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[personal profile] lirazel
Title: advanced romanticism
Chapter: 2/2
Series: the toaster 'verse
Fandom: Kpop: Infinite
Characters/Pairing: Hoya/Eunji (APink), Sungjong/Minha (9Muses), Hoya&Sungjong bffery, Infinite and 9Muses in supporting roles
Rating: PG-13
Genre: College AU
Summary: "This is what comes of being the only straight guys in our group of friends. We have no one to talk to to get some perspective when we’re both having girl problems.” Hoya and Sungjong are having a little trouble with romance. But they both manage to figure it out. Eventually.


Hoya is so busy reminding himself to play it cool that he’s only about thirty yards from the concession stand when he notices that there’s a blond head of hair behind the counter, not just Eunji’s brown ponytail. His feet falter when he recognizes Woohyun’s friend Key, and his chest clenches when he sees that he and Eunji have their heads bent close together and are laughing at something. There’s a sick taste in his mouth.

Key isn’t even into girls, he tells himself. And if he were, he’d be into bitchy style icons like him, not a tomboy like Eunji. But it still takes him a second to get his feet to work again.

They’re still laughing when he finally makes it to the counter, Eunji with her head thrown back and eyes almost disappearing, Key shoving her away from him in his mirth. They don’t even notice him. He cracks an awkward smile and shifts as he waits for them to see him.

“Oh!” Eunji swallows her laughter to a stop and blinks at him in surprise. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even see you there!”

Hoya forces his smile wider, hoping it seems sincere and not strained. “It’s fine, I just walked up.”

“Oh, hey, Hoya,” Key says, his own laughter dying away.

“Kibum,” Hoya acknowledges with a nod. And then, before he can even think about it, the words just tumble out: “I didn’t know you two knew each other.”

Hoya immediately wants to run to the top of the science building and fling himself off, putting an end to his life and his own misery. What the fuck, Lee Howon?? He doesn’t even know Eunji (or at least he’s not supposed to—she’s never told him her name or that she’s a journalism major or that she plays intramural softball, and Hoya will never, ever admit to how he acquired that information), so why the fuck should he know that she and Key are friends? He might as well have just flat-out said, I’ve got a huge crush on you and have been semi-stalking you for the past few months trying to figure out everything about you, but I still can’t bring myself to have an actual conversation with you because I’m a giant loser.

But Eunji doesn’t seem to notice the strangeness of the question, or maybe she didn’t even hear it as she leans down and reaches back behind her for a bottle of water from the freezer. The back of her t-shirt rides up just a little, showing a patch of skin above the hem of her jeans. Hoya jerks his eyes away immediately, but the image is seared into his eyeballs.

Unfortunately for him, he jerks his eyes over to Key in time to see Key’s eyebrow raise fractionally. Fuck, he’s going to figure it out, Hoya inwardly panics, and the roar of panic in his ears is so loud he almost doesn’t hear Key say, “Her friend Naeun is dating Taemin.” And then, because he’s a total bastard jerkass—of course he is, he’s friends with Woohyun—Key’s lips twist and then say, “I didn’t know you two knew each other, either.”

“Of course we do!” Eunji pops back up and presents Hoya with his water bottle, ever-present grin in place. “We’re old friends—see each other every game. Right, Seven?”

Key’s eyes flicker to the number on Hoya’s jersey, and his cheekbones show that he’s fighting to hold back a smug grin. “Every game? The team doesn’t provide you with water? Isn’t that against regulations? Couldn't they get sued for that?”

Hoya’s hand flexes around the coins he’d fished out of his pocket, and he wants desperately to punch Kim Kibum in his stupidly feline face. But Eunji just laughs and holds out her hand for the money. “This is colder,” she explains, wiggling her fingers, and Hoya jerks himself into motion, dropping the coins into her palm, careful not to touch her skin.

“Is it now?”

God, Key is such an insufferable ass. Does he have to sound all wryly amused like that? Why the fuck does Jinki-sunbae, who’s such a nice guy, hang out with him? “It is,” Hoya says stiffly.

“How about that? Your water brings all the boys to the yard, Eunji-yah.”

Hoya very nearly does launch himself across the counter and right at Key—Hoya knows he could take him; he’s far more solid and muscled than scrawny Kim Kibum, though knowing Key, he’s probably a biter and a hair-puller—but Eunji just laughs like it’s actually a funny joke and not Key-code for I know you like her, Lee Howon, and I’m going to make that as awkward for you as possible. Maybe she hasn’t known Key long enough to know Key-code when she hears it. He hopes.

The coach's whistle slices through Hoya’s anger, though, and so he just grits his teeth and says, “Thanks. Have a good day.” He cuts his eyes to the side, glaring at Kibum, but he makes his lips tip up into a smile. “Goodbye, Kibum.”

“See you, Hoya,” Key says with a grin, and Hoya feels a muscle throbbing in his jaw as he turns away and starts jogging back to the field: somehow, Key had made his farewell sound like a threat.

“Hey, Hoya, Key asked me to give you this.”

Hoya looks up from lacing his cleats to find Minho standing above him and holding out a folded-up piece of blue paper. What the hell? Key is sending him notes like they’re in third grade? What a drama queen. Why can’t he just text like anyone else?

“What is it?” he asks warily. He’s not entirely sure he trusts that it won’t explode if he opens it. Key is best friends with Woohyun.

