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"Wonpil-ah," Jae grunts as he finally settles Wonpil's body on the counch in the younger's rather cramped flat. "Please do me a favour and sit straight up for a while and take off your shirt while you are at it. I'll go get you a glass of water and hot towel to wipe you off, okay?" Under normal circumstances, be it sober or under drunken state of mind that he is now, Wonpil would've sneered back at Jae and refused to do as the older told him to. However, tonight, after being dumped by his nth boyfriend and in a rather abusive way, and after how he witnessed Jae of becoming that scary and aggressive towards someone — a stranger on top of that — as soon as he caught the scene where the bastard laid a punch on Wonpil's cheek, Wonpil finds no reasons to fathom himself if he were to pull such playful antics now out of all times.

Wonpil slightly spares a glance at the much taller figure and just a little bit wider pair of shoulders facing him. Even from behind and under the remnants of alcohol influence, Wonpil can tell just how much angry and worried and upset Jae still is. They've been friends all the way from high school to college, and Jae has witnessed every boy Wonpil has been with in all those years, yet this is the very first time the older looks so bothered by it that he couldn't help but to send a flying kick to his now-ex-boyfriend earlier before helplessly dragging Wonpil back to his place. 

 

"Hyung, I'm sorry." Wonpil mumbles as he finds himself straightening his body back up when he notices how Jae looks at him over his shoulder with a rather sullen expression. "I never meant to turn you violent." He continues and then stops as soon as Jae turns his head around to place the hot water he's just boiled into the bowl of cold water that he is going to use to wipe Wonpil's bruise and body with. 

"I'm just worried." Jae answers under his breath and it sounds so hitched that Wonpil can tell just how much he is trying his best to contain his emotions so they won't burst out all at once. "Also drop the honourifics, you are scaring me out." The older laughs shakily, and Wonpil can only smile in appreciation knowing he does it to ease down the very much obvious tense in the room.

 

Just when Wonpil is about to mutter another apology, Jae has turned his back around with a bowl of lukewarm water and towel in his hands. He asks Wonpil to stay still before he's gone back to the kitchen to finally get the younger a glass of water. Jae starts off gentle, wiping and slightly pressing the wet towel all over Wonpil's body and ends it in the bruise that has painted his cheek purplish. He lets out a sigh when Wonpil unconsciously winces at the compression Jae puts especially on his cheek, hoping it will ease down the swell.

 

"Sorry. I just had to." Just from his tone alone, Wonpil can tell that Jae is still annoyed, but at the same time also really meant it when he's sorry, so Wonpil just nods and tells him it's okay. 

 

After that, Wonpil notices how much gentler and more careful Jae has become with the way he wipes off the wet towel all over his body and especially his bruise. He spares a quick glance at Jae's eyebrows and smiles at himself when it's obvious to him how the older really does put his utmost concentration not to hurt Wonpil. It's as if he wants Wonpil to feel as comfortable and safe as possible. His eyes fall at the pair of signature round pair of glasses Jae has always worn ever since they first met in high school — of how it keeps sliding off Jae's nose bridge, but the older is still too focused he doesn't seem to realise it. At first Wonpil had never thought and expected the both of them to be really close, especially knowing Jae was already in his third year while Wonpil was only a freshman when they first met in high school. It was all thanks to Jae being the president of music club Wonpil decided to join, to Jae always motivated and urged him to never stop doing music despite of his path of career might turn out different later, and also to Jae finding out about Wonpil's sexuality and not being judgmental about it, that Wonpil has always found the reassurance just from staying by Jae's side. Even after Jae had graduated from high school, their communication still continued. They still met up with each other during their free time, Jae would vent out a lot regarding the loads of crap (read: assignments, projects) he had to do in university, yet he would still also help Wonpil out in his study whenever the younger asked him to. Despite of his laid-back appearance, Jae sure has the brain. 

Wonpil still also remembers how Jae is the very first person he'd informed when he first received the news of him getting accepted in the same university as Jae. Not his parents nor his older sister, but Jae.

Through many, many, precious years spent together with Jae, Wonpil would be damn lying if he didn't feel that certain spark burning his lungs and down to his stomach every time Jae holds his hand, cares for him, helps him out, hugs him, putting up with his antics, reciprocates every platonic affection he likes to throw at Jae despite of the displeased facade, teases him around like the kid Jae always thinks he is, laughs at his lame jokes — at him.

But the price that he needs to pay after confessing his feelings, if he ever does that, is too much for him to bear. Having Jae by his side this long should be enough, but Wonpil has grown greedier by time and so he tries to alternate that uneasy feeling by going out with anyone that asks him out first.

To Wonpil, it has always been Jae, and he believes Jae feels that way, too. Even though, again, he realises that it might be a different kind of always for the older. 

