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STEP ONE: STUFF YER FACE WITH ICE CREAM

On most Friday evenings, one can find Jisung curled up in bed watching videos on his phone while crunching loudly on Cheetos, hair dishevelled and assignments abandoned until the night of the due date. At least, that’s what Jisung was doing, until his phone blares out his Love Scenario ringtone and interrupts the video on Triceratops he was watching. 

Jisung sets down his bag of Cheetos and swipes lazily across the screen, without looking at the contact number. “Yo, what’s up?” he greets. 

To his great surprise, he hears a bout of static, followed by sniffling from the other line. “A-are you in your room right now?” he hears someone say.

Confused, Jisung tears the phone away from his ear. His eyes widen when he reads Hyunjin The Ult QT (not that Jisung put down Hyunjin’s contact, of course; it was all Hyunjin’s bidding) across his screen. “Dude.” He cups the phone close to his ear. “Yeah, I’m in my room, but what’s going on? You’re scaring me, bro.”

Hyunjin sniffles once more. “Can I come over? I’ll… tell you later.”

“Are you hurt? Did someone, like, punch you or something?”

Hyunjin lets out a feeble laugh. “Nah,” he replies. “Plus, you damn well know I’d win a fight.”

“As if,” Jisung snorts. Still, concern rises up his throat. “Come over, ‘kay? Tell me about it.”

As soon as Hyunjin hangs up, Jisung scrambles out of bed, chucks the empty Cheetos bag into his trash bin, and tries to gargle out the smell of hot Cheetos from his mouth. He quickly makes his bed, and ducks into his kitchen to reveal his ultimate secret weapon. By the time the knock on his door comes, he’s armed and ready to comfort his best friend.

When Hyunjin pushes the dormitory room door open, he stares down at Jisung’s arms. “What’s with all the ice cream?” he asks.

At first glance, Hyunjin doesn’t seem to look anything out of the ordinary. His long hair’s tied back in a loose ponytail, and he’s dressed nicely in a plain tee tucked into dusted jeans. Upon closer look, though, Jisung can see the lines where Hyunjin’s makeup has run off by his tears. His eyeshadow is smudged, and his lower lip trembles where it’s pulled into a frown.

Jisung loops an arm around Hyunjin’s shoulder and ushers him in. “Haven’t you heard? Ice cream is the number one remedy to any and all tears,” he says proudly. 

At this, Hyunjin bursts into tears again, tucking his head into the nape of Jisung’s neck. Sighing, Jisung leads him into the room, tripping over his worn out rug and settling down on the floor against Jisung’s bed. Jisung whips out one of the tubs of ice cream and a silver spoon, and sets them both in Hyunjin’s hands. “C’mon,” Jisung says. “Eat up your worries.”

Hyunjin frowns. “Why’s your fridge stocked with Ben and Jerry’s?”

Jisung grins. “Hey, don’t judge me. You get to eat tons of ice cream while crying over your heartbreak – and you get to destroy white supremacy, too!”

At this, Hyunjin freezes. “How’d you know it’s… that?” he whispers.

Jisung peels off the lid to his mint chocolate chip ice cream tub and hums. “You said you were going out on a date with him tonight,” Jisung replies. “What else could it be?”

Hyunjin peels off the lid to his own tub, too. “You’re way too smart for your own good, dude,” Hyunjin chuckles dryly. He stabs his spoon into the cookies ‘n cream with a loud sigh. “Fuck. I should’ve seen it coming.”

“Why so?” Jisung quizzes.

Hyunjin shrugs. “It’s not like we’ve gone out a lot in the past few weeks,” he mutters. “He’s always giving excuses: assignments, group projects, family matters. It’s been going on for, what, two months already? I should’ve seen the signs.”

Jisung curls an arm around Hyunjin’s comfortingly and continues to wolf down his ice cream. “And what was his reason for breaking up with you, then?”

Teary-eyed, Hyunjin stares down at his tub of ice cream. “Said that I’m too young and, like, immature for him,” he mumbles.

Jisung’s spoon goes clattering to the floor. “What?!” he screeches. “What a fucking asshole, what the hell?”

“Yeah,” Hyunjin snorts. “I’m only, what, two years younger than him?”

“And he had the audacity to break up with you because you’re ‘too immature’,” Jisung says in disbelief. “He doesn’t deserve your perky ass, man.”

Hyunjin laughs. “Yeah, he doesn’t,” he agrees. He scoops up another spoonful of ice cream, but before he places the spoon to his lips, he pauses. “And yet, I don’t know why I feel so…”

“Upset? Disappointed? Heartbroken?” Jisung offers.

Hyunjin nods. “Right,” he says. “I mean, it’s not my first break-up, y’know. I feel like… when he said I was immature, I kind of felt that. I mean, I’m naive, clingy, and an emotional kind of dude. Who’d want to date me?”

Jisung gasps and slaps Hyunjin’s back with his free hand. “Shut up, dude,” he whines. “You get ten thousand love letters every Valentine’s Day. Everyone in your goddamn lecture wants a piece of you!” he blurts out. It’s true, though somewhat exaggerated. Still, the mountain of love letters and piles of bouquets his best friend receives every year is staggering. 

“Look, Hyunjinnie ah,” Jisung begins, “you don’t deserve that asshole by the name of Kim Fucking Asshole Beom-seok. You deserve someone who’s caring, peppers you with ten thousand kisses every day, loves you no matter how many times you cry in a week, and doesn’t break up with you because they think you’re too young for them. You’re Hwang Goddamn Hyunjin, and you are the fucking best. You’re way too good for a peasant like Beom-seok.”

Hyunjin giggles and leans against Jisung. “You’re too good of a friend, Ji,” he proclaims, happily spooning another scoop of ice cream. “Maybe I should have more heartbreaks, y’know, to have complete access to your freezer.”

Warmth radiates from Hyunjin’s body where he’s pressed up against Jisung’s side. Jisung grins broader and scoops up his mint chocolate, before raising it to Hyunjin’s lips. “Sure thing, bro,” he says. “Anything to cheer up my best bro.”

Hyunjin fakes a gag. “Dude, were you eating Cheetos again?” he dramatically sighs, fanning his face. “Your breath is so done for.”

Jisung rolls his eyes and thrusts his spoon closer to Hyunjin’s lips. “Whatever! Say ‘ahhhh’-”

“-argh! No!” 

Both of them set down their tubs as Jisung howls and rolls over, until Hyunjin’s back is flat against the mahogany wood of the floor, Jisung hovering overhead with his spoon, ice cream melting from the metal. “Come on, you never eat mint choc,” Jisung protests.

“That’s ‘cause it’s disgusting!” Hyunjin cries. “It’s like eating toothpaste !”

Jisung gasps in shock. “How could you,” he mutters in mock disgrace. “I demand you to eat this spoonful right now!”

Hyunjin squeals and ends up tickling Jisung’s sides – his weak point, for the spoon goes crashing to the ground and Jisung ends up screaming with laughter and piling on top of Hyunjin. The two best friends continue to giggle endlessly, relentlessly, into the night, worries abandoned and heartbreak forgotten, just for that moment in time. 

 

-

 

STEP TWO: GET YOUR EX JEALOUS

“Jisung?” 

Jisung glances up from his phone screen, and grins as Hyunjin appears opposite him. He’d managed to snatch the window seat early in the day, in the packed coffee shop on their university campus. Several students mill about, ordering coffees and breakfast as they settle into their seats and whip out their laptops to study or finish assignments.

The two boys’ motive here, though, is entirely different.

“Ah, Hyunjinnie ah,” Jisung grins. “Take a seat, take a seat,” he singsongs.

Hyunjin arches an eyebrow, but slides into the seat anyways. He’s let his hair down today, dusty blonde-dyed hair falling past his eyebrows, down to his shoulders. Jisung should remind him to do a re-dye job soon, but he has to admit his best friend looks good with the dark roots peeking out from the blonde hairs. “So why’d you ask me to come here so early today?” Hyunjin asks, confused.

With a grin immoveable from his face, Jisung slides his phone across the glass tabletop. “Read this and weep, my dude,” he announces proudly.

Puzzled, his friend raises Jisung’s phone up and reads the Notes page that he’s opened. After a long moment, Hyunjin’s eyes widen. “ Han Jisung’s Foolproof Eight-Step Guide To Overcoming Heartbreak And Becoming A Changed Man ?” Hyunjin reads aloud, sceptically. “Dude, the hell is this?”

Jisung places a hand over his heart in mock sadness. “Oh, don’t be so cynical, Jinnie ah,” he pouts. “I spent all night coming up with this foolproof plan. You’re 100% guaranteed to be over that asshole in mere weeks.”

Hyunjin stiffens and sets the phone down. “I can get over him just fine,” he answers gruffly.

“Mm, right,” Jisung nods. “Like how you got over Minho hyung two years ago. The both of you broke it off on good terms, but you’d burst into tears every time you walked past his dance studio.”

A flush of pink warms Hyunjin’s cheeks. “Right,” he mutters.

“And let’s not forget that really, really random one with Felix, of course,” Jisung simpers. “I don’t even know how y’all got together, but that happened for, what, two weeks? And then y’all broke it off, and you’d cry every single time Felix sent you a message asking you whether you’d done your homework yet.”

“I was in shock, not heartbreak,” Hyunjin says in poor defence of himself. Jisung raises an eyebrow in suspicion. Finally, Hyunjin groans and collides his forehead against the tabletop. “Fuck, you’re right. I’m so not gonna get over Beom-seok.”

“Damn right you aren’t,” Jisung affirms. “The two of you dated for, like, a solid year and a half. You ain’t gonna get over it easily – well, except now, you have my foolproof plan!”

Hyunjin raises his head and eyes his friend warily. “These steps are kinda, I don’t know… really half-assed, though.”

