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Lee Minho had a boyfriend that he loved very much.

Han Jisung was adorable, beautiful, ethereal. He was Minho’s.

Minho adored the younger boy’s squishy cheeks, the way he would get excited about the smallest things, the sparkle in his eyes when he talked about making music and going to college the next year (where he was going to study music production). Minho’s heart melted when Han Jisung talked about his love of food, and when the younger would plead and pout to go out on dates to their favorite café around the corner.

Lee Minho loved Han Jisung, but he loved Bang Chan just a little more.

---

Bang Chan couldn’t say that he loved Kim Woojin.

He didn’t know what was wrong with him. Woojin was stunning all-around. He was the most kind, thoughtful, selfless boyfriend anyone could ever ask for. Woojin made sure Chan knew he was loved, and took care of Chan (as much as Chan would let him). Chan knew he was loved by Woojin and he was grateful for all Woojin did, but Chan didn’t know if he could ever love Kim Woojin like he loved Lee Minho.

Ironically enough, Minho had introduced the two. Woojin was a transfer student their senior year in high school and was in choir with Minho. The two grew close, as Minho chose to take the older under his wing. Woojin fit right in with the rest of their friends, but only Chan caught his eye. Chan was too busy staring at Minho to notice.

Bang Chan was in love with Lee Minho, the only boy he could never have.

 

Spring, 2016

The first time they crossed the line was at the end of junior year, the night before their annual group picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.

While the other 8 friends lived relatively close to one another, Minho lived further out in the country. Minho’s parents weren’t obnoxiously wealthy, but they were well-off enough to own a few acres of land in a quiet area outside of the town limits. Minho loved the fresh air and laying among the bushes of honeysuckle behind his treehouse, and Chan loved the light scent of honeysuckle that seemed to envelop the boy because of this. The scent of honeysuckle and citrus smelled like home to Chan, and his home was named Lee Minho.

Chan offered to pick Minho up for the picnic, and in return Minho offered for Chan to stay the night. Chan readily agreed, delighted to spend some alone time with his best friend. Minho’s parents were away on a business trip, so the two boys decided to order a pizza and over-indulge a little for the evening. Apparently, Minho’s idea of over-indulging was a lot different than Chan thought.

When Minho excused himself, Chan didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until the younger returned carrying two cases of something in bottles that Chan knew he was a goner. Minho wiggled his eyebrows at Chan, begging his ‘favorite hyung’ to ‘loosen up for the night!’ and that ‘no one would ever find out’. Chan sighed and reached for a bottle, twisting the cap off and capturing the resulting smoke with his lips as he let the taste wash over his tongue, much to Minho’s delight. It wasn’t bad and tasted sweet and slightly fruity. Chan couldn’t tell if he liked it.

Although the two had been friends for years, they had never drunk together, mostly due to their reputations at school. Their friend group, while not the most elite of the popular kids, were still relatively well-known and liked around the school. The boys were all involved in extracurricular activities, some more than others (*cough* Minho *cough*). Combine those activities with studying for exams and making relatively high marks and the Stray Kids could kiss their social lives goodbye.

One bottle slowly turned into six as the boys made their way through the alcohol. Chan couldn’t stop himself from staring at the beautiful flush spreading across Minho’s cheeks, which was growing closer to match the color of Minho’s lips. To Chan’s delight, Minho was a clingy drunk who giggled at everything, snuggling up against Chan’s side and eventually laying his head in Chan’s lap while whining for the older to play with his hair. What was Chan going to do, say no?

The alcohol only intensified the thoughts of Minho in Chan’s mind- Minho’s smooth lips, the intense pink color, how damn soft Minho’s lips probably were, how much Chan would kill to feel how soft they would be against his skin, how he wanted to pull the boy closer to him and worship him-

Minho giggled, interrupting Chan’s gay-dream. “You’re staring like you want to kiss me, hyung!”

“I do. Shit I said that out loud. SHIT I said that out loud.”

This only made Minho giggle even more as he slowly sat up, removing his head from Chan’s thighs. “You can kiss me, hyung. I wouldn’t mind. I want to kiss you too.” The boy’s voice was soft as Minho peered at Chan through his long lashes, inviting the boy to lean closer. Chan wasted no time in grabbing the younger boy’s face and pulling him closer, connecting their lips.

Chan had never felt this way kissing someone before; hell, he didn’t know it was possible to feel this way kissing someone. The alcohol was clouding his thoughts, but Chan didn’t care because Minho – his Minho – was kissing him and his lips were soft and oh god was he a good kisser. Chan was jealous of Jisung if he got to kiss Minho like this every day.

