Haechan never thought he’d be alone on Christmas Eve. But there he was, getting into his darkened apartment alone, his roommate spending Christmas with his boyfriend. Haechan’s other friends were all busy doing something or other, and he was utterly without someone to spend Christmas with.
Haechan had not planned this. Well he had, technically. He had deliberately told his family that he’d be staying at university and not going home for the Christmas holidays. But he did so thinking that Mark, his roommate, would be with him. Mark’s parents being in Canada, it would not be possible for him to spend the last few days of the year with them and be back for classes in January. So Haechan wanted to be a good friend and keep him company.
Okay, maybe his intentions hadn’t been all that pure. Sure he wanted to keep Mark company, but maybe he was also hoping for something to happen. There, he admitted it. He liked Mark. He didn’t know if it was the kind of ‘like’ where you’d want to go on dates and all that, but Haechan was willing to find out.
What he hadn’t expected was Mark coming to him two days before Christmas, saying that he was going to spend the holidays with his boyfriend Yuta. The soccer player Yuta, the Japanese exchange student Yuta, The Nakamoto Yuta who was four years his senior and a crazy good dancer. Yes, that Yuta. Who happened to be dating Mark for a while, but since he and Mark both were the kind of low-key couple who didn’t like their business to be anyone else’s business, they hardly let it be known.
Haechan was a little hurt, to be honest. Mark wasn’t just his friend, they had been roommates since day one of university. They had been roommates for two years! Sure, Mark had always been sort of quiet, didn’t like to share much unless asked. But to not be told that he was seeing someone? Haechan felt betrayed. And he knew that was stupid, it wasn’t about him, it was about Mark and Yuta and who they told was up to them, but it didn’t make Haechan feel any better. Especially since he canceled plans of spending Christmas and New Year’s with his family for Mark. Mark obviously didn’t know that, and Haechan hadn’t told him even after he had said he’d be spending time with Yuta. No point in making the guy feel guilty for ditching a friend for a boyfriend.
Haechan tried to not be bitter as he heated up leftover chicken and soup. He would have cooked a special Christmas Eve dinner if Mark had been home, he’d even stacked up the fridge for a week long stay in. Now he didn’t even have the energy to make the effort.
The world was full of rom-coms, as Haechan surfed through his streaming service, nothing but happy endings and love stories were up. It was only his life that was devoid of such things.
Haechan wasn’t usually this depressed. But lately, things haven’t been going well. His friends were all together with their significant others. Jaemin had always had Jeno, since forever. Chenle and Jisung were inseparable. Now even Mark had someone. And okay, Haechan wasn’t against any of it, he was happy for them, absolutely. But he also wanted what they had, someone to spend time with like that, someone who would just be there with him.
For the last few months, Haechan had been crushing on a senior. And honestly, with the way things were going, he really thought he had a shot with Moon Taeil. What he hadn’t expected was Johnny Suh, a family friend of Mark’s, to come and sweep Taeil off his feet. Haechan didn’t wish them ill, of course not. Especially since they both really seemed smitten with each other, and it never would have worked out between Haechan and Taeil anyway for a number of reasons. But it still stung like hell.
And Haechan would probably admit, when he was drunk enough, that his ‘inclination’ towards Mark had partially been because of the heartache of losing his shot with Taeil. He wouldn’t call it a rebound fling, since nothing happened between him and his roommate, but his wish for something to happen definitely had something to do with his failed attempt at love.
Haechan would feel ashamed but he was shameless. He admitted it, he was an idiot who failed at love. Twice. And he felt lonely and heartbroken. He couldn’t go back home to his family now either, because he already made excuses to stay with Mark. So he would stay at his apartment, alone, and finish off all the food he bought for Mark and himself.
He felt pathetic
He was Lee Donghyuck. Everyone called him Haechan because of his bubbly, sunny personality. He was top of his class, best dancer regardless of the genre of dance, at one of the most prestigious fine arts colleges in the country. He worked two jobs and had enough savings to bear his own living expenses.
And he was feeling sorry for himself because of lost love while eating leftover chicken and pea soup.
Nope, he told himself. Get up, get dressed, go out, walk around town, watch the Christmas lights, maybe stress shop for those stuffed animals you saw at the shop window at Wendy’s in the morning.
He was too young and too full of life to sit alone on the floor in his apartment, alone, crying over people he couldn’t make his move on.
When he finally got out on the streets after dinner, it was pretty late. But the area was crowded, everything lit up, people finishing up their gift-shopping, parents finally getting the chance to get things ‘Santa’ would give their kids, people his age doing last-minute stress buying for the family. It was funny how hectic everything seemed. Haechan had thankfully thought of sending gifts back home early since he wouldn’t get to see them this time around. Three true-crime bestsellers for his sister, the ugliest sweaters he could find for his brothers, mismatched sets of socks with crazy patterns for his dad, teddy-bear shaped oven mitts for his mom, and a box full of neon colored yarn for his grandma since she had recently gotten into crocheting. Haechan smiled thinking how their reactions would be, especially his brothers’ and his dad’s. He’d call them tomorrow.
It didn’t snow, hadn’t snowed this year yet, which was kinda weird since it felt really cold and it usually snowed at least once by this time. Cold air swirled in front of him with each exhale as he walked around town aimlessly. People were out with their families, friends, loved ones, everyone had someone. Unlike Haechan. He tried not to think negative thoughts, but he couldn’t deny the sadness he felt.
Wendy’s looked packed, too many people inside trying to pick the perfect gift for someone. Haechan didn’t go in. The plushies he had seen just that morning were no longer visible from the store window, probably sold out. Bad luck. He seemed to have been having bad luck all year around.
Suddenly a crash sounded close by. Haechan whipped his head to find someone sprawled on the sidewalk with two large trunks, one of them had toppled over on the road. Haechan went over quickly to help out. Thankfully the roads were devoid of much traffic, and the trunks were locked pretty tight, nothing had spilled over. He helped the person up and righted his trunk.
“You okay?” Haechan asked.
The guy looked like he was being consumed by his oversized stuffed orange long-jacket. His fur-lined scarf covered half his face, the other half was covered by a matching fur-lined bright-yellow woolen beanie that looked two sizes too big for him. Even his huge boots were fur-lined.
“Yeah,” the guy said. “Thanks. This is just the worst day ever.”
“Tell me about it,” Haechan mumbled.
“But at least I was able to get this,” the guy held a stuffed fox plushie that looked too damn adorable. Haechan wanted one.
“Oh hey, are these still available?”
“No, sorry,” the guy said. “This was the last one, and I had to literally fight for it!”
“Lucky,” Haechan sighed.
This really was the worst day. Couldn’t even get a plushie for himself, pathetic. No point in going in then. Haechan started walking towards the town center, that’s where most people went. A huge-ass Christmas tree had been put up there, all lit up and decorated prettily.
“Hey, wait!” Haechan was called back by the guy he had just helped. “Uh…I’m really sorry to bother you again, but could you point me in the right direction? I’m new here, and my phone died a while ago. Here, this is the address.”
Haechan was surprised to find that he knew the address written on the tiny pocket notebook. It was Chenle’s!
“You’re a friend of Chenle’s?” Haechan asked.
“You know Chenle?” The guy seemed surprised.
“Yeah, we’re close friends,” Haechan said and extended his hand for a shake. “I’m Haechan.”
“Oh, hi. I’m Renjun! You can’t imagine how relieved I am. I’ve been trying to find the right way for hours! I really thought all hope was lost.”
“So if you’re going to Chenle’s place, how come he didn’t come pick you up?” Haechan found it odd, since Chenle loved to flex how he had a driver’s license now. And a cool-ass car too. And especially since his house was a forty-minute drive from where they were now.
“Well, phone,” Renjun shook his dead phone with a cracked screen uselessly. “Also, my flight got delayed, and I couldn’t inform him beforehand. He probably doesn’t even know I’m here.”
“I can call him up right now, if you want,” Haechan said.
“Please, that would be really helpful, thanks!”
Renjun sounded like a foreign name, and if he was Chenle’s friend, Haechan wasn’t surprised. Chenle had too many international friends to count. But Renjun spoke in perfect Hangul, no accents or anything.
“Hey, what’s up?” Chenle answered Haechan’s call. “Feeling lonely without your ‘Mork’?”
Haechan would’ve been pissed at the teasing, but he had brought it on himself by telling Jisung, who obviously told Chenle about his temporary interest in Mark. He’ll never be able to live it down judging by the way Chenle was cackling in his ear now.
“Look, I have your friend Renjun here with me. Why don’t you come pick him up?”
“What? Renjun’s with you? Where are you guys, at your apartment?” Chenle seemed too surprised. Haechan could even hear Jisung’s voice in the background asking him what was up.
“No, we’re near the town square, in front of Wendy’s.”
“Well, why didn’t he call me? Give him the phone.”
Haechan handed his phone to Renjun and held one of the trunks for him. Renjun talked on the phone in crisp Mandarin, which surprised Haechan even though it shouldn’t have. Chenle was Chinese, fluently spoke the language, and Renjun was apparently fluent too. Haechan just didn’t expect someone who spoke fluent Korean just a moment ago to break out in full Mandarin seconds later. And with such zest too. Haechan was familiar with a few curse words, thanks to Chenle, and it seemed like Renjun wasn’t holding back with his colorful speech.
“Here, he wants to talk to you,” Renjun spoke in Hangul again and shoved the phone towards Haechan.
“Yeah?” Haechan answered. “What’s going on, Chenle?”
“So, uh, slight miscommunication. Renjun was supposed to stay with me at my house, but since he didn’t arrive this morning like he was supposed to, and didn’t contact me either, I thought his flight got canceled.”
“Okay, well, he’s here now. Just come and pick him up.”
“I can’t. I’m not home.”
“Where are you?”
“Jeju Island,” Chenle laughed.
Jeju Island. Chenle, the little bitch, was at Jeju Island, while his friend was out here on the street with his huge trunks and cute stuffed animal.
“Fine, then, I guess I’ll get a cab for him,” Haechan said.
“No,” Chenle said. “My parents are back in China for the week.”
Great. Just great.
“You knew your friend was coming to stay with you guys, how are none of you home?”
“Firstly, he used to be a childhood friend, I barely talked to him all these years. He’s here as an exchange student for a year, so my parents offered him to stay with us for a while until he could move into a dorm or something. And secondly, I was home! But then he didn’t arrive on time and didn’t say anything to me either, so I just thought he’d be coming after the holidays. How was I supposed to know?”
“Well, come back home!”
“Not a chance,” Chenle said. “Look, help me out. Take him to your place.”
“What?” Haechan thought Chenle was joking for a moment. But of course he wasn’t.
“Yeah, since Mark’s not there, it’ll be fine. Just for a few days. Come on, I’ll do you a favor in return.”
A favor from Chenle was a big deal. But taking a total stranger home felt a bit weird. For a few days too. And since Renjun was right there next to him, Haechan couldn’t even ask Chenle why Renjun couldn’t just rent a hotel room. It’d be rude. Plus, since Renjun was an exchange student, it was unlikely that he could afford staying at a hotel for long.
“Fine. But you owe me.”
“Yeah, yeah. Have fun!”
Haechan hung up before he could hear Chenle’s high-pitched laugh.
“Well, this is it,” Haechan turned on the light in his apartment.
