Making New Friends
There were a lot of phone calls back and forth, a lot of comparing schedules to invent reasons to bump into each other. When Suho arranged to take Sehun over to Teen Top’s dorm, half of the other members asked if they could tag along. For L.Joe’s sake, he told them no, but he thought that it was good that they were enjoying their new friends.
Doing things for his members was satisfying. He thought of it as his responsibility, but it wasn’t only a duty; it was rewarding, too, to see them so happy. He cared about them very much - - he loved them - - and it warmed his heart to take good care of them.
He wondered if there was more that he could do.
He wanted to speak with someone about it, to bounce ideas back and forth. After going over it alone in his mind, he decided to confide in Lay. When he pulled Lay aside one night, he called Kai into his room, too, wanting another perspective, knowing that Kai would be frank with him.
They’d barely sat down - - Kai beside him on his bed, Lay on Baekhyun’s bed - - when D.O. peeked into the room. D.O. was only halfway through, “Sorry to interrupt,” when Baekhyun appeared, nudging D.O. aside and asking, “What’s going on? Are you having a meeting?”
“Yes,” Lay said, “we-”
“Ah,” Chen’s voice said from the hallway. “Can I just-”
“No, you can’t come in,” Baekhyun said.
“What? Why not?” Chen asked. “Isn’t this my room? Ya, stop blocking the door.”
“Suho hyung’s having a meeting,” Baekhyun said.
“Oh, about the dance team for the festival?” Chen asked.
“Then we should stay, right?” Baekhyun asked.
Kai snickered. “I don’t think that we’ll need you for that, hyung.”
“Ya!” Protesting, Baekhyun scolded Kai and started tussling with him on the bed. Chen pushed past D.O. and walked over to the closet, searching for something. Chanyeol came in and sat on the edge of the bed with an expectant smile.
“Ah, hyung,” Sehun said, leaning in the doorway. “Is-”
“Members!” Suho exclaimed. “Everyone! Out!”
With a yelp, Kai fell off of the bed.
“Oh, sorry,” Sehun said, and backed out again.
“Baekhyun, out,” Suho said firmly. “Chanyeol, out. Chen, out. D.O., close the door behind you.”
“You’re really having a meeting?” Baekhyun asked, sitting up, only slightly out of breath while Kai was still sprawled on the floor. “About Kai?”
“Ya, come on,” Chanyeol said, getting up and taking Baekhyun’s hand, pulling on him. “Suho hyung asked us to go.”
“I don’t think that he asked,” Chen said, heading for the door. “I think that was more like ordering or yelling.”
D.O. followed everyone out, pulling the door shut.
“Not hurt, are you?” Lay asked Kai.
“No, I’ll live,” Kai said, sitting up on the floor.
Suho scratched the back of his head and wondered where to start.
“What’s going on?” Lay asked him.
He felt uncomfortable having this conversation while seated on the bed where both Kai and Lay had - - where they’d - - where he’d - - blushing, he got up and stepped away from the bed, trying to make it seem natural, pretending to poke around in the closet for a second. “The MT went well, right?” His voice sounded strange, and he cleared his throat. When he glanced over, Lay was grinning, happy and foolish, and Kai looked smug. “It seems like the members had a good time.”
“A great time,” Kai agreed emphatically.
“The best time ever,” Lay said.
“It seems like some of the kids are becoming close,” Suho added. “Kai and Niel, C.A.P. and our three beagles, D.O. and L.Joe.”
“Chanyeol hyung keeps trying to make plans to see Ricky again,” Kai said, chuckling. “I think that he wants to play his oppa games.”
“I’ve been thinking,” Suho said. “Eighteen of us, that’s too many. Individual dates are too tricky. Sehun going to see L.Joe is enough activity without everyone else running all over Seoul trying not to get caught. I think that it would be better if we made it a structured evening. Something simple. Maybe Teen Top could come by and visit us here at the dorm for a few hours.”
“All of them?” Kai asked. “And all of us?”
“Here, in our dorm?” Lay asked. He exhaled, smiling. “Whew.”
“Are you sure about this, hyung?” Kai asked, a wrinkle appearing on his brow. “It doesn’t sound like something you’d let us do.”
“You don’t have to be here for it,” Lay said.
And let Xiumin and C.A.P. run things while he was away? He didn’t want to comment on their leadership styles, but it seemed like they wouldn’t be at their best while surrounded by hormones and temptation. “I think that someone level-headed should stick around.”
“I’ll be there,” Lay and Kai both said. They stared at each other; Kai laughed, and Lay asked, “Ya, what’s this?!”
Ignoring that, Suho said, “I’ll talk to C.A.P. about setting up a night for it. There was something else, too.” They looked at him expectantly. “We’ve been close with our SM sunbaes, but this is the first time we’ve done something like this with other teams. Outside of the company.” He felt ridiculous standing around; he sat down again. “It’s not good to take too many risks, but it seems like the members have benefited. Maybe we could think about other teams besides Teen Top.”
Kai smiled broadly. “Really? Hyung, do you feel okay?”
“Yes, yes, let’s do it,” Lay said. “Which teams are you thinking about?”
“I think that we can be safe if we’re careful,” Suho said. “We shouldn’t rush into anything. What about VIXX? It seems like a lot of our members are close with them. Or what about Infinite? Shinee’s already close with them, and it would be good for us to get to know our Woollim cousins.”
“VIXX would be fun,” Lay said. “They’re the same debut year, so it’s comfortable between us already.”
“Really?” Kai asked. “I can’t picture Leo at an orgy.” He frowned. “Teen Top is our sunbae, but their members are close to ours in age. Most of the Infinite members are older than we are. Won’t it be less about everybody’s fun and more about only their fun? That’s okay when it’s Shinee or Super Junior sunbaenims, but we don’t have that relationship with Infinite.”
Suho nodded. “I’ve thought about those things. Still, it seems like those two teams are our best choices. If it’s not right with them, we won’t force it. I’d rather not do this with any team at all, than make a mistake and set up an arrangement that won’t be good for EXO. But do you want to think about it? Should we approach their members and get to know them a little better and see how comfortable everyone feels?”
“What, like, date their team for a while before we have sex?” Kai asked.
Suho laughed. “A little like that, yeah. Spend more time with their members casually. I think that it would be best for Xiumin to become close with them, because he’s used to, ah, how can I say it? Scouting out new friends? But I want the two of you to talk to them, too. Use your best judgment.”
“Still can’t picture Leo at an orgy,” Kai said.
“I can’t, either,” Suho admitted.
Lay grinned happily. “I can.”
“You can’t call dibs on other people,” Kai protested, laughing.
“Hongbin?” Baekhyun asked. “Isn’t he a little… I don’t know if it’s okay to call him Ravi’s property, but…”
“He’s Ravi’s property,” Chen said. “And I don’t know if Ravi shares.”
“If Hongbin and Ravi are exclusive, what’s the point?” Xiumin asked. “That only leaves four of their members. That’s like one for each two people.”
“And what if they say that Hyuk’s too young and Leo hyung isn’t interested?” Baekhyun asked. “That only leaves N hyung and Ken. With nine of us. That’s… I don’t know if N hyung and Ken are into being piled on like that.”
Xiumin laughed, looking at Sehun. “Why is the maknae smiling like that?”
“I think that we should definitely get to know Hongbin hyung better,” Sehun said, and everyone burst into laughter.
“Okay, enough about VIXX,” Suho said. “What about Infinite? Do you like that idea better or worse?”
“I don’t know about you,” Chanyeol said, “but on one hand, there’s VIXX. We’re already close, we debuted in the same year, their members are our age. On the other hand,” he balanced his palms up and down, “there’s L sunbaenim. So. Clearly, Infinite wins. I choose Infinite.”
“Infinite has Nam Woohyun sunbaenim,” Lay said. “Key has stories about him.” He smiled. “Very good stories.”
“Okay,” Sehun said, “but Hongbin hyung. We have to choose VIXX.”
“What if Ravi doesn’t share?” Baekhyun asked.
Sehun’s smile was devilish. “But what if he does?”
The whole room went quiet.
He hadn’t missed much; everyone was still near the front door, L.Joe and Sehun just beginning to separate themselves from the others. Before, it had always been just Sehun and Suho, but tonight they’d brought Xiumin. Wondering what that was about, Changjo edged forward, eyeing Suho. Wearing a simple black hoodie over a sweater, Suho looked relaxed and handsome.
Looking right at him, Suho smiled. “Ah, you’re awake? I won’t have to drag you out of bed.”
Could Suho drag him into bed? “I just got up,” Changjo said, running his hand over his hair, wishing that he’d looked into a mirror. He hadn’t drooled or anything in his sleep, had he? Ugh. He rubbed at his mouth.
“Is it all right if we go?” Suho asked Chunji.
Chunji glanced at Changjo, sniffed, and shrugged. “Yes, go ahead. We don’t need him for anything until ten o’clock tomorrow. Keep him until then, if you want.”
Suho chuckled, eyes crinkling. “I think that we’ll be back before that.” Holding out his hand, he gestured Changjo closer. “Let’s go out for a while.”
“You and me?” Changjo looked down at himself, double-checking what he had on. Black track pants and a T-shirt, some silver rings. It was clean, but it wasn’t really what he’d planned on wearing to seduce Suho.
He wasn’t sure that “seduce” was the right word, though. He hadn’t completely settled on what exactly his endgame was, what his final goal was with Suho. Information? Sex? A permanent in? A temporary triumph? Until he was absolutely sure what he wanted, it wouldn’t be smart to push too hard.
He was sure, though, that he wanted something from Suho. Wanted it badly.
“Just us,” Suho said, and he laughed. “Don’t turn me down, you don’t know how hard it is to get away from my members.”
“Really?” Xiumin asked. “Usually we can’t wait to get rid of you.”
Suho’s eyes widened and he turned a wounded expression on Changjo. “You see how they treat me? Come out with me, I need time with a good dongsaeng.”
A door closed; L.Joe and Sehun had already escaped into the bedroom. “Okay,” Changjo said, stepping forward and taking Suho’s hand. “Where will we go?”
Suho tugged him close, then glanced at Chunji. “You’ll call me if anything happens?”
“We’ll be fine,” Chunji said, and he shot Xiumin a seriously scandalous look. “Xiumin hyung and I can handle it.”
Suho’s eyes narrowed like he was second-guessing leaving the two of them alone.
“Bye,” Changjo said, still holding onto Suho’s hand, pulling him toward the door.
“I,” Suho said.
“Bye,” Xiumin said with a smile, closing the door in Suho’s face.
Suho blinked at the door and then pouted, his lower lip poking out unhappily.
He was so cute like that, Changjo smiled. “It’s okay, hyung. Chunji hyung’s responsible. Where should we go?”
Suho pouted at the door for another second, then inhaled and smiled up at Changjo, squeezing his fingers. “Let’s get some coffee and talk.”
Their knees bumped under the tiny table. Changjo stirred his coffee with his straw. “Are you hungry?” Suho asked. “Should I get something to eat?”
Changjo shook his head.
Resting his chin on his hand, Suho regarded Changjo. Such a good-looking kid. There was so much going on behind those mischievous eyes and secretive smiles. “What should hyung give you for your birthday?”
As he looked at Suho from beneath his lashes, Changjo’s lips curved in a smile. “There’s one thing I’m looking forward to.”
Suho laughed. This bold kid! “I can’t help you with that. What else do you want?”
Changjo shrugged. “I don’t need anything.” He smiled, looking pleased. “I think that Angel will give me something. They always remember me.”
“Of course they’ll take care of you. You’re their precious oppa.” Maybe he could get Changjo jewelry. “You usually wear silver rings.”
He glanced at his hand as if noticing it for the first time. “They look nice. C.A.P. hyung told me not to wear them, he thinks they draw too much attention to my hands. I’m double-jointed, it freaks him out.”
“No, you have handsome hands,” Suho said. He’d noticed before; he really liked them, the slim palms, the long fingers. They looked strong, masculine.
Changjo pulled Suho’s hand up; Suho matched their palms. Changjo laughed. “Why are yours so small?”
“They’re not small,” Suho protested. “You have too many growth spurts.”
“It’s okay to be little,” Changjo said, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Some girls prefer it.”
“Ya!” Suho pulled his hand away, throwing a napkin at Changjo, laughing. “What kind of maknae talks this way? Why does every conversation with you end up there?”
Laughing, Changjo tossed the napkin back at him. “I was talking about your hands! Does hyung have a dirty mind?”
“Ah, we’re in public,” Suho said, throwing the napkin again. “Don’t say those things.” Pulling his chair in closer, he shot Changjo a disgruntled look. “And nothing’s small. Don’t imagine you know something like that just by being taller than somebody.”
“Okay, hyung,” Changjo said in a patient tone, smiling. “I believe you.”
“Yeah,” Chanyeol said, immediately getting up. “I get L sunbae.”
“Stop claiming dibs on people,” Kai said lazily from the other end of the couch.
Ignoring that, Chanyeol checked his reflection, giving himself a sultry look. Yeah, he had it.
“You’re so embarrassing,” Xiumin said. “Never mind, just stay here.”
“Aw,” Chanyeol protested, hurrying after him. “Don’t be jealous, hyung, I’ll teach you how to do it, too.”
Distantly, he heard Hoya’s voice. “Looking at anything interesting?”
“He’s so handsome,” someone else’s voice said.
“He gets it from me,” Hoya said.
“You okay, there?” Hoya asked. A rough, slapping sound. Dimly, L’s brain decided that Hoya was smacking Sungyeol’s back. “Need medical attention?”
“You need to look in a mirror,” Sungyeol said.
“Why?” Hoya asked. “Did they find a way to improve on perfection?”
“So full of shit!” Sungyeol exclaimed, laughing.
“Hoya hyung,” Sungjong’s voice called. “Dongwoo hyung is looking for you.”
“What, did he get lost?” Hoya asked. “I’m right here.”
Voices faded into the hum and buzz of background noise. L drifted away again. The next thing he knew, the room was quiet. Too quiet. Wary, he opened his eyes.
The dressing room was almost empty. In the far corner, Sunggyu sat at the table, earbuds in. Right at L’s elbow, on the armrest, Chanyeol was watching him with an interested expression.
Uh. “Hi,” L said. Blinking hard, he sat up straighter. He wanted to rub his eyes, but that would only end in disaster and the wrath of the make-up noona. “Where is everybody?”
“Woohyun hyung went next door to our dressing room, and your other members left to find Dongwoo hyung.”
Yeah, that sounded about right. L yawned and slumped back again.
“Sunbae.” Chanyeol shifted on the armrest and gave him a look of pure sexual interest. “Do you have a lot of girlfriends?”
Bored, L blinked at Chanyeol slowly and finally said, “No.” It would be nice if Sunggyu kicked this hoobae out for him so he could go back to sleep.
