Kim Mingyu was a lot of things. A good cook, a fastidious cleaner, and an all-around agreeable housemate. Well, at least on paper. That’s why, six months ago, Jeonghan had picked him out of the five eager applicants looking to rent out the other bedroom recently vacated by Joshua, after he had moved in with his girlfriend and cruelly abandoned Jeonghan. The first two weeks of their cohabitation had gone well, smoothed by the courteousness of sharing space with a stranger. Then, the next two months had been a proxy war waged via countless passive-aggressive sticky notes on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, and, on one memorable occasion, an empty roll of toilet paper, after Jeonghan had lapsed in their rigorous replace-it-if-you-finish-it routine. The war continued, until he caught himself on a beautiful Sunday morning, midway through filling Mingyu’s pillow with marbles. He considered the fact that he was twenty-seven years old and then went out to buy Mingyu a new pillow. That evening they had their one good, blazing row that left them both hoarse in the throat and eating ice cream in a heavy, though resolved, silence, both occupying a preferred corner of the couch.
After that, life got easier. Mingyu stopped playing dramatic opera arias in the middle of the night. Jeonghan started to pick up his shoes as he came in and place them on the IKEA shoe rack Mingyu had assembled without a glance at the instructions. What Jeonghan felt was to their mutual surprise, they discovered that they both enjoyed badminton and watching cooking shows. After managing to string together several nights of uninterrupted sleep, Jeonghan could muster the grace and goodwill to see that Mingyu was well-meaning in his intentions and compensated for his terrible night-time habits by doing the lion’s share of their chores.
However, currently, Jeonghan was less interested in Mingyu’s other good qualities and mostly focused on that which was most apparent, when you looked at him: Kim Mingyu was stylish. From where Jeonghan lounged on the couch, he had a clear view of the front door, where Mingyu was standing in front of the full-length mirror and fiddling with the turn of his sleeves. He was wearing a silky cream-coloured shirt, forearms bared, and a pair of faintly striped slacks that hit just at the heel, making his already needlessly long legs look that much longer. Jeonghan wouldn’t admit to being a bad dresser, per se, but he could admit that his trousers never fit quite as well and his choices in clothing were never quite as striking. Jeonghan preferred comfort over style and didn’t much care what he wore, as long as it was clean and didn’t have visible, unintended holes.
“Hm?” Mingyu’s eyed him through the mirror, not turning. His fingers kept folding the same cuff again and again. Jeonghan wanted to tell him it was fine and to move on, but snapping wouldn’t help him in his quest.
“You look nice.”
“Thank you!” A beaming smile spread across Mingyu’s face before he narrowed his eyes a little and pursed his mouth. “Why?”
“You should come shopping with me, someday,” Jeonghan said, not bothering to play coy. For all his shiny exterior and puppy-like wiggles, Mingyu was sharp as a whip, when he wanted to be. “There’s this work thing, in a month. Everyone has to be there; investors are coming to learn more about what they’re putting their millions into. I need to buy a new suit. Apparently now that I’m in a managerial position,” he warbled his voice mockingly, “I can’t look like I’m wearing the same suit I wore to university graduation.”
“And why do you need me to come with you? You’ve successfully bought clothes on your own for years before I moved in, haven’t you?” Mingyu finally left the sleeve alone, spun around, and came to perch on the arm of the couch. He crossed his legs neatly and clearly tried to look guileless. Jeonghan was reminded of a smug pigeon.
“Joshua told me I dress like a college kid. It was cruel and we’re now mortal enemies. But he might’ve had a point. You look like you know things about clothes.”
Mingyu preened and blushed at the same time. Warmth flickered in Jeonghan’s chest.
“Of course I’ll come,” Mingyu promised, easily enough. Jeonghan really hadn’t doubted he would. He reached over the couch cushions between them and flicked Jeonghan’s hair that lay unstyled over his forehead, “Can we also go to a salon? I have so many thoughts about this.”
Jeonghan batted his hand away, but didn’t say no. In truth, he had been considering changing his hair for a few months. It had been in its natural state for years, ever since his graduation, when he’d figured that getting employed would be easier if he didn’t have shoulder-length blonde hair like a popstar. Joshua and Seungkwan had held a memorial for it the night before his salon appointment. He eyed Mingyu’s head. His hair was a deep gleaming black, so dark it reflected blue in the light. It looked soft and pampered, carefully swept in a coif off his forehead. Nowadays, Jeonghan only used conditioner when he felt particularly prim and proper.
“I’ll consider it.”
Mingyu clapped excitedly, but after glancing at his phone, was off from the couch like a shot.
“Ah, Minghao’s going to kill me if I’m late,” he whined, rushing to pull his shoes on, while reaching for his coat, “I’ll be home by six, so we can eat something before tennis. What should I get for dinner?”
“I want pizza,” Jeonghan said, not bothering to hide his smile, as he watched Mingyu shove his phone between his teeth to get his coat on, “Pepperoni. Watch out for the coat rack, you’ll bash your head.” Mingyu ducked just in time with a little squawk. With one final glance in the mirror and then a smile thrown Jeonghan’s way, he was out of the door. It banged closed behind him like a clap of thunder. Jeonghan winced, thinking of their downstairs neighbour. She was an old woman, who had ears like a bat and had already twice knocked on their door to express her immense disapproval of the way they handled their front door and the way Mingyu stomped around the apartment, heels first. Mingyu had bought her an assortment of gyeongdan as an apology. Jeonghan had considered framing her as the trash culprit, who kept leaving plastic in the paper waste.
