It's an unspoken rule. One that has silently settled between them over the years of being together.
It's not as though they intentionally hold themselves back. They've spoken it - on two grand occasions thus far - the clarity of each moment still burning at the back of their eyelids. First, spoken softly by Seungwoo amongst Wooseok's locks after reconciling over a nasty fight which almost tore them apart; Second, whispered by Wooseok with his cheek pressed against the pillow, fingers tracing the arch of Seungwoo's eyebrows, the slope of his nose, the bow of his lips - at a dire moment when he needed the words out of his system else he'll explode with the unreasonable amount of affection he's holding for the boy he's sharing the bed with.
No, they don't hold themselves back, but they also do not fancy throwing the words at each other lightly.
Seungwoo learns early into their relationship how words could be scarce with Wooseok at times, but also later learns how Wooseok fills it up with actions instead. Seungwoo realizes words could wear out, could lose the magic they supposedly hold when spoken so easily, could rather be empty of the intentions they're supposed to convey when delivered so loosely. And so he makes it a mission to convert whatever his mouth couldn't speak into hands that would reach, into lips that would kiss.
It's an unspoken rule, but it's one which every violation leaves a mark etched beautifully into their souls.
Wooseok wakes up to sunshine pouring into the room. He opens his eyes to familiar cream colored ceiling and the curtains already pushed to the side. He rolls to see the space next to him already vacated and reaches to feel the sheets still warm to the touch - Seungwoo must have left the bed not too long ago. He rises, the blanket pooling at his middle as he reaches for his phone on the bedside table.
A curse flies out of his mouth when he sees the time, body light as a leaf as he jumps out of bed. He has exactly twenty minutes to piece himself into a decent human being and rush to school for his 9 am class.
He exits the bedroom with only one leg into his pants, sweater slipping off his shoulder and a chain of profanities spilling past his lips when he stubs a toe at the door frame.
Seungwoo looks back at the commotion from the kitchen with a cup of tea pressed to his lips, unfazed at how Wooseok moves across the house like a hurricane.
"Have you seen my socks?" Wooseok asks while his fingers battle with his birds nest of a hair.
Seungwoo silently leaves the kitchen for the bedroom, returning with a pair of socks and handing them to Wooseok.
"Thanks." He says, reaching for the socks without so much as sparing Seungwoo a glance.
He hastily puts them on, slides into his trusted sneakers and hoists his bag to his back. He dusts his pants one last time before straightening his back, only to be met by a shirtless Seungwoo who looks agonizingly too gorgeous too early in the day.
Wooseok would like to savor the sight if not for the time ticking precariously inside his head. Dejectedly, he only has enough time to pat Seungwoo's chest right where his tattoo curls.
"Wear a shirt. It's getting cold lately." He has walked past the other for two short steps before he's pulled back with fingers circling his wrist.
"Nuh-uh," Seungwoo waves a taunting finger at him, "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"If this is you asking for a kiss, I swear I'll - "
Seungwoo's fringe falls over his eyes when he hangs his head down, his trademark wiper-laugh tickling Wooseok's ears.
"Tempting, but," Seungwoo tells him to stay put while he runs to the bedroom. He comes back with something in hand. The item tearing a soft gasp from the younger.
"What would I do without you."
Seungwoo slips the glasses on Wooseok, propping it on the bridge of his nose before stepping back. "Probably go blind for a day." He smiles, bringing the cup back to his lips.
"Lifesaver." Wooseok brings him into a brief hug before he turns on his heels and makes a dash again, almost colliding with the door with his speed.
He doesn't miss the soft strings of laughter from Seungwoo, the sound effortlessly pulling the same out of him.
"Have a good day today, Seok-ah." (I love you.)
Wooseok looks back at Seungwoo standing in the middle of the living room, in his track pants and messy hair, his favorite Marvel mug in hand. His chest swells at the sight.
"You too." (I love you too.)
There's a faint chiming sound when Wooseok pushes the door open. There are only a few people scattered in the cafe, the low buzz of muted conversations filling the air.
There's a student hunched over a stack of books at a corner, a couple sharing a cake by the window, a group of high school girls giggling amongst themselves - heads popping up from their circle once in a while to cast a look at the direction of the cashier - then back again to giggle among themselves. He follows their line of sight and fights a sigh once he sees the person manning the counter.
