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Jeongin doesn’t have feelings for Hyunjin. Really, he swears he doesn’t.

 

They’re hanging out in Hyunjin’s dorm room watching some stupid, overacted sitcom on his laptop. It’s a normal thing for them, they’ve done things like this countless times before. Sure, usually it was with Seungmin, since the three of them hung out as a group since they were kids. Jeongin was more likely to spend time with only Seungmin, if anything. But, it’s not like it means anything. Seungmin is busy with homework (which Jeongin really should be doing but that’s irrelevant) and Hyunjin’s dorm is tiny so the three of them would struggle to be comfortable watching something together on the twin bed.

 

Jeongin’s thoughts pull him back to reality. He’s lying next to Hyunjin, just inches away. Alone, on his bed. Every now and then Hyunjin will cuddle up to Jeongin - or try to, anyways. Hyunjin is much more affectionate between the two, loving skinship and always being the one to initiate it. Jeongin wasn’t like that, he doesn’t like it all! It’s embarrassing. When he notices Hyunjin is trying to nuzzle into his shoulder, or squeeze him, or even pretending he’s about to kiss him - Jeongin pushes him away.

 

Every time something like this happens, Jeongin feels weird. He’s not being rude, he just doesn’t want to feel bad and that’s how skinship makes him feel. As Hyunjin laughs over his shoulder and he can feel the elder’s breath against his neck, his stomach feels funny and his chest tightens up as his heart beats erratically. Sort of the reaction he had the other week when there was a test he forgot existed and, consequently, neglected to study for. But, it’s somehow worse than that.


On top of that he knows he must be red with how he feels his skin flush with heat. It must be because Hyunjin is far too close, his body radiating heat off of Jeongin or something. Whatever the cause, it’s all too overwhelming. Everything within Jeongin is telling him to get away from the situation. It’s embarrassing how intensely he responds to physical closeness with his childhood friend.

 

But, he has no plans to leave. Despite how he thinks he should hate the way Hyunjin is making him feel, he doesn’t. If he allows himself to come to a different conclusion, he thinks maybe - just maybe - he sort of likes it.


He catches Hyunjin looking directly at him for a moment - probably to see how Jeongin was reacting to whatever just happened on the show he’s supposedly watching - and, now he’s scared he was caught staring himself.

 

Hyunjin smiles and lets out a little laugh - wow, he’s beautiful when he smiles - and pokes Jeongin’s cheek, “What are you so red for?”

 

Nothing!” he exclaims as he hides his blushing face in his hands.

 

Jeongin isn’t stupid. He knows he has a crush on Hyunjin. But, he could do nothing about it.

 


Past - age 13

Adolescence is weird and confusing.

 

Jeongin was a little lonely, maybe because he’s figuring things out and it’s a hard transitional period in life or maybe because he only has one good friend. Sure, he and Seungmin both knew Hyunjin. They hung out together every now and then, when Hyunjin wasn’t busy with dance practice or schoolwork. That wasn’t very often these days, though, since they’re getting older and they’re getting more busy and now that one grade difference between Jeongin and Hyunjin is becoming more significant than it once was.

 

Now he’s got other friends he met at dance classes, which is fine , it’s not like Jeongin was ever that important to Hyunjin anyways.

 

But, he could use someone right now. Someone who’s a little older and wiser he could talk to his problems about - no, not his parents , his problem is with his parents. Kinda.

 

They’re being more strict with Jeongin lately. His parents told him off the other morning for wanting to wear an outfit that makes him look “effeminate” which they never used to care about, but maybe that’s part of growing up. Rules are changing and what used to be cute and okay 5 years ago isn’t okay now.

 

He was excited about music and loved singing when he was younger. Ever since he was a kid, he’d sing his heart out to whatever song was playing on the radio and he’d get told he’s going to be a star one day. That was his dream, and his parents didn’t mind if he got a couple bad grades because he didn’t need good grades if he’s going to be a performer.

 

Now, it’s different. It’s not cute, it’s not good, it’s not okay for him to do what he enjoys. “You’re going to be a star!” has become “It’s almost impossible to get a career in singing.” Surely, they know the best for him, and he tries his best in school to avoid disappointing them.

 

It still didn’t seem like it was okay. He knows he’s doing what his parents want, but that isn’t him. All of a sudden, who he truly is as a person is not wanted or good. Acting cute, liking pastels, singing, those aren’t okay for someone his age and now he has to grow up. He doesn’t get why it’s wrong, what’s wrong with the way he really is but clearly for whatever reason it’s not okay.

 

All he can do is to try his best to be who his parents want him to be.

 

He mindlessly checks his messages on the cheap cell phone his parents bought him for his birthday. There’s a missed call from Hyunjin.

 

That’s odd. It’s been weeks since they’ve spoken beyond a quick “how r u” over text.

 

Jeongin goes to his contacts to call Hyunjin back and waits a moment for a response.

 

 

Maybe Hyunjin just called by accident and now Jeongin is making a fool of himself.

 

...

 

“Hello?”


There’s a response but Jeongin is finding it hard to talk right now. His breath hitches and he’s trying to form words but his throat feels like it’s closing up.

 

“Jeongin-ie? Are you there?”

 

He takes a deep breath and eventually mutters out a choked, “yeah, I’m here.”

 

Now he’s crying. Why is he crying? This is so embarrassing and Hyunjin doesn’t even want to talk to him and it’s probably because he’s so weird and now he’s just a disappointment and a bother to everyone and -

 

“Uh, my parents are going out tonight and your house is on the way, and I don’t have anything to do and we haven’t hung out in a while, so...”

 

“Sorry,” Jeongin doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say, but apologizing seems right.

 

He hears a laugh from the other line. Now he’s done it, he’s done something wrong. Maybe apologizing wasn’t enough or maybe it was stupid to apologize and now that they’re growing up they’re not even supposed to hang out anymore so really he should be sorry for assuming Hyunjin would ever want to spend time with him and-

 

“What are you apologizing for?” Hyunjin is chuckling to himself as he says it.

 

Jeongin can’t see him but he can hear the smile from the other’s voice.


He can’t help but smile and chuckle to himself too. “I don’t know,” he explains, tension leaving him somewhat even his voice is breaking.

 

“You’re cute.”

 

This is the first time Jeongin feels all the symptoms he later will associate with being around Hyunjin. He feels his face go hot, his heart skips a beat, and his stomach feels funny. Why is he feeling this way? Is it anxiety? Maybe. He hasn’t seen Hyunjin in a while and he’s nervous to see him again - actually, he’s finding it hard to say anything now, even over the phone. “Oh,” is all he’s able to get out, any words longer or more complex than that have left his vocabulary.

 

“So, I’ll be over in a bit, then?” Hyunjin pauses, “I mean, if you’re not busy or anything…”


“Yeah.” Jeongin responds without a second thought, “Sure.”


“Okay, see you soon!” 

 

“You too.” Jeongin hangs up the phone and places his head in his hands. The worries that took a backseat while talking to Hyunjin were coming back. Jeongin pulls at his hair, mad at himself. He’s not even sure what for at this point. Maybe he said yes too quickly, maybe his parents are going to be mad he’s having a friend over, maybe he feels all weird at Hyunjin calling him cute and maybe he’s replaying his words over and over in his head. Maybe he feels excited and happy in some weird, anxious way that he’s never felt before and he doesn’t know what to make of that. Just maybe.


If he had more time he’d dwell on it for ages to try figuring out what on earth was wrong with him, but his thoughts are stopped short before he’s able to come to a conclusion.


The doorbell rings. Hyunjin is here.

 

Jeongin is scared and his heart is racing and he’s seconds away from crying again, but he runs to answer the door anyways because he can’t wait to see Hyunjin again. He’s missed him, even if he’ll never admit it (that would be embarrassing).


He opens the door with more force than he really needs (what is he in such a hurry for? Jeongin doesn’t know, it’s just happening) and what he sees kind of sets him over the edge emotionally. What doesn’t make sense is that he knows it shouldn’t affect him because it’s just Hyunjin.

 

It’s just Hyunjin, standing at the door - after Jeongin hasn’t seen him in weeks, hasn’t hung out with him alone in who knows how long… and things have changed. Hyunjin looks different. He’s a lot taller now and his legs are longer and he’s starting to look like a man and, wow , he looks like a model. He’s got the appearance of an incredibly attractive celebrity from a movie that teenage girls would swoon over and for a second Jeongin thinks he could fall for him too.

 

Jeongin is pretty sure Hyunjin just greeted him a second ago, though, so that thought is going to have to wait for another time.

 

“Uh,” he begins awkwardly (great job, Jeongin!) “Hi.” He lifts his hand and gives a half-hearted attempt to wave at his friend before immediately retracting his hand to rub the back of his neck nervously.

 

“Are you okay Jeongin-ie?” Hyunjin asks him and the concern is clear on his face. He’s not laughing or smiling at Jeongin’s awkwardness but now he’s looking at him so sadly. It’s not the normal question you greet people with out of habit, but the atmosphere is serious and tense and Hyunjin knows something is wrong. Jeongin thinks he might cry again.

 

Wait.

 

He already was.

 

This is too much now and he’s sobbing loudly, which is even more embarrassing, he must look so stupid right now.

 

Jeongin hears the door shut behind him and Hyunjin wraps his arms around him and pull him into a tight hug. It’s warm, and nice, and comforting, and all Jeongin really needed at the time. He buries his face into Hyunjin’s chest and they stay there for a moment, holding each other without saying anything. It should be awkward, Hyunjin shouldn’t even be acting so nicely to him, Jeongin shouldn’t be crying like this, he shouldn’t show his emotions so readily. Yet, he can’t hold it back when he finally feels like he’s allowed to express how he feels.

 

“I-I don’t know,” he chokes out after a while of silence, “I just, my parents haven’t been happy with me lately, and-and I don’t know why - and, I think I must be weird, because, I mean, and- I don’t know.”

 

Hyunjin loosens his grip on Jeongin and looks straight at him. “Well,” he pats the younger on the head and gives a sad attempt at a smile, “If that’s true, being weird is a really good thing.” The tension loosens up and Jeongin chuckles slightly at that.

 

And, ” Hyunjin continues, “Your parents are stupid if they’re not happy with you. You’re the sweetest, cutest person I’ve ever known.”

 

“Th-Thank you,” Jeongin smiles, and he feels his face grow warm again even though he’s stopped crying.

 

The two of them spend the rest of the night joking and playing video games together, and Jeongin is the happiest he’s been in a long time. He wishes the moment could last forever, with Hyunjin by his side. Right now, nothing is confusing and everything feels right .

 

Once Hyunjin leaves, Jeongin tries to figure out what it is he’s feeling, looking up “why does my heart beat so fast when my friend is around” followed by “how to know if you have a crush on your friend” and “how to know if you’re gay”

 

Jeongin reads everything and all of it explains what he feels, he knows it’s true. But it shouldn’t be. He can’t let it be.

 

His parents are already disappointed in him and wanting him to change. He knows what it means to be gay, he knows his parents don’t agree with it. Jeongin would have to change this about himself, because he doesn’t want his parents to be any more disappointed in him than they already are. He doesn’t want to be loved purely out of obligation.

 

That day, Jeongin vowed to never tell anyone about this part of himself.

Chapter Text

It’s common to say “it gets better.” That statement is a cruel lie at worst and an oversimplification at best. Jeongin would know, he found out he wasn’t straight when he was 12 and now he’s 18 - legally an adult in most countries. He’s graduating soon and he feels more clueless about his future now than ever.

 

Nothing ever becomes easy, he learns life rarely would work out that way. But, he eventually has to adjust to whatever comes his way. By the time he’s 13 he is used to his crush on Hyunjin and he can manage to act like a normal human around him - so long as there isn’t a bunch of close affection and teasing, but Jeongin wasn’t a fan of that from anyone other than Hyunjin so he could just push him away to save himself from being too flustered.

 

At age 14, he’s angry with his parents and everything they’ve done to make him feel rejected. It doesn’t sound good, and it certainly isn’t pleasant, but it’s a definite step up from the state he was in before. Rather than hating himself and his own existence, he took it upon himself to blame what was around him at the time. Maybe that was an adjustment, maybe it was him trying to deal however he could, or maybe - actually, probably - it was because he was a 14 year old boy and being mad at your parents is kind of a given.

 

He’s also mad at Hyunjin for “leaving him” to go to high school and making new friends. It’s not like Hyunjin isn’t allowed to have other friends, but Jeongin gets tired of hearing “can’t go, I have plans with my friends” whenever he invites the older to hang out. But, he gets used to that too.

 

The next year he is old enough to start going to high school with Hyunjin. He finally gets to meet the friends that he’s heard so much about, and they’re actually pretty cool and nice. There are Jisung and Changbin who are both interested in music, and Felix, who takes dance lessons with Hyunjin. They’re all pretty funny in their own ways. Jeongin decides he likes them. He doesn’t need to be Hyunjin’s only friend, he realized it wasn’t reasonable to resent them for that.

 

If Jeongin felt a twinge of jealousy whenever Hyunjin was a little too nice or affectionate to one of them, he wouldn’t tell.

 

He, along with Seungmin, start hanging out with the group on a regular basis. It’s nice. They’re nice. Being around more people outside of his family makes Jeongin feel a little happier, and for once he believes the “it gets better” cliche might just be true.

 

That doesn’t last.

 

It’s just a normal day after school, without anything eventful really happening. He’s thinking of inviting some of his friends over with the excuse of helping each other to study, but really the main reason is he just wants to spend time with them and he truthfully doesn’t want to touch his algebra homework for as long as he can put it off.

 

Jeongin isn’t good, he’s not great - school is not fun - but he’s okay. For the first time in years, he’s kind of happy. Sure, he’s confused, and he doesn’t know where he’s going in life, and he still feels his heart race whenever he thinks about Hyunjin, but these things haven’t been dragging him down like they used to. Jeongin has friends now, who he feels comfortable with and like he truly belongs with them. His anger and jealousy that have been perturbing him for years are now fizzling away.

 

It feels good, he thinks, to be able to be himself. He hasn’t been spending as much time with his family lately, and as much as he hates to admit it, that’s probably for the best. He loves his parents, truly, but their values and beliefs do not align. 

 

They used to spend time together every day when he was a kid, and his parents were his entire world. There was nothing that mattered to him more than his own family. Growing up changed that. He felt too much pressure to be who they wanted to be in the first place. Maybe he could just accept that and move on. After all, he’s sure they want the best for him. They always have.

 

He comes to the conclusion that they do love him and he should spend more time with them, and decides to stay in the living room with them as he studies rather than shutting himself in his room or staying at one of his friends’ places.

 


 

The room feels tense and awkward. It didn’t used to be like this. Something was wrong. His mother is sitting on the sofa silently, with a visibly annoyed look on her face as she reads something on her laptop.

 

Words are difficult to formulate when the air is so thick it’s suffocating, but he manages to speak up and break the silence, “How’s it going?”

 

“It’s… fine,” she sighs, “just something that happened with our church. People are ridiculous…” she rubs her temples as she complains.

 

Jeongin tries to think but he draws a blank on what could have possibly happened. There’s nothing coming to his mind that makes sense. He can’t even remember anything that was spoken about the last time he had gone. Honestly, his mother hasn’t gone in a while either, so he can’t imagine anything that could have happened to bother her so much short of the pastor being revealed to be a master criminal or something to that effect. Obviously such a dramatic turn of events seemed more like something from a drama than real life, so he doubts that was the case.

 

He can’t help but wonder. “What happened?”

 

His mother lets out a groan and hits her head against the back of the sofa as if she’s a moody teenager. Everything about this was foreign and uncomfortable. She was usually quite a mature and patient lady, unless she’s changed significantly since Jeongin was a kid.

 

With a deep breath she drones on about the situation at hand, “Well, during a previous service earlier this year, he talked about the homosexuals.” Jeongin’s breath hitched - he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t afraid of what was going to come next, “He said some things and people got all upset at him, some even saying they don’t want to hear from him anymore. The nerve, really!” His mother exclaims, raising her head back up with clear exasperation drawn on her face, “People will take offense to anything these days.”

 

Jeongin gulps, swallowing his fear and guilt down, and forces himself to ask the question he knows he will regret, “What did he say?”

 

“Nothing wrong, everything he said about the topic was right!” She’s raising her voice again and Jeongin feels like she’s yelling at him as she goes on, “He said that he doesn’t want those who think it’s good or okay to be like that shouldn’t be allowed in church, which is right! This wouldn’t happen if society wasn’t trying to make this - the whole being gay thing - into a trend. If he said murder was bad, nobody would argue with him! It’s ridiculous.”

 

Everything within Jeongin hurts and his heart is racing a hundred miles a minute and all of a sudden he thinks this is it - this is where he dies. The air constricts around him and it’s like an anvil has dropped on his chest and everything feels wrong.

 

He knew his parents weren’t exactly supportive of, well, him - but hearing it said so directly and with such disgust was something else. It’s hard to breathe, but he manages to choke out a few forced words, “Yeah. It is. Sorry about that.”

 

“I’ll be fine,” is all she says.

 

Jeongin feels lost in his own home now. He sits there silently, for what feels like an eternity, but he eventually brings himself to get up and excuse himself, “I’m, uh, going to go to my room and study now.”

 

Nothing is happening and his mother doesn’t even say a word to him but he feels his heart break a little more with each passing moment. His own parents - the ones who loved him, raised him, were his entire world when he was growing up.

 

Could that all really change so quickly? Could everything he has known of himself and his parents change so drastically in one night?

 

In such a short period of time, everything Jeongin had built up over the years came crashing down.

 

The boy’s anger turns inward from where it was previously directed. It’s not a matter of Hyunjin’s friend group, his family, or school - his hate is directed towards himself now. All he can think of is what his mother said, the words swirling and spinning out of control in his mind. He can’t even remember her exact words, all he knows is he is bad and he is wrong and he could never tell a single soul about how he really felt.

 

Disgust tugs at his gut as he feels the burden of his anxieties and self-hatred weigh down on him.

 

He didn’t expect his parents to love him regardless of their relation to him. But, he also didn’t realize the extent of how much it would hurt to hear what Jeongin could only interpret as hate and disgust towards their son.

 

Eventually, he moves on from the conversation, but now a plethora of new thoughts and worries are popping up in his head relentlessly.

 

One question in particular persists in his mind.

 

What would Hyunjin think of him if he knew the truth?

 


 

Hyunjin hyung at 4:02 pm

o i forgot to mention it since we didn’t get to see each other much but!! U were so cute today!!

i mean u looked berry sweet today (get it… cuz u had a strawberry on your sweater)

sorry abt that lol, that one wasn’t a good pick

 

Hyunjin hyung at 4:57

why arent you responding to me!! Im hilarious!!! 

 

Hyunjin hyung at 9:14 pm

i know u dont like my jokes but are you ok ? :<

U arent usually this quiet

 

It’s not until late at night that Jeongin decides to finally respond to the messages his best friend sent him.

 

Guilt tugs at his chest, and he’s not sure if it’s for ignoring Hyunjin or for burdening him with a friend like himself. Jeongin can’t shake the feeling that everyone would he knew would be better off without him in their lives.

 

Jeongin at 1:49 am

yeah. sorry i forgot to respond

i’m ok

 

He most certainly was not.

 


 

 

Jeongin would be lying if he said he didn’t feel the compulsion to isolate himself from the people he’s come to know as his friends. His behavior is surely coming across in a way that should be creating distance between himself and others. He isn’t really trying to push everyone away completely, but he knows he’s acting coldly to his friends and he doesn’t initiate any sort of affection nor does he hang out with them at all outside of school.

 

But, the more he drifted away from them, the more they tried to be closer with him. He keeps rejecting invites, ignoring texts, disregarding comments and showing complete disinterest in whatever his friends are saying so that they hopefully stop talking to him.

 

Part of him feels guilty for his rude behavior, but he rationalizes that this is better than him being a part of their lives. They deserve better than him. He is the one who was at fault, and now it is his responsibility to keep away from others.

 

The same thoughts repeat over and over again in his mind relentlessly. You’re so gross, everyone would hate you if they found out who you really are, everyone would be better off without you, you are a disgusting person.

 

It’s not at the front of his brain all the time, he can still occupy himself with other things and keep productive or watch cartoons on television as a form of escapism. But, whenever he sees anyone else, that lingering sense of guilt intensifies and the voices that were at rest begin to speak up once again.

 

Jeongin used to go home with Seungmin, but he’s been taking a different road and narrowly escaping his friend by parting his ways as quickly as possibly once school was out.

 

He’s right outside of school property, readying himself to sprint off and escape any social interaction when he feels a hand tugging at his wrist. 

 

No.

 

This can’t be happening.

 

The air is taken out of his chest and all Jeongin is aware of is the hand on his wrist and his heart pounding with such intense anxiety he feels it might explode.

 

It feels impossible to move, as though he has been frozen in place. Perhaps he could will himself to see who was behind him, but he finds that part of him doesn’t want to find out.

 

That doesn’t matter, because the other person pushes his shoulders and forces him to turn around.

 

In front of him is Seungmin with the most serious look on his face that Jeongin has ever seen on the boy. The younger hates seeing this expression on his friend’s face. He feels his stomach churn with guilt at how concerned Seungmin looks, almost enough it seems his friend might be close to tearing up.

 

“What’s going on?” is what he asks Jeongin.

 

The younger takes in a shaky breath, “I don’t- what- I…” he attempts to explain but he can’t find the right words. It’s already a difficult situation that he wasn’t at all prepared to describe the details of, but the pressure is worsened because he genuinely does not know what he’s supposed to say to such an open question.