While Mingyu was away, spending his Saturday in a fancy gallery with Minghao, Jeonghan went through every piece of clothing he owned, sitting on his bedroom floor and sorting them into folded piles with a Soonyoung-recommended drama playing to keep him company. It ended up not being very many clothes at all. He had three suits he wore to work and a handful of shirts and ties to mix and match. His casual clothing consisted mostly of oversized t-shirts and sweatpants, two pairs of jeans, a few worn sweaters and hoodies, and a knitted jumper his mother had given him for his last birthday. After throwing away all his socks that had a hole in them, he realised he had four pairs left.
am i rly a slob? im having a crisis.
He sent a picture of his clothes piles to the group chat and then a sad frown selca for emphasis. Joshua replied promptly.
yes but ur too pretty for anyone else 2 call u out on it. so ur fine.
this is all your fault. i was happy not thinking about it. give me a million won.
You’re not a slob! You’re sporty!
While Jeonghan appreciated Seokmin’s optimistic take on the matter, he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it.
I asked mingyu to go shopping with me before the company thing.
bring lit all money u hv. nd mb take out a loan. call ur bank so they don’t think ur being frauded. ive seen mgs coats.
Joshua was not being helpful, either.
ohh mingyu~~ can i come too??
Seungkwan appeared in the chat like a bad omen.
no you can’t, mingyu gets nervous around you and makes bad decisions. he’s my roommate to bully, not yours.
i am going to create an environment that is so toxic…
what is that. also, ohh mingyu~~ what?
just seems like you spend a lot of time with him.
you’ve cruelly cast aside your baby seungkwannie
i wither. unloved.
that’s not true!! i love my baby seungkwannie~ <3
but you’re still not invited. i need mingyu to make good pant buying decisions free of your emotional terrorism.
i would be a boon to you, yoon jeonghan. a boon.
alright boon seungkwan. i got this.
He didn’t have it, Jeonghan knew a week later, thinking back to that text conversation. He was standing in a fancy little menswear boutique in Cheongdam-dong, feeling very small and unprepared, which in turn made him inclined to hostility. Mingyu, on the other hand, seemed to be having the time of his life, as he flicked through the trouser racks, eyes sharper and keener than Jeonghan had ever seen them. He almost looked like a different person.
The shop had dark wooden floors, warm glittering lighting, and a salesperson approaching them with a practiced, serene smile that made Jeonghan want to flee.
“Good morning, gentlemen. May I help you in any way?”
Before Jeonghan could even open his mouth, Mingyu spoke.
“Ah, that’s alright! We’re mostly just looking right now, but I’ll let you know if we need help. Thank you, though.” The salesperson nodded and drifted back towards the till at once. Jeonghan was keenly reminded of the time he’d had to pick Mingyu’s dinner for him, because he’d gotten too flustered with all the options on the menu. Now, Mingyu was picking out pairs of trousers left and right, hangers hooked on one of his fingers, while he moved around the racks.
“Try these on first and we’ll narrow it down from there,” he said, finally turning to Jeonghan and holding out his haul. Mostly his choices were in dark, neutral shades, but there was also a powdery blue pair and one in moss green.
“I can’t go to a work event in a baby blue suit,” Jeonghan told him immediately, trying to separate that hanger from the others and make Mingyu put it back on the rack. He was ignored, outrageously, and turned towards the fitting rooms by the shoulders.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t wear them for something else. I think you look good in a light blue. You have that one hoodie in a similar shade. It’s nice.” He gently bullied Jeonghan into the fitting room and closed the door between them. Through the tall gap between the door and the floor, Jeonghan could see his long legs stretch out as he sat on a chair in the little fitting area, ankles crossed politely. Jeonghan hung the clothes up and started taking his shoes off.
It was an arduous process. To Mingyu’s credit, it wasn’t that Jeonghan loathed any of his choices. Even the baby blue ones. But he didn’t have much of an opinion on anything he tried on, and it made him feel itchy and too large for his own skin when he came out of the fitting room after each change, and Mingyu would look him up and down, touching his hip or his waist and running his fingers over the fabric. He wasn’t used to his body being studied so closely. People often gave him compliments on his appearance, but they were always about his face – from the neck down he wasn’t tall, short, or muscular enough to attract attention one way or another.
“You have nice legs,” Mingyu said, when Jeonghan was letting him appraise the last pair of trousers. They were a slim fit with a subtle checker pattern in light greys, the hems hitting just a touch higher on his ankles than he was used to. Mingyu bent down to tug on the left leg of them, the backs of his fingers brushing against Jeonghan’s skin. His hands were big, and his skin was warm. Jeonghan bit down on the urge to squirm and, horrifically enough, blush. Instead, he laughed off Mingyu’s comment and did a dramatic little twirl and a pose.
“This is what you models do, right?”
