The first time Cha Eun Ho sees Ji Seo Jun, not that he knows who the man truly is, he experiences a flash of curiosity and amusement, mostly brought on by the way that Jae Min- hyung , is trying to convince the man to buy one of Gyeoroo's books. He lets out a soft sigh of exasperation and fondness (even if his first experience with Jae Min- hyung had been colored by his own fear and hesitancy, now he's grateful that the man had pushed him as he had), before cupping his hands around his mouth to go save the poor stranger from his over-eager boss.
He gives Ji Seo Jun a shallow bow of his head, mentally apologizing for his boss's antics before. And then he forgets about the man, though not before a considering once-over and a vague mental note that he was very handsome and that if Eun Ho wasn't preoccupied with trying to gently let down Hae Rin and take care of Byeong Jun- seonsaengnim he might have tried to flirt a little bit.
(His heart pangs with a reminder that he's being unfaithful to Dan Yi- noona but he ignores it. He's learned that he won't - can't keep himself tied to an idea that might never happen. Before Byeong Jun- seonsaengnim started to lose his sense of himself, they'd had more than one memorable argument about his crush - infatuation - with Dan Yi- noona . Byeong Jun- seonsaengnim's one personal request from Eun Ho was for him to live for himself and to not live in the 'what ifs.' And he tries his best now. For the man who helped make him who he is.)
Eun Ho is suitably surprised when Jae Min- hyung and he go to meet famed book designer Ji Seo Jun and he sees the side profile of the man that Jae Min- hyung was accosting in the bookstore. He thinks to himself that this might be a very amusing conversation - at least for him - as he makes a bet with Jae Min- hyung who has not yet noticed that he's about to regret his decision from the other day. He greets Seo Jun-ssi with a smile and then watches as Jae Min- hyung trips over himself in trying to extract the foot he'd put in his mouth.
The conversation does not go well.
Eun Ho's heart is thudding loudly in his ears, fear and anger and heartbreak thrumming through his blood. Jae Min- hyung rests a tentative hand on his shoulder and Eun Ho resists the urge to shrug it off.
Letting out a shaky breath, Eun Ho tells Jae Min- hyung that he's taking the rest of the day off, too keyed up to do any actual work at the office and not end up yelling at anyone. He lets Jae Min- hyung drag him to get drinks and lets the familiar noise wash over him as he tries to calm himself down.
He goes home.
He moves forward. Dan Yi- noona asks him about Hae Rin and he entertains, for a brief moment that she might be jealous and then rids himself of the thought. He can't give himself false hope or push his noona into something that she has never considered.
And then he finds out that Ji Seo Jun and Dan Yi- noona are acquainted and he's too full of emotions to think straight. He ignores the assessing looks Ji Seo Jun gives him, eyes too shrewd and calculating.
He barely manages to get through the dinner, angry at all the ways that Dan Yi- noona is dismissing their relationship and how she seems to have formed a close relationship with Ji Seo Jun, and when they go home he bids Dan Yi- noona goodnight and immediately goes to collapse on his bed and scream into his pillow.
Biting the pillow and breathing heavily, Eun Ho tries to consider what had happened with a more clear mind. Ji Seo Jun hadn't explicitly indicated that he was pursuing Dan Yi- noona romantically... but the implication was there. He wants to be happy for Dan Yi- noona , but he can't. He doesn't like Ji Seo Jun. Doesn't like the turmoil that the man might bring to his life. Turmoil that he is already facing with Dan Yi- noona living with him.
But he has no right to dictate who Dan Yi- noona hangs out with, or dates. Jealousy curls in his stomach and he exhales shakily.
His mouth is bitter with the words he'd spat during their argument and Eun Ho resolves himself to apologize later. He's so used to being the only (good) man in Dan Yi- noona's life that he doesn't know how to react to someone new.
(Someone who might not be the piece of trash that Hong Dong Min was.)
