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Fallen Into You

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Bin had been friends with Dongmin since he was thirteen and Dongmin had been kind enough to answer a question for him on an online study forum. Where a bunch of other people had piled on and called Bin an idiot for not understanding what had ended up being a fairly simple math question, Dongmin (username EongDeongMin) had simply provided a step-by-step walkthrough to the correct solution, and he’d wished Bin best of luck on his studies. 

A week later, Bin aced a math test for the first time with the help Dongmin had given him, so he’d tracked down the other boy’s username and sent him a private message on the forum:

Thank you so much for helping out. I aced my math test thanks to you! 

He’d attached a picture of his math test with his beautiful perfect score on top circled in red ink.

The next day, he’d received this reply:

You’re very welcome, DalKong99, but maybe next time don’t share your real name with a stranger over the internet.

Bin had scrambled to check his original message, and sure enough, his real name was visible on the photo of his math test.

He buried his face in his hands, burning with embarrassment. What if EongDeongMin was some kind of weird perv who hung around school forums hoping to flirt with teenagers?

But then he noticed that the message was signed, EongDeongMin (Lee Dongmin) , and he realized that his new internet friend had granted him a measure of trust that he’d unwittingly handed out first.

After that, they became friends. Mostly Dongmin helped Bin with academic questions — they chatted in their private messages instead of on the forums where other people could be mean and make fun of Bin for not being as smart as Dongmin — and Bin listened to Dongmin vent about his annoying little brother, and how stressed out he was at school and with hagwon, and the pressures of being the oldest son.

Where Bin was also the oldest son and only had a little sister, he understood a lot of what Dongmin was going through. For a while, he’d felt like he was taking advantage of Dongmin, never helping him out, but one day after they’d traded messages back and forth, wading through a series of math problems Bin had been struggling with, Dongmin sent this message:

Thanks for being my friend. You’re the only person who really listens to me.

And Bin realized that Dongmin wasn’t chatting to him in hopes of eventually getting help with his schoolwork, that they helped each other equally, just in different ways.

They might have drifted apart as they advanced through middle school and then on to high school — Bin to a performing arts school, because he was a dancer; Dongmin to a science high school, because he wanted to be a robotics engineer — but they stayed in touch. They had plenty of things in common: they both enjoyed listening to music, and they both enjoyed reading (Bin liked webtoons; Dongmin liked actual books). And they both liked sports. Bin was a dancer and a competitive swimmer, and he also did track and field, whereas Dongmin was more into team games like soccer and basketball, and he was the team captain for both his soccer and basketball teams.

*

Bin was sixteen when his soulmark appeared, a blurry patch low on his left hip.

At first, he’d thought he’d bruised himself climbing in and out of the pool repeatedly, but the mark never turned purple or changed color like bruises did over time, and it didn’t fade.

And it didn’t hurt.

And Bin realized: he had a soulmark tattoo. When he met his soulmate, the image contained in the tattoo would become clear. For now it was just a disappointing amorphous blob, but — it was full of possibility.

In that moment, Bin also realized: he liked Lee Dongmin, like liked him, and if he had a soulmate, would Dongmin stop talking to him?

In webtoons and novels and dramas and movies, soulmates were the pinnacle of romance, and people who found their soulmates rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after among the other rare and fortunate people who also had soulmates.

Dongmin was such a practical and logical and pragmatic person; he’d probably cut ties and spare himself hurt down the road.

But would Dongmin even feel hurt if Bin found his soulmate? 

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Minhyuk said over the phone, late one night after dance practice. “You’re assuming he even has feelings for you like that.”

Bin sighed and flopped back on his bed. “I want him to have feelings for me like that.”

“If wishes were fishes —”

“Whatever, old man.” Bin rolled his eyes at the adage. Park Minhyuk was a phenomenal dancer, and his killer moves brought all the girls to the yard, but beneath the slick body rolls and sinful hip thrusts, he was an ahjusshi at heart, practically an eoreushin.

“First of all, just because you have a soulmate doesn’t mean you can’t have any friends,” Minhyuk said. “Second of all, there’s no rule that you’re not allowed to date anyone before you meet your soulmate.”

