After meeting Seungwoo, Seungyoun learns that some flowers don’t need sunlight to bloom, and that sometimes a warm presence is enough to make a few seeds grow into an entire meadow filled with wildflowers, so many that some have to be cut to make room for more.
So he does just that; picks forget-me-nots and pansies carefully, holds them in his hands as he imagines transferring them onto Seungwoo’s skin, painting it pink and blue with shades of the flowers in his palm.
In his dreams, Seungwoo notices Seungyoun’s stare and smiles, eyes crinkling into crescents, hair tousled by the wind. It’s the tenderness in his gaze that makes Seungyoun close his eyes and take a deep breath, trying to swallow down the words filling his mouth.
“See? He’s found his way to you, after all.”
They’re in a Korean BBQ house close to their shared apartment. The waiter walks up to their table, brings small plates with kimchi, steamed watercress and pickled radish. Lettuce leaves, too. Jinhyuk nods, thanking her for the banchan in his own personal customer service voice, because he’s nice like that. Then, his gaze is on Seungyoun again.
Jinhyuk was the first person Seungyoun told: about what happened the morning before, about Seungwoo’s fond smile as he watched Seungyoun eat the lemon cheesecake he bought for him, about the small talk, shy stares but the atmosphere not tense at all. His thoughts are still there, in the cafe with Seungwoo, instead of Jinhyuk on the opposite side of the table.
“You wouldn’t even know who he is if I didn’t make you join us that night,” Jinhyuk continues with a cheeky smile on his face, reaching for a small plate of pickled radish. He munches on it for a while, and then adds, “You’re the one who owes me now.”
Seungyoun scoffs, but it’s just him being playful, not wanting to give Jinhyuk the advantage of knowing he’s right. “Just eat your food.”
Jinhyuk pouts, but then he reaches for the watercress, stare still on Seungyoun as he eats, mulling over something in his mind. The waiter approaches them with two plates of raw meat, and turns on the grill on their table. For a while it’s silent; too silent, and Seungyoun focuses on the sizzling of the meat.
“Maybe it’s fate, after all,” Jinhyuk says, setting down his chopsticks to take a sip of water. Judging by his expression, he clearly meant it as a joke, but Seungyoun’s stomach clenches nevertheless, and suddenly he’s not hungry anymore. “I mean, what are the odds?”
“Stop. Just stop.”
He’s not ready for this conversation; not ready for the warmth that makes spreads through his whole body every time he thinks back to the feeling of Seungwoo’s fingers on his skin.
Jinhyuk offers him another pout in response. “Mark my words, Seungyounie. Mark my words.”
There’s an elephant in the room, and Seungyoun doesn't know how to approach it without scaring it off. He’s never been good at dealing with his own uneasiness.
A week passes without them meeting in person, and Seungyoun is surprised by how restless it makes him feel. Every morning, he wakes up to a text from Seungwoo, just a short have a good day! followed by a heart emoji (sometimes more than one; he finds the blush that appears on his cheeks quite pathetic). Other times, there’s a series of messages, Seungwoo complaining about how he couldn’t sleep at night because his neighbors were arguing, the sound of their yells reaching his apartment. “They really need to slip up already,” Seungwoo remarks.
He wouldn’t admit it to anyone but himself, but seeing Seungwoo’s Kakaotalk ID on the screen of his phone first thing in the morning is what he looks forward to the most every night before falling asleep.
He picks up a habit of calling Seungwoo in the evening, just to ask him about his day, to hear his voice, always laced with exhaustion but still so incredibly soft. He learns a lot about Seungwoo through these conversations; finds out that Seungwoo’s satoori comes out only when he’s either drunk or angry (which is a shame, he decides); he has his own underground tattoo parlor near Sinchon station (they spend two hours talking about it when Seungwoo finally admits to being a tattoo artist as well), and he’s a light sleeper, easily awakened by the slightest noise (something Seungyoun has already guessed from his texts).
Seungwoo talks a lot, but something he doesn’t mention, however, is that one night in the lousy Hongdae club. Seungyoun doesn’t either, too scared to shatter the memory of Seungwoo’s lips on his skin, as if it was something that needed to be protected, kept away from the world.
“Come over tomorrow,” Seungwoo says one night, voice quieter than usual. Seungyoun hears him yawn, a cute sound that makes him smile, and has to bite his lip to stop himself from voicing out his thoughts. “I have only one customer tomorrow, and it’s a small design. We can go grab some food later.”
Seungyoun doesn’t need to be asked twice.
Seungwoo’s tattoo parlor is a small one, Seungyoun notices as soon as he walks in with two cups of iced americano he’s bought on his way.
Despite its size, the room is filled with traces of Seungwoo, things he loves or is interested in; Seungyoun takes his time to admire colorful, Monet-like paintings hanging on the walls, traces spines of books with his fingers as he reads the titles; most of them are either on tattooing or art, he realizes. There are lots of plants too, in random corners of the room, making the whole space look like a small urban jungle. Every single one of them looks taken care of, rich in color and so full of life.
“You’re a plant dad,” he jokes in Seungwoo’s general direction as he reaches out to touch the leaves of a plant he doesn’t know the name of.
He hears Seungwoo laugh. “Yeah, it’s a newfound hobby of mine.”
Seungyoun’s heart flutters at the thought of Seungwoo spending his time watering them, replanting them into bigger pots. It feels domestic, in a way, to picture him doing that, and he’s not sure how to feel about it; not sure how to feel about the way it makes him want to kiss Seungwoo, pin him against the wall, careful not to knock down the plants on the shelves.
They spend a few minutes in comfortable silence before a girl their age, maybe younger, walks in and bows to the two of them. Seungwoo’s face breaks into a smile when he notices her, and he guides her to the seat next to the window, his hands already covered in black latex gloves.
Seungyoun patiently watches him work, brows furrowed in focus, using a tissue every now and then to remove excess ink. There’s something magical about the way he moves the needle, like he knows that everything he touches is a piece of art, ready to come into life. (The girl seems to think so, too, because they way she’s seated, so comfortable and calm, speaks of trust.)
He uses black ink, prefers thin lines and traditional elements. It reminds Seungyoun of minhwa paintings, lotus flowers next to cranes and pine trees, and it looks like something he could find only in a museum, not on someone else’s skin.
Seungyoun, on the other hand, had spent the past three years learning to use colors to paint flowers and make them bloom with his tattoo needle. He’s been doing this for long enough to be known for his palette of blues, violets and pinks that come together into floral designs. He takes pride in his designs, small and delicate petals gracing the skin of people who put their trust in him.
They’re on two opposite sides of the coin, he realizes absentmindedly, and he feels dizzy when Seungwoo raises his head, taking a short break to smile at him without a word.
Almost two hours later, Seungwoo’s finally done, and Seungyoun watches the girl walk up to the mirror with excitement written all over her face to look at the final result.
