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I Can’t Give Up On You (I Will Wait a Little Longer)

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Loneliness, in Jaeyun’s opinion, is arguably the most deadly emotion a person can experience. The soul crushing feeling of being completely alone, nobody to turn to when life calls for it, has to be the worst feeling possible. It’s not like it was something he chose to feel either; it just happened, and by the time he noticed it, it was far too late. Jaeyun had isolated himself to the point where he wasn’t even a passing thought in his old friend’s minds anymore. He was maybe a distant memory at most.

As much as it hurts to be forgotten, there’s really nobody to blame but himself. People come and go in life; they enter Jaeyun’s personal bubble and leave at any given time, just like in everyone else’s life, and he acknowledges that people won’t stay forever. It just hurts him a little too much when people leave. Then again, doesn’t it hurt everyone when someone close to them walks out of their life?

The scoff that reverberates through Jaeyun at his own self pity is almost comical; loud, short, and all the more self deprecating. It’s so Jaeyun like these days that he almost wants to throw himself out his window right then and there just so he doesn’t have to deal with himself anymore. That thought alone causes yet another scoff to escape him, and he’s so fed up with himself—spending far too much time alone for the past few years—that he doesn’t even know what to do anymore.

At the end of the day, he can’t put the blame for his current predicament on anyone else. Jaeyun may be a little dense at times, but he’s not stupid. He knows he drove everyone he’s ever cared about away; knows it all too well. And the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that none of those people wanted to leave. It was Jaeyun who never felt like going out when his friends initiated a meetup. It was Jaeyun who slowly stopped responding to messages, at first having them become delayed responses before people just stopped trying all together because they knew they wouldn’t get a response anyways.

Leaving those people behind is one of the reasons Jaeyun hates who he is—who he’s become. Making friends was never exactly his strong suit, but it was doable. While he had spent most of his younger years alone with the occasional person he could call a friend, he hadn’t really made his first real friend—someone who he could fully depend on; a shoulder to cry on—until year six. That was the time in his life where he started needing somebody.

Having dealt with anxiety all his life, he was used to the uncomfortableness of everyday life, but the depression that came along with year six was new to him. The soul crushing feeling that he just hasn’t been able to shake since then was exhausting, completely draining the life out of him. The subtle ache in his bones from the exhaustion of everyday life was accompanied by an even more prominent ache in his chest that was still with him to this very day; only getting stronger as time goes on, it seems.

Leaning back in his computer chair, Jaeyun outstretches his arms and cracks his neck, reaching a hand up to rub a kink out. Glancing around his room, he throws his head back against his chair and groans. He really, really does not want to do this whole “existing” thing today.

The longing to have someone here with him to help him pack up his apartment is eating away at him, and the feeling of desperation is almost enough to bring tears to his eyes. Almost, but not quite. Jaeyun hates crying anyways—far too draining and only ever leaves him with pain in his eyes and a pounding headache along with utter exhaustion coursing through his body. People are always saying crying is supposed to make you feel lighter, to take some of the weight off your chest, but not once has Jaeyun felt that way. If anything, he’s only ever felt worse after a crying session.

He doesn’t really deserve to even want someone to be by his side here with him though. It was his choice to drop everyone who’s ever given a single fuck about him, so he has to deal with the consequences. That’s part of the reason he chose to go to school in South Korea anyways; leaving Australia behind along with everyone in it. He can’t continue hurting the people he loves if he’s out of their lives completely. They’ll maybe hurt for a while at first when they realize he has no intentions of contacting them again, but they’ll move on. Eventually, his family will only think of him as a distant memory too, just like his friends already do. He’ll be nothing more than a passing thought when light conversation about family comes up.

Jaeyun doesn’t know if the thought makes him want to laugh maniacally or break down into tears. He knows it’s probably what’s best—he’s only ever hurt the people he loves—but it doesn’t change the fact that it fucking hurts. As much as he’d like to be able to reprimand himself for continuing to hurt people instead of just fixing himself, he knows it won’t do any good. If he knew how to be a better person, he would be. But, Jaeyun doesn’t have that privilege in life. As far as he’s concerned, he’s stuck thinking of himself as a useless piece of shit; stuck hating himself for the rest of his life.

As much as he’d like to pick himself up and fix every wrongdoing he’s ever done in his lifetime, he just simply can’t. He doesn’t even know where to start, and he definitely doesn’t know how to actually fix things. Jaeyun may pride himself on being incredibly book smart, but when it comes to real-world problems, he’s utterly fucked.

That’s how he ended up here in South Korea, in an empty apartment packing his boxes to move in with some random person who happens to go to the same college as him. He doesn’t want to do it—fuck no—but he really doesn’t have a choice anymore. His lack of good decision making skills led him to barely being able to keep a roof over his head, and he was really only able to do that by sacrificing meals left and right.

Stretching in his chair, Jaeyun allows himself to wallow in his own self pity for a little while longer, doing everything he can to put off packing the last of his things for a little while longer. There’s no use in it; he has to be out of his apartment tomorrow morning anyways, but it’s the little things in life that keep him going anyways. He won’t be sleeping tonight anyways, just like every other night, so he has the time to put off packing. Most of his stuff already resides in boxes by the door, the only things left being his bedsheets and his change of clothes for tomorrow. It’s not really like he can pack up those things right now anyways. Maybe he could pack up his bedsheets, given the fact that if he even thinks about climbing into bed and getting comfortable, he won’t be leaving the comfort of his bed for a long time. The only thing that’ll get him out of it will be his landlord pounding on his door telling him to get the fuck out before he calls the police. And even that will be pushing it.

Folding his hands over his stomach, rubbing soothing circles into his own skin with the pas of his thumb, Jaeyun slowly sways in his swivel chair, feet planted on the legs of the chair. A wave of nausea hits him as he once again realizes that he’s going to be moving in with a total stranger come tomorrow morning, and he swallows harshly around the lump that’s forming in his throat.

It was hard enough moving to a completely different country on his own, but now he had to move in with someone who he’d only ever spoken to over the phone—it wasn’t even a call, but a fucking text—and had to completely readjust to a new living space. The language barrier was still a problem too. While his Korean had improved a lot since he initially came here, it still wasn’t the best and he had never had to portray his emotions with words to another person with it before. There wasn’t a single doubt in his mind that there would be some sort of communication error between him and his new roommate that inevitably blew up in either his or both of their faces.

With a heavy sigh, Jaeyun tilts his head back and rests his head over the top of the chair’s backrest, straining his neck. Not only is the language barrier a problem, but even if it wasn’t there, Jaeyun is still an awkward mess with little to no social skills whatsoever. He can hold a conversation when needed, but when it comes to making friends and even just becoming acquaintances with someone, he’s absolutely fucked. He likes to think he’s decent at picking up social cues, and the years of being alone left him to be a great observer, constantly being able to read people like open books, but he’s still so lost on what to say when it comes down to it. What if his roommate—he can’t even remember his damn name right now—asks him a question and expects a nonchalant answer but Jaeyun gives him one that has too much detail?

Fuck.” Jaeyun groans, snagging his bottom lip between his teeth. Maybe packing his sheets right now is a good idea. Hell, maybe he’ll even change into his clothes that he’s planning on wearing tomorrow and will pack up the one’s he’s wearing now. He’ll plant himself on his couch until sunrise and he’ll be on his way to his new apartment. One glance at his phone’s lock-screen tells him it’s already three in the morning anyways, so it’s not like there’s too much time until then.

He’s willing to do anything if it’ll just get his thoughts to shut the hell up for once. The task is proven rather difficult though when he attempts to make a move to get up but his limbs feel heavy and the feeling in his chest seemingly weighs him down. Of course getting up from his chair, a task so simple anyone can do it, seems rather impossible right now. He’ll have to get up eventually, he doesn’t have a choice, but it’s like his body is completely against the idea.

Tears of frustration prick at Jaeyun’s eyes and he frowns, pursing his lips into a tight line. How pathetic does he really have to be to cry over such a little thing? He doesn’t even know what he’s crying for anymore; he’s really not all that bothered by the fact that he can’t get out of his chair. No, it’s not the chair, but maybe the simple fact that he’s so emotionally unstable anymore that he is physically unable to accomplish tasks. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Letting his body fall forward, Jaeyun slams his head onto the desk in front of him. He winces in pain, but doesn’t make any sort of movements other than that, not having the energy to as the tears finally fall and he lets out a shaky breath, shaking slightly from the emotions wracking through his body.

He doesn’t know when or how he got up from his position at the desk and packed up his bedsheets, but he finds himself sitting on the couch with the last box of things at his feet, in his change of clothes as the time nears six. The first beams of sunlight are peaking over the horizon, illuminating a golden hue across the room, and Jaeyun takes a deep breath. As much as he hates his inability to sleep, he does think sunrises are a nice sight. Sunsets are pretty too, always catching his attention. It doesn’t matter where he is or what he’s doing; if the sun is setting, Jaeyun will stop and take a long look at it. He’ll snap a few pictures on his phone if the sight is particularly pretty that day, taking the time to adjust the settings on his phone camera to properly capture the beauty of the scene before him.

It’s the little moments like those that keep Jaeyun going just a little longer, having him take a couple more breaths as time goes on. Some people would probably think it’s sad that something so small is one of the only reasons he can find to stay living this hell of a life, but Jaeyun thinks people are just overlooking the significance that the little things in life can have.

His phone’s alarm going off is what finally rips him out of his head and back into reality. Jaeyun scrambles to turn it off, always self conscious about what his neighbors can and cannot hear. He’s sure they can’t hear most of the things that he does, but the slight paranoia is enough to leave him cautious.

Rising to his feet and grabbing the box at his feet, Jaeyun allows his eyes to slip shut as he takes a moment to get his anxiety under control. His roommate was moving in today too, so Jaeyun was hoping he would be able to beat him to the apartment and get a head-start on settling in so he could postpone having to actually come face to face with the guy for as long as possible. Maybe if he moved fast enough he could get most of his things settled and he could pretend to be sleeping by the time his roommate showed up. What nineteen year old willingly wakes up at the crack of dawn anyways? Jaeyun probably has a good few hours before the guy even wakes up. If he moves now, he could probably put off seeing him for another day. It’s unlikely, but the thought has him springing towards the door in an instant, eager to finally have something go his way for once.

-

In his rush to move in and avoid having to meet his new roommate for as long as possible, Jaeyun failed to realize the dilemma he would be in when it came down to actually moving in. Now that it was just him at the new apartment and had free range to choose whatever room he wanted, he had no idea what to do. He didn’t want to be a burden and accidentally take the room that his new roommate would have wanted, so he hesitated on even taking the smaller of the two in case his roommate liked the view out of the window a little more in that room and wanted to wake up to it every morning instead of the view he’d get in the other room. They were essentially the same, Jaeyun was honestly being a little ridiculous with this and he was well aware of it, but the anxiety that pricked at his skin told him that he’d made a mistake by coming here so early and trying to get a head start on things.

The last thing Jaeyun wanted was to start off on the wrong foot with the person he was going to be stuck living with for who knows how long—it’s not like if something went wrong Jaeyun could just move out, this wasn’t something he had even wanted to do in the first place. The only reason he was here in this situation was because he had no choice but to get a roommate so he would be able to keep a roof over his head. If all else fails, he could probably pitch a tent in some dark alleyway and hope he makes it through the cold winter, he supposes.

Deciding it would probably just be best to wait and face his roommate—seriously, what the hell was his name—sooner than later, deciding on who gets what room when he arrives—Jaeyun already knows he’ll just give his roommate whatever room he wants; he isn’t picky anyways. At least if they do it that way they can both settle in at the same time and hopefully avoid any awkward interactions for a little longer. The awkward atmosphere was no doubt going to make an appearance given Jaeyun’s literal inability to function like a normal person and actually be able to hold a comfortable conversation. He hoped and prayed that his roommate had experience with awkward, socially inept people prior to Jaeyun so he could at least have some sort of level of understanding.

Plopping down on the floor with a huff—he was not looking forward to having to furnish this apartment after his last one had already been furnished when he rented out the place—Jaeyun wastes no time in snagging his bottom lip between his teeth and gnawing on the plump skin. Despite all of his worries and the way his chest was contrasting almost painfully in his chest as his anxiety swelled in his stomach, part of Jaeyun was kind of grateful for the fresh start. If everything goes well today, maybe Jaeyun will be able to say he has a friend. But then again, he feels like he doesn’t deserve to be able to even think those words. He’s so tired of hurting everyone he cares about, and there’s no way in hell his reputation will just magically disintegrate because he moved to a different country.

His best course of action would probably be to stay as closed off as he can from his roommate. Maybe they’ll become acquaintances, only being civil so living together goes smoothly, but nothing more. Jaeyun can’t bear to hurt another person because of his own selfishness. All he needs to do is just keep his distance and continue living the way he has been for the past year or so, even if it is a life full of misery and despair. As much as he wants to get rid of the loneliness that consumes him, tearing him apart at the seams, the guilt and shame of hurting another person is enough to hold him back and keep him down in the hell hole he dug himself.

Tired of listening to his own thoughts whirl around his head, Jaeyun allows himself to fall to his side, body impacting with the cold, hard floor with a thud and a small “oof”, letting his eyes fall shut as the exhaustion from everything settles into his bones, creeping into his chest. Running on no energy for days on end has finally caught up to him, and his eyelids are far too heavy for Jaeyun to even attempt to pry them open at this point.

In what felt like a short blink of an eye, there was suddenly a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him. In his drowsy state, Jaeyun pays it no mind, merely furrowing his brow and slightly shifting away from the pressure on his shoulder, before his senses catch up to him and his eyes shoot open, realization that he was supposed to be alone hitting him like a truck and knocking the air out of his lungs as he came face to face with what he, humbly, would dub as the most handsome face in the entirety of the human existence.

Jaeyun’s mouth drops open in surprise but hangs lamely as he blinks rapidly, finally bringing himself to close his mouth after a moment only to have it drop open again. If he’s being completely honest with himself, if a murderer this handsome was about to take his life, Jaeyun wasn’t all that against it. He could go peacefully knowing that this handsome face in front of him was going to be the last thing he sees as he takes his last breath. That’s definitely what causes him to freeze up and not make a single move to defend himself—it’s definitely because he’s accepting being killed by such a handsome man and not because he’s so terrified he couldn’t move even if he tried.

The stranger suddenly jolts back, hand leaving Jaeyun’s shoulder as a flush creeps up his neck and his ears go red. Jaeyun finds it in himself to sit upright and press his back against the wall, putting a bit of distance between himself and the man in front of him. The stranger must take notice of the panic in his eyes though as his eyes go comically large and his hands come up to wave animatedly in front of him, babbling away before Jaeyun can actually catch some coherent words.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you, I just—” The man rambles, rising to his feet and taking a few steps back to give Jaeyun some more space. “I just got here and saw you lying here and thought that there’s no way it could be comfortable so I just—I thought I could uh—fuck,” Jaeyun can’t help but giggle at the other’s panicked rambling, surprising himself with the sound, but thinks it’s worth it when guy flushes an even deeper red, lips forming a thin line as he rubs the back of his neck sheepishly.

“It’s okay, you just startled me is all.” Jaeyun is quick to reassure him, slowly rising to his own feet as he takes pity on the man before him. “Honestly don’t even remember falling asleep so when I suddenly felt something on my shoulder and saw you I freaked out.” It was Jaeyun’s turn to flush and he’s grateful the other was too caught up in his own embarrassment still to notice. There really wasn’t anything for either of them to be embarrassed about, Jaeyun knows it, but the awkward tension around them since this is their first time meeting doesn’t help the situation in the slightest.

An awkward silence falls over the room and it takes everything in Jaeyun to stop himself from running away and locking himself up in the bathroom so he can fall into a panic attack all alone, the overwhelming attributes of the situation finally processing in his head and making his skin crawl. He stays grounded though, taking a couple subtle deep breaths here and there so he doesn’t make an even bigger fool of himself than he already has. They both have technically embarrassed themselves already, so really he shouldn’t be too hard on himself, but the deep feeling in his gut that craves for people to like him and get their approval gnaws away at him, churning his stomach uncomfortably.

“I uh, I’m Park Sunghoon, your roommate.” The man—Sunghoon—is the one to break the silence, shrugging casually before outstretching his hand for Jaeyun to shake. Jaeyun glances at it, pursing his lip as he extends his own hand, clasping the other’s hand and giving it a timid shake.

“Sim Jaeyun.” Jaeyun offers him a small smile, opening his mouth as if to speak again only to clamp it shut once more. Sunghoon raises a single brow and slightly nods, as if encouraging him to continue, and Jaeyun cocks his head to the side, licking over his teeth in thought. “I was just gonna say you could call me Jake too. It’s uh, the name I went by in Australia. Friends used to call me it.” Keywords being used to. An odd feeling settles in the pit of his stomach at the thought of his old friends, and Jaeyun is painfully reminded, once again, of how much he hurt them. He doesn’t know why he told Sunghoon his English name—if anything it’ll just be another step of them getting closer and that’s exactly what he’s trying to avoid.

“Jake,” Sunghoon drawls, as if testing the name on his tongue, letting his head fall back so he can stare at the ceiling in thought. He looks back down at Jaeyun after a moment, something akin to curiosity evident in his eyes. “You used to live in Australia?” Sunghoon asks with a lilt of interest. Jaeyun’s eyes widen slightly, upper body jolting back an inch. Why was Sunghoon taking an interest in Jaeyun like this? This is exactly what he didn’t want. He can’t get close to Sunghoon like this, especially if they’re going to be living together for who knows how long being two broke college students. Jaeyun doesn’t want to continue hurting people in general, but he especially doesn’t want to hurt someone who he’ll have to face every day.

“Yeah.” Jaeyun replies dumbly, not giving any more detail, as if he was switching into autopilot, thoughts too messy to be of any use at this point. Sunghoon clearly wanted to start a conversation and was hoping Jaeyun would give him at least something to work with though, as he gestures for Jaeyun to continue. When the latter doesn’t respond and just blankly stares at Sunghoon, he clears his throat and rocks back on his heels.

“Were you like, born there or…?” The rest of the question goes unsaid, but Jaeyun understands. On one hand, the overwhelming urge to get close with somebody again is begging him to just accept Sunghoon’s attempts at befriending him—if he can even call it that; it’s more like Sunghoon is just trying to start off on the right foot so they can live together peacefully—but the other part of him is screaming at him to shut Sunghoon out and to make sure there’s absolutely no chance of Jaeyun hurting someone again. He’s vaguely aware of the fact that shutting Sunghoon out can have a great negative impact on his roommate too, but Jaeyun pushes that aside. How can that hurt Sunghoon when he barely even knows Jaeyun in the first place? He’s not losing anything, so why should it hurt? He doesn’t care about Jaeyun or his opinions, so why would it affect Sunghoon?

Sunghoon clears his throat and embarrassment creeps under Jaeyun’s skin as he realizes he’s been caught up in his own head for far too long. He should probably have some human decency and respond to Sunghoon at least, but he still finds himself holding back. A little conversation wouldn’t hurt though, right? Maybe instead of completely shutting Sunghoon out, he can just give the other short and blunt responses until Sunghoon inevitably gets bored and just stops trying, realizing that there’s nothing interesting about Jaeyun and he’s just a waste of time. As much as that conclusion would jab at Jaeyun, it’s probably what’s best.

“I was born here in South Korea but moved to Australia at a young age. My family and I were too focused on learning English so my Korean kind of got left behind, you could say.” Jaeyun chuckled nervously. “I’ve been studying it again for ‘bout two years though and living here again for one so my Korean isn’t the worst but it’s…not the best, either.” Jaeyun finishes and Sunghoon nods in understanding.

“So I can expect some communication errors while living together?” Sunghoon raises a brow and Jaeyun gapes at him, placing his tongue over his teeth as he stares at Sunghoon. “I don’t particularly mind, but I’d like to at least have that information stored in the back of my mind in case there’s some sort of major miscommunication along the way. You know, lost in translation sort of thing.” Sunghoon is quick to explain and Jaeyun almost wants to tell him no, there’s no way that can happen, just to put that extra bit of distance between them and give future Jaeyun, who is most definitely going to fuck up majorly somewhere along the way, an extra bit of help.

“I’ve been living here and conversing with people for a year now, I think we’ll be fine.” Jaeyun surprises himself with his snippy response, and he knows all too well that it’s a lie. Sure, he’s had conversations in passing, but he hasn’t actually gotten past the small talk or talks about assignments with professors yet. Sunghoon doesn’t need to know that, though. If he wants to make sure he doesn’t hurt Sunghoon by getting to know him before fucking everything up, then he may as well give himself a head start on Sunghoon disliking him first. It’s probably a horrible idea, but Jaeyun is willing to take that chance.

Sunghoon is clearly taken aback by Jaeyun’s response though, as he looks everywhere but at Jaeyun, making a low noise in the back of his throat. Guilt crashes over Jaeyun like a wave at the sight of Sunghoon visibly deflating, but pushes the feeling down when he remembers why he’s doing this in the first place. Jaeyun isn’t stupid, he knows this also counts as hurting someone—how could it not when the hurt is literally plastered on Sunghoon’s face—but he tells himself that this little bit of hurt is much better than the soul crushing hurt Jaeyun would inflict on Sunghoon with time if they became even remotely close.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off harsh or anything.” Jaeyun finds himself apologizing anyway, despite his inner turmoil. Sunghoon nods in acknowledgement, and what Jaeyun thinks is subtle forgiveness, but it doesn’t do much to settle the guilt still bubbling in his chest. “But I really do think we’ll be okay with communication. Like I said, I uh—I’ve been here conversing for a year already.” No point in erasing the distance he’s already created.

“If you say so.” Sunghoon shrugs, muttering something else under his breath that Jaeyun can’t quite catch. He lets it go though, reminding himself that he shouldn’t care about what Sunghoon says right now because his main goal right now is to make it so Sunghoon doesn’t want to get close with him. He’s constructing the sturdiest walls he can around himself, closing himself off from Sunghoon in the easiest way possible. He absolutely refuses to let Sunghoon, someone who is so clearly kind and gentle, get close to him. It’ll only end in a disaster that leads Jaeyun to hate himself more than he already does.

The silence that surrounds them is heavy, and Jaeyun notes that this is the first time Sunghoon hasn’t actively tried to fill the silence since he first woke Jaeyun up. An unfamiliar feeling settles in Jaeyun’s stomach, and he almost feels like throwing up. He can feel his hands trembling and he doesn’t understand why because he asked for this; he asked for Sunghoon to stop trying so hard to get on good terms with him. Jaeyun doesn’t want to be on bad terms with him, no, but he doesn’t want to be on good terms either. He just wants to be able to be civil with each other, nothing more and nothing less.

Jaeyun is just confusing himself at this point; on one hand he’s deliberately trying to stop himself from hurting Sunghoon, who he’s going to be seeing literally all the time, but on the other hand he’s hurting him by trying not to hurt him. It’s an endless loop that Jaeyun is stuck in and has no idea how to get out of. But, maybe what he’s doing now is for the best? Or is it just making everything worse and Jaeyun is doing exactly what he told himself he wouldn’t do? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know and it fucking kills him.

“Uh, what room did you want?” Jaeyun brings himself to ask after a long pause. “I didn’t want to accidentally take the room you wanted or anything.” A nervous chuckle resonates through him as Sunghoon quirks his brow, tilting his head to the side slightly, accompanied with a sly grin.

“Is that why you were sleeping on the floor out here?” Sunghoon inquires and Jaeyun sighs, rolling his eyes. The answer is yes, technically, but he refuses to hurt his pride even more than he already has today. He’s just met Sunghoon and he’s already somehow managed to embarrass himself multiple times. He could easily blame it on the sleep deprivation—that little sleep, even if he wasn’t sure how long it was, could not have been anything that could significantly help his case—but deep down Jaeyun knows this is just how he was. He’s destined to fuck up, it seems.

“I did not intentionally fall asleep, no,” Jaeyun narrows his eyes at Sunghoon, folding his arms over his chest. “But yes, I was out here because I didn’t want to move into a room without you being able to at least have somewhat of a say in things.” It sounds kind of stupid once he says it out loud, and Jaeyun’s arms fall down to his sides, frown tugging on his lips as his confidence dwindles.

“Oh.” Is all Sunghoon says in response, turning on his heels to ascend down the hallway, peeking into the few doors that litter the hall. It’s only two bedrooms and one bathroom, but Jaeyun thinks it’s a pretty damn good deal for what they’re paying. Although, that could also be the Australian in him speaking. He’s kind of glad he didn’t have to deal with rent while he lived there, moving out to go to Korea before going off on his own in Australia. He’s seen those rent prices, and it intimidates the hell out of him.

Sunghoon pokes his head back out of one of the bedrooms and catches Jaeyun’s eyes, nodding his head up to motion for Jaeyun to come to him. The boy obliges, shuffling across the apartment to enter the room Sunghoon currently resides in. It’s the bigger of the two bedrooms, Jaeyun notes, and he fully expects Sunghoon to claim it—why wouldn’t he? It’s got enough space for a desk and a decent sized bed along with other various furniture, so Jaeyun thinks it’s the room that anyone would want when moving into a new place. Jaeyun must be losing his touch in reading people though, as Sunghoon surprises him with his next words.

“You can take this room if you’d like.” Sunghoon smiles at him, lightly patting Jaeyun’s shoulder. The latter flinches slightly, and Sunghoon quickly retracts his hand, eyes wide in concern and Jaeyun has to quickly brush him off, muttering that Sunghoon had just surprised him. The excuse seems to satisfy Sunghoon though, as he goes back to examining the room.

“You can take it.” Jaeyun throws the offer back at Sunghoon and watches the frown form on his face. He doesn’t know why Sunghoon is frowning, he’s trying to be nice, but it unsettles him, nonetheless. Jaeyun really, really doesn’t want to be stuck with a grumpy roommate, and while Sunghoon doesn’t necessarily match the grumpiness criteria, he definitely frowns more than Jaeyun would like to personally admit. He could just be someone with naturally cold features though—resting bitch face, was it? But Jaeyun can’t be too sure yet.

“Nah, I think you should have it.”

“Sunghoon—”

“I mean it, Jaeyun.” Sunghoon cuts him off, the finality lacing his voice making Jaeyun’s blood run cold. When Jaeyun looks at Sunghoon though, there’s a hint of a smile toying on his lips.

“Do you…like the view in the other room better or something?” Jaeyun asks warily, hoping he doesn’t upset Sunghoon any further. Sunghoon doesn’t even fucking look upset, but Jaeyun can’t help but feel like he is. The feeling of uneasiness that washes over his body keeps telling him that he has fucked up with Sunghoon already and that his roommate, who he just barely met, is already upset with him and would rather have literally any other roommate on earth than Jaeyun. He has no evidence, not even proper reasoning, but Jaeyun feels it, and he can’t shake off the heavy feeling.

“Nah, nothing in particular, I just think you should have this room.” Sunghoon shrugs, giving the room one last once-over. “You went out of your way to wait for me to get here so I could have a pick on what room I want, and I appreciate that, so I’m saying you should take the bigger room because of your generosity.”

“Doesn’t you giving me the bigger room because of my selflessness of giving you the option of getting the bigger room kind of diminish the point of my ‘generosity’ or whatever?” Jaeyun asks, doing air quotes around ‘generosity’. Sunghoon sends him a funny look before turning back towards the window, glancing over the city.

“Can you just, like, stop being difficult and accept the offer?” Sunghoon deadpans and Jaeyun’s stomach drops. He subconsciously shrinks into himself, eyes finding the floor easily.

“Sorry.” Is all he mutters before Sunghoon sighs and exits the room, probably going back out the the entrance area to start putting his stuff in his room. Amidst his attempts of trying to make the move as easy as possible and not annoying Sunghoon by taking the room he may have wanted, Jaeyun ended up annoying Sunghoon even more than what he probably would have in any other situation.

Everyone can make mistakes and overlook situations where they’re trying not to step on people’s toes, Jaeyun knows this, but he can’t help but feel like he’s burdened Sunghoon and made a move that was probably already stressful even worse. He could probably make it up to Sunghoon by making him a nice home-cooked meal once they properly settle in, but that also feels like it’ll come off as too much and Sunghoon will end up finding him even more unbearable.

The skin on the back of his neck crawls and Jaeyun bites his lip, slowly poking his head out into the hallway to see if Sunghoon is still out there. He can hear shuffling in the room across the hall and Jaeyun takes it as his chance to grab a few of his boxes and occupy himself with unpacking what he can while he doesn’t have any furniture.

It’s quite childish of him to try and avoid Sunghoon like this, especially when he was the problem, not Sunghoon, but Jaeyun is far too overwhelmed by the day’s events to push aside the child-like tendencies. It wouldn’t hurt to avoid Sunghoon for a few hours while they settle in a bit and Jaeyun’s nerves calm down. Maybe if he allows himself time to relax and take some deep breaths, Jaeyun will be able to apologize to Sunghoon and get on his good side. Jaeyun specifically didn’t want to set off on the wrong foot with Sunghoon, but that’s exactly what ended up happening because Jaeyun doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up and just let things go. Jaeyun just hopes Sunghoon is a forgiving person. He hopes his roommate will be able to turn a blind eye at least this one time so they can live peacefully. If not, then Jaeyun will probably just keep living his lonely life by locking himself up in his room at any given chance.

“Hey,” Sunghoon’s voice rips Jaeyun out of his thoughts and he whirls around, almost dropping the box in his hand—when did he get that? Actually, scratch that, when did he actually end up leaving the room and make it to the living room? Jaeyun shakes his head, as if it would rid the thoughts racing through his conscience, cocking his head to the side to silently ask Sunghoon what he needs. The other just stares at him though, and Jaeyun sighs, positioning the box so it rests on his hip at his side. Sunghoon doesn’t look like he intends to say anything else, and Jaeyun’s confusion only grows as Sunghoon remains silent. 

“What?” Jaeyun asks him, brow furrowed as he tries to analyze Sunghoon’s features, trying to decode whatever the look on Sunghoon’s face meant. The other just purses his lips, raking a hand through his hair as he continues to stare at Jaeyun.

“You’re…kind of jumpy.” Sunghoon notes and Jaeyun scoffs, rolling his tongue over his teeth as a wave of annoyance breaks through his walls.

“And you seem to have a habit of not warning people of your presence.” Jaeyun bites and Sunghoon flinches, a scandalized expression taking over his face. Jaeyun frowns, setting his box down and rubbing his left wrist—a nervous tick he hasn’t been able to break no matter how hard he tries—as he casts his eyes down before lancing back up at Sunghoon. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off like that.” His voice is barely above a whisper but Sunghoon, miraculously, hears him and smiles gently at him.

“It’s alright.”