“But why would anyone date someone who has a soulmate out there waiting for them?” Bin asked. “Why take the chance that you’ll get invested and then the other person throws you over for their one true love?”

“Everyone takes that chance,” Minhyuk said, “whether they have soulmarks or not. You date someone, you hope to stay together, but maybe they’ll break up with you because they like someone better.”

Minhyuk had no more dating experience than Bin did, but compared to Bin he wasn’t ruled by his emotions as often, could reason things out.

And he was an old man in his soul. Old men knew these things.

Bin was too nervous to try to talk to his father about this. He hadn’t told his parents about his soulmark, or that he liked boys.

He was the eldest son. They’d be so disappointed.

“So what should I do?” Bin asked.

“Confess,” Minhyuk said. “Tell him you like him.”

“But if I confess and don’t tell him about the soulmark, does that make me a liar?”

“Confess in person,” Minhyuk said. “If he says he’s not interested, then he doesn’t need to know about your soulmark. If he is interested, then yes you should be honest with him. Who knows. Maybe he’s your soulmate.”

“Yeah right.” Bin sighed. “Thanks, Minhyukie.”

“Welcome. Gotta go. See you next dance practice.”

*

Bin didn’t confess to Dongmin, though. Not when he was sixteen, and not when he was seventeen. Minhyuk turned sixteen about a month after Bin turned seventeen, and his own soulmark came in. He told Bin all about it.

“It’s on the inside of my left wrist, which is fine. No one ever needs to see it,” Minhyuk said. “I can wear my watch or a wristband or something. It’s shaped…kind of like a heart, maybe?”

“Mine is…a cloud, sort of.” Bin, sprawled on his bed after another dance practice, twisted and tugged up his shirt, peered at his own skin. “What are you going to do about  it?”

“Tell my parents,” Minhyuk said. “Prepare them for the possibility that my soulmate is another boy, since I like both.”

Bin hadn’t thought of that. Would his parents be more forgiving of him loving another boy if that boy was his soulmate? If he had no choice?

“You going to confess to Dongmin this year?” Minhyuk asked.

“Shut up,” Bin said, and hung up on him.

But then three days later, Minhyuk caught him after dance practice, when everyone else was leaving the studio to catch transport or rides home.

“Hyung,” he said in a low, urgent voice, and Bin followed Minhyuk to the far corner of the practice room.

“What’s up?”

“I met my soulmate.” Minhyuk tugged up his sleeve and tugged down his watch — and there, inside his wrist, was an intricate tattoo of a wolf howling up at something that could have been the moon but wasn’t actually a moon. Was it a sun? A turtle? A boat?

“Who? When? Where?”

“I don’t know,” Minhyuk said. “But we must have interacted sometime today, because I felt a burning in my wrist and then —”

“Surely the other person would have noticed the same feeling, right?” Bin asked, peering at the mark.

“Maybe not, if they weren’t thinking about it. It was just kind of an annoying itch, annoying enough that I moved my watch to scratch at it, but if the other person was distracted —” Minhyuk shrugged.

“The soulmate system sucks. It’s never like this in dramas at all. In dramas, people always find their soulmates right away.” Bin pressed a hand to his hip absently.

“Well, real life’s like this sometimes,” Minhyuk said, and shrugged again. “But hey, this is proof that merely having a soulmark and even meeting your soulmate isn’t a guarantee of happily ever after. So.”

“So what?”

“So confess to Dongmin,” Minhyuk said. 

Bin stared at him. “You’ve found your soulmate, but instead of trying to hunt them down, you’re encouraging me to confess to my best internet friend who isn’t my soulmate even though my soulmate is out there?”

Minhyuk nodded. “Yes. Don’t wait. Find happiness where you can.” And he started for the door.

Bin caught his shoulder. “Wait? What about you? Where are you going to find happiness?”

“In dancing. I’m going to work hard and train hard. I want to be someone my soulmate is proud of,” Minhyuk said, and damn him, he smiled, his cute little dimpled smile, and walked out of the practice room.

Bin watched him go and decided he was going to do it.

He’d confess to Lee Dongmin.

