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byungchan tapped his pencil impatiently on the desk in front of him, his left cheek resting in his palm as he zoned out and the teacher droned on in the background. it was days like this where he wondered why he even went to a regular high school rather than a performing arts school. his parents had brought it up multiple times when he was a freshman, urging him to apply to sopa or at least hanlim. at the time, young and innocent, byungchan had just shaken his head and smiled. he had friends at his school, it would be a shame to leave during such an important time in life. byungchan had since regretted the decision.

feeling a light tap on his shoulder, byungchan tilted his head to the back of the room, turning his attention to the boy behind him. subin, a rather energetic young boy who had miraculously skipped a few grades, flashed byungchan a grin.

“hyung, are you doing anything tonight? i was wondering if you wanted to stop by my apartment to play some mario kart. you know, kind of just like old times? remember when you-“ subin stopped abruptly, watching the teacher turn back around to face the classroom. as soon as the teacher turned back to the blackboard, subin continued. “remember when you were playing with me and then my mom came into the room which caused me to get hit by a shell so that you took first place instead? yeah. that was funny.” subin sighed dreamily, letting the grin slowly disappear from his face. “i broke that wii remote the following night.”

byungchan chuckled at this comment, turning around fully to face the younger so that he could ruffle the boy’s hair.

“ah, i’m sorry subin. i don’t have time tonight, or frankly, the entire afternoon. friday nights are usually super busy for me.” byungchan sighed, shrugging. “i’d love to do it some other time though. i’ll check my schedule later with my manager.”

upon hearing the last sentence, subin chuckled. “wow. you have to ask your manager? i can’t believe my childhood best friend is getting out there in life.” subin feigned hurt, placing the back of his hand on his forehead in exasperation. “it’s fine though. i just hope you’re not too stressed out! you’ve been doing some really good work in dramas lately. my mom always calls me downstairs to watch the dramas with me and says,” clearing out his throat, subin adopted a higher, mocking tone, “’you should be more like byungchan. look at how handsome he is compared to you!’ like thanks mom. i don’t think i can randomly change my visuals like that.”

almost ready to burst out laughing from subin’s oscar-worthy performance, byungchan quickly whipped his head back to the front of the classroom when he heard his teacher’s voice become louder.

“i’d like everyone to copy down these sets of theorems before class is over, if you have, then you may be dismissed.” and as if on cue, the bell rang with most of the class getting up from their seats. byungchan, solidifying his title as ‘worst math student ever’, hurried to copy the notes down. trying his best to scribble whatever words that were still left on the blackboard, byungchan gave subin a quick nod before hurriedly walking out of the classroom door and into the busy hallway.

though definitely a better sight than the dull math classroom, the loud, winding hallways were always hectic after the first period following lunch. byungchan blamed the fact that he couldn’t pay attention in math class on that the period was after lunch. it was a dumb excuse, but a good enough one.

clutching his textbooks in his arms, byungchan walked alongside dozens of other students that were trying to get to their next class too. as people passed by, most took the time to stare at byungchan, sometimes flashing small smiles and waves. the jocks of the school (who byungchan didn’t really mind much) stuck out their hand, reaching out for a high five. byungchan complied, happy to please the people he thought of as friends. his fame in the school had long been set, ever since he landed his first role as a child actor in primary school. he was accustomed to this by now.

finally stopping at his locker (which was ironically number 1109, the date of his acting debut), byungchan set his textbooks on the floor and began to put in the code. yet, something in his mood had changed. no longer was he upbeat and carefree, but rather nervous. his heart thumped harshly and byungchan swore that the people around him could hear every time it hit him. giving away to a quiet sigh, byungchan opened the locker.

three letters fell to the ground and landed nicely on his textbooks. reaching down to pick them up, byungchan quietly smiled as he recognised them as love letters from a few of his supporters at the school. it was no secret that byungchan had a wide variety of female supporters in the school, constantly gaining small gifts or letters in his locker from time to time. he remembered that at one point in his sophomore year, a few of the girls in his grade had organised a café event in order to celebrate his first lead role in a box office film. sticking them into his coat pocket, byungchan organised his textbooks and pulled out the notebooks he needed for his next class.

