Seungkwan and Vernon were not dating.
The members could tease them all they want, the fans could speculate all they want, people could think of them in a certain way all they want, but at the end of the day, Seungkwan and Vernon were not dating.
Really, the speculation was more than expected, their relationship was constantly teetering on either side of a delicately placed line. One day Vernon would complain about Seungkwan being too touchy with him in an interview, the next he’d slap his ass in the middle of an event. And Seungkwan was just as guilty, he would say he hated Vernon, threaten to kill him on VLive even, and in the same breath he would blabber on about how much he admired him.
The rope they were balancing on was thin, fraying in the middle under the weight of uncertainty. They had known each other for years, had grown up together, just as they had with the other members, but even Seungcheol had said it at the very beginning, but Hansol is different, isn’t he ? Seungkwan wasn’t even shy to admit that he was right. He was different, and that’s what made everything so much more difficult.
They had spent nearly every waking moment together for over five years, of course they weren’t completely oblivious to how they felt about each other. There were drunken nights after competitions with Seokmin where Seungkwan would roll into Vernon’s bed, hugging him closely and whispering about how intensely he felt for the other boy. Vernon would just sigh, a protective arm wrapped around Seungkwan. If he brought it up the next day, Seungkwan would just turn up his nose, feigning forgetfulness as he pushed Vernon off the bed, whining for him to grab pain relievers for his aching head. He never forgot, though.
Vernon was just as bad, maybe he hadn’t explicitly said anything, typically having more control over his emotions than Seungkwan, but he wasn’t great at hiding his physical cues. Seungkwan monitored everything, often, he scrolled through social media after shows to see what carats were saying. He was a perfectionist, he had to know what he needed to improve on, and the validation he got from all the kind words was always appreciated as well.
So of course he saw the way Vernon looked at him, the lingering glances that lasted too long and screamed words that the other boy had left unsaid. Gentle touches Seungkwan hadn’t even noticed in the moment, holding more meaning and weight than he would’ve ever realized.
They were both fucked, simple as that.
But they were not dating. Seungkwan tried his best not to sulk over this.
When the Anan Magazine interviews were released, Seungkwan had to try even harder not to sulk.
He knew he shouldn’t be disappointed, it was useless. It was just another dumb interview, everyone had such kind things to say about Seungkwan, and that’s what he should’ve been focusing on.
He only felt worse when he read further and was reminded of what he had to say about Vernon.
“Your beloved soulmate?” Seungcheol groaned, dropping the magazine in a loud thud, “Seungkwan, you can’t just say these things.”
Seungkwan just sniffed in answer, because maybe he was crying in Seungcheol’s room, maybe.
“You’re both infuriating,” Jeonghan rolled his eyes, because of course he was there, he seemed to sniff out drama like a bloodhound looking for fresh meat.
“I don’t know what to do,” Seungkwan whispered, quiet sobs leaving his chest. It all felt like too much, like his heart was constantly bursting at the seams. The back and forth of their relationship was starting to take a heavier toll on him, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could handle it.
“The sensible thing to do would be to sit down with him, completely sober, and talk about your feelings for each other like adults,” Seungcheol sighed, “because you are, you know, adults. But I know that’s not going to happen, so wishful thinking aside, I think the two of you need to be separated until things cool down.”
Of course, this just made Seungkwan sob harder. Jeonghan glared at Seungcheol, rushing over to rub circles into the small of Seungkwan’s back as his sobs shook him.
It wasn’t fair, none of it was fair. It wasn’t fair that he had all these emotions that would heat up, stewing for weeks and months, until eventually they’d boil over and there’d be another incident where he’d basically profess his love for Vernon without a second thought. It wasn’t fair how cool and collected Vernon seemed to be through it all, as Seungkwan suffered in silence, not knowing how to handle everything he felt.
It definitely wasn’t fair that no matter how hard he tried, there was no moving on from Chwe Hansol Vernon.
He finally sighed out, his tears stopping but his limbs still shaking with aftermaths of his breakdown. He sat up carefully, his eyes surely red and puffy as he looked at his older brothers.