“It’s really not; I just met you but I keep fucking up.” Jaeyun chuckles lightly and Sunghoon frowns. He takes a step closer to the boy but stops when he sees Jaeyun take a subtle step back, barely noticeable.

“Look, Jaeyun, I can tell you’re nervous about everything—”

“Am I that obvious?”

“Painfully so.” Sunghoon grins, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But it’s alright, I get it. I’m not the most social person either.” Jaeyun wants to argue that he is social to an extent and things are just complicated for him, but he decides against it in favor of avoiding any prying questions from Sunghoon. It doesn’t matter in the end anyway.

“What did you need?” Jaeyun asks and Sunghoon glances around the room, humming in thought as he tries to remember what he had come out to tell Jaeyun in the first place. A small part of Jaeyun thinks this is Sunghoon’s way of getting back at him for being so cold and rude—annoying Jaeyun and wasting his time as a form of vengeance—but Jaeyun has a gut feeling Sunghoon isn’t all that spiteful. It’s still a possibility, but highly unlikely at this point given the fact that Sunghoon has been more or less patient with him this entire time. Someone’s patience can only last so long though, so Jaeyun can’t really blame him for eventually snapping and just walking away from Jaeyun.

“Oh, right!” Sunghoon suddenly laughs lightly, rolling his eyes at himself. “I was just gonna give you a heads up that two of my buddies are gonna be swinging by tomorrow to help us properly move in. We can get some furniture and stuff with their help.” Jaeyun just stares at him blankly in response and Sunghoon shifts his weight between his feet, eyes roaming over Jaeyun’s features. “Unless you don’t want a bed to sleep on and a table to eat at?” Sunghoon adds, voice having a lilt to it despite the uneasiness lacing his tone. “I don’t know about you, but I personally wouldn’t mind a couch to sit on either.”

Sunghoon is still met with silence, Jaeyun’s mind far too messy to form a coherent sentence as his brain short circuits at the information Sunghoon just dumped on him. He really shouldn’t be short circuiting at this information; Sunghoon was bound to have at least some friends based on Jaeyun’s first impression with him. The man was kind, patient, and overall gentle; who wouldn’t want to be his friend? Jaeyun doesn’t count, given the circumstances he’s under, and he does want to befriend Sunghoon, thinking that he would make out to be a really nice person to have on his side, but Jaeyun can’t befriend him for Sunghoon’s sake. That wouldn’t be fair to Sunghoon in the slightest. That being said, Jaeyun shouldn’t be standing in the entryway of their apartment like an idiot because Sunghoon had a couple friends coming to help him move into his new apartment; that’s what friends did, right?

Jaeyun, to his disappointment, had not mentally prepared himself to close himself off from the people Sunghoon brought around the apartment. He knew the time would come, but he had focused a tad bit too much on trying to figure out how to keep Sunghoon behind his closed walls. Jaeyun has no idea how he’s going to take everything on all at once, but is going to have to do it anyway. Worse comes to worst, Jaeyun just completely shuts everyone out of his life like before and only interacts with people when absolutely needed. He's been isolating himself for the past year anyways; how hard could it be to keep going? Even if the loneliness consumes Jaeyun, tearing him apart from the inside out, it’s what he’s going to have to do. It’d be far too selfish of him to appease the loneliness knowing that if he did, people would get hurt in the process.

While Jaeyun can label himself as many things, selfish was not among those labels. He’s actually been told countless times before that he needs to be more selfish at times. Jaeyun has always put others before himself, letting people use him as a stepping stone to get where they desire in life, thinking they deserved it more than he ever would. While selflessness can be a good thing—it can be a great thing—it can also be the root of all evil. Ironically enough, selfishness is usually observed as something negative; something someone needs to erase among their traits, but selfishness can be inherently good. When it comes to one’s own mental or physical wellbeing, they should be selfish. At the end of the day, all someone has no matter what is themself. Jaeyun can’t walk away from himself like he can other people, so logically speaking he should be putting himself first, trying to do everything in his power to live contently. But he doesn’t, and he doubts he ever will. Jaeyun doesn’t see a point in allowing himself to excel when other people, who arguably deserve so much more, would lose that chance upon him taking the place.

“Jae…yun?” Sunghoon drawls, worry creasing his brow. Jaeyun blinks at him, making a low noise in the back of his throat before clearing it, raising a single brow at Sunghoon, silently asking him to repeat what he was trying to speak to Jaeyun about. He remembers that the conversation was about his friends coming over to help move in, but Jaeyun doesn’t specifically remember what he’s supposed to respond to anymore, getting far too lost in thought. He flushes in embarrassment, wondering how many times he can embarrass himself in one day, but pushes the feeling aside in favor of listening to Sunghoon.

“I was just telling you that two of my friends were coming over to help us move in and…we could furnish the place with their help, but you didn’t really…are you okay?” Sunghoon stumbles over his words, and Jaeyun winces. Making the situation awkward between them definitely wasn’t a goal of his, but Jaeyun had managed to do it anyways. And he especially didn’t want to make Sunghoon fucking worry about him. Worrying about Jaeyun meant that Sunghoon cared about Jaeyun, even just a little, and Jaeyun couldn’t have that. Sunghoon seemed like someone who cared about others naturally though, so Jaeyun might be very well fucked. “Jaeyun?”

“I—yeah, yeah I’m okay.” Jaeyun quickly word vomits his response, the syllables melting together and sounding unusual. Sunghoon sends him a look that tells Jaeyun he doesn’t believe the bullshit that’s spewing from his mouth right now and he sighs. “It’s just nerves and stress, don’t worry about it.” Jaeyun’s voice comes out as gentle as possible, hoping it’s enough to convince Sunghoon to drop the topic and move on. His roommate looks hesitant, narrowing his eyes at Jaeyun.

“You sure?” Is all Sunghoon asks, and Jaeyun nods quickly, sending Sunghoon a small smile. It seems to appease Sunghoon enough, as he shrugs and clicks his tongue, picking up their previous conversation. “So you’re good with my friends helping and going out to get furniture tomorrow?”

“Yeah? Why wouldn’t I be?” Jaeyun asks dumbly and a coy smile tugs on Sunghoon’s lips as his motions his hand out to Jaeyun and quirks his brow, and Jaeyun hears the silent statement loud and clear; ‘because you just stood there lost in thought for like five minutes after I mentioned it.’ Jaeyun kicks himself internally, feeling embarrassed by his own stupidity. Sunghoon just lets out a small laugh though, dropping his hand back to his side and shoving it back in his pocket in a relaxed stance. Sunghoon is overwhelmingly good at easing the awkwardness between them. Despite the fact that Sunghoon explicitly told him that he’s not the most social person, Jaeyun would think he was a natural when it came to socializing. He knew how to deescalate a situation with ease and create a comfortable atmosphere, and Jaeyun was incredibly grateful for it because he was notorious for creating awkwardness left and right.

“I’ll leave you to it then.” Sunghoon smiles and turns around on his heels. He abruptly stops though, turning back around to give Jaeyun a questioning look. “You need any help with those?” He motions towards the few boxes Jaeyun brought with him and the latter shakes his head, shooting Sunghoon a smile.

“I’m alright, thanks though.”

“Yeah, okay.” And with that, Sunghoon leaves Jaeyun alone in the entryway of their apartment. A ghost of a smile shapes Jaeyun’s face and the light chuckle that resonates through him feels off; foreign, almost. The heaviness in his chest feels a little less overbearing and Jaeyun worries that he’ll get too attached to having someone around, knowing that he’ll eventually be alone again, but he can’t help it. Having someone else around is nice, and Jaeyun misses it more than he’d like to admit. As overwhelmed as he is over the entirety of the situation, the fuzzy feeling in his chest that momentarily kicked the consuming weight to the streets, letting Jaeyun breathe.

Still, he has to be more careful. Maybe he’ll indulge in this feeling for a little longer, just until their classes start and neither he nor Sunghoon will have any time to care about anything other than their studies and their friends. After classes start back up for the semester, Jaeyun will drown himself in his studies and will put the needed distance between him and Sunghoon. It’s the best course of action, and it’s not hard to do. He has to focus on his studies anyways—working for both a master’s degree in physics and a bachelor’s degree in statistics at the same time was not his brightest choice in life, he has to admit—the workload being far too stressful and time consuming to get involved with people. He just hopes Sunghoon isn’t one of those roommates who throws a party every other fucking weekend or brings girls over for a quick fuck every time he gets stressed or wants to ‘let loose’. Jaeyun really hopes Sunghoon didn’t just say he wasn’t the most social person out of pity for Jaeyun, a lame attempt at cheering him up. Jaeyun will never survive if Sunghoon ends up being some sort of rip off of an American frat boy and he’s forced to let strangers in his apartment all the time. He needs a safe space, dammit.

Jaeyun clicks his tongue and bends down to pick up the box he had initially had in his hand before his conversation with Sunghoon, making his way to his new room feeling a little lighter than he has in as long as he can remember. While the heaviness is definitely still there, it’s a nice change for once to be able to breathe without feeling completely restricted.

-

“Man, this is a nice place you got here.” Jaeyun stands to the side as the words leave the newcomer's mouth, fiddling with the sleeves of his flannel as the boy—Jaeyun is convinced he’s still a kid—glances around the apartment, still holding the door open. Jaeyun doesn’t even know where to begin asking the many questions he has, so he starts with the most painfully obvious one.

“Uhm, who are you?” Jaeyun asks, curiosity evident in his voice. The boy just turns to him with raised brows before bursting into a short fit of laughter, facepalming himself as he calms down from his mini outburst.

“Oh my God, sorry, I probably should have started with that before waltzing into your apartment.” The boy smiles sheepishly and Jaeyun smiles back at him, albeit a little timidly. “I’m Nishimura Riki, one of Sunghoon’s friends.” Realization washes over Jaeyun and he gasps quietly, rolling his eyes at himself.

“Oh, I should have known you were one of his friends.” Jaeyun flushes and Riki just waves him off, muttering another apology for entering the apartment before clearing things up, to which Jaeyun waves off, seeing as he had let Riki in anyways. “Wait a minute—” Riki looks at him expectantly as Jaeyun fumbles with his words, trying to find the right phrasing so he doesn’t come off strangely. “Ni—Nishimura? You Japanese?” Jaeyun asks after a moment and Riki nods enthusiastically. “Oh.” Now Jaeyun is even more confused.

“What?” Riki asks, clearly seeing the confusion in Jaeyun.

“I just—not to sound weird or anything…but how old are you? There is no way in hell you’re in college.”

“Oh, he’s not.” Another voice comes from the hallway and enters the apartment, a box of pots and pans in hand, and Jaeyun assumes it’s safe to say this is the other friend Sunghoon was talking about the night prior. But why is every answer he’s getting on Riki’s identity only confusing him even more? “Hey, I’m Park Jongseong, Sunghoon’s other friend.” The other introduces himself and Jaeyun doesn’t have time to introduce himself in response before Sunghoon comes barging out of his room.

“Hey now, you’re not harassing Jaeyun, are you? I know how you two can be.” Sunghoon enters, standing adjacent to Jaeyun and the latter chuckles as his friends recoil in mock offense.

“Uh, excuse you, I’m cultured.” Jongseong bites, a hand to his chest. Riki just shrugs, accepting Sunghoon’s words without much to say.

“Yeah, sure you are.” Sunghoon sighs. “What’s in the box?” Jongseong hums and fully enters the apartment, letting Riki shut the door, and walks to the kitchen counter, setting the box on the crowded space. Jaeyun could have personally used a little more counter space, but he supposes he can’t have luxurious things on a budget. Sunghoon approaches Jongseong while Jaeyun stays in his spot, hugging himself as anxiety bubbles in his stomach, a strange feeling taking over his body. It’s like his intestines are knotted together and his body is failing due to the kinks in them, interrupting the systematic flow of his internal organs, creating a dreary sensation throughout his body.

“Just some pots and pans that my mom was desperately trying to get rid of. I had already bought some while I was out shopping with Jungwon.” Jaeyun distantly hears Jongseong explaining, getting lost in his bodily sensations. He feels a presence step closer to him from behind, and he moves his head slightly so he can see it from the corner of his eye. Riki shoots him a mischievous smile, stepping beside him so he can enter the conversation.

“Ooh, shopping with Jungwonie hyung, huh?” Riki wiggles his eyebrows at Jongseong and the other flushes, spluttering a few words of nonsense before slapping his mouth shut and giving Jaeyun a panicked look, quickly followed by Sunghoon’s own. Jaeyun met them with a confused look, raising a single brow in question but never letting the amused smirk leave his face. Both of them relaxed at the lack of reaction coming from Jaeyun, and he brushes it off.

“Hey now, you need to shut the hell up.” Jongseong bites and Riki’s smirk only deepens, mischievous glint in his eyes shining brighter than Jaeyun thought humanly possible. Sunghoon shakes his head and starts taking the pots and pans out of the box Jongseong brought, promptly ignoring his two friends. Jaeyun is about to move to join him—he’ll be using them too, after all—and lend a hand when Riki snorts, stopping Jaeyun in his tracks as he spares a glance at him.

“Why? Because it hurts your feelings like the coward you are?” Riki wiggles his eyebrows, clearly taunting his friend. Jaeyun would have it in him to laugh if the cold stare Jongseong was giving Riki didn’t scare the living shit out of him.

“Don’t you have homework to be doing or something?” 

“No? The hell? I don’t start classes until a few days after yours, idiot.”

“Uhm—” Jaeyun’s noise of worry goes unnoticed by the bickering duo, getting cut off by Jongseong.

“Watch your language kid.”

“I’m not a kid!” Riki retorts childishly, and his face flushes immediately, the child-like behavior not going unnoticed even by himself.

“You’re lucky you can even babble!” Jongseong scoffs and Jaeyun has to suppress a giggle, the absurdity of the situation baffling him.

“Oh my God, I’m literally three years younger than you! You act like I came out of the womb just yesterday.”

“Because you did.”

“So you came out of the womb three years ago?” Riki raises a brow and Jongseong scoffs, shaking his head while folding his arms over his chest defensively.

“Now you’re just being ridiculous.” 

I’m being ridiculous?” Riki yells, exasperated.

“Yes!”

“So you’re a coward and an idiot, okay.” Riki hums, nodding. Jongseong’s jaw goes slack, dropping comically wide, as he stares at Riki. Random noises present themselves from Jongseong’s throat and Jaeyun honestly can’t tell if he’s genuinely mad now. He sends Sunghoon a pleading look, desperate for him to either reassure Jaeyun that no, they are not actually fighting and this is just their love language, or see his distress and tell them to calm down and deescalate the situation. Neither thing happens though as Sunghoon’s back is facing him, his roommate organizing the pots and pans so they’ll fit in the bottom drawer of the oven.

“You know what you little shit—”

“What? What is your cowardly ass gonna do?” Riki taunts and Jaeyun watches as Jongseong takes a deep breath, letting his eyes slip shut as he composes himself.

“I am not a coward.” Jongseong says after a moment, voice filled with finality, leaving no room for argument. Jaeyun feels like this has gone past typical banter, and his stomach twists uncomfortably. Sunghoon spares his friends a short glance before shrugging and finally starting to put the items in their designated drawer underneath the oven. Jaeyun can’t even begin to fathom how often this happens between Riki and Jongseong for Sunghoon to have such a nonchalant reaction while Jaeyun is shaking in his spot.

“Then man up and confess to Jungwon.” Riki rolls his eyes, leaning against the wall as he folds his arms over his chest, a relaxed stance for a tense situation—at least, Jaeyun thinks it’s tense. He’s not really sure if everyone else in the room thinks the same. “I’m tired of watching this mutual pining. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some mutual pining, but come on, we’re at least five-hundred thousand words in at this point.”

“Riki—what?” Sunghoon suddenly asks but Jongseong is quick to butt in, whining dramatically and putting the back of his hand to his forehead.

“But Jungwon doesn’t even like me like that.” Another scoff resonates through the room—from Sunghoon, this time, Jaeyun observes—as Riki groans, slapping his hand to his face much harder than Jaeyun thinks is necessary. He gets Jongseong; feelings are complicated, after all. And not to mention the fact that accepting someone likes you when you don’t even like yourself is practically impossible. Jaeyun swears one of the most difficult mental tasks is wrapping his head around someone liking him. And he doesn’t even necessarily mean in a romantic way, but merely being able to stand him.

“He likes you, idiot. Anyone who has the misfortune of being around you two can see it.” Riki says and Jaeyun can’t suppress his giggle this time, promptly covering his mouth to stifle the sound when three pairs of eyes are suddenly on him. Jaeyun drops his hand after a moment, smiling sheepishly. He knows the smile is uneasy, knows it by the look on everyone’s face, but it’s all he can offer at the moment. Hell, with the way his insides are twisted in knots he’s surprised he can muster a smile at all.

“Whatever, you’re all a pain in my ass.” Jongseong grumbles, stopping to look at Jaeyun. “You’re only a semi pain in my ass so far though, Jaeyun-ssi.” Jongseong clarifies, shooting Jaeyun a smile.

“Aish, please don’t be so formal.” Jaeyun groans.

“He’s the same age as us, Jongseong, don’t go making him feel old.” Sunghoon supplies and Jongseong raises an eyebrow, glancing from Sunghoon to Jaeyun. Riki snickers next to Jaeyun and the latter tilts his head to the side, and the motion reminds Sunghoon of a puppy, his heart contracting in his chest as he fights the urge to voice his thoughts.

“So you two are already on the casual-talking stage, huh?” Jongseong wiggles his brows and Riki fully snorts this time, not even bothering to cover up his laugh. Sunghoon glares at Jongseong, lightly slapping him on his shoulder.

“Hey, we just figured since we’re going to be living together and constantly seeing each other, it’d just be easier to drop formalities.” Sunghoon grits, and Jaeyun doesn’t understand why he’s treating the topic with a sort of aggression. “Don’t make it out to be something it’s not, Jongseong-ah.” Oh. Jongseong raises his hands in surrender, giving Sunghoon a curt nod.

“Whatever you say, boss.”

“Oh, for fucks sake.” Sunghoon rolls his eyes. Jongseong chuckles in response, turning back to Jaeyun.

“So, you wanna drop formalities and speak casually from here on out then? Broskies for life? Is that what the kids are saying these days?”

“Lord please help me.” Riki mutters under his breath, and it's Jaeyun’s turn to snort this time, once again covering his mouth with his hand. Riki just shoots him an amused look though, putting Jaeyun at ease for a moment.

“Yeah, I don’t mind, I didn’t live here for a large portion of my life so honorifics are still a bit weird for me.” Jaeyun finally answers Jongseong’s question and the boy’s eyes light up at his statement.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jongseong waves his hand animatedly and Sunghoon groans, leaning back against the counter and banging the back of his head on the cabinets. “You’re foreign?” Jongseong asks.

“Sort of? Not really? In a way?” Jaeyun stumbles over his words, heat pooling in his veins from sudden unease.

“Just answer the damn question, Jaeyun.” Jongseong sighs, rolling his eyes, and Jaeyun clamps his mouth shut, eyes going wide.

“Uhm—”

“Jongseong!” Sunghoon exclaims, glaring at his friend. Jaeyun shrinks into himself, taking a subtle step away from the group. Jaeyun has never liked having too much attention on him, but he hates when the attention is on him when he’s vulnerable, much preferring to be completely alone during those times of weakness. Jaeyun doesn’t want to be seen as something weak and frail, and that’s definitely how he looks in his moments of vulnerability.

“Sorry, sorry, that came out wrong.” Jongseong quickly apologizes, frown etched on his features. “Sorry, sometimes I can come off a bit harsh when I don’t mean to.” Jaeyun just nods in response, folding his arms over his chest. He can feel a pair of eyes on him, and glancing out of the corner of his eye tells him Sunghoon has his eyes dead set on him, worry etched on his face, creating lines of distress on his forehead.

“I—” Jaeyun clears his throat. “I was born here in Korea but moved to Australia at a really young age. Korean kind of left me, I guess.” Jaeyun explains and Jongseong gasps.

Oh, you’re Aussie, huh?” The sudden language change catches Jaeyun off guard and his head jolts back in shock, a small smile tugging on his lips. He recognizes the American accent, and Jaeyun files that information in the back of his mind.

Yeah. Are you American?

You bet; born in Seattle then moved to Korea when I was nine.” Jongseong supplies. “Sexy accent, by the way.”

Sexy? Sexy? Oh, you horny fuck.” Riki scoffs.

“Language!” Sunghoon scolds.

“It’s Korean.” Riki replies smugly, raising his brow. “Feel like you should know that though, hyung.”

“Aish, this kid.” Sunghoon sighs, but lets it go.

“Are…we going to get going or…?” Jaeyun starts but trails off, tongue suddenly feeling heavy in his mouth. Sunghoon, bless his soul, must sense his nervousness and sudden discomfort because he’s suddenly shooting upright and gently shoving Jongseong towards the door, muttering something about how they don’t have all day. He’s quick to usher Riki to the door too before turning around and sending Jaeyun an encouraging smile.

You don’t have to come.” Is what he mouths to Jaeyun—he thinks so, at least; it’s awfully hard to read lips in Korean—but Jaeyun shakes his head, following the others to the door. He puts on his shoes wordlessly, and he feels the sudden tension in the room. He can tell the others are unsure of why Jaeyun had a sudden mood change, but honestly Jaeyun isn’t all that sure either, so he couldn’t explain it to them even if he wanted to. He can’t explain something he himself doesn’t understand, no matter how badly he wants to.

They’re already out the door and walking down the stairs (Riki complained when Jongseong started walking towards the elevator, the elder just groaning in response and changing his course. Jaeyun can tell he has a soft spot for the younger.) when Sunghoon falls into step beside him, leaving his two friends to bicker in peace—seriously, how much can those two bicker in a day? Hell, Jaeyun’s only known them for under half an hour and he’s sure they’ve done a week’s worth of bickering in that time. It’s impressive, to say the least.

“Are you okay?” And there Sunghoon goes, asking that damn question again, the very question he had asked Jaeyun last night. Jaeyun just shrugs in response, looking at Sunghoon before casting his eyes down to the floor.

“Like I said last night; it’s probably just nerves and stress.” Jaeyun replies simply and Sunghoon gnaws on his bottom lip, dragging it between his teeth.

“You sure? It’s not those two, is it?” Sunghoon asks after a beat of silence (if Jaeyun doesn’t count the still ongoing bickering from quote unquote “those two”) and Jaeyun almost nods, but he’s not entirely sure of his answer.

“Don’t know.” Jaeyun says. “Don’t think so, at least.”

“Okay…” Sunghoon drawls, and Jaeyun assumes he’s trying to connect some sort of dots in his head at the moment, so he quickly tries changing the subject.

“So how’d you meet that kid anyways?” He’s quick to ask when Sunghoon looks like he’s about to say something else, effectively stopping him from doing so.

“Riki?” Sunghoon asks, but he already knows the answer based on the fact that he continues with his explanation. “He’s the foreign exchange student staying with my family. He’s a nice kid, and I’m honestly going to miss him now that I've moved out.”

“Oh, that explains a lot, actually.” Jaeyun chuckles. “He’s cute. Seems to be a little shit, but cute, nonetheless.”

“It’s with a heavy heart that I report you’re incredibly accurate with that analysis.” Sunghoon smiles and Jaeyun giggles. He misses the fond look on Sunghoon’s face following the noise as his eyes are cast down, cheeks flushed in embarrassment. He never has liked his laugh.

They exit the building as silence falls between the two, the only noise being the bustling people in the streets of Seoul and the still prominent bickering among Jongseong and Riki. A certain fondness tugs at Jaeyun’s heart at the two, but so does a sense of longing; a feeling that settles in his chest and almost chokes him, crawling up his throat and down into his stomach, spreading through his body like a wildfire. Jaeyun misses having people by his side that he could have playful banter with, not being afraid to laugh and playfully poke at his friends’ buttons. He misses it more than he’d personally like to admit.

He shouldn’t be longing for it; he’s the one who got rid of it, after all, but he is. His heart burns with the desire to have someone by his side again, to stick with him through thick and thin. He doesn’t deserve to have someone here with him, holding his hand through every rise and fall of life, but he wants it. He wants it so fucking bad, and he hates it. He hates that he wants what he doesn’t deserve.

“Hey,” Sunghoon suddenly breaks him out of his thoughts. He snaps his gaze towards his roommate, silently telling him to continue. Sunghoon hesitates, bringing his hand up to rub at the back of his neck. That can’t be good. “I just wanted to, like, make sure it’s okay if my friends come around the apartment often? All of their places are small as hell or they’re stuck with grumpy roommates so like…they were all hoping my—our place could be where we hangout.” Sunghoon explains and Jaeyun does his best to muster up the most believable smile he can, nodding his head.

“Of course, yeah. It’s completely fine.” And that’s the last of their conversation before entering IKEA, officially starting the long day of furniture hunting.

-

It’s not fine. At least, that’s what Jaeyun is quickly realizing as he hears the large group of laughter, giggles and breathless laughter mixing together, coming from the living room. He’s hunched over his desk, staring at a blank Google document that’s supposed to contain his essay on Newton’s laws of motion. He’s been staring at the blinking caret for far too long, eyes unfocused after racking his brain for what feels like an eternity. He’s long given up on coming up with anything; he can’t string a single thought together anymore, even though he has more knowledge on Newton’s laws of motion than he’d personally like to admit to. He shouldn’t be sitting here staring at a blank document for the fifth hour in a row, and one glance at his alarm clock shows the six page essay is due in less than twenty-four hours.

The big, bright red numbers flash at him as if they’re mocking him, telling him that time is running out. Jaeyun hasn’t even started looking for sources, much less a fucking works cited page, and with a day filled with class and work tomorrow, he has no idea what the hell he’s going to do. The only way he’s going to get this fucking essay done is if he stays up all night and actually starts writing, but he’s slowly losing hope as the clock strikes two. He swears the numbers change to the next minute far too fast, but one glance at his laptop’s clock shows that it’s right on pace, down to the damn second just like Jaeyun set it.

Another burst of laughter echoes through the apartment, followed by someone—Sunghoon, probably—shushing them, saying something about Jaeyun working on an essay. Jaeyun almost wants to yell back that saying he’s working on it is really pushing it, especially when the document is still blank in front of him (he should at least get his heading started, really, it’s just his fucking name and the class). Another round of laughter circulates through the living room and travels to Jaeyun’s room down the hall, a little quieter this time, and Jaeyun internally groans. He leans forward and folds his arms on the desk in front of his laptop, letting his head forehead drop onto his forearms.

So no, it’s not fine. It’s not fine in the slightest. And it’s not even the laughter itself, no, Jaeyun lived with an older brother, he never really got any peace and quiet back at home. It’s not that their fits of giggles and hushed whispers are distracting him from his work like one might think. All of that is fine, actually. What’s not fine is the soul crushing feeling in his chest, squeezing his heart so tightly that Jaeyun thinks it’s going to burst. It’s the heaviness that settles in his chest, making it feel like Jaeyun will never take a proper breath again, and the way his eyes burn as tears brim the surface, begging to be released, that’s not fine.

It’s the utter desperation that claws at his insides, begging for something Jaeyun knows he can’t have. It’s the hurricane of emotions brewing inside him, rendering him useless. But above all, it’s the raw, unbearable loneliness that crashes through him that makes him long to be out in the living room himself, laughing along with Sunghoon and his friends, that has Jaeyun trembling, squeezing his shaking hands into fists, digging his nails into his delicate skin. It’s the ghost of human touch that his touch-starved self begs for, words of affirmation being whispered into his ear as he lets his emotions loose that aches in his chest, that allows him to fall apart at the seams, taking short, shaky breaths to will himself to stay silent. He doesn’t need to fuck up Sunghoon and his friends’ peaceful night.

Another bout of laughter resonates across the apartment and a wave of nostalgia crashes over Jaeyun. It brings him back to Australia, with his few close friends that formed a tight circle of people, laughing in the living room as one of his friends cracks a joke, sending the entire room into such an intense fit of laughter that soon the only sounds they’re producing are breathless wheezes and high pitched words, adding onto the joke and intensifying the laughter in the room until all that they’re able to do is silently laugh, tears falling freely as their bodies jolt with laughter but no sound is produced, slapping either their own knee or the knee next to them, taking large gulps of air to try and breathe.

Now, Jaeyun is staring at his now asleep laptop blankly as a tear finally escapes his tear ducts, starting its journey down Jaeyun’s cheek. It falls slowly at first, as if mocking Jaeyun, leaving behind a trail of salt, tickling the skin it passes over, reminding Jaeyun of its presence even after it’s gone. Once it reaches the utmost part of his cheek, the tear speeds up, cascading down the rest of Jaeyun’s face in the blink of an eye, but still leaving behind a trail of evidence, almost like it wanted the entire world to know that it had been shed. Jaeyun supposes this would be a bad time for Sunghoon or one of his friends to enter the room.

Jaeyun can’t find a reason for them to enter though; he can hear them having a grand time without him, so he doesn’t bother fretting over the possibility of someone walking in and seeing him cry over such a thing. Who the hell cries over people fucking laughing and enjoying themselves? Jaeyun, apparently. Jaeyun has more important things to do than long for what he can never have though, so he has to either suck it up or just write this damn essay while he cries. Neither sound pleasant, or even plausible, but he has to do one or the other. It’s only the first week of classes; he can’t start falling behind already. Once he gets into the habit of not doing his work and slacking off, there’s no way in hell he’ll get out of it. Jaeyun has always preferred getting things done anyway.

Swiping his finger over his laptop’s trackpad to wake it, Jaeyun sighs. He’s tired, and not the kind of tired that a good night’s sleep can fix. Tired isn’t exactly the word for it though; utterly exhausted would be a better way to put it. Jaeyun would be rendered useless in a state of survival right now due to how hard it is to move a single muscle, his mind screaming at him to just stop and give himself a break for once in his fucking life. He’ll give himself a break once this essay is done—at least that’s what he tells himself, but he knows it’s a blatant lie—but until then, he needs to get his ducks in a row and fucking do something.

Oh shit!” Jaeyun hears a yell from the living room and he’s about to bolt out of his computer chair to go see what’s wrong when there’s sudden laughter, someone telling Jongseong that he’s an idiot. Jaeyun doesn’t recognize the voice, but why would he? He’s never met these people before, except for Jongseong and Riki, and Jaeyun can only recognize Jongseong’s voice because not only had he spent the entirety of his first full day in his new apartment with him while furnishing the apartment, but the man proved himself to be one hell of a chatterbox, constantly talking Jaeyun’s ear off even though the latter didn’t respond much. Jaeyun hopes Jongseong didn’t take his lack of enthusiasm personally; Jaeyun just wasn’t accustomed to people anymore, and the constant conversation had drained him. He didn’t seem like he took it personally though, as he just kept talking and sending Jaeyun small smiles.

