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Ice Cubes In Your Shoes

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Jihoon was having an overall nice morning.

Waking up without the helpful drilling of the alarm beside his head was a pleasant surprise, for starters. It wasn’t noon either, which was a relief.

Recalling both his class schedule and what day was it again?, also spared him the panic of being massively late: truly a nice bonus.

He rubbed his hands all over his face, almost as an afterthought. The too-bright screen of his phone silently stared back at him. He unplugged the device, putting it back on the nightstand.

Jihoon simply rested there, lazily blinking awake, his body warm and tingly. Curled under the fluffy duvet of the full-sized bed, his mind felt full of cotton.

Free of the headache that had forced him to close his mystery novel the previous night, he thought about getting back into it for half a second. As he stretched his heavy limbs he decided it was too much work.

Once the urge to use the toilet became too strong, Jihoon sat up and dragged his bare feet across his small one-person apartment.

The place sat in a nice condo a ten minute drive away from campus, granting him both quiet and freedom. It wasn’t big or fancy but Jihoon liked it just the same. There was enough space for his recording equipment and the neighbors were quiet, so Jihoon didn’t feel the need to complain. Oh, and the rent wasn’t cosmically high, which helped a poor twenty-three year-old guy like him get by. Tutoring undergraduates in music theory could only do so much, really.

He started humming a lazy tune before a yawn rudely interrupted him. On his way back to the bed, he distractedly stopped in front of a mirror.

His blonde hair sat on top of his head, locks wild and seemingly unaware of the laws of gravity. Great , he thought sarcastically.

While Jihoon wasn’t too fond of surprises as a rule, if his hair one day decided to surprise him by not looking stupidly awful, he would definitely appreciate it.

He frowned quietly, throwing a side glance at his bed. It looked all kinds of soft with its lilac duvet all over the place, and the sight made Jihoon sigh.

As much as he wanted to go back and be a lazy-ass all day, the itch under his skin begging him to compose was stronger, as usual. He almost rolled his eyes at himself.

Absentmindedly running his pale fingers through his hair, he decided he might as well get out of there and grab some good coffee. If he planned on working on his new songs for the following eight plus hours, consequently forgetting about lunch and dinner both, he would need it.

Tap-tapping his fingers softly on the white dresser in his room, Jihoon turned on the bluetooth speaker that was placed on top of it. After connecting it to his phone, he let one of his chill mixes play while he showered.

Once clean and dry, he tried brushing his teeth and singing at the same time, which was always fun. A lot of it just sounded like “ I hope you have a good, good morning .”, followed by na-na-nas, truly a classic.

When his stomach grumbled, effectively interrupting his impromptu jam session, Jihoon glanced over his small kitchenette and sighed again. The pale cupboards weren’t empty just yet, but it had been a while since they’d seen proper food; some that actually held some nutritional value, that is.

He wasn’t starving! But recently, his options regarding meals always looked either frozen or prepackaged, which kind of sucked.

Of course, if he wanted to be able to afford that new, shiny and incredibly expensive maschine he had laid his eyes upon, he would have to make do.

Who needed real breakfast anyway? The overpriced coffee they sold at the campus’ only coffee shop was surely more than enough.

Plus, it wasn’t like he was addicted to it and couldn’t bear not having it for one whole day or anything.

Trying not to sigh again, Jihoon walked back to his dresser and rummaged around the drawers with both hands. He found an incredibly soft dark green sweater, obviously at least four sizes too big for him, and set it aside.

After changing into clean underwear and socks, he slipped the sweater on over his head. The fabric smelled like detergent and the comforting weight of it felt nice, leaving Jihoon satisfied with his choice. He paired it up with his oldest pair of jeans, now even lighter than it had been when he first purchased it.

Even after reaching over to turn his speaker off, Jihoon kept humming some made up tune, looking for his honey lip balm.

Once he found it, he applied it in two seconds flat and threw it back into the unknown. See you next treasure hunt and all.

When he checked, the mirror gave back a much nicer reflection than before. Jihoon obviously made a face to it, just because he was a mature adult, responsabile and serious. Society had raised him properly, after all.

Once at the door, he stretched his limbs and sat down to tie the different colored shoelaces of his sneakers. His placid morning routine left him pleasantly relaxed.

He grabbed his jacket and waist bag, making sure he had his earbuds, wallet, phone and keys on himself. Content, he kept humming quietly, even after closing the door behind himself.

So far so good , he thought distractedly.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon was playing a mindless game on his phone, shooting pixelated monsters with a tap of his thumb. He was waiting at the counter for his iced hazelnut mocha to be ready to go, when a notification caught his attention, resulting in the sudden death of his character.

Closing the game with furrowed eyebrows, he felt a wave of uneasiness wash over him.

The unfamiliar sight of his messaging app signaled a new text. He stared at it.

Jihoon knew he had shared his contact information with very few people over the years, even after college. He was also sure most of them wouldn’t even think of contacting him, if not in case of emergency.

It was sad to admit, but at least it was better than some weird aftereffect of The Accident , tastelessly dubbed like that six months back. You say you’d like to hang out with a group of kinda-friendly classmates once too many times and suddenly people are staring at you with distaste in their eyes, calling you annoying and even less flattering names.

Jihoon winced at the memory. So much for trying to get out of his shell and socialize. Read the mood, Jihoon.

Shaking his head to snap out of it, he took a deep breath and clicked on the messaging app. (1) new message from Boo Seungkwan .

The name had him raising both eyebrows in surprise.

Before he could open it, though, someone coughed loudly in his space, making him jump in the air.

“Your order is ready, dude.” the barista said, from the other side of the counter. He looked like he was trying his very best not to laugh at his embarrassing reaction, which Jihoon appreciated, professionalism and all.

Attempting to calm down, he nodded dumbly, trying not to stare at the barista’s twitchy mouth. He grabbed his cup and walked out of the coffee shop, leaving a piece of his dignity behind. He distantly wondered how he managed to make people laugh exclusively when not trying at all. Aah, would it be bad to face-palm in the middle of the sidewalk?

 

✨🌟

 

Once outside, Jihoon took a long sip of his iced drink and started heading back towards his car.

He was aware that all that ice wasn’t good for his health, but he couldn’t help himself. No matter how much time he spent arguing with the mirror, whenever a cashier asked for his order he would automatically add the word iced to it. Iced coffee, iced tea, iced water.

Not even the cold weather seemed to weight on his choice, but in that moment Jihoon was glad. His cheeks were on fire from the embarrassment, and he hoped the cold drink would help.

He abruptly stopped in his tracks, remembering the reason he had spaced out, consequently making a fool of himself.

He raised his phone as the device could physically hurt him, clicking the message open.

 

From: Boo Seungkwan

Hyung, its Seungkwan, from last semester’s vocal class! I’m sure you remember me, but in case you don’t, I was the one with the fabulous hair who was (still is) pretty good at projecting his voice! I actually spent the whole semester annoying you with comments about your compositions. Sorry about that, by the way. So! I have a project I kinda really really really need to finish soon, ‘cause the deadline is in a couple of weeks and, if you’re not busy, I could really use your advice! Text me whenever, even to just laugh at my face. Really, even I’d laugh. Okay bye!

 

Jihoon released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. All the air just flew out of his lungs as he crouched down to rest his forehead against his knees for a long moment.

It wasn’t anything to get so worked up about, after all. There were no insults, no referencing to his bad personality, or anything of the sort. Thank god .

Seungkwan, which Jihoon definitely remembered, had been really polite too. The guy had always been really funny, easy to get along with.

Jihoon stood straight again before taking another long sip of his drink.

Staring at the words on his phone screen for a moment, he bit his bottom lip softly. He thought about replying, but something held him back.

 

The whole vocal course had been something his master degree offered as an option, not requiring it to graduate. Attending hadn’t been the best of Jihoon’s ideas.

While he had met Seungkwan, a nice music major from the college’s bachelor program, it hadn’t been the best experience, overall.

The course had the students write their own songs a lot, which was fine, in theory. Although the professor seemed to think Jihoon’s pieces weren’t actually his , for one.

Not having any proof, since his compositions were in fact original, the guy made sure to make Jihoon’s life a living hell. He kept insinuating it so loudly Jihoon wanted to cry, scream and throw a chair at him, possibly all at the same time.

His classmates, of course, seemed to be of the same idea. Being friendly with a copycat wasn’t cool, apparently. No matter what Jihoon said, he apparently couldn’t be trusted.

If not for Seungkwan, who had expressed genuine interest in his works a lot, Jihoon’s self-esteem would have been overkilled. Nevermind his barely-passing final grade.

Things just got worse, thanks to The Accident.

Once it happened, Jihoon felt too raw and exposed to stand up for himself. At one point, even just replying to Seungkwan’s flattering comments with sincere smiles started to become too much.

At the end of the semester, once Seungkwan had grown too distant, Jihoon was left with only sour regret and no real chance to apologize.

He remembered Seungkwan slowly stopping “bothering him”. He remembered not being able to get a hold of the courage he needed to reach out to him. He remembered never telling the other how grateful he was, for his support and almost-friendship.

 

Once the semester came to a close, Jihoon had felt like a human-shaped ticking bomb. Alone, stupid and frustrated.

He knew he had to do something, and soon too. He wanted to get back on his feet and avoid the imminent explosion at all costs.

The only coping mechanism that didn’t sound one hundred percent unhealthy was, of course, composing.

Getting his entire emotional range out in his pieces had been extreme, yes, but also incredibly rewarding. Even if he hadn’t been able to catch much sunlight during winter break, breathing came a lot easier.

As he let go of months of bottled up feelings, Woozi was born.

An online alias worked wonders for his confidence as a songwriter, allowing him to publish his works and get direct feedback from a fearless audience, without being judged directly.

Woozi was genuine, Woozi was talented, Woozi was kind of internet famous too, which was a funny thought. Jihoon even sold some of his compositions to big companies thanks to him.

Overall, working under Woozi’s name left him feeling really good about his music skills, but didn’t really help with the lack of friends and the social anxiety.

 

Jihoon kept nervously sipping his iced mocha every now and then, thumb hovering awkwardly over his phone’s keyboard. After looking left and right, noticing there wasn’t a single soul around, he firmly shook his head. He thought about the actual possibility of apologizing to Seungkwan in person. The idea alone made him anxious, but just a second after thinking about it, he knew he had to do it.

No, he actually wanted to. Seungkwan wouldn’t laugh at him, probably.

Even if he did, deciding he never wanted to see him again, at least Jihoon would be free of that stupid feeling of regret. Songs about regret never came out right, anyway.

 

To: Boo Seungkwan

hey, i’m actually free today, can you meet me at the library right after lunch?

 

Jihoon typed and sent the text so quickly he didn’t have the chance to overthink his words. He took a deep breath and turned on his heels, pocketing the device and heading to the college library. He knew he would be way too early, supposing Seungkwan even said yes.

 

✨🌟

 

His stomach felt too funny to finish his mocha, but Jihoon knew bringing anything but water inside the library was forbidden. Throwing out his still half-full cup felt like a waste, really. Coffee was expensive!

He was also aware of how that particular trip inside would require half an hour at most. He only needed to check a few books, in case Seungkwan needed some more technical advice, and then get out again, easy . That was the plan.

No need to look like an idiot who couldn’t read the clock and arrived hours early.

 

Surprisingly, Seungkwan had quickly replied to him, excitedly texting him he’d be at the library by two p.m., followed by a lot of exclamation points. Good, Jihoon felt even jumpier after reading it.

Since looking reliable possibly wasn’t his forte, he had to prepare ahead, at least a little. That could help with the actual apology part, right?

Adjusting the grip on his drink, Jihoon did the only logical thing he could think of: he hid the cup in the hidden pocket inside his jacket and walked in.

He passed the shelves as soundlessly as possible, nodding politely at the librarian. Once he reached the music composition section in the back, he slowed down and inhaled harshly through his nose.

Jihoon wasn’t a man of action, that was for sure.

He liked to think about every single thing that could go wrong before determining the best outcome and placing his bets.

Unluckily, nerves made his logic sloppy. He tried to be rational, really, but he wasn’t good at working under pressure. That sure had made the whole college experience one hell of a ride, in his opinion.

He sighed, looking around for a specific volume, a nice guide to harmonies that might help Seungkwan.

Eyes roaming, he noticed a colorful book crammed a little high on the shelf in front of him. Jihoon felt like he had seen a similar-looking tome once before, but failed to remember its topics and level of relevance.

He got on his tip-toes to reach for it, but the sudden movement jostled the hidden cup in his jacket. Jihoon gasped, hurriedly stepping back. He took a small breath.

The cup stilled. False alarm , he thought.

He approached the shelf again, mindful of the iced liquid, and got on his tip-toes once more. He stuck his tongue out in concentration, mentally cursing both his height and the fact he couldn’t call the librarian for help.

He was in the middle of realizing he definitely needed something to step on to avoid falling on his ass, when a larger hand covered his own.

Jihoon jumped back, pulse sky-rocketing, before suddenly feeling incredibly cold . He looked down at himself in horror, seeing a huge coffee stain spread through his clothes, dripping steadily on the carpeted floor.

His mouth opened in shock and, before he could register what was happening, a warm hand gripped his own. Someone whispered, “Okay, we gotta run.” before dragging him away, out of the back door.

Jihoon didn’t even argue, especially after his brain caught up with the disaster that had just taken place. He imagined the furious frown on the librarian’s face and the possible ban from entering that could come with the scolding and yelling. He ran faster, cursing under his breath.

 

✨🌟

 

The stranger slowed down only after the library building had disappeared from sight. After a couple more steps, he softly stopped in his tracks. His backpack slid down from his shoulder as he turned to look a Jihoon. His breathing, coming out slightly fast, created small puffs of warm air.

“I’m so incredibly sorry, oh my god.” he said, looking genuinely apologetic. “Did the coffee burn a lot?”

Jihoon blinked twice at him, his lips parted on a silent gasp.

The guy was so massively pretty , what the hell? Jihoon’s brain had to perform an emergency reset.

He was definitely taller, but not enough to tower over him. His black hair was short and a little messy from the run, fringe parted on a side. His cheeks were full and his eyes were small and, oh god , his lips looked so soft and shiny.

Error notices almost popped up in Jihoon’s field of vision as he felt the stranger’s fingers move against his own. He realized in horror neither of them had let go yet.

The situation was certainly absurd in itself, so Jihoon barely winced as he heard his own voice mumble “Ah, my hazelnut mocha…”, like that was the real problem.

The stranger, on the other hand, looked even guiltier. “I’m so, so , sorry.” he said, gripping Jihoon’s hand a little tighter. “I honestly just wanted to help you get that book, I swear I didn’t mean any harm.” he added, as he bit the inside of his cheek, shifting his eyes to the ground.

He distractedly hoisted the backpack back on his shoulder using his free hand instead of letting go of Jihoon’s.

Blinking again, Jihoon had to fight against the sudden and absolutely illogical urge to pat the guy on the head. He swallowed and settled for lightly squeezing his hand back.

“It’s, uhm, it’s okay.” he tried weakly, before stopping to clear his throat. “It was iced, actually, so I’m not burnt or anything.”

The stranger breathed out what sounded a lot like a sigh of relief. After a beat, just as he was about to speak up, Jihoon interrupted him.

“Ah, thank you for getting me out before the librarian found out about the stains.”

Even if I was the one who shouldn’t have gotten a drink inside , he quietly added in his head.

The guy lifted his head slowly, looking at Jihoon with a hopeful glint in his eyes. “So you’re not mad?” he asked shyly.

Jihoon simply shook his head, distantly thinking about how maybe he should be. Instead, his decision was to somehow hold hands with the most adorable guy he had ever seen.

His palm was starting to get sweaty.

“Ah, thank god!” the stranger said, smiling so wide his eyes almost closed. Jihoon stared at him for a beat too long before catching himself. Feeling his cheeks heat up, he tried to hide his embarrassment by looking at the tip of his coffee-stained shoes. Which probably wasn’t the best tactic, since the guy had the audacity to giggle.

Shit, shit, shit .

