Himchan comes home at quarter past nine on Tuesday night and heads straight for the bottle of cabernet sitting on the kitchen counter.
“You’re home…super early.” On the couch, his roommate Daehyun raises his voice over the din of the television. “How was the guy from the dating app?”
Something explodes on the screen as Himchan pulls a wine glass down from the shelf and uncorks the bottle. “It did not go well,” he says as he pours. There’s not much left in the bottle but it’s enough. He drops the empty wine bottle in the recycling bin with a clatter. Bypassing their blue-grey armchair, he joins Daehyun on the couch. Daehyun pauses the movie to give Himchan his full attention. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he says in reply to Daehyun’s prying gaze.
Daehyun shifts on the couch and clutches Himchan’s elbow. “C’mon,” he wheedles. “You’re home before midnight. Way before midnight.” He joggles Himchan’s arm. “There’s a story there.”
Lifting a hand to cover his eyes, Himchan groans. “What were you watching?”
Himchan drops his hand. There’s an enormous, centipede-looking monster haloed by lens flare on the TV screen, bursting out of a high-rise office building and chasing a tiny red dot of a person. “Again?”
“It’s good.” Daehyun shrugs. “So. Storytime.”
“Okay,” Himchan says. He makes a big show of rolling his eyes even as he adjusts himself to a more comfortable position on the couch, folding one leg between them and putting one elbow on the back cushion. “I get there, a little early, but not like, desperately early, you know? So, I sit at the bar, order a water — I wanted to look comfortable but I didn’t want to order before he got there, of course — and catch up on emails just to pass the time.”
“And then?” Daehyun asks after a pause.
“And then!” Himchan swings his arm, gesturing to the whole room. “That’s it! I waited! He never showed up.” He takes a sip of wine. “I bet he saw me and thought I was too—”
“Stop it.” Daehyun squeezes his arm. “That isn’t the reason.”
“You don’t know that.” He shrugs Daehyun off. “I’m going to get old and die alone, wrinkled and ugly as prune.” He swallows a mouthful of wine. “This cab sucks. Why do we keep buying it?”
“Because we’re broke and it’s cheap,” Daehyun says, putting his hand on Himchan’s knee. He squeezes. “Do you want to get drunk and watch the rest of the movie with me?”
Himchan pauses, pouting. “Yes,” he says at last, “but there’s no wine left.”
“That’s the beauty of the modern age.” Daehyun grabs his phone from the sofa cushion beside him. He minimizes the Chromecast app and taps into another. “You can get almost anything delivered.”
The message comes in during Himchan’s lunch break while he’s waiting in line for his order.
daemchu: hey, i know you’re sad about last night but i got some good news
Himchan rolls his eyes.
strongchan: did he show up at our apartment with flowers and a box of chocolates?
daemchu: even better
daemchu: i got a new date 4 u
The cafeteria attendant calls his lunch order. Himchan thanks them as he picks it up before winding his way out the door. Stepping into the midday sun, he pulls his sunglasses from his breast pocket and slips them on before walking the two blocks back to his office.
daemchu: well youngjae did
daemchu: i told him you were free friday night
daemchu: you ARE free right?
He looks up from his phone to cross the street. Once he’s clear of the intersection, he messages Daehyun back, thumbs curtly tapping the screen.
strongchan: yeah that doesn’t matter. i’m not going on a blind date with one of youngjae’s geeky friends
daemchu: that’s the thing!
daemchu: we knew you’d say no to junhong again
daemchu: (u kno that kid is like, a model, right?)
strongchan: hard pass
strongchan: he’s too young for me
daemchu: he really isn’t omg he’s older than he looks
strongchan: i’m not dating him
daemchu: you’re so old fashioned
strongchan: im sensible
daemchu: this guy youngjae knows from work
strongchan: what a resounding endorsement
Himchan pockets his phone when he gets into the company break room and finds it full of his coworkers. Just to spite Daehyun, Himchan doesn’t check his message thread until he gets out of work about four hours later.
daemchu: youngjae helped design his website
daemchu: he’s your age, kinda older maybe
daemchu: works as a music producer, lowkey successful
daemchu: totally your type btw
daemchu: r u ignoring me
daemchu: ok we set you up w/8pm drinks friday!!!!
daemchu: at that bar across town you like
daemchu: do you wanna see a pic of him?
daemchu: im gonna eat your cherries unless you reply me
daemchu: fine, no pic 4 u~
daemchu: no name either~
daemchu: just surprises~ the good kind
daemchu: i’m such a good roommate you should order us delivery tonight
daemchu: or maybe not
daemchu: i’m gonna spend the night at youngjae’s ^__^
daemchu: so i won't see you but don't worry~~~
daemchu: these cherries are so good btw
He groans in frustration. Only when he’s on the subway train home, crammed in among other rush-hour commuters, does Himchan craft a reply.
strongchan: okay 1. there better be cherries left when i get home
strongchan: 2. if there aren’t i’m going to storm youngjae’s apartment and haul you off his dick and make you buy me some more
daemchu: hiiiiii :D
strongchan: 3. if this date bails on me again, you’re buying me whatever i want for dinner one night and never unilaterally setting me up with anyone ever again
daemchu: but you won’t regret this
strongchan: we’ll see
On Thursday, Himchan comes home to Youngjae and Daehyun on the couch, curled around Youngjae’s phone. Daehyun’s head snaps up, looking startled before his face spreads into an appeasing grin. “Oh! Himchan! How was work?”
