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I'll Be Your Man

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Sometimes Wonwoo believes that there were people put on this earth specifically to make his left eye twitch.

Kim Mingyu is most definitely one of those people.

In fact, Mingyu may be the person put on earth to cause Wonwoo grief. The two of them have never gotten along, not even for a second since they met, and they are, as far as Wonwoo is concerned, sworn enemies. They only spend time in the same damn building because they have to for work, and every time they've been assigned to a project together—something that has mercifully only happened three times—Wonwoo has to remind himself, repeatedly, of both the juridical and personal consequences of murdering another human being.

So, you can imagine Wonwoo’s surprise when, on a regular Wednesday morning, Wonwoo is making a cup of tea in the office break room and the door slams open against the wall and a heaving, sweaty, panicked Mingyu busts through the doorway and shouts, “YOU NEED TO COME WITH ME RIGHT NOW AND PRETEND TO BE MY BOYFRIEND.”

Instinctively, Wonwoo raises his hands in surrender.

Mingyu waves a hand, and bends over to catch his breath.

“I’m sorry,” Wonwoo says, running the tape back in his mind, “what did you just say?”

“I need you,” Mingyu repeats, gasping for air as he points at Wonwoo, “to pretend to be my boyfriend.”

There’s a pause, and then Wonwoo bursts into laughter. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with that,” he informs the younger, “but right off the bat, let me remind you that you are straight.”

Mingyu stands up to his full height, and gives Wonwoo a very slow, very skeptical once-over.

“I am at least as gay as you are,” he declares.

Surprised, Wonwoo squints back.

“That would be…” Wonwoo responds, not moving a muscle, “…extremely gay.”

Mingyu inclines his head slowly, like this checks out.

For a long moment, the two of them just stare each other down like they’re about to duel.

Mingyu breaks their stand-off. “Excellent!” he announces, ignoring the fact that they’ve just come out to each other in the fucking break room. “Let’s go.” He strides forward, grabs Wonwoo by the arm, and drags him out of the room and down the hallway.

“Whoa, whoa! Where are we going?” Wonwoo tries to break free, but Mingyu is apparently as strong as his enormous frame suggests. “Where are you taking me?!”

Mingyu answers, “To meet my parents.”

What? “You’re serious about this?” Wonwoo sputters.

“My parents are here,” Mingyu says. “They believe that I have a boyfriend. They believe that that boyfriend is here. And they are not leaving until they meet him.”

Wonwoo slaps ineffectually at Mingyu’s viselike grip. “What are we, in a rom-com? Why am I involved in this?!” A terrible thought occurs to him. “Wait! Do they know you’re gay?”

“My parents know that I like men, and they do not care,” Mingyu says, leading them around a corner. “They care that I am a responsible adult with a job who can hold down a relationship with another responsible adult with a job.”

Wonwoo rolls his eyes at Mingyu’s recitation.

“They care so much, in fact,” Mingyu grimaces, “that every week when my mom calls to see how I’m doing, she asks me if I’ve found someone yet. So two months ago when I couldn’t take it anymore, I made up an imaginary boyfriend to get her off my back.” They pass by the copy room, where Soonyoung is, inexplicably, repeatedly and angrily kicking the copy machine. “Well, guess what? My brilliant plan backfired. Now every week when she calls, she wants an update about my made-up relationship.”

“Classic mom trap.” Wonwoo shakes his head. “You walked right into that one.”

“Well I know that now,” Mingyu huffs. “For two months now I’ve just been hinting vaguely at this guy, not even giving her a name, avoiding talking about it— until I came up with a plan to fix it, which I did, for your information. I’ve been hinting at relationship problems for the past couple weeks so that next week I could tell her we broke up and it would be believable.” Actually, that plan is a lot smarter than Wonwoo’s ever given Mingyu credit for.

Mingyu drags Wonwoo into his swanky office in management, where he slams shut his laptop and grabs his phone and wallet, all while keeping his hold on Wonwoo’s arm intact. “Great plan, right?” Mingyu prompts, shoving a ring of keys into his back pocket.

“Sure,” Wonwoo says. “Except…”

“Except that they chose this week, this week, for a surprise visit.” Mingyu leads Wonwoo back out of his office. “And I told them I met this guy at work, so since they’re here, and they want to meet my mystery boyfriend.” Mingyu’s hold on Wonwoo’s arm is tight enough to practically cut off his circulation.

“Yes, but there are twelve people in this office besides you,” Wonwoo frantically reminds him. “Why me?!”

Mingyu sighs, and halts, rounding on Wonwoo. Wonwoo skids to a stop just shy of slamming into Mingyu’s front.

“Because you are the closest to the imaginary person that I’ve been telling them about,” says Mingyu.

Wonwoo’s left eye twitches.

“I told them that the guy and I work together,” Mingyu elaborates, “and that we’re around the same age, and that he likes books.”

“That is literally every person at this office,” Wonwoo complains. Everyone except maybe Chan the intern, who Wonwoo thinks may not even be old enough to buy cigarettes. “We are a publishing house.”

“And he has to be in editing,” Mingyu adds. “They asked what he did in the office, so I said editing cause it sounded real.”

“Editing is real,” Wonwoo gripes. “And there are still two other people in editing besides me.”

“And he has to have dark hair.”

”’Dark hair’?” Wonwoo repeats, incredulous.

“They asked what he looked like, so I said dark hair!” Mingyu throws his hands up. “What was I supposed to do?”

Well, shit.

It’s true that there are two other editors, Jeonghan and Junhui, but Jeonghan’s hair is currently a shimmering violety-silver, while Junhui’s is a dirty blonde. Simply by process of elimination, the dark-haired mystery boyfriend from editing has to be Wonwoo.

“You weren’t kidding about being vague,” Wonwoo criticizes. “What else did you tell your parents? That this guy was a ‘person’? That he drinks beverages and eats food?”

Mingyu rolls his eyes.

“Look, you’ve lied this far,” Wonwoo tries. “Just grab Jeonghan, say he changed his hair, and leave me out of it.”

“Too late.” Mingyu grabs Wonwoo by the bicep once again and drags him to the elevator bank. He jabs the down button aggressively. “He’s not my type anyway,” Mingyu continues, and Wonwoo doesn’t even have time to get into that. “My parents would never believe it. Come on, we’re doing this.”

“You know we’re mortal enemies, right?” Wonwoo says, giving up on nuance. “I have absolutely no motivation to help you.”

The elevator to their far right dings and opens.

Mingyu doesn’t move towards it. Instead, he leans in close to Wonwoo.

“If you don’t help me,” he says, “then Seungcheol will find out who really smashed his headphones.”

Wonwoo inhales sharply.

“You wouldn’t,” he hisses. “You know it was an accident. And—and you were there too. You’re partly responsible.”

“I don’t care,” Mingyu says, eyes wild and unblinking. “I’ll go down with you.”

He can’t be serious. Those headphones are the stuff of office yore. Their boss Seungcheol has never found the person who did it, but he has vowed to decimate whoever’s guilty in the same manner in which the headphones were decimated. Wonwoo has never once doubted that threat. He swears that Seungcheol has looked at them all differently since they were destroyed— he’s watched them more closely, more suspiciously.

Wonwoo thinks of having to pretend to be Mingyu’s boyfriend for what will hopefully be a few uncomfortable minutes, and then he thinks of how Seungcheol honest to god flipped a table when he found out about his headphones.

It was a very small side table, but still.

Wonwoo chooses to live, however unpleasant that option might currently be.

“Come meet my fucking parents,” Mingyu whispers, eyes terrifyingly empty.

“Fine,” Wonwoo grits out.

“Great,” Mingyu says, snapping out of his trance and going back to looking like a normal person. He pushes Wonwoo into the open elevator.

“Okay. So.” The doors close, and Mingyu hits the button for the ground floor. “I’ll introduce you. They’re going to want to take you out, probably for lunch. They’ll pretend like it’s only gonna be the one meal, but I’m not falling for that one twice. If I agree to one lunch, then we’ll be having every meal with them until they leave. We can’t give in to them, Wonwoo.” His expression is frenzied. “We cannot.”

“Jesus. Okay,” Wonwoo says. “Look, there’s an easy solution to all of this. We’ll meet them, talk for a second, and then I’m gonna say I have to get back to work. And then, we just gotta make sure they can’t get a hold of me for the rest of their trip. After, you can tell them we broke up because I was too busy for you and a terrible boyfriend, or whatever.”

Mingyu looks slightly assuaged. He swipes at the sweat on his forehead, and pushes his hair back into place. Infuriatingly, he's back to looking pulled-together, and not like the sweaty mess he was in the break room, in only a moment. “What’s your excuse for not going to lunch?”

Wonwoo thinks. “I already took my lunch break,” he suggests. Mingyu nods.

“Watch out though,” the younger adds ominously. “They can get tricky. Reeeaaaal tricky.” He sounds like he’s in the middle of a flashback. “Be very careful.”

“Oh…kay…” Wonwoo says, feeling instant regret. He thinks back to his abandoned tea in the break room sadly.

The elevator stops moving and dings again, doors opening, and Mingyu all but shoves Wonwoo out into the lobby.

Wonwoo spots two people who must be Mingyu’s mother and father standing by the glass doors, a man and woman who look a bit older than middle-aged. When they catch sight of Wonwoo and Mingyu, they both brighten.

“Ready?” Mingyu asks, though of course he doesn’t wait for an answer. He’s got his hands clamped around Wonwoo’s shoulders as they approach Mingyu’s parents, pushing Wonwoo forward like he’s presenting the older as a gift.

“Mom, Dad,” Mingyu says when they’re standing before the couple, his low voice smoothing out of its previous franticness, “this is my boyfriend, Wonwoo.”

For a moment, Mingyu’s parents say nothing. Then, they appear to explode with happiness.

“Wonwoo!” The man says. “Nice to meet you!”

The woman goes to shake his hand. “Oh wow, hi!”

“So this is where you’ve been hiding him?” Mingyu’s dad jokes, and Mingyu blushes. Mingyu’s mom is holding onto her handshake with Wonwoo for a much longer time than is considered normal.

“I know it’s silly,” she laughs as she continues to hold Wonwoo’s hand hostage, “but Mingyu is so evasive, that we were worried you weren’t real!”

“Well, I am,” Wonwoo says stiffly. “…Real.”

“HA HA,” Mingyu laughs, “HE’S REAL.”

Mingyu’s parents, thankfully, don’t seem to notice the shitshow. “Wonwoo! Wonwoo, right?” Mingyu’s mom checks, and Wonwoo nods. She finally lets go of his hand. “What do you say we all go out to lunch together? Our treat! So we can talk and get to know each other!”

“Oh, no,” Wonwoo blunders. “Uh, I can’t. Go. I’m busy.” He shoots Mingyu a glance. Back me up here.

“He really can’t, Mom,” Mingyu jumps in. “He already took his lunch break, and he has to get back to work. He shouldn’t even be downstairs with us right now, honestly.”

“Oh, but this is a special occasion!” Mingyu’s mom pouts. “We need to spend some time with Wonwoo! We heard he’s very special,” she says to Mingyu, making him blush deeper.

“Mom,” he whines, but his father cuts him off.

“Mingyu,” he chastises, “let Wonwoo decide for himself.”

Suddenly, Wonwoo finds himself on the business end of very direct eye contact coming from Mingyu’s mom. “Wonwoo,” she says sternly. And oh, oh no. Wonwoo begins to feel the pull of Mom Guilt. This is not good. “Come out to lunch with us.”

Mingyu’s dad stares him down too, and oh, this is really bad. Mingyu’s dad is tall like his son, maybe even a little taller, and it is very intimidating. “Come to lunch with us,” he echoes gravely.

“Just for a little while,” Mingyu’s mom says entrancingly.

Wonwoo’s eyes flit between their twin stares.

“Okay,” he caves.

“Great!” Mingyu’s parents both break from their spell. Wonwoo is reminded of Mingyu minutes ago, extracting promises from Wonwoo and then going back to normal once he got them. “Mingyu,” says his mom, “why don’t you pick the restaurant? You know the area. We’ll go get the car and meet you boys outside in ten.”

They disappear out the front doors.

Wonwoo stares blankly at the spot where they were standing.

“Hello? Hello!” Mingyu’s hand waves in front of Wonwoo’s face. Wonwoo blinks. “Hello? What was that?!” Mingyu looks ready to pull his hair out. “I thought we said no meals! No lunches! That we'd turn them down! It was your plan!”

Wonwoo gestures helplessly. “What do you want me to do? They were so convincing, it was like they hypnotized me or something! You didn’t warn me they were sorcerers!”

Mingyu takes a very deep breath in, and then a long exhale out.

“Fine,” he mutters. “Whatever. It’ll be fine. Just, be cool, and we’ll go get this over with.” He raises his eyes to the ceiling like he’s praying. “One lunch can’t be that bad.”

Oh, how Wonwoo hopes he is right.

Chapter Text

If the first two minutes of their outing are any indication, then no, this lunch will not be easy.

It begins with Wonwoo and Mingyu trapped in the backseat of Mingyu’s parents car. They’re buckled in for maybe a second before they begin an awful eye-contact fight that lasts for three blocks, until Mingyu growls and yanks his phone out his phone. He rapidly scrolls and then types, and Wonwoo thinks maybe Mingyu has decided to just ignore him altogether, until he feels his phone buzz in his pocket.

It’s a message from Mingyu. Apparently, they have each other’s numbers. Wonwoo blames the cursed work projects they’ve had to complete together.

we need a bckstory

Wonwoo’s pretty sure he knows what Mingyu means. But, just to be difficult, he writes, Of what?

of US, Mingyu returns.

of US DATING, he clarifies a second later.

Wonwoo sighs, feeling infinity years old.

Well, I don’t have anything.

All Mingyu writes in response is

headphones

Wonwoo almost crushes his phone in his hand.

Fine, he types. We met at work.

and??????????

How is Kim Mingyu able to make everything annoying? Even the word ‘and’?

We liked each other.
We started dating.
What else do we need?

i thght u were mr book man
havnt u ever read romances
THTS NOT ENOUGH

Up there in the top three hundred things that Wonwoo hates about Mingyu, besides the fact that he is an impatient, petulant, overgrown golden retriever of a human being who somehow manages to make more money than Wonwoo, is his refusal to effectively engage punctuation and capitalization.

Any chance you could use proper grammar? Wonwoo types.

It only takes a second for Wonwoo’s phone to buzz again.

4 u
never

“You boys doing alright back there?” Mingyu’s mom trills from the front.

“YES,” Mingyu and Wonwoo shout together. Wonwoo cringes.

Fuck with me, Kim Mingyu, Wonwoo types briskly. See what happens.

u wish, Mingyu writes back, followed by, inexplicably, an octopus emoji.

“Mingyu, am I going the right way?” Mr. Kim calls from the driver's seat. “Or did I pass it?”

Wonwoo is sure to give Mingyu a glare that says later as Mingyu put down his phone to help with directions.

Once they’re seated at the restaurant, the Kim parents waste no time asking Mingyu about his work. He answers with a series of nervous “fines,” and then, apparently, it’s Wonwoo’s turn.

“And Wonwoo, Mingyu told me that you were an editor?” Mingyu’s mom says.

Wonwoo tries not to laugh. “Yup.”

Mr. and Mrs. Kim both nod like this is a good answer. “Do you like it?” asks Mr. Kim.

“I do,” Wonwoo confesses. “I get to read books all day.”