Ji Seo Jun finds himself delighted to see that Kang Dan Yi's little brother is none other than Cha Eun Ho, the man that has simultaneously captivated his attention and enraged him. The first time he'd caught sight of the man in person, face already familiar to him from his research into his father, he'd almost forgotten to breathe for a brief second.
The man's features were so much more pretty in person than they were on a screen or paper. His smile and calm demeanor were appealing and something that Seo Jun often considered very attractive when pursuing people. Not to mention the fact that the man looked like he might blush very, very prettily.
And then he'd remembered that this was the man who was covering up his father's... something .
He somehow manages to push down all the thoughts of attraction and curiosity for their next meeting, determined to learn something about his father. He succeeds, in two parts - learning that Cha Eun Ho does most definitely know something and that he was also correct in his observation that Cha Eun Ho blushes very prettily.
(The fact that it was a blush of anger rather than attraction is one that Seo Jun can live with, for now at least.)
Cha Eun Ho's face is screwed up more expressively than it had been either time that Seo Jun had met him before as he sits across from Seo Jun. A smile plays at his lips and when Cha Eun Ho's mouth twists even more, Seo Jun suppresses the urge to laugh. He has a feeling that Cha Eun Ho won't take it well.
Their conversation is rocky, Cha Eun Ho is clearly on the edge of blatant hostility and Kang Dan Yi is confused. Seo Jun is not helping, implying that he's trying to pursue Kang Dan Yi (when he could not be more gay) and watching Cha Eun Ho's reactions with glee.
He has a feeling that Kang Dan Yi is more observant than she seems, though, when he catches her looking between Cha Eun Ho and himself with a furrowed brow.
They finish dinner and Seo Jun watches Cha Eun Ho shuffle angrily, glaring at Seo Jun as they wait for Kang Dan Yi. A smirk plays at his lips and he finds himself wanting to pursue Cha Eun Ho. To see the different sides of this man that he had thought was cool, calm, and collected. Even if this man had something to do with his father's disappearance.
(He hopes that the truth comes out before he has to make a decision.)
Cha Eun Ho blinks when he catches sight of Ji Seo Jun in the doorway of the restaurant and resists the urge to curse. The illustrator is like a bad penny, he decides, always turning up when he's least expected and not wanted. He resigns himself to working with the illustrator in the future, even as he says otherwise. Author Yoo gets what she wants from them, no matter what they might prefer.
Byeong Jun- seonsaengnim is hurt and it's all Eun Ho can do to not shake apart as he drives to Gapyeong.
Instead, he shakes apart at Byeong Jun- seonsaengnim’s bedside while staring down at his mentor, tears dripping onto his pants.
Ji Seo Jun blinks, absorbed in Author Yoo's book, when he finally processes Kang Dan Yi asking if he knew any police so she could file a police report.
"Wait, what?" He blinks away the tears that were starting to gather in his eyes.
She looks at him, mouth downturned in a deep frown and it comes out in a rush.
He feels his own worry start to build and he admonishes himself a little at the irrational worry that he feels for someone he's only really had an antagonistic relationship with. No matter how much he feels like they could be more.
(No matter how much he wants them to be more. Or rather his dick and a small part of his brain wants them to be more. For now, at least.)
He watches Kang Dan Yi enter the house she shares with Cha Eun Ho (ignoring the sharp flare of jealousy) and leaves, mind whirling with worry and increasingly ridiculous guesses as to where Cha Eun Ho has disappeared off too.
(He wonders if it has to do with his father.)
Seo Jun places a cup of coffee on Kang Dan Yi's desk and smiles at her coworkers, inwardly smirking at what Cha Eun Ho's expression will probably look like when he hears about this. He has a cup of tea for the man himself though, the fact that he'd drunk it at their first formal meeting seared into his brain.
He walks into the meeting room and silently slides it over to Cha Eun Ho who looks at him with an expression of suspicion before nodding his head in thanks and taking a sip. Seo Jun enjoys the look of surprise and pleasure that spreads over Cha Eun Ho's face and he basks in the warmth that spreads through him.
Then Song Hae Rin has all the wrong ideas and he can't stop himself from getting more and more aggravated with all of her... everything .