Jisung purses his lips together. “Say what you want,” he says, “but you’ll be sure that by the time you accomplish all eight steps, you’ll forget everything about that little trashcan labelled Park Beom-seok.” 

Hyunjin scans the contents of the Notes again. As he does, Jisung eyes how the sunshine filtering through the windows falls upon his friend’s face. Having been friends together for ages, Jisung could recognise his friend’s face in a sea of a thousand people. No, anyone could pick out Hyunjin’s face in a million people, even – sharp eyes, soft skin, pretty lips. Jisung can’t count the number of times he’s heard someone say something about wanting to kiss his friend’s lips. Were his friend’s lips really that kissable? 

He wonders whether kissing Hyunjin’s lips were the same as kissing anyone else’s lips.

Jisung frowns. Where the fuck did that thought come from? he wonders. The familiarity of the thought comes rising up his throat, and he has to swallow it back down. He shakes his head slightly and focuses on the back of his phone, where the transparent phone screen shows off a photo booth picture of the both of them, plus their two other friends, Seungmin and Felix. 

“Step one: stuff yer face with ice cream,” Hyunjin reads aloud.

“Been there, done that yesterday,” Jisung nods. “Next one.”

“Step two: get your ex jealous…?” Hyunjin frowns. He glances up to meet Jisung’s eager gaze. “You do realise that if I started dating someone else right now, it’d look a lot like a rebound?”

Jisung laughs and plucks his phone out from Hyunjin’s grip. “Not that kind of jealous,” he says. “The kind where you impress Beom-seok, make him weak in the knees and melt into a puddle of nothing and think Why the fuck did I break up with him again? It’s the best kind of revenge, without making it look or sound like revenge. Innocent, bittersweet revenge.”

“And how exactly am I supposed to do that?” Hyunjin retorts.

Jisung grins. “You have that dance competition next Friday, right? You participated as a solo contestant, right?”

Hyunjin nods, unsure of where his friend’s going.

“And Beom-seok signed up for the competition, too,” he says. He flicks through his phone, taps into his Instagram account and searches for Beom-seok’s account. Sure enough, his latest story on his account was a photo of him and some other guys in a dance studio, captioned LET’S KICK ASS NEXT FRIDAY!! “With that dance group of his. He’ll be watching you dance next week.”

“And how exactly is me dancing going to make him jealous?”
Jisung laughs. “Easy. I know you’re dancing that contemporary piece to when the party’s over. I sure as hell know that’s one sexy piece-”

“-seriously, how many times do I have to tell you? It really isn’t, really-”

“-oh, so I’m gonna pretend you aren’t gonna go on the floor and thrust your hips in front of the entire crowd on Friday, right,” Jisung teases. He feels glee bubbling in his gut when he sees how Hyunjin flushes crimson red. “C’mon, man, flaunt your assets. Make him weep over how he broke up with you.”

Hyunjin laughs dryly. “I don’t know, man,” he answers. “Maybe he won’t even watch me.”

A sharp grin finds its way upon Jisung’s lips. “Oh, please, he will watch it; I’ll make sure of it.”

 

-

 

Jisung’s met the guy a couple of times. He remembers when he was leaving his lecture hall to go see Hyunjin, only to see his best friend hugging a third-year student, the both of them laughing over something. Later, he found out that Hyunjin and Beom-seok had met at the dance studio that the both of them frequented.

Jisung remembers the hurt he;d felt, but chalked it up to the fact that Hyunjin hadn’t told Jisung about Beom-seok until then. Maybe Hyunjin was embarrassed, given that he’d only broke up with Felix about two months before dating Beom-seok. Or maybe Hyunjin just didn’t want Jisung to know, given how protective Jisung was of his friend.

Well, whatever the reason, Jisung thinks, as he glares down at The Ex laughing away with his friends in the waiting room backstage, I sure as hell am gonna be protective of Hyunjin now.

He clutches the bouquet of roses in his hands, inhales sharply, before stumbling into the waiting room. “Hyunjiiiiiiin!” he squeals. “There you are!”

His voice is loud enough to capture the attention of practically everyone in the room. A group of girls giggle as Jisung almost bowls over Hyunjin, who’s fixing his outfit in the far corner of the room. “Jisung?” Hyunjin squeaks, before being attacked by a massive bear hug. He laughs and pulls back, dazed. 

Jisung’s a little dazed, too. He knows Felix is a great makeup artist, but holy smokes is his makeup good. His friend’s eyelids are smudged with silver eyeshadow. His cheeks are dusted with glitter, and his rose red lips play a stark contrast against his light blonde hair that falls daintily to his shoulders, tucked behind his ears, along with his all white ensemble. He clears his throat and shows off the bouquet of roses. (He made sure to get the biggest one, too, of course.) “Good luck for your dance later!” he grins. “I got these roses for you! Can’t wait to see you thrusting your hips into the air later-”

“-heyy, Jisung, how about we talk outside?!” Hyunjin screeches, slapping a hand over his friend’s mouth and smiling apologetically at the surrounding contestants, who’ve begun giggling and whispering around them. Out of the corner of his eye, Jisung notices Beom-seok staring daggers at the both of them. His heart pounds harder when he realises the paper cup he’s holding is crushed under his vice grip. It’s working! he screams inwardly to himself. 

Hyunjin drags Jisung out of the waiting room and into the hallway. “Dude, what the fuck?” he whines. “I’m literally about to go onstage! You can’t just waltz into the waiting room like that.”

“There’s no protocol saying I can’t,” Jisung argues. “And besides, it’s working. That asshole was glaring so hard at me, I swear he was burning a hole in my side.”

He notices how hard Hyunjin tries to fight off the smile from his face, but he fails. “Okay, okay, maybe that was kinda good,” he admits cheekily.

Jisung slaps his friend’s back. “That’s the spirit, bro!” he chuckles. “Now get out there and show off your ass to the world-”

“-I swear I need to buy tape for your mouth,” Hyunjin cuts in, groaning, but his smile remains fixated on his lips. 

Outside, the hall is packed with family and friends, in support of the contestants of the Dance Rave 2022. Jisung knows Hyunjin’s going to slay his performance. After all, his friend didn't spend every day of the past few weeks practising relentlessly for nothing. Apparently, even the break-up wasn’t in the back of his mind all the time he was practising. He knows his friend through and through: when he wants something, he’ll do anything and everything in order to achieve that something.

He notices Seungmin and Felix waving at him from near the front of the seats. “Hey, thanks for saving me a spot,” he grins, before sliding into the seat in between them. 

Though he’s known Hyunjin for almost his entire life, Jisung’s only known these two since his last year of high school, when the four of them had decided to enter their school dance competition together, for fun. Despite Seungmin and Felix being in a different university a half hour away from Hyunjin and Jisung’s institute, they’re still tight friends, doing practically everything together. 

“How’s the man of the night doing?” Felix grins.

“Oh, I’m good, thanks for asking,” Jisung chuckles.

He earns a slap on the back from Seungmin, and yowls in pain. “Not you, stupid,” Seungmin laughs. “He meant Hyunjin.”

“Oh, he’s good,” Jisung grins. “He’ll be even better after his performance.”

Felix frowns. “Isn’t his ex competing, too?” he asks. 

“Hell yeah he is,” Jisung smirks. “And he won’t know what’ll hit him.”

Jisung’s plan is, of course, foolproof. Hyunjin’s the last solo contestant, and Beom-seok’s group is the first group contestant for the Dance Rave. Knowing full well that Beom-seok will be watching Hyunjin from backstage, in the most torturous angle ever, Jisung can’t help the mischievous grin splayed across his face.

Seungmin sighs and crosses his arms over his chest. “Can’t tell if I should be scared or unsurprised of you,” he says.

The lights dim low, and there comes a flurry of whispers as the announcement booms from the overhead speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Dance Rave 2020, where aspiring dancers from across South Korea come together and compete with each other, dancing to their hearts’ content. Today, joining our panel of judges is a very special surprise judge. He’s the CEO of the biggest entertainment company in South Korea right now, here to scout for the best dancers in the country. Let’s have a round of applause for JYP!”

All three of them gasp and crane their necks to the front of the hall, near the stage. Sure enough, the man himself stands from his seat, waving at the crowd and grinning at the uproar he receives. “Dude, what the hell,” Felix gasps. “That’s Hyunjin’s dream label, dude!”

“Exactly,” Seungmin nods. “Holy shit, this is huge.”

It really is. Even Jisung’s a little shocked himself. He can’t count the number of times Hyunjin’s screamed in his ear about how much he wants to audition for JYP, and how much his parents resent the idea of him becoming an idol. That’s really just the reason why Hyunjin hasn’t auditioned yet – and why he’s still in university as an English major. 

“Alright, let’s begin right away!” the host announces. “First up, we have the solo contestants, followed by the group contestants. After that, we’ll have a bit of an intermission and a special performance by DAY6, before the results are revealed.”

Jisung leans close to Seungmin and whispers, “Let’s be real, you came here for DAY6, right?”

Seungmin rolls his eyes, but he can’t deny the grin on his face. “C’mon, I’m here for Hyunjin, too,” he protests.

Dancer after endless dancer come onstage and perform their pieces. And yet, Jisung knows none of them are up to Hyunjin’s level – he’s seen his best friend dance since he was five or six. He’s the first person Hyunjin shows his performance videos and choreography to, the first person to give any comments and feedback, the first person Hyunjin goes to whenever he dreams up another song to dance to. He knows how Hyunjin dances – light, fluid, and powerful all the same.

“And the last solo dancer for today is a university student, from Yonsei University! He came in third last year in the Dance Rave 2021. Dancing to Billie Eilish’s when the party's over is none other than Hwang Hyunjin!”

