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Tangled, but not broken

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1.

Kim Myungsoo: student, cupid-in-training, and human world enthusiast.

This was what his metaphorical job description would look like if it was ever written down. He thought he did pretty well in all of those things, though he did have trouble containing said enthusiasm for that last bit. (Sungyeol had just ruffled his hair and called him a nerd about it yesterday, but he didn’t really mind.)

There were two things about the human world that Myungsoo loved; cats and manga. No matter what the other adult cupids said about the world below, he still liked to watch people, was interested in learning their peculiar habits and how they went through different emotions in a span of five seconds.

He especially liked reading about the human world’s notions of romance and how the heroine would use all her mighty strength and wit to secure a happy ending for herself. And maybe the hero too.

“Myungsoo-yah.” His nose was buried in a new edition of Tokyo Ghoul, and he really didn’t want to get up and actually move from his bed.

“Ya, Kim Myungsoo!” Myungsoo put down his manga just in time to save it from the pillow that hit him squarely in the face, groaning once he saw who it was. He quickly pulled the sheets over his head, whining when he felt them being yanked away. “Sungyeol—it’s too early for this—“

“Yeah, but if you don’t start moving I’m leaving you here and you’re going to wait til next year for the next moving up ceremony— yah!“ Sungyeol yelped when Myungsoo flung the sheets aside and headed for the bathroom. “Jerk, see if I wake you up tomorrow!”

“I was already awake in the first place!” Myungsoo yelled through a mouthful of toothpaste, trying to flatten his hair at the same time.

Besides, tomorrow was way more different from today. Today was the day.

The day he moved up and became an official cupid.



2.

Sunggyu took a sip of coffee and promptly made a face once the bitter liquid flowed down his throat. God, that was nasty. Sadly, he hadn’t exactly gone shopping yet, so he had to make do with stale coffee and cup ramyun until he got his latest paycheck. Which happened to be in two days.He couldn’t ask his parents since they would lecture him about responsibility and how lax he was being with his current lifestyle. Jihyun was off the list because she would tell Bora and his friend would no doubt lend him more money and it would make him feel much too guilty.

He couldn’t exactly ask his roommate for money since, well. He wasn’t really on civil terms with Howon at the moment after the shower incident. Or the ramyun incident. He honestly forgot which incident shifted their relationship from snippy to barely civil.

But then again, Sunggyu knew that he had to get Howon up since he had an early class today. He checked his watch and weighed the pros and cons of waking Lee Howon this morning.

Cons: Howon was a grown adult and should be able to wake in time to get to his damn class. Plus, their room always smelled too much like Howon’s musky body wash and made Sunggyu’s head spin and stomach swoop. Damn Lee Howon and his stupid handsome face.

Pros: Sunggyu would be able to guilt his mostly obtuse roommate into paying for his share of the food until his paycheck came. Because Sunggyu really wanted some variation in the crap he ate in his dorm, thank you very much.

He got up, heading towards their shared room and poking his head inside. “Yah Lee Howon, get up or—“ He trailed off, mouth opening and closing before he actually found his voice.

“What the hell, Howon—put some clothes on!”



3.

Howon liked to think he was a nice person. He was polite to his elders, and even helped out at the dance school where Dongwoo hyung taught little kids. The parents of the girls he had dated liked him enough to let their kid go out with him, and he rescued a cat from a tree once.

But really, he had some right to be pissed when his roommate just barged in on him. Especially when Howon wasn’t exactly clothed. Yes, his roommate had nice eyes, the prettiest hands in the world and a singing voice that gave him awkward boners in the shower, but that didn’t change the fact that he could get really pissy and immature.

He scowled and raised the sheets to cover himself. “Geez, hyung. A little privacy would be nice.”

Sunggyu had a similar scowl on his face, arms folded across his chest. “Oh sure, if you didn’t decide to do your business in a room you share with me. Do I even want to know where your hand has been?”

“No you don’t.” Howon rolled his eyes and stood up in an attempt to look intimidating. Sadly, this was difficult to do when you had nothing but blue checkered sheets on. “Besides, you weren’t in here until a minute ago.”

Sunggyu’s eyes narrowed, and it would have been funny if Howon hadn’t seen him in this mood for the past eight months.



