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7 days

Chapter Text

His fists pounded on the wet glass, desperate eyes meeting the displeased salesperson, who rolled their eyes before walking to the door. “We’re cl-“

“I know, but please, just give me 10 minutes. I’ll make a purchase, guaranteed,” Jooheon said with pleading eyes, growing aware of how desperate he looked, droplets of rain soaking through his shirt. The man stared back at him for a couple of seconds, before sighing deeply, gesturing for him to come inside. “thank you so much, honestly.”

“What can I help you with? Apart from maybe a towel.” He asked calmly as he smoothed his suit, fitting in perfectly with the aesthetics of the luxurious store.

“Can I see your engagement rings?”

“Right this way,” he said, leading him across the store floor to a display of rings, all shapes and sizes. His eyes scanned them over, prices that nearly made his heart stop, until they landed on the one.

A dainty white gold ring with a moonstone, diamonds encircling it. He smiled, leaning in for a closer look.

Yeah, he could get used to seeing this on her for the rest of his life. “Can I have this one, please?”

“Right away, if you could just fill this in, I’ll go grab a box and then we can talk ring sizes and whatnot,” the salesperson smiled handing him a form and then a hand to shake. “I’m Hyungwon.”

“Jooheon,” he noticed his eyes drop, curiously looking at his paint stained clothes. “oh! I’m a nursery teacher; today was paint day.”

“And that incited you to buy an engagement ring?”

“Not work exactly; I just got to thinking; the real epiphany came last night. I decided to do this last minute, hence the desperation, sorry for keeping you behind.” Jooheon smiled sheepishly, to which Hyungwon only shrugged.

“Anything in the name of love, anyway, I’ll go grab your stuff. All the happiness for you and your partner.”

Not even the heavy rain could rid him of his smile, a flimsy newspaper he found on the monorail serving as an umbrella all the way from the station, to a takeaway place, and finally the apartment block they’d learned to call home.
Ignoring every fibre of his body begging him to just take his time and take the damn lift, he set off for the stairs, ridding himself of the jewellery store’s bag and slipping the velvet box into his jacket pocket before opening the door.

“Sohyun? Baby?” He called out into the seemingly empty apartment as he kicked off his shoes and carefully took off his jacket, heading to the kitchen. “Are you home?”

“Jooheon!” His love appeared out of thin air, dressed in a bath robe. He grinned, immediately offering her a hug, which she gingerly took. “You’re home early? What happened?”

“Nothing, I just missed you. Do you want to eat now, or can you wait until I shower?” He grinned, heading towards the stairs.

“Wait! Let’s eat now. I’m starving.” She gripped his arm before he could reach the stairs, leading him to the kitchen.

“Alright,” he chuckled, eventually slipping out of her grip and continuing to make his way up the stairs. “let me just take these gross clothes off and use the bathroom.”

“Can you not wait? I’m so hungry and tired, please?” Sohyun followed behind him, a death grip on his arm.

“Babe, it will be quick, I’m literally drenched,” he smiled, opening the door to the bedroom. “I can’t -“

Almost immediately, his words died in his mouth as his eyes met another pair.

Another man’s eyes, which resembled a deer in headlights, a towel around his hips. His shoulders sank, and it felt like all the gravity of the world had concentrated itself upon him, quickly squeezing any air out of him, the wet clothes only intensifying it.
A heavy silence hung in the air, before he slowly turned around to her pale face. “Sohyun, who’s this?”

“Jooheon, I can explain-“ her hand landed on his arm, but he was fast to shake it off. “it isn’t what you-“

He reached for her, ignoring how she flinched, unexpectedly touching her hair. His eyes flicked back to the man, tiny droplets shining on his dark hair. “I can’t believe you.” He said quietly, barging out of the bathroom.

“Jooheon! Please wait!” The brunette’s voice echoed throughout the apartment, as she followed him downstairs. She attempted to hold his arm again, but he only reacted in the same way he did before, little hesitation in his movement.

“Why?! Give me one good reason to do so. Tell me that you have an excuse for why a man is in our bathroom, and why both of you have wet hair and you coincidentally have a bathrobe on?” His voice cracked momentarily. “Tell me that it’s all a misunderstanding.”

The heavy silence seemed to have followed them downstairs, wrapping itself around his throat, as Sohyun’s eyes dropped, defeated.

“Did I ever even mean anything to you?”

“You meant everything to me-“

“Ah,” he laughed sadly, swallowing a painful lump in his throat as his heart shattered into countless pieces. “meant. I guess I’ll just become another memory to you from now on.”

He reached for his jacket, hurriedly throwing it on only to be stopped short by a near silent thud.

“Jooheon.”

“Don’t even try to-“

“Jooheon,” she insists, eyes glued to the tiny velvet box that had slipped from his pocket. “were you going to propose to me?”

He stared at the navy box, long enough for it to begin to look distorted, tears clouding his vision. With the remnants of pride he still had, he dragged a hand over his eyes as he reached for the box, stuffing it back into his pocket, and silently leaving what was once called home.

However he didn’t make it far, just past the doors leading to the stairs, before sliding down to the floor, pained, silent sobs ripping their way through him. He pulled his knees to his chest, shaky hands hurriedly wiping his face before he was startled by his phone buzzing.

minhyuk: this weather

minhyuk: you better have an umbrella or I will hurt you !!

jooheon: can I come over

jooheon: it’s ok if I cant, you might be busy

minhyuk: jooheon I am never too busy for you

minhyuk: I’ll leave the key under my rug, I’ll be taking a shower ♡♡♡

minhyuk: is everything okay?

minhyuk: I love you :(

jooheon: love you too

***

“Is that you?” He stuck his head out of his bedroom, yelling down the hall & quickly greeted with nothing but silence. Minhyuk hummed, quickly returning to throw on a t-shirt, towel drying his dark hair before heading to the living room. “Bro, next time please respond, I thought it was a murderer for a second.”

He couldn’t help but smile, Jooheon stood at the floor-to-ceiling window, staring down at the Seoul skyline, the sky painted an array of colours as the rain finally stopped, illuminating the living room a pretty orange. With each step in his direction, his heartbeat picked up, but it nearly stopped when he saw the fresh tears running down his best friend’s cheeks. “Hey,” he gently touched his arm. “what happened?”

It seemed as if the gesture was enough to suddenly make him come undone, slowly walking into his arms before beginning to sob uncontrollably. Minhyuk frowned, squeezing him tightly. “Jooheon, please tell me what’s going on, you’re scaring me.”

It was an unfamiliar sight, at least recently - Jooheon was far more serious than Minhyuk, but even then, it was rare that he was so vulnerable and emotional in front of him. Even back in school, or university, his dimpled best friend unloaded stress by cussing out the entire world; to see him cry like this was alarming, but more than anything, it was heartbreaking. He squeezed him tighter, stroking his hair.