A quick glance at Cha Eun Ho when he tries to interject has him simultaneously bristling and wanting to cause that expression himself when he sees the look of barely-concealed amusement and pressed plush lips suppressing laughter.
Song Hae Rin storms out and turns to Cha Eun Ho and thoroughly throws him under the bus to Cha Eun Ho. Lip curling, Seo Jun turns to Cha Eun Ho and asks if there's another editor he can work with. Mentally he adds, 'Preferably, you .'
Cha Eun Ho covers his mouth to stop his laugh when he finds Hae Rin and Ji Seo Jun asleep at the cafe. He silently pulls out his phone and takes a picture, eager to tease Hae Rin at some later point when she won't whine too much.
Ji Seo Jun watches Song Hae Rin's parents go after Cha Eun Ho and he tries to keep his frown from growing. He hadn't expected Cha Eun Ho to be so... popular. Well, he had, but after the blatant once-over he'd been given at that bookstore he'd thought that Cha Eun Ho wouldn't entertain such advances.
He invites Song Hae Rin (and Kang Dan Yi) for a drink in hope of getting a better idea of just what is going on between her and Cha Eun Ho.
(He doesn't even try to pursue someone who has the slightest chance of being straight. Not after the disaster he faced in university.)
They settle down at the bar (Kang Dan Yi had bowed out for reasons Seo Jun isn't sure he wants to know as of yet) and Seo Jun watches in shock as Song Hae Rin downs drink after drink.
Slowly, as the night drags on, he teases it out from Song Hae Rin. He deduces that she had a crush on Cha Eun Ho but was recently rejected, gently, and that she's still trying to get over him. He watches her down another drink and tries to think. Does her rejection mean that Cha Eun Ho didn't like her or didn't like women?
The night drags on and Seo Jun is left staring down at a thoroughly drunk and passed out Song Hae Rin.
Well, at least it gives him a valid excuse.
Cha Eun Ho shows up and gives him a dirty look that he feels like he doesn't deserve when he tells the taller man that Song Hae Rin made cucumber soju. They end up back at his apartment for some reason that Seo Jun is far too drunk to comprehend.
But they do end up on the floor together and at this point Seo Jun might be getting desperate enough, both about his own father and romantically, to take what he can get.
When they wake up, entangled, rearing away from each other in surprise (Seo Jun misses Cha Eun Ho's warmth already), Seo Jun bites his lip in thought as he watches Cha Eun Ho's ears, then face go red, mouth opening to stammer something out. They're interrupted by Song Hae Rin who, in Seo Jun's humble opinion, looks awful .
Cha Eun Ho feels like his face is still red when he walks into work later. He presses his hands to his cheeks and tries to will his blush away. It had been so long since he'd been pressed against a man's body, let alone any body, and he's flustered because after that disastrous second meeting, Eun Ho had tried his best to push any thought of Ji Seo Jun as a romantic partner out of his mind. Especially when the man had implied that he liked Dan Yi- noona . Not that anything seemed to be happening there (And Eun Ho had asked, repeatedly. And obnoxiously. Dan Yi- noona had flicked his forehead enough so that it should probably have a permanent red mark.)
But then Director Ko tells him to fire Dan Yi- noona and all thoughts of Ji Seo Jun are gone from his mind.
They go for dinner and Eun Ho is eager to try and figure out what he can do to save the woman who saved him. Then she tells him that Ji Seo Jun’s birthday is April 23rd and Eun Ho’s mind whirls, trying to piece things together.
They tell him to prepare for the worst.
(He doesn’t want to.)
Later, he walks to his lecture with a growing sense of dread. He’s always known when Dan Yi- noona has pretended to be stronger than she can be and she’s always made bad decisions when she doesn’t want to lean on anyone else. His bad feeling comes true when Hae Rin sends him a text in the middle of his lecture and he curses silently to himself.
Cha Eun Ho spends the day with Dan Yi- noona and it feels good. Feels like the period of time when they were friends and Eun Ho’s crush hadn’t exploded into the full-blown infatuation it once was. They hang out, read together, and eat lunch and dinner.
