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So, what are we?

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     Their relationship was hard to label sometimes.

The confusion was mostly caused because of the way Hyukjae acted if Jongwoon showed him just a little bit of affection, because of the disgusted faces he would pull out even though he liked it – secretly, but no one knew that. Any attempt of giving him a hug, or just the thought of doing anything remotely nice to Jongwoon got him cringing. His behavior was almost like the one of a tsundere, if it needs a term.

It was impossible to count in their fingers the amount of times Hyukjae shied away from any touch, any hug or any attempt of kissing, putting on his most disgusted face he could muster, was almost stupid with how many times it happened. Or even the amount of times people would find him melting on Jongwoon’s embrace every time they thought no one would be around to find them in that position, or the way his smile turned happier if Jongwoon brushed his lips against his cheek was even more stupid. (What took the crown for the most stupid thing, though, was Hyukjae’s words whenever that happened. “What? I am just grabbing something that fell on the floor, we are not hugging!”, “He was just saying something! It is not what it seems!” )

It was very much clear that Hyukjae liked Jongwoon, and they knew that Jongwoon liked him back, even though Hyukjae liked to play it off like he disliked Jongwoon. Still, it seemed that no matter how many signals both were giving to each other unconsciously, how much Hyukjae changed around Jongwoon or how much Jongwoon seemed to be happier around Hyukjae, both refused – or never thought of – giving what they had an official label. While the reason was unknown and none of them ever said the reason, it seemed that for them, they were friends and it was enough.

But.. No one in their friends circle could consider them friends. What they had was too different from what two normal friends would have and friends do not “accidentally” kiss each other in the lips three times in a row and ignore it as if it was a normal thing without panicking. Yet, it was stupid to consider them boyfriends because neither of them made any move and Jongwoon had said countless times that nothing was going on and no one proposed shit, so referring to them as that was probably a death sentence if they ever found out.

So.. no one had any clue of what they were and what territory their relationship lied. Hyukjae liked it that way – Jongwoon, not so much.

You see, giving what they had a label would make things easier – but it was hard to do so when even they were unaware of what they were. Of course, there were moments they would act like boyfriends and kiss and just enjoy being with each other, but there were also moments it was just easier to slip back into the habits they had when their friendship was not a giant mess of uncertainty.

For Hyukjae, it sounded nice not giving it a label – it meant he could be a little reckless and give Jongwoon a bit more than he would normally want to, all while making sure they can go back to the ‘we are just friends’ territory in case anything backfired. It was a little painful and his heart would shatter bit by bit the more he gave and took because he realized what he was doing was making Jongwoon look a little bit down. Still, it felt scary and there were so many chances of it all going wrong that he continued, just so he could have a small taste of what dating Jongwoon would be like.

For Jongwoon, though, the uncertainty was painful – because when it was just the two of them and Hyukjae offered shy smiles, feather-like touches and gentle kisses and was so willing to give Jongwoon just a little more of his heart, it made Jongwoon feel like maybe, just maybe they could work if they tried. But then on the next day it would all go back to Hyukjae avoiding him and pretending to be disgusted by his kisses and he would give up on that easily. The give and take made Jongwoon struggle to not let those moments – those rare moments where Hyukjae liked to be with him – make him fall too deep, because he was afraid of what would happen to him and his little heart that beats too fast when Hyukjae was around if anything went wrong.

It all could be fixed if they just talked like the two adults they are, but something about opening up about their feelings just sounded so hard and awkward and it all could go wrong, they never felt strong enough to try and say what they wanted to say. Still, the what ifs, or just the mere thought of sitting down and letting it all out haunted them every time they would meet up, be it at Jongwoon's apartment or Hyukjae's, almost as if a dark, gloomy cloud was following them around and would grow bigger every time they were close to each other. 

Sometimes, they drowned all these thoughts and questions with kisses, gentle touches, spending a whole afternoon in bed and doing what lovers do. Sometimes, if they felt less touchy, they would drown everything by sitting down and doing what friends – normal friends, at least – do, be it playing video games the whole day and drowning themselves with diet soda as if they were back to being two foolish teenagers with no idea of what to do in their lives or spend the whole afternoon talking about anything that would come to mind until one of them had to go home. Those moments did little to ease their own worries and thoughts, but they figured that it was okay – they still had a long time to think about it, to make sure they knew what to say and what to do.

Though, it all changed when during their give and take relationship, someone new was introduced to their little group of friends and unconsciously changed the way things between Hyukjae and Jongwoon worked slowly. They all welcomed Ryeowook in the best way possible and while he grew on the others fairly quickly, Hyukjae felt hesitant to accept him as readily as they did. The cause of it was because of Jongwoon spending more time with Ryeowook mainly because of their similar interest in some things and their similar taste to music, causing the moments where they spent time together turn more rare, less often than Hyukjae would like.

The addition of the new member caused their relationship – if it could even be called that – to get shaken, almost as if everything they had built through the years could crumble and fall apart with one small movement. Hyukjae feared he could lose Jongwoon for Ryeowook, but at the same time he wondered, what was there for him to lose? How dare he feel like he was losing Jongwoon, when none of them said where their relationship stands? Was he even allowed to feel jealous.. uncomfortable like he was? No. He was not.

Yet he still felt upset – a little angry, even, because now Jongwoon was hugging Ryeowook and touching him and it should be him getting his attention and hugs and touches, not Ryeowook. Jongwoon was supposed to be with him, holding him and kissing him and giving him parts of his heart that Hyukjae would keep safely with him while he took from Hyukjae as much as he wanted, because that was what they were doing for years but he was not there and.. ah. With how shaken their relationship was and with how things were going, Hyukjae could feel that it would be ending soon. It was a scary feeling – it was painful and it made an uneasy feeling settle inside of him and grow the longer this was going because would he finally lose Jongwoon after so long? It was a matter of time when Jongwoon would finally give up on him and when it happens, what will happen to him and his feelings?

