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let the tides rise in my heart

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Hyunggu sighed as he slumped down against the floor. The beads of sweat that formed on his forehead went down on his face, at the same time his body hit the floor. Hyunggu had been working hard for the past week to finish his part of the choreography for his midterm project. It was for a major dance subject, and he was grouped with people he was a little unfamiliar with, but he knew they were some of the best dancers in the class. In short, he just wanted to make everything perfect. Hyunggu surmises he’s always been like this, perfectionist to a fault, always feeling like he never did enough, never gave enough.

 

Hyunggu scanned the walls of his shared apartment with Wooseok for their old, but functional clock. It’s already a bit half past 8PM, and the last time Hyunggu ate something was a small croissant from the school canteen at 3PM earlier that afternoon. Surely, his stomach grumbled at the thought of food. Hyunggu wiped an exasperated hand across his face to rid it of sweat before standing up. Just as he was about to head into the kitchen to fix himself an instant ramen meal, he heard knocking at his door. 

 

Hyunggu wondered who could be knocking on his door at this hour, and thought the only probable answer was Wooseok. He had the tendency to forget his keys to the apartment, but Hyunggu wondered why Wooseok would be back so soon considering it was movie night at Yuto’s. Hyunggu turned to open the door, instant ramen package in hand.

 

“I swear to god Wooseok, if you forgot your keys again I– oh.” Hyunggu stopped mid-rant as he opened the door.

 

“Hi.” Shinwon offered a small wave partnered with his quintessential dimpled smile. Hyunggu could feel the pace of his heartbeat quicken a little.

 

“Hyung! What are you doing here?”

 

“Oh, uh, actually I was about to head back to the dorms from uni but then, uh, Hui hyung messaged me about you probably being alone tonight since it’s Wooseok and Yuto’s traditional movie night.” Shinwon said in one breath, still standing by the doorway of Hyunggu and Wooseok’s apartment, hands nervously scratching the back of his neck.

 

“Ah, so Hui hyung sent you?” Hyunggu asked while letting Shinwon in and making him sit on the sofa. “That’s thoughtful of him.”

 

“Yeah, he said I gotta save you from eating instant noodles all by yourself,” Shinwon eyed the packet in Hyunggu’s hands, “and he was right.” 

 

“Hey! Instant ramen is filling enough when you're just a hungry, broke college student.” Hyunggu retorted, cheeks tinted pink at Shinwon’s teasing.

 

Shinwon looked at Hyunggu for a while, seemingly contemplating something in his head before speaking.

 

“Ggu, it’s a Friday night, your roommate is out, and you’re here in your sweats about to eat sad, sad instant noodles. What would you say to an adventure with me tonight instead?”

 

Hyunggu actually laughed a little at the statement- scratch that, actually he laughed a lot, and now it was Shinwon’s turn to be pink cheeked.

 

“Are you asking me out on a date, Shinwon-ssi?” Hyunggu teased, eyebrows raised. Shinwon turned redder than ever and barely uttered out a response.

 

“What? No what are you say-”

 

“Relax, I’m just teasing, you’re fun to tease,” Hyunggu began, smirking, then in a more serious tone, “besides I really can’t. Not tonight. Midterms are coming up, and my part of the choreography for this one major project isn’t finished yet. Changmin wants to run through the whole performance by Wednesday, and I’d already seen San’s choreo, which was flawless. I’m so freaked out, I don’t want to disappoint them, I just want my part to be perfect.” 

 

Hyunggu’s mind went on a mini panic mode that he didn’t realize he began ranting and immediately felt embarrassed to have done that in front of Shinwon.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to lay it all out on you like that.”

 

“Hey, it’s okay, I get it.” Shinwon said, moving a little closer to Hyunggu. 

 

“When I was a freshman I had no idea what the hell to do half of the time. I had control of my own time but I had no idea how to manage it wisely. I felt like I got so caught up in everything that I just forgot to give myself a break.” 

 

Shinwon paused as he looked at Hyunggu, giving Hyunggu’s arm a ghost of a touch “That’s why you should come with me tonight, Hyunggu-ya. Give yourself a break, you deserve it.”

 

Hyunggu took a deep breath, feeling his heart plunging to his stomach. “Okay. Okay, okay, okay. A night off wouldn’t be so bad right?”

 

Shinwon sparkled when he smiled at him. “Great. Now go take a shower before we head out, you stink.”

 

“Hey!” Hyunggu smacked Shinwon in the shoulder, half-heartedly.

 


 

Shinwon had been waiting by his car in front of Hyunggu’s (and Wooseok’s) apartment for a few minutes when the aforementioned boy stepped out of his house. He looked freshly showered, dressed in a simple white shirt, a cardigan, and jeans that had flower patterns all over it.