Even with his head hung low and with his bangs covering almost half of his face, Wooseok would be able to recognize him in a sea of people.
"Hi, can I get your order?" Seungwoo's greeting is said with ease, practiced, even with his eyes somewhere else and his hand busily wiping splatters of milk off the counter.
"Yeah," Wooseok starts off nonchalantly, scanning the menu which he has memorized by heart now. "Can I have the barista, to go?"
Seungwoo snaps up, eyes widening at the words before mellowing at the sight of Wooseok before him. "Wooseokie."
"Hi." His smile is pinched. Annoyance bubbling inside of him with each sound of a camera clicking. He doesn't need to look back to see the same girls with their phones poised towards Seungwoo, shamelessly taking photos of him. It's not the first time he's faced with a pickle, but Wooseok is admittedly a small man and he only has enough space inside of him before his anger explodes all over the place.
Seungwoo's laughter plucks him out the red though, his eyes falling on Seungwoo's rolled up sleeves when he reaches for a cup and a pen. His lilac tattoo peeking out distracts Wooseok for a few good seconds.
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait." Seungwoo says, scribbling letters onto the cup, "I still have fifteen minutes for this shift."
"Can I pay for the fifteen minutes instead?" Wooseok looks back at the girls, doesn't even try to mask the annoyance overtaking his face. "I don't appreciate people ogling at what's mine."
Seungwoo's hand stills, a blot forming at the end of n from where the pen is still pressed.
"Let them stare." Seungwoo says under his breath before his hand moves again. He sets the cup down and meets Wooseok's eyes, his lips curled in a smile the younger has long been smitten with. "I only have eyes for you anyway." (I love you.)
Wooseok feels the flush creep into his cheeks, rush to the tips of his ears. His fingers drum against the counter as he tries to maintain a straight face (it's in vain, Seungwoo always notices even the slightest flush in his cheeks). Years with Seungwoo never geared him enough against the other's disarming words and sweet smile. He settles on chewing on his bottom lip instead.
"I'm sure it's against the policy for employees to flirt with customers."
Seungwoo laughs, one which makes his shoulders bounce and his entire body shake. "Wait for me at a table, I'll bring your drink."
Wooseok only gives him a timid nod before turning around, ears still burning and eyes searching for a table. He goes for the one near the glass window.
It only took around five minutes before a body slides in the seat across Wooseok and a cup of his usual order being placed on the table. Little Prince, the cup reads.
He tears his eyes from the cup to see Seungwoo already out of his apron, his backpack squashed between the chair and his back.
"Don't you still have around ten minutes before you clock out?" His fingers gingerly wrap around the cup to bring it to his mouth. The coffee tastes heavenly on his tongue.
"Hangyul decided to be a love angel today and stepped in early." Seungwoo leans as he speaks and Wooseok's hand naturally extends over the table to bring the drink to the other's lips. He expects the repulsion eclipsing Seungwoo's face, the laugh torn out of him as the older's face scrunch with the bitter taste assaulting his tongue irrepressible. Seungwoo was always the sweet tooth between them two.
He brings the straw back to his mouth while Seungwoo tries to drown the bitterness with a bottle of water he retrieves from his backpack.
"How you make excellent coffee while despising it will forever be a mystery."
"I don't hate coffee," Seungwoo answers once he empties his water bottle, "your order just has a demonic amount of it my taste buds refuse to handle."
Wooseok only shrugs, taking a generous sip from his drink.
"Right, Jinhyuk was asking if we're still pushing for Saturday."
"I don't have anything for Saturday, so it's fine by me."
"Alright." Seungwoo fishes his phone from his pocket to compose what Wooseok assumes to be a reply to Jinhyuk's message. He chucks the phone back right after. "Home?"
"Don't you still have a class at six?" Wooseok asks but he's already hoisting his own bag, following Seungwoo's steps towards the door.
"Management prof's not around this week." He stops right before the door, turning around to casually take Wooseok's hand into his. His hold his warm, a stark contrast from Wooseok's own hold around the cup.
He chances a look back at the girls to see their eyes comically wide as their mouths, eyes nailed on Seungwoo and Wooseok's clasped hands. He looks away, lips tugged into a grin.
