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the stars in your eyes (i see the whole sky)

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The customer arrives at a strange time. It’s 4:00; most of their usual patrons were working, and the rest of them were school kids on summer vacation. This customer, however, did not look like a schoolkid. He’s an adult, dressed in a knee-length trench coat that seemed a little too stuffy for the weather and a shirt tucked into tight black jeans. His eyes are sharp and contemplative behind round glasses. When Geonhak catches himself staring, he shakes his head and continues to roll out the dough in front of him. 

“Seoho! Hi!” Keonhee greets him first, abandoning his icing work in favour of running over to the counter. “I’m surprised you could find this place by yourself.”

“I was going this way,” the customer, Seoho, replies. He’s smiling a tiny smile, and yet, that smile still manages to reach his eyes. “It smelled so nice. I couldn’t possibly have missed it.”

Seoho glances at Geonhak, but immediately drops his gaze when Geonhak glances back. The smile falls off his face.

Keonhee shows no sign of noticing this exchange. “Since you’re here, can I interest you in anything?” He says cheerily.

Seoho immediately points at a chocolate chip cookie behind the display case, a choice that gives Geonhak a strange sense of satisfaction. He made them himself earlier this morning, and the batch had turned out exceptionally well.

Geonhak tries to focus on kneading the dough while Keonhee rings Seoho up, making light conversation with him as he does. 

“I’d better get back to work,” Seoho finally says, after what feels like forever. “It’s been nice seeing you, Keonhee!” 

“Right back at you!” Keonhee waves back. “Feel free to drop by anytime!”

As soon as Seoho leaves with his cookie, Geonhak looks at the door, then looks back at Keonhee. “Who was that?”

“Oh, Seoho?” Keonhee replies, walking back to the kitchen to continue working on his cake. “He’s new here. Moved in just last week.”

“New? Are you sure?” Geonhak frowns. There was something familiar about him, something about the way he dressed. Something about the way he looked at him. 

“It’s a small town. Maybe you’ve seen him around.”

“Maybe.” 

Keonhee seems to consider that for a moment. He’s done icing now, and it’s a gorgeous cake, more a work of art than a dessert. As he packs the cake into one of their fancier boxes, Geonhak walks over to the counter and opens up the display case, taking all the leftover treats out. It’s almost time to close, and they close early on Wednesdays.

Wednesdays were always slow for the bakery. Besides Yonghoon’s special cake order, Seoho’s first visit, and a small lunch rush, nobody had really come in throughout the day. Thus, the leftovers, but that’s hardly an issue for them anymore. They dump all the treats that could be eaten but no longer sold to the elementary school, and the kids love them. 

“He’s from the city, you know,” Keonhee says. “Just like you. And Youngjo.”

Geonhak makes a small noise of acknowledgment, but he has doubts. Here, everyone knows everyone, and it’s easy to get accustomed to this lifestyle, to assume that it’s the default, but he knows the city. The city is large, anonymous; the chances of them having met there, let alone ending up in the same town, are astronomically low.

And yet.

“Dongju’s coming in tomorrow, right?” Geonhak asks, changing the subject. 

“Of course!” Keonhee says enthusiastically. “Actually, he’ll be here pretty much full-time now. Says he wants to work more before the school year starts.” 

“That’s great.” It’s always nice to get a bit more help around here. Dongju’s an excellent cashier, always cheerful and good at making conversation with anyone who walks in. He’s less inclined to help with the baking, but that’s mostly what Keonhee and Geonhak do. 

“I’ll miss him when he goes back to school,” Geonhak says with a sigh. “I don’t know how we managed without him.”

He’s finished with all the leftovers now, moving on to wiping down the counters in the kitchen. Keonhee washes the bakeware, humming as he scrubs down a cupcake tray. 

“And you’re not going to be here tomorrow, right?” Geonhak asks once they’re almost done.

“Yeah. I’m going to Seoho’s housewarming party.” Keonhee looks over at Geonhak. “You can go home now if you want. I can take care of everything else. 

“You’re the best!” Geonhak tells him. He takes four of the leftover cookies on his way out. 


“He gave me a withering glare when he walked in. And I mean, withering .”

“And you swear you don’t know him at all?”

“I swear!” Geonhak insists. “Actually- I don’t know. Maybe we’ve met? But I don’t think I’ve done anything to piss him off?”

Youngjo blinks at him, then takes a sip of his whiskey. “Well. There’s hardly any use in dwelling.”

“I guess that’s true,” Geonhak replies plainly. “How’d the housewarming party go?”

It’s a little bit odd, going to the bar on a Thursday night, but it’s the most convenient time for both of them. Youngjo’s tailor shop is closed on Fridays, and Dongju usually covers the early Friday shifts at the bakery. Besides, everyone gets drinks on Fridays, so it does get quite crowded at the one reputable bar in this town. 

“Not without trouble,” Youngjo says with a smile. “Dongmyeong fell into the cake.”

“Why does that not surprise me?”

“Everyone here is weird. I'm surprised we haven't scared him off,” Youngjo swirls his glass. “You should’ve been there. It was a lot of fun.”

“Maybe,” Geonhak says, trying to sound apathetic, but a pang hits his chest. Maybe it would’ve been worth trying to build a bit of comradery with his newest neighbor. Maybe Seoho didn’t actually hate him, and he was being paranoid. But then again, maybe he could also be right. 

Youngjo yawns. A comfortable silence fills the space between them.

“I offered him a job today, you know.”

“Oh?” This, Geonhak did not know. He hasn’t been to Youngjo’s shop since the last time he needed a suit, but this sounds like a fairly recent development.

Youngjo shrugs. “He needed something to do. And it would be nice to have some help.”

“I guess we’ll be seeing each other a lot,” Geonhak muses. He isn’t sure how he feels about that. On one hand, Seoho doesn’t seem to like him very much at all, but on the other hand, maybe he just acts like that with everyone. Maybe he’ll just take a little bit of getting used to.

Hwanwoong comes over with a bottle of scotch and soju in each hand, apron tied around his waist. “Hey,” he says, snapping Geonhak out of his thoughts.

“Hey,” Geonhak repeats. 

“Woong,” Youngjo says with a smile that makes Geonhak roll his eyes.

Hwanwoong returns the expression with something of a playful grimace. “Up for another drink, boys?”

“Definitely,” Geonhak says, holding out his glass. “Thanks, Woongie!”

“No problem.” As Hwanwoong fills his cup to the brim with more strawberry soju, Geonhak doesn’t miss the way Youngjo side-eyes him. He chuckles to himself. Hwanwoong does look adorable in that bear apron. 