closing his locker, byungchan looked to his side. though subin shared the locker next to his, it didn’t seem like the younger would be there anytime soon. next to subin’s, however, was the locker of fellow senior han seungwoo. byungchan smiled to himself, feeling his heart pick up pace again. seungwoo was the head of the sports department on student council and also filled in for teachers sometimes when they were running late. known to the school as “the perfect role model”, seungwoo was highly respected around school. not much was known to most of the students, as he usually was in the company of his closest friends. to most people, it seemed like byungchan and seungwoo would never interact in their four years in high school.

yet, only byungchan and seungwoo knew the truth. they had met a ballet performance, seungwoo coming to support his older sister and byungchan coming to enjoy the storyline of the poor heroine, giselle. though the two were in the same grade, it had taken them awhile to recognise the other as they both sat next to each other. only when seungwoo went down to the stage to hand his sister a bouquet and byungchan went to buy a single rose for the elder’s sister did the two finally match voices to faces. seungwoo’s sister had made fun of seungwoo’s blushing face, pointing out how she had never seen her brother act such a way before. byungchan laughed. that night, they exchanged phone numbers and bonded over their love for dance and singing. it was a match made in heaven.

slinging his backpack around his shoulder, byungchan headed towards his next class. thankfully, it was literature, a class he could more or less tolerate. from across the hallway, byungchan spotted him. feeling as if he would melt right where he stood, byungchan tightened his grip around his backpack and kept walking forward, being careful not to make too much eye contact.

seungwoo, more preoccupied with keeping sejun away from heo chan’s sandwich, noticed this flustered action out of the corner of his eye and smirked. as the pair walked in opposite directions, their fingers brushed past each other. the two felt the spark there and byungchan felt his stomach twist. god, he was so in love.

with a quickened pace, byungchan walked into his literature class and cheerfully greeted his classmates. maybe it was worth paying attention in class for once.

seungwoo ruffled his hair, filing a hand through the bleached locks before setting it limply down on the lab table. though he was usually a good student, there was something about the day that seemed to bother him. not being able to focus on the physics worksheet in front of him, he let a small sigh escape his lips. though there was only one period left in the day, seungwoo felt as if it would be weeks before he would be let out of school. he dreaded every minute spent in the physics class. he would’ve counted the seconds if he had the patience to.

“hey, you good?” seungsik elbowed seungwoo in the ribs, a pen sticking out of his mouth. “i don’t get question five. literally what does this even say? this is why i flunked physics last year…” the words came out muffled, most of the noise escaping with an exasperated tone. “if only i paid attention in class… wouldn’t have to be repeating this again-“ seungsik raised his fist in the air as if to challenge someone, putting on his meanest expression. “but really, are you okay?”

seungwoo chuckled, placing a hand on the other boy’s shoulder. “yeah. i’m fine. i’m just thinking about some other stuff.”

from the other side of the classroom, a loud noise of a chair scraping against the floor grew louder and the two boys turned to see sejun planting his own chair in front of their shared table. with the worksheet in one hand and a fistful of pencils in the other, sejun slapped the two onto the table and sat down.

“this shit sucks. i hate physics.” sejun dejectedly muttered, burying his head into his arms. “why am i even alive. please, seungwoo, spare me.”

“i’m afraid murder is still illegal in korea. however, i can help out with these problems. which one don’t you get?” seungwoo playfully patted sejun’s head, grabbing the paper that laid next to him on the table. scanning the worksheet carefully, he placed it back down. “try applying gauss’s law to the problem. you might find that it’ll be easier.” upon hearing the former sentence, seungsik smacked his forehead.

“oh my god, i can’t believe i forgot about that! seungwoo, this is why i request to be in all your classes. i would never pass this class without you.” seungsik began to scribble down formulas, rolling his eyes when sejun groaned even louder.

“you think i remember what that even is? seungwoo i can barely multiply twelves together without using my fingers.”

seungwoo scoffed at the comment but remembered last year’s math final where sejun had confidently shouted to the entire school that nine times fifteen was two hundred after the test was over. maybe it was wrong to underestimate sejun’s power.

a couple minutes passed by soundlessly. seungwoo was more preoccupied with finishing up the worksheet so that he could help his classmates with the problems, sejun was still trying to find where in the textbook they had touched on what gauss’s law was, and seungsik had since moved on to working on other homework as he was stuck on problem ten. after helping the girl that sat across from him in history class, seungwoo returned to his original seat and was welcomed with sejun and seungsik arguing over whether stephen curry or kevin durant was the better basketball player. seungwoo sighed. these conversations seemed to be the norm for his friends.

