Season Two: Coffee
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Chunji was focused on Dongwoo lately.
He had his musicals and performances and other stuff, but his free time was all about Dongwoo. Especially after Dongwoo had been there for him, when he’d been suffering too much to get off of the couch, he wanted to give Dongwoo as much support as he could.
Dongwoo processed things in pieces. In fits and spurts, a bit at a time. It made it look like he was totally over it way before he was, because he’d seem fine. He’d just go about his day, eating, shopping, talking about some new movie, researching herbal remedies, and it would seem like everything was completely normal and nothing could bother him. And then whatever he was doing would remind him of Hoya, and his pain and confusion would rush to the surface. Or things would get quiet for a minute, and his mind would wander, and he’d start thinking about Hoya, and he’d start reminiscing, and he’d start crying, and it was painfully obvious that no, he definitely wasn’t over it yet, not at all.
They spent a lot of time together around Infinite’s dorm, because Chunji didn’t want to take him away from his members. When they went out, Chunji tried to invite Sungjong or Sungyeol along. This was something that all of the members were going through, together, and Chunji figured that it was good for them to be around each other.
Besides, Infinite was filled with jealous, possessive freaks, and he didn’t want to piss anybody off.
To keep Dongwoo’s mood up in between the moments of reflecting and processing, he tried to keep things interesting. He brought a bunch of new things into the dorm with him when he showed up. New clothes, new toys, new games, new food to try. He helped Dongwoo to buy new furniture, new decorations. They had a lot of sex, and they tried out new positions, new roleplaying scenarios. Whatever kept Dongwoo stimulated and busy.
When Dongwoo started reminiscing and reflecting, Chunji didn’t have a ton of sage advice. He just listened, and he asked questions, and he hugged Dongwoo through the crying.
This long, staggered grieving process made him wonder if Dongwoo had gone through this before, over him. When they’d broken up the first time. He thought about that, what it might have been like. Dongwoo crying over him, and then seeming to get over it, seeming okay with it, and then being overcome by memories of him and falling apart again. Every time anybody started to get hopeful that Dongwoo was past it, another moment of sadness and regret would rise up, and they’d realize that all of that pain was still in there. And he knew, now, finally, that Dongwoo had never really gotten over him at all.
He wasn’t surprised that the other Infinite members hated him so much.
Chen thought about just letting eleven hours and fifty-five minutes pass, and then going to talk to Suho just before the time was up. But he wasn’t a coward. If it had to be done, then he wanted to do it. He’d rather face it than keep running, now, if the confrontation was inevitable.
He wasn’t ready for this conversation, though. He’d wanted to give himself more time to work through his grief. He’d wanted to give his anger time to settle down. He’d made his decision, and he knew that it had been the right one, but he hadn’t completely come to terms with it, yet. He’d hoped that he’d get used to it and stop resenting his members for it. They were still his members, after all, and they’d been so close for so long, the old bonds were still there. Positive feelings would resurface, old routines would reestablish themselves, he’d get over it eventually. Things would go back to normal.
But he’d had better than that. Better than the old normal, better than focusing on work and palling around with the members and substituting sexual friendships for something deeper. He’d had a boyfriend who loved him and treasured him and gave him something more fulfilling. He didn’t want to go back to life before Hoya. It hadn’t been enough for him, then, and it felt unbearable now.
It was with that feeling that he walked back into EXO’s dorm.
He meant to go to his room and put his bag down, take a shower, settle into being back before he confronted Suho. But he only had one shoe off before Suho was marching over to him, brow furrowed, lips tight.
Feeling his jaw clench, he took his other shoe off.
“We’ll talk in our room,” Suho ordered him.
“No. I don’t want to do this in private and have to explain myself to everyone else one by one. Who’s here, I want to talk in front of everybody at once.”
Suho gave him a long, tense look, then turned aside. “Members! We’re having a meeting, now!”
Chen went over to the couch. He didn’t sit down, he just stood there, crossing his arms over his chest. He was frustrated that any of this was happening. He didn’t want some big argument, he didn’t want to deal with whatever the members might say. But he didn’t need everyone whispering behind his back, speculating and gossiping over what he and Suho might have said behind closed doors. And he didn’t need everyone coming up to him afterward, asking, “Did you really…” It was better to get everything out, and then deal with it directly.
He was surprised to see that everyone was there. Not Lay, but all of the others. They covered the couch, some looking subdued like they were the ones in trouble, some looking anxious, everyone trying to read Suho’s expression.
With everyone else seated, Chen and Suho were left standing, turned towards each other. “We,” Suho began, and then he frowned, glancing around. “No, this is too combative, I don’t like this mood. Sit down.” He sat on the coffee table and patted it, gesturing Chen down beside him.
Chen didn’t want to sit, but he had to accept some things. He’d been defiant, but he was still a member of EXO, no matter what, and Suho was still his leader. There was enough strife already; he couldn’t resist every little thing. Reluctantly, he sat.
“I’ll let you start,” Suho said, and he immediately kept talking. “First I want to tell you that I’m sorry. I only wanted the best for you and Hoya. He loved you a lot, and I was always glad to see how happy you were.”
“Do you know how much I love him?” Chen asked.
Suho hesitated before answering, like he was honestly considering it. He took the question seriously, and even something as simple as that was reassuring, to Chen. “Yes, I think so,” Suho said. “I’ve seen what a big difference he made in your life.”
“Do you understand why we broke up?”
Suho looked mildly confused, his eyebrows drawing together. “Was it not what I thought? It’s because he didn’t renew his contract.”
“It’s because I’m with SM. It’s because I’m in EXO,” Chen said. “He broke up with me because he’s moving companies and SM doesn’t have an agreement with his new company. If I wasn’t in EXO, none of that would have mattered. That was my choice, him or EXO. Loving him or putting my career first. Staying with Hoya hyung or staying with SM. I put EXO first. And I feel like I sacrificed too much.”
Baekhyun made a soft, stifled noise from the couch.
Suho frowned at Chen, his expression serious. “I don’t say this lightly, because this isn’t a funny situation. That’s what it takes, Chen-ah, and you’ve always known that. That’s what we all do. We make sacrifices. I’m sorry that it came to that, and I’ll do whatever I can to help you through it. I’m sorry that you had to let go of someone you loved. But we all make sacrifices to be here. We do it for EXO, we do it for each other, we do it for EXO-L.”
“What did I give up, and what did I gain by it?” Chen asked. “We make compromises for the good of the group, and then what? What am I making these sacrifices for? I’m sorry, but when’s the last time that we all stood onstage together, all nine of us? Did you notice that ‘all of us’ is nine, now? Don’t - - don’t, don’t,” he insisted, when Suho started to argue. “I can’t hear that right now. We’re all committed together, we’re all doing what we have to do, all of the members contribute in different ways, I know, you’ve said it before. We said it when there were twelve of us, too, and then what happened?”
“Your career hasn’t gone the way that you expected,” Suho began.
He laughed. “Has it not?” He felt hysterical for a second. “I just don’t know why I’m sacrificing so much, when other people aren’t. They put themselves first. They even leave the group over it. Why am I the stupid one, why am I still here, why am I giving up everything? I could be selfish, I could think only of myself, I could weigh my options and go another way. But I gave up everything to be here. And for all I know, the other members won’t do the same.”
“You are still here,” Suho reminded him. “It wasn’t easy, but you put EXO first, because you knew that it was the right thing to do. You believe in EXO, like all of us do.”
“You believe in EXO,” Chen accused. “You believe in the company. You believe in this and you’re dragging us all along with you. Every time we lose someone else, you pick up and keep going, saying, ‘We are one! Let’s love!’ like it still means something, like some crazy robot. And we believe you, we all keep following you, you have us cheering and saying it right along with you. I feel like you’ve brainwashed us, convinced us to believe in some illusion only you can see. I follow you. You believe in EXO, and I believe in you. I love you. I gave up Hoya hyung for you,” he said, tears hot in his eyes. “I did it all for you. And I fucking hate you for it.”
Suho stared at him for a second, blurry through the tears in his eyes. And then, “Okay,” Suho said, reaching for him. “Okay, hate me, you hate me. If you’re still with me, as long as you’re still with me.”
As Suho pulled him into a hug, he couldn’t hold back a sob. Angry, despairing, he cried on Suho’s shoulder. His fists were tight in Suho’s shirt, wanting to push Suho away.
“If you’re with me, I can endure it.” Suho’s hand was on the back of his head, smoothing down his hair. “I can endure anything if I still have you.”
“He’s gone,” Chen said, his voice shaking and faltering. “He’s gone and this is all I have left.”
“Oh, Chen-ah,” Suho said, with all of the sympathy and love that he could have wished for, stroking his hair. “Oh, Chen-ah, I’m so sorry.”
He’d needed to hear that. He’d needed Suho to comfort him, all of this time. He just hadn’t been willing to get past everything else to get close enough for it. But it was here, now, and it still meant something to him. He still loved Suho enough that Suho consoling him was a balm he needed.
He stayed there, in Suho’s arms, crying. He still loved Suho. He loved Suho more than he loved Hoya. He felt like he was betraying something about himself by admitting that. He felt like he was accepting something about himself.
This was supposed to be about his career, about business. Choosing between Hoya and EXO was supposed to be about choosing between his love life and his career. And on one level, a very fundamental level, it was.
But it was also about choosing between his boyfriend and his members. And he’d chosen his members.
He hadn’t put himself first. He’d put Suho first. He’d put his leader, and his maknae, and his best friends first.
And he’d done it without the guarantee that, when push came to shove, they’d do the same for him.
He had pretty good evidence, in the tattered remains of EXO-M, that they wouldn’t.
But he’d done it anyway. Because he still believed in EXO. He still believed in his members. He still believed in Suho’s dream.
“If you hate me so much, maybe you don’t want to hear from me,” Suho mused.
He pulled away, wiping at his eyes. “But you’re going to say it, anyway?” he guessed.
Suho gave him a surprised look, then laughed. “Yes, actually.”
He pulled the hem of his T-shirt up to blot his cheeks. “Go ahead.”
“I understand why you’re thinking of our former members a lot now. It brings up a lot of memories and a lot of thoughts about loyalty. But are you also thinking of how often we’ve put EXO first?”
“I know, we all make the same sacrifices, we don’t have time to see family,” Chen said.
“Yes, but more than that,” Suho said. “I won’t talk about myself, that seems too self-centered. But - - I’m sorry, hyung, I don’t want to bring it up,” he told the couch, “but what about Xiumin hyung?”
“What, oh,” Chanyeol said.
“He was in your situation,” Suho said.
“I mean, I don’t want to brag about it,” Xiumin said. Shifting on the couch, he wiped at his eye.
Chen realized that some of the members had reddened eyes, or wet cheeks. They’d been crying, too, they’d cried with him. Looking at them now, he realized how much he’d been avoiding them, how he’d barely met anyone’s eyes over the past few weeks.
“You put EXO first,” Suho reminded Xiumin.
“It… It was hell,” Xiumin admitted, looking directly at Chen. “But I don’t regret it. I did the right thing.”
He hadn’t been thinking of that. He’d thought a lot about Luhan leaving, lately, but not about Xiumin staying. “I’m glad you stayed.”
“Sometimes I thought that I did it all for a bunch of ungrateful jerks,” Xiumin said. “It was hard, sometimes, I wanted to say ‘fuck it’ and just go. But staying was the right thing to do, anyway.”
Kai put his arm around Xiumin’s shoulders.
Baekhyun burrowed in on Kai’s other side, chewing on his thumb.
“Sehun sacrificed his special relationship more than once,” Suho said. “When he couldn’t see L.Joe anymore, he struggled with it, but he put EXO first.”
Chen balked. “You can’t compare the maknae’s sex life to me and Hoya hyung.”
Eyebrows drawing together, Sehun sat forward suddenly. “You’re going to stop saying shit about my-” Sehun’s lip twitched and he breathed in. “About my relationships.”
“You don’t love them,” Chen said.
Sehun frowned at that. Looking uneasy, he rubbed his forehead. “Love is…”
Chanyeol’s eyes widened.
Sehun pressed his lips together, dropping his hand. “I don’t have what you have, had, with Hoya hyung. It’s not the same, I’m not making that comparison. But L.Joe sunbae was like a miracle for me, and when I didn’t have him anymore, I thought that I was going to die. There’s so much to it. There was losing him, personally, and everything about him, specifically, and everything we had together. And there was also the,” he swallowed, “the idea of him. Somebody, anybody, having that role in my life, making me - - giving me - - there was no one else even close to being like him. It was like that whole part of my life was shut down.”
Chen leaned forward, drawn to Sehun. “You feel like all of the possibility’s gone, too. Not just him, but all of the potential for that kind of relationship. I don’t just not have Hoya hyung, I don’t have anybody, anymore.”
“Yes,” Sehun said emphatically. “Where the hell was I going to find another - - anyone else to be my - - another L.Joe sunbae?”
“Where am I going to find another boyfriend?” Chen demanded. Even in his distress, he felt like he’d never been closer to Sehun. “I can only date someone our company approves of. That’s only Teen Top and Infinite. It’s hard enough to find someone I really click with, but someone I can fall in love with? There’s no hope for it. There’s no hope for me.”
“Yes,” Sehun said again, forcefully. “That’s what the hell I was living with, after L.Joe sunbae left. And the next member who says one goddamned word about Lee Hwanhee is fucking getting it.”
“Whoa, okay,” Kai said. “No one’s coming between you and your…Hwanhee.”
“The maknae’s going to cut a motherfucker,” Chanyeol said.
Suho rubbed the back of Chen’s neck. “I’m sorry that you have to hate me, right now, but I’m glad that you believe in me. I believe in you. I believe in all of the members.” His smile was sad, self-effacing. “Maybe I seem like a brainwashed robot, but I really do believe in the members. In every single one of you. The nine of us are one. And I need you with us, Chen-ah. EXO is only the same EXO if you’re here.”
He took a deep breath. “I’m here. Not because I don’t have anywhere else to be, but because I want to be here. I want to be in EXO, this is the most important thing I’ve ever done. It just seems too unfair to have to give up everything, everything, for this. I feel like you’ve asked too much of me, this time.”
“I do ask a lot of you,” Suho said quietly, frankly, holding his gaze. “I ask a lot of all of the members. I’ve asked a lot of myself. If you ever catch me asking more of you than I ask of myself, I want you to call me on it. Hold me accountable for it.” Suho nodded, looking solemn. “I understand. I feel like you’re right, this was a sacrifice you shouldn’t have had to make. I wonder if it’s my fault, if you shouldn’t have become involved with a boyfriend in the first place. But, even if it caused you all of this pain, I’m glad that you had him. I’m glad that you were so happy, and that you felt so loved, even if it couldn’t last.”
He nodded, his heart aching. “I’m glad, too.”
By the time that Suho and Chen finished talking, Baekhyun felt wrung out. He couldn’t stand hearing his members talk so openly about, “Hey, remember that time I almost ditched you guys?” He needed a group hug. A week-long group cuddle. Maybe they could just share one long moment of skinship for the rest of the month.
Suho and Chen hugged, and that was good to see, that comforted his bruised heart. Wrapped around Kai’s arm, he watched Chen get up. If Chen said, “Okay, great,” and walked away, walked out to go who-knew-where again, Baekhyun was going to scream.
Or follow him. Become one of Chen’s stalkers, just trail along behind wherever he went. Get in the taxi with him. Was he taking taxis? Where did he keep going?
“Come here,” Xiumin said, and got up. He hugged Chen.
Wait, could they all hug Chen? Was it okay? Didn’t Chen hate them? Baekhyun really wanted to hug him, too, obviously, but if he brushed Baekhyun off, if he rejected Baekhyun, it would hurt too much. Baekhyun didn’t want to push the issue before it was safe.
Chen walked away, but he didn’t leave the dorm.
Chen took a shower. He got dressed in their room, and it was totally normal for Baekhyun to be in there, too, he couldn’t be upset about that. He went to the kitchen and ate some leftovers. Baekhyun happened to be in there, too, getting a drink, tidying up.
Sehun came in and hung around for a second. Then he asked Chen, “Do you want to talk?”
Chen nodded. “Yeah.” And they went into the maknae’s room and closed the door.
Baekhyun sat in the hallway, staring at the bottom of Sehun’s door, telling himself that everything was okay.
Suho stepped in front of him and held a hand down to him.
Wondering, he looked up. Suho’s expression was so patient, he took Suho’s hand and let Suho pull him up.
“I think that you need me,” Suho said. “Come on, Baekhyun-ah.”
But he didn’t want to go anywhere. What if Chen disappeared on him again?
“He’s not going anywhere,” Suho said. Baekhyun couldn’t really be surprised that Suho had read his mind; he’d been panicking about Chen in the least subtle ways. “Chen’s one of us. He’s unhappy about what his decision means, but he didn’t hesitate to make it.”
True. Chen hadn’t talked about agonizing over his decision, struggling with it for days, wondering which way to go. He was just really fucking pissed off that he’d been forced to choose at all.
That made Baekhyun feel better. “I hate having to choose A over B” was a lot different from “I don’t know whether to choose A or B.”
He followed Suho into their room. When Suho closed the door, he wanted to open it again. Was this going to be a lecture? Did Suho want to have a solemn, healing talk with him? His heart hurt, but, oh. The way Suho was stroking his chest and gazing into his eyes sort of created an unexpected mood. Uh…
“Maybe this will be reassuring,” Suho said, and kissed him.
Oh, god. Yeah, wow, he felt reassured all of the way down to his toes.
“I’m not good at comforting, healing sex,” Suho whispered, and kissed him again. “You’ll have to correct me as we go.”
He didn’t know about that. This was going really, really well so far. Moaning, he slid a hand into Suho’s hair.
Chunji was at practice.
First walking in, L had hated seeing him in the room, but had assumed that as soon as practice really started, he’d leave.
But he hadn’t left. He was still there. Sitting on the bench, watching. He looked bored, sometimes, and interested, sometimes. He’d shift positions, sniff, cross his legs, mess with his hat, but he wouldn’t leave.
While Dongwoo and Sunggyu were distracted, L went over. He stood over Chunji and tried to imagine how he’d let it come to this.
Slowly, Chunji’s eyes rolled upward, looking at him. Seeing his face, Chunji laughed. “Going to try to kill me?”
“What are you doing here?”
“He’s not bothering anybody, just ignore him,” Sungjong said, tugging on L’s elbow.
L shook him off, glaring down at Chunji. “I thought that I hated C.A.P., but I don’t, I hate you. He’s weak, but you’re worse. You fuck with people. You toy with them. This is all a game to you, it’s entertainment.”
“Hyung, no, not now,” Sungjong urged softly, trying to get in between them. Breathing in, pressing his lips together, Chunji looked away, clearly trying to control himself.
Shoving Sungjong aside, L leaned down, getting in Chunji’s face. When he grimaced and turned aside, L followed, staring at his downcast lashes. “Dongwoo hyung thinks you sparkle and shine, but we both know it’s gold paint over pure bullshit. Changjo thinks that you’re special, but you got him hooked early. I see you for what you really are. It was bad enough when you were in our dorm. It was bad enough when you were in Dongwoo hyung’s bed. Now you think that you can show up here? Where we work, where we bleed, where we fight for everything we have?”
“L-ah?” Dongwoo’s voice asked from behind him, concerned and wondering.
Hearing that made his emotions spike. Snarling, he grabbed, dragging Chunji off of the bench.
“Whoa, whoa, hey,” Sungyeol was saying, and, “No, no, hyung, wait,” Sungjong was saying, and he felt an arm around his waist. Sungyeol was prying at his hands, and Chunji was shoving him away, and the arm around his waist was tightening, drawing him back. Shouting furiously, he grabbed at Chunji again.
“No, L-ah, no, let him go,” Woohyun said, pulling him away. “Let him go, let him go.” Anguished, outraged, he cried out as Dongwoo rushed in to comfort Chunji. “Let him go, let him go,” Woohyun was whispering, and he squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to see, unable to bear it. He turned his head toward the sound of Woohyun’s voice, and Woohyun hugged him from behind, whispering in his ear. “It’s not Chunji, it won’t help, hurting him won’t help.”
“What is this, what happened?” Dongwoo asked.
“Nothing,” Chunji said. “Nothing. I’ll go, I know Sunggyu hyung doesn’t like interruptions during practice.”
“Go?” Dongwoo repeated. “No, I don’t want you to go. But what happened, what are you fighting over?”
“It’s not Chunji hyung’s fault,” Sungjong said.
“L-ah?” Dongwoo asked.
Groaning, miserable, L tried to leave.
Woohyun drew him back, holding him close, refusing to let him go. “Maybe this isn’t a good time for visitors. It’s been stressful, reworking the old stuff and working on the comeback. Maybe Chunji can come back another time.”
Chunji kept coming back. That was the problem. Even after they’d gotten rid of him, he’d shown up again, lighting Dongwoo up with new hope.
But if it hadn’t been Chunji, it would’ve been someone else. People seemed to think that they needed to be in relationships. The bullshit and the pain and the drama attracted them like flies. Hoya had picked up Chen. Sunggyu had fallen for Suho. Woohyun was into fucking Ricky, for some reason.
Chunji, specifically, wasn’t the problem. L’s members were simple, shallow, brainless creatures who kept wandering around on their own, picking up whatever they stumbled over and bringing it home. Sungyeol was probably going to start dating Niel, at this rate. Shit.
L wondered if he should just start manipulating their love lives. Arranging their boyfriends for them. If they had to be with someone, then at least it could be someone he could control.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. He managed to lift his gaze to Dongwoo’s eyes, and he felt worse. He didn’t want to hurt Dongwoo. He just wanted Dongwoo to stop hurting him. “I’m sorry. He can stay, it’s my fault.” It wasn’t his fault, it was life’s fault, it was the world’s fault, it-
No, it was Chunji’s fault. Self-centered, shallow, malicious, conniving Chunji. Chunji was fucking sadistic, and no one seemed to see it except for L.
“Woohyun’s right, no visitors for now,” Sunggyu said. Woohyun drew L more tightly to his chest. L slumped against him, feeling defeated. Feeling exhausted. There was no winning in this game. There never had been. “Walk Chunji out and we’ll get back to work.”
L closed his eyes, holding onto Woohyun.
Woohyun rubbed his back. “I love you,” Woohyun said softly. “It’s okay, L-ah. Hyung loves you.”
As he rinsed off in the shower, Suho felt self-conscious about what he’d just done with Baekhyun. He hoped that he’d gotten it right. He wasn’t used to healing sex; he wasn’t entirely sure how it was supposed to go. He’d tried to mimic some of what Sunggyu did with him, and tried to incorporate some of what L had told him about Woohyun. Maybe he should’ve practiced on some of the other members, first.
He’d been so preoccupied, stewing over Chen, that maybe he hadn’t supported Baekhyun enough, lately. He should do a better job of checking in with the members. He’d sit down with each one of them, individually, to have a talk. Now that everything with Chen was out in the open, the other members might have something to say, might want to talk about their own status in the group. He’d make sure to take care of that.
