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Be With You (Always By Your Side)

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Wooseok let out a sharp and loud sigh as he slumped onto his chair. He was hoping that what the homeroom teacher had told him was just a passing dream. Or just an imagination. 



“Why did the teacher call you? Did you do anything wrong?” Soonyoung, Wooseok’s classmate who was sitting behind him had asked.



“Nothing much and I didn’t do anything wrong.” Wooseok replied lazily, still so baffled of the teacher’s order for him.



“Nuh uh. I’m not buying it. Judging on how furiously you flipping through your precious notebook right now, something more than nothing much is going on.” Soonyoung peeked from behind to make a guess.



“Fine. I’m only saying this just so when people wonder if I’m gone, you’ll know who to blame.”



“Tell me about it.” 



“Cho Seungyoun. That’s what’s going on.” 



“Seungyoun? Why? What did he do? And why does it involve you? You barely even said a word to him.” And suddenly Soonyoung gasped loudly, covering his mouth. “Oh my, Wooseok. Are you-”



“Stop whatever you’re thinking of. The teacher was only assigning me to be his tutor because of his grades. Out of all people.” Wooseok turned to face Soonyoung and slapped his hand off his mouth. Chuckling at the funny sight of the hamster like boy. “Not that I know what you were thinking of though.” 



“Oh. I was thinking maybe you were just under his radar to be his lackey or something. You know- those typical chaebol son thingy.” Soonyoung paused after a beat or two. “But no one can make you their lackey anyway. The snarky Wooseok is scarier than a tiger.”



“I’m not snarky and you’re overdramatic.” Wooseok replied. 



“I’m not. Because you’re the only one who can beat that smelly raccoon Lee Jihoon. And I love you for that.” 



“Say that you love me more than Wonwoo then I’ll show you how much more I can beat Jihoon.” Wooseok challenged the other boy who he knew had just started going out with Wonwoo. Wooseok knew of this fact because Soonyoung said he needed someone to share his happiness with and he was happy for them. It was not an easy thing to be done in this cruel world, especially after he saw Soonyoung’s little escape from Wonwoo weeks ago. 



“No can do. I love how you scored higher than Jihoon but,” Soonyoung stopped to look around and leaned in towards Wooseok to whisper “I can only love Wonwoo.” He grinned widely. 



“Whatever. As long as you love me.” Wooseok smiled at Soonyoung and turned to the front again and he was beyond surprised when he saw the boy that is soon to become his responsibility smiling brightly just a few inches away from his face. “What the-”



“Who? Who loves you?” Seungyoun asked with an overwhelming amount of excitement. “I wanna know too.” 



“Too close. Get away from me.” Wooseok raised his precious notebook to barricade himself from Seungyoun. “Why are you here? Go back to your seat.” He ordered the taller boy and glanced at his own seat mate who had just arrived and was about to pull his chair to settle down. 



“Stop!” Seungyoun yelled at the clueless boy. “This seat is mine from today. You take my seat over there.” He pointed with his lips towards the empty chair by the door while nonchalantly ordering the boy. 



“Who are you to tell him that?” Wooseok defended the poor classmate. He noticed how the whole class was watching the situation right now. “It’s alright. He was just joking. You can just sit here.” The shorter boy tried to stop his poor classmate from packing his stuff under the order of the insufferable Cho Seungyoun. 



“First. Don’t stop packing your stuff.” Seungyoun glared at the boy who seemed to be contemplating of whom to listen to. “Secondly, it was the teacher’s order. Remember when the teacher said you’re going to tutor me? I bet you do. And the tutoring starts today. And it starts from me switching places with him. So, let me ask you. Don’t you wanna switch seats with me and sit with your girlfriend over there?” Seungyoun bored a sharp gaze towards the now guilty looking classmate. 



“Girlfriend card. Lowest of the low.” Soonyoung who was watching the whole thing quietly left his remark. 



And of course, the poor boy, somewhat more than grateful, had continued packing his belongings and dashed to the said seat while Seungyoun, with an annoying smirk on his face slammed his backpack onto the table and settled down at his new place whistling some random tunes. He turned to look at Wooseok who was obviously still silently fuming at him. Seungyoun thought he saw steam coming out of Wooseok’s tiny ears. Hmm, cute. 



“Stop looking at me. You may be sitting here but I’m still going to ask the teacher if he actually said that and don’t annoy me.” Wooseok pointed his index finger to Seungyoun’s smiley face. What Seungyoun did next was probably the peak of his annoyance towards the boy. 



