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Charm the Stars

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Seonghwa notices him on his first day back from the Lunar New Year break, just before the start of his junior year. It’s impossible not to; he has bright fuschia hair and probably the prettiest face Seonghwa has ever seen. He’s fairly certain those are pale contacts, and his lipgloss matches his hair, bright and contrasting heavily against the skater aesthetic of his dark attire. He wears ripped black jeans and a heavy jacket with the Thrasher logo along the back, a skateboard tucked up under his arm.

The first time he sees him, Seonghwa only manages to wave kindly before he’s accosted by some girls asking him for directions. It ends up being just a ruse to talk to him, which is typical, and it takes him so long to shake them that by the time he does, the boy with the fuschia hair is gone.

He sees him again and again, mostly in the park across the street from his apartment complex. He must live nearby; while they are close to the university, and most of the residents here are students, it’s fairly rare that students who live in the dorms come all the way out here unless they’re visiting a friend or attending a party.

He only ever sees him from a distance… never able to start a conversation or introduce himself, so he doesn’t even know the guy’s name. 

It’s more than a week before he actually meets him. It’s pouring and Seonghwa is holding groceries so he bolts into the covered hall, nearly faceplanting when his wet shoes hit the smooth, glossy cement in the breezeway. He grabs the railing at the bottom of the stairs to steady himself, and that’s when he sees that familiar shock of pink.

He’s sitting on his skateboard at the center of the breezeway, idly rolling back and forth without letting his feet leave the floor. The fuschia-haired boy looks up and nods in greeting, offering a small, awkward smile. Seonghwa regards him for a long moment.

“Rain ruin your afternoon plans?”

“Not really. Just makes being sexiled incredibly boring.”

“Ah… never had that issue myself. The advantages of not having a roommate.”

An impressed scoff. “How do you manage that?”

“Rich parents.” Seonghwa admits freely.

“Must be nice. Wooyoung is cool and all but he’s basically obsessed with this new boyfriend of his.” He replies.

A light comes to Seonghwa’s eyes. “Ah, you’re Wooyoung’s roommate? I can’t believe I’ve never put two and two together. I’ve never seen you near the actual apartment.”

That apartment which is just down the hall from where he’s sitting. He can see it from where he’s standing. They’re practically neighbors, save the floor they’re on.

“Yeah, well, I’m barely there anymore because San’s already over constantly.” He grumbles.

“San does hate putting his own roommate out. Yunho, I think it was. That and he lives on campus, so the dorms are a madhouse. It’s quieter out here.”

“Not while San’s around.” He mutters, and it pulls a laugh from Seonghwa.

“Fair enough.” He considers for a moment before motioning toward the stairs. “You look bored. Would you… like to come up?”

That earns him a raised eyebrow. “You don’t even know me.”

“Well I know San, who’s dating your roommate. And while I don’t know Wooyoung very well, I know how San is.” Seonghwa says a little suggestively. “I was about to make dinner. Why don’t you join me instead of sulking in the breezeway?”

A sigh, then the boy stands, kicking up his skateboard. “All right. I’m Yeosang, by the way.”

“Seonghwa.” He replies with a smile, and they both head up the stairs.

***

The first thing Yeosang does is gawk over the size of Seonghwa’s apartment.

The units downstairs, the one Yeosang and Wooyoung share, are studio apartments. Seonghwa has a two-bedroom on the second floor, for no other reason than to have a place to keep his clothes so they don’t clutter the room he sleeps in. The extra room is basically a massive closet and fashion studio.

After Yeosang gets over his wave of envy, they get to know each other while Seonghwa cooks… mostly their studies and interests. Yeosang is a sophomore computer science major who loves skateboards and drones and J-rock and the day he left for college, he dyed his hair pink as a giant fuck-you to his parents for constantly repressing him. He’s always been told to be quiet, to keep his interests to himself, to not make too much noise or take up too much space, so he’s still coming out of his shell. He’s painfully shy, but he claims being around someone as extroverted as Wooyoung has helped.

Seonghwa explains that he’s a junior international business major, at his father’s behest, but that he took a fashion minor because that’s his real passion. His father would skin him alive if he actually pursued his dream of modeling, so he compromises by trying to get into the industry from the top. His parents have the connections, and as long as he stays on track for his degree, he gets to keep benefitting from their lifestyle. It’s a fair trade, he thinks, until he can make it on his own.

“Rebel as much as you can.” Yeosang teases, but it’s sage advice. “The longer you let your parents dictate who you are, the harder it is to get out from under it. So find a little of yourself out here, too. Take that extra fashion class. Dye your hair or get a tattoo. Just… be you.”

Seonghwa doesn’t usually take unsolicited advice from people he’s just met, but even he has to admit the wisdom in it.

***

Yeosang coming over becomes a regular thing. 

Most of the time, it’s after classes, when San and Wooyoung are taking advantage of the fact that they share several because group studying is fruitful. They usually end up all over each other before they’re even done with their homework, though, and Yeosang sees himself out.

At least they generally keep it to the early evening hours, so Yeosang is—usually—able to sleep in his own bed.

On Tuesdays, Seonghwa has one more class than him, so he often just hits the park on his board if the weather is nice. He’s only been there for about thirty minutes before his phone buzzes in his pocket with a text from Seonghwa.

 

[Seonghwa]

I get out of class in five minutes. How do you feel about Thai takeout?

 

This is a regular thing, too.

Yeosang has, more than once, expressed that he feels bad for how often Seonghwa treats him to stuff like that. However, Seonghwa insists it’s no big deal, since it’s not even his money, really. 

Picking up the food takes longer than he expects it will, though, and it’s a particularly hot day. Seonghwa feels bad making Yeosang wait outside for him, so he texts him the key code for his apartment.

Yeosang is a little shocked… Seonghwa seems either too trusting or too nice and he isn’t sure which is worse.

He lets himself in after Seonghwa texts him adamantly demanding that he does so, and memorizes the code so he can delete the text.

It feels weird being in Seonghwa’s apartment without him, so Yeosang just awkwardly sits at the kitchen table and waits.

Twenty minutes later, Seonghwa arrives with a thousand apologies and a long explanation about the two large orders in front of him. Yeosang doesn’t feel like he really has any reason to be sorry. He’s learning that Seonghwa is, above all else, incredibly—overly—polite.

While they eat, Seonghwa asks Yeosang about his day, listening intently while he complains about one of his professors who likes to pick on the quieter students. One girl had a full-fledged panic attack over it and the professor’s response had been less than understanding. Yeosang doesn’t have high hopes for that class.

After Seonghwa clears away all the containers (with Yeosang’s help; he’s not a heathen ), they both agree that getting a jump on their homework for the week is probably for the best. After he blazes through his computer science worksheet, he pulls out his Mandarin textbook. He has a test on Friday that he’s not remotely prepared for.

Seonghwa goes to the fridge to grab them some more drinks while Yeosang fumbles through a somewhat complicated phrase, muttering it under his breath piece by piece.

Seonghwa sighs as he sets the drinks in front of Yeosang and his own place at the table.

“You’ll never learn if you don’t speak up. You can be louder; I certainly won’t fault you if it’s not perfect.”

Yeosang frowns before repeating the phrase at normal volume, still a little hesitant.

“Ah. You’re putting a little too much emphasis on the first syllable. It’s more like…” Seonghwa casually repeats the phrase in perfectly-pronounced Mandarin before pointing on the page from where he’s still standing behind him. “Nuance is important; it can change the meaning.”

