When did Wonpil know he was gay, some people ask. He always tells them that he isn't really sure himself, that he kind of just wasn't ever attracted to girls. And this isn't a lie. But it isn't the truth either. Wonpil knows exactly when he realized that he didn't like girls, and it was two months into ninth grade.
Beforehand, he had never contemplated that he might like guys. He just didn't think about, period. But one night, he's hanging out with his best friend since sixth grade, Jae. They're at Wonpil's house, waiting for Jae's sister to get off of work so she can pick Jae up. Wonpil is playing the piano, a piece of music he personally composed and wanted to show Jae. Jae had said it was amazing, and it was. He wanted to learn how to play it on his guitar, even. But he didn't bring his guitar, so he settled for learning it on the piano.
"Not that key, Jae. This one," Wonpil says for the fifth time that night, taking one of Jae's hand and shifting it over a few notes. Jae presses down on the key Wonpil directed him to.
"Okay, okay, let me try again," Jae says in English. He shifts his hands back to the starting position, pushes down on a the first keys and from there, everything falls naturally. Wonpil watches Jae's fingers move from key to key, imitating the movements Wonpil taught him but adding his own flair to it. Wonpil hears the melody in the background, but all he can actually think about is how nice Jae's hands look against the black and white piano keys.
Wonpil is snapped out of his thoughts when the short song comes to an end. Jae's fingers rest on the piano keys and he looks at Wonpil, a wide grin on his face. "I did it, Pillie. A little slow but just you wait. Someday I'll be better than you at piano, I think," Jae says.
"Save some talent for the rest of us, will you," Wonpil replied, looking up from the piano keys, unaware of just how close he actually was to Jae. And when he's sitting up, he's face to face with Jae. Jae is surprised as well evidently, but neither of them make any moves to shift away. They just sit there, a comfortable silence washing over them.
The two take in each other's features for a moment before, Jae is shifting in his seat. He's not moving away, if anything he's getting closer. "Wonpil," Jae says quietly, breaking the silence.
"Yeah?" Wonpil had answered, voice volume low as well. He found himself looking at Jae's plump lips for perhaps a second too long. He looked up at Jae's eyes, adoration swimming in the brown orbs and Wonpil didn't know if it was Jae's actual feelings or just the current mood. He didn't care in the moment, he just knew he wanted Jae to look at him like that forever.
"Can I...," Jae started, sounding unsure, because he was. He paused, Wonpil didn't interrupt. He waited patiently, one second, then two and three. His eyes glance down at Jae's lips again, as though it will make Jae say what he needs to say. And it does, or, it seems like does as Jae finally speaks. "Can I kiss you?" Jae asked.
Wonpil can't remember if he was surprised or not, he just remembers that it felt so natural. His eyes went back to Jae's. "Yes. Please. Please kiss me," Wonpil said, and he saw Jae's pink lips curl up into a smile. And then he was closing his eyes and he was leaning closer to Wonpil and Wonpil was closing his eyes.
At first, the kiss was awkward. Prior to this day, neither of the boys had had their first kisses. Jae had gone on one 'date' in eighth grade with a girl who became his girlfriend for a week before she decided she didn't like him anymore. Wonpil had no experience with romance. Neither of the two knew what they were doing, in short, and it kind of showed. Both were afraid to make any move, but eventually Jae went for it, tilting his head a bit so he could kiss Wonpil better. Their kissing obviously still needed work, but evidently neither of the two cared. The smiles etched onto their faces was proof of this.
Wonpil couldn't tell you what Jae was thinking, what Jae felt. But if you had asked him what he was thinking, he would tell you that he was thinking about doing it again. He would tell you that he liked it probably a lot more than one should like kissing their best friend. He would tell you that he wished it were something they did more often. Maybe not all of the time, but enough of the time.
Wonpil would also tell you that he was pretty disappointed when his sister walked into the room to announce that Jae's older sister had finally arrived and it was time for Jae to go. She rose an eyebrow at the close proximity of the two, but she knew her brother and that he could be rather affectionate. She assumed it was nothing special and proceeded to leave.
Jae stood up, grabbed his backpack. His cheeks were tinted pink and Wonpil was sure his were the same way. "So, uh, see you tomorrow?" Jae had asked.
"Tomorrow is Saturday," Wonpil replied.
"Yeah, I know. See you tomorrow," Jae said.