His heart was shattering a little more and the fear was starting to grow and turn into something painful and uglier – now, the dark cloud was floating above his head and affecting his mood so much it was causing him to enter into a territory he disliked. The pain in his heart was unbearing sometimes and there were times it would leave him wide awake at night, his head torturing him by thinking of countless solutions that he could do to change this. Still, he did nothing, afraid of what Jongwoon would say and do and the possible rejection that would come with it. It was okay if he was in pain – he could accept and deal with it, as long as Jongwoon was fine and happy.

Still, the storm was forming and would soon start raging. While Jongwoon was blissfully unaware of it, Hyukjae was not sure of how to stop it and could already feel the headache he would get from the whole situation once it crashed down. Things were inevitably going to boil over and Hyukjae could only hope his feelings would be at bay and not too hard to handle when it happens.

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     As expected, the crash came suddenly – catching them by surprise.

Nearly one month after Ryeowook appeared, they had decided to meet at a bar to share a few drinks and relax after a particular busy and rough week. Hyukjae had been forced to go by Donghae – his mind was a jumbled mess of not so pleasant thoughts, so he wanted to stay at home eating junk food and watching sad movies on the TV – but it was something that was proved to be impossible for him to do, because Donghae had appeared in his apartment and dragged him out saying something in the lines of “you disappeared and stopped replying to us ever since Ryeowook came along”, “the poor boy wants to be friends with you too, you know?” and so Hyukjae found himself in that dreaded bar, a glass of beer in his hand and some snacks right next to him just so he had something to chew on, waiting for the others to show up.

He had never been a fan of drinking in an empty stomach, had tried to go for anything aside from alcohol since he forgot to eat earlier in the day but Kyuhyun was pushing him to drink and had promised that later he would pour him some soju if he wanted – and after those words Hyukjae regretted stepping outside his house, decided to drink his beer with small sips just so he could buy a little more time. It was getting warmer the longer he took and the taste was turning far from pleasant but he endured it and tried to refrain himself from drinking more because he would not be able to handle his alcohol no matter how hard he would try. He succeeded in his mission for long minutes, had even managed to finally talk to Donghee like a normal person again without wanting to crawl back to his house to drown in his depression, but failed completely once Jongwoon arrived – with Ryeowook right beside him.

Just looking at the petit male standing close to Jongwoon made his stomach knot in something he was unsure of what it was, but he already disliked it. His hands started to tremble so much he had to force himself to finish the drink and pour more on his cup so he had something to distract him, heart pounding painfully against his chest it was nearly unbearable. All those emotions made him want to hide himself in a hole and never come out again, want to kill Donghae for putting him in this position, want to kill Jongwoon for doing this to him – he was unsure of what Jongwoon was doing, but whatever it was, he absolutely hated it. Luckily for him, Donghee was a very nice distraction, ignoring his obvious state of panic to continue talking about the most recent job he got, spending some minutes explaining how it was in a dance studio and that Hyukjae could visit him there if he ever wanted to. He just hummed along with what he said halfheartedly, more focused in ignoring the two people now sitting not that far from him and downing a glass of soju.

He managed to succeed in ignoring them for the most part, until Donghee had to leave his side to take care of Donghae who was already looking a little more than tipsy while talking with Kyuhyun. As if he was waiting for a good moment to corner him, Jongwoon sat beside him right then, wrapping his arms around his shoulder in what was supposed to be one of his sweet, nice gestures that he used to do with him, but just the touch bothered Hyukjae. He made sure to let that be known by brushing Jongwoon’s arm off him and took another gulp of the drink, pouring more on his glass, not even registering what Jongwoon was saying as his body started buzzing and a tingly feeling started bothering him. Still, he continued drinking, not wanting to talk or face Jongwoon in any state where he could remember the conversation – as long as he was sober, he would run from him until he was not able to anymore.

The glass almost fell from his hand when Jongwoon held his wrist, stopping him from drinking again. Some of the liquid spilled on his clothes and on his hand due to the sudden movement, his eyes shifting to look down at the wet spot in his jeans to avoid looking at Jongwoon’s concerned face. “I think you should stop drinking before you do something you will regret,” Jongwoon’s words were spoken in the most gentle, caring way he could muster. Just the sound of his voice made Hyukjae’s body shiver and tremble, eyes closing as he took a deep, shaky breath. “You hate drinking this much, you might get sick because of it.”

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry,” Hyukjae dismissed his concern with a wave of his hand, raising his free hand to pry Jongwoon’s fingers open and pull his wrist away from his hold. “Why do you care if I get sick or not, anyways?” He downed the liquid in one go, hoping it would ease the discomfort in his throat. “You were ignoring me for the last few weeks, I’m surprised you decided to pretend to care now.” It was not in his plans to say that, but he did and he was regretting it. Now that would open a door for them to discuss something he was not ready to – and Hyukjae would not be able to run away from it, because Jongwoon would now try to understand why. The question was, did Hyukjae even know why he was thinking that way?

“Ignoring you..? When did I?” Jongwoon frowned in confusion, blinking a few times when Hyukjae chuckled dryly and filled his cup once again. He watched helplessly as Hyukjae drank more and more, feeling his heart clenching at the way the younger was acting so recklessly. It was obvious his intent was to get drunk and Jongwoon wanted to avoid that if he could – it would be hard for them to talk, to actually have a healthy discussion if Hyukjae was going to drink to oblivion. “I thought you needed space so I was trying not to bother you, since you were ignoring our messages. I now realize that was a wrong move,” he chuckled sadly, taking hold of the bottle in Hyukjae’s hands and taking a small sip of the liquid. Leaving it back on the table, he leaned back and watched the younger’s movements, a small sigh escaping him.