Minho shrugs. “I didn’t ask.”

Of course he didn’t. Minho’s a nice enough guy, but he’s not the curious type. Hoya takes it carefully. He’s pretty sure he knows what the note is about, even if he doesn’t know what exactly it’s going to say. He’s also pretty sure he doesn’t want to know what exactly it’s going to say. “Thanks.”

Minho smiles and turns away to his own locker, and Hoya carefully unfolds the paper.

She’s not dating anyone, it reads in an artfully messy scrawl. Is that what you were waiting to find out? If you like her, ask her out. I can’t believe I have to tell you this. Fuck, straight guys are stupid. I don’t know how the human race has made it this far.

Hoya crumples up the note so fast he gives himself a papercut, trying to shove it into his pocket until he realizes he doesn’t have pockets in these shorts. He almost trips over the bench hurrying over to the trashcan, ripping it up into tiny pieces and letting them flutter into the can. Maybe he’s the one who’s in third grade.

“Hey, if he propositioned you and you aren’t interested, just tell him.”

Hoya nearly jumps out of his skin as Minho appears at his shoulder. He gapes up at his taller teammate.

“Seriously, he won’t care,” Minho says, smiling in what he has to think is a reassuring way. “He’ll figure out a way to make it sound like he turned you down when he retells what happened, but he won’t give you a hard time.”

Hoya tries to decide whether it’s a mistake worth correcting: he doesn’t want anyone to think that Key—gross—is propositioning him. He wouldn’t mind if it were one of his other friends who’re into guys, but he hates Key so much right now that he really doesn’t want anyone thinking anything like that has passed between them. On the other hand, if he corrects Minho, Minho might ask what it was about then, and there’s no way in hell Hoya’s going to explain the truth.

“It wasn’t that—he didn’t,” Hoya settles on saying. Thankfully, Minho doesn’t push it.

“Ah, okay. I just figured. He does that sometimes, with straight guys. Sometimes they even give it a shot—he doesn’t mind being someone’s experiment, as long as he’s the one doing the offering.”

And then Minho shrugs again and wanders off, and Hoya has definitely added Key to his to-murder list, right below Woohyun and Sungyeol.

Except She’s not dating anyone, the note had said. Hoya can’t decide whether he wants to smile with new-found hope or to punch his locker while pretending it’s Kim Kibum’s face. He settles for pulling out his phone and texting Sungjong.

“So ask her out.”

It was exactly what Hoya knew Sungjong was going to say, and he’s already ready with his argument. “But is it too early? Too weird? I mean, she’s never even told me her name and we only ever see each other at the concession stand. Won’t it seem out of nowhere?”

Sungjong snorts and leans back against the pillar behind him. They’re sitting on the front porch of the science building, even though neither of them have classes in it. But Hoya’s always liked this spot: it provides a good view of the quad and some nice shade from the sunshine. “If anything, hyung, it’ll give her a good explanation for why you spend money on bottled water when there are always three huge coolers of it provided for free by the team.”

Hoya drops his head into his hands, sighing again. “You think she already knows?”

“If she’s bothered to think about it at all, then, yes, hyung, she already knows.”

Hoya makes an unintelligible mumble whose meaning even he isn’t sure of and then feels Sungjong patting the back of his head.

“Think of it like this, hyung. She probably knows, and she’s been nothing but friendly to you. That means she won’t shut you down if you ask her—she might say no, but she won’t be mean about it.”

“I don’t care whether she’d be mean about it or not, I want to know if she’ll say yes.”

“I really don’t think you can know that ahead of time. Unless we do what middle schoolers do and I find one of her friends and ask her if she can find out if Eunji possibly likes you.”

Don’t tempt me, Hoya thinks. “But maybe she’s been giving me some girl signal that says, I like you fine but please don’t ask me out, and I don’t even know it!”

“I really don’t think girls work like that, hyung. I think they’re pretty much like us and are just as freaked out at the thought of getting rejected. But you may have a point—Eunji seems like a straightforward kind of girl; maybe she already would have made a move if she was interested. Or maybe not. You won’t know till you ask her, hyung.”

“Well, what about you? Is that Minha girl as into you as you are into her?”

And that’s where Sungjong’s clear-sighted wisdom fails. “I don’t know,” he says, mouth creasing in frustration. “At dinner the other night, did you think she was?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m bad at reading girl signals.”

“You’re no help,” Sungjong says with a sigh. “This is what comes of being the only straight guys in our group of friends. We have no one to talk to to get some perspective when we’re both having girl problems.”

“Sungyeol and Sunggyu-hyung are bi,” Hoya points out. “And Dongwoo is like...pansexual or something, I don’t even know. But I don't exactly want to go to any of them for advice. We could use some more straight friends,” he agrees. “It’s weird when you think about how all of our friends are dating each other.”

Sungjong sighs. “At least I have female friends to get advice from. I’m going to talk to Amber-noona. Qian-noona’s her RA—I’m sure she’d have time for you if you want to talk to her.”

“Nah, I’m gonna…” Hoya trails off, waving his hand.

“Sit here and mope? You do that, hyung. But don’t forget it’s your night to make dinner.”

“So you don’t want the kind of relationship that you think will distract you from the shit you want to get done,” Amber says, sniffing a t-shirt from the pile on her desk she’s sorting through.

