the night before
Jeonghan gets drunk with Seungkwan in Seungkwan’s tranquil living room he shares with his extremely committed boyfriend of three years. It doesn’t take much - a couple of shots of soju and a few beers, and Jeonghan’s head is lolling back on the cream velvet of Seungkwan’s mid-century couch. His brain careens around his skull. He checks his phone. 23:15. There’s nothing like the mildly judgemental gaze of a kindergarten teacher, who’s still nursing his second glass of wine, to get you feeling as pitiful as you were looking to feel.
“You done now?” Seungkwan asks, mouth pursed like he’s looking at one of his kids after they’re done throwing a tantrum. His eyes are soft, though. Concerned. Jeonghan looks back at the ceiling, admiring the neat way the curtain pleats when gathered to one side with a dusky rose-coloured rope. The rope has a tassel on the end. It’s too far away to bat at with his hand. Jeonghan tries anyway.
“Yeah, I think so,” Jeonghan says, after failing.
“I’m gonna get you some water, then,” Seungkwan says and gets up, padding towards the open corner kitchen across the living room. He comes back with a heavy glass and presses it, damp, against Jeonghan’s palm. “You’re not driving tomorrow, right?”
“No. I bribed Mingyu to take me.”
“Coffee and cake. Figured they’d have some at the -- You know,” Jeonghan lies and flaps his free hand in front of his face.
Seungkwan hums knowingly. Jeonghan sips at his water, too cold for his liking. It makes his teeth itch. Seungkwan loves cold drinks. He must have teeth like a shark.
“You got shark teeth?” Jeonghan asks, turning his left cheek to rest against the back of the couch.
“You think it’s a good idea to take your hookup to your grandfather’s funeral?” Seungkwan asks with the same expression he has when he decides that a badminton serve has gone on for too long. Jeonghan flinches, like he does on the court.
“We’re not-- Well. I guess it is. But it’s been like. A long time?” Jeonghan stumbles and the prickling annoyance creeps up his neck. If it was anyone else, anyone in the world, he would have already shut this conversation down. But it’s Seungkwan. So. “I went to his sister’s wedding. He seems fine with it,” he finishes lamely.
And he has separate toiletries at Mingyu’s apartment like Mingyu has at his, and sometimes he calls Mingyu’s mom just to say hi, and they haven’t used condoms in three and half years. Jeonghan doesn’t say any of that out loud, though.
Seungkwan’s face is tight for a moment but relaxes in increments, until it’s back to mild worry. Jeonghan wishes it would go back to aggression. That’s easier to deal with, funnier too.
“It’s not my business,” Seungkwan lies, “Just. You’ve been “hooking up” for longer than Hansol and I have been dating, you know? And we live together now. I want you both to be happy. Mingyu’s a good person,” Seungkwan says and grimaces like it costs him something to say it out loud, “And he seems like someone who wants to. You know. Do more than just hook up for four years and occasionally attend a high-stakes family function.”
“Yeah you’re right,” Jeonghan nods, setting the glass on the sofa table. He uses a coaster, which he considers a show of extreme patience, “It’s not your business.”
There’s an art to storming out of your friend’s home when you accidentally get angry drunk the night before a funeral you don’t want to attend. It includes a dramatic exit, a woeful scene of hailing down a taxi, and a somber, silent drive home with a neutral stranger while you gaze out the backseat window of the car and possibly pretend to be in a music video for an ex-idol group member making his black and white solo debut.
Jeonghan’s dramatic exit stops at the doors to Seungkwan’s apartment building when Hansol jogs down the stairs in Nike slides, fluffy woollen socks, grey sweats, and a hoodie thrown haphazardly over his t-shirt that has a print of a man morphing into a frog. His keys jingle loudly with every step.
“I’ll drive you home,” Hansol orders more than offers, nodding his head sideways to the back door leading to the garage.
“You really don’t have to,” Jeonghan tries but makes no effort to not follow Hansol’s broad back and gets a short ha! from him.
“I think we both know that’s not true, Jeonghan.”
