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dinner, dessert, afters

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"I hope you die," Seo Yul mutters. "I hope you get stabbed by one of those gangsters you work for."

The elevator dings, and the doors start to slide open.

"That's an awfully mean thing to say to someone who saved your life once, isn't it?" Sungryong says.

He hikes Seo Yul's heavy arm up across his shoulders and starts to drag him out of the lift. He's tipsy, but not as drunk as Seo Yul - as much as he eats, he drinks even more, and Sungryong had found out the first time they had gotten smashed together that Seo Yul is useless when he's intoxicated. There's a flush across his pale cheeks. His black eyelashes flutter.

"I saved your life first," Seo Yul retorts weakly.

"Don't get so caught up in the details of who saved who."

"You brought it up."

Sungryong drags him to his door, pushes up the cover on the keypad and keys in Seo Yul's code.

"Fuck," Seo Yul mutters. "I forgot to change the code."

"It's just me that knows it, so it's fine," Sungryong drawls, pulling him over the threshold and dropping him heavily in the foyer. He toes off his shoes as Seo Yul struggles to stand, propping himself up with his hands.

"Would you trust..." Seo Yul starts, and stops for a moment to shake his head. "Would you trust someone who works with gangsters... with the keys to your house?"

His elbows buckle and he falls back to the floor. Sungryong sighs at him and squats down to pull Seo Yul's shoes off.

"Shut up and come to bed," he says.

"You'd better not kiss me again," Seo Yul says, voice muffled by the way his face is shoved into the hardwood floor.

"I'm sleeping on your couch tonight. No way in hell am I finding a cab at 2 in the morning and racking up a huge fare going back to my place."

"Shut up."

"Don't tell me to shut up."

Seo Yul tries to hit him. The fact that he can't get up off the floor makes it difficult, so he settles for dropping an angry-looking fist onto the top of Sungryong's foot.

"Okay, I get it," Sungryong sighs. "Get up, would you? Geez, every single time we drink..."

He pulls Seo Yul up by the elbow. Somehow, they manage to stumble their way to Seo Yul's small bedroom. Sungryong clumsily pushes the comforter out of the way - it feels like real down, and he glares at Seo Yul for a second - and drops Seo Yul on the bed.

Seo Yul's face is still pink. He makes a noise when he settles into the mattress. Sungryong spares a brief thought for the state his drinking partner's expensive-looking suit is going to be in come morning.

He leans over Seo Yul to loosen the knot of his tie, at least. Seo Yul's eyes open again at the feeling of the mattress sinking under Sungryong's knee - they make eye contact.

"You'd better not kiss me again," Seo Yul repeats, mumbling. He brings his arm up and smacks a hand clumsily to Sungryong's face - after a few tries, he presses his palm against Sungryong's lips, keeping them at arm's length.

"Alright, alright, I get it." Sungryong bats his hand away and tugs his tie out from under his collar, tossing it on his bedside table and standing back up. He pulls the comforter over Seo Yul's figure and raises his hands palms-forward, backing out of the room. "I'm leaving!"

Seo Yul's snoring follows him as he closes the door behind him.

--

Seo Yul hates waking up with a hangover.

"Mmg." He groans. "Oh. Ugh."

He brings a hand up to his head - it's pounding, and spins like a ballerina girl in a music box when he tries to sit up. After a moment, he opens his eyes. His shades are drawn, and there's a glass of water and painkillers on his bedside table, next to a black designer necktie that's only slightly crumpled.

"Sungryong," he mutters. He raises his voice - the tone gets more whiny the louder he gets. "Kim Sungryong!"

There's no reply - Seo Yul stumbles out of bed, pops the painkillers and drinks half of the glass of water, and pushes his bedroom door open. There's a good smell wafting from the kitchen and a sticky note on top of the lid of his frying pan:

Hungry Hippo,

Work called, so I have to go. Take the painkillers!

Love,
Sungryong~

It's just Sungryong's brand of ridiculous and annoying. Seo Yul snorts and then winces when the action makes his head throb.

The pancake in the frying pan is in the shape of a heart.

--

Seo Yul doesn't actually see Sungryong very often nowadays. Even when they worked in the same building, they would only see each other a few times a week - now, with Sungryong busy managing a club a half hour's car ride away, and Seo Yul spending every spare minute building defenses for his existing cases or looking through new ones, they only meet to get drinks every once in a while.

This doesn't mean, though, that they're very far apart.