Seeing Baekhyun so anxious, so worried about Chen, had made him want to offer some reassurance. And whenever they talked, Baekhyun always had a comment to make, a quick comeback. He’d thought that doing something less verbal, communicating in a different way, might have the right effect. Might get across what he really wanted to say.
He wasn’t sure that it had worked, though. To provide healing lovemaking, he had to stay in control and direct the mood, and that wasn’t his forte.
He’d ask Baekhyun for feedback. Maybe there were aspects he could improve for next time.
He put on his shorts and went back to his room.
Baekhyun was sprawled facedown across Suho’s bed, face buried in his pillow.
Was he asleep? “Baekhyun-ah?” Standing beside the bed, Suho toyed with a lock of his hair.
He raised a blushing, smiling face. He looked up at Suho with a shy, glowing smile, and then he rolled away, laughing. He peeked at Suho over his shoulder, looking tickled and mischievous, and then he rolled back, laughing again. Flopping onto his back, his head on the pillow, he grinned up at Suho, wholesome and inviting. “Let’s one. We are love.” His eyes widened and he clapped his hand over his mouth, laughing. “No, no,” he exclaimed, waving a hand at Suho. “No, I meant, oh! You know what I meant.”
Suho loved seeing him like this. He was bright, carefree. “We are love,” Suho agreed, sitting down beside him. “Do you want to talk?”
“I want to kiss,” he confessed, shy and hopeful, squirming closer, gazing up at Suho trustingly. “More kisses, lay it on me.”
Suho couldn’t possibly have resisted that. “I’m glad that things are better,” he said, brushing a lock of hair from Baekhyun’s eyes.
“Love, love, we are love,” Baekhyun whispered, pulling him down for a kiss.
“I need to pick your brain,” Chunji said, walking into the maknaes’ room. “Not you, get out,” he said, kicking Changjo’s bed. He sat down in Ricky’s desk chair and swiveled to face Ricky’s bed. “I,” he began, and then he kicked Changjo’s bed again. “Why are you still here?”
“This,” Changjo said, pointing in all directions at once, so energetic about it that he practically grew a third arm for more of it, “is my room. My bedroom,” he emphasized, widening his eyes. “I can stay here.”
“I don’t want you here.”
Ricky sighed, scratching his ear. “Let’s talk in your room,” he told Chunji.
“Good,” Changjo said, flopping back, kicking his feet up, crossing his legs, and lowering his feet again. “Get out.”
Chunji didn’t feel like being told what to do by his own maknae. “No, I’m not going.” He rolled the chair closer to Ricky. “I need you to do that thing you do.”
“Which thing?” Changjo asked. “Hog the shower? Leave his stinky clothes all over my floor? Forget the lyrics? Suck Onew hyung’s huge monster cock?” He sucked his cheeks in, making wet, smacking, exaggerated, slurping sounds.
“Maknae!” Ricky exclaimed. Annoyed, he turned to glare. “I don’t forget lyrics!”
“Ignore him, he’s just a kid,” Chunji said, taking Ricky’s face in both hands and turning it to face him again. Then he pinched Ricky’s ears, since they were there. “How do you date somebody with a jealous, possessive, probably technically undiagnosed but totally a sociopath, obsessive boyfriend?”
Changjo got up, walked across his bed, stepped onto Ricky’s, stood there, and glared down at them. “I could say shit about your boyfriend, too, if I wanted.”
Laughing, he looked up. “Did it sound like I was describing L hyung?”
“Tell me what happened,” Ricky said. Changjo dropped down to sit behind him.
“I’ve been trying to stay out of L hyung’s way, and Woohyun hyung’s way, and Sunggyu hyung’s way. Sungjong and Sungyeol hyung aren’t that bad, they’re not, you know. They don’t look at me like they want to rip my intestines out.”
“I don’t think that I like hearing you talk about my hyung that way,” Changjo informed him.
“Shut up, you love it,” Chunji said. “You want to think of L hyung as some dangerous badass.”
Changjo’s eyes narrowed, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, totally proving Chunji right. “Are you saying that he’s not a badass?”
“He’s a petty, overemotional, unbalanced little freak,” Chunji said. “The only thing he’s dangerous to is-”
“Whoa, whoa, not now,” Ricky said, pushing Changjo back. Growling, Changjo kept coming, and Ricky knocked him back, hard. “Not now! Pick fights later.”
“You’re a petty little fuck,” Changjo snapped, reaching past Ricky, taking a swing. Chunji ducked it, knocking his arm aside. “You’re an unbalanced little fuck. You-”
“He’s only a danger to his goddamned self!” Chunji snapped.
“I’m about to be a danger to you!”
“Stop it or I will punch both of you and knock you all out!” Ricky shouted, shoving them apart. Chunji held back for an entire second, then another, on edge, about to go for it again if Changjo as much as twitched. “Maknae!” Glaring at Changjo, Ricky punched his side to get his attention. “Maknae! Get on your own bed.”
Changjo glared hotly at Chunji. Then he took a step to one side, dipped just enough to land on the edge of his mattress, bounced back up again with a hilariously challenging look, and lunged at Chunji.
Grabbing him in a headlock, Chunji wrestled him down. Laughing, forcing him to the floor, Chunji sat on him and splayed one hand over his face. “Stop annoying me.” Sniffing, Chunji tossed his bangs out of his eyes and looked up at Ricky. “What were we talking about?”
“I think you’re just wasting my time,” Ricky said. “Is this a serious conversation or not?”
“No, seriously.” Under him, Changjo squirmed, and he punched until Changjo submitted. “I’m trying to stay out of Infinite’s way. They already have a grudge against me, and they’re too,” he grimaced, “they’re too about each other. They think they’re in love, they can’t stay away from each other. They can’t just be normal members together like normal people, they think they’re all dating. My boyfriend already has five other boyfriends. And they’re all out to get me.” Changjo was licking him. “Stop it!” he exclaimed, laughing. He wiped his hand on Changjo’s shirt.
“No one’s out to get you, don’t be paranoid,” Changjo said. “Maybe they want to destroy you and ruin everything you care about, maybe, but it’s not personal.”
“Sungyeol hyung is okay,” Ricky said. “Sungjong hyung can be handled. L hyung’s unstable, but he can be managed, it’s possible. He’ll submit if you make him.”
He’d submitted to Woohyun.
Chunji thought back to that moment. He remembered L grabbing him, and he remembered telling himself not to react even while he’d reacted to it, and he remembered, what? He closed his eyes, tried to think clearly, opened his eyes and scanned the ceiling.
Sungjong had tried to stop it. Sungyeol had tried to stop it. He very clearly remembered that.
Woohyun had pulled L away, dragged L off of him. Woohyun had definitely intervened, had gotten L under control.
Dongwoo had rushed over to him, surprised, worried about him.
And Sunggyu had been standing to one side, standing back. Still where he’d been when it had started. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t come over, until after L had apologized. After that, he’d walked a little in their direction.
To say that Infinite wasn’t having any more visitors. To tell Dongwoo to walk Chunji out.
Everyone had intervened, everyone had gotten involved, except Sunggyu.
Sunggyu was controlling as hell. L had erupted right in front of him, and he hadn’t done anything about it? It wasn’t like he hadn’t noticed; the practice room wasn’t that big. But he hadn’t tried to stop it.
Maybe, since everyone else had been moving in, he hadn’t wanted to crowd the situation, hadn’t wanted to make it even bigger than it already was?
No. The Sunggyu that Chunji knew would have clamped down sooner, would have shut the scene down, would’ve broken it up and taken over. Directing, scolding, taking command. He was their hyung. He was Infinite’s leader in Infinite’s practice room. Why had he hung back?
It must have been a conscious decision. To let them fight.
Had he wanted L to break Chunji’s nose? What the hell? “I don’t get it,” Chunji said. “Go away,” he said, getting off of Changjo. “Seriously, I have to talk to Ricky and I don’t want you here.”
“I’m just going to make him tell me everything, later,” Changjo said.
“Great, then you’ll be all caught up later, you don’t have to be here, now,” Chunji said.
Changjo gave him a wary look, then shrugged and left, drumming his fingers against the doorframe as he went.
Chunji got up and closed the door, and then he climbed onto Ricky’s bed. “I have to figure this out.” He explained what had happened. Ricky listened closely, nodding. He tried to reason it out as he went over it. Woohyun was as possessive and obsessive as L was, a jealous creep, and he’d stopped L, he’d been the one who really got L under control. Why was Woohyun the one rescuing Chunji, while Sunggyu let L go to town?
“Is that about you?” Ricky asked. “He’s rescuing you, but that’s just the effect. The side effect. What he’s really doing is stopping L hyung.”
“Stopping L hyung from killing me,” Chunji said.
“Nnn.” Ricky looked dissatisfied. “It’s Infinite, though. They’re involved in each other, first, before everything else. If it were another group, they just might want to stop the violence, they might want to shield a friend, something like that, but if Woohyun hyung stops L hyung, that’s about L hyung, first, and you, second.”
“And if Sunggyu hyung doesn’t do a thing, what’s that about?”
“I don’t know.” Ricky rubbed his ear. “That’s interesting.” He studied Chunji seriously. “You can’t keep the maknae from hearing about this.”
“L hyung didn’t really hit me. He didn’t even bruise me, or anything.”
Ricky shook his head. “Too dismissive. Stop after the first part.”
“L hyung didn’t really hit me,” Chunji said again.
Ricky nodded this time. “He just got in your face, right?”
“Yeah. He just got in my face,” he said, like he was explaining it for the first time.
Ricky looked thoughtful, licking his lips. “It’s not good if L hyung’s the villain and you’re innocent. That makes it too obvious that Changjo has to choose sides. But if any of this is your fault, that’s no good, either.”
“He just got in my face, it was so annoying,” Chunji said. Then he laughed. “I probably shouldn’t have laughed at him, right?” He rubbed his shin. “It was stupid, he didn’t even hit me. His members got in the way before anything even happened.” He rubbed his nose and grinned, obviously enjoying himself. “I probably shouldn’t go back too soon, right?”
Ricky smiled at him. “Good. I’ll think about everything and get back to you. I want to make sure, first, I don’t want to tell you the wrong thing.”
Since when did Ricky have to take time and get back to him? But, okay. “Well, hurry up. I have to spend time around Dongwoo hyung without getting punched in the face.” He kissed Ricky’s cheek and got up.
Ricky rubbed his cheek, scrubbing the kiss off. “You’re spending too much time with Infinite.” Then a strange look crossed his face and his gaze drifted, his expression thoughtful again.
“What?” Chunji asked, sitting down again, wanting to hear this. “What?” Chunji insisted when he didn’t reply. Impatient, Chunji jostled him.
“It comes from the top,” Ricky said. “Everybody in EXO is happy and well-behaved because Suho hyung’s like that. If everybody in Infinite is possessive…”
“Sunggyu hyung isn’t, you know. Out of his fucking mind, though.”
“He’s controlling,” Ricky said.
Chunji snorted. He couldn’t argue with that.
“L hyung wanted you gone, right?” Ricky asked. “Maybe Sunggyu hyung wanted you gone, too. Maybe he’d rather just have his own members around, and nobody else. Maybe you’re not just in L hyung’s way, you’re in Sunggyu hyung’s way.”
“And he’d let L hyung take the fall for taking me out?” Chunji asked. “That’s sick.” He tried to see Sunggyu that way. “But he doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t approve of me, but-”
“He doesn’t approve, what does that mean?” Ricky asked. “It means that he doesn’t want you with Dongwoo hyung.”
Chunji frowned. “Then why would he let Dongwoo hyung keep seeing me? Dongwoo hyung already does whatever he says. He could just break us up.”
“Changjo wants to break up me and Onew hyung,” Ricky said. “But he won’t let himself because he knows that it would hurt me too much. He knows that it would fuck up our friendship. If he did that to me, it would never be the same between us. Maybe it’s the same way in Infinite, maybe Sunggyu hyung doesn’t want to go that far. So he lets his members have relationships. But he doesn’t like it.”
“He’s not an obsessive freak like L hyung,” Chunji said. “He wasn’t crawling around fucking Chen hyung every chance he got, proving shit all on top of Chen hyung’s body, like Woohyun hyung kept doing.”
“Is Woohyun hyung doing that to you yet?”
Yet, that was creepy. “He’s been trying it. I let him get some. It’s good sex,” he added. “But I’m trying to stay away from him.” He had a really hard time being used like that. It got to him in ways he didn’t like.
“Keep him off of you,” Ricky said.
“That’s Woohyun hyung’s thing, though. Sunggyu hyung barely touches us.”
“Sungyeol hyung’s normal,” Ricky said. “Sungyeol hyung has sex with us because it’s fun. He likes sex, we all get along, it’s fun, he does it. Think of that like the normal, the baseline. That means that Sunggyu hyung’s holding back. He loves sex. He gets it from his members all of the time. But he barely touches anybody who’s not one of his members. It’s not totally never, he gets a little once in a while, but it’s rare.”
“It’s a power play?” Chunji guessed.
“Holding back,” Ricky murmured thoughtfully.
Holding back like he had in the practice room, hanging back, not getting involved. Really weird behavior for someone who usually had an opinion about everything and made sure that his members knew it.
“He’s not a bad person,” Ricky said. “He’s nice, he likes to help.”
“It could be selfish, though,” Chunji said. “If Dongwoo hyung has to get rid of me, if L hyung has to get rid of Changjo, then he has to get rid of Suho hyung. He wants to keep his own boyfriend, so he lets them keep theirs, he just hates it.” He shook his head. “But he got Suho hyung after - - wait, who started dating who first?”
“The first relationship,” Ricky said. “No, the first relationship was Woohyun hyung and Key hyung.”
Chunji let that sink in.
“That’s the first one,” Ricky said. “That’s the most important one. He has to let the members date, because he has to let Woohyun hyung have Key hyung. That’s sacred.”
It was sacred as fuck. But, “That has to be the relationship he hates the most. It’s Sunggyu hyung and Woohyun hyung. I think everything in Infinite’s world is second to that.”
“He doesn’t want the members to date, but he has to let them, because if no one can date, then Woohyun hyung has to get rid of Key hyung,” Ricky said.
“But Woohyun hyung getting rid of Key hyung would make him happier than anything else,” Chunji said.
“That’s why he hangs back,” Ricky said. “Because if he interferes, that’s where it’ll all end up. He slips up sometimes, he gets too involved or not involved enough, because he has to act like he’s okay with things he’s not okay with. He holds back at the wrong time or he overcompensates at another time because it’s not real, none of it’s honest, or sometimes he’s too honest. He’s controlling, but he’s controlling himself, too.”
“Fuck.” Chunji hugged his knees. “He wants Woohyun hyung all to himself.”
Ricky nodded at him. “One hundred percent.”
After thinking it over for a minute, Chunji laughed helplessly. “What am I supposed to do, if I know this? None of this helps. It’s still the same problem with the same people. I’m not just going to give up now and give Dongwoo hyung back to him. If Woohyun hyung can have Key hyung, then Dongwoo hyung can have me.”
“That’s the bargain Sunggyu hyung’s making with himself, I think,” Ricky said. “If he lets Woohyun hyung have somebody, then everybody gets to have somebody. He’s nice, he loves his members, he wants it to be fair. It’s just hard for him.”
“Okay, so how do we make it easier?”
Ricky rubbed his ear again. “Infinite isn’t just members. They’re boyfriends together. They’re, like, lovers or something. They like it complicated and intense. But they just lost a boyfriend, one of their lovers is gone. And these new guys keep showing up, barging in and taking attention.”
“I’m competition,” Chunji said.
“Right, but we have to get them to think that you’re not. They need to feel like outside boyfriends aren’t a threat. That’s just really, really hard to do right now, when one of their lovers just left them.”
“What would reassure them?” Chunji asked. “How do you get insecure, possessive, unstable, jealous freaks to calm down and get a grip?”
Ricky’s smile was innocent. “You don’t know?”
Hey! He laughed, punching Ricky.
“No, I meant Changjo,” Ricky said, laughing, pulling away. “Ow! I meant the maknae, not you, you’re not like that.”
“I’m not!” he insisted. One more punch for good measure. Then he raised his voice. “Maknae! Maknae!” Not responding? “Maknae!” he shouted.
The door crashed violently open. Changjo stood there, posing casually in the doorframe, eating a banana. “Hmm?” he asked, innocent and barely interested, taking another bite.
“How do you get Infinite to feel like they’re so close and so good together that it doesn’t matter that they have other boyfriends outside of the team?” Chunji asked.
He kept eating. “I thought that you didn’t care about my opinion and didn’t want my help.”
“We don’t, just give it to us anyway.”
He shrugged and came in. Dumping the peel in the trash can, he dropped onto Ricky’s desk chair. He spun slowly, then curled his toes over the foot of his bed. “I mostly just tell L hyung to chill the fuck out for once.” He rubbed his nose. “Some of the stuff that Suho hyung’s been telling him has been helping.” He laughed. “L hyung’s even looking at wedding cakes. Infinite’s so freaking scary.”
“Wedding cakes?” Chunji asked. “What the hell, maknae.”
“For a commitment ceremony,” Changjo explained, eyes sparkling. “A re-commitment ceremony. Like redoing their wedding vows. That’s the worst thing you ever heard, right? I can’t believe that I like someone who thinks that way.”
“Who’s getting married, here?” Chunji asked.
“Infinite!” Changjo exclaimed, laughing. “I want to throw up! It was Suho hyung’s idea, and L hyung loves it. Sometimes talking about it is the only thing that helps his mood.” A cloud passed over his expression. “Sometimes it makes everything worse, though.”
“Redoing their wedding vows?” Ricky asked. “Okay, they’re too far gone, I can’t do anything with this. We should just stop dealing with them altogether, now, I think we should all break up.” Throwing his hands up, he shook his head, giving up.
“They just renewed their contracts,” Chunji said. “It can go along with that, is that what you mean?”
“Right, like a new start,” Changjo said. “A new commitment. New contracts, new Infinite. Renewing their vows. Should I be worried about Suho hyung, that this is how he thinks? Should somebody warn EXO?”
“Yes,” Ricky said. “Yes, this is a huge problem.”
“If Dongwoo hyung’s married to Sunggyu hyung, then I’m just his boyfriend,” Chunji said. “The boyfriend isn’t a threat to the husband.”
“Do you not watch TV?” Changjo asked. “The boyfriend is a huge threat to the husband.”
“In the, you know, like in a hierarchy, I mean,” Chunji said. “If you compare one commitment to another, your commitment to your boyfriend is nothing compared to your commitment to your husband.”
“You want your boyfriend to get married,” Changjo said. “To somebody else.”
Chunji laughed. “I don’t want him to get married to me!”
“No, that would just make C.A.P. hyung jealous,” Ricky said. “You don’t want to wake up that bear.”
Chunji gave him a look.
He coughed, looking away, pretending not to notice.
Chunji narrowed his eyes.
“So!” Changjo said, clapping his hands. “Anyway. Are we taking this seriously? We’re really thinking about this?”
“It solves problems,” Ricky said. “And it doesn’t create a lot of new ones.”
“What are the new problems?” Chunji asked.
“The main problem is that they won’t go through with it,” Ricky said. “That a couple of them will want to try it, and a couple of them won’t. That could get really painful. You’d have to get everybody on board, together.”
“That’s what L hyung’s worried about, that he’ll suggest it and they’ll think it’s stupid,” Changjo said.
Ricky nodded. “That would be really bad. But if you can get them all to agree to it, it’ll be great. It’ll reassure them, it’ll give them something special, just between them, that binds them together, a secret commitment that nobody else can compare to. Chunji hyung’s less of a threat, and so are you, once their relationship with each other is elevated.” Ricky pointed at Changjo. “That ‘we’re members’ thing that you and L hyung have? Don’t let him talk you into doing this, too. If he gets married to his members, and he does anything like that with you, too, it’ll ruin everything. Whatever wedding ceremony thing they do has to be sacred, just between them. Don’t let his needy ass pull you into it, even secretly. Not even as a secret, maknae,” he warned.
“Holy shit, I don’t want to marry him,” Changjo said, looking alarmed.
“You totally do,” Chunji said, just to fuck with his head.
He looked freaked out, trying to get out of the chair by climbing up over the back of it. “Jesus, no. I’m not doing that.”
“What if he tries it?” Ricky asked.
“I’m telling him no!”
“It’ll totally recreate the one problem we’re trying to solve,” Ricky said.
“Right, god, don’t be counterproductive, maknae,” Chunji said, grinning.
Changjo shook himself, still looking rattled.
“How do we get them all to think it’s a great idea?” Chunji asked.
“We have to get the right members on board, first,” Ricky said. “Somebody everybody respects, so they won’t dismiss it right away. But if it comes from Sunggyu hyung first, that’s a little… That’s too much pressure.”
“Who’s going to like the idea right away?” Changjo asked.
“L hyung, Woohyun hyung,” Chunji said.
“Sunggyu hyung, secretly, but he’ll say out loud that he doesn’t like it,” Ricky said.
“What if we get somebody like Dongwoo hyung to suggest it to Woohyun hyung?” Changjo asked. “Then Woohyun hyung will be on board, but if it comes from Dongwoo hyung first, then it’s not Woohyun hyung’s idea, so he can always pin it on Dongwoo hyung. ‘See, I’m not the super-romantic possessive one, I’m not creepy, it was all this hyung’s idea, I’m just being supportive!’”
“I can talk Dongwoo hyung into it,” Chunji said.
“And Woohyun hyung will like it, and L hyung already likes it,” Changjo said. “So we’re halfway through.”
“How do we get Sungjong and Sungyeol hyung to want to marry their leader?” Chunji asked.
“Get L hyung to ask them,” Ricky said.
“Ooohh,” Changjo said. “That could work. How do we time it so it’s not obvious?”
“L hyung got the idea from Suho hyung,” Ricky said. “Dongwoo hyung has to get the idea from Suho hyung, too. So it doesn’t seem like a set-up, it’s just some idea Suho hyung brought up.”
“Good, good,” Changjo said. “Okay, I’ll get L hyung to talk to Sungyeol hyung and Sungjong hyung, and you get Dongwoo hyung in front of Suho hyung.”
“Infinite is weird,” Chunji said, leaning back on his hands.
“God, they’re so fucked up,” Changjo said. “Why can’t everybody be normal, like us?”
Chanyeol got up in the middle of the night to pee. On his way back to bed, he took a detour to look for Chen. He just wanted to see if Chen was still around, or if Chen had taken off again. He wanted to see for himself where things stood.
To his surprise, Chen was actually in the dorm. Awake, sitting alone on the sofa, but there. He stood still for a second, processing his own immense relief, and then he walked over. “Hey.”
Chen set his book aside and sat up straighter.
Chanyeol sat down, and then reconsidered and sat closer, right up beside him. Things might be awkward, but Chanyeol didn’t want to act estranged and make it even more awkward. When they sat beside each other, normally, they sat close all of the time. It would be worse if all of a sudden Chanyeol kept his distance. “Got up to pee,” he explained, and then he made a face, because that sounded weird. “You, uh, got a book?” Hearing himself, he realized that this was just going to be incredibly awkward, anyway.