“It looks beautiful,” Seungyoun says and smiles at her, admiring the tattoo of a crane in flight on her shoulder blade. He instantly glances at Seungwoo, the compliment directed at him rather than the girl, and doesn’t notice the rosy pink that settles on her cheeks.
“Thank you,” she says, bowing a little, obviously shy. Then, she switches her attention to Seungwoo again. “And thank you oppa, it’s exactly like I imagined.”
It seems like they’ve known each other for some time, Seungyoun judges, by the way she addresses him. She’s a little flustered, but not uncomfortable.
Seungwoo offers her a warm smile. “My pleasure. Come back soon, yeah? We can do the outline of the snake next time.”
The girl bows to the two of them again and gathers her things, shutting the door behind her as she leaves. Once she’s gone, a comfortable silence creeps in; Seungwoo occupies himself with cleaning his workstation and Seungyoun looks out the window, watching people down the street and trying to guess where they’re headed.
“You know, I still don’t know how old you are,” he says suddenly, glancing at him from across the room.
Speaking on the phone is one thing, the need for formalities less apparent. The question has never appeared to him before. But this Seungwoo is different; this time his face is bathed in warm daylight that pours into the room instead of beams of neon signs, and it makes Seungyoun feel out of place, like he doesn’t belong in this space Seungwoo calls his own.
“Does it matter?”
Seungwoo doesn’t look at him as he says it, instead choosing to continue sanitizing the tools he’s used before.
“Uh, yes,” Seungyoun mutters, trying to ignore the growing uneasiness in his chest, and pins his gaze on Seungwoo’s back.
“We’ve talked about his, haven’t we?” Seungwoo asks when he finally turns around to look at him. They both know it’s a rhetorical question, there’s no need for an answer, not really. “That night.” He adds then, like it’s not obvious already.
Seungyoun can feel his heart lurch into his throat when he hears Seungwoo mention it out loud for the first time since it happened. Suddenly, he’s all too aware of it not being a dream, something made up by his own mind. It’s a real memory, something they both share, something Seungwoo remembers, too. He stares at him, eyes wide.
Seungwoo, on the other hand, just laughs, and the uneasy feeling leaves Seungyoun’s mind. “When were you born?”
“Uh, I’m twenty-three this year.”
“I’m older than you, then,” Seungwoo answers with a smile, apparently choosing not to disclose his exact age, and brushes loose strands of hair out his face as he looks at Seungyoun. “Does that satisfy you?”
“Yes, it does,” Seungyoun says, finally reciprocating with a smile of his own. “Hyung. ”
“You’re whipped,” is what Jinhyuk says when Seungyoun finally crawls out the warmth of his bed and enters their living room.
He’s spent the past hour talking on the phone with Seungwoo and a glance out the window tells him it’s evening already; it’s so easy to lose track of time when Seungwoo is this eager to talk to him, asking questions and laughing at Seungyoun’s stories.
“You never laugh this much at my jokes,” Jinhyuk continues, acting offended. “You’re a goner. All it took was what? Some making out in a bathroom stall?”
Seungyoun’s tone is playful, but Jinhyuk clutches his chest, pretending that Seungyoun’s words are a sharp dagger being twisted into his heart, and says, “You wound me.” Then, he coughs, like his lungs are filled with blood, but Seungyoun doesn’t spare his little spectacle a glance.
“Stop before you hurt yourself.”
Jinhyuk shakes his head disapprovingly, as if to say you can’t appreciate art when it’s in front of you, but he pats the pillow next to him despite his fake annoyance. Seungyoun sighs and lies down on the couch.
“I feel pathetic,” he confesses, looking at Jinhyuk like he holds answers to Seungyoun’s questions. “I just want to talk to him all the time, and—”
“And kiss his face again,” Jinhyuk ends the sentence for him with a smirk tugging at his lips, switching the channel to a baseball game, eyes trained on the screen.
“You’re useless.” He turns around on the couch, because it’s easier than admitting Jinhyuk is right. “Can’t you see how tormented I am?”
Jinhyuk lets out a laugh. Seungyoun thinks Doosan Bears scored a point, because Jinhyuk lets out an excited yes! before turning his face to Seungyoun again. “Just kiss him, god damn it. By what you’ve told me, he clearly likes you too.”
“It’s not that easy,” Seungyoun mutters, his voice muffled by the pillow he’s hiding his face in.
“It is easy. You just like making things harder for yourself.”
Seungyoun scoffs. He hates how right Jinhyuk always is, but then again, they’ve been friends since childhood, so it’s only natural for him to know Seungyoun better than anyone.
Seungwoo looks beautiful in every setting, Seungyoun realizes, as he looks at him from across the table, at the dim light reflected on his face, his plump lips and tousled hair.
They huddle together in a small bar Seungyoun often frequents, mostly because it’s cheap and the selection of drinks is vast enough to choose a different one every time he’s here. It was Seungwoo who brought up the idea of going out for drinks, saying something about needing to unwind, and Seungyoun agreed, because, as it turns out, he can’t bring himself to refuse Seungwoo.
“I hate drinking,” Seungwoo says as he takes a sip of beer mixed with soju. He’s silent for a while, letting the burn spread in his throat. “Weird, huh?”
Seungyoun bites his lip, unsure what to say to that. He’s not keen on it, either, but some things are easier to do with alcohol running through his veins, and they both know it.
“Anyways,” Seungwoo’s voice sounds more serious all of a sudden, and Seungyoun swears he can see a blush on top of his cheeks. “There’s something I want to ask of you.”
A moment of silence. “What is it?”
“I’ve wanted to get a sleeve for the longest time,” Seungwoo says, looking at him head-on, directly in the eye, pinning Seungyoun under his gaze. “And there was no one I trusted enough to ask, you know? But I’ve decided that I really, really want you to be the one to do it.”
Seungyoun stares at him, wonders if he looks as puzzled as he feels. Someone laughs, the sound cutting through the noise of the bar. Seungwoo shifts in his seat, suddenly looking anxious.
“You really want me to do it?”
“Yeah,” Seungwoo nods, rolling up one sleeve of his shirt to show Seungyoun the arm he has in mind and then adds, voice hushed, “You can do whatever you want with it.”
He feels a shiver run up his spine at how loaded Seungwoo’s words are, holding a promise of something Seungyoun can only hope for.
They sit in silence for a few seconds; Seungyoun, at a loss for words and Seungwoo, still waiting for an answer. He could lean in, grab his hand, lace their fingers together, but instead he takes a sip of his drink and pretends to mull over it a little more.
“Of course I’ll do it,” he finally breathes out, biting his lip to suppress a smile. “Anything for you.”
The sun has already set and everything is drowned in bright, artificial light of the lamp when Seungwoo walks into the tattoo parlor Seungyoun works at. Late night is the only time they could make to do this, amidst their recently busy schedules, but thanks to Seungwoo’s tired smile, Seungyoun doesn’t mind it at all.
