same time, Mingyu’s heart lurching in his chest right as Wonwoo swiftly turns to hide his face.

And that doesn’t sit well with him. Mingyu definitely doesn’t need constant attention, unless it’s from an object of his affection which Mingyu can’t help but start to think Wonwoo is turning into.

So he does the only thing that comes to his mind. He yells “Fuck!” and Wonwoo’s head immediately snaps in his direction.

Mingyu tries no to grin smugly. Got him.

“What?” Wonwoo asks, eyebrows knitting together in the middle.

Mingyu screws his eyes shut in feigned pain, stumbling back in the water. “Hyung, something bit me!”

Something like concern flashes in Wonwoo’s eyes but he tries to mask it with a smirk. “You expect me to fall for that?”

“No, seriously.” Mingyu whimpers, which makes Wonwoo still and the grin fade from his face. “Hyung, something fucking bit me— you said there were no snakes!”

Wonwoo frowns and sits up straight, his face completely serious. “Mingyu? Are you joking?”

“No!”

“Come here.” Wonwoo gets on his knees, reaching his hand out. “They’re not dangerous, it probably wasn’t even a snake. Let me have a look at it.”

“I can’t move.” Mingyu tries not to burst out laughing. He feels bad, he really does because Wonwoo looks genuinely worried but Mingyu is an asshole and he wants to have fun a little longer. “Am I going to die?”

“Of course not, you moron! Just— come here! What do you mean you can’t move?” 

“I don’t know! Stop yelling at me!” Mingyu whines and acts like he’s in serious pain, hissing and stumbling on his feet. “Hyung, it hurts.”

Wonwoo groans, looking conflicted for a second before he curses under his breath and gets up to start pulling off his shirt. Mingyu loses his balance at the unexpected sight and slips on the stones, and swallows water, choking and gasping for air, which is probably his punishment for screwing with Wonwoo.

He just wanted to prank him, okay? He really didn’t need to see Wonwoo half naked in his underwear, his broad shoulders and chiseled chest, and where the fuck does Wonwoo get those muscles from?

He isn’t ripped, not like Mingyu is, but he’s lean and has defined abs and arm muscles from all the physical labor and there’s something oddly attractive about it.

Wonwoo gets into the water without even blinking an eye when his skin touches the cool lake, wading his way over to Mingyu and trying to get a look at his nonexistent wound. There are droplets of water clinging to his neck and his skin looks even more tanned up close, like the sun literally took it’s time and kissed every inch of it. “Where did it bite you?” Wonwoo asks, reaching out to grip Mingyu’s arm.

Mingyu tries to come up with an answer but he ends up laughing instead.

Wonwoo looks confused for a second, face still contorted in concern, but he connects the dots soon enough, letting go of Mingyu’s arm and pushing him away a little in annoyance. “Fucking brat.”

“I’m sorry.” Mingyu tries to stop laughing, especially when Wonwoo starts to turn away from him. It happens on instinct, really, Mingyu’s hand reaching out to curl around Wonwoo’s to stop him from leaving. “Please, hyung I’m sorry. It was funny, right? You totally fell for it.”

Wonwoo turns to scowl at him, his eyes briefly flickering down to their joined hands and Mingyu hopes he doesn’t just imagine the way Wonwoo tightens his grip on Mingyu’s hand. “You know the story about the boy who cried wolf, right?”

Mingyu gives him a wide smile, willing his heart not to go crazy when he feels their fingers slide together under water, Mingyu’s own almost slipping into the gaps between Wonwoo’s.

And for some reason, Wonwoo isn’t pulling away.

Mingyu really tries not to read into it. “I won’t do it again. I’m not actually that much of a brat, I promise.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.” Wonwoo says and pulls his hand away, swimming back to the rock so he can pull himself up. Mingyu watches him sit there, his feet dangling in the water, and can’t decide if Wonwoo is unfairly cute or incredibly hot or just both. “Are you going to stay in there?”

Mingyu shakes his head and walks over to him, running a palm over his face, his eyes glued to Wonwoo who’s watching him carefully.

And he knows he shouldn’t. He knows he’s been pushing it but… but fuck, it’s been so long since Mingyu has been interested in anyone, really, can’t even remember any instance he’s felt drawn to someone the way he feels with Wonwoo.

Plus, Mingyu is just an absolute moron.

So he moves closer, stops short of the V of Wonwoo’s legs, both their gazes locked.

Wonwoo tries to look guarded but Mingyu can almost feel the confusion radiating off of him, the inner conflict he’s having, the way his eyes move around nervously before they hesitatingly come to focus on Mingyu again.

It’s heartbreaking to watch and Mingyu decides that his own feelings are just not worth seeing Wonwoo so uncomfortable. Who the hell is Mingyu to come here and act like these things he wants are okay when they could get Wonwoo in more trouble than Mingyu could even begin to imagine?

His mood drops almost instantly once he shakes himself awake, and he’s about to step to the side and climb up on the rock to put on his clothes when Wonwoo suddenly reaches out and makes him freeze.

Mingyu holds his breath, feels Wonwoo’s thumb touch his forehead and gently rub over the space between his eyebrows. “You need to stop furrowing your eyebrows so much. You’ve got a crease here.”

He smooths the pad of his thumb over Mingyu’s skin again and Mingyu wants to pull away from the touch because it makes him feel way too much but at the same time, he has force himself not to lean into the contact to get more of it. “I can’t help it. My eyes— uh, you know. The light hurts.”

“That insomnia is giving you a real hard time, huh?” Wonwoo smiles weakly, his Adam’s apple bobbing when he pulls his hand back. His knuckles brush Mingyu’s cheek and Mingyu kind of feels like he wants to cry because of how nice the touch feels.

It’s probably all he’s ever going to get.

“Well, I have you now, don’t I?” Mingyu tries to go for casual, puts on a smirk even though his chest kind of hurts. “You work better than all that stuff my doctor prescribed me before.”

Wonwoo looks a bit embarrassed and scrunches up his nose. He’s so cute Mingyu wants to punch himself. “I’m glad I’m good for one thing, at least.”

And Mingyu wants to protest, ask him what the fuck he’s talking about. Wonwoo is probably the most selfless and hard working person he’s ever met and Mingyu thinks it’s because of the flare of anger in his chest that he has the sudden urge to lean up and press his lips against Wonwoo’s plump mouth—

Mingyu snaps his head away and moves to pull himself up next to Wonwoo.

Fuck.

He seriously needs to get a grip before he does something incredibly stupid.

He sits there like that for a moment, next to Wonwoo, both their legs in the water and their elbows brushing faintly between them as the waterfall rushes in the background. Wonwoo’s hands are trembling and he clenches his fingers around the edge of the rock and it’s only then that Mingyu realizes that Wonwoo hasn’t smoked in hours.

“Wanna head back?” Wonwoo asks quietly, turning to glance at Mingyu.

But Mingyu can’t bring himself to look at Wonwoo, so he just nods his head and gets up to pick up his clothes.

Needless to say, he only manages to sleep a little over an hour that night, and spends the rest running until his legs feel like they’re made of fire.

 

 

 

Seungcheol facetimes him the next day.

Mingyu puts the phone down and lies down on his stomach on his bed, closing his eyes to give them a much needed rest. Pumpkin is lying next to him on the bed and Mingyu swears the look in his eyes is pitying, like he knows exactly what’s going on.

You know, there’s a reason I’m facetiming you,” Seungcheol mutters. “I’m not saying your grandma’s ceiling isn’t mesmerizing but I haven’t seen you in 84 years so do me favour and show me your ugly mug.

Mingyu groans and lifts the phone enough to show his best friend his face.

Fucking hell,” Seungcheol curses. “What happened to you?”

“Didn’t sleep last night.”

Last night or the whole week?” Seungcheol sighs and Mingyu sees him lean back against the row of pillows on his bed. “Is it not better at all?”

“No.”

Shit, Gyu.” Seungcheol mumbles. “Think you should see your doctor again when you’re back?

Mingyu props his face up on his hand, shrugging his shoulders as best as he can in his current position. “It’s not like he can help me. Let’s not talk about this.”

But Mingyu—“

“I really don’t want to talk about it.” Mingyu says, plastering a smile on his face. “Sorry, Cheol, can you just— distract me?”

His best friend’s gaze grows concerned. “Are you okay?”

Mingyu is about to lie and say yes, he’s fine, but it’s been more than a week with him not being able to talk freely, him holding back and being mindful about his every word and move and it’s getting exhausting.

That and his tiny not so tiny problem called Wonwoo is starting to mess with his mind and there’s no one he can talk to about it.

“I don’t know.” Mingyu smiles weakly.

What happened?” Seungcheol frowns. “Oh my god, you knocked a farmers’ girl up, didn’t you? Oh my fucking god—“

“What the fuck?” Mingyu interrupts him. “Why would I— Cheol I’m gay!”

Sorry, I just— you look really troubled, okay? What else was I supposed to think?”

“Literally anything else but that.” Mingyu huffs and drops his head with a groan, pounding it against the mattress.

Gyu, dude, you’re worrying me. What’s going on?”

“I’ve got a problem, like… okay, not really, but it’s turning into one and I don’t know what to do.”

Okay,” Seungcheol carefully says. “How about you tell me about this problem and I give you some nice best friend adivce like I always do, huh?”

Seungcheol and him met back in middle school when they were both fourteen and have been friends ever since. Seungcheol has seen Mingyu at his best and worst and has always stuck around no matter what and he always knows a solution to one of Mingyu’s seemingly never ending problems.

“I think I’m—“ Mingyu starts but stops himself, letting out a groan into his bedsheets. He can’t believe he’s going to say out loud what’s been on his mind for the past few days. “So. Uhm. There’s this guy here—”

Well, fuck me.” Seungcheol mutters and Mingyu gulps at the blatant disappointment and pity that spreads on his best friend’s face. “If you’re going to tell me you fell in love with a straight, conservative farmer’s boy up there I’m going to flip shit—

“No!” Mingyu shakes his head innocently. “I mean— technically he’s not a farmer’s boy.”

Oh my fucking god, Gyu!” Seungcheol groans and flops forwards on his bed, the screen going black for a moment before his face appears again. “What did I tell you before you left?”

“I know but—“

What did I tell you?”

“I don’t know?”

“I said stay the fuck away from hot guys!”

Mingyu clears his throat. “I don’t remember that.”

“Why didn’t you listen to me?!” Seungcheol is positively screeching at this point. Mingyu thinks he sees his spit flying all over the place and considers just hanging up before Seungcheol has an aneurysm.

“Cheol it’s not… it’s not about the looks.” Mingyu covers his eyes with his forearm, helplessly picturing Wonwoo’s smile. “Look, I can’t explain it. I just get this ridiculous feeling around him and I— I don’t know. I haven’t felt that way since Eunha.”

Eunha was his first ever girlfriend.

They met in middle school.

She was his first kiss and they used to hold hands and eat lunch together before they dramatically broke up via text message after three weeks. Mingyu is pretty sure he knew he was different already back then, but your first love just sticks with you, no matter what.

Seungcheol closes his eyes and shakes his head. “Gyu, you can’t. Look, I know how people like them are. Why do you think I never go back to my village? Those people wouldn’t look at you as a human any longer if they knew about your sexuality! This— This dude—

“Wonwoo.” Mingyu quietly says.

Okay. Wonwoo.” Seungcheol sighs. “I don’t have to know him to tell you that he’d probably beat the shit out of you if you came onto him like that. That’s how those people are. It’s not a joke and it’s not a casual flirt, this is serious, Gyu.”

Mingyu averts his eyes, mainly because they start burning, and it’s not caused by the lack of sleep and rest. Pumpkin shuffles closer, nuzzling his snout into Mingyu’s side until Mingyu lifts his arm and lets the dog cuddle up against him.

He smiles at the small comfort and pets Pumpkin’s head in a silent thanks.

Your grandma has a dog?”

“Yeah, his name’s Pumpkin. Cute, right? I’m going to kidnap him and he’s going to live with us.”

No chance.” Seungcheol blankly says before shaking his head as if he remembers they were having a serious conversation. “Has this… Wonwoo given you a reason to think he might be into guys?” Seungcheol asks, a sad smile on his face when he catches the hurt in Mingyu’s eyes.

“No,” Mingyu says, starting to feel like an idiot for feeling the way he does. He’s twenty-one for god’s sake; he should know better by know than being so reckless and delusional given the society he’s surrounded by. “Obviously not.”

He must’ve,” Seungcheol softly says. “I know you. You don’t do closet cases, much less straight guys.”

“He hasn’t, okay?” Mingyu snaps and closes his eyes to calm down. Going this long without proper sleep has always made him more irritable. “Sorry, I just… haven’t been sleeping well.”

I know. Don’t apologize.” Seungcheol mumbles. “If he was from the city, I’d say just go for it and tell him you’re interested. But this is just too risky. You don’t know how he’s going to react, if he’s going to tell everyone. Your grandma might find out, Gyu. You always told me you don’t want her to know. You’d never be able to step another foot into that village.”

Mingyu takes a calming breath and lets his tired brain process Seungcheol’s words. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I’m an idiot. I don’t know what I was thinking.” He chuckles weakly and tries to shake off the memory of Wonwoo brushing his thumb over his skin at the waterfall.

Gyu.” Seungcheol sighs, looking helpless. “Man, I’m so sorry. You know I just want you to be happy but I can’t just tell you to do it when I know how bad it could turn out. Plus, putting all of that aside, you’re leaving that place in a few weeks. It wouldn’t work out no matter how you look at it.”

Mingyu gulps and nods his head. “You’re right. I’ll just— I’ll forget about it. It’s okay.”

I wish I was there. I wanna give you a hug.” Seungcheol pouts and Mingyu smiles into the camera.

“I miss your hugs.”

Aww, dude stop.” Seungcheol chuckles. “You’re gonna make me cry.”

Mingyu is about to say something when Seungcheol drops his phone and groans. Mingyu starts smiling when he hears a familiar voice, followed by the face of the voice’s owner appearing on the screen. “Hyung!”

Gyu, what’s up?” Jihoon smiles at him before Seungcheol rips the phone out of his hands. Seungcheol grumbles something under his breath and leans back against the headboard. Jihoon’s head pops up a moment later and he leans his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder, looking into the camera indifferently. “You haven’t been sleeping.” He states immediately.

“Uh, yeah. Guess not.”

I thought you said it got better,” Jihoon says, a hint of annoyance in his voice that Mingyu knows is the result of concern.

“It is getting better.” Mingyu lies and rolls his eyes.

It better be.” Jihoon huffs. “Otherwise I’m personally going to drag your ass to the doctor’s office and give that dude a piece of mind, how hard can it be to cure fucking insomnia—“

Okay, babe, calm down.” Seungcheol scoffs and turns the camera so Jihoon isn’t in the shot anymore.

Mingyu smiles and is about to say something to tease them about how fucking cute they are when he hears his grandmother call his name from downstairs. “Oh, shit, Cheol I gotta go. Grandma’s calling.”

Seungcheol chuckles and nods his head. “Okay, go. Don’t keep the old lady waiting.”

“She’d beat your ass if she knew you called her old.” Mingyu snorts as he gets up. “Hey, uhm. Thank you, for listening. I’m sorry, I honestly don’t know what I was thinking—“

Hey, no, what are you sorry for?” Seungcheol sighs. “If anything, those narrow minded assholes around you should be apologizing.”

Mingyu hears Jihoon ask what’s going on and he just knows that he’s going to cause a scene as soon as their phone call is over and Seungcheol tells him.

Jihoon’s always been very vocal about his distaste for their society and he’s also pretty much always ready to fight anyone that gives his boyfriend or friends shit for something they can’t help.

 

 

 

Mingyu spends the remainder of the day staying home and helping out his grandma. There are some things that need to be fixed which his grandmother physically can’t do, so Mingyu is busy cleaning the top of her window frames or re-arranging her cupboards that are too high up for her to reach.

It’s a pretty good excuse not to go outside and potentially have a run-in with Wonwoo, especially after his conversation with Seungcheol that served as a much needed reality-check.

It isn’t like Mingyu wasn’t aware of all of those things but he tends to lose focus when he has his mind set on getting something he wants, especially when it’s something he’s not allowed to have.

Maybe he really is just an idiot, or maybe he loves causing himself pain, but they do say forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, so maybe that’s why he found it so hard to think rationally before his best friend talked some sense into him.

Mingyu tries not to sulk around his grandmother, not wanting her to ask him any questions or get worried, but it turns out to be hard.

Because he’s going to be here for another four weeks and there’s just no way he can avoid Wonwoo for that long, which consequently means he needs to get his feelings in check right about now and start seeing Wonwoo as a brother figure and a friend, just like it’s supposed to be.

It shouldn’t be that hard. He’s only known Wonwoo for a week and it’s not like he’s losing the love of his life.

 

By the time they’re done, the house is sparkly clean - not that it wasn’t already speckles before – and Mingyu’s wrists are sore from all the scrubbing he did the entire day.

His grandma cooks him rice and spicy meat and even goes as far whipping up some steamed red bean rice cakes that make Mingyu’s mouth water when she places them in front of him.

The taste of them makes him tear up water because it feels like he’s back to being a six year old boy, no care in the world, spending his summer with his grandparents and having the time of his life running around in their huge garden and chasing all sorts of random flying bugs.

And now he’s here, at twenty-one, gay and insomniac, doing nothing but worrying his mom, and man he wishes he had just a fraction of that happiness back he felt when he was nothing but an innocent kid.   

“How about you go and take a nice shower?” His grandmother asks while Mingyu rubs an ointment into her calves that help with her muscle cramps. He cleans his hand on the tissue she hands him and screws the cap of the bottle shut, standing up from where he was sitting in front of her. “You worked hard today.”

“You work hard every day.” Mingyu chuckles, placing the bottle next to all her other bottles and boxes of pills. The sight makes him cringe and think that maybe his choice of studies wasn’t that bad after all. Seeing his seemingly healthy grandmother being so dependent on all sorts of drugs makes him almost furious. “You need to stop babying me.”

“But you come here so rarely,” She sighs. “I want you to be comfortable so you’ll come visit more often.”

Mingyu’s heart aches at her words and he lowers his head in shame. “It would be easier if you lived closer to the city. You’d get sick of me, that’s how much I’d visit you.”

She laughs, her round wrinkly face scrunching up adorably. “As if I could get ever sick of my favorite grandson.”

“I’m your only grandson.” Mingyu narrows his eyes at her and she laughs some more, which causes Mingyu to smile in return.

The boiler in the bathroom decides to stop working when Mingyu tries to take a shower later, and he ends up screaming like an idiot when the ice cold water comes in contact with his skin.

He nearly gives his poor grandma a heart attack when she comes rushing in, not even caring that Mingyu is actually butt naked, and ends up laughing when Mingyu explains her what happened, looking like a sad, wet puppy.

She leaves to boil some water in the kettle and Mingyu understands that he’s going to have to wash up the old fashioned way, the way his mom used to give him baths back in the day when his grandparents didn’t have a boiler in their bathroom yet.

Mingyu fills up half of the big plastic basin his grandma hands him with cold water and waits for her to bring the kettle and fill up the rest of the of the container with hot water, until it reaches a more humane temperature.

Taking a shower like this takes way too long and Mingyu feels like a privileged asshole when he gets annoyed by how hard it is to get all soap and shampoo out of his hair by pouring the water over his head with a metal bowl over and over again.

Chan told him that this is how he has to shower every day since his grandparents don’t have a boiler or a proper showerhead and he’s pretty sure his grandmother is one of the only people that have a modern bathroom here in the village, so he decides to stop being an idiot and just appreciate the fact that in a few weeks he’ll be back to his own well equipped apartment.

 

 

Someone new arrives in the village the next day, which is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened ever since Mingyu got here.

It’s late in the afternoon and Mingyu is helping Seokmin fix up his grandparents’ shed at the back of their house when he spots Joohyun walking past the wooden fence surrounding Seokmin’s house, a girl attached to her side, their arms linked together.

“Oh, look!” Seokmin exclaims, dropping his utensils to pull his gloves off and run over to the fence. “Seulgi! When did you get here?” Seokmin absently waves Mingyu over who joins them and gives who he assumes to be Seulgi a friendly smile.

“I just arrived,” Seulgi says. “And who are you?” Her voice is sweet and she has long, black hair, eyes narrow and slanted and god, she has to be one of the most beautiful people Mingyu has met in his life.

He doesn’t even realize he’s staring at her like a creep until Joohyun clears her throat and rises a judging eyebrow at Mingyu.

“I’m Mingyu,” He says, reaching out to shake her hand. “I’m visiting my grandmother.”

“I see. So you’re from the city, then?” Seulgi asks, still wearing a bright smile. “Me too, I come here in between semesters to stay with my grandparents.”

Joohyun makes a humming sound next to her that has Seokmin rolling his eyes and Seulgi giggling as she reaches out to link their arms back together.

“And of course to see my best friend.” She turns to give Joohyun a gentle smile.

Joohyun’s gaze is on Mingyu though, her eyes carefully taking in his features before she says “Mingyu, not to be rude or anything, but you look like a zombie.”

Seokmin laughs and Mingyu just kind of stands there, letting the insult wash over him. “Uh, okay?”

She rolls her eyes when she sees the pout on his face.  “I mean, you look like you haven’t slept in a few days. Just look at those.” She points at the darkness underneath Mingyu’s eyes.

Mingyu groans. “Okay, I’m gonna need people to shut up about my eye bags. They have feelings, too.”

Seulgi chuckles and Mingyu almost misses the way her hand slides down to hold Joohyun’s.

“Seriously, man, why aren’t you sleeping?” Seokmin asks, calming down and reaching out to wrap an arm around Mingyu’s shoulders. “What’s keeping you awake?”

I don’t know, your friend, Wonwoo, maybe?

Mingyu shrugs it off and smiles. “Nothing, I’m fine.”

Seokmin doesn’t look all that convinced but he drops the issue when he realizes that Mingyu doesn’t want to elaborate.

“Have you guys seen Wonwoo around?” Seulgi asks next. “My uncle’s been looking for him before, I think it’s pretty urgent.”

“Yeah, no idea where he is.” Seokmin rolls his eyes. “Dude’s been acting all strange the whole week.”

Joohyun purses her lips, her eyes landing on Mingyu. “It’s weird. He never really shows up anymore since Mingyu got here.”

Mingyu gives her an affronted look and is taken aback to see the glint in her eyes, lips tugging into a satisfied smirk. “How is that my fault?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “Maybe because he’s spending all his free time with you?”

Mingyu can feel the blood rushing to his cheeks and hopes to god none of them read too much into it. “T-That’s not true. I barely see him—“

“Wait, she’s right.” Seokmin frowns. “Either he goes somewhere with you or you two just hang out at your place like losers.”

“Look, it’s not my fault your friend doesn’t like spending time with you guys.” Mingyu huffs, taking in Seulgi’s amused and mildly confused expression and completely oblivious to Joohyun looking at something behind him. “He’s all yours, I don’t care.”

“Who’s all yours?”

Mingyu jumps at the sudden voice behind him, eyes widening comically, which makes both Seulgi and Joohyun crack up. He turns to face Wonwoo, who is standing there with his head tilted in mild confusion.

He’s not wearing his workers’ clothes but he’s once again covered in dust in several places and Mingyu has to fight the urge to reach out and brush it off.

They haven’t seen each other since they went to the waterfall two days ago and Mingyu wonders if Wonwoo is thinking about it, too, because his guarded eyes suddenly turn a bit shy.

It’s Seulgi who interrupts their awkward encounter. “Hi, by the way.”

Wonwoo blinks and steps closer to the fence, reaching an arm out to pull Seulgi into a hug. “Sorry. Hey. How was your trip?”

“It’s was fine,” Seulgi says as she hugs him back, nuzzling into his shoulder for a moment before pulling away again. “Look at you. You’re covered in dirt.” She chuckles and reaches out to brush a hand through Wonwoo’s fringe like Mingyu wanted to do.

Wonwoo swats her hands away. “I was on the construction site. Stop touching me.”

Seulgi rolls her eyes and pulls her hands back. “Uncle Minho was looking for you.”

“I know.” Wonwoo nods. “I was just at his place, it’s already settled.”

“What did he want? It sounded urgent.”

“It’s nothing. I just need to grab something from town for him.”

“Oh!” Seokmin jumps into action. “I’m coming with you. I gotta buy a new phone charger.”

“Sure.” Wonwoo nods, rubbing his knuckles over his eyes. He suddenly turns to look at Mingyu, his eyes only meeting Mingyu’s for a second. “Do you want to come, too?”

And Mingyu doesn’t know why he asks what he asks. “Do you want me to?”

Because Wonwoo ducks his head and clears his throat and is back to making everything awkward. “Uh, yeah, why not? I mean, you must be bored to death up here, right?”

Mingyu nods his head and Wonwoo meets his eyes and Seungcheol’s warning voice in his head gets smaller and smaller.

 

 

 

Mingyu is sitting at the back because Seokmin hogged the passenger seat but he’s not really complaining. It’s probably a good thing not to be closer to Wonwoo than necessary.

Seokmin turns the volume of the radio up, a song of a girl group that currently has the entire nation’s hearts captured playing. Seokmin seems to be a fan, because he starts dancing and singing along in his seat until Wonwoo reaches out and squeezes his nipple to get him to stop.

Mingyu grins and turns to look out of the window. The sky is turning milky shades of orange and pink, the light of it making the mountains around them stand out to the point of the whole scenery almost looking unreal. Mingyu snaps a few pictures and sends them to his mom and to Seungcheol, smiling when he mostly gets heart-eye emojis in return.

When he looks back up, his eyes land on Wonwoo despite Mingyu trying to look anything else but him. Wonwoo is holding the steering wheel with one hand, his other perched up on the open window, and Mingyu never knew he had a thing for men driving cars up until now.

There’s just something really hot about the way Wonwoo drives.

Wonwoo’s eyes suddenly flicker up to the rearview mirror, catching Mingyu staring, and it feels like his heart slaps it’s hands over it’s mouth in shock to keep still because it surely has stopped beating. Wonwoo is the first to look away, clearing his throat as he turns his head to the side to hide his profile from Mingyu completely.

And Mingyu just curses silently, sinking back into the seat like that’s going to hide his face from the mirror at the front.

Seokmin is oblivious to it all, happily singing along to the cheery pop song, and Mingyu just closes his eyes and decides to try and nap through the rest of the one-hour drive.

 

They stop in Cheumsan, the town Mingyu stopped at last before the bus brought him up to the village, and it’s significantly less busy at this time of day with most people going home from work and getting ready to have dinner with their families.

“What do you need to get, anyway?” Seokmin asks when they get out of the car.

“I gotta replace a pipe in uncle’s kitchen,” Wonwoo says, squinting his eyes as he looks down the main street. “You know that shop for plumbing equipment? I’ll be there.”

Seokmin nods. “Sure thing, I’ll just go and grab a charger and meet you back at the car, yeah?”

“Okay.” Wonwoo is about to turn around when he seems to remember Mingyu’s presence. “Uhm. You can go with whoever you want.”

Mingyu gazes into Wonwoo’s eyes and ever nerve in his body is urging him to with him, but he can hear Seungcheol’s voice at the back of his head and moves to stand next to Seokmin.

It’s the right choice, it’s a very wise choice, in fact.

Wonwoo stares at him for a second before shrugging his shoulders and turning around to walk off.

“Okay, come with me, buddy.” Seokmin wraps an arm around his shoulders and guides him into a small shop on the other side of the street. He greets the guy inside like he’s an old friend, which he probably is, and asks for an Android charger.

Mingyu curiously looks around the shop while Seokmin makes small talk with the guy, picking up random objects and can’t really tell what kind of store this is. Seems like the owner offers a wide variety of things that don’t really have anything to do with each other.

He puts the bobble head pug back on the shelf when Seokmin calls his name and waves at the guy before he steps out of the shop.

“Man, I’m starving,” Seokmin mutters while they walk back to the car. “Aren’t you?”

“Kinda,” Mingyu hums. “But I’m always hungry anyway, so.”

Seokmin grins and grips the hem of Mingyu’s shirt. “You’re a man after my own heart, Mingyu,” He says and starts guiding him towards a small building with a red brick exterior. “Come on, I’ll text Wonwoo that we’re waiting for him at the restaurant.”

The restaurant is small, only big enough to fit six tables inside, and it looks like it’s run by a family. At least that’s the vibe Mingyu gets, especially seeing as there are a lot of pictures hung up on the walls of random people. Seokmin once again gives the people behind the counter a bright smile and asks them how they’re doing and the woman in return asks where Seokmin has been, to which he answers that he’s staying at the village.

It’s like everyone knows everyone around here, and it’s so baffling to Mingyu because the city is so damn different.

Seokmin orders three servings of ramen, telling them to make Wonwoo’s extra spicy and at first Mingyu thinks he’s going to prank him but Seokmin laughs and shakes his head no. “No, I swear he loves spicy things! You know, the kind of spice that makes you choke and cry? Yeah, he loves that shit.”

Turns out Seokmin was telling the truth. Wonwoo joins them five minutes later and sits down on the cushion on the opposite side of them since Mingyu was smart and sat down next to Seokmin.

Seungcheol would be proud.

Things are okay at first; thanks to Seokmin, there are no awkward moments of silence even though Mingyu and Wonwoo are making it awkward alright.

Awkward as in Mingyu being unable to keep his eyes to himself and Wonwoo catching him whenever he happens to glance at him for longer than a second.

Mingyu will then look away so fast his eyes might just pop out of his skull and Wonwoo will get this confused expression on his face and Seokmin will just keep stuffing his face with his noodles like nothing is wrong.

Which it’s not. Nothing’s wrong.

Everything’s just peachy.

Until it’s time to pay, and things just kind of snap right there.

Mingyu walks up to the counter and pulls out his wallet without thinking. Which might be the problem; he doesn’t think how the others might perceive his actions, at least not until Wonwoo appears at his side, his expression blank and cold.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m paying?”

Wonwoo grits his teeth together and pushes him aside, pulling out his own wallet to hand the perplexed looking lady behind the counter a few bills. “Are you sure you’re not just trying to show off your money?”

“What? No—“ Mingyu then realizes that his wallet is filled with cash and it’s just— it’s such a stupid situation. God, Mingyu is just an average college student who earns some money with a few odd jobs here and there. He just withdrew a lot of money before he boarded the bus to get here, mainly because he was planning on leaving most of it with his grandmother but now it looks like he walks around with a bunch of cash just because he can, which couldn’t be further from the truth. “Hyung, I swear I didn’t—“

“We can pay for our food,” Wonwoo interrupts his harshly. “Don’t fucking treat us like some sort of charity case.”

Mingyu groans in frustration. “What are you talking about? That wasn’t my intention, stop making me look like a fucking douchebag!”

“I’m not. You’re doing a good job looking like one on your own.” Wonwoo snorts, his smile cold and angry and Mingyu suddenly just really wants to wipe it off.

Either with his mouth or with his fists, he’s still not sure.

“You know what? Fuck you.” Mingyu snaps. “I was just trying to be nice.”

“Yeah, save it.” Wonwoo shoots him one last glance before he turns around and walks out of the restaurant, not before shoving his shoulder into Mingyu’s harshly.

Seokmin’s been watching all of it with a concerned look on his face from the side and walks up to Mingyu to throw an arm around his shoulders. “Hey, don’t mind him. He’s really touchy when it comes to money.”

“I saw that.” Mingyu smiles but it’s really forced. He can’t help but feel like a dick even though his intentions weren’t malicious in the slightest.

“Ah, man. I don’t expect you to understand that. No one can unless they’ve lived the way we have for most of our lives. Do you know how long Wonwoo would have to work to afford those shoes you’re wearing? Yeah, he’s being an asshole about it, but I can understand where he’s coming from. Just think about it. Everything he earns he has to spend on supporting his mom and Yerim. It probably makes him feel really pathetic.” Seokmin sighs as he leads Mingyu out of the restaurant, waving at the woman over his shoulder before they leave. “Next time, don’t offer to pay. I know you didn’t mean it like that, but it’s like— to us it looks like you’re doing it out of pity or something.”

“But I’m not—“ Mingyu sighs, watching Wonwoo get into his car and slamming the car rather angrily. “Yeah, okay. I won’t do it again. I’m sorry.”

Seokmin chuckles and squeezes his shoulder. “Don’t be sorry. Wonwoo should apologize, if anything. He always turns into a right douchebag when it comes to his pride.”

Mingyu silently nods his head, gazing at the person that’s currently making a mess of his emotions.

Next to his car, a pair of workers get into their van, both of them looking exhausted and Mingyu wonders how much money they earned today for nearly busting a gut.

It’s probably not that ridiculous to assume that they earn subsistence wage and the thought alone makes Mingyu want to take off his 100 million Won shoes in shame.

It’s just… so different.

Wonwoo is so different than anyone else he’s ever met in his life, and don’t people say they tend to be scared of things they don’t understand?

So why the fuck isn’t Mingyu scared?

Why isn’t he just listening to Seungcheol and staying the hell away from him?

Even when he’s sitting in the back of the car with Wonwoo purposefully ignoring his entire existence, his knuckles white where he’s gripping the steering wheel and speeding to the point where Seokmin has to reach out and calm him down, all Mingyu wants is for Wonwoo to look at him and smile and reassure him that he isn’t the only one who’s so damn confused.

Ten minutes into the drive Mingyu feels his body run out of the little energy it’s been working with the entire day, and even if Wonwoo probably hates his guts right now, his mere presence is enough for Mingyu to close his eyes and fall into a much needed sleep.

 

 

“Wake up.”

Mingyu barely stirs at the annoying voice interrupting his peaceful slumber.

“Mingyu. We’re here. Wake up.”

“Ugh.” Mingyu groans quietly, squeezing his eyes shut some more like it’s going to make the voice disappear. “Cheol. Just ten more minutes.”

There’s a beat of silence and then someone sighs. “Who the fuck is Cheol? I don’t have time for this. Get up!”

Mingyu snaps his eyes open, feeling disoriented for a second before he realizes that he’s still in Wonwoo’s car. Seokmin isn’t there anymore and Wonwoo has stopped his car in front of the gate to Mingyu’s house. “Shit. Did I sleep the entire drive?”

“Obviously.” Wonwoo mutters, his back turned to Mingyu, fingers tapping against the steering wheel impatiently. “Can you get out now?”

Oh. He’s still angry. Mingyu sighs and rubs the sleep out of his eyes, shuffling over to the other side so he can get out. He stops with his hand on the handle, can practically feel the tension in the air and Mingyu’s never been good at staying angry for too long.

He can’t really move on with his life knowing there’s someone out there he made upset.

Whenever Seungcheol and him have meaningless fights it’s always Mingyu who comes back first, pouting and apologizing until Seungcheol rolls his eyes and pulls him into a hug and says they’re okay.

“Hyung,” He tentatively says.

“What?” Wonwoo still sounds impatient and annoyed and it makes Mingyu cringe.

“Do you want to hang out later?”

On the other side of the country, Seungcheol is currently bemoaning his stupidity.

Mingyu doesn’t blame him, because what the actual fuck.

“You want to hang out,” Wonwoo says flatly after a full minute of silence.

“Uhm.”

Wonwoo twists his upper body around so he can face Mingyu, wearing a quizzical expression. Mingyu expects him to shoot him down and tell him to get the hell out, but Wonwoo does none of that.

His eyes roam around Mingyu’s face for a moment, the inner conflict he’s having clear as day in his expression, and just as Mingyu readies himself to open his mouth and take his offer back, Wonwoo speaks up. “Okay.”

Mingyu gives him a dumbfounded look. “You want to?”

Wonwoo shrugs, breaking eye contact. “I’ll drop by once I’m done at uncle’s place.”

“Okay.” Mingyu rushes out.

Wonwoo quickly glances at him and nods his head, awkwardly clearing his throat. “Good.”

He quickly climbs out of the car and wills himself to just open the gate and walk home, but he stands still and watches Wonwoo drive off, a sense of déjà vu washing over him.

Mingyu watches Wonwoo leave all the time, and maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling him to stop before it’s too late.

But when has Mingyu ever listened to the voice of reason?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Wonwoo arrives later, Mingyu and his grandma are in the middle of having dinner, so naturally his grandmother drags the startled boy inside their living room and makes him sit down on the floor right next to Mingyu where they’ve set up the table.

Wonwoo is as awkward as ever, sparing Mingyu a quick glance before he shuffles to put some space between them where Mingyu’s grandmother practically glued their sides together.

Mingyu tries not to freak out.

There’s nothing to freak out over. He’s just having dinner with his hyung, with a friend, that’s all.

He definitely doesn’t notice how nice Wonwoo smells, like he just took a shower. It’s either his cologne or shower gel, either way it smells fresh and masculine and something sweet that reminds him of peaches.

Didn’t Wonwoo’s socks smell like that?

He’ll have to ask him later.

Or how about not, because he would look like a total creep.

His grandmother thankfully fills all the awkward silences up with stories about her recent trip to her health advisor and how well her green beans are growing in her garden.

Mingyu can’t stop himself from smiling or feeling warm all over when he watches Wonwoo interact with his grandmother; it’s like he turns into another person entirely, his voice warm and gentle, his smile sweet and attentive as he listens to her and his entire demeanour is so respectful it starts to make sense why the whole village loves him so much.

They help her clean up once most of the food has disappeared from the table because Mingyu can tell his grandmother is having back pains again, so he forces her to go lay down.

Wonwoo rinses the dishes and Mingyu piles them into the dish washer, and they do most of this in silence, and it couldn’t get more awkward than this.

No, scratch that.

It could, and it does.

It starts raining outside, meaning the hammock’s not an option tonight, but Mingyu is in desperate need of a nap and he knows that it’s a bit cruel, making use of Wonwoo this way, but it’s a blessing in disguise because Wonwoo thinks the reason Mingyu likes hanging out with him so much is because he gets to sleep.

Mingyu suggests watching a movie and Wonwoo shrugs, saying Mingyu will just end up falling asleep anyway, which Mingyu doesn’t even try to deny.

So he rents a movie on iTunes and places his laptop on his bed, Wonwoo sitting so close to the edge he might just fall off.

Mingyu tries not to be too hurt by it.

“What movie are we watching?” Wonwoo asks.

“Twilight.”

Wonwoo purses his lips, the name obviously not ringing any bells (again), but he relaxes back into the pillows behind him where he’s propped up against the headboard.

Mingyu sighs and pulls a pillow into his lap, his eyes barely taking in the opening scene playing on his laptop, his eyelids already wanting to slip closed.

Wonwoo shifts next to him, his breathing quiet inside the bedroom and when Mingyu glances at him, his profile is mildly illuminated by the laptop screen.

He needs a haircut; his bangs are too long, and they’re falling into his eyes and Mingyu wants to run his fingers through it.

If things were different, if Wonwoo was a guy from college in the city, Mingyu wouldn’t be this much of a coward.

Sure, there is always the chance of reading signals wrong and hitting on a straight dude, but most of the time it isn’t that much of a big deal and it also happens very rarely because even if it doesn’t seem like it, Mingyu isn’t actually an idiot.

He can usually tell if a guy’s straight or not, and he can definitely tell if the guy is into him, but with Wonwoo?

Mingyu has absolutely no idea what’s going on.

Because Seungcheol was right; Mingyu doesn’t do straight guys. Things always end up getting messy because once those dudes are done experimenting, it’ll be Mingyu who will feel like crap and potentially have his heart broken.

And it’s not like Wonwoo is flirting with him or coming onto him in any shape or form.

Mingyu is starting to think that it’s all just in his head and it’s starting to make him feel utterly pathetic.

He kicks his legs in frustration and Wonwoo shoots him a mildly concerned look.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Mingyu rushes out.

“Why are you pouting?”

Mingyu didn’t even realize he was. “I’m just—I’m team Jacob, you know?”

“Team Jacob?” Wonwoo knits his eyebrows together. “There are teams?”

Mingyu chuckles but it sounds a bit hysterical. He’s tired and his brain is seriously about to melt right out of his ears. “Back when the movies came out, the fans kind of split up into teams as to which guy was better for Bella. So, team Jacob and team Edward.”

Wonwoo snorts. “That’s stupid. It’s obvious she’s going to end up with that creep.”

“Who? Edward?”

“Uhm, yes?” Wonwoo turns to face him properly. “He’s a psychopath.”

Mingyu laughs airily, leaning his head against the pillow and turning to look at Wonwoo. “Why would you say that?”

“What do you mean why?” Wonwoo huffs. “He’s been staring at her the entire movie like some sort of stalker. I feel like he’s the type of guy that would pick up her chewing gum from the trash so he can put it in his mouth and get off on it. Or he’d smell her hair while she’s asleep and get a rush from it, like a drug addict or something. And he’d sleep with her detached head once he’s killed her, kiss her goodnight and stuff.”

“Oh my god.” Mingyu laughs. “Hyung, what the fuck?”

“What?” Wonwoo shrugs. “It’s the truth. I don’t understand how girls could find that romantic.”

Mingyu can’t stop the smile tugging on his lips. Wonwoo seems seriously worked up about it and it’s so adorable Mingyu doesn’t know what do with himself. “You’re funny.”

Wonwoo looks away from the screen, narrowing his eyes at Mingyu like he’s trying to see if he’s being serious. “I know I am.”

Mingyu blinks at him sleepily, fighting a yawn. “There are three more parts, you know?”

“Oh, fuck that.” Wonwoo huffs, shifting to lean against the pillows more comfortably. He isn’t as stiff anymore, and somehow he seems to have moved a bit closer as well. “I’ve had enough of this angsty crap. Also, why do all of them look like they’re in their late twenties when they’re supposed to be, like, sixteen?”

Mingyu scoffs. “It’s a movie, hyung. Don’t question it.”

Wonwoo juts his lower lip out and Mingyu feels like someone punched him in the gut because he can’t handle any of this.

The fight from earlier seems completely forgotten, which is good, because it was stupid and Mingyu doesn’t want Wonwoo go give him a look as cold as that again.

Towards the end of the movie, when Edward saves Bella by sucking the venom out of her wrist and Bella makes faces like she’s having an orgasm and stroke at the same time, Mingyu starts to feel like he can’t physically stay awake any longer without passing out.

Maybe Wonwoo senses it, because he glances at Mingyu and takes in his dark eyebags and the redness on his eyelids  and Mingyu thinks he sees concern etched into his features. “What’s causing your insomnia?”

Mingyu takes a few seconds to process the question. At this point, only half of his upper body is propped up against the pillows. It can’t be good for his back but he’s too tired to move. “Stress.”

“Stress?” Wonwoo asks. “Because of school?”

Mingyu shrugs. “I don’t think so. I mean, my grades weren’t that great but I managed. I think it’s just my brain.”

“Care to elaborate?” Wonwoo asks. Mingyu doesn’t know why he cares but he’s too sleepy to question it. He thinks he’s about to slip into a different realm – which has happened before – where he started to question his own existence and thought the whole world was just a fragment of his imagination.

Yeah, that was fun. Seungcheol and Jihoon freaked the hell out when they found Mingyu with a burn on the back of his hand from where he held it over the flame of a candle, convinced nothing was going to happen since nothing was real.

That was about four months ago, and it was also the day Jihoon’s had enough and called the doctor since Mingyu wouldn’t have ever done it on his own.

“I tend to worry to the point of my brain being unable to shut down,” Mingyu slowly explains. “Usually it’s about my future.”

Because he’s not sure what kind of future he’ll have.

Will he end up marrying a girl just to make his parents happy?

That’s not an option for Mingyu.

The other option is staying alone for the rest of his life, which subsequently means he’d come out to his entire family once they’d start questioning his choice to not get married and start a family.

The way things are looking now, it will never be possible for him to live with a man he loves, at least not unless he moves to a place somewhere on the globe where people are more accepting.

“Why do you worry about your future?” Wonwoo asks. “You’re going to college, aren’t you? You’re going to get your diploma, find a job, get married. What’s there to worry about?”

And there he goes again, being an ignorant douche.

Why the hell does Mingyu even like this guy?

Mingyu rolls his eyes, and something on his face must show how upset he is, because Wonwoo’s eyes soften the tiniest bit.

“I’m just saying… You’ll have a good future.” Wonwoo licks his lips. He’s really bad at this, and Mingyu finds even that endearing. “I mean… just look at me.”

Mingyu turns to face him, eyes scanning Wonwoo’s soft features, his heart flipping happily in his chest at the sight. “Okay, I’m looking.”

Wonwoo ducks his head and blushes and Mingyu feels like he’s going to die at this rate. “I—I meant look at my situation. You idiot.”

Mingyu snickers softly, feeling his own cheeks heat up for no reason. “What about it?”

“I’m a car mechanic and work on construction sites. No proper education and realistically no hopes of amounting to anything in the future. But I have my mom, and my sister, and they’re both healthy and happy and that… I don’t know, that’s enough to make me feel good about the future. Well, I guess I’m trying to say that if I’m not worried, you shouldn’t be either.” Wonwoo clears his throat at the end, shrugging uneasily under Mingyu’s heavy stare.

That’s probably the most Wonwoo has ever said, and Mingyu’s heart breaks a little at his words, how Wonwoo talks of himself as if he’s some sort of failure.

“You’re already a better person than I’ll ever be.” Mingyu finds himself saying. “You’re probably one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

Wonwoo swallows and laughs a little hollowly. “I’m just doing my job. It’s nothing heroic.”

“No, hyung.” Mingyu shifts, forcing himself to focus and stay the hell awake. “Most people are egoistic, okay? They only care about themselves. People your age—Most of them would’ve packed their things and left long ago. And yet you’re here, paying for your fathers’ mistakes—“ Mingyu stops talking when he realizes what he just said.

Wonwoo’s head snaps up, his eyes suddenly guarded and cautious.

“Did Yerim tell you?” He wants to know.

Mingyu shakes his head. “She didn’t tell me anything in detail,” He says. “Don’t be mad at her.”

“I’m not mad.” Wonwoo sighs, silence following his words.

“Hyung?” Mingyu asks after a moment.

Wonwoo nods his head to show that he’s listening.

“Why don’t you move to the city?” Mingyu asks, hurriedly continuing to talk when he feels Wonwoo tense up. “You could find a better job, yeah? And you’re only twenty-three, you could still apply for college—“

“Mingyu, stop.” Wonwoo interrupts, his face screwed like he’s in pain. Mingyu hates himself for causing that look to appear. “Do you think I’ve never considered it? Do you—Do you think I like living here?” He gives Mingyu a tired smile and it takes every ounce of strength in Mingyu’s body not to surge forward and hug Wonwoo right then and there.

“Then why are you staying?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.” Mingyu gently nudges him with his elbow, both of them having moved closer together without realizing.

“No.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “Forget it.”

“But why? Hyung, I can see that you’re not happy—“

“You barely know me.” Wonwoo interrupts him. “I am happy, okay? And what’s that supposed to mean, anyway? You live in the city and just look at you. You’re fucking miserable.”

Mingyu shrinks back at the harsh words, his eyebrows twitching in hurt even though he tries to look unfazed.  

Wonwoo’s glare fades when he sees Mingyu’s expression. “I’m—I’m sorry Mingyu.”

“It’s okay.” Mingyu shrugs.

Wonwoo’s face falls, and he suddenly shuffles closer and reaches his hand out as if to curl his fingers around Mingyu’s forearm, but doesn’t. “It’s not okay. You’re having a hard time and I’m being a dick.”

 “You’re having a hard time, too. I understand.”

And Wonwoo’s expression goes through a couple of changes within the next three seconds. From confused to hard to gentle to exhausted and back to that look that makes it seem like Wonwoo has a hard time understanding what’s going on.

That makes two of them, then.

Mingyu’s heart keeps thudding heavily against his ribcage, like it’s knocking on a door to gain Wonwoo’s attention and Mingyu wills it to stop acting up like that.

The rain pelters against the roof in the background and the wooden house creaks in something like warning, telling Mingyu to back off because they’re too close.

“I should go home.” Wonwoo breaks the silence.

Mingyu nods. “Okay.”

“Will you be able to sleep?”

This makes Mingyu smile a bit. “It’s nothing I can’t handle, hyung.”

Wonwoo nods but still looks adorably conflicted. “Will it help if I stay?”

“Stay?” Mingyu repeats, unsure if he heard right.

“I mean—“ Wonwoo rushes out, his fingers curling into fists in his lap. “Just until you fall asleep. I’ll leave right after that.”

“Oh,” Mingyu dumbly says, a second away from throwing up his own stupid heart. “No, hyung, you don’t have to. You have work tomorrow.”

Wonwoo shakes his head and maybe it’s because of how dark the room is save for the light provided from the laptop, but Mingyu thinks Wonwoo’s cheeks have turned a bit red. “Don’t worry about me. Do you want me to stay or not?”

“I do,” Mingyu says.

“Okay.” Wonwoo licks his lips and points at the laptop where the ending credits are rolling now. “Turn it off.”

Mingyu follows the command like a puppy. He goes to brush his teeth and put on some clothes to sleep before coming back, finding Wonwoo playing with the pillow in his lap.

He looks soft and really cute on the bed, and Mingyu wants nothing more than cuddle up against him and just sleep for the next three days.

Mingyu quietly climbs into the bed without slipping under the covers, Wonwoo sitting right next to him on top of them.

It’s quiet for a few minutes, only their gentle breathing and the rain outside disturbing the silence, and Mingyu’s thoughts are all over the place.

“Hyung?”

“Hm?”

“What would you do—“ Mingyu starts, feeling panic rise somewhere in the back of his mind when he realizes what he’s about to ask. “If you liked someone your family doesn’t approve of. Would you still pursue them or would you let it go for the sake of your family?”

He means to say society, but that would be a dead-give away and Mingyu isn’t that sleep deprived to make a mistake like that.

Wonwoo stays quiet for a while before he answers. “I’d let them go. My family comes first.” He answers and Mingyu was prepared for it but it still breaks his heart.

His eyes start burning. They’re tired, restless, and Mingyu also just kind of feels like crying because he hasn’t properly slept in three days and he just wants… he wants Wonwoo.

“Why did you ask?” Wonwoo mumbles quietly and Mingyu squeezes his eyes shut, shrugging.

“No reason.”

“Do you—“ Wonwoo shifts next to him. “Is there someone you like?”

Mingyu takes a calm breath, blinking his eyes open. “Potentially.”

“And your family doesn’t approve?” Wonwoo’s voice cracks. 

“No.”

“… I see.” 

Mingyu closes his eyes again, shaking his head. He’s so stupid. What is he doing here? What is he getting his hopes up for?

Maybe he’s been a masochist all along and just didn’t know it. 

“I’m sorry.” Wonwoo’s voice is barely more than a whisper, and if Mingyu’s whole body wasn’t so focused on the boy, he might’ve missed it. 

“What are you sorry for?” Mingyu looks up at him even if it’s hard because he’s so damn exhausted and moving hurts. 

Wonwoo shrugs, his throat working heavily, before he finally lowers his gaze to meet Mingyu’s eyes. His features are bathed in darkness but there’s a lantern outside somewhere, and it lights up half his face, and he’s got to be most beautiful person Mingyu has ever seen.

“I don’t know.” Wonwoo’s eyes move around the room nervously and Mingyu has no idea what’s going on.

“Hyung.” Mingyu mumbles, lifting his head to catch Wonwoo’s eyes.

It seems like Wonwoo isn't going to acknowledge him for a few seconds until the older tips his head down to meet his eyes, one corner of his mouth curling up in a smile he probably doesn't even notice himself. "Your eyes.”

"What about them?" 

"They look horrible." Wonwoo slowly blinks. “They’re so red."

"I wonder why." Mingyu mumbles. "I've been sleeping so well, too.”

Wonwoo cracks a proper smile this time, one that Mingyu can't help but return, and before he knows it, Wonwoo reaches out and Mingyu closes his eyes on instinct.

He shudders when he feels the faintest touch on his closed eyelids, almost melting into the bed when Wonwoo gently rubs his thumb over his eyes. Mingyu sighs, relaxing to the point where he's almost asleep and he expects Wonwoo to stop, but the older simply shifts closer and brings his other hand up to carefully do the same on his other eyelid.  

Mingyu slurs something under his breath, barely awake.

“Hm?" Wonwoo’s voice is deep and soothing and Mingyu wishes he was more awake so he could go for a run until he can’t think beyond the burn in his legs.

"Feels good." 

It's a tough feat, because the tiny massage his sore eyes are receiving feels so good, but the urge to look at Wonwoo is stronger. Mingyu opens his eyes and Wonwoo's thumbs move to his eye bags instead, tickling the skin there, and he looks like he's got no clue what he's doing.

Wonwoo looks like he's ready to bolt if Mingyu moved a wrong muscle. 

So Mingyu moves his entire body.

He reaches up and grips Wonwoo's shirt, pulling him down a little too forcefully, but it's like his mind just snapped and he just acts without thinking anymore.  

Wonwoo sucks in a breath when Mingyu ends up nearly knocking their heads together from how fast he pulled him down, and his eyes widen before he draws back quickly, the warmth of his hands leaving Mingyu's face.

"No," Mingyu protests weakly and feels Wonwoo tense up next to him where he's half lying on the bed. "Don't stop." 

He's probably pouting too. Jihoon says he turns into an annoying little child when he goes too long without proper rest and Mingyu thinks he might have a point. 

Wonwoo doesn't speak for a long time but his presence is loud enough on it's own, how he's breathing a tad bit faster than normal, the warmth emanating from him, this strange scent of peach clinging to him and Mingyu thinks this is the best dream he's ever had. 

It takes a while, but Wonwoo’s hand comes back to Mingyu's face, his touch so careful and gentle it makes Mingyu feel like he's something precious and not a twenty-one year old idiot whose only talent is his ability to lick his elbow. 

Mingyu opens his left eye, the one Wonwoo isn't touching and a tired, resigned smile spreads on his face. "You look scared."

Wonwoo doesn't meet his eyes. His cheeks are flushed and his eyebrows are knitted together in the middle and Mingyu’s pretty sure his hand is trembling against his cheek. 

Mingyu pushes his luck, and moves closer, until Wonwoo's chin almost touches Mingyu's forehead and Wonwoo's hand immediately freezes against his skin. 

"Mingyu," He says, almost like he's warning him or pleading with him or both. 

"What?" 

"Don't."

"I'm not doing anything." Mingyu sighs, his heart aching when he sees how fast Wonwoo's chest is heaving. He's really scared, isn't he? Mingyu is scaring him.

"I'm sorry." Mingyu trails off, his brain getting sucked into a sleeping state while Mingyu is fighting to stay awake. "Sorry." He dumbly repeats, forcing his limbs to move, move and turn around from Wonwoo but suddenly Wonwoo retracts his hand from Mingyu's face and brings it down to his hip, stopping him from moving away.

Wonwoo is still breathing too fast but his hand slowly inches towards the small of his back, not pulling Mingyu closer but just... holding him. 

Mingyu would be freaking out if he wasn't so utterly tired. He can barely form a coherent thought anymore, but his heart jumps around nervously nonetheless. He closes his eyes and lowers his head until his face is short of touching Wonwoo's neck. "Don't be scared."

Wonwoo shudders, his fingers curling into Mingyu's shirt. "Aren't you?"

"No."  

"Do you even know what's scaring me?" Wonwoo whispers, a hint of a smile in his voice and Mingyu doesn't have to open his eyes to know that there's absolutely no humour behind it. 

"I do." Mingyu mumbles. "Know it too well, hyung." 

Wonwoo doesn't say anything else but he exhales shakily, tickling Mingyu's forehead, and it's still pouring outside, and Mingyu feels his consciousness fade little by little, the last thing he's aware of being Wonwoo's warm hand on his back. 

 

  

When he opens his eyes again the sun is coming up and Wonwoo is gone. 

It isn't raining anymore. Mingyu's head doesn't feel like it's filled with cotton anymore and his body feels slightly more energized after having slept through the whole night.

He slept the entire night.

He can't remember the last time that happened. 

Mingyu sits up with puffy eyes, raking a hand through his hair and feels the blanket slip from his body.

Wait, blanket? 

There was no blanket last night, was there? 

He asks his grandmother over breakfast if she came to cover him up in the morning and she shakes her head no. 

Mingyu can't stop smiling after that.

 

 

Mingyu used to be great with kids.

Back when he was in high school, everyone in the neighbourhood would want him to babysit their kids whenever they were in need of someone to watch over them, and Mingyu would gladly agree because he needed the money and – like he said – kids just loved him.

That is until one night, when he was babysitting their neighbour’s six year old son Haneul, something really bad happened.

Mingyu always made sure to keep his eyes on the kids at all times, his phone on silent mode so all his attention could be on the children.

Haneul was a whirlwind; that child was running around until all the energy in his tiny body was used up and he’d just end up falling asleep on the kitchen floor on the toilet seat. And Haneul absolutely adored Mingyu, as did his parents, which is why that night was as traumatizing as it had been for Mingyu.

He went to the bathroom to pee, making sure Haneul was sitting on the couch securely where he was watching his children’s TV show he always used to watch before going to bed.

He couldn’t have been gone longer than three minutes, was washing his hands in the bathroom when he heard glass shattering and Haneul starting to wail at the top of his lungs.

Mingyu ran to the child so fast he nearly split his head open because his socks slipped on the parquet, and then his heart dropped all the way to his stomach when he saw little Haneul sitting on the kitchen floor, a shattered glass mug lying next to him and blood gushing out of the wound on his chin like a out of a hose.

Haneul cried, stuttering and trembling from the pain, trying to explain what happened, which is that the boy tried to get the glass from the shelf, but his knee slipped on the counter and he ended up ramming his chin into the glass when he fell.

Mingyu doesn’t remember much of what happened after that. It’s all a blur; Mingyu calling an ambulance, trying to stop the blood flow and comfort a scared and crying Haneul, informing his neighbour’s about what happened to their son, having Haneul’s dad yell at him because the man was so scared after seeing his boy covered in blood and surrounded by paramedics.

Mingyu didn’t babysit again after that, even when Haneul’s parents apologized to him a few days after and tried to convince him that it was an accident and clearly not Mingyu’s fault.

It didn’t matter at all, because Mingyu couldn’t even get close to a child without remembering little Haneul’s face covered in blood.

When his cousin had her first baby, everything in Mingyu screamed to hold the cute little thing because Mingyu loves kids, but the fear of hurting the tiny baby was so overwhelming that he came across like a douchebag when he refused to hold her baby against his chest.

Now, Mingyu isn’t comparing Pumpkin to a human baby.

But then again, he is, because when Pumpkin hurts himself today, Mingyu feels like the scared sixteen year old he was back with Haneul, and he panics.

They weren’t even doing anything dangerous. Mingyu just happened to get distracted by a car passing them to notice Pumpkin trying to crawl through the metal fence Mingyu usually keeps him away from because it is barbed for some kind of reason.

He hears the dog whimper and he snaps his head around in concern, the blood drains from his face, because the fur on Pumpkin’s back is starting to soak with blood.

Mingyu kneels down next to the dog, hands shaking from where they’re hovering above his back uncertainly, and Pumpkin’s pained and scared whimpers almost shatter his heart.

“H-Hey buddy, it’s okay,” Mingyu tries to calm the dog down, petting his head where he isn’t injured. “Pumpkin, let me look.” Mingyu starts tearing up for some reason, feeling like this is Haneul which is so stupid but he never wanted to deal with something like this again.

He never wanted to deal with the feeling of someone getting hurt under his care again.

There’s a cut running from the back of Pumpkin’s neck down to his shoulders, maybe three inches long, but it must be deep from how much it’s bleeding.

“Okay,” He takes a calming breath, blinking away the tears in his eyes and trying to clear his mind. “Okay, buddy, come on.”

Mingyu ends up carrying Pumpkin in his arms because the dog can’t walk, still whimpering softly against Mingyu’s chest, and this is one of the instances where Mingyu is thankful for all the hours he spends in the gym, because Pumpkin is a grown Akita and he weighs around a hundred pounds.

He runs into Chan when he’s nearing their house, and the smile slips right off the boy’s face when he sees the blood covering Pumpkin’s fur.

“Oh, no. Hyung, what happened?” Chan asks, eyes wide with concern.

“He cut himself on a wire,” Mingyu explains, voice wavering a bit. “Do you—Is there a vet somewhere around here?”

Chan’s eyes flicker around like he’s thinking really hard and he hastily nods his head. “Yes! Yeah there’s one in the village a little further up ahead. It’s like, a five minute’s drive! I mean, she isn’t technically a vet but she can treat wounds, there was a horse with a broken leg once and she--”

“Chan!”

“Right, yeah, sorry,” Chan sheepishly says, already tugging on Mingyu’s arm.

“Do you have a car?” Mingyu asks, because he can drive but his grandmother doesn’t own a car.

“No, but Wonwoo hyung can drive you!” Chan is guiding Mingyu towards the opposite direction of his grandma’s house

“Is he home?”

“I saw him just a minute ago. Guess he left work early today.”

Mingyu is so worried over Pumpkin in his arms that he doesn’t even think about the previous night, not until he’s standing in front of Wonwoo’s house and said boy steps out after Chan bangs on the door like a madman.

“What the hell’s your problem?” Wonwoo grumbles, eyes moving from Chan to Mingyu, which is when the irritation fades from his features, replaced by something that would have Mingyu’s heart lurching in his chest in any other situation. The gentle look in Wonwoo’s eyes disappears as soon as he notices Pumpkin in Mingyu’s arms, stepping closer with a frown. “What happened?”

“He cut himself,” Mingyu rushes out, cheeks flaring with heat when Wonwoo takes in the unshed tears in Mingyu’s eyes. “We gotta take him to the vet. Can you—Can you drive us? I know you’re probably tired—“

“Yeah,” Wonwoo interrupts. “Yeah, get in the car.”

So Wonwoo drives them to the vet, and Mingyu sits in the back of his pickup truck with Pumpkin in his lap, trying to calm the scared dog down by petting his head and pressing kisses into his fur.

Chan stayed back to go and inform Mingyu’s grandmother about what happened even though the boy wanted to come with them and Mingyu feels bad for the boy since he helped them out and decides to make it up to him somehow when they’re back.

Wonwoo keeps glancing at Mingyu through the rearview mirror even though Mingyu’s whole attention is on Pumpkin right now. he can feel the eyes on him and he only looks up once, but it’s enough to lock their gazes, and it’s enough to make Mingyu’s heart ache, remembering what happened the night before.

“It’ll be okay,” Wonwoo says, his voice steady like he’s in complete control of the situation. “Pumpkin will be fine, okay?”

Mingyu gulps, eyes boring into the older boy’s, and he nods his head.

 

 

The vet is an older lady living in a tiny, wooden house in a village further up the mountains. She wears round glasses and has her grey hair pulled into a tight bun on her head.

She recognizes Wonwoo when he explains the situation to her and ushers them inside without hesitation, moving around to gather her utensils and making Mingyu lay Pumpkin down on a table with a clean cloth draped over it.

Chan did say she wasn’t an actual vet, but the room seems well equipped, resembling an actual room at the vet’s office more than anything.

“I went to university for three years,” She explains as she puts on latex gloves and covers her face with a face mask. “I may not have a diploma but I know what I’m doing. Now get out and let me do my work.”

Mingyu shakes his head. “I’m not leaving him alone.”

“Boy,” The old lady sighs and gives him an exasperated look. “It’s just a cut. Give me thirty minutes and your puppy will be up and running again.”

“Come on, Mingyu.” Wonwoo sighs and curls a hand around his arm. “Just let her do her job, okay?”

“But—“

Wonwoo rolls his eyes and pulls him out of the room before the door gets slammed in their faces.

They sit down in front of the house on the tree trunks that are placed there, serving as benches, and Mingyu can’t stop himself from tearing up again.

Wonwoo is busy looking around to notice the tears right away, but once he does, his entire face falls and he stiffens next to Mingyu, looking unsure as to what he’s supposed to do.

“Why are you crying?”

Mingyu sniffles and rubs at his eyes. “Because he got hurt. I didn’t watch him properly.”

“That’s not your fault, though.” Wonwoo frowns. “Dogs do stupid shit all the time.”

“It is my fault. I can’t even take care of a dog.”

Wonwoo’s eyebrow twitches and he shifts on the bench until their knees brush together. “Stop it, Mingyu. It’s not your fault. Pumpkin will be fine and he will still love you a lot. I promise.”

“But grandma, she trusted me with him and I just—“

“Stop,” Wonwoo interrupts, turning to face him properly. “Your grandma isn’t going to blame you. Pumpkin is crazy, okay? He once gave himself chocolate poisoning because he ate half a cake your grandma threw away. He survived that, too. A cut’s nothing compared to that.”

Mingyu’s lower lip wobbles and he louts something between a whine a chuckle. “Poor baby.”

Wonwoo’s lips tug into a small smile. “No more crying, okay?”

Mingyu sighs and looks up at him, only now realizing how close they are, and his heart skips a beat. “Thanks for driving us here.”

Wonwoo’s eyes flicker over his face and he sighs, shaking his head. “Of course.”

And Mingyu wants to do something, like grab his hand, or kiss his cheek, but he can’t, and he won’t, so he’s left feeling hollow and miserable despite the forced smile on his face.

Wonwoo is still looking at him, his eyes searching and posture extremely stiff, until a car that passes honks at them and they both move apart like they were burned.

Which is how they remain sitting for the next twenty minutes until the lady calls them inside again and Mingyu is just glad to get away from Wonwoo and the way he makes his heart feel.

Pumpkin is still lying on the table but his tail starts wagging when he sees Mingyu and Mingyu just goes ahead and tears up again, rushing over to the dog to hug him, careful of the fresh stitches on his back.

“Pumpkin,” Mingyu pouts, rubbing the dog’s head, a wobbly smile spreading on his face when Pumpkin licks his nose. “I’m sorry. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you again. But don’t scare me like that again either, okay?”

Pumpkin just wags his tail some more and calmly blinks at Mingyu, which Mingyu accepts as an apology and promise at the same time.

Wonwoo is watching him from across the room, a strange look on his face which Mingyu tries to ignore.