Cute and Dangerous (Jihoon should stop naming things right now .) took a hesitant step closer, tilting his head to the side, bright smile still in place on his stupidly pretty face.

“I’m still sorry about the mess, though.” he said. He slowly ran his thumb back and forth across Jihoon’s knuckles, but if his intent was to comfort him, he had absolutely failed. Jihoon let out a loud scream in his head. His skin started to tingle, as if electrified.

He was about to question the boy’s sanity, his own sanity, check if he was dreaming or hallucinating or if his life had been somehow translated in one of his sappiest songs, when the guy licked his lips and asked “Can I buy you another iced mocha to make you forgive me?”

Jihoon’s head shot up at the question. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say but any word on his tongue died without much fanfare, as soon as he realized just how close the guy’s face had gotten.

Oh god , he panicked, heartbeat obnoxiously loud in his ears. Is he asking me out on a date or something? he thought, This can’t be my life .

The boy had the decency to look sheepish at Jihoon’s silent bewilderment, his own cheeks somehow flushed. He apparently powered through it though, biting his bottom lip softly. “I’ll even add a muffin to it.” he whispered, like it was his darkest and biggest secret.

Cute and dangerous, indeed.

Thoughts tangled up, Jihoon could only manage to slowly nod.

At least he was fully aware of how, really, the mocha absolutely wasn’t the problem.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon really ended up questioning his own sanity after agreeing to follow the stranger- no, Soonyoung , to the campus cafe’.

Even after visiting the place only around an hour before his fateful meeting, Jihoon didn’t even try suggesting taking his car to go somewhere else. He was afraid Soonyoung might smile at him while he was driving, having them crash against a lamppost or something.

Sudden death, yes, that sure sounded like a good way to stop embarrassing himself.

Jihoon fidgeted with the too-long sleeves of the lavender hoodie he was wearing. Of course Soonyoung would insist, talking Jihoon into trading his coffee-stained jacket and sweater combo for his own hoodie.

He even stuffed Jihoon’s clothes into the leather backpack that hung from his shoulder, stating he’d wash everything (with care) before returning them to Jihoon next time. Oh god, he had said next time .

Jihoon was too stunned by Soonyoung’s incredibly convincing puppy eyes to refuse properly, at that point.

Once decided, Soonyoung nodded and enthusiastically dragged the fabric of the hoodie over his head, to give it to Jihoon. The shirt he wore underneath rolled up a little, showing a flash of his lean stomach, just to make it worse.

Jihoon was incredibly glad there was no one around.

After Soonyoung was left with only a t-shirt on, though, Jihoon had to bite his tongue. The guy had the audacity to pair up those arms with a shirt with a cartoonish confused cat printed on top? Absolutely illegal, Jihoon should call the cops on him.

He quickly accepted the hoodie and they started walking again.

With actual disappointment set deep in his gut, Jihoon considered punching himself. Yes , to put clothes on and off  people need their hands. And no , there was no real reason to ask Soonyoung to hold his again, Jihoon, truly tragic.

Really, he should just accept his life was turning in a drama. Somewhere along the lines someone would eventually go blind, probably, that always happens. Cue applause and end credits. Jihoon would watch it.

 

✨🌟

 

So there he was, pinching his own thigh under the table in one of the cafe’s booths to stop himself from burrowing his nose in the fabric around his neck. The faint traces of sea-scented cologne Soonyoung had left on the hoodie were hunting him, but Jihoon couldn’t risk looking any weirder.

Soonyoung smiled at him from across the table. “So, Jihoonie, you were telling me you’re getting a master in music?”

Jihoon nodded, wondering how he magically became Jihoonie after maybe thirty minutes of conversation. Not that he was complaining.

“I focus on music composition and production, but yeah. It’s hell.”

Soonyoung nodded like he got it, even if Jihoon wasn’t sure what it even was. “I’m getting one in choreography, but I have a couple of friends in the music department, although they like to sing more than anything, really.”

He giggled cutely, like he just remembered something funny.

Holding up a hand, he started counting on his fingers. “Grocery shopping list? Sang it. Weather forecast? Sang it. Project deadline too close to comfort? Sang it while crying .”

Jihoon had to direct his smile to the table to avoid looking like an idiot. “They sound like fun.”

Soonyoung’s smile grew fond as he played with his own fingers on the tabletop. Jihoon almost felt like he was witnessing something private when he said “Yeah, they’re the best, I really love them.”

Before Jihoon could say anything though, Soonyoung’s head snapped up. Jihoon imagined a lightbulb lighting up on the side of his face.

“You know, I should introduce you!”

The sole sentence had Jihoon kind of panicking. Raising both of his hands up, he hurried to say, “Oh, no, no, no , it’s fine, really, you don’t have to, there’s no need to.”

Even if Soonyoung had been incredibly nice to him so far, his friends would surely notice Jihoon was an odd one. He really wasn’t ready to shutter the illusion just yet. Taking a small breath, he started toying with the hem of the hoodie.

Soonyoung pouted. “Are you sure?” he asked, sounding a little disappointed. “One of them actually works here. He’s a funny guy.” he added, briefly looking around the cafe’ before giving Jihoon a toothy smile. “Well, not as funny as me, but you know, that’s a very high level to reach.”

Jihoon answered with a tiny smile of his own, relaxing a bit in his seat, glad for the topic change. “Well, singing while crying is pretty funny.”

Soonyoung faked an incredibly dramatic insulted face, complete with hand over his heart, before cracking up. “It really is, you should have seen it!”

Jihoon’s cheeks were starting to hurt from fighting against the urge to laugh, loud and unattractive. Try as he might, Soonyoung had that kind of smile that could light up a whole room by itself. Jihoon was stupidly captivated.

The boy wiped the corners of his eyes, still smiling, and shook his head. When he glanced back at Jihoon, he froze for a second, before suddenly clearing his throat.

“Well, stay here, okay Jihoonie?” he said, standing up abruptly. “I’ll go get your mocha. Be right back!”

Without waiting for Jihoon’s reply, he grabbed his wallet and marched to the counter.

Jihoon sat there, frowning quietly at the sight of Soonyoung’s now open backpack. The item couldn’t give him any answers, but Jihoon stared at it anyway, feeling confused.

Was it something he said? Did he have something on his face? Maybe Soonyoung realized he was wasting his time with a stranger instead of spending it with his really funny friends and didn’t know how to back out.

Jihoon sighed, grabbing his phone from his pocket to keep busy. As he blinked at it, a sudden string of curses softly escaped his lips.

Shit, how could he forget about Seungkwan ? The guy had asked specifically for his help and Jihoon just decided a pretty boy was suddenly more important? So much for trying to make amends and start afresh.

It was almost lunchtime and he really had no time to spare. Oh god, what was he even supposed to do once he actually met up with Seungkwan? He had no speech prepared, no books to recommend, no ideas whatsoever.

Jihoon worried his bottom lip between his teeth, mind blank. Shit .

Soonyoung chose that exact moment to slide back in his seat, two cups in his hands. He had his mouth open, about to say something, but one look at Jihoon’s face was enough to let a worried crease form between his eyebrows.

“Jihoonie? What’s wrong?” he asked as he set both drinks down on the side of the table.

Jihoon shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, uncaring of the mess the gesture surely left behind. “I’m sorry, I gotta go, Soonyoung.”

Soonyoung’s face fell.

“Ah, I see.” he mumbled after a beat, before taking a deep breath and closing his eyes.

“Sorry, it wasn’t appropriate of me to drag you here and all. I assure you it wasn’t my intention to make you uncomfortable.”

Jihoon’s thoughts stopped swirling. He just blinked at him.

Soonyoung still had his eyes closed and his body language was tense. There’s no way that’s an act , Jihoon distantly thought, He’s actually sad I’m leaving. He thinks its his fault.

Before his brain could stop him, Jihoon’s mouth blurted out a simple “I really wasn’t. Uncomfortable, that is.”

Soonyoung opened his eyes to meet Jihoon’s, hesitantly. He looked somehow hopeful and yet afraid to be, like he wasn’t sure what he was allowed to feel about the situation.

Jihoon’s heart clenched uncomfortably at the sight. He let his fingers through his hair again.

“Look, I just have to go help Seungkwan, ah, I mean, my f-friend, with his project. I promised him.”

He winced at his own words. “I know it sounds like an excuse, but it isn’t...”

Jihoon sighed, starting to fidget with the hem of the hoodie, Soonyoung’s hoodie. “You don’t believe me, do you?” he whispered, more to himself than to the other boy.

Chancing a glance at Soonyoung, he found him hiding a gentle smile behind one of his hands. “I believe you, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon swallowed dryly, but before he could say anything, Soonyoung added “Uhm, this might be a long shot but...are we talking about a Boo Seungkwan here, perhaps?”

He scratched his cheek with a finger. “Music major in his junior year, incredibly extra, variety show binge-watcher Boo Seungkwan?”

Jihoon looked at him like he had grown another head. “Are you psychic or something?”

That startled a loud laugh out of Soonyoung, who just waved no with his hand, in between chuckles. “No no, oh, no, I just…”

He cleared his throat lightly before continuing. “He’s one of my music-major friends I was telling you about. Not the funny guy who works here, but the other one. The funny guy who doesn’t work here.”

He smiled at Jihoon like knowing they were talking about the same Boo Seungkwan was in fact the christmas present he had hoped to receive all year.

“If you don’t mind me keeping you a little longer, I can just send him a text, tell him to meet you here so you can unhurriedly have your mocha?”

Jihoon snorted ungracefully.

The emotional rollercoaster taking place inside his chest was absurd. Just who was this guy and how come Jihoon was already about to say yes, yes, please, I’d love to have this stupid mocha with you?

The tips of his ears felt hot.

“As long as it’s iced, I don’t mind.” he said, faking confidence he really didn’t possess.

Soonyoung smiled wide, gently pushing one of the cups in front of him. “I’m lucky it is, then.”

He grabbed his own drink and fished his phone out of his backpack. He blindly reached for the straw with his lips while supposingly composing a text to Seungkwan. Jihoon was stupidly amused.

He didn’t have the time to feel like a creep for staring, as Soonyoung turned his phone towards him. Through the slightly cracked screen, Jihoon could read a new message.

 

To: BooBoo

yahh, boo seungkwan!! lee jihoon is my prisoner now!! if you want him back, come to dk’s cafe with enough money to treat both of your hyungs to blueberry muffins!! or else!!

 

Jihoon blinked at the words before letting out a laugh worth all the ones he had fought against since he met Soonyoung. He was sure other customers were staring at him, but he couldn’t help it. He rubbed a hand on the side of his face, closing his eyes and resting his back on the cushion behind him as his body convulsed in giggles. Was this guy for real?

He hiccuped stupidly into his hand until the sound of a camera shutter going off had him snapping his eyes open.

Soonyoung, from behind the cracked screen of his phone, looked radiant. In that moment, he took another photo of him, but pocketed the device before Jihoon could even think about reaching for it.

As Soonyoung smiled so bright at him, Jihoon thought that maybe he’d be the one blind-to-be character in the drama after all.

“What did I tell you? Only premium comedy content here.” Soonyoung said cheekly.

Jihoon stuck his tongue out at him before shaking his head. He grabbed his mocha in a fruitless attempt to hide his goofy smile.

 

✨🌟

 

After Seungkwan’s almost instant reply (filled with question marks and exclamation points only ), Soonyoung had nodded solemnly, putting his phone away. He then got up again, smiling and placing a finger in front of his lips. He quickly ran off to the counter and back.

Jihoon barely had the time to feel confused before a fat blueberry muffin was placed in front of his face. “I told you I’d buy you one myself, Jihoonie.” Soonyoung said, smiling warmly at him.

Jihoon stared at both him and the treat at the same time, getting a little cross-eyed.

“...You don’t like blueberry muffins?”

Jihoon decided then and there he didn’t like Soonyoung second-guessing himself. Also, he could never say no to blueberry flavored anything , really, there was nothing to fear.

“I like them.” Jihoon said, feeling heat crawl on the back of his neck. He hoped the sweat on his hands wasn’t too obvious as he accepted the baked good. He took an impressively big bite, as if it could prove his point.

The muffin was actually really good, fluffy, not overly sweet nor too dry. Jihoon was a little afraid of his eating habits getting worse now that he knew how close those magical sweets resided.

It had been a while since he let himself eat any type of treats. Being broke and stubborn left no room for dessert.

Soonyoung’s giggles distracted him as he was in the middle of trying to reach some crumbs at the corner of his lips with the tip of his tongue. Frozen mid-motion, Jihoon looked over at the other side of the table.

Soonyoung was hiding a huge grin behind the screen of his phone once again . Soft puffs of laugher escaped him as the sound of the camera shutter filled the space between them.

Jihoon’s stomach was filled with stupid butterflies.

The situation was ridiculous. Who even takes multiple pictures of a guy they just met?

He really wanted to tell Soonyoung to stop, that it was embarrassing, silly, kind of weird. His hair was surely a mess, he was wearing Soonyoung’s own clothes ( oh god ) and he was in the middle of fighting with a muffin twice the size of his fist. There was no way he looked even remotely attractive, yet he knew Soonyoung wasn’t laughing at him.

Jihoon’s mouth suddenly felt really dry.

Even if it wasn’t on purpose, he was kind of happy to be the reason behind Soonyoung’s laugh. He distantly thought about eating a huge amount of muffins in the most bizarre ways just to see a boy he had just met smile.

Huh, maybe he was the weird one of the two.

Either that or Soonyoung was somehow contagious.

Jihoon covered his face with a hand, trying to will away the redness prickling under his skin. He aggressively munched the treat, stomach in knots.

Soonyoung placed his phone face down on the table and itched closer to him. “You’re so cute, Jihoonie.” he whispered, cupping his hands around his mouth like a kid.

Jihoon tried to cover the shells of his ears as well, feeling the blood rush to them. His heartbeat sounded ominous in his head, a constant thump thump thump . He was going crazy.

Cause of death: a cute guy gave him attention for an hour . It would be carved on his tombstone as well, Jihoon just knew it.

Soonyoung mumbled something else, but Jihoon was too busy dealing with his inner existential crisis to properly make out the words.

Still struggling not to choke and trying to hide at the same time, he barely noticed Soonyoung getting up again.

He definitely realized it once a warm thigh pressed flush against his own. Colorful alarms went off in his head, in tune with the beat of his heart.

“What the hell, Kwon Soonyoung!”

Jihoon blinked. Even if those definitely were his thoughts at the moment, his voice had sounded really different. Way louder, more confident, kind of dramatic. He raised his head, puzzled.

Ooh, that wasn’t his voice at all.

“Ah, Seungkwannie and Hansol! You’re here earlier than I anticipated.” Soonyoung replied, casually sliding his backpack close from across the table, making room for the new arrivals.

Seungkwan and a boy Jihoon had never seen took the newly freed seat. Jihoon eyed them for a moment, trying to swallow the last bits of his muffin.

Seungkwan, in front of him, was dressed in pale pink, mumbling something about ‘ being normal for once, hyung ’. He had dark blue hair, which Jihoon didn’t expect. He looked cool, more mature, the shade of golden blonde he had sported during their shared class forgotten.

The boy beside him didn’t really look like an Hansol to him, as Soonyoung had called him. Jihoon was pretty sure he would have mistaken him for a foreigner, in a different context. His eyes were big, his jaw was defined, his clothes were eccentric and well, his light brown hair looked kind of natural, too. The two of them looked really handsome, especially sitting next to each other.

Models taking a break in between shots, kind of handsome. Jihoon quietly cursed both the gods above and fateful genetic combinations.

He nervously took a sip of his mocha.

He should probably introduce himself, right? Or maybe Seungkwan already told Hansol who he was? Oh no, what if he did ? What did he say? What should Jihoon say?

Before his brain could collapse on itself, Soonyoung squeezed his shoulder. He met Jihoon’s eyes, tilting his head a little to the side. A wide smile was playing on his lips, and Jihoon had no trouble imagining fluffy puppy ears coming out of his head. He blinked the image away.