“So, how do we go about this, then?”
It had been a few weeks since Seungkwan had started making the conscious effort to separate himself from Vernon. Of course, he didn’t let Vernon in on this effort, finding it much easier to avoid him as much as possible, which wasn’t hard considering how busy they were with preparing for their concerts and latest comeback.
Part of him wondered if Vernon had even noticed, the stupid part of him that made him cry by himself in the bathroom after everyone was asleep. The part of him that wanted to do nothing more but crawl into Vernon’s bed and latch onto him for dear life. He never let himself, but God, did he want to.
The day of their second concert, Seungkwan found out that at least his fears weren’t true. Vernon definitely noticed the distance he had put between them, and maybe Seungkwan shouldn’t have eavesdropped, but he was already there, so how could he stop himself.
It was Vernon’s watery voice that grabbed his attention first, he rarely cried, and he certainly didn’t do it in front of the other members. He barely let himself cry in front of Seungkwan, only doing it when he was at his lowest points.
“ I don’t understand what I did, ” he sniffed, making Seungkwan freeze as he stood outside the door of the dressing room, only feeling a little bad for listening in on what was probably supposed to be a private conversation.
“Well, the Anan interview…” Jihoon trailed off, sounding way over his head as the younger boy stood in front of him crying.
“I didn’t know he was going to say all that about me,” Vernon laughed bitterly, “I never know what’s too far with him. Which is my fault too, but fuck, this is getting harder every day.”
“Why don’t you two actually do something about it, then?” a third voice asked, and Seungkwan realized it was Mingyu.
“I don’t know what to do,” Vernon cried harder, “I feel like I’ve pushed him away too much, is there even a chance of coming back from this?”
It took every fiber of Seungkwan’s being not to push his way into the room and call Vernon an idiot, tell him that he didn’t have anything to worry about, because no matter what, it would always be him. It took everything out of him, but he didn’t. Because that would make things too complicated, for everyone, and as much as he wanted to be selfish for just once, he couldn’t risk everything else for his own desires.
So he took a deep breath and headed in the opposite direction, away from his sobbing best friend, away from the boy he wanted so desperately but was afraid he’d never have.
That same night Vernon hurt his leg, doing the shoot dance of all things.
Seungkwan stayed up, waiting in the hotel lobby for Vernon to return from the hospital, just as he had done years before and just as he’d continue to do for years to come.
He was surprised when he saw how happy Vernon was on stage, in fact he seemed to have an extra burst of flame under him. His solo stage was everything Seungkwan had expected it to be, and he wanted nothing more than to run up to him and hug him and congratulate him and maybe even kiss him, but he had more restraint than that. He just smiled tightly and said, “good job,” giving him a side hug before they changed into their next stage outfits.
On stage Seungkwan carried on with skinship as he always had, not wanting the shift in their relationship to be obvious to the millions of people watching their every move. He found every little touch harder and harder, his fingers and heart aching for more, wanting to grasp onto the thing that was so close but yet so out of reach.
He was more than pissed when he found out his idiot had gotten hurt.
He was a chronic worrier, and the thought of Vernon having to sit out all the events that were lined up for them in the following months was enough to make him sick. So, as the amazing best friend he was, he put aside all his dumb, sappy feelings and waited for Vernon to return, praying for good news.
The taller boy’s solemn face lit up when he noticed Seungkwan dozing off in one of the uncomfortable lobby chairs. Seungkwan didn’t miss the way it fell quickly as he surely remembered the terms they were on.
“You’re wheelchair bound, then?” Seungkwan asked quietly, stepping towards his best friend carefully, the air thick with a familiar tension.
“Not for long, hopefully,” Vernon sighed, turning his head to thank their manager for wheeling him in, willing him off to bed so he could finally be alone with Seungkwan.
“I guess I’m in charge of pushing you around them,” Seungkwan snorted as he pushed the creaky chair into the elevator.
“It’s your job to push me around anyways,” Vernon teased, smiling up at him softly, “Kwan-”
“I heard you crying earlier,” Seungkwan said quickly, “I didn’t mean to listen, I just, I needed to know that this is hard for you too.”