“Do you have a specialty?” Mrs. Kim asks.

“Ah, yeah,” Wonwoo answers. “Speculative fiction. Sci-fi and fantasy.”

The Kims seem to approve. Good, Wonwoo thinks, this is good. As long as they keep talking about books, he’ll get through lunch no problem.

So of course, the next thing Mr. Kim says is, “So! Tell us how you two got together.”

Mingyu looks to Wonwoo with fear, and Wonwoo realizes with a creeping sense of dread that they never finished working out their backstory.

Everyone is looking to Wonwoo expectantly.

Oh god, okay.

“Well, we...uh,” Wonwoo starts, “we met at work.”

Mingyu’s parents both nod encouragingly. Mingyu stares Wonwoo down, gaze hard.

“We worked together for a long time, and, uh, one day,” Wonwoo gestures uselessly, “Mingyu asked me out.”

Mr. and Mrs. Kim ah in understanding. Mingyu scowls, unimpressed.

“Actually,” he cuts in, “I think it was you who asked me out.”

“Oh no,” Wonwoo returns casually, “it was you.” He decides that, as long as he’s trapped in this situation, he mine as well have some fun. “You said I was the most amazing person you’d ever met.” Mrs. Kim coos in delight, and Wonwoo nods to her in confirmation.

“Oh no no, sweetheart,” Mingyu says, making Wonwoo’s blood boil, “you said you couldn’t resist my ‘model good looks.’ That’s a direct quote,” he tells his father.

“But I remember, you said you were attracted to my maturity and my patience,” Wonwoo emphasizes. “They say opposites attract.”

“Sounds like I said a lot of sweet things,” Mingyu deadpans.

“Well, there’s a lot to like about me,” Wonwoo muses. “I’m young, I’m an editor, I love books,” he gestures nonchalantly, “I have dark hair…”

Across the table, Mingyu’s eyes spell murder.

Mrs. Kim claps happily. “Oh, you two are funny! It’s so nice that you can joke with each other.”

Mingyu smiles at Wonwoo, teeth bared. Wonwoo bats his eyelashes back.

“You know, you’ve got a much better sense of humor than the other men Mingyu has dated,” Mr. Kim observes.

“Oh really?” Wonwoo asks. Mingyu’s eyes go wide with terror. “I would love to hear more about that.”

“Has he never told you? I forgot, you two haven’t been dating for very long. There is so much about Mingyu that you probably don’t know yet,” Mrs. Kim says, ignoring Mingyu’s frantic hand-waving for her to stop.

“On the whole,” Wonwoo asks, leaning in towards her, “how would you describe these men? Use as many adjectives as you you find necessary.”

“Well, if I may say,” Mrs. Kim begins, “you’re the most handsome.”

Wonwoo pointedly maintains eye contact with Mingyu as he takes a drink of water. Mingyu crosses his legs angrily.

“They’re both very handsome,” Mr. Kim allows.

“I mean, you two must not be able to keep your hands off each other!” says Mrs. Kim.

Mingyu bangs his knee up against the table, cursing loudly, and Wonwoo actually sprays water out of his mouth.

”Mom,” Mingyu sputters, red in the face. Mrs. Kim shrugs. Wonwoo coughs so much that Mr. Kim starts to hit him on the back.

“Well, we couldn’t when we were your age,” Mrs. Kim adds, and Mr. Kim has to hit Wonwoo even harder.

“Oh my god,” Mingyu says miserably.

When Wonwoo’s finally able to breath again, he hides his face in his hands.

After twenty more similarly-excruciating minutes, Mrs. Kim says, “Well, we better go get the car,” and stands.

Mingyu stands too. “I’ll go with you, Mom,” he volunteers, voice strangled.

Wonwoo hears Mingyu’s whine of, “Mom, really?” slip through the doors as they exit.

For a moment, Wonwoo worries that he’s going to have to start a conversation with Mr. Kim—Wonwoo’s got some jokes that Hansol calls his ‘dad jokes,’ so maybe he should tell one of those?—but he’s saved when Mr. Kim speaks first.

“She’s a bit much, I know,” Mr. Kim says, tone gentle. He nods towards Mrs. Kim. Outside the doors, Mrs. Kim tries to placate her son before he has an aneurysm. “She’s always been like that. You can’t imagine the situations it got Mingyu into when he was a kid.”

Wonwoo chuckles. He’d like to imagine it, at least. Outside, Mingyu gestures wildly, again red in the face. Mrs. Kim watches him, unmoved.

“They’re both a little much, actually,” Mr. Kim muses, as they watch Mingyu facepalm at something his mother has said. “But not in a bad way.”

Wonwoo does often find Mingyu to be too much, but not usually in a good way, so he doesn’t say anything.

“It’s not very often that he introduces us to people,” Mr. Kim adds. “He must like you a lot.” He smiles at Wonwoo.

Oh, jeez. Wonwoo smiles back pathetically.

“He’s a good boy,” Mr. Kim continues. “I know he’s a lot to handle sometimes. But, he’s very sweet beneath that.”

Wonwoo feels something heavy settle in his chest. He avoids eye contact.

“So, maybe you can understand why we’re just excited to spend time with you.” This time, Mingyu’s dad doesn’t go for guilt; he approaches Wonwoo with sincerity, which is even worse. Wonwoo is totally, utterly weak to sincerity. “I hope we get to do a couple more things together before we leave.” He smiles again, brightly. “What do you think?”

Oh, shit.

Wonwoo figures, once he and Mingyu have been dropped back off in front of their office building, he might as well bite the bullet.

“We’re going shopping with your parents tomorrow,” Wonwoo sighs. “The two of us with them.”

Mingyu’s face goes blank.

“Wh—what?” he asks, voice trembling. “But—but why? How?!”

Wonwoo turns back towards the building and starts walking. “I’m sorry,” he says, resigned. “It’s too late. Don’t ask.”

“But—but why?” Mingyu shrieks, still planted to his spot on the curb. “We were done, Wonwoo! WE WERE DONE!”

“See you tomorrow after work,” Wonwoo returns, charting a path for the break room. He’s going to need some fucking tea.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Wonwoo says the next afternoon, as he and Mingyu wait in front of the elevator bank, “remember that time you stole my phone and changed the settings so that every time I wrote ‘busy’ it autocorrected to ‘horny?’”

Mingyu busts out a proud smile. “Yeah.”

“And remember how, after that, I stole your phone and emailed screenshots of your internet history to Joshua?”

Mingyu’s smile drops.

“Hm,” he mutters to the floor.

Yeah. Joshua still asks Mingyu at least once a week, with slight desperation in his eyes, if Mingyu would like to come to church. “Well,” Wonwoo continues, “if you call me ‘sweetheart’ again in front of your parents, I will do that again, but this time, I’ll send what I find to everyone on your contact list.”

“I have a passcode now,” Mingyu counters.

“Alright,” Wonwoo returns. “So as long as it’s not 1-2-3-4, you’re fine.”

Mingyu crimsons.

“Uh huh,” says Wonwoo.

The middle elevator dings and opens up, and they both walk in. Wonwoo hits the button for the lobby.

Mingyu says, “I’ll change my passcode.”

“Work computer,” Wonwoo says easily. “Password1. Hey, is it even allowed to let you use a password like that? Shouldn’t it stop you? Shouldn’t it be like, password denied, because it is literally the most obvious password in the history of time?”

Mingyu says, “I’ll bribe Chan to hack into your computer and mess with your copyedits.”

“And then I will kill you,” Wonwoo says.

Mingyu’s smile reappears, just the tiniest bit. “But will you have time?” he asks.

Wonwoo frowns. “Time for what?”

“Time to kill me,” Mingyu says, “before Seungcheol finds out about his headphones and kills you.”

Wonwoo bites back a curse.

”Don’t call me sweetheart,” he repeats through gritted teeth.

“Alright,” Mingyu smirks. “How about…honey?”

“Wow.” Wonwoo exhales. “I think I just, like…threw up in my mouth a little.”

“Sweetie pie,” Mingyu offers.

“Remember what I said about killing you,” Wonwoo threatens. The elevator dings as it reaches the lobby.

“You may not remember this in your old age, but it is your fault that we are going on this shopping trip,” Mingyu informs airily. “I’ll call you whatever I want. Love muffin.” He smirks as the doors open.

Wonwoo trips Mingyu on his way out of the elevator.

In retaliation, Mingyu bodily shoves Wonwoo back in before the doors close so that he has to ride the elevator down to the basement and then back up to the lobby before he can get out.

Worth it.

Usually, Wonwoo shops at the mall.

Actually, correction: usually, Wonwoo waits until Seungkwan sighs at whatever he’s wearing and then drags Wonwoo to the mall. They dedicate an entire Saturday to Wonwoo trying on a bunch of stuff, and then Wonwoo buys all those same clothes in a size larger and preferably with longer sleeves that he can pull over his hands, and declares himself done for the next three months. He enjoys picking out fancy flowers to send to Seungkwan as a thank you after those weekends, which always delights Seungkwan.

This afternoon, Mingyu’s parents take Wonwoo and Mingyu to some upscale men’s clothing store that Wonwoo’s never even heard of. They insist on getting ‘work’ clothes for Mingyu, which apparently are hella expensive suits. Wonwoo personally wears sweaters and jeans to work most days, but he figures there’s more pressure on Mingyu to look a certain way as a person in management.

“Be careful,” Mingyu mutters desperately to Wonwoo as Mrs. Kim pulls her son away to look at shirts, “if say you like one thing, we’ll never escape.”

“Wait, then what do I do?” Wonwoo whispers back.

“Stay neutral!” Mingyu hisses. “Say nothing, don’t show weakness!” and then he’s being dragged away, leaving Wonwoo and Mr. Kim to look at ties. Well, Mr. Kim looks at ties, and Wonwoo tries not to look at anything in particular or show any emotion.

Some time later, as Wonwoo is having a series of covert mini heart-attacks over the prices of tie clips, he hears his name being called.

He follows the voice to the outside of the dressing rooms, where Mrs. Kim is standing.

“Wonwoo, dear,” she says furtively. “Do you mind checking on Mingyu?” She points towards one of the rooms.

Apparently this is a thing she finds appropriate for him to do as Mingyu’s boyfriend. Wonwoo calls for Mingyu and knocks on the door, waits for Mingyu’s affirmative answer, and then enters.

The dressing room is pretty large and pretty decked out. There’s a bunch of mirrors and a very low shelf built into a corner that’s probably intended for stacking clothing. As it is, Mingyu is sitting on the shelf, fully clothed, his face in his hands. Wonwoo closes the door behind him.

When Mingyu looks up at Wonwoo, he appears completely exhausted.

“Everything…alright?” Wonwoo asks.

Mingyu pushes at his hair restlessly. “I can’t even—what I mean is, I’m trying with them but I—I’m just overwhelmed and—“

“Hey—hey, calm down,” Wonwoo says. “Just like, take a deep breath.”

Mingyu obeys, tilting his head back.

Then he says, “she—my Mom—started talking to me about when I’d get promoted, and if I’d get a new apartment, and when I was gonna get married, and I just…couldn’t.” He exhales again. “So I grabbed the clothes she’d picked out already and hid in here.”

“Jeez.” Wonwoo would’ve ran away too. “That sounds…intense.”

“Yeah. Look,” Mingyu says. “I know we’re immortal enemies or whatever, but it wasn’t my plan to drag you into all this. I’m—I’m sorry.”

Wonwoo tries not to laugh at Mingyu’s blunder. And okay, yeah, they may be enemies, but that doesn’t mean Wonwoo’s a sadist who’s gonna just watch a person break down under massive pressure from their parents.

“Hey, it’s not a big deal,” Wonwoo says. “It’s not you, it’s your parents. Clearly they care about you a lot, but they seem like they can be a little…overwhelming.”

Mingyu’s face relaxes with relief. “Yes,” he agrees.

Right.

Okay then.

“And it’s mortal enemies,” Wonwoo tacks on.

Mingyu’s brow furrows. “What?”

Wonwoo waves a hand. “Nothing.”

“I know they mean well,” Mingyu recites.

“Yeah, well,” Wonwoo says, “that doesn’t mean that they won’t drive you up the wall.” Mingyu nods. “Hey,” Wonwoo continues, a bit fidgety from the unusual experience of comforting Mingyu, “it’s going to be fine. Okay? Just make it through these next couple days and you’re in the clear.”

Mingyu nods again, seeming reassured.

“But also,” Wonwoo says, “right now you have to try on these clothes, because we’ve been in here for kind of a while and your parents need to think you’ve been deciding on shirts.”

Mingyu frowns. “What else would we be doing?”

Wonwoo coughs awkwardly.

“Oh. HA!” Mingyu bursts out, then looks ashamed of himself.

Dear god. “Just—try these on,” Wonwoo prompts, embarrassed. He takes one of the shirts off the hanger and Mingyu takes the cue, reaching for the hem of the sweater he’s wearing.

Wonwoo looks towards the door with the intent of not having to witness Mingyu undressing. “Uh, here,” he says, offering the shirt, but he needs to look in Mingyu’s direction to make sure Mingyu gets it, which means he still manages to see the other shirtless. And of course, of course Mingyu’s got a freaking eight-pack. Wonwoo rolls his eyes.

Mingyu rapidly buttons the shirt up, then turns back to Wonwoo. “How is it?”

“It’s alright.” Actually, it fits pretty well, but Wonwoo doesn’t want Mingyu to think he can just put on whatever’s thrown at him and still look like a god damn Ken doll. Wonwoo throws in a shrug for good measure.

“Hmm.” Mingyu quirks his mouth, looking down at the cuffs. “Should I try the other one?” As usual, he doesn’t wait for an answer; he just strips and makes a beckoning gesture at Wonwoo.

“…what?” Wonwoo asks.

“The other shirt,” Mingyu says.

“Oh. Right.” Wonwoo hands it over.

This one also fits perfectly. Wonwoo tells Mingyu it’s fine.

Mingyu is confused when Wonwoo had advises him, with exasperation, to buy both shirts—I thought you said they weren’t good?—but the Kims seem happy with the purchase, and that means they’re done getting clothes.

Afterwards, Mingyu’s parents usher Mingyu and Wonwoo to a nearby upscale grocery store. “We’ll be quick!” Mrs. Kim promises, and Wonwoo and Mingyu loiter in the produce while the Kims do their shopping.

“This is pretty obviously a ploy to make me come back with you guys for a home-cooked meal, isn’t it,” Wonwoo says, already knowing the answer.

“Yep,” Mingyu agrees. He picks up an apple and immediately stuffs it in his face.

Wonwoo is cruelly reminded that up there in those three hundred things he dislikes most about Mingyu is the younger’s habit of theatrically eating every meal like it’s his last.

“Do you think you could eat the food in your mouth?” Wonwoo asks. “Like, just keep the food inside your mouth while you’re eating it. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.”

Mingyu lets his mouth hang open to reveal the chewed-on apple.

Wonwoo grimaces.

“Okay,” he tells Mingyu, “so now you need to pay for the apple and the therapy I have to go through for having seen that.”

Mingyu ignores him. Wonwoo moves to check out the little premade soups in the chilled section, and Mingyu toddles after him, half-eaten fruit in hand.

“Hey,” Wonwoo warns, “keep your distance. You get too close chewing like that and my shirt’s going to look like one of those art pieces with the paint splatters.”

“Jahyan powog,” Mingyu says through a mouthful of apple.

Wonwoo scowls. “What?”

