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Recalibrating Love and Logic

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Two hours before the Lit Department’s library opened Kim Dokja was inside sorting Outstanding entries with a heavy heart because none of these fines factored into his part-time paycheck. As he scrolled wistfully down the biggest entries bordering 70000 Won, something landed on his waxed desk with a rude clatter.

Kim Dokja swiveled clockwise and smiled at the Espresso Large that was still piping wisps of steam. “No food or drink allowed, Customer-nim.”

Said customer huffed. “In that case I’ll lawfully dispose of it down your shirt.”

Kim Dokja’s smile trembled with the effort of keeping in a laugh. He dragged his gaze over a black wall of tshirt-clad muscle up to the gorgeously miffed face of Yu Junghyeok. Forehead damp, bangs slicked back, cheeks sporting a healthy flush, it was clear Yu Junghyeok had followed a straight line from gym to cafe to library to bring over Kim Dokja’s morning hit. Kim Dokja really loved this jerk sometimes—he cleared his throat, reached for the cup and replied, “Let’s not waste an expensive drink.”

He tried to shift the drink closer when a large palm clamped on.

Yu Junghyeok leaned in saying, “You think I’ll be your mule for free Kim Dokja?”

“You black-heart bastard… I bought you two very good webnovels on Kakao just last night.” Kim Dokja argued, trying to tug his hand back but Yu Junghyeok was a large immovable object and Kim Dokja, whose athletic ability ranked lower than his twelve-year-old nephew Gilyeong-ie, was not a man capable of force. Locked in place, the heat from the cup and Yu Junghyeok’s palm mingled over Kim Dokja’s winter-frosted fingers.

Yu Junghyeok said, “Stop trying to get me into the trash you and Han Suyeong read.” His grip tightened as he leaned further.

Kim Dokja’s heart skipped. He struggled to keep his stare from falling on Yu Junghyeok’s plump lips, all the things he could do to them painting a picture that shook his smile. “Um,” he said, “I’ll send you a gift card? Sorry for not realizing the financial hardship a pro-gamer goes through.”

Yu Junghyeok pinned him with a glare. The morning chill sizzled off of Kim Dokja’s veins and his blood swelled, surging downward, to very risky places. Curse his hormones for finding a man’s killer intent sexy.

Then, keeping Kim Dokja’s hand and drink captive, Yu Junghyeok fisted his collar and dragged him over the counter and swallowed the PhD student’s squeak in his scorching mouth.

Kim Dokja’s own loosened quickly, slanting over Yu Junghyeok’s. He smelled of the espresso hot in Kim Dokja’s cup, but without the blend of caramel Kim Dokja preferred. Still he licked into Yu Junghyeok’s mouth for a taste, and air shuddered between them. Yu Junghyeok’s heavy breath tingled Kim Dokja’s lips; his eyes fluttered shut as their tongues briefly met.

His collar was soon abandoned for his throat, where Yu Junghyeok splayed a proprietary hand and forced Kim Dokja’s head to tilt sharper. Off-balance, Kim Dokja clutched Yu Junghyeok’s forearm as the man sucked on his lower lip, teasing every now and then with a hint of teeth. A calloused thumb rubbed his pulse and then it was Kim Dokja’s turn to shudder. But he couldn’t even rip himself from Yu Junghyeok until the bastard had his fill.

Thankfully he let Kim Dokja go before he melted under Yu Junghyeok’s smoldering pressure. Kim Dokja pulled away with a sore and sticky mouth. Yu Junghyeok was sporting a smirk on his, red and glistening and far too tempting.

Bastard.

“That was not a seven a.m. kiss.” Kim Dokja attempted to patch up the biochemical wreckage of his brain with petty stupidity. “Was it all that testosterone you pumped at the gym? Or are you the type to wake up horny?”

Yu Junghyeok’s smirk widened. “Stay over next time and you’ll find out.”

He vanished before Kim Dokja could collect his jaw.

 

Later that night he did send Yu Junghyeok a Steam gift card as promised. In 3 seconds his KakaoTalk pinged with a weird riddle:

 

you fool.

already got my payment.

19:07

 

The asshole gladly used the gift card though.