Chanyeol’s smile was knowing. “Do you have a lot of other kinds of friends?”
L sighed without changing his expression. “I don’t have friends. I don’t make friends. I don’t want friends. Understand?” In his experience, being direct only deterred about one in five idols, but it was worth a shot. When it did work, it was very convenient.
Chanyeol looked surprised. Not personally offended, but sort of bewildered, like he genuinely had no idea why L would say something like that. “You don’t want friends? Any friends?”
“No friends,” L said, and closed his eyes. “See you later.”
“L sunbae?” Chanyeol asked.
“Ya,” Sunggyu said. “Someone who’s worked hard doesn’t deserve a break? Let him rest in quiet.”
“Oh! Yes, sunbaenim. Sorry.”
The next time L woke up, Chanyeol was gone.
“Yeah.” Xiumin kept his voice quiet, private. Even though they were alone in Dongwoo’s car, he didn’t want to be overconfident and make announcements about EXO’s general sex life too boldly. It just wasn’t good to get too used to being incautious. “It’s hard to find another team to get together with, though.”
“What about Shinee?” Dongwoo asked. “Aren’t you close with them?”
“We’re close. It’s a little… We’re too used to each other,” Xiumin admitted. “It’s fun to try someone new.”
Braking for a light, Dongwoo slowly gave him a wide-eyed, mischievous look. “Am I new?”
Laughing, Xiumin squeezed his thigh. “Now you understand!”
Dongwoo laughed and drove on. “Is that it? You want Infinite to play under the covers with your members?”
“Would they?” Xiumin asked.
“As a team?” Drumming his fingers on the wheel, Dongwoo seemed to take the question seriously. “Woohyun would. Sungyeol would. He has a taste for good-looking dongsaengs, and you have a lot of them. Hoya would if the rest of us did.”
“What about you?” Xiumin asked, nudging his thigh.
“Me?” Dongwoo flashed him a bright smile. Then, without warning, Dongwoo’s smile fell. “Uh, would it be weird? It sounds nice, but sex with other idols, won’t it be weird to meet backstage later? Doesn’t it become awkward?”
“You don’t do that with other idols? You debuted years ago! What have you been doing?” Xiumin asked, surprised.
“Lately, I just fuck my own members. And I get horny a lot.”
“You’re missing so much! I’ll take care of it. Start with my members. You don’t do it with anyone but Infinite?”
“That’s six guys. Isn’t that enough?”
Xiumin might have thought so, once upon a time. “Is it good to limit yourself? You’ve been with them for years, don’t you get bored?”
“Bored,” Dongwoo repeated. He laughed like it was a good joke. “You don’t know my members.”
Oh, that was exactly what Xiumin wanted to hear. “I want to get to know them,” he promised. “You said that three of them would do it. What about the others?”
“Maybe you can talk the maknae into it, if he’s in a good mood. Gyu hyung will either like the idea or hate it, I don’t know. L won’t do it.”
“Won’t do it?” Xiumin repeated. What? “No? Not at all, never?”
“I don’t think so. You can ask him, but he doesn’t like that kind of attention.”
Xiumin weighed the situation. Four easy yeses, two temperamental maybes, and a hard no. Unfortunately, the “no” came from the one member that half of EXO was talking about. Xiumin suspected that Woohyun and Dongwoo would be able to make up for that, though. And that laugh, that, “You don’t know my members,” that was promising as hell. Infinite was definitely shaping up to be an interesting proposition. “Let me talk to my members,” he told Dongwoo. “Don’t say anything to anybody until I get back to you. Okay?”
Dongwoo nodded. “I’ll probably forget that we had this conversation by the time I get back to the dorm, anyway.”
When he looked over again, Kai was still looking at him and smiling. “Hi,” he said.
“Sunbae,” Kai said, bowing.
When Kai didn’t look away, Sunggyu laughed. “Want something?”
“Your team’s performance was impressive,” Kai said. “Your members look very handsome tonight.”
What was with these kids hitting on his members all of a sudden? Was EXO having a hormonal surge lately? “Your team is friendly these days.”
“Too friendly,” Sungjong muttered under his breath, crossing his arms over his chest.
“We have a lot to learn from our sunbaes,” Kai said. “It would be good if you could guide us.”
“I think your SM sunbaes can help you more than we can,” Sunggyu said.
Still smiling, Kai raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t we all under SM together, now?”
These kids didn’t take no for an answer. Sunggyu glanced at the monitor to see what was happening onstage. The hosts were still talking. Putting his arm around Kai’s shoulders, he pulled Kai close, pretending to look behind Kai and putting his mouth close to Kai’s ear, speaking somewhere below a whisper. “I don’t want to be rude, and I don’t want to cause problems between our teams. But whatever you and your members are looking for, Infinite doesn’t have it. Understand? Stick to Shinee.”
Kai licked his lips and nodded. “I understand, sunbae.”
“Good.” Releasing him with a pat on the back, Sunggyu smiled. “Your team has worked hard.”
Thanking him, Kai bowed and disappeared into the crowd.
Not long after, in the van, Sungjong asked, “What did you say to Kai, anyway?”
“I told him that we’re not interested.”
“Good.” Sungjong patted his hair. “Ugh, I hope that’s the end of it. If Park Chanyeol checks out my ass one more time, I’m going to throw up on him.”
“What?” Woohyun asked. “Wait, what are we talking about? What happened with Kai?”
Sunggyu checked his phone. “He flashed his cock at me and I told him to put it away.”
“Whoa! What?” Sungyeol demanded.
“He what?” Dongwoo asked, sounding startled.
“Ya,” Sunggyu said, laughing. “It’s a metaphor. He made a pass and I told him to get lost.”
“Is that a metaphor?” Hoya asked.
“I don’t think that’s a metaphor,” Dongwoo said.
“Told him to get lost?” Woohyun asked. “Why would you say that?”
“Did you say it for yourself?” Sungyeol asked. “Or on behalf of us, as our leader?”
“That’s not fair,” Woohyun said. “You can’t turn down sex for us.”
“I’m working my ass off flirting with those guys, trying to get in the door,” Sungyeol said.
“I’m halfway through the door already,” Woohyun said. “If you ever had your hand on Chen’s ass, you would not be so quick to say no.”
“How was it?” Hoya asked.
“So round,” Woohyun said. “So firm. I wanted to bite it.”
Dongwoo gnashed his teeth.
“So gross,” Sungjong said under his breath.
“What should I tell Xiumin?” Dongwoo asked. “Are we going to vote?”
“Tell Xiumin about what?” Woohyun asked.
“About, oh.” Dongwoo rubbed his mouth. “Was I not supposed to talk about that?”
As everyone greeted everyone else, Woohyun’s eyes gleamed too much when he asked what the EXO members were doing there. He knew what they were doing there; he’d known that they’d come. Shit. L leaned against a shelf of ugly hats and stayed out of it. If Woohyun and Sungyeol wanted to chase hoobaes, L wasn’t going to stop them, but he didn’t have to get involved.
Chanyeol and Sungyeol were too happy, grinning too broadly, practically giggling at each other. They were in on it together; they’d arranged to meet like this. Sehun seemed interested, like he wasn’t that surprised but wasn’t that excited, either, and Suho genuinely seemed to be there just to shop.
While the other four flirted and tried on clothes, Suho wandered around the store, looking things over, picking up things and putting them down. It was a small boutique; pretty soon, L was in the way. He straightened up, stepping aside, and Suho shot him a polite smile. “Sorry, sunbae.”
“Mmm.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “What are you looking for?” The fact that Suho seemed either not to know about everyone else’s sexual undertones, or not to care, made him the most interesting person in the store.
“A birthday present.” Suho smiled at him again. “You know Teen Top’s maknae Changjo?”
Really? “It’s his birthday?” L asked, scratching his head. “How old is he now, fourteen?”
Suho laughed, putting down a sweater. “Eighteen, he’s turning eighteen.”
L shook his head, smiling. “Such a baby.”
“I know.” Suho’s gaze wandered around the store. “I wish that I knew what to get him.” With a fresh smile, Suho looked at L again. “You debuted at the same time as Teen Top. What does a successful sunbae want?”
“Sleep?” L suggested.
While Suho was laughing, Chanyeol and Sehun came up. Chanyeol was dressed in a great red-and-white outfit with the tags still on it, and Sehun was holding a jewelry box. “Do you like this?” Sehun asked, handing Suho the box. “Is it too much like what he already has?”
“Oh, it’s nice,” Suho said, opening the box. There was a pair of silver earrings inside, with a set of three coordinating rings. “I like it. Are there more like it?”
“Over here,” Sehun said, gesturing across the store.
“Suho hyung,” Chanyeol said. “Is this pretty?”
He glanced at Chanyeol, nodding. “I like it.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a wallet and handed over a credit card. “Excuse me,” he said to L, and walked away with Sehun.
Card in hand, Chanyeol admired his reflection in a nearby mirror. “How is it, is it okay?” he asked L.
“It’s great. He keeps your cards for you?” L asked. Sunggyu had used to do that; he’d hated it so much.
“Oh? No,” Chanyeol said, “this is Suho hyung’s.”
Suho’s credit card? And he’d just handed it over? After barely looking at the outfit and not even asking about the price? No negotiation, no argument, no interrogation. Just easy, unquestioning access to money. “Does he do that a lot?”
Chanyeol nodded, turning to examine his reflection from different sides. “He always buys things for us.”
He always buys things for us. Then this wasn’t a special treat or a unique occasion, and it wasn’t just something between Suho and Chanyeol. “It must be nice to have a generous leader.”
Chanyeol chuckled. “Suho hyung takes great care of us.”
L chewed on his lower lip, his gaze traveling across the store to where Suho was picking out a gift for some other team’s maknae. “You’re close with Teen Top?”
“What? Yeah, we’re close. They’re great.” Chanyeol finally turned away from the mirror and looked at L. “You’re close with them, too, aren’t you? Niel said that you used to do a lot of special stages together.”
“Mmm. We used to hang out.”
“He said that you planned to go on MT together a few times.”
Oh, had he? L gave Chanyeol a hard stare. “Niel talks too much.”
Chanyeol’s eyes widened. “I, uh, sorry, sunbae.”
L walked over to where Woohyun and Sungyeol were dressing EXO’s maknae. “I’m going first. I’ll be at that place down the street.” Turning away before they could respond, he headed for the front door. Outside, he tucked his hands in his pockets, ducking his head. Murmuring polite greetings as he passed fans, he hurriedly crossed the street.
He wondered what kind of guy played fairy godmother for so many other guys, and why.
“How much longer?” Ricky asked, a lump on the floor.
“Sixteen more hours?” Niel guessed as Changjo leaned down to touch the floor. “Maybe eighty-five?”
“Oh, okay,” Ricky said. “Not much longer, then.”
Hearing a knock at the door, Changjo glanced over. L.Joe went over like he’d been expecting it, opening the door. “Ah, hey.”
“Teen Top’s practice room,” a familiar, smooth voice said, and Suho walked in. “Wow, it’s the best.”
Staring at him, Changjo straightened slowly. What was he doing here? Anticipation bubbled quick and happy in Changjo’s gut.
“It’s a whole parade,” L.Joe said, laughing, as Baekhyun and Chanyeol and D.O. followed Suho into the room.
“Hi, hi,” Chanyeol said, waving to everyone.
“We go wherever he goes,” D.O. explained, gesturing to Suho.
“Our Changjo,” Suho said, walking right over with a smile. “I know, I’m a day early, but we won’t be able to meet tomorrow. Is it okay?”
“I didn’t know you were coming,” Changjo said. It was such a stupid, little thing, coming by practice, but seeing Suho when he hadn’t expected to made him feel really…happy, inside. Really warm, really good.
“I - - ya, where is it? D.O.,” Suho said, turning.
“Ooohh, he is growing up,” Baekhyun said, openly checking Changjo out.
“Cover your tits, we have visitors,” C.A.P. said, shoving Changjo’s shirt against his chest.
“What does it matter, between guys?” Changjo asked, letting the shirt fall again. He hadn’t worked out to get this body just to cover it up.
“Hey, our maknae doesn’t look like that,” Chanyeol said, frowning.
“You don’t look like that,” D.O. pointed out.
“Ya, the present,” Suho said in exasperation. Taking a wrapped box from D.O.’s hands, he turned and handed it to Changjo. “Our Changjo.” He stopped himself and smiled fondly. “Our Choi Jonghyun. Happy birthday.”
He didn’t know why he felt so weird inside, why it made his heart ache to see Suho beaming at him with affection. Wasn’t that how Suho always looked? “You didn’t have to get me anything.”
“Good,” Ricky said. “Because no one else got you anything.”
“Oh, I’ve got something for him,” C.A.P. murmured, and Chanyeol burst into laughter.
Ignoring them, Changjo unwrapped the gift. He uncovered a solid, black box. It said “Creation” in silver across the lid in English, and it had a combination lock.
“The combination is eleven-sixteen right now, but you can change it,” Suho said, handing him a typewritten page with instructions.
“It’s a safe,” Niel said. “It’s a safe?”
“Our Changjo should have somewhere all of his own for special things,” Suho said. “He’s becoming a man, he needs his privacy.”
Privacy. Somewhere to put things, to store them, to keep them safe. A place for keepsakes, for gifts from fans, for memories. Somewhere just for him, someplace only he could get to. Not his members, not his manager, nobody but him. “Yes,” he said to himself, running his fingers over the lock. “I like it,” he told Suho.
“Open it,” Chanyeol said.
Open it? He used the combination Suho had given him - - his birthday. It was fun; he liked the lock, liked that he could keep the numbers in his head where no one else could get to them. If there had been a padlock, his hyungs would have found the key. This way, no one could get into the box. It was his, completely and only his. He didn’t have anything in his life that he didn’t have to share, one way or another. Suho had given him something precious, something he’d craved: privacy.
Privacy was something Suho prioritized, too. Something Suho protected and took seriously. Now he was extending that to Changjo, setting some aside for Changjo. Making sure that Changjo had something he valued highly.
Lifting the lid of the box, Changjo found another box. It was a black velvet jewelry box. Picking it up, he looked at Suho.
Suho was smiling at him. “I couldn’t just give you an empty box on your birthday, so I got something to put inside it.”
The safe would have been enough. Handing it back to Suho, he opened the jewelry box.
“Ooohh,” Ricky said. “That looks nice.”
It was a watch. A shiny, silver watch with Roman numerals. He slipped it on, admiring it against his skin. It felt heavier than he’d expected. “Thank you, hyung.”
Suho smiled at him, looking proud. “You’re growing up so well.”
“Aw, he’s a big boy,” Niel teased, poking him.
He danced away, embarrassed. “I’m not a kid.”