Vernon visibly tensed, his lips falling into a frown, “what do you mean? How can you not see how hard this is for me? You’ve left me in the dark and over what, a dumb interview?”
“It’s not just about the interview, Sol,” Seungkwan sighed, feeling frustration boil inside of him.
“Don’t call me Sol right now,” Vernon shot back, “God, Seungkwan, why do we keep doing this? What are we fucking doing?”
The elevator beeped after what seemed like an eternity, and Seungkwan froze, unsure of what his next move was supposed to be.
“I’m calling Soonyoung,” Vernon finally mumbled, fishing his phone out of his pocket, “he can go stay in your room, we figuring this out tonight.”
Seungkwan was about to argue, say it was too late and that they needed to just go to bed, but Vernon was already wheeling himself out of the elevator and down the hallway, speaking to Soonyoung in a hushed voice over the phone. Seungkwan had no other choice but to follow him, because really he’d follow him anywhere, no matter what the circumstances.
Soonyoung emerged from behind the hotel room door, looking more concerned than annoyed for being woken up so late. He shot a careful glance at the two of them, frowning slightly as he ran a hand through his hair.
“Key card?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at Seungkwan.
“Oh, yeah, here,” he answered, fumbling for the card in his back pocket with shaky hands.
“Be good,” Soonyoung sighed, saluting them as he trekked down the hallway towards Seungkwan’s room.
Vernon’s room was dark, and he wanted to ask him to keep it that way, but before he could, Vernon was already reaching for the lamp on the bedside table, the room flooding with an orange glow that made Seungkwan feel sick to his stomach.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” Vernon asked, wasting no time. He crossed his arms and stared at Seungkwan with his stupid beautiful eyes.
“After the interview-”
“So it is about the interview?”
“Don’t cut me off,” Seungkwan snapped, “I know you’re pissed but you’re just making this more difficult.”
Vernon nodded an apology, motioning for Seungkwan to continue.
“After the interview, I was really heartbroken, I’ll admit,” he breathed out a shaky breath, “looking back on it, it wasn’t a big deal. I overreacted. But that doesn’t mean I regret the distance I put between us.”
“So you were purposely avoiding me then?” Vernon asked, his voice pained. Seungkwan worried he would start crying again.
“Yes, Seungcheol thought it would be a good idea since we’re so shit at this,” Seungkwan waved his arms, “I’m just really at the end of my rope here, Hansol.”
Vernon scoffed, “you aren’t the only one.”
The room silenced for a few minutes, the two of them just staring at each other, unsure of what to say next. Everything about them was so unsure, it made Seungkwan want to bury himself alive. He couldn’t deal with the lack of finality anymore.
“I love you,” he finally said, and he felt tears stream down his face, “but I don’t know that I can continue like this. And obviously, we can’t do anything positive about it because we don’t know how to fucking communicate like human beings.”
“This is the worst,” Vernon said, and his voice cracked. Seungkwan shifted his eyes to the ground so he didn’t have to watch the tears fall from his long eyelashes.
“Yeah,” Seungkwan said quietly.
“Can’t we try?” Vernon asked, a quiet sob leaving his throat.
Seungkwan looked up finally, watching as Vernon’s curls bobbed as he cried, one of his hands fiercely wiping away tears. He wanted to reach forward and run his hands through his hair, tell him it was going to be okay, that they would work it out.
“I don’t think so.”
“So, please explain to me again why giving up all together is the best course of action here,” Wonwoo deadpanned, studying Seungkwan’s face.
They were in Taipei for the night, resting after the Super Concert, and even though he was able to put a brave face on in front of the cameras, it was no secret how lost Seungkwan felt without Vernon’s presence.
After their conversation after night two of Ideal Cut, their had been a deafening radio silence between them, and Seungkwan hoped it was the finality he had been yearning for, but instead he was greeted with more loose ends than from where they started.
