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Seungcheol had only ever been sick a handful of times in his entire life.

The furthest back he can remember was when he was around 14 years old. He had gotten sick randomly, though he had a suspicion as to why. At the time, his eldest brother had suddenly moved out, and his other brother was attending college, leaving his mother to be the only one left to take care of him.

His mom had a strict regimen for him to get better: suffocate him in blankets, a cold towel on his forehead, be fed her special ramen, and plenty of water and rest.

The next time he got sick was during his last year of highschool, right in the middle of finals season. He had denied that he was sick at the time just so his mother wouldn’t worry, and took his exams with a sniffling cold. It had gotten to the point where he passed out during one of his exams and had to get sent to the nurse’s office. He got an earful of scolding from his mother when she picked him up later that day.

After that, he swore to his mom and himself to never get so sick to that point ever again.

As he grew older, he tended to do the same routine any time he’d get sick, though he didn’t have the kind, loving touch of his mother to keep him company anymore.

The last time he can remember getting sick was sometime during last year, and he knew exactly what triggered it.

It was during a time of a lot of changes happening in his life all at once. His mother was selling the house he grew up in to move somewhere cheaper and closer to her job in Daegu. His eldest brother had just gotten engaged. Jihoon and Soonyoung had just gotten together.

For whatever reason, he felt overwhelmed from everything happening all at once, and had fallen ill with a fever for a few days. He didn’t tell anyone he was sick, except for a few classmates so they could give him notes on classes that he missed.

That time, he truly spent alone.

But getting sick was still rare for him now, and only ever happened because of something else.

So when he fell sick a couple weeks after Jihoon’s party, he denied the very reason he knew why.

It started with waking up with a headache, one that wasn’t induced from any drinking session the night before. He had ignored it and continued his day, really needing to focus on his classes with finals season coming soon. And even though he was in pain, he still made it through the day relatively okay.

But that strange heavy feeling that weighed him throughout the rest of the day only got worse by the time he got back to the apartment, an ache in his body and colds in his nose already making it hard to breathe.

He went to the bathroom and turned the lights on with slight nausea, and glancing at the mirror, he was glad Jeonghan wasn’t home yet to see him in his state. He looked a bit pale, his forehead slightly sweating. That sight was what threw him off, and he searched the medical cabinet for the thermometer. When he took his temperature, his guess was confirmed: 37.9 C. Not too high, but on the cusp of getting higher.

He sighed. Now of all days his body was betraying him.

He got into the routine as best as he could; made himself some instant ramen, curled into the couch with a blanket to cover him, and felt miserable with how much he missed his mother.

He fell asleep at some point, after the pain in his head was too much to handle, and when he woke up, it was to the feeling of a hand on his forehead.

“Oh, sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Seungcheol blinked, though it was hard to do, and it felt like he was still dreaming.

Jeonghan was above him, leaning slightly, his hand withdrawn from his face as if he was burned from the touch. Seungcheol sat up, slowly, the room dizzying slightly as he did.

Jeonghan winced. “You look… Bad.”

No shit , he wanted to bite back, but the only sound that came out of him was a groan from how heavy his limbs felt. He didn’t feel much better than he did before he slept.

“Do you have a fever? I felt your forehead, I hope that’s okay. Your skin feels pretty warm.”

Jeonghan idly rearranged the small pillows behind him. Seungcheol wondered why he was still talking.

“Are you nauseous? I see you ate something though. Did you take any medicine-”

“You’re back early,” Seungcheol interrupted him.

From what he could see from the dark blue clock Mingyu forced him to buy that was hanging on the living room wall, it was only 6:30 in the evening.

“Yeah,” Jeonghan agreed.

“I thought you had a date.”

Ever since Mingyu had set Jeonghan up with his classmate, Jeonghan had been in and out of dates with the guy every other day these past couple weeks. Seungcheol had been trying his best not to count the days he’d be out, but just like his body was betraying him, so was his mind. It had been 4 dates in two weeks.

Jeonghan was kind enough to not tell him how any of those dates went, but the way he’d come back to the apartment with a smile on his face was already agonizing enough without any words. Every time he was out felt more painful than the pounding in his head at the moment.

Jeonghan blinked in reply. “Ah. Yeah, I cancelled.”

That threw Seungcheol off. “Why?”

His roommate hummed. “I thought I had rehearsals, but my director cancelled at the last minute. By then I had already told Minhyuk that I couldn’t go out tonight,” he shrugged. “I thought I may as well go home and practice my lines, or study, or… something.”