 

Shinwon had to stop himself a little from staring before gesturing Hyunggu to the passenger seat of his car.

 

“So where are you taking me?” Hyunggu asked, preoccupied with the seatbelt. Shinwon started the car.

 

“Someplace a little out of the city, but first we gotta get food,” Shinwon looked at Hyunggu. “and a few supplies.”

 

“Hm, that plan sounds a little sketchy, hyung. You’re not a serial killer luring poor, innocent, freshman me to my certain demise are you?”

 

Shinwon chuckled at the joke. “Oh ye, of little faith in me.”

 

As Shinwon backed out of the driveway, Hyunggu took hold of the car’s aux cord.

 

“I’m controlling the music since I was half forced to come.” Shinwon rolled his eyes at the younger’s antics.

 

“Sure, Ggu, whatever you want.”

 


 

Driving at night was perhaps one of Shinwon’s most favorite things to do. There was something thrilling about going through the streets illuminated only by artificial lighting, the dark an enigmatic but somehow comforting presence. Very much like the person next to him.

 

Shinwon chanced a glance at the boy in his passenger seat. Hyunggu was staring outside the window, mouthing off the words to the song blasting through the speakers. The song choice was mellow, definitely Kang Hyunggu’s style, and it somehow embodies the boy who chose it, whose soft features were gently illuminated by the lighting outside.

 

Truthfully, Shinwon was surprised at his own boldness in asking Hyunggu to come with him tonight. They haven’t exactly established where they stood in terms of, well, each other. Shinwon knew they were friends, they had similar friend groups, they hung out a lot, and they joke around like friends do. But sometimes, sometimes Shinwon thinks that they edge in a territory that’s quite more than. Sometimes they share looks, and fleeting touches, and banters that are dangerously close to flirting. Shinwon feels as if he and Hyunggu are on an unbalanced seesaw teetering on the edge between being friends and almost, but not quite, lovers.

 

Shinwon let out a sigh he didn’t know he was holding, which made Hyunggu look at him.

 

“What are you thinking about?”

 

“What I’m going to order at McDonald’s.”

 

“You mean to say you took me out of the comforts of my home to take me to McDonald’s?” Hyunggu let out a bit of tiny disbelief in his voice.

 

“First of all, you were totally not comfortable, as you say, when I saw you earlier.” Shinwon countered. “Secondly, where else would I take you to eat? McDonald’s is love.”

 

Hyunggu giggled before he answered. “You’re unbelievable. And you were going on a tirade against my instant noodles when you’re actually gonna feed me with junk too.”

 

Shinwon stuck his tongue out. “I never did say I wasn’t a hypocrite.”

 

And with that, Shinwon entered through a McDonald’s drive-thru.

 


 

Shinwon insisted that they get two burgers each, one to eat right away as dinner and an extra to eat while on the road, and even some extra large fries too, because the drive was going to be quite long. When they got the food they ordered, they got back on the road yet again. Shinwon said he wanted to stop by a convenience store before truly going to their destination.

 

“What are you getting in a convenience store? And where are you really taking me?” Hyunggu asked impatiently. He can’t say he wasn’t excited, but he also just really wants to know.

 

“Ha, a secret on both your questions. They’re a surprise.” Shinwon winked yet again, and Hyunggu’s heart jumped a little.

 

Hyunggu allowed himself to snort derisively in front of Shinwon, to act sillier than usual. Being with Shinwon was comfortable for Hyunggu, being with Shinwon was freeing, exhilarating. This impromptu trip was already feeling like a breath of fresh air from his usually uptight schedule, and he had to thank Shinwon for that. Hyunggu felt like he had to thank Shinwon for bringing a lot of spontaneity in his otherwise boring life.

 

“You’re going to be the death of me, Shinwonie-hyung.”

 

“Don’t go dying on me, kid. You haven’t seen the place I’m taking you to, yet.” Shinwon said, eyes directly on the road.

 

Hyunggu looked at the man in the driver’s seat and he felt a small smile creep up on his lips. Shinwon was handsome. Hyunggu decided Shinwon had always been handsome ever since Wooseok introduced the two of them together. Shinwon had been Wooseok’s upperclassman guide on the first day of college, and quickly his circle of friends became their circle of friends too. Hyunggu thought that he’s had a stupid little crush on Ko Shinwon ever since the latter started cracking his stupid little jokes and flashing his stupid little dimpled smiles.

 

Hyunggu closed his eyes and leaned his head on the car windows, taking in the music and feeling the cool of the car air conditioning hit his face. There was a comfortable silence between him and Shinwon, and Hyunggu wanted to stay in this moment forever. He felt his heart breathe with ease, all thoughts of stress and midterms put in the back of his head for now. For now, he was night driving with Shinwon and that was what mattered. 