“When I told L sunbaenim that your birthday was coming up, he asked if you were turning fourteen,” Suho said.
“L sunbaenim,” Chunji repeated.
“We bumped into him in the store when I went shopping for Changjo’s present,” Suho explained.
“Mmm.” Chunji sniffed. “Xiumin hyung said that you’ve been getting close with Infinite.”
L.Joe rubbed his nose and looked away. Ricky suddenly found the floor very interesting. Niel sucked in his lips and eyed Chunji cautiously.
“Oh,” Chanyeol said. “It’s…” He laughed nervously. “That’s okay, isn’t it? I feel like we just got caught dating other people.”
“It’s fine,” C.A.P. said. “They’re good guys. If you hit it, let me know how it goes.”
When EXO left, Changjo put his shirt on and walked down with them. In the lobby, D.O. and Chanyeol made hasty excuses and tugged Baekhyun outside.
Changjo smiled at Suho. He was glad that Suho had made a special trip to see him, glad that Suho had put thought into his gift. “Thank you, Suho hyung.” He felt good, he felt happy.
“You’re welcome, Changjo-goon.” Suho hugged him. “Happy birthday.”
Still smiling, he closed his eyes. He hugged back too tightly, and Suho laughed. “You’ve been a good hyung to me. I hope that I can grow up into the kind of man you like.”
“I’ll always be proud of you,” Suho said, patting his back.
“I love you,” he murmured. He didn’t know if he meant it or not; he said it to see what Suho would say in return.
“I love you, too, Changjo-goon,” Suho said, just like that. When he pulled back, his smile was full of pride and affection. “Have a good day tomorrow.”
Changjo grinned. “Believe me, I will.”
Suho blushed. “I meant - - I didn’t - - ah, never mind.” He laughed. “What am I saying?”
Seeing an opportunity, Changjo seized it. “I know it’s late, but do you have a minute? Can I talk to you?”
Immediately, Suho’s expression was concerned. “Sure. Is it okay to talk here?”
“It…” Changjo glanced around, pretending to be uncertain. He wasn’t uncertain at all; he knew the building’s layout, its traffic patterns, knew that no one was there besides his members and his manager. “Maybe in this room,” he suggested, drifting toward an empty storage room.
“I’ll ask the members to wait for me,” Suho said, texting quickly. They went into the room together; Suho closed the door while Changjo turned on only one set of lights, leaving the room dim. They moved together to the back of the room, and Changjo leaned a shoulder against the wall, toying with the hem of his shirt like he was nervous. “Is it serious?” Suho asked. “Are you trying to scare me?”
“It’s…” Changjo ducked his head, blushing. Shyly, he looked at Suho from beneath his lashes. “What was your first time like?”
“My first time,” Suho repeated slowly, surprised. “Ah.” His expression was momentarily confused. “Well, my first time was with a girl.”
“When did you… You had a first time with a guy, though.”
Suho hesitated, like he didn’t want to commit to an answer. Then he said, “Yes, I did.” Bingo, confirmation: Suho had sex with men. “Are you nervous about it? Have you talked to your members?”
“They’re… With my members, it’s a little… It’s not like the sex in movies, with candles and soft music. It’s more like… Mixed martial arts.”
Suho nodded, looking concerned. “You should talk to them about it. It doesn’t have to be that way every time. They’ll take it slowly until you’re comfortable, won’t they? Maybe you should start with L.Joe, or Chunji.”
It was kind of interesting that Suho had chosen the right two members. Was that a smart deduction from personal observation, or had he talked enough to the EXO members to pick up information? “I just… I don’t want to sound stupid, but I’m afraid that it will hurt. Did it hurt? Your first time?”
“No, it didn’t hurt,” Suho said reassuringly. “It shouldn’t hurt, your members will take good care of you. If you aren’t comfortable with it, just ask them to stop or slow down a little. It doesn’t have to be rough to be good, that’s foolish.”
“What if I don’t know what to do?” Changjo asked, pulling stupid questions from all of the bad movies he’d seen and awful books he’d read. “I don’t want to be embarrassing. How do you learn things like blowjobs without looking stupid at first?”
“You really should talk to your members about this,” Suho said. “You’re worrying too much. You’ll be fine. They know you haven’t done it before, they won’t expect you to be perfect and experienced.” Suho smiled at him. “Maybe it seems silly to you, but sex isn’t about what you do. It’s about who you do it with. They won’t care if you’re skilled or suave or awkward, they’ll only care that it’s you.”
Changjo blushed again, hugging himself. “You make it sound romantic.”
“Sex is romantic,” Suho said. “That’s why it’s called making love.”
Changjo smiled. “My hyungs just call it fucking.”
“Don’t ask them to fuck you,” Suho said. “Ask them to make love to you.”
“Hyung,” Changjo said. He gazed into Suho’s eyes. “Will you make love to me?” He waited a beat, held it, then asked, “Like that?”
As Suho looked at him, he could see Suho’s expression shut down. He could see the reassurance and affection fade into disappointment and displeasure. He’d miscalculated, badly. “My members are waiting for me,” Suho said quietly. “Happy birthday.”
Changjo felt guilty and scared and stupid and resentful and hurt as Suho stepped away. “Suho hyung.” He sounded confused and upset; that was convenient. “Suho hyung, don’t - - it’s not - - I didn’t-”
Suho walked out, cold as ice.
Kai shook his head. “N hyung wants to, but I don’t think he’d actually do it. He’s really worried about being a good leader and protecting his team. I think he feels too responsible. He’d rather not do anything than do the wrong thing.”
“Dongwoo wants to,” Xiumin said. “Woohyun wants to, Sungyeol wants to. Dongwoo said that Hoya will do it if the other members do, so that leaves Sungjong sunbae and Sunggyu sunbae.”
“And L sunbae,” Chanyeol said.
Xiumin winced. “Dongwoo said that L sunbae is a firm no.”
Chanyeol threw up his hands.
“A firm no?” Baekhyun asked. “What does that mean?”
“It means no,” Kai said. “No, you can’t have sex with him. No, he won’t have sex with you. No, not even if you ask really nicely.”
“But no to all of us?” Chanyeol asked. “What about individual members? No, because he doesn’t like us personally, or no, because he doesn’t have sex with guys, or… Why is it no?”
“I don’t know,” Xiumin said. “Dongwoo said that L sunbae doesn’t like that kind of attention.”
“Doesn’t like sexual attention?” Chen asked.
“Oh, he can hang out with D.O., then,” Baekhyun said.
“I like sexual attention,” D.O. said. He glanced at Kai. “From some people. Sometimes.”
Kai gave him an unbearably cute nose-wrinkling smile.
“Then VIXX is a no and Infinite is a maybe,” Suho said.
“After what Sunggyu sunbae told me the other day, Infinite is a no,” Kai said, and told them what had happened backstage.
“I don’t know, maybe he just doesn’t know the situation,” Chanyeol said. “Maybe he’s just being protective. He’ll see it differently if Suho hyung talks to him.”
“Let’s invite them over and pass out lube and see what happens,” Baekhyun suggested.
“There can’t be that much risk, can there?” Chen asked. “Key hyung has sex with Nam Woohyun sunbae. Infinite can’t be that dangerous. With our companies connected now, it seems like they’re safer than Teen Top.”
“If Kim Sunggyu sunbae is protective of his team, that’s a good thing,” Lay said. “That means that he’s being careful. It’s better for us to be close with a team that’s too careful than with someone who agrees to everything right away, isn’t it? We can trust them more.”
Suho nodded, liking that idea. “I’ll talk to him. We’ll see how it goes.”
“Wants to talk to me about what?” Sunggyu asked without interest from his sleepy sprawl beside Sungyeol on the floor.
“I don’t know, do you want to call him?”
“Ennh. You talk to him.”
Dongwoo shrugged and texted Suho. EXO’s guardian Suho? It’s Infinite’s Jang Dongwoo.
Our Xiumin said that you wanted to talk?
Yes. Maybe this is a conversation to be had between leaders. Is that okay?
Infinite’s leader is a little…
I think that there’s something that you and Xiumin hyung talked about one day. Would Kim Sunggyu sunbaenim be able to discuss that with me?
Oh, the thing? Was this about the thing? “Gyu hyung. Gyu hyung,” he insisted, pushing at Sunggyu’s butt with his foot. “Young Money wants to talk to you about all of us having sex together.”
“Tell him no,” Sunggyu said.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Sungyeol said, raising his head from the floor, bleary-eyed.
Dongwoo laughed. “Are you awake?”
“Yes, maybe.” Sungyeol rubbed at his face and squinted at Dongwoo. “Tell him yes, tell him tomorrow, tell him that we’ll bring the lube.”
“Tell him no,” Sunggyu repeated without moving.
“What’s that?” Sungyeol demanded. “Is that fair? What about me? What about Woohyun? What if Hoya wants it? Dongwoo hyung can’t have sex with his friend because you’re too lazy to get it up?”
“Too lazy?” Sunggyu was sitting up. Dongwoo’s eyes widened; this was going to be good. “Too lazy?” Sungyeol already looked nervous. “Too lazy to get it up?” Sunggyu pounced, grabbing Sungyeol by the back of the neck, forcing Sungyeol’s face down against his thigh. Wincing, apologizing, Sungyeol flailed around a little before submitting. “I can get it up any time I want,” Sunggyu said, hand tight on Sungyeol’s nape. “I can put it in you any time I want,” he told the back of Sungyeol’s head. “Is that right?” He didn’t sound mad, he sounded irritated; Dongwoo laughed.
“Yes,” Sungyeol said, his voice muffled against Sunggyu’s pants.
“Too lazy to get it up,” Sunggyu repeated, annoyed. “Has it been too long since I’ve fucked you?”
Dongwoo watched Sungyeol, curious. “No,” Sungyeol said.
“Been too long?” Sunggyu repeated. “You forgot what it’s like?”
Sunggyu sighed, rubbing the back of Sungyeol’s neck. “Yeolie, if you want me to fuck you, just ask me. You don’t have to play around to get my attention. Now I have to act mad and you have to act like you don’t want it and I have to punish you. Why can’t you just ask for what you want like L does?”
Interested, Dongwoo slid flat to the floor, peering down Sungyeol’s splayed body. Oh! Laughing, Dongwoo asked, “Why do you have a hard-on?”
“I don’t,” Sungyeol protested, squirming, covering himself with one hand.
Sunggyu shoved him away. “Go to my room and undress. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Red-faced and embarrassed, Sungyeol was trying to cover up his hard-on. “I-”
“Go,” Sunggyu ordered, putting on his stern, impatient face.
Sungyeol made the helpless, horny sound he made whenever Dongwoo sucked on his cock too hard, and scurried toward Sunggyu’s room.
Dongwoo laughed, watching him go. “So horny all of the time. Why doesn’t he just ask for it?”
“Stupid,” Sunggyu said. He squinted at Dongwoo, looking disgusted. “Do you want to fuck those hoobaes?”
Who, EXO? “Sure. It might be fun.”
“Eh. Text me Young Money’s number, I’ll talk to him.”
He’d had it before with C.A.P. Their teams had worked together a lot, and their members had always been on good terms. Their members had met individually, and some of them had gone on MT together a few times. And then there had been a fight, and things had gotten weird, and Sunggyu had decided: fuck it. It wasn’t worth it. He took care of his own team, he looked after his own members, and that was it.
When Onew had asked him about going on MT later, to give their teams a chance to get to know each other better since Key and Woohyun were so close, Sunggyu had considered it. But he liked things the way they were. His members liked things the way they were. Sunggyu didn’t want to deal with a lot of drama, Sungjong didn’t want to deal with a lot of older sunbaes, L didn’t want to deal with any of it, and the whole thing seemed like too much risk and trouble for too little pay-off. So Sunggyu said no, and Onew didn’t bring it up again.
Now, all of a sudden, Woohyun and Sungyeol and Dongwoo were all asking to screw EXO. But they were only so interested because EXO was so insistent, and that made Sunggyu wary. Why was EXO so determined? Why not take no for an answer? Why come after Infinite and not some other team? There were dozens of teams to choose from; why Sunggyu’s?
He met with Suho alone in a tiny conference room at the SM offices. Taking a seat, he pushed his chair away from the table and sat back. He’d never been one-on-one with Young Money before. He wondered what would happen if he pushed. Would the kid get flustered? Get angry?
Suho took the chair beside him, turning it to face him. Suho’s nervous smile invited him to be friends. He didn’t feel like being friends. “I hope that you’ll forgive me if I’m too forward or too vague,” Suho said. “This is a sensitive situation and I’m still figuring it out.”
“I’ll make it easy, then,” Sunggyu said. “No. The answer’s no.”
“No?” Suho laughed. “You haven’t heard my proposal yet.”
“Do I need to?”
“You don’t give in easily,” Suho said. “I’m glad for that. It makes me want this more, not less, because it means that you protect your members well. I want to deal with a leader whose team is precious to him.” He smiled, but it wasn’t a genuine smile; it was just an expression on his face meant to make him seem pleasant. Every good idol had one. “My members are precious to me, too. Their happiness is important to me. It’s good for them to make friends, but I want to be sure that their new friends are good influences. Your members are very hardworking sunbaes, and I would be grateful if our teams could become closer.”
“Why Infinite? What’s wrong with any other sunbae team, or a group from your debut year?”
“It’s a big decision,” Suho admitted. “I weighed a lot of factors. I did a lot of thinking, and I consulted with my members. Your team is very hardworking, successful, talented, and charismatic. Since the merger, our management is close. Woohyun sunbae being so close with Key hyung helps,” he said with a smile. “If Onew hyung trusts you, I can trust you, too.”
“Why worry about Infinite? Why not stick with Shinee and your other SM sunbaes?”
“We’re close with Shinee, but they’re very busy. It’s good for us to branch out and make new friends. Especially for the younger members, it’s not good for them only to deal with hyungs. They need more friends their own age.”
“You consulted with your members?”
“I asked them if they liked your members, if they got along, and they said yes. They’re very happy about the idea of becoming closer. It seemed like some of your members wanted that, too.”
“Who else are you asking? Should I think that we’re the first? Do you go through sunbae groups like toilet paper?”
Suho looked surprised, but it vanished quickly. “There’s been another group. One, outside of SM. I can’t tell you who it is, that wouldn’t be fair to them. But there’s only been one.”
He wondered who it was. “Then we’re your second choice. My hardworking, charismatic members weren’t first in your mind.”
Suho took a deep breath. “Circumstances brought us close to another team. We’re still close. I can’t say more about it. But my members do like your members. They’re very excited about this. Haven’t Xiumin hyung and Dongwoo sunbae been close for a long time?”
Sunggyu crossed his legs, studying Suho. “What’s it like on your team? ‘Tell your leader which boys you like, hyung will buy them for you?’ Infinite’s members aren’t for sale.”