It looked tiny and sort of messy since neither he nor Mark had ever been too keen about keeping things tidy. They were clean, sure, Mark was allergic, and Haechan had a habit of keeping everything dust free. But the books on the floor, Mark’s slippers at the corner, the cleaned dishes on the kitchen island, Haechan’s laptop and tangled up charger cables on the low table were just things that never made it to their rightful place. Clean but cluttered, that’s how it was at their apartment. And he hoped Renjun wasn’t too much of a neat freak like Jaemin or Mark’s friend Jungwoo who couldn’t stand the mess.
“Cute,” Renjun said when he slipped on the fuzzy bear slippers Haechan had given him.
Once they got both of the trunks inside, the living room/kitchen looked three times smaller. Haechan and Mark had refused to buy much furniture for this exact reason. Their apartment was too tiny to begin with, they were lucky enough to get two separate bedrooms with the rent they paid as it was. And besides, Mark despised spending money on useless furniture, and Haechan liked open spaces. So they had settled with just a low table as their living room furniture, and a bookshelf for Mark, which separated the room from the kitchen just on the other side. A tiny hallway led to two bedrooms opposite each other, and a common bathroom at the end. Haechan contemplated where to put the trunks as Renjun went to wash up. In the end, he just let them stand at a corner in the living room near the huge windows that overlooked one of the administration buildings of their university across the street.
Haechan couldn’t help but admire the plushness of the stuffed fox, soft and so cute. He had seen a brown fuzzy bear along with it, if only he had bought it when they had it. That was one of his fatal flaws, he supposed, waiting for the right time to take action, but that never came around and he usually lost his chances. Wasn’t that a thought? That happened with almost all the important things he tried to decide on his own.
“I’m really sorry to barge into your place like this,” Renjun said after he returned.
Haechan was shameless enough to still keep feeling the softness of the fox. Renjun didn’t seem to mind either. The guy had finally taken off his huge orange overcoat, scarf, and gloves and now put them at one corner on the thick rug on the floor, neatly folded and arranged. He looked too young to be a college student. Chenle had said Renjun was a childhood friend, so maybe they were the same age. But Renjun didn’t look the same age. He was too thin and tiny, shoulders lean, face still a little boyish. Pretty. Cute too with his huge bright yellow beanie. The beanie even had huge palm-sized pom poms on long strings that had been hidden under the scarf before.
“It’s not your fault. Chenle's just an idiot. I hope you don’t mind the mess,” Haechan said.
“Not at all,” Renjun said a little awkwardly. “Do you live alone?”
“No. Mark lives with me, my roommate. But he’s spending Christmas elsewhere.”
“Oh. Well, hopefully I won’t be a burden.”
They sort of awkwardly stood like that for a while, Renjun looking around and Haechan looking at him. Renjun’s stomach growling was what broke the silence.
“You’re hungry,” Haechan said stupidly.
“Yeah. Thought I’d be having dinner with Chenle’s family,” Renjun tried to hide his blush by pretending to fix his round glasses. Unfortunately, he didn’t have Haechan’s tan, so it was very visible on his cheeks.
Renjun had a spot on the back of his hand. Burnt skin?
“I can cook something up,” Haechan put down the stuffed fox and moved towards the kitchen.
“Uh…you don’t really have to. I can just order something…”
“With your dead phone?” Haechan joked. “It’s fine. I’m kinda hungry too,” Haechan added to make Renjun feel less embarrassed.
“Thanks,” Renjun said. “Is there anything I can help with?”
Haechan stopped trying to find the frozen vegetables from the fridge and stared at the little guy. Nobody, not his friends, not even Mark had ever offered to help when he cooked for them. Mark could hardly fry an egg, so he was better off not helping out. But Chenle and Jaemin were both great cooks, they just never bothered helping him, because Chenle was just lazy and Jaemin couldn’t stand being in the kitchen with anyone else but Jeno.
“Sure, you can shell the peas,” Haechan gave Renjun a pack of green peas and a small bowl. “Is that okay?”
He had planned for this to be a thing he could do with Mark, finally getting him into cooking over the holidays. He tried not to think about it.
“Sure,” Renjun sat at one of the tools at the kitchen island and pulled the baggy sleeves of his sweater up. “What are you making?”
“Fried rice with vegetables and eggs. You don’t hate eggs, do you?”
“No, that sounds amazing.”
They get to work. Haechan tried to keep busy and not fuck up the food, be as quick as possible. He was not hungry, but he guessed he’d have to eat a little anyway.
“Are you a student at SKKU too?” Renjun asked while filling up the bowl.
“Yeah, fine arts. Majoring in Dance and theater arts,” Haechan said. “Chenle said you’re an exchange student. So you’ll be going to SKKU too?”
“Yeah. Decided to finally get out of the house and do a year abroad. I’ll be starting as a junior. I’m studying painting and mix-media art.”
An artist. An actual honest to god painter. Wow.
Haechan brought out extra plates. He and Mark liked the minimalist lifestyle, they had only a few sets of cutlery and dishes, enough to host a get together with friends but nothing more than that. Renjun cleaned up the trash after him and helped set the table in the living room.
“This is delicious!” Renjun said. He even looked like he really enjoyed the meal. He was like a little kid. Adorable. “Thank you.”
He even helped with cleaning the dishes after dinner, which surprised Haechan to no end. He usually had to remind Mark twice before he would clean his dishes after finishing a meal. Renjun was just nice, Haechan decided. He was really nice.
“So, I’m kinda tired. Is there an extra comforter I can use here?” Renjun asked. He was sitting on the thick rug, probably thinking that’s where he’d be sleeping.
And Haechan sort of panicked. Internally, of course.
“Hold on,” he said and walked towards Mark’s room.
Honestly, he hadn’t expected to be housing a guest or else he’d have told Mark to keep his room open for use. Because neither of them had an extra comforter or quilt, just the ones they each used, a few spare clean covers for everything, but bedding, comforter, pillows were enough for just one person each. They never really had guests, and when they had a night in with friends, nobody really bothered with proper sleeping arrangements.
So. This would be awkward as hell.
Especially since there was no way to avoid the inevitable. It was too cold to sleep without a comforter even with the heating maxed out.
“Okay, so, this is gonna be a little weird,” Haechan started. “But my roommate locked his room before going away, and we don’t really have any spare bedding. I mean, I have two pillows, I can lend you one, but only one comforter though…”
“Oh. Well…maybe I can sleep wearing warm clothes? My coat will probably work fine…”
“No, not really. It gets really really cold at night. You’ll freeze…Uh…I’m okay with sharing if you are. My bed is pretty big, the comforter is too. Or I just break into Mark’s room and get his stuff, apologize to him later and all.”
“No, no, that’s okay. No need to go that far,” Renjun looked a bit awkward. Even shy, Haechan thought. “I don’t mind sharing. It’s just a bit…not what I was expecting when I decided to come here.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. We don’t usually have unknown guests over.”
“No, I don’t mean here as in your home. I meant South Korea,” Renjun explained quickly. “I would have packed more stuff if my parents let me stay at the dorms at uni. But since Chenle’s parents insisted, mom thought it’d be less of a hassle for me. No need for more bags full of pillows and stuff. But it would have been useful now. Well, no matter. I can go out and buy stuff tomorrow. I don’t mind sharing. But is it really okay with you?”
“Yeah it’s fine. Can’t be helped. Let me just change the covers first.”
“Okay,” Renjun said. “Oh hey, can I use your phone to make a call? I need to let my parents know I’m safe and sound. But I packed all my other devices pretty tightly inside…”
“Sure, no worries.”
Renjun spoke with his parents quietly in Mandarin while Haechan quickly tidied up his room. Decluttering everything was impossible in minutes, so he just aimed for a more organized mess. New bed sheets, pillow covers and comforters smelled like detergent, but that would still be better than having the tiny man sleep on the same sheets he had been sleeping. It felt embarrassing just thinking about it.
He saw Renjun walking towards the bathroom with a toothbrush, clothes, and a small bag in hand. Probably getting ready for the night. Haechan found his phone on the low table. Renjun had left one of his trunks open after getting his stuff, and it looked so organized that it sort of scared Haechan. Everything was folded, packed, put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Clothes, books, sketchbooks, tubes of colors, paint brushes tightly bound together, all in their perfect places, not once inch of space misused. He felt a little guilty staring at Renjun’s things so he busied himself with setting up his laptop and turning it on.
“Aren’t you going to sleep?” Renjun asked after coming back.
He wore a pair of shorts that was nearly swallowed by the largest t-shirt Haechan had ever seen. The sleeves that should have started from Renjun’s shoulder were at his elbows. It had a small neckline though, thankfully, and had daisies at the hem that fell down to Renjun’s thighs. Which were bare. As was the rest of his legs. Except for the fuzzy orange socks peeking out of the slippers Haechan had lent him.
And Renjun had white hair. Dyed, of course, Haechan could see some dark roots starting to grow. But it looked fluffy like snow and it suited Renjun’s entire image too well. He looked like a kid crouched down and putting his things back into the trunk systematically and locking it shut again.
“Haechan?” Renjun was staring at him.
“Yeah?” Haechan had completely forgotten that the guy had asked him a question before. He should answer, but he couldn’t remember what the question had been.
“Are you gonna stay awake now?”
“Oh, then,” Renjun stood up. “Should I go ahead and sleep?”
“Yeah, please, make yourself at home. I’m not a bad sleeper,” Haechan wanted to hit himself. “I mean, I don’t have bad sleeping habits, so don’t worry. I’ll just curl up in one corner and it’ll be morning. You go ahead.”
“Okay,” Renjun smiled. It was a cute smile.
Haechan was glad when Renjun was gone from the room because he was two seconds away from blabbering and embarrassing himself to the point of no return. ‘Bad sleeper’?! Who the fuck ever said that?
And then it hit…Renjun was in his room. Haechan held his breath to hear the light footsteps the slippers made, it seemed like Renjun was roaming around. Looking at his stuff? Haechan hoped to god he hadn’t missed anything weird or dirty while tidying up.
“Can I turn off the light?” Renjun called from the bedroom suddenly, it nearly made Haechan jump.
“Yeah sure, go ahead.”
“Goodnight!” The soft click of the light was all Haechan heard after that.
Haechan sighed. He praised himself for not freaking out visibly. There was a guy in his bed. Yes, it wasn’t how one would imagine it to be, and Haechan wasn’t thinking about anything sexual, not really. Renjun was basically a stranger, a friend of a friend in need, Haechan was just helping. It was unlikely that Renjun would stay in this situation if he wasn’t so helpless tonight. Judging by the economic way he arranged his trunks, he seemed like a very organized person. He was just thrown off the loop by his flight being delayed, by Chenle being a dick, by the world around him, not himself.
But he was still a very cute guy. In Haechan’s bed.
Haechan decided to kill some time, at least a few hours until he was sure Renjun would be asleep, before going to bed. If he had to go into his own room and see a very adorable Renjun under the covers, still awake, Haechan might just die. Better to tire himself out until he couldn’t stay awake himself.
It took him until 3 am to almost fall over sideways while watching a sci-fi movie, an old favorite. If that couldn’t keep him awake, then he really was too tired. Perfect.
He turned off all the lights and tiptoed into his room, took off his jacket and hoodie until he was in only a t-shirt and joggers, and slid under the covers as quietly as possible. There was a small lump near the wall which Haechan sleepily assumed was Renjun, he tried not to move around too much, didn’t wanna disturb the guy’s sleep. He curled up on his side, keeping a respectful distance in the middle, and was asleep within minutes.