 

Seungmin sighs and further explains himself, probably recognizing that Jeongin was under stress.

 

“You’ve been acting really distant lately. I know you’ve been avoiding me, and Hyunjin’s saying you’ve been avoiding him too. Even the others have noticed you’ve been off. I know that something is wrong, so don’t try to tell me otherwise.” He says with a grave tone that Jeongin didn’t know his usually easygoing friend was capable of having. Seungmin adds with a softer voice, full of nothing but concern “I want you to know you can tell me when you’re not okay. You can trust me. I’m your best friend, all I want is for you to be happy.”

 

Even though it should have been comforting, the words immediately lead Jeongin to burst into tears. All the feelings that he’s been trying to suppress escape the barriers he has spent so much time building up. His emotions are overflowing now, and there’s no going back on it because he physically cannot stop them without the walls in place.

 

Jeongin is gasping and shaking from how intensely he’s sobbing. He feels Seungmin’s arms wrap around him and hold him tight, and for once the affection is welcomed and comforting to the younger. “No! Nothing is okay! Everything is bad and I’m bad and- and all I can think is-” he stops to gasp for breath, and all of a sudden words spill out and there’s no control over what he says anymore. “I’m terrible, I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself so much! Everyone would be better off without me! You would hate me if you knew who I really was! I’m an awful person! So, that’s why I haven’t talked to you, okay?!”

 

Despite his tears, there is nothing but anger in Jeongin’s voice now, “Because you shouldn’t have to put up with me, I shouldn’t even be here! I hate being here!”


After such a dramatic revelation, the younger feels the hold his friend has been keeping him in tighten.

 

Seungmin sounds like he must be crying himself. “Don’t you dare talk about yourself like that,” he chokes out.

 

It comes to Jeongin’s attention that they were in a public place, and the dread that filled him moments earlier returns. He pulls himself out of his friend’s hold, “Could you walk home with me?” he asks nervously as he wipes the tears from his eyes.

 

“Of course.”


Chapter Text

The walk home with Seungmin is a bit more awkward than usual, conversation not coming easily to either of them. This was probably to be expected though, seeing as the two barely held up a conversation with one another for several weeks and one of them was struggling to return to a peaceful state after a mental breakdown that occurred mere moments before.

 

Even though it’s awkward, Jeongin is grateful for the company. Being alone, he finds, was a lot more mentally draining on him than he could have predicted.

 

His friend’s stilted attempts at conversation are greatly welcomed over the other option of spending his time wallowing in his own self-hate.

 

“So, my parents are thinking about helping chip in for new photography equipment. If I keep my grades up, at least.” Seungmin explains as he walks beside Jeongin, who is grateful the topic of conversation is not centered around himself.

 

“That’s cool,” he replies, not sure if the sincerity is coming through his voice due to his current emotional state, “Are your parents, um, okay with you wanting to become a photographer now?”

 

Seungmin hums quietly to himself, presumably thinking over what the proper response would be, “I don’t know.” He shrugs, looking at Jeongin before continuing, “I wouldn’t say they’re pleased with it, but they’ve accepted it. And, who knows, maybe after I have something better than an iPhone to take pictures with I’ll be so good they can’t help but be proud that I’m doing what I really love.”

 

Jeongin nods and avoids eye contact with his friend. Everything still feels too tense and awkward to immediately jump back to where the two used to be. Then again, the younger often acted jokingly rude towards his friends to tease them, so maybe there wasn’t as significant a change as he had thought there would be.

 

He’s pulled from his thoughts as he feels Seungmin softly nudge his arm, and turns his head to face him, “Yeah?”

 

“What about your parents?” His friend wonders, “What do they think about you doing music in the future?”

 

Ah . There it is. The spotlight is back on him and now he’s going to have to burden the other with his problems all over again.

 

But, he is too emotionally worn to keep this in and it’s not as if he has anyone else he’s comfortable enough to share this with. Except maybe Hyunjin , he thinks, but he quickly pushes the thought away. Allowing himself to think about the older boy was asking for trouble. Jeongin can’t think about him without remembering how he likes him a little more than he’s supposed to like other boys.

 

That’s a whole other topic of stress that Jeongin isn’t keen on digging into at this moment. Especially not when his friend has questioned him about something that’s already not the easiest for him to discuss.

 

Quite frankly, he hasn’t put much thought into his future or pursuing music lately, so he gave a noncommittal shrug. “I dunno, I haven’t talked to them about it lately.”

 

The other pries further, “Why’s that?”

 

It looks like Jeongin is going to be opening up more than he was prepared to. This is a lot of sharing for one day , he thinks, but he tries his best to answer Seungmin’s question since he knows it is probably for the best. His friend does not deserve to be ignored, anyways.

 

“I mean, we just haven’t really been getting along that well lately. It feels awkward around them.” It isn’t a lie, merely a fraction of the truth which he isn’t ready to fully delve into now. Or ever , for that matter.

 

He lets out a sigh and adds, “plus, I don’t want to do anything to bug them or disappoint them…” his gaze lowers to the ground. Recognizing the reality of his situation was not enjoyable, and talking about it was even more challenging.


“Hey, look at me for a second,” the younger does as Seungmin says and he turns his head to look at his friend, “You need to stop being so hard on yourself. If your parents don’t support you or even try to understand what you want, they’re the problem. Not you.”

 

Seungmin ruffles the younger’s hair playfully before finishing his statement, “Don’t let what they say get to you. I’ll always like you, you know. Nothing could change that.”

 

Jeongin grins widely, even though he oddly feels he might be close to tears once again. Honestly, it’s a miracle that his friend knew that was exactly what he needed to hear at the time. For the most part, the other boy was noisy and often times pokes fun at his friends, but he could be surprisingly insightful when the situation called for it.

 

“Thank you.” Jeongin responds, and he means it. Having his friend back in his life was something the boy was truly grateful for. There was still Hyunjin to reconcile with, and some other topics he hasn’t touched yet, but that could come another day.

 

For now, having Seungmin back in his life was enough to make him feel good again. Or, at least, he thinks that maybe his life isn’t as doomed as he thought it would be.

 

He could only hope.

 

 


 

Weeks pass by, and almost everything is back to normal. ‘Almost’ being the key word there.

 

Jeongin is overall managing life pretty decently. He was able to get done what he needed to, found the motivation to get out of the house, and he’s connecting with his friends again. Or, most of them, that is. He’s hanging out with Seungmin most days after school, not unlike how they would previously. Conversations between the two of them aren’t awkward anymore. Once the initial confrontation filled with emotions and tears was done and over with, they hadn’t done much to re-visit the topic again.

 

Truth be told, Jeongin had never really become that close with Hyunjin’s friend group, so the differences between their interactions before and now were minimal. If anything, lunch break was a bit less lonely and awkward since they were interacting with each other during their break time again. It was still nice to have the company, though.

 

Then there are the things that haven’t fully returned to normal. Firstly, his relationship with his parents. It was to be expected that he would not be fully comfortable with them after how much hurt he felt as a result of their words. Being around them feels awkward and Jeongin finds himself feeling on edge and irritable in their presence. At least it wasn’t so severe that neither of his parents had brought it up to him yet. Home life is certainly difficult, but bearable. It could be far worse than it is, honestly.

 

One might think that’s where the abnormalities would end. That was far from the truth, as much as he tries to deny it. There was just one other, tiny little detail not mentioned. Or one huge piece that continues to gnaw at Jeongin’s conscience more and more every day. Same thing.

 

Maybe he has not connected again with Hyunjin and explained himself at all and maybe he is still completely avoiding the older boy. Big deal, right? Okay, obviously Jeongin knows he’s not supposed to be approaching the issue in this manner and he recognizes it’s morally questionable to completely ignore someone who has done nothing wrong with no explanation given whatsoever. He might be an idiot, but he’s smart enough to have some level of awareness to his inane actions.

 

Then again, maybe he is dumber than he thinks. Somewhere along the way, he has convinced himself that all his problems will magically disappear. If he stops talking to Hyunjin, his feelings will go away, he won’t have to deal with the guilt that goes along with it, and nobody questions his avoidance of the boy he previously wanted to spend all his time with.

 

Life wasn’t so easy, of course, and that’s how he ended up in his current situation - with a certain Kim Seungmin looking at him like a disappointed parent.

 

He had initially invited Jeongin to come with him over to Hyunjin’s place, but when he rejected the offer, Seungmin said he’d be coming over to have “a talk” with him. It was a little funny how much his friend treats him like a child at times considering the age difference between the two was insignificant.

 

At least, it would be funny in a different context, Jeongin thinks. Yes, Seungmin looks like a dork with his arms crossed and brows furrowed as he orders the younger “Explain yourself,” but since all this was directed towards him it was more anxiety-provoking than amusing.

 

Which was a shame, because wow does he look ridiculous. A mix of awkward tension and the absurdity of it all leads to Jeongin stifling a chuckle.

 

“Don’t laugh at me!” Seungmin whines in a nasally tone, “I’m serious .”

 

The opportunity to mock his friend was too tempting for the younger to pass up, especially when it’s in favor of an uncomfortable discussion. “I’m serious !” he repeats, exaggerating the nasal tone and crossing his arms over his chest dramatically. For good measure, he even sticks his tongue out afterwards - and, yeah, maybe it makes sense that Jeongin’s friends treat him as if he were a child.

 

Oh my God…” Seungmin sighs and places his head in his palms with exasperation. “Don’t try to distract from the issue. You know what I want to talk about, and I’m not going to stop bothering you until you get it together and respond to me.”

 

Jeongin scoffs and he knows he’s being a petty brat when he retorts, “But you’re always bothering me.”

 

“Just, seriously, I’ve tried to give you time but it’s been weeks and nothing has changed.” His friend sighed once again and pauses for a moment as he stares at Jeongin, as if contemplating what the best words to say would be. Alas, it only lasted for a few seconds and all the time in the world couldn’t prepare him for the other boy’s upcoming words.

 

“You like Hyunjin, right?” Seungmin questions as if the fact should be a given, purely common sense and there are no words to describe how far from ready Jeongin was to hear his friend ask this question.

 

How did he know? Am I that obvious? He worries, feeling his heart pound in his chest at such an intensity it was audible. The beating pounds against his ribcage as he becomes feverish with anxiety. His back and hands are sweating. None of this felt real. None of this could be real, right? He must have simply misheard, that’s it. There was no way Seungmin could have known about his feelings for Hyunjin.

 

“W-what?” he stammers, unable to manage anything more.

What?  What do you mean, ‘what’ ? Since when do you not like Hyunjin?” his friend interrogates. Jeongin is at a loss of words, a choking sensation gripping at his throat. He opens his mouth and closes it silently, wishing the confrontation would just go away so he would not have to deal with it.


“Seriously, we’ve all been best friends since we were young! As far as I know, he has done nothing wrong to upset you.” Seungmin continues to explain, and it becomes apparent there has been a misunderstanding on the younger’s part. “So, explain why you don’t want to talk to him all of a sudden. I keep telling him it’s not because you’re mad at him, but he’s not buying it anymore and, honestly? I’m not sure I am either, at this point.”

 

Jeongin takes a deep breath to calm his anxieties and prepare himself. Maybe he should be relieved that his crush was not obvious, but confrontation was never easy for him regardless. “I didn’t- it’s not because of him,” he admits. “It’s not his fault. He didn’t do anything to make me mad at him.”

 

This information seems to decrease the other boy’s anger. Now he had this look on his face Jeongin couldn’t decipher. Tired, confused, or worried - maybe a bit of everything combined. He takes the younger’s hands in his to get his attention.

 

“Then why  won’t you talk to him?” Seungmin asks with a heartbreaking tone. It’s impossible to deny the other’s concern as Jeongin feels a pang of guilt in his chest. This was all his fault . He is tearing their friend group apart all because of his stupid feelings.


“I-” Jeongin takes a shaky breath, willing himself not to cry and explain himself instead. He takes his hands out of Seungmin’s and balls them into fists at his side. “I don’t think he- he doesn’t like me.”

 

What?  That’s ridiculous!” his friend exclaims, almost laughing at how absurd the statement was. “Of course Hyunjin likes you! He’s been a wreck these past few weeks without you.” He’s waving his hands all over the place in a dramatic gesture to exaggerate his point.

 

There’s a voice in the back of Jeongin’s head saying “he wouldn’t like me if he knew who I really was…” but he chooses to ignore it in favor of resolving the confrontation at hand.

 

“You’re probably right. I don’t know. I guess I’ve just been overthinking things…” he scratches the back of his head nervously. His statement was probably not a total lie, but Jeongin is not fully convinced that his worries are a result of overthinking when his fears seem so likely. There is one thing Seungmin mentioned that stuck out to him. “Does he really miss me?” he wonders.

 

“Of course he does. You’re his best friend, you’ve been there for him through everything. You being there really matters to him,” he pats the younger’s shoulder in reassurance. “Now, you better make nice to Hyunjin.”

 

“Okay, I will when I see him tomorrow. I want to talk to him in person,” he smiles a bit, looking forward to seeing Hyunjin again.

 

Seungmin lets out a relieved sigh, “Good.”


 

Jeongin has put off the inevitable as long as he possibly could. Classes are out and school is over, so he really cannot come up with any excuses to avoid his discussion with Hyunjin.

 

The boy in question is across the hallway at his locker, putting away everything he needs to. Most other students had already left the building to head home. It was quiet enough to have a discussion without anyone crowding around them. No better time than now , Jeongin tells himself. He gulps and takes one hesitant step in the other’s direction. Here we go…  

 

It’s taking several seconds to summon the bravery to take another step, and the sound of someone running through the halls distracts him.

 

He turns around to face the source of noise to see a girl he thinks he recalls seeing from some dance performances Hyunjin was part of. A lot of the same people were in the older boy’s classes each year, so Jeongin was familiar with their faces.

 

Hyunjiiinnnn!” she whines in a manner that is probably meant to be cute but came more shrill than anything else to Jeongin.

 

The girl in question attaches herself to Hyunjin, clinging to his arm. “You’re supposed to come home with me today!” she exclaims and the boy turns his head around to face her with an amused grin on his face. “You didn’t forget about me, did you?” she pouts.

 

Jeongin’s stomach twists in jealousy at the sight. Who does this girl think she is?  Was Hyunjin replacing him with her? He’s never seen this girl hanging off of Hyunjin like this before, and now that the two friends had grown distant, she is clinging onto him and going home with him.

 

“Of course not,” Hyunjin responds to her with a chuckle.

 

That used to be him going home with Hyunjin. Him by Hyunjin’s side. Now it’s this stupid girl and obviously Hyunjin likes her more than she likes him because she’s a girl and that’s the way things are.

 

“Good!” she says, pleased. The girl smirks and leans into Hyunjin’s ear to add, barely audible to Jeongin, “my parents aren’t home tonight, so, y’know… if you want to… study, nobody’s going to be in the way.”

 

Okay, he was not happy with her before, but now Jeongin has made up his mind. He hates this girl. The second he leaves Hyunjin alone, she takes him away. They didn’t have some big history together. He never knew the two of them to go home together, to sleep over for 4 nights in a row, or stay up all night together for the first time. There were years of bonding and being together between the two of them.

 

Did all that mean nothing?

 

The younger boy was too busy sulking to have heard what Hyunjin said, so the next thing he hears comes from the girl.

 

“I think you and I could go over chemistry,” she flirts with an obnoxious, over-the-top tone and places a hand on his chest.

 

Yeah, he definitely does not like her. What was she to Hyunjin, anyways?

 

“Oh, um- hm…” he stammers, and for a second the younger boy thinks the older might be uncomfortable with this girl, “Well, I’m not very good at chemistry, but, uh- I can try I guess?” He seems unsure, hand behind his neck and avoiding eye contact.

 

And now the girl is laughing and giggling about how he’s so funny. They’re both smiling and looking at each other, and Jeongin feels he may be sick while he watches.

 

The girl gets on her tip-toes to lean in and kiss Hyunjin’s cheek, before tugging on his arm and walking out of school with him.

 

Jeongin feels his heart drop to his stomach. He shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up that he could ever be with his friend again. Seungmin was wrong, Hyunjin didn’t care about him. All he cares about is his new girlfriend that nobody had thought to tell him about.

 

He gives up on reuniting with his friend - not when he’s so clearly unwanted.

 

With a heavy heart, he stops for a moment to send a text to his other friend - well, his only friend now.

 

Seungmin at 3:28 pm

Hey tell me how it went once youre done making up with Hyunjin

 

Jeongin at 3:52 pm

it went badly.

Im sorry i cant do this right now

Chapter Text

Seungmin at 3:53 pm

Wtf happened?? I need to talk to you about this

You better come over and explain yourself to me or else 

*knife emoji*

 

And that is how Jeongin has wound up in nearly the exact same situation as he was the day before; in Seungmin’s room, with his friend looking exasperated and expecting him to explain himself for his senseless behavior.

 

“Okay, why could you not do it? You never even gave me a proper explanation in the first place for why you’ve been avoiding him, but I try to be cool with it, and like, that’s okay because you tell me you’ll talk to him again, and then you can’t do it? What is going on?”

 

Jeongin knows that his friend is only expressing concern and frustration - which, really, makes sense. It has to be annoying watching one of your closest friends be intent on isolating themselves for no apparent reason. He hasn’t been on the other end, but surely it appears self-defeating and that couldn’t be pleasant to watch.

 

That doesn’t make this conversation any easier, though.

 

“It’s…” he attempts to speak but his breath hitches as his throat swells with anxiety, because he absolutely cannot say the truth. “It’s hard to explain,” he gives a poor excuse of an answer, awkward smile on his face in contrast to the way he nervously rubs his hands over his legs.

 

As he should have expected, the other boy is not pleased with his non-answer. Seungmin’s mouth is agape as though he is lost for words to explain how frustrated he is with Jeongin. His friend starts pacing restlessly in front of him. Honestly, Seungmin was beginning to frighten him with how mad he looked. 

 

Despite his initial hesitation, Jeongin blurts out in a panic, “I mean, it’s really embarrassing!” he feels his face grow flush with shame for simply saying that out loud. He takes a deep breath to steady his nerves. “It’s stupid…” his voice is muffled as he places his palms over his face.

 

Jeongin feels a gentle hand rest on his shoulder and slowly lifts his head to see Seungmin looking straight at him. The other boy’s expression has visibly softened from mere moments prior, the frustration and anger on his face replaced with concern and care for him. 

 

His heart melts at the sight and he’s not sure if he prefers this expression on Seungmin over the previous one. It hurts to see his friend like this, so clearly affected by his own emotions. Something in his brain clicks and suddenly realization dawns upon him. The only reason why the other boy was so angry was out of concern. It was easier to reject the idea his actions mattered to anyone before, but in this moment he can’t ignore reality. He does have people who care about him, he does matter to other people - and, really, it should have been obvious ages ago. Still, he could never wrap his brain around the concept. It never felt real.

 

Seungmin sits down on the bed next to him and wrapped his arms around the younger boy in a tight hug. For once, he doesn’t push the other away. Jeongin really needed the comfort in that moment, so he fully welcomes the affection and buries his head in Seungmin’s chest.

 

“You know, Jeongin…” the taller boy breaks the moment of silence with soft words, “I would never judge you. Seriously. I’ve been through all your most embarrassing moments, nothing could make me stop wanting to be your friend now. So…” his arms soften and he slowly pulls away from Jeongin, “Please don’t think you have to keep anything a secret from me. I just want my friends to be happy. I hate seeing you and Hyunjin so down, you’re so much happier when you’re together and I just want that back.”

 

Seungmin’s words strike a chord with the younger and he’s not sure whether he wants to smile or cry. Though he was not keen on admitting it, Jeongin was grateful to have him as a friend.

 

But he still couldn’t tell the truth. Not the full truth, at least. Risk aside, he knew the words could not come out. The years he has spent suppressing who he was and fearing the truth had made its impact on him. His heart sinks the moment he recognizes the harsh reality. With the time passed, his fear had only grown stronger. It is so ingrained in him that he cannot reveal that part of himself to anyone, he doubts he could force the words out of his throat even if he wanted to.

 

Jeongin knows he has left an uncomfortable silence in the room and tries to decide what he should say. Obviously spilling everything he has kept to himself for years was not an option, but he owed it to Seungmin to say something .

 

He inhales deeply and reveals all he could at once, “Yesterday, I saw Hyunjin in the halls after school had ended, and I was going to make it up to him - really, I swear I was - but then a girl came chasing after him and she was all over him and they were talking about going home together and-” And he’s said too much. He should have stopped himself, should not have let so much out, but it’s hard to distinguish what was acceptable to reveal when everything is perceived as off-limits.

 

Jeongin sighs and attempts to take back his words, “I don’t know. It’s stupid, really, I just didn’t want to, um…” he pauses to think for a second, “intrude on them, y’know? It would have been really awkward, so…”

 

“Hey,” Seungmin’s serious tone brings the other’s attention to him, “You don’t have to lie to me.”

 

Jeongin’s feels his face grow hot, “I’m not!” he whines, flustered. Perhaps that was not particularly convincing. He needed to learn how to keep his emotions in check, but there was a natural inclination within him to show embarrassment. Everyone else cooed at him for being so cute , but it was inconvenient in times like these.

 

He turns his gaze away from Seungmin to hide his blushing face, as though that would help him appear any calmer.

 

“Don’t lie to me. You’re jealous, aren’t you?” The boy says, more as a statement than an actual question.

