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점점 숨이 막히는 (I'm a swimming fool)

Chapter Text

“What do you think about becoming a lifeguard.”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because you’re a lifeguard and you always complain about how shitty your job is.”

 

“Oh c’mon,” Mingyu whined, like the giant 6-foot-tall baby he was. “I was joking. Mostly. I love my job!”

 

Wonwoo raised an eyebrow. “So you loved it when that toddler puked all over you after you rescued him?”

 

“I liked the part where I rescued him, yes,” Mingyu sniffed, “Every job has its ups and downs.”

 

“I’m sure,” Wonwoo said noncommittally.

 

They lapsed into silence for a while, and Wonwoo didn’t mind. It was a nice day out, perfect for lying in the hammock in Mingyu’s backyard, letting the sun slowly roast him alive. Mingyu, who didn’t need the sun as much (that bastard had a golden tan even in the winter), was sprawled out on a deck chair next to him, under an umbrella. Wonwoo closed his eyes, relishing the warmth on his skin, the quiet buzzing of cicadas, and the comfort of having his best friend near.

 

“Okay, but what are you going to do all summer then? It’s already July and you’ve done nothing but laze around.”

 

Wonwoo groaned, feeling the guilt at the back of his mind creep in, as it was wont to do when he felt unproductive.

 

The thing was, Wonwoo wasn’t a lazy person. He hated being unproductive. He was always looking for the next project to work on, the next book to start reading, the next article to write for the school newsletter. But ever since a severe bout of acute gastritis forced him to remain house-bound for a month before school ended, he had been stuck in a rut. Missing a month of school meant missing all his after school sports activities. He couldn’t even work out at home - halfway into his house confinement period and bored out his mind, he’d tried shooting hoops in his driveway and ended up puking his guts out. It was frustrating to see himself waste away (not that he was even muscular to begin with) and lose an alarming amount of weight and unable to do anything about it.

 

The worst part was, even after the month was over, his body still tired easily and he felt weak and out of breath doing simple chores. Walking up a flight of stairs left him panting and breathless. Standing up too quickly made his vision black out and swim. And he definitely couldn’t keep up with his friends during their weekly basketball matches. And although his friends were nothing but sweet and understanding about his condition, he couldn’t help but feel like he was dragging down his teammates, and he eventually stopped showing up at their games.

 

Mingyu knew this, of course. He was there for Wonwoo throughout the whole humiliating journey of having to excuse himself to puke in the toilet every so often when Mingyu came over to hang out and give Wonwoo his homework after school. Mingyu let him hold on to and scratch up his arm when the pain got really bad during the first week. Mingyu brought over soup that his mom had made when she found out the Jeon’s boy was so sick he had to be hospitalized, oh my, the poor thing . So yeah, Wonwoo was pretty sure Mingyu’s suggestion of becoming a lifeguard at the local club was in jest. Because really? Wonwoo could barely walk at a brisk pace, let alone carry someone to safety from the water.

 

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo said, “Look at me. I’m literally skin and bones right now. Do you honestly think I can swim a lap around the pool without collapsing, let alone rescue a flailing child?”

 

“You’re much better now than you were last month, hyung,” Mingyu said earnestly, and shit Mingyu only called him hyung when he got all genuine and sincere. “I used to have to wait for you to catch your breath at the end of every street, but now you only have to rest after we walk down two streets. You’re basically twice as fit.”

 

“I… don’t think that’s how that works,” Wonwoo said, grinning.

 

“That’s not the point,” Mingyu huffed, a hint of frustration creeping in his tone. He whipped off his cap and scrubbed his hands through his hair, leaning forward on the deck chair to look Wonwoo in the eye. Wonwoo blinked, taken aback by the sudden serious turn of conversation. “Hyung, no offense, but you’ve been wasting away since you got sick in May. Look at how thin your wrists are, I can wrap my hands around them and have room to spare. And I’ve seen you shirtless - I could literally count your ribs! I know you don’t come to our basketball matches anymore because you feel like you can’t keep up and that you’re dragging everyone down. But you’re the only one who thinks that! Everyone wants you to get better and we’re willing to go slow for you so you can get your strength back. But you’ll never be able to do that if you just sit around at home. And don’t lie to me about working out at home, I know you don’t do that because Bohyuk is always complaining that he doesn’t have anyone to shoot hoops with ever since you got sick.”

 

Wonwoo gaped, stunned by Mingyu’s sudden impassioned tirade. He didn’t know what to say; he, too, had been frustrated by his own body’s limits, but for Mingyu to verbalise the feelings he kept bottled up inside - he felt laid bare, and a little humiliated. He was reminded, jarringly, of how perceptive Mingyu was, even though he acted like a dumbass most of the time. But that’s what he liked about Mingyu - he often put on an oblivious facade to allow others a sense of privacy; people could be around Mingyu without feeling judged.

 

A beat of silence passed, and Mingyu’s face softened. “Hyung, I don’t want to- I’m not- nagging- you. I’m just… worried about how thin you’ve gotten lately and I want you to be healthy. Doing nothing all summer isn’t going to help you get better. I know you’re tired and exhausted all the time, but if it’s of any help to you, I don’t mind working out with you and getting you back into shape.”

 

Wonwoo felt heat creep into the back of his neck. Shit , why did Mingyu have to be so… so sweet and… nice all the time. Flustered, and wanting the conversation to steer back into bantering territory, he blurted out, “Aw, Mingyu, you do care!”

 

“You know I do, hyung,” Mingyu replied steadily, not missing a beat.

 

Wonwoo sighed. Mingyu really wasn’t letting this issue slide. “Mingyu. I really appreciate the worry. And you’re right. I should do something to get back in shape,” And here, Wonwoo hesitated. He really didn’t want to say something he’d regret later, but Mingyu seemed so earnest and sincere when he said he’d help him get back in shape, so…

 

“What do you have in mind?”

 

Mingyu’s face lit up like the sun, and Wonwoo immediately felt his heart sink.

 

“Okay. I know you thought I was joking about the lifeguard thing. But we really do have a vacancy available. And - hear me out, Jeon Wonwoo, don’t roll your eyes at me - I think it’s the perfect way for you to bounce back. We have to go through mandatory training for two weeks before starting our jobs, and they teach you everything from basic swimming technique to exercises that help us increase our stamina. We get free access to the gyms outside of shifts, and we even get two free meals every day that we work. AND I know you know how to swim and that you’re good at it, because we used to take swimming lessons together as kids, so you’re well-suited for the job.”

 

Wonwoo groaned. “You’re really not letting this lifeguard thing go, huh?”

 

“Nope,” Mingyu replied sunnily. “It’s perfect for you: it has mandatory training that’s tailored to help you specifically, gives you access to a well-equipped gym, and even has free food so you can finally put some meat on these bones,” he pinched Wonwoo’s side.

 

“Oi!” Wonwoo snapped, swatting at Mingyu’s hand. “Okay, okay, I guess I’ll apply. I probably won’t get it anyway, who would hire a scrawny kid like me?”

 

/////

 

“Congratulations, you’re hired!”

 

Wonwoo blinked. “Wait, really?”

 

“Yeap,” said Ms Song, the head lifeguard and swimming coach at the club.

 

"I literally just handed you my application.”

 

“Yeah well, we're short on options here. One of our lifeguards is leaving for college in September, and we haven't had anyone apply for the position since April," Ms Song squinted at him. "Hey, you’re Mingyu’s friend, aren’t you? I remember seeing you around the club and at the swim meet last summer. You swam pretty well, for someone who signed up for fun.”

 

“I- er, yeah thanks. I didn’t sign up, Mingyu thought it would be funny to put my name down,” Wonwoo mumbled, face heating up.

 

“And yet, you placed 5th. That’s pretty impressive,” she remarked, raising an eyebrow. “I just need to know if you have any health conditions, like a weak heart or asthma.”

 

“I don’t, but I was recently hospitalized for acute gastritis and had to be taken out of school for a month. But the doctors say I’m in the clear now,” Wonwoo said, eyes on the floor. “I’m uh - still pretty weak, but I’m willing to train and work hard to be fit for the job.”

 

Ms Song grinned and said, “That's good enough for me! You won’t be alone the first two weeks on the job anyway, we always pair up junior lifeguards with the seniors so they can learn from them. With training and the probationary period, you’ll have plenty of time to get into shape.”

 

“Oh, I see. Thank you, Ms Song. I’ll do my best to be a good lifeguard.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she replied, already turning back to the paperwork on her desk.

 

Wonwoo turned to leave, a relieved smile on his face, but a question struck him, “Ms Song, you said you’d pair up senior and junior lifeguards… who will you be pairing me with?”

 

/////

 

“You have got to be kidding me.”

 

“Hup hup, junior lifeguard! Pick up the pace, there’s no time to waste! You’re already…” Mingyu checked his fitbit with a flourish, “...two minutes late for training! Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

 

“Yeah, sod off," Wonwoo muttered, flipping the bird at him. "Also, you look like a douche."

 

“Excuse me? Is that how you talk to your senior lifeguard?” Mingyu boomed, adjusting his godawful Oakley sunglasses. His hair was slicked back and glistening from a dive in the pool, and he was wearing a thin white t-shirt with the word "LIFEGUARD" stretched across his chest. A silver whistle dangled from his teeth, as if Mingyu needed a whistle to call attention to himself when he was the loudest person Wonwoo knew. And, as if all that weren't enough, he had on bright red board shorts and yellow crocs.

 

Wonwoo gritted his teeth and refused to reply. He could hear Soonyoung’s hoots of laughter behind him.

 

It was his first day of training, and Soonyoung, who also worked at the club, but as a yoga and dance instructor, decided to “show his support” by turning up at the pool during his break. But now Wonwoo realized what Soonyoung really meant by that was “I’m going to watch Mingyu order you around and do drills and I’m going film it on my phone to show all our friends.”

 

“I can’t believe I thought you cared,” Wonwoo deadpanned as he followed Mingyu’s stretches.

 

“Aw, Wonwoo, I can care and have a bit of fun too,” Mingyu cooed, “Besides, would you really rather have someone else walk you through the job?”

 

Wonwoo pursed his lips and exhaled noisily. He did miss seeing Mingyu every day since his confinement period, when Mingyu was only allowed to visit sporadically (aka when Wonwoo didn’t constantly feel like puking), and he and Mingyu couldn’t hang very often ever since Mingyu started working during the summer. “Yeah,” Wonwoo said grudgingly, a small smile tugging on his lips. “You’re fine.”

 

Fine? Just fine? Wow, Jeon Wonwoo,” Mingyu scoffed, shoving Wonwoo into the pool.

 

Sbbtttttttplttt - you little bitch!”

Chapter Text

Hoshimoshi: video attached

 

俊辉: is that

 

俊辉: Jeon Wonwoo

 

俊辉: actually getting off his ass and working out??

 

1004: omgggggg and hes smiling???? icb u look like ur having fun???

 

BOO: our boy is getting better every day :’)

 

min9yu: as his coach, i just wanna say hes making so much progress

 

wonu: mingyu shut up, you’re not my coach

 

wonu: @BOO i’m not “your boy”

 

min9yu: idk man… i drew up ur workout plan, u hv to report to me after every session, i make sure ur meals are balanced… sounds like a coach to me

 

wooHOOji: sounds like a mom to me

 

wonu: he def nags like one

 

俊辉: lmaoooo tru

 

min9yu: :c

 

/////

 

“Man, I am beat ,” Wonwoo groaned as he pulled himself out of the water.

 

“Good workout today,” Mingyu said, clapping him on the shoulder. “You’ve cut your time by 7 seconds since you first started.”

 

Wonwoo grunted, collapsing on a deck chair by the pool. “Great, now can you shut up for 7 seconds, don’t talk to me.”

 

Mingyu snorted, but let Wonwoo get his breath back. His lungs burned, and he was practically wheezing. He closed his eyes, reminding himself that he was doing this to get his health back on track. Loathe as he was to admit it, he could feel himself growing stronger every day. He no longer felt out of breath climbing up flights of stairs, could shoot hoops without wanting to throw up, and tired less easily. His mother had even commented on how much he was putting away at dinner, which was a first, because even before he was ill, he'd been a picky eater. Do it for the abs, he told himself. He immediately felt re-energized.

 

“Okay, I’m ready to hit the showers now.”

 

“Let’s go, then.”

 

Wonwoo took his time in the shower, partly because his arms and legs felt like jelly, but mainly because he knew Mingyu would take forever. Even as he stepped out of the shower, he knew was in for a wait - Mingyu was only halfway through the first chorus of “Man in the Mirror”, which he usually sang when he was conditioning his hair. Huffing a small laugh to himself, Wonwoo wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed another to scrub his hair dry. He stumbled out of the shower rooms and nearly collided into a bare chest.

 

“Sorry,” Wonwoo mumbled, trying not to make eye contact.

 

“It’s fine. Hey, you’re Wonwoo, right? Mingyu’s friend?”

 

Oh man, was this guy really going to make small talk in the locker room? While the both of them were shirtless?

 

“Yeah, that’s me,” Wonwoo muttered.

 

“Cool, I’m Seungcheol! But you can just call me Cheol. I’m the lifeguard you’re replacing.”

 

“Ah,” Wonwoo said, finally looking up at the guy and shaking the hand offered to him. And, wow . Seungcheol was handsome. He had large, pretty eyes that crinkled a little when he smiled, and shit , that jawline looked like it could cut glass. Wonwoo glanced away quickly, feeling his face heat up, but his gaze landed on the guy’s biceps and wow, okay, Wonwoo really couldn’t believe that he was replacing this guy, because he felt like Ant-Man next to the Hulk.

 

“Uh,” Seungcheol said, trying to pull his hand away.

 

“Oh, sorry!” Wonwoo mumbled, horrified. Did he really just hold this guy’s hand for way too long while he ogled him? Yikes, way to go, you creep.

 

There was an awkward pause, then Seungcheol spoke up, “I’m going for lunch at the cafeteria  after my shower, do you want to come with? Are you here with Mingyu?”

 

“Yeah sure, I wouldn’t mind,” Wonwoo replied, relieved that Seungcheol didn’t seem to think he was a creep. “And yeah, I’m waiting for Mingyu, he’s still in the showers.”

 

Seungcheol snorted. “I guess that means we’ll be waiting a while, then.

 

Wonwoo couldn’t help but grin wryly. “Yeah, you know how Princess Mingyu has to condition his hair.”

 

“Don’t I know it, I had to train the guy last year. Hey, wait for us here, okay? I’ll be right back.”

 

Wonwoo nodded dumbly, and when Seungcheol disappeared from sight, Wonwoo sagged down on the bench, heart racing and face flushing. Sure, Wonwoo had known he was bi for a while, but he hadn’t really had a crush on a guy since middle school. (And if that guy was Mingyu when he had first hit puberty, no one had to know.) Wonwoo pressed his cold fingers to his cheeks, huffing a little to try to get the flush the recede. Calm down, he told himself. Don’t make a fool out of yourself in front of potential new friends. Keep cool. Keep cool.

 

When he finally felt like he could look Seungcheol in the eye without combusting, he got up, changed into his dry clothes, and packed up his belongings. He was all ready to go by the time Seungcheol trooped out of the shower, laughing at something Mingyu said.

 

“So she turned to Soonyoung and said, ‘Hey, baby, here’s my number if you wanna hit me up. My kids come home from school at 3 every day, so call me anytime before then.’” By the end of the sentence, Mingyu was laughing so hard he could barely get his next words out, “And then she winked at him! I swear, I’ve never seen Soonyoung look so horrified before!”

 

Seungcheol threw his head back, almost crying with laughter. “Fuck, oh my god, you’re killing me, Mingyu.”

 

Wonwoo snorted, having heard the story first-hand from Soonyoung the day before. He couldn’t help but watch Seungcheol wheeze as he struggled to pull on his shirt. Ugh, it was kinda unfair how attractive he looked even when he sounded like he was dying of an asthma attack.

 

“I was telling Mingyu how he should be teaching dance with Soonyoung. Then maybe he’d get a little more action than kids throwing up all over him,” Wonwoo piped up, smirking at Mingyu.

 

“Ugh, no thank you,” Mingyu replied, making a face. “MILFs aren’t really my type.”

 

“And kids are?” Seungcheol jibed.

 

“Oh my god, shut up, Cheol. Maybe you should teach dance with Soonyoung. Don’t you like the noona-types?”

 

“Just because I dated one noona last summer…” Seungcheol groaned, rolling his eyes. “I’ll have you know I have great taste in partners, men and women.”

 

Wonwoo’s brain stalled. He could hear the distant sound of an angels’ choir. So much for keeping his cool around Seungcheol. He was going to act like an absolute idiot around him, now that he knew he stood a chance. Thankfully, before Wonwoo could say anything stupid, like maybe “Would your taste include skinny pale boys with round glasses?”, Mingyu said, “Oh? I didn’t know you were bi, Cheol.”

 

Seungcheol’s shoulders tensed, and he looked away, pretending to pack his bags. “Yeah, I am. That's not going to be a problem, is it?”

 

“Not at all,” Mingyu said hastily. “I’mtotallycoolwithit - er, my best friend's bi,” he said, almost reflexively. Then his eyes widened, darting to Wonwoo, hand coming up to cover his mouth. “Sorry, Won, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”

 

Wonwoo shrugged, “It’s fine, it’s not like I’m closeted anyway.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Seungcheol looking at him with interest. He felt heat creep up his neck. He coughed, trying to change the subject, “Hey, you guys done packing up yet? I’m ready to eat.”

 

Mingyu mouthed a silent “Thanks” behind Seungcheol’s back while they headed out the locker room, to which Wonwoo simply mouthed back, “Dumbass.”

 

/////

 

Their arrival at the cafeteria was heralded by a loud, “HEY GUYS, OVER HERE!”

 

Soonyoung waved cheerily at them from a table with two other occupants. Wonwoo cringed internally as heads turned towards the commotion.

 

“Hey, Soon,” he greeted, plopping himself next to him. Mingyu and Seungcheol followed suit, and various greetings were exchanged. He craned his neck to look at one of Soonyoung’s companions, a teen with Caucasion features and a white t-shirt declaring him a LIFEGUARD. “Hey, Vernon, right? I didn’t know you were a lifeguard, too.”

 

“Yeah, that’s me,” Vernon replied, grinning.

 

“You guys know each other?” Soonyoung asked.

 

“Yeah, Wonwoo tutored me in math last year,” Vernon said. Then he turned towards Wonwoo suddenly, grasping his arm, “I forgot to tell you, but I aced my math exam! I got an A minus!”

 

“Oh wow, congratulations! I knew you could do it,” Wonwoo exclaimed.

 

“It’s all thanks to you, hyung. I wanted to tell you as soon as I heard but you weren’t in school so I had to ask Mingyu where you were and he said you were dying in the hospital, so I was really worried there for a sec,” Vernon said in a rush, suddenly looking concerned. “You weren’t actually dying, were you?”

 

“Who was dying?” Soonyoung’s other companion interjected eagerly. “I’m Seokmin, by the way. I’m one of the waitstaff. Hi, Wonwoo, right? Were you the one dying?”

 

Made speechless by Vernon’s tirade and Seokmin’s sudden introduction, Wonwoo stuttered, “Uh - what - Mingyu told you I was dying?”

 

“I was worried, okay,” Mingyu said peevishly. “It was the day after you were admitted to the hospital and I may or may not have panicked and thought you were dying.”

 

Seungcheol snorted, “Someone has been watching too many soap operas.”

 

“You weren’t there,” Mingyu whined, “There was an ambulance and everything.”