They’re the only ones in, obviously; Wooseok went home long ago, and their boss (a middle aged woman who has her skin covered in tattoos and always treats her employees like they’re her sons) is abroad, doing a guest spot in New York. It’s quiet for a while when he exchanges glances with Seungwoo, the only sound being dreamy pop coming through the speakers of Seungyoun’s laptop and muffled voices of people singing in karaoke bar downstairs.
“Ready?” Seungyoun asks before putting on his latex gloves and walking up to his workstation to prepare small bottles of ink.
Seungwoo responds with a smile and stretches his arms, getting comfortable in the seat Seungyoun has guided him to earlier. Then, he glances at his arm and says, “Isn’t it a little weird to ask a tattoo artist that?”
“Maybe it was a little pointless to ask, yeah,” Seungyoun lets out a chuckle and grabs a piece of cotton, wetting it with alcohol to sanitize the skin on Seungwoo’s wrist. “But you know, safety measures. Tell me if it gets uncomfortable, yeah?”
Seungwoo nods and flutters his eyes shut. Seunyoun starts applying the stencil.
“Still sure you don’t want to see it?”
“Yeah,” Seungwoo breathes out, eyes still closed and a soft smile still gracing his lips. “I trust you.”
Seungyoun knows the rules of this arrangement; is fully aware that Seungwoo trusts him because he knows what to look for when getting a tattoo done, and probably just admires his art. Still, there’s something behind his words, something Seungyoun can’t put his finger on, something that makes his heart beat faster.
For the next few minutes, the room is filled with the hum of Seungyoun's needle and occasional reaffirmations spilling from his lips; Seungwoo doesn’t look uncomfortable in the slightest, but Seungyoun knows that the wrist is a quite painful spot, no matter what his pain tolerance is.
“It’s fine, really,” Seungwoo reassures him with ease. Seungyoun just nods.
An hour later, he’s finally done. Running his fingers through his hair to brush it off his now a little sweaty forehead, he admires the final result. He’s not used to this feeling of pride that takes over him as he looks at the blooming flower on Seungwoo’s skin, but it would be a lie to say he doesn’t enjoy it.
Seungwoo shifts in his seat impatiently, raises his hand to cup Seungyoun’s cheek, forces him to look up, and Seungyoun’s definitely, definitely not prepared for what he sees.
Seungwoo’s eyes are clouded, staring like he knows something Seungyoun doesn’t, the expression on his face so tender that it makes Seungyoun’s breath catch in his chest. He inhales deeply before opening his mouth to ask, “What?”
He suddenly realizes how close they are to each other; close enough for the scent of Seungwoo’s cologne, fresh but surprisingly sweet, to reach Seungyoun’s senses; close enough to notice the sheen of saliva on Seungwoo’s lower lip, like he’s been biting it the whole time. Seungyoun can’t help but think back to that time they looked puffy and red from kissing, all thanks to him.
They stare at each other for what seems like hours. Seungwoo’s breath ghosts over Seungyoun’s cheeks; it would be so easy to lean in and kiss him, painfully slow, make him squirm in his seat, caged by Seungyoun’s arms. He has to remind himself how to breathe, how not to give in to the rush of carelessness.
What he doesn’t know, however, is that he’s not the only one thinking that.
“Kiss me,” Seungwoo whispers, voice laced with need, and he leans in, not caring about how close Seunyoun’s needle is to his skin. Seungyoun stares at him with a puzzled expression, confusion all over his face, and Seungwoo can probably notice it, because soon, he adds, “Please.”
The word is like an anchor that makes Seungyoun realize that he’s been drowning in a sea of his own thoughts, that Seungwoo wants it as much as he does.
He sets down his tattoo machine on the small table next to him and climbs into Seungwoo’s lap, like he belongs there, like there’s no other place he could rather be.
“I’ve waited for this for so long,” Seungwoo whispers into his ear once they’re close enough for their noses to brush.
Seungyoun inhales, struggling to keep his breathing even, and he feels his fingers burn with the need to touch him. He does, eventually, ignoring all the restrictions he’s put on himself, and traces his thumb along Seungwoo’s lower lip. People in the karaoke bar downstairs start singing along to a ballad that used to be popular a few years ago, and Seungyoun hums it quietly as he stares into Seungwoo’s eyes.
“Please,” Seungwoo’s close to whining, and some part of Seungyoun wishes he could refuse to make the feeling last forever, wants to hear Seungwoo beg for whatever Seungyoun’s willing to give him, but then, Seungwoo continues, “I need you.”
That’s all it takes for Seungyoun to lose his composure and bring his lips to Seungwoo’s, relishing the feeling of blood rushing to his head once they finally kiss.
This time, it’s different; this time, there’s a certain feeling of desperation to the way Seungwoo licks into his mouth, like he needs Seungyoun to keep him steady and afloat. He brings his hand to the back of Seungyoun’s head and tugs at his hair, hard enough for Seungyoun to feel a pleasant tingle of pain.
“Fuck,” he breathes out, pressing against Seungwoo’s chest, just to be closer to the overwhelming warmth Seungwoo emits with his whole being. He licks at his neck, traces the sharp line of Seungwoo’s jaw with his finger, gaining a moan from him when he bites the skin hard enough to leave a small bruise.
But this Seungwoo, the one under him, breath ragged and chest rising and falling rapidly, is impatient; he pulls Seungyoun’s hair, brings his mouth to his own again, kissing him with newfound fervor, so eager that it makes Seungyoun let out a groan.
It’s like he’s swimming in a body of water, but it’s just Seungwoo’s arms, keeping him close, making warmth spread through his body.
“Hyung,” he breathes out, choking on his own feelings. “Look at it.”
Seungwoo blinks, confused. Then, Seungyoun touches his wrist, careful not to make it more painful than it already is. “The tattoo.”
There’s a pansy in full bloom, the shades of purple and pink contrasting with Seungwoo’s skin. I’m thinking of you.
Seungwoo’s eyes fill with something bigger than the two of them, something bigger than what they are able to comprehend. Seungyoun leans down to kiss him again, much more delicate this time, and hopes it’s enough to make Seungwoo realize the meaning behind his choice of the flower.
The next flower that appears on Seungwoo’s skin is a small forget-me-not, hues of blue complementing the pansy next to it.
There’s this feeling that makes home in his chest; a wish to fill Seungwoo’s entire arm with flowers, something that would make all the feelings he can’t voice out loud eternal, always there for Seungwoo to remember. It’s selfish, in a way, how much he wants Seungwoo to be his, and the only way Seungyoun can think of doing it is by covering his skin with ink.
He makes Seungwoo’s skin his canvas, something to paint his feelings on. His head spins when Seungwoo raises his head to look at him, and the look on his face tells Seungyoun he’s somehow aware of the tightness in Seungyoun’s chest.
“It’s beautiful,” Seungwoo whispers, as Seungyoun looks for Saniderm to wrap around the fresh ink. “Thank you.”
There are many words Seungyoun wants to say, but in the end, he keeps quiet, too afraid to let any of them out.