 

“W-w-what?!” Jeongin sputters as his eyes open wide with shock, “Of course not! I don’t even- I’m not like that! Why would I- Why- that’s ridiculous!” he defends himself profusely, his face growing even warmer if that were possible. 

 

How did Seungmin know? What did he say that gave himself away? Jeongin’s mind swirls with panic. It was as if his worst nightmares came to life. This couldn’t be happening. He can’t know, he just can’t-

 

“Uh, okaaaay…” the other mumbles, obviously unconvinced as he rolls his eyes, “Not sure what you’re getting so defensive over, it’s not that weird to be jealous of your friend getting a girlfriend.”

 

Wait, what?

 

“It isn’t?” Jeongin mutters. His hearing must be off somehow. There was nothing he has done to imply he had a crush on Hyunjin. At least, he has hidden his feelings to his best ability. Was he more obvious than he thought? And, worse yet - he realizes Seungmin just called that girl Hyunjin’s girlfriend - confirming his worst fears. There was some small part of his brain that hoped it was one-sided, but it was foolish to let himself think such a thing. Of course the feelings were mutual. They obviously were acting close. He knows he should not feel such disappointment, but he can’t help the way his heart sinks to his stomach at the other’s words.

 

Jeongin shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up in the first place. It must have been foolish to let himself do so, considering everything that he saw.

 

“Of course it’s normal. It’s a bit awkward, and it can feel like, do friends even matter anymore now?” Seungmin consoles the boy with a level head. “But, that’s not true. My mom told me that friends still matter when you start dating, you still talk to each other and can hang out like you used to. Besides, Hyunjin has talked to me and, I know I can’t speak for him but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even like this girl. Not like, in a girlfriend way, anyways.”

 

He should be relieved at this revelation, but there are still pieces missing and it doesn’t quite make sense, “Why would Hyunjin date her if he doesn’t like her that way?”

 

Seungmin shrugs, “He probably just didn’t want to reject her,” he theorizes. “ And ,” he leans forward, staring straight in front of Jeongin and poking him obnoxiously, “His best friend isn’t talking to him anymore so he might just be feeling lonely. Have you ever thought about that, hm, Innie?” His tone is teasing and playful, but that did not keep his words from carrying an underlying seriousness.

 

And, really, Jeongin wasn’t an idiot. He can detect sound logic when he hears it, and there is no reason for him to think Seungmin would lie to him. Not to mention, It wasn’t in line with his character to do so. He had a tendency to be brutally honest before he would act deceitful.

 

“I guess you’re right…” he admits, a slight smile on his face but still too on-edge to sound confident.

 

“Obviously I am. I’m usually right.” Seungmin states matter-of-factly, “More importantly, you are going to talk to Hyunjin tomorrow, right?”

 

Jeongin is far from confident, but he knows what needs to be done. He gulps nervously, “Yeah.”

 


 

Everything about the setting was in direct resemblance to the unfortunate course of yesterday’s events. It’s been a short while after school has been let out, and the hallways are becoming emptier. Jeongin knows Hyunjin normally stays a bit late to ensure he talks to all his friends before he leaves, so he figured the same would be true for today.

 

He walks over to the same spot he found Hyunjin the day earlier. To no surprise, there he was, getting ready to head out.

 

Before he had any time to second-guess his decision, Jeongin forces himself to approach the other boy. He had to do this, despite his fears.

 

As he draws nearer, Hyunjin takes notice of his presence and turns his head to face Jeongin, but refrains from speaking as he turns his head away again. He would be lying if he said that didn’t hurt, but it served him right. After ignoring him and shutting down any attempts at conversation, of course Hyunjin would eventually give up. Now it was Jeongin’s turn to try making things right again.

 

“Hey, Hyunjin,” he starts, voice barely audible as he takes a few cautious steps closer until he’s within arm’s reach of the other. “I wanted to talk to you.”

 

The boy in question looks back at him, mouth open in surprise as if he can’t believe what he’s just heard. “Me?” he asks for his confirmation, finger pointed to his chest.

 

Jeongin chuckles to himself at the other’s silly gesture. “Yes, you.”

 

“Oh.” Hyunjin seems uncertain of how to respond, “Did I do something wrong? Is there any way I could make it up to you?”

 

The shorter boy scratches the back of his neck nervously. “About that…” he starts cautiously, going over the words he’s planned to say in his mind. Jeongin inhales deeply. Here goes nothing. “I’m not mad at you at all, actually. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you don’t need to make it up to me.”

 

Hyunjin’s confused expression is hard to watch. How could he have let his best friend hurt? How badly could this have affected him?

 

Jeongin pushes past the guilt curling in his stomach and forces himself to further explain. Hyunjin deserves to know . “Actually, it was me who did things wrong. I guess I felt like you’d be better off without me around, so I stopped talking to you. Then I saw you with that girl and thought you had already moved on- and-”

 

And he’s said too much, yet again. It seems Jeongin can’t find a balance between isolating himself and oversharing. He didn’t know how to fix what he’s already let out, so he chooses to stop speaking for the time being. Better to be safe than sorry, he figures.

 

“What are you talking about?” Hyunjin questions in disbelief. He looks straight into Jeongin’s eyes, beginning to feel self-conscious under his gaze as if the older was staring into his soul. “Nobody could ever replace you. I’d always want you in my life, before anyone else.”

 

He really, really shouldn’t say things like that to Jeongin. Everything about his words struck Jeongin as being so effortlessly romantic , without the older appearing to have any sort of clue. Being close to Hyunjin again, hearing him talk, just being in his presence reminded Jeongin of exactly how hopelessly in love he was with him. Try as he may have to push his feelings for Hyunjin away, he now finds himself falling a little more in love with him than he was before.

 

He tries his best to express his gratitude, though no words could express how much the other boy meant to him.

 

“Shut up, that’s cheesy,” is the best his flustered self can manage, but that’s okay because it leads to Hyunjin grinning widely and laughing and- wow, Jeongin misses hearing that laugh. It was one of the most beautiful sounds he’s ever heard, and he can’t help but smile back and let out a chuckle. No matter how upset he was, Hyunjin’s infectious laughter always lifted his spirits like nothing else could.

 

“You’re so cuuute,” he teases, squishing the younger’s pink cheeks, looking the happiest Jeongin has seen him in weeks. “I love you.”

 


Even though it’s foolish to do so, even though he knows it’s a different kind of love to his own, Jeongin cannot stop his heart from fluttering at those three words. It’s not the first time he’s heard them, but he never gets used to hearing it. He’s never sure whether hearing it makes him feel more giddy or anxious. Regardless, his face is growing warmer and redder by every passing moment. It’s ridiculous how much Hyunjin affects him.

 

He expresses all of his feelings as eloquently as always, pushing the older away and sticking his tongue out at him before complaining. “Ew, gross.”

 

Hyunjin reattaches himself to the other boy, this time coming from behind to squeeze him in a tight back hug. “Aww, you know you love me!” he teases in a whiny voice, rubbing his face against Jeongin’s neck.

 

The answer to that was, yes, he knew far too well how deep his feelings for Hyunjin ran. But he wasn’t about to say that, especially not with the amount of affection the older is showing him. He felt hot breath against his skin as the boy spoke, his thick lips grazing a sensitive spot of Jeongin's neck for a split second which affected him far more than he’d like to admit to anyone, let alone Hyunjin himself. Jeongin has to stop himself from shivering at the contact.

 

Instead, he squirms away from the touch and breaks free from Hyunjin’s grasp. “You wish, creep!” he shouts playfully, distancing himself from the other a bit.

 

The older chuckles lightly in response and makes his way next to Jeongin again with an amused grin on his face, “Whatever you say.”



Chapter Text

Ever since that conversation between Hyunjin and Jeongin, life returned to a relative normal almost immediately. It was difficult to believe how quickly the two reunited. If anything, the two were closer than ever before.

 

The two of them are hanging out whenever they can in school and they’re at each other’s houses nearly every day. Jeongin prefers to stay over at Hyunjin’s now, and his parents are treating him as if he’s a member of the family. It feels great, welcoming.

 

Being close to Hyunjin again felt like coming home. Feeling the older’s arms wrap around his midsection, constantly attaching himself to Jeongin and teasing him any time he sees the chance. Of course, the younger doesn’t mind. He loves the attention, feels his heart warm at the actions.

 

It couldn’t last, though, as much as he tries to pretend and indulge in the idea. Hyunjin still has a girlfriend. Or, at least, Jeongin thinks he does? He hasn’t heard much about her, but he hasn’t heard of the two breaking up, so he assumes they’re still together.

 

He doesn’t spend much time dwelling on it, though, as the mere thought of the two with one another makes his stomach churn.

 


 

It takes Jeongin a while to actually muster up the courage to ask the older boy about his girlfriend - Hana, he’s learned somewhere along the way. Actually, he never directly asks about his relationship with her at all. It was all an accident, nothing but an awkward series of misunderstandings that only served to lead him into further confusion.

 

It’s been roughly a week since Jeongin has turned 16 and Hyunjin has been showering the other boy with a constant stream of attention. Which, he has no problem with it beyond concern regarding his frequently elevated heart rate ever since the day it began. In all seriousness, he’d love every moment if it weren’t for the way he feels a growing sense of guilt from it all.

 

None of the attention was particularly abnormal standing on its own, especially considering Hyunjin’s affectionate nature, but even that couldn’t explain the amount of time and dedication the boy had spent on Jeongin lately. 

 

He’s waking up an hour earlier so he matches Jeongin’s sleep pattern, sending him a “good morning” text at the same time as his alarm goes off. The tendency to be a little touchy is now turning into constant cuddles and offers to carry the younger, insisting that he’s too cute and precious to leave alone. He’s wanting to play all the games and watch all the shows Jeongin loves, even if Hyunjin has previously claimed to hate such things. It’s not just his usual attention - it’s special attention.

 

So, if this is the case, that begs the question - why is he giving Jeongin special attention?

 

There are many potential answers to this problem. For one, it was his birthday. Or, his birth… week at this point, he supposes. Which, okay, he’ll admit that was most likely a contributing factor. But Hyunjin has been there for many of Jeongin’s birthdays and he’s gone so far as to sacrifice his precious time to sleep in late for an entire week just so they wake up at the same time. This was Hyunjin, he valued his self-proclaimed “beauty rest” above almost everything in his life. Take into consideration he’s a growing teenage boy and, well, Jeongin’s pretty sure that interrupting his sleep would be a death wish. Until last week, that is.

 

Thusly, it can be deduced that there was another reason factoring into the behavior. There is a tiny voice in the back of Jeongin’s head screaming maybe Hyunjin likes him but he dismisses the thought and shoves it down as far as he can. Giving himself any amount of hope that his feelings were mutual could only lead to disappointment. Hyunjin was straight, after all, and Jeongin doesn’t have the arrogance to believe he could somehow be the exception to that.

 

He had to consider the situation realistically. Why would he be given special treatment now? Looking back, it makes sense. There was only one logical explanation for the other’s recent change in behavior.

 

Try as he may to dismiss it, he cannot ignore the fact that the brief falling out with Hyunjin had an effect on their friendship. There were certain things that had never come to light until the day they spoke to each other again. Jeongin recalls vividly how he shared insecurities he was not prepared to discuss with Hyunjin - spilling how he fears that he is a burden and believes others would be better off without him.

 

Remembering this sends a wave of realization over him. Hyunjin was doing these things for Jeongin out of pity. Of course he would sacrifice his own desires to make his friend feel better. It wouldn’t be like him to let someone he cared about feel down about themselves and do nothing about it. And, maybe, if the circumstances were different Jeongin would have gladly welcomed the sentiment.

 

Instead, he cannot help but feel even more burdensome to Hyunjin. It’s Valentine’s Day and the first thing Jeongin saw when he woke up is a text from the other boy. He expressed how he wants to meet up after school to go to a cafe and celebrate the occasion - on a “friend date,” as he put it.

 

Of course, he says yes. If he’s remotely in his right mind, Jeongin would never turn down an offer to be with Hyunjin. But, he needed to have a discussion with him regarding the way the other boy has been giving all his attention to Jeongin lately.

 


 

There’s one problem in particular that has been bugging him ever since this shift in behavior began.

 

“Doesn’t it bother your girlfriend that you’re spending all your time with me?” he questions in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness, the two of them sitting at a table as they wait for their order to be ready.

 

Hyunjin has a confused expression on his face, eyebrows furrowed and mouth slightly agape as if something Jeongin had said was shocking to him. “What?” he asks, tilting his head and squinting his eyes as if that would help him understand somehow. “What do you mean, ‘girlfriend’?”

 

The younger boy is sure now that the puzzled look on his face matched Hyunjin’s, neither of them at all understanding what was happening. Clearly there was some sort of miscommunication at some point, but who could blame Jeongin for assuming his best friend would tell him he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore? That should be significant enough information to be worth mentioning to him. Apparently not.

 

He’s not sure if he’s more hurt Hyunjin didn’t think to tell him or more relieved they weren’t together anymore, as wrong as it must be to feel that way. “Um, yeah? I assumed you and Hana were still together, y’know, since you never told me otherwise.” He knows how petty he sounds, but he can’t hide the annoyance in his tone. As his best friend since childhood, Jeongin assumed it was a given that the other boy would think to tell him this.

 

There is an awkward tension in the air, a nearly palpable sense of discomfort between them. Moments later, Hyunjin lets out a slight chuckle that breaks through the tense atmosphere.

 

Jeongin is still confused and a little hurt, but that laugh is still one of the most precious things on Earth and he can’t help but smile back.

 

“I told you, remember?” Hyunjin remarks as if it was the most obvious piece of information in the world. “Right after we, y’know... started talking again. I told you I wouldn’t want to be with her if it meant spending less time with you.”

 

Vaguely, Jeongin remembers these words. Now he’s lying to himself. He remembers Hyunjin saying that vividly, because of how heavily he swooned for the boy at the time. How he isn’t aware of the effects saying things like that has on Jeongin, he’ll never know. The only thing keeping his feet on the ground and head from the clouds was reaching the conclusion that Hyunjin must have been joking or at least exaggerating at the time. After all, there was no way Jeongin could actually believe his friend would dump his girlfriend just to spend more time with him. Apparently he was mistaken. He takes a moment to process it all.

 

“You dumped your girlfriend because of me? I didn’t ask you to do that!” Jeongin’s surprise is turning into anger, and he’s not sure whether it’s directed towards himself or Hyunjin.

 

“W-well, well, no , but-” he stammers, clearly taken aback by the younger boy raising his voice, “I thought that’s what you wanted? Uh, you seemed like you thought I’d be spending more time with her than you, so- uh… I wanted to show that wasn’t true?” he seems uncertain of his words, cautious that he’s saying all the wrong things.

 

And, if Jeongin’s being honest, he is doing exactly that. He was already hyper-aware of the burden he has been to his friend and he didn’t even know half of it. In reality he was even more burdensome than he had initially thought. Maybe he should be happy that Hyunjin was willing to give up so much for him, but he wasn’t. Because it didn’t feel like it was his choice. Everything in Jeongin was screaming that all he was to Hyunjin was a nuisance and a burden, all he ever did was hold him back. He deserved better than that.

 

“I don’t want you to give up your life for me! I don’t want to be some- some obligation to you.” His voice is steadily growing more exasperated and Jeongin knows he’s causing a scene, but as always, once he gets himself worked up he has trouble stopping. “Is that what you think? That you have to give up everything for me to be your friend? I didn’t need that! Don’t do that to yourself. I don’t want that.”

 

His words are firm and he’s staring intently at the older boy, hoping the seriousness in his words carries over.

 

Hyunjin’s eyes are wide open and he holds his hands up in front of him as if surrendering. “Okay, okay. I got it! I’ll stop sacrificing myself for you. I didn’t even like her like that. I do want to get more sleep again though.” He pauses for a moment to contemplate something, judging by the way he pouts and quirks an eyebrow. Whatever he was trying to think of must have dawned upon him a few seconds later, because his expression suddenly changes and he grins widely as his eyebrows shoot up. Jeongin swears if he looks closely enough, he could see a lightbulb appear over Hyunjin’s head. “I got it! You could make it up for me!” He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

 

Jeongin would be lying if he said his mind didn’t jump to inappropriate conclusions just now. Not that he’d ever admit that to another living soul - what his brain has conjured up is definitely not what Hyunjin is thinking of. He squints his eyes as if that’ll somehow rid the image from his mind. “What do you mean?”

 

“You could get my order and pay for it for me, then we’ll be even!”

 

Well, that isn’t anywhere near as intense as the depths of his mind wanted to believe, but even his rational self finds it a bit tame. Considering how dramatic Hyunjin could be at times, it wouldn’t have surprised Jeongin if he had come up with something like being his own personal servant for a year. Or doing his laundry for him for the rest of his life. Or all of his science homework.

 

But he’ll take it. As much as he feels like a burden, he’s not about to beg for punishment - God, his mind needs to stop wandering where it shouldn’t - so he’s willing to accept it on one condition.

 

“Fine,” he compromises, “Just promise me you won’t sacrifice your own happiness for me again.”

 

“How could I? Just being with you makes me happy!” Hyunjin whines and pouts, crossing his arms like a petulant child. Jeongin can’t help but become flustered at that, even though it was obviously exaggerated to a point that should come across as nothing but obnoxious. Times like these make him wonder why he’s head over heels for the older boy. Not to mention, how does Hyunjin manage to look so cute when he’s being such a brat?

 

Jeongin rolls his eyes in feigned annoyance. “You know what I mean. Don’t do anything you don’t want to just because you think it’ll make me happy.”

 

The silly childish expression on his face fades away, quickly replaced with a soft smile that could light up a room with how beautiful and genuine it looked. “I won’t.”

 

 


 

 

Nothing particularly eventful happens between the two of them for the next several months. It’s the same old story - they hang out frequently and have a good time, they laugh and smile together, Jeongin is reminded of how deeply in love he is at the smallest gestures… it’s nothing new, and nothing he hasn’t learned how to deal with.

 

They vent to each other about whatever - it seems nothing is kept secret between them, other than Jeongin’s one little piece of information he’s not keen on sharing. Seungmin hangs out with them sometimes, too, and that makes it easier on Jeongin’s feelings because it doesn’t seem quite as intimate. It just felt like old best friends having a fun time rather than a gay kid’s tragic unrequited love story. How typical of Jeongin, really. Couldn’t his life be a little less stereotyped? It’s awfully reminiscent of a mediocre as-shown-on-tv movie that’s even complete with homophobic parents and a straight one-sided love interest. Jeongin was certain how everything would play out based on all the same melodramatic stories he’s seen.

 

Or so he thought, until one night everything he thought he knew proved wrong.

 


 

Spring, age 17

 

Hyunjin-hyung at 10:34 pm

um i know its kind of late and this is last minute but shit uh

can. I come over

 

Jeongin at 10:34 pm

i dont mind like there’s no school tomorrow so it’s no problem but

are you ok???

 

Hyunjin-hyung at 10:35 pm

im fine its just

Some Things Happened (:

ill tell u when i get there

 

He types a quick “ok” and anxiously awaits the other’s arrival. Was Hyunjin in trouble? He can’t come to any specific conclusion, but he knows something is wrong and the mere thought causes him intense anxiety. Every sense in his body feels off, a crushing feeling in his heart as if an anvil is weighing on his chest.

 

Jeongin stands up with some difficulty, his legs shaky and unstable. He brings himself to the front door and sits down on the floor, leaning against the wall next to it. Time feels as though it is passing slower than ever as he anticipates the other’s arrival.

 

Please let Hyunjin be okay.


Chapter Text

After what felt like an eternity of anxiously waiting, Jeongin hears the doorbell ring next to him. He springs up from his spot on the ground and hurriedly opens the door, met with a visibly exhausted Hyunjin. He’s drenched with sweat all over his forehead and panting heavily, his whole body shaking and his hands balled into fists. It’s a similar image to the times Jeongin has seen him after hours of intense dance practice. But that obviously was not the reason this time, so the sight only manages to stir up further worry within Jeongin. “What happened? Are you okay?” he asks, breathless as if he was the exhausted one.

 

“I’m fuc- I’m just great .” Hyunjin clenches his fists and jaw, and Jeongin thinks this is the angriest he’s ever seen him before. “I ran over here.. I don’t want to talk about this where anyone else might overhear.” He steps inside the house and heads out of the entrance room into the hallway towards Jeongin’s room. Cautiously, the younger of the two follows him and quietly shuts the door once the both of them enter his bedroom.

 

“I’m fucking pissed. God…” the strong language takes Jeongin aback. Hyunjin did have a flair for the dramatics, but he rarely used profanity outside of a humorous context. They’re standing with some distance between each other, the older beginning to pace restlessly as he vents, “What the hell is their deal?”

 

“Um-” he isn’t sure how to respond, or if he should even say anything at all. There is not a clue in his mind as to what Hyunjin is referring to. “What happened?”

 

Hyunjin sighs heavily before beginning his explanation. “So, like, y’know how I  want to major in dance once I graduate, right? And my parents are cool with that or whatever, they haven’t changed their minds, but today they had the fucking audacity to- ugh...” he lets out a groan and runs his hands through his hair, tugging at the strands in frustration.

 

“Oh, um-” Jeongin pauses for a moment to consider what the right words were. He pushes down his growing anxiety to instead focus on Hyunjin’s state. It was important for him to be the calm one for once. That’s what Hyunjin needed right now. He takes in a deep breath to steady himself, and attempts to speak with a level-head to the other boy. “You can tell me anything, it’s okay. What did they do?”