> Gangster Psycho: are u awake ???

Seo Yul scowls and turns his phone off. The judge takes her seat at the bench and raps her gavel against the wooden base: it's a not guilty verdict, as expected as one of the top up-and-coming new law firms in Seoul.

He walks out into the lobby after shaking hands with his satisfied client, a rare smile on his face -

And runs right into Prosecutor Han.

"Donghoon?" He says, surprised.

"Seo-sunbae," Han Donghoon says, smiling at him. He's fully decked out in his prosecutor's robes. "How have you been?"

"Well enough. Did you come in for a trial today?"

"Yeah, my trial for the day just finished. I had plans to get lunch with someone before I went back to the office, but he's a little late."

Seo Yul nods in exaggerated understanding.

"I hate it when people are late for meals," he says.

"Donghoon!" A voice - a very familiar voice - calls. "Sorry I'm late, traffic was a mother-"

Sungryong jogs up to their little group and stops in his tracks. Seo Yul stares at him.

"I didn't know you two were still in touch," Seo Yul says.

"Well..." Donghoon smiles awkwardly - Sungryong slings an arm around his shoulders.

"Of course!" He says, his grin as bright as the sun and slick as an oil spill at the same time. "Who else would I reminisce about the good old Gunsan times with?"

"You're back in the gangster business," Seo Yul points out.

"But I'm running a clean ship," Sungryong says, and winks at him.

"Do you want to join us for lunch, Seo-sunbae?" Donghoon asks, politely. Something about his eyes and his bowl cut make everything he does seem polite.

"No, he can't," Sungryong cuts in, looking at him. "I made reservations for two already. Plus, he's been ignoring my caring morning-after texts."

Sungryong, childish, makes a face. Seo Yul glares at him.

"I don't want to spend any more time with the gangster than strictly necessary," he lies, adjusting his grip on his briefcase - his eyes linger on Sungryong's arm, settled comfortably around Donghoon's shoulder.

--

"This is below me," Seo Yul says aloud.

Professional curiosity, he tells himself. He pulls up his rarely-used SNS app and opens Sungryong's page - as he'd predicted, the most recent update is a picture of Donghoon. The restaurant looks high-end. There's a candle on the table. Seo Yul doesn't think he's ever seen Sungryong eat with a fork and a knife.

"That looks good," he mutters, frowning at his screen. His stomach growls in annoyance.

--

"Aren't you hungry?" Sungryong asks, mouth full. "You not eating is like..."

Seo Yul doesn't give him the time to finish his sentence. He glares at him and swallows a mouthful of soup.

"Stuff it," he says.

Sungryong raises his eyebrows.

"Are you mad about something?" He asks. "Are you sulking?"

Seo Yul's glare sharpens - the muscle in his jaw jumps. He shoves another spoon of soup in his mouth.

"Don't make fun of me," he mutters. "I'm not sulking."

Sungryong shrugs.

"I bet your assistant quit again. I bet she got fed up of fetching Chinese takeout for you."

"She didn't, and I don't make her do that! You're so annoying."

"Then rats must have gotten into your stash of chocolate bars and ate through the whole thing."

"Do you think my whole life revolves around food?"

"Of course! You're the starving sociopath."

Seo Yul makes to whack him with his spoon.

--

A week later, Seo Yul is actually on work-related business, dropping by the prosecutor's office to get some information from Donghoon about a current case. This is the first time he'll be facing off against Donghoon in the courtroom. To be honest, he's not looking forward to it. As much as he hates to admit it, his dim-witted junior has become a formidable prosecutor in his own right.

"Oh," Hong Gaeun says, blinking up at him from her desk when he walks through the door. "Attorney Seo? Why are you here?"

"I need to talk to Donghoon about the Chinese immigrant case," he says. "Is he around?"

Gaeun frowns.

"I think he stepped out for a minute. He should be back soon..."

"Alright. I'll wait for him here, then."

Seo Yul, hands in the pockets of his perfectly tailored suit slacks - navy blue with a tastefully gold-accented tie and pocket square - makes his way to the other side of Donghoon's desk. He sits in the plush black rolling chair and spreads his hands over his junior's desk.

"Tidy as always," he murmurs.

A box catches his eye - pastel pink, wrapped with a white bow, out of place in a sea of manila and copier paper - his nose twitches at the familiar scent of baked goods. He pulls it towards him and peeks under the lid. A paper falls out of the side. The box contains a handful of delicate, fresh-smelling macarons. Seo Yul picks up the note:

Prosecutor Han,

Thanks for the other day~
Take a break every once in a while!