The three friends holler at the tops of their lungs as Hyunjin makes his way onstage. Jisung notices how Hyunjin can’t fight the smile off of his face, before settling into his opening stance with a blank expression on his face. White light falls upon him, shedding light upon his shadowed face, and his eyelashes flutter shut.

And when the song begins, soft, dainty, Jisung feels the wind getting knocked right out of his lungs the instance Hyunjin begins. His hair falls past his face in a curtain, framing his every feature. And when he dances, it’s as if Jisung were watching a river flow, water rushing, surging powerfully, lapping at the edges of the riverbank and curving around heavy boulders.

Every move is calculated, precise, and yet comes naturally all the same. Like Hyunjin was born to dance onstage, Jisung thinks. His movements glide and slip over each other, as he swiftly sails across the stage from one corner to the next. His stage presence catches the eye of practically everyone in the room. Jisung smiles, beaming proudly like a father watching his son dance onstage. 

The song ends, and Hyunjin pulls back into a low bow, hair covering his face. When he raises his head, the entire crowd shouts and cheers for him. Seungmin and Felix whoop cheerfully, but all Jisung can do is sit still, stunned when Hyunjin looks right at him and winks. 

He feels a slight thud in his chest, and his first thought is Oh, no.

He doesn’t even realise Hyunjin’s offstage until the announcer’s voice booms through the speakers once more. “Alright, let’s give it up for an outstanding performance by Hwang Hyunjin! Up next is the group performance segment, but we’re gonna take a short two-minute break for our judges to discuss a little about the solo contestants.”

Felix nudges Jisung’s side. “That was hella amazing, right?” he prompts.

Jisung nods jerkily. “Right.”

Seungmin leans close, too. “Aren’t you going to give those roses to him?” he asks.

Jisung nods again. “Right, uh.” He scrambles to his feet and almost trips over nothing. “Save my spot for me, yeah?”

When he turns and rushes off for the backstage waiting room, he doesn’t notice the way Felix and Seungmin exchange a knowing glance with each other.

He emerges in the waiting room to a crowd of dancers, mostly the solo contestants, flocking over Hyunjin. He watches as several girls ask for a photo with him, and several guys slap him on the back and congratulate him. Jisung feels something akin to warmth surge through his veins, prickled with a bout of nerves as he grips onto the bouquet of roses tightly. 

One of the girls swivels around and sees Jisung at the doorway. “Oh, Hyunjin, is that your friend?” she questions.

Hyunjin glances at Jisung, and a pang of emotion bursts in his chest as a broad smile finds its way on Hyunjin’s face. “Yeah,” he grins. He excuses himself politely before racing up to Jisung. Before Jisung can say anything, though, the other boy yanks him by the arm and drags him out into the hallway. 

Once they’re alone, Hyunjin huffs. “So? How was I?”

“Good,” Jisung nods. “Really, really good. I think you have a clear shot for first place."

Hyunjin’s eyes curl up into a pair of crescents. “I really hope so!” he chuckles. He gestures at the roses in Jisung’s hands. “Who’s the lucky person getting these roses again?”

Jisung gulps. A lump has formed in his throat, the moment he realises how hard his heart is beating against his ribcage. “You,” he whispers. 

It’s quiet, the hallway left empty, save for the pounding of the music of the group contestants onstage muffled by the plastered walls backstage. Under the dim lights, the glitter on Hyunjin’s cheeks glimmers brightly. “Thanks,” he says. “For, y’know, encouraging me. Really glad you came today.”

“Seungmin and Felix came along too, you know.”

“Yeah,” Hyunjin nods. “But you’re the one who got me these flowers.”

Heat rises up Jisung’s neck, but before he can say anything else, footsteps thump towards them from a distance. The both of them swivel around to see Beom-seok and his dance group, pouring with sweat, obviously having just finished their performance onstage.

Jisung notices the exact moment Beom-seok and Hyunjin’s gazes meet. He braces himself for an outburst of Hyunjin’s tears, but to his great surprise, Hyunjin simply turns his head from Beom-seok and grins down at the roses. “Anyways, thanks for the roses again,” he says sweetly.

And to Jisung’s even greater shock, Hyunjin leans forward and presses a quick kiss on the apple of his cheek. It’s chaste, a fleeting kiss caught in the heat of the moment, but Jisung’s breath gets caught in his throat. 

When Hyunjin pulls back, Jisung catches the curl of Beom-seok’s snarl as he stomps past them and towards the waiting room. Jisung turns to look at his friend with wide eyes. “Dude, what the fuck?” he whisper-shouts. “What was that all about?”

Hyunjin smirks. “Don’t complain now, bro,” he replies. “We just accomplished step number two.”

 

-

 

STEP THREE: GO OUT AND HAVE SOME FUN

“I don’t understand why this wasn’t step two instead,” Hyunjin asks, flustered as he wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his hand. Even though summer has come to a close, with the cold bite of autumn slowly sinking deep in their bones, the late morning sun still shines down upon the four friends as they stand at the entrance to Lotte World. “Don’t you have fun before making your ex jealous?”

“Hyunjinnie ah, those are the k-dramas talking,” Jisung sighs. “Besides, how were we supposed to have fun when you’re practising for your competition every day? At least now you can have some real fun!”

Seungmin peeks at them from under the oversized sunglasses Felix had bought him as a gag gift last year. “Even though you’re still a thousand words short of your assignment which is due, like, tomorrow?” he snorts.

Jisung swivels around and places his hands on his hips. “I’ll have you know that I’ve drafted it out already,” he huffs. “All I need to do is type it out.”

Felix loops an arm around Jisung and Seungmin’s shoulders. “Are we going to stand around here all day, or are we actually going to go and have fun?” he asks. 

In all honesty, Jisung’s pretty proud of his idea. Not only does Hyunjin get to get over his heartbreak, but the four of them get to have some bonding time together, too. Over the summer, they’d tried to plan an outing together, maybe to Jeju Island, or a camping trip, or even just a picnic by the Han River. Any plans that they’d tried to piece together had all failed, though – Seungmin worked as a summer camp guide for pre-teens throughout their two-month break, Felix went back home to Australia for a visit, and Hyunjin had his dance camp that lasted about two weeks, too. Even Jisung himself had decided to pick up a part-time job at the local theatre, as a part of his performance arts summer project. 

He grins as the four of them rush through the entrance with a thrill of laughter, their spirits high above the din.

They buy funny hairbands for each of them, and hurriedly queue up for the attractions. Hours fly by as the four friends rush to ride the carousel, the rollercoasters, and other attractions. By the time they’ve eaten a late lunch at three, all four of them are almost exhausted.

That is, until Felix yanks at their arms and points to one particular attraction that they haven’t gone on yet. “That one!” he yells, so loudly his voice cracks. “We have to go on that one!”

Seungmin snorts. “I bet two thousand won that Jisung is going to scream ten ways to hell on that ride.”

Hyunjin laughs. “He already did when we were on the rollercoaster.”

Jisung blinks up at the Gyro Drop in the distance. At that same moment, the Gyro Drop suddenly jerks and drops down, and a chorus of shrieks bursts from the riders. He gulps down his nerves. “Come on,” he rolls his eyes. “I definitely won’t scream on that shit. That’s for amateurs, bro.”

Seungmin’s eyes glint with mischief. “Oh, we’ll see about that,” he cooes.

The rest of the walk to the Gyro Drop is a blur. All the while, Jisung hopes the pasta he had for lunch will actually stay in his belly. As if to mock him further, the queue to the attraction is relatively short, so within five minutes he’s already being strapped into the seat, legs dangling off of the edge. 

Beside him, Hyunjin grins broadly. “To be honest,” he says slowly, “I’m kinda scared too.”

“You’re both scaredy-cats,” Seungmin teases from the other side. “I’m betting y’all are gonna hug it out in the middle of the drop. Believe me.”

Felix laughs and joins in the teasing. “I have to agree with Seungmin this time,” he chuckles.

Jisung rolls his eyes. “Assholes- wah!” He squeaks as the ride abruptly jerks and surges up. He gasps as the ride begins spinning around slowly. His knuckles whiten where he’s gripping onto the safety bars. “Holy shit, why is this so high up?!” 

Seungmin leans over and grins sweetly. “Jisung ah, did you know? There’s a viral video on the net, where the ride detaches all of our seats. It’s like bungee jumping, and the ride spins all of us around individually.”

Panic rises up his throat. “What?!” he screams. “Why didn’t it happen just now, then?”

“Because you have to make a special request,” Seungmin smiles. “I made the special request just now.”

Jisung croaks out a forced laugh. “You’re pulling my leg, right?”

Even Felix juts his head out now, knocking his cheek against the face shield. “It’s true,” he nods. “I tried it before here.”

Next to him, Hyunjin nods, too. “I heard some people passed out during this ride, or died-”

“-then why the fuck are we on this ride right now?!” Jisung screeches. He kicks at the air, before stopping as he realises how terribly wrong things would go if he kicked his sneakers off whilst 50 metres up in the air. He whines and squeezes his eyes shut. “I thought this ride was fun, not deadly!”

“Should’ve done your research.” With Jisung’s eyes closed, Seungmin and Felix bump fists to congratulate the success of their prank.

On the other hand, Hyunjin places a hand over Jisung’s with a laugh. “Don’t worry, Jisung ah,” he says. “They’re just kidding, the ride won’t actually detach itself. The laws of physics would make everyone instantly die if that happened.”

Jisung groans and knocks his head against the back of his seat. “This is a terrible idea,” he mutters.

As if on cue, the ride halts, at least 70 metres up in air. Jisung dares himself to peer out his face shield, and squeaks when he notices how tiny everything and everyone else seems to be down below. “Maybe this is how I die,” Jisung says faintly.