“thank god you’re back, seungwoo. this fool really thinks that durant can beat curry in a one on one match. don’t make me laugh, sejun.” seungsik waved a hand sarcastically and pulled out seungwoo’s seat.

sejun whined, setting down his pencil with extreme force. “whatever! i’m not arguing anymore. but speaking of basketball, are you guys free later tonight? since it’s friday i was hoping we could gather chan and hanse and play a game or two outside my complex. before it gets dark we can also stop by the local barbeque place and get something to eat. please? i swear i’ll actually pay for it this time.” sejun sported a pout, directing his attention to seungwoo rather than seungsik. “please?”

seungwoo laughed. “ah, i’m not actually free this afternoon so you should ask this guy right here.” seungwoo gestured to seungsik who had since turned his miserable expression into one of extreme smugness. “i’d love to though, maybe next week.”

“ugh, why are you always so busy? this is kind of rare though, i never expected you to be busy before the weekend…” sejun pondered a bit, his index finger tapping on his bottom lip. “oh! are you going on a date? i feel like that’s the only logical explanation… but no, you don’t even like anyone seungwoo. hell, i haven’t even seen you with anyone in a romantic sense ever since the second grade school play.”

seungwoo laughed again. god, he hated his friends. “it’s nothing like that. i’m just busy. i promise though, next week i’ll get together with all of you guys. and i’ll treat you, the bill’s on me.”

upon hearing the latter sentence, both sejun and seungsik high fived. though he was glad his friends had quickly dropped the topic of dating, seungwoo could feel the regret piling up. there was no way he’d get out of the situation alive if his friends were to know. there was no way he could tell them. at least, not now.

“okay but actually, can you help with this problem.” sejun deadpanned, sticking his pencil and paper in seungwoo’s face, snapping him out of his daydream. seungwoo chuckled. now, this was the sejun he liked to see. taking the paper and pencil with a sort of graceful flare, the older boy nodded. “of course. now, where were we?”

the cool november air blew past trees, allowing their bare branches to sway in the wind while couples past by in the streets, trying their best to avoid the snow that fell from the branches when the wind was too much. byungchan waited next to the lamplight outside the theatre. the ballet company had just started their winter season and byungchan gleefully admired the posters that plastered the walls of the brick building. with a long coat covering his school uniform, byungchan gave away to a shaky breath that reappeared in the air but quickly vanished. the boy stuffed his hands into his pockets, feeling the tips of his fingers begin to sting. where was seungwoo?

from the end of the street, byungchan finally spotted him. almost immediately, byungchan dropped the book bag he had been hauling around all day and surged forward, being careful not to trip on some of the melted snow. seungwoo, though his hands were full with a variety of bags, opened his arms and welcomed byungchan, taking pleasure in the sudden warmth that emitted from the younger.

“how long did you wait?” seungwoo snickered, putting down his bags and instead grabbing byungchan’s hands that were now out of his pockets. “god, you’re freezing. you should have just waited inside the theatre.” seungwoo frowned, looking up to see byungchan rolling his eyes.

“you’re so cheesy. i hate you.” byungchan playfully hit seungwoo’s shoulder and scoffed. “i’m fine, i’m fine. i should be asking you if you’re alright. who carries this much stuff with them for a mile long walk?” byungchan gestured to the bags, “what are these anyways? don’t tell me…”

“i wouldn’t miss your acting debut anniversary for the world. i know how much today means to you.” seungwoo objected, picking up the bags once more as he linked arms with byungchan. “let’s go inside the theatre. it’s bound to be at least a little warmer inside. besides, i don’t think anyone is there except the ballet corps. we’ll be fine.”

the two boys entered the theatre and surprisingly, there was no one around. as seungwoo was close to his older sister and spent most of his childhood sitting around in the lobby of the theatre and was prone to getting up and exploring the large building, he knew the daily schedule of the corps by now. changing room three was the least commonly used room, so he assumed it would be empty. climbing the winding steps, seungwoo and byungchan arrived in the dusty room. it resembled more of a closet than a changing room, to be honest. seungwoo could see why it was the least used out of the numerous changing rooms that were scattered throughout different floors.

pulling out a chair that faced one of the vanities, seungwoo let byungchan sit down.