 

Hyunggu opened his eyes when the car came to a stop. When Shinwon left for the convenience store, Hyunggu took the chance to text Hui.

 

captain kino:

hyung thanks for having shinwonie-hyung check up on me~~

 

hwitaekie-hyung:

what are u talking abt i havent talked to shinwon all day

 

captain kino:

huh? hyungie said it was u who sent him to check on me since i’d be alone tonight :o

 

hwitaekie-hyung:

i didnt tho he mustve just went to u on his own hehe



Hyunggu felt his cheeks heat up against his will. Maybe he was actually a bit hopeful that Shinwon just wanted to spend some time with him, as much as he did. They never really hung out alone much, it was almost always with a mutual friend. This was one of the rare times that it was just the two of them. Hyunggu felt something bubbling in his stomach, feeling as though he were a character in one of his romantic books. Hyunggu thought that, perhaps, Shinwon felt brave enough to put a meaning on all the times where they both felt like they were more than friends. Perhaps, Hyunggu, for once, wanted to be brave to. He wanted to trust his gut and let go. It may not go well, may not go perfectly, but Hyunggu didn’t want to let the moment slip away.

 


 

Shinwon returned holding two bags. One bag he put in the backseat, the other bag had cold bottled coffee and a few chips that he gave to Hyunggu.

 

“So you’re intent on feeding me junk food, huh?” Hyunggu said as he opened a bag of chips and his bottled coffee.

 

Shinwon took his own bottled coffee and a handful of chips. “Yup, that is the intention, yes.”

 

“You’re such a dork.”

 

“I try.”

 

 A moment passed, as Shinwon buckled his seatbelt in place and started backing out onto the road once more.

 

“Shinwonie-hyung?” Hyunggu suddenly piped up after moments of silence between them, noise only coming from the humming to the songs on the car stereo. Shinwon hummed in response, his eyes still on the road.

 

“I just want to thank you for tonight. For everything. You didn't have to do this for me, but you did.” Shinwon looked at Hyunggu through the rearview mirror, and Hyunggu was staring right back at him. At that moment, Shinwon knew. He knew that the air around them was differently charged now. He knew that as the car accelerated onto the freeway, so did his relationship with Hyunggu. There was no turning back now. 

 

“You deserve it, Hyunggu. Every single bit.”

 

Maybe Shinwon didn’t need to place his hand near the gear stick of his car right at that moment. And maybe Hyunggu didn’t mean for his hand to fall on top of Shinwon’s as he tried to take a nap. And maybe they were both so lost in the feeling of each other that no one said a thing. Because nothing needed to be said anymore than it needed to be felt.

 


 

Hyunggu was jolted awake by a tap on his shoulder.

 

“We’re almost there, Ggu.”

 

Hyunggu looked out the window and noticed that the concrete roads were now replaced by dirt roads. He checked the time, 10:42.

 

“Why did you let me nap for so long?”

 

“You look so relaxed while you were sleeping, I didn’t wanna disturb you.” Shinwon smiled at him.

 

“Were you watching me sleep?” Hyunggu asked, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious.

 

“Can’t say I wasn’t, but I was actually more concerned in getting us to our destination safely.”

 

“I knew it, you’re a creep.”

 

“Hey!” The shared laughter in the car made Hyunggu’s heart light and happy. Like it was always meant to be this way. Like all he needed to do to breathe  was to let go. 

 

Shinwon took a few turns down paths unfamiliar to Hyunggu before stopping near a cliff. Shinwon turned off the car, got his supplies from the backseat, and went out of the car.

 

“We’re here. Come on, Hyunggu.” Shinwon beckoned Hyunggu with a smile. Hyunggu put on a smile of his own, he trusted Shinwon. Trusted him now more than ever.

 

“Okay.” Hyunggu took Shinwon’s hand, and let himself be taken away nearer to the edge of the cliff.

 

Hyunggu was amazed at how breathtaking the sight was. The cliff was overlooking a beach and the moonlight above was bouncing off the waves, creating illusions of dancing lights. Hyunggu closed his eyes. The beach wasn’t so far away that Hyunggu could still hear the faint sound of the waves hitting the shore. 

 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Shinwon said beside Hyunggu, who opened his eyes.

 

“It’s fucking amazing, Shinwon. It’s majestic. It’s wonderful. I didn’t even know this place existed. How did you know about this?”

 

“I told you my mom was also an alumna of our uni right?” Hyunggu nodded, not taking his eyes off the sight. “She found this place with her friends and this was where they went when they wanted to get a breather.”

 

Suddenly, Hyunggu hugged Shinwon. “Woah, Hyu-”

 

“Thank you, hyung. I needed this. I needed this so much.”