Hyunjin squeezes Jisung’s hand, and a dizzy explosion of nerves erupts in Jisung’s heart. “Nah, as long as I’m here, you won’t die,” he chuckles. “Maybe you’ll pass out, or worse, puke out your lunch.”

Jisung rolls his eyes. “ So glad I ate that pasta just now, huh-”

Before he can complete his sentence, though, the ride jerks downwards and Jisung’s heart soars higher than the clouds. His mouth opens in a silent scream as he squeezes his eyes shut and clutches onto Hyunjin’s hand. Beside him, he can hear Hyunjin shriek into his ear, and he almost crushes the bones in his friend’s wrist as the ride does its deadly drop down, down, down, until they reach ground level once more.

Jisung opens his eyes in bewilderment. “It’s… over?”

Seungmin scrambles out of his seat and giggles. “Can’t believe you fell for that, dude,” he says. “Literally.”

Hyunjin stumbles out of his seat and clutches his head. “Oh, shit, my head’s spinning,” he murmurs.

Even though his heart’s fit to burst, Jisung loops an arm around Hyunjin’s waist and drags him out of the attraction area. “We are so not ever gonna come back to this ride,” he grumbles.

Seungmin flicks his friend’s forehead, a satisfied cat’s grin on his face. “Oh, we so are,” he chortles.

 

-

 

STEP FOUR: CLEAR OUT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE FROM YOUR EX

Since Hyunjin lives in a small apartment room off-campus, Jisung makes the effort to catch a bus to his place after his last lecture on a Friday afternoon. Given that neither of them have any more classes for the day, Jisung had offered for them to carry out step four of Jisung’s ever so foolproof plan. 

As the bus squeaks to a halt at his stop, Jisung feels a kind of panic rise in his chest again. No, not panic, Jisung corrects himself. A pang of some other emotion that he has yet to interpret, something that has warning bells ringing off in his head, but something that wills him to stay put in place.

He rounds the curb to arrive at Hyunjin’s apartment. He heads to the lobby, presses on the 15th floor, and hums as he waits for the elevator to reach his friend’s floor. When the doors slide open, he’s surprised to see Hyunjin already waiting for him in the hallway.

“Hey,” he greets, bounding up to Hyunjin. “How were your classes today?”

Hyunjin glimpses up from his phone. “Hm? Oh, they were okay,” he mutters, before glancing back down at his phone screen. Curious, Jisung peeks over his friend’s shoulder to see the Instagram DM page on the screen. 

“Who’re you texting?” he asks. 

Hyunjin frowns and clicks his phone off, sliding it into his jean pocket. “Apparently someone recorded my dance from the dance rave and posted it online. One of my friends from dance class shared it with me,” he explains. “It went viral, and there’s at least 200,000 people who’ve watched my dance already.”

Jisung’s ears perk up. “Woah, that’s so cool!” he hollers. “Then why do you look so worried, though?”

Hyunjin laughs dryly. “I mean, sure, there’s a lot of people out there who’ve watched me dance, but…” His voice trails off, and he averts his gaze from Jisung to the marble tiled floor.

Everything clicks in Jisung’s head. “Oh,” he realises. “You think no one’s going to scout for you.”

Hyunjin nods. “I mean, sure, I got first place in that competition,” he says. “But JYP himself had to leave the event early for some emergency thing. Even if he didn’t scout me, no one else did, and there were a fair number of scouts from tons of company labels that night.”

Jisung rubs his friend’s arm up and down comfortingly. “Maybe this viral video of yours will gain more recognition from those companies, right?” he offers. “It’s only been a week since the competition, Jinnie ah – patience is a virtue, and I’m sure people recognise your talent.”

Hyunjin smiles gratefully at his friend. “Thanks,” he says. “Also, have you been to my room before? I can’t remember if you ever did.”

“I think I did, when you first moved in,” Jisung replies. He launches himself at Hyunjin’s door and dances on the spot as the latter fiddles the key into the doorknob. “Why? Is it super messy now?”

“Not… really?” Hesitantly, Hyunjin shoves the door open to reveal the three-room apartment. He’d gotten the key to it as a birthday gift from his parents, as well as to celebrate his admission to Yonsei University back when he was twenty. Jisung remembers moving day like the back of his mind – the endless cardboard boxes overflowing with Hyunjin’s clothes, the pained laughter as they tried (and failed) to put together the IKEA tables and bookshelves, and the housewarming party they held with Seungmin and Felix.

Back then, the room was an explosion of colour and life. Right now, as Jisung steps in, he’s appalled to see the dishes stacked up in a mountain in the kitchen sink. And that’s only his first glance. “Dude, what happened in here?” He sniffs. “It smells like ten rats died in here or something.”

Hyunjin chokes on his saliva as he locks the front door. “I haven’t been home a lot,” he admits. “And I’ve kinda been a mess since the entire… you know.”

Jisung emerges in the living room and cringes as he notices the wad of tissues on the tabletop, and the empty beer bottle by the small hill of crumpled tissues. “You’re not a drinker,” Jisung states. 

“I’m not,” Hyunjin confirms. “Found it in the cupboard, though. I think I drank it… the Saturday after the break-up?”

Jisung’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “Bro.” He fakes a gag. “That was literally two weeks ago. I’m surprised this place isn’t swarmed with cockroaches yet.”

Hyunjin shoves at him playfully. “So we’re not gonna acknowledge the fact that I can sit on your bed in your dorm and probably find Cheeto crumbs stuck on my ass?”

“That’s called subtle uncleanliness,” Jisung preens. “This, though, is a catastrophe.”

As he makes his way to clean up the coffee table, Hyunjin stumbles and stutters over his words. “W-wait, aren’t you here to help me clear Beom-seok’s stuff?”

“I am,” Jisung affirms. “But I can’t do that and ignore the state of this place. You’re lucky it’s me who walked in here, not Seungmin.”

At those words, Hyunjin visibly shudders. “I can already imagine Seungmin’s reaction,” he mumbles, before swiping the wad of tissues into the nearest trash bin.

For the next half hour, the two boys sweep and clean the kitchen and sitting room, washing the week-long dirty dishes and throwing out the trash. Surprisingly, Hyunjin’s bedroom seems spotless, as if he hadn’t touched his bed in a long time.

“I’ve been sleeping on the couch nowadays,” Hyunjin explains. “The bed kinda… reminds me too much of him.”

Jisung wrinkles his nose. “Ew, dude, no need to go into those details,” he winces.

Hyunjin blushes. “I didn’t mean it like that!” he flusters. “I mean… he used to come over a lot. And we used to just lie in bed and watch dramas together and stuff. And he always used to wake up earlier than me, so he could serve me breakfast in bed, and-” He cuts himself off instantly, and quickly stares down at the carpeted floor. “Sorry, I’m meant to be getting over him,” he sighs, “not thinking more about him.”

Jisung shakes his head. “Sometimes, things are worth talking about,” he tells his friend. “It’s better to let them out, y’know? Better to talk about all those memories, whether good or bad, than to bottle them up in your head and not let them out. After you’re done remembering those moments, you’ll realise it’s easier to just forget them after that.”

Hyunjin’s gaze locks onto Jisung’s. “You sound like you’ve been through heartbreak before, Sungie ah,” he smiles. “I’m surprised. Who broke your heart, huh? I thought I knew everything about you.”

No, you don’t, Jisung thinks to himself. He dismisses the thought, though, and instead plasters on a nonchalant smile. “Nah, me? Never. You’re the one who always gets heartbroken.”

Hyunjin chuckles. “Touche,” he admits. 

The room seems mostly empty, the walls bare, save for a poster of Hyunjin’s favourite band taped next to his bed, pressed up against the beige walls. The bookshelves are stuffed with his mangas from when he was a kid, and the compulsory reading novels from their high school days. His study desk is kept neat and tidy, textbooks aligned on the shelf above his desk, notes clipped and binded on the table. 

What does attract Jisung’s attention in particular, though, is the framed photo on his desk. “Okay, that’s the first thing we’re trashing today,” he announces.

Surprised, Hyunjin turns on his heel and realises what Jisung’s referring to. “Nooo,” he whines. “That was a photo from our first date!”

Jisung plucks the photo frame from the desk and takes a good look at it. It’s definitely from a year ago, when Hyunjin’s hair was still kept short and dark, his cheeks still harbouring a little bit of baby fat. Next to him, Beom-seok presses a kiss against his cheek, his nose smushed against Hyunjin’s ear, and Jisung feels something lick at the depths of his gut. 

“You really wanna keep this?” he asks. 

Hyunjin retrieves the photo from Jisung’s hand and looks at it, too. “I mean, I get that we’re supposed to trash everything that meant something about him.” he begins slowly. “But I think forgetting everything about it is kinda… I don’t know, sad.”

Jisung plops down at his desk chair and studies the expression on Hyunjin’s face. “What do you mean by that?”

“I think…” Hyunjin grins. “I totally want to trash the stuff he gave me, though – flowers, the CDs, stuff like that, or give them back to him. If I were to throw away photos, though, they’re the last permanent pieces of my memory with him. I’m heartbroken, yeah, but I’d still like to not forget about him totally. Relationships are meant to be remembered, right?”

He smiles down at Jisung in a way that has his heart racing, his brain pounding against his skull. Oh, god no. Jisung tries to tear his gaze away from Hyunjin, but to no avail. He is nothing but a moth drawn to a flame, enraptured by the way Hyunjin flicks his hair over his shoulder and grins down at the photo frame. 

“Maybe I’m just sentimental,” he admits. “Or a hopeless romantic. But I don’t want to completely forget about the times we shared together – they’re still memories, after all. And in those moments in time, I think we genuinely enjoyed our time together. I don’t want to let go of those moments, not for a single second.”

For the first time in a long while, Jisung stays quiet. He fumbles with the arm of the desk chair, trying to work up something to say. This isn’t like him. He usually knows what to say, but now, watching the small smile on Hyunjin’s face, he’s lost for words. 

