Everyone likes Jungwoo.
It’s impossible not to like him; it would be rude not to like him, he’s so nice. He has a good word to say about everyone they know, even him. Especially him. Maybe, Yukhei thinks sometimes, they’re only friends because Jungwoo is too nice to turn him away.
“Am I a good friend?” He asks, watching Jungwoo from upside down as he lies across Jungwoo’s bed, head over the edge. He likes the feeling of being upside down and he’s restless.
Jungwoo looks over at him from his desk. “Of course you're a good friend,” he says and then he turns back to his laptop screen and smiles. “When you listen.”
“I listen to you.” Yukhei is offended. He listens, he has ears. What does Jungwoo even mean?
Jungwoo continues to work on his essay and says, “You listen when you want to.”
“Wait, who listens when they don’t want to?” Yukhei frowns. “What would be the point in that?”
Jungwoo smiles and Yukhei feels bad for interrupting him to ask such a dumb question. It’s just-- every time that Jungwoo talks about another guy, Yukhei finds it difficult not to switch off.
It’s a defence mechanism or something, some shit his brain has come up with to avoid having to think about Jungwoo’s never-ending line of potential suitors: all of whom are real, credible adults and not overgrown memes, and many of whom are also apparently complete dicks.
“I was listening, anyway,” he says and it’s not a lie, because he definitely heard the main points: some guy has made Jungwoo feel bad about himself and probably needs annihilating. “I think he sounds like a loser.”
He rolls onto his front and settles properly onto the bed, arranging Jungwoo’s pillows underneath him. He likes to make himself at home in Jungwoo’s room - Jungwoo allows him to, and his room doesn’t smell of cheap bodyspray and wine stained carpet, like his own.
“Thank you for your input, Xuxi,” Jungwoo says, and Yukhei only melts slightly at the use of Jungwoo’s favourite pet-name for him. “Maybe you’re right.”
Of course I am, Yukhei thinks. Jungwoo’s latest boyfriend is so unworthy of him that Yukhei hasn’t bothered learning his name. And, yeah, maybe that’s a little bit immature, but he can’t bring himself to care. “You can do better.”
“I guess.” Jungwoo shuts the lid of his laptop and spins around on his chair to face him. He looks pensive and it makes Yukhei want to distract him from his sadness, but he doesn’t think up anything to say or do before Jungwoo speaks again. “What about you?” He says.
“Your relationship status,” Jungwoo replies. “You complain that you’re eternally single, but I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve decided that your problem is that you’re too picky.”
“I’m not picky, I just have a type.” Yukhei shrugs. Why has Jungwoo been thinking about his relationship status, he wonders. Probably out of pity, he’d guess. Maybe Jungwoo pities him more than he likes him, Yukhei thinks. Maybe that’s why they’re friends.
Jungwoo considers this answer. Says, “Which is?”
You, Yukhei doesn’t say. “Uh. It’s hard to put into words.”
And for the first time that evening, Jungwoo laughs. “You never shut up and yet you can’t put your ideal type into words?” He says, and looks at Yukhei with the signature fond look that has never failed to blow him away.
“Well - okay, my ideal type is someone... You know...” He fails to find any adjective at all, every one of them stuck in his throat, so he gives up. “Don’t you have an essay to write?”
Jungwoo does, and so he opens up his laptop again and politely, cutely even, asks Yukhei to give him a few hours to himself. Yukhei slopes back to his own dorm, where the wine smell has almost gone, and stays there alone for the rest of the night distracting himself with videos of pretty camboys with soft looking mouths and dewy skin, who he tells himself he isn’t pretending are Jungwoo.
Even he doesn’t believe his own bullshit this time.
Sometimes Jungwoo buys him lunch, and Yukhei definitely does not imagine it’s a date, unless he’s feeling particularly hopelessly in love, which admittedly is most of the time.
It’s a few weeks later, and they don’t have a lot of time between classes so they meet at the Burger King just off campus, Yukhei spreading out in a booth to avoid anyone they might know joining them. This time is just for them.
Jungwoo eats his burger carefully, both hands round the paper parcel, and Yukhei marvels at how good he can look even with mustard on his lip.
Yukhei throws a napkin at him. “So messy. You’re ruining my image,” he says, tongue in cheek.
“What image?” Jungwoo wipes his mouth. “No one thinks you’re cool.”
“You do,” Yukhei replies, and Jungwoo doesn’t disagree. In another lifetime, Yukhei guesses this would be flirting, but in this one it isn’t so he can’t get too carried away.
He pulls out his phone and flips camera to front, posing with a raised eyebrow and curled lip. He posts it to SNS with the caption “Cool or not cool?” even though he knows that he will ignore all of their friend’s replies that state, in no uncertain terms, that he’s an idiot.
“I’m reconsidering my opinion of you now,” Jungwoo says, watching him with a faint smile and kind eyes.
To someone else, Yukhei would reply “You love me really,” but he can’t say it now, because he’s scared. Scared that it will come out like a question, like a pleading, begging, embarrassing mess of words. Please love me, please. Because that’s how it sounds in his head.
Instead he says, “So, we have like eighteen minutes to catch up. What’s new?”
“Well,” Jungwoo starts, and he looks nervous. He picks up his burger and then puts it down again. “Well, actually, there’s a guy…”
Yukhei’s heart plummets and his own food doesn’t seem very appetising all of a sudden. “Cool.”
“He’s a T.A in one of my classes,” Jungwoo says, “And I’ve heard he thinks I’m cute.”
Yukhei asks, “Cute like a kitten or cute like he wants into your pants?”
Jungwoo takes a long time thinking about this. “I’m not sure yet but you can ask him on Friday. He’s coming out for drinks with us.” He pauses. “That’s okay, right?”