It’s the grin that tips Himchan off. “Why do I get the feeling this means bad news for me?” Himchan asks. He drops his bag near the front door.
“It’s nice to see you too,” says Youngjae wryly. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to kick you out for the night.”
“As if you could,” Himchan says with a chuckle. He heads into the bedroom to change out of his suit, listening for the usual quip. It doesn't come. The silence raises his proverbial hackles in suspicion, and Himchan backtracks as he loosens his tie. “What?”
Daehyun blinks, face blank. “Nothing.”
He narrows his eyes. “What.”
“It’s really nothing,” Youngjae says with a shrug. He loops an arm around Daehyun’s shoulders, pulling him in to press a kiss to his forehead.
Himchan turns away and heads to his bedroom to change out of his business attire. He likes Youngjae, together and apart from Daehyun, and thinks they make a good couple. Normally, their subtle yet persistent displays of affection don’t bother him. Today, though…it gets old being lonely when he wants that kind of intimacy, and every door he tries gets slammed in his face. Seeing them have the kind of connection he wants, yeah, it hurts.
Trudging out of his bedroom in sweatpants and an old college tee, Youngjae and Daehyun look up at him. They’re as guilty as two puppies caught eating kibble. “Okay, something’s up.” Himchan crosses his arms. “Is it about this date tomorrow?”
Youngjae’s mouth twists. “Well, kind of,” Daehyun starts, but Himchan doesn’t let him get far.
“Did your guy bail on me before he even saw me?” Himchan scoffs, uncrosses his arms, and heads for the kitchen. “Great.”
“It isn’t about your date cancelling,” Youngjae calls from the couch. Himchan ignores him, opening and closing pantry cabinets and the fridge door, trying to figure out what he wants to snack on. He gives up and settles for a glass of water. “We had some ideas about what to wear.”
“What to talk about,” Daehyun supplies. “Subjects you might want to avoid.”
Returning to the main room with a glass half-full, Himchan scowls. “This isn’t my first date ever, you guys.”
“It’s just…,” Youngjae trails off, trying to gesture words into existence and failing. “He’s a bit…well….”
“He’s a creep, isn’t he?” asks Himchan.
“Passionate,” Daehyun says, then purses his lips. “He’s a humanitarian, and he’s just as passionate about that as his music.”
“Maybe even more so,” Youngjae says.
Himchan takes a sip of his water, waiting for them to continue. “Oh, that’s it?” he asks. “The guy loves babies and saving rainforests. Got it. But does he like men?”
Youngjae and Daehyun exchange a glance. “We’re pretty sure.”
“Pretty sure?” Himchan raises his eyebrows. “You set me up on a date and the other guy might not even know it?”
“He knows it’s a date,” Daehyun says.
“With a man,” Youngjae adds. “He’s a good guy, you’ll see.”
Daehyun sighs. “We’re just trying to help make sure it goes well for you guys.”
Himchan drains his glass and sets it on their kitchen table before taking a few steps toward them. “I should never have agreed to this.” He plops down in their armchair, hands curving over the ends of each armrest. “You said you wanted to help me pick out an outfit, too? It isn’t until tomorrow. I’ve got time.” Himchan snorts. “Is he allergic to denim, or something?”
Youngjae laughs. “No, no, nothing like that.” He tilts his head slightly to one side and smiles. “We just thought it would be fun.”
Himchan finds a seat at the bar in the white V-neck tee and dark skinny jeans that Youngjae and Daehyun had given a resounding 10/10 in showcasing his good looks. The bar is one of Himchan’s favorites. The first floor and basement complex turns into a dance club on weekend nights. It helps immensely that their usual weekday bartender can make a proper daiquiri, not one of the super sugary and overpriced drinks they sell at the beach resorts down south. That's his usual order when he stops by, but today he asks for a glass of pinot noir while he waits.
The other benefit of this bar is the clientele. There’s always someone interesting tucked away in a booth or at the bar. Tonight, there's a stranger with shock of bleached white hair drinking alone in one of the booths. Himchan has never seen him before, swirling a highball glass before taking a drink. The stranger startles like he's been struck with a static charge and turns his focus to the tabletop. He picks up a pen, or maybe a pencil, and starts to write something down on a notepad.
Himchan averts his eyes and wonders what this guy’s story is. Maybe he’s Himchan’s date? Youngjae did say he was the creative type, and Himchan has yet to see a financial executive with dyed white hair. Most of those types tend to dye their hair to avoid that color.
After a quick survey of the group coming in — younger adults looking to get their Friday night started, by the tightness of their clothes and the grins on their faces — Himchan ventures another look at the white-haired writer. If this is his date, Himchan expected someone a little more bland. Someone in a light button-down and khakis, talking about crises with that kind of grating earnestness fashioned by people who treat each cause like flash-in-the-pan trends. Himchan’s willing to bet this stranger isn’t that type of person.
The writer taps his finger on the table in thought. He looks younger than Himchan, but not by much. Himchan tries to remember if they mentioned his age before giving in, grabbing his phone to review Daehyun’s texts from earlier in the week. Perhaps he will go introduce himself.