“I’ve been reading a bunch,” Chen explained. “Kills time. Keeps my mind off of it.”
Chanyeol nodded. After a moment, he realized that he’d been nodding too earnestly for too long, and stopped.
“You can go back to bed.”
“I’ve missed you. This is the most we’ve talked in weeks.”
“I think that I need to go to China,” Chen said, and Chanyeol’s whole heart plummeted through the floor. “To see Lay hyung,” he added, and whoa, Chanyeol had not been ready for that emotional rollercoaster. “I think that I need to talk to him in person.”
“God, shit,” Chanyeol said, clutching at his chest. “I think - - I think that we don’t have a good history of unhappy members suddenly saying that they’re leaving for China.”
A second passed, and then Chen burst into laughter. “No, I think that we don’t,” he agreed.
It felt so good to see him smile, Chanyeol smiled back, broadly.
Baekhyun flew into the room, skidding and flailing. “You laughed,” he said breathlessly, pointing at Chen. “You laughed, I heard it, you’re laughing again.”
“Did you get out of bed for that?” Chen asked, incredulous.
“What happened, did you make him laugh?” Baekhyun asked Chanyeol. “Do it again, what did you do, make him laugh some more.”
“I’m not a toy, you can’t poke me in the belly and make me giggle,” Chen protested.
“No?” Chanyeol asked, grabbing at him. It was too soon and it was too playful, and for a second Chanyeol was sure that it wouldn’t work, but then he laughed, smacking at Chanyeol’s hands.
Hearing that familiar sound, seeing Chen’s happy face, brightened Chanyeol’s whole life. He grabbed at Chen, squeezing, poking, tickling. “Get off of me!” Chen exclaimed, trying to tickle him back. He ran his hands up under Chen’s shirt, and Chen laughed harder, falling back against the armrest, wriggling. “Ya, stop!”
He stopped, but he crawled on top of Chen, looking down into Chen’s flushed, glowing face. Chen smiled up at him, chuckling breathlessly. Then Chen’s gaze shifted, looking past his shoulder, and he felt Baekhyun crawling onto his back. “Seriously,” Chen said. “I don’t laugh that loudly, I didn’t wake you up.”
“I might’ve already been awake,” Baekhyun admitted. He was curling over Chanyeol’s shoulder, peering down at Chen.
Chen looked at Baekhyun.
Chanyeol waited. When nothing happened, he looked at Baekhyun over his shoulder. “What? Did you want something?”
“Oh, I don’t want to fuck up and say the wrong thing and make things bad again,” Baekhyun said. “I just want to, you know. See Chen. While he’s here. Not that he’s going anywhere!” He grinned. “Because you are not going anywhere,” he reminded Chen confidently.
Chanyeol almost said, “He’s going to China,” but then he caught himself in time. That might literally give Baekhyun a heart attack. “Since Lay hyung’s not here,” he said instead, carefully, “Chen might go visit him. Just to see him. Talk about stuff.”
Baekhyun bit his lip for a second, processing that, and then he smiled brightly, looking determined. “And I will go with you!” he announced. “We’ll go together. Main vocals together. We’ll go visit Lay hyung. Together. As one. Because we are one.”
“Can I come?” Chanyeol asked.
“No, nobody wants you along,” Baekhyun said. “Great, when are we going?”
“Uh, I don’t know,” Chen said. “It doesn’t have to be a long trip, I know he’s busy.”
Chanyeol was surprised that Chen wasn’t discouraging Baekhyun. Maybe things really were getting better. Maybe the big group meeting had made a bigger difference than he’d realized. Maybe just yelling, “I hate you,” had gotten enough ugly stuff out that now good stuff could get back in.
“I will go to bed while this is going well,” Baekhyun announced. “I love you,” he told Chen. “And I love you,” he added, patting Chanyeol’s shoulder. “We are one.”
“That’s so cheesy,” Chanyeol said.
“It does not feel cheesy when Suho hyung’s moaning it in your ear while he’s balls-deep inside you,” Baekhyun said. “It sounds very different, then.” He patted Chanyeol’s back again and left.
For a minute, Chanyeol and Chen just stared at each other, their eyebrows trying to hit the ceiling.
“That is,” Chanyeol said. Wow. “That.”
“I might have to try that sometime,” Chen admitted, looking a little stunned.
Afraid that he might get a hard-on or something, Chanyeol cleared his throat and climbed off of Chen. “So are you staying up all night, or should I tuck you in, or, no?”
“Think I might read for a while,” Chen said.
“Keeps your mind busy, right.”
“Right.” Chen smiled weakly.
He scratched his ear. “Can I sit with you?”
“You. You already are,” Chen pointed out, gesturing.
“Oh. Yeah, okay.” He shifted, wondering how he wanted to sit. He hadn’t gotten up planning to stay all night. “Maybe I’ll get a drink, or something.”
“Chanyeol. You don’t have to stay. Just go to bed,” Chen said patiently.
“No, I.” He felt like Baekhyun. “I want to see you. While you’re here.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“I didn’t think that the others were going anywhere, either,” Chanyeol said. “But. So. You never know what might happen. So. Might as well enjoy time with you while I have it, right?”
Chen looked touched, and sad, his eyebrows quirking, his lips trembling. “Right.”
Chanyeol went and got a drink, and his pillow, and some random book that a fan had sent him. He sat beside Chen, and after a while Chen leaned against him, and they read together until they fell asleep.
Changjo dialed L’s number and then walked into the kitchen. He was opening the fridge when L picked up. He was about to say, “Hey, hyung,” when he realized that L hadn’t spoken yet. He closed his mouth and looked at his phone.
L wasn’t saying anything.
Had L answered accidentally? Was someone else on L’s phone? Changjo listened intently. He didn’t hear any background noise.
This was getting strange. “Hyung?”
He heard a tiny, soft sound. Like a wet breath.
L was crying. Fuck. Grimacing, Changjo pushed the refrigerator door shut. “Where are you? Are you at the dorm?” He had to get over there, but he couldn’t, now. He didn’t bother to ask why L was crying; he knew why, he wasn’t stupid. “Look, I was thinking about it, and I think that Suho hyung had a good idea. I mean, it’s completely fucking embarrassing, but it’s a good idea for Infinite, anyway. The thing with the stuff,” he explained, not wanting to be too specific over the phone. “The, uh, you know, Suho hyung’s idea. I think that you should do it. Talk to Sungjong hyung and Sungyeol hyung about it. Maybe after you talk to them, you can ask the other hyungs, but start with the two of them. And if they don’t see what a good idea it is at first, don’t worry about it, you can talk them into it. You can talk them into anything. Just smile a lot and act cute, they’ll do whatever you want.”
“Are you still talking to me?” L sounded hurt and wondering.
“Why wouldn’t I be talking to you? Are we having a fight I don’t know about?” Dread twisted in his gut, and he turned around, gripping the edge of the counter, trying to deny it. “Hyung, did you do something?”
“He didn’t tell you,” L said softly. Then, in a more regular tone, suspicious, curious, “Why didn’t he tell you?” Then, “Have you seen Chunji?”
Oh, god. Relieved, Changjo leaned against the counter for a second, then pushed off. It couldn’t be bad, then, Chunji was fine. “Of course I’ve seen him, we see each other all of the time. He’s here right now.” He remembered that Chunji had wanted to talk to Ricky without him, though. He tried not to overanalyze that; he wanted to hear from L before he made assumptions. “What happened?”
“You really don’t know,” L said. “We were at practice, our practice, and I…” He laughed self-consciously. “I might’ve tried to kill him. I didn’t!” he added quickly.
“But you wanted to.” It might be a little thing, he wanted it to be a little thing, but it was a big thing. “You can’t do that, you can’t start wars. What happened, did he start it?”
“I’m sorry,” L said. “I’m really sorry, I know. I know, I know. I shouldn’t have, I can’t. Please, I’ll try harder, I’ll work harder, it won’t happen again.”
It killed him to hear L sound like this. “You started it.”
“He didn’t do anything,” L admitted. “He was just there.” He made a tormented, threatening sound. “He was just there. He was there. Why was he there, what was he doing there? Chunji was there, but Hoya hyung wasn’t. Fucking Chen’s around, but Hoya hyung’s not. Why-”
“Not everything’s about Hoya hyung!” Changjo shouted.
“Sometimes shit just happens!” he snapped. “Hoya hyung left you and you feel like shit, so you want to start a war? You want to start one? No!” he yelled. “No! No! No!” He slammed his phone against the fridge a few times. “You don’t get to do that! Do you hear me? Is this sinking in? God damn it! Leave Chunji hyung the hell alone. I’m so fucking pissed off right now. Now tell me what happened, I want to know everything.”
“I’m not leaving you. I’m right here,” he snapped. He shot a few selcas, glaring at the camera and flipping it off. “Look, this is me, not leaving you. I’m with you, and I’m staying with you,” he said, sending the photos. “Look at me, do you see me? That’s me, your favorite dongsaeng, the best goddamned dongsaeng you’ve ever had, and I still feel about you how I feel about you, and we’re still good, everything’s good, but it won’t be good if you start a goddamned war. Got it? Got it?!” he demanded. “So tell me what the fuck happened.”
He heard a soft, surprised laugh. A couple of wet sniffs and a grateful, relieved moan. “I love you.”
“Don’t say that over the phone. You’re so bad at this.”
“I’ve never let any other dongsaeng talk to me like this,” L murmured, musing.
“Stop pissing me off and I won’t have to yell at you.” He bit his lip, considering. “I love you, I’m not leaving you, and it’s fun to run lines like this with you.”
L snorted. “That was a great cover, that’s convincing.”
“Well, don’t call it a cover after I said it!”
“I… It was stupid, with Chunji. I won’t do it again. He didn’t do anything, he was just sitting there. I hated seeing him there. I told him a bunch of stuff about how I see right through him, and I grabbed him. I wanted to, I don’t know. Punch him in his goddamned face. Hurt him. Get to him.”
“Did you hit him?”
“No. No, I don’t think so. I just grabbed him, I was trying to get to him but Sungyeol hyung and Sungjong were in my way, I didn’t want to hurt them. Woohyun hyung pulled me off of him, and Sunggyu hyung made him leave. It was kind of quick, they didn’t give me a chance to hurt him.”
“What’d he say, did he say shit to you?”
“He laughed at me. He’s a fucking sadist, you know that, right? He’s fucking soulless.”
“This is a really good time for you to goddamned shut up about Chunji hyung.”
L shut up.
“Tell me that you’re sorry. Tell me that you’re going to leave him alone. Tell me that the next time you see him, you’re going to think, ‘Oh, that’s Changjo’s hyung, I like Changjo, I should probably make sure that bad things don’t happen to someone that my Changjo cares about.’”
“My Changjo,” L repeated softly.
It was embarrassing, how much it meant to Changjo that L thought something as simple as that was special.
“I’m sorry. I am,” L said, and Changjo believed him. “I screwed up. I won’t do it again, I’ll stay away from him. He’s your hyung, so, whatever happens, he’s off-limits. I know.”
“Good. Remember that.” Changjo sent him another selca, a really bad one, off-center and not smiling in bad lighting. “My next line is, I feel about you how I feel about you, and I’m going to keep feeling that way, and I’m not going anywhere. Don’t start shit with people where I might have to choose sides. At least start shit with people I don’t care about. I can help you with that.”
“I love you,” L said again, because he had like zero sense of self-preservation when he was emotional. “I’m sorry, Changjo-ah.”
“Maknae!” C.A.P. shouted.
“I have to go,” Changjo said. “I’ll try to come over later, okay? Take care of yourself, eat something, get some rest, take a shower. Get your members to vacuum downstairs. I’ll see you later.”
“Vacuum,” L said, snickering.
Changjo hung up. “Five minutes!” he yelled to C.A.P. Then he looked for Chunji.
Chunji was in the laundry room.
“Hey,” Changjo said. “Anything you want to tell me about?”
Chunji gave him an amused, innocent look. “What?”
“Oh, nothing, I just thought you might want to tell me that L hyung tried to take you out.”
“Oh.” Chunji grinned, rubbing his nose. “You heard about that?”
“No, I’m just making shit up to see what you’ll say. Yeah, I heard about it. When were you going to say something, never?”
“L hyung didn’t really hit me,” Chunji said.
“Oh, so it’s all good, nothing happened?” Changjo demanded.
“He just got in my face, it was so annoying.” Chunji laughed. “I probably shouldn’t have laughed at him, right?” He looked really pretty and a little guilty for a second. “It was stupid, he didn’t even hit me. His members got in the way before anything even happened.” He rubbed his nose and grinned, looking self-conscious and happy and wicked. “I probably shouldn’t go back too soon, right?”
God, this hyung. “Don’t fucking laugh at people who are trying to kill you, you think it won’t just piss them off more?”
“Why is your boyfriend murdering people?” Chunji retorted.
“It’s just a thing he does, what, everybody needs a hobby.” Changjo drummed his fingers against the dryer. He studied Chunji, analyzing. “So you’re not pissed off?”
Chunji snorted. “Oh, I’m hella pissed off.” His expression calmed down for a second. “I don’t want it to be a big thing. Dongwoo hyung felt really bad about it, I don’t want him getting upset.”
That made sense. “Dongwoo hyung’s too sensitive.”
Chunji laughed at him. “Who’s sensitive? L hyung tried to beat me up for being in the room.”
“You didn’t hit him?”
Chunji shook his head. “I didn’t want a fight.”
Good. “Plus, he totally could’ve taken you.”
Chunji snorted. “C’mere and let’s see who can take who.”
“Maknae!” C.A.P. shouted.
“Oh, no, looks like I have to go, now,” Changjo said, grinning, backing away. “But I totally would’ve won.”
Slipping out of the laundry room, he was relieved. Chunji was okay. Taking it pretty well, not looking for revenge. Man, Dongwoo was totally mellowing Chunji out. Long-term, it would suck if Chunji stopped being fun, but, short-term, thank god.
Reflecting, Changjo really thought about how this all might have gone. How badly it might have turned out, what all of the consequences might have been. And it pretty much all hinged on how Chunji had reacted, or hadn’t reacted.
Making a U-turn, he went back to the laundry room. Walked right up and kissed Chunji on the mouth.
Chunji snorted. “What the hell, maknae.”
“It’s a thing people do,” Changjo said, and kissed him again. “When they like each other.”
“Well, don’t ever do it again.” Then Chunji tugged on the front of his shirt and kissed him. Soft and slow and sexy, playing with his tongue. It was really seductive, it really messed with him, it was great. Moaning, he kissed back, really wanting more. Chunji was stroking his chest, caressing all over his pecs, and warmth was tingling all through him, and his cock was begging for it.
“Maknae!” C.A.P. shouted.
He didn’t care about that. “I want to make you feel good,” he whispered, sliding a hand over Chunji’s waist.
Chunji smiled at him, smug and teasing, caressing his chest. “I think you know how you can do that.”
He was on his knees, sucking Chunji’s cock and loving every second of it, when C.A.P. kicked him in the thigh and told him to hurry up.
In EXO’s kitchen, Dongwoo fed Xiumin another lettuce wrap.
“Oh, hey, hyung,” Chunji said, and Dongwoo looked over. Suho was walking into the kitchen.
“Want some?” Dongwoo offered, building another wrap.
“Yes, thanks. How’ve you been? Did the new bed come yet?” Suho asked.
“Not yet! It’s not very quick, is it? Everything else is coming in, I think that the maknae’s tired of me filling up his room with all of my new stuff.” He fed Suho across the island.
“I think it’s good that everyone’s switching rooms and redecorating,” Chunji said. “It feels like part of a new beginning. New contracts, new rooms, like that.”
“A fresh start,” Suho said, swallowing. “I think so, too. I’ve been telling L, over and over, this is a new start, it’s something to celebrate.”
“What, like with a party?” Chunji asked.
“I don’t know about that,” Xiumin said.
“L got me a cupcake,” Dongwoo remembered. “It wasn’t a party. But it was nice of him. And it was a good cupcake!”
“I understand that, with all of the changes, it doesn’t seem like the right time for a party,” Suho told Xiumin. “But a new start is an important occasion. Infinite got through their first commitment and accomplished a lot, and now they’re starting off on a new adventure.”
“You…” Xiumin shook his head, laughing.
“What kind of party would you throw for it?” Chunji asked Suho. “For their new commitment?”
Suho hesitated. “Now, don’t laugh at me,” he told Xiumin. “You’re going to laugh, but I’ve already been mocked for this. I know that nobody agrees with me.”
“What, what the hell kind of party do you want to throw?” Xiumin asked. He was already laughing, and Dongwoo laughed, too, feeding him another wrap.
“I’ll just tell you,” Suho decided, turning to Chunji.
“Sure, hyung,” Chunji said, smiling.
“I’ve told L this already, but I think that Infinite should have something like a - - not really, just for pretend - - something like a commitment ceremony. Like renewing their wedding vows. They-”
“Did you say wedding vows?” Xiumin asked.
“Are we getting married?” Dongwoo asked. “I don’t think that six people can get married in Korea.”
“Well, you could break into pairs,” Chunji suggested. “Two, two, and two.”
“Could I marry Sunggyu hyung?” he asked, laughing. “Would my mother approve? I’ll ask L, he’d make a good husband, he’s rich and he’s good-looking.”
“I don’t know why everybody mocks me,” Suho complained. “I think it’s a good idea. It’s only symbolic, it’s about marking a new beginning. Completing one step, one level, and embarking on the next one together.”
“Did Infinite level up?” Dongwoo asked. He smiled; he liked looking at it that way. “Like in a videogame. Does that mean that we’re stronger now?”
“I think that you definitely are,” Suho said.
“Renew their wedding vows, like would they recite something, or cut a cake, or wear tuxes, or what?” Chunji asked.
“Whatever you do, don’t invite me,” Xiumin said.
“No, it should be private,” Suho said. “Not something public, just the six of them. I don’t know how it would work, that’s up to you. I just think that, the six of you getting together, celebrating privately, maybe saying something about your commitment to each other, agreeing to move forward as one, it sounds nice.”
“It does sound nice,” Dongwoo agreed.
“It’s a little…” Xiumin grimaced. “Just don’t call it renewing your wedding vows. That’s weird.”
“No, I like it,” Chunji said. “It’s gross, but Infinite’s romantic.”
“Are we?” Dongwoo didn’t understand why people kept saying that. He ate some more. He’d like something like what Suho was talking about. It sounded like a nice moment. It would make a good memory, later. “Is it too late to do it?” he wondered. “We already signed our contracts, that’s done already.”
“It’s never too late to confirm with your members how committed you are to each other,” Suho said.
“Are you trying to be cool in front of your friends?” Suho asked. “Why are you acting like this, now, when you and I already had a talk this afternoon, and-”
“Don’t tell everybody about it,” Xiumin said hastily, blushing. He shot a quick look at Dongwoo and Chunji. “What’s private is private,” he reminded Suho.
Chunji grinned. “What’d you talk about?”
“Nothing,” Xiumin said.
“All right, I don’t want to embarrass you,” Suho said. He sighed. “I think that I’ve been too sentimental, lately. But the Infinite members have been so emotional, and I’m watching Chen go through so much, it’s stirred up a lot of old thoughts. Maybe I’m just being foolish. But I still think that renewing your vows is a good idea. I think that it could be healing.”
“We need healing,” Dongwoo said. “I think that we’re having more trouble getting over Hoya than we should. It’s normal to feel sad, but nobody’s getting any better. Maybe this would help. I’ll ask Gyu hyung.”
“Don’t ask him,” Chunji said. “He’ll just say no.” He grinned. “Ask Woohyun hyung about it. If it comes from him, you can make it happen. He can talk Sunggyu hyung into anything.”
“He can!” Dongwoo agreed, laughing. “If Namu suggests it, Sunggyu hyung will buy the cake and flowers, himself!”
Sungyeol took L and Sungjong to the gym, and then he bought them lunch. Sungjong was in a confident, dramatic mood, which was hilarious, and L was really affectionate, which was adorable. Sungyeol bought them dessert, and the three of them wandered for a while, window shopping.
Window shopping turned into real shopping when Sungjong found a cute shirt. L tried to buy it for him, so Sungyeol brushed L aside and paid for it, instead.
Sungjong thanked him very prettily, which was really flattering but also super embarrassing, and he shooed them on to the next store.
They came across a café that sold that spiced coffee that L liked, so they went in. Sungyeol got the spiced coffee for L and something sugary-sweet for Sungjong, and they went up onto the second floor to get a table.
Sungyeol was joking with Sungjong about nothing when he noticed that L was preoccupied. Chewing on his straw, L was staring intently out the window and across the street, totally lost in thought. Under the table, Sungyeol nudged him with a foot. “What?”
L blinked and didn’t say anything.
Sungyeol and Sungjong peered outside, trying to figure out what he was staring at. “You want to buy a book?” Sungyeol asked, scanning the shops and vendors for clues. “Tteokbokki? New shoes? Wedding cake?”
“That cake’s bigger than I am,” Sungjong said.
“Did you ever think about it?” L turned his head, looking at them with a hint of a smile. “Getting married?”
“Want to get married?” Sungyeol asked Sungjong.
“Sure,” Sungjong said.
“Okay, but I want to wear a veil and a train and all of that,” Sungyeol said.
Sungjong laughed. “Like a Western bride?”
“Yeah. I look great in white, all lacy.”
L smiled at them. “Can I come?”
“Seriously, what’s out there?” Sungyeol asked, peering down into the street.
“The wedding cake,” L said.
He’d been serious?
Sungjong glanced at Sungyeol, looking to him for cues, but he still wasn’t sure how to react to this. “Um, what?” Sungyeol finally asked, laughing.
“I’ve been thinking about it, lately,” L admitted. He mouthed his straw for a second. “Do you know how, after an anniversary, married couples renew their vows?”
“Sure,” Sungjong said, glancing at Sungyeol again.
“Especially after they’ve gone through a bad period,” L said. “It’s like, they want to take another look at their commitment and say, ‘Yes, I’m still here with you, I still want to do this with you. If we had to start all over again, I’d choose this, despite everything.’ We did that, didn’t we? The six - - six of us.” He stumbled over the number and licked his lips. Sungjong scooted his chair closer. “We stopped and looked around and made a new commitment to each other. New contracts, it’s kind of like renewing our wedding vows.”
“Yeah,” Sungyeol said slowly. He could see the parallels.
“I thought.” L licked his lips again, then smiled down at his drink. “I thought that it would be nice if we did that.”
“But we just - - we did that,” Sungyeol said, not getting it after all. “We just signed our contracts.”
“That’s business,” L said. “That’s official, that’s putting down a signature in front of management. I thought, something personal. Just between us.”
Sungjong flipped his hair out of his eyes. “Something private? Between the members?”
L nodded at him. “Yeah.”
“What, like, and exchange rings?” Sungyeol asked, not sure what the hell L was really thinking, here.
“I don’t know, maybe,” L said. “You can just take a ring off again. But, yeah. Something like that.”
“But the important thing,” Sungyeol said. “Can I wear my veil and train?”
L laughed, sitting back, looking tickled. “Yeah, yeah. You can wear it.”