“Right,” Sungjong answers from his position on her bed, back against the wall. “I have too many things I need to accomplish. I can’t afford to get sidetracked.”

Amber has evidently decided the shirt is too smelly to wear again without washing, because she balls it up and free-throws it into the laundry basket on the other side of the room by Jinri’s bed. “Do you have any reason to think she’s super high-maintenance or something?”

“No,” Sungjong answers slowly, eyebrows furrowing. If there’s any impression he’s gotten from Minha, it’s that she can take care of herself. That’s probably why he’s so drawn to her. He doesn’t know many people who are as self-contained as he is.

“Well, have you talked to her about what she wants in a relationship?”


Amber scores another basket, this time with a pair of rolled-up socks. “Then how can you know what it would be like to be with her? Maybe it would be like with Bora. That worked out all right for you.”

“It wouldn’t be like with Bora,” Sungjong answers automatically, and when Amber cocks an eyebrow and plops down in her desk chair with an expectant look, he sighs and looks down at his hands. “With Bora, I knew from the beginning that I liked her but I probably wasn’t ever going to fall in love with her. Which is exactly why it worked.”

“But you think you’d fall in love with swim team goddess?”

Sungjong has always rolled his eyes at that nickname for the swim team girls, but he has to admit that when he thinks of Minha’s pale shoulders rising above the water, hair wet and flowing like seaweed around her and water droplets sparkling in her eyelashes, it seems really fitting. He is so fucked. “I don’t know,” he says, hollow, but it’s a lie, and Sungjong is not one to lie to anyone, especially not Amber. Especially not himself. “Yes. I probably would.”

Amber nods, giving him a sympathetic look. “Okay. I get that. But you still don’t know what she’d be like in a relationship. Even if you two were in love. I don’t really know her, but I don’t feel like she’s the type who’d get all clingy even if she were in love.”

“I know, noona.” It’s true. It’s definitely true. But Sungjong is still looking at his hands.

“Wait. So if you know that, is this really about you being, like, afraid of falling in love? ‘Cause, shit, Jjong, I didn’t think you were afraid of anything.”

“I’m not afraid,” Sungjong answers sharply, then melts when Amber gives him an unimpressed look. “I’m not. I’m just...I haven’t ever been before. I don’t know how it will change me. I know who I am now and how to go about getting what I want. I don’t know who I’d be if I love.”

Amber teases him a lot, but she also knows how to be serious and when he needs her to be. “Not everybody changes a lot when they’re in love.”

Sungjong thinks about Myungsoo and Sungyeol, about Sunggyu and Woohyun and Dongwoo, and snorts. “Could have fooled me.”

“Look at Sungyoung and Jinki-oppa,” Amber points out. “They’re exactly the way they’ve always been, just together now.”

“They’re disgustingly cute,” he counters.

“Yeah, but they were disgustingly cute before. Now they’re just disgustingly cute together. Or Jia-unnie and whichever of the twins she’s dating. They haven’t changed at all.”

“I think she might be dating both of them. But that’s not the point, noona.”

“Then what is?”

“The point is that this wasn’t part of my plan.”


“I know what I need to do to get to where I want to be after I graduate, and right now I know I can accomplish all of it. It’ll be hard, but it’s doable. But introduce some completely unknown factor into the equation and—”

“Please don’t start talking math. I’ll have to kick you out.”

“It’s just a metaphor, noona.”

“I don't care. I finished my math gen ed requirement my first semester just so that I wouldn’t ever have to think about math again. So keep your math metaphors to yourself.”

“Fine. No more math metaphors. The point is that I don’t know what a relationship with someone I’m in love with would really be like. I don’t know if I’d be able to balance that and my schoolwork, too. Something would suffer, wouldn’t it? And if it was the relationship, I’d hate myself for hurting her, and if it was my grades or my art or my chances at internships, I’d resent her for that and hate myself even more.”

“Hate yourself? Lee Sungjong?” Amber’s got a huge grin on her face now. “Fuck, this is more serious than I thought.”

Sungjong rolls his eyes. “I told you I was fucked.”

That teasing light is still in Amber’s eyes, but she sobers as she swipes her bangs out of her face. “Look. You’ll never know till you give it a try, right? Or at least talk to her about what she wants and where it might be going? It isn’t like you to torture yourself over this when you could actually do something. So do something. Talk to her. Kiss her. Something. Just stop sitting around on your impressive ass and actually do something. You know I’m right.”

“Yes, I know.” It’s nothing he hasn’t told himself already, in fact.

“Good, because if you sit for too long on said ass, it might become less impressive, and that could lower your chances with her.” At Sungjong’s skeptical look, she grins widely, holding up her hands in a gesture of innocence. “I swear I saw her checking it out when you were walking across the quad yesterday.”

Sungjong picks up a faded hoodie and hurls it at Amber’s laughing face, but he has to admit that he feels better.

Sungjong really, really intends to talk to Minha about the possibility of a relationship—or at least ask her to get a coffee with him—but when he runs into her in the hallway of the arts building, his fingernails still crusted with yellow paint that he didn’t have time to wash off entirely before he has to hurry to sculpture, he somehow ends up asking her something completely different instead.

“Hi, Sungjong-ssi,” she says, and he likes the way his name sounds when her voice is speaking it. A little too much.