"Okay, sure. See you tomorrow," Wonpil echoed Jae's words of good bye, coming to the understanding that Jae was inviting him to hang out the following day.
From then on, the kiss was never mentioned again nor did it ever happen again. There was no discussion of feelings or thoughts or relationships. It was almost as if it had never happened. But it did, and feelings happened as well as thoughts. The only thing that didn't happen was relationships. Jae and Wonpil didn't grow apart, but they didn't get closer either. They remained best friends, no homo bro but I would kiss you implied but never outright stated.
And Wonpil might think he had a chance with Jae. If the other hadn't steadily grown popular shortly after they joined high school. Three months in, Jae had made friends with a girl named Jimin who went to a different middle school. She had at least a billion friends, who ended up becoming Jae's friends too. Jae never left Wonpil behind of course, because how could he? Wonpil always his number one platonically, girls and boys that also had a thing for Jae would always remind Wonpil. And these boys and girls were utter assholes. But they were sweet when Jae was around and they were pretty and smart enough. They had confidence, talent. They knew what they wanted and they seemed to know what everyone else wanted too. How could Wonpil measure up to them? In his eyes, he can't. He didn't stand a chance against them.
So, he gives up. And what's the best way to get over your best friend/first love? Wonpil didn't know. He had zero experience in anything that even just barely skimmed the surface of romance. But then the answer comes to him, and it comes to him in the form of a ravenette drummer in the music club. Yoon Dowoon.
Dowoon had taken to Wonpil during the winter of freshman year. He asked Wonpil out on a date in January, and Wonpil accepted. He had fallen in love with Jae over a kiss, or so he thought. If that were the case, he could fall in love with Dowoon over some small affection and cheesy scenes you might see in a romance movie too, right?
Wonpil and Dowoon go on a date to the fair. It's rolled into town which is the reason Dowoon asked Wonpil out when he did. Wonpil is sure that there are a million opportunities at the fair for him to slowly but surely fall for Dowoon. But it isn't happening for some reason. Maybe nothing was intimate enough, maybe it's because Wonpil is trying to force himself to like Dowoon. So Wonpil relaxes as they get prepared for the last ride their six tickets will let them ride. That is, the ferris wheel.
And it's perfect because the sun is setting and the fairgrounds are in what might as well be the center of town. It's going to be a beautiful sight, Wonpil can already tell. Almost as beautiful as the voice calling his name-
Wait, Wonpil would recognize that beautiful voice anywhere. He turns and sees Jae. He wasn't expecting this. He should have. There is no reason for him to be surprised, honestly, but he is. "Pillie!" Jae says once more when he reaches Wonpil and Dowoon.
"So this is why you rejected my offer to go to the fair together? You could have told me it was a date instead of leaving me on read," Jae said, a small laugh leaving his lips. Wonpil bites his lip to stop himself from saying that he didn't want Jae to know he was on a date. Not because he's embarrassed and definitely not because he's uncomfortable talking to Jae but because... Wonpil isn't quite certain why. But he doesn't have to say anything. As quickly as he unexpectedly showed up, he is leaving.
A girl from school that Wonpil doesn't know is calling Jae back. It looks like Jae ended up going with some other people. Wonpil knows a few of them, one is his ex girlfriend from eighth grade that came back suddenly. Then there's Kevin, Jimin, and that girl that called out to Jae that Wonpil doesn't know. "Jae, come on you chicken! We're going through the haunted house!" Jae winces.
"Okay, I'm coming!" he yells back to her. He faces Wonpil again. "I'll see you at school, Pillie. Bye," Jae says as he turns around and runs to catch up with his four friends.
"Bye Jae!" Wonpil calls after him before looking at Dowoon. Dowoon is watching Jae's retreating figure. "Dowoon?"
"Oh. Yeah, it's just. I could have sworn you two... Never mind. It's nothing."
Wonpil doesn't fall in love with Dowoon. Instead he finds himself wondering if Jae will get back with his ex. He and Dowoon end the night on a good note though, Dowoon telling Wonpil that he should definitely "Go for it before it's too late. You might end up regretting it if you don't go for it." He doesn't say what 'it' is, but Wonpil knows. He denies it, but deep down he knows.