“Oh, no, you were ignoring me long before that.” The look in Hyukjae’s face was now of mockery. He finished the cup in his hand and left it at the table, almost laughing at Jongwoon’s expression. “You know, when Ryeowook appeared and you decided to forget about me, for who knows what reason. I guess that at that time you decided that you liked him more than me, so he needed all of your attention. Then I ended up getting brushed to the side and forgotten because you found someone better to love.” He got up from the stool and stood in his shaky legs, nearly falling when they failed him. Jongwoon held him by instinct, but Hyukjae brushed him off and tried to walk away. “Don’t. Go back to him and leave me alone, I understand.”

“How the hell did you jump to this conclusion?” Jongwoon pulled him back to him, taking his wrists in a firm but gentle hold. Hyukjae tried tugging his wrists away but Jongwoon’s grip tightened in response. “No, you said your part. Now you have to listen to me.” He wrapped his arms around Hyukjae in a loose hug, still holding his wrists but now more gently. His chin was resting on Hyukjae’s shoulder, the position just a little uncomfortable but he could bear with it. “You did all of that because you thought I was giving up on you? All because I made a new friend? You really thought I was going to be able to forget everything I feel for you in a matter of days? Was that why you ignored all calls and texts, because you believed so fiercely that I was in love with someone else? You really thought so lowly of me, that you thought I would be such a dick and ignore everything we built over the years?”

“Jongwoon, that was exactly what you did.” Hyukjae muttered weakly, feeling the tears he had tried to hold back the whole time falling without stopping as he admitted something he wanted to ignore for so long. “That was what you did ever since you two got closer. You stopped visiting, you stopped calling, you stopped texting. Did you ever realize that all you did the whole time was spend time with him and only call him, text him, talk with him? Did you realize that you stopped talking to me, but still kept in contact with the others? That I was no longer your priority, nor someone you felt the need to text just as often?” He felt himself getting weaker, body shaking with the sobs he was letting out. Why saying those things out loud hurt so much..? “And then we stopped spending time together because every time I called, Ryeowook needed you for this, needed you for that, Ryeowook wanted to do this, wanted to do that. Do you know what was worse, in my opinion? I had no right to feel mad about how close you two were, how you were forgetting about me or anything like that, because even though we were doing this for so long, what was I to you the whole time? Back then, I was and still am just a friend that you fuck once in a while. I admit, that was my fault and I regret that because I was the one not wanting any strings attached since the beginning. But still, it hurts so much,” he chuckled dryly, managing to tug his wrists free so he could wipe his face. “Because right now, I still have no idea where we stand. I have nothing to make sure that what we have is secure.. That is, if we even have something, to begin with.”

“I’m sorry.” Jongwoon’s arms tightened around him, hoping that he could give him some comfort. “I didn’t realize that I was behaving that way and that my actions were hurting you. It should have been obvious since it started..” It made his heart hurt like hell when another sob escaped Hyukjae’s lips, especially because it was his fault that he was feeling like this. “Did it make you feel lonely? Was that why you isolated yourself?” Hyukjae nodded weakly and Jongwoon’s heart broke into little pieces at the discovery. “Ah.. that really wasn’t my intention. I’m really sorry that I didn’t care to make any time for you, Hyukkie, even though you were my priority before all that. I’m so sorry.”

“No, no.. I am the one who is sorry.. I’m demanding too much from you when you don’t have to give me anything,” he said as more tears fell. “Just ignore everything that I said, it was wrong of me to say those things so don’t take me seriously. It’s better if I go home now,” he managed to leave Jongwoon’s hold, taking a deep, shaky breath to try and calm himself. “Can you tell Donghae I left early but that I will make it up to him? Let him know that the next drinking round will be on me,” he wiped his face once again, making his way towards the exit. “See you later, I guess..” Not once he looked back, but if he did, he would have seen that Jongwoon was feeling and looking just as bad as he was.

Somehow, he managed to get to his apartment without breaking down in the street or in the taxi he managed to call. Unlocking the door was proven to be difficult in his hazy state of mind but he succeeded after a few tries, falling on the floor right after he locked the door behind him once he stepped inside. Curling into a ball, still in the entrance of his apartment, he started crying and letting out all the tears he had forced himself to hold the whole way home. The absurd, unbearable pain he had felt the whole week was more insupportable now that he had said everything he wanted to say, though the relief was still there. It was only a matter of time until he got over this sadness. It hurt, it sucked, but he still had time to get over his stupid feelings and maybe, he would be able to forget his feelings for Jongwoon soon. The regret took some time to hit him, but once it did, it left him wondering why he had accepted being in that position in first place. Their friendship was probably going to be ruined after this – something he desperately wanted to avoid since the beginning, but that was bound to happen either way.

It was fine, though. He could still cherish those memories later in the future, once the hurt was forgotten. He just had to be patient.

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     The weeks that followed their conversation were rather dull, with nothing special happening as the days passed aside from a few texts from Jongwoon here, a few calls there. Unsurprisingly enough, Hyukjae barely had any recollections of their talk when he was not that sober (he refused to say that he was drunk, or else the shame would be unbearable) but from what Jongwoon was sending him – pleading messages asking for them to talk if he was up to it, asking for forgiveness, asking how he was and how did he feel and did he take some medicine for his hangover and was he feeling okay? – it made him realize that he may have said something that made Jongwoon realize how shitty of a friend he was being, but he had no idea exactly what he told him. But still, it was ridiculously annoying how those made Hyukjae’s heart flutter and it was making him feel a little upset because was he really supposed to feel this giddy when Jongwoon was doing the bare minimum? Was he really supposed to be this happy because Jongwoon was doing what a normal friend would do and actually cared to ask if he was okay?

..Right. Friend. What they had was still unknown, so how could he know how to feel about this?