It was the smell that floored Haechan. He knew he was dreaming, he always knew when he dreamt, but he just didn’t know where the smell was coming from. It was such a beautiful smell, like he was in an orchard, a vineyard, he didn’t fucking know honestly. It smelled fruity, like the smell of freshly cut lemons, pressed mint leaves, that smell that wafted from his mother’s tiny garden after heavy rainfall in monsoon. He opened his eyes in the dream and found himself sitting in the middle of a daisy field. The daisies looked like sunflowers, they were huge. He gathered as many flowers as possible within his arms and inhaled deeply. Yes, that same scent invaded his nostrils, his senses filling up with something akin to peace. Yes, he felt at peace, like he could sit there forever in that daisy field smelling flowers.
But daisies didn’t smell like that, though.
Haechan woke with a tremor. He was holding someone, very close, the same way he had been holding the flowers in his dreams. Hair tickled his nose, he had his nose and mouth pressed to someone’s nape. He breathed in before he could stop himself and that fresh scent from his dream overwhelmed him.
He held his breath, slowly coming to his senses. He was awake, in his bed, holding a person. White hair. Renjun.
Haechan listened carefully, trying to discern whether Renjun was awake or not. Difficult to do when his heart was literally beating in his ears, but from the way Renjun breathed too deeply, he assumed the guy was still very soundly asleep.
Because Haechan couldn’t explain whatever this was if Renjun had asked, and his head was too messed up to think straight anyway. Renjun would think him a creep, oh god! Haechan slowly detached himself from Renjun, made sure not to move the comforter too much, and slowly got up from the bed, backed the fuck up as far as possible, and finally breathed with his back on the opposite wall, staring at the lump that was Renjun.
His phone vibrating on his table nearly gave him a heart. He bit his tongue to stop himself from cursing out loud.
It was his mom.
“Hey, mom, hi!” Haechan whispered as tried not to make a sound opening and closing the door to his room and going into the kitchen.
“Haechan! Why are you whispering? Are you still sleeping? What did I tell you about sleeping late?”
“It’s not late, it’s just…” he held the phone in front of him to see the time. “It’s only 7 in the morning, jeez!”
“It’s still late! Anyway, Merry Christmas, baby!”
“Merry Christmas!” Haechan smiled. His mom was crazy and he loved it. He felt a bit sad he wasn’t at home right then to witness his mom’s mood swings and the chaos that came with festivities like this.
“Where’s the video? Linda! I can’t see Haechan,” his mom called his sister for help.
It was going to be chaotic regardless of where he was, as long as his mother was involved.
“You look like you didn’t get much sleep! Did you stay up late again? I knew I should’ve forced you and Mark to come here.”
“It’s fine, ma. Couldn’t be helped. I’ll get some sleep later,” Haechan said. Best not to bring up Mark again. “How are you all? Is dad trying out his special recipe this year too?”
“Of course, he is,” Linda chirped in from somewhere at the side. “He added butter to the porridge this time. Butter!”
“Hey, once it’s done, you won’t be able to stop licking your plates!” His dad’s voice came from far away somewhere.
“Good luck!” Haechan laughed. “Did you guys open the presents yet?”
“Oh yeah, we opened yours the days they arrived,” his mom beamed. “Your dad is using the mitts right now.”
“Why is he using the mitts? What else is he cooking?”
“The porridge,” Linda came on the screen, her face deadpan. “He’s cooking the porridge in the oven. R.I.P. to our stomachs.”
“Don’t be mean, Linda,” His mom said. “I already cooked french toast and egg soup.”
By the cheer that went off in the back, Haechan assumed his brothers were there too.
“How’s the weather there? We heard on the news, it’s pretty bad isn’t it?” His dad came forward.
Weather? Haechan hadn’t even noticed it. It was chilly, true, and dark. But he had pulled down the blinds at night so he couldn’t see what was going on outside. He walked over to the windows and peeked through. Everything was white, except the sky, which looked gray and angry. It was snowing. By the looks of it, it had been snowing for a while now.
“The blizzard came out of nowhere! You guys better stay in and stay warm,” his mom warned. “Where is Mark anyway? Don’t tell me he’s asleep too.”
At that exact moment, Haechan heard his bedroom door open and Renjun peeked at the corner. He didn’t wear his glasses and his bed hair was adorably messy, all over the place. His sharp face looked a little puffy, expression a bit confused, clothes all crinkled and disheveled, making him seem like a tossed around rag doll. Haechan wanted to hug him all of a sudden and the urge scared him.
“What are those trunks for, baby?” His mom asked.
Haechan realized too late that he had accidentally held the camera right at the corner.
“Nothing, just decorations, ma.”
Your mom? - Renjun mouthed silently. Haechan nodded stupidly. Because Renjun was there, all bare legs, socks bunched up at his ankles, rubbing his eyes with a tiny loose fist.
“Is that Mark? Let me talk to him, haven’t seen that boy in ages.”
“It’s not Mark.” Haechan wanted to hit himself. Why did he say that?
“What do you mean it’s not Mark, I just saw you nod at him!”
“Hey, what is that?” Linda called. “Did you buy another stuffed toy? Is that yours? Can I have it?”
The orange fox plushie. God, this was a mess. Pull it together, Haechan scolded himself. He brought the camera up close so his family would only be able to see his face. Renjun gestured that he was going away and Haechan gave him a thumbs up behind the camera while smiling to his mom and Linda.
“It’s not mine. And Mark is in the bathroom. Sorry ma, we’re probably gonna go cook some breakfast now. I’ll talk to you guys later, okay? Bye!” Haechan didn’t wait for them to respond.
"Your family?" Renjun had come back again, this time wearing his glasses, hair combed, clothes straightened hastily.
"They don't know your roommate isn't here?"
Renjun didn't say anything for a moment, probably waiting for Haechan to elaborate a little. But Haechan didn't want to get into it this early in the morning.
"Will your family be angry to know you're letting me stay over?" Renjun asked quietly. "I can find a place to stay if it's too much trouble."
"No!" Haechan said quickly. And he realized how he acted in front of his family, seeming like he had been trying to hide the fact that Renjun was here instead of Mark. Of course, Renjun got the wrong idea. "It's not a problem. I just didn't want my mom getting worried about me."
"Oh, okay. But please let me know if you're troubled because of me. I think I can rent a room somewhere for a while."
"Don't worry about it. I was gonna spend the holidays alone anyway. It's better to have company."
"Oh. Well, Merry Christmas!" Renjun said.
"Merry Christmas," Haechan tried to hide his smile.
It was kinda awkward, kinda weird, them standing in the tiny living room kinda looking at each other, kinda trying not to.
"Oh my God, is it snowing?!" Renjun almost skipped to the window in excitement. He looked like a kid who had never seen snow, the utter amazement in his sparkling eyes, the blush on his cheeks, the smile.
And then Haechan remembered Chenle having kinda the same sort of reaction a few years back when he experienced snowfall for the first time. It was because it didn't snow in all parts of China, at least not like this. Maybe this was Renjun's first snowfall too.
"It's a blizzard," Haechan said as he pulled up the shades on the windows.
White flurries flew around in the windy atmosphere outside. At this rate, it'd only get colder and colder. Haechan pulled up the latest weather forecasts on his phone and skimmed through. Apparently snow had started to fall after it had rained around 4 am. And then the blizzard started. People were advised to stay indoors since they might get stuck in some snow storm. The snow was already 2 feet deep!
“We don’t get much snow in my hometown, this is the first time I’m seeing something like this,” Renjun explained while looking out the window, mesmerized. And then he yawned and Haechan felt an ache in his heart at how adorable the guy looked.
“Did you sleep well? Sorry if it wasn’t comfortable.”
“Oh no, I slept really well. Your blanket is very soft. I really like the cover,” Renjun smiled, his pretty eyes sparkled.
The covers had smiley brown teddy bear heads floating around.
“We have tea and coffee, if you want. Although I can’t guarantee you a decent cup of coffee, I don’t drink.”
“You don’t drink coffee?” Renjun looked at Haechan in disbelief.
“I hate the taste. I’ll show you where things are if you wanna make yourself a cup.”
Haechan showed him the cabinets, where the cups, sugar and coffee were. If Renjun was going to stay until new year’s, which was when Chenle said he’d be back, it was better if Renjun knew where everything was. It felt weird showing a stranger his home, Haechan felt like he was getting a new roommate and he didn’t know how to feel about that. Because Mark was…Mark. Mark had been his roommate for so long, he had no other roommates, just Mark. And now, the thought of someone new taking his place felt like betrayal. But then again, Mark wasn’t here. And if Haechan was being honest, it wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about the future: Mark might just want to move out and start living with Yuta. Since spending Christmas was a big deal, especially for Mark who didn’t get to spend it with his family since he came to South Korea.
But, that didn’t mean Haechan was ready for that to happen yet.
“Is there anything in particular you want for breakfast?” Haechan asked. He didn’t know how else to bring it up. “I was thinking of making pancakes.”
“Are you going to cook for me again?” Renjun raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have to do that, you know? Just show me where you keep things. I can make something myself.”
“Okay, but do you not like pancakes?”
“Of course I like pancakes.”
“Well, good then. You can help,” Haechan said. He heard Renjun laugh softly right behind him.
“Okay. But let me get something warmer to wear.”
Haechan brought out eggs, milk, and flour, salt and sugar too, because they were his secret weapons. Renjun came back wearing a bright cherry red hoodie that looked like it could fit two of him. They bickered a little while making breakfast, light and fun, and it surprised Haechan that he was enjoying every moment of it.
“Why are you putting sugar in the mix?!” Renjun was appalled.
“Trust me, this will be the best pancake you’ve ever had,” Haechan reassured.
“You’re adding too much water!”
“This is the right amount!”
“No it’s not, you’re being an idiot.”
“You’ll see how good they taste in a minute.”
“I’m sure I’ll get food poisoning from this.”
“Please. I am a professional.”
“Well, Mr. Professional, flip, it’s getting burnt!”
“No, you have to wait for the right time…”
“It’s literally smoking!”
Haechan laughed more than he thought he would. If he was being honest with himself, this was the most fun he had making breakfast at the apartment, second only to when he was with his dad trying to improvise in the kitchen and trying to not set things on fire.
“So? How is it?” Haechan asked, wiggling his eyebrows at Renjun, already knowing the answer.
“Shut up,” Renjun grumbled, making Haechan laugh again. It was cute seeing the little guy lose his shit and pretend to dislike the pancakes which he clearly enjoyed.
They took their food to the low table. Haechan brought his comforter so they could enjoy their breakfast and keep warm on the floor too.
“You didn’t put up a Christmas tree,” Renjun observed.
It was supposed to be one of those things Haechan was supposed to do with Mark. He had planned everything, had even bought the Christmas light to hang around the tree they were supposed to get. But Mark had to up and leave with his boyfriend and Haechan didn’t have the heart to drag in an actual tree and decorate all on his own.
Renjun opened his trunk again and brought out his laptop and cables. And then he brought out what looked like a shoe box.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t leave this behind,” Renjun said.
It was a nightlight. Shaped like a Christmas tree. With tiny gift boxes and a red-nosed Rudolf and everything. When Renjun plugged it in, the tree glowed mild green with red and white tiny bulbs all around it. And it turned too.
“There we go, now we have a tree.”
Haechan didn’t know what to say, or how to explain what he was feeling. He felt like he was about to burst into tears, or say something really sappy and stupid to Renjun. So instead, he started talking about random things.
“I was supposed to get a tree with Mark. My roommate. He’s with someone else now. But I didn’t know he would be spending Christmas away. He spent last Christmas here, alone. And the one before that too, because his flight got canceled and he couldn’t go back home. So I thought I’d keep him company this year, but his friend invited him over, so he went there. And I couldn’t get the tree with him.”