4.

Their beginning wasn’t so hostile, to be honest. In fact, there was a time when they were actually polite. Sunggyu had gotten into his university’s music program, only to have his parents threaten to disown him unless he shifted. The arguments had taken place over the course of his freshman year, and escalated into his parents cutting off their financial support. He had managed to reach the deadline before the beginning of his second year, chest feeling much too tight as he gripped his papers.

Sunggyu’s expression was probably too pinched, prompting the guy behind him to tap his shoulder. “Hey, you’re almost up.” The guy’s face was friendly enough, and he too was clutching the required papers.

“You’re shifting as well?”

“Nah. I’m here in my friend’s place since he’s at work. I start here in two weeks though.”

“You’re a transfer student then?” Sunggyu took in the new boy’s build, the strong arms bared by short sleeves. The new guy laughed, and Sunggyu could see the small fangs in his mouth. This guy was attractive, for lack of a better word.

“I’m a freshman, actually. Dance major.” Dance majors shared their building with the music and fine arts majors, Sunggyu recalled, nodding a little. “How abou you, sunbae?”

“I’m, well, I was performance. Shifting to engineering.” He motioned to the papers in his hands, and the boy raised one of his eyebrows at that.

“Oh... that’s too bad. My friend, the one whose papers I’m filing, he told me that dance majors share some classes with the music and fine arts majors.”

“Yeah, too bad...” Sunggyu echoed, stepping forward when the registrar called for the next person in line.



Twelve days passed in the blink of an eye. The new term was starting the day after tomorrow, and Sunggyu’s roommate still hadn’t arrived. Which was just as well, since Sunggyu hadn’t exactly started cleaning his side of the room yet, nor did he plan on doing so.

A knock on the door had Sunggyu getting up from bed, groaning when he caught sight of his reflection. There was no time for a shower now, and his hair wasn’t exactly agreeing with him today. Damn it.

He gripped the doorknob, turning it slowly so he could get a good look at his new roommate.

“Sunbae?” It was that boy from the registrar’s office, that slightly fanged smile on his face again. “This is your room?”

“Obviously.” Sunggyu said wryly, opening the door a little wider and taking note of the boxes and bags at the boy’s feet. “I guess you’re my new roommate... though I still don’t have a clue what your name is.”

“Oh... right. Howon. Lee Howon. How about you though? I don’t think I can spend the whole time calling you sunbae, yeah?”

Sunggyu rolled his eyes at that, finally opening the door wide enough to let Howon through. “Sunggyu. Kim Sunggyu.”



5.

They were arguing again, Myungsoo noticed before turning around to pay attention to another camera. The people being captured now were less volatile, the guy’s nose nuzzling his girlfriend’s cheek affectionately before they started kissing, hands groping...

Okay, this was getting awkward.

Myungsoo quickly turned that camera off and found another one to focus on, cheeks tinged with pink as he fanned himself with his hands. While being on control room shift was relatively easy, there were moments like these when the people they were watching over got a little too frisky. Even cupids knew the value of privacy.

His gaze soon drifted back to the first camera, grimacing as Kim Sungyu and Lee Howon tossed insults at each other. Again. They had been arguing the first time he had seen them eight months ago, and they were still arguing over... well, almost everything. Watching them at loggerheads along with making sure every lovey dovey soul on camera stayed together wasn’t exactly the field mission Myungsoo had been expecting, but he was good at it.

It didn’t mean he really liked it though. When he was younger, he often imagined himself flying down into the human world, bow and arrow in his hand as he got to work. Never had he imagined sitting in a room full of cameras and passing the time making origami out of napkins.

Being on the control room shift meant watching over potential soulmates and making sure that they found their way to each other. These two however, were a special case according to Hakyeon hyung. They needed each other to meet their soulmates, and they couldn’t meet them if they killed each other in the process. Hence the small interventions from the control room in case they got a little too physical.

Myungsoo winced as Howon slammed the bathroom door, and reached for the comm button. These guys needed sedatives. A whole bunch of them.

“Hey, Myungsoo hyung.” Hongbin peeked inside the control room, dimple appearing once he spotted his favorite hyung. “I’m supposed to take over your shift now. They need you in the Red Room.”