 

"I will go get you a spare of clothes. Here, don't forget to drink this up." Jae crumbles his train of thoughts, and Wonpil can only nod while looking at how Jae is now roaming around his own closet in his room to get himself a shirt. It's always heartwarming to see how Jae is really familiar with his place as if it's of his own — as if this is the place they share together. "Do you feel better?" Jae asks him again while still trying to find him something comfortable to wear.

"A lot better. Thank you, Jae." Wonpil smiles down at the glass of water he has around his palms.

"It's not a big deal. Now, wear this." Jae scratches the back of his head, and Wonpil slightly grins at the gesture knowing Jae always does that whenever he feels embarrassed. "It's your favourite shirt, isn't it?" Wonpil diverts his eyes from the glass to the plain light blue shirt Jae has in his hand. Now that Wonpil looks at it this close, he realises how the fabric isn't just as smooth as it initially was the first time he bought it with Jae, right after he graduated from high school. Jae must have not thought that far of how this is Wonpil's favourite shirt thanks to Jae telling him, "Bet you will look good in pastel colours, just like that plain light blue shirt over there." then laughed it off before even bother to spare a glance at how flustered Wonpil had become back then.

"You are right." Wonpil clutches the shirt momentarily, then slowly unfolds it for him to wear. "It indeed is my favourite." along with the person that suggested I look good in it

 

Silence pours over them right after Wonpil put on the shirt. For some reasons, Wonpil finds it hard to look at Jae in the eye. Something that certainly hasn't happened before. This isn't the first time for Jae to be spending the night at Wonpil's place to accompany the younger after breaking up with his partner, also not the first time for Jae having to clean up Wonpil's mess since he always 'celebrates' the heartbreak by drinking the pain away. However, this is the first time for Jae to be doing so much to him with not even a single complain is uttered out, let alone trail of nags Jae always used to tell him as he helps Wonpil cleaning up. 

 

"Does it still hurt?" Jae breaks the silence and also the distance between them by resting his warm palm against the bruise in Wonpil's cheek, letting his long fingers caress the swollen skin. This is also the first time Jae has ever been tender towards him after having his heart broken through and through. Even though no heartbreak could ever come close to one he's been feeling towards Jae for so many years to the point Wonpil is certain he's grown immune to break-ups. 

"Not as much as it did. Thanks for compressing it for me." Wonpil smiles, weighing the decisions between wanting to rest his palm on top of Jae's hand in his cheek or to just keep resting it awkwardly in his thigh. Wonpil goes for the former. 

"Your hand is cold." Jae furrows his eyebrows in worry. Typical. "For now just try to get some sleep. I will stay the night in here and you are not allowed to forbid me." Jae smirks, trying to show his cheekiness to Wonpil to which the younger feels relieved for. Although it still does bother him how Jae seems to hold himself back from bombarding Wonpil a lot of complaints, including his default sarcasms and sasses. 

"It's cool, but mind if I ask you a question?" Wonpil slowly starts. His other hand finds its way to clutch on to the couch he is laying on. 

"Shoot." Jae answers. His palm slowly caressing the bruise.

"Why aren't you, you know, mad?" Wonpil internally cringes at how awkward his question is now that he says it out loud. He can imagine Jae looking at him in disbelief and then proceeds to burst out laughing while mocking him of being a masochist or some kind. 

However, when Wonpil finally realises that the warm hand resting on his check has stopped moving, he looks up to meet Jae in the eye. Much to his surprise, he can tell how Jae has such an unreadable expression on his face right now. Is he angry? Upset? Disappointed? Worried? Uncomfortable? Sad? 

"I just," Again, Jae scratches the back of his head with his other hand. If his sitting position is already awkward enough, he is sure the way he acts right now also is since Wonpil looks so lost as to take in of everything that's currently happening. "I'm afraid I will become so emotional that I might," He lets out a deep sigh and later allows himself to bury his face in the sofa edge with both of his hands, and suddenly Wonpil's bruise feels so cold now that the warmth emitting from Jae's palm has left his skin. But more than that, Wonpil is trying so hard to digest everything that is happening before his eyes. He literally has never seen Jae being like this, so he chooses to do what his instinct tells him to do; he starts patting Jae's head. It's as if he's trying to tell the older than he is here, he is all ears and won't judge anything that's about to come out of his mouth. Jae lets out another sigh, much deeper and longer this time, before slowly rising his head up which causes Wonpil to also remove his palm from the brunette's head. Jae's face is so red and his glasses are slightly crooked. He is staring straight at Wonpil with so overwhelming seriousness that Wonpil can't help but to put his utmost focus on the older, afraid that he might not catch even just an upcoming word. "I might cry." Jae finally finishes his sentence, with a sad smile curving in his lips. 