Haechan felt like ranting a lot more but he stopped himself. Renjun was already staring at him, probably thinking he was weird or whatever, blabbering about his roommate to a stranger.
“Mark didn’t want to spend Christmas with you?” Renjun asked after a pause.
“Oh, no. He didn’t know. I didn’t tell him that I planned to stay here with him. I just thought I’d surprise him. But then he told me about his plans, and I couldn’t tell him about mine because then he would’ve felt guilty.”
“So…he doesn’t know you’re here?” Renjun looked confused.
“No, I told him I was going home the day after him.”
“But, your family thinks you’re here with him…”
“Yeah. I told them I had to stay here for work. And that Mark would be staying with me, so…”
“Ah, that explains the confusion in the morning,” Renjun nodded. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to spend the holidays with Mark. You sound like you planned a good time for the both of you.”
Haechan tried to hide his face with his hair by focusing intently on the plate of pancakes on his lap. He probably shouldn’t have told a complete stranger all that. But it felt nice to get it off his chest. And it wasn’t like telling about it to Jisung or Chenle who either made fun of him or didn’t know how to empathize. Renjun’s responses felt genuine, like he really listened and felt bad for him.
“Well, it’s fine. I’m just a bit sad I didn’t get to spend it with my family either. But it is what it is.”
“Well, you should talk to them later again. You’ll feel a bit better hopefully,” Renjun said. And then he adorably gasped, cursed in Mandarin, probably thinking Haechan wouldn’t get it. “I should call my parents too, they wanted to do a video call, I totally forgot.”
Haechan helped Renjun get his laptop connected to the internet. Renjun opened his trunk again and brought out a pair of the world’s most adorable headphones. They were light blue, fluffy muffs that seemed too large for Renjun’s ears, and two furry cat ears on top of the headset. Haechan wanted a pair so bad. Especially when he saw the ears move back and forth every time Renjun’s parents spoke.
Renjun conversed in clear Mandarin, and it sounded so right. Like when Mark spoke in English. Something about a person speaking in their native tongue, it was so damn attractive. Haechan caught himself staring at Renjun and focused on his food again, scrolling through his phone to keep busy.
Renjun looked happy talking to his parents, Haechan couldn’t help but sneak glances from time to time. The guy even picked up his plate to show them the pancakes. And then Renjun was talking to them about Haechan, he heard his name quite a few times in the conversation.
“My parents want to see you,” Renjun suddenly looked at him. “They’re just curious who’s feeding me and letting me stay here.”
“Oh, I don’t know any Mandarin, though,” Haechan felt his cheeks warm. That was sort of a lie, he knew a little Mandarin, everything Chenle had taught him. But uttering profanities in front of Renjun’s parents was probably not the best idea.
“They know Hangul, don’t worry,” he gestured for Haechan to scoot over close to him.
Renjun unplugged his cute headphones and put his parents on speaker. Haechan wished he had put more thought into making himself more presentable. He was in a black hoodie over his white T-shirt and gray joggers. He hadn’t even bothered to comb his hair which fell in messy waves over his eyes. He tried to push them back, but that hardly did anything, so he gave up right away.
Renjun’s mom looked exactly like Renjun, a little more feminine with softer features, but she had the same smile, the same sparkle in her eyes. His dad had some of the same features as Renjun too.
“Hello, nice to meet you,” Haechan said politely and bowed his head.
“Hello, it is nice to meet you, Haechan. Thank you for taking care of Renjun,” Renjun’s mom spoke softly just like her son.
“We’re sorry you had to take him in,” Renjun’s dad said. “We didn’t know Chenle’s parents would be away too. We would have made him wait until the new year otherwise.”
“That’s okay,” Haechan said. “I was going to spend the holidays alone anyway, so it’s better to have someone with me.”
“You wouldn’t say that once you get to know him,” Renjun’s dad laughed. “He can be a handful!”
Renjun? A handful? Haechan couldn’t believe it.
“You’re so nice, Haechan!” His mom said. “You even cooked for him. Make him do some work too, he shouldn’t be a freeloader. Renjun, you should cook something for him too, help out in the kitchen.”
“I will, if he lets me!” Renjun side-eyed Haechan and it made him laugh.
Renjun talked with his parents for a while longer. Haechan let them have some privacy as he decided what to do for the rest of the day. And the rest of the week too, for that matter. He doubted he could just leave Renjun alone and do his own thing, like he had been planning to since he took the guy in. But now that he had talked to Renjun’s parents, he felt like he should be a better host.
After Renjun was done talking, they finally faced the reality of the situation.
“We’re snowed in?” Renjun was finding it hard to accept the concept. “Can’t we just clear the snow?”
“It’s pretty deep, and we can’t even open the doors to the outside.”
The weather had worsened. Local news stations were already broadcasting warnings to stay in. The snow would be cleared out by the winter service vehicles once the blizzard stops. But even that would take a long time, so it was likely that they wouldn’t be able to go out for a day or two. Which wasn’t that big of a deal, since Haechan had stocked up on food and necessities anyway.
“Didn’t you say you had work?” Renjun asked. “You said you told your parents that you…”
“Oh, that,” Haechan felt embarrassed to admit it. “I don’t, got the holidays off. I just said that so they wouldn’t force me to go home.”
“But, why didn’t you just plan to take Mark home with you?”
Excellent question. Haechan didn’t know the answer to that question so he just shrugged. But, if he was being honest with himself, taking Mark home would have been useless for his purpose, which was to see if they could be anything more than friends. He needed Mark alone for that. A week-long vacation where they spent time together, watched movies, played games, cooked together would have been perfect. Or, that had been what Haechan thought. Now, though, he was questioning if his methods were lacking.
They stayed busy with their laptops. Renjun made Christmas calls, wishing his friends and extended family happy holidays. Haechan looked up dance practice videos. After Mark told him that he’d be leaving, Haechan had thought he’d spend his days perfecting his moves, maybe picking a few choreographies. What else was he supposed to do? But now, he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t just shove away the meager furniture and practice, there were Renjun’s huge trunks. And, since he was stuck at home, he couldn’t even go to their dance studio for practice either.
A call vibrated on his phone and Haechan saw Mark’s name come up. He didn’t know why that made him embarrassed when Renjun was probably busy listening to a song, focused on his laptop screen. Haechan still snatched his phone and went into his room to take the call. He shut the door behind him before answering.
“Hey, Mork, what’s up?” Haechan kept his voice light and teasing, like how he would usually be around Mark.
“Hey man, merry Christmas! How you doing?”
“Oh you know me, nothing short of excellent,” Haechan forced a laugh. It was harder to talk to his roommate all of a sudden.
“Good good, that’s good to hear. Hey listen, so, your mom called me a little while ago,” Mark said carefully, but it made Haechan freeze anyway. “And I thought…like, I knew you’d be there, but she said you were still at the apartment…and, with me? I mean, I didn’t say anything, or like, I just went along with it. But like, weren’t you supposed to go home? Where are you right now?”
Jesus Christ, everything was a mess. Why did Haechan willingly get into situations like these? One lie for a good cause resulted in a dozen other lies and it all just got too complicated for him to keep up. He should just tell Mark the truth right now. But it hurt his ego to admit it. Mark had Yuta, but who did Haechan have? He didn’t want Mark to feel sorry for him and for things to get weird.
“I didn’t go home,” Haechan said. “Because Chenle had a friend coming over who needed a place to stay. So I said I’d take him in.”
White lies. Not as bad. At least there was some truth to it.
“Oh, that’s nice of you. But where’s Chenle then? He could’ve just let his friend stay over at his own house.”
“Chenle’s in Jeju Island with Jisung. And his parents are abroad too. So I had to help out. It’s fine. Renjun’s actually pretty fun to be around, same age as us, so it’s no big deal.”
“Okay man, whatever you. Sorry you couldn’t visit home.”
“That’s alright, Morky. You having fun with your oppa?”
Mark choked on something and it made Haechan feel better.
“Okkaaaaaay, I’m gonna hang up now. Have fun with your new friend. Bye.”
“Bye,” Haechan laughed, genuinely this time.
They had rice cake curry for lunch. Renjun wanted to try as many Korean dishes as possible. He was lucky that it was Haechan’s specialty. Renjun also cooked a dish, egg rolls.
Haechan was obsessed with them even though he dipped them in soy sauce to suit his taste, which irritated Renjun to no end.
Irritating Renjun was going to become one of Haechan’s favorite things to do, he could already tell. Renjun was a bit loud when irritated, but all the more adorable as color rushed to his cheeks and the tip of his nose. Haechan couldn’t help staring.
They watched a Korean movie, then a Chinese one that Haechan had to bug Renjun to explain every two minutes since it didn’t have subtitles. It was fun.
They cooked meat for dinner, and kimchi stew with rameon. Haechan played funky pop music on his speakers on top of the waist-length bookshelf and was surprised to find that Renjun was very light on his feet, knew how to move his hips, and even knew some of the lyrics to the songs that came up. Haechan nearly burned the beef staring at Renjun spin waving a spatula while mixing the kimchi.
And before he knew it, Haechan was grooving in the kitchen with a total stranger while making dinner. It was so odd. Especially considering Haechan was not someone who felt so at ease with someone he had just met a day ago. He hated to admit it, but he was more shy than people thought him to be. But with Renjun, it felt like they had been friends for years. Renjun probably had more to do with that, bickering with Haechan like an old woman, too curious about everything, talking and making Haechan talk so casually. Even when they were silent from time to time, just vibing with the music and focusing on preparing the food, it felt so comfortable.
They had set up the low table with their food and turned off the lights so only the Christmas tree night light shone along with the streetlights illuminating the room. The blizzard had stopped hours ago, but it still snowed in light flurries. It gave a dreamy effect, watching the snow outside through the big windows as they sat on the thick rug with their feet covered up by the comforter under the table.
"I'd bring out the wine but I don't think you're old enough to drink," Haechan teased. It also surprised him that he was comfortable with Renjun so quickly, enough to tease him like that.
"Hey! We're the same age. When's your birthday?"
“Hah! I’m older than you. Now bring out the wine. I like white if you have any.”
Haechan couldn’t help but laugh at how serious Renjun was, it was too adorable.
“We only have red, sorry.”
Because Mark liked red wine, and it was supposed to be a special celebration between him and Haechan. The amount of trouble Haechan had to go through to hide the two bottles so Mark wouldn’t find out or suspect anything now stung a little, but he was having a great time to dwell on it. At least the liquor was being put to good use.
Renjun’s lips were tinted red by the end of dinner and Haechan tried not to stare even though his eyes kept wandering. He was stuffed, eating up six out of the nine rolls Renjun had made. They were just so good, he couldn’t help himself. And with all the light bickering and teasing, his stomach hurt from laughing.
“We should have made something sweet. I don’t think I can eat anymore but I still want dessert,” Haechan sighed. He was fully lying down on the rug, feeling content.
“Oh! Wait, that reminds me,” Renjun said, getting up from the table and opening one of his trunks. “My mom packed some snacks, told me to share with you. I nearly forgot about them. They’re here somewhere, wait.”
He finally brought out a small jar. The snacks inside looked like oreo cookies, but thicker. Mooncakes, Renjun called them. A traditional new year’s staple, they usually made those during the Chinese new year, but Renjun’s mom liked to make them during the Gregorian new year too. Renjun loved them a lot, and Haechan understood why after he took a bite. They tasted divine.
