Sunghoon had devised a plan. It was a simple plan really; he and his best friend would apply to all the same schools, register to be roommates, and live together in comfort for the duration of their college years. He wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of meeting new people and figuring out the hard way who was genuine and who was not. As long as he had Jay by his side, everything would go swimmingly.
Except that his plan fell apart as early as step one. He and Jay ended up getting accepted to different schools, miles apart. So that made the whole roommates thing a bit impractical. It also meant that Sunghoon would be horribly, terrifyingly alone.
“My friend is going to the same university as you,” Sunghoon said sullenly. “He needs a roommate too. You could live with Sunoo.”
“What,” Jay said flatly, “is a Sunoo.”
Sunghoon’s mind was swirling with a million questions of his own— Who was he going to live with? How was he going to fill the void left by Jay and his stupid, comforting presence?
In the midst of his disoriented jumble of thoughts, he answered distractedly, “Hell if I know.” Jay looked at him strangely, but didn’t question him any further.
Sunghoon was not about to start foraging around on college facebook groups and roommate syncing websites only to be paired with a year long living partner solely based off of their similar tastes in music. No, he would do it the old fashioned way and go random. If the universe wanted to do him a solid and hand him someone who was nice and easy to get along with, then amazing. If the universe wanted to pull one over on him and give him another fool like Jay, god forbid maybe with a few more screws loose, then he would just have to manage with that too.
So that was what Sunghoon did. And between doing him a solid and completely screwing him over, the universe decided to fall somewhere in the middle.
The first thing Sunghoon noticed about his roommate was that he was cute. Almost unbearably so, in the ‘I want to squish your cheeks and empty my wallet for you if you bat those eyes at me’ sort of way. He almost wondered how someone like that could be real and not a doll, and he told himself that he would probably have to avoid prolonged eye contact if he didn’t want to be caught staring.
The next thing he noticed was that Jungwon was quite shy, and very earnest. He nodded at Sunghoon and rattled off a formal introduction, concise and exceedingly polite. And then he disappeared into his bedroom, leaving Sunghoon to sit alone in the kitchen picking at his ramen, wondering if it would be a blessing or a curse if they barely spoke to each other ever.
The third and final thing Sunghoon noticed about Yang Jungwon, after about a week into living together, was that the boy was only seemingly reserved at first. Once he came out of his shell, which took about forty-eight hours give or take, he revealed himself to be completely insane. Absolutely nutty. Positively deranged.
Sunghoon came to this conclusion when he walked into the kitchen, to the clamor of pots tipping over and measuring cups being set down with too much force. He surveyed the wreckage strewn across the counter.
“Are you making something?” he asked tentatively. Jungwon snapped his head up and grinned when he saw Sunghoon standing there.
“Yes!” he replied cheerfully. “I’m making lemon cake. Except I don’t have lemons,” he explained with a frown. “So I’m using kumquats.” He hefted up a large plastic bag filled to the brim with the tiny citrus fruits. “What do you think is a good kumquat to lemon substitution ratio?” he asked thoughtfully. “Ten to one?”
“You don’t have lemons,” Sunghoon reiterated slowly. “But you have kumquats?”
“My mother grows them in our garden,” Jungwon said. “So she dropped some off.”
“And are you… juicing or zesting these kumquats?” Sunghoon eyed the dime sized fruit skeptically, dubious of the practicality of this improvised recipe.
“Uh, both?” Jungwon said, sounding unsure himself. “Do you wanna help?”
Sunghoon did not want to help. The last thing he wanted to be spending his day doing was grating a million tiny kumquats, and probably shredding the tips of his fingers in the process. As he opened his mouth to tell his roommate this, Jungwon smiled at him with a hopeful grin, batting his eyes.
That was how Sunghoon ended up with exactly ten bandages wrapped around each fingertip, one for each reason he was an absolute weak wreck of a man. He wished he could say that the fruit of their labor compensated for all the pain and grief.
