Waking up to a gentle nibbling of his ear, to butterfly-kisses pressed against his collarbone, to a long, surprisingly muscular arm wrapped around the girth of his hip, is no longer a novel phenomenon to Jihoon.
Despite how much of an early riser he’s been all his life, Mingyu always wakes up before him, always focuses the entire length and breadth of his affection on every inch of Jihoon - through roaming hands, through hankering lips, through glorious tongue - until Jihoon is cajoled into complete alertness, into complete reciprocity. It’s a routine they’ve perfected - the utter lack of physical space between them, Mingyu half on top of him and him half on top of Mingyu, the bedsheets twisting in immaculate harmony with their steady rhythm.
Mingyu and Jihoon, refusing to let go of each other until they absolutely have to (and that too, with a reluctant whine on Mingyu’s part, an equally reluctant sigh of his own).
Things have been…good.
Mingyu still has a few more months to go before he graduates law school, before he sits for the bar exam and becomes a certified legal practitioner once and for all. He’s been crazy busy most of the time - juggling his assignments, internships, volunteer work all at once - but Jihoon has never seen Mingyu so passionate and alive and buzzing with constant enthusiasm as he is when he’s immersed in his work, when he is immersed in doing the thing he loves best: helping people.
Jihoon, for his part, has been content simply existing under Mingyu’s thrall, simply offering Mingyu all the support he requires in order to thrive - whether it is packing Mingyu’s lunchboxes for him every morning, or making sure Mingyu gets at least a modicum of sleep after he’s stayed up late working on a term paper, or kissing Mingyu until he can barely breathe, constantly whispering sweet nothings into Mingyu’s gorgeous bronze skin, telling him how good he is, how important he is.
Jihoon’s own community-based martial arts coaching centre has been doing decently well. He finds himself much more at peace helping young and disadvantaged kids learn to defend themselves, learn discipline, find a purpose. At the heart of every martial art is a belief in the self, is a oneness with the self - and he’s glad he can impart it to the next generation of young, lost souls, helping them fashion a more meaningful life for themselves.
But the best part of it all, is the moment when he first wakes up and witnesses Mingyu beside him, his hair gently parted by the breeze that filters through the blinds, when Mingyu’s entire frame inescapably curls around him and envelops him in endless warmth, in endless murmurs, in endless worship of both heart and soul.
But lately, though, there’s been a minor disruption in the routine. Instead of just the combined unhindered experience of a 6 feet 2 inch tall Mingyu draping his entire physical form around a still-quite-drowsy Lee Jihoon, there is something else: a bushy, scraggly pile of fur wedged right in between them, covering that exact spot of the bed that was earlier reserved for bared honey-gold waists and ribs coated in sweat.
“Isn’t she cute, hyung?” Mingyu coos, in the lispiest of voices (terrible for the state of Jihoon’s heart, even more terrible because the cooing isn’t directed at him).
Jihoon groans, staring directly into the eyes of the little creature that has captured Mingyu’s fascination so thoroughly, Mingyu can hardly gush about anything else lately.
“I’ve decided to name her Bobpul!” Mingyu lisps again, eyes curved into gorgeous half-moons as he gently cuddles the abundant, fleecy-white fur on display, “Get it? Because she’s soft and fluffy like a rice cake!”
The soft fluffy rice cake in question lets out an excited yip and proceeds to lick all over Mingyu’s face, making him giggle high and giddy.
“Oh, you like it don’t you, baby?” Mingyu murmurs at the puppy, rubbing her fur with heartrending tenderness. “You’re my little rice cake, aren’t you?”
Bobpul barks in assent, and Jihoon sinks into the pillow beside her, sighing in defeat. He doesn’t want to be jealous of an abandoned puppy that Mingyu rescued last week from the alley behind their humble one-bedroom apartment - in fact, Jihoon grudgingly admits that she is quite cute, her little beady eyes shining with mirth and her soft, silky coat (still fresh from the bath Mingyu gave her last night) is truly as wonderful as a rice cake - but could you really blame him?
Mingyu is looking at her like she’s his sun, stars, and entire universe, and well, even if Jihoon gets it, can’t Jihoon share in a little bit of that adoration too?
“Will she sleep in our bed every night?” Jihoon grumbles, more to himself than to Mingyu, but it’s as if Bobpul has extra-sensitive hearing (and maybe she does - god, Jihoon knows nothing about raising dogs), she immediately zeroes in on him, barking excitedly and attempting to climb on top of Jihoon’s chest.
“Aw, hyungie,” Mingyu coos once more, as Jihoon hesitantly wraps a hand around Bobpul’s neck to keep her from skidding against the fabric of Jihoon’s cotton nightshirt. “She likes you!”
Jihoon wants to grumble some more, wants to tell Mingyu that fine, if they’re going to keep her then at least they should get her a separate bed (Or a cot? A kennel? Boy, does Jihoon need to do more research on how to take care of dogs). But Bobpul is now pawing at the junction between his chin and neck, staring up at Jihoon with wide eyes and slackened jaw, her tongue lolling out in evident glee. Her fur is breathtakingly mushy under his touch, and her snout is already pressing against his shoulder, a sensation that is oddly exhilarating.
Mingyu squeaks in even more adoration, leans in to first kiss the top of Bobpul’s head and then the edge of Jihoon’s cheek. “Hyung,” he murmurs, “You like her too, don’t you? Please tell me you like her? Please tell me she can be our daughter for real?”
For a moment, Jihoon is stunned, his left forefinger - which had absently begun stroking behind Bobpul’s ear - abruptly stilling.
He stares down into Bobpul’s eyes again, so blatantly earnest, even if Jihoon is thoroughly unpracticed in the art of deciphering dogs. He then stares back at Mingyu, who is blinking with unrestrained eagerness, lips pulled into an imploring pout, the please, please say yes, hyung written on every inch of his face.
And Jihoon sighs, letting out a breath he didn’t even realise he was holding. How is he to defend himself from the combined adorableness of not just Mingyu, but also the fluffiest little puppy Jihoon has ever laid eyes on? How is he to make it out of this unscathed?
“Yeah,” he whispers in reply, finally surrendering, his forefinger resuming its stroking behind Bobpul’s ear, Bobpul’s tail wagging vigorously in response. “I like her and I like you too.”
Mingyu laughs at that, the sound reverberating across their humble one-bedroom apartment, enveloping Jihoon in undeniable warmth as it always does, whether it be morning, noon, or night. And in that moment, Jihoon realises that he really does mean what he said. This isn’t a sacrifice, but the beginning of a new paradigm.
Ever since the Dissolution, ever since Mingyu decided to go to law school and Jihoon decided he wanted to quit bodyguarding once and for all, wanted to do something worthwhile with his skill set instead - all they’ve been trying to do is carve out a new universe. A new status quo, where they can be who they are, where they can live however they want to, away from scrutiny, away from the oppressive spectre of “duty”.
So far, Jihoon has been content to build this universe with just Mingyu, in their humble one-bedroom apartment surrounded by Mingyu’s plants and Jihoon’s occasional workout equipment. So far, Jihoon has been content with waking up only beside Mingyu, taking care only of Mingyu, surrounding only Mingyu with the complete extent of his love and attention.
But perhaps, he can make room for one more.
Perhaps, they really can keep Bobpul forever, kennel or cot notwithstanding.
Perhaps, a tiny (and exceedingly fluffy) addition to their usual routine is not so terrible. After all, routines are meant to be broken.