He missed him and wished for Jongwoon to be there with him again, just so he could hug him and feel safe and comfortable in his arms. He wanted him to be around so they could go back to their routine of playing together and talking about nothing and everything at the same time, wanted to be able to kiss him and forget the consequences or what it would mean later – but at the same time, he recognized that now, it was doing him good to stay away, to be able to breathe and rethink their “non-existent” relationship and figure out how to move on from there. For some reason, he felt considerably lighter with the distance now that they talked – did they really talk or was he just screaming at Jongwoon? He was not sure, but it was better not to know – and that knowledge made the sadness bearable, as well kept his jealousy and insecurity at bay, because he finally made his feelings known and maybe it meant they will be able to make a move if things between them were okay. What they needed to do now was have another talk, to either put an end to this or to finally start something, so this – the jealousy, the sadness, the depressive state Hyukjae had been in for days – would not happen again. All Hyukjae needed to do was to text him back.

After hours of wondering what he could say and calming himself down from the nervousness creeping up on him, he managed to type a simple “hey, can you come over?” and press send before throwing his phone somewhere on the carpeted floor, furiously wiping his sweaty palms on his pants. It took him long minutes to check on his phone again after it rang a few times, his heart starting to beat fast against his chest when the last reply he read was “I'm on my way”, the reply came so soon and Hyukjae was left trembling because he had assumed Jongwoon would take a little longer to answer and God damn it, he needed a little more time to calm himself down or else-.. the device was once again forgotten on the floor as Hyukjae started to nervously pace around the living room, hand unconsciously coming up to his mouth so he could bite on his nails. The minutes passed slowly almost as if time was dragging and the longer it took for Jongwoon to arrive the more nervous he got, his body was starting to tremble and his head was starting to go over the countless reasons this could backfire on him and what if Jongwoon decided to give up on him now-

Three knocks on the door caught his attention and for a second Hyukjae forgot how to function, as if his mind had completely given up any control on his body. Still, he moved without noticing and with a desperation that was unlike him, belatedly realizing that he had opened the door and Jongwoon was standing there, looking at him with that gentle look again, a mix of relief and happiness clear in his expression that changed just lightly when Hyukjae managed to croak out a tiny hyung. Those words were enough to make Jongwoon pull him to his arms, the hold so tight and secure and it felt so nice, so comfortable, that Hyukjae had positively melted against him, arms wrapping around Jongwoon just as tight and pulling him a little bit closer just so there was no space left between them. It felt stupid the way Hyukjae was feeling emotional over this – as if the fact Jongwoon cared was enough to make his heart flutter and make him feel like maybe, he really meant something for him.

“Hey, as much as I like having you in my arms like this,” Jongwoon started gently and leaned back just a little to look at him. “Shouldn't we go inside? I think we already gave your neighbors enough to talk about.” Only then Hyukjae realized that the door was still open and they were still at the entrance of his apartment, a faint blush appearing on his cheeks when he quickly detached himself from the hug. “How have you been?” He asked tentatively as he took his shoes off, a small smile appearing on his lips when he saw the way Hyukjae was fidgeting nervously after locking the door. “Hyukkie, I’m not going to bite you. No need to be nervous.”

“I know, it’s just..” Hyukjae swallowed hard, chewing on his lower lip as he tried to think of what he could say. “I just thought.. I don’t know, I thought you would be upset with me? I don’t remember what I told you that day with how drunk I got, so I just assumed the worst.” He explained and blushed even further after admitting that, though Jongwoon only smiled. It was expected – with the way Hyukjae had drunk that night, Jongwoon worried if he would be able to get home safely and if he would even remember what had happened. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t, but it was fine. “I’ve.. been well, to answer your question. But come in, I don’t think this is the best place for us to talk.” He followed as Jongwoon walked towards the living room and chose to sit on the far end of the couch with his legs close to his chest.

The silence that settled between them as soon as they sat on the couch left the room filled with tension, an uncomfortable feeling creeping up the longer they stayed quiet – there were a lot of things to be said but neither of them knew how to say it without having that fear in the back of their minds that everything could be ruined if they said anything wrong.

“You know, I wasn’t upset at you that day.” Jongwoon said suddenly, making Hyukjae look at him wide-eyed. He almost laughed at the confused, lost look in Hyukjae’s face but held back, choosing to shift his gaze at a random spot in the room to try and think carefully about what he would say next. “I guess you don’t remember what you told me that day, but to sum it all, you pointed out all the things I did that hurt you and apologized before you left.” Hyukjae’s cheeks flushed in a deep shade of red – why had he done that? Why did he apologize and why did he leave? That was such a dramatic and ridiculous move and- God, that was mortifying. “After you left and I thought more about it, I figured I couldn’t be mad at you. How could I? I hurt you and forgot about your feelings and really, I never wanted you to get sad because of me,” he shifted closer and held Hyukjae’s hand tentatively, almost sighing in relief when instead of pulling his hand back, Hyukjae entwined their fingers. “But you were because I ignored you. What you told me that night was right and it was painful to admit that, almost like a slap to my face, really. Now I understand that even if we are not boyfriends, I should have done the bare minimum and done more effort to spend time with you just like I did with the others, too. You’re my best friend, Hyukkie. I didn’t want to make you feel like you’re less than that.”

“I shouldn’t have demanded for you to make time for me, though.” Hyukjae uttered uselessly and rested his forehead on his knees, breathing deeply to try and calm himself down. “It’s just- I’m not in any position to feel anything about this. You’re single, we have nothing between us aside from some occasional fucks but still, I was acting weird all because I was-” he cut himself off before he could admit it out loud. Jongwoon squeezed his hand as if to give him some strength to continue and Hyukjae took another deep, greedy breath before he continued, “all because I was jealous that you were giving him the attention you used to give to me.” The painful admission of that made him curl in shame, embarrassment burning his insides and leaving an uncomfortable feeling behind. “I shouldn’t have been so hurt over this. Nor jealous, or even upset at the mere thought of you finding someone else. The lack.. The lack of any label to what we had or still have, I don’t know, it’s frustrating because at the same time I can have you right here, someone else can take you away from me too. Just like Ryeowook did.”