He didn’t seem very sure of himself. Seungcheol didn’t have the energy to comment on it, his mind still feeling like mush trying to understand what Jeonghan was even saying at this point.

“Anyway,” Jeonghan smiled, though his eyes were filled with worry. ”You shouldn’t sleep here. Let’s get you back to your room so you can rest properly.”

Seungcheol felt at a loss on what to say, only because Jeonghan was subtly pushing him up off the couch. He felt too exhausted just from falling asleep, but he knew Jeonghan was right, he really needed more rest. So he let himself be led to his own room and crawled under more blankets on his bed.

Jeonghan left briefly after and Seungcheol was on the brink of falling back asleep when he came back into the room, a mug in one hand and pills in the other.

“I remembered I still had these Tylenol pills,” he said, placing the mug down on Seungcheol’s bedside table. “You should take one before you sleep.”

Seungcheol blinked, but did as he was told. He sat up slowly and took the warm mug in his hands, but paused once he realized that it wasn’t water.

“Ah, that’s tea,” Jeonghan clarified for him. He smiled. “Whenever my little sister would get sick, I’d make her this tea. Ginger with a bit of honey.”

Seungcheol took a tentative sip, mulling over that newfound information. They had been roommates for almost four months, and it was only now that he found out that Jeonghan had a little sister. He chose not to say anything about that. Jeonghan didn’t know much about his own brothers besides his mentions of them in passing.

Jeonghan still sat at the foot of his bed, quietly watching him drink his tea. Seungcheol couldn’t take it anymore, so he asked, “Why are you taking care of me?”

Jeonghan instantly pouted. “I can’t take pity on my sick roommate?”

Really? , he wanted to tease. Pull that card when I’m the one that’s sick .

“I can handle myself, Jeonghan,” he said instead. “I’ve been sick before.”

“I know, I just,” Jeonghan paused, but didn’t continue. He looked down at the sheets like he didn’t know what to say.

Seungcheol sighed. “You have nothing else to do now, right? You should call Minhyuk, tell him you still wanna go out.”

That made Jeonghan look up in surprise. “Why?”

It was so stupid. But he’d rather be stupid than selfish.

“I’m no fun when I’m sick,” he reasoned, half-lying. “I’ll probably just sleep some more.”

“But-”

“I’ll be fine,” he smiled, and hopefully it came off as reassurance rather than how painful it actually felt. “Besides, I don’t want you to get sick because of me. You should go out, have a good time.”

Jeonghan, on the other hand, still seemed unconvinced. His brows furrowed as he gazed back at him. However, he didn’t fight back.

Instead, Jeonghan told him, “If you need anything or if you’re feeling really bad, just call me, okay?”

Seungcheol resisted rolling his eyes, since he knew he’d only feel dizzier. “I’m not gonna die Jeonghan.”

“Still.”

“Stop worrying and just go,” he insisted with whatever energy he had. “Please?”

Jeonghan pursed his lips. “Okay,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

His roommate made his leave, and even after the door was closed, and the apartment fell silent, he still waited and watched if the door would ever open again, that Jeonghan had changed his mind yet again.

But the door never opened again. So Seungcheol slept.

 


 

He got back on his feet quick enough, only a few days under the blankets, drinking way too much water and eating nothing but soup. And when he finally did feel better, he focused his damned best on studying.

Finals were coming in about three weeks. He didn’t worry about his minor subjects; he had a good enough grade in most of them to get by with just passing the exams. It was his major subjects that he needed to study up on, knowing he’d need to write essays for most of them.

He copied notes from Wonwoo for the days he was absent, and had study sessions with Jihoon, who was failing and needed help in their shared math class.

It felt nice to be back in the studio with Jihoon and Soonyoung again. The couple now had a strange energy between them, but in a good way. They had reconciled, Jihoon had told him, but there were still things they were both figuring out. Even so, they stayed in the same apartment, and there were no more major arguments between them. Instead of fighting, they both worked on solutions or compromises. Seungcheol couldn’t help but feel very proud for his friends.

And being able to step foot in the studio added to his growing list of ways to distract himself. He felt like he was back to square one: ignoring all problems and emotions he didn’t want to face.

It wasn’t entirely bad. It made for some good lyric writing, something Jihoon had eyed him warily for when he asked for feedback one day.

