"Guess who's turning twenty-one tomorrow?"
Jihoon is startled by his best friend's voice, flinching as he lifts his gaze from the screen of his laptop to find Seungcheol strutting in his bedroom with a mini-flag of the United States on his hand, waving it around quite obnoxiously while making random noises. Raising a brow, Jihoon says, "We're Koreans living in South Korea. Why are you holding a US flag?"
Seungcheol halts from his consistent marching around Jihoon's bed and beams at him. "I found this shit in our office and thought that it's cute, so I brought it home." He raises the flag higher than before and waves it more aggressively.
Meanwhile, Jihoon stares at his best friend blankly. When Seungcheol has gotten the idea that he's not getting any response from the other, he beams even more, the brightest grin plastered on his face as he jumps on Jihoon's bed. "Anyway, you're turning twenty-one tomorrow!"
At the sight of the elder bouncing on his mattress out of excitement, Jihoon sighs. It's ten in the evening and Seungcheol's too hyperactive to handle. Jihoon's too tired for his shit. "I know my own birthday, Seungcheol." At that, the elder just nods eagerly, the grin is still evident on his face
Despite the deadpan clear on his face, Jihoon knows why his best friend is acting the way he is. No, Seungcheol is not excited for his birthday. Both of them have gone through so much shit in life that growing up doesn't make them ecstatic anymore.
It's the soulmate thing.
While Seungcheol is distracted on spouting out so much rubbish regarding how thrilled he is for Jihoon's life, the younger takes the moment as an opportunity to think thoroughly as well. Tomorrow is the day he'll officially turn twenty-one, the proper age in which the soulmate system finally happens.
Growing up, he's seen how the people around him go through it. Nothing drastic really happens except, according to what the elders tell him, it is the age in which two fated people become one. You might be miles away from your soulmate, but your entire beings are together.
Jihoon used to think that it's cool. Having a soulmate, being fated, becoming one--it's fascinating.
But his perspective has changed overtime. Eventually, the fascination he used to have has turned into annoyance. He doesn't know how it happened but the thought of being one with the other person has become absurd, especially when the most evident sign there is is the skin concept. Apparently, as you become one with your soulmate, your skin becomes one as well.That means whatever is on the other's skin is also on yours--whether it's a tattoo, doodles written through ballpoint pens, artistic body paints, weird drawings using permanent markers; anything scribbled on one skin will appear on the other.
It is absolutely ridiculous, Jihoon thinks.
He just hopes that his soulmate isn't nasty enough to write rubbish on their own skin, otherwise he'll skin them himself once they meet.
At that, the thought of meeting his soulmate follows. Even if he views the soulmate system as nothing but ridiculous, deep down, he still looks forward to it. Albeit he'll never grow the balls to say that outloud, especially with Seungcheol being a pest in his daily life, he does want to meet the person he's fated to. That's why he never bothers to meet other people despite dating being mundane in the society regardless of the soulmate system. He still believes it's rightful if he ends up with his soulmate. He wonders how they'll be like and if they do write things on their skin, what kind of things do they write?
He's out of his trance when Seungcheol abruptly puts his large hand on his shoulder, playfully pushing him to the headboard of his bed. He feels his laptop toppling over the comforter and is replaced by his best friend's heavy weight on his body. Gasping, Jihoon struggles to push the elder off. Sometimes, Seungcheol's playfulness goes to the extent without him knowing. He doesn't even realize that, in contrast to Jihoon's frame, he's fucking enormous and if he lays over the younger for another second, Jihoon's mostly going to die at the lack of oxygen.
He yells, voice muffled due to the other's back being over his goddamn face. "Jesus, Cheol, are you planning to murder me!?"
The elder just laughs hysterically. "That's because you weren't listening to me, you twat!"
"All you do is spout shit!" Jihoon finally gains the strength to push the former off of him, making him fall from the bed and face-first on the floor. Jihoon glares at the man below, cracking his knuckles. "Jesus Christ, cut down the trips to gym, will you? I thought my ribs were gonna be squashed."
Seungcheol's laughing when he jumps up from the floor and raises his middle finger at the younger's way, tongue stuck out like the annoying four year old he is. He bends down to pick his mini-flag and waves it aggressively once again. "My son is turning twenty-one tomorrow! My son is turning twenty-one tomorrow!" He chants the same thing over and over again until Jihoon chucks a pillow towards his way.
When Seungcheol finally leaves him alone to go to his own room, his stupid laugh fading through the distance, Jihoon is left in his bed, heaving a breath in slight aggravation. He contemplates the times he put up with his best friend's crap for a moment before the soulmate thing enters his mind once again.
He probably shouldn't be overthinking about his fate. After all, just because he's turning twenty-one doesn't mean he's instantly meeting the person he's for. Take Seungcheol as an example; he's twenty-three and he hasn't met the person he's fated to yet.
One time, Jihoon asked him if he wanted to personally contact his soulmate. It should be easy. He can write something on his skin and his soulmate will receive it--well, unless they're not yet in the proper age for the soulmate system. However, Seungcheol just shook his head and smiled down at his palm, a tiny doodle of a flower is on his skin. He rubbed the doodle gently but the ink didn't disperse. Jihoon assumed that it was drawn by Seungcheol's soulmate.
"I want to wait for them," Seungcheol told him a few seconds later with a soft smile. "If we're fated together, we will meet on our own, right?"
And with the memory in mind, Jihoon decides that he'll do the same. He'll wait. It doesn't matter if it'll take forever for him to meet his person. He'll wait.
The following day, Jihoon wakes up feeling empty. He opens his eyes, stares at the ceiling above him and lets his fingertips touch the blanket around him. He wants to feel a change, that he isn't waiting for nothing. He can hear Seungcheol's laughter from the living room despite the walls between them and that's when he chooses to groan.
He's twenty-one and it's just a normal day.
Lifting his arm, he puts it over his eyes, letting the darkness creep in as he grumbles. He shouldn't be thinking about the soulmate thing at this hour. It's his birthday--that's what he should be thinking about.
Taking off his arm from his eyes, he's caught off guard when he sees something drawn on his palm.
Staring at it blankly, he mutters, "What the fuck."
He props up from his mattress and rests his back on the headboard, palm open to his sight. Furrowing his eyebrows, he stares at the doodle on his hand. "Jesus," he sighs out, pressing his fingers over the ink to remove the drawing but it won't budge. It still remains on his palm, ink never spreading or rubbed off.
When Jihoon gives up on trying to remove the doodle on his palm, he maintains a blank look on his face as he stares further.
Soon enough, he's gotten the conclusion that somewhere out there, somewhere in this world, his soulmate has a large ass drawing of a dick on their palm and they won't goddamn erase it.
He's been looking forward to this day for a long time now and the first sign he's gotten from his soulmate is a drawing of a fucking penis.
Pursing his lips into a fine line, Jihoon smiles bitterly. "Looks like I'm going to commit murder soon."
Jihoon then gets ready for his day afterwards, running towards the shower and avoiding Seungcheol's daily pestering as usual. He tries his best not to scream bloody murder at his soulmate as he freshens himself up. At some point, he's brushing his teeth and the penis on his hand is still brightly evident. All he can do is glare furiously at his own palm.
Despite the annoyance, Jihoon continues his special day. Being in Seoul and away from his family, who are back in Busan, the only way he can spend his birthday is to hang out with his friends. With a heavy heart, Jihoon finds himself in the diner he and his friends usually hang out at and drowns on the noises the gang isn't afraid to make.
"So," Seokmin, one of his younger friends, drawls out mischievously as he unwraps his cheese burger from the wrapper, ignoring Seungkwan's attempt at aegyo in order to have a bite on the greasy food, "since one of our pals is twenty-one today, did anything interesting happen?"
"I can't believe he just called us pals," Minghao, who's next to him, whispers to Seungcheol in disgust.
Jihoon stares at them in amusement but when his sight goes over to the rest of his friends, deep curiosity glossed on their eyes, he laughs nervously. "It's too early for something interesting to happen."
"It's one in the afternoon," Seungkwan points out, voice unclear because of the food in his mouth. Jihoon glances at Wonwoo, who's sat across him, and snickers at his friend's obvious struggle on not grimacing and yelling don't speak when you're mouth is full. Wonwoo is a big ass neat freak.
"Still early." Jihoon shrugs, taking his vanilla milkshake from the table to take a sip. He notices that the drawing on his palm has vanished and scoffs. Well, thank God, soulmate.
Looking up from his hand, he realizes that his friends are still staring at him curiously, waiting for him to say something. He understands though. This always happens. When Seungcheol and Wonwoo turned twenty-one, he and the younger ones did the same thing so he shouldn't be too surprised that their friends are meddling just the same way. As friends, they all look forward to the day one of them meets their soulmate.
He hesitates. "I wouldn't say that this is interesting," he starts, "but my soulmate--" ("Aw, he called them his soulmate. I'm going to fucking cry," Seungcheol coos.) "had a doodle of a dick on their palm when I woke up."
There's silence and then there's laughter. Suddenly, Jihoon realizes that he probably shouldn't have said anything when he doesn't expect anything less from his friends. His friends have the tendency to make a big deal out of everything, which makes something funny ten times funnier to them.