Jae hasn't gotten with his ex girlfriend again. But there are rumors that they will, that he likes her still and that she is going to ask him out again soon. Wonpil knows better. Because Jae tells Wonpil that he is currently in love with a male. Wonpil hopes it is him. But Wonpil knows better. It's clear that Jae wants Wonpil to ask who Jae is interested in. But Wonpil doesn't, because he isn't ready yet. He hasn't fallen out of love with Jae.
But when Park Sungjin, his Japanese 1 deskmate, asks him to go to the Valentine's dance with him, Wonpil agrees. This time, Jae isn't going. Jae doesn't have a date, he tells Wonpil that the guy he likes has a date already. He says he doesn't want to go to the dance just to watch the person he likes be with someone else.
Wonpil has learned something from his date with Dowoon. Just let things flow naturally. Don't force yourself to try to like your date. And Wonpil has fun. Sungjin seems uptight in class, like he's pretty proper. Friendly, but formal. However, Wonpil finds that Sungjin is actually pretty silly and playful. He has fun doing random, nonsensical dances with Sungjin. He likes randomly breaking into song with Sungjin, even though neither of the two can hear each other singing over the loud, booming speakers.
They take a break when Sungjin has to use the bathroom and Wonpil gets thirsty. So, drinking some less than average but still edible fruit punch, Wonpil decides to see what Jae is up to. He tells himself that he shouldn't message Jae, that it will ruin everything. But the dance falls on a Sunday night. In other words, it falls on movie night. It's a tradition the two have had since seventh grade. They will pick a few movies to watch, movies that they have already watched usually. They'll make silly comments, make fun of cheesy parts, note inconsistencies, critique things they feel need to be critiqued.
Wonpil just wants to check on his friend. Nothing more, nothing less. He pulls out his phone.
What are you doing?
The reply is almost immediate.
arent you on a date
He's using the bathroom
im watching ghibli movies w mckay
smh it could have been w you
Wonpil knows that. And for some reason, it hurts a lot more than it should. Wonpil is having fun with Sungjin though. He has no reason to be upset.
anyways dont text me on your date
its p rude to sungjin
He's coming back anyways so I'll talk to you tomorrow :)
Wonpil puts his phone in his pocket. He didn't really know if Sungjin was coming back yet. It didn't take long for the other to return, however. But Wonpil wasn't quite in the mood for dancing anymore. He and Sungjin went home early. Once more, no hard feelings.
Wonpil thinks he's finally getting somewhere when he meets Kang Younghyun. The first date was amazing. Younghyun took him to a music festival, and the two had a blast. Wonpil didn't think about Jae and how he heard Yerin talk about that guy that liked Jae. He didn't think about how Jae's at the time future boyfriend, was planning on confessing to Jae. All he had thought about was Younghyun and music and having fun. This would blossom into a relationship, a healthy and loving one.
Wonpil was finally over Jae, or so he thinks. He's not completely over Jae nor is he really in love with Younghyun. But he's slowly making progress, and he thinks Younghyun might really be the right guy for him. Younghyun is sweet and smart and ambitious ane handsome and strong willed. He's also funny and comforting and he gets along well with Wonpil's friends, especially Jae.
Wonpil wishes he could say the same about the person that Jae is dating. It's not that he's a bad guy, he's actually one of the nicer ones. Wonpil doesn't know what puts him off, he just doesn't really like the guy. Maybe it's because he sees that Jae isn't really happy with his boyfriend. Maybe it's because he knows that Jae will inevitably break up with this guy. Maybe it's because hanging out Jae and his boyfriend is awkward because Jae obviously doesn't like him back at all.
But Jae's relationship isn't Wonpil's business, Wonpil tells himself. Not unless Jae wants it to be, not unless Jae decides to confide in him.
It isn't until two months later that Wonpil finds that nothing has actually changed. It's May, the end of ninth grade is coming soon. He is at Younghyun's house, studying for a Biology exam.
"So, do you remember what things a plant cell has that an animal cell doesn't? It's on the exam apparently," Younghyun says. Their teacher has a habit of making study guides and having the content of the exam be everything except what was on the study guide.
"The central vacuoles, the cell wall is thicker, and the chloroplast, right?"
Younghyun looks over his notes before he looks at Wonpil and smiles. "Right, you got it. Wow, look at you. So smart. Guess I needed this more than you did," Younghyun praises the other, who grins in response.
"Of course, Hyunnie. I actually pay attention in class, unlike you."