“I’m sorry,” he choked. “I’m sorry to come in like this. I shouldn’t burden you with my problems.”

“You are far from a burden, okay? I’m glad you came to me,” he reassured him immediately. “but I need you to tell me what’s wrong so I can help you, Jooheon.”

“Okay.”

“Here.” Minhyuk practically ran to the kitchen, handing him a glass of water. “what’s happened?”

“Sohyun. She..” he paused. “am I not good enough?”

His heart ached in his chest. “What? Of course not. Who said that?”

“When I came back, there was another man there, in our bathroom. She cheated on me, Minhyuk.”

The words cut into him, ripping through everything in its path before reaching his heart, and for a moment, all he could feel was rage.

Pure wrath that someone so undeserving had the heart of the love of his life, yet showed little hesitation to break it. That they had the luck to date the crush of his lifetime, and then proceed to destroy him like this.
But that rage was quickly drowned out by sadness, as Jooheon’s shaky hands produced a navy velvet box, the prettiest engagement ring inside of it, and just that was enough to bring tears to his eyes. “Oh, Jooheon. I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

He pulled his friend into a tight hug once again, hoping the tears would disappear if he squeezed his eyes tight enough.

“I should go,” Jooheon whispered. “you need to rest, you have work tomorrow. I’ll find a hotel for the night and then sort out everything tomorrow.”

“Fuck work, Jooheon. And fuck going anywhere but here,” he said. “come on, I’ll run you a shower and make some food. We can eat, grab some blankets and watch all the shitty TV your heart desires. We can go about sorting out everything else tomorrow, yeah?”

He waited until he was certain Jooheon was in the shower before allowing the tears he’d suppressed for so long come pouring out. It was a mix of everything; anger towards Sohyun for even thinking of anybody else when she had his entire world, unbearable sadness that his best friend was heartbroken, and regret.

Regret that this situation could have been avoided, had he just confessed his feelings when he had the chance. He dragged a hand across his eyes.

“Hey,” Jooheon returned, showered and changed, but the redness of his eyes still remaining. “let me help.”

“You can grab cutlery and stuff and go pick something. I’m nearly done.” He forced a smile, to which he just nodded.

“Is it the onions?”

“Yeah.” He answered curtly.

It wasn’t like any other night Jooheon stayed over; usually they would laugh until the early hours and he was always greeted with complaints the day after, but today, the only sound came from his chopsticks against the dishes and occasional sighs.
Minhyuk finished washing up, returning to the sofa. “Get up for a second.”

Jooheon immediately stood up, Minhyuk laying down and opening his arms for him to lay before him. He held him tightly, hoping it was helping in some way. “Are you comfortable?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “thank you, Minhyuk.”

“Always.” He planted a kiss on top of his head, eyes flicking to the TV, becoming so engrossed he didn’t even realise his best friend had fallen asleep in his arms until he heard soft snores alongside the ending credits of the film they’d been watching.

He looked down, his eyelashes sparkly with tears but the rest of his face relaxed, chest rising and falling gently. He smiled, continuing to play with his hair, planting another kiss on his forehead.

“Just give me 7 days.”

Chapter Text

[September 2016]

The leaves rustled quietly, sounds of laughter and chatter ringing through the playground, stretching all the way to the end of the field, where Minhyuk sat with Jooheon’s head on his lap, eyes closed.

It was only the second week of his final year of high school, and although he’d had enough of the scratchy, restraining uniform and education at this level in general, he would happily relive it one last time if it meant he could have moments like this for another year.
The younger stared at the leaves above mindlessly, occasionally rolling over to grab another biscuit from his bag.

“Will you miss me?”

He suddenly looked down, his sharp eyes on him. “What?”

“Will you miss me when you leave?” Jooheon asked again.

“Of course I’ll miss you, but I’ll come see you every day I can. Plus you can come to my accommodation whenever you want too,” he smiled. “you just won’t have me around everyday at school.”

“Yeah. It’ll be weird,” he sighed, sitting up. “why didn’t my parents get to it earlier so we could be in the same year?”

Minhyuk couldn’t help but laugh, fighting the need to pinch his cheeks. “We’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

His best friend laid down again, this time closing his eyes. “You must be so excited, you can go out, drink, meet new people. I have to be stuck here for another year with these idiots.”

“Hey,” he flicked his friend’s ear softly. “those ‘idiots’ are your friends too. And yeah, I guess I’m lucky I can do all of that, but still, I’m not that excited for it.”

“Why?” Jooheon asked.

Because you won’t be there, he wanted to scream, as loud as he could, but instead he smiled. “It’s all quite expensive.”

Jooheon sat up, painfully unaware of how Minhyuk’s heart ached for his. “I guess yeah, but you can work, and you can ask your parents or even me!”

Minhyuk nodded, proceeding to hear the five million ways he could get money to fund a potential alcohol addiction that Jooheon reeled off dangerously fast from the top of his head. In reality, he didn’t really take in much of what he said, becoming too overwhelmed to function when Jooheon rolled, his head moving from his leg to his stomach.

So he didn’t, and neither did the younger, both enjoying the beginning of the end together.

***

The long night had finally come to an end, rain clouds and any signs of last night’s downpour seamlessly disappearing at the first rays dawn, the sunshine now bright and intense on a blue sk as the clock ticked towards 9am.
Minhyuk was out of bed early, taking the time to tidy up, take a shower and make breakfast.

He hummed quietly, a lo-fi song playing softly throughout the kitchen, loud enough for him to not hear Jooheon approach him until he heard him. “Hey.”

“Good morning,” he smiled warmly, serving rice into two bowls. “sit down, the soup will be ready soon. Did you sleep well?”

“As well as possible, yeah,” he sighed. “thanks again, honestly I don’t even know how I could ever repay you.”

“You don’t have to repay me for anything, you’re literally my best friend - what kind of person would I be if I wasn’t there for you? Here, be careful, it’s hot.”

“Thank you,” He smiled, reaching for a spoon. Minhyuk slipped into the seat opposite him, adding some of the side dishes to his plate, causing Jooheon to chuckle. “are you trying to fatten me up?”

“I’m trying to give you energy, you must be exhausted, so eat. We have quite the-“

“Oh, shit! I need to go to work, M-“

He reached out for his arm, slowly lowering him back to his seat. “What-“

“I called the nursery; you’re away on a family emergency for the rest of this week. They said best of luck with everything and that if you need more time just ask. Your days off are paid too, I haggled on your behalf,” Minhyuk continued to nonchalantly tuck into his breakfast. “me too; I took the week off and they told me they were glad I was finally using my holidays.”

“Oh,” Jooheon blinked. “thanks, I guess. It’s probably a good idea, I need to sort out so much.”