Sungryong

Seo Yul raises his eyebrows. A muscle in his cheek twitches. He opens the box and takes a bite out of a green macaron - the crunch is satisfying but fleeting under his teeth. He grinds the pastry between his molars and licks the sugar off his hands.

--

He shouldn't be angry. Seo Yul jerks the steering wheel more harshly than strictly necessary. The sun is setting outside - the meeting with the prosecution had taken longer than he had thought - and the red shine of car brake lights is starting to glow against the purpling sky.

"Why am I so annoyed?" He mutters to himself, glaring out the windshield. "It's none of my business. I must be hungry."

He stops at a red light and digs in his glove compartment for a candy bar. He tears the wrapping open with his teeth and feels the familiar crunch of wafers between his jaws, but the taste of almond macarons won't leave his mouth.

"After everything I've done for him. Why doesn't he send me sweets?"

Seo Yul finishes his candy bar and crumples the wrapper in his fist.

--

"Why are you in such a foul mood?" Hakyung asks him, flipping the pieces of pork belly on the grill.

They've finished at the batting cages - he's still not very good at it, though he'll hit the occasional home run. Hakyung is much better. It comes from a lifetime of taking out suppressed rage on those poor baseballs, Seo Yul thinks.

"I'm not," Seo Yul says.

"Have you looked in a mirror? Your glare could burn this meat to a crisp."

Seo Yul frowns at her.

"Do I look that angry?" He mutters, and pinches the bridge of his nose for one long moment. Hakyung watches him curiously. He inhales - exhales - inhales again, for good measure, and asks, "Isn't it rude to not appreciate someone as much as you should?"

Hakyung raises her eyebrows.

"What are you talking about?"

"I mean," Seo Yul says, awkward, looking almost as out-of-his-depth as she's ever seen him. "I - I mean, my friend - knows this other person. He's always helping this person out, and they've helped him a little in return, and they smile at him all the time, and kiss him, but they're also way nicer to someone else who didn't help nearly as much."

Hakyung puts a piece of pork belly in her mouth and chews.

"You," she starts. "I mean, your friend... seems like he's jealous."

Seo Yul chokes on his drink.

"Jealous?!" He exclaims. "Of what?"

"Well, of the other person who's being appreciated," Hakyung says, like it's obvious. "I mean, that he's being treated better."

"Oh," Seo Yul says, relaxing into his chair. "Right. That's normal, isn't it?"

Hakyung raises an eyebrow.

"But why does your friend care so much? That's the real question."

Seo Yul frowns.

"Isn't it natural to want to get due respect for your contributions?" He says, completely straight-faced.

--

"There's a rumor that Prosecutor Han is dating another man," Gaeun whispers in Seo Yul's ear, making him jump.

"Christ," Seo Yul says. "Do you have to sneak up on me like that?"

"Sneak up? You weren't paying attention at all."

Hong Gaeun's doe-eyed, pink-flushed face of innocence blinks down at him.

"I was busy thinking about a case," Seo Yul lies. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Weren't you poking around his desk for clues the other day?"

Seo Yul's cheeks heat up. Gaeun may have the roundest, purest-intentioned face known to man, but she's still a prosecutor's detective. Her eye for detail is sometimes frightening.

"No one knows who it is, though," Gaeun continues, tapping one finger against her pout, arms crossed. "The office betting pool is getting rea-lly antsy with the lack of information."

"There's an office betting pool?"

"Apparently they used to bet on you a lot."

Seo Yul glares.

"Those jerks," he says.

"Anyways," Gaeun says, leaning in again, "do you know who it is?"

"Why would I know that?"

"You're the only one who read the note in that pastry box. Prosecutor Han didn't let anyone else see it."

The note had been Sungryong. A note thanking Dongsoon for "the other day". Sungryong's arm around Donghoon's shoulders. A reservation for two at a nice restaurant.

That odd feeling billows up in his stomach again - like the feeling he'd gotten as a kid when someone else had gotten an extra candy. He taps his pen against his desk thoughtlessly.

"Attorney Seo?" Gaeun says.

"Huh?" Seo Yul says, his gaze jerking back to her face. "Oh. It... didn't have a name."

He doesn't know why he's telling a fib about something as stupid as this. He should just say Donghoon is dating Sungryong. He's just feeling embarrassed that he hadn't known Donghoon swung that way, he tells himself - it's obvious that Sungryong had been interested in men from day one, just from the way he talks and the way he flirts, but he's known his junior for a while and it's a little miffing to not know something like that.