Mingyu swallows.

“Jackson Pollock,” he repeats. “The guy who did the paint splatters.”

“Oh,” says Wonwoo.

“Twentieth century abstract expressionist.” Mingyu takes another vicious bite.

Wonwoo squints at him. Mingyu shrugs, chomping loudly as he demolishes the rest of the apple. Then, horrifyingly, he eats the core too.

“Oh god,” Wonwoo says, traumatized.

“There you two are!”

Wonwoo and Mingyu turn and find the Kims, laden with grocery bags. “We’re all finished,” continues Mrs. Kim. She smiles at Wonwoo. “Actually, Wonwoo, I’m cooking dinner tonight, and I know we said we’d just go shopping, but is there a chance you’re free to—“

“Sure,” Wonwoo says before she can even finish the invitation. He’s hungry anyway.

Chapter Text

Wonwoo gets maybe two seconds inside Mingyu’s apartment before the other is dragging him away from Mr. and Mrs. Kim and down the hall. “Just going to put away the new clothes!” Mingyu tells his parents. As far as Wonwoo is aware, the two shirts they bought have not procreated and thus increased in number since being put in their shopping bag, but the Kims don’t call them out on the excuse as Mingyu steers Wonwoo towards his bedroom, so Wonwoo just goes with it.

“Okay. So.” Mingyu closes his bedroom door and throws his shopping bag onto the bed. “My parents probably think you’re here all the time. So please, none of this—“ He looks around with wide eyes, like a confused baby, then drops the act. “You gotta act like you know your way around here. Hey. Hey. Wonwoo?”

Wonwoo doesn’t answer, too busy copying Mingyu’s actions and looking around cluelessly.

“Huh?” Wonwoo snaps to attention. “What? Sorry.” He smiles brightly. “Everything here is so new.”

“I said,” Mingyu repeats, “please just act like you know your way around. Be chill.”

“Got it,” Wonwoo says. “Don’t mention the secret sex dungeon in the back.”

“I don’t have a sex dungeon.”

“Exactly,” says Wonwoo. He winks theatrically.

Mingyu sighs. “Wonwoo, don’t say something to my parents about me having a sex dungeon.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wonwoo says innocently, and winks again.

“God,” Mingyu says, exasperated, “please don’t make this a thing.”

“Okay,” Wonwoo agrees. “I’ll try not to make a thing about your SEX DUNGEON.”

“What was that?” Mr. Kim calls from the front of the apartment.

“NOTHING,” Mingyu calls back, voice strangled. He makes a series of gestures that Wonwoo guesses are supposed to signify violence. “BE RIGHT THERE,” Mingyu adds.

Wonwoo blows Mingyu a kiss on his way out of the room.

Apparently, Mingyu can cook, because he and his mom make dinner together, and when it’s close to ready Wonwoo and Mr. Kim clear off and then set the table. It’s all going pretty well until Mr. Kim lines up the place settings and he mutters, “hmm, that’s not right. Wonwoo?”

Wonwoo looks up. “Yeah?”

“Would you grab another glass?”

“Oh.” Wonwoo says. “Sure. I can do that.”

…where, exactly, are the glasses?

Wonwoo looks to Mingyu for help, but the other is too busy helping his mom at the stove to notice.

“Um…” Wonwoo pads into the kitchen slowly. If I was a glass, where would I be? With nothing else to go on, he selects a cabinet that looks kind of like the one he keeps his glasses in at home, and reaches for it.

Suddenly, Mingyu sidles up to Wonwoo and bumps their hips together, nudging Wonwoo over one cabinet. “Let me help you with that, honey bear,” Mingyu coos, opening the correct cabinet and easily snatching a glass from the top shelf.

“Wow, thanks,” Wonwoo says, accepting the cup.

“It’s funny,” Mingyu tells his dad, “sometimes I forget that those top shelves are just too high for Wonwoo.”

“I’m so silly, trying to reach for the cup all by myself,” Wonwoo returns flatly. “Maybe later you can show me how to use it.” He hands the glass over to Mr. Kim, then directs a glare at Mingyu. Sex dungeon, he mouths.

Headphones, Mingyu mouths back.

Mr. Kim looks between them. “Is everything alright?”

“What? Oh, nothing,” Mingyu says, remembering his father’s presence.

“Okay,” Mr. Kim says, a little skeptically, returning to the table.

“Just excited for dinner,” Mingyu follows up. “Everything’s normal!”

Wonwoo facepalms.

Five minutes into the meal, Mrs. Kim abruptly announces, “Okay, why don’t we just talk about this.”

Everyone pauses.

She looks at Mingyu, and then Wonwoo. “You two have been having a lot of moments alone,” she says seriously. “And I think I know why.”

For a moment, Wonwoo worries that she’s going to say another thing about Mingyu and Wonwoo having sex that will prevent the two of them from ever again being able to make eye contact, but then Mrs. Kim says, “You’re fighting, aren’t you?”

Oh. Right.

“Um, Wonwoo,” Mingyu says, eyes shifty, “I…told my mom that we were having some problems. I’m sorry I didn’t mention it earlier.”

Wonwoo tries to react like this is new information. “Oh.”

“I explained to her that we were…disagreeing at work,” Mingyu says pointedly, which apparently was the limit of Mingyu’s creativity in describing their imaginary relationship problems to his parents.

“Right,” Wonwoo agrees slowly. “We’ve been having issues…at work…because…” He searches for the most realistic-sounding explanation he can think of, and then inspiration hits. “It’s difficult because we work together and we’re a couple.” That sounds real, right? “So then we get stressed out. And fight.”

Mr. Kim supplies, “That must be a difficult balance, between a relationship and work.”

“Yes. Balance. Exactly.” Wonwoo nods. “Thank you.”

Mingyu catches on. “It’s especially hard when we’re assigned to projects, because then we’re under pressure to get stuff done.” Which Wonwoo has to admit is…not not true. “For example, we fought a lot on our last project together.”

On their last project together, Wonwoo threw a 10-piece box of chicken nuggets, piece by piece, at Mingyu when he wouldn’t stop singing that Rick Astley song. Mingyu responded by changing Wonwoo’s ringtone to the song when he was in the bathroom.

Mingyu’s tone shifts to something a little more serious. “Or, the thing with the sequel.”

“What sequel?” asks Mr. Kim.

Oh.

Oh, no. No, Wonwoo does not want to talk about this right now.

“What, what is it?” Mrs. Kim asks, looking between the two of them.

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo warns.

Mingyu looks back with an unfamiliar expression.

Not too long ago, Wonwoo was assigned to edit a debut work, a magical realism novel. He fell in love with the story, and he knew the author, and he knew that there was another sequel in the works. Wonwoo wanted the company to sign on for that sequel, badly. So he decided to talk to management about it, give a whole pitch if he had to, but before he could, Mingyu caught on and asked Wonwoo about it. And, despite never once trusting Mingyu in the past, Wonwoo had taken a chance—if someone in management proposed it, it was almost sure to go through—and plead his case.

“I’ll do what I can,” Mingyu had said, the most serious Wonwoo had ever seen him, and for just a second, just a second, Wonwoo had actually trusted him. Wonwoo let Mingyu go and talk to Jihoon and Seungcheol on his behalf, and crossed his fingers, and waited.

And then Wonwoo got the news: no sequel.

“I said I would help Wonwoo get a sequel signed for a book he was editing,” Mingyu begins.

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo repeats, sharp.

“But I couldn’t get it done,” Mingyu continues. “I tried to pitch the entire series, which was a mistake. We’d just signed two series, so Seungcheol and Jihoon wouldn’t go for another so soon.”

Wait.

That’s not what happened.

“I should’ve just done what Wonwoo said,” Mingyu admits. “Just asked for the sequel.”

“Wait, hold on,” Wonwoo says, confusion temporarily distracting from his anger. “What do you mean, a series?”

“There were supposed to be five books total, right?” Mingyu asks. “I wanted to see if we could get all of them.”

But—Wonwoo struggles, “If I’d—but, I thought you hated it, and that’s why it didn’t get approved.”

“I didn’t hate it,” Mingyu says, like it’s the most obvious thing. “I liked it, a lot. And I thought it would sell really well.” At Wonwoo’s surprise, he adds, “I read it, when you sent me a copy. Remember?”

Wonwoo does remember giving Mingyu a draft of the manuscript after they’d talked about a sequel, but he’d shared it mostly so Mingyu could have it on hand for the pitch, but he’d never thought the younger actually read it, much less enjoyed it.

“I can read, you know,” Mingyu says, but it’s not quite the taunt that Wonwoo is accustomed to.

When Wonwoo doesn’t say anything, Mingyu continues, “We’re up to re-evaluate it for signing at the end of the year, and I’ve been reminding Jihoon and Seungcheol when I can, so we’ll get the series this time. I made sure you’ll be in charge of the project if it does.” He frowns. “I thought Jihoon told you. You didn’t know?”

“No—I, no,” Wonwoo says. “I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Yes, Mingyu, why didn’t you say anything?” Mr. Kim echoes, and Wonwoo is jolted by the reminder that the Kims are also at the table.

Mingyu drums his fingers on the table. “It’s not that simple.”

With a sinking feeling, Wonwoo realizes that Mingyu couldn’t tell Wonwoo, because Wonwoo had refused to speak with him for a full month after the sequel was rejected.

Mingyu says, “I’m sorry.”

“I…“ Wonwoo feels oddly helpless. “I’m not…um…”

He doesn’t come up with anything.

Mercifully, Mr. Kim says, “Okay, well, I think that’s enough for now. Why don’t we clean up, and maybe you two can talk about this more later.”

Everyone else stands up to clear their plates. Wonwoo follows suit belatedly.

“Wonwoo, would you help me with the dishes?” Mr. Kim asks, breaking Wonwoo from his reverie.

“Yeah, sure,” Wonwoo agrees, and joins Mr. Kim at the sink.

When dinner is over and it’s starting to get late, Mingyu volunteers to give Wonwoo a ride home.

Besides Wonwoo giving directions at the beginning, the drive is strangely quiet without the Kims there, and they sit in silence for several minutes before Mingyu finally speaks up.

“But really,” he says, “could you have been any more obvious looking for that glass? I mean, come on. Did you listen to me at all?”

“How was I supposed to know where the cups were?” Wonwoo complains. "Also." He turns in the passenger seat to fully face Mingyu. “I could’ve reached that glass myself.

Mingyu snorts. “No, you couldn’t have.”

“I’m not that short! We’re almost the same height.”

“Even if that’s true,” Mingyu says, “how come you seem so short?”

"Excuse me?”

This continues back and forth until they reach Wonwoo’s apartment complex.

“Okay fine, you’re not that short,” Mingyu says. “Can you get out of my car, please?”

“I hope you lose an inch of height while you sleep tonight,” Wonwoo says as he gets out.

“I’ll still be taller than you!” Mingyu shouts right before Wonwoo slams the door shut.

No one’s there to see, but Wonwoo still rolls his eyes as Mingyu drives off.

Chapter Text

The next day, for the first time in a very long time, Wonwoo goes out of his way to find Mingyu in the office.

It actually takes him a really long time. He’s surprised to finally locate the younger in, of all places, the art department. Mingyu’s sitting with Seokmin at one of those angled drawing desks as they pore over an image—from the doorway, it looks to Wonwoo like a sketch or rough illustration, just black and white. Seokmin talks animatedly about composition and triangles, and when he compliments the shading on some part of it, Mingyu brightens. When Minghao pauses as he passes by and leans over to look too, he throws in another compliment, and Mingyu smiles and begins to explain a technique excitedly.

Wonwoo clears his throat.

Three faces look up at him. “Hey guys,” Wonwoo greets. “Mingyu, I was looking for you.”

Mingyu’s excitement doesn’t seem to damper at all at Wonwoo’s arrival. “Thanks guys,” he tells Seokmin and Minghao, and makes his way over to Wonwoo with a bounce in his step. “What’s up?” he asks, still smiling.

“What’s that?” Wonwoo asks, peering around Mingyu to try and catch another glimpse of the illustration. Mingyu’s expression flickers nervously for a second. “Is that for a jacket design?”

“It’s nothing,” Mingyu assures Wonwoo quickly, but he’s still probably the most excited Wonwoo’s ever seen him. “Just a little project. Is everything okay?”

Right. “Everything’s fine,” Wonwoo answers. “It’s just, your parents, they were trying to get in touch with you to plan something,” Wonwoo feels himself color slightly as he tells the story, “but you didn’t pick up your office or cell number, apparently, so they asked to be connected to me. So uh, I said I would go and try to find you.”

“Ah.” Mingyu colors slightly too. “Sorry. I must’ve left my phone in my office when I came here. Okay, I’ll call ‘em.” He flashes Wonwoo a smile. “Thanks.”

“Oh. I was going to say,” Wonwoo explains awkwardly, “you could come take the call in my office. I left them on hold, so you could…” as he says it he realizes how ridiculous he was to do that. “…actually, never mind.”

Mingyu looks surprised, but then he flashes another bright smile and says, “sure, alright! Let’s go.”

Mingyu, as always, can be trusted to make things harder than they have to be; he plants his butt smack in the middle of Wonwoo’s desk and lounges around like a panther as he uses the phone. Wonwoo answers emails as Mingyu talks, and resists the urge to just shove Mingyu off the desk and onto the floor.

“Yes,” Mingyu says into the phone between pauses. “Yes, yep. Uh-huh.” Another pause. “You want me to thank Wonwoo for finding me while you guys waited?” He looks at the older. “Wonwoo, thank you for finding me while my parents waited. I know it distracted from your very important work on your stamp collection.”

Eyes on his computer, Wonwoo flips Mingyu off.

“He says, no problem, his pleasure. Yes, I know, he’s a real sweetheart.” Pause. “No, after six. Yeah, sounds good. Okay.” One more pause, and he turns to Wonwoo and covers the mouthpiece of the phone. “They want to talk to you.”

Wonwoo feels a minor hit of anxiety—he's not sure he's got the emotional energy for a real conversation with Mingyu's parents right now—but Mingyu must be able to tell, because he suggests, “speakerphone,” knowingly. Wonwoo nods, immediately feeling relief, and Mingyu hits the speaker button on the phone console.

“Hellooooo, you are on speakerphone!” Mingyu announces.

“Mingyu, we said we wanted to talk to Wonwoo, not both of you. We already talked to you,” sasses Mrs. Kim, and Wonwoo laughs at Mingyu’s pout. Mr. Kim asks how Wonwoo is doing, but before he can even answer, Mrs. Kim asks, “Are you busy tonight? Do you want to have dinner with us?”

“That’s really sweet. Actually, though,” Wonwoo says, “I feel like I should really let you guys have some family time.”

“Oh, Wonwoo,” sighs Mrs. Kim. “You’re so diplomatic. I know, I know, we’ve been taking up so much of your time. You deserve an evening or two to yourself.”

“Oh, no—“ Wonwoo begins.

“No, it’s fine, it’s fine!” assures Mrs. Kim. “We understand. Don’t we understand, honey?”

“We understand,” comes Mr. Kim’s voice.

“Though,” Mrs. Kim muses, “you don’t want to drop by even for a quick dinner? I’m making scallops!”

“Um,” Wonwoo begins, trying to think of a curteous way to decline.

“He can’t, Mom,” Mingyu cuts in. “He’s allergic to seafood.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Kim says, sounding a little embarrassed. “Well, then of course you don’t have to come to dinner.”