“Do you always sleep around 3 in the morning like yesterday?” Renjun asked.
They were done cleaning up after themselves when they finished eating. Renjun helped wash the dishes too. Haechan was feeling light due to the wine, vibing to the lo-fi beat wafting from his speakers.
“How did you know I slept at 3 yesterday?”
“You woke me up when you got into bed. I’m a light sleeper,” Renjun said, and then added quickly, “It’s not a big deal, don’t worry about it.”
Clearly he misunderstood why Haechan had frozen and stared at the shorter guy as if he was a deer in the headlights. Haechan was suddenly flooded with memories of what he had done in the morning. Unconsciously, of course. But if a little movement on the bed at 3 am had woken Renjun up, someone hugging him definitely did too. But Renjun acted normally, like nothing was wrong, as if a stranger hadn’t just spooned him. If it was Haechan in his place, he would've been creeped out. Or embarrassed. Possibly both. But Renjun seemed completely oblivious, or at least acted like it.
Haechan ended up going to bed early, since there was no point staying up late if Renjun woke up anyway, and he was feeling too tired to bother staying awake. He tried not to think about Renjun beside him smelling like cherries tonight. What was with the guy and fruit scents that felt too alluring to Haechan?
“Why are you staring at me?” Renjun asked softly, his voice hardly above a whisper.
It scared Haechan shitless. Firstly, because Renjun’s eyes were closed. How the fuck did he notice Haechan? Secondly, the room was pretty dark, save for the lamplight coming through his window and resting on his ceiling that mildly lighted the room. It was enough to see shapes if your eyes had adjusted to the dark, but again, Renjun had his eyes shut. And thirdly, when did Haechan start staring at Renjun anyway?
“Your eyes are closed,” Haechan tried to keep his voice even and quiet as Renjun’s. “How do you know I was staring at you?”
“I can feel your breath on my face,” Renjun smiled with closed eyes.
Haechan was glad it was dark, his face was undoubtedly bright red now. “Maybe I had my eyes closed too.”
Renjun finally looked at him, his eyes still held a tiny sparkle reflecting from the streetlight spread over the ceiling. It felt like he was trying hard not to laugh, but his eyes betrayed him.
“Okay, maybe you weren’t staring,” Renjun smiled. “Goodnight, then.”
And then he proceeded to get up in Haechan’s face, too close, too suddenly, and acted like it was nothing, closed his eyes and pretended to sleep, as if he hadn’t just rendered Haechan breathless. Literally. Haechan automatically held his breath, trying not to exhale on Renjun’s face. Or inhale that fruity scent that still someone tickled his nose even without him breathing in.
The guy was going to be the death of him.
“Goodnight,” Haechan said. And then he promptly turned his back on Renjun, hoping that would be enough for him to survive the night.
He heard Renjun let out a silent breathy laugh.
Haechan woke up from a dream where he was lying on a field of cherries. The smell so overpowering and delicious, his nose being tickled by blades of grass. Only, it wasn’t grass. It was Renjun’s hair.
Renjun’s hair tickled his nose.
Because Renjun was basically lying on top of him, his head resting on Haechan’s collar. Their legs were tangled up under the blanket. It was too intimate for this early in the morning. Haechan carefully checked his phone with his free hand and it was only 6:23 am.
Don’t think, he ordered himself. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.
Sudden movement made him way too alert. Did he wake Renjun? He hadn’t even moved yet! Hands traveling the expanse of Haechan’s torso, legs entangling more tightly, a thigh brushing up his…
Renjun looked up right at him, bleary eyed and yawning.
“Ugh, you’re staring again,” Renjun said without any zest at all, his voice hoarse and whiney. Then he shoved Haechan’s face away and lazily barreled off of him to flop on the other side of the bed, taking most of the comforter with him. As if it was nothing. “What time is it?”
“6:30,” Haechan said automatically, because his mind was not working properly.
“Oh god, it’s too early, go back to sleep!” And Renjun was literally asleep again within seconds.
Haechan obviously didn’t sleep anymore. He could hardly stay there a second longer because his skin felt like it was on fire. He felt like he was too full of energy, his whole body buzzing, and the impulse to do something, like hug Renjun like yesterday and stay there or something, was too dangerous.
He got up and cleared up space in his living room area. The low table could be folded up so he picked it up and laid the compressed folds on the kitchen island. Then he rolled up the rug and put it against the bookshelf. He tried to move the trunks aside without making much noise, trying to free up as much space as possible.
There was another reason why Haechan agreed to not buy furniture. This tiny area was enough for him to practice dancing when he could go out to the studio. He couldn’t practice his ballet spins here, unfortunately, but restricted moves that didn’t require much space but a lot of practice were easy enough to perfect here. And right now, he needed to just use up all this energy he was feeling, to calm his body down and not think about the cherry smelling boy in his bed. God, he was in trouble.
He put in his ear buds and secured them under his headband and played music as loud as he could without damaging his hearing. And for the next hour or so, he just moved, constantly in motion, his limbs stretching out and contracting in very controlled maneuvers. He was really into modern dances, so he practiced freestyle as much as he could in the tiny space. And then when he was too tired, his muscles aching a little, he went to take a mildly cold shower, just to loosen up his body and not feel the heat.
He had, unfortunately, completely forgotten that his bathroom now smelled like lemons and cherries and freshly cut grass. He tried to be as quick as possible, using as much shampoo on his hair as possible to drown out the scents Renjun left behind with his cheap sandalwood products. It didn’t help much.
It was a struggle to not let his hands wander and do what they wanted to do. But he stopped himself, because he didn’t want to feel guilty, didn’t want to not be able to look Renjun in the eyes without shame later. The big guy up in the sky should really have some prizes waiting for him in life because of the self-restraint Haechan had been showing for the past two days.
When he finally came out, fully dressed and dried, his hair all over the place, his face still red from the shower, Renjun was already up. The guy looked fully awake, fresh and lively, making french toast and coffee.
“I hope it’s okay. Or do you want anything else?” Renjun asked.
“No, that’s…okay,” Haechan said with a pause. “You didn’t have to make breakfast yourself, I was just a little late in the shower.”
“And you also cooked for me more than twice. I’d like to return the favor. Relax, you won’t get sick,” Renjun laughed.
Renjun acted like he did yesterday, completely normal, chill and relaxed. Like he hadn’t just turned Haechan’s entire equilibrium upside down and made him thirst after Renjun so bad he had to exert himself and take a cold shower just to relax. And here was Renjun, humming while flipping egg-soaked bread.
They had breakfast sitting on the kitchen island stools and talked about random things. Haechan felt a lot more at ease with food in his stomach, and Renjun being normal like nothing happened. Maybe the guy didn’t even remember cozying up to him to the point of grinding…
“It’s not snowing anymore. Does that mean we’ll be able to go out today?” Renjun was saying.
“Uh…depends. They usually dispatch the snow cleaning vehicles in areas of priority first. And since university classes are off for the holiday, this area might not be serviced until later. Why do you wanna go out though?”
“I need to buy stuff, remember?” Renjun laughed as if Haechan was being dumb. “I gotta buy a comforter and mattress so you can finally sleep in peace. And some other stuff too.”
Haechan was sleeping in so much peace he didn’t want to wake up, because as soon as he did, he had to remove himself due to propriety and tackle the urge to do something that might seem inappropriate to Renjun.
“You have to come with, to show me around. I don’t know where everything is.”
“Okay,” Haechan said while savoring what he felt like were the best French toasts he had ever had. It wasn’t true, his mom’s were probably better, but his mind was not ready to accept that.
They couldn’t go out. The entire morning passed without much happening, snow cleaning service vehicles didn’t pull up in their area, and the outside world seemed so eerily quiet that it was like they were the only two stranded on an abandoned city.
But it wasn’t boring. And it wasn’t lonely. And if it hadn’t been for a call, Haechan wouldn’t have realized he was spending hours on end talking to Renjun. It was so weird that he was this talkative, because that had never been the case before with an absolute stranger. All his friends had been with him since childhood, and even with Mark he had taken two years to get used to. Haechan had decided that he was incapable of making new friends after getting into college because it took too much time and effort, and even though he could mix well with the crowd, he was too shy to call the people in his class, the people he danced with, the people he worked with, his friends. They didn’t know much about him because he didn’t tell them, never knew how to. And here he was telling Renjun about that one time he had gone to the Saturday open auditions that SM entertainment company used to hold, and how he wanted to be a K-pop idol because of the famous group Shinee and especially the soloist of that group Taemin. He was thirteen years old, with a crazy dream that his mom had encouraged for some reason, singing in his high-pitched baby voice of that time and dancing in a way that it would be a crime to call it freestyle. He refused to share that story even with his friends, the ones who didn’t already know that is. And somehow, telling Renjun about it didn’t seem embarrassing, it was funny and weird and nostalgic and just comfortable. He loved how Renjun fell on the floor laughing so hard he nearly teared up.
The call was from Chenle.
“Hey, listen,” Chenle didn’t do pleasantries. “Renjun still with you?”
“Of course,” Haechan had moved to his room to talk on the phone, just in case. “Where else would he be?”
“Yeah, alright, fine, I get it, I’m sorry for making you house my guest. I said I’ll make it up to you, didn’t I?” Chenle seemed less teasing today. “Look. So, my parents found out I’m not at home, which I hadn’t told them. And they also talked to Renjun’s parents, so yeah, that happened. Now I have to go back home. So I guess I’ll be back by tomorrow, or the day after, depending on the weather.”
“The weather’s pretty bad,” Haechan said. He knew he was making excuses, but he went with it anyway. “You don’t have to hurry back so soon, we’re doing pretty okay. And we’re pretty much locked up in the apartment because of the snow. So, take your time.”
“I’d love to, except my parents would have my head. Anyway, I’ll see what I can do. At this rate, I’ll just be lucky if I can get tickets before new year’s.”
As soon as they finished talking, the fact hit home that Renjun was going to leave soon. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe the day after if Haechan was lucky. If he was lucky? What was he thinking? Of course, Renjun couldn’t stay here. Mark was his roommate, not Renjun. Of course, Renjun had to leave.
That just made Haechan want to spend more time with him.
“Hey, look, they’re clearing out the snow!” Renjun said from the window when Haechan returned to the living room.
Sure enough, two huge vehicles worked up and down the streets to clear away hard, knee-deep ice. Dammit, why did they have to come around today? Couldn’t they have waited one more day?
Haechan knew he was being irrational, getting angry at the people doing their job of making the roads safe for travel again. But he was already starting to feel lonely at the idea of not having someone like Renjun with him in a day or two. He tried to not think about it. Renjun was still here and Haechan should make the most of it.
They went out late in the afternoon when the weather wasn’t too bad. It was cold, but it didn’t snow. The sky was a pretty mix of ripe peach, blueberry blue, and shades of lavender. Renjun wore his bright orange long coat over a pale sweater and brown high waisted retro pants that ended half a foot above his ankles, only hiding the fur-line of his boots. Next to him, Haechan looked like death in his black turtleneck, tucked into black cargo pants, tucked into his black winter boots. He even wore his long black overcoat and black bucket hat. They had such different styles it was almost funny.
“You don’t need to buy a mattress and a comforter,” Haechan said.
He had told Renjun about Chenle returning soon and the guy took it in stride like everything else. Haechan didn’t know what he was hoping for. Probably for Renjun to say he didn’t want to leave just yet because it was nice to be with Haechan? Who was he kidding? Renjun would be glad to get his own space in Chenle’s big house, his own room and better furniture, and so much more.