Jihoon blinks while watching the scene upon him unfold. Sat in a diner booth, their table is a mess—Seungcheol is spouting out something about loving Jihoon's soulmate already, Seungkwan is dying for air with a milkshake mustache still evident on his face, Seokmin is patting his back to calm him down but since he's laughing quite hysterically as well it just looks like he's beating up the younger, Minghao is laughing and smiling charmingly at the same time and Jihoon doesn't understand how he does that, and finally Wonwoo looks constipated—his entire body is frozen but his face is laughing yet there's no sound coming out.
It's not even that funny.
Generally Jihoon would join along and even clap like a seal, but now he just wants to commit murder once again. Huh, come to think of it, he's contemplating murder more and more every hour.
After spending an entire afternoon with his friends, Jihoon stands up from his seat and announces that he has to go, squeezing out of the booth. The response he gets from his friends is a mixture of groans and whines so he rolls his eyes and tells them that he really has to go because of work.
Seungcheol frowns. "Who even goes to work on their birthday?"
Jihoon lifts a brow. "Uh, I do?"
Seungkwan throws a fry at Seungcheol's head. "Obviously. Hence this conversation? God, hyung, keep up."
At that, the booth erupts into chaotic noises again. Jihoon takes it as an opportunity to wave for the final time and step away, padding towards the exit. Behind him, he can still hear the sound of Seungcheol's whiny voice, yelling at everyone about him being their hyung and not having the respect he deserves.
Jihoon works as a musician. He composes, produces, writes—he makes music. It's been a passion of his for so long and fortunately, luck has taken him to various places in the music industry. After creating a lot of songs for quite a time now, he should probably be more productive on his work and continuously take action like a machine but it seems like that's not the case for today.
He stares at the pen between his fingers and then at the notepad on his lap. He's been in his studio for almost two hours now and he hasn't even made any progress on song writing. Admittedly, he knows that he isn't very pumped up on writing these days, but this project is due next week and he has to finish the track before the artist—some female pop soloist from a big agency (hence the pressure) —who's supposed to perform it makes a comeback to the music industry.
"Shit. I should be celebrating more in my birthday but here we are," Jihoon mumbles, gaze still on the paper. He doesn't even know what the track is supposed to be about. The staff from the artist's company only told him that it must be a love song but the context isn't specified.
Jihoon doesn't like love songs.
While maintaining his eyes on the notepad, in hopes of grasping an idea, he's startled when he feels faint tingles on his skin. Jihoon's eyes widen when he sees black lines form on the back of his hand, along with thick dots.
Looks like his soulmate's at it again.
He stares at the doodle further, watching as dark ink forms more lines and dots on his hand. When the doodling stops, Jihoon drinks in the entire piece and frowns. "Well, what the hell is that?" he mumbles. There may be tiny drawings of dots and lines on his skin but overall, he doesn't understand anything from it.
Well, at least it isn't a dick this time.
Jihoon thinks that his soulmate might be bored right now. Too bored at that.
Sighing, he presses his thumb over the ink on his skin, gently rubbing off the doodle despite knowing it won't work. He wonders where his soulmate may be and what they might be doing now. He wonders if they're a man or a girl—doesn't matter which, Jihoon will probably like them either way. He wonders when they'll meet and hopes that it'll be sooner.
At the thought of his soulmate, a small fire lights up on his chest. With a small smile painted on his face, Jihoon perks up and begins to scribble on his notepad.
Soon enough, Jihoon has grown accustomed to his soulmate. While they have never met nor conversed in any way, Jihoon doesn't get startled anymore when he starts to feel the familiar tingles on his skin when his soulmate scribbles something. Instead, at the moment of feeling the faint touches on him, he just lets his gaze fall towards where the scribbles are, watching the strange doodles form.
Usually the doodles are short lines and tiny dots on his hand—Jihoon still hasn't cracked on that code. He still doesn't get the meaning of it in any way. However there are times when simple words are written instead like lamp posts, tissue, umbrellas— words that are so vague and random that Jihoon can't help but wonder. . . what?
Jihoon makes it his mission to give his soulmate a lifetime supply of notepads when they meet because it seems like they don't know the existence of paper with the way they scribble on their hand.
Meanwhile, Jihoon also keeps himself busy. His work in the studio is still consistent and it seems like more projects will come towards him, a benefit for his career and yet a disadvantage for his health. He also occasionally spends his time with his friends—having movie marathons with Seungcheol, grabbing lunch with Seungkwan, playing video games with Wonwoo. Jihoon tries his very best to keep his schedule intact.
Now, he's with Minghao and Seokmin, eating lunch in the Thai restaurant Seokmin's been yapping about for weeks. There's something about delicious meals that seem to silence them though—that's something Jihoon has noticed throughout the years. When he and his friends have an exceptionally well-cooked food upon them, nobody seems to speak a word and just digs in to their meal like their life depends on it.
In the midst of devouring their Thai food though, both Minghao and Jihoon are startled when Seokmin suddenly speaks up, "Does it make sense to you that breakfast is called breakfast?"
Minghao, with mouth still full, looks at their friend in disgust and confusion and says, "What made you ask that?"
"What? We're eating right now." Seokmin shrugs.
Minghao thickly swallows his food. "Yeah but we're eating lunch. It doesn't make sense."
"What doesn't make sense? The breakfast thi—"
"I mean, this conversation doesn't make sense."
Seokmin lifts a brow and raises his fork, scowling at the younger. "What do you mean it doesn't ma—"
"Ladies, you're both pretty. Can we just eat now?" Jihoon sighs and decides to butt in. The trio are sat on lined up stools by the bar tables at the corner of the restaurant so he doesn't really have the patience to have his friends arguing about something as dumbass as this, especially with him in between them. It's like watching third graders in a petty fight.
Minghao glares at Seokmin and Seokmin scowls at him. That just makes the eldest of three sigh deeper, crossing his arms over his chest and staring blankly at the wall upon them. Minghao and Seokmin are best friends but they're both idiots that arguments as stupid as they had just now have been constant throughout the years all of them have been friends together.
After eating their lunch, Minghao releases an obnoxious burp before jumping off of his stool and hooking his sling bag over his neck. "I have to go, folks."
Seokmin furrows his eyebrows at him. "Where are you going?"
"Is it the dance class you're taking these days?" Jihoon asks.
"You're taking dance classes?" Seokmin gasps in genuine disbelief. "But you're so good already. And why didn't you tell me!?"
Minghao nods eagerly, a bright smile forms on his face. He even claps his hands happily. "It's a cheap dance class a few blocks from here and the instructors are really awesome. I was thinking of dragging you guys along sometime."
Jihoon cocks his head. He remembers being in the modern dance club when he was in high school and it seems as if that's only the extent of his dancing experience. While he finds it a good hobby, he doesn't really feel like going for it again. "I'm fi— "
But he doesn't get to finish his statement when he suddenly feels the familiar tingles on his skin, almost tickling him. He lifts his hand and watches the same dots and lines, except they're forming in different directions compared to the last time. With his face blank, he says, "Oh, they're at it again."
When Minghao and Seokmin notice the scene upon them, both squeal in unison and even skip forward to their hyung, trying to catch a glimpse of the scribbles on his skin. If Jihoon turns his head to see Seokmin, he'd even see him almost tearing up. Being twenty and still not applicable for the soul mate system, they're ecstatic to see it happen on others.
Too ecstatic at that.
Seokmin coos, "Aw, look at that. Weird symbols!" He says it with so much adoration that Jihoon can't help but chuckle.
"What does it mean though?" Minghao asks curiously. Jihoon glances at him to see his eyes narrowed. "It looks strangely familiar."
At that, Jihoon perks up, almost jumping out of his seat. "Really? You've seen it before?" The two younger ones find it adorable that their hyung is excited to meet his soulmate.
Minghao smiles yet shrugs. "I don't know, hyung. It feels like I've seen it before but I just can't pinpoint where." Jihoon's face falls. He was almost expecting for an answer.
Seokmin hums thoughtfully. "It looks really cryptic though. Maybe they're sending you a message?"
Jihoon laughs. "If it's that so, I'd really appreciate it if they just simply say hey or whatever."
When Minghao finally leaves for his dance class, he and Seokmin go on their separate ways as well, with him heading to his studio and the other to Wonwoo's place to play video games, apparently. (Wonwoo is a video game nerd.) While Jihoon is walking towards his studio, his friends' words remain in his mind, almost repeating themselves like a broken record.
What if his soulmate truly is sending him a message?
At the thought, he lets out a scoff. He doesn't think they'd be that extra to the extent that they'd use weird shit to communicate. The symbols on his hand seem to be different.
Lifting his hand closer to his face, Jihoon sees that the doodles are no longer there.
After the time with Seokmin and Minghao, it seems like his soulmate doesn't do anything anymore. For the following weeks, Jihoon's skin is clear and he hasn't felt the tingles touching his nerves at all, as if his soulmate's existence isn't even there and everything's just according to the way it usually was.
Jihoon doesn't admit how much he misses it though.
It's not that he enjoys having his hand scribbled on over and over again. As someone who's self-proclaimed being a very neat and organized person, it's not too shocking if he says that he absolutely detests having his skin screwed up just because his soulmate doesn't know the existence of paper, hence him thinking that the soulmate concept is quite ridiculous.
But having the scribbles and doodles on his skin, despite how random and nonsensical they might be, gives him a certain kind of comfort. That somewhere out there, someone is actually made for him. That he has a soulmate living their own life even through the distance between them.