“Seriously, how did you manage to fuck up popcorn?” Another unfamiliar voice, and Jaeyun vaguely wonders just how many friends Sunghoon has. Jaeyun had never personally had a lot of friends, being content with his close circle of friends who all got along just fine. Sure, there was drama here and there, but nothing Jaeyun couldn’t handle. Jaeyun had never let anyone get particularly close with him, always keeping people at a distance because he was scared of getting hurt, but he had let them in enough for him to become emotionally attached, giving each of them a personal space in his heart that would ache when they left. In the end though, they were close enough for Jaeyun to hurt them, and maybe that meant Jaeyun deserved the ache in his chest.

“I forgot about it! This is like our fourth batch tonight!” Jaeyun lets out a short, hushed laugh, tapping a random key on his keyboard so his laptop doesn’t fall asleep again before pressing the backspace, leaving the document before him empty once again. He leans back in his computer chair, folding his hands over his stomach and planting his feet on the floor, slowly swaying as he shifts his weight between his feet. The blinking caret continues belittling him, but Jaeyun makes no move to sit upright and finally start his essay, settling on listening to the unfamiliar voices that filter through the apartment instead.

“Have we seriously gone through four batches? What the fuck? How many movies have we watched again?” Jaeyun’s eyes slip shut as a small sigh slips past his lips, the soft sway of his chair calming his racing heart that exerts itself for no reason. He can still feel the slight tremble of his hands, and he knows that if he were to try and type his essay right now, he’d have more spelling errors than he could count on all his fingers and toes, but it doesn’t matter because he’s not going to begin typing his essay, not when his mind still goes blank every time Jaeyun attempts to think of something, anything, related to Newton’s laws of motion.

“Two so far, Heeseung hyung. Say, Hoonie hyung, what’s your roommate up to again?” Jaeyun licks his lips as he pries his eyes open, slowly raising his hand to lazily swipe his laptop’s trackpad, once again avoiding it from falling asleep. He doesn’t know why he set it to such a short amount of time before it falls asleep when he knows how often he spaces out. He can get an idea as to why when he glances to the top right of his screen and sees the battery at a dangerously low level though. Well, maybe he does know why.

“I told you, he’s writing an essay.” Jaeyun almost snorts at that, staring directly at his blank document—still no heading, even though it’s literally the easiest requirement to meet—that he’s made zero progress on since he initially sat down at to do it five hours ago. What Sunghoon doesn’t know won’t hurt him, though. A pang of guilt does settle in his stomach when he remembers that he had rejected Sunghoon’s offer of joining him and his friends for their movie night; it was the first time they were all meeting up here, and Sunghoon had seemed excited for Jaeyun to meet his friends, the reasons for his excitement beyond Jaeyun. Sunghoon and Jaeyun definitely weren’t close, after all. Hell, they were so busy with their classes starting and adjusting back into the school year that they’ve barely spoken to each other, only sharing small talk when they happen to both be hungry at the same time, whether it be breakfast or in the middle of the night. Jaeyun had wanted to keep his distance from his roommate anyways, the fear of hurting another person still holding him back, so why does his chest ache at the distance between him and Sunghoon?

“After two two-hour long movies? If he’s still going at this point, I’d be begging him to take a damn break.” Jaeyun can’t really take a break from something he never even started. Even if he had started, he wouldn’t want to take a break and watch a movie with them anyways—a blatant lie. Jaeyun would love to spend time with not only Sunghoon, but also his friends. Fuck, he yearns for it, like some lovesick fool in a cliche movie pining after their love interest. It doesn’t even have to be Sunghoon and his friends; the worst person on earth could walk up to him and he’d long for their presence because he’s so fucking tired of being alone.

“You think he likes horror movies?” Jaeyun doesn’t. They scare the living shit out of him, if he’s being honest with himself here. Being in a room full of people would probably help though; he’s only ever tried watching them either alone or with his older brother who took far too much joy out of randomly springing towards him from where he sat next to him, making a random urgent noise to catch Jaeyun by surprise. Really, he wasn’t the best horror movie buddy, especially when Jaeyun was a bit of a chicken. What about it though? Chicken’s great; he sees no problem in being a chicken.

“We are not having another binge session of The Conjuring.” Jaeyun raises a single brow, tilting his head to the side as he hears a chorus of hums, obviously agreeing with the statement. How many times has Riki—Jaeyun is ninety-nine percent sure that’s who mentioned horror movies—has made them binge watch all of The Conjuring movies in order for them to sound so appalled by the idea of doing it again, but Jaeyun doesn’t doubt it’s a lot. When Sunghoon agreed with Jaeyun’s analysis of Riki, he thought he was agreeing in the ‘yeah this is a great opportunity to give my friend shit’ kind of way, but after spending a mere day with the kid, Jaeyun can confirm that it was actually in the ‘you’re so right I might actually burst into tears right here and now because it’s the awful truth’ kind of way.

“I wasn’t technically going to suggest The Conjuring.” The truth about Riki is that he’s so damn adorable that it’s basically physically impossible to say no to him, based on his own experience, and watching Sunghoon and Jongseong try and deny him of anything. Riki went back home with more stuffed animals than Jaeyun can count, and left Sunghoon and Jongseong weeping over the new holes in their wallets courtesy of said stuffed animals. Yeah, they’ve definitely binge watched The Conjuring enough times for one life if a certain Nishimura Riki was behind the scheme of things. Jaeyun pities their tortured souls.

“I swear to God if you say Annabelle I will kick your fucking ass.” Jaeyun does snort this time, but it’s short lived and the smallest of smiles that tugged on his lips quickly disappears, leaving him with a blank expression again. Jaeyun feels so empty that he’s honestly surprised he even had it in him to show any sort of emotion, much less something so akin to happiness. No, Jaeyun never would have thought he’d feel something close to happiness because he’s never felt further from the emotion than he does now; happiness feeling impossible to reach at this point.

“I’d like to see you try, Jungwonie hyung. And before you bring up the fact that you used to do taekwondo, I don’t want to hear it.” At least the tears have stopped, Jaeyun thinks. They’re close to starting up again though as he keeps listening to the conversation in the living room, the longing in his heart unbearable at this point. He misses being able to bicker with people like what they’re doing; misses being able to joke around and let loose, not worrying about what other people think about him. He misses being able to feel secure with the people around him, comfortable enough to just breathe.

“Can you people quiet down? What part of ‘Jaeyun is writing an essay’ did you dumbasses not understand? Is it so hard to just fucking whisper or something? God damn.” Jaeyun still isn’t writing his essay, and his laptop has officially died. It’s not like it matters though, there’s no chance that Jaeyun lost any progress when it died because there was nothing to lose in the first place. Now Jaeyun is just staring at a black screen though, no blinking caret in sight, and Jaeyun doesn’t know how to feel about it. Ideally, the caret would still be there and would be a consistent black line as he continued typing, pages getting filled with information on Newton’s laws of motion, just like what was supposed to happen.

Jaeyun must have missed a part of the conversation because before he knows it, there’s gentle footsteps making their way towards Jaeyun’s room. He has no energy to adjust his surroundings or himself, still leaning back in his computer chair with his hands folded over his stomach and his laptop open—albeit, now dead—but his gentle swaying in his chair has stopped, and he stopped crying quite some time ago. He knows he looks miserable, and he knows Sunghoon will notice it right away too when he inevitably opens the door. He could be going to his room though, Jaeyun realizes. It’s directly across the hall, so of course it’d sound like his footsteps were going towards Jaeyun’s room; they’d sound like they are heading towards Jaeyun because they are. Maybe he doesn’t have to worry about Sunghoon seeing him in this miserable state after all, saving him some embarrassment.

He’s proven wrong though when there’s a soft knock on his door. The weight in his chest makes the simple task of speaking seem impossible, so Jaeyun opts to stay silent, still blankly staring at his black laptop screen. Maybe if he just doesn’t say anything, Sunghoon will get the message that he’s not in a talkative mood, as usual, and will just not bother, going back to his friends and settling on telling them that Jaeyun is still working on his essay. That scenario would be infinitely better than Sunghoon seeing him in his current state and asking questions.

“Jaeyun?” Sunghoon’s voice follows another set of knocks, etched in worry. Jaeyun almost feels guilty for ignoring him, but he feels like all the air’s been punched out of him, leaving him breathless and scared. Breathing shouldn’t be this difficult of a task, and Jaeyun shouldn’t feel like a pile of bricks are on his chest sending a weird feeling throughout his entire body. “Jaeyun, can I come in?” Still, Jaeyun doesn’t respond. “Jaeyun?” Jaeyun stares forward, eyes trained on the black screen of his laptop like it’s still open to the blank Google document of his informative essay on Newton’s laws of motion, the blinking caret taunting him to fucking do something instead of just sit there like a waste of space.

The door opens slowly, the hinges groaning with the movement, but Jaeyun keeps his gaze forward, and he knows he looks awful. He doesn’t know if Sunghoon can see the dried tears that paint his delicate skin in the dark, but Jaeyun can’t find himself to care. Sunghoon fully steps into the room, glancing between Jaeyun and his dead laptop in front of him, forehead creased in concern. Wordlessly, he moves out of the way of the door and closes it, allowing the two, mainly Jaeyun, some privacy. There’s a long moment of silence, and Jaeyun almost thinks Sunghoon is just going to stand there until Jaeyun decides to speak up (which really, Jaeyun has no intentions of doing any time soon, so Sunghoon may as well just bite the bullet now and walk away) but Sunghoon suddenly clears his throat; a clear attempt at getting Jaeyun's attention. Jaeyun doesn’t spare him a glance.

“Jaeyun, are you ok—” Sunghoon starts but quickly stops, pursing his lips. He stops himself from asking the same question he’s asked Jaeyun time and time before, as if he’s finally realized that no, Jaeyun is not okay, he’s far from okay. It’s almost like Sunghoon has finally realized that Jaeyun is nothing but a lost cause, barely even a person anymore. It’s as if Sunghoon is finally recognizing the soulless feeling that follows Jaeyun everywhere he goes, unable to escape the overbearing feeling. Jaeyun doesn’t know if he want to laugh hysterically, finally having his roommate fucking get it, or break down into tears because he doesn't want to be viewed as some soulless creature, he wants someone to fucking care. Is that such a selfish wish?

“Homework troubles?” Sunghoon eventually settles on, as if moving past the painfully obvious problem at hand. Jaeyun still doesn’t spare him a glance, and he really has no intentions of indicating to Sunghoon that he’s listening to a single word he’s saying, but he still finds himself giving a slow, small nod. His expression remains blank though as he continues staring ahead, and he’s almost convinced himself his laptop has magically turned back on, full battery, his blank Google document sitting in front of him once again, accompanied by that damn blinking caret. He’s almost convinced himself that he doesn’t look absolutely lifeless right now, too.

Jaeyun’s right thumb moves in small circles on his stomach, tingling the skin even through his shirt. He doesn’t know what prompts him to suddenly wish that it was Sunghoon’s hands on his stomach right away, but the realization of how bad his loneliness has become crashes over him along with the information of just how touch-starved he is. All Jaeyun wants right now is a hug, maybe a hand in his hair or an arm loosely hanging over his waist, anything. He just wants to feel someone’s touch somewhere, and he really wants to be held because the feeling in his chest just won’t go away and he hates it and it’s always scared him.

“I—we were gonna watch another movie, probably a horror movie, if you…you’re more than welcome to join us.” Sunghoon speaks slowly, as if Jaeyun is some wild animal that will flee if he speaks too fast or too loud. Jaeyun almost wants to reassure him that he won’t flee because he physically can’t bring himself to move. Almost. Even if he did though, he couldn’t because talking still seems like an impossible task, even though it shouldn’t. Jaeyun shouldn’t feel like his tongue is too heavy to form the sounds of syllables so he can communicate; he shouldn’t feel like he’s stuck unable to move or speak, letting Sunghoon stand in silence as he stares at a fucking blank screen like a corpse.

“Okay,” Sunghoon breathes, reaching for the doorknob and pulling the door open before turning back to Jaeyun, who remains in the exact same position, lost in thought, biting his lip and raking his eyes over Jaeyun’s figure. He wants to say something, Jaeyun can tell, but he’s holding back. Jaeyun honestly thinks he wants to yell at him and tell him to get over himself and to stop being a lifeless piece of shit, but the yells never come. Instead, Sunghoon just gives him a soft expression, stepping forward before stopping again and falling back into his original place.

“Try and get some rest, Jaeyun-ah,” is what he finally settles on, and then he’s walking out the door, closing it behind him. Jaeyun sits there, lost and alone, and he desperately wants to call out to Sunghoon, to ask for help because he can’t do this on his own anymore, but he can’t. He can’t not only because he feels like he’s physically unable, but he refuses to burden Sunghoon. He can’t allow himself to burden anyone else because they don’t deserve to be dragged down by him and his toxic brain.

The tear that falls down Jaeyun’s cheek is as alone as he is, and is nothing short of pathetic.

-

The weeks following Jaeyun’s weird sort of mental breakdown—he’s not sure that’s the right word for it, but it’s the closest thing he can think of when trying to give the incident a name—are nothing short of awkward, and Jaeyun really, really wants to fling himself out his window. There’s no way he’d survive jumping from the fifth floor, right? He sure as hell hopes not, because that would definitely just add to the awkwardness floating around the apartment.

The tension between him and Sunghoon was weird because it wasn’t exactly tension, but more like uncertainty. Sunghoon wasn’t sure what Jaeyun’s boundaries were and was afraid of overstepping, while Jaeyun was afraid of getting too close to Sunghoon and letting him not only see the ugliest parts of Jaeyun, but also hurting himself in the process. Jaeyun knows himself—to an extent—and he knows that he’s hurt people time and time again; he can’t deny it and he won’t. So, he tackles his plummeting mental health completely on his own, trying to convince himself that he can handle it even though he knows he can’t.

After his third anxiety attack of the week after about a month of living with Sunghoon though, he decides he needs to take some drastic measures. He needs to make a change and he needs to make it fast because every day is getting harder to get through, and Jaeyun, honestly, if fucking terrified. So, he makes a change.

“You bought hair bleach?” Sunghoon asks from the kitchen as soon as Jaeyun is through the door and toeing off his shoes. Jaeyun glances up at him, seeing the boy’s curious eyes trained on the plastic bag in his hand. Jaeyun is about to ask how he knows he bought hair bleach when he looks down and sees the corner section of the box sticking out of the bag.

“Uh, yeah.” Jaeyun shrugs. “Why?” He almost regrets asking when Sunghoon’s eyes go comically wide, an excited glint in his eyes shining through the room and reaching Jaeyun with ease as he takes off to his room in a hurry. Jaeyun is about to brush him off and just go to his room when Sunghoon reappears, a box of hair bleach in one hand and silver hair dye in the other. Jaeyun raises his brow in silent questioning and mild amusement  upon seeing the products, waiting for Sunghoon to explain himself.

“I uh, I bought some stuff a while ago so I could dye my own hair but I—” Sunghoon flushes, eyes dancing between the floor and Jaeyun. “I’ve never done it before and was afraid I’d fuck it up so I was going to ask one of my friends but they’ve all been so busy I didn’t want to burden them with something so silly.”

“Aish, don’t be stupid Sunghoon, you wouldn’t burden them.” Jaeyun lightly scolds and Sunghoon’s face falls, making Jaeyun quickly backtrack. “Wait, shit, no, I didn’t mean it like that.” He splutters “It’s not stupid that you feel like you’d burden them, not at all, but what I mean is that those idiots love you so much you could never burden them, you know?” Jaeyun rakes a hand through his hair and snags his bottom lip between his teeth. He drops his hand and sighs, blinking slowly. “I’m sorry, I should have phrased that better.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Sunghoon smiles. “Buh, uh—” He cuts himself off, sucking his teeth. Great, things were going well and then Jaeyun had to fuck this up per usual. He should seriously get an award for this or something. He wants to encourage Sunghoon to go back to the topic that he seemed excited about, but he doesn’t know how to get him back there. Jaeyun, sadly, is so socially out of the swing of friendships anymore that simple things like this stump him.

He hates it, but he can’t blame anybody but himself. He used to be able to hold a good conversation; he used to fucking excel at it. Now though, the only decent conversation he can hold is with a talkative customer because most of his responses are programmed into his brain, used to saying them all the time. Those are almost rehearsed conversations, leaving no room for discomfort. Jaeyun isn’t quite sure where Sunghoon was going with this though—maybe if he actually sat and wracked his brain for ideas, he’d get it—so he’s rendered useless, standing in the entryway of their apartment with a bag of hair bleach and treatment for his soon to be damaged hair while staring at a no longer excited Sunghoon.

Jaeyun hates that he’s the one who destroyed that excitement in the blink of an eye. Sunghoon didn’t deserve that in the least. Jaeyun desperately wants to go back and slap himself across the face before he can speak up and make Sunghoon’s entire mood crash, but it’s not possible, so he should stop wishing for it.

“Sunghoon,” Jaeyun starts, but falters. Sunghoon’s eyes flick back up to him from where they were stuck to the floor and Jaeyun licks over his teeth, thinking over his thoughts. “What did…what were you saying about the hair dye?” Jaeyun does his best to navigate their way back to the original conversation, and he almost breaks down in tears of relief when a little bit of the light in Sunghoon’s eyes is restored. He holds up the box of silver hair dye and smiles nervously, a lot less confident than he was earlier. Jaeyun internally kicks himself.

“Uhm, we don’t have to do it or anything—i completely get it if you want to do it alone—but I was just thinking that we could, you know,” Sunghoon animatedly waves his hands in front of himself and Jaeyun thinks he’s picking up on what Sunghoon is putting down, but he’s not entirely sure. So, he allows himself to timidly ask when Sunghoon just frowns instead of finishing his sentence.

“Did you want to…dye our hair together?” Jaeyun quirks his brow and Sunghoon shrugs, scarlet red dusting his cheeks. “Is that what you’re proposing here, Park Sunghoon?” Jaeyun hears the light lilt to his own voice, picking up a slightly teasing tone. Jaeyun can’t deny that the way Sunghoon is acting is cute. He won’t admit it verbally, hell no, but he’ll allow himself to acknowledge it with himself.

“I…suppose.” The way Sunghoon somehow flushes an even deeper shade of red tells him that yes, that was definitely what he was proposing and not only does he want to do it, but he’s embarrassed about it.

“That’s—” Something friends do. Jaeyun doesn’t finish the sentence, opting out of making the situation awkward again. It’s true though; dying your hair with someone else would most likely be done with someone you enjoy spending time with—you’re waiting a bit for everything to do its job, after all, especially if you bleach it first—but Jaeyun supposes that roommates could also qualify for this position. They do see each other a lot, even if it’s only the ‘seeing’ aspect that they do. Jaeyun doesn’t really know what to make of the proposal.

“We don’t have to!” Sunghoon says quickly, shifting his weight between his feet.

“Oh, no, that’s not the direction I was going with that thought.” Jaeyun reassures with a smile. “I was just a little shocked, you know?”

“I guess I could see why.” Sunghoon smiles. “You know we’ve lived together for over a fucking month now, but we barely know each other.” Jaeyun chuckles, nodding.

“Yeah, and that’s partially my bad.” He rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, sending Sunghoon a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry I’m kind of hard to deal with—and don’t try and say that I’m not; I know I am.” Jaeyun retorts when Sunghoon looks like he’s about to protest. Sunghoon shrugs slightly, moving his head back and forth in a faux thinking motion, sending Jaeyun a wide grin.

“Your words, not mine.”

“Oh, fuck off.” Jaeyun laughs. He holds up the bag of hair bleach so it comes back into view, raising his brow at Sunghoon. The latter breaks out into the biggest grin that he’s directed at Jaeyun so far, and Jaeyun has to fight the warm feeling that manifests in his chest.

That’s how he finds himself in the bathroom with Sunghoon sitting on one of their kitchen chairs in front of their sink. They opted to start with Sunghoon’s hair first since he has to bleach his hair, but he also has to dye it to his desired color afterwards. Jaeyun really, really hopes he doesn’t make Sunghoon lose all of his hair—the man is far too handsome for Jaeyun to be the one behind his downfall.

“Your hair is so soft and healthy, I almost want to refuse to do this.” Jaeyun chuckles as he brings a hand through Sunghoon’s hair, smiling softly. “You realize how unhealthy bleaching your hair is, right? You’ll have to work for this softness.”

“Do you realize how unhealthy it is? You’re the one who walked into the apartment today with hair bleach.”

And hair treatments and toner.” Jaeyun counters, smiling softly. “It appears you only bought the damaging products whenever it was that you bought those.”

“Alright, alright, sure, I’m the idiot here.” Sunghoon chuckles. “You ever dyed hair before?”

“Nope.” Jaeyun grins wickedly.

“Not even your own?”

“Nope. Watched my brother bleach his hair once though.”

“And how’d that go?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun stifles a giggle, remembering his brother complaining about the burn the entire time, and the second time when his hair had turned into an orangish color instead of his desired platinum blond. “Great, maybe I don’t want to know.” Sunghoon sighs when he’s still met with Jaeyun’s wicked grin and muffled laughs.

“Don’t worry, I’ll do everything in my power to not make your hair fall out.” Jaeyun laughs and Sunghoon groans. He reaches for the already-mixed bowl of hair bleach on the countertop and meets Sunghoon’s eyes in the mirror, quirking his brow at him. Sunghoon nods, taking a deep breath.

“I hope I don’t end up looking like a fool with a hair color that doesn’t go well with my appearance.”

“Oh, please, you could make literally make any hair color look. You’re far too handsome to look like a fool because of a hair color; worry about how you’ll look if this goes south and you lose all that precious hair of yours.” Jaeyun smiles and Sunghoon looks like he’s about to say something when his jaw suddenly drops, holding eye contact with Jaeyun in the mirror.

“Wait, did you just call me handsome?” He asks dumbly and Jaeyun snorts, dipping his hand into the bowl of bleach—they decided to just say fuck it and go in with their hand (and gloves) for the sake of convenience—before making eye contact with Sunghoon in the mirror, raising his eyebrows in silent questioning, giving Sunghoon one last opportunity to back out. Sunghoon just nods at him though, and that’s all Jaeyun needs to start putting the goopy bleach into Sunghoon's locks, internally cringing at the strong smell emitting from the mixture. Sunghoon seems to notice the smell too, as his nose scrunches up. Cute.

Silence falls over them, but it’s not uncomfortable, more just because Jaeyun is trying to concentrate, making sure he doesn’t miss any spots, and Sunghoon is watching him intently. Jaeyun shoots him a gentle smile, and Sunghoon reciprocates, sharp canines showing in a toothy grin. Jaeyun giggles—fucking giggles—at the sight of it, averting his gaze back to Sunghoon’s hair. If Sunghoon notices him acting like a dman school girl, he doesn’t comment on it. Jaeyun owes him for that one.

The atmosphere around them is slightly awkward, Jaeyun can feel it, but it’s not awkward enough for Jaeyun to grow so anxious he wants to make a run for it, instead only feeling a gentle prickle of anxiety. He knows he’s put a lot of distance between him and Sunghoon, rejecting the other on opportunities to hang out or just talk more times than he can count on all his fingers and toes despite tem only knowing each other for a short amount of time. Sunghoon is clearly making an effort to befriend Jaeyun, but he just keeps pushing him farther and farther away. It’s not even like Jaeyun doesn’t want his friendship; he fucking desires it. Jaeyun just can’t have it.

At the end of the day, Jaeyun can only blame himself for the awkward atmosphere surrounding them. He’s always the one to blame, after all. All Sunghoon ever did was try, and Jaeyun only ever shut him down. He can’t imagine how badly that broke Sunghoon’s spirit. His roommate seems quieter these days, and not just around Jaeyun. He notices the way Sunghoon falls quiet when he’s with his friends, spacing out until someone snaps him out of his thoughts. It’s usually Heeseung, Jaeyun notices from his room, based on the voices. Jaeyun, despite himself, has become quite fond of Sunghoon’s little group of friends, and he admires how close they all are. He’s envious, too, even if he hates that he is.

“How come you felt like you’d burden your friends if you asked them to help dye your hair?” Jaeyun suddenly asks before he’s able to stop himself, his thoughts of Sunghoon's friends bring him back to Sunghoon’s earlier statement. Sunghoon stiffens slightly, and Jaeyun pauses his movements in his hair. He’s almost done with it, they’ll just have to wait for it to do it’s thing and maybe get started on Jaeyun’s hair, but Jaeyun gets the feeling that might not happen after what he just said.

“Uh—”

“You don’t—you don’t have to answer that. Sorry.” Jaeyun cuts him off, trying to take back what he said. He should know by now that he can’t take back something he’s said; he never has been able to and he never will be.

“It’s alright.” Sunghoon licks his lips and shrugs. “Guess I just feel like I burden my friends from time to time. You get it, right?” Jaeyun stills, because no, he doesn't have any friends to burden. But he does feel like a burden just about every second of every day. He burdens his family, and hell, he’s sure he even burdens Sunghoon.

“More or less.” Jaeyun settles on. Sunghoon furrows his brow at him but Jaeyun averts his gaze, dropping his hands from Sunghoon’s hair and taking off his gloves. “I think I got everything, so now we’ll just have to wait.” Sunghoon nods in response, his lips forming a thin line.

“Did…you wanna start on your hair then?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun glances at his hair and the box of silver dye, gnawing on his bottom lip in thought.

“I think we should wait. Might have to use my bleach for your hair after this round.”

“What? But that’s for you!”

“We can just go and buy more? I have a feeling your dark hair isn’t going to be too cooperative and you’ll end up orange instead of blond.” Jaeyun chuckles and Sunghoon scoffs.

“Can’t we just use the dye?”

“I doubt it’ll be light enough for the silver. You’re basically asking for a disaster, Hoonie, you’re lucky you have me around.” Jaeyun doesn’t even notice the nickname slip, but Sunghoon certainly does, whipping his head around to stare at Jaeyun, eyes filled with bewilderment. Jaeyun is about to take it back, say it was just a slip of the tongue (it was, after all) but Sunghoon beats him to it, shit eating grin plastered on his face.

“Hoonie?” Jaeyun flushes, skin going scarlet red, and shifts his eyes from Sunghoon, staring off at nothing in particular in favor of Sunghoon. He should really work on thinking before he speaks.

“Sorry—”

“Don’t, I liked it.” Sunghoon speaks softly and Jaeyun doesn’t think he could flush any deeper. But of course, Sunghoon can’t just give him a break. “I like it, Jakey,” is what Sunghoon says next and Jaeyun honestly thinks he’s going to explode. It’s ridiculous how flustered he can get over a fucking nickname. He’s known he was touch starved and very, very lonely for quite some time now, but he didn’t know it was to this extent. He really can’t even handle friendly banter anymore, huh? He’s disappointed, but not surprised.

“You said Jake was your English name, right? Back in Australia?” Something flutters in Jaeyun’s chest at the fact that Sunghoon remembers the small detail he gave on the day they first met, but he quickly dismisses the feeling, pushing it down so it can wilt away into nothing.

“Yeah, yeah that’s right.” Jaeyun smiles.

“I’m glad I got it right, Jakey.”

“Oh my God, stop.” Jaeyun whines and Sunghoon snickers. Great, Jaeyun can already tell Sunghoon is going to have a field day with this. He really should learn to keep his damn mouth shut; he wouldn;t be stuck in this situation if he knew how to!

“What Jakey, you don’t like it?”

Sunghoon,” Jaeyun warns, but there’s no real malice to it. Sunghoon chuckles, cocking his head to the side.

“Who?” Sunghoon smirks and Jaeyun kind of wants to slap it off of him. Jaeyun never would have thought Sunghoon was such a mischievous little shit, and he’ll blame the behavior on Riki, given they lived together for a while. Jaeyun will have to have a talk with that kid for corrupting Sunghoon.

“You’re sick, you know that?” Jaeyun huffs.

“Who’s sick?”

“Hoonie. Hoonie’s the sick fuck.” Jaeyun mumbles. Sunghoon finally fully laughs, shoulders shaking from the force of it. The two fall into playful banter while they wait for the bleach in Sunghoon’s hair to do its thing, and Jaeyun feels a lot lighter than he has in a long time. The awkwardness from before seemingly disappears into thin air, and Jaeyun can’t find it in him to complain. He can’t even bring it in himself to worry about how this could potentially get them closer. It’s almost guaranteed, actually.

They continue to banter even after Sunghoon’s hair is done, even giving the bleach extra time to settle because it’s still nowhere near blond, and continue as they bicker over what to do about it.

(“No Sunghoon, seriously, going in with the silver dye is just going to be a disaster! Let’s just use my bleach and get it blond at least, then we can run to the store and buy some more bleach—probably two boxes for mine as well—and come back, put the shit in your hair, do a round of my hair while yours settles, wash the shit out when your time is done, see how mine’s doing and if we have to go another—are you even listening to me?”

“Uh, mostly. I just feel bad because you didn’t sign up for this—”

“Hoonie! Please, for the love of God, just work with me here!”

“Okay! Okay!”)

Then one eventful trip to the store later—a trip filled with Jaeyun's giggles and Sunghoon’s heartfelt laughter—Jaeyun is bleaching Sunghoon’s hair again and soon after Sunghoon is taking a chance with Jaeyun’s hair.

(“Jaeyun, I’m not going to lie to you right now, I’m scared shitless.”

“You’re so dramatic.”

“What if I fry your hair and it falls out? Like don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’d still be sexy bald, but I don’t want to be the cause of your involuntary baldness!”

“Hoonie, seriously, my hair won’t—wait, what do you mean ‘still be sexy?’ Hoonie? What do you mean—”)

Jaeyun relaxes in the kitchen chair they had dragged into the bathroom to do this and lets his eyes fall shut as Sunghoon runs his hands through Jaeyun’s hair for the second round of bleaching. He can practically feel how rough the texture is going to be already, no longer soft and healthy feeling, but Jaeyun needed a change anyway. That was the whole purpose of this anyway. His hair is no doubt going to need some serious help after this though, and he voices just as much.

“I’m going to need to stock up on hair masks after this.” Jaeyun laughs and Sunghoon chuckles behind him, nodding in agreement.

“Maybe we could do that together too.” Sunghoon says lightly and Jaeyun almost agrees before he realizes that more time spent together will make them become even closer, and that’s what Jaeyun was trying so hard to avoid. And honestly, them doing this and bantering isn’t helping Jaeyun’s case at all. He needs to put an end to it, he just doesn’t know how.