“I’ll give you some medicine you can crush up and hide in his food for the next three days. Keep an eye on the stitches, too. If the skin starts looking red and swollen, bring him here again, you hear me?”

“We will,” Wonwoo says and Mingyu’s heart swells in his chest, cheeks heating up automatically at Wonwoo’s words.

The drive back is significantly more peaceful; Pumpkin is dozing off on Mingyu’s lap and this time it’s Mingyu who doesn’t even try and stop himself from staring at Wonwoo.

How could he not look at Wonwoo?

Everything the older boy does just makes Mingyu like him more and more. It’s like gravity and he has no chance of stopping the inevitable fall. Not that he really wants to.

When Wonwoo stops the car in front of the gates to Mingyu’s house he gets out of the car as well to help Mingyu with Pumpkin even though the dog seems to be okay to walk on his own again.

“Thanks again, hyung,” Mingyu says when they’re both standing in front of the gates, facing each other, Pumpkin sitting next to them and watching them curiously.

“Don’t mention it,” Wonwoo replies, eyeing the ground for a moment before he manages to look up into Mingyu’s eyes. “Anytime.”

Mingyu bites down on his tongue. How is he supposed to—How is he supposed to keep his feelings in check when Wonwoo says things like that? When he looks at Mingyu like that?

They stare at each other for a moment, Mingyu’s heart pounding heavily against his ribs, Wonwoo looking nervous, and then Mingyu steps closer and pulls Wonwo into a hug.

He feels the older boy stiffen in his arms at the same time as Mingyu’s heart skips a beat because what is he doing?

Mingyu squeezes his eyes shut, bracing himself for Wonwoo’s reaction, but it never comes.

Wonwoo is warm in his arms, smells heavenly, and Mingyu feels his chest press up against Mingyu’s when he lets out a quivering breath.

And then—then Wonwoo hugs him back.

Wonwoo’s hands are gentle and careful when they come up to press against the small of Mingyu’s back, and Mingyu can almost feel the tremors from his fingerstips travel through the fabric of his shirt.

Mingyu doesn’t even realize he’s holding his breath until his lungs start to protest because he can only really focus on Wonwoo faintly turning his head and nuzzling into his neck, pressing closer into the embrace for a second before they both let go at the sound of a vehicle approaching.

“I—“ Wonwoo stutters, facing away from Mingyu but failing to hide the blush on his cheeks. “I’ll see you later.”

Mingyu gulps and nods his head. “Okay.”

Wonwoo turns around and is gone faster than Mingyu has ever seen him move and it isn’t until the car is out of his sight that Mingyu can breathe properly again.

He doesn’t know how long he stands there, heart racing and the feeling of Wonwoo’s body against his own still almost there, that is until Pumpkin barks softly next to him.

Mingyu clears his throat and ignores the stare from the dog. “Let’s go.”

He opens the gate and waits for Pumpkin to walk through but Pumpkin remains sitting on his butt, still looking up at Mingyu like he knows.

“What?” Mingyu sighs. “You can walk, come on.”

Pumpkin still doesn’t move and proceeds to give Mingyu sad puppy eyes and Mingyu instantly caves, pouting when he sees the shaved fur on Pumpkin’s neck and the painful looking stitches in his skin.

“You’re lucky I love you so much,” Mingyu grunts when he’s carrying the dog for the second time that day.

Pumpkin just lays his head on Mingyu’s shoulder and wags his tail.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

There’s no running water in the village, and people are freaking out. 

By people, it’s mainly Seokmin and Seulgi, not being used to dealing with circumstances like that since they’re not faced with problems like that in the city.

This results in a bunch of people dropping by at their house to take a shower because apparently, his grandmother’s house has a water reservoir, meaning they’re never in danger of their water being cut off.

Mingyu is forced to leave the house since his grandmother says it’s inappropriate for him to lurk (she uses that word) around the house when Seulgi and Joohyun are taking turns showering in their bathroom.  

It’s another sweltering day, so he understands why people are so desperate to wash themselves at the end of the day.

He’s sitting in the garden, Pumpkin lying by his feet, his fur having soaked up the warmth of the sun. The stitches are looking good, too. The skin hasn’t turned red or swollen, even though it’s only the first day, but Mingyu is relieved nonetheless.

His grandma wasn’t mad at him in the slightest and just cooed at him when she noticed how scared and shaken Mingyu was by everything, assuring him that Pumpkin constantly got himself into dangerous situations and that it wasn’t Mingyu’s fault.

Still, Mingyu has been glued to Pumpkin’s side, sneaking him treats without his grandma’s knowledge.

The pollen in the air is making it a bit hard to breathe, tickling at his nose, and he chuckles when Pumpkin sneezes, obviously feeling the same.

Wonwoo hasn’t shown up yet and Mingyu wonders if he will, at all.

He wouldn’t be surprised after what happened yesterday.

Mingyu’s heart flutters anxiously and he curls his fingers into Pumpkin’s fur, hoping to calm down a bit.

Yeah, it was just a hug, but it felt like much more than that.

There’s no way for him to know how Wonwoo will react. The way he sees it, there are two possible ways Wonwoo will act around him starting today.

One, he will pretend like nothing happened, which is most likely to happen.

Two, he’ll avoid Mingyu like he did after the other incident on the field, only now he’ll actually avoid him, meaning their friendship might just be ruined.

He sighs and flops down on his back, closing his eyes against the sun.

A shadow falls over him after a while, making Mingyu blink his eyes open.  

It’s Joohyun, her wet hair pulled up into a bun. “What’s up with you?”

Mingyu sits up and pokes Pumpkin’s tummy to get the dog to move away so Joohyun can sit down next to him. “Nothing.”

“You look like someone offended Pumpkin here.” She coos at the dog and pinches his cheek and Pumpkin looks like he’s enjoying the attention way too much. “Does this have anything to do with Wonwoo?”

“What?” Mingyu chuckles, picking at the grass. “Why the hell would it have anything to do with him?”

“Seokmin told me you guys had a fight the other day.” Joohyun tilts her head, her sharp eyes taking in each of his reactions. She scares him. Mingyu is scared of Joohyun because it’s like she knows what he’s going to say before Mingyu himself knows it.

“Oh, no.” Mingyu shakes his head, smiling nervously. “We already made up.”

“I see.” She narrows her eyes at him until Mingyu tells her to stop. “Sorry, sorry. I just— I guess I’m a little worried about you.”

“What?” Mingyu furrows his eyebrows. “Why?”  

“Because you remind me of myself.” She chuckles but her eyes get this solemn look in them and Mingyu feels like he has to cheer her up somehow but he has no idea how. “I can’t talk to Wonwoo like this. He’s like a clam with no concept of opening up.”

Mingyu lets out a laugh, unable to stop the heat from rushing to his skin just because he’s thinking about Wonwoo. “Yeah, sounds about right.”

“Just be careful, okay?”

Mingyu’s head snaps up at her words and panic flashes in his chest, his mind screaming she knows but that’s just ridiculous. How could she know? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Joohyun just smiles at him and before she can say anything else, Seulgi emerges from inside the house, approaching them with a towel wrapped around her head. She plops down behind Joohyun and wraps her arms around Joohyun’s neck, hooking her chin over her shoulder.

“Am I interrupting something?” She asks after taking notice of the awkward silence. 

Joohyun’s smile falters for a second but she puts it back on and reaches up to hold Seulgi’s arm, shaking her head. “No, we were just talking about dinner tonight.”

Seulgi’s eyes light up at that. “Oh! Yeah, Mingyu, you’re coming, right?”

“What dinner?”

“Well, today’s my birthday.” She smiles brightly and Mingyu swears Seulgi is glowing in the sun like freaking Edward Cullen in the movie yesterday, she’s that pretty. “I have the house to myself since my grandparents are visiting someone. They have a huge portable grill and they bought us some beef from the butcher in town, so I’m throwing a birthday dinner.”

“Oh!” Mingyu dumbly says. “Uhm. Are you sure you want me there, though? I mean, not that I wouldn’t love to come but you barely know me—“

“Nonsense.” Seulgi shakes her head, squeezing Joohyun closer. “I want you there! I love aunt Youngja and you’re her grandson so that automatically makes you amazing in my book. It’ll be fun. I told Seokmin to go and buy some beer and soju, too. You’ll be there, right?”

Joohyun’s smile turns soft and she turns look at Seulgi who’s still smiling brightly. “Like anyone could say no to that.”

Mingyu chuckles awkwardly, suddenly feeling like he’s intruding but that’s stupid. “Sure. I’ll be there.” 

“Yay!” Seulgi whispers and Mingyu suddenly wishes he could force himself to be into her because she’s so precious but all he can see when he looks into her eyes is Wonwoo and his adorable smile and his nose scrunch and Mingyu kind of wants to cry.

 

 

“Grandma, I need your help!” Mingyu flops down on the couch where his grandmother is sitting with a tray of rice to pick out the pebbles that tend to hide among the grains.  

“What could you possibly need my help with?” She asks. Her feet aren’t touching the ground, she’s that small, and Mingyu hides his smile in the bend of his elbow before she can get angry at him.  

“It’s Seulgi’s birthday,” He mumbles. “She invited some people over for dinner tonight, but I don’t have a present.”

His grandmother looks up at him and over the rim of her specs. “Well, that’s no problem. Just bring her a nice bouquet.”

Mingyu lifts his head, wrinkling his nose. “Flowers? Isn’t that lame? I don’t want her to think I’m hitting on her.”

“Why would you hit her?” 

“No, grandma, it means showing interest in a romantic way.” Or sexual, he adds without saying it out loud in fear of giving his grandmother a heart attack. 

“Oh, no, why would she think that?” She chuckles. “Seulgi is a nice girl. She won’t take it the wrong way. I’ll help you pluck some nice flowers from the garden. I’m sure she’ll be happy about that.”

Mingyu sighs and gets up again. “I’ll go get dressed, then.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Since Mingyu doesn’t know where Seulgi’s house is, she sends Chan and Seokmin to the bus stop to wait for him.

Both of them are holding bouquets in their hands when Mingyu arrives there.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Mingyu groans, watching both their expressions shift into ones of annoyance.

“Oh, shut up.” Seokmin lifts the bouquet up in a threatening way, like he’s going to hit Mingyu with it. “Do you see a gift shop around here somewhere? It’s not like we can get her anything else.”

“Yeah, but even the flowers are the same.” Chan frowns down at the bouquet. “Let’s just put all three together and give her one massive one.”

“That’s a really dumb idea,” Mingyu says.

They show up at her place with a giant bouquet.

It makes Seulgi laugh and eyes light up with happiness, so maybe the present wasn’t all that stupid, but Mingyu is pretty sure Seulgi is simply too kind for her own good.

Seulgi’s grandparents’ house only has one story and is quite cramped, but it looks warm and inviting, completely made out of wood and creaking at each step Mingyu takes. The couches in the living room have been pushed aside to make room for the low tables that are pushed together to form one big square in the middle, colorful cushions spread all around them.

There’s a grill in the middle and plates with meat that are covered with saran wrap placed next to it. Yerim walks in a moment later, carrying a tray with a bunch of side dishes, and she shoots Mingyu a bright, toothy smile which turns into a glare as soon as her eyes fall on Chan.

Chan rolls his eyes and moves to sit down on one of the cushions on the ground.

Mingyu snickers at their interaction and asks if he can help with anything, but Seulgi tells him to sit down and just be merry.

“Is Wonwoo still at work?” Seokmin asks.

Seulgi nods her head from where she’s fiddling to turn on the grill, hovering her palm above it to check if it warms up. “I dropped by at auntie’s house before to get a tong and she said he has a car that’s going to get picked up tonight, so he can’t come until he’s done with it.”

Wait, auntie?

“Are you and Wonwoo related?” Mingyu asks, eyebrows knitted together. He has seriously lost track of who’s related to whom in this village.

Seulgi chuckles in amusement. “Our mom’s are sisters. Which makes us cousins.”

Mingyu’s mouth forms a big O at the revelation. It actually makes kind of sense; his first thought when he met Seulgi was that her and Wonwoo had resembling facial features. “Since when do you live in the city?”

Seulgi’s knees crack when she gets up, making them laugh. “My parents moved there when I turned six, so… about eighteen years?”

“Why didn’t Wonwoo and his family move?”

She sighs and sits down on the other side of the table. “Wonwoo’s dad had just opened a business down in Cheumsan back then. They had to stay until he started to make profit, which never happened, because that asshole had no idea on how to operate a business.”

Mingyu knows he should stop asking. It’s none of his business but Joohyun was right; Wonwoo is like a clam, it’s impossible to find out more about him.

And he figures if Seulgi thought he wasn’t allowed to know any of this, she wouldn’t tell him, right?

“Is that why he left?”

Seulgi nods her head. “He had a pile of debts and couldn’t pay back the loans he borrowed, so he just… disappeared. Literally. No one knows where that good for nothing human is right now. They threatened to kick them out of the house if someone didn’t start to pay up, so Wonwoo took over the car repair and he’s been doing, like, an incredible job in the past few years.”

Yerim suddenly appears at the table, plopping down right next to Seulgi. “Mom says we’re going to be debt-free in a few months.” She grins happily and Seulgi gives her a gentle smile, reaching up to card her hand through Yerim’s hair. “And then we’re going to join Seulgi unnie in the city!”

“You’re moving?” Mingyu asks, a frown appearing on his face. Wonwoo didn’t mention any of that. Not that he had to, they’ve only known each other for a little more than a week, but still. It sounded as if Wonwoo wasn’t going to leave the village any time soon.

Yerim shakes her head, her face falling a bit. “I’m still trying to convince them. Mom is scared to leave the village and oppa is— well, I don’t know what his reasoning is. He just doesn’t want to leave.”

Yeah, that sounds more like Wonwoo.

“I’ll talk to him,” Seulgi assures her. “He’s always listened to me.”

They all sit down a while later and after Chan complains about being hungry, Seulgi gives in and starts placing the meat on the grill.

Mingyu bites down on his tongue before he can ask if they shouldn’t wait for Wonwoo to arrive first.

Chan pours the drinks for everyone and Seokmin takes over grilling the meat since Joohyun warns them and says that Seulgi’s cooking skills are limited to preparing instant cup noodles.

The atmosphere around the room is nice and welcoming, even without Wonwoo there who Mingyu undoubtedly knows better than the others. Seokmin is being the nicest guy on the planet, including Mingyu in their conversations as best as he can even if he can’t do anything but listen to them when they reminisce about memories they created together in the village in the past years.

And then Wonwoo arrives, and Mingyu’s heart threatens to crawl up his throat and land on that damn grill—

“Wonwoo, my man!” Seokmin shouts, already tipsy from the little soju he drank, waving around the tong in his hand.

Wonwoo shoots him a smile, standing in the entrance like he’s unsure what to do. His eyes quickly scan the room and it might just be Mingyu’s wishful thinking, but he thinks Wonwoo looks at him twice as long, and he also thinks he sees something like a blush spread on the older boy’s neck.

Just as Wonwoo’s about to sit down next to Seulgi, Joohyun shoots up from her seat on Mingyu’s side. “Wonwoo! Come sit on this side.”

Wonwoo narrows his eyes at her, glancing at Mingyu, and then back at Joohyun. “Why?”

“Because I want to sit with Seulgi.” Joohyun shrugs and steps over Mingyu’s lap, ushering a confused looking Wonwoo to her previous seat right next to Mingyu.

Wonwoo plops down on the cushion, glaring at Joohyun who happily snuggles up to a clueless Seulgi.

Joohyun’s eyes meet Mingyu’s across the table and Mingyu shoots her a quizzical look that gets him a meaningful smirk and wink in return.

Mingyu sighs and decides to let it go for now, taking the clean plate Seulgi hands him to pass on to Wonwoo.

“Here,” He says, watching in mild amusement how Wonwoo jumps at his voice and looks at him like a deer caught in the headlights. “Your plate, hyung.”

“Oh,” Wonwoo rushes out, taking the offered plate. “Thanks.”

Everyone else is already back to eating and drinking, laughing at stupid jokes Seokmin comes up with, Yerim and Chan bickering away at the side.

Mingyu doesn’t really think what he’s doing when he reaches out to pick up a leaf and fill it with a few pieces of meat and proceeding to place the wrap on Wonwoo’s plate.

Wonwoo looks away from where he was listening to Seokmin, his eyes widening a bit when he sees the wrap on his plate. He glances at Mingyu, eyes flickering over his face. “Did you—?”

It’s only then that Mingyu realizes that might’ve been a stupid move. He shrugs, scratching at the back of his head. “Uhm, I’m younger, yeah? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

Wonwoo still looks taken aback but he slowly nods his head and picks up the wrap. “Thank you,” He says and eats the whole wrap in one bite and Mingyu definitely should not feel so satisfied seeing Wonwoo eat something he prepared for him.

He looks away, a smile tugging on his lips, and finds Joohyun watching him with a strange glint in her eyes.

“What?”

“Nothing.” She shrugs and and pops a piece of radish into her mouth, grinning at him before she turns to focus on Seulgi again.

 

 

Chan is only allowed to drink some beer tonight, but that doesn’t mean the same goes for everyone else. When the clock strikes nine, most of them are already positively tipsy, the conversations starting to take a dramatically philosophical turn.

Wonwoo next to him has relaxed enough to stop tensing up next to him whenever Mingyu moves a muscle.

Sure, it sucks a bit that Wonwoo isn’t really giving him much attention, but at least Mingyu doesn’t feel some sort of hostility coming from him, which is probably more than he could’ve hoped for after hugging him like that yesterday.

Chan is pouring Mingyu another glass of soju and when Mingyu leans back, he finds that Wonwoo has moved a bit closer and that on it’s own is almost enough for him to spill his glass.

“Is Pumpkin doing okay?” Wonwoo suddenly asks and Mingyu’s heart does a backflip at the question.

He puts his glass down and turns to face the older, eyes dragging over Wonwoo’s form, his white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to reveal tanned forearms which might just be a new form of torture. “Yeah, it didn't get infected or anything. He keeps trying to scratch at his stitches though,” Mingyu explains, watching Wonwoo’s eyes crinkle with amusement. 

Wonwoo shifts from side to side adorably. “Well. I’m glad he's better.”

Mingyu’s lips stretch into a smile, his heart jumping in foolish excitement. “Grandma wants to cook your favorite meal for you, though. For driving us."

“She doesn't have to.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “I didn't do anything.”

Mingyu decides not to try and convince him otherwise since Wonwoo probably wouldn't accept anyway. He moves and their knees accidentally brush, and the small, innocent contact blooms with warmth.

Just to see what happens, Mingyu doesn’t move it away, expecting Wonwoo to pull his leg away first, but it doesn’t happen.

Their knees stay pressed together firmly under the table and Mingyu might need a couple more drinks if he wants to make it through this night.

Wonwoo probably isn’t even aware of it but it quickly turns to be the only thing Mingyu can focus on, no matter how hard he tries to listen to Chan’s story about the time he ate space cookies at school and ended up having to be rushed to the emergency room.

Mingyu subtly moves closer to Wonwoo by leaning back on his hands, causing their shoulders to brush and he can feel Wonwoo tense up, can see his Adam’s apple bob from the corner of his eyes but then Wonwoo—

Wonwoo shifts and presses into the touch until their arms press together and Mingyu thinks his heart actually stops beating for a fraction of a second.

He forces himself to laugh at Chan’s very graphic description of him taking his shirt off in the classroom because he thought his skin was on fire but only because he’s scared he’ll forget to breathe if he doesn’t distract himself from Wonwoo’s very warm and firm presence next to him.

“Aren’t you hungry anymore?” Wonwoo asks when the others are distracted by Seulgi accidentally knocking over a can of beer.

Mingyu turns his head and quickly faces away again when he realizes how close they’re actually sitting. Wonwoo smells of that cologne again and okay, maybe there’s some sort of aphrodisiac in it or something because Mingyu feels physically drawn to it. “No. I’m full!”

Wonwoo snickers when Mingyu accidentally shouts the last part. “But you barely ate anything.”

“I’m too lazy, hyung.” Mingyu sighs and tilts his head back. “I need my food to be ready to eat, I can’t make wraps the whole night.”

“Your brat is showing again,” Wonwoo says and leans closer to the table, breaking the contact between their bodies and Mingyu nearly whimpers at the loss, until he notices what Wonwoo is doing.

He prepares a wrap for Mingyu, much better than the wrap Mingyu made for him, and brings it up to hand it to Mingyu. “Because I’m the best hyung in the world.”

Mingyu smiles, feeling warm all over as he takes the wrap. “You really are,” He says and practically shoves it into his mouth, looking up to find Wonwoo watching him with an amused expression. “You feed me, you put me to sleep. I’m gonna miss that when I go back.”

Wonwoo smiles timidly as he leans back, his nose scrunching up, touching Mingyu from shoulder to hip.

Mingyu is pretty sure this is what heaven feels like.

“Hey! Earth to Mingyu!” Seokmin suddenly shouts, making Mingyu jump and drag his eyes away from where he was busy ogling Wonwoo. Everyone at the table laughs except for Wonwoo who clears his throat and look away in embarrassment and Joohyun, who raises an eyebrow at the entire situation. “I asked you something.”

“Sorry, what?”

“Handsome guy like you must have a girlfriend, right?”

Mingyu and Wonwoo both tense up at the same time and when Mingyu glances at the boy next to him, he sees him turn his head and look out of the window, like he’s not interested in the conversation.

It sends an uncomfortable feeling to his chest and Mingyu subtly presses closer against Wonwoo, who just swallows heavily at the feeling, still looking away.

“No,” Mingyu forces out a blinding smile. “No, girlfriend, sorry.”

“But you’re so handsome!” Seulgi throws her hands in the air. “And you seem really sweet, too. You know, if I wasn’t already taken, I’d probably have my eye on you.”

Jooyhun rolls her eyes and stuffs some lettuce into Seulgi’s mouth.

Mingyu flushes a bit and only starts to relax when Wonwoo turns to face the table again, moving until his thigh is practically on top of Mingyu’s, warm and firm, even when Mingyu presses back into the touch. If he didn't know better - which he does - he'd say the action was possessive.

And Wonwoo doesn’t seem angry but rather annoyed and Mingyu shouldn’t find it as hot as he does, and he definitely should stop reading so much into Wonwoo’s every move.

Chan and Yerim hand them another round of soju and they do it so subtly that no one realizes that they are slowly getting all of them drunk whilst sipping away on their coke with sneaky grins on their faces.

Mingyu isn’t complaining.

He can hold his liquor very well so he finds amusement in the way Seokmin’s cheeks start to redden and his eyes glass over as the night progresses.

Wonwoo seems to be doing okay, too. He doesn’t seem drunk in the slightest but Mingyu can tell by his slightly flushed cheeks that all the soju is starting to affect him.

No one notices how close they’re sitting, the fleeting glances and flushed cheeks, and definitely no one notices Mingyu’s heart not calming down the entire night, how much Wonwoo’s presence is riling him up and how hard it is not to reach out and touch.

Chan and Yerim leave sooner again because Wonwoo’s mom wants her back home before midnight and Chan is forced to take her home because otherwise Wonwoo would do it and no one wants him to leave since they know he wouldn’t come back after.

Seulgi takes Seokmin outside for a moment for fresh air since the whole mixture of beer and soju has started to take a toll on him. Jooyhun starts cleaning up the dirty plates and tells them to sit their asses down when Wonwoo and Mingyu offer to help, so that just leaves both of them alone sitting in the living room.

Wonwoo empties his glass of soju and puts it on the table, leaning back into Mingyu’s side, and he stares straight ahead for a moment before turning to face Mingyu.

“What?” Mingyu asks when the older just stares at him.

Wonwoo shrugs and shakes his head, his gaze dropping to Mingyu’s mouth before going back to his eyes. Mingyu has no idea how long they stay like that, looking at each other, he only knows that the tension around them grows so thick he feels like he could touch it.

Every fibre in Mingyu’s bods is urging him to lean in, press his lips against Wonwoo’s red mouth which probably tastes of soju just to see if it would earn him a punch or if Wonwoo maybe - just maybe - would kiss back.

“I need a smoke,” Wonwoo says and clears his throat, twisting his body to reach for the pack of cigarettes that must’ve slipped out of Seokmin’s pocket on his now vacant seat. “Come with me?”

Mingyu just dumbly nods his head and doesn’t miss the pointed look Joohyun shoots him over her shoulder.

Just be careful.

 

 

 

They leave through the door at the back, not the front where Seulgi is probably rubbing Seokmin’s back while he’s throwing up.

Seulgi’s house is situated more so on the outside of the village, meaning when you look at the scenery on the back, it’s just a large grass field followed by a dark forest, never ending forest. It's eery, it really is, because Mingyu doesn't even want to know what sort of animals lurk in there. 

It's hard to make out anything in the darkness of the night; only the outlines of the mountains are visible due to how bright the stars are.

Wonwoo leans against the wooden fence and fiddles with the box of cigarettes while Mingyu is once again too fascinated by the stars hanging in the sky to look at anything else. There's a cool breeze in the air and he can hear bells clinking whenever either cows or sheep move somewhere in their stables.

It’s such a peaceful night though with crickets chirping seemingly everywhere around them.

“Fuck,” Wonwoo curses quietly, making Mingyu lower his head to look at him.

“What is it?” Mingyu asks, stepping closer to the fence.

Wonwoo sighs and crumples the box in his hand. “Ran out.”

“That’s good, though, isn’t it?” Mingyu asks, folding his arms over the fence, facing the dark forest and mountains while Wonwoo is leaning against it with his back, facing the other way and the back of Seulgi's house.

“I guess,” Wonwoo mutters. His voice shakes and when Mingyu glances at him he picks up on the jumpiness; the way he’s shaking his knee, the slight tremor to his fingers, the way Wonwoo clenches and unclenches his jaw.

“Or not,” Mingyu chuckles pityingly. “When did you have your last one?”

“Yesterday at work,” Wonwoo answers, bringing his hand up to run it through his hair. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back and Mingyu can’t help but stare when his Adam's apple bobs up and down, the sight so manly and oddly intimate it makes him swallow heavily.

Shit.

Maybe it's the alcohol he had, but Mingyu is having a really hard time tonight keeping his thoughts and actions at bay. He digs his blunt fingernails into the wood of the fence, trying to ground himself.

“You know, a friend of mine back in the city, he used to be a really bad chainsmoker. He tried just about everything to stop but you know what eventually helped him?”

Wonwoo blinks his eyes open and turns to face him. Mingyu swears he sees the stars’ reflection in his eyes. “What?”

“Whenever he had the urge to smoke he kissed his bo—“ Mingyu glances at Wonwoo, relieved to find that the older boy didn't notice his slip. “His girlfriend. He’d just make out with her until the urge went away.”

A tiny laugh leaves Wonwoo’s mouth. “Well, it’s a shame I don’t have a girlfriend, isn’t it?”

Mingyu cracks a nervous smile and slowly nods his head, eyes searching Wonwoo’s. “Yeah... Shame.”

Wonwoo licks his lips and Mingyu nearly pops a vein, the wood giving in under the relentless pressure of his fingers. The air feels so charged around them Mingyu doesn’t dare move, and he doesn’t think he could look away from Wonwoo even if he wanted to. 

It’s like they’re opposite poles because Mingyu can feel the pull, and maybe it’s just him, but it tugs at his chest and stomach and legs, urging him to lean in and touch Wonwoo, his heart thudding heavily and Mingyu is torn between starting to hate the constant feeling and wanting more of it.

But Wonwoo suddenly seems to come back to his senses. He closes his eyes and shakes his head, pushing away from the fence and Mingyu hears him curse quietly, his heart dropping to the bottom of his stomach at the whispered “Shit” Wonwoo lets out.

Mingyu sighs, his pulse kicking up again, and he pushes himself off the fence as well.

Wonwoo hasn’t moved away that far; he’s just standing there with his back facing Mingyu, seemingly staring into nothing.

“Hyung,” Mingyu says, frustration and confusion blending into his voice. He should stop. Mingyu should just leave it be and go back inside but he doesn't want to. There's really only one thing he wants, this whole village and their religious beliefs be damned.  “Wonwoo hyung, can we… can we talk or, please just hear me out—“

Wonwoo suddenly spins around and closes up on him, Mingyu stumbling back in surprise and nearly tripping over his feet if Wonwoo didn’t reach out to grip his arm and steady him.

“Uhm,” Mingyu dumbly says.

Wonwoo’s eyes are frantically moving over Mingyu’s face and his chest is heaving a bit. “Talk about what?”

Mingyu gulps, not sure what he’s supposed to say. "This." 

"I don't know what you mean."

"Really?" Mingyu licks his lips and Wonwoo looks pained. "So I'm— I'm the only one feeling like this?" 

Wonwoo glares at him for a moment longer, and then his whole face just crumples, his shoulders sagging. “I don’t know— I can’t—"

He sounds so lost and confused it makes Mingyu’s chest ache, and he’s about to pull away again when Mingyu doesn’t speak for a few tense seconds but Mingyu quickly springs into action and grips Wonwoo’s wrist, pulling him back.

“Hyung,” Mingyu starts, his heart stuck in his throat, ignoring all the warning signals in his head because Wonwoo is so close and he looks so conflicted and like he can’t breathe and Mingyu’s been known to listen to his heart rather than his head. “I— I’m not scared,” He repeats the same thing he said last night and gulps when he sees Wonwoo’s eyes flash with understanding.

“But I am,” Wonwoo’s voice cracks and Mingyu can feel his hand trembling where he’s still holding Wonwoo’s wrist. “I shouldn’t want to—“ Wonwoo stops and looks away. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”

That’s nothing Mingyu hasn’t heard before, but it still doesn’t hurt less to hear it.

He waits for Wonwoo to scrape up the courage to meet Mingyu’s eyes again. They’re red rimmed, like Wonwoo is fighting tears.

He’s that scared.

Mingyu gulps and shakes his head. “It's not wrong.”

"It is," Wonwoo hisses, jaw clenching. "People would— They wouldn't let me live if they knew." 

Mingyu feels his heart drop all the way to his stomach, anger flaring in his chest. "Just tell me something."

Wonwoo’s eyebrows twitch. “What?”

"Does it feel wrong?"

And Mingyu knows he might end up with a black eye tonight, or even worse than that, but he doesn’t even think that far anymore.

He doesn’t think beyond the shade of red that makes up Wonwoo’s lips when he leans in and presses a fleeting kiss into them.

Mingyu can’t really breathe and Wonwoo tenses up against him in stark contrast to the softness of his lips.

It can barely be called a kiss; just a gentle brush of lips but the meaning behind it is there.

Mingyu pulls away quickly, his heart going crazy and skin tingling, and he expects Wonwoo to start cursing at him, or go straight for a punch but none of that happens.

When he blinks his eyes open, Wonwoo is just staring at him, wide eyed with flushed cheeks and his hand—

His hand that’s still curled around Mingyu’s arm, pulls Mingyu closer, like a silent plea.

And maybe Mingyu is reading everything wrong, but he wants to, he desperately wants to kiss Wonwoo again and he inhales shakily when Wonwoo leans in, fingers so tight around Wonwoo’s arm it might just bruise, not that Mingyu cares.

He feels Wonwoo’s warm breath on his lips and closes his eyes right before their lips brush, then separate for a second where Mingyu hears Wonwoo suck in a breath and suddenly lean in to press their lips together again in the next moment. 

Mingyu’s knees feel slightly unsteady because he can’t remember the last time a kiss has felt like this, so nerve wrecking but fulfilling and the way Wonwoo sighs into it, his mouth pliant and so soft, makes Mingyu tilt his head and kiss Wonwoo deeper. Their breaths are fanning across each other’s faces, Mingyu pulling Wonwoo closer and feeling him shudder at every hesitant brush of their lips.

He doesn’t know how many times they kiss, but their chests are heaving and he can barely breathe anymore by the end of it. He pulls back and is terrified to open his eyes, not wanting to let go of the warm feeling that’s spreading in every inch of his body, but he eventually does.

Wonwoo is standing there, his eyes still closed, his pretty mouth slightly agape, his skin slightly flushed, and Mingyu did that.

“Hyung,” He whispers, his throat feeling dry and hands tingling and body screaming to lean in and kiss the boy again and again, but he can’t. “Look at me.”

Wonwoo opens his eyes, blushing even more when he finally meets Mingyu’s gaze. He doesn’t say anything, just stares at Mingyu.

“Say something.”

“I—“ Wonwoo starts but just ends up staring again. Mingyu licks his lips, trying to ignore how Wonwoo’s eyes follow the movement. And it’s like Wonwoo’s brain finally starts working again, because his grip on Mingyu’s arm loosens until it slips away entirely. “I should go.”

He might as well have just given Mingyu a black eye.

Mingyu just stares at him, unable to move and unable to open his mouth and tell Wonwoo that there's only so much running away you can do before reality catches up with you. Mingyu's been there, the denial, self-hatred, he's been through all of it, so he has no right to get at mad at Wonwoo. 

Maybe it's not Wonwoo he's mad at. Maybe it's this village, all these people here with their outdated beliefs, their harsh words and hatred that make Wonwoo believe that this is wrong.

If the circumstances were different, Mingyu would kick up a fuss. He would tell he other person that it’s kind of an asshole move to just leave like that after a kiss, but he doesn’t think he can do much right now.

Wonwoo looks at him for another second before he turns around and walks away, disappearing inside the house.

Mingyu stares after him, his chest aching horribly. He's stupid. This is all his own fault. What did he expect to happen? Did he expect Wonwoo to ask him to be his boyfriend? It's not—  It's not possible, not here in this village, maybe not even in this country. 

The odds were against him from the beginning and Seungcheol warned him and Mingyu didn’t listen, because he never does.

A sudden noise makes his head snap up and he proceeds to stare at Wonwoo with wide eyes, his brain not really processing what’s happening when he sees the older boy standing there again.

Wonwoo swallows heavily and steps closer, and closer, and suddenly Mingyu is in his arms.

Wonwoo is shaking a bit and his breaths come out in nervous little puffs against Mingyu’s ear, but he’s hugging Mingyu, and he’s so warm and gentle and Mingyu feels his nose prickle with the sudden urge to cry.

“It— It didn’t feel wrong,” Wonwoo mumbles into his ear.

Mingyu closes his eyes and carefully presses closer into Wonwoo. “Okay.”

“Can you—“ Wonwoo exhales shakily, arms tightening around Mingyu’s neck. “Can you say it again?”

Mingyu doesn't instantly know what Wonwoo means but once he understands, his heart just completely breaks and his arms slide around Wonwoo’s waist before he can stop himself. “It's not wrong. There’s nothing wrong with you, hyung.”

Wonwoo takes a deep breath and nuzzles into Mingyu’s neck and it sends tingles down his spine, his sweet scent making Mingyu feel heady. The cool breeze ruffles their hair and nips at Mingyu’s skin where his shirt has ridden up and he shivers, feels Wonwoo tighten his arms around him as if to warm Mingyu up.

He can feel Wonwoo’s heart racing, he can feel it, the erratic little pounding on his chest where Wonwoo’s body is pressing against his own, and everything about it makes Mingyu feel things he probably shouldn’t be feeling this soon.

Wonwoo pulls away after a moment, his arms slowly sliding away from around Mingyu, taking the warmth with him. The flush of his skin has spread all the way down his neck, to his collarbones and chest and down into his shirt and—

“You can’t tell anyone,” Wonwoo mumbles, shaking his head. “I can’t— I can’t just… I have to think of my family. No one can know.”

And just as fast as the nice feelings came, they’re gone again, making room for the anxiety and mild panic over their whole twisted situation to kick in. “I won’t tell a soul.”

Wonwoo’s face falls a bit and he looks away, sniffling. 

Mingyu can't really look him in the eyes, so he drops his gaze to the ground, his mind already running all sorts of scenarios in his head, trying to figure out what’s going to happen, if this was just an experiment to Wonwoo, if it was a prank to out him, if tomorrow the whole village will know—

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Wonwoo interrupts his thoughts and when Mingyu looks up at him with an unconvinced expression Wonwoo shakes his head. “I— I promise. I’ll come see you tomorrow.”

“Careful, hyung, I don’t take promises lightly,” Mingyu says, trying to lighten up the mood no matter how worried he is.

“Me neither,” Wonwoo answers, giving Mingyu a pointed look, and Mingyu believes him.

Wonwoo’s eyes drop to Mingyu’s mouth again, and his flush gets worse for a second before he turns around and walks away.

Mingyu watches him duck his head and disappear inside the house, barely managing to step aside when Joohyun appears in front of him. He hears Wonwoo utter out an apology before he hurries off, catches Joohyun's confused gaze and quickly averts his eyes before they can give anything away.

She crosses her arms over her chest and walks out to stand on the steps, tilting her head as she looks at Mingyu. 

It's silent for a minute, in fact, Mingyu can almost hear the flow of the river behind him somewhere even though it's far away from Seulgi's house. He doesn't know why he's so scared to face the girl but he can't bring himself to look her in the eyes all of a sudden. 

He hears Joohyun sigh and her bare feet move across the wooden stairs and he faintly lifts his head to look what she's doing, finding that she's sitting on the top step, her eyes gentle on him. She pats the space next to her and Mingyu takes a calming breath, moving to sit down next to her, only now realizing how much his legs are shaking. 

Joohyun shuffles over to make space for him, wrapping her arms around herself when the wind nips at their skin a little too much, tugging a few strands out of her ponytail. 

Mingyu sniffles and stares into the darkness in front of them, his heart having yet to calm down, lips tingling with the ghost of Wonwoo's mouth. He can barely handle all the emotions brewing inside of him, excitement and fear, this want for Wonwoo that's so overwhelming it feels like it's just going to knock him over at one point. And now that Mingyu knows how Wonwoo tastes, how his lips feel, he just wants him even more. 

She's the first to break the silence, taking a deep breath and tilting her head back towards the bright night sky. "It's pretty, isn't it?" 

Mingyu drags his thoughts away from Wonwoo and turns to look at Joohyun next to him, following her line of sight. The stars sparkle down on them, and maybe they'll be lucky enough tonight to spot a shooting star. "Yeah, it is." 

Joohyun drops her head after a while and Mingyu's face twists into a frown when he feels the air around them shift, Joohyun suddenly seeming a lot smaller, her eyes downcast. Just very unlike her. 

"You okay?" Mingyu gently asks. 

"I hate this place," Joohyun whispers, slowly, like she's scared someone might hear her. 

Mingyu just blinks at her, uncertain as to what to say. "I don't think you belong here."

She slowly turns her head, meeting Mingyu's eyes, and somehow Mingyu isn't surprised to see her holding back tears. It doesn't mean it's any less heart breaking, though. Mingyu may have met her only last week, but Joohyun's been constantly smiling and teasing whenever he saw her, and she's easy to talk to, and Mingyu just somehow just liked her right from the start, so seeing her upset doesn't sit well with him at all. 

"You're not being careful, Mingyu," She quietly says, the corner of her mouth lifting into a tired little smile.

Mingyu swallows heavily, thinking his words through carefully, not wanting to give anything away. "What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean."

"I don't think I do."

Joohyun sighs and shakes her head. "Wonwoo can't leave, Mingyu. You can, whenever you want, you can leave. Run away from all this. But he's stuck here. If you... If you're not careful and someone hears of it, he'll be the one to bear the brunt. He already took the fall for his dad once, don't make him go through the same for you— "

"I wouldn't," Mingyu interrupts her, his voice coming out too loud and harsh, the sudden anger and urge to protect Wonwoo making him unable to shut his mouth. "I wouldn't just leave him here, I would— "

"So I was right," Joohyun whispers, her eyes wide. Mingyu realizes his mistake a second too late and everything just kind of stops. He tries to find words but ends up just staring at Joohyun like a scared child, her face falling at the obvious fear in Mingyu's eyes. "Oh, Mingyu."

 

Mingyu could potentially ruin Wonwoo's life, he can't, he can't do that.

"Joohyun," Mingyu scrambles to explain, his throat closing up because shit, this is bad. This is so fucking bad. Mingyu doesn't even care anymore what happens to him, he'll gladly leave and never come back to this place but Joohyun was right; this is Wonwoo's home. "Wonwoo has nothing to do with this. Look, I know you have no reason to help me, but please, I'm begging you don't tell anyone. I forced myself on him, I— "

"Stop, Mingyu, stop," Joohyun squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head. "You stupid idiot. Are you listening to yourself? You're like an oversized puppy, you could never force yourself on anyone." 

"I swear Wonwoo didn't—"

"Yeah, and next you're going to try and make me believe Wonwoo doesn't look at you like the sun shines out of your ass?" 

Mingyu just kind of freezes, struggling to breathe properly. "What?"

"I've known Wonwoo my whole life," Joohyun quietly says. "If— If there is something there, then Wonwoo is just as responsible as you."

She calmly stares at Mingyu, and there's no signs of anger or disgust on her face. She still looks at him the same way she did yesterday, and Mingyu is so extremely confused he has a hard time remembering how to talk. 

"Please just— Please, Joohyun. Don't tell anyone. You can't tell anyone. Wonwoo would..." Mingyu's throat closes up. He doesn't know why he's so scared, why the thought of Wonwoo getting hurt scares him more than what could happen to Mingyu himself. 

"Do you really think I would do that?" Joohyun tilts her head, he pretty eyes suddenly looking so tired, like they've seen more than Mingyu could ever imagine. "Mingyu, your secret is safe with me. But can you promise me something, too?" 

Mingyu's still busy staring at her, trying to understand why Joohyun isn't—  why she isn't reacting. As if finding out that Mingyu and Wonwoo... that they did something men shouldn't do, according to their society. "Promise you what?"

Joohyun doesn't answer immediately. She looks away for a moment, the wind blowing some of her strands into her face. "If I ever need your help in the near future, you will do it. No questions asked."

"What would you need my help with?"

"I said no questions asked."

"Jooyhun— "

"Do you promise?" She reaches her hand out, offering Mingyu her little pinkie and Mingyu just looks her in the eyes for a second, and he sees a kind of determination there he's never seen before, and it scares him. A part of him doesn't want to make this promise, not because he's scared, but he's worried about Joohyun. "Mingyu."

"Okay," He mumbles and links their pinkies together, thumbs kissing in the middle to seal the promise. "I promise." 

"Good." Joohyun nods, taking a deep breath and moving as if to get up and go back inside. 

"Joohyun, wait." Mingyu stops her, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion when she turns to give him a curious look. "Why—  Why are you so okay with this? With... with Wonwoo, and me." 

Joohyun blinks at him, reaches up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, a strange smile tugging on her lips. "Are you asking me why I'm being a decent human being?" 

"But it doesn't make sense. No one here is... everyone is..."

"I know how the villagers are. But I'm not," She says. "I would be a hypocrite if I judged you or Wonwoo for who you like." 

Mingyu shakes his head. "I don't get it." 

Joohyun sighs and gets up, smiling down at Mingyu. "Just, remember that promise, okay?" 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The list of things Mingyu sucks at is humiliatingly long.

Waiting is at the very top of it all.

Which is exactly what he has to do the next day.

Wait.

Mingyu didn’t sleep well last night, which only serves to make him even more jittery and on edge.

After he took Seokmin home and made sure he was safely tucked away in his bed and not in danger of choking on his own vomit, Mingyu spent an hour sitting on the hammock inside, too nervous and worked up to step a foot inside the house.

Pumpkin was there to keep him company, and his warm and calming presence helped out a bit, but it wasn’t enough to stop Mingyu from worrying about what was going to happen next.

That, and he kept touching his lips, the feeling of Wonwoo’s plush lips still lingering there, and the memory of it alone was enough to have his heart beat erratically and his stomach do crazy summersaults inside his body.

They kissed.

They kissed.

Mingyu ended up falling from the hammock because of how much he was wiggling around, not able to contain his feelings, and Pumpkin looked at him like he was wondering if Mingyu lost his mind.

He managed to get an hour of sleep in before sunrise and proceeded to get up and prepare breakfast for his grandmother and him because he felt like he was going crazy worrying about what happened between Wonwoo and him.

Then he washed the dishes and almost got his ass whooped because his grandmother didn’t want him to help.

He helped doing the laundry next, carrying the basked up and down the stairs since the washing machine is in the basement, helped hang the wet clothes up in the garden on the clothesline and it was fun to see his grandma scold Pumpkin after he snatched a towel and took off running around the garden with it.

Which brings him to now; Mingyu is sitting on the ground, plucking flowers in his grandma’s garden. She has these massive daffodils and Mingyu has no idea if he’s allowed to touch them but he thinks there’s no way she’s going to get mad at him.

She loves him way too much.

His eyes drift to the gate over and over, his heart anxiously hoping to see Wonwoo appear there so they can fucking talk and he can calm down because he’s going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t know what’s happening soon.

The rational part of his brain knows that the only reason Wonwoo still hasn’t shown up by the time the sun starts to set is because he’s still at work, but that tiny, paranoid section of said brain is currently freaking out.

A week isn’t enough to properly get to know a person; what if Mingyu was completely wrong about Wonwoo?

What if his inability to make wise decisions is going to come and bite him in the ass once again?

He glances at his watch, sees the clockhand nearing seven.

Wonwoo should be here by now.

Mingyu sits down on the ground, the flowers in his hands tumbling into the grass and he contemplates getting his phone out and calling Seungcheol.

His best friend’s always got time for him unless he’s getting it on with Jihoon somewhere in the apartment but does Mingyu really want to listen to Seungcheol’s scolding?

He doesn’t, but he should. He should let Seungcheol talk some sense into him, hear again how stupid and reckless it was of him to kiss a guy who’s lived in a conservative village all his life where it’s considered okay to marry off a girl to a complete stranger just because she got pregnant from the boy she loved.

Mingyu doesn’t even want to think about what might happen if people found about what Wonwoo and him did.

Not because he’s scared. Mingyu stopped caring about what meaningless people thought of him a long time ago.

The only thing he’s scared about is how all of this will affect Wonwoo. It’s probably too early to think like that, and he thinks he’s starting to understand what Seungcheol meant when he once told him that Mingyu’s too reckless sometimes, but Mingyu knows that if it came down to it, he would take the fall for Wonwoo.

Because Joohyun was right; Mingyu can and will leave, and Wonwoo can but won’t.

He’s still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Joohyun knows. Mingyu doesn’t understand it, the way she took the news, although he suspects that she’s known for a while now so it probably was more of a confirmation to her.

The teasing smiles and comments definitely make more sense now, but Mingyu seriously needs to pull her aside the next time he sees her and talk about it.

It feels like he’s missing something.

After glancing at the gate for the nth time, Mingyu decides that he can’t just sit and wait around decides to take Pumpkin for a walk.

Mingyu spots Seokmin almost as soon as he closes the gate behind him, the boy carrying what looks to be a huge watermelon. He stops to turn and look at Mingyu when he hears his shoes scrunch on the gravel, eyes squinted against the blinding sun.

“Gyu!” Seokmin grins at him when Mingyu steps closer and slaps the massive watermelon playfully. Pumpkin rubs himself all over Seokmin’s leg in excitement, making the boy laugh and try to pet him as best as he can with the fruit in his arms. “What’s up?”

“Not much. Taking this one for a walk,” Mingyu answers, nodding his head at the fruit. “Where are you going with that?”

“My grandma ordered this one from uncle Changho,” Seokmin explains, shifting the watermelon around when it threatens to slip from his sweaty grip. “Weighs more than a freaking baby, I swear to god.”

Mingyu chuckles and figures he might as well help the guy; it’s not like he has anything better to do, and he likes Seokmin so he reaches out to take the fruit and put his biceps to some use.

“You sure you wanna do that?” Seokmin grins when they start walking, fingers rubbing over Pumpkin’s ears who’s tagging along obediently. “My house is all the way up there!” He points at the small hill behind the school and Mingyu’s lips curl into a smirk.

“I know,” He says. “I took you home last night.”

Seokmin’s cheeks flush instantly and he clears his throat, kicking at a pebble on the ground. “Right. Yeah. Sorry about that, man. It, uh, must’ve been a weird day or something. Usually I’m not such a lightweight.”

Mingyu bites down on a laugh, clearly remembering Joohyun telling him how Seokmin tends to pass out after two beers. “Don’t sweat it. It was fun.”

Seokmin hums and starts chattering about a girl he saw in town last week and how he was too shy to walk up to her and ask for her name. Mingyu hums and attentively listens to his plan about going back to the same spot in hopes of meeting her again when Seokmin suddenly asks him something that catches him off guard.

“What?”

“Do you like Joohyun noona?”

Mingyu splutters and tightens his grip on the watermelon. “What the hell are you talking about? Of course not.”

“Dude, is the thought that revolting?” Seokmin snorts. “She’s pretty, isn’t she?”

“Yeah but—“ Mingyu groans. “That’s not all it takes for someone to like a person, yeah?”

"I mean." Seokmin shrugs. “It’s enough for me.”

“Yes, because you’re a horny idiot.”

Seokmin playfully shoves him, but it’s hard enough for the watermelon to be airborne for a second, causing Seokmin to let out a loud shriek.

Mingyu has amazing reflexes though and catches it again before it can splatter all over the ground.

“Okay, asshole, we got it. You’re a perfect bastard.” Seokmin rolls his eyes at the shit eating grin Mingyu has on his face after catching the fruit.

“Seriously,” Mingyu says after a moment. “Why’d you ask me that? Are… Are people talking?” Mingyu suddenly remembers the old men walking past them, sending them dirty looks. The last thing he wants is for rumors to go around, especially not when it could get Joohyun into trouble.

“Well, they’re not talking per se.” Seokmin sighs. “They’re just starting to get crazy ideas again. You know, setting her up with you and whatnot. Everyone loved your granddad, so they kind of think really highly of you. Joohyun’s mom is really persistent on the idea. She’s worried Joohyun’s going to end up single, keeps saying she’s getting too old for marriage.”

“She’s twenty-four!” Mingyu snaps. “What’s wrong with these people?!”

“Dunno. There might be something in the water.” 

“I’m not interested in her like that.” Mingyu shakes his head. “Can’t you just tell them?”

“You’re not?”

“No!”

Seokmin falls silent for a second. “Good for you. You wouldn’t have stood a chance anyway.”

Mingyu grunts, too worked up and angry about Seokmin’s words to question the meaning behind what he just said. “They’re not going to marry her off to a stranger, are they?”

“We’re talking about Joohyun, dude.” Seokmin chuckles. “Do you seriously think she’d let them do that to her?”

He’s got a point, but Mingyu can’t push away the concern flaring in his chest. He's already been worrying about Joohyun's weird behaviour from last night as it is, he really can't handle thinking about the possibility of her being dragged into something she never consented to.

They reach Seokmin’s house a moment later and Mingyu waits for him in his garden while Seokmin take the watermelon inside, feeling sleep tugging at his eyelids. Pumpkin is rolling around on his back, exposing his belly and staring at Mingyu until Mingyu gives in and leans down to rub his soft fur.

“You’re such a baby,” Mingyu says, tickling the dog’s tummy. “You’re a spoiled little pup, aren’t you?”

Pumpkin wags his tail in answer and Mingyu laughs, leaning down to kiss him and ends up having the dog lick his chin obscenely.

Seokmin grins when he comes back and sees Mingyu playfully wrestling Pumpkin in the grass. “We’re meeting up with a few guys to play some cards at Wonwoo’s place,” Seokmin says while he puts his shoes back on. “You’re coming, too, right? Not like you have much choice—“

“Wait,” Mingyu interrupts him, gently nudging Pumpkin’s head aside. “Wonwoo’s place? He’s home?”

Seokmin stands up and dusts off his pants, nodding his head. “Yeah. He left work early, at around noon.”

Mingyu stares at the boy for a second, his chest suddenly feeling hollow “Oh.”

“You alright?” Seokmin frowns.

“Uh,” Mingyu clears his throat. “Yeah, sure. I’m okay.”

He doesn’t know what to make of this.

He’s been anxious the whole day, waiting for Wonwoo like an idiot so they could talk and sort things out but apparently, Wonwoo and him aren’t on the same page.

Not only has Wonwoo been home for several hours, but he’s also meeting up with Seokmin and the others rather than keeping the promise he made last night.

Mingyu can’t handle the sudden wave of disappointment washing over him and his nose starts to prickle.

“Hey,” Seokmin says, his voice gentle. “Dude, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Mingyu grins at Seokmin. “I just— I think I’m coming down with something. I should probably go back home and sleep it off.”

“You sure?” Seokmin scans him up and down once. “I’ll walk you back—“

“I’m not a kid.” Mingyu rolls his eyes. “I think I can find my back on my own, yeah?”

Seokmin chuckles. “Of course. But come out later if you feel better, okay? Don’t stay locked up inside all day.”

“I will,” Mingyu says, already backing away, his heart pounding heavily and he gently tugs at Pumpkin’s collar to get the dog to move.

The smile slips from his face as soon as he’s got his back turned to Seokmin and he can barely fight the frown that takes it’s place instead.

He makes it back home without forming one single coherent thought.

Even Pumpkin seems concerned about him since he tilts his head and attentively watches Mingyu sit back down in the garden next to the small bundle of flowers he’d plucked earlier.

Mingyu eventually looks up and meets the dog’s eyes, a tired smile tugging on his lips. “I’m pathetic, aren’t I, Pumpkin?”

Pumpkin blinks at him and then moves to lie down next to him, settling his head against Mingyu’s thigh, offering silent comfort.

“What the hell was I thinking?” Mingyu shakes his head to himself and runs his fingers through Pumpkin’s fluffy fur, his mind racing.

He doesn’t know how long he sits there. Minutes, maybe half an hour, he isn’t sure.

Mingyu is mad.

And no, he's not mad at Wonwoo.  H e can’t actually bring himself to be mad at Wonwoo for being too much of a coward and face this whole thing. He honestly doesn’t know how he would’ve handled this if he grew up in this place. He's mostly mad at himself for being so naive and not listening to Seungcheol from the start.

Plus, he's been dealing with a migraine the entire because of this whole thing, so he's annoyed, okay? He's annoyed that Wonwoo has been sitting around at home while Mingyu's been suffering like a proper idiot on his own.  

What if Wonwoo tells the others?

What if he’s doing that right now?

Mingyu feels panic flare up in his chest through the gentle throbbing of his heart because of yet another heartbreak and briefly wonders if he should just pack his things and leave before he causes a scene.

And his grandmother… fuck, he can handle everyone else knowing and treating him like crap but not her. He doesn’t think his heart could handle seeing her look at him differently, like he’s disgusting and wrong—

A sudden rattle from the gate makes both him and Pumpkin startle, Mingyu’s head shooting up.

His heart stutters at the sight.

Mingyu watches Wonwoo close the gate behind him, his pickup truck parked on the side of the street. Mingyu didn’t even hear the engine.

He can’t bring himself to stand up, not even when Pumpkin shoots up to his feet and rushes past him to run up to Wonwoo and greet him.

Mingyu watches Wonwoo slow down when Pumpkin comes to a stop in front of him, his tail wagging wildly, and a smile spreads on Wonwoo’s face. He reaches out to pet Pumpkin for a moment and then lifts his head, his eyes searching the garden before they land on Mingyu and Mingyu’s heart nearly gives out.

Wonwoo’s smile slips the tiniest bit and he pats Pumpkin’s head one last time before he starts walking again.

He’s right there a few seconds later, towering over Mingyu, looking down at him with his head tilted to the side. He’s wearing basketball shorts and a breezy looking t-shirt, hair windswept and a bit spiky around his fringe, either from having washed them or from sweat. 

“Hey,” Wonwoo says after what seems like forever, and all Mingyu can focus on is how his voice rumbles in his own chest and the memory of Wonwoo’s plump lips moving against his own— “How are you?”

“What’s it to you?” Mingyu knows he sounds short, and maybe he's being stupid and petty, but the last few days have kind of been emotionally exhausting so he thinks he's allowed.

Wonwoo flinches and Mingyu feels his chest twitch uncomfortably. “Seokmin said you weren’t feeling well.”

“I’m okay. You can go back.”

Mingyu doesn’t miss the confusion and hurt on Wonwoo’s face and it makes him want to take his words back almost immediately. “Are you... mad at me or something?”

“I’m not mad.”

“You obviously are. Otherwise you wouldn’t be acting like a total brat right now.” Wonwoo is starting to look pissed off and that only irritates Mingyu further.

Mingyu grits his teeth together, willing himself to remain calm, but he can’t really contain the sudden anger that flares up in him. He's not being a brat. Okay, maybe a little bit but does Wonwoo really not get it? “Why the fuck are you here then if I’m such a brat?”

“Mingyu, what the hell?” Wonwoo stops glaring at him, his shoulders slumping and he ends up looking confused more than anything. “Did I do something wrong?”

Mingyu shakes his head and closes his eyes. “No. I’m just. I'm tired. I'm sorry.”

They fall silent and Mingyu just wants this uneasy feeling in his chest to go away. He really can’t handle this state of constant anxiousness and uncertainty and combined with the lack of sleep he's slowly turning into... a brat.

He's being a brat.

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo says, more quietly, and when Mingyu finally looks up at him Wonwoo is already staring at him, concern and confusion apparent on his face. “I’m… I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier. I left work early to—“ He stops and Mingyu watches him lower his head, the tips of his ears slowly turning red. “I wanted to come earlier.”

Mingyu waits for him to continue but Wonwoo refuses to say anything else. “Why didn’t you?”

“I— I was scared, I guess. Still am.” Wonwoo clears his throat. “This isn’t exactly easy for me.”

“Okay,” Mingyu says. “I get that. But it's not really easy for me either, hyung.”

“I know." Wonwoo's voice suddenly sounds very gentle and Mingyu has to squeeze his eyes shut to suppress the urge to hug him. Wonwoo clears his throat and awkwardly points at the flowers resting next to Mingyu on the ground. “Who are they for?”

“You,” Mingyu blurts, choking on his own spit when he realizes what he said. He’s going to die of his own stupidity sooner or later.

Wonwoo blinks at him and the tiny blush blooming on his cheeks has Mingyu’s heart pounding faster. “Oh,” He mumbles, eyes flickering from the daffodils to Mingyu’s face again.

Mingyu clears his throat and leaves the flowers on the ground. “I mean, not for you. Why would I give you flowers? They’re for— me.” He laughs awkwardly and wants to bury himself alive.

Wonwoo’s eyes are practically drinking him in and Mingyu swallows nervously, not used to being looked at like that. “I can give them to my mom.”

“You want them?”

“Sure,” Wonwoo says, clearing his throat. "She loves flowers."

Mingyu tries to ignore how his chest tingles at Wonwoo’s words and picks the tiny bouquet up, fiddling with it for a moment before reaching it out for Wonwoo to take.

Their fingers brush when Wonwoo grabs the bouquet and he might’ve just been imagining the way Wonwoo lets his hand linger for a second too long.

“Are you not going back to the others?” Mingyu asks when they don’t do anything but just look at each other, the tension and nerves almost tangible in the bubble around them.

Wonwoo’s eyes narrow in confusion and Mingyu watches him swallow heavily, shifting on his feet. “I told you I’d come see you, didn’t I?”

Mingyu doesn’t know why he feels like a helpless little school boy. He just wants to go to bed and cry a bit, preferably with Jihoon feeding him chocolate and telling him that everything will be okay because Jihoon always says the truth.

He doesn’t usually have to deal with feelings in the city.

When Mingyu goes out, most of the time he’ll end up in bed with a good looking stranger, and they’ll have a good time for a night, and the next day Mingyu will leave their apartment and never see them again.

Relationships are hard when you don’t have your friends’ and family’s support, when you can’t do the things other couples can without constantly getting nasty looks and hurtful words thrown at you, which is why a lot same-sex relationships simply don’t last.

One-night stands are just easier, in that way.

But Wonwoo isn’t a one night stand and Wonwoo stirs up feelings in him and Mingyu’s just so torn between packing his things and running away and wanting to kiss the living daylights out of him.

“I didn’t think you’d do it,” Mingyu answers, not meaning for his voice to come out as small as it does.

Wonwoo’s eyes get this look in them and he sighs. “Do you want to go somewhere?”

“Yeah,” Mingyu says. “Okay.”

He doesn’t think much about where they’re going when he climbs into Wonwoo’s car, watches Wonwoo place the flowers on top of his dashboard, turn on the radio, the tires skidding across the gravel when he drives off.

It isn't until they pass the last house that belongs to Gumsang that Mingyu questions out loud where they’re going.

“Just somewhere we can be alone.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

Wonwoo knits his eyebrows together, turning to give Mingyu a disturbed look. “Why would I kill you?”

Mingyu shrugs. “There’s nothing out here,” He says, and it’s true. Nothing is around them except for the small road the car is driving on and the seemingly endless plains of fields that connect with the pink and yellow sky in the horizon. “You probably could and no one would suspect you. No one would ever find my body.”

There’s a beat of silence, like Wonwoo is actually thinking about Mingyu’s words. “Do you want me to kill you? Because I can.”

Mingyu was just joking but Wonwoo suddenly sounds really serious and he freezes a bit. “Wait, are you actually going to—“

“Mingyu.”

“What?” Mingyu whimpers.

“Shut up,” Wonwoo snickers. “I was just taking the piss."

Mingyu huffs and sinks back into the seat, staring out the window and soaking in the pretty sunset. “I’m gonna miss this sight when I’m back in the city.”

Wonwoo doesn’t say anything to that so Mingyu turns to look at him after a while, the way the sun is bathing Wonwoo’s skin in a warm shade of orange. He’s squinting his eyes against the bright sun rays so Mingyu reaches his hand out to block them, casting a shadow over Wonwoo’s eyes.

He blinks in surprise and glances at Mingyu, lips tugging up into a smile when he realizes what Mingyu is doing.

Mingyu turns his face away to hide his grin, and they spend the rest of the ride listening to the radio and letting the warm breeze tickle their skin.

 

 

Wonwoo stops the car at a random field and proceeds to drive right through it, ignoring Mingyu’s complaints about him ruining the pretty grass.

His complaints stop the second Wonwoo kills the engine and tells Mingyu to get out, which he does, and promptly turns into a statue at the beautiful scenery in front of him.

It seems they found the perfect spot to watch the sunset, somewhere on top a small hill, looking down on those never ending fields of crops and flowers and the grass with that shade of vibrant green that just seems so much more alive than what Mingyu sees in the city.

Wonwoo moves to sit in the open back of the truck while Mingyu snaps a few pictures of the landscape and it’s only when Mingyu notices how quiet it is that he remembers who he’s here with.

He puts his phone away and turns around to look the older boy, his heart shrinking a little when he sees Wonwoo sitting there with a troubled look on his face, eyes lowered to his lap.

Mingyu takes a calming breath and hesitatingly moves to sit down next to him, their feet dangling above the ground, and squints his eyes against the brightness of the sun disappearing behind the mountains in the distance.

The gentle breeze seems stronger out here on the open fields, ruffling through their hair and making Mingyu’s thin cotton shirt flutter against his chest.

Wonwoo's legs look like one of a child; bruises and cuts marring the skin, and as Mingyu's eyes travel up he finds that there are a few bruises and cuts along his arms, too, and Mingyu can’t fight the concern flaring in his chest at the sight.

He hopes they have at least basic safety regulations on that construction site; the thought of Wonwoo walking around there without a helmet makes him cringe.

“Are you not going to say anything?” Mingyu’s voice cuts through the silence after minutes, making Wonwoo tense up next to him.

He glances at Wonwoo, at his lowered eyelashes because he’s still resolutely staring at his lap, the drop of his shoulders like an invisible weight is pulling down on them. “I don’t even know where to start,” Wonwoo finally says, his voice breaking towards the end.

Mingyu keeps his mouth shut, for once trying his best to sort out his thoughts before he speaks. This is a serious situation and Wonwoo he’s— he’s struggling and Mingyu just wants to be able to help him out somehow. “How about— How about I ask you some things that are on my mind, and you answer? If you want to.”

Wonwoo’s Adam’s apple bobs up and down before he slowly lifts his head and faces Mingyu, his handsome features which are twisted in exhaustion still serving to knock all the air out of Mingyu’s lungs. “Okay.”

“Do you—“ Mingyu starts, pulling a conflicted face, not sure if it’s the right thing to ask or not. “Do you like guys?”

Yeah, definitely not the right thing to ask. Wonwoo’s jaw tightens and he looks away, his whole body so tense it looks like he might just snap if Mingyu were to touch him.

“Sorry,” Mingyu quickly says. “That was a stupid thing to ask.”

“It’s fine,” Wonwoo mutters, his chest rising and falling with the deep breaths he’s taking. “I let you kiss me yesterday. Of course you’d ask.”

Mingyu’s stomach drops unpleasantly at Wonwoo’s words. He makes it sound like he… like he simply endured Mingyu kissing him, like he didn’t want it. “Did you not want me to kiss you?”

Wonwoo’s head snaps up at the waver of Mingyu’s voice, eyebrows knitted together in confusion and if Mingyu didn’t know it better, he’d think that was concern swimming in Wonwoo’s eyes. “Mingyu—,” He starts and the way he says his name makes Mingyu shudder, heart pounding faster. “I kissed you back. What— What do you think?”

His cheeks are red and Mingyu can tell how hard it is for the boy to talk about it. “I don’t know. But I hope you wanted to kiss me as much as I wanted to kiss you.”

Wonwoo blushes even more at Mingyu’s words, and Mingyu can barely control himself when those eyes drop to his mouth for a fleeting second.

“Of course I did,” Wonwoo says, finally meeting Mingyu’s eyes again, his voice nearly getting lost in the howling of the wind around them.

And now Mingyu is blushing. For god’s sake, he isn’t a twelve year old virgin school boy anymore, what’s going on with him? “You, uhm, aren’t freaking out as much as I thought you would.”

Wonwoo blinks at him and nods his head, lowering his gaze. “You’re asking me why I’m not having a gay freakout?”

Mingyu’s eyes widen and he can’t do anything but nod his head dumbly.

“I—“ Wonwoo starts and shakes his head, cursing under his breath and Mingyu really wants to reach out and grab his hand but he doesn’t. “I have known for a while that I’m not… that there’s something not right with me.”