Yeosang blinks at him, incredulous but impressed. “You’ve studied Mandarin.”

“As a child. Private tutor. Rich parents, remember?” Seonghwa reminds. “It helps with the whole international business major, you know, since I won’t always need a translator. For Mandarin and English at least.”

“You speak English, too?” Yeosang balks.

Seonghwa just laughs. “Yes, tactfully chosen by my parents for later success. I hated it at the time, but I’m sure it will be helpful later.”

Yeosang hums thoughtfully, looking down at the book in front of him. His eyes are glazed over in a way that says his thoughts are actually a thousand lightyears away.

“You know.” Seonghwa says, nudging him gently. “The best way to learn is immersion.”

“Not all of us can afford to take the summer to study abroad.” Yeosang mumbles wryly. He’d only left the country once, for a trip to Japan with his family a few years back.

Seonghwa huffs, shaking his head. “No, I didn’t mean… I know that.”

Yeosang raises an eyebrow at him, expectant. “What did you mean, then?”

“Me. I can immerse you.” Seonghwa explains. “You spend enough time here. Let’s turn an hour or two of that into Mandarin-only time.”

“I don’t know… I’m not really all that great at it, yet.” Yeosang grumbles.

Seonghwa responds in Mandarin, grinning like a madman, and Yeosang promptly panics.

***

The next week, Seonghwa has a big project for one of his fashion classes. Yeosang listens while he worries over it, sitting amongst piles of clothes that are strewn about his living room for the entire weekend.

“Isn’t the point of your spare bedroom to have a place for all this?” Yeosang admonishes teasingly.

“Yes, but I need the space so I can see it all… you know. Spread out, away from everything else.” He gestures vaguely with one hand. Yeosang just shrugs.

He’d been stressing about getting good photos for it, because he doesn’t know anyone who had an interest in that sort of thing, but Yeosang had come to the rescue. Rather, he’d asked Wooyoung, who’d asked San, who’d said his new friend Mingi from his chem class was rooming with this freshman named Jongho who was a wizard with a camera.

Now that the photography situation is handled, though, his stress has shifted back to the looks themselves. He frets and fusses and worries himself over it. Yeosang tries to pull him out of his own head about it but it’s clear this means a lot to him to do well on the assignment. He isn’t remotely successful.

Seonghwa is beaming, however, when he arrives home after his Friday classes. He meets Yeosang outside of his apartment, carrying two large bags he recognizes as being from the sushi place down the road.

“Uh… someone else joining us?” 

“No, I just went a little overboard. The professor loved my project. Gave me an A and a glowing recommendation for a future internship.”

Yeosang perks up at that. “Ah! Congratulations! Definitely worth gorging ourselves on sushi.”

Except, Seonghwa’s parents don’t think so.

They generally call late in the afternoon, at least once a week. Yeosang has witnessed several of those conversations. Seonghwa usually steps into the living room or his bedroom or out onto the patio to not be rude, but it’s impossible not to overhear most of it. It’s a little strange to hear Seonghwa switch back to his apparent native Satoori dialect. He wonders if his dad thinks the Seoul dialect he’s picked up living out here is pretentious or something.

Seonghwa is absolutely crushed when he tells his dad the exciting news, only for it to be undermined. His father insists he should focus on his business classes—even though he already has A’s in them—and that the internship must not be worth much if it came from his work in fashion instead of in business.

Seonghwa only puts up a vehement protest for about five minutes before he realizes it’s useless. After that, he just goes eerily emotionless, jaw tight, and agrees with everything his father says before disconnecting the line.

Yeosang offers him an apologetic sort of look as he returns to the kitchen and sits down with a huff. He drums his fingers on the table top tensely while he gathers his composure, but before he manages to form a sentence that isn’t purely made of venom, Yeosang lays his hand over Seonghwa’s, holding it still.

“We don’t have much homework, hyung. Why don’t we just watch a movie tonight, hm?”

Seonghwa looks at him with an expression both open and unreadable, glancing down at their hands for a moment before nodding his assent.

They end up curled together on the couch watching something cheesy and lighthearted, and Yeosang pets at Seonghwa’s hair idly until he feels him unwind just a little.

***

The next morning, back in his own bed, Yeosang is awoken by his phone ringing loudly next to his head. He blearily eyes the alarm clock on his nightstand with disdain before he answers… only bothering to pick up because it’s Seonghwa.

“Hello?”

“Yeosangie, you busy today?”

“No… but what the fuck, hyung? It’s Saturday… why are you calling me so early?”

“Nine isn’t early. Come shopping with me.”

“Nine is early for a Saturday .” He admonishes, squinting at his alarm clock again. “Okay, fine, yeah. Gimme like, thirty minutes.”

Forty-two minutes later, they’re heading out.

Yeosang feels underdressed. Seonghwa always looks sharp, but today his outfit is particularly devastating; it’s a jacquard suit, the blazer black with silver and gold patterning throughout. He has it paired with a plain black turtleneck and slacks, some simple gold chains draped around his neck. It’s one of the outfits he’d put together for his fashion project, the one he’d scored so well on.

Yeosang is wearing ripped jeans and a too-large band shirt tucked in only in the front behind a studded belt. He’d had to choose between a shower and makeup and chose the former, his still-damp hair pulled back by a stretchy black headband. He feels wildly underdressed.

“I, uh… didn’t think we were going to the luxury district or something—”

“We aren’t, this is just me being petty.” He tells him simply.

Seonghwa wears spite gorgeously .

Yeosang notices Seonghwa’s gaze lingering on his face, particularly his left side, the entire way to the shopping district. He self-consciously turns away and covers his temple, pretending to play with his hair.

“I didn’t have time for makeup this morning.” He mumbles.

“Why would you cover it?” Seonghwa asks, his voice uncharacteristically gentle. “It’s a birthmark, right? Not like a… scar, or something?”

Yeosang nods. “I’ve always had it.”

“Then why feel like you should hide it?”

Yeosang inclines his head a bit, gaze meaningful. “Because people stare at it.”

Seonghwa flusters, a little embarrassed. “It wasn’t… because I thought it was weird or anything. It was something… new, about you.”

“Ah, so is that what I’m boiled down to?” Yeosang teases. “The skateboarder with the pink hair and the weird birthmark on his face, who’s bad at Mandarin?”

“You aren’t bad at Mandarin.” Seonghwa scolds with an admonishing look. After a short pause, he cradles Yeosang’s chin gently between his thumb and forefinger and tilts his face back toward him. “And I said it wasn’t weird. I understand if you feel more comfortable covering it up, but I want you to know that you don’t need to, especially around me.”

Yeosang’s heart stutters in his chest, and he’s sure his eyes are comically wide as he nods.

Seonghwa smiles and lets him go.

Yeosang’s face burns, but nowhere more so than where Seonghwa had touched him.

***

As it turns out, the entire shopping trip is a giant petty get-back at Seonghwa’s parents. He buys some ludicrously expensive clothes, promising that his parents won’t even bother caring when they see the department store name on their statements because to them, that kind of thing is a reasonable purchase. He even throws in a denim jacket for Yeosang that’s slim-fitted and accented with buttons down the sleeves because he insisted it would look great on him (and it did).

They pass by a beauty shop and Seonghwa has a determined look on his face as he stalks inside. He goes right for the hair dye, rooting through it until he finds what he wants. He holds it up, staring pointedly at Yeosang.

“You know how this stuff works, right?”