It gives comfort to him but now that the person they're fated to hasn't done anything in weeks, he settles to himself, ignoring the world, along with the emptiness in his chest. For days, he keeps himself locked up in his studio, doing nothing but work, sleep, and eat. He hasn't showered for days, making his brunet hair frizzy and greasy at the same time. He fills his mind with melodies and song lyrics and beats he can think of, just so he can ignore everything and focus on one main thing—music (read: work).
Clicking through his monitor, Jihoon lets his gaze wander around his files. He has finished a few tracks for some artists and commercial jingles and he actually feels better at the sight of his accomplishments but once he sees a WIP file, he freezes.
It's the old song he was working on a few weeks back for a famous idol.
Thinking about it, he should probably work on that. He has already asked for an extension of the submission and yet he still can't find the inspiration to move forward and make progress. If he doesn't finish the track soon, the agency will choose another musician to make the song but there are also chances that they might not consider him for hiring anymore and that sucks. That sucks a lot.
Staring at the computer screen, he observes just how empty the file is when it's opened on the music production program. He hasn't made the perfect rhythm and the song lyrics he's thought of are too mediocre to be even considered and recorded for demo. Everything is just a mess.
Jihoon hates himself for the lack of progress.
At the sudden voice, Jihoon flinches in bewilderment, almost hitting himself on the table. He turns his head towards the door, seeing a wild Seungcheol under the doorway. Shooting a glare at him, Jihoon turns back to his work. "What are you doing here?"
Seungcheol laughs, his fingers going through his dark hair. "What, I can't visit my best friend?"
"I'm working, Seungcheol," Jihoon sighs.
He hears the sound of rusty metal clashing with the ground. That's when he catches a sight of his best friend dragging a stool from the back of the studio towards his side. Seungcheol sits down and stares at the monitor, most likely curious about Jihoon's work. "Is that a new project?"
"Not relatively new," the younger drawls, "Just me not working on it at all."
"Does it have a due date or something?"
"Of course. Its performer is an idol."
Seungcheol's eyes widen. There's a glint of amazement and incredulity in his eyes. Even after years of friendship, the awe is still there whenever Jihoon makes music. Somehow, it flatters him.
They've stayed in silence after that, with Jihoon randomly clicking around his computer and Seungcheol watching him. The younger doesn't feel bothered at all, especially since he's gotten used to Seungcheol's presence since they've been friends since high school. Seungcheol has this particular vibe around him that brings everyone close and comfortable. And if you're someone who lacks social skills like Jihoon, people like the elder to contrast with you is something to be appreciated.
But then the vibe has gradually changed. The silence is still there but it feels like Seungcheol's agitated for something. Him squirming around his stool doesn't help his case at all.
"What is it? What do you want?"
"What do you mean? I wasn't even saying anything."
"You're squirming a whole lot like a fucking salted worm. You want to tell me something?"
Seungcheol chuckles nervously. "You're like psychic," Jihoon rolls his eyes, "But anyway, I am going to tell you something. Minghao invited us to a party tonight. We should go."
"No. You know I don't do well at parties."
"Yeah, I know, I know! But I promise that I'll be by your side for the entire time. It'll be really fun! It's been a long time since we went to one an—"
"Seungcheol, no. Besides, I have work to do."
"Please, Jihoonie? It'll be great for you. Like, an escape from all the stress. Once you come tonight, I won't bother you forever. Besides, you can use a goddamn shower. You stink."
While the not bother you forever bit is a deeply tempting offer, the idea of finally taking a blissful shower is what wins Jihoon over. That's how he finds himself stripped out of his sweatpants and into a much more decent clothes—if, you know, oversized pink hoodies and ripped jeans can be classified as decent—along with the briefest makeup he can do just to look presentable in front of a bunch of people he probably doesn't recognize.
Just as Jihoon says, he doesn't do well at parties. Being a twenty-one-year-old college dropout, his experience on social interaction isn't very advanced. He finds difficulty on conversing with other people and going to parties is just the same challenge, only multiplied by ten.
That explains how much he's slouching as he enters the house where the gathering is. It doesn't help that Seungcheol's promise of not leaving his side is instantly broken off just as expected. The moment the pair arrives, he hears someone calling out his best friend's name in a friendly manner and soon enough, he's alone.
The amount of people in the house isn't as overwhelming as Jihoon used to think. Regardless, it's still overwhelming, considering he doesn't remember being in a place with this amount of people before. Fortunately, he doesn't need to squeeze through energized bodies like he expected he'd do--he has made a lot of precautions before this--but the smell of alcohol and sweat filled in the air is enough for him to say, "I want to go home."
Later on, with still no sign of Seungcheol anywhere--the house seems to be larger than he thought it'd be (and with that conclusion, he realizes that there is no way this is Minghao's place), Jihoon finds himself somewhere in the corner of the living room, holding a cup of orange juice he found in the refrigerator earlier and smiling at people who so much as look at him.
He then thinks, socializing sucks.
He lets his eyes wander around the living room, in hopes of finding someone he can recognize--for a party, he hasn't even seen any of his friends yet, until they drop on one particular person. The guy is kneeled on the table at the corner, where the alcohol was placed earlier and for some reason vanished now, throwing his head along the loud music blaring through the stereo. He's yelling words that seem to be supposedly the lyrics to the song but they're so wrong and jumbled, Jihoon has to let out a laugh.
"It hasn't even been an hour and he's already wasted," he whispers to himself.
He lets himself stand awkwardly on the corner for a few more minutes until he feels a large body bumping into him, causing him to spill the orange juice from his cup. There's annoyance flaring through his chest, along with a small stain of spilled orange juice, and it doesn't help that the guy who bumped into him looks unbothered.
"HEY MAN, WANT A DRINK!?" the guy yells, holding out a cup of beer to him. Jihoon wants to kick him in the face but thankfully, he keeps his cool and just shakes his head instead. "OKAY, MORE FOR ME THEN! BYE!" then he walks off towards another room.
At that, Jihoon's desperation to go home just deepens.
Luckily, he finds a balcony upstairs ("Damn, how huge is this house?" ). It seems to be the least place people go to so he stays there instead, leaning on the railing while breathing out in relief.
It's almost ten in the evening. Usually at this time, he'd be in his studio working his ass off but tonight he's here, alone and honestly bored as fuck.
He hears the faint sound of a pop song from downstairs and he knows that he should probably feel energized like everyone else but the only thing Jihoon feels is weariness. Some part in him tells him that it's his fault--he's too awkward and he's the only one who makes him uncomfortable is himself. If only I'm more outgoing or something . . . he thinks seldomly.
And under the dark sky, despite the booming music almost yelling off his skin, Jihoon gets to let his thoughts wonder and soon enough, albeit not unpredictable at all, he's thinking about his soulmate once again. Eyes on his hands, on his skin, he sighs. He probably even has his bottom lip jut out pathetically. He just wishes his soulmate writes something again.
Okay, maybe he isn't in the right position to pout like a kid. It's not like he's doing anything for his soulmate either. Almost a month since his birthday, he hasn't actually written anything on his skin at all.
At that thought, Jihoon's eyes widen in realization and gasps, "What if they decided not to find me anymore?" Then a train of overdramatic questions follows. ("What if they think I'm dead?")
"This sucks," he tells himself later on. He doesn't even mind talking to himself--since, you know, he doesn't have anyone else to talk to in the first place. Thank God for an empty balcony; he gets to be in peace.
Peace, as it turns out, ends within five minutes. After enjoying the fresh air, Jihoon's startled when a stranger enters the balcony, body wavering as a sign of drunkenness. The guy doesn't seem to notice his presence and is talking to himself, often mumbling, "What the fuck am I doing to myself?" over and over again.
The guy, still unaware of Jihoon's presence, drops on the floor, his back leaning on the railing. His hands are on his jet black hair, scrubbing it aggressively. "I hate alcohol and I hate parties and I hate people and I hate everything right now," the guy breathes out.
Upon observation, Jihoon realizes that the guy is the one from earlier. Not the one who bumped on him and spilled his orange juice to the floor but the one on the table, going crazy over the music.
Jihoon doesn't know what to do. He should probably leave, that's what he usually does, but the guy looks exactly like death itself and it seems like he's going to puke any time soon. Jihoon knows to himself that he'll feel bothered if he doesn't lend a helping hand. (He mentally pats himself at that and thinks, What a nice guy.)
So he crouches down next to the guy and pokes his shoulder, startling the stranger. He smells of strong alcohol but Jihoon fights off scrunching his nose in distate and smiles instead. "Are you okay?"
Suddenly, a thousand questions swim around his head. Is it normal to help people out in a party? Why am I too awkward? Is it normal to be this awkward?
Having the guy up close is different from staring at him with distance between them. The stranger is quite good looking if only he doesn't look like a wreck. His eyes are pretty, captivating if necessary, but right now they just look like they're pleading for help so they can puke their feelings out.
The stranger's expression gradually changes. From the bewilderment painted on his skin, it turns into a blank look, just staring at Jihoon's face without any emotion evident at all.
Jihoon doesn't know what to do now. Maybe he should just leave. Yeah, he should leave.
"Well, okay then," he chuckles nervously, standing up from crouching and dusting his lap off in habit, "I'll just go."
But before he can walk out of the balcony, a hand is on his wrist, pulling him back aggressively. Jihoon lets out a moan in pain when he feels his back hit the railing harshly. "The fuck, man?!"
That's how Jihoon finds himself on the floor with the stranger apologizing to him nonstop. "I'm sorry. Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I just wanted to ask something and I didn't mean to do tha--"
"Hell yeah, you better not mean it!" Jihoon glares at him, face scrunched at the ache on his back. Life is such a beautiful thing. So, so fucking beautiful.
