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Then (but not now)

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One thing could be said for Kim Jin-hyuk: he was consistent and possessed the ability to stay focused. It wasn’t that Min Sun-woo couldn’t be either; it was just that he was more…fluid in the way he worked. One moment he could be utterly absorbed by one matter only to flutter over to another with the same level of concentration only minutes later. It was one of the reasons that had caught Jin-hyuk’s eye to begin with and he would be lying if he said it’d ever stopped.

If things had been different, Jin-hyuk suspected he would’ve reacted in a different way to Sun-woo’s confession so long ago. He might not have said ‘let’s date’, but he might not have pushed back that hard, because, if he was to be honest, even then he’d caught himself giving Sun-woo second and third looks. Even then, there’d been something beneath that all-consuming desire to find out. But he didn’t believe in what ifs and the might-have-beens were pointless to think about.

People like Sun-woo were dangerous. They couldn’t be discarded, couldn’t be shoved to the side, couldn’t be ignored. They weren’t the women he preferred: available for a one-night stand with an amicable departure in the early morning. They were for passionate kisses against walls, arguing without winning, home-cooked dinners and soufflés that tasted tart and sharp, different to the cloying sweetness he was used to. The truth of the matter was: he should’ve let Sun-woo go the moment he recognized him. He could’ve found another pastry chef, someone he didn’t share a past with. Reality was: he didn’t.

That first night, he’d sat by that bar and watched Sun-woo dance, watched him lure patrons to him – a fire dancing for the moths. He’d listened to the bar keepers words, sipped on his drink and known that he was making a mistake. That Sun-woo could very well be the reason that he failed in the task he’d given himself. And still he’d given in.

That’d been before he’d gotten to know him.

That’d been before he’d seen what he might’ve had.

That’d been before everything finally ended.

And then there was two. Something changed.

 

Sun-woo’s face, pensive and curious across the table Jin-hyuk had wiped off because they still hadn’t found a new helper (he hadn’t been looking).

“I thought that with the others gone, you’d be more abrasive.”

“Even I can temper myself sometimes, even around gays.”

 

Lips twitching upwards watching Sun-woo back away from a gaggle of girls in (short) skirts entering the shop. Sun-woo scowling as he catches sight of Jin-hyuk, tucking a stray hair behind his ear.

“Did you just grin at me?”

“You looked stupid.”

Sun-woo staring, eyes flickering between Jin-hyuk’s mouth and his eyes. “Well, you need to stop. You’re giving me ideas.”

The question ‘What if they were right?’ dying unborn on his lips.

 

Something twisted. He reacted, didn’t react. Looked, didn’t look. Sun-woo spontaneously put a hand on his shoulder and he didn’t shrug him off. Sun-woo flirted and he didn’t look away even when it was clear as day that Sun-woo was finding him ridiculously attractive.

Then: the end of the day, the sign flipped to closed. Sun-woo tugging off his working clothes, ponytail disheveled and partly undone. Two half-empty wineglasses on the table between them. Watching. Smiling.

Sun-woo froze, one arm still in his jacket. “Jin-hyuk.”

Raising one hand, tentative, hovering next to Sun-woo’s face. Dropping it.

“I want you to make me a cake.”

Sun-woo didn’t ask why, didn’t say anything at all. His eyes were wide.

“It can’t be sweet. It can’t be pink. No flowers, no frills.”

“Acidic. Plain.”

He sounded like he’d been thinking about it already, for a long time. Like he said it on auto-pilot, too busy searching in Jin-hyuk’s face for God knew what.

 “And if you name it after me I’ll fire your ass.”

Sun-woo laughed incredulously. Jin-hyuk found himself smiling (it was too easy nowadays, far too easy).

A decade ago he’d watched Sun-woo, half-wishing he could reach beneath the darkness and bring the thing Sun-woo woke in him out, half-scared that he would. He’d watched the way Sun-woo moved, how he smiled, the way he looked up when he felt Jin-hyuk’s eyes on him. He hadn’t let himself give in.

Now he did.