“And I’ll be here to help. Today we start with grabbing your stuff from your apartment, and finally making use of that spare room of mine - how do you feel about becoming my roommate?”

“Minhyuk, I can’t, that is too big of a fa-“

“Oh, you’ll be paying rent and bills; I didn’t want to but I knew your pride wouldn’t let you accept that so there. Undeniable offer,” he grinned, clapping wildly as Jooheon’s concerned frown faded into a smile. “now, eat. We have a busy day so, consider this day one. Or should I say, 6 days until.”

“Until what?”

“You’ll see.” He smiled once again, this time a little more mischievously. Jooheon blinked a couple of times, before shaking his head.

“Nothing good ever happens when you smile like that.”

“Well, you might be wrong about this one.” He winked. To that his cute best friend only smiled, continuing to eat until his plate was cleared, eventually strolling back upstairs for a shower.

Minhyuk took the opportunity to get himself changed, laying out Jooheon’s freshly washed & dried clothes on his bed. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard his name. “Yeah?”

“Did you wash my clothes?” He froze entirely, Jooheon stood in the middle of the hallway with nothing but a towel around his waist, using another to dry his hair. Minhyuk breathed, forcing a nod. “Thank you.” He smiled.

“No worries, I’ll be downstairs.” He said shakily, making his way back down and falling onto the sofa with a loud, dramatic sigh.
To kill time, he scrolled through his phone, eventually sitting up at the sounds of gentle footsteps approaching him from behind.

“You ready to go?” The excitement in his voice faded as Jooheon returned, this time looking gloomier than before. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Sorry, I just-“

“No, it’s ok. We can wait.”

“No, it’s fine. I have to do it someday, may as well do it now where I am less inclined to change my mind and find excuses for her,” He said sadly. “Will you come in with me?”

“Of course, Jooheon,” Minhyuk whined, pulling him into a tight hug. “of course. Every step of the way.”

“Thanks so much. Honestly, you don’t know how much this means to me.”

“It’s my pleasure, and my duty as best friend,” he grinned, poking his cheek. “you’ll be ok. It will sting for now but you’ll make it out of it.”

“Are you sure?” He looked at him with teary eyes and Minhyuk was almost certain you could hear his heart audibly break in his chest.

“Entirely,” a flicker of hope crossed his best friend’s eyes, and frankly, that was more than enough for him. He held out his hand, which Jooheon didn’t hesitate to take. “come on, I’ll drive us there.”

A couple of clouds appeared in the sky, and soon, the blue was replaced by grey, rain clouds threatening as they stepped out of Minhyuk’s car, in front of the apartment building. They made their way up in silence, Jooheon’s growing uncomfortableness becoming more and more noticeable with each floor they passed in the elevator.

“I’ll go in alone.”

“Are you sure, Jooheon?”

“Yeah. I don’t know what I’m coming back to,” he smiled sadly. “I’ll be okay, promise.”

“I’ll wait here.” He nodded, watching him unlocking the door.
His obedience lasted maybe seconds before he made his own way to the door, alarmed by raised voices.

“Of course he’s here,” Sohyun immediately scoffed at his presence. “did you move on from me that fast?”

“No, Sohyun. Unlike you, I can be friends with people without jumping on them and throwing away a 4 year relationship. I’ll leave that up to you,” Jooheon shook his head as he returned with an empty suitcase, dropping to the floor to collect his shoes by the door. “I’m just here to get my stuff.”

“And I’m here to help him.” Minhyuk added.

“Are you not even going to let me explain m-“

“What is there to explain?!” Jooheon suddenly screamed, earning a flinch from Minhyuk. “You cheated on me. What could you possibly say to help the situation, Sohyun? I just want to know why, at least - am I not good enough for you? Do I not do enough for you?”

“Hey,” Minhyuk touched his arm, his best friend visibly on the edge of a panic attack. “wait outside, okay? I’ll grab your things.”

“I don’t want you-“

“You don’t have a say in this, Sohyun!” It was his turn to shout once Jooheon had left. “You don’t get to have a say in this. You broke him, in ways you can’t even begin to understand. You went on cheated on the most caring, most loving person to have ever walked into your miserable life and look at what you’ve done - and look long and hard, because this is your mess. Now if you excuse me, Jooheon is waiting for me.”

He dodged around her, heading towards their room, carefully packing his friend’s clothes into suitcases, tears brimming his eyes. Minhyuk stopped for a second, taking a deep breath.

“You’re going to take this opportunity to make your move, huh?” Sohyun reappeared. “He doesn’t like you, Minhyuk. He doesn’t like gu-“

“You don’t know him.”

“I’ve been with him for 4 years.”

“I’ve been there for him for 22,” he glared at her. “long enough to know that Jooheon loves regardless of such menial things like gender, if that’s what you’re getting at. Now if you excuse me, I have to go. You might want to look at making some savings, your joint account got cancelled this morning. Have a nice day.”

He made his way out despite her complaining, simply closing the door behind him, and thanking the Lord that the door was thick enough to muffle her voice. Jooheon stood by the window at the end of the hallway, looking out at the buildings nearby as patches of blue began to appear in the sky.

“I got all of your clothes. You won’t need anything else for the time being,” he said, gently stroking his hair. “I’m sorry, Jooheon.”

“It isn’t your fault.”

“Or yours, do you hear me? She was the one who screwed up; that doesn’t impact your worth in any way, only hers,” he said. “tell you what, lets put these bags into my car and go somewhere?”

“Where are you taking me?”

“You’ll see, just come!”

***

Jooheon peered around the dark room sceptically. “This is all kinds of shady.”

“It’s safe, promise,” he laughed. “It’s all for the aesthetic.”

A loud voice boomed across the barely lit room, prompting them to grab safety gear hung on the walls. “What is this?”

“Just do what they say!” Minhyuk laughed, putting on safety glasses and a helmet. “Follow me?”

He led him to a well-lit room, countless stacks of plates at the centre of the four concrete walls. “Minhyuk, seriously, what is this?”

“This,” he carefully grabbed a plate, eyes never leaving Jooheon. “is release.”

He threw the plate at the wall, smashing into a thousand pieces as Jooheon watched, jaw dropped. He reached for another, throwing it to the floor. “Come on, we have 20 minutes to get through all these stacks of-“

It didn’t even take him saying more than that to have his friend recklessly throw plates in every direction as he watched proudly. His energy died down rather fast, only two stacks left.

“It’s all me, isn’t it?” His voice was unnaturally quiet, eyes on the floor. “it’s all my fault.”

“Come here,” Minhyuk hugged Jooheon. “she isn’t worth it. One day you’ll finally see someone who would give you the moon and stars.”