Myungsoo raised an eyebrow at that. The Red Room was where all the strings of fate were connected, and it was usually Taekwoon hyung’s job to watch that room. All the other cupids were on assignment or on watch duty in other rooms. Cloud City was a lot larger than most angels thought, you know. “Where’s Taekwoon hyung?”

Okay, there was definitely a hint of a smirk on Hongbin’s face. “Ah, well since we’re short on cupids he had to go down to the human world. The elders paired him up with Hakyeon.” Myungsoo smothered a laugh at that; Hakyeon hyung was a nice hyung, though he did have a habit of clinging onto Taekwoon hyung whenever they were in the same room.

“I hope he finally figures out that the way to hyung’s heart is through his stomach instead of those cheesy lines from those romance dramas...”

“I’m still shocked that he’s a cupid and has trouble finding his way to Taekwoon hyung’s heart in the first place.” Myungsoo laughed at that before getting up from his chair, letting Hongbin sit on it before heading to the Red Room. The Red Room wasn’t really visited by most, but it was fascinating all the same, the entire room covered in dangling red threads that intersected and were tied together in knots to symbolize the romantic ties people had with each other. Together with the control room, they helped all cupids keep track of who was connected to who and how far along their progress was.

Myungsoo stepped into the room, stopping abruptly when he noticed a few threads near his feet. Taekwoon’s usual chair was in the center of the room, and to get there he had to pass through several tangled threads. No wonder hyung always looked so annoyed, Myungsoo thought as he bent his head, making sure not to mess anything up.

He sat down on the chair, trying very hard not to pout because going down to the human world was much better than just sitting here.



Contrary to popular gossip, Myungsoo didn’t mess up on his first day. Nor was it actually his fault. His first day had gone as uneventfully as his previous shifts in the control room, only this time, he had to get through tangled webs of threads every morning and avoid tripping over said threads.

“It improves your lack of hand-eye coordination.” Sungyeol had joked, narrowly avoiding the bread roll that Myungsoo had thrown at his head. “See? You wouldn’t have gotten that close before!”

“You sound like him nearly taking your head off with bread is such a good thing.” Sungjong said wryly, dipping his own bread roll into his chocolate milk. Myungsoo merely made a face at that and went back to eating. Food was much better than this anyway.

So when Myungsoo did have a slight accident, it happened about two months after he was reassigned to the Red Room. They were very short on cupids, with more than half of them being sent to the human world. It was one of those yearly check-ups when the higher-ups felt like the world lacked love.

They were short on cupids, and the higher-ups still expected the same efficiency no matter how many of themwere left in Cloud City.

“Myungsoo hyung!” Sungjong poked his head inside, normally composed demeanor gone in favor of frazzled nerves and slightly messy hair. “We need your help, the control room...”

“What is it?” Myungsoo had never seen Sungjong so high-strung, to be honest.

“The cameras are shutting down one by one. Hongbin and I lost track of some of the cupids, and the higher-ups just announced that they’ll be inspecting everyone—“ Well, that wasn’t good.

Myungsoo got to his feet, only to accidentally trip on a web of threads. The threads twisted back on themselves easily, becoming knotted or tangled and making Myungsoo curse under his breath as he bent down untangle them. Sungjong swore as well once he saw what happened, expression still panicky as he checked behind him if any of the elders had arrived yet.

A few tense minutes passed as Myungsoo managed to untangle the threads and get rid of the knots, managing to make his way towards the door without any other incident. He placed a hand on Sungjong’s shoulder, his own expression full of worry. “C’mon, Jongie. Let’s go check on the cameras.” Sungjong opened his mouth to speak, only to close it again, nodding as they headed back to the control room.

Myungsoo didn’t look back. He couldn’t afford to right now.



6.

Howon had no clue why Sunggyu hated him. It wasn’t like they had a one-night stand or anything, but something, something about him made Sunggyu so ticked off and it irritated Howon to no end, making him lash out at his roommate. It had already been four months since they started living together and Sunggyu was still a complete ass.

Not that he cared or anything. He was just waiting for the school year to be over so he could apply for a different roommate. Six more months of the roommate from hell and he would be done with Kim Sunggyu and his prissy ass.