 

With a long sigh, Hyunjin stops his pacing and collapses onto the other’s bed. He puts his arm over his head as he lies flat on the mattress, his legs dangling off the side. Jeongin takes a seat next to him so he could comfort him if necessary.

 

“I was talking about how dance practice went earlier, which never bothers them, but this time they decided to go off on me. Apparently, like, since I’m an adult now I need a girlfriend if I’m going to be going to dance or else it’ll make me look weird. Like, people will think I’m gay or whatever.”

 

Well, that’s awkward. Jeongin cringes a bit internally, both at what Hyunjin’s parents said to him and at his mention of being assumed for gay. He knows that the other didn’t mention anything directly, but he feels somewhat like an outsider. Any time someone else brought up the topic of being gay, it made him feel alienated in a sense. It was as though someone was making comments on him to his face without any awareness of that. Being treated differently in this way felt bizarre. Jeongin could never quite get used to it, regardless of the context it always sent a wave of anxiety inside of him when he heard the term brought up.

 

He almost never joins in when being gay is brought into conversation. If he must say anything, he just gives a half-hearted nod to whatever homophobic comment his parents had made since he’d be too scared of saying anything. If he lies there is the chance he could be unconvincing, and telling the truth… that was out of the question.

 

So, this puts him in an odd position he hasn’t really been in before. He’s not really sure what he’s supposed to say, but being silent seemed inappropriate at the moment. Jeongin furrows his eyebrows and frowns, hoping he comes across as sympathetic. “That’s stupid.”

 

The other boy jolts up from where he’s laying, sitting up and tugging at his hair aggressively. “I know! What the fuck kind of bullshit is that!” he exclaims, rage clear in his voice. Jeongin lets him vent, lets him scream and groan and punch the wall as he lets everything out because he knows the other needs to let his emotions out right now. After a short while of angrily stomping around the room, he lays back down on the bed. The intense anger seems to have left him as he’s visibly deflated from moments before. He rubs his hands over his face, exasperated, as he lets out a long sigh. “And then… then…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“And then…” he repeats, breaking eye contact to focus instead on the floor. “Then I was all like, ‘what if I don’t want a girlfriend?’ and ‘what if I was gay?’” Jeongin gulps and continues to listen silently. “I don’t know why I said it, it just came out.” the taller boy chuckles sadly, “Hah, came out. That’s funny.”

 

Jeongin isn’t really sure what to say. He’s not even sure he’s heard everything right. Did Hyunjin just imply what he thought he was implying? Maybe he should ask how the rest of it played out to see where it went from there. He’s too nervous to ask directly and, besides, he does want to know what else was going on. “What happened after that?” he breathes out, words cautious and uncertain.

 

“Welllll…” he drawls, hesitating before he answers, “I kind of just… ran out? I went to my room and snuck out the window and then I ran here. I, uh- I wasn’t ready to tell them.”

 

“Oh,” is all he can manage in the form of a response.

 

So, that basically confirmed what Jeongin was thinking. He can’t fully believe what he was hearing. Not because he was mad or thinks Hyunjin isn’t ‘like that’ or whatever, but Jeongin never had an experience like this. Any time being gay was brought up into a conversation, it was in a negative way - possibly a neutral or joking way at best. Learning that someone he knows (his best friend and crush, at that) not only wasn’t homophobic, but actually wasn’t straight himself - it took everything the boy had ever known about his life and turned it around out of the blue.

 

Some might think he should be happy, and he knows some part of him will be once it sets in, but right now he’s too shocked to feel anything else. It’s a bit of a cliché to wonder to yourself if you’re dreaming, but he’s not so sure that he’s genuinely conscious at the moment. He folds one of his arms against his chest and squeezes his other forearm to test if he could feel the sensation. Yeah, this was real.

 

The acknowledgement of this doesn’t take away this bizarre sense of detachment he feels to it all. Everything around him seems off, as if his mind had gone numb. He’s getting light-headed even though he’s barely moved for hours and it’s all a little unsettling.

 

But, he can’t let Hyunjin know that. The other was more important right now. He was the one going through a crisis, not Jeongin. Pushing his own dissociation aside, he gives his best attempt to be supportive.

 

“Are you going to be okay? I- I um, I still like you.” Jeongin panics for a moment and quickly adds onto his original statement, “I mean, you’re my best friend. This doesn’t… change anything.”

 

Hyunjin cracks a slight smile and for the first time since the conversation began, he lifts his head from facing the floor to look at Jeongin instead. “Thanks, Jeongin-ie.”

Something in his eyes looks so sad, or scared, or something - and it hurts to see. It hurts for Jeongin to see him like this, because he knows how it feels to fear rejection from your own family. They had different ways of handling it, with Jeongin hiding and repressing his true self and Hyunjin acting outwardly, but the root feeling that caused this hurt was the same. 

 

And he’s probably been hurting for so long without Jeongin having a clue.

 

He doesn’t care about himself in this moment. Right now, Hyunjin is all that matters. The passionate, funny, loving Hyunjin that Jeongin had fallen for so many years ago has been hurting.

 

Usually, skinship isn’t something he initiated, but the taller boy looks so small and broken in this moment that Jeongin can’t help but reach out to comfort him. He wraps his arms around Hyunjin, beginning to rub soothing circles into his back as the other reciprocates the affection and hugs Jeongin tightly.

 

For a moment, nothing else mattered but the two of them here, holding onto one another. Everything they had experienced was brought back with intensity. But, this time was a bit different, because they had each other. Suddenly the reality of just how long Jeongin has spent hating himself and living in fear hit him like it never had before. He’s wasted so much of his life, so many years dedicated to shutting himself out from everyone he loved and it’s never truly sunk in until now.

 

Tired. He’s so tired of living this way. Knowing Hyunjin probably went through the same pain as him broke his heart even more.

 

He doesn’t realize he’s crying until the other boy lets go of the hug to rub at his cheeks instead, wiping away the tears he hadn’t noticed were there. Hyunjin’s eyes are red and teary as well, clearly trying to stop himself from sobbing any further.

 

“What are you crying for?” his voice breaks, but he lets out a slight chuckle despite everything. This was all too emotional, too much to bear - they’re at an odd point where they’re coming down from their hysterics yet the atmosphere is still too heavy without breaking the tension somehow.

 

Jeongin cracks a sad smile, and chuckles back a bit as well, even though he’s not sure what’s so funny about it all. “I don’t know,” he breathes out, suddenly realizing that Hyunjin’s large hands are still cupping his cheeks even though his face is dry of tears now. He knows he must be getting flushed as he comes upon the realization, and yet he doesn’t pull away or push the other back. Despite his embarrassment, he can’t bring himself to reject the affection.

 

There’s a heavy silence that hangs between them while the two look at each other as Hyunjin rubs the sides of his face placatingly. Something about this moment between them feels so intimate, almost too intimate to believe. This entire evening had felt like a dream. For once, Jeongin wasn’t alone in this world and he truly had someone. He’s falling deeper in love with Hyunjin than he could ever imagine. His eyes flutter shut and he leans into the touch, calming down from all the rampant emotions he’s had for years. All that matters is him and Hyunjin, and what’s here and now, and-

 

And the door opens.

 

The two of them flinch and part from one another in a panic as soon as they recognize the sound of Jeongin’s mother opening the room. He hopes with all his heart that she didn’t see what happened, because them nearly flying away from one another as soon as someone else was there must be suspicious. There’s the sound of something hitting the ground immediately after the door swings open.

 

Anxiety weighs down on him, and he feels like he’s forcing himself not to freeze when he turns around to look at his mother. Based on the looks of it, she definitely saw. His mother’s hands are held up to her face, partially covering her mouth that’s wide open. Her eyebrows appear raised to nearly the top of her forehead from shock. Jeongin shifts his gaze downward and notices her cell phone is laying on the floor, having fallen next to her feet.

 

As soon as he thought that perhaps his life could finally become worth living, his world came crashing down around him.

 

Neither of the boys say a word or move a muscle as they stare at the woman’s response, both of them seemingly frozen in fear. Jeongin watches as his mother reach down to pick up her phone, hands shaking - whether this was with shock or anger, he isn’t sure.

 

“Sorry about that… yeah, he’s here. Come pick him up.” Her tone is quiet and could nearly come across as calm and controlled, but her son knows it is anything but.

 

She finishes up the conversation with whoever is on the other line - presumably one of Hyunjin’s parents - and hangs up the phone. Briefly, she directs her gaze to the older boy before quickly turning her head around to stare at the wall instead.

 

“Hyunjin, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I expect you to tell your mother.” Her voice is breaking, and her difficulty breathing is audible from the other side of the room. “Until then, I don’t think you should be here,” she pauses awkwardly, “I don’t know if she will allow it.”

 

It’s obviously a lie. She doesn’t sound ambivalent whatsoever. This is the most distraught Jeongin has seen her in a long time. He’s not sure if she’ll ever see his friend (or him) the same way ever again.

 

After a few seconds of what must be among the most unsettling silences in Jeongin’s life, Hyunjin lifts himself up from his spot on the bed. “Fine,” he grumbles, quickly returning back to anger after his brief panic that occurred when the younger’s mother had entered the room. He complies and walks out of the room, but not before giving a hard kick to the end of the bed frame.

 

There isn’t a long wait for Hyunjin’s parents to drive to the house since they’re only a few stop signs away from each other - though it sure doesn’t feel that way. Similar to everything else this evening it passes by in slow motion, Jeongin’s mother leaving the room until the boy is gone, so he’s left by himself expecting the worst to happen.

 

Maybe she’ll scream at him - or get his father to do so, he’s more intimidating - or she’ll ground him. There’s a good possibility she won’t allow Hyunjin to come over ever again. It wouldn’t last long, but Jeongin doubts he could bear being separated from his best friend after the events that transpired this evening.

 

When his mother enters the door, the expression on her face is now unreadable. He does not tolerate that well. The air is heavy and the tension is high between the two, and Jeongin cannot imagine what she has on her mind right now.

 

He figures it’s best to stay silent and wait for her to speak first.

 

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow,” is all she says before leaving his room and shutting the door behind her.

Chapter Text

As soon as the door to his bedroom is shut and he’s left to himself, he hurriedly reaches over to his nightstand and grabs his cell phone. He wants to hear from Hyunjin as soon as he can.

 

Jeongin

i hope everything goes ok

msg me how it went when you can

 

Not expecting an immediate answer, he decides to switch over to message another one of his contacts. This was one of the most dramatic experiences of his life - he’s pretty sure that’s not an exaggeration - and he deeply needed to tell someone about what happened. Seungmin was always there for him. There’s a bit of guilt as he wonders if he complains to his friend too much, but he ignores it. The other boy had informed him on numerous occasions that it was no bother.

 

Jeongin

sorry ik its late but

something bad happened.

 

Seungmin

what happened?

are you ok??

 

Jeongin

idk its a long story

hyunjin might not be ok

 

Seungmin

??? what do you mean???

you need to be a little more specific

 

Jeongin

idk if i can tell you but he said some stuff to his parents and then he ran out

over to my place

and then my mom found him and got his parents to pick him up and idk

they  all seem really mad idk whtas going to happen

 

Seungmin

i think i know what you’re talking about

it’s going to be ok

lets talk about this tomorrow though ok? its late and i need to sleep

 

Jeongin

sorry. 

 

Seungmin

you’re fine, you need your rest too

goodnight 

 

Jeongin types out his own good night text to his friend, sighing to himself for the abrupt ending to the conversation. He knows it makes sense rationally but his brain was not in a place to be thinking that way. There’s no way he’s going to be able to get much sleep at all after tonight’s events.

 

As he continues to wait for Hyunjin’s response, he goes over the conversation with Seungmin again. Re-reading the messages leads him to notice one detail in particular that he had initially overlooked.

 

The message that reads i think i know what you’re talking about jumps out at Jeongin. Only now just sinking in, he cannot help but wonder what that means. What was going on in his head when he wrote that? Did he know the truth?

 

For some reason he doesn’t fully understand, the thought of Seungmin knowing what may have happened with their friend made his stomach curl with nausea. If this were true, Hyunjin told the other boy first, not him. Was Jeongin not as important to him? He’s angry at himself for thinking so selfishly at this time, but that doesn’t erase the jealousy he feels.

 

A new message being sent to him interrupts his thoughts. He supposes this mental breakdown could wait for another day. There’s only so much he could handle in one day, and there were more pressing issues to tend to at the moment.

 

Hyunjin

im ok ig

its super awkward around them rn but they dont seem too mad i think/??

me yelling and running out on them freaked them out tho

 

Jeongin

they aren’t mad about what you said?

 

Hyunjin

idk it’s just kinda weird around them.. i think it surprised them

but they said they aren’t mad at me for it or disappointed or anything

which is nice and all but fuck it feels so weird around them now

 

Jeongin wants to say he understands, he wants to tell Hyunjin that he knows this uncomfortable tension and distance the other boy is talking about, to tell the other that he’s been in the same place of being terrified to disappoint your own parents.

 

And, really, nothing is stopping him - obviously Hyunjin is not going to reject him for being gay. There is no logical reason for him to keep these parts of himself a secret from his friend. Yet, even then, he cannot bring himself to admit that. He’s not even sure what he’s scared of in this situation. Perhaps he doesn’t want to voice this part of himself he has never told a single soul. Being honest about what he has hidden for so many years is a reality he is not prepared for.

 

So, as always, he takes the safe route.

 

Jeongin

sorry it feels weird but at least theyre not too mad

im sure it’ll be ok maybe it’ll just take some time?

 

He hopes that his words of reassurance are true for Hyunjin. There’s a voice in the back of his mind that creeps up on him as he sends the message, words in his head whispering that this could never be true for Jeongin. His parents would never see him the same way if he had come out to them, no matter how often he may be told that he is loved unconditionally by them.

 

Unconditional love may sound sweet, but if you asked Jeongin, it was more of an obligation to care for someone than a sign of truly loving the person for who they are. Of anything he could be, the idea of being someone’s obligation is among the most detestable.

 

But that isn’t important right now. All he can do is hope that the same isn’t true for Hyunjin. Maybe he has an actual chance for his parents to accept who he is. He deserves to be loved by his parents for who he is, because Hyunjin is genuinely a great person. Jeongin thinks anyone would be lucky to get to know someone like him - passionate, talented, funny, kind, adorable, charming… the list goes on and on of everything he likes about him.

 

The conversation between the two does not last much longer, with Hyunjin soon having to sign off and go to bed since it was past midnight and all his emotions had left him exhausted. Jeongin can’t blame him for that. It was just a bit lonely knowing that he would be left alone with his thoughts for the rest of the night.

 

No matter how much he tries to relax, sleep continues to elude him throughout the night. With nobody to talk to and no ability to concentrate on anything but his own anxieties, he figures that he could make some use of the time. Thoughts swarm around in his brain regarding what his mother had seen earlier that night and how he would explain it. It isn’t until he feels satisfied that maybe he has come up with a believable excuse that he is finally able to get a few hours of restless sleep.

 


 

When the morning arrives, Jeongin is eager to leave the house as soon as possible. There has never been a time before when he’s found himself in such a hurry to go to school.

 

He’s just about to head out the door, hoping he can get out before anyone notices he’s leaving when he feels a hand grab his arm. Can’t ignore that. He turns his head around to see his mother with a stern expression on her face as she stares at him.

 

Shit. If only she had called his name instead, he at least could have lied later on and pretended he didn’t hear it, but she knows now that he’s taken notice of her. It’s too late to back out now.

 

His mother’s expression shifts into a forced smile and the grip on his arm softens. “I was thinking I could drive you to school this morning. We haven’t spent any time together lately, I feel like I barely see you anymore, Innie.”

 

The pet name that usually brought a sense of warmth and familiarity instead felt cold and unwelcoming. He doesn’t tell her that, of course. It’s unlikely he ever would find the bravery to tell anything remotely controversial to her, and certainly not now.

 

Jeongin isn’t sure he’s ever been so scared of his parents before in his life. He knows he’s gone over what he was going to tell her, he knows his parents wouldn’t kick him out or physically abuse him no matter what he did. That doesn’t change the fact that things may never be the same again between him and his parents if he did not act perfectly until this whole situation blew over. If it ever did, that is.

 

A smile is forced upon his face, not unlike his mother’s, and he complies with her wants. “Okay, thanks. I just didn’t want to bother you if you didn’t want to take me.”

 


 

 

The drive to school proves to be the longest ten minutes in Jeongin’s life.

 

There’s a solid moment of silence that draws on for seemingly an eternity. He knew it would be uncomfortable for him to start the conversation, but he had never considered it might be the same for his mother. Staring out the window, he avoids any contact with his mother until she speaks up.

 

“Hyunjin’s parents told me what happened. I saw you with him last night, and it looked like something was going on,” she states matter-of-factly. “I know you like Hyunjin and all,” his heart beats a little faster at those words, “but you don’t have to do everything he does. I don’t want you to feel pressured into being someone you’re not. If you’re going through something, please tell me. I just want you to be happy and be who you really are.”

 

Maybe, in a different context, her words would be comforting. Maybe, if Jeongin didn’t know what the true meaning of her words were, it would be appreciated. But he knows his mother far too well to misinterpret this. Not wanting him to be pressured into anything actually means there is no way she could believe he would ever actually want to be with Hyunjin out of his own accord. When she says she wants him to be happy, she means she wants him to do what makes her happy. The most absurd point was her claiming she wants him to be his true self. 

 

It’s kind of ironic. If Jeongin didn’t feel sick to the core with panic and self-hatred, he’d laugh. He knows his mother is referring to his true self as being straight, and that his struggle is being pressured to be gay when he isn’t. It’s funny that she could be so far off from the truth.

 

What’s even more funny is that Jeongin didn’t see this coming. He knew his mother didn’t want him to be gay, but he didn’t expect such disbelief. There was no way he could come out, he’d only be told that he was wrong. It’s hard to tell someone a secret about yourself when there’s nothing to tell.

 

He realizes he’s been silent for a time that isn’t socially acceptable when his mother speaks up again. “Please tell me what’s going on. I am your mother. I deserve to know.” Her voice is firm and strict, much different from how he remembers her from his childhood. She used to be so soft, and caring, the very definition of how a mother should be. The way she used to sing him to sleep, hold him when he was scared, support him in anything he did - what changed since then?

 

Maybe she’s right , a voice in the back of his head tells him. He’s growing more and more nauseous with every passing second. His lungs are starved for oxygen and his throat is closing up on him as he struggles to breathe.

 

It takes him a while to steady himself enough to mutter out a few words. “Nothing happened. He was sad so I was… trying to comfort him. He’s-” Jeongin takes in a choked breath, forcing himself not to cry, “he’s my friend.”

 

They’ve arrived at the school parking lot, and the car comes to a stop. His mother puts a hand on his shoulder that’s probably meant to be comforting, but only serves to send chills down his spine.

 

“I know, sweetie. I know.” Absolutely nothing about this is reassuring to him whatsoever, “I just don’t want you to sacrifice your life for him, okay? He’s going through some things and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Choosing that isn’t going to make you happy. There’s a reason we aren’t supposed to do things like that, because people feel bad when they sin. People who are gay are shown to be less happy, there’s a reason for that.”

 

He hates to admit it, but maybe she’s right. It makes sense to him right now. At least for himself, because he could never think this way of Hyunjin. He doesn’t question the logic behind that with his emotions so loud in this moment.

 

The term of feeling crushed might sound a bit melodramatic, but there was no better way to explain what was going on within Jeongin right now. He already was panicked but now he can’t fucking breathe. A weight sits on his chest, crushing his ribs and forcing his heart to thud. His entire body is uncomfortably hot and he can hear his blood pounding in his ears like a drum. Worst of all is what’s going on in his head. All he can think to himself is she’s right and he’s a bad person and he must have been lying to himself all these years and-

 

Maybe if he stops believing it, he’ll be happy. Maybe he’ll feel comfortable around his family again. Maybe he won’t have to live every day disgusted with himself anymore.

 

And all he has to do is stop believing it.

 


 

Due to his conversation in the car leading him to arrive slightly late, Jeongin doesn’t get a chance to have a proper conversation with Seungmin or Hyunjin until lunch break.

 

Even though he loves the two - one more than he’ll admit - he has been dreading this opportunity all day. Earlier he thought it would be a relief to get everything sorted out, but after the events that occurred that morning, he hasn’t felt more burdened to take a break from classes in his life.

 

Now he has to face Hyunjin again. He looks the same as he did every school day, but now that he doesn’t want to think about it, Jeongin is painfully aware of all of Hyunjin’s attractive features. His lips, his eyes, the beauty mark under his eyes, his smile, the way he runs his hands through his hair, how he licks his lips every so often-

 

And as he notices these qualities, he tries as hard as he can to push them away. Jeongin’s attempts to ignore the thoughts only made them more noticeable, however. His mind berates him for having this attraction, and it’s been ages since he has felt this disgusted with himself. He never loved himself, but he hasn’t experienced such an active hatred for himself ever since that one time a couple of years back when he attempted to isolate himself from his friends.

 

Hyunjin re-tells the same story he had witnessed last night to Seungmin. One detail that puzzles him is how unfazed the other boy appears as he discovers what had occurred. Particularly, Jeongin notices that he does not respond whatsoever to Hyunjin stating that he’s gay.

 

He’d have to ask Seungmin about that later.

 

He’s reached the end of the story of last night and has moved onto what occurred this morning instead. Jeongin begins listening intently to the new information - the other matters on his mind fading into the background.