(He mourns what could have been. But he respects Dan Yi- noona’s decisions. And he’s not the same person who had a crush on her anymore.)
Dan Yi- noona knows. She doesn’t hate him.
He’s so, so grateful she’s his friend. That he didn’t ruin one of the best relationships in his life.
Hae Rin hands him the manuscript and Eun Ho stares at it with discomfort and uncertainty.
He emails the author, suspicion growing slowly.
He opens the door to Hae Rin, words tumbling out of her mouth quickly.
Eun Ho listens to Hae Rin and Dan Yi- noona’s input and bites the inside of his cheek.
Later that night, he swallows and dials a number he shouldn’t have memorized.
The truth comes out in bits and pieces and a bag of journals.
Ji Seo Jun’s hands shake as he pours over them.
He falls asleep at the table, tears drying on his cheeks.
The sharp ring of his phone wakes him and when he sees ‘Cha Eun Ho’ on the caller ID, an indescribable emotion comes over him. It quickly morphs to fear when Cha Eun Ho’s panicked voice explains.
He’s missed his chance.
He stands next to Cha Eun Ho at the hill and feels his inexperience when he looks at Cha Eun Ho’s broad, steady shoulders.
They meet again later, after the funeral.
At the same bar that they had once poured sikhye for each other, they pour each other shots of soju.
Seo Jun watches Cha Eun Ho’s ears grow more and more red as he drinks and feels a smile play on his lips.
They’ve grown more familiar with each other, Cha Eun Ho warming up to Seo Jun after the revelation and Seo Jun more comfortable with Cha Eun Ho now that he knows the truth. He pesters Cha Eun Ho to share memories of his father over drinks and it’s quickly grown into a weekly (not date, not yet ) meeting.
Seo Jun has watched Cha Eun Ho give him lingering looks with dark eyes and he wonders if he can make a move now, finally . The older man was considerably more shy than Seo Jun had expected from someone who had achieved so much fame so young and acted as such at work. But Seo Jun was quickly realizing that Cha Eun Ho was a completely different person outside of work, especially now that the burden he was carrying for Seo Jun’s father was gone.
“Eun Ho- ssi .”
Cha Eun Ho looks up, ears red and a quizzical look on his face.
“Can I call you hyung ?”
Seo Jun bites his lips as Cha Eun Ho’s face colors the rest of the way.
“ What ?” The older man breathes out, voice cracking.
“ Hyung ,” Seo Jun leans forward, reaching out with a hand to lay it over Eun Ho- hyung’s hand that is gripping a soju glass so tightly he hopes it won’t break. “I think we’re close enough now that I can call you hyung , right? Or would you prefer something else?”
He tilts his head to the side and smirks. “How about jagiya ?”
Eun Ho- hyung inhales sharply and jerks back (his hand doesn’t move though).
Seo Jun rests his head on his other hand and lets his smirk soften to a more genuine smile. “Well?”
Eun Ho- hyung seems lost for a moment, before turning to glance around the empty (even of its owner) bar and staring back at Seo Jun with a hint of panic.
Lifting an eyebrow, Seo Jun asks, “Should we go for a walk?”
Eun Ho- hyung nods mutely and Seo Jun watches as he gathers up his coat, stiffly. Seo Jun rushes to the counter and leaves a few bills, more than enough to cover their dinner and drinks, before beckoning for Eun Ho- hyung to leave first. The man seems to still be shocked, merely staring at the counter where Seo Jun has placed the money. It’s the first time Seo Jun has been able to beat the man to paying the bill, something that had annoyed him in the first few weeks of whatever this was.
(He’d been affronted that Eun Ho- hyung seemed to think that he was incapable of paying for a simple dinner and drinks but he’d soon realized that it was Eun Ho- hyung’s attempt at trying to making up for being the son that Seo Jun should have been.)