Suho held his gaze. No confusion, no anger, no uncertainty, no bluster. “What do you need from me? How can I help you to feel like this is possible? What would make you feel better about it?”
He wasn’t resisting only on his own behalf. He was doing it for L and Sungjong, too. But he had to give Suho a chance, for Woohyun and Sungyeol and Dongwoo. “I’ll give you a shot. One night. Dinner, movies, shopping, whatever you want. You and me, two of my members, two of yours.” He needed a better idea of what EXO had going for them and what they had to offer his dongsaengs. “Your most romantic member and your most talented one.”
Suho nodded. “All right. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you tonight?”
“If it works out, we’ll talk again? And if it doesn’t, I hope that you won’t hold it against the members who are already becoming friends.”
“I don’t dictate who my members are friends with.” He just discouraged and encouraged as he saw fit. “As long as they’re close, you should know the rules.”
“Yes,” Suho said. “It’s good if everyone agrees on how things are, so that there are no misunderstandings.”
“What are your rules?” Sunggyu asked. He needed more insight into who Suho was, how Suho led. “Are you strict?”
“I think that I’m too lenient,” Suho said, laughing. “My members say that I’m too strict. I don’t mean to be hard on them. I love them, I’ll do anything for them. But I’ll do anything to protect them, first. I’m not their friend, I’m their guardian.”
Sunggyu knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t fun being a hard-ass all of the time, but someone had to make the tough decisions. Sunggyu had learned very early that if he cared about his members, he was going to have to do things that they hated sometimes.
“The rules,” Suho said. “There’s no ‘honey’ over the phone. There’s nothing, nothing but kid-friendly respectability in texts. There’s no tweeting each other, no taking pictures, no video. It doesn’t matter how close they are or how long it lasts, if they never see each other after tomorrow, there will be no evidence, not a photo, not a recording, that proves they knew each other any better than you and I know each other right now. What happens in the dorm stays in the dorm. What happens on MT stays at MT. When your member comes over, his phone goes on a table by the door, and he can pick it up again when he leaves.”
Shit. Sunggyu was starting to like this kid.
When Sunggyu walked in, Sungyeol tried to read his expression. He looked pretty calm, but that didn’t mean anything. Things weren’t okay unless Sunggyu was smiling.
“Nam Woohyun!” Sunggyu shouted. Then he kissed Sungyeol right on the mouth and went to the kitchen.
Sungyeol kind of wanted to be kissed again. “How’s Suho?” he asked, following along to the kitchen.
L was there, drinking water. He handed Sunggyu the bottle. Sunggyu drank, draping an arm around him, not answering the question.
“Our beloved leader,” Woohyun said, coming in and leaning in the doorway. “Are we playing seven-on-nine?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Sunggyu said. “Did you know that they’re already screwing another team?”
“What, Shinee?” Woohyun asked. “Key won’t tell me anything, but he said to look forward to a good time.”
Sunggyu drank again and shook his head. “There’s someone else, another team, outside of SM.”
“Who?” Sungyeol asked.
L went really still and looked at the floor.
“Who?” Woohyun asked, looking interested. “It…” And then he stopped talking.
“Who?” Sungyeol demanded. Who was EXO hooking up with? It was probably just some hoobae group, someone they’d debuted with. They weren’t close with anyone else, were they?
Woohyun shot a quick look behind himself, toward the rest of the dorm, then drew closer, leaning in like he didn’t want to be overheard. “It might be VIXX. They seem really close, and they debuted together.” Then he lowered his voice and added, “Or it might be Teen Top.”
“Their leader’s close with Changjo,” L said.
Wait, “What?” Was this happening? “Teen Top?” Sungyeol repeated. Of all other teams, of all of the millions of idol groups out there, it was Teen Top?!
“It could be anybody,” Sunggyu said.
“Baekhyun asked me what I thought of them,” Woohyun said. “He asked what I think of VIXX, if I thought they were good hoobaes, if I thought they were handsome. He asked about Teen Top, if we were close, didn’t we used to hang around together, did I think they were cute. He hasn’t asked about anybody else, he hasn’t even mentioned any other idols.”
“Maybe it’s VIXX,” Sungyeol said quickly, jumping on that idea. “That makes sense, right? More sense than Teen Top.”
“What do you mean, their leader’s close with Changjo?” Woohyun asked.
“At the store,” L said. “He was buying a gift for Changjo’s birthday. Nice stuff.”
Sungyeol frowned. “The store we were at? Where we met them?”
“They’re screwing,” Woohyun said, stepping back. “That’s it, they’re fucking.”
“We’re talking about Young Money,” Sunggyu pointed out. “Doesn’t he buy nice things for everyone?”
“You’re sure there’s another team?” Sungyeol asked.
“He said that there’s one group outside of SM,” Sunggyu said. “It could be anyone.”
Woohyun held Sunggyu’s gaze like there was no one else in the room. “What do we do?”
“It’s over,” Sunggyu said. “If it’s like this, we’re finished. I’ll tell Young Money no.”
No, no, no. Things had been going really well and looking really promising, and now Sunggyu was negotiating with Suho, and Sungyeol was about to have his pick of hot hoobaes. He really, really needed this to happen.
“We should at least talk to him,” Woohyun said. “Let him decide.”
“Who has C.A.P.’s number?” Sunggyu asked.
Woohyun dug out his phone.
Wait, they were just going to call? Just like that? Now? Was that a good idea?
Sunggyu was dialing. Apparently he thought it was a great idea. Sungyeol tried to fade against the cabinets, eager to hear every word but not wanting to be in the line of fire. “Ya, it’s Kim Sunggyu hyung.”
Speakerphone, speakerphone, come on, Sungyeol had to hear this.
Behind Sunggyu’s back, L waved him over. Hurriedly, he slipped across the room, tucking in behind L.
“Sunggyu hyung,” C.A.P. said. “It’s been a long time.”
Sungyeol wondered where C.A.P. was and if Chunji was suddenly plastered to his back listening avidly like they were plastered to Sunggyu’s.
“Have you eaten?” Sunggyu asked.
“Ah, no, it’s been a busy day,” C.A.P. said.
“Maybe we should meet,” Sunggyu said. “Hyung will buy dinner.”
Whoa, face-to-face? Sunggyu was serious about this.
“Ah, tonight?” C.A.P. asked.
“Yes, tonight,” Sunggyu said. “Where should we meet?”
“Dinner,” C.A.P. said shortly, brushing Chunji aside and heading for the bathroom.
“Dinner, I know dinner, I heard dinner,” Chunji snapped. “What does he want?!”
“You were breathing down my neck, weren’t you?” C.A.P. asked, stripping. “You heard what I heard.”
“I’m coming,” Chunji announced, his nostrils flaring. “I’m coming with you, I’m going to dinner.”
“No, you’re not.” Starting the water, C.A.P. put a hand on Chunji’s chest, looking into his eyes. “Calm the fuck down. I’ll talk to him. He probably doesn’t want anything.”
“It’s a public restaurant,” Chunji said. “What are you going to do, call the police? I can eat anywhere I want.”
“Get your shit together,” C.A.P. warned. Ugh, he’d better make a concession. “I’ll take the maknae, okay?”
Chunji glared at him. “Tell him to record everything.”
“Sorry,” C.A.P. said, and gestured in his direction. “Baby-sitting.”
“It’s all right,” Sunggyu said. “Let’s leave our phones with our managers and talk comfortably.”
Changjo smiled as he relinquished his phone. It was all right; he’d remember everything Chunji would want to know, anyway.
They sat in a corner booth, away from the door, away from windows. They made small talk for a while, and then Sunggyu looked at Changjo and said, “Nice watch.”
Yeah, it was. Changjo maintained eye contact for an extra beat, then gave his wrist a careless shake and glanced at it like he didn’t care. “Thanks.”
Sunggyu held his hand out.
Changjo slipped off the watch and gave it to him.
Taking the watch, Sunggyu looked it over. “Teen Top’s doing well,” Sunggyu told C.A.P. with a smile.
“It was a gift,” C.A.P. said.
Sunggyu handed it back. “From Angel?”
“Yes,” C.A.P. said. “They always take care of us.”
“Let’s talk business,” Sunggyu suggested.
C.A.P. nodded, relaxing. His hand was on Changjo’s thigh under the table. From Chunji, that would have been a signal. From C.A.P., it just meant that he wanted to feel Changjo’s thigh under his palm.
“Infinite has an opportunity,” Sunggyu said. “I don’t care, I can take it or leave it, but some of my members are looking forward to it. I don’t want to cheat them out of something good if there’s no reason to back out.”
“I think that you’ve had the same opportunity,” Sunggyu said. “You said yes. Would you say yes again?”
“Why don’t you tell me why you think we’ve had the same opportunity,” C.A.P. said.
“That watch isn’t from a fan,” Sunggyu said. “It’s not engraved.”
“Fan, friend.” C.A.P. shrugged. “When a hyung hands you a gift, you say ‘thank you’ and take it.”
“Young Money said something,” Sunggyu said. “No names, no clues, just something.”
Young Money? Was that - - Changjo snorted with laughter.
“If the same person’s extending the same opportunity to me and to someone else, I want to know who the someone else is,” Sunggyu said. “The best guess my members have is you. It’s a guess, that’s all it is.”
Changjo’s thoughts spun. Suho had talked to Sunggyu. Sunggyu turned around and talked to C.A.P. Because he wanted to double-check things, get some reassurances, talk to someone he trusted to make sure that EXO was safe? No, he’d talk to Onew about that.
“We took the opportunity,” C.A.P. said. “So far, so good.”
“Looks like we might end up playing in the same playground,” Sunggyu said. “That might get uncomfortable.”
Ah. He was worried about Chunji.
“If we all know that we’re in the same playground, seems like that makes it easier,” C.A.P. said.
“You think so,” Sunggyu said.
“Seems less complicated,” Changjo said. “Less to hide. More cooperation. More opportunities for everyone.”
“Everyone,” Sunggyu repeated. “Don’t tell me this birthday was the birthday. Fuck, how old am I?”
“Ancient, hyung,” C.A.P. said, grinning. “Ancient.”
After dinner, he pulled Dongwoo aside, into his room. They made out for a while. He told himself to stop procrastinating and just have the damned conversation, but Dongwoo was really into it, and he was really turned on, so he went ahead and fucked Dongwoo, going until they both got off hard and there was a bite mark on his arm.
Wrapping Dongwoo in his arms, he held Dongwoo’s back against his chest, resting his chin on Dongwoo’s bare shoulder. “I’ve talked to Young Money.”
“Yeah, the maknae said.”
“EXO is involved with another team. We’re their second. It’s someone outside of SM.”
Dongwoo made an interested, accepting sound. Then he laughed. “Lucky Xiumin! All of those SM sunbaes and another team, too? Does he have time to be onstage?”
Sunggyu tightened his embrace. “The other team is Teen Top.”
The room was really quiet for a while. Then Dongwoo said, “Oh.”
Sunggyu rubbed his nose against Dongwoo’s shoulder. It was hard to do this, hard to break bad news and not be able to offer a solution. Hard to feel so frustratingly helpless.
A short, meaningless laugh. “That’s okay, right? That’s, I mean. It’s okay.”
Of course. Of course Dongwoo wanted to see it in the best way. Of course he wanted it to be okay. But that didn’t mean that it really was okay.
“So he, I mean, Teen Top is having sex with EXO? That. It. That’s okay.” He was just talking to himself now. “It’s okay. Okay.” Shaking Sunggyu’s embrace off, he sat up, laughed, rubbed at his face, and turned around, sinking back down chest-to-chest now, his face against Sunggyu’s shoulder.
Rubbing his back, Sunggyu wondered what he was thinking about. “If you don’t want to screw EXO anymore, that’s okay.”
“What?” Dongwoo sat up, hugging his knees to his chest. “I miss him, you know? I really miss him.” Already he was tipping to one side, landing against Sunggyu again. Sighing, Sunggyu hugged him. “Really miss him.” He sighed, too, poking idly at Sunggyu’s pubic hair. “He’s having sex with EXO? That’s so many different guys. He must love it.”
“Hmm.” Rubbing the back of Dongwoo’s neck, Sunggyu kissed his ear. Only he would say, “He must love it,” in a normal tone without any bitterness at all.
Dongwoo laughed. “So many of them. One of them must be able to do it the way he likes. Not everybody can keep up, you know? Maybe some of them make him happy.” He rubbed at Sunggyu’s nipple, flicking it. “I wonder who his favorite is. Do you think it’s Kai?”
Sunggyu wrinkled his nose. “That kid?”
Instead of answering, Dongwoo rested his cheek on Sunggyu’s upper arm. “I wish, I don’t know what I wish. I miss him.”
“I know.” He couldn’t do anything about that. “What about EXO? Will this make things too awkward? Do you want to get closer to them or not?”
“I don’t think it’s awkward.” Dongwoo’s voice was puzzled, like he didn’t understand what Sunggyu was getting at. “Awkward why? Unless we all go on MT together, all three teams at once. That would be awkward.”
Cupping Dongwoo’s chin in one hand, Sunggyu looked into his eyes. “Dongwoo. It’s okay with you to go and meet EXO and have sex with them. The hoobaes who are banging Chunji. They take turns on top of him one week, then come and meet us the next week, then go back to him. That’s not awkward for you?”
Dongwoo sniffed. His eyes looked wet. “It’s not about that. I don’t care who he has sex with. I care who he doesn’t have sex with. Me.”
Sunggyu nodded, sliding his hand around to the back of Dongwoo’s neck.
“I’m not mad at some hoobae. One hoobae or nine hoobaes, it doesn’t matter. They don’t know anything about me and Chunji or why it, why it, why it hurts.” He sniffed again, wiping at his eyes. “I don’t know why it bothers me so much, this is so stupid. He’s just some foolish kid.”
“You like him,” Sunggyu said. “It’s okay.”
“It’s okay if we meet them. What they do with Teen Top is separate from what they do with us.” With an uncomfortable shudder, he sat up, hugging himself. “Why did you have to say that? Why did you have to put it that way? ‘Take turns on top of him.’ The way it sounds.”
“Sometimes things have to be put plainly to get through to you.”
“I understand! You think I don’t understand?” He leaned forward, curling into himself. “It would be different if I was one of them. If there were twenty, and I was one of them, or fifty, how many, I don’t care, if I was one of them. But I’m not one of them. We don’t even talk anymore. And they’re. On top of him. Taking turns. When he won’t talk to me.” He was breathing in gasps, his hands crawling tightly up and down his upper arms. “I knew there were other guys. I know about his members. But I didn’t know it was like this.”