Mingyu shoots Wonwoo a crooked smile. “He was just being polite.”

For a moment, Wonwoo’s almost stunned that Mingyu remembers his allergy. Then, he recalls the shouting matches they’ve had over what to order for dinner every time they’ve worked late together, and Mingyu’s memory doesn’t seem so miraculous.

Mingyu talks a little more with his parents before they say goodbye to each other, and goodbye to Wonwoo, and Mingyu ends the call.

Then, he and Wonwoo sit there and both look at the phone console for a moment.

“You do deserve a night off,” Mingyu says abruptly. He gestures vaguely, which Wonwoo takes to mean, from all of the excitement with my family.

“Yeah, well,” Wonwoo muses. “Those stamps aren’t going to collect themselves.”

Mingyu quietly snorts. Wonwoo realizes that this is probably the most polite they’ve ever been with each other.

Mingyu hops off Wonwoo’s desk to leave, but he halts himself by the doorway.

“If you can manage it, you should see if you can put away that collection for Tuesday. My parents leave the next day and I think they’re going to want us to do a big dinner or something.” He shoves his hands in his pockets. “But I know you probably don’t want to do another thing, so—”

“It’s fine,” says Wonwoo. It's only one more thing anyway.

With one more crooked smile, Mingyu’s out the door.

Wonwoo’s evening is actually really nice; he grabs food with Hansol and Chan the Intern, and then he catches the other editorial staff for drinks at a place near his apartment.

At some point in the evening, though, Junhui and Jeonghan pause the conversation and Junhui asks Wonwoo, “you okay?” and inclines his head towards Wonwoo’s hands.

Wonwoo looks down and sees that he’s got his phone out, with a message opened up. It’s addressed to Mingyu. He didn’t even realize he’d done that.

What are you thinking? he asks himself. What would he even say?

Probably, he would just check on Mingyu’s evening, see how it’s going. Make sure he’s not getting grilled too badly by his parents without Wonwoo there as a buffer.

Where is that impulse even coming from?

“I’m cool,” Wonwoo assures them, exiting the message. “What were you saying?”

Wonwoo puts his phone away, and waits for the impulse to pass.

Chapter Text

Over the weekend, Wonwoo is surprised to find, when he does the slightest calculation, that he’s spent much less time with Mingyu and his parents than he’d previously thought. It had felt like a week of knowing them; it turns out to have been literally three days.

This, Wonwoo thinks, explains the rather quiet feeling that his weekend alone takes on. He’s apparently already grown used to all the excitement. He also thinks this could explain why running into Mingyu just as soon as he gets to work Monday is less irritating than…normal.

They catch each other in the hallway when Wonwoo’s heading for Jihoon’s office. “Hey,” Mingyu says, and just like on Friday he smiles when he sees Wonwoo, like it’s a normal reaction for him when Wonwoo shows up. “You going to see Jihoon?”

“Yep. Need to ask him something.”

“Is it for a project?”

Wonwoo bites back a sheepish grin. “Actually, uh…” he feels his cheeks pink. “Jun and Jeonghan dared me to ask if we could do the next end-of-the-year party at The Package.”

Mingyu asks, “What’s The Package?”

Mortified, Wonwoo explains, “It’s a male strip club downtown.”

Mingyu bursts into one of his awkward laughs. “HA! Oh, god.”

“We were drunk when they dared me,” Wonwoo explains. “It was ridiculous. Jeonghan even bet his hair on it, if Jihoon said yes.”

“His hair?”

“Yeah, he said he’d cut his hair to,” Wonwoo makes air quotes, “‘boy length.’”

Mingyu’s eyes widen. “No.”

Wonwoo placates, “He only said it because he knows Jihoon will say no. But I took the dare, so.” He shuffles, feeling pretty silly now that he's saying it aloud. “I'm following through.”

Mingyu gets a really shifty look.

“Okay, I’m gonna tell you a secret,” he says furtively. “But you can’t tell anyone else.”

He leans in towards Wonwoo conspiratorially.

Wonwoo leans in too, intrigued.

“Jihoon will agree to almost anything,” Mingyu says quietly, “if you bring up Soonyoung when you pitch it.”

Wonwoo says, “…what?”

“I’m serious,” Mingyu insists. “Just say Soonyoung helped you come up with it, or that he thought it was a good idea, and I swear, Jihoon will go for it. Every single time.”

Wonwoo shakes his head, disbelieving. “Even if that’s true,” he allows, “he won’t go for it for this. I mean, it’s The Package. I’m going to say aloud, ‘The Package.’”

“I couldn’t make this up,” Mingyu assures him. “I promise you, it’s for real. Go, try it.”

Wonwoo exhales. “I can’t believe I’m about to do this. But I’m telling you, it’s not gonna work.”

He heads into Jihoon’s office.

As soon as Wonwoo’s out the door, he’s ambushed by Mingyu, who had apparently been waiting and now looks ready to explode. “So?” he stage whispers. “Did it work?”

Wonwoo stifles a giddy laugh. “It did!”

Mingyu throws his arms in the air. “Yes! I told you!” He ushers them around a corner so they’re out of earshot of Jihoon’s offie.

“That’s so weird!” Wonwoo says as soon as they’re hidden. “I mean, I said, ‘The Package!’ I said, ‘go to a male strip club!’”

“I know,” Mingyu says. “And I’ve tried it with other names! Every other name in the office. And some famous peoples’ names too. It doesn’t work! But always Soonyoung. Once, I just mentioned him at the end of a pitch, just like, ‘oh and by the way, have you seen Soonyoung today?’ and it still worked!”

Wonwoo can’t help a lightheaded laugh. “Wait wait—wait,” he realizes, “does this mean everything Soonyoung pitches to him gets approved?”

“Nope,” Mingyu shakes his head, “it’s the opposite! They fight over everything Soonyoung pitches. I’ve seen it! It’s awful!”

Wonwoo grins. “What’s that all about?”

Mingyu’s smile fades a bit.

“Well,” he says. He gestures at nothing. “You know.”

Wonwoo frowns. He really doesn’t. Mingyu just avoids eye contact.

Wonwoo decides to change the subject. “I was going to text you this weekend,” he says. “See how family time was.” He adds on, “You obviously need the buddy system to get through anything.”

Mingyu blinks. “You should’ve. Texted, I mean. There were some moments I could have used the buddy system.” He looks chagrined. At Wonwoo’s curious expression, he continues, “You know, they wanted to know all about promotions, marriage, babies, all that stuff.”

Wonwoo’s suddenly very glad that his mother has never initiated those kinds of conversations with him.

Mingyu's expression turns horrified. “Oh my god,” he says. “Jeonghan’s hair.”

Wonwoo gasps too, so hard he raises his hand to cover his mouth. “We’re having the next party at The Package.” Mingyu almost stumbles back at that. “Shouldn’t that be against company policy?”

Mingyu laughs so hard that he doubles over, and Wonwoo can’t help joining in, laughing until it actually hurts.

“Are you two just standing in the hallway and laughing?” comes Jihoon’s voice, his yell carrying over from his office. “I can fucking hear you, you know! I don’t know what you’re laughing about but you better get back to work before I make you get back to work!”

Still laughing, Mingyu and Wonwoo scatter as quickly as they can.

That evening, after he grabs dinner, Wonwoo feels that impulse again to text Mingyu.

At first, he pushes it away like he had all weekend.

But then again, Mingyu did say he could use a text checking on him, in case he felt overwhelmed when he was with his parents.

So actually, it’s more polite for Wonwoo to text than not to.

He finally settles on,

How’s family time going?

He gets a response before he can even put down the phone.

aaaaaaaawful

Wonwoo frowns.

Really?

wont stop asking abt when ill give them grandkids
AND my mom wants 2 move all my furniture around
ITS FINE HOW IT IS

Yeah, that doesn’t sound like fun.

sry, Mingyu tacks on after a second.

No, Wonwoo writes, it sounds frustrating.

And then, Do you need a break?

omg, Mingyu returns. tht would be amaaaaaaazzzinnnggg

“Wow, hello!” Mr. Kim greets when he opens the door of Mingyu’s place. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

Mingyu emerges in the background to check who’s at the door. He looks absolutely stunned to see Wonwoo.

“You came,” he says.

“I’m here,” Wonwoo confirms as he follows Mr. Kim’s beckoning and enters the apartment.

Wonwoo hears Mrs. Kim’s gasp from some other part of the apartment. “IS THAT WONWOO?” she calls, and then there’s some kind of clanging as she talks. “WONWOO, ARE YOU HAVING DINNER WITH US?”

Wonwoo stifles a laugh. “Actually, I was wondering if I could…kidnap Mingyu for a while. Am I interrupting your plans?”

“It’s completely fine,” Mr. Kim assures Wonwoo, then Mingyu. “I am sure you two could use a few minutes to yourself.”

Wonwoo nods. Mingyu still looks totally shocked.

Mrs. Kim calls again, “IS IT WONWOO? HELLO? SOMEONE ANSWER ME!”

Mr. Kim raises an eyebrow and inclines his head at Mingyu like, hurry up.

“Going! Going,” Mingyu rushes out, snagging a jacket from the back of his couch and dashing to the door. “Bye Dad, thank you!”

“Thank you,” Wonwoo says too, and follows Mingyu’s speed-walking to the elevator.

As Wonwoo and Mingyu leave the apartment and get into Wonwoo’s car, Mingyu’s demeanor shifts from shocked to enthralled, and he’s practically giggling by the time Wonwoo starts the engine.

“So,” Wonwoo asks, “You’ve probably got an hour or two. Where should I take you?”

“Oh god, I don’t even know,” Mingyu says, though he’s smiling. “As long as it’s quiet and no one makes me move furniture, I’m cool.”

Wonwoo shakes his head with mock disappointment. “Well, there go all my ideas.”

Mingyu chews his lip. “Okay, this is weird, but can we just…stay here?”

“In the car?” Wonwoo says. “Um, yeah, sure.”

He turns off the engine, but keeps the keys in so he can turn on the radio. “Here, you can pick something to listen to.”

Mingyu flips through the stations, and it’s kind of annoying how it takes him so long to pick one, but he finally settles on something hip hop, which kind of makes up it. He and Wonwoo talk here and there about basically nothing, and when there’s an especially long lull in the conversation, Wonwoo turns to find that the younger has dozed off.

Wonwoo checks the time; they’ve been in the car a little more than an hour.

He can probably let Mingyu sleep for another half hour before he has to wake him up and return him to his parents.

Wonwoo plays a game on his phone as the half hour passes, and tries not to get distracted by the rhythmic sound of Mingyu’s almost-snores.

Wonwoo puts away his phone after the thirty minutes are over. “Mingyu? Mingyu.” He raises his voice slightly. “Mingyu.”

Mingyu’s eyes snap open and he jolts in his seat. At first he looks disoriented, and then his gaze jumps to Wonwoo and his expression turns to sleepy embarrassment.

“Sorry,” he croaks, low voice even lower than usual. He shifts around in that awkward way people do when they’re trying to regain control of their bodies after waking up.

“It’s fine,” Wonwoo says. “We just gotta make sure you get back before your parents start calling.”

Mingyu nods. “Good call.” He clears his throat and seems to wake up a little more. “Should we go?”

The elevator ride up to Mingyu’s place is oddly tense—odd because it’s not a bad tense, whatever that means.

“We’ve got dinner with my parents tomorrow,” Mingyu reminds.

Wonwoo observes, “Your parents sure want to feed me.”

“Probably cause you’re so skinny,” Mingyu teases, poking at Wonwoo’s ribs.

Wonwoo bites back a yelp, covering his sides. “Hey! Oh, well sorry I can’t go to the gym every day,” he says, waving a hand at Mingyu’s entire…situation.

Mingyu blushes as the elevator opens up onto his floor.

Inside the apartment, Mingyu’s parents are watching a movie; the only light source comes from the television. Wonwoo registers that the Kims are much less threatening when they’re cuddled up to each other on the couch, watching a documentary and drinking tea.

“I said I’d bring him back,” Wonwoo jokes.

Mrs. Kim smiles, thankfully not seeming mad that Wonwoo secreted Mingyu away the way he did. “All recharged?” she asks.

Mingyu looks to Wonwoo. “Yeah.” His expression is hard to read in the washed-out light of the television.

“Well, alright,” Wonwoo says, inexplicably hesitant to leave.

“Thank you,” Mingyu says to Wonwoo very, very sincerely.

The only explanation Wonwoo can think of for what he does next is that Mingyu’s parents are watching them, and that Wonwoo and Mingyu had supposedly just had this important moment alone, and that they have to be believable, stay believable, as a couple.

Wonwoo leans in and kisses Mingyu on the cheek.

Mingyu’s startled response is subdued in the darkness of the apartment.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Wonwoo murmurs, and then he escapes out the door and into the elevator without looking back.

Chapter Text

“You’re dressing up for what now?” Seungkwan asks skeptically.

“To go out for dinner with Mingyu and his parents,” Wonwoo repeats, abashed. “Don’t ask, it’s a whole thing. Just, please, tell me if I look okay.”

“I mean, you look fine,” Seungkwan huffs dramatically. “But I never understand why you don’t just wear the things I pick for you. In the sizes I pick for you.” In a tone that suggests that he is very generous to be giving this compliment, he adds, “You actually have an acceptable body, you know.”

“Gee, thanks,” Wonwoo deadpans.

There’s a knock on the doorway. “Hey,” Mingyu greets, coming in to Seungkwan’s office to join them.

“It wouldn’t kill you to wear something tighter,” Seungkwan continues, undeterred from his train of thought. His face brightens. “Like that Halloween costume I made for you!”

“If by ‘made,’” Wonwoo clarifies, “you mean you bought a bunch of tight black clothing and cat ears and forced me into them on the threat of bodily harm, then yes, you made it for me.” Why are people always threatening or blackmailing Wonwoo? He needs to look into that.

“What Halloween costume?” Mingyu asks.

Wonwoo tries to stop Seungkwan, but it’s useless. “The sexy cat costume! For Halloween last year.”

“What? What,” Mingyu says haltingly. “I don’t remember that.”

Wonwoo shakes his head. “You probably weren’t there. It doesn’t matter, it was awful. I made sure no pictures exist.”

“It was great,” Seungkwan defends. “He had the ears, the tail, and all the clothes tight and black. I did a fantastic job. He insisted on the pants and long sleeves,” Seungkwan says pointedly to Wonwoo, who ignores him, “but at least he wore the collar with the bell. And, oh! He had the little drawn-on whiskers.” Seungkwan waves his hands in front of his cheeks, as if drawing little lines.

“It was ridiculous,” Wonwoo insists. To Mingyu, he adds, “Be glad you didn’t see it.”

“Right,” Mingyu says. “I’m…glad.”

Wonwoo squints. Is Mingyu making fun of him?

“Anyway.” Mingyu clears his throat. “We gotta be going. Wonwoo.”

With a smirk, Seungkwan makes little cat ears with his hands and points them towards Wonwoo. “Have fun!” he says.

On their way into the company parking lot, Mingyu shyly starts, “by the way, I just wanted to say…“

To be clear, Wonwoo had decided on a plan of totally-ignoring-slash-denying that he had kissed Mingyu on the cheek the night before. He’d decided as soon as he’d dropped Mingyu off and then run away and, by god, he was sticking to it—especially because, as it stands, Wonwoo honestly doesn’t think he has an explanation to offer for his behavior.

