After a long, successful run, Infinite disbands. Sunggyu does, much to Sungyeol's chagrin, remember to thank everyone ever involved in any of their successes during the two hour press conference. Myungsoo kicks Sungyeol under the table and tells him that it serves him right for squandering away his money in betting pools.
Myungsoo is probably too drunk to remember, but it’s his brilliant idea for everyone to place a bet on tomorrow’s press conference. Sungjong, Woohyun and Dongwoo all vote for Sunggyu coming up with a laundry list of everyone who has helped them until now. Sungyeol votes against it for the simple reason that having no one to bet against is plain useless, and because he believes that Sunggyu has the memory of a 70-year-old woman. Hoya abstains, drowning in a fit of laughter, and, when Myungsoo approaches him five minutes after and when everyone has conveniently fallen asleep on the carpet, he has to ask Myungsoo to repeat what he has just said.
"I said your bet’s probably on Dongwoo hyung. Whatever he chooses, I mean."
Hoya lets out a small sound of approval, then sinks in his seat. There’s a whirl in his head and his stomach and everywhere else in his body. I’m too drunk for this, he thinks, and closes his eyes, letting a wave of exhaustion overcome him.
The following day, the announcement is made: Infinite is disbanding, and Sungyeol loses the bet.
Woohyun and Dongwoo exchange triumphant smiles and high-fives under the table, while Sungjong bites his lower lip, the curve of his lips a mix of anxiety and relief. Myungsoo kicks Sungyeol and whispers, "Serves you right," then looks to his side.
"So," Myungsoo begins, voice low and hushed. "The second part of the bet—"
"I am not doing that."
It's the last Hoya hears from Myungsoo, even after the press conference is over, even after they've packed their bags and have prepared to leave their dorm of so many years. Before they part ways, though, Myungsoo gives Hoya a pat of the back and a quick hug. "The offer still stands," Myungsoo whispers, and Hoya's breathing hitches.
Hoya nods to himself, and waves Myungsoo goodbye. Myungsoo is the first to be recruited into Infinite and the first to leave the dorm.
There are many ways that Hoya and Dongwoo could have had their happy ending.
Hoya comes up with a number of scenarios while watching each and every one of them leave. Dongwoo can get hitched with Ahra the soonest they can, or maybe that other girl — Nayoung, was that her name? Hoya can stop all those from happening by gatecrashing the wedding or by walking up to Dongwoo to say, "You're making the worst decision in your entire life."
They're the last ones left in the dorm. It's the perfect time for a confession.
A. Dongwoo's slated to leave tomorrow, at half past one in the afternoon. Hoya's leaving at two. They've ordered Chinese food for lunch. "Our last lunch together," Dongwoo reminds him, and punctuates the sentence with a chuckle. "Not that we've had many to begin with."
They're cramped in the small table and their knees almost touch. Hoya laughs and says, "Ah, yeah," not, "We can start having more."
Dongwoo leaves on schedule. Hoya stays a while longer. He admits to being bitten by the nostalgia bug everytime someone asks, but he'll never tell anyone that he spent the extra thirty minutes wondering why he let Dongwoo leave without putting up a fight. He fishes for his phone and types, "I lost," and sends it to Myungsoo. Myungsoo replies, "You've got 8 more lives. Continue?"
"Funny. Really funny. Yeah, I'll move on."
"Sounds great. Get ready for the next round. Fight!"
At the end of his military service, Dongwoo tells him he's proposed to Ahra. Two years after, he returns the favor and even makes Dongwoo his best man. Not too long after that, both couples have kids who pretty much follow their fathers' footsteps. Dongwoo visits Hoya from time to time to ask for knitting lessons, and, whenever he does, Hoya makes sure to hide the pill case that holds the answers to all the minor (possibly major; he can never tell) health scares he's been having. Hoya almost gives up on the possibility of Dongwoo coming up with a perfectly knitted pair of mittens, but Dongwoo blows him away one day, mittens in one hand and a thumbs up on the other.
Dongwoo gives the mittens to Ahra. Hoya takes a picture of the couple and the mittens. It's a wonderful picture, he thinks, and Ahra has never looked prettier in her entire life.
Life goes on. This is the end of the story.
B. They vacate the house at the same time. There are no goodbyes, only lopsided smiles and pats on the back. Hoya doesn't hear from or anything about Dongwoo for the next twenty seven years, until news gets out that "Choreographer and retired singer Jang Dongwoo is getting married to Lee Nayoung".