“So, what’s the tea? What were you guys talking about?”

“Oh, just Seoho.” Then, Youngjo frowns. “Should you really be chatting with us on the clock?”

Hwanwoong lets out a scoff. “Please. There’s barely anyone here.” He glances between the two of them. “Besides you two, I mean. But you hardly count.”

“Hey--”

“Enough of that,” Hwanwoong cuts Geonhak off. “What’s this about Seoho?”

“Apparently, Hak here did something to piss him off,” Youngjo explains sagely. Geonhak squawks in protest.

“That’s not true! I didn’t do anything!” Geonhak insists, swirling his soju around in agitation. “Maybe he’s just weird like that. Is he just weird like that? Please tell me he’s just weird like that.”

“No,” Hwanwoong affirms after thinking for a moment. “I met him at the park the other day. The guy smiles a lot. His jokes-- don’t tell him I said this-- aren’t that great, but his smile,” he clutches his chest. “Ah, it makes me feel things.”

Youngjo wrinkles his nose, and Geonhak’s too deep in his thoughts to laugh at him this time.

“Huh,” he says. 

“You should talk to him, you know," Youngjo tells him.

“Who? Seoho?” Geonhak scoffs. “No way. He clearly hates me.”

“You two would look good together,” Hwanwoong says breezily, to which Geonhak sputters. 

“You know I don’t--”

“Yes, biceps, you’re actually really cute and shy and afraid of people.” Hwanwoong tops up his soju again. Geonhak didn’t notice it was gone. “We get it. But like, seriously--” 

“That’s not what I meant,” Youngjo interrupts with a frown. “It’s just, I don’t like it when there’s drama in this town. It spreads everywhere. Hard to avoid people in a place like this.”

Geonhak drums his fingers on the table. 

“I guess you’re right.”

At this point, the other bartender waves Hwanwoong over to help with some other customers in the back. Youngjo's expression, then, becomes analogous to that of a kicked puppy.

“You’ve got to stop looking at him like that,” Geonhak comments to Youngjo once he’s gone.

“Yeah. I know.” Youngjo takes a long sip of his drink, then gets up. “It’s getting late. I’d better get going.”

“Mm.” Geonhak downs the last of his soju. “Bye then.”

“Love you!”

Geonhak rolls his eyes, but he finds himself sighing fondly. “Love you too, Youngjo,” he says once Youngjo leaves to pay his check. 


Geonhak hasn’t always wanted to be a baker. It’s something that just happened to him one day. He wanted to be a bodyguard, maybe. Maybe an elementary school teacher-- that’s what he studied, and that’s what he did back in the city. Once, he wanted to do music. He still does music with Kiwook, and people listen to it, but it’s nowhere near as integral to his life as the bakery these days. 

“Hey, Keonhee!” Dongju calls from the register. “When are we going to get more cookies?”

“They’re in the oven,” Keonhee yells back. “Geonhak, how long have they been in there?”

Geonhak feels a smile reach his lips. He’s happy here, he supposes. Happier than he’s ever been. 

“They’ll be five more minutes, I think,” he confirms.

Saturdays are chaotic, especially around noon, and it takes all three of them to run the place manageably. It’s especially worse today, seeing that Keonhee is totally occupied with working on Miss Park’s wedding cake. 

“Hak, once you’re done with the cookies, can you do the dishes?” Keonhee says, frantically slicing the newest cake. “I know it’s thankless work, but--”

“On it,” Geonhak says immediately.

Seoho had been here earlier today. He’s become a bit of a regular, which was to be expected, since he’s a good friend of Keonhee’s. Despite that, he hasn’t been warming up to Geonhak at all, and Geonhak swears that he’s trying to be nice to him. He bought another one of those chocolate chip cookies, which makes Geonhak feel a little bit better about all this, but oh well.

“Cookies are ready,” he says, carefully hauling a tray out with his oven mitts. They’re one of his primary sources of pride, soft and cute with Shiba Inu faces drawn on them. Dongju reaches out to take it from him, and Geonhak doesn't have enough time to warn him before he touches the metal with his bare hands and cries out in pain.

“Ow!” 

“Serves you right,” Geonhak seethes. “Kitchen safety, Dongju. Don’t be an idiot.”

Dongju pouts one of his signature pouts, and Geonhak laughs at him.

So, yeah. Geonhak hasn’t always wanted to be a baker, but it sure does work for him.


Geonhak doesn’t usually like shopping for anything, really. But sometimes, it’s necessary, such as when his friend loses his favourite pick for his bass guitar and is too sad to buy a new one, so  to compulsively take care of others when he can hardly take care of himself.

Because this isn’t the first time he has done this, nor will this be this last, he knows exactly where to find the guitar pick. The shopkeeper, an older man who’s owned this little store for as long as anyone in the town can remember, smiles at him as he steps inside.

But when Geonhak spots Seoho at the back, his blood runs cold.

Seoho nods at the pick in Geonhak’s hand. “You play?”

Geonhak shakes his head. “It’s for Kiwook.”

“Oh! The florist!” Seoho blinks. “Is it his birthday?”

“No.” Geonhak’s still wary. He isn’t entirely sure why he’s talking to Seoho, and why Seoho is talking to him, but they haven’t started fighting each other yet. So. “He lost his. I thought it would be nice to get him a new one.”

“Huh.” Seoho smiles a little. 

And God, was Hwanwoong right. That smile makes him feel things, too. 

“What are you here for?” Geonhak asks, trying his best to sound stoic. It took a whole lot of effort.

Seoho tips his head over to the other aisle. “Microphone. I left mine in my storage unit and I don’t feel like going to the city.”

A microphone. Curious. He does have quite a nice voice. Maybe he sings? Plays an instrument? The image of Seoho playing the guitar and singing a lullaby pops into Geonhak’s head, and he promptly ends that train of thought. Maybe not. Maybe he just does vlogs and mukbangs on Youtube. He has quite a nice face, too.

Dammit, Geonhak thinks to himself. Hwanwoong really is in his head now. 

“You know,” Geonhak says. “If you ever need to record something, Kiwook and I have a nice studio. You can use our microphone.”

“Mm. I’d rather have my own.” Seoho’s smile becomes more of a twisted frown. “Thanks, though!”

Right. That’s reasonable, but now Geonhak feels like an idiot for suggesting it and getting rejected. 

“Gotcha,” Geonhak mumbles awkwardly. “Have fun recording, then?” 

“I will.” Seoho sounds just as muted as Geonhak does. He does smile a bit, though, and that smile should definitely come with a warning. Wow.

Seoho’s gone before he could notice, and Geonhak briefly wishes that the floor would swallow him whole.