It's none of his business. Seo Yul doesn't care. If they want to do that gay stuff, as long as Sungryong isn't trying to kiss him anymore, or lock them into his weird attic room together to curl around him like an octopus, he couldn't give less of a rat's ass.

"Oh, okay," Gaeun says, looking a little disappointed.

She blinks at him.

"Attorney Seo? Uh... your pen exploded."

Black ink leaks all over his white-knuckled grip and the documents he had been reviewing. Seo Yul's life is an abject mess.

--

The sky is completely dark by the time Seo Yul gets off work. Funnily enough, he goes home later now that he owns his own practice than he did when he was working at both the Prosecutor's Office and TQ Group.

Seo Yul tucks one hand in his jacket pocket, letting the other hang at his side, fingers keeping their grip on his briefcase. His breath fogs in the air. He stops at a tteokbokki stand on his way down the street and buys a bag of steaming rice cakes.

"Oh, this is good," he says to himself, poking a skewer into the plastic dish and spearing another rice cake. Steam billows from the plate. "I'm starving."

The rice cake is chewy between his teeth and sticks to his gums - he takes another bite and breathes out, watching his breath condense and dissolve into the night air.

He's gotten rather fond of eating with Sungryong, whenever they have the chance, even though he would never admit it. Sungryong will call him a glutton, and smile at him, and order him another portion. Seo Yul has been so busy crushing all of his coworkers underfoot in his efforts to get to the top that he's never seen the value in personal friendships. It helps that Sungryong is just as crazy as he is.

"Geez," Seo Yul mutters to himself, pausing his eating to look out at the street. "Why am I thinking about him again?"

His thoughts go back to Donghoon. He scoffs. Poor Donghoon. If he can't see that Sungryong is a conman, and a slimeball, and an outrageous flirt, then that's his problem.

He stuffs another piece of tteokbokki into his mouth.

--

"How did it work out with your friend?" Haekyung asks, curiosity bright in her eyes for as much as she tries to act mature. She raises her eyebrows. "The jealous one."

Seo Yul clears his throat.

"Uh," he says. "It's fine. I guess. I mean, it's stupid to expect proper compensation from an idiot, anyways."

"Right," Hakyung says. The tone of her voice implies that she casually does not believe a single word he's saying. She's good at that kind of thing.

Another thing she happens to be good at: Hakyung knows exactly what Seo Yul's alcohol tolerance is, and exactly when he gets to the point where he's prone to spill all his secrets. She plies him with a few glasses of soju and he's leaning over the table, pale face flushed, glaring into his bowl of noodles.

"What's with that guy?" He mutters. "I mean, he doesn't swing that way, but I - I mean, my friend, is way more attractive than the other guy."

"Mmm-hmm," Hakyung says.

"He's not gay, though," Seo Yul continues, oblivious, head tipping to one side, "so even if that idiot wanted to go and buy him sweets and take him to nice restaurants, he would only go because of the food, ha-haa."

"Mmm-hmm."

"Who goes around kissing random people, anyways?" Seo Yul says, under his breath. "Touching them, and telling them they're his, and making stupid jokes, and saying he'll wait for them..."

"Seo Yul."

"Huh?"

"I think," Hakyung says, taking a breath, because she's been drinking a little as well, but her gaze is steadier than her companion's. "I think you have a problem."

"Problem, my foot," Seo Yul snorts, taking another gulp from his glass. "What problem?"

Hakyung inhales.

"So, at the batting cage," she starts, jabbing one finger into the tabletop to emphasize her point. "At the batting cage, you know how you couldn't hit the ball at first."

Seo Yul groans.

"You sucked at baseball," Hakyung continues, squeezing her eyes shut. "You sucked so bad."

"Stuff it."

"And the reason you sucked... so bad... was because you never looked at the ball when you swung."

"It's hard to see...! It's moving so fast."

"Exactly." Hakyung shakes her head and a little clarity seems to return to her. "So because you never looked properly at the ball, you couldn't hit it, even if you wanted to in your heart."

"What are you talking about?"

Hakyung sighs in frustration.

"You wanted to hit the ball, right?" She says. "Seo Yul... you have to look at the things that you want in order to get them."

"What?" Seo Yul snorts. "I don't want anything."

Hakyung looks at him with a mix of sympathy and something bordering on pity in her eyes.