"How can I be expected to pay attention when there's an actual angel sitting two seats head of me?"
Wonpil smiles a little wider at this and he lets out a giggle too, because Wonpil loves it when he gets praised. "Shut up, hyung," he says, but Younghyun knows that it really means 'omg thank you so much please praise me more I live for this'.
"But it's true. Look at you, you're so small and cute and pretty and sweet. Do you know how lucky I am to have you?"
"Very lucky." Younghyun puts his notebook down, he pulls Wonpil close to him, and he pecks the other's lips. "I love you, Wonpil."
And this. This is where Wonpil screws everything up. What he says next surprises both him and Younghyun. "I love you too, Jae," is what he says, and he doesn't register it until Younghyun is pulling away, looking perplexed and a little bit hurt. "What? Wait-"
"You called me Jae just now."
"I-It was an accident, I didn't mean to-"
"Please don't be mad at me Younghyun, I don't know why I... I don't know why I said that, it just came out."
"Wonpil. Please be honest with me." Younghyun doesn't sound angry but somehow that makes Wonpil nervous. He feels like Younghyun should be mad, or uncomfortable. But he doesn't look surprised or upset. A little hurt still, but mostly like he's finally dealing with an issue that's been bugging him for a while. And Wonpil isn't wrong in assuming this. "Wonpil, are you in love with Jae?"
Wonpil pauses, because he really doesn't know anymore. He thought he was over Jae, he really did. And he wanted to be over Jae. But he thinks about it, and instead of rushing him, Younghyun waits patiently. After a few seconds of Wonpil thinking, Younghyun waiting, and a tense silence that Wonpil almost doesn't want to break looming over them, Wonpil answers. "Yes."
"Oh, I see." Younghyun tries to smile, and he does, but it's a sad smile. "I could kind of tell by the way you look at him. Jae's a really great guy, I'm not surprised you'd be in love with him. But then, why did you agree to date me?"
"Why? I... I needed to stop loving Jae, and I guess I thought that if I had someone else to love... Never mind, it's kinda silly now that I think about it. Sorry, Younghyun."
"Oh, it's... okay," Younghyun says uncertainly because it's not okay, really. But he can't say he wasn't expecting this, he can't say he didn't know that Wonpil liked Jae. He had been hoping the same thing as Wonpil, that Wonpil would fall in love with him instead.
Uncomfortable silence hangs over them. Wonpil has no idea what this means for their relationship but he assumes by the way that Younghyun scoots away and avoids his gaze means that it's over. "So I guess I should go now."
"Oh, right, I mean, if you want to. You already know the material for this unit so you'll do great on the quiz," Younghyun replies quickly, a little too quickly.
"Right. Um, see you around I guess?"
"Yeah, see you." Wonpil stands up, takes it as his cue to leave.
The next morning, Younghyun does not go to greet Wonpil. Their relationship is over. Wonpil expects it to hurt more than it actually does.
Jae raises an eyebrow, scoops up some yogurt from the breakfast provided by the school. "Dude, it's almost time for class. Is Brian coming or what?"
"Oh, no. He's not."
"... You guys fight?"
"No, we didn't fight, we just broke up."
"What? Why? Did he lose feelings?" Wonpil had to let out a laugh at that one. The irony.
"No, it was me, Jae. I los- I never really had feelings like that for him."
"Weird. Could have sworn you were head over heels for him."
Oh the irony part 2.
"Wonpil, I can't do this anymore," Jae says, completely serious. They're sitting on the neighborhood park's swingset. Jae is barely swinging, Wonpil is sitting idly.
"Can't do... what?" Wonpil asks, eyebrows furrowed. "Oh, is the article boring? I can read it in my hea-"
"No, no, no. It's not that," Jae replies, digging the heels of his feet into the ground to stop the swing. Once the swing has ceased its movement, Jae looks at Wonpil. "I can't be your best friend anymore."
Wonpil tenses at this. It's June and finals are coming up. The school year is coming to a close. He doesn't want to lose Jae. He doesn't even know why he's losing Jae.
"What's wrong? Did I do something?"
"No- Well... Yeah, actually." Wonpil has no idea what he's done.
"I don't expect you to know or understand. Really it's my fault for reading into things too deep and-"
"Jae, what did I do?" Jae tenses now, he chews his bottom lip as he thinks. Wonpil doesn't know what he's thinking, but it seems like it's a lot. A lot of things he's thinking about, a lot to handle, a lot of stress, a lot of a lot of things.