It’s Thursday again, and the bakery’s closed in the afternoon, so Geonhak drives. He doesn’t need to drive, not really. But he likes driving to the countryside sometimes, and he likes having the option to visit the city whenever, even though he never does. Outside of the insurance payments and maintenance costs, however, having a car does have its perks. For example, he can visit Dongju and Dongmyeong’s family farm whenever he wants. And when he hears that a brand new batch of chicks had just hatched in their coop, you bet he’s going there to spend his day off. 

“You’re ridiculous,” Dongju tells him while he’s busy cooing at one of them.

Geonhak lifts the chick into the palms of his hands, then raises her into Dongju’s face. “Do you have a heart, Ju? Look at her!”

The Son family farm might as well be Geonhak’s favourite place in the world. They had an orchard, a small ranch, a few hundred acres. He buys all his flour from them. 

Dongju waves him off. “Yeah, she’s adorable.”

The chick struggles in his hand, so Geonhak sets her down. She immediately runs off to join her siblings. 

“Where’s Dongmyeong, by the way?” Geonhak asks.

“Oh, he’s at Yonghoon’s house with the rest of them.” Dongju stands up and leans against the barn door. “It’s practice day.”

“He wouldn’t miss band practice for the birth of these babies?”

Dongju shrugs. “You know them, Hak. They wouldn’t miss band practice for anything.”

Geonhak laughs and walks over to stand next to him. 

“Youngjo and Kiwook just wrote a new song, you know. They had me do some of the guide vocals.” He smiles fondly. “It’s a nice song.”

“Oh? I can’t wait to hear it.” One of the chicks had fallen on her side, so Dongju reaches down to set her upright. Once again, Geonhak’s heart melts for the little things. 

Geonhak stays until sunset, and he has dinner with Dongju and his parents. Unsurprisingly, Dongmyeong doesn’t come home in time, and he’s still out even when Geonhak begins to head back to his apartment. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow night?” Geonhak tells Dongju once he’s at the door.

Dongju shoots him a grin. “Course. Wouldn’t miss drinks with the gang.”

The drive home is largely uneventful. He passes acres and acres of wheat fields, then forest, then a narrow mountain trail. The stars are brighter than they could ever have been in the city. 


“That karaoke place! We’ve got to go together sometime!” Keonhee slurs, resting his head on Hwanwoong’s shoulder. 

Hwanwoong gives him a light noogie. “Of course you’d want to do karaoke,” he retorts, “it’s physically impossible for you to sound bad.”

Hwanwoong’s not the only one with someone on his shoulder; Dongju’s been leaning against Geonhak since pretty much the beginning of the night. They’ve all had more than a couple of drinks at this point, save for Seoho, who’s only had a beer. He sits quietly at the end of the table, mostly only piping up to make lame jokes. And Geonhak can’t help it-- he laughs at them. He doesn’t, however, miss the way Seoho stiffens up every time he acknowledges him.

“Do you sing, Seoho?” Youngjo suddenly asks. To that, Seoho smiles mysteriously. 

“A little,” he says.

This spawns a litany of questions from the four of them (Geonhak opts to remain silent), and Seoho revels in the attention, never really giving a straight answer. And for some reason, this gives Geonhak another twinge of deja vu.

“Oh, Youngjo!” Hwanwoong says brightly, sitting up and shaking Keonhee off his shoulder in the process. Keonhee pouts. “I still haven’t thanked you for that new jacket. Seriously, it’s great!”

“Ah, it was nothing.” Youngjo chuckled, and of course Geonhak doesn’t miss the slight blush rising to his face. “I just modified something I had.”

“Don’t undersell yourself! You’re very talented.”

Eventually, Dongju gets tired and falls asleep on Geonhak’s lap while he’s idly stroking his hair. Keonhee and Youngjo leave to order more snacks. Hwanwoong excuses himself to go to the washroom, but Geonhak has little doubt that he’ll ‘drop by’ the bar and return with six more shots of whatever.

So, that effectively leaves...well. This is awkward.

Seoho is quiet. He eyes Dongju on Geonhak’s lap for a moment, but quickly looks away. 

Well. This is his chance, Geonhak supposes. They’re alone, and his nerves have been suppressed with an adequate amount of liquid courage. Here goes nothing.

“Hey.”

Seoho blinks. He looks a bit like a deer in the headlights. No, more like a squirrel than anything else. “What?”

“What’s your problem?” Geonhak asks, steeling himself.

They make eye contact for a solid minute. It becomes a bit of a staring contest, and Seoho’s the one who looks away first.

“You won’t talk to me,” Geonhak continues, trying his best to make his voice not slur. “You act like I- I have the plague, and- and we don’t even know each other. What’s your problem ?”

For a while, it seems like Seoho has no words. Then, his gaze hardens, and his voice comes out cold like ice.

“I don’t owe you anything, Geonhak.” 

(There’s something about the way he says his name.)

“I want to be your friend, Seoho.” He barely mumbles this. “Our friends are friends. Can’t we be friends, too?”

Before Seoho could say anything, Youngjo and Keonhee return from the snack bar. They immediately continue their conversation about Marvel heroes from where they left off, and Geonhak never gets a straight answer from him.

At the end of the night, Seoho leaves before the rest of them do, but the rest of them follow closely behind him. Youngjo splits a cab with Hwanwoong, Keonhee walks, and Dongju calls his very annoyed twin to ask him for a ride. There’s no way Geonhak’s letting himself drive in this state, so he calls a cab as well. 

The stars aren’t as bright as they were on the way back from the farm, but they’re bright nevertheless. 

When Geonhak gets home, he spots something in the playground next to his apartment complex. It’s a small composite notebook, cover tattered and pages obviously worn, and after flipping through it for a while, he realizes that it’s filled with songs. Without thinking much of it, he drops it in front of the room listed on the address, the complex right across from his own, with a sticky note and a smiley message attached:

 “You dropped this! :)”

And that’s his good deed for the day, he supposes. He only hopes that the good karma makes up for whatever the hell he’s done to Seoho to piss him off so much.

Chapter Text

The following Saturday is surprisingly uneventful in terms of customers, but they’re completing an order for some huge birthday party at the elementary school, and the client wants a cake, cupcakes, pastries, and the works. It’s all hands on deck, and even Dongju helps with the baking this time.

So, none of them notice, at first, when Seoho walks in. Keonhee’s busy complaining to Geonhak about the sugar rush that the kids are about to get, while Geonhak’s attempting to convince him that come on, a little bit of sugar never hurt anyone.