“So,” his friend started gently, even though it was just the two of them in the studio, Soonyoung being caught up in his dance class. “Jeonghan’s really going out with Mingyu’s classmate, huh?”

Of course Jihoon would want him to talk about it. Still, he just shrugged it off as something casual. “He seems to be having a good time with him.”

Jihoon glanced at the sheet of paper with the lyrics he had shown him. “And how do you feel?” he asked, as if it wasn’t obvious enough.

Seungcheol humored his denial. “Jihoon, like I told you before, we’re not serious, we never were. He’s allowed to see other people if that’s what he wants.”

And from what he’s seen, that’s what Jeonghan wants.

He didn’t know where the sudden change came from. Last time, Jeonghan had told him he wasn’t looking for something serious, that his ex had left him not wanting a relationship. He didn’t know if their arrangement had left Jeonghan feeling otherwise.

But he’s not an idiot. If Jeonghan wanted to date someone, the mature thing for him to do would be to keep his distance. 

Timing was a real bitch, and he knew that now more than ever. If he had just mustered up the courage to ask him out long before any of this had happened, then he probably would have been the one going on those dates with Jeonghan.

But he missed his shot. And now he was here.

In a weird way, it was probably good that he didn’t do it, that he missed every opportunity he didn’t take. He had absolutely no idea what he would have done if they were going out. He had no idea how they would even act still being roommates if they did. Jeonghan was already a good roommate, and though they had fun together, this was enough for now.

This was okay, really. And any other day, he’d convinced himself of that much.

Though he couldn’t deny feeling more lonely than ever before, somewhat more than before he had even met Jeonghan.

Without thinking, that loneliness was creeping up on him, enveloping him wholly, and suddenly he had the need to find someone to be with, to satisfy himself physically, even for just a minute like how he used to in his first year of college.

That was how he ended up at the nearby bar later that evening, nursing a shot glass of soju and scanning the crowd.

It didn’t take long to spot someone, drinking alone at one of the tables. He knew the man was alone since his phone wasn’t on the table, so there was no constant checking for a text. He wasn’t glancing at the door either, an indicator that’d mean he was waiting for someone. Instead the man was going back and forth between looking at the wall and looking towards the crowd, just like Seungcheol had done.

He could only see the side of the man’s face, but even in the dim lighting of the pub, the man was relatively attractive nonetheless; mussy dark brown hair, thin eyes, and a shadow on his chin that showed he hasn’t shaved in a while. He had a rugged aura to him, probably a few years older than Seungcheol, washed-out jean jacket hanging on his shoulders and black pants down his legs. On his wrist, a black watch that reflected the bar’s lights every time he lifted his beer to drink. The man drank very slowly from the bottle, and the way his lips looked wrapped around the rim was an enthralling sight to see.

Seungcheol wasn’t one to assume, but he just somewhat knew the man probably liked sucking dick.

All thoughts like that was what really made him sign up for Psychology after not knowing what to truly major in for two years- a fact no one, not even Jihoon, knew about. He knew how to read people, and even more so when he’d get to know them. And sex was an interesting factor that showed a lot about a person’s character.

It didn’t take long, either, to catch the man’s attention. A simple slide of eye contact, a tilt of his head and a smirk. Pretty soon he was sitting at the table with him, sharing a drink together and talking. 

“So, you’re a student around here?” the man, whom he didn’t bother learning the name of, asked.

Seungcheol nodded, taking another sip of his own beer, bottle of soju gone and over with. He knew the small talk was just involuntary, a precursor to something they knew they’d both rather be doing. His experience with that normally meant that one of them had to just be direct if they were already on the same page.

So, Seungcheol casually said, “I live right around the corner.”

It was a bold statement that, on its own, had no double meaning unless you were looking for it. He offered it because he knew he could have it.

He offered it because he knew Jeonghan wasn’t going to be in the apartment tonight.

A 10 minute walk later and he was opening the door to the apartment, the guy walking inside with him. Not much for conversation, he simply said, “Nice place.”

Seungcheol shut him up with a rough kiss that was greatly reciprocated. He opened his mouth up for the man’s tongue to slide in.

Seungcheol could already tell what this guy was like; he tasted like gin and cigarettes, very aggressive though not physically. 

The man raked his hand through Seungcheol’s hair and rested at the base of his neck, pulling him even closer. Seungcheol hitched a knee between his legs, feeling his cock harden up in his pants.

“Fuck,” the man moaned. Boldly, he started unzipping Seungcheol’s pants, palming him roughly through the fabric. “Lemme suck you off man.”