It didn’t. The cake tasted like shit. Sunghoon had never baked in his life, and kumquats were not a good substitution for lemons, ever. There was also the fact that Jungwon had mixed up the sugar with the salt.
But he had finally spent time with his roommate, so there was that. And yeah, maybe Jungwon was basically another Jay with a few more screws loose— but he was also nice and easy to get along with.
Maybe, Sunghoon thought, he would survive the year after all.
A strange phenomenon was occurring. Sunghoon was usually the type to prefer being out and about, dashing between classes and lingering in the coffee shops scattered around campus on his down time. There was nothing he despised more than laying around at home, being idle.
But lately, there was nothing he looked forward to more than coming back to his apartment after a long day of mixing this acid with that base, and tearing apart a poem line by line to inspect it under the magnifying glass of a pretentious professor. Maybe he was just getting old. After all, classes were only getting harder and harder and the stress was piling on. It would make sense that he would become less active and transform into more of a homebody.
That explanation would excuse his recent shift in behavior nicely- if the first thing he looked for upon setting foot in the door wasn’t a certain round faced boy.
Although people often got the wrong impression of him at first, Sunghoon was, to put it simply, clingy.
Once he befriended people, as in really befriended them and grew attached to them as a person, he may as well be a stupid sap in love. Which was why, for a time, he had even fancied himself in love with Jay. That notion was ridiculous to him now of course, but that nightmare had taught him a very important lesson about distinguishing actual romantic infatuation from what he now liked to refer to as a “friend crush.”
It occurred to him one day, as he was browsing the selection of fruit at the grocery store, that he was developing a very large friend crush on his roommate. This realization hit him when his eyes fell on the mountain of lemons stacked neatly on one of the tables in a golden pyramid. Lemon cake, he thought, and bagged about ten lemons and put them in his basket.
He told himself he wasn’t buying them for Jungwon’s sake, but for the sake of his poor fingers that had spent an hour zesting kumquats against a very dull grater. He wasn’t buying them to see Jungwon smile, but for his own satisfaction of eating a cake that didn’t taste like it had been flavored with expired orange juice.
Those were the things he began to tell himself, before he decided to just cut the shit. He had a friend crush on Jungwon. A very big one maybe. And maybe not a very friend one.
Sunghoon arrived home, bag of lemons in hand, to a sound that very articulately described his current state of mind.
Sunghoon was surprised that all the glasses on their shelves didn’t immediately shatter. It was a high pitched shriek, loud and piercing, and he wondered for a brief, illogical moment if his roommate was secretly a banshee. He carefully set the fruit down on the kitchen counter and crept towards the balcony, half expecting to stumble upon a murder scene.
When he got there, he confirmed that the noise was in fact coming from Jungwon. The boy had his head flung back and his eyes squeezed shut, and from his lips tore a deafening scream, the pitch of which Sunghoon was rather impressed by.
“Jungwon?” he said carefully. The boy whipped around, his lips parted in surprise, before relaxing at the sight of Sunghoon there.
“Oh hello,” he said mildly, as if he hadn’t just been waking up half the city.
“As cathartic as whatever you were just doing might be, don’t you think we should try to avoid a noise complaint?” Sunghoon said, stepping closer to stand beside him.
“They started it,” Jungwon replied with a pout. Sunghoon raised an eyebrow.
“They?” As if on cue, a keening howl struck the air. “Ah,” Sunghoon said. “And you thought you’d just annoy the coyotes into silence?”
Jungwon grinned. “It’s fun,” he insisted. “Look.” He leaned out over the railing and started to howl back in a similar fashion. While his impression was almost spot on, Sunghoon didn’t think their neighbors would appreciate his talents. Sunghoon hissed, and rushed forward to clap a hand over Jungwon’s mouth. The boy turned to him with wide eyes.
“ Hush ,” Sunghoon whispered fiercely. “Are you insane?”