“You’re calling this--” Keonhee points to the platter they have so far. “A little bit of sugar?” (Neither of them notice that Dongju’s been stealing bits and pieces of the pastries. Modern problems require modern solutions?)

Seoho coughs, and they all go silent. 

“Oh my god, I am so sorry,” Dongju, bless his soul, is the first to act. He runs up to the register with his signature customer service smile.  

And Geonhak swears that he’s not staring, but damn, Seoho’s fashion could rival Youngjo’s. Today, he’s wearing a loosely fitted beige shirt, two buttons open to reveal a white shirt underneath. There’s a chain wallet hanging from his black jeans. Maybe it’s because he’s been influenced into dressing well from working at his shop. Or maybe that’s just Youngjo’s employee dress code, he wouldn’t put it past him. 

“It’s all good,” Seoho tells Dongju. The corners of his mouth lift into a shy smile.

Can Geonhak please stop catching feelings for someone who so obviously hates his guts?

When Seoho spots him, he immediately reverts back to his neutral expression. He makes minimal conversation with Dongju, buys two cookies, and swiftly goes on his way.


After work, Geonhak grabs a protein shake from the smoothie shop across the bakery, then heads to the gym. He’d already gone in the morning, and normally, he wouldn’t risk the overexertion, but he needs this. 

As soon as Geonhak walks into the gym, tossing his (biodegradable, he checked) smoothie cup into the compost bin, he spots Jangjun grins at him from the leg press. Geonhak waves back halfheartedly, then takes his place next to him. Never skip leg day. 

Exercise isn’t a mindless activity, not at all, but it’s enough to take his mind off of things. He adjusts the machine to the maximum setting, then repeats the motions until his mind begins to slip away.

“Hey. Hey.” Jangjun’s voice interrupts his blessed oblivion. “Your form’s off.”

“No problem.” Jangjun glances at him. “Take care of yourself, dude. You could hurt yourself that way.” 

Yeah, so it’s not exactly safe to dissociate while exercising, but the routine is good for him. After leg exercises with Jangjun, he moves on to cardio and has a nice long discussion with Eunbi about the best type of gluten-free grain for making bread and pastries. After lifting weights with Hyunjae, he follows the faint sound of Snapping by Chungha to the studio. Unsurprisingly, the space is occupied by Hwanwoong practicing the choreography. Geonhak shrugs and grabs a yoga mat, setting it down in the corner of the room. He does his post-workout stretching routine while Hwanwoong dances.

For a long time, Hwanwoong fails to even acknowledge Geonhak’s presence. Eventually, he stops his music to take a break, sitting down next to him with a huff.

“Didn’t think I’d ever meet you here,” Hwanwoong tells him, wiping sweat off his forehead. “Aren’t you usually here at like, five in the morning?”

“Six,” Geonhak corrects him. “The gym isn’t open at five.”

“Whatever. It’s not like time exists before noon.”

“Woong, I genuinely believe that you’re a vampire.”

“Flattering,” Hwanwoong barks out a laugh. “You going to karaoke with us next week?”

“You bet.” Suddenly, Geonhak scrunches up his face. “Wait, is Seoho coming?”

“Ugh. Again with Seoho. Why are you so obsessed with him, biceps?” Hwanwoong stretches out his arms. “I get it, he’s cute, but--” Geonhak rolls his eyes. “He doesn’t still hate you, does he?”

“I think he hates me even more now.” Geonhak lets out a miserable sigh and hugs his legs close to his chest. “We’ll never get along, and I think I’m going to have to come to terms with that.”

“Alright, Hamlet.” Hwanwoong gingerly pats him on the back. Then, he stands up and continues to dance, and instead of continuing his stretches, Geonhak opts to ruminate to the beat of Move by Taemin.

And yeah, he knows he’s in a bit of a low point when Hwanwoong’s the one who accuses him of being dramatic, but what can you do? 

It’s almost six when Geonhak starts to take the walk home. He stops when he finds a sticky note taped to his door. The message that’s been scrawled on it is so messy that he can almost hear the person hurriedly say “thank you.” And, best of all, there’s a smiley face at the bottom of the note; it’s analogous to the one he drew on his own sticky note after returning that journal, and despite himself, he smiles. 


It’s one in the morning and Geonhak can’t seem to fall asleep.

That’s not ideal. He’s always the one going on about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and he has an early shift at the bakery the next day. He listens to white noise, tosses and turns in his bed, counts sheep, and does some pushups. Nothing seems to work.

With a groan, he gets up from his bed and opens the curtains. Moonlight streams inside. The stars are bright. 

Water. He gets some water from his fridge (fancy fridge! It has a water filter and an ice dispenser and everything. He bought it a month ago, but it still excites him to no end) and walks back to his open window, takes a long sip, and places the glass precariously on the sill. It’s a cloudless sky, and that’s why the stars are even brighter than they usually are, he supposes. 

But it’s a star on the ground that catches Geonhak’s eye. Something flickers from the playground, and that’s when he notices Seoho on one of the benches. Huh. He knows that Seoho lives in the complex across from his, but it’s weird to finally confront the fact that they’re basically neighbors. He has something in his mouth, and...Ah. It’s a cigarette. That flicker must’ve been from whatever implement he used to light it.

Out of pure impulse, Geonhak throws on a jacket and heads outside. The cold air hits his face as soon as he leaves the complex. 

Seoho notices him immediately. He suddenly sits up straight, then takes another puff of the cigarette. (at this point, Geonhak is physically fighting the urge to lecture him about smoking, but he probably knows. Most smokers do.) The smoke flies away into the dark sky, curling up towards the stars. 

“I’m trying to quit,” Seoho says defensively, as if he’s read Geonhak’s mind.

Geonhak glances at the cigarette, then at his face. “Alright.” It’s cold, so when he says it, his breath condenses and dissipates into the air like smoke. 

He doesn’t come any closer. It feels like he’s already intruded on Seoho’s personal space by simply walking out of his home at this time, so he stays where he is. But Seoho appears unbothered, looking away and up at the stars. 

“I feel like I owe you an apology,” Geonhak finally says. “For Friday, I mean. I was way out of line, I shouldn’t have--”

“No, no, don’t.” Seoho looks back over at him. “You were kind of right. I’ve been cold to you all this time and you didn’t really deserve that.” A pause. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

To that, Seoho cracks a smile. “I told you not to apologize.”

“Wait-- didn’t really deserve that?”

And Seoho makes the same expression he made when they first met, the first day he walked into the bakery at 4 PM on a Wednesday. The withering glare, and God, Geonhak could almost hear the smile physically drop from his face.

“Oh my god, you really don’t remember?”