Yukhei says yeah, of course, it’s cool, man , even though he feels like shit about the whole thing and in the end, he doesn’t go to class that afternoon. He texts Mark instead and says, “I’ll give you a handjob without speaking too much if you can get to my dorm in fifteen minutes.”
Mark obliges. Yukhei speaks anyway, his hand around Mark’s dick as he complains about Teaching Assistants not doing their job and instead prying on students.
Mark points out that most of the T.A’s in Jungwoo’s department are around their age and relationships with students aren’t actually disallowed, and as a punishment for not agreeing with him Yukhei refuses to finish him off.
On Saturday night, Yukhei gets drunker than he should, is louder than he has any right to be and laughs forcefully at every joke made by anyone other than Doyoung, who, Yukhei has to admit, is nice after all. He’s nice and he’s handsome and he has hearts for eyes everytime Jungwoo bats his eyelids, and it’s so fucking unfair that it’s physically painful to watch what is happening between them.
Jungwoo sips his drinks slowly, clearly conscious of his pink cheeks as he holds his hands against them every so often and giggles under Doyoung’s gaze.
Yukhei downs his drinks too fast until he’s dizzy and he can tell he’s being too rowdy for his own good - Kun winces as he sings along with the track playing loudly into his ear and Donghyuck completely avoids him aside from to give him a weird look that he can’t quite read - but he just can’t find a way to stop himself. Being the life and soul of the party (whether anyone wants him to be or not) is the only thing keeping him from wanting to cry, and Yukhei does not cry. Not in public, anyway.
At the end of the night, when he and Jungwoo are alone in Jungwoo’s dorm room, the way Yukhei likes it best, Jungwoo fills a bottle with water and instructs Yukhei to drink it all before he goes home.
“Can’t I sleep in this bed?” Yukhei sits down heavily on Jungwoo’s roommate’s bed. He’s never home and Yukhei has come up with all sorts of outlandish theories about why.
(Last week he decided that it must mean he’s actually a secret agent posing undercover as a literature student.
“He isn’t a spy. He just has a girlfriend with her own apartment,” Jungwoo had pointed out, but Yukhei still isn’t convinced).
“No.” Jungwoo has already drank his bottle of water. “You have your own room.”
Yukhei pulls a face, but he can’t argue with that, because he does have a room, it's just that Jungwoo isn't in it and so it sucks.
Jungwoo just smiles back at him and takes the bottle of water from his grasp. He tips back his head to drink and Yukhei commits the scene to memory for later (flushed skin, head tipped back, eyes closed). He only feels a little bit bad about it.
Jungwoo stops drinking and says, “So, did you ask Doyoung what he thinks of me tonight?”
“I didn’t have to.” Yukhei practically snatches back the bottle. “Every man you meet falls in love with you,” he says, and he hopes the words don’t sound as bitter as they taste.
“No they don’t,” Jungwoo says and he sits down on his own bed opposite. He sighs. “They just think I’m pretty.”
Pretty, Yukhei thinks, is a the understatement of the fucking century, but he says nothing.
“He seems… Decent enough,” he says finally, because he has to say something and - as reluctant he is to admit it - Doyoung is clearly a nice person. Arguably nicer than Yukhei. “I guess I approve.”
“I didn’t know i’d asked for your approval. But thank you. I might-- if he asks me out, I might say yes.” He looks up, all hopeful and sweet, and Yukhei wonders if he can take his approval back.
“Cool,” Yukhei says. “Just… Just don’t forget about me.” He feels dumb saying it, but he’s drunk and he’s tired and he’s just about desperate enough not to lose Jungwoo that he says it anyway.
Jungwoo smiles in that soft, soft way of his that makes Yukhei feel like he’s drowning. “I would never,” he replies. “Now, go to your own room.”
Yukhei sleeps with Mark because Mark is there, and he’s chill about the fact that Yukhei is one hundred percent in love with someone else.
He’s more Jungwoo’s friend, truth be told, and Yukhei wonders what Mark tells Jungwoo about them, if anything at all. It would be okay, he thinks, if Mark was to mention to Jungwoo how mindblowing a lay he is, but maybe less okay if he brought up the fact that Yukhei talks about him non stop.
Sometimes, when they’re together, he wonders if Jungwoo feels jealous, which is petty and probably all kinds of morally wrong, but it doesn’t stop him from wandering. Yukhei wonders about a lot of stupid shit, it’s just how his brain works (like - during class last week he missed half of what the prof had said because he was debating in his mind whether a lion or a gorilla would win in a fight,), so in the grand scheme of things, wondering what Jungwoo thinks about him isn’t that dumb, except it feels like it because Jungwoo is his best friend and he should really just ask him. And he would, if he wasn’t too scared to hear the answer.
Want a beer? He texts Mark after class. this is code for “Want to avoid our feelings for other people by fucking around together?” and Mark knows this, although they’ve never actually discussed it. It is what it is.
Mark has been in love with Donghyuck since the beginning of time, and Yukhei finds it kind of pathetic, but then, he knows that at the end of the day he’s just projecting because he’s the same, except he’s actually worse because Mark probably deserves Donghyuck - deserves happiness and all that shit.
Yukhei does not deserve Jungwoo. How could he? Jung woo is incredible and Yukhei leeches off of him - takes his warmth, his kindness, his concern - selfishly takes anything he can from Jungwoo and gives him nothing back. At least it feels that way.
He lies, cramped and uncomfortable in Mark’s stupid single dorm bed, his legs bent at the knees because he’s too tall for the damn thing, and says, “Emotions are bullshit.”
Mark makes a noise that might be agreement, but he has Yukhei’s dick in his mouth so it’s hard to say.