Mingyu, who had modelled for Armani, surely hadn’t ever twirled on a runway. All the footage Jeonghan had ever seen of his modelling days were full of serious, gaunt faces and a bone-rattling bass beat. But he laughed and nodded gamely anyway.
“I’m sure someone from Zegna is going to call you any minute now.”
“I have no idea who that is,” Jeonghan told him happily. He stuffed his hands into the front pockets of the slacks to test their depth. “These are pretty tight, right?”
“They’re supposed to be. I think you’re just used to sweatpants that you could shove a laptop into. You look good. Really good. Get those, the pinstriped ones, and the blue ones. And we can move onto suit jackets!”
Jeonghan shuddered at the sheer thought of how much this shopping trip was going to cost him. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the money, necessarily, but he could have probably bought a car with the amount he suspected it would all add up to. At least a shitty, used one. But he’d asked for this, Mingyu was proving himself to be very efficient, and he did quite enjoy the checker pattern.
In the end, the suit jackets were easier. Mingyu decided on matching jackets for all the trousers, and then threw in a dusty rose-coloured cashmere sweater, a couple of dress shirts, and a simple black tie.
“Now you have a million more outfits to put together!” Mingyu chirped as Jeonghan was tying his shoelaces, having dressed back in his own clothes that suddenly felt very spacious and worn. Next to him on the loveseat was a magnificent pile of clothing, all of which he was about to purchase. The salesperson, who’d been keeping politely out of their way, was practically salivating, as he stood at the till.
“I don’t think that’s how combination factorials work.”
“Not all of us were math majors in school,” Mingyu told him with faux pity scrunching up his eyebrows “Some of us went to parties and had sex.” Jeonghan thought it was rather hypocritical coming from a former biology major, who’d once proudly told of his past as a member of a cross-stitching club.
“Alright, scram now, before I hit you with this,” Jeonghan brandished his left shoe. Mingyu skipped out of reach giggling and headed towards the display cases at the front of the shop. Jeonghan tied his shoelaces and carefully scooped his pile of clothes up, carrying them up to the registry. While the salesperson went to work ringing up the pieces and removing security tags, he looked around the shop, a little awkward, not wanting to stare at the employee.
Mingyu was browsing through the belt selection with an enamoured expression. Jeonghan watched him, amused, as he fiddled with the buckle, before running the length of the belt along his palm. Finally, he checked the price tag, his eyes going wide and alarmed. Very carefully, he looped the belt back into a coil and set it down, moving on to another display.
It wasn’t a secret that between the two of them, Jeonghan made a steadier income in his senior position at a medical research company than Mingyu did freelancing as both a photography model and a photographer, after having decided that runway modelling wasn’t the career for him. Jeonghan waited for a moment, thinking about it, and then, when Mingyu’s back was fully turned, he quickly jogged over, snatched up the belt he’d been admiring, and returned to the till to add it to his hoard.
“Could you also gift wrap that, please,” he instructed the salesperson, who nodded with a conspiratorial smile. At the end, Jeonghan and Mingyu left with effusive wishes for them to return soon, Mingyu holding on to two huge bags with his right hand, while his left settled onto the small of Jeonghan’s back. They emerged from the tranquillity of the menswear boutique to the bustle of Cheongdam-dong at lunchtime. Mingyu tried to push him towards a bistro café some doors down, but Jeonghan shuddered, digging his heels in.
“Nuh-uh, I’m not having lunch here. It’s so noisy and crowded, I can barely hear myself think,” he said, tugging Mingyu along with him in the direction of the metro station, “Come on, let’s go home. We’ll order something in or go by the grocery store. I’ll let you cook.”
“Oh, you’ll let me?” Mingyu challenged but allowed himself to be dragged along, feet first.
“I’m just trying to protect you,” bullshitted Jeonghan, interested to see himself what explanation he’d come up with before his sentence was over, “You know, all the big entertainment agencies have their offices around here. I don’t want Mr. SM to snatch you off the street with his big butterfly net.”
Mingyu’s laughed sounded like a bark. He finally stopped resisting and with one long stride was right next to Jeonghan, trapping his shoulders under his arm and hurrying them along the busy street.
On their way home, they stopped to get lunch ingredients. Jeonghan piled the grocery bags onto Mingyu and waited to see how long it would take until he complained about the way he was loaded down, while Jeonghan practically skipped alongside him, arms free and swinging. He never did, and by the time they were a block away from home, Jeonghan silently took a few bags off him and ignored the knowing smile on his face.
It was a standing agreement that Jeonghan was not to enter the kitchen if Mingyu was cooking, so he took the opportunity to sneak the gift box onto Mingyu’s bed. He didn’t make a habit of entering the other bedroom unprompted, and couldn’t help but to notice the way all of Mingyu’s things were pleasantly arranged, the floor was clear of clothes and other sundries, and everything had a faint scent of laundry detergent or bergamot. The navy duvet cover was pulled pristinely across the bed, only dented by the gift now waiting on it. Mingyu even had one of those little jars with reeds sticking out of it that Jeonghan’s little sister also had on her sofa table – he still wasn’t clear on how it made a room smell good, but it did.
“Am I a garbage person?” Jeonghan asked later, while they were eating on the sofa, a cooking show playing on tv.
“Are you looking for praise?” Mingyu asked, head cocking in confusion, as he chewed on noodles, “You’re very kind.”
