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kiss me like you want to stay

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choi seungcheol 2:38am
u up?

jihoon stares at his phone like it's personally offended him. quite frankly, it might as well have—what other reaction is he supposed to have when his ex of two years and change is sending him what sounds weirdly a lot like a booty call message at an ungodly hour of the morning?

it's not that jihoon wasn't awake anyway. seungcheol would know this, after all, having borne witness to countless sleepless nights and restless mornings, blankets draped over shoulders slumped over desks, subtle and not-so-subtle nudges to go to bed.

but they haven't spoken much since the breakup, since a few weak attempts at remaining friends turned into this is too painful for both of us, so let's just bury ourselves in our own lives and pretend we never existed to each other.

he scrubs his hand down his face. honestly, it would be easy enough to just ignore it—pretend he didn't see it, pay it no mind at all. it's normal human sleeping hours, after all, and maybe in the years since they stopped knowing each other jihoon's finally developed normal human sleeping habits.

and yet, despite himself, he's picking up the phone.

what the fuck

choi seungcheol 2:44am
oh u r
hoonie thimk im drunk

that much was obvious

choi seungcheol 2:46am
i just

again, jihoon tells himself, it would be really easy to just ignore the older man at this point. it's not like he wants anything in particular—probably just a mistake, meant to text someone he actually talks to on a regular basis. they don't have any responsibilities to each other anymore.

the problem, though, is that as much as jihoon puts up barriers, boundaries, walls to keep people out, he's got just as many when it comes to keeping people in. as much as he tells himself he's over this, over seungcheol, he can't just treat him like a stranger, even though that's what they are to each other now. 

just tell me where you are

choi seungcheol 2:55am
sent you a pin

[read: 2:57am]



this was a bad idea, jihoon tells himself as he calls a taxi to pick him up in front of his apartment, yanks on a hoodie and makes sure he has his wallet and keys before stepping out. he's going to have to pay for taxi fare twice, because he doesn't drive, and he swears to god if seungcheol pukes in the car he's going to make sure the older man pays for the cleaning fee and then some.

he's still telling the driver the address of the bar, some divey place he feels like he's probably been dragged to once. he's still in the taxi at three in the morning, and he doesn't even have a plan. they're not fucking, because jihoon's not stupid and even though seungcheol's definitely more than a little stupid when he drinks jihoon doesn't think he's stupid enough to ask for a drunken hookup from an ex.

jihoon's just going to take him home. make sure he doesn't die. the same type of shit he'd do for soonyoung or seokmin or hansol, even though soonyoung's the only one of them who ever really needed to be taken care of like that and jihoon always lectures him about responsibility as soonyoung pukes over the toilet and promises he's never doing this again.

he pays the driver when he gets to the bar, flashing his id at the bouncer and raising a pointed eyebrow when the bouncer lingers a little too long on his birth year. he's short, not a kid.

the bar is pretty empty at this hour. seungcheol, mercifully, is easy to find, hunched over the counter, head barely propped up on his arms. when he sees jihoon approach, he perks up, but doesn't move.

"hey." he grins lazily. "didn't think you'd come."

"i said i would," jihoon replies. his voice sticks in his throat. why the fuck did he come?

"i can't feel my toes," seungcheol says. "help."

jihoon sighs. he shouldn't have come.

he helps settle seungcheol's tab with the bartender and calls a cab back to his apartment. seungcheol is no help at all, dopey smile still on his lips as he watches jihoon take care of all his affairs for him.

"you were always the smart one," seungcheol slurs, eyes squinting into flat crescents. "taking care of everything. our genius jihoonie."

"you're drunk," is all jihoon can think to retort, willing the blood to stop itself from rushing to his cheeks. he hates how seungcheol can throw out weird compliments without a second thought and he hates how affected he was (is) by them.

seungcheol leans on him heavily, arm slung around his shoulders as jihoon all but drags him outside to the curb so they can get in the car to go back. he feels an awful lot like a parent as he makes sure seungcheol's appropriately buckled in and confirms his address with the driver, wondering just how his life got to this state.

the ride back is quiet. jihoon has nothing he really wants to say and he's not sure if seungcheol can actually say much at all. it's a blessing and a curse, because it means he doesn't have to think about ways to fill the air with banal, surface-level conversation but it does mean he ends up thinking about them.

jihoon has to nudge seungcheol awake when they arrive at his apartment, doing his best to make sure seungcheol doesn't fall over as they take the elevator to the third floor. the humming of the fluorescent lights and the whirring of the elevator cables are strangely loud tonight.

(maybe he's just on edge.)