“Mghh,” came Jungwon’s muffled reply. Sunghoon hastily removed his hand, embarrassed at his direct action. “They’re not coyotes, they’re werewolves,” Jungwon said solemnly. Sunghoon stared at him blankly, wondering if he had lost his mind, or if Jungwon had, or both.
“Werewolves,” he said slowly. Jungwon giggled and pointed at the sky.
“Look,” he said, and Sunghoon looked up to see the full moon hanging there in all of its glory. “We’re talking to the moon.”
“Are you now?” he said dryly.
“You can tell the moon all your secrets, and it’ll keep them for you. Go on,” Jungwon urged. Sunghoon looked at him skeptically.
“But you’re here too,” he pointed out. Jungwon grinned and pressed a finger to his lips in a swear of confidentiality.
“I won’t tell either,” he whispered dramatically. Sunghoon internally groaned. If Jungwon kept up this little act of being too adorable for his own good, he didn’t know how he would survive the coming months. Sunghoon turned to the moon, feeling like an idiot but wanting to focus on something other than precious dimples and sweet doe eyes.
"A secret?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes," Jungwon confirmed. "Anything." Sunghoon took a deep breath.
“I used to be in love with my best friend,” he announced to the sky. Jungwon glanced over at him in surprise. “I got over that pretty quickly, thank god, but that codependency we developed never really went away. And when we had to go our separate ways, I was terrified and thought I’d never get close to another person again.”
The moon stayed silent, a wide watchful eye that glowed down at him without blinking, without judgment. It was quite a good listener, Sunghoon decided. Maybe Jungwon, for all of his insane whims, was onto something.
“Do you still think that?” Jungwon asked softly. He paused. “Do you… still love him?” Sunghoon snorted.
“God no,” Sunghoon said. “When I said I used to be in love with him, I meant like way back in middle school. You know, that dark era when you could fall in love with anyone who was decent looking and didn’t reek of axe cologne, and smiled whenever they looked at you.”
“Are you sure you’re over him?” Jungwon asked amusedly, and Sunghoon shuddered at the thought of dating Jay.
“Positive,” he said firmly.
“Well I hope your criteria has grown more selective nowadays,” Jungwon giggled. Sunghoon opened his mouth to say something witty, but lost his train of thought when Jungwon turned his head to smile right at him, his beaming eyes turning up at the corners and illuminating his whole face. Round and bright. Like a full moon.
“I…” he trailed off stupidly. He tended to do that whenever Jungwon smiled at him, so he couldn’t say with candor that his criteria had developed much over the years. Factoring in the fact that Jungwon was more than decent looking and didn’t have even a whiff of axe cologne about him, Sunghoon was positively screwed. “It’s your turn,” he said quickly. If Jungwon thought anything of his sudden change of subject, he didn’t comment.
Jungwon cupped his hands over his mouth, which was enough warning for Sunghoon to brace his ears.
“I hate physics!!” the boy screamed. “And my English professor smells like garlic!”
“Garlic?” Sunghoon asked, baffled. Jungwon nodded solemnly.
“I’m pretty positive she’s a vampire,” he told him with a straight face. Sunghoon wrinkled his nose.
“But aren’t vampires allergic to garlic or something? Wouldn’t she avoid it?”
“Yes,” Jungwon said, “But with the grades she gives out I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been attempts on her life.” Sunghoon couldn't stop the confused laugh that bubbled up in his chest.
When Sunghoon had signed up for a random roommate, the last thing he expected to be doing was shrieking at the moon. But Jungwon turned the howls of coyotes into werewolves, and the funky smell of a harsh instructor into a vampire conspiracy. He turned lemons into kumquats, and he was slowly but surely turning what had seemed from the get go to be a doomed year into a magical one.
Sunghoon was beginning to notice a change in himself. Living with Jungwon was turning him into a more patient and understanding person, he thought.
It was not an uncommon occurrence for Jungwon to leave mugs lying around the apartment, which would normally drive him up the walls.
Jungwon also took so long in the shower that Sunghoon sometimes wondered if he had drowned in there. But whereas he would normally bang on the door and yell at the person to come out, he now merely waited patiently for Jungwon to finish before taking his turn in the bathroom.
