I write about men having sex with other men. You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction. This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.
This story includes conversations about sexual assault.
L’s smile was so friendly, so happy to see him, that Changjo decided not to say anything tonight. L was in a great mood; why ruin it?
They went out and walked around for a while. Shopping but mostly just talking. It was a really good night, and Changjo spent the whole time assuring himself that he was doing the right thing. Hearing about Sehun would just get L all upset and brooding and pissed off, and for what? L didn’t need to know. Nobody needed to know.
But too many people already knew. Sooner or later, L would find out. He’d hear about it from one of his members, or someone in EXO would let it slip. Or Suho would insist that he needed to know for some reason.
And if he found out from someone else, Changjo wouldn’t be there to - - to - - not to manage his reactions, that wasn’t it. But kind of that, yeah. To manage his reactions, because he was sensitive and possessive and he was going to hate what had happened. He was too far in love with Changjo; he wasn’t going to be clear-headed about this. He was going to get upset, and he was going to need to see Changjo. To talk to Changjo himself, and probably put his hands all over Changjo to reassure himself, and look into Changjo’s eyes. He was going to need face-to-face time.
If he heard the news from, like, Sungyeol or somebody, then he’d only have Sungyeol’s version of events to work with, and who the hell knew how the story would go around? Who knew what he’d think had happened or what he’d assume from however the story was told? Who knew what Sungyeol would say to him once he started freaking out? Who knew where in the world, literally, Changjo might be or how long it would take Changjo to talk to him personally? Who knew what he’d do in the meantime? To himself? To Sehun?
Obviously, Changjo was way more invested in L’s well-being than in goddamned Oh Sehun’s. But hurting Sehun meant hurting Suho, and if L got pissed off enough, really bad shit might go down. Shit that Changjo couldn’t fix.
If Changjo didn’t tell L about this himself, then someone else would. It might be Suho, guilt-ridden and solemn. It might be Sungjong, gossiping. It might be - - well, it wouldn’t be anybody in Teen Top, because Changjo’s members knew how to keep their mouths shut when something mattered.
He had to tell L personally. And he had to do it now. But he wanted to do anything else, anything, other than tell L what he’d done.
When they got back to Infinite’s dorm, L kissed him, and they started making out against L’s bedroom door. He was super tempted to go ahead and have sex and put off talking for a while longer. He could totally justify it to himself. Especially because if they had sex first, and everything went great, then it would prove to L ahead of time, before the conversation, that he was fine.
On the other hand, if they had sex first, and he flinched, and L noticed it, that would be bad. He could only guess how L would react to that, but it wouldn’t be good, and it would be something he couldn’t make L unsee, and it might affect things between them for a long time, when sex was one of the best things they had between them. And then it would also make it seem like he was only telling about Sehun because he had to, to explain the flinch.
He could just not flinch, though.
He ran his hands over L’s chest, pushing lightly.
Breaking away from his mouth, L looked into his face attentively. Slowly rubbing his ass, L frowned. “You okay?”
L’s hand stilled on his hip. “You’ve been kind of weird all night.”
“No, I haven’t.” He’d been totally fine all night. He’d made sure of it.
“My OST was playing in the shoe store, and you didn’t say anything.”
Had it really played? He rolled his eyes. “I’m sorry, hyung, I guess I didn’t remember to bow down and take your photo when I heard your song on the radio.”
“That,” L said, chuckling. “You didn’t say anything like that. And in the…” His voice trailed off and he sighed, rubbing his nose.
“In the what?” Curious, he ran his hands over L’s hips, scooping L closer.
L dropped his hand, brushing his knuckles over Changjo’s chest. “Sorry. I was about to lie and say that you were so distracted that when we bought the shirts, you accidentally paid. I wanted to see what you’d say, if you’d remember that you hadn’t, or if you’d believe me and try to explain it away. But I shouldn’t lie to you, I don’t want to start that.”
He would’ve believed L, too, and he would’ve made up some bullshit excuse about why he’d done it, and then L would know that something was wrong, because he was distracted and lying and off his game. It would’ve been a good tactic; it probably would’ve worked. But they’d agreed to be honest with each other, and it had been one of the smartest agreements they’d made, because they didn’t have to watch their backs around each other. They knew that they could trust each other.
Changjo had to tell L. He had to-
Wait. “Are you playing me?” Changjo asked.
L smiled, leaning against him. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?”
The “I can’t lie to you” ploy! He was embarrassed that he’d fallen for something so basic! “You’re good.”
“Not that good, if you caught me.” L’s hand slid over his, tangling their fingers together. “What’s wrong, is it a Teen Top thing or a family thing or something else? Something you don’t want to tell me?” L asked, reading his expression. “Suho hyung?”
“It’s about me.” Licking his lips, he eyed L seriously. “I don’t want to tell you because you’re going to get upset about it. Maybe you won’t care, maybe you’ll be like, ‘Oh, whatever,’ but I think that you’re going to hate it. And I’m already getting shit from everybody else in the world about this, I don’t need shit from you, too, okay? Suho hyung and Chunji hyung and Sehun hyung and everybody else is already making this a hell of a lot harder than it has to be. I just want to tell you and have sex and go to sleep.”
L frowned. “Sehun.” He nibbled on his lower lip, rubbing his thumb over Changjo’s knuckles. “Okay. So tell me whatever it is, and I’ll take it, for tonight. If I need to talk to you about it, we’ll talk about it next time.”
It was an out, and he almost grabbed it. It would be a way to procrastinate on having to deal with L’s reaction.
But that wasn’t fair to L. If he needed to react, if he had questions, if he wanted to go off on Changjo, if he needed reassurances, it wouldn’t be fair to make him wait. He’d just hold everything in and let it seethe, he’d just brood over it and let it gnaw on him. It would only make everything worse. L’s reaction tonight would be bad, but it would at least start the process of getting over it. L’s delayed, week-old reaction would only make everything worse. Why set a time bomb?
“No. It’s okay,” Changjo said. “I knew you’d hate it when I did it, and I did it anyway. Say whatever you want to me, I can take it.” He felt like he might be able to point out that in this whole situation, it wasn’t fair for him to have to manage all of his hyungs’ emotions and deal with everybody else’s reactions, when he might have been the one going through something. Besides, this had started with his offer to Sehun, and he could make his own decisions about his own sex life without explaining and apologizing to people. It wasn’t like he had to clear his choices with L first.
But the offer he’d made to Sehun, and the relationship he had with L? Yeah, he should’ve factored how L would feel into it before he’d decided anything. He just hadn’t been willing to do that. He’d lied to himself, because he’d known that considering L would slow him down, and he hadn’t wanted to slow down. He’d just needed to get it done.
“Is this personal or professional?” L asked. “What happened?”
“Personal.” Super personal. He pushed L towards the bed, and L sat down. He almost sat down, too, but he felt better standing, in motion. He drifted around the room for a second, and L watched him with a concerned expression.
Where should he start?
“Changjo-ah,” L said.
“You know about Sehun hyung and L.Joe hyung,” Changjo said. He rested his ass against L’s desk, curling his hands over the edge of it, tapping his fingers under it. “Sehun hyung’s being all weak and dramatic about it. He can’t get over it. Have you seen him?”
L nodded. “Yeah. Suho hyung’s really worried about him.”
“Yeah, see, there’s that, too. Suho hyung’s worried about him, but he’ll talk to you about that, he won’t talk to me about it. He can’t even mention Sehun hyung to me, because the only thing there is to say about him is how upset he is and how hard it is to get him over it. Like he’s a grieving widower. ‘We finally got him to go outside today, it was a really good day, he walked down as far as the end of the block before he noticed the fresh air, and you know how L.Joe hyung always breathed fresh air, so he broke down and we had to get him back inside. We’ll try again next week.’ It’s so much fucking bullshit.”
L grimaced. “It’s okay if he’s having trouble getting over it. Suho hyung always took their relationship seriously, and you always said it was important. But he’s not the only one going through something, shit.”
“I’m not going through anything,” Changjo said. “I’m over it, C.A.P. hyung’s over it, Chunji hyung’s over it, Niel hyung’s over it, Ricky’s over it, we’re all over it. Everybody’s gotten the hell over it. I need freaking Oh Sehun Oh Sehun Oh Sehun to get the hell over it, too.”
L studied him. “What’d you do?”
“He’s upset because he doesn’t have a sub, right?” Changjo asked, shifting his weight, tapping his fingers under the edge of the desk. “He can’t get over the old relationship until he gets a new one, he can’t get over the old sub until he gets a new one. So I found him a new one. I tried to find him a new one, it didn’t work out. But it was a good plan, right? It makes sense.”
L laughed, giving him a puzzled look. “Who did you give him?”
And then L’s whole face transformed. It went from amused curiosity to sick wonder, and then dread slowly overtook him, horror rising in his eyes. “Changjo-ah,” he said, starting to get up. His voice was shaking. His legs were shaking. “Who did you give him?”
“Nothing happened,” Changjo said fast. “Nothing happened, seriously. It didn’t work out, he didn’t even do anything.” L looked sick with horror, and Changjo swallowed, hurrying to explain. “I wanted him to go through with it but he wouldn’t, he said, ‘I can’t,’ he didn’t do anything.”
L closed his eyes, like he needed to let that sink in, but then he opened them again like he didn’t want to be alone inside his own head. “God, don’t.” He swallowed, taking a couple of unsteady steps forward. “Don’t scare me like that.” His hand on Changjo’s shoulder, he stood close, resting his forehead against the side of Changjo’s head. He exhaled and ran his hand over the back of Changjo’s head, and Changjo wanted to feel relieved that he felt better, that he might end up taking this pretty well. But L didn’t exactly have the full, entire story of what had happened. And it seemed wrong to let him feel so reassured when he might get upset again in another minute. On the other hand, maybe Changjo could just let him be okay with it? But, no, Suho would just say something and mess it all up.
“So he didn’t touch you?” L sounded relieved, and Changjo could hear in his voice that he was looking for confirmation, that he wanted - - expected - - for Changjo to say, “No, he never laid a hand on me, we never even got started, it was just an idea that didn’t work out,” and then everything would be fine.
But Changjo couldn’t lie to L. Even if this seemed like a really, really good moment for it. “He pushed me around a little. He didn’t grab my cock or anything, I didn’t even take anything off.”
L took a step back, eyes focusing on him like a laser. “Pushed you around.” L said it with contempt, like he was filled up with so much scorn he might vomit. “What happened?” L’s eyebrows drew together and he gave Changjo a hard look. “Tell me everything. Give me the details, not just what you think I want to hear.”
“Okay, but nothing happened,” Changjo said.
L got really still for a second.
Changjo got the feeling that he might have said that to L once too often, before.
“Nothing happened?” L asked. “Or nothing happened?”
“That’s the same thing, you said the same words the same way. Just sit down, I can’t talk when you’re all on top of me.”
Eyes still on him, L backed up halfway across the room and stood there, waiting. He had this dark look in his eyes, like he’d already made up his mind about something and he was just waiting for Changjo to confirm it.
Yeah, this wasn’t going to go well. “I went to Sehun hyung, I asked him if he had anybody else, like a new sub. He said no. I said that I’d do it. He was freaking tying up his own leg, doing bondage crap to himself, he needed it so badly. I told him that he could do whatever he wanted, I could take it. So he said to come back over on Tuesday.”
L looked disbelieving. “He just agreed to it?”
“He’s desperate. Somebody’s grandmother could’ve offered and he would’ve gone along with it. So I went over on Tuesday, when no one else was around, and we went in his room.”
“Nobody around,” L said. “Whose idea was that?”
“Mine. I don’t want witnesses for that stuff. He started touching me, pulling my hair and asking what my safe word is.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t have one. Do you want every single detail?”
He already knew the answer, but he was hoping that L might say no. But L said, “Yes,” and kept staring at him, watchful, tense.
Okay, so, what else had happened? “He said we’d use ‘Teen Top,’ which is a terrible safe word.” He wondered what L’s was. He wasn’t in the mood to ask. “I said something stupid about using ‘Teen Top,’ and he slapped me.”
L blinked hard and took an angry step forward.
“What, like no one’s ever smacked me around before. He started touching my face, and I said something about blowing him. He asked me if I was being sexy,” he remembered, “and I asked if I should blow him, and he said I was being crude. He was still touching my face.”
“Touching your face how?” L asked, watching him too closely.
He shrugged. “Touching. Caressing my lips. He grabbed my chin hard, like he wanted it to hurt. Then he told me to get on my knees, so I guess he wanted the blowjob after all.”
L hugged himself but didn’t say anything.
“He undid his fly and pushed his underwear down. He was all, ‘Do it, you asked for it, you want it, fucking do it.’ I told him to make me. So he did the, you know, ‘You asked for it, you wanted it.’” He was talking faster now, rushing through this part. “He pushed me down on his bed. ‘Take it, take what you’ve been begging for.’” That, he remembered perfectly, remembered the words, Sehun’s furious and insistent tone, being on his back, looking up, Sehun’s groin in his face. He’d given Sehun dozens of blowjobs, but he’d never seen Sehun’s cock so vividly before. “And then he said, ‘I can’t,’ and he got off of me. I was like, ‘What, not gonna finish what you started?’ but he was already doing his fly up again. So I left.”
L’s eyes were wet with grief and burning with fury. It was so hard to look at him, Changjo looked across the room at his closet doors, instead. “Changjo-ah,” he said, in a soft, breaking voice.
“So nothing happened,” Changjo said. “He didn’t even get it in my mouth before he stopped. He stopped himself, I didn’t even need to. I wouldn’t have,” he added, to be clear. “I would’ve let him, it was what I was there for, that’s the whole point. But he wouldn’t go through with it. Such a fucking wuss.”
L squatted down right where he was standing. Hugging himself, he put his head down.
“Anyway, I guess if you want details, right after he said that he couldn’t do it, D.O. hyung showed up, so we would’ve been interrupted, anyway. And Ricky was hiding under the bed. He wanted to stop me from doing it, he thought it was a bad idea, he told me to cancel, but I wanted to do it, so he got D.O. hyung to sneak him into the dorm and hide him under Sehun hyung’s bed, and he texted D.O. hyung to tell him to come in and interrupt us. But nobody needed to interrupt us, Sehun hyung gave up, anyway. Fucking quitter.”
L wasn’t moving. At all.
