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    Loves Error

    “Why are you embarrassed about the house being big? Shouldn’t it be the opposite?”

    This time, I didn’t understand. Why would anyone be embarrassed about a small house? He seemed to understand my confusion and added,

    “If the house is small, you can be closer more often.”

    He stopped speaking there, suddenly squeezed his eyes shut, and stepped back. I also stepped aside, but I caught his muttered words.

    “This is driving me crazy. Anytime, anywhere.”

    Thankfully, he turned away quickly.

    “I’m going to wash my hands.”

    While he disappeared with long strides, I took a deep breath and finally calmed down. As I washed my hands and the groceries in the sink, he eventually reappeared. Despite saying he was just washing his hands, it seemed like he had taken a full shower; his clothes were changed, and his hair was wet. His wet hair covered his forehead, giving him a different look.

    “Leave that. I’ll do it.”

    He quickly approached and took the carrot I was washing from my hands, placing it on the sink. I had almost finished, but before I could tell him, he grabbed my hand and started showing me around the house. He said it was to make me feel comfortable and less embarrassed. It didn’t work at all because he kept holding my hand the whole time. The house was big, so the tour took some time.

    “Feel free to use anything. The computers have passwords, but I’ll unlock them.”

    He explained, pointing to two computers in the study.

    “No, don’t unlock them.”

    I waved my hands in alarm, but he ignored me and took me to the room he used. It had just a large, high bed, a small table, and a big painting on the wall.

    “Sleep here if you’re tired.”

    “No, I’m not tired at all.”

    “The bathroom I’m using is still wet, so use the one outside. And.”

    As he spoke, he led me through the hallway connected to the room to the dressing room.

    “Feel free to wear anything.”

    “They won’t fit me.”

    He finally paused and looked me up and down before nodding.

    “I’ll buy you some clothes.”

    “No, you don’t need to buy me clothes…”

    Ignoring my protest, he showed me the three terraces before finally returning to the living room. He then took a smart key from the glass cabinet in the hallway. It had the logo of the incredible car he drove to my part-time job last week.

    “The key is always here, so use it whenever you want.”

    “…Me?”

    Use this car? I couldn’t help but use formal language out of shock, and he chuckled, thinking I was joking.

    “Do you need a different car?”

    “No, I don’t need one.”

    I repeated myself several times, but he led me back to the kitchen without responding. He only let go of my hand once we returned to our original spot. He seemed a bit embarrassed by the house tour and ran his hand through his hair while looking into the distance.

    “Are you still embarrassed?”

    “Even more now.”

    He finally looked at me and laughed when I answered with a smile. I took a step back. His smile faded, but he turned and headed to the bathroom he had shown me.

    “I’ll go wash my hands too.”

    With a click, I closed the bathroom door and leaned on the sink with one hand.

    “Haa.”

    I let out a big sigh and squeezed my eyes shut. My heart had managed to stay steady when he was holding my hand, but when he smiled at me directly, it started pounding like a hammer again. I opened my eyes to see my flushed face in the mirror. Damn, I need to wash my face too.

    I was about to turn on the faucet when I saw the hand Shin had held and paused. I could still feel the pressure of his grip. I clenched my hand tightly and then released it. This is bad. I’ll give everything away before I even properly prepare to say it.

    After gathering my thoughts in the bathroom, I returned to the kitchen to find Shin leaning against the sink, looking down at his own hands. Why was he doing that? As I approached, he noticed me and straightened up.

    “Shall we start?”

    I suggested, looking around to see what we should do first when his hand suddenly moved toward my forehead. I instinctively stepped back, raising my hand defensively. He remained expressionless, but his words were gentle.

    “You have some water on your bangs.”

    Oh, I must not have dried my face properly after washing it. I felt a bit embarrassed, like a clumsy child. Fortunately, he shifted his focus back to the task at hand.

    “What should we start with?”

    “We should start with the rice.”

    “I’ll take care of that.”

    I was about to agree when I suddenly remembered his infamous inari sushi.

    “No! I’ll handle the rice!”

    Preparing the ingredients for the kimbap took some time, but it was neither hard nor boring. He was a quick learner, and I didn’t need to explain things twice. He listened attentively, meeting my eyes and smiling, which made the task enjoyable. As my tension eased, I found myself talking more than usual. Despite visiting the library together for over two weeks, we hadn’t had this much time to talk.