"You might what now?" Wonpil retorts, as if not believing the words he's just heard.

"I know. I don't understand it myself." Jae covers his face with his hands, letting out another exasperated sigh. "When I saw that bruise I'm just," Wonpil slowly reaches out to remove the hands covering his face. "I'm angry at myself." One hand's down, and Wonpil can already see how the tears are already pooling Jae's left eye. "Disappointed in myself, for being able to react only after that asshole punched you." Now that both of his hands are down, Wonpil can clearly see how Jae is so so close to crying. So close to bursting out tears that it doesn't take too much time of him to wraps his arm around Jae and pulls the older in a tight embrace. 

"Ah, I really, really love him." Wonpil tells himself.

"Shit, sorry I drench your shirt, don't I?" Jae lets out a shaky laugh, along with muffled sniffs. Indeed, Wonpil can feel the fabric around his chest area slowly soaking in tears, but he just shakes his head. Reassuring Jae that it's nothing compared to how he has done so much for him ever since Wonpil first stepped into the music club room all the way back in high school. 

"Jae—"

"Hey, Wonpil-ah, I will be fine, so please just sleep?" He can tell just how much Jae is trying his best to stop the tears from falling.

"Jae, look at me." Wonpil pleads, slowly shaking Jae's body.

"No way. Please, just try to get some sleep."

Not wanting to prolonged the fight, especially knowing Jae has taken care of him really well tonight, Wonpil lets out a quiet 'okay' as he carefully tries to position himself into a sleeping posture without having to have Jae removing his face from his chest after the older feels better, in which Wonpil is sure after he's fallen asleep. Jae hates having anyone see his crying face, he's always known that, but it's the first time Wonpil ever witnesses Jae crying though not directly. 

"Thank you, Jae." Wonpil whispers. Thinking about how painful it is to have Jae within this proximity, yet still unable to confess his true feelings really overwhelms him, especially with Jae feeling this much emotion just from worrying over him. "Thank you." I love you, his mind wanders, but Wonpil chooses to keep stroking Jae's hair as he tries to fall asleep himself. The very last thing he remembers before completely drifting off to the dreamland is of how he's decided that once the morning comes, he will surely put an end to his years' worth of unrequited feelings towards his own best friend.

 

"You and I have hard hard times.
We don't have to worry in the early morning.
Now relax,
and good night."

 

When Jae feels that the breathing under his face has gone paced up properly, he slowly lifts up his head from where it rested on top of Wonpil's chest. He groans quietly at himself for not being able to contain his own emotions and just bursted out crying out of nowhere. He would've never thought his head would be throbbing this much from thinking that he's just showed his crying state in front of someone (though not explicitly) and the person being Wonpil out of literally everyone he knows.  

Slowly, he stands up and heads towards the kitchen to wash his face in the sink and get himself a glass of water to calm himself down a little bit. Jae turns around facing the couch placed in the living room that is connected to the kitchen with his backside pressed against the countertop. He watches the way Wonpil's breath rises and then subsides from the way his chest heaves. Jae smiles at himself before putting away the now-empty glass into the kitchen sink and then marching back towards the couch where Wonpil is on.

He situates himself back on to the floor, legs crossed and chin rested on the couch so he's at the eye level of sleeping Wonpil. He studies Wonpil's sleeping face and can't help but to find his lips curved up in a smile. Carefully, Jae brushes Wonpil's fringe by his fingers and continues by caressing the forehead down to the bruise on his cheek. He flinches momentarily when he catches Wonpil unconsciously winces in his sleep, muttering out soft 'sorry' without stopping the motion, but instead trying to be much gentler. 

Every time Jae thinks of Wonpil, he can't help but to think how much the younger guy and the number three will always have special place in his heart.

He first met Wonpil when he was in his third year of high school — realised that he has always been in love with him during his third year of university.

But he knows that Wonpil only sees him as a senior, older brother, friend, best friend figure in all those years they've spent with each other. Knows that Wonpil falls in love with anyone easily, anyone but him. Knows that Wonpil still wants to have fun considering the amount of partners he had been with through all the years.

And through all the break-ups, too, Jae has always been the first and the one to help him overcome the heartbreak, though after a while it's come down to his own realisation how Wonpil, perhaps, has never really taken full seriousness in having relationship with any of his partners. Despite of his phlegmatic appearance, Jae is actually a whole ass romanticist that believes once you've said 'yes' to someone confessing to you, or asking someone to go out with you, then it is of your moral obligation to make sure you will give and do your best in treasuring and loving that someone. This pretty much explains why Jae has only had three exes his whole life, all being girls.