“No,” Mingyu is quick to say, squeezing his eyes shut as he gives a shake of his head. “You’re fine.”

Wonwoo chuckles but it sounds weak and when Mingyu manages to lift his head and look at him, his expression is worn out and bitter. “I never once felt attracted to a woman, not matter how beautiful she was. I didn’t think about it too much at first, but then I—“ His breath quivers and he swallows heavily. “I would have these dreams. About— About men. I was sixteen and I just knew.”

Mingyu takes a few calming breaths, waiting for Wonwoo to continue.

“When I was younger there was a pastor in the village. This is going to sound so fucking cliché but all the kids had to go to bible study on Sundays and I remember—“ Wonwoo stops and Mingyu’s heart aches at the pained smile tugging on his lips. “I remember this famous actor coming out as gay when I was thirteen, and the pastor going on about how it was a perfect example of a person falling for the devil’s temptations. He told us to pray for people like that so they would find their way back to the right path. And I used to believe him, I mean, I didn’t know anything else, right? And when I realized what was going on with me, I just… I used to pray and ask God for help, but nothing changed. I still didn’t want girls. So I thought God just turned His back on me, you know? Gave up on me. I stopped going to church. I haven’t prayed in years.” 

“Hyung,” Mingyu’s voice cracks and he doesn’t know what to do. He feels stupid and helpless, watching Wonwoo’s hands tremble on his lap.

“I figured I could just ignore it,” Wonwoo continues. “I know there are a lot of… gay men in the cities, but there are none here. And the guys are like my brothers, there’s no way I would ever look at them like that. So if I just stay and spend the rest of my life here, I won't be tempted. No one will ever found out.” Wonwoo glances at him, to get his point across. “The village may be a hellhole, but at least my secret's safe there.”

Mingyu lips part once it clicks, and his heart aches at the realization. “Wait, hyung, you’re saying you— you don’t want to leave the village because you’re scared you’re gonna meet a guy and—“

“It’s part of the reason why. There’s more but…“ Wonwoo smiles and it looks heartbreaking. “My plan didn’t exactly work out, did it?”

Wonwoo meets his eyes and Mingyu’s heart lurches in his chest, his stomach tingling uncontrollably. “I’m sorry?”

And Wonwoo cracks a smile. “I’m not leaving the village, Mingyu. I don’t know… I’m not sure what your intentions were when you kissed me but— just, it’s better if we just forget about it.”

The words feel like a punch to the gut and Mingyu isn’t fast enough to mask the blatant hurt flaring in his eyes because Wonwoo’s face falls once he sees it.

“But I like you,” Mingyu says, deciding to ignore all of Seungcheol’s warnings, all the blaring alarms in his head, how his heart is already breaking just from looking into Wonwoo’s troubled eyes.

Wonwoo’s eyebrow twitches, his breath faltering. “Don’t say that—“

“I like you, hyung.”

“Why are you saying that?” Wonwoo asks, the flush on his cheeks betraying the irritation in his words. “You met me, what, a week ago? Is that how it is in the city? You meet a gay guy and just settle because you don’t have much options and want to get laid—“

“No!” Mingyu snaps, turning his whole upper body to face Wonwoo, desperate to make the older see that he isn’t just fucking horny or settling. “Hyung, it’s not like that. I can’t— I can’t explain it, okay? But I can’t stop thinking about you. I tried, okay? I’m not stupid. I know how reckless and dangerous it is but I can’t… I can’t control it. My heart just beats faster around you.”

The anger fades from Wonwoo’s features with each word leaving Mingyu’s lips, replaced by something more raw and vulnerable. “Mingyu.”

“I like you,” Mingyu weakly repeats, feeling like his chest is going to crack open with how hard his heart is beating. “I’m still here for another three weeks. If you don’t feel that way about me then I’ll just— I’m not a douchebag. I’ll leave you alone. But if you—“ He has to take a calming breath because Wonwoo is blushing a lot right now and Mingyu kind of feels like dying. “I mean, do you?” He ends up asking, sounding like a scared child.

“Do I what?”

“Like me?”

It’s like the wind settles down around them, waiting, along with Mingyu who’s holding his breath.

Wonwoo doesn’t answer, he doesn’t say anything, but his eyebrows do that thing where they draw together and make him look so helpless, his eyes giving away what his lips refuse to.

Mingyu gulps and slowly crosses the space between them, careful and hesitating, watching Wonwoo’s eyes follow his movements like he’s ready to bolt, his chest heaving more and more the closer Mingyu gets.

Their hands touch where they’re resting on the car, and the wind picks up again, carrying Wonwoo’s addicting scent with it, and Mingyu shudders when it hits him, that pull from yesterday night back, only ten times harder with no alcohol clouding his senses.

Mingyu is about to ask for permission; the last thing he wants is to freak Wonwoo out or make him feel uncomfortable, but then Wonwoo's tongue darts out to wet his lips and Mingyu can't suppress the whine in the back of his throat. Wonwoo's lips part at the sound and  Mingyu just shuts his brain off and leans in, gives Wonwoo's soft mouth a peck, like a dollop of honey, sweet and gentle, their lips slotting together perfectly.

Wonwoo freezes at the initial contact, but when Mingyu pulls back with a quivering intake of air only to lean back in for a second kiss, Wonwoo melts.

He sighs against Mingyu’s lips, and kisses back. Tentative and hesitant.

Mingyu cradles Wonwoo’s cheek and Wonwoo curls his trembling hand into Mingyu’s shirt, pulling him closer, and everything is so strangely delicate Mingyu doesn’t know how what to do with himself and the way his body reacts to Wonwoo.

Mingyu pulls away, his heart leaping when Wonwoo leans back in to kiss him again, not letting him go, and Mingyu just lets himself be kissed because it feels like—

It feels like heaven.

It’s pure longing the way Wonwoo pulls him in when Mingyu wraps his arms around him, the way their chests are heaving, hasty breaths fanning over each others lips.

And then Wonwoo pulls away and presses his face into Mingyu’s shoulder, his hair tickling Mingyu’s cheeks and Mingyu hugs him, waits for them to catch their breaths and for his heart to calm down.

“So…” Mingyu asks after listening to nothing but the wind for a minute, his hands shaking a bit where he’s gently resting them on the small of Wonwoo’s back, feeling the warmth seeping through Wonwoo’s thin shirt, the knobs of his spine pressing into Mingyu’s palms and Mingyu just has this sudden, overwhelming urge to protect him. “Is that a yes? You like me too?”

Wonwoo’s breath stutters against Mingyu’s neck, and then his shoulders shake as he lets out a muffled laugh, shaking his head as he presses closer into Mingyu’s body for a moment before pulling back.

And the thing is… Wonwoo is just beautiful.

He’s so unfairly handsome with his fluffy hair and bright smile and the way his boxy shirt hangs from his frame, Mingyu feels like his brain is about to melt out of his ears, unable to do anything but forget how to breathe and stare at the older boy.

“I got a bruise at work the other day because I wasn’t paying attention,” Wonwoo quietly says, struggling to meet Mingyu’s eyes, the blush on his cheeks never leaving. “I couldn’t focus. I was— I kept thinking about you.” He gulps and tentatively looks up, making Mingyu’s heart flutter wildly. “I wanted to be done so I could go home and see you.”

Mingyu wants to squeal but tries to control himself as he looks into Wonwoo’s eyes. It’s all slightly overwhelming and his heart starts to feel like it’s too big for his chest. “This one?” He asks instead, reaching out to trail a finger over the blue, triangle shaped bruise in the bed of Wonwoo’s elbow.

Wonwoo looks down where Mingyu’s fingers are touching his skin and he nods his head.

“Does it hurt?” Mingyu asks, careful not to put any pressure on the bruise. He really doesn’t like how marred Wonwoo’s skin is; like it’s so smooth, looks like caramel from how tanned he is, but there are all these bruises and cuts and they shouldn’t be there.

“Not at all,” Wonwoo shrugs and pulls his arm back so Mingyu will stop looking at it.

The sun has disappeared behind the mountains by now, a thin line burning bright orange on the horizon still lingering around for the last few minutes before night starts settling in.

“Hyung,” Mingyu mumbles after a few moments of silence.

“Yes?”

“What happens now?”

Wonwoo kicks his feet, fingers curled around the edge of the car’s trunk and looks down at the tiny daisies blooming amidst the green. “What do you want to happen?”

Instead of trying to find the right words, Mingyu decides to go with his gut and takes Wonwoo’s hand, hesitating for a second to see if Wonwoo is okay with it before he carefully laces their fingers together.

They stay like that for a moment, both looking down at their hands resting on Mingyu’s thigh. The shade of their skin is nearly similar but Wonwoo’s has a warmer tone to it, being in the sun so often, while Mingyu’s natural skin seems almost dull and pale in comparison.

Mingyu looks up at the older boy and sees Wonwoo’s chest expand on a deep breath, his thumb slowly brushing over the knuckle of Mingyu’s index finger.

“I’m… Mingyu, I’m dead if anyone finds out,” Wonwoo whispers. "We should probably stay away from each other when others are around."

"Okay," Mingyu mumbles and nods, his voice coming out smaller than he intended.

Wonwoo strokes the back of Mingyu's hand with his thumb, giving Mingyu a sombre look. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault." Mingyu squeezes his hand, hopes Wonwoo understands that he’s there for him since no one else was in the past few years.

He can barely wrap his mind around the idea of keeping all those thoughts and feelings bottled up for so long with no possibility of letting them out or talking to anyone about them.

God, Wonwoo was ready to spend the rest of his live in this godforsaken village just to keep that part of him hidden.

Mingyu suddenly feels the back of his eyes burn but no, he’s not going to cry. He has no fucking reason to cry, not when Wonwoo is in this twisted situation with no way out.

“Hey,” Wonwoo says, a frown appearing on his face. “Mingyu, what’s wrong?”

The concern in his eyes, the way he squeezes Mingyu’s hand and twists his body to face him properly, make tears pool in Mingyu’s eyes, and Wonwoo’s entire face instantly falls at the sight.

Wonwoo seems to forget that he’s a human clam, because he reaches out and cups Mingyu’s cheek, thumb brushing the thin skin underneath Mingyu’s eyes, just like he did a few nights ago. Mingyu can’t help but lean into the touch, barely able to stop himself from pressing a kiss into Wonwoo’s palm.

“Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know.” Mingyu feels so stupid but he can’t control his tears or how hard his heart is pounding from Wonwoo’s touch. His lower lip wobbles and Wonwoo catches the tear with his thumb when it finally rolls down Mingyu’s cheek.

Wonwoo’s lips curl into a gentle smile. “Such a baby.”

“Hyung,” Mingyu whines, squeezing his eyes shut when a sob makes it’s way out of his throat.

Wonwoo chuckles and coos at him, pulling Mingyu closer until his face is pressed into Wonwoo’s shoulder. “I don’t understand how a grown ass guy like you can be… so cute.”

Mingyu laughs but it sounds horrible, a mixture of snot and tears blending into the sound, and he wraps his arms around Wonwoo’s small waist like he can protect him from everyone who’d be throwing hurtful words at him if they knew about them.

The way Wonwoo brushes his fingers through the short part of Mingyu’s hair at his nape and the by now familiar scent of his earthy cologne mixed with the peachy smell of his clothes makes Mingyu stop crying like an idiot eventually.

When Wonwoo asks him again what’s wrong, Mingyu simply shakes his head and rests his head more comfortably on Wonwoo’s shoulder.

His brain is already working on a million ways on how to help Wonwoo. No one can expect Mingyu to just leave this place in three weeks and forget about this boy, he can’t and he won’t, but he doesn’t think Wonwoo would like the idea of him trying to save him very much, so he keeps his mouth firmly shut for now.

“Can we take a nap?” Mingyu asks and Wonwoo nods his head, turning his face to bury his nose in Mingyu’s hair for a second before pulling away from the hug.

Wonwoo is a bit awkward still, it’s evident in the way he slowly spreads his arm out so Mingyu can use it as a pillow later when they’re lying in the trunk of the pickup truck under the pink and blue dusk.

Their faces are close in that position with Mingyu resting his head on Wonwoo’s biceps, his heart fluttering when Wonwoo curls his arm around Mingyu’s shoulder to pull him a bit closer. It’s different from everything else Mingyu has ever done with a guy.

It’s never felt this intimate and it’s never felt like the other person particularly cared beyond making sure Mingyu was down to have sex with them.

“What if a wolf shows up?” Mingyu asks.

Wonwoo smiles and Mingyu feels like his heart is bulging at the seams as he engraves the pretty curl of Wonwoo’s lips in his mind, resisting the urge to lean in and imprint it on his own mouth, too. “You could try talking to it. Maybe there’s a hot dude hiding underneath all that fur.”

Mingyu snorts. “Why would I want that? I already have you.”

Wonwoo blushes like crazy, and Mingyu grins, feeling high and giddy, until Wonwoo pinches his hip and tells him to go to sleep.

So Mingyu closes his eyes and immediately feels the heaviness of sleep pulling at his eyelids.

Wonwoo shifts a bit closer and Mingyu melts a bit when he feels Wonwoo rub his palm over the thin fabric of Mingyu’s shirt at his back, the tips of his fingers running over the ridges of Mingyu’s ribs.

It doesn’t take long for the warm and secure feeling of Wonwoo’s arm around him to lull him into a much needed sleep.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He really had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed on keeping his distance from Wonwoo whenever others were around.

He isn’t stupid; he knows they can’t do anything in front of the others that might make them suspicious, but does Wonwoo really have to flat out ignore him like he’s doing right now?

Mingyu blinks his eyes against the light of the bonfire in front of them, focusing back on the people around them.

It’s the night after Wonwoo and him talked things through. After Wonwoo let Mingyu nap in the back of the truck before it got too cold and dark outside and he gently woke him up by running his hand through Mingyu’s hair, a soft smile tugging on his lips when Mingyu’s eyes blinked open, unfocused and laced with sleep.

It gave Mingyu hope, to a certain degree, how Wonwoo acted yesterday. Like he actually liked Mingyu back, like he wanted to try this all despite how dangerous it was.

Needless to say, Mingyu didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. He was way too nervous and excited, still deliriously awake to greet the sun this morning, meaning he’s having issues focusing on the conversations going on around him.

All he wants to do is ask Wonwoo to stay with him for ten minutes so Mingyu can take a nap, but Wonwoo is avoiding his eyes, and Mingyu tries not to be hurt by it.

It’s just the usual people tonight, plus some of the guys Mingyu has seen around but doesn’t know well enough to keep track of their names.

Mingyu is sharing a log with Chan, who keeps laughing with his whole body and using Mingyu as leverage so he doesn’t end up falling off every time.

The girls are sitting on the other side, huddled together to keep warm, and Joohyun keeps catching Mingyu’s eyes, trying to silently communicate with him.

Mingyu knows she’s confused as to why Wonwoo and him are sitting so far apart, why Wonwoo won’t even spare a glance in his direction, but Mingyu just shoots her a bright smile and hopes it’s reassuring enough.

She doesn’t look too convinced and proceeds to shoot daggers at Wonwoo with her eyes, but Wonwoo ignores her, too.

Seokmin laughs about something and Mingyu smiles along, his eyes naturally finding Wonwoo’s half illuminated face where he’s sitting on the other side of the fire, a lit cigarette hanging from his fingers. He's been smoking a lot more and Mingyu wants to snap at him to stop but Wonwoo feels so damn distant. He can't do anything but sit there and watch the boy inhale that smoke into his lungs.

Wonwoo must’ve sensed his stare, because he briefly glances at Mingyu, their gazes locking, and Mingyu’s silly heart nearly gives out from the little attention he gets.

He thinks he sees something wistful flicker in Wonwoo’s eyes, but that might’ve also just been the reflection of the flames in his dark irises.

Wonwoo looks away again, his throat working nervously before he brings the cigarette up to his red lips and takes a long drag from it, Mingyu’s chest filling with disappointment.

He knows he tends to be a bit clingy. At least that’s what Jihoon keeps saying to him whenever he cuddles up against him when he’s watching a random anime on his laptop.

He just likes being physically close to people he cares about, because how else is he going to show his affection to them without constantly attacking them with his love verbally?

Wonwoo reminds him a lot of Jihoon in that regard.

He’s not touchy with his friends or his sister, pushes them off when their teasing touches stay on him for too long, but he didn’t seem to have a problem touching Mingyu before, like holding his hand, hugging him, kissing him.

Mingyu stands up so fast Chan nearly falls from the log again. His friends all look up at him when he stated that he’s going home.

“Are you not feeling well?” Joohyun asks, looking ready to stand up as well.

Mingyu glances at Wonwoo and feels his chest tighten when he finds the boy already looking at him, worry swimming in his eyes.

“I’m just kinda sleepy,” Mingyu mumbles. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

Wonwoo looks like he’s going to go after him but in the end, he doesn’t, and Mingyu only sleeps two hours that night, missing Wonwoo’s calming presence way more than he should.

He’ll be gone in three weeks, and Wonwoo definitely won’t be there to help him sleep.

Maybe he should just start to get used to it.

 

 

Things get a little better after the first day. Wonwoo stops basically ignoring Mingyu’s existence but still keeps his distance and Mingyu grows increasingly frustrated.

Wonwoo did warn him. Said they’d have to be careful, but the thing is, they don’t even have to put much effort into that; with Wonwoo constantly working and them having to meet up with the others at night so they don’t get suspicious, they don’t ever really have the time to be alone.

And even if they do get a moment alone, they’re both too paranoid to do much more than sit next to each other and pretend the mere presence of the other is enough.

Which of course is more than Mingyu could’ve ever hoped for, but he’s just a boy (or technically he’s an adult man but that’s debatable) and he’s crushing so hard on Wonwoo it’s hard to think about anything else but his smile or the depth of his voice or the way his lips felt moving against Mingyu’s own.

Over the past few days, Mingyu’s been zoning out more often than not and his grandmother is starting to grow increasingly concerned, thinking it has to do with his insomnia and that the lack of sleep is starting to make him delirious, but that’s not really it.

Sure, Mingyu has still trouble sleeping, but he thinks the main reason for that is how his heart just won’t stop fluttering and aching whenever he thinks of a certain person. And yes, it’s aching, and he misses Wonwoo so bad he has no idea what to do with himself.

So when Joohyun comes over with her mom that week, Mingyu is more than glad for the provided distraction.

“Are you sure it’s okay for us to hang out alone?”

Mingyu kind of hates himself for asking that question, but he’d rather be safe than sorry, especially after what Seokmin told him the other day about Joohyun’s mother having an eye on him.

Joohyun rolls her eyes and sits down on the blanket Mingyu’s grandmother gave them before they went outside. “It’s okay. Mom’s upstairs, so they won’t consider this inappropriate.”

“You make it sound like there are rules for this.”

“There are.” Joohyun chuckles and pats the space next to her, waiting for Mingyu to sit down. “Once you life here long enough you get a feel for it, trust me.”

Mingyu sighs and takes the purple grape Joohyun hands him from the plastic container his grandmother handed them earlier. The fruit is juicy and sweet and Mingyu spends the next few minutes peeling the skin from the grapes until only the slippery, sweet pulp is left.

“So.” Joohyun interrupts him when he’s busy testing how many grapes he can fit in one cheek. She snorts and pokes a finger into his swollen cheek, causing one of the grapes to pop out of his mouth and land on the grass where Pumpkin promptly snatches it away with his tongue before Mingyu has the chance to stop him. “Pumpkin! Silly boy! Spit it out!”

Mingyu swallows the grapes down and watches Joohyun open Pumpkin’s mouth and stick her fingers in to get the grape out before the dog can swallow it. “What’s the matter?”

Joohyun glares at him and wipes her fingers on the blanket after throwing the over the fence so Pumpkin won’t get to it. “Grapes are toxic for dogs. How is he not dead yet with you watching him?”

Mingyu pouts and strokes his fingers through Pumpkin’s fur. “Hey, I’m taking good care of him. And he’s not like other dogs. His stomach can handle most food.”

Joohyun clicks her tongue and leans back on her palms. Her hair is braided today, one on each side, and it makes her look a lot younger and more innocent. “So, what’s up with you and Wonwoo?”

“What do you mean?” Mingyu asks, knowing very well what she means.

“Don’t give me that.” She rolls her eyes. “You guys are avoiding each other like the plague. At this point you’re going to make the others more suspicious then you would if you were acting normal.”

“Wonwoo’s just… I guess he’s just scared. I don’t know.” Mingyu shrugs, rubbing at his eyes. He's tired and sad and he needs Seungcheol's hugs and reassuring words. But he feels like his best friend wouldn't like him very much right now, anyway, doing something so dangerous and reckless even though Seungcheol told him not to. 

Joohyun looks at him in silence for a moment before she lets out a long sigh. “He’s scared, yeah, but he’s also being an idiot. An unfair idiot. I wish I could tell Seulgi, she’d beat some sense into his stubborn head.”

Mingyu chuckles a bit, another wave of longing for the older boy tugging on his heart. “He doesn’t really talk to me, I have no idea what’s going on in his head. It feels like he regrets it, but then he should just tell me, right?”

“He doesn’t regret it, Mingyu.” Joohyun shakes her head. “Maybe to you it seems like he doesn’t care but I watched him the other night at the bonfire; he kept looking at you whenever you were facing away. I’ve never seen him look at anyone like that.”

Mingyu’s heart flutters at the thought and Joohyun laughs when a flush appears on his cheeks. “You seem close.”

“I guess we are.” Joohyun shrugs, fiddling with a lose thread of the blanket underneath them. “There used to be a lot of kids here when we were young, so Wonwoo and me didn’t really bother too much with each other. But as we grew older, most of the kids left with their families and well, it was basically just him, Yerim and me up here. All year long, except for the winters. I wasn’t kidding when I said he’s like a brother to me. I don’t have any siblings but Wonwoo has always been there for me whenever I needed his help. Like, I’d trust him with my life, you know?”

Mingyu just looks at her for a moment, imagining her and Wonwoo’s life in the village. All those years, all the experiences they had, all the thoughts they shared. “When you found out about him and me, I was scared you’d rat us out.”

Joohyun’s head snaps up and she frowns. “I told you I wouldn’t—“

“No, I know,” Mingyu reassures her. “I can tell how much you care about him. You would never do anything to hurt him.”

Joohyun’s shoulders drop in relief. “I wouldn’t hurt you, either, you know that right?”

Mingyu grins. “Did you just indirectly admit that you love me?”

She elbows him in the ribs. It was probably meant to be playful but it hurts like a bitch and Joohyun laughs happily at the pout on Mingyu’s lips. “Hey, do you want to see something really cool?”

“Sure,” Mingyu mutters, still rubbing his ribs.

She gets up and pulls Mingyu up with her, walking towards the rock that’s situated on the fence running along the garden. It’s quite big, which is probably why his grandparents didn’t bother getting it removed when they did their garden. Joohyun kneels down and makes Mingyu do the same.

Mingyu grumbles when he nearly ends up falling on his ass from how harshly Joohyun is pushing him around. “Why are you showing me a rock? You know, Spongebob’s just a show, you can’t actually drive them—“

“Oh, shut the hell up you idiot.” Joohyun grunts and reaches her hand out. Her nails are painted pink and something about that just seems really cute. “See this?”

She’s pointing at the small, white patches covering the surface of the rock. Mingyu nods his head and shrugs. “What about them?”

Jooyhun’s eyes scan the ground for a moment before she moves to pick up a small stone. She leans forward and—

Spits.

She spits on the rock.

“Uhm.” Mingyu blinks at her, wondering if this might be an early sign of a sunstroke. “What are you doing?”

Joohyun starts rubbing the stone over the spot she just spat on. “Henna.”

“Henna,” Mingyu repeats. “I’m not following.”

Sure enough, the friction of the stone against the rock causes the white patch of what Mingyu assumes is a different kind of moss to turn green and bubble up from Joohyun’s saliva. He can’t decide if he’s grossed out or fascinated. “Give me your arm.”

“But that’s your spit—“

Joohyun tugs on his arm and scoops up some of the green paste with her pointer finger, bringing it up to the bend of Mingyu’s elbow where she starts to draw on his skin. “We used to do this stuff all day when I was younger.”

Mingyu watches her draw the first line, not really suspecting anything. “Why not anymore?”

“It’s not considered cool walking around with an orange henna tattoo.” She explains. “Unless you’re a white girl and wear it like it’s fashion, you know?”

Mingyu chuckles and Joohyun looks up at him with a bright grin, her eyes crinkling adorably. But then he looks down at his arm and nearly pops a vein because what the fuck is Joohyun doing? “Joohyun, what the hell? Wonwoo’s going to kill me!”

“Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist.” Joohyun rolls her eyes and and leans back to scoop up some more of the paste, this time moving to draw on her wrist. “No one will get the reference anyway.”

“You drew a freaking W on my arm!”

“Nope,” She says. “It only looks like a W to you, because you’re so damn smitten with Wonwoo.”

“What—“

“It’s an M, for Mingyu.” She raises an eyebrow at him, smirking when Mingyu blushes once he realizes that she’s right. It could technically be either letter but he still suspects she did that on purpose.

Mingyu turns his head, pretending to stare at the road to hide his red cheeks. “How long does it need to stay on?”

“If you want it to come out well, leave it on thirty minutes or something,” Joohyun says, falling quiet after that. Mingyu glances at her to see what she’s drawing and sees that it’s another letter.

It’s an S.

Mingyu frowns, trying to understand who she might be referencing to. Wonwoo did say that she has someone but the person never came up during their conversations so far.

And then it suddenly hits him.

How Seokmin basically interrogated him about her the other day, how he asked Mingyu if he liked her, that Mingyu didn’t stand a chance—

Holy shit! Mingyu is so fucking dense!

“S for Seokmin?!” He whisper shouts. “You and Seokmin are together? Oh my fucking god! How— Why didn’t you— Oh my god—“

“Shut up!” Joohyun hisses. “You’re going to get me in so much trouble you stupid city child.”

“But— But Seokmin… Why didn’t you tell me?”

Joohyun stares at him for a long moment, and something in her expression shifts. “It’s not Seokmin.”

“Then who is it?”

Mingyu can tell how conflicted she is about telling him, and her lips part two times, only to close again, before she closes her eyes and shakes her head. “You don’t know him. He’s not from here.”

“The others know about him?”

Joohyun nods her head and wipes her finger on the grass. “Wonwoo and Yerim know, so do Seokmin and Chan. No one else does, though, and it has to stay that way.”

“What would happen if your parents found out?” Mingyu gently asks, unable to hide concern in his voice. Joohyun seems to notice, since she gives him a warm smile.

“Let’s just say I’d be homeless if they knew.”

Mingyu gulps. “Is it that bad?”

“That bad.” Joohyun nods her head. They both sit there in silence for a moment, listening to the leaves of the trees rustling in the wind, and the summer breeze suddenly feels unusually cold against their skin. Then Joohyun slaps her thighs and tells him to stop sulking before she gets up.

Mingyu watches her walk back to the blanket on the ground, the wind tugging on her long black hair, her profile just a dark shadow in front of the mountains in the distance, and for a second, Mingyu feels his stomach drop with dread, though he can’t possibly pinpoint the reasoning behind it.

“Are you coming?” Joohyun shouts and tilts her head at him and Mingyu just pushes the feeling away and puts on a grin.

They wash the sort-of henna off a while later and sure enough, there is a small, orange W (or M, depending how you want to interpret it) temporarily tattooed on his skin.

He looks up at Joohyun who catches him run his fingers over the letter, and her smile is warm, almost serene, and Mingyu again gets this overwhelming urge to help her.

He has no idea why.

Or how.

 

 

 

When Wonwoo shows up at their door the next day - four whole days after he last talked to Mingyu - Mingyu doesn’t really know how to react.

Wonwoo peers at him from underneath his fringe, looking a little bit like a schoolboy who’s about to get scolded for pranking one of his classmates and Mingyu stares back with a blank expression, arms crossed from where he’s leaning against the doorframe.

“You’re not working?”

“Got the day off,” Wonwoo answers, his hands buried in the pockets of his pants. He keeps looking at Mingyu, like he’s expecting Mingyu to say something, and sighs heavily when he doesn’t get anything. “Do you want to go somewhere?”

Mingyu tongues the inside of his cheek, struggling to keep up this cold facade when all he really wants to do is step closer and press a quick kiss to Wonwoo’s mouth. “With who?”

“With me.” Wonwoo frowns a bit.

Just you?”

And that seems to do the trick, because Wonwoo’s features twist into one of shame once he understands why Mingyu is acting the way he is. “Yeah. Just you and me.”

Maybe he should be angry at Wonwoo, but he can’t, not when he knows that Wonwoo is just scared. “Alright. Lead the way.”

It’s the first time they’ve got a moment to themselves again after the conversation they had on that hill, surrounded by the sunset, when Mingyu confessed to Wonwoo and ended up napping in the older boy’s arms until it was too dark and cold to stay outside any longer. Wonwoo drove him home and blushed prettily when Mingyu pecked his cheek before leaving the car.

Mingyu takes Pumpkin with him, mainly because his loyal friend has been cheering him up and keeping him company over the past week when Mingyu was feeling down over this whole situation with Wonwoo.

They settle down on a field somewhere towards the route of the waterfall and Wonwoo again ruins everything by sitting down two feet away from Mingyu.

Mingyu sighs heavily and cranes his neck, trying to suppress the flash of anger in his chest. He thinks about the things Joohyun said yesterday, and it serves to replace the anger with sympathy.

He lies on his back on the grass, closing his eyes to protect them from the brightness of the sun.

The air smells like sticky sweet pollen and Mingyu’s skin is soaking up the warmth of the sun, warm to the touch and gradually taking on a more golden tan.

He hears the bells around the cows necks jingle whenever they move where they’re grazing, smiles when Pumpkin sneezes next to him.

Wonwoo groans and Mingyu cracks his eyes open, glancing at the older boy sitting next to him, arms balanced on his knees and eyes focused on the lines of the mountains in the distance. 

He’s wearing shorts and a lose, red t-shirt, revealing more tanned caramel skin than Mingyu can handle.  

Mingyu's eyes trail over his skin, the veins on his tanned forearms, and wonders how a person can be so damn attractive.

Wonwoo makes another annoyed sound that snaps Mingyu back to reality.

“What’s wrong?” Mingyu asks after hearing the tired sigh leave Wonwoo’s lips.

Wonwoo turns his head to look at him and shakes his head. “It’s hot.”

“Yeah, it is,” Mingyu replies, giving him a meaningful look. He grins at the startled look on Wonwoo’s face.

Wonwoo scoffs but Mingyu doesn’t miss the smile tugging on his lips, the fondness creeping into his features as he glares at Mingyu.  

Wonwoo keeps looking at Mingyu and Mingyu loses himself in those eyes, wanting nothing more than to sit up and lean in, steal a kiss, but he’s too scared someone might walk by and see them.

“Hyung,” Mingyu says, moving to lean on his elbows.

Wonwoo blinks at him, the sun making his skin glow, golden and warm. “Yeah?”

“I want to kiss you,” Mingyu says. “I feel like I’m going to lose my mind if I have to look at you for another day and not get to kiss you.”

The words make Wonwoo blush, but they also make his shoulders slump. “I know. I’m sorry.”

Mingyu’s stomach clenches a bit. “You’re not as bothered by it as me, are you?”

Wonwoo frowns at him. “Do you really believe that?"

"You haven't given me much reason to believe otherwise."

"I’m not—" Wonwoo starts, shaking his head. "I’m literally unable to think about anything else but you, Mingyu. I can’t even sleep at night because I—“

“You what?”

Wonwoo clears his throat, shrugging his shoulders as the redness on his skin starts to spread to his neck. “You know what I mean.”

“I don’t think I do.”

“Brat,” Wonwoo mutters under his breath.

Mingyu knows he’s being annoying but a part of him likes riling Wonwoo up, seeing his usual stoic expression shift into one of embarrassment and surprise. “Did you miss me, hyung?”

Wonwoo rolls his eyes, but when Mingyu keeps staring at him expectantly, the older finally glances at him and visibly caves. His face falls and Mingyu’s heart hurts at the sight, wanting nothing more than reach out and ease the frown on the boy’s face.

“Why did you want to come here?” Mingyu quietly asks. “Why didn’t we go somewhere away from the village?”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “The others keep asking why I’m spending so much time with you. Why would we feel the need to go somewhere else when we can hang out here just as much? They’d just keep pestering me about it.”

“But hyung, this is just— this is stupid. You won’t even look at me when the others are around, which okay, I can understand, but this is ridiculous.” He points at the amount of space between them, how Wonwoo stopped him from sitting closer when they got here half an hour ago. “I know we agreed on keeping our distance but you can’t just—“

“What did you expect, Mingyu?” Wonwoo snaps. “That we could walk around holding hands and shit?”

Mingyu tries not to feel hurt at the angry look on Wonwoo’s face or the harshness of his voice. “I’m not stupid, I know we can’t do that. But no one’s here right now, why can’t I sit next to you?”

“I just can’t—I can’t risk it, okay? This isn’t freaking child’s play. If you can’t get that through your skull maybe we should just forget about all of this.” Wonwoo faces away from him, the lines of his shoulders tense, and maybe it’s a good thing because Mingyu’s entire face falls at the older boy’s words.

“You gotta stop treating me like I’m a clueless kid,” Mingyu mutters frustration and hurt bleeding into his voice. “I know I don’t have it half as hard as you but just—just because I live in the city doesn’t mean it’s been easy for me. I know how risky this is.”

Wonwoo stays silent for a moment before he relaxes his shoulders. “Then why are you making it harder than it already is?”

“I just wanted to sit next to you,” Mingyu mumbles. “I miss you.”

Maybe it’s how small Mingyu’s voice comes out, but Wonwoo glances at him, the harshness in his eyes fading until he looks nothing but confused, like the words don’t make sense to him. “You— You miss me?”

Mingyu gives a hesitant nod.

Wonwoo’s expression grows soft and flustered and it has Mingyu’s heart throbbing in his chest, hands tingling to just reach out and pull him in. He suddenly gets up, taking Mingyu’s arm to pull him along and away from the field they were sitting on, down towards the first few trees of the forest.

It’s the same path you have to take to get to the waterfall but Mingyu is confused; why would Wonwoo take him there?

Turns out Wonwoo isn’t taking him there, because as soon as they’ve stepped inside the trees and the grass field behind them isn’t visible anymore, Wonwoo stops walking, turns around, and before Mingyu can question anything, Wonwoo pulls him into his arms.

Mingyu freezes at the sudden embrace, Wonwoo’s sweet scent attacking his senses, until Wonwoo tightens his arms around Mingyu’s neck and Mingyu’s own arms quickly come up to wrap around Wonwoo’s waist.

Wonwoo stumbles a bit but Mingyu steadies him and pulls him in until their chests are aligned, Mingyu’s face buried in Wonwoo’s neck, hands pressed against the sweat damp fabric of Wonwoo’s shirt.

Pumpkin stares at them in confusion for a moment before he turns around and lies down on his tummy, and Mingyu knows it’s not like that, but he likes to think Pumpkin understands more than they know and that he’s doing it to give them privacy.

Mingyu sighs, feeling relaxed for the first time in a few days, his heart giving hard and heavy thumps of approval against his ribs at having Wonwoo so close again.

Wonwoo takes a deep breath, his lips brushing against Mingyu’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shut you out like that. Please don’t think I don’t—“ Wonwoo stops and Mingyu rubs his palm over his back gently, coaxing him to continue. “Don’t think I don’t want you. I want this with you. I didn’t—I didn’t mean to hurt you, Mingyu.”

Mingyu nods, one of his palms pressing into the small of Wonwoo’s back, pulling him closer like that’s possible at this point. Everything’s just so warm and overwhelming and Wonwoo feels so good and right in his arms. “It’s okay.”

"I'm just..."" 

"Scared?"

Wonwoo makes a heartbreaking sound in the back of his throat and Mingyu's eyes burn. He nods his head and presses his lips into Wonwoo's shoulder, just holding him, wishing it was enough. "I'm sorry, Mingyu. You deserve something better. Someone better."

"I want you, though," Mingyu is quick to answer, smiling timidly at the way Wonwoo's breath stutters at his words.

“I’m not good at this,” Wonwoo whispers against his skin a moment later. Mingyu feels sweat trickle down his own neck and they’re both slightly gross and sticky but he’ll be damned if he lets that ruin this moment. “I kind of suck at, uhm, feelings. And stuff.”

“Yeah, I’ve kind of established that.” Mingyu snorts, grinning when he feels Wonwoo playfully pinch the skin on his shoulder. “It’s okay. I don’t mind, as long as you just… talk to me. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“You don’t,” Wonwoo quickly answers. “You don’t. At all.”

Mingyu sighs and closes his eyes, nosing along Wonwoo’s neck and feels the older boy shudder in his arms. There’s a sudden tension in the air when Wonwoo tightens his arms around Mingyu, pushing himself closer into Mingyu’s body.

He has no idea who moves first; who pulls back first, but he tilts his head and Wonwoo’s lips brush against his own. He closes his eyes and Wonwoo kisses him.

Wonwoo cradles the back of Mingyu’s head, guiding him into the kiss and it’s so surprising and hot that all Mingyu can do is kiss Wonwoo back and bask in the feelings rushing through his body, the racing of his heart.

It’s savouring, the way Wonwoo kisses him, his lips moving against Mingyu’s almost in a dragging way, and Mingyu’s not sure how he’s still able to stand when his legs feel so unsteady from the way Wonwoo’s hands grip his body and the gentle smack of their lips whenever they pull back for air.

When he feels Wonwoo’s silky, wet tongue probe at the seam of his lips, Mingyu groans, which makes them freeze and their lips separate.

They’re both panting heavily, Wonwoo’s cheeks flushed and eyes still dark and hooded and he’s got the be the hottest person on this planet, if you ask Mingyu.

He also doesn’t fail to notice the telltale heat and ache in his lower belly, and suddenly he’s glad they stopped kissing because something between his legs would’ve definitely started to stir awake if Wonwoo touched and kissed him like that for any longer.

Mingyu is about to say something but Wonwoo suddenly swoops back in, kissing the breath out of Mingyu’s lungs until Mingyu is blushing like an idiot, unable to stop his lips from tugging up into a smile against Wonwoo’s soft mouth because of the happiness filling him up from the inside.

They both chuckle a bit when Wonwoo finally lets him go and Mingyu tries not to coo at how adorable Wonwoo is acting, struggling to meet Mingyu’s eyes after he just kissed him like that.

Mingyu is still grinning when Wonwoo finally manages to look at him again, albeit a bit timidly, back to his awkward self. “Hyung, are you sure I’m the first person you’ve kissed?”

“Why?”

“Because you’re way too good at it.”

Wonwoo’s smile widens and he playfully pushes Mingyu away who stumbles until his back hits a tree behind them, pulling Wonwoo along by gripping his wrist.

“What’s this?” Wonwoo asks, eyes flickering down to where Mingyu is holding his wrist, gently moving his hand to lace their fingers together instead.

Mingyu follows Wonwoo’s line of sight until he’s looking at the henna tattoo on his arm. “It’s a henna tattoo.”

“M for Mingyu?” Wonwoo asks, lifting his head to meet his eyes. There’s something on his face, a hint of hope which makes Mingyu decide to say what he says next.

“That,” Mingyu mumbles. “Or W. For Wonwoo.”

He anxiously waits for Wonwoo’s reaction, which comes in the form of the older boy’s eyes darkening. “My name?”

“Are you mad? The other’s won’t even be able to tell, it looks like an M to them! But it’ll probably wear off in a couple of days, anyway, if you’re upset—”

But Wonwoo shakes his head, and Mingyu realizes that the darkening of his eyes wasn’t negative but something he definitely didn’t expect to see. It has his stomach tightening. “No. No, Mingyu, I like it.”

“You do?”

Wonwoo smiles and Mingyu falls in love with the pretty stretch of his lips, the tiny crinkles around his eyes. He reaches down and runs his fingers over the letter, his eyes finding Mingyu’s again when he spots the goosebumps spreading on Mingyu’s arm from his touch. They both just look at each other and Mingyu thinks he should be embarrassed about how sensitive he is to Wonwoo’s touch, but the older seems to like it so he honestly doesn’t care.

“How have you been sleeping?”

“Okay,” Mingyu lies.

Wonwoo raises his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Yup.”

“So you don’t need me around anymore?” Wonwoo asks, moving as if to pull away.

Mingyu quickly reaches out to take his other hand, too, pulling him back in with a pout on his lips that makes Wonwoo grin at him. “Hyung. I always want you around.”

The grin on Wonwoo’s face softens, so do his eyes, and Mingyu feels like melting into the ground. Wonwoo leans in hesitates before pressing his lips to Mingyu’s cheek, placing the softest kiss there, and nuzzling his nose against Mingyu’s temple.

It’s such a stark contrast to how he was acting the past few days but Mingyu starts to see the internal conflict Wonwoo seems to be having and he decides to just enjoy this as long as he can, so he closes his eyes and hums happily, his heart beating heavily at having Wonwoo so close.

“Wanna take a nap on the hammock?” Wonwoo asks, his voice sending tingles down Mingyu’s spine.

Mingyu nods his head and squeezes Wonwoo’s hand before the older pulls away from him and they walk back trying to look like they’re nothing more but two guys hanging out.

Like the flush on their skin is from the heat around them and not each other’s lips.

Like the M on Mingyu’s arm stands for his own name and not Wonwoo’s.

 

 

 

“How has it been for you?” Wonwoo asks, leaning down to pick up a plastic bottle from the ground to throw it away in the trash later.

“What do you mean?” It’s the next day, and Wonwoo seems to have relaxed after yesterday, because he came over today again and surprised Mingyu by asking him to hang out, again. And Mingyu can’t stop grinning, even now, a whole hour later.

They’re just walking around mindlessly. There were some older guys at the waterfall so they couldn’t go there and the villagers just generally seem to be more outside today, maybe because it’s a Sunday and a lot of them go to church service.

There are thick clouds hanging in the sky, dark and brooding, and Mingyu can hear the distant growling of a thunderstorm, a breeze in the air that seems stronger and colder than normal.

“Your life.” Wonwoo says, wetting his lips with his pink tongue. He looks over his shoulder as if to check for people. “Being… gay.”

The question takes him by surprise and it only know occurs to Mingyu that Wonwoo knows absolutely nothing about Mingyu in that regard. “What do you want to know?”

Wonwoo seems to think for a moment before he meets Mingyu’s eyes again. “When did you know?”

“In middle school,” Mingyu replies, giving Wonwoo an encouraging look because he doesn’t mind answering those questions for him. He’s the first person Wonwoo can ask them to and he’ll be damned if he makes Wonwoo regret opening up to him.

Wonwoo nods his head. “Does anyone, you know, know?”

“My best friend knows,” Mingyu answers, automatically smiling at the thought of Seungcheol. “He’s, uhm, gay, too. He has a boyfriend, actually.”

“Really?” Wonwoo raises his eyebrows and Mingyu’s heart hurts at the surprise and confusion on Wonwoo’s face, like the mere thought of it is so foreign to him. “How—How are they together? I mean, how do they… do they hide?”

Mingyu nods. “Everyone knows them as friends except for their families and close friends. They don’t go on public dates much and if they do, they just keep the skinship to a minimum so people don’t get suspicious. They’ve been together for two years. I mean, it’s not ideal, but they’re really in love, and they make it work.”

“Their families know?” Wonwoo asks. “And they’re okay with it?”

“No,” Mingyu says, voice tight. “They don’t talk to their families. Seungcheol—he’s my best friend, he’s still in contact with his aunt and cousins but the others have dismissed him. Same goes for his boyfriend.”

Wonwoo looks at Mingyu, and Mingyu sees the tiny flicker of hope in Wonwoo’s eyes go out like a flame. He wishes he could tell Wonwoo nicer things about life in the city, wishes he could say that everything is so much easier there, but he can’t just lie to him.

“Oh,” Wonwoo mumbles, his voice small and wavering and Mingyu’s eyes suddenly sting.

“I guess it’s not that different from here, huh?” Mingyu tries to smile and Wonwoo sees right past it, his hand bumping against Mingyu’s between their hips. There’s a tremor to his fingers, and Mingyu wants to hold them to stop it.

“What about you?” Wonwoo asks quietly. “Who knows about you?”

“My parents,” Mingyu says, doing his best not to think about it too much because the face his father made when Mingyu told them always serves to haunt him at night. “Seungcheol was the first one I told. His boyfriend obviously knows, too. And the few people I hooked up with.”

Wonwoo looks up at him at that, his eyebrow twitching, but he doesn’t say anything. “Your parents, how did they react?”

“My mom cried. My dad told me to leave and we haven’t really talked much ever since. My mom came around eventually. She’s supportive.” Mingyu smiles a bit, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Wonwoo, who gives a tiny smile back.

“She sounds nice.”

“She is.”

There’s a moment of silence but Mingyu can tell Wonwoo wants to ask something else, clearly struggling to get the question out. “How many… uhm, how many boyfriends have you had?”

Mingyu can’t help but grin at the question. He knew the older boy was going to be hung up on that part. “Zero.”

Wonwoo frowns at him. “But you said—“

“Hookups aren’t relationships, hyung.” Mingyu tries to keep his smile in place.

“So what, you find random people and just… sleep with them?” Wonwoo inquires, clearly irritated by the thought.

“Are you seriously going to judge me for that?”

“No, but—“ Wonwoo grits his teeth together and Mingyu can feel him tense up next to him. “You shouldn't reduce yourself to a quick hookup for bastards like that. You're so much more than that.”

“Maybe,” Mingyu replies. “But it gets kinda lonely, I guess. It’s better than nothing.”

Wonwoo slowly looks up at him, his expression unreadable. “Lonely,” He repeats.

Mingyu sucks in a breath, his heart wavering. Does he even have the right to talk about loneliness to Wonwoo?

He just wants to reach out and hold Wonwoo’s hand tightly but just as they’re about to round a corner, Seulgi appears in front of them and almost runs into Wonwoo who quickly catches her by her arms.

“Seulgi—“ He starts, but then the girl looks up at hem and they both tense up when they see the tears streaming down her face.

She’s shaking.

“What happened?” Wonwoo asks, and Mingyu flinches a bit at the tone of his voice. He sounds livid.

“Wonwoo,” Seulgi starts, hiccuping and frantically tugging on Wonwoo’s shirt. “Joohyun she—“

“She what?” Wonwoo asks when Seulgi breaks out into another sob, still trying to pull him away. “Seulgi!”

Mingyu wants to tell him to calm down but he can’t seem to move, his chest suddenly flooded with worry, hearing Joohyun’s name and seeing Seulgi so distressed.

“Kwangsun,” Seulgi stammers. “He saw us. He saw us and he dragged her inside and I can’t— I can’t do anything, he threatened to tell everyone, Wonwoo he can’t—“

Wonwoo lets go of her and Mingyu feels a lump in his throat at the cold look on his face. “Stay here,” He demands and turns to look at Mingyu. “Stay with her.”

“Hyung, wait—“ He starts, but Wonwoo suddenly runs off and Mingyu’s heart plummets to the pit of his stomach. “Seulgi, what’s going on? Who’s Kwangsun?”

Seulgi sniffles, still shaking and looking visibly shaken. Mingyu wants to hug her but knows he can’t, not when anyone could see them out here. “He’s Joohyun’s cousin. We were in her garden, we didn’t think anyone would see—“

“See what?” Mingyu asks, confused and worried about Joohyun, about Wonwoo who just ran off to go and do god knows what.

Seulgi wipes the back of her hand over her eyes, lifting her head to give Mingyu a confused look. “Me. Joohyun and me. He saw us.”

“Saw you doing what—“ Mingyu trails off, his eyes frantically moving over Seulgi’s face, taking in the fear and concern there.

He glances at the necklace she’s wearing, the little golden moon pendant between her collarbones.

Joohyun has that same necklace, but with a sun instead.

And then it hits him.

Mingyu freezes, and a cold raindrop hits his cheek, the thunder that suddenly crackles through the sky making Seulgi whimper and flinch violently. 

His eyes widen as he thinks about the weird interactions between Seulgi and Joohyun.

The smiles, the stares, the way the guys acted around them.

 

“What would happen if your parents found out?”

“Let’s just say I’d be homeless if they knew.”

“Is it that bad?”

“That bad.”

 

Holy shit.

Mingyu is such an idiot.

It was S for Seulgi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Seulgi grips Mingyu’s hand, pulling him down a narrow road Mingyu took one night when he went out for a run. His mind is still trying to wrap itself around the realization that Joohyun and Seulgi are—

Together.

They’re together.

In this tiny village, hidden between endless forests an mountains, these two girls are in love.

“Mingyu, come on!” Seulgi yells at him, her hair starting to stick to her face from the rain falling down on them more violently now, thunder rumbling through the sky with shorter breaks in between.

“Seulgi—“ Mingyu starts like an idiot, letting himself be dragged up the hill, his shoes slipping on the pebbles and stones. “I didn’t know—“ He gets interrupted by a shout, followed by other voices, a commotion from up the hill that makes him freeze.

It’s followed by a lot of yelling and Seulgi lets out a sob, letting go of Mingyu’s hand to run ahead since Mingyu is too dumb to move.

When he finally manages to unfreeze, he comes to a skittering halt in front of the house where a few people have gathered at the gate, shouting and cursing at each other.

Seulgi is standing on the side, trying to stop them but she gets pushed away harshly by an unknown guy, and the sight alone makes anger boil in Mingyu’s chest.

“Kwangsun!” Someone yells. “Stop it dude! Stop it!”

Mingyu hurries closer and gapes at the sight in front of him, Wonwoo on the ground, looming over another guy, landing punch after punch to the man’s already bloody nose. He wants to do something, intervene and pull Wonwoo away before he can hurt, but the man underneath him suddenly twists and pushes Wonwoo off him, switching their positions, which is when Mingyu sees the blood on Wonwoo’s lip, the harsh redness on his cheekbone against his otherwise caramel skin.

The expression on Wonwoo’s face scares the shit out of Mingyu. Sure, he’s seen the older boy angry before, but not like this. Wonwoo looks like he’s ready to murder someone—

“Fucking bastard!” Wonwoo snarls, kicking at the guy. “I’m gonna kill you!”

Another one of the guys speaks up but none of them actually step in to intervene or pull them apart. “Wonwoo, man calm down—“ 

“He touched her!” Wonwoo barely flinches at the harsh fist that connects with his ribs. “He fucking touched Joohyun!”

Mingyu has a hard time focusing on what’s happening in front of him. His body seems to be frozen in place, surrounded by all the yelling, the loud thunder from above, the sound of Wonwoo’s pained cry when the guy punches him across the jaw.

It makes him see red, seeing that dude’s fist connect with Wonwoo’s smooth skin, how fucking dare he—

And then he’s moving, Seulgi’s hand that was previously curled into the back of his shirt falling away. He shoves the guy off and before he can try and jump Wonwoo again, Mingyu pulls Wonwoo to his feet and behind him, both of them panting harshly, Wonwoo struggling to move him out of the way so he can attack the man again.

“Know your place, Wonwoo,” The guys grits out between pained gasps. “Let’s not cause bad blood between our families.”

“Shut the fuck up! You caused bad blood the second you laid your dirty hands on her!”

“She’s sick! She’s a disgrace to our family, to this entire village! All these years she’s been refusing every single man that was willing to marry her. Why on earth are you sticking up for this sorry excuse of a woman—“

Mingyu grips Wonwoo’s hand when he tries to lash out again, and Wonwoo slaps it away so hard Mingyu lets out a gasp that is more out of surprise than actual pain. Either way, Wonwoo falters, his blazing eyes flickering with something more gentle, like he wants to apologize, but the older boy shakes himself out of it just as fast.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Wonwoo starts, keeping his distance from the guy, everyone around them seemingly holding their breaths as the heavy rain platters agains the ground in the moment of silence. Seokmin and Chan finally appear behind them, pushing the people out of the way and taking in the bloody scene with wide eyes. “You’re going to keep your mouth shut about what you saw today. If you tell anyone, if you even think about laying a hand on her again, I’ll fucking end your life. You know that thing you did all those years ago? Yeah, that.” Wonwoo grins at the obvious fear flashing in the guy’s face. “If you don’t want me to deliver your sorry ass to the police, you keep your dirty mouth shut. Understood?”

“You wouldn’t—“

“Understood?!”

The guys spits, blood and saliva splattering against the ground where it mixes with the rain. His eyes flicker over ever person that is currently staring at him before he grits his teeth together and meets Wonwoo’s eyes again.

He gives a curt nod and stalks off, pushing some of the guys out of the way harshly.

Wonwoo relaxes in front of Mingyu, sags into himself, and Mingyu wants to reach out to steady him but he’s not sure if Wonwoo wants to be touched right now.

Seokmin walks up to him and cradles Wonwoo’s face, patting his cheek to get the boy to focus on him. “Go calm down. Don’t go home like this. You’ll worry your mother. We’ll take care of him.”

“Seokmin,” Wonwoo whispers, sounding so utterly broken all of a sudden Mingyu feels his own eyes sting. “He saw Joohyun and Seulgi. He can’t tell anyone. Joohyun would— It would ruin her.”

“I know,” Seokmin assures him, his expression tired. “He won’t. I promise, he won’t tell a soul.”

Wonwoo swallows heavily and nods, his hand coming up to rub away some blood from his upper lip. Their clothes are wet, hair plastered against their skin, and Mingyu’s exhaustion choses right this moment to kick in.

His knees buckle underneath him but he forces himself to keep upright.

Seokmin directs his gaze to Mingyu now. “Can you take him to yours?” He asks. “He can’t go home like this, and my mom will see him at my place. Your grandma is the least gossipy person in this town, she won’t tell anyone if she sees him like this.”

Mingyu is already nodding his head before Seokmin finishes, and the boy gives Mingyu a thankful smile before walking off, some of the guys and Chan following close behind.

Seulgi gingerly steps closer, her eyes wide and full of concern as she walks up to Wonwoo. “Oh god, Wonwoo, I’m so sorry—“

“I’m fine,” Wonwoo interrupts before she can say anything else. “Go inside. Take care of her. She’s—“ Mingyu sees Wonwoo’s hands shake on his side. “She was bleeding.”

Seulgi chokes on a sob and nods her head, hurrying past them and disappearing inside the house.

Wonwoo watches her leave, his chest still heaving a bit and hair sticking to his skin in spikes from the rain. Mingyu’s heart is beating like crazy, completely consumed by adrenaline and concern for Joohyun and Wonwoo and confusion about the sudden turn of events.

There’s a loud crack of thunder that makes Wonwoo flinch, his hand coming up to hold the left side of his ribs where the guy punched him and Mingyu feels his heart twist in worry.

“Hyung,” He quietly says, squinting his eyes against the rain. “Let’s get inside.”

Wonwoo doesn’t move, doesn’t even acknowledge him, his eyes still focused on Joohyun’s house.

“Please,” Mingyu tries again. “It’s cold.”

This finally gains him Wonwoo’s attention, who looks at him, eyes scanning over him once before he gives a nod of his head and follows Mingyu out of the gate.

Thanks to the rain, no one is currently out and about in the village, meaning they manage to make it back to Mingyu’s house without being spotted by anyone. He has no idea how they could’ve explained Wonwoo’s current state to anyone without coming up with an plausible excuse beforehand.

Mingyu opens the gate for Wonwoo, his heart aching with concern at the bruises on Wonwoo’s face, the mild tilt of his upper body away from the pain on his ribs.

Pumpkin isn’t there to greet them in the garden; he’s scared of thunder, so Mingyu’s grandma always takes him inside the house whenever there’s a thunderstorm.

“Where’s your grandma?” Wonwoo asks when they’re at the bottom of the stairs, taking their shoes off and are greeted by silence inside the house.

“She must be paying the neighbour’s a visit,” Mingyu says, waiting for Wonwoo to walk ahead and up the stairs; just to make sure he doesn’t get lightheaded and trips.

“I’m getting water all over her floor,” Wonwoo mumbles once they’re upstairs, standing there in his drenched clothes, his shirt splattered with blood, his cheek starting to bruise, his lip bright red and still bleeding where the guy’s fist connected with it.

“Me, too,” Mingyu says, guiding him inside the bathroom. “It’s fine, hyung.”

Wonwoo looks so uncomfortable when Mingyu tells him to sit down on the closed toiled seat. “Just give me a towel or something—“

“Don’t you want to take a shower?”

“No. No, Mingyu. Just get me a towel.”

Any other time, Mingyu might’ve argued, but he doesn’t think that’s a good idea given what just happened minutes before, so he goes and grabs a clean towel, handing it to Wonwoo who doesn’t even meet his eyes when he takes it.

Mingyu swallows heavily and steps back to give the older some space even though all he wants to do is kneel down in front of him and dry his hair for him, clean up that blood from his face.

Wonwoo ruffles the towel through his wet hair for a while, his eyebrow twitching at every movement when it jostles his ribs and after a few seconds of watching him, Mingyu decides he’s seen enough and leaves the bathroom to dry himself up and grab some dry clothes for the both of them.

He goes back once he’s dressed in some comfortable sweatpants and a simple t-shirt, finding Wonwoo sitting in the bathroom with the towel hanging from around his neck, his forearms resting on his knees and eyes closed.

He looks so troubled and tired, and Mingyu grips the clothes in his hands tighter when a drop of blood trickles from Wonwoo’s nose on the white tiles of the bathroom floor.

“Hyung,” Mingyu mumbles quietly, making the older boy jump. “Brought you some dry clothes.”

Wonwoo blinks up at Mingyu slowly. He accepts the clothes, his eyes red rimmed, his fingers trembling, knuckles red and bruised.

Mingyu closes the bathroom door behind him and takes a deep breath, his mind going all fuzzy again. He needs to sleep so bad, but he can’t even think about getting some shut eye after everything that’s happened today.

He sits down on his bed, running his fingers through Pumpkin’s fur. The thunderstorm still hasn’t stopped, and the rain is relentless, sounding like tiny pebbles are raining against the windows.

When Mingyu packed his bags to come visit his grandma, he expected to spend his weeks laying back and relaxing, meeting some of his relatives, helping his grandma around the house and maybe making some friends, if he got lucky.

It’s hard to believe how many little secrets this village seems to have, all the stories the residents have that no one will ever hear because they’re nothing but a tiny spot on the map, Joohyun’s story, Wonwoo’s story.

Mingyu feels something tug at his heart at the thought of him never coming here, never meeting them, but an uglier part of him wishes he didn’t come.

This isn’t just a silly teenage love story anymore.

What Seulgi and Joohyun have could potentially pose a threat to their lives.

Joohyun was hurt today. Wonwoo said she was bleeding.

That bastard laid his hands on her because she’s in love with a girl.

Mingyu doesn’t notice he’s curling his fingers until Pumpkin makes an unhappy noise. Mingyu apologizes and pats his head, trying to calm down.

Wonwoo knocks on his open bedroom door a moment later, wearing Mingyu’s clothes. A pair of basketball shorts and a white shirt. Both look a little bit too big on him because Wonwoo isn’t as tall as him and generally has a more frail built.

“I put my clothes on the hanger,” Wonwoo quietly says. “They’re really wet.”

Mingyu nods his head. “I know, hyung.”

Wonwoo gulps, looking lost, unable to meet Mingyu’s eyes.

A bolt of lightning paints the world around them blue for a few seconds, and suddenly the lights go out.

Great. Electricity's gone, too.

This day just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

“Come here,” Mingyu says, his chest aching at how small Wonwoo looks, watching the older boy walk closer and sit down on the edge of the mattress, his head lowered, hands twisted together on his lap. It’s hard to see him in this light, but it’s sill early in the evening so it’s not completely dark outside yet. “Are you okay?”

Wonwoo nods his head. “It’s nothing.”

“Your ribs—“

“I said it’s nothing.”

Mingyu shuts his mouth and Wonwoo squeezes his eyes shut like he’s in pain, cursing under his breath before he finally lifts his head and meets Mingyu’s gaze. His eyes are red rimmed. “Your nose stopped bleeding.”

Wonwoo just stares at him. “Mingyu.”

Mingyu shuffles closer until he can feel Wonwoo’s body heat, lifts his hand and touches the bruise on Wonwoo’s cheek. “I don’t know where grandma keeps her first-aid stuff.”

A shuddering sigh leaves Wonwoo’s lips, his hand coming up to grip Mingyu’s wrist, pulling it away from his face, and before Mingyu can feel hurt at the rejection, Wonwoo’s trembling fingers push between his own, holding on so tightly Mingyu feels it like a grip around his heart.

“How long—“ Mingyu decides to break the silence after a minute. “How long have Joohyun and Seulgi been together?”

“Three years,” Wonwoo answers, sniffling. “They’ve been best friends since childhood, though.”

“Hyung… Wonwoo hyung, how can you be sure that guy won’t tell anyone?”

Wonwoo tenses up next to him, his grip on Mingyu’s hand slacking until Mingyu tightens his hold on him and feels Wonwoo squeeze back gently.

He doesn’t speak for a while, and Mingyu gives him that time, gently patting Pumpkin whenever the dog whines at every crack of thunder.

“He used to be my dad’s business partner,” Wonwoo finally says.

Mingyu’s head snaps up at that; he knows how much of a touchy subject his father is to Wonwoo, and he didn’t expect the older boy to bring the man up willingly.

“They opened up that car repair shop together. It was, like, seven years ago.” Wonwoo’s tongue darts out to wet his lips, his nose twitching when the muscle runs over the cut on his bottom lip. “Things weren’t going well, you know that by now. There was this old man who’d been running his own car repair service for years prior, so he had a bunch of loyal customers. Kwangsun and my dad they—“ Wonwoo stops and shakes his head, his eyes fluttering closed and Mingyu curses out all those people that did this to him. No one this young should be as burdened as Wonwoo is. “They committed arson. Burned down that poor man’s entire store. Made it look like a pressurized cylinder exploded inside.”

“Fucking cowards,” Mingyu mutters, snapping his mouth shut when Wonwoo glances at him. “Sorry.”

Wonwoo smiles. “You’re right. That’s all they are.”

Mingyu smiles back weakly, pulling Wonwoo’s hand into his lap to rub his thumb over Wonwoo’s knuckles. He feels his heart flutter when he looks up and finds Wonwoo staring at him with a fond look in his eyes. “What happened, then?”

“The police around here don’t do shit, so they closed the case there. I used to help out at my dad’s shop when he was still around. I was bored, so I went through some of our CCTV footage. I saw them entering the shop the night of the fire, wearing masks, with gasoline cans in their hands. I never told anyone, because I— I should’ve told the police, but I couldn’t—“ Wonwoo’s eyebrows knit together and Mingyu squeezes his hand in silent comfort.

“It’s okay.” Mingyu gulps and wants nothing more than to hug the boy.

“My dad was already dealing with a bunch of crap. My mom was crying every night. I didn’t want to make things worse. I also didn’t want to drag Joohyun into this. Her family was dependant on Kwangsun’s money back then. So I kept my mouth shut, until now. Kwangsun will go to jail if I hand over that footage, he knows that. If he tells anyone, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I don’t care what happens to my dad. He can die for all I care—“

“Hyung, you don’t mean that—“

“I do!” Wonwoo snaps at him, tugging his hand out of Mingyu’s hold. “Don’t you fucking dare tell me it’s wrong for me to say that! He was a terrible person and an even worse father.”

Mingyu closes his eyes and takes a calming breath, his palm feeling cold where Wonwoo’s own was resting just a moment ago. He knows Wonwoo’s bursts of anger aren’t directed at him, but see, he has this stupid problem where he just wants to cry whenever he gets yelled at.

It took Jihoon some getting used back when Seungcheol and him first started dating. He’d snap at Mingyu for small things; when Mingyu kept letting his food plates sit around for days, when Mingyu didn’t clean up after himself in general, when Mingyu listened to his music too loud, when Mingyu forgot to replace the milk in the fridge.

And it always ended with Mingyu tearing up and Jihoon looking absolutely crestfallen until Seungcheol pulled his boyfriend aside one day and told him to “Stop fucking yelling at my best friend!”

Jihoon hasn’t really raised his voice at Mingyu ever since, and even if it happens again, the older boy will just pull Mingyu into a hug and mutter under his breath how Mingyu is like a toddler stuck in a grown man’s body.

So, Mingyu sucks his tears up and swallows past the lump in his throat. Wonwoo didn’t yell at him because he’s upset with him; he’s just upset with the whole situation.

But there are still tears in Mingyu’s eyes and he feels really damn stupid when he fails to hold them back.

Wonwoo grits his teeth together before he shakes his head again, not looking at Mingyu. Lightning strikes outside, painting Wonwoo’s face blue for a second before it’s shadowed by darkness again. When Wonwoo glances at him, Mingyu wants to laugh at the immediate change happening on the older boy’s face.

The anger immediately melts away and Wonwoo’s lips droop when his eyes take in Mingyu’s own watery ones. “Mingyu— Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to raise my voice. Mingyu—“

“It’s okay,” Mingyu interrupts him, giving him a bright smile. “I swear! I’m okay. I always cry about stupid things, so don’t worry.”

“I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” Wonwoo mumbles and turns to face him properly. He reaches for Mingyu’s hand, pulls it up to his lips and presses a kiss against his knuckles. The whole action takes Mingyu by such surprise he nearly chokes on his breath and Wonwoo blushes a tiny bit after realizing what he just did. “Was that too much?”

Mingyu’s heart seriously threatens to burst in his chest. The only thing that is too much is Wonwoo, his handsome smile, his selflessness, his cute nose scrunch, his intriguing eyes, the way he makes Mingyu feel all over. “No! No, that was— I mean. Uhm. Good. Okay. Yeah, that.”

Wonwoo smiles. It reaches his eyes despite the exhaustion creeping into his features. “So cute.”

“Please don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Stop saying those things if you don’t want me to pass out.”

Wonwoo’s smile only widens, and they stare at each other like that, with the thunderstorm rattling against the windows outside and Pumpkin practically draped all over their laps at this point, trying to hide from the thunder and lightning.