Crude but direct, and proved his earlier assumption true. Seungcheol willingly agreed.

Making their way to Seungcheol’s bedroom felt like he was running into ghosts; he couldn’t tell what it was, but the apartment felt colder than it should.

Ignoring the strange feeling, he sat back on his mattress, leaning his weight against his hands as the man pulled his pants down enough to release his cock from his boxers. Seungcheol shivered in response to the cool air on his sensitive skin, and the man wrapped a calloused hand around him, tugging sharply.

The man grinned, his teeth sharp like a shark that smelled blood. He watched his body react to his lips nearing the tip of him. Seungcheol couldn't help but blink at the strange feeling coming over him, trying his damn best to focus on only the pleasure of another man’s mouth on his cock—

Only to feel the haunting memory of Jeonghan’s lips on him.

When he finally figured it out, he tensed up, fingers instantly clenching the sheets. He knew his heart was pounding, and suddenly all he could see was Jeonghan on him, grinning up at him before taking him back into his mouth, gently sliding his tongue on him. He could vividly hear Jeonghan’s laugh and tease after he’d pull back to comment about how red Seungcheol’s face would be. He could vividly see Jeonghan shyly biting his own bottom lip and looking away after Seungcheol would tell him, “ You’re so good at this —”

“Thanks,” huffed a voice that wasn’t Jeonghan’s— it was the man, the scruffy looking one he picked up at the bar. He was still trying to stroke a reaction out of him.

Fuck, fuck , Seungcheol swore in his head like an alarm going off. He glanced at his ceiling as if it could help him out.

The one time he goes out and does this, of course his mind wouldn’t let him pass easily.

When the man placed his lips back on him, Seungcheol scrambled to push him off, “S-Stop, stop, shit—”

“The fuck man?” the man scoffed, standing up from his kneeling on the floor.

“Get out,” Seungcheol snapped, still reeling and breathless.

What ?”

Seungcheol grabbed the man’s jacket that had fallen off him and onto the floor during this whole fiasco, and threw it at his chest.

He stressed every word, “Get. Out .”

The man, looking like the fact was sinking in, put his jacket on like he was more upset than Seungcheol was.

“Fucking cock-tease,” the man muttered at him. “Should’a just said you didn’t want it.”

Seungcheol whispered tiredly, “Just get out man.”

The man did leave with one last shake of his head, and Seungcheol was left with an eerily silent apartment.

He zipped his pants back up sluggishly, feeling worse as the seconds kept passing. He hung his head in his hands, feeling his own shame cover him like a blanket, and collapsed back against his bed.

Why couldn’t he do something as simple as this, find a quick fuck like he used to in his first year of college?

He’d been in long casual relationships before, one lasting a month even, and sure, he’d get attached to the other person, but he’d move on quick enough at least to not think about them anymore during sex with someone else.

But he and Jeonghan had been screwing around for almost two months. Not to mention all the pent up attraction he felt when Jeonghan first moved in four months ago. All of that combined, it was no wonder Jeonghan was taking up a lot more space in his mind than he thought. All of their times together were far too vivid and fresh to forget so soon.

He sighed, staring at his white ceiling that still wasn’t helping him. 

The sound of the front door opening caught him off guard, and for a split second, he worried the man had come back in again. His bedroom door was open enough that he could see the front door fully open, revealing that it was just Jeonghan.

He got up from his bed and leaned against his bedroom door, staring at his ghost who was very much alive. 

“You’re back,” he stated lamely. “I thought you weren’t gonna be here tonight?”

Jeonghan shrugged where he stood, looking torturously good with his hair styled back in a ponytail, simple make up on his eyes, and a black button down tucked into his faded jeans. He didn’t meet his eyes, but Seungcheol could see the slight frustration on his face.

“Last minute rehearsals,” he simply answered, passing by him as he went to his room.

“Han,” he called out. Jeonghan stopped and turned to him. He looked irritated somewhat, but there was more to his expression than Seungcheol could guess, so he asked, “Are you alright?”

Jeonghan blinked, pursing his lips before replying with a shrug, “Sure. Whatever.”

The door to his room closed shut soon after, and Seungcheol was left stunned, the apartment once again shrouded in silence.

 


 

Driving to pick Jeonghan up was far too familiar of a scene. 

Ever since the first night he picked him up, half-sober and dripping wet from the rain, giving Jeonghan rides seemed to be an unspoken agreement out of letting him rent the spare bedroom.