He squeezes their hands together. (I love you too.)
Saturday night finds Seungwoo with a lulling Wooseok pressed to his side. Across him, Jinhyuk is faced with an equally - or greater - predicament. A wasted, nonsense-spouting Byungchan is clinging on his neck like a koala.
"I think that's enough for us for tonight." Seungwoo announces between the two of them, clearing bottles of soju away from Byungchan's destructive radius. "Did you take the car with you?"
"We took a taxi." Jinhyuk answers while struggling to untangle Byungchan's arms around his neck. It's a task and Seungwoo internally thanks the heavens he doesn't have to deal with Wooseok the same way.
He feels sorry for Jinhyuk for having to haul a large man as Byungchan home. But he believes the younger's adoration for his best friend is larger than said drunk best friend's ass. He sends Jinhyuk a consoling nod when the younger bids goodbye, Byungchan's feet dragging across the ground while Jinhyuk lugs him out with much effort.
Seungwoo watches their backs disappear behind the door.
"Wooseok." Seungwoo calls softly, tapping Wooseok lightly on the cheek. The other stirs but does not move from where he's plastered on Seungwoo's side. "Wooseok-ah, we need to go home."
It takes a while for Seungwoo to earn a response and to finally have Wooseok sit up (swaying) on his own. He spends the next minute trying to communicate with a grumbling Wooseok whose eyes are still squeezed shut before deciding it's a pointless battle. He sighs. Wooseok might not be a clingy drunk but he can be immovable as a rock when drunk.
"Seok-ah, we're going home. Try to stay awake and hold onto me, alright?" He receives a grumble in response and takes it as his cue to place the younger's arms around his neck and carefully carry him on his back. Wooseok is quick to nuzzle on Seungwoo's neck once he's settled, arms wounding more comfortably around Seungwoo.
The air is chilly once they step outside. Wooseok has always been sensitive to the cold so Seungwoo tries his best to walk as fast as he could to the parking lot. He could feel Wooseok digging his nose against his neck. He hears a sniffle.
"Why do you smell like my boyfriend?" The words are muffled against Seungwoo's coat but years have taught him numerous ways of deciphering (sober and not-so-sober) Wooseok's words.
A smile blooms naturally on Seungwoo's lips. "I am your boyfriend."
Wooseok pops from where he's buried on Seungwoo's neck, the suddenness of his movement sending Seungwoo tipping dangerously off-balance. He fortunately catches himself.
"You are?" Wooseok's eyes are wide when he squishes Seungwoo's face towards him. Seungwoo halts on his track, deeming it unsafe to walk while Wooseok has his face hostage between his palms. He only stood there, letting Wooseok's intoxicated eyes drink in his features, taking amusement on the confusion and bewilderment flickering in the younger's eyes. "Woah. Kim Wooseok you've done a great job snatching this one."
Seungwoo bursts out laughing and Wooseok follows suit. The cogs in Wooseok's brain may be too slow to catch up in the moment, but the man before him has a beautiful laugh and he renders it difficult to fight off the tugging at his heartstrings. Laughing with him seems to be the best option at sight.
"Ah, Kim Wooseok, the things you do to my heart." Seungwoo whispers it into the night like a secret. The cold autumn breeze, as the lone witness, sweeps it in its embrace.
(I love you.)
Sunday means breakfast at their favorite pancake house. It means extra maple syrup for Wooseok, a strawberry smoothie for Seungwoo, a short trip to the grocery after breakfast, and maybe a movie or two later in the afternoon back in their apartment with their limbs tangled under the sheets and kisses snuck in between.
They spend breakfast in comfortable silence. Seungwoo munching on his pancakes while his eyes wander outside, Wooseok sipping on his coffee while checking his phone.
"We should get a kid."
"A what?" Wooseok asks, far too calm, with not a hint of surprise lacing his voice nor coloring his face. The only trace of confusion over Seungwoo's words manifests on how his eyebrows knit together.
"A kid." Seungwoo repeats, eyes fixated on whatever is outside.
Wooseok places his cup down the coaster carefully and follows Seungwoo's eyes outside. He breathes out a sigh when he finally figures what Seungwoo actually meant.