“So Ricky knew about it, and I think D.O. hyung might have figured out that something was going on. Sehun hyung told Suho hyung, and Ricky told our hyungs, and now everybody has an opinion about it. C.A.P. hyung’s pissed, Chunji hyung’s super pissed, he can’t get over it. Suho hyung’s treating me like I’m a baby, checking on me and apologizing to me and acting like Sehun hyung’s some kind of super villain now. Sehun hyung won’t fucking shut up about it, he’s apologized to me ten million times a day since it happened, he can’t talk about anything else. He’s sorry, he’s so sorry, he never should have blah blah blah. I know all of these guys who’ve done way worse and act smug about it, or act clueless about it, and the one guy who didn’t even get anywhere can’t stop apologizing.”
L curled in on himself more tightly.
“Look, I’m the one who started it,” Changjo told the top of his head. “I need him to get over L.Joe hyung. We’re getting past it, Angel’s getting past it, we’re all trying to move the hell on, and we can’t do that if he’s still dragging it all out. If I can get him a new sub, maybe he’ll get a grip and we can all let it go, right? But his members won’t do it, and Woohyun hyung won’t share, and what am I going to do, get C.A.P. hyung to do it? So I’ll do it, fine, I’ll freaking do it myself. I can handle it, he’ll get out of it whatever he needs to get out of it, we can all move on.” It made sense, damn it. “But he wouldn’t go through with it, and now it’s worse, now he feels guilty and he hates himself, and everyone’s acting like he did something horrible to me. I was trying to solve a problem, not create new ones.” Scared and not wanting to be, he said, “Say something.”
“I can’t.” L’s voice was soft, tense. “If I move, I’ll kill him.”
Okay, no. “You can’t kill anybody.”
“I have to kill him for doing this to you.” L’s head came up slowly, his eyes focused on some atrocity in the distance, his lips quivering with fury. “And Ricky for letting him. And-”
“Ricky was there to stop him!”
“He didn’t stop anything!” L squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his fists to his forehead. “He was on top of you,” he whispered. “He was on top.” He stopped talking like he was in so much pain it hurt too much to speak anymore.
“I’m fine.” Changjo was supposed to be honest, right, so he’d be honest. “Hyung.” He crouched down in front of L. He covered one of L’s hands with one of his, trying to lower it. L resisted for a second, then let him, gripping his fingers. “Nothing happened, I’m fine, I’m over it, I want to be over it, but everybody keeps going around apologizing and feeling sorry for me and acting like I’m a victim or something, and it’s really fucking obnoxious. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want Suho hyung to look so guilty, I don’t want Chunji hyung to be so angry, I don’t want Sehun hyung to keep fucking apologizing. I wanted to get past the other thing and now I can’t even get past this thing. I know you want to freak out over this but it’s not fucking helping.”
His eyes still tightly shut, L nodded. He pressed his lips together, tears leaking out from under his lashes. He nodded again, squeezing Changjo’s hand.
“You can’t kill Ricky, he’s my best friend. He tried to talk me out of it, he was there to stop it, he talked D.O. hyung into hiding him under the bed and made sure we’d be interrupted. He made sure he’d be there in case I needed him. I didn’t, I didn’t need to be rescued, nothing fucking happened. And you can’t kill Sehun hyung, either. It would screw up Suho hyung’s life, and he doesn’t deserve it, anyway. He stopped himself, I didn’t stop him. He got off of me. I didn’t push him off, I didn’t tell him no, I was going to let him do it. He could’ve gotten away with it, he could’ve done whatever he wanted, I told him to do it. I know a hundred guys who would’ve gone for it. He stopped, he backed up, and now he’s sorry. He told Suho hyung about it, and he said it was all his fault. He hasn’t even tried to blame me, he hasn’t made excuses, he hasn’t been like, ‘Well, he wanted it, it was all his idea, but I guess I should’ve known better.’ He’s taking it all on himself. God, how many guys do you know who’ve done way worse and just go around smirking about it after? I know those guys, I’ve seen how they act. He’s not one of them, he’s not like that. You can’t go after him for this.”
“Your idea,” L said, like the words hurt him and made him want to spit. He finally opened his eyes, looking down, wiping at his cheeks with his free hand. “You didn’t know what you were getting into.”
“Yes, I did. I knew exactly, how would I not know? You think I don’t know what kink is?”
Fury twisted L’s features into a snarl. “It’s not that.”
“It is for some people.” There were secrets he’d kept, things that were only ever acknowledged inside of Teen Top. But he and L weren’t just boyfriends in some cute, superficial way. They’d made commitments to each other that went deeper than that. They’d agreed to accept each other as members. He could trust L to guard his secrets. “It is for L.Joe hyung. That’s what he’s into. Being forced. That’s what he does, it’s what he likes. If they’re the only people they do kinky stuff with, and that’s what L.Joe hyung’s into, then that’s what Sehun hyung’s into, too, right? I figured that’s what he’d want.”
L made a low, strangled noise, staring into his eyes. The pain and grief in L’s eyes looked bottomless, endless. “You knew that’s what he was going to do to you?”
It was really hard to talk when L looked like that. L’s anguish made him want to cry. So he just nodded, his throat tight.
For a long time, L didn’t say anything else. Just squatted there, holding Changjo’s hand. Staring across the room without blinking, like he was looking into some terrible void and his own horror was the only thing holding the atrocities back.
Changjo didn’t know what to say. He’d already said everything. He’d been explaining himself over and over and over, to Ricky, to C.A.P. and Chunji, to Suho, to Sehun, to Niel.
He’d just wanted to solve a problem. He’d just wanted to get Sehun to move on. And now everything was worse.
L still wasn’t moving.
Still holding L’s hand, Changjo sat down. Stretched out. Splayed out on his back, staring at the ceiling. Eventually, about ten hours later, Changjo had to ask, “Is this just how we’re going to live from now on?”
“I need to talk to Ricky.”
“Why, so you can decide whether or not to kill him?”
L didn’t answer that.
Oh, god, that really was why. “Hyung,” Changjo said emphatically, sitting up. “How does murdering my best friend help me?”
“You’re better off without him in your life.”
“Hyung, it’s Ricky. He’s my Lee Sungjong and my Lee Sungyeol. No, he’s not, he’s way better, plus he’s actually helpful, he’s useful. He’s my Nam Woohyun, okay?”
“He let it happen. He-” L blinked for the first time in a year, finally looking at him directly again. “I thought that Chunji was your Woohyun hyung.”
“My members are just way better than yours, we don’t have parallels for everything. You can talk to Ricky if you want to, but don’t bother him.”
“He let it happen,” L said again. He glared at the leg of Sungyeol’s desk, and his glare deepened, sharpened, and he went from angry to hotter-than-the-sun furious in three seconds. He looked so angry, he couldn’t contain his rage, his chest heaving in seething breaths. “He let Sehun slap you. And say that to you. He let Sehun on top of you.”
“I let Sehun hyung do that,” Changjo insisted. “It’s my decision, it’s my life. It’s my body, right, this is still my body, I get to decide what I do with it. I decided to let him do it to me. He decided he didn’t want to. That’s our shit to decide, not a bunch of hyungs’.”
L squeezed his eyes shut again, like if his outrage wasn’t burning in his eyes, he could contain it better. Conflicted, shuddering, he pressed his fist to his forehead again, rubbing his knuckles hard against his skin.
“I told him to take advantage of me, and he wouldn’t. I know the kind of shit he’s into, nothing shocked me. There were like three of us there in the dorm to stop him, but he stopped himself before anybody could say anything. I can’t say ‘nothing happened’ any more times than I already have.”
“He smelled like smoke,” L whispered.
Changjo felt like L had just stabbed him. He didn’t say anything, he just sat there, waiting for the bleeding to stop. It hadn’t even been a question, L had just said it, like a fact, because L knew. L knew a lot of things about Changjo by now, knew what he liked to order at restaurants, knew how early he usually got up, knew that there had been a guy one time who’d smelled like smoke and hadn’t taken no for an answer. Knew that sometimes smelling smoke brought up memories, knew that sometimes certain things made Changjo smell smoke when the air was clean.
He’d smelled smoke in Sehun’s bedroom. Stale cigarette smoke, like Sehun had a regular pack-a-day habit, like the stench of it was on Sehun’s clothes, Sehun’s bed, Sehun’s skin.
It was just a stupid glitch his brain had. He didn’t let it get to him.
“I’m fine,” he said, once he felt like talking again. “Nothing happened.”
L rubbed at his own face, smearing tears over his cheeks. “I love you,” he said, like it was something he was just trying to endure, like loving Changjo was some impossible task he needed to get through.
“Good. Fine. I love you, too.” Letting go of L’s hand, he got up. “I’m going to bed.”
L stayed there on the floor.
Changjo undressed. He took everything off. He even took his rings off, everything. Then he got into L’s bed.
He couldn’t sleep.
L wasn’t moving.
He rolled over and opened L’s nightstand drawer. He’d poked around in there a dozen times before. Lube, a couple of pens, random coins from foreign countries, letters from fans. He took one out and read it. Then he read the rest of them. Then he took one of the pens and started drawing on his arm.
On the floor, L turned around and watched him.
He drew an ugly face on his forearm. Tried a skull on his biceps. Wrote his name around his wrist.
“Changjo-ah.” L slid across the floor towards him.
When L was close enough, he reached out and took hold of L’s wrist, stretching L’s arm towards him.
“I don’t want to make this harder for you. I don’t want to make it worse.”
“Good. Then don’t.” He tried drawing a squirrel on L’s inner elbow.
“I can’t let it go. I can’t let him get away with it. He never should have agreed to it.”
Squirrel body, squirrel head, bushy squirrel tail.
“He has to pay.”
It didn’t look like a squirrel. It was some kind of deranged turkey. He went with it, adding feathers to the tail.
“Changjo-ah, I’m sorry. I love you, I don’t want to hurt you, but I can’t let him get away with it.”
Pointy little beak.
“No,” Changjo said. “No, why should I? You don’t listen when I talk, what’s the point? I told you that I didn’t want you going after him, I told you that I don’t want everyone making a big deal of this, I told you that Sehun hyung’s a good guy who didn’t do anything wrong. He did something right. He could’ve done whatever he wanted and gotten away with it and blamed me, but he didn’t, he stopped himself and apologized and meant it. He apologized and he freaking meant it, do you think that happens a lot? When you find decent people, you either reward them or leave them alone, you don’t go after them. But, whatever, you’re not listening to me anyway, so forget it. Do whatever you want, what I want doesn’t matter.” He realized that he was drawing on the beak pretty intently, digging the pen in and going over the lines again and again and again, except this wasn’t paper, this was his hyung’s bare arm. Feeling sick about that, he threw the pen across the floor and rolled over, on his back, looking anywhere but at L for a minute. “It reminded me of other stuff. That’s the stuff that’s annoying me. Not Sehun hyung. You think I’d let him stay in the same dorm with Suho hyung if I thought he was going to do something? I’m not going to let Suho hyung get hurt. He’s fine, he’s a decent guy, he won’t even have sex with Suho hyung anymore, he’s been skipping his nights, just leave him alone.” Changjo was tired of dealing with this. Tired of talking about it. Tired of thinking about it.
He dragged the covers up. “I’m going to bed.” Then he rolled onto his side, glaring at L. “You are, too, c’mere. Get in bed. I don’t want you sitting up brooding all night or sneaking out to go burn down EXO’s dorm. You can sleep between me and the wall.”
“I can’t sleep,” L said. He dragged his hand through his own hair, ruffling it. “I’m never going to be able to sleep again.”
“God, you’re so freaking dramatic. Just come here.”
L hesitated, looking torn.
No, no. “Don’t get weird about this.” He didn’t need L being afraid to touch him, getting shy about sex, holding back and being oversensitive.
L swallowed. His eyes were wet with tears and Changjo could see the anguish building up again. He was trying to hold it in, but the more he held in, the worse it got.
“Do you want to go off?” Changjo asked.
He shook his head, wiping his tears away. “I don’t want to bother you. You’re right, you’ve been through enough, you-”
“I haven’t been through anything, oh my god, you still aren’t listening to me!” It was impossible to stay upset with him when he was in such agony. Seeing him suffering so much was shredding Changjo’s heart, one layer at a time. “Look, I don’t want you going after Sehun, I don’t want you bothering Ricky. But if you want to cry over it, go ahead, just cry. You’re upset, I know you’re upset, you’re going to get worse if you don’t get it out.”
He was being stubborn about it now, pressing his quivering lips together, trying to hold it in, his wounded gaze looking anywhere but at Changjo.
How could Changjo get him to lose it? There were a lot of buttons available to push, but Changjo didn’t want to be cruel to him. “I cried a little bit. After it happened. Only Ricky knows, I pretended I was just crying over a movie. It was a really bad movie, nobody would cry over that.”
L’s mouth opened helplessly. His shoulders curved forward, a choked sound coming out of him. And then he screamed.
Changjo clapped a hand over his mouth, not wanting to stop him, just not wanting to alert the whole building.
He screamed and screamed, furious and anguished, against Changjo’s palm. Falling over the side of the bed, Changjo sat on the floor with him. Tears streamed from his eyes. This was what Changjo hadn’t wanted, to hurt him this badly, to put him through this.
This was another consequence, more fallout, and this one Changjo felt guilty for. This one, Changjo owned. He’d known that this would happen, he’d seen it coming, Ricky had warned him, and he’d gone ahead anyway. L was in agony, and it was his fault. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and just saying it hurt. He curved towards L, their faces close, and he watched tears roll down L’s cheek. “I’m sorry, hyung, I’m sorry.”
Gasping, L hugged him. Wrapped around him, closed him up in arms and legs, trying to protect him, trying to absorb him. He hugged L back, and L cried. Cried and cried and cried, holding him, rocking a little. L’s outraged, grief-stricken sobs were going to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Finally, he felt it. L’s face tucked against him, L’s mouth pressed to his bare shoulder. Relieved, he sagged in L’s arms. L sniffled and stayed like that for a while, not moving, but he didn’t need to go anywhere. If L was back to the default skinship position, then things were livable. Not okay, he knew that L still wasn’t okay. But manageable.
He leaned his back against the side of the bed.
L held onto him, leaning with him, a very solid leech. He ran his hand up and down L’s back. After a while, he felt slight suction and tender gnawing as L thoughtfully mouthed his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Changjo said. He owed it to L, and he wanted to say it while he knew that L would hear him.
“No.” L pulled away enough to make eye contact. His cheeks were streaked and his nose was red and his eyes still held some of that hollow, wounded look. It was horrible to Changjo that he could look so beautiful in his suffering. “I need you to promise me that you won’t do it again. Not just Sehun, not with anybody. You can’t put yourself at risk on purpose. I don’t care who else likes being assaulted or forced, you don’t. You can’t do this again.”