 

Wonwoo grimaced, and while he’d eventually make fun of Mingyu for blowing things out of proportion, he really couldn’t blame Mingyu for panicking. After all, Mingyu had witnessed the whole mess that led to the hospital: from Wonwoo throwing up blood in the sink to crying in pain and clutching Mingyu’s arm, begging for him to make the pain stop, he’d do anything to make the pain stop

 

A sudden nudge pulled him out of his reverie. He glanced up at Mingyu dazedly, who mouthed a subtle “You okay?”, brows furrowed in worry. Wonwoo nodded, turning back to the conversation, where thankfully no one had noticed when he had checked out of reality.

 

“Bullshit, Grey’s Anatomy is clearly the superior medical show,” Soonyoung declared.

 

“Just because it’s the longest-running doesn’t mean it’s superior,” Seungcheol snorted. “What about you, Seokmin? Which medical show is your favourite?”

 

“I don’t really watch medical shows,” Seokmin admitted. “I liked Glee, though.”

 

His statement was immediately met with jeers.

 

“I’m sorry, you can’t sit with us now that I know you watch Glee,” Mingyu declared, shoving Seokmin lightly.

 

“Oh that’s big coming from you, Kim Mingyu, you watch Keeping up with the Kardashians,” Seokmin goaded.

 

“I- Wh- The later seasons are really good, okay!” Mingyu sputtered indignantly. “And I only started watching them because Wonwoo did!”

 

“Oh thanks for throwing me under the bus, Mingyu. Very classy.”

 

“No!” Soonyoung shouted, horrified. “Wonwoo watches the Kardashians?”

 

“To be fair,” Seungcheol broke in, “the last few seasons have been really entertaining.”

 

“No!” Soonyoung shouted again, even more horrified. “You too, Cheol?”

 

Wonwoo smiled widely at Seungcheol, “My knight in shining armour!”

 

And Seungcheol. 

 

Winked.

 

At him.

 

Wonwoo’s heart stuttered in his chest, and he felt as breathless as he had been after his workout at the pool earlier. He could feel his ears slowly flushing, and he quickly glanced away and ducked his head, pretending to eat his food when really he was trying to hide how flustered Seungcheol made him. Wonwoo peeked at Seungcheol from under his lashes and he could see a small smirk playing at his lips, as though he knew the effect he had on Wonwoo.

 

Oh god, this was so embarrassing. Wonwoo tried to refocus on the conversation, but he caught Mingyu’s eye. For a moment, he thought Mingyu looked like he was grimacing, but his expression quickly curled into a small but knowing smirk. He glanced at Seungcheol and back at him, raising his eyebrows suggestively. Wonwoo rolled his eyes, trying to dismiss Mingyu’s childish attempt at teasing, but he could still feel his ears burning.

 

/////

 

“So your birthday is coming up soon,” Mingyu said casually.

 

They were lounging on Wonwoo’s bed, having had dinner and Mingyu claiming that he was too full to walk home.

 

“Yeap,” Wonwoo replied absentmindedly.

 

“I was wondering if you’d like to have a party?”

 

“You mean you were wondering if you could use my birthday as an excuse to throw a party.”

 

“No!” Mingyu pouted. “It’s just that it’s been a while since we got the whole gang together, what with most of us having summer jobs, and you missing the end-of-school parties this year.”

 

Wonwoo suppressed a smile. Mingyu was so predictable. It was actually surprising that he had held out this long into the summer before trying to organize a social event. While Wonwoo wasn’t really the type the enjoy crowds and large gatherings, Mingyu was a social butterfly. He was easily the most popular and well-known guy in their high school, and yes, while some of it was because of his good looks, his warm, friendly and outgoing personality didn’t hurt either.

 

Sometimes, when Wonwoo felt especially insecure, he wondered why Mingyu remained friends with him when he could have his pick of interesting, entertaining best friends. But Wonwoo rarely ever felt like that, because Mingyu was always so appreciative and affectionate to him. And Wonwoo, despite being a little emotionally stunted at times, always tried his best to be as appreciative and affectionate to Mingyu.

 

Which was why he decided to stop teasing Mingyu and said, “I was thinking of having a barbecue in the backyard. I’ve already asked my parents for permission, and they’ve okayed it.”

 

Mingyu whooped, punching the air. “Sick! I love your grill! Can’t wait to use it.”

 

Wonwoo snorted, “Can’t believe you’re more excited for the grill than my birthday.”

 

“I am excited for your birthday!” Mingyu exclaimed. “I’m also excited to use your grill on your birthday!”

 

“Disgusting, I need a new best friend.”

 

“Who, Seungcheol?” Mingyu asked mockingly. “Don’t think I didn’t see you guys flirting at lunch today.”

 

“Shut up,” Wonwoo groaned, shoving his face into his pillow. He had known Mingyu was going to bring this up.

 

“Hey,” Mingyu said, gently nudging his shoulder. “For what it’s worth, Cheol’s a really nice guy. He’s really kind to all of us dongsaengs on the lifeguard team. And he’s really friendly, too. He knows almost everyone who works at the club, and even the regular visitors. He’s funny, and the kids at the pool love him.”

 

Wonwoo wrinkled his nose. “Sounds like you’re the one with the crush on him, not me.”

 

“AHA, so you have a crush on him.”

 

“I wasn’t trying to deny it!”

 

“But you were acting all shy about it!”

 

“Because it’s so embarrassing!” Wonwoo half-wailed.

 

Mingyu snorted. “Okay, that’s how you know you need to get back onto the playing field. There’s nothing embarrassing about liking someone!”

 

“But,” Wonwoo hesitated, “it’s the first time it’s a boy!”

 

Liar.

 

Wonwoo ignored the guilty voice in his head. He was perfectly entitled to keep his secret crush on Mingyu in middle school a secret, especially from Mingyu.

 

(And if he never really got over that crush no matter how hard he tried, well, that would remain a secret too.)

 

Mingyu rolled his eyes. “So?”

 

“Well, I mean, I’ve only dated girls and I don’t have any experience dating a guy. What if it’s different? What if Seungcheol is like, super experienced in dating guys and is turned off by my total lack of experience?”

 

Mingyu sighed. “Okay Wonwoo, buckle up because I’m going to drop some major truths on you,” he paused for dramatic effect, “Every relationship is different. Whether it’s straight or not. It’s going to be different every time. So maybe it’s a little more different in a same-sex relationship, I wouldn’t know. But I do know that every person you date is different, and you gotta just embrace the differences and dive right in, or you’re gonna be scared and miss out on your chance with them."

 

Wonwoo gaped at Mingyu. Where did this… this… Socrates-Plato-philosophy-wisdom-of-life shit come from? He could not believe the absolute gold nugget of advice that just came out of Mingyu’s mouth. Who was this guy and what had he done with Wonwoo’s best friend?

 

“I know,” Mingyu said graciously, “My wisdom can be a lot to handle sometimes. I’ll give you some time to let your dull Muggle brain digest it.”

 

...and his best friend the asshole was back.

 

“Okay you know what, thanks for coming over, Mingyu, great having you for dinner, but it looks like it’s starting to get dark, so why don’t you head home…” Wonwoo said flatly, shoving Mingyu towards his door.

 

“Hey, you can’t kick me out of here, I’m a guest , hey, stop pushing me! Auntie Jeon! Wonwoo’s trying to kick me out! Auntie Jeon!”

Chapter Text

wonu: you’re all invited to my birthday barbecue, 17 July, 6:30pm, my backyard

 

1004: that was the most lacklustre invitation i’ve ever received in my life

 

hoshimoshi: i’ll be there wonu!!!!

 

BOO: me too!!

 

俊辉: me too <3 thanks for the invite

 

wooHOOji: noted with thanks

 

min9yu: who says “noted with thanks” to a party invitation??

 

wooHOOji: i just did

 

wooHOOji: u hv a problem with that, beanpole boi?

 

min9yu: …

 

min9yu: no

 

wonu: so im guessing you’re not coming, jeonghan?

 

1004: i am!!!

 

1004: would it kill you to sound more excited about your own birthday

 

俊辉: whos gonna be there

 

wonu: ask mingyu

 

俊辉: its YOUR party??

 

wonu: is it?

 

min9yu: jeonghan, jun, jihoon, seungkwan, me, wonwoo, soonyoung, joshua, two of the guys on the lifeguard team, some other kids on the waitstaff team

 

俊辉: are these mingyu’s friends or wonwoo’s

 

min9yu: i resent what you’re implying

 

min9yu: and they’re OUR friends

 

1004: are they

 

wonu: dw, i approved all of them before mingyu invited them on my behalf

 

hoshimoshi: aww look at that, the minwon couple back at it again doing joint invitations

 

俊辉: <3 minwon4lyfe

 

min9yu: we’re going to jointly kick ur ass if u don’t shut up @hoshimoshi

 

hoshimoshi: minwon r so cute when they’re mad

 

1004: <3

 

min9yu: -_-

 

min9yu: btw can someone call joshua and make sure he knows about the party? Idk if he even reads the messages in this group

 

BOO: yea im seeing him tmr, i’ll let him know

 

/////

 

“Thanks for inviting us to your party, hyung,” said Chan cheerily as he plunked himself down on the seat next to Wonwoo, Seokmin and Minghao following suit.

 

Wonwoo grunted in reply, mouth full of chicken breast sandwich. Despite what his friends thought, Wonwoo was actually capable of making friends without Mingyu around. Mingyu worked afternoon shifts every other day, so he couldn’t always accompany Wonwoo for lunch after training him in the morning. Wonwoo ended up hanging around Soonyoung’s waitstaff friends at the cafeteria: Seokmin, a bubbly teen with a motormouth; Chan, a trainee who had just joined the waitstaff team; and Minghao, a quiet Chinese boy who was working part-time while on an exchange program. The three of them usually took breaks around the same time Wonwoo’s training ended, so they naturally ended up getting to know each other over lunch.

 

“It’s no problem,” Wonwoo finally mumbled after chewing and swallowing. “How was work today?”

 

“Awful,” Seokmin immediately jumped in. “Chan spilled some juice on the floor just outside the kitchen and I slipped and fell when I came out with the food.”

 

Wonwoo winced in sympathy.

 

“Luckily the food was just a basket of fries, but still.”

 

“And how was training?” Minghao asked, nudging Wonwoo, who grimaced when Minghao hit a sore muscle.

 

“I’m improving,” Wonwoo said vaguely. It was an understatement: Wonwoo had never felt so healthy in his life. He had gained well over ten pounds, and when he looked at himself in the mirror, it didn’t seem like he was looking at a skeleton anymore. His cheeks no longer looked sunken, and the circles under his eyes were receding, now that he slept well into the night, having tired out his body during the day. And while he definitely wasn’t as tanned as Mingyu, at least he didn’t look like a vampire with vitamin D deficiency anymore.

 

And it was all thanks to Mingyu, who goaded him into applying for the position in the first place, and who was patient enough to train him every day, even on days when he had to work. Sometimes Wonwoo wondered at how lucky he was to have a best friend like Mingyu.

 

/////

 

“Hey.”

 

Mingyu startled, looking down from his lifeguard post to see Wonwoo grinning up at him, two iced coffees in hand.

 

He grinned. “Hey. Is that for me?”

 

“Yeap,” Wonwoo replied, lifting the cups above his head. “Could you hold onto them for me? I’m gonna climb up and join you.”

 

Mingyu grabbed them and waited for Wonwoo to clamber up the ladder. Wonwoo squeezed into the booth. It was a tight fit, and if Wonwoo didn’t have years of practice of suppressing his crush on Mingyu, he would have blushed at how their bodies pressed against each other. As it was, this was practically second nature to them. And while Wonwoo did sometimes feel a pang of guilt for deriving a little pleasure at Mingyu’s touch, he comforted himself knowing that Mingyu loved being physically affectionate anyway.

 

“Thanks for the coffee,” Mingyu said.

 

“No problem.”

 

They gazed out at the pool in silence, people-watching while sipping on the cold drinks. It was a relatively busy day today; the sun was out, so plenty of kids from the neighbourhood were cooling off in the pool.

 

“Hey, Mingyu,” Wonwoo started.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I just wanted to say thanks.”

 

“What for?”

 

“For convincing me to sign up for the lifeguard program, for training me, for being patient with me and trying to get me healthy again.”

 

Mingyu shook his head, a small smile on his face. “It’s nothing, you don’t need to thank me for that. You did most of the work.”

 

“No, it’s not nothing. Not many people would sacrifice their time and energy for someone else like that, and I really want to let you know that I appreciate that you did that for me,” Wonwoo insisted.

 

Mingyu turned to Wonwoo, surprised. Wonwoo couldn’t blame him. He wasn’t one to pour out his emotions and say sappy things like that. But he felt that Mingyu needed to know how much his efforts were appreciated, and how much Wonwoo appreciated Mingyu, in general.

 

“Oh. Well, then, you’re welcome. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice, though. Spending time with my best friend is never any hardship,” Mingyu said, smiling, turning back to gaze out at the pool.

 

They were silent again for a while, then Mingyu suddenly spoke, “Do you know why I was so concerned about your health?”

 

“I… can’t say I do?”

 

“It’s because when you… collapsed,” he started hesitantly, “and I thought you were dying, I realised…” and here Mingyu’s mouth twisted, as though he was trying not to tear up, “I realised that I couldn’t lose you. And I never wanted to see you unhealthy or sick like that ever again. And even though I knew you were getting better over the summer, it still felt like you could get sick again anytime.”

 

Wonwoo winced at the memory of his collapse. While it was definitely painful and traumatic for him, he never thought of how it looked like to Mingyu, who must have felt in over his head, having dropped by Wonwoo’s place to hand him his homework only to have to call emergency services when he found Wonwoo curled up on the floor and crying with blood on his lips. If it had been the other way around, and Wonwoo had been the one to find Mingyu in the same position… Wonwoo shuddered, dismissing the disturbing thought immediately.

 

“I’m sorry,” Wonwoo mumbled, “I didn’t realise what an awful position you were in.”

 

“Don’t apologize!” Mingyu said immediately, “It wasn’t your fault at all. It was just a scary situation.”

 

Mingyu shot him a reassuring smile, but as he lifted the coffee to take a sip, Wonwoo saw his hand tremble. 

 

/////

 

“Happy birthday!”

 

“Thanks, Jun,” Wonwoo grinned, grabbing the box Jun held out for him. “I told you not to get me anything.”

 

“These are just some snacks I brought back from China last week,” Jun said, shrugging. “And I know you like your chilli, so I even got you a jar of that extra spicy paste I introduced you to last year.”

 

“Nice!” Wonwoo said eagerly. He had missed having spicy food, which was something he couldn’t eat while he was sick.

 

“How has my xiao yuan been?” Jun asked, wrapping an arm around Wonwoo’s shoulders as they walked through the house to the backyard.

 

“I’m healthier than ever,” Wonwoo replied, leaning into Jun. He had missed him so much. Jun had been busy with assignments at the end of the school year and couldn’t visit Wonwoo as often as he had liked, and when summer came, he flew back to China to visit his parents. While Wonwoo and Jun texted often, it still wasn’t the same as going out for spicy food together, or chilling at the PC cafe.

 

“How was your trip back home?”

 

“Good,” Jun hummed. “My parents took me to the countryside to visit my grandparents, and it was pretty nice to be away from the city for a while. Hey, what’s this I hear about you being a lifeguard?”

 

“Yeah, Mingyu convinced me to sign up for it. One of the lifeguards at the club is leaving soon, and I was the only one to apply, so,” Wonwoo shrugged.

 

The doorbell rang and Wonwoo sighed. They had made it all the way to the backyard, and now he’d have to go back to the front again. Thankfully, Jun was already greeting their other friends, so at least Wonwoo didn't feel like he was abandoning him.

 

“Coming!” he called, trudging back into the house.

 

It was Seungcheol at the door.

 

“Happy birthday!”

 

“Thanks! Come in, the party’s at the back,” Wonwoo said, stepping aside.

 

They chatted about work and the other lifeguards, and Seungcheol was in the midst of shit-talking one of the older lifeguards when he suddenly interrupted himself. “Oh my god, I almost forgot,” he said, patting his pockets and pulling out something. “I got you two tickets to the musical that’s coming to town next week. It’s the one about King Arthur…?”

 

Wonwoo gasped, “Xcalibur?”

 

“Yeah! That’s the one,” Seungcheol snapped his fingers, grinning. “I take it you’re interested in going?”

 

“Yeah, I was gonna get them myself,” Wonwoo replied.

 

“Well, good thing Mingyu told me about it before you did get them,” Seungcheol said, “And I was wondering if you’d like to go with me? As a date? No pressure, of course. If you don’t want to, both the tickets are yours and you can go with whoever you like.”

 

Wonwoo gaped for a moment, stunned. “Y-yeah, I’d love to go with you.”

 

“Perfect,” Seungcheol said, a handsome smile breaking over his face. Was that a dimple on his cheek? How perfect could one man be? “I’ll pick you up next Friday, 6:30?”

 

“Sure,” Wonwoo mumbled, dazed by his smile.

 

“Great! Here, keep the tickets,” Seungcheol folded the tickets into Wonwoo’s hand, and wandered off to greet Vernon, who had waved enthusiastically at him.

 

Wonwoo shook himself and slipped the tickets into his pocket. All his worrying over his crush on Seungcheol and the guy just asked him on a date like he was asking about the weather. Wonwoo had to admire the guy, he was smooth as fuck.

 

He made his way to Mingyu, who was manning the barbecue grill while wearing a pair of ski goggles.

 

“Hey,” Wonwoo called out over the noise of the meat sizzling.

 

“Hey,” Mingyu greeted with a smile. “Did Seungcheol ask you out?”

 

“Yeah, he did. Thanks for that, by the way.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mingyu said, feigning innocence.

 

“Don’t bullshit me, Seungcheol said you told him about the musical.”

 

“Well, he was asking about what to get you for your birthday and I just… nudged him in the right direction. Consider it my present to you.”

 

Wonwoo laughed, slapping Mingyu on his arm. “Alright.”

 

/////

 

Wonwoo looked so good in the glow of the sunset.

 

Mingyu huffed softly to himself. Wonwoo looked good all the time. Even when he rolled out of bed, face swollen and eyes merely slits, Mingyu still found him handsome. But that was probably because Mingyu was so gone on his best friend that even if Wonwoo shaved off all his hair and eyebrows, he’d probably still think he was the most beautiful person on earth.

 

He wondered if Wonwoo had ever thought of him the same way. He knew that Wonwoo had had a bit of a crush on him in middle school, when he had gotten tall and his features were unearthed from underneath the layers of baby fat on his face. It was obvious in the way Wonwoo had started to shy away from his physical overtures, the way he flushed when Mingyu complimented him. But Mingyu was kind enough to ignore all that, because he knew their relationship was built on years of friendship, and a mere one-sided, physical attraction was not going to change that. Sure enough, Wonwoo seemed to get over it quickly, and the occasional awkwardness he had felt in those few months faded. If he tried hard enough, he could even chalk up the awkwardness to both of them reaching puberty and growing into themselves as different people.

 

But he knew Wonwoo’s middle-school crush on him was not the same as the… complicated feelings he had for Wonwoo now. For one, Mingyu’s feelings didn’t end with his attraction to Wonwoo’s looks. They made Mingyu want to take Wonwoo out to nice dinners, then to the movies, and kiss him on his lips when Mingyu walked him home after their dates. Which was… absurd, to say the least, because they already did so many things together, including going to the movies and having dinner; heck, they even cuddled when they were holed up watching the Kardashians. What also made things complicated was, well… the fact that Mingyu had thought he was straight.