But Mingyu cuts off Wonwoo’s panic when he finishes, “…if you were worried about how you looked for the restaurant, then you shouldn’t be. You look great. Fine,” he corrects, and then, “great.”

“Thank you,” Wonwoo says. “You too.”

A couple minutes into their drive, Mingyu says, “Sorry again to drag you to this.”

Wonwoo says, “I don’t mind.”

“I appreciate it,” Mingyu says. More silence, and then he adds, “It’s the last thing, so…I guess I’ll drop the bomb about breaking up in a couple weeks, or something.”

Wonwoo had actually, totally forgotten about that whole fake break-up thing.

“A couple weeks?” is all he can think to say.

“Well,” Mingyu explains with a stilted laugh, “since they seem to think they fixed our relationship and they like you so much,” Wonwoo thinks of their dinner the other night, when they’d supposedly hashed out their relationship troubles, “I was thinking they’d need some time. You know, before it would be believable.” He drums his fingers against the steering wheel.

Right.

So the Kims will leave, and things will go back to how they were, and in a couple weeks Mingyu will call his parents and tell them it didn’t work out.

“Unless you think I should tell them sooner?” Mingyu asks.

“No, no,” Wonwoo says. “Sounds like a good plan to me.”

Mingyu was right: the restaurant is fancy.

There’s a valet who takes Mingyu’s keys when they get there, and then a person inside who takes their jackets. The whole place is kind of dark in that way that fancy places sometimes are, and Mr. and Mrs. Kim are waiting for them at a table, looking totally in their element, like they eat at mood-lit places that park your car and hang up your jacket for you all the time. Maybe they do.

It all kind of creeps up on Wonwoo, until they’ve sat down and they’re surveying their minimalist menus, and he whispers to Mingyu, “I don’t know what to get.”

Like it’s obvious, Mingyu says at a normal volume, “Get whatever you want.”

“I’m afraid of ordering the wrong thing,” Wonwoo whispers back furiously.

Mingyu rolls his eyes. “Here.” He leans across the corner of the table between them to look over Wonwoo’s menu.

“We have the same menu, Einstein.”

“Shut up,” Mingyu says. He points at something under Entrees. “Here. You’ll like this. Don’t ask why, you just will.” He leans back to his side of the table.

To Wonwoo’s chagrin, Mingyu is right—he likes the dish Mingyu told him to order. Not that he’ll say that aloud.

As they eat, the Kims talk about their trip and how happy they are to find Mingyu doing so well, living in a place where he has plenty of friends and is in a good relationship, and they’re going on about how proud they are of Mingyu succeeding in his career, until Mingyu interrupts.

“Actually,” he says, voice suddenly tight, “I wanted to talk to you guys about that.”

Mingyu’s parents look to him curiously. Wonwoo pauses his eating.

“You guys know I’m doing good in management,” Mingyu begins.

His parents both nod.

“But I’ve spent a lot of time working with the art department and I, I really like it.” A smile appears on his face as quickly as it’s gone. “I’ve been curious about it, if I’d be good at it, and now’s the best time to find out anyway, so I asked my boss if there was anything I could do.”

Everyone at the table waits.

“So,” Mingyu takes a deep breath, “I got an internship in the art department.”

Wait.

“Hold on,” Wonwoo says, “I didn’t know about this.”

Mingyu turns to Wonwoo like he’d forgotten he was there.

A bunch of little moments all start to fall into place. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Wonwoo asks, forgetting for a moment that they’re not actually a couple, or even real friends, and that they’ve never really told each other anything. “That’s amazing, Mingyu.”

Mingyu looks back nervously for a second, then busts out a brilliant smile. Wonwoo can’t help but smile back.

“Mingyu,” Mrs. Kim interrupts. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Still smiling, Mingyu turns back to his parents. “I got the internship, so I’m going to spend a couple months there, like a student would, to see if I like it.” His parents’ faces are blank. “And if I don’t like it, Seungcheol—he’s head of management—said I could go back to the job I have now. But if I do like it, I can see what kind of long-term job I can get with it.” Mingyu smiles again, looking proud of his plan.

His parents’ faces do not change.

His mom laughs awkwardly. “Mingyu,” she says carefully, “why would you do that? You have a stable job already.”

“It’s not about the job,” Mingyu tries to tell her, smile fading. “It’s about doing something I like. I’m good at management, but I don’t like it as much as art.”

This proposition seems pretty simple to Wonwoo, but Mingyu’s parents actually look kind of put off.

“You would do an internship?” Mrs. Kim says. “That’s just going backwards, isn’t it?”

“Mingyu,” adds Mr. Kim, “it’s not that simple, that you can just become an artist.”

Looking wounded, Mingyu says, “I took all those art classes in high school. And college.”

“That’s a hobby, sweetheart, not a career,” Mrs. Kim says, again slowly, and Wonwoo thinks maybe she means to sound gentle, but there’s an edge to it that agitates Wonwoo. “You won’t make any money.”

“I will,” Mingyu insists. “The people in the art department, they make money. Maybe not as much as management, but they’re doing fine.”

“This seems like an abrupt change, Mingyu,” Mr. Kim says. “Is it really worth it? Why go out of your way?”

Mingyu’s perpetually loud voice is quieter than Wonwoo’s ever heard it. “Because it would make me happy.”

“The job you’re in is a career,” Mrs. Kim emphasizes, looking confused by Mingyu’s downtrodden response. “Is it me? Am I being so unreasonable here? Mingyu?”

Mingyu looks down into his lap, devastated.

Wonwoo finds his own hand reaching out and pressing against Mingyu’s forearm, squeezing.

“Actually,” Wonwoo cuts in.

Everyone at the table turns to look at him, again like they’d forgotten he was there.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kim,” Wonwoo says, “with all due respect, I think Mingyu is being very reasonable.”

He slides his hand down Mingyu’s arm and into his palm, and links their fingers. Mingyu clamps onto Wonwoo’s hand tight as a vice.

Mingyu’s parents blink at Wonwoo.

“Wonwoo,” Mrs. Kim cajoles, tone deceptively sweet. “You’re a good boy. You know Mingyu can’t just throw away his job for a hobby, or to be in the position of a student again.” She smiles. “Help us reason with him.”

Mingyu’s hold on Wonwoo’s hand tightens.

Wonwoo’s responsibility here, he understands, is to be an average pretend boyfriend— to stand on the sidelines, and be generally likable, and to help get Mingyu off the hook for a silly lie that he told a long time ago to get his parents off his back. He’s not supposed to get involved, or become part of a disagreement, or tell the parents that he thinks they’re wrong about something. That’s not why he’s here.

But seriously, though?

Fuck that shit.

“Mingyu doesn’t need your judgement,” Wonwoo tells them. “He’s just looking for your support.” He looks to the younger. “His plan makes perfect sense to me.”

Mingyu smiles back at him sadly, eyes wet.

“I—I support Mingyu in this,” Wonwoo hears himself say. “I think he’s going to do great. I’m proud of him.”

Mingyu’s parents appear shocked.

Mr. Kim turns to speak to his wife, and Wonwoo thinks maybe he’s going to say something that will diffuse this whole thing, but before he makes any words, Mrs. Kim turns slightly red and snaps, “I’m disappointed in you. In both of you.”

That’s enough, Wonwoo decides.

“I think we should leave,” he says, tugging gently on Mingyu’s hand.

Numbly, Mingyu stands. He stares at his parents miserably, then begins to walk with Wonwoo, their hands still linked.

“And just saying,” Wonwoo says, pausing by Mingyu’s parents as they pass the table, “I wouldn’t call myself a ‘good boy.’ I’ve been arrested twice.”

They leave the restaurant without bothering to pick up their jackets.

Wonwoo only lets go of Mingyu’s hand twice after they leave the restaurant: once so they can get into Mingyu’s car, which Wonwoo takes the keys for; and then again as they get back out of the car, after riding together to Wonwoo’s place with their hands linked together over the armrest. The drive is totally silent save for a couple stray sniffles from Mingyu.

Wonwoo keeps tight hold of Mingyu’s hand as he leads them both from where he parks and into his apartment complex. When they get upstairs and he guides Mingyu in through his front door, Mingyu at first just stands there in front of the doorway, so Wonwoo ushers him to sit on the couch.

“I can make you some tea,” Wonwoo offers. Mingyu doesn’t say anything; instead he looks up at Wonwoo with an expression painfully open and vulnerable, eyes bright with tears, and Wonwoo says, “oh.”

He abandons his tea plans and settles onto the couch beside Mingyu. He pulls the younger close, holding him as he’s overtaken by a wave of tears.

“Okay, okay,” Wonwoo murmurs, doing his best to soothe. He tugs Mingyu closer and Mingyu breaks into sobs against Wonwoo’s chest.

Wonwoo rubs at Mingyu’s back until the younger seems to calm a little, and Wonwoo wonders how Mingyu, who is patently bigger than Wonwoo and who always takes up so much space, seems to fold up so easily to fit into Wonwoo’s arms.

Mingyu sniffles, then surprises Wonwoo by asking, “Have you really been arrested twice?”

Wonwoo had forgotten he’d said that. He bites back a smile. “Yeah,” he confesses.

Mingyu gasps. “Really?”

“Don’t be too impressed,” Wonwoo murmurs. “They were both at protests. I didn’t go to jail or anything.” He taps his fingers against Mingyu’s shoulder. “They didn’t even put me in handcuffs. Just zipties.”

Mingyu’s giggles reverberate through where his head rests on Wonwoo’s chest.

“Your parents’ faces when I said that…” Wonwoo recalls.

“Do your parents know you were arrested?” Mingyu asks.

“Actually, my mom said she was really proud of me both times.” Wonwoo warms at the memory. “She said it was exactly how she’d raised me to be.”

“And your dad?”

“Oh. Well.” Wonwoo is surprised to realize that Mingyu didn’t know this about him. “I don’t have a dad. Just a mom.”

Mingyu pauses, and Wonwoo thinks maybe Mingyu’s going to press him on it, but instead, he says, “tell me about her.”

“My mom?” Wonwoo checks. Mingyu nods. “Well, she’s great. Incredible, actually,” Wonwoo says. “She raised me all by herself.” Mingyu nods again sleepily, his eyes falling half-shut. “She got me into reading, because she used to bring me books as gifts for everything, every holiday and birthday.” Wonwoo swallows. “I think you two would really like each other.”

He keeps talking until Mingyu falls asleep, head resting on Wonwoo’s chest, and then Wonwoo lets himself drop off too.

Chapter Text

When Wonwoo wakes a couple hours later, he finds himself on the couch, with Mingyu still fast asleep, head pillowed on Wonwoo’s chest.

Wonwoo already feels a little stiff, and he knows it’ll probably be hell on Mingyu’s neck if he stays like this all night, so he decides they should migrate.

“Mingyu,” he murmurs, rubbing at the younger’s shoulder. “Come on.”

Mingyu does that same slow wake-up he did in Wonwoo’s car the day before, blinking and disoriented, until he looks up at Wonwoo curiously.

Something in Wonwoo’s chest pulls tight. “You can sleep in my room.”

He guides Mingyu up off the couch and corrals him down the hall, and by the time they reach Wonwoo’s bedroom, Mingyu seems to have woken up some. “Are you sure this’s okay?” he asks, eyeing Wonwoo’s bed cautiously.

“It’s fine,” Wonwoo says. “I’ll go sleep on the couch, I’ll just grab some blankets. Hey, how are you feeling?”

Mingyu quirks his mouth as he settles onto the bed. “I’m alright.” There’s a furrow to his brow, and it’s like Wonwoo can see Mingyu replaying the events of the night before in his head.

It takes Wonwoo a second, but then he decides. “Okay,” he says. “I have something that’ll cheer you up. But you have to close your eyes first. Just for a second.”

Intrigued, Mingyu obeys, laying back on the bed as he shuts his eyes. “Don’t kill me,” he warns.

Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “Don’t look!” he repeats as he roots through his closet.

A second later, he’s ready. “Okay,” he says, quickly adjusting the headband in front of his mirror. “One second—okay—you can look.”

When Mingyu opens his eyes, he looks stunned, then delighted. “Oh my god!”

“Ta da,” says Wonwoo, and he turns this way and that, showing off the wire cat ears. He even makes his hands into little paws.

“This is from the costume?” Mingyu guesses, eyes sparkling.

Wonwoo nods, raising his tiny paws to his face, and Mingyu giggles.

This is unexpectedly fun for Wonwoo, putting on this silly show and making Mingyu laugh, so he carries on his impression, crawling onto the bed and pawing at Mingyu. Wonwoo actually makes a tiny meow sound. Mingyu smiles, biting his lip, and pats gently at Wonwoo’s hair.

“Hey, kitty,” he greets.

The air in the room immediately changes.

Wonwoo pulls back, and Mingyu’s cheeks color.

Wonwoo gets off the bed completely, and retreats to his dresser as he removes the cat ears. “Well, that’s what the costume was like,” he explains awkwardly. “That bell on the collar made it so everyone knew where I was all the time.” He puts the cat ears down. “Like I said, it was awful.”

Mingyu nods.

“I’m gonna…go make up the couch,” Wonwoo says. “To sleep. Um, for me to sleep. I’m sleeping. Not the couch. Couches don’t sleep.”

“Good to know,” Mingyu agrees quickly, before Wonwoo runs away.

Wonwoo only gets in a few hours of real rest; at some point in the very early morning, when the sun is about to rise, he wakes up and just can’t fall back asleep. After an hour or so of trying, he gives up and goes to the kitchen to make himself something to drink.

As he’s putting on the kettle, there’s a knock at his front door.

Wonwoo opens the door to find Mr. Kim.

Mingyu’s dad, while as well-dressed as always, clearly hasn’t slept much, or maybe at all. “Hello Wonwoo,” he greets, and something in his demeanor is uneasy.

“Hi,” Wonwoo returns.

“I’m sorry to come here like this. You gave us your address the other day, when my wife asked for it,” Mr. Kim explains.

Wonwoo remembers. She said she’d wanted it so she could send him a birthday present.

Wonwoo doesn’t move from the doorway.

“I thought Mingyu would probably be here with you,” Mr. Kim continues. “I came here to apologize,” and Wonwoo realizes that Mr. Kim’s uneasy because he’s embarrassed by his part in the conversation the night before.

“Okay,” Wonwoo says. He still doesn’t move.

Mr. Kim nods. “I understand why you’re so protective of him.” He exhales. “You were right. Well, you were both right. What I mean is, Wonwoo, you were correct in saying that our reactions were unfair.”

“Okay.” Wonwoo hesitates, then asks, “Where’s Mingyu’s mom?”

Mr. Kim looks uncomfortable. “She still needs some time. But I don’t think we should write her off yet,” he adds. “I’m hoping she’ll come around.”

Wonwoo doesn’t have anything to say to that.

There’s a quiet stir down the hall and he turns his head to catch sight of Mingyu, padding out of Wonwoo’s bedroom and peering at the older curiously. He inclines his head at the door, and mouths, Dad?

Wonwoo raises an eyebrow: want to join?

Mingyu shakes his head: not now.

Mr. Kim may or may not notice the interaction, Wonwoo can’t be sure, but either way Wonwoo turns back to Mr. Kim and informs, “I don’t think Mingyu’s ready to talk yet.”

“I understand,” Mr. Kim says, though he’s obviously disappointed. He takes a breath and then he admits, chagrined, “We forget sometimes that he’s an adult too, and that he knows better than we do what’ll make him happy.”