“I’ll stop,” Wonwoo says. “Don’t want you passing out.”

“Good.” Mingyu clears his throat, suddenly glad about the lack of light inside the room. It’s easier to hide the stupid flush of his cheeks that way. “Are you okay, though? Do you think we should get your ribs checked at the hospital?”

“It’s okay,” Wonwoo quickly says. “It’s not that bad.”

“He punched you really bad,” Mingyu mutters. “Fucking asshole.”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “Don’t talk about him. I still want to rip him a new one for what he did to Joohyun.”

Mingyu thinks about her, wants nothing more to go and check up on her, but he knows she’s with Seulgi so she should be fine. And anyway, he couldn’t just waltz into her home, being a guy, a stranger from the city. Her dad would kick him out the second he showed up on their doorstep and then he’d have to deal with a bunch of rumours and no thank you, holy fuck.

“Are you hungry?” Mingyu asks, trying to change the subject, even though he still has so many questions. “I can warm you up some leftovers, or cook something, but I’m not really good. Grandma told me to stay away from the kitchen cause I burned some rice the other night and I—“

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo interrupts, his eyes so gentle Mingyu feels a bit breathless. “I’m not hungry.”

“Okay,” Mingyu dumbly says.

“Can you… distract me?” Wonwoo licks his lips and Mingyu needs him to stop doing that because it makes him want to do things that aren’t appropriate right now, given their situation. “Can you tell me about yourself?”

Mingyu tilts his head. “About me?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

Wonwoo shrugs, his eyes drifting down to their hands, his thumb rubbing over the patch of skin between Mingyu’s index finger and thumb. “I don’t really know much about you.”

“You want to know more about me?” Mingyu asks, his voice wavering a little bit. He doesn’t know why the thought scares him so much.

If this thing they have is really nothing more than an experiment to Wonwoo, a fleeting summer romance they will forget about once Mingyu leaves the village, Wonwoo shouldn’t really care about getting to know him better, right?

He shouldn’t care about anything but getting to kiss Mingyu and make out when they have enough time.

“Uh, yeah,” Wonwoo mumbles, clearing his throat. “It’s okay if you don’t want to. I get it.”

“No,” Mingyu says. “No, I want to.”

Wonwoo gives him a careful look, the dimmed hope in his eyes making Mingyu’s heart flutter behind his ribs. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Mingyu answers, suddenly feeling like he’s agreeing to more than just opening up about himself to Wonwoo.

He doesn’t mind at all even though he knows he should. This is just heartbreak waiting to happen, exactly like his best friend told him.

Seungcheol will so whoop his ass when he gets back.

“What do you want to know?”

Wonwoo tilts his head, leaning back on his palms. “What’s your favorite color?”

“Purple.”

“You didn’t even need to think?”

“Nope.” Mingyu grins at him. “Purple all the way.”

“I don’t like purple.”

“What’s wrong with purple?”

“It’s… tacky.”

“How is it tacky?” Mingyu pouts and Wonwoo chuckles, wincing when it jostles his ribs, and Mingyu wants to do something, like get him painkillers but he feels like the older boy really wouldn’t appreciate his concern. “I happen to look really good in purple, you know.”

“Yeah, but you’d look good in any color so that statement’s invalid.”

Mingyu blushes, Wonwoo smiles at him, and Mingyu feels like he’s in love.

Well, fuck me.

“Next question.”

“Favorite movie?”

“Ratatouille.”

“Really?”

“Do you know Ratatouille?”

“Yes,” Wonwoo scoffs. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“Because you didn’t know fucking Twilight?”

“Yes,” Wonwoo deadpans. “Because it’s a shitty fucking movie.”

“Jesus,” Mingyu mutters. “Okay, next question.”

“Favorite song.”

“La vie en rose.” Mingyu pronounces that perfectly, thank you very much.

Wonwoo raises his eyebrows. “Is it french?”

“Nah, just that one sentence,” Mingyu answers. “I mean, I'm pretty sure the original version is in french?”

Wonwoo hums and is about to speak again when he’s interrupted by Mingyu yawning until his eyes water. “You okay there?” The older asks, eyes sparkling with amusement and warmth.

Mingyu nods his head and rubs at his eyes. “Didn’t have my daily afternoon nap. Clearly I’m a five year old that can’t get through a day without his naps.”

“Right, sorry,” Wonwoo mumbles and before Mingyu can tell him that he doesn’t need to apologize, Wonwoo places his palm on Mingyu’s chest and gently pushes him to lie down on the bed.

“Hyung, wait—“

“You need a nap,” Wonwoo says, moving slowly as to not jostle his sore limbs when he lies down next to Mingyu on top of the sheets. Pumpkin huffs because he has to move again and ends up lying down on top of their feet at the bottom of the mattress.

“I don’t want to spend the time we have left sleeping,” Mingyu tries to reason no matter how welcoming the idea of a nap sounds right now. With Wonwoo’s warmth next to him, the sound of raindrops and the now distant thunder grasping at his arm and trying to pull him into a deep, sound sleep.

Wonwoo’s expression falters a bit at that. They both know their time’s limited but Wonwoo’s probably been avoiding the issue as much as Mingyu has. “I know. But I’d rather be with you while you sleep than have you be delirious from exhaustion when we’re together.”

“I’m sorry.” Mingyu sighs and shuffles a bit closer, until their knees brush. “Ask me more questions.”

“Alright,” Wonwoo quietly says, his cheek resting on his bent arm, eyes gazing into Mingyu’s. “What did you want to become when you were a kid?”

“A runner. You know, like Usain Bolt? I remember seeing him on TV once as a kid. I wanted to run just as fast as him.”

Wonwoo smiles and okay, Mingyu seriously can’t handle the sight of it. Wonwoo’s smile is so beautiful Mingyu wants to cry a bit, instead he blushes like the idiot he is, and Wonwoo’s smile grows even more, like he knows exactly what he’s doing to Mingyu. “Why didn’t you become one, then?”

“I tried out for the team at my school when I was nine,” Mingyu explains. “I didn’t get in.”

Wonwoo laughs at that but tries to stop when Mingyu glares at him. “I’m sorry. It’s just— Okay, sorry. It’s not funny. Why didn’t you just try again?”

“I did.” Mingyu frowns when he remembers his nine year old self, coming back home and crying in his mothers’ arms because his name wasn’t on the list of the sport’s team. “I tried three more times until they literally banned me from trying out again.”

“That’s really sad,” Wonwoo mumbles even though he still looks mildly amused by the whole thing. “I’m sorry you didn’t make it.”

“I bet you are,” Mingyu huffs, smiling up at the older boy sleepily. Everything is so calm and warm, the only traces of what happened before being the ugly bruise on Wonwoo’s cheek and his split lip. Mingyu’s mind drifts to Joohyun again, and he feels horrible for being here and acting like everything’s okay, but he feels like it’s what Wonwoo needs.

Wonwoo eventually moves his arm until it’s draped over Mingyu’s waist. He doesn’t pull him closer and his eyes are searching, like he’s checking if Mingyu is okay with his touch.

And Mingyu confirms just how okay he is with it by shuffling closer until their faces are only inches apart. Wonwoo’s breath audibly hitches when Mingyu’s hand comes up to rest on Wonwoo’s side, over his sore ribs. Mingyu carefully rubs his thumb over the fabric of Wonwoo’s shirt (which is his shirt and Mingyu shouldn’t find that as hot as he does).

“Hurts?” He whispers when Wonwoo’s eyebrow does a tick at Mingyu’s touch.

Wonwoo shakes his head. “No.”

Mingyu licks his lips. Wonwoo’s eyes follow the movement.

And then Wonwoo leans in and pecks Mingyu’s lips. Mingyu’s eyes flutter shut, and Wonwoo kisses him again.

It’s slow, almost dragging, and Mingyu thinks he could get addicted to this feeling; Wonwoo’s soft lips moving against his own, the taste of his mouth, the muted sighs Wonwoo lets out whenever Mingyu parts his lips for him, Wonwoo’s scent around him, the warmth and firmness of Wonwoo’s body under Mingyu’s palm.

It’s all too real and Mingyu just wants to hold on to it all before he’ll be ripped away from it in a few weeks.

Wonwoo’s hand slides under Mingyu’s shirt, his palm pressing against the bare skin of Mingyu’s back and Mingyu presses back into the touch. They pull away from the kiss, breaths mingling where their lips are still brushing, and Wonwoo just looks into his eyes, his hand burning where it’s gently running over Mingyu’s skin.

“That feels good,” Mingyu whispers, his own hand shaking a little where it’s still resting on Wonwoo’s waist. It’s all a bit too intimate, the way Wonwoo is staring at him, how he’s touching him, how snug and hot the air between them has gotten.

He wants to reach inside Wonwoo’s shirt, too. Touch his soft skin, feel the warmth of it without the barrier of clothing between them, but he stays put for now.

Wonwoo tilts his head, rubbing the tips of their noses together. “You feel good.”

The words make warmth pool in Mingyu’s stomach, goosebumps prickle along his skin and his chest heaving a bit faster. “Yeah?”

Wonwoo nods, some sort of conflict flashing in his eyes before he lets out a sigh and leans in to kiss Mingyu’s lips again. “Let’s sleep.”

“Are you going to stay?”

“I’ll probably leave once you’re asleep,” Wonwoo whispers. “Can’t risk having your grandma finding us like this.”

Mingyu’s heart drops at the thought of it. He doesn’t even want to imagine her reaction. It’s too much for him to bear, the harsh reality of his beloved grandma looking at him in confusion and disgust after finding him and Wonwoo sleeping together, all tangled up and faces inches apart.

Wonwoo sees the way Mingyu’s face falls and his arm tightens around him, his lips finding Mingyu’s cheek, kissing the soft skin there a few times until Mingyu starts smiling again. “Go on, sleepyhead.”

“Goodnight, hyung,” Mingyu mumbles, fingers curled into Wonwoo’s shirt like that’ll get him to stay.

But when he wakes up in the middle of the night, Wonwoo is gone, and Mingyu pretends it doesn’t completely shatter his heart.

“Pumpkin,” Mingyu whispers when he feels the warmth of the dog on his feet. “Come here, buddy.”

The dog shuffles up on the bed and lies down next to Mingyu instead, lets Mingyu cuddle up against him and keeps him company until the sun rises in the sky, bringing clear blue sky, chasing away the dark clouds from the thunderstorm before.

 

 

 

“Grandma, the leaves have holes all over them.” Mingyu groans as he pulls out another bundle of spinach. “You should use some sort of repellent like everyone else.”

His grandmother shoots him a judging look from the other side of the vegetable patch. “In my thirty years of growing my own plants I have not once used such thing.”

“I know, but times change. I swear to god these insects are like a freaking new species. You used to be able to kill them with like, apple cider vinegar! It’s like they grew completely immune to it, what the fuck.” Mingyu angrily rips out another spinach plant, shaking off most of the soil stuck in the root before dropping it in the basket next to him.

“That’s because they’re adapting, Mingyu,” His grandmother calmly explains. “Us humans need to stop thinking we’re the only living things on this planet that can protect themselves. If there was something harming us, we’d do anything to find something to protect us against it. Why shouldn’t insects do the same?”

“Yes, okay, but they’re ruining our spinach, so can they just—” He makes a vague gesture with his hand. “go and ruin someone else’s spinach, please?”

“It’s still edible. Please get over yourself and don’t make me regret allowing you to help me today.”

Mingyu pouts but keeps his mouth shut. The sun is hanging high in the sky, heating up his hair and the back of his shirt.

There are butterflies everywhere and he can here their old neighbour from the other side of the gate singing along to an old trot song, completely off tune, but he’s eighty-five years old and Mingyu smiles when he hears the man’s gravely voice interrupting the peaceful silence of the morning.

“Wonwoo forgot his clothes here yesterday,” His grandmother suddenly says and Mingyu freezes with his hand reaching for the next bundle of spinach.

“Oh, yeah. We got caught in the rain, so I gave him some of my own clothes. His were completely drenched.”

His grandmother nods her head in understanding. “I washed them for him. They were covered in blood.”

Mingyu squeezes his eyes shut, a quiet curs slipping past his lips. He wracks his brain for an excuse, anything that will make sense—

“It’s okay, Mingyu,” She says calmly. “I won’t ask.”

Mingyu feels a bit sick when he lifts his head to look at his grandmother. She isn’t looking at him; still calmly picking up her vegetables and dropping them in her little pink basket. “Grandma.”

“I said I’m not going to ask,” She repeats, finally meeting his eyes, and Mingyu nearly cries in relief when she gives him a warm smile. “Just don’t do anything reckless. Don’t make me worry about you. That’s all I’m asking.”

Mingyu nods his head, suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to hug her, so he does just that.

She laughs when Mingyu hugs her from behind, her own hands coming up to curl around his forearms. “You’re a good boy. I trust you. And I trust Wonwoo, too.”

“Thank you, grandma,” Mingyu mumbles. “I love you.”

Before his grandmother can answer, they get interrupted by the sound of their gate being closed, and Mingyu immediately stands up when he sees who’s walking towards them.

“Oh, it’s Joohyun,” His grandma says with a smile. She must not know what happened yesterday which gives Mingyu hope that no one else in the village knows about it either.

“Yeah, uhm.” Mingyu pulls his garden gloves off and walks towards her. “I’ll be right back, grandma.”

He meets Joohyun halfway, right in front of their field of sunflowers, far enough from his grandmother so that she won’t be able to hear them.

Joohyun is wearing a long sleeved shirt, completely inappropriate for a hot day like this, and Mingyu has a sinking feeling in his stomach. She’s hiding her arms and he suddenly wants nothing more than to find her bastard of a cousin and cut his dick off.

“Joohyun,” Mingyu says when the girl does nothing but stare at the grass between them. “Look at me, please.”

She seems so much smaller today, her arms folded in front of her chest protectively, her long dark hair covering her face. It takes a couple of second for her to finally lift her chin and meet Mingyu’s eyes, and Mingyu can’t help but frown at the sight.

Her lip is slightly swollen, a dark cut running through the bottom swell of it, and the right corner of her mouth is bruised. She clearly tried to cover it up with make-up but you can still see the blue tint of her skin behind it.

Same goes for her cheekbone. The bruise is big, runs from under her eye all the way up to here temple underneath her foundation and Mingyu sees red.

“It’s worse than it looks,” Joohyun speaks after a couple of seconds. “Don’t go all protective macho man on me now.”

“He did this to you,” Mingyu says. “He’s a dirty fucking bastard. I should’ve let Wonwoo kill him.”

“Stop it,” Joohyun says and shakes her head. “I’m not here to talk about my asshole cousin.”

“Joohyun,” Mingyu desperately grits out. “Look at you. This isn’t okay! He can’t just beat you up and get away with it!”

“Well, guess what?” Joohyun snaps at him. “We’re not in the city here. We don’t even have police here, Mingyu! No one gives a shit. I’m a girl. I stepped out of line and he punished me. That’s how it works here.”

“No, Joohyun, don’t say that—“

“Mingyu,” She interrupts him, her voice softer now. Her eyes are completely red rimmed and puffy, like she’s been crying, which she probably was. It’s such an odd thought, because Joohyun is this strong, invincible girl in Mingyu’s eyes. She should never cry. No one should ever make her cry. “Do you remember what I asked you the other night? At Seulgi’s birthday?”

Mingyu sighs at the sudden change of subject, trying to remember what she’s referring to. “You asked me a lot of things, Joohyun.”

“No. I mean what your promised me.”

“I promised you I’d help you if you ever needed me,” Mingyu says and adds “No questions asked.”

Joohyun gulps and nods her head, tucking her hair behind her ear when the wind blows it in her face. “Right.”

“What about it?”

“I need you to keep that promise,” She says. “I need your help, Mingyu.”

Mingyu frowns at the serious expression on her face, the almost desperate tone of her voice. Somewhere in the distance he hears a helicopter in the sky. How easy it would be for them to come down here, pick Joohyun up and her get away from this hellhole. But she was right; no one fucking cares, do they?

“Okay,” Mingyu calmly says. “What do you need?”

“I need two bus tickets to Yeongchan.”

“Yeongchan?” Mingyu shakes his head. “What— Why Yeongchan?”

What business would Joohyun have in a city ten hours from here?

“No questions asked, Mingyu.”

“But Joohyun—“

“I would do it on my own, but the people down at the ticket shop know me. They’d tell my parents, and it would ruin the entire plan. No one knows your face, so they won’t suspect anything.”

“Joohyun,” Mingyu says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. He has a really bad feeling about this.

“You promised, Mingyu,” Joohyun whispers, stepping closer. “Please. I can’t do this without you.”

Her eyes well up with tears and the sight breaks Mingyu’s heart. Joohyun is such an amazing person and she just— she doesn’t deserve any of this.

“Two tickets to Yeongchan and back,” Mingyu says, nodding his head. “For when?”

But Joohyun shakes her head, her expression mildly pained. “No, Mingyu. Two one-way tickets.”

The realization smacks Mingyu right across the face, and he stands there, staring at her staring at him with tears in her pretty eyes.

“You’re leaving,” Mingyu says.

“Yeah.” Her voice almost gets lost in the wind but the answer is written all over her face.

“When?”

“Friday night.”

That’s in two days.

“You and Seulgi?”

Another nod.

Mingyu feels a lump form in his throat. “Does— Does Wonwoo know?”

Joohyun lowers her eyes. “I haven’t told him yet. But we’re going to need someone to drive us down to the bus station, so… I’ll have to talk to him soon.”

“What about your family?”

A teardrop rolls down her cheek. “I can’t keep thinking about them. Otherwise I will always be stuck here, and I will end up marrying a man I don’t love. I can’t marry someone who isn’t Seulgi.”

It’s the last time Mingyu sees Joohyun in their garden.

Next to his granddad’s bright yellow sunflowers, the wind tugging on her hair.

“We’ll get you out of here,” Mingyu says. “I promise you, Joohyun.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It keeps raining the following days.

The farmers are happy about the weather, their crops having been drying out due to the never ending heatwave weeks prior.

Mingyu, though, not so much.

He’s usually one to find a lot of peace in watching the rain fall from the safety of his bedroom, listening to the raindrops splattering against the roof and windows.

After the recent events in the village, the fight, Joohyun getting hurt, his conversation with her yesterday, Mingyu can’t help but feel like the sky is crying.

There’s a sense of heaviness in the air, almost like the villagers are tiptoeing around, trying to stay quiet and hidden. Maybe they know of what happened; how Wonwoo beat up Joohyun’s cousin, how he got hurt himself, how the bruises on Joohyun’s face aren’t from her running into a door on accident.

If they do know, they’re turning a blind eye to all of it, which seems to be their way of dealing with most problems that arise up here in between mountains and forests, isolated from the rest of the world.

Mingyu isn’t one of them though, and he sure as hell isn’t going to ignore what that sorry excuse of a man did to Joohyun. He’s not just going to sit back and watch her life be ruined just because no one can be bothered to help her, to care about her.

Not that Wonwoo and the others don’t care about Joohyun and Seulgi, but they’re part of this village, and there’s only so much they can do without risking getting hurt themselves in the process in one way or another.

So, despite the pouring rain, Mingyu catches uncle Changho’s bus the next morning and tries to nap the thirty minutes it takes to get to Cheumsan. He’s not very lucky. His mind is buzzing with endless thoughts about Joohyun and Seulgi, what their plan is, if they’re going to be okay.

And then there’s Wonwoo.

Wonwoo’s gentle words, the soft look in his eyes when he gazes at Mingyu, how Mingyu feels when they kiss, and a lump forms in his throat when he thinks about how Wonwoo might as well be in Joohyun’s situation right now.

Because they’re exactly what Joohyun and Seulgi are, aren’t they?

And the pair is running away now, just so they can be together, because there is no happiness for them in the village.

Mingyu has no clue what it means for Wonwoo and him, and it fills him with a sense of dread. He doesn’t know why it hurts him so much to think about Wonwoo and him just… ending things.

A part of him tried to keep in the back of his mind, that what they have is nothing but a summer romance, doomed to simply break apart due to their situation, but that was before he spent more time with Wonwoo.

That was before Wonwoo started looking at him the way he does, before Mingyu’s heart grew so damn fond of the older boy it’s started to feel like it’s going to overflow whenever Mingyu so much as thinks of Wonwoo’s name.

He just really needs to talk to his best friend. He needs Seungcheol’s advice, but he knows he wouldn’t get any sympathy there, not when Seungcheol told him to stay away from Wonwoo in the first place.

Once they arrive in Cheumsan, Mingyu gets off in front of a small convenience store and sends uncle Changho a smile from where the man is climbing out of the bus.

“What’s got you down here so early, son?” The man asks him, his silver cross necklace distracting Mingyu momentarily. It’s still raining but the man’s wearing a flat cap that’s mostly protecting his face and Mingyu has the cap of his hoodie pulled up so it doesn’t get into his eyes.

“Ah, I just have to pick up some prescription pills for grandma at the drugstore,” Mingyu answers.

The man nods his head and makes shooing motions. “I’ll be driving back in an hour or so. You can just go inside the bus and wait when you’re done.”

Mingyu nods and thanks him before turning away and trying to figure out where the hell he’s supposed to buy those bus tickets. The bus station doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but Mingyu doesn’t know where that is, either.

He can hardly ask uncle Changho about it; the man would just grow suspicious and Mingyu would rather not just stop a random stranger on the street and ask them, so he sticks with his usual way of dealing with things.

Which is to just move his feet and hope for the best.

It takes him about ten minutes until he finally spots the bus station which is conveniently situated at the very end of the town and by the time he gets there, his hoodie is completely soaked.

Why he didn’t just grab one of his grandma’s umbrellas on his way out is a mystery to him.

The bus station is small and strangely reminds Mingyu of a small sized airport in a way; there are parking spots for five tour busses in front of the building and Mingyu can see a few groups of people lingering around underneath the shelter with their bags and luggage but aside from that, it looks rather deserted.

Stepping inside the building, there’s a timetable hanging in the middle of the hall with the departure and destinations of the next buses and Mingyu’s stomach does a weird drop when he reads Yeongchan in bold yellow letters against the black background.

There’s no queue in front of the main desk so Mingyu takes a shaky breath and pulls the hood of his sweater down before people think he’s some sort of thief. There’s a middle aged man sitting behind the glass of the desk, looking tired and bored and quickly putting his phone away when he spots Mingyu approaching.

“Good morning,” Mingyu says, smiling at the man who only nods his head in return, looking Mingyu up and down once. It kind of rubs him the wrong way even though it’s been happening very frequently ever since Mingyu got here.

Today’s just kind of a really shitty day though, which is probably why Mingyu’s nerves are wearing so thin.

“I need two bus tickets to Yeongchan for tomorrow,” Mingyu rattles out, shifting on his feet, eyeing the worn down decorations of the building. There’s a broken water suspender sitting in the corner and the leather is peeling off the chairs placed in front of the windows.

He really wants to get this over with and leave this place.

“What time?”

Mingyu halts at that. Joohyun didn’t give him a specific time, did she?

But she did say Friday night and since they’re technically… well, they’re running away, aren’t they? So it would probably be good to travel at a time where there aren’t many people out and about that could recognize them.

“When’s the last bus tomorrow night?”

The man’s eyes flicker to his computer screen as he starts to type something on the keyboard, his expression still as bored. He looks as if he’s about to fall asleep.

There’s a dead fly floating in his coffee and Mingyu wrinkles his nose in distaste.

“Half past midnight,” The man says before breaking out into a coughing fit.

“Yeah, that’s good.” Mingyu nods his head and reaches for his wallet.

The man starts typing on the keyboard again before printing out the tickets on the small device next to his computer screen. He slides the tickets through the small opening in the glass and rattles down the price.

Mingyu hands the man the money and reaches for the tickets with shaky hands, unable to will away the sinking feeling in his stomach.

He knows he’s helping Joohyun and Seulgi with this, and he wants them to be happy more than anything, but everything about this feels so wrong.

After taking the change from the man and muttering out a quick goodbye, Mingyu tucks away the tickets in his wallet and walks out of the bus station and back into the grey and rainy morning. He hides his hands in the pockets of his hoodie after pulling his hood back up, the fresh air of the morning making him shiver underneath the thin and wet fabric.

There’s a stray dog sniffling around the dumpsters, clearly hungry, and Mingyu’s heart twists in his chest, wanting nothing more than to find some proper food for the poor thing.

An angry old man shoos the animal away when it gets too close to his shop and Mingyu just sighs before turning around and walking back to uncle Changho’s car.

The rain has eased up by the time Mingyu makes it back, nothing more than a faint drizzle despite the dark clouds covering the sun in the sky. He sees some people standing around uncle Changho’s car and isn’t sure if he’s just being silly or if he recognizes one of them by the back of their had.

Until the guy turns around and immediately starts smiling when he locks gazes with Mingyu.

“Hey, man,” Seokmin says, walking up to Mingyu to tug him back underneath the shelter of the bakery they’re standing in front of. “What are you doing here so early? You’re all soaked, dude.”

Mingyu shifts on his feet, his hands curling around his wallet subconsciously. “Uhm.”

Something flares up in Seokmin’s eyes, something that looks like understanding. He clears his throat and steps closer, his voice barely louder than a whisper. “Did you get them?”

“Get what?”

“The tickets.”

Mingyu’s eyes widen as he stares at the boy. “You— You know?”

Seokmin sighs and nods his head. “Joohyun told us yesterday night.”

“We?” Mingyu gulps, his mind immediately going to one person. “Does Wonwoo know, too?”

“Yeah.” Seokmin lowers his head. “Yeah, he knows.”

“Is he okay?”

“He says he is.” Seokmin shrugs. “But he barely said anything since last night. I’m kind of worried.”

“Where is he?”

Seokmin nods his head into the general direction of the town. “He went to sort out some business at his shop.”

Mingyu licks his lips and gives a curt nod of his head, his stomach already feeling a lot heavier after taking in that information. He drops his head, shaking it weakly. He suddenly feels so damn tired. “I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe they’re leaving.”

Seokmin’s eyes scan Mingyu’s face, concern and sympathy written all across his own. “We all knew this was gonna happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time, Gyu.”

He looks up at Seokmin again. “What about her family? They’re going to freak out when they wake up and she’s gone.”

“Oh, trust me, they’re going to do more than just freak out. It’s going be absolute hell. But give Joohyun some credit, man. She’s been planning this thing for a while. She wrote them letters and all. Even if they wanted to look for her, they won’t find her unless she wants to be found.”

Mingyu is about to say something else when someone appears from behind the bus. Wonwoo is looking down at his phone, his hair damp from the rain. He’s wearing a white shirt, tucked into his jeans together with a pair of boots and any other time, Mingyu would’ve smiled at the sight, at how handsome he looks, but he’s too exhausted to do much else but sigh when Wonwoo looks up and meets his eyes.

“Mingyu,” He says, his voice rough. He must’ve smoked right before this. Wonwoo’s eyes scan Mingyu from head to toe like they always do before settling back on his face. The bruise on his cheek looks really bad now, a day later. Black and purple on his cheekbone. “What are you doing here?”

“I had to take care of something,” Mingyu says, resisting the urge to step closer and hug the older boy. It’s not just because they’re out in the open and Seokmin’s right there; something about Wonwoo seems off. Mingyu feels like he should stay away from him and it hurts his chest. “For Joohyun.”

The corners of Wonwoo’s lips droop a little and he nods with a grim expression on his face. “Did you get them?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Wonwoo sniffs and clears his throat before pocketing his phone. “I’m done here. Let’s grab some food and head back.”

“I’m here with uncle Changho,” Mingyu says to which Wonwoo looks up at him again, making Mingyu’s stomach tingle with how gentle his gaze is.

“No. Come with us,” Wonwoo says and when Mingyu raises his eyebrows at him because of his demanding tone, Wonwoo sighs and adds “Please?”

And how could Mingyu ever say no to him? He nods and curls his fingers into fists at the way Wonwoo’s posture relaxes the tiniest bit, wanting nothing more than to reach out and pull Wonwoo closer, just for a moment.

He quickly notifies uncle Changho, who is sitting on small tables in front of a café, sipping on some tea, and the man starts beaming at the sight of Wonwoo, clearly in love with the boy like all the other villagers.

Wonwoo makes small talk with the man, all polite smiles and perfectly mannered like he is, but Mingyu can see right through it; Wonwoo is tired, and he’s clearly upset, and Mingyu has never hated the rain more than today.

Mingyu sinks back into the backseat of Wonwoo’s truck as soon as they climb in, his eyes sliding shut on their own, his body changing into sleep-mode now that Wonwoo is with him again.

It’s really going to be a problem once he leaves and Mingyu has no idea how he’s going to cope with the lack of Wonwoo’s presence during the nights.

He has no idea how he’s going to cope without the boy’s presence in general.

Wonwoo turns the engine on and Mingyu blinks his eyes open, looking at Wonwoo’s long eyelashes in the rearview mirror, the ugly bruise on his cheek, the dark circles beneath his eyes. It all makes Mingyu’s chest ache horribly, and it’s like Wonwoo can feel it, because once the car is on the street, his eyes flicker up to meet Mingyu’s gaze through the mirror.

Mingyu smiles at him and Wonwoo doesn’t smile back, and Mingyu tries not to be hurt. Wonwoo’s going through a lot, he can’t expect the boy to be there for him right now.

He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and falls asleep within the next minute.

 

 

Mingyu wakes up to someone knocking against the car window. He jerks back in surprise, blinking his eyes open blearily, trying to see through the droplet covered glass. Seokmin waves at him before jogging away through the rain and Mingyu yawns, stretching his arms before climbing into the passenger seat.

He stares ahead for a few seconds, listening to the rain against the roof of the car, Wonwoo’s calming breaths next to him before he turns to look at said person.

Wonwoo’s still looking out of the window, his hands curled around the steering wheel tightly. He’s right there but something about the look on his face makes it seem like he’s far away.

“How are you?” Mingyu finally asks.

“Fine,” Wonwoo answers after several moments of silence.

“It’s okay if you’re not, hyung” Mingyu quietly says. “You don’t have to pretend—“

“I’m not pretending anything.” Wonwoo shakes his head and Mingyu tries not to snap at him in frustration over his sudden change in demeanour. In Cheumsan, Wonwoo was so gentle yesterday and now he’s back to being… being so damn difficult. “I knew she was going to leave, eventually. She’s been talking about it for years.”

“It might not come as a surprise,” Mingyu tries. “But you can still talk to me about it. She’s your best friend and what happened with her cousin yesterday… It would be a lot to deal with for anyone.”

“And I’m telling you I’m fine.” Wonwoo sighs and starts driving again, bringing a hand up to run it through his own hair.

Mingyu bites down on his tongue before he can say anything else. Wonwoo clearly doesn’t want to talk about it so Mingyu decides not to push his luck.

But he’s never been good at shutting up, has he?

It’s gotten him in so many twisted situations in his life. You’d think he would’ve learned his lesson by now.

“What are you going to do once she’s gone?”

Wonwoo takes a deep breath next to him. “What do you mean?”

“You’re going to be alone after the summer.”

“I’m not going to be alone,” Wonwoo answers, his voice low and controlled. “I have mom and Yerim.”

“Hyung, you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t know what the fuck you mean, Mingyu,” Wonwoo snaps. “Are you seriously going to use Joohyun and Seulgi running away as an excuse to get me to leave the village?”

Mingyu freezes in his seat, staring at Wonwoo with confusion and hurt in his eyes.

This isn’t going the way Mingyu wanted it to. Not at all. Mingyu was trying to get Wonwoo to just open up to him and talk about his feelings.

He wasn’t trying to— to fucking trick him into admitting he wants to leave the village or whatever it is Wonwoo’s accusing him of.

“What are you even saying?” Mingyu asks, his voice shaking with pent up anger and frustration over their entire situation. “Don’t put words in my mouth!”

“Isn’t that what you want, though?” Wonwoo asks, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. “You want me to leave, you never shut up about it.”

Mingyu sucks in a breath, feels his nose prickle with the promise of stupid tears. Right on schedule. “I haven’t even mentioned it since you told me why you didn’t want to leave.”

“But you’ve been thinking it.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “You’re thinking it right now.”

“So what if I do?” Mingyu snaps, his voice wobbly. “Of course I want you to leave. I don’t want you to be stuck here! Not when I know how unhappy you are. Joohyun is leaving so why can’t you? There are so many possibilities for you in the city. You could go to a police school, you could bring your mom and Yerim with you—“

“I could be with you,” Wonwoo interrupts him. “That’s what you actually want to say, isn’t it? You want us to be together.”

Mingyu closes his mouth, his stomach dropping at the harsh tone of Wonwoo’s voice. Almost mocking at this point. “Of course I want us to be together.”

Wonwoo nods his head and doesn’t talk for a few moments. “Sorry to break it to you, but this thing will be over soon, so you better stop making up all these dreams in your head. You’re leaving and I’m not. There is no us once you leave this village.”

The words feel like a blow to Mingyu’s heart and they make tears well up in his eyes. He turns his head away, trying to hide how much Wonwoo’s hurting him right now, how fucking weak he actually is. “I know you’re upset because Joohyun is leaving but don’t fucking take it out on me.”

“Why do you think you know me so well, huh?” Wonwoo asks. “You’ve known me for what, three weeks? You don’t know me at all, Mingyu. I’m just saying how it is. I don’t want you to be all heartbroken by the end of this and accuse me of not warning you.”

Mingyu exhales shakily and brings his sleeve up to rub away a tear that spills over. “Stop the car.”

“What?”

“Stop the fucking car.”

“But it’s raining—“

“I don’t care! Just stop the car, you asshole.”

The car moves for another five seconds before Mingyu hears Wonwoo curse under his breath and slam the breaks.

Mingyu unbuckles his seatbelt and opens the door.

“Mingyu, wait—“

He slams the door in Wonwoo’s face before the boy can finish what he was about to say. It’s raining harder now but Mingyu doesn’t even bother pulling his cap up; his sweater is all soaked anyway and it’s only a couple of minutes to his house.

A part of him hopes Wonwoo will gets out of the car and come after him, apologize and admit that he didn’t mean all the things he said, but instead Wonwoo speeds past him angrily and Mingyu starts crying like a baby on the side of the road.

His grandmother fusses over him as soon as he’s inside and ushers him inside the bathroom after preparing a hot shower for him.

It makes Mingyu feel a bit better and warms him up, but his chest still feels way too cold, especially whenever he thinks about the words Wonwoo threw at him.

He stops crying before his eyes can get too puffy and his grandma starts worrying about him all over again, but then he makes the mistake of calling Seungcheol, and promptly starts crying again as soon as he hears his best friend’s voice.

“Gyu? Mingyu, what happened?”

Mingyu groans and wills the tears to stop, burying his face in Pumpkin’s fur. The poor dog gives him a clueless look, not understanding what’s going on but clearly sensing how upset Mingyu is. “Hyung. I’m so stupid. I fucked up.”

Seungcheol is silent for a moment and Mingyu hears him take a deep breath. “Is this about Wonwoo?”

“I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to you. I’m so fucking stupid.”

“Oh, Gyu.”

“I want to come back home.”

Seungcheol sighs deeply. “Now?”

Mingyu swallows heavily and nods his head. “Yeah. Now.”

 

Seungcheol talks to him for the next fourty minutes, listens to everything Mingyu tells him about Wonwoo and him, and by the end of it Mingyu has calmed down considerably and doesn’t feel like packing his things and taking the next bus back home.

“You really like this asshole, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t cry about anyone unless you really care about them. He better fucking know how lucky he is to have you even paying attention on his sorry ass.”

Mingyu chuckles weakly. “He’s not… hyung, he’s not that bad.”

“How can you fucking say that after what he did today?”

“Because… I really like him.”

“I should’ve never let you go there,” Seungcheol says and Mingyu can exactly imagine his best friend shaking his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You always do stupid shit when I leave you out of my sight.”

Mingyu smiles, trying to breathe through his nose but finding that there’s too much snot in it. He pinches Pumpkin’s cheeks, happy to see that the dog is wagging his tail again now that Mingyu isn’t basically crying his heart out and scaring the poor animal. Pumpkin licks his wrist and nuzzles into his palm and things seem okay again for a moment.

“I’ll be fine,” Mingyu says. “I just needed to hear your voice. I’m sorry for freaking you out.”

“I don’t know about that, Gyu.” Seungcheol sighs. “Whatever happens, I’m waiting for you here. I’ll have the freezer stocked with ice pops and frozen pizzas for when you’re back, okay?

“Okay, hyung. Thank you.”

“Be careful, Gyu. No matter how much you like that guy, sometimes a person’s just not worth getting your heart broken over, you know? Especially if he’s not going to be part of your future.”

Mingyu stares at the ceiling, taking in Seungcheol’s words, thinking about the way Wonwoo kissed him last night, how much his actions contradict each other compared to today, and slowly nods his head. “I can handle it, hyung. I promise.”

 

 

Chan visits later that day with his mom, his socks completely drenched and leaving behind wet footprints on the hardwood floor.

Mingyu and him sit on the balcony, drink some tea, and chat about their favorite animes and get into one or two fights over the Netflix version of Devilman Crybaby.

Chan says it’s the worst version and Mingyu claims it’s the best and somehow they end up wrestling around on the floor until Mingyu hits his head on the door and Chan apologizes over and over, looking like a kicked puppy.

The kid and him haven’t really had the chance to grow closer over the past few weeks, but whenever Chan is hanging around with them, he brings everyone’s spirits up with his slightly clueless questions and actions to make everyone laugh.

Mingyu will definitely miss him, too.

“It’s so strange,” Chan mumbles once they’ve settled down again, sitting on the cold ground with their backs pressing against the balcony railing. The white blue striped awning is rolled down to protect them from the rain.

“What is?”

“That noona is leaving.” Chan shrugs his shoulders and fiddles with a sunflower seed that fell to the ground during their play-fight earlier. “It’s like… one less reason for me to come back here.”

Mingyu stays quiet for a moment, staring at the engraved flowers in the tiles on the floor, his toes wiggling. “Wonwoo and Yerim will still be here.”

“I know,” Chan says, sniffling. “But it’s not the same. Wonwoo hyung won’t be the same without her around.”

The thought of the older boy makes Mingyu’s stomach churn, his chest still feeling too tight because of his words from earlier.

“Chan,” Mingyu speaks up after another beat of silence. “How come all of you are so… okay with this?”

“With what?”

“Joohyun and Seulgi,” Mingyu clarifies. “I know how conservative this place is. Heck, I only know a handful of people in the city that would be supportive of a relationship like theirs.”

Chan purses his lips, looking deep in thought for almost an entire minute. “Can I be honest with you?”

“Sure.”

“When I first found out about them, I was… I kind of felt repulsed.” Chan clears his throat, sounding more than just ashamed by his own words. “I wanted to tell my parents, so they could tell their families and separate them. I know it’s horrible, I know that now, but back then I really just wanted to stop them because I felt what they were doing was wrong.”

Mingyu nods his head, patting Chan’s knee because the younger looks like he’s ready to start crying. “What changed your mind, then?”

“Wonwoo hyung stopped me the day I was about to rat them out,” Chan answers. “He pulled me aside and made me sit down, and he gave me a talk and made me bawl like a baby. He made me realize that the way Joohyun noona loved Seulgi noona was no different from how my parents loved each other, and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I don’t know. I’ve always trusted Wonwoo hyung more than anyone, growing up. And if he believes in something it must be true, you know? But anyway. That’s what changed my mind. That’s why I want to help protect them so badly, because they deserve to be happy. Don’t you agree, hyung?”

Mingyu nods and huddles deeper into his sweater at the cold wind nipping at their skin. Something squeezes at his heart, thinking about Wonwoo, protecting Seulgi and Joohyun the way he did.

He thinks about Wonwoo claiming there was something wrong with him but telling Chan how there was nothing wrong with Joohyun loving Seulgi.

And it hurts, because Wonwoo was there for everyone but no one was there for him because he wouldn’t let them.

Mingyu wants to be angry, he wants to be angry at the older boy for throwing those words at him earlier in the car, but right now he wants nothing more than go outside and find Wonwoo and hug him.

“Hyung?”

Mingyu jumps and turns his head to face the younger boy. “What?”

“You’re okay with it, too, right?” Chan asks, a worried glint in his eyes. “With Joohyun and Seulgi noona?”

A smile tugs on Mingyu’s lips, soft and worn around the edges. “Trust me, Channie. I’m okay with it.”

Chan lets out a relieved breath, nodding his head. “We’re all going to the beach tomorrow. To spend some time together before they leave. You’re coming too, aren’t you?”

“The beach?” Mingyu tilts his head back to look at the thick clouds and the falling rain. “Isn’t it too cold for that?”

“It’ll be fine,” Chan says. “We’ll have the whole beach for ourselves and Seokmin hyung will take his dad’s van. It’ll be fun!”

Mingyu wipes his nose on the sleeve of his sweater before hiding his hands in his pockets. That means he’ll have to see Wonwoo again before getting to sort things out between them and he doesn’t know how to feel about that.

But he wants to spend some time with Joohyun before she leaves, no matter how upset he is over this whole situation with Wonwoo.

“Sure, it’ll be fun,” He says, ruffling Chan’s hair when the boy beams at him.

 

 

 

 

“Grandma— Don’t— Okay, wait.” Mingyu whines and tries to twist out of his grandmother’s hold but she pushes him right back down on the couch. “Grandma. It’s not even sunny out! It’s like eighteen degrees, it’s raining, I don’t need sunscreen—“

His grandmother slathers the thick cream on his cheeks, not even listening to him, her eyes focused on the TV screen like a hawk.

There’s a honk outside coming from the streets and Mingyu thanks the heavens, shooting up from the couch and quickly running away to grab his backpack despite his grandma’s protests.

“Call me when you get there!” She shouts after him. “You kids are going to give me a heart attack. Going to the beach in a weather like this—“

“Love you, grandma!”

Mingyu pulls on his hoodie and grabs his phone before jogging down the stairs, quickly putting on his sneakers and pressing a kiss on Pumpkin’s head when he runs past him.

It’s not raining anymore today, but it looks like it might start any second. The sky is covered in thick, grey clouds and there’s a chilly wind in the air.

Definitely no weather for the beach.

No weather for the summer.

Chan is waving at Mingyu from the middle window of the yellow van, telling him to hurry up. Behind him sits Joohyun, grinning brightly, and Mingyu feels his heart sink for a moment, knowing that he’ll be seeing her for the last time today.

Wonwoo is sitting in the passenger seat, and he’s staring down on his lap, not even bothering to look up at Mingyu, confirming his worries about the older boy still being angry at him.

Two can play that game.

Mingyu huffs in annoyance and climbs in when Chan opens the door for him and moves aside to make room for him. “Good morning, hyung.”

“Morning,” Mingyu says, clapping Seokmin’s shoulder in the front, waving at Yerim who’s sitting next to chan and then turning to greet Seulgi and Joohyun.

“Hey, Mingyu.” Joohyun smiles at him, the curl of her lips soft and warm. Her hair is pulled back into a high, braided ponytail. She has little golden hoops in her ears, a single star hanging from each of them. “How are you doing?”

Mingyu sighs and resist the urge to reach out and take her hand. Seulgi is snuggled up against her side, their hands intertwined on Joohyun’s lap. Their fingernails are painted in the same shade of lavender and something about the fact makes Mingyu’s chest feel all warm.

“I’m good,” Mingyu says, lowering his chin on his arm from where it’s resting on the back of the seat. “How about you guys?”

“Good,” Seulgi answers. She looks a bit tired but her eyes still crinkle up adorably when she smiles at him. “Excited. Nervous. Scared. All the emotions.”

Mingyu chuckles quietly and watches Joohyun turn to give her girlfriend a fond look, squeezing her hand reassuringly. “I got the tickets.”

“Yeah?”

“Mhm.”

“Thank you,” Joohyun says quietly. “I’ll give you the money later—“

“Nonsense,” Mingyu interrupts her. “Don’t even mention it.”

“But Mingyu—“

“Joohyun, please.”

She stares into his eyes for a moment, her glare as defiant as ever, but her whole face softens when Mingyu grins at her and she sighs, sinking back in her seat. “You’re a brat, you know that?”

“So I’ve been told.” Mingyu winks at her before turning back around in his seat.

He’s sitting right behind Wonwoo, can see the maroon sweater he’s wearing. It looks soft and probably smells like peaches, like all of Wonwoo’s clothes do. The older boy has an elbow perched on the door, his head resting on his palm as he stares out the windows.

He shakes his head and looks out the window, trying to find a flash of blue amidst all the grey in the sky, a ray of sunshine to brighten up the day.

He isn’t all that surprised when he doesn’t find anything.

 

 

It takes them almost an hour to get to the beach what it with being in the exact opposite direction of Cheumsan.

They stop at a gas station on the way, picking up some snacks and drinks. Chan and Yerim are asleep and Mingyu stays in the car together with Joohyun while Seokmin and Wonwoo go inside the shop.

Joohyun leans forward in her seat, her arms folded right behind Mingyu’s head. When she talks, her breath puffs against the back of Mingyu’s head. She smells sweet; like roses and some exotic fruit.

“What’s up with you two?” She whispers, both their gazes on the shop windows where Wonwoo is smiling at something Seokmin shows him.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re ignoring each other,” Joohyun says. “What happened?”

Mingyu sinks back in his seat and feels Joohyun twist her fingers through his hair, something she would’ve never done if they were back in the village. He wonders how their friendship would look like if they met somewhere else, under different circumstances.

“We had a fight, I guess.” Mingyu shrugs. “I think I said something that made him angry.”

Joohyun shakes her head, a sigh leaving her lips. “Don’t get me wrong. He’s like, my favorite person on this planet, right after Seulgi. Maybe even along with her, if he’s not in one of his moods.” They both laugh quietly at that. “But he has quite the temper, doesn’t he?”

Mingyu nods his head. “Yeah.”

“You better put him in his place when I’m not here anymore,” Joohyun continues. “Don’t let him push you away or take it out on you just because he can’t deal with his emotions.”

“Can we not talk about you not being here anymore?” Mingyu can’t help but pout.

“I’m leaving tonight, silly. There’s only so much longer you can ignore it.”

“Well, I plan to ignore it until the very last second, if you don’t mind.”

“Aww, are you going to miss me that much?”

“Yes,” Mingyu says seriously and feels Joohyun deflate a bit behind him.

“I’m glad we got to meet Mingyu,” She whispers, reaching out to pat his cheek gently.

He sighs and leans his head back. “Me, too, Joohyun.”

 

 

The beach is deserted, just like Chan said it would be, because no one in their right mind would chose a dark, gloomy day like this to go to the beach.

Seokmin parks the car in the deserted parking lot and they move around for a while, stretching their limbs, packing the stuff they want to take to the beach, avoiding each other like Mingyu and Wonwoo are currently doing.

The sand is wet and cold against Mingyu’s feet but he tries to keep his spirits up. At least it’s not raining, and everyone seems to be in a fairly good mood, even Wonwoo, who jokes around with Chan and holds Yerim’s hand when she climbs up on a big rock to jump down from it on the other side.

Seulgi spreads out a huge blanket where they put down their bags and the snacks they bought.

Mingyu looks up at the sky and sees a bunch of seagulls flying through the air, and their sounds together with the waves of the sea, the salty scent in their, it all serves to calm him down the tiniest bit.

At the beginning of his insomnia, Mingyu used to listen to different recording at night; it was either the sound of rain, thunderstorms, the chirping of crickets, or a recording of the sea.

That stopped helping a long time ago, but it seems to still have a very relaxing effect on his body.

“Race you to the water!” Chan yells and Mingyu hears Yerim laugh and when he turns to look at them, he sees them get out of their clothes, wearing swim trunks and a bathing suit underneath.

Mingyu laughs and shakes his head when both of them just run into the water, Yerim screaming when the cold water touches her feet. She jumps back, whining as she wraps her arms around her upper body.

“It’s freezing!” She screams. “Chan! How are you doing that?”

But Chan seems to be having the time of his life, already having gone underwater and wet his whole head. “It’s good for you! Trust me.” He reaches out to help her into the water, holding her hand, and Mingyu grins because he can see the blush on his cheeks all the way from where he's standing.

“That’s a heart attack,” Joohyun mutters a while later, pointing at the kids from where she’s unpacking some of the Gimbap Mingyu’s grandma prepared for them.

Mingyu is sitting on the blanket next to her, still dressed in his shorts and his warm sweater. He watches the others jump around and scream like little kids in the water, Yerim sitting on Wonwoo’s shoulders and having a chicken fight with Seulgi who’s sitting on top of Seokmin’s.

Wonwoo hasn’t made an effort to talk to him yet and when they accidentally bumped into each other earlier when Wonwoo was undressing, the older just looked up at him with wide eyes before turning away again.

“You guys are being stupid,” Joohyun says once she’s finished sorting all their stuff out, sitting closer to Mingyu to share some warmth. “You’re leaving by the end of next week and you’re spending your time ignoring each other?”

“He’s ignoring me,” Mingyu says. “I didn’t do anything wrong. He should be the one to apologize.”

“I agree. I don’t even know what happened but knowing Wonwoo, I agree.” She chuckles and lets out a dramatic sigh. “Him and his stupid pride.”

Mingyu hums, feeling a bit bad for talking like that about Wonwoo when he could at least come up with another hundred reasons why he likes the boy so much. “I just wish I knew where he was coming from when he lashes out on me like that so I can, I don’t know, understand him. But he just comes across like a douchebag like this.”

“The only way to get Wonwoo to open up is to get him completely shit faced,” Joohyun says. “Either that, or you.”

Mingyu glances at her, furrowing his eyebrows. “Me?”

“Oh, come on.” Joohyun grins and nudges his shoulder. “You’re like his weak spot. You should’ve seen him when Seokmin made a joke about you the other day. He definitely didn’t take it well, having someone making fun of his boo.”

“Stop.” Mingyu groans, feeling his cheeks heat up at the information.

“He’s so smitten with you, Mingyu.” Joohyun’s smile is warmer now, less teasing. “I wish things were different. I would feel a lot better knowing he still has you once I’m gone.”

Mingyu tenses up at her words. Isn’t that exactly why Wonwoo and him had their stupid fight in the first place? “Did you talk to him?”

“About what?”

“About leaving the village,” Mingyu says. “Whenever I bring it up he clams up and gets all… angry.”

“Yeah. I know.” Joohyun and him both look at Wonwoo, who looks so carefree right now, pushing Chan under water and holding the boy’s wrists when he tries to playfully hit him. “I’ve been talking to him about this for years, Mingyu. I honestly think you’re better off talking to a wall instead of talking to Wonwoo about this subject.”

“Why is he so adamant on staying?” Mingyu can’t help but let frustration bleed into his voice, a sort of aching longing tugging on his heart when he watches Wonwoo throw his head back and laugh. “I mean, I know what part of the reason is. But I just… I don’t get it.”

“Why do most of us don’t do the things we know is best for us?” Joohyun shrugs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Most people don’t like the unknown. Wonwoo is one of those people who like to play it safe. The village, no matter how much a nightmare it is, it’s safe. He’s scared. It’s that simple.”

“Comfort is the enemy of progress.”

“Come again?”

“It’s a quote,” Mingyu explains. “My best friend has it printed on his bedroom wall. I should show it to Wonwoo, sometime.”

Joohyun smiles and leans more into him. “Who knows. Maybe it’ll get through to him somehow.”

They fall into silence for a while, surrounded by the rush of the waves, the seagulls all around them, the wind tugging on their clothes, the screams and laughter of their friends.

Things seems so peaceful, away from the city, the judgemental eyes, the rumours.

It’s just them, together, having a good time.

“Joohyun.”

“Hm?”

“Are you happy?”

Joohyun glances at him, tilting her head, and Mingyu does the same, both of them staring into each other’s eyes for a silent moment. “Are you asking me if I’m happy to leave the place where people have done nothing but trying to control me and put me in my place my entire life?”

Mingyu pulls a pained face. “Yeah. I am.”

“I’m not happy it had to come so far, Mingyu,” She says. “I’m not happy I’m leaving my parents behind like this.”

“I’m sorry,” Mingyu mutters.

“No, hear me out.” Joohyun shakes her head. “I’m not happy right now, but I know I will be once I start a new chapter of my life with Seulgi. There’s no way I will ever be as miserable as I was in that village. So don’t be worried about that. This is what I want. This is what I’ve wanted for years.”

Mingyu can’t see anything but genuine determination in her eyes and he nods, mumbling “Okay. I’m glad.” and suddenly Joohyun pulls him into a hug.

It takes Mingyu a moment to remember they’re not in the village, that no one will see them and jump to ridiculous conclusions about them. So he hugs her back.

He knows they’ve only known each other for a short time, but he already knows that they would’ve become close friends if they had more time and if circumstances were different.

“Alright, enough of this sappy bullshit,” Joohyun mumbles and pulls back. Mingyu decides not to tease her when he sees the wetness that’s gathered in her eyes. “Let’s go join the others.”

 

 

The water is Ice Cold.

Five minutes in, and Mingyu can’t feel his toes or his dick anymore, and the latter really worries him.

His teeth are chattering but he’s having fun either way, even if Wonwoo’s still ignoring him, looking away hastily whenever their eyes happen to meet.

In fact, Mingyu has so much fan he completely loses track of time, doesn’t even notice all the others leaving the water and shrugging them off when they try to get him to come out, too.

He’s currently looking for pretty seashells to take back home and give to Seungcheol as a present but it’s a bit hard, given how dense the sand is because of the rain, and most of the ones he finds are either too plain or broken.

His fingers are stiff at this point, his whole body screaming at him to go back and warm up, but a stubborn part of Mingyu would rather risk freezing his limbs off than go back and have Wonwoo ignore his whole existence.

“Mingyu.”

The sudden voice makes Mingyu drop the few seashells he’d managed to find, the water of the sea immediately pulling them back in. “No!” Mingyu whines and leans down, trying to catch a few of them, but the prettiest ones are already gone. He pouts and stands up to glare at whoever scared him like that, only to freeze for an entirely different reason than just the cold weather.

Wonwoo is standing there, staring at him, still wearing his swim trunks but his upper body covered in his maroon hoodie. His hair is spiked at the tips, obviously toweled dry but still damp.

“I think you’ve been in there enough,” Wonwoo speaks. “Get out of the water.”

Mingyu frowns at him. Is this seriously how Wonwoo is going to approach him after what he did yesterday? Order him around?

“No, thanks. I’m fine.” Mingyu scoffs and turns to look for seashells again.

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo repeats, clearly getting annoyed. “Your lips are blue. You’ll get sick. Just come out.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“You’re being a brat.”

Here we go again.

They just love running in mindless circles, don’t they?

“Yeah, you keep telling me. But I still want to stay in the water.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re not here.”

There’s a beat of silence and when Mingyu glances at the boy, he kind of regrets his words because Wonwoo looks hurt. He bites down on his tongue before he can utter out an apology.

Wonwoo owes him an apology, not the other way around.

“Mingyu, please,” Wonwoo tries again, a lot less authoritative now. He sounds tired and Mingyu’s heart wavers at his pleading tone. “I want to talk to you.”

“Oh, now you want to talk?”

“You can be mad at me all you want, but please just get out of the water.”

Mingyu stays where he is for another three seconds, glaring into Wonwoo’s soft eyes, before he just gives up.

He’s so weak for this person.

This isn’t just a stupid crush, a silly summer romance.

The feelings Mingyu has for Wonwoo are the closest thing to love Mingyu’s ever experienced in his life so far.

He doesn’t care that he only met the guy last month. Isn’t life too short to care about trivial things like that?

Whatever it is he’s feeling for Wonwoo, it doesn’t really matter right now, because Mingyu is still hurt and upset, so he walks past said person and stomps back to the others who are all wrapped up in warm blankets. He takes the towel Seulgi hands her while looking up at him and Wonwoo with a puzzled expression.

He can see Joohyun glaring at Wonwoo from the side and wonders if Wonwoo even notices it or understands why both of them are so mad at him.

Before Mingyu can sit down on the blanket, he feels Wonwoo grab his arm and start dragging him away from the rest of their friends and towards the van.

Mingyu doesn’t say anything or put up a fight, but he does brush the older’s hand off.

Wonwoo opens the door to the van and waits for Mingyu to climb in before following him and sliding the door shut again behind them, cutting off the freezing air from outside.

Luckily, only Mingyu’s legs were submerged in the water for the past thirty minutes or so, so his swim trunks aren’t completely drenched at this point, but they’re still wet, so he spreads the towel under him as to not get the seats wet.

He’s still shivering violently, his teeth chattering and fingers numb and red from the cold. Wonwoo looks at him and mutters a curse under his breath. He turns around and reaches for something in the back, pulling a clean towel out from one of the bags.

Wonwoo hands Mingyu the towel and quietly watches Mingyu dry himself off before rubbing the towel over his head.

He busies himself with the task for way longer than necessary, if only to annoy Wonwoo a bit more.

If Wonwoo really thinks of him as a brat, then Mingyu will be a brat.

“Are you done?” Wonwoo asks after several minutes of Mingyu rubbing his head with the towel.

“I’m done when I say I am.” Mingyu huffs and keeps going for another fifteen seconds before lowering the towel. “I’m done.”

Wonwoo scoffs and shakes his head, at least until Mingyu shoots a glare at him, which makes Wonwoo drop his head and let out a sigh. “Mingyu. Look I’m… I’m sorry for yesterday, okay? I acted like a douchebag again and I said some things I shouldn’t have. I’m really sorry.”

Mingyu keeps glaring at the boy even if the simple but earnest apology feels like a warm blanket around his wounded heart. Wonwoo watches him carefully, the long sleeves of his hoodie giving him sweater paws and making him look warm and cuddly.

“Why did you do that?” Mingyu calmly asks. “You just… blew up on me out of nowhere.”

Wonwoo sighs and lowers his gaze. “I don’t know why I do the shit I do, Mingyu.”

“The things you said were really hurtful, hyung.” Mingyu shrugs and shivers, wishing he would’ve grabbed his sweater from the pile outside on the blanket. “I just want to understand you.”

Wonwoo looks pained at Mingyu’s words. “I’m sorry. I’m a fucking dickhead. I didn’t— I really didn’t mean those things. Please know that.”

“You must’ve meant some of it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have said it.”

“No. No, look, the last thing I ever want is to hurt you but I just— I really suck at dealing with, uh, emotions and stuff.”

“Well,” Mingyu starts. “Maybe I could help you deal with them. No?”

Wonwoo looks at him in silence before slowly nodding his head. “Yeah. Maybe.”

“Okay.” Mingyu shifts on his seat, the sensations in the tips of his fingers slowly coming back, tickling with the urge to reach out and take Wonwoo’s warmer hands. “I know it’s hard for you. But I need you to stop clamming up whenever you struggle with your feelings, hyung. You can’t take it out on other people. You’ll just hurt them.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Wonwoo gulps and Mingyu feels his heart swell at the way Wonwoo looks at him, full of warmth and fondness.

“Do you really think it’s stupid of me?” Mingyu slowly asks, unable to keep the hurt out of his voice. “To imagine us being together? Even after I leave.”

Wonwoo shakes his head, his eyebrows furrowing. “No. I— I think about that, too.”

“Really?”

“I hate the thought of you leaving,” Wonwoo mumbles. “I know Joohyun is leaving, too. But I know she’ll be more happy wherever it is she’s going, so it’s easier for me to let her go. And I know you have your life back in the city, and you’re happy there, but I’m just…” Wonwoo clears his throat, clearly struggling with his words. “I’m so selfish when it comes to you. I don’t want you to leave me.”

The words take Mingyu by such surprise he feels winded for a few seconds, his heart suddenly aching horribly when he meets Wonwoo’s eyes and finds nothing but pure longing in them.

“I don’t want to leave you,” Mingyu utters, his voice shaking a bit. “I wish you could come with me.”

Wonwoo gives a bitter smile at that. “You make me want things I can’t have, Mingyu.”

“Like what?”

“Like— Like a life with you,” Wonwoo says quietly. “Away from here. Like Joohyun and Seulgi will.”

“Do you want that?”

“I want you. And— everything that comes with it,” Wonwoo says. “I don’t think you realize how much I want you.”

Mingyu’s heart speeds up in his chest, his stomach tingling violently at the heat and force behind Wonwoo’s words. “If it’s even half as much as I want you, I think I do, hyung.”

Wonwoo exhales heavily and reaches for him and Mingyu shuffles closer, dropping the wet towel. “I’m sorry for yesterday. I’m sorry I’m such an asshole.”

Mingyu chuckles a bit, taking Wonwoo’s warm hand and relaxing now that they’re touching again, even if it’s only been two days. He doesn’t think he’ll get enough of Wonwoo’s touch anytime soon, definitely not until he leaves. “It’s okay. As long as you don’t do it again.”

“I’ll try not to.” Wonwoo smiles shyly and okay, has Mingyu ever mentioned how absolutely adorable this person is? He lets Wonwoo tangle their fingers together, squeezing gently, until he notices the goosebumps on Mingyu’s arms. “Where’s your sweater?”

“I left it outside. But I’m fine—“

Wonwoo pulls his hand out of Mingyu’s, and Mingyu nearly whines in protest until he realizes Wonwoo is pulling off his own hoodie. He’s wearing a t-shirt underneath but it’s definitely not enough to keep him warm. He fixes his hair with one hand and hands Mingyu the sweater with his other. “Put it on. You’ll catch a cold.”

“And you won’t?”

“Just put it on, Mingyu.” Wonwoo’s tone leaves no room for discussion and Mingyu doesn’t know why he feels like he has to follow Wonwoo’s command, he just does. The pleased smile Wonwoo gives him after Mingyu pulls the warm hoodie over his head sends strange tingles through Mingyu’s chest and he kind of wants to see Wonwoo give him that smile again.

The hoodie smells like Wonwoo and Mingyu immediately shivers at the sudden warmth enveloping his chilled bones. “Come here.”

“What?”

“I don’t want you to be cold.”

Wonwoo looks unsure for a moment, probably because he’s worried about the others outside even though the parking lot is out of their line of sight. But he still moves closer, one of his legs folded up on the seat while his other foot is resting on the ground.

Mingyu on the other hand, has both his legs on the seat, and he decides that it’s a good idea to cage Wonwoo in between his thighs until he’s practically straddling the older boy’s lap.

Wonwoo looks taken aback by his sudden move, and a pretty blush spreads on his cheeks, but his arms naturally come up to wrap around Mingyu’s back, pulling him closer. “Are you comfortable?”

“Yeah,” Mingyu says, his own arms wrapped around Wonwoo, trying to keep him warm. “Are you?”

Wonwoo laughs quietly, his eyes glinting. “Very.”

“I’m glad you’re taking this so well, you know,” Mingyu says. “Joohyun is your best friend after all.”

Wonwoo’s face falls a bit but he tightens his arms around Mingyu. “I want her to be happy. That’s all.”

“You’re a good friend.” Mingyu brings a hand up to cradle Wonwoo’s cheek, brushing his thumb over the warm skin. “You’re a good person, period.”

“Not as good as you,” Wonwoo mumbles, smiling when Mingyu rolls his eyes. They look at each other in silence and Mingyu hears Yerim laugh in the distance, and the air between them heats up slowly. It’s gradual and dragging but it makes Mingyu’s nerves come alive, just like that. “Mingyu.”

“What?”

Wonwoo sighs and tilts his head, not saying anything and Mingyu just follows his urges and presses their lips together. He feels Wonwoo’s hands tighten on him instantly, his lips parting, warm and soft and pliant and a deep shudder wracks Mingyu’s body when Wonwoo pries Mingyu’s mouth open with his own.

Mingyu pulls away before they can get too carried away and forget about where they are, but his whole body is thrumming and Wonwoo’s lips are way too soft and sweet, so no one can blame him when he leans right back in, stealing another kiss that has Wonwoo groaning deeply, pulling Mingyu closer on his lap until their hips touch.

The kiss is different than their previous ones. Their hands wander more, and Mingyu feels way too needy for his own good, panting into Wonwoo’s mouth whenever they pull away for air. The way Wonwoo holds him, one hand on the small of his back and the other gripping Mingyu’s thigh, has heat pooling deep in his stomach.

Wonwoo’s tongue runs over Mingyu’s bottom lip, hot and wet, and Mingyu’s hand tightens in the back of Wonwoo’s hair, tugging a bit at the same time as his hips kick down into Wonwoo’s own. Oh shit. Wonwoo moans weakly and Mingyu immediately pulls away, panting harshly, both of them are.

There’s an ache between Mingyu’s legs, and he realizes that he’s half hard, Wonwoo’s hand on his thigh possessive and searing.

“Sorry,” Wonwoo mutters, his voice hoarse and low and Mingyu kind of just wants to submit completely at the look in Wonwoo’s eyes.

“Don’t be sorry.” Mingyu smiles and leans in to hide his face in Wonwoo’s neck, his smile widening when he feels Wonwoo wrap his arms around him again, his lips trailing along Mingyu’s jaw and down his neck.

“I can’t get enough of you,” Wonwoo whispers against his skin, kissing the pulse on Mingyu’s neck, and Mingyu feels like dying, right here on his lap.

“Well, I clearly can’t, either,” Mingyu says, reaching down to adjust his swim trunks where they’ve started to tent at the front. It makes Wonwoo groan into his neck, his shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

“We should go back,” Wonwoo says, pulling away. There’s still a blush on the apples of his cheeks, his eyes slowly starting to clear up despite the intensity in them as he looks at Mingyu, and Mingyu will probably never understand how anyone can look at Wonwoo and not fall for him.

“Yeah, we should.” Mingyu clears his throat and slowly moves to get off Wonwoo’s lap, but the older suddenly leans in and pecks Mingyu’s cheek gently, completely different to the kiss they shared just before.

“I care about you, Mingyu,” Wonwoo says, his throat working nervously. “I know I made it sound like I didn’t yesterday, in the car. But just… You’re not just a summer fling to me. I hope you know that.”