Retired singer is the perfect description. They should've included, "retired friend."
None of them get invited to the wedding. Hoya waits until the very last minute for an invitation, but to no avail. He sits in front of his laptop with a mug half-filled with coffee while reading the latest news on Yahoo and going through the wedding pictures. It's simple, nothing really flamboyant — just the way Dongwoo has always wanted it.
Hoya takes a sip and closes the tab. He moves on to Gmail and goes through the many unread messages. There are more important things to do.
Hoya gets married to a dancer three years his junior. They have three kids. His eldest has just graduated with Latin honors, while the other two — his twins — are on their second year in university. Life goes on. This is the end of the story.
C. Dongwoo's official announcement comes out earlier than expected — he's getting engaged to Cho Ahra, his girlfriend of three years. The reporters ask, "How did you propose to her?", "How did everything happen?", "How did you two even meet?" Dongwoo tells them about Hoya's crazy idea of having him dress in drag whenever he and Ahra go out just so people wouldn't flock them the first chance they got.
Hoya sits back and watches the interview from his house. He laughs at Dongwoo when the latter talks about wearing nail polish for the first time. "I can't believe they never noticed," he mumbles. Dongwoo was horrible as a woman.
Dongwoo calls him once the interview is over. "Yes, I watched, and no, that idea wasn't crazy, and yes, thank you for publicly acknowledging my talent."
"You're amazing, you know. Thanks for everything, really."
"So are you. And really, no prob."
Dongwoo puts the engagement party on hold until Hoya finishes his military service. He introduces Hoya as Lee Howon, his best man, and Hoya quickly grabs the drink threatening to fall from Dongwoo's grasp and says, "Yes. Yes, of course, I'll do it." His hands are shaking and his breathing is hitched, especially when Dongwoo puts an arm around his shoulder lazily and slurs a thousand drunken words in his ear, all saying how amazing he is and that he's the best friend anyone can ever have and thank you thank you thank you.
The same night, he meets a girl on the front desk who offers him a toothbrush and a sad smile. Later that night, she gives him her name. He asks for her number and things kick off from there. She's nice and sweet and listens to him rave about Dongwoo and his lack of tact when it comes to asking him to be his best man. The girl just nods and sighs.
The wedding comes and goes. Hoya does become the best man at the wedding. The girl he's met years back turn out to be the perfect wife. Things unfold as in A.
D. Dongwoo's been off his game for days, but Hoya's not exactly the type to probe even at a time like this, with Dongwoo sprawled across his bed and possibly too drunk to lie about how hideous his red socks are.
"You okay?" Hoya asks. His fingers linger on the small of Dongwoo's back almost hesitantly. Dongwoo's breathing is slow and even and his lips seem to offer answers, but Hoya pushes the thought to the very back of his mind. This is a risk he can't take.
"I'll be better." A sharp intake of breath, then, "I found out that she's married, that girl from middle school."
Hoya lets out the air in his lungs all at once, and in a moment of breath Dongwoo is a bit too close for comfort. "Shit," he begins, then rushes, "Well, that's just bullshit." Dongwoo chuckles a little, and falls unceremoniously into the pile of pillows nearby. Hoya checks for any bumps.
Dongwoo falls asleep, and Hoya watches him the entire time, fists clenched and lips tightly pursed.
They come close to something like this for a second time, except Dongwoo is drunk more than ever and he's just a touch, a decision away. "I'm drunk," Hoya quickly says when Dongwoo pulls away, and it might as well be true — he's drunk with the desire to hide in his shell and hide his feelings from Dongwoo forever.
Dongwoo leans back against the pillows and nods, then curls back against Hoya. Neither of them broach the subject again. Everything unfolds as in C.
E. The day before they debut, Hoya breaks up with his girlfriend.
It's just fitting, he thinks — he won't have time for her and she probably won't understand and they'll have fights brought about by miscommunication. That, and he can't possibly tell her that he's been gay all these years and that this is just an experiment. His thoughts abruptly get cut by Dongwoo stumbling into the room, fatigue in the stretch of his body.
"Sunggyu hyung is crazy." He takes a few quick breaths before continuing, "Wants you back in the studio within the hour. Where were you?"
"Cutting off loose ends."
"Oh. But you wanted this."
Hoya shrugs. "Yeah."