He didn’t want to agree to it. It would seem like he was admitting that he couldn’t handle it, and he could, he could deal with it.
He couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t take it. He’d known that, he’d known he was in over his head, when Sehun had pushed him down onto the bed. Sehun had been climbing on top of him, about to force him, and he’d felt himself hit a wall. It had pushed him past the point where he could hold himself together. He didn’t want to admit that he had limits, but he’d met one.
But he didn’t want to admit that.
But he owed L. For what he’d just put L through, when he’d known that it would end up like this and he’d done it anyway, he owed L something. “Okay.” What did L want him to promise, exactly? “I won’t volunteer for sex I don’t want. Or sex in ways I don’t want.”
“No touching you don’t want,” L insisted.
“Okay. I won’t volunteer for touching I don’t want, either.” Touching he could handle, he could deal with that, but, whatever. L was going through some stuff; he didn’t want to be a stubborn jerk about it. “It might’ve been a bad idea,” he admitted. “But I didn’t have anything better.”
L stroked Changjo’s hair. He’d stopped crying, but he looked very solemn, very thoughtful.
“I promised, now you promise,” Changjo said. “You won’t go after Sehun hyung.”
L licked his lips. His touch drifted down the side of Changjo’s face. “I’ll try to hold back on Ricky,” he finally said, not meeting Changjo’s eyes.
Damn it. “You won’t go after Sehun hyung.”
He pressed his lips together, gaze flickering. He looked really conflicted. Then he shook his head. “I can’t say that.”
“Hyung! Do you not understand that he’s not a bad guy? What if Woohyun hyung couldn’t see Key sunbae anymore and couldn’t do it with anybody else, either, and then Kai hyung was like, hey, we’ve been having sex anyway, do you want to try doing that with me? Let’s go for it, I’m down, I’ll let you do anything you want, and then they started getting into it but Woohyun hyung was like, ‘No, I gotta stop, this doesn’t feel right,’ and Kai hyung was like, ‘Okay, cool, later,’ do you think Woohyun hyung needs to be punished for that?”
L fumed at him. “Woohyun hyung wouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place!”
“Sehun hyung’s desperate! I offered him a solution to his stupid problems! It didn’t work out! You can’t get revenge for that, come on.” Changjo ran both hands over his shoulders, trying to get through to him. “I know you’re sensitive about this stuff. I know you care about me. But we’re honest with each other, right? Then freaking listen to me and trust me. I’m okay. I’m really okay. Even if it really was a bad idea, okay, pretend that-”
“It was the worst fucking idea you’ve ever had.”
“Okay, then you just don’t know about my really bad ideas,” Changjo said. “But even if this was a bad idea, I didn’t need Ricky there to rescue me. Sehun hyung rescued me. So you should be grateful to him that he stopped himself. Or not,” he added hastily, realizing that was one step too far as fury ignited in L’s eyes. “But there’s nothing to get revenge for.”
L dragged his hand through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut like he was trying to deal with it. He rubbed his hand over his mouth, stared hollowly at the floor, shook his head again. “Ricky should’ve stopped you,” he finally said.
Stop him? Changjo snorted. “Good luck with that.”
L rubbed the back of his neck, hugged him again. “I love you.” L looked into his eyes solemnly, deeply, stroking his nape. “I love you,” L said again. He nodded, but hearing it hurt. They were in love with each other, they were supposed to look out for each other, and he’d done something knowing that it would end up like this, knowing that it would do this to someone he said that he loved. “I know you’re tough, I know you can handle anything. But you never have to prove it. I don’t want you to go through anything, for a second, not for one fucking second, that makes you show how tough you are. You’re so strong and you’re so loving and you can bounce back from anything, but I don’t want you to have to.”
L’d had him up until the “you’re so loving” part. No one had ever described him that way before. Although he didn’t love most people, so why would they see him that way? He loved the fuck out of L. “I won’t do it again.” He figured that maybe L needed some reassurance about that. Maybe, for a guideline, he just wouldn’t subject himself to situations he wouldn’t put his members in. That would cut out a lot of options, though. He’d always been way more protective of his members than of himself. They either couldn’t take stuff or shouldn’t have to take it, but he could handle anything.
Being sure that he could handle anything had ended him up here, though. And he didn’t want to end up here again. Even if he could put himself through it, he couldn’t do it to L. Closing his eyes, he pressed his cheek to L’s. Fondling his hair, L nuzzled him slowly.
Changjo was never going to get him to agree to stay away from Sehun. This pain, this outrage, was going to eat at him until he let it out. “If you have to go after Sehun hyung, then you have to promise to tell me whatever you’re going to do before you do it.”
“To get permission?” L asked. “No.”
Changjo sighed. “Promise me that you won’t do anything Suho hyung wouldn’t like.”
L jerked back, staring at him hotly. “He deserves anything I can do to him!” L’s eyes narrowed in judgmental fury. “And if Suho hyung doesn’t see that, then-”
“We’re not turning this against Suho hyung,” Changjo snapped. “No. Leave him out of it.”
It took a minute for L’s anger to subside. When it finally did, he crawled up onto the bed.
“You can’t fuck up Sehun hyung’s career,” Changjo said, following him up there.
“Suho hyung will be better off without him.”
“And I’ll be better off without Ricky? What do you want, are you going to kick everybody out of our lives one by one until there’s no one left but you? That sounds really healthy, hyung, that’s a great plan.”
Growling, L wrapped around him again.
Sighing, he let L bear him down flat. Then he squirmed in L’s embrace, twisting onto his side until they were face-to-face. “You care about Suho hyung, you don’t want to fuck things up for him. Just don’t do anything at all while you’re this upset, okay? Wait a while. Spend some time working on your plan. Wait a month. Can you give it a month? Wait one month, and then we’ll talk about it. That’ll give you a lot of time to come up with something really diabolical, right?”
L glared at him. “I’m not going to forget. I’m not going to get distracted. I’m not going to let this go.”
“You never let anything go.” But maybe, maybe, he could convince L to dial it back this time. He’d have a whole month to prove how healthy and happy and totally fine he was, to show there wasn’t anything worth avenging. “One month, promise me.”
L resisted it.
“I’m getting a lot of shit from everybody else. If you make this promise, I’ll feel better.”
L looked resentful as hell, but he nodded. He ran his hand over Changjo’s ribcage, pouting sullenly at Changjo’s chest, glaring. “Thirty days,” he finally said. “He has thirty days.”
Great. Now Changjo had a super ominous timeline hanging over his head. But he was kind of impressed. If their roles had been reversed, he never would’ve been able to make that promise. L really had to love him a lot to agree to it just for his sake, to give in just because he was asking. L’s way of loving him was to put him first, even when L didn’t agree with him. Hugging L, he was grateful that this hyung loved him so much. “Thanks, hyung.”
L grunted and looked unhappy, like he already regretted agreeing to it. He was probably imaging all of the missed opportunities he’d have to destroy Sehun’s life over the next thirty days.
Changjo tucked himself under L’s chin, drumming his fingers on L’s spine. “I wonder if I can get EXO to go on a worldwide tour by next month.”
L snorted, burying his fingers in Changjo’s hair.
“What?” Changjo asked. “You’re thinking, ‘Let him run, he’ll never be able to escape me.’ Or, what, ‘He can go wherever he wants, I’ll hunt him down to the ends of the earth.’”
“Mmm.” L stroked Changjo’s hair. “Mostly I was just thinking about how shitty their concerts are.”
Changjo burst into laughter.
Suho had been dreading talking to L about Changjo, but he knew that he needed to. Sehun was his member, Changjo was his dongsaeng; he was responsible for both of them. It seemed like his obligation to address what had happened and make his apologies. He’d apologized to Changjo, of course, but he’d apologized to Changjo’s members, too, and he felt like he owed an apology to L. He wanted to set an example of honesty and clear the air. He’d promised to be a good hyung and look out for Changjo and Sehun, both, and he hadn’t done that.
He was relieved, though, when Changjo texted: I talked to L hyung. He knows everything. You don’t have to worry about him. Breaking the news was the worst part, and Changjo had already lifted that burden.
That didn’t remove Suho’s responsibility, though. When he and L met for lunch, he knew that he couldn’t start without an apology.
As soon as they sat down, he felt the tension between them. Across the table, L stared at him with unblinking, baleful eyes. If he’d needed a reminder of how emotionally intense this dongsaeng could be, he had one. “You know what happened,” Suho began.
L’s eye twitched. “I know what Sehun did.”
Yes. Suho swallowed, accepting that correction. L was right; something hadn’t just spontaneously happened. Sehun had done it. “I’m sorry. I’m very sorry,” he added, holding L’s gaze across the table. “I take responsibility for it. Sehun and I have talked about it a lot, and he knows that he was wrong.”
L’s lip curled in a brief sneer. “You’re his leader,” he whispered. “You lead someone like that?”
He winced. It was a harsh accusation. If one of his members had turned out this way, then he was a bad leader, a failure. “He knows that he was wrong. We’re both reflecting a lot. We’ve been talking about what led to it, and what happened, and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. He’s very upset about everything, and so am I. I’ve been very angry with him, and he knows it.”
L looked at his menu.
“Changjo said that he talked to you. He’s been so…” Suho’s voice trailed off; he didn’t know how to describe it. “We’re taking it a lot more seriously than he is. He keeps saying that we’re making too much of it. It’s not that big of a deal, he says. But it’s important to me. It seems very serious, to me. Even if Changjo says that it didn’t go too far, it might have. It got too close. We need to face that and talk about what that means.” He shook his head. “I’m so upset that any of my members would even be in that situation. Sehun’s smarter than that. He hasn’t been himself lately, I know that, but that’s no excuse. He should’ve told Changjo no, right from the start, and avoided all of this.”
L lowered his menu. “How many members are there in EXO, now?”
“Nine,” he said without thinking, wondering why L would ask such a simple question.
L stared at him in silence, then raised the menu again, shutting him out.
When he realized what that meant, his jaw almost hit the table. “L-ah!” he whispered, scooting his chair forward. L couldn’t possibly mean that! “I know this is serious, but that’s not a thing to say lightly, either! Maybe if - - if Sehun had really done it, if he’d gone through with it, if Changjo made an accusation.” If Sehun had crossed that line, hadn’t stopped himself, hadn’t cut it short, this would be a different conversation. For the good of the team, for the sake of the other members, Suho couldn’t keep Sehun around under those conditions. But as furious and guilt-ridden as he was, he didn’t believe that Sehun was a threat to anyone. Especially not when Sehun was so shaken by what had happened. If Sehun had needed to learn a lesson about choosing partners, about being careful about which acts to attempt with which people, that lesson had been learned. “I’m unhappy with Sehun, but it hasn’t gone that far.”
L didn’t say anything until the waitress came to take their orders.
Woohyun was swaggering around the dorm, being twice as flirtatious and cocky as usual. Finally, when he came into Sungyeol and L’s room and found thirteen ways to pose all over Sungyeol’s bed, beckoning and seducing, Sungyeol burst into laughter. “What’s going on with you?”
He grinned, rolling onto his back. He pushed his waistband down, showing off the lines of his pelvis, his clearly defined muscles, his furry treasure trail. “I found a new puppy.”
“Bullshit.” Sungyeol rolled his desk chair closer, fascinated. He wasn’t even supposed to do that with new guys. Sunggyu didn’t want him to, and he always said that no one was good enough, anyway. “Who?”
“Sehun.” He grinned, sitting up, looking unbearably smug. “He took some training yesterday, and he’s going to come over on Thursday for the real thing.”
“Bullshit!” Sungyeol laughed, incredulous.
“Who?” L was pushing himself up from his bed, staring at them. “What’d you say?”
“He thinks that Oh Sehun’s his new puppy,” Sungyeol explained. “You’re so full of it!” he told Woohyun. “What’d you guys do together?”
Woohyun gestured to the door.
Sungyeol rolled his chair over and closed it, then rolled impatiently back. “What?”
“You don’t know anything about this,” Woohyun told them as L crept closer. “Sehun’s a shy puppy, he doesn’t want anybody to know. It’s our little secret, just between us.”
“Right, I won’t tell.” He’d totally talk to the rest of Infinite about it, but he wouldn’t like gossip with the stylists about it.
Woohyun barely gave them any details. He talked about how hot it had been, and how much Sehun had loved it, but he didn’t give them any real juicy stuff. It was hard to read between the lines and guess what had happened, because he did different things with different guys, anyway. What he did with - - to - - L wasn’t really like what he did to Sungyeol, and who knew what Sehun was into?
Sungyeol pushed for more details, but he got coy and smug about it. “Ask me again after Thursday,” he finally said. “I’ll have a lot more to tell you about, then.”
L licked his lips. “Is this going to be a regular thing?”
Woohyun shrugged. He had such a sexy, knowing smirk that Sungyeol laughed at him. “Maybe there’s a one in a million chance that it’s different, with him. But I’ve never had anyone who didn’t come back for more.”
Hwanhee. Lee Hwanhee was the solution Changjo had been looking for. The solution to all of his problems.
If Sehun had Hwanhee, he’d move on. He wouldn’t feel guilty about Changjo. He wouldn’t be lost in his grief over L.Joe. He’d move the hell on.
It was perfect.
Or, it would be perfect, if he’d just get together with Hwanhee. But he kept resisting, refusing, screwing shit up. Jinhoo was pissed off and Hwanhee was upset and this perfect solution was just creating more problems. Why did Sehun keep creating more problems?! Changjo kept coming up with all of the right answers, and Sehun kept making things worse!
If Sehun didn’t take Hwanhee, then Chunji would have to. And, or, Changjo would have to. And that… Yeah, Changjo liked getting kinky, he liked it when things were obscene and intense, but. Hwanhee wasn’t one of his members. Hwanhee wasn’t one of his hyungs. Hwanhee was just a really nice, really earnest kid, and he didn’t know how he’d feel about doing those things with this guy. He was a hyung, and a sunbae, and it seemed more like taking advantage. It seemed less like something he’d be doing for Hwanhee and more like something he’d be doing to Hwanhee, and he didn’t want to be comfortable with that. He didn’t really want to be a guy who got off on that.
Changjo really needed Sehun to get his shit together.
Woohyun closed the fridge and glanced at L. “Hmm?”