“No, I mean, am I literally like, messy?”
“Eh. You’re not the neatest,” Mingyu allowed, “But you’re not dirty. You’re more… Unorganised, I think.”
“When you moved in, I really thought you were just overreacting, but now –“ Jeonghan halted, not wanting to reveal he’d sneaked into his bedroom and been startled to realise it wasn’t just Mingyu nagging for the sake of it, but rather because he genuinely cared about the way things looked, “Well, whatever. I’ll try not to stress you out so much. Also,” he quickly changed the subject, not wanting to dwell on the sincerity, “You said I’m kind! Ha!” He put down his bowl and shuffled closer on the sofa, slumping so he could make Mingyu’s shoulder into a pillow for himself. Both because he wanted to rest his head, and because showing the affection he felt was easier than verbalising it.
“You’re so weird,” Mingyu whined, but the jostle of his shoulder to dislodge Jeonghan was half-hearted at best. Eventually, he finished his own lunch and wiggled a little to settle into the sofa more comfortably. His temple came to rest on the crown of Jeonghan’s head and together they dozed off for a post-meal nap.
That night, Jeonghan went to bed early and missed Mingyu’s reaction to the gift waiting for him in his room. However, the next morning, as Jeonghan was loading up the coffee maker and wishing death on capitalism, a warm cape of Kim Mingyu descended onto him and suddenly he was being squeezed far too enthusiastically around the waist for six o’clock.
“I’m guessing you liked it?” he asked, unnecessarily. Mingyu hummed and shook him a little, still non-verbal in the barely dawning morning. Jeonghan slipped free of his hold and patted him on the side in acknowledgement. “Consider it thanks for the help.”
“It was nothing,” Mingyu insisted, after yawning like his jaw was about to separate from the rest of his body and running a hand through his bird’s nest of hair, “But in return, you can have Minghao.”
Jeonghan frowned, turning around from where he was grabbing a mug for his coffee.
“I don’t think you can just give me Minghao.”
“I mean his services.”
“Don’t be disgusting. His salon services. He’s always booked like four months in advance, but he can make time for you if I ask. He’s the best in Seoul.”
“Right,” Jeonghan said and touched the hair at his temple, self-conscious. He really needed to get it trimmed, at least, but employing Xu Minghao for a trim seemed like taking a Ferrari to buy groceries. “I don’t really have an idea of what I want, though?”
Mingyu perched on a bar stool at the kitchen island and flashed him a brilliant smile, suddenly wide awake and oozing excitement, already typing something into his phone.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll help!”
Even though Mingyu pulled every string he had, he could only get Jeonghan an appointment with Minghao two weeks in the future, at eight on a Thursday evening. Jeonghan truly hoped Minghao was as good as the reputation that proceeded him because the next day he’d have to spend his evening pretending to care about the feelings of a dozen rich old men, who were funding the various research projects his company was spearheading. There were going to be presentations and an open bar and dinner afterward. Jeonghan was fully expecting a drunken disaster by the end of the night. The only mercy granted to him was that he didn’t have to give a presentation himself and he had roped Seungkwan into coming as his plus one, so he'd at least have one person he liked present. As his boss had, insultingly enough, described it: he was there to look good and be charming. He couldn’t do it without emotional support.
So, on Thursday, Jeonghan made his way to Itaewon with Mingyu and followed him to a little salon on the corner of a building that had a massive rainbow flag hung across the façade of it. Minghao waited for them, dressed in an eye-watering neon yellow jumpsuit, and smiling gently from behind big round glasses perched on his nose. For someone who could charge half a million won for a single customer and had four hundred thousand followers on Instagram, his salon was very small. It only had one chair in front of a huge mirror and only one washing station peeking out behind a half-drawn curtain. The wall opposite the mirror was covered in shelves upon shelves of hair products that no single person could have used up in ten lifetimes. After accepting a hug from Mingyu and exchanging friendly, less hands-on nods with Jeonghan, Minghao instructed him to take a seat in the salon chair and wasted no time wrapping the soft cotton around his throat and covering his clothes with a black cloak.
Mingyu was practically vibrating with excitement, as he showed Minghao several pictures from his Pinterest board he’d created specifically for this occasion. Jeonghan mostly tuned him out, busying himself by inspecting every instrument Minghao had set out on the narrow counter running along the wall. He couldn’t quite understand how anyone needed so many different scissors for one head of hair. For the past two weeks, not an evening had gone by that Jeonghan had come home from work and hadn’t been met by Mingyu showing him a picture of some model with their hair in a shade of blonde. He’d made his peace with whatever Mingyu and Minghao thought would look best and didn’t much care to argue one way or another.
Minghao was only starting to mix the bleach when Mingyu had to head out to meet with a photographer whose portfolio he’d promised to model for. It left Jeonghan and Minghao alone in silence that at first hung awkwardly heavy. They’d met before; Minghao was often over at their apartment and they’d eaten several meals together. Jeonghan knew quite a bit about him, if not through conversations they’d had, then at least via Mingyu. He assumed the same for Minghao. But they had never spent more than a minute alone in the same space.
“Are you going to bleach all of it?” Jeonghan asked then, mostly just to say something. Minghao shook his head and glanced over his glasses at him.
