Neung watched Kay leave for his shower, tasting the chaste kiss on his lips and smiling to himself. He couldn’t believe Kay let him do that, as he had thought Kay would move to avoid being hit. Neung knew he could have stopped at any time but if Kay wasn’t going to move...
Kay couldn’t believe it. Neung had turned his small prank into a kiss. When Neung kept going after bonking noses, Kay’s head had exploded with fireworks, and it wasn’t even a proper kiss. Lips had met lips, yes, but it wasn’t the type of kiss Kay wanted from Neung. Kay wanted the type of kiss he saw in dramas, the ones that you waited ten episodes and three almost kisses for. He wasn’t entirely complaining, though, as he had made the choice to just stay in place after Neung turned towards him instead of looking at his shoulder. He sighed and got into the shower.
Neung heard the water start up and decided he was too distracted to keep playing his game. He knew if he just sat there, he’d go crazy, so he messaged Kay on Line, letting him know he was going on a walk. He left the room, taking one last glance at the bathroom door.
Once on the street, Neung picked a direction and started walking aimlessly. He tried to pinpoint when, exactly, his feelings for Kay had started changing. He recalled the time when they were ten or eleven, when they had kissed to see what it felt like, and how it had felt like nothing. It hadn’t changed their friendship at all, since they had shrugged and kept playing their card game. At fifteen, Kay had his first boyfriend, which hadn’t bothered Neung, since there were many, many attractive people at their school. When they broke up seven months later, Neung was there to pick up the pieces, but he wasn’t attracted to Kay yet. Neung got a girlfriend at sixteen, which had ended after five months since she was going too fast for him, then a boyfriend for almost a year at seventeen. Kay had a few other boyfriends, but they never lasted longer than six months. Neither had dated for over a year now, though. After graduation, they had moved in together to save on costs. When they heard about the internship at a local hotel, Neung encouraged Kay to try out. Kay would only do it if Neung did too, which Neung had thought a little strange, but he was willing to at least try out. He hadn’t expected to get the position at all. He had figured Kay would get it and that he would try to model. Neung knew he had a “playboy” face, even though he had only ever dated two people and was extremely loyal to both, at least until they went too fast for him and he had to leave. He had been excited to try his hand at modeling, and Kay had supported him, even though he didn’t exactly approve. This had become even worse after Neung had tried to model at the (looking back on it, at least) sketchy place.
Neung stopped dead. Maybe that’s when his feelings had started changing, or it was at least when he started noticing that Kay was right for him. Kay had been willing to come with him to the second meeting. When he burst into the room, Neung had been super happy to see him and he wasn’t sure why. Kay had led him out of the room, then ran back to the room with the photographer for some reason. When Neung had asked about it, Kay had shrugged it off, but he had had a smug smile on his face. Neung had assumed it was a “I told you so” smile, but maybe it was something else. And then there was the time Kay got the street vendor food. Neung had seen how sad he looked and immediately ended his call with his cousin. He wasn’t sure at the time why he had done that, but he couldn’t stand seeing Kay sad. He would rather Kay be annoyed at him than sad. And what about the almost kiss? Neung had fallen on Kay and had been so tempted to kiss him, which hadn’t happened with the other people he had dated. Neung needed a much stronger emotional bond to want to actually kiss, and especially to go further than kissing, which neither his girlfriend nor boyfriend had understood. Neung liked the idea of kissing, and had enjoyed it with both his partners, but he couldn’t imagine kissing on a first date. Where was the bond? Both his partners had kissed him, as he wasn’t ready to make the first move. But with Kay...Neung could imagine kissing him first.
Kay stepped out of the shower, got dressed, and called out to Neung. Hearing no response, he frowned and walked into the bedroom. He didn’t see Neung on the bed, playing his game, as he had expected. Kay pouted and checked his phone. Neung wouldn’t leave without at least telling Kay where he had gone, even if he didn’t explain. Sure enough, he had gone on a walk. Kay made a face but decided to leave it alone for now. He was probably just collecting his thoughts after that kiss. Kay touched his lips, just like he had done immediately after the initial contact. These lips had kissed Neung. Kay had had a crush on Neung for two years now, and he was pretty sure Neung was starting to feel the same way. They had always been close, with Neung allowing Kay to touch him in ways he didn’t let other people, such as Kay putting his arm around his waist. They held hands, which always felt electric to Kay, but he didn’t let Neung know, since he didn’t want to scare him off. When Neung had fallen on him, Kay had been desperately looking at Neung’s lips, wanting to taste them. But Kay knew if he wanted Neung, he would have to go at Neung's pace. Both of Neung’s partners had made the mistake of going too fast, so Neung had left. With Kay and his exes, he had already made out a thousand times by this point, but Kay wanted to do this right. He still teased Neung, since he had always teased Neung. When Neung had asked who was more handsome, him or Valen, Kay had desperately wanted to say “you, duh” but wasn’t entirely sure how Neung would take it, so he had chickened out and said himself. When Neung had said he would love anyone who made him beds with tight sheets, Kay had seriously considered it before deciding not to. He had gone along with Neung’s dumb prank on Kin because he hadn’t seen Neung that excited in a while. He didn’t regret it, even though it had cost him more points, especially when Neung saw him looking dejected and had immediately come over to comfort him. Neung’s concerned face always made Kay’s heart flutter, even though he wished he didn’t have to see it (well unless he himself had made Neung look like that, like when he pretended Neung had poked his eye), as it meant Neung wasn’t happy. When Pong had made that stupid joke about why they were up all night, Kay had replayed it over and over, since he wanted that joke to be a reality.