Yeosang eyes the bleach for a moment, nodding. “Yeah, I have to lift my color before I can get it this pink.”

“Great.” He throws it in the basket. “Will you help?”

“Yeah, sure, but… are you… do you really wanna… bleach your hair?” Yeosang asks with no little amount of uncertainty.

“You said so yourself that I should rebel, right? What’re they gonna do? They won’t see me often enough for it to matter and I can just… put that wax in it to darken it up a bit when I do see them.”

Yeosang presses his lips together, but shrugs. “If you’re sure. You’ll need some other stuff, too, though. Here.”

He leads Seonghwa down the aisles, grabbing a few things. Shampoo specifically designed for platinum hair, restorative conditioner, gloves, an applicator brush and a couple of other items. He explains the logistics of the color-neutralizing purple deposits in the shampoo while Seonghwa listens attentively. They grab lunch before heading back to Seonghwa’s place, arms laden with bags upon bags filled with the day’s spoils.

Seonghwa throws the bags onto the couch next to the clothes he still has laid out from the fashion class prep, figuring he’ll get to it later. They move one of the kitchen chairs into the bathroom and Yeosang gets to work.

Seonghwa feels mentally prepared since Yeosang talked him through the whole thing. He explains that it’ll burn a bit, that they’ll have to do a few rounds with different strengths of developer to lift all his color, with restorative conditioning in between to ensure they don’t fry his hair. It takes them hours but by the evening, Seonghwa steps out of the shower with platinum blond hair.

“How does it look?” He asks somewhat nervously after fussing with it in the mirror for ages. He’s blow-dried it and styled it up off his forehead, swept it back to show off his undercut on one side.

Yeosang thinks he looks devastating.

“It’s a little unfair how well you pull that off.” Yeosang tells him with a small grin, and Seonghwa huffs at him.

“Stop! Really, is it okay? It’s so… different.” He fusses in the mirror some more. Yeosang chuckles and pulls him away to brush some of the stray strands back away from his temple.

“It’ll take some getting used to, I’m sure. But it really does look good on you.” His expression must be earnest enough, because Seonghwa smiles like he believes him. “You should put some pictures up on insta.”

Seonghwa beams, going to find some better lighting. Yeosang watches as he snaps a few pictures with different poses, yelping softly when Seonghwa pulls him into one of his shots.

“I have to give credit to my stylist.” He insists, tone far too serious before he laughs.

Yeosang obliges, and makes sure the pictures have his approval before he posts them.

“All right, they’re up. God, I bet my professors will freak out, too, when they see it!” He snorts. “Okay, so. Dinner. I’m starving. Your pick tonight since you helped with all this. No buts!”

He points at Yeosang because he knows the other will protest. Figuring he does deserve a treat after hours helping Seonghwa, he concedes. “Fine. I want dak galbi, from the one place that does it with the excessive amount of cheese.”

“Perfect, it’s been too long since my face broke out.” Seonghwa teases, but his grin says he’s actually perfectly fine with the choice of cuisine.

Yeosang admonishes him for the tease, but within an hour, he’s got a steaming tin of dak galbi in front of him so it all works out.

“To the new you!” Yeosang pipes up, holding out his chopsticks with a piece of tteokbokki at the end that’s completely smothered with cheese. Seonghwa lifts up a piece of chicken on his own, tapping it against the cheesy rice cake.

“To rebellion.” He agrees with a wink and a fond smile.

Yeosang slurps down his food eagerly and tries not to choke.

There’s a lot of food, but they put a decent dent into it. Seonghwa had gone grocery shopping earlier in the week, so fridge space was becoming limited, and therefore he recommended Yeosang take the rest home with him. Yeosang certainly won’t complain.

“Maybe my roommate wants some. Since he’s always too busy to actually join us for dinner when it’s fresh.” Yeosang pulls out his phone to text him, only to see he’s got a slew of unread messages.

 

[Woo]

Hey Sangie how long will u and Hwa-hyung be out?

Hello??

Okay, well, uh, San and I were out all day and just got back. U aren’t back yet I see.

San is staying the night jsyk.

We’re gonna… be in bed so uh. Don’t say I didn’t warn u.

I hope you read these before you come home ok bye

 

Yeosang sighs and sets his phone aside. “I think my roommate might be too occupied with other things to bother with dinner, unfortunately. And I guess San is staying over, which means—”

“Sexiled?” Seonghwa presumes.

“Sexiled.” Yeosang confirms with a sigh.

“That’s all right. You can just stay.” Seonghwa offers as he grabs the dak galbi and starts rearranging the contents of the fridge so he can wedge it onto the bottom shelf.

It wouldn’t be the first time Yeosang has stayed over. He’s slept on Seonghwa’s couch a couple times… and once wasn’t even overnight. He’d been incredibly tired after his Tuesday classes and let himself in only to collapse on the couch and pass out within minutes. Seonghwa had woken him an hour later, cooing sweetly at him like he found the whole situation endearing, and Yeosang had been a little embarrassed.

The… couch, though.

The couch is decidedly piled with various clothes and accessories, not to mention the day’s shopping spoils. Seonghwa’s spare room was quite organized… it would likely take him some time to put everything back, and it had been a long day already.

“I appreciate you housing me in these trying times.” Yeosang says, scratching the back of his neck.

Seonghwa finishes messing with the fridge and turns around, smiling victoriously. It falls, though, when he catches sight of his own couch past the kitchen counter. He curses.

“I completely forgot about all that mess.” He sighs, and he clearly doesn’t have the energy to deal with it right now. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting that you’d be staying over. Or maybe I just figured I’d be done with all that by now.”

“It’s really fine. Just grab me some pillows and I’ll sleep on the floor.” Yeosang insists.

Seonghwa bristles. “The floor? God no, you can just sleep in the bed with me, if you think you can stand me. My bed’s huge anyway, you probably won’t even notice me.”

Yeosang chokes. “What? Hyung, I know most of us here have single beds but it’s still hard to squash two grown men on a double—”

Seonghwa barks a laugh. “A double, oh, you’re adorable, Yeosangie.”

Yeosang makes a face, too bitter to argue. Maybe Seonghwa has an actual full-size mattress or something. Or a queen… that would be luxurious.

Turns out, Seonghwa has a whole ass, king-sized bed. He has a television in his room, too, which seems like overkill.

“Why is your bed so big?” Yeosang balks, staring from the doorway. He thinks even his parents only ever had a queen size.

“Orgies.” Seonghwa quips back so fast that it’s almost believable, were it not for the telling smirk on his face.

“Oh yeah? You get up to many of those?” Yeosang goads.

Seonghwa snorts a laugh, shrugging. “Maybe someday. I’m still young.”

Yeosang laughs and shakes his head, his tone placating. “Sure, whatever you say, hyung.”

He’s not even sure he’s into that kind of thing, but hearing it come from Seonghwa sets his mind wandering.

Huh. That’s an interesting notion.

Seonghwa changes into pajamas, because that’s a thing rich people bother with, apparently, and even grabs a set for Yeosang. They’re navy just like his, color coordinated but not exactly matching. Yeosang wonders if that’s his favorite color.

He ducks into the bathroom to change before returning to the bedroom. They both climb under the sheets, and Seonghwa doesn’t seem hesitant at all; just flops right down and snuggles into his pillow like it’s any other night. He doesn’t seem to notice Yeosang’s nervousness, which might help just a little.

It takes him a moment to get settled in the unfamiliar bed, but it’s soft as a cloud, and he sighs contentedly as he finds himself relaxing.