    “Even if the rice is seasoned, if you put too much, it will be bland, so just enough to cover the bottom will do.”

    I held up a clump of rice and spread it on the seaweed. Shin followed suit, scooping up rice and spreading it gently with his gloved hand.

    “Press the rice down a bit to spread it evenly…”

    I turned my head to guide him and was speechless. Each time he pressed the rice, it clumped together like a solid mass.

    “Why are you laughing?”

    “You’re very strong. You need to be gentler.”

    Despite laughing, I tried to salvage the squashed rice, but the clumped grains were beyond saving.

    “You’re like a human mortar.”

    He looked at me in disbelief, then smirked.

    “Yeah, I guess I am.”

    Acknowledging it, he seemed a bit shy, glancing away. Maybe he liked rice cakes? I continued demonstrating how to add ingredients and roll the kimbap slowly.

    “You’ve lived alone for a long time. Haven’t you cooked for yourself?”

    “No. But I want to learn to cook now.”

    “Because you have more free time?”

    He just smiled and answered with a different question.

    “Did you date when you had free time?”

    I paused midway through rolling the kimbap. I remembered my vague answer in the car about being too busy to date. Shin was also single, so if I was honest, we’d be on even ground, but it wasn’t easy to admit. Still, I’m the older one. I’ve lived two more years than him. A bit of unnecessary pride kicked in.

    “Well, you know.”

    I gave another vague answer, pressing the kimbap firmly. Luckily, he didn’t press further, but I felt his eyes on me.

    “I bet a lot of people hit on you. Am I wrong?”

    “Not really. Who would know that I’m gay?”

    “They probably tried anyway.”

    How did he know? I looked up in surprise to see him raise an eyebrow.

    “Did anyone try?”

    “Yeah, when I was in the military.”

    He followed my instruction to continue rolling the kimbap, carefully remembering the order I placed the ingredients in.

    “Who was it in the military?”

    It wasn’t someone I wanted to remember, so I hesitated before giving a vague answer.

    “He was a sergeant who had been in the military for a long time. He had a habit of harassing the younger soldiers. For some reason, he singled me out and called me over a few times. I didn’t know anything as a private, but another senior soldier warned me to be careful. That’s all.”

    “How did you turn him down?”

    “I told him I had a girlfriend.”

    Then I added, “If you mess with me, I’ll shoot your tiny dick off and send you to military prison.” I also gave him a look between his legs. He was so stunned by my sudden aggression that he couldn’t even get angry. Thankfully, he didn’t call me over again, but I still faced a lot of harassment because of the military hierarchy.

    “Did he back off easily?”

    “He did, but it made military life a bit tough. Still, it was better than him constantly trying to touch me.”

    With a loud crack, the kimbap Shin was holding burst apart. How strong is he? While I was startled, he nonchalantly cleaned up the mess and asked,

    “What was his name?”

    “Who?”

    “The sergeant.”

    Why did he want to know? I was confused, but he shrugged lightly.

    “Just wondering if I knew him.”

    “I doubt it.”

    “Still, tell me.”

    He stopped cleaning up and looked at me intently. Reluctantly, I racked my brain to recall the name and told him, watching for any reaction.

    “Do you know him?”

    “No.”

    …That was odd. But I didn’t want to ruin the moment with him over something like this. I was too happy to spend time with him to let anything spoil it. Every second felt precious. But happiness isn’t everlasting. Before we finished making the kimbap, Shin’s phone rang. His casual expression turned serious quickly.

    “I’ll be there right away.”

    From his words, I knew something was wrong. He left the kitchen in a hurry, telling me,

    “My grandfather isn’t doing well.”

    You should go quickly. I nudged him towards the dressing room and grabbed my bag. The messy kitchen bothered me, but I couldn’t stay in someone else’s house alone to clean it. Shin changed quickly and, as he was about to leave, he looked at me and pressed his lips together before speaking.

    “Hyung, I have a favor to ask.”

    “Sure, what is it?”

    “Don’t leave. Stay here.”

    Why would I stay in an empty house? I was taken aback and my eyes widened, but he didn’t give me a chance to protest. He stepped closer.

    “I don’t want to come home to an empty house.”

    His voice was calm and steady, which made me worry more. Was his grandfather in critical condition?

    “Hyung?”

    “Okay, go on. I’ll just lounge around as if it’s my own place.”