The door opened and Neung came in. He was holding a bag full of groceries, which surprised Kay. Neung didn’t really do the grocery shopping, as Kay was the cook. Kay knew that Neung enjoyed his cooking, but what was the reason for getting groceries? Was it because of the kiss? Did he want Kay to make him food for him as revenge? Kay seriously hoped that Neung wasn’t going to freak out about it. (Also, he could argue that Neung kissed him, not the other way around) While Kay was staring at the groceries, Neung started talking.
“Umm...I passed the store on my walk and I know you haven’t made anything for a while, so I thought you might want to cook again... I got the ingredients for your favorite foods...”
Kay looked at him in surprise. Neung got him HIS favorite foods? Neung was a bit of a picky eater and while he always preferred Kay’s cooking to others, he still didn’t like everything Kay made. This meant Neung was thinking about him. Kay’s heart started racing, but he kept his voice neutral as he accepted the bag.
“Thank you, Neung. I’ll start on that now so we can have it for dinner”
Kay started cutting the vegetables as the water started to warm up for the noodles. He felt Neung watching him, so he looked up. Before Neung looked back at his phone, Kay saw that his expression had looked very...soft. Like Kay was the only thing worth looking at. And when Kay glanced back up after going back to cutting vegetables, Neung was blushing and smiling softly. Kay couldn’t believe it. Neung had to be feeling the same way he was. He just had to. But Kay refused to mess up the relationship. Neung would have to go his pace and Kay would have to wait. At least it seemed like he wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
And then Neung tried to kiss him for real. And Kay panicked. He panicked big time and upset Neung so badly that he wasn’t sure if their friendship would ever recover...
Kay was kicking himself as he walked to his room. He couldn’t believe he had been...well it wasn’t exactly a scolding, but it felt bad, whatever it was Chef Man had given him. It was the disappointment from Chef Man, Kay decided, that was making him hurt. Akk had been praised for plating, and while Chef Man had praised Kay’s cooking, it was clear he expected more from Kay. What didn’t help was that Neung had been there. Even though they were arguing (and they had never argued like this before), Neung had checked Kay during the talking-to. Kay felt like he didn’t deserve that, not when he had disappointed Neung like that. He still couldn’t believe he was acting like this, in fact, but he didn’t know how to stop. He had been fantasizing about those lips for two years now, but when Neung had leaned in on the bed, Kay had panicked. Kay desperately wanted their old relationship back, but whenever Neung attempted to make things normal, Kay kept being snarky and he wasn’t sure why.
Kay got to the room and put in the key. He almost walked into Neung, who was clearly going out. Kay saw Neung look startled, happy for a split second, then incredibly sad as he remembered that Kay was mad at him, then Neung’s mouth went into a hard line as he walked past Kay without saying a word. Kay thought about calling him but couldn’t bring himself to do it. He knew that Neung had to be in so much hurt if he wasn’t talking at all. Kay could hear Neung’s “friends don’t hurt each other” running through his head, but he didn’t know how to tell Neung that he wanted to be more than friends, especially after he had been acting so unlike himself. He sighed and flopped onto the bed.
Neung walked to the bus stop, wondering if he would ever get Kay back. He had thought Kay liked him, considering their accidental kiss (well not *that* accidental, Kay didn’t move and Neung took the opportunity) hadn’t elicited a huge reaction from him. But when he had leaned in for a real kiss, Kay had rolled out from under him, making Neung so upset he had hid into the bathroom for three hours. Now Kay wouldn’t really look at him and Neung was afraid he had destroyed over ten years of friendship. He didn’t know what to do, honestly. He sighed and settled into the bench, putting his hand into his pocket to get his phone, when he realized he had forgotten it. He groaned and put his head in his hands. Should he go back and get it or just go to his cousin’s for the night like he planned? Neung considered his options, then decided he would just forget it. Kay wasn’t talking to him, so what was the point?
