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               Jisung quickly realizes that the “single homeowner life” isn’t all that it’s cracked out to be when he first gets his own single bedroom apartment straight out of university. Twenty-two years old with a decent sum of money saved up from working shifts at the local barbecue place on top of shifts at the university bookstore helped him acquire his first single unit, and boy was it an upgrade over the ratty old dorm that he was stuck in for much of his college career.

               It wasn’t the Palais du Versailles of single-bedroom apartments, but it might as well have been since Jisung had felt such a rush of self-achievement upon setting foot in that unit for the first time. The yellow hardwood was smooth and pristine, the walls were that beautiful cottage yellow and eggshell Jisung always dreamed of (“Jisung, what the fuck are you talking about?” “Shut up, Hyunjin, let me have this.”), and his parents had even chipped in to get him some of that do-it-yourself Swedish furniture.

               The only thing Jisung wished was a bit different was the view. For all the simplistic, waxing-poetic-y beauty that the graduate could muster just about the interior, the view outside his living room and bedroom windows were…the backside of another apartment building. A slate gray, modern-styled apartment building that seemed to contrast terribly against the warm, terracotta-hued walls of his own home. His outside balcony was so close to the balcony of the unit right across from his that he figured he could probably make the jump across without much difficulty…even if they both lived on the eighth floor.

               With a comfortable job lined up for him at a local ad agency, Jisung thought he was more than capable of handling himself and his new, self-sufficient, independent lifestyle. This is gonna be the start of something new, he thought to himself, admiring the warm, comfortable set-up of his home and silently praising his interior design chops.

               After a week of eating nothing but microwaveable ramyeon and making more spontaneous trips to each of his friends’ places than hours spent in his apartment, Jisung may have actually stood corrected.

               It was then that Jisung realized: it wasn’t that he always wanted to live in his own place (that was a bonus, truly), it was that he just truly enjoyed sharing a living space with his closest confidants. When one lives in a ratty old dorm that smells slightly like mildew and unwashed dishes, staying over at a friend’s place is always the better option nine times out of ten. Weeks upon weeks of sleeping on the floor of Felix’s apartment, the spare couch at Hyunjin’s place, or even the guest room at Chan’s house eventually culminated in Jisung making the commitment to getting his own home, if just to repay his friends’ generosity.

               (And clearly it was more than generosity; they were all too familiar with Jisung wanting to come over after finding a rat scrounging through his kitchen or being woken up at 3:17 AM by one of his roommates’ sexual encounters…)

               Thus commenced a somewhat insidious, week-long campaign for the perky boy to try and get a sleepover going in at least one of his friends’ places.

               Chan told him that they recently got rid of the bed in the guest room and were now using it as a storage room. Woojin said that Chan wanted to have sex that evening and kindly asked Jisung to get going, at the behest of a quite flustered Bang Chan.

               Felix had no room to spare at his apartment due to family visiting from Australia. That, and Changbin was still recovering from the repercussions of the last time Jisung and Felix were left alone in the kitchen with an entire box of Pop Rocks, two liters of Pepsi, and something the Aussie referred to as “the greatest soda fountain the world had yet to discover”.

               Jisung had hoped Hyunjin would be the most willing; after all, they were fire-forged buddies borne from hardship and adversity. However, Seungmin was the one who answered the doorbell and quickly saw right through his ruse. The young man sent him off with a few days’ worth of his homecooking as a consolation. It was a kind gesture, and Jisung always loved the simple yet hearty meals Seungmin could cook up, but a pot of galbijjim could never strike up a conversation about the gray and grey moralities of reality television.

               Jeongin responded to his text message with a “aren’t you a little old to be having sleepovers at a college dorm?”. He didn’t respond to anything else Jisung sent his way.

               Jisung’s mattress nearly swallowed him up when he dumped himself onto it, having exhausted all his options in trying to spend more time with his former honorary roommates. Luckily for him, they all agreed to have a housewarming party at his place this weekend, and it would be a great way to spend some time altogether before he had to face the music once again.

               The idea of all of them under the same roof, just vibing and probably having a couple of drinks was enough to send a warm, cozy feeling through Jisung’s body. With a heart as big as his, it was no surprise that he was feeling a bit lonely starting to live on his own. Maybe the upcoming party would be the push he needed to take that step towards independence.

               Aside, of course, from saving up to get a single-bedroom apartment of his own.

               That being said, it dawned on Jisung that might have been a good idea to clean up around the place and start ordering some actual food for the get-together.


               “I didn’t know you had it in you, Han Jisung. This place looks almost as good as my apartment with Hyunjin.”

               “Oh, put a sock in it.”

               Seungmin laughs jovially behind him while he continues to fuss in front of his floor mirror. There was a lock of his hair that just wouldn’t stay in place with the rest of his perfectly blonde coif, and it was driving him insane, despite Seungmin reassuring him that absolutely no one would care.

               “You know, Minnie, sometimes I think you’re a really close friend and sometimes I think you’re purposely out to get me caught with my pants around my ankles.”

               “Astute observation…but no. I’m serious; no one will care what you look like as long as you don’t actually look like a sack of potatoes.” Seungmin continues to survey the interior of Jisung’s bedroom, taking note of the various rodent motifs and memorabilia scattered all over. “Hm.”

               “Well…I just wanna look like a confident, competent homeowner in front of everyone.”

               “You’re paying rent in a single next to an apartment complex that’s twice as expensive as this one.”

               “Seungmin.”

               The taller boy breaks out in laughter again, drawing an exasperated sigh from Jisung. “Fine, fine. Hurry up and stop moping in front of the mirror. I’m gonna go check on the casserole in the oven.” Seungmin gives him That Look before striding out of the bedroom, and Jisung is left to eyeroll in silence.

               Jisung is rather decked out for the evening, and while he at first considered that it shouldn’t be a problem for the host to be as overdressed as this (he was wearing fluffy, blue cashmere sweater and slacks, for goodness’ sake), Jisung understands what Seungmin meant upon closer inspection. Jisung growled inwardly and hastily changed out of his clothes, swapping out the sweater and the slacks for his pair of black jeans and a matching black long sleeve with a band logo on the front.

               His ears perked up at the sound of the doorbell, and he was not about to answer to the door with his pants literally pooled around his ankles. “Seungmin! Can you get that for me?” he called out.

               “You had better be done rearranging your follicles,” Seungmin replies in a sing-song voice.

               Jisung is this close to yelling obscenities at him when he hears the front door opening and the accompanying crescendo of “Jisuuuuu…eungmin?”. The shuffle and hubbub of people entering the foyer promptly followed afterward.

               “Jisung! Stop fussing and get out here already!” The taller boy called out with complete disregard for subtlety, and Jisung grumbled at the thought of Seungmin shifting back to all smiles immediately after raising his voice.

               “I’m coming, I’m coming, mom!” Jisung took one last glance in the mirror, noticing that his hair had fell slightly out of place with his frantic changing, and instead gives his blonde mop a quick ruffle. He liked the slightly messy look a bit better anyway.

               Everyone is congregated in the dining room when Jisung steps out, and he’s already over the moon just from seeing everyone socialize in his apartment, standing on his floor, sitting in his chairs. Confident, competent homeowner Han Jisung, he thought to himself as he flashed his megawatt smile. Felix skipped on over and pulled him into a tight squeeze.

               “I missed you sleeping over at my place, buddy!” Felix exclaims while squeezing Jisung in his arms.

               “I didn’t.” Beside him, Changbin snickers and sips his drink coolly, and Felix quickly shoots him a look of mock contempt.