He brought the idea up with his friend after dance practice, his shirt soaked with perspiration as he gazed at the mirror. “What if I got a different roommate?”

Jang Dongwoo simply bent down to touch his toes, stretching. He was the total opposite of Sunggyu as a hyung; kind and sweet... like a human pastry.

“Who is your roommate, Howonnie?”

“Kim Sunggyu. Engineering.” Howon expected a lot of reactions, but he definitely didn’t expect Dongwoo to light up at the mention of Sunggyu.

“Really? But he’s so squishy! He’s in my year, and I sat next to him in our basic math class... a bit of a perfectionist, but Gyu hyung only looks like he can kill you!” Dongwoo said cheerfully. “He’s actually a cinnamon roll inside, all soft and squishy.”

“He hates me.” Howon deadpanned, arms folded across his chest.

“That’s silly... though I’m surprised he’s in engineering now... he’s an amazing singer. He won last year’s Talent Night.”

“Yeah, I told you that I met him in the registrar’s office while I was handling your shifting papers.” Howon had no clue where this was going.

“You never mentioned it was him, though.” Dongwoo’s lower lip jutted out as he pouted. “I can’t really blame him, I guess... even applying to this college took a lot of guts since his parents disapproved.” Howon looked up at that, brows furrowed in confusion. That sounded familiar.

“What happened?”

“Well, Gyu hyung got accepted into the performance program after his audition wowed all the professors. See, all of the dance, music and performance majors had auditions on the same day and that’s where I met him. I asked him if he wanted to get a sundae, but he said no...”

“Dongwoo hyung... you’re getting off-track again.”

“Right—sorry, Howonnie. Anyway, Gyu hyung got the highest score and went with performance. His parents are alumni here, and they didn’t want him to take up something so frivolous. They cut off all financial support for him last year, and he had to work to support himself... then, um, I’m not entirely clear on what happened, but next thing everyone knew, he shifted right before the school year started.” Dongwoo looked at Howon in concern, a bit confused. “You never knew this?”

Howon shook his head, patting Dongwoo on the back. “Nah... I couldn’t exactly ask him now, could I?”

“I don’t really think he’s happy.”

“I don’t think he is either.” Howon knew all about disapproving parents. Hell, his own parents were against the idea of him pursuing dance in the first place. It had taken a lot of arguments and saving up to get them to finally agree on sending him to this university.

“He still sings though.” Dongwoo said after awhile, the silence surprising Howon a little. This hyung was normally not a fan of silence. “Not on campus, obviously. But sometimes... he sings at this coffee shop in Hongdae.”



Howon remembered the time he found Sunggyu in that coffee shop two months after that conversation, a stroke of luck really. He pulled his hat even lower so his roommate wouldn’t recognize him in the crowd. He stood near the corner, Sunggyu hyung still recognizable with his eyeliner and hamster cheeks, but his posture was a lot less stern than it usually was. He looked relaxed... at peace even with the band behind him and the people gathered in the cafe.

Sunggyu’s hand (he had the loveliest fingers, Howon could admit that) held onto the microphone stand, the other around the microphone as his eyes scanned the crowd. Howon looked away immediately, not wanting to explain himself should Sunggyu find out about his presence tonight.

“We will begin.”

Even still

I hear the sound of you and

Even still

I feel your hand

Even today

I lived in the traces of you

“What are you doing here?” Sunggyu wasted no time in finding Howon after his gig had ended, finding his roommate seated at a table with a plate of cookies and some coffee.

Howon merely held up a chocolate chip cookie, dipping it inside the mug. “Dongwoo hyung said they had nice cookies.”

Sunggyu muttered something about meddling dongsaengs who cared too much before he sat down, looking thoroughly disgruntled. “They are nice.”

“You sing really well.” Howon said, taking another bite of his cookie as he glanced out the window.

“Thanks.” They were quiet for a few minutes as they listened to the next performer sing about writing sins and not tragedies before Sunggyu spoke once more. “I guess you’re not all that bad.”

I don’t even know why you think that. Howon wanted to say, but he held his tongue. Now wasn’t the time. “What can I say? I’m full of charm and all that.”

“Oh, shut up and buy me a damn cup of coffee.”

Howon snorted at that, reaching for his mug and taking a sip. “I’m not your damn date.”

