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on the art of unplanned serenading

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Not bringing an umbrella to work when there was a ninety percent chance of rain today was probably one of Dokja’s poorer decisions, all things considered, but now he’s stuck here and he’ll make the best of it. “Hi, just wondering,” he says over the phone, easy and timid in the way that usually gets superiors to like him well enough, “is there a chance I could stay in here until the storm calms down?” It’s five minutes from midnight, but he’s always been a dependable worker, so really, he thinks he deserves this.

“It’s raining until six tomorrow morning,” his boss replies. “So unless you want to sleep on a bookshelf, I’d suggest you get a ride.”

“Right,” Dokja says. He pauses. “Thanks. I’ll — I’ll get one.” He always walks home, and there’s no way Han Sooyoung’s going to be willing to pick him up this late when she’s usually bothering Jung Heewon right now, but he has to try.

To: Han Sooyoung
Can you pick me up from work?

From: Han Sooyoung
no

She doesn’t offer any other explanation, which is weird, and her refusal leaves Dokja with very few options. He could text Yoo Sangah, but he doesn’t think they’re quite close enough for that — or he could ask Jung Heewon, but she’s working right now, and Lee Hyunsung is probably asleep because he has his life together, and Lee Gilyoung and Shin Yoosung are actual children, which just leaves —

To: Unknown Number
Are you awake right now?

The answer is worryingly immediate.

From: Unknown Number
What do you want

To: Unknown Number
You probably have a nice car.

From: Unknown Number
Get to the point or I’ll block you

Dokja grins, quickly tapping at his phone before Yoo Joonghyuk can follow through on his threat.

To: Unknown Number
Since we’re friends, can you pick me up from work?

To: Unknown Number
Han Sooyoung’s busy.

To: Unknown Number
I’m counting on you ≧◠◡◠≦

He’s expecting a no — though what he’s going to do after that, he’s not sure — but luckily, Yoo Joonghyuk replies with Fine and nothing more, oddly generous. (Though if Dokja really thinks about it, Yoo Joonghyuk’s generous most of the time. He’s just so mean.) 

Dokja’s planning to spend his last twenty minutes safely in the bookstore. After ten, though, his boss calls him and says he has to get out now or else, so he walks outside and stands in the rain and curses capitalism while he slowly catches a cold. Yoo Joonghyuk’s car probably has those leather seats with warmers inside, Dokja thinks. At the very least, he can bother him for being obnoxiously rich.

Yoo Joonghyuk, unfortunately, arrives on foot, dry and still wearing his damn jacket in the middle of a horrifically humid night. “I had to park a few minutes away,” he says. “It’s busy.”

“There’s a bar nearby,” Dokja explains. He tilts his head, letting his smile widen even as rain drenches his hair. “Interesting look.”

“Shut up,” says Yoo Joonghyuk. Dokja’s eyes flicker from his all-black ensemble up to the pink floral umbrella held stubbornly over his head. “Shut up,” he repeats, looking a fascinating cross between constipated and murderous.

Dokja holds his hands up innocently. “I was just admiring your outfit,” he replies, biting his tongue so he doesn’t laugh as Yoo Joonghyuk’s glare deepens. “It’s brave to wear black day in and day out. Consistency is a good trait, you know.”

Yoo Joonghyuk looks as if he’s about to take the umbrella and jab it into Dokja’s eye. Instead, he gestures at Dokja’s shirt, soaking wet. (He definitely looks pathetic right now, but he always seems to look a little pathetic around Yoo Joonghyuk, so he thinks he can handle it.) “I’m going to walk away,” Yoo Joonghyuk warns, and Dokja hurries under the umbrella’s shelter, wondering if he can get away with stealing his jacket too.

“Thanks,” he says, soft, and that feels a little too sincere on its own, so he adds, “are those frogs? On the umbrella, I mean.”

“I borrowed it,” says Yoo Joonghyuk, wearing an expression of such pure regret and agony Dokja almost feels bad for just a second.

“They’re very cute, Joonghyuk-ah,” lectures Dokja. “There’s no need to be ashamed of liking frivolous things every once in awhile.” Yoo Joonghyuk’s cheeks color a faint red — just enough that if Dokja makes fun of it, it’ll be obvious he’s staring.

“Don’t call me that,” he says.

Dokja frowns. “I thought we were friends.”

“We’re not.”