               Jisung chuckled as he pulled himself out of Felix’s death grip. “You know, I wasn’t expecting you to show up since you mentioned your relatives would be over.”

               “Nah, man, they flew back out this morning. And thankfully soon, too, because I wouldn’t want them to see me wasted. Ain’t that right, Binnie?”

               Felix turns to Changbin with a goofy grin, and the older boy simply glances at him over the rim of his solo cup before walking out of the room.

               “…He’ll come around, I promise,” the Aussie remarks, before patting Jisung reassuringly. “Hey, mind if I hook up my Switch to the TV?”

               “Go for it.”

               “Alright!” Just as Felix runs off with his rather bulky console case in tow, his presence is immediately replaced with that of Chan and Woojin. The two both embrace him warmly, which are typically expected of the eldest in their friend group.

               “Aww, I really love what you’ve done with the place. It’s very…you. Yellow.” Chan’s smile is tinted with pride and love, and Jisung mirrors his expression as if he were actually Chan’s son.

               “You know, when Chan and I first moved into our house together, it took me a week to convince Chan that we shouldn’t paint the walls black – “

               “Navy blue, it was navy blue – “

               “ – Navy blue, yes. We settled with this off-periwinkle because it was much easier on the eyes.” Woojin grinned cheekily at Chan, who only responded by rolling his eyes playfully and shaking his head.

               Jisung stifled a laugh and looked at the both of them with moon-shaped eyes. “How about you two get yourselves settled with some drinks and food?”

               In the corner of the dining room next to the cooler are Seungmin and Hyunjin, with the older of the two having slung their arm around the other as they huddled around Jeongin’s phone. Judging from the trendy radio music coming from the small device and their confused yet intrigued facials, they were watching another TikTok that Felix probably shared around their circle. Just before Jisung could manage the first step over, the doorbell rang one more time.

               “Huh. Did any of you order pizza?” Jisung called out as he approached the door again, his hand readily reaching out for the doorknob.

               Chan slips into the hallway like a fish flying out of water. He’s waving his phone in the air like a madman but Jisung has already swung open the door. “Aye, Jisung – “

               The older boy’s voice fell on deaf ears as Jisung made eye contact with the person behind the door.

               “Is this Jisung’s place?”

               Jisung couldn’t believe what he was looking at; a well-dressed young man was standing at his doorway, aptly holding a tray of freshly made pizza. His jaw was sharp and angular, which wonderfully off-set the soft-looking mop of black – almost blue in the hallway lighting hair on his head. And then those eyes – sparkly and huge – God, those eyes. Then the boy blinked in the most harmless, innocent way, coupled with a slight tilt of his head, making his hair part just the right way and –

               “Minho! You made it!”

               Jisung blinks profusely and looks at Chan, who managed to squeeze in beside him and was currently grinning at the stranger in the doorway.

               “Minho?”

               Chan chuckled sheepishly. “Ah, sorry. This is That Friend I told you about yesterday, Jisung. The one that I wanted to invite over for your party?”

               Jisung’s mouth falls open in obtuse confusion as he glances between Chan’s smiling face and the ridiculously pretty boy standing in his doorway. The gears in his brain are malfunctioning and noisily grinding against each other to no avail, but the younger boy hopes they don’t notice.

               The beautiful boy – Minho, Jisung would immediately commit that to memory – shrugs his shoulders in the littlest motion, mostly because he’s still holding two potholders at the edge of what is apparently a large tray of freshly baked pizza. “That would be me. Lee Minho. Nice to meet you.”

               “Ah….yes! Yes. Please come. Come in. Yes. Please come in. Side.” Jisung’s eyes fly ever so wider when he turns away to make some room in the doorway, staring at Chan like he had just dropped a bomb in the toilet. “You can, uh, bring that pizza into the kitchen. Make yourself at home. Please.”

               The beautiful boy (Minho, M I N H O, the name rings in Jisung’s mind) nods with a curt smile and ushers himself in after carefully toeing off his boots. The dreamy look on Jisung’s face swiftly turns into a glare when he whips around to look at Chan.

               “Chan hyung. Can we talk? In the other room? Now?”

               “Um, yeah, sure – “ Chan’s arm is almost tugged out of its socket when Jisung drags him into the nearest room with a lock, which also happens to be the bathroom.

               The younger boy flattens himself against the door after locking it, before staring at Chan’s confused face with tranquil fury.

               “Jisung, what’s wrong – “

               “Chan, why is fucking Adonis in my kitchen right now?”

               “Sungie, what are you – how did you even learn that – what are you going on about?”

               “Chan. You told me a Friend was coming over, not the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen all my life!”

               When the older boy realizes the cause for Jisung’s evident distress, he can’t help but break into a big fat grin. “Oh God…Jisung you look fine. Okay, I’m sorry I didn’t think one of my old college pals was an eligible bachelor, but now I don’t feel as bad about having him intrude on our little party tonight.”

               “You don’t feel bad?” Jisung stares at him like a feral child being denied of a full meal. “I look like a sack of potatoes right now! You invited a cute boy over to my apartment and I look like Potato Sack One from a middle school rendition of Animal Farm!” Jisung may as well have been shouting just from how loud he was whispering.

               Chan grabbed him by the shoulders and firmly shook him. “Han Jisung. Calm down. You look fine. You don’t look like a sack of potatoes, but if you don’t get yourself together right this instant, you might as well be.”

               Jisung shut his eyes and whined softly. “I hope you’re right…besides, it’s Seungmin’s fault I look like a sack of potatoes tonight.” He pouted as he momentarily glanced at his bathroom mirror to adjust his bangs. His cheeks were flushed pink, and while he hoped that Minho didn’t notice, he already knew there was nothing hiding the most obvious of his facial traits.

               Chan scoffs and rolls his eyes in a mocking, dramatic fashion before grabbing him by the shoulders and turning him around to face the bathroom door. “Let’s get going; you have guests to entertain, remember?”

               “Oh sweet Jesus.”

               Jisung wills himself to calm down in the short time it takes for both him and Chan to regroup with the rest of the boys in the kitchen. Luckily for them, it seemed the party had gone into full swing while they were yelling at each other in the bathroom. Jeongin and Felix were both preoccupied in the living room playing Super Smash Bros. with Woojin cheerfully jeering on the side. On the other hand, Seungmin and Hyunjin were in the kitchen (Jisung needed to talk to the taller boy about not sitting on his kitchen island) eagerly talking up a storm with Changbin and…

               “Ah, there you are. Did you have a wonderful trip on the toilet?” Seungmin deadpans, and it took all of Jisung’s willpower to ignore him and not launch across the room like a feral wildcat.

               “I’ll be joining Woojin on the couch, if you don’t mind. Good luck with him,” Chan whispers while squeezing his shoulder, shortly before heading the opposite way to the living room. With his best customer service smile plastered across his face, Jisung turns to Minho, who had been standing next to Changbin the entire time.

               “So, it seems we’re all acquainted here already,” Jisung chirps, hoping his voice doesn’t croak and fall out in front of the very attractive boy just a few feet away from him.

               Changbin smirked and jabbed Minho in the bicep, prompting a strong reaction from Jisung. “This guy,” he started, now poking his finger into the older boy’s side, “was my TA in my statistics class. You always gave me a hard time about my papers, and I won’t forget that.”

               “Because they were wrong, Binnie.”

               The shorter male grumbled and crossed his thick arms in front of himself. “Still. Seeing that much red on my paper…” He shuddered and Minho let out a carefree laugh, the sound of which immediately drew Jisung’s attention.

               “But you passed. And that’s what matters, right?”

               “By a margin!”