“You don’t need all these things at Chenle’s place anyway. It’ll just be a hassle to move them around.”
“You’re right,” Renjun contemplated. “I’ll just get this comforter, the mattress can wait.”
Renjun’s new blanket had strawberries on them.
They decided to roam around for a while, Renjun said he wanted to familiarize himself with the place. They passed Wendy’s and Haechan saw the teddy bear he had been looking for the other day. He told Renjun he wanted to go in and the guy agreed.
“I wanted to buy something I saw here too,” Renjun said and went on his way to one corner of the gift shop.
Haechan saw the restocked plushies, they were all too cute. There were lots of tiny animals, fruits, huge sunflowers and daisies with smiley faces. If he had done Secret Santa with his friends this year, he would’ve bought these, but every one of them had plans this year, nobody had the time. So he just bought the fuzzy brown teddy bear. But not for himself. He let the sales woman wrap it and pack it nicely. By the time he was done, Renjun had also gotten his package for whatever he had bought.
They decided to eat out since none of them wanted to go home and cook. Renjun wanted to try things they couldn’t make at home so they did. And even though Renjun wasn’t going to be at the apartment all the time, Haechan felt a little better thinking that Renjun would still be around. They would still be able to hang out together, eat out like this again, see each other at university. It wouldn’t be so bad.
That night, once they went home and relaxed before bed, Haechan finally braved an indirect show of affection.
“I know it’s a bit late, but I have a present for you,” he said. “Merry Christmas!”
It was worth it seeing Renjun’s face light up as he unpacked the fuzzy teddy bear plushie. Haechan made the right choice by giving it to him, because seeing Renjun that happy and adorably giggling like a kid was more fulfilling than having that plushie for himself.
“I’m really happy about this, especially because now I don’t feel guilty about getting you a gift too,” Renjun said. “I thought you might take it the wrong way, thinking I was giving it to you because you let me stay with you. But it’s not that. I just saw it the other day, and being here for the last few days made me think that you should have it.”
Haechan was a little scared to open the beautifully wrapped box. Partly because he thought he might ruin whatever was inside, partly because he felt like crying. He was so overwhelmed by the fact that Renjun got him something, simply because he thought Haechan should have it. That was…a lot to process.
It was a music box. Recycled wood carved and held together by wires. Inside was an honest to god ballerino, a male dancer, the Sugar Plum Prince Variation from the Nutcracker playing on a loop of 1 minute. Haechan couldn’t speak. He could hardly move a muscle. He just sat there, open-mouthed, staring at the twirling prince on the tiny pedestal.
“You don’t like it?” Renjun said quietly.
When Haechan finally looked at the guy, he looked a little sad, probably thinking that the gift was bad. “I love it,” Haechan said quickly. “Really, I do. More than you know. This is amazing. Thank you.”
“Oh that’s a relief,” Renjun smiled brightly again. “I saw you dancing in the morning, here. So I got curious and looked you up later. You danced at a show in freshman year, didn’t you? I found the video. Your dance was so amazing! And I’d seen the box on display the night I came here, so I thought it’d be a perfect gift if I could find it. I’m glad you liked it.”
Haechan was sort of speechless. The guy saw him dancing in the morning? When? Why hadn’t he said anything? Was that why he was so intent on going out today? Haechan felt like it was more than he could handle.
“Thank you,” he said again.
“Yeah yeah, and thank you, for this,” Renjun gushed over the cute looking teddy bear plushie.
Since Renjun hadn’t bought a mattress, they shared the bed like before. Only this time, Renjun used his own comforter. Haechan could smell the lemons and cherries on his own comforter, with the scent of strawberries wafting from Renjun. Haechan was convinced Renjun had a whole collection of fruity perfumes at his disposal, he had already seen a peek before they had gone out, the guy carried the different bottles in a bag full of his skincare products, and one tube in his pocket always.
“I really like perfumes,” Renjun had admitted when he saw Haechan giving him a weird look.
Haechan was going to miss this, this weird feeling of being surrounded by fruits and flowers because Renjun liked to smell like a garden. Haechan buried his face into his blanket.
They spent an entire day roaming around, sightseeing, eating delicious food in all of Haechan’s favorite places, and having a good time in general. It was a surprisingly sunny day. Renjun looked flushed and full of color, and Haechan knew he was staring at the guy from time to time, but he couldn’t help himself.
They talked the entire time, Renjun telling him about how it had been in his hometown, Haechan being surprised at weird differences in their cultures:
“Why would it matter if you crossed your chopsticks?!” Haechan couldn’t believe the ridiculousness yet impact of such a superstition, that it would bring bad luck.
“What’s up with people acting extra cute? It’s cringey!” Renjun scrunched his cute little nose in disgust.
It was all harmless banter, nothing meant to offend, all just conversations and laughs. Even when they bickered about something, like having seafood ramen over a pork dish, they ended up resolving it in the funniest manner like it was nothing that serious: both of them stealing food from each other and complaining about it with a pout even though they secretly loved the other’s choice in food.
When it started snowing after lunch, Renjun refused to go back home. He was like a kid. Jumping around and catching flurries, throwing badly formed snowballs at Haechan that never reached their mark, and then compensating for it by sneaking up on him and shoving a handful of snow down Haechan’s sweater.
And Haechan loved it.
God, he could tell this was going to hurt in about a day or two when Renjun had to leave. Haechan knew better than to expect them to be good friends after university started. Odds were, Renjun would be too busy with his schoolwork, his new classes and teachers and friends, all the clubs Renjun would be a part of, all the extracurriculars he’d be associated with. He would hardly have any time to hang out with Haechan, meet Haechan’s friends and go out with them together.
So this was it. This was as good as it was gonna get. Might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
Haechan took Renjun to show around their university. Since Renjun was an art major, he was under the Fine Arts college like Haechan. They roamed around campus, Haechan pointed out where everything was, Renjun took photos with the new phone he had bought that morning, his old one completely useless and irreparable.
Classes were off, but people still hung out around campus, especially those who lived in town like Haechan, or had to do their research work. The libraries were open, and Renjun had a bit of a freakout fanboy moment seeing all the books. Haechan had seen quite a few paperbacks in one of Renjun’s trunks, carefully packed like precious cargo, Chinese and Korean both. This place was going to be his favorite go-to place on campus, Haechan could already tell.
They brought home some not too healthy fried food because according to Renjun, you just needed to have the really good stuff once in a while and not care about what it does to your body. They had another movie night which ended prematurely when they both kind of fell asleep on the rug in the living room area without watching the ending.
Haechan’s neck hurt from sleeping at a weird angle, half-sitting and half lying down. But wouldn’t change it for the world, because Renjun had a very good night sleeping soundly on his lap.
They stayed in for the day, mostly because the weather didn’t look that good until late afternoon. Haechan hadn’t even noticed how time passed so quickly, he couldn’t even tell what they did all day together. One moment he was roasting Renjun for bringing eleven bottles of perfume, next he was the one being roasted for not taking good enough care of his tiny houseplants and succulents.
“It’s not that I don’t want them die off!” Haechan said defensively. “I just forget to spray them from time to time.”
“That’s why you need to name them,” Renjun said as if it was the obvious thing to do. And then he proceeded to name all nine of them.
Haechan forced Renjun to cook hotpot.
“It’s going to smell, though,” Renjun warned. “The whole apartment is going to smell. For days.”
Renjun was exaggerating, and Haechan didn’t budge. Sure the smell was strong, but the food was divine.
“Stop making weird noises when you eat!” Renjun yelled while laughing at Haechan’s expressions.
Haechan didn’t care. He was eating food straight from the heavens. He didn’t care how funny he looked or sounded.
His parents called again to see if everything was going well. Haechan decided to come clean and introduced them to Renjun. It was safe to say that by the end of the call, Renjun was a family favorite.
“Do you think they really liked me?” Renjun was skeptical.
“My sister kept blushing, and my mom invited you to our home. They loved you, relax.”
It was funny how they acted like they’d been friends for years. Renjun yelled at Haechan every time something was at a weird place, like the mug Haechan had tea in on the kitchen island. It was clean, Haechan had washed it, but he just forgot to put it with the other washed dishes. Haechan wasn’t even surprised when he went into the bathroom that smelled like crushed raspberries and lemongrass, or the fact that there was an extra toothbrush and a bottle of strawberry scented lotion on the shelf near the sink. It felt so normal that those should be there, he hadn’t even realized when they made their way there.
“I want to draw you, pose for me,” Renjun said suddenly.
They were passing a lazy afternoon, Haechan watching dance choreographies on youtube, Renjun drawing something on his sketchpad that he refused to show.
“You have to show me the end result then,” Haechan bargained.
“Fine. When they are done, I’ll show you.”
Haechan let Renjun direct him on how to stand and sit and keep his hands and which way to look. It took a while for Haechan to realize Renjun was doing more than one sketch of him.
“Hey, you said you’d let me see!”
“They’re not done,” Renjun said, too focused on the strokes he confidently made on the page. “It usually takes me a few weeks to finish one piece of art.”
“A few weeks!” Haechan stared at the guy. “Then what are you doing now?”
“Sketching,” Renjun said casually. “The first stage. Now sit in a different position.”
A thought suddenly popped up and Haechan couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Don’t I have to get naked for this?”
And he wanted to jump off a cliff and die for a moment, until he saw Renjun’s face turn bright red.
“No,” Renjun said. “Turn your face away!”
Haechan kept staring.
“I need you to look,” Renjun stretched his hand to just Haechan’s face toward the window by the jaw. “Over there.”
Haechan stayed still, one hand behind him carrying his weight, the other on a knee, one leg stretched out in front of him, the other knee up. He kept his face up towards the window, but his eyes remained sideways, watching the white head hide and rise behind the huge sketchpad.
Haechan got a few calls from his dance crew. He practiced with a club outside of his university circle and they had forcefully adopted him as part of their crew. Haechan tried not to get too close to them, partly because they were mostly older than him, a lot of them being Yuta’s friends, but honestly, they were good people. And they helped Haechan improve his dancing a lot over the past year since he’d started dancing with them. They wanted to have a get together, maybe drinks afterwards.
“You should go! They’re excited to hang out with you, so why not? It’ll be fun,” Renjun said.
“You wanna stay here alone?”
“Well…you could take me there with you…if it’s alright, that is. I don’t wanna impose or anything, I can spend my time here too, or go out for a walk around town, it’s not a big deal…”
Haechan ended up taking Renjun with him. Because, why not? The guy seemed really interested to see him dance, meet his friends even though Haechan wouldn’t say these people were all that close compared to his ‘00 line friends, and Chenle and Jisung. Still, it could be fun to hang out with other people and introduce Renjun as his friend to them.
He was surprised that it actually was fun, his crew meeting Renjun, them gushing over the tiny person, even though he was average-sized and taller than most of the girls there. They acted like Renjun was an honored guest, giving him permission to sit against the mirror wall, right in the middle for better view and appointing him judge of a friendly dance battle. Mostly friendly. Ten and Taeyong had no chill when it came to dancing, Doyoung had always been competitive, and Karina refused to lose to the guys.
Renjun and Ningning hit it off right from the get go, laughing and commentating from the sides. Ningning was a Chinese student, there were quite a few actually, Haechan suddenly realized. And he was kind of, maybe, a little, just a tiny bit, jealous of how quickly Yangyang, Hendery, Ningning and Lucas warmed up to Renjun. It was mostly because of how chill and nice Renjun was, but Haechan couldn’t help feeling a slight sting. Why hadn’t Chenle ever bothered to teach him anything but curse words?