 

Hyunjin breaks eye contact from the two of them, awkwardly looking up at the ceiling. “Then they wanted to talk to me about it, of course…” clearly this was not the most pleasant story for him to describe. He’s far from eager to relive the recent memory, judging by the nervous hand that’s grabbing the back of his neck and the way he’s suddenly incapable of looking anyone in the eye. “That was fun,” he remarks, sarcasm laid on thick in his voice.

 

“Were they not okay with it, or…?” Seungmin inquires, eyebrows furrowed in concern.

 

“I mean…” the older boy drawls, seemingly uncertain of how to respond, “they were okay. They tried to be supportive, I think?” he quirked an eyebrow, confusion drawn on his face. “But there was the whole incident with last night and- then Jeongin- and his mom- and that was weird.”

 

Oh God. Jeongin hadn’t even considered the possibility of his mother telling Hyunjin’s parents of what she witnessed the night before. He can only hope that isn’t what he was referring to.

 

“Wait, wait, slow down there,” Seungmin scolds him, making a gesture to signal the other to calm down. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, you’re going to have to start from the beginning for me here.”

 

“Oh, yeah. Right,” the oldest of the three looks dumbfounded, as if he hadn’t even considered that Seungmin wouldn’t understand what he was referring to. If not for Jeongin’s current state of concern, he might have laughed at how cute- no, not cute, he means how silly he appeared right now. He can’t be thinking that way anymore. Dumb brain betraying him again .

 

“Well, like I said, I ran over to Jeongin’s last night, right? So I was with him, and Jeongin’s mom walked in on us, so-”

 

Seungmin’s jaw was wide open in shock. “Wait, what? ” he sounds like he could hardly believe his ears. “Walked in on you, what were you- wait, you-” all of a sudden Jeongin could see something register in his mind as he winces, “Ew- God, I didn’t want to think of that- you can’t just say shit like that, what the fuck?”

 

Hyunjin’s face is bright red after that reaction, and Jeongin could bet that he matched the other’s embarrassed expression. He has to force himself to not allow the mental image that’s creeping in his mind to appear. That’s not what he wants, he can’t think of his friend that way. He rationalizes that if he imagined anything provocative it was nothing more than an intrusive thought.

 

 “We weren’t doing anything!” Hyunjin defends, hands raised in front of him waving frantically back and forth. “It just looked that way since we were close, and I had his hands in my face- wait , I mean, I had his face in my hands.” He corrects himself in his hurried explanation, “All we were doing is comforting each other, but she got the wrong idea.”

 

“Hm,” Seungmin nods in acknowledgement. He turns his gaze over to the younger. “What’d she say about that? Did you explain what happened to her?”

 

There’s something within him that’s begging him to stay silent. What the benefit of that is, he’s not sure, but he complies regardless and keeps the truth to himself. “I told her it was nothing, we haven’t talked about it other than that yet.”

 

Seungmin narrows his eyes, as if he’s attempting to see through Jeongin’s lie. He hates how perceptive his friend could be at times. “Why not?” he questions, head cocked to the side slightly.

 

Jeongin shrugs and comes up with the best response he could, “Didn’t have time. It was late so I needed to go to bed, and I ended up sleeping in some, so there wasn’t time this morning either.” It’s not a complete lie rather than simply a warped version of the truth. If his mother had not stopped him before he left the house earlier that day, his statement would have been largely consistent with the truth.

 

His friend gives a slow nod, and Jeongin can’t help but suspect that the other remains unconvinced. “Okay, then.”

 

Thankfully, he doesn’t press the issue and shifts his attention back to Hyunjin instead. “What did your parents say, then?”

 

“Well, his mom told my parents about it, which was… really awkward .” he winces, “They did freak out but then I explained to them it was all a misunderstanding, so they chilled out after that.” Hyunjin looks away to consider what else to say before sighing and adding, “But they’re okay with the… gay thing, mostly they were just upset I had ran out on them.”

 

“Well, can’t really blame them for being upset about that,” Seungmin comments bluntly. “But I’m glad they were accepting.”

 

Jeongin nods, not sure how else to respond since he is still in a state of disbelief that all this had happened.

 

The bell rings to indicate the end of lunch break, and many students put away their used trays and head out the door. Hyunjin is among them, saying his goodbyes to the two boys who stay back a bit longer. Jeongin wants to go, too, but the way Seungmin is glaring daggers at him keeps him frozen in place.

 

Once the majority of students around them have already left, his friend speaks up. “Hyunjin might be oblivious, but you can’t fool me. I know your mom’s talked to you.”

 

He feigns ignorance pointlessly, “I don’t- I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sputters out nervously.

 

Seungmin’s glare only grows in intensity, expressing that he’s not buying a single word that the other boy is telling him.

 

“Fine,” he sighs and finally admits the truth. “But I don’t think it’s important how she reacted anyways, it’s not about- it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’d let you know if she said something that actually affects someone.” Jeongin knows he is acting unnecessarily harsh, but all the stress that has accumulated within him since this morning is becoming unbearable.

 

The other boy rolls his eyes, clearly not satisfied with the response, but he doesn’t press the issue any further. “All right, then.”

 

Jeongin lets out a sigh of relief once the other boy is gone. He silently prays that his mother won’t do anything to affect Hyunjin.


Chapter Text

Jeongin’s mother begins to insist she take him to and from school every day now. The reason she gives is that she misses her son and wants to spend more time with him, but he’s not so sure how accurate that is. He suspects that it’s more to keep her son’s values consistent with her own, based on how she hasn’t let Hyunjin by their house lately.

 

He’s not one for confrontation, but eventually Jeongin has to address the matter. Hyunjin is growing frustrated at the other’s constant denial, and Jeongin’s mother is running out of decent excuses. The most recent excuse she’s given is that she doesn’t want Hyunjin by because she has a business meeting, and Jeongin can’t just tell his friend that- his mother doesn’t even have a job. Who does she think she’s fooling, anyways? It makes him look bad, too, as if he is the one pushing his friend out of his life.

 

Part of him is kind of convinced that’s the best idea for him to get rid of his feelings, but he tells himself that there isn’t anything to actually get over in the first place. Jeongin has been trying his hardest to convince himself that he was only confused and never had feelings for the boy beyond anything strictly platonic. He’s almost starting to believe it.

 

Then again, when this is the case, should he even be scared of bringing it up with his mother? If he can tell himself that he’s never been and never will be interested in Hyunjin or any guy for that matter, then surely he could persuade his mother of the same.

 


 

After a few months of Hyunjin not allowed at his own home, he brings this up with his mother. He tells her how he’s never going to change for his friend and how he isn’t like that even though it, for some reason, is a struggle to vocalize. Something in the statement sounds wrong and he recognizes the familiar feelings of guilt and disgust, evident by the nausea sitting in the pit of his stomach.

 

Jeongin ignores the sensation and presses on regardless.

 

His mother allows them to hang out again, so long as he promises that he wouldn’t let himself become affected by Hyunjin’s ways. He complies, trying his best to ignore how hurtful his mother’s words were.

 

Jeongin tells himself it’s only because he doesn’t want his friend to be talked about in that manner. Eventually, all the lies he tells himself must prove true. He cannot let himself think otherwise.

 


 

For a while, life returns to a relative normal for Jeongin and his friends. There’s still an awkward tension when he is in close contact with Hyunjin on his own, but he avoids encountering such situations with ease seeing as they’ve been busy lately anyways. When he’s in public with Hyunjin or the two are accompanied by Seungmin, there isn’t much of a difference from before the oldest of the three had come out to them. Or, to Jeongin, that is - he later found out that Seungmin had already been aware of the fact. He tries not to let that affect him. It shouldn’t matter, so after the initial hurt he opted to ignore it.

 

Despite the discomfort caused by suppressing his feelings, Jeongin is able to manage and goes about life relatively normally. It’s nice. Life is almost normal again, which he hadn’t expected to happen.

 

But that wouldn’t be for much longer.

 

Everything is changing now. The school year is coming to a close, and with it, so is Hyunjin’s time at high school as a whole. The three childhood friends are becoming adults now. It all feels surreal and Jeongin doesn’t fully register it all as reality.

 

It’s funny how much can change in one year. Jeongin wonders if this is a signal they’re going to be parting their own separate ways in life. After all, Hyunjin has only become more open and is further pursuing who he is and he even has a college that specializes in performing arts in mind that he wants to attend in the fall.

 

Jeongin knows he isn’t doing what he truly wants, but what good has following his heart done for him so far? All it has done is lead him through a world of pain and hurt. He can’t do that anymore. Maybe, if he tries his hardest, he’ll find that his values and desires shift to those that his parents want from him. For what he wants for himself.

 

In the time being, Jeongin is waiting for the day to come where he’s not something to be ashamed of.

 


 

That day doesn’t come anytime soon and it’s becoming unbearable. The last school year for Jeongin’s has now begun and Hyunjin recently started attending college.

 

It’s a special night for Hyunjin - he’s preparing for a dress rehearsal to practice for an upcoming dance performance. He’s going to be the star of the show and Jeongin knows how much effort he’s put into this. There have been some times where Hyunjin has talked about how many numbers he was in, or how sore he was from practicing hours a day. So, when his friend asks him to help with the performers in-between acts, he accepts despite knowing what this might entail.

 

As in, being up and close with Hyunjin as he performs and helping him with anything he needs. Between performances. While he’s hot and sweaty and disheveled. Jeongin tells himself it can’t be that bad. He simply needs to keep in mind he doesn’t allow himself to see Hyunjin in that manner anymore. The attraction he felt was all made-up, he reasons to himself.

 

Worries aside, he’s looking forward to the event. He;s expected to be there by 5:00 pm, about an hour before the rehearsal properly began. The show would run a little over two hours in length - which, if you ask Jeongin, was an awfully long time for the same fifteen or so teenagers to spend dancing in one night.

 

He arrives at the studio on time, carrying a bag filled with snacks and water bottles to give out to the dancers whenever they had a break.

 

After walking around a bit, he spots Hyunjin at a usually empty spot behind where the audience sits. He is seated in front of a foldable table that’s been set out, eating dinner along with some of the other dancers who are with him. He only recognizes one of them, Felix, who he’s hung out with a few times along with Hyunjin and Seungmin. Other than him, he notices there are a couple of girls he doesn’t recognize who are talking amongst each other and one other boy next to Hyunjin that he hasn’t met before.

 

Jeongin waves over at the group and makes his way over to the table. He notices the boy seated by Hyunjin grab him by the shoulders and shake him to get his attention. Whoever this guy was, he was a little aggressive when it came to touching. Jeongin isn’t sure how he feels about that fact.

 

Regardless, Hyunjin’s attention is brought to reality. “Hey!” he exclaims, shoving the other boy hard enough for him to come tumbling down off his chair. He gets up immediately, after, trying to play it cool. The dancer presses the back of his hand to his forehead and sighs dramatically. “Oh, I’ve fallen for you again, Hyunjin-ie…”

 

The mentioned boy scoffs and rolls his eyes, “I should expect nothing else from you. Creep.”

 

Jeongin does not like the interaction he’s watching before him. Something about it feels wrong - too close, too playful. He thought that the only person Hyunjin teased was himself. It was more the other boy with him that was doing so than Hyunjin, but still, Jeongin knows he wants this conversation to end now.

 

“Um- uh-” Jeongin stutters helplessly. He hadn’t really thought this out.

 

It works regardless, as Hyunjin moves his gaze over to look at Jeongin from across the table. The dancer’s expression immediately shifts into a big, open-mouthed smile - the kind that makes Jeongin’s heart melt. There was something so beautiful and special about his smile that, no matter what, managed to make everything a little bit better. “Innie!” he gets up from his seat to move over to Jeongin, giving the boy a tight hug that nearly lifts him from his chair.

 

The younger squirms and makes exaggerated grunts to express struggle. "Hyung!" he whines, “I can’t breathe, let me go!”

 

Hyunjin starts making kissing sounds and squeezes the younger tighter, lifting him up a little bit off the chair. “Aw, but I can’t live without my Innie!”

 

Jeongin is taken aback by all the sudden affection. His friend was always big on physical contact and teasing, but he never went so far as to do this. He knows he’s blushing based upon how flustered he is and wants nothing more than to escape this situation. It’s not that he hates it, but it’s all a bit overwhelming for him. He tells himself it must be because Hyunjin is invading his personal space. Nothing more.

 

Desperate to stop the affection that’s making him feel embarrassingly flushed, Jeongin shoves his friend’s face away from him and lightly hits him on the arm until he sets him free. Hyunjin makes an exaggerated groan in response to this, holding his arm as if he had been seriously injured. “Why don’t you love me?” he whines, his thick lips forming a pout.

 

For reasons he won’t look into at the moment, Jeongin feels himself blush again at Hyunjin’s cute behavior. Instead, he sticks his tongue out at him in derision. “Go ask your other friends for attention,” he snarks, though he truly doesn’t want Hyunjin to do that. Jeongin takes notice of that and feels a brief panic that he attempts to bring himself back from before it spiraled out of control. It’s normal to want attention from your friends, he rationalizes. It doesn’t mean anything.

 

At Jeongin’s request, Hyunjin looks over to the unfamiliar boy who gives a nod and a suggestive wink. “Coming onto me now, are you?” he flirts.

 

Jeongin finds himself unable to rationalize the jealousy forming in the pit of his stomach as he watches this interaction. He can’t come up with any decent reason for why he dislikes this guy, either.

 

It’s probably best for him to ignore that, he decides, so he does and tries to act as normal until the preparations began.

 

In the meantime he gets to converse a little more with the dancers at the table, save for the girls who were called backstage since they needed more time than the boys for hair and make-up. Jeongin found out that the new guy’s name is Minho and he seems to be a rather interesting individual. It turns out he wouldn’t have to worry about him being particularly close to Hyunjin since, evidently, he liked to flirt and tease anyone he came into contact with. Felix joins in the conversation too, which is welcome since Jeongin thinks he’s nice and funny and they haven’t spoken much in a while.

 

It’s fun and, for a moment, Jeongin forgets about all the inner turmoil he’s been experiencing. There isn’t stress trapping his mind in and attacking him from all sides. He can enjoy the moment without all the overthinking and wrong feelings that he’s been the prisoner of for longer than he can remember.

 

But, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time for rehearsals to begin. It’s not that he isn’t looking forward to it, but Jeongin knows it will likely be stressful having to do backstage work. Not to mention being in close proximity to Hyunjin for hours.

 

Jeongin is sure it’ll be fine. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t be.

 


 

As it turns out, working backstage is an overall fun experience. All the dancers load into a practice room in the back of the stage, while everyone gets mentally prepared for the rehearsal. The dancers and staff members all get in a circle and hold hands, inviting a slightly confused Jeongin to join in.

 

“3, 2, 1… let’s do this!” they all shout in unison - except Jeongin who didn’t know what was going on.

 

They’re all excited and full of energy now, though, so he can’t help but join in the mood around him.

 

The night mostly consists of him waiting backstage while a dance is taking place, and then hurriedly making sure all the dancers were hydrated. Well, that, and that they wiped the sweat off of themselves.

 

He doesn’t get to see the dances up-close since he’s working backstage, but he is able to view some of the performances. Up against the wall of the practice room is a small television that shows a live recording of the stage. It’s not quite the same as viewing it in-person, but even on the poor quality footage Jeongin finds himself unable to take his eyes off of Hyunjin.

 

This isn’t the first time he’s watched Hyunjin dance, as he has attended the majority of his performances. But this was different. Something about him was different in the way he moved. He was more powerful, more certain, beyond simply technically gifted now but holding such incredible charisma in his performance. He’s improved greatly over the years, and it’s especially noticeable now that he has been gifted the leading role. Perhaps the more advanced classes he’s taking at the art college is contributing, too, but regardless Jeongin is amazed by his improvement. The number before last is a solo performance by some girl he doesn’t know, so he doesn’t mind taking his eyes off for a bit to notify his father that it was coming to a close.

 

At the end of the show, as the dancers are loading up for the final number, he’s approached by a staff member. It’s a woman who appears in her 30s and has a friendly aura about her - he recalls she’s the one who has been making sure everyone was ready and on stage in time, calling everyone up when it was their time.

 

She smiles at him and points at the television behind her. “We’ve got everything done back here, so if you want to go to the seats and watch it, you can go ahead.”

 

Jeongin gives an affirming nod, appreciative of the offer. “Thank you.”

 

Despite everything he tells himself he should do, he decides to go ahead and view the last dance of the night. There’s something deep within him that says this isn’t going to go well, that he’s not supposed to do this, that he’ll regret it - but, for once, he chooses to ignore this part of himself. Hyunjin has clearly poured all his effort and passion into this performance. Missing this would almost be like insulting his best friend’s hard work. His passion and dedication was one of Jeongin’s favorite things about him, so he can’t pass this up.

 

He takes a seat that’s front-row and center since there isn’t anyone in the audience. Hyunjin is only a few feet away from him at this spot, all his movements easily visible to Jeongin. This was a much different experience from viewing on the television backstage. Here, you could see all the dancer’s subtle movements and expressions that weren’t visible on the recording. But, even more so than on footage, Jeongin finds himself incapable of tearing his eyes away from Hyunjin.

 

His movements are sharp, powerful, phenomenal - he wonders how such a talented, amazing person could not only exist but be his best friend. Beyond that, he notices something that’s even more breathtaking - his expressions. His performing abilities and presence on stage are alluring, drawing Jeongin in more than anything he’s seen before. All thoughts have left his mind as he witnesses in pure awe the performance before him. 

 

If it weren’t for that, he’d definitely be freaking out about the way Hyunjin doing a body-roll just made him feel.

 

None of his thoughts and worries mattered right now, since he couldn’t draw his attention away from the stage. It’s unbelievable how captivating it all was, that he barely notices when it’s about to end.

 

But it does, and watching it wrap up and come to a close was as satisfying and impactful as every other moment of the performance he had the opportunity of seeing. He definitely needed to tell Hyunjin how proud of him he was, and how amazing he was, as soon as possible.

 

Jeongin initially thought he would tell him right as the stage came to a close, but he thinks he may have been a little too star-struck to realize he was too late for that. All the dancers were already off-stage, though he’s not sure where exactly. He first checks backstage, or, rather - he was going to until the woman from earlier blocks him from entering the room as girls were changing.

 

Instead, he decides to look elsewhere. He finds a curtain that leads to an area behind the stage that must be used primarily for the production team, judging by the looks of it. He decides to look in further, figuring that perhaps Hyunjin was back there gathering his things before he leaves.

 

After a bit of looking, he spots the top of Hyunjin’s head peeking out from a rack of costumes. Jeongin walks over, excited to tell his friend about what a good job he did performing. As he nears closer, Jeongin finds himself a few feet away from Hyunjin and he sees something he wasn’t ready for.

 

Standing in front of him is Hyunjin in the middle of changing. He’s shirtless at the moment, toned body on display. Jeongin has seen him without a top on before, but there was more about it that caused something to stir within him. After performing for two hours, he’s sweaty, disheveled, breathing heavily. Jeongin finds his mind wandering where it shouldn’t be, thinking of other situations where he would look like this.

 

He’s barely moved all night, yet he feels himself growing hot as if he were the one performing all night. His eyes quickly scan over Hyunjin’s body - chest, arms, stomach, his lips - until the other boy notices him.

 

It’s a deeply uncomfortable moment, and Jeongin jumps back a bit as they make eye contact as if he had been caught breaking a rule. Hyunjin runs his hands through his hair as he lifts his head, and if Jeongin wasn’t already gone - that certainly would have done him in.

 

The atmosphere is tense, suffocating, and his skin feels as though it’s been set aflame. It’s difficult to form words with all the sensations going on, but he manages a choked, “H-hello.”

 

Hyunjin chuckles a bit and winks at him, which sets Jeongin’s blood coursing even harder through his body. He’s sure he must be red with how hot he feels right now. “Hey,” he greets nonchalantly. There’s nothing special about it, but everything he does is so unbelievably alluring to him right now that it has him melting.

 

“You did a good job,” he breathes out, attempting to crack a smile but probably failing. Why is his heart pounding so hard? Why can’t he take his eyes off Hyunjin? Why is all this affecting him so much? The worries in his mind are still apparent, but they’re overpowered by the pull he feels to Hyunjin.

 

Hyunjin smiles that absolutely beautiful smile of his at the compliment. “Thanks.”

 

Jeongin had initially wanted to tell him more - say how proud he was, how amazing he did, how much he’s improved - but words seem to have left his brain right now. He struggles to say even the simplest of things as attraction takes over him. In all of it, he barely notices his phone buzzing in his pocket.

 

He needs to get out of this now . It’s all too overwhelming and he can’t bear this tension anymore. Jeongin views his messages to see his father telling him he was outside the building waiting for him. Thankful for this excuse to escape, he uses the opportunity immediately.

 

“I-um- I have to go,” he curses himself internally for stuttering, and when Hyunjin sends him an odd look he realizes he needs to explain further. “My dad’s here. They, uh- they want me home before too late.”

 

Hyunjin waves him goodbye and Jeongin leaves immediately after, in a hurry to get out as soon as possible. All that’s on his mind is Hyunjin - his chest, abs, shoulders, lips, eyes, voice, that fucking wink - all of it sets him on fire. He can’t get him out of his mind.

 


 

It’s later that night and Jeongin has something else on his mind now.

 

He’s laying in bed with the lights off, filled with regret. All he can think of is how disgusting he is for what he's done. There are no words to describe how absolutely revolted he feels in this moment. He told himself he wouldn’t think of Hyunjin in that way again - he’d been good, he’d avoided that, but now? Jeongin had never felt so ashamed of himself. It’d been months since he’d so much as let himself think of another guy in that way, and now he not only thought of it but had acted upon it. And it was his best friend.