“Don’t you mean ‘meet’?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” he released him, kicking over the final two stacks of plates. “now let’s go, we need to grab some bats and go break more stuff in the next room. Do you want to carry on?”

Jooheon smiled. “Yes pleased.”

“Great,” Minhyuk chuckled gently. “let’s go.”

Chapter Text

A gentle but stressed sigh escaped Minhyuk’s lips, frowning at the mass of letters Jooheon had dumped before him. He reached for one, a bank stamp at the top right corner. “A joint savings account too? On top of shared mortgage payments?”

“Sorry, I just thought I really was going to spend the rest of my life with her,” his best friend collapsed into a chair, bringing his hands to his face before raking them through his dark hair, head eventually slumping down on the coffee table he was sat in front of. “I can’t help but feel like I’m being a burden, Minhyuk. You shouldn’t be putting your life on hold for me.”

“It’s not a burden, it’s helping a person that is very dear to me get back on their feet,” he smiled, pushing his glasses further up his nosebridge. “it’s okay. We’ll do a quick tour and cut all the strings attaching you to her. You’ll be as free as a bird in no time; also, out of curiosity, what’s your favourite colour right now?”

“I like red. Always have,” the sceptical look returned to his face, Minhyuk giggling. “why?”

“You look cute when you’re second guessing things, but don’t worry, it’s just for your room. I want you to be as comfortable in it as possible, plus painting it together can be fun,” the older laid down by the huge panoramic buildings, Seoul’s glassy skyline glistening in the late morning sunshine. He stretched quietly, turning back to Jooheon, who grinned. “What?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know how I’ll ever repay you for being there for me.”

“That’s alright. You don’t have to, you soppy mess,” he stood up, offering to pull Jooheon to his feet. “now come on.”

Either a sudden power took over Minhyuk or gravity forgot to work on Jooheon, but the older pulled with enough force to send him flying back, pulling the younger with him.
The two landed on the plush carpet with a dull thud, the pain that had began to spread through Minhyuk’s back immediately numbed the moment he actually remembered to look up, meeting Jooheon’s panicked stare.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” He asked wildly, grabbing his face with both hands.

“I’m okay,” he responded with a soft chuckle. “underestimated my strength.” And self control.
He laid still, Jooheon’s soft hands still resting on either cheek, each breath or his further reminding him of how he laid directly on top of him.

Minhyuk’s smile only grew in intensity, calmly moving a stray hair from his best friend’s eyes, which showed an array of emotions in them. The touch of his fingertips seemed to bring him back to life, as the eye contact was lost & any other form contact too, Jooheon rolling off Minhyuk to land beside him. His chest deflated.

“You had a hair in-“

“It’s okay,” Jooheon sat up, propping himself up with his elbow, beaming down at Minhyuk. “don’t worry about it. Shall we get going?”

Ran speechless (and frankly, with his heart still ready to burst out of his chest onto the unsuspecting coffee table), Minhyuk just nodded, beating Jooheon to the shoe cupboard by the door and waiting outside of his apartment for him, appreciating the fresh breeze & hoping it would calm down his red cheeks.
The silence maintained itself as they moved to the cars, pulling out of the garage and into the sunshine, Jooheon simply scrolling through his social media, until he suddenly looked up, and his phone fell out of his hands. “Pull over.”

“What?”

“Pull over!” He repeated hurriedly, already taking off his seatbelt and climbing out before Minhyuk could even register what was going on, the younger walking into a jewellers.
He followed shortly after, joining him in waiting for a sales assistant.

“Hello, welcome to-“ a man appeared behind them, tall and elegant, curly wisps of burgundy hair falling into his eyes. He smiled. “ah. Our hopeless lover, it’s a pleasure to see you again. How can I be of assistance?”

“I wanted to return this.” Jooheon fished the velvet case from his pocket, a frown forming on Minhyuk’s face as he came to the realisation he’d been holding on to the ring ever since.

“Oh,” the sales assistant delicately took the box, popping it open before eyeing the dainty ring inside. “is something wrong? Does it not fit?”

“It didn’t work out.”

A heavy silence hung amidst the three, apparently gone unnoticed by anybody else in the store. The tall man pressed his lips together, all previous excitement dying there and then. Jooheon chuckled, hoping to bring back the mood, but instead sounding sadder than before. “We weren’t right for each other.”

“My heart aches for you, moonbeam. Sometimes things just fall apart, and we just have to let them & rise from the ashes stronger than ever,” his gaze shifted to Minhyuk, breath catching in his throat and just how handsome this man was. “is this a friend of yours?”

“Yeah. Oh, Minhyuk; this is Hyungwon, he helped me with buying the ring yesterday. This is my best friend, Minhyuk, who’s been keeping me going.”

“Well, I’m glad you have someone in your corner,” he beamed, shaking his hand. “its a pleasure to meet you. I’ll be processing this; would you like a drink or something?”

“No thank you, but do you mind if I just look at the rings again?”

Hyungwon smiled at Jooheon’s question, offering a nod and reassuring pat, before he was off toward a large display of engagement rings. He moved closer to Minhyuk, speaking softly. “I’m worried about him. Just from those 20 minutes in the store I could tell he wore his heart on his sleeve; I’m guessing it came back to bite him.”

“You can say so,” He sighed heavily, watching the dark haired boy. “he doesn’t deserve this. He was so happy - they were so happy. I don’t understand how someone can be like that.”

“You’ve got the job covered.” Hyungwon announced unexpectedly, earning a raised eyebrow from Minhyuk. “please. I’ve been working here since before I could write my own name. I’ve seen my fair share of couples that aren’t in love - that made me extra good at spotting enamoured hearts, although in this case, lovesick is more adequate.”

He fully turned his head, mouth agape. Hyungwon smiled. “That was purely a guess, but I’m glad to know I still have it,” he circled around a stunned Minhyuk. “hang tight. His heart is in tatters, yes, but I think the fact he came to you before anybody else speaks volumes.”

“O-of course he would come to me, I’m his best friend. W-why wouldn’t he?”

“That is a very good point, but, mon ange, I can detect intertwined souls from a mile away. And I can guarantee you only a soulmate can fully mend their other half’s broken heart, given that it is it’s most prized possession, after all,” Hyungwon grinned, with all the grace and elegance in South Korea combined. “trust me.”

“I’m all good. Have you processed the return?” Jooheon returned to their side, still awfully downcast.

“I’m afraid I can’t. Your receipt is void, my dear,” Hyungwon said calmly, both eyeing him in confusion. “all you can do is exchange it, and because my soul tells me we’ve met in another life, I’ll allow you to exchange it for anything in the store.”

“I..” The younger’s voice trailed off, eventually turning to his best friend. “how would you feel about a present?”