               Hyunjin chuckled on the side before hopping off the counter. “He was much more lenient when he was in the dance department with me. Isn’t that right, Minho hyung?”

               “Don’t make it sound like we were friends, Hyunjin.”

               “Hyung!”

               Again, Minho laughed, that light, airy laugh that sounds like it was borne out of babies with wings. Perhaps.

               “You really improved during the time we were dancing together. You had some issues picking up on my student pieces, but nothing a couple of practices didn’t fix.” The older boy raised an eyebrow at Hyunjin, and the taller boy simply grumbled and feigned embarrassment.

               “Aish, you’re babying me.”

               “I baby you, Hyunjin.”

               “But it’s different when it’s you, Seungmin.”

               Changbin pointed at his throat and pretended to gag. Seungmin simply stuck his tongue out and linked his fingers with Hyunjin.

               Jisung smiles at all of them, this time genuinely and of pure interest to their all apparent connections. “Geez, why does it feel like I’m the only one that’s out of the loop here?”

               Minho shrugged nonchalantly. “You don’t have to be. I mean, I live in the apartment building next door.”

               “Oh that’s so nice of – say what now?”

               “Yeah. That’s my apartment building right there,” Minho said so matter-of-factly, nodding over his shoulder at the window looking out of the kitchen. The slate gray building peeks in through the tiny view and doesn’t look any less intimidating during the night. “Chan said I should come over since I live nearby. I decided to make some pizza before coming over.”

               A look of incredulity is etched onto Jisung’s features. He continues to stare Minho down like a mythical creature. “…You live next door? And you made this?” He scrambled over to the countertop and pointed at the slightly irregular shaped but still picturesque pepperoni pizza.

               “Mhm. I had some time to kill before the party and some leftover dough and ingredients.”

               “Hyung always packed the best lunches before any of our dance intensives,” Hyunjin groans while hovering over the steaming pizza like a vulture.

               “And I would always see him eating his kimbap like no one else’s business whenever we had exams,” Changbin grumbles on the side, all while glaring at the older boy.

               “Pizza’s aight,” Seungmin comments casually, as if holding himself to a higher standard than homemade Italian baked dishes.

               Jisung pouted as he inspected the immaculately baked tomato-and-cheese-based dish. Minho can cook, the madman can COOK, Jisung thought, and the idea was circulating in his head like a Broadway marquee. “I mean…you didn’t really have to go out of your way to bring something. Chan should have mentioned that – “

               “ – you’re not very good at cooking? Yeah, he mentioned that.”

               The other three males snickered amongst themselves, and Jisung was confronted with the conflicting ideals of choking all three of them or trying to play it cool in front of Minho, who was proving to be quite the tease.

               “Well, I – “

               “I had to help him bake the cheese casserole sitting in the kitchen,” Seungmin eagerly sprinkled in, emphasizing his point by speaking in a lilted voice.

               “And I drove around with Jeongin picking up all the food he ordered!” Hyunjin added as well.

               Changbin snorted. “Better than anything he’s ever made that isn’t microwaveable – “

               “GUYS.” His nostrils were flared now, and if smoke hadn’t already been coming out of his ears, it would be soon enough.

               Minho only joined the rest in harmless laughter, which served to placate some of the rage that was boiling inside Jisung’s small body. If the cute boy was going to laugh at him, then so be it. Chan, however… He was definitely having another talk with that man in his bathroom later.

               Jisung inhaled deeply and crinkled his nose; no use for his confident façade if the foundations were already crumbling at the seams. “…Well. I’m happy to have you for the party. Please, uh, enjoy yourself. There’s a lot of food that I can’t possibly finish by myself, and I will definitely be helping myself to some of your pizza.” Jisung matched grins with Minho, before striding past the other three boys to get to his knife block.

               “Let me just find a knife and hopefully the pizza will be the only thing I’m slicing tonight.”


               Thankfully, Jisung’s concerns that he couldn’t host a proper party at his own home were quashed when the party swung into full force later that night. Felix’s impromptu idea of bringing his Switch was perhaps the greatest icebreaker, especially when he pulled out a couple of extra joy-cons for everyone to share. After everyone grew tired of losing to Chan at Smash, Felix took up the reins and loaded up a dancing rhythm game. Now everyone in the room quickly settled in for this heavyweight bout, featuring not only two members of the university’s dance program, but also two alumni of said dance program, one of which (Minho.) was currently a freelance choreographer Jisung would later find out.

               Now, his living room was decently big but not a whole auditorium fitted for 300 people. So when they were all situated on his couch and there were currently four grown men swinging joy-cons to the beat of California Gurls on his living room floor, it was quite easy to have some limbs and body parts obscuring one’s vision. For Jisung, he had spent a good deal of that session just staring at Minho’s thick thighs working overtime in those jeans of his; no worries on his end as it was just as easy to hide amongst everyone else keeping their eyes on the four dancers.

               (The white, cut-off tank top underneath Minho’s thin black jacket doesn’t escape Jisung’s scrutiny; too many flashes of skin and the blonde might have pounced on him right then and there.)

               Unsurprisingly, Minho won nearly all of the rounds, with second place shifting continuously between Chan, Felix, and Hyunjin. Felix did end up winning a game, only because someone had chosen to play Rasputin, and it ended with the other three boys crumpling to the floor from intense laughter.

               Had Jisung not already been laughing, he might have actually died seeing the sparkle in Minho’s irises when he crumpled to the floor in amusement. He couldn’t control the grin spreading from one cheek to the other when he reached for Minho’s hand and promptly helped him off the ground.

               Following the triumphant series of mini dance-offs, the boys all decided to cool off with more drinks, and Jeongin graciously loaded up Netflix to show off a random episode of Kingdom. Under any other circumstance, Jisung would be right there on the couch watching with Jeongin, but he had far more important matters in mind.

               “Here, there’s some more room out on the balcony, if you guys want some fresh air.” Jisung  brushed a few stray hairs out of his face as he pushed open the sliding doors to his balcony.

               “Wow, you’re just giving us the full tour, aren’t ya, Jisung?” Chan replied with a smile, before sipping his seltzer.

               “I wasn’t planning on it, but you made things a bit more complex when you invited Mr. Lee over there,” the younger boy muttered, before playfully elbowing the elder.

               The rest of them settled in the expanded, hybrid living room-patio space, much to Jisung’s excitement. Y’know. Just homeowner things, he thought with a confident smirk painted on his lips. Jisung quickly whipped around to better look at everyone, particularly the handsome guest with the dark hair that continuously shifted between blue, purple, or somewhere in between.

               Minho was leaning against the doorframe in the most casually attractive way, one of his hands slipped inside his jacket pockets while the other held a half-finished bottle of peach soju. The flashing images from the zombie period drama playing on his television reflected on his angular features and those damned sparkly eyes, along with the small assortment of silver jewelry on his person. Jisung swallowed the lump in his throat and crossed the short distance between them; if there was any time to get in a decent conversation without any of his friends butting in, it would be now.

               “So…enjoying yourself?”

               Minho blinked and tore his eyes away from the television to look at Jisung. “Oh, yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I be? Free food and drinks, my friends are here. I met you, too.”

               Jisung lets out a shy laugh, again tucking one of his messy blonde locks behind his ear. “I…I think we could get even more acquainted in the future. Neighbor.”

               Minho smiled warmly at him and clinked his soju bottle with Jisung’s beer can. “…I know I said I lived next door, but I didn’t think I was literally next door.”

               The younger boy blinked in confusion. “Hm? What do you mean?”