For once, Mingyu is at a loss for words. He feels like he’s going to throw his heart up if he opens his mouth, either that or he’s going to just start crying like a baby. He just stares at Wonwoo, wide eyed and slightly overwhelmed and he leans in to peck Wonwoo’s soft mouth with a racing heart, nodding as he pulls away again.

Wonwoo smiles at him like he understands and Mingyu smiles back like he’s in love.

Which he is.

He definitely is.

Oh man.

 

 

As happy as Mingyu is about Wonwoo finally opening up to him (more or less), saying goodbye to Joohyun and Seulgi is absolutely heart breaking.

After they pack their things on the beach in the late afternoon, Chan, Seokmin and Yerim say their goodbyes to the girls as they won’t come along to take them to the bus station down in Cheumsan later that night.

Mingyu is sitting next to Wonwoo and tries to blank out their voices, the hiccups and soft sounds of crying right outside the van. His heart hurts, especially when he hears Joohyun let out a quiet sob when Yerim hugs her and tells her how much she’s going to miss her.

Wonwoo seems to notice his struggle because he reaches out and takes his hand, squeezing gently, and Mingyu finds comfort in the gesture, especially about the fact that Wonwoo isn’t completely shutting him out despite this being so hard for him.

Mingyu sneaks out later that night at eleven, walking to the end of the village past the last house where Wonwoo parked his car earlier so the engine wouldn’t wake up his family or their neighbours. He’s already waiting inside, so are Seulgi and Joohyun.

Joohyun left behind letters for her parents and spent the night at Seulgi’s place because Seulgi’s grandparents both have bad hearing and the chances of them waking up when the girls were sneaking out were considerably lower than with Joohyun’s parents.

Seulgi is nodding off on Joohyun’s shoulder who gives Mingyu a weak smile when he climbs into the passenger seat.

Wonwoo looks tired, and his fingers are trembling a bit which is a sign of him not having smoked in a few hours. Mingyu feels immensely proud of him and when he reaches out to put a hand on Wonwoo’s to calm him down, Wonwoo gives him a weak smile and Joohyun’s eyes soften at the gesture.

Cheumsan is completely deserted at this time and it’s almost a bit eery, how empty the streets are and how much noise Wonwoo’s car makes as he drives through the empty streets.

Mingyu and Wonwoo can’t go with the girls to the bus station; the chances of them getting spotted by people there are too high and Joohyun doesn’t want them to deal with her family questioning them after her disappearance.

It has to look like Seulgi and Joohyun disappeared without telling anyone.

It’s what they agreed on, them and the others.

They’re both wearing hoodies so they can cover their faces with the hoods. The chances of people recognizing them so late at night are close to zero, but they just want to play it safe.

Seulgi has a small suitcase with her, probably the same one she had packed when she got here a few weeks ago, but Joohyun only has a backpack and that worries Mingyu.

“I have everything I need,” She explains. “Most of my clothes I didn’t like anyway. They’re just things I was allowed to wear.”

Mingyu nods his head. They’re standing on the side of the street, a minute away from the bus station and it’s completely dark aside from the light from inside the car. It’s cold, probably the coldest night so far, and Mingyu feels numb all over, the heavy and gloomy night around them only serving to make everything feel worse. The air smells like gasoline for some reason, too.

His heart feels heavy and there’s a lump in his throat and Joohyun’s tacky, orange sweater is swallowing her up and Mingyu wants to protect her even though he knows very well that Joohyun is more than just capable of looking out for herself.

“Don’t you dare cry,” Joohyun mumbles when Mingyu gives her a helpless look. “You should be happy for me.”

“I am.”

“Why are you looking at me like you’re sending me to my grave, then?”

“I’m not—“ Mingyu sniffles pathetically. “I’m just sorry it has to be like this. You deserve better.”

Joohyun’s face softens and the stray hairs from her pony tail are flying everywhere, like always. “Will you give me a hug?”

Mingyu pulls her into a tight embrace, holding her small frame in his arms and rubbing her back when she shivers. “Please be careful. I know you can handle yourself but the world’s fucked up. Just…”

“I know, Mingyu. We’ll be careful.” She sighs and pats Mingyu’s back. “We’ll give Wonwoo a call when we arrive there, okay?”

Mingyu nods and holds her tighter for a moment. “Thank you, Joohyun.”

“For what?”

“Just… for being you. You’re amazing.”

She chuckles into his shoulder but it sounds a bit choked up. “You’re amazing, too, Mingyu.”

“I hope you find your happiness,” Mingyu mumbles. “Wherever that is.”

“I will,” Joohyun says, sounding so hopeful and determined that Mingyu feels ready to fight anyone or anything that tries to shatter her dreams. “You, too, okay? And who knows, maybe we’ll meet each other again sometime down the road.”

“I hope so.” Mingyu sighs when she pulls away, his eyes flickering to Wonwoo who’s cradling Seulgi’s face and softly talking to her. She’s crying, her shoulders shaking.

Wonwoo pulls her into a tight hug, cradles the back of her head and squeezes his eyes closed. “You’ll be fine. Trust me. No one will come after you. I’ll make sure of it.”

Seulgi nods her head and wipes her nose on her sleeve, laughing shyly when Mingyu gives her a smile. Her eyes are red and puffy, her cheeks glistening with tears. “I’ll miss you, too. I know we only just met but anyway. You seem like a good person, Mingyu. Please take care of my stupid cousin, okay?”

Mingyu splutters at her words, his gaze flickering to Wonwoo who suddenly blushes furiously and looks down at the ground. Mingyu glances at Joohyun for help and she just shrugs her shoulders, looking sheepish.

“What? Did you seriously expect me to keep things from my girlfriend?”

“Oh my god,” Mingyu mumbles, but his lips tug up into a smile, especially when Joohyun walks over and dries Seulgi’s cheeks.

She leans in and presses a kiss against her temple. They’re both so gentle with each other and Mingyu somehow just knows they’ll be okay.

They have to be.

“We have to go,” Joohyun finally says. “Our bus leaves in ten.”

Wonwoo sighs and steps up next to Mingyu, nodding his head. “Call me as soon as you can. Don’t make me drive out there and look for you.”

Joohyun rolls her eyes and raises an eyebrow at him. “Don’t act like you’ve always had to save my ass. I don’t even know how you’re going to survive without me, you brat.”

“You know what? I’m glad you’re leaving. You’ve just been like an old wife, trying to fry my brain with your constant nagging.” Wonwoo scoffs, but Joohyun smiles at him, and Wonwoo smiles back. “Take care.”

“You, too,” Joohyun says. “And remember what I told you earlier, Wonwoo. Okay?”

Wonwoo shifts on his feet and gives a curt nod of his head. “Yeah.”

Promise me,” Joohyun demands.

“Okay,” Wonwoo says. “I promise. Jesus. Just leave already.”

Joohyun flips him off before winking at Mingyu, her eyes taking them both in for another two seconds.

"Ready?" She asks looking at Seulgi.

"Whenever you are." Seulgi smiles through her tears.

They turn around and start walking away and Mingyu kind of wants to stop them, which is stupid and selfish and he's being too dramatic, he knows he is, but it's okay as long as he doesn't start bawling his eyes out right on the spot.

Joohyun turns around one last time and waves at them and Mingyu weakly waves back and watches them disappear behind the building of the bus station.

And then it’s just him and Wonwoo.

Mingyu sniffles, biting down on his trembling lower lip to stop himself from crying.

“Are you okay?” Wonwoo quietly asks, his eyes glancing around to check if someone’s there before stepping closer and tipping Mingyu’s chin up. “Hey… Mingyu.” His voice is soft, the way he says his name so gentle and concerned.

“I’m sorry,” Mingyu weakly says, forcing a smile. “Fuck.I’m not good at goodbyes.”

“It’s okay,” Wonwoo whispers. He brushes his thumb over Mingyu’s cheek and Mingyu shakily leans into the touch, kissing the inside of Wonwoo’s wrist and watching the way Wonwoo’s eyes soften at the gesture. “This is for the best. They’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

Mingyu nods. “Yeah. You’re right.”

“Go wait in the car,” Wonwoo says. “I’ll go check if the bus has left.”

So Mingyu waits in the car for the next five minutes, letting out a relieved puff of air when he spots Wonwoo walking back from the bus station.

“Are they gone?” He asks when Wonwoo climbs back inside.

Wonwoo sighs and nods. “Yeah. Yeah they’re gone.”

Mingyu tears up again and Wonwoo chuckles quietly, leaning in to kiss Mingyu’s cheek. “Can you stay over tonight? You can leave early in the morning. Grandma won't mind. Only if you want—”

“Sure, Mingyu” Wonwoo says through the sadness in his eyes, squeezing his hand before letting go to start the engine.

They drive past the bus station.

The bus from before is gone, and so are Seulgi and Joohyun.

Off to live their lives. Not for their parents, not how society wants them, just the way their hearts desire.

Mingyu leans his head back and closes his eyes.

He needs all the sleep he can get.

Because the next morning, all hell breaks lose in the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Joohyun!”

Mingyu sucks in a breath and stops walking, glancing at Wonwoo who momentarily stopped walking too, hearing the woman’s agonizied voice calling for her daughter.

“It’s okay,” Wonwoo mumbles, shooting him a look over his shoulders. His hand twitches, like it wants to reach for Mingyu’s. “Come on. Just follow my lead.”

And with one look into Wonwoo’s dark eyes, the anxiety that has Mingyu hunching up his shoulders ebbs away, eases the tension like a twisted drug taking away the pain.

He nods and starts walking up the steep hill leading to Joohyun’s house.

The village feels strange this morning. It’s empty and quiet, like something’s not quite right.

The sky has cleared up, no more dark clouds looming above them. It’s a beautiful day, the prettiest one so far this week.

There are puddles on the ground, yellow pollen swimming on the surface from the rain washing it down over the past few days. Birds are chirping happily, the by now familiar chime of the cows’ bells in the distance making this seem like any other morning in the small village.

But it's not.

Joohyun is gone.

Mingyu feels like there’s a heavy stone pressing down on his chest.

“Please calm down. We will find her—“

“Joohyun! My daughter— My beautiful daughter! She’s gone!”

“Auntie please—“

They arrive at Joohyun’s house at that moment; walk through the gate to the small garden where days prior Mingyu watched Wonwoo fight Joohyun’s cousin, bloody and bruised. Wonwoo stops Mingyu, the back of his hand gently knocking against his stomach, and Mingyu stays put behind him, peering over his shoulder to watch what’s going on.

He kind of wishes he didn’t look.

Joohyun’s mother is kneeling on the ground, crying, a crumpled piece of paper on her lap. Another women is trying to calm her down, trying to help her get up and sit down on a chair instead, but the woman is inconsolable.

She’s sobbing, loud and unrestrained, repeating Joohyun’s name like a mantra.

Some men are shouting inside the house and by now, the commotion has attracted the attention of the other villagers, who arrive with confused expressions on their faces, gasping loudly when other whisper to them about what happened that night.

“Joohyun ran away.”

“Minhyuk’s daughter, Seulgi, she’s gone, too.”

“They ran away together? What is the meaning of this?”

“Let’s pray it doesn’t mean what we think it means.”

“What a disgrace. Bringing shame to her family like that.”

Mingyu feels his blood boil at all the hushed words that are being exchanged around him. A part of him wants to turn around and yell at them to shut the hell up.

To stop worrying about their religion for once and worry about Joohyun and Seulgi who had to leave in the dead of the night and go to a foreign city where god knows what could happen to them.

No one’s worried about that, though, are they?

They don’t even fucking care about Joohyun.

She’ll forever be known as the selfish girl that ran away and left her parents to clean up her mess.

His head snaps up when the door to the house slams open, several men walking out, including Joohyun’s cousin Kwangsun whose eyes immediately land on Wonwoo.

His lips pull back in a snarl and before Mingyu can even comprehend what’s happening, the older boy walks up to them and grips Wonwoo’s shirt, getting all up in his face.

The older people around them gasp in shock, some of them trying to pull Kwangsun away from Wonwoo, but the boy won’t budge, glaring at Wonwoo with a deadly look in his eyes.

“Where the hell is she?”

Mingyu doesn’t even realize he has his hands curled into the back of Wonwoo’s shirt until Wonwoo reaches back and squeezes his wrist in a silent sign to make him let go before anyone sees.

“Do you really think I would tell you if I knew?” Wonwoo calmly asks.

“Bullshit! If anyone knows where she went it’s you, Jeon! Don’t fucking test me right now, I’ll rip your head off if you don’t—“

“Kwangsun!” Uncle Changho suddenly steps through the small group of people at the gates, looking way too angry for Mingyu’s liking. “What on earth has gotten into you? Let go of him!”

“Joohyun is gone, uncle!” Kwangsun shouts. “And he knows where she is! I bet you he even helped that slut run away—“

Wonwoo growls and knocks Kwangsun away with his arms. “I dare you to call her that one more time!”

“She’s my cousin!” Kwangsun snaps back. “I’ll call her whatever the fuck I want. Look at her mother!” He points at the poor woman sitting on the ground, weeping quietly to herself. “Look what she’s putting her whole family through! She’s always been a selfish brat. We should’ve seen this coming. Why the fuck are we even looking for her, huh? She won’t survive a day in the city. Silly bitch—“

“Shut up! You fucking bastard—” Wonwoo lunges at him but Seokmin suddenly appears out of nowhere, wrapping his arms around Wonwoo’s middle to pull him back.

“Not again, Won. Enough,” He quietly says.

“I called the bus station,” Another boy speaks up, putting his phone away in his pocket. “They haven’t seen her or Seulgi. The guy at the desk said he didn’t sell any tickets to them. Said he would’ve recognized them. Their CCTV didn't catch them either, there were some people that might've been then but we can't be sure.”

“Do you think they’re stupid enough to buy the tickets themselves? One of the other kids must’ve bought them.” Kwangsun shoots them all a glare.

“He would’ve recognized anyone from the village, Kwangsun,” Uncle Changho says. “Let’s all just calm down for a moment. What did Joohyun say in her letter?”

Kwangsun scoffs as the boy from before kneels down to pick up the crumpled piece of paper, handing it to uncle Changho who starts reading it.

Mingyu peers at it from the side, his eyes flickering over neat handwriting on the paper.

 

 

Mom, dad, I’m sorry for putting you through this. I’m sorry I was never able to be the daughter you wanted to have. I know all I’ve done was let you down, but would you believe me if I said that the feeling is mutual? You let me down so many times it stopped hurting me years ago.

Don’t look for me. I wouldn’t have left if I wanted to be found. The village is not a place I can see a future for myself at, it has never been. I can’t be happy somewhere people want to control my every move, how I speak, what I wear, who I love. I can’t be happy where people can’t accept me for who I am.

Take that as you will. I know you won’t understand. You don’t want to understand, and I guess that’s okay. It’s not your fault. I want you to know that I’m not doing this to spite you. I just want to be happy. And if there is even a small ounce of love somewhere in your hearts for me, then you will accept my decision and be happy for me, too.

I know I never said this out loud, but I do love you, mom and dad. I wish you could’ve loved me, too.

 

Goodbye,

Joohyun

 

 

His eyes are stinging by the time uncle Changho lowers the letter, a tired sigh leaving the man’s lips.

Mingyu looks at the ground, his heart heavy in his chest.

“Isn’t it clear that she doesn’t want to be found?” Uncle Changho asks into the round.

Kwangsun lets out something close to a snarl. “No one cares what she wants! I’ll track her down, I’ll chase her through the whole fucking nation if I have to—“

“Like hell you will,” Uncle Changho interrupts him. “Sit down, boy, before I beat some sense into you with my cane.”

“She’s my daughter, uncle,” The man that’s currently holding Joohyun’s mother speaks up. Mingyu’s seen him around before but for some reason, he never made the connection and realized that he was Joohyun’s dad. She definitely resembles him, the eyes and the mouth. “How can you expect me to just sit here and relax, not knowing if she’s safe, if she has money, a roof over her head—“

“If you care so much about her, why didn’t you show her while she was still around?” Uncle Changho asks.

Joohyun’s mother lets out a sob and her father starts tearing up.

No one seems to know what to say to that.

Even Kwangsun lowers his head, shoulders shaking with rage, maybe even something close to remorse.

Wonwoo sighs and glances at Mingyu.

The sun shines down on them.

And despite everything, Mingyu has a feeling that in the end, everything will be okay.

 

 

 

 

Mingyu’s head must look like an overripe tomato.

It’s been dangling off the edge of the hammock for quite a while now, but it feels too heavy at this point to lift it back up, so Mingyu doesn’t even bother in the first place.

His butt touches Pumpkin’s back at every swing of the hammock.

“Pumpkin, baby, you’re fat.”

Pumpkin huffs like he understood him and when Mingyu twists his head to peer at him, he still has his eyes closed, napping quietly in the shadow of the fruit trees in between small daffodils and healthy green grass.

“Buddy, are you listening? You’re chubby. My butt shouldn’t be able to touch you at all. The hammock’s so high above the ground—“

Pumpkin blinks one eye open and stares straight into Mingyu’s eyes and he stays like that until Mingyu shrinks back, muttering an apology under his breath and reaching his hand out to pat Pumpkin’s head, who only huffs again but goes back to napping the whole day away.

It’s the afternoon. Mingyu has lost track of time and his phone is upstairs so the only thing he can rely on is the position of the sun, which looks like it’s starting to get ready to set.

After raining for the last few days, summer has come back full force, making clothes stick to everyone’s skin again, bees and butterflies and all sorts of insects flying around and making Mingyu shudder in fear whenever they get too close to him.

The air smells sweet, fruity and floral, and Mingyu already misses this.

The silence, the nature, the gentle summer breeze ruffling his bangs, tickling his skin, the sounds of their chicken walking around in the garden, the cow bells in the distance, tractors passing through the village.

Even the dried little heaps of cow shit he keeps stepping on.

All of this.

But his summer here is coming to an end, and he’s running out of time.

Mingyu sighs and blinks his eyes open, the leaves of the tree casting shadows across his skin, shielding him from the sun. He stays like this for a while, staring up at the tree, the flashes of blue of the sky.

Joohyun and Seulgi have been gone for two days.

No one went looking for them.

No one was saying what a lot of people were suspecting.

Because another silent rule in the village is that nothing is real unless it’s spoken out loud.

So to these people, Seulgi and Joohyun ran away with each other because they were best friends.

And that’s it. No more questions asked.

No more questions allowed.

Mingyu wishes he had a way to contact them, just to check up on them, because they have yet to hear from them.

Joohyun promised to call as soon as they arrived, and they should’ve arrived yesterday evening, and it’s making Mingyu worry.

Wonwoo has work the whole day, so Mingyu tries to calm down by telling himself that Joohyun probably already called the other boy, but since (for some reason) Mingyu and Wonwoo never bothered to exchange numbers, Mingyu can’t know for sure until Wonwoo comes back home later tonight.

He went to the waterfall earlier with Seokmin and Chan. It was fun. They cooled down in the water and stepped behind the waterfall, talked about meaningless things, ate some of the food Mingyu’s grandma packed them before they left, tried to calm Chan down after a frog “attacked” him.

Mingyu is going to miss them, too.

He's going to miss—

“Boo!”

“Jesus! Fuck!”

Mingyu gets himself all tangled up in the hammock and Pumpkin values his life enough to get out of the way before Mingyu falls on the grass.

He hears an amused giggle and blinks his eyes open with a groan, coming face to face with Yerim who’s peering down at him with an adorable smile.

“Got you!”

“You sure did.” Mingyu sits up, holding his back with a pained face.

Maybe he’s being over dramatic.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing?” Mingyu shrugs and stands up. “Wasting time, mostly.”

“So you have time for me?”

“Sure. What do you need me for?”

“I mostly just need your laptop, actually,” Yerim says shyly and that’s when Mingyu notices the blue see-through folder in her hands.

“My laptop?”

“Deadlines for college applications are coming up,” She explains to him. “And I can’t upload my files on my phone. I even have a USB stick! I just need to fill out the application online from a computer, and no one else around here has one. Except for uncle Changho’s grandson, but he’s not around, and I’m too shy to ask him.”

Mingyu tilts his head at her, not really sure what he’s supposed to say. “What college?”

“There’s a nursing school in Cheumsan.”

“Huh, okay. You want to become a nurse?”

“Why else would I send my application there?” Yerim gives him an exasperated look that has Mingyu pouting.

“I’m just asking,” He says and begins walking to the house. “Wonwoo knows about this, yeah?”

“Of course.” Yerim rolls her eyes. “He’s the one who told me to ask you.”

Mingyu smiles at that. He knew Wonwoo wanted Yerim to go to college, the older had mentioned it off-handedly the night they were drinking at the school, and Mingyu’s happy to hear that - even if it’s only down in Cheumsan - Yerim can get her education and do something she likes.

Yerim sits down in the living room while Mingyu grabs his laptop and opens it to quickly close some of the suspicious tabs on his browser before placing it on the coffee table in front of her.

“I’m going to make a phone call,” Mingyu tells her. “Just shout if you need any help, okay?”

“Yeah!” Yerim nods her head and spreads out her documents on the couch. “Thank you for letting me use it.”

“Don’t mention it,” Mingyu says and smiles.

He calls his mom and talks to her for a few minutes and then sits down on his bed to scroll through his Instagram feed mindlessly before he decides to go back and check up on Yerim who should be done by now with filling out the application.

When he enters the living room again, Yerim looks up at him with wide eyes before quickly tapping away on his laptop as Mingyu stands in the doorway. Mingyu narrows his eyes at her when she hastily shuts the laptop and leans back with a cute smile.

“All done?” Mingyu asks.

“Yes!” Yerim nods her head. “I should be hearing back from them by the end of the month, but there are never too many applicants around here anyway, so I’m sure I’ll get in.”

“Well, that’s great, Yerim.” Mingyu nods his head and smiles at her. “Did you need anything else? You want a popsicle or something?”

“Do you have any?” Yerim asks, looking genuinely excited.

“Sure, come on.” Mingyu laughs and watches her gather her stuff before grabbing a raspberry flavoured popsicle from the freezer.

Yerim leaves with a little wave, thanking him again, and Mingyu watches her run down the stairs, fighting the urge inside of him to go back and check his laptop.

He trusts her, okay? What else would she need his laptop for?

“Nope, you’re not going to do it,” Mingyu mumbles to himself. He grits his teeth together, bounces his leg for a good ten seconds before he groans and walks back into the living room, sitting down on the couch and opening the browser on his laptop.

He looks up his browsing history and sighs in relief when he finds nothing but the website of the nursing school Yerim mentioned.

Mingyu immediately feels bad for not trusting her and promises himself to send the rest of the popsicles to Yerim next time she comes around.

 

 

They just finished eating dinner when the doorbell rings, and Mingyu quickly stops his grandmother from going downstairs before he dashes out of the living room.

He trips a little on the stairs, and wouldn’t that be a nice way to go?

Dying in his haste to open the door because there’s a minor possibility of it being Wonwoo.

It’s not like they saw each each other yesterday.

But when Mingyu opens the door and finds Wonwoo standing there, slowly turning his head from where he was looking towards the street, and he watches that fond little smile tug on Wonwoo’s lips when their eyes meet, Mingyu thinks a day away from him is already more than he can bear.

“Hey,” Wonwoo says. He’s still in his workers’ clothes, has oil on streaks on his arms, one on his cheek that Mingyu wants to rub away, and Mingyu thinks he’s never looked better than this, no matter how greasy and sweaty.

Mingyu smiles back, heart thudding heavily against his chest. He lets Wonwoo in, closes the door, and they stay like that for a moment, cramped together at the bottom of the stairs, gazes locking. “Did you just get home?”

Wonwoo nods, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. Mingyu doesn’t even try to hide how he stares at his mouth. The air prickles between them and Mingyu has to stop himself from whining because of how much he wants to touch Wonwoo.

Wonwoo seems to understand; he gives Mingyu a sympathetic smile and leans in to nuzzle his cheek, his nose pressing into Mingyu’s neck. Mingyu steals a kiss, a quick peck against Wonwoo’s cheek and Wonwoo sighs, pressing closer for a second before pulling away again way too soon. “Just dropping aunties’ meds off. I have to go again.”

Mingyu nods, his hand brushing against Wonwoo’s, pinkies linking together for a second before detaching again. “Any news?”

Wonwoo’s face lights up and he quickly glances to the top of the stairs before stepping even closer. “They arrived. They’re okay.”

“What?” Mingyu feels his heart stutter before it starts racing again in relief and excitement. “She called you? When— How— Hyung!”

“Shh.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “Be quiet. She called from a payphone. They’re at a hotel but Seulgi’s already arranged an apartment for them. It’ll take them a while to get a new phone and all but she promised to get in touch again as soon as she has one. Seulgi's starting school there soon and Joohyun's looking for a job.”

“I wanted to talk to her.” Mingyu pouts a little and Wonwoo chuckles, reaching out to pinch his tummy playfully. “I’m glad they’re okay. I was so worried… It felt like something was going to go wrong.”

Wonwoo nods. “They’re fine. They’ll be okay, you’ll see.”

“Yeah. Yeah, of course they will be.”

Wonwoo smiles at him and moves to walk away but Mingyu stops him, reaching out to grab his wrist and letting go when Wonwoo glances down at the innocent touch. “What is it?”

“Hyung…” Mingyu gulps nervously, shifting on his feet. “Grandma is— She’s visiting her sister in law tomorrow and she’s going to spend the night there. She asked me to go with her but I said… I mean, I said I’d rather spend my last few days with my friends, here.”

Wonwoo tilts his head. “Okay?”

Mingyu blushes and gives him a desperate look, wanting the older to catch on. “She won’t be here. The whole night. I’m… I’m home alone.”

“Yeah, okay. Why are you telling me—“ Wonwoo stops talking and his lips part a little, his eyes suddenly comically wide. “Oh.”

“It’s not like that,” Mingyu tries to explain, his skin burning from how intensely Wonwoo is staring at him. “I just… This will probably be our only chance to be, uhm. Alone. I just— I don’t mean it like that, okay? I thought it would be nice. I don’t know. It’s okay if you don’t want to. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable—“

Wonwoo suddenly presses Mingyu up against the wall, leans in close enough for the tips of their noses to brush. “Stop talking.”

“Okay?”

“I’ll come over,” Wonwoo whispers and Mingyu blushes even more.

“Okay.”

“Good.”

“Mhm.”

Wonwoo smirks at him and swoops in to kiss his cheek before turning around and rushing up the stairs where Mingyu’s grandma is already complaining about Mingyu taking too long.

And Mingyu stands there like a fool, touching his cheek with a goofy smile on his face.

Talk about being whipped.

 

 

 

 

Wonwoo has work the next day, so by the time he finally makes it to Mingyu’s house - freshly showered with the familiar smell of peaches clinging to his soft clothes - the sun has set and Mingyu’s grandmother is long gone.

He’s wearing tight jeans with a lose, white shirt halfway tucked in, and Mingyu can’t stop himself from raking his eyes over his body.

Wonwoo is smirking by the time Mingyu manages to drag his eyes back to his face. “You alright there?”

Mingyu scoffs and pulls Wonwoo inside, locking the door behind him.

“I’m sorry I’m so late, someone had a flat tire and we had to—“ Mingyu turns around and presses Wonwoo up against the wall and kisses him.

He kisses him without the fear of someone seeing them, of someone interrupting them, of getting caught, knowing this might be the last time they will be on their own, and the feeling knocks all the air out of their lungs.

Wonwoo’s hands grip his waist, pulling him closer and he tilts his head to kiss Mingyu deeper, sighing into Mingyu’s mouth.

They pull back soon enough, panting softly against each others’ lips, and Wonwoo rubs their noses together until Mingyu stops frowning and starts smiling instead.

“What’s wrong?” Wonwoo softly asks, his voice deep and gentle.

I’m leaving, that’s what’s wrong. I don’t know what’s going to happen to us. You say I’m not just a summer fling to you but this isn’t going to work once I’m back in the city. I think I might be in love with you and it’s going to break my heart.

“Nothing,” Mingyu says and pulls back. “Did you have dinner yet?”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “I’m kind of starving.”

“We can cook.”

Wonwoo snorts as he follows Mingyu up the stairs. “You can cook?”

“No,” Mingyu says. “You can cook and I can offer emotional support. Sound good?”

Wonwoo shoves him playfully and Mingyu laughs, wrestling his way into the kitchen with Wonwoo trying to headlock him. “I’ve been working the entire day. I’m tired. And you won’t even cook for me?”

“Okay! Jesus. I’ll cook for you.”

Pumpkin walks into the kitchen from where he was napping on the balcony, and his tail starts wagging in excitement upon seeing Wonwoo. They play around for a moment while Mingyu opens the cupboards to look for some ramen.

“Wow, Mingyu,” Wonwoo says when Mingyu pulls out two packs. “Please tell me you don’t consider preparing ramen cooking.”

“Hey!” Mingyu frowns at him. “Of course it’s cooking! The art of cooking perfect ramen isn’t something everyone is blessed with, okay? Stop bashing me! You wanted me to cook for you; this is as good as it’s going to get.”

Wonwoo smiles at him and walks up to the counter, leaning his back against it, his arms crossed over his chest as he watches Mingyu lean down to look for a pot in the cupboard. His eyes flicker up when he feels Wonwoo’s eyes on him and his heart jumps at the fond smile on Wonwoo’s face.

“What?”

“You’re cute.”

Something seems different about Wonwoo today; maybe it’s the news about Joohyun and Seulgi making it to their destination without any complications, maybe something good happened at work today.

Mingyu thinks it has to do with the fact that they’re alone.

That they can be themselves.

And it’s both exciting and heartbreaking, because this is the first time he’s seeing Wonwoo like this, so carefree and honest, and it makes him wonder if this is how their relationship could’ve been from the start if things were different.

Wonwoo helps him cook with gentle instructions, warning him to be careful with the knife and Mingyu telling him to stop treating him like child in frustration.

Wonwoo mostly just stands behind Mingyu, peering over his shoulders, pressing his face into Mingyu’s nape and his breath tickling Mingyu’s skin until he starts squirming from the heat and proximity.

Pumpkin watches them from the side, his eyes attentive and tail wagging happily. There’s music playing in the background from Mingyu’s laptop, the windows are open to let some of the fresh air in and both their stomachs rumble at the same time while Mingyu prepares dinner for them.

It’s nice.

It feels strangely domestic.

Mingyu tears up at one point, knowing this will probably be the only and last time he’ll get to spend time with Wonwoo like this, but he pulls himself together before Wonwoo can see his glazed eyes and ruin the whole mood.

Wonwoo tells him about work over dinner in the living room; Mingyu put on Netflix but they’re not really paying attention to it, too focused on the other instead.

Mingyu lets Wonwoo feed him and smiles when Wonwoo blushes after cleaning the corner of Mingyu’s mouth with a napkin.

“When are you leaving?” Wonwoo asks once they’re done eating, and Mingyu’s heart sinks immediately.

He pulls at a string on his shorts, avoiding Wonwoo’s eyes. “Sunday.”

Wonwoo is quiet for a moment, long enough for Mingyu to lift his head and check up on him. Wonwoo gives him a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Then we still have a whole week, yeah?”

He sounds so hopeful it breaks Mingyu’s heart. His nose starts prickling and he tries to smile back, bright and cheerful, but he thinks Wonwoo can see right through it because he reaches out and taps Mingyu’s chin.

“Hey, Gyu. Look at me,” He instructs softly. “We still have a week. That’s all that matters.”

Mingyu can’t even nod.

“Or do you not… Do you want to stop seeing me?” Wonwoo asks, reading Mingyu’s silence wrong. “If it will make leaving easier for you, I can— I mean, I’ll stay away, if you—“

“No!” Mingyu rushes out. “No, hyung, please. Of course I want to see you. I wish you could take the whole week off and stay with me, that’s how much I want to see you.”

Wonwoo chuckles weakly and reaches out, cupping Mingyu’s cheek, and Mingyu leans into the touch like he’s starving for his affection, which he kind of is. “What do you want to do? I think the others are at the school. If you want to go and drink.”

Mingyu sighs and shakes his head, shuffling closer until he can lean his forehead against Wonwoo’s shoulder. Wonwoo’s hand slips to his nape instead, his thumb rubbing gentle circles into his skin. “I want to be alone with you. If that’s okay.”

Wonwoo hesitates before nodding his head. “Okay. Whatever you want, Gyu."

“You know… The other parts of Twilight are on Netflix, too.”

“No.”

“But hyung—“

“Mingyu, that movie sucked, I’d probably just fall asleep—“

“Bella has a vampire baby,” Mingyu says, smiling when Wonwoo stills to look at him with a suspicious look.

“No she doesn’t.”

“Yeah, she does.”

Wonwoo looks so adorably conflicted Mingyu can’t really stop himself from leaning in and kissing him, watching how Wonwoo ducks his head, suddenly so shy again. “I’m only watching it for you,” He ends up saying.

Mingyu grins and quickly gets up to clean up so they can watch the movie.

 

 

They’re sitting on his bed again, having brushed their teeth and Wonwoo wearing a pair of Mingyu’s shorts so he doesn’t have to sit around in those sinfully tight jeans anymore (not that Mingyu was complaining, he didn’t even know Wonwoo had an ass. Like, of course he does, but it’s like… kind of perky. Small and cute. The more you know.).

Mingyu quickly explains everything that happens in the second movie since that one is the definition of boring, and they continue watching part three, Wonwoo grumbling out comments here and there that have Mingyu cracking up.

By the time Mingyu starts the fourth part, Wonwoo is invested, no matter how much he tries to bash Kristen Steward’s acting or Edward’s dead expressions. Mingyu can tell by the way his eyes never leave the screen, the small quirk of his lips when something mildly funny happens.

They’re sitting against the headboard, pillows against their backs with the laptop between them on the bed, forming an unwanted but necessary barrier since it started to toast the skin of Mingyu’s thigh.

While Mingyu wanted Wonwoo to watch the movie earlier, he now feels rather annoyed at the lack of attention Wonwoo is giving him, instead completely focused on the honey moon scenes of Edward and Bella on the screen.

“Hyung,” Mingyu mumbles, drawing out the word like an annoying kid.

“Hm?” Wonwoo doesn’t even turn his head away from the screen, barely listening to him.

“Are you enjoying the movie?”

Wonwoo looks as if he’s about to answer but then they show the island and the house and Wonwoo’s eyes widen in fascination. “Woah! Look at that place. It’s so pretty, Mingyu!”

Mingyu smiles at that, no longer annoyed. “Our waterfall is better.”

This finally gains him Wonwoo’s attention, who turns to look at him with a grin on his face. “It is, huh?”

Mingyu wants to kiss him so bad. It physically pains him not to, an invisible force tugging at the pit of his stomach, his skin prickling with the urge to be closer to the older.

The next few minutes are… weird.

When Mingyu said Bella was going to have a vampire baby, he kind of forgot about the baby making part, so once those scenes come up, both Mingyu and Wonwoo just kind of. Freeze.

You know how when you’re watching a movie with your parents and a sex scene comes up and it’s just so fucking awkward you want to cry?

It’s not exactly that.

Because while he couldn’t care less about two straight people (one of them being a vampire) getting it on on the screen, his mind suddenly fabricates very vivid images of Wonwoo and him doing… things.

And he doesn’t know what Wonwoo is thinking, but he’s kind of trying not to look at the screen until those scenes are over, shifting in his seat like he’s uncomfortable, and Mingyu doesn’t know if he finds it cute or concerning.

Mingyu wonders what Wonwoo would do if Mingyu initiated something more than kissing.

He doesn’t think the outcome would be that good, given how Wonwoo reacted when Mingyu kissed him for the first time.

And Mingyu is fine with it, he really is. He doesn’t need to go any further with Wonwoo because what they have right now is more than enough, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to.

He does want to. He wants Wonwoo’s hands to touch him, wants Wonwoo to kiss other parts of his body, wants to be closer to him physically.

Mingyu sighs and leans back, closing his eyes to clear his mind and stop thinking about those things.

“Are you sleepy?” Wonwoo asks a moment later, his voice quiet as if not to disturb the movie playing on the laptop.

Mingyu opens his eyes and turns to look at him. “You know the answer to that is always going to be yes, right?”

A laugh rumbles through Wonwoo’s chest and again, Mingyu wants to be closer, to feel the warmth and softness of Wonwoo’s skin under his fingers. “Right. Sorry.”

Their eyes are on each other, Mingyu taking in the small details about Wonwoo; the dip of his collarbones showing above the collar of his shirt, the fading bruise on his cheekbone, the sheen of spit on his bottom lip when his tongue darts out to wet the skin.

Mingyu flicks his eyes back to Wonwoo’s, his heart jumping when he finds that Wonwoo never looked away to begin with, how intense his eyes are. He shifts, clearing his throat, trying to get the tension to leave his body.

Wonwoo starts smiling and Mingyu feels like he gets smacked upside the head, completely mesmerized by the curl of Wonwoo’s lips, the tiny glint in his eyes, how soft and inviting the gesture is.

“What?” Mingyu wants to know.

Wonwoo’s smile only grows wider until Mingyu physically can’t stop himself from smiling along. He turns his face to hide it in his pillow, groaning when Wonwoo chuckles at him. “What are you acting so shy for?”

“It’s not my fault! Stop smiling at me like that.”

“Why?”

Because.”

“You sound like a five year old right now.”

Mingyu feels something like frustration bubble beneath his skin; the same feeling he had earlier this evening when he was cooking for Wonwoo.

The rational part of him knows that Wonwoo is just joking, that he’s teasing him.

But the other part, the one that’s so head over heels for Wonwoo it wants nothing more than prove the older wrong. Prove to him that he isn’t just a moody brat, or someone younger he needs to tease and fret over.

It’s that part that makes Mingyu slam his laptop shut and push it out of the way so he can move and pin Wonwoo down on the mattress.

Wonwoo’s eyes widen at the sudden action and he blinks up at Mingyu cluelessly, his fingers curling and uncurling from where Mingyu is pressing his wrists into the bed. “What are you doing?”

“Stop treating me like a kid,” Mingyu says, swinging his legs over Wonwoo’s waist so he’s straddling him.

“Like a kid?” Wonwoo furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “I don’t treat you like a kid.”

“You keep calling me a brat. And cute and stuff.”

“Because you are,” Wonwoo says, a ghost of a smile appearing on his face. “Both of those things.”

“Yeah but it’s like—“ Mingyu huffs in frustration, relaxing his hold on Wonwoo’s wrists and leaning back until he’s sitting on Wonwoo’s thighs. “I can be other things, too.”

Wonwoo brings a hand up to card it through the back of Mingyu’s hair, humming quietly. “Like what?”

“Dunno. Like… Mature. Serious.” Mingyu stops for a moment, his cheeks burning as he thinks about Jihoon who would smack him with a pillow if he heard him right now. “And sexy.”

Wonwoo stares at him blankly and Mingyu watches in horror how his lips curl up in amusement. He’s not taking Mingyu seriously, at all. “Sexy,” He repeats with a flat voice.

“Yes.” Mingyu nods his head.

“You,” Wonwoo adds, still with that annoyingly monotone voice.

“What—“ Mingyu splutters, a frown taking over his face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Mingyu.” Wonwoo tries not to laugh, his body shaking under Mingyu’s. “Mingyu you tripped the other day while you were standing still.”

“Because a bee was attacking me!” Mingyu tries to defend himself. His plan just completely backfired. Wonwoo has tears in his eyes from how hard he’s smiling up at Mingyu right now. “Hyung I can be sexy! Stop— Stop laughing!”

“You’re so cute,” Wonwoo says, still grinning widely and starts cooing when his eyes flicker to Mingyu’s pout. “I’m sorry for laughing. I just can’t imagine you being se—“

Mingyu quickly leans down and presses their lips together, kissing the rest of the words right from Wonwoo’s lips. The older boy freezes up for half a second before completely melting against the bed. Mingyu’s hold on Wonwoo’s wrists has loosened up at this point, too distracted by the softness of and warmth of Wonwoo’s lips moving against his own, and the older easily slips them from Mingyu’s grasp, his hands coming up to rest on Mingyu’s hips instead, holding him carefully.

Mingyu traces his tongue over the seam of Wonwoo’s lips lips, gently and prodding, and Wonwoo parts them after a moment, letting their tongues touch. The wet heat has Mingyu shuddering, chasing Wonwoo’s lips when the older pulls back after a while as if he’s worried about going too far.

“Are you trying to prove a point?” Wonwoo asks, sounding a bit breathless. “I was joking before, Mingyu. You are— You know… You’re sexy. You don’t have to do this—“

Mingyu shakes his head and feels the tips of Wonwoo’s fingers dip beneath his shirt, touching his heated skin. “I want to. I want to kiss you. All the time. I’ve been thinking—“ Mingyu stops himself before he can go too far.

He’s been holding back with Wonwoo, for the older’s sake, because he cares so much about him, his feelings.

But at the end of the day, Mingyu is just a boy in his early twenties, and he hasn’t gotten laid in a long time

And Wonwoo is staring up at him with dark eyes, his fingers tightening on Mingyu’s hips, so no one can blame him for getting a bit too excited here. “Yeah? Thinking what?”

Wonwoo pulls him in, slowly and barely noticeable, but their clothes rustle and Mingyu’s heart starts racing at the proximity, the look in Wonwoo’s eyes.

“This,” Mingyu answers. “You… you pinning me down and marking me up.”

Wonwoo sucks in a breath, his fingers digging into Mingyu’s sides for a moment before relaxing again. “You want that?”

Mingyu nods. “Want you.”

He moves slowly, Wonwoo seemingly holding his breath as his eyes follow Mingyu’s ever movement, the air crackling around them, and then Mingyu settles down right on top of Wonwoo’s crotch.

Wonwoo takes a deep breath, licks his lips and brings a hand up to curl it around Mingyu’s neck to pull him into another kiss.

It’s like a switch was turned, because suddenly, kissing Wonwoo doesn’t feel like it’s enough anymore.

“Hyung,” Mingyu breathes, suppressing a groan when Wonwoo shifts again under him, the action making his hips press up into Mingyu’s. They’re both panting a little, skin heated, the air in the room suddenly snug and slightly stuffy.

Wonwoo pulls back. “Sorry.”

“No,” Mingyu is quick to say. Mingyu takes Wonwoo’s hands and moves them back to his thighs, trying to will away his flush of embarrassment. “Please.”

“Are you sure this is—“ Wonwoo has that look in his eyes again, that mixture between fear and want, the same one that was there when Mingyu kissed him for the first time. “Is this okay?”

Mingyu feels his heart ache somewhere through the haze of lust and he slowly leans down to press their foreheads together. “What?“

“I don’t know if we should.”

“Why?”

“It’s just— Kissing is one thing but— but this…” Wonwoo trails off and Mingyu feels the world like a blow to his stomach.

“Oh," He mutters quietly, gulping. "Okay. It’s okay if you don’t want to.” Mingyu begins to pull back, tries to mask his disappointment, but he sees panic flare in Wonwoo’s eyes, the older buy not letting him move away.

“That’s not it, Mingyu.”

“Then what?”

Wonwoo averts his eyes. “We’re guys.”

“So?”

“We’re not meant to— I mean. We can't—“

“Hyung,” Mingyu interrupts before more of those hurtful words can leave Wonwoo’s lips. “Please don’t say that. This isn’t wrong, wanting to— to be together, like this, is not wrong. Women and men can be, so can Joohyun and Seulgi, so can we. Me wanting you is not wrong. It’s not fair. Hyung. Please don’t say that—“

“Shh. Okay.” Wonwoo shushes him and turns to press a shaky kiss into the corner of Mingyu’s mouth when Mingyu starts to get frantic. “I’m sorry. You’re right. Nothing with you— nothing with you feels wrong.”

“It’s not,” Mingyu mumbles, still a bit breathless.

Wonwoo nods and kisses his cheek, his arms pulling Mingyu closer until their chests are pressed together and he continues to brush his lips along Mingyu’s skin, little open mouthed kisses that nearly drive Mingyu mad with want.

He’s moaning softly when Wonwoo starts nipping on his neck and his hips roll down on instinct. He can feel Wonwoo through his sweats press right up against him, where blood is slowly starting to rush together.

Mingyu does it again, hips dragging against Wonwoo’s, and Wonwoo shudders underneath him, and okay.

This is happening.

It’s quiet in the bedroom save for the sounds of crickets from outside, so quiet Mingyu can hear Wonwoo breathing a little faster than normal, can hear Pumpkin moving about the house somewhere, the muted sound of fabric rustling whenever he moves.

Wonwoo’s fingers are trembling against Mingyu’s hips now and Mingyu can’t tell if it’s from nicotine withdrawal or from nerves. Mingyu leans his weight forward so he can balance himself with his hands on the either side of Wonwoo’s shoulders, his eyes never leaving Wonwoo’s, looking for any signs of discomfort, and moves his hips again, down and then forward, hears the hitch in Wonwoo’s breath.

The air heats up between them, the fabric of Mingyu’s shorts crinkling up between Wonwoo’s fingers where the older is starting to fist it.

He rocks his hips again, feels Wonwoo push up against him on instinct, a low sound cut off in his throat, his lips parting when the shapes of their cocks drag against each other. Wonwoo visibly twitches in his underwear and Mingyu bites down on a whimper at the lewd feeling, grinding down on the growing bulge again, pleasure slowly sparking his nerves alive.

He’s throbbing in his shorts, and Mingyu’s heart flutters when Wonwoo’s eyes drop to the where Mingyu’s dick is starting to tent the thin fabric, his hands moving to Mingyu’s thighs, gripping tight.

“Fuck,” Wonwoo breathes, running one of his hands down until he can slide his fingers under Mingyu’s shorts and touch bare skin, the other moving back up to Mingyu’s hips, using it to pull Mingyu’s hips down as he fucks up into him.

Mingyu’s completely hard at this point, and he tilts his head back, a moan escaping his lips when he moves his hips again because the pressure feels so good on his aching dick, in his shorts and he can feel Wonwoo rock hard against him, can feel him throbbing at every rock of his hips.

Wonwoo’s chest is heaving a little and he keeps swallowing down those pretty moans that are supposed to leave his mouth and Mingyu almost comes on the spot at the sight of him; he’s looking at Mingyu like he’s the only thing that matters, his cheeks flushed, his whole face slack with pleasure.

But Mingyu wants to hear him; Mingyu wants to pull those low, wrecked moans from Wonwoo’s lips, so he stops moving his hips and reaches down between them to press his palm down on Wonwoo’s erection.

It has the boy’s hips bucking up, a choked off moan escaping his pink lips, and Mingyu shudders at how Wonwoo closes his eyes and arches a little under the pressure of Mingyu’s hand.

Wonwoo curses, fingers digging into Mingyu’s skin. There’s a sheen of sweat already clinging to his collarbones and Mingyu has this sudden urge to run his tongue over the delicate bones. Instead he curls his fingers around Wonwoo’s hard dick through his pants, feels it twitch in his hold, and that on it’s own almost has his eyes rolling back. He’s still humping Wonwoo’s thigh like a desperate teen and everything is so hot and sticky and full of Wonwoo’s scent, the heat of his skin, his moans—

Mingyu slips his hand inside without thinking, fingers brushing over the velvety skin of Wonwoo’s dick. They both shudder at the touch and Wonwoo groans low in his throat when Mingyu presses his thumb down on his slit, rubbing circles into the head until Wonwoo finally lets out those wrecked moans.

Wonwoo’s hand clamps down over his own to press it down harder, hips rolling up into Mingyu’s palm, working himself against his hand, and god, it has to be the hottest thing Mingyu’s seen in the twenty-one years of his gay life. “Oh— Oh fuck. Mingyu.”

“Want you so bad,” Mingyu whispers. “Want you… inside.” And okay, he didn’t mean to say that out loud. His hips stutter and he tries to catch his breath, trying to apologize, but suddenly Wonwoo swears underneath him again and flips them around expertly so he’s on top, Mingyu’s breath knocked out of his lungs at the sudden action.

Wonwoo slides into the space between Mingyu’s thighs, his hands placed on either sides of Mingyu’s shoulders, chest heaving as he stares down at Mingyu. “You’re going to be the death of me,” He breathes, hips falling down and slotting against Mingyu’s again.

He can feel the hard line of Wonwoo’s dick right up against him and it has him whining in pleasure.

Wonwoo kisses him, which turns into a mess of panting into each other’s mouth when he presses their cocks together, Mingyu shuddering violently at the deep pleasure that wracks his body. One of Wonwoo’s hands drag down over his hips to his thigh, pulling it up and hooking Mingyu’s leg around his waist to get a better angle to rock down against him.

“Hyung—“ Mingyu starts but Wonwoo rolls his hips down in a way that has pleasure shooting all the way to the tips of his fingers, his voice cracking and a whimper catching in his throat. “Does it feel good?”

What a stupid question. Wonwoo seems to agree because he lets out a breathless laugh before dropping his head against Mingyu’s neck, panting against the skin, pressing his lips against Mingyu’s fluttering pulse. His his hips are moving so languidly Mingyu can’t help but wonder how many times he’s done this before. “So good. You feel so good.”

Wonwoo drags his lips over Mingyu’s skin, the juncture of his neck, and Mingyu tangles his fingers in Wonwoo’s hair, trying to pull him closer, his thighs clamping together around the boy’s hips as the pleasure starts to build up until he can’t think beyond the muffled sounds Wonwoo makes and the mind numbing friction on his hard dick.

“I’m close,” Mingyu weakly says, his hips pressing up against Wonwoo’s harder. His shorts are sticky from precum and his dick is throbbing every time Wonwoo’s own erection slides against it in all the right places, catching at the head, making Mingyu see stars. “Oh fuck— fuck, hyung, please, I’m so close— Are you—“

“Yeah, yeah, me too.” Wonwoo presses a shaky kiss against Mingyu’s neck, hips speeding up, practically fucking Mingyu into the mattress if they weren’t separated by the layer of clothing. He can tell Wonwoo is getting close, releasing those beautiful breathy, rough moans like he’s not holding back anymore.

Mingyu squeezes his eyes shut when his orgasm hits him, head dropping back into the pillow and thighs trembling around Wonwoo’s hips as he spurts into his boxers, hot and sticky and so hard it feels like he’s going to pass out. Wonwoo breathes his name, kisses his lips, and Mingyu comes back, moaning weakly, pleasure still running through his veins.

He grabs Wonwoo’s hips and pulls him down against him, pressing kisses against his slack mouth until Wonwoo’s hips start to stutter and press down hard on Mingyu as he comes. He lets out the most beautiful, wrecked moans Mingyu has ever heard, the front of his boxers hot and sticky against Mingyu’s own, and Mingyu feels dirty in the best way possible.

A few moments pass, filled with their frantic breathing and the pleasure thrumming in Mingyu’s body slowly ebbing away. Mingyu holds Wonwoo against him, his heart racing and skin coated in a sheen of sweat and feels the older kiss his neck a few times before he pulls away.

Wonwoo looks down at him, his cheeks flushed and hair mussed from Mingyu’s hands. “I take it back,” is the first thing he says, and the words make Mingyu’s heart sink a little.

“What?”

“About you not being sexy,” Wonwoo quietly says, smiling weakly at the relief washing over Mingyu’s face.

Mingyu whines, Wonwoo chuckles and kisses his cheek, and there goes his plan of him trying to make Wonwoo stop treating him like a kid.

Maybe he just has to accept the fact that he is a brat, but who cares?

Wonwoo just kind of dry humped him into another dimension.

Nothing could ruin his mood right now.

Wonwoo leans down and kisses whatever words were about to leave Mingyu’s lips away, both of them smiling despite the sticky state of their underwear. Mingyu tangles his hand into Wonwoo’s hair, sighing at the groan that leaves Wonwoo’s plush lips where their brushing against his own, slow and soft.

And when he leans away, his forearms braced on either side of Mingyu’s head, caging him in and making him feel safe and wanted, Mingyu needs a moment to take this whole moment in.

How Wonwoo looks right now, so real, like he’s completely carefree for once and letting Mingyu see each and every emotion he’s feeling.

Mingyu brushes his thumb over Wonwoo’s eyebrow and watches the older lean into the touch, like a kitten, humming under his breath, and Mingyu’s heart swells in size, feeling too big for his chest.

He’s so in love with Wonwoo it hurts.

He used to think his insomnia was a fucking curse when it kept him awake for endless nights, but right now, with Wonwoo looking at him like he’s the only thing he wants to look at, Mingyu feels like it’s a blessing more than anything.

“What are you thinking?” Wonwoo asks.

Mingyu blinks at him, his pillowy lips, his dark eyes and cute nose, and feels like bawling like a baby. Instead he smiles, as brightly as he can, watches how Wonwoo’s gaze turns impossibly fond and how the older leans in to steal a kiss, gentle and loving. “I’m thinking…”

“Hm?”

“We should do it again.”

Wonwoo freezes, and then he drops his head on Mingyu’s chest, and they both start laughing, and has Mingyu mentioned that he’s in love?

He is.

He’s in so deep not even Seungcheol will be able to drag his stupid ass out of this one.

 

 

 

“Mingyu.”

There’s a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently, and Mingyu tries to burrow deeper into the blankets, not wanting to wake up yet.

“Hey, Mingyu, I need to go,” Wonwoo whispers, his fingers running through Mingyu’s hair, making his body naturally press into the touch. “Your grandma is back.”

Mingyu’s eyebrows furrow, his sleep clouded mind barely able to register what’s going on. The window is open, he can feel the cool morning breeze on his heated, sweaty skin. The birds aren’t chirping yet though, so it must be very early in the morning.

He blinks his eyes open and can’t help but smile when he’s met with Wonwoo looming over him, their faces close.

Wonwoo looks stressed but his eyes soften at the smile Mingyu gives him. “Gyu.”

“Are you leaving?”

Wonwoo gives a curt nod and brushes Mingyu’s sweaty bangs out of his eyes. “Your grandma is already back.”

“Mhm.”

Mingyu.”

Mingyu frowns and rubs at his eyes, unable to comprehend what Wonwoo is saying. Until he properly takes in Wonwoo’s face, the worried crease between his eyes, the tension in his shoulders, the words that just left his lips.

Grandma is back.

Mingyu sucks in a breath and sits up, his hand shooting out to touch Wonwoo’s cheek. “Did she—“

Wonwoo nods, and he lets out a shaky breath, turning his head to press a kiss to Mingyu’s palm, soft and lingering. He looks soft and cuddly and Mingyu wants nothing more than pull him back into the bed and pretend everything is okay and not potentially about to go to shit in the blink of an eye.

“It’s my fault. I should’ve left earlier. I’m sorry, Mingyu, I really didn’t think—“

Mingyu shushes him by moving his hand to press his palm over Wonwoo’s mouth. “Don’t. It’s okay. Grandma isn’t— There’s nothing wrong with two guys sharing a bed. You do it with the others all the time.”

Wonwoo looks at Mingyu, his chest falling and rising gently as he lowers Mingyu’s hand, tangling their fingers together, and a sad smile appears on his face, his eyes impossibly fond, and Mingyu’s heart aches at the sight. “But I don’t hold them the way I held you.”

“Don’t be scared,” Mingyu says despite Wonwoo’s words sending heat rushing to his cheeks. “I’ll talk to her. I’ll make up an excuse. I’m sure she didn’t even see anything, okay? Please don’t—“

“Hey, Gyu,” Wonwoo interrupts him and leans in to place his hand on Mingyu’s neck, pulling him closer so their foreheads can touch. Mingyu’s heart is racing. He closes his eyes and tries to calm down, focuses on Wonwoo’s warmth, his touch, his sweet scent. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine as long as you are. Okay? And you’ll be fine. You’re right. She didn’t see anything suspicious.”

Mingyu hesitates as he looks into Wonwoo’s eyes and nods. “Okay.”

Wonwoo gives him a tiny smile and Mingyu wants to kiss him. “I have to leave now but… uhm. Last night was—“ Wonwoo starts blushing and Mingyu bites down on his tongue before he can say those three words that keep bubbling in the back of his throat out loud. “It was kind of the best night of my life. I mean. Fuck I’m sorry. That came out too cheesy but it’s true. You, uhm. I really, you know—“

Mingyu kisses him, his heartbeat furious behind his ears, and Wonwoo sags against him, melting into the kiss for a moment before both of them remember where they are and pull back.

Wonwoo’s eyes convey all the words he fails to say out loud and Mingyu honestly doesn’t know what he did in another live to deserve being looked at like that.

“I’ll see you, yeah?”

Mingyu nods and rubs at his eyes again, smiling to himself when Wonwoo leans in to kiss his forehead before he gets up to grab his phone and wallet. “See you, hyung.”

Wonwoo turns to shoot him a smile over his shoulders and leaves.

He hears him say goodbye to his grandmother quietly, hears her equally quiet voice say something back, and Mingyu’s heart starts feeling heavy.

There’s a knock on the door, and Mingyu slowly lifts his head, the wind from the open window ruffling through his bangs.

“Mingyu?” His grandmothers’ soft voice echoes in the hallway.

Mingyu takes a deep breath and makes his decision.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Mingyu enters the living room with shaky knees and a sick feeling in his stomach.

He’s still half dazed from sleep, his eyes puffy and burning against the first beams of sunlight streaming through his grandmother’s chiffon curtains, painting the living room soft and golden.

She’s sitting there on the couch, a bowl of what looks to be sunflower seeds in her lap, and Mingyu’s eyes prickle at the sight of his beloved grandma.

He doesn’t dare open his mouth, too scared to ruin the moment, too scared of what’s going to happen next.

He takes a step inside, tugging on the sleeves of his sweater, and his grandmother finally lifts her head to acknowledge him.

“Morning, grandma,” Mingyu mumbles, shuffling over to the chair to sit down on it. He tries to appear relaxed and yawns, feigning sleepiness when really, he’s about to lose his mind.

Everything was so… perfect last night.

It was nice to pretend that things would be okay for a moment, just for one night, with Wonwoo in his bed, touching him in a way that had Mingyu’s skin erupt with goosebumps, peppering his skin with soft kisses, looking at him like he was… like he meant more to him than the opinions of the villagers.

“Good morning,” His grandmother replies with a smile. Mingyu lets out a shaky breath. Her smile is warm, almost teasing, the way it always is.

“You came back early,” Mingyu says and watches her put down the bowl on the coffee table.

“Her husband left for work early in the morning, so I asked him to drop me off here on his way,” She explains, buttoning up the woven vest she’s wearing.

It’s color reminds Mingyu of the lavender she’s growing in her garden.

“That’s nice,” Mingyu says. He gulps and shifts to hide his hands when he realizes that his fingers are trembling. “Uhm… Grandma, about Wonwoo. I hope it’s okay that he stayed over last night. We were watching a movie and we fell asleep. Sorry I didn’t ask before.”

His grandmother stares at him for a long moment before smiling again. “Wonwoo is like my son, sweetheart. Why would you apologize?”

“Oh,” Mingyu dumbly says.

“Is there something you feel like you should be sorry for?”

“No.” Mingyu shakes his head, and thinks about Wonwoo kissing him, thinks about him being so happy he had to hide his face in Wonwoo’s neck to hide his smile, and then a lump forms in his throat, and he feels like crying.

She keeps looking at him. “You and him grew really close. I have never seen Wonwoo take someone in so fast like he did with you.”

“Yeah,” Mingyu answers. “He’s really nice. I mean. All of them are.”

They both stay silent for a moment, and it's awkward as hell, and Mingyu just wants to disappear and crawl out of his skin, anything but this.

“Alright, let’s not do this,” She suddenly says and Mingyu feels his heart plummet to the pit of his stomach, nervously watching her stand up and walk over to the couch to sit next to him instead. “Is there anything you have to tell me, Mingyu?”

“W-What?”

“I know I’m just your grandmother, and we don’t see each other that often, but I love you so much. You grew up in my arms, Mingyu, and it does break my old heart that you don’t trust me enough to tell me certain things about you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Mingyu…” She sighs and slowly reaches out to place her palm on his knee, squeezing softly. “You are… how old now? Twenty-one?”

Mingyu nods his head, lower lip wobbling as he tries to keep it together.

“Whenever I ask your mother if you have a girlfriend, she says no. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with not having had a girlfriend yet at your age, that’s not it. Heck, kids these days don’t get married before their thirties, so you’ve got plenty of time left.”

He nods his head, feeling a familiar ache spread in his chest. She’s going to be so disappointed.

So damn disappointed.

“I guess you and Wonwoo have that in common,” She continues. “That boy is so handsome but he won’t accept any of the girls his family introduced to him. Maybe that’s what made you guys hit it off so well, huh?”

Mingyu swallows and forces a smile, nodding his head. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Or maybe you both just don’t like girls that much?”

“Yeah, grandma—“ Mingyu stops once he realizes his mistake, the words that left his grandma’s mouth only sinking in once it’s too late.

He looks at her, his lips parting, and feels like he’s going to throw up.

She raises her eyebrows at him, and it’s like the world around them goes completely quiet. “Oh?”

“I—“

“Is there something you need to tell me, Mingyu?”

And sitting here in his grandparents’ living room with the pastel yellow walls and his granddad probably staring down at them from above, the cool morning breeze before another warm summer day making the curtains sway, Mingyu knows he should laugh it off.

He knows he should deny it, for his parents’ sake, for his own sake, and mostly, for Wonwoo’s sake.

But his grandmother looks at him so gently, nodding her head almost like she’s encouraging him, and Mingyu can’t really believe what he’s doing.

“Do you hate me?” Mingyu asks, his voice catching, lower lip wobbling pathetically in fear and shame.

And his grandmother’s face suddenly falls and Mingyu feels like his whole world comes crashing down, because fuck, this was a mistake.

He just—

Did he just come out to her?

He came out to the woman that used to let him sprinkle pumpkin seeds in her garden when he was four, who used to make fresh green tea lemonade for him when he was six, who used to put bandaids on his knees when he fell down playing on the swing when he was eight.

The only person from his family that still… loves him, entirely.

And now he screwed that up, too.

“Grandma, please don’t,” Mingyu starts. “I love you, please don’t hate me—“

“Are you listening to yourself?” She asks harshly, her eyebrows furrowed, and Mingyu thinks he sees her eyes well up with tears. “Have you forgotten who you’re talking to? Do you believe your grandma is just like every other old person in this village?”

Mingyu bites down on his lower lip to keep it from trembling, his heart is racing, and he can’t quite understand what’s happening. He stares at the ground, waiting for her to say something, but instead feels her place her palm on the top of his head, fingers carding through his hair as gently as ever.

Mingyu starts crying then.

“I keep disappointing everyone,” Mingyu mutters through his tears. “My parents they—I know they’re embarrassed of me. It’s why they haven’t told anyone. They haven’t even told you. I’m just so sorry—“

His grandma shushes him and when Mingyu weakly lifts his head to look at her, she’s crying, too. “What are you even saying?”

“It’s the truth. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. My dad can’t even look me in the eyes anymore without looking disgusted by me.” More tears bubble up in his eyes. He thought he was over it. He thought he was used to these feeling by now, years later, but talking about it, saying it out loud, is like re-opening an old wound. It hurts so bad.

“Your father doesn’t even know how lucky he is,” His grandmother says. “To call someone as amazing as you his son.”

Mingyu’s lower lip wobbles. He can’t really believe this is happening. Is he dreaming again? Has his sleep deprived brain started to fabricate things again? “Why would you say that? I just—I just told you that I’m… I’m gay. Grandma, I like men.”

“I know. I’m not stupid.” She reaches up to wipe at her eyes and slowly shakes her head. “I wasn’t sure before. But I saw you two on the hammock and I thought I was just reading too much into things. I don’t know how young people interact these days. But I’ve known Wonwoo since he was a baby, and I have never seen that boy act the way he acts around you. And this morning I came into your room to check up on you, and both of you were… it felt like I was intruding. Which it shouldn’t, if you two were simply friends, right Mingyu?”

Mingyu feels like his heart is going to burst through his chest, unable to wrap his mind around the fact that this is actually happening. “Grandma…”

“That doesn’t change who you are. You are still Mingyu. The same boy that used to come home with flower bouquets for me after playing outside all day long. I don’t care who you love, Mingyu. I just want you to be happy and safe. But it’s not possible here. You know that. People won’t accept it and I’m scared for your safety. That’s the only thing I’m worried about. Nothing else. And in no way would I ever be embarrassed of you, do you hear me? I love you, and I’m proud of the man you’re becoming.”

Mingyu stares at her in disbelief, and it feels like he can properly breathe again, for the first time in a long while.

To say that he feels relieved would be an understatement.

It feels like he was drowning and someone saved him in the very last second.

He cries and his grandmother shushes him once again, pulling him into a motherly embrace, and lets Mingyu cry into her shoulder like he’s five years old again, he gentle hands combing through his hair, calming and loving.

“I love you, Mingyu. Please don’t ever think otherwise. And I know that if your grandfather was still with us, he would feel the same. You’re loved, sweetheart. Don't care about opinions of people who don't matter.”

It only makes Mingyu cry harder, but he feels so much lighter, less burdened, knowing that against all odds, his grandmother accepts him and that she’s got his back.

It doesn’t feel real, and Mingyu still thinks it was all just a dream, until he walks down to the garden hours later to ask her if she needs help, and she looks at him and gives him a smile that is so proud and loving that it punches the air out of his lungs.

This is real. This is really happening.

This isn’t just a lucky moment for the protagonist in a western movie.

Mingyu came out to his grandmother, and she still loves him.

It’s the happiest, most surreal moment Mingyu has ever experienced so far in his young life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It must be the events of the day, the emotional rollercoaster he went through after coming out to his grandma (holy shit), that make Mingyu mysteriously fall asleep when he lies down on the hammock after going for a short walk with Pumpkin in the early hours of the afternoon.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been sleeping, but his skin has warmed up from where the sun was kissing it, and he feels like a lazy cat on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed and content, when he gets woken up by a voice against his ear.

Mingyu groans softly, trying to turn away, but the hammock is blocking his movements, and the intruder of his sleep chuckles quietly at the pout on Mingyu’s face.

“Leave me alone,” Mingyu whines.

“Do you really want me to?”

The voice is deep, and warm, and it makes Mingyu’s heart beat faster. It sounds like honey.