His phone buzzes with a message from his roommate, cutting his search short.
daemchu: um he is running a bit behind schedule…he just texted youngjae to let you know he's on his way
So, white hair writer is definitely not his blind date. Himchan takes a sip of wine.
daemchu: DON’T LEAVE
strongchan: he's got 15min. then i’m out and you owe me one pity dinner
daemchu: we told him what you’re wearing so he'll come find you
strongchan: does he know my name?
daemchu: no omg
daemchu: that’s the point of a blind date
daemchu: he’s gonna ask u if ur youngjae’s friend so just say yes
strongchan: I would say that anyway
daemchu: no you’d be like “who’s askin, stranger?” like some kind of mae west impersonator
strongchan: that has nothing to do with mae west
strongchan: wait how do you know who she is? are you in my Netflix again
daemchu: uh g2g youngjae needs me 4 something HAVE FUN
strongchan: real subtle
Himchan checks the time and sets his phone down on the bar. He fingers the stem of his wine glass, shaking his head at Daehyun’s antics. If he is going to use Himchan’s account, he should start paying for it. That’s a conversation for a later date.
Settling in for a bit longer of a wait than he expected, Himchan surveys the bar again. Business is starting to pick up with another mid-size group entering the bar’s first floor. They’re loud and boisterous and remind Himchan of himself when he was their age. As they pass behind him on their way to the basement, they seem only a few years younger than him. He turns his attention to his wine glass and chuckles to himself. Such change in a short amount of time. Pressing two fingers to the foot of his wine glass, he moves it in a few circles, swirling the wine in the bowl. Perhaps he embraced wine culture earlier than he cared to admit.
Looking back at the door as a couple comes in, Himchan checks the white-haired stranger to see if anything watch-worthy has developed. He’s still head down, writing away at his notepad, taking occasional sips from his highball, and scowling as the noise level in the bar begins to climb.
Himchan shrugs one shoulder as he turns his gaze back to his phone to check the time. He assumes the guy will leave before the first DJ gets started downstairs, which is in less than an hour.
This blind date has five minutes, then Himchan’s leaving. He takes a long drink from his glass, setting it back down a few sips short of empty. When Himchan gets home, Youngjae and Daehyun better be decent and ready to give him some space. Maybe he’ll stop somewhere on the way for a slice of pizza. If he’s going to be alone against his best efforts, he might as well enjoy himself.
That, and there’s a great by-the-slice pizzeria that’s open late a few blocks away from this bar, a feature Himchan likes in a haunt.
He looks up at the bartender leaning his arms against the bar. Holding up one hand, he shakes it. “Not yet, thank you. I’m meeting someone here.”
“Let me know when you’re ready. It’s the pinot noir, right?” Himchan nods. “You look like you might need it.”
He forces a polite laugh. “Thanks, I think.” The bartender smiles. He leaves Himchan to his thoughts, stepping aside to assist a patron on the far side of the bar. Left alone and feeling conspicuously bored, Himchan flips through his social media apps. There’s not much motion on them since the last time he checked. A coworker posted a picture of their dinner on Instagram, but it’s less than appetizing, so Himchan scrolls past it through pictures he’s already seen.
When he locks his phone, the time shows two minutes past Himchan’s ‘late date’ deadline. Disappointment curls up and makes its home in Himchan’s belly. He considers his glass and the possibility of draining it for another pour, but what’s the point?
He looks up to see a familiar face. “Yongguk?”
“Himchan?” Yongguk asks, timidity quirking up the corners of his mouth into pleasant surprise. “I thought it was you!”
With a grin, Himchan stands, pulling Yongguk into a tight hug. “How have you been? It feels like it’s been years.”
Yongguk laughs, rubbing and patting his back before they part. “That’s because it has.” He slides into the seat Himchan’s kept empty for his no-show blind date, grinning broadly. Himchan feels like he’s been transported back five years ago as he sits back down on the barstool. They’d been part of the same undergraduate program then, the same circle of friends pulling all-nighters to pass classes. After graduation, Yongguk had a packed bag in one hand and a one-way ticket overseas in the other, and Himchan had placed in a top-tier graduate program. They’d simply fallen out of contact somewhere along the way. “I’m doing pretty well.”
“You back for good, or is this a stop in between? Last time I remember, you were backpacking across who-knows-where.”
“Back for good.” Yongguk grabs the attention of the barkeeper, who nods in acknowledgement as he mixes something in a shaker for another patron. “Got my own business now, doing pretty well with it.”
Himchan leans forward, resting one elbow on the bar. “It’s hard to imagine you as a stiff in a suit.” He surveys Yongguk’s current attire, a more upscale version of the Yongguk from Himchan’s memory. Back then, Yongguk’s wardrobe was full of baggy shirts and sagging pants. Now, he’s sporting a black crew neck tee and light-colored skinny jeans. Himchan likes the change. It suits Yongguk’s thin frame, just like the angled bangs cutting across his forehead even out his round face. The urge to reach up and arrange them strikes Himchan, unbidden.
Moments later, Yongguk does just that, laughing quietly and running long fingers through his hair. “I’m producing music, actually. Mostly working on my own, freelance stuff, that kind of thing.”
“You’re still doing music?” Himchan’s surprised, but at the same time, he isn’t, not really. “I’m impressed you’ve been able to make a career out of what you were spinning in college.”
Yongguk laughs again, and Himchan grins. “I’m happy with it. So, what about you?”
The bartender interrupts. “What can I get you?”
With a sidelong glance at Himchan and a quick gesture of his thumb, Yongguk says, “The same.”
“I’d like that next glass of pinot,” Himchan cuts in before the bartender can step away. Left alone, Himchan turns his attention back to Yongguk. “Yeah, I’m doing alright. Got my MBA after you left, now I work at a consulting firm.”
