The color grey always carried this vague loneliness with it. And grey was everywhere: the roads, the foundation of every building, the inescapable sky. There was always that loneliness, setting the scene for every bit of Kim Sehyoon’s life.
He entered the business school from the back entrance, and had been doing so since the semester began. The back entrance of the building was slightly farther away from his dorm than the main one, but by taking the longer path each day Sehyoon could ride past the liberal arts college.
He had no interest in liberal arts, and the building was quite ugly, but he still went out of his way to pass it. Because every morning without fail, propped against a brick column just off the stairs, was the blue bike.
A custom bicycle, complete with a tan leather seat and handles. And it was the prettiest shade of robin's egg blue, popping out against the bleak surroundings. Sehyoon, as an employee at his father’s bike shop, knew almost every bike in the area, and could attach an owner’s face to each bicycle. But this particular blue one had never been in the shop before.
And Sehyoon would kill to get his hands on it.
For such a simple frame, the bike had a remarkable effect on him that he left his dorm early just to pass it. Maybe the attraction was in the details—fabric tied around the handlebars, a thin wire basket hanging from the headtube. Maybe it was the mystery; Sehyoon knew each bicycle was a look into its owner’s personality, and he’d never seen anybody riding the bike. It was in pristine condition, and Sehyoon wondered what kind of person could care for something so well. Without fail, it was chained up daily at the liberal arts building, but sometimes its position on the bike rack changed. Someone had to own that bike, and Sehyoon was eager to find out who.
Fortunately, his roommate Donghun had a lecture in the liberal arts college. Sehyoon asked him one day, if he’d seen the blue bike before.
“Which blue bike?” Donghun asked, “There are always bikes outside that place. It’s like no one knows how to walk anymore.”
“This one really stands out,” Sehyoon told him, “Very bright, with a brown seat.”
Donghun made an amused noise. “I think I’ve seen it. Why, is this to feed your bike fetish again? And how would your baby feel if she knew you have a wandering eye?”
Why did he even bother asking Donghun? He always used Sehyoon’s motto of, ‘Bikes have feelings, too,’ against him. “I don’t want to think about her now. And I told you, I don’t have a thing for bikes. I’m just curious.” Then came the real question on Sehyoon’s mind: “Do you know who owns it?”
His roommate shook his head. “No clue. I’ll keep an eye on it, though, next time I’m there.”
Sehyoon just nodded, and the two boys went back to their studies. When Donghun set out to accomplish something, he had it done in no time, which put Sehyoon’s mind at ease. He couldn’t explain his fascination with the bike; Sehyoon was never too opinionated on intuition, but he had this feeling that whatever the bike led him to would be worth his while.
If Sehyoon were to choose his dream job, it would not be working for his father in a bike store. He wasn’t sure where else would be a better place to work (this was likely his first and last job, after all), but business was painful. Figuratively, the number of customers had been on the decline lately. It was nearing winter, after all—who wanted to buy a bicycle in October? Sehyoon was always bored, or being verbally overwhelmed by the hyperactive sales associate, Yuchan. And literally, when Sehyoon had to repair a bike, he often got injured. Overall, not a fun introduction to the working world.
“—And then I told her that I could totally eat an entire package of pizza rolls in one sitting, but she didn’t believe me. So I said I would prove it, but now I have to go buy pizza rolls after this, and—”
“Yuchan.” That was another physical ailment this job gave him: constant headaches. “I have to get back to work, okay?”
A weak excuse. They both knew that aside from a few minor repair jobs, Sehyoon would likely just hang in the back room to blast some music and look after his own vehicle. The entire store was claustrophobic, but Sehyoon still felt it was too empty for just two young employees.
The only thing that kept Sehyoon going at work was the smell of tires and oil, which he had grown up around but Chan teased him for liking. He told Yuchan once that he was a bike in a past life, and Yuchan said it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. Maybe so, but Sehyoon had to entertain himself by constructing bizarre scenarios, at least until something better came along.
Sometimes, Donghun’s boyfriend spent the night at their dorm. A friendly underclassman who went to another school, and every interaction between him and Donghun were like lovers reunited after a war. And Junhee seemed nice enough, but he was constantly in their room, forcing Sehyoon into a third-wheel position.