He wasn’t too bothered though. He got to dance, really dance, in front of Renjun. And he saw the guy taking pictures of him, and Haechan felt sort of giddy. They ended the dance battles with the most ridiculous competition between Haechan, Jungwoo, Giselle, Hendery, and Ningning, trying to out-ridicule each other with exaggerated gestures, absurd expressions and weird body movements. It was more hilarious than competitive.
They ended up going to a bar afterwards where they ate, drank and danced some more. It was late by the time Haechan and Renjun got home, but it was worth it. Haechan really hadn’t expected to be included in a crew hangout, especially when neither Yuta nor Jisung were present, they were more associated with the crew than Haechan was. But Renjun was right, it was nice to spend time with them.
“How are you so good at dancing though?” Renjun sounded slightly buzzed as he tried to twirl around the living room when they got home, nearly stubbing his toes on the low table.
“Been at it for years. Since I was 7.”
“Woah. That’s so cool. I ate dirt and didn’t know how to hold a paintbrush when I was 7,” Renjun sounded funny rather than regretful. “Teach me some moves, come on.”
And suddenly they were dancing in the living room together, music playing quietly on the speakers. The Christmas lights Haechan had bought to decorate a tree with Mark were now hanging on the wall above the tiny Christmas tree lamp Renjun had kept plugged on, and the atmosphere was honestly too sweet. Renjun laughed while twirling with tiny steps holding Haechan’s finger, Haechan laughed when they both tripped on the rug and landed in a tangle of puffy coats and scarves.
Renjun made him sit through three hours of an award show that he was so passionate about, Haechan regretted every time his internet slowed down, causing the live stream to buffer. Renjun almost went feral, and it was so adorable yet kinda scary, Haechan was amused and scared at the same time. He loved it.
They had leftover mooncakes before going to bed.
At some point in the middle of the night, Haechan felt Renjun move on the bed. When he tried to sneak a peek, he found the guy throwing off his own blanket and getting under Haechan’s. He was asleep two seconds later, breathing deeply and unmoving like a stone, cozied up under Haechan’s arm, gladly claiming the teddy bear printed blanket as his own.
When Haechan woke up, it was too early. He knew it was too early because it was still pretty dark outside. And he also knew he had, at some point during the night, snuggled up to the shorter guy with white fluffy hair like the first morning. He knew he was smelling strawberries and raspberries and mint and the red wine they had last night wafting from Renjun’s body. He also knew he should move away, turn his face away, stop hugging this stranger-turned-friend who just came into existence in Haechan’s life less than a week ago. He shouldn’t be hugging the man, or nuzzling and almost kissing the nape of his neck like a lover.
But Haechan didn’t want to move away.
And so he stayed. Fuck it all.
He liked Renjun, a lot. He liked spending time with him, getting to know him, getting known by him. He liked hanging out with him, going out for a walk, introducing Renjun to his friends. Haechan wanted Renjun to be here like this. Not necessarily ‘here’ as in, in his apartment or in his bed, of course he’d be overjoyed if that happened, but ‘here’ as in, in his life in general. He wanted to meet Renjun everyday and talk to him and spend time with him. But he knew that might not happen. He was hopeful, but he wasn’t stupid.
So he just…stayed. Maybe for one more hour, maybe for less. He just hugged the guy a little tighter, careful not to wake him, breathed in his scent a little deeper, and just stayed until he fell asleep again.
When he woke up next time, he was alone. He had a momentary panic attack until he saw the strawberry blanket at his feet, half-falling to the ground. Maybe Renjun just woke up early and needed to go to the bathroom or decided to get something to eat.
Sure enough, Renjun looked fresh and awake, making coffee for himself. He even smiled when Haechan stood at his bedroom door rubbing his eyes. It made him think everything was normal, as if he hadn’t just spooned the guy at the crack of dawn, almost making him doubt that it actually happened.
They had their breakfast and their lunch. Renjun spent the day painting at one corner, not once letting Haechan look but occasionally asking him to look this way and that. Haechan guessed he was working on the sketches he did yesterday. He tried to work on some of his own projects due after his classes started.
It was just peaceful and comfortable. Even though they didn’t talk as much, Haechan loved it. He had never felt this way while Mark was here minding his own business. Mark felt like a roommate-turned-friend-turned-romantic-interest, just because Haechan thought he was available and they were kinda used to each other. Even then, sometimes being around Mark made him feel jittery, like he had to do something to impress his roommate or keep his attention or something like that. With Renjun, it was just easy. He felt so at ease with this guy with pretentious white hair and fox-like features and sun-bright temperament.
“You’re tiny,” Haechan said out of the blue.
“I’m of average height. And you’re hardly much taller than I am. What’s your point?”
Even the way Renjun said that, as if he was ready to raise fists but knew Haechan was just trying to tick him off so he pretended to be offended, it made Haechan like him even more. He bit his lip to keep from smiling. It was like pulling a cat’s tail but knowing there would be no harm done. At worst, he’d bite a little. Haechan was more than okay with that.
God, he sounded sappy.
He wouldn’t call in love, he wasn’t in love with Renjun. But he liked the guy a helluva lot. Like, really really much.
His phone rang before a knock on the door sounded, breaking Haechan’s internal monolog of admiring Renjun. It was Chenle on the phone.
“Open up, we’re here at the door.”
Sure enough, Chenle and Jisung were at the door, looking more tanned and cheerful than Haechan would have liked.
Chenle and Renjun instantly got into it in Mandarin as Haechan and Jisung helplessly watched from the side. A week ago, Haechan would have thought Renjun was ready to punch Chenle. Now, he knew Renjun was too much of a pacifist, and he enjoyed the bickering. They were probably arguing about how Chenle left home without waiting for Renjun and how Renjun didn’t notify Chenle about coming late. Misunderstandings and bad circumstances.
“Whoa, did you guys cook rice cakes?” Jisung asked from the kitchen all of a sudden and three pairs of eyes turned on him simultaneously. “What?” He got a little nervous.
“I want some, let’s eat,” Chenle said and proceeded to forget all about Renjun and his argument for the time being.
Renjun sighed in frustration and Haechan tried not to laugh.
They ended up having an early dinner, all four of them seated around the low table full of leftovers and freshly cooked ramen. Jisung and Chenle kept talking about their trip and Haechan didn’t spare any chances of roasting them.
“Well, go on then, pack your stuff. My mom threatened me to take you home,” Chenle told Renjun after dinner.
It was inevitable, Renjun was going to leave anyway. But Haechan couldn’t help but sneak glances at him getting all his stuff and rearranging his trunks as he washed the dishes with Jisung. When turned, he saw Chenle staring at him with a weird look.
“What?” Haechan said, mildly annoyed.
“Nothing,” Chenle gave him a fake smile, like he knew some secret or whatever.
When they finally carried the trunks down and into Chenle’s rover, Renjun turned back.
“Thanks for taking me in for the last few days, it was really fun,” he said with a really big smile that Haechan tried to return but couldn’t. “I guess I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah,” was all Haechan could say.
And then Renjun was hugging him. It was funny because Renjun was wearing his puffy coat that made embracing a little hard, and he had to go up on his tiptoes, and Haechan had to tolerate a mouthful of fur. But it was still nice, and he’d take it. He actually hadn’t even expected this much. Maybe a friendly wave of goodbye.
He definitely hadn’t expected the soft kiss Renjun placed on his cheek, before cheerfully saying ‘thank you again’ and quickly getting into the car, avoiding Haechan’s eyes. He couldn’t hide the blush on his cheeks though. And maybe it was the cold, but Haechan didn’t want to think that was it.
God, he missed Renjun.
Spending time alone felt worse now after he knew how much better it could be with Renjun around.
After they had left, Haechan just wanted to sleep and not think about anything. Which is when he had found the orange fox plushie still lying at the corner of his bed where Renjun had kept it the past few days. He sent a text telling him it was left behind.
“It’s okay, I left it intentionally. I want you to have it,” Renjun texted back in seconds.
Haechan wanted to cry.
His bathroom still had that fruity smell. His sheets and blankets and pillows had Renjun’s scent all over them. He nearly had a meltdown over the coffee jar at the corner in the kitchen, because they hadn’t bothered to put it inside the cupboard as Renjun regularly drank it.
Haechan couldn’t even sleep peacefully and that made him angry as much as it made him sad.
How could one person have so much power over him? Taeil never had this effect on him. Mark hardly made a ripple. And there was Renjun, causing tornados with his absence. It was ridiculous, and sad, and painful, and Haechan was wallowing again in loneliness.
He tried to keep busy during the day. It snowed heavily so he couldn’t go out even if he wanted to. And once he had enough time to think, he thought it best not to actively seek out Renjun too much. No need to text unless Renjun did so, no need to go over to Chenle’s house unless there was an actual necessity. Renjun had come here to spend a year studying, to experience the foreign environment, meet new people, make new friends. Haechan didn’t want Renjun to monopolize all his attention towards Haechan. That would just be toxic in the long run. So it was better to let him settle in, give him some time to learn and experience and enjoy stuff on his own. And then, maybe, maybe not, they can hang out again later.
“Hey, we’re going to a friend’s party, you’re coming with. I’ll send you the address,” Chenle texted.
A new year’s party was the last place he wanted to be at, so he bluntly declined.
Moments later, Chenle called. Haechan didn’t pick up because he really didn’t want to talk to anyone. He had spent the morning trying to explain to his mother why he had lied about Mark being with him, and why Renjun had gone away, and why he was spending new year’s eve alone. He knew everything, he didn’t want to be reminded over and over again, even though he loved his mother to bits, it was still too much going through his pathetic life story of the weirdest Christmas of his life.
So he was punishing himself. His body, to be precise. He no longer had two huge trunks or a very cute and colorful Christmas lamp on the floor, so he had more space, and he used every inch of it to run his body down with hours of dance and exercise. Anything to keep his mind busy.
Chenle didn’t get discouraged easily, so when the phone kept ringing even after five minutes, Haechan had to pick up.
“What is your problem?” Chenle sounded irritated.
“You’re the one who’s calling me nonstop, you tell me!” Haechan was frustrated more than he was angry.
“Why won’t you go to the party?”
“Because I don’t feel like it.”
“Stop it. Look,” Chenle seemed to calm down. “I don’t know what happened between you and Renjun, but I can tell that you two have gotten close over a very short time. But now suddenly you’re not talking to each other. And he’s moping around in my house all day and I’m pretty sure you’re moping around yours. And this is getting on my nerves.”
“I’m not moping,” Haechan said. Because he was still stuck on how Renjun was moping around all day. Because of him?
“Yeah, you’re floating on cloud nine, I can tell,” Chenle mocked. “Just come to the damn party. I’m taking him with me. Talk. Work out whatever it is you guys got going on.”
Chenle hung up on him. Minutes later, a text with an address came up, a ten-minute walk from his apartment. Fine, he’d go. But only because Renjun would be there and they could just hang out casually.
Haechan didn’t know what kinda party it would be so he dressed in his casual all black style. Only a single chain around his neck with a bear paw locket. He made sure to arrive late after dinner, just so he didn’t have to stay long. He’ll just go, meet his friends, meet Renjun, make sure everything was okay, and then come back home after a while.
It was past 11 when he arrived. A very night-club-esque party, with darkened halls, rooms cleared off of furniture to be used as a dancefloor, and heavy bass, lo-fi beats playing in the speakers. Whoever was the host, they knew how to please the crowd, because everyone was vibing under the dim Christmas lights hanging up on the ceiling.