Geonhak stares at him blankly.

“We were at that one sophomore's party in college-- I think his name was Seonghwa?” Seoho says hesitantly. “You were wearing a white shirt. You had blond hair.” He cracks another smile. “So did I.”

Wait.

And then, suddenly, everything clicks. Why Seoho’s been so distant towards him. Why he’s so familiar. Everything clicks. Fuck. 

“That was you?” Geonhak says pathetically, and it’s more of a statement than a question. 

“Mm.” Seoho looks at the sky again. “You said the party was suffocating, so you offered to take me somewhere. I thought you’d take me home, but you drove me to the countryside.”

He puts his cigarette out into the ashtray next to the park bench. Geonhak could only listen to the rest of the story in absolute horror.

“We kissed. You said you’d call me.”

At this time, Geonhak looks away, too. The stars are cold, judgemental.

“Fuck.” He doesn’t swear often, but it slips from his lips so easily this time. “I really do owe you an apology.”

He does remember it, now. Every bit of it. It’s been so long, but now, there’s no mistaking the way Seoho had looked at him. The way his eyes had been filled with stars. He did give Geonhak his number, and Geonhak had meant to call him, but. That means nothing now, does it? 

“But I guess I can’t totally blame you. I didn’t go by Seoho back then,” Seoho says with a yawn. “So, how’d you wind up here?” 

Geonhak feels a sudden and perverse jolt of relief at the change in subject. “Here at the park? Or here in the town?”

Seoho shrugs. “Both, I guess.”

“Well,” Geonhak purses his lips. “I’m at the park because I can’t sleep. I’m in the town because.” He thinks for a moment. There were so many reasons. Rising living costs? General dissatisfaction with his life? The busy atmosphere that made him want to tear his hair out every time he took public transit? “Because of Youngjo, I guess.”

“Oh?”

“He’s an old friend of mine, we went to high school together. I was in a bad place, and he called me, and I’m here now.” That’s a vast understatement, so he tries to elaborate, trying to be careful not to overshare. “My boyfriend left me, and my best friend picked up and moved to the next city without a word. I was totally alone, and it was becoming too expensive for me to live there, anyway. So Youngjo-- I think you can say he saved me.”

“And what happened after?” Seoho’s eyes are bright, and Geonhak doesn’t realize that they’ve moved closer to each other. Actually, he’s moved closer to Seoho-- they’re both sitting on the park bench now.

“I taught a little at the elementary. Paid rent. Eventually, I could afford my condo and then,” Geonhak gestures around them. “I started the bakery with Keonhee. And that’s that.”

Seoho lets out a light laugh. It’s a beautiful sound, and it’s a familiar one, too. Once upon a time, he had laughed that way into their kiss, and his smile felt fragile and beautiful underneath Geonhak’s lips.

“That’s such a coincidence,” he tells him. “I’m planning to teach at the junior high, actually. In the fall.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. They needed a science teacher, and I have a degree.” Seoho hums. “I’ve been doing some courses with the community college. They’re just waiting for me to get licensed now.”

“That’s amazing, congratulations!” Geonhak feels his own smile reach his eyes. “Youngjo will miss you.”

“Yeah. Well, he handles things.”

“He says you’ve been a great help.”

“Really? That’s flattering.” Seoho leans back into the park bench. “You know, I never thought I’d be a teacher.”

“I never thought I’d be a baker.”

Seoho laughs again, but this time it’s shorter. Shallow. It’s different, but it’s beautiful nevertheless.

(Geonhak wonders, briefly, how it would feel to kiss that laugh out of him.)

“Then I guess we aren’t so different after all.” He looks over at Geonhak again. The stars in his eyes are brighter than they’ve ever been over the countryside. “I’ll be off to bed. You aren’t half bad, Geonhak.”


“Hak? Geonhak!”

Geonhak stands up straight and blinks open his eyes. He can almost make out the shape of a glob of dough in front of him. It’s far too bright to be awake today.

“Right,” he mumbles, continuing to knead the dough. “Sorry.” 

Keonhee looks at him with concern. “Are you alright? You seem out of it.”

“M’just tired,” Geonhak says. The gluten’s beginning to develop, so he picks up the pace, twisting and folding with as much vigor as he could expend. 

“Don’t push yourself too much,” Keonhee tells him with a frown before pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven.

At this time, someone walks in. Geonhak leaves the dough in a greased bowl to rise, then goes over to the counter to help her. 

“Mrs. Lee,” Geonhak greets her pleasantly. “Are you here for your order?”

Mrs. Lee nods, and Geonhak walks over to the back of the store to look for the loaf he’d baked for her this morning. 

“The weather’s been so nice lately,” Mrs. Lee says. 

“It has,” Geonhak replies. “Any plans to travel?”

“Not really, but I heard that there’s going to be a meteor shower next week,” she says with a hum. “I’m planning to watch from my backyard, but it would be nice to drive up to the mountains to get a clearer view.”

“Oh? Interesting.” Geonhak closes the cabinet. “Thanks for telling me. Maybe I’ll try to catch it.”

The bread is hiding next to one of their sourdough starters, marked clearly with her name. Mrs. Lee smiles graciously at him as he hands it over. 

“Take care!” Keonhee calls from the kitchen as she leaves. 

The next couple of hours are fairly uneventful. Geonhak doesn’t have anything else to do in terms of baking, so he mans the cash register, trying his best not to fall asleep as he does so. It doesn’t work very well. Keonhee has to shake him awake a few times. 

“Ah, we’re out of pastry flour,” Keonhee says suddenly while he’s busy randomly pressing the buttons on the cash register. “I’m going to go pick some up. Will you be okay running this place by yourself for a bit?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll be fine.”

At this time, Geonhak receives an order for another batch of bread that has to be prepared for the next day. Brioche, this time. So, while he’s busy kneading another lump of dough, a customer walks into the store. Geonhak’s breath catches in his throat when he sees who it is.

“Seoho.”

“Hey, Geonhak.”

Seoho walks around the store with zero sense of urgency. He wanders around to look at the bread on display, then walks over to the counter with a grin.

“Slow day?”

Geonhak sets the dough to the side with a sigh. “Yeah. What’s up? Day off from the tailor shop?”

“Oh, actually, Youngjo told me to leave early. Said I looked too tired to work.”

“Ah.”

The awkward atmosphere in the air is so thick that Geonhak feels like he could slice it open with a goddamn butterknife. 

Suddenly, Seoho points at something behind the counter. “What are those?”

“These? They’re Keonhee’s new invention. We’re still experimenting with them, but they’ve been turning out pretty well.” Geonhak hoists up the tray of cookies. “Actually, I don’t think he’d be mad if I let you try one. Would you…?”