(Besides, having Junhee over was a tragic reminder that Sehyoon was very single.)
So today, when Sehyoon came back from class and he could hear Junhee singing in his shower, Sehyoon’s heart sank. “Sorry I didn’t text you ahead of time, man,” Donghun called from their shared bedroom, “He isn’t spending the night, don’t worry.”
“It’s fine,” Sehyoon shrugged and dropped his bag on the floor, but he was slightly relieved.
Donghun shouted, loud enough so Junhee could hear, “Don’t come out naked! Sehyoon’s here!” Although the couple was a slight inconvenience for Sehyoon, their relationship was certainly interesting.
The water shut off, and a minute later, out stepped Junhee in a set of Donghun’s clothes. “Hey, Sehyoon!” he smiled, climbing on Donghun’s bed to dry his wet hair on the other boy’s shirt.
“Stop that, use a towel,” Donghun wasted no time in pushing Junhee to the floor, which Junhee was quite dramatic about and Donghun had to remedy with a kiss.
“Did you tell him about the thing?” Junhee clung to Donghun like he was Rose and Donghun was the floating raft.
“What thing?” Sehyoon asked, at the same time Donghun perked up with, “Oh, right!”
Judging by Donghun’s expression, he had done something very heroic today. “Jun and I were walking past the liberal arts building and guess what we saw?”
Sehyoon blinked. “What.”
“Your mystery man!” Sehyoon had no idea what Donghun was talking about, but let his roommate continue, “I told Jun, ‘Look, it’s that dumb blue bike Sehyoon keeps nutting over,’ and then this guy came out of the building and started unchaining it! So now I know who owns the bike and you don’t.”
He probably seemed unaffected by the news, but inside, Sehyoon was very excited. “Really? Did you recognize him?”
“Nope, I’ve never seen him before. But he was short and blond—hard to miss,” Donghun smiled proudly, “You’re welcome.”
Short and blond. It was difficult to contain his sudden burst of excitement. Really, it shouldn’t have mattered who owned the bike, but Sehyoon liked a good mystery. And the next day, whenever he passed someone with blond hair, Sehyoon couldn’t help but silently wonder...
Another day at the bike shop arrived and Sehyoon could not be less excited about it. He’d been sent around to take inventory while Yuchan helped customers at the front (a job Yuchan was much better suited for). And that had been fun for about five minutes, before Sehyoon lapsed into boredom as always.
Then the bell above the door sounded, and Yuchan’s voice could be heard across the store: “Hi! How can we help you today?”
A dejected voice replied, “Uh, I wrecked my bike.” It sounded like a younger guy, a very strong tone.
Chan made a pained noise, “Yeah, looks like you did. I’ll send you to Sehyoon for that; he’s in the back.”
Sehyoon was actually not in the back, but headed quickly to the repair studio and pretended to be busy with something.
“Hello,” the visitor knocked against the wall, and Sehyoon looked up from his pretend-work, “I was told you could help me?”
Suddenly, Sehyoon’s day at work turned into something far more memorable—the man in the doorway had such a striking appearance that Sehyoon fell speechless (which happened when he was in a quiet mood or around someone very beautiful. This was both). Light hair, large golden eyes, full lips—it made Sehyoon self-conscious about his oil-stained T-shirt and bangs that needed a trimming.
And when Sehyoon managed to tear his eyes away from the beautiful man, his gaze fell on the bike by his side. If anything could have broken Sehyoon’s heart at that moment, it was this; the bike was hardly recognizable, with a twisted top tube, both wheels mangled, blue paint scraped away to reveal the metal skeleton beneath. But even in a broken state, Sehyoon could picture this same bike chained up at the liberal arts building. What Sehyoon could describe as pain was quickly replaced by joy—if this was the blue bike he loved so much, then its owner stood right in front of him.
He stood up, trying not to appear too upset at the bike’s appearance. Sehyoon felt betrayed—how could Donghun and Junhee forget to mention how angelic this boy was? “Yeah, I can help,” This was when Sehyoon’s social ineptness kicked in, which he prayed would magically disappear. “I’m Sehyoon.”