( Really, being with Seungwoo for years meant having to keep up with his random spiels which ranges from utterly useless stuff to matters which kept Wooseok awake, thinking, on some nights. Years together meant pausing every once in a while, reading between the lines, and sometimes, understanding without words at all. )
"Which do you think is better? A cat or a pup?" Seungwoo finally tears his eyes away from the puppy with the cute little bow tie across the street. His eyes land on Wooseok who instantly spots the sincerity behind his words.
"Neither." Wooseok goes back to his pancakes, failing to see how Seungwoo's shoulders slump at his answer.
"I think cats are better. People say they don't need much attention."
"We can barely attend to ourselves, hyung."
"I want a cat, though." Wooseok risks a glance at Seungwoo and regrets it immediately. His eyes are back at the dog, albeit now he's pouting. "They're tiny and got boopy noses and are always up for cuddles. Think they could be great lap warmers too."
Something ticks inside of Wooseok at the mention of that word.
"What do you even need a cat for." He wipes his mouth with a napkin and places it down the table, hand coming down heavier than intended. Seungwoo's eyes snap back to him when he hears the thud. "I warm your lap pretty darn good, I believe. You can direct all your attention to me instead."
Seungwoo's eyes are as round as the pancakes on his plate.
Embarrassment catches on Wooseok quickly, blocking his ears and slithering up his body turning it cold. His hands turn clammy as he waits for Seungwoo to break the ice, but time seemed to have stopped after those words tumbled out of Wooseok's mouth, and every second which passes feels punishing as Seungwoo continues to sit there frozen across Wooseok.
Finally, he breaks. Wooseok witnesses how the red surges from Seungwoo's neck up to his face before the other realizes it himself and buries his face in his arms.
The blockade starts to melt and Wooseok feels the warmth return to his limbs again.
"You're cruel." Seungwoo says when he surfaces from where he has planted himself over the table for a good minute. The tips of his ears still burning red.
"What did I even do." Wooseok feigns, mumbling his words behind his hand.
"Your words, Kim Wooseok." Seungwoo runs a hand over his hair. A habit Wooseok knows he does whenever he's frustrated. "God, the things you want me to do right now."
Wooseok sucks in a breath at Seungwoo's words. He tries to steady his breathing by distracting himself with the menu, looking over cakes he knows he no longer has room for. "We're outside."
"Exactly why you're so cruel." Seungwoo's response is low but sharp. It cuts through Wooseok and even breathing has become labor.
He reaches for a glass of water and timidly takes a sip, eyes meeting Seungwoo's over the glass.
They're hardened, fixated on him like they want to swallow him whole. Wooseok knows that look well. It's the one he's most acquainted with within the four walls of their bedroom back at home.
He puts the glass down, adjusting himself on his seat. The movement allows him to brush his leg against Seungwoo's under the table.
"Should we skip the groceries for today?"
Wooseok hears the soft pitter-pattering against the roof when he pads into the kitchen. He peers through the window over the sink to see the shower slowly enveloping the streets, worry immediately lining his temple as he thinks of Seungwoo whose classes are about to end.
Seungwoo never brings an umbrella no matter how many times Wooseok reminds him. Either he's plainly forgetful or just being a brat who refuses to listen to Wooseok for the heck of it (Wooseok's gut feeling tells him it's the latter). He clucks his tongue and returns to the bedroom for a towel, laying it over the table near the door and fixing the mat on the floor.
It's almost seven when the door opens, a drenched Seungwoo coming in, shaking raindrops off his hair.
"Towel's on your right." Wooseok tells from the couch, eyes not leaving his laptop.
"Oh, Wooseok." Surprise is evident in Seungwoo's voice. Wooseok hears some shuffling. "You're home early?"
Wooseok finishes a paragraph and hits save, closing the device and setting it on the couch.
"My evening classes got cancelled. I was planning on getting dinner from that Chinese resto you like but the rain suddenly poured." He turns to see Seungwoo hunched by the door, hair still dripping and the towel untouched. It earns him a suspicious look from Wooseok. "What are you doing?"
"I'm," Seungwoo's eyes dance across the room. He stutters a response. "Nothing. I think we can heat something from the fridge for tonight."
However, a soft mewl betrays Seungwoo, blowing his cover too early. Wooseok's eyes pin on Seungwoo's jacket, noticing for the first time how it's puffed to the side. Their eyes gravitate back to each other and Seungwoo feels a shiver zap down his spine with the glare Wooseok fixes him.
