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Sunggyu wanted to know what everyone was saying about Sungyeol’s latest acting role. He wanted to know how proud to be. From his bed, he checked the gossip sites on his phone.
Instead of news about Sungyeol, he found chatter about L. Photo after photo of L around Seoul. L and Money.
L and Money going into a store together. L and Money crossing the street. L and Money carrying bags down the sidewalk. L and Money laughing. L and Money smiling at each other like any dongsaeng and hyung might smile at each other, totally normal. It just looked interesting because they were so handsome. Smiles automatically looked more meaningful from good-looking people. L looked at all kinds of people that way. Money put an arm around anybody like that.
Annoyed with himself, he glared at his phone. Then he calmed down and took a fresh look.
This was nice. It was nice to see his dongsaengs get along so well. Very friendly, very handsome together. He liked that they were close. It was good for L to have a close hyung with decent morals. It was very cute, the way they laughed together. He liked to see this.
He texted L. You should see Money more. Call him up, go out sometime. It’s not good for him to have too much time on his hands. Go be cute and give him someone to look after.
He was used to the people around him speculating on his members’ private lives. Everybody always wanted to know if the latest rumors were any more or less true than the last set of rumors. Were somebody and so-and-so still close? Were this member and that idol still in touch? Were these two people really hanging out a lot, lately, or had that been a one-time thing?
He’d been getting a lot of questions about Suho. EXO was big, so EXO’s leader was interesting, so people wanted to know what Suho was up to, what Suho’s friendships were like, who was Suho actually close to.
The questions weren’t about him and Suho. They were about L and Suho.
That was good. It was good that people didn’t even know to ask about him and Suho. That meant that he was doing a good job of ducking under the radar. What was private was private, and all of that. He didn’t need a lot of people going around speculating on his friendships, anyway. If there was too much talk, Suho’s company might get spooked, or Suho might get spooked, and that wouldn’t be good. So it was better, this way, that no one had any idea who his boyfriend was.
They thought that they knew who L’s boyfriend was, though. And they sure did approve! It seemed like he couldn’t get his hair done, anymore, without hearing all about how handsome L and Suho looked together.
No one expected him to confirm it, so when he laughed everything off, no one really pushed him on it. A sensible leader wouldn’t confirm anyone’s dating news, no matter who was involved in the rumors.
He told himself that it was funny. It wasn’t awkward. It was cute. It wasn’t embarrassing. It was funny. Funny, for everyone to be so mistaken. Cute, for his dongsaengs to get along so well.
They were so good-looking together. Everybody agreed on that. So handsome. The way that they looked at each other, anyone could see how close they were.
If anybody knew how Money looked at him, if anybody saw the way Money stared at him when he walked into a room and laughed at his jokes like he was hilarious and smiled at him like he was really something special, they wouldn’t be so impressed with the way Money looked at L.
It wasn’t anybody’s business how breathless and flustered and happy Money got over the phone, and it wasn’t anybody’s business how Money moaned and shuddered under him. But if they knew, they wouldn’t be so goddamned impressed with L.
It was insulting. He was insulted. Everybody thought that his boyfriend was dating his dongsaeng. Everybody thought that his boyfriend preferred L. Everybody thought that what Suho wanted in a man was some foolish, obsessive, young klutz. Oh, sure, nobody cared about L’s weird personality; the important thing was L’s looks. Everybody thought that Suho was shallow!
Sunggyu was a great catch. He was smart, he was talented, he was funny, he was very popular! And he was really handsome! He was very good-looking, a lot of people thought so. Suho definitely thought so.
He glared at the photos all over his screen. Why did L see Money so often, anyway? Wasn’t L supposed to be busy reading scripts or something? Didn’t L have his own boyfriend to go out with?
Sunggyu texted him. Go see that maknae. Take him out more often, he probably misses you. He needs more hyungs in his life, take better care of him.
Wait, why was he encouraging L to spend more time with that strange kid?
He looked at the photos again. L and Suho, a happy couple. He wondered how Changjo felt about it.
“I like it,” Changjo said. He hiked himself up to sit on the kitchen counter. Sunggyu snatched him back down. He grinned at that and stayed put. “It’s hot. They spend the whole time they’re together talking about me, and then they go back to EXO’s dorm and blow each other all night. And then L hyung texts me the next day to tell me what a huge load Suho hyung blew in his face. It’s great.”