Licking his lips, L moved slowly around the kitchen. His gaze flickered over Woohyun thoughtfully. “You’re seeing Sehun again soon, right?”
He smiled, looking forward to it. “Yeah, Tuesday.”
“You’re going to do shit to him?”
“Yeah.” L had been tense lately. Emotional, volatile. Angry, very angry, about Sehun. Incredibly protective about Changjo. “You want to join in?” Woohyun guessed. He was teasing, but he wondered if that was kind of what was on L’s mind.
“Mmm.” L pushed his sleeves up, crossing his arms over his chest. “I want to be there. I want to watch.”
“Hunh.” He thought about that.
“Don’t ask him. I’ll ask him,” L said. “But if he says yes, can I watch?”
“If he says yes?” Woohyun smiled, patting L’s shoulder. “Of course, I’d love for you to watch. If it’s okay with him, I’ll be glad to have you there.”
Sunday, Changjo stretched out on L’s floor. “It’s thirty days, today.”
“I know.” L sat down beside him and toyed with his hair.
“Are you over it?”
“How many diabolical plans have you come up with?”
Only one? Surprised, Changjo sat up. “What is it?”
L shook his head.
What? “I can’t know about it?”
“Maybe after.” L smiled, patting Changjo’s cheek. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad.” L licked his lips, hand dropping, gaze darkening. “It’s only the first step. It won’t be enough. But it’s a start.”
Changjo felt really uneasy about this. “You can’t hurt EXO, right? You can’t hurt Suho hyung. And Sehun hyung doesn’t deserve revenge, he never did anything to me. I know I explained all of this, I said it a thousand times.”
“It won’t hurt Suho hyung. He’ll never even know about it. It’s just between Sehun and me.”
Okay. Changjo believed him. “Just do this first step, then, and maybe stop there, okay? Maybe wait another thirty days.”
L nodded. “Okay.” He smiled. “He doesn’t deserve for it to be over too soon.”
Sehun’s phone rang. He didn’t know the number, but if it was an anti, he’d just hang up. “Hello?” he asked, leaning back on the couch. Beside him, Xiumin and Baekhyun were talking.
“I know what you did.”
He frowned. That was creepy as fuck. “Who is this?”
“I know what you wanted to do to him.”
A chill ran down his spine. “I’m hanging up,” he said, his thumb moving towards the button.
“I know what you would’ve done if they hadn’t stopped you.”
He knew that voice. He frowned, searching his brain. How did he know this voice?
“He thinks you stopped on your own. He thinks you didn’t go too far.” There was a sound like laughter that wasn’t laughter at all. “He thinks you didn’t go too far.”
L. It sounded like L. It was L talking about Changjo. It was a voice from his nightmares, accusing him, damning him. Those last words sounded disbelieving because L didn’t believe Changjo. Because Changjo was wrong. Sehun had gone too far, and he knew it, and L knew it, too. He shouldn’t have pushed Changjo down on the bed, he shouldn’t have slapped Changjo, he shouldn’t have let Changjo into his room, he never should have agreed to it at all. “I’m sorry,” he said, sitting forward. “I-”
“I know what you did to him,” L said. “I know what you were going to do to him. Is it like what’s going to happen to you tomorrow?”
What was going to happen to him tomorrow? Confused, he felt dread chill his bones. “I’m sorry, I-”
“He doesn’t want revenge,” L said. “But I do. I’m going to be there. I’m going to watch you. I’m going to see you, and see everything you go through, and see everything that’s inside of you. I’m going to watch everything. You’re not going to complain, you’re not going to refuse, you’re going to let me see it. I don’t care if that makes you uncomfortable, I don’t care if you don’t like it. Maybe you’ll start to learn what it feels like when consent doesn’t matter.”
Oh, god. He meant tomorrow. “You-”
“Don’t complain,” L whispered. “It hurts more when you fight it.”
The call ended.
Staring at his phone, Sehun felt sick. Shaken, he swallowed. It took him a minute to pull himself together enough to put his phone down, but when he did, he was relieved not to be holding it anymore.
“Maknae,” Baekhyun said. “Maknae! Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” He tried to smile at his hyungs. “Just a weird call, just,” just the darkest whispers of his conscience, “just an anti.”
He barely thought about anything else for the next twenty-four hours. He thought about Changjo, and what he’d done to Changjo, and what he’d stopped himself from doing. He thought about what L had said, and his night ahead with Woohyun. Every time he thought about L, or anyone, standing around watching, his brain shut the idea out completely. He couldn’t even contemplate it. He was way more okay with what happened between him and Woohyun than he’d ever thought that he’d be, but it was intensely private. He still didn’t want Woohyun to know about it; if he could wipe Woohyun’s memory after each session, that would be perfect. He couldn’t tolerate the idea of anyone else witnessing it, seeing him that way, knowing those things about him.
L was Changjo’s boyfriend, but that didn’t mean that he owed L some restitution for what he’d done. He didn’t know anything about their relationship - - he was beginning to think that he didn’t know anything about L - - but it wasn’t like L was Changjo’s parent or leader. Changjo was the one with every right to be upset, and that was why Sehun had apologized over and over, and wanted to apologize again. But this wasn’t L’s business, it had nothing to do with him.
Sehun had stopped himself from crossing the line with Changjo. And he felt more firmly, intensely committed to the rules of consent than ever. His ideas on the subject were more clear than ever, and etched in stone. It was its own contradiction, but he wasn’t afraid of being in that situation again, because he was horrified at the possibility of ever being in that situation again. It had become, literally, his worst nightmare.
He was frustrated that he couldn’t get a straight conversation with Changjo on the subject. Initially, Suho had been furious with him, tear-down-the-walls outraged, and he’d been genuinely afraid that Suho would never forgive him. But gradually, over the past couple of weeks, Suho had calmed down. He’d been yelled at, and he’d been lectured, and he’d been told to reflect, but he’d never been punished. C.A.P. and Chunji were pissed off at him, but they weren’t doing anything about it.
Now someone wanted to do something about it.
It was a relief, in a way. Finally, someone wanted him to pay for what he’d done. He’d deserved to be yelled at, he’d deserved to be lectured, everyone was right to be angry. But not enough people were angry enough. He’d been in that room. He knew what might have happened. He knew what he’d come too close to doing.
He’d stopped himself, he’d backed up, he’d cut things off. And he knew that he could never, ever get close to doing that again. But he wanted as many roadblocks between him and that possibility as he could get. He wanted more wedges driven in between him and sexual assault. He wanted more deterrents, more punishments, more reminders.
If someone he didn’t want in the room saw him at his most vulnerable, saw him at his most humiliated and ashamed, saw him at his most helpless, it would mimic being on the other side. It wasn’t a perfect comparison, but there were similar elements.
Changjo wanted him to get over it, had told him so a dozen times. But he couldn’t let go of what had happened until Changjo forgave him, and Changjo refused to discuss what had happened for more than two sentences. Maybe if he did this, if he let L punish him, he’d stop feeling so guilty. Maybe if Changjo couldn’t forgive him, maybe L would, or maybe at least suffering in front of L would let him forgive himself.
He didn’t have any better ideas. And he couldn’t keep going with this hanging over his head.
The rest of the dorm was empty. L sat on Dongwoo’s bed and watched. He took in everything, every move, every involuntary reaction, every stifled impulse, every trained response.
Surprised, Changjo opened the door. “Hyung!”
L smiled. He looked more relaxed and happy than Changjo had seen him in weeks. “I can’t stay,” he said, coming in and closing the door. “Is anybody around?”
“Just C.A.P. hyung, he’s sleeping.” He couldn’t believe how much better L looked. So comfortable and well-rested. “You have good news.”
“I got you something.” L reached into his pocket and handed Changjo something. It was a thumb drive. “Don’t look at it. Just hold onto it. Put it in your safe, put it in a safe deposit box, bury it somewhere. Somewhere nobody but you can get to it.”
“What is this?” He had to know.
“It’s thirty days, today, since the last thirty days.”
Oh, fuck. “Hyung?” he asked, and he stared at the drive in his palm. Was he holding Sehun’s life in his hand?
“He doesn’t know I have it,” L said. “You don’t have to look at it. Just keep it in case you want it, later.” L smiled, kissing his cheek. “You always wanted dirt on Oh Sehun, right? Now you have it.”
Still staring at the drive, he reached out, putting his other hand on L’s arm. “Hyung, what is this? Is it photos, is it screen caps of text messages, is it - - what is it? Where did you get it? Are there copies?” His gaze flew to L’s. “Could this hurt Suho hyung?”
L nibbled on his own lower lip. “It’ll hurt EXO,” he finally said. “So be careful with it. It’s thirty-four seconds of Sehun in a way I don’t think his fans will like.”
Oh, shit. “Doing what?”
L’s lips quirked in a crooked smile. “Some people consider it sex. I had to edit a lot out. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”
“You filmed him?” Changjo demanded. “What about the footage, what about the editing program, what if-”
“Changjo-ah.” L squeezed his shoulder. “I know what I’m doing.”
For the first time, he realized why people got so upset when he said that to them. Because what if L was overconfident and had messed up somewhere along the way and had left Sehun and EXO and Suho and god knew who else exposed? Their careers, their lives, could all be destroyed.
And because what if L was right, and really did know what he was doing, and was some kind of experienced, efficient mastermind?
He had to watch this footage. He had to know what he was holding. He had to get rid of it. “You can’t be like this,” he said, hugging L. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“You said that you wanted leverage,” L said, embracing him. “I got it for you.”
“I said that forever ago!”
“If he ever hurts you,” L said. “If he ever hurts Suho hyung. If he does anything to Lee Hwanhee. You can get rid of him.”
God damn. “I love you,” Changjo whispered, squeezing him. “Thank you. Thank you for doing this for me.” He ran his hand over L’s back. “You have to let this go.”
“I can’t stop hating him,” L said. His voice shook. “I can’t forget it and I can’t forgive it.”
“Okay, okay.” He got that. “But you don’t have to get revenge anymore, right? We have this now.” Stepping back, he looked cautiously into L’s eyes. “Seriously, is this all there is? Is there other footage, do you have copies, is there anything else?”
“It’s just that.” L put his hands in his pockets. “I was careful, I promise. I destroyed everything else.” He smiled. “Really destroyed it, I have to buy a new computer and I owe Sungjong a new camera. He doesn’t know yet. I might just get him a new one and let him think he lost the old one.”
Changjo smiled. “We should work together more. Let me help, next time.”
L kissed him and then showed him a loving, dimpled smile. “Okay.” Then L touched the hand holding the drive. “Really, keep that safe. You’ll fuck up his life if anybody sees it.”
He didn’t know whether to go watch it right away, or go break it and set the shards on fire. “Are you okay, now? You feel better? You don’t want to go kill anybody anymore?”
He chewed on his lower lip for a minute. Then he frowned and met Changjo’s eyes. “You should get rid of Ricky.”
“No! Okay, you don’t understand anything,” Changjo said. “Have you ever talked to Ricky?”
L considered, then shook his head. “No. But I know-”
“You don’t know anything,” Changjo said. “I’m bringing him on our next date, you have to talk to him.”
L glared at him. “You won’t like what I say to him.”
“He’s my best friend! You need to get to know him. Am I the stupidest person in the world? Am I just the stupidest person you know? Do you think I’m a complete asshole and a fuck-up?”
“You’re fucking amazing,” L said.
“Great, so if my judgment isn’t completely screwed up, maybe my best friend is my best friend for a reason, okay? Just get to know him, talk to him for once.”
L looked grim and resentful, but he nodded.
“You don’t have to protect me from my members,” Changjo said, hugging him. “Or from Sehun hyung or from anybody. I’m okay.”
L didn’t answer. He wasn’t agreeing, but he didn’t argue, either.
“You’re fucking amazing,” Changjo told him. “You’re fucking amazing, hyung.” L loved him with an intensity and a drive that most people weren’t even capable of. “Thank you.”
Ricky sat down on Sungyeol’s desk chair.
“Everybody’s going to be nice, right?” Changjo asked.
L stood by the closet with his arms crossed over his chest.
“He doesn’t have to be here,” Changjo told L. “Where were you going to be instead, tonight?”
“With Onew hyung. We had a date,” he told L. “We were going to go out for sushi.” He sighed, contemplating it. He’d really been looking forward to it.
“Why are you here?” Changjo asked him.
“Hmm? Because you asked me to be.”
“I told him it was important,” Changjo told L. “He gave up a night with Onew hyung to be here talking to you just because I said it was important. You know about Onew hyung’s cock, right? He gave up a lot.”
Ricky sighed again, leaning on the armrest. The sex really would’ve been fantastic.
“How did you get Onew hyung?” L asked.
“The same way he got Sunggyu hyung,” Changjo said. “He wanted them.”
“Maknae.” Ricky kicked lightly in Changjo’s direction, annoyed. The chair spun slightly with his momentum, and he pushed himself off of the desk to turn back around. “It’s complicated, with Onew hyung. It’s not complicated with Sunggyu hyung,” he added. “He just worries about me, he thinks that he needs to look out for me.”
Changjo sat on L’s bed and patted the mattress. “Sit down. Sit,” he repeated, smiling, when L just kept glaring at Ricky. “Sit, sit. Hyung!”
L finally sat, perching on the edge of the mattress, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped.
“You think that Ricky doesn’t look out for me,” Changjo said. “But he does. He helps me out all of the time. We can work together on anything. You just don’t know him like I do.” He looked at Ricky. “Tell him about the thing with Sehun hyung, tell him how it went.”
“Oh, that. Now, that was a bad idea,” Ricky said, shifting from one armrest to the other. “I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t talk him out of it. So I wanted to be there. I asked D.O. hyung if he’d hide me in his room. He let me in and hid me under Sehun hyung’s bed, and then he left, but he came back and waited for me to text him. When I wanted things to stop, I texted D.O. hyung. He started yelling and pounding on the door, but Sehun hyung had already stopped by then.”
“Why didn’t you do anything, yourself? What if D.O. hadn’t responded to your text fast enough? They were on the bed, on top of you, why didn’t you fucking do anything?” L demanded.
“I was coming out from under the bed when Sehun hyung stopped,” Ricky said. “He almost stepped on me. He said, ‘Take it,’ and I texted D.O. hyung, and then I started coming out, and then he said, ‘I can’t,’ and almost stepped on my arm, and I crawled back before he saw me. He’d stopped, and D.O. hyung was there, so I waited a minute, and then I got out and left with Changjo. We went to get ice cream.”