“We’ll see,” is all Jaeyun says, and Sunghoon momentarily stills his movements, licking his lips in thought before focusing back on Jaeyun's hair. Eventually, they get everything settled and Sunghoon is sporting silver hair and Jaeyun is blond, and it’s the change Jaeyun’s been needing. And Sunghoon is definitely a sight for sore eyes, always has been but somehow even more now. It’s refreshing, and if Jaeyun stares at Sunghoon for a beat too long, Sunghoon doesn’t comment on it. And Jaeyun isn’t going to be the one who mentions it, so it looks like nobody will say anything about it.

It’s when they’re settled on the couch together, lounging after the slightly stressful but more so fun experience that dying their hair together was. Jaeyun hadn’t been able to settle down and just bask in someone’s presence in a long time, and it satiates something deep inside him. The overwhelming loneliness that follows him wherever he goes has been soul crushing, and the momentary relief is more relieving than Jaeyun could ever imagine. It’s peaceful, calm, and feels like a breath of fresh air.

Sunghoon hums, catching Jaeyun’s attention, the latter rolling his head to the side so he can look at Sunghoon, raising his eyebrows in a silent question. Sunghoon clicks his tongue, eyes rolled up to the ceiling as if he was thinking over his thoughts, and Jaeyun takes the time to admire his roommate. Jaeyun isn’t stupid, and he certainly isn’t blind; he can see how handsome Sunghoon is, and he’s honestly surprised he hasn’t found himself drooling over Sunghoon yet. But honestly, Jaeyun is a ticking time bomb at this point. He’ll give himself three days with Sunghoon looking like this.

“Can I ask a question?” Sunghoon finally asks and Jaeyun nods.

“You just did.” Jaeyun retorts and Sunghoon scoffs.

“Oh great, thanks dad.” Sunghoon huffs and Jaeyun snorts. Jaeyun nods at him to continue though, and Sunghoon clears his throat. “But uh, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but—”

“Sunghoon, just spit it out, it’s alright.” Jaeyun chuckles, trying to ease Sunghoon’s obvious nervousness. Sunghoon nods in understanding, rubbing the back of his neck before sighing.

“I just…why did you keep avoiding me? Why have you been avoiding me?” Sunghoon’s gentle voice comes and Jaeyun stiffens. How is he supposed to answer this? The truth is much too complicated to go into detail without spilling every single internal struggle that Jaeyun deals with, and he really doesn’t want to get into that. It would be far too complicated and messy and Jaeyun doesn’t want to spill those things to Sunghoon anyways.

“I…” Jaeyun trails off, and Sunghoon waits patiently for a response that never comes. Jaeyun opens and closes his mouth numerous times, but each syllable dies on his tongue.

“I guess it just,” Sunghoon starts, making eye contact with Jaeyun. “It just seemed like you didn’t want to be my friend. You didn’t even make an attempt.” Sunghoon frowns and a pang of guilt rips at Jaeyun’s heart. And he really doesn’t know what possesses him to say his next words, because they’re the furthest thing from the truth, but something does and he really wishes it didn’t, because the look of hurt that washes over Sunghoon’s face hurts more than Jaeyun would like to admit.

“ I don’t want to be your friend.”

-

Jaeyun drops his bag to the floor, flopping onto his bed. The exhaustion in his bones is weighing him down like never before, and Jaeyun huffs in frustration. He brings a hand up to snake under the hem of his shirt, delicately placing his hand on the base of his stomach, the skin still warm from his workout at the gym. He hadn’t planned on going today, recognizing the uncomfortable feeling in his chest the second he rose from his bed this morning and deeming it as one of ‘those’ days; those days being the ones where he can’t get himself out of bed no matter how hard he tries, having to wait out the funky feeling that swarms his body, coursing through his veins like it’s supposed to be there.

Things are awful between him and Sunghoon ever since they dyed their hair together, and it’s all Jaeyun’s fault. And really, it’s not that tensions are high between them and they’re fighting, but more of them not even being able to properly look at each other, Sunghoon quickly averting his gaze from Jaeyun whenever the latter looks his way and Sunghoon was already looking. The sad look in Sunghoon's eyes whenever Jaeyun’s around does nothing to ease the ache in Jaeyun’s heart, and the entirety of the situation is just plain awful—hell, even worse than that. Jaeyun doesn’t know how he fucked things up so bad, but he managed it. He should get some sort of an award for how fucked everything is in his life, and it’s all thanks to himself.

He hears his phone buzz in his bag, and he contemplates sitting up to grab it, but the thought alone makes Jaeyun's bones ache, and it's not because of the workout. He honestly hadn’t done much at the gym, opting to do cardio for a while before just leaving, not feeling up to anything else. He really hadn’t felt up to cardio either, but exercise is supposed to help with mental health or some shit, so Jaeyun was hoping it would do something for him. It hadn’t, much to Jaeyun's disappointment, but he’s not surprised. He’s done a lot of the self care tricks to help get himself out of a depressive episode, but he always ends up feeling more helpless than when he had started. Although, maybe they don’t work because this isn’t some sort of depressive episode, but simply his way of living. Jaeyun can’t even remember what happiness feels like, losing sight of the emotion a long time ago.

Happiness is a foreign concept to him these days, and it has been for quite some time now. He doesn’t know exactly when he lost sight of the emotion—perhaps it was when he first lost sight of himself—and doesn’t even know how it happened, but he does know he’s been chasing after something he doesn’t even know for a long time. He keeps running towards something, but he doesn’t know what that something is. For all he knows, he could have ran right past it, keeping up with the burn in his lungs and ache in his chest because he didn’t know he was supposed to stop running. Maybe he was happy at some point and just didn’t realize it because it didn’t live up to what people said it was supposed to feel like.

Can Jaeyun really deem himself as happy though if he’s still accompanied by a sinking feeling in his chest that just won’t go away? Can he really tell himself he’s found happiness when he doesn’t remember the last day he spent without a single thought of giving up on life didn’t cross his mind at least once? It doesn’t seem like it; happy people aren’t supposed to want to die. Sure, they can have their moments, it’s natural, actually, but it wouldn’t hang over their head at all times, allowing them to believe that there’s no hope for them. They wouldn’t be stuck in their spot because their body is so exhausted it refuses to move from an exhaustion that isn’t even physical.

Jaeyun had lost the vision of hope a long time ago, dying alongside whatever dreams he may have had. He doesn’t really remember ever having a dream, even though everyone around him seemed to have one, but maybe it wasn’t all that important. Jaeyun didn’t have to have a dream to move forward. It definitely would make the process easier and would give him the drive to do it, but it’s not a necessity. But losing hope had sent him tumbling down the abyss of his own mental turmoil, letting him impact with rock bottom with a loud shatter of his heart and a break in his will to live. He doesn’t want to keep going because it’s too painful, too painful to even exist anymore.

His phone continues to vibrate in his bag and Jaeyun almost feels guilty for ignoring it, knowing it’s probably just his mother worried sick because of the questionable and very concerning texts he had sent her just a mere hour ago. He should pick up his phone and tell her that he’s alright; should apologize and say that he just wasn’t thinking straight. And he wasn’t—thinking straight, that is. Jaeyun ended up having a miniature breakdown—he’s lying to himself; it was one hell of a breakdown, and he’s ashamed it happened in public—in the gym locker room, the walls he had so strategically built crumbling at once, letting the overwhelming feeling he’s been holding in out and into the world. It was too much too fast, and Jaeyun just wanted everything to stop.

He doesn’t know what he was thinking when he texted his mom a series of texts apologizing for not being strong enough, practically begging her to understand that he tried the best he could, that he fought for as long as his exhausted brain and body would allow him to. He told her how he wishes he could be a better son for her, and not some sick child who can’t take on the burdens of life that everyone else has to get over. He just can’t, and he pities her for having to have someone like him as her son. She deserved better; so much better.

It’s no wonder that his phone is now blowing up from calls and texts—probably from his dad and older brother at this point, too—trying to get a response out of him. He needs to pick up the phone and tell them that he’s okay, that he won’t do anything, but he can’t. He’s not even a hundred percent sure if he’s being honest when he says he won’t do anything, and he doesn’t feel like a lie should be the last thing he ever says to his family, the people he loves most in life. Even if his family has a rocky relationship (it’s mainly just Jaeyun, if he’s being honest with himself) but he still loves them more than he could ever love himself. He still cares so deeply for them that they’re the only reason he’s fought this long, battling his toxic brain and just trying to survive.

He can’t pick up the phone, so eventually they’ll give up on calling and just weep for their son and brother, realizing that there’s nothing they can do because they’re in Australia and he’s all the way in Korea, almost five thousand miles away. He’ll hate himself for letting them scream and cry thinking there’s nothing they can do, his parents thinking that they’ve lost their youngest son and his brother thinking he not only lost him, but also couldn’t protect his little brother. But he just can’t get up right now. Besides, haven’t they sort of already lost him in some way? Jaeyun isn’t the person he used to be, maybe a shell of who he once was at most. He’s barely able to function as it is, so wouldn’t it just be better to finally take their burden away? To allow them to stop worrying and just heal? Heal from him?

Wasn’t his entire point of coming to Korea to leave everyone and everything behind so they would stop hurting? So he would stop hurting them? If so, what the hell is he even doing anymore? If he wanted to allow them to heal, he wouldn’t have texted his mother begging for her to understand him and to still love him even though he was so, so hard to love. He wouldn’t have them all worried sick right now over nothing. If Jaeyun gave a fuck about anyone but himself, they never would have hurt in the first place. He would have made sure they never saw the ugliest parts of him; the most vulnerable aspects of his life. He never would have subjected them to that. But he was selfish, and he always has been. He always has been because even though he knows he doesn’t deserve their love and care, he still craves it. He still wants to feel like he fucking matters to somebody. He wants to matter to someone who knows the ins and outs of him, and he wants them to be able to love him without dragging themself down.

The urgent buzzing of his phone has finally subsided for the most part, only random, lone buzzes resonating through his room now. The guilt for their worrying gnaws at Jaeyun already, and he desperately wants to break down into tears. He doesn’t even know if he could though; he’s so emotionally spent and his eyes still burn from his breakdown in the gym locker room, the dull ache accompanying the burn of his heart and block of nothingness in his chest that keeps pushing down on his lungs. His throat burns where bile rises in his throat too, and he wills himself not to throw up because he knows he won’t be able to make it to the bathroom, his limbs feeling like lead. The last thing Jaeyun needs tonight is Sunghoon coming back home to the stench of vomit filling the apartment, only to find Jaeyun choking in a pile of it because he couldn’t even get himself to move to the side. What a way that’d be to go down.

A pang of hurt punches the air out of Jaeyun’s lungs and his heart aches with a burning passion that he’s never felt before, and he’s quickly realizing just how badly he’s fucked up. His family—the people that he loves—probably think they’ve failed in every aspect of his life right now, and even though Jaeyun is acknowledging it, he’s not doing anything about it. He’s still lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling like a corpse, the only movement in his body being the hand that still rubs soothing circles into the soft skin of the base of his stomach. Even though he knows they’re hurting more than Jaeyun can imagine right now and that they don’t have to be, he can’t get himself to get up and reassure them that he’s alright. He can’t stop himself from hurting them even though he’s promised himself that he would stop hurting people and that he would fucking do better. He never should have told himself he’d do better because he’s not better; he’s not a better person and he never will be because he’s selfish and stupid and a waste of space that can’t just fucking breathe

A hand comes up to his mouth and he bites his knuckles, stifling a sob as the first tear of many falls from the tear duct of his right eye. His body curls into itself as he rolls onto his side, taking his hand that was at the base of his stomach and wrapping his arm around his legs, hugging them to his chest. The stretch of the position is uncomfortable, but it gives him the feeling of being held and it lessens the tremble of his bones just the slightest bit. He still can’t breathe with the heaviness in his chest, but he finds that he doesn’t even want to. He’s done fighting; done working for something that he doesn’t even want anymore. He doesn’t want to get better and be happy because he doesn’t deserve it. He doesn’t even deserve the light of another day.

Despite never meaning to, Jaeyun has hurt more people than he’d like to admit. From his family to the people he was once able to call his friends, Jaeyun has hurt so, so many people. And it’s not even a type of hurt that will go away within a few days, but the kind of hurt that lingers with them for the rest of their life. He wishes it wasn’t true and that maybe he just convinced himself that he hurt them more than he actually has, but he can’t find it in himself to believe that’s the case. Why would he even do that to himself in the first place? As some sort of form of self destruction? What would make him do that without reason?

There’s no evidence to prove that Jaeyun didn’t hurt them as badly as he thinks he did, but there is evidence to prove it. At least, that’s what he thinks. He’s never explicitly been presented with this evidence or even been told that he’s hurt them like he thinks he has, but he’s seen it on their faces; the hurt expressions and faded glint in their eye. He’s seen it time and time again, haunting him wherever he goes. He’s seen the way their confidence dwindles around him, turning into timid words and shy glances. He sees it even now, because he’s just recently done it to someone else.

He sees it in the way Sunghoon’s face falls when he calls him a fool, even though that’s not how Jaeyun had meant to say the words. He sees it in the way Sunghoon’s confidence crumbles right in front of him, just like Jaeyun’s own walls had back at the gym. He sees it in the way Sunghoon still has trouble meeting his eyes sometimes, stumbling over his words as if he doesn’t know if he should touch a topic with Jaeyun. He sees it in the way that despite everything, Sunghoon still greets him with a timid but genuine smile, telling Jaeyun that he hopes he has a good day.

Jaeyun had promised himself he wouldn’t hurt Sunghoon, but he still went and did it anyway. Quite fast, too. Honestly, Jaeyun had hurt Sunghoon within the first twenty-four hours of meeting the man. He remembers the defeat and annoyance that coated Sunghoon’s voice when they were trying to figure out the rooming arrangements but Jaeyun was being too nice. He remembers the way Sunghoon’s face had fallen when Jaeyun continuously pushed him away, keeping the distance he so desperately needed between them in order to not hurt him. But maybe he had gone about it all wrong. Jaeyun kept pushing and pushing, doing everything in his power to keep Sunghoon away so he wouldn’t get hurt, but maybe that’s what ended up hurting Sunghoon in the first place.

Perhaps it’s the way Jaeyun never seemed to let him in that hurt Sunghoon, making him think that there was something wrong with him and that’s why Jaeyun didn’t want him around. Jaeyun isn’t stupid—he makes stupid and reckless decisions, sure, but he’s not stupid—he sees the insecurity in Sunghoon, even though the man would marry himself in a heartbeat because of how damn good looking he is. He sees the uncertainty in certain situations with his friends, like when presenting an idea he has or asking for their opinion on something he did such as reading over an essay or the k-drama he recommended they watch. He sees it in the way that when they first met, Sunghoon wanted to make Jaeyun as comfortable as possible, wanting to make sure it was okay for his friends to help out with moving.

Jaeyun saw it all yet he still hurt him. He still hurt Sunghoon, an absolute sweetheart, even though he saw the rawness that Sunghoon held. The cold and intimidating man at first glance who was actually a gentle and kind soul who wanted nothing but the best for people, and Jaeyun saw it all. And he still hurt him. Even after promising himself, begging to whatever God up there to fucking listen to him, he still hurt Sunghoon. He couldn’t deny it if he tried. In his efforts to protect Sunghoon, he ended up hurting even more. That was one hell of a pill to swallow.

The sob that wracks through Jaeyun catches him off guard, and he didn’t even realize the single tear that had fallen turned into an endless stream at some point. He’s all harsh breaths, tears, snot and sobs as he tightens his hold around himself, doing his best to hold himself together. It’s a pathetic sight, really, but he deserves to feel this way, he thinks. After everything he’s done, he deserves to feel a little pain to compensate for all the pain his selfishness has inflicted on other people. Even if some people might think he’s being too harsh on himself, he thinks he deserves it. So, he’ll give it to himself.

Sometimes Jaeyun lets himself wonder where everything went wrong. Sometimes he’ll allow himself to look back and try to pinpoint the exact moment that he started spiraling, losing sight of not only himself, but also who he wanted to be. He doesn’t know the exact moment he started tearing at the seams that held him together, opening the doors to hurt and despair. Maybe he can’t pinpoint the moment because at the time, he didn’t even know that it could happen to someone. He was so young, lacking experience in every aspect of his life. Maybe if he had been aware of what it was back when it first started happening he could have stopped it.

He remembers the day his old therapist had asked him the question that reshaped his entire life, letting his sturdy walls crack for the first time of many: ‘Jake, do you know what depression is?’ Jaeyun, who was originally only in there for his anxiety—his parents throwing him into therapy so they could have a son that was capable of actually functioning properly—had thought over the question for a few seconds before warily responding; ’Something that makes you sad?’ voice pitched higher than usual, laced with uncertainty. He remembers the small, timid smile that his therapist had sent him, her features full of nothing but sadness and sympathy. ‘Well, it’s a bit more than that.’ Jaeyun wishes it was just sadness.

Jaeyun was originally only in therapy for his anxiety, his parents’ attempt at helping him learn how to live a relatively normal life while battling something that was inevitably going to be a part of him for the rest of his damned life, but before he knew it he was going to those bi-weekly sessions solely for his depression, something he had developed before he could really even comprehend what it was. Soon enough those bi-weekly sessions turned into weekly ones, most of them consisting of his therapist pulling everything out of Jaeyun, trying to get him to open up and let her help him. He never did like talking about himself, though.

Eventually, he did open up a bit and adjusted to discussing his inner turmoils, explaining them to the best of his ability while not understanding them. It helped for a while, at least he likes to think it did, but as Jaeyun kept developing unhealthy coping mechanisms after another, the bond they had tried so hard to create shattered right before them. Jaeyun isn’t really sure whose fault it is, maybe it’s nobody’s, but he does know that it rendered him incapable of ever going to therapy again.

‘I did it again,’ Jaeyun had held his head down, shame burning through his veins.

Did what?’ His therapist had asked, voice kind and absent of even the slightest hint of judgment. Jaeyun just stared down at his arms, eyes directly locked on the fabric of his hoodie as if he could see the skin underneath. He remembers the tight, sad smile he could see form on his therapist's face out of his peripheral vision. He remembers the question of bringing his mother in so they could all talk about it because his therapist was concerned for his safety, and he remembers agreeing to it because he never has been able to tell people no, always afraid of becoming an even bigger disappointment.

His mother had always been a bit of an emotional person. She meant well, always did, but sometimes she didn’t know how to handle the overwhelming waves of emotions she’d get, all rationality flying out the window. Really, Jaeyun doesn’t blame her or hold it against her, but he still suffered from her letting the onslaught of emotions get to her. But could Jaeyun even blame her for freaking out the way she did when his therapist brought up the topic with her? Could he blame her when she turned to him and demanded to see it for herself? No, Jaeyun doesn’t think so.

In retrospect, there’s really no good way to react to something like that as a parent. If she would have acted like she didn’t care, Jaeyun would have felt even worse and his mental health would have plummeted even more. But when she freaked out, his mental health still suffered from the fight that broke out between them that night when she dragged his dad home from work so they could all discuss it. He remembers the way her concern turned to frustration when she asked what was so bad about his life that he felt the need to do that to himself, and he remembers the way he didn’t know how to answer, because really, what was so bad about his life?

Where did everything go wrong? That’s the million dollar question. Jaeyun grew up with a roof over his head and food on the table, so what was so bad? It’s not like some major traumatic thing happened to him when he was young, destroying him from the inside out. No, nothing like that ever happened; minor things here and there that helped shape him into the person who he is today such as his extended family fighting with his parents, driving them apart, but nothing major ever happened to him specifically. So what was so bad about his life?

Jaeyun didn’t know the answer to that question back then, and he still doesn’t now. Even after years and years of contemplation, spending countless nights where sleep never comes thinking over the question, desperately trying to find the answer, he still has no idea of what the answer could be. In fact, he feels farther from the answer than he ever has. The more he thinks about it, the more lost he feels. He doesn’t know the answer now, and he sure as hell didn’t know it back then when his mother asked him. How could he when he didn’t even fully understand the feeling that settled in his chest at a young age and refused to leave, weighing him and everyone around him down?

The frustration that radiated off of Jaeyun’s mother that day hadn’t lasted too long; a few days at most. It was definitely a miserable few days where he felt like he was walking on thin ice whenever he was around either of his parents, feeling like one wrong step could send their entire relationship plummeting, falling to a place beyond repair. He knows they didn’t mean to make him feel that way, knows it was never their intent, but it still happened, and it sucked.

After everything blew up and escalated to a state of absolute madness, getting thrown way out of proportion, Jaeyun didn’t feel comfortable going to his therapist about things anymore. In a place where he was supposed to feel safe, able to share the darkest, ugliest parts of himself, he felt like if he spoke again, everything would finally fall apart once and for all. He feared that the thin thread holding his family together would finally snap, flinging them apart, losing sight of each other. Jaeyun had already lost sight of himself, and that had filled his life with despair, but he can’t imagine losing sight of the people who kept him going for so long; who lent him a shoulder to cry on when the dam finally broke and a crack in his heart shone through, bleeding of his woes.

Jaeyun was stuck taking every burden that was thrown his way all on his own, desperately trying to face the problems head on but always seeming to fall short. Really, Jaeyun had acknowledged that he couldn’t take on the burdens of the world all alone a long time ago, but the thought of dragging someone down with him again was enough to force himself to just deal with it. No matter how unhealthy it was, no matter how lonely he got, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t drag someone through his own eternal hell when it was his for a reason. 

The sob that wracks through his body almost physically hurts, jolting his joints and straining his stomach, gasping for the breath of air that he’s been chasing for years. A fresh wave of tears joins the sea of emotions that now lies on his pillow, the uncomfortable wetness making him cringe internally, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to find the energy to move his head if he tried. So instead, he hugs himself tighter, biting at his knuckles to muffle the sobs that show no mercy. It was in vain, but he tried anyway.

In the midst of his (second) breakdown, Jaeyun failed to notice the sound of the door of the apartment opening and slamming shut, followed by rushed footsteps heading directly towards his room. He failed to notice he wasn’t alone in the apartment anymore until his bedroom door was swinging open, a panting Sunghoon stumbling through the doorway. If Jaeyun were to look back at Sunghoon, he’s sure there would be sweat dripping down his face, accompanied by creases of worry on his forehead. Jaeyun couldn’t get himself to turn around though, shame burning in the pit of his stomach as he bit down harder on his knuckles, feeling the skin break under his teeth.

Silence overcomes the room, spare the occasional suppressed sob, ones that jolt Jaeyun’s body, and lone sniffles, and Jaeyun squeezes his eyes shut, biting down impossibly hard on his knuckles. He knows he’ll have prominent teeth marks on his skin later, and probably some cuts from how hard he’s biting, but Jaeyun can’t bring himself to care. Not when embarrassment washes through him with a vengeance like no other, twisting his stomach in knots and making him curl into himself as much as he can, the uncomfortable stretch going ignored in favor of making himself as small as possible. A part of Jaeyun wants Sunghoon to leave the room and let him fall apart in peace, but the other part of him wants to reach out and beg for Sunghoon to help him because he feels like he’s dying and he wants to die. He wants it and that terrifies him.

Jaeyun can’t bring himself to reach out for Sunghoon though, feeling like he’ll fall apart at the seams if he doesn’t hug himself close. He feels like every last bit of willpower that he’s been clinging onto ever since he left everyone and everything behind in Australia is finally giving up on him, and he can’t even complain because he didn’t fight for it. He should have; should have fought to not only hold onto it but also gain more. He should have worked towards wanting to live. He didn’t though, and now he was paying the price. And as much as he feared death, he welcomed it if it meant that the pain would stop. Curse Sunghoon for showing up he did, all chances of Jaeyun finally being at peace dying in an instant.

“Ah, Jakey.” Sunghoon breathes, and Jaeyun hears him take a timid step forward. The nickname laced with endearment has Jaeyun's heart contracting painfully, and it scares him. Jaeyun almost wants to tell him to stop, to tell him to go away, but the words get caught in his throat around a sob. As much as he wants comfort right now, he doesn’t want to drag Sunghoon down. No, he can’t do that to him, not after he’s hurt him as much as he has. Jaeyun chokes back sob after sob, willing himself to get it together, to save his last bit of pride, but he knows it’s no use; Sunghoon definitely knows he’s crying by now, solely due to the sobs that resonate through the room. He probably knew the instant he saw Jaeyun, honestly, given his position.

Sunghoon’s steps eventually make it to the edge of Jaeyun’s bed, and he hears the pop of Sunghoon’s joints as he squats down so he’s eye level with Jaeyun, despite the latter facing away from him. Jaeyun stays as still as possible, his body still shuddering with sobs that fight their way out of him but he holds back. Jaeyun can feel Sunghoon place his hand on the bed directly behind Jaeyun’s back, and he squeezes his eyes shut, scrunching his entire face in the process. There’s a lump in Jaeyun’s throat that stops him from either calling out to Sunghoon, begging for his comfort and touch, or telling him to leave him the fuck alone. Sunghoon seems to have already made up his mind on what he wants to do here though, as he hears the tell-tale sound of Sunghoon’s joints popping again as he must stand back up, presumably to walk out of the room and give Jaeyun space. They’re not friends, why would Sunghoon help him? Why would Sunghoon waste his time comforting someone who continuously pushed him away, hurting him in the process? Sunghoon shouldn’t show him that kind of care.

“Are you alright, Jakey?” Sunghoon’s gentle voice registers in Jaeyun’s head, and he would have laughed at the absurdity of the question if he didn’t feel like his entire world ended. He would have laughed and spat back at Sunghoon that there was no way in hell he was okay, and that he’d have to be blind not to notice if it weren’t for the ache in his chest that squeezed at his heart painfully, pulling sob after sob out of his exhausted body. Sunghoon sounds like he already knows the answer to his question though, so Jaeyun decides to let it slide and not harass Sunghoon about this when he feels up to existing. He’s just showing that he cares, after all.

Sunghoon sighs behind Jaeyun as he chokes on another sob, placing a hand on Jaeyun’s shoulder with the utmost delicacy. Jaeyun flinches at the contact, physical touch being the last thing he was expecting, and can’t help but tense under Sunghoon’s gentle touch. Jaeyun has become far too unfamiliar with physical touch over the past few years, barely ever receiving a hug from his parents during his preteen years and eventually never receiving them at all during his mid teen years. Really, he can’t blame them for it since he was the one who recoiled at every hug he would receive. It was him who told his mom to leave him alone when she ruffled his hair or trapped him in a hug.

It was always Jaeyun who ruined things for himself. There was never anyone else to blame; only ever Jaeyun and his own ignorance. It was a shame, really, that the person who destroyed every aspect of his life, crumbling everything down to the ground, burning every centimeter of closure, effectively tuning it to ash, was none other than himself. Jaeyun was responsible for his every downfall, and even the downfall of the people he loves.

Jaeyun’s hurt so many people, has dragged them through hell, yet some of those people still do their best to show him that they care. They show him in the way his mother still calls in a panic after he sends her a series of concerning text messages, even after he’s swore at her and told her she’s only ever made things worse for him—it’s not true in the slightest, only things he’s said while on the brink of breaking and wanting people to stop trying to save him because he himself was tired of trying—telling her that he’d be better off without her in a poor attempt at getting her to stop caring about him. Even after crying herself to sleep with his father by her side, doing his best to comfort her, she still reaches out in a desperate attempt to save her youngest son.

It’s in the way his father still messages him on a regular basis, checking in on Jaeyun even after the last fifty messages have gone unanswered. It’s the way his father would book the earliest flight to South Korea, no matter the price, just to be there for his son as he fell apart, the last thread holding him together finally snapping. Even after Jaeyun yelled at his father, telling him he was never there when he needed him the most but then acted like he actually gave a damn when Jaeyun was bed ridden, unable to muster the energy to do the simple task of getting out of bed.

It’s the way his older brother held him on the bathroom floor as Jaeyun cried and cried, begging him to just let him die because he can’t keep fighting for something he doesn’t even really want. His brother held him together as best as he could, telling him that everything would be okay eventually, even after Jaeyun told him to fuck off more times than he can count because he just needed to be alone. His brother stuck with him even after Jaeyun pushed him away with all his willpower, pushing back in order to stay by Jaeyun’s side. And all Jaeyun ever did in return was continue to hurt him.

“Jaeyun?” And now Sunghoon, who he’s only ever hurt, is here to show him that he cares, even if he has no reason to. Why should he care about Jaeyun? Why does he? Jaeyun has only ever shown the ugliest sides of himself to Sunghoon, yet his roommate still stays and lends Jaeyun a shoulder to cry on, even if Jaeyun never accepts it. He doesn’t accept the shoulder to cry on and the warm, comforting arms he knows would wrap around him because he doesn’t deserve to receive that kind of comfort from Sunghoon. If anything, Jaeyun deserves for Sunghoon to scream at him and tell him to find somewhere else to live because he can’t do this anymore.

Jaeyun wonders what kind of life Sunghoon has had to lead if it meant he was so caring and forgiving towards Jaeyun, even when he shouldn’t be. He wonders what led Sunghoon to be so gentle and patient, always ready to offer a hand when Jaeyun is about to fall. They barely know each other, even if they’ve lived together for a good month and a half now, barely even making small talk with each other during that time, but Sunghoon is still so ready to catch Jaeyun when he falls; ready to help Jaeyun back onto his feet even if it means he’ll get dragged through hell in the process. And Jaeyun doesn’t doubt he’ll drag Sunghoon into the ground if he finally gives in to the boy’s offers of comfort and reassurance. He knows he’ll run Sunghoon into the ground if he lets him be a friend.

“Please go away,” Please, please don’t leave me here to take this on all alone. I can’t keep going on my own. As much as Jaeyun's heart screams for Sunghoon; for Sunghoon’s arms around him in a comforting brace, Sunghoon whispering to him in that gentle tone that Jaeyun has only ever heard directed towards him that everything’s going to be okay, just like his brother had on the bathroom floor when he was fifteen and wanting nothing more than to die, he knows he can’t have it. He can’t have it because Sunghoon will just get hurt in the end, just like Jaeyun’s brother had. And in some sort of fucked up way, Jaeyun feels like in all of his attempts to step forward in life, he’s only ever stepped back. Especially now, when he thought he’d never want to die more than he did when he was fifteen and going through the worst depression of his life to date, when what he feels now, and has been feeling for quite some time now, makes that incident look like child’s play. The desperation to get the pain in his chest to be relieved and the ache in his bones to disintegrate along with the horrid thoughts that poison his mind is no match for what he felt back then, beating his fifteen year old self by a mile.

“Is that really what you want?” Sunghoon’s gentle voice comes again and Jaeyun almost breaks just at that; at how warm and comforting his voice sounds. Sunghoon sounds safe, and Jaeyun wonders if he feels safe, too. Still though, Jaeyun can’t give it to himself. He knows if he receives comfort now, he’ll keep needing it, and he can’t do that to himself or Sunghoon. It’s only a matter of time before Sunghoon walks out of his life anyways. Why wouldn’t he walk out? Jaeyun has repeatedly given him shit and for what? Why would Sunghoon want to stay? Jaeyun wouldn’t.