“Hello, sunbae. I haven’t seen you in here before.” Like he keeps track of everyone who walks through the building. It’s a stupid thing to say, but the way her face breaks out into a grin makes him forget all about that.

“Yeah, I just dropped into the drama department and asked them for some information.”

“You’re doing it then? Changing majors?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Her eyes are shining with excitement, and Sungjong could stare at her forever. “Like you said, the point of studying it is to get better, right? I can only improve!”

Sungjong has a lot of things he wants to say, but sculpture class starts in three minutes and it’s on the other end of the building. Still, he can’t help but smiling back—his real smile, the one that makes his hyungs squeeze his cheeks and coo about how cute their little Jjongie is no matter how much he glares at them and threatens their lives afterwards. “That’s great. I’m happy for you.”

She’s still beaming at him, long arms wrapped tight around the binders she’s clutching to her chest. “I guess I’ll be spending more time in this building, then. And we’ll see each other more.”

That’s flirting, right? Isn’t that flirting? Sungjong has never in his life had trouble discerning whether there was flirtatious intent behind someone’s words, but somehow Minha’s elegance dismantles his flirtation-radar and he honestly can’t tell if she’s just being friendly or not. The thought burrows into his mind with an edge of panic, and maybe that’s why he finds himself saying, “Would you mind letting me draw you?” instead of goodbye.

Minha’s eyes go wide as they blink at him, her smile gone now, and Sungjong gropes for some explanation. “I’ve been thinking about what you said—about seeing people so often that you don’t even really see them anymore. So I thought it would be better to pick someone I don’t know that well.” And then I’d have an excuse to stare at your face and spend time with you and I am so fucked.

Again, Sungjong can’t really read her face or her tone when she answers—she doesn’t seem reluctant, but she doesn’t sound enthusiastic, either. “I’m not sure I’d be good at being that kind of a model. Hyemi says I’m not very expressive.”

Maybe Sungjong should take that as a no and walk away, but just as he’d known she’d meant it when she told him she wasn’t a good actor, he thinks now that she really isn’t sure about whether she’d be good at this. Maybe it’s just an excuse to get out of it, but maybe she really just doesn’t think she’d be a good subject. “That doesn’t matter—that can be better, really. It’s easy to draw, like, Dongwoo-hyung—everything he feels is already right there on his face. It’s fun to draw him, but not really a challenge. With someone more—” He tries to think of a word that won’t make him sound like an asshole. Cold? Aloof? But neither of those are right at all, though he’s sure she’s been accused of both before. He isn’t thrilled with the word he settles on, but it won’t be till he’s walking away from her that he figures out what the right word really is, and even if he’d thought of it in the moment, he could hardly have told her she was regal without sounding like Woohyun-hyung. “—dignified, it’s harder to capture emotions, but it’s more impressive when you can do it.”

She looks at him for a moment, then dips her head in a nod. “Okay. That would be fun. When do you want to meet up?”

“I work in the bookstore on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, but other than that, my schedule is flexible.” He does have several things planned with various friends, but since he’s not a flake, no one will mind if he has to shuffle something around this once.

“Okay. How about tonight? I’ll be practicing till 8, but after that I should be free. You can come meet me by the pool.”

“That works for me. Thank you, sunbae.”

“Oh, you don’t have to call me that. You can call me noona. See you tonight, Sungjong.” And before Sungjong can even react, he’s watching her long hair swish as she walks away from him and hoping that asking her to model for him wasn’t one of the stupidest decisions he’s ever made.


Eunji looks up from her textbook and blinks. The two guys standing in front of her bench are very handsome, in totally different ways, but the way they’re smiling at her, all teeth—or, in one of their cases, gums—and over the top, would be enough to terrify anyone. But Eunji’s always been brave, so she just smiles back and sets her highlighter down in the crease of her book. “Hello,” she answers cheerfully.

“You’re Eunji, right?” the shorter one with the pointy nose asks. “The one who works at the concessions stand?”

“That’s me.”

The two guys exchange a look and then, without invitation, sit down on either side of her. There’s enough room for them on the bench, but they’re sitting a little close and she doesn’t even know them. “What’s this?” she asks, trying not to laugh.

“You’re a hard woman to find,” Pointy-Nose says. “We had a couple of mishaps before we located you.”

“Yeah, the registrar was very clear that there was only one Eunji registered as an undergrad,” Gummy-Smile clarifies. “And you are definitely not her.”

“Oh, yeah, Eunji’s not my real name—it’s Hyerim. Did you think Park Eunji was me? That happens a lot—she gets my mail and stuff. Thankfully she’s nice.”

“Nice. Right,” Gums mutters. “A harridan for a girlfriend and my bank account almost got wiped out for her. Very nice.”

Eunji has no idea what that means, but Hyuna’s always been a sweetheart, so she’s about to chide Gums for saying she was a harridan, but Nose distracts her. “Hyerim doesn’t sound anything like Eunji. How’d you get that nickname?”

“There were four Heyrims in my elementary school,” she explains. She’s explained it a million times before, but she doesn’t really mind. “I got tired of always being called by my full name—that’s what my mom uses when I’m in trouble, you know?—so I just picked a name I liked and started going by that. I got more used to it than my real name after a while,” she adds with a laugh.