“Why didn’t you do more to stop it in the first place?” L demanded. “Why’d you let him go?”
“I said what I could say, to stop him,” Ricky said. “I told him he had to cancel, I told him it was a bad idea, I told him you were going to get upset and start a war.” He frowned, pausing, and then came out with the rest. “I couldn’t tell him directly that if he tried it, he’d get hurt. It wouldn’t have worked, it just would’ve made him want to do it more. It would just piss him off and make him want to prove he could handle it, and then things would be worse. So I didn’t say that. But I wanted to.”
“Why didn’t you tell C.A.P.?” L demanded. “Tell Suho hyung! Tell me!”
“Changjo didn’t tell them,” Ricky said. “He only told me. He told me because he tells me everything, because he trusts me with everything. If I went behind his back and told on him, he wouldn’t trust me, and then he wouldn’t tell me things like this. And then next time he came up with a bad idea, he wouldn’t have me there under the bed, he’d be all on his own.”
L glared at him. “You knew what Sehun was going to do to him.”
“That’s why I told him to cancel,” Ricky said. “That’s why I got D.O. hyung to hide me under the bed.”
“You say you didn’t tell anyone, but you told D.O.”
“No, I told D.O. hyung that I couldn’t tell him anything. I told him that I needed his help for something and I couldn’t tell him why.”
“Tell him about the cameraman,” Changjo said.
“The one on the variety show,” Changjo said.
Ricky frowned at him. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
“You know I told you about the cameraman,” Changjo told L. “The first one, with the blue sweater.”
L frowned at Changjo, his shoulders curving forward.
“He - - I told you what he did,” Changjo said. “I told my manager, but he said not to worry about it. I didn’t tell anybody else, because we weren’t so close then, I thought the members would just tell me it wasn’t a big deal, too. But Ricky found out.”
“He was crying and trying to sharpen a butter knife he got from room service,” Ricky explained. “I made him tell me what the hell he was doing.”
“Shut up, you don’t want to talk about it,” Changjo said.
Ricky sighed and sat back.
“He told me to leave the knife behind for one day and give him a chance to handle it,” Changjo said. “I asked, ‘What are you going to do, tell management? They don’t care.’ He said, ‘Just let me try something.’”
“He took the knife, anyway,” Ricky said. “He didn’t trust me then.”
“Shut up,” Changjo said again. “So we went, and we were filming. The rest of the members and I were messing around, and then all of a sudden the PD was going around shutting the whole set down. We had to wait around for hours, our manager and the head staff members were in the other room talking, and then all of a sudden we were back to filming and everything was okay but we never saw that cameraman again. We kept filming without him, and the next day there was a new guy.”
“The head writer liked me, and she was always on her phone,” Ricky said. “Everybody was busy in the main room, and I saw the cameraman go into the staff room. I picked up her phone and went in there. When she came looking for it, she saw us. I cried, and she fired him. I told her that I was afraid I’d see him again, so she blacklisted him. He worked at a bakery for a while after that.”
L stared at him.
“I don’t know why your plans always work,” Changjo told Ricky. “What if she hadn’t wanted her phone? What if something else had distracted her? What if he’d stopped before she got there? What if he hadn’t done anything? What if she hadn’t fired him? He could’ve done whatever he wanted and gotten away with it.”
“I never promised you I’d solve everything,” Ricky said. “I told you to let me try. She seemed okay, and I thought she might be a good person. I talked to her a lot that morning so she’d want to look out for me.”
“You knew what he was going to do to you,” L said.
Ricky nodded. He scratched his head, remembering. “He liked me. I was his type. He kept hanging out around the bathroom, the day before, so I didn’t go in there, I just held it all day. I thought I was going to die, I had to pee so bad.”
“See, when stuff goes down, Ricky has my back,” Changjo said. “He always has my back, that’s why we’re best friends. We can tell each other stuff and help each other out.”
“We’re close,” Ricky agreed.
“I trust him,” Changjo said. “I don’t trust anybody.”
“I never told anybody what you did to the van,” Ricky said. “Or what you did to the microwave. Or why Chunji hyung ‘lost his phone.’ Or-”
“You don’t have to list everything!” Changjo exclaimed, laughing.
Ricky grinned at him. “It’s a long list, maknae.”
“Your list isn’t so short!”
He contemplated that, spinning the chair slightly from side to side, pushing off with his toes. “It’s shorter than yours, though,” he finally decided. “It’s nothing that bad.” He smiled at Changjo. “It’s just, the hyungs don’t need to know everything.”
“Right,” Changjo agreed. “They’re too nosy, anyway. They don’t have to know about everything that goes on.”
Ricky grinned. “Remember that hyung’s smoothie?”
Changjo burst into laughter. “Shit, don’t tell about that!”
“I was so pissed off at him, I hated him so much,” Ricky said.
“I went into the conference room, and nobody was in there, just Ricky, and he was like, ‘Hurry up, lock the door,’ and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ and he started unzipping his pants. ‘I’m going to come in this hyung’s smoothie.’”
“I should’ve pissed in it,” Ricky said.
“I was like, ‘If you’re coming in it, I’m coming in it!’” Changjo said.
“You hate being left out,” Ricky said.
“Ricky came first, and then I came in it, and then we stirred it all up,” Changjo said. He laughed. “And then the meeting was about to start and Niel hyung wanted to taste the smoothie and we were like, ‘No, hyung! Don’t be rude! It’s not your smoothie, stay away from it!’”
“He probably would’ve liked it,” Ricky mused, swiveling the chair. “Niel hyung loves cum.”
“Who was it?” L asked.
Changjo grinned at him. “A sunbae.”
“Oh, Chunji hyung’s sweater,” Ricky remembered.
“Why did he like that sweater so much?” Changjo demanded. “He loved it, it was so ugly and he really liked it, but he left it in the van,” he told L. “I was cold, so I borrowed it-”
“Stole it,” Ricky said.
“-borrowed it,” he insisted, grinning. “He found it in our hotel room, and he was like, ‘What’s this doing in here? What are you doing with my sweater?’ And it had stains on it and there was crap in the pockets. He got so pissed off.”
“He was already in a bad mood, he’d been fighting all day,” Ricky added. “And Changjo was already being grounded for-”
“It doesn’t matter why,” Changjo said quickly.
Ricky laughed. “Are you embarrassed for your boyfriend to hear about what a stupid kid you were?”
“You’re a stupid kid now, shut up,” Changjo said.
“You’re stupider,” Ricky said.
“I was already in trouble,” Changjo said. “So Ricky said, ‘I did it, hyung, sorry.’ And Chunji hyung beat him up and held a grudge for, like, a week. Poured salt in his tea and made him drink it, all kinds of shit. And he never said anything.”
“You were already in trouble,” Ricky said. “It wasn’t that bad after the third day. I bought him a new sweater and he started to get over it.”
“Why was he in such a crappy mood that week?” Changjo asked.
“He got in trouble and he couldn’t see Infinite,” Ricky said.
“Oh, yeah.” Changjo grinned, elbowing L. “You didn’t care if you saw Chunji hyung or not, back then. You just wanted C.A.P. hyung.”
“God, I have such bad taste,” L muttered.
“I have great taste,” Ricky declared, leaning back in the chair. He crossed his ankles, gazing at the ceiling. “I wonder what Onew hyung’s doing now.”
“Crying over his cupcakes,” Changjo suggested.
Ricky threw a pen at him.
“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” L asked Changjo.
“Hyungs don’t have to know everything,” Ricky said.
“It’s usually better if they don’t, right?” Changjo asked, laughing. He looked at L and shrugged, eyebrows going up. “Some stuff is inside the group stuff. Some stuff is just between us stuff. You won’t tell me anything about Woohyun hyung, and I know there’s a ton you aren’t saying about Sunggyu hyung. There’s just stuff I’m used to not telling anybody.”
“I don’t care if you aren’t in love with me,” Ricky told L. “That’s okay. But it’ll be better for you if you work with me, not against me. When you two had that fight in Suho hyung’s dorm, when he didn’t have his phone and he was texting you, trying to meet you, wanting to talk, he used my phone. When you replied, I didn’t tell on him, I hid it from the other members and made sure he saw it.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t have used anybody else’s phone for that,” Changjo said. “I just would’ve gotten in more trouble. You got in trouble for that, too,” he reminded Ricky. “We were both grounded after that.”
“I go along with your shit too much,” Ricky said. “I wouldn’t ever get in trouble if it weren’t for you.”
“You get in trouble all of the time!” Changjo argued.
“And it always has something to do with you.”
Changjo opened his mouth, trying to argue.
Ricky raised his eyebrows.
Changjo looked around, squinted at the ceiling, trying to think of something.
“Onew hyung!” Changjo finally said.
“Onew hyung,” he agreed. “That was totally my fault.” There were a few others, too. Times that he’d known he’d be caught and punished, but he’d factored that in and decided to go ahead with it, anyway. It had been worth it.
“When you were under the bed,” L said. “Why didn’t you just come out?”
“I was going to, to stop things,” Ricky explained. “But when Sehun hyung stopped himself, I didn’t have to. And if I came out, and he knew that I was under there, it would’ve made everything bigger and more complicated. Changjo doesn’t like a lot of,” he hesitated, “drama around stuff like that. He doesn’t want everybody making a big deal about everything. It was already going to be bad enough. I didn’t want to make it worse if I didn’t have to.”
“See?” Changjo asked L. “It doesn’t have to be such a big deal.”
L stared at him. He could see L trying to understand him.
“He’s my best friend,” Changjo told L. “You don’t have to date him, but you can’t get rid of him, either.”
“Switch seats with me,” Ricky said, getting up.
Changjo got up and sat in the desk chair, sending it sailing backwards across the room.
While Changjo rolled around, Ricky sat on the bed. “He likes to play too much,” he told L. “It backfires, sometimes. A lot of stuff happens fast, you have to catch him the second he gets the idea, or it’ll already be too late. You like it when he’s with Suho hyung, right? You trust Suho hyung, you know he’s a good influence, nothing’s going to go too far.”
“Maybe I’m a good influence on Suho hyung, what about that?” Changjo asked, rolling back and forth between the beds. “Did you think about that?”
Ricky ignored him. “You and Suho hyung can’t be around him all of the time.” Realizing that he was being ignored, Changjo rolled right up to Ricky, then pushed himself backward by shoving off against Ricky’s thigh. Ricky kept ignoring him. “I’m with him a lot. You don’t have to hate me for that.” He kept doing it, rolling back to Sungyeol’s bed and then rolling up to Ricky, putting his feet on Ricky’s leg and kicking off hard, sailing back to Sungyeol’s bed again. “I can get messages to him if he doesn’t have his phone. I can tell you how he’s really doing when he’s upset and doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“What?” Changjo asked. “Don’t do that.”
“I know everything about him,” Ricky said. “He all of the time likes to pretend nothing’s wrong, he all of the time doesn’t want to talk about it, but I can give you a heads-up if you want.”
“No, you can’t,” Changjo said, rolling over. “Hey, seriously.”
“See, he’s scared, now,” Ricky said. “He knows I know him too well, he knows I can tell you everything.”
“I’m not scared! But shut up, though.”
“You’d tell his secrets?” L asked.
“There are secrets, and there are secrets,” Ricky said. “I know the difference.”
Changjo relaxed at that, pushing off of Ricky’s knee again.
L studied Ricky closely. “He trusts you.”
“He trusts Niel,” L said, lip curling.
“Yeah, but I don’t tell Niel hyung anything,” Changjo said.
“Well, you can’t,” Ricky said.
“It’s not good for him,” Changjo said.
“Niel hyung likes to keep things simple,” Ricky explained.
“It’s easier for him,” Changjo agreed.
“Hyungs don’t have to know everything,” Ricky said. “But it’s okay if some hyungs know some things. Changjo thinks you’re one of those hyungs.”
“Who do you think is one of those hyungs?” L asked.
“Sunggyu hyung,” Changjo said for him.
Ricky nodded. “I can talk to him.”
“What can Ricky know that I can’t know?” L asked.
Changjo got off of the chair, letting it roll back and bump into L’s desk, and crawled onto the bed, flopping against the headboard. “Nothing. Old stuff. Stuff before you.”
“He loves you,” Ricky said. “He’d tell you if it came up, if you really needed to know. Most of it’ll come out if you know him long enough.”
“He knows that,” Changjo muttered, kicking Ricky’s hip.
Ricky turned around and glared at him. “Do you want me to hit you in front of your boyfriend?”
Changjo grinned, kicking him again. “Try it, he’ll bite your face off.”
“What do you two talk about when no one’s around?” L asked.
“Nothing,” Changjo said.
“He talks about you a lot,” Ricky said.
“It’s not a lot,” Changjo argued.
“He’s obsessed with Lee Hwanhee lately,” Ricky said.
“I’m not obsessed,” Changjo said. “It’s working out, too. Sehun hyung’s the one who’s obsessed with him.”
“What did we talk about last night?” Ricky asked Changjo. “This, coming here to see L hyung.”
“You were so pissed off,” Changjo said, grinning. “You were like, ‘I’m not ditching Onew hyung for you, maknae!’”
“I came, didn’t I?” Ricky asked.
“Yeah. We talked about D.O. hyung. We talked about those rookies. Those guys in the jerseys,” he told L. “Never mind, you don’t pay attention to rookies. But they’re not going to make it.”
“Bad company,” Ricky said. “They don’t have any work ethic, either, they’re not even trying.”
“They can’t dance,” Changjo said. “At all. And you should see how they treat their fans.” He looked offended. Then he brightened, prodding Ricky with his toes. “We sent that e-mail!”
“Ya, don’t tell him about that,” Ricky said. “It’s someone else’s private business,” he told L.
“He’s doing a thing for Chanyeol hyung,” Changjo explained.
“You sit around talking about D.O.?” L asked.
“Sex,” Changjo said.
“D.O. won’t have sex with him, so he makes me describe it to him,” Ricky said. “What it’s like and everything.”
“We tried it,” Changjo said. “It’s way too soft and slow and boring.”
“It got you off,” Ricky reminded him.
He made a face. “He’s with Kai hyung. Why would you have a boyfriend who can move his hips like that and want such boring sex?”
Ricky grinned. “Should he date you, instead?”
Laughing, Changjo punched his arm. “Fuck you! I know what I’m doing! My hips are great.”
Ricky rubbed his arm and turned back to L. “I wasn’t sure about you at first. Changjo fell in love with you really hard. He gets really vulnerable when he loves somebody, he’s really sensitive.”