They head outside, Seo Jun gently ushering Eun Ho- hyung out the door with a hand at the small of his back, and begin strolling down the street. Seo Jun reluctantly drops his hand from Eun Ho- hyung’s back as the fresh air seems to bring Eun Ho- hyung out of his shock.
Seo Jun watches, amusement curling inside of him, as Eun Ho- hyung stops in the middle of the sidewalk and turns to him, eyes and mouth wide open.
“ You -!”
Seo Jun grins broadly and steps closer, looking up at Eun Ho- hyung . “Me?”
He takes another step when Eun Ho- hyung doesn’t step back and draws close enough that he could reach out and kiss Eun Ho- hyung if he raised himself onto his toes.
(Seo Jun had never thought that he would be one to chase after a taller, older man but he finds that he quite likes it. Eun Ho- hyung doesn’t particularly act like someone who’s had a lot of experience dating-wise though.)
“How did you know?” Eun Ho- hyung demands, looking down at Seo Jun through his lashes.
Seo Jun thinks he likes the way that Eun Ho- hyung’s pupils are blown wide and a flush is creeping from his ears to his cheeks. He especially likes that he was the one to cause Eun Ho- hyung to look like that. He likes the way that Eun Ho- hyung’s tongue darts out of his mouth to lick at his plump lips and the way that he can hear Eun Ho- hyung’s breaths become more rapid.
“Know what?” he breathes, watching as Eun Ho- hyung’s face contorts in annoyance.
“Know that I -“ Eun Ho- hyung glances around the empty street and his voice drops to a breathy whisper that ignites something in Seo Jun, “That I like men.”
Seo Jun hums and tilts his head to the side. “I didn’t really know. But I suspected. And Hae Rin- ssi left some hints when she got wasted.”
Eun Ho-hyung’s brows furrow and Seo Jun resists the urge to reach up and smooth them out. He’s not allowed (yet).
“And you -“ Eun Ho- hyung cuts himself off, thought trailing off.
Smirking, Seo Jun takes a half step back so he can look at Eun Ho- hyung more properly. “I saw the look you gave me when we first met at that bookshop. If you’d looked back while you left you would’ve seen me return the look. I didn’t want to start anything at first because I didn’t know what your relationship was with my father,” Eun Ho- hyung’s face winces at the reminder of all the rumors that had once flown around, “But as we got to know each other more, even before I knew the truth, I found myself more and more attracted to you. And after I knew the truth nothing changed.”
Eun Ho- hyung purses his lips and Seo Jun can’t stop the way his eyes flicker to watch them. He forces himself to lift them and wrinkles his nose at the knowing look on Eun Ho-hyung’s face now.
“I thought you hated me,” Eun Ho- hyung says.
Seo Jun can’t stop himself from snorting, reaching out to rub one of Eun Ho- hyung’s arms when he makes an offended face. “I think you’re quite oblivious when you’re given attention from men, hyung. You notice the women, but never the men. You would not believe the number of times I have caught some man giving you a look or trying to flirt with you. You don’t seem to notice it at all. Which makes me wonder how you even knew you were attracted to men in the first place.”
Eun Ho- hyung goes red and he looks at their feet, mumbling something Seo Jun can’t quite make out.
“ Your looks never stopped though,” Seo Jun says, trying to prod Eun Ho- hyung to look back at him. Somehow, though, Eun Ho- hyung just goes more red and Seo Jun has to cover his mouth so Eun Ho- hyung doesn’t see the broad smile he can’t hide.
Seconds pass and finally Eun Ho- hyung looks up from the ground at him, and presses his hands to his cheeks. Seo Jun smiles as Eun Ho- hyung tries to cool down his cheeks and he reaches out slowly, making sure Eun Ho- hyung sees him coming, taking Eun Ho- hyung’s hands in his own.
Sliding his hands in between Eun Ho- hyung’s hands and cheeks, he asks, eyes flicking to Eun Ho- hyung’s lips, “May I?”
Eun Ho- hyung nods slowly, eyelids fluttering shut as he starts to lean down. Seo Jun meets him halfway, eyelids falling closed when he feels Eun Ho- hyung’s warm lips against his.