He forced himself to clear his throat, facing the other guys. “Uhm, hello.”

Seungkwan’s face immediately broke into a cheeky smile. “Hyung, hello!” He started wildly gesticulating, words rushing out of his mouth. “I’m so glad you replied to my text! You have no idea of how grateful I am for your help, this project is kicking my ass .”

Hansol snickered beside him. “And we can’t let anything happen to his ass, can we?” He covered his head as Seungkwan squawked.

The other settled for lightly slapping his shoulder instead, pouting. “You’d be the most devastated out of all of us in that case, I take it?”

The look in Hansol’s eyes was both playful and fond, making him look like a kid about to pull his crush’s tails. “You know I don’t love you for your ass only, ‘Kwannie.”

He waited a beat, before adding “Although I admit your bubble butt is the cutest and I wouldn’t be able to live without it.”

Both Jihoon and Seungkwan cringed, but the latter’s cheeks looked suspiciously pink. “What do I even see in you, I swear.” he mumbled, pushing the boy away. Hansol only giggled, pressing even closer.

Jihoon bit his bottom lip lightly, trying to refrain from asking stupid questions. He was so jealous of their ability to act so casually around each other. They looked really...enamoured.

Seungkwan sighed dramatically. “Please ignore my boyfriend, hyung, there’s no hope for him.”

Hansol only laughed harder, sending an amused grin in Jihoon’s direction. “Chwe Hansol, the hopeless boyfriend. Sounds good, right?”

Jihoon giggled before Soonyoung decided that was the right moment to casually slide his arm around his shoulder, abruptly killing any forming thoughts in his head.

“Sorry to interrupt you lovebirds, but I believe we were promised muffins here? I’m starting to get hungry.” Soonyoung said, sticking his bottom lip out a little. Jihoon pinched his own thigh once more.

(Avoid doing or saying anything stupid, discretely pinch your own skin instead. It was like he was training himself, Pavlov would be so proud.)

Seungkwan rolled his eyes, but pushed an amused Hansol out of his seat and walked over the counter without protesting.

Once the two were out of earshot, Jihoon nervously scratched the tip of his nose. “Uhm, Soonyoung? You do remember you just bought me a muffin, right?”

He tried not to stare at the hand drawing mindless circles on his shoulder, but it was terribly distracting.

Soonyoung smiled, nodding lightly. “Of course, Jihoonie. But you deserve another!”

His face then contorted in a funny expression. “Also, I just wanted another minute of...you know, just the two of us.” he added, almost as an afterthought.

Jihoon didn’t have in himself to joke about how cheesy the line was, seeing how comically alarmed Soonyoung looked at his own words, wide eyes and all. Jihoon quietly bit his bottom lip, staring at their sides, still pressed together. He felt warm all over.

Soonyoung cleared his throat awkwardly. Jihoon wasn’t sure the boy was trying to scoot away, but as soon as the arm around his shoulder moved, he grabbed it.

He didn’t really think about it, he just did it. Regretted it immediately afterwards, but still did it. The cute cat printed on Soonyoung’s shirt almost laughed at him.

Jihoon’s sweaty hand closed around Soonyoung’s wrist. “It’s fine,” he mumbled, “n-nice, even.”

Very nice , he admitted in his head.

Soonyoung settled back, snorting. His cheeks looked a little flushed.

It felt somehow comforting, not being the only one resembling a tomato with legs.

 

Seungkwan and Hansol stared at them with matching glints in their eyes, once they got back. No one commented. Jihoon caught them exchanging a furtive look and sipped his mocha, vaguely concerned.

“Here are your muffins, hyungs.” Hansol said, after setting down two treats in front of them. He left a third one, chocolate flavored, closer to him and Seungkwan.

Soonyoung smiled and bowed dramatically, forcing Jihoon to bow a little with him. “Thank you, my favorite juniors!”

The awkwardness in the air reduced significantly as Seungkwan snorted, mumbling “ Cheap , hyung.”

Hansol giggled. A pleasant silence filled the booth as they all started munching on the fluffy sweets. Jihoon was still feeling warm all over, content and a little sleepy. The caffeine in his mocha usually did its job, but it wasn’t working properly that day.

There was something incredibly relaxing about a group of friends eating together, he distantly thought. The idea of friends, anyway.

And oh, Soonyoung .

The comforting weight of his arm around his shoulder and the traces of his cologne made Jihoon’s head spin in the best way possible. The world felt soft and blueberry flavored.

Seungkwan bit the chocolate muffin from Hansol’s hand and lazily waved his phone around, grabbing Jihoon’s attention. “Jihoon-hyung, is it okay if I tell you a bit about my project, since we’re here?”

Jihoon nodded slowly, rubbing a hand over his eyes. He felt Soonyoung’s fingers starting to trace patterns over his shoulder again and forced back a yawn.

“Okay, so, we’re supposed to compose and sing a piece about stars? I have no idea what that’s even supposed to mean, to be honest.” Seungkwan sighed. “All I managed to write is a simple melody. The lyrics are completely beyond me…”

Jihoon nodded again, licking his lips. “Can I listen to what you have so far?”

Seungkwan mumbled a quick “Yes, please, I beg you.” before tapping at his phone screen a couple of times. Jihoon got his own earbuds out, secretly trying to move as little as possible from where he was pressed against Soonyoung’s side. He connected them to Seungkwan’s phone and pressed play. Closing his eyes, he was vaguely aware of his fingers counting the beats.

The track was simple indeed, but steady. It felt somehow sad, nostalgic. The theme of the project was stars, so Seungkwan could surely use some metaphors on the poetic side of lyrics writing. A nice crescendo could also help his powerful vocals shine. The song ended quickly, lonely piano chords dying out. Jihoon felt even sleepier than before.

He opened his eyes again, noticing Seungkwan and Soonyoung pouting at each other. He removed the earbuds and slid the phone back across the table. Hansol flashed him a smile and shrugged, nodding towards his boyfriend.

“Hyung, c’mon, all you listen to is EDM! There’s no way you can help Jihoon-hyung write anything!” Seungkwan said, unaware of Jihoon’s listening ears.

Soonyoung had an unhappy crease between his eyebrows when he answered. “You know it’s not all EDM. And I can at least try.”

“Still, this is something I have to sing!” Seungkwan crossed his arms defensively. “No matter how you put it, all you listen to is Woozi and he barely sings.”

Jihoon’s eyes widened. Woozi? He was suddenly wide awake.

Soonyoung bit the inside of his cheek. As he was about to reply, he distractedly looked at his side, towards Jihoon. His expression softened once their eyes met. “Hey Jihoonie, back to Earth?”

Jihoon nodded dumbly. Before Seungkwan could ask him anything about the track, he said “What does Woozi have to do with anything?”

Soonyoung’s eyebrows shoot up before his smile turned shy. “Ah, you know him?” Jihoon kind of wanted to laugh. He nodded once more.

Seungkwan sighed loudly. “Soonyoung-hyung here only listens to him, I swear. He’s obsessed with Woozi.”

Hansol, amused smile still on his face, nodded eagerly. “Soon-hyung has a big boy crush on Woozi.”

“I do not!” Soonyoung squawked. He pointed an accusing finger towards Seungkwan. “And I’m not obsessed with him either!”

Seungkwan and Hansol rolled their eyes in sync. Jihoon was kind of weirded out.

Soonyoung frantically turned towards him, bottom lip stuck out, the bridge of his nose a little pink. “Jihoonie, I swear, I just really like his music, don’t listen to Pain and Panic here.”

It was Pain and Panic’s turn to yelp, apparently.

Jihoon’s face contorted in a series of colorfully comical expression before he realized his secret was actually still safe. “I believe you, don’t worry.”

He tried to wrap his head around the fact that Soonyoung apparently was his fan . He suppressed the sudden urge to ask him what his favorite song was, out of all Woozi’s compositions.

“Anyways, that aside,” Seungkwan said, waving his phone around dramatically. “Jihoon-hyung, please put me out of my misery!”

Jihoon shot one last look at Soonyoung, trying to reassure him by patting his thigh once. The gesture felt weird, a parody of something truly comforting. Robotic and a little gay, not really all that friendly.

Jihoon tried his best, okay? Sue him.

He licked his lips again, turning to Seungkwan. “It’s a nice base to start with, although I might have some ideas on how to make it a little fancier, I guess.”

He toyed with the hem of the sleeves of his hoodie. “Vocally-wise, you might need something strong, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Lyrics-wise, I’d pair it with something simple. Simple is always best, really.”

His legs started to bounce a little under the table. “I’m not talking about cheap sentimentalism, but about repeating the verses. It doesn’t have to be the Iliad, that’s what I’m saying.”

Seungkwan stopped frantically typing something on his phone to look at him expectantly. “I’m taking notes, please continue.”

Jihoon blinked a little. Taking notes? Now he really had to give good advice. Nice, no pressure whatsoever. He only listened to the track once .

“Uhm, it did sound a bit melancholic, not sure if it was on purpose, so how about loneliness as a key theme?” Jihoon tried.

He cleared his throat lightly. “Stars can be perceived as unreachable, so maybe something about losing someone...or someone walking away from you. You can keep it vague.”

Seungkwan looked somehow both incredibly focused yet lost in his own world. His eyes shone under the cafe’s artificial lights. He suddenly grabbed Jihoon’s hands from across the table and bowed. “Thank you so much, hyung! I’ll do my best!”

Jihoon nodded, a little startled. “Hope that helped?”

Seungkwan clapped his hands once, loud and enthusiastic. “Of course! Ah, Hansollie, can you help me with some english words?”

Hansol fixed the dark blue strands on Seungkwan’s forehead, a fond smile curling his lips upwards gently. “Of course, babe.” he said, in perfect english.

Jihoon turned his head a little to the side, half to give the couple some privacy, half to chance a glance at Soonyoung.

Said boy was already looking at him when their eyes met. He mouthed a silent “You’re amazing.”, before squeezing Jihoon’s shoulder affectionately.

Jihoon felt somehow proud. Then stupid about feeling proud. Then embarrassed at feeling stupid. Then stupid again, because everything was ridiculous and nothing made sense anymore. He guessed it was time to look for a title for his own life-turned-drama.

 

✨🌟

 

Once Jihoon breathed in the chilly march air, it was well past two in the afternoon. Soonyoung and Hansol both had to head to their respective classes, so the group had to split.

Seungkwan was going back to his dorm to work on his composition, and Jihoon figured he should probably do the same. He took some calming breaths. Now or never , he thought.

He pinched Seungkwan’s pink sweater between his fingers, holding him a few steps behind as the others kept on walking. Once Seungkwan’s eyes met his, Jihoon bit his bottom lip nervously.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked, gently releasing the soft fabric.

Seungkwan nodded and gestured at Hansol to wait for him for a moment. “Is everything okay, hyung?”

Jihoon nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again.

He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

Seungkwan looked a little worried. “Hyung, are you sure you’re okay?”

Jihoon sighed, rubbing a hand on the side of his face. He really should have prepared a speech or something. “I am, now. I wasn’t last semester.” he said, “It’s not an excuse for how I treated you, though.”

Realizing where the conversation was going, Seungkwan let out an unhappy noise. “Hyung it’s fine! It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“It does to me.” Jihoon whispered, his insecurity visible on his face. “I was a dick to you. You have all the reasons to hate me, I understand.”

Seungkwan sighed, but his small smile was kind. He looked at Jihoon like he was a kid who had just said something silly; like the year had thirteen months instead of twelve. “Jihoon-hyung, I don’t hate you.”

Jihoon blinked at him. “You don’t?”

“Of course I don’t!” Seungkwan huffed. “The whole course was bullshit, and you didn’t deserve any of it! I was the one who shouldn’t have kept pestering you, really, you were just having a hard time.”

“You weren’t.” Jihoon said, shifting his gaze to the ground. “Pestering me, that is. I, you...you’re pretty funny.”

Seungkwan rolled his eyes, giggling softly. “Of course I am. That doesn’t make it right, though.”

Jihoon licked his lips. His head felt a little light. “No, seriously. I liked our talks, even though I didn’t say much.”.

He ran a hand through his hair, trying to appear nonchalant. “It’d be nice to do that again, maybe.”

Seungkwan stared at him as Jihoon counted three long seconds of silence. “You wanna hang out? With me?”

The tips of Jihoon’s ears felt a little hot as he nodded.

“Oh, hyung!” Seungkwan beamed, “Oh my god, of course !”

He started gesticulating wildly. “Trust me, we’re gonna be best friends in no time! Actually, I should introduce you to the others too. It’s gonna be awesome .”

Jihoon swallowed, nerves making his system go haywire. Friends? Best friends? And new people, oh god.

It was both great and terrifying news. Everyone would think of him as an evil gremlin, he was sure. He forced himself to take another deep breath. When did someone replace his insides with wacky strings of christmas lights? Jihoon didn’t even like christmas.

Seungkwan’s finger touched his own chin, undisturbed by the other’s internal turmoil. “How about a game night? Or a jam session? A campfire?” he asked distractedly. “Actually, you know what, let’s just stick with the first two. The weather isn’t the best and I’m not one to mix night and rain.”

Jihoon was about to say something, anything from Sorry, I suddenly can’t speak korean , to Do you have a roommate right now? I’d probably make a good roommate , passing right past by I’m about to fucking cry .

Soonyoung thankfully had the timing of a god.

“Yah, Boo Seungkwan, don’t you have a boyfriend already?”

Seungkwan huffed a laugh. “Someone here is jealous.”

Soonyoung stuck his tongue out at him. “Just go, it’s late and Hansol is about to freeze.”

Jihoon absolutely didn’t pay any attention whatsoever to the fact that Soonyoung didn’t deny being jealous. Didn’t notice it one bit.

Seungkwan let out a surprised noise. He walked away mumbling something about always forgetting about his boyfriend’s cold blood. Before rounding the corner he waved at Jihoon with his phone, which probably meant they’d keep in touch. Good god .

 

“Hey, Jihoonie.” Soonyoung said, nudging Jihoon’s shoes with one of his own.

Jihoon looked up at him, vaguely aware of how his own teeth seemed unable to stop torturing his lips.

He thought about thanking Soonyoung, for somehow helping him apologize. He could buy Soonyoung a dozen muffins, a gift for making him feel the most at ease he had been around people in months . Hugging Soonyoung for a solid minute would be a nice way to express his gratitude, as well. Take his hand, run his fingers through his dark hair, boop his nose, maybe. Jihoon would very much like to do that.

He thought about just kissing Soonyoung, fixated on how it’d feel to press their mouths together over and over.

Jihoon’s eyes flickered down for a moment before he snapped out of it. He buried his hands in the fabric of his hoodie. (Ah, shit, Soonyoung’s hoodie.)

“So I was thinking…” Soonyoung said, catching his attention while softly playing with his own fingers. “Would you like to maybe meet up again? Just the two of us?”

He had a look on his face that made Jihoon think of when he tried to fight the boss of one of his games without any equipped weapons: nervous and in desperate need of good luck.

Jihoon had to try his best not to reach for his hands. Would holding them help Soonyoung feel a little calmer? The repetitive movements were incredibly distracting.

Settling for not looking like a complete fool, he did his best to keep the breathy note of his voice in check. “Sure, did you have anything in mind?”

Soonyoung blinked for a second, a bright grin blooming on his face. Jihoon thought he resembled a sunflower so much he had the sudden urge to buy a whole bunch of them. A smile flower , that’s what he was.

“We could watch a movie, if you’d like that?” Soonyoung asked, a hopeful glint in his eyes.

Jihoon’s heart convulsed. The idea of having Soonyoung right next to him in a dark room wasn’t good for his health. He wouldn’t be able to hear a word of whatever they showed on screen, he was sure.

He cleared his throat. “C-Can we watch it at mine? I’m a little tight on money this month.”

Soonyoung nodded happily. He stopped tormenting his fingers and hid both hands in the pockets of his jeans. Jihoon stared at the cat printed on his shirt like it could share its wisdom.