“What makes you think you demanded anything from me? All you did was tell me that what I was doing was hurting you, Hyukkie. Nothing else.” Jongwoon frowned and raised his free hand to caress Hyukjae’s hair, fingers running through the strands lightly and his nails gently scratching the scalp. Hyukjae sighed, relaxing just slightly at the gentle caress. “Don’t think that just because you told me how you were feeling, you were demanding something from me. That’s now how it works.” He added a little later, hand lowering just a bit to wrap his arms around him. “And if the lack of label of what we have is bothering you and making you feel insecure, Hyukkie.. Tell me, how do you want to solve this? Because if you want things to go back to the way they were, with us being friends and spending time together just like the old times, I’ll understand and accept it. But if you want, we can start to go out on dates and act like boyfriends too. I don’t care which one you choose, as long as you’re comfortable with it. I just don’t want you to regret anything.”

Hyukjae breathed heavily, feeling his heart beating fast against his chest as he thought of Jongwoon’s words carefully. What would he have to sacrifice if he chose to be with him? What would happen if their relationship failed and led to a break up? Things were going well with the give and take they were doing in those last five months but only because they had that safe option of pretending to be friends with nothing else going on, if that was taken away from them, what would happen if their breakup was far from amicable? How would things in their group of friends work if both hated each other? What would become of him? He could feel his breath quickening, fear creeping up and making it hard for him to voice out what he wanted. I want to be with you, he wanted to say, but the words got stuck in his throat. Instead the tears started to form and threatened to fall now that he remembered how scary it could be if they did end together, the reasons why he was so hesitant to give Jongwoon his heart. A sob escaped him, followed by many others as he finally cried – the fear, the nervousness, the hesitance, everything caught up to him at once and it felt overwhelming.

Jongwoon, seeing the state he was in, managed to pull him to his lap and wrap his arms around him as tightly as he could, pressing short but gentle kisses on the top of his head, whispering soothing words in between. His hands were caressing Hyukjae’s back and arms in what he hoped that would be a soothing manner, not minding even for a second the tears wetting his skin when Hyukjae hid his face on his neck, arms wrapping around his nape uncomfortably due to their position but Jongwoon ignored that in favor of pressing Hyukjae closer to him. “Hyukkie, be honest with me, okay? I can’t help but think this is something that worries you. Are you afraid of what could happen to us if we broke up? Is that why you ignored your feelings when we first started going out?” He frowned when Hyukjae hummed in agreement, a sigh of relief escaping him because at least that they could try to solve. “I see. Tell me what is in your mind, Hyukkie. Be honest with me and let me know what you are worried about, so we can find a solution for this and make it work. Don’t keep this to yourself.”

“It’s just..” Hyukjae started meekly, sniffing a few times. “It all could go terribly wrong if we break up on bad terms. Our friends are in the same group, your work is close to mine, our moms are friends. It would be so terribly awkward if we date and it doesn’t work out because it wouldn’t affect only us, but everyone around us too.” He leaned back just a little, bringing his free hand up to wipe his eyes and cheek. “Not only that, I’ll lose my best friend, too. And even if we do end up in good terms and stay friends, the feelings..” He took a very much needed breath, his hold on Jongwoon tightening just a little before he continued. “The feelings could stay and it would be painful if you start dating someone else..” He trailed off then, the thought of that happening was upsetting enough for him. If just seeing Jongwoon with a new friend had already sent him in a sad, depressed mood, he was unsure how much worse he would be if after a break up, Jongwoon appeared with someone else.

“Why do you think so negatively when it is about us?” Jongwoon’s frown deepened at that realization, his heart clenching painfully. Just the fleeting thought of Hyukjae thinking they had no future together was enough to make doubts plague his mind, but he was trying not to entertain that thought and fall prey of insecurity too. “We aren’t together yet and you already started to think ‘what if we don’t match’ ‘what if we break up’ and of course, it’s something that could happen and I know that, but.. We didn’t give it a try yet, so why..?” A sigh escaped him, disappointment hitting him painfully the more he talked. “Besides.. You’ve known me for years, Hyukkie. Have I ever done something that led you to think that if we do end up together, it would lead to heartbreak?” He breathed heavily, his hold on Hyukjae loosening just slightly. “Don’t you think that maybe, you should focus on us and in the present instead? Give us a chance to make this work first, Hyukkie. Let go of those what if s and just enjoy the moment, don’t worry about the future yet. There’s still a lot of time in our hands, we just need to enjoy what we have for now and deal with what will come to us later.”

Hyukjae sighed tiredly and rested his forehead on Jongwoon's shoulder, a small sound escaping his lips, something between a cry and a whine. He really wanted to let go of those thoughts and just enjoy things while they happened, but sometimes they creeped up on him and it was unavoidable – by the time he realized it he was already feeding those thoughts unconsciously. He really wanted to try, though, to allow himself to fall for Jongwoon deeper and deeper without having the fear of him leaving bugging him all the time. If he was not doing it for him and his own well being, maybe he could do it for Jongwoon – who deserved to be with someone that trusted him and cared about him and was not scared of loving him. With that thought in mind, forgetting for one second about the uncomfortable feeling that was going to creep up on him sooner or later, Hyukjae allowed himself to say, “I want to be with you,” a quiet but honest answer to Jongwoon’s question from many minutes ago. Before Jongwoon could ask anything, though, Hyukjae moved back just a bit, leaving a small distance between them, and raised his head, staring at Jongwoon’s confused but hopeful eyes for just a second. It was enough for him to feel a bubbly feeling growing inside him – just enough for his heart to beat fast against his chest. It made him feel like his choice was going to be the wiser one, that it would lead him to his happiness and maybe make him forget those bad thoughts after a while – all he needed to do was give it time and be patient. 