“Consulting? For what?”
“Management and operations, nothing flashy. Pays well, though. Good benefits.” Taking note of the approaching bartender, Himchan lifts his glass, draining the last bit of wine from his glass. The bartender rests a bottle of pinot noir and a fresh glass on the bar. After filling it with wine, he sets it in front of Yongguk before pouring Himchan a refill. “Thank you.”
“Should I put this on your tab?”
“No,” says Yongguk.
“Yes,” says Himchan. Yongguk gives him a reproachful look, which Himchan brushes off with a smile and a shrug. “Let me treat you to one.” When the bartender steps away, Himchan changes the subject. “So what brings you in here tonight, anyway?”
Yongguk fingers the stem off the glass, visibly hesitating with downcast eyes. “I’m supposed to meet someone here, but I think I’m late.”
“Oh, well, my date never showed.” It comes out harsher than he intended but as bitter as he feels. “Again.” Himchan takes a drink before continuing. “You know, earlier this week I had another guy stand me up? I waited for him, for like, an hour.” He laughs. “It’s like I’m undateable.”
Patting his shoulder in sympathy, Yongguk says, “I’m afraid that’s exactly what my web designer’s friend is going to think.”
Web designer’s friend…? Himchan shifts in his seat, angling his body toward Yongguk. “Wait, did a guy by the name of Yoo Youngjae design your website?”
Blinking, Yongguk looks at Himchan. “How did you know?”
Himchan lifts his eyebrows. “He’s dating my roommate. The roommate who set me up on a blind date.” Raising his glass, Himchan takes a sip. “With you, it seems.”
“No way, that’s too much!” Yongguk laughs and shakes his head. “I can’t believe you’re still here. I’m so late.”
Humming with a mouth full of wine, Himchan nods and swallows. “I know.”
“Sorry.” Yongguk hangs his head, still rubbing the glass stem between his thumb and forefinger. “I decided not to drive in at the last minute and took the train. But I’m here now.”
“And you want to give this a shot?” Himchan says, equal parts suspicious and hopeful.
“Oh, definitely.” Another warm, familiar smile. “Although, I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better end of this deal.”
“I mean,” Yongguk shrugs one shoulder and lets his eyes slide away from Himchan, back to the wine glass. “You’re good-looking and successful.”
Flicking his gaze down Yongguk’s form, Himchan says evenly, “So are you.” They meet each other’s eyes. Around them, conversations wax and wane, and group at the far end of the bar bursts into laughter. Glasses clink together in toast. Someone’s chair groans against the floor as they stand abruptly. Himchan finds it difficult to look away, instead fascinated by the crinkles on the outside of Yongguk’s eyes, the deepening creases that bracket his broad grin. There’s something beginning, something he recognizes as a barely tangible and fledgling attraction. A little voice in the back of Himchan’s mind reminds him of the fun they used to have. He ignores its requests to make conversation, to propose they make a brand new memory in the bar bathroom or something equally ludicrous, and decides instead to reach for his drink.
Yongguk clears his throat. “So do you still play guitar?”
“I pick it up from time to time.” Before he forgets it, Himchan pockets his phone. “They don’t have company jam-session nights, if that’s what you’re wondering, though.”
“I wasn’t, but that’s too bad.” Himchan takes a drink while Yongguk continues. “I was thinking maybe you’d like to play for me sometime. Whether this date thing works out, or not.”
“Yeah.” Himchan smiles. “Yeah, that could be fun. I’d like that. It’ll be nice to have some kind of aim instead of just picking out tunes by ear.” Himchan loses track of time as their conversation winds them through glass after glass of wine. At some point in the middle of catching each other up on their lives, sometime after the first DJ downstairs fills the bar with the buzz of dance bass beats, Yongguk switches to bottles of beer. It’s some local microbrewery his older sister had recommended he try. Himchan breaks down and orders his own after a heated discussion about the effect of the microbrewery surge on the local economy. It gets Yongguk to switch gears and instead ask him how it tastes.
“Tastes like beer,” Himchan says. He laughs, easier now that he’s feeling the buzz. “What am I supposed to say?”
“You know what I mean,” Yongguk says, leaning over to hang off Himchan’s shoulder. He’s warm, heavier than Himchan expected, a good weight settling him off-balance. Himchan shifts forward, leaning both elbows on the bar so they’re less likely to topple between the barstools. “You still smoke?”
“Trying to quit,” Himchan says, giving into gravity and letting his head tilt toward Yongguk. “Again.”
“So maybe, you want to grab something to eat?” Yongguk shifts until he’s sitting entirely on his own barstool, dragging his fingers away last. Himchan doesn’t remember him being this touchy, but he doesn’t mind. “I wanna get out of here. You know a place we can go?”
Another laugh, breathy and unthinking, and Himchan nods. “Yeah. You still like pizza?”
Cradling his head in one hand, Yongguk’s eyes are bright as he looks at Himchan in the dim bar. “Yeah,” he says. “I still like pizza.”
They close out their tabs and make for the exit, Himchan leading the way outside. Night has definitely fallen, cool and dark though the streets glow yellow under the lamps and headlights. Stepping a few paces away from the bar, they pause to regroup. Yongguk stretches his arms above his head, and Himchan doesn’t bother restraining himself to a quick glance. He lets his eyes wander freely over Yongguk again, sizing him up. For what, exactly, he’s not willing to admit to himself, but he’s getting there.