“Can you give me your phone for a second?” Soonyoung asked, titling his head to the side. He seemed casual enough, but he kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

Jihoon wordlessly handed the device over and observed Soonyoung as he carefully typed in something. He looked extremely focused, his eyebrows scrunched in concentration. Only a moment was spared to nervously think about the folder full of unfinished compositions he kept in his phone.

Out of nowhere, Soonyoung raised the device and posed for a selfie, peace sign and all.

Vaguely confused, Jihoon watched as the other hurried to give the gadget back. Hansol’s voice, loudly declaring ‘how massively late they were going to be to class, hyung’, made them both jump a little.

Soonyoung giggled, embarrassed, adjusting his backpack on his shoulder. “Text me, yeah?” he said, before starting to walk backwards. Jihoon clutched his phone in his hand tightly.

“Yeah.” he parrotted back, rooted on the spot.

Soonyoung waved at him right before rounding the corner, “Later, Jihoonie!” he said loudly, and disappeared from sight.

 

Jihoon almost waved back to the empty air.

There was a distinct buzz in his ears as he slowly crouched down. He rested his forehead on his knees and breathed in through his nose. The scent of Soonyoung’s cologne made his stomach feel funny.

As his brain tried to catch up with what the hell had just happened , Jihoon unlocked his phone. A small fraction of the screen displayed Soonyoung’s smiling face, along with a string of digits and a nickname.

Soonie ❤🐯

Jihoon definitely had the nicest morning possible.

 

✨🌟

 

To: Soonie ❤🐯

i’m right outside, come down when you’re ready

 

Jihoon quickly sent the text and threw his phone on the passenger seat.

He stared at his own reflection in the rear-view mirror once more, scrunching his nose. He had spent a stupidly long time looking for an outfit that looked nice without screaming show-off , but, of course, his hair couldn’t cooperate. Jihoon sighed.

The black-on-black hoodie and jeans combo he had decided on, while not giving the most friendly image, nicely replaced the alternative.

He would not wear Soonyoung’s hoodie again, just- no .

He might have accidentally forgotten to wash it anyway, leaving it on a chair and smelling it maybe once or twice. Maybe.

Jihoon had spent his weekend writing love songs filled with phrases like ‘ I don’t understand myself either ’ and texting back and forth with Soonyoung.

Not talking face to face had been both good and bad.

Jihoon had been spared the embarrassment of the boy’s eyes staring at his blushing face, but had been deprived of said boy’s own face. Really, Jihoon didn’t understand himself one bit.

Regardless, once he found out Soonyoung had no actual time to meet him, he wasn’t spared from the disappointment that set in his gut.

Jihoon made sure to vomit all his nonsensical feelings in complex piano riffs.

 

Almost a week had passed since what Jihoon had named the Coffee Encounter , and the prospect of seeing Soonyoung again filled his body with restless energy.

Earlier that week, both him and Seungkwan had invited him to some game night sort of get-together at Hansol’s.

While Seungkwan insisted it was nothing special, Soonyoung couldn’t stop telling Jihoon how he had to be there. Social anxiety and all, Jihoon had no intention to say no to that.

The plan consisted in picking Soonyoung up from his dorm and be at Hansol’s by dinner time. Order food, play some silly games, relax, stare at Soonyoung a little, while he was at it. Fool-proof, really.

Jihoon fidgeted with the aux cord connected to his car’s radio and tried not to check his hair again. His phone buzzed.

 

From: Soonie ❤🐯

you look cute!!

 

Jihoon almost had a heart-attack. His cheeks were already on fire once he noticed Soonyoung standing outside the passenger door. The boy waved at him before climbing in, phone still in hand. “Jihoonie! Hi! Thanks for picking me up!”

Jihoon only mumbled a weak “ Hey, no problem ”, still trying to regulate his breathing. Soonyoung was wearing illegally tight jeans and an incredibly fluffy-looking white turtleneck, which wasn’t exactly helping. His hair was combed nicely and some light frames were resting atop of his nose. Jihoon wanted nothing more than drive back to his place and cuddle him to death. Maybe lend him some less-offending pants too.

“Are you excited for tonight?” Soonyoung asked, a hint of a warm smile appearing his face as he fastened his seatbelt.

Jihoon nodded, buckling his own and starting up the car. He nervously bit his lip as he started driving away from campus.

“You can choose the music, if you want.”

He had to focus really hard on the road once he saw Soonyoung beaming at him from the corner of his eye. “Thanks, Jihoonie.”

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon was incredibly glad Hansol’s place was only a ten minute drive away from campus. Compared to his own apartment, the condo sat in almost the opposite direction, but that hardly mattered.

What mattered was that Jihoon only had to endure Soonyoung playing and complimenting Woozi’s songs for a grand total of ten minutes.

Ten long, long, incredibly embarrassing, minutes.

Honestly, he should have predicted it.

Soonyoung looked like a passionate person and Jihoon apparently was one of his favorite artists. The fact alone was incredibly flattering in itself, even if Jihoon thought he wasn’t that good just yet.

Soonyoung had mentioned Woozi in their texts a few times as well, even recommending Jihoon some of his own songs to listen to.

It was kind of nice, knowing they shared such a deep love for the same kind of music. Soonyoung’s eyes lit up so prettily Jihoon could stare at him for hours.

He still had a hard time accepting all that unconditional praise, though. From the boy who was taking up more and more space in his heart as the days went by, even more so.

The more Soonyoung talked about how much he loved Woozi’s compositions, the more Jihoon never ever ever wanted to tell him he was, in fact, saying all of that to Woozi himself.

Afterall, Jihoon was far from reaching average height, had a weird fixation regarding iced drinks and definitely wasn’t the type of person you’d think could get internet famous. Few friends, barely talked to his family, looked like a kid even at the age of twenty-three, the whole package really.

Definitely not what Soonyoung expected from Woozi.

Jihoon felt so bad, keeping it a secret.

Even if he knew he wasn’t lying , per se, he still felt guilty about it. In that moment, though, he just couldn’t do otherwise.

Hopefully I’ll stop being a coward, one of these days , he thought, some sort of bitter aftertaste lingering in his mouth.

Soonyoung was still gesticulating wildly about one of his favorite pieces of Woozi’s, (‘ Without You’ , which Jihoon still noted down against his better judgement) as they knocked on Hansol’s door.

In that exact moment, Jihoon realized he had forgotten to buy a house gift. He mentally kicked himself. Way to make a good first impression , he thought, as the door swung open.

 

✨🌟

 

“Oh, good, you guys made it! Come in!” Seungkwan greeted them warmly. 

Jihoon bowed a little as he stepped inside, Soonyoung beside him. “Thank you for having me.” he said, before a sigh escaped him.

“...I completely forgot to bring something for Hansol.”

Seungkwan only giggled, patting his shoulder lightly. “Hyung, it’s fine, you’re the actual gift.”

He wrinkled his nose a bit, “No need for more plants, trust me.”

They quickly removed their shoes and walked in the living area.

While Hansol’s apartment was definitely bigger than his own, it wasn’t huge by any means. Jihoon distractedly guessed two people could live in it, if they squeezed themselves a bit.

The walls were cream-colored and the furniture looked somehow antique, dark wood everywhere. A lot of colorfully framed pictures greeted them as Jihoon’s peach socks slid nicely against the warm floors full of patterned carpets.

Seungkwan was right, the space was full of plants already. Jihoon could even see a small cactus dressed up as Santa in a corner by the window.

He decided he liked Hansol’s place.

As they were about to approach a group of guys sitting comfortably on the couch, Soonyoung took his hand and dragged him to what looked like a small kitchen.

Rummaging through the cabinets, he asked “Jihoonie, do you want some tea?”

Jihoon blinked at him, briefly turning around to see if Seungkwan had followed them. “Shouldn’t we go...I don’t know, say hi, first?”

Soonyoung smiled at him over his shoulder, apparently expecting that kind of reaction from him.

“I just wanted a couple of minutes more with you.” he admitted, before carrying on like he hadn’t just made Jihoon’s brain short-circuit.

What a dangerous guy , Jihoon thought as Soonyoung shook some neat box. “So, tea?”

Jihoon licked his lips nervously. “...Is there iced tea, maybe?”

The other boy laughed. His eyes disappeared into crescent moons atop of his cheeks. Jihoon’s mouth felt so dry he’d need twenty cups of tea. “Your obsession with iced drinks is so cute, I swear.”

Jihoon thought that sentence made no sense whatsoever. “It’s actually pretty unhealthy, but I can’t stop.” he admitted, toying with a loose thread.

Soonyoung never dropped his smile, abandoning the box and the cabinets. He gently opened the fridge. “But it’s so you , that’s why it’s cute.”

He got them two tall glasses and filled with cold green tea. He then added ice cubes in the one he offered Jihoon.

“I hope you have fun tonight, but if for any reason you’re not, just tell me and I’ll fake some mortal illness to get us out, alright?”

Jihoon sipped his tea, nodding and trying not to smile at the same time. “Thank you, Soonyoung.” he mumbled, before letting the other drag him back to the others. The hand in his felt as warm as he remembered it being.

 

✨🌟

 

“Look who decided to join us.” Hansol said, sitting on a colorful bean bag beside the red couch.

Soonyoung shrugged. “Tea emergency, what can I say?”

Seungkwan snorted, before gesturing with a flourish to the guys Jihoon hadn’t met. “Introduction time!”

“Jihoon-hyung, this is Wonwoo-hyung,” he said, pointing to a dark-haired, glassed-wearing, sleepy-looking guy.

“Mingyu-hyung,” he added, moving to an incredibly good-looking guy with dark hair and bronze skin. Jihoon distantly thought he could mistake him for a greek statue or something.

“Seungcheol-hyung” he continued, as a slightly older looking guy waved gently. “and Seokmin-hyung.”

He touched his chin with a finger a couple of times. “If I’m not wrong, Seungcheol-hyung is older than you by one year, Wonwoo-hyung is your age and the other two are one year younger than you.”

Jihoon bowed a little as he took note of how they were definitely too big to be squeezed on one single couch like that. All of them looked stupidly muscled except for…

“Ah! The jumpy guy!”

Jihoon’s face scrunched up in recognition. “You really shouldn’t remember that.” he said to the barista, the one Seungkwan had called Seokmin.

His brown hair laid flat on his forehead, his eyes forming small crescents underneath it. Long nose and twitchy mouth, just as Jihoon recalled.

“Sorry, it was pretty funny.” Seokmin said, not looking apologetic in the least.

Soonyoung held up a hand. “Am I missing something?” he asked, shifting his gaze between them.

Jihoon grimaced. “Can we just say we have met before?”

He shot a pleading look at Seokmin, who smiled gently at him, right before saying “Jihoon-hyung is easily startled, that’s all. I called his order at work and he jumped like, super high into the air.”

The group giggled.

Good , Jihoon already wanted to leave.

“I tend not to make the best first impression, I’m afraid.” he mumbled, to no one in particular.

Smiling goofily, the black-haired guy sitting on Jihoon’s closest end of the couch nodded. “I can understand that.” He held out his hand for him to shake. “I’m Seungcheol and I swear, I’m harmless.”

Jihoon smiled shyly at him as Seungkwan launched into the amazing tale of how Seungcheol had apparently managed to scare off a whole group of college students earlier that year, simply by giving them directions.

Jihoon found it absolutely ridiculous.

The guy might have been tall and buff, but his eyes were big and honest, framed by the longest lashes Jihoon had ever seen. His cheeks sported cute dimples and his clothes were baggy and soft-looking. Overall, he looked like an overgrown-puppy.

Hansol shrugged, “Must be all that muscle mass, hyung.”

Seungcheol made a funny face, rolling up his sleeves and flexing in the worst poses possible, to demonstrate. Jihoon snorted loudly, shaking his head a little. Everyone else joined in, laughing along.

As he sipped his iced tea, Jihoon chanced a glance to his side.

Soonyoung was adjusting his glasses with more care than necessary, a pout on his lips. Jihoon opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, but another guy -Mingyu, right?- interrupted him, speaking up from the other end of the couch. “Uhh, guys, can we order food, please? I’m about to die here.”
The conversation quickly turned to restaurants and menus and Jihoon promised himself to ask Soonyoung later.

Apparently, Hansol’s uncle or something had an america-style pizza place that was willing to deliver to them for free. Just the mention of the word free got them all to say they were craving pizza. Hansol snickered for a good minute.

Jihoon ended up with the weirdest and heaviest order out of all of them, surprising everyone in the room but himself.

“How do you even eat that much when you’re so small?” Mingyu asked, raising one of his sharp eyebrows.

At that point, Jihoon had already seen him standing. Jihoon didn’t like Mingyu very much. He might have sounded like a good guy, but he was too tall. Mingyu had to go, there was no place for him. Mingyu and his freaking long legs.

He fixed him a cold look. “Do not test me. I could kill you with a spoon and make it look like an accident.”

Once Mingyu visibly shivered, Jihoon counted it as a win. Of course, he couldn’t do anything of the sort, but such lines always sounded so good in his detective novels, it was nice to have the chance to use one.

Seungcheol looked discreetly impressed and flashed him a thumbs up. Hansol, Seokmin and Wonwoo laughed their asses off while Seungkwan simply rolled his eyes.

Jihoon liked making people laugh.

What he liked a little less was not being able to make Soonyoung laugh.

The boy had spoken less and less as the night progressed, staring at his phone and avoiding Jihoon’s eyes.

Jihoon sighed, deciding it was time for a toilet break.

 

✨🌟

 

Once he got back, the living space looked slightly different. The couch had been pushed back and so had the beanbags. The big television screen showed the loading screen of some game. Seungkwan and Seokmin were in the middle of a dissing battle.

Jihoon blinked.

“Hope you’re good at rock, paper, scissors.” Wonwoo said, leaning against the wall beside him. His smile was small, but there was a competitive spark in his eyes. His glasses were nowhere to be found.

Jihoon nodded, distractly taking note of both his and Mingyu’s casual clothes. The styles were slightly different, but the colors matched. Warm tones that complemented both Wonwoo’s brown hair and Mingyu’s golden skin. Somehow Jihoon doubted it was a coincidence.

While Wonwoo looked overall more laid-back, Mingyu managed to resemble a model. (Jihoon suddenly recalled Seungkwan mentioning a part-time model friend. Damn Mingyu and his freaking long legs.)

“What are we even competing for?” he asked Wonwoo, eyes shifting to Seokmin, who had just let a snapback dramatically fall on the floor.

“First, we gotta decide teams for the dance battle.” Wonwoo said, nodding towards the tv. “Ever played something like ‘ Just Dance’ ? This is pretty much an extreme version of that.”

Jihoon licked his lips. He could dance, alright.

It had been a while, but he had actually taken some late-night dance classes during college. He missed them, but song-writing got more and more time-consuming as Jihoon tried to jostle composing both for his master and his online account.

For an impromptu dance battle though...if he could choose his partner, he knew could win, possibly blindfolded. Possibly .

His eyes searched for Soonyoung in the room, relieved to find him smiling widely at something Hansol said. His frames were missing as well, leaving Jihoon quietly mourning the loss.

Wonwoo giggled under his breath. “That’s exactly why I asked if you’re good at rock, paper, scissors.”

Jihoon’s cheeks felt hot. Was he being that obvious? Shit .

Seungkwan loudly announced they were ready to start, cutting Jihoon’s reply off before he even opened his mouth.

Wonwoo wished him good luck, patting him on the back. Jihoon didn’t doubt for a second he would need all of it.

 

✨🌟

 

A napkin Seungkwan had provided from the kitchen declared as following.

 

‘In a game of war and dance, everything is legit. But if you tickle me one more time, Soonyoung-hyung, I will shave your eyebrows off in your sleep.

Dance until your legs give out, but please do not puke on the carpets, we’re fond of them.

The teams, formed by a fair and rather intense game of rock, paper, scissors, vow to not interfere or play dirty-ass tricks while other teams have their go. I’m watching you, Kim Mingyu.

May the best couple of dancers win this stupid game me and Hansol found in a second-hand store last summer. Whatever.

Winners get free food (cheap and limited, please, we’re all broke here) from whoever places last.