“You really weren’t paying attention, huh?” he laughed quietly and rolled over with his saddle chair, mixing cup in hand, “We’ll leave the roots dark, leave a little natural shadow there for contrast. We’ll bleach from about here,” he pinched Jeonghan’s hair a couple of centimetres from the root, “And then tone it to a greyish blonde. Like ash. I’ll do a bit of an undercut at the sides but leave the top layers long.”
Minghao worked with the kind of swift efficiency that only came from practice. His hands were firm in Jeonghan’s hair, but never too harsh or tugging. He wrapped tinfoil around delicately parted and painted hair strands like he could do it in his sleep. By the time he washed the toner out, Jeonghan was putty in his hands and had to hold back a shudder as he pressed his fingertips all across the back of Jeonghan’s head and massaged away tension Jeonghan didn’t even know he was carrying in his neck.
“You’re so good,” Jeonghan told him a little later, all reservation having escaped him somewhere during the shampooing process, “Whatever people are paying you, it’s not enough. You should double it.” Minghao cackled from where he was working on the undercut over Jeonghan’s ear.
“Maybe if I charged a million per head, I could cut down the waiting list.”
“Without Mingyu, when would I have gotten an appointment?” Jeonghan asked, curious.
“By Valentine’s Day, probably,” Minghao estimated.
“And it’s September now,” Jeonghan winced, “Really, thank you for agreeing to do this.”
Minghao paused his work long enough to wave him off.
“Mingyu never asks for favours, even though half the models in Seoul are constantly wanting something from me. And he asked for you. Of course I agreed.” The emphasis he put on “for you” carried some meaning Jeonghan didn’t catch. It made him frown.
“He cares for you a lot. He talks about you constantly. Maybe I wanted to see what the fuss was,” Minghao smiled, a little sly, like he was enjoying some inside joke with himself. He finished with the right side and rolled his chair over on Jeonghan’s left. Jeonghan suddenly felt like an idiot mouse that a cat was toying with. He didn’t much care for the feeling, which Minghao seemed to notice, as his smile softened into something kinder at once.
“I’m glad you came; this is going to look excellent. Mingyu was right, you do have a perfect face. I’ll give you an eight percent discount if you let me put you on my Instagram.”
“Sure,” Jeonghan agreed, too busy doing the math to think of a situation where Mingyu could have possibly described his face to Minghao. He didn’t need his math degree to know that an eight percent discount at Xu Minghao’s studio was a considerable amount of money.
That was how Jeonghan ended up outside in the chilly night, without his coat, leaning against a scuffed grey brick wall with his new hairstyle in washed-out display under the streetlights. He estimated that Minghao took around two hundred pictures of him from all sides, occasionally asking him to tilt his head one way or another.
“This is some of my best work,” the hairstylist announced back at the shop, swiping through the pictures to show Jeonghan some of the highlights. Jeonghan wasn’t a connoisseur of photography, but it didn’t take one to know that he looked good in the pictures. His hair made him stand out in a way he hadn’t since he’d cut it short and let the colour return to its natural dark brown. Now it gleamed an ashy blonde and made him look sharper around the cheekbones, his eyes a contrast to the blonde that framed them in a dramatic swoop.
“You should ask Mingyu to style it like this again for tomorrow. I used the good stuff, but it’s not going to hold perfect for a whole day,” Minghao instructed him as he rang up the cost. Jeonghan couldn’t help but quietly notice he’d been giving more than just an eight percent discount.
“At this point, I don’t think I could stop him from doing that even if I tried. He’s really taken a shine to dressing me up,” Jeonghan laughed.
“Mm, one way of putting it,” Minghao agreed. Sometimes Jeonghan couldn’t quite tell whether he was being cryptic on purpose or whether his occasionally imperfect Korean just made him sound like he was vaguer than he meant to be. It was also possible that he was just tired. After all, the clock was nearing midnight. That in mind, Jeonghan bid him good night, leaving with a brief hug and a promise to check his Instagram feed in the next few days.
The lights were still on, when Jeonghan got home. Frankly, he’d expected Mingyu to be sitting on the couch, ready to examine his new hair the second he walked through the door. There was no one in the living room or the kitchen, but just as Jeonghan headed towards the hallway to the bedrooms, the bathroom door opened directly in front of him and Mingyu stepped out, barely avoiding a collision.
They both gave a surprised squawk. In any other situation, Jeonghan would’ve laughed it off and gone on to show off his hair in the most annoying way possible. However, Mingyu was only wearing a towel around his hips and, while he wasn’t dripping, he certainly wasn’t dry either. His wet hair was pushed back off his forehead and a rivulet of water was running down the side of his throat and making its way swiftly down his toned stomach. Jeonghan followed it with his eyes, thought about swiping it dry with his finger until he realised what he was doing and almost clapped a hand over his eyes to smack some sense into himself.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise you were in there,” Jeonghan said and fixed his eyes firmly onto Mingyu’s face only to find him flushed a glowing shade of red and staring at Jeonghan as if he’d never seen him before. “Go put a shirt on if you’re shy.”
“No, it’s not –“ Mingyu mumbled, somehow growing redder by the second, “I heard you come in. I just. You look – Ah, you look good?”