He tasted Sungjong’s drink. It was too sweet; he gave it back. “Are you serious about this?”
L toyed with his straw, thinking about it, and then nodded. “Yeah. I want to do it. With all of the members, together.”
“Sunggyu hyung will say it’s too mushy,” Sungjong said.
“It is too mushy,” Sungyeol said. “Aren’t the contracts enough?”
L shook his head. “I want something private, between us. Not on management’s terms. On our terms.”
This was getting deep. “I think we’re pretty close, already. Any closer, and people are going to start looking at us funny.”
“Aren’t Sunggyu hyung and Woohyun hyung already married?” Sungjong asked, rolling his eyes.
“I don’t know how to write vows,” L said. “And I don’t want to dress up. But if I did it, would you come?”
“To a…commitment ceremony? For the members?” Sungyeol asked.
“I’d go,” Sungjong said. “For you, anyway,” he told L. “I’d rather marry you than anybody.”
“Wait, hey.” Sungyeol didn’t want to be left out, here. “I’ll marry you,” he told L. “Forget him.” He took L’s hand across the table. “It’s always been you and me, right?”
L smiled, squeezing his hand. The fondness shining in L’s eyes made his heart flutter. “You’d look really pretty in the dress.”
Woohyun’s mood wasn’t good. He walked into his room and found Dongwoo digging through his jewelry box. He smacked Dongwoo’s ass too hard on the way by, then sighed, draping himself across his bed. He put his forearm over his eyes to block the light. “What are you doing?”
“I was thinking about rings. A wedding ring doesn’t have to look like a wedding ring, does it? It can be whatever you want it to be.”
He grunted. He closed his eyes. He had time, he should work on his lyrics, but he was too frustrated. Too depressed. Too unsettled.
Maybe this was exactly when he should focus on songwriting. He should channel his emotions into his lyrics. He’d just never figured out the trick to that. He could write when he was happy, or sad. Feeling great, feeling sentimental. But not when he felt like this.
Maybe he should go out. Go to the gym. Shove his cock in a hoobae’s face.
“This one’s pretty, where did you get this?”
He rubbed at his eyes. He sat up and looked at the ring Dongwoo was holding. “Inspirit.”
“Inspirit always gives you such nice things.” He set it down and picked up another one, tried it on.
“Why are you borrowing mine, you have all of that jewelry.”
“Oh, I don’t want to borrow it.” Dongwoo grinned at Woohyun. “Can I borrow it? But I was just looking.” He blushed, guilty, and slid the ring off, putting it back. “Look with my eyes, not my hands, sorry.” He showed Woohyun an apologetic smile and stepped away.
In Woohyun’s emotional confusion, one impulse edged out the others, and he reached for Dongwoo. “C’mere.”
He drifted over, and Woohyun pulled him in, onto the bed. When he laughed, Woohyun got more assertive about it, pushing him down onto his back. Pushing his shirt up, baring his defined abs, Woohyun sniffed along his neck.
Dongwoo’s hand went straight between Woohyun’s thighs, groping. “What’s a good way to mark a commitment? Contracts, wedding rings. Should it be something permament? Tattoos, blood.” Dongwoo shuddered. “Not that! What else is there? Is there a healing ceremony, something to get rid of the bad vibes and strengthen the good? Purging and cleansing. Committing to a better future. Like that.”
Woohyun rubbed Dongwoo’s soft earlobe between his thumb and forefinger. “What are you talking about?”
“A ceremony, I said.” He undid Woohyun’s pants and slid his hand right inside the open fly. Drawing Woohyun’s cock out, he murmured to it fondly. “Such a sexy dongsaeng, come out to play. Ooohh, that’s right, hyung likes it.”
Woohyun’s breath caught as arousal pulsed between his thighs. Baring his teeth, he panted, pushing slowly into Dongwoo’s fist. Gently, slowly, letting pleasure build. Teasing himself in Dongwoo’s loose grip.
“I think that the members need healing. Should we talk about this later?”
He closed his eyes, brushing his cheek against Dongwoo’s, focusing on his rising need. “It’s okay, keep going.”
Dongwoo fondled his cock, idly playing with him. The way Dongwoo’s thumb brushed over the head made pleasure streak up his spine. He bit into his lower lip, focusing on self-discipline, controlling his response. “Such a pretty little friend.” Dongwoo laughed. “Should I not call it little? I didn’t mean anything by it.” Dongwoo cooed to it tenderly, fingers gliding up and down the shaft. He was fully erect now, his balls tingling.
It felt so good, yes. “Don’t stop,” he whispered, biting Dongwoo’s earlobe.
Dongwoo shifted under him, touching him more lightly, making fleeting, delicate passes around the head. It was exquisite torment, when he needed so much more. “We need healing, I think. All of the members. I have regrets about Hoya, but I don’t know if it’s okay to hurt so much, still. I cried yesterday like it was the very first day. Is it grief? But grief shouldn’t last forever. We’re human, we heal, we grow, there’s always a future. I think that we need to come together, come together as one. Oh, we are one!” He laughed.
Woohyun groaned, gritting his teeth. Being reminded of Suho while he was rock-hard in Dongwoo’s hand was a different kind of torment. He was going to have to punish Dongwoo for that, later.
“This friend is so hard,” Dongwoo said appreciatively. “I think that the other members are having trouble, too. We should have a healing moment. I want to talk to the members about how I’ve been feeling. About our commitment to each other. Get everything out in the open. The private version, the personal version, of what our contracts say. Here’s what we mean to each other, here’s what we’re pledging to give to each other. And maybe trade rings, like a wedding ceremony, or eat cake, like a party. Renew our vows, make a fresh start.”
Groaning, taken by surprise, Woohyun lost control of his hips for a second, thrusting between Dongwoo’s fingers. “Fuck,” he gasped, catching himself.
“It’s a bad idea?” Dongwoo asked. He laughed. “It’s a good idea,” he said, rubbing Woohyun’s balls. “Mmm, Namu, I want to bury my face in your hairy sac, I want to smother down there.”
Taking hold of Dongwoo’s other hand, he pinned it to the bed, beside his pillow. Dongwoo laughed up at him, titillated, but he had Dongwoo’s attention. “That’s why you’re talking about wedding rings? They’re for the members?”
“Mmm.” Dongwoo squirmed under him, aroused, knuckles gliding lightly along his shaft. “For a commitment ceremony. Recommitting to each other. I think that maybe we aren’t sure of where we stand, now? Is that what’s wrong? But it should be clear. So let’s clear it up. Maybe, after seven years, it’s time to lay it all out and take a hard look at it.”
Dongwoo wanted them to make a commitment. A private one. Between all six of them. A group-wide ceremony. He kept using that word, “ceremony.” Like a ritual. A private ritual to bind them to each other.
“Do you want to promise yourself to me?” he asked, smiling. He searched Dongwoo’s face. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, but a flicker of doubt held hope at bay. It was too good to be true.
“Yeah.” Smiling, Dongwoo wound a leg around his waist. “I want all of the members to promise ourselves to each other, that’s what renewing our vows is. You and me, and me and Yeolie, and Yeolie and Gyu hyung, and everybody. All of us together.”
Hope soared. Overcome, his urges too intense to control now, he kissed Dongwoo fervently, grabbing for the lube.
He made love to Dongwoo all night. He felt electrified, lit up by the consuming fire of passion. He gave himself to Dongwoo, over and over again, and he marked Dongwoo with his love.
When Dongwoo was exhausted, sore, too giddy and overstimulated for more, he lovingly cleaned Dongwoo up and tucked Dongwoo into bed. Moaning dreamily, Dongwoo pulled him down, too, and he snuggled in. Dongwoo nuzzled against him, licking his nipples, until sleep took over.
Once Dongwoo was snoring, he slipped out of the bed. He wanted to talk to L before he did anything else.
The two of them had really become closer, lately. They understood each other. They supported each other. He stopped L from going too far, and L stopped him, in return. It was easier to check his own dark impulses when he saw L struggling with similar demons. He didn’t feel so alone, so despairing, when he knew that someone else endured the same frustrations.
L was in bed with the maknae, asleep. Woohyun rubbed his bare thigh, squeezing. “L-ah. L-ah.”
Grunting, L rolled over. He squinted at Woohyun, looking around. “Hyung?”
“I want to talk to you.”
He smacked L’s thigh. “Come on.”
L sat up, mumbling, running his hands through his hair, not awake yet.
Woohyun ruffled his hair, tousled it fondly, pulled on it a little. “Get up.”
Grumbling, he got up. He went past Woohyun and down the hall toward the bathroom.
There was someone in each of the bedrooms, so Woohyun went to sit on the couch. He couldn’t believe that Dongwoo had brought this perfect scenario to him. Voluntarily, without any coercion. He hadn’t planted any seeds for it.
It was the kind of thing he would’ve suggested, if he’d thought that he could get away with it. But he hadn’t wanted to risk it. He wouldn’t have gotten what he wanted, and that only would’ve bred resentment, in all directions. But this was perfect. It came from Dongwoo! He couldn’t have asked for a purer source.
L came out of the bathroom and sat down. Yawning, he slumped against Woohyun’s chest. “What,” he mumbled, rubbing at his eyes.
“Sleepy,” he teased, patting L’s side. “Did Dongwoo hyung talk to you?”
“Not today, not about anything.”
He spoke softly, not wanting anyone to wake up and overhear. “He wants us, all of the members, to have a healing ceremony. To commit to each other in a ritual together. So that we can have a good future together.”
L rubbed more vigorously at his face. “What?” he asked, sounding more awake. He sat up straighter, looking into Woohyun’s face, happy but baffled. “What’d you say?”
“It’s incredible, right? He wants us to commit to each other. He talks about it like it’s a wedding. He was looking for wedding bands.”
L laughed and grabbed his hand. “Renewing our vows? Like that?”
“You already knew?”
“No, I, yeah. I was talking to Sungyeol hyung and the maknae about it. That’s what I want, too.”
Now this was too good to be true. “Where’d you get the idea?”
A guilty expression haunted L’s features. “Suho hyung. We’ve been talking about it. He brought it up. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I keep wondering about how it would work, how we could do it.” He laughed. “How to get the members to agree to it. It seemed like too much to ask. But Sungjong and Sungyeol hyung think it’s okay, so, maybe.” His smile was hopeful.
Suho. Dongwoo had just been at EXO’s dorm.
If this all came from Suho, then Woohyun didn’t want it. Watching his fantasy crumble into bitter ashes, he felt sick. He couldn’t touch it, now. For a moment, he’d thought that he could make his dream come true, that he could bind his members to him, lock them in. Get them to lock themselves inside the fence, get them to submit on their own. He’d thought that L could help him with it. But now L was bringing him the worst news of all.
“No, no,” L said quickly, holding his arm. “You’re upset about Suho hyung? Don’t worry about him. He brought it up, but it isn’t about him. This is about us. Us, Infinite, the members.”
“It’s nothing, now,” Woohyun said, brushing L off. “Never mind.”
“No.” L pushed him back into place. Surprised, he met L’s eyes, and L glared at him, looking determined. “No, hyung. This is too important. I need this. I don’t care if you don’t like where it came from, I don’t care if it came from Dongwoo hyung or Suho hyung or Chunji’s lying mouth. We’re doing it.”
“It’ll be all about him, he’ll get the credit, he-”
“I don’t care who gets credit for what,” L whispered, leaning close, straddling his thigh now. “I’m going to tie Sungjong to myself so he can never get away. I’m going to tie Dongwoo hyung to myself so he can never get loose. I’m going to make Sungyeol hyung admit that he’s mine, and I’m his, for good, forever. You’re not going to take this away from me, you can’t get in my way, don’t you fucking dare get in my way.”
L’s intensity only fueled his own dark desires. Ah, this dongsaeng was dangerous. “It’ll never go the way we want. It’ll be too frivolous, they’ll joke the whole way through it. You think it’ll give you what you need, but it won’t, you’ll just be more frustrated after it’s over and everything goes right back to the way it was.”
“I’m doing it,” L whispered. “I don’t care if Suho hyung gets credit for it, I don’t care if Sungyeol hyung shows up in a goddamned wedding dress, I don’t care if Sungjong trips down the stairs the next day and hits his head and never remembers anything about it. Even if it only lasts for one minute, even if no one ever brings it up again, as long as it happens. As long as I remember it. As long as I can have that, one minute where the five of you are mine, and I’m yours, no one can take that away from me. No matter what, not ever.”
It was what Woohyun wanted. It was what he’d been craving for so long now. He needed it, too, just as badly as L did. “Sunggyu hyung will never give us that.”
“Then we’ll take it,” L whispered, not backing down. “I’ll fucking tie him down and brand him with my name, I’ll carve my promises into him, whatever I have to do.”
Woohyun gripped L’s head in both hands. This foolish kid. “You can’t take something like that. He has to give it to us. And he won’t.” Anguish flooded him, his eyes watering. “You’ll die, wishing for it.”
“I’m not wishing,” L whispered. “I’m asking. I’m taking. You play by your rules, I’ll play by mine.”
If L brought this up, and Sunggyu rejected it, Sunggyu would be less likely to do anything like it in the future. Woohyun had seen this before. It would backfire, and Sunggyu would pull away. “You don’t know how to handle him. It’s going to blow up in your face.”
Determination burned in L’s eyes. His voice was low, shaking with conviction. “Then help me.”
Kai sat down beside D.O. on the couch. Baekhyun was curled up against the armrest, playing a videogame. D.O. was just sitting there, looking thoughtful. “Okay?” Kai asked, putting an arm around him.
“Trying to remember choreography,” D.O. said.
Kai grinned at him. “Choreography’s my specialty. Which song?”
D.O. gazed at him with solemn, round eyes. “‘I’m a Little Teapot.’”
Laughing, he punched D.O.’s thigh.
D.O. punched him back, then leaned companionably against him. “I was thinking about Chen hyung.”
“Yeah?” He hugged D.O. to his shoulder.
D.O. picked at the hem of Kai’s shirt, and then his hand fell still. “He said that we’re all that he has. All that he has left.”
“Unh.” He knew that he should be more sympathetic, but he wasn’t. He had everything that he needed, inside EXO. He didn’t understand why that wasn’t enough for the other members.
“If that’s true.” D.O. paused. “I think that it is,” he said seriously. “Then it’s up to us to make sure that he has everything he needs.”
Baekhyun looked over from his corner of the couch. “Are you volunteering to be his boyfriend?”
“He’s mine,” Kai said automatically, surprised, putting his other arm around D.O., suddenly protective.
“I had two ideas,” D.O. said. “I think that we should try them both.”
“Ooohh, a two-pronged approach,” Baekhyun said, sitting up. “Also known as double penetration.”
“That’s not what that is,” Kai said, laughing.
“I think that we should give Chen hyung more romance,” D.O. said. “It’s up to us, now.”
“I’m not buying my own members flowers,” Baekhyun said.
“Sehun would,” Kai said.
“Great, then he can do it,” Baekhyun said.
“That’s what I’m saying, let’s get him to do it,” Kai said. “He can buy Chen hyung flowers. Suho hyung can take Chen hyung out on romantic dinners. I’ll take him dancing, if he wants.”
D.O.’s smile was proud and approving. “Exactly, like that. We can set up date nights. We’re all used to taking turns with Suho hyung, anyway. We can take turns with Chen hyung. Arrange it on our nights off. When we’re traveling, we can take advantage of the hotel, order room service, use the hot tub, whatever works.”
“You want us to date Chen,” Baekhyun said. “I guess if I have to date one of the members, he’s not bad.”
“Should we tell him that’s what we’re doing?” Kai asked. “Is it less romantic if he knows it’s on purpose?”
“I think he has to know,” D.O. said. “He’ll figure it out, anyway, and I don’t want him to think that we were hiding it from him, like we were trying to trick him.”
“Good, because he’s behind you!” Baekhyun said, suddenly shouting the last two words in alarm.
Kai didn’t even bother to look. “What was your other idea?” he asked D.O.
Baekhyun sighed, going back to his game.
“We weren’t enough for him, before,” D.O. said. “It might be like Sehun tying up our ankles and biting Baekhyun hyung. It’s only a temporary fix, and it’s not a good one. Long-term, Chen hyung still needs a real boyfriend. And if he isn’t attracted to any of the members that way, we can’t force it.”
“Excuse me, I am very attractive, he’s very attracted to me,” Baekhyun said, rolling onto his back. He shoved his foot towards Kai, his toes brushing Kai’s cheek. “Do my feet smell?”
Kai and D.O. exchanged a look and went to their room. They closed the door and crawled onto D.O.’s bed together. Sehun was on the other bed, and when they walked in, he hastily dropped his phone. There was a tent in his pants.
“Who would he be interested in?” Kai asked.
“The problem is that it’s a really limited pool,” D.O. said. “He already knows everybody, he already has a pretty ordinary relationship with everybody. He’s already gotten to know them and considered them and rejected them.”
“And a lot of guys are already dating somebody else,” Kai said. “Would it be weird with somebody inside our company?”
“It would have to be a sunbae, and he’s already close with the ones he wants to be close with,” D.O. said. “I don’t want him dating somebody in NCT, they just debuted, they’re all kind of young, it’s complicated.”
“So we’re stuck with Infinite or Teen Top,” Kai said. “Or, what, 100%? Up10tion?”
“What about Up10tion?” Sehun asked.
D.O. ignored that. “We could try a new company, but I think that Suho hyung would lose it if he had to deal with another company. I can’t do that to him.”
“So Chen has to date Shinee,” Kai said.
“Would he date Woohyun hyung?” D.O. asked.
“Whoa, what? No,” Sehun said. “Seriously, what’s going on?”
“Chen hyung needs a boyfriend,” Kai said.
“Not Woohyun hyung, he’s the last person in the world you want Chen hyung to date.”
“Maknae,” D.O. said. “Aren’t you always telling us that you’re a perfectly normal person, that your kinky side has nothing to do with anything else, and that you’re totally safe and ordinary with totally normal, natural sexuality? Then why can’t Chen hyung date Woohyun hyung?”
“Okay, have you ever been behind a locked door with that hyung?”
“Yes,” D.O. said. “It went really well.” Kai grinned. “Didn’t you tell me that being in the same room with him gives you a raging boner?”
Kai snickered. He liked hearing D.O. say stuff like “raging boner.” Sehun was flustered. D.O. kept going. “Didn’t you tell me that just hearing his voice makes you leak pre-cum all over-”
“Fuck!” Sehun exclaimed, turning red. “I was exaggerating!”
“I don’t think that you were,” D.O. said.
“He’s a great dom,” Sehun said. “He’s not a great boyfriend. Not for Chen hyung, come on, Chen hyung’s precious. He deserves somebody special.”
“I think Woohyun hyung’s special,” D.O. said.
“I like Shinee,” Kai said. “I think they’d treat him right.”
“I didn’t think that you were going to bring it all up again,” Sehun muttered, still flushed.
“Maknae,” Kai said. “Stop telling people about your pre-cum.”
L had a couple of individual schedules that afternoon, so he couldn’t talk to Woohyun about the commitment ceremony again. When he got to the practice room that night, Sunggyu was already there. He and Woohyun shared a couple of looks, arguing with each other. “After practice,” he finally whispered. He wanted to talk to Sunggyu that night, he wanted to make this happen as soon as possible. This wasn’t something he could put off, he couldn’t take it.
“Let me handle it,” Woohyun whispered. And then practice was starting, and they couldn’t discuss it.
After practice, they all sat down, on the benches and on the floor, to go over some details. He and Woohyun kept talking to each other with their eyes, until Sunggyu asked, “Something to say?”
“No,” Woohyun said.
“No, sorry,” L said, and he tried to pay attention to the rest of the meeting. Everyone seemed antsy; the other members seemed restless and distracted, too. He found it really hard to concentrate, when he was so preoccupied by thoughts of the ceremony. Part of him wanted to trust Woohyun, let Woohyun take over. Part of him wanted to jump on the idea and barrel forward, force it to happen. He couldn’t wait for Woohyun to unravel a step-by-step plan, planting seeds and coaxing them along. He felt like time was running out. Hoya was already gone; he had to grab hold of his members while he could.
“Not everything’s about Hoya hyung!” His thoughts kept flashing back to Changjo shouting that in his ear. It had hit him really hard, when Changjo had said it. It kept reverberating. Not everything was about Hoya.
His hatred for Chunji wasn’t about Hoya. He would’ve resented Chunji’s presence in the practice room at any time, under any circumstances.
His relationships with his members weren’t about Hoya. Especially not anymore. His individual relationship with Sungyeol was about him and Sungyeol, nothing and nobody else. He worried that if one member left, the rest would see how easy it was to fade away, and they’d take off, too. But Sungjong wouldn’t be quicker to leave him, wherever Hoya went.
“Then that’s it,” Sunggyu was saying. “I’ll tell you when I get the flight information.”
“Practice over?” Woohyun asked. “Do you want to-”
“Uh, before we go,” Sungyeol said. Smiling, he took a stack of something, notecards, out of his bag.
Getting up, Dongwoo took them from him. “One for everybody.”
Curious, L let Dongwoo place one into his hands.
On the front, the members’ names were listed, all six, in order. There was a date, and a time, and the name of a hotel.
He flipped it over.
Three pictures: a wedding cake, a pair of linked wedding bands, and a grotesquely edited image of Sungyeol in a bridal gown. In the center, the words, “You’re invited!”
It was everything that he’d wanted. It was everything that he hated. They’d taken the idea, his fantasy, what he craved so badly, and they were doing it, his own members were honestly making it happen. But they were doing it all wrong, it was a joke, it was a parody.
Thrilled, betrayed, he raised hopeful, horrified eyes to Woohyun.
Woohyun looked as nauseated as he felt.
“What is this?” Sunggyu asked, flipping it over. He laughed. “Yeolie, this is going to give me nightmares. Nobody else has seen this, right?”
“No. God, oh, no!” Like he was just realizing that it might leak, Sungyeol tried to grab the invitations out of their hands.
Sunggyu held his out of reach, pushing Sungyeol’s hand away. L held onto his, too, not ready to give up on the dream yet. “What is it for?” Sunggyu asked.
“Our wedding,” Dongwoo said. “Or, not a real wedding! It’s a private ceremony. Our healing commitment to each other.”
“The wedding is just, you know. Because I look awesome in that dress,” Sungyeol said.
“You’re a little too obsessed with the dress,” Sungjong told him.
“But really - - don’t be jealous,” he told Sungjong. “But really,” he started again, while Sungjong laughed. “The wedding is extra. The real point is just for us to get together, without distractions, and talk. Talk about what we want, going forward, so we’re all on the same page.”
“Make promises to each other,” Dongwoo said. “Not work promises, personal promises, about how we want to support each other.”
“It’s healing,” Sungjong said. “And it’s sincere! I don’t want everybody making fun of me when I say my vows, or whatever.”
“We don’t need to get together to make promises to each other,” Sunggyu said. “I already made promises, it’s on file in this building, I can get you a copy.”
“Not work promises,” Dongwoo repeated. “This isn’t about the main vocal and the main rapper. This is about you and me. All of the members, together.”
“We booked the hotel rooms already,” Sungyeol said. “So we can get together in a new place that doesn’t have any memories already.”