 

*

 

“Hey I think I just got offered sex,” said Kim Dokja to Han Suyeong the next day in the quieter corner of a cafe filled with corporate chatter and MacBook-wielding freshmen.

“Wait…” she murmured, texting to her girlfriend what seemed to be a ballad poem given in the past ten minutes her thumbs hadn’t paused once. After putting away her phone she assembled her face into surprise. “Wait! You mean you and Yu Junghyeok were not fucking till now?”

“No!” Kim Dokja sputtered. What? Did people know about them already?

“So you’re saying Yu Junghyeok’s been ten percent less scumbag this whole month for a reason other than he’s acquiring your assets on a regular basis?” Han Suyeong raised a manicured brow.

“Please never use ‘acquiring assets’ as a euphemism ever again. Secondly: no. No. We haven’t…” Kim Dokja pursed his lips. Not yet anyway.

To be honest, he wasn’t sure on the how or why of whatever had begun between them. Lately Yu Junghyeok seemed to be in a good mood, yes, but a reason more scientific than hell freezing over was that he must have had a near trippy encounter with drugs last month, making him forget for a moment his allergy to Kim Dokja as a person and as a concept. For now Kim Dokja avoided bringing it up lest he get caught in the strike zone of a severe reaction.

Not that it mattered. It wasn’t like they were dating.

Han Suyeong’s other eyebrow joined in on the lofty judgement. “Fascinating.” She grabbed her phone. “I’m telling my girlfriend apparently your general existence acts as a Yu Junghyeok sedative.”

“Suyeong-ah? This topic is supposed to be confidential—wait a minute, are you the reason why Jeong Huiwon keeps asking if I’m eating enough liver?”

Her thumb paused a microsecond before she resumed tapping away, faster now.

“Han Suyeong!” he cried. “I was sharing you all this in confidence—oh tell Sangah-ssi I said hi, by the way.”

 

*

 

The star magnolias in Yu Junghyeok’s backyard had shaken off the snow. Dark slick branches shivered with pink buds, and Kim Dokja was watching spring unfold in the comfort of Yu Junghyeok’s chaise longue when he spoke,

“Professor Kyrgios is getting married.”

The wet raspy crunch of a gourd being methodically hacked did not stop; it did, however, grow lighter.

Kim Dokja continued, “And I got an invitation. To be honest, it’ll be my first time going to a wedding. A traditional wedding too,” he said airily, unable to stifle the wonder in his voice. “It seems I have to bring a plus one.”

“Alright,” said Yu Junghyeok.

The lounging intruder frowned. “What?” he asked. Was Yu Junghyeok giving him permission to go? Silly. Why would he need this guy’s permission to go to a wedding?

The chopping paused. “I said I’ll come, to keep you from looking like a fool who doesn’t know any ceremonial etiquette.”

Kim Dokja climbed over the fuzzy upholstery to glare at the man. “Junghyeok-ssi, the word ‘etiquette’ coming from your mouth sounds oddly like ‘dogshit’—also, I don’t remember inviting you? Don’t you have Rankings to win?”

Yu Junghyeok whirled around like a storm. “Then who are you taking?”

Kim Dokja flopped back down, startled.

Footsteps thundered across the floor, stopping at the head of the chaise. Looming over him, torso chiseled by anger into a ripped boulder able to crush ten PhD candidates, eyes hardened in obsidian disdain, jaw clenched white and marbling with veins, was a seething god. With all his heart Kim Dokja wished he could wiggle into the space between the cushions like some cat and get whisked away by the couch fairy.

“Kim Dokja.” He snarled. Kim Dokja froze; his body preemptively entered the rigor mortis phase of a corpse. “I’ll ask you only once. Who the fuck are you bringing as your partner?”

His eyes flickered between the cool glint of the chef’s knife gripped in Yu Junghyeok’s fist hovering some precarious inches over his face, and the veins bulging beneath Yu Junghyeok’s jawline. The answer came swift: “Of… course… you, Yu Junghyeok,” he said, enunciating each word.

Yu Junghyeok nodded, satisfied, and marched back. He returned to dismembering pumpkins and cabbage, much louder this time.

 

*

 

Kim Dokja really should have asked then why such a thing mattered to Yu Junghyeok.