“Fascinating,” Nose says, and Eunji can’t tell if he really means it or not. “Tell me this, Eunji-whose-name-is-really-Hyerim. Do you know a person named Lee Howon?”

The name sounds vaguely familiar, but Eunji can’t place it. “I don’t think so?”

“About yay tall, menacing eyebrows, on the soccer team, likes to buy unnecessary bottles of water from you?”

“Who, Number Seven? I thought his name was Hoya,” Eunji says, confused, and then immediately remembers that she isn’t supposed to know that—he’s never told her his name, and the only reason she knows it is from hearing the other guys shout it out when he’s running down the field. In those soccer shorts. That show off his thighs. That are really, really nicely formed.

“Like you, our Howon chooses to confuse the whole world by going by a name that isn’t his own,” Nose says. “But you do know who we’re talking about. Good. That makes this easier. Now—”

“I am going to murder you two!” The voice that cuts in belongs to a tallish guy who’s now looming above them. He’s extremely beautiful, but his face is twisted in fury as he reaches out and grabs Gums and Nose by their arms and hauls them away from Eunji’s bench—he doesn’t look like he’d be strong enough for that, but apparently he is. Maybe his rage is fueling him. “I am going to flay you alive—slowly and with a rusty butter knife—and then drop you into a vat of lemon juice and leave you there until you pickle and then chop you up into little tiny pieces and set those pieces on fire and then turn the ashes into a diamond and use it to deface your tombstones and any other record of you so that no one will know you ever existed. I will eradicate your memory from the face of this earth.”

“Wow,” Eunji says, because that’s quite a threat. Even Naeun would be impressed.

“Now Sungjongie, is that any way to talk to your hyungs?” Nose shakes his head sadly and glances down at Eunji. “Kids these days.”

“Hyungs my ass. I’ve known three-year-olds with more maturity and impulse control than you two! I told you not to do this again! I told you to mind your own business! And now you’re torturing another girl?”

“We’re not—” Gums starts to protest, looking very indignant, but Beautiful Angry Boy ignores him, using visible effort to calm his voice as he addresses Eunji. “I am so sorry these two were bothering you.”

“We weren’t bother—” Gums tries again, but once again Beautiful Angry Boy ignores him.

“It will not happen again, I can promise you that.”

“We didn’t—”

“If it’s the last thing I do, I will make sure they learn that they can’t harass people.”

“We weren’t harassing her, we were asking her out for Hoya!”

Eunji is pretty sure that she and Beautiful Angry Boy have the exact same looks on their face as they gape at Gums.

Gums rolls his eyes and jerks his arm out of Beautiful No-Longer-Angry Boy’s grip. “We were asking her out to make up for the thing with the other Eunji. We were trying to make amends!”

Beautiful Boy looks like his anger is going to burst out again, but Nose uses his distraction to extricate his own arm and sits back down beside Eunji on the bench.

“I apologize for our dongsaeng making such a fuss, Eunji-ssi. He has misunderstood our motives and wronged us by leaping to conclusions.” Beautiful Boy makes a furious noise that’s actually more than a little terrifying but Nose keeps talking. “We’re trying to do our poor friend a favor. Lee Howon is, unfortunately, a loser who neither knows how to dress nor how to ask a beautiful lady such as yourself on a date. He does, however, have various other characteristics that might possibly make up for that deficiency. He is from Busan, which your dialect tells me is your place of origin as well, so you have that in common. We have thankfully managed to break him of the habit of using obnoxious and unnecessary English words like he thinks he’s a gangster, so you will not have to suffer through that. His grades are good enough to impress the most discerning parents, and with his sterling work ethic, I have no doubts he will be successful in whatever post-collegiate venture he chooses to pursue. He is both an excellent athlete and a superior dancer, so I can only presume that that degree of kinesthetic control will translate into talents in bed—”

“Hyung!” Beautiful Boy really does look like he’s about to start flaying Nose alive right here in the middle of the quad, possibly with his fingernails if he can't find a butter knife quickly enough, but Gums is beaming and flaps a hand to shush him.

“—and we work out together,” Nose continues, “so I know what said body looks like, and trust me, you will not be disappointed in its aesthetic qualities.”

Eunji’s mind is kind of whirling, but it manages to settle long enough for the picture of Hoya’s legs in those soccer shorts to make her mentally agree that, no, she probably would not be disappointed by the rest of Hoya’s body.

“So—” Nose spreads his hands wide. “What do you say to a coffee rendezvous with him? Perhaps tomorrow evening?”

“At the coffee shop on Sixth, not the one here on campus.” When Eunji looks blankly at him, Gums grins. “The coffee there is far superior. Trust me. I’m an expert.”

“I really am going to kill both of you,” Beautiful hisses, apparently not impressed by the coffee aficionado.

But Gums and Nose aren’t paying him any attention, are instead staring at Eunji with such pleading eyes that they might as well have their hands clasped under their chins. Eunji looks from one to the other as she mentally scrolls through everything that’s been said since that first hello. And then she stands up, stuffs her textbook into her bag, and swings it onto her shoulder.

“You’re quite the salesman,” she says, patting Nose on the shoulder. “But I think you two should mind your own business, don’t you? I have no idea what happened to make your friend so angry with you, but it seems to be about sticking your nose in Hoya’s business, so why don’t you learn from whatever mistake you made and not intrude anymore, okay?”