 

Surprisingly, Mingyu didn’t take long to make peace with the fact that he wasn’t as straight as he thought he was. It was probably because he’d always thought of sexuality as a fluid concept and never put much stock in labels. But how could he explain to others that he was mostly straight, with the only exception (so far) being Wonwoo? He couldn’t exactly tell his best friend that he wasn’t entirely straight either, because that would beg questions from Wonwoo like “so how did you know” to which Mingyu couldn’t possibly answer, “I realised I had feelings for you”, because holy shit, Mingyu was NOT going to come out AND confess at the same time. That took way too much courage that he didn’t have.

 

Then there was the problem of trying to explain how he even started having feelings for his best friend in the first place. “I saw you vomiting blood and crying in pain, so I panicked and thought you were dying, and that made me realise how precious you were to me” was probably the least romantic way to fall in love with a person.

 

So Mingyu sat on his feelings and waited for them to go away. Except they didn’t. And watching Seungcheol flirt with Wonwoo made things worse. He tried so hard not to show that he was jealous, because what right did he have to be? He had no claim on Wonwoo. He also felt a pang of guilt whenever his jealousy reared its head, and he eventually decided to help Seungcheol pick out his gift for Wonwoo as a way of compensating. Watching Seungcheol give his gift to Wonwoo was painful, and Mingyu’s future briefly flashed in front of his eyes: Wonwoo spending all his time with Seungcheol, growing apart from Mingyu, becoming a friend who Mingyu only caught up with once every few months. But Mingyu shook himself out of his insecurity: Wonwoo would never do that, they were way too close for that to happen. He hoped.

 

“Mmm, that meat looks good.”

 

Mingyu looked up from where he was staring blankly at the grill, lost in thought. Wonwoo was peering over his shoulder, hand reaching to snatch the tongs out of Mingyu’s hand.

 

“Oi! They’re not done yet, can you chill,” Mingyu said, moving the tongs out of Wonwoo’s reach. “I’ll let you know when they are.”

 

“But I’m hungry,” Wonwoo pouted. Ugh, why did he have to be so cute.

 

“Okay, okay, look, this piece looks like it’s done,” Mingyu caved, grabbing a leaf of lettuce and wrapping some rice, kimchi and the piece of meat in it. “Say ah.”

 

Wonwoo opened his mouth to accept the wrap, eyes squinting in happiness. Mingyu gulped, overwhelmed by the way Wonwoo was looking at him. He quickly turned back to the grill.

 

“Good?” he asked.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Wonwoo replied, mouth still chewing. He flashed a thumbs-up.

 

“Aw, look, it’s the old married couple back in action again,” Jeonghan said from behind them.

 

Soonyoung and Jun cooed, making finger hearts with their greasy hands. Mingyu’s eyes widened, looking around to see if Seungcheol had heard. Thankfully, he was lounging on one of the deck chairs on the other side of the yard, chatting animatedly to Joshua.

 

“Jeonghan,” Mingyu called out sweetly with a forced smile. “Come help me get drinks in the kitchen. Jun, can you take over the grill for a sec.”

 

Jeonghan quirked a knowing grin and followed him into the kitchen. As soon as the kitchen doors were shut behind them, Mingyu turned around and glared at Jeonghan.

 

“Can you not do that?”

 

“Do what?” Jeonghan said innocently. Was he - was he batting his eyelashes? Who did this hyung think he was fooling? Not Mingyu.

 

“Make married couple jokes about me and Wonwoo in front of Seungcheol!”

 

“But we joke about that all the time. Like, since we were all in middle school.”

 

“Yeah, but Seungcheol’s actually interested in Wonwoo. Don’t scare him away by making it seem like he has competition!”

 

“Does he?” Jeonghan said seriously, looking Mingyu square in the eye.

 

“What?” Mingyu replied, flustered.

 

“Does Seungcheol have competition.”

 

Mingyu’s heart pounded in his ears, and he swallowed with an audible click. He opened his mouth to answer, but for the life of him couldn’t think of what to say. He wanted to deny it, but was too stunned by the fact that Jeonghan seemed to know about his conflicted feelings for Wonwoo, when he had never mentioned it to anybody.

 

“Ah,” Jeonghan murmured. “I wasn’t very sure before, but…”

 

“How,” Mingyu croaked, mouth dry and breath shaky. He cleared his throat. “How did you know?”

 

Jeonghan smiled ruefully. “I’ve had my suspicions since middle school. Did you know Wonwoo used to have a crush on you?”

 

“I know.”

 

Jeonghan’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “And you were okay with that?”

 

“Wonwoo’s my best friend before he’s anything else. I didn’t want to make him feel weird about it, so I acted like I didn’t know,” Mingyu mumbled.

 

“That’s… that’s actually really kind of you,” Jeonghan said thoughtfully. “Huh, who knew that underneath all that you’re actually sharp as a tack.”

 

Mingyu snorted, playfully slapping him on the shoulder, “Gee, thanks, hyung.”

 

Comfortable silence fell as Jeonghan and Mingyu actually rustled around the kitchen to look for the drinks they came in for. Arms loaded with cans of coke and beer, Mingyu turned to leave.

 

“Wait.”

 

Mingyu paused.

 

“What are you going to do about Seungcheol?”

 

“I’m not going to do anything about Seungcheol,” Mingyu said, confused. “Why would I?”

 

“Because he’s dating your best friend? Whom you have feelings for?” Jeonghan said, the implied duh in his tone.

 

“I’m not going to ruin Wonwoo’s first chance at dating a guy,” Mingyu explained adamantly. “Plus Seungcheol’s really nice, and Wonwoo deserves someone like him.”

 

“But Seungcheol’s not you.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“Seungcheol and Wonwoo may not be serious about their relationship now, but how would you feel if they finally took that step? Would you really be okay with letting Wonwoo go?”

 

Mingyu laughed nervously. “I’m not letting Wonwoo go. We’ll still be best friends.”

 

“And you’ll be content with just being best friends with Wonwoo forever?”

 

Mingyu couldn’t reply. Jeonghan read his answer in his silence and smiled sympathetically. “I thought so.”

Chapter Text

“Repeat after me: I got this!”

 

“I got this!”

 

“I’m gonna ace it!”

 

“I’m gonna ace it!”

 

“I’m gonna be a real lifeguard!”

 

“I’m gonna be a real lifeguard!”

 

“I owe Mingyu big time for this!”

 

“I owe Ming - what? No, I don’t.”

 

Wonwoo shot a baleful glare at Mingyu, who shrugged, “I mean… I suggested this whole thing in the first place and I did train you for like two weeks, so…”

 

“Shut up, you’re not the one taking the test, though. That’s all me,” Wonwoo whined, adjusting his prescription goggles and shifting from foot to foot restlessly. He felt jittery; he was about to take the lifeguard test that all the qualified lifeguards at the club had to pass before they started the job officially. Two weeks of training every day had led to this, and all the progress he’d made seemed insignificant in his anxiety before the test.

 

“You’re right, it’s all you. Well, mostly you. I was just teasing to get your mind off the test,” Mingyu said reassuringly, rubbing Wonwoo’s shoulders comfortingly. “Don’t be nervous, remember the techniques I taught you. Even if you don’t remember, don’t worry, we’ve been doing it every day for two weeks, your body will remember.”

 

“Okay,” Wonwoo said weakly, gnawing on his bottom lip.

 

“Hyung,” Mingyu murmured, thumb gently pulling Wonwoo’s lip from between his teeth, “you got this. I know you do.”

 

Wonwoo’s breath hitched. He was used to suppressing his reactions to Mingyu’s touches but this… this felt too close to what he’d always dreamed of. He glanced quickly up at Mingyu’s face - his eyes were glazed over, and he didn’t seem to realise that he was sweeping his thumb across Wonwoo’s bottom lip. There was no one else around: Wonwoo had to take the test early in the morning before the club opened in order to have the pool to himself. The quiet and privacy made the moment seem to stretch on forever, and Wonwoo could feel himself getting lightheaded, unsure whether it was his nerves for the test or Mingyu’s proximity that was causing it.

 

The sound of footsteps approaching them jerked them out of the brief spell. Wonwoo shivered from the sudden loss of contact, and awkwardly looked away from Mingyu, who cleared his throat pointedly, suddenly looking at everywhere but Wonwoo.

 

“Are you ready, Wonwoo?” Ms Song asked kindly, clipboard in hand.

 

“Yeah,” Wonwoo answered nervously.

 

“Alright, this test has four components…”

 

/////

 

Wonwoo broke through the surface of the water with a splash, hands slapping down on the tiled edge, and boosted himself out of the water. His heart was hammering from the exertion of having the swim the length of the pool within 60 seconds. His breath was coming out in bursts; he gasped, “Did I make it?”

 

Ms Song smiled secretively, jotting down the time on her clipboard. She paused, clearly teasing, then announced, “56.1 seconds, well done!”

 

Wonwoo sighed in relief, only to have his breath knocked out of him again when Mingyu came rushing from where he was watching from the side of the pool to sweep him into a bear hug. “YOU PASSED THE TEST!” he bellowed excitedly into Wonwoo’s ear.

 

“Oof,” he winced.

 

“Congratulations, Wonwoo. You’re now officially a lifeguard at our club,” Ms Song declared, shaking Wonwoo’s hand, which was half-trapped under Mingyu’s embrace. “Come into my office after you shower, I’ll hash out your schedule and give you your certificate then.”

 

She turned to leave, and as soon as her footsteps died away, Mingyu’s arms tightened around him, and before he knew it, he was back in the water, this time with a 6-foot-tall octopus clinging on to him.

 

“Mingyu, you jerk!” Wonwoo sputtered, splashing Mingyu in the face. He giggled, splashing back.

 

“You’re a real lifeguard now, hyung!” Mingyu said giddily, like he was the one who passed the test, not Wonwoo. “I can’t believe it. We’ll be working together now - well, not always at the same time, but we’re colleagues! Oh my god, we’re colleagues!

 

“Our friendship truly has no bounds,” Wonwoo deadpanned.

 

“You’ll have to call me sunbaenim now,” Mingyu said smugly. “Since I’m your senior colleague and all.”

 

“Of course...” Wonwoo said, placatingly, slowly sneaking up behind Mingyu. In a flash, he wrapped his arms around Mingyu’s neck, shoving him under the water and climbing onto his back, cackling as Mingyu floundered in the water. “...sunbaenim!”

 

/////

 

min9yu: photo attached

 

min9yu: look who just passed their lifeguard test!!!

 

BOO: congrats wonu!!!!!

 

hoshimoshi: congratz!!!!

 

1004: congratulations!

 

hoshimoshi: oh my god… does this mean we’re COLLEAGUES NOW??

 

hoshimoshi: you know this means you have to call me sunbaenim right @wonu

 

min9yu: dont

 

min9yu: i said the same thing and he tried to drown me

 

俊辉: congrats won!!!

 

wonu: thanks everyone, except for soonyoung

 

/////

 

“You’ll be shadowing Seungcheol during his shifts until he leaves at the end of August,” Ms Song said, sliding a printed timetable over her desk to Wonwoo. “This is his schedule. He’ll let you know if he has to reschedule any shifts.”

 

Wonwoo nodded, feeling pleased. He couldn’t ask for a better supervisor.

 

(Even so, he was slightly disappointed that he couldn’t shadow Mingyu instead.)

 

“Seungcheol will make sure you’re well-versed with practical first aid and the emergency protocols in our club. He’ll also take you through some of the safety features we have on hand and how to use them.”

 

Ms Song paused, rummaging through a drawer behind her desk. She pulled out three sets of clothing, a silver whistle, and a bright red cap with the club’s logo emblazoned across the front.

 

“This is your uniform for the job,” she said, shaking out the clothes to show them to him. Wonwoo grimaced internally at the bright red board shorts and the white t-shirt declaring “LIFEGUARD”, suddenly assaulted by memories of calling Mingyu a douchebag when he was wearing the uniform. Now he was going to have to eat his words in the most humiliating way possible.

 

“The cap isn’t necessary, obviously,” Ms Song said, “but you may want to wear it when the sun reaches its peak at midday.”

 

Wonwoo hummed in assent, gathering the clothes into his arms.

 

“Any questions?”

 

He shook his head, standing up to leave.

 

“Great! See you on your first shift!”

 

/////

 

“So we have ten lifebuoys around the pool,” Seungcheol said, pointing out the neon orange rings hanging from their posts. “If you see someone struggling, usually in the deep end, run over to the nearest lifebuoy and throw it towards them, like so.”

 

He pulled one of the lifebuoys off its post, swung his right arm back as far as it could go, and threw it into the middle of the pool. His left hand held onto the end of a thick rope attached to the buoy. He lifted it to show it to Wonwoo, instructing, “Remember to hold onto the end of the rope. When the person grabs onto the ring, reel in the rope and pull them to the edge.”

 

Seungcheol did as he said, and handed the lifebuoy to Wonwoo, “Now you try.”

 

Wonwoo went through the motions, and when he pulled the buoy out of the pool, he was rewarded with Seungcheol’s handsome smile and a clap on his shoulder, “Well done!”

 

Wonwoo smiled shyly, ducking his head. It was his first day shadowing Seungcheol, and he was being shown how to use the various safety features before his shift started. It was early in the morning; the pool wasn’t open until 10, so there was nobody around but the two of them.

 

Seungcheol looked at Wonwoo consideringly, then at his watch, “We still have 10 minutes until my shift starts, and I want to show you one more thing.”

 

Wonwoo nodded dumbly, following Seungcheol when he beckoned him into the changing rooms. Instead of ducking into the male changing rooms, however, Seungcheol produced a key from his pocket and unlocked a door labelled “STAFF ONLY”. The door opened to a small room with a row of lockers, clearly labelled with the names of the lifeguards at the club. Wonwoo could recognize Mingyu’s messy scrawl and Vernon’s neat handwriting on their lockers. Predictably, Mingyu’s locker was decorated with stickers of cute puppies, while Vernon’s was covered in brand stickers.

 

Seungcheol closed the door behind him. He noticed Wonwoo looking at the lockers and said apologetically, “Ah sorry, you won’t have your own locker until I leave. In the meanwhile, you can share mine.”

 

“Okay,” Wonwoo mumbled, suddenly aware that the two of them were alone in a small space. His eyes darted to the ground and he shivered when Seungcheol stepped into his space. Seungcheol leaned in, tilting his chin up gently.

 

“Is this okay?” he murmured, eyes focussed on Wonwoo’s lips.

 

Wonwoo, unable to speak, nodded. His eyes fluttered shut as Seungcheol pressed his lips softly against his. He trembled, trying not to freak out during his first kiss with another boy. Seungcheol’s lips moved gently against his, eventually sucking lightly at his bottom lip. When he pulled away, Wonwoo whined quietly, chasing after him. He chuckled, diving back in for a second, deeper, kiss. “You’re so cute.”

 

“Oof,” Wonwoo muttered when he stumbled and his back hit the row of lockers behind him.

 

“Sorry,” Seungcheol murmured, going back to kissing him as soon as Wonwoo righted himself. They made out slowly, chastely, until Seungcheol’s watch beeped in warning. He groaned, resting his forehead against Wonwoo’s, both of them breathless and reluctant to part. After a moment, he pulled away, but not before giving Wonwoo one last peck on the lips.

 

Wonwoo blushed, ducking his head, as Seungcheol gazed at him fondly. “You’re adorable, d’you know that?”

 

“‘m not,” Wonwoo mumbled.

 

“You are,” Seungcheol insisted, chuckling at his embarrassment. “I wanted to save our first kiss for our date but you’re just too cute.”

 

“Shut up,” Wonwoo complained. “Don’t we have to start work now?”

 

“Aye aye, captain. Lead the way,” Seungcheol said goofily, giggling when Wonwoo rolled his eyes and left the room to start his first day of work.



/////

 

“Woah, Mr Jeon, where are you going dressed like that? The royal ballet?”

 

Wonwoo made a distressed noise, yanking his tucked dress shirt from his slacks. “I knew this was too formal. I don’t know what to wear for my date with Seungcheol.”

 

“It’s just a musical, man,” Mingyu pointed out from his perch on Wonwoo’s desk. “And you’re not even in the nicest seats. Just wear something casual.”

 

“Yeah,” his brother, Bohyuk, piped up from where he was lounging on Wonwoo’s bed, playing with his phone. “Hyung, wear that red denim jacket with a white t-shirt underneath. You look cute in that.”

 

“Okay,” Wonwoo said easily, trusting his brother’s instinct. He had good reason to: Bohyuk was only 15 but he already had a budding career as a model. He’d always thought that he should feel jealous of Bohyuk, who was already taller and broader than him despite being two years younger, and whose looks had always been more rugged, manlier. Wonwoo was no ugly duckling himself: he knew that he was considered good-looking, objectively. But loathe as he was to admit it, next to Bohyuk, Wonwoo looked… pretty. While they both inherited their father’s chiseled jaw and broad shoulders, Wonwoo’s face was slimmer and sharper than Bohyuk’s, and his recent illness only made the difference starker. He also had poutier lips, and a slimmer nose. It did not help that he was lanky and skinny where Bohyuk was buff; although, to be fair, Bohyuk made a point to body-build and lift weights, whereas Wonwoo merely played sports with his friends after school, so it wasn’t really all genetics. But Wonwoo had never felt jealous - he was nothing but proud of his brother and his achievements. He bragged to all his friends about his brother the model, and even coerced them to follow him on Instagram.

 

Wonwoo quickly changed into Bohyuk’s suggested look and asked his audience of two, “Does this look better?”

 

“Yeah,” said Bohyuk, not even looking up from his phone. Brat.

 

“The pants don’t match,” Mingyu said, plucking at the slacks Wonwoo was wearing. He got up and flicked through Wonwoo’s wardrobe like it was his own. Considering how often Mingyu would borrow his clothes when he stayed the night, it may as well have been.

 

“Here,” Mingyu said, holding out a pair of ripped jeans and a white belt.

 

Wonwoo made a face. “A white belt? Really?”

 

“Just try it, you can take it off you don’t like it.”

 

“Okay,” Wonwoo grumbled, stripping and changing into the jeans quickly. He glanced at the mirror, pleased with what he saw. 

 

Mingyu noticed his expression and smirked cockily. “Told you so.”

 

Wonwoo rolled his eyes, but shot Mingyu a grateful smile. Just then, his phone dinged: Seungcheol was outside. He grabbed his wallet, keys and phone, spritzed a hint of cologne on himself, and ran his fingers through his hair. Satisfied, he turned to his brother and Mingyu, “Cheol’s here, I’m gonna head out now. Bohyuk, there are leftovers you can heat up in the fridge. Mom and Dad aren’t coming home for dinner today. Mingyu, help yourself to them if you want to.”

 

Bohyuk grunted in acknowledgement, still absorbed in his game. 

 

“Okay. Have fun, Wonwoo!” Mingyu said, waving.

 

Wonwoo smiled, then quickly made his way out to the driveway, anxious about keeping Seungcheol waiting.

Chapter Text

As soon as Bohyuk heard the front door shut, he shut his phone off and sat up on Wonwoo’s bed.

 

“Hey man,” he said to Mingyu, cautiously, “you alright?”

 

Mingyu glanced up from his phone, puzzled. “Yeah,” he said slowly, “why wouldn’t I be?”

 

“‘Cos hyung’s like, dating other people,” Bohyuk clarified awkwardly, picking at the duvet.