 

*

 

(Instead he had to pay the price under pretty, hanging lanterns whose bloodorange shadows probably made his face look blockier than usual—while surrounded by the effacing glow of gorgeous people who had, over the years, settled around him like bright points of a nebula he was drifting amongst as one lumpy piece of rock—as he proceeded to ask the stupidest question of his life.)

In Kim Dokja’s planner, Prof Kyrgios’s wedding shared the week with another social engagement, this mere two days following, leaving his brain with little energy reserves on a Saturday night.

Luckily this was a private affair. Yu Junghyeok had kindly booked a room in the quiet, club-exclusive annex of Breaking the Sky Kingdom, because only he could enjoy former-employee perks three whole years after hanging up his phoenix-embroidered apron. Luckier still, they’d gathered to celebrate Yu Junghyeok’s new contract with RAID: Shadow Legends so Kim Dokja was allowed, for the time being, to get away with zero input.

“Thank you for bringing us, Yu Junghyeok-ssi. This place is beautiful.” Yu Sangah said with a smile.

“Hah!” Han Suyeong supplied. “I should have worked here too if every ex-slave just gets to waltz in like they own the place,” she said, smirking at Yu Junghyeok’s glare.

Meanwhile Kim Dokja enjoyed being furniture, because he could sit back and soak in the ruby ambience of a five-star restaurant. Its swanky Murim-inspired setting must have drawn Yu Junghyeok’s focus back during his chuuni phase—yet he always turned around to call Kim Dokja’s webnovels trash, bastard! —and, by courtesy of said chuuni, it wasn’t Kim Dokja’s first time here, but his palate always underwent a glamorous reshuffling whenever he stepped foot in this gilded kingdom of flavor and fashion.

The menu even dedicated a photo-stocked folio to dumplings. No doubt Yu Junghyeok was the genius behind that, with his despotic way of imposing his own laws and making things happen like some out-of-touch 12th century emperor. Though for all his imperial tastes, his plate was just a refilling hill of plain wheat dimsum.

Being furniture also let Kim Dokja get away with stealing meat off Han Suyeong’s plate across from him. Emboldened he turned sideways to dissect bits of ground pork out of Yu Junghyeok’s share, only to be arrested by an ominous gaze. His chopsticks were poised midair making a blatant arrow towards the target; Kim Dokja had no choice but to lower them to rest humbly on his plate, all with an innocent smile.

Yu Junghyeok’s eyes narrowed, glittering dark behind the thick of his lashes. He turned to the embedded grill and plucked the juiciest strips of lamb tenderloin before anyone else had the chance, and slapped them on Kim Dokja’s plate with a huff.

A protest broke out. “Yah! Yu Junghyeok! I was cooking that!” said Han Suyeong. “You’re just here to vacuum all the dumplings, why are you stealing my meat!”

Yu Junghyeok sneered. “I paid for it. I say where it goes.”

Jeong Huiwon shrugged, raising her bubbling somaek. “I’ll heed the man with the bill. Besides, Dokja-ssi’s been looking a little pale recently.”

Kim Dokja groaned into his hands. “Huiwon-ssi, please don’t start.” Yu Sangah was already placing neat slices of pork fat in the juices pooling on Kim Dokja’s plate. “…thank you, Sangah-ssi.”

His luck finally ran out as Han Suyeong abandoned her glaring match with Yu Junghyeok and latched onto him. “Yah, Kim Dokja…” she began, a sly grin pulling up, “isn’t it great news for you? Your Junghyeok-ie can buy out a whole ebook store every month.”

Kim Dokja frowned. “Why would he do that? He doesn’t even read.”

To which Yu Junghyeok shot him a dirty look—the brat definitely took that as a challenge. Yu Junghyeok didn’t read webnovels, Kim Dokja amended in his head, much likelier to share a Kindle collection with Yu Sangah’s pick of literary greats than the 300-Won-a-chapter LitRPGs that ruled every digit of Kim Dokja’s monthly wage, minus rent.

Han Suyeong smacked the table. “Kim Dokja! You had three months to pull this bastard into your webnovel addiction so I could ruin his life with spoilers.” She blocked her face from a pair of laser eyes. “But you suck even at dating huh?”

A morsel of lamb slipped from his chopsticks, landing on the plate with a splat.

What?

Three months?

Dating?