[November 2016]

“Is everything okay?” Minhyuk asked with a bright smile on his face, wondering why on Earth his best friend would drag him out of the sickest surprise birthday party. Alcohol pumped through his veins, but he was still aware of everything; in fact, everything he’d ever felt had been heightened by the first legal drinks he’d necked earlier in the night.

Jooheon stood before him, anxiously clutching a gift bag, which he shyly offered him. “This is for you.”

“My present?” He nodded. “oh, come on inside! I’ll open it with everybody else’s!”

“No! I mean- you need to open it out here, if possible,” the younger said. “please.”

“Of course, it’s ok,” Minhyuk smiled, poking a dimple as he dipped his hand in the bag, hands grazing and pulling out a piece of card. “card?”

“Turn it over,” Jooheon chuckled, flipping the small piece to reveal a red thread bracelet, adorned with a small gold bead. “it’s a red string of fate, in this case a bracelet. It’s said that a red thread connects two people that are destined to meet regardless of any circumstances. I feel that way about you, about our friendship and how despite-“

Jooheon’s words were cut short, Minhyuk yanking him into his arms. “I know. You don’t even have to say it. I know.”

“I know it’s a bit sappy and a bit shit but I had this mental breakdown over you going to university and finding better friends and forgetting about me and I know that can’t happen since you literally witnessed my birth and-“

“Nobody will ever come close to you, okay? I promise you,” Minhyuk grinned. “ignore the fact I’m shitfaced- I love you and I mean it.”

“I love you too, Minhyuk,” Jooheon grinned, with the intensity and brightness the Sun could only wish it had, sliding the bracelet onto his wrist and then comparing it to his own, before a final smile. “let’s go inside.”

***

[present time]

Minhyuk smiled to himself, the white gold Cartier bracelet catching the sun as he dipped his brush into paint, gently dragging it across the wall. Beside him, Jooheon aggressively covered the mustard yellow with white, the sound of the paint roller causing him to laugh. “You’re going to break it!”

“It will be fine, trust me, this isn’t my first painting rodeo.” He smiled.

It wasn’t hard to notice that Jooheon was feeling a little better; with any financial ties with her now severed, he was on his way of mending himself, and so Minhyuk didn’t hesitate to continue to let him do as he pleased - especially when that entailed gifting him a whole Cartier Love bracelet.
He was happier, laughing fully instead of his sad chuckles, and that alone made Minhyuk the happiest.

So no, of course he wasn’t mad that he was splattering paint everywhere and painting with zero sense of direction.

“This is very cathartic, Minhyuk. Trust me,” he sighed. “should we take a break? I’m a bit tired.”

“Yes, you’ve earned it,” he threw him a water bottle, both sitting at the centre of the room, the late afternoon sun colouring the entire room gold. Jooheon placed his water down, swivelling around to lay his head over Minhyuk’s crossed legs, golden hour psi dont his eyes a deep honey. “how are you feeling?”

“I don’t know. Not as bad, but still pretty bad. I guess it’s part of getting myself back up on my feet; like, I don’t think of her as much but when I do it’s just that moment when I walked into the bathroom,” his eyes fluttered shut. “frankly it just makes me mad that I wasted my time on someone like that.”

“I guess life has its little, shitty potholes, but you have to remember there is more to yoyr road than that.”

Unexpectedly, Jooheon laughed, looking up at his best friend. “10 minutes with Hyungwon and suddenly you’re a poet.”

“Speaking of him, did you know him at all before then? It’s like he knew you for years?”

“Well, some people are like that. If I didn’t know any better I would think he was a warlock or some shit.”

Minhyuk laughed, but it was short lived as his eyes met Jooheon’s, staring back at him. “You look pretty when you smile.”

“Thanks, I guess,” Minhyuk blushed, looking away as Jooheon rolled off him. “you do too.”

“Aw, blushing are we?” He looked up suddenly, a paintbrush pointed directly at his face and before he could even threaten him, it’s bristles already ran down his cheek. With a shriek, Jooheon took off, leaving Minhyuk to chase him around the room, all while the younger continued to flick paint at him.

At least that was until he reached for the roller. Jooheon’s eyes widened. “Minhyuk, no.”

But his best friend’s only narrowed. “Minhyuk, yes.”

Chapter Text

[January 2017]

 

The single word echoed loud and clear, reaching anybody in vicinity of the weak circle created around them; reaching anybody but Minhyuk, who despite being less than a metre from the source of the word, couldn’t hear past the blood tearing it’s way through the veins near his ears.

 

His entire body went slack, eyes looking around wildly as more people moved towards the commotion, leering in his direction. He felt a presence beside him, his narrow eyed best friend joining the equation, looking anything but happy.

 

“Say that again,” Jooheon hissed threateningly. “I dare you to say that again.”

 

Before them stood the ringleader, some low life silver-spoon child with an unbearably impressive knack for getting directly beneath Minhyuk’s skin. Hyunmin smiled ruthlessly, uncrossing his arms. “Of course you’d show up. You’re probably dating.”

 

“I’m warning you, you might want to stop.” Suddenly Jooheon became serene, unsettlingly serene. Minhyuk grabbed his arm.

 

“Stop. It’s fine. I don’t care, come on, let’s go.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

He nodded, his skin feeling numb and clammy as he tried to walk away. Jooheon eyed him with concern, before letting himself get dragged away. Minhyuk made a mental note to take a breath of relief, not only for himself but for Hyunmin and the danger he’d just avoided.

He’d only seen his best friend mad twice in his life, and it wasn’t pretty.

 

And then he went and ruined it, with a single, evil laugh. “Of course. There they go, the two fa-“

 

The word didn’t leave him the second time around, Jooheon turning around and closing the distance between them too fast for Minhyuk to stop him, and next thing he knew the screams grew in intensity, and Hyunmin was on the floor, being absolutely pummelled.

From then on he was swallowed into the crowd, which soon came to disperse as teachers sprinted to the scene.

 

His mind only came to function again when sat outside of the headteacher’s office, a hissing and groaning Jooheon sat beside him, only a cut on his cheek and tiny scratches as proof that he’d just neaten someone’s ass, otherwise entirely unscathed. He held a tissue to the wound, dabbing at it whilst cursing under his breath.

 

“Are you okay?” Minhyuk asked slowly, almost catching him off guard.

 

“Me? I’m okay. I’m not one for violence usually but that was...cathartic,” Jooheon chuckled, and so did Minhyuk but it was short lived, realisation drowning him. “I mean, he had it coming; the guy just doesn’t know when to-“

 

“It’s true.”

 

“What?”

 

“What he said,” Minhyuk turned to him. “It’s true. I’m gay.”

 

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

 

His jaw dropped, whilst Jooheon only smiled, wincing a little at his cut stretching with the gesture, but the intensity of it never faltering. “I’m happy as long as you’re happy. I don’t care who you like - you can develop an attraction for trees if you want,” Minhyuk cackled. “but I don’t care, as long as you’re happy, so am I.”