“Here, come here,” Sunggyu said. He couldn’t stand seeing Dongwoo like this. He felt like some guilty villain. He’d brought it up in the wrong way; he’d pushed too hard. As he tried to gather Dongwoo in, Dongwoo curled over his thigh, landing in his lap. “You cry too much,” he muttered, patting Dongwoo’s back. “You’re too old to cry over some pretty kid.”
Dongwoo sniffed, rubbing at his eyes. “Can I stay with you tonight?”
“You can stay.” Sunggyu stroked Dongwoo’s bare side. “I’m sorry. I should have been nicer.”
“All of those pretty hoobaes.” Dongwoo only sat up far enough to lean against Sunggyu’s shoulder. His eyes were rimmed in red. He sniffed. “He must love it. I think it would really turn me on if I didn’t want to throw up so much.”
Curious, Baekhyun picked it up.
Hyung, should I get my watch engraved? What should it say?
Oh, it was Changjo. Hunh. Scrolling up, Baekhyun noticed that Suho hadn’t replied to Changjo’s last three messages. Hadn’t said anything since before Changjo’s birthday.
“Ya, stop being nosy,” Suho said, taking his phone back and putting it in his pocket.
“Why aren’t you talking to Changjo?” Baekhyun asked. D.O. shot him a “no” look with a headshake. What? That only made him more curious. “Are you still having a fight?”
“We had a misunderstanding,” Suho said. “I misread his intentions.”
“Shouldn’t you make up?” Baekhyun asked. “He’s just a kid, you’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t talk to him.” He said it mostly just because he liked getting to call a seasoned sunbae a kid.
“I don’t think so,” Suho said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“What’s up with tonight?” D.O. asked, probably just trying to change the subject. “Where are you taking Infinite?”
“What do you think, is dinner a good idea?” Suho asked. “I reserved a karaoke room so we can have privacy.”
“Dinner’s good,” Chen said.
“Why do Chen and Kai get to go?” Chanyeol asked. “I want to come.”
“I can’t travel with so many other people everywhere I go,” Suho said, laughing. “Sometimes it’s just a few at a time. They have to come. Kim Sunggyu sunbae asked for our most talented and romantic members.”
“Wait, which one am I?” Kai asked, laughing.
“Ya, I want to be the talented one,” Chen said.
“Okay, hyung,” Kai said. “I’ll be the romantic one.”
“Since when are you romantic?” Baekhyun asked.
“He has a boyfriend and you don’t,” Chen said. “Maybe you should shut up this time.”
“Does having a boyfriend automatically make you romantic?” Chanyeol asked.
“Can I come if I’m more romantic than Kai and more talented than Chen?” D.O. asked.
“Can I come if I’m more romantic than Sehun and more talented than Sehun?” Xiumin asked.
“Hey,” Sehun said, looking up.
They met in the back room of a restaurant close to the SM offices. It was a really nice place, the kind of expensive place that made L feel like whoever was paying was trying to buy him along with dinner. In jeans and a sweater, L wasn’t dressed for a fancy restaurant, but everyone else had on basically the same thing.
Suho had brought Chen and Kai. They seemed friendly, but they didn’t seem pushy, so L decided to give dinner a chance.
This wasn’t really about friendship, though. It was about sex. They were sizing each other up as sex partners. L didn’t have casual sex partners; the whole idea didn’t appeal to him anymore. Between make-up artists and stylists and the salon and PD’s and directors and everyone else, he had enough people looking at him and poking at him and touching him; he didn’t need to invite someone else to do it in his spare time. If he invited anyone else to touch him in intimate and sexual ways, it was going to be someone he trusted, someone he felt good with, not just some hot guy looking to get off.
It was a round table. L sat between Suho and Chen. He and Chen were the same age, and they talked about working abroad, about spending time away from their other members in a foreign country, learning the language and the customs, getting used to the attitudes and the food. They got along so well, L started to wonder if he was being unfair, if he was being too cynical, if maybe he and Chen could be friends.
“What’s your role?” he asked. He should know, but with so many members, he hadn’t really paid enough attention to pin down which member was which. And since he was a sunbae, he didn’t have to know. “Vocal?”
“Chen’s our dancing machine,” Suho said, and Kai laughed.
“Stick to your own conversations,” Chen said, laughing. “Vocal,” he told L. “Main vocal.”
Oh, main vocal? “Should we go to karaoke?” L asked. “Will you sing for us?”
Chen smiled like he was pleased. “I’ll sing if sunbae sings, too.”
“You don’t want me to sing,” L said.
“You have a pretty voice,” Chen said.
Yeah, right. “What do I sing?” L asked, smiling, challenging him.
“You know,” Chen said, covering one eye with his hand. “‘Don’t leave like this. Don’t show me your turned back for the last time.’”
“Oh, he got it,” Sunggyu said, laughing.
“Should we learn your moves, too?” Sungjong asked.
Kai laughed. “Do you want to crawl around like a wolf on the floor?”
Sungjong glanced down. “Not in these pants.”
L wondered how far they were allowed to take this conversation. He was pretty sure that SM had made arrangements with the restaurant in some way. They’d been left alone a lot, and the staff seemed to know Suho. “What’s your other role in EXO?” he asked Chen. “When you’re not working?”
Chen looked puzzled for a moment, then blushed and looked at Suho.
“Is it okay to ask?” Kai asked. “What’s yours?”
“He’s very cuddly and he’s versatile,” Sunggyu said.
“Ah,” Chen said. His cheeks were still pink, but he laughed. “I’m very cuddly and I’m not versatile.”
“I’m not versatile, either,” Sungjong said. “Well,” he glanced at Sunggyu, “in a different way than Sunggyu hyung’s not versatile.”
“Oh,” Kai said. “You don’t - - or you don’t - - wait, what are we talking about?” he asked, laughing. “Are maknaes allowed not to be versatile?”
Sungjong was eyeing Chen. “I think that Chen hyung and I do things the same way.”
“Everyone says it’s the easy way,” Chen said. “It’s so much work!”
“So much work!” Sungjong agreed, laughing.
Kai shook his head. “If you’re doing too much work, the other person’s not doing enough. It’s like dancing, isn’t it? If the other dancer leads you well, all you have to do is follow.”
L glanced at Suho. “What about you?”
Suho blinked and smiled at him. “What about me?”
“You don’t have to worry about Suho hyung,” Kai said.
“He doesn’t, it’s not, uh, I don’t know where to take this sentence,” Chen said, laughing.
“Off-limits?” Sunggyu guessed.
“That, yes,” Chen said, sounding relieved.
“Why?” Sungjong asked, looking Suho over as if scrutinizing him for sexual deficiency. Sungjong’s smile was poisonous. “Too good to share?”
“No,” Suho said, laughing. “No, it’s not like that. I just. Don’t.”
He didn’t what? He didn’t have sex? L didn’t believe that for a second.
What was Suho doing? Setting himself up outside the situation? Arranging for his members to screw? Getting off on pimping them out? Maybe he liked the sexual negotiation, liked the machinations. Maybe he watched, got off on seeing other guys screw his members. Were there other surprises on the way? Other limits, rules, restrictions?
He didn’t have sex with his members, he just arranged for them to get laid?
He didn’t have sex with Teen Top, he just bought them expensive birthday presents out of the kindness of his heart?
Dinner ended, and Suho paid. As they walked out, L fell behind with Sungjong. Curling his arm around Sungjong’s waist, he whispered, “What do you think?”
“I like them so far,” Sungjong whispered. “I don’t love them, but they seem nice.”
“What about Suho?”
“Kai and Chen checked out my ass and yours and Sunggyu hyung’s,” Sungjong whispered. “Suho didn’t even look.”
What, “Not at all?” Shit, L was watching Chen’s ass at that very moment. It was really cute.
“Do you think he’s straight? Or asexual?” Sungjong whispered.
“No.” And L was going to prove it.
“Any time,” Suho said with a smile. “You ate well.”
“Will the members back at the dorm be sad if we don’t bring them home something?”
“I think they want you to bring home something, but it’s not food,” Suho said, laughing.
Ah! Laughing, Chen squeezed him. It was always so cute and funny and awkward when Suho made sexual remarks. “Is it going okay?”
“I think so. I hope so.” Suho’s smile was affectionate. “It’s all right if you have a little fun tonight.”
Was it? “Really?” he asked, astonished.
Suho nodded. “Not too much fun! But a little fun. The karaoke room is safe. They won’t come in unless we ring the bell, our manager will be outside the door, and there won’t be anyone in the rooms around us.”
Wow. All of a sudden Chen’s skin felt hot. “Thank you for inviting me tonight, hyung.” Oh, damn. Baekhyun and Chanyeol were going to be sick with envy.
He didn’t understand Suho. He had his answer ready to give Sunggyu - - “No, I don’t want to get involved, but yeah, I think the rest of you should” - - but he couldn’t give that answer until he figured out what Suho was up to. He wouldn’t feel comfortable giving his members the go-ahead if Suho was a lying, scheming asshole. And he couldn’t think of any other explanation for Suho’s behavior.
At the moment, Suho was singing a pop song. Kai and Sungjong were already on their feet, dancing, writhing against each other. Chen and Sunggyu were arguing happily over what to sing next. Getting up, L stepped right up beside Suho, resting his hand on Suho’s back. With a surprised smile, Suho offered him the mic. He sang along for a few bars, his hand sliding to Suho’s waist, his body close. As soon as the side of his body pressed against Suho’s, Suho stepped away, keeping the mic between them.
Singing along, L backed off slightly, dropping his hand. He didn’t want to be too obvious too soon. He sang with Suho like they were old, familiar friends, and when Suho passed the mic to Sunggyu, he sat down with an inviting smile. He chose to sit on the bench behind the table, scooting over a little like he expected someone to join him. “It’s nice, isn’t it?” he asked, deliberately speaking at a volume Suho wouldn’t catch.
With a questioning smile, Suho leaned in to hear.
“I said it’s nice, isn’t it?” L asked. “Taking the night off?”
Suho nodded, smiling, and sat beside him.
Chen was singing, and L said, “Ah, main vocal. I see.”
“Did it sound different when we sang?” Suho asked, laughing.
“I’m not in charge of singing,” L said, shaking his head. “I leave that to other members.”
The corners of Suho’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. “It’s too obvious what sunbae’s in charge of. I shouldn’t sing around Chen and I shouldn’t sit so close to you.”
L laughed. “Aren’t you the visual in EXO?”
“Me?” Suho asked. “Me?” he repeated incredulously, pointing to himself. “Who are you talking to?”
“Ya,” L said, laughing, pushing lightly at Suho’s thigh and immediately withdrawing his hand before Suho could object. “I’m talking to you. You aren’t the visual? Who is, if it’s not you?”
“All of our members are very handsome,” Suho said. “It wouldn’t be fair to choose just one.”
“So modest,” L teased. He watched Kai and Sungjong dance for a moment before he asked, “Teen Top’s Changjo, he liked your birthday gift?”
Suho looked faintly surprised, then seemed to remember why L would know about that. “Yes, I think so.”
His smile was only polite, not genuinely happy; L wondered why. “Eighteen years old. I remember eighteen.”
“I was a trainee,” Suho said. “What were you doing?”
L smiled. “Debuting.”
“Ah, it’s rough,” Suho said. “It’s rough on kids, isn’t it? It’s an industry run by adults with all of the pressure of living a public life. I try to take care of my dongsaengs, I don’t want them to grow up too fast, but we demand so much of them.” He shook his head, gazing at the screen. L almost didn’t catch his next words. “I worry about that kid.”
One member in particular? “Which kid?” L asked, curious.
Suho smiled briefly. Instead of answering, he said, “I think that I try to take care of too many people at once. I try to do too much for my members. It seems foolish to pick up more dongsaengs when I already have so many members. But I can’t help it.” He peered into L’s face, feigning a concerned look. “How are you, sunbae? Have you taken your vitamins? Are you getting enough rest?”
“Rest,” L repeated, chuckling. “I don’t remember what that is, do you?”
“I think that I used to know. That seems so long ago, now.”
If “that kid” didn’t refer to one of his own members, had he still been talking about Changjo? Or some other dongsaeng? “I haven’t talked to Changjo lately. How is he?”
“Adorable,” Suho said. “So cute. So handsome.”
Suho seemed - - L couldn’t quite pin it down. Sad? Regretful? Wistful. He seemed wistful. “He was always a good kid,” L said. “Mischievous, but I liked that. He was young, but he could look out for himself.”
“But so young,” Suho said. “Should he have to?”
What kind of world did Suho live in? Didn’t everyone have to look out for himself at a young age? “He’s not a toddler.”
Suho smiled. “I see my members, other dongsaengs, all of these kids, and everyone works so hard, and they have so much talent, and they have so much promise, and I just want to help them. Guide them, support them, give them what they need to grow into better adults.”
“You can’t help everybody,” L argued. Was this hoobae for real? “Don’t you have enough to do to look out for yourself?”
Looking puzzled, Suho shook his head. “What kind of person would I be if I only helped myself? Aren’t I hyung? Aren’t I leader? Aren’t I a man, an adult? I want to live a good and honest life, and I can’t face the mirror if I let down the people around me.”
L stared at him. Was this real? Was he sincere, or foolish, or just saying what sounded good?
Suho smiled. “Blink, sunbae, you’re getting scary.”
L blinked, then shook his head. “I guess they named you ‘guardian’ for a reason.”
Before Suho could reply, Kai leaned in and said, “Sungjong sunbae and I are going down to get more snacks.”
Like Kai had pushed a button, Suho reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Without a word, he handed over a credit card and tucked his wallet away again. Then he said, “Don’t go too far.”
“I won’t,” Kai promised, turning away.
As Kai and Sungjong left, L rubbed his nose. “Team credit card?”
“Mmm? Oh, it’s mine,” Suho said like it didn’t matter.
“You don’t care what he does with it?”
“He’s a good dongsaeng,” Suho said. “Kai’s responsible.”
“Are all of your members responsible?” L asked.
Suho smiled. “Kai’s responsible,” he repeated. L laughed.
Now that the dancing was over, though, Sungjong was just making cheerful conversation, not flirting, not suggesting that they make use of one of the empty rooms nearby. Just smiling at him and joking with the woman taking their order and asking about his plans for the week. Apparently, Sungjong left the flirtation behind on the dance floor.
That was okay. Kai really wanted to turn him on and screw him up against the wall and hear what he sounded like when he came, but they could just hang out, too.
Sunggyu chose a rock song and really got into it. He looked really cute, bouncing on his toes during the guitar solo, eyes shining as he waited for the next verse so he could rock out again.
Chen couldn’t choose one, so Sunggyu started a new song at random. It was slow, a ballad, and Sunggyu pulled L off of the bench and into his arms to dance while Chen sang.
