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But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep

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“Ow! It hurts!” Sun Woo whined when Jin Hyuk pressed against his wound slightly too hard with the disinfectant. Jin Hyuk suspected that it stung from the cleansing effect of the medicine more than it actually hurt, but he lightened his touch anyway. “Jin Hyuk-ah,” Sun Woo said only moments later, trying to get his attention, as if Jin Hyuk’s entire attention wasn’t already on him.

“Hmm?” He hummed, to let Sun Woo know he was listening.

“What about your promise?” Sun Woo asked.

“What promise?” Jin Hyuk tried to rack his brain for a promise he had made to Sun Woo recently, while also focusing on putting some more ointment on his injuries, this time just underneath his lower lip.

“To sleep with me.”

“Seriously?” Jin Hyuk grumbled, realizing he was referring to Jin Hyuk’s failed (and embarrassing and pathetic) attempt at seduction earlier that week when he’d been desperate to get Sun Woo to stay on as his pastry chef. “At a time like this?” He asked, truly baffled that Sun Woo could be thinking about that, even if he wasn’t being serious, at a time like this. His former lover had just almost broken his fingers, surely this wasn’t the time to be thinking about sex.

As though scolding a small puppy, he gave him a light bop on the side of his head and tried not to wince in sympathy when Sun Woo gasped at the sting. But, undeterred, Sun Woo just leaned closer when Jin Hyuk turned to put the medicine away.

“What do you think this scar is for?” He asked, implying that his new wound had some how won him the prize of sex.

“How should I know.” The wound wasn’t likely to even leave a scar. And, if it did, the patrons of his favorite nightclub would no doubt only rave about how it increased his beauty to have such a unique and mysterious marking.

“Come here,” Sun Woo purred, scooting closer and resting his hand on Jin Hyuk’s knee. He rubbed his hand up and down the length of his thigh.

“Ahh! Come on,” Jin Hyuk complained, scooting away further, “I said: ‘what if’.” A ‘what if’ was a hypothetical consideration and did not constitute a promise. He shuffled away, pushing at Sun Woo’s groping hand. Seeing his chance for an excuse, he pointed at Soo Yeong. “What about him?” He offered.

“Oh!” Soo Yeong said, having been addressed. Clearly misreading the situation, Soo Yeong dropped the books he’d been organizing and bowed. “Excuse me!” He announced and quickly fled from apartment completely. Jin Hyuk smacked his forehead.

He had been counting on the fact that he knew Soo Yeong had a bit of a crush on Sun Woo. He hadn’t counted on the man’s loyalty to him being stronger. Instead of staying there to try to protect Jin Hyuk’s innocence or to step-in in his place, he’d taken one for the team and decided to give them privacy. Privacy was the opposite of what Jin Hyuk wanted. He did not want to be left alone in Sun Woo’s apartment, completely at his mercy. Especially since he didn’t like the idea of leaving Sun Woo all alone that night after what had happened.

Jin Hyuk was so flabbergasted by Soo Yeong’s abrupt vanishing act that he didn’t notice Sun Woo’s second approach until he was trying to crawl into his lap. Jin Hyuk flailed his arms and tried to scramble away, but the only place to go was exactly where Sun Woo wanted him. He ended up falling backwards onto Sun Woo’s bed. He quickly tried to scoot backwards, to at least put some distance between him and Sun Woo. He ended up pressed against the headboard.

“Sun Woo, your injury!” He reminded Sun Woo trying not to sound like he was desperately looking for an excuse.

“Exactly,” Sun Woo said with a devilish smirk. “Won’t you make me feel better, Jin Hyuk-ah?”

Sun Woo’s eyes looked like tempered glass the way they glinted in the yellow-gold light of his apartment. Crouching forward in his orange cardigan, he looked like a tiger. Jin Hyuk felt like his prey, ready to be devoured. But he wasn’t feeling fear. He felt hot under his collar, like he was blushing. His mouth felt dry. He coughed and pulled at his shirt uncomfortably.

“Is it hot in here?” He asked, nervously fanning himself and looking steadfastly at the ceiling.

“It’s probably because you are still wearing your jacket,” Sun Woo told him, confidently. “Let me help.” He reached out and tugged forcefully at Jin Hyuk’s jacket until he pulled it off him and dropped it unceremoniously on the floor. For some reason, loosing a layer only seemed to increase the heat in the room.

Jin Hyuk felt his last layer of defense slipping away with his jacket. When Son Woo crawled into his lap next, he didn’t try to fight him. It would have been easy for him to push him off on to the floor. But there was this strangely hopeful look painted across his features. It was a rare, honest, open look which Jin Hyuk had caught from Sun Woo only a few times.