Seungyoun unexpectedly bit Wooseok’s index finger and that earned a loud yelp from Wooseok and an even louder screech from Soonyoung at the back who was still watching the two. Wooseok pulled his finger away from Seungyoun’s bite as fast as he could. 



“What the hell, Cho Seungyoun?” Wooseok howled. 



“Your finger looks inviting, couldn’t help it.” Seungyoun shrugged. “So. What are we starting our tutoring session with today?” He casually brushed off the look of displease on Wooseok’s face. “Geez. I brushed my teeth and I haven’t eaten anything so stop with that look of disgust, Kim Wooseok.” Seungyoun rolled his eyes and sighed. 



“That’s not the point here, weirdo.” Wooseok shot back as he furiously wiped his finger with wet wipes that Soonyoung had conveniently handed him. He lifted his face to fiercely glare at Seungyoun. “Maths and English. That’s what we’ll be covering today.” 



“Maths only please. I don’t like English.” Seungyoun tried to bargain. 



“I’m your tutor so you listen to me and-”



Wooseok’s nagging was cut off by the sound of the bell to mark the start of the second half of the day.



“We’ll talk more about this tutoring thing after school ends.” Wooseok reminded the taller boy and immediately diverted his focus towards the arrival of Mr. Hong in front of the classroom.



“Yes, your highness.” Seungyoun uttered with a smile brighter than the sun. Haa I’m loving this already.



***




“What’s with English?” Wooseok asked the taller boy next to him. Everyone had left for home leaving Wooseok and Seungyoun to discuss their tutoring matter. 



Wooseok had begged Soonyoung to stay with him but apparently helping Wonwoo to buy materials for the school festival was more important, but the friendly hamster like boy did not forget to leave Wooseok a reminder that went “don’t get too close to him. He’s got a reputation.” 



Yeah, right. Reputation and the school festival. What’s our class’ theme this year, though? Seungyoun’s voice snapped Wooseok out of his thoughts.



“Think I’m good with English. I lived abroad before.” Seungyoun shrugged. “Just Maths, History, Science and maybe PE?” He tee-heed at his last word. 



“Why would I help you with PE?” I don’t do sports myself. Ugh. 



“That was just a joke, okay? Don’t take me seriously, Wooseok.” The taller boy laughed at Wooseok’s uptightness. “Teach me Hanja instead. Couldn’t understand a thing.” 



Wooseok kept silent as he continued jotting down notes while interrogating Seungyoun since the last 30 minutes. A thought came to his mind suddenly. “It’s weird.” He started. 



“What is?” Seungyoun asked shortly, spinning his pen in between his middle finger and thumb, blankly staring at the equally blank blackboard.



You failing all of these subjects. I don’t think anyone was that bad in our class. You got zero for English but you said I don’t have to help you with it because you’ve lived abroad before.” Wooseok said lengthily, hand still writing some notes. 



“Umm. I was actually bad. All along. It’s just you who never paid attention to me.” Seungyoun rubbed the back of his neck. He glanced at the younger boy next to him. “I was bad. Really.” He reemphasized. 



“Really? Weird. I don’t remember hearing anyone failing last year.” Wooseok insisted, eyes now on the taller boy sitting next to him. “Whatever it is, just don’t fool around. I take my assignment to tutor you seriously albeit reluctantly. The teacher promised me that this will be included in my record and I’ll receive some merit points too.” He warned the boy with a stern look on his face. 



“Deal.” Seungyoun replied with a grin. “So, what are we going to learn today?”



“Hmm. You.” 



“What?” Seungyoun’s eyes widened and his pen dropped onto the floor at the answer. “Wha- what do you mean? Me? Learn about me? Wh- Why?” 



“Why are you stuttering?” Wooseok let out a breathy chuckle and covered his mouth with the back of his delicate hand as if holding back his laughter.



To that, Seungyoun’s heart skipped a beat. I made him smile. “I’m not stuttering. You’re the one who’s saying weird things.” 



“Me? When I said learning about you, it means I need to learn on which area you’re actually bad at. Like history, which part of the world’s existence that you missed out on. Maths. Can you multiply? Those things, okay? Tell me more of those.” Wooseok paused to stare at Seungyoun. He saw Seungyoun’s fidgeting and now looking everywhere but him. Weird. “What did you have in mind, anyway?” 



“No-nothing.” A pause from Seungyoun. “The Renaissance era and the Joseon dynasty. I don’t understand those.” He said out of nervousness as he picked up his pen.