Chen knew the song, so he watched them instead of the lyrics. They did a typical couples’ pose at first, Sunggyu’s hands clasped at L’s waist, L’s arms around Sunggyu’s neck. Then L apparently decided to take a nap or something, because he snuggled right in with his head on Sunggyu’s shoulder and closed his eyes, his hands resting on Sunggyu’s waist. He looked really comfortable, and Sunggyu smiled, rubbing his back, turning in slow circles. The slide of Sunggyu’s hands over L’s back was hypnotically seductive; up, down, up, down, slow, over L’s spine, then slightly to the left, then more to the right, a soothing massage, highlighting the natural arch of L’s back. The two of them seemed so comfortable together, so intimate, that Chen wondered what it was like when they had sex with each other.
That thought threw him off entirely, and he stumbled through the next line of the song, staring uncomprehendingly at the words onscreen.
Of course he’d known, as a general fact, that Sunggyu and L probably had sex together, but he hadn’t thought about the reality of it, the details, the acts and positions, the way their bodies might rock and slide together. It was probably just regular sex like anyone else had, like he had with his own members. But as Sunggyu hugged L close and L’s lips curved in a contented smile, he wondered.
When the song ended, Sunggyu smiled at Chen and clapped around L. Then he ran his thumb along the curve of L’s ear. “Going to sleep?”
L yawned, then stepped away, rubbing at his face. Kai and Sungjong came in, and everyone talked over snacks for a few minutes. When Kai and Sungjong started a romantic ballad, L laughed and asked Suho for a dance. Suho looked surprised but agreed with a self-conscious smile.
Chen looked at Sunggyu. “Should we dance?”
Sunggyu finished chewing and sucked sauce from his thumb. “Okay.” He stepped around Chen to reach for a napkin.
A moment later, arms wrapped around Chen from behind. Pulled flush against Sunggyu’s body, he found himself walking backward across the room. Leaning his head back on Sunggyu’s shoulder, he laughed. As they came to a stop, Sunggyu’s arms loosened around him, not enough to let him go, just enough to give him room. A push at his hip urged him to turn around, and then he was in Sunggyu’s arms, gazing into Sunggyu’s eyes, feeling like they must have done this before. Sunggyu’s embrace tightened around him again, coaxing him right up against Sunggyu’s chest. He wasn’t sure where to put his hands, so he put them on Sunggyu’s shoulders. He liked how calmly Sunggyu took command of the situation, liked how well they’d coordinated without talking.
“Hmm.” Sunggyu moved them over a few steps, closer to the glow of the screen. “Ah, now I can see you better.”
Self-conscious, Chen laughed. “What is it you want to see?” he asked, his hands sliding toward Sunggyu’s neck. “I look the same way I did earlier.”
“Hey.” Sunggyu grinned. “One of the best things about this job is getting to look at so many pretty hoobaes.”
He laughed again, surprised. They danced slowly, swaying to the music, his hands stroking the back of Sunggyu’s neck. Was it too bold to touch like this? He liked the softness of Sunggyu’s skin, liked the way Sunggyu flirted with him, liked the way Sunggyu’s hands rested on his waist. He felt warm, kind of flushed, like he was a little bit drunk but not on alcohol. Maybe it was the way Sunggyu was looking at him that made him feel intoxicated. Such a direct gaze, a sweet hint of a happy smile, those long, straight lashes not quite shielding the flirtatious sparkle in Sunggyu’s eyes. He let his thumbs ruffle the soft hair at Sunggyu’s nape. “One of the best things about this job is getting to know so many handsome sunbaes.”
Sunggyu widened his eyes, laughing. “Ooohhh, it’s like that?”
“It’s not like anything,” he protested, chuckling.
“Ah, I understand,” Sunggyu said, nodding sagely with a wink.
What was with this foolish sunbae? “There’s nothing to understand!”
“It’s okay.” Sunggyu’s hand rose to the back of his head, pressing his face to Sunggyu’s shoulder. “It’s okay. Sunbae will look out for you. Ah.” A sigh. “It’s always the pretty ones.”
“You aren’t making any sense,” Chen said, chuckling, but he stayed where he was. Relaxing against Sunggyu’s chest as they rocked together, he closed his eyes. This was nice. It was, ooo, very nice. Sunggyu was caressing his hair, fingers lightly, slowly combing through it. Lower down, Sunggyu’s other hand was at the small of his back, rubbing, massaging in a way that sent honeyed lassitude through his muscles. The shoulder under his cheek was firm, and when he opened his eyes, the smooth, pale skin of Sunggyu’s neck beckoned him. He kind of wanted to kiss it. With one arm coiled around Sunggyu’s shoulders, he felt as if he’d melted against Sunggyu. He didn’t know what was going too far anymore; the way Sunggyu was rubbing his back made him feel like everything was okay and comfortable between them. Instead of kissing Sunggyu’s neck, he touched it, caressing it with his fingertips, with the backs of his fingers. Such soft skin. Pleased, humming with contentment, he petted Sunggyu’s chin, the line of Sunggyu’s jaw. The smooth expanse of Sunggyu’s cheek looked deliciously tempting, the perfect landing pad for soft kisses.
Sunggyu kissed his cheekbone. It was so perfect that his eyes closed. And then Sunggyu was stepping away from him, and he realized that the song was on its final notes, and the rest of the room fell back into place around him. For a moment, he felt everything - - happy, disoriented, self-conscious, aroused. He wanted more, and he wondered if he was embarrassing himself, and he felt really good.
With his members, they’d always been friends first. With Teen Top, it had been kind of like, “Hi, my name’s Chen, so that’s what your cock feels like.” He hadn’t done this flirting, dating thing before, not like this. He really liked it.
But Suho had immediately refused to play along. While Chen melted against Sunggyu’s chest like they’d just finished making love, Suho stayed at a polite distance. L couldn’t get any chest-to-chest contact and definitely no groin-to-groin. When L’s hand drifted past the boundary of Suho’s belt, Suho laughed and actually pulled away, and L had to laugh, too, and pull him back in like it was all a joke.
Suho’s body language wasn’t stiff or awkward, though. He seemed perfectly comfortable at his polite distance. His hands rested easily at the back of L’s neck, and he smiled like he was enjoying the moment.
It was all right. L didn’t have to use his hands to get what he wanted. He gazed into Suho’s eyes. As Kai and Sungjong warbled, he slowly went through the best of his repertoire. He smoldered. He yearned. He pondered the mysteries of the universe in Suho’s eyes.
Early on, Suho stopped glancing away; he had all of Suho’s attention. Gradually, gradually, Suho’s smile faded away and color rose in Suho’s cheeks.
It was an interesting challenge, to stay subtle, not to be obvious about switching from one look to another, to let them meld and blend. He gave Suho his “I love you” look. His “I need you so much, don’t you see what you’re doing to me?” look. He used “I want to spend the rest of my life figuring you out” and “I need to feel your cock inside me, I need it” and “My soul was yours the moment we met.”
Suho was his; the fight was over, there was no question about it. Suho was staring at him like he was all that mattered, cheeks flushed, lips parted. He gave his “It’s so good between us, just wait until you feel me inside you” look, and Suho took a step forward.
Wait, no. Suho immediately stepped back again, blinking. In a flash, a strange look crossed Suho’s face - - he looked troubled, flustered, panicked, guilty, angry - - and then he was back to polite smiles, giving L a firmly reassuring look before turning his gaze to Sungjong and Kai. As they finished the song, he pulled away from L, stepped away, and applauded. “Ah, you sang well.”
What the hell. Baffled, L stared at the side of his head. What was with this guy? He’d been L’s, he’d been completely caught, he’d been one smile away from dropping his pants. What had happened? What had that weird, guilty look been about?
Why resist? What was he up to? Who put up this many barriers? What game was he playing?
“Did we sound that bad?” Kai asked, laughing. “L sunbae looks upset.”
“Yes, you sounded awful,” Sunggyu said, taking the mic from Kai’s hand. “Go back to dancing, Chen will show you how it’s done.”
“Oh, I will?” Chen asked.
“Sing well,” Suho said, giving Chen’s arm a supportive squeeze. “I have a call to make, I’ll be back.”
A call. A real call, or an excuse? L watched him go. Waited. And followed.
In the bathroom, something mortifying happened. Chen almost burned up with shame when Sunggyu caught him trying to sneak a peek.
He didn’t have a good excuse for it. It wasn’t like him to look! He never looked! But he was curious, and the point of the evening was to make friends so that their teams could go on MT together, and if this all worked out at some point Chen was going to have Sunggyu’s cock inside of him, so he was curious. He wondered. And he glanced, really discreetly and really fast, and Sunggyu caught him.
While he was on fire with embarrassment, Sunggyu laughed. “No,” he protested, laughing, his cheeks burning. “It’s not like that! Oh, what can I do, don’t laugh!”
“Is that how hoobaes act these days?” Sunggyu asked, zipping up.
“No, you can’t think like that! I’m not a pervert,” he protested. “Oh, why is it like this?”
“Your face is red,” Sunggyu noted, going over to the sinks. “Liked what you saw?”
“I didn’t see anything! Nothing, I saw nothing.” He might have, but Sunggyu had caught him trying to peek before he’d glimpsed anything.
“Nothing?” Sunggyu repeated, drying his hands. “There’s more than nothing there!”
“What can I do, how can I live like this?” Chen moaned, laughing. “I’m sorry, sunbae, it’s not like me, I don’t do these things.”
“Now that you’ve seen everything, you might as well call me hyung,” Sunggyu said.
“I didn’t see! I didn’t see anything!”
“There’s something to see!” Sunggyu insisted. “You just weren’t looking properly!” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t think you’re very romantic. Staring and peeking in the bathroom isn’t romantic behavior. That’s not how to find love.”
“Love isn’t what I was looking for,” Chen pointed out, and Sunggyu burst into laughter.
When they left the bathroom and headed back, Sunggyu stopped one door early. Opening it, he gave Chen a suggestive smile and went inside.
Turned on and curious, Chen followed. As the door closed, he wondered what Sunggyu was up to, what Sunggyu wanted. Were they about to - - did Sunggyu want to - - was it okay if they…?
Keeping the lights low, Sunggyu sat on the padded bench by the wall. Chen sat beside him, wondering what to do, what to say.
He’d become sexually confident with his members, and Teen Top had shown him that he could be sexually confident around other people, too, that he could do what he liked and ask for what he wanted and not be self-conscious. Being penetrated over and over again in a room full of hyungs and sunbaes had burned away any lingering sexual shyness. But he didn’t know Sunggyu well enough for this, did he?
Then again, how well had he known C.A.P.? And wasn’t that what casual sex was about? Putting together body parts, feeling good, enjoying the moment?
But he wasn’t necessarily interested in just any good-looking dick. He wanted more than that. If he wanted a random poke, he could go back to the dorm. He wanted sex that felt as good to his heart as it did to his body. He wanted to feel like, like…
…like he’d felt in Sunggyu’s arms.
That had just been dancing, though. Sex was a lot more. What was romantic about blowing some guy who probably didn’t even know his real name?
Maybe it was foolish to want romance. Maybe it was foolish to pass up good sex because it didn’t make his heart pound. If it got him off, it was just as good, right?
Sunggyu smiled at him, cupping his chin. “What are you thinking about so hard? You look like you’re trying to figure out the whole world.”
“Ah, it’s nothing.”
The backs of Sunggyu’s fingers caressed his neck; Sunggyu’s smile was fond, happy. “I won’t tease you anymore. It’s okay if you want to look. Hyung doesn’t have anything to hide.”
“No, I shouldn’t look.” The slow stroking felt so nice, he was starting to get turned on. Shifting his weight, turning to face Sunggyu more directly, he tried not to be too obvious about leaning into Sunggyu’s touch. “What do you think is better? A lot of sex that feels good but doesn’t mean a lot, or a little sex that means a lot?”
“Why can’t you have a lot of sex that means a lot?” Sunggyu asked.
“If I could, I would.”
Sunggyu’s thumb slid along his jaw, tipping his face up. He really wanted to close his eyes and moan. He didn’t know why this felt so good. Sunggyu’s expression kept shifting from happy, friendly, sparkly-eyed smiles to concentrated sexual intent, and it was really messing with his ability to breathe. “You don’t make love with your members?”
Make love with his members? “It’s not like that. It’s not love, it’s sex.” What was Sunggyu talking about? “Do you make love with your members?”
“Sure. They’re jerks and clowns and they bully me,” he said with a chuckle, “and we don’t call it making love, we call it ‘get in here and get naked so I can bone you,’ but it’s making love, anyway.”
Chen tried to match that with his own experiences. He wasn’t sure that it connected. Maybe he’d been looking at things the wrong way. Sex with the members wasn’t meaningless. It definitely meant something. But he felt like there was something else out there, something that went with romantic love, something he wasn’t getting in the dorm.
Sunggyu smiled, his thumb rubbing lightly, too lightly, across Chen’s lower lip. Blood hot, Chen was starting to want things. “When my dongsaeng looks at me like that,” Sunggyu’s finger trailed across Chen’s lower lip, “he wants me to put my fingers in his mouth. Should I put my fingers in your mouth?”
Yes. That was exactly what he wanted, just what he needed, how had Sunggyu known? He nodded, his mouth opening farther, wider, inviting. Sunggyu’s fingers slid between his lips, entering, penetrating, and he moaned, sucking hungrily, fire burning between his thighs. Sunggyu pressed down on his tongue, and he licked Sunggyu’s fingers apart, his eyes closing. Straight, smooth fingers. Playing with his tongue, sliding in and out of his mouth, creating a fucking sensation. He was so turned on that he was still moaning, gripping the bench with both hands, wanting to cup the ache between his legs, wanting to reach out and touch. Sunggyu’s fingers twisted between his lips, caressing the roof of his mouth, and he lowered his head, sucking them deeper into his mouth, his tongue snaking over Sunggyu’s knuckles.
Soft kisses, light kisses, brushed over his cheekbones. The intimacy of it, the incongruous romance, hit him hard, and he shuddered, sucking fiercely. “Pretty Chen-Chen,” Sunggyu murmured, brushing kisses over his earlobe, the corner of his eyebrow. “You look so sexy and you suck so well, I want to give you more.”
Groaning, Chen was so turned on that he ached with need. Sunggyu’s sexual confidence was so sexy, he opened his eyes again, staring at Sunggyu’s face, letting everything show in his eyes. He liked what Sunggyu was doing to him, liked the things that Sunggyu was saying to him. More, more, yes, he wanted more, he wanted Sunggyu to give him everything.
“Look at you,” Sunggyu said. His fingers were sliding, pushing, fucking; he raised his hand, coming in from above. “I want to play with you all night.”
Nostrils flaring, Chen moaned happily, sucking greedily, his chin coming up, his head tilting back. He loved sucking fingers, but so few guys really knew how to make it good. God, this was incredible, he was so turned on he hurt.