With a small smile and a somewhat lighter heart, Hyukjae leaned and pressed their lips together – a soft press of lips that he hoped it conveyed what his words meant. Jongwoon responded to it instantly, moving his lips against his slowly, gently, nibbling and sucking on his lower lip until Hyukjae willingly opened his mouth and his tongue slipped inside. Unlike the other kisses they have shared before, this one lacked the same intensity and it was a nice change from the desperate and needy kisses they had grown used to. This time Jongwoon took his time to explore, to touch and learn and render him breathless, pulling him closer as Hyukjae’s arms wrapped around his nape. They spent minutes kissing, not once changing the slow, sweet pace they had settled in, only stopping for a few seconds to breath just to be drawn back in again. By the time they had stopped their lips were swollen, slightly colored with a red color, and they had to take deep, greedy breaths as they tried to control their breathing and wait until their hearts were beating at a normal pace again. Hyukjae shifted just slightly in Jongwoon’s hold, feeling just a bit exhausted after all those emotions he had felt for the day, so he rested his head on his shoulder and closed his eyes – feeling comfortable enough to take a nap right there if he could. Noticing that, Jongwoon got up after adjusting him on his arms, making his way towards the familiar bedroom they had spent plenty of time on.

Now that things were slightly clearer between them, it meant some things could (and would) change. It was hard to say what yet, but with patience they would figure it out on their own – until then, it was just a matter of time until it happens.

Chapter Text

     After many months later, their relationship was working – not that smoothly, but it was going fine.

It was expected that it was not going to work so perfectly in such a short amount of time, considering how they were – Hyukjae still had his habit of keeping things to himself and accepting things without saying anything and Jongwoon still had his habit of choosing to ignore glaring signals and making himself unaware if someone is hurting or not. Those were things that they were trying to work on slowly, followed by working on many other things they used to do, so that their relationship could work. They were trying – even if it led to some tough or frustrating situations every once in a while.

With the many months that passed and how things between them were going, what had changed the most was how they were leading their lives now. While nothing much had changed for Jongwoon aside from him being able to organize himself better so he had enough time to spend with his friends and his boyfriend, for Hyukjae, things had changed not drastically, but enough to make an impactful difference. It started two weeks after they had started dating officially, when he finally stopped isolating himself and went back to hanging out with Donghee and Donghae and spending time with Leeteuk and Kyuhyun – he had felt embarrassed that it took so long, but they all reassured him that it was fine and they understood he needed his space. One thing that was new, though, was the fact he had actually tried to befriend Ryeowook, something that had been hard and it took even longer because of the spikes of jealousy that would catch up to him the more he saw how Ryeowook cared about Jongwoon just as much as him, but the younger had managed to grow on him as well after a few days – especially after it was clear that he cared about the others as much as he cared about Jongwoon, too.

And that sudden development was what caught their friends’ attention first.

You see, it made them happy that now, Hyukjae was almost back to his old self again. It had been weird to see him so closed off and silent ever since Ryeowook came around, but now, seeing how Hyukjae looked happier and was feeling better, it left them wondering what had changed after Jongwoon and him talked about in the last time they met – because even though some of them were nearly blackout drunk that night, a few of them still remembered the sour mood Jongwoon had been left with for the rest of the night and how Hyukjae had cried and left as if something terrible had happened. But with this sudden change, curiosity was slowly catching up with them, especially when they would observe their behavior every time they would meet – for a drink or to just hang out for a day.

It all started with things that seemed to be normal for Jongwoon and Hyukjae to do had started changing, like the way Hyukjae seemed to be more willing and open to Jongwoon’s affection now, not shying away from his hugs or kisses like he would before. There was also the fact that now, they would hug and kiss openly and neither of them would stutter and struggle with making excuses to explain the scene they just had seen. It got more obvious that something was different when, unlike before, Hyukjae was more clingy to Jongwoon now, holding his hand or just hugging him at random settings, sometimes going as far as to sitting on Jongwoon’s lap and resting his head on his shoulder, dozing off while the others talked about random topics. What solidified it, though, was the way Jongwoon seemed to be leaning to those affections as much as Hyukjae, sneaking a kiss here, a kiss there, a hug here and there, always choosing to stay close to Hyukjae so he could touch him – be it by leaving his hand resting on his lower back or be leaving his hand on his nape, caressing it as if it was something normal to do.

Clearly something had changed in their non existent relationship, it was just hard to pinpoint what and even harder to ask what had happened between them, considering their previous behavior whenever the question would pop up, be it by them or an acquaintance asking. They decided to wait until one of them said something – either to tell them to stop being so curious over something that had nothing to do with them or to admit that yes, they were finally dating after many months of this uncertainty. Curiosity was killing them and that was not surprising, but even though there was the urge to ask, there was also the hesitance when it came to asking if there was something finally going on between them – so the question would always hang in the air every time Jongwoon and Hyukjae did something that friends would not do.

The answer for their question came not that long after, though. During one time where they had met to catch up on a few things that happened in the weeks that passed, they eventually noticed that both Jongwoon and Hyukjae were wearing a new accessory in their hands – a ring, with similar design and pattern that seemed to complete each other if looked carefully and placed side by side. It took them some embarrassing long minutes for them to realize that small detail, but hey, at least they did. It also took them every cell in their body to not scream “fucking finally” in front of them when they realized that yes, it meant they were finally dating after so much pinning, but they screamed in their groupchat without the two of them. All in all, they were quietly supporting them in the only way they knew – by embarrassing them with teasing and making jokes about it, but that was expected, so Jongwoon and Hyukjae teased them just as much.

In the end, in Hyukjae’s view, things were much better between them now.