Hell yes.” Seoho snatches one of the cookies up with fervor. After one bite, his eyes light up. “This is delicious!”

“Really?” Geonhak laughs. “I’ll tell Keonhee that.”

Maybe it’s the second bout of silence that causes the overwhelming guilt to suddenly rise up in his chest. Maybe it’s been there all along. But it’s there, and Geonhak finds that he has serious trouble trying to choke it down.

“Oh! And can I get a chocolate chip cookie, please?”

Geonhak cracks a smile. “Of course, of course!”


Sure, Geonhak’s been to karaoke bar a few times. He went once with Keonhee and Yonghoon, and it was physically impossible for him to compete with their scores, but they had a blast. He went again with Youngjo in the past month, and that had been fun. Tonight, however, has been nothing short of chaotic so far. 

“One point? Are you serious? One point ?”

Hwanwoong huffs, collapsing onto Youngjo’s lap. “Leave it to Keonhee to be upset over a ninety-nine.”

“We were this close to greatness,” Keonhee moans in despair, sitting down and passing the microphone on to Seoho. 

Seoho shoots him a wry smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll get that perfect for you.”

Keonhee glares at him in return “Don’t you dare--

This is when Geonhak notices that someone’s been tapping him on the shoulder. He turns around to meet Dongju rolling his eyes. 

“Done daydreaming?” He asks, passing the mic onto him.

Geonhak chuckles sheepishly. “Sorry about that, ‘Ju.”

With the second mic in hand, it isn’t long before Geonhak comes to the horrifying realization that he’ll probably have to sing after Seoho. That he will have to meet whatever standard that Seoho happens to set. And although he doesn’t exactly know how good he is yet, his confidence, the fact that he owns a mic...That’s worrying.

“Oh, Half Moon!” Youngjo blurts out, sitting up straight. From his lap, Hwanwoong practically growls at being disturbed. “I love this song!”

Seoho grins back at him as the music starts. “Who doesn’t? It’s a great song.”

And to Geonhak’s dismay, Seoho is amazing . From the way his foot taps and his head moves around the mic, it’s evident that this is a song that he enjoys and sings often, and his voice is a perfect fit. On top of that, he hits every note with confidence, effortlessly belting out the higher notes around the end. 

Needless to say, Geonhak finds himself mesmerized. He becomes enraptured in the way his lips move, the gestures he makes, the way he sings his runs. 

He’s a beautiful person. A beautiful, talented, gorgeous, adorable, absolutely perfect person. There’s no shame in admitting that, right? 

After the song ends, 100% flashes on the screen, and the room erupts with screams and cheers. After all that, Geonhak doesn’t find this score to be the slightest bit surprising. 

“I hate you,” Keonhee tells him bluntly. Seoho laughs at him as he passes the mic off to Hwanwoong, who is now completely sitting in Youngjo’s lap. 

(Subconsciously, Geonhak has begun to document every single one of Seoho’s laughs, both from the times they have met and from all those years ago. This one resembles one of his mocking laughs. There’s also the laugh he makes after cracking one of his signature lame jokes, the laugh he makes when he’s happy, the wry chuckle he makes when he’s upset and sarcastic. His embarrassed laugh, more often than not accompanied by red ears and a covered face. One thing that’s certain, however, is all of Seoho’s laughs are beautiful.)

Geonhak ends up choosing Bang Bang Bang as his song. He’d say that he’s good at singing, and he could reach surprisingly high notes despite his low register, but he generally prefers to rap. Plus, the room could use a bit of hype after Seoho’s melancholic song.

By the second chorus, he had everyone else cheering and singing along. Hwanwoong even gets up to dance the choreo, but he’s slightly drunk and his moves are a bit wobbly as a result. Trusty Youngjo reaches out to catch him every time he threatens to fall. 

“Make some noise!” Geonhak hollers during an adlib, and everyone obliges. 

He gets a higher score than he’d expected, but it’s not perfect. Seoho’s perfect ends up being the only one of the night, try as Keonhee might. And the rest of the night passes by faster than Geonhak would have liked, but they had fun. 

They had the room until midnight, but they got kicked out practically the moment midnight strikes. As they all walk outside, Keonhee chatters away to Dongju about how the machine is totally rigged , and Hwanwoong staggers out with Youngjo’s support. The night is cool, and Geonhak shivers. He hadn’t brought his jacket because there’s a big tear on the left sleeve, but now, he’s definitely regretting that.

Someone taps Geonhak on the shoulder, and he jumps.

“Hey,” Seoho says. “We’re heading the same way, right?”

“Yes? No?” Geonhak stammers. “I mean, maybe I walked twenty kilometres to the playground because I couldn’t sleep. You never know.”

“You’re ridiculous.” Seoho rolls his eyes. “Want to split a cab?”

“Sure. Alright.”

And for some reason, that makes Seoho grin so wide that his eyes turn into crescent moons. Geonhak’s starstruck. 

“You know,” Seoho tells him once they’re in the taxi. “You get on my nerves a little bit.”

There’s the guilt again, bubbling up in Geonhak’s lungs like boiling water, and no less scalding. “I’d be surprised if I didn’t.” A pause. “I think you’ve made it obvious.”

“No, not--” Seoho lets out a sigh. “It’s not that. It’s not because I’m still mad, or because I hate you. You annoy me because I can’t hate you. Does that make sense?”

Geonhak frowns. “Not really?”

“You’re just so. Good. I had a grudge, I wanted to hate you, but you had the nerve to be good to me, and now I feel bad about it. You let me sample cookies, gave me back my notebook--”

“Wait, hold on. That was you ?”

Seoho smiles mysteriously. “Well, yeah.”

“But I dropped it off? How’d you know it was me?”

“The handwriting on your sticky note. It matched the handwriting on your cookie bags from the bakery.”

Geonhak considers that for a moment. “Ah.”

The rest of the ride is dead silent, and by the time they reach their stop, Geonhak realizes that this is because Seoho has fallen asleep. He shakes him awake, then they pay the taxi driver and step outside.

“Well,” Seoho says, looking at the stars. “Today was fun. Goodnight, Geonhak.”

Just as he’s about to walk away, Geonhak takes a breath. “Wait.” 

Seoho turns around with a frown. “What is it?”

“I’m sorry.” He feels like an idiot while he says this. “I really, really, fucked up.”

“Geonhak.”

“I know we’ve talked about this, and that it’s been a long time, but…”

“Geonhak,” Seoho says again. Gently, but firmer this time. “Stop. I forgive you. It’s fine.”