The guy apologizes once more, and then he apologizes again, and again, and again. For the span of three minutes of Jihoon whining about how painful his back is being at the moment, he's heard the word sorry so much that he feels his vocabulary shaking in its nerves.
"I'm really so--"
"God, shut up," Jihoon groans out, his hand searching for the guy's face to keep him from talking. He successfully finds it, letting his palm hover half of his features (the misfortune of being tiny apparently).
When he removes his hand from the stranger, his eyes still look apologetic and it feels like he's fighting off the urge to say sorry once more. "Are you okay now? Does it still hurt?"
Jihoon sighs and props up from leaning on the railing too much. He sends a small smile to the other's way, assuring him that he's good as new. "I'm grand, don't worry." At least he's gotten the idea that his night can't get any worse anymore. He feels safe.
But it turns out, the stranger is capable of many things because as soon as he's about to say something once more--most likely more apologies, vomit comes out from his mouth. And not the metaphorical vomit. Literal vomit.
Jihoon thinks that he probably jinxed it. Turns out his night can get worse.
The guy takes him to an empty bedroom, where a clean bathroom is. Apologies are still blaring from his mouth as well and Jihoon wants to deck him with so much passion but he chooses to ignore him instead and cleans himself up.
He makes sure to slam the bathroom door shut so hard though. Maybe it can give the guy the message that says Hello, I'm mad at you with every inch of my body.
When he finishes freshening up and leaves the bathroom, he sees the guy sitting on the bed of the bedroom with a clean white shirt clenched on his hand. He's staring at the floor and even with the gap between them, Jihoon can feel his anxiety. Looks like he's going to apologize for some more.
He steps out of the bathroom, torso bare and cold. The stranger perks up at the sound of his arrival, standing up from the bed in instant with a tiny smile on his face. Despite the smile he just looks like he's scared of him.
Jihoon likes the thought of him being kind of scared. Growing up lacking the actual growth, it's nice to be intimidating sometimes.
But since he's not as mean as he likes to think he is, he just smiles at the guy reassuringly. "Don't apologize, okay? It's alright." It's quite funny to him because a few minutes ago, all he wanted was to deck him.
"I literally puked on you," the stranger says, "It's not alright. I'm rea--"
"I said it's okay. I'm okay." He smiles once more, gentler this time, and it seems to win the guy over because the anxiety on his face eases.
In fact, he smiles back. Jihoon doesn't want to admit how attractive the guy is but shit. "I'm glad. I got scared for a moment there." He gives the shirt he's holding to Jihoon, who looks skeptical for a moment before considering how chilly the breeze is and takes it anyway.
"This party sucks. Never going again. And do you just take clean shirts from people's parties all the damn time?" Jihoon lifts his brow but wears it anyway.
The stranger is quiet for a second before he laughs. "Only when I puke on people."
Jihoon lets himself loosen up at that and scrunches his face in digust. "That's gross."
"I'm Soonyoung," the guy tells him with a smile. His smile is too bright for someone who fights to sober up at a house party at hell-knows-what o'clock in the evening.
Jihoon doesn't like getting puked on by random strangers and then hitting off as friends with them a minute later but somehow he finds himself being dragged by Soonyoung downstairs, proceeding to party with other people. Of course, Jihoon isn't exactly partying. It's mostly Soonyoung dancing along to the music while grinning at everyone who looks at his way while the shorter one stands next to him, emotions are in a mixture of adoration and I don't know him, I swear. If only the guy isn't so much of a good--excellent, actually--dancer then Jihoon would get the pleasure of kicking him out of the party.
Soonyoung's waving his arms around to a Twice song before he looks over to Jihoon with a soft smile. "Why aren't you dancing?"
"Because unlike everyone else here, I actually have dignity."
But former pulls him forward and does the shy shy shy as what seems to be his strategy to have Jihoon move. It doesn't work of course, but as improvement, he does bop his head along the beat.
After a few consecutive minutes of Soonyoung body rolling to fucking Twice and Jihoon just moving awkwardly in the middle of the living room, he feels a hand wrap around his wrist, jerking him back a little. "What the--" he gasps out until he sees Seungcheol next to him, still holding his wrist. Minghao and Wonwoo are behind him.
"Thank the fuck I found you," Seungcheol breathes out.
"I'm sorry, I don't recognize boys who leave their best friends alone in a horrible party," Jihoons says, shaking off Seungcheol's grip on his wrist. "Now let me jam to Twice in peace."
Wonwoo steps forward to them and says, "I don't even understand why Twice is playing at a house party."
Seungcheol gasps, holding his chest like the dramatic ass he is. "Mind you, but Twice is fucking amazing!" He pokes the other's chest aggressively.
"I wasn't bashing them," Wonwoo mutters, mostly to himself, while backing away, "Why do I need to be attacked?"
Minghao's laughter interjects their conversation. He even steps in between Seungcheol and Wonwoo, going over to Jihoon to give him a brief hug. "Jihoon-hyu--"
Jihoon immediately remembers that he has his own company already. His gaze falls between his dongsae and his new found friend, who seem to be conversing together like good old friends. He doesn't even notice Minghao leaving his side, as well as Seungcheol and Wonwoo, to gather around Soonyoung to send him smiles and praises.
Minghao seems to notice the silence emitting from Jihoon and grasps the idea that his hyung doesn't know Soonyoung yet so he beckons him closer to them, grinning happily as he says, "Jihoonie-hyung, this is Soonyoung-hyung. Kwon Soonyoung. He's one of the dance instructors in my dance class."
Jihoon looks between them again. Oh.
"I'm also the host of this party," Soonyoung tells him, a mischievous grin plastered on his face.
Jihoon stares still. OH.
When he doesn't respond to their introduction, Soonyoung saves him with a carefree laugh. He widens his arm out, pulling Jihoon under him. "But Jihoonie and I have met earlier so everything's cool."
Seungcheol, ever the shit head he is, looks at Soonyoung with concern. "Was he mean to you? Did he look mean to you? Don't mind him. That's just his face."
Jihoon makes sure to mouth out fuck you to his best friend but instantly changes into awkward smiles and laughs when Soonyoung turns to his way. He catches Seungcheol mouthing out you fake through the corner of his eyes.
"He did tell me that the party sucks quite a lot, but besides that, he's great."
That night, Jihoon realizes one thing. He doesn't do well at parties and good looking people like Kwon Soonyoung.
(When Jihoon gets home from the party, it's almost one in the morning and he's alone--he couldn't find Seungcheol anywhere so he just texted him im going home take care of yourself. He makes sure to change into his sweatpants but keep the shirt on his torso. Now that the air is cleaner and the scent lacks alcohol and sweat, he can smell Soonyoung through the fabric and it kind of makes him feel warm.
So, with the guy in mind, he jumps in his bed and hides under the blankets to search is it possible to find someone else attractive apart from your soulmate on Google. When the first website's answer starts with The soulmate system exists in order to have us humans . . . he quickly exists out of Safari and rubs his palms over his face.
It's not like he likes Soonyoung. For Pete's sake, he just met him! But Jihoon isn't one to deny his thoughts and for some reason, through the hours they spent together, his attraction towards him only grew.
"I just find him cool, is all," Jihoon tells himself, "I have a soulmate out there. Kwon Soonyoung isn't someone to think about. If anything, this is just a plain old crush.")
The next morning, Jihoon finds a large body next to him in his bed. He struggles to move as its firm arm is wrapped around him.
He sighs. "Seungcheol, get the fuck out of my bed."
His best friend moves by an inch. Then he just stays still over the mattress, tightening his grip around Jihoon's torso. If he tightens it even more, he's most likely going to squeeze his diaphragm until it blasts off.
Seungcheol doesn't usually act like this. Hell, Seungcheol doesn't just hover people with his firm ass body unless he's being soft; but it doesn't seem like he's being soft at the moment. If anything, he looks bothered and vulnerable. Jihoon knows something's wrong.
He pokes his arm and then pinches it. The most reaction the elder just gives is whine out Just kill me, Hoonie. At that moment, Jihoon just wishes he has the nerve to say gladly.
"Okay, I'm sure something happened but I can't help you if you're just going to lock me in this bed forever. You need to speak up, Cheol."
But Cheol doesn't move. He has his face buried over a pillow, dark hair tousled but not from waking up early or hangover. It looks disheveled from intentionally messing it over and over again. Jihoon frowns and lets his walls breaking down for a moment, letting his fingers go through his best friend's hair in attempt to comb through it. Then he just lets his hand pat the arm around his torso, in hopes of comforting him.
"Cheol, whatever happened, you're better than this."
Seungcheol begins to speak up but his voice is muffled over the pillow. Jihoon doesn't ask him to repeat his words but he does take another pillow to hit his nape harshly. "I'm not psychic, you idiot. If you're going to tell me something, be coherent." He proceeds on hitting him continuously with the pillow until Seungcheol finally turns over, facing the ceiling and removing his arm from him to rub his face with his palms.
"I want to meet them soon. I really, really want to meet them."
Jihoon's eyes soften. "I'm sure you do. And you know you will, right? Everyone says that it's sure to happen."
Albeit they didn't grow up together, both Jihoon and Seungcheol were raised in a family that glorifies the soulmate system more than usual. While it's mundane in their world, somehow their family treats the concept so important like it's the best thing out there. So it's only normal for them to grow up thinking the same thing, hence Seungcheol's exaggerated excitement whenever any of their friends finally turn twenty-one.