On top of everything, Vernon was still injured, and therefore was constantly down on himself for not being able to perform as he usually did. Seungkwan wanted nothing more than to comfort him, and he was caught in a sticky spot between figuring out what was more selfish, breaking the silence they had agreed on to care for his best friend, or keeping his distance to save them from more heartbreak. All of it was enough to make his head spin all hours of the day.
“It just wouldn’t work,” Seungkwan sighed, feeling exhausted in more ways than just physical.
Wonwoo clicked his tongue, “so pessimistic. You don’t know that, Boo Seungkwan. Sure, you two need to learn how to effectively communicate, and there’s a lot of risk with getting involved with another member, but I think what you’re doing is more harmful than anything else.”
“Maybe you’re too optimistic,” Seungkwan countered, “do you know what would happen if people found out? What that would mean for the whole group? I love him so much, but we’ve worked so hard, we can’t risk that, Vernon knows this too.”
“I think,” Wonwoo said carefully, “that you know it would work out, and that’s what is really holding you back. You know that things will be okay, that you don’t need to be the heroes who saved Seventeen by avoiding their feelings. You both know all of this, you just use the other stuff as an excuse.”
“You’re afraid that it’s all going to work out, and you’re going to be happy, but then you’ll mess up and it’ll all come crashing down. You’re both so desperately afraid of losing each other, you’ll do anything to not have each other in the first place.”
Seungkwan stared at him, his mouth gaping, and suddenly things started to make sense.
They were both so stubborn, so afraid of letting people down, letting themselves down, letting each other down. Of course they had to come up with a million reasons to not make things work, they were both idiots.
“Oh my God,” Seungkwan whispered, his eyes still locked on Wonwoo, “are you a genius?”
Wonwoo snorted, “no, I’m just observant. You should try listening and watching sometimes, you learn a lot.”
“So what do I do?” Seungkwan asked, leaning forward to stare at Wonwoo eagerly.
“I’m not a relationship counselor,” Wonwoo rolled his eyes, “but you two should definitely try talking again. And you should be less annoying and hard-headed.”
“He’s just as bad,” Seungkwan pouted.
Wonwoo shrugged, “he wanted to try and make it work, your dramatic ass was ready to call off the friendship all together, as if the two of you can even breathe without thinking about each other.”
Seungkwan smiled softly, the first genuine smile he had since his last conversation with Vernon, “thank you, Wonwoo. Really, I think you’ve changed something in me. Are you sure you’re not a genius?”
Wonwoo laughed, “maybe I am, but really kid, it’s no big deal. Everyone has been so worried about you two, you’re both so miserable. It’s like watching two puppies be separated.”
Seungkwan rolled his eyes, but smiled fondly at the older man, “do you want to take some pictures for my Instagram?”
“Right now?” Wonwoo raised an eyebrow, “after I just gave you an epiphany?”
Seungkwan shrugged, “I guess I want to document the moment I realized I’m truly an idiot, and I kind of have an idea.”
It turns out, his playful joke was not well received by the person on the other end of it.
“What does this even mean???” the message read, a screenshot of his Instagram post attached to it. It had only taken Vernon five minutes to text him, and another five minutes for him to apparently give up on waiting for Seungkwan’s answer, because now he was calling him.
“Hi,” Seungkwan said, feeling very shy.
“What the fuck, Seungkwan?” Vernon asked, sounding defeated, “I can’t keep doing this, you say you don’t want to try, and then you post shit like this? Be nervous? What does that even mean? Are you and Wonwoo an item now or something?”
“I’d rather talk about this in person,” Seungkwan frowned, “I was hoping you wouldn’t see it until I was on the plane.”
“I’m at home with an injured leg, I have nothing better to do than scroll through social media.”
“It was stupid, I’m sorry,” Seungkwan finally relented, “it was going to be funny and cute once I got to see you, something to ease the tension a bit.”
Seungkwan could practically hear the other boy pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
“Please, just explain,” Vernon sighed.
“I want to try,” Seungkwan said quietly, “I want us to try.”
Silence, and Seungkwan wondered for a second if the call dropped.
“I don’t get you,” Vernon said, and Seungkwan could hear tears in his voice once more, so of course he had to start crying too.