A shadow on Yongguk’s bicep peeks out from beneath his shirt sleeve. “What’s this?” Himchan grabs his elbow in unthinking curiosity. Yongguk’s arms are slender, hard with bone and muscle where they used to be boyishly soft. And now there’s ink there, winding letters under his skin. “I don’t remember this.”
“Oh.” Himchan can hear Yongguk’s grin, his eyes too busy trying to make sense of the tattoo. “I got that done my first year traveling. Maybe within the first six months?” He pulls back the rest of the sleeve to let Himchan read its message in elaborate cursive: Make Art, Not War. “I forget I have it sometimes.”
“Did it hurt?” Himchan traces around the letters, following the misty outside border of the tattoo.
A snort. “No.”
“You’re lying.” Himchan lets go of Yongguk’s arm, though he briefly considers leading him by the hand all the way to the pizzeria. “I’m sure it hurt.”
Himchan turns and steps off the curb, Yongguk following a half-beat behind. “Okay, it hurt, but only a little.”
“That’s what I thought.”
The line moves fast outside the pizza place, and soon they’re inside. It’s crowded with people crammed around standing tables and the short bar, laughing and eating. Customers in line shout orders over the din, which the cashier relays from the register to busy employees shoving pizza slices into prepared paper cartons. They grab the slices from big circles of cheese or pepperoni pizza, laid out on display behind a greasy-splattered glass panel. On the wall behind the pizza assembly, changeable letter boards advertise current prices and specials.
Himchan suggests the two-slices-and-a-drink special, which Yongguk agrees is the best option. Two long slices of cheese with a large cola later, they shuffle to the open parking lot beside the pizzeria to seek a place to sit on one of the picnic-style tables. Finding both of them full, Yongguk sits on a concrete parking block and pats beside him for Himchan to join.
He does while Yongguk digs in. Himchan settles on the cold block and spreads his legs out, positioning the cola on the ground between them. The pizza is hot and greasy and satisfying with a thin crust that’s crisped dark at the wide end. They eat without speaking, sharing sips of drink and burping occasionally.
It occurs to Himchan they’re sharing an indirect kiss on his third drink of cola, taking it from Yongguk’s hand when it’s passed to him. He doesn’t mind as much as he should, swiftly curtailing any thoughts of backwash in favor of their lips closing around the same end of the straw. His mind wanders to the real thing, a real kiss, to lean over and press against Yongguk’s mouth. In his head, Yongguk isn’t chewing pizza, and he’d respond soft at first, growing bolder with each kiss. That tongues-sliding, teeth-nipping, hands-gripping kind of kissing. The scene shifts and they tumble against something soft….
“What?” Yongguk brings Himchan out of his reverie. “I know I have sauce on my face, okay. I’m still a messy eater.” Himchan blinks, eyes lingering on Yongguk’s mouth as he bites into his nearly-finished pizza. “Are you gonna drink it all or can I get another sip?” Yongguk asks as he chews.
Himchan drops his gaze as he sets the cola down again. “This has been fun.” The half-finished pizza on his knees grows cold, and less appetizing, the more he thinks about kissing Yongguk in the parking lot. It’s a bad idea, for lots of reasons. None that he can bring to mind right now, sure, but this is the first date he’s had in months. It’s going well, way better than he could have imagined. He doesn’t want to fuck it up.
Kissing Yongguk with a mouthful of greasy cheese pizza would definitely fall under the category of ‘fucking it up.’
Yongguk scoots closer, clumsy and obvious, under the flimsy guise of another drink of cola. “Has been?” He captures the straw between his fingers and pulls the cup to his face.
“Yeah.” Himchan avoids meeting his eyes. He slips his phone from his pocket, pressing a button to light up the lock screen. “It’s late.”
“Technically, it’s Saturday.”
Yongguk makes a strangled sound, halfway between amused and frustrated. “Do you have plans tomorrow morning, or something? Maybe?”
On instinct, Himchan considers lying. Don’t fuck it up. “No, I don’t have any plans.” His focus winds its way across the parking lot to the picnic table, one group clearing out and another descending upon it like a sparse flock of vultures, only larger and drunker and without feathers or talons. “I just thought you might be tired. We’re not as young as we used to be.”
“We’re not the same men, you’re right,” Yongguk says, after a pause.
Himchan ventures a glance at him. “If you start philosophizing, and I fall asleep, you’re not allowed to leave me in this parking lot with a cement block for a pillow.”
Yongguk laughs at this, bubbling out of him in deep guffaws. His pizza falls from his lap, landing on the ground. He doesn’t seem to care. “No, I wouldn’t do that.”
“Good.” Himchan sets his own plate on the cement block, away from Yongguk.
“I was kind of hoping you’d want to come back to my apartment with me.”
Himchan meets his eye, raising an eyebrow and fighting a smile. “Coffee, yeah?”
“Uh, sure.” Yongguk nods. “If you’re still into that sort of thing.” Smiles. “Yeah.”
With a laugh, Himchan says, “Let’s go.” He gets to his feet before picking up his unfinished pizza. Yongguk grabs his litter and the soda, drinking the last sip of it. “So, you took the train in?” They drop their trash in a garbage can they pass on their way out of the lot. “Or do you want to grab a cab?”
“Train.” Yongguk steps forward, hand reaching like he’s going to grab Himchan’s, but he shifts his trajectory at the last moment and runs his fingers through his own hair instead. “It’s cheaper and just as convenient since there’s a stop a few blocks from my place.”