“We did this,” Sunggyu said. “We got drunk and we talked about how far we’ve come and we reminisced a lot.”
“This isn’t about reminiscing,” Dongwoo said. “It’s about looking forward. Healing and moving into the future. Making promises about where we want to go together and how we want to get there.”
“It’s a waste of time, I don’t know why you want this,” Sunggyu said. “We already know where we’re going.” He turned to Woohyun. “You’re quiet.”
Woohyun bit his lip, turning the card over. “I already know how I feel about the members. This won’t change anything. But it looks like everybody’s already gone to a lot of trouble,” he added, meeting Sunggyu’s eyes. “And the rooms are booked. At least we’ll get a good night in some nice rooms out of it, maybe a fruit basket. I don’t mind it. If it means a lot to the kids, and if Dongwoo hyung thinks that he needs some healing, I’ll go along with it.” He chuckled, his smile charming. “I don’t want to be the one ruining everyone else’s healing moment.”
“I need healing,” L said. He said it too abruptly, but he meant it. He wasn’t okay. “If this helps, I want to do it.”
Sunggyu hesitated. He read the card again, looking confused at first, then disgusted, then comically surprised as he turned it over and over. “This is a disgrace, don’t be like this,” he said, and then he shoved his card at Sungyeol. “Remind me about it the day before, so I remember to show up.”
Love flared in L’s chest. He latched onto Sungyeol, hiding his smiling face against Sungyeol’s shoulder, feeling hope and desire and gratitude and yearning bloom inside of him. Sungyeol laughed and patted him, stroking his hair. “It’s okay, you can have a fruit basket, too.”
Chen was still going through the motions. Showing up on time. Going where he was told. He hit the right notes and danced the right steps and smiled for the camera on cue.
It was getting easier. The old normal was reasserting itself. He hung out with the members, he laughed at Chanyeol’s jokes, he teased the maknae. When he was horny, he called C.A.P. He still had the basic elements of his old life.
He made out with the members, sometimes. When the mood was right, when he was comfortable with it. He still loved them, he really did, and he wanted to be close with them. When things got really good, when making out escalated, he got off with the members, grinding against each other, jacking each other off. Sehun went down on him a few times. But he wasn’t ready for penetrative sex, he wasn’t ready for the members to be on top of him, inside of him. And that told him that he was still resentful, still harbored a grudge.
He worried that he was being a jerk. He didn’t want to be an ass; he didn’t want to cause problems inside the team. He was always trying to smooth over problems in the team! He’d always tried to be a good sport, someone Suho could rely on. Now he was the one with the attitude problem!
He was amazed by how much Suho let him get away with. When he kept to himself, nobody bothered him. When he gave short, curt answers that were technically correct, technically respectful, but not at all friendly, Suho just nodded and accepted it; he didn’t get any of the warning looks that Sehun would have. When the other members got together for meals or to go to the movies, he stayed behind or went out on his own, and no one complained or called him on it. They just let him go and then, later, asked how his evening had gone.
They were trying really hard to give him space. They put in a lot of effort to be patient and considerate. He felt grateful to have such kind members. It was proof of how much they cared about him, that they weren’t tired of him yet.
Woohyun was getting ready for bed when L took him by storm. Suddenly flat on his bed, flat on his back, he couldn’t catch his breath before L was on top of him, covering him, kissing him. L’s kisses were deep and consuming; L’s hands were all over him. L’s aggression felt like passion, pushed his buttons, swept him into the whirlwind. Kissing back with equal passion, matching L’s intensity, he stripped off L’s clothes. When L pushed his thighs apart, he moaned, biting at L’s lower lip. He knew what L wanted, knew what L intended to take from him, and it turned him on to know that he was going to allow it.
L fucked him hard, thick inside of him, rocking forcefully, panting against his neck. When he came in L’s hand, he shuddered, and for a second he couldn’t believe that he’d let this dongsaeng take control of him like that. L was still thrusting into him, groaning and breathing hard, and he ran his hands over L’s neck, cupping L’s jaw and tilting L’s face up. “Love you, I love you,” he whispered, and L moaned, looking transfixed, driving in deep and kissing him, their mouths meeting with new passion.
They fed into each other’s intensity, fed off of each other. L fucked him again in the shower, pinning him against the wall and mouthing his ear. By the time he stumbled back to bed, he was laughing, his legs weak. He fell across his mattress and pulled L down on top of him, and they kissed each other, nuzzling together happily.
“You did it,” L whispered, gazing at him with a gorgeous, wondering smile. “You did it, I can’t believe you did it.”
“You doubt me?” he teased. Honestly, he hadn’t been sure that he could pull it off. There had been a lot of pressure on him; he’d only had one shot. But he’d hit every note, just right. “You helped,” he added generously. Really, he’d done it all himself, flawlessly. But L’s earnest emotional desperation had really finished it off.
“I never thought that he’d consider it,” L admitted. “And that invitation!”
Woohyun laughed. God, what was going on with their members? “Did you know they were doing that?”
“I had no idea! It was so ugly!”
“They really booked rooms?” He couldn’t believe it.
“They must…” L blushed, looking touched and a little incredulous, like he was checking with Woohyun for confirmation. “They must really like the idea, then.”
“Yeah. They must.” Surprised by that, he stroked L’s back. He wouldn’t have guessed that their members would take on this project. He’d thought that he would have to arrange everything. He’d been looking forward to planning it all, but it also would’ve been a lot of stress. Perfecting every detail, getting it just right, fulfilling his own fantasies without scaring anybody off. It was a narrow tightrope. “Should we just let them keep planning the whole thing?”
Smiling, L shook his head.
“Yeah, no,” he agreed, chuckling, and they laughed together, kissing.
Chanyeol wandered in and out of the bedrooms. He didn’t want anything in particular, he was just checking on the members.
Chen was alone in the last bedroom, sitting in the middle of his bed, his legs drawn in. He was toying with a necklace, looking thoughtful.
“Fan gift?” Chanyeol guessed, walking in.
Chen glanced up at him with a rueful smile. “I got it for Hoya hyung.”
Oh. This wasn’t going to be a fun, careless conversation, then. Chanyeol sat on Baekhyun’s bed.
Chen reached over, handing it to him. He was touched to be included in the moment. It was a really nice piece, a smooth, thin, gold chain with a blue sapphire pendant. It was simple, but it looked elegant, not like flashy stage jewelry but something a sophisticated person would wear. “It’s pretty,” he said, handing it back. “You never got to give it to him?” Or had Chen given it, before, and Hoya had given it back? He didn’t know which would be worse.
“I was going to. For Infinite’s comeback. I thought it would make a nice gift.”
Chanyeol felt tormented. “It would have.” Chen was going through something awful, and wasn’t getting over it, and he had no idea what to do. He couldn’t fix it. He couldn’t jostle Chen out of it with jokes and a smile. “Blue, not purple?”
“We talked, sometimes, about buying things for each other.” Chen put the necklace into its box carefully, like it was a delicate antique. He cleared his throat and smiled. “It’s really hard, because we can’t get anything that’ll look like couple gifts. Couldn’t,” he corrected himself. “Couldn’t get. I wanted to get him something nice, but everything seemed too obvious. Too easy for fans to notice. They look at every detail of everything he has on, they notice every detail of what I wear, we can’t get anything by them. And you know how it is, if I get caught buying something and later he’s wearing something similar, they’ll put it together. So I had to act like an international spy, with code names and drop points, to get this in the first place.”
“You went to all of that trouble and it wasn’t purple, though?” Chanyeol asked, still stuck on that point. All of the sneaking around and effort seemed like all the more reason to make sure it was perfectly tailored to Hoya’s tastes.
“I told him once, we were talking. I said that I wanted to get him something just for him, and he said, he wanted something for me. Something from me, that I would have gotten for myself. He said that he could get himself stuff just for him, and other people could give him stuff for him, but something that was for me would remind him of me, and he wanted me with him.” Chen smiled. “It was really romantic, the way he said it, I couldn’t believe how much he meant it. Who wants a gift from somebody that’s about what they like, not about what you like? I wanted to get him something that he’d like, but he wanted something that was just for me. Chen gifts are the best gifts.” He took a deep breath, and his next smile wasn’t as steady. “Anyway.” He pushed the box aside and rubbed his knees. “I got something I wanted for me. I spent a lot, I spent the kind of money I would’ve spent on him, but I got something I wanted to wear. And I was going to give it to him. Infinite’s going to be having a comeback, and it’s all ready, but.” He stopped talking and gave Chanyeol a helpless shrug.
Chanyeol felt horrible. He wanted to help. “You could give it to yourself,” he suggested. “You kind of bought it for yourself, anyway, it’s your style.”
Chen shook his head. Chanyeol had known that he would, but it was still disappointing not to have given him a solution. “I can’t. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to keep it, I can’t wear it, I can’t just put it in the trash.” He kind of shuddered at those last words. “I don’t know.”
“Is there anybody else you can give it to?” Chanyeol asked. “Like, your mom, is that weird?”
“That’s weird,” Chen said.
“You could donate it?” Chanyeol suggested. “Auction it off for charity? At least it would do somebody some good.”
Chen nodded. “Yeah. Maybe.” He didn’t seem convinced. “That’s better than anything else I can come up with. Maybe I’ll do that.”
“I’m sorry about it,” Chanyeol said. “If you want any gifts, any necklaces or anything, I’ll buy you whatever you want. I don’t even care if the fans know all about it.”
Chen smiled at him. “Thanks.”
Chunji couldn’t believe that they were really doing it. The Infinite members really were going to have some private bonding ritual. Dongwoo told him all about it. It really seemed to add to Dongwoo’s positive energy; he had all kinds of planning to do, now, details to track, and was busy with lists and ideas.
One evening, they went across town and picked up the champagne Dongwoo had ordered for the wedding. While they were out, they stopped to look at some flowers. “I like these,” Dongwoo said, admiring a bouquet with spiky pink flowers. “Namu wants roses, just red roses, and the maknae keeps talking about gardenias, I don’t know why.”
“You could get all three,” Chunji suggested. “Just put them in different spots around the room.”
“Ooohhh.” Dongwoo turned to him with a smile. “We could all get our own flowers. My style, Namu’s style, something for everybody. Is that fun? Maybe some would go together, we could get bouquets with red roses and gardenias together. If they go together.”
“What kinds of flowers would L hyung want?” Chunji asked. Did roses come in black? Maybe just a bouquet of withered, dead flowers.
“What seems like L?” Dongwoo wondered, looking around the shop. “Maybe he’s pink roses. So pretty and blooming.”
When Dongwoo said stuff like that, Chunji thought that he really must only see the best in his members, that he had no idea what they were really like. But it wasn’t true. He knew all about them, on some level. He saw them honestly; he knew their faults. He just believed that their good points outshone their bad. “You should get him some. He’d probably like it.”
“Now?” Dongwoo asked. “I’m here, anyway,” he answered himself. “Maybe if he likes them, we can get some for the team bouquets.”
When they got back to Infinite’s dorm, Dongwoo called, “L-ah! Are you here?”
L made some kind of meaningless sound from another room.
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” Chunji said. He knew when to get out of the way.
He went to the kitchen. Went to Dongwoo’s room. Flopped onto Dongwoo’s bed. He heard someone at the front door, coming in. He was messing with his phone when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw Woohyun slowly strolling into the room. When their eyes met, Woohyun smiled.
Making sure that he moved casually, naturally, Chunji rolled over and sat up. “Hey.”
Woohyun grinned at him. “Dongwoo hyung shouldn’t leave his toys all over the room. Other members might want to play with them.”
He laughed. “Toy!” He tossed his hair out of his eyes and gestured. “Dongwoo hyung’s in L hyung’s room. Dongwoo hyung bought him roses.”
Woohyun laughed, looking interested. “Dongwoo hyung?”
“Yeah. It’s too bad, right? He was out with me, and I’m empty-handed, but he bought champagne for the members and roses for L hyung. Pink ones.”
“But nothing for you? What kind of boyfriend is he?”
“Giving out roses, he’s taking your concept.”
“I have to see it,” Woohyun said, chuckling, and he left the room.
Chunji wished that he had someone around to exchange exasperated, disbelieving looks with.
About half an hour later, Sunggyu and Sungjong came home. Sungyeol came in with some movie he wanted everybody to watch, and Suho showed up with dinner. Dongwoo wanted to see the movie, and Chunji wanted to eat, so they joined everybody in the living room. Sunggyu was in a great mood, joking and friendly, affectionate with his members, and they all relaxed together, feeding each other, talking so much through the first half hour of the movie that Sungyeol had to back it up and start over.
Chunji tried to watch the dynamics in the room, to see how the members treated each other and reacted to Suho. It seemed like everything was fine, but it also seemed like Woohyun was ignoring Sunggyu. Was he reading too much into it? Maybe it only looked to him like Woohyun was shutting Sunggyu out because the regular baseline for their interactions was so freaking high. Woohyun was acting like a normal person, friendly, teasing Sungyeol, joking with Suho, singing along with the movie’s soundtrack just to make everybody complain. Woohyun just wasn’t having any of those moments where he said something just to Sunggyu, just for Sunggyu, and made Sunggyu light up. He wasn’t giving Sunggyu anything to vibe off of.
On one hand, it was just one night, hanging out in their own living room, with a bunch of other people around. They didn’t have to act like a romantic, happy couple every second of the day. They spent a lot of time together; they could be in the same room sometimes without giggling and cooing.
Except, Chunji had spent a lot of time in Infinite’s dorm lately. He’d seen Sunggyu and Woohyun giggling and cooing in every room of the dorm at every hour of the day and night. They flirted shamelessly over passing each other a pair of chopsticks, over brushing their teeth, over looking for the remote. They literally couldn’t walk by each other in the hallway without making a whole big thing of it, flirting and smiling and giving each other happy looks, Woohyun piling on the seductive glances, Sunggyu getting totally overjoyed and flustered. They were ridiculous and embarrassing, constantly. But tonight, they were just a couple of friendly members, just getting along.
Sunggyu and Woohyun didn’t “just get along.” That wasn’t their concept.
It had to be Suho’s fault. That wasn’t the most nuanced conclusion in the world, it didn’t really take a lot of deep analysis to come up with, but, yeah. It was Suho’s fault. He was in the way.
Woohyun had used to take out his jealousy on Chen, having sex with Chen, inserting himself in the middle of Hoya and Chen’s sex life. Chunji wondered how he dealt with not being able to touch Suho.
Since Chunji was the youngest there, when everyone started running out of drinks, he went to the kitchen to get refills. He’d only been in there for a minute, listening to Dongwoo laugh at the movie, smiling to himself, when Woohyun walked in.
“It’s a terrible movie,” Woohyun said.
He grinned. “It’s so bad, right?”
Woohyun chuckled. “Sungyeol has terrible taste.”
“I think he just likes that actor,” Chunji said.
“Him?” Woohyun wrinkled his nose, laughing. “Is that Sungyeol’s type? So greasy.”
Chunji laughed at him. “Is something wrong with greasy guys?”
Woohyun pretended to be offended, pointing at himself, his eyes widening. “Me? Do you think - - you think that about me?”
“You’re a little bit greasy,” Chunji told him.
“No, no.” Woohyun slid an arm around his waist, smiling at him. “Romantic, I’m romantic.”
“Oh, is that it?” Chunji ran his hands over Woohyun’s chest, pushing Woohyun away for half of a second before tugging Woohyun closer, smiling. “Is that what you’re doing now, you’re being romantic?”
“Maybe.” Woohyun’s smile was mostly friendly and a little bit wicked, exactly the kind of look that made Chunji want to be friendly and wicked back. “That depends.”
“On?” Chunji asked, teasing, running his fingers over the neckline of Woohyun’s T-shirt, plucking a little, drawing Woohyun closer.
He chuckled, and his smile was refreshing, disarming. “Is it working?”
“No,” Chunji said, grinning, and kissed him.
They made out against the counter. Woohyun kissed him slowly, making it tender and seductive, drawing it out. Chunji didn’t go slowly, he didn’t do that, so he started getting more assertive, putting Woohyun’s hand on his ass, his teeth catching lightly, daringly, against Woohyun’s lower lip. Groaning, Woohyun started grinding against him, and the friction on his cock really did it for him. Moaning, whispering, “Yeah, make me feel it,” he felt hot, electric.
“Feel this?” Woohyun breathed in his ear. Kissing his neck, Woohyun slid a hand into his hair, slowly pulling his head back. “Like what you feel?”
Woohyun was grinding against him hard, and the rhythmic pressure had sexual energy racing through him. “Yeah, yeah, ahhh,” he moaned, writhing, loving it.
“I know what you like, Chunji-ah,” Woohyun whispered, brushing soft, too-tender, delicate kisses against his neck, making him shiver. “I know what you want.”
Arching, he clawed at Woohyun’s chest, gasping. “Then, ooohh, ohh, give it to me.”
They spent the rest of the movie in Dongwoo’s bed. Woohyun was everything he loved and everything he hated, filthy, romantic, turning up the intensity with every word, treating him like he was precious and breakable. He got so worked up, he came good and hard, hitting an explosive peak, shaking with ecstasy as he spurted and spurted in Woohyun’s gentle hand.
When it was over, he relaxed on his side, stretching. Hunh, the door was closed. He wondered who’d done that. Oh, Suho was there. Probably either Suho had closed it, embarrassed, or Sunggyu had made someone close it out of consideration-
Suho was there.
And Chunji had been wondering how Woohyun dealt with not being able to screw Suho.
He suddenly saw what had just happened in a completely different light.
He had to check the impulse to smack Woohyun across the face.
Woohyun was tucked up facing him, sharing the pillow, their legs still tangled together. He closed his eyes, trying to control his expression, warning himself not to fuck this up. He really wanted to fuck this up. Oh, hell, it would be really goddamned satisfying to fuck this up. He had to keep Dongwoo in mind. No, Dongwoo could deal with it, he was going to blow Woohyun’s shit up.
He was about to go for it when he felt Woohyun’s hand drift over his hip. Lightly, Woohyun caressed the small of his back. The touch was too gentle, too teasing; it made him shiver, made him undulate. Uneasy, he splayed a hand over Woohyun’s chest, grounding himself. “Ah, Chunji-ah,” Woohyun murmured, and kissed his neck.
He blinked his eyes open, processing this. Woohyun’s hair was soft against his skin, Woohyun’s lips brushing delicate, whispering kisses over his neck. The hand on his back was massaging tenderly, soothing him, high up enough to be polite. Woohyun’s foot slid slowly over his calf. He felt really treasured, like he was precious and adored.
Was this happening? He had no idea what to do with this hyung. “Who are you trying to impress?” he asked, laughing.
Woohyun raised his head, glancing around, looking towards the door. His expression was so open, he sincerely seemed to be checking for witnesses. “Nobody,” he said, like he didn’t entirely get it, and then he grinned at Chunji. “Should we open the door? Did you want to show off? Dongwoo hyung might like to watch.” Then he laughed. “He’d want to join in!”
“He would.” Chunji ran his fingers along Woohyun’s chin. “Who are you being so romantic for? Do you think that I’ll fall for you?”
He looked hurt for a second. “You haven’t?”
Chunji laughed, hugging him.
Someone knocked at the door.
“Go away,” Woohyun called.
“Come in,” Chunji immediately called.
Woohyun laughed, putting a hand over Chunji’s mouth. “Go, go!”
Laughing, Chunji pushed his hand away. They kissed, and they were winding around each other when Dongwoo crawled onto the bed. “What’s this, I’ll play.”
Chunji tried to make room without falling off of the bed, and Woohyun pulled Dongwoo down in between them, kissing him and yanking his shirt up. “Hyung, explain something to me,” Woohyun said.
Dongwoo looked down his body, curious, when Chunji toyed with his fly. “Unh?”
“How did you get such a pretty, sexy boyfriend?”
Dongwoo gazed at Chunji with a wide smile. “I got a good one!”
“Chen, how can I say it? I’ll be honest, Hoya was with him for his personality,” Woohyun said.
Chunji burst into laughter. “What the hell, hyung?”
“And L, he’s - - he’s L,” Woohyun said. “And he ended up with some…”
“Some what?” Chunji asked, challenging.
“Right, what is he, some what?” Woohyun asked. “But you got this?”
Chunji glanced down at himself, then grinned. “Not bad, right?”
“Do you like him?” Dongwoo asked Woohyun, his expression bright.
Woohyun cupped Dongwoo’s chin, stroking his cheek. “You should give him flowers. You should send him champagne. He’s not some ridiculous kid you can treat however you want. When you have someone like this, you show him how special you think he is.”
Chunji laughed, startled. “What?” Was he kidding? “Hyung, that’s too much.”
“Chunji’s the most special,” Dongwoo said, and kissed Woohyun.
Amazed, Chunji stared at Woohyun, wondering. Was he serious?
Chunji didn’t get this hyung at all. Not at all.
Woohyun reached for him, and Dongwoo turned, flushed and dreamy-eyed, and they pulled him into the kiss.
“So rude,” Sunggyu complained. “It’s inconsiderate, is what it is.”
“It’s okay,” Suho said, sitting on Sunggyu’s bed. “Nobody minded.”
“Woohyun’s in his own home, he can do what he wants, he can have a little sex, it’s just sex,” Sunggyu said. “We’re all adults, no one’s shocked.”
“But I just said.” Suho tilted his head to one side, baffled. “Are you arguing with yourself?”
“They shouldn’t be so loud! It’s embarrassing, nobody wants to hear all of that. They should be more considerate, we all have to live here. We have guests!”
Suho gave up and stretched out, relaxing onto his back. He laced his hands behind his head.
“Why does Chunji yell like that?” Sunggyu demanded. Then, “A lot of people yell for Woohyun, he’s very good.”
Suho raised his eyebrows at that assessment. Finding no flaws in it, he shrugged and stopped thinking about it. He didn’t need to know about Woohyun’s sex life.
“Do my members have too much sex?” Sunggyu asked.
Given the course of this conversation, there was no reason to assume that he was asking Suho, specifically. He might just be discussing it with the walls. Suho didn’t bother to reply.
“They’re under a lot of pressure, they have to blow off steam somehow,” Sunggyu said.
Amused to have been proven right, Suho crossed his ankles.
“It’s better for them to run around having sex than some other things,” Sunggyu said. “I don’t want them picking up worse habits than this!”
That was Suho’s philosophy, too. Whatever kept his members out of trouble.
“It’s a lot of sex, though,” Sunggyu said. “Have I set a bad example?”
Suho wondered what Sunggyu’s answer would be.
The bed shook suddenly. “You don’t have anything to say?” Sunggyu demanded. “Don’t take a nap and leave me talking to myself.”
“Oh?” Well, all right, if it was audience participation time, Suho could speak up. He sat up. “What was the question?”
“If I’ve set a bad example, then I should set a better one,” Sunggyu said.
Oh, then he wasn’t needed, after all. Suho stretched and rubbed his toes.
“I can’t be celibate, I’m an adult, I have needs,” Sunggyu said. He sat down.
Curious, Suho looked up.