“Sleep well, Yeosangie.” Seonghwa tells him softly as he turns out the light.

“You too, hyung.” He murmurs back, but he can’t find it in himself to close his eyes. He watches Seonghwa through the darkness until his shoulders rise and fall measured and even, his breathing a little loud, but not-quite-snoring.

It feels like there’s a chasm between them. They might as well be on two separate beds for all the space separating them.

Yeosang isn’t really sure why he finds that so disconcerting. Hadn’t he been terrified at the potentially close proximity just minutes ago?

Yeosang can’t make sense of his thoughts.

It takes him far too long to fall asleep, but when he does, it is to the blissful, dreamless dark.

When he wakes, he’s warm.

Yeosang has been known to overheat at night… he tends to poke a foot out from under the comforter or toss off the covers altogether if he can’t regulate his body temperature. But right now, he’s comfortably warm, wrapped up in more than just a duvet and some pillows.

He cracks an eye open warily. The first thing he notices is that the sun is up, but just barely. The second thing he notices is that he isn’t in his own bed… it takes him a moment to recall that he’d stayed over at Seonghwa’s. The next thing that he realizes is that he and Seonghwa have both migrated toward the center of the mattress in their sleep—toward each other—and are now tangled up together as though it’s the most natural thing. Seonghwa is tucked up under his chin, his face buried against Yeosang’s neck and his arm slung over his waist. He inhales vanilla-blond, coconut-scented hair just beneath his face and revels in it for a moment, because… this is nice.

He doesn’t want to move, to break the moment. He doesn’t know if Seonghwa would be freaked out or if it would just be awkward, so he doesn’t move. He presses his lips against the crown of Seonghwa’s head, then closes his eyes again and hopes sleep will take him once more so he can enjoy this just a little while longer.

He doesn’t know how long they stay like that… probably only another hour or two, but eventually, Seonghwa stirs. He doesn’t seem to startle, to pull away quickly in disgust… Yeosang just feels him shift, sit up and oh-so-carefully extricate himself while apparently trying not to wake him.

Yeosang feels cold after he leaves.

Seonghwa isn’t gone for long, though. He comes back a little while later and shuffles around in the room for a bit, setting something on the bed. Yeosang hears the soft clink of silverware, he thinks, and he is tempted to crack an eye open to get a peek at what he’s doing. Before he does, though, Seonghwa climbs back into bed next to him, nudging him softly.

“Yeosang… wake up. It’s morning. Yeosangie~” Seonghwa’s voice lilts in a teasing sing-song that has him huffing a laugh as he opens his eyes.

He sits up and stretches involuntarily, but he cuts it off a bit early when he sees there’s a little breakfast tray on the bed with two bowls of cereal and drinks. The television is on, a cartoon program waiting to be started on one of the streaming services Seonghwa has. Yeosang had mentioned once watching the program as a kid, and he wonders if Seonghwa remembered that.

“It’s not too early this time, right?” Seonghwa asks as he hits play. The nostalgic opening theme has them both humming along.

Yeosang glances at the clock. It’s after ten. “Mm, it’s fine.”

Seonghwa smiles, pulling the tray over. They dig into their cereal, belting the chorus of the opening song into their spoons before collapsing on each other in a giggling fit.

Yeosang thinks it might be worth getting sexiled as often as he does if it means getting to spend his mornings like this.

***

Yeosang returns to his apartment Sunday afternoon with the dak galbi and the pajamas, to a very guilty-looking Wooyoung. He just rolls his eyes fondly, though, insisting it was no big deal.

Wooyoung digs into the food (cold, because he’s a heathen who believes reheating leftovers is a cardinal sin or something) and listens while Yeosang talks about their shopping trip and bleaching Seonghwa’s hair.

“I saw his insta post! It’s kind of unfair how well he pulls it off.” Wooyoung whines.

“That’s what I said. I think he could pull off any color.” Yeosang smirks mischievously, posing cutely. “Except pink. That’s for me.”

“Of course~” Wooyoung placates, leaning in to pinch his cheek.

Moments like this remind Yeosang why Wooyoung is his best friend. They remind him why he can’t really be pissed that he’s constantly being exiled from his own apartment.

And anyway, it’s not all bad… since he gets to spend so much time with Seonghwa.

Yeosang’s hands drop and he finds himself sighing wistfully, his mind wandering. Wooyoung notices.

“Man, you’re really head over heels for him, huh?”

Yeosang sputters, offended. “What? I’m not… why would you even think that?”

Wooyoung stares at him for a moment. “Sangie, c’mon… you’re more self-aware than this. It’s pretty obvious you’re into him.”

Yeosang gapes like a fish. He doesn’t know what to say.

“So… are you just… tip-toeing? Did you have any plans to tell him how you feel?” Wooyoung tries.

Yeosang frowns. “I haven’t… thought that far ahead.”

“You’re hopeless.” Wooyoung says, sighing. “You should say something. He’s probably really into you, too.”

Yeosang lets out a bitter scoff. “Him, into me? Laughable.”

Wooyoung’s brow scrunches as though he is well and truly perplexed. “Why is it laughable?”

“Come on, Wooyoungie. You only tolerate my weirdness because you’ve known me for so long. I’m not cool. Seonghwa is cool. His family is rich, too. And not to mention I don’t even know if he likes men.”

Wooyoung raises an eyebrow at him. “I’m pretty sure he does. But you could just… ask? Not like, directly. Bring it up in casual conversation?”

Yeosang gives him a look.

“Okay, right, getting you to have a difficult conversation is like pulling teeth.” Wooyoung admits. “What if you… no, you’ll never go for it.”

“What?” Yeosang asks curiously, distinctly feeling as though he’s being lured into a trap.

The way Wooyoung’s eyes light up confirm his theory. “What if we set up a little situation to get things moving in the right direction? Something tame! So that way if it turns out I’m wrong and he doesn’t like you that it’s not weird and awkward.”

“Like what?”

“I could ask one of my friends you don’t really know to like, blatantly hit on you in front of him!” Wooyoung bleats, and he clearly thinks he’s a genius. “Someone really hot so he knows competition is fierce! Maybe—”

“I don’t know. This sounds like a bad drama sub-plot.” Yeosang says wearily. “Bound to blow up in our faces.”

“Just think about it!” Wooyoung wheedles. “One if you needs to make a first move and I sure as hell know it won’t be you. At this rate I’m not sure it’ll be Seonghwa, either, so we need to improvise—”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself.” Yeosang tells him gently, but he sounds a little defeated. “I’ll think about it. No promises.”

***

Yeosang does think about it, to his credit. Classes still come first, though, and Monday finds him distracted as hell during his lectures. He ends up scrolling through Seonghwa’s insta comments (and he discovers he has kind of a large following on the site; the pictures of his new hair color, which also features the one of him, have more likes and comments than the entirety of Yeosang’s photos combined). A lot of them are thirsty, most of them are just compliments, but a few of them are asking if he and Yeosang are dating, or just saying they’d make a cute couple.

Did people just… assume that Seonghwa liked men?

Come to think of it, he isn’t sure that Seonghwa even knows he’s not straight.

He’s obviously not uncomfortable with the notion, given that he has never seemed weird about San and Wooyoung at all.

Yeosang hazards a glance at Seonghwa’s insta profile. He’s not one to stalk SNS, so he’s never actually clicked on it before; he just tapped ‘Follow Back’ in his notifications when Seonghwa had followed his ages ago.