“Oh.” It comes out slightly disappointed, as though Himchan had a preference for taxi. He doesn’t bother correcting that possible assumption, preferring Yongguk to think him a bit snobbish than disappointed over a missed chance at hand-holding. He pitches his next phrase with optimism as they start walking to the closest subway train station. “That’s super convenient.”
The subway ride to Yongguk’s apartment is almost unbearable. The car jerks and lurches more than usual, and sitting side-by-side, Himchan and Yongguk shift into each other at turns. Their conversation turns to half-hearted complaints about the city’s metro system, and peters out entirely when their fingers lace together. Himchan refuses to acknowledge who started it this time, but he rubs his thumb over Yongguk’s skin, taking solace in the warmth unfurling in his chest.
At the stop before Yongguk’s, their car empties, and when the doors close, they’re alone. It’s like the other passengers took all the air with them when they left. Himchan realizes then, as the car lurches into forward motion, the quiet inevitability of what’s about to happen. Goosebumps spread across his skin as his eyes drag from their hands up Yongguk’s arm, eyes taking in each freckle and mark, the dark fabric of his tee, the slight rise and fall of Yongguk’s chest as he breathes. The collar of his shirt is a simple, ribbed ring around the base of Yongguk’s long neck. Himchan finds his hand has already closed the gap, smoothing over the fabric, brushing against the tendon in Yongguk’s neck, resting along his collarbone. His eyes skim past the freckle on Yongguk’s throat, bypassing his mouth in a quick flash until he meets Yongguk’s eyes.
Around them, there is only the rhythm of the train, clacking and rocking on the tracks. They hold each other’s gaze even as they sway with the train car, and Yongguk slips first, eyes settling on Himchan’s mouth. Himchan lowers his eyes, finding the matched target of Yongguk’s plump mouth, and they lean in, heads angled slightly in opposite directions.
Himchan inhales just before making contact, stealing Yongguk’s breath from his lips before covering them with his own. The kiss is soft, chaste. Their dry lips stick together as they separate and rejoin again and again, neither of them pressing the kisses deeper. Himchan holds Yongguk’s shoulder, and he’s distantly aware of Yongguk’s hand coming to rest on his waist. They break apart but stay close, breaths mingling as the car pulls into Yongguk’s station.
“This your stop, then?” Himchan says as Yongguk stands. “Alright.” Once out of the car, past the turnstiles, and walking in the street, Yongguk’s hand brushes against his. Himchan grabs it, easily slipping his hand into Yongguk’s.
Yongguk has a nice one-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of his building. Yongguk ushers Himchan inside, locking the door behind them. They kick off their shoes. Himchan scans the first room, wide and open. A couch on one side of the room faces a wall-mounted television over a low bookcase. Beneath the windows, Yongguk has a low bed in the far corner covered in neatly-made black bedding. In the other corner, a record player sits on a small end table flanked on the floor by red plastic milk crates full of vinyls. Himchan grins, amused Yongguk still hasn’t given up his vinyl obsession.
“I thought this was a one-bedroom,” Himchan asks, gesturing to the mattress.
“It is.” Yongguk grins. “I use the bedroom as my home studio.” Himchan nods slowly in understanding. “So, coffee?” Yongguk turns the immediate corner into the small galley kitchen, complete with a space-saving breakfast bar and a few stools. A disassembled moka pot rests in the drying rack by the sink. Yongguk grabs the pieces and lays them out on the counter, before turning to open a cabinet.
Stepping inside, Himchan gently pushes the cabinet closed as he crowds Yongguk back against the counter. He licks his lips. “You might want to save that until morning.”
Yongguk studies him for a moment, eyebrows raised, and Himchan wonders if he misunderstood Yongguk’s intentions. But then Yongguk grins, slow and coy, and Himchan knows they’re on the same page. “Until morning?” Himchan hooks his fingers in Yongguk’s belt loops. “That’s a promise.” As Himchan leans in, Yongguk’s hand comes to rest on the back of his head, guiding him.
This time, the gentleness, the timidity from the train car is gone. Himchan knows what he wants, and goes after it with his kiss, biting and sucking and licking at Yongguk’s mouth as Yongguk responds in kind. Releasing Yongguk’s belt loops, Himchan slides his hands around Yongguk’s body. He pulls Yongguk’s hips toward him, pressing their bodies close as their tongues slide together.
Yongguk surprises him, guiding him backward until Himchan’s ass rests against the counter. They break their kiss and come back together, heads tilted in the opposite direction. Himchan runs his arms up and down Yongguk’s torso. He tugs at the fabric of his shirt, and Yongguk shifts his hands to cup Himchan’s head to deepen the kiss.
After his months-long physical affection dry spell, Himchan lets Yongguk test and learn how Himchan likes to be kissed. He likes the sensation of being explored anew, and Yongguk is an eager study. They break apart again, breathless and flushed, and Himchan reaches for Yongguk’s shirt before Yongguk has a chance to move, stripping it off him and tossing it to the floor.
His eyes go wide. “Woah.” He’s staring, mouth slack, and couldn’t care less about hiding his shock. “Now, that’s definitely new.” In addition to the feathery lettering on his bicep, Yongguk sports a huge chest piece that spreads from collarbone down to nipple, from shoulder to shoulder. On a flowing banner just below his collarbones, tattooed in an angular script with notches at each letter’s midpoint, Himchan reads aloud, “Viva...la…” There’s a long word in scrawling ornate cursive and embellished with small flourishes. Himchan takes a stab in the dark. “Révolution?”