Sunggyu was giving him a hilariously solemn look. “I have some news, Money-ah,” Sunggyu said, putting a hand on his ankle.
He couldn’t repress a smile. “Hyung?”
Sunggyu nodded at him. “I’m going to have to rely on you from now on. You’re going to have to do things for me.”
Licking his lips, Suho felt himself blush. “Are these things that I’ll like doing?”
“Usually they seem to make you very happy, yes,” Sunggyu admitted.
“Well, I’ll give it a shot. For your sake,” he added. He didn’t take any of this seriously, at all, but he did like the idea of getting sex out of it. Yes, to be honest, he liked that idea a lot.
“How much sex do you think is a normal amount?” Sunggyu asked. “A healthy amount?”
“That’s different for everybody, isn’t it?”
“Well, how much is healthy for me?”
“Hmm. A twenty-eight-year old male, busy career, single, five kids?” Suho asked.
“Five - - ya,” Sunggyu said, laughing.
“It might be hard to calculate,” Suho mused. “You don’t only have yourself to think of. If it were just you, on your own, you’d probably live a very proper, dignified life.”
Sunggyu nodded, emphatically agreeing with him.
“But, all of those members. They like a lot of attention! And a boyfriend, he might like a little attention now and then. Just enough to be romantic, you know, to be considerate,” Suho added.
“Mmm, I understand.” Sunggyu patted Suho’s ankle. “I wouldn’t want to be neglectful.”
“Right, yes. So. You’ll have to make a sacrifice and have enough sex to keep your members happy. To keep their moods up. To help them to blow off steam, you know, since they’re under so much pressure.”
“For their sake,” Sunggyu said.
“Yes! For your members’ sake,” Suho agreed. “A leader’s responsibility is real.”
“True. It’s true.”
They nodded earnestly at each other. “It can’t be helped,” Suho said.
“Well. I’ll start, then,” Sunggyu said, shifting closer to Suho. “Just to be considerate. I’m a considerate boyfriend.”
Smiling, Suho ran a hand over his thigh. “Yes, I’m lucky.”
“No, it’s too awkward.”
Chen wondered what the members were whispering to each other about. They must be keeping something from Suho. Curious, he approached Xiumin’s door.
“It’s not awkward, it - - no, well, maybe it’s awkward,” Suho admitted.
Surprised to hear Suho’s voice, he raised his eyebrows. What were they being so secretive about?
“Who’s going to tell him and explain it?” Baekhyun asked. “I vote for Suho hyung, everybody else? Great, okay, good luck, hyung, fighting!”
“That’s no way to do it,” Suho protested.
“A leader’s responsibility is real,” Sehun said piously.
Laughing, Chen pushed the door the rest of the way open. “Ya, what’s this?”
Sehun coughed, Chanyeol’s eyes got huge, and Baekhyun gave a hilarious start, bumping into Kai. Xiumin laughed nervously, D.O. made a big show of playing it cool and looking away like nothing was going on, and Kai pushed Baekhyun off of him. Suho said, “Chen-ah, when a door’s closed, don’t just barge in.”
They’d been keeping something from him. “What is this?” he asked again, more seriously. He didn’t feel betrayed, just surprised. What did they have to meet up behind his back to discuss? How to treat him, how to handle him? Were they planning to confront him about something? “Who’s going to tell him and explain it,” what had Baekhyun been referring to?
“It wasn’t closed the whole way, I didn’t want it to look suspicious,” Sehun said.
“What’s suspicious about a closed door, sometimes people want privacy,” Suho said.
“Whenever we close our doors, you complain and get nosy,” Sehun said.
“I’m your hyung, I have to check on you once in a while, don’t I? What if you were in trouble in there, I need to know about it,” Suho explained.
“Okay, but what’s going on?” Chen asked. He wasn’t sure how to take this.
“It’s D.O.’s idea, he can explain it,” Chanyeol said.
“Suho hyung’s our leader, it’s up to him,” D.O. said.
“We’re just in our dorm, now, this isn’t work time,” Suho said. “I think that as the oldest, Xiumin hyung-”
“What?” Xiumin asked, laughing in disbelief. “Since when?”
“Since when have you been the oldest?” Baekhyun asked. “For a while now, hyung, I don’t think it’s new.”
“Ya! Stop avoiding me,” Chen insisted, laughing uneasily. “Maknae, talk.”
“This is, like, the worst way to do this,” Sehun said. The others complained, prodding him, and he sighed. After ruffling his hair, he looked at Chen directly. “You said that all you have left is us, now. You’re right. That’s not okay, and it’s hard on you, but it’s true. We can’t be a complete relationship for you, we can’t give you everything that you need. But we want to help.”
He felt emotional for a moment, and unsure. But he felt supported, just knowing that Sehun understood him. And he believed that his members did care. He came farther into the room, closer among the members. “Okay.”
“We can’t be the kind of relationship you need,” Sehun added. “But we can give you different parts of one.”
“We want to date you,” Chanyeol said. “Like, take turns and have date nights.”
“Low-key, no pressure,” Baekhyun said. “You totally don’t have to put out, or anything.”
“Baekhyun-ah, what kind of joke is that?” Suho complained.
“How’s he taking it?” someone asked. For a second, Chen was disoriented. It sounded like-
Chanyeol raised his phone. “He’s just standing there looking weird.”
“Was it a bad idea?” Lay’s voice asked. “It’s nice to be romantic. It’s easy with Chen, he makes it comfortable. I was looking forward to it, I thought of breakfast in bed.”
He hadn’t realized that all of the members - - he’d had no idea that they’d included Lay, too. He knew how busy everyone was, how tired they were, how distracted they were with other things in their lives. But they cared enough to think of doing this for him. And they’d put in the effort to gather together, all of them. They’d even called Lay, to get everyone’s opinion.
Chen felt the hardness around his heart fall away. “Hyung,” he said, taking the phone from Chanyeol’s hand. “I’d love breakfast in bed,” he told Lay.
“On a tray?” Lay asked. “It’ll be nice.”
He smiled, feeling fond, feeling emotional. “I’d like that.”
“I’ll arrange it when you visit,” Lay said. “We’ll do it right.”
“Well, now Chen likes it so much, the stakes are high,” Suho said.
“The pressure’s on,” Chanyeol agreed. “Gotta bring our A game.”
“You don’t have to do it,” Chen said. “It’s nice that you’re trying to help, but you’re my members. You’re not…” Catching himself, remembering that they were on the phone, he finished, “You’re not that.”
“We can’t be that, I understand,” Suho said. “We don’t want to replace anybody.”
“But we can put in some effort, right?” Sehun asked. “Treat you right.”
“Yeah, just think of it as bonding time, or something,” Xiumin said. “Just treat it like you’re everybody’s favorite member and we’re all just being really nice to you.”
“He is everybody’s favorite member,” Lay said.
“Now, I don’t think that we have to go that far,” Suho said.
Chen laughed. “Thank you, hyung,” he told Lay. “I’ll look forward to my breakfast.”
“Give me my phone back, I need to make dinner reservations,” Chanyeol said. “Some A game reservations.”
“Dinner, breakfast, everything’s taken care of, what am I supposed to do, lunch?” Baekhyun asked.
“I think it’s called a nooner,” Lay said.
“Okay, that’s enough, we’ll talk again soon,” Suho said. He hung up and passed the phone to Chanyeol.
“I’m thinking, shopping date, does that work for you?” Xiumin asked.
“Weak,” Sehun said. When everyone laughed, he said, “It is! You aren’t putting any effort in, you’re just wandering around stores. We all do that anyway, that’s not special.”
“I’ll choose nice places to wander around in,” Xiumin said. “And I’ll pay, that’s special.”
This idea was growing on Chen. Some special treatment appealed to him. But, “Do I deserve it? I’ve been a jerk, lately, I’ve been cold.”
“We’re all jerks, sometimes,” Kai said.
“Yeah, Kai’s a jerk every day,” Baekhyun said.
Kai laughed. “I am not!”
“Oh, right, I was thinking of me,” Baekhyun said, scratching the back of his neck.
“You haven’t been yourself,” Chanyeol told Chen. “It’s okay.”
“We all have hard times,” Suho said. “We all have bad days. Sehun has a lot of them, but we understand.”
“Why - - what - - why me, specifically?” Sehun asked, flustered.
“The maknae’s been great, lately,” Xiumin said. “So cute and respectful. So good to hyung.”
Baekhyun laughed. “Does everybody else hear, ‘So good to hyung’s cock,’ when he says that? It’s just me?”
Xiumin grinned at him. “Do you spend a lot of time thinking about my cock, is that it?”
“I think that we’re all going to be terrible at romance,” Suho said.
“Looks like it,” D.O. agreed, nodding.
“That’s okay,” Chen said, sitting beside D.O. on the bed. “It’s nice that you want to try, anyway.”
It wasn’t going to do anything about the hole in his heart, or the death of his future. But just knowing that they were willing to try meant a lot for his relationship with his members. And since his members were all that he had, now, that was everything.
Niel did not approve of Sungyeol’s outfit. “This is terrible,” he said frankly, shaking his head.
Sungyeol turned around again, running his hands over his chest, hitching up his pants. “It’s better with the right shoes.”
Niel laughed. “Shoes aren’t the problem.” Sitting down on Sungyeol’s desk chair, he surveyed Sungyeol again, amused. “This is a lot of trouble to go to, to tell your members that you still like them.”
“They’re putting a lot of work into it,” Sungyeol said. “It means a lot to them. I want to do something special, too.”
“Hmm.” Niel watched him undress. Nice. There was a mark just under his pec, like a faint bruise. “Getting hit?”
Sungyeol glanced down. He blushed and pulled his shirt on. “Just sex.”
“Either way, do you need the talk?” Niel asked.
“What talk?” he asked, laughing.
“I had a bruise, and Suho hyung asked about it. I told him that it was just from my members being mean all of the time and punching me. He gave me a lecture about violence and asked me if I wanted him to talk to C.A.P. hyung about it and intervene on my behalf.”
“He wanted to intervene?” Sungyeol asked, sitting on the bed.
“It was embarrassing. So the next time he asked me about another bruise, I said that it was from sex. I thought that it would help. But I got another lecture! He sat me down and talked all about being responsible and being considerate and how rough sex can be an unhealthy sign, and he asked me if I wanted him to intervene and talk to C.A.P. hyung for me.”
“Suho didn’t talk to you about rough sex!”
“Do you think that I liked it?” Niel demanded. “So the next time, I just said, ‘Dancing. It’s from dancing.’ And he asked, ‘There?’”
“Where was it?” Sungyeol asked, leaning forward.
“On my ass,” he admitted, and when Sungyeol burst into laughter, he laughed, too. “He asked, ‘There?’ and I said, ‘Yes, that’s right, Teen Top has very complicated choreography, hoobaes can’t understand.’”
“No, you called him a hoobae?”
“He doesn’t ask anymore,” Niel said. “It’s good, I don’t have any more excuses!”
“Why’d you have a bruise on your ass?” Sungyeol asked.
“I fell,” he admitted. While Sungyeol laughed, he said, “I don’t want him to think that I’m clumsy! I have a reputation! I fell on the stairs at our company building, I slid the whole way down on my ass, it hurt like hell.”
“Just tell him that you fell! Shit.” Sungyeol grinned at him. “That bruise? I remember that, I just thought your members got carried away grabbing your ass.”
“You remember my ass bruises?” he asked, self-conscious, feeling over his ass. “You do see it a lot,” he admitted.
“I didn’t think that I needed to rescue you from your members, though. Should I be more protective from now on?”
“Ah, my members, I control them,” he said dismissively. “I’ve been in charge of C.A.P. hyung for a long time. Do you need to be rescued?”
“Oh.” He touched his chest and blushed. “That’s nothing. They like to leave hickeys and marks and stuff. Sunggyu hyung scolds me for it, but he has more than anybody.”
Niel scrunched up his face. “If I had to leave a hickey on Infinite, it wouldn’t be on Sunggyu hyung.”
“Me?” Sungyeol asked. He pointed to himself, smiling. “Would it be me?”
“Yeah, I’ll try,” he decided, getting up. “Where do you want it?”
Sungjong glanced at him.
He got up. Restless, he was just restless. He’d feel better if he walked around some. He went into the kitchen.
L was there, shirtless, lounging against the counter, reading something on his phone and idly licking a spoon.
Sunggyu scrubbed his hand against his thigh, pivoted, and walked out.
Restless, he was just restless.
It wasn’t his fault that his members looked like that and stood around posing like centerfolds.
Life really wasn’t fair. So cruel, life was cruel.
Dongwoo walked out of the laundry room completely naked. Black pubes, soft cock, everything. “Ya!” Sunggyu exclaimed, panicking. “Put some clothes on!”
“I will,” Dongwoo said blithely, wandering on. “Do we have any peanut butter?”
“Clothes!” Sunggyu shouted after him.
“I will!” he called back reassuringly, and he went into the kitchen.
In the kitchen where L was posing like a-
Restless, he was just restless. Maybe he needed a nap.
He walked into his room.
Woohyun was there, on his bed, fast asleep.
He ran away.
His mind was full of images, now. Sungjong looking at him. L licking. Dongwoo’s frank nudity. Woohyun, his dongsaeng, so precious and trusting, right there on his bed. There were six different beds in the dorm, Woohyun’s bed was right there, but Woohyun had gone to his bed.
Woohyun had been on one side, in loose shorts, T-shirt twisted up a little. He could’ve run a hand over Woohyun’s bare calf. He thought about Woohyun’s soft, sleek hair, about crawling onto the bed, about going into the room and being very, very considerate and not interrupting Woohyun’s sleep at all, being a good hyung who respected Woohyun’s rest. Thought about Woohyun waking up and seeing him there and smiling at him. Thought about what might happen next.
Realizing what his hand was reaching for, he quickly corrected the action, throwing his hand up, instead. He took his hat off and scratched his head.
He’d wandered all across the dorm, now. Not having anywhere better to go, he went into the bathroom. He peed. He arranged things on the sink, threw away empty bottles of old products.
He really wanted to go to his members. Any one of his members. He had something for them, and they knew exactly what to do with it.
He gave himself a scolding look in the mirror. He was too old to act like this. Seven years was a long time, and he couldn’t start the next seven out the same way he’d spent the last seven. Playing around, sex games, they had to put all of that behind themselves. He had to stop encouraging it. Taking out his cock whenever he liked, it was a terrible habit. He’d spoiled himself, he’d overindulged. He had to manage his behavior better from now on.
Determined, he tested himself. If he felt tempted right now, if he was struggling, then this was the best time to work on new habits. He marched through the dorm. He took a long, hard look at Woohyun, so sexy and comfortable in his bed. He took a long, annoyed look at L and Dongwoo, L laughing, Dongwoo rummaging through cabinets. He went to the front room.
Sungjong was on the sofa, still, but underneath Sungyeol, now. They were making out, Sungjong’s hands stroking up and down Sungyeol’s long back, Sungyeol’s hips nudging against Sungjong’s cock.
He had to get out of here.
He had nowhere to go.
He’d masturbate! That was normal, right? Everybody masturbated. That was why he felt so restless. He’d jack off and then he’d feel better.
Conflicted, he looked down at himself. He didn’t really masturbate a lot. Ever. That was what he had so many dongsaengs for, wasn’t it? With all of these members around, why should he have to get himself off?
It would be fine. Masturbating was healthy.
His bedroom was occupied, so he went into the bathroom and closed the door.
He jacked off.
He hated it. It was so lonely! He felt silly, like some pervert, standing alone in a room, all on his own, touching himself. He missed having someone there to encourage him, someone enjoying it with him. Someone to inspire him.
Was this what his life would be like, from now on? Lonely and joyless? He didn’t want to get off if it had to be like this!
Well, he could still have sex. He wasn’t swearing off sex, altogether. Just no more spontaneous “I have something for you” moments. It would be regular sex from now on. Considerate sex. The kind of sex that their parents would approve of, no more games.
Decisive, virtuous, he washed his hands and opened the door.
Woohyun was strolling down the hallway, right towards him.
Woohyun was moving lazily, steps fluid. He ran a hand through his hair, his movements languid and easy. His hand dropped to his stomach, slipped under his shirt, rubbing over his abs. Looking right at Sunggyu with warm brown eyes, he smiled, the most natural smile in the world, happy to see Sunggyu, inviting Sunggyu to come out and play.
Sunggyu shoved the door shut and pushed a hand against it.
He heard Woohyun’s warm, chuckling laughter. “Bathroom emergency?”
“I have to pee,” he lied. “Lots of pee, it’ll take a long time.” He cringed, wondering what was wrong with him.
“Is it serious?” Woohyun teased. “I’ll call a doctor.”
“Go away, it’ll take a long time.”
Why had he said that? He felt like a monster.
“Okay.” Woohyun sounded hurt. Sunggyu had a million feelings about that. “Flush a lot.”
He walked in circles around the bathroom, rubbing the sides of his head, wondering about himself.
When he went to his room, it was empty.
He felt like he deserved that.
The other members were being secretive. L was confused until he figured out that they were planning for the wedding.
That was what he called it. The wedding. Woohyun called it everything else but that, but that was what it was, to him. Renewing their vows. A wedding.
Belatedly, he realized that everyone else was working hard to put something together. They were buying clothes and writing down things they tried not to let anybody else see. Were they writing out real vows?
Was he not preparing enough? It made him self-conscious. But he had no idea what to prepare! He didn’t know what to wear. If he showed up in a tux, wouldn’t that be a bit much? He sat down with a blank notepad and tried to write out his vows, but everything he wrote down looked wrong. Too basic and banal, or too mushy, like the lyrics to a song he’d make fun of.
He asked Suho for advice, and Suho told him to write down whatever was in his heart. He thought that over, and he asked, “Should I just write, ‘Please don’t leave me, please don’t hurt me, I swear that I love you,’ five times?” Suho looked so crushed and dismayed, he wished that he hadn’t said anything, and he tried to reassure Suho, brushing it off. Not buying it, Suho insisted on comforting him, and he ended up crying, and he never did figure out how to write vows, anyway.
He gave up on the words and focused on the rest of the wedding. Should he have gifts? A wedding present for each of the members? Should it be the same thing for everybody? But what could he get that summed up his relationship with all of them at once? Should he just get wedding rings? That was traditional, that was probably symbolic. He’d given Changjo a ring, when he’d asked Changjo to be his boyfriend, and that had been a really good day, so maybe rings would work.
But they could just take the rings off. Lose them.
He went on-line and researched wedding gifts. Engagement gifts. Anniversary gifts. He wasn’t satisfied with any of it.
He was going to show up to his own wedding empty-handed, with nothing to say. He was already fucking it up. It meant this much to him, and he’d ruined it before it had even started.
Dongwoo mumbled to himself, reading through his to-do list. He didn’t want to get details mixed up. The healing ceremony was too important; he’d have regrets if he got it wrong.
On his way to the front door, he stopped in front of the couch to see Sunggyu. “I’m going out, you want anything?”
“What time are you coming back?” Sunggyu asked. “Bring dinner, there’s nothing to eat.”
Oh! He grinned, licking his lips, already anticipating. “Do you have something for me?”
Sunggyu shook his head, not meeting Dongwoo’s eyes. “No.”
No? “Can I have some of it, anyway?”
“Not now, go, you have things to do.”
He hesitated. He really wanted Sunggyu to have something for him, though. “A little taste?” he asked, stepping forward.
“No! We’re not doing that anymore.”
Surprised, he stopped. “Not doing what?”
“Don’t overreact,” Sunggyu warned him.
“How should I react?” he asked, sitting beside Sunggyu.
“We’re too old for those games. Nobody has anything for anybody, anymore. Let’s just have regular sex like respectable adults.”
He rubbed his chin, not sure about that. “What feels good to me isn’t always what feels good to everybody else. What turns me on isn’t always what turns everybody else on. Should I do what feels good to somebody else, and what turns him on? There are a lot of respectable adults who wouldn’t like kissing Chunji at all, should I not do that anymore? I don’t think that I can do what respectable adults do,” he admitted. “I can only do what I do.”
“Considerate sex, respectable sex,” Sunggyu said. “No more games.”
He frowned. “No more puppies?”
“You’re too old to play around. You should set a better example for the other members.”
He took the criticism seriously. “How have I been wrong?”
“We’re not kids anymore,” Sunggyu told him. “It’s time to grow up.”
That didn’t answer his question at all. Reflecting, he thought about being respectable. He thought about all of the different things that “regular sex” might mean. He thought about his responsibilities as an adult and as a hyung.
Sunggyu thought that he’d played around too much. “If I’ve been immature, then it’s my fault,” Dongwoo said. He was too excitable, he knew it, he didn’t control himself enough. “I’m sorry, I’ll be more careful from now on.”
“I didn’t,” Sunggyu started to say, turning to Dongwoo. Then he caught himself. He looked conflicted for a second, and then he nodded. “Good.”
Dongwoo wasn’t satisfied. He wasn’t sure. But he’d figure it out. “I’ll go, now.”
Sunggyu patted his knee reassuringly.
He left the dorm with a slow step, a lot on his mind.
The third time that Dongwoo apologized, Chunji laughed. “What are you so sorry for! For killing the mood? Stop apologizing.”
“I’m playing around too much, it’s my fault,” Dongwoo said. “I have a lot of bad habits.”
“Bad habits?” Chunji pushed himself up on one elbow, studying Dongwoo’s serious expression. “What are you talking about?”
“My bad habits,” Dongwoo explained, his hand playing over Chunji’s side. “I’m too aggressive, I’m too excitable, I don’t take sex seriously.”
“Sex isn’t serious.” Chunji sat up. Whatever was going on here, he was ending it this second. “Did somebody say something to you? Did management scold you for something?”
“Sunggyu hyung asked me to be more responsible. I have to be more careful from now on. I’ve been setting a bad example.” He looked burdened. “I’ve tried to control myself, but it’s hard! When I get turned on, my body has its own ideas about what it wants to do! Gyu hyung didn’t give me a list, either, I don’t know what’s respectable and what’s not. But, no more games.” He said it solemnly, like it was a law.
Sunggyu. Had made Dongwoo. Feel guilty about sex.
“I’ve seen that expression before,” Dongwoo said, touching his cheek. “You’re angry about it?”
He rubbed his nose and smiled. “It’s not great, but whatever, right?” He laughed. “I’m not in the mood for sex, anyway. Let’s do something else.”
Niel shoved his snacks behind his back and watched Chunji head for the door. He felt like he’d been here before. “Are you-” Wait. “I thought that Dongwoo hyung was still here.”
“He’s sleeping,” Chunji said, jamming his feet into shoes.
“Where are you going? You’re just leaving him?”
“I’ll be back.”
Sure. “With the skulls of your enemies as trophies?” Niel guessed, sinking lower against the cushions.
“Yeah, something like that. Keep him here.” Chunji left.
Niel wondered if somebody should warn somebody about this. Tell C.A.P., at least.
He guessed that was up to him.
He wondered if he was going to do it.
It was five in the morning and L was barely awake. Leaving for the salon, he opened the door.
Someone was seated in the hallway, on the floor. His first thought was that it was a stalker or something, and then the guy looked up at him, and he recognized Chunji. Shaking his head, he tried to get his brain to wake up.