He sees it, right there in his profile, after his name and age; three hearts in the color of the bisexual pride flag.

He could dismiss a rainbow flag as just being supportive, but this is very much purposeful.

It’s probably vague enough to not get noticed by a snooping family member, but it’s obvious to anyone else.

Yeosang tries not to let himself dwell on it. Just because Seonghwa likes more than one gender doesn’t mean he likes him. He adds a rainbow flag to his own profile, though, with ‘Proud’ next to it because he’s feeling particularly brave.

He thinks if there’s any chance that Seonghwa could ever like him back… it might help for them to both be on the same page.

***

A week goes by without anything changing.

Yeosang isn’t sure what he expected, but it certainly wasn’t nothing. It probably speaks to Yeosang’s passive nature that he just expects something as simple as an emoji on a social media profile to spark action. He finally admits defeat and texts Wooyoung.

 

[Yeosang]

I am ready to initiate your grand scheme.

[Woo]

YAAAAAS! Let’s do this!!

[Yeosang]

…you’re really reveling in this, huh?

[Woo]

Well yeah, since you obv won’t say something to him yourself, I gotta have fun with this.

[Yeosang]

It’s just… risky. And I want him to make the first move.

[Woo]

God, you’re such a bottom.

[Yeosang]

Coming from you. I just want him to take the initiative, you know? So I’m sure he likes me.

[Woo]

A pillow princess~ 

[Yeosang]

Fuck you and your eyebrows.

 

***

They have an entire plan, which is why Yeosang suddenly thinks this is a bad idea.

Mingi—who San roped into this whole thing—also thinks it’s a bad idea… but he won’t back out because he’s too easy to go along with things.

The plan is this: usually Yeosang meets Seonghwa at his apartment, but today, he’s going to ask to meet him at the park. Also at the park will be Mingi, who’s going to shamelessly flirt with Yeosang (to Yeosang’s flattered giggling, of course), so that Seonghwa can see them. 

That’s it. That’s the plan.

It’s not overly-complicated or malicious. It probably won’t even have any kind of impact. But if Seonghwa is interested in him as more than just a friend, he might say something about it, or—best-case scenario—make his move.

Things begin to fall apart almost immediately.

Yeosang is texting with Seonghwa, who’s decided to cook for them both tonight… which means he’s put in for grocery delivery instead of their usual takeout. Yeosang casually mentions he ran into someone at the park so Seonghwa should come swing by and get him when he’s back.

Seonghwa, of course, insists he doesn’t want to drag him away from his other friends, and even offers to cook for three. Yeosang sighs at his politeness. He should have predicted this.

He manages to snuff that out with an insistence that it’s not a good friend but “just a guy he met.” Seonghwa’s response is a little protective, which Yeosang delights in. Finally, progress. Seonghwa asks if everything is okay and if the guy is bothering him but Yeosang insists that the guy is really nice. He adds some cute smiley blushing emojis for good measure.

“You know you’ve been making weird faces at your phone for like, ten minutes, right?” Mingi asks him.

Yeosang huffs. “Shut up. You agreed to this, you know.”

“I have regrets.” Mingi whinges with a long-suffering sigh.

“Ah! Here he comes! Just, uh… I don’t know. Say something sly. I’ll laugh and then you should just… go.”

“Trying to get rid of me already?” Mingi asks in that low-low voice of his. He leans against the tree he and Yeosang are standing under, his arm above the other as he dips down until his face is by his ear. “You’re such a weeb. This is like, right out of an anime, you know.”

“Fuck off. This was mostly Wooyoung’s idea.” Yeosang mumbles, but he laughs outwardly, covering his mouth with one hand and swatting at Mingi with the other.

Seonghwa is watching them, but it’s hard to make out his expression from so far away.

Mingi pulls his phone out of his pocket with his free hand, giving it to Yeosang. “Add me on your SNS. If you don’t follow already.”

“Don’t think I do.” Yeosang replies, doing just that. Maybe Seonghwa would even go snooping later in curiosity, to see if they were commenting on each others’ stuff. It’s worth a shot, right? He hands back the phone after a second, smiling. “He’s close enough. You should go.”

“Outlived my usefulness I see.” Mingi snorts, shaking his head. He boops Yeosang gently on the nose with his phone before he pulls away. “All right, catch you later. I better hear all about this from San.”

“You bet. Thanks!” Yeosang tries to look a little flustered as he waves, but hazards a glance at Seonghwa. His expression seems guarded; he’s not at all his usual cheerful self.

Yeosang grins to himself and grabs his board, deciding to meet Seonghwa halfway. He doesn’t make it two steps before some guy he doesn’t know stands in front of him, blocking his path.

“Damn, didn’t think that other guy would ever leave you alone.” He says, watching after Mingi almost warily. “He your boyfriend?”

“N-no?” Yeosang answers, grimacing.

This isn’t part of the plan.

“That hair of yours is a pretty color.” The guy leers, smirking in a way he probably thinks is attractive… but Yeosang doesn’t find smugness remotely appealing. “Bet I could turn some other parts of you just as pink if you gave me the time. Maybe that cute ass of yours.”

“You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

Yeosang looks up to see Seonghwa is standing right behind the guy, scowling.

The stranger huffs indignantly as he rounds on him. “Nah, might do yours though.”

“You couldn’t afford even a minute of my parents’ time, I guarantee.” Seonghwa quips. “Though with the way you’re posturing, I imagine you don’t need more than five to finish.”

The guy flushes, sputtering. “Fuck you! I’m not—”

“C’mon, Yeosangie… let’s go.” Seonghwa says, completely ignoring the guy… which only seems to incense him more.

“Mm.” Is all Yeosang manages with an uneasy nod, turning to go with him.

He makes it about half a step before the guy’s hand snaps out and grabs for his wrist, halting him. “Hey, I wasn’t done talking to—”

He’s cut off with a choked sound, letting him go, and Yeosang looks up to see Seonghwa has the guy pinned up against the tree with his forearm to his throat.

“Lay another hand on him and lose it.” Seonghwa snarls.

Yeosang could not picture Seonghwa ever being violent, ever losing his temper… but here he is, fire in his eyes and ready to tear this guy’s arm off. He can’t help but shiver.

“He’s not worth it.” Yeosang murmurs, resting a hand on Seonghwa’s shoulder.

“It’s not about him.” He bites back, pushing harder.

“It’s about you.” Is unspoken.

“You’re worth it.” Is unspoken.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” The guy wheezes, wriggling under Seonghwa’s hold. He finally releases him, stepping back and watching him with disdain.

“Get lost. I better not see you come within a block of him.” Seonghwa growls.

“Fine, whatever… fuck.” The guy mutters, turning tail.

Yeosang is a little shell-shocked. This hasn’t gone even remotely how he’d hoped it would.

Seonghwa pulls him from his own thoughts when he takes hold of his hand, his thumb resting along the knuckles and stroking gingerly as his other hand pulls his wrist cuff up to check for any early signs of bruising. Yeosang’s heart swoops low into his belly

“You all right?” He asks softly.

“Yeah, it’s nothing. Thanks.” Yeosang murmurs.

“You always so popular out here?” Seonghwa teases, trying to lighten the mood. He still hasn’t let go of Yeosang’s hand. “Maybe we should get you a bodyguard.”

Yeosang huffs a mirthless laugh. “That’s never happened before. People usually leave me alone out here.”

“Mm, as they should.” Seonghwa mumbles, but he smiles a moment later. “You want to head home? The groceries should be getting delivered any minute.”