“I am not! What are you saying, what do you know about it?”
“I know everything about it,” Ricky said.
“Do you love each other?” L asked.
“No, not anymore,” Changjo said, tipping onto his side. Grinning, he tried to push Ricky off of the bed. “Not after tonight, I’m sick of you now, go away.”
“Would you let me make a good impression?” Ricky demanded, laughing.
“You always make a good impression,” Changjo said, still pushing at him. “Make a bad one, for once.”
Slipping off of the edge of the bed, Ricky yelped. Pivoting, he climbed back on, intent on Changjo. Laughing, wide-eyed, Changjo tried to defend himself, but Ricky crawled onto him, punching him into submission. “Stop bothering me! Making me beat you up in front of your boyfriend! Do you want him to hate me?”
Cringing, laughing, Changjo took it.
Finished, satisfied, Ricky relented, relaxing and curling his legs in. “Now tell him how much you love me.”
He was still laughing. “I don’t like you at all,” he said, crawling away.
Ricky thumped him again.
“Ow!” He grinned, rubbing his thigh. “I guess I like you a little.”
Ricky smoothed his hair down. “I love Changjo. I could say, ‘Even when he’s like this,’ but he’s always like this,” he added, pinching Changjo’s thigh.
Changjo tried to hold in a smile, not denying it.
“Why are you so close?” L asked. “Just because you’re the same age?”
“Ricky gets me,” Changjo said. “I can tell him stuff. The other hyungs don’t want to hear it. Niel hyung can’t take it. C.A.P. hyung is like, ‘Don’t start something, don’t cause trouble, let it go, maknae.’ Chunji hyung’s complicated. Ricky listens to me. We can talk stuff over, we can figure stuff out together if we need to.”
“He’s annoying,” Ricky said. Changjo feinted at him. “It’s not personal, all maknaes are annoying,” he added, and Changjo grinned, accepting it, relaxing. “The other hyungs get frustrated faster. They tell him to shut up and make him sit still. I don’t mind as much.”
“Ricky gets along with everybody,” Changjo said. “That sunbae he hates, the one with the smoothie? He thinks Ricky likes him, he thinks they get along great, it’s hilarious.”
“So you lie to people,” L said.
“Yeah,” Changjo said. “So do I, so do you. Doesn’t everybody?”
“That sunbae’s a jerk,” Ricky said. “He’s the kind of jerk who, if he didn’t like me, he wouldn’t want anybody else to like me, either. If I were ever rude to him, he’d go around and tell everybody all about it, he’d want everyone to hate me as much as he did. I don’t get satisfaction out of starting a fight, I just get more problems. So I smile at him and I say nice things and we get along like we’re close. And he gets to feel good about how popular he is.”
“It’s easier for Ricky to be nice to people he hates than it is for you,” Changjo said.
“You’re terrible at it,” Ricky told Changjo.
“I know, I hate being nice to people I hate,” Changjo said. “I can’t get through it unless I’m thinking about how to make them bleed. ‘Hi, it’s good to see you, what if I smashed this microphone the whole way up your nose?’ Like that. But Ricky’s good at it, he smiles and acts cute and gets along with everybody.”
“So I can never know if you’re really happy to see me, or not,” L said.
“Oh, god, don’t start that,” Changjo said. “Look, I don’t trust anybody, but I trust you and Ricky. You don’t like anybody, but you like me. Ricky doesn’t open up to anybody, but he opens up to me. The two of you should totally get along. Don’t make everything hard for no reason.”
“I hate all of your members,” L told Changjo. “Is this the best one you have?”
“He’s the one I’m closest to,” Changjo said. “Look, C.A.P. hyung already broke your heart, and you think that Chunji hyung is stealing Dongwoo hyung away from you, or something, I don’t know what that’s about. You can try Niel hyung, but you’re just going to think that he’s useless. This one’s all I’ve got left.”
L grimaced, eyeing Ricky with disgust.
“Have you ever let go of a grudge?” Ricky asked him.
Ricky nodded. That’s what he’d thought. “What’s the worst thing you think I’ve done?”
“You let Changjo get hurt. You haven’t protected him.”
“Okay, hold on,” Changjo said, sitting up straighter. “That’s not fair, shit happens. What do you expect him to do? Did you miss the part where when he thinks I’m messing up and he can’t stop me, he makes sure he’s there to handle it anyway? Did you miss the part where if something doesn’t go great, he runs in afterwards to help me? We always help each other, that’s what we do. He protects me from shit, I get people off of his back, what else do you want? Should I hate your members for letting things happen to you? Am I supposed to go around getting revenge on all of your members because they didn’t protect you from everything? You don’t blame them for it, I know you don’t, so why should I?”
Tense now, L curled in on himself slightly. His gaze flickered uneasily. He was so clearly upset, Ricky looked away, giving him a minute to deal with it.
“It’s different,” L finally said.
“It’s not different,” Changjo said. “You think it’s different because you know your members and you know what they’ve done for you and you know what they would’ve done for you if they’d been able to. And you think that my members don’t care enough and they just let shit happen because they’re worried about themselves or are too stupid to notice or whatever, I don’t know, apparently you think my members are the worst people in the world. But mine are the same as yours. They do whatever they can, when they can. Big stuff, small stuff, little stuff. They shield me from management when I’m in trouble, they cover for me in interviews when I’m too tired and sick and upset to talk, they help me fix my mike when it’s not working, Ricky fucking let some asshole cameraman hurt him because I was upset. What had already happened had already happened, he couldn’t undo it, he could’ve just patted my shoulder or complained to management or helped me avoid the guy, but he didn’t. He got hurt, on purpose, he made sure something happened to him, so he could get rid of the guy, for me. For me. Who the fuck does that?”
L swallowed, looking tense, angry, hurt. “What’d he do to you?” he asked Ricky.
Ricky shook his head. “I can’t tell you that.”
“You wouldn’t believe him, anyway,” Changjo said. “You don’t like him, you don’t trust him, you wouldn’t believe him. Forget this.” Abruptly, Changjo crawled right past them, getting off of the bed. “This is stupid, never mind. Come on.” He held out a hand to Ricky. “Let’s just go, this isn’t working, he’s just being hateful. There’s still time, you can go see Onew hyung.”
“You’re not leaving,” L said, grabbing Changjo’s hand.
“Why should I stay?” he demanded, but he didn’t pull back. “You don’t trust me, right? You don’t trust my judgment. I love Ricky, I trust him, he’s my best friend, I’m trying to tell you how much he’s done for me, I’m trying to tell you how close we are, and you’re just sitting there seeing what you want to see and hearing what you want to hear. If it’s so hard to trust him that you can’t trust me anymore, then we’re just wasting time, there’s no point.”
“I trust you.” L’s expression was fierce, emotional. Changjo didn’t say anything. “I trust you,” he insisted, his intensity making his voice shake.
“But you think I have crappy judgment,” Changjo said.
“No.” He looked away, frowning, and then he glared up at Changjo. “No. I trust you.”
“Okay, great.” Changjo gestured with his free hand. “This is my best friend in the world. His name is Ricky. You should probably get to know him sometime.” Then he glared at L. “And don’t ask him what some creepy pedophile did to him, that’s sick, he doesn’t have to tell you that.”
Ricky looked away, rubbing his ear.
“You can’t kick everybody out of my life and be the only person I ever deal with,” Changjo said. “I have to be around other people, sometimes. If you ever listened to anything I ever said, you’d maybe think it’s nice that I have a best friend who’s there for me.”
“I get it,” L mumbled, looking down, rubbing Changjo’s hand in both of his. “I get it.”
“Do you?” Changjo persisted.
“Yeah. Just give me a minute.”
Changjo stroked L’s hair. “This hyung has a slower processing time.” Annoyed, L looked up, pushing his hand away. “Not always,” he told Ricky, stroking L’s hair again. “Sometimes he sees everything all at once, he just gets it, he even picks it up before I do. But sometimes he’s a lot slower.”
“It’s not thinking,” Ricky said. “He gets it. He just has to get his emotions out of the way. He’s too emotional to be clearheaded all of the time.” Like you, he added with his eyes.
“You just don’t have any emotions,” Changjo said.
“I am not a robot,” he said, while Changjo said, “Like a robot.” Glaring at Changjo, he balled one hand into a fist. “I’m not!”
“Onew hyung thinks you are.”
“Don’t talk about Onew hyung!”
“Robot,” Changjo said, grinning, relishing getting the last word.
Ricky punched his thigh and got up. “You stay here. I’m going home.”
“Not going to see Onew hyung?”
“No, he said if he couldn’t see me he was going out with Minho hyung.”
“Okay. Kiss me good-bye.”
“L hyung will hate it.”
“That’s why I want it.”
Ricky sighed and just hugged him, instead. “Bye.”
“You okay?” Changjo asked.
“No, but I’m really asking, are you okay?”
He nodded. “See you later,” he said, and left.
Changjo flopped down beside L. “He’s upset. You shouldn’t have asked him what that guy did to him, don’t ask people that shit. He was okay, before that.” He shifted uncomfortably. “I probably shouldn’t have brought it up, he didn’t want me to talk about it. But it’s important. That’s how he is, he goes that far for me, I want you to know that. I don’t just happen to like my members because I ended up around them, I’ve told you that. We’ve been together for years, we’ve gone through shit, we’ve helped each other. Ricky’s important.”
“I shouldn’t have asked,” L admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. He looked at Changjo. “You’re pissed off at me.”
“No, it’s totally okay that you don’t trust me, I’m fine with that.”
“I trust you,” L said urgently, grabbing his hand.
“Okay, so act like it.”
L nodded. “I will. I’m sorry. I do.” He looked down at their hands. “You’re right, I was hearing what I wanted to hear.” He licked his lips. “I was curious about him, before. Woohyun hyung likes him.” He smiled briefly, apologetically. “That kind of made me want to fuck him. To see what it was like.”
Changjo stared at him for a second, then burst into laughter. “Hyung!”
“I was curious,” he admitted. “Woohyun hyung doesn’t get that interested in that many people. He’s friendly, but it’s different, with Ricky. He means it more.” His gaze was thoughtful. “I wanted to know why.”
Changjo stretched out on his side, taking up as much space as he could.
L’s hand stole over his hip. “He really did that for you?”
L winced, looking away.
“It’s okay if you couldn’t,” Changjo said. “I wouldn’t want you to. I didn’t want him to! I didn’t know that’s what he was going to do. It just happened and we didn’t know what was going on. They shut down shooting and Ricky came back and we were like, ‘What happened, why’d we stop filming?’ and he was like, ‘Something about the cameraman, they’re having a meeting.’ When we finally got back to the hotel I was like, ‘Did you do something, did you get him in trouble?’ and he told me. He didn’t tell me everything, he got really vague about the, you know, what actually happened. So like two months later I was like, ‘You have to tell me, I have to know, not knowing is going to kill me, I don’t know if it’s worse than I think or not as bad as I think or what, you have to tell me.’ Like, I felt responsible, he did it for me, but I didn’t even know what happened to him. I knew what happened to me, so was it that? Or did the camera guy try something else? Or did the writer walk in too soon and interrupt? Or did she walk in too late and it went way, way too far? Or what?”
L nodded, looking ill, the muscles around his eyes twitching.
“So I made him tell me. He really didn’t want to, he never does, he never talks about it if he doesn’t have to. Like some people feel better if they can talk about it, but he hates it. But he told me.” Changjo breathed in. “And it was really bad. And he did it because of me. And he was freaking fifteen years old. So don’t tell me I can’t count on him. I can count on Ricky when I can’t count on anybody.”
L moved towards him, covering him. He let his eyes water for a minute, while L whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and hugged him.
When L kissed his cheek, he exhaled and wiped at his eyes. “So just give him a chance, okay? A real one.”
“I will,” L promised, rubbing his chest. “I’ll get to know him.”
Ricky was drying off after a shower when his phone rang. It was L. Toweling his hair, he said, “Hi, hyung.”
“Are you busy tomorrow night? Can we meet?”
L sounded guarded. “Mmm. We can meet,” Ricky decided. “You want the café with the silver awnings?” That was where Changjo met L and Suho a lot, it was somewhere L was used to.
“Yeah. Seven o’clock?”
“Sure. I’ll be there.”
L hung up.
Ricky finished drying off and went to his room. Changjo was on his bed, blowing Niel. He watched them as he got dressed. “I have a date with your boyfriend. He’s meeting me for coffee. I’ll probably seduce him and we’ll run away together.”
“Go for it,” Changjo said. “But don’t think that I’ll be merciful once I’ve hunted you down.”
L showed up late. Not on purpose, necessarily. He just didn’t bother to be on time.
He sipped his coffee. He slouched in his seat. He leaned forward, on the table, his head on one hand. He studied Ricky.
Playing with his phone, Ricky ignored him.
“Is that your natural face?”
Ricky glanced up, nodded, went back to his phone. “Yeah. I don’t do things to it, I don’t like that.”
He was good-looking. Great eyes, fantastic eyebrows, cute nose, nice cheekbones. “You’re handsome.”
He didn’t look up. “Thanks.”
He didn’t return the compliment. L studied him some more. “You don’t like me.”
He blinked at his game and gave it a grim look, lips pressing together. “I had a bad day, I’m tired, and Onew hyung called me half an hour ago to ask if I could see him tonight. I tried to get along last time, it didn’t work out, and I’m…” He stopped talking. He took a deep breath, set his phone down, and smiled across the table. Scooted his chair closer. “Sorry, hyung. I shouldn’t be rude. How’ve you been?”
“What were you going to say?”
“It’s not important.” He sipped at his straw. It was adorable. Objectively adorable. Then he fixed his bangs and smiled again. “Should we talk about Changjo?”
L had never paid attention to Ricky. He’d barely noticed Ricky. He hated C.A.P. and Chunji, but Ricky had just been one of Changjo’s background members, unimportant, easy to ignore. Changjo talked about Ricky a lot, mentioned Ricky, but Ricky had never mattered.
Ricky was just some kid. Changjo’s sidekick. Being with Changjo and caring about Ricky would be like being with Suho and caring about Kai, or Baekhyun, or the paint in EXO’s kitchen. Meaningless details. Wallpaper.
The only time Ricky had ever piqued his interest had been when Ricky had piqued Woohyun’s interest.
He was starting to think that he’d mistaken the wrong member for wallpaper. If Ricky was this important to Changjo. And to Woohyun. And to Sunggyu. Then L needed to know more.