While there were still moments where they messed up and went back to their old habits, they were managing just fine – some fights would inevitably happen and sometimes it was just easier to ignore the issue and pretend everything is fine. What was important, though, is that he was growing more used to opening up to Jongwoon about his feelings and Jongwoon was getting more aware of his feelings, especially of the signals he would unconsciously show if he was upset or hurt by something. Of course, there was still a long way for them to go and more changes to come in the future, but the thought of it did not scare Hyukjae as much as it would in the past anymore – in fact, it had been a long time since he ever felt like hiding and isolating himself again, in fear of the future causing consequences that he was afraid of facing and dealing with. Jongwoon had been very helpful with that and Hyukjae realized he never thought about the future or feared it as long as his boyfriend was around, because Jongwoon always knew how to use his words to ease his worries.

If words were not enough, Jongwoon could kiss those worries away – it was turning common for them to kiss and make out whenever Hyukjae was feeling down because that way, it was easier for them to stop thinking for a second and just enjoy the moment and the pleasures it would bring when it eventually would lead to them retreating to the bedroom – most of the time it being Hyukjae's bedroom – and talk things out later, after the bad feeling had been shaken away and they could talk about it calmly.

But, in Jongwoon’s view, while things were okay, there was still a thin shade of doubt and fear haunting him – not enough for it to be obvious to anyone else, but enough to make him feel insecure and wonder things that had been clear and obvious for a long time already. Inside him there was the need to say, to ask something not really that necessary for him to ask but it was haunting him, yet there was also the fear and the thought of things going terribly wrong if he voiced it out – the scenario where Hyukjae could get hurt by his question, because that could mean he was questioning him and their relationship and he was afraid of what Hyukjae could think. It was a scary feeling, so in his fear he stayed quiet, watching as things developed in front of him while he stayed lagging behind, struggling to keep up as he was slowed down by his own insecurity that was slowly growing and taking advantage of the state of mind he was in. He would have kept it a secret to himself for a long time, adamant in dealing with it on his own, but it slipped from him accidentally one day, when they were curled up together in Hyukjae’s bed and resting after a draining day of work that left them desperate to just lie down and sleep for the rest of the week.

When the room got quiet – saved by the sound of their rapid breathing that was slowly going back to its normal pattern which indicated that they had done everything but rest – and after their bodies had cooled down and both had come down from their high, Jongwoon unconsciously broke the silence first once he caught his breath again, voice barely above a whisper when he asked, “Hyukkie, are you happy?” The curiosity in his tone was perfectly hiding the insecurity and fear he was feeling – though, once it hit that he had uttered those words accidentally, his breathing quickened and he had to close his eyes for a few seconds, feeling scared and nervous. That question had been plaguing his mind for a long time now, but never managed to gather enough courage to say it and knowing he had said it was making him feel nervous, because what if things went wrong and-

Unlike what he thought that would happen, Hyukjae merely stilled next to him, blinking a few times as he tried to think of the answer.

Was he happy?

Hyukjae’s mind went back to the past few months – they were filled with new experiences and he had never felt so content with his life, things were going well in his job and with his friends and unlike what he had feared, his relationship was completely fine and not even once Jongwoon had made him feel like ending things and going back to that dark space he had been. Things – not only between them – had changed and while it had been hard to adapt and accept it, they had happened for the best and Hyukjae was happy with the results so far. With so many new things happening he had been able to explore more of the hobbies he was interested in and enjoy things he felt afraid of doing, all while he had a loving boyfriend and best friend who cared about him and respected him by his side, always supporting him and his decisions. They both had their flaws but despite that, things were working and he liked how things were going between them because for him, it was perfect so far – he had never felt so content and complete. 

So, was he..?

He hummed as he came to a conclusion. “Yeah, I am,” came his response minutes later. He shifted on Jongwoon’s hold just a little so he could get more comfortable, his head resting on Jongwoon’s chest and arm wrapping around his waist. “It’s pretty hard not to be happy after what we did not that long ago,” he teased and hissed when Jongwoon slapped his arm. “Ouch- hey, I was joking!” He whined and pouted after hearing Jongwoon’s chuckle. “You meanie. But fine, honestly, I’m very happy. Being with you makes me the happiest person in the world.”

“That is disgustingly sweet, but it’s nice to know that,” Jongwoon hummed, feeling just slightly pleased, and entwined their fingers once Hyukjae reached for his hand. “It makes me happy knowing you are happy.” The way he had said it so sweetly made Hyukjae’s heart skip a beat and flutter – he was lucky Jongwoon was not looking at him, or else he would have teased him because of the faint blush in his cheeks.

“Why did you ask?” Hyukjae pried. He was ready to whine when Jongwoon ignored his question to shift a little, but the complaint never came out of his mouth when Jongwoon started playing with the ring in his finger. “Hyung?” He frowned in concern, shifting so he could look at him better. The look on Jongwoon's face made him worried, though, if the way he was biting the inside of his cheeks and his eyes were turning red because of unshed tears was enough to feel concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it’s just- I was thinking about it recently. I guess it slipped now but it wasn’t supposed to- so, just.. forget about it..” Jongwoon stopped before he could say more, whining when Hyukjae pulled his hand back and left his hold. The look in his eyes was enough to make Jongwoon sigh and give up in trying to hide the reason. “Fine, fine.. If I’m going to be completely honest, well.. I was thinking about it after we started dating. When you told me you were afraid of what could become of us if we ever broke up, I started wondering if I would ever be able to make you happy or what were the chances of me doing anything that could hurt you because.. I got afraid I could lose you as my friend if things went terribly wrong, too. Seeing the state you were in because of these thoughts.. I don’t know, it just started making me think about it more often and it left me a little scared. Even after it all passed and we were fine, even when I knew you were happy.. Like, I could see it in your eyes and in the way you were acting but at the same time, I had this doubt annoying me and making me wonder if you.. If you were going to just.. Leave at any time. If I was really part of the reason why you were so happy, because it honestly felt like you could just leave and things would be okay for you. I admit, it was stupid of me to even entertain that thought, so I thought, ‘ah, that’s nothing, maybe I’ll get over it soon ,’ but I guess I was enough. It was a haunting thought and it left me feeling bad about it for a while now.. Still, it’s nothing for you to be worried about, really.”