“Kim Byeongkwan,” His smile was bright and he shook Sehyoon’s hand with impressive firmness. And before Sehyoon could ask about the backstory, Byeongkwan explained: “The craziest thing happened—I was riding home, and my tire went flat. So I got off the bike to walk it, but I tripped and it slipped out of my hands!” Byeongkwan spoke with such expression that Sehyoon was completely entranced, “This happened on a side street with cars all around, so then my bike hit this one car. The car’s fine, but it ran over the wheel and bounced the whole bike back. And then it fell down a ditch and hit a tree.”
Sehyoon could not tell if the story was exaggerated, but he was certainly fascinated by Byeongkwan’s destructive ability. He tried not to laugh at the circumstance—after all, Sehyoon cared about this bike in his own way—but a tiny smile passed over Sehyoon’s face. “Well that’s… I’m sorry to hear that,” Sehyoon appraised the damage, inspecting every injury while Byeongkwan looked on anxiously. “You have a couple options here,” Sehyoon announced once he’d seen the bike up-close. “The easiest would be to get a new bike.” Byeongkwan was less than happy about that idea, so Sehyoon continued: “Or, I could repair this bike. It would just take longer. Is this a custom build?”
“Some parts are custom,” Byeongkwan told him, “My dad’s one of those ‘handy dads’ that can’t turn down a project.” Sehyoon nodded, fully knowing that would be him in the future. “This is a bit out of his league, though.”
Unfortunately, custom projects made Sehyoon’s job much harder. “Replacing the parts will take longer, then. I’d say I could have this repaired in three weeks. Is that okay?”
Byeonkwan’s jaw dropped, and Sehyoon sucked in a breath at how cute the image was. “How can I get around every day? I mean, I was hoping to have it sooner, but if you can’t do anything about it, then…”
When he pouted like that, every part of Sehyoon wanted to miraculously fix the bike on the spot. “Maybe I can rush the project,” It wasn’t something he usually did, but Sehyoon felt like going the extra mile for this man he just met. “The hard part is waiting for custom parts to ship in.”
“I understand,” he said, “And I’d be really happy if you could fix this for me. You seem like someone who knows what he’s doing. Like a bike doctor.”
The compliment made Sehyoon want to help him even more. He carefully propped the bicycle against the nearest wall, trying not to let his embarrassment show.
“If you want to see how progress is coming, you can stop by anytime. I’m here most days after 4.” It was a complete shot in the dark, so Sehyoon continued before Byeongkwan could decline. “Chan can help you with paperwork at the front desk.”
“Okay!” Byeongkwan smiled and that’s when Sehyoon understood he would be emotionally doomed if Byeongkwan did stop by on occasion. “Thanks so much, Sehyoon!” And just like that he was gone, leaving behind a beaten-up bike and the memory of a perfect smile.
The next time Junhee stayed over, Sehyoon made sure to bring up his disappointment with the pair: “By the way, I met the guy who owns the blue bike.”
“You did?” Junhee’s interest obviously piqued, since Sehyoon usually preferred to mind his own business while Junhee visited.
“Yeah. He crashed it. But why did you never mention how—”
“—Wait a minute, he crashed the bike?” Donghun cut in.
“Shh, let him finish,” Junhee said, “We never mentioned how…?”
Sehyoon himself didn’t have a good idea of how he’d planned to finish the sentence (and whatever he would have said would likely end in embarrassment). So he told Junhee, “Donghun made me forget.”
But Junhee was not having that. “Oh? I thought you were going to say we never told you how cute he was.”
“That’s interesting,” Donghun once again spoke up, in a tone Sehyoon never appreciated, “Are you saying our Sehyoon could have a crush?”
Being a terrible liar by nature, Sehyoon found it easier to be straightforward: “I’m just a guy who can appreciate beauty, okay?” Of course, he’d only met Byeongkwan once, but that one meeting gave Sehyoon the impression that Byeongkwan was someone incredible.
Junhee shook his head in disbelief. “I was joking. But now that you admitted he’s cute, we expect regular updates about this.”