And the worst offense of all: Sunghoon’s side of the fridge, which he had very clearly portioned off at the start of the year, was becoming increasingly familiar with Jungwon’s searching, hungry hands.
“Did you finish my leftovers?” Sunghoon would ask blankly, staring into the vast, empty white space where his container had once stood.
“You mean the pasta? I thought it was mine, sorry,” Jungwon said, a genuinely apologetic expression on his face.
Whenever they ordered takeout, Sunghoon and Jungwon would almost always order the same thing, having surprisingly similar tastes. So it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for Jungwon to mistake Sunghoon’s container for his.
And if he had to overlook the fact that Jungwon had finished all of his portion the day before, so he didn’t even have any leftovers to mix up with Sunghoon's, then that was just something he would have to overlook.
“I’ll make it up to you. Let’s order something tonight,” Jungwon chirped. “My treat. Or,” his face brightened, “I can cook for you!”
“Your treat,” Sunghoon replied quickly, trying to avoid another disastrous ‘Chef Wonie’ product.
All in all, Sunghoon thought that he was handling himself remarkably well when confronted with a roommate who embodied all of his pet peeves, ever. He even allowed himself a pat on the back for his newfound patience.
That was until Jay and Ni-ki came over to visit. Within minutes, Sunghoon was screaming at Jay for burning something in the microwave and sternly shoving Ni-ki’s feet off from where they had been propped up on the coffee table.
So no, maybe Sunghoon hadn’t become a saint in the span of a few months. Maybe he had just become completely and utterly wrapped around the pinky finger of an adorable boy who could get away with anything without any repercussions.
“Will you calm down?” Jay whined, fanning the air with a towel to disperse the smoke. “You said your roommate makes a mess in the kitchen all the time, and you never seem to get mad at him!”
“That’s because Hoonie has a CRUSH!!!” Ni-ki called from the living room.
“Be quiet you,” Sunghoon yelled back. He glared at Jay. “And like you’re one to talk. Have you ever yelled at Sunoo over anything?”
Jay looked indignant. “There’s nothing to yell at him for, he’s an angel.”
“True,” Sunghoon agreed. “And you’re a demon.” He slammed the microwave door shut before spinning around and storming out. “Stay out of my kitchen,” he called over his shoulder. “Only Jungwon is allowed to wreak havoc in there.”
Okay, so maybe Sunghoon hadn’t made any progress on his temper. But one thing was becoming frighteningly clear.
Somewhere between piling various mismatching ingredients together in a bowl and eating the garbage that came out of the oven anyway, to spending late nights on the balcony confessing their small worries and their larger anxieties under the lamplight of the moon, to looking over at a boy and realizing that no other person in the world could make him smile in the way that he did— somewhere in between all those ridiculous antics and scattered moments, Sunghoon had fallen hopelessly for his roommate.
Sunghoon was in a rotten mood. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy for Jay- he really was. He should have known when he paired them up that Sunoo would be the one to finally reduce Jay’s impervious demeanor into a bumbling pile of mush. He was even happier that Jay had finally come to his senses and decided to confess, no matter how dubious his methods were. Slam poetry. That was a new one.
His two best friends were actually going to get together. Sunghoon never thought he’d see the day. He also never thought he’d see the day that he would long so achingly for the same thing himself. He had never been one to focus much on romance or dating, aside from the occasional minor crush. So what had changed?
He kept asking himself that same question over and over again, and pretended as though he didn’t already know the answer. None of those silly infatuations of the past had been like this, not even his misinterpreted feelings for Jay.
None of them had left him with that deep ache in his chest at the sight of a simple smile; none of them had compelled him to go out of his way to do things he would never normally do, yet found himself enjoying nonetheless; none of them had him curbing his temper even when that person finished off the leftovers in the fridge that he had been looking forward to all day (Because how could he get mad at those dimples? He hadn’t been that hungry anyway); none of them made abominable pastries or shared whispers with the moon, and perhaps the most telling thing of all, was that none of them were Yang Jungwon.