“They’re bullshit, it’s all bullshit,” Yukhei continues. “But they won’t -- yeah, keep going like that -- they won’t go away, man. They just build up and up and - fuck - up into this massive thing and--” He has to stop talking then, because Mark is quite good at this. It’s a great distraction.
Mark stops what he’s been doing, much to Yukhei’s disappointment and says, “And what?”
Yukhei huffs. “I don’t know what, just keep sucking me off.”
Yukhei has never experienced real romance, but even he knows that this definitely isn’t it.
Yukhei enters Jungwoo’s dorm room without knocking, holding open the lid of the pizza box he’s holding as he does. “Dinner’s on me,” he says, putting the box down on the floor and sitting down next to it.
Jungwoo hardly bats an eyelid. He’s sitting cross legged on his bed, papers spread around him and a pen in his mouth. “I’m working,” he says, but he allows Yukhei to pass him a slice of double cheese and pepperoni anyway.
“You always forget to eat when you’re studying.” Yukhei takes a bite of his own slice and groans because it’s so good and he’s so hungover, and maybe he should be studying too, but this seems more important right now.
Jungwoo tidies his papers up and concentrates on eating. “It is really good,” he admits. “Thank you for thinking of me.”
Yukhei just shrugs, but inside he’s glowing.
They eat in silence for a while, until Yukhei clears his throat and asks, as naturally as he can muster, “Didn’t you have a date with that T.A last night?”
Jungwoo nods. “I did,” he says, and that’s it. That’s the answer. He goes back to eating, reaching for another slice, and Yukhei thinks that maybe he’s struck gold. Maybe Doyoung isn’t decent after all.
“Was it that bad?” He presses. “Why aren’t you talking about it?"
“I didn’t think you were interested.” Jungwoo pouts. “But we had dinner at a nice restaurant and we saw a movie.”
Yukhei says, “Sounds expensive.”
“He paid.” Jungwoo blushes. “It was… It was very romantic.”
Yukhei has to force himself not to roll his eyes or to pull a disgusted face.
“Yah, don’t make that face,” Jungwoo scolds, though he’s laughing as he says it. Yukhei realises that no matter how much he’d tried to keep his contempt internal, he’d failed.
“I thought I’d managed not to pull a face.” He shoves the crust of his slice of pizza into his mouth and thinks about how much he regrets bringing the subject up. He was happier five minutes ago in the comfortable silence. At least then he wasn’t being a dick about his best friend’s happiness.
“Well, you didn't manage to.” Jungwoo is wringing his hands nervously when he looks at him next. “Do you-- do you not like him?”
“I like him,” Yukhei replies. He feels guilty, then. He feels guilty a lot around Jungwoo, and it’s always his own fault. “Sorry tonight’s dinner is less fancy.”
Jungwoo looks as though he wants to say something, but instead he gives Yukhei a sad, half smile, like he’s trying to figure him out and failing. Yukhei’s chest feels tight.
“I like your hair today,” Jungwoo says when he finally speaks again. “You look very handsome.”
Somehow the compliment hurts more than any insult could.
Sometimes Yukhei gives in to outlandish daydreams.
They come when he’s bored in class, when he’s in the gym, just before he drifts off to sleep. They’re about Jungwoo - always Jungwoo - and they’re Yukhei’s deepest secret.
The daydreams usually begin somewhere sunny, outside at a cafe or walking by a river, some dumb shit like that. And there’s hand holding and laughter, and a ring on both of their hands. They have a dog, of course, a puppy as adorable as Jungwoo himself. And sometimes there’s a kid - a tiny Yukhei with swagger and a perfect smile - and he’s happy. He’s so damn happy he can hardly believe it.
And then he’s back in the room, someone nudging him as the professor repeats her question, and he feels stupid, feels embarrassed - much more so than he does about the other type of fantasy: the ones he gets off to. Yukhei’s current favourite of these is the one he has in which Jungwoo rides him right there in his dorm room, mouth slack, hair mussed up over his forehead, bouncing with more grace than should be allowed considering the situation. He replays that one again and again and again, and if he’s ashamed it’s only because he doesn’t manage to muffle his shout when he comes into his hand.
At least, Yukhei reasons, there must be tons of guys jerking off to thoughts of Jungwoo. Jungwoo is single handedly the most beautiful person Yukhei has ever met, and he can forgive himself for letting his mind wander to sex - he’s a guy and he’s always horny and his best friend is insanely fucking hot - even if he does find it difficult to look Jungwoo in the eye sometimes when they next hang out.
But daydreaming about Jungwoo loving him?
That’s something else, something that seems so unlikely, so insane that he can hardly believe he allows himself to even imagine it.
When Jungwoo is dating someone, Yukhei has to share, he knows that. But it still sucks. So, to distract himself he hangs out with Mark more than usual. And he hangs out with Kun, who won’t sleep with him (he’s a sensible guy all round, Yukhei thinks) but does know the door-guys at a lot of bars, which means no cover fee and no lining up outside.
Jungwoo texts Yukhei a smiley emoji when he's out with Kun and he decides he won’t text back for at least two hours because he’s drunk and it’s made him feel spiteful. But then he doesn’t reply at all, because at the end of the night, when he misses Jungwoo and his bottles of water and soothing voice, his phone is out of battery and he’s in Mark’s bed, and even he knows that it would be rude to wake him up to ask to borrow his phone charger.
Jungwoo is waiting outside of his dorm room when he drags his ass back to it the next morning. “I have to talk to you.”
Yukhei swallows panic. Maybe he knows everything. He knows and he’s here to call him out and tell Yukhei that in no uncertain terms is he allowed to continue fantasising about proposing to him on his twenty fifth birthday (this is a new daydream, his new favourite, dirty, indulgence, in which, every time he proposes, Jungwoo says yes).