It’s Hyunjin who dismisses the topic, though, with a wave of his hand. “Whatever,” he chuckles. He plonks the photo frame back onto the desk before turning around. “Anyways, I’ve got this box of all this stuff, but I think there’s more around here. I’ll probably just send it to his place later…”

Jisung waits, for a moment or two, before exhaling shakily, standing, and walking over to Hyunjin’s side to join him.

 

-

 

STEP FOUR POINT FIVE: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, REALISE THAT I WAS IN LOVE WITH YOU

To be frank, Jisung’s kinda glad that Hyunjin’s always been a little oblivious – or else he might’ve noticed something particularly un-subtle of Jisung over the years.

Jisung can admit that his best friend has the ability to make anyone, and basically everyone, go weak in the knees with just one turn of his head. He’s seen it upfront before, girls whispering and working up the courage to even just hand him flowers or letters, guys wrapping arms around Hyunjin’s shoulders for a beat too long to be just a casual greeting. 

And Jisung can also admit that he’s been there, and felt that same feeling, before.

He’s not sure when exactly it happened. The moment he cannot forget, and might never forget, was perhaps his own seventeenth birthday. At that time, they hadn’t met Seungmin and Felix yet, so it was just the two of them – two peas in a pod, two halves in one, each other’s best friend. He remembers Hyunjin surprising him after school at his house, emerging into the kitchen with a large cheesecake in one hand and a wrapped present in the other.

He remembers the look of glee on Hyunjin’s face when Jisung tore the wrapping apart to reveal the AKAI MIDImix gleaming back up at him. He remembers the laughter ringing in his ears as the both of them snuck a soju bottle from Jisung’s family cellar and hid in the attic, furnished to double as Jisung’s hideout spot. He remembers the technicolour lights from the television casting long shadows on his friend’s face, remembers the blaring sounds drowned out by Hyunjin’s tinkling laughter, remembers the lightheadedness he felt from the alcohol burning down his throat and the blush on Hyunjin’s cheeks.

He remembers Hyunjin leaning over and pressing a small kiss upon Jisung’s jaw, before giggling and promptly passing out. He remembers all of that, but most of all, he remembers how loudly his heart had pounded in his ears, how clammy his palms were as he cupped Hyunjin’s sleeping face and kissed the tip of his unfairly perfect nose.

Then a week later, Hyunjin started dating a friend from dance class. And Jisung knew so well, from then on, that he would always be reduced to a best friend, an aide and a companion, and nothing more. The brush of their arms or the taps on his shoulders would be just as they were, and nothing more.

That’s why, Jisung figures, he’s been swallowing those feelings down, and somehow lost them along the way. At least, he thought he lost them along the way. 

And now Jisung wonders if this cure to Hyunjin’s heartbreak might just be the beginning of a curse of Jisung’s own imminent heartbreak.

 

-

 

STEP FIVE: BUY NEW CLOTHES FOR A CHANGED MAN

“This is just an excuse for me to splurge money, isn’t it?” Hyunjin scoffs.

It’s been about a week since they cleared out all the stuff from Hyunjin’s apartment. Jisung had to laugh at the stockpile of gifts his friend had received from his ex – anything, from funky socks to rom-com CDs and even a one-hundred-thousand won necklace. (“Dude, this is worth, like, all the birthday gifts I’ve given you since we were eight,” Jisung deadpanned as he swung the necklace before a sheepish Hyunjin’s eyes.) Since then, they’ve been busying themselves with assignments and lectures, and decided to take an opportunity out of their Saturday to head to the nearest shopping mall to execute step five of Jisung’s plan.

Jisung scrolls through Twitter on his phone, as they wait for the bus. Given that this morning is a little chillier, they’re wrapped up in their coats, hot coffees in their hands. He takes a sip of his Americano and glimpses up at Hyunjin. “It isn’t,” he insists. “Besides, you haven’t gone clothes shopping since spring. I looked at your closet that day – you’re literally wearing the same clothes from when we were in high school!”

Hyunjin pouts. “Saving money is the better option, really,” he mutters.

Jisung grins. “Don’t worry, I have an idea for that,” he teases.

Soon enough, the bus pulls up at their stop. Jisung stands and tugs on Hyunjin’s sleeve. “Get in, loser,” he jokes. “We’re going shopping!”

-

 

“Holy shit, I am so not buying this shit,” Hyunjin utters, flipping the price tag back. His eyes practically pop wide open from the sight of the few dozen zeroes attached to each shirt. “Look at this shirt. It’s just… fabric, and it’s already thirty thousand. We’re out of here.”

They’re strolling around in some high-end store that neither of them have heard of before. Admittedly, Jisung doesn’t buy many clothes, either – he’s pretty sure the sweatshirt he’s currently wearing is his mum’s eighteenth birthday gift for him; it’s surprising that he hasn’t grown out of it yet. “Yeah, this is a scam,” he scoffs, flicking a price tag for sunglasses around and whistling as he notices the price: ₩85,000. 

“This is absurd,” Hyunjin sighs. “I don’t get how this is gonna help me get over my heartbreak.”

Jisung drags Hyunjin out of the store and glances around. The Saturday morning crowd is relatively huge, a sea of people milling about. Groups of friends clutch onto half-empty popcorn bags, mothers push prams of crying babies, and couples loop their arms together and laugh as they walk past the both of them. 

Jisung pushes down the familiar thought niggling at him from the back of his head.

Out of his peripheral vision, he notices one particular shop with much shabbier furnishing from the other branded stores. He grins to himself, knowing his plan is going exactly as he wanted. “Let’s try over there,” he suggests, and leads Hyunjin over to a vintage-style store, the words SOUL THRIFTING in cursive letters framed over the glass doors. 

The silver bells overhead announce their arrival. A young girl at the cashier glances up from where she’s folding some shirts, and her eyes light up. “Welcome to Soul Thrifting!” she thrills. “Let me know if you need any help finding something, yeah?”

The two boys bow slightly in courtesy, before slipping through the different aisles. The fairy lights strung across the ceiling emanate a welcoming warmth, beckoning them to explore further in the shops. Wooden hangers show off a variety of clothing, from frilly frocks and long, plain skirts, to bedazzling shirts and khaki pants. The stark contrast between each different shirt and pants and vest surprises Jisung, and he finds himself flicking through a few hangers, too.

Amused, Hyunjin shows off a plain white tee, with Chinese words intricately printed across the back. “What does this one mean?” he wonders aloud.

The girl, noticing their curiosity, struts up to them with a broad grin. “It reads ‘一百颗心也不足以承载我对你的爱’ (yìbǎi kē xīn yě bù zúyǐ chéngzài wǒ duì nǐ de ài). It means that a hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for you.

Jisung blinks. “Well, that’s pretty deep,” he comments. “Are you, like, the owner of this store?”

The girl nods. Now that she’s much closer to them, Jisung can read her name tag: 小倩 (XIAO QIAN). “Yup,” she replies. “I inherited this store from my mum. She migrated here from China when she was pretty young and started this store for second-hand and cheap clothes, for thrifty shoppers.” 

“Woah, that’s pretty cool,” Hyunjin grins. He glances back down at the shirt, and drapes it over his arm. “I’ll try this shirt later.”

Surprised, Jisung turns to look at his friend. “Really?” he muses. “Weren’t you complaining five minutes ago?”

“Dude.” Hyunjin raises the price tag up to Jisung’s eye level. “This shirt is pretty much one tenth of the price just now – and it has better material.”

“What material?”

A smirk splays across his lips. “Boyfriend material,” he teases. He turns on his heel and strides off, leaving a stunned Jisung speechless and rooted to the spot. 

The girl whistles lowly. “Damn, that was smooth,” she whispers. “Do you, like, get this every day?”

Jisung gulps. “W-we’re not together,” he forces out. “We’re just, uh, friends.”

The owner narrows her eyes at Jisung, but doesn’t press on. “Okayyyy then,” she drawls. “I’ll be at the front counter if y’all need anything else.”

For the next half hour, the two boys browse through the different shirts and pants, eagerly piling up more clothes to try on, and laughing over the ridiculous Korean phrases on some of the graphic tee shirts. Eventually, they make their way to the changing rooms to try on their clothes.

After some quick deciding, Jisung settles on a tie-dye tee and some worn-out skinny jeans for himself. As he’s plopping the rest of the clothes into the clothes basket, he hears Hyunjin grunting loudly from his own room. Laughing, he hollers, “You good in there, bro?”

Hyunjin whines from inside his room. “I’m stuck!” he screeches. “I can’t pull down this zipper on the back – my arms aren’t long enough.”

“Then how did you even zip it up in the first place?” Jisung guffaws.

“I don’t know, sorcery?” he replies. He groans in pain. “Could you come in here and help?”

Jisung rolls his eyes. “Okay, yeah, sure.” He waits for Hyunjin to unlock the changing room door, before stepping in and closing the door behind him.

He definitely should’ve thought this through a little more.

From the failed attempts to unzip his shirt, Hyunjin’s long hair is even more dishevelled now, the low bun he’d tied this morning now falling out into a messy ponytail. The shirt’s hiked up to Hyunjin’s chest, so Jisung can see the faint lines across his friend’s abdomen. He knows Hyunjin doesn’t work out at the gym or anything – all his hard work from dancing is evident on his lanky body. Jisung feels a chill down his spine. There comes a sudden urge to splay his hand across Hyunjin’s torso, and trace every curve and dip of his hips. 

“Dude, helloooo? A little help?” Hyunjin wails.

Jisung clears his throat. “Right,” he says, before swivelling Hyunjin around and yanking the zipper down. 

As soon as it’s unzipped, Hyunjin exhales noisily. “Oh, thank goodness, I thought I was gonna be stuck in that shirt forever.”