It was the exact opposite of the way that Sun Woo had looked the night that Jin Hyuk had offered himself as bait. He remembered with startling accuracy the hurt look that had painted his fair features after he had realized that Jin Hyuk had only agreed to sleep with him in order to try to persuade him to stay. Even though he had flinched at the time, Jin Hyuk had been resolved to going through with it. And, in fact, had felt it had been a little unfair for Sun Woo to be so upset that he had been hesitant. It would have been his first time with a man after all, and he was still getting used to the whole being-touched-by-a-man thing after his childhood trauma had made it near impossible for most of his life. Sun Woo was still really the only person who ever got away with hanging all over him, and that was mostly due to his own persistence.

But, either way, the thought of putting that look back on Sun Woo’s face wrenched his heart painfully. He had told himself, at the time, that it was about the cakes—that he wanted Sun Woo to stay so that he could use his cakes to track down his kidnapper. But the truth was he wanted Sun Woo to stay because he just liked having Sun Woo around. His life had become happier since he had re-met Sun Woo, and he didn’t want to give that up. He had come to value Sun Woo’s friendship. He couldn’t picture his life without Sun Woo in it anymore.

“You look a million miles away,” Sun Woo said. He pressed closer, his knees brushing against Jin Hyuk’s thighs. “What are you thinking about? I want you focused on me when you’re in my bed.” Jin Hyuk had no doubt that Sun Woo was serious, but he kept his tone light and teasing. Jin Hyuk grumbled good-naturedly and flicked him on the arm.

“I was thinking about you,” He answered honestly.

Sun Woo looked thunderstruck. Clearly, it wasn’t the answer he had been expecting. The look of open but careful hope blossomed into a new and glowing look of surprise and warmth. His hands dropped down to fist handfuls of fabric at Jin Hyuk’s waist. His face was so close now that their noses brushed and he could feel Sun Woo’s breath on his lips.

Over the last few months—nearly a year now—that he’d known Sun Woo, he had gradually become more comfortable being in close proximity to him. Having him this close wasn’t that unusual or uncomfortable anymore. Jin Hyuk found it was easy for him to close his eyes and relax his posture. He waited. He would let Sun Woo make the next move, whatever that move would be.

Sun Woo’s head thumped down on Jin Hyuk’s chest.

Jin Hyuk opened his eyes and looked down at the top of Sun Woo’s head. Sun Woo wrapped his arms around Jin Hyuk’s waist and nuzzled his face into the fabric of his shirt with a deep sigh. Jin Hyuk let out a startled breathy chuckle and stroked Sun Woo’s broad back with the palm of his hand.

“Okay?” He asked. Sun Woo nodded and Jin Hyuk thought that he heard what sounded like a fairly pathetic sniffle. “Yah. You are really all over the place tonight. But I’ll let it go because you’ve just had a shock.”

Sun Woo huffed an amused sound and shifted his arms from Jin Hyuk’s waist to wrap around his neck. The move forced Jin Hyuk to brace himself against Sun Woo’s slim waist. The two of them were still sort-of scrunched up against the headboard of the bed and it wasn’t the most comfortable position. It looked to Jin Hyuk like Sun Woo’s thighs were likely to start cramping at any minute, if they weren’t already. He tapped him on the hip to get his attention.

“Hmm?” Sun Woo murmured into Jin Hyuk’s ear, his warm breath sending chills down Jin Hyuk’s spine.

“Do you want to lay down?” He asked. After a pause, Sun Woo nodded.

Being careful not to let Jin Hyuk escape his grasp too much, Sun Woo carefully shifted downward into a reclining position. Jin Hyuk followed—having no choice but to do so, since Sun Woo’s arms were still wrapped like a vice around his neck—until he was laying down opposite to him sharing a pillow. Sun Woo’s face immediately found the hollow of his collarbone once more.

“You know,” Sun Woo spoke directly into Jin Hyuk’s chest, “I’ve only ever been in love four times.”

Jin Hyuk wasn’t even sure if he’d ever been in love once. But, Sun Woo had been with a lot more people than Jin Hyuk had, so he supposed it stood to reason that he would have been in love more times. Also, Sun Woo seemed like he was a more passionate person, who—despite his success in sex and failures in romance—had remained a romantic where Jin Hyuk was cynical. He didn’t say anything, certain that Sun Woo would speak again when he was ready to. He stroked his back and waited, and was eventually rewarded for his patience.

“The first man I ever loved I caught in bed with my mother. I was in middle school. I remember hating her, not because she was cheating on my father, but because she had stolen my first love from me.” Sun Woo gave a sort-of mad, ironic giggle. “Isn’t that awful?” He didn’t wait for Jin Hyuk’s answer before casting his own judgement. “Its awful.”

Jin Hyuk didn’t think it was awful. Sun Woo had been a young teen, younger even than he’d been when Jin Hyuk had known him at school. It wasn’t his fault for having a crush. And it wasn’t his fault that he’d had his heartbroken by his own mother.

“The second man I ever loved,” Sun Woo continued, “hit me in the face with a cake the moment I confessed.”