“Thank you,” Jeonghan cooed, tilting his head this way and that, “Minghao said he’d put me on his Instagram.”
“Yeah,” Mingyu said, faint. He was still staring, eyes wide and almost shining as they roamed about Jeonghan’s face. Jeonghan felt off-kilter. He’d expected enthusiasm, not silence.
“You look good too,” he said then, gesturing vaguely at Mingyu’s body and meaning it as a light-hearted joke to break the weird mood. Instead, it came out a little high-pitched and breathy and he somehow managed to make it weirder. Mingyu barked one loud ha like a big dog, spun around, and hurried into his bedroom without saying another word.
might’ve done something a little gay tonight
Seungkwan’s answer came at lightning speed.
technically everything you do is gay
extra gay then
was it mingyu
yeah. i came home and he was just out the shower in a towel. he’s so hot i think i went insane.
did he flex.
nvm ofc he did.
hey show me the new hair
can you not ignore my actual problem?
you look so fucking good!! you look like a prince!! that’s my beautiful hyung <3
i’m not ignoring. there isn’t one. you’ve finally accepted you have a crush on him. he’s like…. half in love with you, I think, genuinely. you’re both single. badabing badaboom.
Jeonghan was halfway through typing out “I don’t have a crush on him”, but the sentence didn’t feel right, and he backspaced until he was looking at an empty text box. He always looked forward to seeing Mingyu. He was handsome and kind and affectionate and being on the receiving end of his attention felt like sunshine and sugar. He made Jeonghan feel softer and more open; calmer like he could just be whatever he wanted to be and Mingyu would accept it. He felt very, very stupid, then, lying on his bed with the screen the only point of illumination in the room. Stupid, small, and unmoored.
why haven’t you told me i have a crush on mingyu?? this is your fault, i believe.
oh my god. good night now. bye forever.
hey come back!!
you’re still my +1 for tomorrow right?
The next morning it felt like time had turned back half a year. Jeonghan felt like he did the first morning Mingyu lived in the apartment, as they both tried their best to courteously navigate breakfast without getting too close to each other, not knowing what to say. After his personal revelation, Jeonghan had slept poorly, his subconscious mind presenting him with dreams where Mingyu looked at him, awkward or pitying, telling him that he’d gotten the wrong idea and that Mingyu was just a roommate and that this made everything so uncomfortable, why would you tell him this?
In real life, Mingyu looked mostly tired and maybe a tad flustered, as he crunched down on toast and swiped through something on his phone, hurried. Before Jeonghan had even finished his coffee, Mingyu had eaten and cleared away his dishes.
“The hair looks good, hyung,” Mingyu said then, halting at the doorway to glance back at Jeonghan, “Sorry about last night. You surprised me. I didn’t mean to be weird about it.”
“It’s alright, you weren’t,” Jeonghan lied, badly if Mingyu’s face was to be believed. “Are you going to be home tonight after work?”
“Could you help me with, uh, styling it again? My arms get tired when I try to do my own hair.”
Mingyu laughed a little at that. The room felt warmer. His body loosened and he turned more fully towards Jeonghan, instead of looking like a twisted pretzel wanting to escape.
“Of course. When’s Seungkwan coming? I need to hide or arm myself in time.”
“Around seven. We need to be at the hotel by half-past.”
“Plenty of time to get you all prim and proper, then,” Mingyu smiled warmly, before slipping out of the room with a have fun at work.
Fun wasn’t exactly what Jeonghan had that day at work. Usually he approached his employment as a mild annoyance at most; the people were bland but inoffensive, the boss mildly incompetent or just overworked. He did his job, stayed just long enough at after-work drinks to seem polite, and then didn’t even think about it at home. That day, however, the whole office was a circus. No one got anything done, because everyone was too busy frantically reviewing their presentations for the night, solving hiccups with the event planners, or creating new ones. The group of older women he usually ate lunch with would only talk about what they were going to wear and didn’t even seem to notice that he’d changed his hair – something that any other day would’ve been the only topic of discussion in the breakroom.
“You’re bringing someone with you tonight, right?” his boss stopped him on his way out to ask.
“Yes, a friend, sir,” he replied, trying to inch past him and towards freedom. It was already five past five.
“Good, good. The more people we have there, the better,” his boss muttered, sounding a little frantic and like he was mostly talking to himself. His tie was askew – he’d been tugging on it like a cartoon character all day. Jeonghan nodded respectfully and booked it for the entrance as fast as he could without breaking into a run.
As quick as he tried to be, it was still almost six before he made it home. He showered, shaved, and dressed in the outfit Mingyu had decided on weeks earlier. It was one of the suits he’d bought from Cheongdam-dong – black with a subtle grey pinstripe, a white shirt that shifted a little silver in the light, and a dark grey tie. Then, he perched himself onto a barstool in the kitchen and let Mingyu do his thing.
The noise of the blow drier nearly drowned out his phone ringing on the kitchen island. Jeonghan could see Seungkwan’s face flashing on the screen, so he dislodged himself from the hold Mingyu had on his hair and ducked forward to pick up the call.
“Hey, hyung!” Seungkwan’s voice sounded deliberately casual. Jeonghan instantly knew what he was about to say.