“We’ve been dating? Months?” Kim Dokja squawked.

Han Suyeong huffed. “Fine: More like under two point five months if we pretend your weeks of pining and Yu Junghyeok quotetweeting your dumb Solo Leveling meta threads to his official, fourteen million follower account never happened.”

“Dokja-ssi,” Yu Sangah assisted with a kind smile, “it’s already March. Have you been stressed out?”

“Ah. Was that going to be your excuse to skip your three-month anniversary? Because you’ll just make Yu Junghyeok-ssi cry.” Jeong Huiwon chimed from the corner, downing a shot glass.

“I—no—I mean,” Kim Dokja sputtered, tongue tied, fingertips frosting over with cold sweat, resolutely not looking at a certain man as he proceeded to ask the stupidest question of his life: “We… we’re dating?”

All heads snapped to Kim Dokja.

Silence ensued.

Han Suyeong was the one to break it, jaw bobbing like a fish before she said, “What, did you, are you saying you didn’t know?”

Kim Dokja replied with a distressed frown. He squirmed in his seat, squeezing in a few inches between him and the man ominously silent on his right. Or he tried. The still life quiet picked up and blasted the whisper of velveteen under his ass into what might as well be rockslides down a hill, and he flinched.

“Oh my god…” Jeong Huiwon reached for a full bottle of soju.

A trembling finger arced back and forth on the men. “You two,” Han Suyeong croaked, “seriously weren’t dating till now? Or what? Make it make sense to me.”

Yu Sangah was reading Yu Junghyeok’s face for the past minute and whatever she saw made her hide a gasp behind her hand. She said, “I… think… all this time Yu Junghyeok-ssi might have…”

Han Suyeong burst into laughter, grabbing her girlfriend’s shoulder for support. “Yah. Yah! Are you serious? Did Kim Dokja seriously just date a man for months, on, on accident?

He gulped. Severe confusion swirled his mind dizzy. Any word spilling from his goopy state could spark a storm. Then a palm clamped on the back of his neck and whipped him out of the room in a blur of colors and receding laughter, and Kim Dokja stupidly realized he was already caught in the vortex of a calamity.

A beautiful calamity called Yu Junghyeok, who pinned him to the wall several feet away from their room’s mahogany doors, large hand still collaring him and keeping his head from knocking back on glittering brocade. Kim Dokja stared in the dim ambience, moveless, bones already collapsed because he felt like a human sack easy to lug around, maybe a human punching bag if the threatening glare he was being subjected to turned into action. If only Lee Hyeonseong were around to protect Kim Dokja’s precious body instead of the nation’s borders.

“Kim Dokja,” Yu Junghyeok growled, making him shudder. “What the fuck.”

“I know,” Kim Dokja launched into an explanation, “what a weird misunderstanding, right? Very weird. It’s all Han Suyeong’s fault, not mine, I swear.”

Yu Junghyeok looked genuinely stunned. “I thought,” he paused a moment, jaw tightening. “I didn’t think you’d be this big of a fucking fool.”

It was Kim Dokja’s turn to glare. “Go tell Han Suyeong that—”

“How about you tell me a few things instead? Kim Dokja.”

“What?”

The hand shackling his neck squeezed, and he shivered at the keen sense of iron-rough warmth being the only thing keeping him from fleeing for his life.

Yu Junghyeok decreed: “I ask. You answer.”

Lone strings of a zither drifted from the far end of the private hall, cutting the faint murmur of outside patrons, lingering in the quiet stillness that had followed the men out. Soon that too got drowned by the hammering of Kim Dokja’s heart. Trepidation fueled his nerves.

Yu Junghyeok was a big strong man looking like he was going to snap Kim Dokja’s dainty neck if he answered wrong. But what was the correct response in the face of the enigma that was Yu Junghyeok?

He began, “Last summer you kept trying to get my number.”

Kim Dokja frowned. “Why do you have to say it like that? Don’t make me sound like a stalker. I just needed you for my thesis. You’re the one who added me on KKT.”

“To shut Han Suyeong up. But then you sent me a hundred and thirty messages.”

“Well, you kept leaving me on read instead of blocking me. A weird way to discourage people.” Okay, that definitely sounded stalker-ish. Kim Dokja hastily added, “You replied in the end.”