*

He didn’t even know what Dongmin looked like. He was tall, obviously, for basketball purposes. And athletic, because he was so good at sports. But because Bin and Dongmin had met on a school work forum all those years ago, in Bin’s mind, Dongmin was slender and bespectacled, like the nerdy, fragile friend every webtoon hero had, the smart sidekick.

But Bin didn’t care what Dongmin looked like, Dongmin who was savage and funny and weirdly loved Minions and who was kind and helpful and just got Bin in a way not even Minhyuk did, even though Minhyuk was a fellow dancer and also an eldest son.

For weeks, Bin agonized over how to confess to Dongmin.

One time he asked, over KakaoTalk, since they’d long moved away from the cumbersome message forum system, What do you think of soulmates?

Dongmin’s side of the chat blinked with the three dots that meant he was typing for a long time, and finally a reply arrived. 

I think the concept is romantic, but the reality is probably a lot more complicated. Just because people are destined for each other doesn’t mean they’ll meet and perfectly fall in love and everything will be easy. The best things in life are worth working hard for. Couples who are married for sixty years, like my grandparents, had to work hard even though they loved each other a lot. 

Dongmin was always so reasonable, his responses well thought out. Bin never felt like Dongmin wasn’t listening to him, always felt that Dongmin considered Bin’s thoughts and opinions thoroughly before he responded.

Bin wrote back, Do you think that maybe it’s easier for soulmates to be together, because they’re destined?

Maybe it’s harder, was Dongmin’s reply. Because everyone around the couple has expectations for how perfect their life will be, and they have expectations as well, and the difference between expectation and reality is harsh.

I hadn’t thought of that, Bin admitted. 

Dongmin wrote, It’d be interesting to see in a drama, about someone who didn’t stay with their soulmate, or who chose someone other than their soulmate.

Yeah, Bin agreed, because he did want to see that, to know it was possible. Because he liked Dongmin, but he had a soulmate out there, and his soulmate was a stranger, but Dongmin was his best friend, his confidante.

From there, conversation drifted toward school, sports, and families. Dongmin asked how Bin’s dance practice was going, as the dance team had a competition coming up. Bin reported that things were going well and asked Dongmin how basketball was coming along. The team had just gotten a new coach, and Dongmin had been very fond of the old coach, who had retired, and the adjustment had been difficult at first.

Also, the team had a new manager, a pretty girl, and a lot of the players got distracted, to Dongmin’s frustration as captain.

Bin still didn’t confess, though.

He figured maybe he’d ask to meet up in person, and then he could decide if he wanted to confess from there. What if he wasn’t attracted to Dongmin? Even though looks weren’t everything, being attracted was important in a relationship. Dongmin didn’t have to be a supermodel, but Bin had to at least be into him, right? Bin was pretty sure he’d be into Dongmin no matter what he looked like, because he loved Dongmin’s mind and personality, but —

What if Dongmin was really a girl?

A girl could be captain of the basketball team and soccer team and good at science.

But — no. That was insane. Being an oldest daughter wasn’t the same was being an oldest son; that was an unfortunate fact about Korean society. 

Because Bin knew he liked boys. When he closed his eyes and imagined kissing someone, it was someone close to his height, with hard muscles and a flat chest and —

And eventually he had to bid Dongmin good night, because they both had school tomorrow.

As Bin fell asleep, he felt his soulmark itch. He sighed, scratched at it, and rolled over.

He would confess to Dongmin one day. He would.

*

Dongmin beat him to the punch. Sort of.

After school the next day, a message popped up on Bin’s phone.

Hey, guess what? My basketball team has a game against Cheongbeok Boys High School on Friday night. That’s close to Eonho High School, right? Want to meet up after the game and get a snack?

Bin stopped in his tracks, staring at the message.

Want to meet up?  Dongmin had written. Calm and casual, as if they met up all the time. Which they sort of did, when they had extended chats. But they’d never even tried a voice chat, let alone a video chat.

Other students heading for the main doors jostled around him, grumbling because he was blocking their path. He forced himself to step to the side, and then he had to lean against the wall and read the message again.

Oh no. Was he taking too long to respond? Would Dongmin retract the invitation? Would he feel rejected? Would he —

Did Bin want to meet up with Dongmin?