               Minho nods towards the apartment unit beyond the railings of the balcony. The slate gray was near incomprehensible in the dark of the night, but Jisung quickly notices that whoever’s unit that was had left their lights on. And that they had three cats sitting at the sliding glass door just staring right at them. Minho waves a few of his ring-adorned fingers at the cats, who then proceed to scratch at the glass.

               “That’s my apartment. Those are my cats.”

               Again, the gears in Jisung’s head grind and crash against each other.

               “O-Oh. Oh wow.” His face lit up like a lightbulb, and he proceeded to down the rest of his drink in record time. A look of combined amusement and concern was reflected on Minho’s face.

               “I wouldn’t mind hanging out more often, though. Isn’t that right, neighbor?”

               “Yeah. Yeahhhh.” Jisung immediately regrets downing the rest of his can, what with his face burning up rapidly and he was certain it was no longer because he was blushing in front of the boy with the sparkly eyes. This revelation did, however, prompt some new ideas in his mind on how to abate his sudden bout of loneliness.

               Jisung nearly jumps when a hand firmly claps him on the back. Felix came around, slinging an arm around his neck and turning him away from Minho. The other boy’s cheeks are flushed pink, and Jisung is certain he’s nearing his limit, but who is he to take the fun out of tonight?

               “Everyone; to Jisung!”

               “To Jisung!”

               They all raised their drinks high and their cheers all combined in one raucous cry for domestic independence. A bright grin was painted across Jisung’s face as he looked at every single one of his friends, ending with the boy with the indigo-hued hair and laughter like cotton candy and butterflies in the spring.


               Sometime after midnight, everyone had started to file out of his apartment, mostly because Felix and Hyunjin were inebriated beyond repair (“Pllhhieze gif me my choclety mihlk.” “I’ll get you, your chocolate milk when we get home, Jinnie.” “Why does Hyunjin get choc – hic! – chollocate mlik and not – hic! – me?!” “Felix, shut up and walk please.”), and Woojin and Chan had volunteered to drive Jeongin back to his dorms so that he didn’t have to take the bus. Minho was the last one out the door, and while it occurred to Jisung to perhaps ask him to stay just a teensy bit longer, he knew it wasn’t time for that yet.

               However, Jisung wanted to kick himself for forgetting to ask for his number. He was in the midst of washing dishes when he saw Minho enter the living room in the unit opposite from his. His heart swelled at the sight of Minho kneeling down and petting his kitties.

               “Oh God, he’s perfect.” Moments later, he shook himself from his daydream before his hands pruned too much in the hot dishwater.

               As he had made arrangements to shower before bed, Jisung headed straight to his bathroom, but not before pulling out his phone and tapping away at the screen.

 

1:01 AM

Han Jisung changed his name to Potato Sack One

Potato Sack One

chan hyung are you still awake

we need to talk.

khrispy kreme

oh no

you’re still not upset about me bringing minho, are you????

Potato Sack One

gee what makes you think that????

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

you told him i can’t COOK?!?!

khrispy kreme

oops haha

that may have slipped when i was telling him about the party ;;

Potato Sack One

chan i am going to END you

well.

there is a way for you to make it up to me

khrispy kreme

as long as it doesn’t involve me getting burned at the stake

and screaming designer brands at the top of my lungs

then yes

what can i help you with? 😊

Potato Sack One

give me his number.

khrispy kreme

minho’s????

why didn’t you ask him yourself when he was over???

Potato Sack One

IT SLIPPED MY MIND

NOW GIVE IT

khrispy kreme

yeesh

okay here you go

02 – XXXX – XXXX

 

               Jisung momentarily stared at the number before saving it to his phone, neatly under the name Lee Minho with a black heart and a cat emoji next to it.

 

Potato Sack One

thanks hyung uwu

imma go die now

good night!!!!

 

               Jisung sighed and clutched his phone to his chest; how was he even supposed to initiate being neighbors? Not that it should be this hard – and it really shouldn’t, Jisung realized about two seconds after. He groaned and put the phone away, ignoring Chan’s messages before slipping into the shower. Maybe dousing himself in hot water for fifteen minutes was going to make things all the better. Or at least, clear up his mind after he’d been downing alcohol all night long.

               The air was cool on his skin after he exited his sauna-like bathroom, and he was more than ready to just head to bed and sleep the day away. Too many revelations to process, and yet there was only one Han Jisung like him. He stretched his thin arms and yawned as he walked around his apartment, shutting off the lights one by one. He stopped for a moment in his living room, cautiously looking out the glass doors and over to Minho’s apartment.

               To his surprise, the older boy was doing just the same, walking around turning off the lights and ushering his cats to their sleeping dens. And boy, did he look so cute walking around in his pajamas and a headband keeping his hair up and out of his face. Sadly, the older boy didn’t notice him standing there and quickly faded from view when the living room lights shut off. Jisung could only sigh in combined disappointment and hopefulness before retreating to his bedroom. His true life as a single-bedroom apartment owner would officially start the following day, beginning with the beautiful boy next door.


               The cereal in his bowl continued to get soggy with every passing second that Jisung was erasing and retyping what exactly he wanted to send to Minho as an inaugural text message.

               Hey neighbor, how’s it goin – no that sounds cheesy as fuck.

               Hey, do you remember me from last ni – no, that doesn’t sound right.

               What if I just sent him an emoji? Or maybe a bunch of emojis? Nah, he’d block me; I can feel it.

               A frustrated sigh escaped Jisung’s lips, and he knocked his head into his dining table with a soft ow. “God…why is this so hard?” He frowned and continued to stare at his phone as if it would magically start writing for him. His cereal was thankfully still somewhat crunchy when he scooped a spoonful into his mouth. Swallowing down the mildly sweet grains, Jisung cracked his knuckles and tried one more time.

 

10:17 AM

Han Jisung

hey!

idk if you’re awake or not but

this is your neighbor jisung LOL

idk if you remember me from last night

but i hope you do bc i enjoyed having you over!!! ^^;;;

 

               Jisung huffed and stared at the slew of texts he just sent in succession. Maybe he could have formatted it a bit better, but…the messages were there. And he pressed send. Better than nothing, he supposed.

               And then the dots appeared.

 

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

oh!

jisungie! i can call you that, can’t i? lol

 

               Jisung blinked and instantly doubled over, flipping his phone over and screeching into the sleeves of his oversized sweater. “Okay…let’s keep it going.”

 

Han Jisung

YES

for sure! haha

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

haha

i guess i’ll save your number too, yeah?

let’s talk later

gotta go do some cardio ^^

 

               A wave of relief washed over Jisung, even if he really was blowing this slightly out of proportion.

               “For God’s sake, it was just a greeting, Jisung…” he groaned, putting away his cereal bowl and making the short walk over to the living room just to watch some Netflix. Absentmindedly, and almost as if he forgot about the revelation from last night, he entered the living room and looked up past the sliding glass doors right at the apartment across. His eyes grew to the size of moons upon seeing Minho in the living room once again, this time in very form-fitting athletic pants, another white cut-off, and that cute headband in his hair from last night.

               Jisung’s mouth fell agape at the sight, with the older boy casually stretching his legs and arms, shortly before launching into a quick, rhythmic two-step. And before long, Jisung was dashing for his curtains, swiping at them to block off the glass and plunging the living room into darkness.

               “Oh God, is this creepy? Is this weird?” he whined, burying his face into the rosy fabric.

               Just out of curiosity, he pushes the curtains open just a tad and looks beyond the glass. Minho had now launched into a vigorous, side-to-side jig. The younger boy was entranced by his sharp movements, and especially the way the sunlight hit his bare arms –

               Jisung shuts the curtains one more time before pulling out his smartphone and furiously dialing the first number he could find that isn’t Minho’s.