 

Oh for fuck’s sake, did Bohyuk know about his feelings for Wonwoo too? Was Mingyu really that transparent? Mingyu wanted to run away screaming from this conversation. Bohyuk wasn’t a stranger to Mingyu per se; being close to Wonwoo since they were kids meant that he considered Bohyuk to be a friend too - a good friend, in fact. But nothing was more awkward than having the feelings talk with the younger brother of the object of his affections.

 

And it wasn’t that he didn’t trust Bohyuk, but Bohyuk and Wonwoo were extremely close. Mingyu couldn’t be sure that Bohyuk wouldn’t tell Wonwoo about his feelings and ruin the single most important friendship in his life.

 

Other people?” Mingyu said archly. “That makes it sound like Wonwoo and I were dating, which ew.” He even faked a shudder, hoping Bohyuk would buy into it.

 

“Wait,” Bohyuk said with a frown, “are you and hyung not…” he trailed off, making a complicated gesture with his hands.

 

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be a little more specific,” Mingyu said, playing dumb.

 

“Uh, what I was trying to say was, uh, I thought you and hyung had a thing going on. Ever since, like, hyung got sick. And he relied on you so much then, so I thought...” Poor Bohyuk was flushed pink with embarrassment, and seemed to have completely lost the ability to make eye contact with Mingyu.

 

“What?” Mingyu said as incredulously as he could. He was trying to put on a nonchalant facade, but his heart was pounding a mile a minute, and he could feel his palms sweating. Bohyuk was far more perceptive than Mingyu had thought he was. “There’s no… thing going on, okay? Wonwoo was sick and I felt so bad for him I just had to help. We’re best friends, after all. I mean, what kind of best friend would I be if I couldn’t even cheer him up when he was down?”

 

“Oh… man, I’m so sorry,” Bohyuk said, mortified. “I-I just assumed, and…”

 

“Hey, it’s fine, Bok,” Mingyu said reassuringly, using Bohyuk’s childhood nickname, “It’s actually kinda funny. I mean, me and Wonwoo? We’re total opposites, could you imagine us dating? That’s crazy, it would never happen.” He chuckled, relieved that Bohyuk bought his cover.

 

Instead of laughing with Mingyu like he had expected him to, Bohyuk looked a little crestfallen. “It’s well, kinda embarrassing to admit, but uh, I’d always kinda hoped you and hyung would end up together.”

 

Mingyu gaped. Me too, he wanted to say. He should have dismissed Bohyuk’s statement, but his curiosity won out in the end. “Why?”

 

Bohyuk shrugged, “I dunno, you guys just care so much about each other. Like when you kept bringing hyung food and his homework after school when he was sick, and when hyung was at the hospital you even stayed the first night with him ‘cause mom and dad were out of town, and this summer you even managed to convince hyung to get healthy again…”

 

“That just sounds like Wonwoo owes me a lot of favours,” Mingyu said jokingly, trying to steer Bohyuk away from his train of thought. Mingyu couldn’t believe that Bohyuk picked up on all of that - and Mingyu thought he’d been so subtle.

 

“Wonwoo hyung cares about you too!” Bohyuk insisted. “He asked mom and dad permission for the party even though he hates parties because he said you missed hanging out with your friends, and hyung always prepares a bigger portion of meat in his lunchbox to share with you in school.”

 

“What? Really?” Mingyu said, surprised. “Wonwoo always says that he just can’t finish his lunch.”

 

Bohyuk rolled his eyes, “I can’t believe you bought that for like, four years.”

 

“Huh,” Mingyu muttered, then he broke into a wicked smile. “I can’t wait to tease Wonwoo for that one.”

 

“Plus, I think you and hyung look good together, honestly,” Bohyuk said earnestly.

 

We do, Mingyu wanted to wail. I picture the two of us together all the time. His heart hurt with how much he wanted to agree with Bohyuk. He couldn’t believe that Bohyuk, who was perhaps the closest to Wonwoo besides Mingyu himself, thought he and Wonwoo were a good match. It gave him hope that perhaps, one day, if Mingyu finally found the courage to confess, Wonwoo would consider Mingyu as someone who could be more than a friend.

 

“Shut up,” Mingyu said playfully instead, smacking Bohyuk on the arm. “Enough talk about me and Wonwoo, it’s making me sick. Now let’s heat up dinner, I’m starving.”

 

/////




“Hey,” Wonwoo called, waving to Seungcheol, who was leaning against his car.

 

“Hey,” Seungcheol said, “you look good.”

 

“Thanks, you too,” Wonwoo said, drinking in the sight of Seungcheol in a leather jacket. And what a sight it was: Seungcheol looked effortlessly cool, like he’d just stepped off the pages of a magazine. His hair wasn’t hanging down his forehead like it normally did; he’d spiked it messily. He’d also put on earrings - until then Wonwoo had no idea Seungcheol had pierced his ears. Wonwoo didn’t exactly have a preference for guys who were pierced, but Seungcheol pulled it off well. As he drew closer, he noticed that Seungcheol had even put on a hint of eyeliner, emphasizing his already gorgeous eyes.

 

Wonwoo barely held back a whimper: he had no idea that he had a thing for bad boys until that second.

 

Seungcheol noticed Wonwoo checking him out and smirked. He opened the passenger door and gestured, faking an elaborate bow. “Shall we?”

 

Wonwoo blushed, feeling caught out, and slid into the front seat. Seungcheol shut the door and got into the driver’s seat. As he started the engine, he turned to Wonwoo and asked, “Just to be sure, you brought the tickets, right?”

 

“Uh,” Wonwoo stuttered, eyes widening. “Shit, I left it inside. Sorry!” He was mortified. Their first date had barely begun and he already looked like an idiot.

 

Seungcheol chuckled, “Well, it’s a good thing I reminded you then.”

 

Wonwoo dashed back inside, cursing his forgetfulness. He’d even left the tickets in the dish holding the keys in the hallway right outside his room so that he wouldn’t forget.

 

He was just about to grab the tickets and make a quick exit when he heard Mingyu’s incredulous voice floating through his bedroom door, which was open by a crack. Wonwoo wasn’t one to eavesdrop, but Mingyu was so loud that he couldn’t help but hear what he was saying.

 

“...actually kinda funny. I mean, me and Wonwoo? We’re total opposites, could you imagine us dating? That’s crazy, it would never happen,” Mingyu said, followed by laughter.

 

Wonwoo’s blood froze. His heart dropped to his stomach. Of all the things he’d expected to hear… it certainly wasn’t that.

 

The thing was… Wonwoo knew, deep down, that Mingyu would never date someone like him. Sexuality aside, Wonwoo was just too quiet, too cold and too socially awkward to ever deserve someone as outgoing, warm, friendly and kind as Mingyu. In school, everyone knew who the tall, handsome, popular Mingyu was; he constantly had a group of friends around him, while Wonwoo was pretty much known as the quiet guy who was Kim Mingyu’s best friend. Mingyu was right: they were total opposites. And while that dynamic worked in their friendship, Wonwoo didn’t think it would ever work in a romantic relationship. Wonwoo would never be able to shower Mingyu with the love and affection he craved from a significant other. Wonwoo would never be able to be Mingyu’s plus one to all the parties he attended, who he could show off to his large circle of friends at school. Wonwoo would never be able to keep up with all the crazy things Mingyu would sometimes get up to with those friends. Wonwoo would just… never be enough for Mingyu.

 

And Wonwoo knew this, which was why in middle school, he’d ruthlessly tamped down on his feelings for Mingyu, until he’d convinced even himself, at times, that he felt nothing but platonic love for his best friend.

 

But to have Mingyu declare it expressly - that he and Wonwoo could never be together that way - was excruciating. And Mingyu didn’t just declare it - he’d dismissed it as “crazy” and laughed at the idea. In a way, he now had confirmation from Mingyu himself that Wonwoo would never be a good fit for him, that Wonwoo would never be good enough for him. And it hurt.

 

Wonwoo swallowed, feeling as though his throat was suddenly lined with razor blades. He could feel the tell-tale prickle of tears behind his eyes. He quickly dashed his sleeve across his eyes and took a few calming breaths as he walked back out to Seungcheol’s car with their tickets in his hand.

 

“Got the tickets,” Wonwoo said weakly, strapping the safety belt on himself and trying his best not to make eye contact with Seungcheol.

 

“Alright,” Seungcheol said brightly, pulling out of the driveway. “I got us a table at Verdi’s, it’s this great Italian restaurant, my parents brought me there once…”

 

Wonwoo nodded, letting Seungcheol chatter about their date. He spent the whole ride trying to hold back his tears, biting his lips and staring out of the window as much as possible so as to not let Seungcheol notice anything. But a few tears slipped out, and he couldn’t wipe them away in time before Seungcheol glanced over and saw.

 

“...I was thinking we could go to this ice-cream parlour after that… hey, are you okay?” Seungcheol asked, suddenly alarmed.

 

“Y-yeah, just… personal stuff,” Wonwoo mumbled, feeling guilty. Here was Seungcheol, promising him a wonderful night out, and Wonwoo was crying over another boy? Wonwoo could not hate himself more than he did at that moment.

 

“If it’s a bad time right now, we can postpone the date,” Seungcheol offered, voice gentle and brows furrowed with concern. “No pressure, we can get the tickets refunded and go another time, and I can cancel the reservation.”

 

“N-no, I’m fine, really,” Wonwoo managed, but his choked voice said otherwise. “I really wanna go on this date, and I’m so sorry that I messed it up…”

 

“Hey, no, no, you didn’t mess anything up,” Seungcheol said quickly, “We all have our bad days, and I can’t judge you for having one.”

 

They were already on the highway, so Seungcheol slowed the car and pulled over on the side of the road. He switched off the engine and turned to Wonwoo solemnly.

 

“Wonwoo,” he started cautiously, “are you sure you don’t want to go home? I can turn around and have you back in ten minutes.”

 

“No,” Wonwoo said firmly, inhaling a shuddering breath, “I really am f-fine. I just need a moment.” It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go home - he wanted nothing more than to curl up on his bed under the covers and stay there for a week - it was that Mingyu was probably still there, and he could not face him right now without wanting to cry. He also really wanted to see the musical - he’d waited half a year for the musical to come to this side of the country; there was no way he was going to wait another week.

 

Seungcheol nodded, looking unconvinced, but unwilling to call out Wonwoo’s obvious lie. He bit his lip in contemplation.

 

“When I feel down,” he started, a slow, mischievous grin taking over his face, “I like to get disgusting fast food. What d’you say to ditching our reservation and getting some good ol’ McD?”

 

Wonwoo sniffed, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “Yeah, McDonald’s s-sound great right now.”

 

“Great, McDonald’s here we come!” Seungcheol declared, starting the car.

 

/////

 

Twenty minutes later, Wonwoo found himself sitting on the hood of Seungcheol’s car, Big Mac in one hand and a large Coke in the other. They were in the parking lot outside the McDonald’s they stopped at, enjoying the view of the sunset. Wonwoo sighed happily, taking a huge bite out of his burger. There was nothing more comforting than some fast food on a bad day.

 

“I hope you’re feeling better,” Seungcheol commented, munching on his own Double Cheeseburger with Extra Pickles.

 

“I am,” Wonwoo said, shooting him a grateful smile.

 

“Wanna talk about it?” Seungcheol offered lightly.

 

Wonwoo bit his lip. On one hand, it was definitely inappropriate to whine about his feelings for his best friend while he was on a date with someone else. On the other hand, it was tempting to spill his secret to someone who wasn’t close to him or Mingyu. Sure, Seungcheol and Mingyu had been colleagues for a year, but as far as Wonwoo knew, they didn’t hang out much outside work, probably because Seungcheol lived on the other end of town and went to a different school. One reason he had never told any of his friends about his feelings for Mingyu was because they were all Mingyu’s friends too, and Wonwoo didn’t want to put them in the awkward position of hiding Wonwoo’s secret from Mingyu. He also couldn’t exactly trust some of them to keep their mouths shut, and knowing how close everyone was in their mutual friend group, no secret would remain a secret for long.

 

There was also another reason why he felt that he should tell Seungcheol about his feelings for Mingyu: in a way, Wonwoo felt like he was leading Seungcheol on. Seungcheol was handsome and kind, and Wonwoo could see himself falling for him in the future, but deep down, Wonwoo knew that he would end up comparing Seungcheol to Mingyu and come up unsatisfied. It was as if there were a selfish, greedy monster in his heart that only wanted Mingyu, and no one else.

 

When Seungcheol had first asked him out, Wonwoo had foolishly believed that his feelings for Mingyu had faded away, or at least abated enough for him to be emotionally available for Seungcheol. It didn’t hurt that Seungcheol was attractive as hell, and made him feel like a nervous schoolgirl, but if Wonwoo were being honest, the most he felt for Seungcheol was a mere crush. Overhearing what Mingyu had said earlier made him realise that the shallow feelings he had for Seungcheol was nothing compared to well of feelings had for Mingyu. How could he jump into a relationship with Seungcheol when his heart was set on someone else?

 

Mind made, Wonwoo took a deep breath. “Seungcheol, I want to be completely honest with you.”

 

Seungcheol looked a little surprised that Wonwoo actually took up his offer to talk, but leaned forward attentively anyway. “Shoot. I’m all ears.”

 

So Wonwoo told him everything: from his middle school crush on Mingyu and how it never went away, how his feelings had only deepened over the years, especially during his illness, when Mingyu had went out of his way to help Wonwoo when he needed it, to what he had overheard earlier that day that made him realise that he still was not - and probably never would be - over Mingyu.

 

Seungcheol listened patiently, humming in sympathy once in a while, letting Wonwoo spill his guts. He seemed to take it all in stride, and didn’t seem to be angry or annoyed at Wonwoo’s stupid, stupid, feelings, even shutting down Wonwoo’s guilt-laden apology for ruining their night.

 

“No, I don’t want to hear you apologize for being honest with me,” he insisted. “You’re not in the wrong here. It’s not as if you were cheating on me. Wonwoo, we’re on our first date, we’re not even in an established relationship. Don’t be sorry.”

 

When Wonwoo had finally exorcised his feelings, he felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could finally breathe easy. He waited nervously for Seungcheol’s response.

 

Seungcheol bit his lip, seeming to measure his words carefully before saying, “Wonwoo, I want to be honest as well. I’m not looking for a serious relationship, ‘cos I’ll be moving away for university in about two months. When I asked you out, I only wanted a… brief summer fling, if you will,” he winced at his blunt phrasing. “I’ll be honest, you’re hot, and I’m attracted to you, but we obviously don’t know each other well enough to have feelings for each other.”

 

Wonwoo nodded, relieved that he wasn’t the only one who wasn’t emotionally available.

 

“But,” and here Seungcheol’s mischievous grin made its appearance again, “if you want to, I don’t mind taking you out on more dates. I know we’re both not looking for a relationship now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun,” he said, giving Wonwoo a wink, but he quickly added, “Only if you want to, of course! If you’re comfortable with it. We’ll set boundaries and everything. If not, it’s totally fine, we can call off everything and just be friends.”

 

That… that wasn’t actually a bad idea. Wonwoo wasn’t exactly desperate, but harbouring feelings for his best friend for years had meant that he had only been in a few relationships, and mostly shallow ones. He had missed being in a relationship - the intimacy, having someone special to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, someone who would treat him to a night out, and someone whom he could treat in return. And with both Seungcheol and Wonwoo being honest and clear about their intentions (or lack thereof), Wonwoo felt as if his burgeoning relationship with Seungcheol was already built on more trust than some of his previous relationships had been.

 

“You know what?” Wonwoo said, grinning back at Seungcheol, “That’s a pretty good idea. Let’s do it.”

 

“Yes!” Seungcheol cheered, but quickly sobered when he glanced at his watch. “Yikes, we better get going if we want to catch the musical. Still up for that?”

 

“Yeap!”

 

“Alright let’s get going then.”

 

Later, as Seungcheol parked his car outside the theatre, Wonwoo mumbled a quiet, “Thanks for all that, just now.”

 

“Not a problem,” Seungcheol said, waving his hand. “Now enough serious talk. And don’t open your door!”

 

Wonwoo froze, hand already reaching for the door handle. Seungcheol quickly got out of his seat and walked around the car, opening the door for Wonwoo and proffering his arm like a gentleman.

 

“Shall we, darling?” he asked in a faux deep voice.

 

Wonwoo suppressed a snort, but latched onto him anyway. “Of course, dear.”

Chapter Text

wooHOOji: basketball game at the usual time and place this Saturday

 

hoshimoshi: can I invite some friends from the club?

 

wonu: can i invite my boyfriend

 

/////

 

“So,” Seungkwan drawled, sidling up to Wonwoo as they stretched, “how was your date with Seungcheol?”

 

Wonwoo snorted, glancing around to see if Seungcheol was around. He was starting to regret inviting Seungcheol to the basketball game. Thankfully, Seungcheol was warming up on the other side of the court with Soonyoung and Seokmin. “It was good,” he said vaguely.

 

Seungkwan waited, but when Wonwoo looked like he wasn’t going to say anymore, he whined, “Oh c’mon, that’s all you’re going to say? ‘It was good’? I want specifics, Wonwoo, give me details.”

 

Behind Seungkwan, Wonwoo could see Jun and Jeonghan not-so-subtly eavesdropping, casually drifting closer as they progressed through their warm-ups. He rolled his eyes. His friends were such busybodies. “We went to McDonald’s for dinner. We talked over dinner. We had a lot in common. We went to the musical. We enjoyed it. We went home.”

 

“McDonald’s?” Seungkwan squawked. “On a date?”

 

“Shhh, shut up, Seungcheol doesn’t need to hear your judgey comments about our date. Besides, he booked us a table at an Italian restaurant, but I was the one who asked if we could go to McDonald’s instead,” Wonwoo lied.

 

“Oh Wonwoo,” Jeonghan said, clearly giving up on subtly eavesdropping and joining the conversation, “You’re hopeless. McDonald’s on a first date? You must not have a romantic bone in your body.”

 

Wonwoo opened his mouth to protest that he was very romantic, thank you very much, all his previous girlfriends had thought so, but was cut off by a loud whistle. Jihoon was standing in the middle of the court, basketball in his hands. “Guys, if you’re done with your warm-ups we’re going to start picking teams now!” he called out.

 

Soonyoung and Wonwoo were chosen as team captains, Jeonghan as referee, and a game of rock paper scissors gave Wonwoo first pick. “Mingyu,” Wonwoo said immediately.

 

Mingyu whooped, bounding over to Wonwoo’s side and resting his chin on his shoulder. Wonwoo tried not to tense up and grimace. The memory of Mingyu’s words that night was still seared into his brain, but he had made the decision to not let it affect his friendship with Mingyu. After all, Mingyu was just being honest with his feelings. He couldn’t fault Mingyu for something that he couldn’t control. It wasn’t as if Mingyu had made Wonwoo fall in love with him, he’d just been his usual dumb self; Wonwoo was the one who fumbled and fell into this unrequited mess. And Wonwoo wasn’t dumb; if he started acting weird around Mingyu, Mingyu would cotton on quickly and possibly even figure out Wonwoo’s feelings for him, being the perceptive brat that he was.

 

“Ooooh,” Jeonghan called out teasingly, “choosing your best friend over your boyfriend?”

 

“I’m being strategic,” Wonwoo said coolly, “Mingyu would have been Soonyoung’s first pick, so I got him first. Sorry, Cheol, don’t take it personally,” he said playfully, grinning.

 

“It’s fine, babe,” Seungcheol called out, batting his eyelashes.

 

Jeonghan mimed retching behind Seungcheol’s back, and Wonwoo could see Jun rolling his eyes at the endearment, mouthing “Babe” and fluttering his eyes dramatically at Wonwoo.