L had terrible taste. It was a real problem. Why was this kid even in Sunggyu’s dorm? “They don’t talk about you.”
“They totally do. They love talking about me.”
“Why would they talk about you, what is there to say?” Why wouldn’t they talk about him? He was a very important hyung in their lives. There had to be a lot to say about him!
Changjo was smiling without smiling. He looked like he wanted to laugh. “Are you jealous?”
“Get out of my kitchen,” he said. “Ya! Myungsoo-ya!” When L came around the corner, he pushed Changjo in L’s direction. L’s arms went around him immediately. “Keep your toys in your room, don’t leave him all over the dorm, other people live here.”
“When you and Suho hyung go out shopping and shit, why don’t you talk about Sunggyu hyung more?” Changjo asked.
“Mmm, we can’t,” L said.
They couldn’t?! Why not?! What did he mean, they couldn’t-
“It embarrasses Suho hyung, he doesn’t like it, he can’t talk about Sunggyu hyung in public,” L was saying.
“What’s wrong with talking about me?” Sunggyu demanded. “Lots of people talk about me!”
“It’s private,” L told him, hugging Changjo from behind. “He really likes you, he doesn’t want somebody to overhear.” Then L smiled. “Plus he gets flustered, talking about you turns him on, and he doesn’t want to get horny in public.”
He didn’t know how to feel about that. Maybe he was flattered.
He told Sungyeol to go hang out with Suho more. Maybe then the public might show more interest in Sungyeol’s activities.
When they were on the couch, alone in EXO’s dorm, he took the phone from Suho’s hand and held it up. He looked at the two of them, side-by-side, Suho leaning in to see what he was doing.
Did they look good together? Or did Suho look like someone confused who’d wandered into the wrong couple shot? Inhaling, he tried to give the camera a chic stare.
Suho grimaced, getting in the way, taking over the screen, primping, picking at his bangs, poking at his cheeks. “Ugh, I can’t be on a date like this, I look terrible.”
If he thought that he looked terrible, what did he think that Sunggyu looked like? “Everybody thinks that you’re dating L.”
Suho turned to him with a smile. “I know. It’s nice, isn’t it? We make a good couple, we look good together.”
“You aren’t even embarrassed?” Sunggyu asked in disbelief.
“No. I’d be embarrassed if they knew that I was dating you, I can’t have anybody knowing about that. But it’s okay, with L, it means that he can do whatever he wants with Changjo and nobody thinks anything of it.”
“Why don’t you just date him for real, then?”
“Date L?” Suho laughed at him. “He’s my dongsaeng!”
“You’re my dongsaeng, I’m dating a dongsaeng, why can’t you?”
“I don’t like dongsaengs.” Suho shook his head, lips pressed together firmly. “I couldn’t date a dongsaeng, I have too many members and other responsibilities, I don’t need more kids to look out for.”
Sunggyu eyed him. “Are you with me because you’re selfish?”
Suho looked affronted. “I’m not selfish! I’m a good boyfriend!”
“You like me because I’ll do all of the work between us. You just have to show up and look good. And you aren’t worried about me going anywhere or finding anybody else because you think that I can’t do better.”
Suho gave him a doubtful look. “Are you feeling okay? You’ve had a hard week,” Suho decided, patting his shoulder. “Don’t worry about foolish things, let’s just relax and have a nice night.”
His eyes widened. Offended, he stared at Suho. “You think that I can’t do better!”
Now Suho looked exasperated. “Don’t get upset and jump to conclusions.”
“Jumping! I’m not jumping! Who’s jumping? You-”
“Maybe there’s something on TV,” Suho said, picking up the remote.
“Is that what you like?” he demanded. “Guys on TV? I’m on TV, I’ve been on TV a lot of times. You really think that I can’t do better than you? A lot of guys want me. You don’t know about it? Guys, all kinds of them, you should ask my manager.”
Suho turned the TV off and blinked at him. “Are you really saying all of this to me?”
“L isn’t so good-looking!” he shouted.
“Well, that’s just a ridiculous thing to say,” Suho said, tossing the remote aside and getting up.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
“To the kitchen.” Suho gestured. “L’s in there, we’re on a date, we’ve secretly been boyfriends this whole time, behind your back.”
“You’re making fun of me,” he accused.
“I’m hungry,” Suho mused, wandering towards the kitchen.
“Don’t get me anything,” he ordered.
Suho kept walking away.
He slouched. He glared at the dark TV screen. He slumped onto his side.