Yoo Joonghyuk, Dokja thinks, is becoming more predictable by the day. Still, he’s interesting to listen to — like a foreign specimen Dokja’s studying, or something. A freakishly handsome foreign specimen that’s rude for no reason. He’s getting off track. The umbrella is ridiculous.

“Did you borrow it from your sister?” Dokja asks. Yoo Joonghyuk looks at him like he’s some sort of idiot, as if it’s so unreasonable for a nine year old to like pink frog umbrellas.

“No.”

“Then who?”

“Someone else.”

Dokja clicks his tongue against his teeth. “No offense, Joonghyuk-ah — ”

“Don’t — ”

“But you don’t strike me as the type to have a lot of friends,” he finishes easily. Yoo Joonghyuk looks exhausted. Dokja thinks this is the most fun he’s had on a walk in awhile, even as the storm pours against the umbrella so loudly he has to yell. “Is it a gift from a fan? I thought they would all be teenage boys, but I guess I shouldn’t stereotype.” He pauses, considering. “Though maybe teenage boys would give you that too, huh? Or maybe you bought it on your own and you’re just embarrassed — which you shouldn’t be — ”

“We’re here,” Yoo Joonghyuk interrupts. He does have a nice car. For a brief moment, Dokja considers robbing him.

“Aren’t you going to open the door for me?” he asks instead, batting his lashes. Yoo Joonghyuk’s eye twitches violently. “I’m a guest, you know. Mind your manners.” 

In a quick, smooth motion, Yoo Joonghyuk takes a key out of one of the pockets of his stupid trenchcoat and unlocks the car door. “Open it yourself,” he says, “or I’ll leave without you.”

Dokja gets in, but not without grumbling about how unfair this all is. Yoo Joonghyuk steadily ignores him as he starts the car — and of course he’s the kind of cool person who drives with one hand on the road and the other on the windowsill. Of course he looks concentrated and intense when he’s driving in the middle of Seoul on a rainy, busy night, when Dokja would just look frazzled and slightly deranged. Of course.

After six and a half minutes, Yoo Joonghyuk parks just outside Dokja’s apartment complex — and he does that perfectly too, even as he drives past the weird part of the curb where everyone ruins their tires. “Thank you,” Dokja says, overly sweet so Yoo Joonghyuk won’t hold his sincerity against him.

“I’ll walk you up,” says Yoo Joonghyuk suddenly. He looks almost surprised at himself, which would be funny if Dokja weren’t so caught off guard.

“Huh?”

Yoo Joonghyuk stares at him. “Is there something wrong?”

Isn’t that a date thing? Dokja wants to say, but he’s walked Yoo Sangah to her apartment before, just to make sure she’s safe, and he and Han Sooyoung have accompanied each other to their flats more times than he can count. Why, then, does it feel so charged when Yoo Joonghyuk asks?

It has to be the humidity affecting him, he decides. “No,” he chirps. “I just didn’t think you’d be so nice.”

If Yoo Joonghyuk were the eye-rolling type, Dokja thinks he would right now. Instead he just strides into the building, holding the umbrella over his head so Dokja has to speedwalk beside him to keep dry. Once they reach his apartment, Dokja rocks back and forth on his heels before remembering that’s embarrassing and stopping.

“Um,” he says, awkwardly. “Thank you. Really.” The hallway light illuminates Yoo Joonghyuk’s features in a way that makes them seem even sharper, bright and intelligent and all too close.

“No problem,” he replies, his eyes dark and clear. Unbidden, Dokja’s mind hisses that if this were a date, now is when he’d kiss him goodnight. He really needs to stop thinking.

“I’ll, uh.” Dokja takes a step back. “I’ll see you around. Drive safe.”

Yoo Joonghyuk’s expression is indecipherable. “I will,” he says, and then he turns around and leaves.

If Dokja lies awake for another four hours staring at his ceiling and wondering what the hell any of this means — that’s not anyone’s concern, anyway.

+

It has to be normal to occasionally wonder about kissing your friend, Dokja thinks. Back in college, he had a nightmare he kissed Han Sooyoung at a party and when he told her about it, she laughed so hard she began hiccuping. This is basically the same thing, but without the existential dread and during his waking hours and significantly less funny for both parties involved. It’s normal. He’s normal.

Han Sooyoung takes one look at him when she arrives at his apartment and says, “I don’t have time for whatever bullshit you’re about to say.”