“Oh.” Jin Hyuk didn’t know what to say to that. He had come to terms with the fact that his actions had hurt Sun Woo. He already regretted the way he had handled it, had tried to explain to Sun Woo why he’d reacted so violently, tried to make amends. But to hear himself listed out as Sun Woo’s second love and, subsequently, second heartbreak was like a bucket of ice water to the back of the neck. He found himself tugging Sun Woo even closer and tangling their ankles together. Sun Woo hummed happily at the renewed points of contact.

“And, you just saw how badly my relationship with the third man I loved went,” Sun Woo said, continuing his list. Jin Hyuk traced a swirling pattern absently against Sun Woo’s back, trying not to think too hard about Jean-Baptise and the ways that he had hurt Sun Woo, both physically and emotionally. If he thought about it too hard, he’d want to kill the bastard.

Jin Hyuk waited for Sun Woo to finish his list, stroking his fingers up and down Sun Woo’s back in calming twists and lines. Sun Woo’s breathing evened out and slowed. Jin Hyuk felt all the tension ooze out of his body. Sun Woo was quiet and still for so long that Jin Hyuk thought he may have fallen asleep.

“Sun Woo?” He inquired, softly.

“Hmm?” Sun Woo murmured.

“Who was four?”

“Four?” Sun Woo asked, sounding groggy. Jin Hyuk almost let it go and told Sun Woo to go to sleep, but his curiosity got the better of him.

“You said that you’ve loved four people, but you only named three.”

“No, I named them all,” Sun Woo said after a heavy sigh. Jin Hyuk squinted, trying to figure out what he meant. “Isn’t it obvious?” Sun Woo asked. “The fourth one is the same bastard as the second one.”

The second man on Sun Woo’s list had been him, which meant that Sun Woo was saying that he was in love with him again, now. Sun Woo had been flirty with him since the moment that they had been reconnected but somehow Jin Hyuk had never imagined that Sun Woo’s feelings for him ran so deep.

“Really?” He asked, needing—for some reason—to hear Sun Woo confirm it.

“Yes. How big a fool does a person need to be to fall for the same person twice? I must really hate myself.” He pulled his face away from Jin Hyuk’s shoulder for the first time since the conversation started to give a small, self-deprecating smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Jin Hyuk wondered what his own face looked like. He probably looked like a clueless idiot.

Sun Woo rolled away from Jin Hyuk, completely detangling from him and turning so that his back was to him, facing the wall. He didn’t shift too far away from Jin Hyuk, but his closed off posture made it clear that he was feeling vulnerable. He had given his heart to Jin Hyuk to hold in his hands. He could easily crush it.

He turned to face Sun Woo’s back and scooted closer until he could wrap his arm’s around Sun Woo’s waist. Holding Sun Woo or being held by him was suddenly as familiar to Jin Hyuk as walking or breathing. He tucked his face into the crook of Sun Woo’s neck like it belonged there, even though it was the first time he had done so. Sun Woo didn’t move, but seemed to hold his breath.

“Sun Woo,” Jin Hyuk whispered, making his voice as soft and gentle as possible. Instead of answering verbally, Sun Woo reached down and took ahold of one of Jin Hyuk’s hands and threaded their fingers together. “I will protect you always,” He promised. “I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again… including me.”

“Promise?” Sun Woo’s voice was small, but Jin Hyuk could hear a thread of hope in his tone.

“Promise.” Jin Hyuk squeezed his finger and pressed a dry kiss to the curve of Sun Woo’s shoulder. He made sure he put enough force behind it that Sun Woo could feel it through his fuzzy orange sweater. It was like sealing his promise with a kiss.

In the blink of an eye, Sun Woo flung himself around and, wrapping his arms around Jin Hyuk’s neck, kissed him square on the mouth. Sun Woo had, apparently, wanted to seal the promise with a kiss of his own. When he pulled away, his smile was so bright that it reminded Jin Hyuk of trying to look at the sun for too long. It wasn’t any wonder why he had men trailing after him professing their undying devotion; Sun Woo’s smile—his real smile—could launch ships, start wars and end them, make a blind man see, bring the dead to back to life, and many multitudes of miracles.

Jin Hyuk should have known from the moment Sun Woo walked through the door of his shop that he was fucked. Sun Woo had him wrapped around his little finger. And, surprisingly, Jin Hyuk didn’t mind one bit.

He reached up to chuck Sun Woo under the chin gently and then carefully pulled away. He climbed out of the bed and went to lock the door to the apartment. He had no idea were Soo Yeong had gone but if he was under the impression that he’d left them to have sex then he likely wasn’t coming back that night. If he did, he was out of luck. Then Jin Hyuk went around flipping off light switches and turning off lamps before returning to the bed. He sat on the edge for only a moment until Sun Woo tugged at his sleeve.

He fell asleep with Sun Woo’s hair tickling his nose and a promise he intended to keep.