Kay looked up from his bed, having been thinking over what he would say when Neung came back. He didn’t know where Neung was headed, but figured it was just the cafe or something. He got up and stretched, figuring he would take a shower, when his eyes landed on Neung’s nightstand, where his phone had lit up with a game notification. Kay frowned. Neung never forgot his phone. For some reason, this made Kay nervous. Not because he thought Neung would be lost without his phone, but because this meant Neung was even more upset than Kay had realized. He didn’t know what to do. Kay bit his lip, then turned the phone over so the notifications wouldn’t bother him. Neung would be back in a little while, he reassured himself.
Neung got onto the bus, wishing he had his phone, even if it was just for music. He was going to go to the grocery store first, he had decided. He would ask Akk for help learning how to cook, since Kay didn’t want to cook for him anymore, even though it had never bothered him before. If Chef Man thought Akk could do it, that was good enough for Neung. The stops went by slowly, but it was finally Neung’s stop, three blocks from his cousin’s apartment. The grocery store was on the way, which was nice.
Neung went up and down the aisles, looking for ingredients for some basic dishes. He didn’t want anything perishable, so he got things like noodles and canned vegetables. He paid and went up to his cousin’s.
“What’s with the bag?”
“Just got some groceries for when I get back to the hotel”
“Nong Kay is gonna cook for you?”
“No...I’m going to learn to cook for myself” Neung muttered, not looking his cousin in the eye.
“Well, alright then” Ek said, clearly confused. “Want to play some video games before we eat?”
At the hotel, Kay was restless. He thought Neung would be back by dinner time at least. He couldn’t stand to be alone at the moment, so he went to the café, where he saw Tone, Akk, Kin, and Pong.
“Hey Kay, where’s Neung?” Akk asked.
“...I thought he’d be here” Kay stuttered.
“Neung was at the bus stop. I told Kin, he just didn’t believe me” Pong said with a pout.
“It didn’t look like Neung!” Kin insisted.
Everyone laughed at that, which baffled Kay.
“Kin has face blindness. He couldn’t tell Neung and Valen apart the entire time they were at the front desk. You’ll notice he didn’t greet you when he came” Pong explained.
Kay couldn’t believe it. Neung wasn’t at the hotel.
“Hey Kay, do you want a drink?” P’Tom called.
“No thank you” Kay answered. He said goodbye to the other interns, as he couldn’t focus, especially with them looking oddly like couples. It only reminded him how he didn’t have Neung with him. If Neung was there, he would have stayed, but without him, Kay didn’t really know the other interns that well. He knew Akk best but it still wasn’t that much. Neung was better at making friends than he was. Kay went back to the room, where he fell into a doze as he waited for Neung to get back.
“Neung, you’re sucking at this. What’s on your mind?”
Neung ran his hands through his hair as he thought about how to answer. Ek knew that Kay was his roommate and long time friend, but not about Neung’s newly discovered romantic feelings towards him. He didn’t feel like explaining, at least not until he and Kay had had a real talk. When Kay had left for his friend’s, Neung could feel his heart breaking even worse than when Kay had avoided the kiss. They hadn’t had a chance to talk yet, and Neung couldn’t stand another night either without Kay or with an angry Kay, which was why he was at his cousin’s. This also would give him the chance to think about what to say.
“Just the internship, it’s tiring.”
“Okay then” Ek shrugged and went back to the game. The two ate a dinner of instant noodles, played some more video games, then Ek made up the couch for Neung.
“Thanks P’Ek, for letting me stay here tonight”
“No problem, Nong Neung”
Neung settled into the couch, not expecting to sleep much, as he went over and over what he wanted to say to Kay.
Kay started awake, unsure of the time. He grabbed his phone and groaned when he saw the time. 11:48pm. Neung wasn’t coming back. Kay began crying, hating himself for pushing Neung away when he actually wanted him. He couldn’t even text him, since the phone was here in the hotel room, not with wherever Neung was. Eventually, Kay cried himself back to sleep, still wearing his uniform.
When Neung woke up the next morning, he left a note thanking his cousin, then slipped out the side door. He walked up to the bus stop and realized he had left the food he bought at his cousin’s. He groaned, but stayed put. He would get it later, as he needed to get back to the hotel. The bus came and Neung got on.
Kay woke up, wondering why something felt off. He figured it out when he saw Neung’s unslept bed. Kay set his mouth in a line so he wouldn’t cry. He had to change uniforms, as he was going to be serving today. Thankfully, Neung would be stuck in the kitchen today, washing dishes. Kay wasn’t sure he could handle Neung’s silent treatment all day, even though Kay knew on a deeper level he was guilty of exactly the same thing. He got his clothes together and went off into the shower.
Neung hesitated as he got close to their room, unsure if he could get the words he wanted to say out. He could handle not having Kay as a boyfriend. He couldn’t handle not having Kay as a friend. Neung hoped he could convey those words to Kay, especially after Kay had said he couldn’t trust him. Couldn’t trust Neung. He still couldn’t believe those words had come out of Kay’s mouth. Those words had cut Neung to the core. That’s why he had bought the groceries (even though he had forgotten them) and was going to leave Kay alone if that was what he wanted.