“You haven’t been over in so long.” Jungwoo’s voice his small but his arms are crossed and in his hungover state, Yukhei isn’t sure whether to be scared of him or not. “I miss you.”
Oh. Well, that’s nice to hear, and definitely better than the scene he was imagining unfolding. “Cute,” he says, unlocking his door. “Welcome to my crib, come on in,” he says as if he’s on TV, and Jungwoo visibly relaxes.
Jungwoo is kind, so he doesn’t comment on the mess of clothes and books piled at the end of Yukhei’s bed. Yukhei isn’t looking forward to tidying it.
“You’re spending a lot of time with mark lately,” Jungwoo says as he begins to pile the books up for him.“You didn’t text me back last night and I was-”
“Worried?” Yukhei suggests.
Jungwoo nods, stacking the books at the foot of the bed. “I was going to say jealous, but that too.”
“Jealous? Of me and Mark?” Yukhei scoffs. It’s such a ridiculous idea - there is nothing to be jealous of where he and Mark are concerned; they’re sad as fuck.
“Am I not allowed to be?”
Please be, Yukhei thinks. Please. He shrugs and waves a hand. “We’re just… messing around. It’s nothing serious.”
Jungwoo interrupts him. “Is he your ideal type?” He asks.
“No.” Yukhei doesn’t even have to think about this. Mark is cool - Yukhei wouldn’t sleep with him if he didn’t think so, but that’s not the same thing. “Is Doyoung yours?”
“I don’t know,” Jungwoo replies. He looks sad, eyes clouded with something Yukhei can’t quite put his finger on. “Can we hang out more again?”
Yukhei nods. “Of course we can, you idiot,” he says and then Jungwoo leaves him to crawl into his now tidy bed where he dreams about never being loved back.
The thing is this: Yukhei and Jungwoo kissed once, for real.
Yukhei kisses a lot of people, so this isn’t really a surprise, but he isn’t best friends with any of the others he's kissed and he hasn’t ever been completely in love with any o them before either, so this was a whole new experience.
It had been a weird night, all told, the night they had kissed. Yukhei thinks about it every so often - tries to remember what it was like, exactly.
From what he can remember - and it isn’t much - Jungwoo had been even more quiet than usual. He'd sat in a corner of the bar by himself for most of the night and Yukhei had been boisterous and demanding of his attention and probably hadn't listened. Jungwoo had been going through a break up, or maybe that had happened a few weeks before, Yukhei can’t really remember, but he was sad, and Yukhei hated it.
“You’re killing me,” he’d shouted, throwing an arm around Jungwoo and probably sitting down too closely next to him, all alcohol breath and wild limbs.
Jungwoo had been lost in a text from the ex-boyfriend, whose name Yukhei has long forgotten. He’d looked up, blinked a couple of times and then he’d smiled softly and promptly looked down again.
“I’m trying to have fun,” Yukhei had said, drunk hands removing Jungwoo’s phone from his grip and holding it high in the air “And you are killing the vibe in here. It's a party."
It had been the wrong thing to say and Yukhei had known it as soon as the last word left his mouth.
“Sorry I’m ruining your night,” Jungwoo had said and he’d bitten his lip and frowned. “You know, I think I’m going to go.”
Yukhei can’t remember how Jungwoo got up from the table and outside of the bar so fast, but then, he wasn’t drunk and Yukhei most definitely was, and time passes differently for the sober than it does for the drunk, so it wasn’t until Jungwoo was almost out of reach that he’d managed to stand up and follow him.
He remembers that he managed to catch up with Jungwoo outside, where Jungwoo had tears in his eyes that Yukhei just wanted to wipe away, but he couldn’t do that so instead he’d just said, “You can’t just leave me.”
“Not everything is about you,” Jungwoo had replied, and the sadness in his eyes had struck Yukhei like a flaming arrow.
So Yukhei had just stood there, open mouthed, desperately wishing that he could backtrack everything. All the way back, back, back until they’d never met and then Jungwoo wouldn’t have to put up with his bullshit.
“I know. I know… What i meant was… No, actually I don’t know what i meant, I just know that you deserve better than that asshole.” He’d been rambling, grasping at straws, looking for something to make light of the entire thing. “He was a terrible choice in boyfriend. Like, he isn’t even as handsome as me, come on!”
Then, he remembers, there’d been a flicker of a smile across Jungwoo’s face, eyes still red, standing in the cold without his jacket on, so Yukhei had rolled with it.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” He’d laughed at himself, and Jungwoo had smiled with him. “Come on, admit it! Was he as cool as me?”
Jungwoo’s smile was bigger now. “No.”
“Was he as funny as me?”
Jungwoo had just rolled his eyes at this, but Yukhei didn’t care.
“And he was so short!” Yukhei held up his hand to shoulder height. “He was short and he wasn’t funny, he wasn’t sexy like I am.”
Jungwoo had laughed at this point, and fuck did it feel good to see him happier. “What does you being sexy have to do with anything?”
“I don’t know, I just wanted you to smile. And it worked!” And then they’d laughed together, but there’d still been a tear there, drying on the swell of Jungwoo’s cheek.
He’d done it without thinking really - wiped it away, maybe lingered too long, fingers on Jungwoo’s face. He thinks he must have kissed Jungwoo first, given in to what he wanted just for a second. Always the selfish one: take, take, take.
He’d kissed Jungwoo and for a few miraculous seconds Jungwoo had kissed him back.
And then the door had opened behind them, a group of girls spilling out from the bar and cheering at something - maybe them now he thinks of it - and then they weren’t kissing, and Jungwoo was mumbling something about an accident and Yukhei was pulling a face and saying, “I am so drunk,” as if that had anything to do with it
They didn’t speak about it the next day, or the day after that, and then it felt too late to ever speak about it at all. Now it’s just a memory that Yukhei plays on repeat.
