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Carnival Boy

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Jihoon hated amusement parks.

Like, really hated them. The bright lights gave him a headache, the cheery, upbeat music nearly broke his eardrums, and the smell of the food that was always too salty or too sweet made him want to puke on all the screaming children running around the park. More than once, he’d imagined taking a match to the whole place and watching it all burn. Not that he would do that (probably, anyway).

“Jihooooooooon!” Ah, there he was. The entire reason Jihoon was even in that godforsaken park. Jihoon watched Soonyoung race from the exit of another rollercoaster, howling like a wolf. A few months back, he’d been given a name by the staff manning the games: Carnival Boy. And it fit like nothing else. Despite all the bright lights and all the loud music, Soonyoung managed to drown all of it out every time they came here. Soonyoung threw one arm over Jihoon’s shoulders, panting. “Jihoon, you really should have come on the ride, it was so much fun!”

“I get sick on those kinds of rides,” Jihoon explained for the third time that day, prying Soonyoung’s fingers off of his shoulders. “I’ll puke in the first five seconds, Soonyoung.”

“Aw, come on!” Soonyoung takes a hold of Jihoon’s hands. “You should try it, just more time! I’ll go with you, please?” Soonyoung leaned forward in his eagerness, those pretty eyes shining through his blonde bangs, and Jihoon was reminded once again how he’d been convinced to come to an amusement park in the first place. “You can even throw up on me, I won’t be mad!”

It was impossible to refuse Soonyoung, especially when Jihoon’s fingers were tightly intertwined with Soonyoung and Jihoon could even imagine they were-

“Fine. But just because you’re the fucking Carnival Boy.” Jihoon pulled his hands away and walked towards a random rollercoaster in hopes that Soonyoung wouldn’t notice how his ears had turned pink.

Soonyoung cheered behind him, oblivious as always. Soonyoung would be the death of Jihoon.

---

It was raining when Jihoon met Soonyoung. Jihoon was waiting outside, under the awning of the studio he worked at part time. His new coworker had the keys to the place, but the doors were still locked.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Soonyoung if he didn’t come crashing into Jihoon’s life, literally. Jihoon was surprised, to say the least, when he felt a large mass nearly knock him over.

“Shit, sorry!” A boy with faded red hair, completely soaked by the rain, pulled away quickly and feebly tried to brush away the water soaked into Jihoon’s clothes. “I slipped a little, clearly.” He laughed, despite what was possibly Jihoon’s strongest glare ever. That was something Jihoon learned quickly; Soonyoung would smile in the face of death. He was just...light. Like nothing ever bothered him, like every weight the world could think of would slide off of those broad shoulders.

“I’m Soonyoung, by the way,” he said as he pulled some keys from his jacket pocket. “Sorry I'm late, I got held up somewhere. What’s your name?”

Jihoon never told him his name. He barely even spoke to Soonyoung the first week that they worked together. Soonyoung scoured the files at work and found Jihoon’s name a few days later, even though he could’ve just ignored Jihoon back. He brought Jihoon apology coffee almost every day for the next month even though he could’ve just written Jihoon off as a grudge-holding asshole. Jihoon found himself calling Soonyoung a friend by week three.

---

The rollercoaster was hell. Every loop and twist and whirl made Jihoon’s stomach threaten to hurl. As soon as they got out, Jihoon rushed to the nearest trash can and gagged over it.

“Jihoon? Jihoon, are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was this bad.” Soonyoung’s voice was soft and worried and Jihoon’s resolution to beat the shit out of Soonyoung weakened with every stroke of Soonyoung’s hand on his back.

“Are you okay?” Soonyoung whispered and his warm breath fanning Jihoon’s cheek was all it took for panic to kick in, nausea completely forgotten.

“Y-Yeah, I’m fine. No more rides though.”

Soonyoung laughed and linked his arms with Jihoon. “Let’s go sit down.”

Not even a minute passed before Soonyoung whooped at the sight of a stand selling food. Soonyoung only let go of him to stand tall in front of the vendor, proudly requesting “two churros, please!”. Jihoon would’ve protested, since he didn’t like churros, but he knew that Soonyoung would just eat both churros anyway. “Oh, and one frozen lemonade cup too, sir!”