So, instead of a somber, silent ride home, Jeonghan spends the twenty minutes it takes for Hansol to drive him clutching onto every possible neutral topic of conversation his still spinning brain can come up with. They spend the last red light discussing the road work happening in front of the 7-Eleven by Jeonghan’s apartment.
“The railings look nice,” Jeonghan says about the near-finished bike stand, and wishes it was his funeral he was attending tomorrow, before they finally exit the road and Hansol rolls the car to a stop in the parking lot.
“Thanks for the ride. Really,” Jeonghan says and gets a nod with a dry smile from Hansol in return.
“Have a good night. And a good… funeral?” Hansol says, looking pained. Jeonghan pinches his lips thin and nods with a hum as he closes the door. The car lunges out of the parking spot like it’s trying to escape.
the day of
Jeonghan is in the bathroom, trying to make the front of his hair stay nice and parted without looking like he’s survived a drowning. The lock on the front door clicks and Mingyu’s voice carries through to the bathroom.
“Hey, I’m here.”
“Minggoo!” Jeonghan wails, “Bathroom.”
“Ew,” Mingyu says but pushes open the bathroom door a moment later, “What?”
“My arms are very tired,” Jeonghan tells him, gesturing at his head with the weird Dyson hair dryer he gave Mingyu for Chuseok two years ago and that somehow ended up back in his own apartment through reasons unknowable to either of them. “You lift weights. Do something.”
Mingyu rolls his eyes but takes the hair dryer from Jeonghan’s hand, pressing a kiss above his brow. He probably gets a little bit of the lotion Jeonghan just applied, judging by the displeased twitch to his mouth.
While Mingyu cards his hand through Jeonghan’s hair, wielding the dryer with far more precision than Jeonghan had, Jeonghan looks at him through the bathroom mirror. His suit is black, with a white shirt buttoned all the way up to the neck and a black tie with a complicated knot resting pin-straight over it. His face looks polished, somehow, in a way Jeonghan has never managed. It’s probably the leafy greens and the sunlight he insists on getting every day. He’s so handsome it makes Jeonghan stupid.
“You look hot,” Jeonghan says, eyes trained on Mingyu’s mouth through the mirror. His lips curve into a pleased little pout immediately. He’s so easy for compliments it makes Jeonghan want to lavish him with them, just to see how pink and tickled he can get.
“I know,” Mingyu chirps and runs the back of his fingers across the whorl of Jeonghan’s ear. He fights back a shiver. “You look good, too. Probably not the point today, though,” he amends with another, less pleased pout.
“It’s not like I really knew him. Dad was never close with him as far as I can tell. And, you know,” Jeonghan shrugs.
It’s not that he doesn’t get along with his dad. They’re as fine as they can be, considering Jeonghan doesn’t look, act, date, or work the way his father thought he would or go to the university his father wanted him to go to. They meet for family holidays, sometimes they get dinner when his father is in town. His dad has met Mingyu and had a very involved conversation about real estate with him. But he’s not the person Jeonghan calls when he needs to talk about his problems. As far as Jeonghan’s dad knows, Jeonghan has no problems. Maybe it’s hard for Mingyu to understand because he calls his dad every week and sometimes Mingyu’s dad calls Jeonghan, too.
“Okay, you’re done,” Mingyu finally announces, flicking his index finger at the ends of Jeonghan’s bangs for good measure, “Very pretty.”
“As always,” Jeonghan sniffs and twists around to peck Mingyu on the mouth. He means to pull away and duck out of the room but Mingyu catches him by the waist and keeps him pressed close until Jeonghan is kissed well enough for his exacting standards.
“It’s going to be okay,” Mingyu says, drawing back but keeping Jeonghan still so he can do that awful thing he does where he looks directly into Jeonghan’s eyes like it doesn’t cost him anything to be so clearly seen.
“Yeah. It will be.”