“Please just go away.” Jaeyun can hear the desperation in his voice, and he wonders if Sunghoon knows that the desperation isn’t there for Sunghoon to leave. How would he though? Maybe Sunghoon is better at reading people that Jaeyun gives him credit for though. After all, he’s always seemed to know that Jaeyun is anything but okay. Hell, even on their first meeting Sunghoon could tell Jaeyun was struggling with something. It was all internal struggles, but Sunghoon still saw them clearly. Perhaps he sees them now just as clear, if not clearer.

“If you really want me to leave, look me in the eyes and tell me to go.” Sunghoon pushes, but it’s so gentle it doesn’t even seem like he’s pushing Jaeyun. A better way to describe it would be that Sunghoon is giving him an opportunity; an opportunity to be honest. It’s a sweet gesture, even if it frustrates Jaeyun to an extent. It frustrates him because he knows he can’t do what Sunghoon’s asking of him. He can’t because that’s not what he wants, and it’s so painfully obvious to himself and probably to Sunghoon too that Jaeyun almost has the energy to be embarrassed about it.

“Don’t.” Jaeyun’s breath hitches in his throat and he squeezes his eyes shut with a force so brutal he thinks he could seriously damage his eyes.  The insatiable ache in his heart that’s reaching out to Sunghoon, keening at his offer of comfort, is too much for Jaeyun to handle, and he genuinely thinks this is the night he finally breaks. And it won’t be some breakdown like earlier, no, it’ll be when he finally whole heartedly gives up on life and begs for whatever God is up there to just take him and stop his suffering. He doesn’t want to fight anymore; he doesn’t want to and he can’t, not alone at least.

“Jaeyun, if that’s what you want then look at me and say it.” Sunghoon pries again, and Jaeyun has never been much of a liar. Sure, he’ll say he’s okay when he feels like his entire world is falling apart and there’s absolutely nothing he can do to stop it, but he’s never felt good at lying, and he’s never been very good at it either. He barely even counts the former as a lie anymore; it’s more of a rehearsed line than anything at this point. But Jaeyun hates lying, hates the guilt that comes with it and the way it clashes with his morals. He’s really never been much of a liar.

Yeah, maybe he told Sunghoon he didn’t want to be his friend, and that was such a blatant lie the guilt still gnaws away at Jaeyun, but Jaeyun did that because he thought it would protect Sunghoon. He thought that it was the final push Sunghoon needed to stop trying, and Jaeyun was desperate. Jaeyun’s no liar, but he is a protector—at least, an attempted protector. It doesn’t make it okay, doesn’t excuse hurting Sunghoon, but Jaeyun acknowledges that his heart was in the right place and he only ever meant well. He just wishes Sunghoon never fucking got hurt.

He’ll blame his hatred for lying for the source that makes him finally let go of himself and roll onto his back, staring up at Sunghoon and looking at him for the first time tonight. Sunghoon—Sunghoon looks awful, lone droplets of sweat dripping down his forehead like he had run all the way here and has cooled down enough for most of the sweat to disappear but still have some stray droplets. His eyes are wide with concern and Jaeyun can see the fear written all over his face, but he’s not fearful of Jaeyun, but for him. The realization has pure anguish washing over Jaeyun and it hurts and Sunghoon looks so warm and comforting and loving and he can’t—

Hoonie,” Jaeyun practically wails, choking on a sob before falling into a steady rhythm of them, his entire body heaving with the force of his sobs. Jaeyun doesn’t know what being embodies him for him to reach out to Sunghoon, hoisting himself up so he can wrap his arms around Sunghoon, but something does and Sunghoon is quick to react, placing a knee on Jaeyun's mattress and properly wrapping his arms around Jaeyun, letting them fall back so Jaeyun’s resting on mattress, face tucked into Sunghoon’s chest as he sobs. Jaeyun can’t even bring himself to be embarrassed or repulsed by his own actions, his entire demeanor coming crashing down with a force that physically pains him. It’s much too intense for his liking, but knowing he doesn’t have to take it on completely alone helps satiate the ache.

Sunghoon is stiff around Jaeyun, and the safe feeling that was momentarily there comes crashing down along with Jaeyun's resolve. Jaeyun sobs harder, furious with himself for putting Sunghoon in this situation in the first place. Jaeyun isn’t Sunghoon's problem to deal with, dammit. They’re not friends, not buddies, barely even acquaintances, yet here Jaeyun is, crying into his fucking chest, soaking his shirt with his salty tears. Sunghoon deserves better—he deserves a better roommate.

All Jaeyun has ever known how to do is fuck everything up, and he’s so tired. He’s tired of ruining everything and making everyone’s lives even more difficult. As far as Jaeyun is concerned, he’s just making everyone’s life harder than it has to be. Even Sunghoon’s. He doesn’t deserve this shoulder—chest, actually—to cry on; he doesn’t deserve anything but the negatives that are thrown his way. Jaeyun deserves all the bad, but none of the good. It’s with this thought that he sobs harder, choking on his own gasps of air. Sunghoon shushes him, and Jaeyun can feel him sink into him a bit more.

The position is awkward and he can’t imagine Sunghoon is comfortable holding his entire body weight up so he doesn’t crush Jaeyun, but Jaeyun will take what he can get, even if he really doesn’t deserve it. Sunghoon must have had enough of it though, as he sighs and shifts above Jaeyun, pulling away from him momentarily. And if Jaeyun was in his right state of mind, he’d be ashamed of the way he cries out at the loss of contact, but he can’t bring himself to care in the moment because Sunghoon is quick to envelope him again, whispering a series of thing that Jaeyun can’t bring himself to understand right now.

Sunghoon maneuvers them, and it’s a slow process with Jaeyun clinging onto him, refusing to let go, but he eventually gets them into a comfortable position; Sunghoon lying on his back on the bed with Jaeyun clinging onto him, head still burrowed in Sunghoon’s chest with his hands fisted in Sunghoon’s shirt. Sunghoon splays a hand on Jaeyun's back moving his fingers in small circles, easing Jaeyun into melting into his embrace. Sunghoon’s other hand finds its way to Jaeyun’s neck, slowly dragging his fingers across the skin until his hand is in his hair, threading his fingers through the newly dyed locks.

Jaeyun’s hair isn’t super healthy anymore, but it’s not exactly fried. He’s sure it’s not as soft as it would have been prior to bleaching it, and a part of him wishes Sunghoon would have been able to do this before, feeling the silky locks between his fingers instead of the dry ones. It’s strange, really, to think about Sunghoon this way, but Jaeyun can’t help it. The thought dies quickly though, Sunghoon putting more pressure into his touch on Jaeyun’s back, as if he’s silently telling him to let go. Jaeyun doesn’t have to be told twice, and he finally goes fully lax in his hold.

Sobs slowly turn to sniffles, and Jaeyun slowly stops shaking—he hadn’t even realized he had started in the first place—but Sunghoon’s hold never lessens, staying the same if not more secure. Having the top half of his body surrounded by nothing but Sunghoon has Jaeyun's head spinning, basking in the warmth of Sunghoon’s hold. Sunghoon is so comforting and safe that Jaeyun feels like everything that’s been weighing him down his entire life could disappear if he stays in Sunghoon’s hold for long enough. He knows it won’t; his toxic brain won’t stop being toxic just because his touch starved self finally got what it was craving, but Jaeyun likes to think that it can get better.

Nothing is said between the two, even after Jaeyun has calmed down significantly, only an occasional sniffle sounding in the room along with Sunghoon's steady breaths. They don’t break apart, and Jaeyun finds he really, really doesn’t want to, not when Sunghoon’s arms are secured around him and he’s rubbing soothing circles into his back and softly massages his skull, creating a soft atmosphere in the room in contrast to the heaviness Jaeyun always brings with him. The atmosphere around him was especially heavy after his breakdown in the gym, and Jaeyun honestly felt like he was suffocating in his room from the heaviness. But now Jaeyun feels like he can finally breathe.

Perhaps it was the security and warmth that had him drifting into a deep slumber, eyes slipping shut and body melting even more into Sunghoon, despite Jaeyun previously thinking it wasn’t possible. Or maybe it was the exhaustion from the day finally catching up to him, the ache in his bones begging him to sleep for once in his life. Maybe it was the exhaustion from his entire life finally catching up to him. Jaeyun doesn’t know, and as he slips out of consciousness, Sunghoon’s strong arms holding him in a protective embrace, he finds he really couldn’t care less.

-

Jaeyun starts the slow process of waking up with his body aching and mouth dry. Those are the first things he notices. The next thing he notices is the weight of something wrapped around his waist, and Jaeyun instinctively burrows back into the warmth it provides, slightly frowning when he feels something behind him. The third and final thing he notices before shooting his eyes open in shock is the gentle, warm puffs of air hitting the back of his neck in a steady rhythm. That’s new. He feels too nice to get out of the hold right away, but confusion eats away at him. What the hell is happening?

Gentle ministrations on the skin of his stomach, under his shirt, drag him back into calmness, not holding back the sigh that resonates through him. It’s nice to feel like the weight of the world isn’t on his shoulders for once, and Jaeyun has been carrying the burdens of the world for far too long, creating permanent indents in not only his shoulders, but his mind too. He’s been running to keep his head over water his entire life, and it’s nice to finally have a break, feeling like the waves have momentarily subsided. Usually, when this happens, it’s the calm before the storm, brewing one hell of a hurricane inside of him, ready to drag him underwater and never let him back up. Jaeyun is tired of fighting to keep his head up above water.

Right now though, it doesn’t feel like calm before a storm; it’s just calm. Jaeyun doesn’t know how to explain it, but the weight of arms around him and the gentle touch holding him, silently telling him that it’s there and not going anywhere, brings a whole new kind of comfort to him. It’s a kind of comfort that Jaeyun has been searching for his entire life, but never able to find. It’s the kind of comfort that’s incredibly hard to find—the kind that someone would never let go, not if they can help it—and Jaeyun has no idea where it’s coming from or why he suddenly feels it, but it’s nice.

Why is he feeling this way though? It’s just a pair of arms wrapped around him and a snug body holding him close, as if the person behind him willed every negative thing away, trying to get this moment to last for Jaeyun, nothing special. But if it’s nothing special, why does it alleviate the sinking feeling in his chest and the ache in his bones, even just a little? Why does his heart feel a little less heavy in his ribcage and the anxiety constantly prickling at his skin feel a little less prominent? And who exactly do those arms belong to?

Tears well in Jaeyun’s eyes as the events from the night before come crashing back, and he has to physically hold himself back from falling apart all over again. One slight turn of his head has him landing eyes on Sunghoon—who’s already awake and seems to have been for a while—and locking eyes with the younger, and Jaeyun can’t stand to face him right now, so he rolls his head back over so he’s staring at the ceiling. And before he knows it, the tears are falling once again; a steady rainfall of saltwater cascading down his cheeks. Sunghoon’s eyes widen and he quickly rolls over and hoists himself up so he’s hovering over Jaeyun, bringing a hand to Jaeyun’s cheek to swipe his thumb across the skin, draggin his finger through the saltwater. Jaeyun furrows his brow at him, despite something fluttering at the base of his stomach, something he could almost mistake for anxiety if he didn’t know better.

“What is it?” Sunghoon asks gently and that’s all it takes for the dams to properly break again—can he really say they broke again if he never really rebuilt them though—and sob rips through his throat with an unforgiving force, making Jaeyun quickly cover his face with his hands. He wills himself to pull away from Sunghoon’s hand that still resides on his cheek, but he can’t bring himself to pull away. The raw desire to feel cared for and to have the warmth of someone pressed against him is too prominent; it’s overbearing, and Jaeyun doesn’t know if he hates it or just wants to submit to the feeling, letting himself bask in the safety and warmth.

Sunghoon sighs above him before moving away, and Jaeyun chases after his touch like a fool, but Sunghoon just grabs his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, as if to tell Jaeyun that he’s not going anywhere. He moves so he’s sitting on the bed, back propped up against the wall, and opens his arms in invitation, waiting for Jaeyun to make the next move. The humiliation Jaeyun feels is almost enough to make him reject the offer and go back to suffering alone, just him and his tears. But Sunghoon holds no judgment in his eyes, only signs of care and modesty, and Jaeyun has accepted that he is a weak man when it comes to affection a long time ago.

If Jaeyun had to describe the feeling he gets with Sunghoon holding him, he’d say it was like coming home after a long, stressful day of work and finally being able to let out the tension that was straining his muscles the entire day. It’s lounging on the couch after a particularly hard exam, glad he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore now that it’s over and done with, not bothering to worry about the results because it’s over and done with now and there’s nothing he can do about it anymore. It’s the heaviness in his chest subsiding, if even for a mere minute, letting him relax and feel like his entire world isn’t falling apart right in front of him. It’s relieving and everything nice.

It’s everything Jaeyun doesn’t deserve. But as he crawls over to Sunghoon and settles between his legs, laying on his side so his head rests against Sunghoon’s chest, Jaeyun can’t bring himself to care about what he may or may not deserve. Not when Sunghoon wraps his arms around Jaeyun, one draping over his shoulder and chest while the other resides loosely around his waist, his hand finding purchase on Jaeyun’s stomach. And any other time, Jaeyun would be ashamed of the way he burrows into Sunghoon’s body, letting out a sigh of contentment when Sunghoon pulls him closer. He should be ashamed; he and Sunghoon…they aren’t even friends. They barely know each other; have barely spoken to one another. It’s a strange situation, and shame should be eating away at Jaeyun’s insides, but it’s not. There’s not a trace of shame in his gut when Sunghoon rests his chin atop Jaeyun’s head, rubbing soothing circles into the skin of his stomach and slowly rubbing up and down Jaeyun’s left arm.

“I can practically hear you thinking.” Sunghoon whispers after a long moment, as if raising his voice would break the delicate atmosphere they’ve created. Jaeyun just leans even more into him, not bothering to respond. Tears still fall and they’re an annoying hassle, but Jaeyun doesn’t mind all that much. Tears still silently fall, pretty crystallines decorating his eyes, but Jaeyun doesn’t really feel like he’s crying. He doesn’t feel much at all except for the warmth Sunghoon’s body provides. Sunghoon kind of reminds him of a human furnace, and while Jaeyun would usually be annoyed by the constant heat emitting onto his skin, but now he welcomes it.

“Sorry.” Jaeyun croaks out, the task proven rather difficult with how dry his mouth is and his thoat having taken a toll from all of the crying, but he provides a response to Sunghoon’s statement nonetheless, and the latter shakes his head, Jaeyun feeling the movement against the top of his head. He doesn’t know what exactly he’s apologizing for, but he does know that he is sorry. Sorry for ruining Sunghoon’s night last night and now his morning—or maybe his entire day—or for the entirety of the time they’ve known each other. Jaeyun doesn’t know. Maybe he’s sorry for being so incredibly hard to deal with all the time. He really doesn’t know; he’s just sorry. Sunghoon seems adamant on keeping Jaeyun from apologizing though, if the motions of his head and the way Sunghoon gives Jaeyun a light squeeze say anything about it.

“Don’t apologize, Jaeyun.” Sunghoon sighs and lays his cheek on Jaeyun’s head. “You have nothing to apologize for.” Jaeyun wants to believe his words, but it’s hard. Has he not fucked Sunghoon’s night up? How about this morning? Jaeyun finds it hard to believe that he particularly enjoys this situation. It’d be kind of fucked up if he enjoyed the situation, actually. He’s tolerating it, is a more morally right term for it. But even then, Jaeyun finds it hard to believe he’s genuinely okay with sitting here and comforting Jaeyun, especially after the way Jaeyun treated him. Jaeyun pushed him away, so wouldn’t it make sense for Sunghoon to watch him crash and burn?

Jaeyun settles on not responding, laying in Sunghoon’s hold while he still can. He still feels like he should apologize, but Sunghoon clearly won’t stand for it, so he’ll just have to settle on silence overcoming them. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all. At least this time the silence is welcoming and neither of them seem uncomfortable. Jaeyun would think Sunghoon would be rather distraught in their current predicament, but the younger seems rather content with Jaeyun in his arms, and he starts humming a random tune that Jaeyun doesn’t recognize. So no, the silence isn’t uncomfortable or even unwelcome, and usually it would be; nine times out of ten the silence feels too overbearing for Jaeyun, letting his thoughts run wild and nothing being able to drown them out. Now though, it’s just quiet.

 A small part of Jaeyun does kind of want to kick Sunghoon out of his room so he can make sure he doesn’t get even more attached than he already is, leaving him alone to deal with his fallen world, picking up the individual pieces as he builds himself up again. But the bigger part of him doesn’t want to have to go through everything all alone again. He doesn’t want to have to rebuild his entire world brick by brick all by himself. He’s too tired—fucking exhausted—and the burnout that’s been chasing Jaeyun for the past three years has finally caught up to him. Jaeyun doesn’t want to have to build himself back up again all alone, but he also can’t.

Really, someone can only survive all on their own for so long before they fall and can’t get up again. And Jaeyun has been falling repeatedly, hitting the cold, hard ground again and again for as long as he can remember, each and every time having to pick himself back up without the assistance from anyone else. Jaeyun has been picking himself up for far too long, and now he can’t do it alone anymore. Maybe he was incapable of ever truly picking himself back up though; he’s never found solid footing in life, keeping him from crashing again, so maybe he was only hoisting himself up enough to get by, but never really getting back up.

He could have reached out. He knows he could have reached out to any one of his family members, from his parents to his older brother, but he didn’t. He didn’t in fear of burdening them even more than he already was. Jaeyun wasn’t exactly an easy child to raise. Sure, he didn’t have any behavior problems, didn’t get involved in drugs and sex, but he was definitely difficult. He was difficult in the way his parents never really knew what to do for him—or with him, for that matter. They did their best, about as best as they could with the way they were thrown in blind to a situation none of them could even begin to truly understand, and Jaeyun was grateful for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that he felt like he burdened them no matter what he did.

Jaeyun burdened them in hospital bills from when his body would shut down due to his anxiety when he was young, not knowing any other way to deal with it. He burdened them in the form of therapy and psychiatry bills; ones that were hefty and hard to pay. He burdened them with his thoughts and emotions, and even the lack of emotions. He wasn’t an easy child in any aspect, and he hates himself for it; hates that he made his family suffer at his expense. It’s not like he could help it though; he was just born with these problems, and he was going to have to live with them for the rest of his life, but even acknowledging that it’s not his fault doesn’t do much to alleviate the guilt. It doesn’t because Jaeyun was the one who hurt the ones he cared for, not his illnesses. It was Jaeyun and his selfishness that destroyed the people around him.

Now he’s repeating the endless cycle of burdening people only to end up hurting them in the end with Sunghoon. He’s burdening him now and he’s already hurt him, and if Sunghoon keeps trying to stick by his side, Jaeyun is just going to keep hurting him over and over again. And Jaeyun isn’t a bad person; he doesn’t want that. He’s not a particularly good person, either, but not everything about him is bad. He has good manners, morals, and knows how to respect people—these things are all really his parents’ doings, but the fact that he follows the guidelines they’ve set for him says something. He’s not an astoundingly good person, but he’s not exactly horrible. Even if he’s hurt people, it’s not like he set out to hurt them. Things just happened. Things happened with Sunghoon; he made decisions that set him up for failure and hurt Sunghoon even after having his heart set on not hurting the younger, and that, he’s apologetic for.

“I’m really, really fucking sorry, Sunghoon.” Jaeyun breathes and Sunghoon lifts his cheek from where it was resting on the top of Jaeyun’s head, the latter tilting his head so he can look at the younger, meeting his eyes. Sunghoon exhales and looks like he’s about to say something, but Jaeyun frowns and shakes his head at him, effectively cutting Sunghoon off before he can even start. Instead of voicing his thoughts, he holds his gaze with Jaeyun and furrows his brow, as if he was trying to read him. “I’m sorry.” Jaeyun says softly and Sunghoon purses his lip.

“I already told you: you have nothing to apologize for.” Sunghoon chides gently, and Jaeyun scoffs. “Seriously Jaeyun, there’s nothing to be sorry for. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Jaeyun has done something wrong; he’s done many, many things wrong in his life, and even specifically with Sunghoon. His entire life is filled with things he should apologize for but never got around to because the people walked out before he could, and now that Sunghoon isn’t walking out, and shows no signs of doing so, Jaeyun isn’t going to miss his chance to apologize. He’s sick of living with the guilt of not apologizing.

“I do have something to apologize for though, Hoonie.” A beat. “I have a lot of things to apologize for in my life.” Jaeyun casts his gaze down, finally breaking eye contact with Sunghoon, and the younger makes a noise of protest in the back of his throat. “Just hear me out, okay?” Jaeyun says before Sunghoon can start up his protests again, effectively stopping Sunghoon in his tracks, mouth snapping shut and staring at Jaeyun intently. Jaeyun gnaws on his bottom lip for a long moment, trying to gather his thoughts and figure out how to put his messy thoughts into coherent sentences so his explanation makes sense without giving away more than he’s ready for. Sunghoon waits patiently for him the entire time, scanning Jaeyun’s features as if he was looking for any sign of distress that he’d have to help Jaeyun with again.

“I guess I just…I need to apologize for how I treated you—and don’t even try and tell me I treated you fine; I didn’t.” Jaeyun starts, licking over his bottom lip to soothe the pain from biting it so hard as he thinks. “I treated you like shit, I know I did, and I’m sorry, really. But I didn’t mean to do it.” Jaeyun looks back up at Sunghoon, meeting the younger’s watchful eyes. He looks like he wants to protest, to cut Jaeyun off and tell him ‘no, you didn’t treat me like shit’ but true to his silent word, he just sits and waits for Jaeyun to continue. “I just…” Jaeyun doesn’t know how to portray that he was afraid of hurting Sunghoon after hurting countless other people without actually revealing that he has done so. Luckily, Sunghoon, ever the observer, notices and sends him a sheepish smile.

“I mean, you didn’t exactly treat me like royalty.” Sunghoon cracks and Jaeyun chuckles. “And yeah sometimes you…said something that felt like a punch to the gut, but you weren’t horrible, either.” Jaeyun knows what he’s referring to, and he sighs. Again, he’s not really sure how to approach the topic without revealing too much, but he knows he has to at least try. Sunghoon deserves at least some sort of explanation, and if he wants his apology to be accepted, Sunghoon is going to need to understand the sincerity behind it, too. He’s not ready to reveal everything yet—probably never will be, if he’s honest with himself—but perhaps revealing the point blank of it all will be enough.

“I’m sorry for the things I said, and I’m sorry for pushing you away.” Jaeyun does his best to send him a small smile. “But I really never meant to hurt you. I…was actually specifically trying not to.” Jaeyun’s voice falters and he’s almost inaudible at the end of his revelation, but Sunghoon is so close to him—Jaeyun in still in his arms, after all—he has no problem hearing the words, and he cocks his head to the side as he furrows his brow. He looks like he wants to ask questions, to ask Jaeyun to elaborate, but he doesn’t.

One thing Jaeyun has noticed about Sunghoon from the day he met him, is that Sunghoon knows when not to push things. He knows his own limits and the boundaries of the people around him, and he respects them. He knows when to push for something and when to sit back and let the situation die down. He knows when to ask questions and when to walk away. He knows, and he respects it. Sunghoon knows when and when not to push, and the incident last night just goes to show that. Sunghoon knew to push Jaeyun to the edge and finally let him properly break, and he was comfortable doing so because he knew he would be there to put Jaeyun’s pieces back together again. He knew to push then, and he knows not to push now. It’s an admirable trait that Jaeyun envies.

“I think what I’m most sorry for is letting you believe that I didn’t want you in my life, though.” Jaeyun whispers, picking back up on the conversation, and it’s nothing short of the truth. “I’m sorry that I told you I didn’t want to be your friend, because really that couldn’t be further from the truth. I did want to be your friend—I do—and I wanted to meet the rest of your friends and have a movie night with you guys when you invited me to join you. I wanted all of that, Hoonie. I was just…I was just so, so fucking scared.” Jaeyun swallows harshly and watches Sunghoon’s features intently, waiting for some sort of reaction. All Sunghoon does though is continue looking at him with the utmost gentleness, understanding and something akin to relief in his eyes. Above all though, Jaeyun can’t find a single trace of pity in his eyes.

“It’s okay to be scared, you know.” Sunghoon finally says after a long pause. He tilts his head slightly before putting it back in its original position, looking up from Jaeyun to stare off into the distance as he mulls his words. A click of his tongue tells Jaeyun he’s about to start speaking again, a habit Jaeyun has picked up on. “I don’t know what made you scared or if anything even did, but it’s okay to be afraid of things, especially things involving people. And yeah, maybe that fear led you to make some bad decisions, but it happens, and it’s okay that it did as long as you understand what you did wrong and…” Sunghoon looks back down at Jaeyun, locking eyes with him as he says his next words. “And apologize for doing those things when it’s called for.” Sunghoon smiles. “And there’s no point on dwelling on it if the person forgives you, you know?” Jaeyun raises his brow, and Sunghoon chuckles lightly. “I think I forgave you for everything before you even apologized, Jakey. In a way, I kind of knew you didn’t really have any malicious intentions.” Sunghoon sends him a cheeky grin and Jaeyun smiles a real smile this time, his teeth flashing the tiniest bit.

“Well, even if you did forgive me, I would have rather I apologize over anything else.” Jaeyun says and Sunghoon nods. “And even if you do forgive me, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of telling you how sorry I am. You can fight it all you want, but it’s just how I am.” Jaeyun rests his head against Sunghoon’s chest as he looks up at the younger, and he can hear the prominent sound of Sunghoon’s heartbeat. It’s a steady rhythm, one that soothes Jaeyun and causes him to melt against the younger, and Jaeyun thinks he could listen to it all day.

“We all make mistakes, Jakey, don’t beat yourself up too much over them.” Sunghoon murmurs, pulling Jaeyun up a bit so he can rest his head atop of Jaeyun’s again. A hand leaves his arm to rake through Jaeyun’s hair, fingers sliding through the strands with ease as he massages small circles into Jaeyun’s scalp. Jaeyun sighs in contentment, letting his eyes slip shut as Sunghoon’s fingers start rubbing at the skin of his stomach again. Sunghoon most have noticed Jaeyun’s own hands doing the same thing at some point, picking up on the fact that it was something Jaeyun did to provide comfort to himself, as Sunghoon keeps doing it, as if he knows of the waves of calmness that washes over Jaeyun whenever the action is done. It definitely provides more comfort when Sunghoon does it, but it also got the job done when Jaeyun did it himself.

Falling back into silence, Jaeyun lets himself listen to Sunghoon’s heartbeat, hearing as it slightly speeds up when Jaeyun places a hand on Sunghoon’s shoulder, fisting his t-shirt. Jaeyun smirks when it speeds up even more as he moves his hand to the back of his neck, playing with the hairs on the nape of Sunghoon’s neck. It doesn’t calm much, keeping it’s semi-rapid rhythm, but it’s not rapid enough to be concerning or to say Sunghoon is all that flustered. It’s just slightly faster than usual, letting Jaeyun know that he is having some sort of effect on Sunghoon, and that’s good enough for him. There haven’t been many—if any—instances in his life where he’s had a clear effect on someone like this. Nobody has ever really shown him any sort of interest, not even bothering to get to know him, so to have someone, and Sunghoon of all people, react to him like this is foreign to him.

Most people back in his middle and high school in Australia didn’t give him a chance because he came across as ‘too nice’, whatever the hell that meant. He didn't find that out until his sophomore year, when one of those people who thought he was a fake, backstabbing bitch who would leap at the opportunity to drag other people down because he came off too nice, too sweet, grew a bit closer to Jaeyun and told him just as much. It had stumped him before, wondering why people took his politeness as a bad thing when it was one of the qualities he valued most in himself and others, but later on in life he learned how easy it was for people to take advantage of others when they came across as nice.

People’s hesitation to befriend him because of how nice he was greatly affected him throughout his youth because he thought he was just unlikeable, nobody wanting to be around him. It wasn’t exactly the case, but it wasn’t exactly wrong either. People didn’t want to be around him. It’s because of a reason that wasn’t even true, sure, but it still took a toll on his social life; a great toll, at that. People’s hesitance cost Jaeyun a lot of opportunities to strengthen what little social skills he had, and God he needed all the help he could get, and now Jaeyun doesn’t even know how to make friends. Is it something natural? He’s pretty sure people don’t go around asking to be people’s friend.

How did he and Sunghoon's relationship develop? They’re not friends, no, but there were numerous opportunities for them to be. Jaeyun can’t exactly name the exact point where he would be able to call them friends if he had made a few better decisions, but if he had to take a guess as to where their friendship would have started developing, he’d say the two most prominent cases were the day after they moved in and went furniture shopping with two of Sunghoon’s friends and when they dyed their hair together. Jaeyun labels both of those instances as fond memories, and a part of Jaeyun hates that he didn’t take advantage of the situations to properly befriend Sunghoon. He’s not stupid, he knows he was lonely and starving for a friend, but he let his insecurities, fear, and ghosts from his past keep him from doing so.

Where do they go from here though? A door of opportunity has been opened, but Jaeyun has no idea how to step through it, and he’s still scared to take that first step. He’s already hurt Sunghoon enough; shouldn’t he try and stay the hell away from Sunghoon so he doesn’t keep hurting him? But then again, trying not to hurt Sunghoon is how he ended up hurting him in the first place. Jaeyun almost groans at the complications of the situation. Can nothing just be simple in his life? Is that too much to ask for? It sure seems like it.

The events of last night don’t sound like a great way to start off a friendship to Jaeyun. He can’t imagine someone asking how they became friends and his response would be ‘Oh? Us? I had a horrible mental breakdown and wanted to die really bad but Sunghoon here just showed up in the midst of it and calmed me down! Even stayed with me the whole night to make sure I was alright!’ Yeah, no, that definitely doesn't sound like the typical start of a friendship. Sure, some friendships develop because someone’s going through a hard time and the other person lends a shoulder to cry on, but mid mental breakdown? Not really.

A thought prods at Jaeyun, and he furrows his brow, looking up at Sunghoon, who’s seemingly a little absent, lost in thought. Jaeyun taps the back of his neck to grab his attention, and he slightly startles before looking down at Jaeyun, raising his eyebrows in silent questioning. Jaeyun opens his mouth to speak, intending to ask him a question, but he’s not really sure what that question is, snapping his mouth shut. ‘Hey, how did your night come to you barging into my room looking like you ran a marathon last night?’ No, that’s not quite right. Well, it would probably get him the answer he’s looking for, but the wording doesn’t sit well with him.