“You were thinking about this for almost four months and you never said anything?” Hyukjae’s eyes widened and Jongwoon shifted his gaze to look at somewhere else. The silence was enough of an answer. “You should have asked it earlier! You said it yourself that the most important thing is communicating your feelings so why the hell did you think it was okay for you to keep this to yourself knowing very well you were hurting?” Hyukjae shifted on the bed so that he was in a sitting position, holding Jongwoon’s hands in his. “If it will assure you, then I can repeat it. I’m happy, not only with everything that happened recently but with our relationship, too. You’ve been nothing but caring and nice and everything I didn’t know I needed ever since we started dating, hyung. And don’t you dare try to say otherwise!” He stopped Jongwoon before he could interrupt. “When I said that being with you makes me the happiest, I really mean it. Everyone saw how I’ve changed ever since we started dating and it’s all because of you. You made me happy, you brought the best in me. Don’t you ever, ever doubt that. I love you , hyung. I wouldn’t dare to leave you, because I wouldn’t be like this if I wasn’t with you.”

Jongwoon pouted, holding back the urge to cry at those words. It took him a few seconds to get himself back together, but once he did, he sat up and pulled Hyukjae to his arms.“I’m sorry for doubting that. I didn’t mean to, really.” He kissed his cheeks and wrapped his arms tightly around him. “It’s just.. A lot to take in, considering what we went through and- I don’t know why it happened- I didn’t mean to, really..” Hyukjae shifted so he was in a better position and pressed their lips together, successfully interrupting Jongwoon’s words – it was just a gentle, soft press of lips that lasted for a few seconds before he peppered kisses on Jongwoon’s lips and cheeks.

“Hey, it’s fine, no need to explain yourself this much. I just- I just want you to tell me if you feel like this again. Be honest with me too, or else we both will suffer because of this. Knowing you can be hurting and keeping it to yourself hurts me too, you know? I need to know that you trust me enough to tell me how you feel as much as I trust you. As much as I need assurance for many things, you need too.” Hyukjae pressed another kiss to his lips, this time a little longer. “Don’t hide your thoughts from me anymore, please. Let it be a one time thing.. Please, be more open with me if you aren’t happy with something – anything between us, so we can work on it.”

“I will, I promise. I just.. Didn’t want to ruin the progress we’ve made so far by bothering you with something so stupid.” Jongwoon pressed one last kiss to Hyukjae’s lips, shifting their positions so that they were lying again though this time Hyukjae was resting on top of him. “Now I understand it was a bad decision. I’m sorry.” His hold on Hyukjae tightened just slightly.  “What a way for me to ruin the mood after such a pleasant night..”

“Well, I’m glad you ruined it, though I honestly don’t think you did.” Hyukjae hid his face on Jongwoon’s neck and pressed a kiss on the skin there, shivering when he felt his hands lowering on his body. “..And honestly, if it was in another time, I would have been really mad at you for keeping this for so long. You’re lucky that you unconsciously picked a good time to talk about it, I don’t have the energy to be mad at you.” He added later as an afterthought, biting on a random spot in Jongwoon’s neck. “But if you want, we can do it again, I really don’t mind..”

“While that sounds heavenly, do you really want to? We both have an early morning tomorrow and it’s already late, I’m sure the neighbors won’t like hearing your screams..” he chuckled, tilting his head back just slightly so Hyukjae had more access to his neck, a small hum escaping him when Hyukjae sucked on the skin and bit on it. “Besides, you said you don’t have the energy.”

“Oh well, I surely don’t want you to go to bed if you are feeling bad, it’s not good for you and we can’t have that, can we?” His teeth grazed against the skin, a small chuckle leaving him when Jongwoon tensed just a little, his body shivering. “And about the energy, who said I have to be the one doing the hard work this time?” Hyukjae leaned back and smirked, seeing that familiar look in Jongwoon’s eyes that got him trembling in expectation. “What do you say, hm?”

“Hm.. I’m feeling a little bad, indeed.. I guess you’re right this time.” Jongwoon shifted their positions so that Hyukjae was under him now, pressing their lips together in a quick, teasing kiss that had Hyukjae wanting more. “So it’s my turn this time, huh?” He smirked when he noticed the look in Hyukjae’s eyes, humming pleased when Hyukjae nodded in response. “I guess we are in for a little fun before going to bed, then.”

And for the remainder of the night, the room was filled with Hyukjae’s breathy moans again, along with his pleas for please, hyung, more in that sweet, whimpery voice of his.

By the time they had finished there was just two hours before the alarm would ring but neither seemed to mind, feeling awake enough although their past activities had left them even more tired.

It was when they were almost sleeping, though, that Jongwoon promised to himself that he would leave those thoughts behind for good – it could creep back to him later, if he ever let his guard down and fed his insecurities, but this time he would try to fight it as much as he could. There was no reason for him to feel that way and he would make sure not to, because Hyukjae was doing his best for him, so he wanted to do the same for him too.

And then he fell asleep with Hyukjae on his arms, arms tight around him in a tight hug.

It took a little longer for Hyukjae to fall asleep, though, as his mind was still full with thoughts despite him feeling sleepy and tired. He thought over everything that had happened in the last few hours, until his mind got stuck on the question Jongwoon had made. Despite the bad things still coming to mind sometimes, he left no space for him to overthink any of the good things that happened – the good memories always overshadowed those, and even though it sometimes hurt to be reminded of the bad things and the situations he had to deal with, he never felt the need to change how things went. It all happened for one reason, anyways, and those reasons were why he was with Jongwoon now. There was no need to regret anything.

He blinked sleepily and sighed tiredly, already feeling sleep start to pull him in. Yeah, looking back at how things went.. he thought to himself, before sleep could claim him completely. There was nothing I would change.. he completed, eyes falling closed.

In the end, he was happy with how things had turned out for him and Jongwoon. Really happy.