“Revolución,” Yongguk says in a light accent. He’s grinning, proud of himself. Himchan smacks him above the nipple, and Yongguk laughs and clutches his chest.
“This one had to hurt.”
“It did.” He stops laughing when Himchan traces one of the flourishes with his finger, following it and jumping off course to thumb at Yongguk’s brown nipple. “That feels good, though.” So Himchan does it again. He uses two fingers to rub circles against it, unaided for a moment before trailing kisses down Yongguk’s neck, down his chest to tease the other with his mouth.
His journey down brings Himchan to his knees, eye-level with the brass-colored buttons on Yongguk’s skinny jeans. He unsnaps it and unzips the fly without ceremony, focused on shimmying them down Yongguk’s legs. Yongguk assists him, pulling out his dick over the top of his underwear and stroking himself. “I’m surprised I’m not eye-to-eye with a Prince Albert or something.” Himchan grins, pulling the underwear down to join the bunched-up jeans around Yongguk’s ankles.
“Are you disappointed?” Yongguk asks, pausing motion to rub his thumb around the slit.
Himchan lets his gaze wander from the base to its tip, tilting his head to one side, smile unfaltering. “Do I look disappointed to you?”
“Well,” Yongguk begins, and Himchan can hear the teasing sing-song in his voice.
“Don’t answer that.” Himchan takes over stimulation, wrapping his hand around Yongguk’s shaft and jerking him off with focus. Yongguk lets him, leaning forward to brace his hands on the counter behind Himchan. Yongguk is hot, soft skin, hard in his hands. He doesn’t try to fuck Himchan’s throat, instead allows Himchan to work him bit by bit into his mouth. A gentleman.
Himchan grips tight with one hand at the base of Yongguk’s cock and lets his head bob in rhythm, tongue laying flat like a track for Yongguk’s shaft. He curls up the sides of his tongue, cradling Yongguk’s dick every so often, hollowing his cheeks and listening for the deep groans of pleasure that rumble in Yongguk’s chest. The sounds he makes are deep and restrained, and Himchan feels Yongguk watching him, hunched over above him.
Fondling his balls with one hand, Himchan shifts gears. He wants to touch everything he can, with his tongue, his fingers, whatever he can. He wants to give Yongguk this small pleasure right here on his knees in his small kitchen.
It’s been so long since he sucked dick, but Yongguk is putty in his mouth, in his hands, that it must be like riding a bicycle. He picks up speed with his head, sliding his mouth hot and wet and fast up and down Yongguk’s shaft.
“Stop, wait,” Yongguk says, breathless. Himchan pulls up, backing off until he’s licking at the tip of Yongguk’s dick. He looks up into Yongguk’s face. “I’m close. I don’t wanna.” Himchan hums, and Yongguk’s face screws shut. His arms tense, and his chest piece swells and shrinks with his labored breathing. “Not yet. On the bed.”
When Himchan pauses, Yongguk hauls him to his feet and kisses him again and again. “Bed.” He breaks away to deal with the mess of clothing at his ankles. “How do you like it?”
Himchan looks at Yongguk then strips off his own shirt in a hurry. Don’t fuck it up. “Depends. It’s been awhile either way.”
“Would you let me ride you?”
“Absolutely.” When Yongguk’s attention returns up, it catches on the jewelry glinting on Himchan’s chest. “Oh, my god.”
Grinning, Himchan lets his chest puff out ever so slightly, ready to be admired. “Got it done on a whim one day.”
Yongguk stands, skimming his hands up Himchan’s torso. He brushes his fingertips across the barbell pierced through Himchan’s nipple. “Christ.” Himchan feels his nipple go taut under the attention and bites his lip. “This is so fucking hot.” Yongguk pinches one end of the barbell between his fingers, giving it a small tug. Himchan shivers, leaning back as Yongguk ducks his head to suck the nipple into his mouth. His tongue plays with the piercing, flicking and sucking it. Yongguk’s arms wrap around Himchan’s waist, holding him in place and scratching his back.
Winding his hands in Yongguk’s hair, Himchan brings him up to eye-level. “Bed.” Yongguk nods, eyes dropping to Himchan’s chest before breaking away. Himchan follows him around, discarding his jeans in front of the television and leaving them on the floor.
Crawling on his hands and knees across the mattress, Yongguk produces lube and condoms from the other side of the bed. He settles himself down, sitting against the headboard, hands busy tearing open a condom and rolling it on himself. The discarded foil packet falls to the floor beside the bed.
Himchan eases himself out of his underwear as he approaches, stepping out of them to join Yongguk on the mattress. He crawls forward on his hands and knees, straddling Yongguk’s legs when he is close enough. Yongguk smiles at him, one hand wrapped around his own dick. With his other hand, he reaches for Himchan, cupping his face and drawing him in for another series of firm kisses. When they break apart, Himchan searches for the lube, and Yongguk is there, pressing it into his palm.
“Take your time,” he says. One hand slides down Himchan’s torso, and Himchan resettles his weight so he’s sitting across Yongguk’s thighs.
Himchan snorts. “I’m not a virgin, if that’s what you think I meant earlier.”
“I mean, the more time you take means I have more time to get this shit,” Yongguk gestures at his erection, “under control so I don’t, you know, immediately come in your ass.”