Mark’s friend Taeyong eyes him with interest and says, “Are you staying for stew? It’s proper home-cooked food, my grandmother’s recipe. Taste's really good.”
Yukhei was not expecting this question when he was invited over to Mark’s friend’s place, but it’s definitely not the weirdest thing he’s been offered at a party since he began college and he would never turn down free food. “Yeah, uh, okay,” he says.
“Taeyong looks after people,” Mark explains, sitting down across the room and cracking open a beer with clumsy hands. “That’s his thing.”
Taeyong doesn’t argue with this.
Mark grins. “He also supplies the best fucking pot ever .”
Taeyong doesn’t argue with this either.
Yukhei accepts the joint that’s being passed around the room and takes in the scene around him: watches Taeyong passing out glasses of water and holding Donghyuck’s hand when he pulls a face after taking a smoke, watches the door as more people arrive and fit themselves into spaces on chairs and beds as the room fills up. Then he watches Mark stare at Donghyuck with longing until it all feels too intimate for him and he has to leave.
“Text me when you want to get a beer,” he tells mark as he goes, and Mark looks away from Donghyuck for just long enough to give him a thumbs up.
Yukhei hopes to heaven he never looks that obvious around Jungwoo, and, being high and all, he then spends over an hour staring at himself in the dorm bathroom mirror practising his cool and disinterested face until he’s forgotten where he is and why he is there in the first place.
Maybe he should have stayed for the stew after all.
Jungwoo smells like a cologne he doesn’t wear, and Yukhei is trying his hardest to ignore this, as he scrolls through the list of titles to stream on Jungwoo’s laptop on a dreary Monday night. “Should we watch a comedy?”
Jungwoo’s arm is looped around his own, his head resting on it. He’s tired, already yawning before they even choose a movie, and maybe if Yukhei was a better man he would suggest they take a raincheck on hanging out, but Jungwoo smells like a cologne he doesn’t wear and Yukhei is stupidly jealous, so he pretends like he doesn’t notice that Jungwoo is practically sleeping on him.
He knows that Jungwoo has been out with Doyoung tonight, and that’s nothing unusual: they’re still dating. Jungwoo calls Doyoung “my boyfriend,” when he talks about him, and smiles radiantly when he does, and Yukhei only wants to see the world burn a small amount when it happens.
“Why don’t we watch a drama?” Jungwoo suggests. “An emotional one.”
“Why a drama?” Yukhei looks down at him, puzzled.
Jungwoo smiles up at him, eyes crinkling into their own radiant smiles and says, “I like it when you cry.”
“Oh, shut up.” Yukhei scoffs. “I’ve only cried at like, two movies.”
“Two this year.” Jungwoo is still smiling, and Yukhei shrugs him off, fake sulking at the edge of the bed, laptop discarded on its side.
Jungwoo tugs at his arm again, and Yukhei reluctantly lets him, picking the laptop back up and setting it down on his knee.
“I like it. It’s a side of you not many people get to see, it makes me feel special,” Jungwoo says quielty and lays his head back down on Yukhei’s shoulder.
“You are special,” Yukhei says, eyes firmly trained on the screen. It feels like he should add a punchline, make it into a playful joke, but then he leaves too long of a silence and he can’t, and he’s scared to look at Jungwoo in case he looks like Mark does when Donghyuck is in the room.
It isn’t until Jungwoo falls asleep under his arm (which happens twenty minutes into the movie), that Yukhei feels like he can breathe again. He’s missed most of the plot in favour of punishing himself for his feelings by letting his brain imagine the sorts of things Jungwoo and Doyoung have been up to to make Jungwoo smell so much like his boyfriend. It’s a more effective torture than anything he’s tried before and, as much as it hurts, he can't stop thinking about it: about them together, touching each other, fucking. The worst part of it all is that when he pictures it, Jungwoo is so happy.
He closes his laptop and then he closes his own eyes, and when he wakes up again his arm is dead and Jungwoo’s hand is on his thigh and he’s confused and happy and uncomfortable and everything is so conflicting that he can’t even be bothered figuring it out, so instead he just suppresses the urge to press a kiss to Jungwoo’s forehead and closes his eyes again.
The next morning, Jungwoo is gone, but the scent of Doyoung’s cologne remains and Yukhei can’t get to class fast enough for once.
Jungwoo wants to grab coffee, except Yukhei can tell this is a smokescreen for something else, he just isn’t sure what. Some kind of intervention, he guesses. Jungwoo does this sometimes: stages tiny interventions in his life that only the best kind of person would.
They buy coffee and sit in the window of the coffee shop and Jungwoo asks him questions in a soft voice. Have you been going to your seminars, Xuxi? Are you aware that energy drinks shouldn’t be consumed in such large quantities, Xuxi? When you buy me food, are you remembering to also put into your savings, Xuxi?
Things like that. Yukhei isn’t sure what to expect this time and his hands are clammy as he takes his iced Americano from the counter, because he worries that one day the question might be do you realise I’ll never love you back, Xuxi?
Jungwoo sits with his back against the window and the light streaming through bathes him in an effortless glow. He starts the sentence carefully, slowly and delicately, like he’s walking a thin tightrope and is scared he’s about to fall off. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something," he says. "Are you and Mark... Is he cheating with you?”
Jungwoo licks his lips and Yukhei tries not to stare. “Cheating on Donghyuck. With you."
“No. What? " Yukhei puts his hand on his heart. He can be a little insensitive sometimes, yeah, but he isn’t that guy. He’d never be that guy. “Why would you say that?”
Jungwoo stares at him, like he’s unsure whether Yukhei is still on the same plane of existence. “Haven’t you noticed,” he says, “that Mark and Donghyuck look like they’re together?”