Jae lets go of his lip and takes a deep breath. He looks at the ground. "At the beginning of the year, Wonpil, you let me kiss you. You let me kiss you and then you looked at me like you loved me, and I was happy because I loved- Love, I love you too. And then I had to go but the next day, when we met at the mall, you played it cool. You weren't nervous, you weren't bothered, you weren't curious, you were just... normal. And do you know how that messed me up?"
Now Jae looks up at Wonpil. He's not done yet though, so Wonpil lets him continue. Not that Wonpil can even intervene. This is a huge bomb to just drop on someone and frankly Wonpil isn't sure what to think. He's glad to know this whole time Jae has liked him back but wow, this whole time Jae has liked him back and yet he spent his time trying to get over Jae? Because they had both misunderstood each other? It was so stupid. It was like some crappy fanfiction plot.
"But you know what the worst part is? As soon as I work up the nerve to talk about it, as soon as I stop caring what you'll think of me for liking you since the summer between eighth and ninth grade, as soon as I'm finally brave enough to ask you out- You go on a date with Yoon Dowoon. And it doesn't stop there. Before I can ask you to that dance- and I don't even like going to dances- Sungjin asks you and you, you say yes. And then you start dating Younghyun the next month the very day I want to talk to you about my feelings."
Wonpil still doesn't know what to say. Jae had always seemed so cool about, always found someone to take Wonpil's place in his plans. As if Jae can read minds, he adds this to his rant.
"I tried to get over you everytime you would date someone else, you know. I hung out with other friends, I beared with my stupid ex's crappy company, I even tried dating someone else. But nothing worked because you would always come around and look at me with that stupid lovesick expression and you would always say sweet things to me and make me so- Honestly, what am I to you Wonpil? Am I some kind of joke, some game you play when you're bored?"
It takes Wonpil a second to realize that Jae is waiting for an answer. So, Wonpil gathers himself up as best he can. "No," Wonpil says, his voice quiet but it's the loudest he could manage. "No, Jae, you're not- I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to..."
Jae watches Wonpil avoid his gaze. He sighs and wills himself to calm down. This is Wonpil. Wonpil doesn't ever do anything with the intent to harm others. "No, stop. I'm sorry. I read the situation too deeply. I shouldn't have put off talking to you for so long and... Just, I know it's a petty reason to stop being friends but I really can't anymore Wonpil. I can't pretend to be happy for you when some guy asks you out anymore." With that, Jae stands up and grabs his backpack. He slides his arms through the straps. He hears Wonpil stand up and grab his own backpack.
"Wait, Jae, where are you going?"
"Home, obviously. I said what I needed to."
"But... what about me?"
"I- Okay. Go ahead."
"Jae, do you know why I look at you the way I do?"
"If I did, I probably wouldn't have asked."
"Well- Okay, that's a fair point. I-"
"Please don't beat around the bush, Pil. I kind of need to go home and cry my eyes out. Not a big fan of breaking down in the park."
"What? No- Jae, I love you too!"
"If you're going to ask about the dates-"
"Look, I just didn't know how to get over you. I've liked you since we kissed. Maybe before that, but the earliest I can remember is the kiss, so I figured that maybe if I kiss a few other people, I'll stop liking you."
"Oh wow, what a genius." Jae is being sarcastic and Wonpil knows this so he ignores the taller.
"Obviously it didn't work and I still like you. So... Anyways, I'm not going to date anyone else anymore so you don't have to stop being my friend if that's what bothered you."
"Okay, but it's not that simple."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean now that I know that you like me too, I'm obviously going to do something about it."
"And why is that a problem?"
"What? Why wouldn't it be?"
"Because... Maybe I want you to do something about it."
"Well, for starters, you can hold my hand." Jae takes a step forward and grabs Wonpil's hand. Wonpil smiles, intertwines their fingers. "You can also kiss me." Jae leans down to give Wonpil a chaste kiss that makes him giddy inside. "Asking me to be your boyfriend would also be appreciated."
"Wonpil, will you be my boyfriend?"
"Yeah, of course I will, Jae."
"Good. Any other things my already needy boyfriend would like?"
"Yes. He wants you to take him on the best date ever."
"And what does this best date ever thing entail?"
"Anything, as long as it's with you."