--

"Hi, honey," Sungryong says when Seo Yul picks up the phone.

"I'm hanging up," Seo Yul says.

"Hey! Hey, wait - you're so mean, you know that?"

"How is that mean? You're the weird one."

"I'm not weird, I'm charming," Sungryong argues. He's probably wearing that stupid faux-offended expression, Seo Yul thinks, and almost smiles. "I'm in your area for work. Want to get lunch?"

"Are you paying?"

"I knew it. The gluttonous sociopath would never let up a chance to make me pay for a meal."

"You're the one inviting me!"

"If you don't want to -"

"I never said that," Seo Yul backtracks, embarrassingly hasty. "I'll come. You know a place?"

--

"Why are you sulking?" Sungryong asks, pointing his chopsticks at Seo Yul's face.

"I'm not," Seo Yul sulks.

"You definitely are."

"I'm not!"

"Is there not enough food?" Sungryong laughs. "Hurry up and eat."

Seo Yul glares at him and eats another spoonful of his soup rice.

"You're so annoying," he says, swallowing with a vengeance. "Why are you so cheap?"

"Cheap?" Sungryong says, offended. "Is that something to say to the person paying?"

Nothing about Sungryong's look has changed, aside from the shift in dress code from business suits to popped collars and wide lapels. Nothing to indicate that he's "getting it" on the regular. Seo Yul's eyes linger on his exposed collarbones. No obvious hickeys, at least. Even though Sungryong seems like a shameless exhibitionist.

Seo Yul stops that train of thought in its tracks. He doesn't need to think about it, even if Sungryong's every movement basically screams "I am a tease in bed."

Seo Yul stops that one, too. He doesn't need to think about that either.

"Seo Yul?" Sungryong says, waving chopsticks in front of his eyes. "Earth to the Hungry One."

"Shut up," Seo Yul says on instinct.

"You shut up."

"You shut up first."

--

Seo Yul vividly remembers his first and only kiss. It was after college. A work friend had insisted on setting him up on a blind date. His date - a pretty woman with a bold personality - had been extremely taken with him, and had planted one on him unexpectedly at the end of their outing. It had been vaguely wet, and lukewarm, and tasted like the steak she had had at the restaurant.

Needless to say, after that, Seo Yul hadn't pursued romance very far.

Sungryong kisses him on the cheek at the end of their dinner. Seo Yul pushes him away and crinkles his nose and makes an annoyed noise, as usual, but an uncomfortable sensation squirms in the pit of his stomach.

He shouldn't be surprised. Physical contact is nothing to Sungryong, after all. All the little gestures and touches don't mean anything to him, and it's only recently that the slimy little thought that Seo Yul might want them to mean something has been slithering around his brain.

Until now, it's been easy. He had thought the twist in his gut whenever Sungryong had winked at him or blown him a kiss had been disgust - repulsion at him being so obscenely expressive in public, especially with another man. All he needed to do was push him away. Sungryong always smiles when he's rebuffed. It's easy to think that there's no sincerity in his actions. Seo Yul has seen Sungryong crying, and desperate, and consumed with righteous fury - he knows what his true face looks like beneath the cocky smile - so the kisses and the flirting has never seemed like anything other than another part of his subversive facade.

In his bed, later that night, curled up in his pajamas, slightly tipsy - he and Sungryong had had a drink or two with dinner - Seo Yul presses his face into his pillow. His chest hurts. It's just heartburn from the alcohol, he thinks. He should stop drinking so much.

It's indecent. Sungryong pressing a kiss to his cheek when he's sending love notes to a prosecutor in Seoul, as though he thinks Seo Yul is a fool. It's uncomfortable. Seo Yul feels vaguely like he's been conned. The mental image of Sungryong kissing Donghoon on the mouth and linking their arms together sweetly makes his blood run warm. Sparks of displeasure light up his spine at the thought.

He makes a noise of discontent and pulls his knees closer to his chest.

--

"Are you okay?" Sungryong asks him over the phone the next morning. "I heard you went drinking with Hakyung earlier this week, too."

"Mmgh. Whose fault is that."

"Don't be such a baby. Take an aspirin. Did you eat breakfast?"

"Who are you, my mother?"

"You complain so much," Sungryong sighs. There's the muffled sound of traffic - he must already be at work. Seo Yul is still sitting propped up in bed, squinting against the light from his window. "Drink some water, butthead."