Oh, he thinks, Well, yeah, obviously. Mark’s completely in love with the guy and is terrible at hiding it.
Jungwoo places his hand on top of Yukhei’s on the table briefly and if he wasn’t so out of his depth right now, Yukhei would be finding it all awfully cute and probably comitting it to memory to bring up in one of his weird, sentimental fantasies. “Sorry. I know you like him.”
Yukhei shakes his head. “No, they’re not together, but they should be, that’s clear. It's true love.” He gives Jungwoo a lopsided grin and rolls his eyes to show that he couldn't care less.
“Oh. I see.” Jungwoo nods. He looks all sorts of relieved, feet back on solid ground. “I get it now.”
“I thought when you said it was just sex… I thought maybe you were just putting on a brave face.” Jungwoo smiles, and picks up his frappé. “I thought maybe there were feelings involved.”
“I cried at Zootopia, I don’t have a brave face.” Yukhei laughs, high on the knowledge that Jungwoo has been worrying about his feelings. “We know where we stand. It’s definitely just sex.”
“Good,” Jungwoo says and the sunlight behind him is a halo around his head. “I’m glad you’re not, like, pining for him. That would suck.”
"Uhuh, that would suck balls," Yukhei says and the irony of the situation is not lost on him.
After Jungwoo points it out, Yukhei notices just how much like a couple Mark and Donghyuck really do seem. It’s in the way that Donghyuck squeezes in to sit beside Mark in the smallest booth at the bar. It’s in the way that Donghyuck steers Mark away from him when they bump into each other between classes with a sharp look. It’s just there and Yukhei wonders if maybe Mark has been reading Donghyuck all wrong all along.
It’s almost three in the morning and they’re two mutual handjobs and a streamed hockey match neither of them actually cares about into the night, when Mark says, “Donghyuck told me that he doesn’t like you.”
Yukhei laughs sharply. “Yeah, I do get that impression.”
“He thinks you’re loud and obnoxious,” Mark continues, looking at him with big eyes. He looks pathetic and Yukhei knows the feeling.
“I am.” He shrugs, smile plastered across his face. He knows he gives bad first impression and that’s okay. He usually makes it up when people get to know him. Donghyuck doesn’t seem want to know him though, and that’s fine.
Mark smiles in agreement. “Be honest with me - if you think I’m batshit crazy, just say it, but… Do you think maybe he’s jealous?”
“Who wouldn’t be jealous?” Yukhei flexes a bicep. “I’d want to fuck me too.”
“You know what I’m asking.” Mark looks unusually serious, and Yukhei figures that he should be honest, even if it kind of hurts that Mark is on the brink of getting everything he’s ever wanted and Yukhei can’t even imagine deserving what he wants most, never mind it becoming a reality.
“Dude,” he puts his hands on Mark’s shoulders and smiles. “All I’m going to say is that I better be invited to the wedding.”
Jungwoo doesn’t come to Yukhei’s dorm room much. It’s an unspoken fact that Yukhei prefers Jungwoo’s room, and Jungwoo doesn’t seem to mind. Yukhei finds comfort in Jungwoo’s room because it reminds him of how to be a real person: neat, comfortable, warm. Like Jungwoo. Plus, Jungwoo’s roommate is never there, which is a bonus. It means that Yukhei gets Jungwoo completely to himself when they’re there, and he lives for the stretches of time that exist for just the two of them.
Jungwoo doesn’t come to Yukhei’s dorm room much, so Yukhei is confused when Jungwoo knocks on his door one Thursday evening, standing there in the hallway with wet hair and wet eyelashes, fresh from the rain. He’s frowning, almost pouting really, and Yukhei feels an overwhelming urge to hug him, but he can tell it’s not the right move from the look on Jungwoo’s face.
“I think I might be a bad person,” Jungwoo starts, when Yukhei ushers him inside and throws him a towel.
“I've just broken up with Doyoung for no reason.” Jungwoo looks panicked. He clutches the towel to his chest and doesn’t make any attempt to dry his face. “I just-- I just told him I didn’t want to be with him and then I left him standing in the rain.”
Yukhei raises his eyebrows. This is unexpected and processing the information is difficult, especially because a big part of him is happy about it. “That doesn’t make you a bad person,” he points out. Bad and Jungwoo don’t belong in the same sentence, everyone knows that. Jungwoo should know that.
Jungwoo looks like he’s about to cry and his voice wavers as he says, “I don’t know… I’ve been thinking and there are things I’ve done in the past that might suggest I am.”
“No, this won’t do.” Yukhei isn’t used to this level of moping from anyone other than himself and he has no idea what to say to make Jungwoo better without reverting to his usual defence of being loud and funny. “No. We should do something to distract you, something fun.”
“Party? We could go out?” He tries out a smile. “You look like you need a strong drink and a dance.”
Jungwoo just shakes his head. “Last time you made me go out and party after a break-up we had a fight.”
“Did we?” He replies as if it isn’t a night he replays constantly.
Jungwoo sits down on the bed and looks down at his hands. “Yes. And then I did something stupid.”
Yukhei feels a bit like he’s just been punched in the gut. “You did?”
“You probably don’t remember.” He looks so worried that Yukhei has to close his eyes because Jungwoo’s sad face is just too much. “But I kissed you.”
Yukhei opens his eyes.
“It was about a year ago. I shouldn’t have-- you were so much drunker than I was, you were just being a good friend.” Jungwoo looks tormented. “I took advantage of the situation and-”
Yukhei’s brain computes what he's being told: that Jungwoo remembers their kiss, Jungwoo regrets their kiss, and worst, Jungwoo thinks he’s to blame for it. “Are you joking? Please don’t tell me you… that’s why you think you’re a bad person? That’s what eats you up at night? Seriously?”
Jungwoo says, “You don’t have to make fun of me.”