“What?” Wooseok gave him a disbelieving look. “And you call yourself a Korean?” Wooseok pfft at the answer. “Well, I can’t deny your rights to learn, I guess.”



Seungyoun whispered a breathy “right” to Wooseok’s patronizing answer. 



Silence engulfed them both as Wooseok now shifted his attention to his notebook again. 



Seungyoun tried to hide his smile as he saw Wooseok drew a mind map with his name at the centre of the neatly drawn diagram. He continued trailing Wooseok’s hand as he wrote some more notes. 



“It seems like we can’t do any tutoring today. It’s better to just start tomorrow.” Wooseok broke the silence. 



“What? Why?” Seungyoun unknowingly yelled almost at the speed of light. A hint of disappointment was clear in his voice and was hoping that Wooseok did not notice it. “No. I mean, ahem, why?” He switched to monotone immediately as he noticed Wooseok was flinching. 



Wooseok blinked his eyes twice to the change of tone. “Like I said, I need to learn your weaknesses first. I’ll make some questions tonight and I’ll let you answer them tomorrow. And we’ll see what we can do later.” Wooseok replied convincingly with a faint smile on his face. “Plus, I need to ask Jihoon for some notes too.” 



“Ji-who?” Seungyoun’s ears perked up at the mention of another boy’s name. 



“Lee Jihoon from the other class. He has complete notes on most of the subjects since he went to the academy. For our reference.” 



“Oh. I see.” Seungyoun’s heart skipped another beat at the mention of ‘our’. 



“And now, I’m going back. Can’t believe I’m gonna be seeing sunsets from now on. Bet the streets are as dark as my soul right now.” He stopped for a while to stare out of the window. “Would it kill if they fix the streetlights?” Wooseok murmured as he stuffed his belongings into his backpack. 



The taller somehow manage to catch the murmuring. “I can walk you home.” Seungyoun offered. “I mean- you’re going home late because of me anyway so I thought I should at least do exactly that, right? Like a gentleman I am.” He winked at the shorter boy who was standing up now. 



“You disgust me.” Wooseok snarled. Talking about studying matter with Seungyoun was fine but when no studying matter was involved, the fun was gone. For some reasons, the taller boy was still annoying in his eyes. “Thanks but I can walk myself.” 



“Come on. We’re gonna spend more time together. That’s the least that I could do. You give a little to take a little as they said.” Seungyoun tried to sound as convincing as he could because why would he miss a chance to walk Wooseok home? No way I’m losing this chance of a lifetime.



Wooseok walked past the taller boy, slightly pushing his gigantic figure, completely missing the disappointed look on Seungyoun’s face. 



As he reached the door, a shiver ran down his spine at the thought of being chased by wild stray dogs in the middle of the dark streets near his house came to his mind. So he turned hesitantly to the sight of Seungyoun who was absentmindedly fiddling his backpack straps. Hm? Was his lips always that pouty?



“On second thought, maybe that little offer was a good offer after all?” Wooseok scratched his temple with his forefinger as he felt ashamed of throwing away his ego for some kind of protection from stray dogs. Geez, why do dogs hate me?



“I can walk you home?” Seungyoun shot his head up in a flash to Wooseok’s change of mind. He quickly made a small run towards the younger boy. “Now lead the way, your highness.” 



Wooseok could have sworn on his life that he saw a tail wagging from Seungyoun’s back. 



“Stop calling me that. We’re not that friendly to have nicknames.”



“Yet.” Seungyoun replied shortly and started to whistle as he walked behind the boy that he had been secretly having a crush on. 



***



Quiet Wooseok was normal to Seungyoun. The smaller boy was usually calm and composed and only talked when needed. But fidgety and wary Wooseok was new to him. Their walk to Wooseok’s house was very quiet. The younger was obviously not into small talks and Seungyoun somewhat inconveniently had become clueless on how to small talk — which was so unusual of him, but the way Wooseok was timidly looking around and even stealing a glance at him from time to time at the back was odd to Seungyoun. He saw how Wooseok was tightly gripping onto his backpack straps and his steps were very small, as if something or someone was bothering him. That couldn’t be me. He said I can walk him home. Unless—?



So Seungyoun did what he thought was thoughtful — he tapped on the younger’s shoulder. 



To the tapping, Wooseok visibly flinched at Seungyoun’s sudden touch and shrieked, “Damn it! You scared the hell out of me, Cho Seungyoun.” He was obviously pale at this moment and was aggresively massaging his chest to slow down his heartbeat. 