“Aahmm, I want you,” Sunggyu whispered, wrapping an arm around his waist and hauling him close. Halfway in Sunggyu’s lap, he whimpered happily, his hand sliding into Sunggyu’s hair. “Look at you, how much you love it. That’s it, take what you need, suck as much as you want.”
Sunggyu’s hair was soft between his fingers, and he stroked through it with both hands, moaning with pleasure as Sunggyu breathed against his neck. He wanted to be on his back, wanted to spread his legs, wanted to feel Sunggyu deep inside of him.
“Why doesn’t he take better care of you?” Sunggyu whispered, kissing his neck. Slow, clinging kisses, lingering, sucking, until he was shuddering in Sunggyu’s arms. “If you were mine, I’d give you everything you wanted. I’d make sure that you had everything you needed.”
Chen didn’t know who “he” was and he didn’t care. He loved what Sunggyu was saying, loved being talked to this way. It felt so good, he squirmed the rest of the way into Sunggyu’s lap, his hands in Sunggyu’s hair, on Sunggyu’s neck, rubbing over Sunggyu’s shoulders and pulling aside the neckline of Sunggyu’s sweater, trying to get to more skin.
“Want to fuck you,” Sunggyu whispered, kissing his neck, sucking at his collarbone, licking his skin until he thought that he’d die if Sunggyu didn’t make love to him. “Want to fuck you deep, fill you up. Give you everything.”
Everything, yes, oh, please, please. He was moaning, writhing, pulling at Sunggyu’s sweater, rubbing himself, making desperate, joyful, muffled pleas around the stroking of Sunggyu’s fingers. “Yes, fuck me, I need to feel you in me, please.”
“Mmmm, I want to open up those legs and fuck your sexy, round ass.” Yes, oh, it sounded so good, Chen shuddered, hot, aching, feverishly rubbing his cock through his pants. “Want to bury my cock in you. Fuck you long and hard, fuck you until you’re satisfied, fuck you until you can’t take it anymore.”
“Yes, yes, unnh, mmmmfff, uhhh, fuck me, sunbae, please.” Sunggyu’s fingers were twisting in and out, corkscrewing into his mouth, making him pant.
“Sexy, pretty Chen,” Sunggyu whispered, kissing his neck, licking his jaw. “If he can’t keep you satisfied, if he can’t give you what you need, he doesn’t deserve you.” Suddenly Sunggyu was looking at him, looking right into him, eyes narrowed into a glittering rim of black heat. “I’d make your sweet ass rejoice.”
Oh, god. Ecstasy erupted through Chen and he came, spasms of pleasure shaking him as he spurted in his pants. “Oh, oohhh, hmmmmff, oh.” His eyes rolled back in his head as he shuddered through climax.
“That’s it,” Sunggyu murmured, kissing his neck, hugging him close. “You know what you need, you know what feels good.”
Good, yes, he felt great. As Sunggyu’s fingers slipped from his mouth, he licked his lips, sagging against Sunggyu, his hands fumbling weakly over Sunggyu’s soft sweater. Pleasure was warm and thick inside him, and he rubbed his lips against Sunggyu’s neck. Such soft skin. Such a soft sweater. He felt amazing all over, and he wanted to soak in it for a while, wanted to hold onto Sunggyu and feel good together, wanted to, to, to…
…to roll onto his back and spread his legs and feel Sunggyu fill him up. He’d come, and he still felt good from that, but he hadn’t satisfied his deeper desire, hadn’t sated his need for, for, for…
For what? For cock? That was the easy, obvious answer, but it didn’t seem right. He needed something else, something…
Sunggyu’s hand cupped the back of his neck, and the way Sunggyu’s thumb whispered across his nape made his head fall back. As he shuddered with desire, Sunggyu kissed his neck, whispered his name. “You need it,” Sunggyu murmured against his skin. “I want to spread you over this table and slide inside you.”
“God, that sounds fantastic,” he whispered, sliding both hands through Sunggyu’s hair, leaning back. “Please, you have to, I can’t take it.”
Sunggyu’s arm tightened around his waist, drawing him back in. “Not tonight, sweetheart.”
The disappointment was so strong he hurt, and he wanted to protest, to fight it, to insist. Sunggyu wrapped both arms around him, holding him, and he gave in, snuggling close to console himself, his arms around Sunggyu’s shoulders, his eyes closed. The physical relief from orgasm calmed him, but he still felt unfulfilled.
“Why are you like this?” Sunggyu sounded irritated but was still holding him close, rubbing his back. “Why doesn’t he take better care of you?”
“Take care of what? Who do you keep talking about?”
“Oh.” Puzzled, Chen wondered what Sunggyu meant, exactly, or what he could say. “Suho hyung… I don’t, uh. Anyway, I have sex all of the time.”
“Not the kind of sex you need, if you’re acting like this.”
“Acting like what?” Chen demanded, laughing, self-conscious now. He slid off of Sunggyu’s lap, back down to the bench. “My members are great. Maybe they’re not romantic, but-”
“Hell, I’m not romantic,” Sunggyu said. “But even I-”
“Aren’t you?” Chen wasn’t so sure about that. “Don’t you make love to your members?”
“I also do a lot of rude things just because I can get away with it.”
“How rude? Why do they let you?”
“They let me because they like it. Bunch of horny kids, they’ll do anything for sex.”
“What about you, you don’t like sex?”
“I love sex. I wish I were screwing you right now.” Grumbling under his breath, Sunggyu winced, shifting uncomfortably.
Chen wished that he could see better in the half-light. Sunggyu’s lap was too shadowed for him to get a good look. “I don’t think that it’s Suho hyung’s job or my members’ job or anyone’s to make sure that I get some specific kind of sex.”
Sunggyu shook his head, his lips pressed together, his eyes narrow. “A leader’s responsibility is real.”
“A leader isn’t responsible for everything. What if your members were kinky or into something you didn’t like?”
“I would take care of it,” Sunggyu said firmly. “One way or another.”
“What is Suho hyung supposed to do, find me a boyfriend?”
“Why not? Why shouldn’t he?” Sunggyu demanded. “Let’s find you one. What do you like? What sorts of boys do you want?”
“Why are you like this?” Chen asked, laughing. “You take it too seriously. What about you, do your members take care of you? Do they give you everything that you need?”
“Yes. I get whatever I want whenever I want it.”
“Oh? If it’s so good, why are you here talking with us, trying to go on MT?”
“I’m not. I don’t even want to go on MT with your members. I’m giving your leader a chance because I want my members to be happy, but I don’t care about this. I don’t want this.”
That was, well, it was insulting, really. Chen rubbed the back of his neck. “Is it like that? You don’t like EXO? Or you only like sex with your members?”
“I’m happy with my members. I don’t need anyone else. Woohyun and Sungyeol are interested in your members, and Dongwoo’s ready to play along, but I don’t need it. It’s too much work, too much drama, too much hassle. Keeping everyone happy, coordinating schedules, being discreet. Is it worth it?”
“I think so,” Chen said honestly.
Sunggyu grunted. Then, reaching out, he curled his arm around Chen’s shoulders, like this was a thing they did, like they were familiar with each other. Liking it, Chen slid closer on the bench, tucking himself against Sunggyu’s side, resting his head on Sunggyu’s shoulder. His arm wrapped around Sunggyu’s waist, across Sunggyu’s stomach. “What kinds of boys do you like?” Sunggyu’s fingers combed through his hair. “Your own age?”
“My age is nice. It’s comfortable that way.”
“What are you, ’92 line?”
He hummed. He liked this. It felt so cozy.
“L’s age,” Sunggyu muttered. “You like C.A.P.?”
He snorted with laughter. “I don’t think that C.A.P.’s very romantic.”
“Ah, he’s a marshmallow, he just has to act tough. Leading a bunch of little kids, if you let yourself bend, you’ll start feeling sorry for them, and then it’s all over, you’re worthless as a leader.”
“Hunh.” Chen hadn’t thought about that. “Can I have L sunbae?”
Sunggyu chuckled, rubbing the side of his neck. “You like him?”
“Mmm, yes.” So, so handsome. “He was really nice at dinner. Maybe he likes Suho hyung more than me, though.”
“Ah, lucky Suho,” Sunggyu sighed.
Chen laughed. “Didn’t you just tell me that you can have L sunbae any time you want him?”
“Oh, lucky me,” Sunggyu said, chuckling.
Smiling, Chen snuggled in. He didn’t really know what kind of guy he wanted. Someone his own age, but what else? Someone good-looking, someone talented, someone committed to music. Someone who would laugh with him the way Chanyeol did and cuddle with him the way D.O. did and gaze into his eyes after sex the way Suho did. Someone who understood him like Baekhyun did and knew his body like Sehun did and listened to him like Lay did. “Maybe I want someone like my members.”
Sunggyu’s hand rubbed up and down his side in a way that made him want to undulate. “What’s your real name?”
“Oh? Kim Jongdae.”
“Kim Jongdae,” Sunggyu repeated, still rubbing his side. His back was arching and he was starting to feel warm. “I like it. Do you want to be called Chen?”
“Can I be honest? I liked it when you called me Chen-Chen, earlier.”
Sunggyu chuckled, hand rubbing across his stomach and up his chest. “Or maybe you liked what I was doing to you while I said it.”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “That was kind of amazing.” He toyed with the hem of Sunggyu’s sweater, gazing at the soft skin of Sunggyu’s neck.
Sunggyu sighed, patting his chest. “All right, let’s go. I have to check on my members, see what they’re up to, make sure that your members aren’t getting them in trouble.”
“I don’t think that Suho hyung’s going to get L sunbae in any trouble.” Moving reluctantly, he forced himself up.
“You haven’t spent enough time around L.” Sunggyu stood up, yawned, and put his arm back around Chen like it was supposed to be there. “People do weird things around him.”
He hadn’t been alone for long when L came into the room. “Oh, hey,” he said, putting his phone in his pocket.
“Finished your call?” L asked, walking over and sitting beside him.
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “I called my member and he hung up on me.”
L smiled, rubbing the back of his neck, looking amused and adorable. “I think that I’ll get along with your members.” Shifting to face Suho, he tucked a foot under himself. “I’m looking forward to going on MT together.”
Suho smiled. He could practically hear cheering in the background. “I think that my members will be glad to hear that.”
L rested his elbow on the back of the bench, his head against his hand. His gaze was so soulful, it seemed to lock onto something inside Suho, holding Suho captive. He had at least a dozen ways of smiling, and the way he was smiling now was sexy, suggestive. “It’ll be nice to get to know some new guys. It’s been a while since I’ve really, you know.” A lazy, flirtatious smile.
“No,” Suho said, laughing. “I don’t know.” This sunbae was interesting. Too interesting; after tonight, Suho was going to have to keep his distance. He’d already caught himself wanting L too much, and he couldn’t let that happen again.
A shrug; a slow, sexy blink. “There are always managers around. Reporters. People. I want to get away from all of that and just,” he inhaled and let it out again, his hand opening as if releasing something into the air, “let go. Forget everything else and live in the moment. Don’t you ever want to do that? Just live in the moment. Just be. Do what feels good.”
“It would be nice,” Suho admitted. It wasn’t necessarily a good idea to sit so close to this gorgeous, sexy sunbae and think about how freeing it would feel to live in the moment. He was going to have to come up with an excuse to leave. He’d come in here in the first place to get away from L, and he’d assumed that in his absence, L would start paying attention to Chen or Kai.
“How many times have you stood backstage and watched some hot guy walk by and wanted to say something? With so many people around, you can’t do anything. I want to get away to somewhere private, even if it’s just somewhere like this. It’s been so long since I’ve been with anyone but my members. I want to know what it’s like with someone new.”
“That’s what my members want, too,” Suho said.
“Mmm, I’m looking forward to it,” L murmured. His hypnotic gaze brimmed with sexual heat. “I’m ready to suck on some hard hoobae cock.” His lips curved slowly in a smile. “I think that your members are going to like it.” His voice was low, his words coming in a leisurely murmur, as if he were confiding in Suho on a sleepy, sultry afternoon. “It used to be basic. When I saw a cock I liked, I’d just put my mouth on it,” oh god, “and suck.” Oh, god. “It felt so good, I didn’t think that I needed to do anything else.” His soft, pink tongue slid from one corner of his mouth to the other, dragging wetly over his lips. “But my hyungs have given me a lot of practice.” Suho was so turned on, breathing was impossible. “I know a lot of tricks now,” L murmured, leaning closer, gazing into Suho’s eyes. “Want to see?”
One moment, Suho was so entranced, he couldn’t look away. The next, L was close, too close, close enough to make contact, and the spell was broken. “No,” he said abruptly, twisting away, pulling back.
L kept coming. “Ah, I know you want it,” he murmured, his hand sliding up Suho’s thigh. “No one has to know.”
Feeling angry, panicked, frustrated, resentful, Suho shoved L’s hand off of him and stood up, moving to the other side of the table. “I said no, sunbae.” Shit, this wasn’t what he’d wanted. His mind raced ahead, forecasting consequences, solving problems. A lot would depend on how upset L was, how L responded to rejection.
“What is it with you?” L demanded. On his feet, he glared at Suho across the table. “What kind of game is this?”
What? “Game?” He couldn’t afford to make this situation worse, but wasn’t that going too far? “I’m not the one playing games, sunbae,” he said firmly.
“You want it,” L insisted, bracing both hands on the table, staring into him with angry, puzzled eyes. “You want me, why not do it?”
Was this a situation where L wasn’t used to rejection? Suho guessed that he didn’t hear the word “no” a lot, especially when it came to sex. Maybe if Suho let him down gently, explained things, he’d calm down. “I’m sorry, but it’s not about you. It’s a private thing. I don’t do that.”
“You don’t do what?” L demanded. “You don’t kiss guys? You don’t get head?”
He hated lying. “I don’t have sex. I’m focused on EXO right now. I can’t afford those kinds of distractions.”
“You don’t have sex,” L repeated.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, firmly. “I hope that you won’t take it personally.”
L studied him with mistrust. “Sex is too big of a distraction, but you’re pimping out your members?”
“Pimping?” he repeated, startled. “It’s nothing like that. It’s good for them, it gives them a break, a reward. They need to get away and have fun once in a while, like you said. It’s good for them to make friends and be close to other idols.”
“It’s good for them and bad for you?”
“I’m not them. We’re different.” He tried to relax, to diffuse the tension in the room, but it was impossible to relax when L was staring at him so intently. “It’s not easy, leading so many members.”
L straightened, crossing his arms over his chest. “Five people is too much for you?”
“I’m the guardian of all of EXO, not only EXO-K. They’re all my responsibility.”