 

Overwhelmed, all he could do was squeeze his hand, smiling. “That means a lot, Jooheon.”

 

“Let’s go in and get this over with.”

 

The ultimate verdict ended with Hyunmin and Jooheon suspended for two weeks effective immediately, and although his parents were not entirely ecstatic when picking him up, he explained quickly, and it all was okay.

 

As for Minhyuk, nothing, which his headteacher described as “a relief” since it wouldn’t tarnish his pristine records and jeopardise his Seoul University application.

But that left him alone, to fend for himself as the entire school came to know his secret, walls closing in around him.

 

***

 

[present time]

 

Jooheon sighed to himself, lenses digging up as he took a sip of his coffee, pulling his knees to his chest as he reached for a stack of spelling test papers, humming gently to himself. Opposite him, rain drops littered the panoramic window, Seoul covered by clouds and heavy rain.

 

He heard a noise, startled by Minhyuk shiffling across the living room to the kitchen, unnaturally...glossy? “Hey.”

 

“Hi,” Jooheon chirped. “I made you breakfast.”

 

“Thank you,” His voice was distant, slightly muffled but mainly less lively than usual. He got up from his spot in front of the window, padding over to the kitchen to find his friend leaning against the counter, breathing heavily. “everything okay?”

 

“Yeah; stay away though,” he chuckled weakly. “you catch colds far too easily to even be in the same room as me now.”

 

“Oh, shut up. I sleep next to your bed, I’m bound to catch it anyways. You sure you okay? You’re sweating really-“ Jooheon froze, feeling Minhyuk’s forehead. “you’re literally burning up!”

 

“Really? I’m freezing,” Minhyuk dropped the facade, wrapping his arms around himself. “no, I promise I’m okay, it’s just a cold.”

 

“Minhyuk, you have the flu.”

 

“Me? Never-“ he sneezed. “oh God, I need a blanket.”

 

“Come on, you need to shower and get back in bed-“

 

“I’m okay, I just need some coffee and I’ll be fine, Jooheon,” Minhyuk sighed, very obviously not fine as he wiped sweat from beneath his glasses. “I’m hot now.”

 

“Here,” He handed him a glass of water, which he quickly drank, Adam’s apple bobbing with the action, a single drop rolling down his neck & disappearing under his shirt. He desperately looked away, his own body temperature rising unexpectedly. He shivered the feeling away. “thank you. I think I’m gonna do what you told me to do and shower. In hindsight, I might just lay down for a bit, I really am not feeling it.”

 

“Come on, I’ll help you-“

 

He stopped talking abruptly, Minhyuk suddenly pulling his shirt over his head as he walked ahead, all too nonchalantly. Jooheon blinked, Minhyuk squinting at him. “You were saying?”

 

“I’ll help.” He practically squeaked, following close behind him. In his room, Minhyuk laid down beneath the covers with a gentle sigh, pulling the covers around his face as his eyes fluttered shut.

Confused and frankly a little out of place, Jooheon stood in the centre of the bedroom, like a sim waiting for instructions.

 

Minhyuk’s eyes opened again, this time laughing at his best friend. “Are you buffering?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Come here; if you’re ok with the imminent probability of you catching these spicy germs.”

he spread his arms out, inviting him to the petri-dish his bed had most likely become.

 

Any other day he would have simply shaken his head, threw on a face mask and checked on him every now and then, but that was before his constant source of human affection walked out of his life. It was sad and a little weird to admit, but in just three days, Jooheon had become painfully touch starved, so he didn’t even think twice about ditching his hoodie and climbing beside Minhyuk, who sniffled happily before pulling him into his arms.

 

“It’s been so long since I cuddled up to you, remember last time?”

 

“Yeah, just before you moved away to your accommodation for university, remember?”

 

“Of course,” he chuckled. “you cried like a baby that day.”

 

“Shut up.” Jooheon grumbled, much to Minhyuk’s amusement.

 

“It’s true! If it makes you feel any better I did too.”

 

He craned his neck, only for Minhyuk to immediately sneeze on him. He freezes under his arm, absorbing what had just happened as Minhyuk laughed innocently, quickly dabbing at his face with the duvet. “Well, now you can’t leave for sure.”

 

“I can’t stand you,” Jooheon hissed, sighing. “how come you didn’t cry in front of me?”

 

“I didn’t want to upset you further, and I wanted to prove that things would be okay after that but as soon as I finished packing my stuff and my parents left, I sat and cried for two hours before sucking it up, grabbing a freshman shirt and my drink of choice and went to a party,” he shrugged. “probably why I can’t handle the smell of vodka to this day.”

 

“That bad? But wow, I just thought you were super certain about it and eventually felt better,” he said. “thankfully things worked out, now leave that day to rest, I’m still painfully embarrassed about what I did.”

 

“Of course they did. I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” Minhyuk then laughed, gently running a hand through his hair. “okay, okay, I’ll stop talking about it for your sake. It was surprising, though-“

 

“Minhyuk!” Jooheon whined, attempting to get out of his arms only to be pulled closer, practically against his neck. His breathing ceased momentarily, registering how close the two laid together, and the butterflies apparently doing a full tap routine in his stomach.

 

“Relax. I’m done, and I’m quite over it,” moments passed before Minhyuk spoke again, still holding Jooheon hostage flush against his collarbone. “truth or dare?”

 

“Truth. I’m not moving anytime soon.”

 

“Okay. How are you feeling today?”

 

He missed a beat, trying to see past the fog in his mind. “Better. It still hurts, but I guess I’ve stepped away far enough to see all the things wrong with our relationship; how I thought an engagement would solve the countless arguments we had last week alone. Maybe it was for the best, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Minhyuk hummed quietly into his hair. “she’ll soon realise what she lost. I bet you.”

 

“Well, that isn’t my problem anymore.” Jooheon deadpanned, causing Minhyuk to release him momentarily, tired eyed staring at him.

 

“Look at you!” He practically shrieked, Jooheon squirming as he proceeded to squeeze his cheeks. “I’m proud of you; you know what this reminds me of? When you got your first job.”

 

“How the-“

 

“Listen to me; you were begging your parents to not go in on your first day, but you persevered through it and started to be okay with working in a coffee shop, got more confident with taking orders, speaking to customers, making the drinks. This is like that; you’ll hate it at first but then I guess you get used to it and you can eventually move on. The only difference here is that I can physically be by your side for it.” Minhyuk grinned lazily, sleep beginning to get the best of him.

 

And Jooheon was glad; glad that his eyes were kind of closed, and that he was now facing away from him - he couldn’t see the way he blushed.

 

“I’m glad you can be by my side.”