Suho wasn’t coming back?
Annoyed, feeling unfairly abandoned, he got up. But he didn’t have anywhere to go. He went to the bathroom, just for something to do. Then he went to Suho’s room. It was too messy, this was some kind of crisis. He collapsed on the bed. On his back, he wondered what L and Suho did on this bed together. Probably the usual things. Suho probably loved it, but that didn’t mean anything; Suho thought that all sex was good sex.
He sat up suddenly, offended again.
Suho didn’t have any taste when it came to sex. He wasn’t discriminating at all. To hear him talk, everybody was good at everything, and that just wasn’t possible; Sunggyu refused to believe that everybody Suho did it with actually knew what they were doing.
Suho thought that Sunggyu was great, but he didn’t think that anybody wasn’t great. He couldn’t tell how great Sunggyu really was! He didn’t fully appreciate the things Sunggyu did for him! He thought that Sunggyu and Chanyeol were both great kissers, and that Sunggyu and Kai both gave great head, and that Sunggyu and Baekhyun were both great tops!
Disturbed, Sunggyu frowned, worrying his lip between his teeth.
“Hyung?” Suho called.
“Here.” Sunggyu leaned back against the headboard, pondering this new problem. This was very serious. If he couldn’t fully appreciate the great sex Sunggyu was giving him, should Sunggyu just get lazy and give him bad sex? If he couldn’t tell the difference, anyway, what was the point?
Suho came in with a bowl of noodles. He sat on the foot of the bed, looking very comfortable, eating and not even offering to share.
“You get away with a lot, don’t you?” Sunggyu asked. “You’re used to it.”
Suho glanced at him, eyebrows going up. Then, nodding, Suho went back to eating.
Sunggyu glared at him. “I hate guys like you.”
He shrugged. “I know.”
They should probably break up.
He licked sauce from his upper lip and smiled, looking somewhere around Sunggyu’s chest.
Annoyed, self-conscious, Sunggyu glanced down, checking for a stain or something, running his hand over his shirt.
Suho swallowed another bite and licked his lips again. “I was thinking, you remember how you used to make me sit on your bed and look good, so you could watch me?”
“Remember it? You still do it.”
He was smiling again, gazing at Sunggyu, his eyes going up and down, left and right, like there was a lot to take in. “I understand it.”
Grumpy, Sunggyu crossed his arms over his chest. Suho was just making fun of him for not being handsome enough.
Finished eating, Suho set the empty bowl aside. He rubbed his thumb over the corner of his mouth and shifted, facing Sunggyu more directly. “There’s a.” Like he’d started talking before he’d had his thoughts together, he stopped and scratched his head. “A lot’s happened between me and my members.” He took on a calculating, faraway look for a second, and then he blinked and came back. “The thing is, we were put together, as a group. We were cast, we were assigned to EXO. And it turned out,” he glanced down at his hands and back up, “we didn’t all want to be here. Or, I guess we didn’t all want to be with each other.” He sat up straighter, dusting his hands over his thighs. “But everybody who’s here, now, wants to be here, together. And I think that I learned a lot from that. I want to be with people who want to be with me. I want people in my life who want to be here. I don’t want to spend a lot of time, or a lot of myself, on people who’d rather be somewhere else.” He smiled for a half of a second, and then he looked very serious. Very strong and very vulnerable all at once. “So if I’m spending my time with you, it’s because I want to.”
Sunggyu wanted to hug him. “You’re pretty smart.”
His smile stayed longer, this time. “I love L,” he said, like that was what Sunggyu wanted to hear. “I love a lot of people,” he admitted, and he relaxed while he said it. “I’ve been really lucky. I have a lot of members and a lot of dongsaengs and a lot of friends. But I only have one boyfriend.”
Sunggyu felt embarrassed. “Maybe I get sensitive, sometimes.”
“You worry too much, for someone who doesn’t have anything to worry about,” Suho said.
“I have a lot of things to worry about,” he argued. “And I don’t worry too much.” He didn’t like that characterization at all. “I worry just the right amount,” he decided.
“Well, don’t worry about me.”
Hmm. “Maybe I won’t.”
Suho laughed. “What do you mean, ‘maybe?’ You don’t have to worry about me at all. Do you really think that I’m the kind of guy who’s going to cheat?”
“Maybe someone new will turn your head. Maybe he’ll flatter you the right way and you’ll like it.”