It’s a hot summer evening, and if it wasn’t for the tall buildings surrounding them, they could probably see the sun set down the horizon gradually. But it’s Seoul, after all; the city of skyscrapers who try to challenge the clouds, and Seungyoun settles for the pink and orange shades that bathe everything in afternoon light.
Hongdae is as crowded as ever; people who are just strolling around stark against those who rush, places to go, somewhere to be. Seungwoo carries a bunch of shopping bags in his hands, his quick pace speaking of excitement at his purchases. It’s hard to keep his hands to himself, to not reach out and grab Seungwoo’s hand in the sea of people.
“I have a craving for some ramyeon,” he says as they walk by one of Hongik University station’s exits. “Let’s stop by a GS25.”
Seungwoo’s face lights up at the mention of food, and Seungyoun finds it endearing, how excited he is about such an insignificant thing. They turn right at the next corner and enter the convenience store, making a beeline to the ramyeon section.
Seungwoo grabs a bowl of Shin Ramyun while Seungyoun decides on a less spicy one. They pay for it and fill the bowls with hot water before carrying them to a table in the corner.
No words are exchanged as they eat their food, ignoring other customers shuffling around the store. Seungyoun wouldn’t pay attention to them, anyway, not when Seungwoo’s in front of him.
“I need to go to Myeongdong,” Seungwoo says, setting down his chopsticks and wiping his mouth with a napkin. “There’s a sun cream I’ve been wanting to get my hands on, but they only sell it there.”
Seungyoun nods enthusiastically instead of replying, because he’s still munching on noodles and he doesn’t want to make a fool out of himself. Seungwoo lets out a laugh and raises his bowl to drink the soup.
It’s already dark by the time they finish eating, and they start walking towards the subway station to take the green line to Myeongdong. Seungwoo keeps humming a song Seungyoun hasn’t heard yet, and resisting the urge to kiss him is a struggle.
The subway is surprisingly crowded. It’s way past the rush hour, but Seungyoun needs to cling to Seungwoo in the mass of people who get on the train with them as he listens to two ahjummas complain about how sweltering it is. It makes him laugh under his breath, their high voices filled with annoyance reminding him of how his grandma used to go on about the smallest things.
“Seungyoun,” he hears Seungwoo whisper into his ear, and it snaps him out of his thoughts. “I really want to kiss you right now.”
He feels warmth travel up his face all the way to his cheeks, and he knows he’s probably as red as a peony in full bloom. Looking around, he realizes no one heard Seungwoo’s words, and it makes him more courageous, more brave. He looks Seungwoo in the eye and licks his lips, slowly, just to tease him.
Seungwoo looks like he’s about to do something they might regret later, so Seungyoun intertwines their fingers, knowing no one would see it anyway, and says, using his cutest and most endearing voice, “Just a little while longer, hyung~”
The stare Seungwoo gives him makes his legs feel weak, and he instantly regrets ever opening his mouth to speak.
“Oh my god,” Seungwoo murmurs when he finally cages Seungyoun between his body and a wall of the building in the back alley of Myeongdong. It’s definitely more private than the main street, but they could get caught any minute, and the thought makes Seungyoun shiver. One part of him, the more shameless one, wants someone to walk out the back door.
“Do you have to be such a tease?” Seungwoo continues, unaware of Seungyoun’s thoughts. His voice sounds annoyed, but when their lips finally meet, Seungyoun feels Seungwoo smile against his mouth.
He breaks the kiss after a while, brings his hand to caress Seungwoo’s cheek as he looks him in the eye. “Maybe,” he whispers, “And as much as I would like us to continue, they’re closing the stores soon, hyung.”
“Shit,” Seungwoo curses under his breath, and moves away, brushing his hair out his face. He glances at his phone, checking the hour. Half past nine. “Just so you know, we’re going to continue this later.”
“Of course, hyung.”
Seungwoo groans and takes Seungyoun’s hand in his, just for a little while, until they’re on the main street again.
In July, Seungwoo goes to Busan to visit his parents and spend some time with friends from high school, because he misses the sea and his home.
Seungyoun knows that two weeks is not a long time, but it’s enough to make him miss the sight of Seungwoo’s warm smile. He finds himself thinking about him all the time; no matter if he’s working, eating with Jinhyuk, or just scrolling his Instagram feed, double-tapping the photos Seungwoo has uploaded during the day. There’s one that shows Seungwoo on Gwangalli Beach, smiling, the shadow of the bridge behind him. Seeing it is what makes Seungyoun decide to dial Seungwoo’s number.
“I miss you,” he says right away instead of a greeting when he hears Seungwoo pick up. Seungwoo lets out a quiet laugh in response.
“I miss you, too,” Seungyoun hears him say, breathing weirdly ragged, voice strained. He sounds different from usual, but Seungyoun can’t pinpoint what’s the reason. “So much,” he adds after a second of thought. His voice is even higher than before.
Seungyoun’s thoughts start racing as he connects the dots in his head, swallowing the lump in his throat.
“Hyung,” he begins, struggling to find words. Seungwoo sighs into the speaker. “What are you doing?”
“I, uh—” The line goes silent for a second. Seungyoun can hear him shift and then, Seungwoo curses quietly, the sound of it barely reaching Seungyoun’s ears. “I was thinking about you.”
The confession sends a spark of warmth throughout his body, and suddenly, he’s feeling brave, something about the shyness in Seungwoo’s voice urging Seungyoun to keep pushing him to the edge of confession.
“Oh, yeah?” he asks, his hand already moving down his stomach. He shivers a little at the coldness of his fingers against the skin. “What exactly were you thinking about, hyung?”
“Your hands.” Seungyoun holds his breath. “On me.”
His lips are as dry as a desert when the image of Seungwoo, hiding in his room at his parents house like a teenager, with his hand down his pants comes into his mind. If it wasn’t for the growing tightness in his chest and stomach, he would probably laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
“They’re so small,” Seungwoo continues, voice already a little broken. “But they’re so incredibly soft, so good.”
“Hyung,” he whines, and spits into his palm, then wrapping his hand around his already half-hard cock. It gets more and more difficult to think of words to say, his brain already foggy and clouded with lust. “I would. Touch you, I mean, wherever you want—”
Seungwoo sounds wrecked as he lets out a groan, and then hisses.
“Are you touching yourself already?”
“Yeah,” Seungyoun admits without any second thought, because every inch of his skin is burning, and he has no filter as the pace of his fingers picks up. “Yeah, I am.”
It seems like Seungwoo has nothing to respond to that, but then Seungyoun hears him whine, and his thoughts are spinning as he pictures Seungwoo stroking himself, too, his back arching off the bed, forehead covered in a layer of sweat.
“Younie.” He could come just by hearing his name in Seungwoo’s mouth, voice already bordering on sobbing, but he stops himself, slowing the pace of his hand. “Younie, please, talk to me—”
For someone whose presence is always a little commanding and preeminent, Seugwoo is surprisingly needy when it comes to Seungyoun. It’s like a slip through the cracks, the vulnerability in his voice, and Seungyoun takes the chance.