"Don't call me a butthead, you idiot," Seo Yul mutters, kicking his blankets off and getting off his mattress. His head spins a little when he stands up. He makes his way to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of water, and drinks it, like Sungryong tells him to. It's good to give his mouth something to do. In this state, he's a little afraid he might say something crazy like please break up with your boyfriend, because I think I might be in love with you.

Sungryong would probably laugh his lungs out and hang up. Seo Yul comforts himself with that thought.

--

"I think owning your own practice has done wonders for your temper," Hakyung says, glancing around his office.

"I'm miserable," Seo Yul moans.

It's mostly the hangover. It's partly the hangover. It's partly the fact that Sungryong had made those stupid little kissing noises into the phone speaker before he had hung up, and Seo Yul had sat at his kitchen table for a solid minute and a half afterwards, feeling his heart try and beat its way out of his chest.

"I feel like throwing up," he mumbles.

"You really can't hold your liquor," Hakyung comments unhelpfully.

He kicks the leg of his table. A pile of papers next to his head threatens to topple and make a mess of the entire office. His forehead is pressed into the cool, unforgiving wood of his desk.

"It was you, wasn't it? The jealous 'friend'."

Seo Yul makes a noise of annoyance.

"If it helps, I don't think Chief Kim is straight."

"Jesus."

Hakyung nudges a trash can a few inches closer to him with her foot.

"That's not the issue," Seo Yul mutters. "What's so great about Donghoon? I used to be a prosecutor, too."

--

Since the way Seo Yul deals with most of his emotions is completely repressing them until they disappear, he tries to ignore the newfound beating of his heart and fluttering of his stomach as much as possible. It's impossible to ignore Kim Sungryong himself - even if it were possible, Seo Yul has become reluctantly attached to their tenuous relationship. Instead, he reminds himself, constantly, that he must be fucking insane.

Liking Sungryong is completely crazy. Seo Yul has never been so swayed away from the path of the sane and logical. Even when he had helped the man to take down TQ Group, it had been mostly in his own self-interest. Nothing about the situation makes sense.

"Does he have to post so many pictures?" Seo Yul mumbles. Sungryong had only started to use social media recently, but he seems infatuated with it. Seo Yul scrolls through his profile for the dozenth time, slumped behind his desk. "Isn't this too cruel?"

"Attorney Seo?" His assistant says. He looks up. "Here are the files about the wrongful eviction suit you asked for."

"Oh," he says, shutting his phone off and sitting up abruptly in his seat. "Thank you, just leave it over there."

She sets the manila folder down on his desk.

--

"Is there something on my face?" Sungryong says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He has no manners. He's messy and annoying. Seo Yul is staring at him.

"Huh? Oh. No."

Seo Yul takes a bite out of his sandwich in embarrassment.

"You're acting weird lately," Sungryong says, cocking his head, with that look in his eye that means he's curious but not trying to be blatant about it. "Something happen?"

"No," Seo Yul scoffs, lying. "I've just been busy. That's all."

"You're always busy." Sungryong has, apparently, decided not to drop the subject. "Are you sick? Are you dying? Want me to kiss it better?"

He winks raunchily at Seo Yul. Usually Seo Yul would frown at him, or make a disgruntled noise - today he can feel his face turning red. Sungryong blinks at him.

"Are you actually sick?" He asks. "Your face looks red."

"I said I'm not!" Seo Yul exclaims, embarrassed. "Mind your own business."

Sungryong looks intrigued. That's the last thing Seo Yul needs.

"You're keeping a secret from me. Brave, Hungry Hippo."

Seo Yul resists the urge to throw something at him. Has Sungryong's smile always been that lopsidedly charming? Has the open-necked gangster collar always showed off his clavicle in such an appealing way?

Seo Yul is accustomed to lusting for power, but not for anything else. He's familiar with the need to subject others to his will, but not the desire to be wanted by someone else. Kim Sungryong is entirely new territory to him for the second time.

"Seo Yul?" Sungryong waves a hand in front of his face.

"Huh?" He says, unusually distracted. "Oh."

Sungryong frowns at him.

--

"I think I've passed the denial stage of grief," Seo Yul says.

"Is that a good thing?" Hakyung asks.

"No. Absolutely not."

"Why?"

Seo Yul throws his pen across the room. It clatters against the wall and falls to the carpeted floor with an underwhelming sound.

"Fuck this," he says. "Why does this have to happen to me?"

"Why does everyone except me have a love life?" Hakyung says.