 

You’re disgusting and he would hate you if he knew and what’s wrong with you all play in his mind on loop. There’s no desire for him to comfort himself or reassure himself in any way. After all, it’s what he deserves after what he has done. He deserves to feel disgusted, to hate himself, to spend all night crying and banging his head against the wall. There was something deeply wrong with him that he did not deserve to forgive himself for. He slams his arm hard against his dresser, wincing at the pain, but he repeats the action. There’s nothing else that will fully express the hatred he feels towards himself right now.

 

The only comfort he can find to save himself from his own loathing is promising himself he’ll never let something like this happen again.

Chapter Text

It’s difficult to be around Hyunjin after that night. Actually, life in general becomes increasingly uncomfortable to partake in. Images of everything that night flashed in his mind at random moments, along with the guilt and shame that accompanied it. Jeongin finds the only way to stop thinking about it is by keeping his mind busy by studying. Or staying up at night on the internet googling whether or not he was a bad person for everything he’s done. That’s productive too.

 

Jeongin knows he’s slipping back into old habits but he can’t catch himself. He’s gone too far this time to go back - not fully, anyways. For better or for worse, it’s much easier to pass of ignoring Hyunjin this time around. They don’t go to school together anymore and they aren’t a few streets away from each other now that Hyunjin has gone off to college. Because of this, they don’t meet each other during lunch or run into each other in the hallways at school. They wouldn’t be able to see each other until the evenings for the majority of the week even if they wanted to.

 

As far as excuses go, it’s easy. It makes sense. Hyunjin is off at college, Jeongin is studying hard during his last year at school, they don’t live within walking distance of each other… it’s not suspicious that they’d be too busy to frequently meet up together.

 

There’s also the key element that the whole reason for this shift in behavior is completely different from last time. He previously made a willing decision to distance himself from his friend despite his true wants, whereas this time he is not actively choosing to avoid him. It kind of just happened, really.

 

The first time he saw Hyunjin after the incident made it difficult to reconnect and pretend as if everything was normal.

 


 

It took Jeongin a little while after the night of rehearsals to obtain enough courage to face Hyunjin again. By a little while, that might actually be more like a few weeks rather than a few days. He tells his friend that he’s very busy studying for his upcoming final exams and thus wouldn’t have time to hang out for a little while, which had some truth to it. When Hyunjin’s actual performance night comes up a couple weeks later, he claims that all the stress from school has led him to fall sick. That one was a total lie.

 

Jeongin feels a pang of guilt for lying to Hyunjin and letting his hopes down, but the amount of shame he feels for this is nothing compared to what he experienced after that night a few weeks ago.

 

It isn’t until the week after that in which he is willing to face Hyunjin again. The only reason he’s able to do this is because it was not them alone, because Seungmin was accompanying them. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice, anyways - if Jeongin pushed this any further it would become suspicious. He needed to see Hyunjin sooner or later, even though he was terrified of it.

 

They aren’t doing anything special - the three of them were over at Seungmin’s house to play video games for a few hours. Thankfully, with Jeongin’s gaze focused on the screen, he almost forgets Hyunjin’s presence on the other side of the bed. Almost.

 

It’s all pretty uneventful, and Jeongin is able to compose himself well enough to hold up a conversation with the other two - if yelling inexplicable noises at each other when one of them died in the game counted as a conversation, that is.

 

There isn’t anything eventful that goes on throughout the afternoon, Jeongin managing to keep everything under control and act normally. He wonders if, maybe, he had been overthinking everything again. Perhaps he was merely forcing himself to have feelings he wouldn’t naturally have otherwise. It wasn’t as big of a deal as he thought it would be… until it came time to head on home.

 

Jeongin found himself alone with Hyunjin outside of the house and he feels his heartbeat quicken as he takes a proper look at him for the first time that day. He’s as handsome as ever, reminiscent of a model with the way his features glow in the light of the setting sun. The same feelings that overtook him a few weeks ago are creeping back in. He notices the way his cheeks warm as the young man smiles at him kindly, eyes lighting up as they make contact with his own.

 

This isn’t good, he thought to himself, but tried to ignore it all. It wasn’t real, he didn’t like Hyunjin in that way. He couldn’t have feelings for him.

 

Hyunjin points to the car behind him parked in the driveway for a second before giving an offer to Jeongin. “Do you want a ride home?”

 

If he hadn’t forced himself to build up some more self discipline, he would have said yes. There isn’t anything Hyunjin is doing but he still manages to have a natural charm that draws the younger in. If he hasn’t spent years hating himself, he’d want to get closer and stay that way forever. But life isn’t that simple, and Jeongin knows it would be a challenge mentally for him to be alone with Hyunjin. Especially now, after what happened. He’s terrified of feeling that way again, and even being with him right now is making him flustered.

 

So, he denies. “No, you don’t have to.”

 

“It’s no problem, really! It’s not far. You were sick just recently, you shouldn’t be out in the cold.” Hyunjin worries, as he often does with Jeongin. He’s always wanting to care for him, which Jeongin hates because it makes it even harder not to fall for him when he’s like this.

 

He ignores the guilt that tugs at his chest when he comes up with an excuse, “Actually, I heard that spending more time outside and moving strengthens your immune system.” It’s not the worst lie considering it was made up on the spot. Maybe he’s getting better at this. “And, I don’t want to be sick over the holidays, so I’ll just walk,” he turns his gaze downward for a moment before adding, “But thank you.”

 

Hyunjin merely nods in acknowledgment before waving goodbye, “Okay, I’ll see you later then.”

 

Jeongin waves back as he watches him drive away before he starts heading home. Maybe, eventually, this… delusion , or whatever it is, will leave him and he could be around Hyunjin without having all these confusing feelings.

 

 


 

 

Nothing really changes for Jeongin, he has come to realize. It’s funny how long it took for him to gain some level of self-awareness of this fact. There are the constant ups-and-downs that come with life for everyone, but he always goes back to the same state.

 

Having feelings - or whatever they are - for Hyunjin, never gets easier. He’s found himself once again unable to have any sort of close contact with him without panicking. It’s been months since he’s been with his friend one-on-one. Maybe the only thing that has changed is that it’s easier to get away with all of this - they’re older, busier, and he’s become better at coming up with believable excuses. It’s also become apparent to him that treating Hyunjin any different from Seungmin would look suspicious, so he’s learned to treat them the same. Despite all the time that has passed, nobody has raised any serious concerns yet.

 

He should be thankful, but he’s not. Because, he knows, deep down this isn’t what he wants. He longs to be close to Hyunjin, in every sense of the word. Even though they still talk to each other as if nothing had changed, he finds himself missing Hyunjin. Yet he continues to deny himself the opportunity of connecting fully with him again. 

 

Why did everything have to be so complicated? Life would be easier if he was simply told how to handle this. All the years in school and hours spent studying had never once taught him how he’s supposed to approach life. It’s probably a given, everyone else seems to have everything all figured out - Hyunjin and Seungmin included.

 

With adulthood approaching and his friendships fading away into the background, Jeongin finds  himself reflecting more than ever on how pointless his life has been. He’s graduating in a few months and yet, here he is, clueless as to what he wants to do. Hyunjin is already attending college and Seungmin has a plan in place.

 

Everyone around him is progressing but here Jeongin was, stuck in the same place. Whoever came up with the saying that “it gets better” must have been luckier than him, he decides.

What’s the point when there wasn’t any hope for him in the first place?

 


 

Hyunjin-hyung

happy almost your birthday!!! 🎉🎈

 

Jeongin smiles slightly as he reads the text. It comes to mind again that his birthday is tomorrow and, if it weren’t for that reminder, he probably would have forgotten. This year would be the one he turns 18 - an adult in most places of the world. It’s also the year when he graduates and is expected to move out and go off to college. One might expect him to be excited, or nervous, or something - but he finds himself completely ambivalent. His life didn’t hold much meaning anymore.

 

He knows it’s because he’s pushed all his loved ones away. It’s sad, really. He knows what awful decisions he’s making but he can’t seem to help himself. Though he hated it, he finds himself yearning for what he once had - a true friendship, a real bond with Hyunjin and Seungmin. He thought distance would make himself happier but he misses what he once had so badly every time they spoke to him.

 

But he wouldn’t let himself give in if he could help it. He’s already gone too far to go back, right? It’s hardly good timing to change everything right now, anyways.

 

Still, he can’t deny the joy he feels at the message Hyunjin has sent him. Something about it was cute - either the several exclamation points, or the emojis, or that it wasn’t even a text for his birthday but rather for his day-before-his-birthday. Maybe it was just cute because it was Hyunjin that sent it, but Jeongin tries not to spend too much time considering that option.

 

He sets his thoughts aside for the time being and sends a reply.

 

Jeongin

lol thank you

 

Hyunjin-hyung

yw ♡

oh and! i wanted to ask you something!!

 

Jeongin ignores the fluttering feeling he gets at the heart Hyunjin sent him, instead focusing on the last sentence. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he looked at the over-enthusiastic message. What was he on about?

 

Jeongin

??

Hyunjin-hyung

can we do something tomorrow? we should go out for your birthday together

its been so long since we’ve rly hung out together. i miss u :(

 

His heart stings with pain as he reads over the last message. It’s true that they hadn’t had any time together one-on-one for several months now. Even counting the time they spent with Seungmin, Jeongin shied away from close contact with Hyunjin and kept the time they were together in the same area down to a couple of hours every week or so.

 

It was hardly the same as the days when they hung out together after school for hours at a time, texting each other whatever was on their minds when one of them had to go home.

 

He desperately wishes he could say yes - that they could spend time together the way they used to again. It hurts him to decline Hyunjin. The barrier he’s spent all his life building up around himself cracks and weakens at the words, but it has not fallen down just yet.

 

Jeongin

sorry i can’t, my family want to have a get-together since i’m turning 18

maybe another time?

 

Jeongin grimaces as he presses send, cringing at himself for being so rude. Hyunjin deserved better than this - better than him .

 

Hyunjin-hyung

aw ok, i hope you have fun

but we’re hanging out for sure this weekend ok? 

i cant live without u…. im going into withdrawal ;;

 

He’s not sure whether to be amused or terrified by how desperate Hyunjin seemed to spend time with him.

 

Jeongin

hyung that’s a bit dramatic 

 

Hyunjin-hyung

its TRUE!!!

come over here this weekend and let me give u a big hug or else

 

Jeongin swallows down the fear creeping up his throat.

 

Jeongin

or else what?

 

Hyunjin-hyung

idk i’ll whine to seungmin probably ??

i was being dramatic but like

i just miss u and wanna give u a hug and hang out like we used to

 

The barrier that Jeongin has kept around himself suddenly crumbles and crashes down around him. Hyunjin deserves better than a friend that constantly rejects him. He deserves better than someone who constantly comes up with lame excuses to avoid spending time with his best friend. What kind of friend was Jeongin for doing all this?

 

He couldn’t say no and let the other down again - especially not when Jeongin himself also missed exactly what Hyunjin was describing. Not that he’d admit it, but he can’t find it within him to decline, either.

 

Jeongin

ok fiiiine >_> 

needy 

 

Hyunjin-hyung

yay!

and u know you love me~ ♡

 

If Jeongin’s face heats up after that message, he blames it on the heating in his room.

 

Jeongin

yeah yeah whatever you say

 

Hyunjin-hyung

u always play so hard to get  ;;

ill let it slide since its ur birthday 

but u better be prepared bc im gonna force the love out of u the next time i see u

 

Jeongin reads the last sentence of the text over in a combination of anxiety and excitement. The latter emotion was even more concerning to him. How was he going to feel when it actually came time to be with him again, like they used to?

 

Oh boy.

 

What had Jeongin signed himself up for?

 


 

His birthday comes and passes as if nothing had happened. Due to his lie to Hyunjin about a family gathering, he has to tell the same thing to Seungmin to appear genuine. As a result, he ends up spending the day quietly, spending most of the time either in classes or in his room re-watching movies he liked as a kid in an attempt to experience the joy he felt at that age again. He supposes there could have been sadder ways to spend the day, since at least he didn’t have a mountain of homework to focus on that day.

 

But that didn’t stop the crushing loneliness he felt. He couldn’t fully enjoy anything when his mind was preoccupied with how sad his life had become. It’s silly, perhaps, but his loneliness hadn’t bothered him too badly until he realized this is the point it had reached. He’s lying to his only friends to avoid anything uncomfortable, isolating himself from his family, and instead stays alone in the dark of his room.

 

A thought appears in his mind, like a lightbulb turning on. It’s possible that maybe, just maybe, living in fear wasn’t the answer. Maybe sabotaging his own happiness wouldn’t actually fix anything.

 

But then, the metaphorical lightbulb in his mind begins flickering on-and-off, as Jeongin realizes what going against that would entail. The thought of facing everything he’s suppressed on his own seemed impossibly terrifying. Suddenly, he recalls the upcoming event that he agreed to in a rare moment of courage that had definitely died down by now.

 

How would he even be able to face Hyunjin this weekend?

 


 

It’s not easy. It really isn’t.

 

He cautiously enters Hyunjin’s dorm room and he finds it difficult to breathe properly. As much as he wants to fool himself, he knows deep down that isn’t solely because it’s stuffy and cramped in the room.

 

They were just going to hang out like they did before Jeongin ruined everything. Watch tv, play games, chat a bit - nothing special. It shouldn’t have been this significant.

 

Soon after Jeongin enters the room, Hyunjin brings him into a tight hug - and that’s no big deal, really, why does he feel so shy about it? Why can’t he respond normally? Perhaps, if it ended at that, he’d have survived without becoming inexcusably flustered.

 

Yet, Hyunjin seemed to have other plans.

 

The older boy is much more affectionate than the last times Jeongin has been around him - hell, he’s giving the younger more attention than he ever would have previously. He needs cuddles while watching tv, needs to rest his head on Jeongin’s shoulder at every chance. Jeongin feels his cheeks burning a hot red, feels his heart race, his stomach flutter more and more with each touch.

 

There’s a moment where Jeongin feels a different sort of sensation - the sense of someone’s gaze staring right at him. His heart quickens even further, if that’s possible, and he fears it might burst out of his chest at the rates it’s reaching. Nothing has even happened and it’s all so overwhelming. Jeongin internally curses himself for being this sensitive around Hyunjin.

 

He can’t even bring himself to meet the other boy’s gaze, as if he’s been frozen in place. Everything happens so rapidly after that, he’s hardly able to process it. Hyunjin’s fingers touch a lock of his hair on the side of his face, before dropping down a bit to reach his cheeks and rub the warm skin. 

 

The sensation of hot breath against his ear as the young man leans in to whisper unnecessarily close. “Does it make you flustered when I act like this?” His low tone carries something Jeongin hasn’t heard from him before - almost seductive in manner.

 

Something in Jeongin snaps and he reacts without thinking, pushing his friend away as if he were a threat to his safety. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he spits out, immediately regretting it once he realizes how harsh it comes across. But it was too late to go back on what he’s done, so he does what he always did. He runs away.

 

“I-” he breathes out, “I have to go.”

 

He turns away from Hyunjin and hurriedly leaves the room, hand shaking against the doorknob as he shuts it behind him wordlessly.

Chapter Text

Hyunjin-hyung

what happened?

are you ok?

 

Jeongin has no idea how to handle this situation. Being around Hyunjin and hearing from him was so hard to handle - his feelings were so strong even seeing the name on his phone reminds him of all that happened. All he could think about was how wrong Jeongin was for having more-than-friendly feelings for him.

 

He couldn’t handle dealing with that.

 

Jeongin

Its fine just leave me alone

I dont want to talk 

 

Jeongin phone blows up with many messages from his friends - both Hyunjin and Seungmin, even some others who were mutual friends that he rarely talked to.

 

He’s scared to even look at his phone, and avoids it for as long as he could stand until curiosity got the best of him and he peeks at it the next day.

 


 

from: Hyunjin-hyung

im sorry

I didnt mean nto make you uncomfrotable

Could you please tell me what i did wrong

Because i dont evne know?

please dont be mad at me  i didnt mean to

 

from: Seungmin-hyung 

Hyunjin told me abt whats going on and

Whats your deal?? seriously

Its been two days and 

You know i love you innie but thats not cool.

and don’t ignore me. You need to explain yourself

 

There are also messages from Felix and Jisung asking him what was going on, but they don’t seem to actually understand so it’s less intimidating. He makes sure to tell them it was nothing to worry about, not wanting anyone else to get involved in the mess he made.

 

Jeongin spends what feels like hours reading and re-reading the messages sent, flipping back and forth between both. He can’t think of the right thing to say. Should he just do what he always does and ignore it again? Should he apologize? What kind of lie could he come up with that would explain everything? That his dog died or something?

 

He may have lost his mind thinking about this so intensely, because it takes him a few minutes to remember he doesn’t even have a dog. Jeongin is pulled out from his thoughts with the sound of his mother calling his name and - oh, great, now he had someone else to deal with. He groans and throws his face into a pillow on his bed to muffle a scream. His mother calls out something else, but it’s hard to decipher what it was with his hearing compromised by the pillow. He can’t bring himself to work up the motivation to get up from his spot on the bed - if his mother needed him that badly, she could easily come to get him.

 

Moments later, he feels fingers tap at his back. 

 

Jeongin slowly raises his head from the pillow, as if all the energy had been drained from him. “Hmm?” he mumbles, “what is it?”

 

“Are you really sleeping in the middle of the day?” the person beside him responds - a familiar voice not at all similar to his mother’s. He quickly recognizes it as Seungmin’s after he gets over the initial shock. What was he doing here? It takes a moment for the realization to dawn upon him. The obvious answer hits him hard, crashing into him with everything he’s been dreading. Seungmin was, almost certainly, here to confront him about the incident at Hyunjin’s dorms the other day.

 

He lets out a grunt, annoyed at the concept of dealing with the consequences of his actions. “Just go away,” he groans in his last weak attempt to escape responsibility.

 

Seungmin laughs humorlessly, “No, you’re going to talk to me.” he pauses before adding a vague threat, “Or else.”

 

Jeongin can’t imagine any worse punishment than discussing what happened. “You can’t make me.”

 

There’s a sound of shifting on the bed, the weak and old frames beneath it squeaking as he senses a weight next to him. This is followed by said weight moving from beside him to now be on top of him as Seungmin lays his entire body weight on top of Jeongin.

 

He makes a noise of pain, struggling to get any clear words out with how the other’s weight nearly crushes him, “S- stop , I can’t breathe.”

 

Seungmin puts on more pressure, pushing him down more, “Not unless you’ll talk.”

 

As much as he doesn’t want to, he knows Seungmin is going to be incredibly stubborn on bothering him like this unless Jeongin does as he says. The only option was to comply. “F’ne,” he mumbled, barely coherent.

 

The weight on top of him is lifted and Jeongin gasps for breath. Once air fills his lungs again, he raises himself up to sit on his knees and turns his head to face Seungmin. “What’s your deal? ” he groans angrily. This was not his day.

 

Seungmin has this obnoxious smug look on his face - lips upturned slightly and eyebrows raised. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” he remarks as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Which, yeah, it kind of was - but there’s no way in hell Jeongin was going to admit that.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he scoffs in feigned ignorance, keeping his eye contact away from the other boy.

 

“Yes, you do.” Seungmin states firmly. “Stop playing dumb. I’m smart enough to see through that.”

 

Jeongin just sighs in exasperation in response. He hangs his head low and inhales a deep breath. This was really happening. He had no clue where to even begin. “What do you need to know?” he raises his gaze, daring to look back up at Seungmin again.

 

“I know what you said to Hyunjin, I know what he’s told me about everything that’s happened. And I know he’s being honest, he’s not like you, he-”

 

“Do you really have to insult me?” Jeongin complains. Seriously, that seems kind of uncalled for. He’s already in an uncomfortable enough situation as it is, calling him a liar would only add fuel to the fire.

 

Seungmin’s eyes go wide open and his eyebrows shoot right up, as if he might be losing his mind with how frustrated he’s become. “I was saying ,” he speaks slowly and deliberately, as if Jeongin was a confused little kid, “he’s really bad at lying, so I’d be able to tell for sure if he was.”

 

Jeongin blinked slowly. Well, now he definitely looks stupid. Perhaps he was the one who’d lost his mind after all. Because he immediately assumed the worst, he hadn’t even thought about the possibility that was what Seungmin was going to say. “Oh.”

 

Yeah. ” Seungmin looks a little less crazy, enough to make eye contact with Jeongin and not burst from anger. He sighs deeply and regains his composure. Something about the atmosphere shifts in a nearly tangible way. It became clear there was no escaping now, the air hanging heavy and Jeongin knows that this is serious now. 

 

“So, first of all, Hyunjin told me that you’ve been acting differently for a while. He says he started noticing that you’ve been acting a bit off around him ever since he came out to you. Now, I don’t know if that’s true -” he shrugged and made odd gestures with his hands to emphasize his point, “but if so, and if it really is because he came out - in my eyes, there’s only two possible options as to why you’d do that. Basically, I’m telling you that I’ll know if you’re bullshitting since only two explanations that make any sense.”

 

Jeongin gulps hard, anxiety raises its way up his body from the nausea twisting his stomach and pressure weighing on his all the way to his throat, invoking a suffocating sensation. It takes him a while to summon the bravery (and oxygen) to say anything. “Okay,” is all he can eventually manage. Suddenly, he can feel tears pricking at his eyes and daring to fall, though he’s not quite sure why. 