               “…Hello, Seungmin speak –

               “I need your help.”

               Jisung swears he could hear him rolling his eyes on the other end.

               “Lemme guess; is this in any way related to the dancer friend that Chan invited over last night?

               “Uh…yeah?”

               “I thought for sure the nonstop phone calls would be reduced to once a week, Han Jisung.” Seungmin barks out a dry laugh on the other end of the receiver, further raising Jisung’s ire. “What seems to be the problem now?

               “Well…” Jisung purses his lips and rubs anxiously at his other elbow. “He’s currently working out in his living room.”

               “And that’s a problem because…?

               “He’s hot, Seungmin. And it’s very distracting when I can see him putting his hot body in all sorts of flexible positions. I don’t want to be caught staring or he’s going to think I’m a creep.”

               “And I’m assuming you don’t want to close your curtains for whatever reason just because a piece of eye candy is right across from your living room.

               Jisung chuckles sheepishly in response; he could hear Seungmin rolling his eyes again, however that was possible.

               “…See, if you don’t want to make it awkward between you two, you should come up with some way to socialize and get to know each other.

               “Aish…that’s the hard part! I don’t know what to do. Do I just…ask him for a cup of sugar or something?”

               “Jisung, don’t do that. You’re terrible at cooking.

               “You wound me,” he replies with a pout. After a moment or two of silence, the metaphorical lightbulb flashes above his head. “Wait, Seungmin, you’re a genius!”

               “I mean, I know that, but what is it now?

               “Cooking! I can ask him to help me cook!”

               “Hm. You’re right; I am a genius,” Seungmin deadpans.

               “Oh, geez, what do I even ask him to cook? I hardly know anything.”

               “Anything as long as it isn’t anything I’ve already made because I know for sure he can’t beat my cooking skills.

               “I dunno, Minnie, the pizza he brought last night was pretty fire.”

               “You have no proof he even made that himself. Besides, I’m sure I could make a better pizza.

               “Hyunjin doesn’t count as an unbiased opinion.”

               “Whatever. Do you want help or not?

               Jisung sighed into the receiver. “What should I ask him to help cook first?” Seungmin matched his sigh as well.

               “…Jisung, have you even bought groceries this week?


               Living next to Minho, Jisung immediately realizes, is short of a nightmare disguised as a daydream. After the weekend passed and he’d stocked up his fridge with a rather eclectic assortment of groceries (“Better prepared than not at all, right?”), the blonde noticed that his schedule of seeing the other man varied across the better part of the week. Not that this was of any benefit to Jisung, who frequently had mental fits over whether or not he wanted to see the other boy. Sometimes, Jisung would only see him at nights, when he’d returned from what he assumed to be his dance classes; sometimes Jisung would spot him working up a storm in his living room, whether aggressively hitting sharp and fast angles with his arms or gyrating his body to a song that Jisung couldn’t be bothered to even hear.

               As much as he wanted to sit on his balcony and watch Minho dance all night long, Jisung knew that was clearly not listed anywhere in the book of Respected Human Laws of Decency and Privacy. He clearly needed to go ahead with Project Iron Chef Seoul (it was a fun name that Felix suggested).

               Another outing with Seungmin and Hyunjin had the latter suggesting that he try and make rice on his own, and then ask Minho for suggestions on what to cook for lunch. It seemed innocuous and not too complicated, because everyone knew how to make rice…right?

               Jisung was too proud to admit that he’d never made a single cup of rice in his life, beyond the microwaveable single servings he could get for cheap at the mini-mart. Seungmin would kill him if he found out.

               And that’s how he found himself in this situation, a half-open bag of uncooked rice sitting on a chair in his dining room, and an empty pot filled nearly to the brim with said rice.

               “Jesus Christ, couldn’t they make this easier…? I should have asked Seungmin for his rice cooker, but I doubt he’d let me borrow it anyway…” Jisung grunts as he lifts the very heavy pot off the counter. He unceremoniously slams it down onto his burner, spilling a bit of rice all over. “Ah, shit…”

               He inhaled sharply and turned away from the pot. “I’m supposed to add water…uh…maybe a cup will do fine? It’ll probably get soggy if I add too much...”

               After dousing the uncooked grains, Jisung readily turned the knob up to the highest setting. “This big batch is going to need a lot of heat to cook all the way through.” Jisung smirks and stands proudly with his hands on his hips like he’d just finished a marathon in first place. “This cooking thing is kind of exciting. Seungmin’s going to eat his words.”

               With some bounce in his step, he made his way to his living room, and just for his luck, Minho was again in the living room right across. Jisung cautiously peers behind the curtain, but the enamored look on his face quickly gives him away. Minho is dancing in his living room with careful and practiced movements; Jisung stares openly as he smoothly articulates an arm from his shoulder to his fingertips. It was mesmerizing the way he moved his body, something that Jisung could never certainly replicate.

               After a few moments, the older boy looked up and spotted Jisung staring straight at him. Jisung’s eyebrows shot up behind his bangs, and he was half a second away from scurrying out of view but Minho was already returning his grin and waving an arm at him. His cheeks begin to burn, but he forces himself to stay in place, instead waving a timid hand at him.

               Minho smirks at the blushing blonde and reaches for his phone to type a quick message.

               The frantic vibrating in his pocket pulls Jisung out of his frozen statue, and he is swift to pull it out and stare at the notification on the screen.

 

10:47 AM

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

sup neighbor 😉

whatcha up to?

 

               When Jisung looked up from his phone at his neighbor, the older boy was staring at him expectantly with a smirk. Jisung’s chest could only pound harder.

 

Han Jisung

oh i

im just waiting for my rice to cook he h

i got a little distracted seeing you dancing in your living room

👀👀👀

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

oh? is that so?

what’s on the menu for lunch?

 

               Jisung bit down on his lip and turned away from the glass, hoping that Minho wouldn’t sense his insecurity. Hastily, he typed out a noncommittal answer.

 

Han Jisung

tbh im not too sure quite yet

unless you got some ideas?

youre pretty good at cooking from what i recall 😉

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

i do try my best

 

               The younger boy briefly glances over his shoulder at Minho. At the same time, the older boy has lifted his eyes up from his phone and meets his gaze, that teasing, cat-like smile stretched on his lips. Jisung’s lips naturally curl up into a smile, but the dreamy expression on his face quickly drops when he catches a whiff of something…burnt.

               Jisung scrunched his nose and sniffed the air again; something was definitely burning.

               Oh shit, the rice.

               His eyes flew open at the realization and he made a break for the kitchen, just in time to see the pot of rice burst into flames. He yelped and jumped at the sudden combustion, only to scream again when the fire alarm in his apartment began screeching.

               “Oh man, oh man, oh man…” Jisung whimpered and scurried about as the fire continued to blaze on top of his stove. His chest was pounding for an entirely different reason now; the rising anxiety in his brain was making it difficult to function properly. Cue those gears going into overdrive – just without proper lubrication.

               “Shit, fuck, fuck, shit…!” Jisung scrambled for a pair of oven mitts and – with a bit of shaky courage – managed to reach over and turn off the stove. But that still didn’t account for the pot of jasmine rice set ablaze still sitting on top. His eyes welled up at the corners as he tried to remember where the fire extinguisher was. After ripping open a few of his cabinets, he spied the shiny red apparatus hidden under the sink and dragged it out with all his might.