"It's not all it's chalked up to be," Seo Yul mutters.

--

He starts to think it's a way of the universe making him pay for his sins. There's been a lot. It's only fair, he supposes. If suffering through unrequited attraction to the worst person possible for the rest of his life is his penalty, then it's his cross to bear.

He tells himself this when he sees another photo of Sungryong and Donghoon together on a weekend - it's karma, or something like that. It had taken Kim Sungryong's appearance and intervention in his life to turn him, accidentally, into a halfway decent person. However many bad deeds Sungryong has done in his life, Seo Yul has undoubtedly done that and then some.

So that's it. The whirlwind of unfamiliar feelings that have been swirling around in Seo Yul's body starts to calm once he accepts it. He's left with a profound sense of peace like he hasn't felt since he was a child. When he understands his feelings, and tells himself that they are one-sided and impossible, Sungryong's casual flirtings become much easier to bear.

They've known each other long enough to become something like friends, after all. Sungryong's obsession with him had been to bring him over from the side of the enemy and to transform him into an ally. There's no ulterior motive. The rest is just how Kim Sungryong behaves.

--

Unfortunately, at the exact moment that Seo Yul simultaneously accepts his feelings and decides to repress them as deeply as possible, the universe apparently decides to take its screwing with him up a couple notches.

"Seo Yul," Sungryong whines over the phone.

"I'm busy," Seo Yul says, familiar by now with the way his chest contracts whenever Sungryong is being ridiculous.

"Want to get dinner?" Sungryong asks. He's been aggressively contacting Seo Yul for the past few weeks. Seo Yul enjoys it as much as possible, but work comes first in every situation.

"Isn't it late? Your club is at least half an hour from my office, too."

"Surprise!"

Seo Yul pauses. His pen stops moving across paper.

"What?" He says.

There's a knock at his office door. His assistant has gone home for the day already.

There's a click as the door latch opens. Sungryong's grinning face pokes out from behind the door.

"I'm here!"

Seo Yul hangs up the phone.

"Christ," he says, paying no attention to the way his stomach flutters and a smile tries to fight its way to his face. "Why are you here? You didn't even know if I'd still be at the office."

"Of course you would be. You're a workaholic."

"I'm not a workaholic."

"You're a food-aholic, too."

"Shut up."

Sungryong walks up to his desk, hands in his pockets, still smiling.

"Dinner?" He asks for the second time.

Seo Yul glares at him.

Sungryong loops his arm through Seo Yul's and pulls him away from his desk - his palm comes to rest on the back of Seo Yul's hand, and he feels a warm rush flood through his entire body, from his toes to the tips of his ears. Sungryong tugs him away from his desk chair and grabs his tan overcoat from the coat hanger.

"Don't you have anyone else to eat with?" Seo Yul protests weakly.

"Of course I do," Sungryong says, releasing his hand, pushing the jacket into Seo Yul's arms and waiting expectantly.

Seo Yul, in the middle of pulling one of the arms of his jacket on, pauses.

"Aah," he says, joking. "So you just like me so much that you drive the half hour to come and eat cheap food with me."

"Mm," Sungryong says, unfaltering, looking him directly in the eyes. "That's it."

Seo Yul blinks.

"What?"

Sungryong smiles at him. It's not his charming, charismatic smile - the one that he shows when he wants to get something - or his wild one - the one he shows when he's in a crazy pinch. It's just a smile. It softens his face and the usually sharp slant of his mouth.

It makes Seo Yul want to kiss him.

"Let's go," Sungryong says, clapping him on the shoulder.

--

Sungryong drives - it turns out he had parked his dumpy little car just outside of Seo Yul's office. When he turns down the third street, Seo Yul knows exactly where they're going - a pork belly shop close to his apartment. They've become regulars together.

"Ma'am," Sungryong calls out to the bushy-haired lady in the apron at the counter. "Can we get two portions of pork belly and some soju?"

"I can't drink too much," Seo Yul says, sitting down. "I have a witness meeting tomorrow morning."

"Alright, alright," Sungryong says.

They cook the meat and have a few glasses - conversation with Sungryong is oddly comfortable as ever. He smiles at Seo Yul and pours him drinks and teases him.

"Oh, Seo Yul," Sungryong laughs, when Seo Yul is complaining about one of his clients. "You are so cute."

"Cut it out," Seo Yul says, frowning. He may be a little tipsy - just barely enough to loosen his tongue. "You make me so..."