Wonwoo finds himself having an emotional reaction out of nowhere as he says, “he just wants you guys to be proud of him.”

“We are,” Mr. Kim says quietly.

“Well,” Wonwoo says, and he doesn’t have to finish the sentence for Mingyu’s dad to get the message: then show him.

“Will you tell Mingyu that we’ll be in town for the rest of today?” Mr. Kim requests. “I talked to Mingyu’s mom about pushing our flight. Maybe Mingyu will come and talk to us before we leave.”

“I’ll let him know.”

Mr. Kim nods. “Thank you.” Then he says, with a half-smile, “Mingyu’s very lucky to have you.”

“Thanks,” Wonwoo says, before Mr. Kim departs and he shuts the door.

Wonwoo stands in front of the closed door for a second before Mingyu’s voice reaches down the hallway. “Thanks for doing that. Talking to him and covering for me, I mean.”

“Of course,” Wonwoo says automatically.

“I mean it,” Mingyu says. “Really.”

Distracted, Wonwoo agrees, “yeah,” and returns to the kitchen. “Um, if you hold on a second, I was about to make some tea, and I can bring you a cup.”

“Sure,” Mingyu says, heading back into the bedroom, which leaves Wonwoo alone with the kettle, but Wonwoo finds himself getting inexplicably worked up as he makes the tea, and so he makes one mug for himself and another for Mingyu, and then carefully brings Mingyu’s down the hall, balancing it so that it doesn’t spill over, and when he gets to the bedroom he puts the mug down on the nightstand, and Mingyu stirs and pushes himself up on an elbow and says, “hey, thanks,” and Wonwoo replies, “sure,” and then Wonwoo heads out of the room and back down the hallway so he can maybe start making some food since they’re both up and it’s morning anyway, but after a couple steps he spins on his heel and hooks a U back into his room, and he stops in front of the bed and says, “You should do it.”

Mingyu, bewildered, says, “what?”

“The internship.” Wonwoo huffs a short breath. “With the art department. You should still do it.”

Mingyu watches cautiously as Wonwoo takes a real breath and calms himself slightly, and then clarifies, “I know you didn’t ask for my opinion—”

Very simply, Mingyu says, “I care about your opinion.”

“—I just—I don’t think you should worry what your parents think,” Wonwoo continues. “If it makes you happy, and it’s what you want, then you should do it.” Then he adds, “I meant what I said last night. I think it’s a good idea. You should be happy, Mingyu.” He exhales. “You deserve it.”

Mingyu had observed Wonwoo’s abrupt speech with a sort of low-key surprise, but when Wonwoo finishes, he clicks his mouth shut and gets a look of resolve. He moves so that he’s sitting on the edge of the bed.

The next words out of his mouth catch Wonwoo totally by surprise.

“How did Seungcheol’s headphones break?”

Wonwoo’s agitation drops, replaced by confusion. “What?”

“The headphones,” Mingyu says. “How did they break?”

“You were there,” Wonwoo reminds slowly.

“I know,” Mingyu says. “Just, explain it, tell the story of how it happened.”

Wonwoo fidgets, unsure, but he complies. “Okay. Well. Um, we stayed late to work on a project.” This must’ve been a while ago; it’s one of the earliest memories that Wonwoo associates with Mingyu from their working together. “And, uh, we were practicing our presentation in Seungcheol’s office.” Seungcheol’s office had the projector in it, so they’d set up there.

And Wonwoo was standing at the desk—he’d specifically moved Seungcheol’s headphones out of the way, so he could use the keyboard, and to keep them out of danger—and he was typing and he’d turned around there was Mingyu.

“And you came at me like a hockey player or something. I could’ve filed a report, by the way,” Wonwoo says, which he’s told Mingyu maybe a dozen times in the past when the headphone thing has come up, but he doesn’t actually mean it this time. “And I knocked the headphones down and broke them.”

“What did I do,” Mingyu emphasizes. “Specifically.”

It mostly seems like a blur now. Now he remembers that he was being annoying, playing some song to bother Mingyu—he’d just queued it up on YouTube and had started dancing along obnoxiously.

“I hit play and then I turned around and you were right up in my face,” Wonwoo says, and there’s a strange kindling of recognition in his chest. “And you moved closer…and…”

Mingyu’s face had been so close so abruptly that Wonwoo had tripped backwards in surprise, his arms windmilling, one of them knocking Seungcheol’s headphones off the desk and onto the floor, and in his haste to catch himself, he’d stepped back onto the headphones, and he’d heard the loud crack.

“…and…”

Mingyu had quickly grabbed Wonwoo, saving him from falling back, but his expression had been devastated.

“…and…”

Seungcheol’s headphones were cracked, destroyed.

Mingyu had steadied Wonwoo and then let him go, unable to look Wonwoo in the eye.

Oh god.

“…and you were trying to kiss me,” Wonwoo says, stunned.

Mingyu’s eyes on Wonwoo are dark, unmoving.

“You…liked me?” Wonwoo asks incredulously. “You like me?”

“Of course I like you,” says Mingyu. He stands from the bed.

The kindling feeling in Wonwoo’s chest ratchets up, until he can feel his heart pounding.

“You liked me since then?” Wonwoo squeaks.

“I liked you since always,” Mingyu corrects. He starts moving towards Wonwoo.

Wonwoo has that same nervous reaction again, stumbling back a couple steps.

“I have always liked you,” Mingyu repeats, “and you looked fucking hot with those cat ears on.”

Mingyu follows Wonwoo’s movements back, keeps moving until he’s right in front of Wonwoo.

“I’m going to try to kiss you again,” he tells the older with absolute confidence.

Wonwoo feels himself nod, feels his whole body shaking.

“So you tell me now if you don’t want that,” Mingyu continues, leaning forward, “because I don’t plan for us to break anything this time.”

Wonwoo stays still, and lets his eyes fall shut as Mingyu kisses him.

Chapter Text

Mingyu’s lips against Wonwoo’s are the sweetest, most sincere touch, one press and then another and another, drawn out as if in slow motion, and Wonwoo can only just catch his breath between one kiss and the next—

one, a gentle and quick greeting—

two, a warm and tender reassurance—

and three, an insistent invitation, an electric connection, stirring something urgent and heated in Wonwoo’s chest—

and Wonwoo is crashed into headlong by a wave of emotions, flooding his chest and head with not-quite-understanding, and Mingyu’s earnest press against him becomes just too much. Wonwoo’s heart gets so painfully full that he has to yank himself away, out of the kiss and a foot away from Mingyu, surprising himself—and probably Mingyu too—with a short, overwhelmed cry.

Wonwoo stands there opposite Mingyu, catching his breath and feeling utterly lost; and then he shuffles over to his bed, sits down, and puts his face in his hands.

“Am I that bad a kisser?” Mingyu jokes nervously.

Hidden behind his hands, Wonwoo releases a shuddering breath.

He can practically hear Mingyu’s expression turn somber. “Shit.”

Quickly Mingyu shuffles over too, and he must kneel on the floor in front of Wonwoo, because his voice is much closer as he starts to sputter apologies.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you—“ Wonwoo feels Mingyu impulsively lay a hand on his thigh, and then catch himself and immediately yank it back. “Shit. I’m sorry. Shit. I just—I’m messing all this up.”

Wonwoo shakes his head again.

“I should’ve told you earlier, right?” Mingyu babbles. “That I always liked you. But I could tell when we met that you didn’t like me back, so I just—but I thought things had changed, this last week, maybe I was wrong, but I was right that you didn’t want me too—“

All Wonwoo can get out is a shaky, “Mingyu.”

“I didn’t even realize I’d described you to my parents on the phone until they showed up and I was introducing you,” Mingyu confesses. “I shouldn’t have dragged you into meeting them and spending all this time together. I just panicked and then it was too late, and the more time we spent together the more I—”

“Mingyu.”

“—realized how fucked I was, and I really do care about you, I swear,” Mingyu continues. “I just do a shit job of showing it. You're hot and you're so smart and you're an amazing person and—I shouldn’t’ve kissed you like that. Either time. And I shouldn’t have eaten with my mouth hanging open in front of you that one time, oh my god,” as if that’s the most offensive thing he’s ever done around Wonwoo, “why am I so rude?”

“Mingyu.”

“God, why don’t I ever think before doing stuff?” Mingyu says. “I have no discipline. Jihoon was right. I’ll never be able to own my own hamster.”

“Don’t,” Wonwoo mutters.

“Don’t?” Mingyu repeats, voice fearful. “Don’t get a hamster?”

Wonwoo flings a hand out and slaps it over Mingyu’s mouth.

“Don’t talk,” Wonwoo commands, voice watery. “for, like, one second.”

Mingyu’s expression is slightly shocked as he nods.

Wonwoo takes a deep breath. “I’m not mad at you.”

Mingyu looks relieved. Then suspicious.

“Yow naw?” he asks from behind Wonwoo’s hand.

Wonwoo isn’t.

He’s not even upset, or confused.

It’s the opposite. It’s that everything is suddenly making sense. Wonwoo’s spent a week wading through unfamiliar but unyielding protectiveness and concern, and sinking into the an increasing, unbridled, distressing affection for someone he thought he couldn’t stand to be in the same room with, and drowning in denial that anything was out of the ordinary. It was fucking him up so bad that he had to ignore it, until Mingyu kissed him, and then the answer hit him so hard, but so obviously, that he could either cry or laugh at himself, and his body has apparently picked to cry.

“Woth wrog?” Mingyu asks. The upper half of his face looks perplexed.

“It’s—I,” Wonwoo’s face is so hot with embarrassment, and it takes a couple false starts. “I. Um.”

“Yow?” Mingyu prompts, hanging on every word.

“I,” Wonwoo can do this, “I...

Another deep breath.

“...like you too.”

Mingyu pauses, processing, and then his expression turns so impossibly bright that Wonwoo has to look away.

“Maybe I have for a while,” Wonwoo hastily adds, closely observing a spot on the wall.

Mingyu sputters something into Wonwoo’s palm, and Wonwoo moves his hand away, wiping it against his pant leg. Ew.

Gleeful but confused, Mingyu repeats, “But, then why are you crying?”

Because—because—

“Because it’s been a fucking stressful week!” Wonwoo shrieks defensively. He waves his hands frantically, and Mingyu jolts back. “Because ten minutes ago I was talking to your dad and making tea and I wasn’t—“ he gasps for breath, “—as far as I knew, before your parents showed up we were—“

Mingyu catches on. “Immortal enemies,” he finishes.

Wonwoo can’t help a surprised, scratchy laugh.

Mingyu asks, “What?”

“Nothing,” Wonwoo says, trying to stifle himself, but that only makes the laughter worse. Mingyu watches with his head tilted, like a confused puppy, until Wonwoo calms himself back down.

He takes another deep breath and wipes at his face. A memory springs into his head: Mingyu rejecting Wonwoo’s suggestion that he pretend Jeonghan was his boyfriend. He’s not my type anyway.

“So am I your type after all?”

“Honestly,” Mingyu says, “I can’t even remember what my type was before I met you.”

Ugh. God. Wonwoo feels a familiar reaction—what he now realizes to be a mix of fondness and exasperation—that he’s come to associate with Mingyu and the absolutely terrible, wonderful stuff that comes out of his mouth.

“You’re a loser,” Wonwoo informs, trying to hide his smile.

Mingyu grins.

“Hey,” he says, voice softening. He holds eye contact with Wonwoo. “I know a lot’s happening and you probably need alone time but—before that, can I hold you? Just for a second?”

Wonwoo exhales. He wants to tell Mingyu he’s a loser again, but now he’s kind of too flustered to do it.

He stands, and holds out a hand to help Mingyu up from the floor. Then Mingyu wraps his arms around Wonwoo and holds him close; close enough that Wonwoo is sure Mingyu must feel how fast his heart is beating.

“I can leave after this,” Mingyu says quietly as they stand there together. “Give you some time. My parents are probably at a hotel, so I can go back to my place, and you can get some rest.”

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo says. “It’s Wednesday. We have to go to work.”

Mingyu groans like he’s been shot.

“In like, an hour or something,” Wonwoo calculates. “And that means you have to go home and change, and we both need to shower, and we both need time to get to work and—“

“Alright fine,” Mingyu grouses, rolling his eyes, “I don’t want to be late or whatever,” as if Wonwoo made up the concept of being late to bother Mingyu, but as he starts to move away, Wonwoo grabs his bicep.

Mingyu halts. Wonwoo mumbles under his breath.

“I’m sorry?” Mingyu says.

Wonwoo mumbles again.

Raising a brow, Mingyu theatrically tips his ear closer to Wonwoo’s mouth. “Beg your pardon?”

Wonwoo mumbles possibly even quieter.

“I’m sorry,” Mingyu smirks. “I didn’t get that.”

‘“You can stay a minute’ is what I said and honestly fuck you, you heard me the first time,” Wonwoo says.

Mingyu smiles pointily. “Okay,” he agrees, sighing as he pulls Wonwoo close again, as though it’s taxing him terribly, “just a minute.”

Wonwoo hides his blush by resting his head on Mingyu’s shoulder.

“Oh, yeah,” Mingyu says. “And no more surprise kisses, I promise.”

“Oh.” Wonwoo considers that. “You know,” he tells Mingyu’s shoulder, “that’s actually. Huh.”

“‘Huh?’”

“It’s, well. I don’t think,” Wonwoo mutters, “uh, you know.”

When he looks up, Mingyu looks delighted.

“I don’t think I do,” he lilts. “Enlighten me.”

“Oh, shut up,” Wonwoo says, and he leans in for a kiss.

Chapter Text

After what feels like fifteen seconds of making out—but which Wonwoo later realizes was closer to fifteen minutes— Wonwoo kicks Mingyu out of his apartment, insistent that they at least attempt to get ready for work and not be late. As Mingyu heads out the front door he turns around and winks, winks,at Wonwoo, and Wonwoo has to elaborately mime gagging to cover up how actually attractive he finds Mingyu right then.

Not ten minutes after they part, though, the screen of Wonwoo’s phone lights up with Mingyu’s name.

“You better be calling to apologize for that wink,” Wonwoo answers, running a towel over his wet-from-the-shower hair.

“You liked it,” Mingyu lilts easily. “Hey, um, if you’re free today after work,” his tone shifts to something more serious, “I’m gonna ask my parents if we can meet today and talk, after work. I was wondering—would you come with me? To talk to them, I mean?”

It sounds like Mingyu’s decided to speak to his parents after all. “Are you sure?”

“That I want to see them?” Mingyu says, and considers for a moment. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

“No,” Wonwoo says, “that you want me there.”

Mingyu doesn’t hesitate. “Always.”

As their work day finishes, Mingyu once again picks Wonwoo up from his office, and they walk together through their floor and hop into an elevator.

Just as the doors are closing, someone shouts, “Hold on!”

Mingyu smacks a hand in between the doors, and they open back up, allowing Hansol to slip in. “Thanks,” he says, moving to stand between Wonwoo and Mingyu.

Mingyu reaches across Hansol and Wonwoo to hit the close door button, and as he does it, his arm knocks into Wonwoo’s front.

“Oh,” he says, “sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Wonwoo says back, with a little smile.

There’s a pause, and then Hansol is glancing back and forth between the two of them, squinting.

“Is everything,” he asks, “…okay?”

“Yeah?” Mingyu says, confused. “Why?”

Hansol points at Mingyu. “You,” he swivels and points at Wonwoo, “just apologized to him,” his eyes squint further, “and he accepted your apology.”