Since his life was so simple, Sehyoon would never understand why Donghun and Junhee loved to meddle with it. But they were his friends (Donghun at least, and Junhee by association), so Sehyoon accepted their interference. The conversation shifted after that to one Sehyoon wanted no part in—a regular argument between the couple, over how cute Byeongkwan was compared to Donghun, by Junhee’s standards (“I only saw him that one time, I don’t remember!”—“So if you saw him again you’re saying he could be cuter than me?”). Sehyoon had immediately found Byeongkwan cuter than Donghun, or most anyone else. Yes, Sehyoon was a guy who could appreciate beauty. But when it involved actual people, things became a bit more complicated.
Despite having offered, Sehyoon had not actually expected Byeongkwan to ever step foot in the bike shop until it was time to pick up the finished repair. He wouldn’t blame Byeongkwan; it was a small store, that smelled too much like oil to be a pleasant environment. So he was very surprised when, not five days after bringing the bike in, Byeongkwan showed up again.
In fact, Sehyoon was completely caught off-guard—he was in the repair studio, sweating even in a thin muscle tank, installing new tires on someone’s old bike. He almost dropped his wrench when he noticed Byeongkwan’s slight figure in the doorway, like an angel sent to Earth.
He tried to come up with a clever greeting, but the best Sehyoon could do in the moment was, “Hi.”
Byeongkwan laughed, even if nothing was funny. Sehyoon wondered if there was something on his face. “Hi, Sehyoon!”
Oh, good. At least he hadn’t been so forgettable. “How have you been?”
“Besides having to walk everywhere, I’ve been good. My legs are getting a workout!” He sounded excited, and Sehyoon subconsciously glanced down at Byeongkwan’s legs. Calling them ‘nice’ would be a tragic understatement.
Over the next few minutes, the two spoke like old friends. Sehyoon couldn’t remember a time he was so synced-up with someone as if they were on the same wavelength all the time. He tried to focus on the repair job and chat with Byeongkwan at the same time, but Sehyoon found he would much rather talk with this boy than do anything else right now. He learned about Byeongkwan’s studies, and his interests, and the remarkable thing was that they had so much in common despite huge personality differences. He and Byeongkwan would naturally be good friends even if they met under different circumstances, but Sehyoon couldn’t help the strong romanticism that overtook his thoughts.
Byeongkwan was telling a story about something very stupid (but Sehyoon was in a giddy mood anyway, so he laughed along with Byeongkwan), when Yuchan came knocking on the doorframe. “Hey, I’m heading out!”
Heading out? But Yuchan didn’t usually leave until—he checked his watch. “It’s already 6:10? Uh, okay. See you tomorrow, then.” How had the time passed so fast?
A few minutes after Yuchan left, Byeongkwan told him, “I should be going, too. It’s gonna get dark soon.”
“Do you need a ride?” Sehyoon asked without thinking, and immediately wanted to cover his mouth. “I mean, I’m staying late tonight, but if you ever do need a ride, let me know. Since I’m the one holding up your bike and all.” He didn’t mention that the front desk doubled as a rental counter.
Byeongkwan smiled, “I might have to take you up on that sometime.” It implied that he would be seeing Sehyoon again soon, and Sehyoon tried not to get his hopes up.
He had the passing thought, when Byeongkwan turned around and knelt to pick up his bag, that Byeongkwan’s butt was cute. His brain was officially conspiring against him. Eventually, Sehyoon concluded that the fumes in this garage were making him crazy (and maybe used that as an excuse to think about Byeongkwan for the rest of the day).
The highlight of Sehyoon’s day quickly changed to seeing Byeongkwan. While he’d once hated coming to work, recently Sehyoon couldn’t wait. Because Byeongkwan had shown up every single day for the past week, and something about his company could brighten Sehyoon’s mood in an instant.
Yuchan wasn’t stupid, and began picking up on the interesting dynamic whenever Byeongkwan stopped by. Sehyoon was a lot more talkative, and only a few days in, Byeongkwan started greeting Sehyoon with hugs no matter how sweaty or grease-stained he was. “You have a smudge on your face,” Yuchan commented one afternoon, “In case you want to fix it before Byeongkwan shows up.”
“What do you mean?” Sehyoon played dumb, already checking his front camera to improve his appearance.