Jisung snorts. “You’re so dramatic,” he says jokingly, but he clamps his mouth shut as Hyunjin pulls the shirt off of him, revealing the milky white of his skin. He’s seen his friend shirtless at least a thousand times, yeah, but in this enclosed space, with the studio lights glaring down upon him, he looks a thousand times more angelic than usual.

Jisung coughs awkwardly and turns to unlock the door. “Anyways, I’ll be heading out-” 

He fiddles with the doorknob and twists the lock open. Nothing. For the love of all things holy, the lock is fucking stuck. 

Hyunjin peers over Jisung’s shoulder. “Is it stuck?” he asks. Jisung becomes hyper aware of the fact that Hyunjin Has Not Put His Shirt Back On Yet. He hopes the warmth isn’t showing on his cheeks.

“Y-yeah,” Jisung stammers. He tries wrenching the doorknob open, but to no avail. The lock got stuck halfway through the knob, and now it’s permanently etched in place. “Fuck, it’s not opening.”

Hyunjin slams his back against the wall of the changing room and groans. “So this is how I die,” he laments overdramatically. For extra theatrical effect, he lays a hand over his eyes and slumps to the floor, all the while still Evidently Shirtless. “Hwang Hyunjin, lived 2000 to 2022. Death by getting locked in a changing room of a thrift store with best friend. That’ll be such a great news headline.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jisung snorts, but he begins to feel his heartbeat pick up. Fuck. He’s never liked small spaces, let alone somewhere as enclosed as a changing room with his friend. He tries swallowing down the nerves in his throat, but a ball of anxiety begins to form in his chest. He gasps and crouches down to the floor, gripping his shirt tightly.

From where Hyunjin’s sat, he notices the abrupt change in mood on his friend’s face. “Hey, hey Jisung,” he whispers, concern laced in his softened tone. He hurriedly slides across the floor to where Jisung’s hunching over, and sets him down so he’s sitting on the floor. Hyunjin nestles his friend in between his legs and wraps both arms around him. “It’s okay, breathe, okay? I’m here, just breathe.”

This isn’t the first time Jisung’s had a mini panic attack around Hyunjin. The first time it happened, they were at an overcrowded stadium, to watch a boy band on tour in the Seoul Olympic Stadium when they were fourteen. Jisung distinctively remembers how Hyunjin had ushered him to the quieter toilets and rubbed his back comfortingly, until his breathing had slowed down.

“Breathe, okay? Just breathe. Count to three. In – 1, 2, 3. Out – 1, 2, 3.”

The warm breath from Hyunjin’s words fans against the shell of Jisung’s ear. Hyunjin takes up Jisung’s hands and draws circles over his wrists slowly, carefully. “Breathe, Sungie, breathe.”

Jisung allows himself to close his eyes and relish in the heat emanating from Hyunjin’s body against his back, in the low voice whispering for him to breathe in his hair, in the long hair that tickles his shoulders as Hyunjin leans forward.

Eventually, after what seems like an eternity, Jisung’s nerves finally calm down, a storm dissolving into a quiet breeze, huge waves crashing into small laps against the sandy shores. “Okay,” he says weakly. “Okay, I’m okay now.”

Hyunjin frowns. “You sure?”

Jisung glances back a little. Here, Hyunjin’s face is so much closer to his own, eyes wide with a thousand stars etched into the darkest of pupils. Jisung licks his dry lips unconsciously before allowing his gaze to drop to the floor. “Yeah, I’m okay now.”

All of a sudden, someone knocks against the door. “Uh, hello? Are you two still in there?” the cashier asks. “You both have been in there for some time, so I got a little worried.”

Hyunjin raises his voice a little so the girl can hear him. “We’re stuck in here, actually; I think the lock got jammed halfway through.”

The girl gasps. “Shit, I’m so sorry, okay. I’m gonna get something real quick, and hopefully it’ll help open the door, ‘kay?”

Jisung slowly stands up, with the help of Hyunjin’s supporting arm. As Hyunjin pulls on his shirt, they hear something jangling against the lock in the door, before the door finally opens to reveal the frantic look on the owner’s face.

She raises a coin up for them to see. “I managed to unhitch the lock with this coin,” she says, panting heavily. “I’m so, so sorry for this! I’ll need to change the locks on the room doors; it’s been quite a while since I did.”

Before Hyunjin can say anything, Jisung interjects first. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” he grins. He turns to smile at a surprised Hyunjin, before turning back around. “We’re good. It’s not your fault, anyways.”

The cashier nods. “That’s good to know. To compensate for that, though, I’ll be letting y’all have the clothes you choose for free! It’s on the house.”

The two boys gawk at the cashier. “No, no way,” Jisung chuckles nervously. “That’s really nice of you, but really-”

“-I’m the owner here,” she insists. “I can literally do anything I want, and I really wish for you two to have them for free. Consider it as a first-timer discount, and to compensate for the door just now.” 

Before either of them can protest, the cashier winks and swivels around, leaving the both of them with nothing else to say.

Hyunjin chuckles and drapes an arm on Jisung’s shoulder, squeezing him in a side hug. “Guess I don’t have to worry about the prices after all,” he jokes.

This time, when his heart thuds hard against the cage of his chest, Jisung doesn’t suppress it. Instead, he loops an arm loosely around Hyunjin’s waist and allows his hopes to soar high above the clouds.

 

-

 

STEP SIX: BINGE-WATCH YOUR WORRIES AWAY

“I think this should’ve been step one of your plan, really,” Hyunjin laughs as Jisung plops the bag of corn kernels into the microwave. His friend pours out two glasses of soda for the both of them on the kitchen island, and pulls out a large bowl for the popcorn from the overhead cupboard.

It’s the eve of Jisung’s 22nd birthday, and the both of them decided to celebrate it by carrying out step six of Jisung’s cure for heartbreak plan. By now, Hyunjin hasn’t said a word about Beom-seok in a long while, which Jisung’s pretty proud about. 

“What’re we watching tonight?” Hyunjin asks. 

As the popcorn begins to pop in the microwave, Jisung swivels around and taps his chin. “Itaewon Class?” he offers with a grin.

Hyunjin groans. “How many times have we watched it already?” he complains noisily. “That drama came out ages ago!”

“It’s only been two years, bro,” Jisung retorts. He slips the inflated bag out of the microwave, rips it open and pours the popcorn into the bowl. As he shakes the salt into the bowl, he glances up at Hyunjin. “Plus, aren’t we celebrating my birthday? So shouldn’t the birthday boy watch what he wants to watch?”

Hyunjin rolls his eyes, but even he can’t fight off the smile from his face. “Fine,” he relents. “I’ll put it on for us in the living room.”

With Hyunjin’s parents away for an overseas business meeting, the both of them have the entire house to themselves. Jisung adores the fact that he’s so close to his friend’s parents to the point where they trust him enough to come over anytime. 

He picks up the bowl of popcorn and shuffles into the living room, where Hyunjin is fluffing the throw pillows on the couch and adjusting the Iron Man blanket over his lap. “C’mon,” he beckons, patting at the spot next to him on the couch. Thankfully, the lights are dim enough to cover up the blush on Jisung’s cheeks. 

He slumps down onto the couch and tugs on the other end of the blanket, before plopping the bowl of popcorn between them. “Okay, let’s watch this thing,” Jisung says gleefully. He absolutely adores this drama from the very bottom of his heart; it’s so tough to watch other dramas ever since he became so attached to this one.

The first episode goes by in a blink of an eye. As the second one begins rolling, Jisung picks up his soda and takes a swig, only to choke on his drink. “Holy shit- this isn’t soda!” he exclaims. 

Hyunjin frowns and picks up his own drink. He sniffs it, and coughs. “Oh shit, I must’ve taken the wrong bottle out,” he winces. “My parents keep chilled soju in the fridge, so I think I took that instead. Do you want me to refill with soda?”

Jisung shakes his head. “Nah, it’s cool,” he says. “To be honest, I kinda wanna get drunk, anyways.”

“You don’t have a class tomorrow?” Hyunjin asks. It’s a Wednesday night for the both of them, and if they wake up with a hangover tomorrow, that’s going to cause some considerable trouble for the both of them. 

“Nope, you?”

Hyunjin shakes his head. “I don’t have any, either. Supposed to, but my lecturer last-minute cancelled for something.”

Jisung grins and clinks their cups together. “Then let’s drink for tonight,” he says. “I wanna see you drunk as fuck.”

Hyunjin snorts. “As if. I can hold my alcohol now, you know.”

“Sure, sure,” Jisung teases lightly. “I’m sure you didn’t get drunk from one sip of that beer weeks ago.” After knowing his friend for years, he sure as hell knows that Hyunjin is an absolute light drinker. He remembers one time, when they’d headed out with their friends for karaoke night, Hyunjin had passed out after only three shots of soju. 

“Bet,” Hyunjin chuckles, before falling into silence as the characters appear onscreen once more. As the hours begin ticking by, Jisung gets up once to refill the popcorn, and Hyunjin emerges into the living room halfway through the fourth episode with the half-full bottle of soju to refill their drinks.

By the time they’re watching the sixth episode, Hyunjin’s drunk as hell. “Wow, the worrrrld is so colourrrrful,” he slurs. He leans his entire body against Jisung’s side and almost sends the popcorn toppling to the floor. 

“Watch it, dude,” Jisung grunts, hurriedly setting the bowl onto the coffee table and shoving Hyunjin’s head up and away from his shoulder. “Goddamn, you are such a lightweight.”

“Am noooot,” Hyunjin drawls. His eyes have gone hazy, scanning Jisung up close and grinning lazily. Something familiar crawls into Jisung’s chest and blossoms, and he suddenly finds himself having to suppress the urge to brush back Hyunjin’s hair from his face. “I am soooo not drunk.”