“Hi.” Chunji got up. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” He guessed so. “I thought that Dongwoo hyung was with you.”
“He’s sleeping. I just wanted to see Sunggyu hyung,” Chunji explained, coming inside.
Chunji smiled at him, looking bright and confident and more awake than he could comprehend. “I can wait.”
Only mostly awake, Sungyeol put on shorts and a tank top. He shuffled down the hallway to the bathroom. He almost tripped over someone on the floor in front of Sunggyu’s door.
Chunji glanced up at Sungyeol, then tucked his legs in more tightly, making room for Sungyeol to pass.
He went into the bathroom. When he came out again, he hesitated at Sunggyu’s door. “You need anything?”
“Just waiting,” Chunji explained, like it was totally reasonable for him to be there.
“You want some coffee or anything?”
He made coffee. While it was brewing, he checked the rest of the dorm. Dongwoo wasn’t there. Maybe Dongwoo was in Sunggyu’s room, and Chunji was waiting for them to come out.
He handed Chunji a mug. “Waiting for Dongwoo hyung?”
“Waiting for Sunggyu hyung.”
“He’s not in there?”
“Dongwoo hyung? No, he’s at my dorm. I just want to talk to Sunggyu hyung about something.”
Sungyeol left him to it.
A while later, when Woohyun was up, Sungyeol said, “Chunji’s here.”
“Good. You’re looking a little rough, this morning,” Woohyun teased, rubbing his shoulder. “I could use something prettier around.”
“Bullshit,” he said, grinning. “He left Dongwoo hyung at his dorm, he came to talk to Sunggyu hyung about something.”
Woohyun made a questioning sound. “Chunji?” he called, walking away. Sungyeol followed him.
As they stepped into the hallway, Sunggyu’s door opened.
Chunji stood up and threw a full cup of coffee right in Sunggyu’s face.
Sungyeol was so shocked that he stumbled backward. Flailing, he grabbed at the walls for balance.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Woohyun was running forward.
“Want to die?!” Sunggyu demanded, grabbing at Chunji.
“Hey, hey, hyung, no,” Woohyun said, throwing himself in between them. He tried to force Sunggyu to back up, back through the doorway. “No, no, visual, he’s an idol, he’s Dongwoo hyung’s, you can’t. He’s Dongwoo hyung’s.”
“What the hell,” Sungyeol gasped, grabbing Chunji’s arm, trying to drag him aside.
Chunji shook him off like he was nothing. He’d been working out a lot, lately! “The wedding’s off.”
Woohyun turned. His teeth were bared. His bangs fell down over his forehead, but they couldn’t cover up the dangerous gleam in his eyes. He gripped the doorframe on both sides, the muscles in his arms bulging.
Sungyeol didn’t know who to protect from who, anymore, but he stepped in between Woohyun and Chunji. “Everybody back up for a second.”
“He wants to die, let me do it, let me start,” Sunggyu said.
“Nobody’s dying,” Sungyeol said.
“Nobody’s joking, either,” Chunji said.
“Who are you speaking disrespectfully to?” Sunggyu demanded.
“You!” Chunji snapped. “I don’t respect you! Who the fuck do you think you are, talking about respect? You told Dongwoo hyung to be polite, to be respectable, to be a responsible hyung. What kind of hyung are you to him? Fuck you! I’d rather have a hundred hyungs like Dongwoo hyung, honest hyungs, caring and open and real as fuck, than a lying, controlling piece of shit like you!”
“Whoa, whoa,” Sungyeol said hastily, desperate to shut Chunji up.
“Let me - - fuck - - move!” Sunggyu ordered, trying to get around Woohyun.
Woohyun’s hands were still clenched around the doorframe, his muscles straining. He looked like he was one second away from doing something really horrifying to Chunji, but as long as he was there, he was in Sunggyu’s way. “Maybe we should talk in my room,” Sungyeol suggested, trying to herd Chunji away. “You can tell me everything.”
Chunji was so furious at Sunggyu, he didn’t seem to care that anyone else was there. Sungyeol could’ve been invisible. “He thinks that you’re the best hyung he’s ever had! He trusts his glorious leader Gyu, he’d follow you anywhere! You know he listens to every goddamned word that you say! And you told him not to be himself! Not to be honest! Not to have fun! You made him second-guess everything that comes naturally, you made him apologize for being himself! You told him to feel bad about sex, you told him to feel guilty about feeling good!”
“I never did!” Sunggyu shouted. “What are you talking about, not be honest?! I told him to be responsible! I told him to grow up! There are too many games around here, it’s been seven years, we can’t act so immature anymore!”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Chunji demanded. “Your members aren’t miserable enough? You weren’t fucking up enough? You thought you’d better hurt Dongwoo hyung, too, so everybody can suffer together? Dongwoo hyung isn’t the problem with Infinite! He’s not the one playing fucking games! You are!”
“You’re a thoughtless, self-centered, shiny piece of nothing,” Sunggyu said. “You’re never going to see him again. None of you, none of your members, it’s over now.”
“Whoa, whoa, no,” Sungyeol said. “Hyung, it’s too far.”
“That’s it, that’s your move?” Chunji demanded. “You’ve been looking for an excuse. You’ve been fucking dying to get rid of me, of Changjo, of all of us. You want to get rid of everybody, that’s how you like it best. No boyfriends, nobody else, you get to keep your members all to yourself.”
“Why would I want you around?” Sunggyu demanded. “Selfish trash.”
“You don’t love Dongwoo hyung,” Chunji said. “You don’t love him at all. You don’t like him, you don’t know him, you only care about yourself and your goddamned Nam Woohyun. Fuck both of you. If you really saw Dongwoo hyung, if you’d ever cared about him, you’d take care of him, you’d look out for him, you’d never tell him to apologize for being himself. Did you tell Nam Woohyun to stop playing games? Did you tell Nam Woohyun to grow up? Did you tell Nam Woohyun that it’s time to be respectable and serious?”
“Don’t you tell me about love!” Sunggyu shouted. “You threw Dongwoo away! I took care of him, I was there for him, I was there when he cried, I was there when he couldn’t get over you every single day! You were only thinking of yourself, when all I was thinking of was him! You broke his heart then, and you’re only going to break it now! I’ve loved him every day, I’ve protected him, when you’ve only ever loved Lee Chanhee!”
“You don’t love people by making them ashamed of themselves!” Chunji shouted. “That’s not love, you controlling freak! Call me selfish, call me what you want. Dongwoo hyung knows who I am and he loves me for it. I know who he is and I love him for it. That’s how love works, you sick fuck, but you don’t know it. The only thing you’ve ever loved is your precious goddamned Nam Woohyun. Marry him, have a wedding with him, have a healing ceremony with him! Leave Dongwoo hyung out of it!”
Sungyeol really needed to make this stop, but he had no idea how.
“You’re a trashy little boy who only cares about himself,” Sunggyu said. “You’re dead to me from now on, you and everybody in Teen Top. You think a lot of yourself, you think you’re bold, coming here, talking to me like this, throwing drinks in my face? You’re proud of yourself right now?”
“You’re not a leader,” Chunji shot back. “You’re not a hyung. You’re a fucking dictator. You tell them how to act, how to think, how to feel. Why don’t you tell them what you think? Tell them how you feel! Tell them what a jealous coward you are! You think I’m selfish? I’m fucking perfect compared to you!”
Sungyeol realized that Woohyun was looking at him, not at Chunji.
Woohyun glanced down the hallway, then at Sungyeol. Then he did it again.
Was he signaling something? Sungyeol looked around, trying to catch on.
He saw a foot. Someone was in the kitchen doorway. Sungjong!
What, did Woohyun want Sungjong to run for help, or something?
“My room,” Woohyun mouthed. Then, “Put him in my room,” he said. And in one fast move, he fell back, knocking Sunggyu farther into the room, and slammed the door.
Oh, whoa, hey. Sungyeol turned around, wondering how to do this. Behind him, he heard banging and threatening. Sunggyu and Chunji were cursing each other out, and it sounded like Sunggyu was about to break right through the door.
There was only one way to do this, and that was just to do it. “Namu’s room,” he said, “help me,” and he grabbed Chunji around the waist, lifting.
It was one of the clumsiest, most violent moments of his life. He felt like he was wrestling a pack of wild dogs, and losing. But Sungjong scurried over and helped him. He dropped-shoved Chunji into Dongwoo’s room and yanked the door shut.
Then he stood there, clinging to the doorknob, and wondered if this counted as kidnapping or something. He touched his face gingerly, worried. “Blood?” he asked.
“Just, uh.” Sungjong touched Sungyeol’s shoulder. “Just a little. Is he actually crazy? What the hell’s going on? I woke up and everybody was screaming.”
“Sunggyu hyung said something to Dongwoo hyung. I don’t know, I just woke up and Chunji was in the dorm. He said that he wanted to talk to Sunggyu hyung about something.”
“I called C.A.P. hyung,” Sungjong said. “I think he’s coming over. Where’s Dongwoo hyung, what happened? What’s Chunji talking about?”
“Am I actually bleeding?” he asked. He twisted, patting at his shoulder. Oh, god.
“He bit you. I’ll get a bandage,” Sungjong said.
“Does he have rabies?” Sungyeol asked.
“I’ll get antiseptic,” Sungjong decided, padding away.
“Hyung, hyung,” Woohyun said, plastering his back to the door, blocking the doorknob with one hand.
“Oh, I’m a hyung, now?” Sunggyu demanded. His baggy, white T-shirt was drenched with coffee. “I’m not a hyung, he said, not a leader, he said. Nobody can speak respectfully, nobody can be polite, am I still a hyung around here?”
“You’re pissed off,” Woohyun said. “You’re in charge, here, you’re older than he is. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, he got upset, he made a mistake.”
“He made a lot of mistakes,” Sunggyu said. “That’s the last mistake he’s going to make in front of me. Let me pass.”
“Move!” Sunggyu ordered, furious.
“Hyung, think about L. Remember L.” Woohyun was trying to stay calm, trying not to escalate.
“That selfish glittery trash comes in my dorm and treats me like this, and you’re worried about L?!”
“Chunji’s upset, he’s wrong, he’s emotional, he’ll regret it later,” Woohyun said, moving from one side to another, blocking the way, as Sunggyu tried to shove him aside. “If you get rid of Chunji, and you get rid of Teen Top, then L will lose something, too. I don’t want to see that, I don’t want to do that to him. You don’t want to do that to him.”
“That maknae?!” Sunggyu grabbed hold of Woohyun’s shirt. “You’re bringing up that maknae?! To me?! Now, right now, I should worry about that thieving kid?!”
“L loves him,” Woohyun said. “You don’t want to hurt L.”
“Do you know who L’s loved?” Sunggyu demanded. “Do you remember the ugly filth he thought he cared about, before? He didn’t need any of them, and he doesn’t need that maknae, either.”
“Changjo’s different,” Woohyun said. “If you get rid of Teen Top now, you’ll regret it, later. You don’t want to do something you’ll regret, all over Chunji’s temper tantrum.”
“Did you hear what he said to me?!” Sunggyu demanded. “Move!” With an impatient jerk, he shoved Woohyun aside.
“Talk to Dongwoo hyung first,” Woohyun said. He was starting to feel desperate, but he tried to hide it. “Don’t do anything now, talk to Dongwoo hyung about it.”
“What’s he going to say? He only sees what’s sparkly, he doesn’t know what’s good for him.”
Sungyeol was standing in the middle of the hallway, holding onto Woohyun’s doorknob. Sungjong was putting a Band-Aid on his shoulder. “What’s this?” Sunggyu demanded.
“He’s in there,” Sungyeol said. “Oh, he, uh. He bit me.”
“Is he an animal?” Sunggyu demanded.
“He’s being quiet,” Woohyun said. “Leave him in there, give him time to reflect. You can talk to Dongwoo hyung first.”
The bell rang. For a second, Woohyun was relieved. He could use the interruption to distract Sunggyu, to talk to Chunji, to get in touch with Dongwoo, to figure things out.
Then Sungjong said, cringing, “I called C.A.P. hyung.”
Sunggyu stormed across the dorm, opened the door, and smacked C.A.P. across the face.
Sungjong slid down the wall, crouching beside Sungyeol’s feet.
C.A.P.’s jaw clenched. His head turned to one side, he breathed for a moment. Then he faced Sunggyu. “Chunji’s here?”
“He bit Sungyeol like a fucking animal,” Sunggyu said.
C.A.P. nodded. “That’s Chunji.” He studied Sunggyu’s face for a moment, then eased past, coming inside. “Sorry,” he told Sungyeol. “You okay?”
“Where are your other members?” Woohyun asked. Then he asked what he needed to know the most. “Where’s Changjo?”
“Company building,” C.A.P. said, scratching the back of his neck. “I think Dongwoo hyung’s in my dorm?”
Woohyun’s phone was in his room, so he took one from Sungyeol’s pocket. “Maknae, get Sunggyu hyung a clean shirt.”
“I don’t need a shirt, I need an empty dorm,” Sunggyu said. “Get your trash and get out.”
Woohyun moved in between Sungyeol and C.A.P., dialing quickly. Sungjong finally started moving.
“He’s in there?” C.A.P. asked Sungyeol.
“Yeolie?” Dongwoo asked.
“Yeah,” Sungyeol said to C.A.P.
“Hyung, can you get back to the dorm right now?” Woohyun asked.
“Is everything okay?” Dongwoo asked. “Something’s wrong?”
“Yeah, something’s wrong, we need you here.”
“I’ll come now. What is it, are you all right? The other members?”
“Chunji’s upset with Sunggyu hyung, it’s not good.”
“My Chunji? He’s there? I’m coming now, I’ll be there.” Dongwoo hung up.
“You hit him back?” C.A.P. asked Sungyeol.
“No,” Sungyeol said. “No, he’s okay, he’s just, he was out of control, so we kind of. Put him in there.”
Subdued, trying to stay under the radar, Sungjong handed Sunggyu a clean shirt.
“Take him and get out,” Sunggyu said again. “Open the door and get him out. I don’t want him here, I don’t want any of you here, I don’t want to see you again.”
C.A.P. crossed his arms over his chest and faced Sunggyu. “Are you sure about that?”
“Out!” Sunggyu shouted.
“We’re not doing this again,” C.A.P. said. “There’s no back-and-forth. If it’s done, then it’s done.” He rubbed his cheek where Sunggyu had hit him. “I don’t want to tell you your business. But this is my business, too. I don’t want to break up Chunji and Dongwoo hyung. And I really don’t want to break up Changjo and L.”
“We can wait for Dongwoo hyung to get here,” Woohyun said. “He’s already on his way. Give Chunji a chance to reflect. Dongwoo hyung doesn’t even know about this, he didn’t know Chunji was here.”
“Chunji doesn’t reflect,” Sunggyu said. “He just takes time out in between setting fires. He’s not sorry for anything he does.”
C.A.P. glanced at Woohyun. “Did he set anything on fire?” he asked, like he wanted to make sure.
“No,” Woohyun said.
He nodded, looking relieved.
Woohyun tried to remember where L was, what L’s schedules were.
Sunggyu changed shirts.
Sungjong was crouched by Sungyeol’s feet again.
Woohyun took over holding the door shut to give Sungyeol’s arms a break.
Dongwoo came home. “What happened?” he asked, spotting C.A.P., reading Sunggyu’s expression. “It’s bad? Where’s my Chunji?”
“He broke up with you,” Sunggyu said. “Say good-bye.”
“You lying fuck!” Chunji shouted, and something slammed against the door.
“Chunji?” Dongwoo asked, alarmed.
Releasing the door, Woohyun went straight to Sunggyu. He didn’t see anybody else, and he didn’t want Sunggyu to, either. “Think about Dongwoo hyung.” He tried to guide Sunggyu to turn around with him, to face away from the others, but he couldn’t be too pushy, he couldn’t cross boundaries right now. “Think about L. They might be in love with people you don’t like, but they’re in love. We have to let L make his own choices, even if he’s making mistakes, you’ve said that for a long time. If he’s in love, that’s up to him.”
“Am I still Infinite’s leader?” Sunggyu demanded. “Is this Infinite’s dorm? My dorm! My members! My dongsaengs! My rules!”
Chunji was hugging Dongwoo. Dongwoo was trying to check on him, running worried hands over him, asking him questions. He just hugged Dongwoo, closing his eyes, not letting go. Eventually, Dongwoo gave up and hugged him back.
“Let me talk to them,” Woohyun said. “I’ll do it, I’m your deputy. I don’t care if Chunji’s disrespectful to me, I can take it.” He didn’t dare to smile with his mouth, but he tried to do it with his eyes, gentled his tone. “Go rinse off, you smell like coffee.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Sunggyu said.
“Hyung,” Woohyun said softly, touching his side. “Let me do it. You can get rid of them after, we’ll do it your way, in the end. We always do.”
Sunggyu shoved past everyone, storming off.
“Go,” Woohyun said, shooing Sungjong.
Looking miserable but resigned, Sungjong scurried after him.
“I’m sorry,” Chunji said. He started to pull away from Dongwoo, but he only moved a few inches before Dongwoo caught him again, cupping his face. “I told off your leader. I’m not sorry to him, fuck him, but I’m sorry to you.”
“Fuck Sunggyu hyung?” Dongwoo looked as shocked as Woohyun had ever seen him.
“He doesn’t love you,” Chunji said. “That’s not love. You love him so fucking much and you obey him so fucking well, you follow him and you never think twice about it. He wants you to be ashamed of yourself, and I know you can’t forgive me, but I couldn’t forgive myself if I let him get away with it.”
Dongwoo’s hands were roaming Chunji, sliding up and down his back. “I don’t understand, I can’t understand anything you’re saying. What are you talking about, what happened?”
“What are you overreacting to?” C.A.P. asked Chunji.
Chunji frowned, taking a closer look. “Were you fighting?” His eyes widened. One hand tightening on Dongwoo’s arm, he reached for C.A.P. “Were you fighting here? Did he fucking hit you?”
“No,” C.A.P. said. “What are you overreacting to?”
“He wants Dongwoo hyung to be ashamed of himself. He lectured him on being a responsible adult and a respectable role model and all kinds of judgmental bullshit. Dongwoo hyung can’t even fucking kiss me without apologizing for it, he’s embarrassed, he feels ashamed of himself for the way he touches me. That’s one of the most pure, honest, real sides of Dongwoo hyung, where he can be himself, he can be totally himself. I thought that Infinite understood that. That’s the only good thing about L hyung, that’s his best point, that he’s so into sex with Dongwoo hyung however Dongwoo hyung wants to have it. And the guy Dongwoo hyung follows everywhere, the one who calls himself a good hyung, says that all of that is a bad habit? That it’s all wrong? I’ll tell you what’s fucking wrong-”
“Chunji,” Dongwoo said.
“-it’s fucking wrong for motherfucking Kim Sunggyu to-”
“Chunji,” Dongwoo said.
“-call himself the - - what, what?” Chunji asked, finally noticing Dongwoo, his tone completely different, his gaze refocusing.
“You can’t be so upset,” Dongwoo said. “I do have bad habits, I-”
“That’s it,” Chunji said, storming off towards the bathroom.
“Whoa, whoa!” It took all four of them to stop him, Sungyeol and Woohyun getting in his way, C.A.P. and Dongwoo pulling him back. “No biting, it’s cool, calm down,” Sungyeol said.
“What the fuck is a bad habit?!” Chunji shouted. “What the hell is a bad habit, in Infinite? Kim Sunggyu is a lying, controlling, jealous shit! Nam Woohyun is a manipulative fucking sadist! Kim Myungsoo is an obsessive, insecure freak! Jang Dongwoo is honest as fuck and loving as hell and he’s wrong? He has bad habits? Whispering, ‘I love you, I love you,’ just to fuck with people’s heads isn’t a bad habit? Fucking each other’s boyfriends just to make each other jealous isn’t a bad habit? But grabbing your partner’s ass is a bad habit? Fuck Kim Sunggyu and fuck you for being the only thing he cares about and fuck you for playing along!”
“No, no, this isn’t it,” Dongwoo said, cupping his face, stroking his hair. “You can’t be like this. What are you so angry about? You’re so upset, you’re not seeing straight.”
Sungyeol was rubbing his elbow, avoiding everyone’s eyes.
“You apologized for grabbing my cock!” Chunji exclaimed. “Who the fuck were you apologizing to? Not me! I wanted it, I liked it!”
“I get too aggressive, I go too fast, I should be more considerate,” Dongwoo said.
“I don’t want to die,” Sungyeol said softly, shooting a quick look down the hallway. “But, come on. Chunji’s not totally wrong.”
“God,” Chunji said, exhaling. “Thank you, shit!”
“There’s nothing wrong with the way Dongwoo hyung has sex,” Sungyeol said. “It’s kind of,” he gestured like he was juggling, “but that’s just how he is. Who’s he calming down for, who has a problem with it? If it’s embarrassing in front of EXO, or something, that’s already done, they know all about him. And they all like it, anyway, so I don’t get it. What’s Sunggyu hyung giving lectures for? And if Dongwoo hyung gets them, why not everybody? You’re a freaking, you know,” he told Woohyun. “Did you get scolded, too?”
“Maybe I was next,” Woohyun said. “Everybody’s angry and excited, don’t jump to conclusions.”
“I’m not jumping to conclusions when they’re right in front of me,” Chunji said. “When’s the last time Kim Sunggyu lectured you and told you to feel ashamed for how you touch the members? When’s the last time he told you to feel bad about how you have sex and apologize for it? Dongwoo hyung is honest, he’s doing what feels good, he only wants the rest of us to feel good. When’s the last time he went too far and hurt somebody, and when’s the last time you did? Kim Sunggyu protects you, he’ll shield you from everything, and he’s making Dongwoo hyung feel like shit for the way he loves me. You can all go to hell.”
“Okay, you - - you gotta stop, you made your point,” Sungyeol said. “We got it, just, stop going off.”
Every time Chunji talked to him like that, Woohyun wanted to react to it. But he couldn’t. It was a strain on him to control his temper, to contain his pride, but he couldn’t afford to make this worse. It was getting harder and harder to think of L, to put Dongwoo’s heart first, when what he really wanted to do was rip into this arrogant piece of shit. But he knew, under his storm of emotions, that he had to stay clear-headed. Chunji had blown everything up, and he had to put it back together.
“What do you want?” he asked Chunji. “Do you want Dongwoo hyung to go back to the way things were? Great, we’ll do that. He won’t apologize anymore, we won’t call anything a bad habit.”
“If you have bad habits, is it my fault?” Dongwoo asked Woohyun. “Have I set a bad example? I didn’t know, I thought that we were all having fun.”
Dongwoo’s emotional honesty was gut-wrenching. “No,” Woohyun said, stroking Dongwoo’s cheek. His smile wavered. “No, hyung, you haven’t done anything wrong. We have had fun, it’s been a lot of fun together. I think that Sunggyu hyung made a mistake, he might have scolded you too much this time.”