“You know what I mean,” Yuchan’s eyebrows wiggled suggestively, with no shame for his immature attitude.
And ten minutes later when Byeongkwan came in and swept Sehyoon into a friendly hug (because that’s what he told himself it was, friendly), Yuchan sent a wink in their direction.
Sometimes Sehyoon lost control of his actions and his brain took over completely. This happened a lot, he noticed, when Byeongkwan was around (and it was probably just the fumes in the repair shop messing with Sehyoon’s head again). Often, it worked out in his favor, but this time, it was too early to tell. Because Byeongkwan mentioned how cold it was that morning, and how it felt lonely walking to classes without his bike (which simply made Sehyoon’s heart ache). So Sehyoon’s mouth opened of its own accord and he said, “I meant what I said a few days ago. We go to the same college, so you can ride with me if you want.”
And with those shining eyes of his, Byeongkwan accepted.
That was why, the very next morning, Sehyoon woke up extra early to pick Byeongkwan up on a street corner and take him to class. For someone set to inherit a bike shop, Sehyoon did not have a bike. No, he had an old motorcycle which he maintained himself. This had become Sehyoon’s child, his true love, and Yuchan sometimes joked that he hadn’t quit his job yet because it was a space to care for his motorcycle. Donghun swore Sehyoon would make the damn thing his wife if he could. He didn’t usually ride it on campus because of how attention-grabbing the engine was, but Byeongkwan needed rides to the exact opposite side of campus.
Sehyoon hadn’t thought until now that a motorcycle would be a problem for Byeongkwan. Fortunately, when he stalled at the street corner they’d agreed to meet at, Byeongkwan’s soft smile greeted him. “Need a ride?” It came out less cool than Sehyoon had hoped.
“I knew you’d own a motorcycle!” Byeongkwan’s entire face lit up, “Well, I didn’t know, but you seem like the type. You’re too cool for a normal bike.” Sehyoon wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or offended by Byeongkwan’s thought process.
Byeongkwan was very cooperative; without being asked, he climbed on the back of the seat and clutched Sehyoon’s jacked. “There’s a helmet in the compartment behind you,” Sehyoon tried not to explode from how happy he was to take Byeongkwan for a ride, “Safety first.”
He was about to ride off after the boy fastened his helmet, but Sehyoon thought it was important to ask: “Have you done this before?”
“No way,” Byeongkwan said, and wrapped his arms snugly around Sehyoon’s waist. It felt so natural, giving Sehyoon the impression that this was something to cherish. “I’ve seen it in movies, though.”
If they were to ride away like this, Byeongkwan would likely have no problem staying on, but just for security purposes: “You’ll have to hold on tighter than that.”
He didn’t question it, securing himself until it actually did feel like a movie, a romantic one. Byeongkwan did not appear nervous, which was a relief. He’d taken Yuchan for a ride more than once, and the first time involved Yuchan screaming into his ear the entire time. But Byeongkwan seemed almost at ease, so Sehyoon didn’t feel guilty about speeding away like he would on his own.
That was when Byeongkwan’s attitude completely changed, panicked noises escaping him that Sehyoon tried not to laugh at. His fingers pressed deep into Sehyoon’s jacket, Byeongkwan’s smaller body constricting around him and holding on for dear life. “You good back there?” Sehyoon called out, and he could feel Byeongkwan shaking his head.
But about halfway through, Byeongkwan relaxed again. He was quiet, but Sehyoon could sense he was calm, maybe even enjoying this. Perhaps the best feeling in the world, Sehyoon decided, was Byeongkwan’s arms wound tightly around his waist, Byeongkwan’s smaller form warming his entire back.
In too short a time, their ride was over. The comforting warmth left his back and Sehyoon frowned involuntarily. As Byeongkwan packed his helmet in the back compartment, Sehyoon asked, “That wasn’t too bad, was it?”
Byeongkwan clutched his heart. “I thought I was going to die at first! But I’ll get used to it.”
Oh, right. This was something Sehyoon would do twice a week until the bike repairs were finished.
“Hey, where’s my tip?” Sehyoon questioned before Byeongkwan could fully turn around and leave.