Wonwoo catches Mingyu’s eye.

“What are you talking about?” Wonwoo says, feigning ignorance. “That’s normal.”

Hansol raises an eyebrow. He turns to Mingyu, who shrugs.

“We’re always like this,” Mingyu adds, tilting his head.

Hansol turns back to Wonwoo.

“Are you sick,” he asks seriously. He extends a palm to feel Wonwoo’s forehead.

“Everything feels normal to me,” Wonwoo says serenely. He hears Mingyu stifle a giggle.

Hansol withdraws his hand and looks between them frantically. “Am I in a parallel universe?” he asks, sounding genuinely terrified.

“We are good friends, I do not know what you are upset about,” Mingyu says robotically.

“This is weird,” Hansol says, eyes wide. “I’m getting off here.” He jabs the button for the floor they’re about to pass by, which is a floor too early. The doors ding and open, and he quickly steps out, turning back and to look at them both.

“Good bye!” Mingyu says, waving at Hansol cheerily. Wonwoo smiles and waves too, even stepping closer to Mingyu to maximize the mirroring effect.

Hansol yanks his phone out of his messenger bag. “I need this on video,” he declares to himself, but then the doors start to close and he cries, “Aw, come on!”

As soon as the elevator’s moving again, Wonwoo and Mingyu high-five.

They’re meeting Mingyu’s parents at that same restaurant they ate at for their first meal, the day when Wonwoo met Mingyu’s parents a week ago. Wonwoo’s nervous about the meeting in his own right, but Mingyu’s on another level.

“What if I have to convince them about me changing careers?” Mingyu asks as they pull into the parking lot. “What if they’re mad at me? What if they disown me?”

“Hey,” Wonwoo says, as they park. “Mingyu. Breathe.” He puts a hand on Mingyu’s shoulder. “There’s no need to worry about that. Don’t jump the gun.”

Shockingly, Mingyu listens to Wonwoo. “Right, right, right,” he repeats to himself.

“And I know you’re nervous but, maybe, you know,” Wonwoo attempts, “try not to do that thing that you do, sometimes.”

“What thing? I don’t do a thing.”

“Yeah you do,” Wonwoo says. “The thing where you ramble and don’t let the other person talk. And then you miss what they’re trying to say.”

Mingyu looks offended. “What? I don’t do that.”

“Mingyu,” Wonwoo says, “you did it to me literally this morning.”

”You did it to me literally this morning,” Mingyu says saucily, and he smiles at his own awful joke.

“I am quite sure I did not,” Wonwoo assures him. Mingyu smiles again dazzlingly, the bastard. “Anyway,” Wonwoo concludes, “the point is, give them a chance. To do the right thing. You never know.”

Mingyu’s smile turns from silly to sincere, and it’s so honest and direct that it makes Wonwoo fidget.

“Hey,” Mingyu says abruptly, “this isn’t to put pressure on you about…us. Like, having you here. Just so you know, I want you around whether or not we’re a, uh, thing.”

Wonwoo’s cheeks burn. “Right. But,” it feels silly but he just has to check, “you do want us to be together, then.”

“Honestly?” Mingyu says. “I want us to run away with each other to a desert island, but the island has Netflix and Taco Bell, and all our other friends are there too.” He scrunches up his nose in thought. “So, I guess, the answer is yeah.”

“Noted,” Wonwoo says, not sure if he wants to laugh.

“But no pressure,” Mingyu repeats.

“You’ve never been this patient or polite with me,” Wonwoo informs Mingyu. “Ever. And it turns out all I had to do was make out with you?”

Mingyu grins. “I’m easy.”

Wonwoo’s actually more nervous about seeing Mingyu’s parents than he realized. It hits him when he catches sight of the Kims waiting in front of the restaurant. Mostly, he’s nervous for what will happen to Mingyu, and he feels a surge of protectiveness for the younger, same as the one that surprised him the night before, at dinner. Right now, it kind of makes him want to jump in front of Mingyu and act as a shield for the entire evening. He’ll have to consider later whether or not to share that impulse with Mingyu; something tells him Mingyu would appreciate it.

“Hi,” Mingyu greets his parents quietly. They greet him back awkwardly. The whole situation is awkward, Wonwoo figures. He elects to just nod hello for the time being.

Mingyu’s dad ushers them towards the restaurant’s doors. “Why don’t we head in,” he says, but Mingyu halts him.

“I, I have to be honest,” he blurts, nervous but determined. “I don’t want to go in until we talk about this.”

Mingyu’s parents both appear to contemplate this, and then they look to each other for confirmation. Wonwoo’s surprised into pride for Mingyu. Mingyu takes a deep breath, wringing his fingers in and out of knots.

“Okay,” says Mr. Kim. “That’s fine. Let’s talk.”

Mr. Kim looks to Mrs. Kim, and it seems they’ve already agreed that she has something to say first. Mrs. Kim takes a deep breath, and fidgets slightly too, and her display of nervousness is so similar to Mingyu’s that it throws Wonwoo off-kilter for a second.

“I am still worried about how you are going to make money,” she begins. “And about your career in general, and how you’re going to succeed. How you’re going to take care of yourself.” She stills her hands. “But. We made you feel bad about something you cared about, and we would never want to do that. So, I—I’m sorry,” she says, voice faltering a bit, “and I may not be the biggest fan of your plans but I want you to know that I trust you.”

Mingyu does this thing—this absolutely adorable thing—where he looks with shock at his mom, and his dad, and thenat Wonwoo too, all surprised and hopeful, like, can you believe it?, and Wonwoo has to smile back.

“What’s important is that you’re happy,” Mr. Kim adds. “I—” he looks at his wife, “think it’s safe to say we overreacted a bit,” and she laughs at him nervously. “Both of us,” he assures Mingyu and Wonwoo.

“Wow,” is all Mingyu manages. Wonwoo can tell now that the younger's got all this nervous energy he'd prepared with nowhere to go, and with the praise from his parents, it’s likely to manifest in tears. Indeed, when Mrs. Kim tells Mingyu, “We're proud of you no matter what,” Mingyu has to loudly attempt to hold back tears.

“Not to mention that you’re an adult,” Mr. Kim reminds, his good-spirited disposition returning. “You’ve done great taking care of yourself so far.”

Mingyu wipes at his eyes. “I have?” His voice wobbles, and Wonwoo’s heart mimics it.

“Of course,” says Mr. Kim. “You’re going to figure things out like you always have. You are plenty responsible.”

Mingyu sniffles. “You really think I’m responsible?”

Mrs. Kim smiles. “Sweetheart,” she says, “I know you are.”

Mingyu sniffles again, then collects himself. “Mom,” he says, “do you think I’m responsible enough to own a hamster?”

Their meal after that is still a little bumpy, but it’s okay. It’s a good thing. Wonwoo feels relief to match Mingyu’s, and Mingyu’s obvious excitement makes the meal significantly more fun than any of their previous ones.

When Mingyu is in the middle of animatedly telling his father a story, Mrs. Kim takes the opportunity to draw Wonwoo into a quiet conversation.

“Wonwoo, I’m so glad I got to meet you,” she says, reaching out and squeezing his hand. “And I’m excited to see you the next time we come back, too.”

Wonwoo warms at the praise. Man, he’ll have to call his own mom tonight. They haven’t spoken in the last couple weeks, and he misses her a lot. She’s going to have a lot to say about the week Wonwoo’s been through.

“Me too,” Wonwoo returns. Mrs. Kim beams at him.

“Did my husband tell you yet how lucky Mingyu is to have you?”

Wonwoo chuckles. “He did, actually.”

“Good.” Mrs. Kim looks pleased. She tacks on, “Maybe this is too much for me to say,” but Wonwoo is pretty sure it wouldn’t be her if it wasn’t too much, “but I noticed today you two seemed so—I don’t know,” she gestures, “natural with each other. Very cute.” She smiles. “Did you two work out your issues once and for all?”

Wonwoo turns to look at Mingyu, and catches the younger shaking with laughter at whatever his father’s just said to him, guffawing like he can’t stop.

“Yeah,” Wonwoo tells Mrs. Kim, “I think we did.”

Chapter Text

As much as Mingyu and his parents struggled through this past week, it’s obvious how much he loves them; so much that, after their meal, he has to try valiantly not to fall apart as he hugs them goodbye. Wonwoo would estimate Mingyu’s success rate at around seventy-five percent. Wonwoo mercifully decides not to tease him for it, instead hugging Mingyu’s parents too, and then rubbing Mingyu’s back supportively as they walk back to the car.

“You’re cute,” Wonwoo says, as Mingyu audibly stifles a fresh wave of tears.

“I just miss them sometimes, okay?!” Mingyu blubbers, wiping sloppily at his face. Wonwoo nods benevolently and wipes at a rogue tear, effectively surprising the both of them into a brief, kind of embarrassed silence.

Mingyu has calmed considerably by the time they’ve swung back around to Wonwoo’s place, and he’s collected enough to volunteer to walk Wonwoo up to his apartment.

“Hey,” Wonwoo says, when they’re about to say goodbye at the door. Wonwoo’s already inside, and Mingyu’s lounging against the doorframe, hands in his pockets, like it’s the most natural thing in the world for him, and it’s almost annoying how breathtaking he is in such a casual moment. “This is weird. You don’t have to answer. But. When did you know you liked me?”

Mingyu looks a little surprised by the question, which makes sense, but he very quickly tells Wonwoo again, “When we met.”

“Right.” As always, Wonwoo is caught off guard by how forthright Mingyu is. “But I mean, like, really liked me. You know?”

“Um—hmm.” Mingyu chews his lip. “Actually, I think it was the thing with the sequel.”

That surprises Wonwoo. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Mingyu’s brow furrows. “You were willing to talk to me for the sake of the book, even though I knew you didn’t like me, and you wanted it so badly and had a whole argument laid out…and, I don’t know, you were just so passionate.” The fondness in his eyes is totally unguarded, and it makes Wonwoo want to pinch himself. “And you wanted to do the right thing, and you really believed in it. Yeah.”

“Oh.”

“That’s when I knew I loved—uh,” Mingyu crimsons, “liked, um, liked you.”

They both freeze.

“Ahhhhh ha ha,” Mingyu says stiltedly, “whoops.”

“Um,” says Wonwoo.

“Well.” Mingyu clears his throat. “That’s embarrassing.” He looks to the heavens. “I shouldn’t have said that. Yet.”

“Yeah,” Wonwoo feels a little frozen. You love me? he wants to ask, but instead all he manages is, “Uh.”

“Why don’t I just…leave you to your business, and then I’ll go and find a hole to crawl into and die,” Mingyu suggests, and he starts to move away from the door.

“Hey, wait. Wait!” Wonwoo reaches out and grabs Mingyu before he can run away.

Mingyu turns back, but his expression is pleading, like, please just let me disappear.

“Hey,” Wonwoo repeats, “don’t freak.” He’s not sure if he has any more words than that, but he has to try. He’s definitely terrified, and surprised, and today has basically been the longest day of his life, but he made it through the whole thing together with Mingyu, and he’s not letting Mingyu bolt now. “I’m not running away from you. So don’t run away from me, okay?”

Mingyu nods sheepishly.

For good measure, Wonwoo plants a kiss on Mingyu’s cheek. It’s cute how automatically Mingyu brightens.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. At the office,” Wonwoo finishes.

“Oh-kay,” Mingyu grumbles, pretending to still be upset, but unable to hide his relief. He flashes Wonwoo an unashamed, boyish grin. “See you tomorrow.”

Wonwoo and Mingyu do see each other at the office the next day—twice, in fact—but Wonwoo can’t say they do much talking. They catch each other once in the morning, in one of the hallways, and once in the afternoon, in the break room, and both times just barely avoid heatedly making out (or possibly more, Wonwoo thinks, oh god) right there before someone almost catches them and they have to scatter. First is Joshua, who, bless him, doesn’t seem to pick up on anything and just smiles at them brightly, and then Junhui, who definitely picks up on everything, and smirks at them and even makes a little encouraging motion with his hands.

To destress from the week he’s had, then, Wonwoo accepts an offer that afternoon from Chan the Intern to have one of their “totally legit break times,” as Chan calls them—meaning that they huddle around a tiny table in the copy room and eat and gossip about people in the office until someone kicks them out. Without being asked, Chan brings an entire unopened box of fruit snacks labeled Family Pack! which they're meant to share. Wonwoo doesn’t know where it came from, but he’s almost entirely sure Chan did not participate in a legal exchange in order to acquire it, so he chooses not to ask.

They’re in the copy room for maybe five minutes when an angry whirlwind of Soonyoung comes crashing in.

“I can’t stand him!” Soonyoung shouts at no one in particular. “Fuck shit!”

His enviable hair sways and settles as he slams a pile of papers down on top of the fax machine and then charts a frustrated little circle through the middle of the room.

Wonwoo and Chan watch; Chan’s got an eyebrow raised.

“Such an asshole!” Soonyoung adds.

“Who?” Wonwoo dares ask.

Soonyoung’s head whips around to look at them. “Jihoon,” he seethes, like it’s the name of a supervillain. He aims a vicious kick at the copy machine, and Wonwoo has a flashback to the week before. Immediately he must question how often Soonyoung has been kicking the copy machine for something that’s Jihoon’s fault, and how often for something that’s the printer’s.

Chan asks, “What happened?”

“Apparently,” Soonyoung begins, “someone managed to convince Jihoon to sign off on the end-of-the-year party happening at The Package.”

Wonwoo freezes while Chan bursts into laughter.

“So of course when I found out,” Soonyoung continues, affecting a strained ‘reasonable’ tone, “I went to him and was like, ‘uh, you want to explain this? The company isn’t paying for this.’” Soonyoung inhales. “And then he blamed it on me!”

Chan laughs harder.

“Oh,” Wonwoo manages, “no.”

“I mean, how can he do that?” Soonyoung cries. “He said he didn't want to go but that it was my idea or something. I didn’t even know!”

“Then cancel it,” Chan suggests.

“That’s not the point!” Soonyoung says. “Canceling it isn't the point! The point is, he’s an asshole!”

“So it’s not canceled,” Wonwoo tries to verify, and Soonyoung gives him a bewildered look. Wonwoo shrugs back, trying to play it cool. It probably doesn’t work.

“Honestly,” Chan cuts in, “it sounds like you two want the same thing.”

“What?” Soonyoung says. “Ew. No.”

“Neither of you guys want the party at The Package,” Chan reasons. “You agree.”

“No,” Soonyoung repeats, offended. “We don’t. We don’t agree on anything! I hate him!”

Chan turns to give Wonwoo a look like, this motherfucker.

With one final curse and kick to the copy machine, Soonyoung strides back out of the room.

“Wow,” Wonwoo says, after a moment. Chan just grins and shakes his head.

“If I had a burrito for every time,” he begins.

“You would be the Burrito King?” Wonwoo guesses.

“I would be running my own Chipotle right now,” Chan corrects, and Wonwoo laughs. “I asked Jihoon once after one of their fights when he and Soonyoung were getting married,” he adds, with a boxy smile. “I think I almost got fired.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t,” Wonwoo admits. Something occurs to him, and he feels like he has to ask. “Hey,” he continues, kind of awkwardly, “why…um.” He’s not sure how to phrase it, especially without being too obvious. “Why do you think they’re…like that?”

“Gay?” Chan asks, confused and offended, and Wonwoo has to hold back another laugh.