Yeosang nods, managing to smile back.

Seonghwa seems like he might let him go, so he decides to be bold for once in his pathetic life and slides his fingers between Seonghwa’s own, interlacing them. He doesn’t seem to react beyond squeezing his hand gently and leading him back toward their apartment complex.

There’s something tense and unspoken between them while they shed their shoes, finally letting go of each other. They’re barely in their house slippers when the doorbell rings and Seonghwa retrieves their groceries.

“You still up to cook after all that?” Yeosang asks warily.

Seonghwa grins. “It’s fine. You’re still hungry, right?”

Yeosang isn’t, but he nods anyway.

There’s a long, tense silence while Seonghwa sets out the ingredients and preps the stove. Yeosang sits at the kitchen table and replays that moment over and over again in his mind. It hadn’t been like Seonghwa at all. He wonders if the guy had fought back, just what Seonghwa would’ve done.

“Hyung?” Yeosang speaks up, finally. He can’t stew on it anymore or it’ll drive him mad.

“Mm?”

“So, uh… what was that?”

Seonghwa sighs. “Sorry. It’s not the image I want people to have of me.”

“But…?” Yeosang presses.

Seonghwa shrugs. “My dad taught me how to fight from the time I was a kid. Mostly to defend myself. Never had to use it until high school.”

“What happened?” Yeosang asks.

“I ran with a sort of edgy crowd back then. It wasn’t anything violent; we mostly just dressed in dark clothes and covered our favorite K-rock songs and scowled at people.” Seonghwa tells him. “But then things changed in Year Three.”

Yeosang frowns. “How so?”

“A couple of the guys noticed the popular kids stayed popular by intimidating Year Ones for clout. They started bullying this little pod of gamers… I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember their names but I saw my friend—hard to call him that anymore, but—I saw him pushing these kids around and I wasn’t all right with it. I shoved him into the lockers so hard that one dented.”

“Oh.”

“We butted heads over it, all of us, and I felt like I had to prove I could knock them down if I needed to.” Seonghwa explains. “It worked, at least. They left the gamers alone because they knew I’d kick their teeth in if I caught them pulling that kind of crap again.”

“What a hero~” Yeosang sing-songs, and Seonghwa huffs and shoves him gently.

“Shut up. I just don’t like bullies.”

“Or overly-flirtatious assholes.” Yeosang adds.

“Right.” Seonghwa agrees with a huff of a laugh. “Those too.”

Yeosang smiles fondly, and maybe it’s reassuring, because Seonghwa seems to relax.

“The other guy, though, the first one… he was okay? Not an asshole?” Seonghwa asks earnestly.

Yeosang internally panics. He’d completely forgotten the whole deal with Mingi. The plan. It all seems so stupid in retrospect.

“Yeah! Um, actually, that was Mingi. That friend of San’s who knows Jongho? The photographer kid?”

“Ah.” Seonghwa hums in realization. “Right, his chem lab partner. He seems… into you.”

Yeosang can’t help but bark a laugh. It sounds disbelieving enough that Seonghwa cocks his head.

“What? Not your type?”

Maybe it’s his imagination, or wishful thinking, but Yeosang could swear that Seonghwa almost looks hopeful. “Not exactly. A bit too tall for my tastes.”

Seonghwa gives a startled laugh. “Yeosangie! I didn’t expect you to be so shallow!”

“What?” Yeosang says, clearly teasing as he smirks and pushes up his cheeks. “I’m pretty enough that I get to be a little shallow, right~?”

Seonghwa snorts, shaking his head. He ruffles Yeosang’s hair before returning to the stove. “I guess so.”

“Kissing someone too tall is the worst. Think of all the cricks I would get in my neck!” Yeosang continues, arching his head back and feigning a grimace of pain. “Not worth it. Even if he is cute.”

“Good to know where you draw the line.” Seonghwa replies with a chuckle.

Yeosang thinks they’re on the same page, finally.

Well, maybe not the same page, but they’re in the general vicinity. The correct book. The right chapter.

Yeosang bites his lip and tries to work up the courage to say something else. Something more. Something bolder.

But he doesn’t.

***

Yeosang thinks he might be losing his mind.

Things between him and Seonghwa don’t really seem to change, despite everything.

Yeosang might shoot Wooyoung a text to encourage him to have San over all weekend so he can claim he’s been sexiled and—of course—Seonghwa happily takes him in. Instead of watching old cartoons this time, Seonghwa introduces him to the new She-Ra series on Netflix (new-ish; Yeosang is so behind on media). It’s so sweet and wholesome and gay and he thinks it speaks a lot to Seonghwa’s character that he shares it with him so fondly over pastries and coffee in bed.

That much has changed, at least. Seonghwa just expects Yeosang to share his bed now, even though the fashion mess covering the couch has long since been cleared off. He just brings him his pajamas—yes, his, since Seonghwa has essentially gifted them to him and always offers him the same ones—with a smile and leaves the bedroom door open for him.

In another week they’re both swept up by midterm prep, the piles of books on their respective tables getting taller and taller as they cram for the upcoming tests. Yeosang splits his time between studying with Wooyoung—who has the good sense to ban San from his apartment to prevent from being distracted—and studying with Seonghwa, which is always accompanied by better food and feels a little more productive.

Eventually Wooyoung allows San back into the apartment to study for their shared classes, because of course that will be productive, and Yeosang makes himself scarce. He retreats to Seonghwa’s place, letting himself in and belatedly realizing that he hadn’t even bothered to text him that he was coming over.

He wonders if he’s being rude, or presumptuous, or if he’s going to walk in on something that will make him regret everything, but he’s barely got his shoes off when he hears Seonghwa’s voice from the living room.

“Yeosangie? Is that you?”

“It’s me, hyung.” He confirms, sliding into his guest slippers. “Unless you gave your door code to someone else.”

“No, just you. But sometimes maintenance comes over unannounced. They like to try catching people hiding pets they didn’t include on the lease. I think they’re convinced I have a cat or something.” Seonghwa sounds a little distracted, and when Yeosang walks into the living room he sees why. The coffee table is absolutely covered in papers and books. Seonghwa is sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the floor, peering at a worksheet through his glasses.

Yeosang has never seen him wearing glasses. His thought processes fizzle out for a few seconds because he makes them look unfairly attractive.

Seonghwa makes small talk for a bit, but Yeosang insists he shouldn’t distract himself on his account and sits across from him, getting to work. Seonghwa seems to appreciate not having to pull his focus away. From the books, it looks like he’s really cramming for his business class. Yeosang knows his parents are really focused on his performance in that class, so he understands why.

Hours manage to pass without either of them noticing. Yeosang’s vision is getting blurry, so he snaps his book shut and leans back with a deep sigh. Seonghwa looks up, catches a glimpse at the clock, and decides that it’s probably time to call it a night.

“Hungry?” Seonghwa asks, and Yeosang nods.

He reheats some leftovers… some chicken dish for Yeosang and duck for himself from the Chinese place they always order through. They cozy up on the couch but don’t even bother with the television. Both their brains are fried.

“I can’t wait for summer break.” Yeosang laments through a mouthful of chicken after a long bout of silence.

“Have plans?” Seonghwa asks, curious.

Yeosang shakes his head. “No, but the prospect of a break is nice in and of itself.”

Seonghwa pauses, thinking for a moment. “Do you have your passport?”

Yeosang blinks. “Yeah…? I went to Japan with my family a few years ago.”