Byeongkwan just smacked him light on the head. (And Sehyoon would take what he could get.)
“Why are you smiling?”
Sehyoon popped out his right earbud to make sure he’d heard Donghun correctly. “Hm?”
“You’re smiling,” Donghun repeated, “So I was asking why.”
He didn’t answer Donghun. It would be hard to answer anyway; Sehyoon had a lot of reasons to be happy recently. But most of them were because of Kim Byeongkwan, who had absolutely destroyed everything Sehyoon knew about friendship (or people in general). So he asked Donghun an unrelated question (which wasn’t so unrelated at all): “How did you and Junhee get together?”
Donghun thought for a moment, then said, “I don’t know. We were friends, and I figured out I liked him, but I didn’t want to ask him out. I wanted him to come to me, you know? So I had to lure him in like a fish until he asked me instead. I suck at fishing, but obviously something worked out for me this time, right?”
“Hm. One time I went fishing as a kid and the hook got caught on my foot.”
The other boy sighed deeply. “Okay, no more fishing analogies. I think I know why you’re asking this, so let me put this into terms you’ll understand,” Donghun shut his laptop (which didn’t happen often, so Sehyoon knew he was serious about this). “This is going to get really dumb, but hear me out: love is like riding a bike. You might scrape your knee sometimes, or get a flat tire. But at the end of the day, you just have to go for it. No training wheels.”
Sehyoon absorbed his friend’s words. “You’re right, that was really dumb.”
Donghun fired back: “Not as dumb as crushing on a guy who wrecked his high-end bike and makes his mechanic chauffer him around everywhere.”
How did Donghun know that? Did Sehyoon talk about Byeongkwan so much without even realizing? He turned back to his desk and shrugged. “I like the chaotic type.”
Before Sehyoon could recognize it as such, they had eased into a system. Every Monday and Wednesday for two weeks, Sehyoon picked Byeongkwan up on the same street and rode him to class. It was a one-way deal, but Sehyoon considered offering to take him home as well. By now, Byeongkwan was used to it; he didn’t squeal anymore when Sehyoon sped up, but he still held on just as tightly as the very first ride.
This would be one of the last times they would do this, and Sehyoon tried to memorize the feeling as well as he could. Every day, the custom parts needed to fully repair Byeongkwan’s bike were getting closer and closer to the shop’s door. His time as Byeongkwan’s personal taxi had been brief, but Sehyoon wouldn’t trade it for anything.
He imagined what it looked like to other people—Byeongkwan being dropped off at his building’s doorstep by a man on a motorcycle. Did they think Sehyoon was his boyfriend, or some kind of driver-for-hire? And which was more accurate to their actual situation, anyway?
At the end of each ride, Sehyoon took off his helmet to briefly say goodbye to Byeongkwan. He didn’t care if his hair was messy. Sometimes they didn’t have anything to say to each other (although Byeongkwan always said thank-you; he was so sweet), but Sehyoon still liked to get a clear look at the boy before they went their separate ways. It was hard to do so when Byeongkwan was constantly seated behind him, and today he was especially beautiful.
“I really should start charging you,” Sehyoon joked.
Byeongkwan let out a fake laugh, but then he seemed to get an idea and said, “Do you take alternative payment?”
Sehyoon blinked. “Hm?”
Before he could do anything, Byeongkwan had eased into Sehyoon’s space, his lips landing squarely on Sehyoon’s cheek. Such a small action was enough to make him speechless, and Byeongkwan beamed as if proud. “That’s your tip.”
All Sehyoon could feel was a burning on his left cheek, where Byeongkwan’s soft kiss had been. He stared dumbly after the other boy walking away, who turned around to call out, “See you soon!” And Sehyoon accepted that a part of his heart belonged to Kim Byeongkwan.
During the ride back to his own dorm, two cars beeped their horns at Sehyoon. If only those drivers could experience Sehyoon’s intense happiness, they would understand why controlling his motorcycle was the last thing on Sehyoon’s mind.
It happened often that Sehyoon would clock in at the bike shop and Byeongkwan would already be there, happily chatting with Yuchan. And when he noticed Sehyoon, Byeongkwan would sort of skip over and sling his arms over Sehyoon’s shoulders.