"Hmm?" Sungryong says. "I say it because it's true."

"You are so annoying," Seo Yul feels flushed. His face is warm. "I don't know why I..."

"Like me so much?" Sungryong says, winking.

"This is why!" Seo Yul exclaims suddenly, nearly shouting in the restaurant, a flash of his old temper coming back. When he looks at Sungryong, the look in his eyes is a little desperate and a little sad. "You're like this all the time, and I know it's a joke to you, but this is why I'm... in love with you."

The last few words come out like gas from a deflating balloon. Seo Yul exhales and pours himself another drink. There's a moment of awkward silence.

"Just," he says, heart pounding, stomach roiling, unable to meet Sungryong's eyes, "forget what I just said."

Sungryong doesn't say anything. Seo Yul's face is a humiliated red. He swallows his drink and reaches to pour himself another shot.

"Why," Sungryong says, voice low, "would I do that?"

Seo Yul looks at him.

"Huh?" He says.

"I mean," Sungryong says, leaning forward on the table, over the pork belly that's burning on the barbecue grill, "why would I do that?"

"Oh, right," Seo Yul mutters. "You're going to hold it over my head forever and ever, because you're an ass."

"No, I mean," Sungryong says, getting a little more frustrated, "why would I forget that? I've been in love with you for the past year and a half."

Seo Yul blinks at him.

"What?" He says.

"I've been trying to seduce you this entire time," Sungryong says, as though it should be obvious.

"What?"

"Do you have dust in your ears?"

"No, I don't," Seo Yul retorts on instinct. He frowns. "What's happening right now? What about Donghoon?"

"Donghoon?" Sungryong asks. "What does he have to do with anything?"

"I thought you two wee dating."

"What? Are you stupid?"

"Don't call me stupid."

"Donghoon has a boyfriend already, you idiot."

Seo Yul raises his eyebrows.

"He does?"

"Mm."

"Oh."

The two of them lapse into silence.

"Have you been jealous this entire time?" Sungryong asks, breaking the silence. He leans back in his seat. "Is that why you've been acting so weird?"

"Definitely not!" Seo Yul protests, even though it's true. "I've just been..."

"Busy." Sungryong eyes him. "Right."

"I mean," Seo Yul says, feeling a hot flush rise to his cheeks. "You took him to fancy restaurants, and sent him macarons."

Sungryong frowns.

"Are you jealous of the food or of him?" He grumbles.

"Shut up."

Sungryong stands up abruptly.

"Let's go," he says, grabbing Seo Yul's hand across the table.

"Huh?" Seo Yul says. "Hey, there's still food-"

Sungryong drops a few bills on the table and drags him out of the restaurant by the hand. He barely manages to grab his coat on the way out.

"Fuck, it's cold," Seo Yul says, stumbling after Sungryong, who still hasn't let go of his hand. "What is it? Why are we out here?"

Sungryong pulls him to the side of the sidewalk - he takes one, two steps into Seo Yul's personal space, until they're almost pressed together.

"If I'd kissed you in there, you would've yelled at me," Sungryong says, helplessly - he slips one hand around Seo Yul's shoulder and the other up his neck, and presses their lips together.

It's not the cheeky kisses that Sungryong has given him when he's trying to be smart, or the ones that are meant to tease and provoke him. Sungryong's mouth is warm and soft against his. His bottom lip is slightly chapped.

"Mm," Seo Yul says, surprised.

Sungryong doesn't push - Seo Yul relaxes ever so slightly into him. His eyes flutter closed. For his second-ever kiss, it's not bad, Seo Yul thinks in whatever corner of his brain isn't currently completely shut down. He starts, slowly, to kiss him back.

Sungryong abruptly pulls away.

"Oh, it's cold," He says, eyes wide, cheeks pink. "I'm fucking freezing."

"You fucking idiot," Seo Yul says.

His eyes are fixed on Sungryong's mouth. His lips are just a little bit redder than usual. Now that Seo Yul knows what they feel like, he doesn't think he can hold back his urge to know more.

"Where's your jacket?" Sungryong asks, moving away to look at Seo Yul at arm's length.

"Oh," Seo Yul says. He'd dropped it when Sungryong had kissed him. Sungryong bends down to pick it up and dusts the dirt off of it.

They look at each other.

"You are," Seo Yul says. "So fucking crazy."

"Mm," Sungryong says. He leans over to drape the jacket over Seo Yul's shoulders. "Want to go for dessert?"