    Only then did his stern expression soften into a faint smile, but he quickly left the house. Left alone, I realized the situation belatedly. The large house was cool like a refrigerator, with everything needed in every corner, but without Shin, it felt unfamiliar, as if I was seeing it for the first time. And it was as silent as a desert.

    I stayed in the living room, ready to leave whenever Shin returned. However, as midnight approached, the owner of the house still hadn’t come back. I had no intention of sleeping there, so I forced my sleepy eyes open, but it wasn’t easy.

    In the meantime, I turned off all the lights except for one long standing lamp in the living room to save on electricity. The dim lighting made it just right for sleeping. The sofa in the living room was large and spacious, but it looked too luxurious for me to dare lie down on it. The leather felt as soft as velvet.

    Without much thought, I lay down on the carpet on the floor. I envied the indoor temperature that allowed for a carpet in the middle of summer and soon fell asleep. It was a deep sleep, even if only for a short while, and I was completely unconscious. Then, I faintly heard a familiar beeping sound.

    In my sleep, I recognized it as the sound of the front door opening, but it was too faint, and my instinct to keep sleeping ignored it. I wanted to return to that dark unconsciousness. My body felt as heavy as a ton, making it the hardest thing in the world to lift my eyelids. Fortunately, my consciousness receded back down.

    However, another sensation disturbed my sleep this time. My face itched. First, around my eyes, then the tip of my nose. Something kept touching my face, bothering me. In my sleep, I turned my face slightly to brush it away. But then the tickling sensation moved to my lips.

    Something slowly and gently pressed against my lips and then slipped slightly between them. The inside of my lips, more sensitive than the outside, tickled, and I turned my head down and to the side. Thankfully, the tickling stopped. But then I heard a loud, low sound near my ear, like the sound of someone breathing.

    Maybe because I was sleeping in an unfamiliar place, my body was tense. Like waking up late on a stressful morning, I opened my eyes, and my consciousness snapped back into focus. Half dazed, I looked around. It was still dark outside, but it didn’t take long to realize I was in a strange place.

    Right, Shin. And as I started to sit up, I realized I was lying on the sofa. Huh? Why am I lying here? I was definitely on the floor… I was about to get up when I noticed someone lying on the floor where I had been. It was Shin.

    He was lying straight on his back with one arm covering his forehead and eyes. When did he come? And why was he lying there? I had many questions, but they quickly faded away. Along with the melting questions, my breath also became as quiet as a muted sound.

    Even though I had just woken up and was still groggy, I couldn’t take my eyes off his body. Not wanting to wake him, I watched him for a long time, then unconsciously got up and crouched next to him. He hadn’t been there long, as he still smelled freshly washed.

    He always had a cool scent. His body, much bigger and thicker than mine, looked solid with muscle. His t-shirt had ridden up, revealing a bit of his bare skin around his waist. Despite his broad shoulders, his waist looked slender but was thicker and more firm than mine.

    I didn’t know why that slight glimpse of his waist felt so erotic. My lower abdomen tingled. I suppressed the urge to swallow audibly. But as I looked away to calm my odd feeling, my eyes fell on an even greater temptation.

    His slender, long lips. When he smiled, they opened wide and bright. It was the first time I saw his lips so clearly. This time, resisting the temptation was difficult. His scent was pleasing, and the desire for this rare opportunity pushed me.

    The dawn was quiet and dark, as if it would cover up whatever I did. I wanted to touch them. So, I reached out. My fingertips trembled and stopped in mid-air, but I didn’t plan to do anything major. Just a little touch. Just to feel them.

    Gathering my courage again, I lowered my hand. I was trembling so much that I had to stop just before touching, but my desire pushed me again. It was the first desire I had ever felt. I really planned to just lightly touch them, just enough to feel the skin with my fingertips. I swore that was all I intended. The trembling in my hand spread to my heart, preventing me from doing anything more. Holding my breath as if I was stealing, I focused all my nerves on my fingertips. As I felt his soft, tender lips,

    Smack!

    A large hand grabbed my wrist. I was so shocked that I stopped breathing and an internal scream echoed inside me. The arm covering his face was gone, replaced by dark eyes looking at me. In that brief moment, fear and embarrassment poured over me like a shower.