And it is. It’s a funeral - nothing more, nothing less. The drive almost across-country is long and the main reason Jeonghan weaselled his way out of going earlier. They bow. Jeonghan hugs his mom, who looks just as reluctant to be there as he feels, and then he leaves Mingyu in her delighted care, while he goes around greeting everyone he needs to. He looks longingly to where Mingyu and his mom are having cake. His mom looks tired - she’s been at the hospital for all three days, a more dutiful member of the family than Jeonghan could ever hope to be.
Mingyu had offered to go earlier. When Jeonghan’s dad called him on Tuesday and said that they were at the hospital, Mingyu was sitting next to him on the couch, noodles hanging half out of his mouth, listening carefully. He’d gotten up at once and started clearing the plates. He’d had Jeonghan’s suitcase off the highest shelf in the closet and waiting open on the bed when Jeonghan had ended the call. There had almost been a fight when Jeonghan told him that it was fine. That he’d drive down and back up to Seoul on Thursday, and that Mingyu didn’t have to come if he was busy.
Soju makes Jeonghan lie. He takes out his phone and taps out a message to Seungkwan.
In Mokpo. Mom says hi. Thank you for bullying Hansol into giving me a ride home. Sorry I got mad. You were right.
It’s past midnight when Jeonghan and Mingyu are finally back in the car, a repurposed grocery bag full of leftovers in the backseat. Jeonghan feels weird. Drained and wrung out and relieved all at the same time. Like he wants to dunk his head into the sea and then sleep for two days.
Mingyu navigates them out of the city and onto the highway, one hand on the steering wheel, one resting on the middle console between them. Jeonghan slots their fingers together, squeezes hard enough to feel the bones in Mingyu’s hand. To an untrained eye, Mingyu probably looks happy as a puppy, but Jeonghan sees the way sweat has messed up his hairline, little baby hairs starting to escape whatever nuclear-level gel Mingyu pays fifty thousand won for. His mouth is pinched and he’s nibbled on his lower lip enough to make it chap.
“There’s a service station just ahead,” Jeonghan tells him and Mingyu nods. They park and Jeonghan heads for the snacks, while Mingyu shrugs on an overcoat against the biting October wind and leans against the side of the car, digging out his pack of Esse Super Slims. By the time Jeonghan gets back with a bag of chips and two energy drinks, Mingyu’s lighting his second cigarette, hunched over to block the wind.
“Fuck me, that was a lot of people,” Mingyu sighs and wraps an arm around Jeonghan’s shoulders as he huddles next to him like they’re two penguins in Antarctica.
“Did you finally meet your match in the extended Yoon clan?” Jeonghan laughs and cracks open the drink can for Mingyu.
“Might have,” Mingyu laughs back, sheepish, rubbing at his eyes with the same hand he’s using to balance his drink and his cigarette. Jeonghan doesn’t point out the other hand that’s perfectly available, clutching at his shoulder. Maybe he needs it for emotional support.
“I get it, you know,” Mingyu says next, craning his head to blow smoke away from Jeonghan, “Why you didn’t go earlier. I’m sorry I pushed you.”
“S’alright,” Jeonghan sighs, “Thanks for coming. Believe it or not, you made today a lot easier than it would’ve been otherwise.”
“Of course I came.”
Mingyu tightens his hold on Jeonghan. Jeonghan lets himself go lax against him, dropping his head on Mingyu’s shoulder. The asphalt on the parking lot gleams wet under the streetlights and the rhythmic roar of passing cars is the only sound for a while. In a couple of days they’ll be headed back down the same highway to go see Mingyu’s sister’s new kid.
“Hey,” Jeonghan starts, nudging at Mingyu’s shoulder with his temple like a cat before he makes himself lift back up to look him in the eye. Mingyu looks back, steady, easy. It costs Jeonghan something to be seen like this but Mingyu is worth it. “Do you maybe want to date me?”
Mingyu blinks at him once, twice, dropping the butt of his cigarette and grinding it with the sole of his dress shoe. Then he sighs, dramatic and beleaguered like when Jeonghan asks him to take out the recycling, failing to tamp down the smile that’s pulling at his mouth. His eyes are so bright.
“I suppose. God knows I’ve been trying to.”