“i know i have a lot of stuff right now, but i want you to save all of this for when you get back home. i just want to show you one thing,” seungwoo pulled a small box from coat pocket and opened it. inside were two black rings, both engraved with the same date. the day they had met at the theatre, which coincidentally was the opposite of byungchan’s acting debut. “i… i had it custom made.” seungwoo murmured, feeling blood rush to his head. “i hope you like them. god, i’m so embarrassing.” the older boy muttered, his cheeks burning.

byungchan could only smile up at seungwoo. how his heart fluttered! what had he done to deserve such an amazing boyfriend?

snapping out of his stupor, seungwoo took a ring out from the box and gripped onto one of byungchan’s hands. with a gentle touch, seungwoo carefully placed the ring on the other’s index finger and smiled. it fit perfectly. who knew that all those months of fiddling with byungchan’s fingers would come in use.

byungchan didn’t know how to react. on one hand, he was so horribly enamoured with his lover, yet on the other hand, he had nothing prepared. he should have known something was up- why else would the older have specifically requested to meet on this day? usually they met on boring school days, when no one would suspect a thing and even if their classmates saw them they could blame it on a class project. byungchan was overwhelmed, to say the least. admiring the ring as it shined under the harsh vanity lights, byungchan could not help but tear up. when was the last time he had felt this loved? even throughout his acting career, no one had made him feel like this. for once, the sensation of his throat drying up, his hands becoming clammy with anxiety, the tips of his ears turning red- they were all real emotions, not just something imitated for the screen.

closing his eyes, byungchan could not help but let a few tears escape. seungwoo furrowed his brows. he hated seeing byungchan crying.

kneeling down, seungwoo used one hand to stroke the back of byungchan’s head and the other to cup his cheek. “you’re so beautiful. i don’t deserve to be with someone as beautiful, kind, and talented as you. i love you so much, byungchan.” leaning in closer, seungwoo carefully placed a tender kiss onto byungchan’s eyelids, pulling away so he could wipe some of the tears that had travelled down his cheek.

laughing to himself, byungchan finally opened his eyes to see seungwoo closer than he had thought. “i’m so dumb. why do i get emotional so easy? i’m the one that’s embarrassing.” byungchan chuckled again, letting his eyes cast downward. “i love you too, seungwoo. you’re the beautiful, kind, talented one here. you always leave me in awe-“ byungchan was shocked when seungwoo abruptly grew closer and planted a soft kiss on his lips, deepening the kiss when byungchan reacted positively. setting the box in his hand down on a table, seungwoo grasped both sides of the younger’s head as he parted his lips. the soft kiss quickly grew into something more, with byungchan moaning against the elder’s lips as he bit down on the younger’s lower lip.

it was as if the two were there for hours as seungwoo could feel his lungs start to give out. with a quiet tap on the shoulder, seungwoo pulled away and wiped the saliva that stuck to his chin. with an exasperated huff of air, seungwoo turned his head to face the other way, too ashamed to look byungchan in the face.

“well i’ll say… you certainly took the words out of my mouth.” byungchan mumbled, feeling his own swollen lips. to byungchan, seungwoo tasted like a sharp mint. seungwoo thought that byungchan tasted like a sweet honeysuckle.

“don’t act cheeky with me. i know your true intentions.” seungwoo jokingly warned, referencing one of the very sentences he had told byungchan when they first met in school. seungwoo leaned down once more and stole another kiss from byungchan. byungchan complied.

the sound of chatter grew louder and louder from outside the door, but the two boys didn’t care. they were in love, and that was that. in seconds, the door was open and in front of the door way stood sunhwa, seungwoo’s older sister.

“oh,” she commented, hand still on the doorknob. “i didn’t realise you were using this room still, seungwoo. just a reminder though, it’s room thirteen that’s usually not used. don’t make me catch you again.” glaring at seungwoo with the kind of glare that only an older sister could replicate, sunhwa turned her attentions to byungchan. giving a thumbs up, sunhwa mouthed ‘good job!’  to byungchan and left the room.

there was a moment of silence before anything else happened. then, byungchan laughed.

“now, where were we?”