Boo-yah’

 

‘Teams (second game night of march ‘19):

Mingyu-Wonwoo

Jihoon-Soonyoung

Seungcheol-Seungkwan

Seokmin-Hansol’

 

✨🌟

 

Mingyu and Wonwoo made a good team, dancing-wise. They followed the complicated movements on screen well, by the book. Apart from one time Mingyu almost lost his footing and broke his arm against a potted plant, their game went pretty well.

Nice technical score, not a lot of style points. B+ total. The plant mistake had apparently been accounted for.

“I’m even hungrier now.” Mingyu said, looking like a kicked puppy. Wonwoo briefly gave him a one-arm hug. “You can have a slice of my pizza once the food gets here, okay?”

After Wonwoo placed his glasses back on top of his nose, they sat together on a bean bag, a little sweaty but overall satisfied.

Jihoon seriously questioned why tall people seemed to like sitting in cramped spaces. Was it a cat thing?

Soonyoung simply bumped his shoulder, getting him out of his thoughts. “You ready?”

Jihoon flashed him a lopsided grin, his skin warm and tingly. He silently thanked his somehow decent rock, paper, scissors skills. “Let’s show them.”

 

Wonwoo was right, stating the game was pretty much extreme ‘ Just Dance’ . The song was chosen at random, but apparently all of them had crazy BPMs. There was a lot of jumping, tons of complex movements and zero tutorials involved. Jihoon started counting the beats aloud in the first half on the song, trying to mind the tempo. Soonyoung took it upon himself to fire them up whenever their sync wobbled.

It was exhausting, but so much fun. Jihoon smiled like a maniac the whole time.

He was amazed by all the glimpses he managed to catch of Soonyoung. The boy looked and sounded completely different, serious and sharp, determined. He was sweating like crazy even if it had only been a handful of minutes. Jihoon had a blast.

 

Breathing hard, they collapsed on the floor.

The screen slowly loaded their score.

Amazing technical points, a good amount of style points. A bonus for chemistry. S overall, gold and shiny.

Soonyoung let out a victory scream, making Jihoon laugh, his shoulders shaking against the checkered carpet. Everyone else just sighed.

Jihoon had to spend a whole minute trying to catch his breath in between soft puffs of laughter. “Cool, free muffins.” he said, once his legs stopped feeling like jelly.

Soonyoung jumped in the air before high-fiving him with both hands. His grin was huge, making him look like a kid high on sugar. Jihoon’s own cheeks hurt from smiling too long.

Raising his chin up, Soonyoung pointed an accusing finger towards the others. “Suck it, losers! Me and Jihoonie make the best duo!”

Jihoon’s heart went boom-boom , loud and heavy like a bass. The proud note in Soonyoung’s voice shook him way too much for it to be healthy. Even if he could blame the redness of his cheeks on the crazy workout, Wonwoo’s eyes on him burned holes.

He coughed, asking if he could help himself with a glass of water while everyone was busy bickering.

“Shoot me before you go, will you, hyung?” Seungkwan grimaced, “I’m with Seungcheol-hyung this time.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with Seungcheol?” Seungcheol asked, looking vaguely offended.

Jihoon just laughed, tuning them out as he felt Soonyoung’s fingers close around his own. The boy nodded towards the kitchen before guiding them there. Jihoon almost forgot to grab his glass on their way.

 

“You’re full of surprises, Jihoonie.” Soonyoung said, opening the fridge. A bubbly feeling filled Jihoon’s chest to the brim at the praise.

He hummed, staring at his nails. Not having an excuse to hold Soonyoung’s hand anymore didn’t disappoint him one bit. “I’m not a big fan of surprises, to be honest.”

Soonyoung nodded as he refilled their glasses with cold water. He added ice cubes to Jihoon’s without even having to ask. “I’ll keep it in mind as I plan your surprise birthday party.”

Jihoon snorted, almost sending an ice cube flying. He avoided mentioning how he wasn’t a fan of his birthday either. Or of parties, for the matter.

“Seriously, though,” Soonyoung said, patting his forehead with a paper towel, “I’d really like to see you dance again.”

He hummed and Jihoon noted how he kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Maybe we could...aah, I don’t know. I mean...”

Jihoon bit his bottom lip softly. “We could...?” Did his voice sound too hopeful?

Soonyoung let out a nervous giggle. He ran a hand through his hair, messing it up just enough to look effortless. Or maybe Jihoon was just biased.

“Free-style a bit? Together? I’m always in the studios anyway.”

Jihoon felt the light taste of blood before realizing he had accidentally bit his lips too hard. He covered his mouth with a hand, mentally kicking himself. “I’m okay with that,” he said, going for casual, “just please don’t expect too much, I’m rusty as hell.”

Soonyoung beamed. “No pressure, I just wanna dance around with you.”

Sure , Jihoon thought, no pressure. Just hours alone with you and your blinding smile. Mirrors and sweat all over the place. Add some body rolls, maybe.

I am going to die.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon stopped the car in front of Soonyoung’s dorm building. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel nervously, the notes of some old anime OST filling the air. It was almost two in the morning.

Jihoon had spent the rest of the game night munching on his monstrosity of a pizza and giggling every time Soonyoung managed to redirect the conversation towards their dance battle win. He wasn’t counting, but judging by the increasingly loud groans the others let out, it had been mentioned a lot.

Everything felt sweet and frizzly, like those rainbow colored candies that make your tongue feel tingly.

Jihoon still couldn’t believe how nice the group had been to him. They joked around, fist-bumped him even when unnecessary and effortlessly included him in the conversation.

Each of them had asked to exchange contact information before splitting up, even Mingyu, who had apparently forgotten Jihoon’s death-by-spoon threat. Fully aware of how it was going to take him three days of courage just to text them, Jihoon felt stupidly lucky.

He mindlessly rolled his car’s window all the way down.

His body seemed to buzz with restless energy.

Even that late at night, he indulged the thought of trying out a new song once he got home. Something about feeling like a fool and drowning in the best way possible, sounded about right.

Soonyoung hummed, trying to catch his attention, as if Jihoon hadn’t had his eyes glued to him all night. “I had fun tonight.”

Jihoon swallowed dryly.

It hadn’t been a date. No way. Why did Soonyoung had to use date-like movie phrases? Jihoon kind of stupidly wanted it to be a date.

“Me too, thanks for inviting me and all.” he said.

Why were feelings so complicated? His foot started tap-tapping some mindless rhythm on its own.

If Jihoon had to be honest with himself, he’d have to admit how afraid of never seeing Soonyoung again he was. People said stuff like ‘ let’s meet up soon ’ and ‘ I'll text you ’ all the time, it was possible Soonyoung didn’t really mean it either. Nothing wrong with that. He took a quiet breath.

Jihoon really didn’t like that thought.

So what if he was scared of missing chances and hated surprises and didn’t wanna lose a boy who smiled at him like...like that .

Like Jihoon had managed to become the right person at the right time. Like the stars and the planets and the nebulas and the galaxies could all fit in the column of his throat and Jihoon could sing the universe out if he wanted to.

They had known each other for more or less a week , jeez, how was that even possible? Maybe writing all those love songs had him going mental. Seeing things. Hearing things. Feeling things.

But looking at Soonyoung, Jihoon didn’t feel like believing in fate, or astrology, or past lives and lovers.

Glancing at Soonyoung from the corner of his eye, seeing him hesitate in his car, brush the line of the car’s door handle with the tips of his fingers, Jihoon simply felt happy .

At ease and grounded and full of ideas and ecstatic and and and-

Jihoon thought about ice, rock paper scissors, awkward apologies, the hoodie resting on his chair. What a lucky string tied them together.

“Hey, Soonyoung…” he said, shaping his voice into something quiet as the music died. “Do you still wanna watch that movie at mine?”

Soonyoung blinked at him and the world stilled. Jihoon kept breathing.

He watched as Soonyoung reached out, slowly, oh so slowly , and took his hand from where it was resting on the steering wheel. His face was soft, his features relaxed in a placid smile. He bit his bottom lip, rubbing an insecure thumb over Jihoon’s knuckles. “Are you asking me out on a date, Jihoonie?”

Jihoon nodded breathlessly. His eyes couldn't stop following the movement of Soonyoung’s fingers. Left, right, left, right. Slow, slow, slow. Their hands, loosely intertwined, always looked so nice.

“That’s not fair, you know,” Soonyoung mumbled.

He let out a nervous giggle that felt somehow hushed, tender. “I was trying to come up with a way to ask you myself. Wanted to sound cool.”

Jihoon shook his head a little. Left, right, left, right. The world around them started to spin gently. “You’re a dork.”

“So are you.” Soonyoung replied, his smile getting bigger and bigger. “And I would very much like to see a movie at yours.”

Jihoon exhaled loudly. The corners of his lips had stopped answering him, they just went up and up without control. His cheeks felt sore and hot, even with the chilly night air sneaking in every now and then. Jihoon hid them with his free hand.

“You’re so cute, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon made an unhappy noise in reply, afraid his vocal cords would fail him. His heart just pumped the blood faster into his system, the traitor .

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon spent a whole week working on a new song; a love song, not a ballad, but still a love song. ‘ Falling for U’ was corny, somehow old-fashioned and warm. All acoustic guitar and cheesy lyrics, Jihoon was a little embarrassed.

The problem was, he couldn’t just post it online. He couldn’t sing it.

In the past, he had managed to work around the issue, autotuning his voice here and there for some back vocals, adding clips and layers, collaborating with other artists online or creating instrumental remixes.

Jihoon didn’t want to use any of those methods for ‘ Falling for U’ .

He loved to be the one to bring his compositions to life and truly, nobody else really knew the extent of the emotions behind each work. He couldn’t explain them to anyone face to face, either. Yet he couldn’t just let the world, or Soonyoung, know he was Woozi. Not in that moment, not like that, not with a love song about Soonyoung himself.

Jihoon recorded a guide track for it and saved it in a folder. He tried not to stress over it too much.

 

Soonyoung had been pretty busy that week, as well. He had promised to help some college sophomore with a choreography and both of them were apparently spending absurd amounts of time in the studios. Jihoon wasn’t jealous. At all. He absolutely didn’t complain about it, but just because Soonyoung sent him a video of him practicing the dancing routine.

While Jihoon had been right about the body rolls, he didn’t anticipate the loose tank-tops. Soonyoung was getting more and more dangerous by the minute.

 

Texting back and forth, they made plans to meet up in front of the campus’ cafe at six p.m that evening. Even if he would never admit it, Jihoon smiled like an idiot at the string of hearts he received from Soonyoung after saying he’d be there.

Jihoon was so ready. He would drive them to his apartment to watch some random movie he had absolutely zero interest in. Cooking bibimmyeon was a safe choice, so that’d be their dinner, fool-proof as long as he didn’t mistake sugar for salt. After spending a pleasant evening, Jihoon would accompany Soonyoung back at the dorms with his car, say goodnight.

Zero expectations. Not even a nano-sized one.

It wasn’t like Jihoon had spent the whole week daydreaming about every possible detail or anything of the sort. (Would Soonyoung wear his sea-scented cologne? Would he like his apartment? Did he consider kissing on the first date too forward?)

No, he was a balanced person, an adult, not a teenage girl with a crush.

That was exactly the reason why Jihoon had spent a good two hours cleaning every corner of his room, had showered until the hot water made his skin red and wrinkly, declared war at his hair, went grocery shopping and got 3 different boxes of snacks, applied too much lip balm.

See? Balanced .

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon parked his car at exactly fifteen to six. Early, but not too early.

He had decided ahead to get himself some iced coffee for his nerves, grabbing something for Soonyoung as well. Light wallet aside, it was a nice thought. Jihoon kind of wanted to look like a person who had nice thoughts, at least occasionally.

He rubbed his sweaty palms against his pants, some straight-legged jeans that hopefully didn’t make him look stupid. Or worse, shorter than he already was.

Since it was sort of warm outside that day, Jihoon had left his jacket at home, only wearing the pink sweater he whipped out for occasions that called for a little extra cuteness. (It was a well-established technique, okay? Helped him get a discount on sweet potatoes from a nice old lady, too.)

While Jihoon would be opposed to the idea of purposefully looking cute on any other day, the idea of Soonyoung saying it made it somehow bearable. Just for today , he thought.

Walking towards the cafe’s entrance, he realized he had no idea what kind of coffee Soonyoung liked. While blueberry muffins could suffice, Jihoon made a mental note to ask him later. Maybe they just sold blueberry-flavored coffee. Jihoon would try it, if iced.

 

He was about to push the glass door when someone pulled it from the inside. Jihoon gracelessly stumbled forward, colliding to a warm chest.

His ears started to burn as he hurried to take a step back. “Please tell me I didn’t spill your coffee on you, oh my god.”

Soonyoung’s laugh only made him feel warmer. Both of his arms were still raised, a cup in each hand, both of them safe. “This feels a little like deja-vu.” he said, eyes full of mirth.

Jihoon’s mouth opened and closed a few times.

Not only Soonyoung was right there in front of him, but he was wearing a sweater in the softest shade of baby blue Jihoon had ever seen. His pants were loose, white, rolled up to show his ankles. Jihoon thought he just looked stupidly perfect. His amused smile only made things worse. Awful timing, though.

“Earth to Jihoonie?”

Jihoon made a surprised noise.“Yes?”

Soonyoung smiled at him, handing him a drink. “Hi.”

Jihoon mindlessly took it, cold meeting his fingertips. “Hey?” It came out more as a question than anything, making Soonyoung giggle. He took Jihoon’s hand in his without hesitation.

“You’re here early.” Soonyoung said, walking them through the door.

“So are you.” Jihoon distractedly replied, briefly nodding towards the direction of his car. He really tried to stare ahead, but his gaze kept shifting to their linked hands. He stumbled on his own feet.

Soonyoung shot him a mischievous look. “Well, I had a mission!”

He raised his drink, shaking it lightly before taking a sip.

“Ah,” Jihoon said, finally catching up. “thank you…”

Soonyoung smile went soft around the edges. “You ready for our date?”

Jihoon nodded shyly, scrunching up his nose a little.

Soonyoung squeezed his hand, Jihoon squeezed back.

 

✨🌟

 

“I’m sorry it’s not like, fancy or anything.” Jihoon said, curling his legs under himself. Him and Soonyoung were sitting at the foot of his bed, bibimmyeon bowls on the small table in front of them.

Soonyoung waved his chopsticks around. “I don’t care about fancy, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon shrugged. They had yet to start their movie, something involving zombies paused on the screen of Jihoon’s laptop. Soonyoung had said he was hungry, though, so they had decided to have dinner first.

The bibimmyeon tasted alright. The spiciness of it distracted Jihoon from wanting to kiss Soonyoung square on the mouth.

“It’s just that I don’t exactly have the kind of money for expensive restaurant dinners at the moment.” Jihoon mumbled after a moment. “I’m saving up.”

Soonyoung nodded, gulping down a mouthful of noodles. “Can I ask what for?”

Jihoon brushed his fingers over the rim of his bowl. “A maschine.”

When Soonyoung shot him a confused look, he hummed. “It’s a piece of really expensive but really handy producing equipment.”

He started playing with his fingers absentmindedly, going on. “This new model came out and I’ve been wanting it for a few months. More of a all-in-one production tool than a midi controller, really. It’s amazing. Does a whole bunch of stuff, saves time too. Those drum pads look so good I could probably ditch my old launchpad and it wouldn’t make a difference. Ah, I won’t though.”

Jihoon coughed lightly behind a hand, realizing he had rambled on, talking about things Soonyoung had no interest in. “Sorry, useless details.”

Soonyoung beamed at him, eyes forming cute little crescents. “What are you even apologizing for! I asked!”

Jihoon shrugged again, feeling awkward, cheeks flaming. He busied himself with eating.

Soonyoung apparently wasn’t having it. “It’s adorable, watching you talk about things you love.” he said, nodding solemnly. “I have no idea what you said, but I support you one hundred percent.”

Jihoon only nodded, glad his mouth was too full to allow him to reply. Honestly, how did Soonyoung even say those kind of things? He had no idea.

