Kim dumps his weight onto the floor cushions and twists the fan dial to its highest speed. The air around him gets less unbearable. He scrolls through the long list of numbers on his phone and stops at just the right spot, bouncing his foot impatiently while the bell goes. His glance falls on the mess around his tiny apartment. He’s distracting himself with all the tidying he needs to do when the call is finally answered.
“Where are you?”
“Why?” There’s a grin in the other’s voice. Eagerness crawls up Kim’s back. For a few seconds he can only manage breathing into his phone. And when the air grows far too tight for his chest, he whispers his command.
A long exhale precedes the end of the call. But it isn’t enough to seed any doubt. He’s certain he’s going to get exactly what he wants. He always does. That’s what he likes about their relationship—he could demand the most ridiculous of things and Han will answer him with an appropriate scoff or exasperated sigh. But he still does everything he can to make Kim happy. Maybe he does it out of pity, maybe he does it because he sees no reason to refuse. Maybe these demands aren’t all that ridiculous.
A small part of Kim hopes it’s because Han wants the same things. He’s just too shy to say it out loud.
The sky outside his tiny apartment windows is burning. Sweat drips down the back of his neck as he sorts laundry and wishes he had bars of ice candy waiting in the freezer. Considering making the additional request of Han, he decides against it. Sticking his face in the fridge will have to suffice for now.
“Are you five?” a voice asks, making him jump and lose grip on the bag of frozen blueberries soothing his cheek.
Han tuts and shakes his head, placing a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter before stepping closer for what Kim supposes must be an intention to kiss.
He scowls and slams the fridge door shut, holding a hand up in the air to stop the other from reaching him.
“I should call the police on you for breaking into my house,” he mumbles.
“Wh—?!” Han splutters, lips growing into a shocked pout and eyebrows rising in defence. It’s an expression that Kim secretly gets endless pleasure from. He can go to any length to catch the other off-guard.
“You told me to come over!”
“How’d you know the pass code?”
“You gave it to me—!”
Han steps away, as if he knows this is just Kim playing with him. He falls onto the sofa and whips out his phone, trying to shut the confrontation out; trying to deny his host the satisfaction of this meaningless teasing game.
Kim continues to push regardless. “Tell me when.”
With a flutter of his eyes and a gulp of his throat, an embarrassed Han turns his head away. Try as he might, he always unerringly falls into the same trap every single time.
“When you threw up outside that club in Itaewon and started crying like a madman, that’s when” he mocks.
Kim snorts. Folding his arms in challenge, he leans against the counter and bears down on the other with an unwavering stare. “Too shy to say it?” he ribs, making a slow approach until their knees knock into each other.
“Want me to jog your memory?”
The other purses his lips and sits back. His face is burning. His eyes are darting. His pulse must be speeding like a wild drumbeat. Kim remembers the taste of it under his kisses. He remembers feeling it inside him when Han’s tight circle of arms held him close. He remembers being infected by the same frenzy when he swapped his mouth for his body, thoughts so scrambled they slipped out of him in random word and number sequences.
“… don’t be like that.”
Han whines a little. “Don’t,” he says, half-pleading. His hand hesitates a moment before touching Kim’s thigh. “Be good to me. Please.”
Kim rakes his fingers through the man’s hair, tracing arcs with his thumb. “Why should I?” he murmurs, gently tilting the other‘s head up to connect their gazes.
“Hmm? Tell me why.”
“… because I like it.”
It isn’t much of an admission, but Kim still rewards it with an adoring smile. He surveys the other carefully, drinking in every detail like sipping from a glass of the finest wine. His fingertips slip from a tall forehead to a tentative stare, to apple cheeks and full mouth. From the nights spent tracing his lips on these features, Kim recalls the flavour of each one. Plum candy, he cradles Han’s face and thinks. Not too sweet, not too sour. Just right.
Han closes his eyes and leans in with a sigh, turning his head to press a kiss into Kim’s palm.
“You know,” Kim muses. “You really do look like a giant filefish.”
Han tuts and pushes them apart. “Always an asshole…”
“OK, OK,” Kim chuckles, making coddling sounds and hugging the other’s head to his stomach. He may like to joke and play around, but what he likes more than a flustered Han is a mollified Han ducking into Kim’s shirt. He likes when fingers tickle across his waist and plump lips hush over his bellybutton. He likes when teeth graze on his skin and smiles whisper compliments to his love handles. He likes being liked so much.
Stretching his collar out, he peeks down at the other. “Gonna stay in there?”
“That’s a shame. I had something else in mind.”
Han turns his head up and raises his eyebrows in question.
Kim grins and smooths his shirt down on the other’s face.
They perform a strange staggering dance leading them indoors, nearly stumbling over each other’s feet. Kim finally allows the kiss. Han finally releases a giggle. They shrug off their clothes and end up stammering giddy puns to deal with the apprehension. One yells a what the hell are you saying while the other chortles over his own humour. They crawl into the sheets, snake around one another with laughter still hanging off them, and when the laughter mellows away, they let their usual fever replace it.
Knuckles bump and ankles knock together in a confusing tangle of bliss. Kim coils his leg over them. Han squeezes his grip around them. Kim arches into the space in between. Han groans at the sandwiched air. Kim’s voice breaks. Han’s hips convulse. Kim is pleading. Han is dizzy. Kim lets go of a shocked sound. Han follows it with a whimper.
They look at each other for a long minute and suddenly burst into surprised laughter.
“That was… new…?”
“You know who to thank.”
“This old man… sure, sure, add it to your resume, why don’t you?”
“Yeah, I’ll give it to you for editing after this.”
Later, when his breath is still sprinting and his heart is still jumping, Kim lifts himself off the pillows and finds Han bathed in sweat. He’s on the verge of falling asleep, but his hand fumbles around for Kim’s and links their fingers together. The action is far gentler than he’d been a few minutes ago, prompting Kim to bring the connection up to his lips. It tastes like soap and plums, making him smile.
“… call me old man again and I’ll really marry you,” Han mumbles what he seems to think is a threat.
Kim gifts the comment with a soft laugh but when he’s cleaning up in the shower, he wonders what it would be like to be married to someone. He tries to picture the new layout of the furniture, the added cutlery in the drawers and the larger bed to share. The new pairs of shoes in the lobby, the plain clothes hanging beside his own flashier ones. He imagines how the smell in his apartment would change, how he’d have to make room for another person and another life in his own self-contained existence. He imagines living with someone for so long he’d begin to anticipate every sentence and habit; he’d recognize every movement and maybe even every breath.
As alarming as the thought is, he can see the appeal of that… stability. He can see why people choose marriage.
But he reasons, if he wants Han all to himself, all he has to do is ask. All he needs to do is say the words and Han will belong to his life as a permanence, legal paperwork or not.
Softly padding back into bed, he continues to juggle the thought around in his head. Would Han agree to that assumption? Would he see eye-to-eye with Kim on this, if nothing else? Would he say yes to twisting their lives together, knowing the possible cost of something like that? Would he agree to the risk in realizing such a dream?
“So listen,” Kim begins gathering his courage.