Dokja frowns. “How do you know it’s bullshit?”

“Everything you say is bullshit,” Han Sooyoung explains. She lies down on the couch and kicks her legs over the armrest. “I met with Yoo Sangah yesterday.”

“Congratulations.”

“Shut up.” Han Sooyoung throws a hand across her forehead. “I think it might’ve been a date. We got dinner and drinks and I walked her home.” Dokja’s a horrible friend, because all he can think about right now is Yoo Joonghyuk walking him home after what was most certainly not a date. “But I don’t — and I don’t even — and she’s — and — like — ”

“You should probably talk to her about it.”

“Ugh,” Han Sooyoung groans. “But if it wasn’t a date it’s gonna be so humiliating for me.”

“If it wasn’t a date, you can just make plans for one next time, and if she says no, just go back to annoying her like before.” Dokja feels like he’s giving advice to a child. “She’s not mean; she won’t stop talking to you just because she doesn't feel the same.”

Han Sooyoung scowls at him. “I’ll think about it.” Her gaze turns shrewd like it always does when she’s trying not to talk about herself. “Hey, what bullshit were you about to say?”

“Oh, just,” he shrugs unconvincingly, “stuff. Do you want breakfast?”

“Was it about Yoo Joonghyuk?” Her smile is sharklike. Dokja sometimes wonders whether she’s secretly some sort of demon masquerading as a person. “Did you go on a date?”

“You’re not funny.”

“Come on, I admitted my embarrassing crush — ”

“It’s not a crush,” Dokja interrupts, because it’s not. He’d have to be insane and have horrible taste to like Yoo Joonghyuk of all people. If anything, he thinks his brain is getting muddled because Yoo Joonghyuk’s both handsome and painfully flawed in a way that makes him less untouchable than Yoo Sangah or something. This line of thought can only lead to disastrous consequences, so he clears his throat. “Seriously, do you want breakfast or do you want to get out?”

Han Sooyoung stands up and stretches, yawning obnoxiously. “I don’t want your ugly soggy cereal, but I’m hungry.” Dokja opens his mouth, and she rolls her eyes. “Don’t say it’s not ugly; it is.”

“I wasn’t going to,” he lies. “Yoo Joonghyuk gave me a bunch of pancakes to heat up whenever; he said he didn’t want me feeding the kids shit.” Han Sooyoung looks absolutely delighted at this turn of events, which is always a bad sign.

“He’s cooking you meals ?”

“He has a lot of extra batter,” he mutters. Now that he’s saying it out loud, it does sound kind of like a weak excuse, but there’s no way Yoo Joonghyuk’s going out of his way to make Dokja breakfast for a week, so it has to be true. “Do you want the food or not?”

“Obviously.”

“Then shut up.”

She heads over to the kitchen and opens the fridge before he can. “Oh, shit, he can actually cook?”

“He can do everything,” Dokja says — not in an I-have-a-crush-on-him way, but in a permanently exhausted at the unending abilities of that freak of nature way. Judging from Han Sooyoung’s expression, it comes off as the former, so he continues, “Hey, you know he can cook; he made us lunch a couple weeks ago.”

She shrugs. “I thought it was like, the one gimmick. Like he makes really good fried chicken but he’s shit at everything else. Man, he sucks.”

“He does.”

“These pancakes are good, though,” she says through a muffled bite. Dokja snatches the plate from her.

“At least warm them up, you animal,” he snaps. Han Sooyoung makes a face at him. While they’re waiting for the pancakes to warm up (in the microwave even though Yoo Joonghyuk made him promise to use a stove), Dokja pulls out his phone.

To: Unknown Number
Did you get home okay last night?

To: Unknown Number
Because of the rain, I mean.

He doesn’t know why he’s doing this. If Yoo Joonghyuk were involved in some sort of disastrous car crash, he thinks he’d know by now. Still, he glances down at the screen as he waits for an answer.

From: Unknown Number
Yes

To: Unknown Number
I’m glad.

That feels too — vulnerable, almost, so he quickly adds: 

To: Unknown Number
Since you’ll be my chauffeur from now on, it’s important that your car stays in shape.

From: Unknown Number
I’ll kill you

To: Unknown Number
Come on, Joonghyuk-ah. Help a friend out.

From: Unknown Number
Be quiet

Yeah, he thinks, smiling as he pockets his phone. He definitely doesn’t have a crush on that idiot.