 

✨🌟

 

“Can I listen to something of yours?”

It was an innocent question. Soonyoung looked curious, more than anything.

Jihoon swallowed dryly. He had prepared ahead, but it was still a risky move. Bowls in the sink, stomach full and sleep creeping at the edges of his mind, he nodded.

He grabbed his nice pair of headphones, the one that never left the house, and connected it to his phone. He waited for Soonyoung to wear them and pressed play.

Jihoon had chosen an unreleased track, a little thing a couple of years old. It was so full of vocals, he hoped they’d distract Soonyoung from his composition style.

That wasn’t a Woozi song, that was purely Jihoon. A piece of his heart, right there, pressed tight against Soonyoung’s ears.

It wasn’t that rare of him to base a song on a dream he had, but ‘ Pinwheel’ had always felt special. Nostalgic, airy; Jihoon had recorded his voice so many times it almost sounded like five different people singing together.

He closed his eyes, following the notes that slipped out of the headphones on Soonyoung’s head, mouthing along.

The song died quietly.

Jihoon’s eyes fluttered open only as he felt the bed dipping under Soonyoung’s weight, shifting closer. He licked his lips, heart beating nervously in his chest.

Soonyoung smiled his best sunflower smile, so incredibly charming, so honest. His eyes were glossy and his nose looked a little red. Jihoon was so tense he couldn’t even joke about it.

“It’s beautiful, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon stared at the pale sheets underneath them, cheeks prickling with heat. Mind blank, he was about to mumble something that vaguely sounded like a ‘ thank you’ , when Soonyoung linked their pinkies together.

“Can you send it to me, maybe? I promise I won’t let anybody else hear it, ever ever.”

Jihoon stopped staring at their barely intertwined hands, tilting his head in confusion. “What do you need it for?”

Soonyoung scratched his cheek with a finger. He hummed for a long second, looking embarrassed. “I usually have a little trouble falling asleep, that’s all. I thought this could help. Become my lullaby of sorts. Probably works better than ocean waves.”

Jihoon just blinked at him. “Soonyoung, are you saying the song makes you sleepy ?”

“No!” Soonyoung squawked. “I just...I can’t put into words, okay? But I feel so much calmer after listening to it.”

His gaze trailed down on Jihoon’s face slowly. “You sang it so well, I...and I really like your...your...”

Were they still talking about the song? Jihoon’s breath was stuck in the column of his throat. When Soonyoung briefly wetted his lips with his tongue, his eyes followed the movement. “...My?”

Soonyoung’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Just you.”

 

He leaned in then, kissing Jihoon soundly.

His lips were oh so soft , a gentle pressure against his. Jihoon inhaled sharply through his nose as his eyes fluttered closed.

It was a timid thing, a leap of faith, only a few seconds long; their first kiss. Jihoon’s head was filled with a long series of unintelligible sounds.

As soon as their lips separated, he kissed Soonyoung again. He blamed it all on the rush of adrenaline, the way he softly bit on Soonyoung’s bottom lip as well.

His cheeks were burning, his ears were burning, his heart was burning .

Soonyoung kissed back firmly, letting out an appreciative hum that echoed on Jihoon’s skin. He cupped Jihoon’s cheek with a hand, the other still holding on tight on his pinky.

From the tips of his fingers to his core, Jihoon felt warm. Warm warm warm . He blindly reached out, grabbing a fistful of Soonyoung’s sweater, pulling him closer. Closer closer closer .

His head felt weightless as he pressed his palm flat on the left side of Soonyoung’s chest. Boom boom boom , so fast, so loud. Jihoon could clearly hear it through the fabric. He cringed at his own antics, but found himself suddenly unable to stop smiling.

Soonyoung grinned back, so wide that Jihoon touched his teeth at some point. They had to stop kissing, breaking out in a fit of giggles.

Catching their breath, Soonyoung pressed his forehead against Jihoon’s, his hand rubbing the back of his neck gently. “I really really like you, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon tipped his head down a little, a vain attempt to hide his flushed cheeks. “So you’ve said.”

Soonyoung snickered, before kissing the tip of his nose. “Are you saying you don’t like me?”

Jihoon took a deep breath. He let his hand slowly travel from Soonyoung’s chest up to his shoulder, then his neck. He traced the boy’s jaw with the tip of a finger, brushing over his ear and entangling his fingers through his hair. “I really really like you too, Soonyoung.”

He smiled, before scrunching his nose and messing Soonyoung’s hair up, a small revenge for all the embarrassment.

Soonyoung squawked. “Hey! Don’t make me look silly!”

“Too late.” Jihoon said, sticking his tongue out at him.

Soonyoung pouted cutely. “Don’t be mean, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon just had to kiss him again, pushing against his lips until he felt Soonyoung melt. He pulled away softly then, offering a lopsided grin. “Never said I was nice.”

Soonyoung let out a breathy laugh, before abruptly grabbing Jihoon’s hips and lifting him up, dropping him into his lap. Jihoon grabbed his shoulders tightly, a surprised gasp leaving his mouth.

“You are, though. You’re good to me.” Soonyoung said, biting his bottom lip in a way that made Jihoon spin. “ So good to me.”

 

✨🌟

 

Time had been injected with honey, growing slow and mellow, as Jihoon chased Soonyoung’s lips over and over. He couldn’t seem to stop himself.

Their movie was still paused on the laptop screen, but only to shed some light on the otherwise dark room. The artificial rays framed Soonyoung’s face so nicely, Jihoon thought.

His lips were red and raw, plump and loved. Jihoon had kissed them so deeply, so softly, allowing Soonyoung to do the same to his.

They had been laying down on Jihoon’s bed, legs clumsily entangled on top of the sheets, for a while. Soonyoung had murmured his name over and over, his tongue moving languidly in Jihoon’s mouth.

Jihoon’s head felt full of cotton. He hid it in Soonyoung’s shoulder for a moment, inhaling the faint traces the cologne had left on his sweater.

“You okay?” Soonyoung asked, leaving a small kiss on top of his hair.

Jihoon’s voice came out muffled, buried deep in the layers of fabric. “More than okay.”

Soonyoung giggled quietly, before starting to thread his fingers through the blonde strands. “Jihoonie...I have something to apologize for.”

“Apologize?” Jihoon asked, raising his head to look at Soonyoung in the eyes. The other kissed the tip of his nose before humming affirmatively. He looked more embarrassed than anything else, so Jihoon somehow wasn’t too worried.

“You remember the game night, right?”

Jihoon nodded, gently sliding his hands up and down on Soonyoung’s sides. He hoped the gesture felt at least a little comforting.

“Well, before our epic dance battle win,” Soonyoung said, making Jihoon fondly roll his eyes, “I was being a little cold. I was...jealous, I guess. Like, really jealous. I’ve been told I get pouty?”

Jihoon blinked, realizing what Soonyoung meant. “Oh. I remember. I have been meaning to ask you what was wrong, actually.”

Soonyoung buried his nose in his hair. “Yeah, so, uhm, you were laughing so freely with Seungcheol-hyung and the others and…”

“You wanted me to pay attention to you?”

Soonyoung grimaced. “It sounds so stupid when you say it like that…”

Jihoon licked his lips, faintly tasting a little of what Soonyoung had left behind. “You’re cute.”

Soonyoung sighed, cheeks slightly pink. “Doesn’t make it right.”

Jihoon giggled, hugging him fully. “It’s okay, Soonyoung. Just, when it happens again, talk to me, okay?”

Soonyong parted his fringe to kiss his forehead sweetly. “It’s not gonna be pretty, you know?”

“Even then.”

Soonyoung cupped his face in both hands, stroking his cheeks with his thumbs. “You’re the best boyfriend already, I’ve got competition for the spot.”

Jihoon snorted, shying away. “It’s been a few hours at most, please.”

“And yet you’re already perfect. Aah, I’m gonna have to glare at a lot of people now! No one gets to see you like this but me.”

Jihoon laughed, having the fabric of Soonyoung’s sweater muffle the sound. Soonyoung was his boyfriend . Soonyoung thought he was perfect . Soonyoung wanted to be the only one for him .

Jihoon couldn’t believe it at all. He wanted to pause the drama of his life in that moment, almost anxious about what could happen next. He shook his head against Soonyoung’s chest. He had to try and be positive. He wouldn’t fuck it up. Jihoon bathed in the warmth radiating from his own core.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon vaguely remembered drifting off against Soonyoung’s chest. The light outside his window was gentle and warm, but he was pretty sure it had been pitch black outside just a moment before.

He furrowed his eyebrows, confusion blurring the edges of his mind. He yawned.

As he rolled over to the side, Jihoon’s head touched something that made a weird sound against the pillow. He blindly reached over to it, rubbing his sleepy eyes with the other hand.

Blinking a few times, the scribbles on the piece of paper slowly started making sense.

 

hey jihoonie ❤

thank you for tonight! or, well, yesterday night? not sure what time it is

anyway, it was the best date ever ever

i’m going back to the dorm now! i’ll text you once i’m safe in bed so don’t worry and just check your phone!

i’m sure you were tired, you’ve had a full week after all, and i just couldn’t bring myself to wake you up

you’re so cute while you sleep, your face gets all soft!! a fairy!! i felt so lucky to witness it i might have taken a picture

anyway, text me when you wake up?

love love, soonie ❤ (who happens to be your boyfriend, in case you forgot)

 

Jihoon hid his face in both hands, piece of paper clenched tightly between his fingers. It was a lot to digest but it was all real, all his . He felt awake like never before. Even if his heart surely wasn’t happy about all the workout it was having to go through, Jihoon couldn’t bring himself to care.

His lips felt sore and puffy as he touched them softly. He took a deep breath, splaying his limbs on the bed, grinning to the ceiling like an idiot. He definitely had to celebrate with iced coffee.

 

✨🌟

 

After being Soonyoung’s boyfriend for two weeks, Jihoon had learned a number of things about the boy. Details, mostly details.

Soonyoung loved Jihoon’s late good-night texts and sent his good-morning ones back as soon as he woke up, full of typos if he happened to be still half-asleep. He always smelled good, like fabric softener and the ocean. He liked to get to see Jihoon even for just a handful of minutes between classes, running from the dance studios to the recording rooms and back whenever he could. His laugh made fireworks bubble high in Jihoon’s stomach.

Soonyoung got pouty if Jihoon had to eat reheated food two days in a row. Every year, for his birthday, he asked his parents to buy him shoes he could dance with. Apparently, the worst thing Soonyoung could do was trick his friends to pose for selfies and then record videos instead.

Soonyoung also seemed to have a thing for kissing him until Jihoon’s lips felt raw and used, leaving him so breathless he could almost faint. Against the studio’s mirrors, across the backseat of Jihoon’s car, or in the small patch of blue flowers they found behind the main music building, over and over and over.

Jihoon’s heart overflowed with warmth.

 

While Jihoon knew Soonyoung wasn’t as carefree as he could come across, he certainly didn’t expect to find him in front of his apartment that night.

The sound of the rain filled his ears as soon as he opened the door.

“Hey, Jihoonie.” Soonyoung said, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Can I come in...?”

Thanks to not wearing any jacket, Soonyoung’s hoodie was drenched, clinging to his skin in a way that surely wasn’t comfortable. His white sneakers squeaked as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He looked pale and tired.

Jihoon pulled him in by the hand, shivering from the contact with the cold skin. He squeezed Soonyoung’s fingers for a moment, trying to push his own worry away, to offer at least a little comfort.

As Soonyoung removed his shoes, Jihoon went to grab him something dry to wear. The softest sweater his could find, comfy sweatpants, warm socks and a pair of underwear that didn’t embarrass him one bit.

He pushed Soonyoung towards the bathroom and sighed.

What was the right way to approach the issue? Soonyoung obviously wasn’t fine, but how not fine were they talking? He honestly just wanted to hug his boyfriend for a month, but he doubted that would actually help.

 

“Sorry to get here uninvited, Jihoonie. I sort of just...walked and walked until I recognized your building.” Soonyoung mumbled, hiding his hands in the sleeves on Jihoon’s sweater.

The black fabric made the pale tone of his skin stand out even more, making Jihoon frown. He hugged Soonyoung, even if not for a whole month.

“It’s no problem. I’m always happy to see you.” he said, tucking his head under Soonyoung’s chin.

Soonyoung pressed his cheek to his hair, humming a sound, but otherwise staying silent.

After a long moment, Jihoon gently let him go, holding his hand and guiding him to sit on the bed. “How about I make us some tea, hm? And then we can sleep or something. Sounds good?”

Soonyoung shoot him a sincere smile, even if small. “Sounds good.”

Jihoon nodded, moving to the kitchenette and plugging the electric kettle in. “What kind of tea would you like? I don’t have many, but-”

“I’ll have what you’re having.”

Jihoon nodded, before grabbing two mismatched mugs from the cupboard. He decided chamomile was for the best.

“That reminds me,” he said, as he turned around to look at Soonyoung, “I’ve been meaning to ask you what kind of coffee do you like.”

Soonyoung stilled for a second before starting to worry his bottom lip between his teeth. “Uhm, I don’t have a favorite or anything, I guess.”

Jihoon raised his eyebrows, setting the sugar near the cups. Was Soonyoung embarrassed? It wasn’t that weird of an answer, nor of a question.

“Got it.” he said, “I’ve seen you getting a lot of coffee, though...anything you’d order again, so far? For future reference, in case I wanna get you something.”

Soonyoung’s cheeks looked a little pinker than before. He avoided Jihoon’s gaze. “You don’t have to, Jihoonie.”

“I want to, though.”

Soonyoung sighed, but if his smile was anything to go by, he liked Jihoon’s answer.

He hummed, nervously scratching his cheek with a finger. “Okay, so...I might have...gotten us the same drinks so far? Iced for you, no ice for me.”

Jihoon blinked a couple of times, his mouth opening and closing. “What?”

Soonyoung looked uncomfortably bashful. “I wanted to try something you liked, I guess.”

“Also, couple drinks, you know?” he mumbled as he toyed with the hem of Jihoon’s sweater distractedly. He sighed again, letting out a long breath. “You can laugh, Jihoonie, it’s okay. I know it’s dumb.”

Jihoon giggled and shook his head left and right. He crossed the room to kiss Soonyoung square on the lips. “It’s a little cheesy. But it’s okay, because you’re cute.” he whispered, his own cheeks vaguely flushed. He ran back to fill the mugs with the hot water, carefully placing them to the small table in front of the bed.

When he turned towards Soonyoung, he found him already staring at him. “What?” he asked, scrunching his nose.

Soonyoung slowly took his hand. He brought it up to his own face, having Jihoon cup his cheek semi-spontaneously. “You’re so good to me, Jihoonie.”

Jihoon rolled his eyes fondly, faking exasperation he didn’t feel at all. He had yet to find a way to contain the butterflies partying in his stomach. “I’m not doing anything special, you know?”

Soonyoung turned his head to press a kiss on his palm.

Jihoon felt a bubble of pink stick to his lungs at the tenderness of the moment. He climbed the bed and laid down, gently moving Soonyoung with him.

They breathed each other’s air, a tangle of limbs.

“What’s wrong, Soonie?” Jihoon asked, after a few minutes of silence. “Talk to me. I wanna help.”

Soonyoung sighed softly, burying his nose in Jihoon’s hair. He seemed to take a moment to find the right words to express himself.

“Do you ever just...feel scared you’re actually doing a really shitty job? Like, you’re not as good as you thought.”

Jihoon nodded against his chest, a million memories flashing before his eyes. Soonyoung took a small breath.

“How maybe you chose the wrong career, after all. Maybe you were just being selfish and naive and- I don’t know .”

Jihoon held him a little tighter. Soonyoung’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Today nothing went right at the studio. A guy even hurt his leg and blamed me . Said the choreography was too fast, too complicated.”

Jihoon turned his head up sharply, looking at him in the eyes. “He’s just a fucking asshole, Soonie. Don’t listen to him.”

Soonyoung giggled nervously, his body tense. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m just-”

Jihoon shook his head firmly, interrupting him. “Absolutely not. Don’t you dare say that.” He held Soonyoung’s gaze, unmoving.