"You knew it would happen. You shouldn't have started anything."
Hoya laughs a little. He still hasn't gotten used to Dongwoo's honesty. "I know, genius."
There's a small smile on Dongwoo's lips and an almost apologetic look in his eyes when he says, "Come back to the studio. The choreography doesn't work without you." Dongwoo's hand rests on Hoya's thigh for a while and Hoya holds his breath. Dongwoo does this with all of them, but there's so much more to it, like a longing for a chain of touches and awkward smiles. It shouldn't mean anything, so Hoya just shrugs it off and leaves Dongwoo in the room, excusing himself to report to Sunggyu.
Only months after does he realizes that it's the start of fantasies, all these little, magical scenarios playing and plaguing his mind. He disregards all these in favor of the promise he's made with Dongwoo, one they've sworn to in front of Dongwoo's Gundam memorabilia.
"Best friends. Forever."
Life goes on. Everything unfolds as in A.
F. His father has never been receptive of his desire to dance and eventually become a star, but Hoya auditions for JYP anyway. The long wait is painful and nerve-wracking; his fists have become numb with the excessive clenching.
He splashes water of his face, freshening up for his performance ten minutes from now. It won't be too long before he brings home good news and possibly gets kicked out of the house.
"Same audition group?" Idol Hopeful #979 a.k.a. Dongwoo asks. "And I saw you last week at SM. Making the rounds?"
Hoya makes a non-commital sound and goes back to wiping his face. His phone buzzes in his pocket and he quickly fishes for it, pushes it back in his pocket when the display shows him Appa.
"Your girl friend?"
He looks at Dongwoo, eyes dark and dull. It's too early for them to be talking in such a familiar manner.
"Don't worry, she'll get over it."
He shrugs, and leaves the bathroom as soon as he can. Dongwoo's probably the kind of person who shoves unsolicited advice down people's throats. Hoya thinks he might hate him a little. His name is soon called, and Dongwoo is giving him two thumbs up and a toothy, ugly grin that makes Hoya sick in the stomach. He walks into the audition room, takes a deep breath and says, "I'm gonna beat his sorry ass."
He gets a call from JYP three nights later. His father takes the news rather well and says, "If that's what you want." He gives JYP a return call and he's got a spot as a trainee secured. He never sees Dongwoo in JYP, and, when he passes by SM one Saturday, he swears he catches a glimpse of Dongwoo's toothy grin, the ugly smile that has driven him to do so well during the auditions.
He walks away and pretends he doesn't care. Life goes on. Things unfold as in B.
G. "It is that easy," Dongwoo explains as he forces a grin out of Hoya. He pulls back Hoya's cheeks, and this earns a scowl. "Really, it is!"
Hoya has always believed that Dongwoo had the weirdest smile and gruffiest look and style, but the sudden contact sends a tingle down his toes. He convinces himself that Dongwoo is ugly and he deserves so much better, but everything suddenly clicks — his chest constricts and it feels so much harder to breathe and his stomach is making all these fancy turns and his brain is suddenly so sure that this is love.
"Teach me that," he says. I'm also probably in love with you, he thinks helplessly, bites his tongue when the words come all to easy to him.
There's really nothing to lose.
"Also, I'm probably in love with you."
And it is easy, so easy to let the words come out for a clumsy enunciation, to let all the air filling his lungs out for a well-deserved escape, to feel Dongwoo's muscles tense and watch Dongwoo suddenly become so uneasy, so unsure in his own skin. He prepares for the final blow and starts cracking up a chuckle, maybe a smile, anything that will make this seem like a joke, but Dongwoo takes a step forward and grabs the back of his neck, pulling him in for a kiss. There's an explosion at the back of Hoya's eyelids, like fireworks or something so magical. He feels for the table when Dongwoo pulls away.
"Hoya," Dongwoo says. It's almost as if he's breathing his name. There it is again, the toothy grin, the most awkward and possibly stupidest smile in the world and Hoya just wants to take it and keep it in his memory or maybe kiss it away. He leans in for a second round, their bodies finding a perfect fit.
Later, Hoya will try to put the feeling to words and maybe attempt to write a song about it, but the system of words evades him. He tries for hours on end, the following month, the year after, until he gives up and just settles for a fancy tune Dongwoo hums.
Life goes on. The ending of the story escapes Hoya as much as the words do. He doesn't really mind.