“The whole time I had a crush on you, you lectured me and scolded me and told me what to do,” Suho said. “I don’t think that I respond to flattery.”
“I’m not like that.” He remembered things going differently. “I should worry about someone being rude to you? You’re too famous, now, no one’s going to treat you like that.” Oh! “Does that mean that I’m safe? Someone else can only steal you away by scolding you, but who’s going to talk that way to EXO’s leader?”
“Oh, I get talked to a lot.” Suho pouted thoughtfully. “They’re all too old, and they - - well, I shouldn’t be rude,” he decided. “But.” He shuddered. “No, they’re nothing like you.”
“Not sexy like me,” Sunggyu said, nodding.
Suho smiled at him. “Hyung, I don’t know anybody who’s sexy like you.”
He eyed Suho narrowly. “If you’re smart, that was a compliment.”
Laughing, Suho crawled up the bed, over his legs. “Can we stop talking about other things now, and just be on our date?”
He took Suho’s hand, pulling Suho closer on his lap. “Hyung wants to be a good boyfriend.” He squeezed Suho’s fingers, searching for words. “A lot of people prefer L. He’s good-looking, and he can be charming. I’m used to that. I like him, too. But the two of you look good together, you,” it hurt a little to say it, “you look like you belong together. So many people think so, I wonder if maybe they’re right.”
“Hyung, L looks good doing a lot of things,” Suho said. “That doesn’t mean that they’re good for him. He’s just handsome, he pulls it off without trying. He liked other guys, before, and he probably looked okay with them, too, but they weren’t right for him. I’m his hyung, he smiles at me because he likes me, there are a lot of photos of him laughing and looking happy when he’s with me because I’m very funny.”
“You’re not that funny.”
Suho ignored that. “Photos don’t tell the whole story. They just tell one part of one chapter of it. There are enough photos of you out there, you know all about that. If L and I look good together, then, good, that’s nice. I look good with other people, too, but I can’t be boyfriends with everybody I look good in photos with. I’m too good of a model for that, I can’t help it if I photograph well.”
“Are you explaining things to me or just complimenting yourself?”
Suho smiled at him, shifting closer, still holding his hand. “You can’t worry about what photographs say. You can’t worry about what gossip says, either. You’ve been an idol too long to be fooled by any of that. Photos lie. Gossip is nonsense. You’re my boyfriend. You know what’s really in my heart.”
He looked into Suho’s eyes. Directly. He could get himself worked up, but he knew this dongsaeng. “I think that I’m in your heart.”
Suho guided his hand to Suho’s chest. When Suho settled it just so, he realized that he could feel Suho’s heartbeat through the thin cotton of Suho’s T-shirt.
Then Suho leaned closer.
Was Suho’s heartbeat speeding up?
He was almost close enough to kiss, now. He hesitated just a tiny distance away. His lips parted, and he was staring at Sunggyu’s mouth like it was all he could imagine wanting.
His heart was racing. Amazed, Sunggyu felt it pound. So fast. They weren’t even moving.
Then, “Hyung,” Suho breathed, closing his eyes, and he pressed his mouth to Sunggyu’s.
Sunggyu set a new lock screen on his phone.
It was a photo from Infinite’s first world tour. They were onstage, and he was smacking Sungyeol’s ass.
He hadn’t been smacking Sungyeol’s ass at all. Sungyeol had been at the front edge of the stage, crouching down, greeting fans in the front row. Sunggyu had been leaning forward, tossing a water bottle back down after a quick drink. But from that angle, with Sungyeol right there and Sunggyu tipped forward with a hand out, it looked like he was smacking Sungyeol’s ass.
Sometimes a photo was interesting to look at, but it didn’t tell the whole story.
In this shot, no one could even see the water bottle. Like it had never existed at all. Nobody looking now would even include that in the equation. They might not even believe Sunggyu if he tried to explain.
There was a lot missing from photos of Suho and L smiling at each other, too. Big parts of the story were nowhere to be seen. But that was okay. They were nice to look at, anyway. Suho and L had a good relationship, they made each other laugh, they were happy to spend time together, and that was nice to see.
Sunggyu was lucky to have such good dongsaengs.
“What makes your heart race?” he asked L.
“Working out, I guess. Dance practice.”
“No, in a good way. What do you find heart fluttering?”
L smiled in a warm, dreamy way. “You.”
He liked that answer so much, he didn’t ask anything else.
March 16, 2018
by Matthew Haldeman-Time