“Don’t you dare cancel on me, Boo Seungkwan, don’t you dare.”
“I’m sorry,” Seungkwan laughed, not sounding sorry even in the slightest, “I got a tummy issue. Last-minute thing. Just hit me.”
“You are lying to me and I know why,” Jeonghan hissed and couldn’t stop himself from glancing at Mingyu, who was following the conversation looking confused, “I asked you last night if you were still on for tonight and you said yes!”
“To be fair,” Seungkwan rebutted, “I didn’t. I said yef.”
Jeonghan was absolutely not having this conversation half an hour before he had to be out the door.
“Seungkwan, I’m – “
“I think you should ask Mingyu to join you instead!” Seungkwan exclaimed then with an audible snap of his fingers as if he had just come up with the idea instead of – Jeonghan could only assume – the second Jeonghan had admitted to having feelings for his roommate.
“I can’t believe I’ve lost a friend today,” Jeonghan told him and disconnected the call midway through Seungkwan’s answering shriek of laughter. He practically threw his phone down and heaved a breath to stop himself from screaming. Boo Seungkwan was one of the kindest, sweetest people he knew. It was sad to learn he was the Devil.
“What was that?” Mingyu asked, tugging him back a little by the shoulder, and went back to work with a straightening iron. The rhythmic pull of the iron would’ve almost been soothing if it wasn’t accompanied by Mingyu’s firm chest brushing against Jeonghan’s shoulder, his hands warm and large in his hair.
“Seungkwan bailed on me. Says he has a stomach bug or something. I can’t go alone to this thing, I just can’t. My boss wants there to be as many people as possible and even if he didn’t mind, I couldn’t handle a whole night of this nonsense on my own.”
Mingyu hummed, fingers carding through Jeonghan’s now swooped fringe, trying to get it to lay delicately over his left eye. He smelled like bergamot and some expensive aftershave. He was so handsome, even in sweats and a t-shirt, and his hands were steady and gentle. Jeonghan gave in.
“Could you come with me, please?”
“Ehh,” Mingyu whined, going from big and competent to a squirming child trying to hide behind him to escape from the request. He was bad at saying no and Jeonghan intended to push that advantage. He turned around on the barstool and caught Mingyu’s eye.
“I know that it sucks and it’s going to be boring, and you won’t know anyone. But there’s an open bar after the presentations are done, and food, and you get to dress up fancy, and all the office ladies will adore you, and I won’t leave you alone, okay? I’ll owe you. Massively. Anything you want.”
Mingyu pouted, squirming for a moment longer before he sighed.
“Fine. But you will owe me, Yoon Jeonghan.” He wagged his finger at Jeonghan’s face. Out of gratitude, Jeonghan only tried to bite it once.
“You’re as good as you’re gonna get, then,” Mingyu decided, patting his shoulder in a signal that he could get off the chair, and stepping away to put down his tools, “If I have to get ready in thirty minutes.”
“You always look good,” Jeonghan said, unthinkingly. Mingyu fumbled the brush in his hand and it clattered to the countertop noisily, before he hurried out of the kitchen, mumbling something about a shower. The only reason Jeonghan didn’t bang his head against the wall was that it would have ruined his hair.
While Mingyu showered and dressed, Jeonghan took the opportunity to send Seungkwan five threatening selfies and a long paragraph of nothing but the skull emoji. There was no answer, until Mingyu re-emerged from his bedroom, wearing a black suit textured so it caught in the light, a black shirt, and a black tie embroidered with an intricate paisley pattern. Just then, Jeonghan’s phone pinged. Seungkwan had sent him back a smiling angel emoji and a blue heart. He took a moment to consider the possibility that Seungkwan was omniscient, but couldn’t much dwell on it for too long, too busy shoving his feet into dress shoes and calling a taxi.
The investor event was held in the ballroom of an upper-middle-class hotel, some twenty minutes away. They ended up arriving late, enough so that the ballroom was already crowded by the time they’d entered. Jeonghan could feel himself hovering over Mingyu, unsure himself whether it was more because he himself was trying to hide from everyone there or because he was readying himself to catch Mingyu if he tried to escape. They got to their seats just before the CEO of the company got on the mic.
The presentations were just as boring as Jeonghan had predicted them to be. All of them were giving by sweaty academics, who recycled the same buzzwords in a loop. Between the fourth and the fifth presentation, Mingyu poured everyone at their table a glass of champagne from the bottle nestled in an ice bucket at the centre of the table and leaned back on his chair with a flute in hand to whisper into Jeonghan’s ear:
“Drink every time someone says circular economy.”
Quickly, Jeonghan thought back to the night’s itinerary.
“Alright. You drink on genomics.”
They clinked their glasses together. After the eighth and final presentation finished with relief-tinged applause, Jeonghan was woozy and loving life. Mingyu was giggling to himself, cheeks flushed. He’d gone through five glasses. The last three presentations had all had something to do with genome research.
“The buffet is open. Let’s get you something to eat before you slide off your chair,” Jeonghan laughed, patting Mingyu on the shoulder, “And then it’s time to network.”
“Woo,” he cheered faintly, before downing the last dregs from his glass.