Yu Junghyeok narrowed his eyes. “You kept meeting me. In different places. For several weeks.”

We kept meeting.” Kim Dokja corrected again with a sigh. “Why do you keep saying it like I’m the one at fault? You agreed to make time and honor me with your high and mighty presence every single time I invited you. And—I told you, you were the primary subject of my study. I needed to observe you in different environments. For… a predetermined period of… five to six weeks.”

Kim Dokja looked down, his words ringing weak in his own ears for some reason. True, Yu Junghyeok’s case was the first time Kim Dokja had actually looked forward to the Observation phase of a study. And he couldn’t, for the life of him, comprehend why.

In reality he’d followed Yu Junghyeok for years before Han Suyeong connected them last year. Kim Dokja had never specified in his findings, but his paper Points of Intersection between Cults and Parasocial Relationships was centered initially around Yu Junghyeok, the unreachable idol… and Kim Dokja, meant to be the voice of millions of devotees. Meeting the universally deified man in flesh and blood, subjected to the brunt of his mountainous ego the instant he’d opened his mouth, had shattered all of Kim Dokja’s illusions, leaving him all the better reformed by the gutpunch of reality. Yu Junghyeok, pro-gamer, ten times world champion for the ten years he’d been pro, God of a fourteen-million strong cult, was an asshole like everyone else. It was comforting, and disenchanting.

Yet by the end of the day he was magnetized. Yu Junghyeok had him in his thrall anew. Two almost-strangers had communed in the physical plane, meeting in glares and insults tossed over steaming cups of coffee, and Kim Dokja found no way to tear himself from that. There was no mute or block button for reality. This was not some Instagram Moment he could delete out of embarrassment. He could only keep coming back, craving the uncrossable physical distance imposed by Yu Junghyeok’s threatening physique and his disdain for Kim Dokja, over virtual intimacy measured in the millimeters between face and phone screen.

Halfway through the month, his thesis underwent a morphosis he could not reverse. He had to begin from scratch, because Kim Dokja’s parasocial idolization—his decade-long, starry-eyed, one-sided wonder—was no longer a working variable.

At present, the glare had melted off of Yu Junghyeok’s sculpted features. Brows low and straight, he was looking at Kim Dokja with a newfound focused calm; his gaze glinted with the sharpness of a scalpel, and Kim Dokja ought to escape before he got dissected for any more truths even he wasn’t aware of. He’d like to remain unaware very much, thank you. Blissful ignorance and all—

“Kim Dokja.” There came Yu Junghyeok’s toll. The back of Kim Dokja’s neck was squeezed again. He shivered like a reed.

“Yu Junghyeok.” He bit out. “Can you stop chanting my name like a vengeful ghost?”

Kim Dokja.” The bastard made sure to emphasize this time. “You stream anime with my sister.”

“Is a pro-gamer seriously judging someone for liking anime?”

“Whenever she asks. Whenever she’s bored.” When Kim Dokja didn’t reply, he closed his eyes and said, “When I’m not around.”

“…okay. I’ll only stream under your adult supervision then?” Kim Dokja offered. Yu Junghyeok was so protective of his sister, which was cute and admirable, but it wasn’t like Kim Dokja would watch gory 16+ cartoons with a child.

Yu Junghyeok’s nostrils flared. A light crease returned to his forehead. “It seems even years of academia couldn’t plug that leak in your brain.”

“Excuse me?”

“December. You signed up for origami class with my sister.”

“Ah. I thought it would be fun to make paper merchandise of all the summons from, you know, the trash Solo Leveling I read?” Kim Dokja smiled dryly, before frowning. “Wait, did Yu Mia complain?”

Yu Junghyeok huffed, like Kim Dokja had said something groundbreakingly stupid. He wasn’t the one who brought it up in the first place! Why was the bastard reminding him anyway?

It was the day they’d kissed—no. He’d meant to drop Yu Mia off and turn tail before Yu Junghyeok’s ‘Eliminate all nearby Kim Dokjas’ radar went off, but she’d dragged him right through the front doors like a stuffed toy and sat him down in the living room with a force no twelve-year-old should possess. Yu Mia simply (wrongfully) called Kim Dokja ‘weaker than the track team boys’. Yu Junghyeok caught them making origami cranes—the wish-granting thousand cranes, because Yu Mia was that deep in her anime phase—and for a while he stood there, stupefied, in black sweatpants, large headphones dangling from his neck.