Jihoon frowned. Soonyoung hated lemons, and anything to do with them. “Soonyoung?”

Soonyoung looked back at Jihoon with a wide smile. “You like them, right?”

And what was Jihoon supposed to say to that? He could hardly profess everything in his heart then and there, as much as he wanted to. All he could do was mumble a thank you and pray that Soonyoung didn’t notice the pure adoration that must have been written all over his face.

---

“Jihoon? Jihoon…” Jihoon groaned as he felt himself being shaken awake. He was surprised to find himself sleeping on a desk, not a bed, and…

“Oh shit!” He shot up from his desk because fuck, he was at goddamn work. He glanced at the clock to find that he only had half an hour to finish the mountain of paperwork he’d been left with and he didn’t have time to finish it because he’d goddamn fallen asleep-

“Hey, calm down, it’s okay!” Soonyoung clutched Jihoon’s hand and the warmth of the gesture cut through Jihoon’s panic. “I finished a bunch of that paperwork you had anyway, so don’t worry about it too much.”

“You...what?” Jihoon blinked a couple times, Soonyoung’s face and newly dyed blonde hair slowly coming into focus.

Soonyoung grinned. “I owe you anyway, you know that. Do you know how many times you’ve covered for me?” Flashes of Soonyoung showing up late or breaking equipment run through Jihoon’s head and yeah, maybe Soonyoung did owe him.

“Still...thank you.” Was he still dreaming or was Soonyoung glowing a little? Jihoon nearly shook his head to get the idea out of his head. Glowing? What was he, some twelve-year-old writing One Direction fanfiction?

Soonyoung sat back down in that wooden chair he always had scooted next to Jihoon. “You should be careful next time though. You snore.”

“What?! No I don’t!” Jihoon sputtered, grabbing the nearest object to throw. You’d think the guitar would have scared him earlier.

Soonyoung just laughed. He always just laughed. “There you are! I thought my Jihoonie had gone all soft on me.” Soonyoung pokes Jihoon’s side and Jihoon elbows him away.

“Dumbass.”

---

“So, how have you liked the amusement park?” Soonyoung asked, licking the leftover sugar off of his fingers. Jesus, Jihoon couldn’t even find that gross because it’s goddamn Soonyoung.

“It was okay, I guess.”

“Just okay?” Well, maybe more than okay. Rollercoaster aside, Jihoon could admit to himself that Soonyoung could make even this fun. Hell, just watching Soonyoung have a blast made Jihoon’s heart jump in ways that made him feel light, almost as light as Soonyoung.

“Fun. It was actually kind of fun.”

“See? I told you amusement parks were fun! You just needed to be here with your very own Carnival Boy.” Soonyoung wrapped his arms around Jihoon and it took every part of Jihoon’s self control not to lean into it.

They sat there like that for a while. It’s amazing how fast the world goes by when they stay perfectly still like that, together. Jihoon was undeniably happy like this.

By the time Jihoon got to the bottom of the lemon cup, he could practically see Soonyoung vibrating with the need to go do something else.

“What should we do next?” Jihoon asked.

Soonyoung’s eyes lit up and they looked like fireworks with the way the colored lights glinted in them. “Let’s go play some games! We only have a couple hours left before the park closes.”

Jihoon mourned the loss of Soonyoung’s arms around him, but then Soonyoung linked their fingers together and Jihoon couldn’t hide his own smile.

---

Soonyoung was always a touchy person. No matter what they were doing, working on a project or eating or watching TV, Soonyoung had to be touching Jihoon.

“Why do you always have to be touching me?” Jihoon asked one time. They were sitting on the floor of Soonyoung’s dorm room, working on completely different things, yet Soonyoung scooted as close as physically possible.

Soonyoung didn’t take offense to the wording of Jihoon’s question. He knew Jihoon well enough not to. “I just like it. Do you want me to stop?”

Jihoon thought about that question for a while, long after he’d answered it out loud. “I don’t really care.” Which was a lie. He cared a lot.

But that wasn’t the point. The point was that something was really wrong.

Of course, there were other things. Soonyoung was working diligently, not smiling once. He hadn’t moved at all, and Soonyoung never sits still. He was even quiet, for god’s sake. But the weirdest part of all, the thing that Jihoon had never seen out of him in the two years they’d known each other, was that Soonyoung hadn’t scooted his chair over uncomfortably close, hadn’t wrapped Jihoon in a hug yet, hadn’t rested his head on Jihoon’s shoulder.