Kay came out of the bathroom, dressed in the serving uniform. He missed Neung so much and was determined to make it up to him. How, he wasn’t sure yet. But he would, if it was the last thing he did.
When they had their talk, Neung was so happy that Kay was no longer upset at him that he nearly kissed him then and there, but stopped himself so that Kay could leave if he wanted. Kay, fortunately, just smiled and allowed Neung to touch him in their usual way. He also allowed Neung to get water out of his eyes without complaint, much to the relief and amusement of the others in the kitchen. The rest of the day passed without incident, until they were back in their room.
Kay looked at Neung, disappointed in him. Why was he so defeated in himself? Kay knew Neung had messed up-it was one of the reasons they had fought, after all-but it wasn’t like him to talk like that. Usually Neung was much more optimistic, which Kay loved. He loved everything about Neung, actually. The fact that he wanted to be a model, the fact that he took dying in games very good-naturedly, and the fact that he had been willing to do the internship. Kay was still upset that he had panicked when Neung had tried to kiss him properly after the accidental kiss, even though they had made up. He had been dreaming of those lips for two years, yet he rolled out from under Neung when he had come close. He couldn’t forget Neung’s disappointed and panicked face, nor the fact that Neung didn’t leave the bathroom for three hours. Now that they were talking again, Kay was hoping he would get another chance to kiss Neung.
“I thank this project for one thing” Neung said, watching Kay closely. He noticed that Kay looked oddly hopeful before answering with “thank it for what?”
“I thank this project for giving me a chance to be around a lovely friend like you, and have good times and bad times together”
Kay looked up guiltily at that. He knew his attitude had gotten out of hand, making them both lose points and hurting Neung in the process. He hadn’t meant to get so snarky, but once he started, he couldn’t stop. Hurting Neung had been easy, having known him for so long, but Kay hated himself for doing it.
“Also, it made me know that you’ll be here, not going away from me” Neung finished.
Kay couldn’t believe how soft Neung’s face was, and how much love was in his voice. He had messed up so badly, and yet here was Neung, still wanting to be with him.
Neung watched Kay, who wasn’t quite looking at him. He got surprised when Kay took his hand and put it on his heart. Neung could tell how much Kay needed comfort by how hard he had placed Neung’s over his heart and also by how much he was clutching Neung’s hand, making sure Neung was staying there.
“I’m sorry for refusing you and running away from you that time. Probably, it wasn’t because I didn’t trust you, but because I didn’t trust myself” Kay said.
Neung listened as Kay confessed, full of love. The romantic feelings were newer for him, hitting him around the time of the beginning of the internship. They had been friends for years, and Neung would never want to mess up their relationship, whether they just stayed friends or became more. He hadn’t realized he was just staring at Kay, stars in his eyes, until Kay started talking again.
“If you feel the same way I do, please tell me”
Neung took Kay’s other hand and placed it on his heart. He had to admit he wasn’t expecting a squeeze, but it felt good and it felt right. As he started asking a question, he felt Kay’s hand pull down his shirt slightly so that some of his fingers were on Neung’s chest. Despite the distraction, Neung was able to keep his voice steady as he asked “Do you think I feel the same way you do?”
The two stared at each other for a bit, feeling each other’s heartbeats and growing more hopeful by the second. When Kay smiled and nodded as an answer, Neung felt like his heart could burst with joy, but all he could do was stare at Kay. Gosh, how he loved him. Loved how he wanted to be a cook, loved his dirtier-than-one-would-expect mind, and loved how they weren’t fighting anymore. He wanted to give Kay the best first kiss ever, so he moved his hand from Kay’s chest to his shoulder and guided Kay over to his bed, never letting go of Kay’s other hand. After staring at Kay for a bit more, as he was amazed that this was about to happen, he leaned Kay against the bed.
Kay was feeling many things as Neung laid him down. He wanted Neung’s lips on his, and Neung was taking a while. However, since he knew he had screwed up the first one, Kay let Neung go at his own pace. When Neung put his hand on his face and started kissing him though, Kay had to admit it had been well worth the wait. Neung’s lips were so soft, the pressure of his hand on his face was just right, and when Neung slipped his tongue into Kay’s mouth, Kay couldn’t resist putting his hand on Neung’s back to try and bring him closer.
Neung was surprised how much Kay was kissing him back. He knew that Kay had feelings for him, of course, but this time, Kay was ready to be kissed. This was much better than the accidental kiss they had shared. When Neung felt Kay’s hand on his back, he couldn’t help but smile against the kiss. He loved Kay’s touch and still couldn’t believe this was happening. The two kissed for a while, then spent the night sharing Neung’s bed.