“If I were there with you, I would touch you everywhere you like most, everywhere you want my hands on,” He’s surprised by the huskiness and depth of his own voice. Seungwoo doesn’t say anything, but judging by how uneven and fast his breathing is, Seungyoun knows the words had some effect on him. “I’d take you into my mouth and suck you off—”
It’s like he’s addicted to the sounds Seungwoo makes, and he doesn’t even care about his own pleasure anymore, but keeps sliding his hand up and down, just to preserve the warm feeling that’s spreading through this whole body, all the way to his feet, making his toes curl.
“If I were there, I’d fuck you until you beg me to let you come,” he breathes out, feeling heat pool in his adbonmen. He picks up the pace of his hands, again, faster and faster and faster. “Or I’d let you fuck me, hyung, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s you—”
He’s about to lose his mind when Seungwoo moans out his name, keeps repeating it like a prayer, like that’s the only thing he’s able to say. He sounds wrecked, broken, lost in the pleasure his hand and Seungyoun’s words bring. Seungyoun wonders if he’s even able to understand him at this point.
“Hyung,” Seungyoun tries, despite the dryness of his own mouth. His thoughts are a mess of desire and confessions of love, but he still wants his voice to be what pushes Seungwoo into oblivion. “Hyung, please, please, come for me.”
Seungwoo whines, and moans again, like he’s about to fall apart, getting closer and closer to the edge with every passing second. He comes with Seungyoun’s name on his lips, and it’s enough, always enough to make Seungyoun come, too, heart about to burst as he comes down from his high.
It’s quiet, after that, their ragged breaths the only sounds between the two of them.
“You’re so good to me, Younie,” Seungwoo says finally, and it would probably make Seungyoun feel hot again, but there’s so much affection in Seungwoo’s voice that he finds himself wanting to drown in the softness of it.
“Always,” he whispers in response, “Always for you, hyung.”
The next morning, Jinhyuk gives him a glare like he knows what Seungyoun did last night, even though there’s no way of him hearing anything, because he was out with Wooseok. Still, it makes Seungyoun feel a pang of guilt, for some reason.
“When is he coming back?” Jinhyuk asks, his stare switching to his phone again. There’s a cup of steaming coffee on the table, and two plates of western style sandwiches.
“Thanks,” he says (Jinhyuk just waves his hand as if to say it’s nothing ), and takes a seat on the opposite side of their small kitchen table. “I think he’ll be back next week.”
Jinhyuk locks his phone and raises his head. “We’re going out once he’s in Seoul, and no, you can’t refuse. Wooseok wants to meet your boyfriend. Well, I do, too. You’re such a bad friend, you know?”
Of course Jinhyuk would use the Wooseok card to make him agree to his idea. That’s what he always does, fully knowing that Seungyoun is very fond of Wooseok, having been his coworker and friend for two years now.
“Is throwing insults really all your mouth can do?”
“No,” Jinhyuk says, chuckling, and adds, “But you’re not the one who gets to check.”
Seungyoun raises his hand, as if to smack the back of Jinhyuk’s head, but he’s too far away, anyway, and Jinhyuk laughs at him mockingly.
Seungyoun scoffs. “By the way, he’s not my boyfriend. You know that.”
Jinhyuk hums in response and gets up to place his now empty plate in the sink. “It’s just a matter of time. Tell him he’s busy next weekend, okay?”
Ultimately, Seungyoun does, and Seungwoo agrees. Of course he does.
The club they go to this time is a different one, and it’s already crowded by the time they arrive. There are a few groups of people near the entrance, talking with drinks in their hands. Seungwoo grabs Seungyoun’s shoulder to keep close to him, trying not to get lost in the mass of people.
Despite Seungyoun’s attempts, it’s a little awkward at first. They all have a lot in common, since both his friends and Seungwoo orbit around Seoul’s underground tattoo world, but the conversation doesn’t flow as smoothly as he wants it to. There are moments of silence and stares that last a little too long.
Maybe it doesn’t matter that much, Seungyoun decides in the end, because Jinhyuk and Wooseok are going to be in their own world soon, and Seungwoo, despite listening to Wooseok attentively, keeps his gaze locked on Seungyoun’s lips.
“Go ahead,” he says eventually, shooing them away before walking up to the bar to order a round of drinks for everyone. He’s feeling generous, with Seungwoo next to him. “I’ll catch up to you in a minute.”
He orders four glasses of soju with sprite, for starters, and waits for the bartender to prepare the order, watches him pour soda with the precision of an artist and kneel down to look for bottles of soju.
“Hey,” someone whispers into his ear, then, pressing his chest against Seungyoun’s back. He doesn’t need to turn around to check who it is, the voice already imprinted on his mind.
Seungwoo takes a seat next to him, a mischievous smile tugging at his lips. “Did you come here alone?”
Seungyoun smiles back. Two can play this game, he decides. “I’m with my friends,” he says, leaning closer. “And someone I’m seeing.”
“Oh.” Seungwoo nods his head in a way that speaks of carefulness, like he’s mulling over Seungyoun’s words. “What’s he like?”
“Wonderful,” Seungyoun admits, choosing to be honest, because this one time, he can afford to be open about the warmth in his chest. “And makes me feel so much.”
“What a lucky bastard.” Seungyoun tries to suppress a laugh and bites his lip. “You’re really beautiful.”
The bartender places their drinks on the counter, not paying attention to their little exchange. Seungyoun can feel himself blush, but it seems that it’s not as evident as he thinks it is; or maybe the man is used to it, having seen a similar situation so many times before.
Seungwoo smiles, again. His stare is too intense for Seungyoun to handle, so he looks down. “Your friends are busy kissing already, and I really, really want to take you home, if you let me.”
He simply nods, ignoring the drinks and following Seungwoo to the exit.
They spend the whole ride home struggling to keep their hands to themselves. Seungwoo doesn’t say anything, and Seungyoun tries to keep his mind occupied by chatting with their cab driver, a middle aged man with already greying hair.
Seungwoo’s fingers are on him even before they walk into Seungyoun’s apartment, and his own hands shake as he tries to enter the pin code.
He presses his lips to Seungwoo’s jaw as soon as they’re in, barely managing to take off his shoes. Seungwoo stumbles, grabs his shoulder to keep balance, and Seungyoun just laughs at him breathily as he guides him to the couch.
“Seungwoo,” he whispers, a spark of anticipation in the stare Seungwoo gives him making him drop the honorific. Something flashes across his face, but by the time Seungyoun can find a name for it, it’s already gone, and Seungwoo’s lips are on his.
For a second, all he can hear hear the beating of his own heart. He pushes Seungwoo onto the couch, climbs into his lap like a cat.
“Closer,” Seungwoo breathes out, grabbing the collar of Seungyoun’s shirt. His heart leaps up to his throat involuntarily, and the inside of his mouth burns with an unspoken confession of love.