Jisung chortles. “Says the guy who’s lost his backbone,” he taunts, but his mouth slips shut the second he feels Hyunjin’s lips against the back of his neck. “Dude, what the hell? Stop-”

“-mm, you smell so pretty,” Hyunjin hums, burying his head into the space between Jisung’s chin and his shoulder. “Like honeeeeyyy.”

“That’s my shampoo,” Jisung gulps. “Now get off of me.”

Hyunjin juts his lower lip into a pout. “Do you not liiiiike me, Jisungieeee?” he whispers. 

This is uncharted territory. Very, very uncharted territory, and if Jisung does not do something right now, he’s never going to live this night down. “C’mon, Hyunjin, sit up straight or something, okay- hey, stop pulling my arm!”

Hyunjin grips onto Jisung’s short sleeve and squishes his upper arm. “Wow, your biiiiceps are so huuuge,” Hyunjin grins. “You’re reeeaaaally hot, Sungieeeee.”

Jisung flushes a deeper red. “Stop saying stupid things, dude,” he mutters irately. 

“You reeeeally are!” Hyunjin laughs. “I don’t know whyyy you’re single? You have no girlfriend, no boyyyyyfriend… you’re sooooo lonelyyyyy.”

Jisung rolls his eyes. “Nice to know that I’m constantly reminded of that,” he deadpans. 

Hyunjin giggles like a schoolboy, and leans against Jisung once again. As the voices from the show tune in and out of Jisung’s conscience, the latter becomes more and more aware of how close Hyunjin’s face is to his own, like that day at the thrift store all over again. Oh no. “Why aren’t you asking for kisses?” he whines. “You aaaaaalways ask for kisses!”

Jisung blinks down at Hyunjin. “I do, but I’m always joking around, and you of all people know that,” he protests. 

Hyunjin purses his lips together. They glisten under the dim light, wetted from the soju he’s drunk. “Come on, Jisungieeee,” he murmurs. “I bet you’ve never been kissed before!” 

Jisung groans. “I thought you were a sleeper when you’re drunk,” he argues. “Never pinned you for a flirter.”

“This isn’t flirrrrting!” Hyunjin shouts.

Jisung turns his head. “It is-”

And then it happens. Again. He feels seventeen rushing back to him once more, feels the press of warm lips against his jaw as Hyunjin kisses the skin there. He feels like the same giddy seventeen-year-old him once more, heart accelerating in time to the surge of adrenaline gushing through his veins, head spinning when Hyunjin leans back from the kiss

And promptly passes out. Again. 

Startled, Jisung raises his finger to his jaw and traces his fingertips along the burn of the kiss against his skin. The corner of his lips curls down into a frown, before he laughs pathetically to himself.

As he tucks the blanket up to Hyunjin’s chin and positions his body on its side, Jisung allows himself to carefully, daintily brush his hair out of his eyes. This time, though, he doesn’t lean down to press a kiss against his nose. This time, he pulls away from Hyunjin and wills the tears away from his eyes.

Never again, he thinks to himself. Never again am I going to put myself through all that.

 

-

 

STEP SEVEN: DO SOMETHING NEW AND OFF-GRID

“When you said ‘off-grid’,” Hyunjin says slowly, “I didn’t really think about this.”

The both of them are standing at the sandy shores of Naksan Beach, staring at the glimmer of the expanse of the wide open ocean that meets the horizon in the far distance. Jisung decided that he wanted to take ‘off-grid’ to its whole literal meaning. 

They’d woken up early that Saturday morning, in time to catch the bus for their two-hour ride down to the seaside village. Jisung had called both Seungmin and Felix the day before, hoping they’d tag along, but both of them had declined. Yet, there grew a strange sort of bliss knowing that it was going to be just the both of them at the seaside today.

Towering skyscrapers and crowded streets had given way to low-rise buildings and vacant roads, enveloped by the little light streaming from the sun, tucked behind the overhead clouds. Jisung had decided on a one-day trip for them to explore Naksan Beach for a little, before taking the bus back at night. 

They’d spent their morning walking around the little town area, gobbling down a feast at the local barbeque restaurant for a late lunch, before finally emerging at the beach at around five in the evening. Here they are now, standing alone and facing the beach. The autumn chill had finally sunk into their bones, clearly shown by how there was no one else at the beach – just the two boys staring at the seas.

“You said it before; the last time you’ve been to a beach was during our high school trip to Jeju Island, and that was, what, four years ago?” Jisung grins. “Plus, we were there for a research project, so technically this is something new.”

Hyunjin giggles. His shoulders are relaxed now, as he inhales the salty sea breeze. “Thanks,” he grins. 

Jisung laughs and flicks his imaginary long hair back. “Of course! I told you, coming to the beach would be refreshing, you’ll instantly feel like a changed man-”

“-not that,” Hyunjin interrupts. 

He turns to look at Jisung. As the sun begins to dip beyond the line where the sky meets the sea, the feeble light rays of yellow and ochre and gold stretch for miles across the waters, before shining upon the side of Hyunjin’s face. His dusty blonde-dyed hair is pulled back into a ponytail today, whipping with the wind of the sea breeze. Jisung’s lips part as Hyunjin does his signature slow smile that he’s only seen him do around his past boyfriends. 

“I meant, thanks for everything, not just today.” He grins. “It’s been, like, almost two months since the entire break-up, and I seriously haven’t thought about it for a long time now, thanks to you.”

Jisung laughs nervously. “Why’re you suddenly so…” He doesn’t finish the sentence, for the word sentimental remains lodged in his throat. “Is the beach getting to you?”

Hyunjin shrugs. “Maybe.” 

He doesn’t avert his gaze from Jisung at all, not for even a single second.

Jisung breaks eye contact first. “You wanna bet the water’s cold?”

Hyunjin’s eyes widen. “No, no, no,” he blabbers. “We’re going to get hypothermia if we swim in that.”

“Come on, try something new!” Jisung insists. “And we won’t swim out there; we’ll just be at the shore. Come on, it’s low tide right now, too!”

Hyunjin lets Jisung drag him across the sands and into the waters, where the cold water seeps through their socks and sneakers and the hems of their jeans. Hyunjin squeals and jumps about from the cold bite of the sea, which only makes Jisung laugh out of his wits and yank the other boy further into the sea. Neither of them are willing to go any further, though, and instead decide on splashing water at each other relentlessly, endlessly.

After their shirts are soaked through, Hyunjin heaves heavily from laughing too hard and waves his arms in the air. “Truce, truce!” he cries. “I’m going to freeze to death if this continues!”

Jisung giggles, too giddy to realise how Hyunjin curls his hand around his wrist and tugs him back up to the shores. Tee shirts be damned, the both of them flop down onto the sand and giggle, clutching onto their sides from laughing too much. 

“That was fun,” Hyunjin admits. 

“It really was,” Jisung chuckles. “That reminded me of how old I am now.”

“You’re only twenty-two,” Hyunjin protests. “Oh yeah, by the way, did you like my gift?”

Jisung freezes. He remembers opening his gift after Hyunjin had fallen asleep on the couch. Now, the cold metal of the necklace remains hidden under the collar of his shirt, the pendant on the chain burning a hole in his chest. He gulps, and nods slowly. “Yeah,” he replies tightly. “Yeah, I did.”

Hyunjin licks his dry lips. “I’m glad you did,” he says. “I… I couldn’t think of anything else to gift you, actually.”

Jisung nods again. “It’s cool.”

They lay against the sand, the only sounds left in this world being the squawking of the seagulls in the near distance, the crashing of the waves to the shore, and the sounds of Hyunjin breathing near Jisung’s ear. “I wonder what’s the last step.”

“Hm?”

Hyunjin tilts his head sideways to meet Jisung’s gaze. “Your plan. That day, when you showed me your plan on your phone, step eight was empty.”

Jisung gulps. “R-right,” he stutters. “I… I thought about it for some time.”

Hyunjin looks at him longingly, in a way that makes Jisung ache for more. In a way that makes Jisung wish he could just wrap his arms around Hyunjin in an embrace and never let go. The feelings have positively sprouted into full bloom, with nothing left for him to hold back anymore.

“And?” Hyunjin prompts.

Jisung toes the dangerous line between reality and his dreams as he places a hand in the space between them. “I… I’ll tell you another day. Not… not today.”

Hyunjin smiles softly. “Okay,” he whispers. 

The line between reality and his dreams are blurred the moment Hyunjin’s palm grazes over the back of Jisung’s hand. Jisung glances down at their hands, before peering back up at his friend’s face. “Hyunjin.”

Hyunjin’s smile sharpens into a grin. “What?”

Jisung doesn’t say anything else. Instead, he doesn’t want to face the reality that their hands are only linked for the sake of their friendship. Instead, he closes his eyes shut and dreams of a reality that their fingers are intertwined, as they are now, for the sake of a love to quench the blossomed feelings he has, and has had, for his best friend, for the longest time now.

 

-

 

STEP SEVEN POINT FIVE: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, REALISE THAT I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU

“I’m in love with Hyunjin.”

Before Jisung had called Seungmin and Felix over to his dorm, he was kinda expecting a little bit of shock. Maybe Felix chokes on his iced water, or maybe Seungmin laughs and thinks it’s a joke at first.

He was not expecting Seungmin to raise out his palm and flutter his fingers. “You owe me ten thousand won, now, ” he chirps. Begrudgingly, Felix slaps a bill into a cheerful Seungmin’s hand, much to the great surprise of their friend sitting on the edge of his bed. 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jisung blurts. “You knew?!”

Seungmin bats his eyelashes at him. “My dearest Jisung ah, you look at Hyunjin like he hung all the stars in the goddamned night sky.”

Jisung flushes. “N-no, I don’t!” he protests.