Bursting out laughing, Himchan says, “You better not.” Yongguk grins, pleased at Himchan’s amusement, and shrugs as if relieving himself of such culpability.
Prepping himself for sex is different with a partner in ways Himchan had forgotten. Unlike when he’s alone and getting ready to fuck himself with a dildo, there’s someone there to hold the lube and dump more on his fingers at his request. Yongguk presses encouraging kisses wherever he can reach. His touch soothes down Himchan’s torso, his fingers play with Himchan’s nipple piercing. He holds Himchan’s hip and caresses his thighs.
He watches Himchan’s expressions shift and kisses his mouth when Himchan says he’s ready.
Yongguk anchors his hands on Himchan’s hips. Himchan uses Yongguk’s shoulder for leverage, his other hand occupied with guiding the tip of Yongguk’s slicked-up dick inside him. Slowly, slowly, slowly, he lowers himself down its length. The stretch, the sensation of fullness, the fingernails digging into his hips as Yongguk’s head thuds backwards, it’s so fucking good. He’s missed sex.
“You haven’t come yet,” Himchan says, amused. He shifts in Yongguk’s lap, enjoying a moment’s pause before he starts fucking.
Yongguk grunts in reply. “Yet.”
When he moves, there’s no mistake Himchan’s the one in control. Yongguk holds on for the ride as Himchan starts moving, warming himself up with a few long and slow strokes. The first breath comes out shuddering as he picks up speed, enjoying the way Yongguk folds beneath him. He digs his fingers in Yongguk’s shoulders.
For someone with Himchan bouncing in his lap, on his cock, Yongguk’s quiet. Himchan expected this, just a bit, the low grunts and groans Yongguk makes when Himchan rolls his hips. His forehead creases with concentration, with dedication not to come, not yet. Yongguk leans forward, tonguing at the piercing on Himchan’s chest.
Himchan throws his head back, letting one hand cradle the back of Yongguk’s head. His tongue is long and slick, laving over the nipple and playing with the barbell. The sensation sets the nerves under Himchan’s skin on fire, a trail that leads straight to his balls. Yongguk sucks on it and releases it with a wet pop
Wanting more of a connection, Himchan’s head leans forward, angled to one side. He nuzzles against Yongguk’s cheek. Yongguk takes the hint, and they exchange a few sloppy kisses, wet and smacking like the sounds of sex. Himchan slows his pace, interested in drawing out the exchange. He shifts his hands to hold Yongguk’s face in his palms and kisses him, letting his tongue dart past Yongguk’s parted lips. Rolling his hips earns him another low sound from Yongguk, this time pressed right against his own mouth.
Breaking the kiss, Himchan grins at Yongguk before starting up fast again. Yongguk palms his ass, his hips, helping him along. Even so, sweat rolls down Himchan’s spine, and his thighs burn with exertion. “Touch me,” Himchan says. Yongguk does as he’s bid, one hand wrapping tight around Himchan’s cock. With the added stimulation, he feels his orgasm building stronger, the tension in his limbs increasing faster than before. Himchan slides his arms around Yongguk’s neck and changes the angle of his hips just enough to increase the sensation for him.
“I’m close.” Yongguk’s breath is hot against Himchan’s skin. “I’m so close.”
“Get it,” Himchan says, and that’s all Yongguk needs for his hips to start thrusting. They’re a jumble of limbs, their movements messy and uncoordinated. But Himchan feels so fucking good like this, wrapped up together and sweating and fucking. All he can manage is a cry of “Oh, fuck!” and he’s coming, spilling out between them as he bears himself down on Yongguk’s cock.
When Yongguk comes, he bites Himchan’s shoulder, leaving a mark, and shuddering beneath him. Eventually they stop moving, quiet except for their erratic breathing. “I should probably get off your dick now,” Himchan murmurs. Yongguk hums, then relinquishes his hold on Himchan’s hips.
After condom disposal, they rearrange themselves on Yongguk’s bed. Himchan buries himself in Yongguk’s sheets and drifts to sleep with an arm slung across his chest.
The distant, incessant beeping of his text alert wakes him. The lights are off now, though Himchan doesn’t remember either of them getting up. He groans, not wanting to leave the cocoon of warmth generated in-part by the man lying asleep beside him, but damn, if that noise isn’t a buzzkill.
Yongguk doesn’t wake when Himchan gets up and picks his way across the floor to his discarded jeans. He pulls out his phone from one of the pockets, greeted with the ungodly hour of 7:48AM and two texts from Daehyun. He grumbles to himself and switches the phone to silent mode before opening the message.
daemchu: we’re home but you’re not (;
daemchu: k but srsly txt me back ASAP so youngjae and i don’t freak out
Himchan wishes there was an emoji for a certain rude gesture but suffices himself with the annoyed face and considers the matter closed.
When he turns back around, Yongguk’s watching him from beneath one arm draped across his forehead. “Hey,” he says, voice cracking from sleep, “you heading out?”
“Not for a while,” Himchan says, dropping his phone back down. “Someone invited me up here for coffee. I thought maybe we could get breakfast, too.”
Yongguk grins at him, wide and unguarded. “Yeah. I’d like that.”
Stretching his arms above his head, Himchan angles his body so his piercing catches the early sunlight filtering through the blinds. “But first, maybe a little bit of round two…?”
Yongguk’s smile shifts from innocent to devious. He lifts one arm and crooks his finger, beckoning a willing Himchan back to bed.