Sunghoon wanted to scream. So that was exactly what he did.
That was how Jungwon found him, head thrown back and airing out all his pent up frustrations at the sky.
“Who are you in love with?” came his roommate’s amused voice. Sunghoon spun around in horror.
“What?” he asked, panicked.
“You said you’re in love with someone and you don’t know what to do about it. So who is it?”
Sunghoon didn’t recall having said any such thing out loud, even in the middle of his therapeutic yelling session. Then again, his brain to mouth filter wasn’t too reliable these days.
“I was talking to the moon,” he replied with a put on scowl. “Not you.”
“I see you’ve stolen my trusted confidante,” Jungwon giggled. Every time he did that, Sunghoon felt as though someone was ringing a little bell in his chest. “You don’t have to answer me, anyway,” Jungwon continued, his expression turning serious so suddenly that Sunghoon got whiplash. “You didn’t actually say anything. Just a bunch of unintelligible screaming.”
Sunghoon frowned, confused. “What?”
Jungwon shrugged. “You’re safe. I have no idea what your secret is,” he said. He met Sunghoon’s baffled expression with one of resolve. “I was just telling you what I’m hoping it is.”
Sunghoon was not a daring person. Some- namely Jay- might even label him as a coward. But at Jungwon’s words, Sunghoon dared to hope.
“Why—” he broke off to wet his lips, his mouth feeling impossibly dry. “Why would you hope that I’m in love with someone?”
Jungwon’s answer came easily, as all of his answers did. Everything with Jungwon was so easy. Being with him, talking with him, laughing with him. Loving him was the easiest thing of all, but Sunghoon had never imagined that Jungwon loving him back would be easy as well.
“Because I’m hoping that person would be me.”
His face was open and honest, unflinching and unashamed, as if he were merely commenting on the weather. In contrast, Sunghoon’s heart was doing something strange in his chest, and he struggled to find his words.
“It is,” he finally managed. “Of course it is.” In his own ears, his voice resonated as nothing more than a strangled whisper, but Jungwon seemed to hear him fine all the same.
A wide and pleased grin spread across his face. Sunghoon was unsurprised to see that Jungwon was not surprised. Those who didn’t know Sunghoon thought he was stoic and hard to read. Those who knew him, knew that the walls he put up around himself were transparent and made of glass, easily shattered. Jungwon knew him, Sunghoon realized. Jungwon knew him, and he--
“I like you too,” Jungwon said simply.
Easy. It was all so easy. At the start of the year, Sunghoon had been anxious about having to begin new friendships, build bonds from the ground up. But not everything had to be difficult, he was learning.
It was not difficult at all to take Jungwon’s hand in his, wrapping his slender fingers around the boy’s petite ones. It was not difficult to reach up with his other hand and poke his cheek, that deepest dimple appearing as Jungwon smiled at the gesture.
It was especially not difficult when Jungwon leaned in first, a feather of a kiss brushing against the corner of Sunghoon’s mouth. They both pulled back, blushing.
“Now what?” Sunghoon murmured, looking at Jungwon in a daze. The boy giggled.
“Let’s eat dinner, I’m starving,” Jungwon said. “I still have some leftovers in the fridge.”
“Yours or mine?” Sunghoon teased. Jungwon pouted.
“It’s the fried rice I made yesterday,” he protested.
Sunghoon paused. “Hm.” Jungwon took one look at his apprehensive expression and burst out laughing.
“Take out?” he asked knowingly.
“Take out,” Sunghoon agreed.
Jungwon beamed and squeezed his hand. Sunghoon jolted— he had forgotten that he still hadn’t let go. But it was Jungwon’s next words that truly sent an electric current throughout his body, and left his mind spinning.
“It’s a date.”
Maybe luck had been on Sunghoon’s side this year after all.
Under the open sky, he held the brightest light of all to his chest. And he whispered,