“You say you don’t want this, and now you call me and say you do?”
“You called me, actually-”
“For the love of God,” Vernon murmured, “what made you change your mind, and why should I even give you a chance?”
“It’s a lot to explain, Wonwoo helped me realize some things. I understand if you don’t want to give me a chance, but please don’t give up on me yet,” Seungkwan’s voice faltered, he hadn’t even took into consideration that Vernon might not even want him anymore. It was understandable, Seungkwan had been stupid, too stubborn for their own good.
“Please, let me prove it to you when I get home tomorrow,” he begged, listening for a sign on the other side of line.
“Okay,” he finally sighed, “okay, but we can’t keep doing this. We can’t keep doing the back and forth, hot and cold shit, I can’t.”
“I know,” Seungkwan whispered, wiping away tears, “I know, and we won’t.”
Seungkwan bounced his legs as he sat on the living room couch, it was too quiet for his liking, everyone had decided to leave the dorms for the day, obviously wanting to give him and Vernon space. He wished someone stayed behind, in case things went wrong and he needed to cry his eyes out, but Seokmin had insisted that was pessimistic thinking and that he should be worrying about the good outcomes rather than the bad. Whatever.
Vernon stared at him carefully, as he had been doing for the last five minutes since Seungkwan had arrived. They hadn’t said a word to each other yet, not even a mumbled hello. They just stared.
“How is your leg?” Seungkwan finally let out, his voice cracking.
Vernon sighed, “it’s fine, Seungkwan.”
“I miss you,” Seungkwan whispered, before he could stop himself, “I miss you so much I don’t know what to do with myself.”
Vernon just nodded, his eyes already welling up with tears.
“Wonwoo said that we’re only doing this because we’re afraid of losing each other, and we’re both stubborn,” Seungkwan sniffed, “do you think that’s true?”
Vernon nodded again, running a hand through his wavy locks.
“I’m so scared,” Seungkwan breathed out, his tears falling faster, “I look at you and I’m so scared. Do you know what it’s like to look at one person and see your future? To see everything you’ve ever loved in one heart?”
Vernon laughed through tears, nodding his head quickly, “you’re always forgetting that the feelings are reciprocated, why do you do that? Why don’t you believe me when I say I’m in love with you?”
“You’re you,” Seungkwan smiled half heartedly, “you’re you and I don’t know if I deserve all of that. It’s like falling in love with the sunrise, how am I supposed to breathe knowing that I have you but I could lose you at any second. I don’t want to mess anything up.”
“God damn it, Seungkwan, don’t you get it?” Vernon reached forward, gripping onto Seungkwan’s hand, “everything you feel for me, I feel for you just as much, maybe even more. I look at you and see everything I’ve ever wanted. I want to be with you, only you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, since the first day we met, even before I knew what these feelings were, it’s always been you. It’s always been us.”
“It’s time we let ourselves realize that we deserve each other,” Vernon brushed his fingers against Seungkwan’s face, making him realize how close he was, “we’re not kids anymore, we’re allowed to have the things we want.”
Seungkwan nodded slowly, his eyes focusing on the way Vernon’s lashes fluttered beneath tears. He could feel his warm breath against his lips, his hand moving up to hold the back of Seungkwan’s blonde head, his fingers tangling in his hair as they finally pushed forward.
The universe sighed in relief as they kissed for the first time, finally stopping their battle against the gravitational pull that binded them together. It wasn’t like it had been described in the movies, there were no fireworks, his lips didn’t tingle like they were about to fall off, it was uncoordinated and a little wet from all the tears they had shed.
They pulled away, Seungkwan’s shaking arms still wrapped around Vernon’s neck as they breathed each other in, letting themselves become intoxicated with relief as they became familiar with each other in the way they had always wanted to.
“That okay?” Vernon whispered, leaning his head into Seungkwan’s neck so his eyelashes batted against his skin.
Seungkwan pulled his head down, burying his face into Vernon’s hair, his arms pulling him even closer. He couldn’t help but feel like a complete idiot for waiting so long to do this, because now there was no way he could imagine ever going back.