 

Couldn’t he just keep it together for once in his life? His emotions were always on the verge of overflowing at any moment, ready to burst at the smallest of things, and it was exhausting. That isn’t even taking into consideration more difficult situations like this one, which was a different matter entirely. Jeongin doesn’t understand why he can’t keep himself together.

“Jeongin?” Seungmin calls for him, breaking him from the zoned-out state his emotions got him stuck in. “You know I’ll always love you, right? You’re my friend.” He states with full seriousness, staring straight at Jeongin to ensure the statement had its full effect. “But, you’re acting in ways that are hurting Hyunjin, and I know you don’t want to do that. Whatever you say, anything can be better than this. We just want an explanation, and I know whatever it is it’s probably easier to tell me than Hyunjin because things are weird between you or whatever. So, yeah. Tell me or else I’ll harass you again.” 

 

Calling it harassment… it’s probably an attempt to lighten the mood and break the tension. Perhaps, if Seungmin was right about anything better than remaining silent, it could have worked. But Jeongin can’t shake his nerves enough to admit the truth. He’s kept everything in so long, terrified of anyone finding out this part of him to the point where he never could realistically imagine saying it out loud to someone. It’s true that there were times in his more self-accepting periods where he’d let himself fantasize about the idea of living a happy, honest life where he could be open with himself. Nevertheless, he never viewed it as anything more than a lofty dream even during his best times.

 

And, needless to say, this is far from one of his best times in life.

 

Even if he wanted to, keeping the secret inside him and having all this fear for what felt like forever had an effect. He’s kept it all under wraps these years with such desperation, he isn’t sure he has the physical capacity to actually say the words.

 

Jeongin knows he has to provide some form of explanation, though. He’s too tired to keep lying, getting found out, causing more trouble. Some form of the truth manages to sneak its way out in his moment of vulnerability. “I can’t say it. It’s… it’s too hard. I haven’t - I haven’t told anyone, I just can’t, I don’t know.”

 

As he wills himself to look at Seungmin again and forces himself not to cry, he notices the older boy has a certain expression on his face. It’s almost reminiscent of those cartoons where a character had a lightbulb turn on in their brains when they realized something. His mouth is open wide, his eyebrows raised as if he’s surprised with his own mind. The look soon shifts from that to a nearly pitying look of sympathy, eyes conveying sadness and understanding. “You like him, don’t you?” he says, more of a statement than an actual question.

 

The tears he’s been holding back are spilling out now without any warning and before he knows it, he finds himself wailing and sobbing hysterically with Seungmin’s arms wrapped around him in a hug. His emotions were held back, hidden, tied up and stored away where nobody could see it - he had almost forgotten all the pain he’s felt until someone opens it up and it’s all spilling out before him.

 

“It’s okay,” Seungmin whispers repeatedly, but Jeongin could barely hear it over all the pained noises he was making.

 

“I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself-” he keeps babbling endlessly, repeating the words on end until he feels satisfied, “I hate myself so much!”

 

And, Seungmin doesn’t say anything, just lets him cry and get everything out because there’s nothing else he could think to do to console him at the moment.

 

Eventually, Jeongin calms down some, his emotions numb and head aching from all the tears he’d let out. Seungmin lets him go gently, softer with him than he has ever been before. It’s a stark contrast to the boy who crushed the air from his lungs just a few hours ago.

 

“I still love you, you know. You’re still my friend,” he pauses, “if you thought I wouldn’t. And, like, uh- y’know-” Seungmin stutters helplessly as he tries to figure out what to say, a funny sight to Jeongin, who’s now calm enough to laugh at his friend’s struggles as per usual. Said friend rolls his eyes in annoyance before continuing his sentence, “Well, there’s also, like, Hyunjin - and, y’know, he’s not exactly homophobic per se, so you don’t have to worry about him hating you either.”

 

Was Seungmin seriously suggesting he tell Hyunjin this? That was not an option. Jeongin is still shocked he even let Seungmin on about this, there was no way he could tell anyone else after this. Especially not Hyunjin. There was no way he could do that. He doesn’t even want to have these feelings for him, he’s not going to risk everything they ever had over it.

 

Jeongin stays silent, too deep in his own thoughts to have responded in an acceptable time. He looks away to the ceiling, not comfortable with eye contact anymore. It hadn’t fully set until now  how he basically had just admitted his biggest secret to Seungmin and, now that he’s coming to realize that, everything feels weird and uncomfortable. Everything about it seemed surreal; akin to a dream rather than reality. Jeongin awkwardly rubs at his neck as he finds himself unable to find a suitable response to Seungmin’s suggestion. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to wait too long before the other gives up on him replying.

 

“Just think about it,” he sighs. “But you need to talk to him either way.”

 

And, as much as he hates it, Jeongin knows that Seungmin is right. Jeongin got himself into this mess and now it was his responsibility to fix it.

 


 

It takes Jeongin a few days to muster up the courage to meet Hyunjin again. In the meantime, he knows he cannot leave him in the dark, so he made sure to inform him that he wanted to talk again. Hyunjin seemed relatively understanding once he had apologized and explained that he just needed a bit of time before they met again. They both had decided to meet up on a specified date - a week from the unfortunate incident - because they agreed Jeongin would probably panic if there wasn’t a specific plan.

 

This gave Jeongin some time to think about how he wanted to approach the conversation. He had spent almost all his alone time considering what kind of explanation he’d provide. Coming outright with the truth was obviously out of the question - even though talking with Seungmin quelled his fears slightly, he’s still pretty sure there’s some physical force stopping him from saying those words directly. All he’s decided on is that he would try to be vague, but try to explain that there was only a certain level of affection he was comfortable with. He thinks he’ll mention something about stress making him more emotionally volatile, or something, but the details are fuzzy.

 

Before he knows it, the day has come and he still isn’t confident about meeting Hyunjin. Then again, he supposes he hasn’t felt confident around him in ages. Perhaps not since they were kids, even. He can feel shaky anticipation course throughout his body as he grows more and more restless with each passing second.

 

10:42… no new messages… 1 new notification… 10:43… did time always pass this slowly? Jeongin spends what seems like an eternity checking the same things over and over again. He can’t focus on anything more than this simple, mindless task because his mind is preoccupied with the upcoming event. If someone were to ask him, he couldn’t say whether he wanted to get it over with or if he wanted time to pass even slower so he could put it off longer. It all would be simple if he knew how to act like a normal, functioning human being - but that proved time and time again to be no more than a lofty dream.

 

But, as he receives a notification from Hyunjin asking him to come over, Jeongin knows it’s time to at least pretend he knows how to be a functioning person. Fake it ‘til you make it, as they say.

 

All his life he’s been conforming to all the anxieties within him and everything his family told him he should be - to tread his own waters without taking heed was entirely new to him. To say he was nervous would be an understatement. Even if he was not planning on telling the full truth, even taking the initiative to meet Hyunjin again was nerve-wracking beyond belief. His heart pounds and his hands shake as he makes his way to Hyunjin’s dorms.

 

He slowly brings his hand up, balling it into a fist with hesitation to knock on Hyunjin’s door. The wait seems excruciating even though it only takes a handful of seconds before he hears footsteps reach the entrance. Jeongin hears the click of the door unlocking followed by the squeaky turning of a door knob as Hyunjin slowly opens it.

 

Before him stood the very man he has been avoiding this week - looking in perhaps the worst shape he’s seen him in years. Hyunjin is slouched over slightly, dressed in an old stained t-shirt about two sizes too big for him and a pair of joggers. Not that Hyunjin always dressed very high-end (he didn’t) or that the two weren’t comfortable being around each other in loungewear (they were) but it was rare for his friend to be this unkempt in the middle of the day. His hair clearly has not been brushed or combed at all judging by the way it sticks out in multiple places, and Hyunjin loves his hair more than anyone else Jeongin knows, so that was an odd sight. Looking into his eyes, Jeongin notices the prominent dark circles under them signifying stress.

 

“Hey, hyung...” he greets, a little tentative and awkward. “Are you okay?”

 

After saying that out loud, he instantly regrets it. In hindsight, he wonders if it was too direct after this past week - or, perhaps even these past months. Their connection was slowly fading away over time as they drifted further apart from one another with the passage of time. Were they expected to share their struggles with one another? The thought of Hyunjin suffering in silence makes his heart sink. Worst of all, it’s highly likely it was his fault, too.

 

“I guess so.” Hyunjin rubs his hands over his face tiredly, making it clear what the true answer to Jeongin’s question was despite his contradictory response. He leaned against the doorframe for a second before gesturing to the room behind him. “Come in.”

 

Dread forms a gaping pit in his chest with every hesitant step he takes. The urge to escape is strong, as he’d experienced many times before, but each time he’d claim it to be worse than ever before. This was no different, of course. Thoughts buzzed through his mind in a flurry. Was Hyunjin going to be mad at him? Did Jeongin seriously hurt him this time? Would Jeongin screw up and accidentally admit to his feelings, like he did with Seungmin? Dramaticized scenarios flew through his head, taking no heed to consider what was or wasn’t realistic.

 

For all Jeongin knows, Seungmin told Hyunjin what he found out the other day and now Hyunjin will hate him. The scenario of Hyunjin saying he’d never love him in that way, that he’s disgusted at the very thought and doesn’t want anything to do with Jeongin ever again. Perhaps, Hyunjin found out about Jeongin’s feelings and that was why the former seemed so tired and unwell - discovering the truth was so disturbing it had been keeping him up at night. The mere thought of this sent shivers down his spine.

 

But, it was too late to go back now. They both sat themselves down on the foot of Hyunjin’s bed, as far from each other as possible on the twin mattress. “So…” the elder of the two begins, sighing deeply. “I should probably apologize, shouldn’t I?”

 

“Uh-” Jeongin is shocked, uncertain how to approach the question. Out of all the scenarios he had run through his brain, he’d spent so long catastrophizing that this possible situation wasn’t one he’d thought of in any detail. “I don’t know, should you?” he gulps, worried it came across as unintentionally confrontational.

 

He can feel Hyunjin’s gaze burning the side of his face but he keeps his eyes focused elsewhere. Making eye contact seemed too difficult for now.

 

“Well, I made you uncomfortable, didn’t I?” Hyunjin chuckles humorlessly after asking the question.

 

“I-” Jeongin pauses to think. Truthfully, in a way, he did cause him discomfort. But the nature of it was completely different. It wasn’t something Hyunjin had to apologize for - it was all his fault. Maybe if he were brave enough, he could tell Hyunjin the truth. But he’s never been brave, and he’s never been good with confrontation either, so there’s nothing he feels capable of doing. “I don’t know,” is all he’s able to force out.

 

“You don’t know?” Hyunjin raises his voice in contempt, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

Jeongin can’t think anymore - nothing is working out as it should and everything is uncertain. Nothing that he has experienced thus far in life could have prepared him for this. “I don’t know! Just leave me alone, okay?!” He shouts out without thinking, immediately regretting his tone. He can feel tears pricking at his eyes and turns his head away from the young man sitting beside him.

 

Hyunjin scoffs, “I guess I should’ve just done that in the first place. God…” his voice breaks, the anger withering away with each word. “I fuck everything up, I’m so fucking…” his words drift off, becoming quieter and quieter as he went on.

 

Guilt churns in Jeongin’s stomach, pulling and twisting at his insides. He honestly has no clue what’s happening - what’s going on with Hyunjin, what’s wrong, but something in him says he could have prevented it. The thought that Hyunjin’s pain was caused by him in any way was worse than anything he could have imagined. Not even having Hyunjin hate him would have hurt this deeply.

 

But what was going on in Hyunjin’s mind? Jeongin can’t imagine what made Hyunjin blame himself instead of him. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so why would he feel that way? The only one at fault was Jeongin himself for acting rudely. Then again, one person’s actions do affect other people…

 

Something clicks in Jeongin’s mind and he winces internally as everything comes together. For the first time during the conversation, he forces himself to face Hyunjin.

 

The taller boy appears smaller than he had appeared in years, curled up into himself with his face between his knees and his hands with a firm grasp on either side of his shins. It’s subtle, but Jeongin picks up on the way he’s shaking slightly. The sight is heartbreaking. Jeongin had seen Hyunjin upset many times before - crying over tragic movies or even a particularly cute animal video - but that wasn’t the same. When it came to the serious things in life, Hyunjin handled things much better than Jeongin. He was supposed to be the strong one of the two, seemingly always confident and certain of himself.

 

But Jeongin’s starting to realize maybe they didn’t know each other as well as they thought. All the secrets and the hiding had worn their bond down over time, and it’d be a lie to say they’re best friends anymore. The realization hits Jeongin like a strike to the chest. He forces himself to stay composed and not cry despite all the intense emotions coursing through him. That could be addressed at a later time. Hyunjin was more important right now.

 

Slowly, cautiously, he reaches out. Jeongin lays his arm around Hyunjin’s shaky shoulders, a bit tentative and awkward but soothing either way. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” he breathes out, voice barely audible as he doubts he could speak any louder without breaking. “I’m sorry,” he croaks out, all concentration focused on keeping himself from sobbing. Everything in the atmosphere feels fragile, as if anything out of place could send both of them crashing down and falling apart.

 

Hyunjin slowly lifts his head, looking up at Jeongin with red and puffy eyes as he keeps his chin resting on top of his knees. “Then why do you keep pushing me away? I miss you, Jeongin.” The young man is clearly struggling to speak as his voice breaks with every other word. “I just want to be friends again,” Hyunjin says softly.

 

It takes all of Jeongin’s willpower to not let down Hyunjin by doing what he always knew to do - escape. He cannot run away now. Not when he knows his actions have hurt Hyunjin. The knowledge of it hurts, and hearing it even more so. Instead of doing what he wants to do and hide, he does what he knows is right and says what he truly means.

 

“I do too,” he admits sadly, “There’s a lot going on right now. I can’t- I’m-” he sighs at his failed attempts to reconcile with Hyunjin. “I’m sorry, I can’t say why. But it’s not you.”

 

“Okay…” Hyunjin drawls, clearly thinking over everything Jeongin said. “Then why can’t you tell me?” there’s still underlying hurt in his words, but he’s much calmer and is able to keep his voice stable now.

 

“It’s- I- it’s…” Jeongin fails to come up with the right words, awkward and hesitant as he finds his tongue tied - much like the knots forming in his stomach. “It’s not your fault. I’ve been having - I’ve had a hard time… I don’t know.” He groans and falls back onto the bed, covering his eyes with his palms. “I wish I could just say it, but it’s like there’s something stopping me. I just can’t.”

 

He hears the cheap bed frame squeak a little as he feels weight shift on the bed. There’s a moment of silence before he hears Hyunjin speak softly. “Could you answer some yes or no questions then, maybe? Would that be easier?”

 

Jeongin nods slightly. “Sure.” It’s not like he’s got anything to lose, anyways.

 

“Do you mind it when I show affection? Like this...” there’s a slight pause before Jeongin feels fingers softly playing with the strands of his hair. Hyunjin pushes the hair out of his face and slowly runs his fingers through the strands. “Is this okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongin breathes out, placated by the touch after all the stress they’d gone through. He hadn’t realized how much he misses it, and can’t think to stop himself before his next words. “I like it.”

 

Hyunjin hums in response as Jeongin feels his heart skip a beat. His mind is screaming at him, berating him for saying such things. For the first time he could remember, he ignores it.

 

“Say, Innie…” Jeongin perks up at the pet name - he never knew something he once took for granted would mean so much to him now, after the past few weeks. The tone to Hyunjin’s voice is nervous, as if he’s barely keeping himself together. “Does it make you feel weird? That I’m gay? And I want to touch you?”

 

Honestly, Jeongin’s mind was too preoccupied with the emotions of it all to wander anywhere odd. Apparently Hyunjin was different, though, because he groans and slams his face into the blankets. Jeongin removes his hands from covering his eyes and glances over to see a very red Hyunjin. It’s kind of cute how flustered he is from his own words. Jeongin stifles a laugh at the sight.

 

“You know what I mean…” he whines and pushes himself up from the mattress back into a sitting position. “Just be honest. Did it weird you out when you found out?”

 

“Honestly? … I don’t know?” Jeongin sighs and thinks for a moment. Truthfully, he was pretty shocked when he found out. It was a bit odd adjusting to the idea - but obviously he didn’t have a problem with it. That would be pretty hypocritical of him. “I was surprised, yeah, but it’s never bothered me.”

 

Hyunjin stares at him with disbelief. “Are you sure?”

 

Jeongin nods and pulls himself to sit up and face Hyunjin. “Yeah,” he smiles. “You’re my best friend. I want us to be like we used to be again.” It’s odd how much courage he’s found all of a sudden, as if seeing Hyunjin hurting changed something in him.

 

There’s a drastic change in mood as Hyunjin’s face lights up and he tackles Jeongin, pulling him down into a tight cuddle. Jeongin giggles slightly, amused by the older’s sudden shift in behavior. “Is that all it took? I didn’t even explain anything...” he immediately regrets putting the attention back on that. It probably would have gone ignored if he hadn’t pointed it out. He can only hope that he’ll get away without needing to come up with an excuse. So much for his newfound bravery.

 

Hyunjin buries his face in Jeongin’s neck, holding onto him tighter. “That’s all I needed to know,” he breathes out, contented. “You can tell me later. So long as you’ll stay by my side, nothing else really matters to me..”

 

Jeongin can practically feel his heart melt and he can’t remember a time he’d felt this happy. Being with Hyunjin when he wasn’t trying to push him away was the best experience. It was like coming home to warmth and comfort. Jeongin and Hyunjin spend the rest of the day together, catching up with one another on the little things and enjoying one another’s company. There’s something prying at Jeongin that this couldn’t last forever, but he doesn’t dwell on it. It’d been ages since he’d truly let himself relax and be around Hyunjin. Nothing was better than that. He can’t bring himself to break the comfort he’s been longing for.

 

He’d worry about the rest another day.

Chapter Text

For a while, ignoring the issue works for them. Life goes back to normal. Jeongin feels more at peace than he has in years - probably since he first began high school, he thinks. It’s funny, how many times he’s had a crisis over the same thing. The story of his life was a repetitive, exhausting one. He hopes maybe the cycle was over now. Maybe he’s done with needing to worry about his life falling apart all over again. Sure, he’s never addressed the issue that’s caused him years of distress, but that doesn’t mean it’ll come back to haunt him. Did it?

 

Oh, who was he kidding? It’s not true, he simply refuses to believe it. There’s something in him that intuitively knows this wasn’t the right path to take. He’s simply on the good part of the cycle, and he’ll be back to depression and avoidance yet again if he didn’t actually change anything. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that he still was not open enough or true enough to himself in order to make a real, long-lasting difference.

 

That doesn’t mean he expects that to happen. The mere thought of it terrifies him to no end. He’s already done so much, and it still wasn’t enough. When would he be enough? When would his actions mean anything of significance? These strings of thoughts come one after another in his mind, twisting his original reflections into something entirely different. Sometimes, it seems as if his brain was designed to discipline himself for simply existing. Nothing he did was ever enough , so why even try ?

 

Jeongin’s self-hatred and depression are still plaguing him and it’s obvious - he isn’t truly okay. He thought he might be, had some hope flickering within him that perhaps Hyunjin’s friendship and Seungmin’s acceptance was all that he required to be content. But it wasn’t. As nice as it was, as much as it truly did help - it didn’t erase all the years he’d spent resenting and doubting himself. He may not be actively repressing his feelings or sabotaging himself, but the self-hate remained. This complicated even the happy things in life, because he can’t be in a good mood for long before feelings of crushing guilt come crawling back to keep him in its grasp.

 

In a word, Jeongin is stuck. Trapped in the same cycle, the same self-hatred, the same stage of life he’s been in for half a decade. Days turn into weeks turn into months - graduation has come and past, and he’s still left clueless with what he wants to do with his left. Having friends by his side helps, until he finds himself spiralling.

 

It wasn’t until the day after his graduation that his world comes crashing down once more. The reality hits him like a punch to the face: he’s wasted his life away overthinking and avoiding all opportunities that came his way. Now, he’s 18, a high-school graduate, and he has no clue what he wants to do with his life. He knows that if you asked him as a child, he would have said a singer, but that wasn’t something that he’s considered in years. Honestly, with everything that’s happened, it’s safe to conclude his confidence has become too fragile for that to be a viable career option now. He’s spent nearly all his life hating himself to have come out the other end no different than he was in the first place. If anything, he’s only a worse person than before.

 

And there he goes spiralling downward.

 

He’s been breaking down about this newfound realization for hours, spending all night switching between sobbing and trying to distract himself with calming videos that only served to bring him a fleeting sense of comfort. This cycle repeats on and on with seemingly no end - all he can think of is everything wrong with him. His mind jumps to the worst possible conclusions for every issue he can possibly imagine. It’s easy to conclude that Jeongin is having somewhat of a crisis.

 

Despite all his mood swings and emotional breakdowns he’s experienced, his current state was one he’d rarely encountered before. Typically, when he’s emotional, he panics and ruminates on all his faults on his own. He becomes too scared and too resentful towards himself to do anything to fix himself, because he concludes that it is for the best. But this time was different. 

 

As the hours slip past him, his emotions and need to sleep slowly wear down on him and lower his inhibitions. He keeps himself together for as long as he can, but it only lasts until the sun begins to rise again in the absurdly early hours of the morning. Jeongin barely registers what the time is - 4 something in the morning, he thinks - because his mind is in too much of a rush and now he’s acting without fully recognizing reality.