“No, no, like, they like each other,” Wonwoo clarifies, “but they just fight instead of, I guess, owning up.”

Looking mollified, Chan opens another packet and shoves three fruit snacks in his mouth. After chewing and swallowing, he says, “You remember when I dyed my hair purple?”

Wonwoo nods.

“Every day, like, someone would compliment me and they’d be like, ‘oh, I wish I could dye my hair like that.’” Chan taps his fingers against the table. “And I would be like, ‘yeah, you can! Do it!’” He frowns. “But then they’d always be like, ‘oh, no, I can’t.’”

“Hold on a second,” Wonwoo says. “Your hair was purple so long ago. That was at least a year ago. Chan. How long have you been an intern here?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Chan says. “The point is, if someone thinks they can’t do something, then they make it impossible for themselves.”

“Right,” Wonwoo says.

“If someone thinks their hair can’t be purple, then it can’t be. Two people think they hate each other, then they’re gonna hate each other. They won’t even give it a chance.” Chan gestures in the direction of Jihoon’s office, and then Soonyoung’s. “Instead they just fight over whether or not we’re going to have an office party at a male strip club.”

“That makes…perfect sense,” Wonwoo says, impressed. He wonders if he’s in danger of doing that now, with Mingyu, even after both confessing their feelings. That is, not letting things happen because he’d convinced himself a long time ago that they couldn’t. “Wait,” Wonwoo interrupts his own thought, “how do you know about The Package?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Chan repeats. “Do you want the last packet of fruit snacks, or what?”

“I feel like you’re buying my silence,” Wonwoo says, suspicious. “But,” he confesses, “I really love fruit snacks, sooo…”

Chan grins, handing over the packet. “Consider your silence bought.”

Chapter Text

“Do you think we’re in trouble?” Wonwoo whispers.

“We have to be,” Mingyu murmurs back. “Why else would he call us in?”

“Maybe it’s for a good thing,” Wonwoo suggests, with as much hope as he can muster. “Maybe he wants to tell us how awesome we are.”

Mingyu gives Wonwoo a pitying look.

“Hey!” Wonwoo defends. “I could be right. I mean, what could he even be upset about?”

“Wonwoo,” Mingyu says, pained. “Obviously the headphones.”

“There’s no way,” Wonwoo insists. “I never told anyone.”

“Neither did I! But Wonwoo,” Mingyu’s expression grows frenzied, “Wonwoo, you’ve seen him since those headphones broke. He’s different. He started working out! Do you know why?” He leans in close. “So he could kill the person who broke his headphones!”

“Hey, alright, let’s dial it back a bit.” Wonwoo rubs at Mingyu’s arms until his eyes look a little less wild. “He can’t murder us. He’ll go to prison, or whatever.”

“Or whatever,” Mingyu echoes, eyes intent on Seungcheol’s office door. “Or he’ll blackmail other people in the office into helping him hide our bodies, so that he gets away with it, and then I’ll die without ever having owned a hamster.”

“If we get through this meeting,” Wonwoo promises, “I’ll buy you that hamster.”

“Really?” Mingyu says, face lighting up with excitement. Then he sobers. “So then Seungcheol’s going to kill me right before I get my hamster? That’s so fucked up.”

“Hey, uh,” Wonwoo lilts, fingers curling in the fabric of Mingyu’s sleeves. “I know this probably isn’t the best time for this, but, uh, I just wanted to let you know that…” he takes a deep breath.

“I bet he put cameras in his office,” Mingyu mutters to himself. “He’ll never let anyone get away with anything ever again.”

“I love you,” Wonwoo says. “Too. I love you too.”

“Seungcheol’s never going to let this headphones thing go,” Mingyu continues, caught up in his downward psychological spiral. “He’ll never forget about what happened.”

“Hey,” Wonwoo says. “Did you hear me?”

“He’s going to hunt for the culprits for the rest of his life.” Mingyu narrows his eyes at Seungcheol’s office door. “Like The Punisher.”

”Mingyu,” Wonwoo says. “I’m trying to do a thing here.”

“Hm?” Mingyu turns back to him. “What?”

Aw, come on.

“I was trying to tell you,” Wonwoo forces himself to repeat, face hot, “that I love you too.”

Wonwoo waits for Mingyu’s exuberant, over-the-top reaction, for the shouting and the jumping and the adorable, brighter-than-the-sun smile, and maybe the celebratory kisses too.

Instead, Mingyu looks at Wonwoo like he’s just suggested they try smoking crack.

“You’re telling me now?” he asks, incredulous. “Right as we’re about to die?”

“We’re not going to die!” Wonwoo repeats. “But,” he looks down and kicks at the floor, “if we are…then…this could be my last chance, okay?”

“Oh, shit.” Mingyu looks panicked again. “We really are gonna bite it.”

“Well I don’t know for sure, and I wanted to be safe!” Wonwoo defends. He had woken up that morning with the words sitting on his tongue, clear-cut and comfortable, like they’d always been there. Like he really had loved Mingyu all this time, and just now was able to let the phrase fall out of his mouth. And it was scary, but somehow it made perfect sense. “I just realized, and I was waiting to tell you in person, but then we got called in!”

Mingyu, exasperated, shakes his head. “At least we’ll die together.”

Mingyu’s phone chimes, and he pulls it out of his pocket and taps at the screen. He reads aloud, “Seungcheol says…he can see us outside his office, we’re not as well-hidden as we think we are, and that we should just come in.” He looks up at Wonwoo.

Wonwoo sighs. “Alright, let’s go.”

“Just because you can’t see me,” Seungcheol advises as they enter his office, “does not mean that I cannot see you.”

“HA!” Mingyu responds awkwardly. Wonwoo catches Mingyu’s eye and shakes his head.

“You are here,” Seungcheol says, once they’re all seated, “because there is concern in the office that the two of you…”

Wonwoo sends up a quick prayer for him and Mingyu.

“…have been behaving, I guess, oddly,” Seungcheol finishes. “With each other.”

Um.

“How so?” Mingyu asks, as Wonwoo repeats back, “Oddly?”

Seungcheol refers to a thin stack of papers on his desk. “I’ve gotten multiple complaints over the past week from people who have witnessed you two,” his nose scrunches in distaste as he reads, “‘getting along,’ even ‘hanging out’…” Seungcheol recites each complaint like it’s a criminal activity. “You spoke on several occasions without threatening one another, and left the building together many times, including at least once for dinner with Mingyu’s parents…what?”

Beside Wonwoo, the tension very obviously bleeds out of Mingyu’s posture. “Oh,” Mingyu says, relieved. “That.”

Seungcheol flips a piece of paper. “Seokmin and Minghao saw one of you compliment the other, and that there was smiling involved…and on another occasion, you were seen apologizing to each other?” Seungcheol looks at each of them. “I hope there’s an explanation for this.”

“Is it so unbelievable that I would apologize to someone?” Mingyu complains. Wonwoo pats Mingyu’s arm placatingly.

“What else do we have…Wonwoo, Seungkwan filed a complaint that you won’t wear the outfits he picks in the sizes he—no, ignore that, not relevant.” Seungcheol moves onto the next one. “Mingyu, Joshua would like to ask again if you’d join him for church this—nope, nevermind that either, he sends me one of those every week.” Seungcheol squints at the next complaint. “Here’s one from Chan, it says…‘I know nothing.’ That’s all he wrote. What the hell? Why would he even file that? I didn’t even ask him to—I swear to god, that kid is so—you know what?” Seungcheol drops the papers he’s holding. “The point is, whatever’s happening is confusing people. And for good reason. Up until this point they’ve been filing complaints about you two not getting along.”

“Who complained about us not getting along?” Mingyu asks.

Seungcheol opens one of the lowers drawers of his desk and pulls out a manila folder, thick with paper, which he drops onto the surface of the desk with a loud smack.

“…Oh,” says Mingyu.

“That’s for this year,” Seungcheol stresses.

Wonwoo lifts a corner of the folder to peek inside, and immediately drops it back shut when he glimpses the words stifling sexual tension. “Should someone not have investigated all these?” he asks. “How come neither of us has has gotten in trouble?”

“Whose file is bigger, ours or Soonyoung and Jihoon’s?” Mingyu adds.

Seungcheol ignores both of them. “You two got Hansol worrying about this parallel dimension shit again,” he accuses. “The other day he sent me a five-second video of a set of elevator doors closing. Texted me six times to ask if I’d watched it.”

“Parallel universe,” Wonwoo corrects.

“Junhui had to watch Hotline Bling with him for forty-five minutes to calm him down,” Seungcheol says, ignoring Wonwoo. He moves on to another paper, and raises both eyebrows. “And we—what is this. Are we having our end-of-the-year party at a place called ‘The Package?’ Are you guys responsible for this?”

“Okay,” Wonwoo says, “let’s not pretend that anyone in this room doesn’t know what The Package is.”

“And you both…” Seungcheol pauses, and this time he looks up at Mingyu and Wonwoo with utter betrayal. ”You’re the reason Jeonghan cut his hair?!” His voice cracks. ”You two?”

“Alright, whose complaint is that one,” Wonwoo asks.

“Everyone’s!” Seungcheol says, voice going a bit shrill. “Everyone complained about it!”

“Ha,” Wonwoo says, backtracking, “but he looks good though, am I right?”

“Jeonghan looks good with any haircut,” Mingyu adds. “Don’t you think so, Seungcheol?”

Judging from Seungcheol’s expression, he does not. He points an accusing finger at one of them, then the other. “That is unforgivable.”

Mingyu nervously raises both hands placatingly. “Can we explain?”

Seungcheol sighs.

“Fine.” He sits back in his chair. “Let’s hear it.”

“Well, basically,” Mingyu looks at Seungcheol, then at Wonwoo, back to Seungcheol, and then bursts into the brightest, goofiest grin Wonwoo’s ever seen, “it was for love!”

Wonwoo hides his face his hands.

Seungcheol unsuccessfully attempts to mask a startled laugh with a cough.

“So like, a week ago,” Mingyu begins, “I found out that my parents were here in town, and that they wanted to meet my fake boyfriend I’d been telling them about for like a bunch of weeks—because, you know, my mom was bothering me about being alone and shit, or whatever, so I made up a boyfriend—but I had to introduce them to someone, right?”

“Right,” Seungcheol echoes. “Obviously.”

“Right!” Mingyu agrees, oblivious. “And I didn’t realize this at the time, but I had described Wonwoo to them, because I had feelings for him! You know? But I didn’t know, like I said, so I just grabbed the closest person who fit my description and it was Wonwoo, so he had to pretend to be my fake boyfriend for my parents, of course.”

“Of course,” Seungcheol deadpans.

“And I didn’t mean for it to, but it became a whole week of us pretending to be in a relationship and spending time with me and my parents and, I don’t know, we just went through some experiences, and then Wonwoo defended me to my parents and took care of me and—ah!” Mingyu’s excitement gets the better of him, and he has to stop and catch his breath. Hands still covering his face, Wonwoo peeks at Mingyu through his fingers. “So,” Mingyu continues, “I realized that he liked me too and oh my god, then we kissed and—“

“That’s okay!” Seungcheol shrieks, throwing up his hands, “I believe you!”

“Anyway!” Mingyu continues, unbothered. “Long story short—” Seungcheol pinches the bridge of his nose, “—we fell in love.”

Seungcheol takes a deep breath.

“Jeonghan cut his hair,” he checks, “because you two fell in love.”

“Yep! Or we’ve always been in love,” Mingyu says, like he’s quite clever to have thought of it. “It’s hard to tell when human emotions can be so complicated.”

“Wow yeah, definitely,” Seungcheol says.

“Also, Wonwoo just told me he loved me back.” Mingyu flushes with pride and excitement, and there’s the reaction Wonwoo was waiting for. Like a fool, Wonwoo can't help smiling too. “And now,” Mingyu says, “we’re…figuring things out.”

Wonwoo looks at Mingyu, then Seungcheol.

“Boyfriends,” he corrects.

Mingyu turns his entire body in his chair to look at Wonwoo.

“Boyfriends?” he asks.

Wonwoo nods. Without even thinking about it he reaches for Mingyu’s hand, and Mingyu is already reaching for his too, and they hold hands, and Mingyu’s pointy canines stick out from his from him smiling so wide.

“Boyfriends,” Mingyu repeats, like an announcement.

Seungcheol clears his throat.

“As much as I hate to break up this touching moment.”

Mingyu happily prompts Seungcheol, “It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?”

Seungcheol looks at him with disbelief. “It—it does not make sense. If anything, it makes less sense. Why did Hansol send me a video of elevator doors closing?!” Seungcheol holds up both hands. “You know what, I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. Fine, you’re in love. Noted.”

“What did everyone think was going on?” Wonwoo asks.

Seungcheol’s expression clears. “Drugs.”

“Will this affect my internship?” Mingyu asks nervously. “We don’t have to stop dating because I’m an intern now, right?”

Seungcheol rolls his eyes. “How could I let myself interfere with such a beautiful love story.” He reaches into another drawer and pulls out a form, which he slides over to Mingyu and Wonwoo. Relationship disclosure, Wonwoo reads. “We all knew it was gonna happen anyway,” Seungcheol mutters under his breath.

“I kind of wonder,” Mingyu muses, squeezing Wonwoo’s hand, “if maybe this could’ve happened a long time ago, you know? If I’d been honest about the sequel or back when the headphones got broken—”

Seungcheol says “Wait.”

Mingyu and Wonwoo freeze.

“Ohhhh,” Wonwoo mutters, “…shit.”

“Repeat,” Seungcheol grits through his teeth, “the part about the headphones.”

Cold dread trickles down Wonwoo’s spine. Mingyu makes like a deer in the headlights.

Seungcheol’s nostrils flare. “Would these be my headphones?”

After much too long a pause, Wonwoo says, “Noooooo.”

Seungcheol huffs a breath, obviously forcing calm. “Are you two,” the fingers on one of his hands flex in and out of a fist, “the ones who broke my headphones?”

“Ha, ha,” Mingyu forces out. “Does it really matter who broke them?”

“I assure you,” Seungcheol says, “it does.”

“But remember that part where it was all for love?” Mingyu reminds anxiously. “Remember?”

“We’ll buy you new ones,” Wonwoo frantically corrects, seeing the rage building behind Seungcheol’s eyes. “Whatever kind, or brand, or whatever, we’ll pay for it.”

Seungcheol grits out, “I already bought new ones.”

“Those headphones brought us together!” Mingyu says, frenzied. “They allowed our love to happen!”

“And I’ll make sure they bury the two of you side by side,” Seungcheol promises.

Wonwoo quickly glances back to the closed door of Seungcheol’s office. Mingyu catches him doing it, and raises an eyebrow.

Slowly, Seungcheol raises himself up out of his chair and stares them down.

Slowly, Mingyu and Wonwoo both push their chairs back infinitesimally from Seungcheol’s desk.

“You two,” Seungcheol says, voice low, “are going to—”

“Hey Seungcheol,” Mingyu squawks two octaves higher than usual, “what’s that over there? Run Wonwoo!”

Wonwoo nearly trips out of his chair as he attempts escape, Mingyu stumbling into step close behind him, and Wonwoo flings open the door and they careen out of the office, definitely knocking over at least six things in the process.

“Ay!” Seungcheol bellows after them. “Get back here!”

“True love forever!” Mingyu screeches back, making Wonwoo laugh, and as he reaches back to grab for Mingyu’s hand, he hopes at least someone in the office will be willing to hide them.