Felix rolls his eyes. “We placed a bet to see how long it’d take for you to realise,” he explains. “I bet November, this guy here bet the start of October, so he won.”

Jisung buries his face in his hands and groans aloud. “Was I really that obvious?”

Seungmin pats his shoulder. “If anything, Hyunjin’s just really, really oblivious.”

With a heavy sigh, Jisung lays down on his bed and stares up at the ceiling. “It’s not the first time I’ve liked him,” he confesses.

Both of his friends lean in close, eyes wide. “Well, this is news,” Felix murmurs. “When was the first time you realised?”

Jisung shrugs. “I think I was seventeen, but I feel like I’ve liked him even way before that. But when he started dating this guy from his dance class, I… I just kinda convinced myself that it would never happen in a way that I wished it would happen,” he mutters.

Seungmin slowly settles down on the bed next to Jisung, his weight pulling the bed lower down. “And you got over him then?”

“Yeah,” Jisung answers. “I got over him, like, completely. I started dating this senior when I was eighteen, then I broke it off with him a year later because I felt… I felt like something wasn’t there. I kept thinking like, yeah, he’s a great guy, but he’s not someone I can see living with for life, y’know? Then I’ve been single ever since.

“I was fine, though,” he continues. “I didn’t think that I liked Hyunjin ever again. I think, maybe this whole plan to help him get over his break-up sort of just… reminded me that, maybe I’m not totally over him after all.”

Felix taps a finger to his chin. “You two have been spending a lot more time together than usual,” he points out. “Maybe that was just the catalyst that proved you still love him.”

Slowly, Jisung sits up and glances at his two friends. “I don’t want to confess to him, though,” he says.

“Why not?” Seungmin asks.

“It’s not… right for me to do that,” Jisung cringes. “He just got over his break-up. And besides, he’s seen me as his friend for forever, how could you look at me as someone he likes-”

“-he just got over his break-up?” Seungmin echoes, with an arched eyebrow. “Tell me, how many times has Hyunjin broken down over his break-up with Beom-seok over the past two months?”

Jisung frowns. “Once, when he came over to my place after the break-up, but it’s not like-”

“-didn’t you say that he kissed your cheek in front of Beom-seok after his competition?” Felix interjects.

Oblivious to where this conversation is going, Jisung nods hesitantly. “Yeah, but that was to complete the second step of our plan-”

“-and didn’t he comfort you in that changing room when you had your panic attack?”

“Yeah, but-”

“-and the both of you went to the beach together and laid down on the sand and held each other’s hands after soaking each other in the sea,” Felix finishes. “I don’t know about you, but something doesn’t sit right with me if Hyunjin really thinks you’re just his friend.”

For once, Jisung parts his mouth to say something, only for nothing to come out from his throat. 

Seungmin chuckles and ruffles Jisung’s hair. “Gosh, you’re so oblivious,” he comments. “I swear, you think Hyunjin doesn’t look at you the way you look at him. His lock screen has always been that photo of you and him after our high school dance competition, which, mind you, was like three years ago!”

Felix nods in agreement. “Even when he got together with Minho, or Beom-seok, he never changed his lock screen, like, ever,” he insists. “Always says it’s a special reminder to him of you.”

Jisung tugs on his pillow and hugs it close to his chest. “But how do I know he really likes me back?” he whispers. 

Seungmin places a hand over his friend’s and gazes at him square in the eye. “Someone told me this before: everyone gets a chance to form a good relationship with someone. You may lose that chance and regret it later. And you may have lost it, but still realise that you need it. You’ve never dated ever since you broke up with Chan hyung back in our high school days, because your life revolves around Hyunjin, and Hyunjin’s life revolves around yours.

“It goes to show that, y’know, even a fool knows this, that Hyunjin is the only person you need, and you are the only person he needs.”

A smile tickles at Jisung’s lips. “Since when have you been so sentimental, huh, Seungmin?”

Felix grins. “He’s been working together with this senior for a song he’s- hey, ow!” he howls, as Seungmin pinches his forearm. “That hurt!”

“Seungminnie ah,” Jisung teases. “Have you been hiding your special someone from behind my back?”

He’s surprised to see the flush of warmth rise to the tips of Seungmin’s ears. “Shut up, we’re here to talk about you, not me,” he demands.

Jisung laughs. “Okay, okay.” He ruffles Seungmin’s hair, too, feeling relief wash over him in a wave. “Thanks for the advice. I’ll… I’ll make sure I won’t lose this chance.”

 

-

 

STEP EIGHT: MOVE ON

“Okay, why the hell am I blindfolded right now?”

Jisung laughs, giddy as he guides Hyunjin by the shoulder down the hallway to his dormitory room. He’d blindfolded Hyunjin after his lecture class, earning them a few odd looks as they trudged down the corridors, but Jisung’s nerves overpowered his embarrassment as he steered him all the way to the dormitory rooms.

“You’ll see,” he hums, stopping them at his door. 

As he fishes the keys out of his pocket, Hyunjin sniffs. “Is this, like, step eight of the plan?”
Jisung smiles as he fits the key in the lock. “Something like that,” he says ominously.

Hyunjin whines. “You know I hate surprises like this! I hope this isn’t a haunted house or something,” he rambles.

“You know I wouldn’t do that to you.” He hadn’t meant for the words to come out as soft and gentle as they did, but it was too late now – Jisung steers him into the dorm room, locks the door behind him, and ever so gently unties the knot to the cloth covering Hyunjin’s eyes. “You can open your eyes now.”

“Okay, what the fuck, this is just your room-” Hyunjin cuts himself off the moment Jisung comes into view. His dorm room is dark, save for the small candles illuminating the low level table he’d stashed in the corner of his room for a long time now. On the table sits a cheesecake, with a lopsided candle rooted in its centre. 

He turns to glance at Jisung. “It’s not my birthday, though?”

Jisung shakes his head. “It’s not.”

He leads Hyunjin to sit down on the cushions set out on the floor, so they face each other. Jisung slides the cake over to Hyunjin. “Read the words on the cake.”

Confused, Hyunjin peers down at the cake to read the chocolate icing words scrawled across the top of the cake. 

Even a fool knows this: You’re the best thing I’ve got.

Hyunjin fumbles over his words, desperately trying to come up with something, anything. With his heart in his throat, Jisung silently places his hand over Hyunjin’s curled fist on the table, and smiles at him. “I… I thought about what step eight should be.”

Hyunjin nods, beckoning him to continue. “And I thought so hard. My idea was for you to, uh, move on. Go on dating sites, go on blind dates, meet someone new. But every time I thought of that, I couldn’t bear seeing you going out with someone else, getting dumped and facing heartbreak again. At least, that’s what I told myself.

But really, I just couldn’t bear seeing you go out with someone else that wasn’t me, ” he admits. “Because, for perhaps the longest time ever, I like you, Hwang Hyunjin.” By now, his gaze has dropped to the melting candle drooping where it’s stuck on the cake. “I like you as more than a best friend, as more than my companion or my bro. I like you for who you are, no matter how loud or dramatic you are, no matter how much you may cry over things like your favourite k-dramas or your love for dogs, no matter whether you look at me the same way I look at you.

“But one thing is for sure, that anyone can see so blatantly, that you are the best thing I’ve got, and this is my last chance for me to confess to you, because I like you.”

Jisung expects Hyunjin to walk out of the room and leave him alone to weep by himself. When he glances up, though, he sees the sight of unshed tears glistening in Hyunjin’s eyes. His tears form a diamond trail that glimmers as they run down his cheeks. 

“Han Jisung,” Hyunjin sniffles. His smile is immovable, relentlessly immovable. He carefully pushes the table aside and shuffles closer to Jisung, until they’re sitting cross-legged, knee-to-knee, face-to-face. “I like you, too.”

Jisung doesn’t know what to do next, because he hadn’t thought this through. Frankly, he hadn’t even expected himself to come this far, but here he is now – wrapped in the arms of his best friend, his love, as Hyunjin slides his hands up his back, up his neck, and cups his cheeks. He squishes his cheeks together a little, laughs, before whispering, “I’ve liked you for a long time, too. All it took was your eight-step plan to make me realise this.”

Jisung can’t help the grin that comes upon his lips, like second nature. “Should I rename my plan as Han Jisung’s Foolproof Eight-Step Guide To Overcoming Heartbreak, Becoming A Changed Man, And Falling In Love With Your Best Friend?

Hyunjin snorts. “You’re insufferable. Can I kiss you?”

Jisung doesn’t need to say anything; his eyes do the talking – followed by his lips. The kiss is soft, warm, and everything Jisung could’ve imagined, and so much more. He throws his arms around Hyunjin’s neck and sighs into the kiss, long and languid. An explosion of emotions shatters his chest, his heart a freed hummingbird flapping its wings vigorously as Hyunjin leans over and gently lays Jisung down on the floor. 

Jisung pants, gazing up at Hyunjin. “You’re the best thing I’ve got,” Hyunjin murmurs, before closing the gap again. They sink into the kiss, slow, steady, with a subdued eagerness to chase after all the kisses they lost in their past, to make up for their future.

From somewhere in Hyunjin's jean pocket, his phone buzzes loudly. "Ah, Hyunjin,” Jisung whispers. “Your phone.”

Hyunjin grins against his lips. “It’s alright,” he giggles. “I’ve got some good news to tell you – about that dance competition – but later, ‘kay?” 

A thrill of excitement rushes throughout Jisung’s body as they kiss again, already eager to spend more days together with him.

And when they part once more, Jisung knows, he just knows, that they are each other’s best friends, each other’s true loves, and as far as Jisung can tell, even a fool knows this, that they were meant to be after all. 

(All it needed was one foolproof, eight-step guide to blossom a love that would last an eternity, for as long as they would have each other.)