“Okay.” Seonghwa leaves it there for a moment, as though he’s debating something. He doesn’t seem conflicted though… so it might be something else. He sets his mostly empty food tray onto the cleared-off coffee table, as does Yeosang. “It’s just. My family usually gets together at the beach house in Saipan for two weeks but my parents are at some extended conference in China this year, so it’ll just be me. Would you… um. Want to come?”

Yeosang tries not to balk. “You… want me to come with you to Saipan? For vacation?”

“I can cover the flight, so don’t worry about that.” Seonghwa tells him quickly. “I just… don’t really love the idea of being alone on an island for two weeks and you’re kind of my best friend?” 

Yeosang feels blood rushing in his ears, like white noise. Friend. Best friend. Right. Because, that’s what they are. Friends.

“I… uh… that would be really incredible. Are you sure it’s okay?” Yeosang asks. “Your parents won’t be upset?”

“Oh, definitely not. My father told me to ‘bring a nice girl or something, just don’t get her pregnant’. He’s really a charmer.” Seonghwa laughs it off, shaking his head. “So, you’ll come? I promise you’ll have a lot of fun. It’s so relaxing.”

“Yeah… I’d love to come. Thank you for inviting me.” Yeosang says with a smile, and he must be successfully hiding the edges of his hurting heart behind it, because Seonghwa beams.

“Of course, who else would put up with me?” Seonghwa chuckles, collapsing on him to hug at Yeosang’s middle, pushing him sideways onto the couch. “We can go shopping this weekend to make sure you have everything you need.”

Yeosang has rested his hands on Seonghwa’s shoulder blades, digging his fingers in teasingly as he’s tackled into the couch, but he stills, then, looking at the other. “A tropical vacation and a shopping spree? Soon you’ll graduate from ‘rich friend’ into ‘sugar daddy’ territory.”

It’s a tease. He’s teasing. He probably shouldn’t even say it. But Seonghwa goes bright red, looking away somewhat guiltily.

“No, it’s not that! I just. I know it’s not as easy as just picking up and going on vacation for some people. It’s not right to expect that you could just cover a flight or that you have the right clothing or a big enough suitcase for a trip like this.” Seonghwa explains, and his tone is so earnest and serious that Yeosang understands, then. “I’m just checking myself, you know? I wouldn’t expect anything from you. I don’t expect anything.”

Yeosang’s throat is dry, so he just nods.

He doesn’t know how to tell Seonghwa that he absolutely would, not for the money but because he’s got the biggest crush imaginable on him. But if that was all Seonghwa wanted, a toy… he can’t imagine Seonghwa ever being so apathetic or uncaring but if, if he did, Yeosang would throw himself at his feet. Beg on his knees. But he won’t tell him.

He just nods.

***

As promised, the weekend is spent shopping. Yeosang can’t help but delight in the way Seonghwa selects outfits for him to try out, then sits outside the fitting room and watches him show them off. Seonghwa buys plenty for himself, too, so it feels like it isn’t just for Yeosang and that sets his mind at ease. Seonghwa buys him two new suitcases that seem massive to him but two weeks is a long time. He supposes he’ll need plenty of changes of clothes.

The cashier smirks knowingly at him the entire time she’s checking them out, but her face goes through the most hilarious stages of confusion when Seonghwa hands her his ID to confirm the credit card his and she sees his age… then catches a glimpse of the student ID in his wallet.

He wonders if Seonghwa even noticed, but he confirms he did when he bursts into a fit of laughter once they leave the store.

The weekend ends too quickly. Their midterms are conquered in short order, though, and they both breathe a sigh of relief when they score well.

Yeosang asks Wooyoung and San how they did as he’s packing up his things, preparing to move it all over to Seonghwa’s so they can get up early for their trek to the airport. They both smile, but it doesn’t reach their eyes.

“We passed. Definitely at least passed.” Wooyoung tells him, and San nods emphatically.

“Both of you are hopeless. Try to stay out of trouble while I’m gone.” Yeosang replies.

“Eh, hard ask.” San admits. “So, Wooyoung told me Seonghwa is taking you to Saipan? That’s romantic. Gonna finally take the opportunity to confess your big fat crushes on each other?”

Yeosang scoffs. “Signs point to no. He invited me as a friend. A best friend. I have no expectations.”

“Boo.” Wooyoung grumbles. “I’m sure some romantic sunset or beach stargazing will knock some sense into him, Yeosangie. You two better come back here as boyfriends or I’ll confess for you.”

“Bye I hate you!” Yeosang calls out, heading for the door.

“Love you too! Don’t die!” Wooyoung shouts back, and the door closes.

***

Seonghwa seems to be in a good mood when Yeosang lets himself in, struggling to drag his two large suitcases behind him.

Seonghwa leaves the stove to help him, setting them by the couch for easy access tomorrow before returning to the kitchen.

Yeosang looks around, impressed. Seonghwa’s apartment is always clean, but right now it’s practically sparkling .

“Cleaning day today?” He asks, joining Seonghwa in the kitchen. He brings his Mandarin workbook, figuring he can work through a page while the other finishes cooking.

“Yes. I can’t stand coming home to a filthy home and I had to clear out the fridge anyway so things won’t go bad in there over the two weeks we’ll be gone, so I just gave the whole place a scrub-down.” Seonghwa explains. “We’re having ramyun tonight so we won’t have any leftovers. Is that homework?”

Yeosang does a double-take because he almost hadn’t caught the question, so seamlessly integrated into the rest of the unrelated conversation. “Just for myself. I don’t want to lose everything I’ve learned, so I’ve promised to keep up with it even over break.”

“That’s… very dedicated of you, Yeosangie.” Seonghwa looks at him for a moment, expression unreadable. “But, for now, set it aside. Dinner’s ready.”

Yeosang frowns. He thought he had more time. He sets it aside, and is smiling again as soon as Seonghwa sets the steaming bowl in front of him.

They eat and converse casually, Seonghwa curious how Wooyoung and San managed to do on their exams. He isn’t surprised to hear the result, shaking his head.

“They’re so wrapped up in each other… I’m not shocked in the least.” He lets out a soft sigh, pensive. “A relationship can be distracting, especially around exams.”

“Eh, I think they’re just especially obsessed with each other. I swear sometimes it’s like they share one brain cell.” Yeosang replies, laughing.

After a little while, Seonghwa takes up their empty bowls and cleans them, Yeosang sliding his Mandarin workbook back over to try to get through the rest of the page.

Seonghwa finishes up with the dishes, wipes down the stove and countertops and washes his own hands before returning to the table, clapping them together.

“Well, since you don’t want to forget all you’ve learned, let’s make it Mandarin hour!” Seonghwa proclaims with a sort of morbid glee as he has become fond of doing over the last few months.

Somehow, it always manages to catch Yeosang off-guard.

Sometimes it’s during dinner, or right after, or even at the end of the night when they sit down for a movie or to play on Seonghwa’s Switch.

It’s less out-of-the-blue this time, because he did tell Seonghwa he doesn’t want to lose everything he’s learned. He even started using DuoLingo despite that he finds the little owl mascot to be mildly threatening.

He taps his pen against the bottom of the page.

“Well the joke is on you because I’m just about done.” Yeosang quips back at him in Mandarin just to be contrary. Seonghwa laughs, impressed.

“That’s fine. We can talk, then.” He replies, grinning. “In Mandarin, of course.”

“Of course.” Yeosang intones, rolling his eyes as he finishes up his work and flops his notebook closed. He stands, looking victorious. “See? Done.”