They’d been texting on a regular basis, and the last thing Kim Dokja had sent was a barrage of heart stickers Han Suyeong had gifted him promising something ‘irresistibly interesting’ would occur that could contribute several pages to his thesis. He quickly realized the ‘interesting event’ would be his murder at the hands of an annoyed Yu Junghyeok so he crisis-managed by avoiding the pro-gamer in both realms, smart phone and real life.

Seeing Kim Dokja’s face two weeks out of nowhere must have startled the poor man. But he walked off without a word. Kim Dokja spent the next two hours enslaved by Yu Mia and mentally writing his obituary stating death caused by littering a man’s living room with ugly birds and desecrating his KakaoTalk with ugly hearts. Then Yu Junghyeok caught him again as he was trying to slither out the front doors, pinning him outside. He remembered so well: Over Yu Junghyeok’s shoulder the sun had dipped into an orange river, swimming with clouds that rolled out in purple streaks. Magnolia trees crowded the house, a breeze whistling through the leafless canopy, its dark skeleton ablaze with winter sunset. Under the sway of slender boughs, Yu Junghyeok brought his face closer than anyone had ever come before, and kissed Kim Dokja breathless.

And then he’d done it again and again, catching Kim Dokja off guard any time of the day and place, and he couldn’t get a word in when each time he was rendered panting for air, clutching Yu Junghyeok like a lifeline. Sometimes, bright-eyed, the man would reassemble Kim Dokja decent, but always he left as quickly as he’d come, like a storm.

Yu Junghyeok was looking at him with that same glimmer now. Kim Dokja didn’t even notice—how long had he been blushing?

“You spent your birthday with me and my sister,” Yu Junghyeok said.

“Hey. You two barged into my house—by the way, why do you know my PIN or my date of birth for that matter—” Kim Dokja shook the thought off, “and you dropped a feast on my table. That you cooked. Was I supposed to kick you both out and let buckets of legendary-grade food rot in my fridge?” Was this bastard seriously blaming Kim Dokja for making them stay?

Yu Junghyeok had the gall to look smug at the poorly-hid compliment before he flicked back on his interrogator face. “What about Selena Kim?”

The brand ambassador for Asgard Inc.? Kim Dokja blinked. Selena was a decent-sized Twitter account who followed Kim Dokja last year. That’d confounded him at first, but in their brief exchanges she exuded an earthly warmth that overrode his hesitance to follow back. Soon she’d become a regular in his DMs. Talks with her were pleasant, but nothing moving or memorable, save for that one time…

“You turned her down. What did you say?”

“Yah, this bastard.” Kim Dokja gaped. “Why do you know that? Were you peeking in my DMs?”

“You were sitting in front of my TV. While I was playing.”

“Ah, there you go again, blaming me—”

“When she asked you out, what did you tell her?”

His mouth clacked shut. He had a boyfriend; that was the answer he’d given her.

“But I only said that to get her to drop the conversation,” Kim Dokja said shakily. “I didn’t mean you.”

“Kim Dokja.” He growled.

“—or anyone in particular. Look, why are we having this conversation? It’s like you’re seriously trying to act like…” he trailed off, giving Yu Junghyeok a chance to finish it.

This was where he scoffed and dumped Kim Dokja’s dead body behind the building. That was the only way this could end, with Kim Dokja’s heart in pieces. After all, what did a few make out sessions mean to adults? He kept telling himself that every day, that there really was only one way this would end. Once this man snapped to his senses.

And yet.

Yu Junghyeok looked at him head on. Not a hint of scorn on his face. No dawning of disgust over Kim Dokja’s romantic notions. In fact he commanded, like he had the right, “Finish that sentence.”

Kim Dokja took a deep breath and opened his mouth. His vocal cords shook nonstop, but it took a while for air to come out. “…like my boyfriend.”

The other man lifted his eyebrows like he was genuinely impressed. He nodded once. That was enough to set Kim Dokja’s insides on fire. The hand behind his neck felt like an iron brand, its searing heat reaching down his spine. All the air in him swelled with a reckoning.