He ended up buying Sunggyu coffee and more cookies. Those things were too damn delicious.

 

 

7.

The explosion didn’t happen that night. In fact, they spent the night talking about their classes, Sunggyu’s singing and Howon’s dancing. It made Howon’s brain spin a little, how civil they could actually be with each other.

When the explosion happened, it was right after a dance performance. Howon had been pumped, high on the adrenaline of the music until he landed wrongly on his left foot in the middle of the choreography. He bit his lip as his foot twisted, fighting to keep his expression focused on the choreography. It had taken both Dongwoo and Woohyun to help him to the clinic, Howon cursing under his breath as a fresh wave of pain traveled from his foot to his leg.

He had gotten home several hours later, temper in check and his foot even more swollen because he kept putting additional pressure on it.

Sunggyu was in bed when Howon got back, reading a book for class tomorrow. He got to his feet when he saw his roommate being supported by both Dongwoo and Woohyun, eyes wider than they’ve ever seen it. “What happened?”

“He landed wrongly during the dance and twisted his ankle. Thankfully he didn’t break anything again... but this will take around six weeks to heal.” Dongwoo’s usual sunny smile was gone, expression full of worry as they maneuvered Howon so that he could lie down. It got even worse when Howon settled against the bed, swearing as Woohyun grabbed one of the couch pillows to place it under Howon’s foot.

“I don’t have six weeks—“ Howon snarled, looking very much like a petulant child as he folded his arms across his chest. “We have another competition.”

“Which you will be sitting out on.” Woohyun put his hand up to stop Howon before he could open his mouth. “And no buts, you need to rest.”

Howon opened his mouth to speak once more, but this time it was Sunggyu who interrupted him. “You’re making this out to be such a dramatic thing. Your foot will heal.”

“Pft.” That just made Howon even madder. “Oh yeah? I’d like to hear you say that when you’ve lost your voice or developed vocal nodules.”

“Howonnie...” Dongwoo placed a hand on Howon’s shoulder to prevent him from getting up. Sunggyu could feel his temper rising, rounding on Howon. But Howon was far from done.

“At least I do something about the things I want. I don’t sulk about how miserable I am because I’m too scared. And I don’t give up like you do and settle for doing something I hate, then take all my frustrations on my roommate.” Howon’s voice was cold, and his words cut right through Sunggyu.

“Howon, stop—“ Woohyun began, only for Sunggyu to get up and head for the door, stepping out and closing it with a loud slam. “Well that went well.”

 

 

8.

Sunggyu didn’t like being wrong, in fact he hated it and went to great lengths to prove that he was actually right more than fifty percent of the time. Now wasn’t one of those times.

He sighed, running a nervous hand through his hair as he thought of what he could say to Howon without turning their barely civil relationship to ... outright hostile. They had fucked it up enough. Sunggyu opened the door, only to jump in surprise when he saw Howon sitting on the couch and looking up at him. Almost as if he had been waiting for Sunggyu. “Howon.”

“Sunggyu hyung.” It was odd, having Howon sit so still because of his injured ankle. Plus he never called Sunggyu “hyung”. Not even when Sunggyu was angry. Trust him, he had a lot of evidence. “You’re here.”

“I am...” Sunggyu said slowly, pulling a chair out from the dining table and facing it towards Howon before sitting down. Now... how was he going to word this...

Howon looked at him, brows furrowed as he waited for Sunggyu to speak. “I guess I’m going to start by saying that I’m sorry.” Sunggyu began, fingers curling into fists as he tried so desperately not to mess this up. “I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that.”

“I’m sorry too—I shouldn’t have brought those things up when I knew they were painful for you—“ Howon trailed off when Sunggyu held up a hand to stop him from speaking, taking a deep breath.

“Okay, I’m an ass. That’s a given, but you didn’t deserve that just because you were basically living the life I wanted. Hell, nobody deserves that and I swear I won’t hold any grudge if you move out because I’m... well, Woohyun has said that I’m difficult sometimes...”

“Well, you are an ass.” Howon cut in, and he snickered when he saw Sunggyu’s eyes narrow. “But I get it. I can be one too, if you haven’t noticed. Now stop apologizing, God, I’m not used to you being nice to me.”