“Was that all for today?” Seonghwa asks, still in Mandarin.

Yeosang understands it easily enough, nodding and responding in Mandarin as well. “Yes. It’s just a refresher. I don’t plan to overwork on vacation.”

“Good. You’re getting a lot better at this.” Seonghwa replies with a fond grin.

Yeosang beams, sure to respond in Mandarin. “Thank you! I think this helps. You have helped.”

“Your dedication is the real reason.” Seonghwa insists.

Yeosang frowns. “That word, I don’t know it?”

Seonghwa tells him in Korean, and Yeosang nods in understanding, repeating it in Mandarin a few times so he remembers.

“I must not have much dedication if I didn’t even know that word.” Yeosang teases, using the word in a sentence in Mandarin to really cement it in his brain.

Seonghwa shakes his head. “The dedication is in how quickly you applied yourself to learning it.”

Yeosang shrugs, looking away and laughing a little in embarrassment. “You give me too much credit.”

There’s a brief moment where they’re both silent. Then, Seonghwa says something else to him in Mandarin, low and soft. Yeosang doesn’t recognize the phrase right away, and murmurs the words back to himself in Korean.

“I’d really like to… to… something , you? I don’t… I don’t know that word either? What’s that word?” Yeosang flips through his notebook in a bit of a rush, because it’s rare he doesn’t know so much vocabulary for such simple conversation. Twice in one night is a record.

Seonghwa says something else, just as soft, his expression unreadable.

“Show you… can you show me?” Yeosang translates. “Yeah, sure. I mean, shì .”

Seonghwa leans forward and kisses him.

There is an agonizingly-long few seconds where Yeosang doesn’t move, too shellshocked, perhaps. But then his brain seems to catch up and he lets out a sweet, delicate little noise of surprise and delight before carding his hands up into Seonghwa’s hair, pulling him in closer and kissing him right back.

Seonghwa wraps his arms around his waist, tugging him in until their hips are flush, until there’s no space between them at all. He cups Yeosang’s jaw with his other hand and tilts his head just so, earning a melodic hum.

Yeosang has run through this scenario in his head at least four dozen times. It hasn’t prepared him for it in the slightest. None of them compare to the real thing, to knowing that Seonghwa does want him, in real life, not just in whatever hopes or fantasies he’s conjured over the last few weeks, few months. He kisses him in a way that’s almost methodical, not rushed or desperate but thorough. As though he cannot leave any doubt about just how much he wants him.

Yeosang’s nerves sing with delight.

“Could we maybe… cut Mandarin hour a little short?” Yeosang asks breathlessly against Seonghwa’s lips, reverting back to their mother tongue.

“Mm, I suppose.” Seonghwa drawls with a teasing smirk, nipping at his bottom lip. “I doubt we’ll be doing much talking anyway.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Yeosang concurs, then drops to his knees.

From the way Seonghwa goes very still, to the startled look in his now-wide eyes, Yeosang has a feeling he hadn’t expected him to be this bold. Everyone sees quiet, brooding Yeosang and thinks he’s painfully shy.

But Yeosang isn’t really shy; he’s careful. He’s always been the greatest guardian of his own heart. He doesn’t want to put himself out there if he isn’t sure his feelings will be reciprocated.

Once he knows, though? Yeosang is forward. Yeosang is happy to give any and all of himself, because to feel cared for fills him with a warmth like no other… and how else is he meant to return that affection?

By the time he finally gets his mouth on him, Seonghwa already seems to be falling apart. He hasn’t looked away, not once, and it makes Yeosang want to give him everything. He cards his hand into Yeosang’s fuschia hair but he cradles his head gently—doesn’t pull or grip too hard—and Yeosang wants to ruin him.

He won’t fault him for not lasting very long. Seonghwa’s never really mentioned having past relationships or even one night stands, so he can’t imagine he has all that much experience. They both have protective, overbearing parents, and even being away at college doesn’t feel like escaping their rule. Most of Yeosang’s experience comes from experimenting with Wooyoung… which was a strange but somehow inevitable turn of events near the end of high school, but that feels like ancient history now. He doubts Seonghwa has all that much more experience than him.

He’s kind enough to give him a warning, try to nudge him off in case he didn’t hear, but Yeosang hears him just fine. He takes him to the root and swallows gladly. Seonghwa shivers and shakes, watching Yeosang curiously when he doesn’t pull off. He just stays like that, enjoying the feel of him in his mouth, the weight of him on his tongue. Yeosang doesn’t know how to explain it, but he’d be content to stay like this for an hour. It makes him feel… full. Fulfilled. Comfortable.

Finally, Seonghwa manages to get him back onto his feet. He tucks himself away but he still looks disheveled, his hair a mess and his face a sweaty wreck of emotions.

He slides his hands under Yeosang’s ass, lifts him up and turns to deposit him on the kitchen table. His Mandarin workbook, notebook and pen are swept off to the floor, forgotten, and his clothes are quick to join them.

He feels a little exposed, being bare like this while Seonghwa is above him, fully clothed… but he doesn’t feel uncomfortable. The way Seonghwa looks at him makes molten heat roil in his gut because it’s almost like he can’t believe what’s in front of him. He looks like he wants to devour Yeosang, and Yeosang would absolutely let him.

“Look at you.” Seonghwa says, and it’s almost like it slips out, unbidden. He runs his thumb over Yeosang’s bottom lip and his tongue darts out over it, tries to drag it closer. Seonghwa watches him curiously, hesitantly presses forward, and Yeosang sucks the digit into his mouth with a pleased hum.

He feels Seonghwa shiver.

“How am I supposed to sit on a plane with you for four and a half hours tomorrow?” Seonghwa murmurs, watching him in what can only be described as reverence. “How am I supposed to keep my hands off you?”

Yeosang whines, letting his teeth graze over Seonghwa’s thumb as he pulls back. His mouth suddenly feels very empty. “Hyung…”

Seonghwa dips down to kiss at the side of his knee, his inner thigh, then lower, and lower, until he’s the one kneeling, his tongue swirling in hot trails across his skin. And then he presses closer and his tongue is—oh. Oh.

Yeosang could not have even imagined in his wildest fantasies being eaten out on Seonghwa’s kitchen table, and yet, here he is, writhing and moaning and grasping at the smooth wooden edge for dear life. Seonghwa’s tongue is godly, the grip he has on Yeosang’s thighs as he has them to either side of his head is just tight enough that he might leave the shadow of bruises. He wants him to. He wants to remember this.

Yeosang comes all but the moment Seonghwa gets a hand on his cock… he only manages to stroke over him three or four times before he’s arching and making a mess of himself. Seonghwa just stands and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, watching him with a sort of heated gaze that makes Yeosang feel as though his whole body is on fire.

Seonghwa cleans him up, but Yeosang still insists on showering while Seonghwa bleaches down the table. He’s not sure he’ll ever be able to eat or study there again without popping a boner.

When he joins Seonghwa in the bedroom, he’s wearing his borrowed pajamas, and Seonghwa is wearing his own, too. They climb into bed together, but they don’t bother leaving any space between them this time. Seonghwa eagerly pulls him close, nuzzles up against him until their noses are touching.

“I’m really looking forward to our vacation.” Yeosang murmurs through a grin, a glint of something in his eyes. He can’t help but give a wistful sigh at just the thought of it.

“You’re going to have the best summer of your life.” Seonghwa tells him, brimming with confidence. “That much I can promise you.”