Yes. He’d meet up with Dongmin and confess, because he liked Dongmin, and looks didn’t matter, because he knew he liked Dongmin’s soul and heart, so he tapped out a reply.

Sure! There’s a great tteokbokki snack shop near here. I’ll send you the address.

And, hands shaking, he did.

*

Bin stopped halfway down the sidewalk from the tteokbokki stand he liked best, and he took a deep breath. He’d changed into the nicest, most stylish clothing he had in his closet (selected after consulting with Minhyuk, who wasn’t much more fashionable than Bin but his mother was and he was kind of a mama’s boy), and he’d bought a bouquet of flowers, and he was going to do it.

Confess.

To Lee Dongmin, his best friend (besides Minhyuk) and love of his life (which Minhyuk was not, not even the slightest).

Bin took another deep breath, and then he noticed the boy standing on the corner near the tteokbokki stand, facing the other way. The boy was wearing track suit bottoms and a jacket and had a gym bag slung across his torso, the strap of which was obscuring half of the name on the back of the jacket, but Bin was pretty sure he knew what it said.

Suri High School Boys Basketball.

Number 33 Lee Dongmin.

It was him. And he was tall, broad-shouldered, strong-looking.

He wasn’t wearing glasses.

Bin’s neck started to itch. His neck always itched when he was nervous, and right now he was past nervous and heading for terrified. But this was it: his chance to confess. He reached up and started to scratch at the side of his neck, then forced himself to stop.

He took another deep breath, and he started forward.

“Lee Dongmin?”

“Moon Bin?” Lee Dongmin asked, starting to turn, and his voice was — deep. Much deeper than Bin’s, but softer, too.

“Wait. Don’t turn around,” Bin said, and Lee Dongmin froze.

“Ah, all right. Is something the matter?”

This was like something out of a drama. Oh hell.

Bin sucked in a deep breath, and then he let the words just spill from his lips before he chickened out. “I can’t see this while you’re looking at me, but — Lee Dongmin, I like you. I’m confessing to you. I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time, but I was too afraid, but you were brave enough to ask to meet in person and I figured you deserved to hear it in person. I like you. A lot. Please accept my confession.” He squeezed his eyes shut and ducked his head and held out the flowers.

And waited.

The side of his neck itched.

And waited.

His whole body itched.

And waited.

The side of his neck burned from where he’d scratched it earlier.

“Moon Bin, open your eyes.”

“Just tell me your answer.”

“I can’t say it without you looking at me,” Lee Dongmin said, and his voice was so soft and velvety, and —

Bin opened one eye and peered up through his lashes and — oh. Oh.

Lee Dongmin was beautiful. He was the kind of beautiful that belonged in glossy magazines and on billboards with expensive watches and on primetime television in romantic dramas sweeping beautiful-and-spunky-but-ordinary leading ladies off their feet.

“Moon Bin,” Lee Dongmin said, smiling, and he transformed from an ice prince into the sweetest, most adorable person in the world, “I like you too. Let’s date.”

Bin opened his other eye and saw that Dongmin was also holding out a small bouquet of flowers. Dongmin laughed softly, and they exchanged bouquets. Bin ducked his head and inhaled the sweet, heady scent of the flowers Dongmin had given him.

He was allergic to pollen, but he didn’t care. He was itching all over already anyway, and nothing would take away from this amazing moment.

“Is this real?” he asked.

Dongmin, still smiling, nodded, and Bin was pretty sure he was smiling widely too. “Yes, it’s real. I’ve wanted to confess to you too. I —” He cut himself off with a sharp gasp, pressing a hand to his side.

Bin’s eyes went wide. “Dongmin-ah, what’s wrong?” He stepped forward, but Dongmin took a step back, shaking his head, gasping.

Bin felt an itch surge in his side, and he growled, scratched at it furiously, then reached for Dongmin, who almost dropped the bouquet. 

“Are you all right?” Bin asked.

Dongmin straightened up, panting. “Yes, I just —” He pressed a hand to his side again.

“Are you sure? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

“No,” Dongmin said. “It’s just — you know how you get a sudden burning itch, and it’s really annoying?”