Each time this occurred was enough to make Sehyoon happy for a lifetime. Maybe Byeongkwan’s affection was just his way of thanking Sehyoon as his repair man, but Sehyoon had already convinced himself it was something different.
One Saturday morning, Yuchan arrived with a package. “Delivery for Mr. Kim Sehyoon! I think it’s the parts you ordered, finally!”
Sehyoon’s heart dropped. He had no more excuses to avoid working on Byeongkwan’s bike; the body of it was already a glossy pale blue again, and all it needed were the contents of the box in Yuchan’s arms. He could easily hide the parts’ existence, push the envelope until it became too suspicious just so he could waste more time carting Byeongkwan around, seeing him smile every day.
But he decided to be honest, later when Byeongkwan visited the shop as usual. “Look what shipped in today,” he hadn’t opened the package yet, but just by gesturing toward it, Byeongkwan could tell what was inside. “If I start right now, I can have you back on the streets by tomorrow afternoon.”
To his surprise, Byeongkwan did not seem excited. But he nodded politely and said, “You don’t have to do that if you have other things to work on. What difference would one extra day make?”
And between them, Sehyoon could hear what Byeongkwan didn’t want to say: I don’t want to stop coming here yet.
So Sehyoon set aside his tools and tuned his attention to Byeongkwan instead. “Then let’s just talk.” If he wasn’t getting any more work done today, that was okay. Sehyoon had already lost more productive hours thanks to Byeongkwan than he could count, and like the boy said, extra time wouldn’t hurt. For Byeongkwan, every waking hour was worth it.
“So what are you going to do about Kwanie?” Yuchan asked one slow Sunday while Sehyoon was installing the finishing touches on a certain blue bike.
Without missing a beat, Sehyoon asked, “About what?”
“You know,” When Sehyoon glanced up, Yuchan was wiggling his brows with a smug grin on his face, “About your crush.”
Sehyoon shrugged and resumed his work. Yuchan wouldn’t win that easily. “Not sure what you’re talking about. Who’s Kwanie?”
“You’re always gaslighting me!” The boy was getting frustrated, squirming where he stood. “I know you like him! It’s so obvious, no offense. Your heart eyes pop out.”
Although Sehyoon was having a wonderful time living out his newfound dream of spending every moment with Byeongkwan, his perfect world couldn’t last forever. Sehyoon had already worked late the past few nights, making sure Byeongkwan’s bike was perfect. His father came in to check on the shop one evening, and was scared half to death when he found Sehyoon still in the repair garage, busily working away. But Sehyoon wanted this to be his finest project yet. Even if Byeongkwan never came into the shop again, the bike Sehyoon spent hours fixing would be a memory of him. He explained to Yuchan: “I’m going to make his bike as good as new, and then he’ll have something to remember me by.”
Yuchan rolled his eyes. “Come on, that’s so dramatic. Just kiss him instead.”
“But he doesn’t like me.”
“Seriously?” Yuchan’s eyes grew large and he gasped. “You two are both dense! Do you know how early he comes in waiting for you to get here, and all he talks about is how hot you look in a sweaty muscle shirt?” That was… an interesting bit of information. Sehyoon’s mind got stuck on it, and he almost didn’t hear Yuchan continue: “Ask him out or I’ll explode.”
“If you explode, I’m not cleaning it up.” An immature comeback, but Sehyoon didn’t care. Until now, he’d been dreading this day, when Byeongkwan took the bike and rode away forever. But Yuchan’s complaints made Sehyoon giddy just thinking about how Byeongkwan might like him.
And two hours later, Sehyoon had finally finished the bike. While most repair jobs were routine at this point, Sehyoon was proud of the work he’d done for Byeongkwan. He was in the repair garage giving it one last look-over when he felt a pair of arms wrap around his middle. “Guess who.”
If the poorly-disguised voice wasn’t a dead giveaway, Sehyoon would still know who this was in a heartbeat. Those arms had clung to him from the backseat of his motorcycle enough times that without thinking, Sehyoon greeted him: “Hi, Byeongkwan.”