Chan pulled Minho into his lap and let himself explore the dancer’s body with his hands, enjoying every whine and whimper coming from the younger’s mouth the whole time. Chan didn’t ever want to stop, didn’t ever want to come down from this high, didn’t ever want to kiss another boy again. Chan only wanted Minho, and Minho only wanted Chan. In that moment, it was only the two of them.

The next morning, Chan woke up to a very hungover Minho sitting on the kitchen floor, glass of orange juice in hand. The younger looked up at Chan and smiled weakly, uttering some lame excuse to not attend the picnic, hoping the older would fall for it. Chan shook his head, but ultimately ended up dragging Minho along to the picnic. Neither one of them mentioned the previous night. Chan decided to never bring up the incident to the younger. Besides, Minho probably didn’t remember, right?

Chan was wrong.

 

August 2017

Chan and Minho ended up attending the same university, along with Hyunjin, Woojin, and Changbin. Chan and Changbin ended up choosing one another to be roommates, while Hyunjin got a private room next door. The three dubbed rooms 109 and 111 to be “The Party Suite”, while Woojin lived across the hall in 126 and was inducted as an ‘honorary member’.

Minho was placed on the third floor of the dorm across campus. He didn’t have a roommate. Chan was heartbroken at the thought of such a bright boy being placed all alone, but offered Hyunjin’s extra bed to him all the same. Minho laughed, telling the boys he would be sure to spend lots of time visiting. Hyunjin even made him a spare key, but it wasn’t enough; even in the warm atmosphere of The Party Suite, Minho felt a cold chill settle in his bones; although among his friends, the young boy spent a lot of time alone but especially when Woojin and Chan were together.

 

September 2017

The second time it happened was the gateway to Chan’s problem.

“A party?” Minho wrinkled his nose in disgust. The boy had been spending a lot more of his time in The Party Suite per Hyunjin’s request of ‘making Chan-hyung shut up about never seeing you’; unfortunately, Woojin had also been spending an increased amount of time with the four as well.

Part of Chan felt sick, sitting on his floor holding hands with Woojin; he knew what he was doing to Minho, but that still didn’t stop himself from thinking about the younger boy, wondering what it would be like to hold his hand and kiss him whenever he wanted. Did Minho even remember the kisses they shared? Did they mean anything to him if he did? To Chan, Minho meant everything.

Changbin’s loud laughter brought Chan back to his senses. “Yeah, a party. You’re coming with us, you can’t say no. It’s college, time to live a little!” Changbin picked a pencil up from Hyunjin’s untouched desk and hurled it at his elder.

Minho released his inner drama queen and pretended to be fatally wounded, making the other 4 boys chuckle. He then hopped off of Hyunjin’s spare bed and walked to the enormous closet overflowing with clothes. He turned and wiggled his eyebrows at his unofficial roommate. “Well if I’m going to this party, someone’s going to have to help me pick out something to wear.”

Hyunjin practically squealed as he ran over to the closet and immediately began advising Minho on what to wear. Chan smiled, leading Woojin out of the room and back into his own with Changbin. Chan didn’t hear a single word Woojin mentioned about where to meet him later that evening for a ride to the party; the only thoughts in his head were how beautiful Minho would look tonight.

---

A drunken Chan found an even drunker Minho on the dance floor with Hyunjin and who he presumed were the other guys from the dance team. Minho introduced them all to Chan, who nodded and awkwardly shook each of their hands. After introductions were through, Chan stretched his hand out and gestured for Minho to take it.

Minho giggled as he held Chan’s warm hand. “Where is Woojin? Youu,” he exaggerated and poked Chan’s chest, “are too cute to be left alone, mister.”

Chan smirked at the younger. “He went home for the evening. He has to work tomorrow, and I promised him I would take care of you in the meantime. Now come on!”

Chan tugged on Minho’s hand as the younger drunkenly stumbled after, the two making their way up the stairs after what felt like an eternity. Chan flung open the first door at the top of the stairs; to his luck, it was an empty bedroom. Chan practically slung Minho in the room and rushed to lock the door before anyone saw the two of them. A still-giggling Minho gazed at Chan with eyes full of innocence before leaning in to whisper in Chan’s ear “now what?”