“Yeah, I do.” Bin scratched at his side. “It just blazes out of nowhere, right? I mean, I get itchy when I’m nervous, and — sorry, that was TMI.”

“I already know,” Dongmin said softly, and Bin remembered.

He and Dongmin knew almost everything about each other.

He smiled. “So. Um, tteokbokki? It’s really good here, I swear.”

“I know how much you love food. I trust you,” Dongmin said, and together they drifted over to the tteokbokki stall, which was run by a gray-haired woman in a bright red apron.

If she’d noticed them giving flowers to each other, she didn’t say, just accepted their order and dished up some hot tteokbokki. 

“I’ll pay,” Dongmin said, “since I asked you to meet. You can get it next time.”

“All right, next time,” Bin said, and added, “It’s a date.”

That earned him another of Dongmin’s amazing smiles, and even the tteokbokki woman looked charmed.

Dongmin paid, and he and Bin drifted down the sidewalk to a small park that Bin knew about, since this was his neighborhood. They sat side-by-side on a small wooden bench and ate.

“So, how was the basketball game?” Bin asked, and somehow it wasn’t awkward to talk to Dongmin at all, because he was Lee Dongmin, who book-ended Bin’s days, who he said good morning to first every day and good night to last at night.

Dongmin’s warmth beside him was exhilarating, though.

“Good. We won.” Dongmin smiled. “We played hard.”

“So the change in coach mid-season wasn’t too disruptive?”

“Not as much as we’d feared, but we worked extra long and hard to get used to him and get used to our new rhythm with each other.” Dongmin chewed delicately at his food, and Bin felt a bit slovenly, for how much and how fast he ate, but he was used to eating with Minhyuk, who could shovel food into his big mouth with impressive speed.

But Dongmin didn’t seem to mind, just nudged Bin gently with his elbow, sending a little zing of excitement down Bin’s spine.

“How’s dance practice coming?”

“Good. We’ll be ready for our next competition. We’ll totally slay.”

“I guess I finally have an excuse to watch you perform,” Dongmin said, and Bin’s heart sped up. 

Dongmin would watch him dance. He’d have to do his best, look his best.

“And I’ll come to your next basketball game,” Bin promised.

They smiled at each other, and Bin’s heart soared.

“Are you still nervous?” Dongmin asked.

“No. Stupidly happy. You accepting my confession is a dream come true. Why?” Bin dabbed at his face. Did he have tteokbokki sauce all over his face like a pig?

“You keep scratching at your side is all,” Dongmin said, pointing, and Bin looked down.

Sure enough, he had his hand on his hip. “Oh. Uh. Sorry. I just —” Had Bin overdone with the flowers? Did he have a rash now? He twisted away from Dongmin slightly and tugged up the hem of his shirt, pushed his jeans down a bit to see where it was burning.

And saw his soulmark.

It wasn’t a blurry fuzz of ink anymore, but clear, distinct lines: a butterfly perched on the inner curve of a filigree crescent moon.

Bin stared at it. Then he looked up at Dongmin, whose expression was anxious and concerned.

“Are you all right?”

Bin said, “Are you soulmarked?”

Dongmin immediately pressed a hand to his side, the gesture probably unconscious. “Why?”

“Because I’m soulmarked, and my mark just became distinct. It’s been blurry since it came in when I was sixteen.” Bin gazed at Dongmin.

Dongmin’s eyes went wide. He tugged up the hem of his shirt — and there, across his ribs, was the exact same tattoo as was on Bin’s hip, the butterfly on a moon.

Bin twisted so Dongmin could see. Dongmin dropped his shirt and scooted closer, leaned in to look. Then he gazed up at Bin, eyes wide with awe.

“We’re soulmates.”

Bin nodded, unable to speak.

“Moon Bin,” Dongmin said, “you’re my soulmate, and I’ve liked you for years, and today is our day one, and can I kiss you? I want to kiss you, I’ve dreamed of kissing you even though I never knew what you even looked like, only you’re beautiful —”

“The one who’s beautiful is you,” Bin said, and kissed him.

Lightning zinged down his spine and arced across skin, and he felt warmth flare low on his hip.

He pulled back for breath, and Dongmin whispered, “Love you.”

Bin smiled. “Love you too.”