"Yeah. Yeah, I know. And I told you that I'd wait, right?"
"Yeah, you did."
"I did something stupid last night."
Jihoon doesn't say anything.
"I tried to communicate with them. I literally fucking wrote dumb shit on my arm." Seungcheol lifts his other arm, not the one he used to hold onto the smaller, and Jihoon sees what he means. While the ink seems to be scrubbed off, it looks like he used permanent marker so there's still faded marks left. Jihoon can make out I want to meet you, i need to see u soon, can i see u soon, i think u be great, i lov u alrdy, pls takl to me, im dyin t sea u--Jihoon snorts at 'sea', and a million hellos scattered everywhere.
"Look," Jihoon starts. He isn't really good at comforting people but with the thought of Seungcheol aching in mind, he strives for his best. The least he wants is to have a sulking best friend.
The soulmate thing means a lot to Jihoon but he knows that Seungcheol treasures it more. He holds onto his own promise of waiting for his soulmate in hopes to make everything special. While there's nothing wrong with communicating with your fated one, as Jihoon's certain that a lot of people have done it before, it's unlikely for Seungcheol to do the same. In the perspective of others, Seungcheol may look ridiculous for being sad over nothing, but Jihoon knows that his best friend is just feeling shit.
Jihoon can't find the right words to say so he just buries back under the covers and wrap his arm over Seungcheol, just as how he was just now.
"What if they think I'm stupid?" Seungcheol whispers.
"What if they won't answer? What if they're creeped out? What if they think I'm a clingy guy? What if--" he chokes on his own words, "What if they don't want me? "
Jihoon pinches his skin. "Don't say that. If shit happens, I'll beat them up, okay?"
Seungcheol chuckles but it seems looks he's just pushing himself. "You'll really do that?" he asks in amusement.
"Yeah. If there's anything they'd hate you for it's the fact that you just screwed up their arm, so I suggest you to scrub off that shit soon." Jihoon tightens his grip around his best friend, even nuzzling his face on his shoulder. "But they're going to love you, okay? And they probably already do. Whoever your soulmate is, they're so damn lucky to have you as theirs. Don't let your thoughts consume you, okay?"
Alas, Seungcheol doesn't get better for the following days. It looks like his soulmate hasn't responded to any of his scribbles at all. He seems alright, smiling and laughing as usual; he goes to work in ease and comes home to talk to Jihoon briefly, asking how his days go, before locking himself up in his room, playing My Chemical Romance and FT Island so loud like a teenager in their puberty, going through their first heart break.
Jihoon doesn't mind. He lets his best friend sulk and waits for him to get better. Occasionally, he'd drop by his room to bring him a hot mug of chocolate or tea. One time he even tried to encourage him with flowery words of comfort but to no avail, Seungcheol just shut him out.
Thus, with Seungcheol's lack of motivation to do anything apart from work and drowning on loud music, Jihoon has taken over his common responsibilities around the apartment and takes a few days leave from his producer duties. Usually, Jihoon handles the laundry and sporadic cooking. But besides that, Seungcheol cleans the entire house, including the bathroom, and does the groceries.
Hence why Jihoon is in here--at their local supermarket with a cart upon him, pondering thoroughly which one to buy between flake cereals or whole grain nuggets. Holding one box out, he reads the details at the back and sighs. "This is so hard," Jihoon mutters to himself, "What even is the relevance of inventing thousands of cereals in the market?"
"You should get the fruity ones."
Jihoon jumps a little at the sound of a familiar voice, almost dropping the box on his hand on the floor. Lifting up his gaze, he sees Kwon Soonyoung in a grey sweater and black skinny jeans, along with his ever so charming smile.
(He looks so good that Jihoon wants to scurry off. He hasn't taken a shower and he's still wearing the sweatpants since last night. He doesn't even remember brushing his hair. Life is horrible at its best. Usually he won't care about his appearance but Soonyoung is a new friend and he finds the need to give a decent impression somehow.)
Soonyoung is the least person Jihoon wants to see at the moment, especially with the confusion he brings him and his feelings. With Seungcheol in his fragile state right now, he can't really afford to get himself screwed as well.
So he fights off giving any kind of odd reaction and scoffs,
"Sure, the fruity ones. Churros or pebbles? See, the complications are still there." (Yes, that's right, Jihoon. Play it cool.)
Soonyoung laughs, the basket hooked on his arm hitting the shelves lightly. "Do you have to make everything complicated?"
"No, I just tend to be very specific." Jihoon takes the red box of fruity churros and places it in his cart. He pushes it forward, letting it roll rustily, with Soonyoung still in tow.
There's silence between but the shorter one is quite glad that it's not awkward. It's the kind of quiet he appreciates, gentle and comfortable. Too bad Soonyoung has to break it off when he starts babbling about his dance students as they go over to pick out bananas from the fruit section.
Soonyoung's voice is . . . soothing. It's unique and distinctive but nonetheless, it's soothing. Jihoon finds himself listening to him without actually listening, grasping the tone and gentleness of his voice without progressing the words he says. Jihoon knows that he's doomed if he continues thinking like this but he can't go through self-loath with the main subject present around him. He needs to chill.
" . . . It's such a crisis, I swear," Jihoon's out of his trance when the taller's voice seems to be raised, frustration leaking out of his tone, "All I want is to watch a good ass drama at nine in the evening but dance class has to be a hassle in my daily life. God, if only I don't love dancing as I do, I'm going to quit."
Jihoon's about to tell him something sarcastic--his general method of conversing basically--but he's interrupted when he feels his phone vibrating in his pocket. Saying a mere excuse, he pulls it out and reads the text message popping up on the screen.
dont answer unless code red
please come home. it's an emergency
The thing is, Seungcheol never texts. He always says that his fingers are just too big for the keypad but everyone knows that that's just his excuse for being shit at technology. So receiving a message right now is very alarming.
"Hey, I'm sorry but I got to go," Jihoon says.
Soonyoung perks up and nods eagerly, the smile on his face is still there but it seems like he's a bit disappointed (Jihoon tries not to get that look into his head). "Oh, that's fine. Maybe- " he pauses and looks down while scratching his nape nervously.
"Maybe what?" God, he looks so cute.
"Maybe . . . " Soonyoung drawls out before lifting his gaze again to show a small smile. "Maybe we can text? I don't know. Can I have your number?"
Jihoon, of course, is taken aback. He should've seen it coming though. Regardless of how uneasy he feels, they are friends already. So Jihoon nods and types his number in Soonyoung's contact list on his phone before he pays for the groceries and leaves.
At some point, he looks back to see the taller. He's now by the meat section but there's a happy grin on his face. Jihoon can't help but smile.
Seungcheol's emergency, as it turns out, isn't as appalling as Jihoon assumed it to be. No broken bones, no blood, no pain in any way. In fact, the moment he comes home, he sees his best friend sitting on their old, ugly orange couch, grinning at the wall across him. Jihoon knows that he should be glad he isn't hurt but at the same time, he wants to hurt him himself.
"Seungcheol, what the hell? I thought you were dying!" he yells in instant, stepping on the carpet to drop his entire body on the love seat next to the couch. "What happened?"
There's silence before Seungcheol screeches and jumps towards him giddily. Jihoon doesn't understand a thing but he lets his best friend squash his body anyway because it seems like he's happy on doing that.
Seungcheol's screaming incoherent words like usual and it's starting to annoy Jihoon so he slaps him in the face and holds his shoulders to stop him from moving. "Get a hold from yourself, you stuffed nugget! What happened?"
The elder breathes in deeply before yelling, "HE REPLIED TO ME!"
Suddenly, Jihoon feels the other's arm being squeezed towards him, Seungcheol being eager to show the words on his arm. "I won't be able to read it if it's right on my face, you asshat."
It takes inapproximately thirty seconds before Seungcheol calms down. Jihoon finally gets to see the tiny scribbles on his arm and smiles.
hi soulmate here's my # :) ***-***-*** -joshua
Before Jihoon gets to say anything, Seungcheol screams again, "His name is fucking Joshua! Isn't that just the most beautiful name ever!?" He scurries off of Jihoon and is almost shaking from happiness. "You know what? I'm going to call him now. I'm going to call him and marry him."
That seems to be too fast for Jihoon but he just shakes his head with a fond smile on his face. Before Seungcheol gets to skip towards his bedroom, he grabs his wrist and pulls him back. "Hey Cheol, I'm really happy for you. Fuck, I'm going to cry over this before I go to sleep. That's how happy I am for you."
Seungcheol smiles down at him. He looks like he's going to burst into tears any time soon. Bending down to reach Jihoon's level, he pulls him into a tight hug and ruffles the younger's brunet hair. "I'm going to meet him soon, Jihoonie. He's finally here."
"I know," Jihoon whispers back, letting go from the hug. He watches his best friend sniffling and walking towards his bedroom. He hears a few screaming inside but settles on shaking his head in adoration. Finally, Seungcheol will have his time to meet his soulmate.
In the midst of thinking about how happy he is for his soulmate, Jihoon feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. Pulling it out, he instantly grins.
Unknown number Add to contacts?
hi jihoonie <3
Jihoon stares at the text messages before letting his finger linger on the keypad.