               “Goddammit, how do you even use this thing…?!” Jisung grumbled, before finally unhooking the device and aiming it at the burning pot. He flinched and yelped as the nozzle flew everywhere, spraying not only his stove, but half of his entire kitchen in white foam.

               Jisung’s jaw fell as he surveyed the destruction of his once-pristine kitchen, and the fire extinguisher fell to the floor with a dull thud when it slipped from his limp hands. A sob came bubbling to his throat, and yet there was not much he could except sniffle in self-pity. Feeling his pocket vibrating, he fished out his phone with shaky fingers and stared at the screen. He wiped away his tears with a sleeve upon seeing the name Lee Minho 🖤🐱 and quietly answered.

               “…H-Hello?” His voice wavered on the phone, prompting another choked sob.

               “Jisung? What’s going on? I saw you running out of the living room, and I heard screaming and –

               Jisung opened his mouth to speak, but the words came sputtering out inelegantly.. “U-Um…the rice…it caught fire and…um…my kitchen is scorched…and…” The younger boy broke into tears almost instantly. He weakly pressed a palm into his eyes to try and stop his tears from flowing.

               “Stay right there, okay? I’m coming over.

               The younger boy was too dejected to answer, instead hearing the call go straight to dial tone. He looked over his kitchen once more; where there had originally been a shiny new pot was now black with soot and the cindered remains of the rice. The foam was all over his countertop and the floor and there was no way he was going to get all of this cleaned up before Minho arrived. At least the fire alarm finally stopped blaring. Jisung sighed dejectedly; perhaps he wasn’t cut out for this single-bedroom home ownership thing after all.

               Just minutes later came a curt knocking at his door, and Jisung trudged over to open it, finding Minho standing there. His hair was slightly disheveled and it was obvious he had rushed over here. A sullen air rained upon his face at the sight of Jisung’s tear-streaked cheeks. Without much preamble, the older boy leaned down and quietly began inspecting him for any injuries.

               “You gotta be more careful next time,” Minho murmured gently as he carefully wiped some foam off of his cheek and swatted some off of his hair and his sweater. “C’mon; let’s get this place cleaned up.” Jisung wordlessly nodded as the older boy slotted their hands together and walked him to the kitchen.


               The need to wallow in despair and self-pity quickly dissipated when Jisung sunk into Minho’s couch. Here he was now, sitting in Minho’s living room – the same one that he’d been staring into for the good part of a week – with his three cats all curiously snuggling up to his legs. He felt stiff and awkward, with his knees knocked together and his hands neatly placed in his lap. Jisung timidly looked around the room; it was nearly structurally identical to his apartment, if just a tad bigger and decorated quite…simply.

               The hues were much darker, but not quite black and white. There were dark grays, navy blues, earthy tones like mahogany and olive green. It was a far cry from the burst of sunshine that was his apartment, but it felt just as warm and welcome. There was something delicious being made in the kitchen, just judging from the aroma wafting into the room, but Jisung was too shy to get up and see what was going on.

               “You can come over here and watch, y’know,” Minho calls out from the kitchen; Jisung can already see the smirk on his lips all the way from his seat.

               Jisung sighs and a grin breaks through his steeled features when he pushes himself off the couch. Minho stands there expectantly, as if he was waiting for Jisung to get up and come over anyway.

               “Hey. You doing alright?”

               The younger boy shrugs noncommittally. “Feeling better already. Thanks, by the way, for helping me clean up.”

               Minho shakes his head, tousling the dark blue waves on his head. “You can thank me after I finish cooking lunch.”

               “…Alright.” Jisung’s expression softens and he decides to take a seat at the counter to watch Minho work his magic.

               He looks on like a child watching a man make balloon animals as Minho deftly slices the radish and carrots in front of him into bite-sized pieces. His fingers were so slender and delicate-looking that Jisung was mildly worried he’d cut himself with the knife; the incident in his own kitchen was enough of a harrowing experience for today, much less the rest of the month.

               The older boy was content with having Jisung silently watching him, as if there was some sort of telepathic conversation occurring at the same time. Minho walked over to the pot simmering on the stove, and that savory aroma came washing over the both of them the instant he lifted the lid. He scooped a bit of the broth inside and brought it to his lips, blowing over the steam before giving it a taste. The tiniest hint of a smile came upon his features before taking the cutting board with the radish and carrots and tossing them into the pot. Jisung blinked in mild surprise as he noticed the contents of the pot.

               “Are you making – “

               “Galbijjim? Yeah. Do you like it?”

               Jisung grinned at him. “I love galbijjim. Seungmin, Hyunjin’s boyfriend, makes some of the best I’ve ever had, and I can never turn it down when he’s making it.” As if on cue, a rumbling noise resounds from underneath Jisung’s sweater, and he rushes to cover his stomach. Minho laughs, prompting the younger boy to chuckle sheepishly as well.

               “I guess one of us is hungry. Can you wait a couple more minutes?”

               “Y-Yeah, of course.”

               Minho returned to the counter and leaned over on his elbows. He tilts his head just so slightly in that cute way that makes Jisung’s stomach do backflips. “So Chan was right? You’re not very good at cooking?”

               “Oh, gee, way to rub salt in the wound,” Jisung mutters, looking away in slight embarrassment and feigning insult.

               The older boy chuckles and shoves at his arm playfully. “…You know, you can always ask me for help when it comes to cooking. We’re neighbors, remember?”

               “See…I wanted to, but I didn’t wanna overstep my boundaries. We literally met just over a week ago.”

               “And people have gotten married after knowing each other for less.”

               Jisung’s cheeks burn at the thought while looking at Minho with surprised eyes. The older boy fills the atmosphere with his laughter again.

               “I’m kidding! But seriously…I think you’re pretty cool.” Minho wriggled his eyebrows playfully and he gently ran one of his fingers down the back of Jisung’s hand. “Let’s hang out more often, neighbor.”

               For all the shyness in Jisung’s being, he can’t help but smile like an idiot and foolishly avert his eyes from the older boy. “Well, you certainly drive a hard bargain, Lee Minho…”


               It may have seemed silly, but if Jisung hadn’t already been in love with Minho, he certainly was now. That was perhaps some of the best galbijjim he’s ever had, and he usually eats any galbijjim he could get his hands on. It may even have been much better than Seungmin’s…but Jisung didn’t have to let him know that for now.

               A dazed smile was painted on his face by the time he returned to his apartment, probably because he had eaten so much; even then, they had leftovers but Minho insisted that he take them since Jisung needed them more than he did. As much as Jisung wanted to stay and maybe even curl up in a ball and nap on Minho’s couch after that filling meal, he knew he couldn’t overstep that boundary yet. Luckily for him, the boy with the sparkly eyes and the playful smile walked him back to his place, and Jisung almost forgot that he nearly burned down his apartment just two hours prior.

               …Okay, so love was a very strong word. And Jisung loves a lot of things, like the color red and the color yellow. He loves squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, mice, and this exotic marsupial that Felix called a quokka. He loves chocolate chip cookies and he loves cheesecakes, whether the fluffy Japanese kind or the dense American kind. He loves ordering random things online, if only because finally getting a package in the mail is the most cathartic experience for young adults like him.

               And maybe, just maybe, he loved the boy living next door: Lee Minho and his exceptional cooking skills, his shiny black (or blue?) hair, and that wonderfully gummy smile.

               Jisung knew he had it bad; if Minho was an ice cream sundae, Jisung was whipped cream.

               As it stood, their schedules only managed to align on the weekends, and for the rest of the time that Jisung wasn’t busy at the ad agency, he was at home, curiously waiting for the other boy to come home so they could exchange smiles at each other behind glass. It was too early to call it anything, but Jisung was at the least grateful their acquaintanceship had been so…compatible.