Seungwoo’s lips are soft and welcoming and he thinks he could get used to this, to the tender touch of Seungwoo’s fingers on his jaw. Seungwoo kisses him like it means something to him, too, like his heart is beating as fast as Seungyoun’s, threatening to escape his chest.
“I want to make you feel good,” Seungyoun whispers into his ear, and he swears he can sense Seungwoo shiver against him. “Can I?”
Seungwoo opens his mouth, wordlessly, staring into Seungyoun’s eyes as if he was looking for answers. “Yes,” he breathes out, finally, and lets his head fall onto the back of the couch.
Seungyoun smiles into the crook of Seungwoo’s neck and starts planting kisses across his collarbones, gaining a sigh from him. It’s easier to do this without having to look at him, because this way he can pretend that for a second he’s with someone that belongs to him, in a way, not the person he’s hopelessly longing for.
The sound that leaves Seungwoo’s mouth when Seungyoun licks one of his nipples is something he can already can feel himself being addicted to, and he starts rubbing the other one in a circular motion, just to hear it once again.
“Seungyoun,” he says, tone firm and far from its usual calmness, “You can take your time next time, but right now, I really need you to—”
“Okay,” Seungyoun whispers against the skin on his chest, starts moving down again until he reaches the hem of Seungwoo’s pants and undoes them with desperate hands.
Seungwoo is, well. He’s bigger than Seungyoun thought he would be, although he’s never really thought about it that much, because it doesn’t matter, anyway. Still, as he starts peppering kisses down his already hard shaft and draws circles around the head, he feels his mouth water with anticipation at the thought of taking him into his mouth properly.
Seungwoo hisses when he finally does, makes a guttural sound that will haunt Seungyoun for years to come. It takes him a while to get used to the feeling of Seungwoo’s cock filling his mouth, but Seungwoo is patient, runs his fingers through Seungyoun’s messy hair in a gesture of reassurance, and it makes him want to melt into the touch.
It’s almost embarrassing for both of them, how quickly Seungwoo is on the edge, falling apart under Seungyoun’s careful hands and inviting mouth. He tries to warn him, like he expects Seungyoun to pull back when he tells him he’s about to come, but Seungyoun doesn’t, swallowing everything down instead.
When he finally raises his head to look at him, Seungwoo looks absolutely wrecked, with hair sticking to his forehead, chest covered in a sheen layer of sweat, rising and falling like he’s gasping for air. His lips look swollen, and his eyes are clouded, like he’s not really there.
Every fiber of Seungyoun being aches with the need to finally, finally tell him how he feels, and it doesn’t go away even later, as Seungwoo rolls his hips into him, making Seungyoun chant his name like he’s the god he believes in. He comes with words clogging his throat, and Seungwoo fucks him through his orgasm, kissing him until Seungyoun forgets what’s it like to not have Seungwoo’s body pressed against him.
Falling in love with Seungwoo feels a lot like having his chest filled with flowers to the brim.
Every day, a new one blooms and he takes care of each and every single one of them, caressing the petals with delicate hands. It’s a process rather than a single moment of realization, and by the time he finally finds it in himself to admit that he’s in love, there’s enough flowers to make a whole garden out of them.
He wonders if Seungwoo feels the same way, or at least similar, but he’s not brave enough to confess, and Seungwoo doesn’t ask.
“You and Wooseok are dating,” Seungyoun says.
“Me and Wooseok are dating,” Jinhyuk confirms with a nod.
Seungyoun stares at him. He seems so calm about it, like it’s the most obvious thing ever, which makes Seungyoun feel like something is wrong. Like he’s spent the past month in deep slumber, away from the outside world.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Jinhyuk looks up from his phone and scratches the back of his head, seeming shy all of a sudden. “Wooseok didn’t want you to know. He was scared that it would make things weird. You’re working together, after all.”
Jinhyuk shrugs. “It’s what he told me.”
“Why would it make things weird?”
“Don’t ask me, ask Wooseok,” Jinhyuk says, focused on his phone again. “Have you confessed to Seungwoo hyung, though?”
That’s what makes Seungyoun realize that Wooseok insisting on not telling him about their relationship is his way of being considerate. He may not understand the thought process behind it, but he appreciates it nevertheless, making a mental note to thank him later, somehow. (He’ll probably just bring Wooseok’s favorite Starbucks drink to work the next morning, because it’s the small gestures that Wooseok values the most.)
He ignores Jinhyuk’s question and walks up to him to pat him on the back instead. “I’m happy for you both, Jinhyukie. It was about time.”
“Thanks,” he responds with a sincere smile, and asks, “Want to order jajjangmyeon tonight?”
Seungyoun laughs, already used to Jinhyuk not being able to hold deep conversations for too long, and nods.
They might be always bickering, pretending to be at each other’s throats, but there aren’t many people Seungyoun loves as much as he loves Jinhyuk, and his friend’s happiness, pouring out of him like a bright light, is his own, too.
Later, as they’re watching a cliche drama and Jinhyuk laughs at the stain of jajjangmyeon sauce on his shirt, Seungyoun wonders what’s it like to love and be loved back.
The world outside Seungyoun’s room is drowning in heat and humidity of the monsoon season, but he joins Seungwoo in bed despite how hot his body feels, and sighs when Seungwoo covers both of them with a thin blanket. The aircon is running in the background, the soft hum serving as white noise.
“Your hair is so long already,” Seungwoo whispers, taking a strand and twisting it in his fingers. Seungyoun offers him a soft smile and scoots closer, hiding his face in the crook of Seungwoo’s neck.
“You’re so beautiful,” he continues, sliding his hand across Seungyoun’s back. “Pretty, pretty Younie.”
Seungyoun wishes he could catch the butterflies in his stomach and keep them in a jar, show them to Seungwoo as a proof of his love.
In August, Seungyoun’s hair gets long enough for loose strands to brush his jaw, and he gives Seungwoo a tattoo of a daffodil.
“Do they have any meaning?” Seungwoo asks, and Seungyoun is glad that he’s in the middle of applying ink into his skin, because his mouth feels like it’s filled with water, and there’s nothing that seems to be good enough of an answer.
They do have a meaning, in Seungyoun’s mind. Each of them represents his sentiment and thoughts, things he wants Seungwoo to know without having to speak them out loud. It’s been like that ever since he started working on Seungwoo’s arm, and with every tattoo, his heart aches more and more.
“They do,” he confesses eventually, because Seungwoo’s question is a trap, and they both know it. Maybe it’s not even a question; maybe it’s just Seungwoo making sure his hunch is true.
If he raised his head, he would see Seungwoo looking at him like he’s the most beautiful thing in the world. But he doesn’t, focusing on the hum of his tattoo machine instead.
“What does a daffodil mean, then?”
Seungyoun swallows, trying to gain more time. “Sunshine and brightness.” Among other things. Mostly, they are used to convey an unrequited love.