 

“You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.” Shinwon said as he stroked Hyunggu’s hair. Hyunggu detangled from the embrace a bit too soon for Shinwon’s liking.

 

“God, I wish I brought my sketchbook, I could’ve drawn this scene, this is so amazing.”

 

“Why don’t you just take a picture and draw that?” Shinwon inquires.

 

“A picture doesn’t quite capture the feeling of something, you know?” Hyunggu ponders thoughtfully, “Like yes, I understand a picture immortalizes the event, the scene, whatever. But whatever I’m feeling now, it can only be felt here, at this time, at this moment, and that’s what I wanted to capture. That feeling”

 

Shinwon felt himself look at Hyunggu, wondering how someone could be so profound about how they feel, only to find the latter looking back at him. Shinwon got so caught up in Kang Hyunggu, in his eyes, and in his heart he knew that he was a goner, if only he could say that out loud.

 

“When did you become so wise?”

 

“I’m not wise, it’s just how I feel.” Shinwon hummed positively.

 

“Hey, do you wanna know something else my mom and her friends did here?”

 

“Did they throw their victims' bodies over the cliff like what you’re about to do to me?” Hyunggu deadpanned.

 

“Hyunggu, oh my god.” Shinwon cackled so loudly. “No, they would scream their worries into the sea. Some bullshit about how the water and the sky would probably just swallow their fears awa-”

 

Before Shinwon could finish his sentence, Hyunggu stepped forward and screamed at the top of his lungs.

 

“I wish I didn’t feel the need to be perfect all the time!”

 

Shinwon joined him “I wish I was just a bit braver!” 

 

“I always want to be happy the way I am right now!” Hyunggu screams some more.

 

Shinwon turned to Hyunggu. “You’re happy right now?”

 

“More than happy. I feel alive. More alive than I’ve ever felt in months, maybe even years.”

 

Hyunggu was so drunk on the feeling that his head started spinning.

 

“God, I think I need to sit down, my heart’s beating like crazy.” Hyunggu laughed. He laughed so hard. He liked that he was letting himself loose, and he liked that it was with Shinwon. Hyunggu felt more himself when he was with him. Like Hyunggu didn’t have to try, because just him was enough.

 

Shinwon led Hyunggu to the hood of his car.

 

“Let’s sit here, it’s okay to get your feet up, I’ll just have it cleaned.”

 

Shinwon took out the contents of the bag he got from the supermarket.

 

“You got wine?” Hyunggu asked, surprised.

 

“Well, cheap wine only, I’m afraid. And of course 7-11 didn’t have wine glasses so we’re drinking from these,” Shinwon gave Hyunggu a solo red cup and poured wine in it. Shinwon also took out the leftover McDonald’s burgers and fries from the bag and gave them to Hyunggu.

 

Hyunggu raised his glass in the air.

 

“To tonight.”

 

Shinwon smiled at him. “To tonight.” They lifted the plastic cups to their lips at the same time and the wine tasted sweet, just like whatever was blossoming between the two of them.

 


 

Shinwon and Hyunggu talked the night away, regaling stories of childhood memories, of fears, of triumphs, of embarrassment, of first loves and heartbreaks. It all felt natural, talking to each other, but at the same time it felt like some some to relish in. At some point Hyunggu danced in the middle of the night, with no particular style or care, just freely, the way his body wanted to move. And Shinwon clapped for him, danced with him, stayed with him like he’d rather be nowhere else but with Hyunggu. Time passed by the two of them, and neither one of the really noticed when all they could think about was how intoxicating the presence of the other was.

 

Around 3AM, when they were both a little worn down from their activities, they found themselves back on Shinwon’s hood, drinking wine from red solo cups. Hyunggu laid his head on Shinwon’s shoulder, his pinky finding it's way to touch Shinwon's own. Hyunggu felt himself exhale. Shinwon felt himself get braver. Don’t let this moment slip away, Shinwon.

 

“Hey.” Shinwon started.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I like you." Hyunggu gasped. "I think you’re one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. You have this effect on me, Hyunggu. And you don’t have to try to be perfect all the time, because you just are, everything you do is per-”

 

Shinwon was stopped by Hyunggu’s lips on his own. It was short, tasted like wine and burgers, it was perfect. 

 

“I’ve had a crush on you for the longest time, hyung.”

 

At that, Shinwon closed the distance between them again. This time, he absolutely knew that he’ll never be the same without Hyunggu, ever again.

 

Hyunggu clutched Shinwon’s hand tighter in his. The feelings he had for Shinwon rose up like a tide in his heart. He kissed Shinwon back with as much feelings as he had for the other. 

 

Finally, they both tipped the seesaw.