Wooseok rarely calls him by his full name and each occasion is a memory Seungwoo steers clear of reminiscing. The common denominator for each has Seungwoo sitting on the floor by the bedroom door for hours, waiting for Wooseok's temper to pass. Seungwoo does not wish for another bout.
"What's in your jacket?"
It's not a question that requires an answer. It's a statement. An authoritative one which demands Seungwoo to lay everything down the table the next second.
He takes a chance and shoots the other a pleading look, but it's only exchanged with a few more daggers thrown his way. Defeated, Seungwoo unzips his jacket and unveils the small, shivering kitten inside. It starts to cry louder when Seungwoo places it down the floor.
"It was on the side of the road and it was crying and it was raining so hard." The words come a mile per second out of Seungwoo's mouth. His hands are clasped together, like a child trying to explain when caught eating the last cookie from the jar. "I couldn't just pass by. It was too pitiful, my heart hurt."
Wooseok feels the first ripple of an oncoming headache, the pads of his fingers massaging his temple to welcome its full wave. Seungwoo has crouched down to pet the still shivering kitten. Wooseok squeezes his eyes tight before removing his eyeglasses.
The consequences of loving a beautiful man with an even more beautiful heart.
"Just know you are fully responsible for that," The word gets stuck in his throat when Seungwoo and the kitten looks up at him at the same time. It's a deadly combo, "thing." He finishes before sighing once more and marching to the kitchen.
Seungwoo breaks into a victorious smile. He reaches for the towel and wipes the kitten down, cooing at how the kitten blinks at him with its fur sticking in every direction.
"Hey, buddy. Welcome to your new home."
Wooseok falls victim for the kitten's charm faster than he wants to admit. In his defense, he has always had a soft spot for anything cute, like Seungwoo whenever he's on snoopy mode and refuses to leave Wooseok's side until he's convinced the latter's fully charged with his cuddles; or sleepy Seungwoo struggling and failing to kiss Wooseok good night; or the Seungwoo right now, who's sprawled on the floor busy peppering the cat with kisses and laughing by himself.
( Simply put, Wooseok is weak for Seungwoo and the things that make him him ).
He has to admit the other always has a way of pulling him into things he initially refuses to get involved with.
Which explains the cat situation.
Wooseok names it Byul after getting tired of referring to it as kid. The smile which Seungwoo breaks into upon hearing it the first time looked nothing short of a reward. The kiss he has pressed against Wooseok's lips lingered more than usual, tasted sweeter than usual. (I love you.)
Wooseok thinks he can put up with this addition. Seungwoo's happiness has always been his too, anyway. (I love you too.)
( "Stop." It's spoken breathlessly against Seungwoo's shoulder, too faint that he almost misses it. His mind is a blank sheet, his lips occupied in plotting constellations on Wooseok's neck, hands mapping universes on Wooseok's skin.
"Stop." Wooseok repeats through a laugh when Seungwoo's lips travel to his ear, biting lightly on his earlobe. "Seriously." Wooseok pulls away, leaving Seungwoo chasing after his lips.
"Why." He whines, hand running over his face and the other hand falling on Wooseok's thigh.
Wooseok raises himself on his knees but Seungwoo's arms are quick to wrap around his waist to keep him in place. Wooseok did say he makes a great lap warmer. Seungwoo takes every chance to put him to the test.
"Byul is watching." Wooseok whispers, glancing at the cat who's sitting primly on the floor, wide eyes unblinking as it continues to stare at them.
"What?" Seungwoo looks over himself, annoyance drawn all over his face, but it's quickly washed away when he sees for himself Byul who's unmoving on the floor. He throws his head back against the couch and groans.
Wooseok vacates Seungwoo's lap, laughing. He calls for Byul after him and starts preparing the cat's meal, but Byul remains in the living area in an apparent eye contact battle with Seungwoo.
"You need some training, buddy." Seungwoo leaves the couch and picks Byul up, following Wooseok to the kitchen. "No peeking at dads on sexy nights, alright? You gotta protect your eyes." )
It's Christmas Eve.
It's also Seungwoo's birthday.