Well, it was an unspoken agreement with all his friends, really. He was the only one in his group of friends that owned a car anyhow, so him driving his friends anywhere was the golden rule. And he didn’t mind doing it, really.

He wasn’t a chauffeur, first and foremost, and his friends knew that they couldn’t just call him for a ride whenever they felt like it. But in the small times that he did offer rides, or swoop in whenever there’s an emergency, his friends would always have the need to return the favor to him in any way possible, usually in the form of repaying him in gas money, or in Mingyu’s way, free coffee at the cafe.

But his old car has gotten to see a lot of highs and lows of his friends. Highs like when he had driven Wonwoo to the airport to see his brother, who he hadn’t seen in years. Lows like how he’s picked up Hansol, who liked running away from home, from random places in the city to drive him back home far too many times.

A high time like driving Jihoon around the city so he could feel better after his big argument with Soonyoung. A low time like Jeonghan stopping him from driving him back to what was his and Jihoon’s apartment, simply because he was a mess.

But Jeonghan asking if he could pick him up after his 6th date with Minhyuk felt like a huge slap in the face. He couldn’t tell if this was a high or a low, but he definitely felt lower than he should.

Confusing feelings aside, of course he agreed to do it, only because it was late and he didn’t want Jeonghan to take a cab.

Driving downtown late at night once again, it felt like nothing has changed much since the first time he picked Jeonghan up, not knowing he would later become his own roommate and more. It felt like ages ago, but it truly wasn’t.

It was early December now, so instead of August showers, frost was starting to form on the windows of the bars and restaurants from the cold. Seungcheol didn’t mind the cold weather that much. Some days, when it would be too cold, it would bring around bad memories. Other times, it was just an annoyance, but one he simply tolerated.

Jeonghan, on the other hand, physically didn’t seem to agree with the cold weather. There he stood waiting by the entrance of a popular Italian restaurant, smothered in a giant puffy black jacket and cotton gloves, arms crossed like he was trying to warm himself up.

Seungcheol honked his horn slightly to get his attention, and he saw Jeonghan’s shoulders slump in what could only be relief. A rush of cold air greeted his face when the door opened, only to be quickly shut as Jeonghan climbed into the front seat.

“Hey, sorry there was a bit of traffic on the road,” Seungcheol rushed to explain.

Jeonghan shrugged as he took off his gloves and unzipped his huge jacket, bringing his hands to the heated aircon.

“I didn’t wait outside long,” he said, though the rough redness on his cheeks and nose seemed to say otherwise.

Seungcheol didn’t think much of it, and drove off back to the apartment.

After a while though, everything seemed too quiet, and Seungcheol could almost taste whatever tension Jeonghan was giving off. He eyed him slightly when they reached a stoplight. Jeonghan was slumped in his seat, his eyes on the road but not really focusing. He looked deep in thought about something, his fingers grasped together like a vise.

It wasn’t the first time he’s seen this troubled expression on Jeonghan before. In fact, he had caught him staring off like this more and more recently. Though their schedules were becoming busy once again, overlapping with studies and work and Jeonghan’s rehearsals, the rare times he’d see Jeonghan in the apartment, he’d have that same far-away look on his face as he stared at the TV or at his phone. He’s yet to ask Jeonghan if everything was fine, and right now seemed like the best opportunity.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice quiet and careful. The last time he had asked this, he didn’t get a good response.

Jeonghan exhaled a sigh, and his breath could be seen. “Yep,” he replied shortly, and Seungcheol waited for him to say more, but nothing came. It seemed like nothing has changed since the last they’ve spoken like this.

Against his better judgement, he felt like he needed to prod a bit more, and so the question just slipped out, “How was your date?”

Jeonghan took much longer to answer this time, the light already turning green and Seungcheol went back to focusing on driving, eyes fixed on the road, when he heard the whispered reply, “…He stood me up.”

Seungcheol almost fully pulled the brakes in surprise. “ What ?” he stressed, needing more details.

Jeonghan, now looking fully frustrated, glared to particularly nothing outside the car window. “I waited for him for over an hour or so ‘till he texted that he couldn’t make it,” he explained in a mutter, letting the silence of the car fill the gaps of that story.

“Wow,” Seungcheol replied lamely, at a loss of words. “That… sucks.”

He really wanted to be more of a comfort to Jeonghan, really he did. But he couldn’t help that selfish spark inside him that wanted to ignite a full flame.