Seungwoo hums and drops the subject, apparently satisfied with the answer.
“You know, I never really dreamed of becoming a tattoo artist,” Seungwoo tells him one evening. He rests his cheek in his palm as he says it, and rubs the corner of his eye with his finger.
He looks sleepy, and Seungyoun wishes he could grab his hand, ask him to hide under the covers with him, fall asleep with his arms wrapped around Seungwoo’s frame. But he can’t, or so he believes.
Instead, he tilts his head, encouraging Seungwoo to continue.
“I wanted to be a painter. I spent my childhood with books on traditional painting in my hands, but my parents would always tell me to put them away,” he looks out the window longingly, and Seungyoun decides he looks like something out of a dream. “They forbade me from applying for art school, so I dropped out from the university they asked me to go to, and begged my friend to teach me how to use a tattoo machine.”
Seungyoun’s mouth feels dry.
“But I had this childhood dream in me even then,” Seungwoo continues, finally turning his head to look at Seungyoun. “Well, I still do. That’s why I try to make my works look like paintings.”
The sound of Jinhyuk’s laugh fills the room, and Seungyoun hears Wooseok telling him to stop. The TV must be turned on, a woman’s voice announcing that the storms will continue for the next week and typhoons are possible, too. Seungyoun takes Seungwoo’s hand in his, draws circles on his knuckles.
Seungwoo smiles weakly, a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “No one values painters anymore, so I don’t regret it. All your commissions are portraits of CEOs and chaebol heirs, and things you pour your heart into end up gathering dust on the walls of their offices. It’s different, with ink. It makes people remember you.”
A thunder rolls outside. “We all just want to be remembered, don’t you think?”
Seungyoun traces the flowers on Seungwoo’s arm with a careful finger, caresses the delicate petals, and relishes the feeling of being understood.
The next day, Seungyoun decides to make time to surprise him at work, and orders two rolls of kimbap for take out on his way from the Sinchon station.
It doesn’t take him long to arrive there; he knows every twist and turn to Seungwoo’s parlor by heart, having been there on more times than he can count. He skips steps on the stairs up, and wipes the beads of sweat from his forehead once he’s in front of the door. It’s not high enough to make him breathless and tired, but summer still hasn’t come to an end, and his body feels hot at all times.
“I don’t know,” he hears Seungwoo say as he opens the door, voice low, but still loud enough to reach Seungyoun’s ears. “I’m not sure I can imagine us, together. He’s—”
His heart drops to his stomach, the realization that he’s the topic of the conversation washing over him like an unforgiving wave on a stormy sea. The person Seungwoo’s talking to says something, but Seungyoun can’t make it out; their voice is too quiet for him to hear.
Seungwoo sighs, a sound of frustration and confusion, and Seungyoun realizes he’s been holding his breath the whole time.
He turns back on his heels and runs down the stairs, throwing out the food in the nearest bin.
(If he stayed for a while longer, ignored the pang in his chest, he would hear Seungwoo say, “I don’t want to ruin what we have right now. I wouldn’t forgive myself for ever hurting him.”)
He stops replying to Seungwoo’s texts. At first, it’s just him asking Seungyoun about his day, telling him to call him when he’s not busy. With every passing day, the tone of his messages turns more and more worried, until he just sends a simple I’m sorry and stops trying to contact him altogether.
Seungyoun is sure Seungwoo doesn’t know what he’s apologizing for, and it makes his blood boil with a newfound rage. He’s already past the stage of sadness, or so he thinks, as he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t need Seungwoo’s presence to go on with his life.
But then Jinhyuk and Wooseok walk into the apartment to Seungyoun lying on the couch in silence, and Jinhyuk asks, “What’s got you moping around?”
So maybe, he’s not as over it as he thinks he is.
“Seungwoo hyung isn’t replying to your texts?” Wooseok asks as he leans down to take off his shoes, tone half-sarcastic, half-serious.
“It’s the other way around,” Seungyoun mutters.
Wooseok and Jinhyuk exchange stares.
“You big baby,” Jinhyuk almost coos, sitting down on the floor next to the couch Seungyoun’s seeking refuge at. “What happened?”
He hears Wooseok settle down on the couch next to him, but doesn’t see it, eyes focused on his own hands.
“I’m not a baby,” he tries, but his puffy cheeks and bloodshot eyes are saying otherwise. Jinhyuk reaches out his hand to brush hair off Seungyoun’s face.
“Of course,” Wooseok says, tone reassuring. He probably doesn’t mean it, but Seungyoun appreciates his attempt. “Are you going to tell us what happened?”
Jinhyuk nods along to Wooseok’s words. Seungyoun would probably find them annoying, if he was in the right state of mind.
He inhales sharply, mustering all his courage.
“He said that he doesn’t want to be with me.”
“Did he say it to your face?”
A beat of silence. Then, an irritated sigh from Jinhyuk.
“No,” he admits, “Not really.”
“God fucking damn it, Cho Seungyoun,” Wooseok’s voice cuts through his thoughts, pulling him to the surface. “Talk to him, or I’ll choke you in your sleep with my own two hands.”
Jinhyuk looks at him with adoration painted all over his features. “I’ll help you hide the body, darling.”
Seungyoun groans. “Leave me alone, both of you.”
It’s not that he can’t take the truth, accept the reality he’s found himself in. It’s the opposite; his heart feels empty as he realizes, late at night and alone in the darkness of his room, that it’s the illusion Seungwoo has made him consider the truth that hurts him the most.
He’s been carefully walking on shards of broken glass for the past months, careful not to cut the skin on his feet, but in the end he’s the one bleeding, painting the floor with trails of crimson. He wants to laugh at his naivety, mock himself for letting himself believe in a fake promise of intimacy and infatuation.
And it’s like this; every morning, he wakes up, hands reaching for his phone with excitement, only to realize that his affections are not being reciprocated, and there’s no point in trying to maintain the delusion. He continues with his days as if he was operating on auto-pilot, doing things automatically, letting the routine make things a little easier, his edges a little smoother.
Seungwoo doesn’t call, and Seungyoun doesn’t, either.
And maybe, maybe, allowing himself to be mad at him would bring him a sense of relief but in the end, it’s not Seungwoo he blames for his sleepless nights.
“Hey, remember when my parents took us to hike Daemosan?”
Jinhyuk’s voice is quiet, thoughtful, like he’s reliving the memory as he says it. Seungyoun blinks a few times. “On the last day of summer holidays in primary school, right?”
“Yes, yes,” Jinhyuk confirms, nodding his head. “I think we were in fourth grade. It was my father who came up with the idea. You probably don’t remember, but my parents used to be avid hikers.”
Seungyoun is better at remembering smallest details than his friend takes him for. He instantly thinks back to that one time they hid in a small room on the rooftop of Jinhyuk’s house, huddled in the corner just for the sake of playing a prank on his mom. They spent more than two hours there, and when Seungyoun pointed his small hand at the hiking equipment, stored away on the shelf, Jinhyuk explained with pride, as if his parents had reached the top of Everest at some point in their lives. In truth, they simply enjoyed the weekend hikes, sometimes challenging more rocky mountains, just to check their limits.