“Onew hyung.” He watched the cute way Ricky’s fingers curled around the cup. “Why you?”
Ricky arched an eyebrow. “What did Changjo tell you about it?”
“Not a lot.” It had always struck him as weird, but he hadn’t given it much thought. But it really was a strange match. “I thought,” he rubbed his hand over his mouth, covering some of his words in case someone was trying to track their conversation, “he liked women.”
Ricky nodded. “He does.” He toyed with his cup, then straightened his back. “I’m an exception. Changjo has two special hyungs, so I thought that I’d get two, too, to shut him up. But it worked better than I thought it would. That hyung… I only wanted him to like me, not like me, but that’s how things ended up, anyway. So I took responsibility.”
This was about Ricky taking pity on Onew? On Shinee’s leader Onew? L wanted to laugh.
“I miscalculated, and things got more serious than I thought,” Ricky explained. “It got bad. But he forgave me for it. We’re okay, now.”
“We’re talking about Onew hyung,” L reminded him. Why was he bullshitting like this? “Come here,” L decided, getting up. “We can’t talk here.”
Ricky got up, gathering his cup and phone. His mannerisms, his expressions, he was oddly cute. He’d moved so obediently. L had always had that impression of him, that he was cute, that he didn’t cause trouble. Maybe that was why L had never noticed him, because he was too young, too boring, just some nice kid.
They went to Infinite’s practice room. Not that L wanted to be there for fun, but it was somewhere they could talk. L sat down on the bench and Ricky sat beside him, still sipping. “Tell me about Onew hyung. What do you mean, you took responsibility?”
“It’s personal,” Ricky said. “It’s private.” He studied the floor for a moment. “We.” He rubbed at his eyebrow. “I can’t say more than I already said. I wanted him to like me, so I got him to like me. But it went too far, and he was in love with me. I didn’t expect that, I didn’t want it. It wasn’t fair to him.” He crossed his ankles. “I was in love with him, too. I wanted to be honest with him, I thought he deserved it. So I told him the truth, that I’d set him up. And he got upset, he didn’t want to hear that. It got really bad. But he forgave me.”
“How did you get Onew hyung to fall in love with you?”
“I made him like me. I got close to him, I got him to confide in me, I made it seem like I needed his help. He was comfortable with me. His life’s hard, sometimes, there’s a lot of pressure on him, but I was always nice to be around, I made him smile, I didn’t put any pressure on him at all. I was like a reliable little vacation every week. I was too good at it, I miscalculated, I didn’t expect it to work that well.”
Onew could have anyone he wanted. It was tempting to dismiss all of this, to say that Ricky was lying, that Onew was irrational. But L had dismissed Ricky too completely for too long. He had to stop brushing this kid aside. “What’s going on with you and Woohyun hyung?”
“Oh, that. He likes me. I think I surprised him, the first time we had sex, and now he’s interested.”
Ricky nodded. “He slapped me, and I slapped back.”
L blinked, taken aback. He hadn’t expected that. What surprised him more, that Woohyun had hauled off and slapped Ricky? Or that Ricky had slapped back? “My Woohyun hyung?”
He nodded again. “The sex was great, too.”
L tried to clear away his emotions. Tried to start fresh. He pushed aside his hatred and resentment and his skepticism and just started with the basics. Ricky was Changjo’s best friend. Had seduced Shinee’s Onew without even trying to. Had sexually hypnotized Woohyun.
L stared at Ricky. “Who are you?”
“Just me.” He sipped his coffee, holding the cup in both hands and mouthing the straw like a four-year-old would. Then he smiled at L, adorable and blushing. “You don’t have to stare!”
L was fascinated.
When Ricky came in, Changjo sat up on the couch. “How was it?”
Ricky toed out of his shoes. “It’s fine, he’s okay now.”
“Already?” Damn, Ricky worked fast. “What happened?”
“He asked me about Onew hyung, and then he took me to dinner.” Ruffling his hair, Ricky yawned. “God, I’m just going to bed. What time do we have to leave tomorrow?”
“Took you to dinner? What else did you talk about?” Changjo asked, getting up and following him through the dorm.
“We talked about you, a lot. He really likes you. I told him about that time you stole all of those doughnuts and snuck them to Angel, he loves that story.”
Changjo grinned. He was still proud of that. “I shouldn’t have gotten in trouble for it, either, it was good fan service.” In the bedroom, he circled Ricky. “It’s okay? Are you sure? He hated you a lot, so I had to push him kind of hard to get him to give you a chance, maybe I pushed too hard.”
“He’s fine. Call him, ask him.”
He did. While Ricky was in the bathroom, Changjo dialed.
“Mmm. Come to see me soon,” L said.
“I will. Hey, how was it, tonight? How’s everything, how’s Ricky?”
“You don’t have to like him just because I made you feel bad.”
“Mmm. I don’t know if I like him,” L said. “He’s interesting.”
“You don’t want to get rid of him anymore?”
“I don’t. I want to get to know him better.”
“It went okay?” Changjo wished that he’d been there. He should’ve gone. “He had kind of a bad day today, it’s harder for him to,” he edited himself mid-sentence, “it was just a bad day, he’s tired.”
“It’s okay. He told me about it, about your manager and the choreographer and the other members. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay. I had a great night, actually. Niel hyung was still tense about what happened, and no one else was here, so I put him to sleep. I think I got a whole workout.”
“Mmm. Come work out with me soon.”
“I will, promise.”
When he got off of the phone with L, Ricky was already getting into bed. He crawled onto the bed, too, and peered down into Ricky’s face. “He thinks you’re interesting.”
Rubbing his eyes, Ricky yawned. “Go away, I’m tired.”
“I can fuck you to sleep, I’m good at it.”
“I don’t want sex, maknae.” Then Ricky reconsidered. “You can blow me, though,” he decided, pushing down his shorts.
“Thanks for talking to L hyung,” Changjo said, flopping Ricky’s soft cock around.
“Ya, gently,” Ricky scolded. “It’s okay. He’s really good-looking, anyway, so he was nice to look at during dinner.”
After practice, Changjo jogged down the stairs. Then he got an idea. He dialed Sehun’s number and jogged back up. His legs were tired but he didn’t care, he didn’t feel like going slowly.
“Hi. Where are you, what are you doing?”
“I’m at the dorm, why?”
“Have you seen anybody from my company, lately?”
“I saw Niel this afternoon.”
“Are you asking about my dongsaeng?”
He grinned. He opened Up10tion’s door and gestured. “Yeah.”
Sehun wasn’t saying anything. That was kind of weird. The longer the silence went on, the weirder it got.
Was something wrong? Fuck, if something was wrong - - god damn it! Changjo had worked really fucking hard on this, he’d finally put all of the pieces together, he’d finally convinced everyone to cooperate. He’d practically had to force Sehun and Jinhoo to get their shit together at knifepoint, but now things were finally good, and now what?! Was Sehun screwing this up again?!
The Up10tion members didn’t know who he was gesturing at. Jinhoo had started forward, and then Kuhn had, and then Bitto, and now it was a game, everyone pretending to be confused, all of them coming forward and then backing up, shooing each other towards him, pointing to themselves and each other, trying to guess what he wanted.
In his ear, Sehun made a sound. A breathy, moaning sound. A soft, low, “Ooohhhh.” Like it felt too good to hold back.
Oh, shit, was he getting off or something? Was he watching porn? Was this a sex call and Changjo hadn’t realized it?
Was he jacking his cock, thinking about Hwanhee?!
“Sehun hyung,” Changjo said.
Hwanhee darted forward, bright-eyed and smiling. “Prince Sehun?” he asked.
“Not in public!” half of his hyungs shouted.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said, blushing, bowing, covering his mouth for a second. “Is that Sehun hyung?” he whispered, creeping forward, looking hopeful.
God, he had it bad. It was really cute and really weird and really…nice, or reassuring, or something, to see someone this fucked up over Oh Sehun. It was familiar, but it wasn’t painful anymore.
“Sehun hyung,” Changjo said again. “Where’s your hand?”
A soft, low grunt. “Where do you think it is?” He was breathing hard, right in Changjo’s ear.
“When are you seeing Lee Hwanhee again?” Changjo asked.
“Tuesday,” Hwanhee whispered, and, “Tuesday,” Sehun said, and, “Tuesday,” the Up10tion members all said to each other.
“That’s, like, five days from now,” Changjo said. “You think you can wait that long?”
Sehun gasped. He sounded really close. Talking about Hwanhee wasn’t distracting him from getting off, it was making it happen.
Grinning, Changjo put the phone on speaker and handed it to Hwanhee.
Looking happy, curious, Hwanhee took the phone from him politely. “Hello?” he asked. “Sehun hyung? It’s your Hwanhee, is there anything I can do for you?”
“Oh, oh, shit,” Sehun gasped, and he was coming, he was totally getting off right then, “oohh, uhhh, ohh-hh-hhh.”
Blushing bright red, Hwanhee hurriedly turned off speakerphone. The rest of Up10tion looked shocked, embarrassed; they laughed, turning away, covering their mouths, leaning against each other. “Hyung,” Hwanhee said, putting his hand on top of his head, edging away from Changjo. “Is it okay? Is one of your hyungs there with you? Should I come over tonight, do you need anything?”
They were totally into each other. It wasn’t just one-sided, either, Sehun had it bad.
It had worked. Changjo had needed it to work so badly, and had pushed so freaking hard for it, he’d worried that it would never really pan out, that there would always be new hiccups, that Jinhoo would back out or management would interfere or Sehun would screw it up after all.
But Sehun was super hot for Hwanhee. And Hwanhee was totally into Sehun. And Jinhoo was letting it happen. And Suho supported it.
He should’ve known it would work out the second Suho had gotten behind it.
Sehun had finally stopped apologizing to him. And Sehun had finally moved on from L.Joe. And nobody had to worry about Hwanhee anymore.
Everything had worked out. He’d solved a dozen problems and sub-problems with one move. He was a freaking genius.
“Yeah,” Hwanhee was saying, blushing, squirming a hell of a lot. “Yeah, hyung, okay. Is five days too long, should I come sooner? Okay. I’ll be ready, I’ll have everything ready, I bought more orange juice and-” He fell silent and then he blushed, smiling, dancing in place. “Yeah, okay. I understand. But I’ll still bring all of that stuff anyway, okay? Just so you’ll have it, in case you want any of it.” He burst into surprised laughter. “Stop! You can’t say that over the phone!”
“Okay,” Jinhoo said, gesturing.
Changjo reached for the phone.
“No,” Hwanhee whispered, ducking. “No, it’s nothing,” he told Sehun. “Changjo hyung wants his phone back, but - - no, stop it,” he whined, dodging Changjo’s hand. He started backing around the room, holding a hand out to keep Changjo at bay. “I’m talking to Sehun hyung! Just give me a second, please.”
Grinning, grabbing at him, Changjo stalked him around the room.
Skittering away, Hwanhee said, “Okay, hyung. Okay. Yeah. Green and yellow stripes. Yeah, last night. Sunyoul hyung.” He listened for a moment, still backing away, keeping an eye on Changjo. “Um, probably Wei hyung, first, and then Gyujin hyung and Kuhn hyung and Jinhoo hyung. And Wooshin hyung! God, I can’t forget Wooshin hyung.”
“What is he talking about?” Xiao asked.
“Us,” Gyujin said.
“Yeah, obviously,” Xiao said. “What’s he saying about us? He didn’t say me, yet.”
“He’s listing his favorite members,” Wooshin said. “The ones he likes to go in the leaders’ bedroom with.”
“Leaders,” Xiao repeated, and then his eyes widened. “Hwanhee! Ya! You didn’t name me!”
“Am I fourth?” Jinhoo asked
“You’re fifth,” Wooshin said.
“You’re fifth!” Jinhoo argued. “He forgot about you! At least he didn’t forget about me.”
“But when he remembered me, he obviously wanted to list me higher,” Wooshin said.
“He forgot about you, you don’t count,” Jinhoo said.
“You can be first, if you want,” Wei offered. “I’ll trade.”
“Thank you,” Jinhoo said, and shook his hand. “I’ll take that.”
“I have to step up my game,” Kogyeol said
“I have to get some game,” Sunyoul said.
“Okay,” Hwanhee said. “Okay, yeah. Un-hunh. No, I’m not,” he mumbled shyly, pawing at his hair. He bounced, blushing. “You don’t have to say nice things. Okay. Yeah, okay. Un-hunh. Okay. Bye, hyung.” He handed the phone back to Changjo. “Sehun hyung wants to talk to you.”
To moan in his ear again? Changjo took the phone. Hwanhee watched with happy interest. “Hey.”
“Thank you,” Sehun said. “I’m sorry about…” He sighed. “A lot of things. But I owe you a lot. Thank you.”
“You like him?” Changjo asked.
“God, he’s perfect,” Sehun said. “Where the hell did you find him?”
“Uh, Daejeon, I think,” he said, and Hwanhee gave him a puzzled look, laughing.
“He’s perfect,” Sehun said again. “Thank you, really.”
Everything was turning out so well, he didn’t just feel relieved, he felt smug. “You owe me?”
“Maybe you should say it again.”
Sehun laughed. “I owe you a lot, Changjo-ah.”
“Maybe you should put it in writing,” he decided. “So you don’t forget.”
“I don’t owe you that much.”
He grinned. “He’s right here, you want a selca?”
He waited for it.
“Yeah, I’ll write it down,” Sehun said.
“And kiss it.”
“I’m not kissing it!”
“It wouldn’t be a good selca, anyway,” Changjo said. “He’s been practicing, he’s all flushed and sweaty.”
“I’ll sign it,” Sehun said. “Sign and date it.”
“Do I look bad?” Hwanhee whispered to his members. He pulled the hem of his T-shirt up to blot his forehead. Shit, Changjo always forgot how ripped he was.
“Okay, I’ll hang up now,” Changjo told Sehun. “Wait a minute, I’ll send it.” He hung up and handed the phone to Hwanhee, and then he moved close. “Put me in it, too.” He wanted Sehun to remember to owe him. Standing behind, he put his arm around Hwanhee’s shoulders.
Raising the phone, Hwanhee fixed his hair with one hand. “Okay - - aw, you look too handsome, I’m going to look stupid.”
“You don’t have to lie, I’m not Chunji hyung.”
Hwanhee laughed. “Okay, go!”
Changjo smiled, and Hwanhee snapped the shot. “Good, good,” Changjo said, and took the phone from him. A second later, the text was sent. “Okay, you can practice now,” Changjo said. He patted Hwanhee on the head and waved at Jinhoo. “Work hard!”