Jihoon lasted half an hour before breaking. “Soonyoung?”

The blonde boy looked up, unsmiling. “Yeah?”

“Are you, like, okay?”

Soonyoung looked back at the papers in front of him, huffing. “I’m fine.”

Jihoon sighed. So he was going to be stubborn about this. “Well, it’s just, you seem...off? You’re really quiet today.”

“What, so I can’t be quiet?” Soonyoung snapped, but he looked regretful immediately after the words had left his mouth. “Sorry, I-” He rubbed his eyes. “ I didn’t mean that.”

Somehow, despite being possibly the most emotionally constipated person on the planet, Jihoon knew instinctively to walk over and wrap Soonyoung up in a tight hug. He squeezed tighter when the first sob broke through Soonyoung’s lips.

That’s when Jihoon realized it. Every time his breath went short or his heart tried to break out of his chest around Soonyoung suddenly made sense. Jihoon wouldn’t let go of Soonyoung because of that. He’d hold on that much tighter, praying for some solution he couldn’t think of, but he knew that he couldn’t lie to himself at this point.

He was completely in love with Kwon Soonyoung.

---

Love. That big scary word filled his head when he watched Soonyoung like this, happy and bright and perfect like he was. Jihoon knew he was staring at the way those lights, those loud, ugly, stupid lights that Jihoon had hated since he could remember, turned utterly gorgeous on the sharp lines of Soonyoung’s face.

Soonyoung’s water gun flashed bright blue and red and the blonde boy pulled away from the machine with a yell, throwing his arms in the air with the widest smile yet today. The crappy music, the bright lights, everyone and everything faded away, and Jihoon didn’t know why he couldn’t look away, but he was so beyond fighting it. All that he could see was Soonyoung jumping and cheering and laughing and screaming without a thought to anyone else. He was beautiful.

“You’re beautiful,” Jihoon whispered, but he didn’t whisper it if the look on Soonyoung’s face was anything to go by. Jihoon had known he was staring, but how could he look away? How could he miss the opportunity to bask in everything bright and right and wonderful that was Kwon Soonyoung? He almost never gets to watch Soonyoung unabashedly like that and he certainly wouldn’t get another one in the future with what he just said.

Jihoon mumbled some excuse to leave, one he didn’t remember because it didn’t even matter what he said, did it? He’d already ruined everything. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he thought to himself as he used every bit of his strength not to run away as fast and as far away as possible.

His misery was interrupted when he bumped into something...a pink cat? Holding it was Soonyoung, wide-eyed and panting.

“I know you, uh, like Happy from Fairy Tail, and like, I know it’s not really Happy, and it’s pink, but like - please take it.”

Jihoon hated how his hands shook when he stuck out his hands and wrapped his fingers around the back of the stuffed animal. It wasn’t Happy, but it felt nice to hold something and feel like it holding him back. Jihoon didn’t want to think about how much comfort he got out of the fact that it came from Soonyoung.

“Did you mean it?” Jihoon looked up at the slight tremor in Soonyoung’s voice and his fingers twitched with the want to smooth out the lines between the blond boy’s eyebrows. “That I’m...beautiful?”

It was too late anyway. Jihoon knew that, so he nodded slowly, forcing his eyes to stay trained on the beauty that he could still look at in the boy in front of him. Maybe minutes passed, maybe seconds. Days could have passed and Jihoon’s not sure if he would have noticed.

“I love you too, Jihoon.”

As though he’d been punched, Jihoon’s breath was knocked out of him. It couldn’t be real, the smile on Soonyoung’s face, his strong arms reaching out, his soft fingers cupping Jihoon’s face. It wasn’t real until Soonyoung’s lips met Jihoon’s. He tasted like cotton candy, and Jihoon hated cotton candy, but the kiss was so perfect, Soonyoung was smiling so brightly, and Jihoon felt so much that none of it mattered; the flashing lights, the drunk teenagers, the smell of too sweet and too salty were all forgotten with one kiss from Soonyoung.

The Carnival Boy. His Carnival Boy.