“Sunghoon, what…” Jaeyun trails off, licking over his teeth. “What were you doing last night?” Jaeyun asks and Sunghoon furrows his brow, confusion evident in his features as he cocks his head to the side. Jaeyun sighs, musing over the right words to use. “How did you end up finding me like that, is what I’m trying to ask I guess. You…you looked like you had run all the way to the apartment and just barged into my room like your life depended on it.” Jaeyun was too caught up in his breakdown to know exactly what happened from the point Sunghoon arrived in the apartment to him rushing through his doorway, but he’s pretty sure Sunghoon couldn’t have entered and heard Jaeyun crying because Jaeyun was purposely being quiet. And even if that’s what happened, it doesn’t explain why Sunghoon looked like he ran nonstop in a full sprint for five miles.

“Uh,” Sunghoon breathes a harsh puff of air, biting the inside of his cheek. “Uh, shit, okay uh I’m going to have to ask you to not freak out.” Sunghoon says and Jaeyun looks at him quizzically before nodding slowly. Sunghoon sucksin a sharp breath and blinks slowly. “Last night I…I got a call from your mom.” Sunghoon pauses as he opens his eyes again and Jaeyun shakes his head a single time, brow furrowed and mouth turned downwards. His mom called Sunghoon? How would she even have his number? They’ve never met; his mother is all the way in Australia, for fuck’s sake, and they’ve never even spoken, so how would she call Sunghoon? And Why?

Jaeyun's eyes go wide as he remembers his mother’s request to have his roommates number in case of an emergency and Jaeyun was unreachable. Jaeyun had been reluctant at first, things being a little awkward between him and Sunghoon at that point, but Jaeyun had managed to work up the courage to ask Sunghoon if it was okay and the latter had readily agreed, saying it was probably a good idea, even going as far as asking if he could do the same with Jaeyun’s number for his own mother. Why would she call him last night though? And how would that lead to Sunghoon barging into his room?

“She called me because she was worried about you. She said you sent her some…concerning messages and she couldn’t get ahold of you, along with your dad and brother. She was really scared and she—we thought something happened to you.” Sunghoon says slowly and Jaeyun’s heart drops. Oh. Oh. Jaeyun had sent her messages back when he initially broke down in the gym, and ‘concerning’ was definitely an understatement for what those messages were. If Sunghoon hadn’t shown up when he had, Jaeyun probably wouldn’t still be here right now. Last night was one hell of a breakdown, and it was Jaeyun's breaking point.

Jaeyun shoots up from his spot, letting the arms around him fall, and the tears that stopped a long while ago make another appearance. Sunghoon quickly grabs his wrist when he jolts back to move away, and Jaeyun tugs on his arm, meaning to tell Sunghoon to let go, but his words fall short when Sunghoon looks at him with desperation in his eyes, his grip on Jaeyun tightening ever so slightly, as if to tell Jaeyun that there’s no way in hell that he’s escaping his hold. Jaeyun needs to get ahold of his mother though; she must be worried sick and already fucking weeping for her lost son who she never actually physically lost.

“Jaeyun, listen to me,” Sunghoon breathes and Jaeyun stills, swallowing pas the lump in his throat. Sunghoon loosens his hold on Jaeyun’s wrist and rubs at the skin, soft eyes never leaving Jaeyun’s. “I messaged her last night after you fell asleep and told her you were okay and that I wasn’t leaving your side no matter what. She knows you’re okay, alright? It’s okay.” Sunghoon drags Jaeyun back down into his hold, wasting no time in wrapping his arms around him. “She’s okay, Jakey, and she knows you are too.” Sunghoon whispers into the crown of his head and Jaeyun visibly relaxes. The guilt is quickly replaced by humiliation though, and Jaeyun lets out a shaky breath.

“I—thank you, Sunghoon, for everything.” Jaeyun murmurs and Sunghoon squeezes him in response, letting Jaeyun burrow into him. “If you hadn’t shown up when you did I—God, Hoonie,” Jaeyun fists Sunghoon’s shirt by his shoulder blades, sucking in a harsh breath that turns into a sob. Jaeyun feels like the safe atmosphere they’ve created in his room is crumbling right in front of him and he wants to wail, missing the warmth and comfort, but then the softest of touches registers on his head and Jaeyun freezes, eyes going wide as he realizes what—and who—caused the touch.

Sunghoon’s lips linger on Jaeyun’s head for a moment, accompanied by the soft feeling of fingertips dancing across his skin, and Jaeyun's chest erupts with a feeling he’s never felt before, an overwhelming warmth washing over him as his stomach seemingly flutters, almost like the feeling of anxiety but this time it’s comforting. Jaeyun hadn’t even noticed he was shaking in Sunghoon’s hold prior to the kiss, but he melts against Sunghoon again, still gripping Sunghoon’s shirt. He definitely, a hundred percent, should not be reacting like this to something as simple as a kiss to the crown of his head. And he definitely shouldn’t be missing the touch when Sunghoon pulls away, squeezing Jaeyun reassuringly.

“It’s gonna be okay, Jaeyun-ah.” Sunghoon whispers as he rests his cheek against the top of Jaeyun’s head again, just like earlier, and Jaeyun lets out a shaky sigh. He wants to believe Sunghoon’s words; wants to trust him. But Jaeyun hasn’t been okay in a long, long time, and he’s been working towards being okay for as long as he can remember, but he just isn’t. “We’re gonna get through this, Jaeyunie.” We’re gonna get through this. Not just Jaeyun, but the both of them. Jaeyun realizes that this is Sunghoon taking that first step into friendship, and who would Jaeyun be not to follow?

-

Jaeyun is curled up on the couch with some random seven hour long documentary on the end of the world playing on the tv when Sunghoon walks into the apartment. He’s not paying much attention to the documentary; initially turning it on to distract him from the heaviness in his chest only to space out a couple minutes in and end up just staring blankly at the tv, hugging himself as he lays his head against the flat couch cushions, not bothering to grab a pillow. Honestly, the documentary is much too depressing to be watching amidst an intense depressive episode, but Jaeyun has always been a sucker for documentaries, and nothing else spiked his interest, so he settled for what he had.

He doesn’t bother greeting Sunghoon, not having the energy to nor feeling like he’s even capable of talking, but the younger doesn’t seem to mind, if him stalking towards Jaeyun after toeing off his shoes is any sort of indication. Jaeyun listens to the soft taps of Sunghoon’s footsteps on the hardwood floor and waits for Sunghoon to come into his line of sight, as he inevitably will. He doesn’t have to wait long, as Sunghoon reaches him rather quickly due to the short distance between the entrance of the apartment and the couch.

Sunghoon steps in front of Jaeyun, adjacent to the tv so Jaeyun can still see it, and reaches a hand out to pat Jaeyun’s head. Sunghoon has been doing that, among other things, a lot recently. It’s only been about a week since Jaeyun’s breakdown, and ever since then Sunghoon has stuck to Jaeyun like glue. Normally it’d annoy Jaeyun with not having any alone time, but Sunghoon is rather quiet when he notices Jaeyun wants to be alone, and it simultaneously gives Jaeyun the closure of being alone while keeping him from feeling alone. It’s a nice change for Jaeyun to have someone he can rely on and expect to see every day as a friend, and not just someone he lives with.

Which, Sunghoon is his friend. Sunghoon hasn’t explicitly called him his friend, but Jaeyun also hasn’t called Sunghoon his friend out loud either, but he definitely considers the younger to be his friend, so he feels it’s safe to assume Sunghoon considers him a friend, too. It didn’t feel like that at first; initially it felt like Sunghoon saw Jaeyun as some sort of responsibility he had, and that he was just sticking with Jaeyun because he felt like he’d be responsible if something happened to him, but after spending more and more time with Sunghoon, Jaeyun saw that no, that wasn’t the case, but simply that Sunghoon truly did care and seemed to rather enjoy Jaeyun’s company, even if he was quiet and a little reserved at times.

Sunghoon moves from in front of Jaeyun to the end of the couch, lifting Jaeyun’s feet and flopping down on the cushions before resting Jaeyun’s legs on his lap, keeping his hand in place on Jaeyun’s ankle. Jaeyun pays him no mind and instead grabs the remote, opening the guide to find something a little less depressing and dark to watch. He’s really not in the mood to talk about the end of the world today, even if it is interesting. Any other day he’d probably be listening to every single word that the narrator uttered, but if Sunghoon were to ask him to recite a single detail from the four hours of the documentary he’s already watched, he wouldn’t even be able to think of a single detail from the imagery on the screen.

Jaeyun eventually settles on the Hallmark channel—he had debated with himself whether or not he should pay the extra money for the international package for their cable, missing his home back in Australia and wanting a piece of it here in Korea—and groans at what he’s getting himself into. Sunghoon shoots him a concerned look, which Jaeyun catches out of the corner of his eye, and Jaeyun just grunts at him, hoping it relays the message of ‘don’t worry about it, I’m just going through it’ well enough. It seems to do the job, as Sunghoon shrugs his shoulders and directs his attention towards the tv.

“Hey, this is in English.” Sunghoon says after a moment, pouting. “You know I don’t know English.” Jaeyun chuckles lightly at his antics, not taking his eyes off the screen. “You’re gonna have to translate and explain the plot to me, you ass.” Sunghoon groans and Jaeyun rolls his eyes, turning to look at Sunghoon for a brief moment before looking back at the tv.

“The town the girl is in runs into a problem and while she’s playing hero she meets a guy and they start off on the wrong foot but then have to work together in order to save the town, grow closer, she fucks up and he gets mad and leaves her, they make up in the end and live happily ever after.” Jaeyun says and Sunghoon makes a noise in the back of his throat, grabbing Jaeyun’s attention. Sunghoon looks bewildered; eyes wide and brow furrowed while his mouth is agape. Jaeyun giggles at the sight, and Sunghoon snaps his mouth shut to frown at him.

“What are you laughing at? And how’d you know all that? Have you seen this before or something? You literally just turned the channel.” Sunghoon rambles and Jaeyun smiles, shrugging.

“I haven’t seen this one, no.”

“Then how...?” Sunghoon trails off, looking between Jaeyun and the tv before fully settling back on Jaeyun. “I’m confused.” Jaeyun giggles again, adjusting his position so he can look at both Sunghoon and the tv without hurting his neck.

“It’s just the plot for literally every Hallmark movie ever.” Jaeyun explains and Sunghoon cocks his head to the side.

“Hallmark?”

“The channel that produces these movies.” Jaeyun nods towards the tv. “God, they’re all so fucking cliche and predictable, follow the same exact plotline over and over again, only replacing characters and locations along with small changes to events, have mediocre acting, and it’s so painfully heterosexual I hate it.” Jaeyun groans and Sunghoon raises a single eyebrow, confusion evidently growing.

“Then why…why are you watching it?” Sunghoon narrows his eyes and looks at Jaeyun as if he were studying him. Jaeyun just scoffs in response, rolling his eyes.

“Because despite how awful they are, they suck me in and before I know it I’m too invested to change it.” Jaeyun sighs and Sunghoon looks up to the ceiling, shaking his head after a moment.

“I…Don’t change the channel to it then?” Sunghoon says as if it’s obvious—and it is—but Jaeyun rolls his eyes in mock annoyance. Of course Sunghoon wouldn’t get how these horrible movies that he hates with a burning passion still spike his interest and while they don’t really bring him any sort of comfort, they do help subside the ache in his chest because he’s too caught up in hating on the movie.

“You just don’t get it.” Jayeun sighs dramatically and Sunghoon mumbles something along the lines of ‘no, I don’t’ and Jaeyun stifles a laugh. Sunghoon doesn’t need to get it anyways. The behavior is familiar to him though, and it brings a wave of longing washing over Jaeyun.. “You sound like my dad, you know.” Jaeyun starts, reminiscing about the many conversations that were brought up involving this topic back in his home in Australia. “My mom used to watch these all the time when she was upset, even though she herself would indulge in my complaints while a movie was on.” Jaeyun smiles, remembering the way his mom would chip in and state exactly what was going to happen in a mocking voice whenever Jaeyun would crack a witty remark.

“If you guys hate this so much, why are you watching it? Why do you keep watching?” Jaeyun’s father had asked them and he had just exchanged a look with his mother, a knowing smile plastered on both of their faces. His brother had told his dad to give up on trying to understand because he never would, to which his father just grumbled about before walking away to go back to doing whatever dad thing it was that he was doing. It’s one of the few fond memories Jaeyun has to look back on these days when it comes to his family, tensions being incredibly high before he left.

The truth is though, Jaeyun's brother was right about him and his dad never being able to understand why Jaeyun and his mother continued watching the cliche movies that Jaeyun despised so much and his mother merely tolerated. They wouldn’t get it because their reasoning wasn’t all that practical, was strange and really just didn’t make sense to anyone other than them. The lame movies that played on the Hallmark channel during the day every day, followed by amazing shows such as The Golden Girls and Reba that ran through the night and early morning, were Jaeyun and his mother’s only time they ever really got to bond. They spent all their time fighting outside of that, with his mother yelling about how he was spiraling down again and she was tired of watching it and wanted him to get real help this time, and Jaeyun refusing to do so because he was fine.

He was never fine, and it was clear to both of them, but he still tried to convince her otherwise for the sake of her own mentality. While many people, like his old therapist, had told him it was a mother’s job to worry about their kids and fight for the absolute best for them, Jaeyun never could get past the guilt that came with burdening her with his problems. Even if she said he wasn’t—she never did, given that Jaeyun never told her that he felt like one—a burden, he knew he was. At the end of the day, he was the reason she was seemingly more agitated as the days went on and why tears would suddenly fall down her face when watching a movie together and the talk of mental health and internal struggles was brought up.

She’d never admit it out loud, but Jaeyun was one hell of a burden in her life. He never meant to be hard to deal with, but he was. And despite everything he put her through, voluntarily or not, she still fought for him. The problem was that Jaeyun didn’t fight for himself. His mother—and father, for that matter—could only do so much for him, the rest being up to Jaeyun. He had tried overcoming the obstacles of life when they were first thrown at him, but at some point he fell behind and the obstacles built up and up, until Jaeyun didn’t stand a chance against them.

Jaeyun resorted to shutting people out so he could take on the burdens in peace, but to his disappointment, he wasn’t equipped to take on the challenges alone. He needed to have people by his side, but he had pushed them away before he could even find that out. His relationships had become too strained and him asking for help at that point would just come across as him using the people around him. It was never his intention, never would have been, but that’s just how it would have been perceived. Jaeyun isn’t stupid, and he knows what it looks like.

Despite the strain in their respective relationships though, his mother and father both fought for him when Jaeyun couldn’t fight for himself, guiding him in the right direction when he needed it. Jaeyun is eternally grateful for everything they did, and yet he never once showed it. How would he? He hadn’t even really noticed the small actions they did that were meant to help him in any way possible until much after he had already moved out and had too much time to reflect on the past. He didn’t notice the small words of encouragement hidden in sentences, or the little tricks to get him out of the house.

(“Jaeyun-ah, I think Layla could use a walk, mind taking her out? I hear the park looks extra beautiful at this hour.” Jaeyun’s mother’s voice comes and of course, he’ll walk the dog for her. Anything to spend time with Layla and make his mom happy, right?

“Jaeyun-ah, could you run to the store with me? I have to pick up some plywood and will need an extra hand with it.” His dad would ask, and Jaeyun would sigh, curling even more into himself under his blankets.

“I don’t really—”

“Please, kiddo? I’d ask your brother, but you always have been stronger.”

“Yeah, yeah alright, I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Jaeyun, can you help me bake these cookies? I’m pretty tired but have to get them done for this event—” His mother asks with a strained look on her face, and Jaeyun pities her.

“Yeah mom, don’t worry about it.”

“Can you hold the flashlight for me while I take a look at your mom’s car? I could use a hand.” His dad calls to him from the house’s entrance, flashing Jaeyun a wide grin. “Come on Jake, it’ll be a nice learning experience for when you have your own car and a problem comes along.”

“I guess.” Jaeyun sighs and hoists himself up from the couch, shoving his phone in his pocket.)

Jaeyun didn’t notice what they were doing as they were doing it, but after living alone and having to deal with everything completely on his own, he realized that those were their efforts of getting him up and moving, out of the house or just out of whatever piece of furniture he felt strapped to. It wasn’t much, but it was honest work. Despite how much they fought, all usually Jaeyun’s doing, they still looked out for him in every way they knew how to. They still tried to get him to feel better, even if just for a moment. And really, their methods were proven pretty effective.

Walks with Layla were calming and mended his heart when it felt like it had shattered without reason. Throwing her a ball as the sun went down after a torturous day was oddly healing, and Jaeyun always has adored that damn dog. Baking and cooking with his mother was relaxing and fun, the two cracking jokes about how awful their days were, the very events that led them to being in the kitchen together. Trips to the hardware store with his father were exhausting yet entertaining as his dad got turned around or distracted every five seconds, telling him they don’t sell grills like they used to.

Something prods at the skin of his cheek, swiping across it gently and Jaeyun glances forward, meeting Sunghoon’s gaze. His face is etched in concern, wrinkles formed on his forehead and mouth pulled down into a frown as he wipes the tears that Jaeyun didn’t even know were falling. Jaeyun sniffles and harshly wipes his face with the back of his hand, knocking Sunghoon’s hand from his face. He’s about to apologize for crying—again—but one look at Sunghoon tells him it’s in his best interest to keep his mouth shut when it comes to apologies right now.

“I miss them,” is all Jaeyun says after a moment, and Sunghoon probably wouldn’t have known who he was referring to if he hadn’t been paying such close attention to Jaeyun this entire time, from the time they started talking up until now. “I miss them a lot.” Jaeyun whispers and purses his lips, shaking his head as he blinks slowly.

He misses watching stupid movies with his mom alongside some really good cinematic masterpieces. He misses talking with his dad about life over dinner in some rundown restaurant they found that had food which was far too good to be made in a place that looked ten seconds away from collapsing. He misses listening to his brother ramble about some random history fact he learned that day because God was he a history buff, much like Jaeyun with physics. He misses cuddling with Layla on his bed, the dog soothing the sinking feeling in his chest and the anxiety that coursed through his veins despite not even really doing anything other than being cute. Jaeyun misses all of them a lot.

“I get it.” Sunghoon sends him a small, wavering smile. “I mean, not to your extent, not even close, but I do partially get it.” Jaeyun nods at him and Sunghoon sighs, placing a hand on the top of Jaeyun’s head, swiping his bangs out of his face and framing his face as his eyes look over his features. “I miss my family all the time—and Riki, but don’t tell him that, I’ll never hear the end of it—and I can see them. I have the ability to visit them, hell, Riki literally comes from my childhood home whenever he comes around, I just don’t. I can’t imagine how hard it is to know that you physically can’t see your family because they’re a plane ticket away.”

“I asked for this, Hoonie.” Jaeyun smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes and it looks more tired and painful than anything. Sunghoon shakes his head, frown deepening.

“No, you didn’t.” Sunghoon affirms. Jaeyun is about to protest when Sunghoon holds up his index finger. “You came here to study, you didn’t ask to miss your family while doing so.” Sunghoon says and Jaeyun sighs. He’s about half right, and Jaeyun doesn’t know how to break it to him.

“But what if that’s not the whole reason I came here? The reason why I left them behind?” Jaeyun whispers and he honestly can’t believe he’s about to confess such a thing; doesn’t even know if he’ll go through with it. He’s already set himself up, but he doesn’t know if he has the willpower to let the words slip past his lips. He’s not proud of his reasoning, after all.

“Why else would you come here? I mean…Jaeyun you’re literally here because you’re going to college here.” Sunghoon states like it’s obvious, and it should be, but Jaeyun shakes his head.

“I could have studied in Australia. I could have stayed relatively close so home was only a drive away instead of a whole flight.” Jaeyun doesn’t know why he’s pushing this, why he’s pushing to let the truth out when he’s not even sure he wants it out, but he is. Maybe he’s just been holding it in for too long, not having anyone to tell because he had nobody. Nobody was by his side the second he stepped foot into South Korea. Not until Sunghoon, at least.

“I don’t think I follow.” Sunghoon chuckles but it’s half hearted and noncommittal. Jaeyun would be surprised if Sunghoon was able to follow his line of thought though, a task proven difficult for even Jaeyun himself, and he huffs a heavy breath, biting the inside of his cheek as he fishes through his inner turmoil to figure out if he really wants to reveal to Sunghoon why he was so adamant on being far away from his family.

Jaeyun doesn’t know why he feels the sudden urge to just spill his guts to Sunghoon, letting the truth and nothing but the truth come out, but he’s not totally against the idea. Anxious and terribly frightened of the possible outcomes, yes, but not entirely against it. Sunghoon has been pretty open and accepting about everything that’s happened so far, and he still seemingly holds no judgment with Jaeyun. It’s the breath of fresh air that Jaeyun’s been thirsting for.

“What if I left Australia because I wanted the distance?” his breath falters before he can continue and he takes a shaky breath, sudden determination washing over him to just get this out. “What if I wanted the distance so we’d grow apart?”

“Why…would you want to grow apart from your family?” Sunghoon asks, hesitance lacing his voice. Sunghoon doesn’t know much about his family,  but what he certainly does know is that they care. That’s why his mother called him in a panic, pleading for Sunghoon to be there at the apartment with Jaeyun only to fall apart when she found out he wasn’t. She wouldn’t have bothered calling to make sure Jaeyun was safe if she didn’t care. Jaeyun can see why Sunghoon would be confused as to why he would want to be away from his family who so obviously loves and cares for him.

Jaeyun’s chest tightens painfully and his breath hitches, locking eyes with Sunghoon as the tears start up again, cascading down his face with a force to be reckoned with. Sunghoon just continues looking at him with pure confusion and concern, slightly shaking his head as he tries to piece together the meaning of Jaeyun’s words. Jaeyun wants to finally let go of the reason behind him leaving his family and everything he loved behind in Australia, even if he won’t be letting go of the full truth, the one involving his history of hurting people. He just wants at least a little bit of the weight of the world to come off of his shoulders.

“Because I hoped that it would hurt less when I finally went through with it.” Jaeyun breathes, body shaking as his heart beats rapidly in his chest, fingers twitching in anticipation, and he can see the precise moment Sunghoon wants to ask what exactly he’d be going through with and why it would hurt his family, and the very moment everything clicks into place, Sunghoon’s eyes widening and jaw slightly dropping, mouth opening the slightest bit as his breath catches in his throat. Jaeyun can see something flash in Sunghoon’s eyes, but he can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. 

Sunghoon is so incredibly still where he’s sitting on the couch, still leaning over Jaeyun’s body from when he wiped the tears from Jaeyun’s face and brushed his bangs back. He’s so still and is simultaneously unresponsive and responsive to the bomb Jaeyun just dropped on him. He’s blinking rapidly while his brow is furrowed and letting his mouth hang open the slightest bit, shaking his head slowly, and he looks like he wants to say something but doesn’t know what. Jaeyun watches him through blurred vision, pretty crystallines decorating his eyesight as more tears well and fall as his heart contracts painfully in his ribcage.

Then Sunghoon is letting out a long, slow breath, closing his mouth until his jaw is clenched as he closes his eyes. If Jaeyun didn’t know better, he’d think Sunghoon was mad, but the telltale sign of him reaching out to grasp at Jaeyun's bent knee and caressing the skin there tells him otherwise. Sunghoon is just thinking; formulating a proper response that won’t make Jaeyun feel like he’s pitying him because he’s not, Jaeyun knows that much. He knows Sunghoon doesn’t pity him because even after everything, the younger hasn’t looked at him with a single trace of pity once.

“Oh, Jakey,” is what Sunghoon says in a breath, eyes slowly opening to take a look at Jaeyun. Sunghoon pushes down on Jaeyun’s knee as he hoists himself up until his waist is hovering over the couch, and Jaeyun’s other knee follows the one Sunghoon guides down until both of his legs are outstretched on the couch. A hand is braced on the back of the couch as Sunghoon lowers himself onto Jaeyun, resting his head against Jaeyun’s chest and Jaeyun instinctively brings his arms up to wrap around the younger, breathing around a stifled sob.

Sunghoon slithers his arms around Jaeyun as best he can with his back against the couch, giving him a gentle, reassuring squeeze before letting his arms go slack around him, moving his thumb back and forth on the spot it occupies on Jaeyun’s back. Jaeyun is sure Sunghoon can hear how fast his heart is beating in this position, and a hot wave of something rushes through Jaeyun, flooding through his body and making him feel like he’s sinking.

“Is this okay?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun nods, even though Sunghoon isn’t looking at him, even though he can’t see him. Jaeyun’s voice is caught in his throat and a hollow feeling settles in his chest, pairing with the rapid beat of his heart. His body feels off; nothing feels right, and Jaeyun fists Sunghoon’s shirt where his hands reside on Sunghoon’s back. Normally Jaeyun's heart would be steady and he’d start calming down when Sunghoon held him like this, just like he has every other time Sunghoon has held him, touched him, in the past week. But now Jaeyun just feels like he’s on fire, hot liquid burning through his veins.

“You’re shaking.” Sunghoon notes and Jaeyun is shaking, he knows it. He can feel the rapid shake of his entire body, a jittery feeling clogging his mind and hollowing out his chest even more.

“Uh huh.” Jaeyun replies dumbly, not knowing what else to say, not being able to say anything else around the lump in his throat. Jaeyun releases Sunghoon’s shirt in favor of splaying his hands on the younger’s back, pushing him even more into Jaeyun. Sunghoon gets the message and tightens his arms around Jaeyun, and Jaeyun lets out a shaky breath. He can’t stop shaking, and he’s so tired of feeling this way. He doesn’t regret revealing at least part of the truth behind him coming to Korea to Sunghoon, even with the intense wave of anxiety that has drowned him.

“Breathe, Jakey.” And Jaeyun does, taking a deep breath in and holding it for a moment before slowly letting it back out, just like his therapist had taught him. He shudders against Sunghoon and the younger burrows into Jaeyun until Jaeyun can’t name the end of him and the start of Sunghoon. He takes a couple more deep breaths, feeling his chest loosen even as the heavy, hollow feeling remains, and focuses on the feeling of Sunghoon's thumb rubbing against his back in slow ministrations.

Eventually, Jaeyun’s anxiety subsides and he doesn’t feel like he’s trapped underwater, his lungs burning for air and body shaking in fear. Sunghoon doesn’t let up on his hold on Jaeyun, and he appreciates it, knowing that separating now would probably just send him tumbling back into an anxiety attack. Because that’s what that was, intense anxiety punching him in the gut and taking complete control of his body, restricting his air and making him feel like he was fucking dying. Jaeyun is sure Sunghoon knows exactly what that was, and he’s grateful he handled the situation so well because Jaeyun was clueless during it, not even realizing what was happening until he had already calmed down some. In the moment he just felt like his world was ending and he couldn’t breathe, an odd feeling taking over his body as he couldn't help but tremble.

The gentle pitter-patter of what must be rain hitting the window alongside the sound of the Hallmark movie still playing on the tv in low volume is the only thing keeping the apartment from falling into silence besides Jaeyun’s semi-harsh breaths that calm more and more as time goes on, and Jaeyun is grateful for the noise. He supposes Sunghoon doesn’t know what to say, and Jaeyun himself is a little clueless, feeling the need to apologize for…well, everything, at this point.

Sunghoon had just gotten home, and had probably wanted to finally relax after a long day. But Jaeyun just had to go and make things difficult for him. He wants to apologize for fucking up Sunghoon's night again, but he also knows that Sunghoon would just lightly scold him, telling him he really doesn’t mind, and at this point Jaeyun is starting to believe him whenever he says something along the lines.

“Did you know that human touch conjures up a hormone called oxytocin that acts as a chemical messenger in the brain? It plays an important role in things such as sexual arousal, recognition, trust, romantic attachtment, and even mother-infant bonding, resulting it in being called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’. It helps regulate our emotional responses and helps process bonding cues, which is why we feel warm and peaceful whenever we’re with people we care about, but also when we’re in the arms of someone we care about.” Sunghoon breaks the silence between them and raises his eyebrows, rubbing at Sunghoon’s back to convey that he’s listening.

“Go on.” Jaeyun encourages when Sunghoon doesn’t continue and the younger hums above him, burrowing his head even further into Jaeyun’s chest.

“The more we engage in these feel-good behaviors, such as cuddling, the more oxytocin we get—it can even be referred to as addictive.” Sunghoon says softly and Jaeyun brings a hand up to settle in Sunghoon’s hair, softly carding his fingers through the strands, listening intently to Sunghoon’s words, soaking them in. “oxytocin is connected to serotonin and dopamine, and the trio is rightfully referred to as the ‘happy hormones’. Under the right conditions, they’ll work as a team to make us feel butterflies.”

“Where exactly are you going with this?” Jaeyun chuckles and he feels the curve of Sunghoon’s lips against his chest as he smiles.

“Just wait.” Sunghoon laughs airily before continuing on with his monologue. “Whenever we’re with someone who we’re attracted to or care about, our brain releases dopamine and our serotonin levels increase all while oxytocin is produced, and before you know it you’ll get that buzz and light feeling that all those sappy love songs are written about. They make you feel warm.” Jaeyun knows the warm feeling he’s talking about; it’s the very feeling he feels right now as Sunghoon holds him, his anxiety finally wilting into nothing, and also when Sunghoon held him a week ago, both during and after his breakdown.

“Like how I feel right now.” Jaeyun says and he can feel Sunghoon’s smile grow until his sharp canines are peeking out. The hand in Sunghoon’s hair doesn’t stop petting him, and Sunghoon seems a little conflicted on whether he should stay pressed against Jaeyun's chest and listen to his, now calm, heartbeat or lean into the touch atop his head. Jaeyun can’t help but find it utterly endearing, and there go the butterflies Sunghoon was just talking about, bursting in his stomach and making their way to his chest until he feels light and tingly, but completely different from earlier when he was anxious.

“Like how I feel, too.” Sunghoon replies and Jaeyun's heart soars. He has no idea when Sunghoon started having this effect on him, but he does know that it’s a big effect, one that feels like it alters Jaeyun’s entire life, and maybe it does. Maybe it alters Jaeyun’s life in the way that he doesn’t feel like he’s falling apart and running for something he’s not entirely sure of.

Sunghoon is like a breath of fresh air after being stuck in a stuffy room for days on end, no window to open in sight, the door locked and no matter how hard Jaeyun kicked at it, he could never get it open. But then he finally manages to escape, taking in a deep breath that alleviates the exhaustion that runs deep in his bones and fills the hollow feeling in his chest with something warm and fuzzy. Jaeyun basks in it and all the glory that it brings, and he quickly realizes he is, in fact, becoming addicted.