“Thank you, sunbaenim,” Kuhn called after him.
He waved and closed the door.
His phone beeped.
Sehun had texted back. Thank you. It’s been hard on you, and I made things worse. But Teen Top has helped me to find something really special, twice now. I do owe you a lot, really. I won’t forget.
“How long is this going to take?” Woohyun asked.
L opened the door and walked into the lobby, Woohyun following. “Five minutes. Maybe ten. I said that you could wait in the van.”
“What am I, your manager? I don’t want to wait in the van.”
He heard singing. Good singing, actually, coming from overhead. It sounded familiar. “Is Baekhyun here?” he asked, tugging at his ear.
“That’s not Baekhyun,” Woohyun said.
“It sounds like it.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
Someone, whoever was singing, was coming down the stairs. He had good control; his voice didn’t waver as he jogged down. When he saw them, he suddenly cursed and lost his footing, slipping down the last step. Wide-eyed, he bowed low. “Woohyun sunbaenim, L sunbaenim.”
That was Lee Hwanhee. “Hi,” L said, stepping towards him. He blushed, his smile widening. “Did we startle you?”
“Just a little. I didn’t know anybody was down here.” His gaze darted towards Woohyun, and then zoomed right back to L, fascinated, adoring.
It would’ve been so easy to claim him, L almost did it, right then and there. So easy, so tempting, to seduce him and fuck up Sehun’s world.
But L had promised Changjo. Promised not to mess up what Changjo had worked so hard to put together, what mattered so much to him. All of this shit, L.Joe, Sehun, it had all been rough enough on him already. L was going to be the last person, the last, to make it worse.
But there was no reason that L couldn’t keep the plan on the back burner, just in case. “You have a great voice,” L said, smiling. “I didn’t know we had hoobaes this talented.”
He looked surprised and thrilled. “Oh, thanks. Thank you,” he said, bowing. “I’ll keep working hard!”
“Is Changjo upstairs?”
“Yes! Yeah, do you want me to tell him you’re here?”
“No, I’ll go up,” L said, putting an arm around him, loosely, guiding him along as L mounted the stairs. “Are you here practicing for a big event?”
L walked him up the stairs, then strolled along the hallway with him, slowly. L made sure to put him back in his practice room before continuing on to see Changjo. No sense in making Changjo suspicious when L had no intention of actually doing anything. Yet.
Once Up10tion’s door was closed, L turned.
His hand was on the doorknob, about to open Changjo’s door, when he noticed Woohyun.
Standing in front of Up10tion’s door, gazing in.
Oh. No, no, no. L hadn’t realized - - he hadn’t been thinking - - he grimaced, cursing himself.
“No wonder Sehun’s so happy these days,” Woohyun said.
Shit. “You already knew, right?” L hoped.
“I knew it was probably someone in Up10tion,” Woohyun said. “Whoever’s arranging things for him contacted Suho before Sunggyu hyung, so it had to be someone who already knew about Sehun, and Key said that he didn’t know anything about it. Suho’s so protective and so careful, it had to be someone connected to TOP Media, someone going through them, and they have all of these rookies. I just didn’t know which member.”
“He’s really young, though,” L said. “And he’s not even one of the visuals.”
Woohyun chuckled at him, finally moving away from the door. “Your expression. What are you so worried about? I’m not going to kidnap him.” Woohyun fixed L’s hair, wearing a teasing smile. “It’s just nice to see a new puppy around. He looks like he’d keep his master happy.” Woohyun leaned closer, still smiling, his thumb drifting along L’s jaw. “Just like you keep me happy.”
For a split second, L felt a familiar, intense flicker of fear, anger, dread, outrage, pride. And then that sputtered out and he relaxed into the moment, smiling at Woohyun, putting his hand on his own stomach, like he’d been taught - - trained - - to, like Woohyun liked. “I like it when you’re happy,” he murmured, giving Woohyun one of his best, sweetest smiles.
Woohyun’s thumb rubbed over L’s chin, tilting L’s face up just enough to prove to them both that he could, that he had that right and that authority. “Sehun’s puppy looks energetic. I’ll bet that he works hard to keep Sehun happy. I’ll bet he does anything Sehun wants.”
L smiled, leaning closer. “I’ll do anything,” he promised, whispering it, lowering his lashes. “You know I will.”
Woohyun put an arm around him, and he hugged Woohyun back, closing his eyes. “I know it,” Woohyun whispered. “It’s been a long time, Myungsoo love. I’ve missed you.”
“I’m sorry.” What had happened between Sehun and Changjo had rattled him. Rattled him and stuck, haunting him. He hadn’t felt right about being with Woohyun this way, hadn’t been in the right head space for it. But hearing Woohyun call him “Myungsoo love” made him feel warm, made him feel good, injected dreamy pleasure into his veins.
“Maybe you’ll come to me tonight,” Woohyun suggested, still holding him.
“Yeah,” he whispered. His eyes opening, he ran his hands over Woohyun’s back, feeling aroused, feeling possessive. This hyung, this hyung’s hold over him, this hyung’s body, in that moment, it seemed like nothing else could ever feel so good. “Yes, please.”
A door opened.
Changjo came out, took a step closer, stopped, and stared at them.
L couldn’t break out of it and didn’t want to. He’d feel embarrassed and self-conscious later, but right then, he just tightened his arms around Woohyun.
Changjo gave them a slow, doubtful look, scratching the back of his neck. “You hyungs okay?”
“It’s okay,” Woohyun whispered, a private whisper, just for L, so seductive he felt it slide over his skin. “Suck his cock, take your time, really enjoy it. I’ll be in the van.”
Yes. Woohyun had told him to, and he wanted to, pleasure throbbing in his cock. They couldn’t do that here, it was off-limits in Teen Top’s practice room, but Woohyun had told him to, and Changjo would let him if he really pushed for it, and his need was making him ache. “Thank you,” he said, letting go of Woohyun.
Woohyun nudged him towards Changjo with a little pat and then walked away.
Licking his lips, he pushed Changjo back into the room.
When practice was over, Hwanhee’s members headed downstairs. He took a quick left turn and peeked into Teen Top’s practice room in case Changjo was still there.
He was. On his back, on the floor, not moving. Right near the door. His eyes were open but he wasn’t really looking at anything or blinking. Was he okay? His shirt was pushed up, exposing his abs. “Hyung?” Hwanhee asked, peering down at him.
He blinked. “Whew!” He blinked again, slowly, making his eyes wide. “Whoa.” He shook his head, sat up halfway, shook his head again, and sat up the rest of the way. “Shit.” He laughed, rubbing his face, and then he cupped himself between the legs. “Holy shit, though.” He looked around and finally noticed Hwanhee. “Hi. What?” He laughed again, looking dazed. “Did I imagine that?” He blinked and smiled at Hwanhee. “Did you see L hyung around here? Tonight?”
“Yeah! Yeah, I did, he was here with Woohyun hyung, they were coming up to see you.” He blushed. “L hyung’s really handsome. You’re so lucky.”
“Lucky,” Changjo repeated. “Lucky, lucky, oh my god, am I lucky.” He rubbed his cheeks, blushing.
He was being so weird! “Are you okay?” Hwanhee asked, touching his arm.
“Great,” Changjo told him. “I am great.”
Hwanhee had no idea what was going on with him, but he seemed to be in a really good mood. Of course he was, he had L hyung! That would keep anybody in a fantastic mood all of the time. “I just wanted to thank you. I didn’t really say it, before, and I should have. I should say it every day. You and Chunji hyung and C.A.P. hyung and everybody, Sehun hyung wouldn’t know me from any other rookie if it weren’t for you. You helped me a lot. I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t know how to tell you what it was like, before. Or what it’s like now.” Self-conscious, he tucked himself into a smaller ball. “But it was really hard, before. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, he’s like one guy, you hang out with him all of the time. But it means a lot to me.”
Changjo touched Hwanhee’s hair lightly. It was really different from the “I’m a hyung and a sunbae and I can poke at you however I want” way Changjo usually teased him. It was weirdly tender and it made his heart flutter.
“I just wanted to thank you,” he mumbled, feeling shy. “I was having a really hard time, and, and you helped, a lot.”
Changjo nodded, still petting him lightly, tenderly. “If anything happens, if you’re having trouble getting to see Sehun hyung, if Jinhoo causes problems, just tell me or Chunji hyung or one of us, okay? We’ll help you.”
He blushed. The Teen Top hyungs were so nice! “Okay. Thank you.”
Changjo leaned in and kissed him, softly, right on his cheek. Amazed, he held his breath and gazed into Changjo’s eyes. Teen Top had never kissed him before!
“You’re welcome,” Changjo said. He caressed Hwanhee’s cheek, right where he’d kissed, and it wasn’t just heart fluttering, it was making Hwanhee flutter all over. “It’s not so hard on you anymore, right? You aren’t so stressed out anymore, you feel better when you can see Sehun hyung?”
“Yeah, so much better.” He couldn’t believe that Changjo was being so nice to him. He couldn’t believe that Changjo had just kissed him! The way Changjo was touching him made him feel so - - oh, god, he was about to get a hard-on in front of his sunbae. That wasn’t okay, that wasn’t normal, was it? To pop a full erection over a kiss on the cheek? But Changjo was so handsome, and he was just so horny, and - - and he knew that he shouldn’t be so horny all of the time, he knew it wasn’t normal, he didn’t want to be like this, he couldn’t help it - - but Sehun had said that it was natural, it was healthy. Was it natural and healthy to want to go down on Changjo and beg Changjo to bone him and come his brains out while Changjo screwed him all over the practice room floor? Because that was all he wanted, the only thing in the world he wanted, not just wanted, needed, he needed that to happen or he was going to die.
Changjo licked his lips, resting his hand on Hwanhee’s shoulder. “Are your members around?”
“Yeah.” He scooted closer. Just a little inch forward. He just wanted to be a little bit closer to Changjo’s gorgeous, sexy body. “They’re in the bathroom, or, uh, the van.” He rested his fingertips on Changjo’s knee. Just the tips, just gingerly. He just needed to touch. And be touched. That was okay, right? Changjo was his hyung, this was okay, wasn’t it? He really, really needed it to be okay. He really, really needed Changjo to fuck him.
“Ya!” Changjo shouted. “Wei! Wei! Lee Sungjoon!”
“Ah, yeah,” Wei said, coming into the doorway. “Hyung?”
Changjo put both hands over Hwanhee’s ears. Surprised, wondering why, Hwanhee looked at him, but he pulled Hwanhee’s face down. It was strange; did Changjo want to say something Hwanhee couldn’t hear? To Wei? Why? About him?
He liked having Changjo’s hands on him, though. Inching closer, he ran his fingertips over Changjo’s knee. A little bit higher, a little bit higher. He felt really bold, really daring. He felt so hot, all over. His gaze traveled up Changjo’s thigh. Once his eyes landed on Changjo’s groin, he couldn’t look away. He knew that he had to look somewhere else, he had to, he couldn’t just stare at a sunbae’s crotch, he was going to get caught, he couldn’t act like this! But he really just needed it, he couldn’t help it, he didn’t want to feel this way but he couldn’t stop it. Greedy slut, he was such a greedy slut. Whimpering, he curled his hand into a fist, trying to keep from touching Changjo, touching himself.
“Okay,” Changjo said, lowering his hands. “I have to go talk to Jinhoo for a second.”
Now? Hwanhee swallowed, trying to smile. “Okay.” Changjo wasn’t touching him anywhere anymore. He felt really alone and really stupid and really miserable. He felt really, really slutty and not in a good way. Not in the exciting way he was for Sehun. Just a really bad, gross, wrong way. “It was good to see you, hyung.”
“Let’s go downstairs,” Wei suggested. He came over, offering his hand. “Let’s grab good seats in the back of the van.”
He felt stupid and awful, he had that helpless, anxious feeling he’d used to have all of the time. He hadn’t felt this way in weeks and he’d forgotten how horrible it was. But seeing Wei smile at him like usual, like everything was normal, was reassuring. Grateful to have a hyung around, he took Wei’s hand and let Wei pull him up. He took one last look at Changjo, and as soon as he did, he felt lust sizzle in him, felt that relentless, insatiable hunger. Groaning, he made himself look away and followed Wei out of the room.
He held Wei’s hand as they went downstairs. “What’d Changjo hyung say to you?” And why couldn’t he hear it?
“Nothing, he just wanted to ask me something.” Wei squeezed his hand as they crossed the lobby. “I’m kind of in the mood, you want to go in Jinhoo hyung’s room tonight? Before we shower, or after, or, I don’t know,” Wei grinned at him, “both?”
Both?! That was such an amazing offer, the whole world spun around him for a second. “Yes,” he said immediately. “Do you mean it? We can do it twice?”
“Sure. I gotta keep in shape, right, I gotta be ready for action for when I see Niel hyung next week.”
The hyungs were going over to Teen Top’s dorm next week. Maybe that was what Changjo had wanted to talk about. That made sense; Hwanhee wasn’t allowed to go, and maybe Changjo had wanted to say something to Wei about it that Hwanhee wasn’t supposed to hear. “What’s it like when you go?” he asked. “What’s it like with Changjo hyung?”
“Uh.” Wei blushed, opening the door. “It’s pretty good.”
Changjo dropped across Chunji’s bed. Stacking his hands behind his head, he whistled to himself.
Sehun had Hwanhee. Hwanhee had Sehun. Sehun wasn’t a grieving widower anymore. Hwanhee wasn’t going to crack up, as long as Jinhoo took some freaking advice. They solved each other’s problems; Changjo wasn’t going to have to offer himself as the solution to either one.
L was okay with Ricky. L gave the best head in the entire world. L was happy and not starting wars.
He could come in this room and not be disoriented to see just one bed. He could be in here and feel comfortable.
He got a weird pang in his chest when Hwanhee gazed at him like he and his cock were the divine answer to all of the world’s problems. He hadn’t thought he’d ever see that particular look on anyone else’s face. But he could handle that.
So everything was okay. It had all gotten jumbled up and twisted around and ugly, for a while, but it was okay again. Things were different, but that different was already starting to move towards normal.
He felt great. He felt relieved, he felt happy, he felt like he’d finally let go and found out the world was still stable, after all.
And. If something went wrong. If things stopped being okay. He had a tiny present from his boyfriend, thirty-four seconds of Oh Sehun’s life, that would clear things right up.
May 22, 2017
by Matthew Haldeman-Time