He wouldn’t, couldn’t , allow someone as talented and hardworking as his boyfriend to sell himself short like that.

“I have seen you dance, I have seen you teach. You’re good. You’re so good at it. Your brain holds such creativity it amazes me every time.” he said, brows furrowed, anger bubbling up underneath the surface. “The world is just full of assholes who are just waiting for a chance to bring you down. Don’t let them, Soonie.”

Jihoon had already learned that particular lesson. He was somehow glad to be strong enough to ask Soonyoung to do the same, even if it hurt.

Soonyoung stared at him, blinking slowly. After a beat, as Jihoon’s words registered, he seemed to melt, tired lines all over his face. He murmured Jihoon’s name a couple of times before exhaling. “Thank you…”

Jihoon nodded, retreating to his spot against Soonyoung’s chest. “You’re welcome.”

They laid there, breaths slowing down as the minutes went by. Jihoon’s body felt tingly, warm and tired. His thoughts gravitated around possible ways to make the asshole regret hurting his boyfriend. He could always run after the guy and hit him with his guitar, that seemed like a good idea.

“Hey, Jihoonie?”

Jihoon hummed a sound, too tired to move.

“You still look adorable in my hoodie.” Soonyoung whispered, voice in between playful and sleepy. He giggled cutely once Jihoon whined.

“Shut up, okay? You weren’t supposed to know.”

Soonyoung yawned loudly, making Jihoon mirror him almost immediately. “I’m glad I came here tonight, then.” he said, sleep making him jam his words together a bit.

As he drifted off, Jihoon thought about how it sounded like Soonyoung meant more than simply seeing him in his clothes.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon sat on a high stool, swinging his legs back and forth lightly. The deafening silence was uncomfortable, he wasn’t used to it. The neon lights made his eyes hurt, and he the water bottle he had bought from the vending machine was already half-empty. So far, not the funniest afternoon of his life.

He sighed, checking his phone. No new messages.

Jihoon rolled his shoulders.

Everything around him was either light blue, grey or black. If not for the soundproof notice on the door and the music stands in a corner, Jihoon wouldn’t have guessed it was a practice room.

As he was considering the idea of another vending machine run, the door busted open. Seungkwan looked a little sweaty, but as soon as he saw Jihoon sitting inside, he put on a nonchalant face. “Oh, hey hyung, sorry we’re late.”

Jihoon scrunched his nose a tiny bit. “It’s fine.”

Behind Seungkwan, two tall guys with impressively light hair giggled in unison. Seungkwan sighed, dumping his bag on a chair.

The pair walked up to Jihoon with confidence, long legs and angel faces. As they got closer, Jihoon noticed how one of them actually had pink-toned hair.

“Hello! I’m Jeonghan,” said the guy on the left, waving cutely, “but you can call me ‘Hannie or JeongJeong.”

The guy on the right hid his grin behind a hand. “Jeonghannie, you know he’s younger than us. Would you seriously force him to call you something like JeongJeong- hyung ?”

Jeonghan sighed dramatically, but his smile turned mischievous. “Forcing is a strong word, ‘Shua.”

‘‘Shua’ rolled his eyes fondly. He held out a hand for Jihoon to shake. “I’m Jisoo, or Joshua, if you’re more comfortable with American names.”

Jihoon shook his hand, uncertain but nodding anyway. “Lee Jihoon, nice to meet you both.”

Jisoo smiled gently at the confusion painted on his face. “I’m korean-american, if you were wondering about it.”

Seungkwan pointed at him with a grand gesture, moving around some stools identical as the one Jihoon was sitting on. “If you need english or dissing lessons, ‘Shua-hyung is your man!”

Jisoo high-fived him, before helping him set a circle that counted five sitting spots. Jihoon blinked. “Are we still waiting for someone?”

Seungkwan nodded, tap-tapping something on his phone. “Yeah, Seokmin-hyung should be here soon, but we can start warming up now.”

Jihoon ran a nervous hand through his hair. He waited for the others to start before blending his voice in a chorus of nonsensical words.

 

The sudden chaos quieted down after a few minutes, as Jihoon started mindlessly singing a new piece of his. That particular song, still a work-in-progress, was born directly from Soonyoung’s sadness pulling at Jihoons’s heartstrings.

The aftermath of witnessing his boyfriend’s bone-deep tiredness was the simple desire to hold him close, so close, and hug all the sadness away. ‘ Hug’ : tender, honest, somehow both polished and unpolished.

Jihoon’s own eyes might have stung a little while recording a sample of it.

The melody died abruptly as Jihoon noticed the others’ eyes on him. “Is something wrong?”

Jisoo smiled, shaking his head. “That was really beautiful, Jihoon.”

Seungkwan put a hand over his heart. “Yeah hyung, what the hell? I don’t wanna cry.”

Jihoon blushed, shifting his gaze to the floor. “It’s not finished yet.”

“You wrote it? That’s impressive.” Jeonghan said, touching his chin with a finger. “I’d love to sing something like that.”

Jihoon bit his bottom lip softly. His thoughts swirled around in his head like goldfish in a bowl. They were talking about a personal song, a thin thread connecting his heart and his lips. There was no way he could hide behind Woozi’s persona, either. Why should he share all that with almost-strangers?

Jihoon hummed.

“I have a guide track for it, if you wanna try?”

After a beat of silence, the three guys spoke up all at once.

“Me too, hyung, please!”

“Can I try it too, Jihoon?”

“Eh? You serious?”

Jihoon simply nodded, scrunching his nose to avoid grinning like a fool. Although, when Seungkwan tackled him, hugging him tight, he couldn’t help but squawk.

 

✨🌟

 

Seokmin arrived in the middle of the demo’s lines distribution. His sunny smile when Jihoon agreed to include him was too much, really.

After studying the guide track, Jihoon listened to each of them as they practiced, helping them adjust.

Their voices were simply incredible, ranges wide and full of power. Like diamonds taking shape, Jihoon heard all the potential, the emotions and the hard work they held.

Nobody whined about the jam session turning into something else; not even Seungkwan, who had stated in his texts how much he wanted them to only sing girl groups’ songs for hours.

Everybody sat on a stool, the stereo playing the instrumental base a few times.

While the sample was short, around a minute long, they sang it beautifully. Jihoon was mesmerized.

The air in the room was like a wave, washing over him rhythmically, charged with intense emotion. That is, until Seungkwan hit an awkward note and Seokmin snorted loudly.

The group broke out in a loud laugh, Jihoon included.

“You guys were so good, oh my god.” Somebody said, sticking their nose inside from the slightly ajar door.

Jihoon turned sharply, as the others still tried to contain their laughter. “What are you doing here?”

Soonyoung pouted cutely, stepping in, a small bottle of iced black tea in his hand. “I just wanted to give you this, Jihoonie.”

He looked at the label for a moment, following its writing with a finger, “It says here there’s honey in it, so it’s good for your throat!”

Jihoon jumped down from the stool and walked over without thinking about it. He was about to just kiss Soonyoung when Seokmin and Seungkwan cooed loudly.

“Gross, hyungs!” Seungkwan said, a bright grin on his face.

Jihoon grimaced, ears burning. Had he forgotten their audience?

Soonyoung hugged him with one arm, a shield of sorts. “Like you can talk, Boo Seungkwan. You and Hansol give me cavities on a daily basis!”

Seungkwan made a face at them, flapping a hand around. “Aah, whatever, whatever.”

Soonyoung giggled before leaving a kiss on top of Jihoon’s head. “Sorry to bother you, by the way.”

Jihoon shook his head, bashful. Soonyoung’s surprises had never turned sour. “How did you even find me?”

His boyfriend smiled so hard his eyes almost disappeared. “I looked into every room until I found you, obviously .”

Jihoon laughed, getting on his tip-toes to kiss him on the cheek. His own face felt hot. “You’re a fool.”

Seokmin rolled his eyes at the blatant display of affection. “Ugh, you guys act like a married couple already.” he joked, snickering.

Both Jihoon and Soonyoung stuck their tongues out at him, making everyone giggle.

“Or a couple of kids, really.” Jeonghan said, eyes glinting mischievously. Jisoo nodded, stroking his chin with a hand. “Three years old, at most.”

Soonyoung huffed. “You’re just a bunch of jealous uglies .”

The four singers instantly jumped up, shouting different variants of “You take that back right now, Kwon Soonyoung!”

Jihoon laughed loudly, before pushing his boyfriend towards the door in a hurry. “Run, before the witches eat you.” he murmured, taking the tea bottle Soonyoung offered him.

His boyfriend just grinned, kissing him soundly and stepping out.

 

✨🌟

 

“Jihoonie you have to listen to this, do it for me, pretty please!” Soonyoung whined from his spot on Jihoon’s bed.

“What’s so important, now?” Jihoon said, trying to scold his face into something that didn’t look terribly fond. 

His boyfriend made grabby hands at him, until Jihoon settled beside him. Soonyoung hugged him gently and toppled over. Jihoon let out a huff as his head touched the pillow.

“Woozi’s new song, of course!”

Jihoon hid his face between Soonyoung’s shoulder and neck. A long week of classes required premium cuddles, after all.

“...Is it that good?” he mumbled.

Soonyoung kissed the shell of his ear, making him shiver. “It is. I have listened to it all day.”

Jihoon hummed, nuzzling the skin peeking out from Soonyoung’s too large hoodie. His brain short-circuited for a hot second as he realized his boyfriend wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath it like usual.

“It’s so different,” Soonyoung said, “so mellow compared to some of his other pieces. I really hope you’ll like it.”

Jihoon nodded silently against him.

His boyfriend blindly reached for the headphones placed on the bedside table and put them on Jihoon’s head. His giggles faded away as ‘ Falling for U’ started playing from his phone.

Jihoon closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

While it had been a good idea to ask Jeonghan and Jisoo to record it, Jihoon hadn’t given his boyfriend, a big Woozi fan, enough credit.

Honestly, he was expecting having to endure embarrassment and excited indirect praises, not to be forced to listen to the song in front of Soonyoung.

His boyfriend, making him to listen to the song Jihoon composed about him , zero space between them. Jihoon wanted to cringe.

 

Even after weeks turned into months, Jihoon still had to share his online persona with Soonyoung. Why had it been so much easier to tell Jeonghan and Jisoo?

Jihoon exhaled loudly. He hoped the pair would keep the secret until he told Soonyoung himself.

He wanted to, planned to, even. He just needed a little more courage to force himself to say it. Explain the whole story, open up. Soonyoung would not step on his heart with his sneaker collection.

If he misunderstood his hesitance for distrust, though...Jihoon didn’t like to think about that.

Three minutes passed and the song ended, gentle and unaware of Jihoon’s inner turmoil.

“Did you like it? Please tell me you liked it. Ah, but be honest, no empty flattery.” Soonyoung promptly said, gently placing the headphones back on the bedside table.

He looked at Jihoon with stars in his eyes.

“I like it.” Jihoon mumbled, tracing mindless circles on Soonyoung’s side. “It’s sweet.”

“It is!” Soonyoung giggled, right before going off on a tangent.

“Did you recognize Jeonghan-hyung and Jisoo-hyung singing it? I still can’t believe it! I messaged them about it and they said Woozi contacted them out of the blue to collab? Heard their cover of another of his songs or something. They were really flattered, obviously . They both think he’s super talented and I agree wholeheartedly.”

Jihoon internally groaned. He wanted to bang his head on the wall just so the blood could flow out of the crack instead than to his cheeks.

The butterflies in his stomach seemed prepared to build their condos in there.

“Ah, sorry, Jihoonie,” Soonyoung said, scratching his nose. “I didn’t mean to ramble.”

Jihoon shook his head, smiling but holding back a sigh. “I know you like Woozi’s stuff, you don’t need to apologize.”

Soonyoung pouted. “I don’t want you thinking I like his songs more than yours, though. Or that I don’t give you enough attention.”

Jihoon pushed his palms against Soonyoung’s lips to silence him, still embarrassed. “I’m not doing either, okay? It’s fine.”

Soonyoung nodded slowly, taking Jihoon’s hands in his and moving them away from his face. The smile on his lips morphed into something somewhat wicked. Jihoon eyed him, suspicious.

Soonyoung rearranged them so he was lying on his back, Jihoon half on top of him. He licked his lips distractedly, hair messy against the pillow.

He guided Jihoon’s fingers gently until they met the bare skin under the hem of his hoodie.

Jihoon inhaled sharply. His ears could probably release hot steam, making him look like a tiny teapot.

The lines of Soonyoung’s stomach were warm and defined as he timidly followed them with the pads of his fingers. Soonyoung breathed out an appreciative sound.

Jihoon forced himself to stop staring at the patch of skin between his belly button and the waistband of his jeans. Soonyoung started dragging a hand up and down his back, just to make it all worse.

He stared at Jihoon with dark eyes for a long moment before pulling him down slowly. Their lips met roughly, the bruising pressure making Jihoon’s toes curl.

It was still a mystery for him, how Soonyoung managed to go from cute and soft and saccharine-sweet, to that . ‘That’ being horny and hot and hungry for Jihoon’s lips like he needed them more than actual food. The thought made Jihoon’s head spin.

Soonyoung let his tongue wander out of his lips shamelessly, hands grabbing Jihoon’s hips harshly enough to get him to gasp.

He used the opportunity to deepen the kiss, languidly moving his tongue against Jihoon’s.

Jihoon did his best to keep up, really, but, as arousing as the situation was, it was also late and he was so sleepy. The bed underneath him started swaying. Sleepy boners weren’t all that nice.

He couldn’t help the yawn that escaped him, turning his head to the side.

Soonyoung laughed breathlessly, a fond smile on his face. “Am I that bad at this, Jihoonie?

Jihoon snorted as Soonyoung mirrored him, yawning just a second later. “Please, you know you’re anything but. You don’t need the ego boost.”

Soonyoung rolled them back to the side, “Why, thank you.” he said, before starting to make ridiculous kissy noises. Jihoon pushed him away, laughing uncontrollably.

In the end Soonyoung kissed him again anyway, eyes bright. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

Another yawn escaped Jihoon as he circled his arms around Soonyoung’s waist. A wave of exhaustion hit him like a crazy asteroid. “Hmm, sexy time later, sleepy time now.”

Soonyoung giggled and kissed the top of his head sweetly. “That’s a good idea and all, but I gotta change out of these pants, Jihoonie. I’m gonna die if I sleep in them.”

Jihoon whined but let him go. His mind felt fuzzy and chocolate-flavored. Chocolate? Ah, that was probably thanks to their midnight cookie break. Truly one of the best of his boyfriend’s ideas.

He smiled, eyelids heavy and chest full of warmth.

Once Soonyoung got back, dressed in loose shorts and an old t-shirt declaring some loud joke about a hurricane, he was already asleep.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon hummed quietly, glancing at his phone one more time. Soonyoung’s last text stared back at him silently, columns of words squeezed in it. Directions he couldn’t read, apparently.

He adjusted the pink baseball cap on his head, frowning.

The dance department had rows and rows of rooms on a discreet number of floors. Practice rooms and stages and mirrors all over. Soonyoung said ‘turn right, turn left, get the stairs and then turn left again after the toilets’. Simple, right?

Jihoon had no idea where he was. He figured he must have turned left after the wrong toilets. Great .

It was a little past dinner time, late enough for the place to be deserted. Jihoon was just supposed to meet Soonyoung in front of studio number 17, but had to be there in five minutes. Something about a junior needing a fresh pair of eyes for the final touches of a choreography, Jihoon wasn’t too sure.

For that night, they had decided to get something to eat from the convenience store, and get back to Jihoon’s. While it surely didn’t sound like the most exciting plan, Jihoon was still having a hard time not smiling at the thought alone.

May was finally over, taking with it all their final exams. Long summer days awaited him, full of sunsets and dawns and fireworks and iced drinks and Soonyoung . Jihoon would still have his tutoring sessions to attend, but there was no way he wasn’t spending all the remaining time with Soonyoung. Aah, Jihoon wanted to see him until he got sick of him, if that was even possible.