 

Wonwoo felt a petty sense of victory when he chose Joshua over Jun in the last pick, citing Jun’s awful basketball skills as the reason for his choice.

 

Wonwoo turned to his team, pleased with the line-up: Mingyu, Seungcheol, Seungkwan, Joshua, and Seokmin. He had most of the taller players, barring Jun, but Jun was so bad at basketball it wouldn’t have mattered if he were 7 feet.

 

“Okay, team,” Wonwoo said authoritatively. “Most of us are tall-”

 

“Not Seungkwan,” Mingyu butted in.

 

“Oi!”

 

“-and those of us who aren’t, make up for it in skill.”

 

Seungkwan shot Mingyu a smug look.

 

“So we’re gonna win this. No excuses. Soonyoung’s team is going down. No mercy, play as if your life depends on it,” Wonwoo declared, holding his hand out. His team stacked their hands on his.

 

“Fighting!”

 

/////

 

“I don’t understand how we lost,” Wonwoo whined, hands resting on bent knees as he tried to get his breath back.

 

“It’s because Jihoon is actually crazy,” Seungcheol said, almost admiringly as he watched Jihoon roar while leading his team in a victory lap around the court.

 

“And Soonyoung and Jihoon are like, double the crazy when you put them together,” Seungkwan grunted, sprawled out on the ground like a starfish, “You should have picked Jihoon instead of Joshua.”

 

“Hey!” Joshua protested.

 

“No offense, Josh, but breaking up Jihoon and Soonyoung should have been Wonwoo’s number one strategy.”

 

“But if Wonwoo had picked Jihoon, Soonyoung would have had Mingyu,” Joshua pointed out.

 

“Yeah, but Mingyu doesn’t play half as well without Wonwoo yelling instructions at him,” Seungkwan shot back.

 

“Oi, I’m literally right here,” Mingyu piped up indignantly.

 

“Why don’t you be captain next time then, Seungkwan,” Wonwoo said tiredly, but was drowned out by Seungkwan’s “Oh? Sorry, I didn’t realise you could hear me from up there, beanpole boi.”

 

Mingyu growled playfully and starting tickling Seungkwan, but their tickle fight quickly devolved into wrestling and choking the lights out of each other.

 

“Your friends are kinda crazy,” Seungcheol said to Wonwoo.

 

Joshua snorted. “This is mild, wait til you hear about the time we had a party at Jeonghan’s-”

 

“Oi, losers!” Soonyoung called out tauntingly, swaggering over to them.

 

Wonwoo rolled his eyes. Soonyoung was going to be insufferable until the next match.

 

“Losers buy ice cream for the rest of us, remember?” Soonyoung said, alluding to the bet they had made before the match started. “So y’all better get moving to the ice cream truck.”

 

A chorus of groans sounded and Wonwoo straightened up, sighing as he did so. “Alright, I’ll go. Orders?”

 

After a chaotic shouting match, Wonwoo, with 13 ice cream orders on his phone, trooped across the street with Seungcheol, who had very sweetly volunteered to help. (None of the others did, which showed just how thoughtful and kind Wonwoo’s friends were.)

 

/////

 

Mingyu flopped under the shade of a tree, chugging his bottle of water. It was hot out, and the game had tired him out considerably. It didn’t help that he’d had a morning shift at the pool earlier that day. Jeonghan trailed after him, looking as exhausted as he felt. The winning team, still high on adrenaline, were joking and laughing out in the court, poking fun of Seungkwan, Joshua and Seokmin good-naturedly.

 

Mingyu grunted in acknowledgement as Jeonghan settled down next to him, hand reaching for his bottle and chugging the little water left.

 

“So,” Jeonghan said after he shook the last drops out of the bottle, “did you think about what we talked about at Wonwoo’s party?”

 

“Yeah,” Mingyu muttered, not at all eager to revisit the conversation.

 

“And?”

 

“You were right, hyung. I think I should confess to Wonwoo, soon. I- Bohyuk spoke to me,” Mingyu started carefully, “and… I don’t know, I think I may have a chance.”

 

Since Bohyuk had suggested that Mingyu and Wonwoo looked good together, he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind. He’d privately thought the same before, had imagined the two of them together, side by side, but to have Bohyuk, Wonwoo’s own brother, say the same, made it more… real. Like it wasn’t just Mingyu who could see that Wonwoo would go well with him. Like it wasn’t all in Mingyu’s imagination. His conversation with Jeonghan also haunted him for days afterwards. If Mingyu did stand a chance with Wonwoo, then he couldn’t possibly let Wonwoo go to Seungcheol, especially if their relationship became serious later on and Mingyu would lose his chance forever. Sure, he’d feel a little guilty for breaking them up, but surely they couldn’t have had developed any feelings deeper than a crush within the short time that they’d known each other.

 

Jeonghan looked surprised. “So you’re going to confess to Wonwoo if he and Seungcheol don’t work out?”

 

“No,” Mingyu said, shaking his head. “I’ll confess soon.”

 

Jun, who had wandered over and had been listening to their conversation, gaped. “So, what, like, you’re going to break them up?”

 

“No,” Mingyu said again, patiently. “I’ll just ask Wonwoo to pick between me and Seungcheol.”

 

“Why would you do that,” Jeonghan said, shaking his head.

 

“Well, like what you said that day at the party, hyung, their relationship isn’t serious yet. They’ve been dating for what, a week? If Wonwoo chooses me over Seungcheol then they can still break it off amicably,” Mingyu reasoned.

 

“That’s not what I meant-” Jeonghan protested, only to be cut off by Jun.

 

“That is such a bad idea, Kim Mingyu. Don’t. Do. That,” he said, emphasizing each word.

 

“Why not?” Mingyu asked, beginning to feel a little irritated.

 

“It’s a selfish move. You’re putting the burden of your feelings on him, and you’re gonna put Wonwoo in an uncomfortable position of choosing and he might resent you for that,” Jun said. “Plus, Wonwoo’s smitten with Seungcheol. I’m not saying you don’t stand a chance,” he said quickly when Mingyu opened his mouth, “In fact, I think that you do, but I can’t speak for Wonwoo. And confessing to someone who’s in a relationship is just trashy.”

 

Mingyu pursed his lips, deep in thought, but before he could say anything, Wonwoo and Seungcheol came back with ice creams, and all thoughts of Wonwoo and his feelings vanished in the face of cooling himself down with an ice-cold treat.

 

/////

 

Mingyu was having a pretty good day. He had an afternoon shift, which gave him plenty of time to sleep in, cook himself a large breakfast, and scroll through his instagram feed leisurely. Then 3 o’clock rolled around, and he set off for the club and his day got even better - all the pedestrian lights turned green just as he walked up to them and the bus he usually caught arrived right on time. As he strolled into the gym to begin his pre-shift workout, he was delighted to find it emptier than usual - there was nobody at the barbells and the row machines, which were usually the most popular ones. This sped up his workout, and he made his way to his locker at the pool earlier than usually did, whistling as he did so. He could probably catch Wonwoo and Seungcheol before their shifts ended! Just the thought of it had him smiling to himself like a lunatic.

 

The pool, too, was empty - probably because of the stormy gray clouds that had gathered. There was even a “POOL CLOSED” sign on the path that led to the pool. Mingyu was so happy that he could cry - it would be a quiet day at work then. No infants to rescue in the deep end because their parents were unaware, no crazy kids who tried to do dangerous flips into the pool - he would just have to stare out into the empty pool and make sure no one tried to sneak into it.

 

He glanced up at the lifeguard post and was slightly disappointed to see it empty. Wonwoo and Seungcheol had probably cut out early before their shifts ended - the lucky bastards. Still, his good mood was not dampened, and he fumbled with his keys to unlock the door to the staff changing room.

 

What he saw soured his good mood instantly.

 

Seungcheol had Wonwoo pinned against a locker - his locker, Mingyu realized with a flash of anger - and was kissing down Wonwoo’s neck. Wonwoo looked absolutely wrecked, his hair mussed and lips bruised, back arching off the locker in a bid to be closer to Seungcheol. He even let out a small, shaky moan before his eyes slid open and met Mingyu’s. Immediately, Wonwoo yelped and shoved Seungcheol away from him. Seungcheol stumbled, foot caught on the bench behind him, and crashed onto the ground after a second of flailing.

 

Mingyu was livid . Wonwoo and Seungcheol had cut out of work early to make out in the changing room? Did they realize how unprofessional they were being? And Seungcheol - Seungcheol should have known better, being the senior lifeguard between the two of them. If someone had snuck into the pool and drowned while they were kissing, it would have been on both of them - Seungcheol could have cost Wonwoo his job. The job that Wonwoo had spent time and effort training for.

 

And, well, Mingyu would be lying if he claimed that there was no other reason for his anger. His jealousy raged, his ears ringing at the sudden burst of anger at the sight of Wonwoo’s kiss-bruised lips and the hickey on his neck. It surprised him, how jealous he felt. Wonwoo had been in other relationships before, but Mingyu was not aware of his feelings for Wonwoo then, and had never given much thought to what Wonwoo and his girlfriends did behind closed doors. He supposed that they had to have kissed, or at least made their way to second base. But assuming that it had happened and actually seeing it happen with his own eyes were two different things. He wanted so badly to be the one to have done that, to be the only one who could see Wonwoo when he was vulnerable with pleasure. The thought that Seungcheol had done it, and that Seungcheol had seen Wonwoo when he was most vulnerable, and not Mingyu…

 

Suddenly the flare of anger subsided, replaced by an ache that seeped into his bones. To think he had been so hopeful after his conversation with Bohyuk - to think that he had thought of confessing to Wonwoo while he was dating Seungcheol and that maybe Wonwoo would choose Mingyu over him…

 

Who was Mingyu to butt into Wonwoo’s relationship with Seungcheol when the two of them were clearly content with each other? Jun was right, it was wrong to confess while Wonwoo was dating someone else. Wonwoo was clearly enjoying the attention Seungcheol was lavishing on him before Mingyu interrupted - his pleasured moan would haunt Mingyu and remind him of that. He now knew how sweet Wonwoo sounded when he was aroused, but it would forever be soured by the knowledge that he would probably never hear it again, and that someone else had been the cause behind it, not Mingyu.

 

The anger that Mingyu had felt had clearly shown on his face, because Wonwoo ducked his head, taming his hair with his fingers and looking ashamed and embarrassed. Seungcheol, too, looked ashamed at being caught ducking out of work early, especially since he’d been the one to drill punctuality and professionalism into Mingyu when he had trained him the previous summer. Mingyu pursed his lips, making his way soundlessly to his locker behind Wonwoo and muttering a curt, “Excuse me,” to get Wonwoo to move away.

 

He dumped his bag into the locker, stripping his gym shirt quickly and efficiently and pulling on his white t-shirt and slinging his whistle around his neck. He slammed his locker shut and turned around to face Wonwoo and Seungcheol, who were both shuffling on their feet guiltily, as though they were naughty schoolboys caught misbehaving.

 

“It was unprofessional of you two to duck out of work early,” Mingyu said plainly, careful that his tone had no inflections. He didn’t want to sound scolding, because it wasn’t his place to discipline his colleagues, who were also his hyungs. “I’m not reporting this to Ms Song, because I only caught you two ten minutes before your shifts ended, although I don’t know how long you were in here,” and at this, Wonwoo and Seungcheol flushed a deeper red, “but I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. Just make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

 

Mingyu didn’t wait for a response. He strode out of the room to the lifeguard post, heart beating a mile a minute. It had taken all his will and self-control not to lash out in anger, especially at Seungcheol, because he knew that doing so would cause a rift between him and Wonwoo. But god did he want to rip into Seungcheol for putting Wonwoo’s job on the line for a make-out session, and for abandoning his post when his shift wasn’t over. Sure, the pool was closed, but that didn’t mean club members wouldn’t try to sneak in and take advantage of the empty pool, which had happened to Mingyu at least a dozen times when he was on the job.

 

He kept his mind distracted from the other reasons he was angry, flicking through his phone and occasionally glancing out at the pool. The clouds were a stormy grey, and Mingyu thought bitterly that it reflected the mess that was his emotions. Soon, however, the grey passed and Mingyu groused as he re-opened the pool to the club members. For the next few hours, his job kept him busy enough that he could keep Wonwoo’s breathy moan, bruised lips and hooded eyes out of his mind.

Chapter Text

“I am so sorry.”

 

Wonwoo shook his head emphatically, dismissing Seungcheol’s apology. “Don’t be. What are you sorry for? We both decided to cut out early and it wasn’t our fault that Mingyu walked in on us.”

 

The aftermath of Mingyu’s interruption had left both of them mortified, unable to speak or even look at each other for several minutes after Mingyu had left in a huff. The silence had stretched on, uncomfortable and stifling, as Wonwoo and Seungcheol awkwardly packed up their belongings. Seungcheol, seemingly having had enough of the awkward tension, built up the courage to apologize.

 

“Yeah, but… knowing how you feel about Mingyu and… well… yeah. Just. I’m sorry,” Seungcheol finished lamely, biting his lip and brow wrinkled in concern.

 

Wonwoo huffed a bitter laugh. “Please. Mingyu’s made it pretty clear he doesn’t think of me that way. He’s probably mad that I cut out of work early and could have lost the job he spent weeks training me for.”

 

“Oh no,” Seungcheol said quickly. “He wasn’t mad at you . He was definitely pissed at me, though. He looked like he was gonna punch me in the face. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was jealous.”

 

Wonwoo’s heart fluttered briefly, but he immediately squashed the bloom of hope in his chest. He snorted, “Yeah, probably jealous that I’m the one getting all the action this summer. Don’t worry about Mingyu,” he told Seungcheol, both of them trudging out of the changing room, “I’ll make it up to him by buying him his favourite drink, and if he’s still pissy after that, I’ll offer to be his wingman the next time we go out together.”

 

/////

 

Okay, so maybe Mingyu overreacted.

 

After the initial swell of anger dissipated, Mingyu found himself wishing that he’d reacted to the whole thing differently instead.

 

In a world where Mingyu wasn’t crushing hard on his best friend, he’d walk in on Wonwoo and Seungcheol making out, be a little stunned that his normally shy best friend was making out in a semi-public place, then quickly recover and poke fun of him by catcalling and whistling, and maybe make fun of him for it for the next few days, and forget about the whole incident by the end of the week.

 

That was what a totally normal, platonic, best friend would have done.

 

Instead, Mingyu had gotten incredibly jealous, tried to cover it up with some bullshit excuse about professionalism, had been in a sulk the entire day, and spent that night with his hand down his pants replaying the way Wonwoo had arched off the locker and his breathy moan.

 

Suffice to say, he woke up the next morning feeling like the shittiest best friend in the world. The feeling only deepened when he reluctantly dragged himself out of bed at noon to answer the door, only to find Wonwoo on his porch with two iced mochas - his favourite drink.

 

“Hey,” Wonwoo greeted, a little sheepishly.

 

“Hey,” Mingyu mumbled back, surprised. He’d been prepared to be stonewalled by Wonwoo for a while - whenever he and Wonwoo got into fights, Wonwoo often gave him the silent treatment for a few days, until one of them caved and grovelled for forgiveness. It was usually Mingyu who did the grovelling, which was why he simply stood and stared at Wonwoo, confused as to why Wonwoo was doing the grovelling this time, when they didn’t even technically fight and when Mingyu was definitely in the wrong.

 

“Uh,” Wonwoo started awkwardly after a pause, “I brought you your favourite. You gonna let me in?”

 

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure, come on in,” Mingyu stuttered, flinging the door wide open and stepping aside, “Thanks. For the drinks.”

 

“It was no problem, I drove Bohyuk to his piano lesson today and I happened to pass by your favourite place, so,” Wonwoo replied smoothly, shrugging as if to say it’s no big deal, bro.

 

Except it was a big fat lie because Bohyuk’s piano lessons were on Wednesdays and it was a Thursday.

 

But Mingyu kept his mouth shut and hummed around the straw. He’d let Wonwoo keep a shred of his dignity, especially since Wonwoo was grovelling, albeit in his own subtle way.

 

They trudged up to Mingyu’s bedroom, where Mingyu flopped back onto his bed, burying himself in his sheets.

 

“Please tell me you didn’t just wake up. It’s almost 1 o’clock,” Wonwoo observed, rolling his eyes.

 

“So what if I did, you gonna traumatize me by having having public sex again?” Mingyu retorted, then stiffened when he realised what he had said.

 

“Uh - I didn’t mean to -”

 

“Look, I’m sorry -”

 

They stopped abruptly, and Mingyu quickly said, “No, look, don’t apologize for yesterday. I should be the one apologizing. I was shocked and overreacted a little. I wasn’t really mad about you cutting out of work early, I mean, I do it myself sometimes too, so, I mean, I was just a little mad at Seungcheol ‘cos he’s told me off for doing that before and now he’s doing it too, so it’s kinda hypocritical, if you ask me…” he trailed off, realising that he rambling. He winced. “So, uh, I’m not mad, please don’t apologise. It’s on me, I totally overreacted.”

 

Please, please don’t ask why I overreacted, Mingyu pleaded in his head. Please buy that bullshit excuse.

 

Wonwoo looked relieved, and Mingyu’s heart lightened at that. Bingo. “Oh, well, then. I honestly thought this would have been more awkward,” Wonwoo chuckled, gesturing to indicate the conversation they were having.

 

“Pfft. Please. Getting caught making out in a changing room is nothing. You think I haven’t done worse myself?” Mingyu leered, waggling his eyebrows playfully.

 

“Augh Mingyu, I really don’t need to know,” Wonwoo groaned.

 

“But I want to know,” Mingyu said, saucily, “What’s Seungcheol like?”

 

“Like?”

 

“Y’know, in bed.”

 

“Mingyu!”

 

“What? Can’t a best friend ask? I’ve always shared my experiences with you!”

 

“That’s because you overshare! I’m more than happy not knowing about your conquests, Mingyu,” Wonwoo pointed out, rolling his eyes. He caved, “I haven’t like, slept with Seungcheol yet, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

A wave of relief and satisfaction washed over Mingyu, and he struggled to keep a straight face. “So how far have you two gone then?” he asked innocently.

 

“Oh y’know… like, making out and stuff.”

 

“And is he a good kisser?”

 

“Yeah,” Wonwoo couldn’t hide his smile and blush at that. “He’s really good,” he added in a mumble.

 

Mingyu tamped down a pulse of jealousy. “Ooooh, Wonwoo hyung~” he teased instead.

 

“Shut up! Can we not talk about this anymore?”

 

Mingyu had never seen Wonwoo so red before. His normally fair complexion had turned fire-engine red, flush extended down the back of his neck and ears. His eyes were downcast, mouth turned up in a kittenish smile. He pressed his cold fingers to his cheeks and was huffing, trying to get the flush to recede. Mingyu thought he looked adorable.

 

“Okay, okay,” Mingyu said placatingly, feeling a little sorry for him. He tossed Wonwoo a controller for his PlayStation. “Wanna go a couple rounds on Mario Kart? Loser cooks lunch.”

 

/////

 

scoops: date tmr?

 

wonu: okay <3 I know a place

 

/////

 

“Welcome to Cafe 17, what can I get - Hey guys!”

 

“Hey Joshua,” Wonwoo replied, grinning, “I’ll get the carbonara and seafood pasta, please.”

 

“Sure, any drinks?” Joshua asked, keying in their order quickly.

 

“A latte for me and…?,” Wonwoo turned to Seungcheol, raising a brow.