“What do you expect me to believe?” L asked. “That you do this from the generosity of your heart? That you selflessly go around negotiating with other leaders so that your members can get laid while you chastely stay out of it? That you don’t get anything out of this but the happiness of others?”
“Yes.” He wanted to laugh; it sounded kind of silly, phrased that way. “That’s exactly how it is.”
L’s eyes narrowed. “Is it the power? You like feeling superior, watching everyone else slut around while you stay clean? You get off on pimping your members, watching other guys bang them? You secretly record everything? You’re going to blackmail us later?”
“What?” What kind of view of the world did this sunbae have? “No, none of that! It’s nothing like that. I care about my members, I’m happy for them to make new friends.”
“What about your new friends?” L asked. “How is it between you and Changjo?”
Suho didn’t appreciate whatever it was that L was insinuating. He’d been trying to keep things calm, not to escalate the hostilities, but now he frowned. “There’s nothing like that between me and Changjo. He’s a good kid.”
“A good kid you buy expensive presents for.”
“I bought a gift for a dongsaeng on his birthday. There’s nothing strange in that.”
“Big birthday,” L murmured, gazing into Suho’s eyes, leaning over the table again. A smile curved his lips; sexual interest sparkled in his eyes. “He’s growing up, isn’t he? I’ll bet you had a real good time celebrating his birthday. I’ll bet that young, energetic cock felt real good between your legs.”
Shocked, flustered, Suho jerked away, so turned on and so outraged that he didn’t know whether to punch L or run. “What is wrong with you?!”
Blinking, L stared at him as if they’d never met, looking surprised. “You really haven’t had him.”
“What?” Suho felt like he was panting for air. Trying to calm himself, he ran his hand through his hair, took another step back. “No, of course not. I told you, I don’t do that.”
“You… What are you, a virgin?”
Suho was tired of this ridiculous interrogation. “What I do and what I don’t do and why is private,” he said firmly. “We don’t need to discuss it.”
L studied him as if he were a new sort of puzzle.
Playing games, setting him up, not taking no for an answer. If this sort of person was among Infinite’s members, then Suho was cutting things short right now. He wasn’t going to put any of his members in a position where they were involved sexually with someone who thought that the right response to “no” was insistence and sexual aggression. His members would be upset, but that was how it had to be. No MT.
He didn’t have anything further to say to L, so he turned away and left the room. Aware that L was following him, he went back to the main room they’d been using. Kai and Sungjong were there, tucked up together on the bench, practically on top of each other, speaking in soft voices and smiling. “Where’s Sunggyu sunbae?” Suho asked. “Where’s Chen?”
Kai turned; from the way Kai’s attention swung so immediately from Sungjong to him, he guessed that his tone hadn’t been very calm. “I don’t know.” Kai was already getting up; Sungjong looked pissed off about it. “Should I find them?”
“I’ll find them,” Suho said. “Say good-bye to Sungjong sunbae, it’s time to go.”
“Wait,” L said.
Suho’s temper flared. He didn’t want to cause a scene, but he’d had enough of this sunbae. Turning, he faced L and asked calmly, directly, “You didn’t respect my ‘no.’ Why should I respect your ‘wait?’”
“What?” Kai was at Suho’s side as if he’d teleported there.
“Whoa,” L said, looking wide-eyed, backing up a step. “You.” He stepped forward, stepped back again, blinking. “No, it’s not, it wasn’t like that.”
“I said no, and you tried to override it, like you knew better than I did,” Suho said. “You know what you did, you did it on purpose.” Beside him, Kai was getting tense, angry, shifting impatiently; he put a hand down, signaling Kai to back up, and Kai subsided, glaring at L.
“No, that wasn’t real,” L said. He seemed confused and genuinely distressed. “I thought that you were conning us, I thought that you were playing us. I didn’t think that you meant ‘no,’ I didn’t think that you meant any of this. I was trying to fuck with you, to get in, to trip you up.”
“You thought that I was playing you? Is that your defense?” Suho asked.
“I thought that you were pimping your members for your own fun! I thought that you were setting us up! I was trying to get you to expose yourself so I could prove to Sunggyu hyung that we shouldn’t do this!”
“Why would I be some villain mastermind?” Suho demanded. “Does that make any sense?”
“I’m supposed to believe that you’re some pure-hearted generous virgin sprinkling gifts of love everywhere he goes? Does that make any sense?” L demanded.
Ugh, he hated lying. “I’m not a virgin. And I’m not so pure-hearted, I just want my members to be happy. I don’t really care if it makes sense to you.”
Sungjong stepped in, positioning himself between Suho and L. Crossing his arms over his chest, he shot Suho a coolly disgusted look. He was as staunchly on L’s side as Kai was on Suho’s.
“I. Damn it,” L muttered, rubbing his face. When he met Suho’s eyes again, he looked young and wounded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know who you were, I didn’t know what you were like. I was trying to protect my members. I wouldn’t do that, I’m not like that. I was - - it was like playing a role. I just wanted to trip you up so I could figure out what you were up to.”
“What happened?” Kai asked, still tense, still furious, his hand on Suho’s back. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Suho said. “He tried to kiss me and I told him no. He kept trying, talking about ‘I know you want it’ and ‘No one has to know’ like some bad movie.”
Sungjong stared at the side of L’s head in shock, his eyes wide and disbelieving. He looked so genuinely incredulous and stunned that Suho started to believe L’s story.
Kai glared furiously at L, stepped forward as if about to start a fight, then stepped back. “I’m going to find Chen hyung.”
“Chen hyung’s right here,” Chen said, coming into the room with Sunggyu. “Ah, I timed that perfectly.” His smile faltered; he scanned their faces. “What’s going on?”
“I think that it’s time for us to say good night,” Suho told him.
“No,” L said. “No, not like this. I have to - - let me apologize, let me - - I have to make it right. It wasn’t like that, I wouldn’t have acted like that if I’d known it could hurt you.”
“Hurt you,” Chen repeated, cupping Suho’s elbow, immediately looking concerned.
“No one’s hurt,” Suho assured him. “Everything’s fine, it’s just time to go. The two of you go find our manager and go to the van. I’ll be there in a moment, I want to talk to Sunggyu sunbae and then we can go.”
Chen looked worried. Kai nodded and said, “Okay, hyung. We’ll be downstairs.”
As the door closed behind them, Sunggyu flipped on all of the lights. In the newly brightened room, the distress on L’s face, his wounded and vulnerable expression, pulled at Suho’s heart. This jaded sunbae was just a kid, a confused kid who had clearly seen too much of the worst sides of people.
Was this how Changjo was going to be in a few years?
Was this how Changjo was now?
Suho wanted to chase after Kai and hug him. Whatever this industry, this lifestyle, did to people, Suho was going to make sure that it didn’t get to his dongsaengs.
“Talk,” Sunggyu ordered.
“Your dongsaeng made a mistake,” Suho said. “He’s sorry, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea for our teams to be so close anymore. Maybe MT was a bad idea.”
“No,” L said. “No, that’s - - it’s not right for everyone to be punished.”
“I have to look out for my members,” Suho explained.
“I won’t go on MT,” L said. “I didn’t want to go anyway. Everyone can do it without me.”
“I don’t think that our teams know each other well enough,” Suho said. “I don’t really know your members. I don’t know what they’re like.” He was starting to understand what a big risk this all was. They’d been too lucky with Teen Top; it had been too easy. Maybe they should stick with Teen Top for a while. Maybe he was being too greedy, trying to add in other teams.
“They’re not like that!” L protested. “Dongwoo hyung would never do anything like that! Sunggyu hyung, Woohyun hyung, they’d never. None of them.”
“Like what?” Sunggyu asked. “What did you do?”
“I.” L rubbed his hand over his mouth. “I thought that he was fucking with us. I thought that he was playing some sort of game. I thought that if I got him to kiss me, I could prove that he’s lying. So I.” He blinked at the ceiling and laughed without happiness. “I came on to him, and when he told me to stop, I didn’t stop. God, you should have seen it, it was like every creepy PD we’ve ever met. ‘Stop squirming, you know you want it.’ ‘Don’t be shy, no one has to know.’ Fuck.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he blinked hard and stared at the floor, chewing on his lips.
Suho stared at L, his heart twisting in his chest. Was-
“What, surprised?” Sunggyu asked Suho. “How long have you been in this world, only since this afternoon? Why do you think we’ve been telling your members to back off and leave us alone? He’s tired of the attention, he doesn’t want it. He told Chanyeol that he wasn’t interested. I told Kai that we’re not interested. I told you that we’re not interested. You all keep insisting, you can’t take no for an answer, we’re not supposed to think that you’re up to something? That you have some agenda, some plan?”
Suho’s mind spun. Shit. “You’re right,” he said immediately. “You’re right, we knew that L sunbae wasn’t interested. We won’t ask him again. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve been rude, we’ve been clumsy. I’m sorry that we’ve bothered any of our Infinite sunbaes.”
“I’m okay calling the whole thing off,” Sunggyu said.
“We could,” Suho acknowledged. “But some of our members do get along well. Maybe we just need to spend more time getting to know each other. Let’s meet again. If things go well, maybe we could have a casual MT. Where some of us just hang out together and some of us rest privately and some of the members do what they’ve been wanting to do? We have a two-story house. Some of us can relax downstairs while the others keep their fun upstairs.”
Sungjong still looked displeased. “What happened to not knowing us well enough and thinking that we’re all a bunch of sex criminals?”
“Well, we don’t know each other very well yet. You don’t know my members any better than I know yours, so it’s good to make sure that we’re all on the same page. We’d have to lay out rules,” Suho said. “Clear rules that we all agree to.”
“Do you want to do it?” Sunggyu asked Sungjong.
Sungjong shrugged, then nodded. “I want Kai, anyway. We’ll see about the rest.”
“You?” Sunggyu asked L.
L nodded, still gazing at the ground like he was lost in thought. “It’s okay. It’ll make all of the other members happy.”
Sunggyu wrapped his arm around L’s waist and nodded at Suho. “We’ll do it. You can let us know when.”
“Okay. I’m sorry to end tonight so awkwardly. I hope that we can all meet more happily in the future.”
“I’m sorry.” L looked directly into his eyes, and he felt a tug on his heart. “I misunderstood, I made a mistake.” L looked pained. “I won’t do it again.”
Suho really wanted to hug him. “I understand. We’ll put it behind us.”
Sunggyu offered his hand.
Suho shook it, then bowed. “Good night, sunbaenims.”
In the hallway, he texted Changjo.
It will be good to see you tomorrow. Maybe we can talk.
“Sure,” Chanyeol said. “You and Sunggyu sunbae and L sunbae can sit downstairs and watch movies together.”
“And the rest of us will go upstairs and screw our brains out,” Baekhyun said. “Should be great.”
“It isn’t like Sunggyu sunbae isn’t going to have sex at all,” Chen said.
“Why do you keep squirming?” Xiumin asked.
“I don’t,” Chen said, blushing.
“You do,” Kai said. “You were doing it in the van, too.”
“Jock itch?” Baekhyun suggested.
“Shut up,” Chen protested, laughing. “I don’t want to tell you, it’s embarrassing.”
Suho frowned. “If you have a rash-”
“It’s not a rash! Oh my god,” Chen said, covering himself with one hand. “It’s nothing. I just came in my pants. It’s uncomfortable.”
“Came in your pants?” Chanyeol repeated.
“That’s so hot,” Lay said, leaning closer.
“Gross,” D.O. said, shifting away.
“Why did you come in your pants?” Xiumin asked. “Is L sunbae that sexy?”
“It wasn’t L sunbae, it was Sunggyu sunbae. He touched me a little and it turned me on, okay? Can I go and wash now?”
“Touched you where?” Baekhyun asked.
“Did he get off?” Xiumin asked.
“Tell us everything,” Lay said.
“I can’t believe you got some and I didn’t,” Kai said. “That just doesn’t seem right.”
“I hate you,” Chanyeol said. “I told you I should have gone!”
He’d started every morning this way since his birthday, and he planned to start every morning this way for the foreseeable future. Naked, rock-hard, ready to fuck, and - - the best part - - in bed with someone just as naked and just as ready. The naked, hard, and horny part he’d done on his own for years, but now he wasn’t alone. Now he had his members. His sexy, randy, fuckable members.
“You love my cock,” he whispered, just because he could. Running his hand over the body beside him, he decided that it was either Chunji or L.Joe. Not solid enough to be C.A.P., too bony to be Niel, and he could hear Ricky snoring in the other bed.
Chunji purred in his ear. “You know I do.”
Oh, hell, yes. Rolling forward, Changjo kissed him, and he laughed, groping Changjo’s cock, his kisses quick and friendly. Changjo reached for the lube-
“Knock it off,” C.A.P. ordered, letting go of his hand and swatting him in the back of the head. “We’re seeing EXO tonight.”
It was like every holiday and every award and every concert rolled into one amazing event. Changjo sat up, awed. “We’re fucking EXO tonight,” he corrected C.A.P. He felt like he couldn’t smile widely enough. “I’m fucking EXO tonight.”
“And I’m not getting fucked now?” Chunji complained, sitting up. “Damn it.” He jerked the covers over himself and rolled away.
Changjo spent his morning gleefully anticipating all of the incredible sex he was going to have. Plotting all of the things he was going to do. He couldn’t wait to get together with Lay. He couldn’t wait to fuck Baekhyun. He couldn’t wait to find out what Kai did that made his members so horny.
Sex, he was going to have sex, so much sex, with so many hot guys, all in one night.
But every time his thoughts skipped from “so many guys” to enumerating specifically how many guys, his mood turned over and dumped a bucketful of unhappiness on him, swamping him with misery and guilt. He tried to shake it off, but he felt bad about Suho. He couldn’t stop feeling bad about Suho. He’d felt like crap about Suho ever since the night before his birthday, when he’d said something stupid and been too obvious and watched Suho’s affection for him disappear like a blown-out candle.
He hadn’t realized how much he’d counted on that light until it had gone out.
He didn’t know what to do to fix things. And he was really frustrated that it was affecting his big night. He couldn’t believe that he was going to have trouble enjoying an orgy because he’d hurt some hoobae’s feelings.
The closer the appointment with EXO came, the more conflicted Changjo felt. Maybe he should try to talk to Suho before he started screwing around. Was he seriously considering that? Was he honestly thinking about postponing sex so he could have an earnest conversation? What was wrong with him, why did he care so much? Maybe he could text Suho again, or call, and apologize.
Checking his phone, he was surprised to see that Suho had texted him. When had that happened? Last night? How had he missed that?
It will be good to see you tomorrow. Maybe we can talk.
Niel kicked him. “What are you grinning about?”
Tucking his phone away, he pressed his lips together, feeling gleeful. “Nothing. Does it seem bright in here?”
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March 10, 2014
by Matthew Haldeman-Time