“I’m not.. This is stupid.” Yukhei stands there, lost, feeling dizzy. He’s never been worthy of Jungwoo, and even worse he’s made Jungwoo think that he’s the unworthy one. “This is so, so stupid. Fuck.”
The room feels too small and Jungwoo still has wet hair, and is shaking his head and saying, “I don’t think you understand, you were just cheering me up because I was sad,” and Yukhei feels so much guilt, because Jungwoo thinks he’s been a bad friend, when it’s not him at all.
It’s Yukhei who is bad, who thinks about wedding rings and an apartment by the sea and a tiny poodle puppy that Jungwoo adores, and Jungwoo in the morning wrapped up in the sheets of their bed.
“Hey?” Jungwoo is saying now. “Are you even listening to me?”
“No,” Yukhei admits, because it’s the truth. “I’m not.”
Jungwoo leaves soon after.
Yukhei knows that life is all about give and take. He just wishes he had something of more substance to offer Jungwoo, but he doesn’t so he keeps his distance after that night.
He’s on his own in the library a few weeks later, and he hates to be there - it’s a place that he finds uncomfortable, awkward, and that’s not like him or it’s not like the image he tries to portray, anyway. The library is too quiet, too serious. It makes him want to laugh for no reason and sometimes he can’t hold it in and laughter bubbles to the surface, Jungwoo shushing him with a giggle.
But Jungwoo isn’t here now, so he doodles in the margin of his class notes and tries to get through the chapter of his reading for the next seminar.
Kun sits down opposite him with a nod and mouths, “No Jungwoo?”
Yukhei says, all nonchalance, “I didn’t know we came as a pair,” and Kun sees through him in an instant.
“Did you two have an argument?” Kun whispers across the table.
“No, not exactly,” Yukhei replies, but Kun is allergic to bullshit apparently, because he clearly doesn’t believe a word coming out of Yukhei’s mouth.
“You two should make friends,” Kun whispers. “And do it before the Summer campus social, because you’re both coming to it.”
“Yeah, will do,” Yukhei says, but he’s never really believed himself worthy of Jungwoo’s friendship anyway and he thinks that maybe, this is for the best after all.
This is uncharted territory for Yukhei. Two weeks without speaking to Jungwoo. No texts, no spontaneous pizza parties, no lunch between classes, no cartoon marathons and yet, still the heartache remains.
This is only fair, he deserves it.
He still daydreams, still thinks about Jungwoo’s hands and face and his mouth, and about holding him close, but now they’re tinged with an extra layer of sadness that he’d never bargained for.
Mark and Donghyuck get together, for real, and Mark sends him nine thumbs up emojis in a row and says, "This is fucking crazy,” when he sees him in outside the library. Donghyuck is there too, holding Mark’s hand and watching Yukhei with an air of mild disinterest.
“He misses you,” Donghyuck says to him before they leave, and he isn’t talking about Mark.
Kun throws a party that Yukhei would usually have successfully persuaded Jungwoo to go with him, but they’re not talking, so he just goes alone.
He recognises half of the faces in the room, but there is no one he really wants to spend time with, so he nods and says a lot of hello’s, accepts drinks and downs a shot of vodka to cheers from some of Kun’s coursemates.
It's not long before Mark and Donghyuck arrive (attached at the hip, of course) and then he spots Kun’s friend Sicheng, and there’s Taeyong, too, and with the friendly faces and the increasing amount of alcohol pulsing through Yukhei’s system comes the belief that he’s enjoying himself, even though deep down he thinks it might be an artificial emotion.
Taeyong is petite but he’s headstrong and he swaps Yukhei’s beer for a soda definiantly and says, “Why do I get the impression that you’re drinking your feelings right now?”
Yukhei laughs. “Because I am.”
Taeyong says, “Be careful,” and it’s the nicest thing anyone has said to him in a while. Since Jungwoo left his room with a disappointed sigh, actually.
He misses Jungwoo so badly it’s unreal, but Jungwoo is better without him and Yukhei is the master of distracting himself, so he says to Taeyong, “Do you want to hook up or something?” which now he thinks about it, is how it all started with Mark.
Taeyong just looks at him. “I don’t think you’re my type,” he says.
“Why?” Yukhei pulls a face. He can’t decide whether he’s meant to be offended. “What is your type?”
Taeyong raises an eyebrow. “My type? A possessive dom with a pet-play kink. What’s yours?”
Yukhei isn’t completely sure what pet-play is, but he makes a mental note to look it up later. “My ideal type is just one specific person,” he admits and the honesty feels weirdly good. “It has been for a long time.”
Taeyong says, “Ah.”
“What does that mean?” Yukhei asks.
Taeyong pats his knee gently and swaps back his half empty soda can for the beer. “It means you’re in love,” he says and smiles at him. “Maybe you do need the alcohol after all.”
Yukhei doesn’t need the beer, though. He doesn’t need the beer, but he definitely needs Jungwoo and he realises this as Taeyong wanders off into Kun’s kitchen and leaves him to think about the fact that he’s at a party, trying to hook up with people who don’t want to hook up with him and he’s doing it all for no reason other than because he’s totally and unconditionally in love with Kim Jungwoo.
He makes it to Jungwoo’s dorm in under ten minutes, and he knocks on the door loudly, with more force than he intends. He’s probably waking up half of the floor, but he doesn’t really care about that. This is important, damn it. This needs to be said.
When Jungwoo opens the door, he says, “oh,” and blinks into the light of the hallway, and Yukhei feels terrible for a second - terrible for waking him, terrible for being noisy, terrible for existing. But he has to do this, so Yukhei doesn’t even wait to catch his breath, just stumbles into his confession at a million miles per hour.