    I flinched without realizing it. Then he gripped my wrist even tighter. He held it so tightly it hurt, causing my lips to part slightly. Yet, I couldn’t utter a word. His eyes, staring intensely, pinned me in place.

    It was hard to breathe. I vaguely heard a familiar electronic sound, but nothing registered. The delayed shame washed over me. Unable to meet his gaze, I tried to turn my head, but he pulled my wrist sharply, lifting his upper body.

    “Hyung.”

    His low, strong voice called me. I stopped turning my head and looked back at him. My heart and body trembled as if I were standing outside, soaking wet in the middle of winter. He whispered in a husky voice.

    “Can I misunderstand?”

    The apology I had in mind went blank. His breathing sounded unusually loud. He leaned his upper body toward me.

    “I’m going to misunderstand. Okay?”

    The short silence felt like an endless abyss. I finally managed to speak.

    “…Okay.”

    His eyes widened slightly. His gaze changed in an instant. It was a heated intensity that made my heart race, but there was also a fear that he might devour me. Just then, the familiar electronic sound rang loudly again. I barely realized it was the doorbell.

    “Is that the phone? Is your grandfather okay?”

    My voice came out cracked. At my question, he finally moved away from me. As I expected, it was another call from the hospital. Without breaking eye contact, he reached for his phone.

    “Yes, …I understand.”

    He ended the call briefly, but nothing had changed between us. His tightly clenched jaw twitched.

    “I have to step out for a bit. Don’t go anywhere, stay here.”

    “…”

    “Hyung, say it. Say you’ll stay here.”

    “Okay.” I mumbled, and only then did he stand up. But he still held my wrist, so I had to stand with him. He led me to the front door and checked again.

    “Wait here. I’ll be back soon.”

    Before letting go of my wrist, he lifted my arm and pressed his lips to the inside of my wrist. Then he looked up at me. It was the same look I saw in the car. And this time, it wasn’t a misunderstanding.

    As soon as I heard the door close, my legs gave out, and I slumped down. In the hallway of someone else’s house, I hugged my head with my arms and bowed my head between my knees. I couldn’t lift my face. The embarrassment and excitement I felt reached their peak, unlike anything I had ever experienced.

    I kept wondering if this might be a dream. My confused mind constantly questioned whether this was reality. It had to be, because it didn’t make sense. How could someone I liked also like me? Such an incredible thing couldn’t possibly happen to me.

    What if I had just misunderstood his reaction and gaze? With that thought, I recalled his words from earlier. His low voice still echoed in my ears.

    ‘I’m going to misunderstand. Okay?’

    “Ah.”

    I hugged my head again. Just thinking about it made my face heat up and my heart feel like it was going to explode. Maybe it was because it was my first time experiencing this; I didn’t know why I felt so embarrassed.

    Could it be true? Does Shin like me too? Without realizing it, I looked at my wrist as if to confirm it. I remembered him pressing his lips to it. The grip of his hand, his face bending down to my wrist, and his eyes looking at me while his lips touched my wrist. Just thinking about it made me feel as if I was back in that moment. The tingling sensation spread through my heart again.

    “Wow, what the… what is this?”

    What’s going on? Does Shin really like me? Why would he like me? We’ve only known each other for a few weeks. It can’t be love at first sight. Or could it? No, that’s impossible. I shook my head.

    With my messy hair and dressed in workout clothes from frequent library visits, no one would fall for me based on my appearance. Then why? Maybe because I helped catch a thief as a model citizen? A light bulb went off in my head. That must be it. I finally found the clue and lifted my head abruptly.

    I had struggled to find the suspect by scrutinizing the poor-quality CCTV footage, but it was worth the effort. My goodness, I’m so glad Shin is a police officer. Only a police officer would be fond of a tipster like me. What other profession would have an interest in me?

    Thinking back on that event, I felt grateful for so many things. Shin’s nephew studying at the library during the holidays, the careless kid who left the iPad behind, and even the thief who stole it. Wow, I’m so thankful for that thief.

    I hope the thief is properly punished and rehabilitated to become a good person. Realizing there was a reason Shin might like me made it feel real. And I couldn’t help but smile. I was so happy, I didn’t know what to do. I was so happy.

    At 8 AM, I hurried out of Shin’s house. Through the glass, I saw people quickly moving to work. I had spent the morning in Shin’s house, smiling foolishly and questioning whether it was a dream or reality, until Shin’s text brought me back to my senses.

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