 

“Just tap water, thanks.” At Wonwoo quizzical glance, Seungcheol made a face. “I don’t like coffee,” he explained.

 

“So, seafood pasta, carbonara, latte and tap water?” Joshua asked, reviewing their order.

 

“Yeap,” Wonwoo replied, fishing out his own card to pay and batting away the card in Seungcheol’s insisting hand. Seungcheol pouted. Wonwoo smirked to himself; this was payback for the last time Seungcheol snuck off “to the bathroom” to pay for their meal. “When does your shift end, Josh?”

 

“In an hour.”

 

“Join us after?”

 

Joshua looked up, surprised. “Won’t I be interrupting your date?”

 

Wonwoo glanced at Seungcheol, who shrugged. “I don’t mind if Wonwoo doesn’t.”

 

“I wouldn’t have asked if I minded. C’mon Josh, I won’t see you at school anymore now that you’ve graduated, spend some time with me before you go off to uni,” Wonwoo wheedled, pouting.

 

Joshua smiled fondly, “Okay, okay, I’ll come by after I’m done.”

 

As Wonwoo and Seungcheol made their way to a table, Wonwoo explained, “This cafe is owned by Joshua’s parents. The food’s Asian fusion, and it’s really good. A bunch of us come here a lot, ‘cos Joshua gives us a discount every time.”

 

“That’s nice of him,” Seungcheol commented.

 

“Yeah, Joshua’s one of the nicest people I know,” Wonwoo said fondly.

 

The food came quickly; Seungcheol finished his seafood pasta just as quickly as it came. “God,” he groaned, wiping his mouth with a napkin, “that was so good. I’m gonna go get another.”

 

“Another?” Wonwoo gaped, barely halfway through his carbonara.

 

“Yeah, I’ll be back in a sec. Want me to get you anything, babe?” At Wonwoo silent head shake, Seungcheol grabbed his wallet and headed to the counter.

 

Wonwoo shook his head, amazed. The way Seungcheol ate, it was no wonder that he was built like a truck. Wonwoo admired Seungcheol’s broad shoulders and back as he walked over to the counter. He was wearing a black turtleneck which hugged him in all the right places - his biceps, his shoulders, his chest. It contrasted nicely with his lily-white skin and thick, dark lashes. Still, Wonwoo couldn’t help but compare Seungcheol to Mingyu - Mingyu wasn’t as broad as Seungcheol, but was probably just as muscular. Mingyu was definitely taller and tanner, though. He was the embodiment of tall, dark and handsome. Wonwoo had always found Mingyu’s height attractive - it made Wonwoo feel small and, when Mingyu dwarfed him in one of his hugs, safe and secure.

 

Seeing Seungcheol making his way back to the table, Wonwoo shoved all thoughts about Mingyu into the back of his brain. He didn’t feel as guilty as he should, knowing that he had been honest to Seungcheol about his feelings for Mingyu, but it was definitely still inappropriate to be thinking about his best friend while he was ogling his boyfriend.

 

“Joshua convinced me to try their barbecue ribs instead,” Seungcheol said eagerly. “I love ribs!”

 

“Oh yeah, the ribs here are amazing…

 

/////

 

“On the house,” Joshua said, sliding two plates of cake onto the table. He dragged a spare chair over and sank down on it with a sigh. He looked exhausted after his shift.

 

“Thanks hyung,” Wonwoo said sweetly, digging into the cake.

 

Joshua shook his head, amused. “You only call me hyung whenever I give you food.”

 

“Be flattered,” Seungcheol said dryly, “this brat doesn’t call me hyung at all.”

 

“Your own boyfriend? Wonwoo!” Joshua said in mock outrage, shaking his head.

 

Wonwoo merely grinned cheekily in response, too busy stuffing his face with cake to come up with a witty reply.

 

“So Seungcheol,” Joshua said, giving up on conversation with Wonwoo, “do you know which uni you’re heading to in September?”

 

“Yeap, Queen’s College. You?”

 

“No way!” Joshua shot up in his seat, fatigue forgotten. “Jeonghan and I are going there too.”

 

“Nice! Which course?”

 

“Economics, and Jeonghan’s doing Biomed. What course are you taking?”

 

“Chemical Engineering. I know, I know,” Seungcheol said quickly, “boring as hell but, I like math and science so,” he shrugged.

 

“Dude, this is so awesome. I’m so glad I’ll know more than just one person from our town before my first week at uni,” Joshua said with a wistful smile. “Oh! By the way, Jeonghan and I are throwing a farewell party at his place just before we leave. You’re welcome to come! We’re inviting all the kids,” at this, Joshua gestured to Wonwoo, who had been watching the entire conversation with wide eyes, “and some of our friends from our year in school.”

 

“That sounds awesome, text me the details and I’ll be there,” Seungcheol replied, handing Joshua his phone so he could put in his number. “You gonna go, babe?” he asked Wonwoo.

 

“Yeah, probably,” Wonwoo said. “I literally found out about this today.”

 

“Sorry Won, Jeonghan and I only planned this two days ago,” said Joshua distractedly, fiddling with Seungcheol’s phone. He handed it back to Seungcheol. “Give me a missed call so I know what number to text later.”

 

“If he even texts you to begin with,” Wonwoo snorted, “Joshua sucks at texting. He never replies in the groupchat.”

 

“Ugh, that’s ‘cos you guys are so noisy,” Joshua whined, scrolling through his phone. “I muted the groupchat. Plus you know I can’t read Korean that well, it literally makes my head hurt seeing 300 unread messages, all in Korean.”

 

“You are such a banana.”

 

/////

 

1004: Party at my house next Saturday, 9pm, bring booze

 

BOO: jeonghan hyung you do realize we’re all underaged right

 

1004: SHIT

 

1004: DON’T BRING BOOZE

 

1004: I REPEAT, DON’T BRING BOOZE

 

1004: just bring, like, sprite or something

 

1004: and card games

 

hoshimoshi: aight

 

俊辉: yayyyy a partyyyy!

 

wooHOOji: ugh

 

min9yu: can’t wait to go wild with my alcohol-free sprite

 

wonu: ...mingyu you better not do what i think you’re gonna do

 

min9yu: and what’s that?

 

wonu: bring booze

 

min9yu: me? Pft no way, i wasn’t thinking that at all

 

1004: mingyu i will literally pat you down before you enter my house so don’t fucking try me

 

1004: i am NOT going to be responsible for underaged drinking in my house

 

min9yu: :c

 

wooHOOji: love it when mingyu gets wreckt

 

min9yu: I did NOT

 

Chapter Text

 

To Wonwoo’s surprise, Joshua did end up texting Seungcheol after their date, not only to provide details about the party, but as friends. They had even met up for lunch and a few games at the bowling alley. Of course, where Joshua went Jeonghan followed, and the three of them developed a fast friendship over their shared university of choice. During another date with Seungcheol only a few days later, Wonwoo could only listen in amusement and slight bewilderment as Seungcheol gushed about how he had hit it off so well with Joshua and Jeonghan, and “aren’t the two of them just so much fun, Wonwoo? I’m so glad I got to know them before uni.”

 

It made him happy, of course, that his boyfriend and his hyungs got along so well. It seemed that Seungcheol was slowly being integrated into their friend group, along with Seokmin, Minghao and Chan, who were invited back to their basketball games week after week. Seungcheol got along so well with his friends that if Wonwoo and Seungcheol really were in a serious relationship, Wonwoo would have been worried about potential awkwardness that would arise if they broke up, but as it were, he was just glad that Seungcheol would still be part of his social circle when their relationship inevitably ended.

 

The only exception to the otherwise joyful absorption of Seungcheol into their group was, oddly enough, Mingyu, who had known Seungcheol the longest. While Mingyu wasn’t so crass as to completely ignore Seungcheol or be unkind to him (Mingyu was far too much of a social butterfly to alienate anyone), Wonwoo did notice that there some tense moments between them. Like when Mingyu and Seungcheol were team captains during a basketball game, and Mingyu won first pick. He picked Wonwoo right away, which wasn’t odd, but he did smile smugly at Seungcheol and said, in an odd, almost possessive, tone, “Sorry, Seungcheol, you can’t take what’s mine first.” Which… was a little weird, but Wonwoo chalked it up to Mingyu just being a competitive brat. 

 

Wonwoo didn’t know why exactly, but Mingyu had taken to one-upping Seungcheol in everything. Whether it was during their basketball games (Mingyu won the round against Seungcheol), or even something as simple as eating (“How many servings of meat did you eat, hyung?” “Four.” “Hmm, well, I ate five.”). Wonwoo wasn’t even sure that Mingyu was conscious of it - he’d once confronted him about it, shortly after the Changing Room incident.

 

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo said carefully, trying to phrase his question in as delicate a manner as possible, “are you… not fond of Seungcheol?”

 

“What?” Mingyu mumbled distractedly, too busy gorging himself on the cafeteria lunch at the club.

 

“I said, do you dislike Seungcheol?”

 

Mingyu froze, spoon halfway to his mouth and eyes wide. “What,” he sputtered, spraying rice across the table. Wonwoo wrinkled his nose in disgust. “No! What - uh, what makes you think that?”

 

Mingyu almost looked nervous, but Wonwoo pressed on. “‘Cos it always feels like you’re trying to… compete with him? Like you’re trying to be better than him?”

 

“Trying?” Mingyu laughed nervously, “I am better than him.”

 

Wonwoo rolled his eyes, but gave Mingyu a deadpan stare which said I know you’re deflecting, answer the damn question. Years of being Mingyu’s best friend taught him to see through his bullshit.

 

Mingyu grunted, shovelling more food into his mouth almost defensively. “That’s just our friendship,” he said, once he swallowed, “We’ve always been a little competitive, since Seungcheol trained me last year. We used to compare swimming times and weights in the gym and all that.”

 

“Oh,” Wonwoo said, accepting the explanation with relief.

 

Mingyu noticed this and quirked an eyebrow. “What brought this on?”

 

“Nothing,” Wonwoo said dismissively. “I just thought - I dunno, that you were still being weird about catching us in the changing room.”

 

“Pffft, no way,” Mingyu snorted, waving a hand. “We’re over that, remember? I was just shocked that anyone would want to kiss that face,” he teased, gesturing towards Wonwoo.

 

Wonwoo feigned being offended, making an outraged noise and flicking a salad leaf on his plate at Mingyu, which devolved into a mini food-fight, and Wonwoo put the issue at the back of his mind.

 

And if Mingyu’s comment about no one wanting to kiss him stung a little more than it should, well, Wonwoo still had a long way to go before flushing any feelings he had for Mingyu out of his system.

 

(Not that he wanted to, of course.)

 

(Mingyu was a hard person to move on from.)

 

(Wonwoo had tried for years.)

 

/////

 

Wonwoo groaned, panting into Seungcheol’s hair as his boyfriend mouthed at a sensitive spot under his jaw. He tugged Seungcheol back up and pressed his lips insistently against his.

 

“More kissing,” Wonwoo demanded against Seungcheol’s lips. “Less necking.”

 

Seungcheol’s small huff of laughter ghosted over Wonwoo’s lips and he shuddered. “Alright, babe.”

 

Minutes ticked by, and Wonwoo and Seungcheol continued making out languidly in the front seat of Seungcheol’s car. They’d just left a restaurant and were supposed to catch a movie, but became… distracted.

 

“You’re so pretty,” Seungcheol murmured, smiling into their kiss.

 

Wonwoo groaned, flushing pink. “Shut up,” he mumbled, attempting to keep some of his dignity intact. “You’re hot as fuck, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Seungcheol giggled, jostling Wonwoo in his lap. “Well, I have to agree with that. Does that make me a smug bastard?”

 

“No,” Wonwoo said, slapping his shoulder lightly, “your confidence is sexy.”

 

“Oh? Is that so?” Seungcheol asked, attempting a smoulder while waggling his eyebrows. It made for a decidedly un-sexy look, with his lips twitching into a smile, eyes staring straight ahead and eyebrows dancing. Wonwoo laughed at his expression, body shaking so much that he had to hold onto Seungcheol’s shoulders to keep from slipping off his lap. This was probably one of his favourite parts about dating Seungcheol. He loved how they could be making out one moment and then cracking jokes the next.

 

“Ugh, I take that back, I’d rather be making out with a frog right now.”

 

“Mm, I’d make out with Minghao too. Good choice,” Seungcheol joked, referring to Minghao’s nickname, derived from his resemblance to Kermit.

 

“Ew no!” Wonwoo gasped, scandalized. “I wouldn’t ruin his innocence like that. The poor boy looks like he’s never even held a girl’s hand before in his life!”

 

“True,” Seungcheol conceded, then he smirked. “We both know who you’d rather be making out with anyway.”

 

Wonwoo groaned at that, hiding his face in the space between Seungcheol’s neck and shoulder, while said boyfriend started singing, “Wonwoo and Mingyu sitting on a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

 

“I can’t believe my boyfriend is singing about me kissing my best friend.”

 

“Hey,” Seungcheol said, shrugging and jostling Wonwoo’s head, “not gonna lie, that would be hot.”

 

Wonwoo straightened up, gaping at him. “What?” he asked incredulously, unsure if he had heard correctly.

 

“You and Mingyu. Making out. Would be hot,” Seungcheol repeated slowly, with a teasing smile on his face.

 

“Is this - is this some kind of cheating kink?”

 

“Ew no, I’m not into shit like that,” Seungcheol snorted. “But hey, you’re hot, Mingyu’s hot - objectively, he’s not really my type - doesn’t take a math genius to figure out hot plus hot equals hot.”

 

Wonwoo squirmed, made uncomfortable again by a compliment. “How about you, then?” he asked Seungcheol, hoping to deflect from any talk about kissing Mingyu. “Who would you wanna make out with?”

 

“You,” he replied cheesily, with a wink. At Wonwoo’s unimpressed stare, he pursed his lips in thought and answered, “Probably Jeonghan.”

 

“Really?” Wonwoo asked, surprised. Although, now that he thought about it, Seungcheol and Jeonghan did look cute together. He squinted at Seungcheol in suspicion. “Is that why you’ve been hanging out with him and Joshua all the time?”

 

“Nooo,” said Seungcheol, in a tone that clearly said yes . He looked caught out.

 

Wonwoo burst into laughter. “Oh my god, you so want to kiss him.”

 

Seungcheol pouted. “Not that much, what kind of boyfriend would I be if I was thinking about kissing someone else?”

 

“A pretty shitty one, I bet,” replied Wonwoo, sobering instantly and feeling a prickle of guilt. He couldn’t look Seungcheol in the eye.

 

“Oh c’mon,” Seungcheol protested, gently tipping Wonwoo’s chin up so he would look at him. “That wasn’t a jab at you at all. And remember what I said on our first date? Don’t feel guilty about it if you’ve been honest at the start. And you’ve been honest about everything.”

 

Wonwoo wasn’t placated, and it must have shown on his face, because Seungcheol suggested, “How about this, let’s lay down another rule in this relationship.”

 

Wonwoo nodded, intrigued.

 

“If you get a chance to kiss Mingyu, take it. And in turn, I get one free pass on anyone I like,” Seungcheol suggested. “Hell, you don’t even have to kiss Mingyu. Kiss anyone you like, but each of us gets a free pass.”

 

Wonwoo’s first instinct was to turn it down. To kiss Mingyu while he was dating Seungcheol was not fair on Seungcheol; it was bad enough already that Wonwoo wasn’t into Seungcheol like that. He didn’t want Seungcheol feeling bad for him and trying to play wingman to his own boyfriend . That was just… sad, whether on Seungcheol’s part for being such a nice guy or on Wonwoo’s part for being such a pathetic boyfriend. 

 

But a part of Wonwoo - the part which had MINGYU stamped all over it and seared permanently as an extra measure - was dying to say yes. Which was absolutely ridiculous because Wonwoo was pretty sure Mingyu would rather bite his own hand off than kiss him, as evidenced by his vehement denial that he would ever date Wonwoo. Still, there was a niggling bud of hope that was convinced that one day, he would stand a chance with Mingyu. Plus, Seungcheol clearly had a bit of an infatuation with Jeonghan, and Wonwoo bore no ill will towards that - in fact, the thought of Seungcheol and Jeonghan together made him feel warm inside, like he was an old match-maker who had successfully introduced two compatible people to each other.

 

His lips curved into a small smile. “That sounds good to me,” he told Seungcheol, “though I’m pretty sure Mingyu wouldn’t kiss me even if I was the last person on earth.”

 

Seungcheol shot him a skeptical glance. “I don’t know about that,” he murmured.

 

Wonwoo opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that, but was quickly sidetracked by Seungcheol leaning in to nuzzle his neck. “Enough talking,” he murmured, biting down lightly. Wonwoo gasped, shivering slightly. “Less talking, more kissing.”

 

Wonwoo could only nod shakily, nudging Seungcheol’s chin up to press a kiss onto his lips.

Chapter Text

“WONWOOOOO!!!”

 

Wonwoo winced, accepting a hug from a mostly-drunk Soonyoung and crab-walking into Jeonghan’s house. Soonyoung nuzzled his cheek into his neck and slurred, “So glad you’re here.”

 

“Glad to be here,” Wonwoo replied, amused at how affectionate Soonyoung got when he was drunk. He patted him on his back and pried himself free of the embrace gently. “How are you drunk already? The party started like an hour ago.”

 

And was clearly underway. Loud music blasted from the speakers set up around the room (Jeonghan had an amazing sound system) and the house was packed - a testament to Jeonghan’s popularity in school. Wonwoo recognized most of the guests as fellow students in Joshua and Jeonghan’s cohort, but there were a fair few who weren’t - Wonwoo spotted Seokmin jamming to the rap song with Seungkwan, Minghao chatting animatedly to Jun in a corner, and even Chan was there, chilling on the couch and laughing at something Vernon said. Raucous laughter and cheering came from a group of people gathered around the dining table playing beer pong, and in the midst of them, Wonwoo could see Mingyu’s head peeking out over the others’, chugging a bottle of beer.

 

“Pre-gamed with Mingyu and his friends,” Soonyoung said cheerily, then he pouted, seeming to realize something. “Why weren’t you there?”

 

“Had to drive Bohyuk back from a photoshoot earlier,” Wonwoo replied smoothly. It was true, but he didn’t want to admit that he had volunteered to pick up Bohyuk when his mother could have done it. The truth was, Mingyu had invited Wonwoo to the pre-drinks, but Wonwoo was wary of Mingyu’s friends, who were mostly either seniors or jocks, and all of whom were as wild as, if not more so, than Mingyu. And even though Wonwoo was Mingyu’s best friend, they weren’t always together and did have separate circles of friends. Mingyu had his group of outgoing, adventurous friends, and Wonwoo had his quieter, gaming friends. Wonwoo didn’t dislike Mingyu’s friends, per se, and was actually quite friendly with them. But, truth be told, he felt a little intimidated by their brash personalities and their sheer popularity amongst the student body.

 

So maybe Wonwoo had turned Mingyu down with a delicate “I would love to but I have something to do” and then told his mom that he would drive Bohyuk back from his shoot on Saturday because “you worked so hard all week, mom, you should just enjoy the weekend”. Wonwoo wasn’t lying, technically .

 

“Oh,” Soonyoung said, “is that why you’re late?”

 

“I’m not late,” Wonwoo said, rolling his eyes. “Jeonghan’s parties never start on time.”

 

He had learnt that lesson when he was a freshman. He’d turned up half an hour before the party started, because he was a punctual boy and his parents raised him right, only to be roped into setting up the house for the party. By the time the party started, he was so exhausted from moving furniture and crates of beer that he just wanted to go home and rest.