It turned out that Mingyu was a better choice for a ballroom full of medical researchers than Boo Seungkwan could have ever been. His university degree in biology enabled him to convincingly pretend to understand conversations, and even genuinely understand parts of them. He had the patience to smile and listen even while a particularly over-familiar woman repeatedly patted his chest while yammering his ear off. Jeonghan imagined that Seungkwan would’ve ended up biting her hand. He was sturdy enough to lean on, whenever the wine threatened to take over a little too much, and cuddly enough to accept an arm around his waist or a head tilted momentarily onto his shoulder. And most usefully, he was tall enough to see over people’s heads all the way to the bar, so he could always inform Jeonghan when a fresh tray of champagne flutes appeared.
Three hours in, they were both fantastically drunk on champagne, which always made Jeonghan feel twice as drunk as any other alcohol.
“It’s the bubbles,” Mingyu told him very seriously, between bites of mandu, “Gets the alcohol in your brain faster, ‘cause they float up.”
“Mhm,” Jeonghan agreed, eyeing his champagne flute, where the bubbles were, indeed, floating upwards along the sides of the glass. “You’re very smart, you know. I don’t tell you that enough.”
“No one does,” Mingyu sighed and plopped the last mandu from his plate onto Jeonghan’s. They had retreated to their assigned seats for a breather after mingling around the room. “I’m gonna go get you some more,” he said and headed towards the buffet table, only slightly swaying on his feet. Jeonghan nibbled on the dumpling as he watched his broad back disappear in the crowd.
“You’re very sweet together,” one of his tablemates took the opportunity to tell him. She was in her sixties, dressed in a very bright purple dress with matching lipstick. She looked over the table at him, eyes warm and fond, expression nostalgic. Jeonghan blamed the alcohol for making him too relaxed, too content, to start correcting her.
“Thank you,” he said, instead, and the sentiment felt easy and right on his tongue.
Finally, around midnight, the investors started to head out and the energy in the room shifted towards people starting to gather their belongings and say their goodbyes. Some were headed towards another bar or a noraebang, but Jeonghan and Mingyu didn’t even need to look at each other to know the only acceptable destination was their apartment. They leaned against each other, Jeonghan’s head on Mingyu’s shoulder, while they waited in line to the cloakroom.
The night air was bracing, as they finally emerged through the revolving doors at the hotel’s main entrance. Wind whipped around them, and Jeonghan whined, displeased, until Mingyu pulled him close, Jeonghan’s back to his chest. They moved to stand between two huge potted trees marking the hotel entrance on the side of the pavement in an effort to shield from the gusts, both looking out for a taxi. For a moment it was as if they’d fallen into a bubble where time had stopped; cars sped by in a continuous roar of motors, people passed them on foot, yet they stayed there, unmoving. Mingyu was warm against him and his fingers kept tapping a little restlessly against Jeonghan’s shoulder.
“You said you’d owe me for this,” Mingyu said after a long while, slurring a little but sounding resolute, the words hitting with hot puffs of air against his temple. Mingyu’s arms tightened around him, “Back home, before we left. You said anything I want.”
“Yeah,” Jeonghan giggled, more at himself than at Mingyu’s words. What a stupid thing to have promised, he thought with alcohol-tinged hindsight - so embarrassingly dramatic. Made doubly so by how much he meant it. Then and there, he couldn’t imagine anything Mingyu might ever ask of him that he wouldn’t be willing to give.
“I want a kiss,” Mingyu said, quiet enough that it nearly carried away with the wind and wistful, as if somehow it was something he already missed, “Please, just once. I want you to kiss m– “
Jeonghan spun around in the circle of his arms and tiptoed a little to reach his mouth. It was absurd of Mingyu to sound as if he was asking for something grand, as if Jeonghan wasn’t looking for an excuse to kiss him, as if he hadn’t been looking the whole night. He slipped his hand around the nape of Mingyu’s neck, fingertips digging into the soft short hair there. Their lips pressed together before Mingyu had even finished his sentence. He gasped a little, before his arms dropped from Jeonghan’s shoulders down to his waist, big warm palms coming to envelop his sides. Theoretically, Jeonghan had always known that Mingyu was tall, but it had never felt like it - he tended to scrunch himself down to accommodate the people around him. Now, suddenly, he loomed over Jeonghan, bending over him so that the only thing Jeonghan could do was to lock his arms around Mingyu’s neck and hope that the hold around his waist was enough to keep him from tipping backwards.
Mingyu’s mouth was soft; he tasted like the dry tang of quality champagne and kissed with the same gentle carefulness he did all things. One of his arms loosened over Jeonghan’s waist and travelled up his back, while the other held him close. His hand came to caress up the line of Jeonghan’s throat before he pressed his thumb under his chin and tipped it up a touch for a better, deeper angle.
It was only when a car passing by them honked that they broke away from each other’s mouths. Mingyu’s eyes were dark – pupils blown wide and mouth red from Jeonghan’s teeth. He looked almost awed. Jeonghan had to hide his face against his throat, press a kiss there, to escape scrutiny.
“Home?” Mingyu managed to get out, pulling Jeonghan impossibly closer still with one arm, while the other shot out towards the road to hail an approaching taxi with a frantic wave. Jeonghan laughed against his neck at the breathy tone, nuzzling his nose there in agreement, before he remembered how to form words.