“I’m sorry,” Geonhak says insistently, one last time. “I really was careless and you...deserved so much better than me.”

“Don’t say that. It’s making me sad.” A smile appears on Seoho’s face again. “I’m not mad at you. I can’t stay mad at you.” 

Despite everything, Geonhak feels himself mirror the smile. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Seoho looks at the ground, and Geonhak can tell that he’s hiding his grin. “It’s a small town. We’ll be seeing each other all the time. Life’s too short to hold a grudge.”

Chapter Text

Geonhak forgets about the issue with his jacket until the following Thursday, in which he finally gets his shit together and heads to the tailor shop an hour before it’s supposed to close. It’s just a ten-minute walk from his apartment, but it feels longer with the frustration of knowing that he could’ve just dropped by after his bakery shift. 

As always, there’s a comfortable atmosphere to the place. The walls are littered with diagrams and fabric samples, well-dressed mannequins are set up around the door, and  Seoho’s reading something at the counter, sitting with his legs propped up next to the cash register. It takes a while for him to notice that Geonhak’s walked in, but when he does, his eyes seem to light up.

“Geonahak! Hi!” 

“Hi,” Geonhak says, looking around the room. Seoho frowns when he notices this.

“Oh, it’s just me today! Youngjo’s coming in tomorrow if you’re looking for him.”

“No, not really. That’s fine,” Geonhak tells him, awkwardly placing his jacket down on the counter. “Erm...I ripped this a while ago. I was hoping to get it fixed?”

“Sure thing, chief.” Seoho examines the jacket for a moment, then frowns. “This from regular use?”

“More or less.”

He clicks his tongue. “You’re way too buff for your own good, Geonhak.”

Geonhak feels his face heat up a little at that. 

“I’m so sorry for coming in so late,” he tells him. “You must be closing soon.” 

Seoho lets out a light laugh, brushing it off with a gesture. “No problem! This is quick work, I’ll be done in no time.” He stands up and walks the jacket over to the sewing machine behind the counter.

As Seoho works, humming the tune to some ballad that Geonhak vaguely recognizes, Geonhak leans against the wall and flips through his phone. 

“Got any plans tonight?” He asks after a while, after the silence becomes almost unbearable. 

“Mm. Not really.”  The buzz of the sewing machine stops, and Seoho examines the jacket one more time before walking back to the counter.

“Here. Shouldn’t rip again. Try not to flex in it too much.” 

Geonhak can promise nothing in that regard. “I’ll try my best. You’re closing now, right?”

“Yeah. I doubt anyone else’s coming in, so.”

So, Geonhak stands around for a little longer as Seoho minds his business, counting fabric squares and putting tools away. 

“It’s a lovely evening.” Geonhak says after he’s finished. He glances at him, then over at the door. “Want to go out for a drive?”

Seoho blinks. Then, he smiles knowingly. 

“I’d love to. Let’s go.”


Geonhak still has the same car. It’s an old thing now, but it’s well maintained, and it runs surprisingly smoothly as a result. He let Seoho play his music, and he’s currently playing the ballad that he was humming earlier. Turns out the reason that Geonhak couldn’t quite remember the lyrics is because they're in English. 

“Where do you want to go?” Geonhak asks him. They’re driving along a long, empty road just outside the town. The sky is beginning to get dark, the colors of sunset spreading over the sprawling fields.

“I haven’t been to the mountains yet,” Seoho says, looking out the window. “Can we go there?”

“Of course.”

The drive takes longer than Geonhak anticipated, but it’s relaxing. Wind rushes into the car through Seoho’s open window. The road curves around the mountain and along a stream. There isn’t another soul in sight.

“I know a spot with an excellent view of the stars,” Geonhak tells him, taking his foot off the accelerator as the road approaches a flatter curve. 

“Great!” Seoho looks over at him, and had Geonhak taken his eyes off the road, he probably would’ve been too transfixed by him to drive, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t. “I love stargazing.”

Geonhak hums. “The sky looks clear today, too. Lucky us.”

He pulls up to a small parking spot facing a cliff on the side of the road. There’s a picnic table next to it, and one of those old binocular things mounted on rotating stands. 

“Do you want to get out of the car?”

Seoho scoffs. “Heavens, no. It’s cold out there.” 

“You had the windows open for half the trip.”

“It’s colder now,” Seoho insists, hugging his jacket closer to himself. He’s practically curled into himself now, sinking so far into the seat that Geonhak briefly worries that he might just disappear. Geonhak smiles and turns up the heat.

“There. Better?”

They’re busy bantering about something else entirely when Geonhak catches sight of a light streaking across the sky. Suddenly, he falls silent, staring at the stars, and another light appears. Then another, then another.

“Geonhak? Hello?” 

“Look.” Geonhak points.

Seoho looks, then falls silent as well. 

It’s like there’s fire raining from the sky. They could see the town from over the cliff, and the meteors light up the buildings as they fall. 

“You never see these in the city,” Seoho breathes.

“No,” Geonhak agrees. “You don’t.”

At some point, Geonhak finds himself looking at Seoho more often than the stars, gauging his reaction to every meteor that falls. But it’s alright. There are more stars in his eyes than there are in the sky. 

Eventually, Seoho notices and turns to look at him, startling him. “What?” He’s smiling.

“Nothing,” Geonhak says, resisting the urge to crack a smile of his own. “You’re just. So pretty.” I don’t know how I ever forgot about you.

That makes Seoho flush so hard that it’s obvious even in the darkness of the car. But he doesn’t look away. Neither of them could look away from each other, it seems, despite the meteor shower, despite how beautiful the stars are tonight. 

“Hey,” Seoho says. “Can I kiss you?”

Geonhak doesn’t believe his ears. “What.”

Seoho rolls his eyes. “Right. I forgot that you were an education major. May I?” He corrects himself.

Geonhak barely hears himself stammer out a yes before Seoho’s leaning close and his brain completely and utterly shuts itself off. 

It’s just like it was back then, all those years ago. They kiss in the car underneath thousands upon thousands of stars, the moon, and the sky over a little trail in the countryside. But this time, they’re not outside of the city, but outside of a quaint little town that they now both call home. 

Seoho wraps his hands behind Geonhak’s neck as he deepens the kiss, and they’re warm. It’s crowded inside the car, and Geonhak wants to get out or move to the back, but he finds that he just can’t let go. 

“Wait,” Geonhak gasps after they finally, finally part. “It’s getting late. We should really, really go back.”

“Mm,” Seoho reluctantly hums. “Your place?”

A grin stretches its way across Geonhak’s face. “Sure.”