Chan lost it. He shoved Minho against the door and kissed him; this kiss was desperate, needy, lustful. Chan kissed Minho like he had never kissed anyone else; Minho was his and no one else’s- not Jisung’s, not Woojin’s, not Hyunjin’s, his . And damn was Minho a good kisser; Chan was jealous of Jisung again.

Chan reluctantly removed his lips from the younger’s as a needy whine escaped his swollen, peachy lips, one that Chan promptly swallowed before spinning the boy around and pushing him into the bed.

Chan swung a leg over Minho’s narrow waist until he was straddling the younger boy, which elicited the most soft and beautiful gasp from the dancer. As Chan slowly made a trail of kisses down Minho’s neck, he thought he was going to melt at the moans from the younger. Not only was Minho pretty, but he was even more beautiful moaning under Chan. Right then and there, Chan decided he wanted to hear his name from that boy’s mouth for the rest of his life, and set about achieving that goal – at least for the evening.

In the morning, Minho woke up wrapped in Chan’s arms. Both of them were shirtless, and Minho’s neck was covered in dark blue-purple blooms. Minho decided he liked them, smiling down at the still-sleeping Chan and kissing his forehead.

Every party after that, the two always ended up alone before the night. Chan felt guilty for doing what he was to Woojin, Jisung, and Minho, but he just couldn’t stop. Minho was too beautiful, too tempting. He begged Hyunjin to keep his secret, to which the young boy obliged. He only wanted to protect Minho, Jisung, and Woojin.  

 

March 2018

The second-to-last time it happened, Minho was devastated.

The day Jisung got accepted to his top choice uni wasn’t anything special, but it’s one that will stick in Chan’s mind forever. Minho had just gotten off from dance practice and was trying to get a head start on a project for his computer programming class when he received the call. Jisung screeched that he had been accepted into his top choice for uni, a music college located in Malaysia. Minho was thrilled for the younger, who was ecstatic himself. Minho could see the way Jisung was probably bouncing up and down, mouth split wide in a smile as his heart soared. Minho was so, so proud. Jisung was going to be a wonderful producer, and Minho could not wait to take on the world with him.

Until everything came crashing down.

Tonight, this call was different. Jisung was home for a break and wanted to meet up at their park, the one where they had their first date. It was there, in the place Minho’s heart swelled for the first time that his heart was also shattered for the first time.

Jisung didn’t want him anymore.

He insisted he loved Minho, but couldn’t handle the distance and pangs of guilt from not calling the other. Minho held Jisung’s hand and rubbed small circles with his thumb as he listened to the younger ramble, heart aching as he watched the younger, more animated boy shed a few tears. Minho smiled, insisting he understood and that he wanted to support the younger in any way that he could. He was happy for him, and only wanted to see him happy and healthy. Minho lied and said he was okay, said he wasn’t hurt and that he would be okay.

Minho was a good liar. Jisung believed him. The younger believed the two parted on good terms, and pulled the older in for a bone-crushing hug before skipping home.

The second that the brunette vanished from his sight, Minho went numb. He doesn’t remember quite how he got to Chan’s dorm. He only remembers concerned eyes boring holes into him and strong arms swiftly moving towards him. He broke before Chan could catch him, legs giving out as he collapsed on Chan’s floor in a puddle of tears, sobs wracking his body. He remembered nothing else. Chan, unfortunately, remembered everything.

Chan hadn’t seen Minho in well over a week, so when a blank-faced Minho showed up at his door at 4:38 a.m., Chan was rightfully confused but invited the boy in anyway. Watching Minho break physically pained Chan, so he did the only thing he knew would make Minho feel better – he leaned in and pressed his heart-shaped lips against the younger’s small, peachy ones.

The two sat there on Chan’s floor, lips locked for who knows how long; their kisses were tainted a wretched shade of melancholy and salty from Minho’s tears. This kiss was different, somehow more intimate than the last as the two shared the same breaths. Although the two had never spoken of their previous encounters, Minho knew Chan was his safe haven.

The older boy wiped away Minho’s tears and kissed away Minho’s pathetic sobs for the innocent squishy-faced boy who broke Minho’s heart. When Minho lost all energy to even kiss Chan back, he curled up into the smallest ball he could manage, folding in on himself while turning his back to the Australian.

Chan managed to carry Minho over to his bed and laid him down so the two were laying face to face in the ridiculously small twin bed. Chan pulled the heartbroken boy into his chest, who was still sobbing and was now clenching Chan’s shirt with his fist. Even long after Minho had fallen asleep, his tear-stained face buried in Chan’s shoulder, the older boy couldn’t stop shaking.