Seungyoun on the other hand was even more surprised. Before he knew it, he was already holding Wooseok by the shoulders. “What’s wrong? Did I scare you? Wooseok, I’m sorry I- I didn’t mean to- I was just- You were-” He cannot seem to put his words together as guilt downpoured on him. “I’m sorry. Really. I mean it.” It’s just that, you look so worried. Worried of what, I don’t know and I wanna know.



Wooseok scanned the taller. He felt bad because it was obvious his yelling made Seungyoun stuttered. This is all the dogs’ fault. “It’s not you.” He said flatly to inform the taller boy. He felt the tight grip of Seungyoun’s hands on his shoulder but as guilt engulfed him, he could not say a word about it or even slap those hands away. “It’s the dogs, okay?” This is so embarrassing. 



“Dogs?” Puzzled by the short explanation, Seungyoun loosened his grip on the shorter’s shoulders, lowkey refusing to let go. “What do you mean dogs? Dogs like woof woof dogs?”



“Yes, Seungyoun. Woof woof dogs. There were a lot of them here. And they’re wild. Especially when it’s me who’s walking here.” Wooseok replied halfheartedly and as he felt the grip on his shoulders loosened, he did exactly what he had been waiting to do — slap those hands away. “Man, this is so embarrassing.” He rubbed his small face. 



“You mean to say you’re scared of the dogs?” Seungyoun probed as he was finally able to complete the puzzle but slightly disappointed as his hands were slapped away by Wooseok. 



“Yeah?” Wooseok’s answer came in the form of a question as he raised his face slightly. “They chased me before. Like real hard they chased me. Thank goodness Wonwoo was conveniently walking around to help me scare the dogs off.” Hm? Why am I telling him all these?



“Wonwoo?” Seungyoun asked, missing the whole point of Wooseok’s “tragic” story. 



“Yeah. Wonwoo.” 



“Who’s Wonwoo?”



“I was telling you about my tragically embarrassing story and ‘who’s Wonwoo?’ was what you got from it? Unbelievable.” The younger who had been standing slightly taller than Seungyoun because of the sloppy road turned forward to leave Seungyoun but his move was immediately halted as he felt a strong grip on his arm. 



“Sorry. Dogs. They were chasing you. I heard that.” Wonwoo? I’ve heard that name before, but where? As if a light bulb went off in his head, Seungyoun’s face was also suddenly lit up. “As a return of you, tutoring me, can I walk you home? Every day? Specifically, when it’s late and dark but even if it’s not late and dark, I still can walk you too.” He suggested in a breath. A dimple forming on his cheek showing how thrilled he was to the idea of being with Wooseok. “What do you say?”



Wooseok narrowed his eyes at the loud boy in front of him. He looks nice up close. Hm? What? Who nice? “Ahem. Let go of me first.” He snarled as he slapped the taller’s hand away for the second time. “We don’t know about our time arrangement yet. I’m planning to meet up in a broad daylight if I feel like having a weekend session.” Things I do for merit points and record. 



“Okay. Then let’s make it only when we finish late. Like today’s late. I mean, you looked so scared just now.” I was worried. “Wait- does that mean we might also meet even when it’s not after school ends?” Seungyoun’s eyes now looked like one of those shiny anime eyes.

 

Once again, Wooseok could have sworn on his beautiful face that he saw a tail wagging from Seungyoun’s back.

“Like I said earlier, we’ll see what we can do with your weaknesses first- are you even listening? Ugh, whatever.” He paused to take a breath. “Then, I’ll decide on how frequent the tutoring should be.” Wooseok sighed, and turned to start walking again. Funny how Wooseok did not feel scared anymore. For now. Maybe having a walking mate is actually not that bad and I can also stop third wheeling Soonyoung and Wonwoo. Joke’s on you wild dogs. He smirked internally as he believed that he had won the non-existent battle with the stray dogs. 



“So it means I have to be even more stupid to have more tutoring time with you.” Seungyoun mumbled to himself. A naughty, victorious grin formed on his face. If acting like a complete dumb is what I need to do, then that’s exactly what I’ll do.



“Huh? What did you say?” Wooseok asked without looking back at the boy who had also started walking again. 



“Nothing. Just some nice thoughts.” Seungyoun trailed the younger’s steps as he smiled lovingly, mentally printing Wooseok’s small figure into his mind.



“You’re a tough nut to crack.” 



“Hm? I don’t crack. Coconuts crack.” 

 

Seungyoun believed he had entered heaven alive when he heard Wooseok let out a chuckle, possibly because of his reply.