Unknown number Add to contacts?
hi jihoonie <3
hey soonyoung :)
Ever since Seungcheol started communicating with his soulmate, he's gotten better. In fact, it almost feels like he's more energetic and carefree than he used to be. He's also begun doing his normal duties around the house, which drags Jihoon back to his responsibilites as a musician.
Jihoon has also started talking to Soonyoung more and more and to be frank, he doesn't know how to feel about that. He's happy to have Soonyoung as a part of his life. He's funny, lovable, outgoing, and he knows how to express his thoughts well--things that Jihoon can never be. There's such an enormous contrasty between them that being with each other feels unusual to the younger.
It feels so balanced and perfect. But Jihoon can never say those words aloud, not when Soonyoung is nothing but a friend to him and his soulmate is still out there in this world.
Sometimes, he looks at the smile on his best friend's face and he feels envious. He tells himself that he'll wait for them but seeing the joy in Seungcheol's face whenever he talks about Joshua is so refreshing and beautiful that Jihoon just wishes that he'll get to feel the same thing soon.
They've hung out together for plenty of times now. Usually it's by the coffee shop near Jihoon's studio and Soonyoung's dance class. Often times they eat lunch together, sometimes Jihoon visits the latter's dance classes with a bag of pastries on hand. He gets to see Minghao and Seungkwan there too, as it seems like his dongsae signed up for the classes as well. There's a time Soonyoung came over to visit him in the studio, Minghao in tow, and he hugged him tightly that just made Jihoon feel warm inside.
He doesn't want to think about it so much. He has a lot of affectionate friends. In fact, Seokmin's a lot worse than he is, kissing his nose and begs for cuddles every now and then. Which is why Jihoon can't point out the reason why it feels different when it's with Soonyoung.
If things can't get worse, Soonyoung has become his muse in music. The song he's striving to finish for weeks has made progress ever since he became closer to the dancer. There are times when just after he and Soonyoung go to their separate ways, Jihoon finds flowery words flowing by the tip of his tongue and he can't miss it--he can't forget the lines that make his heart leap--so he quickly reaches for a pen and scribbles down on his hand.
Somewhere out there, his soulmate is reading poetic words on their skin and Jihoon feels shit because they might think it's for them but in reality, it's for someone else.
And of course, the shitty things don't just end there. His soulmate just has to give him signs once again. Sometimes he'd find himself staring at his skin as the same old symbols form on his hand. Jihoon still has no idea what those mean but they don't fail making him smile in endearment. Those scribbles keep him in check that no matter what happens, his soulmate is there.
Jihoon is fighting against himself. He can't feel this way for Soonyoung. He has a soulmate and Soonyoung has his own. There's no chance for them to be closer than they already are.
Somehow, that thought dims Jihoon's hope a little. He ignores the feeling of pain and confusion and lonelines and just shakes his head. He can handle this.
It's Sunday in the evening and Jihoon finds himself squeezed on the corner of their ugly ass couch because it seems like Soonyoung doesn't know what personal space is. (This doesn't help him feeling more shit than he already does.) They're having a movie marathon, with Black Panther on TV right now.
Jihoon has seen the movie so many times that he'd rather watch Soonyoung instead.
He can't resist himself from staring when the man himself is right against his shoulder, looking in awe at the TV. Jihoon thinks that Soonyoung isn't even paying attention to the actual storyline of the film since he admitted that he isn't much of a fan of action films but instead, he's watching how the special effects are done. He swears, he hears the word daebak so much for the span of twenty minutes and if he hears it once more, he's going to kick the dancer out of his apartment.
Jokes on him though because Jihoon can never find the nerve in him to do that to Soonyoung.
"Jesus Christ, Jihoon, stop staring at me like that," Soonyoung suddenly breathes out, dragging Jihoon out of his trance. He's smiling mischievously but his gaze is still on the TV.
Oh shit. Jihoon lets his eyes wander around but never on Soonyoung. He laughs nervously. "I'm not staring."
"Okay then." Soonyoung nods in amusement.
At some point, Soonyoung has his arm over the head of the couch and Jihoon wants to melt because it's almost as if it's around him. He can't afford thinking about this right now but he feels warm and giddy inside and if the elder's skin lingers even more, it's most likely the end of him.
"Why are you squirming like that?" Soonyoung then asks and when Jihoon looks up to him, there's genuine concern glinting on his eyes. "Are you okay?"
He's leaning closer to his face but it's not like the ones in the movies in which someone comes closer for a kiss. Despite how beautiful Soonyoung looks up close, despite the sincerity in his voice, the unidentified emotions evident on his eyes, he's not asking for a kiss. He's just checking if he's alright.
And Jihoon is not alright because in the first place, neither of them are in a movie to be this way. There's no reason for a kiss. Backing away a little, he nods his head and turns his gaze away to find the movie. "I'm . . . fine."
Jihoon wishes he doesn't see how Soonyoung's face falls at that.
(It's past eleven in the evening when Seungcheol comes him from hanging out with his boyfriend. He sees Jihoon and Soonyoung on the couch, both fast asleep with their heads over one another, and lifts a brow. The TV is still on, playing a movie he's seen Jihoon watch a million times before, and finally laughs affectionately.
Turning off the TV, he tilts his head to stare at the pair on the couch once again.
Seungcheol goes to his room to grab a spare blanket and returns to wrap it around them. He ruffles their hair and whispers, "Good night."
Heading back to his room, he sends a message to Joshua,
is it normal to like someone else a part from your soulmate
should i be worried?
it's just that
i feel like jihoon likes soonyoung)
A few days later, Jihoon is eating his breakfast when Seungcheol comes in the kitchen out of nowhere, office attire neatly settled over his skin and dark hair styled like an actual professional.
"Classy," the younger comments on his look apathetically before shoving another spoonful of cereal in his mouth.
"Why do you think I'm wearing these clothes?" Seungcheol laughs in an oddly adjusted voice. It's so fake and loud that Jihoon just has to throw a few of the churros from his spoon at his best friend's way. "Fuck, you're going to ruin my suit!"
Jihoon rolls his eyes, letting the elder whine away like usual.
"You better clean those spilled milk on the floor, you tiny evil thing."
The younger just lifts his middle finger up, still munching on his cereal. Sometimes, Seungcheol can be a little too unnecessary and he really doesn't want to deal with him at seven o'clock in the morning.
"So why do you think I'm wearing these clothes?" Seungcheol asks once again as he pulls a seat next to Jihoon.
"I don't know and I don't care."
"Oh come on," the elder groans out. "Whatever. I'm telling you anyway. I'm wearing these as my investigator look."
Jihoon finally looks at him with his eyebrow lifted. Snorting, he says, "Your investigator look?" He's just wearing the same thing he usually wears to go to office.
"Yeah, because I feel as if you need to tell me something."
Jihoon freezes on his seat, his grip on his spoon tightening. He turns his gaze away from his best friend. There's no point on hiding from Seungcheol but he tries anyway, laughing it off while waving his hand to dismiss the topic. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I don't know," Seungcheol drawls out, "Maybe your relationship with Soonyoung? I don't really know."
Jihoon sighs. He hasn't really said anything to Seungcheol about his problems but he can't seem to find himself facing them as well. So of course, being his usual self, he just says, "You'll be late for work, Cheol."
"I won't leave until I hear something from you." The look on Seungcheol's eyes is different. Jihoon hasn't seen it in him before. It's quite a mixture of worry and pity and just-- Jihoon hates it. He hates seeing it towards him.
Jihoon tries to walk away but Seungcheol has his hand on his wrist in instant, pulling him back. "Seungcheol, I really don't have time for this."
"You have a soulmate, Jihoon."
Something about that snaps inside of him. Shaking his wrist off of his grip, Jihoon lets his walls crash. He lets out the tears of self-loath he's kept for so long. "And you think I didn't know that? After growing up looking forward to meet them so much, do you think I'm happy that I'm in love with someone else? Do you think it makes me happy to see Soonyoung and then scream at myself because I can't? I hate myself so much. I keep hating myself that it hurts!"
That day, neither of them leave their apartment and keep each other close.
Before Jihoon goes to sleep, he writes
매료돼 날 가득 채웠네
누가 시킨 적도 없는데
난 너의 조각들로 빼곡해
on his wrist. He knows that his soulmate will see it, but hopes for Soonyoung instead.
If someone asks Jihoon what his special skills are, he'll tell them right away that one of them is to pretend that everything is just dandy in his life. After finally telling his best friend everything--his thoughts and wonders and worries and feelings--and receiving a pinch on his skin, along with a raging yell of WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME UNTIL NOW, Jihoon has decided that there's nothing better to do now but pretend that everything's fine.
So that's what he does. Moments pass by and he goes on with his life like everything's alright and he didn't just have an emotional breakdown a few day ago. He shrugs the fear and loneliness off of his shoulders and faces the world like nothing has changed.
He meets his best friends for lunch before he goes to his studio and work. Sometimes he'd receive a text message from Soonyoung asking if they can hang out toegether and Jihoon will agree, regardless of the fluttering in his chest because there's no point and everything will be alright if he just hides his feelings away. He will meet him with a bright smile and they will talk like nothing else matters around them.
This day is one of those days. It's almost evening on a Saturday, heavy rain is pouring all over the city, and yet when Jihoon receives the text message from Soonyoung, asking if he wants to visit the dance studio, he doesn't hesitate on grabbing an umbrella to head out of work. He orders a bag of donuts along the way before finally arriving at the dance studio.