"I need to tell you I kissed you,” he says. “That night last year. I’m the bad friend, not you. I’m-- fuck, im the worst friend ever. I kissed you and I don’t feel bad about it at all!”
Jungwoo runs a hand into his messy hair and he looks amazing doing it. “It’s the middle of the night,” he says, as if Yukhei might not realise.
“I know, I know it is but Taeyong wants a possessive dom and he said I needed another beer, but... Jungwoo, ask me about my ideal type.” He needs to say it, and it has to be now. “Ask me.”
“Okay.” Jungwoo tilts his head. “Xuxi, what is your ideal type?”
“You are.” Yukhei finally remembers to take a breath. “I kissed you that night.” He grabs at Jungwoo’s hands. They’re so small he wants to laugh. God, he just wants to hold them every day.
Jungwoo doesn’t pull his hands away, but he does look down between them and then up again at Yukhei’s face and says, “You’re very drunk.”
“Do you want to sleep here? Sleep it off?” Jungwoo looks behind him to his roommate’s empty bed. “Jaehyun isn’t here, I haven’t seen him for days.”
“He’s a spy,” Yukhei reminds him. “And why-- why are we sleeping? I’m trying to say things.”
Jungwoo ushers him inside and shuts the door. Even in the darkness Yukhei knows he is perfect and it makes him want to laugh happily and loudly and wrestle him down onto the bed, but Jungwoo is speaking carefully and slowly and isn’t holding his hands anymore. “We’re sleeping because you’re drunk and I’m not and I think it would be better if we talk about this in the morning.” There’s this rare tone to his voice that sounds like it’s telling him, please don’t argue with me on this, so Yukhei doesn’t.
Instead, he takes off his shoes and tries to hang his jacket on the back of Jungwoo’s door but he misses. It falls to the floor, but the floor seems to far away, so he leaves it there and then he lies down on the spy’s bed and closes his eyes.
“Are you going to tell me we can’t be friends anymore? In the morning, are you going to hate me?” He says. “Because I’d rather leave now if that’s gonna happen.”
“It depends,” Jungwoo replies. “Will you listen to me when I try to explain this time?”
And Yukhei nods, eager, determined. “I’ll try really hard to,” he says. And then he’s asleep.
When Yukhei wakes up, the bedroom ceiling is spinning above him. He concentrates hard to make it stop, and, miraculously, it does.
Jungwoo is sitting at the desk between the beds, legs curled up under him. “Good morning,” he says, looking away from his laptop screen. He’s wearing sweatpants and a creased t-shirt that Yukhei thinks might have belonged to him at some point. It’s a good look.
“Hi,” Yukhei manages to say. His mouth is dry. “Sorry for, um, coming round uninvited last night.”
“When has not being invited ever stopped you from coming here?” Jungoo doesn’t look mad, just amused. “Did you sleep well in the spy bed?”
He’s teasing him, Yukhei realises and feels a sense of relief. Jungwoo isn’t mad or disappointed or disgusted, instead he’s watching him with wide eyes and a small smile, curled up on his chair comfortably. Yukhei stretches, regretting falling asleep in his jeans, the material tight around his thighs. “I think I might need surgical help to remove my jeans” he replies, “But aside from that, yeah.”
Jungwoo laughs as though he’s been told an amazing joke. He’s always laughed at Yukhei’s dumb comments, no matter how stupid, and it amazes Yukhei even now.
“Last night you told me you’d listen to me this time,” Jungwoo says, still smiling. “So, will you?"
Yukhei grins. “I said I’d try.”
And Jungwoo laughs again, but it’s more exasperated this time. “Why is it so hard to listen?” He asks.
Yukhei shrugs. “Because you are very distracting.”
Jungwoo’s cheeks are pink, but he doesn’t look away. “You’re a nightmare,” he says.
“Nah, I’m a dream.”
Jungwoo remembers everything from the night they kissed, it turns out. More than Yukhei even remembers and with a crisp clarity that Yukhei wishes his memories had.
Yukhei listens to Jungwoo’s retelling of the night, rapt with attention, watching the way that Jungwoo’s mouth forms the words and trying not to let lust fill his entire being and distract him from actually listening to what Jungwoo has to say.
“I hear you,” Yukhei says, when Jungwoo is finished. “But I’m still pretty certain I kissed you first.”
“I can’t believe we’re arguing about this.” Jungwoo rests his chin on his hand, elbow propped up on his desk as he watches Yukhei.
“Honestly, this is the best argument I’ve ever had,” Yukhei says. "Ever ever.”
Jungwoo is quiet for a moment. “You once told me that everyone I meet falls in love with me,” he says, at last. “Does that include you?”
Yukhei grins at him and reaches out to pull Jungwoo’s chair closer to the bed. “One hundred percent yes.”
This time, it doesn’t matter who kisses who. That’s a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, and not as important as making sure it happens over and over again, which - to Yukhei’s delight - it does.
They kiss when they should be watching movies, they kiss when they should be studying, they kiss before pizza and after pizza, and they hold hands in bed and Jungwoo smirks when Yukhei slides a hand up over his thigh and says, “Don’t be shy, I’ll only bite if you ask nicely,” and Yukhei can’t even begin to comprehend how he deserves any of this. Maybe he never will.
It also turns out that it doesn’t matter who pays for coffee or whose room they hang out in or what time it is when they kick the pile of clothes off the end of Yukhei’s bed and fall into it, Jungwoo's mouth taking his hungrily.
All really matters is that Jungwoo might love him back, which is such a wild thought that it practically makes Yukhei’s brain explode. And maybe there’ll never be a walk on a sunny day beside river, or a puppy, and maybe there’ll never even be matching rings on both of their ring fingers - Yukhei has no idea, he can’t see the future - but that’s okay, because right now reality is better than any fantasy could be.