“Hm.”

“Wake up, sleepyhead.”

Someone kisses Mingyu’s forehead, and Mingyu smiles sleepily, flushing at the action.

Wonwoo smiles against his skin and presses another kiss against his temple, soft and loving, and Mingyu feels like he’s in heaven.

“Gyu… Come on. Wake up for hyung, hm?”

Mingyu finally blinks his eyes open, immediately squinting against the sunlight, and tilts his head back to look at Wonwoo’s beautiful face upside down. Wonwoo’s smile widens when Mingyu grins up at him lazily. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Wonwoo answers, still smiling. So handsome and gentle when he reaches down to brush Mingyu’s bangs out of his eyes.

God, Mingyu loves him so much it’s not even funny anymore.

“Why are you here?” Mingyu asks. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

Wonwoo shrugs and braces his arms on the end of the hammock, his chin resting on top. “I left early.”

“Why?”

“Wanted to spend time with you.”

Mingyu stares at him, his face heating up at Wonwoo’s words, and the older smirks at him, teasing and pleased as ever. “Oh.”

“Mhm. Oh.” Wonwoo ruffles his hair. “So, are you going to keep sleeping or do you maybe want to spend time with me, too?”

“The second one, please.”

Wonwoo chuckles and steps up next to him to help him out of the hammock, their hands locking together tightly as Wonwoo pulls him up on his feet. His smile dims a little bit as his eyes flicker over Mingyu’s face, concern brimming in them. “Hey… are you okay?”

Mingyu hums, wanting nothing more than to step closer and kiss the older. It’s such a pretty day, and Wonwoo looks like some sort of angel underneath the bright sun and blue sky. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because of earlier. This morning,” Wonwoo explains. “I’m sorry your grandma saw us.”

Mingyu briefly considers telling Wonwoo, about his conversation with his grandmother, but for some reason, Mingyu decides against it. It’s a touchy subject as it is, even more so for Wonwoo, and he doesn’t know how the older would react to someone knowing about him.

Mingyu only now realizes that he indirectly outed Wonwoo to his grandmother, too.

His smile slips and Wonwoo’s eyes flash with concern but for all the wrong reasons. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his grandmother; he knows she would never tell a soul about them, but Wonwoo should be allowed to come out on his own terms, when he’s ready.

“Mingyu?” Wonwoo asks, stepping closer, his hand moving to Mingyu’s face as if to cup his cheek but curling into a fist once he remembers that they’re out in the open where anyone could see them. He lowers his hand again with a grim expression. “Say something. You’re worrying me.”

“Huh? No! I mean, it’s okay. She didn’t see anything.” Mingyu chuckles and hopes it doesn’t sound as nervous as he feels. “She was, like, really chill.”

Wonwoo frowns. “But she saw us sleeping together. I was spooning you…”

Mingyu shrugs. “It’s fine. Lots of guys sleep together like that. Trust me hyung, she didn’t think anything of it.”

Wonwoo looks at him for a moment longer, eyes wary, before he sighs and nods his head. “Okay. Okay, good.”

Mingyu’s smile crumbles a bit at that, because a part of him wants Wonwoo to be… disappointed.

He wants there to be a tiny part of Wonwoo that wants people to know about them, but instead, Wonwoo sounds and looks so relieved it kind of breaks Mingyu’s heart.

“Yeah, good,” Mingyu repeats slowly.

Wonwoo smiles at him, that handsome smile of his that makes the sides of his nose scrunch up, and Mingyu couldn’t even stay upset if he tried.

 

 

They go back to the waterfall, and Mingyu feels stupidly nostalgic about it, because it’s only been a few weeks but it feels like so much happened between the first time he came here with Wonwoo alone and now.

Mingyu lets Wonwoo help him on the way down this time, lets the older take his hand and worry about him falling, smiling softly at the worried looks Wonwoo keeps shooting him whenever Mingyu trips or threatens to fall down the steep hill leading to the waterfall.

“The village seems kind of empty today,” Mingyu comments once they’re down, hopping over the smaller rocks so they can go and sit down on the large, flat one in the middle. “Where is everyone?”

Wonwoo climbs on the rock first and turns around to help Mingyu over as well, gripping his hands tightly and not letting go until Mingyu is standing next to him safely. “There’s another market in a town nearby. Well, it’s not that near, actually. It’s like a two hour’s drive. It’s once a month, so a lot of people go there to spend the day there and do some shopping.”

“I see.” Mingyu sits down next to him, the stone feeling warm underneath his hands. “You didn’t want to go?”

Wonwoo hesitates before shaking his head. “It’s not like I’d buy anything anyway. My mom and Yerim went, though.”

Mingyu purses his lips and watches the water rippling at the surface where the waterfall meets the small pool of water. They sit in silence for a while, Wonwoo tilting his head back and closing his eyes and Mingyu watching him like he’s a piece of art.

He looks like it, though. With the branches and leaves of the trees casting shadows on his skin, the sun painting the rest of it golden, his lips red and kissable.

Wonwoo blinks his eyes open as if he can feel Mingyu’s stare, and a smirk tugs on his lips. “What?”

Mingyu shrugs. “Nothing.”

“Why are you staring at me?”

“Cause you’re beautiful,” Mingyu says, and his heart flutters when Wonwoo ducks his head to hide his embarrassed smile.

How cute can a person be?

Wonwoo gnaws on his lower lip for a moment before he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigarette, making Mingyu’s face fall.

“What are you doing?” He asks, sounding upset and disappointed.

Wonwoo looks up at him and sighs. “I haven’t had one in almost a week.”

“So why start now?”

“I need it,” Wonwoo says. “I’ve been on edge all day.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” Wonwoo sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “It’s just one, Mingyu.”

But Mingyu shakes his head and plucks the ugly thing from Wonwoo’s fingers, placing it on the rock next to him before swinging his leg over Wonwoo’s thighs to sit down on his lap.

Wonwoo’s eyes widen and he looks anxious for a moment. “Mingyu. Someone could see.”

“No one will,” Mingyu says. “Most of them are gone, anyway, and we’ll hear them if anyone should come.”

Wonwoo gulps, still looking panicked, and Mingyu leans in to peck his lips. It makes Wonwoo falter, his eyes growing hazy for a moment. Mingyu smiles at the effect he has on him. “Gyu…”

“Hyung, relax,” Mingyu whispers against his lips, tangling his fingers into the back of Wonwoo’s hair to tilt his head back and kiss him better when he slots their lips together again. “Why would you smoke when I’m still around?”

Wonwoo is still stiff underneath him, but the more Mingyu kisses him, the more he relaxes, and soon enough his hands are on Mingyu’s hips, pulling him closer as he kisses him back, slow and savouring.

“Don’t I taste better than those nasty things?” Mingyu asks after pulling back, lips brushing against Wonwoo’s jaw as he speaks, and he presses a few kisses against the older’s neck, smiling softly when he feels his hands tighten on Mingyu’s hips in response.

“You taste better than anything I’ve ever had,” Wonwoo mumbles, one of his palms moving to the small of Mingyu’s back, pulling him even closer until their chests are almost pressed together. “You’ve got the sweetest mouth, Gyu. Nothing could ever compare—”

Mingyu groans and hides his face in Wonwoo’s neck, pinching his side to get him to stop. Wonwoo just laughs and wraps his arms around him, pulling him into a hug. He runs his nose along Mingyu’s neck, breathing deeply, and drops a kiss on his collarbone.

“So… are you going back to college next semester?” Wonwoo asks and Mingyu is surprised about the sudden question. He didn’t think Wonwoo was that interested in his life outside of here.

“Yeah, I have to.”

“Have to? Why?”

Mingyu shrugs. “What do you mean, why? Everyone my age goes to college.”

Wonwoo makes a displeased noise. “If I got higher education, I want it to be because I have a good reason for it, not just because that’s what people expect of me.”

Mingyu pulls back to look at him. “Well… I want to get educated, though. It’s not just because it’s what will look good on my CV.”

“Then why?”

Mingyu frowns at the constant questions and Wonwoo smirks at him. Mingyu sighs and thinks about it for a while. He’s never really asked himself that question. Going to college… it was just always the next stage for him once he graduated from High School. It’s like a path that was carved for him when he was born, and he’s been following it ever since. There wasn’t really another option for him, a plan B, if you want.

“I read a book once,” Mingyu slowly says, hoping that Wonwoo will be satisfied with his answer. “There’s this quote that kind of stuck with me when I read the part. It went something like Now I understand that one of the reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you've believed in all your life aren't true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” Wonwoo listens attentively and Mingyu smiles because it makes him look really cute. “Like, obviously I’m not interested in every single thing I learn there. But you pick up on so much stuff when you’re there, and you know, like that quote says, you open your eyes and realize a lot of stuff is actually a lot different from how you believed it to be. I’m not saying people who don’t go to college can’t do the same… but I think you’re missing out on a lot of things in the world if you’re not willing to learn.” He gives Wonwoo a pointed look, trying and hoping that maybe, somewhere inside his cute brain, a part of the older will consider the idea of getting higher education. Of leaving this hellhole and pursue his dreams.

But Wonwoo just gives him a tight-lipped smile. “Well, that’s not the answer I expected. But I’ll take it.”

Nothing.

Wonwoo doesn't say anything else, but Mingyu can see that he’s thinking hard, can see the dull look in his eyes, that Mingyu's words somehow got to him, and wishes he could help, wishes Wonwoo would let him help.

“You don’t want to?”

“Want to what?”

“Go to college.”

“Why do you keep asking me the same questions, Mingyu?”

“Why do you never properly answer them?”

“Because I don’t have to. And I don’t want to. Now stop it.”

Mingyu stares at him in disappointment before he sighs and begins to pull back but Wonwoo stops him, looking mildly panicked.

“Wait! I, uhm. I have something for you,” Wonwoo says quietly.

Mingyu tilts his head. “You do?”

Wonwoo averts his eyes and nods his head, pulling one of his arms back to reach into the pocket of his shorts. Mingyu can’t help but grin at him because he looks so shy again all of a sudden. The older pulls out a small black sachet bag that looks like it’s made of velvet. The opening at the top is tied together with a red ribbon.

Wonwoo takes one of Mingyu’s hands and places the bag in it, tongue darting out to lick his lips. “It’s nothing big. I just… I was at the market earlier, anyway. I had to help install some stuff there and I walked past a stand that sold all these stones and something just caught my eye. It’s okay if you don’t like it. I just thought… I don’t know.”

Mingyu smiles at him, at the blush on Wonwoo’s cheeks, and tugs on the ribbon to open the bag. He holds it upside down to get the item out, and sees something pearly fall out.

Mingyu hands the bag to Wonwoo so he can inspect the actual present closer and he smiles even wider when he sees that it’s a necklace made out of white, almost translucent stones or crystals.

Before he can even ask what it is, Wonwoo shifts under him, his fingers curling into Mingyu’s shirt.

“They’re crystals. I can’t remember what they’re called. You can look it up online if you want.” Wonwoo clears his throat, Mingyu smiles wider at his cuteness. “I, uhm… I just thought, because you have trouble sleeping, and you’re leaving soon. I won’t be there to help you fall asleep. The woman who sold these told me that they help with insomnia. I mean, I don’t know if I believe in that stuff, but maybe it will have some sort of placebo effect on you? You don’t have to wear it. Or keep it…”

“Hyung,” Mingyu interrupts his rambling.

“What?”

“I love it, okay?” Mingyu lets out a deep breath, his heart feeling too big in his chest, because no one has ever done something like this for him. Like… how adorable is Wonwoo, for even thinking of getting Mingyu something like this? “Can you put it on for me?”

Wonwoo blinks at him for a second before nodding his head, taking the necklace and wrapping it around Mingyu’s neck before fiddling with the clasp on his nape for a moment. Wonwoo brushes his fingers over it once it’s on and finally looks up to meet Mingyu’s eyes again.

Mingyu leans in and kisses him, more sincere than the previous ones. He kisses him so deeply it has both of their hands holding the other tighter, Mingyu making a weak noise and Wonwoo breathing shakily when their lips part long enough.

“I love it,” Mingyu repeats after they separate, heart thudding heavily when he feels Wonwoo kiss the corner of his mouth. He wants to say something else, maybe replace the last word with another one, but he can’t.

“Okay,” Wonwoo replies and brushes his hand up and down Mingyu’s back, calming and safe. “I’m glad.”

“Thank you. You didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to,” Wonwoo says. “Maybe it’ll make it a little easier for me to let you go.”

“How?”

“If I can make myself believe you’re sleeping okay, then I won’t feel as bad about you leaving.”

Mingyu smiles weakly, his heart clenching. “And what about me? How do I make sure you don’t start smoking again when I’m gone?”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “You can’t.”

“Hyung.”

“I don’t want to lie to you, Gyu. I will probably start again when you leave.”

“But you were doing so well.”

“Because you were here to distract me.”

Mingyu looks into his brown eyes for a moment, unable to handle all the emotions that are tugging on his heart as he stares at the older. “We can facetime,” He says. “Right?”

Wonwoo’s smile is sad. “Do you want that?”

“What? Yeah, of course I do.”

“No… I mean.” Wonwoo sighs. “Do you want to keep in touch once you leave?”

Mingyu starts to frown at Wonwoo’s tone. “You don’t?”

“Isn’t it just going to hurt more? I don’t think I can handle seeing you or hearing your voice without being able to touch you, Mingyu.”

Mingyu’s frown softens and he moves his hand to brush Wonwoo’s cheek with his thumb. “It’s better than nothing, don’t you think?”

Wonwoo shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know, Mingyu.”

Mingyu gnaws on his lower lip for a few seconds, trying to decide whether he should say what he wants to say. “You could come with me.”

And as expected, Wonwoo’s gaze immediately hardens. “Mingyu.”

“Hyung, please, don’t get angry again, just hear me out—“

“No.”

“But why?”

“You know why. We talked about this. Don’t… just don’t.”

“You’re the only thing that stops us from being together, you know that, right?”

Mingyu realizes that he shouldn’t have said that, because the words hurt even himself, and they obviously have the same effect on Wonwoo, who deflates a bit and pulls away, but Mingyu quickly pulls him back in and hugs him, pressing them close together.

“I’m sorry,” He quietly says. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just—fuck, hyung, I wish you could come with me. So bad.”

Wonwoo stays tense for another second before he melts into the embrace, hugging Mingyu back tightly. “Let’s just make the most of the next few days, hm?”

Mingyu hates himself for getting so emotional already when he feels tears well up in his eyes.

What the hell is he going to do when he says goodbye to Wonwoo?

He sniffles and Wonwoo pulls him closer. “Hey… Are you crying again, you big baby?”

Mingyu wants to say that he loves him, that Wonwoo makes his heart feel like it’s overflowing, but what’s the point? Wonwoo’s right. It’s just going to hurt more if he says something stupid now, so he keeps his mouth shut.

“Let’s at least exchange numbers,” Mingyu mumbles. “You don’t have to talk to me, and I promise I will keep my messages to a minimum.”

Wonwoo chuckles. “Okay. Let’s do that.”

But they don't.

They forget.

 

Wonwoo stays with him that night. 

He plays with Mingyu's hair and listens to Mingyu's mindless rambling into the early hours of the morning, until Mingyu is barely clinging to consciousness, trying to stay away to spend more time with his hyung.

Wonwoo kisses his cheek and shakes his head. "Go to sleep. I'll come back tomorrow morning."

"Don't you have work?"

"No. I took the whole week off."

Mingyu snuggles closer into him. "For me?"

"Yeah, for you." 

And Mingyu falls asleep with that in mind, a smile grazing his lips and Wonwoo's gentle hands on his back.

 

 

Something's not right.

Mingyu doesn’t feel so good.

It’s not just the usual dizziness and confused state of his mind that comes with the insomnia.

It’s something else.

He’s anxious and jittery and it’s like there’s an invisible sort of heaviness in his chest and it makes him frown, because it won’t go away, no matter how much he stretches or tries to breathe properly.

“What’s the matter?” His grandma asks over breakfast, seeing Mingyu shift around nervously, his eyebrows pulled together in irritation.

“I don’t know,” Mingyu mumbles. “Maybe I’m coming down with something. I’ll be fine.”

She frowns at him. “It might be the weather. It keeps changing. It’s going to be cold today. Another thunderstorm.”

Mingyu sighs and nods his head. “Yeah. That’s probably it.”

“Why don’t you go outside a little? The fresh air might help you.” She still looks concerned and Mingyu gives her a genuine smile, not wanting her to worry any further. After their conversation yesterday morning, she hasn’t been treating him any differently, and Mingyu can’t even begin to describe how thankful he is, how much he loves her for it.

“Yeah, I will. Don’t worry, grandma.”

 

   

It doesn’t take too long for him to realize why he was feeling so strange.

His body was trying to warn him, that something bad was about to happen.

When Mingyu sits outside later with Pumpkin lying by his feed, sensing his distress and trying to cheer him up by licking his knuckles and nuzzling against his legs, he hears Wonwoo before he sees him.

He hears the older park his car at the gates, hears him slam the door shut, the gate rattle when he opens it and lets it fall shut instead of carefully closing it like he usually does.

Mingyu takes a deep breath, trying to calm his heart as he watches Wonwoo approach him.

He slowly gets up, eyebrows furrowing when he spots the look on Wonwoo’s face.

He looks angry. Jaw set, body tense, his glare like daggers against Mingyu’s skin.

What’s going on?

Why is Wonwoo upset?

Things were good yesterday, right?

Mingyu remembers Wonwoo kissing his forehead before he left yesterday night so why—

“Hyung—“ Mingyu manages to get out when Wonwoo walks up to him, only to be interrupted by the older harshly pressing a piece of paper into Mingyu’s chest, making him sway back from the sudden impact.

“What the fuck is this?”

Mingyu gives him a confused look, hands coming up to take the paper before it can fall to the ground when Wonwoo steps away from him.

He carefully unfolds the page, eyes quickly flying over the printed words, and his stomach sinks the second the words register in his sleep-deprived mind.

Words like Jeon Wonwoo and Online Registration and Candidate number and College Scholastic Ability Test

“What the fuck is this, Mingyu?!”

Mingyu stares at the letter in his hands, unable to wrap his mind around what the hell is happening right now. “What is this?”

Wonwoo lets out a mocking scoff. “How about you tell me?”

“What?” Mingyu shakily lowers the letter and looks up at Wonwoo. “How would I know?”

“Oh, fuck off,” Wonwoo snaps. Mingyu flinches and Wonwoo grits his teeth together, his gaze wavering, but he catches himself and snatches the letter out of Mingyu’s hands harshly. “I knew how much you wanted me to leave this place but I didn’t think you’d something so fucking stupid—“

“What the hell is going on?” Mingyu raises his voice because Wonwoo is doing the same. “Stop yelling at me and just tell me why you’re so angry!“

“Because you fucking sent in an application under my name to take the CSAT this year!”

Mingyu blinks at him in confusion and shakes his head. “I would never do that.”

“Are you sure?” Wonwoo asks, his gaze cold. “So Yerim lied to me?”

“Yerim?”

“She told me that you asked for her help to do it. To get my ID and whatnot. How fucking desperate do you have to be to use my little sister like that, huh? Oh and you know what else? Do you know which college she applied to?”

Mingyu can’t even shake his head before Wonwoo starts spitting out his words again.

“Woman’s Medical College of Ancheon.” Wonwoo says calmly. “Fucking Ancheon. It’s where you live, isn’t it? Where you go to school?” 

The words hurt, and Mingyu slowly begins to realize what the deal is. What Yerim did when she came over that day, pretending to apply to a college in Cheumsan when really, she was just planning her way out of the village.

He remembers how fast she closed the laptop when he got back.

She’s really something else, isn’t she? She planned it out so well, too. As if she knew about Mingyu trying to convince Wonwoo to leave, so it would make sense to Wonwoo if she blamed Mingyu for all of it.

And for some reason, Mingyu doesn’t feel the need to defend himself.

He doesn’t want to rat Yerim out, isn’t even mad at her.

She just wanted to leave this cesspit, like Joohyun did.

He almost feels… thankful.

Mingyu takes a deep breath, trying to ignore how his heart aches from how Wonwoo is glaring at him. Like he hates him.

“What do you want me to say?”

Wonwoo furrows his eyebrows in irritation. “Are you serious? How about you fucking own up to what you did?”

“Okay. I did it,” Mingyu answers, lying through his teeth, just to see Wonwoo’s reaction. “So what? Are you going to beat me up now? Cause that’s how things are handled here, right?”

Wonwoo flinches at that, and hurt flashes in his eyes, and Mingyu doesn’t need to hear him say it to know what he’s thinking.

I would never hurt you.

And suddenly Mingyu just knows that this is it, with them standing in his grandma’s garden, another thunderstorm brewing above them, the wind tugging on their clothes and hair harshly.

Like the wind is trying to pull them apart before something bad can happen.

But they were together on borrowed time, anyway.

Mingyu is leaving in a few days.

Wonwoo is not.

If Wonwoo’s fear of people’s judgement won’t tear them apart, the distance surely will.

There is no happy ending for them.

Mingyu doesn’t know why it took him so damn long to understand what Seungcheol was trying to tell him all along.

Wonwoo stares at him, and Mingyu stares back, and the letter crunches in Wonwoo’s tight fist.

“What,” Wonwoo starts, his voice calmer now, his gaze colder, and Mingyu suddenly regrets his actions. “What makes you think you’re important enough to me to make decisions like that for me?”

The lump in Mingyu’s throat swells up, and Mingyu’s chest constricts. “Hyung—“

“You know, I’m glad you’re leaving.” Wonwoo swallows heavily and shakes his head. “I have no fucking idea what I was thinking. You’re so—So fucking selfish for doing this, you know? Putting me on the spot like this? You know exactly why I don’t want to—why I can’t leave yet you—“

“But you can!” Mingyu snaps angrily, his voice shaking. “You can leave! Nothing’s holding you back except for you! Joohyun did it, Seulgi did it, fuck hyung even your own sister wants to but you’re the only one who can’t fucking—“

“Mingyu, don’t—"

“You’re a coward!” Mingyu shouts. “Just like your fucking dad!”

The words don’t register until they’ve slipped past his lips, not until they hit Wonwoo like a slap, making him recoil, making his eyes flash with raw hurt.

Mingyu sucks in a breath, and shakes his head, watching how the hurt in Wonwoo’s eyes fades and they turn cold and hard. “Hyung—I’m—“

“Fuck you, Mingyu,” Wonwoo says, crumpling up the letter in his hands.

He looks like he’s going to say something else, but he just shakes his head and turns around to leave.

Mingyu opens his mouth, frozen in place, but doesn’t really know what to do or say. He watches Wonwoo reach into his pocket and pull out a pack of cigarettes, how he places it between his lips, lighting it up, inhaling the smoke. Mingyu wants to tell him to stop. He wants to run and kiss him so he stops corrupting his lungs.

But Mingyu watches Wonwoo leave, like he has done so many times before.

And Mingyu doesn’t call his name, doesn’t beg him to wait so he can apologize and make things right because they only have a couple of days left together.

Because Mingyu might fall head over heels faster than is good for him, he might trust people blindly, might give out his heart without hesitation, but Mingyu isn’t naïve enough to believe that Wonwoo and him are going to be happy together in this universe.

Wonwoo has issues; not just his pent up anger for his dad but his explosiveness, his rash decision making, how hurtful he can be, how scared he is to be judged by his family and people that don’t matter.

And Mingyu, well, Mingyu has issues too. Scared to end up alone. Scared that no one will ever love him, accept him for who he is, leave him behind. He’s so scared he’s ready to latch onto anyone who gives him a little bit of attention, a compliment here and there.

Because Mingyu has never been anything else but a warm body to another man in the city, during cold and lonely nights, pretending to be together, to love each other for a few hours before hastily leaving the building and forgetting all about the touches and kisses shared between them.

Maybe that’s all it was, this thing between Wonwoo and him. Maybe they both were simply lonely enough to accept each other’s affection for the little time they had together.

So he stays there, watches Wonwoo leave, feels his heart ache horribly in his chest as he sucks up his tears.

And then he slowly turns around and walks inside before it can start raining, passes his grandmother, giving her a weak smile so she won’t worry.

Mingyu closes the door behind him and presses his back against it, his room darker than it should be at this time of the day, but the clouds are heavy and brooding in the sky, and the sun’s nowhere in sight.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone, his fingers shaking again as he opens up his last chat.

 

 

To: Cheol

can you pick me up at the bus station tomorrow morning? <

 

Mingyu’s heart is racing after he hits send and feels relief when the moving dots pop up almost immediately.

Seungcheol never fails him. He’s always there for him. Probably the only constant in his miserable life.


 

From: Cheol

> huh? why??

> i thought you weren’t coming back until sunday?

 

 

 

To: Cheol

i need to leave right now <

i’m taking the first bus home tomorrow morning <

 

 

 

From: Cheol

> fuck

> gyu what happened?

 

 

Mingyu’s nose starts to prickle, his vision swimming with tears gathering in his eyes, but he doesn’t let himself cry.

This is his fault, anyway.

If he just listened to Seungcheol from the start, he wouldn’t be in any pain right now.

 

 

To: Cheol

please just come pick me up hyung <

 

 

From: Cheol

> of course i will

> text me the time i’ll be there

> will you be okay? i’m worried gyu

 

 

Mingyu sits down on his bed and hears the first few raindrops hit against the windows like tiny pebbles.

He wonders if Wonwoo made it home before the rain. He hopes so. He doesn’t want the boy to get sick.

Mingyu already misses him.

 

To: Cheol

yeah, I’ll be okay <

 

And that’s the truth.

Mingyu was okay when he was refused from the running team back in middle school over and over again.

He was okay when his hamster Bolt died when he was eight.

He was okay when his dad called him a disappointment and threw him out of their home.

He was okay when he was dating Hongbin who was eight years older and made him feel loved for a few months before he finally told Mingyu that he was, in fact, married and that they had to stop, dropping Mingyu like he was nothing to him once he realized that a silly college kid wasn’t worth risking to lose his wife and kids.

And no matter how much this hurts right now, even if it kind of feels like someone’s trying to stab his heart, he will be okay.

 

 

His grandmother looks devastated when Mingyu tells her about his early departure later.

He lies to her, says he has some stuff to settle with his University in person for his new registration after his long break and that he’ll have to wait another semester if he doesn’t show up at the appointment.

It’s a stupid excuse. Everything can be handled online or over the phone these days, but his grandmother doesn’t know that, and it’s the only explanation Mingyu can come up with as to why he has to leave so suddenly if he doesn’t want to give away the actual reason.

She calls uncle Changho who is still down in Cheumsan and asks him to buy Mingyu a ticket for tomorrow morning at eight

It doesn’t feel real until uncle Changho hands him his ticket a few hours later.

Mingyu packs his things quietly in his bedroom, the thunderstorm still going strong outside, and feels sad in a way he has no proper words for.

He’s going to miss this place so much.

The yellow walls, the constant smell of fresh cooked food, the birds outside during the day, the crickets at night, the bells of the cows, his grandmother laughing along to her TV shows, the flowers and fruits and vegetables and fresh air and everything.

He feels horrible for leaving his grandma alone. It’s going to be hard being back in the city, now that he’s seen with his own eyes how lonely she is without his granddad, and if it wasn’t for… if it wasn’t for Wonwoo, Mingyu would come back and visit her whenever he can.

But how can he do that now?

He can’t— He just can’t.

He just has to leave.

His grandmother cooks a feast that night, and they eat together in front of the TV, Mingyu sneakily giving Pumpkin some meat under the table whenever his grandma isn’t looking.

Pumpkin, too. How is Mingyu supposed to leave him behind? He’s seriously considering taking him with him, but Seungcheol would throw him out of their apartment and Pumpkin is also his grandmother’s only companion, and there’s no way Mingyu could take that away from her.

So they sit in the living room, chatting and laughing, until it’s midnight and his grandma starts to doze off. Mingyu ushers her into her bedroom and tells her not to worry about the kitchen.

He cleans up for an entire hour and then takes Pumpkin into his bedroom once he’s done, letting the dog snuggle up on his bed even though it’s against his grandmother’s rules. He doubts she would mind, though. It’s his last night here, after all.

Mingyu has no idea how the time flew by so fast. Five weeks passed in the blink of an eye, and Mingyu experienced more things than he did in the entire time of last year.

He doesn’t really sleep that night. He just thinks about everything that happened. He thinks about Joohyun and Seulgi a lot, how much he misses talking to Joohyun. She would give him proper advice if she was still there, she would probably be able to fix this in a way that didn’t require Mingyu to leave.

He hopes that they’re happy, at least.

They have to be, right?

And he thinks of Seokmin and Chan, how he didn’t even get to say goodbye to them. They might’ve not spend a lot of time together, but they became friends nonetheless, and Mingyu is going to miss them, too. He just hopes that those two will make something of themselves and not end up settling down in the village like their families.

He doesn’t let himself think about what happened with Wonwoo today. He focuses on the nice things instead.

Like their small trips to places where no one would see them, the nights they spent together, their conversations on the hammock that is definitely too small for two grown up guys, how awkward Wonwoo was the first few times they met. Mingyu smiles, because despite everything, his time here was filled with more happy moments than sad ones.

Well…

Then he sits down by the window, and cries.

The whole night, and meets the sun in the horizon like an old friend the next morning.

 

 

 

It’s barely past four when his grandmother knocks on his door, but they have to leave soon in order for him to catch his bus. Uncle Changho is waiting at the gates for them.

Mingyu had packed the night before so he’s basically good to leave after getting dressed. His grandma insists for him to eat some breakfast, so he shovels down some leftover rice and meat and steamed vegetables while his stuffs some more food into his bag and suitcase so he can eat on the long ride home.

It’s fairly dark when he steps outside. Cold, too. His eyes are raw from crying and the lack of sleep, so they immediately prickle with tears when he stares at the horizon.

He can see a sliver of gold in the distance, behind the mountains where the sun is slowly waking up. There’s even a layer of fog hovering above the ground.

“It’s cold, huh?” His grandma says after locking the door behind them. Mingyu nods and grabs her arm gently. He told her not to wake up for him so early, that she didn’t have to come all the way to Cheumsan to see him off, but she insisted on it, and Mingyu knows better than to try to change her opinion.

Mingyu’s heart sinks when his grandma puts Pumpkin’s collar on so she can tie him to his house in the garden.

The dog looks confused as to why he’s being tied up but wags his tail happily when Mingyu approaches him and crouches down in front of him, his nose already stinging before he can pet his friend.

“You behave, okay?” Mingyu whispers. He starts tearing up when Pumpkin closes his eyes under his gentle touches. “You have to take care of grandma. And don’t go cutting yourself on those fences again, okay, buddy? Don’t eat chocolatey food from the trash again, either. I don’t want to worry about you, too.”

Pumpkin huffs and licks Mingyu’s ear when he’s close enough.

“I’m going to miss you, Pumpkin.” Mingyu doesn’t even care that he’s crying at this point. He loves dogs, and he especially loves Pumpkin, so he knew the second he met him that saying goodbye was going to be tough. But something about the clueless way Pumpkin is looking at him, because he doesn't understand, like he expects Mingyu to come back later and take him for a walk or play with him in grandma’s garden, just breaks Mingyu’s heart.

“Sweetheart, we have to go,” His grandmother says, her smile gentle and sympathetic. “You can visit him whenever you want. I promise I won’t give him away, no matter how many times he destroy my flowers,” She says, making Mingyu laugh wetly.

“Okay. Okay, bye buddy.” He leans in again and kisses Pumpkin’s head before forcing himself to stand up and turn around. He makes the mistake of looking back, and starts weeping again like a baby when he sees Pumpkin trying to follow them but being held back by his leash. He looks upset and keeps tugging on the leash and Mingyu can’t handle it anymore so he looks away and walks to the gate before he can change his mind and stay.

Mingyu rests his head on his grandma’s shoulder once they’re in the car, watching the village get smaller and smaller in the side mirror of the car. He stops crying soon enough, but starts again when they drive past the field Wonwoo took him to the day after Mingyu kissed him the first time.

He can’t stop himself, it’s like he can physically feel the distance between Wonwoo and him with every passing minute.

His grandma doesn’t ask why he’s so upset. She must know that it isn’t usual for him to be this upset about leaving, but she doesn’t ask. Because she’s the best grandma in the world, so she stays silent, and cards her fingers through Mingyu’s hair until they arrive in Cheumsan, and it’s time to say goodbye for them, too.

The bus station is practically deserted, only a few people gathered around the single travel bus which is the one to Ancheon. Mingyu hands his luggage to the bus driver who stores them away in the baggage compartment of the bus and when he turns around, his grandmother is standing there, looking small as she tries to keep it together for his sake.

“I have to go, grandma,” He says.

She nods her head, her eyes looking a little misty as he pulls him into a tight hug. Mingyu rubs her back, trying to keep her warm. “Take care of yourself, Mingyu. Eat well. And call me when you get back home, okay? I will worry otherwise.”

“I will,” Mingyu assures her, smiling weakly when she kisses his cheek, because she’s not really the most affectionate person in the world, so the gesture means a lot. “You take care, too. Please stop lifting so many heavy things all the time. I know you don’t want to accept it, but you’re not getting any younger, so please spare your body, okay?”

She chuckles and assures him that she will be careful just as the bus driver sticks his head out and yells at Mingyu to hurry up.

Mingyu sniffles as he pulls back, leaning down pick up his bag and sling it back over his shoulders. He waves at uncle Changho who’s waiting a little further away and the old man waves back with a friendly smile.

“Thank you, grandma,” Mingyu says. “For everything.”

She shakes her head. “Don’t thank me. I’m your grandma, and this is your home. You’re welcome whenever. And don’t forget what I told you. I’m very proud of you, sweetheart. You be proud of yourself, too, you hear me?”

Mingyu nods and takes a deep breath before he can start crying again. He’s about to turn around when a sudden thought strikes him. “Grandma, can you do me a favour?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“There’s… There’s something in the drawer in the table next to my bed. A tape. Can you give it to someone for me? Their name’s on it.”

She looks at him silently before nodding her head. “Of course, dear. Don’t worry about it.”

Mingyu smiles at her and pulls her into another hug, letting her kiss his cheek before he pulls away and finally gets in the bus, showing the bus driver his ticket so he can go and find his seat at the very back.

He settles down and places his bag by his feet, leaning close to the window so he can see his grandma watching him from outside. She smiles once she spots him, waving at him, and Mingyu can’t stop his tears this time.

It’s not even been a full minute, and he already misses her voice, the flowery scent clinging to her clothes and hair.

Mingyu waves back, and his seat rattles when the bus driver turns on the engine, starting to back out of the parking lot.

His grandma keeps waving at him and even uncle Changho steps up next to her to watch the bus drive away. Then the bus turns the other way, and drives off, and Mingyu sinks back into his seat with a heavy sigh, looking at the town outside for the last time where people have started to open up their shops, putting up their fruits and vegetables for the day.

He picks up his phone and sends Seungcheol a quick text, telling him when he’ll arrive before he puts it away again.

The bus is empty save for three other people, the engine and the faint noises of the radio from the front feeling strangely nostalgic.

Mingyu closes his eyes and pretends that it’s four weeks earlier, and that he isn’t going back home, but instead coming to visit his grandmother again.

 

 

 

 

Wonwoo is still angry when decides to go and see Mingyu again the next evening.

He went to work anyway, figuring it wouldn't make sense to stay home now that Mingyu and him weren't talking, but his mind constantly kept going back to the fight he had with Mingyu yesterday, and he ended up with cuts and bruises all over from not paying attention on the construction site.

Sure, Wonwoo might’ve overreacted a bit. He tends to just do and say shit in the heat of the moment, and when his mom gave him the letter of his application to this year’s CSATs, all he saw was red.

He felt betrayed, in a way, because why would Mingyu do something like that when he knew that Wonwoo wasn’t ready?

And when Mingyu called him a coward… when he compared Wonwoo to him, it hurt more than everything else his good for nothing father ever did to him and his family while he was still around.

Hearing those words from someone he—someone he cares about so much, just flat out hurt.

Like a slap to the face. Humiliating.

He expected Mingyu to apologize to him, maybe come after him when Wonwoo left, but he didn’t, and Wonwoo doesn’t really know what to make of it.

Maybe Mingyu is just being petty again.

Wonwoo doesn’t care, no matter how annoying and bratty Mingyu can get.

He’s so fond of the boy, all his cute and annoying mannerisms considered, Wonwoo is just too weak for him to stay away.

Pumpkin is lying in front of the door in the garden, and Wonwoo thinks he looks a bit sad today, so he leans down and pets the dog for a while, who only wags his tail slowly.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” Wonwoo asks, rubbing his thumb over Pumpkin’s forehead. Pumpkin blinks at him and lowers his head into Wonwoo’s palm, closing his eyes. Wonwoo chuckles and kisses his ear before getting up again to ring the bell, waiting to hear the sound of Mingyu’s clumsy footsteps running down the stairs.

He doesn’t hear anything, and for a moment he thinks no one’s home, until he hears the door being unlocked and pulled open to reveal Mingyu’s grandmother’s face.

“Wonwoo,” She says, smiling at him. Wonwoo smiles back but frowns because he suddenly feels like something is wrong. She seems down, too. His eyes flicker up the stairs, hoping to see Mingyu there at the top, but that doesn’t happen.

The house is eerily quiet.

“Is—“ He starts with a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Is Mingyu not here?”

And grandma’s face falls before she puts on another smile. She shakes her head.

“Oh,” Wonwoo says. “Is he out with the boys?”

Another shake of her head.

Wonwoo gulps. “Okay. Where is he?”

She sighs. “He left this morning.”

Wonwoo’s frown deepens. “What do you mean?”

“He went home, Wonwoo,” She says. “Something urgent came up with his school, so he had to leave early.”

Wonwoo’s brain takes too long to process the words. He stands there, staring at the woman until her face grows concerned. 

“Wait here a moment, will you?” He thinks that’s what she says as she turns around to walk back up the stairs.

He left.

Mingyu left.

But Wonwoo was about to apologize.

They still had three more days—

His chest feels too tight, and Wonwoo can’t remember a single time in his life his heart has felt as heavy as it does right now.

Is that why the house seems so different? Because Mingyu isn’t here anymore to brighten it up?

Is that why Pumpkin was so sad?

Why grandmother looks like she aged a couple of years in the span of a day?

Wonwoo is still staring into the air by the time grandma comes back, holding something in her hands and holding it out to Wonwoo.

It’s a tape.

Wonwoo hates how much his fingers are shaking when he reaches out to pluck the item from her hand.

He holds it up and feels a lump form in his throat when he reads the handwriting on top of the label.

 

To. Wonwoo hyung

 

There’s a tiny heart sticker at the bottom. It all screams Mingyu.

“He spent a lot of time putting that thing together,” Grandmother explains with a gentle smile. “He asked me to give it to you since he had to leave so suddenly.”

Wonwoo doesn’t know what to feel.

He knows Mingyu didn’t leave because of school.

He just knows.

Because if that was the case, he would’ve said goodbye. He would’ve given Wonwoo his mixtape in person.

It would feel like Mingyu left.

But right now, holding the tape in his hands, it feels like Mingyu left him.

And Wonwoo wants to be angry, wants to hurl the tape at the wall and wants it to break apart. Screw you, Mingyu, I don’t need you, I don’t need your stupid mixtape, I’m glad you’re gone, you annoying little brat—

But then he starts tearing up, his knuckles turning white around the tape in his hands, and all he can think is that the last thing Wonwoo said to him was fuck you as he looked into Mingyu’s hurt eyes, and he wishes he would’ve been honest with Mingyu.

That he wasn’t a coward like Mingyu said he was, so that he could’ve told him about his feelings.

That Mingyu made him feel like his mere existence isn’t a mistake.

That Mingyu made him smile more in those few weeks than Wonwoo had in the past couple of years.

He wishes he would’ve told Mingyu that, if he asked for it, Wonwoo was ready to give the boy his whole heart.

Because there aren’t a lot of things Wonwoo has wanted in his life. He’s always been content with what he was given, never asking for more.

But then Mingyu walked into his life and turned it upside down.

And Wonwoo has never wanted anything as much as he wants Kim Mingyu. As much as the boy was ready to give, Wonwoo would’ve taken it, and he would’ve taken care of it like it was the most precious thing on earth, just like Mingyu is to him.

“I’m glad you both became such good friends,” Mingyu’s grandmother says, her voice sounding like she’s speaking to him through water, distorted in his numb ears. “I feel like you were good for each other.”

She doesn’t know.

If only she knew the way Wonwoo touched her grandson, the way he kissed him over and over, the way Wonwoo looked at him, with love and fondness in his eyes that has nothing to do with normal friendship between two boys.

He smiles at her, fake and bitter, reflecting the way his heart is breaking his chest. “Yeah. He’s a good guy,” He says. The best.

Her smile dims and for a horrible second, Wonwoo thinks the woman knows more than she should, but the look is gone just as quickly as it came.

“Well, he will come back sooner or later. Maybe next summer. Until then, you can keep in touch, right? You can talk to each other’s faces in your phones. What is that called…”

“Facetime,” Wonwoo supplies quietly.

He doesn’t even have Mingyu’s number.

If Mingyu wanted to stay in touch, he would’ve left his number behind for Wonwoo.

But Mingyu clearly doesn’t want that. It’s like he just left all of this behind, back to his life in the city, not thinking about this stupid village any longer, not thinking about Jeon Wonwoo anymore either.

Wonwoo who willingly destroys his lungs, who’s been trying to get his family out of their debt for years now, who has no college degree and would never be able to support his mom and Yerim if they left for the city, who can’t even love the one single person properly that somehow made Wonwoo feel more alive than he ever has.

Mingyu was right.

He’s just like his dad.

A failure of a human.

Mingyu always deserved better than him, but it was nice to delude himself into thinking that Wonwoo was good enough.

“Yes! Right. I hope you two stay friends,” She says.

Wonwoo smiles weakly and nods his head. Pictures of Mingyu smiling at him, Mingyu pouting, Mingyu pulling him in with a hand behind his neck to kiss the air out of his lungs, Mingyu crying because of him, Mingyu looking at him like he’s in love with Wonwoo—

His eyes sting.

He needs to leave.

“I should go,” Wonwoo mutters. “Thank you… for this.” He shakes the tape, his heart clenching as he looks at Mingyu’s cute handwriting.

“You’re welcome, Wonwoo,” She gently says and watches Wonwoo turn around and leave.

Wonwoo misses the sad look in her eyes.

He doesn’t cry as he walks back home.

Doesn’t cry when he climbs into his car and starts driving.

Not even when he parks it at the spot he took Mingyu the day after they kissed for the first time.

It's not until he puts the tape in and listens to every single song on it, until the tape stops, and he’s left with nothing but the numbing silence inside his car, that his feelings spill over.

Mingyu didn’t just make a mixtape for him.

Mingyu confessed to him through that tape.

Mingyu was in love with him.

And the realization that Wonwoo fucked it all up so bad, that it’s his own fault for losing the possibly only good thing in his life, is what makes Wonwoo curl his arms around the steering wheel, bury his face in them, and finally let go of his tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seungcheol is waiting for Mingyu when he gets off the bus almost six hours later, tired, with puffy eyes and a heavy heart.

It's hot. The air is humid and sticky, and Mingyu feels like he can't breathe. The sun is ugly here. Too harsh and bright.

The city is loud, the people are rude, pushing each other to get to their destination.

It’s too crowded and stuffy, full of cars and grey buildings, and Mingyu instantly wants to go back to the wide fields of the village, the flowers, the waterfall, the people, to—

Seungcheol is wearing sweatpants and a comfy looking t-shirt, looking warm and inviting, a timid smile on his face as he meets Mingyu in the middle.

“Hey, Gyu,” Seungcheol mutters, his eyes concerned as he takes in his best friend’s state. “You’re not looking so hot.”

“Thank you.” Mingyu smiles weakly, but the longer he stares at his best friend, the worse he feels, and before he knows it, Seungcheol has him wrapped up in a hug, warm and safe and familiar. Mingyu sags against him, and squeezes his eyes shut.

“Wonwoo?” Seungcheol whispers into his ear and Mingyu flinches in his arms before pressing closer into his embrace, unable to hold his tears back. He nods and Seungcheol curses quietly. “Okay. Okay, Gyu. Let’s go home, yeah?”

Home.

Strangely, the word doesn’t make him think of their shared apartment anymore.

It makes him think of a person instead.

“Hyung, it hurts,” Mingyu mumbles into Seungcheol’s shoulder.

Seungcheol sighs and ruffles his hair. “I know. It’ll be okay, Gyu.”

Mingyu just hopes he’s right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He’s so tired.

His shirt is sticking to his chest, his back, his neck feeling too cold because of the aircon inside the car blowing air against his sweaty skin.

Seungcheol has his phone plugged in on the AUX chord, playing one of his indie rap songs that make Mingyu think the artists are constantly high when they write and record their songs.

The window is rolled down on Seungcheol’s side, letting in the noises of the city. A lot of angry honking, distant sirens of ambulances, shouting, laughing, chatting on phones as pedestrians rush through the mass of people to get home.

They’re stuck in traffic, even at this hour. And it’s so hot.

It’s sweltering, and breathing is hard.

Mingyu rests his head on the cool window and pretends not to notice his best friend’s concerned looks he keeps shooting him.

“Are you hungry?” Seungcheol asks softly. “We can grab some take-out, if you want.”

“No,” Mingyu croaks. He clears his throat and blinks his eyes open, staring out at the scenery of the city and from where the car is standing right now, he can’t see a single tree.

And suddenly all of this feels so wrong. Mingyu shouldn’t be here. He should be back in the village, up in the mountains, in the unpolluted air, the organic food, the fresh breeze, the silence and nature—

But not here.

Mingyu glances at Seungcheol and his chest aches when he sees the mildly hurt look on the older’s face.

He can’t take this out on him, so he offers a small smile that definitely doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Thank you, hyung.”

Seungcheol sighs, his eyes sad. “Gyu…”

“Please,” Mingyu says and shakes his head, his smile fading. “Not—Not now.”

Seungcheol looks like he wants to argue, but he closes his mouth and nods. “Okay. Okay, Gyu.”

So they don’t talk.

Mingyu can’t remember the last time in his life he felt so utterly hopeless and miserable.

 

 

 

After dumping his whole suitcase in the laundry bin, Mingyu jumps in the shower, and stays under the cold spray of water for way longer than appropriate.

His limbs feel numb by the end of it, but the ice cold water helps him clear his mind, and he’s not feeling like he’s going to choke on air every time he breathes once he gets out.

He’s drying his hair in front of the mirror when he notices the glint of metal around his neck, the gentle weight of crystals cool against his warming skin.

Mingyu sighs heavily, a lump already forming in his throat just from thinking how happy he was two days ago when Wonwoo gave him the present. When he put it on for Mingyu, his fingers soft and gentle on his skin.

He gulps and reaches behind his neck until he’s touching the clasp, fumbling with it for a moment until he manages to open it.

It’s actually a really pretty necklace. Mingyu didn’t expect Wonwoo to have a nice taste in these things.

But maybe there are just a lot of things Mingyu doesn’t know about the older boy.

And he will never find out, now, will he?

Mingyu quickly disregards the thought and closes his fist around the necklace. He doesn’t want to throw it away, but he doesn’t want to wear it either.

He ends up putting it inside the drawer of his nightstand, under all the other crap he has thrown in there, like it’s just as meaningless.

Like it doesn’t make Mingyu want to curl up and cry.

This isn’t the first time Mingyu’s heart breaks because of another person. His parents have done it for the first time a long time ago, and then countless other people, and of course it hurt, it always did, but not like this.

He jumps into some comfortable clothes, his hair dripping on his bedsheets when he sits down. Mingyu feels a bit clueless as to what to do next.

It’s so quiet inside his room, and his chest is flooded with regret. His head is getting fuzzy again, lack of sleep and the events of the past days slowly but surely getting a toll on him.

A soft knock on the door makes him flinch from where he’s been dozing off with his eyes open a few minutes later, or maybe it’s been hours, because when Mingyu looks up from the ground, it’s noticeably darker outside.

Shit. He must be more exhausted than he realized.

“Hyung?” His voice is quiet but Seungcheol still hears him, because the door opens a little and his best friend peers inside carefully.

He gives Mingyu a tentative smile and holds out what looks to be a pink popsicle. It makes Mingyu smile, weak but genuine.

“Can I come in?”

Mingyu nods and shuffles back on his bed until his back hits the headboard and Seungcheol can sit down on the side. He takes the offered popsicle, pursing his lips as he looks down at it.

It’s his favorite one, the one that tastes like bubblegum on the outside and… peaches on the inside.

His smile immediately dims, and his throat clogs up.

Seungcheol looks so worried and Mingyu feels like complete shit, making his best friend feel like this for absolutely no reason.

“You should eat if you don’t want it to melt,” Seungcheol says quietly.

So Mingyu starts nipping on it, the sweetness taking the harshness of his feelings away, even if it’s just fleeting and superficial.

Seungcheol remains quiet for a few moments before he takes a deep breath and breaks the silence. “What happened?”

Mingyu licks the stickiness from his lips, lowering the stick of the popsicle, having bitten off the whole thing and now regretting his choices when it makes his teeth hurt and gives him brain freeze. His fingers are sticky and Seungcheol sighs at Mingyu's helpless state, reaching out to grab some wet wipes from the nightstand and helping Mingyu clean his hands. 

“Uhm,” He starts, feeling lost, because really, he hasn’t told Seungcheol anything aside from his infatuation with a boy from the village. “I’m not sure where to start.”

Seungcheol rolls his eyes. “The beginning, Gyu. I want to know everything. I want to know why my best friend looks like he just came back from war instead of looking well rested like I wanted him to be.”

Mingyu sighs but finally nods his head.

And then he just tells Seungcheol everything, not leaving anything out.

He tells him about everyone in the village, Seokmin and Chan, Yerim, he talks about Joohyun and Seulgi for a long time, and then he talks about Wonwoo.

He saves that for last, because he knew he couldn’t make it without starting to cry.

And he was right, because halfway through, when he tells Seungcheol how scared Wonwoo was of his feelings for Mingyu, he starts tearing up, his chest aching horribly because he wants to go back.

It just hurts.

Seungcheol pulls him into a tight hug, like he’s trying to squeeze the sadness out of him with his strong arms.

“Hyung, did I do a mistake?” Mingyu asks once he’s done talking what feels like hours later. He didn’t tell Seungcheol everything he did with Wonwoo, not just because it hurts to talk about it, but mostly because those moments he had with Wonwoo were so intimate, and he wants to keep them to himself. “Should I have— stayed?”

“No,” Seungcheol immediately says. It’s the first thing he’s said after Mingyu started talking about Wonwoo, having been strangely quiet up until now. “You did the right thing, Gyu.”

“But why does it hurt so much?” Mingyu’s voice comes out so small, and he hates himself for being so weak. A tiny voice in his head scoffs at him some man you are, crying like a little bitch, yeah, that’s what you are, suck it up like a man you sorry excuse for a—

“Hey, stop that,” Seungcheol says, holding Mingyu by his shoulders and looking at him sternly. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but stop.”

Mingyu wipes his nose on his sleeve. “I love him,” He says, so quietly it almost gets lost in the air around them. Seungcheol’s breath falters at that, and his shoulders sag a little.

“Mingyu… look, I understand this is hard for you. But this isn’t the first time you—”

“I really do, hyung. It’s not—“ He swallows heavily, his gaze hardening a bit. “It’s not how it was with Hongbin. I never loved him. I know that now.”

“How?” Seungcheol wants to know, his eyes painfully accusing in a way that reminds Mingyu of all those nights he’s spent lying awake, waiting for that man’s phone call or text that never came, with Seungcheol begging him to leave that toxic maze of a relationship he was stuck in. “You’ve barely known him longer than a month, Mingyu, how can you say that?”

“Does is really matter how long I’ve known him?” Mingyu asks, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “Hongbin… I knew him for a year. And look what happened.”

Seungcheol’s frown softens and he lowers his gaze to Mingyu’s bedsheets, seemingly at a loss for words. “Look, it’s not my place to tell you how you’re supposed to feel. If you say you feel that way about this guy, then I believe you. But I’m your best friend, and I’m not going to see you go down that rabbit hole because of another man again. Especially if I can’t be sure it’ll work out. I don’t want to get your hopes up just to make you feel good, okay? You spent some nice weeks with this person, Gyu, and no one can take that from you. But sometimes it’s just better to let go.”

Mingyu takes a shuddering breath, his vision blurry with hot tears. He nods his head, the part of his mind that isn’t controlled by his heart blanking out his memories of Wonwoo, the way they kissed, the way Wonwoo smiled and his nose crinkled when he was amused, the way his hands rans over Mingyu’s body like he was something precious to him— “Yeah. Maybe you’re right.”

Seungcheol curses under his breath when he hears the pathetic crack in his voice and pulls Mingyu into his arms again, cradling the back of his head protectively. “I’m sorry it has to be this way. You deserve so much better than this.”

“It’s fine, hyung,” Mingyu says and takes a calming breath. He needs to stop crying. It’s not going to make the situation better and he’s just uselessly worrying his best friend. “I’m just like this because it’s still so fresh, you know? I’ll be okay tomorrow.”

Seungcheol gives him a skeptical look and opens his mouth to speak when the front door suddenly shuts loudly, Mingyu’s bedroom door opening and Jihoon walking in.

He tugs out his earbuds, gaze swiftly moving over his boyfriend and Mingyu’s forms, his eyes immediately growing hard when he takes in Mingyu’s puffy eyes and the dark skin underneath them. He lets his bag fall to the floor and asks “What happened?”

And that’s all it takes for Mingyu to lose it again.

Because his lower lip wobbles, and the tears spill over, and Jihoon’s glare fades into concern and before Mingyu knows it, the older boy has him wrapped up in his arms.

“Who do I need to kill this time?”

“Babe. Not the time,” Seungcheol mumbles with a sigh, watching the both of them helplessly.

Jihoon shakes his head and runs his hand through Mingyu’s hair. “Why do I keep finding you like this, kid? Why do you keep doing this to yourself?”

And Mingyu wishes he had an answer for that.

 

 

 

Mingyu met Hongbin when he was working as a delivery boy in his freshman year of college.

It was a day like any other – some business men ordering thai food after a long day in the office.

Mingyu looked gross that day, sweaty and tired and sticking out like a sore thumb in his bright orange uniform with that stupid hat on his head. He didn’t expect anyone to even spare him a second glance in his state, let alone a rich bank clerk.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Mingyu walked into the meeting room where several older men were sitting at the table, already having a glass of alcohol in front of them, their ties loosened up and blazers discarded.

Most of them completely ignored him and went straight for the food, but Mingyu caught one of the man’s gazes and felt his stomach tingle when the man didn’t break eye contact immediately.

He was good looking. Dark eyes, sharp jawline, broad shoulders, veiny forearms that faded into strong looking hands, expensive Rolex hugging his slim wrist. All things Mingyu’s poor gay heart was incredibly weak fore.

Mingyu – flustered as he was – ended up dropping one of the boxes, spilling rice and curry over the table, which angered most of the men there (and made him lose the nice tip he would’ve most likely gotten otherwise) except for the one sitting on the other end of the table, who hadn’t stopped looking at Mingyu.

The man smiled at him, kind and reassuring, and it made Mingyu even more nervous, determined to get out of there as quickly as possible before he made even more of a fool of himself and ruined his company’s image for good.

As Mingyu hastily made his way out of the meeting room and towards the elevator, willing his face to stop burning, he heard someone yell “Hey, wait” behind him.

It was the man from before, and he was reaching into his pocket, pulling out his wallet to fish out a few bills. “Your tip,” The man said, holding the money out for Mingyu.

Mingyu shook his head, his heart racing as he stood in the dimly lit hallway of an office at eight in the evening with this handsome man. “I spilled the food, sir.”

“Yeah, but that was my fault,” The man answered, a smile tugging on his full lips. “I made you nervous.”

Mingyu’s breath faltered at that, anxiety suddenly sparking his nerves alive. Was he really that transparent? “What?”

“How old are you?” The man wanted to know, eyeing Mingyu up and down not so subtly.

“Eighteen.”

The man nodded and tongued the inside of his cheek for a moment, looking like he was having an inner conflict, glancing back nervously when the sound of his colleagues’ laughter resonated through the hallway.

He muttered something under his breath and reached into his wallet again, handing Mingyu a small business card.

Mingyu took it with uncertain fingers, reading Lee Hongbin in bold letters right above the words of Senior Vice President, and it made him want to bow his head to show his respect in front of this older man.

“Look,” The man started, his eyes so intriguing Mingyu couldn’t even remember his own name. “If you ever want to… talk, just give me a call.”

“Huh?” Mingyu gave the man a clueless look. What was going on? What did he mean with talk?

Well, Mingyu found out soon enough.

One drunk night after watching all his straight friends pick up girls at the club, Mingyu felt particularly lonely, and remembered that man all of a sudden, his business card still tucked away in Mingyu’s wallet.

He was tipsy and it was way too late to call someone on a Thursday night, but he was lonely.

Hongin picked up the phone, and asked where Mingyu was, and when Mingyu slurred out some half coherent answer, the man came and picked him up with his shiny Mercedes. He took Mingyu home and took care of him and Mingyu woke up to a glass of water and a friendly post-it note the next day.

They met up again for coffee that week, and Mingyu fell head over heels for the man’s charming smiles, his compliments, his burning but fleeting touches that left Mingyu weak at the knees.

The man would buy Mingyu expensive things and take him to beautiful hotels, claiming he didn’t want to take Mingyu to his home because he couldn’t afford being outed and lose his job, which made sense to Mingyu at the time, so he never questioned the whole secrecy.

He was only eighteen, only now starting to accept his preference for men, and this accomplished, rich, handsome man was giving him more love and affection than anyone else ever had, so it wasn’t a surprise that two months into their strange relationship, Mingyu was convinced that Hongbin was the one for him, completely blind to the man’s strange behaviour at times.

Like how he wouldn’t introduce Mingyu to anyone from his life, how he wouldn’t tell Mingyu anything about his family, how little he cared for what was going on in Mingyu’s life, how he didn’t like it when Mingyu wanted to take pictures of them together. Mingyu was oblivious to it all, because Hongbin would call him his angel, his baby boy, would touch him like Mingyu meant the whole world to him at night when they were staying at a different hotel yet again.

Or maybe Mingyu just didn’t want to see it, even though Seungcheol started to grow suspicious six months into their relationship in which Mingyu was the only one who’d say the words “I love you”, only to be met with a smile that looked more pitying than fond.

Mingyu got his reality check soon enough.

And Lee Hongbin disappeared from his life just as fast as he made his way into it.

The man didn’t pick up Mingyu from his late night classes that Friday night, and Mingyu got no response when he texted him, asking where he was.

He didn’t think much of it at first; Hongbin was a busy man, and it wasn’t the first time he couldn’t make it, but he’d usually text Mingyu, telling him not to wait up for him so Mingyu wouldn’t worry.

Three days later, Mingyu still didn’t get a reply from the man, and he wasn’t answering his calls either, which is when Mingyu knew something wasn’t right.

 

- I know you don’t like it when I text you but it’s been five days…

- I’m sorry if I did something wrong

- Hongbin :(

- Please don’t ignore me

- I’m sorry, I don’t want to be clingy but please talk to me

- Just tell me if you’re okay?

 

Two weeks later, after countless attempts of contacting the man, Mingyu’s desperation grew to the point of him contemplating to visit Hongbin’s office so he could see the man and ask what was going on, why Hongbin started ignoring him out of nowhere.

So he went, and he waited for hours down in the lobby, and then Mingyu saw him, and Hongbin’s face fell the second he noticed Mingyu sitting in the waiting room of the lobby as he stepped out of the elevator to go home. He glanced around to check if anyone was paying attention before walking over to Mingyu and grabbing his arm to drag him behind a corner where no one could see them.

Always hiding.

Hiding Mingyu, like he was embarrassed of him.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, sounding annoyed and accusing.

Mingyu stared at the man, anxious and hurt and angry. “You’ve been ignoring me for more than a week! What else was I supposed to do?”

“Mingyu…” The man sighed and closed his eyes, shaking his head. “Look, this needs to stop. It’s been going on for way too long. I thought you got the hint. Stop contacting me.”

Mingyu started frowning. “W-What?”

“It’s over,” Hongbin said, looking frustrated having to explain himself. Like he was talking to a child. “I can’t risk being seen with you, so don’t come here again.”

The man turned to leave but Mingyu grabbed his hand and pulled him back. “How can you do this out of nowhere? Hongin we... we've been dating for over a year. Is it something I did? I’ll be better, please, don’t—don’t leave me, I promise I’ll be better for you—“

“Stop!” Hongbin interrupted him, removing Mingyu’s hand. “I had fun with you. You’re cute, okay? But I’m thirty-two and I can’t risk losing everything I love over some college kid.”

The words hurt, and they made Mingyu flinch, but he tried to keep it together, if only to prove the man wrong, that he wasn’t just some kid who didn’t know what he wanted from life.

“Everything you love? No one even knows about me. You wouldn’t lose your job—“

“It’s not just my job!”

Mingyu closed his mouth, eyes desperately searching the man’s face for some sort of emotion, anything else but the cold harsh glare directed at him. Then his eyes flickered to the man’s hand, and he physically felt his heart stutter before it bloomed with numbness.

There was a golden band around Hongbin’s ring finger, on his left hand. A wedding ring.

Hongbin was married.

Mingyu stumbled back into the wall behind him, feeling like someone slapped him across the face.

He felt so betrayed.

So stupid.

“Mingyu…” Hongbin started, hands moving as if he wanted to touch Mingyu but Mingyu pushed him away, trying to hold back his tears. “Look, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for this to go on for so long. You were supposed to be a one-night stand, but I just… I shouldn’t have ever—“

“Did you ever love me?” Mingyu asked, even though all he could think about was Hongbin’s family, possibly his children, how Mingyu almost became a home wrecker. He was horrible. Mingyu was a horrible person.

“I love my wife,” Hongbin quietly said. “I love my daughter. But if things were different, if we met years ago, I’m sure I would’ve—“

“Fuck you,” Mingyu interrupted him harshly. “Your wife and daughter deserve better than that. You’re pathetic.” He spared the man one last glance before pushing past him and leaving the building.

Seungcheol found him like that later - after he threw every single thing out the man gave him (except for his Macbook and iPhone and that one Gucci belt because why would he throw those away) - curled up on his mattress with his face buried in his pillows, crying to himself.

“What happened?”

“He’s married,” Mingyu said, not wanting to talk about it, and Seungcheol looked crestfallen but not surprised at all. “I could’ve ruined a family, Cheol. I’m such a piece of shit.”

“No,” Seungcheol immediately said, sitting down next to him and taking his hand. “No, don’t you blame yourself for this. He’s the bastard who lied to you. This is not your fault, you hear me? You couldn’t have known—”

“Of course I could’ve,” Mingyu spat, his voice muffled against the pillows. “The signs were all there. I was just too stupid, too fucking desperate to see. You were trying to tell me but I wouldn’t listen.”

“Mingyu…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Mingyu whimpered. “Hyung, I just want to forget it.”

“Okay,” Seungcheol said, patting the back of Mingyu’s head. “Okay, Gyu. Do you want me to leave?”

Mingyu exhaled shakily, nodding his head. “I’m sorry, I just...”

“It’s okay. I love you, you know that, yeah?”

The words made Mingyu tear up all over again. “I know. Love you too.”

 

 

 

The first few weeks after his… breakup, which felt more like a one-sided breakup more than anything, because Hongbin never even loved him in the first place, Mingyu wasn’t really himself.

Thinking about it now, it was probably during that time that Mingyu started developing insomnia, lying awake for hours at night, blaming himself for what happened, hating himself for being so weak and throwing himself at a man who only used him to live out his fantasies and get away from the problems in his life.

Seungcheol and Jihoon did their best to distract him, and their surprise movie marathons or frequent cuddle sessions started to help at the two month mark, only for the whole progress to be completely erased again when they went to the movies one night.

Mingyu was laughing about something Jihoon said and saw how Seungcheol’s smile slipped, and he followed the boy’s line of sight before he could stop Mingyu, and regretted it immediately.

Hongbin was there, with a pretty woman on his side, holding a girl in his arms that couldn’t be older than six years old, and he was helping her pick an ice-cream flavour. Hongbin tickled her, and she squealed, her little pigtails bouncing cutely.

They were smiling. They looked happy.

Hongbin never used to smile that way when he was around Mingyu.

“If his kid wasn’t there, I’d be the shit out of him,” Jihoon sneered when he spotted them, too. “Fucking prick. Look at his pale ass face. Nasty mother—“

“Stop,” Mingyu said, forcing a smile. “Let’s just grab the popcorn and go inside okay?”

Seungcheol frowned at him. “We don’t have to. We can go to another cinema. Or watch a movie at home instead.”

“No.” Mingyu shook his head. It hurt. A lot. He wanted to cry. Really, really badly. But he knew his life had to go on sooner or later, just like Hongbin’s life went on without him. “I’m fine. Really. I just want to have a good night, okay?”

Seungcheol looked proud and gave him a gentle smile, wrapping his arm around his shoulders as he steered him inside while Jihoon went to buy snacks for them.

Hongbin never saw him, too wrapped up in his little family, and Mingyu couldn’t even bring himself to be angry anymore at the man, no matter how much he’d made Mingyu feel like dirt beneath his shoes.

Mingyu eventually got over Lee Hongbin, went back to his cheerful and goofy self everyone knew him for, but he also lost a big piece of himself in that time, and never really got it back again.

 

 

 

It’s a Friday night, and Mingyu is sitting on the couch in the living room alone. Seungcheol went out with Jihoon for dinner after Mingyu basically forced the two to do something without him. They both keep sending him messages to check up on him, so Mingyu turned his phone off because what’s the point of them going on a date when they will spend the whole time looking at their phones because of Mingyu?

He’s watching some sort of western romantic comedy he randomly picked out on Netflix and he’s reached the part where there’s less comedy and more heartbreak.