“Jaeyunie,” Sunghoon calls softly and Jaeyun hums in questioning. Sunghoon gives him a light squeeze and smiles up at him when Jaeyun meets his gaze. “I’d like to give you all the oxytocin your addicted heart desires.” Sunghoon says dopily and Jaeyun can’t help the snort that bursts out of him. Sunghoon gives him a sheepish smile and Jaeyun smiles fondly at him, heart bursting aflame with something he doesn’t quite recognize. Fuck oxycotin that he’s addicted to; it’s Sunghoon that he craves every second of the day.

-

Jaeyun stares at his phone as it rings, waiting for the call to fall dead so the guilt stops eating away at him. He doesn’t want to ignore his mother, he’s just humiliated and doesn’t know how to face her after everything that happened. He still hasn’t contacted her, and he knows he should, but he also knows he won’t be able to disguise his voice into something more cheerful and lighthearted like he used to do in the past to convince her that he really was okay, even when he wasn’t. She’s not stupid, she knew he was struggling even when he tried so hard to hide it. She heard the exhaustion that coated his voice and the anxious lilt that chased after every word.

His mother knew he was struggling, and he knew that she knew, but openly struggling in front of her was hard, and he hated it. He hated the effect it had on her, because despite everything he’s done to her, everything he’s said, she still loves him and wants nothing but the best for her son. Jaeyun didn’t deserve it, but she still gave it to him anyway. She was still there for him and showed him that she cared in her own little ways.

Even now, she shows that she cares as she calls for the sixth time since the incident, hoping she’ll finally be able to talk to her son and truly get the reassurance she needs. She’ll be able to confirm that he really is okay, because the mother inside her needs to know for sure that her son is healthy and well. Jaeyun should pick up the phone, but he doesn’t have it in him to. He doesn’t have the guts to face her, even if he won’t physically be doing so.

The phone call finally drops and goes to voicemail, and Jaeyun breathes a sigh. He directs his attention towards his laptop, cocking his head to the side when he sees the words before him on his Google document. At least this time around he’s getting somewhere, albeit a bit slowly. The essay he was supposed to write at the beginning of the semester on Newton’s Law of Motion never got done, and Jaeyun had to watch his grade plummet due to it being the first big assignment he had been assigned. He’s gotten it back up now, but it was still stressful at the time.

Now though, he’s stuck on the same damn paragraph and just can’t seem to find a way to move forward. The words he musters up don’t fit quite right and it feels sloppy. That could just be him holding himself to some unmeetable standard though. Still, he’s stuck and while he has a few days left to get it complete, he doesn’t know how to get unstuck and if he just leaves it here, it will once again never get finished because he’ll be too busy dreading picking back up where he left off to the point where he just doesn’t, and it’ll be overdue before he even gets to it again.

A gentle knock on his door frame catches Jaeyun’s attention and he smiles when he sees Sunghoon standing there, leaning into his room as he holds the door frame for balance. It’s become a bit of a routine for Sunghoon to check on him whenever he gets home, even after Jaeyun was feeling considerably better and able to function like a normal human being. He had to be able to function anyways; between university, work, and at least attempting to feel better, he had no other choice but to function properly, even if he felt like he couldn’t. The other day was just a bit of a cheat day, not having any classes and a day off work.

“How are you doing?” Sunghoon asks smoothly as he finally fully enters Jaeyun’s room, flopping down on Jaeyun’s bed and turning on his side, resting his elbow on the bed and plopping his chin into the palm of his hand. “Hard at work?”

“Barely.” Jaeyun scoffs, sparing a look at Sunghoon before frowning at his document again.

“You seem like you could use a break.”

“I could, but the real question is whether I can afford it or not.” Jaeyun sighs and Sunghoon hums, taking his phone out of his pocket to glance at it.

“Well, there’s still some time before my friends get here for our overdue movie night, so I’m still going to make my offer.” Jaeyun tilts his head to the side and raises a single brow in silent questioning, and Sunghoon smiles at him. “Did you wanna join us tonight? I know last time you didn’t because…you had another essay to write.” Sunghoon drawls and both him and Jaeyun know that’s not the entire reason he rejected the offer last time. “And it seems like you’re stuck in the same pickle now, but I was kinda hoping you would. Join us, that is.”

Jaeyun drums his fingers against his desktop and bites his bottom lip, mulling over his options. In retrospect, he didn’t even get his assignment done the last time he rejected the offer, instead focusing on the conversations coming from the living room, so he was probably better off just joining them this time anyways. Not to mention he’s still stuck, so as long as he gets past this one fucking paragraph, it won’t be a huge problem to pick it up tomorrow after his classes. It’s not like he was expecting to get it done tonight anyway.

“I…are all your friends going to be here?” Jaeyun has yet to meet them, except for Jongseong and Riki, and first impressions have never been his forte. He may have slightly messed it up with Sunghoon, and a lot of other people, but he thinks he started off on the right foot with Jongseong and Riki. They didn’t seem to be bothered by him. Hell, Riki even seemed kind of attached by the end of their furniture adventure, and Jaeyun feels a little guilty that he hasn’t seen the kid since then even though they definitely could have crossed paths if Jaeyun made the effort.

“Yeah, is that okay?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun nods frantically, waving a hand at Sunghoon.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just that I’ve uh—I’ve only ever met Riki and Jongseong, so…” Jaeyun trails off.

“Nervous?” Sunghoon finishes for him and Jaeyun nods.

“I don’t know if you remember, but we didn’t exactly start off on the right foot.” Jaeyun stares at the wall. “Sorry about that, by the way.” Sunghoon tsks, catching Jaeyun’s gaze.

“What have I told you about apologizing? It’s not a big deal, really.” It probably should be, but Jaeyun will let Sunghoon have this.

“Sorry—I mean, yeah—yeah okay, whatever you say.” Jaeyun corrects himself before Sunghoon can chide him again and Sunghoon snorts, shaking his head.

“Really though, it could have been a lot worse.” And Jaeyun knows he’s right; they could have hated each other from the start. But he still feels guilty for all the bumps he put in the road. They could have been friends a lot faster if he wouldn’t have been so…difficult. Are they even friends though? Jayeun still doesn’t know the answer to that. Sure, they talk a lot more now, not anything real deep outside of Sunghoon comforting Jaeyun, but still deeper than the small talk they used to do and could never get past.

“I suppose you’re right.” Silence falls over them and Jaeyun swivels in his computer chair, gently swaying back and forth while drumming a steady rhythm on the desktop with his fingers. Sunghoon lets his arm fall so his head drops down onto his arms on the bed, studying Jaeyun quietly. Jaeyun doesn’t know what he’s looking for, or if he’s looking for anything when he does this, but he lets him look anyway. Sunghoon has already seen the ugliest sides of him, so he really doesn’t have much left to hide.

“You really don’t have to worry about my friends though. They really are the sweetest people I’ve ever met—well, maybe. But they really will be nice to you and I’m certain they’ll like you.” Sunghoon rambles and Jaeyun nods, still not quite convinced. He can only expect people to like him so much after everything he’s been through, after all. “You’re more likable than you think, Jakey.” Sunghoon finishes and Jaeyun shakes his head.

“I don’t think so, but sure.”

“Of course you don’t, that’s why I said it.” Sunghoon chuckles and Jaeyun scoffs.

“Whatever, Hoonie.”

“I like when you call me that.” Sunghoon breathes and Jaeyun smiles, chancing a glance at Sunghoon.

“I know. You told me when it first slipped past my tongue.” Sunghoon smiles back at him as he nods. “I like it when you call me Jakey.” Jaeyun confesses, causing Sunghoon to smirk.

“I know.” Jaeyun could smack that smirk right off of Sunghoon’s face, and he would want to with anybody else, but oddly enough he finds that he likes Sunghoon looking like this; comfortable and smug. Usually it’d rub Jaeyun the wrong way, but the playful glint in Sunghoon’s eyes has Jaeyun smiling wider than he has in a long time, something warm spreading through his chest.

Sunghoon has this sort of effect on Jaeyun that floors him every time the younger is around. It’s weird, and Jaeyun has never felt anything like it before, but he welcomes it. He welcomes it because the sinking feeling in his chest doesn’t feel so prominent after a few minutes of Sunghoon being around because Sunghoon knows. Sunghoon always knows. He knows when Jaeyun is having a particularly bad day or when he just needs some encouragement or reassurance. He knows, despite barely knowing Jaeyun.

It’s almost like Sunghoon knows Jaeyun better than Jaeyun knows himself, and that just doesn’t make sense. Jaeyun could get behind it if they had known each other for the greater part of their lives, or even a good few years spending almost every second of every day together, but they haven’t. They just met not too long ago and have barely spent proper time together. Sunghoon shouldn’t know the ins and outs of Jaeyun, but he seemingly does.

“So,” Sunghoon starts, breaking Jaeyun out of his thoughts and dragging him back into the present. Jaeyun hums and Sunghoon smiles, seemingly knowing that the other was caught up in his thoughts again, further proving that he just knows. “So are you joining us for movie night, Jakey?” Sunghoon asks with hope in his eyes and a smile plastered on his face, and who the hell is Jaeyun to say no?

That’s how he finds himself walking out of his room after finally, fucking finally, getting somewhere again with his essay about a half hour after Sunghoon's friends first start showing up, and only a few minutes after the last arrives. Jaeyun pads his way towards the living room and pokes his head into the dark room, locking eyes with Sunghoon immediately, who beckons him over to sit next to him on the couch.

Jaeyun is quick to comply, making his way over to Sunghoon, when he hears a gasp come from the floor. His initial instinct told him that it was a gasp of pain from him stepping on one of Sunghoon’s friends, but he quickly disregards that idea given the fact that he didn’t feel anything beneath his foot except for the floor itself, making it near impossible for him to have stepped on somebody.

“Hyung!” Jaeyun immediately recognizes the voice, and he follows the sound of it to see Riki on the floor, now sitting up compared to his previous position of laying down on a blanket. “Are you going to join us this time, hyung?” Riki asks hopefully and something swells in Jaeyun’s chest, a smile tugging on his lips.

“Yeah, I could use a break from homework anyways.” Jaeyun’s heart contracts from raw fondness as Riki breaks into a huge smile, one that Jaeyun swears goes from ear to ear as his eyes light up in the dark room. Jayeun already has one hell of a soft spot for the kid, and he’s oddly okay with it.

His attention naturally falls back to Sunghoon, and the younger doesn’t have time to wipe the blissful smile on his face before Jaeyun sees it. Jaeyun thinks this is his favorite look on Sunghoon; fond and content, maybe even euphoric. Jaeyun himself has been chasing that feeling for a long time, and he’s finding it easier to come across the more time he spends with Sunghoon. And Jaeyun can’t even complain about the attachment that’s come along with Sunghoon, and he finds he wouldn’t mind expanding that to his friends, either.

Jaeyun waltzes over to Sunghoon, carefully placing himself on the couch next to him so as to not disturb the person now on Jaeyun’s right. Said person looks over at him and shoots him a smile that could honestly melt hearts, and Jaeyun wonders how a group of people who look this good can actually exist. He may be a little biased when he says Sunghoon is the best looking one, but he can’t deny the fact that everyone in this room with him, except for him, look like the were constructed from the Gods with the utmost delicacy, every little detail taken into account and done thoroughly instead of rushing.

It’s almost ridiculous, really. They could all pass off as celebrities in the streets, and if Jaeyun didn’t know any better he would mistake them for celebrities. He wouldn’t stop them in the streets for an autograph, wouldn’t have the guts to with his crippling social anxiety, but he would definitely stop and watch in awe, questioning if he’s really in the presence of a group of celebrities. They just have this aura around them that screams confidence and success, and shamefully, it’s a drastic difference from Jaeyun’s own pitiful one.

“Hi, I’m Kim Sunoo, it’s nice to finally meet you.” The boy to Jaeyun’s right grins with his smooth voice and God, it’s nice to listen to. Jaeyun musters up the courage to smile back despite his anxiety seeping under his skin, and Jaeyun is about to introduce himself when Sunoo’s words fully register in his head.

“Finally?” Jaeyun asks, because Sunoo says it as if he already knows all about Jaeyun, despite the two mever meeting.

“Oh yeah, we’ve heard a lot about you.” Someone says from the floor and Jaeyun makes a noise of acknowledgement. Everyone’s gaze turns towards him and he flushes a deep scarlet red, rubbing at his arm.

“All good things, I hope.” Jaeyun says sheepishly and someone snorts from the floor.

“That’s one way to describe it.” Another voice comes—Jongseong, his mind supplies—and he’s pretty sure the snort that follows comes from Riki.

“You’re quite the celebrity among our friend group, Jaeyun-ssi.” A unique voice says smugly and Jaeyun doesn’t think he could get any more red. “The most famous of the famous, I’d say. Isn’t that right, Sunghoonie hyung?”

“Oh?” Jaeyun supplies as he turns to a very flustered Sunghoon, smirking the slightest bit when he sees that Sunghoon has somehow managed to turn an even deeper shade of red than Jaeyun. “A celebrity that everyone loves, I hope. No career ruining scandals, right Hoonie?” Jayeun has no idea where this sudden burst of confidence has come from, if he can even call it that, but the satisfaction he gets when Sunghoon splutters and averts his gaze to anywhere but Jaeyun makes it all worth it.

“I—”

“You’re in the clear so far, my friend.” Sunoo says and Jaeyun whips his head around to send him a genuine smile. “And also, to avoid any further confusion, that’s Heeseung, the eldest amongst us.” Sunoo points to the guy who mentioned they had heard a lot about Jaeyun and he gives Jaeyun a small wave.

“Pretty sure you’re Sunghoon-ah’s age, so just call me hyung. I’m taking you under my wing along with the rest of these…children, so don’t even try formalities with me.” Riki sends him a light smack at his remark and Heeseung laughs, shoving his shoulder in retaliation. Jaeyun nods at him and sends a small smile that he hopes he can see in the dark room, the only light coming from the tv that has Netflix’s home screen on Sunghoon’s account brought up, and by the way Heeseung’s smile grows, Jaeyun can tell he sees it just fine.

“You already know Riki, so we’ll skip over him. He’s not that important anyways.” Sunoo moves on.

“Hey!”

“The one next to him is Jungwon. Jungwonie, say hi.”

“Hi.” Jungwon, the one who referred to Jaeyun as a celebrity, gives him a small wave and Jaeyun returns it.

“That’s Jongseong next to him and just so you know those two kind of—ow! Hey, that was my foot!” Sunoo brings his foot up to soothe the skin where Jongseong had kicked him and Jaeyun stifles a laugh. He already heard all about Jongseong's dilemma with Jungwon from Jongseong himself back when he first met him, so Jaeyun can confidently assume Sunoo was going to warn him of their obvious love for each other and probably give him a heads up about the cuddling he was sure to witness throughout the movie.

Sunoo and Jongseong bicker as Jungwon sighs and Riki falls into a fit of laughter that Jaeyun is sure is going to result in him losing a lung, all while Heeseung shakes his head in mock disappointment. Jaeyun takes the chance to look at Sunghoon, expecting him to be observing his friends, only to find the younger already staring at him, a small, endeared smile shaping his features.

The blue light being emitted from the tv shapes Sunghoon’s face, framing his face with a slight glow that makes Sunghoon’s features stand out, from his sharp jawline to plump lips and soft eyes. Jaeyun has long ago accepted that Sunghoon is absolutely breathtaking; easy on the eyes from his mind boggling beauty. Even so, Jaeyun still finds himself raking his eyes over his features, fully appreciating Sunghoon’s beauty. He does it without feeling guilty for it because Sunghoon is looking right back at him with the same intensity, looking over Jaeyun’s features and studying every line and crevice of him.

Jaeyun pays the bickering around them no mind, even though he’s pretty sure he’s hearing Riki plead for help, replies muffled as Jungwon locks him in a headlock, all while Heeseung falls into a heap of laughter on the floor. He ignores all of it though, instead focusing on only Sunghoon. Only focusing on Sunghoon who seems to only be focusing on Jaeyun, holding a certain look in his eyes that Jaeyun desperately wants to put a name to, but is almost afraid to do so.

“See, they’re not so bad, are they?” Sunghoon whispers after a moment, and it takes Jaeyun a few seconds to realize he’s referring to his friends. Jaeyun shakes his head slowly, the briefest of smiles flashing at Sunghoon. “They like you, just like I told you they would.” Jaeyun swears the thing that resides in Sunghoon's eyes right now, and seemingly every other time he looks at Jaeyun, is nothing other than pure love and longing.

“It seems so.” Jaeyun forces out despite the sudden tingling feeling rushing through his body, giving him a slight tremble. He hopes Sunghoon doesn’t notice how Jaeyun’s voice wavers the slightest bit, heart aching the slightest bit.

“So,” Jungwon claps his hands, effectively breaking whatever spell Jaeyun and Sunghoon were under. The two break their gazes from each other with flushed faces and if anyone notices it, they don’t comment on it, and Jaeyun is eternally grateful for it. He’s especially grateful when Jungwon moves the night along like nothing just happened, including the bickering. “What movie are we watchin’?”

They settle on some history movie that seems interesting enough, and it is interesting, but Jaeyun finds it hard to follow only twenty minutes in and gives up. They’re using old, complex Korean that Jaeyun can’t quite wrap his head around that nobody else seems to have a problem deciphering—despite Riki, the poor boy looking even more lost than Jaeyun, but determined to figure it out. Usually Jaeyun has no problem keeping up with movies and dramas in Korean, his listening comprehension improving significantly since he initially came back to Korea due to constantly being surrounded by native speakers, but the old, traditional Korean that the characters are using is just far too beyond Jaeyun.

Instead of focusing on the movie and giving himself a headache trying to keep up, the imagery on the screen not even being enough for Jaeyun to figure out what’s going on, Jaeyun turns to Sunghoon, who is much more invested in the movie than Jaeyun ever could be with his lack of understanding. Sunghoon must feel his eyes on him though, as he turns his head the slightest bit to look at Jaeyun with raised eyebrows. Jaeyun just continues staring at him, not really knowing what to say, and finding that he really doesn’t want to say anything at all, but also not wanting to look away.

Sunghoon shrugs and turns back to the tv, once again invested in what’s happening on the screen. Sunghoon doesn’t seem to mind his staring, so Jaeyun lets himself indulge in his desires for once in his life. He allows himself to watch the way Sunghoon’s jaw clenches when a particularly gory scene flashes on the screen and the way his eyes widen the slightest bit when a character has an outburst. He watches as Sunghoon fights a smile and stifles a chuckle whenever a character cracks a witty joke that Jaeyun himself barely catches because he’s so focused on Sunghoon.

He admires the way Sunghoon will occasionally react to things happening on the screen with his eyebrows, knitting them together when the main character says something controversial and raising a single brow when a character says something suspicious, making them sound like a mole in the base. Jaeyun isn’t too sure what the plotline is, but he’s pretty sure the main character is trying to find the undercover mole that invaded their military base and is sending information back to enemy bases. It does all sound interesting, but Jaeyun hasn’t been listening for far too long now and trying to pick back up would be useless for a multitude of reasons. Maybe he’ll attempt to watch it with English subtitles later.

“Don’t like the movie?” Sunghoon murmurs, dragging Jaeyun out of his thoughts. He doesn’t take his eyes off the screen, but Jaeyun knows he’s waiting for a response. He clears his throat as quietly as he can, finally breaking his gaze from Sunghoon to look at the screen again, furrowing his brow as he tries to piece together what’s going on.

“Not necessarily.” Jaeyun whispers, hoping it’s loud enough to reach Sunghoon but not disturb Sunoo. “Just having a hard time with the traditional way they’re speaking, you know? Hard to follow along.”

“I thought Riki looked a little constipated.” Sunghoon comments and Jaeyun snorts, grabbing Sunoo’s attention. Jaeyun waves him off with a smile and Sunoo rolls his eyes playfully, not even attempting to hide his cheeky grin.

“He seems to be pretty determined to understand though, so I think he’s connecting at least a few dots.” Jaeyun laughs quietly and Sunghoon snorts under his breath.

“Heeseung hyung has the remote, I could ask him to turn on English subtitles—”

“No, no, if you’re going to tell him to tell him to turn on subtitles, have him set them to Japanese for Riki. I haven’t been paying close enough attention for far too long, I’m a goner. May as well make it easier for the poor kid though.” Jaeyun says and Sunghoon finally turns to look at him, locking his eyes on Jaeyun as if he were studying him and trying to see if he really is far too lost for even subtitles to save him or if he’s just saying that for Riki’s sake.

Sunghoon must eventually find his answer though, as he turns back to the front and leans forward, tapping Heeseung on the shoulder. Jaeyun is sure he's going to ask him to turn on the Japanese subtitles, and sure enough, Heeseung fumbles for the remote and swiftly navigates his way to the subtitles, Japanese characters showing up on the screen in no time. Riki sends him a look and Heeseung just shrugs, tilting his head back slightly before putting it forward again, motioning towards Jaeyun and Sunghoon. Riki shoots them a grateful smile before turning his attention back to the tv. Sunghoon is already relaxed against the couch cushions again and solely paying attention to the scene that plays out again, and Jaeyun watches him with baited breath.

The sudden urge to curl up to Sunghoon washes over Jaeyun and he almost jumps out of his skin at the thought, blinking rapidly and subtly glancing around the room to gauge everyone’s reactions, as if they could hear his thoughts. He knows they can’t, but he still can’t help but will the thoughts away. The thought is much too inviting though. Sunghoon is just so warm and always makes Jaeyun feel safe and Jaeyun craves Sunghoon’s touch unlike anything he’s ever felt before. And Sunghoon seems to meet Jaeyun with the same enthusiasm; the same raw desire and longing.

Jaeyun can see it in his eyes. Sunghoon is good at putting on a mask, letting a facade take over that hides his true inner feelings. But his eyes always tell the truth, much like many other people. The eyes have always been a dead giveaway for Jaeyun when reading people and their true emotions. People can hide behind a mask all they want, trying to disguise how they feel about something, but they can’t disguise their eyes. They say the eyes are the entrance to the soul, and Jaeyun couldn’t agree more.

It’s why Jaeyun is so sure of the longing Sunghoon feels when he’s around him. Why he was so sure Sunghoon was longing for him just some time ago, before the movie. Longing for what exactly, Jaeyun doesn’t know. But it’s something, and selfishly, Jaeyun hopes it’s for him. He hopes Sunghoon longs for Jaeyun in the same way Jaeyun longs for him. It sure looks like it, based on Sunghoon’s eyes and behavior alone, and with that thought, Jaeyun finally moves against Sunghoon, snuggling into Sunghoon’s side.

The reaction is immediate, and something bursts aflame in Jaeyun’s chest when Sunghoon brings an arm around him, pulling him closer into his side. Jaeyun rests his head against Sunghoon’s shoulder and smiles as Sunghoon rests his head atop Jaeyun’s own, rubbing his hand soothingly against Jaeyun’s arm. Jaeyun sighs in contentment, and he’s pretty sure he sees Sunoo steal a glance at them out of the corner of his eye, but he can’t bring himself to care, not even feeling the slightest bit embarrassed. He doesn’t feel ashamed or flustered because Sunghoon lets out his own noise of contentment in the form of a hum.

Jaeyun’s blood runs hot, burning through his veins, and the light feeling in his chest is back, enveloping his heart in a warm embrace much like the one Sunghoon has around him. The heavy feeling that’s always present in his chest seems to disintegrate, being replaced by a fluttery feeling. His entire body is hot and tingly, but Jaeyun welcomes it, just like he always does when he cuddles with Sunghoon.

It’s almost hard for Jaeyun to believe he’s actually cuddling with Sunghoon, even after they’ve been doing it almost religiously for over a week now. To think Jaeyun went his entire life without being held by Sunghoon baffles him, and Jaeyun honestly doesn’t know how he’s survived without it up until this point. It certainly wasn’t easy. No other feeling compared to the one he felt now, and Jaeyun never wanted to let it go. He feels peaceful and so, so warm in Sunghoon’s arms, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s addictive.

“Did you know that human touch conjures up a hormone called oxytocin that acts as a chemical messenger in the brain? It plays an important role in things such as sexual arousal, recognition, trust, romantic attachtment, and even mother-infant bonding, resulting it in being called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’. It helps regulate our emotional responses and helps process bonding cues, which is why we feel warm and peaceful whenever we’re with people we care about, but also when we’re in the arms of someone we care about.” Jaeyun recalls Sunghoon’s words from the other day and something flutters in the pit of his stomach.

The emotions Jaeyun feels when being held by Sunghoon are the most positive emotions he’s felt in a long time, and to think it was all due to some hormone that acts as a messenger in his brain is beyond him. But maybe it’s not all the oxytocin’s doing; maybe it’s just the effect Sunghoon himself has on him. Sunghoon, who is everything good in Jaeyun’s life. Jaeyun’s breath of fresh air and the relief to the pressure in his chest. Jaeyun wouldn’t trade Sunghoon for the world.

“The more we engage in these feel-good behaviors, such as cuddling, the more oxytocin we get—it can even be referred to as addictive.” Jaeyun is so, so fucking addicted. He’s a starved man getting his first bite to eat after weeks, taking more than he probably needs because the insatiable need for closure is mind numbing.

“Whenever we’re with someone who we’re attracted to or care about, our brain releases dopamine and our serotonin levels increase all while oxytocin is produced, and before you know it you’ll get that buzz and light feeling that all those sappy love songs are written about. They make you feel warm.” Jaeyun is so warm. He feels the butterflies Sunghoon was talking about and the voracious  greed that overcomes him when with Sunghoon, wanting to take, take and take. He wanted to take everything Sunghoon had to offer and hold it close. 

Yet he also wants to give. He wants to give everything he has to offer to Sunghoon, making up for everything he takes. He wants to be able to give Sunghoon everything his big heart desires, never letting the younger feel a lick of pain, physically nor mentally. Jaeyun wants to be Sunghoon’s everything, and nothing less. And selfishly, he feels himself reaching out to be that person. He feels himself reaching out for Sunghoon and everything he has to offer.

Jaeyun freezes, eyes going wide and stomach churning at his revelation. All his life, he’s been hiding from people and trying to stay away. He’s pushed people away and kept them at an arm’s length, never allowing himself to fall for anyone. So why was it so easy to let Sunghoon get close? Why didn’t Jaeyun fear letting him in? Why did he let him in, opening the door and letting Sunghoon see the inner workings of his mind? How did he fall for Sunghoon so quickly? When did he fall for Sunghoon? Why was Sunghoon so easy to fall for?

Throwing his head back off of Sunghoon’s shoulder and onto the back of the couch, stifling a groan, he catches the attention of both Sunghoon and Sunoo. The two look at him with questioning looks, and Jaeyun has no idea how he’s going to explain himself. If he even wants to explain himself. His revelation has him comflicted, heart longing for Sunghoon but brain freaking out, telling him to step back and get the hell out before it’s too late.

Jaeyun doesn’t do close relationships, and he sure as hell doesn’t do romantic relationships. Hell no. Jaeyun has too much baggage, too many complications in his brain to drag someone else down with him. No, Jaeyun can’t do that to another person, and especially not Sunghoon. Sunghoon deserves so much better than what Jaeyun could give at his very all, and the younger shouldn’t have to settle for less. After everything Sunghoon’s done for him, Jaeyun can’t.

Not to mention there’s also the very likely problem of Sunghoon not liking Jaeyun in the same way. Sure, Sunghoon cares and wants to be his friend, but that’s it. He’s not stupid. There’s nothing about Jaeyun to give Sunghoon the same butterflies that Jaeyun receives when they do something together. There’s no lightness in his chest and warmth enveloping him. There’s none of that, because there’s no reason for there to be. Jaeyun is nothing special, only a burden that holds people down. It’s all he ever has been, and Jaeyun refuses to be that for Sunghoon.

So no, Jaeyun really doesn’t know how to explain the current distress that he knows is written all over his face, based solely on the concerned looks both Sunghoon and Sunoo are wearing. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t want to. He wants something he can’t have, can’t take, and it doesn’t matter how badly his heart thirsts for Sunghoon, he won’t take it. What he needs to do is what he’s always done best; put distance between himself and Sunghoon. It doesn’t matter how badly it will hurt, how excruciatingly painful it will be to lose someone that has become so important to him in so little time, despite being someone Jaeyun doesn’t know a whole lot about, but knows enough.

It doesn’t matter because the pure agony of hurting Sunghoon, and seeing him hurt, would be so, so much worse.

“Jaeyun, are you—”

“I have to go.” Jaeyun cuts Sunghoon off before he can even fully ask, knowing he’ll break down in front of everyone if Sunghoon even just shows he cares the tiniest bit. He’ll break down because he’s so weak and entirely far too gone for Sunghoon, willing to break himself down just to accommodate the younger.

“Hyungie, where are you going—” Jaeyun is already out of sight before Riki can finish his question and slamming his bedroom door shut, taking a deep breath as he grips his hair.

He’s so fucked. He’s fucked because he has helpessly fallen for Sunghoon, his roommmate, and he fell hard.

-

When Jaeyun heard someone frantically knocking on the door and rushed over to open it, thinking that someone could be hurt and asking for help, the last person he expected to come face to face with was Nishimura Riki. Okay, well, maybe not the last person. The president or secret agents would have been pretty mind numbing. Still though, Jaeyun wasn’t expecting to see the sixteen year old standing in front of him with wide, pleading eyes with a hint of determination in them.

He also wasn’t expecting him to barge into the apartment without waiting for a reaction from Jaeyun. But in all fairness, maybe he should have expected this of Riki; this is basically deja vu of their first meeting, after all. Nonetheless, Jaeyun is stumped when Riki goes straight for the kitchen, open numerous cupboards until he finds the one containing the cups, grabbing himself a glass and looking over his shoulder at Jaeyun, analyzing him for a moment before shrugging and grabbing another glass, setting both of them down on the counter after closing the cupboard using his wrist, the door slamming shut with a loud noise.

Jaeyun knits his brows together as he watches Riki move to the fridge, bending down to get a good look at it’s contents. He must eventually find something worth drinking—or eating, Jaeyun isn’t all that sure anymore—because he lets out a small ‘ah’ and reaches into the fridge, moving some things out of his way as his hand navigates towards whatever caught his attention. He’s pulling out a can of grape soda in no time, putting it in his other hand as he reaches back in and pulls out another.

“You like grape soda? I’d hope so, it’s in your fridge.” Riki says, and it’s far too bubbly, throwing Jaeyun head first into the abyss of confusion. Riki pours him a glass without waiting for a response, sliding the cup across the table towards Jaeyun then moving to open the other can to pour his own drink.