By the time she finishes, Gum’s eyes are so wide they’re swallowing up his face and Nose looks completely gobsmacked, like something he’d previously thought impossible is happening in front of him. Eunji bids all three of them a cheerful goodbye and laughs to herself as she heads for the languages building. She barely makes it halfway there, however, when Beautiful’s voice stops her.


When Eunji turns to look at him, he looks less angry and a lot more panicked. He bobs a bow to her, then hurries into his words. “Hoya-hyung didn’t have anything to do with those two just now, I promise you. He would have been horrified if he’d known. Please don’t hold it against him.”

Eunji gives him a grin. “Oh, I don’t. But I put together enough of what was going on to know that if they got what they wanted, they’d only keep getting involved in things they shouldn’t. It was good for them to be rejected, right?”

Beautiful’s panic has morphed to something calculating, maybe even impressed. “Yes…?”

“Besides, I prefer if the people involved in the actual date are the ones who do the asking, don’t you?”

“It might be a while before Hoya-hyung gets up the courage to do it, though,” Beautiful warns.

“That’s okay. I’m not one to wait around myself.” And then she smiles goodbye and goes to her journalism ethics class, the thought of Seven’s legs in his soccer shorts keeping her company.

(Later at dinner with Taemin and Naeun, when Eunji tells Key about the encounter in the quad, he laughs so hard he falls off his seat. And then gleefully informs Eunji that Nose is his best friend. Eunji is somehow not surprised.)

The light of the sunset is streaming through the windows and dying the water of the pool orange when Sungjong reaches it. He’d half expected the pool to be full of the swim team goddesses, but instead all he sees is one long white arm and then another lift gracefully out of the water as Minha does the backstroke down the length of the pool, her face paler than ever under her white cap and her black goggles. She does a turn when she reaches the end of the pool where Sungjong is standing, and he sees her eyes flick over to him; she knows he’s there. But she does three more lengths of the pool, eyes focused on the serpentine reflections of the water on the ceiling high above, before she stops not far from him, treading water and pulling off her goggles. “Hi,” she says, barely sounding out of breath.

“Hi.” Sungjong is used to feeling confident no matter where he is, but he feels a little awkward standing next to the pool and looking down at her. She looks so comfortable in the water.

“Let me run and change clothes and then we can get started, okay?”

“Actually—” Sungjong starts, stops, mentally gives a prayer of thanks that she won’t be able to see his flush in this light. “Would it be okay if you stayed in the water?” Her eyebrows go up, and he hurries to clarify. “You look very at peace when you’re swimming. It would be a challenge to capture that.”

“If I keep swimming, you won’t be able to get a good look at my face. Isn’t this a facial drawing project?”

“Yes, but—”

“How about this?” She tosses her goggles up to the side of the pool, gestures him closer. He crouches down at the edge of the pool as she moves closer to him, pulling off her cap and tossing it after her goggles. Then she removes her hair elastic, her long hair falling out of its bun and down into the water. “Wait a sec.” She ducks under, and when she emerges, water streaming down her face, her hair does look like seaweed hanging around her shoulders, just like he’d imagined it would. Sungjong stares, mesmerized, as she rolls onto her back and floats there very close to the wall, her hair spreading out around her. If he tipped forward, leaned down, he could kiss her. She looks like a mermaid.

“Is this okay?”

“It’s perfect,” Sungjong says, sitting down on the concrete and unzipping his bag and pulling out his sketchbook. “Can you stay like that for a while, noona?” He hopes his voice doesn't sound as self-conscious as he feels calling her that. But she'd told him he could.

“For hours,” she answers. “Take all the time you need. What kind of expression do you want me to make?”

Sungjong brushes a clean page of paper flat, picks up his pencil. “What you looked like when you were swimming—can you do that again?”


And she does. For thirty minutes, Minha floats in the water, staring up at the ceiling with an expression Sungjong can only describe as peaceful. She seems as comfortable lying in the water as Sungjong does lying on his bed, and her quiet breathing and the slap of the little waves against the walls of the pool and the scratch of Sungjong’s pencil make for a lulling backdrop. It feels awkward at first, staring down at her while she doesn’t look at him, but it doesn’t take long for him to sink into the moment, and it becomes as natural as it does when he’s drawing Howon or Amber. Except that he feels like he’s seeing Minha in ways he doesn’t normally look at people: seeing all the little details of her face, all the nuances of expression that are unique to her. He tries to capture the way the dying light falls on her face like a caress, the brightness of her eyes, the dark cloud of her hair. By the time the sun sets and only the ceiling lights are lighting the room, he’s got the beginnings of a good drawing. A very good drawing.

He stops, flexing his hand, and Minha’s eyes flicker over to him, taking his shifting as a sign that he’s done. She moves out of her float, going back to treading water. “Can I see?” she asks, closing the last little distance between her and the wall and resting her crossed arms on the concrete beside him.

“One more time like this and I should get it finished,” Sungjong says hesitating only for a moment before holding up the sketchpad. Minha’s eyes are thoughtful like they were a few nights before at dinner as she looks it. And then she smiles as she raises her eyes to his.

“You flatter me.”

“I really don’t,” Sungjong answers automatically, and it would be a greasy thing to say, a line stolen from Woohyun-hyung, except that his voice is quiet and low and completely sincere.