That's why the realisation of him has fallen in too deep with Wonpil, a man and on top of that his best friend, has come as quite a shock for him. The fact that his preference has taken quite a turn isn't something that shocked him. Honestly the world is already filled with much more important issues than having to meddle and dictate people on who they should love. What shocked him (and also saddened him) the most is the fact that he may never have the courage to confess his feelings to Wonpil, and it sucks knowing that it isn't because Jae isn't so sure that he will be able to love and appreciate Wonpil earnestly — hell, even he can imagine himself crossing the oceans for Wonpil — but simply because Wonpil is the carefree type and only sees him as the bestest best friend. 

The moment of Wonpil drunk calling him and later telling him in his sheepish voice how he's just broken up with his partner is all it takes for Jae to head over to wherever Wonpil is at the moment. He will drop pretty much anything he is currently doing for every time Wonpil calls out to him. He will be the first and only person to scold Wonpil, throw sarcastic remarks at him, bring him back to his place, clean up his mess and stay the night to watch over him until the morning comes. Wonpil will wake up later and shoot him an apologetic yet playful grin as soon as he catches his figure making breakfast for two. 

Oftentimes, Wonpil will joke around saying, "It honestly would be great if you were my boyfriend." and Jae will have to try his hardest to contain himself and remain as unbothered and composed as possible whenever he has to hear such harmless yet painful commentary, retorting it back with, "Being your friend is already hard enough. I wouldn't want to imagine the boyfriend job description, thank you very much." to which Wonpil would reply with his clear laugh. One that's like the most peaceful melody to Jae's ears, and even more so once he realised he's been in love with the younger for as long as he can even remember. 

His mind wanders back to reality when he notices how Wonpil inaudibly mumbles in his sleep. Jae smiles at the defenceless figure before his eyes and then continues to caress his bruised cheek, up to stroking his soft hair. His heart clenches when he notices how Wonpil has slowly started to relax in his sleep, especially knowing it's because of his touch. 

"Oh, man," Jae starts. Burying his face on the couch with hand never leaving Wonpil's hair. "I love this guy so much, I am actually going crazy crazy." 

And suddenly, as if his blood suddenly stops rushing in throughout his entire body, he feels a strong grip in his hand lazily stroking Wonpil's hair. 

He looks up with heart beating insanely that he feels like it's going to leap out of his ribcage any time soon.

And then there, in front of him, is Wonpil already looking all awake and conscious. Tears rapidly streaming down his cheeks, then he starts hiccupping as he starts to straighten up his posture and throws his body on to Jae's own.

"Say it again," Wonpil's voice trembles, but even Jae can tell that it's out of relieved disbelief rather than a shock. "Please, Jae, I want to hear it." He feels weight on his shoulder as Wonpil buries his head. 

So Jae takes a deep breath, "I love you," Then he tightens his arms around Wonpil, as if trying to remind the younger that this is reality. That he isn't sleeping and this isn't a dreamland that he is witnessing. "Wonpil, Kim Wonpil," Jae lowers his voice and places his lips really near Wonpil's ear. "I love you. I have always been for a year." Jae finishes his sentence, yet he still doesn't want to budge Wonpil who still has his head buried in Jae's shoulder. His body is still slightly trembling, so Jae takes initiative to rub circles in his back, trying to ease him down. "Hey, you will hurt your cheek if you keep rub—"

His words are cut off by Wonpil suddenly rising his head and throwing his body slightly backwards so he can look at Jae directly. The tears are still flowing through his eyes and streaming down by his cheeks. If anything, there are more tears now than there were a little while ago. However, just when Jae was about to soothe him down, Wonpil is smiling so so beautifully and genuinely at him. The tears make his eyes look much sparklier than they already are that such a sight takes his breath away for barely seconds. 

"Tehee," Wonpil sniffs. Slowly detaching his arms from around Jae's body so he can cup Jae's cheeks with his hands. "I fell for you first." He starts laughing, but then it doesn't take him long to start hiccuping and crying again. "I love you, too, Jae. I love you so much, it's been so crazy for me for the past 5 years." Should there are people other than Jae in the room, they would've assumed that Wonpil is talking gibberish, but to Jae it's everything he's been wanting to hear from Wonpil's mouth.

Confirming that the Wonpil in his embrace is indeed very real, and that Wonpil isn't stuck in some sort of a dreamland or alternate universe that he could finally confess his feelings to Jae, the older decides to take the initiative by slowly and very, very carefully closing the distance between them — his lips being on Wonpil's own. 

And all that they can think about right now is of how there will be even many more years to come where they finally acquire another title that each of them has for one another:

boyfriends.

 

"Now we don't have to
painfully worry in the early morning anymore."