(They say that, but Geonhak couldn’t resist leaning in again. And Seoho giggles against his lips, laughs into the kiss.)


“Hak, for the last time, you are not washing your hair today.”

Geonhak scrunches up his face, running a hand through his hair. “But my head is so sweaty?”

Seoho rolls his eyes at that. “And whose fault is that? Who the fuck works out so soon after bleaching their hair?”

Seoho’s reclining leisurely over Geonhak’s couch. They’d been watching One Piece together earlier, and it’s still playing on the screen despite Geonhak’s request for him to pause it while he takes his quick afternoon trip to the gym. He can’t say he’s surprised, though. Asking Seoho to do something is like asking all the squirrels of the world to stop chewing on power lines and causing mass blackouts in cities.

“It was leg day,” Geonhak protests, pouting. “You don’t just skip leg day.”

“Musclebound imbecile,” Seoho mutters, standing up just to ruffle his hair affectionately. Geonhak chuckles, reaching out to bat his hand away.

As Seoho walks back over to the couch, he grabs a piece of nicotine gum from the coffee table. Geonhak frowns when he notices this.

“Hey, how many of those have you taken today?”

“I don’t know. Four?”

“Oh.” Geonhak considers that for a moment. Just a week ago, he was going through nine or ten per day. “That’s awesome.”

“Right?” Seoho says, puffing up his chest. “ I’m awesome.”

“I know.” Geonhak smiles fondly, sitting down next to him and swinging an arm over his shoulders. “I’m proud of you.”

This makes Seoho giggle. He shifts closer to Geonhak, burying his face into his neck, and they just sit like that for a while, barely paying any heed to the anime on the screen.

And when Geonhak realizes that shit, he was supposed to take a shower, he concedes to using the shower cap instead of washing his hair. He puts on a fresh outfit-- nothing too fancy, but definitely not something he’d wear to the gym-- and haphazardly styles his hair before walking back out to the living room.

“Ready?” Seoho says, looking up from the television.

“Let’s go,” Geonhak replies, picking his jacket up from one of the chairs in the kitchen. 

The town is the same as ever, but it’s almost autumn now. The grass on the lawns have begun to take on a golden hue, leaves have begun to fall from the trees, and there’s a strange chill in the air. Everyone’s started to wear coats, and the people that pass them seem to be in more of a hurry, greeting them hastily as they walk by. 

“I can’t believe Dongju’s leaving us,” Seoho bemoans as they walk down the town’s familiar streets. “He’s like, my second favorite person here.”

“He’ll be back during reading. And winter break. And some weekends, probably,” Geonhak assures him. “It’s not a long drive from here to the city.”

“I guess. It’s just. I’ll miss him, you know?”

“Yeah.” Geonhak can relate. This will be his third time sending Dongju off for the school year, but he definitely misses the kid every time it happens. “But it’ll be summer again before you know it.” 

The bakery comes into view. Stopping just before the two of them reach the front door, Geonhak looks at Seoho with curiosity. “Who’s your favorite person here, by the way?”

“The lady who makes my sandwiches on Tuesdays,” Seoho says sagely, and Geonhak scoffs. 

“I’m kidding,” Seoho amends, pinching Geonhak’s cheek. He scrunches his nose in protest. “You’re my favorite person, babe. You’ll always be my favorite.”

“Was that so hard?” Geonhak whines, to which Seoho simply rolls his eyes. 

The wind chimes on the door makes a pleasant ringing sound when they walk in. They’re new. Keonhee had insisted that they were an invaluable and important investment when he bought him, and at this point, Geonhak’s inclined to agree. 

Inside, Keonhee and Youngjo are chatting away at the counter. Youngjo’s eyes light up when he spots them, and Keonhee shoots them an enthusiastic wave.

“What took you guys so long?” Keonhee asks as Geonhak takes a seat in one of the chairs in the seating area. Seoho sits down next to him and immediately rests his head on his shoulder.

“Traffic,” Geonhak lies, to which Seoho scoffs.

“We walked , Hak,” he says. Then, he points at Geonhak. “This idiot wanted to take another quick trip to the gym.”

“Same as ever, then,” Youngjo comments with a chuckle. “Have any of you heard from Woong, by the way?”

Geonhak frowns. “No. I kind of just assumed that he’d be with his boyfriend?”

“Yeah, but this morning he ran off to the store and--”

As if on cue, the wind chimes on the door ring again. When Hwanwoong walks in, he’s carrying a large shopping bag from the local party store. 

“Speak of the devil,” Keonhee says with a false bite in his voice. “What’s all that for?”

“What’s up, gang?” Hwanwoong hoists the shopping bag up and sets it down on the table in front of Seoho and Geonhak. “We can’t send our Dongju off with zero fanfare, now, can we?”

“Woong,” Youngjo says. “Took you long enough.”

“What? Missed me?” Hwanwoong says with a sly smile.

“Yes,” Youngjo says genuinely, then opens his arms. “Come here.”

Hwanwoong relents with an exaggerated groan, and Youngjo hugs him so tightly that he lets out a squeak. He doesn’t let go. Legend says that Youngjo is still hugging Hwanwoong to this day.

Gross , Seoho mouths at Geonhak, leaning closer into his shoulder. Geonhak holds back a laugh. 

At this time, the oven starts to beep. Keonhee rushes over to the back and pulls the cake trays out and onto the counter. It’s a strawberry shortcake, and he lets out a happy noise when he sees that it’s finally been cooked through.

“How long do we have until Dongju arrives?” Geonhak asks, walking over to the back to help Keonhee decorate the cake. 

“An hour, give or take,” Keonhee replies. “You guys can decorate this place. Thanks for getting the stuff, Woong.”

“At your service,” Hwanwoong says with a dramatic bow.

As Youngjo and Hwanwoong begin to discuss what should go where, Geonhak smiles when he thinks about the look that Dongju will have on his face when he walks in. At present, he doesn’t know that they’ve closed the bakery for the day. He’s supposed to think that he’s coming in for his last shift of the summer.

Seoho follows him into the kitchen, taking out his phone as he leans on one of the fridges. Keonhee squints at him for a moment, but doesn’t say anything.

“Not helping?” Geonhak asks jokingly. 

“I’m totally helping!” Seoho sputters out. “I’m giving you moral support. You’ve got this, babe!”

“Sure.” 

Seoho proves to be more of a hindrance than a help. He kisses Geonhak on his hair and his cheek while he tries to pipe flowers onto the cake, distracts him while he tries to assemble the macarons that Keonhee had started on earlier, and tells dad jokes while he tries to ice the cookies. Geonhak finds that he wouldn’t have it any other way.