Chan would never forgive Jisung. But Chan would also never forgive himself.

Minho was never the same after that.

 

April 2018

Not long after the break-up, Woojin surprised Chan one afternoon by waiting outside of his studio rather than in his dorm. Chan was grateful to see his boyfriend and moved in to kiss his cheek, but Woojin quickly stopped him by grabbing his wrist.

“Chan… I know you love him.”

Chan looked at Woojin, guilty. He wondered how long it would be before it would show. He couldn’t bring himself to lie, so he just lowered his eyes and mumbled an apology to the older. Woojin placed a hand under Chan’s chin and lifted his head so their eyes met, and then Woojin smiled .

“Never apologize for love.”

Chan never deserved Woojin.

 

April 2018

After the break-up, Minho nearly disappeared from Chan’s life.

Sure, they had different majors, took different classes, and lived in different dorms, but that didn’t mean this was normal. Considering the more recent developments in their relationship (if you could call it that), this seemed rather uncharacteristic of the dancer. He didn’t seem to spend much time in his room either, as Chan rarely got an answer when he knocked. When Chan asked the other boys if they had heard from Minho, they laughed at him, teasing.

“Chan-hyung is being a possessive boyfriend!”

“Aww how cute that Chan is whipped for the one and only Lee Minho!”

“He’s an adult too, Chan. I’m sure he’s capable of taking care of himself.”

“He’s probably just busy. You know he’s taking a full course load and doing Honors and working.”

Chan tried to reassure himself that Minho would reach out eventually, that maybe he was just busy and needed some space.

He didn’t feel any better.

 

May 2018

The very last time it happened, Chan knew something was wrong.

From the moment Minho walked in, Chan could tell something was off about the boy. He looked thinner, paler, and just exhausted overall. When Chan tried to wrap his arms around Minho, the older boy was weakly shoved away. When Chan tried to kiss Minho’s lips, Minho’s response was practically nonexistent. He mumbled something about working on a dance routine and ran out of the room faster than Chan could react.

Frowning, he pulled out his phone and texted Hyunjin and a few others he knew Minho regularly saw, asking them to keep an eye on him.

Chan didn’t sleep well that night.

---

Jeongin texted Chan on a Sunday afternoon a week after his last encounter with Minho. The youngest wanted to know if Chan had heard from the dancer. He had apparently ditched Jeongin and their weekly ice-cream meetups for the last two weeks with no warning, and the youngest hadn’t been able to get in touch with him. Chan paused, checking his recent messages and social media apps. When was the last time he had talked to Minho? Six days ago? No no no, that couldn’t be right … could it?

Frowning, he sent a simple, friendly text to the younger inviting him to meet up for coffee later that afternoon.

Minho never responded.

---

The dance team was leaving for a conference the following Friday. Hyunjin was getting anxious; Minho was one of the best on the team, and they were suffering without him.

Chan reassured Hyunjin they would hear from the boy before then.

They didn’t.

The dance team placed fourth, just under qualifying for nationals.

Chan missed Minho.

-----

Three weeks later and still no sign of Minho.

Chan banged furiously on the younger’s door for the umpteenth time, but the resident refused to open it.

Chan sighed and dug out his key, the one Minho had made for him. A small heart and letter ‘M’ engraved onto the fattest part of the key. With shaky hands, Chan inserted the key and turned the knob.

The room was eerily quiet.

All he saw was red.

Chan felt empty.

---

His parents came to collect his belongings the following Saturday.

Chan didn’t leave his bed that day. He couldn’t face the Lee’s after letting them down; he promised he would take care of Minho.

That evening, he cried himself to sleep wearing Minho’s old performance sweatshirt, encompassed in that familiar honeysuckle and lemon scent; the scent of a home Chan no longer had.

---

Bang Chan loved Lee Minho.

Bang Chan loved Lee Minho, but he has long forgotten the feeling of Minho’s small hands intertwined with his own; he has long forgotten the feeling of Minho’s full, soft lips burning their way into his skin; he has forgotten their long talks under moonlit skies, the way Minho’s eyes would ebb and flow like the changing tides, full of wonder and curiosity for the world around him; Chan has forgotten what Minho’s voice sounds like, the sound of Minho’s laughter no longer ringing in his ears at every second.

Chan hates Lee Minho for leaving. Chan hates himself for letting him.

Bang Chan loved Lee Minho, but in the end it wasn’t enough.