The main guy is out on the beach, sitting on a wall with a bottle of beer in his hands, staring into darkness while a party is going on somewhere behind him.

He’s not crying, even though he just found out his girlfriend’s been cheating on him for months now with his own brother.

Someone approaches him and sits down on the wall next to him.

“Are you okay?” The girl asks.

“I don’t know,” The guy says. “Am I?”

The girl lowers her head, her hand moving as if she wants to hold the guy’s but she doesn’t. “How do you feel, then?”

And the guy finally tears up at this, while everyone else is partying behind him, and he’s experiencing one of the worst kind of heartbreaks of his life.

He sniffles and turns his head away.

“Like all the sad songs finally make sense.”

Mingyu blinks, thinking about the sentence.

Is that how he feels?

He hasn’t listened to any sad songs in a while.

Because they remind him too much of—

Oh.

Yeah, okay.  

It’s exactly how Mingyu feels.

 

 

 

He flips the last flash card around, sighing in relief when he gets the answer right, and puts it on the ridiculously big stack on his desk.

Mingyu presses the button on his phone to make the screen light up, and it tells him that it’s already two hours past midnight, and Mingyu’s been studying for five hours with no breaks.

His eyes are sore, and he tells himself it’s simply from staring at his textbooks for too long. His room is only dimply lit by the small lamp on his desk, which probably doesn’t help his tired eyes, either.

The window to his bedroom is open and Mingyu realizes that the skin of his left arm has gotten very cold due to the cool air, so he gets up and closes it, and proceeds to pick up his sweater from the floor to put it on.

It’s not quite summer anymore. Mingyu’s been forgetting that lately, walking out the house without a jacket or sweater only to freeze his balls off when he walks back home from the library at night.

The semester started last week, and as much as Mingyu dislikes to say it, he’s glad to be attending classes again.

Having spent his break practically doing nothing has taken it’s toll on him, so he’s probably motivated more than he’s ever been in his life to get good grades and keep up with his school work.

The only thing that’s not so good is the fact that his break didn’t really have the effect his doctor expected it to have.

Mingyu is still - by definition - an insomniac.

He had an appointment last week, and his doctor sighed and pursed his lips, asking Mingyu if he wanted to try and take small doses of sleeping medication again, but Mingyu firmly shook his head because last time he got dangerously close to getting addicted to those things, and he doesn’t want to go through the same thing again.

So the doctor referred him to a therapist, because maybe it wasn’t a medical problem but rather something psychological.

He’s going to have his first session next week, and while he isn’t too thrilled about it, he’s also tired of walking around like a zombie every day, barely able to catch what the professors are blabbering at the front of the lecture halls each day.

If coffee and energy drinks weren’t a thing, Mingyu might as well just throw himself into the nearest trash bin, because that’s how useless his sleepless brain has gotten without the caffeine. 

But aside from the lack of sleep… he’s doing okay.

He talks to his grandmother frequently, and Seokmin even taught her how to use FaceTime, so Mingyu gets to see Pumpkin, too. It’s so nice to see them, but it also makes him miss them terribly, and Mingyu is always torn between wanting to cry and smile after every video call.

In terms of getting over his heartbreak, things aren’t looking that well.

Mingyu is struggling.

More than he did after Hongbin left him.

His chest aches whenever his thoughts drift towards a certain boy that made him feel things no one else ever did, and even when he’s with Seungcheol and Jihoon, when he’s laughing and enjoying himself, there’s still a dull throb behind his chest, like something is missing.

Like he wants to reach out and take Wonwoo’s hand, or curl up against him at night, but then realizes that he will most likely never get to do that again.

Because it’s been almost a month, and he hasn’t heard anything from the boy ever since he left.

A foolish part of himself probably hoped for Wonwoo to like him enough to come after him, that same part of his heart that didn’t want to accept the fact that he wasn’t anything but a meaningless affair to Hongbin back then.

Sometimes he asks himself what’s going to happen in the future. If Wonwoo will marry a pretty girl and years from now, will maybe think about Mingyu every now and then.

How they went to the waterfall, this exciting tension between them when neither of them wanted to take the first step and acknowledge there was something there. Their first kiss. Their stupid fights.

Wonwoo had told him how he wanted a life with Mingyu but that seems like such a silly wish now.

They didn’t even manage to stay together during the short amount of time Mingyu was there.

Them wishing for a lifetime together seems like a reach for the stars now.

Mingyu takes a deep breath and rubs at his eyes when they start to water, pushing his chair back to get up. He’s tired, physically, but he knows his brain won’t let him sleep.

Nevertheless, he drags his body to his bed and slips under the covers, breathing in the remaining scent of laundry detergent clinging to the fabric. His hands slips beneath his pillow until his fingers touch the cool metal of the item lying underneath it.

Mingyu curls his hand around it, the feeling of the small crystals pressing into his palm familiar and soothing.

It’s a desperate attempt at this point, but he trusts the crystals to help him sleep.

And they do, eventually.

Like they’ve been doing for the past month.

 

 

 

Mingyu finds a stuffed penguin on his bed one night after he comes back from the library. It’s round like a soccer ball, chubby and fluffy and makes Mingyu smile despite the exhaustion. He walks into Seungcheol’s bedroom that night, finding the older boy already asleep, and climbs in next to him, trying not to wake him up.

Seungcheol does anyway, blinking tiredly. “Gyu?”

Mingyu snuggles up against him until Seungcheol sighs and wraps an arm around him. “Thank you for the penguin.”

“It was Jihoon’s idea,” Seungcheol mumbles groggily. “But don’t tell him I told you. He’ll hate me for making him look soft in front of you.”

Mingyu grins and nods his head. “Okay.”

 

 

 

You know how sometimes girls get their hair cut or died after a breakup? Like a fresh start?

Well.

“What the fuck is that.” Jihoon lowers the playstation controller in his hand, glaring at Mingyu’s hair like it’s personally offending him as soon as Mingyu steps out of the bathroom where he’d spent the past four hours in.

“I died my hair.”

“Yeah,” Jihoon snorts. “I can see that. But what the actual fuck.”

Mingyu pouts and reaches up to run his hand through his hair. He opens his mouth to defend himself but you know what? Jihoon is right.

He looks ridiculous.

His hair is orange.

Seungcheol comes back from the kitchen in that moment, almost dropping the coffee in his hands. “Jesus fu—“ He stops himself when he sees Mingyu’s frown deepen. “I mean. Wow. Looks sick, dude. You know. Uhm. Like those idols? Yeah. Really cool.”

“Oh shut up,” Jihoon mutters, rolling his eyes. “He looks like a fucking Cheeto.”

“I need to go and buy brown hair dye before the store closes,” Mingyu mumbles.

Seungcheol bites down on a grin, setting his mug down. “You want me to come with you?”

Mingyu nods with a dejected look on his face. His arms still ache from how long he’d spent bleaching and dying his hair today.

 

They agree on never bringing it up ever again.

(Jihoon took pictures without Mingyu knowing and will bring it up to embarrass him whenever he can.)  

 

 

 

 

“Hey sleepyhead,” The voice whispers against his temple. Mingyu’s head is buried in a warm shoulder, his arm slung across a broad chest, gently rising and falling beneath him. “Wake up.”

Mingyu groans and presses his face into the warm neck, inhaling the sweet scent of peaches and fresh laundry. Fingers brush over his biceps, down to the inside of his elbow, feathery and gentle. He can feel the other’s skin on his own, from their chests down to their intertwined legs. They’re both naked. “Don’t want to.”

“You’re going to be late for class.” The words are murmured close to his ear, and the lips move to press a soft kiss behind it. Mingyu’s heart flutters and he begins to grin like an idiot, feeling giddy and happier than he has in a long time. He brushes his thumb over warm skin, feels the ridges of ribs under the muscles, the faint thrum of a heartbeat somewhere deeper.

“Wanna stay here with you.” Mingyu blinks his eyes open, his smile turning gentle when he sees Wonwoo looking down at him. The older cards his fingers through Mingyu’s hair gently. Mingyu licks his lips, waiting, and Wonwoo smirks, leaning down to place a kiss on his mouth.

“I’ll wait for you,” Wonwoo mumbles. “Not really anywhere I can go, is there?”

Mingyu snorts. “What do you mean? Don’t you have work?”

Wonwoo smiles and shakes his head. “I quit. I left everything behind for you. I don’t have anything left but you, Gyu.”

Mingyu’s smile morphs into a frown and he sits up, only to realize that they’re in his bedroom.

They’re not in the village.

“What’s wrong?” Wonwoo asks, his eyes soft with concern. Mingyu doesn’t like seeing him worried so he tries to relax despite the anxious feeling spreading in his limbs.

“Sorry, I’m just…” He sighs and leans into Wonwoo’s warmth who turns his head to pepper Mingyu’s neck with sweet kisses.

“It’s okay, Gyu,” Wonwoo whispers, kissing his neck again in a way that makes Mingyu shudder. “Just wake up, baby.”

“Hyung—”

Mingyu’s eyes open to the darkness of his bedroom, his heart still beating like crazy. His hand shoots up to touch the spot on his neck. He swears he can still feel the lips there, the ghost of Wonwoo’s kiss.

But he’s alone in his bedroom in the city, and it was just a dream.

Mingyu starts tearing up, unable to handle the devastation he feels the moment he realizes it wasn’t real. He wanted it to be real so bad.

It takes him a few minutes to calm down, and when he does, he reaches out to pick up his phone.

It’s three in the morning.

He takes a gulp of the water he has standing on the nightstand, trying to get rid of the images of his dream.

Mingyu buries his head beneath the pillow and pushes the necklace under it to the other end of the mattress, suddenly not wanting to touch it anymore.

 

 

 

“We’re going out,” Jihoon declares when they’re having breakfast together that Saturday morning. They’re having toast with cheap cheese that looks like orange plastic but tastes decent enough. A cup of coffee each in front of them, Jihoon’s black, no sugar, black with sugar for Seungcheol, and two packs of sugar plus too much cream for Mingyu.

“Why?” Mingyu asks.

“Because you’ve been holed up in this apartment ever since you got back.” Jihoon sighs and taps his fingernails against his mug. “You’ve been working your ass off, too. You deserve to let lose a bit.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Yeah, tough luck, cause I don’t care about that.”

“He’s right, you know,” Seungcheol says. “You need to get out a little. Get wasted and have a good time.”

“I never have a good time at clubs.” Mingyu shrugs, pursing his lips. “You know that.”

“But it’s better than staying at home, thinking about—“ Jihoon stops himself there and sighs loudly. “Come on. Don’t turn hyung down, Gyu.

He’s pulling the hyung card now. Mingyu gives him a half-hearted glare, shaking his head.

And finds himself standing in front of a popular club later that night.

The club is packed like it always is on the weekends. Apparently one of Jihoon’s friend from university managed to get them on the guest list which is why they don’t have to wait as long to get inside.

The first thing Mingyu does as soon as they get inside is to claim the first free booth he sees for himself, making Jihoon roll his eyes.

“You did not come here to sit around all night.”

“I won’t,” Mingyu defends himself. “We only just got here. What do you want me to do?”

“Come and grab a drink with me. Cheol can save the seats for us, right babe?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Seungcheol says and moves to sit down on the leather seat. “Just bring me a gin tonic, will you?”

Jihoon nods and raises his eyebrows at Mingyu, who only blankly stares back at him until his resolve crumbles and he pushes himself out the booth with a grumble, letting Jihoon wrap an arm around his waist as he guides him towards the bar.

The strobe lights are blinding, red and green, and the deep bass of the club remix of a popular rap song makes Mingyu’s chest rumble with every beat. They make their way through people dancing, some getting a little touchy, still flirting, while others are already full-on making out. It’s not a gay club. There are girls and dudes pressed together everywhere and Mingyu feels out of place, like he always does.

Jihoon… gently nudges some people out of the way at the bar, pulling Mingyu along who has to deal with the annoyed glares they receive. He orders drinks for them, glaring at Mingyu when the younger pulls out his wallet. Money's never been an issue between them. Seungcheol, him, Jihoon, they share everything and help each other out wherever they can.

Again. Mingyu doesn’t know what he did in his previous life to deserve them but he will forever be grateful to have them in his life.

Just as they’re about to pick up their drinks and go back to Seungcheol, Jihoon stops to pull out his phone, probably having received a text. He reads it for a moment, his face illuminated by the screen, before typing something back and looking around the club.

“It’s the guy who got us on the guest list,” He explains at Mingyu’s questioning gaze. “We should say hi and thank him.”

Mingyu shrugs. He doesn’t really care what it is they’re doing as long as they can go home soon.

By the time they make it back to their booth, there are two new people sitting there on the other side of Seungcheol, chatting like they’re old friends.

Mingyu hasn’t met either of those guys before and it makes him frown a little. It’s not like he’s against meeting new people; he loves it, under normal circumstances. But he doesn’t really feel like making small talk with anyone right now so he hopes the dudes leave after a short, polite introduction.

“Eunwoo!” Jihoon shouts when they’re within hearing distance, making all three boys look up from their conversation. The one Mingyu assumes to be Eunwoo smiles at Jihoon before his eyes flicker to Mingyu, his smile changing the slightest bit, and not in a negative way.

They introduce themselves and Mingyu gives both Eunwoo and the one who wants to be called MJ a smile, not wanting to come across like an asshole.

He’s about to sit down next to Seungcheol but Jihoon ushers him to sit down on the other side instead, pointing at the seat next to Eunwoo. Mingyu glares at him but sits down with a huff in the end.

They make small talk together, until Seungcheol decides it’s time to dance. Mingyu isn’t feeling like it at all and after four minutes of back-and-forth and everyone trying to persuade Mingyu to come dance with them, they leave him alone.

Alone with Eunwoo, that is.

Mingyu has a weird feeling about this, especially since Jihoon gave him a pointed look before he left for the dance floor with Seungcheol and MJ, like Mingyu is supposed to understand what the hell he mans.

“So,” Eunwoo starts, gaining Mingyu’s attention again. Mingyu turns to look at the boy and it’s probably the first time tonight that he’s taking a good look at his face. He’s attractive. Mingyu’s brain immediately starts comparing. The nose isn’t right, the eyes aren’t sharp enough, his lips aren’t as plump—

He’s not Jeon Wonwoo.

Mingyu wants to kick himself.

“So,” Mingyu repeats awkwardly.

Eunwoo chuckles nervously and Mingyu smiles. He used to be better at this.

“You don’t like dancing?” Mingyu asks, hoping to break the ice between them. It might take a while for the others to come back, might as well befriend Eunwoo in the meantime.

“I do,” Eunwoo surprisingly says. His eyes glint in the lights of the club, his lips are pink and inviting and there’s a dark, manly scent on him that would make Mingyu’s chest tingle in any other situation.

“Then why are you here?”

“I don’t know.” Eunwoo shrugs. “Guess didn’t want to leave you alone.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Why is it so awkward? Jesus. Mingyu hopes Seungcheol can sense his discomfort and come and save his sorry ass before this gets any more embarrassing.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Mingyu asks after taking a sip from what has to be his third drink already. His head is feeling pleasantly numb. Not bad enough for him to be drunk, but just enough to shut out any thoughts that could ruin his mood.

He could’ve asked the guy anything; if he goes to school, where he lives, what his favorite anime is, but nope. Eunwoo seems to think the same, because he looks taken aback by the question, but he chuckles, so maybe it wasn’t as invasive as Mingyu feared it was.

“No. Do you?”

“No.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re really handsome.”

Mingyu freezes a little, forcing himself to look the guy in the eyes, and he suddenly just knows. It clicks, because Eunwoo looks a little nervous, his upper body turned in Mingyu’s direction, attentive and interested. And suddenly he’s blushing.

That’s what Jihoon’s look before meant, why he wanted them to sit together, why he wanted Mingyu to go out with him.

Sometimes he loves his fun-sized hyung. Sometimes he kind of wants to strangle him.

But right now, as he looks at Eunwoo, this handsome guy that may or may not be flirting with him, he thinks that it’s been three months.

Maybe…

Maybe his hyungs are right.

Maybe it’s time to move on.

The thought on it’s own makes a lump form in Mingyu’s throat, makes him want to run back home and put on Wonwoo’s necklace in a desperate attempt to hold on to something that he knows is lost.

Mingyu looks at Eunwoo and smiles. “So are you.”

They spend the next hour talking about each other’s lives. Mingyu learns that Eunwoo is the same age as him and that he’s majoring in art education. An artist. It’s kind of obvious, from the way he talks, his kind of artsy yet expensive looking clothes. Eunwoo is cute but confident, has Mingyu stuttering with some of his very straight-forward answers and as time passes and more alcohol finds it’s way inside their bloodstreams, they move closer together in the booth.

Their thighs are pressed together, shoulders brushing whenever they move, and Mingyu feels intoxicated not only from the alcohol in his body but also Eunwoo’s sweet cologne.

“You okay?” Eunwoo asks softly, his voice close against Mingyu’s ear, making him shiver and feel hot all over. He figures he’s been too quiet for the past few minutes since Eunwoo looks mildly concerned. “Do you want some water?”

“No!” Mingyu’s hand shoots out when Eunwoo moves as if to get up. He doesn’t want to be alone. “No, I’m good. Sorry I just…”

Eunwoo sits back down, his hand brushing against Mingyu’s on top of the table. “It’s okay. Don’t be sorry.”

Mingyu turns to face the guy, waiting for that heart fluttering feeling of attraction to come over him, but it never does. 

“You’re really nice,” He says, ignoring his own feelings.

“Yeah?” Eunwoo smiles. He has a pretty smile. Warm and inviting. Why isn’t it enough?

Mingyu nods, eyes never leaving Eunwoo’s.

“You’re nicer.” Eunwoo says, and Mingyu snorts unattractively, but somehow Eunwoo looks at him almost fondly despite it all.

It’s still not enough.

He licks his lips and shifts closer, too close for two guys who are just friends, but Mingyu doesn’t care. He needs to feel something. Anything.

When the others get back, Eunwoo doesn’t move away like Mingyu expected him to. He stays on his side, warm and solid, and the others all have knowing looks on their faces when they sit down in the booth. Seungcheol smiles encouragingly at Mingyu, who can’t help but feel guilty.

Like he’s doing something wrong.

Jihoon seems to sense his inner conflict, gently nudging Mingyu’s foot under the table, shaking his head at him. Stop it. This is okay. You’re allowed to meet new people.

Mingyu gives him a tight lipped smile.

Eunwoo seems to notice the tension radiating off of Mingyu because he starts to move away as if to give Mingyu space, but Mingyu reaches out to grip the guy’s hand under the table, tangling their fingers together.

It makes Eunwoo blush, but he squeezes Mingyu’s hand gently and pulls their joined hands on his lap. It’s nice. It’s sweet.

Mingyu’s heart hurts.

“Let’s get out of here,” Mingyu says without thinking too much about it.

“Are you sure?”

Mingyu nods and grabs his stuff, moving out of the booth.

Both Seungcheol and Jihoon send him confused looks that turn into ones of great satisfaction when they see Eunwoo following him.

“Have fun,” Seungcheol says. “Be safe.”

“Careful, Eunwoo,” Jihoon warns the boy next to Mingyu.

Eunwoo gulps and nods his head. “I know hyung.”

Eunwoo calls a cab.

They sit far apart in the backseats, not wanting to get into any trouble with the male cab driver, but it makes Mingyu feel worse.

He feels cold and lonely.

Eunwoo reaches out halfway into the ride, grabs Mingyu’s hand and holds it tightly despite the disapproving look the taxi driver sends them through the rearview mirror.

Eunwoo’s apartment is nothing like his shared one with Seungcheol. It’s a loft at the top of an apartment complex, just one giant space with industrial interior design, artsy paintings and decorations everywhere. It looks amazing, but Mingyu doesn’t have much time to take it in, because after shrugging out of his jacket, he turns to look at Eunwoo, who’s standing behind him with a calm expression.

“You like it?”

Mingyu nods and his eyes rake over the boy’s form and before he knows it, he’s surging forward, cupping the boy’s face and pulling him in for a kiss.

Eunwoo is too surprised to respond for a few seconds, but then his arms come up to wrap around Mingyu’s waist, pulling their bodies flush together and kisses Mingyu back the way he wants to be kissed.

Which is hot and demanding, nothing loving or gentle about it.

Eunwoo pulls back to kiss down Mingyu’s neck, his tongue hot and wet, making Mingyu shiver as he pulls the boy’s shirt out of his pants to stick his hands inside and touch his warm skin.

“Bed,” Mingyu whispers and Eunwoo nods, sucking at the skin beneath Mingyu’s ear and guiding him through his apartment. He pushes Mingyu down on the mattress and immediately settles down between his legs, aligning their bodies everywhere, his sweet cologne almost too much.

“You okay?” Eunwoo pulls back to ask when Mingyu freezes a little under him.

“Yeah, keep going,” Mingyu assures him, trying to silence his haunting thoughts.

Eunwoo doesn’t look convinced so Mingyu pulls his shirt off and urges Eunwoo to do the same which makes the boy smile because Mingyu is so impatient, and Mingyu can’t help but groan at the abs in front of him, reaching out to trail a hand over the skin before Eunwoo eases him back down on the bed, looking into Mingyu’s eyes for a moment before he kisses him again.

It’s good. It feels good.

Until it doesn’t anymore.

Because suddenly it’s not Eunwoo that makes him let out a moan when his hand brushes over the inside of his thigh, it’s not Eunwoo who licks into his mouth.

It’s Wonwoo and him, back in his bedroom in the village, it's Wonwoo looking at him with his loving eyes, kissing him, making him see fucking stars with a single touch—

He’s not Wonwoo, he’s just not, and Mingyu wants Wonwoo.

He doesn’t want anyone else.

Eunwoo pulls away from him, panting softly, his handsome eyes moving across Mingyu’s face with furrowed eyebrows. He shakes his head. “Alright. We’re not doing this.”

Mingyu only now realizes that his eyes feel watery. He is actually crying while he’s about to hook up with a hot guy. Can he sink any lower? “W-What? Why?”

Eunwoo sighs and leans back to sit between Mingyu’s legs, reaching out a hand to help Mingyu up. It’s a little awkward, given they’re both half naked and, well. Half hard.

“What’s wrong, Mingyu?”

“Nothing,” Mingyu says and sniffles pathetically.

“You’re upset. You’re crying. Did I do something wrong?” Eunwoo sounds so genuinely worried it only makes Mingyu want to cry more.

“No!” He’s quick to say. “No, Eunwoo you’re—you’re perfect. You didn’t do anything. I just… I’m so sorry. I’ll just go.” Mingyu moves to stand up but Eunwoo stops him, holding his wrist.

“Mingyu... Wait, where are you going?”

“I ruined your night,” Mingyu says. “I’m sorry I lead you on, I genuinely thought I could do this but I just can't...”

“Don’t apologize,” Eunwoo says. “And you don’t have to leave. I’m not kicking you out in the middle of the night.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Mingyu. I’m not an asshole.” Eunwoo smiles and gets up to put on a pair of sweats, offering Mingyu some comfortable clothes, but he declines and says he’ll sleep in his underwear if that’s okay, which Eunwoo has no problem with either. After cleaning up in the bathroom Eunwoo comes back and sits down on the bed, leaning against the wall since his bed has no headboard and pulls the blankets over the both of them. “Do you want to talk about it?” He asks.

Mingyu shakes his head. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid if it made you cry.”

Mingyu’s about to cry again. He misses Wonwoo. He misses him so much he doesn’t know what to do about it anymore. He can’t seem to get over him no matter what he does and it’s not fair. “I just… I’m having a hard time. Getting over someone.”

Eunwoo hums like he was expecting that. “This isn’t the first time I’m someone’s rebound.”

Mingyu pulls a pained face. “I’m sorry Eunwoo. I really didn’t mean to make it look that way.”

Eunwoo turns to look at him, half of his face illuminated by the street lights streaming in through his high windows. He smiles and Mingyu wants it to be enough, he desperately wants that, but it’s not and he can’t delude himself into thinking it is. It wouldn’t be fair on Eunwoo or on himself. “I’m kidding Mingyu. It’s okay. I did the same thing after my last break up. But let me tell you something: Getting with other people won’t mend your heart. It just numbs the pain until you’re alone again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Well, if you want to keep apologizing, I guess I owe you an apology too.”

“Why?” Mingyu asks, giving him a confused look.

“Jihoon hyung kind of, texted me before tonight. He said he had a single friend and kind of asked me to, uhm. Flirt with you a little,” Eunwoo quietly explains. Mingyu’s face falls a bit and Eunwoo quickly shakes his head. “Hey, no. That’s not why I flirted with you! I found you attractive the second I saw you. I genuinely wanted to get to know you better, I promise. But yeah, I was planning on doing Jihoon a favour at first but I swear that changed when I got to know you tonight.”

“So what, you would’ve went through with it even if you didn't like me and potentially broken someone's heart?”

Eunwoo pouts. “I just wanted to do Jihoon hyung a favour. Don't make me look like an asshole.”

Mingyu rolls his eyes. “It’s fine. I know how he can be. He’s been trying to set me up with people for weeks now.”

This makes the boy laugh, and they sit in silence for a moment, on Eunwoo’s bed, in his pretty apartment, listening to the noises of the city.

“Was it a bad breakup?” Eunwoo breaks the silence with his gentle voice, picking on his striped bedsheets.

Mingyu shrugs. “Not much of a breakup if you weren’t even together to begin with.”

“Ouch,” Eunwoo mutters. “I’m sorry, man. But for what it’s worth… he’s a lucky guy. To have you like him.”

Mingyu blushes without meaning to. “Alright. Stop.” He chuckles and Eunwoo smirks at him.

“So… You still got feelings for this guy, and your friends are trying to set you up with someone new to help you get over him.”

“Correct.”

“I might have an idea.”

“I don't know if I want to hear that.”

Eunwoo laughs. “No, listen. Even if this didn’t really work out, I’d still like to be friends.”

“Yeah,” Mingyu is quick to say, giving the boy a sincere smile. “Me too.”

“So why don’t you just tell them you’re seeing me? Like just casually, to see if you like me or not. That way the’ll stop pestering you and we get to hang out. Like bros.”

Mingyu gnaws on his lower lip. “Are you sure? I don’t… I don’t want this to get messy. I don’t want to end up leading you on or anything.”

“Nah, don’t worry. I won’t catch feelings when I know your heart belongs to someone else. And it’ll be a win-win situation, you know. You can be my wingman and stuff.

Mingyu thinks about it for a moment. Eunwoo seems like a great guy, and Mingyu could use another friend or he’ll go crazy from Seungcheol and Jihoon’s constant babying, even if they only mean well. “Okay. Deal.”

 

 

 

 

He takes a deep breath.

And another one.

Because he kind of feels like his heart might burst out of his chest with how fast it’s beating.

A little boy squeals from where presumably his older brother is chasing him around on the parking lot and it makes him snap out of it, holding up the small piece of paper with the digits scribbled down.

He presses the numbers on the payphone before he can change his mind, the lump in his throat so big he can barely breathe around it.

And then he waits.

One… Two… Three…Four.

He’ll hang up at the sixth ring.

Five—

“Hyung! I’ve been calling you for like an hour!” A voice speaks as soon as he picks up. Mingyu’s voice, rushed and out of breath.

There’s a beat of silence, his breath hitching as he hears the voice again for the first time in three months. It’s so silent all of a sudden, only his heartbeat loud enough to register in his mind. His grip on the phone tightens, a mix of excitement and dread and longing swelling in his chest when he parts his lips to say something, anything

“Where is your Hilfiger shirt? The black one? I need it for my date with Eunwoo because—

And just like that, the world around him starts moving again. Loud and ugly.

Mingyu curses on the other side, like he finally realized that the number calling him doesn’t belong to his hyung. Whoever that might be. “Who’s there?”

All Mingyu hears is a shaky intake of air in response before the line goes dead.  

Wonwoo squeezes his eyes shut, a curse slipping past his lips as he tries to breathe around the heavy knot in his chest. He’s a coward. Still a coward, even after everything.

He crumples up the piece of paper in his palm. His face is stoic, not matter how much his chest aches, no matter how shaken he is from hearing Mingyu’s voice again after missing it for so long.

“What are you doing?” Yerim suddenly appears beside him, shooting him an annoyed look, her eyes flickering from him to the payphone. “We have to go.”

Wonwoo swallows heavily, unable to think beyond the sound of Mingyu’s voice.

The words he spoke.

And his mind instantly throws images at him, of Mingyu styling his hair in the bathroom, nervously waiting for his date. Another man picking Mingyu up, getting his smiles, making him laugh, kissing his lips.

His eyes burn and his heart feels heavy like it’s soaked with ice cold water, dragging him down even though he’s already kind of at the bottom.  

“Hey,” Yerim says, less annoyed, concern softening her features. The tip of her nose is red, her dark hidden behind the woolen hat on her head to keep her warm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Wonwoo nods and walks past her before he can do something stupid. Like cry in front of his little sister. The people are getting back on the bus and he sees his mom waiting for them in the distance. “Come on, let’s go back to mom.”

Yerim catches up with him but can’t stop shooting Wonwoo worried looks. “Who did you call?”

Wonwoo tries to calm down, he really does, but his heart hurts, hasn’t stopped hurting since Mingyu left.

His fingers are suddenly itching for a cigarette, even though he hasn't touched one ever since...

“No one,” Wonwoo says, his face blank, forcing that same old numb feeling back inside his heart. “It’s no one.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

So this fake-dating-Eunwoo idea that seemed like a great idea when Eunwoo proposed it to him almost two months ago, might have been a rubbish idea after all.

Because there is only so long he can keep replying the same things whenever Seungcheol or Jihoon ask him if they made things official yet.

They left him alone in the beginning, believed him when Mingyu explained to them that he just wanted to get to know Eunwoo better before actually dating him.

They’ve been spending an awful lot of time together. They do simple things, like going shopping together, watch a movie at the cinema, a trip to the local aquarium, go bowling, go out clubbing at night where Mingyu tries to find a cute guy for Eunwoo but no one ever seems to be cute enough for said person so they just end up getting drunk together and having a good time without getting laid. Unless Seungcheol and Jihoon tag along; nights like those, Eunwoo glues himself to Mingyu’s back, hands wrapped around his waist, lips trailing over Mingyu’s neck long enough for everyone at the club the know they’re both taken.

Mingyu spends a lot of time at Eunwoo’s apartment whenever his own feels too small and Eunwoo hangs out at his place whenever he feels too lonely. It’s okay like this, there are no romantic feelings involved whatsoever, especially not after Eunwoo took a shit in the bathroom while Mingyu was showering the week before.

While Mingyu’s been really enjoying his fake dates with the boy (because really, Eunwoo is a sweetheart and makes Mingyu laugh until he gets stomach cramps), his hyungs are starting to worry.

They always worry about him, and Mingyu usually appreciates the concern, but his insomnia has been gradually getting worse again, and his nerves are running too thin for him to handle being cornered by them all the time. He wants to be left alone, but Eunwoo calls and notices something off about Mingyu’s voice, so he ends up inviting himself over.

Mingyu really doesn’t feel like seeing the other, but Eunwoo brings pizza with him, forces Mingyu to watch the new season of Rupaul’s Drag race with him, and it works, like it always does, because half an hour into the show, Mingyu finds himself laughing along with Eunwoo, whose shoulders are shaking against his own whenever he giggles at something one of the contestants said.

“Thank you,” Mingyu mumbles when another episode ends and they’re waiting for the next one to start automatically. “For coming here. I know you probably had better things to do—“

“Like what?” Eunwoo interrupts, dusting off some breadcrumbs from his expensive shirt. He glances at Mingyu, licking his lips. “Being single and lonely in my apartment?”

Mingyu sighs and shakes his head. “You could have anyone you want, you know that, right? You chose to be single, dude.”

“Is that so?” Eunwoo lets out a short laugh.

“Yes. Your expectations are just way too high. The last guy you refused to talk to again was because you said he had weird fingernails.”

“Okay, but they were shaped like freaking triangles, what the fuck—“

“They were fine.”

“Fuck, no, imagine him fingering me with those claws—“

The door opens in that moment, Seungcheol and Jihoon entering the living room.

Eunwoo is quick to wrap his arm around Mingyu’s shoulders, pulling him against his side, and Mingyu lays his head on Eunwoo’s chest, reaching for his friend’s hand with his own to make it look like he was playing with his fingers.

“Hey you two,” Seungcheol says with a smile upon seeing them. He looks so happy about the scene it makes Mingyu feel like an asshole for deceiving his best friend like that. He averts his eyes and looks down at their intertwined hands, feeling his chest tighten.

They fit together will, Eunwoo and him. They get along well, Eunwoo makes him laugh, Eunwoo takes care of him.

It feels like he isn’t only pretending for the sake of being left alone by Seungcheol and Jihoon.

Like maybe, if they keep this little act for long enough, his heart will start to believe it, too.

Mingyu looks up again when he hears someone clear their throat, sees Jihoon giving them an odd look.

“We’re going to make dinner, do you guys want to eat, too?”

Mingyu looks up at Eunwoo who pulls Mingyu’s hand up to kiss his knuckles and shakes his head. “I have some shit to do for school so I gotta go. But thanks for the offer, hyung.”

Seungcheol nods and sends him a little wave and Mingyu sees Eunwoo out, handing him his jacket, and Eunwoo smiles at him. “Thank you again, for cheering me up.” Mingyu mumbles.

Eunwoo shakes his head, and after a moment of hesitation leans in to kiss Mingyu’s lips. It’s short and soft, it’s nice, but it doesn’t make Mingyu feel anything, only for show since Seungcheol is probably squealing about them again in the kitchen after watching them like the creep he is. “Stop thanking me. I’m just fulfilling my duties as a fake boyfriend.”

“Well, you’re doing a good job. I should give you a promotion or something.”

“To what? Your real boyfriend?”

Mingyu snorts. “So you can complain about my fingernails? No thanks.”

Eunwoo laughs, and flicks his forehead. “Your nails are fine. Unlike that guy’s, they were fucking horrendous—“

“Okay!” Mingyu rolls his eyes and pushes him out the door. “Call me when you get home.”

Eunwoo leaves and Mingyu sighs before walking into his bedroom, where he closes the door and leans against it. He feels tired.

He is tired.

Of pretending.

There’s a knock on his door. Mingyu winces. He can’t right now. He doesn’t want to talk.

But he steps away and opens it anyway, lets Jihoon enter, goes to sit on his bed.

“Can I ask you something?” Jihoon asks after silently staring at him for a good minute.

“Sure.”

“Did you two make things official yet?”

“Official?”

“Are you, you know, boyfriends now?”

“No. We haven’t talked about it yet,” Mingyu mutters, swallowing around the guilt in his throat.

Jihoon just looks at him, and Mingyu feels his skin prickle nervously. “You shouldn’t lead him on if you’re not interested,” Jihoon then says, and Mingyu’s shoulders tense up immediately.

“I’m not leading him on,” Mingyu says calmly. “We’re just taking things slow.”

“I understand that. I just hope Eunwoo knows that, too.”

Mingyu grits his teeth together. “He knows, hyung.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“I just don’t want one of you to get hurt. You’re like my brother, and Eunwoo is a good friend of mine—“

Mingyu closes his eyes, teeth gritting together and just like that, out of nowhere, his patience simply snaps. “Hyung stop—Just stop drilling my ass about this! Is your life really that boring that you have to always interfere with mine?!”

You could hear a needle drop in the following silence.

Jihoon is seemingly frozen in place, staring blankly at Mingyu, who regretted the words as soon as he opened his mouth.

His entire face falls. He’s never talked this way to Jihoon before, never had a reason to, not when he respects and loves the older so much. Not after everything Seungcheol and him have done for Mingyu.

Putting up with his bratty, whiny ass on a daily basis, loving him no matter how much he fucks everything up. Protecting him, supporting him, cheering him up.

Being the family he doesn’t really have.

“Hyung…” Mingyu says. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Jihoon blinks at him before he puts his hand on the door handle. He doesn’t say anything, which is somehow worse.

“Hyung, please don’t leave. I’m really sorry—“

“Stop apologizing,” Jihoon interrupts as he opens the door. “You’re right. We’re your friends, not your parents, and you’re an adult. We just worry about you, you know.”

“Hyung, no—“

Jihoon turns around and leaves and Mingyu flinches when the door slams shut on his way out.

 

 

Safe to say, he doesn’t sleep well that night.

Mindless tossing around, feeling too hot under the sheets only to freeze whenever he pushes them out. When he finally starts to doze off, a sudden noise from somewhere in the house makes him jump and wakes him up again.

It’s agony, but it’s nothing new, so when the first rays of sunlight touch Mingyu’s face in the early morning, he sleepily stares out the window, feeling cold and confused from the lack of sleep.

It’s so serene, the silence, the birds flying across the sky as they wake up along with the sun, and he wishes he could stay like this, for a few more hours.

He surely would fall asleep, because if he’s learned one thing from his insomnia, it’s that the body will take it’s sleep when it can’t go on anymore, and there is absolutely nothing this stubborn disorder can do against it.

So he gets ready for class, puts on soft and warm clothes and slips into a thick winter coat before tossing some snacks and instant coffee packs into his school bag. Seungcheol’s still asleep, and a quick glance at the entrance and the lack of Jihoon’s shoes tells Mingyu that his hyung must’ve left last night.

Their fight still sits in his stomach like a heavy stone, and Mingyu wants nothing more than to seek the older out and hug him and apologize for being rude and for being a brat and tell him how much he loves and appreciates him.

Later. It’ll have to wait.

First, he has to survive his eight am class, the one he foolishly signed up for last summer in a silly act of naivety, thinking he’d be able to motivate himself to attend said lectures in the wee hours of the morning.

The streets are still fairly empty at this time of day, but there are other poor souls sitting on the bus, falling asleep, fixing their ties, and Mingyu sits down in the last row at the back with a heavy sigh, closes his eyes and leans his head against the cool window.

He feels someone sit down in front of him a few stops after he gets on the bus but he doesn’t bother to open his eyes, not really curious enough to move in order to watch other passengers get on and off the bus.

He has his earbuds in, his ears filled with soft, indie tunes, and his mind is in a complete haze, drifting in this weird state where he feels like he’s asleep but is still painfully aware of  being awake.

It’s why he doesn’t hear the sharp intake of air in front of him.

Until there’s a tap on his shoulder.

Mingyu instinctively pulls his earbuds out, blinks one eye open and sees a girl peering at him, turned around in her seat, her eyes wide, cheeks and nose red from the cold.

Her face… it’s familiar—

“Oppa,” She says.

Mingyu freezes.

Is he dreaming?

The girl raises her eyebrows at him, concern written across her face. She waves her glove-clad hand in front of his face and Mingyu flinches, hard.

He must be dreaming— This can’t be— It can’t—

“Mingyu oppa!” The girl makes a frustrated sound. “Are you okay? Do you not recognize me? It’s Yerim! We met last summer.” She pouts when Mingyu doesn’t react, doesn’t do anything but stare at her like an absolute creep.

“Ye…rim?” He finally speaks. “Are you real?”

She frowns. “What?”

Mingyu looks down at his hands. Counts his fingers.

Five on the left, five on the right.

Then he looks up at the screen showing the bus stops; the letters are all right, they make sense, Mingyu knows these bus stops, sees them every day.

He’s not dreaming.

And suddenly, Mingyu can’t breathe.

Yerim is here, on a cold morning, in the city, right in front of him, and it doesn’t make sense.

“How— How are you here?” He manages to ask. “Yerim, what— what are you doing here?”

The concern on her face morphs into something like remorse, and she anxiously nibbles on her lower lip. She looks over her shoulder when the next bus stop is announced. “Oppa, I have to get off here, can you—“

Mingyu robotically nods his head, follows her off the bus, out into the icy morning.

The bus drives off, leaving Mingyu alone with the girl at the deserted bus stop close to Mingyu’s university.

Yerim looks up at him, her breath forming tiny clouds in the air. “You’re scaring me. Why aren’t you saying anything?”

“I don’t understand. What’s going on?”

“We moved here,” Yerim says, brings a hand up to rub at her cold nose. “Do you remember how I used your laptop to send my college application?”

Mingyu still feels like none of this is real. He can’t stop staring at her. How is she here? How does any of this make any sense?

And if she’s here, does that mean… Does that mean…

Mingyu swallows heavily. “I remember you lying to me and applying to a college here.”

Yerim pouts and stares at the ground. “And I’m sorry for that. I really am. I feel horrible for putting the blame on you, but it was my only choice. It was my only way out of that village. Please don’t hate me.”

Mingyu licks his cracked lips, his gaze softening. He was never mad at her. He always knew why Yerim did what she did. “So… you moved here.”

Yerim looks up at him again. “Yes. Two months ago.”

“Two months,” Mingyu repeats. They’ve been here for two months, and Mingyu has never once seen her? The city isn’t small by any means, but Mingyu’s on this bus almost every day, surely he would’ve ran into Yerim at one point or another, right?

Yerim nods. “I’ve started college. Mom is helping out at a restaurant and oppa’s working at a family friends’ garage, he’s going to—“

Mingyu’s heart lurches in his chest. He can’t breathe. He can’t— “Wonwoo?”

Yerim gives him a long look, like she knows more than she should, and she looks sad. “Yeah,” She softly says. “He’s here, too. Do you think he would let me leave on my own?”

“Wonwoo’s here?” Mingyu’s voice breaks a bit. He hates it, how much of an effect the mere name of the boy has on him. It’s been so many months, he’s been doing so well, but the mention of Wonwoo’s name is enough to take him back to square one.

To him crying himself to sleep the days following his departure from the village, him missing Wonwoo so bad the boy kept visiting him in his dreams to keep him company, him starting to fake-date Eunwoo to get over Wonwoo….

“He, uhm,” Yerim stutter a little. “He took the exams, you know? He took them, after you left. He got good scores. He’s going to start police school next year. We’re really happy here, Mingyu oppa. And it’s because of you.”

“Don’t,” Mingyu says under his breath, unable to meet the younger girls’ eyes. He suddenly can’t bear the sight of her, the form of her eyes and arch of eyebrows reminding him way too much of Wonwoo’s handsome features. “I didn’t do anything.”

“But you did,” She mumbles. “Without you, my brother wouldn’t have ever even considered leaving that horrible place. I know you two were friends and I ruined that, and I am very sorry for that. But just so you know? Oppa felt horrible after you left. He wasn’t himself for days and I’ve never seen him cry before but I think you leaving was really hard on him because his eyes were always so red and—“

“Yerim,” Mingyu interrupts weakly, something like a whimper catching in his throat. “It was nice to see you. Tell your mother hi for me, will you? I’m sure we’ll see each other around.” He swallows heavily at the confused look on Yerim’s face. “And stay warm, it’s too cold to be walking around like this, silly.” He reaches out to fix her scarf, wrapping it around her neck until it’s covering half her face.

She whines but Mingyu’s glad for the distraction; because he’s about to cry, and he doesn’t need her to see it. “Please don’t be a stranger, oppa. We don’t really know anyone here, and Wonwoo oppa would be so happy to see you. I hope you two can make up. You were good for him—“

“I have to go to class, take care, yeah?”

She finally pulls her scarf down, pouting at him. “Okay.”

“Hey, don’t pout.”

“I missed you. I’m sorry for ruining everything. I really am.”

“I missed you, too, Yerim,” He says with a smile and pats her on the head before walking away, the smile slipping from his face until his his features are twisted in pain.

He stumbles a bit, feeling light headed, his heartbeat furious behind his ears.

He suddenly sees the sun from the village, the birds chirping, the smell of nature with Wonwoo standing in his grandma’s garden.

 

“You’re Mingyu?”

“I sure am. And I’m guessing you’re Wonwoo?”

 

Mingyu takes a deep breath and shakes his head, trying to clear his vision.

He’s on campus now, can feel students walking past him, but he can’t move.

All he can think about is Wonwoo, the village, their trips to the waterfall, Pumpkin getting hurt, their first kiss, Wonwoo kissing him in his bed, Wonwoo making him cry, Wonwoo beating Joohyun’s cousin up, Wonwoo with the sun on his face and a cigarette between his lips—

His head spins. Mingyu knows this feeling. He knows when his body is about to shut down, taking the sleep it needs, no matter where, what time, who he’s with.

He just has to…

Just has to get back to the bus—

Someone says something to him, but their voice sounds like it’s underwater, muffled.

Mingyu looks up and sees a guy looking at him, concerned.

He takes another icy breath that burns his lungs.

 

“Go on, sleepyhead.”

 

And he sleeps.

 

 

 

He’s in a bed when he wakes up again.

Not his bed. Just a bed.

Which should probably freak him out, but somehow, at some point in his life, everything went so terribly downhill, that waking up in a random bed after passing out (which highly points towards the possibility of him having been kidnapped) has turned into the least of his problems.

It’s already dark outside, which makes him assume that he’s slept through the whole day after basically fainting in front of the school.

Mingyu sighs, not feeling well-rested at all, and curses himself for letting things go this far again.

It makes him feel like a stupid child.

He can’t even sleep properly; what can he do right, then?

He groans and pulls the sheets up until they’re covering his face.

The door opens, and Mingyu hears a relieved sigh, followed by footsteps approaching his bed. He’s kind of scared to pull the sheets away, not wanting to face his potential kidnapper just yet.

“Kid.”

Oh thank god.

“Hyung?”

The sheet gets pulled off his face a little harsher then necessary, Jihoon’s annoyed face peering down at him.

“You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?”

“Okay.”

“Why the fuck— Mingyu, you passed out! Why didn’t you tell us you weren’t sleeping?

“Hyung…”

“You can’t keep doing this shit. Do you know how worried I was when a random dude called me and said you fell and hit your head?”

“I’m sorry,” Mingyu mumbles, feeling strangely scolded.

Jihoon’s features soften a little and he lets out a sigh. “I haven’t told Cheol. I took you to my place so he wouldn’t know.”

“Thank you,” Mingyu says. “For picking me up. And I’m— hyung, I’m really sorry about yesterday. I just… I get cranky when I don’t sleep, but that’s no excuse. I was an ungrateful brat but I guess you know that about me.”

Jihoon cracks a small smile. “You’re the definition of brat, Mingyu. And it’s fine, you know. You were right. I’m just your friend, I don’t know why the hell I got involved so much. I just care about you. I hate seeing you get hurt, especially after—“

“I know. I know,” Mingyu interrupts, not wanting his thoughts to go there.

“Okay.” Jihoon nods his head, looking at him carefully. “I’m going to cancel the trip, we can’t leave you alone—“

“What? No!” Mingyu shakes his head, sitting up. “Hyung, you guys have been saving up for this trip for months. I’m not a baby, okay? I just need to sleep a little and I’ll be okay.”

“Mingyu, look, no offence, but you fucking suck at self-care. Sometimes I think you’d forget to eat if we didn’t remind you of it. That’s not exactly very reassuring to me.”

“Hey, that was like one time. I’ve gotten better, and Eunwoo can come over! We wanted to have some—“ Mingyu struggles to get the words out. “Alone time anyway. So this is perfect.”

Jihoon frowns. “Ew. I didn’t need to hear that.”

“Just go, hyung. Please. You deserve it.”

Jihoon looks at him for another moment before nodding his head. “Alright. I’m just gonna pack up then we can back to yours. Just don’t— Don’t say anything to Cheol. I don’t need him to freak out like a mom.”

Mingyu nods and gets up, Jihoon steadying him when he sways a little on his feet. “I’m fine, hyung.”

Jihoon nibbles on his lower lip. “You sure everything’s fine, kid? Is there something you wanna talk about?”

Mingyu looks up at him, his features twisting a little.

You mean how I saw Yerim today? The sister of the guy who stole my heart and then broke it and who I’m still in love with months later and by the way, Eunwoo isn’t my real boyfriend, we’re fake-dating and I was kinda hoping I’d fall for him but I’m still a fool for Wonwoo and he’s back in the city and I kinda want to cry and leave the country and today’s the first time I’ve properly slept in four days but aside from that, I am peachy.

He rolls his eyes. “I’m fine hyung. Stop. Worrying.”

“I will, when you stop passing out.”

“Yeah. Good point.”

 

 

 

“Hey. Why do you look like ass?”

Mingyu flips Eunwoo off and leaves the door open for the boy to enter the apartment. He flops down on the couch, immediately diving back under the blanket and sticking out his head to continue watching this stupid TV show he’s gotten addicted to over the past involuntary all-nighters he’s pulled.

Eunwoo walks in a moment later, snickering softly to himself. “Stop pouting, you look ugly.”

“I’m sensitive, okay? Stop being a dick.”

Eunwoo sighs and sits down on his legs, grabbing the bowl of popcorn from the floor. “Why? What happened? Who do I need to beat up?”

“It’s nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then why am I here?”

“You invited yourself here.”

“Okay.” Eunwoo scoffs and eats half of the popcorn over the next couple of minutes. “Seriously, Gyu. You look exhausted. Talk to me.”

Mingyu’s lips form a pout again. He doesn’t deserve Eunwoo.

After Jihoon dropped him off home yesterday and Mingyu sent him and Seungcheol off to their trip, he didn’t do anything much besides cleaning up the apartment to keep himself busy and watch several movies from the ones he had downloaded on his laptop.

Anything, really, to stop himself from thinking about the fact that Wonwoo might just be minutes away from him, that the boy has been here for weeks and hasn’t bothered to get in touch with Mingyu, meaning he’s over him.

He’s started his life here, after Mingyu had tried so hard to move away from that place, and felt so bad about leaving Wonwoo behind.

And he’s here now? Just like that?

Has he found himself a pretty girl, too?

Mingyu presses his eyes closed; his own thoughts are hurting him.

“Gyu? Hey… What’s wrong?”

He didn’t want to tell anyone.

What good would it make?

It’s not urgent either. Sure, Mingyu will drive himself crazy and cry about it for the next few days, easy, but just because he knows that Wonwoo has moved here doesn’t mean he will have to face him anytime soon.

Heck, if he doesn’t want to, he can avoid the other forever, cause Mingyu’s good at that, great, even.

Avoiding things, sweeping them under the rug, out of sight out of mind, yeah, Mingyu can do that.

Besides; it’s always about Mingyu when they’re together. About making sure Mingyu gets over Wonwoo, about making sure Mingyu sleeps enough.

“Nothing, Eunwoo, promise,” Mingyu says. “How did your date go the other day? You never told me.”

Eunwoo doesn’t look al that convinced, but he’s not pressuring like Cheol and Jihoon are, so he drops it. “It… well, it went well? I can’t believe I’m saying this. He’s nice. Really nice.”

Mingyu’s mouth drops open and he sits up a little. “No way! Are you gonna see him again?”

“I think so?”

“Holy shit! Eunwoo, that’s fucking great. Wait— And you have nothing to criticize about him? What about his nails?”

Eunwoo snorts but he blushes. Eunwoo fucking blushes. “His nails were fine, you idiot.”

“Dude, this is amazing! Please don’t screw this up? Like really, this is the first time ever since I met you that you show a fraction of interest in someone.”

“Yeah, yeah, calm down.” Eunwoo rolls his eyes and puts the bowl down, shifting a little to face Mingyu properly. “But uhm… I know it was just one date and all, but like, I really kinda want to try it out with him? And I’m a bit nervous about… uhm, you know. Us two. Since we’re technically dating? I don’t want him to think I’m two-timing or something.”

“Oh,” Mingyu mumbles. “Of course. I understand.”

“So we need to fake-break-up. Look, it’s not you, baby, it’s me—“

“Shut the fuck up.” Mingyu laughs and throws a pillow at him, Eunwoo catching it with a grin.

He fiddles with the pillow for a while before glancing at Mingyu. “I just think… It’s been months, Gyu. Don’t you think your hyungs should know by now that you’re over this dude? I mean, you are, right?”

Mingyu’s face falls. “Y-Yeah. Of course.”

Eunwoo tenses at the crack in Mingyu’s voice, his eyebrows furrowing. “Mingyu?”

The doorbell rings, both of them flinching a bit.

Mingyu is glad for the distraction. He can’t handle talking about Wonwoo right now, so he jumps up from the couch and rushes out of the room, opens the door, his gaze lifting from the ground, and freezes.

He just—

Completely stops.

His fingers lock around the door handle almost painfully, for support, or to just ground himself, because he must be dreaming again, but it feel so real this time.

So painfully real, with how his heart stutters and starts racing in the next second.

Because Wonwoo is standing on the other side of the door.

Both of them just stare, completely still, frozen in place.

Mingyu tries to swallow but there’s a heavy lump in his throat.

Wonwoo is here.

He’s right here.

After nearly six months.

He’s in the city, not in the village, surrounded by nature, glowing under the summer sun.

He’s wearing a hoodie instead, the cap pulled over his hair, hiding his eyes, the fabric green like the forest, his lips and cheeks red from the frosty air outside.

It’s wrong. Wonwoo belongs in the sun.

It’s like… taking a character out of a universe and putting them inside a completely different one, and Wonwoo does look out of place, uncertain, nervous whereas he was usually oozing confidence in the village.

Mingyu takes a shaky breath, watches the older swallow heavily, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, the muscles in his jaw clenching before he finally looks up to meet Mingyu’s eyes.

They stare at each other, and Mingyu doesn’t even try to pretend it doesn’t break his heart all over again when Wonwoo lifts his hand to push back the cap of his hoodie, finally revealing that face Mingyu has missed so damn much.

Wonwoo’s dark eyes flash with a dozen emotions as he looks at Mingyu.

“You’re here,” Mingyu utters, breaking the silence, and it hurts so much. How Wonwoo’s eyebrows do a tick as soon as he hears Mingyu’s voice, how his breath audibly hitches.

“Yeah,” Wonwoo replies after what seems like forever, and Mingyu almost crumbles. God, he’s missed that voice so much. So warm and deep. “I’m here.”

Mingyu nods, trying to appear calm, trying not to let the other see that he might just break down crying if he stepped any closer. “Did Yerim tell you?”

Wonwoo nods, his eyes never leaving Mingyu, like he’s scared he might disappear if he blinked. “I… got your address. From Grandma. Your, uhm, grandma. Not mine. Because she’s…”

“Yeah.”

Mingyu never knew he could feel like this. So hopeless and and full of longing, a physical ache, right behind his ribs, clawing at his chest for him to get closer and pull Wonwoo against his body to make it go away.

“Who is it?”

Wonwoo’s eyes flicker to the side when Eunwoo appears at the door, and his face portrays nothing but confusion for a second, before his features tighten and his eyes harden. He looks at Mingyu again, his jaw clenched, and Mingyu can’t do anything but stare at him helplessly.

Eunwoo clears his throat next to Mingyu once he feels the tension in the air. “I should probably go. Call me if you need anything, okay Gyu?”

Mingyu flinches and blinks, almost as if coming out of a haze. He turns to look at Eunwoo, slowly nodding his head, eyes desperate, willing his friend to stay, because he can’t do this.

He doesn’t really know how to be with Wonwoo without turning into a pathetic mess.

Eunwoo looks extremely worried, and Mingyu thinks he knows exactly who Wonwoo is. Eunwoo takes a deep breath and puts on a gentle, encouraging smile and suddenly leans in to kiss Mingyu.

Right on the lips.

“I’ll see you later, babe,” Eunwoo breathes against his mouth and then, only for Mingyu’s ears, he whispers “Text me if you need me”. He then turns to grin at Wonwoo. “Bye, man.”

He leaves, and Wonwoo stands there, frozen in place, staring at Mingyu with those eyes.

They’re not accusing.

Wonwoo looks like a lost child, like someone took something precious away from him, and Mingyu’s nose prickles with the promise of tears, his chest aches, and he feels so cold and lonely and pissed off, everything at once.

“Uhm. Do you want to come inside?”

Wonwoo doesn’t reply immediately, his whole form still tense as he looks ready to bolt, but ends up nodding his head, and both of them move around awkwardly, like they’re scared they could end up touching if they aren’t careful enough.

Wonwoo looks around the apartment quietly, and sits down on the other end of the couch after Mingyu.

They both sit there in complete silence, staring straight ahead, and it’s so unreal.

“Do you want something to drink?” Mingyu asks, his voice strangely calm.

“No,” Wonwoo mutters, clears his throat and looks away. “Thanks.”

“Okay,” Mingyu mumbles, the lump in his throat growing.

It takes Wonwoo a few minutes to gather the courage to finally face Mingyu, and it makes the younger’s heart stutter violently when their eyes meet. “Was that…”

“Eunwoo,” Mingyu supplies.

Wonwoo’s eyebrows twitch, his shoulders tensing. “Is he your boyfriend?”

Mingyu doesn’t reply. “Why are you here?”

Wonwoo seems to take that as a yes, because his whole face falls, and Mingyu wants to cry. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know.” Mingyu blinks at him, blinking back tears, his throat closing up. After all this time, Wonwoo is here, and he’s still— he’s saying he doesn’t know. “Of course you don’t.”

“No— Mingyu.” Wonwoo’s voice is shaking all of a sudden. Hearing the boy say his name makes Mingyu shiver. “I’m here because… because there are things I need to tell you.”

“What things?”

“Things I should’ve told you when you—“ Wonwoo takes a deep breath. “Before you left.”

It’s still painful to think about. Their last moments together, how they kissed and touched the day before it all went to shit. Their fight, the hurt, Mingyu leaving the village behind.

“Well, I’m here now,” Mingyu mutters. “I’ve been here all this time. And… you too, it seems.”

“Yeah,” Wonwoo says, lowering his gaze. “So uhm .You ran into Yerim yesterday?”

Mingyu clears his throat. “Yeah, I did. We talked a little.”

Wonwoo looks up, careful and hesitant. “What did she tell you?”

“That she started college, and you guys moved here, two months ago. She said you took your exams, too,” Mingyu says, unable to stop himself from smiling a little.

“Yeah. Yeah, I did.”

“That’s good. I’m happy to hear that.”

“Are you?” Wonwoo asks, eyes never leaving Mingyu’s.

Mingyu nods, swallowing heavily. “Of course. You know I never wanted you to— I mean, I still think the village wasn’t a good place for you.”

Wonwoo’s eyes waver, and he takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry. That it took me so long to come talk to you.”

“You don’t have to apologize.” Mingyu shakes his head. “You don’t owe me anything.”

Wonwoo flinches and closes his eyes. There’s a beat of silence before Wonwoo gathers himself again to speak. “I know none of this matters anymore. You obviously moved on. And that’s fine. I’m—“ Wonwoo takes a deep breath. “I’m happy for you. But I just need to get some things out.”

Mingyu doesn’t bother correcting him. He doesn’t think he has the strength to, all his senses focused on this boy, making sure he’s real, that he’s actually here. “I’m listening.”

Wonwoo looks at him, his eyes so sad, it melts and breaks Mingyu’s heart, makes it that much harder to breathe. “I’m sorry, Mingyu. For reacting the way I did. I shouldn’t have. Yerim told me… she told me later that it wasn’t you, and it made me feel like utter shit. It made me feel like shit the second I yelled at you, because I hated… I hated hurting you, even if that’s all I kept doing.”

“That’s not true,” Mingyu mumbles quietly, thinking about all their happy moments together.

Wonwoo’s gaze softens a little and Mingyu feels like melting. “You were right, you know. I was a coward. I was scared. Of everything. You were just trying to help but I just… I pushed you away. I screwed up the only good thing I had going for me.”

Mingyu must look pained. “Hyung…”

“It killed me when you left, Mingyu.” Wonwoo lowers his head, his gaze on the ground. “You just— You left so suddenly. And all I had was that fucking tape. Those songs. And I couldn’t— There were so many things I wanted to say to you but I just couldn’t.”

Mingyu blinks at Wonwoo for a few seconds, his next intake of breath shaky, and then he starts to tear up, his vision blurring. “Hyung.”

“I know you have someone else now,” Wonwoo continues, his expression pained, worried as he looks at the tears just waiting to fall from Mingyu’s eyes. Like he wants to wipe them away, to make it okay, and Mingyu wants him to. Wants to feel his soft and careful touches again. “And I know I’m too late. I called you, a few months back, but you were talking about your date and I just… it broke me. it hurt so much. Thinking about you with someone else. Up until then, I guess I tried to tell myself that my feelings for you weren’t that strong but I was an idiot. I still am—“

“Wait,” Mingyu interrupts shakily. “You called me? When? How—“

“I called, from a payphone.” Wonwoo sniffles and shakes his head. “I got your number from your grandma. We were on our way here. I thought—I don’t know. I thought I could come see you once we got here but then I realized that you already moved on. And that you probably didn’t want to see me. You probably still don’t. I get that—“

“Wonwoo hyung.” Mingyu whimpers, his heart aching for the other boy.

“I guess I just want you to know that I will wait. I’ve been alone my whole life, and I was fine with that, being bitter and angry and a little bitch about everything. But then you came into my life and you—“ Wonwoo’s voice wavers, and Mingyu shudders because no one has ever looked at him the way Wonwoo’s looking at him right now. So heated and gentle and like nothing else matters except for Mingyu. “You showed me how to love, and to accept myself, and you made me want to become a better person. I’m not just talking about my smoking habits or whatever, but if it wasn’t for you— I wouldn’t be here. Yerim wouldn’t be studying because I would’ve ruined her future cause I’m a stubborn piece of shit, and now I might even, uh, become a police officer? I always dreamed of that.”

Mingyu smiles, watery as his chest is flooded with sorrow and happiness at the same time. “I know.”

Wonwoo looks up at him, his eyes red rimmed, like he’s holding back tears. “You’re incredible, Mingyu. And I just fucking know I’ll never meet someone like you again. I was a fucking fool to think you’d be patiently waiting for me here, and I wish I didn’t ruin things between us. But I just— I will wait. For you. Because I don’t want someone who isn’t you. I don’t mean this in a creepy way. Fuck, it sounds creepy, doesn’t it? But I just— I’ll wait for you, even if you never want to come back to me.”

Mingyu can’t really believe what he’s hearing. This isn’t the same Wonwoo he met all those months ago. The one that kept playing this push-and-pull game with Mingyu, who wouldn’t come clean about anything, really. And now he’s here, pouring his heart out just to mend Mingyu’s back together.

“You’re okay with me being with Eunwoo?”

Wonwoo looks a bit taken aback about Mingyu’s response and he looks disappointed and hurt. “If you’re happy with him—”

“That wasn’t my question, hyung,” Mingyu interrupts, his voice impatient. His heart is racing, loud and overwhelming. He can barely contain himself.

“I’m in love with you,” Wonwoo’s voice comes out wrecked. “How do you expect me to be okay with you being with another man? It killed me to see him kiss you. I had you first and I fucked it up and I hate myself for not coming here sooner and fight for you—“

Mingyu quickly brushes away the tear that escapes his eye and crosses the space between them, his hands shaking when he sits down next to Wonwoo, who seems to be taken aback by the sudden proximity, his cheeks flushing and throat working nervously. Mingyu’s still trying not to cry when he brings his hands up to cup Wonwoo’s cheeks, his skin warm and soft against his palms.

Wonwoo shudders, leaning into his touch with a keen. “Fuck, don’t...”

“Don’t what?”

“It’s hard enough as it is,” Wonwoo whispers.

Mingyu moves closer, feeling so on edge he fears Wonwoo can feel the tremor in his hands against his soft cheeks. “What is?”

“You have a boyfriend,” Wonwoo says, his breath brushing over Mingyu’s wrist, and then, like he can’t help himself, he brushes his lips over the visible veins under Mingyu’s skin, blue and green and purple webs, and the fluttering pulse underneath there quickens. And just as fast, he opens his eyes, his eyebrows knitting together as he pulls away from Mingyu’s touch, shaking his head. “Fuck, Mingyu, you’re not mine.”

Wonwoo gets up with another muttered curse, his shoulders tense, fingers balled into fists, and he looks like he’s going to leave.

He’s going to leave.

Panic throbs in Mingyu’s chest as he stands up, hands reaching out to grab Wonwoo to keep him here with him, but he doesn’t touch him, just stands behind him, heart aching at the sight of Wonwoo’s hunched up shoulders, the way his head is hanging low, like he’s trying to protect himself. “Don’t leave.”

“Don’t do that. Don’t fucking ask me to stay and be your friend—“

“Friend?” Mingyu lets out a wet laugh. “You think I want be friends with you? When I’ve been dreaming of kissing you, touching you, of hearing your voice again for months like an absolute fool—”

“Stop, stop Mingyu—“

“I’m not with Eunwoo.”

Wonwoo flinches a bit and slowly turns around gives him a helpless look, confused and guarded. “What?”

“Eunwoo isn’t my boyfriend.”

The older remains silent for a few seconds, his eyes boring into Mingyu’s, trying to look for an explanation. “But— he kissed you… You let him kiss you.” Wonwoo sounds so hurt at the last sentence it takes all of Mingyu’s remaining strength not to whine in distress, wanting nothing more than to make it go away, all the confusion and misunderstandings and hurt.

“I know,” Mingyu finally says. “Hyung, do you trust me?”

Wonwoo swallows heavily, his eyes taking in Mingyu’s features. “Yeah.”

“Then will you believe me if I tell you that I was thinking of you when he kissed me?” Mingyu asks. “That I’m not thinking of anyone but you whenever I see people holding hands, or when I’m unable to sleep at night, and that I’ve missed you so much all I wanted to do was take the next bus and come visit you, because I’m an idiot like that, hyung, and I’m still so in love with you I don’t know what to do with myself—“

Mingyu has started crying and before he knows it, Wonwoo pulls him in, into his arms, the hug so tight and so needed Mingyu muffles his pathetic sob in Wonwoo’s warm shoulder, shaky hands coming up to curl into the back of Wonwoo’s shirt. “Is that true?” Wonwoo breathes, his chest heaving gently against Mingyu’s own, pressed together everywhere but it’s still not enough.

Mingyu nods, squeezes his eyes shut, more hot tears dribbling down his cheeks, dampening the fabric of Wonwoo’s soft shirt. “I missed you so much.”