But there aren’t many things that can equal to a child’s love towards the parent, so Jinhyuk painted the story with colors that weren’t there, and Seungyoun nodded, deep in thought, believing every word leaving his friend’s mouth.
“My mom told you to ask yours for permission, but you didn’t,” Jinhyuk continues. “You just told her that she’d already agreed.”
It’s a detail that has managed to slip Seungyoun’s mind. Jinhyuk is silent for a while.
“You thought she wouldn’t notice,” he says after a few seconds of thought. “You thought your own mom wouldn’t notice you being gone.”
Seungyoun takes a sharp inhale, heart suddenly aching for the version of himself that now only lives in memories of people close to him. He remembers it well now, how sure he was of his own mother’s lack of interest, how painful the thought was, back then.
He doesn’t open his mouth, stays silent, waiting for the point that now seems clear in Jinhyuk’s eyes, waiting to unravel.
“And you fucking broke your leg on the way,” he half-laughs, but it’s a sound of annoyance, regret too, maybe. “It was my fault, I pushed you too hard while we were playing around. I still remember the sound of your bone cracking, but it doesn’t make my blood run cold anymore.”
Jinhyuk stops to look out the window, closes his eyes as he tries to gather his thoughts.
“You don’t know how much your mom cried when she finally made it to the hospital, because you were asleep in the room by then,” a moment of silence. “But I do. She wept like a beaten animal, because the receptionist refused to tell her what happened, and she imagined the worst. I was ten years old, and the sound of her sobbing really surprised me. It filled the corridor like an echo, like a sound of someone’s heart being torn apart.”
Seungyoun feels a tear roll down his cheek involuntarily, and he doesn’t bother to wipe it.
“Anyway,” Jinhyuk says as looks at him finally, face painted with the same feelings that accompanied him back then. “Do you see my point?”
On Monday morning, Seungyoun decides he’s done hiding and trying to run away from things that need to be voiced out, and taps Seungwoo’s name on the list of his contacts (It takes him five minutes to bring himself to do it, but he’s quite proud of himself, nevertheless).
“Oh, you’re done being an immature asshole,” Seungwoo says, not caring about a proper greeting. But he’s always too polite, so after a few seconds, he adds, “Hi.”
“Don’t you think I’m the one that deserves an explanation?” He wishes he could see him in person, try to read the shadows on Seungwoo’s face. But the coldness of his tattoo parlor is a reminder that he’s alone, and has to rely on his gut feeling.
“Have I given you any reason to be angry?”
Seungwoo’s tone is serious, level. But there’s no real fury in it, and Seungyoun sighs instead of gracing him with an answer.
“Let’s talk in person,” he says after a few moments of silence, rubbing his nose to ease the pain in his temple.
Fortunately, Seungwoo agrees.
He spends an hour sitting outside Seungwoo’s apartment building, too afraid to go upstairs and face the truth of the thing between them. The night before, his thoughts were like a vast sea during a storm, looking for the next victim, but right now, looking up at Seungwoo’s window, he just doesn’t want whatever they have to end.
It’s a hasty rush of recklessness that makes him stand up muster enough courage to walk up the stairs.
The door opens slowly. His heart picks up its speed and leaves a burning sensation when he sees Seungwoo behind it, something in his eyes that makes him look different from what’s Seungyoun used to. He feels a pang of guilt when he notices Seungwoo’s trying to shrink, but he ignores it, doing his best not to give in to the urge to wrap his arms around Seungwoo’s frame.
Seungwoo watches him take off his shoes and hat without a word, arms crossed as if he was trying to defend himself. Then, he quietly invites him to his room, and sits down on his bed while Seungyoun settles down on the floor, back against the wall.
It’s funny in a way that makes Seungyoun want to sob into his hands until there are no tears left. Not long ago, they couldn’t stop talking, words flowing between them like an untamed river, but now a feeling of awkwardness has started creeping in, and he doesn’t know what to do with it.
“Jinhyuk told me everything,” Seungwoo finally opens up, face down, eyes focused on his hands. Seungyoun wonders if they’re still as warm as they used to be when he held them in his. “It’s all a big misunderstanding.”
The beating of Seungyoun’s heart turns into pounding, fast enough to hear it in his ears.
“The truth is,” he continues, but stops, sitting there in silence, looking for a way to put the things on his mind into words. Seungyoun wishes he could reach out, brush his fringe out his face, make him look at him the same way he used to, so many times.
Seungwoo sighs, raises his head. Then, he says, “I don’t even remember what not loving you feels like. Not since that night.”
Maybe that’s it. Maybe Seungyoun has finally lost it, maybe the sea has finally managed to swallow him whole, take him its hostage, because there’s no way Seungwoo’s words are real. He closes his eyes, digging his nails into the skin of his palm, suddenly remembering how his mother once told him to pinch himself to check if he’s dreaming, to wake up from a nightmare.
Except it’s not a nightmare, and it’s not a dream, either; except when he opens his eyes, Seungwoo’s still there, flesh and bones and teary eyes mixed with confusion and pain deeper than what Seungyoun can take in.
So maybe it’s real. Maybe Seungwoo loves him with intensity equal to the ache in Seungyoun’s heart.
He moves closer, settles on the floor between Seungwoo’s legs and reaches out to caress his cheek, and Seungwoo leans down, meets him in the middle. Seungyoun lets his hand speak for him, tell stories of the days he’s spent with Seungwoo on his mind, and wipes tears from his cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” he says, trying to stop his hands from trembling. “I’m sorry for the mess.”
Seungwoo smiles, the kind of smile that makes Seungyoun think this is what happiness feels like. In the end, he decides that nothing, not even the mythical idea of happiness matters, because soon, Seungwoo’s lips are on his, and they taste like salt in his tears, like a promise of future spent together, and love so deep it’s enough to fill his veins with warm honey instead of blood.
“I love you, too,” he whispers, tracing Seungwoo’s lower lip with his finger, smiling at the way Seungwoo’s shivers under his touch. Then, he rests his forehead against Seungwoo’s, their noses brushing, and says, “I love you so much.”
The last flower to bloom on Seungwoo’s arm is a honeysuckle, going from his elbow all the way up to his shoulder joint.
Seungyoun traces it with his fingers carefully once it’s healed, admiring how beautiful it looks on Seungwoo’s skin. His chest is close to bursting with feelings, but they’re not misplaced anymore; he knows Seungwoo will always be there to hold his heart in his hands, protect it like the sky would fall down if he didn’t.
He leans down to kiss him, slow and gentle. “Tell me you’re mine,” he says, breath against the skin on Seungwoo’s neck as he moves down to kiss the flowers on his skin.
“I’m yours,” Seungwoo whispers, tone sure, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Always yours.”