               “You know, it’s pretty great. He forwards me some recipes he thinks I can handle on my own, and sometimes we even video chat when either of us are cooking.” Jisung’s face is smug, like he’s bragging about this relationship upgrade to Seungmin.

               “Wow…if I hadn’t known any better, I’d have imagined you two were already dating.

               Jisung scoffs vehemently. “Oh, no no no, not at all. I mean…I’m sure he doesn’t like me like that. He’s just…a really good neighbor.”

               “Uh huh. And you’re sure you still want to go for him?

               Jisung shifts awkwardly in his socks, leaving the phone call in silence for a few seconds. “…I mean, if it happens, it happens, I guess. Yes, he’s hot, but…I’m just happy that it’s not so lonely in my apartment anymore.”

               “And I’m happy that you’re finally getting over that.

               “Seungmin.”

               “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” Seungmin dryly laughs over the line and Jisung silently forgives him. “But in all honesty, I’m happy that you’re making it work without a roommate. In any other situation, you would have begged at least one of us to move in with you by now.

               “Well, you’re technically not wrong. However, I think I’ll be fine. Especially with Minho hyung around.”

               “Uh huh,” Seungmin teases. “Anywho, I’ll talk to you later; I can smell Hyunjin’s pop tarts burning.

               “Alright, bye,” Jisung replies with a bit of a chuckle in his voice. He shoves the phone in his pocket and gleefully heads over to the living room with mild hopes of catching a glimpse of his neighbor.

               And a glimpse did he get as he walked out into view of the other’s apartment. Minho was idly perched on a barstool facing his living room, clad in nothing but a chestnut-colored towel. What was typically a mop of bluish black on his head was now damp and slicked back. Not to mention the full expanse of his bronze skin on display –

               Jisung shuts the curtains behind him and promptly begins screeching into the inner layer of his hoodie.

               Lee…

               MINHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

               The frantic blonde marches out of the living room and into the hallway, muttering nonsense and utterances to himself in unparalleled panic. The image of a half-naked Minho is fresh and burned into his irises, and the heat radiating off his cheeks could probably boil water. If keyboard smashing was a veritable human emotion, that is exactly what Jisung is feeling right now.

               Jisung crumples onto the floor and whines out loud like a siren, all while squishing his cheeks in between his small hands.

               Why must the world torture me like this?

               As if on cue, his phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out with trembling fingers to check his notifications.

 

1:07 PM

Lee Minho 🖤🐱 we still on for tonight, right????

 

               Jisung groaned and unlocked his phone to respond.

 

Han Jisung

yeah for sure!

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

okay good

just wanted to make sure bc i’m just waiting for my laundry to finish drying rn

wanted to look presentable if you’re coming over tonight lmao

 

               Jisung screeches one more time as the image of Minho’s bronzed physique invades his senses.

 

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

are you out rn? your curtains are all closed up LOL

Han Jisung

oh im just at the corner store LMAO

ill be back home soon just picking up some yakult h eh

Lee Minho 🖤🐱

oi bring me some

that’ll be your payment for dinner tonight 😈

 

               The blonde boy scrambles to his feet and makes for the front door, already kicking on a pair of his sneakers on the way to the elevator. A short walk to the corner store and a cold shower might do him some good before he had to face his godsent neighbor again.


               Jisung realizes far too late that he might be a tad bit overdressed. His nicely pressed burgundy shirt contrasts wonderfully with the creamy, coffee-colored flight jacket on top. Tying it together were another of his ripped skinny jeans, a faded black that accentuated his wiry legs, and a pair of his favorite sneakers. Standing in front of Minho’s front door now, with a bag full of yakult in one hand and the other tightly gripping his phone, Jisung wonders if perhaps he was reading into this a bit too deep.

               Before he has a chance to make a run back to his apartment and change, Minho has already opened the door, those big bright eyes only becoming brighter as they make contact with Jisung.

               The door swings wider in tandem with Minho’s smile, and Jisung notices how dressed up the older boy is as well, what with his black buttoned shirt and matching jeans. A thin silver chain dangles from his neck in a tasteful fashion. So perhaps Jisung wasn’t alone in this ordeal.

               “You’re here early,” Minho teased, but stepping aside anyway to give Jisung room to walk. “I’m just finishing up in the kitchen; you can chill in the living room if you want.” He quirked an eyebrow at Jisung’s jacket as he walked past. “Is it cold outside?”

               “…A little?”

               “Hm.” A tinge of a smirk trails off his lips as Minho closes the door and heads back into the kitchen. Jisung ignores his suggestion and shrugs off the jacket, before following Minho and padding across the floor in his socks.

               Jisung has half a mind to choose the barstool that Minho hadn’t been sitting on just earlier that day, with the image just briefly appearing in the back of his mind like a flash of lightning.

               “…So,” Jisung starts, allowing himself to get more comfortable by leaning onto the counter. “What’s for dinner?” The aroma wafting from the kitchen is different from the last time he was here, but there’s no doubt that Jisung is going to be satisfied by the end of the night.

               “Well, I’ve had the seolleongtang simmering for the last few hours and it’s just about ready. Then I have some ddak jjim right here. Hope you’re starving.” Minho turns his head towards the younger and flashes a brief smile; there was just something so attractive about a man toiling over a stove, Jisung thinks to himself. “Hand me the yakult; I can put it in the fridge so we have something dessert-like afterwards.”

               “Ah, I wish you’d told me that you wanted dessert! I could have gone out and bought some cheesecake.”

               Minho waves him off casually. “It’s fine. Besides, I’m sure you’d have gotten the cheesecake more for yourself than just to have after dinner.”

               “Hyung.”

               The older boy chuckles before grabbing a ladle and tasting the broth.

               A comfortable warmth spreads through Jisung’s body, just watching Minho in his element and being in this homely environment. Somewhere, in a parallel dimension, not only would he and Minho be living together, maybe, just maybe, they would also be dating.

               Gosh, wouldn’t that be swell.

               Minho asks him to set the table, even if it’s only for the two of them. Jisung briefly considered making it a group affair by inviting Seungmin and Hyunjin (and only because he wanted Seungmin to concede defeat in this one-sided cooking war) but decided against it with the revelation that they’d basically be participating in a double date. Or third- and fourth-wheeling those disgusting two.

               Jisung is just about finished with setting both his and Minho’s bowls and utensils when the older boy rushes over with the steaming pot of seolleongtang.

               “Do you need…any…”

               The blonde’s small voice fades and he instead grins as the older boy continues carrying over the trays of food to the table like a well-versed server.

               “Sorry…it was a little hot,” Minho quips with a sheepish grin.

               “I could have helped you?”

               “Nonsense. You’re in my house.” He cocks an eyebrow at the younger boy, and Jisung retorts by rolling his eyes and taking the seat at the opposite end of the dinner table.

               Despite Jisung’s earlier doubts, his earlier panic fades into dust as they settle into enthusiastic conversation over dinner. Jisung takes this opportunity to grill Minho about his recent dancing escapades, and the older boy dishes about the hip hop piece he choreographed just last week. Jisung delights in the way Minho’s big eyes sparkle when he describes each individual move, not dumbing it down or simplifying it for him.

               When the older boy finally gives him a chance to speak, Jisung eagerly regales him with tales of his job at the ad agency, of disgruntled customers with unreasonable – and sometimes impossible – requests. Minho can’t help but laugh at this side of Jisung, the side that isn’t always so affectionate and full of sunshine, but it’s Jisung’s realization of this that makes the younger boy smile even wider.