Jeonghan snorted, and said nothing more. Seungcheol let him be alone with his thoughts, and when he finally parked the car next to the apartment, Jeonghan spoke up again.

“I think,” he started slowly, unsure. “There might be something wrong with me.”

Seungcheol was thrown off guard. “Don’t say that,” he objected, turning in his seat to face him. “It’s just this one time, Han. It’s not something you should be blaming yourself for when you didn’t even do anything wrong.”

Jeonghan rolled his eyes, but his furrowed brows made him look so troubled. “It’s not the fact that he stood me up. It’s the fact that no matter what I do, whenever I date someone, I always tend to be so-”

Then he cut himself off, his lips pursed hard. He said slower, like he’s thought of it carefully, “I always tend to be… someone I’m not.”

Seungcheol felt a little confused at that statement. “What do you mean?” he asked gently.

Jeonghan shrugged, though he tugged his jacket closer to himself. “I never feel comfortable when I’m dating someone new,” he explained, then shook his head. “Hell, I’ve never felt comfortable with my ex either. It’s like I always have to act like someone else to even think I’m good enough to be with these guys.”

Then Jeonghan brought a hand to his face and let out a hollow laugh. “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” he asked in a whisper.

Fuck , Seungcheol thought, and pitied his roommate instantly. He couldn’t quite understand what Jeonghan was going through exactly, but it seemed simple enough that he couldn’t help but feel empathetic towards him.

Without thinking, he raised a hand to pull back a strand of Jeonghan’s hair behind his ear— and prayed to any god out there that this played off as a comfort rather than him making any move, because he wasn’t. He genuinely felt terrible for Jeonghan.

His roommate looked up at him, a little surprised at the touch, but didn’t protest it. Seungcheol let his hand rest on Jeonghan’s shoulder.

“Han, if you feel that way, then these guys just aren’t worth it,” he told him softly. “You shouldn’t have to act like you’re someone else. You should be with someone who likes you the way you are.”

Jeonghan blinked at him like he was shocked.

And who wouldn’t like the real you? He wanted to continue. You’re incredible, you’re kind hearted and sweet, but you’re also so playful and sly. You’re so much more than how you look. Those guys just don’t know you like

He wanted to say, desperately. But he couldn’t.

Jeonghan had him caught in his gaze. He leaned into Seungcheol’s touch, and Seungcheol was mesmerized with how long it had been since they’ve been in this kind of close proximity, let alone the last time he’s touched Jeonghan like this, so intimate and tender and full of possibilities. He felt Jeonghan’s nose bump his own and he felt lost, closing his eyes because he was too overwhelmed with this moment.

It just seemed so easy to fall into this again. To lean in closer and feel the press of Jeonghan’s lips against his own. To feel the warmth of his body like he could at the moment, to pull Jeonghan in and get lost in him once again, like all the times they’ve had before. It felt so fucking easy

And yet.

Against his own will, he stuttered out before that moment in his mind could ever become reality, “You’re dating someone, Jeonghan.”

He felt Jeonghan exhale slowly and softly, breath against his skin. When he opened his eyes, Jeonghan’s lips were pursed hard and he pulled back. Just like that, the boundaries were built up again like brick walls, and the moment was over.

“Right…” Jeonghan mumbled, and if there was more to that sentence, Seungcheol would never know. His roommate pulled away from him and got out of the car without another word.

Seungcheol closed his eyes again and sighed, hitting his forehead against the steering wheel.

It was a misstep. That’s all he seemed to take around Jeonghan lately. Missteps.

He knew he should say something to him. Apologize for letting his selfishness take control of him, letting the boundaries crumble down and get out of hand. Maybe he should finally explain to him how he’s been feeling and just say to hell with all the consequences.

Seungcheol swallowed it all down, got out of the car, and did none of that. When he entered the apartment, Jeonghan was already locked in his own room.

So instead, he laid alone in his bed that night, staring at the dark ceiling of his bedroom, wondering about what could have been.

 


 

He knew, at this point, he should have gotten used to Jeonghan being a mess whenever he’d drink. The man said it himself; he knew how he became when he was drunk, unhinged from his inhibitions.

But Jeonghan rarely ever drank now, or at least he didn’t drink in the apartment, not that Seungcheol’s ever seen him do so. He knew where he kept his own stash of soju bottles, and last he checked, none of them had been opened.