He can feel her eyes still on him as he closes the sketchpad, tucks it into his bag, and zips it closed. When he sets the bag to the side and turns back to Minha, she’s still watching him with the same look she turns on his art. He finds he’s holding his breath as he looks down at her.

“Lee Sungjong, you’re single, right?” she asks, the corner of her mouth lifting in a way that makes his heart pound.

“Yes,” he says.

And then she reaches out and takes him firmly by the front of his shirt and pulls his head down to meet hers, and kisses him like a mermaid kisses a sailor. Mermaids always drown their lovers, he thinks distantly with the part of his mind that isn’t completely captured by the feel of her lips against his. Even if they don’t mean to, they end up drowning them anyway.

But as Minha’s tongue presses against the seam of his lips and she breathes into his mouth, he thinks he really doesn’t care.

Hoya almost doesn’t head over to the concession stand when the whistle blows. He wants to see Eunji, of course, but what if Key’s there again? Besides, he’s feeling a little sorry for himself: Sungjong had floated into their apartment last night with a look on his face that left no doubt in Hoya’s mind that things were going well with Minha. But Hoya knows things aren’t as likely to go well with Eunji—he hasn’t yet worked up the courage to ask her out, and it will be some time before he battles back the voice that keeps saying, It’ll be out of nowhere and she’ll think you’re weird. Some strange guy she doesn’t even know asking her out. She’ll say no.

But his alarm hadn’t gone off this morning, so of course he slept right through his first class, and Woohyun and Sungyeol were acting suspiciously innocent and kind to him at lunch (he’s pretty sure Sungjong knows why they’re acting that way, but he refuses to tell Hoya, just reassures him that I’m taking care of it, hyung), and he’d gotten a lower grade on his comparative politics paper than he was hoping for. It’s been a hell of a day, and he might as well treat himself to the sight of Eunji’s smile to make sure it’s not a total waste.

Key is not there when Hoya approaches the stand, and Eunji’s head is bent over her notebook in her lap. But she looks up when he reaches the counter and smiles at him—yeah, just that smile makes this day a thousand times better: he is so pathetically gone—and reaches automatically for his water. Hoya’s too tired to say anything, so he just digs around in his wallet for change and murmurs a thank you as he takes the bottle.

“Your name’s Lee Howon, but they call you Hoya?”

He’s so caught up in the sound of her dialect that it takes him a moment to realize she just said his name—both of his names. That she knows his names. “Uh, yeah,” he answers, staring at her. Her grin broadens.

“And you already know my name is Hyerim but I go by Eunji, right?”

He nods dumbly, the label of the water bottle damp against his palm. Maybe he should deny it, but he's too gobsmacked to muster up the acting skills to pull it off.

“Do you want to get coffee sometime, Lee-Howon-who-goes-by-Hoya?”

He can feel his eyes going wide in what Sungjong calls his Hoaegi face and he barely manages to choke out a yes before she’s laughing and leaning towards him. “You could have asked me the very first day. I didn’t know you liked me, but if you’d asked me, I would have said yes.”

And yet Hoya can’t even bring himself to care about the time he’s wasted, not when Eunji grabs his hand in hers and writes her phone number on his skin in purple ink and tells him she’s free tomorrow night.

Hoya's barely stumbled into the apartment when Sungjong pops up off the couch and demands, "So? How was your date?"

Hoya still hasn't recovered sufficiently to actually answer, so he just shakes his head and tries to communicate through his eyes.

Sungjong grins wide, eyes sparkling. "That good, huh? She let you kiss her?"

"She grabbed me!" The words burst their way out, and Sungjong starts laughing so hard his face crumples up.

"Really, hyung? And it was that good?"

Hoya is quite sure he's never going to be able to put into words how it felt when he was hesitating outside the door to Eunji's dorm and all of a sudden she'd said, I guess I have to make all the first moves, don't I? and grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him in for a kiss. A really, really fantastic kiss, even if it was way too short for Hoya's taste. But it was a first date. And she's said she definitely wants to get together again. There will be other kisses in the future—longer ones. He can't wait.

He also can't bring himself to tell Sungjong that after she'd pulled back and before she'd winked at him and headed inside, she'd grinned and smacked his ass. Tell your salesman friend with the pointy nose that I'm sure I won't be disappointed at all, she'd said, and Hoya had been so shocked at the ass-slapping that he almost hadn't heard what she said. He's pretty sure he's only got one friend who answers to that description, and if he weren't still in a state of euphoria over how well their date had gone and how amazing the kiss was, he'd probably be terrified that Eunji seems to already be acquainted with Woohyun.

But right now he's too happy to worry about that. And he has questions of his own. "And yours? How was it?"

"She decided we needed to go swimming," Sungjong says, and oh, yeah, now Hoya notices his hair is wet. "I swear she's half mermaid, it's like she wants to be in the water all the time." But he's grinning his crinkly-cheeked grin.

"Please tell me you had water fights and chased her around the pool and she actually let you catch her even though there's no way in hell you swim even half as fast as she does."

The line of Sungjong's catfish smile tells Hoya just how pleased he is with himself. "Maybe that's what happened."

"You two probably made out in the water, too, didn't you?" It's actually a really hot picture, the two of them wet and gorgeous and all tangled up together holding onto the rails of the ladder.