               The steaming pot of soup sitting in between them empties as the night goes on, and Jisung feels sluggish from all the food sitting in his belly. But he can’t be mad when a better cook than he is feeds him a full meal and only expects a pack of yakult in return. In fact, he wishes there was more food to be eaten, if only so he can continue sitting at the table with Minho.

               “Here.”

               Jisung blinks and looks up to see Minho standing in front of him, his hand outstretched and holding one of the titular bottles.

               “Thanks,” the younger responds, and their fingers brush ever so slightly when he takes the small bottle.

               “You can just leave your dishes in the sink; I’ll take care of the rest.”

               “Are you sure?”

               Once again for the perhaps the hundredth time that night, Minho gives him that charming smirk, and by now Jisung wants to do nothing but wipe it off his face in some method or another. Instead, Jisung acquiesces and carries his plate to the sink, opting to at least douse it in a blast of hot water. After all, Jisung may not know how to cook very well, but he at least knows how to wash dishes.

               In the midst of waiting for the water to heat up, Jisung finally breaks his silence.

               “…Can I be candid for a sec?” Minho’s eyes are already glued to Jisung, but he puts down his drink regardless and props his chin up on a free hand. “I just wanted to confirm something. We’re friends, right?”

               Minho raises an eyebrow as Jisung dries his hands on a spare towel laying on the side. His cat-like smile has faded into a thin and concerning grimace. “That’s a weird question.”

               Jisung raises his hands in defense and waves them limply. “…Okay, lemme rephrase that. Um. It’s just that…you’ve done nothing but be nice to me and do so many nice things for me. You helped me clean up my kitchen when I almost created a fireball, and you send me recipes on your spare time and sometimes guide me through the steps. Or tonight, you invited me over for dinner and only asked for yogurt in return.” Jisung’s cheeks puff up in slight embarrassment but the small smile that tugs on his lips is genuine and pure.

               “You’re doing this because you like me as a friend, right? Not because you feel bad for me or anything?”

               Jisung doesn’t remember when he lowered his eyes to the floor, at his dark blue socks against the white tile of Minho’s kitchen floor, but when he raises them to look at Minho again, the older boy is regarding him with a sly grin, as if he knows something that Jisung doesn’t.

               “…Truth be told, I’d be a bit devastated if I went through all this trouble to plan a dinner date just for you to call us friends.”

               Jisung scrunches his nose and stares at him with furrowed eyebrows.

               “What?”

               Minho has now linked both of his hands and propped his chin on top, like a mafia boss with a very specific proposition.

               “Did you think I wouldn’t notice you watching me from your balcony window? You do it quite often.” The grin on his face is indelibly handsome, but Jisung’s face has contorted into a mosaic of utter horror due to the words coming out of Minho’s lips. “I mean, I’ve been told a couple of times here and there that I’m very pretty, and I was honestly flattered that anyone would spend so much time just staring at me like a dolphin in an aquarium.”

               “I-I…hyung…um…,” Jisung stutters, but he’s interrupted by Minho’s kindling laughter.

               “God, Han Jisung… Like, you went through so many hoops just to hang out and spend time with me and…I was fine with it. All of it. Because I like you. Quite a lot, actually.” Minho’s cheeks have filled out by now, with just a hint of rosiness that indicated his true emotions.

               By now, Jisung was stunned in silence, his mouth agape and his round cheeks flushed entirely red. When Minho smiles again, the corners of his eyes crinkle, and his head tilts just the slightest bit to the left.

               “I don’t want to say that I’m certain, but…I have a pretty good feeling that you’re interested in me, too. Am I correct?” When Minho looks at him this time, there’s a hopeful twinkle in his irises that makes Jisung physically swoon. As in, quite literally groan and whine and shove his face into his hands like Minho isn’t sitting right there sipping his yakult.

               “…God…like, c’mon.” Jisung pouts at him and braces himself against the countertop. “You’re so cute and hot at the same time and you can cook too. What the literal fuck, dude? It’s not fair.”

               “Yes, please continue saying that as if I’m not here,” Minho retorts, snickering at Jisung over the rim of his yogurt bottle.

               “What was I supposed to do with a hot neighbor?”

               “Jisung, I just said I liked you. What do you wanna do now?” Minho stands up off his seat and walks around the counter, meeting him at the junction next to the sink. There’s still a good foot or so between them, but with him standing there with his arms crossed in front of his chest and such a telling look on his face, Jisung can’t help but feel like a cornered mouse. With a hungry cat.

               “…Can I kiss you?”

               “Get over here,” Minho growls, in that way Jisung recognizes from his limited knowledge of romance movies where the main character and their romantic lead are about to launch into a fight of lips and tongues. So that’s what he does.

               Jisung crosses that very short distance between them and immediately crushes their lips together, even if not in the most elegant manner. His small hands clutch and tighten on the front of Minho’s shirt, and he almost lets go if not for the older boy’s hands coming to settle his hips. His mind was running a mile a minute, and he quickly pulls away with a whine.

               Minho stares at him with big, concerned eyes. “…W-What’s wrong?” he asks, and for the first time that evening, his unshakeable confidence wavers.

               Jisung inhales sharply and closes his eyes, trying to force himself to calm down. “…Can we try that one more time? I’ll be better, I promise.”

               The worried grimace on Minho’s face fades into something softer, and Jisung tries his best to maintain eye contact with him when the older boy is pulling him into a tight embrace. “Practice makes perfect,” Minho whispers when he leans in close, and Jisung finally lets go of his inhibitions. Their lips press together, this time gentle and patient. Jisung wastes no time slinging both of his arms around Minho’s neck, pulling him deeper and closer.

               …I think I’m in love with you, neighbor.


               “Something must have happened recently if you’re inviting Hyunjin and I over for a dinner party.” Seungmin surveys the apartment as if he thinks he’s on a camera prank show, and Jisung only chuckles while he stirs the sauce in front of him.

               “Can you give me some credit? I just wanted…to do a little something, something, y’know? Minho got me into these one-pot recipe things and – “

               “Oh, so, Minho hyung has something to do with this?”

               Jisung playfully rolls his eyes while sprinkling some salt into the sauce. His phone is sitting on the counter, open to a page with a spaghetti recipe listed on it.

               “You sound like you want me to start being dependent on you and the others again.”

               “Jisung, man, I love you, but that’s a no from me,” Hyunjin calls out from the living room. Jisung raises an eyebrow and looks at Seungmin knowingly, who only returns his look with a passive smile.

               “I’m just joking with you. Of course I’m happy that you’ve not only settled into living alone just fine, but you’ve even learned how to properly cook. Our little Jisungie is growing up.”

               “God, shut up.” He playfully shoves at Seungmin, who simply laughs it off and swats him away.

               In the midst of their playfighting, the doorbell rings, and Jisung has a good idea of who it might be.

               “Is that your boyfriend or your neighbor?” Seungmin taunts, and the shorter boy only rolls his eyes and pushes past him to open the door.

               “Keep an eye on the sauce, will you? I’m gonna get the door for Minho hyung.”

               Jisung’s grin is unflappable as he approaches the door, and it only gets wider when he swings it wide open.

               “Hey neighbor,” Jisung says first, smirking at the sight in front of him. Minho is standing there in his typical fashion, a pair of black jeans that hug his thighs quite well and an expensive-looking black sweater with a collar that sits just underneath his collarbones. That cat-like smile is something that Jisung still hasn’t gotten tired of, but at this moment he was a lot more interested in the tray of fluffy cheesecake Minho is holding in his hands.

               “Hey to you too, neighbor.”