 

“Yeah, that’s true,” Soonyoung mumbled. “I actually just arrived. Yugyeom drove us in his mom van and - MINGYUUUU!”

 

Soonyoung squealed and flinched away from a grinning Mingyu, who had snuck up from behind him and blew into his ear. Mingyu was clearly tipsy, a charming pink flush adorning his cheeks and neck, and eyes slightly glazed over. Even in his disheveled state, Wonwoo noted with a hint of jealousy (and a heap of butterflies-in-his-stomach which he tried to suppress), Mingyu looked good. His hair was pushed back from his face (all the better to admire his handsome face) and he was dressed in a band t-shirt and a pair of ripped skinny jeans that showed off his tanned thighs.

 

“I brought booze,” Mingyu said to Wonwoo proudly, like a kindergartner showing off a drawing to his parents.

 

“Clearly,” Wonwoo said dryly. “Have any for me?”

 

“Of course!” Mingyu chirped, and wandered off towards the kitchen.

 

“How did you guys get past Jeonghan anyway? He must’ve noticed you idiots are drunk,” Wonwoo asked Soonyoung.

 

“Pfffftttt, as if Jeonghan actually cares about whether or not we drink, it’s his farewell party. He’s too busy downing shots in the kitchen with Joshua, Seungcheol and the 95ers.”

 

“Seungcheol?” Wonwoo asked, interest piqued at the mention of his boyfriend. “I think I’ll go over and say hi then.”

 

Soonyoung nodded and hummed, already distracted by Minghao calling his name from across the room, leaving Wonwoo to wade his way to the kitchen. The hallway was full of people, and Wonwoo tried his best not to shove anyone, but he grimaced as he squeezed past a couple making out. The loud music and chatter of the party was so loud that he barely registered the raised voices in the kitchen before he entered.

 

“-the FUCK do you think you’re doing,” Mingyu was yelling.

 

The kitchen, like the rest of the house, was full of people. Wonwoo spotted Jeonghan, Joshua, Seungcheol and a few of their friends gathered around the kitchen island, which was littered with shot glasses and bottles. A small space had been cleared in the middle of the island, where a bottle lay sideways, neck pointing towards Jeonghan. Wonwoo noticed the proximity between Jeonghan and Seungcheol, whose hair was mussed and whose lips were puffy and red and -

 

Oh.

 

Seungcheol had cashed in on his free pass.

 

Even though they had talked about the free pass, Wonwoo had expected to be at least a little jealous of anyone kissing his boyfriend. But as he stood there, in front of his boyfriend who had obviously kissed one of his closest friends, he only felt a sense of curiosity - he wished he’d been there to see it happen. Seungcheol was right. Hot plus hot equals hot.

 

Wonwoo was yanked out of imagining Seungcheol and Jeonghan kissing when Mingyu stormed around the kitchen island to grab Seungcheol by the collar. At this point, everyone in the kitchen had frozen and was staring at the scene Mingyu was causing. The attention on Mingyu and Seungcheol made Wonwoo shrink back behind some other partygoers, heart pounding at the thought of confrontation.

 

“How dare you do this to Wonwoo? You know, your boyfriend. Or have you forgotten about him?” Mingyu sneered. He looked furious. His handsome face was contorted and flushed red, and Wonwoo was pretty sure it wasn’t because of the alcohol. His fists were wound tight in Seungcheol’s shirt, throwing the tendons on his forearms and neck into sharp relief. Despite knowing Mingyu for years, more than a decade even, Wonwoo didn’t think he’d ever seen Mingyu this angry. Perhaps the closest he’d ever gotten was when he’d discovered the school bully picking on Wonwoo in middle school. Even then, Mingyu had merely threatened to hit the bully - a threat that worked when Mingyu was the tallest and biggest kid around - whereas now, in Jeonghan’s kitchen, Mingyu looked like he really was seconds away from punching Seungcheol in the face.

 

Whispers broke out among the other partygoers, most of whom, thankfully, Wonwoo had never met before. A girl behind him turned to her friend and said gleefully, “Oooh, this is exciting !”

 

A sick feeling settled into Wonwoo’s stomach. He was rooted on the spot - unwilling to leave but unwilling to step in between his best friend and his boyfriend. He knew that the right thing to do would be to defuse the situation and explain the free pass to Mingyu, but his stomach churned at the thought of doing that in front of at least a dozen strangers in the room. His palms turned clammy knowing that all of these people thought that his boyfriend had just cheated on him - he could imagine all the rumours that would fly around about him when he returned to school in the fall: walking into his new homeroom and greeting his new classmates, who would whisper among themselves as soon as he turned his back, “Isn’t that Jeon Wonwoo? Kim Mingyu’s best friend? I heard that his boyfriend cheated on him during the summer. Worse, Kim Mingyu was the one who found out about it!”

 

But Wonwoo couldn’t leave now. His feet were frozen, and in his indecision, the entire kitchen had become silent, although the loud thumping of music from the living room could still be heard. If he left now, he would definitely draw attention to himself, and god, he really, really did not want anyone to notice him.

 

Seungcheol batted Mingyu’s hand away easily, a loud, ominous smack ringing in the kitchen. He didn’t look angry, although his tone was defensive when he spoke. “It’s none of your business what my relationship with Wonwoo is.”

 

None of my business? He’s my best friend, so I’m pretty sure it is my business.”

 

Seungcheol shrugged, turning back to his drink, “Okay, suit yourself.” It was clear that he was trying to de-escalate the situation as nonchalantly as possible, but it only seemed to stoke Mingyu’s anger.

 

He growled, grabbing Seungcheol’s wrists and slamming down the bottle on the kitchen island. The crowd in the kitchen ooh -ed. Wonwoo slunk further back towards the wall, heart racing.

 

“Do you have any shame? You just cheated on your boyfriend with his close friend,” Mingyu snarled, then he turned to Jeonghan, expression morphing into disgust, “And you! Jeonghan hyung, how could you? All that talk about not interfering in their relationship and here you are playing homewrecker.”

 

“Mingyu, listen,” Jeonghan started.

 

“No,” Mingyu said abruptly, “You know what? I don’t want to hear your excuses. It’s clear neither of you give a shit about Wonwoo. I’m going straight to him and I’m telling him everything.” He turned to storm out of the room, but turned back just as quickly to throw a parting shot. “Wonwoo deserves a better boyfriend than you.”

 

“Like you?”

 

Mingyu floundered at the unexpected reply. “What?” he snapped.

 

“You said that Wonwoo deserves better than me, so who does he deserve? You?” Seungcheol asked, face open and honest, and his tone curious.

 

“Wh- I- I would treat him better than you ever could,” Mingyu stuttered, indignant. “And at least I love him, which - you clearly don’t.”

 

What.

 

What.

 

Then Mingyu’s mouth abruptly snapped shut, seeming to realise what he had just admitted to Wonwoo’s boyfriend, his hyungs, and all the strangers in the room. His mouth twisted into a bitter smile and he stalked out of the kitchen. The crowd parted before him, stunned, and Wonwoo, whose brain was still stuck on “I love him”, scrambled to get out of Mingyu’s way.

 

Unfortunately, Wonwoo couldn’t get his act together fast enough, because, in his haste to leave, Mingyu shoved against his shoulder, looked up to apologize and -

 

“Wonwoo.”

 

Wonwoo did the only thing he was ever good at when it came to all things Mingyu-related.

 

He ran.

 

/////

 

“Where were you last night?” Soonyoung complained, trudging up the staircase to where Wonwoo was sitting and eating his packed lunch. “And why are we eating in the stairwell and not the cafeteria? I wanted to ask Seokmin about that hot chick he was making out with yesterday.”

 

Wonwoo rolled his eyes, and patted the space on the floor next to him. Like a disgruntled cat, Soonyoung stalked over and sank down reluctantly, breaking open the packaging of his lunch and stuffing his face with rice.

 

“Well?” he asked expectantly, voice muffled from the food in his cheeks. “What happened to you last night? I didn’t see you around after you arrived.”

 

“Mingyu found Seungcheol kissing Jeonghan,” Wonwoo started.

 

Soonyoung choked, clearly not expecting that. Wonwoo rubbed his back comfortingly as he hacked out a mouthful of rice. “What!”

 

“But that’s ‘cos we each have a free pass to kiss someone else,” Wonwoo continued, “so it’s all good, no cheating.”

 

“Uhuh, but I’m guessing Mingyu didn’t know about this free pass?”

 

“Yeah, so he got pissed and got all up in Seungcheol’s face. Then he threatened to tell me about it, but I was already there. I saw the whole thing-”

 

“And you didn’t say anything?”

 

“I couldn’t! There were all these people I didn’t know at the party and they were watching everything,” Wonwoo half-wailed. “And worse, Mingyu said I deserved better but then ended up confessing that he liked me to Seungcheol and when he tried to leave he saw me and realized I was there the whole time but then I was too awkward to say anything so I just ran out and drove home.”

 

“Wow.”

 

Wonwoo waited for Soonyoung to say more but for once in his life, Soonyoung was speechless.

 

“Wow? Is that all you have to say?” Wonwoo asked, a little annoyed. “I just told you the most embarrassing thing ever in my life and all you can say is ‘wow’?”

 

Soonyoung opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, “This is so much more interesting than Seokmin and that girl.”

 

Wonwoo felt no remorse as he smacked Soonyoung on the shoulder, hard. Really, what was he thinking telling Soonyoung all this? Soonyoung was one of his closest friends, the closest after Mingyu, and he really needed some unbiased advice on how to get himself out of this mess - he couldn’t go to Mingyu or Seungcheol, for obvious reasons, and while he would normally go to Jeonghan or Joshua for advice, they were too close to the situation to view things objectively. That left Soonyoung or Jun, and Wonwoo would sooner take advice from a crackhead than Jun.

 

Not that Soonyoung was shaping up to be a great choice either.

 

“Wait wait wait - let’s rewind a little,” Soonyoung said, waving his hands, food forgotten on his lap. “Mingyu said he liked you.”

 

“I don’t know! He told Seungcheol that he loved me but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m sure he just means that he loves me as a friend.”

 

Soonyoung snorted, shaking his head. “Uh, trust me, Wonwoo, that is not what he meant.”

 

“And how are you so sure?” Wonwoo challenged. “Mingyu’s never shown any interest in me, and he even said that us being relationship is a crazy idea.”

 

“Whoa, what? When?”

 

Wonwoo sighed, and retold the story of how he’d overheard Mingyu and Bohyuk talking the night of his first date with Seungcheol, minus the embarrassing breakdown he’d had afterwards in Seungcheol’s car.

 

“That idiot is lying,” Soonyoung said flatly. “Why would he confess that he likes you to your brother anyway? That would have made things awkward.”

 

At Wonwoo’s unconvinced face, he sighed. “Look, I wasn’t supposed to tell you this, but Mingyu is so whipped for you. He told Jeonghan, and Jeonghan told Jun, and Jun told me. And you’re literally the only one who hasn’t noticed. Everyone knows that he likes you. We’ve been betting on how long it would take for you to notice.”

 

“What,” was all Wonwoo could say at the barrage of new information. “ Everyone knows? Mingyu told Jeonghan ? That he actually likes me? You’ve been betting on us?”

 

“Yeah, I lost that bet,” Soonyoung said, disgruntled. “I was convinced that he’d confess to you after your hospital scare but I guess he’s a bigger coward than I thought he was.”

 

“I can’t believe you.”

 

“It was only five bucks!”

 

“And how does Jeonghan know about this?”

 

“Apparently he cornered Mingyu at your party and squeezed a confession out of him. Smart guy,” Soonyoung said admiringly. “I mean, most of us suspected. But hyung got it straight from the horse's mouth.”

 

Was that why Jeonghan had gone along with kissing Seungcheol? Admittedly, Wonwoo had been surprised that Jeonghan had agreed kissed Seungcheol. He had assumed that Seungcheol explained the free pass thing to Jeonghan, but he couldn’t see Jeonghan as the sort of person to get in between a couple, free pass or no. Jeonghan was far too sensitive and kind to do that sort of thing, especially to a close dongsaeng like Wonwoo. Now that he knew Jeonghan knew about Mingyu’s feelings for him, he had to wonder if Jeonghan also knew about his casual relationship with Seungcheol. That he and Seungcheol were only together for fun and were bound to break up as soon as Seungcheol started university.

 

“What?” Soonyoung asked, prodding Wonwoo’s cheek with a finger. “You’ve got your thinking face on, what’s going on in there?”

 

Wonwoo shook his head, mumbling, “Just wondering how much Jeonghan hyung knows.”

 

“The guy knows everything,” Soonyoung said conclusively. “Hey, what happened to Mingyu after the whole scene at the party? Did you talk to him after?”

 

As if on cue, Wonwoo’s phone buzzed from where he left it on the floor next to his lunch. Mingyu’s derpy face flashed on the screen. Wonwoo let it ring and ring until the phone fell silent.

 

“Ah, I see we’re going for the whole ‘ignore it until it goes away’ tactic. Genius,” Soonyoung said sarcastically.

 

Wonwoo winced. “I’ve been avoiding his calls. And Seungcheol’s. And Jeonghan’s.”

 

“And mine! I called you last night.”

 

“And yours,” Wonwoo conceded.

 

Soonyoung snorted. “And the reason why we’re sitting in the stairwell instead of the cafeteria is because…?”

 

“Mingyu had a morning shift and I didn’t want to run into him,” Wonwoo sighed, “Although, I do have to face Seungcheol later for our shift at 4.”

 

“What are you worried about? It should be Mingyu who’s hiding,” Soonyoung snorted. At Wonwoo’s questioning glance, he continued, “I mean, the poor guy just confessed his undying love for you and you ran off and ignored him afterwards. By the way, are you gonna let him down easy? You should be nice to him, you know. He really does care for you.”

 

Wonwoo gaped. He hadn’t really thought about the implications of Mingyu actually liking him. Before, right after the incident, he’d been convinced that Mingyu meant that he loved him as a friend, but with Soonyoung shedding light on what he’d been oblivious to all along, he now realized that his crush/best friend since middle school liked him back and he had… run away and ignored him.

 

He was a fucking idiot.

 

“I’m a fucking idiot.”

 

“What?”

 

“Oh god,” Wonwoo breathed. “Soonyoung, why the hell would I turn him down? I’ve liked that loser since middle school.”

 

Soonyoung’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh. That’s… oh. Okay.”

 

“What should I do now?”

 

“Uh…”

 

“Soonyoung!”

 

“Give me a minute, Won. I’m still in shock after realizing that you’ve liked Mingyu since middle school? That’s kinda cute, man,” Soonyoung chuckled. “Man, this whole time I felt sorry for Mingyu ‘cos I thought you didn’t like him back and now you guys are a regular Romeo and Juliet.”

 

At Wonwoo’s glare, he laughed and corrected himself, “Or Romeo and Romeo?”

 

“You’re actually the worst,” Wonwoo said flatly. “I come to you for advice and you make fun of me.”

 

“Okay, okay, how’s this for advice? Man the fuck up, go to Mingyu’s after your shift, buy some of his favourite coffee or whatever, and say, ‘Mingyu, love of my life, I cherish thee too.’”

 

Wonwoo pursed his lips and gave his best unimpressed stare. Soonyoung didn’t falter. “Then you sweep him off his feet with all the brand new muscles you have and kiss him with all you got.”

 

Soonyoung made smooching sounds, miming kissing with his spoon and moaning exaggeratedly. 

 

“You suck,” Wonwoo said, packing up his belongings to leave for his shift. “I’m not doing that, it’s ridiculous. I have dignity-”

 

/////

 

Wonwoo breathed out, trying to steady himself. He raised his hand to knock on the familiar door to Mingyu’s house. In his other hand, he held a takeaway bag from Mingyu’s favourite cafe containing Mingyu’s favourite coffee and a slice of his favourite cake.

 

He tensed as he heard movement from behind the door. A second later, it swung open, revealing Mingyu in a ratty pair of pajamas, hair still wet from a shower and towel slung over his shoulder.

 

“Hey- oh,” Mingyu started, expression guarded. “It’s you.”

 

Wonwoo plastered on a small smile that felt more like a grimace.

 

“It’s me,” he replied in as light a tone as he could muster. “Mind if I come in? I brought your favourites.”

 

Mingyu gulped, but stepped aside and nodded. “Sure,” he said with forced cheer.

Chapter Text

“So,” Seungcheol started with forced casualness. “I used my free pass on Jeonghan.”

 

Wonwoo looked up from the bench in the changing room where he was rooting around his backpack for his uniform. He’d just come in for his shift, but hadn’t expected Seungcheol to already be in the changing room ten minutes early. They had greeted each other awkwardly: Wonwoo pretending that he hadn’t ignored Seungcheol’s text messages and missed calls, and Seungcheol playing along.

 

“Yes, I know. I was there,” Wonwoo replied. He could see the growing tension in Seungcheol’s pinched expression. “Don’t worry,” he said, putting his bag aside and rubbing his palms along his boyfriend’s shoulders. “I’m not mad. We talked about this, remember?”

 

“Right,” Seungcheol said, unconvinced. “You say you’re not mad but the way you’ve been dodging my calls and texts says that you are.”

 

If Wonwoo were a less sensitive person, he would have laughed at Seungcheol’s expression - he looked like he was expecting Wonwoo to slap him.

 

“I was just embarrassed at being caught out in the kitchen,” Wonwoo mumbled. He could feel his face heating up and his ears flushing just thinking about the incident. “And I was kinda shocked by Mingyu’s confession.”

 

“Ah,” Seungcheol said, looking relieved that Wonwoo really wasn’t mad at him after all. Then he shot Wonwoo a thoughtful look. “You know, Mingyu and I ran after you after you left the kitchen.”

 

“I know.”

 

“And after you drove off, we had an… interesting conversation.”

 

“Oh god,” Wonwoo muttered. “I don’t want to know.”

 

“Wonwoo,” Seungcheol said imploringly. “Mingyu really likes you.”

 

“Yes, I heard from Soonyoung. Apparently everyone knows this except for me,” Wonwoo said flatly, a hint of exasperation and amusement creeping into his tone. At Seungcheol wriggling his eyebrows suggestively, Wonwoo sighed. “Is my boyfriend really setting me up with my best friend?”

 

“Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?” Seungcheol pointed out, smirking. “And I’m not talking about that free pass one-kiss bullshit. I’m talking about getting together with him.”

 

Wonwoo couldn’t stop the small smile creeping onto his face at the thought of it - of him and Mingyu together, properly, being boyfriends. Of Mingyu liking him back . The thought of it was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Seungcheol noticed the smile and poked his cheeks, cooing.

 

“Stop it,” Wonwoo groaned in between pokes. He batted Seungcheol’s hand away, but ended up wrapping his own hand around his. He sobered, glancing up at Seungcheol beneath his lashes, feeling like the worst person ever as he asked, “But what about you?”

 

Seungcheol snorted. “What about me?”

 

“I’d feel awful if I broke up with you.”

 

“Good thing I’m breaking up with you now, then,” Seungcheol replied laughingly, but kindly. At Wonwoo’s surprised expression, he softened, wrapped his arms around him in a soft embrace and said with a smile, “I’ve had a great time being your boyfriend. You were really fun to go on dates with, and having you around made me forget about the stress of moving to uni. And, well, I’m moving away soon and I was planning on breaking up next week anyway, but I figured that after Mingyu’s confession last night we probably shouldn’t drag this out.”