"welcome to my humble abode," jihoon says, tone dry as he kicks off his sandals and drops his keys in the bowl he keeps by the door. seungcheol has the wherewithal to take off his own shoes, at least, lining them up crookedly next to jihoon's.

"you want any water?" jihoon offers, then cocks his head and pushes his lips out, contemplating. "never mind. you're getting water."

he fills a glass for seungcheol from the tap, setting it on the kitchen counter and pushing seungcheol into a stool.

"thanks," seungcheol says. he drinks half of it; the cup makes a loud clack against the faux-marble countertop when he sets it back down.

"why'd you text me?" jihoon asks, before his mind catches up to him. he cringes immediately after—it sounds a lot more like an interrogation that he'd intended and he doesn't think either of them could deal with that right now.

seungcheol shrugs. "i don't know. just—had a feeling, i guess. that you'd pick up. wanted you to, maybe."

if seungcheol's voice cracks a little at the end, neither of them mention it. something about it feels too raw, too honest to jihoon, in the way that only seungcheol ever could be. he almost wishes he could take the question back, because the answer is cracking the dam that he's spent years building and he's scrambling to patch it.

silence settles upon them, thick and stifling. jihoon usually doesn't have a problem with the quiet—prefers it, most of the time—but it's different with seungcheol. there's too many years of things they haven't said, too many years of things better left unsaid, too many years of history and baggage that make figuring out what to say an insurmountable task.

but maybe they don't need to say anything. the late hour could be messing with jihoon's mind, but he's not imagining that seungcheol is still attractive, even with his hair messed up six ways to sunday and his shirt wrinkled. seungcheol's not sober, not by a long shot, but he's been watching jihoon with strangely alert eyes ever since they got back to his place. jihoon thinks he recognizes the sign, but he won't know until he tries.

jihoon leans over the counter, just close enough that his intentions are clear but far enough that it doesn't look weird if nothing happens.

seungcheol meets him in the middle, lips soft and warm and familiar. he smells like soju and jihoon kind of hates it, but not enough to stop.

"we were so good together," seungcheol murmurs against his lips, "what happened to us?"

jihoon doesn't know what to say, wouldn't know where to begin. maybe it started when jihoon started getting too in his head and seungcheol could only try so hard to pull him out. maybe it started when seungcheol stopped trying to fill in the spaces between their words and jihoon didn't know how to keep them from stretching on too long. maybe they could've worked things out, if only they knew how to reach out and let each other in and stopped pretending like they knew what each other was thinking, even though they were able to guess ninety percent of the time. maybe they got too comfortable and let things fester for too long, in ways that could never be mended.

seungcheol kisses him again. maybe they should just stick with that, instead.



they don't fuck, because jihoon's not stupid enough for that and neither is seungcheol, but they make out more than they probably should, messy and fevered. seungcheol's still drunk on alcohol and jihoon's drunk on his memories, something that should be a recipe for disaster but instead just results in tangled sheets, jihoon's back pressed to seungcheol's chest, their fingers twined loose by his stomach. if he closes his eyes, they could be four years ago in their shoebox of an apartment that was the only thing they could've afforded on their meager intern salaries.

(it was a disaster of a place—the lights would flicker if too many people in the building had them on, the hot water never seemed to last longer than five minutes, the walls were paper-thin and he swears they had a third and fourth roommate in the largest cockroach he'd ever seen in his life and a weird stringy rat that darted across the floor once a month or so. he'd never been more glad to move out when they'd finally had enough money, but in some ways, it didn't really matter. home, he'd thought at the time, was just wherever seungcheol was.)

"jihoonie," he hears, words muffled against his neck.

"what?" he whispers.

a soft, indiscriminate noise, then: "never mind."

seungcheol says nothing more, limbs eventually going slack and breath evening out in soft puffs against the back of jihoon's neck. jihoon's always envied how easily seungcheol seems to fall asleep, anytime and anywhere.

4:17 says the led lights of the alarm clock on his bedside table. he closes his eyes and hopes sleep will come for him soon.

(he hates to admit it, but it's always been easier in seungcheol's arms.)



(in the morning, seungcheol is gone. jihoon would be lying if he said he hadn't expected it, but that doesn't make the sting in his chest go away when he wakes up alone.

there's a fifty-thousand won note on the desk and a post-it note on jihoon's computer monitor, in seungcheol's familiar scrawl.

cash's for the taxi. i'm sorry to have bothered you. thanks for letting me stay.

love you, crossed out a thousand times, but still legible through the ballpoint lines.

jihoon wishes he knew what to make it mean.

the dam breaks—but then again, maybe it was never meant to hold in the first place.)