“Yah, Lee Howon—“ Sunggyu made a face at that, trying very hard not to pout. “If you weren’t injured, I swear to God I would—“

Howon merely grinned and settled back against the couch. “It’s okay, you can praise me on my amazing personality.”

“Oh my God, you’re annoying—“

 

 

Sunggyu rarely got nervous. Not while he was performing, not when he was asking girls out on dates. He was calm and collected. So why was he nervous now?

He turned around, only to bump into Howon, who was doing his job as a human barricade a little too well. Well, as much as he could while he was hobbling. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“I can’t do this, they’re going to kill me—“

Woohyun looked remarkably patient as he grasped Sunggyu by the shoulders, expression stern. “Hyung, you can do this. You even met with the placement office and stuff.”

“Plus, there is financial aid. And the ahjumma at the coffee shop already offered you a job too.” Dongwoo added. Sunggyu squared his shoulders, his papers clutched to his chest for a second time. This was so nerve-wracking.

“Hyung, your parents may not see it, but we do. You’re a performer and you’re more than talented enough to get scouted. You’ll probably be scouted by Kim Jonghwan himself.” Okay, now that wasn’t fair, using the power of Kim Jonghwan to get him to do things like this—

“The sooner you do this, the sooner you and Howon can go on your date to that coffee shop like last time.” Damn it, one of these days he was going to strangle Nam Woohyun.

“That wasn’t a date.” Sunggyu and Howon said in unison, but they shrank back immediately when someone shushed them.

“But Howon bought you coffee and cookies.” Dongwoo said wisely. “Plus he went to see you sing.” Sunggyu opened his mouth to refute that, but he was interrupted when the registrar called out for the next person in line.

“Next?” Howon immediately pulled Sunggyu to the front and played the role of human barricade yet again. Sunggyu took a deep breath, then placed his papers on top of the counter. It was now or never.

“I’m here to submit my papers for a change of majors...”

 

 

9.

“You’re still here?” Sungyeol asked incredulously as he stepped inside the control room. Myungsoo was too busy making sure that this girl met up with her best friend and told her how she really felt. He looked up at Sungyeol’s words, raising an eyebrow at the question.

“Um. I’m assigned here, remember?”

His best friend grinned, placing a hand on Myungsoo’s hair and ruffling it. “Well, yes. But see, there’s been an announcement by the elders. We have a lot of cupids up here, but not enough in the human world.” He waited for Myungsoo to react, frowning when Myungsoo’s hand merely reached out to adjust a setting. “Are you even listening to me?!”

“I heard you.” Myungsoo tried very hard not to pout, avoiding Sungyeol’s eyes for the time being. “I might make a mess of things though... remember that incident in the Red Room?”

Okay, now that was just sad. Sungyeol merely rolled his eyes before he flicked Myungsoo’s forehead and ignored the yelp that followed soon after. “Uh-huh, sure. But you managed to untangle the threads just fine and it turns out that Kim Sunggyu and Lee Howon were fated to be soulmates after all. Now come on and get your butt off that chair, Hakyeon hyung specifically asked me to drag you out so we can get our assignments.”

Myungsoo paused at that, not daring to hope as he looked up at Sungyeol. “Really?”

“For a supposedly smart person, you’re really dense.” Sungyeol remarked, reaching down to pull Myungsoo to his feet before he stopped, staring at one of the cameras. Confused, Myungsoo tried to follow Sungyeol’s gaze, only for it to fall on a couple of familiar faces. The screen showed Lee Howon and Kim Sunggyu with their friends and (of course) bickering in between bites of their food. “Unless you want to stay here and watch those two again?”

Myungsoo stared at the two humans, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips when he saw Howon’s hand reach for Sunggyu’s under the table. It took a few more seconds for Sungyeol’s question to sink in, shaking his head before he got to his feet. “I’m not missing the chance to go down below.”

“You sure?” Sungyeol asked playfully, tone teasing. “I know you’re pretty obsessed with watching these two—“

“Yes, I’m sure.” Myungsoo latched onto Sungyeol’s back immediately, sniffing his friend’s back. Sungyeol always smelled good. “I think they’ve taken enough meddling. They’ll be fine.”

And for the first time, he was actually pretty sure of that fact.