Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: This is how it usually went when Howon was with Sungjong; he brought the refreshments and Sungjong supplied the commentary. AU.
The heat from the paper cups seeped into Howon's hands, even through the thick wool of his fingerless gloves, as he hopped up onto the little entranceway of the shop. He pushed the door open with his shoulder and stepped inside, the bell announcing his arrival.
The shop was empty aside from one person, Howon's friend Sungjong, the shine of his hair illuminated by the artificial brightness that cut out the cold natural lighting from the windows. It was edging on six on a Thursday afternoon, the night before a national public holiday and long weekend. Howon had no classes the following day, and he had thrilling plans to do a whole lot of nothing for the entirety of its duration.
The bell on the door jingled again as he let it slowly drift closed, and Sungjong turned to look over his shoulder from where he was standing, pulling jars of face cream from a cardboard box and stacking them neatly on a glass shelf.
"Oh," he exclaimed, his eyes flicking instantly to the analog clock on the wall, before glancing back at Howon. "You could not have picked a better time, I'm almost done here but I seriously needed a pick-me-up."
Howon strode across the tiny store, handing the cup in his left hand to Sungjong, who took it gratefully. They took sips from their drinks together in silence, the sweet coffees instantly warming their bodies from the mid-winter chill.
Sungjong smiled, his chin hidden by the rim of the cup, and his upper lip painted by a stripe of milky foam, which he licked off happily. Howon pretended not to stare at the way Sungjong's tongue peeked out, briefly, and then disappeared back between his lips.
"I can't tell you how much I needed this," said Sungjong, sighing quietly. He put the cup down on the display table after taking another sip, and leaned back against the wood. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow, it really couldn't come soon enough. I am going to do nothing but sit on my butt all day and it is going to be spectacular."
This is how it usually went when Howon was with Sungjong; he brought the refreshments and Sungjong supplied the commentary. It was a good formula that had been established quite soon after they had become friends, and Howon had always been strangely fond of listening to Sungjong's voice, so it was convenient for him that he happened to hear a lot of it.
"I just have to finish stacking these and then lock up, and we can go," Sungjong said, moving to pick up the box of moisturizers again. Howon nodded, even though Sungjong was back into his work too soon to notice, and he took a look around the little room.
In the two months that his friend had started working at the shop, selling nothing but beauty supplies, Howon had learned more about cosmetics than he had probably learned about anything else within that same amount of time in his life. It wasn't like he cared about these things, there was just nothing else to do when he was waiting around for Sungjong other than to read labels and smell things.
His learning even got to the point where the manager suggested he start working there, after he had come to know the skincare lines like the back of his hand (which now happened to be very smooth and vibrant, after trying all the lotions in stock out of boredom.) The offer had been nice, but Howon figured he'd best let the professionals like Sungjong handle the important work.
But it wasn't so bad, really, and it wasn't like he could complain. It was his choice to be here, more than Sungjong knew. The younger man always thought that Howon was stopping by as the store was on his way back from tutoring sessions. He didn't need to know that there was never a tutor at all, and that Howon only made up the story so that he could have an excuse to spend time with his friend.
Sungjong finished stacking the creams and walked over to the little storage closet to stick the empty box in the trash pile. Howon picked up his coffee and took another sip.
"Hey, the other day you were talking about the new album of that guy you like, remember?" Howon asked, blowing on the hot liquid to try and seem casual, even though the coffee was already sufficiently cooled. Sungjong closed the storage room door after emerging from the room with a coil of keys, locking it behind him.
"Right," he replied. "I was going to stop by the store on the way back home tonight and get it, if it's not too out of your way."
Howon coughed mutedly before reaching into the bag he'd hidden in the folds of his parka. "Well, about that."
Sungjong twirled the key ring around his finger, metal jingling in the quiet space. He pressed his lips together, holding back a smirk. "You are spoiling me," he said, but took the CD that was handed to him anyway, staring at the cover for a moment before looking up at Howon. "First those movie tickets from the other week, and the coffees, and now this. Keep it up and I'm going to start thinking you like me or something."
Howon's cheeks prickled with heat, making him feel as if he'd been standing beside a fire for too long. He put his coffee back down on the table, no longer needing it to warm him up. Sungjong succumbed to his grin and headed for the corner by the register, fishing his bag out from under the counter and then hoisting it up on his shoulder. "I'm ready when you are. Can you grab my drink?"
Howon met Sungjong outside, just as the younger man found the right key on the chain for the front door. He locked up and tested that the door was secure before taking his coffee with a thank-you.
They walked together down the narrow street, always relatively quiet at this time of the afternoon. The festive holiday decorations had finally come down from the store windows, leaving nothing but the usual sort of marketed cheer shining from every entranceway. Small gatherings of people wandered past in each direction, everyone bundled up in their winter scarves and hats.
After a moment, Sungjong glanced over at Howon, a warm little smile on his face. "Thank you for the CD, by the way."
Howon returned the smile, bumping Sungjong's shoulder with his own. "You're welcome." He bit his lip, considering his thoughts, before continuing. "And hey, would it really be so bad?
Puzzled, Sungjong quirked an eyebrow. "Would what be so bad?"
Howon inhaled, slowing his walking to a halt. "If I liked you."
Sungjong stopped walking as well, moving into an alcove to avoid bumping into the people trying to pass by. Howon stepped in beside the younger man, who looked to be mulling something over, but Howon had never been able to guess what Sungjong was thinking.
Sungjong looked up at Howon for a while, and then blinked, slowly beginning to speak. "Wait. So is this why you've been doing all this stuff for me?"
Howon stared down at the pavement, pretending to be fascinated by a thin crack in the concrete. It kind of looked like a figure-eight if observed from an angle. Finally deciding he couldn't put the response off any longer, he shrugged a shoulder detachedly.
"Maybe. Maybe I do like you."
Out of nowhere, Sungjong began laughing. Howon looked up, feeling hurt, but the grip in his chest was loosened when he saw the kind expression Sungjong was wearing, just seconds before the younger man lunged forward to wrap him in a hug. Howon stood for a moment, static, then brought his hands down to encircle Sungjong's tiny waist.
"Woohyun told me you liked me but I thought he was just being a dumbass," Sungjong amiably muttered into Howon's shoulder, before pulling back to look him in the eye. "It wouldn't be the first time, but you grew up with him, so I guess I don't need to tell you that."
Howon blinked. "Sungjong."
"Howon," Sungjong replied, rolling his eyes. "You're really dumb. You didn't have to spoil me to get me to like you. I've liked you ever since we first became friends."
Howon assumed that he probably looked pretty comically relieved by this point. "Really?"
"Yeah. You're quiet and calm, and you're the only one who ever listens to me when I ramble. We make a good pair, and you know you've always been my favorite hyung."
Sungjong waited for a brief second, but he was never the type to really hesitate about anything. He leaned forward to kiss Howon's lips gently, barely more than a second's contact, but Howon had a tenacious feeling that he'd have the time to make up for longer kisses later on.
"Wow," Howon said, tone artificially benign. "A stirring confession for the history books."
Sungjong beamed, that all-teeth grin that was nothing like the handsome smile he usually hid behind. "Thanks. I try." He linked their hands together, palms resting against the wool of Howon's gloves and bare fingers tangling, and pulled them back onto the sidewalk, resuming their former pace.
Howon snuck a glance over at Sungjong as they walked, trying not to smirk hopelessly at the way Sungjong's cheeks were tinted pink. He hummed to himself before speaking.
"Now, I know you just implied that I shouldn't buy you anything else, but would you object to dinner, just this once?"
He took the way Sungjong pulled him into a sandwich shop to stand for a 'no.'