 

The sleep-deprived and emotion-wrecked state of mind he’s in decides texting Hyunjin was the best solution to his problems.

 

Jeongin

hi um sry to message u in the middle of the night but im cukng crying lol

sry thats guilt triypy isnt it ugh im so awful

all i can think of is how terrible i am and i know u say you love me but

you’d hate me if u knew who i really was thres so much you dont know aobut me

im the worst you shouldnt talk to me anymore 

ive already said too much if you ever find out whats wrong with me idk waht ill do

idk what todo with my life. wh ats wrong with me

 

After he sends the message, he immediately knows he’s going to regret it. Actually, he could feel the regret already forming in the back of his mind with every word he typed. There was no way he would have ever said even half of that if he was in his right mind. But it was too late now, and he’s too worn out to care at this point. He realizes Hyunjin isn’t like him and won’t be up before dawn, so he has enough rational thinking left within him to recognize that it’s best to try resting now. With his heart partly relieved after venting to Hyunjin on an impulse, he shuts off his phone and lays down. Though the thoughts racing in his head took a moment to fully quiet down, it’s not too long until he’s calm enough to drift off to sleep.

 

---

 

Upon awakening, Jeongin can feel his heart racing before his mind is able to catch up with him. He hasn’t fully realized the details yet, but he knows he must have made a horrible mistake the night before. Jeongin thinks his heart might beat out of his chest with how intensely it is pounding against his ribcage. A burning sensation spreads throughout him as his blood boils from the drastic elevation in heart rate. With shaky hands, he reaches out for his phone and checks to see if there were any new notifications.

 

He’s not sure whether to be relieved or terrified when he doesn’t see any new messages - just generic junk mail and social media notifications that he hadn’t bothered to turn off yet. With his somewhat hysterical state from last night, he couldn’t recall exactly what he had done that was so wrong. Jeongin knows he messaged Hyunjin, but what exactly he said escaped his mind and sent him further into a state of anxiety. His mind loved nothing more than jumping to the worst possible conclusions, and that’s exactly what was occurring right now. He’s terrified of his own self, of what he might have said, what he might have let on - he almost doesn’t want to find out.

 

But Jeongin needed to know to regain some level of sanity. He couldn’t sit idly by and wait to see what happened - his panicked state would not allow him to rest until he had answers.

 

Upon viewing the messages, Jeongin does recognize the reality was not as hellish as his imagination led him to believe. Acknowledging this didn’t stop him from deeply regretting the decisions from the day before. He realizes with frustration that he now had the responsibility of coming up with an excuse or explanation for his messages that emotional-crisis-Jeongin just had to send to his best friend and maybe love of his life. No big deal, really. It’s not as if they’d been having years of on-and-off connection and fights or anything. It’s not as if it’d only been a few months since Jeongin was sure that Hyunjin would never want to talk to him again.

 

Jeongin groans to himself, rolling over to bury his face in a pillow. Wow, he was an idiot, wasn’t he? His emotions always got the best of him. Always caused trouble. Always ruined what little sliver of hope he had of a decent life. It was exhausting for him and surely others to be subject to his moods. Even though he knows his friends and family do love him, he cannot help but think that this is only because of sustained connection. Nobody would genuinely love him for who he was, right? Anyone who thought that was delusional. Life would be better for him and everyone around him if he had never existed in the first place, surely.

 

He snaps himself out of his thoughts as he comes to the realization that he has yet to do anything about the messages he sent last night. Panicking did not do anything good for him, if the night before was an indicator. It was time for him to do something to fix his actions before everything blew out of proportion like it had countless times before. Jeongin wishes he was not so reckless when his emotions got the best of him, but he couldn’t help himself when all the stress and negativity he hid from the world kept building up until he could not contain it any longer. Was life destined to be this difficult for him?

 

Regardless, he at least should try to do his best not to make it any worse than it already was. Jeongin did the best he could with his irrational state and typed out a quick “sorry wrong person” excuse to Hyunjin. He’s not sure that his friend will buy it, but it’s the best he can think of.

 

He tries to distract himself, but it’s difficult when all he can think about is Hyunjin. Would he believe the excuse? Would he be mad? Would he ignore it? The anticipation was killing him, and he kept flipping back and forth to make sure he had not received any new messages - even though he knows it didn’t make sense. He’d get a push notification as soon as someone sent him a text, anyways, but he’s too restless not to check anyways.

 

It’s not until almost noon until he receives a response - not a surprise, really, since Hyunjin was always a deep sleeper.

 

Hyunjin-hyung

uh its no big deal

but who were u trying to send that to? is everything ok?

ill fight them if they hurt you >:(

 

Jeongin smiles slightly, amused at the last sentence. He’s pretty sure Hyunjin is just bluffing, because in reality he’d never do more than yell at someone when he’s mad. It’s still sweet, though, the idea of him protecting Jeongin. Maybe it’d be nicer if the person in question wasn’t Hyunjin himself. It’d be nice if life was simple for once.

 

Of course, it wasn’t, and he realizes he’s going to have to provide some sort of explanation for the person he meant to send the messages to. He had become better at lying over the years, but his cognitive abilities had been lowered by his lack of sleep and intensity of emotions - so he’s not exactly in the best position to deceive anyone.

 

Jeongin

its nothing, you dont know them

i was just being dramatic last night lol its no big deal

 

Hyunjin-hyung

:/

 

Jeongin

:/ ??

whats that for??

 

Hyunjin-hyung

why can’t you tell me?

you know you can trust me with anything, right? even if you think it’ll hurt our friendship

nothing could do that, i just want it to work out

was it seungmin or me??? Idk who else you’d hide from me. Unless its someone you dont know

 

For a second Jeongin considers taking the first option Hyunjin provided. It’s tempting to take the easy way out. But, then again, he’s not so sure that it would work out. He’s pretty sure if he chose Seungmin, he’d find out, and getting him involved in this drama would probably be his breaking point for what he’d be able to handle. It would probably result in Seungmin sharing Jeongin’s secret, giving up on waiting idly by for him to get himself together already. That wasn’t ideal, for many reasons. Hyunjin would find out and not want to be his friend anymore. Seungmin would resent him and probably not want to talk to him anymore either. There would not be any possible positive outcome whatsoever, Jeongin realizes. He bit his lip and winced as he prepared himself to tell the truth.

 

Jeongin

it was for you. i’m sorry.

but its not your fault

 

Hyunjin-hyung

why can’t you talk to me about it then?

i thought we were done lying to each other and hiding

Im sorry i just want you to talk to me, i want to know if i did something wrong

 

Jeongin

like i said, it’s not you

its all me, im a bad person

 

Hyunjin-hyung

no you’re not

you’re my favorite person. Please just

know that will always be that way

im here for you

 

If he was not emotionally drained from last night, he’d probably cry. But it’s almost as if there are no tears left in him - every last bit of intense feelings had been used up, and all that’s left is a sense of numbness covering up underlying pain. He’s not sure whether this was any better, because now his chest feels empty and his stomach is nauseous and he can’t do anything to relieve it. Everything in his system is frozen stuck, too shocked and tense to act.

 

Obviously, he cannot tell the truth. That wasn’t an option.

 

What could he do?

 

His mind draws a blank, and the rest of him follows suit. He finds himself zoning out as if he had been stuck in time, unable to respond at all. Even if he wanted to, Jeongin doubted he’d be able to do anything. He didn’t even realize he’d been holding his breath until his phone lit up with a new message.

 

Hyunjin-hyung

i guess thats hypocritical of me though isnt it

 

If he were to be honest, Jeongin had no idea what that was referring to. Curiosity burned inside him, begging him to find out what this meant. His anxieties were momentarily set aside, overtaken by the need for answers.

 

Jeongin

what are you talking about??

 

Hyunjin-hyung

Nothing

i mean

i cant say it right now

 

Jeongin

ok

sorry

 

Hyunjin-hyung

its fine i bugged you about your secret too

youll probably think im gross and never want to talk to me again

 

Jeongin

no i won’t???

 

Hyunjin-hyung

idk about that but i think keeping it to myself is like

messing our friendship up maybe

ill tell you in person… is it ok if i meet you tonight aftermy classes

so at least ill see you one more time before u decide you never want to be around me agafin

 

He hates that he’s finding humor in this time, but maybe because he needed something lighthearted, he can’t help but chuckle at the typo.

 

Jeongin

Agafin

bad timing to make fun of your typos sorry

its ok sure you can come over, but

i cant think of anything that would make me not want to be your friend

 

What he says is nothing but the truth. Jeongin honestly cannot think of a single thing Hyunjin would ever realistically say that would cost them their friendship. Obviously, if he committed mass murder, that might put it on the line - but the chances of that happening are nonexistant. Hyunjin, despite being dramatic and a bit ill-tempered, was also one of the most warm-hearted people Jeongin could imagine. What could he possibly be hiding? What could he possibly imagine would harm the friendship they have? Jeongin tries to think of realistic situations that could be the case, but he finds nothing that could potentially jeopardize what they had. It was all Jeongin at fault for the difficulties they had experienced over the years with his feelings constantly causing problems.

 

He sets the thought aside. That wasn’t important now, nor would it ever be truly relevant. He needed to remember that fact. The more pressing issue currently was Hyunjin - why was he so hesitant to tell him? What could he possibly be keeping a secret?

 

---

 

It’s only a few hours until Hyunjin’s classes were over, but the anticipation stretched the length of time to pass at an unbearably slow pace. Jeongin’s anxiety always caused this response - a sense of urgent restlessness that seemed to cause the world around him to slow down. The thoughts racing through his head at lightning speed only made matters worse. Honestly, he’s become irritated with himself for having these anxious traits. It’s almost funny how his unfavorable traits have caused him to become a burden to himself. Even he couldn’t stand being around himself.

 

So, why was Hyunjin so concerned about staying his friend? Honestly, if Jeongin were him, he’d have left a long time ago. It’s confusing how he’s stayed around this long, especially after everything that has occurred. Jeongin was nothing but trouble - a nuisance to anyone around him, his own self included. Yet Hyunjin was adamant on staying with him despite it all. What good could he have seen in Jeongin? He wasn’t kind to his friends, or particularly talented, so what kept them around? It was a mystery he’s not sure anyone knew the answers to.

 

Perhaps it was no more than out of pity that kept him around. That thought struck a chord with Jeongin, and registered as a rational thought in his brain. Maybe that was the purpose of the visit, to say he’d only stuck around in hopes something might change over time despite endless disappointments from Jeongin’s end. Of course that was it. How couldn’t he have realized this before? It seems so obvious now, even though there truly is not any evidence to support the theory.

 

Jeongin does not have time to realize that, however, as he’s brought out of his thoughts with a light knock on the door. Hyunjin is here.

 

His heart jumps before his mind is able to catch up, and he springs forward off his bed in surprise. The door is already turning before he’s able to respond, his anxiety keeping his feet solidly in place. He’s only partially aware of the awkward, spread-out stance he’d ended up jumping into when he got startled. Before he’s able to snap out of it, the door slowly opens. Light enters the room from outside and standing beside the door-frame is Hyunjin, looking more nervous than ever.

 

“Hey,” soft words from Hyunjin break the silence.

 

“Hey,” Jeongin says back, shifting into a more natural standing position.

 

Hyunjin slowly enters the room, as if any movement too quick could cause Jeongin to panic and hide. With the same level of caution, he shuts the door behind them and the room is engulfed in darkness. “Uh,” he starts, sounding unsure of what to say, “Have you been sitting in the dark all day?”

 

Jeongin had not even realized that fact until it was pointed out, but he hadn’t really bothered getting out of bed all day. Or yesterday, for that matter. So he’d really been sitting around in the darkness, on the same spot in his bed without leaving to do anything. With all the emotions he had pressing on his mind, he had no desire to engage in normal matters in life. “I guess so, yeah.”

 

“Are you…” Hyunjin drawls, and Jeongin can barely make out the way he rubs the back of his neck anxiously. “Are you okay? After what you said last night, and this… it worries me...”

 

“Hyung, I’m fine…” he denies, but he knows there isn’t any confidence present in his voice. He attempts to refuse more firmly, but the following words ended up being little more than a whisper, “Why do you care anyway?” Jeongin instantly regrets the question, hoping that it wasn’t loud enough to be heard. 

 

Unfortunately, he never was that lucky. “Why do I care ?!” Hyunjin’s voice is raised and his features are drawn together in clear frustration. Jeongin flinches internally at the sudden change in demeanor, but tries to keep himself to at least appear calm. Hyunjin takes a few steps towards him, shaking his fists that are kept to his sides.

 

Jeongin can feel fear rising up his throat, forcing him to withdraw however possible. He takes a few steps backwards until the backs of his legs hit the bed-frame, leading him to fall backwards onto the mattress. There’s nothing but terror in his eyes as he draws his knees inward and sits with his arms around his body as if to protect himself. He knows rationally that there is no real danger present, that Hyunjin would never hurt him, but he cannot help his instincts that scream the opposite at him. 

 

All his thoughts for years had been consumed by the possibility that everyone he loved would turn on him one day. He just couldn’t keep his stupid mouth shut, could he? That was why everything failed on him. All he needed was more self-control, to stop blurting out his honest thoughts recklessly. He doesn’t notice that he’s begun crying until he feels Hyunjin softly wipe the tears off his wet cheek.

 

His expression had changed drastically from mere moments before. All Jeongin could see in his eyes was a gentle concern, as if he had snapped out of his earlier state and immediately regretted the way he’d acted. “I’m sorry,” he takes a seat on the bed beside Jeongin and wraps his arms around him in a placating hug, rubbing circles into his back. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. It’s just… I…” he takes in a deep breath and slowly lets go, placing his hands on his lap and rubbing his legs nervously. His eyes are looking elsewhere, focused instead on the ceiling rather than Jeongin - a rare occurrence. Usually it was Jeongin that refused to make eye contact, but perhaps this day was not an ordinary one.

 

“Yeah?” the younger takes the responsibility to speak up and break the silence.

 

Hyunjin turns his head around to look at him, concern shown in his eyes. “I care about you. I know you’ve opened up to me a bit before, but… sometimes, it feels like when you’re upset, you get really upset. And it happens a lot. And you shut yourself off, and that worries me, Jeongin.”

 

“I- I-” Jeongin stutters as he struggles to find an adequate response. He had prepared himself for rejection, for hatred, resentment - he hadn’t prepared himself for this. It feels like he’s being pitied, and he’s not sure how to deal with that. “I’m sorry,” he apologizes, because it’s all he knows to do.

 

Hyunjin grabs hold of his hands and Jeongin can feel his heart nearly beat out of his chest at the action. The older slowly rubs his thumbs against his palms, comforting him. “Don’t be.”

 

He takes in a shaky breath, eyes now focusing on anywhere but Hyunjin. “Okay.”

 

Hyunjin’s grip tightens and Jeongin’s focus snaps back to the young man, “I just want to know if you’re okay. I want to be there for you. Could you let me do that for you?” he looks into Jeongin’s eyes intently, keeping his hold on the other’s hands as he asks.

 

So much of Jeongin wants to say yes, to fall into Hyunjin’s arms and be with him in every sense he could imagine. There was nothing he wanted more than that, but there’s too much holding him back. What was it Hyunjin was keeping a secret from him? Why couldn’t he trust Jeongin? He knows it doesn’t make sense for him to have these thoughts, when he’s been more private than anyone else in his life, but he can’t help it. After all the hiding he’s done, letting all his inhibitions free would not come that easily.

 

“I don’t know,” he shrugs, leaning back away from Hyunjin’s grasp and tugging his fingers away from the other’s. “How can I trust you with that if you don’t trust me?” it’s a rare, brave moment of Jeongin’s that seems to occur only once every blue moon. He cringes internally, as the words came out suddenly - almost against his will. But as much as he might like it, he couldn’t take it back, and now there was nothing left for him to do but wait and see what secret Hyunjin has been keeping at bay. He’s not sure if he’s more scared of where the prior conversation was going or if he’s more worried about where the new topic might lead them. Dread rises in him at the possibilities of what the secret may be.

 

The older shifts on the bed, setting his feet firmly on the ground with his back hunched over and his fingers tightly clasped together. “Right…” he looks downward, as though he’s speaking to the floor instead of Jeongin. “I, um…” his words trail off, and Jeongin’s not sure what he’s saying anymore.

 

“What?”

 

Hyunjin lifts his arm to rub the back of his neck nervously and takes in a shaky breath. “I like you,” he confesses, “Like, as not-a-friend. And, I know- I know that probably makes you uncomfortable, and you’re straight, and this probably ruins everything between us, but then you asked, and I don’t want you to think I don’t- I mean , I don’t want you to feel like you can’t trust me, and-” he rambles on awkwardly.

 

“It’s okay!” Jeongin stops him, raising his voice a bit from the tension that had built up. “Just- just give me a second…” he takes in a deep breath and attempts to process the information that was suddenly laid before him.

 

The words repeat on and on over in his head, but the pronunciation stays the same. Any way he interprets it, the message was clear. Hyunjin, as he put it, liked him as not-a-friend . In other words, he had feelings for Jeongin not unlike the ones Jeongin had for him. At least, that was what it sounded like. He could barely believe his ears. Everything felt a bit fuzzy and distant, as though it was all too good to be true so his entire system has convinced itself he must be dreaming.

 

No matter what way he looks at it, his mind can’t properly register the information. He draws his eyebrows together in confusion and looks back at Hyunjin, “You- you what ? You like me ?” everything about the situation was unbelievable to him. There’s no way he’d heard that right. This cannot be happening.

 

Hyunjin laughs humorlessly. “Uh, yeah?” he lifts his head to face Jeongin. “You know, it’d be nicer if you just said you’d never want to see me again. You don’t need to make me feel like a freak…” his words are harsh but there’s nothing but hurt in his voice, quiet and pained.

 

“I’m not! I just… how? Me? Really?” Jeongin honestly cannot comprehend how anyone - especially someone like Hyunjin - could ever have feelings for him. It’s especially shocking since he’d prepared himself for his friend telling him he secretly couldn’t stand him. This was about as far as it could get from that.

 

“Yeah, you...” Hyunjin affirms, straightening his back and taking in a deep breath, as though to prepare himself. “And, how? You’re cute, you’re sweet, you’re funny, every little thing about you makes me so happy to be with you. The better question is how could I not ? I could sit here and list off a thousand reasons why I fell for you, but you don’t want that, do you? You probably don’t even want to be around me now.” Hyunjin starts to get up and turns around to leave, ready to head out the door until Jeongin follows him to grab his arm and stop him.

 

Hyunjin turns his head around, eyebrows furrowed and mouth slightly open in confusion. “What is it?”

 

“Don’t go! I…” Jeongin bites his lip, and takes in a deep breath. He doesn’t have time to fully process his next words until they’re spilling out from his mouth without heed. “I feel the same way.”

 

“What? How ?” Hyunjin’s voice and disposition is almost a direct copy of Jeongin’s from earlier, the same reaction as when Hyunjin revealed his feelings to him. “Don’t pity me. It’s hard to believe that’s true when you keep pushing me away.”

 

Jeongin’s heart is daring to beat out of his chest. Everything about the situation is absolutely unbelievable. Nothing could have prepared him for this. Now Hyunjin is saying that he’s thought the same, because of the way Jeongin had treated him. The realization of how his actions must have affected him breaks his heart a little bit. He had never fully recognized the consequences of pushing Hyunjin away until now. Since he thought of himself as nothing more than a burden, it didn’t register as a big deal to him - but now, with this newfound information, that wasn’t true at all. Jeongin hurt him. 

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I thought you felt different than me and I didn’t know what to do… I thought you’d hate me.” This is more honest than he’s been in his entire life and it’s a struggle to remain fully present in what previously would have been an unfathomable reality. Tears prick at his eyes, but he blinks them back before they can fall. That wasn’t important right now - it settles in just how rude he’s acted, how much he’s hurt Hyunjin and he couldn’t believe he’d let himself do that to him. “I’m so sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing, I didn’t know, I- I thought it was for the best and… that was the secret I was talking about last night. That’s what I meant.”

 

Hyunjin blinks a few times, mouth agape. “Oh.”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongin shrugs awkwardly.

 

“So you…” the older points a finger at Jeongin and then himself, letting his words falter in favor of gesturing.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Oh. Wow.”

 

“Yeah,” he repeats again, uselessly.

 

“Are there any other words you’re able to say or is that it?”

 

Jeongin chuckles to himself, “Yeah,” he jokes terribly, chuckling a bit more loudly afterwards.

 

Hyunjin smiles too. “I could never hate you, you know. I still love you even after that.” He goes in and leans in to hug the other, tight and comforting.

 

Jeongin pulls apart for a moment to look up into the young man’s eyes, still in shock of what had been revealed. “Really?” he barely recognizes that, after all the emotions he’d gone through the past few minutes, he had shed a few tears.

 

Hyunjin lifts his hands and cradles his cheek, halting before he nearly brushes the tear away with his thumb. Instead, he leans in and softly kisses the spot on his cheek. “Really.” He says before leaning in and holding Jeongin in his arms again. The word came with a sense of finality - enough so that even Jeongin’s anxious mind can’t deny the truth behind it.

 

For once, he doesn’t resent himself for the way his heart flutters and his cheeks warm by being close to Hyunjin. His thoughts are flooded, not with self-hate and denial, but with a sense of gratitude for how lucky he is to be here. He can’t say all his problems had been washed away, but he has a sense of hope that reassures him that it’ll be worth it.