 

“How could I never be there to you? You were one of the few and the first to be there for me when I came out - you got suspended trying to defend me, you’ve got shooters for life here.”

 

“I mean, you returned the favour when I came out to you, and that time I broke my collarbone and was basically voluntarily immobile.” He muttered.

 

“That was a day. Both of those.”

 

It was late night and the two had just left a midnight screening of some dumb comedy, and having grabbed some late night food, were on their way back to Jooheon’s accommodation when he catches a glimpse of the sky, the stars and the moon, the sight washing a sentimental wave over Jooheon.

He suddenly burst into tears, and then anxiety caused him to throw up, shuddering out a lame ‘I’m pan’ to Minhyuk as he came back with a bottle of water.

 

That day, they went back home and Jooheon simply allowed himself to be held, feeling the lightest he’d ever felt, and the most thankful for his mom for being so bubbly and speaking to Minhyuk’s mom and indirectly ensuring his guardian angel was less than a metre away at any given time. Jooheon smiled.

 

“All I remember is you throwing up on my shoes and sobbing uncontrollably. Really thought you were going to tell me you were irreversibly sick or something,” Minhyuk grumbled. “I really liked those shoes.”

 

“Oh, shut up.” He whimpered, earning more pets on his head.

 

“But I’m glad. I’m honoured that I was the first to know,” he sighed, sounding more sleepy by the second. “I’m always here for you.”

 

The blush from a few minutes ago was nothing, this time his entire face set alight, and he was certain he began to sweat on top of it all. Thank God he was facing away, thank God he was fa-

 

“Are you sick already too?” Minhyuk’s head hovered over him, watching him with curious eyes.

 

“Something like that.”

 

To his luck, Minhyuk was out after a few minutes more of cuddling, allowing Jooheon to slip out of his arms and finish marking the spelling tests, clean, cook and even dust the entire house; anything and everything to keep his mind busy, to stop him from thinking.

 

Two hours passed, and he entered Minhyuk’s room again. His duvet had moved to just over his hip, leaving his bare top half uncovered, gold necklace sticking to the skin of his chest similarly to how dark strands of hair stuck to his forehead. He snored gently, a hand draped over his abdomen.

Jooheon sat beside him, watching how the sun now filtered into the room, painting stripes on his skin, only making him prettier than he already was. He couldn’t bring himself to blink, watching how his eyelashes rested perfectly, how his lips were slightly parted, still a beautiful red even though the rest of him was paler than usual.

 

Jooheon leaned closer, planting a kiss on the cool skin of his forehead with zero hesitation before standing again, ready to leave the room when he turned back around, Minhyuk smirking in his sleep.

 

So he flicked his ringer to silent before tossing his phone beside Minhyuk’s, losing the hoodie he’d put on and climbing back under the covers only to be greeted again by his embrace, face buried in the crook of his neck. He responded with a gentle, content groan, still fast asleep, so Jooheon sighed, and allowed his own eyes to flutter shut.

Chapter Text

 

Hoseok’s house was much like him; hidden in a severely populated area of the outskirts of Myeongdong, the tiny house was actually a minimalist palace, warm and cosy like the hugs he smothered Jooheon with as soon as he came through the door.

“I’m so, so sorry, Jooheon,” he pouted, sipping on a protein shake before him, turning down the soft music in the background. “I wish I could have been there for you. How are you holding up, though?”

“It’s okay, and I’m doing better. I don’t feel as sad that it didn’t work out, more sad that it went to shit the way it did,” he smiled, taking a sip & wiping the condensation from his glasses. “Minhyuk helped me out loads, practically took the week off to be there for me.”

“Ah, he’s an angel, isn’t he?” grinned Hoseok. “That puts me at peace that he was there for you.”

“Please don’t feel bad, there was no way for you to know! Anyway, tell me how Japan went!”

His entire face lit up. “It was so good. I ate so much, but Kihyun practically recorded everything to listen back to it.”

“That is so precious.”

“I know I am,” he entered the room, wearing heart-shaped glasses, which Jooheon had a hunch he wasn’t aware of, Hoseok chuckling to himself. “what? I know I’m right. Anyway, I missed you, Jooheon. She isn’t shit, okay? You deserve nothing short of someone who appreciates and loves you for the precious baby you are.”

He chuckle at the compliment, Kihyun giving him a bone-crushing hug. Hoseok watched fondly, stepping over to grab his hand and lead him to the couch, arm falling casually around his shoulders. A small smile crept onto Jooheon’s face.

He remembered Hoseok clearly in their college days; a no good life of the party who was brought down several notches by a tiny, sassy transfer called Kihyun, who always missed hanshakes due to his deteriorating eye sight, which only worsened by the time they graduated. Naturally, Hoseok stuck to him like glue, the two being the missing piece in the other’s life.

And Jooheon thought it was freaking beautiful, only able to wish for someone to love him as hard as Kihyun and Hoseok loved each other.

As he observed the couple, a shiny silver ring on Kihyun’s left hand caught his attention. “You’re engaged?!”

“Yes!” Ki grinned. “I just felt this thing slide on my finger and then he broke into this super heartfelt speech about how I’m the best person he’s had and he doesn’t want to lose me-“

Yeah. Jooheon would really like that.

“Babe,” Hoseok whined shyly. “we must have looked so odd crying in the middle of a museum, but yeah, save the date I guess. Oh, would you guys like drinks?”

The two nodded in agreement, Hoseok wandering off to the kitchen. Kihyun chuckled, crossing over to the other sofa to sit next to Jooheon. “How’s Minhyuk?”

“He’s great, really came through for me this week,” he replied with a smile. “I can’t thank him enough.”

“Bless him. How are you doing?”

“Well. Getting by, it still stings every now and then but I’m okay. I’ll be okay.”

“I wasn’t sure whether to bring up the engagement or not in case it was too early but-“

“Oh my God, no, don’t you ever condition your happiness for the sake of others, especially me. I’m so happy for you two, it’s like watching my child all grown up.”

 

Kihyun laughed, squeezing his hand. “You’re too pure for this world. But, what I wanted to ask is how are you and Minhyuk? The two of you. You two. Y’all.”

“We’re oka- oh,” his voice trailed. “nothing’s happened, Kihyun. He’s taken me in because I left the apartment and I don’t know, I can’t tell if anything will come from it.”

“Well, do you still have feelings for him?”

“I don’t think I ever stopped having feelings for him, maybe they vary in intensity but I’ve always really liked him, but this could also be me being scared of being alone. But, fuck, he’s been there for me my entire life, and I don’t want him to leave anytime soon. He’s too precious for me to just let him pass me by.”