Jeonghan never came home drunk either. Apart from the first night he stayed at the apartment, and the night of his birthday, Jeonghan’s never done anything stupid like what he’s done before.

That’s why getting a call from Wonwoo past 8 in the evening on a Thursday night was worrisome. Nothing could have prepared him for what was to come that night.

Seungcheol was in the middle of closing up at the records shop when he got the call. He paused in rearranging the stack of CDs, his one hand gripping his phone a little tighter at the sound of Wonwoo’s voice.

“Your roommate’s here,” he had said once he answered the phone, no pretext of greeting or anything. “You better come over, fast.”

He hung up quickly after. Wonwoo’s voice sounded troubled, and it put him on edge just enough to rush in closing up.

Jeonghan had texted him sometime earlier in the day when he had just started his shift saying he had left his key inside the apartment, only realizing it when he was already at the front door. Seungcheol had texted him back that, though it was pretty far, he could walk to the records shop and he’d let him borrow his key, but he never got a reply after that, and Jeonghan never showed up at the shop.

Thinking back on that now as he got into his car, that should’ve been a warning sign of some kind. He probably should have followed it up with Jeonghan, but he got too held up at work that he simply forgot about it.

He got to the pub less than half an hour later, parking in his usual spot by the apartment and walking the rest of the way. When he entered, he didn’t have to scan the crowd to find Jeonghan.

His roommate was sitting at the bar, his head faced down onto the table like he was passed out, hair in disarray. There were far too many empty bottles of beer scattered around him.

“What the hell ,” he said aloud to no one in particular. He nudged Jeonghan’s shoulder, and his roommate gave a small groan, eyes opening slightly.

He saw Wonwoo coming out of the kitchen and going behind the bar, and when he met his eyes, Wonwoo simply shook his head like he was the one that was disappointed.

“He came in earlier when I wasn’t on my shift,” Wonwoo explained to him. “When I got here, he was already on his fifth drink.”

Seungcheol pursed his lips, taking in that information with a heavy heart. “Did you cut him off?”

“I did, but he ended up getting other people to buy him a few more bottles,” Wonwoo shook his head and sighed. “I spoke to him when I realized he was doing that, and he stopped.”

“Did he mention…” he started to ask, but trailed off.

He didn’t know where that sentence was going. Did he say something about Minhyuk? His parents? His ex? He couldn’t figure out what spurred this sudden moment for Jeonghan, and it troubled him. But something must have happened, within the span of hours, that was so bad that Jeonghan needed an immediate clutch that was nearby.

Wonwoo looked a bit uncomfortable. “He didn’t really say anything specific.”

Seungcheol glanced at Jeonghan again, who still hasn’t gotten up. His eyes were open, though a little red and dazed over.

He couldn’t understand what was going on, why Jeonghan was here getting trashed when it wasn’t even that late at night, even more so that he had classes the next day. It felt far too much like a familiar scene, but even worse. He had a terrible sinking feeling pushing down on his chest, but he ignored it and turned back to Wonwoo.

“Thanks for doing what you can,” he said softly. “And thanks for calling me.”

Wonwoo nodded, though his face still showed his worry.

“Han, hey,” he called out in a whisper, gently helping Jeonghan lift his head up. He brushed some of his long strands of hair out of the way, not caring about boundaries any longer when all he cared about at the moment was making sure Jeonghan was okay.

“Mm…” Jeonghan blinked very slowly in reply, his eyebrows creasing. “... Sshh olie?”

Seungcheol tried his best not to wince from how strong the smell of alcohol was coming out of Jeonghan’s mouth. “Do you wanna go back to the apartment?” he asked, but it wasn’t really a suggestion.

Jeonghan sniffed, nodded his head though a little lethargically.

“Okay, c’mon,” he said, and Jeonghan offered his hands and arm up for help like a child.

He helped Jeonghan stand up, letting Jeonghan lean against him and putting his arm around him to steady him. He hadn’t been this close to Jeonghan in a while, not since he fucked things up between them in the car a week ago, and he felt awful that this kind of situation was what brought them to even being in the same breathing space again.

He somewhat carried Jeonghan as best as he could back to their apartment, minus the occasional stumbling from Jeonghan over his own two feet. He was mumbling the entire walk home, and Seungcheol couldn’t understand any of it until they were finally at the door.

“I fff-f orgot,” Jeonghan slurred. “My ke yyy ?”

“I know. You messaged me earlier,” Seungcheol said, unlocking the door. “Sorry I made you wait.”