He scrunched his nose, retucking the purple shirt he was wearing properly in his ripped jeans.

They had done their best for their finals and had been rewarded with really good grades. Those weeks, though, had truly been hell.

They barely had any time to talk on the phone without one of them falling asleep. Busy busy busy, always busy. Jihoon had missed Soonyoung, okay? He had to find him, hug him long and hard. Breath in his scent, his fabric softener, his cologne, his new honey shampoo.

With only two minutes left, Jihoon resigned himself to use his boyfriend’s tactic: just look everywhere. He’d get into each room until he found somebody to ask where the hell studio 17 was, even.

Really, it’d be so much easier if his cellphone had any reception.

 

✨🌟

 

Jihoon sighed, sticking his head into yet another room. Empty, lights on, someone had left an half-full water bottle in there. No Soonyoung, either.

He rolled his eyes, closing the door and moving on. He was officially late and the corridor seemed to never end. Awesome .

Jihoon shook his head lightly. No, no time to waste on bitter remarks.

He opened another door and stopped abruptly in his tracks.

“You know,” a shirtless guy said from inside the room, “it’s only polite to knock.”

He rolled his eyes at Jihoon, not bothering to move. He was pressing another guy against the wall of mirrors, caging him with his arms, like everything was normal. Both his brown hair and the other guy’s silver locks looked like a mess. Apparently Soonyoung wasn’t the only one who liked making out in the studios.

Jihoon blushed red, cringing at his own train of thoughts. He was about to close the door and just slowly, slowly walk away when the guy sighed. “Are you alright? Do you need something?”

Jihoon blinked at him for a moment. “Uhm, actually, do you know where studio 17 is supposed to be? I’m looking for someone.”

The guy’s eyes glinted in the artificial lights, his face making space for a sly grin. Jihoon noticed he had a mole right above his upper lip. “Oh? Are you Soonyoung’s sweetheart by any chance?”

Jihoon stared at him until the other guy in the room cleared his throat. By the dirty look he gave him, he mistook Jihoon’s confusion for ogling .

“I am, yeah.” Jihoon mumbled, biting the inside of his cheek. “You know where I can find him?”

The shirtless guy stepped back from the mirrors, grabbing a black shirt from the ground and slipping it on. He mindlessly fixed his hair, arranging some strands to curl on his forehead. He winked at Quicksilver there before walking towards Jihoon. “I’m Junhui, but just Jun is fine. Soonyoung and I are friends, same year different course.”

Jihoon nodded, perplexed. “Lee Jihoon.”

He vaguely remembered Soonyoung mentioning a Jun here and there. A chinese student who moved like water? Must have been him.

Abruptly, Quicksilver stepped in beside Junhui, circling his waist with a slender arm. He was dressed in a purple and grey tracksuit, but the fabric looked too fancy to dance into. Wild hair aside, he had an intimidating look in his eyes. “I’m Minghao, Junnie-hyung’s boyfriend.”

Junhui seemed to be slightly taken aback by the bold move, mumbling something about being christmas, or having charisma. He recovered quickly enough and leaned in to whisper something in Minghao’s ear, earning a pinch from the guy.

Wait, hadn’t Mingyu mentioned a Minghao? His sarcastic best friend, or whatever. Huh, small world.

Jihoon fidgeted on the spot, looking up at the pair towering over him. “It’s nice to meet you and I’d love to chat, but I’m actually late so…”

Minghao hummed an affirmative sound, resting his head on Junhui’s shoulder. “Soonyoung-hyung should still be with Dino, I think.”

“Dino?”

Junhui moved a finger around. “Lee Chan, a college sophomore he’s been tutoring.” he said, “ Kind of tutoring, anyway.”

Jihoon furrowed his eyebrows. He somehow didn’t like the sound of that.

Minghao nodded, blinking slowly. “Haven’t you met him?”

As Jihoon shook his head, Junhui licked his lips.

“You sure? Cute, passionate, a body-roll enthusiast?”

Jihoon wasn’t fond of that kind of teasing, stinging and malicious. He glared at Junhui. “Can you tell me if I’m on the right floor, at least? I have to go.”

Junhui giggled “Hey, I’m just messing with you.”

His smirk mellowed into something softer, a little awkward. “Soonyoung’s actually the next room over.”

Jihoon rolled his eyes. He took off his hat to run a nervous hand through his hair. “Thanks.” he said shortly, putting it back on and walking to the door.

As he was about to step out, Minghao called out after him. “Forgive us, we’re actually nice guys, when not interrupted!”

Jihoon just closed the door, trying to resist the urge to face-palm.

 

✨🌟

 

That time around, Jihoon made sure to knock.

He could hear someone laughing loudly from the other side, the sound making his stomach jump up in his throat. “Door’s open!” a cheerful voice said. Jihoon took a deep breath and walked in.

Two guys turned their heads to look at him.

One of them made a surprised noise. “Ah, it’s my Jihoonie!”

Soonyoung ran over to him, hugging all the air out of his lungs. He picked Jihoon up and spun him around a little. Jihoon’s hat fell on the floor.

“Put me down, Soonyoung!” Jihoon screeched, arms locked around his boyfriend’s neck. Soonyoung laughed cutely before complying. The smile on his face made Jihoon’s heart melt. He didn’t save him from the light punch on the shoulder, though.

“Hello to you too.”

“You’re here.” Soonyoung said, as he rested his head on top of Jihoon’s. He left a fleeting kiss there. “You’re really here.”

Jihoon breathed in deeply. Was it normal to feel so safe? So at ease? He was warm all over. The love in his lungs could turn into solid pink jelly, probably.

... Love ?

Before he could say anything, someone else cleared their throat loudly.

Jihoon blinked at the black-haired guy pouting a few steps away from them. His shirt had the sleeves rolled up on his shoulders and his bangs were all sweaty. “Hyung, do you mind?”

Soonyoung snorted but, surprising Jihoon, he actually took a step back. “Yes, yes, sorry.”

Jihoon frowned, picking his hat up from the floor. Since when did Soonyoung tone it down after someone complained? He slipped it on and, aware of being petty, he huffed out a breath.

Soonyoung shot him an apologetic look, linking their pinkies together and hiding them behind his back. “Don’t look at me like that, Jihoonie.”

He leaned in to stage-whisper “Channie here is the PDA police. He has a crush, you know? Turns into the grinch at every display of affection, now.”

Chan stomped his foot on the ground like a kid. “Hey, I heard that!”

Jihoon rolled his eyes at the dramatic reaction, trying to contain his giggles. “Okay, sure.”

Soonyoung put a finger in front of his lips, a mischievous glint lighting up his eyes. Jihoon bit the inside of his cheek.

“By the way, Channie,” Soonyoung said loudly, “this is Jihoonie, my boyfriend.”

Chan grimaced. “Yes, hyung, I’m aware. You talk about him nonstop, I feel like I know him already.”

Jihoon blushed, side-eyeing Soonyoung. Nonstop ?

Chan bowed stiffly in Jihoon’s direction. “Lee Chan, nice to meet you.”

“Ah, likewise.”

Soonyoung giggled, ignoring the awkward tension. “Guess we’ll go, alright? Don’t overwork yourself.”

Chan sighed. “Yeah, I’m just gonna stretch, I promise.”

Soonyoung nodded, flashing him a thumbs up. Jihoon was about to ask him if he shouldn’t also stretch, when he noticed Soonyoung wasn’t wearing his usual dancing attire, but a yellow shirt and black jeans. He wasn’t sweaty and his hair was combed nicely.

Oh .

Soonyoung walked them backwards to the door. “See ya, Channie. Good luck with ‘Cheol-hyung.”

Chan grimaced, but a tired smile took over his face.

Jihoon waved, closing the door behind them.

As Soonyoung navigated them through the maze of corridors with ease, still holding on Jihoon’s pinkie, Jihoon hummed. “‘Cheol as in Seungcheol? Choi Seungcheol? That Seungcheol?”

Soonyoung snorted before nodding solemnly. “Yeah, that boy is in for a ride.”

Jihoon snorted. Small world, indeed , he thought.

 

✨🌟

 

The sound of camera shutter going off didn’t surprise him, not anymore. Soonyoung, smiling cutely behind the cracked screen of his phone, though, was always a pleasant sight.

Jihoon thought he must have had a whole folder of his candids at that point. Jihoon eating, Jihoon reading, Jihoon sleeping, Jihoon laughing. He was pretty sure a video of him singing existed too.

Jihoon wasn’t actually opposed to it anymore, really. Just embarrassed. His cheeks never stopped burning around Soonyoung.

“You know, Jihoonie, you’d look really cute with pink hair.”

Jihoon blinked at him, still trying to swallow his food. A grain of rice escaped his lips and Soonyoung brushed it away with his thumb, giggling.

His boyfriend loved japanese food, Jihoon knew it. Unfortunately, the only store open near Jihoon’s apartment only sold pre-packaged onigiri. In the end they ended up buying like, half a dozen. Jihoon was having his third.

“Pink hair?”

Soonyoung nodded, cupping both of his own cheeks with his hands. He closed his eyes, as if dreaming. “Pink hair! It would add like, two thousand points to your cuteness level. The best kind of overkill!”

Jihoon snorted, pushing against his shoulder playfully. “What are you even saying.”

Soonyoung opened one eye, peeking at him. “We could both dye it.”

Jihoon rolled his eyes, smiling. “Again with the couple stuff? Wasn’t it enough, going to the movies with matching hoodies?”

“Of course it wasn’t!” Soonyoung said, puffing out his cheeks. “I wanna match with you all the time. I need to remind the world you’re mine, somehow.”

Jihoon swallowed, placing the remnants of his onigiri on the small table in front of them. He leaned back, touching the bed with his back. Soonyoung saying mushy stuff like that wasn’t news, really. It still made Jihoon want to kiss him breathless, though.

“The world doesn’t need to be reminded, Soonie.”

“I know.” Soonyoung sighed. He turned, leaning his side against the bed, facing Jihoon properly. “But I still want to. Is it that bad?”

He stretched one arm enough to gently brush the pads of his fingers against Jihoon’s hand. Slowly, all over his palm. “You’re probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“Now you’re exaggerating…”

“Am not.” Soonyoung said quietly, eyes trailed on their fingers. “You’re so special, Jihoonie. You don’t even realize it.”

“A world without you would feel faded and soundless.” he hummed, “Like a rainy day without the puddles to jump into. Or an off-key piano. Like being twenty but feeling old. Like always missing that moment in-between the sunset and the night. Like-”

“I love you.”

Soonyoung raised his head sharply. His eyes met Jihoon’s, wide and surprised. A small hopeful light shone in them and Jihoon held onto it tightly.

“I’m in love with you.” he repeated. “I know it’s too soon, and I don’t want you to say it back just because, I just-”

“It’s weird right?” he said, a puff of laughter escaping his lips. “How my brain short-circuits whenever I see you. How I can’t stop thinking about you. How my throat lets all the stupidest words slip out when you’re around. How my stomach just about fucking dances when you smile at me. God, I wanna make you smile all the time.”

He shook his head left and right.

“How my heart just beats and beats and beats and it’s- it’s-”

Jihoon took a deep breath, but it seemed to get stuck in his lungs. He took another. And another.

“I know we haven’t known each other from when we were born or anything like that. I know there’s no actual guarantee you’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and walk away because you don’t- you stopped- you-”

He tried to calm down, to think, to breath, but he couldn’t stop staring at Soonyoung. Soonyoung was there and his eyes were so bright and Jihoon loved him so much.

He loved buying half a dozen onigiri because they couldn’t afford expensive japanese restaurants. He loved hearing Soonyoung murmur old memories into his hair one second away from sleep. He loved kissing Soonyoung against the stupid music composition shelves in the library, laughing at the coffee stained floor underneath their feet.

He loved singing in the car with Soonyoung. Helping Soonyoung calm down when things got too much, rubbing slow circles on his back. He loved the idea of dyeing his hair pink with Soonyoung.

“You...You really should stop me right now because I don’t wanna cry but I swear I will and-”

Soonyoung kissed him. Slow and sweet. Simple, so simple. He pecked his lips twice more, once Jihoon started crying anyway.

“I love you, too.” he said, brushing his thumbs under Jihoon’s eyes, smiling as his own lashes looked wet.

“And I am not saying just out of some sort of obligation, but because it’s what I feel. I’m sure I’ll find a lot of poetic words to explain later but you just about killed me here, okay?”

Jihoon let out a wet laugh, tears rolling down his flushed cheeks. “It’s okay, I can wait.” he said, making Soonyoung giggle.

They kissed more, bumping noses a few times. Soonyoung had to try really hard to stop giggling.

Jihoon’s skin turned into cotton candy.

Linking their pinkies, he closed his eyes for a long moment. “There’s another thing, actually…”

Soonyoung nodded, resting his cheek against his forehead. He was still smiling, and Jihoon wasn’t sure to whom the loud the heartbeat he could hear belonged to.

“I’m all ears.”

Jihoon licked his lips. “Hmm, remember how you like Woozi so much?”

 

✨🌟

 

Soonyoung was late. Soonyoung was late and Jihoon sipped his iced white-chocolate mocha anyway. The light in the cafe shone just right, letting only the gentlest of sun rays illuminate his table.

Jihoon adjusted the white scarf around his neck.

He yawned, grabbing a napkin and a pen and started scribbling mindlessly.

October had been nice, full of life. His friends were all the same, extra and loud . Jihoon loved them all, even Mingyu and his freaking long legs. His professors kept on asking for new songs, new music. It was going well. Jihoon was glad music theory had been moved to his tutoring sessions only.

Soonyoung...Aah, Jihoon loved him more and more each day. He had no idea why he agreed to meet him at nine in the morning, though. Even Seokmin had been spared the morning shift.

It was a classes-free day for both of them and Jihoon would have been fine with spending it in bed, really. Blaming his need for affection on his sleep-dazed mind was a good tactic. Soonyoung would have smiled fondly and Jihoon would have gotten his daily quota of cuddles, double win.

Jihoon bathed in a fake sunrise. The cafe’s warmth reminded him of the summer sun, of the summer light. Jihoon smiled at the memories.

He had never watched the sun set so many times in a row. It was aware of the sappiness of it, but it had been almost magical. His heart had felt so hot he could burn to the touch.

How would it be, greeting summer again? He could hardly wait.

Someone ran over to his table, almost falling in the process. He had summer stuck in his chest. “Jihoonie!”

Jihoon pointed at him with his pen. “You’re late.”

Soonyoung sat down in front of him with a huff. “I know, I’m sorry. Seungkwan only had, like, an hour before his classes to help.”

Jihoon looked at him for a moment. His grey hoodie had a couple of bleach stains and he had forgotten his glasses at home, again.

His pink hair looked freshly dyed, though. “Hm, well, I forgive you. Just because it looks a lot better without the dark roots.”

Soonyoung giggled, resting his cheek on his palm, elbow on the table. “It still think it looks cuter on you.”

Jihoon sipped his mocha, looking up at the pink tips of his fringe. “Yesterday I somehow got mistaken for a kid? At the store that sells weird sweets. Jun wouldn’t stop laughing, but at least I got free candy out of it.”

Soonyoung snorted. He had to hide his huge grin behind a hand once Jihoon shot him a dirty look.

“You charm everyone, one way or the other.”

Jihoon rolled his eyes, but his cheeks started matching his hair. “Says the prince .”

Soonyoung placed a hand over his heart, holding Jihoon’s fingers gently with the other. “But I’m your prince.”

He leaned down and pressed a loud kiss on Jihoon’s knuckles.

Jihoon face-palmed with his free hand, but didn’t let go. “If you say I’m the princess again, I will stab you with this pen.”

Soonyoung stuck his tongue out at him. “You ruin all the fun.”

Jihoon shrugged.

“What were you writing about, by the way?”

Jihoon looked down at the napkin in front of him. A few rows of lyrics stared back at him.

 

‘Every day, we will smile

Just like now

It’ll be beautiful’

 

“Just about us.”