Wonwoo breathes out shakily, his hand cradling the back of Mingyu’s head so carefully and gently like Mingyu is precious to him. God, Mingyu can’t remember the last time he’s felt like this. Not since the last time Wonwoo held him back in the village. "I missed you too. Mingyu. I thought I’d never get to hold you again, fuck—“

“Shh,” Mingyu interrupts, pulls him in some more, and presses his lips to the exposed skin of Wonwoo’s neck where his collar is being stretched from how tightly Mingyu is holding on. He closes his eyes, exhaustion creeping up on him, but he’d do anything to stay awake right now, not wanting to miss a single second he could spend with Wonwoo. “You smell the same. It reminds me of the village. I missed you so much.” He's repeating himself, but it's not like he has a coherent thought anymore at this point. He can't think beyond the fact that Wonwoo is here, that he wants him back, that this is actually happening.

He feels Wonwoo tighten his arms around him, almost pulling Mingyu into his lap, and Mingyu shudders a little when he feels Wonwoo press his lips to his temple tightly. “You do, too. You smell so sweet, Gyu.”

Mingyu flushes at the hushed words against his ear. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

Wonwoo nods with a sigh, his nose running along Mingyu’s jaw and down to his neck, making Mingyu’s neck prickle with goosebumps. “You know, I thought... it would be easier, once I left the village. But everything’s so much bigger here and I just— I feel—“

“Lost?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll help you,” Mingyu whispers. “If you want me to. If you want me to be part of your life.”

Wonwoo holds him tighter, breathing him in. “It’s why I came here, silly.”

“Because you love me?”

Wonwoo makes a small sound and pulls back so he can look at Mingyu, and his ears are a little flushed too. He peers at Mingyu, dark bangs falling into his eyes; he closes them when Mingyu reaches out to push the strands of hair out of his face gently. He nods, looking small and timid, and Mingyu loves him, too. So damn much.

He blinks his eyes open again, bringing his hand up to gently brush his thumb over the dark skin under Mingyu’s eyes. “You look tired.”

“Have you ever seen me look any different?” Mingyu asks with a small smile that makes Wonwoo’s own lips curl into a gentle one. “I’m fine.  I really want to make this work, hyung. I know it might be wishful thinking but I… I think we can make it work, if we really want to.”

“I want to,” Wonwoo murmurs, his thumb trailing down Mingyu’s cheek, and then to his lips, his chin, until he runs it over the sensitive swell of Mingyu’s Adam’s apple, feeling it when Mingyu swallows nervously. Mingyu shudders at the touch, closing his eyes, and he hears Wonwoo take a deep breath. “I want to treat you better this time. But you’re— you’re really not together with him, are you? Cause I can’t— I’m not that type of person, Gyu.”

“I know you’re not,” Mingyu whispers. “And I’m not together with him. It’s… kind of a long story, but I wouldn’t do that to anyone.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” Wonwoo answers, his jaw tightening for a second. “Just, he kissed you. It threw me off.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry.”

“No,” Wonwoo quickly says. “No, Gyu, it’s not like we were together.”

Mingyu nibbles on his lower lip. “No. We weren’t.”

Wonwoo sighs and drops his gaze. He looks tired, and Mingyu knows that they have a bunch of things to work through, knows they can’t just magically be together, but he really hopes Wonwoo wants this as much as Mingyu does.

The older suddenly reaches into the pocket of his coat and pulls out a small see-through case.

He fiddles with it for a moment, twists it around in his fingers before holding it out for Mingyu. “I, uh, have something for you.”

Mingyu takes the item and quickly realizes that it’s a tape. “Is this… the mixtape I made you?”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “No, no. I have that home, with me. I made this one for you.”

“For me?”

“When you left… that tape was all I had left of you. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve listened to it. And maybe I was just stupid and read too much into those songs—“

“You didn’t,” Mingyu stops him. “I chose all of them with purpose. I was hoping you’d understand. That I…”

“That you?”

“That I was crazy in love with you.”

Wonwoo’s breath falters a bit, his eyes sparkling. Mingyu wants to kiss him, so damn bad it hurts. “Was?”

“Still am. Never stopped, really,” Mingyu says, feeling a little breathless. He rubs his thumb over the tape. “So what should I expect from this?”

Wonwoo licks his lips and looks away, like the Wonwoo Mingyu remembers from the village. The one that clammed up when things got too intense. “I don’t know. Just… wait for me to leave before you listen to it. I’m still not good at this stuff, and I, uhm, just, it helped me get over you? No, no that’s not right. It helped with the pain. Cause I thought I’d never see you again, and I regretted not saying these things to you, because you deserved to hear how much I— I loved…”

Wonwoo trails off, because Mingyu put the tape away, and suddenly climbs into Wonwoo’s lap, circling his arms around Wonwoo’s neck, smiling at the surprised sound that escapes Wonwoo’s mouth.

Mingyu presses their foreheads together, their noses brushing and Wonwoo’s arms coming up to wrap around his waist. Their lips brush and Mingyu suppresses a whine, unable to stop himself from leaning in to kiss Wonwoo.

“Mingyu…” Wonwoo breathes, kissing him again, pulling him closer, and Mingyu moans at the contact, parts his lips and relishes in the feeling of Wonwoo’s pliant mouth against his own, soft and warm and making him ache for so much more.

They eventually pull away and Mingyu smiles softly when Wonwoo kisses the corner of his mouth, and then his cheek.

“I missed that, too,” Wonwoo breathes against his neck. “Every part of you, Mingyu.”

“You need to stop if you don’t want me to cry like a baby.”

“Oh, yeah, that too. Missed you crying about everything—“

“Stop!”

Wonwoo laughs, his cheeks bunching up adorably, and Mingyu can’t help but stare at him with adoration and longing in his eyes, which Wonwoo returns, full force, if not twice as intense.  "We have a lot to talk about, right? I have some things to tell you and... I just don't want to rush this. I want to do this right."

Mingyu nods. "Yeah. Uhm. Do you want to stay the night? It's just... I'm alone, so we can talk, and order food? And watch a movie, if you want. Not Twilight! But I, uhm, understand if you want to leave but..." He trails off because Wonwoo leans in to cup his face, and kiss the words right off his lips. "Hyung."

Wonwoo smiles, looking dazed, his lips red and shiny and Mingyu might just lose his mind. "You're still cute."

Mingyu whines and hides his face in Wonwoo's shoulder, who laughs and hugs him, and Mingyu can feel the olders' heart racing against his chest and just...

Fuck, he's so happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Mingyu’s hands are shaking. 

He barely manages to prevent the boiling water from spilling all over the counter as he fills it into the mismatched mugs. The scent of orange blossoms fills the kitchen as the water comes into contact with the tea bags.

He places the kettle back down and braces himself on the counter, his head dropping between his shoulders.

“Shit,” He whispers shakily.

It must’ve been louder than he intended it to be, because he hears some shuffling from the living room, a cough, and Mingyu flinches, something like a whimper catching in his throat.

Wonwoo is sitting in his living room, with puffy eyes from crying, and Mingyu’s lips are tingling because Wonwoo kissed him.

He doesn’t know how any of this happened. How Wonwoo suddenly appeared in front of his apartment, looking so effortlessly handsome, with those expressive eyes of his that honestly seemed to see nothing except for Mingyu. It’s the same eyes that looked at him with so much adoration all those months ago, in the village, what seems like a whole other world compared to the dark, gloomy city they met each other again in.

Mingyu had been so ready to close that chapter. Shut the drawer, store the contents away in the back of his mind, in that small space in his heart that just refused to let go of what Wonwoo and him had, no matter how insignificant others might find their memories together to be.

What if—

What if this isn’t going to work out? What if this thing they had, was nothing but a summer romance after all? Something that would only work out in that small time frame they had, and wasn’t supposed to last beyond that.

It’s been heard of, hasn’t it?

People falling madly in love with each other during a trip abroad over the summer, having a heartbreaking departure, only to find that the spark they had felt between them over the summer wasn’t there anymore when they end up meeting each other again.

Mingyu is panicking.

He has to breathe. Air is good. He needs to put some in his lungs right now, just needs to—

“Mingyu?” A tentative voice calls his name from behind him. Mingyu whirls around shakily, sees Wonwoo standing at the entrance, looking small in his soft hoodie, his hair a little messy.

Mingyu completely melts at the sight.

Can’t think straight. Not one single coherent thought left in his head.

He swallows heavily, their eyes locked together, the tension so thick in the air it’s hard to breathe. 

“You okay?” Wonwoo asks after a moment, his soft brown eyes filled with concern.

Mingyu whimpers for real this time.

Wonwoo’s lips part, eyebrows furrowing. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Hyung.” Mingyu knows he’s being pathetic. But he has no idea what’s happening. He’s delirious from being so sleep deprived, from having Wonwoo here, within reach, his Wonwoo, who’s behaving so differently but so familiar all the same. It’s all too much, too fast, and Mingyu has a hard time catching up.

Wonwoo comes closer, pink tongue darting out to wet his lips nervously. “Can I—“

Mingyu wraps his arms around Wonwoo’s neck, pulls him in because he’s too far away. He hugs him tightly, shuddering at the sudden warmth, the familiar scent lingering around Wonwoo’s neck when he presses his face there.

It takes Wonwoo a few seconds to react, but when he does, Mingyu sags against him. Wonwoo lets out a breath, relieved and tired, and brings his arms up to wrap them around Mingyu’s middle, holding him even closer. The embrace is so warm and safe, and so needed, especially when Wonwoo starts nosing along Mingyu’s neck softly, his palm rubbing over his back in a calming way.

Wonwoo seems so hesitant, and Mingyu can feel his quick heartbeat, against his chest, and the tip of his nose where it presses against Wonwoo’s pulse on his neck, and it’s sweet and reassuring, how nervous Wonwoo is.

He feels the older turn his head, his lips pressing the softest kiss against Mingyu’s neck, and Mingyu hates himself for doubting things between them might’ve changed in the time they spent apart.

Not when his heart goes absolutely crazy at the gesture, when his body craves Wonwoo’s warmth so bad, and when Mingyu can’t even begin to think of loving someone that isn’t Jeon Wonwoo.

“Better?” Wonwoo asks, whispering the words against Mingyu’s skin.

“I can’t believe you’re here.”

“You’re repeating yourself, love.” Wonwoo is smiling softly, and Mingyu shudders. Love. He groans in embarrassment and Wonwoo chuckles, swaying them a little. “Still cute, huh?”

“Stop.”

“Alright,” Wonwoo hums. His eyes drift over Mingyu’s face, the smile fading as his gaze traces the dark skin underneath Mingyu’s eyes. “You seem so tired. I was hoping you’d be better by now.”

“Without you?” Mingyu asks, not meaning to sound so bitter about it. Wonwoo flinches a little, and proceeds to hold him more firmly.

“Mingyu…”

“I’m sorry.” Mingyu is quick to shake his head, closing his eyes, lips pressed against Wonwoo’s sweater where it’s covering his collarbones. “It’s not your fault. Never was. But it’s been worse, I promise. I’m doing a lot better. Started doing stuff like meditation. I guess that helps.”

Wonwoo nods quietly. “Do you think…” Wonwoo begins, and Mingyu feels him swallow. “Do you think you’d still sleep better with me around?”

Mingyu blinks, silent for a moment, trying to figure out if Wonwoo means more with his question. “There’s only one way to find out.”

Wonwoo pulls back, just enough to look into his eyes. He nods. “Whatever you need, Gyu.”

“I need you,” Mingyu says without missing a beat. Maybe he should be scared, laying his emotions open like this again after going through the worst… one of the worst heartbreaks he’s ever had to endure. But it feels right. Sometimes, he thinks, you just know. And it’s not in that silly “listen to your heart” teen-angst way.

No, it’s like a blanketed warmth in his chest. When he looks at Wonwoo now, at the honesty and the care and adoration in his brown eyes, Mingyu’s whole body just wants to trust.

It feels right, so Mingyu will risk it all again.

Wonwoo gulps at Mingyu’s words, bringing a hand up to cup his cheek. “Are you sure you’re okay? I understand if this is all happening too fast. You gotta tell me if you’re not ready—“

“Hyung,” Mingyu starts. “I’ve been missing you like crazy for months. I’ve had dreams about you, just us sleeping next to each other, because I’ve been craving you so bad. You’re here now and I still miss you—“

“Okay,” Wonwoo interrupts, his eyes soft and a little wet. He rubs Mingyu’s cheek gently. “Okay, Gyu.”

Mingyu leans into his touch. “Let’s watch a movie.”

“I thought you wanted to talk?”

“We can. Talk over the movie. It’s going to be too serious if there’s no noise in the background.” Mingyu pouts a little and Wonwoo laughs, deep and warm, and Mingyu smiles at the pretty crinkles around his eyes. “Hyung,” He mumbles, the words just slipping out without his permission.

Wonwoo’s smile gets smaller, softer, seeing the look on Mingyu’s face, the tone of his voice. “What?”

“I missed you. Missed you so much.”

Mingyu sees the older’s cheeks coloring prettily. He gets so shy again, almost like the confused, guarded boy Mingyu met at the village in the summer.

Wonwoo clears his throat. “Again, with the repeating…”

It makes Mingyu laugh, but he also kind of wants to cry. He’s never felt like this. He’s never felt so connected to someone, never knew how much he could value another person until he was more or less forced to leave Wonwoo and go back to a life without the older boy.

 

 

Half an hour later, they’re sitting on blankets and cushions spread out on the living room floor, their backs pressed against the couch with greasy pizzas in front of them.

They have Rise of the Guardians playing on the TV, Wonwoo making remarks about how much Jack Frost reminds him of Mingyu, and they laugh together, still a little awkward after being apart for so long, sometimes flinching or hesitating when their hands brush.

There are a lot of stolen glances, careful touches, and Mingyu is sure Wonwoo’s heart is racing just as much as his own.

And halfway through the movie, Mingyu clears his throat, and Wonwoo sighs, and they turn to look at each other.

“What happens now, Wonwoo hyung?” Mingyu asks, reluctantly so, because it’s been a nice evening (except for the part where they both were crying), and he doesn’t want to ruin it.

Wonwoo licks his lips. “With us?”

Mingyu nods. “Yeah. With us.”

The older falls silent for a while, seemingly trying to come up with the right words. His eyes are gentle when he finally looks at Mingyu again. “I’ve had enough time to think about this. To make up my mind. I came here to get you back, Mingyu. Because I want you. I want to be with you.”

Mingyu’s heart clenches at the words. “Be with me… as in… in a relationship?”

Wonwoo’s eyes widen, and he blushes, and he nods his head. “Y-Yeah.”

“Hyung,” Mingyu mumbles. “Are you sure? You’re not— you’re not out. Your mom, and Yerim…”

“I know,” Wonwoo interrupts, and he has this pained, tired look on his face, and Mingyu just wants to make it go away. “I know I have absolutely no right to expect you to wait for me, Gyu. I want to…” He takes a deep breath, trembling on the inhale. “I want to tell my mom. Eventually. I don’t want to lie to her, and I don’t want to hide that part of me from her. I don’t want to hide you, most of all.”

Mingyu is tearing up.

Is this really the same boy that got angry at him for wanting to hold his hand? For looking at him too much? Because he was so scared people would notice?

“I don’t want to rush you. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there.” Mingyu tries to speak calmly, but his voice is wobbling, and he’s seconds away from crying. “So take your time. And I’m— I’m here if you need me.”

Wonwoo’s face softens infinitely, and he carefully reaches out, his thumb brushing over Mingyu’s chin in a loving gesture. “I told Yerim.”

Mingyu flinches, his eyes widening. “W-What? You did what?”

“Well,” Wonwoo chuckles nervously. “She kind of figured it out on her own.”

“Hyung—“ Mingyu chokes on air, and he shuffles closer ungracefully, gripping Wonwoo’s hand, who just looks at him with amusement and fondness. “How— She knows?”

“After you left. Well, after I found out you left, she went looking for me. And I was, uhm. Upset.”

Mingyu’s chin wobbles at the thought. He doesn’t know why, but he never really imagined Wonwoo to be actually sad about his departure. Maybe he just didn’t want to get his own hopes up, thinking about Wonwoo crying over him leaving the village.

Hearing the older confirm it though, pains him to no end. He doesn’t care about his own heartache, but he can’t handle thinking about Wonwoo going through all that pain, and over Mingyu of all people, too.

“And then?” Mingyu asks instead of apologizing. This isn’t about him or how sorry he is. This is about Wonwoo.

“It was probably the first time she saw me like that, so she just kind of sat down next to me and asked me if you were special to me.” Wonwoo’s eyes flicker up to his. “I didn’t really care that much in that moment, so I said yes. She said she’d felt like something was strange between you and me for a while but she was too scared too read more into it, or ask me about it.”

“What did she— How did she react?"

Wonwoo clears his throat and looks away. He’s trying to be tough, and Mingyu just wants him to know that he doesn’t need to be tough. He can show weakness, he can vulnerable, especially here with Mingyu.

“She just…” Wonwoo shrugs, his head lowering. “She hugged me. She said she—“ Mingyu hears him take a shaky breath, and he reaches out to take the boy’s hand. Tangles their fingers together, and feels his heart ache when Wonwoo clings to him instantly. “Said she loves me. She didn’t… didn’t ask. Or say anything else. But it was just— enough? It was more than I could’ve ever hoped for.”

“Hyung.” Mingyu squeezes his hand. “I’m so happy for you. I’m just— you deserve this, you know? You deserve to be happy, and to stop hiding.”

Wonwoo looks at him and smiles a bit, his eyes looking slightly wet. “None of this would’ve happened without you, you know that, yeah?”

“Don’t say that…”

“It’s true,” Wonwoo insists. “You kinda saved me. From that godforsaken place. From myself—“

“I didn’t,” Mingyu mumbles, voice shaking again. Jesus, why is he constantly crying? “What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why are you so—“ Mingyu rubs at his eyes, pouting. “So deep?”

“Deep?” Wonwoo chuckles in amusement.

“Yes, deep. I had such a hard time getting anything out of you back at the village, and here you are, being so expressive and honest and making me cry— Stop it!”

Wonwoo bites down on his lip, obviously trying not to laugh. “Are you okay?”

“No! No I’m not okay! I missed you so fucking much, I thought I would never see you again, and I thought you just didn’t care about me and it hurt so bad and I left and you didn’t come after me and it’s been almost six months and here you are being all honest and sweet and making me fall for you all over again—“

“Hey,” Wonwoo interrupts, shaking his head. He gently grips Mingyu’s wrists, tugging his hands away from his face from where he’d been hiding. He gives him a serious look, soft nonetheless. “You thought I didn’t care?”

Mingyu tries to calm himself down. Wonwoo saw him cry a lot of times before, but he’s never quite seen this side of Mingyu. The one that comes out whenever things just get too much. He’s scared the older will be turned off. He’s scared to scare Wonwoo away, now that he finally got him back. “Sometimes… just sometimes, I don’t know. I’m being stupid.”

“You’re not. Tell me, Gyu,” Wonwoo gently coaxes. “Please?”

“Sometimes I thought I was just a summer fling to you.”

Wonwoo’s face falls and Mingyu instantly regrets opening his mouth. “Really?”

Mingyu gulps, and then nods. “I’m sorry—“

“No,” Wonwoo interrupts, his jaw set. “Don’t apologize. You’re right.”

Mingyu’s head whips up, his heart stuttering. “Huh?”

“Not about that, Gyu. You never were just a summer fling to me. I mean… I know I was stubborn and kinda closed off but I didn’t think it was that bad.” He chuckles bitterly. “In the beginning I thought, or maybe I just told myself that that’s all it was, I thought it was nothing more than physical attraction.”

Mingyu purses his lips until Wonwoo cups his cheek and makes him look at him. “It’s okay,” Mingyu mumbles, having calmed down considerably.

“But that was in the beginning. When I didn’t know you,” Wonwoo explains. His thumb traces over Mingyu’s jaw, the touch having Mingyu lean into his palm like a kitten. “After we spent time together, you were all that was on my mind. I… fell for you, Mingyu.” Wonwoo clears his throat with burning cheeks, and Mingyu blushes too, his heart fuzzy and warm. “Remember that time at the waterfall? When you played that stupid prank on me?”

Mingyu grins. “You totally fell for it.”

Wonwoo smirks, the glint in his eyes suddenly dangerous in a way that shoots tingles over Mingyu’s spine. “No, I totally fell for you.”

“See! That’s what I mean.” Mingyu groans and covers his face again. “How are you like this all of a sudden?”

“Do you want me to tone it down?” Wonwoo asks, laughing but sounding nervous at the same time.

“No! I mean, do you want to?”

Wonwoo gives him a weird look. “No. I’m just saying how it is. How I, uhm, feel? I didn’t do it enough at the village…”

It’s adorable.

It’s so fucking adorable, seeing Wonwoo blush, and stumble over his words, just trying to be open about his feelings for Mingyu.

Mingyu is so in love.

He places his hand behind Wonwoo’s neck and pulls him in, feels the older release a trembling breath against Mingyu’s lips before Mingyu kisses him. Kisses the taste from Wonwoo’s mouth, feels the softness of the older’s lips when Wonwoo kisses him back, and shudders in pleasure at the feeling.

Wonwoo cradles his face and runs his tongue over the seam of Mingyu’s lips, making Mingyu whimper and press closer. For a moment, Mingyu thinks about them in his grandmothers’ house, late into the night, kissing on that bed, and how overwhelming that need for each other had been. It’s been so long, and Mingyu can feel Wonwoo everywhere, his hands on him, his breaths, the smooth wetness of his mouth that has him aching for more—

They pull away for air, Wonwoo clearly having more self control as he puts some distance between them. He’s still close enough to kiss the corner of Mingyu’s mouth when the younger whines at the sudden loss.

“You’re, uhm, good at that,” Mingyu whispers, his mind in a haze. Like they haven’t kissed before. Like they haven’t done more before.

Wonwoo grins, pecks his mouth again. “I try.”

“‘m tired, hyung.”

“Oh,” Wonwoo pulls away and Mingyu instantly misses his touch. “I should go, then—“

“Hyung, I told you to stay the night,” Mingyu says. “Unless you don’t want to?”

“I want to,” Wonwoo says. “But it’s up to you.”

Mingyu gets up, and takes Wonwoo’s hand to pull him along.

They get ready for bed mostly in silence, suddenly nervous again. Mingyu gives Wonwoo some of his clothes, some shorts and a shirt, and tries not to think too much about how much he likes seeing the boy in his clothes.

He’s tired.

It’s been a long day.

He gets in the bed, underneath the sheets, away from the cold air of the bedroom, and watches Wonwoo remain standing next to the bed.

“Hyung.”

Wonwoo looks up at him with uncertainty.

“You’re too far away.”

Wonwoo gulps, and steps closer, and Mingyu lifts the sheets, the rustling of it so loud in the silence of the apartment, and then Wonwoo lies down next to him, and seems to relax infinitely when Mingyu curls into him.

“Is this okay?” Mingyu asks, his arm draped around Wonwoo’s middle, head tucked into the older’s shoulder. “Tell me if it’s too much.”

“Not too much,” Wonwoo murmurs, sighing, and wraps his own arm around Mingyu’s waist, pulling him closer. “Never too much, Gyu.”

Mingyu closes his eyes and presses his nose into Wonwoo’s neck, inhaling the achingly familiar scent.

Peaches.

“You smell like peaches,” Mingyu whispers. “Even at the village. Always smelled like peaches.”

Wonwoo hums. “You noticed that?”

“Of course. So what is it?”

“My mom,” Wonwoo explains quietly. His thumb is rubbing gentle circles into the sliver of skin exposed above Mingyu’s hip. “She’s been buying these flasks of essential oils from the monthly market ever since we were little. She’d rub some of it on our necks during the night when we were little. Said it kept the monsters away, cause Yerim got so scared at night. Guess it just… stuck with us. It’s calming, in a way. Yerim still uses it, too.”

“That’s nice,” Mingyu mumbles, smiling. “You’re nice.”

Wonwoo laughs quietly, his chest rumbling. “And you’re sleepy, huh?”

“Very.”

“Do your thing, sleepyhead,” Wonwoo murmurs, and Mingyu sighs when he feels the older turn his head and press a soft kiss against his temple.

“Don’t go away,” Mingyu whispers, feeling sleep already pulling at his limbs. “Please.”

Wonwoo holds him tighter. “I’m here, Gyu. Not going anywhere.”

Mingyu believes him, but that doesn’t stop him from curling his hand into Wonwoo’s shirt, hoping for the boy to still be there when he wakes up.

 

 

 

Wonwoo isn’t there when Mingyu wakes up.

Mingyu blinks, trying to get rid of the lingering sleep in his eyes, rubs at them, and looks around the room again.

Wonwoo isn’t there.

The left side of his bed is empty when Mingyu reaches out to touch the mattress.

It was just a dream.

It was all just another dream.

Mingyu’s throat tightens up as the realization hits him like a punch to the gut.

He doesn’t know how much more of this he can take. How cruel is it, for his mind to keep playing these tricks on him? And it felt so real, too.

The kisses, Wonwoo’s touch, his warmth, all of it.

Of course it’s happened before, when he hasn’t been able to sleep properly for days, but something about this is different. He really thought—

Mingyu’s eyes well up with hot tears, his chest aching horribly. He brings the pillow next to him up to his face, trying to hide his pain, feeling embarrassed that he keeps falling for this.

The pillow smells like peaches, fresh and sweet, and it makes Mingyu whimper like a wounded puppy, because he’s gone so crazy he can hallucinate about scents now, too—

“Gyu?”

Mingyu flinches, his breath faltering at the familiar voice. What’s happening?

Is he still dreaming?

“What are you doing?”

Wonwoo? That’s Wonwoo’s voice—

Mingyu slowly lowers the pillow and his face crumples when he sees Wonwoo standing there, in Mingyu’s clothes, looking worried with his hair standing up oddly in places. “Hyung?”

“Hey,” Wonwoo gently says, stepping closer. “What’s wrong, huh?”

Mingyu swallows past the lump in his throat. “Are you real?”

Wonwoo frowns, looking even more concerned. “Am I real?”

Mingyu nods, clutching the peach scented pillow to his chest. “Is this a dream?” 

Wonwoo stares at him for another three seconds before understanding dawns on his face, and his eyes suddenly look so tired and sad Mingyu has to bite back another miserable whimper. “I’m real, Gyu. You’re not dreaming.”

“Promise?”

Wonwoo comes closer, and carefully sits down on the bed. He reaches his hand out, watching Mingyu look at it silently.

Mingyu lets go of the pillow and takes the offered hand. Feels the warmth, the softness. He gulps and closes his eyes. “Fuck.”

“Gyu. Love, you’re scaring me.” Wonwoo moves closer, lets Mingyu hold his hand, and lifts his free one to cup Mingyu’s cheek.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” Mingyu mumbles. “I just thought— when you weren’t there… I’m stupid. Sorry.”

"You’re not stupid,” Wonwoo says. “I’m sorry for leaving. My mom was kind of freaking out since I didn’t come back last night. I had to call her.”

Mingyu nods and blinks up at the boy. “Is she mad?”

“No, just concerned. Don’t worry about it.” Wonwoo smiles at him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I… slept like a baby.” Mingyu feels well rested, for the first time in what feels like years. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad my powers are still working.” Wonwoo grins smugly, making Mingyu laugh. The older keeps looking at him with that fond smile.

"What?” Mingyu asks.

“Missed your laugh.”

“Missed you,” Mingyu replies, repeating himself for the nth time, but he doesn’t care, not when it makes Wonwoo’s face soften in the way it’s doing right now.

Wonwoo blushes a little. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but then Mingyu’s phone goes off, making both of them jump.

Mingyu reaches for it on his nightstand, taken aback by how later it already is, and then frowning a little when he sees the caller ID.

Eunwoo.

Wonwoo sees it, too, and Mingyu feels him tense up a little. He clears his throat and gets up. “I’ll be in the living room.”

“Hyung—“ Mingyu tries to stop him, but Wonwoo leaves before he can, and he groans quietly. He quickly answers the call before Eunwoo hangs up. “Hey.”

"Hey man,” Eunwoo slurs into the phone. He sounds like he just woke up. “I just wanted to check up on you. See if I have to go and beat someone’s ass today.”

Mingyu smiles despite the situation. “I’m fine. We, uh, kind of worked things out? Or we’re working on it.”

“Yeah? That’s good to hear, man. I’m happy for you.” Eunwoo sounds genuinely happy, like he’s smiling right now. “Just be careful, yeah? Really don’t want to deal with your miserable ass all over again.”

“Oh, fuck off.”

Eunwoo laughs. “Well… so, I guess, this is goodbye then, huh? My services are no longer needed. Nice to know I was replaced so goddamn fast—“

“I’m hanging up.”

You’re seriously breaking up with me over a phone call? You piece of shit—“

Mingyu laughs. “I hate you so much.”

Eunwoo is cackling now. “Nah, but seriously Gyu. We have to tell the hyungs now, you know that, right?”

Mingyu closes his eyes and falls back on the bed. “I know. Fuck… I know. I’ll do it. I don’t want you to deal with that mess, too.”

Are you sure? It was my idea after all. I can help you, if you want. Jihoon hyung loves me. Maybe he won’t rip your dick off if I’m there?”

Mingyu grins and shakes his head. “I’ll be fine, Eunwoo. But thank you anyways. For everything.”

Eunwoo is silent for a moment. “We’re still friends, right? I mean… I know the only reason we hung out was to make the hyungs believe we were dating but I really like you, Gyu. You’re a cool guy and I could use a bro to talk to from time to time.”

“Of course we’re still friends, Eunwoo. What are you even saying? Do you think I’d just drop you like that?”

Well, I don’t know. Now that you’ve got your village boy back…”

“His name is Wonwoo. Stop referring to him as village boy. He’s Wonwoo.”

I don’t know if I want to coo or throw up at how absolutely fond that just sounded.”

Mingyu grins to himself, before remembering how Wonwoo looked when he saw Eunwoo calling him, and he nervously nibbles on his lower lip. “Hey, Eunwoo, I really appreciate you checking up on me but I kinda have to… uhm…”

Yeah, yeah, gotta go suck that dick I—“

Mingyu immediately hangs up.

He lets the phone fall on the mattress with a heavy sigh.

Right.

He hasn’t quite explained this whole mess to Wonwoo yet.

You know, why the hell he found himself a fake boyfriend and all.

Mingyu gets up and sees his vision swim from moving so quickly, makes his way out of his bedroom on unsteady feet until he sees Wonwoo sitting on the couch in the living room, busy playing a game on his phone.

“Hyung.”

Wonwoo stops tapping on the screen furiously and barely lifts his head. “Hm?”

“Can we talk?”

“About what?”

“About… Eunwoo.”

Wonwoo still doesn’t move, and for a horrible second Mingyu thinks the older is that mad at him, but then Wonwoo puts his phone away and nods. “Okay.”

Mingyu goes to sit down next to him, pulls his legs up on the couch and turning so he’s facing the older, who is still facing away from him. “He was just calling to check up on me.”

He watches Wonwoo’s Adam’s apple move as he gulps. “How nice of him.”

“Hyung.” Mingyu huffs and reaches for Wonwoo’s arm. “Look at me.”

Wonwoo does. He looks at Mingyu, his face displaying how confused he is, and maybe there is some blanketed hurt in his handsome eyes, and Mingyu feels stupid for thinking all of this was going to be easy. He wonders if anything will ever be easy with Wonwoo. “I don’t get it, Gyu. You told me he’s not your boyfriend, but he… he kissed you yesterday. And he called you babe. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think.”

Mingyu nods. “I’m sorry. But it really isn’t what it looks like.”

“Then will you explain it to me? I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but right now I kind of really hate that guy’s stupid face.”

Mingyu can’t help but laugh at this, feeling all warm and soft when Wonwoo glares at him. “Eunwoo was a friend of Jihoon hyung. You remember? Seungcheol hyung’s boyfriend.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Well… he kind of wanted to set him up with me. To, uh, get over you.”

Wonwoo blinks at him, his lips drooping. “Oh.”

“But it didn’t work out,” Mingyu quickly says. “I couldn’t get you off my mind. But I couldn’t get the hyungs off my back, either. They were really worried about me, and kept insisting that I needed to go out with people, which I didn’t want. So Eunwoo and I thought it would be a good idea to, uhm, well… pretend to be seeing each other. Just so everyone would stop breathing down my neck. We were going to break it off because Eunwoo started seeing someone and I, well, never felt that good about lying to hyungs anyway. Eunwoo was just playing his part yesterday. We’re just friends.”

Wonwoo’s been quietly listening to him, his eyes attentive yet distracting as they flicker to Mingyu’s mouth from time to time. “Did you… do anything with him?”

Mingyu startles at that, his cheeks heating up. He lowers his gaze. “When we first met. We kissed. I was drunk, and I wanted to get over you. It was a mistake, and it never happened again after that. I uhm. Except for little pecks when we were pretending in front of the hyungs. But they never meant anything. Never.”

When he manages to look up again, he wishes he didn’t. Wonwoo looks hurt, but he’s nodding his head. “Alright.”

“Hyung, I’m really sorry—”

“Stop it. You don’t owe me an explanation, much less an apology,” Wonwoo mutters. “But I would rather not talk about you kissing that guy anymore, if that’s okay.”

“That’s fine.”

“Good.” Wonwoo finally looks at him again. “Because I want to be the only one who gets to kiss you.”

Mingyu tries to stop himself from smiling, his heart fluttering heavily. “Well. That’s kind of the point of being boyfriends.”

“Boyfriends?” Wonwoo raises his eyebrows, his hand moving closer to Mingyu’s on the couch. “Is that what we are?”

“You tell me, hyung.”

Wonwoo grins, and Mingyu turns his hand so the older can tangle their fingers together. “I like the sound of that.”

Mingyu leans in to kiss Wonwoo’s cheek, chuckling quietly when he hears Wonwoo’s breath falter. “Me, too.”

Boyfriends.

Jeon Wonwoo is his boyfriend.

Mingyu is proud of himself for not crying on the spot like a baby.

 

  





Explaining this whole mess to Seungcheol and Jihoon is…

Well.

It’s a goddamn mess.

After Wonwoo and Mingyu cleared things up between them, Wonwoo had to leave for work, which didn’t quite sit right with either of them.

They hadn’t seen each other in almost half a year, and then, within less than a day, they were together again, crying and fighting and making up again and suddenly coming to the mutual agreement that they both really kind of wanted to be boyfriends.

Mingyu still has a tough time wrapping his mind around all of it.

It just seems too good to be true.

Things going well in his life for once?

Sounds fake.

But anyway. Wonwoo left, gave Mingyu his number, and kissed away Mingyu’s frown over and over, promising to back, and that Mingyu could call him whenever he wanted.

Mingyu won’t own up to it, but his eyes were burning when Wonwoo put his coat on. It made him feel so vulnerable, letting Wonwoo go, just like that, after missing him for so long.

Call him dramatic and clingy, but the fear of losing Wonwoo again was kind of hard to deal with.

Wonwoo saw the look in Mingyu’s eyes and sighed, pulled him into a reassuring hug and pressed the softest kiss to Mingyu’s forehead.

“I’m not leaving you, silly.”

“I know. Fuck. I’m being a baby. Ignore me.”

“It’s fine, Gyu. But don’t look at me like that. Please.”

“Can you… call me later?”

Wonwoo smiled, and laced their pinkies together. “Of course.”

And Wonwoo did call, later that night, once he was finished with work, told him about his day, until Mingyu fell asleep to the sound of his voice.

Only to wake up the next morning to Seungcheol jumping on him, screaming bloody murder about how much he’d missed Mingyu.

Which leads them to their current situation.

They’re sitting in the living room.

Mingyu on one couch, Seungcheol and Jihoon on the other, holding hands like a married couple, staring at Mingyu like he’s their son and they just got a call from the principle of his school, informing them about a horrible thing their son did.

Mingyu puts on a wobbly smile and hugs the pillow from the couch closer to his chest.

Alright.

Yeah.

Here goes nothing. He’ll just say it. He’ll just say everything at once, no distractions, like ripping off a bandaid. He’s a grown man, he can do confrontations, he can own up to his mistakes like the responsible adult he is—

“You look good, Jihoon hyung. The tan suits you. And did you grow a little?”

“Cut the crap, kid.” Jihoon rolls his eyes. “What did you do?”

Mingyu gulps. “Okay. Wow. Uhm. So… Eunwoo.”

Seungcheol immediately looks concerned. “What about him? Are you guys okay?”

“Yes! I mean… yeah, we’re good. We’re cool.”

“You’re cool,” Jihoon flatly repeats.

“Yes. Cool… like bros. You know.”

“… Bros?”

Mingyu cringes visibly and closes his eyes, shaking his head. Okay, enough. Just spit it out.

“We lied to you both. We never— we were never dating. You two wanted me to meet someone new so bad I didn’t really know what to do anymore. I just needed space and you both were suffocating me and I do stupid shit when I’m under pressure so Eunwoo and I came up with the brilliant idea to start a fake relationship so you’d stop nagging me and it worked for a while but I felt like shit for lying to you and Eunwoo met this cool dude and I think they’re properly dating now? And Wonwoo also came back and I’ve never stopped loving him, oh my god, I love him so much I don’t— I don’t want anyone else, okay? And I know you both will hate me, and you can yell at me all you want but I just—“

“Mingyu,” Seungcheol interrupts him, his eyes big, lips parted in confusion and shock. “Breathe, you idiot.”

Mingyu shuts his mouth, his eyes stinging and heart racing. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for lying to you.”

Jihoon has an unreadable look on his face, and the room is bathed in silence for the next few seconds. “Why didn’t you just tell us to stop bothering you about it? Why would you do something so stupid?”

“But I did tell you!” Mingyu huffs and shakes his head. “I told you all the time. You didn’t listen to me.”

“Wait— Hold up.” Seungcheol sits up straighter. “Did you say Wonwoo’s back? What— What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Mingyu swallows heavily, feeling Jihoon’s glare like a burn on his skin. “He… moved here. A while ago, actually. He found me and we talked. A lot. I really want to make it work with him, Cheollie hyung.”

Seungcheol’s glare softens at that. “Holy shit, Gyu. What— We leave you alone for three days and this happens?”

Mingyu gnaws on his lower lip and glances at Jihoon. “Hyung, say something.”

Jihoon stares at him for another moment and shakes his head. “What do you want me to say, kid? I’m not angry you lied to us. We kinda deserved that, I guess. As long as you and Eunwoo are okay, I don’t really care about the rest. But… but that asshole just comes strolling into your life out of nowhere and you let him? Just like that?”

“Hyung—“

“No! You were a mess because of him for months! What the fuck do you mean you’re in love with him? Did you just forget about the past six months? Did he fuck you that well—“

“Hoon!” Seungcheol glares at him.

Mingyu flinches, his eyes welling up with tears. “I didn’t forget about it. But I told you. We talked, and he— he came here, we’ll make it work.”

Jihoon laughs humourlessly. “Are you even listening to yourself? You sound like a naive child, Mingyu. Do you think that dude came here for you? And what? Isn’t he still in the closet? Is that just magically not a problem anymore? Come on, Gyu, don’t be so fucking stupid for once—“

Mingyu feels his chest flare with hurt and anger. He gets up from the couch, ignoring Seungcheol calling after him, and stares down at Jihoon. “You’re an asshole.”

“Yeah well, at least I’m an asshole who actually cares about you. Unlike others.”

Mingyu whimpers. “Fuck you.”

Seungcheol groans. “Guys, stop it—“

“Do whatever you want.” Jihoon gets up, too, and grabs his phone and wallet. “I don’t care anymore.”

Mingyu remains standing there as Jihoon walks away, Seungcheol shooting Mingyu an apologetic look before rushing after his boyfriend.

The door slams shut angrily, and Mingyu is left alone in the apartment.

He sniffles pathetically, willing the horrible pain in his chest away as he rubs at his eyes and goes to find his phone.

He needs to get out.

 

  

Outside is better.

It’s cold, freezing, his breath forming big clouds as it rushes out of his lungs, but it helps calm down his rapid pulse and racing thoughts.

He’s walking along the deserted road, kicking at some pebbles frozen snow on the ground. It’s getting dark, and people have started to hang up Christmas lights everywhere, and Mingyu can almost watch them all light up one by one as people get home from work.

His nose is running, and he wipes at it with the sleeve of his coat.

It’s gross.

Jihoon and him always have fights like this. It’s nothing new, and sure Mingyu is always hurt by them, but he’s certain that Jihoon gets hurt, too.

It all boils down to Mingyu being too naive and optimistic and, well, not really having anyone to look after him, so Jihoon feels responsible in a way, and being the realistic, grumpy dude he is, he tends to be too harsh whenever they have disagreements.

Mingyu doesn’t know what makes this fight so different. Why it hurts so damn bad.

He also has no idea where he’s walking, but it’s already been half an hour, and his toes are freezing in his sneakers.

So are his fingers, which he realizes when he pulls his phone out of his jacket to check the time, his fingers almost stiff as he tries to press the buttons on the screen.

He already has a bunch of missed calls from Seungcheol and concerned text messages, even some from Eunwoo, whom Seungcheol must’ve called to see if Mingyu went to meet up with him.

Mingyu doesn’t have the energy or will to talk to any of them right now.

Sometimes he feels like no one takes him seriously. Like he’s some kid that needs constant supervision. Like they’re just waiting for him to screw up so they can scold him and make him feel like shit.

Like, okay, Mingyu knows he tends to make stupid mistakes, and that he messes up more than the average person should, but he’s trying, right?

That should count for something.

Mingyu puts his phone away again, closing his eyes and shudders when a gust of ice cold wind nips at his cheeks. He’s at a park now, deserted and quiet.

The benches are covered in a layer of frost, which doesn’t come off when Mingyu rubs over it with his hand, only serves to scratch at his palm painfully. He sits down, and immediately regrets it when his butt starts to freeze.

Oh whatever.

What a shitty day.

A rustling sound from the bushes next to him barely makes him jump; he’s too cold for that.

But Mingyu turns his head to look for the source of it, and smiles a bit when he sees a grey, fluffy cat peeking it’s head out from the bush.

He hates to take his hand out of the warmth of his jacket pocket, but he wants to pet the cat, so he lowers his hand and makes some stupid noises to get the cat’s attention.

It looks at him curiously for another few seconds before jumping out of the bush and walking over to him, where it immediately starts to nuzzle against Mingyu’s leg.

Mingyu smiles and strokes the cold fur of the cat, feeling the vibrations of it’s purrs. “Hi cutie,” He mumbles, his teeth chattering violently. Oh. Alright.

He’s colder than he thought.

“Aren’t you cold?” He asks. The cat sits down between his legs and lazily blinks up at him. “Nah, it must be warm and toasty under all that fur, huh?”

The cat swings it’s tail and closes it’s eyes when Mingyu scratches at it’s ears.

“I had a bad day. Hope yours was better. You have a home, right? I hope you do. Hope you got somewhere warm to sleep. I have somewhere to sleep, but I can’t sleep anyway, isn’t that funny? Nah, it’s just pathetic, isn’t it? There is literally nothing I can do right. Can’t even sleep like a normal person. I’m a sorry excuse for a human, huh?”

The cat tilts it’s head, and looks at him like maybe Mingyu’s lost his mind.

Maybe he has.

Who cares.

The cat reminds him of Pumpkin in a way. Maybe it’s just the calming presence, how it really has no choice but to listen to Mingyu, or how it appears to kind of care what Mingyu has to say, which is stupid, cause they can’t understand him.

Mingyu misses Pumpkin.

He misses his grandmother.

He misses— he misses Wonwoo.

Mingyu’s eyes start burning, and he feels so tired again, regrets leaving the apartment when he was so upset, because now it’s pitch black outside and it’s so cold.

Wonwoo hasn’t contacted him all day, which Mingyu tried not to read too much into since the boy is working from five in the morning until nearly six in the evening, so he’s busy, and Mingyu doesn’t want to be clingy, so he just waits for the older to reach out first.

He reaches into his pocket for his phone again, and deflates at the lack of messages from the person he wants it the most from right now.

His hands are shaking when he unlocks his phone and calls Wonwoo.

For a while, nothing happens, and Mingyu pets the cat which is still looking up at him adorably. He thinks Wonwoo isn’t going to pick up at all, and he’s about to hang up when the ringing stops and is replaced by Wonwoo’s warm voice.

“Mingyu?”

Mingyu takes a shuddering breath, trying to stop his teeth from clattering. “H-hyung?”

Can I call you back later? I'm... kinda busy.”

Mingyu deflates even more, his nose stinging horribly. “O-Okay.” He lowers the phone, and thinks he hears Wonwoo call his name but he hangs up anyway.

Maybe he should just sleep here. He really doesn’t want to go home and deal with Seungcheol and Jihoon right now, and he knows that Eunwoo is out on a date with his new boyfriend today, so that’s out of the question.

And well.

Mingyu doesn’t really have anyone else for these situations.

“Will you stay with me if I sleep here?” Mingyu asks the cat like an idiot drowning himself further in self-pity.

The cat meows, and suddenly jumps on the bench, and simply proceeds to climb on Mingyu’s lap.

It almost makes Mingyu cry. The cat blinks at him and nuzzles into his palm when Mingyu starts scratching at it’s ears again.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and Mingyu ignores it for a while. A few minutes.

It buzzes again, and it seems to irritate the cat after a while, so Mingyu reaches for it again.

He shakily accepts the incoming call, the phone nearly slipping from his numb fingers. “Hello?”

Mingyu,” Wonwoo speaks, sounding worried. “Gyu, is everything okay? I didn’t mean to brush you off, I was driving and—“

“Hyung,” Mingyu interrupts. “It’s cold.”

Wonwoo pauses for a moment. “Where are you?”

“At the p-park.”

The park?” Wonwoo asks. “Mingyu, it’s freezing outside why are you—“

“I had a f-fight with Jihoon hyung.” Mingyu sniffles and wipes at his nose again with his jacket. Fuck. It’s so cold, he can’t feel his ass anymore. “I don’t know. I’m s-sorry.”  

Mingyu hears Wonwoo curse quietly. “Send me your location, Gyu. I’ll come and get you.”  

Mingyu feels like a burden. Here he is, sitting in the park like a fucking idiot, bothering Wonwoo, who’s probably tired from work and now has to deal with his idiot of a boyfriend. “It’s fine, hyung. I’ll go home now. I’m s-sorry for bothering you.” 

Mingyu,” Wonwoo almost snaps. “Send me your location. I need to see you. Please.”

So Mingyu sends him his location, and waits, and freezes a bit more.

The cat stays with him, and maybe it falls asleep on his lap, and maybe falls asleep, too, he doesn’t really know.

He has no idea how long he’s sitting there, until he hears footsteps approaching, someone rushing towards him and scaring away the cat. Mingyu blinks his eyes open and whines at the loss of his friend, but then there are warm hands on his ice cold cheeks, and he looks up to see Wonwoo crouching in front of him.

“H-Hyung.”

Wonwoo looks worried out of his mind, his eyes frantically scanning Mingyu’s face as he brushes his thumbs over Mingyu’s numb cheeks. “You’re freezing. Jesus, how long have you been here?”

Mingyu tries to speak but he can’t get any words out. He just blinks tiredly and watches Wonwoo pull his own scarf off to wrap it around Mingyu’s exposed neck, covering half of his face, too.

It smells like peaches.

Wonwoo zips up Mingyu’s jacket, pulls at the sleeves to cover his ice cold hands, trying to get him warm.

“S-Stop. You’ll be c-cold, hyung—“

“I’m fine. Gyu, what were you thinking?” Wonwoo huffs and then, pulls him into a tight hug. “You got me so fucking worried.”

Mingyu closes his eyes and presses into the older’s warmth. “I’m s-sorry. ’m an idiot.”

“You really are,” Wonwoo whispers, but Mingyu feels him turn his head, pressing his warm lips to Mingyu’s temple. “Let’s get you somewhere warm.”

“N-Not home,” Mingyu manages to say when Wonwoo pulls him to his feet. “P-Please.”

“Okay.” Wonwoo nods and wraps an arm around Mingyu’s shoulders, pulling him into his side. “Come on.”

Wonwoo has his car parked nearby, and Mingyu sighs when he gets inside, the heater having warmed up he air so it’s all toasty inside. Wonwoo gets in right after him and proceeds to shrug out of his coat to wrap it around Mingyu’s shoulders instead. Mingyu wants to protest but Wonwoo suddenly reaches out and grips Mingyu’s hands, cradling the icy limbs between his warm palms and bringing them up to his mouth.

He kisses the ice cold knuckles once and then starts blowing warm air on them, and Mingyu can’t do anything but watch the caring actions with blurry eyes and a heavy heart.

“Hyung,” He mumbles, his voice shaky. “I love you.”

Wonwoo flinches at his head snaps up, hands tightening around Mingyu’s own. “Mingyu.”

“Love you so much.”

Wonwoo licks his lips, his eyes softening, and he closes his eyes and presses his lips to Mingyu’s knuckles again tightly. “Fuck.”

Mingyu doesn’t know where it came from. He knows it’s too sudden, too fast, and he’s being reckless again, just like Jihoon said, but he doesn’t care.

He doesn’t think he’s got anything to lose anymore at this point, and it’s how he feels, so why should he hold back?

And he doesn’t expect Wonwoo to say the words back. Not at all.

His actions already speak for themselves.

“You care about me,” Mingyu mumbles, shuddering when Wonwoo looks up at him, his breath so warm against his hands. “It feels nice.”

Wonwoo bites down on his lower lip, eyes boring into Mingyu’s, and then he removes one of his hands to place it behind Mingyu’s neck, pulling him over to press a kiss on his forehead. He stays there, lips brushing Mingyu’s cold skin. “Of course I care about you. You mean the fucking world to me.”

Mingyu smiles wetly and then Wonwoo moves, cups his chin, and brings their lips together. Mingyu closes his eyes, his lips numb and tingling as Wonwoo kisses his mouth over and over until he manages to transfer some of his warmth. Mingyu manages to kiss back after a while, and he kisses Wonwoo with all he has, until the older is panting against his lips, his breath frantic and his grip on Mingyu possessive and tender at the same time.

“Thank you for picking me up,” Mingyu whispers against his lips after they pull away, even though he’s aching for more, for Wonwoo’s lips, his touch, all of him. They remain close, foreheads touching, Wonwoo’s hands on Mingyu’s cheeks and Mingyu’s own curled around his wrists, seeking the warmth of his skin.

“Don’t do that again,” Wonwoo mumbles. “When you’re upset, call me. Don’t— Don’t do things like this. I worry.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t.”

Wonwoo nods, sighs as he looks into Mingyu’s eyes, and kisses him again, like he can’t help himself. “Do you want to tell me why you were so upset?”

Mingyu shakes his head, and pulls back, curling into himself. “I’d rather not. If that’s okay.”

Wonwoo stares at him for another moment before nodding his head. “Of course. But I’m here if you want to talk, okay?”

Mingyu sends him a fond smile and nods his head, lets Wonwoo take his hand when he reaches for it and starts the engine.

“Are you hungry?” He asks Mingyu once the car is back on the busy city streets.

“A little. But you must be. You just got off work, right?”

Wonwoo nods. “Wanna grab some dinner somewhere?”  

Mingyu smiles. “Like a date?”

Wonwoo turns to look at him, his face illuminated by the bright lights of the city, and a beautiful smile tugs on his lips. “I want to take you somewhere nicer for our first date, Mingyu.”

Mingyu shrugs. “I don’t care. I’d love it no matter what as long as I’m with you.”

Wonwoo groans and looks away. “How about you give me a heads up before saying things like that, huh? I have a family to take care of, you know. I don’t wanna die from a heart attack just yet.”

Mingyu laughs, and the sound makes Wonwoo look at him again, his eyes full of love. “But I like surprising you. It’s cute when you’re flustered.”

“I’m not cute. That’s your job.”

It’s Mingyu’s turn to groan and hide his face, completely missing the smile Wonwoo gives him.

It’s funny how fast his mood changed, all thanks to Wonwoo. Just a moment ago he was freezing his ass off in a park, feeling lonely and conjuring an entire pity-party for himself and here he is, warm and happy, his problems feeling so much more irrelevant with Wonwoo by his side.

Mingyu dozes off a little during the ride until Wonwoo gently shakes him awake again about half an hour later.

“Where are we?” Mingyu asks, not recognizing the parking lot or the restaurant in front of him.

Wonwoo unbuckles his seatbelt. “It’s a place of a family friend. I hope it’s okay. It’s a bit off the radar.”

Mingyu smiles. “It looks nice.”

Wonwoo grins at him and gets out of the car, waiting for Mingyu to do the same.

He almost reaches for Wonwoo’s hand out of habit, but stops himself at the end, trying not to let his smile falter when Wonwoo notices the action.

And then Wonwoo steps closer, and takes Mingyu’s hand.

Tangles their fingers together tightly.

Mingyu can’t breathe.

“Hyung— What— Someone could see, we shouldn’t—“

Wonwoo merely squeezes his hand. “Do you not want me to hold your hand?”

“Huh? N-No! Of course I do— I just, I’m worried about you—“

“Then stop stuttering around, Gyu. Let’s go inside.”

Mingyu’s brain has a hard time catching up as Wonwoo guides him inside the restaurant. He can’t do anything but stare at their intertwined hands, jumping a little when a waitress inside greets them with a friendly smile. Mingyu curls into himself, clinging to Wonwoo’s hand, who only squeezes back gently and walks further into the place.

There aren’t many people there, and the ones that are don’t pay them or their display of affection any attention.

It’s—

It’s so strange.

But it’s the best thing in the world, and Mingyu’s heart feels like it’s growing too big for his chest, especially when Wonwoo glances at him over his shoulder, smiling softly, and all Mingyu wants to do is kiss the air out of his lungs—

Wonwoo stops at a booth way in the back of the restaurant, and Mingyu finally manages to tear his attention away from the boy— his boyfriend — and follows the older’s line of sight.

The booth is occupied, which makes Mingyu frown, and then he feels Wonwoo looking at him almost nervously, and Mingyu wants to ask what’s going on until he finally looks at the people sitting there, and feels his heart stop beating.

The girls are smiling at him, both of them so beautiful and familiar, and Mingyu can’t do anything but gape at the whole scene.

“Mingyu,” Joohyun says, her eyes looking dangerously wet.

Mingyu starts crying.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Wonwoo is quick to hold Mingyu when the younger buries his face in his hands and promptly starts sobbing in the middle of the restaurant.

He barely has any time to process what’s happening, that Joohyun is here, and Seulgi too, and Mingyu still feels like it was yesterday when they took both girls to the bus station in the middle of the night.  

Basically helping them escape the hell that was the village.

And here they are, looking pretty as ever, healthy, and more than anything, happy, and Mingyu is just so glad they’re okay, that they’re still together—

The emotions just all spill over.

Mingyu whines in embarrassment, hears Wonwoo make a concerned sound and some rustling from in front of them, and then suddenly someone pulls him into a warm hug.

He smells something floral and sweet, a perfume that isn’t exactly familiar, but Joohyun is familiar, her arms small but strong around Mingyu’s shoulders. Joohyun coos at him and chuckles wetly when Mingyu lets out something between a sob and laugh and wraps his own arms around her.

“Joohyun,” He mumbles, his fingers carding through her hair. “Shit, I can’t believe— you’re here. What— Since when?”

She pulls away from the hug and ruffles Mingyu’s hair, trying to distract from her own tears. She’s wearing a soft jumper, her cheeks rosy; her skin has lost it’s tan, instead reminding Mingyu of the snow outside. “We don’t live here, Mingyu. We came here to see you. Wonwoo helped us, obviously.”

Mingyu sniffles, his eyes flickering to Seulgi who smiles shyly at him from where she’s hugging Wonwoo; her hair is lighter, almost like she dyed it. He then looks at Wonwoo in question.

Wonwoo sighs and shrugs. “I’ve been keeping in touch with them. We see each other every now and then. I thought instead of telling you how they’re doing I’d just bring you guys together.”

Mingyu then sits down when Joohyun tells him to, Wonwoo sitting close to him, which Mingyu is thankful for. He’s not sure how much Joohyun and Seulgi now about them, but he doesn’t have to wonder for too long; Wonwoo takes his hand and twines their fingers together again; he’s not showing off, but he’s not trying to hide it their when he places them in his lap, both girls following the action with knowing smiles on their faces.

Joohyun then looks at Mingyu and raises an eyebrow. “Seems like a lot has changed, huh?”

Mingyu blushes, so aware of all the eyes on him, especially Wonwoo’s warm gaze on the side of his face. He snuggles into the older a little more and sees Wonwoo smile to himself from the corners of his eyes. “Yeah, I guess so. I’m so glad you two are okay. I mean—you are, right?”

Joohyun turns to look at Seulgi, and Mingyu feels like he’s invading on a private moment, watching Joohyun’s face soften completely as Seulgi offers her girlfriend a warm smile. “We’re okay, yeah."  

“Wow, okay. Uhm. I don’t even know where to start. Where do you live? What do you do? I feel so lost.” Mingyu takes a deep breath. “I’m kinda really overwhelmed right now.”

The other three laugh and when Mingyu turns to look at Wonwoo, the older just shakes his head, his eyes fond, and he brings his hand to Mingyu’s face to brush the last tear from his cheek.

Mingyu almost whines, unable to stop himself from leaning into the touch, and he hears Wonwoo sigh, feels him pull Mingyu closer to him by the hand where they’re still holding on to each other.

Joohyun clears her throat, ripping them out of their moment. “Not that I’m not very happy for you two, but you can go and be sickeningly sweet later, when I’m not there to witness it, preferably.”

Seulgi rolls her eyes. “She’s like the biggest sap on the planet, don’t listen to her. She actually started crying when Wonwoo told her that he loved—“ Seulgi snaps her mouth shut. “I mean. Nothing.”

Mingyu glances at Wonwoo, who glares at his cousin before deciding that he finds the table very interesting. Mingyu grins, his heart fluttering in glee, and squeezes the boy’s hand. “Let’s order something,” Wonwoo mutters gruffly, waving the waitress over.

After they’re done ordering, Mingyu urges Joohyun to tell him about everything he’s missed out on after they left the village.

Joohyun finally starts telling him all of it.

From the night they left the village, how they arrived in Yeongchan, where one of Seulgi’s friends from college offered them a room in her apartment until they found a place for themselves. She helped them find a small one-bedroom apartment, and Joohyun explains that for the first few weeks, they basically had to live off their savings since Seulgi was busy with transferring to another college and didn’t have time to find a job, and Joohyun, well, she had a hard time finding something, having no previous working experience or any sort of impressive CV to show off. She got herself a job at dog day care eventually, and she looks happy when she tells Mingyu about it. Seulgi’s working on the side, too, so they seem to be able to make ends meet.

When Mingyu tells her to ask him for help if they ever need any money (not that he isn’t broke himself, but hey, he could probably survive a month or two without buying gallons of that expensive coffee from the corner store if that means he could help out his friends) Joohyun lightly kicks his foot under the table, making Mingyu pout.

Wonwoo snickers at that. “You think I haven’t tried that already? She literally kicked me out of their apartment when I offered to help.”

You shut up!” Joohyun grunts as she sends Wonwoo a glare. “Don’t think for a second I don’t notice the extra money that keeps showing up in our bank account each month.” Her glare softens when Wonwoo merely shrugs and smirks at her. “I hate you.”

Mingyu’s chest warms at the exchange. He likes this. Likes how all of them look out for each other, how much they care. It’s not often you stumble across close-knit friendships like this, especially in a money- and image-driven city like this.

“Have you… I mean, have your families reached out to you since you left?” Mingyu asks after a moment of consideration. 

Joohyun tenses up a little. “No. No… at first we thought they’d cause trouble, kind of expected our angry relatives to show up at our doorstep out of nowhere for a while. But when nothing happened, and we didn’t hear anything from them, that was just that. I guess that speaks for itself, right?” She smiles, but it looks pained, and Mingyu’s heart hurts for both of them.

Seulgi’s eyes look a little glassy. “It’s— It’s fine. We expected this to happen. It… would’ve been nice to have our families’ support, but it’s okay. We knew there was no chance of that ever happening.”

Mingyu wants to say something, anything to make them smile again, but Wonwoo beats him to it.

“You have our support,” The older says, his voice tightly laced with anger and frustration. “They don’t fucking deserve to be in your lives if they’re ready to abandon you for being in love.”

“Hyung’s right,” Mingyu speaks up after a moment, the atmosphere around them heavy and gloomy, the conversation having popped their small happy bubble and splashed them with the cold, hard reality of things. “It hurts to get pushed away by the people who you thought would stand beside you no matter what, but it also makes you stronger, okay? You’ll learn to… love yourself that much more instead. And you’ll meet new people who will fill that hole in your heart. You know you have my support, too. I love you guys a lot."

Seulgi smiles at him.

Joohyun laughs wetly and brings her sweater paws up to hide her face. “We love you, too, you idiots. Stop making me cry in the open like this, god…”

They all laugh quietly, the tension from before finally disappearing again.

Joohyun eventually clears her throat, wiping at her cheeks as she sits up straight in her seat. “Enough about us. What’s going on in your life, hm? Wonwoo refused to tell us anything. As always.

Mingyu looks at said boy who only sags back into his seat tiredly. “Why the hell am I being attacked like this? I brought you guys together. Show some respect.”

“Honey, you gotta earn that respect first,” Joohyun mutters, scowling at him, before returning her attention to Mingyu. “So?”

“Well,” Mingyu starts, clearing his throat. “Nothing too exciting happened. I’m still in college, going to classes. Or you know, doing my best, at least. I’m uh. Living with my roommate? He’s nice. You should meet him one day. He’s gay. Not that that matters! Right?” He laughs nervously, ignoring the amused eyes on him. He has no idea why the heck he’s so nervous all of a sudden. “Uhm. Wonwoo hyung… surprised me last weekend. I mean, I first ran into Yerim in the bus, which was so weird? I honestly thought I’d lost it for real when I saw her. But, uh. Yeah. That was a nice surprise. Really… cool. And. Here we are.”

Joohyun chuckles after taking a sip from her drink. “Yeah, you’re here. Both of you. Together.”

Mingyu shifts nervously at the meaningful look the girl shoots him. He really doesn’t know how much he’s allowed to say. Sure, Wonwoo changed a lot since he left the village, but that doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with telling everyone about them.

To put it simply; Mingyu doesn’t want to mess up.

Not now, when everything feels so okay.

“Stop it, Joohyun,” Wonwoo says. “Don’t make him uncomfortable.”

Seulgi coos and proceeds to pout. “Look at him protecting his beau.”

Mingyu chokes on air, whips his head around to stare at Wonwoo, whose cheeks turn red as he glares at both the girls in front of them. “Huh? You— What? You told them? You did?”

Wonwoo finally tears his eyes away from the to look at Mingyu, his brown eyes softening, lips tugging up into a small grin at Mingyu’s nervous stuttering. “I’m sorry. I just. They kept pestering me. It… felt right. I’m sorry—“

Mingyu shakes his head and tries to control himself, knowing that Wonwoo isn’t a fan of PDA but he leans in anyway, not quite hugging the older but still hiding his face in his shoulder. He feels Wonwoo tense up before there’s a hand on Mingyu’s back, rubbing up and down soothingly. “Don’t apologize. That… makes me so happy, hyung.”

“Yeah?” Wonwoo mumbles softly, lips grazing Mingyu’s ears.

“So happy.” Mingyu turns his head, pressing a tender kiss against Wonwoo’s pulse, smiling in surprise at how the kiss makes Wonwoo shudder.

When he remembers where they are, he pulls away from the hug, looking up to see the girls looking at them with smiles on their faces, Joohyun looking way fonder than she probably intended to look.

“This is so weird,” She says after clearing her throat. “I honestly never thought I’d see the day. Wonwoo being affectionate. Showing actual emotions. Wow.”

Seulgi agrees, staring at her cousin with something like pride. “You’re totally whipped.”

Okay. Like you’re one to talk,” Wonwoo answers with a scowl, taking a rather annoyed sip from his coke.

“When did I ever deny being whipped for my beautiful girlfriend?” Seulgi asks, tilting her head innocently.

“Well, I never denied anything either,” Wonwoo says, making Joohyun shake her head in disbelief and Mingyu blush all over the place.

“Totally got him wrapped around your finger,” Seulgi says, looking at Mingyu. “Thanks for cracking him open.”

Mingyu shakes his head, laughing nervously. “I didn’t do anything. Don’t know what he sees in me, to be honest.”

Wonwoo squeezes his hand, pulls him closer. “Stop.”

Seulgi squeals, Joohyun looks mildly disgusted, but Mingyu knows it’s all just an act.

Their food arrives, luckily, before Mingyu can start crying again. He doesn’t know how he got here, what he did to deserve this happiness, but his heart feels so full, watching his friends laugh and chat over dinner in this small restaurant. It’s a cold winter night outside, but they’re tucked away in the warmth inside, soft music playing in the background, and Wonwoo never really stops touching him.

Keeps a hand on Mingyu’s thigh, brushes hair out of his face, has his arm slung around the back of the seat so his hand can curl around Mingyu’s shoulder on the other side. None of it is done in a clingy way. It’s like a silent reassurance, for both of them, that they’re together and that they want to be together, and maybe to make sure that they’re not going anywhere. Mingyu didn’t know how much he needed this.

For someone he cares on such a deep level to return those feelings, to show how much they want to be with him. No one’s ever done that before.

It just makes his heart grow impossibly bigger in his chest.

And they laugh together, all four of them, happy and on the side of the people that mean so much to them.

Against all odds, here they are.

Joohyun meets his eyes at one point while Wonwoo and Seulgi are arguing over how GIF is supposed to be pronounced.

Mingyu looks at her, the happy glint in her eyes, the smile on her face, remembers the last time he saw her all those months ago.

Remembers hugging her goodbye, when she’d felt so small and cold in his arms, tired and scared.

It almost seems like a lifetime away now.

Joohyun smiles at him, and Mingyu smiles back.

She’s happy, and Mingyu couldn’t be more thankful, b