He felt like he needed to apologize for more, but he didn’t know what to say.

“Are- will you,” Jeonghan stopped and shook his head, starting his sentence over again. “S’Not your fault.”

Seungcheol sighed, feeling even heavier than he should.

They were halfway to Jeonghan’s room when Jeonghan stopped walking forward and started walking backwards out of Seungcheol’s grasp on him.

“Wait- wait,” he stuttered. “I’mm drunk.”

“No shit,” Seungcheol chided, feeling far too overwhelmed with frustration that Jeonghan was in this mess of a state.

“So don’t-” Jeonghan said, waving his hand out, repeating, “D-Don’t.”

Don’t what? ’, he was about to ask, but the flushed and panicked look on Jeonghan’s face made him freeze up when it clicked in his head right away, far too fast than ever before.

“I’d never do that Han,” he said gently, even though he felt sick to his stomach that Jeonghan would even think he’d take advantage of him like this, and after all they’ve been through.

“Okay,” Jeonghan nodded- but shook his head again right after, like he was still confused. “I mean, no, o-of course you wouldn’t- I-I know. You’re not— Seungcheol, you’re—”

Then, Jeonghan stopped talking and brought a hand to his mouth.

Seungcheol shook his head, “ Nope , no—”

Immediately, he knew what was about to happen next, and he pulled Jeonghan by his arms as quickly as he could to the bathroom. His roommate instantly crumpled to the ground in front of the open toilet, vomiting whatever drinks he had in his stomach.

It was a disgusting and sad sight to see, one that Seungcheol never thought would happen in a million years.

What the hell , he thought for what could only be the hundredth time that night. He felt like he was far away from reality and simultaneously too aware of what was going on. He wanted to wake up, but everything was too vividly real.

He kneeled down and helped Jeonghan by holding his hair back- a bizarre contrast to the times he’s done this when they would have sex. He patted Jeonghan’s back gently, like one would to a sick child, as his roommate continued to retch.

The smell was awful, the bathroom ground felt cold, but the worst part of it all were the tears streaming down Jeonghan’s face. He’d never seen Jeonghan so distraught, had never even seen him cry before until now.

“Fuck,” Jeonghan groaned, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He let out a few coughs, before leaning away from the sick that was left in the toilet.

Seungcheol helped him sit up properly and rest his back against the wall. He rose to quickly get Jeonghan a glass of water from the kitchen, handing it to him right away. While Jeonghan drank the water with shaking hands, Seungcheol flushed the toilet and got a couple of tissues for Jeonghan to use.

Seungcheol sat beside him on the floor, leaning his back against the tile, feeling thoroughly exhausted. The rush of everything happening all at once hadn’t sunk in yet, until he felt Jeonghan lean against him, his head falling onto his shoulder.

“I’m s-sorry,” Jeonghan muttered into his shirt sleeve.

Seungcheol brought a hand up to stroke Jeonghan’s hair, bringing him in closer. He replied gently, because that’s what he was supposed to do, “Hannie, it’s okay.” 

But it wasn’t.

He felt every silent sob and shiver Jeonghan gave off, and he held onto him through it all. He seemed like he was still too drunk to talk straight and give him answers he desperately wanted to hear, so Seungcheol didn’t push it. Instead, he calmed all the burning questions in his head, and focused on only comforting him.

He knew Jeonghan was starting to drift off when his sniffling was dying down. And yet, in the deathly silent bathroom, he could hear him mumbling in his sleep, “You’re a… good friend, Cheollie.”

His heart sank deeper than he thought it could tonight. It hurt to hear that sentence come out of Jeonghan’s mouth when they were on the floor of the bathroom looking very much miserable. And it wasn’t that he didn’t want to be Jeonghan’s friend, but rather, at this moment, he didn’t feel like a good friend at all. He felt terrible. He felt for Jeonghan so fucking badly.

And that was because he could see nothing but himself in Jeonghan tonight.

The fact that this wasn’t the first time this cold tiled floor of his bathroom had witnessed someone kneeled, broken and vomiting. The fact that it wasn’t the first time these walls had seen tears before. Those low points in his life where he’d get wasted simply to get wasted, because it was so much easier to forget that way, were embedded memories in these four walls.

His intentions didn’t matter anymore. He knew that now more than ever. He saw the dried up tear streaks down Jeonghan’s face and his chest clenched.

None of it mattered, but at least he was here.