The day has been relatively slow with the two of them spending most of the day cooped up in their apartment, done as per Seungwoo's request. They only step outside for a quick brunch with Wooseok wearing Seungwoo's favorite coat and Seungwoo whining after him for stealing it. Although the older's thoroughly placated upon finding the gift bag Wooseok has placed on their bed when they return. He opens it to reveal a gray coat. It's made of wool and soft to the touch.
He turns around to see Wooseok leaning against the door frame. Seungwoo's coat is still over his shoulders while he wears a smug smile on his lips.
"You bought this for me so you can keep that one for yourself, didn't you?"
The younger hums, eyes sparkling with tease. "Maybe."
He throws him a glare which Wooseok easily brushes with a laugh. "I'll let you choose the movie for tonight."
Wooseok returns to the living room, leaving Seungwoo shaking his head silly by himself.
Wooseok and his compromises. Still, he makes a mental note to thank the younger properly later. The other has always had his ways in making Seungwoo's birthday special despite his yearly requests of letting it pass just as any ordinary day.
Seungwoo's heart swells as he looks at the coat one more time.
He will always be grateful to have Wooseok in his life.
Wooseok keeps his word and lets Seungwoo pick the movie. He settles with a comedy, but shortly gives up paying attention in lieu of observing how the light illuminates Wooseok's face and how the scenes from the movie are reflected clearly in his eyes.
It's been three years and Seungwoo is still deeply in love. Perhaps growing even more in love each day.
He tries to recount the days but most of them are a blur in his mind. But what he's sure of is that every day spent with Wooseok was warm. Things might not have been perfect, but Wooseok made even the worst become bearable. He was his pillar, his anchor, and Seungwoo honestly could not picture himself without Wooseok by his side.
This, with Wooseok's shoulder pressed against his and with his glasses slipping to the tip of his nose, warmth spreading in his body as Wooseok laughs, loud and unrestrained, and their legs tangled under the blanket - this, Seungwoo wants to keep forever.
"Hey." He takes Wooseok's hand under the blanket, slotting his fingers in between the spaces of Wooseok's own. Wooseok looks at him, inquisitive, and Seungwoo no longer has the strength to suppress the butterflies that are rioting in his chest for escape.
He feels Wooseok squeeze their hands together in surprise before it laxes in his hold. There's no confusion or doubt swimming in his eyes and Seungwoo is grateful his sincerity has reached Wooseok despite the countless times the younger had to deal with questionable things which come out of his mouth.
With his hands trembling, he tries to gather his words.
"I might not have a ring right now or anything promising to offer you, but I honestly couldn't see myself anywhere without you. I only have my heart and this is the only thing I could offer you. It has always been and will always be yours and I might be selfish for asking you this when we've got literally nothing right now and we still have to graduate and figure the future out but. I love you. I know we don't always say it to each other but God, I love you so much it hurts. I love you, Wooseok, and I'm sorry if this is such a shitty way to propose but,"
Seungwoo is silenced with a kiss. One that heightens the rumble inside of him and tames it at the same time. Wooseok's palm on his cheek is warm, it radiates throughout his body and calms his nerve endings. Seungwoo kisses back fervently, drinking him in, stealing each breath before it escapes Wooseok's lips. They pull away, lips barely a breath apart.
Seungwoo opens his eyes to see Wooseok's fluttering open. It's beautiful and it steals all the air from his lungs.
"I love you." Wooseok presses another kiss and Seungwoo finds himself closing his eyes again, losing himself in the bliss Wooseok's lips bring. "It's perfect, you're perfect. So breathe."
Like the sun surrendering to meet the horizon at the end of the day, Seungwoo allows himself to melt in Wooseok's hold. He has always been confident of Wooseok's love for him, doubt not once visiting him. But hearing those words from Wooseok himself brings a different kind of security. He feels light, like floating on cloud nine. This might just be his best birthday ever.
"I'll still get you a ring."
Wooseok laughs and Seungwoo can feel the vibrations in his chest. Everything feels warm, perfect.
"Silly. Save it for something more practical. Like a house."
"I'll save for that separately. I wanna get you the prettiest ring."
Wooseok sighs, but in endearment. His whole face is glowing with it. He cups Seungwoo's face and kisses him again, all the i-love-yous unspoken contained in one press.
"Fine. Only if I get you one, too."