“I can’t fool you,” Byeongkwan released him (and Sehyoon wanted to pull him back in for something that really classified as a hug), moving to stand beside Sehyoon. For a while they lapsed into a silence, admiring the glossy blue frame and shining wheels. “It looks beautiful.”
The compliment did wonders for Sehyoon’s confidence. “Go ahead, try it out.”
And Byeongkwan did, carefully mounting the bike like he had to regain his riding skill (it had only been three weeks, but felt much longer). Watching Byeongkwan smile as he did, circling around Sehyoon in the confines of the repair garage, brought every kind of warmth into Sehyoon’s heart. “You’re a bike wizard,” Byeongkwan commented in admiration, coming to a stop just short of running over Sehyoon’s toes. “Seriously, I can’t thank you enough.”
“It was kind of fun,” he said honestly, “I’m glad you crashed your bike, by the way.”
Byeongkwan frowned. “Why, so you could laugh at my disastrous life?”
“No. Because I wouldn’t have gotten to know you otherwise.”
That made Byeongkwan sigh, in a dreamy way Sehyoon couldn’t tell was real or not. “Such a flatterer.” Then he sighed again, but sadly. “I’m going to miss annoying you every day.”
“Don’t you only like me for my motorcycle?” He hoped it wasn’t too presumptuous, as if Byeongkwan could possibly like him (and ‘like’ was a vague word, but they both knew what Sehyoon meant). “You’re welcome anytime, too. Now that you have a bike, I can check one out from the front and we can go for a ride together.”
“I’d like that.” Byeongkwan replied immediately, and he couldn’t just be imagining the flirtatious tone. But any sort of ‘moment’ between them was broken by Byeongkwan’s realization: “Wait, you do bike rentals? I could have been renting one this whole time?”
His heart stopped. Hopefully it didn’t show. Sehyoon recovered quickly, and came back with the natural response of: “Bike rentals? You’re delusional.”
(And he let Yuchan keep half his share of tips later, if only to keep his mouth shut.)
It was a hot day, so far into summer that Yuchan had installed a fan in every corner of the shop. He worked full-time in the summer, which meant he could pester Sehyoon more often. But by now, Yuchan’s presence had become a permanent fixture in the shop; besides, Yuchan was the least of Sehyoon’s distractions.
He heard Yuchan at the front desk talking to Byeongkwan, and it made him grow less patient every second. Those two were a wild combination who could would forever, when Sehyoon just wanted Byeongkwan to be here instead, providing endless positivity and affection.
His wish was soon granted, with the familiar feeling of Byeongkwan’s arms around him. “Hi.”
“Yuchan, is that you?”
Byeongkwan pinched his sides, making Sehyoon almost regret the comment. “I come all the way here, missing you the whole day, and you mistake me for Yuchan?”
“You’re right,” Sehyoon faced him to hug him for real, mumbling into Byeongkwan’s hair, “Yuchan isn’t that short.”
He deserved the rough push that followed.
By sunset, Sehyoon had completely abandoned work. He sat on a dusty work table beside Byeongkwan with the rear garage door open so they could watch the sky burn together. It was a comfortable silence, which Byeongkwan lightly disturbed in his wondering of: “We start classes again in two weeks. Can you believe it?”
Sehyoon groaned dramatically. “I want it to be summer forever. No matter which classes I take, ten years from now I’ll still be working here either way.” He thought back to when he’d just met Byeongkwan, and winter had been on its way in. Time seemed to fly with him around; ten years might not be that far off.
Byeongkwan pat his cheek reassuringly, and Sehyoon almost melted at the touch. He spoke so surely that Sehyoon would believe anything he said. “Then I’ll work here with you, and we can have lots of motorcycles and raise them like children. Channie will be here too, of course—we won’t let him leave.”
Sehyoon didn’t know how to respond to that, so he thought about it instead. Before, the shop was so lonely and dull. But now as Sehyoon’s eyes scanned the room, he first noticed Byeongkwan and the natural brightness he carried, and then noticed a pop of blue in the corner, ready to be veiled by the dimming light. Byeongkwan’s bike, parked near his own like they belonged together, different as they may be. And after work he would go for an evening ride with Byeongkwan, and spend the rest of his summer happy and busy. A future like this—maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.