When he does arrive, still quite soaked despite having an umbrella with him, people are just about to leave and he can hear Soonyoung's light laughter from inside the actual dance practice room. Hearing their exchanged goodbye's, Jihoon pads inside the room and greets the dancer awkwardly.
"Jihoonie!" Soonyoung returns his greeting happily, disappearing from another room at the back of the dance practice room and returning with a towel. Jihoon doesn't get to say anything, too bewildered and lovestruck at the same time; he lets Soonyoung step closer to him and dries his shoulders off with the towel. "I shouldn't have made you come with the bloody rain out there. You could've gotten sick."
"It's fine," Jihoon whispers, looking down at the floor as he feels Soonyoung's breath over his face, warm and tired but loving enough while he still dries him off with the towel. Lifting the bag he's holding lightly, he announces flatly, "I brought donuts."
The taller backs up from the tiny space between them, keeping the towel over Jihoon's head, and grins, snatching the bag from his hand and chomping over a glazed donut. He reaches out, holds onto Jihoon's hand, and drags him towards the middle of the room. "Sit down," he commands.
Jihoon is still staring at his hand even when Soonyoung has let go. He sits on the floor, legs crossed, and finds himself looking up to see the dancer standing right in front of him with his hands on his hips. There are tiny bits of glazed donut just under his bright smile and it takes everything in Jihoon not to gasp in awe.
Soonyoung is beautiful--not a new fact but it's something so necessary to be repeated over and over again. And even if he looks absolutely tired right now--shirt and hair almost damped from sweat, face glistening just the same, and breathing heavier than usual, the light in his eyes are still there and it's just so . . . captivating.
God, he looks stunning.
Jihoon drags his gaze down on the floor. His fingers find themselves, fiddling with one another in anxiety. "So, uh, why did you call out for me at this hour?"
Soonyoung perks up at his question. He kneels down to be at the same level as Jihoon and holds his shoulders, shaking him in excitement. "Oh! I have a surprise for you!"
Before Jihoon can say anything, the elder skips towards the side of the room, where the sound system is, and plays a song. Just by the first five seconds, Jihoon can already recognize the track.
He's confused as hell but suddenly, Soonyoung is moving along the beat, body smooth like fluid with both edge and grace. Jihoon can't fucking believe that Soonyoung is dancing to a soundtrack of one of his favorite anime shows, but here he is now and he looks so fucking great.
He's moving and dancing and he looks so precious. Anyone who'd walk in might question why he's dancing to Fantastic Tune by Kensho Ono, but all Jihoon can think about right now is how lucky he is to meet a person as great as Kwon Soonyoung.
Once he's done, he stands right across Jihoon just like before, panting. Meanwhile, Jihoon's thoughts are jumbled and they're swimming all over his head nonstop. All he can see is Soonyoung's smile and he's just so so so so so happy.
"It's kind of embarrassing. There's this one time we hung out and you were just talking about anime and I couldn't relate much because, well, I'm not that huge on anime but I just thought it'd be nice if I do this for you. I wasn't sure on the music and all but I gu--"
"I love you," Jihoon whispers. His sight is unclear and his head feels so light and everything is just not right. But it seems like he just can't contain himself anymore.
He watches how Soonyoung's smile falls as he steps back in surprise. "W- What?" he stammers. He takes another step back, shoes squeaking on the floor.
Jihoon brings his head down. "I love you. I know, it's fast and shitty, but I don't unders--"
"No, don't say that."
Jihoon looks up in confusion to see him smiling again. Soonyoung moves forward once more and crouches down to meet his level. He holds his shoulder and then his hands move towards his head, pulling him to his chest in a tight hug. "I like you a lot, Jihoon. I love you. You don't need to feel bad about this."
Jihoon can't believe what he's hearing. He's in too much of a daze, just suppressing the feeling of being in Soonyoung's chest. He feels tears welling up his eyes and he wants to scream. He wants to feel relief washing over his burdens away. Yet somehow, hearing Soonyoung's I love you's just drags him deeper and before he knows it, he's bursting into tears and he's clutching on the latter's shirt and all he can feel is pain.
"Soonyoung," he chokes out, "we can't."
There's silence, and then there's Soonyoung's small voice. "Why not?"
"We," Jihoon's panting heavily now, attempting to hold back more tears but failing miserably, "we have a soulmate. We're born to have a soulmate. I have a soulmate."
"I don't mind not getting with mine as long as I have you, Jihoon. Does having a soulmate matter now?"
"Don't be selfish, Soonyoung," Jihoon suddenly pushes him off of him, standing up and stepping back. Tears are still rushing out of his eyes and his cheeks are red. "Growing up, all I'm ever taught of is how great it is to meet my soulmate. It's my dream and my family's dream. This system is done because it's the best for us."
Soonyoung doesn't respond, only stunned.
"I waited for so long for the person made for me but then you happened. Do you know how much I hate myself for loving you? Do you know how much I loath myself for wishing it to be you? We're selfish for feeling this way, Soonyoung, not when there's someone out there made for us!" Jihoon breathes in deeply, closing his eyes and letting more tears come out. He's done. "It's everything I've been waiting for and there's no reason for me to get angry at my own fate, Soonyoung."
With a heavy heart, Jihoon runs out of the dance studio. He ignores the faint voice behind him, screaming for him to come back.
He knew he'd fuck up soon enough. He just didn't expect it to be now.
(Runnning under the citylights and pouring rain, Jihoon struggles to pull his phone out to call his best friend. A few rings come until he finally hears Seungcheol's voice.
It takes him a couple of seconds to answer but when he does, he can taste his own tears as he chokes out, "H- Hyung?")
It takes him a day to sulk and mope around--crying nonstop, watching melodramas the entire afternoon, having sad music on repeat--but as soon as the particular day ends, Jihoon makes sure to bring himself back up once again and send his friends the same small smile he's known for. He's dying inside, he's fucked up, and he's not fine in any way, but he doesn't want to dig his own grave.
He shuts out the world and locks himself up in his studio. For days, all he does is work. He doesn't eat, he doesn't talk, he doesn't cry; he just stares at his computer monitor and creates music.
His friends visit him sometimes. Minghao brings him ramen and more supply for bottles of water, Seokmin hugs him, Wonwoo pats his head once until he can't handle it anymore and pulls him over for a tight ass hug, Seungkwan declares his love for him every minute like a broken record, and Seungcheol comforts him with everything he can. There's even one time he brings Joshua along in hopes that the latter can help--and he does help.
Jihoon is forever grateful for the amount of effort they bring to make him feel better but they all know that heart break is the hardest pain to heal. It'll take time.
When Jihoon finally finishes the song he's been working on for almost a month, he scribbles the last lines on his palm. Of course he knows that his soulmate will be the one to receive it yet there's still a part of him wishing that Soonyoung will instead.
더 이상 못 버틸 것 같아
다시 채워주면 안 될까
내 맘은 굳어가
의미를 잃은 것 같아
Soonyoung. He has done everything he can to avoid him, ignoring his phone and never leaving his studio at all. Minghao told him one time that he isn't in his best shape either but Jihoon can't afford to give in. Visualizing the pain in Soonyoung is like pushing a dagger in his own chest.
Once the recording for the song is finished, it only takes a day until the song is released. That's when Jihoon also decides that it's probably time for him to be more productive once again, heading out of his studio and doing his usual things with his friends. Suddenly, his song is all he hears through the radio. Heize's voice is beautiful but hearing his own words through her is enough to make him grimace.
Two days after its release, the song ends up in the charts already. It's not on top but it's something and Jihoon still feels fortunate either way. As celebration for its success, Seungcheol drags him and their entire friend group, now with the addition of Joshua and his shy smiles, to a cheap Japanese restaurant a few blocks from the central.
"I can hear the awards coming!" Seungkwan's loud voice fills the restaurant, holding a glass of half-filled beer up and waving along the song on the stereo.
Seokmin stands up from his seat and silences the entire table before yelling, "To Jihoon-hyung!"
Everybody cheers, even some of the employees, and Jihoon laughs. "Thanks, guys."
"Say a speech!" Minghao nudges him forward.
Jihoon glares at him but nods anyway, standing up from his own seat to speak. "I have nothing to say except these past few weeks have been a struggle for me and I'm thankful that throughout of it, you guys are still there. You're all assholes but that doesn't make me love you less," he lifts his cup of apple juice, "now cheers!"
Everyone cheers once again. He sees Wonwoo whooping and Joshua clapping adorably under Seungcheol's arm, who's chanting that's my best friend nonstop.
They spend an entire evening just like that until it's almost eleven in the evening and they have to go home. Seungcheol tells him that he should go on ahead to their apartment because he has to drop his boyfriend home first. Shaking his head in disgust at their sweetness, Jihoon nods and turns his head towards the road, where Seokmin and Wonwoo are holding each other arm by arm, wavering from their equal drunkenness. Jihoon snorts, you don't see that in Wonwoo everyday.
Seoul is still bright and pretty despite how late it already is. Jihoon finds himself walking around the sidewalks more and admiring the citylights instead of going home straight away. He smiles at the large buildings upon his steps and lets his mind wander.
Life has been quite shitty to him these past few weeks but Jihoon shrugs it off. There will be more things to come, he supposes. He should just stick to his original plan and wait.
Walking through the empty side walks, he feels his chest warming up at the sight of the filed up lamp posts from where he's stood. They're lit so dimly yet they still don't fail making the night look more beautiful than it already is.