“What.” He gasped. “Seriously? Yu Junghyeok? When?”

The impressed look dropped into his usual glare. One employed whenever Kim Dokja acted stupid. Right now he did feel stupid. Too stupid for words. An explosion was unfolding in his brain and he couldn’t get hold of a single thought that didn’t have the words ‘Yu Junghyeok and I’ and ‘relationship’ stamped in neon colors.

“But you never told me.” He said weakly.

Yu Junghyeok frowned and said, “Since when do you listen to words?”

Kim Dokja bristled. “Wow, this jerk. How on earth was I supposed to know you wanted, of all people—” he stopped. It felt too, too real, this neon wish that had taken root, more solid than the bones holding him up.

He really didn’t want to be here, immobilized by just a hand, unable to even turn away from those searching eyes. But would Yu Junghyeok let go?

No, he didn’t let up an inch of his grip. “Kim Dokja,” he said with purpose, “what sort of person do you think I am?”

What sort of question was that? Of course, Yu Junghyeok was a man who sparked infinite opinions in Kim Dokja, mostly negative because this bastard really had it easy with his face and his abrasive personality, which had over time shredded Kim Dokja’s stress management techniques nil, but was roundly embraced as a charm point by millions. Sure, he wasn’t a true scumbag, like Jeong Huiwon’s ex who’d only stayed in it for the sex; seven months and he couldn’t even remember her birthday; or her other ex who wanted to keep things hush, stating he didn’t like ‘labels’ and—

Oh.

Kim Dokja really was a fool.

In which universe would Yu Junghyeok act on something without the intent to commit? Was he the type to fiddle around? To loiter in coy indecisions? He didn’t even uninstall games he hated without perfecting them, down to the last easter egg or gimmick weapon.

Was he supposed to bring roses and a ring for Kim Dokja to understand? He chided himself. Since the very beginning, his logic had condemned far away to the fringes of illogical hope a shy, nervous understanding. Now it came to settle in his chest, too bright and stable to resist anymore, and his heart began a loud, resonant throb as if only now, only today, it had come to life.

“… Kim Dokja.” Yu Junghyeok said, on the other hand coming to a misunderstanding in the silent minute Kim Dokja wasted in his head. Suddenly Yu Junghyeok’s face was so easy to read; a sliver of hurt flashed like lightning across his face and, without thinking, Kim Dokja grabbed it and pulled him in.

Taking in Yu Junghyeok’s gasp, Kim Dokja pressed desperately against his mouth, wet and open and too messy to impress Yu Junghyeok, not expecting the man to respond in a heartbeat. He crashed in, swaddled Kim Dokja in his arms and kissed back furiously, draining all his breath and strength until Kim Dokja was clinging onto the rocky tension of Yu Junghyeok’s shoulders, trusting the large hand on his back to keep him standing.

Kim Dokja pulled back, mouth swollen, aching. “Yu Junghyeok,” he panted out before Yu Junghyeok’s dumb brain misconstrued this too, “let’s go out on a date?”

Yu Junghyeok stared. His face looked lovely, cradled in Kim Dokja’s hands.

“A proper date, I mean. For all the ones I apparently missed out on.” Kim Dokja licked his lips, not missing the way Yu Junghyeok’s eyes tracked. He thought for a while before adding, “Please.”

Yu Junghyeok’s sharp stare didn’t yield for a while. Even in the posh dimmed lighting his eyes gleamed dark, unfathomable depths. Kim Dokja was beginning to deflate when Yu Junghyeok’s lips quirked, and he said, “So you know how to ask for things after all, Kim Dokja.”

There was a wicked curl to his voice that roiled Kim Dokja’s gut. His arms dropped. “You—”

“Fine.”

Kim Dokja blinked.

Yu Junghyeok’s hands slithered away. Kim Dokja felt like a rodent that had just pulled a narrow escape.

“You have until end of tonight to text me a time and place.” Yu Junghyeok said, and strode away.

“Ah this son of a bitch… trying to act cool.” Kim Dokja muttered, catching his breath as he rested on the smooth wall. Yu Junghyeok went ahead and returned to their reserved box. Hands stuffed in his pocket, he slid the door open with his foot, in that impish, chipper way he only behaved after winning a match, and sauntered back in.