“You don’t have feelings for someone for literally 6 years or more just because you don’t want to be alone,” Kihyun shook his head. “listen, being blind opened my eyes to a lot of things, and one of those was detecting emotions with precision, and just from this small conversation I can tell that you really like him, and it doesn’t take a genius to know Minhyuk would literally die for you, so the choice is yours but, you’re in love, my friend. Unfortunately it took a bad break up to help you realise that, but, you’re a step closer to the end of the tunnel, and I may not be able to see, but I know exactly who’s waiting for you there.”

Curse Kihyun and his literature major-esque speech, which etched itself into his brain long after he left his friends’ house, sat at the back the bus as his mind ran wild.

Eventually, he grabbed his phone.

[jooheon]

how’s the first day back?

[minhyuk]

so dead I wish I was sat at home 🗿

but only 15 more minutes !

[jooheon]

can I come and meet you, we can go for a walk :)

[minhyuk]

yes pls do :3 I have a little something to do before we go home but you can come with me 

“I’m glad you’re happier.” Sohyun’s voice echoed beside him, and for a split second he thought he was dreaming, but there she was, sat opposite him. “I mean it.”

“Why would you even care, Sohyun? In fact, why are you even here?” He snapped quietly.

“I’m heading home, like you should do,” she said. “I made a huge mistake, Jooheon. I should have never done that to you.”

“Well but you did, at an impressive speed, may I add.”

She went to speak, but stopped, and sighed. “Just come back, please?”

“I think your chances with me are fairly low. In a sense, it was good, it taught me that I deserve better than you.” He replied.   

“It was a mistake, Jooheon,” Sohyun’s tone changed dramatically. “don’t you act like you’re an angel too.”

“I never cheated on you, though. Or anybody.”

“Or so you think.”

A heavy silence hung between them, the way life continued around them mildly irritating to him. At least until it washed over him, and he practically. “Minhyuk? Please. He’s literally my best friend, who’s been there for me when nobody else has. It doesn’t mean-“

“It doesn’t take an idiot to know you love him, Jooheon,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of love, but there is only one person in this world you look at the way you look at him.”

Silently, he stood up, heading towards the door.

“Wait!” She turned around. “Are you together?”

Unexpectedly, he grinned. “No, Sohyun. Some of us know how to keep it in our pants.”

 

***

 

With a gentle yawn, Minhyuk casually walked along the revolving door of the skyscraper he’d learn to call home over the past two years, met with a soft breeze outside, and patches of sunlight.

“Spring is coming.” He muttered to himself, loosening his tie as he peered around in hopes to see Jooheon coming his way.

“Over here,” he flinched, the aforementioned sneaking up from behind him, two coffee cups in hand. “here.”

“Hey,” he couldn’t help but grin, already recharged just by the sight of his slightly red nose. “oh, thanks so much, you lifesaver.”

“It’s okay, I assumed your Dad didn’t go easy on you after all your days off,” they began to walk. “how was it?”

“It was as dead as always but I might just not go in again for the rest of the week on sick leave, even though my Dad didn’t really see how me not working would help you in any way. But enough about me, how was your day?” Minhyuk fluffed his hair.

“Well, I got bored and went to visit Kihyun and Hoseok because I was feeling like a housewife but it was only intensified,” he laughed. “but Minhyuk, they’re engaged.”

“They’re engaged?!” Jooheon nodded at his words. “I mean part of me isn’t it even shocked. I could see it happening.”

“Me too, and I’m always down for a wedding party, wedding cake is iconic,” he smiled, taking a sip of his drink, glasses fogging up. “I hate my life.”

“Wait,” he grabbed his tie, calmly wiping at the condensation on his lenses, Jooheon’s eyes furiously wandering everywhere but to his. He beamed. “you’re so cute.”

“Go away.”

“In that case-“ Minhyuk smirked, taking long strides into the park, Jooheon chasing after him.

He eventually caught up, linking an arm into his.

“You know my legs are short.” He said quietly, earning another laugh from Minhyuk.

“It’s okay. I won’t run from you anymore.”

A comfortable silence followed, timely filled by the chirping of birds and rustling of leaves. He wished he never reached the end of the park, where the city would again make it too loud for small moments like this, and too much for Jooheon to be linked into Minhyuk like this.

His fingertips momentarily grazed the band of skin between the end of Minhyuk’s sleeve & the hem of the pocket where his hand was hiding, seemingly accidentally, but still enough to make him see stars for a second.

It got harder just from yesterday to today, his ill state causing him to forget winning Jooheon’s heart and simply reminiscing of the times he had his own heart in his hands without even knowing.

But not even the fever could make him forget the feeling of Jooheon’s lips gently touching his forehead, their warmth still there if the concentrated hard enough.

And naturally, before heading to work, he returned the favour, peppering a handful of kisses on Jooheon’s face, who naturally slept through it like a rock.

“Where to now?” He asked enthusiastically. “Minhyuk?”

“Oh, well, follow me,” he gestured around a corner, stopping before a tattoo parlour. “here we are.”

Minhyuk walked into the dark black store as it was nothing, a fretful Jooheon behind him.

The first time Minhyuk got ink was in his second year of university, and it was quite the entertainment to watch him explain to both their families that the whale on his knee was there to stay. By now he’d grown used to it, and he came to realise that Minhyuk really loved it (contrary to his curses as he got it done).

So he was truly curious as to why he was back here, giving him a wide-eyed stare, to which he replied with a wink, still speaking to the man at the front desk, who told him to into one of the rooms.

“What are you getting this time?” Jooheon asked.

“Here, it’s this,” he opened his phone on a sketch of a delicate rose on the reflection of an antique mirror, branches encircling it. “on my back.”

“God no! Smaller than that,” He grinned brightly. “you look terrified. Promise it won’t be as bad as last time.”

“If you say so.”

“Hello,” The guy from earlier peered inside. “I’m just printing the design, I’ll be here in a second so just get your shirt off and then we can start right away.”

“Sure!” He chimed, peeling off his suit jacket before working at his buttons.

Jooheon wanted to force his eyes away, but he couldn’t, inevitably staring at his bare chest until Minhyuk slowly came to a stop, raising Jooheon’s face with a smirk.

“You’re blushing.”

“It’s hot in here.”

“True, good thing my shirt,” he finished the last two buttons, laying on his front on the bed he was sat on. “is coming off.”

His enthusiasm and overall coolness faded the second those needles hit his back, still huffing and puffing about it on the bus ride back, much to Jooheon’s entertainment.

But some time had passed since the last curse, Minhyuk staring at his phone intensely before locking it, grinning to Jooheon.

“What?” He gave him a sceptical look.

“I ordered some food, should arrive by the time we’re home.”

Jooheon sighed dramatically. “I was going to cook!”

“No need; we can eat fast and then get on.”

“Get on with what?”

And that was when Minhyuk smiled, with the intensity of 1000 suns. “We’re going to Jeju Island tomorrow.”