His eyes snap out of the lights above him and towards the familiar man standing a few feet away from him. Soonyoung is right there, huddled by multiple layers of scarves on his thick coat like a teddy bear. Jihoon lets out a breath because he realizes that even under the dark sky and citylights, it seems like Soonyoung's eyes still shine the brightest.
Jihoon chooses to smile and pretends not to hear his heart crack. He misses him. He misses him a lot. "Hi."
"It's too late for you to be out here alone, you know?" Soonyoung steps closer to him and holds his hand out, fixing Jihoon's head from the mess it already is.
Jihoon can't believe that after leaving him like that, Soonyoung's still the same, like nothing changed between them. He still cares.
Jihoon holds his arm and gently pulls it away from his hair. He watches as Soonyoung's face falls but he quickly brings it back up with a smile. "Soonyoung. . . " but he can't find the words to say, so he just stares at him.
"I still care, you know?" Soonyoung tells him, smile never leaving his face. "Whatever happens, even if you don't want me anymore, I'll still care about you, even from a far. You told me not to be selfish, so I'm letting you find your soulmate and in return, let me love you even with a huge distance between us."
He doesn't speak. Jihoon just remains on the concrete ground, not moving an inch. Soonyoung brings his hand over his cheek, caressing his skin gently before leaning forward to press a kiss on his forehead. Jihoon closes his eyes when he feels his lips press his skin.
When Soonyoung pulls back, he sends another smile at him and waves lightly. "I'll see you around, Jihoonie."
Then he's walking forward, passing by Jihoon.
Jihoon still doesn't speak, but he also continues his path. He hears his song starting to play through the stereo from the convenience store he passes by and suddenly he remembers Soonyoung's entirety, letting tears fall once again.
He doesn't even realize that he's stopped right out front of the convenience store to drink in the music more until he feels a hand on his shoulder, almost jerking him back. Startled, his eyes widen when it's Soonyoung, staring at him with wide eyes as he pants over and over again as if he just ran back to him.
"Ji- Jihoon!" he pants out more, "Jihoon, d- do you know this song?"
Tilting his head in confusion, he wipes off the tears on his cheeks. "What do you mean?"
Soonyoung is still holding his shoulder firmly. "Do you know this song? Is it new?"
"It just released a few days ago," Jihoon answers, still confused. Of course he knows the song. He wrote it, for Pete's sake.
At that, Soonyoung seems to light up. "Listen, I know it might sound crazy, but my soulmate wrote this song. I'm not delusional, I swear!"
Jihoon stares at him blankly. "What?"
Soonyoung seems to misunderstand his confusion for heart ache because he immediately reaches out for his hand to squeeze it tightly. "No Jihoonie, I'm not replacing you in any way! I just want to know the identity of my soulmate, is all."
"What do you mean the one who wrote it is your soulmate?" Jihoon questions, incredulous. If Soonyoung's telling the truth . . . if his soulmate really wrote the lyrics on his hand beforehand, then that means . . . shit.
"They wrote the lyrics on their hand, then I get to see it! I think they're sending me a message sometimes, you know? Now that I'm hearing it, it does feel like it's for me. That's quite flatte--"
Soonyoung's my soulmate.
"Soonyoung!" Jihoon gets a grip on the taller's shoulders and shakes him up from buzzing too much. "Soonyoung, listen to me."
The elder laughs at him fondly and takes a hand from his shoulder to hold onto. "Fine, I'm listening, I'm listening."
Jihoon sighs deeps. "I wrote it."
Soonyoung tilts his head innocently. "What?"
"I wrote it, Soonyoung. I wrote the song."
He says it so blankly that Soonyoung laughs it off, even bumping his shoulder with his playfully.
Rolling his eyes, Jihoon asks, "Do you have a pen?"
Soonyoung pulls out a pink pen from the pocket of his coat and hands it over. Jihoon instantly takes the pen, taking note that it's hot pink, and scribbles on his skin with the elder watching his every move.
At the same time, the dancer feels the same tingles and pulls his glove off of his hand to see the same words on his palm. Both of them have their eyes widened in surprise at the revelation upon them. Both are panting, both are in disbelief.
"It's you," Jihoon mutters, eyes still wide, "It's always been you."
Soonyoung doesn't say anything, just pulls him to his chest for a hug. He feels his breath on his hair, but Jihoon doesn't mind and just tightens his grip around his torso even more. Together, they can feel each other shaking in joy, relief, and disbelief. At some point, Soonyoung finally pulls away to press another kiss on Jihoon's forehead before holding his hand with his, letting his thumb rub his skin.
("So, what does those circles and dots and lines mean?"
"The things you draw on your skin."
"Oh, those are choreography sketches. Whenever I randomly think about a good move, I can't just find a paper everywhere so I write it on my skin."
"Oh, so that's why Minghao found it so familiar.”
"Really? That's cool. But anyway, that is why I always bring this baby around me."
"You can't bring paper with you all the time but you can bring a pink pen anywhere."
"Don't look at me like that. It's an essential."
"Okay, can I just ask," Jihoon breathes out once he pauses, sending a snarky glare to his best friend, "why am I here?"
Seungcheol, who has his cheek pressed on the door to Seokmin's bedroom, tilts his head to look at the shorter innocently, jet black hair tousled as if he just woke up. "It's Seokmin's special day tomorrow, we have to do this!"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Jihoon frowns. That still doesn't answer his question. "But do we really have to bring these as well?" He unfolds his arms and leisurely lifts his hand, the Japanese flag Seungcheol gave him sweeping along the brief wind.
"Yes, it's tradition," Seungcheol explains, lifting his own flag cheerfully—the same US one from last year—with a bright smile still sketched on his face.
Jihoon wants to point out that Seungcheol only did this once so calling it a tradition is fucking stupid but the sincere excitement on his best friend's face is too soft for him not to go along.
Both of them are staring at each other—the elder still convincing the younger to play along with him by attempting to do the puppy eyes that for some reason, only appears to be an ugly rat to Jihoon—for a few seconds before Jihoon finally groans out in defeat, head slightly tilting back. "Fine!"
Seungcheol, being the child he is, squeaks happily and bumps his hip on the other's. "I knew that no one can resist my puppy eyes!"
"More like I just gave in so you could stop doing it, but sure."
The both of them barge inside Seokmin's room, Seungcheol waving his flag energetically while Jihoon waves his own lazily. Jihoon starts singing the song from a toothpaste commercial Seokmin's been complaining about for weeks— " I swear to God, if I hear that song one more time, I'm going to drown my TV!" — while the eldest of the three starts a march around their friend's bed.
Looking at Seokmin, Jihoon isn't surprised that his expression is a mixture of horror, aggravation, surprise, and adoration. He's literally just staring at the pair upon him with his mouth gapping.
"Guess who's turning twenty-one tomorrow?" Seungcheol says his awaited line, halting from his march.
Jihoon, still amused, smiles at his best friend. Suddenly he feels nostalgic. He remembers Seungcheol doing the same damn thing to him a few months ago and here he is now; nothing has changed except he's accomplished on dragging him along with his shit.
As if Seokmin just waited for them to finish their mini-presentation of Seungcheol stomping over his floor as Jihoon sings a disgusting song, the youngest of them all grins and flaps his arms wide open, screaming, "I AM! I AM TURNING TWENTY-ONE TOMORROW!"
At that, Seungcheol drops his mini-flag and launches on their dongsae on the bed while screaming incoherent words. Noises erupt from the pair while Jihoon watches in adoration. Seokmin seems like he's being suffocated by Seungcheol's weight (Jihoon isn't even surprised when the elder is literally pinning him down as if he doesn't know how heavy he is from all the gym he's having) and yet he's still laughing—wheezing—like he enjoys every second of it as their hyung isn't laughing like he genuinely enjoys torturing his best friends.
Jihoon should be concerned but his friends look happy either way and it's such a great ass sight that all he can do is just smile at them, even throwing a loud whoop and a That's the spirit, Seungcheol!
"Join us, Jihoon-hyung!" Seokmin gasps out in between his laughter. Seungcheol still won't get off of him.
"And die by lack of oxygen, courtesy to Seungcheol's dumbasss existence? Nah."
He hears the elder whispering, "That's what happens when you meet your soulmate. You become a party pooper."
"You've already met yours too though," Seokmin hums.
Jihoon is watching the exchange between them, mostly because he's counting how long it'll take for the youngest to realize that if Seungcheol doesn't get off of him soon his lungs will probably need help, until he feels the familiar tingles on his skin.
The smile on his face comes in instant as he stares at the ink forming on the back of his hand. The same dots and lines and symbols appear and Jihoon can already visualize Soonyoung somewhere on the streets, suddenly having choreography ideas from the weird shit he sees around the city so he takes out his pink pen and scribbles on his hand so he won't forget.
Jihoon probably still needs to buy him that lifetime supply of notepads.
"Look at him smiling," he hears Seungcheol whispering but he doesn't look up from his hand, "Young love is so disgusting."
"You have a boyfriend too, hyung."
At the sound of bickering, Jihoon finally lifts his gaze to his friends and realizes that their position has changed and Seokmin is now capable of comfortably breathing with Seungcheol squeezed next to him under his blanket.
Jihoon brings his eyes back to his hand. The scribbles are still bright and evident but a tiny heart doodle is also drawn, just under the end of the dance pattern.
He rolls his eyes at how greasy his boyfriend is but pulls an identical pink pen from the pocket of his sweatpants. Sighing like the lovesick fool he is, Jihoon draws a heart back.