Sungjong just shrugs, but he's still got that smug look on his face. "Water is her natural habitat."

"So neither of you are human, then. Well, I guess it's good you found each other." He sobers, though, because he has something serious to ask. "Does that mean you're feeling better about giving it a chance? I know you were worrying about how dating seriously would affect your plans."

Sungjong shrugs. "I've done the impossible more than once before. I'll make it work."

Hoya has no doubts about that at all. "And the Sungjong who's in love, you're okay with becoming him?"

Sungjong tilts his head thoughtfully, but his eyes are very bright. "I think I'll like him okay."

"Well, I know I haven't had a chance to get to know him all that well yet, but for what it's worth, he seems even better than not-in-love Sungjong to me." Hoya's feeling so great he can't keep himself from saying it.

Though of course it makes Sungjong roll his eyes. "Hyung, you are such a greaseball sometimes. You've been spending too much time with—Oh! I almost forgot! Put your shoes back on!"

"Why? Where are we going?" Hoya asks as Sungjong sprints by him and starts to put on his own shoes, but he's already obeying Sungjong's order.

"Over to Sunggyu-hyung's. Sungyeol should be about to head over there right now. And we don't want to miss this."

Hoya feels his canine-baring grin spreading across his face. "Don't tell me—you finally figured out a suitable punishment for the trouble maker couple?"

"They will never invade your business again," Sungjong swears, opening the front door and gesturing Hoya out.

"I can't imagine a punishment that good."

"But my imagination has no such limitations, hyung. This will definitely teach them their lesson."

"Will they be angry?"

"Furious. Angrier than Woohyun-hyung was when he found out I still have his toaster. But they'll never mess with us again. I'm positive."

"Oh, I believe you. I always knew you weren't fully human. I'm not surprised to find out you're a demi-god or whatever. Those two should have known better than to mess with you."

When Dongwoo opens the door to hyung-line's apartment, Woohyun and Sungyeol are already screaming.



(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]






(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]


(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]


“Her friend Naeun is dating Taemin.”

I feared a breakup at first before remembering that Key's eyes are sharp around anything but himself

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

In this 'verse, Key and Taemin are pretty married, but Taemin and Naeun are pretty married too. Taemin just worships both of them.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
nah let him pine until he dies

(also there goes that wip)
Edited Date: 2014-05-12 09:24 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
toaster 'verse is the happiest verse in the universe


(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It is happy, isn't it? I'M GLAD IT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

I actually don't think he's pansexual in real life, but I like it when he is in fic because it makes so much sense. Like, if the world was a sense-making place, he would be!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-12 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]


(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-13 12:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-13 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
He is both an excellent athlete and a superior dancer, so I can only presume that that degree of kinesthetic control will translate into talents in bed—”

1) I agree a lot with this



The gifs are killing me. Hoya's facial expressions are some of my faves out there lol.

"Tell your salesman friend with the pointy nose that I'm sure I won't be disappointed at all"

Seriously, I want to be friends with Eun Ji (at least, yours) because we'd get alogn so well and I hope she'd help me be more like this with people I like (cause I am only this kind of person with everyone else and that sucks. I want to smack Hoya's ass too -with permission- :D).

I think I love everything about this. EVERYTHING. /hearts

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-21 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am so so happy you liked it! And Eunji is the most fun ever to write, and I want to be friends with her too! Someone who's that fun and upbeat but doesn't take anyone's shit? Everything I want to be.

Thank you thank you for telling me what you liked!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-22 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ex_sparksfly744
omg i'm reading this at work and i have to keep telling myself not to grin like an idiot but i can't help myself. i really love the toaster 'verse, and i never thought this would be my favourite because i loved contortion and modern dance, but THIS IS MY FAVOURITE. you're amazing, you are a writing goddess (not that this revelation is new to me) and you and 9muses can be goddesses together.

Woohyun's salesman talk to Eunji was utter perfection. i would quote my favourite parts, but that's all of it. and Sungjong's death threat - A++++++. and i cackle at how Eunji and Minha had to make the first moves (you go girls!) because of course the boys don't have enough nerve for that.

AND I LOVE THE USE OF THE GIFS. i really hope this universe won't come to an end *fingers crossed* thank you for all these jewels. i love your writing so much.

i really want to know what Sungjong's punishment was...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-22 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hahaha, thank you so very much! I'm absolutely thrilled that you love it! Thank you so much for letting me know what you enjoyed!

As for Sungjong's punishment, I know I'm not smart enough to come up with something our future overlord could come up with, so I deliberately didn't try. I'm just not as smart as him!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-24 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I stayed up late to read this and almost gave up finishing tonight cos my eyes are almost closing on their own lol but it was just too good and I had to read to the end. Such a great story!!! I adore your characterisation and how the friends all connect to each other. The way you progressed from scene to scene was really nicely done and gave the story a lovely pace that never felt too slow or too fast, and so many of the moments came to life in my imagination by the way you painted those pictures! I was even feeling the chemistry between the couples with little tingles when they shared precious moments. Truly great and well worth staying up late for! ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-28 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Aw, what a lovely comment! I'm so glad it was worth staying up for and that you enjoyed it! Thank you so very much for your kind words! (And I hope you've caught up on your sleep since then!)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-19 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How have I never commented after reading this AU...

It's all fabulous

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