Haechan met quite a few familiar faces, most of them from his dance crew, some of them from his classes at university. He found Chenle and Jisung in the kitchen playing beer pong against Ningning and Winter, and on their way to losing because the ladies had excellent aim.
“He’s near the pool, I think,” Jisung said when Haechan asked about Renjun.
He was. Renjun sat near the pool with Hendery and Yangyang. Light coming from under the pool lit Renjun in phosphorescent lights that made him look ethereal. Why did he have to look so pretty? And whenever he laughed out loud, his head tilting back, Haechan felt a pang. They used to laugh like that together. He’d been such an idiot thinking he could just forget their together, when in reality, he’d remember every moment anytime he thought of or saw Renjun.
“Hey,” Haechan said quietly as he walked up to where they sat.
Yangyang and Hendery greeted him cheerfully. Renjun…not so much. He smiled and laughed but he didn’t seem overjoyed to see Haechan even as he sat down beside Renjun. And it sucked because Renjun wore ripped jeans and nailpolish and pretty eyeliner that made him look all the more handsome and Haechan wanted Renjun to keep looking at him so he could keep looking at Renjun.
They offered him a drink and he thought he really needed it, but after one mouthful he declined. He wanted to be drunk alright, but he wasn’t that desperate to ruin his taste. Whatever the liquid was, it was disgusting. They stayed there by the pool, talking about nothing in particular until the fireworks and countdown started. Everyone shouted and cheered.
“Happy new year,” Haechan said to Renjun loud enough for only him to hear.
“To you too,” Renjun said.
“How is Chenle’s place?”
“It’s good. It’s good. It’s…big.”
“Yeah, it is,” Haechan scoffed. But he also felt sad. This interaction felt so dry and forced, it was sickening. What happened to them?
“What have you been up to?” Renjun asked.
“Nothing,” Haechan said. He spent the last two days sulking around in his home, bored and alone.
“Right,” Renjun said almost angrily. “Well, I have to go.”
He didn’t wait for Haechan or anyone to say anything more. It was so abrupt that Haechan knew he’d done something wrong to make Renjun leave right away like that. What the fuck had he done?
Haechan was running after the guy even before he realized it. The crowd was wild, music too loud and the party in full swing after the strike of midnight. Haechan barely made out a white head among the sea of people going out the front door. Haechan hurried through, elbowing quite a lot of people and spilling a few drinks. He didn’t care. He just wanted to undo whatever he had just fucked up.
“Wait! Renjun, wait.”
Haechan wasn’t prepared to face the shorter guy at all. For the first time since he had known him, Renjun seemed actually angry. At him.
“I’m sorry,” Haechan said.
“Why?” Renjun crossed his hands over his chest.
“I…don’t know yet. But I know I did something wrong, and I’m extremely sorry…”
“Right,” Renjun scoffed and nodded. “Do you know what I did yesterday? Or today, for that matter?” He didn’t wait for Haechan to answer. “I unpacked my stuff for an hour. An hour. And then nothing. I waited for hours on end, hoping you’d text me or at least reply to my last text. Or call, want to hang out or something. But, nothing. And, you know the worst part, Haechan? The longer I waited, the more it felt like you were glad I was out of your hair, like you were happy to get rid of me and then move on with your life. I thought you liked me.”
I do, Haechan wanted to scream. I do, I do, I do. But he could barely wrap his head around what Renjun had just said. Oh god, Haechan was such a fucking idiot. He’d been thinking about the whole thing as one sided, him liking Renjun only, not the other way around. Not once had he thought about what Renjun had to say about it all, he had just assumed that Renjun would want some space, to not be around him all the time. How big of a hypocrite could Haechan be?
“You know what? I changed my mind,” Renjun said calmly now. “I want Mr Fox back.”
It took a moment for Haechan to realize he was talking about the stuffed animal. Renjun and his habit of naming everything he owned. Okay. Now that Haechan knew he was a stupid ass motherfucker, he could fix this.
“He’s at the apartment. If you want him, you’re gonna have to come with.”
“I don’t wanna give him back,” Haechan said once they were inside his apartment.
“Yes, you will,” Renjun said.
If Haechan was being honest with himself, he had to admit Renjun looked too cute when he was angry. His cheeks puffed up like a little kid, that paired with his angular jaw really made him look all the more pretty. Haechan still couldn’t get over the eyeliner. Now that they were finally looking at each other fully under the lights, Haechan was obsessed, he wanted to touch Renjun’s eyelashes.
“Fine, I’ll get him,” Renjun shoved him aside and tried to go into his room.
Haechan forced himself not to think anymore and just go for it. He grabbed Renjun’s arm before the guy could open the bedroom door and pulled. Renjun spun around at the hard tug.
Haechan kissed him. Hoping to god Renjun didn’t punch him in the face. And even though he was scared shitless for the few seconds Renjun didn’t respond, he was at last at ease when the shorter guy snaked a hand in Haechan’s hair and pulled hard enough to hurt, holding him in place to deepen the kiss.
Somehow they ended up against the wall. Haechan didn’t know what he was doing. He had only kissed two other people before, a girl in middle-school whom he hardly knew, and Giselle at a party in freshman year because she had wanted to make someone jealous. Neither of those counted, and neither helped. Because Renjun now had his legs around Haechan’s waist, arms around his shoulders, and smelled like burnt matches and roses and cheap vodka and crushed blueberries. Tasted like them too.
“I’m sorry,” Haechan breathed into Renjun’s lips, looking at him earnestly. “I thought you didn’t want to hang out with me anymore since you weren’t forced to live here with me. I didn’t want to bother you, or force myself into your life. I didn’t know you liked me.”
That got him a slap on the shoulder.
“I literally kissed you when I left,” Renjun looked at him as if he was stupid. He actually was.
“On the cheek. I thought you meant that as a ‘thank you’,” Haechan couldn’t help laughing now.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Make me,” Haechan smirked against Renjun’s lips, enjoying the sharp intake of breath he caused.
Among the list of things he was obsessed with when it came to Renjun, lips were at the top. And then were the gasps and shivers that Haechan could feel when they occurred with Renjun in his arms. Being this close to Renjun, awake, had a lot of enjoyable benefits.
“Take me to bed and I will,” Renjun said in his ear and licked the outer shell.
Jesus Christ. Two could definitely play at this game. Haechan nearly dropped the guy still hanging on his waist, his knees weak at the thought of what might just happen next.
It took Haechan a few tries to unlock his door as he resumed kissing. He didn’t even bother turning on a light, the streetlamp would have to do. As they toppled onto the bed, Renjun kneeling on top of him, Haechan forced himself not to think about anything and just go with it. The strategy had worked before pretty well.
“You are an utter idiot,” Renjun said before shoving off Haechan’s jacket as if he was taking out his anger on it.
“You look beautiful,” Haechan gave up and just let his mouth say and do whatever it wanted.
“You should’ve texted me back!” Slim fingers untucked his sweater swiftly and pulled up.
“I will, every day from now on,” Haechan snaked his hands under the oversized lime green sweater Renjun had on and helped him get out of it, revealing a very thin t-shirt without sleeves.
“I don’t wanna have sex tonight,” Renjun said, freezing Haechan on his tracks. He said it so casually as if he was deciding not to have too much ice cream after dinner. “I don’t have my stuff with me now. So just…makeout?”
“Whatever you want is okay with me. I’m willing to do whatever you feel like,” Haechan said quickly. Kinda concerned, kinda going out of his mind that they were having this conversation, entirely happy. “You could probably tell me to bark right now and I’d do it…”
“Bark,” Renjun deadpanned.
They stared at each other for a moment before Renjun broke out in loud laughter, head tilted backwards, eyes narrowed shut in glee.
Haechan flipped them on the bed, pinning Renjun down with his body and making him gasp.
“Please don’t laugh at me,” Haechan whispered.
“I’m not laughing at you,” Renjun smiled up at him.
They stared at each other in the darkened room only lighted by the street lights reflected on the ceiling. Even here, Renjun looked so beautiful, eyes sparkling, mouth curved in a shy smile. His fingers trailed up to Haechan’s jaw and lips and Haechan kissed them, making Renjun laugh again.
“Kiss me, idiot,” Renjun said.
Haechan didn’t know who was calling because he couldn’t see anyone in his dream.
“Haechan!” It was louder than a whisper this time, and too close to his ear. Then a hand touched his shoulder and it felt so real that he startled awake.
Mark was staring down at him. Mark, his roommate. In Haechan’s room. Wearing clothes that looked like he just came home from outside.
“Hi,” Haechan said stupidly.
“Uh…there’s a…someone…in the bathroom?” Mark looked awkward and a bit worried.
Oh. Renjun. Haechan looked beside him to realize the bed was empty. And he was shirtless. No wonder Mark looked so spooked.
“Yeah, uh…a friend.”
A friend? No, definitely more. But Haechan would rather wait for Renjun to decide what they were. Not making the same mistake again.
“So…uh…” Mark looked shy now, his ears turning red. “Okay, well…happy new year!”
And then he was gone.
It was 2 in the afternoon when Mark and Renjun were seated at the kitchen island, Haechan making lunch because he didn’t want to face Mark yet. Renjun happily chatted away and Mark didn’t seem too awkward now that he knew who the unknown person at their apartment was.
Renjun didn’t stay long after lunch. But he made sure to tell Haechan to clear everything up with Mark with his gestures. Haechan would’ve rolled his eyes if the guy wasn’t so cute in his sweater paws.
“So…” Mark started, but didn’t know where to go from there.
Fuck it, Haechan thought.
“He and I are a thing now. I like him, a lot. And for some reason he likes me too. But I didn’t stay here for him. I was gonna stay here for you, because I thought you’d be spending another Christmas here, alone, and I felt bad. So I’d already told my parents about it. But I didn’t know about you and Yuta, which I was a little hurt about because you didn’t tell me, but it’s fine, it’s your business. But yeah, I’d made plans not knowing you’d be spending the holidays with him. And when you told me, I didn’t want you to feel guilty, so I didn’t tell you. And I didn’t want my parents to worry, so I didn’t tell them about you going away. And then Renjun came.”
Mark asked a bit more about what happened in between and Haechan didn’t hold back except for that one information about him planning to start something with Mark. Now that he thought about it, it wouldn’t have happened anyway. Mark and Haechan were more like kids of family friends who had to be friends because their parents were.
“So…I’m happy for you man,” Mark said. “And I guess after knowing this, I don’t feel as guilty as I should about bringing up another matter.”
Haechan narrowed his eyes, waiting for Mark to continue.
“Uh…Yuta…asked me to move in with him,” Mark blushed bright red, even the tip of his ears looked red.
Well, it wasn’t something Haechan hadn’t expected. And he found that it didn’t bother him that much. In fact, he had suspected this right after Mark had told him about Yuta. He even told Jisung about it. Which reminded him…
“What are you doing?” Mark asked.
“He owes me dinner at Red Castle.”
“You guys bet on me moving out?!”
“I’m so glad I get to have my own room and stay here,” Renjun said.
He had decided to move into the apartment when Haechan had offered.
“Are you saying you wouldn’t have moved in if you didn’t get Mark’s room?” Haechan asked in mock offense. “Was living with me so bad?”
“Please, drama queen,” Renjun rolled his eyes. “I’m just glad my trunks aren’t lying around the living room.
“So you’re happy to be here?” Haechan asked for the tenth time since morning.
“Come to my room and find out,” Renjun said and walked off to his newly decorated room.