Jaeyun doesn’t have much experience with Riki to know what quote unquote ‘normal’ behavior for him is, but he has a gut feeling this is slightly out of the ordinary. Sure, he’s a mischievous kid who likes pulling pranks, from what Jaeyun has observed from the two times he’s fully come into Riki’s presence, but this behavior now just seems…odd, to say the least.

Riki doesn’t pay him much mind as he takes a few gulps of his drink, oblivious to Jaeyun’s inner turmoil trying to figure him out. Instead, he looks around the kitchen and hums, pulling a chair out to sit at the table, folding his hands around his drink on the table, turning back to Jaeyun and motioning with his head to sit down. Jaeyun hesitates, glancing around the apartment as if he was waiting for Sunghoon to magically pop out of nowhere and say Riki's here for him, but Jaeyun knows he won’t because Sunghoon isn’t here. He hasn’t been here all day.

“Uh…Sunghoon’s not here, Riki. Was he expecting you?” Jaeyun voices, hoping Riki will connect the dots he’s so plainly laying out. Riki just smiles at him, leaning back in his chair.

“Good, I’m glad he’s not here. And no, he wasn’t expecting me. Quite the opposite.” Riki replies smoothly and Jaeyun shakes his head, narrowing his eyes.

“I’m sorry?”

“As far as Sunghoonie hyung knows, I’m with Sunoo and Heeseung at the movies.” Riki smirks, shooting him a mischievous smile. “Pretty sure those two have something going on between them. Was able to brush it off for a while but they’re starting to look like Jaywon.”

“Jaywon?” 

“Jay, Jongseong’s birth name slash the one he had in America, and Jungwon. Jaywon.” Riki says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, scrunching his face and taking one of his hands from his glass to extend it slightly and put his palm out, fingers splayed.

“I see…” Above all, Jaeyun was pretty spot on with his observations about Riki, much like Sunghoon had confirmed.

The thought of Sunghoon leaves Jaeyun with an ache in his chest, accompanying the ever-present hollow feeling. Jaeyun feels so, so guilty for putting distance between him and Sunghoon, especially when the latter looks like a kicked puppy every time Jaeyun blatantly ignores him, a. And he undeniably misses Sunghoon’s cuddles and all the warmth that came with them. Really, he misses everything about the younger. He misses him.

Riki must notice his mood somehow worsening and he frowns at Jaeyun, extending an arm again and slapping the table a couple times, an even more clear invitation to sit down. Jaeyun complies with a sigh, seeing no way out of the conversation that is undoubtedly going to unfold. Jaeyun’s not entirely sure what the conversation is going to be about, but he has a damn good feeling it involves Sunghoon. Accepting defeat, Jaeyun ignores the anxiety coursing through his veins and the slight tremble of his hands as he places them on the table in front of him, folding his hands together.

“Did you…need me for something?” Jaeyun asks hesitantly, and Riki’s brows wiggle.

“Can’t a guy just visit his friend?” Riki raises his brows and Jaeyun hesitates.

“I mean sure but—Riki, are we even…” Jaeyun trails off, not knowing how to ask his question without the younger taking it the wrong way. He finds he’s already failed miserably though when Riki’s teasing smile drops and a hurt look manifests on his features.

“I mean I thought—”

“I didn’t mean—”

“—I mean it’s fine if you like—”

“—Shit, that’s not what I—” They’re stumbling over their words and every coherent word that does get out mixes in with the other person’s, getting lost, and Jaeyun sighs as he rakes a hand through his hair, biting his lip. Riki falls silent and waits for Jaeyun to speak, seeing that the elder has something on his mind. Jaeyun doesn’t really know what to say, or how to say it for that matter, but he racks his brain and just starts talking before he can overthink and fuck up the situation even more.

“I didn’t mean like I don’t want to be your friend, I do, I just…” Jaeyun casts his eyes down to the table. “It’s hard.” His answer is vague and much too confusing, and he doesn’t expect Riki to understand even the slightest bit. But when he looks up and meets his eyes, all he sees is understanding and his own vulnerability. There’s not an ounce of pity, much like there never was with Sunghoon, and Jaeyun can’t fathom how such amazing people all somehow found each other.

“Believe me, I get it.” Riki smiles. “People are…people are hard.” Jaeyun chuckles at that, nodding along.

“Tell me about it.”

“But,” Riki starts, and Jaeyun falls quiet, tilting his head to the side in silent questioning. “Sunghoon and I, along with all our friends, really do what to be your friend. We want to be your friends.” Jaeyun purses his lip and nods in understanding, averting his eyes to anywhere but Riki's own sharp, determined gaze. “Sunghoonie hyung is a little more complicated though.” Riki suddenly blurts and Jaeyun’s head whips around to him at a speed that cracks his neck, almost enough to give him whiplash.

“What do you mean?” Jaeyun inquires, drawling out his words. Riki shrugs in response, glancing off to the living room, away from Jaeyun, and cocking his head to the side quickly before straightening it again.

“It’s not really my place to say, but have you noticed—hmm,” Riki clicks his tongue in thought, shaking his head. “I lived with Sunghoon for about seven months before he moved in here with you.” Riki changes the course of the conversation and Jaeyun jolts back slightly in surprise, but also confusion.

“Okay?”

“I saw him every day for seven months. He introduced his friends to me and took me under his wing, along with the rest of them.” Riki says and Jaeyun scoffs.

“Like what he did with me? If this is your way of saying Sunghoon wants to be my friend I’ve already pieced that much—”

“I’m not finished.” Riki cuts him off and Jaeyun’s words die on his tongue. Usually he’d have it in him to lightly scold him for cutting him off like that, and that even though Jaeyun doesn’t mind that much, other people will, but the determination and finality in Riki’s voice is enough for him to turn a blind eye this time. “As I was saying,” Riki picks back up and Jaeyun sighs. Riki gives him an unimpressed look and Jaeyun raises his hands, palms out, in mock surrender.

As I was saying,” Riki says again, rolling his eyes playfully. “I lived with him for seven months; I know him.” Jaeyun nods slowly, hoping the younger will elaborate more because he’s so fucking lost it’s not even funny. Luckily, Riki doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. “And knowing him means I know what a lot of the looks in his eyes mean. I can tell when he’s frustrated with himself when he can’t get something right, I can see when he’s feeling insecure about a drama suggestion he gave me or the others. I see the child-like excitement in his eyes when he sees a dog in the street or he gets a god score on an exam he studied really fucking hard for. I see it all, and I know them all. At least, I thought I did.”

Jaeyun is getting more confused as time goes on, and he wants to ask Riki what the hell he’s on about, but the younger is deep in thought, seeming to mull over his thoughts. Jaeyun supposes he can wait for him to gather his thoughts, seeing as Jaeyun is someone who needs some time to think over everything before saying it out loud. Sometimes he’ll blurt things out, but it’s in his best interest to think over his words carefully, so the majority of the time he’s making people wait for him instead of the other way around.

“I thought I had seen all the looks Sunghoon could muster up, but then he met you.” Riki speaks again. “There was this certain look in his eyes that I had never seen before, and I was so lost at the time because I thought I had seen everything. And it wasn’t even just when he was looking at you, but when you were mentioned or he was even just thinking about you. I know he was thinking about you because he had that look in his eye; the look that was reserved for you, and you only.”

“I don’t think I follow.” Jaeyun says and Riki nods a single time.

“Sunghoon looks at you in a way he’s never looked at anyone else before. There’s this certain…longing, certain desire, if you will.” Jaeyun swallows harshly, picking at his nails as he waits for Riki to continue. “Sunghoonie hyung, he’s probably the most introverted person I’ve ever met. He doesn’t leap at every opportunity to make friends, you know.” And Jaeyun knows this, remembers the words Sunghoon had spoken to him when they first met. “He doesn’t just jump to take people under his wing. I was a very, very rare exception, and it was really only because I was a little Japanese boy who was living under his parents roof and had nobody else to turn to.”

“I didn’t really—”

“He didn’t know that.” Riki rushes out before Jaeyun can finish the thought. “He didn’t know that until much later. He didn’t know that until he had already made the move to be somebody to you.” Jaeyun gapes at him, shaking his head slightly.

“I don’t understand.” Jaeyun replies dumbly. “To be someone—Riki, what?” Riki smiles at him, a soft look in his eyes.

“Just think about everything I said, okay?”

Jaeyun does think about it. He thinks about it a lot over the next few days, all while still avoiding Sunghoon. He still feels guilty about avoiding him, but he can’t help it. He’s still too conflicted over his own—somehow growing—feelings to properly spend time with the younger, even if he wants it, and he really fucking wants it. And perhaps he thinks about everything Riki said a little too hard, because he finds himself feeling lost and more stuck than he’d like to admit.

History has a tendency to repeat itself. That’s why it’s so important for society to learn from their past mistakes, to prevent major conflicts and catastrophe’s from happening again. Jaeyun knows all this, yet somehow, he still finds he can never learn from his own mistakes, letting his own history repeat itself time and time again. This time, it repeats itself in the form of a bathroom floor; only this time, it’s not in his childhood home back in Australia.

No, this time it’s a weird variant of his mental breakdown on the floor of the bathroom in his childhood home. Now he’s sitting against the shower, knees brought up to his chest as he’s lost in thought. He doesn’t know what keeps dragging him back into bathrooms, maybe it being something about closure, feeling like he has all the privacy in the world to let out his pent up emotions. That’s most likely the reasoning for when he broke down in the bathroom of his Australian home, but this time, as he sits on the floor emotionless and not really feeling the need to cry, he’s not too sure.

He’s having some sort of breakdown, but not in the sense that he’s used to. Maybe he’s just too mentally exhausted to fully break down—or maybe this is a full on breakdown and it’s just unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. He’s not too sure. But what he does know is that he longs for Sunghoon like he’s never longed before, a raw desire and craving for the younger taking over his entire being. And each time he turns away from Sunghoon, things get a little harder.

Perhaps that’s why when Sunghoon knocks on the bathroom, softly asking Jaeyun if he’s okay and if he can come in, Jaeyun doesn’t push him away. Instead, he sits there silently, hoping Sunghoon takes his silence as not minding if he comes in. And if the soft ‘I’m coming in’ is anything to go by, Sunghoon does. Maybe it’s more out of worry than thinking Jaeyun is okay with him coming in, but he comes in regardless, so Jaeyun doesn’t think the reasoning matters that much. He thinks he gets his answer anyways when a relieved sigh leaves Sunghoon before he can stop it once he opens the door and gets a look at Jaeyun.

“What are you doing on the floor?” Is the first thing Sunghoon asks as he sits down directly in front of Jaeyun, crossing his legs and placing his hands in his lap.

“I don’t know.” Jaeyun answers honestly, because he doesn’t. Sunghoon nods, brows furrowed.

“Did you…want to try and talk about it?” Sunghoon tries and Jaeyun sighs. He really doesn't know. He doesn’t know and as frustrating as it is, there’s nothing he can do but at least try and figure things out. He can’t keep living like this, it’s hardly living at all, and the only way to get out of it is to seek advice, because he doesn’t know what to do anymore.

Although, he never really has known what to do when it comes to his mental health. Sure, he was shown a lot of techniques to calm himself down from an anxiety attack, was given ways to lift his mood on days where it felt possible, and was told that this feeling wouldn’t last forever. It would probably be with him his entire life; it’s a clinical thing anyways, a chemical imbalance in his brain, there’s no escaping it. He’s going to have to learn to live with it no matter what. But all those fixes he’s learned are only temporary fixes. They don’t do anything for him in the long run.

Jaeyun also takes into account the fact that he’s lonely, lonelier than he ever has been now that he’s gotten a taste of friendship and having someone by his side again only to be completely alone again, but he doesn’t have to be lonely. He’s the one pushing Sunghoon away, not the other way around. Jaeyun doesn’t have to be lonely because Sunghoon is willing to be by his side. He’s shown it time and time again, and the only person stopping him from being successful is Jaeyun.

“Have you ever been so terrified of letting someone in that it makes you want to throw up, but wanted to let them in so bad that it physically hurts? Right in your chest?” Jaeyun finds himself asking, and Sunghoon licks over his teeth in thought.

“I don’t think so.” Sunghoon answers honestly. “I’ve been afraid of letting people in, sure, but I’ve never felt it to that extent though, I don’t think.” Sunghoon scratches under his ear in thought and Jaeyun nods. “Is…this about me?” Sunghoon asks after a moment and fuck, who is Jaeyun to lie? He’s never been the biggest fan of lying, anyway.

“Yeah.” Jaeyun sighs. “But like, it’s not your fault or anything.” Jaeyun bites his cheek, blinking slowly. “I’m just really fucked up in the head.”

“I don’t think that’s the word for it.” Sunghoon shakes his head. “You have your internal struggles, just like everyone else. Maybe they’re more intense and persistent than other people’s, but that doesn’t mean you’re fucked in the head.” Jaeyun can’t help but believe Sunghoon when he sounds so sincere. He looks up at the younger, meeting concerned eyes with sad ones.

“I’m never going to be a happy person, you know.” Jaeyun doesn’t know why he sounds like he’s talking Sunghoon out of staying when his heart is screaming to take everything Sunghoon offers to him. But, Jaeyun also needs Sunghoon to understand that being by Jaeyun’s side isn’t going to be easy. “I’m going to live with this chemical imbalance my entire fucking life. It doesn’t matter how much work I put in to feel better and be happy; I’ll always end up back here.” The burn in Jaeyun’s eyes tells him he’s about to start crying, and he’d be sick of himself if it didn’t feel kind of good to know he still had the ability to feel emotions.

Sunghoon looks like he’s on the brink of tears himself, and Jaeyun almost feels guilty for making him cry. But he also acknowledges that Sunghoon isn’t crying out of hurt due to Jaeyun hurting him, but because he’s hurting for Jaeyun. And honestly, that’s a much better alternative, even if it still sounds kind of fucked up. It’s better than Jaeyun being the sole reason for Sunghoon’s pain, because now it’s just the empathy Sunghoon feels.

“Things won’t—it won’t always be hard to deal with, though.” Sunghoon chokes out, clearly trying to hold back from letting his voice crack. “With time you’ll learn how to deal with these things, you know? It won’t always be so…so hard.” A beat. “And you don’t have to be alone for it, either.”

Jaeyun’s head snaps up from where he’d trained his eyes on the bathroom floor, eyes slightly widened as he soaks in Sunghoon’s words. How did Sunghoon seem to know the ins and outs of Jaeyun? How did he seem to understand every bit of Jaeyun’s inner turmoil when Jaeyun himself didn’t even know where to begin understanding it. If Jaeyun were to genuinely believe in soulmates, he might label Sunghoon as his.

“You know, two people can move a couch pretty easily.” Sunghoon murmurs, locking eyes with Jaeyun. “While one person moving a couch is technically physically possible, it’s so incredibly difficult that most people wouldn’t be able to do it.” Sunghoon pauses, making sure Jaeyun’s eyes don’t leave his as he mutters his next words. “And all you’re doing is making your life so much harder than it has to be.” A breathless whisper, filled to the brim with emotion.

Jaeyun feels the first tear finally fall, and he sniffs, squeezing his eyes shut to will the rest of them away. He doesn’t need to cry, he’s fine. There’s no reason to cry. Jaeyun is fine and he always has been, he has everything under control and—

“But what if me having you by my side means you get hurt?” Jaeyun chokes out, tears flooding in a steady stream as he opens his eyes again. “What if you get hurt because all I’ve ever been good for is hurting people even though I don’t want to.” Jaeyun forces out through stuttering breaths, throat closing around his words as the sobs build up in his chest. “Sunghoon—Hoonie, I don’t want to hurt you too.”

That seems to be what breaks the dam for Sunghoon, as a tear falls from his tear duct and is chased by a multitude of others, the other eye joining the race. Jaeyun shakes his head rapidly, opening his mouth to say something, anything, because he can’t hurt Sunghoon but he can’t let him leave either. He can’t be alone anymore; it hurts too much and the loneliness is too deadly.

Sunghoon is always seemingly one step ahead of Jaeyun though, as he quickly lunges forward to wrap Jaeyun in a hug as he falls apart in Sunghoon’s arms for what feels like the millionth time. Only this time, Sunghoon is crying too. Jaeyun has already seen it, but he can feel it when his skin dampens where Sunghoon has tucked his face into the crook of his neck. And Jaeyun can’t recall ever fully hugging Sunghoon back in his moments of vulnerability while breaking down, but there’s no hesitance as he scrambles to wrap his arms around Sunghoon, squeezing the younger with a force he hopes doesn’t hurt.

“I don’t want to hurt you but I don’t want to lose you, either.” Jaeyun chokes out after a moment. “I’ve already lost so many people because I’m such a horrible fucking person. I left Australia and came back to Korea so I could be away from my family and stop hurting them; so that if I really couldn’t take it anymore and fully gave up on myself then they’d already be so distant from me that it wouldn’t hurt quite as much as if they were close to me.” Jaeyun lets the truth of his hurt and pure fucking agony seep out, and Sunghoon squeezes him even tighter.

“I already fucked up so much with them and all I ever do is burden them and hurt them over and over again, but I miss them. I miss them so fucking much. I miss baking with my mom and watching stupid, cliche Hallmark movies with her and making fun of the mediocre acting. I miss eating at shitty diners that look five seconds away from collapsing with my dad after a run to the hardware store because he was always fixing something.” A deep inhale around a sob. “I miss bickering with my older brother in the way siblings do, and listening to him ramble about history for hours on end. I miss taking my Cream Border Collie Layla on walks at sunset and feeling like I could breathe because that dog was my fucking lifeline.”

Jaeyun fists Sunghoon’s shirt where his hands reside on his back, and he lets out a shuddering breath. His heart feels like it’s being torn apart and burned, the heat of the flames traveling to his lungs and setting them alight too. But above all those feelings is the burning desire that sets his entire body aflame in a way the burn in his heart never could. The burning desire to have Sunghoon and take for the first in his life where he’s only ever given, given until he’s bare of anything left, is the strongest thing he’s ever felt.

The hollow feeling in his chest he’s accepting he has to live with and the tremble of anxiety is nothing compared to the burning desire Jaeyun has for Sunghoon. And the fact that he has Sunghoon right here, listening to his every word and trying so desperately to provide Jaeyun even the smallest bit of comfort, has Jaeyun going into overdrive. He’s overwhelmed, more so than he ever has been, but Jaeyun finds that he doesn’t care anymore.

“Sunghoonie.” Jaeyun breathes as he lightly pushes Sunghoon away from him so they can look each other in the eye, placing his hands on Sunghoon’s shoulders. The raw emotion that Jaeyun is met with when they lock eyes is enough to send Jaeyun into a frenzy, and his heart is in his throat, every word that he had wanted to say dying before they can even reach his tongue.

All the longing, pain, and desire is present in Sunghoon’s eyes, and Jaeyun is sure he’d see the same exact thing in his own eyes if he were to look in the mirror. And Jaeyun is tired of wearing himself thin for everyone else and never taking anything for himself. He’s sick of it and all he wants is to take, take, and take when it comes to Sunghoon. It’s all he’s wanted for quite some time now, ever since the younger proved to Jaeyun that he was going to fight to stick by his side no matter what, and he’s starving to take it.

So he does.

Jaeyun surges forward before he can think to stop himself, and chapped lips meet soft ones. And all Jaeyun can think about is how warm not only their mouths feel pressed together, but also how the burning hot sensation that bursts through Jaeyun and sends him soaring. Sunghoon is impossibly still against him, and Jaeyun internally panics, trying to figure out how he can get himself out of this one (“haha yeah, sorry bro, just tripped while sitting down and my lips fell right onto your lips! Whoops!”). But then Sunghoon is moving against him, bringing a hand up to cup Jaeyun's cheek, thumb smoothing over his tear stained cheek, swiping a stray tear away.

They seperate just enough to let out a breath, Jaeyun feeling the warmth of Sunghoon’s breath against his lips; his lips that tingle and Jaeyun wants more. So he takes more, slotting his lips against Sunghoon's once more, the latter meeting him with just as much urgency this time. And Jaeyun has never done this before, has never even come close to this sort of intimacy, but he lets pure instinct guide him into coaxing Sunghoon's mouth apart, and he’s met with warmth like none other and he fucking keens when Sunghoon’s tongue brushes against his.

Sunghoon has always held him with this sort of delicacy, but also assurance, whenever they wound up in each other’s arms. And he does now too, as the hand that was still wrapped around Jaeyun comes forward to rest on his waist, gripping him in contrast to the soft touch on his cheek. It all has Jaeyun’s mind feeling like mush, and it all comes to a climax when Sunghoon snags Jaeyun’s bottom lip between his teeth as he pulls away.

Jaeyun never always knew people’s emotions showed in their eyes, but he didn’t know the intensity of it. Not until now, when he sees everything Sunghoon feels in his eyes, and he knows by the soft look on Sunghoon’s face that he can see everything Jaeyun feels in his own, too. And as much as Jaeyun wants to continue kissing Sunghoon, could spend the rest of his life doing so, he doesn’t think his weak heart could take any more right now. Instead, he brings a hand to the back of Sunghoon’s neck and presses their foreheads together, both of them letting out a long breath.

“Hoonie,” Jaeyun calls gently, eyes meeting Sunghoon’s, and they’re so close Jaeyun is sure he can see every single detail in Sunghoon's irises.  Sunghoon brings a hand up to Jaeyun's hair, letting his fingers get tangled in it, and Jaeyun knows it’s his way of encouraging him to go on. Jaeyun swallows, fidgeting with the hairs on the nape of Sunghoon’s neck, mustering up the courage to ask the question that needs to be spoken. “Hoonie, will you be the one to stay by my side?”

“Ah, Jakey,” Sunghoon murmurs and it’s all too familiar, a warmth just as familiar, if not more, enveloping him. And Sunghoon’s next words have him smiling as wide as he possibly can, chest feeling as light as can be. “I couldn’t give up on you even if I tried.”

-

Jaeyun hears Sunghoon padding over to his room and swallows down his anxiety, knowing that what’s about to be done is long overdue. Besides, he promised Sunghoon he’d do it, both for the younger and himself. And Jaeyun knows it needs to happen anyway; has been trying to muster up the courage for it since his initial breakdown, but hasn’t been able to get past the shame and anxiety. He’s grateful Sunghoon was willing to provide him this support.

“Oh honey, I’m home!” Sunghoon calls as he descends down the hallway towards Jaeyun’s room, just outside the door by now, and Jaeyun can’t help but snort.

God, you make it sound like we’re married.” Jaeyun shakes his head as Sunghoon enters and the younger cocks his head to the side, knitting his brows together.

“We’re not married?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun rolls his eyes.

“We’ve been dating for a solid four days, slow down there buddy.”

“Do you want a divorce or something? Are you throwing those four days away? I thought we had something!” Sunghoon holds a hand to his chest in mock hurt and Jaeyun doesn’t know how he finds time to come up with all these dramatics.

“You’re a menace, you know that?” Jaeyun asks as Sunghoon steps forward, stopping in front of Jaeyun to plant a kiss on his forehead before settling in Jaeyun’s computer chair.

“Yeah, but I’m your menace, so,” Sunghoon shrugs, leaning back in the chair.

“And I can't believe it took a sixteen year old for that.” Jaeyun scoffs, rolling his eyes. “Tell Riki ‘thank you’ and then move on and leave it at that. I’ll do the same.”

“Noted.” Sunghoon beams. He glances at Jaeyun’s phone that lays on the bed beside him and he purses his lips, looking over Jaeyun’s features. “You ready?” He motions his head towards the phone and Jaeyun sighs, biting his lip.

“It has to happen at some point, and I think it hurts her, and everyone else, more the longer I wait it out.” Jaeyun directs his gaze to Sunghoon’s hands and raises his eyebrows in surprise, fixing the younger with a curious look. “What’s in the bag?” Sunghoon himself seems to have forgotten about said bag, and he lets out a small ‘oh’ before fiddling with it, looking inside.

Sunghoon glances between Jaeyun and the bag a couple times before finally reaching in, and pulling out it’s contents. Jaeyun’s eyes go comically wide and he swears Sunghoon is going to be the fucking death of him, said boy shooting him a sheepish, almost nervous, smile. Jaeyun has never considered himself much of a crier, but the onslaught of emotions he’s dealt with ever since meeting Sunghoon seem to get the best of him, and Jaeyun has to take a calming breath to will the burn in his eyes away.

The stuffed dog—a fucking Cream Border Collie, to be exact—in Sunghoon’s hands shakes slightly as Sunghoon tries to gauge Jaeyun's reaction, seeing if he severely fucked up or made the right move. And he can tell Sunghoon is having a bit of a hard time figuring it out on his own, and Jaeyun smiles at him, shaking his head out of pure fondness.

“Sunghoon, what—”

“You said Layla was a Cream Border Collie, right? This is a Cream Border Collie, right?” Sunghoon rushes out and Jaeyun laughs lightly, reaching out for the stuffed dog and smoothing his hands over it, a child-like smile tugging on his lips. His heart bursts with something, and Jaeyun has a strong feeling he’s wholeheartedly in love with Park Sunghoon.

“You remembered?” Jaeyun inquires and Sunghoon nods.

“She seemed like an important thing to remember.” Sunghoon says and Jaeyun giggles. “And you know it might not be as great as hugging the real thing—you know being able to hug her—but stuffed animals are a great substitute for human touch and you know the whole…oxytocin thing with human touch and brain chemicals…works with that.” Sunghoon clears his throat, clearly flustered, and Jaeyun finds it so incredibly endearing because it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s so sickenly sweet and it has Jaeyun on cloud nine.

“Thank you, Hoonie, really.” Jaeyun says sincerely, making Sunghoon groan.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” The deep flush that paints Sunghoon’s cheeks tells Jaeyun everything he needs to know about how flustered Sunghoon is right now, and he decides to spare the younger just this once. “Whatever, yeah, you uh—you ready to call your mom?” Sunghoon asks and Jaeyun nods, taking a deep breath as he grabs his phone, unlocking it with his face ID.

The screen is already brought up to his mother’s contact, Jaeyun trying to gain the courage to do it earlier, having told Sunghoon he might try doing it on his own before the latter got done with his classes, but had failed miserably, opting to wait for Sunghoon to get home. It was hard because he knew she would be able to hear the anxiety in his voice, how she would hear every waver and would understand exactly how Jaeyun felt. He didn’t want her to worry more than she already has.

Not wasting any more time, Jaeyun presses the call button and brings his phone up to his ear with a long breath. Sunghoon sends him an encouraging smile, accompanied by two thumbs up, and lifts his leg to tap Jaeyun's thigh with his foot. It’s a small gesture that conveys a lot, letting Jaeyun know that Sunghoon is here and he’s not going anywhere; that he’s going to see this through to the very end with Jaeyun.

“Jaeyunie?” His mother’s soft voice comes after all but two rings, and Jaeyun almost bursts into tears at just that. He keeps himself in check though, biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut for a moment as he takes a deep breath.

“Hey Mom,” is all he can get out and he immediately knows that she understands every bit of emotion lacing his voice, just as she always does. She sighs on the other end, a long sigh of relief that’s letting out her own anxieties. Jaeyun feels a twinge of guilt build up in his stomach, and it must show on his face because suddenly Sunghoon is lightly kicking his thigh, a scolding look on his face. Jaeyun rolls his eyes at him but smiles regardless, feeling his heart swell in his chest.

“Are you okay, Jaeyun-ah?” His mother’s sweet, concerned voice comes again, and he knows she’s afraid of the truth, but for once Jaeyun isn’t afraid of giving it to her.

“I’m getting there.” Jaeyun answers honestly and he lets the words flow from his tongue without stopping himself, finally letting himself let go. “And I’m sorry for what happened a few weeks ago—and before you say anything, just hear me out, alright?” He’s met with silence, and he assumes that’s his mother doing her part, and he takes another calming breath, just like his therapist taught him. He could do this, and it would be better for multiple people if it got done.

“I…I’m going to be honest with you, mom, and tell you that on that night, I was having a really, really hard time and I—and I have been for a really, really long time. For as long as I can remember, actually.” Jaeyun forces the words out and he hears the shuddering breath from his mother, a telltale sign of her trying to hold back tears, and Jaeyun feels his own tears welling. “And that night I came really close to doing something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I’m sorry for that, sorry for worrying you, but I—” Jaeyun half expects her to butt in and tell him that it’s okay and not to apologize, much like Sunghoon has so many times, but she holds her end of the deal and waits for Jaeyun to continue.

Jaeyun meets Sunghoon's gaze and bites his cheek, smiling at an already smiling Sunghoon—it’s a small smile, made for encouragement more than anything, but Jaeyun appreciates it more than the younger will ever understand. And looking at Sunghoon, the person who has seen the ugliest parts of him and still fights for him, gives Jaeyun all the strength he needs to continue.

“I made a friend.” Jaeyun starts. “I made a friend and then he introduced me to his other friends. And that friend became something more; became someone really, really important to me. More important than someone outside of family has ever felt before.” Jaeyun keeps his eyes locked with Sunghoon’s and he doesn’t miss the way his eyes light up the slightest bit, a smile tugging on his lips even as he fights it.

“And he’s stuck by me even after I pushed him away, and I know I made it hard for him to stay, but he was determined.” Jaeyun genuinely smiles, heart beating in his chest. “He’s stuck by my side and for the first time in a while, I’m not completely alone. I don’t feel so lonely anymore, mom.” Jaeyun can tell Sunghoon really wants to reach out and hug Jaeyun right now, hold him hostage and cuddle him for the rest of his damned life, but he holds himself back, and Jaeyun almost giggles at the way Sunghoon fidgets in his chair.

“I’m not exactly happy, you know? Like, I feel lighter and days aren’t so hard anymore, but I’m still struggling.” Jaeyun closes his eyes, taking another deep breath. “But you know, for the first time since I started feeling that heavy feeling in my chest that just wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it, since I was diagnosed with depression, I feel like I can be happy.” Jaeyun hears the sniffles on the other side of the line and he almost feels bad for making his mother cry, but he knows it’s not out of hurt and worry, but more out of relief and happiness. Relieved that Jaeyun is okay and working towards happiness, and happy that her son sounds more alive than he has in a long time.

Jaeyun knows the road to happiness is going to be one hell of a journey, and it won’t be easy and linear. But he does know that with Sunghoon by his side, holding his hand and picking him up when he falls so he doesn’t have to do it all on his own anymore, that it’s possible. And really, that’s the best feeling Jaeyun’s felt in forever. It helps knowing Sunghoon is one stubborn bastard, and he’s not leaving Jaeyun’s side anytime soon.

Sunghoon said it himself: hHe couldn’t give up on Jaeyun even if he tried. And as Jaeyun looks up at Sunghoon again, phone still pressed to his ear and Sunghoon looking at him like he hung the moon and stars, nothing but pure adoration, and love showing in his eyes, Jaeyun can’t help but believe him.