 

Wonwoo nodded, burying his face into Seungcheol’s neck and tightening his arms around him. Even though Seungcheol had felt more like a close hyung than a boyfriend, Wonwoo still felt the ache of separation in his chest. Knowing that Seungcheol would soon be halfway across the country and couldn’t simply meet up with him when he was bored left an empty feeling in his heart. He had confided so much in Seungcheol: his feelings for Mingyu, his sexuality, his doubts; and Seungcheol had been nothing but supportive and kind, knowing when to step in and give him advice and also when to just let Wonwoo ramble. Seungcheol was everything Wonwoo had ever wanted in an older sibling and more.

 

“I’ll miss you so much,” mumbled Wonwoo, voice muffled into Seungcheol’s collarbone. “I hate that you’re leaving.”

 

“It’s not goodbye forever,” Seungcheol said comfortingly, hands running up and down Wonwoo’s back in a soothing pattern. “I’ll be back during term breaks, and we’ll keep in touch in between.”

 

“Yeah,” Wonwoo sighed, pulling back reluctantly from Seungcheol’s embrace. Seungcheol searched his face intently, as though making sure Wonwoo wasn’t too upset. What he saw seemed to satisfy him, and his face broke into a handsome smile. He moved to let go of Wonwoo, but hesitated. A smirk tugged on his lips. Slowly, he leaned in again, eyes flicking up to check Wonwoo’s expression. “Is this okay?” he murmured, an echo of their first kiss.

 

Wonwoo nodded eagerly.

 

Seungcheol pressed his lips softly against Wonwoo’s, hands cupping his jaw and thumbs brushing his cheek lightly. Wonwoo closed his eyes and just enjoyed the feeling of kissing Seungcheol for the last time. Sure, Seungcheol may have just been an older-sibling figure to him, but he was an amazing kisser too. The kiss was chaste and sweet, and they pulled away at the same time, smiling at each other dopily.

 

“All good?” Seungcheol asked, already turning back to his locker.

 

“All good,” Wonwoo replied firmly.

 

“Great, ‘cos we’re late to our shift,” Seungcheol said, checking his watch. “We better get going before Ms Song comes looking for us.”

 

The two of them quickly made to leave the changing room, but before Seungcheol opened the door, he turned back to Wonwoo and asked, “We’re still friends, right?”

 

Wonwoo rolled his eyes. He thought he had made himself perfectly clear.

 

“Yes, hyung.”

 

/////

 

Mingyu was freaking the fuck out.

 

How could Wonwoo stay so calm? As Mingyu led his (probably soon to be ex-) best friend up to his room, Wonwoo greeted his sister and mom like he always did, as though he wasn’t about to break Mingyu’s heart.

 

“Hey Minseo, hey Auntie Kim!”

 

“Hi Wonwoo!” they chorused. Mingyu’s mom looked up from where she was stirring some kimchi stew, “Are you staying for dinner, Wonwoo?”

 

Mingyu’s eyes widened in alarm, and he tried to subtly shake his head at his mother.

 

Wonwoo hesitated, and glanced at Mingyu, who immediately stopped all attempts at subtle communication. Wonwoo was probably thinking of how awkward it would be at the dining table after he inevitably rejected Mingyu and clarified that No, Mingyu, we’re only friends and I don’t feel the same way about you. Maybe we should stay away from each other for a while.

 

At Mingyu’s blank look, Wonwoo turned back to her and said politely, “Uh, probably not, Auntie, I have dinner waiting for me at home already.”

 

Mingyu’s heart sank. If that wasn’t confirmation that Wonwoo was going to let him down, he didn’t know what was. Wonwoo clearly wanted to get away from Mingyu, from all his awkward feelings and desires, and he wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

 

With a heavy heart, Mingyu trudged his way up the stairs to his room, letting Wonwoo in and closing the door behind him with an ominous-sounding click .

 

Wonwoo put down the takeaway bag on Mingyu’s desk and made himself comfortable on his bed, like he did every time he came over. Mingyu’s heart clenched - the pretense of normalcy that Wonwoo was putting on made him feel both grateful and anxious. Grateful because Wonwoo was acting as if everything was alright, anxious because Mingyu knew that this would be the last time things remained normal between them.

 

He already could see what his immediate future looked like: seeing Wonwoo only once a week during their basketball games, occasionally bumping into him at the club while changing shifts, spending the rest of the summer without his best friend. He could also see them starting school, drifting apart as Wonwoo chose to hang out with his circle of friends more than he already did, not eating lunch together anymore, ending the school year as acquaintances, with Wonwoo graduating and moving to university. Then he and Wonwoo would be the sort of acquaintances who would catch up over lunch, probably once a year during Chuseok, when their families got together.

 

The distant future, however -

 

Before Mingyu had realized his feelings for Wonwoo, he had always imagined his future like this: having kids with a lovely, sweet, nondescript woman, enjoying domestic bliss, earning six figures a year, a nice home in a nice neighbourhood, and a nice car in the garage. What had always been there was Wonwoo: in the same neighbourhood, perhaps even down the street, coming over to Mingyu’s for dinner every week, or maybe vice versa. Their kids and wives would be best friends: they would have been each other’s best man at their respective weddings. 

 

But after - after Mingyu had found Wonwoo coughing up blood in his kitchen, had panicked over him, had sat by his bedside at the hospital and realised, then, that Wonwoo was his most precious person - 

 

Mingyu had tried his best not to imagine a future with Wonwoo in it. At first, it was because he thought that his feelings for his best friend would fade over time. He had been scared of losing Wonwoo, that’s all it was. But weeks passed, and then months. And then Wonwoo had to go date Seungcheol and make Mingyu feel like the most wretched best friend in the world - constantly raging with jealousy and unable to truly be happy for the person he supposedly loved. Mingyu knew, then, that his feelings would not abate so easily. But he still tamped down on any treacherous thoughts his love-addled mind tried to come up with: the same dream, children in a nice house in a nice neighbourhood and a nice car, but this time, Wonwoo didn’t live down the street. This time, Mingyu would wake up next to Wonwoo in his bed - their bed - every morning. Wonwoo wouldn’t come over for dinner once a week - he’d be cooking dinner for Mingyu, or (more likely) Mingyu would be cooking dinner for him, every night. They wouldn’t have been best men at each other’s wedding, they’d have been the grooms at their wedding.

 

When Mingyu had those thoughts, he would desperately try to drown them out through any means - he’d distract himself, scroll through Youtube and watch random videos, and would do anything to keep himself from stoking his dreamhouse fantasy with Wonwoo. They were dangerous - they’d make him hopeful, expectant, and when he inevitably came down to earth and realised none of it was going to happen, he’d crash hard.

 

And it would hurt.

 

Mingyu wanted to laugh at his past self’s foolishness. He should have indulged in those fantasies while he still had hope - when his heart made his grip on reality falter just long enough that he could still be blinded to the truth, if he tried hard enough. Here he was, ready to face reality, and it already hurt anyway, what was a little more?

 

“You’re not gonna drink that?” Wonwoo’s voice interrupted his pathetic spiel in his head.

 

Mingyu cleared his throat and avoided Wonwoo’s gaze. “Yeah,” he mumbled, pulling out the drink from the bag and stabbing a straw through it. The iced mocha slid down his throat, tasteless and heavy - any other time, the drink would have cheered him up, but now all he could think was how he would trade a million of these drinks for a chance to erase his confession in Jeonghan’s kitchen. “It’s good,” he lied, smiling blandly. “Thanks.”

 

“So,” drawled Wonwoo, looking up at Mingyu from where he was sprawled on his bed. “What’s this I hear about you liking me?”

 

Mingyu winced. Trust Wonwoo to dive straight into it, no holds barred. Wonwoo’s bluntness was something he had always liked, but he had to admit that it was doing him no favours in this situation.

 

He glanced quickly at Wonwoo, attempting to gauge just how much he hated him at the moment. Wonwoo’s face was as impassive and blank as ever, as though he was hiding any and all expression. But who was Mingyu to lie to himself? Wonwoo had already made clear how he felt about Mingyu’s confession. Wonwoo’s face, frozen with terror when Mingyu had caught him in the kitchen after his confession, was all he could see when he fell asleep that night. Any meager hope that he had that Wonwoo would return his feelings evaporated in the face of that moment. 

 

“I’m sorry,” said Mingyu finally, ducking his head in shame. “I know I’ve made things awkward between us now and I’m so, so sorry. I promise that I’m not going to change how I treat you, I promise I’ll get over it. I couldn’t help it. It just… happened. Just - just give me some time,” he pleaded, eyes wide and wet and imploring, desperate to get his point across. “ Please . And I promise - I promise we’ll go back to normal. Just don’t stop being my best friend?”

 

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo said, a hint of a smile on his face. He looked like he was on the verge of laughing. He opened his mouth, then shut it, seemingly unsure of what to say. “Mingyu,” he simply said again, succumbing to a small huff of laughter.

 

“What?” asked Mingyu, upset. He could feel tears building up behind his eyes. He tilted his head up, trying to stop his tears from spilling over. He desperately wanted Wonwoo to stop laughing at him and his stupid feelings. Humiliation washed over him - he had never felt so low in his life, even when his first crush had rejected him in front of all his classmates in kindergarten. He felt like he had just ripped his heart out his chest to give to Wonwoo, and Wonwoo just laughed and threw it into the trash. “Stop laughing!” he whined pitifully, voice cracking.

 

In the hazy blur of his tears, he didn’t notice Wonwoo getting up from the bed until he was stood right in front of him, hands reaching out for his face. He sniffled, shocked as Wonwoo held his face gently and wiped away his tears with his thumb. His gentle actions belied his next words.

 

“You fucking idiot,” Wonwoo whispered fiercely. “I like you too.”

 

“Uh,” stuttered Mingyu, brain freezing. “Wait, what?”

 

“I. Like. You,” repeated Wonwoo, slow and loud, as though he was talking to a small child. “I like you so much. I’ve liked you since…” At this, Wonwoo snorted to himself, “like, forever ago.”

 

“Huh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“...say it again.”

 

“I like you,” said Wonwoo, while rolling his eyes.

 

At that, Mingyu couldn’t hold back his tears anymore. His face crumpled, and he pulled Wonwoo closer so he could hide his ugly crying face in Wonwoo’s shoulder. Not that it mattered much - Wonwoo had seen Mingyu’s ugly crying face more times than he could count. Mainly because they had known each other since they were children but also because Mingyu was a crier. But Mingyu felt… raw, like Wonwoo had flayed him open and laid the most vulnerable part of him bare. 

 

He shuddered as Wonwoo arms came up and encircled him. Drawing in air seemed like a chore, his lungs feeling like they had collapsed. His whole body felt that way - weak and limp, like all the tension had disappeared the moment Wonwoo said that he liked him.

 

“Oof,” Wonwoo grunted as Mingyu began to lean on him. “Come on,” he murmured gently, walking backwards to Mingyu’s bed.

 

They stumbled back, falling heavily onto the bed. Mingyu let Wonwoo manhandle him and arrange his limbs so that he was curled up on his lap. “Shhh,” Wonwoo hushed, sliding his hands along Mingyu’s flank as Mingyu continued to take in gasping breaths. He whimpered, face still hidden in Wonwoo’s shoulder. 

 

Slowly, Mingyu’s breaths evened out and he reached around Wonwoo to grab some tissues on his bedside table. He turned away from him and wiped at his face. When he felt slightly more human and less like a faulty tap, he turned back to Wonwoo, who had a worried look on his face.

 

“Are you alright?” Wonwoo murmured, reaching out to brush his cheek where he had missed a stray tear. Mingyu keened, pressing his face into Wonwoo’s hand.

 

“Yeah,” Mingyu managed to get out, putting on a small smile which felt more like a grimace.

 

“When I heard you say that you loved me yesterday,” Wonwoo started carefully, pausing after every other word, and Mingyu cringed, “I thought that I heard wrong. Then I thought that maybe you meant that you loved me as a friend.”

 

“I don’t,” Mingyu cut in adamantly.

 

At Wonwoo’s raised eyebrow, Mingyu hastily corrected, “I mean, I do love you as a friend but I also meant that I,” he faltered, but at Wonwoo’s encouraging nod, he took a breath and continued, “I love you romantically. As in, I want to kiss you and hold you and be with you.”

 

Mingyu flushed, hiding his face in Wonwoo’s shoulder again. He could hear the rumble of Wonwoo’s chuckle in his chest and he scowled, hitting Wonwoo’s chest lightly. “Stop laughing!”

 

“Sorry,” Wonwoo said, still laughing. Mingyu wanted to sock him. “It’s just that we’re such idiots.” At Mingyu’s questioning glance, Wonwoo explained, “I like you, you like me, and it seems that everyone else knows that but us.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“When I told Soonyoung about last night he said that everyone knew about the two of us liking each other. Something about Jeonghan knowing and telling Jun, then Jun told Soonyoung and apparently it spread to the rest of the group and all of them placed bets on us.”

 

Mingyu’s scowl deepened. “Ugh, I will literally never trust Jeonghan hyung again.”

 

“I’m sorry, but what compelled you to tell Jeonghan in the first place? He’d be the last person I’d tell a secret to,” Wonwoo snorted.

 

“I didn’t tell him anything,” Mingyu said, annoyed, and if he were standing he would have stomped his foot. “He tricked me!”

 

Wonwoo laughed, jostling Mingyu on his lap. “That sounds about right.”

 

“So what now?” Mingyu asked abruptly, wanting to forget about his embarrassing encounter with Jeonghan. He rested his chin on Wonwoo shoulder.

 

“What now?” Wonwoo mused, reaching up to run his fingers softly through Mingyu’s hair. Mingyu sighed, eyes closing. “Well, I’d like to kiss you.”

 

Mingyu’s eyes snapped open. “What.”

 

“If you want to,” Wonwoo quickly backtracked. “I mean, I know you’re straight… ish. I’d be more than happy to go along with whatever you’re comfortable with.”

 

“No, no,” Mingyu corrected hastily. “I’m okay with kissing! Hundred per cent on board with that. Just, uh, what about Seungcheol?” he asked in a small voice.

 

“Oh,” Wonwoo said, relieved. “We broke up.”

 

“What? When?”

 

“Just now, before our shift at the club started.”

 

“Did you break up because - was it because of our fight at the party?” Mingyu asked in an even smaller voice. “Seungcheol explained the free pass thing to me after you left. I’m so sorry for jumping to conclusions and making a scene. I know you hate conflicts, especially in front of other people.”

 

“No, it wasn’t because of that,” Wonwoo reassured him. “We were never serious in the first place. Seungcheol knew that I liked you. And he was really only looking for a summer fling, so we kinda… helped each other out.”

 

Mingyu scowled. “Okay enough talk about him. Kiss me.”

 

“So demanding,” Wonwoo snorted, but leaned in anyway.

 

Mingyu would have been lying if he said their first kiss was magical. In a way, it sort of was - his heart was pounding out of his chest, and his stomach was filled with butterflies the moment Wonwoo’s lips touched his. His nerves tingled to life, and his skin suddenly felt too tight for his body. But as far as the actual kissing went, Mingyu was so nervous that he could barely remember how to move his lips and tongue. After a brief kiss, Mingyu pulled back with a whine.

 

“What’s wrong?” Wonwoo asked, worried.

 

“You make me so nervous I forget how to kiss,” Mingyu complained.

 

Wonwoo threw his head back and laughed unreservedly, nose scrunching and cheeks bunching beneath his glasses. A faint pink coloured his cheeks. Wonwoo looked so, so pretty. Mingyu’s heart clenched at the sight. “It’s just me,” Wonwoo pointed out after he was done laughing at Mingyu. “You’ve known me since forever.”

 

Somehow, Wonwoo bringing that up helped calm him down. He was right - it was just Wonwoo. Wonwoo, who helped him up when he fell in the playground when they were kids. Wonwoo, who had patiently tutored him in math when he couldn’t keep up in class. Wonwoo, who came over for dinner every other day. Wonwoo, who had brought over a bag full of snacks and a laptop full of movies when Mingyu’s first girlfriend broke up with him. Wonwoo, who had seen him in his best and worst times and helped him through it all. Wonwoo, Wonwoo, Wonwoo.

 

“You’re right, it’s just you,” Mingyu smiled, leaning in again.

 

This time, everything clicked. Wonwoo tilted his head sideways, capturing Mingyu’s bottom lip and nipping lightly. Mingyu gasped, eagerly pressing closer, hands bunched up in the fabric of Wonwoo’s shirt. They kissed hungrily, with teeth and tongue, chasing each other when they pulled back for air. Mingyu eagerly drank in the moans and short pants that slipped out of Wonwoo's lips. A wave of pride and possessiveness filled him - he was the cause of Wonwoo's moans this time, not Seungcheol. Mingyu eventually moved down to Wonwoo’s neck, relishing in the sounds Wonwoo made when he bit down lightly at his sensitive spots.

 

“When I caught you and Seungcheol necking in the changing rooms I was so jealous,” Mingyu confessed in between kisses.

 

Wonwoo laughed breathily above him, but his laughter cut off abruptly when Mingyu growled playfully and bit down, hard, at the base of his neck. Wonwoo yelped. “Mingyu, what the hell?” he groaned, but there was no heat behind his words.

 

Mingyu pulled back, pleased with the burgeoning red mark on Wonwoo’s neck. He rubbed at it, fascinated by how the drag of his thumb caused the mark to flush even redder.

 

“You better not make this a habit,” Wonwoo warned, swatting his hand away. “I won’t be able to hide this when we go back to school, and I don’t really want to be putting on concealer before school every day.”

 

“Mhm,” Mingyu hummed in agreement, already leaning back in for another kiss.

 

A loud knock sounded at the door, and Mingyu and Wonwoo sprung apart, Mingyu almost tumbling to the floor if not for Wonwoo grabbing his shoulder as though it was second nature. Considering Mingyu’s clumsiness and how long Wonwoo had been his best friend, it probably was.

 

Somehow, that small action made Mingyu glow inside with warmth. There really was no one better suited for him than Wonwoo.

 

“OPPA DINNER IS READY. MOM SAYS TO COME OUT AND SHE SAYS WONWOO CAN JOIN US TOO IF HE WANTS,” Minseo yelled through the door.

 

“OKAY,” Mingyu called back.

 

He waited until Minseo’s footsteps died down and turned back to Wonwoo.

 

“Would you like to stay for dinner?” he asked Wonwoo. Then a cheeky smile took over his face and he croaked out, in an imitation of Mulan’s grandmother, “Would you like to stay forever?”

 

Mingyu didn’t know what took over him that moment. Perhaps it was the relief of knowing that Wonwoo liked him back, that Wonwoo still wanted to be around him and didn’t hate him at all, and all his angst the past three months had been for naught, or perhaps it was the fact that Mingyu had just quoted his and Wonwoo’s all-time favourite movie, but once Mingyu started laughing at his own joke, he couldn’t stop. Wonwoo, too, seemed overcome by Mingyu’s infectious giggles, and laughed so hard that he toppled sideways onto Mingyu’s bed, curled up and shaking with laughter.

 

Minutes later, when Minseo had come and gone again to bang on his door (“OPPA ARE YOU COMING DOWN SOON” “YES - wheeze - HOLD ON”), their laughter had finally died down to quiet wheezing and the occasional snort.

 

In the silence that followed, Mingyu tried to gather his bearings and erase all evidence that he had bawled all over Wonwoo’s shoulder like a baby. He turned back to Wonwoo, hand extended to help him off the bed.

 

Wonwoo smiled at him gratefully, reaching for his hand as he said, half-playful and half-serious, “I'd like to stay forever, if you would let me.”

 

Mingyu flushed, but his voice was steady when he replied, “I would.”