“So let’s just forget what Sunggyu hyung said,” Sungyeol said. He was still speaking in a hushed voice, the five of them huddling close. “Let’s just skip that, he talks a lot, he scolds a lot, we’ll ignore it. Okay? Everybody good, now?”
“Nothing’s good,” Chunji said. Sungyeol sighed, resting his elbow on Woohyun’s shoulder. “He can’t treat Dongwoo hyung like that. You’ve been members for seven years and he can say those things? To this hyung? He doesn’t know Dongwoo hyung, he doesn’t understand anything, he’s the one who can’t see straight. If Dongwoo hyung won’t stand up for himself, I’ll have to do it.”
“This isn’t the way to do it,” C.A.P. said. “Have a normal conversation. A quiet, normal conversation. If you think Sunggyu hyung’s screwing up, go over and say, ‘Hey, hyung, I was wondering about that thing you said.’”
“He’s Dongwoo hyung’s leader!” Chunji shouted. “He’s Dongwoo hyung’s closest hyung! Dongwoo hyung will follow him anywhere, and he knows it! He’s a controlling freak and he’s abusing his power, he’s jerking people around and he doesn’t think anything of it and Dongwoo hyung’s suffering and won’t even stand up to him! ‘Oh, I guess this is the best way, Sunggyu hyung knows what’s best,’ everybody does whatever he says! Whatever he wants! It-”
“Chunji,” Sungyeol said. “We get it.”
“I’m not going to shut up just-”
“No,” Sungyeol said, breaking in again. “No, we get it. Who do you think you’re talking to? Everybody here knows what Sunggyu hyung’s like.”
“He scolded Dongwoo hyung too much, this time,” Woohyun told Sungyeol. “Don’t turn it into a crime.”
Chunji stared at Woohyun, looking outraged all over again, and Woohyun grimaced, trying to brace himself, to force himself to endure the next stream of insults. C.A.P. nudged Chunji hard enough to get his attention, and said, “Forget it. He’s loyal to his leader. Leave it alone.”
“I don’t like to see you like this,” Dongwoo told Chunji. “You’re angry for my sake, but I don’t want you to be upset. Shouting, being disrespectful to Sunggyu hyung, I don’t want any of this. I hate seeing you angry.”
“You won’t stand up for yourself,” Chunji said. “I have to do it for you.”
“Do you think that I can’t defend myself?”
“Not against Sunggyu hyung.”
Dongwoo frowned. “I shouldn’t have to defend myself against someone who looks out for me.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying!” Chunji exclaimed. “You shouldn’t have to! But you do need to, and you don’t even see it! He’s hurting you and you believe in him so much, you think he must be right!”
“But I do have bad habits!” Dongwoo exclaimed helplessly. “What do you want me to say? You’re this angry about how wrong he is, when he isn’t wrong!”
“Look, everybody’s right,” C.A.P. said. “Sunggyu hyung’s right, you’re raunchy, you’re aggressive, you’re dirtier than Lay hyung and that’s,” C.A.P. snorted, “really fucking dirty. But Chunji’s right, it’s okay. It’s okay that you’re like that. You don’t need to be respectable when it comes to sex, be respectable when it comes to press conferences. You set a good example for your members and dongsaengs in everything else, don’t worry about sex.”
“Yeah,” Sungyeol said. “Yes, everything he said. You’re raunchy, but it’s not bad to be raunchy. You’re not wrong for it. You don’t need to change.”
“Kim Sunggyu needs to change,” Chunji said.
“What do you want, you want him to apologize?” C.A.P. asked.
“I want him to care about Dongwoo hyung the way he cares about Nam Woohyun. I want him to see what’s precious in Dongwoo hyung and protect it, not try to squash it and rip it out and make him feel like shit about himself.”
“Do you - - you keep saying this,” Sungyeol said. “Do you really think that Sunggyu hyung doesn’t care about Dongwoo hyung? I know it’s a thing, that Sunggyu hyung and Woohyun are a couple, but Woohyun isn’t literally the only thing that Sunggyu hyung cares about.”
“He’s my hyung,” Dongwoo said. “He looks out for me more than anybody does.”
“He’s not looking out for you! He wants you to hate yourself, what kind of hyung does that?” Chunji demanded.
“You,” C.A.P. said. Chunji gave him a bewildered, disbelieving look. C.A.P. laughed. “Ya. How do you talk to our members? What have you said to our dongsaengs? You told Ricky that he’s a worthless, ugly pig who should stop trying so hard because he’s never going to get anywhere in life. You told Changjo that he’s a crazy mutant freak who should spend the rest of his life trapped alone in a pit. You told Niel that his best possible future is dying young.”
Woohyun was learning a lot about Teen Top today.
“That was a long time ago,” Chunji argued, and then he laughed, his expression flickering, briefly self-conscious. “Niel doesn’t care.”
“You want your own maknae to die in a pit?” Sungyeol asked.
“I’m not his leader, it’s different,” Chunji said.
“You’re his close hyung, you’re one of his members,” Woohyun pointed out.
“What Kim Sunggyu says sticks with Dongwoo hyung, it stays in his head, it means a lot to him,” Chunji said. “Nobody cares what I think, we say shit to each other all of the time.”
“Niel loves you, he remembers everything you say to him,” Sungyeol said.
Chunji snorted dismissively. Then he smiled. “Did he tell you that?”
To Woohyun’s surprise, Sungyeol nodded. “Yeah.”
“You can say shit to your members, but Sunggyu hyung can’t with his?” C.A.P. asked.
“If Changjo has a problem with what I say to him, he can tell me about it,” Chunji said. “If L hyung wants to say something about it, he can get in my face if he wants to. I can get in Kim Sunggyu’s face. He’s not getting away with making Dongwoo hyung feel guilty, I don’t care who he is.”
C.A.P. took a puzzled look at Sungyeol. “Niel tells you that he loves Chunji?”
Sungyeol laughed. “Yes. Not all of the time, but it comes up.”
C.A.P. grinned. “He say anything about me?”
“He thinks he has you wrapped around his finger, you’ll do anything for him.”
“Aw.” C.A.P. chuckled. “He wishes.”
Dongwoo stroked Chunji’s back. “You can’t be like this. Not even when you’re upset. You can’t treat Sunggyu hyung this way. I think that you should apologize.”
“He’s going to apologize,” Chunji said. “I’m not sorry, he deserved it. I’ll let it go if he learns how to treat you right. If he can admit how precious you are and apologize to you for making you feel guilty, maybe I’ll give him a chance.”
“Yeah, no,” C.A.P. said. “You’re going to apologize to Sunggyu hyung.”
Chunji snorted. “The hell I am.”
C.A.P. glanced at Sungyeol. “Can I use your room for a second?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sungyeol said.
“What, you think you can convince me in private?” Chunji asked. “I’m not changing my mind.”
C.A.P. clamped his hand on Chunji’s arm and dragged him across the dorm.
With the two of them busy, Woohyun had to talk to Sunggyu again. “Hyung, can you make sure that they don’t leave?” he asked Dongwoo. “It would be really bad if they left. Sunggyu hyung might not want to let them back in.”
Looking worried, Dongwoo nodded seriously.
“And if anybody else shows up, even L for some reason, don’t let anyone in.”
“He lives here, I can’t keep him out.”
“Just for now, until things calm down.”
Woohyun thought fast, trying to figure out which angles to work. Chunji was temperamental and stubborn, but wasn’t willing to let Dongwoo go. The problem was Sunggyu’s pride. At least Chunji didn’t want Sunggyu to apologize to him, just to Dongwoo. If Chunji’s only complaint was that Sunggyu took Dongwoo too lightly, that would be easy to overcome; Sunggyu adored Dongwoo. But Sunggyu wasn’t going to be in the mood to make any concessions.
Sungyeol was following him through the dorm.
Sunggyu was seated on his bed, leaning back against the pillows, his expression stubborn, his arms crossed over his chest. He wasn’t even doing anything, just sitting there sulking like a petulant kid. Sungjong was on his desk chair, looking defeated, dried tear tracks on his cheeks.
When they walked in, Sunggyu looked up. “Oh? Did you come to call me names, too? Any drinks to throw? That’s how we treat hyungs, now, isn’t it?”
“Go sit with Dongwoo hyung, he needs comforting,” Woohyun told Sungjong.
Sungjong escaped silently, looking relieved to go.
Woohyun closed the door and took the chair.
Sungyeol hovered, then sat gingerly at the foot of the bed.
“Dongwoo hyung’s really hurt,” Woohyun said. “He feels terrible. He’s asking Chunji to apologize to you.”
“Good,” Sunggyu said. “Good, is that your news? Is that big news, that I deserve an apology from that selfish, rude kid?”
“Of course you deserve an apology,” Woohyun said. “Chunji’s just upset. He’s an emotional guy, he thinks that he’s defending his boyfriend. You hurt Dongwoo hyung’s feelings, and Dongwoo hyung thinks a lot of you, so Chunji thinks that everything you say to Dongwoo hyung weighs twice as much as what everyone else says. He read too much into the scolding, that’s all.”
“I told him to be more responsible!” Sunggyu argued. “I shouldn’t expect him to set a better example? We can’t spend the next seven years the way we spent the first seven, we’re not those foolish kids anymore. It’s time to grow up, and the hyungs should lead the way. That’s all I said, I’m not a criminal!”
“Nobody thinks you’re a criminal,” Woohyun said. “Chunji’s just trying to shield his boyfriend.”
“From me?” Sunggyu demanded. “I should defend Dongwoo from him! That self-centered kid, all he does is break hearts!”
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Sungyeol said. Sunggyu’s head turned suddenly, facing him, and he flinched back, looking alarmed. “I just, okay,” Sungyeol said, scooting farther away, right up to the edge of the bed, braced to make a bolt for it. “You might’ve been too hard on Dongwoo hyung. He’s not doing anything wrong.”
“There are too many games around here,” Sunggyu said. “Sex games, like we don’t have any sense.”
“Games are fun,” Sungyeol said. “It goes a little far, sometimes, but that’s fun, too. And Woohyun’s the one locking people in the closet. Dongwoo hyung doesn’t even do anything. I don’t want him to change.”
“We all have to change, we all have to grow up,” Sunggyu said.
Sungyeol glanced at Woohyun.
“What?” Sunggyu demanded. “Something to say? Everybody wants to tell me how to live, today?”
“A lot of things have changed,” Sungyeol said. “The last time there was a big problem like this, Chunji didn’t fight for Dongwoo hyung. He’s fighting so hard this time, he’s cursing and yelling and throwing drinks, he’s attacking his hyung’s hyung. Dongwoo hyung doesn’t even want him to, but he can’t help it, he’s acting like he’ll defend Dongwoo hyung against anybody no matter what. And C.A.P. didn’t just take Chunji and walk out, they’re still here, he’s trying to calm things down. Chunji asked if you hit C.A.P., and he said no. I think he’s trying to keep it from getting worse, I think he wants to keep us all together. When last time, he let us go and wouldn’t even talk to L about it. I think that some people are growing up. Some of us are changing. It - - it’s just you who’s still the same. Something goes wrong and you want to break everybody up, you want to send Teen Top away for good, just like before.”
“I should keep them around?” Sunggyu demanded. “I’ll tell everyone to swear at you and throw drinks in your face, you’ll like it? It’s not a problem for you?”
“You’ve been cursed at before,” Woohyun reminded him. “We’ve all yelled at you before, all of the members.”
“Yeah, aren’t you used to dongsaengs hating you?” Sungyeol asked.
“Chunji crossed the line,” Woohyun said. “It’s not okay. But dongsaengs get upset and go too far, sometimes. L’s done it, Sungjong’s done it, Sungyeol’s gone off on you before. They meant it when they said it, but you still let them back in the dorm afterward. Maybe this is just Chunji’s turn.”
“I don’t have a contract with him, I don’t have to forgive him. I don’t have to see him anymore,” Sunggyu said.
“Okay, but we’ve been close with Teen Top for a long time,” Sungyeol said. “Infinite’s been together for seven years, but we’ve known Teen Top since debut. Suho’s known them half of that time, and he thinks they’re all his adopted kids, or something. Chunji isn’t one of us, but he’s still your dongsaeng.”
“He didn’t get upset about any little thing,” Woohyun said. “He thinks that he’s defending his hyung.”
“Don’t we want Dongwoo hyung to be with someone who’ll go this far for him?” Sungyeol asked. “L’s dated some way worse people, who dropped him the first time things got uncomfortable. Chunji’s willing to go so far, he doesn’t care what happens to him.”
“Why are you bringing up Young Money?” Sunggyu demanded. “You think you’re being cute, mentioning him? You think that I’ll feel bad, it’ll make me feel guilty, I’ll have second thoughts and do what he’d want me to do? Dongsaengs don’t make my decisions for me. What’s next, you want me to worry about L? You want me to be worried about some thieving maknae? I’m the hyung!” he shouted. “I’m the leader! I don’t make decisions only when you want me to, only the way you want me to! You don’t get to pick and choose when you’re respectful and when you’re not! Young Money isn’t in charge, here! L isn’t! Sparkly, shiny Chunji isn’t! I am, me, Kim Sunggyu!”
“We know,” Woohyun said, when he stopped to breathe. “You’re the leader. We’ll do what you decide. All of us. We did before, we always have, and we will this time, too. Dongwoo hyung will stop seeing Chunji, if that’s what you say. L will break up with Changjo, if that’s what you tell him to do. We’ll follow you.”
Sunggyu glared at him, eyes narrowed, one hand balled into a fist.
“You’re our leader,” Woohyun said quietly. “It’s up to you.”
Abruptly, Sunggyu got up. “I don’t want to talk to you. Where’s my Dongwoo?” He strode past them, yanking the door open. “Jang Dongwoo!”
Behind Sunggyu’s back, Sungyeol leaned towards Woohyun, whispering. “Should we call Suho? Would that work, would Suho calm him down?”
“No,” Woohyun whispered. “It’ll look like he’s only making his decision because Suho wants him to. He has to do it on his own. He has to think he’s in control.” Had Sungyeol not heard him yelling about who was in charge?
“Is he even listening?” Sungyeol asked. “I’m trying, here, but I don’t think it’s helping.”
“You’re okay.” He’d done what Woohyun had wanted him to do. Why else did he think that Woohyun had let him in the room?
Hearing Sunggyu’s voice, Chunji jerked, moving towards the door.
C.A.P. grabbed his arm, holding him back.
Chunji wasn’t about to let C.A.P. stop him. If Sunggyu said one more thing to Dongwoo, if he hurt Dongwoo’s feelings again, if-
“Stop it,” C.A.P. whispered, restraining him. “Listen, let’s see what he says.”
Chunji tried to rip himself free, but C.A.P. lifted him off of his feet for a second. “Let me fucking go!” he insisted, kicking.
“Fuck - - listen,” C.A.P. said, trying to cover his mouth.
He bit down, and then while C.A.P. hissed, he focused on Sunggyu’s voice through the door.
“Hyung!” Dongwoo sounded relieved. Chunji hated that. Sunggyu took that for granted? Didn’t feel any responsibility toward someone who was so thrilled just to see him walk in the room? “I’m sorry.” He sounded worried, now, and all of the blood in Chunji’s veins was replaced by outrage. “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding. I think that it’s my fault. I told Chunji - - I must not have explained it very well. He’s upset, now, but he won’t be upset forever, Chunji doesn’t - - well, sometimes he does! Sometimes he never lets his anger go. But he can’t stay mad at you!” There was a pause, and Chunji could feel Dongwoo’s worry through the door. “Should I be punished? Chunji’s my responsibility, it’s my fault.”
“Chunji is C.A.P.’s responsibility,” Sunggyu said firmly. “You’re mine.”
“I’m sorry for whatever he said to you. When he gets upset, his feelings go really far, and his words go with them. Chunji does everything the whole way. He can’t talk to a hyung like that, I know. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how this happened! I went to sleep and everything was so good, I felt so great, I was happy about so much, and I woke up and my life is like this. I don’t know how to fix it, but I will. Maybe if you talk to him, if you explain about my bad habits. He doesn’t see it the same way that you do.”
“Don’t worry about what I said, now,” Sunggyu said.
What? Chunji twisted out of C.A.P.’s hold and pressed himself against the door, listening intently.
“I was frustrated with myself, and I talked to you before I had everything sorted out. We’ll talk about that another time.”
“Then. What about my bad habits?”
“You have a lot of bad habits,” Sunggyu said. “But not when it comes to sex. Hyung spoke to you too firmly. I’m sorry, I need to do some reflecting. We’ll talk about it after I’ve reconsidered.”
Chunji couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was Sunggyu apologizing this easily? What was happening out there, was L holding a gun to his head?
“It’s all been a misunderstanding?” Dongwoo asked.
“It was my mistake,” Sunggyu said. He was really taking responsibility for it. Chunji stared at C.A.P. to make sure that someone else heard it, too, and C.A.P. shrugged at him, smiling. “The first part of it was my mistake. But the second part was Chunji’s mistake.”
“He went too far,” Dongwoo said. “I’m sorry. I’ll take responsibility for everything he did.”
“He talks to his hyungs that way?” Sunggyu asked. “Does he talk to you that way?”
“No! Me? I don’t think that anybody talks to me that way! Maybe L.”
“Chunji’s not disrespectful to you?”
“It’s not disrespectful,” Dongwoo said. “He teases me, he flirts with me, because we’re close. He’s one of those dongsaengs who make you feel so good, you let them get away with things. But it’s not disrespectful, it’s - - there just aren’t so many barriers between us. If a stranger said it, I wouldn’t take it so well. But I know what Chunji means when he says it. I know his heart. Like with you, I know your heart. When you scold me, I know that it’s because you want what’s best for me. What sounds uncomfortable coming from someone else sounds like love, when it’s someone you’re close to, somebody who cares about you.”
“I do love you,” Sunggyu said.
Chunji felt incredibly conflicted, hearing that, and squirmed against the door, biting his lip. On one hand, it sounded really significant, coming from a hyung with so much authority, especially in this moment. On the other hand, that was the problem. Sunggyu had too much authority over Dongwoo, over Dongwoo’s heart and mind, and if he was using “I love you” like a weapon, like Woohyun did, then this was just more manipulation and control.
“I want what’s best for you,” Sunggyu said, and Chunji writhed, in agony. He grabbed at the doorknob, wanting to peek out and read Sunggyu’s expression, but C.A.P. batted his hand away. “If you love Chunji, then that’s what’s in your heart, and I can’t say anything about that. If you want to be with him, then that’s your decision. You can choose your own friends. But if this is how he acts, if he can’t even be polite, then you’re going to be respectful of me, even if he can’t. You’re not going to bring him into this dorm. I don’t want to see him in here, or at our company building. I don’t want to hear that he’s been here, even when I’m out.”
“Holy shit,” C.A.P. whispered. “He’s a fucking marshmallow.”
“I know,” Chunji whispered, shocked. “What the hell happened?”
“Do you want me not to see him?” Dongwoo asked. “At all?” He sounded so stricken and worried and brave, Chunji was anguished for him. God, of all things to ask, why would he hand Sunggyu that power?
“That’s not up to me,” Sunggyu said. Oh, bullshit! That was the kind of shit hyungs said right before they said, “But here’s what I want you to do, anyway.” Tense, Chunji waited with dread, defiant, for Sunggyu to tell Dongwoo to drop him like garbage. “You’ve loved Chunji a lot, for a long time now. You’ve loved him even when you’ve been apart. If you aren’t going to be able to stop loving him, then you aren’t going to be able to let him go, no matter what. A foolish, selfish kid like that needs to be shown the right way, anyway. Maybe you’ll be a good influence on him. Just don’t let him take advantage of you.”
Sunggyu had just told Dongwoo to stay with him!
“Damn,” C.A.P. said.
Offended, Chunji turned to him, daring him to make the wrong move.
C.A.P. shrugged, grinning. “I guess everybody gets to stay together, after all. I was kind of hoping you’d all have to break up. I wanted to see what Changjo was going to do.”
“I wasn’t wrong about putting him in that pit,” Chunji said. About that. “When did I tell Niel that he should die young?”
“You didn’t,” C.A.P. admitted frankly. “But it sounds like the kind of shit you’d say, right?”
“Jackass!” Chunji accused, laughing. He felt so good about Dongwoo and Sunggyu, he would’ve laughed at anything.
“See, I’ve told you before, you don’t remember what comes out of your mouth when you’re pissed off.”
“He’s still here?” Sunggyu asked. “And he’s laughing? Not reflecting? This is fun for him, this is a time to play? Time for jokes? He won’t take anything seriously, he doesn’t know how.”
“Sometimes he takes things too seriously,” Dongwoo said. “Chunji’s heart is strong, but it’s sensitive, too, he feels a lot.”
“Tell him to leave on his own, or go with him, but I want him out,” Sunggyu said. “I want C.A.P. out, too, we don’t need him here.”
“Is that what you want for all of Teen Top, now?” Dongwoo asked. “No one’s welcome here?”
“Changjo can visit, to see L,” Sunggyu said. “But the rest of them, out.”
“Throwing Ricky away,” C.A.P. murmured.
“Don’t start shit,” Chunji whispered.
C.A.P. stared at him, then elbowed him, hard. “Don’t start what? Are you kidding?”
Grinning, he elbowed C.A.P. back. But he was starting to reflect. Maybe he’d gone too far. Maybe he’d…overreacted. A little.
He hadn’t thought that Sunggyu would be so soft.
He’d been outraged, and he’d been thinking about doing battle with the dominating, controlling side of Sunggyu. He’d forgotten about the affectionate, easy side of Sunggyu. He’d anticipated meeting the leader, not the hyung.
Maybe if he’d been a little less confrontational, um.
But he’d had to show up fighting. That was what it took to get through to some people! He’d had to stand up for Dongwoo. He wasn’t going to apologize for that.
He could’ve defended Dongwoo a different way, though. He could’ve tried talking to Sunggyu first, and escalated after, if that didn’t work.
Oh, god. He’d thrown coffee in Kim Sunggyu’s face.
Feeling a little hysterical, he backed away from the door. Oh, god, how was he still alive? “Why didn’t you stop me?” he whispered, needing this to be somebody else’s fault.
“Stop you from what, I was asleep,” C.A.P. said. “Who knew you were going to take off in the middle of the night to attack a lion all by yourself?”
“Niel, Niel should have stopped me.”
“Right, it’s Niel’s fault,” C.A.P. said. “You’re the one I’m trapping in a pit from now on.”
Would he be safe there? “I called Sunggyu hyung a lot of things.”
“Things like what? Besides a lying fuck?”
“I don’t remember,” he admitted. “I was upset!” he exclaimed when C.A.P. gave him a look. “I said he was controlling. That’s not even an insult! He’s a leader, all leaders are controlling.”
“I’m not controlling.”
“You’re a terrible leader!” Chunji accused, laughing.
C.A.P. took a swipe at him, then pulled him in. With C.A.P.’s arm strong around his waist, he rested his forehead on C.A.P.’s shoulder, needing the reassurance for a second. “You’re constantly full of nothing but bullshit,” C.A.P. said softly. “You’re lucky he’s letting you get away with it. Just take the punishment and apologize to him. And don’t jump in so far over your head, next time.”
He’d really fucked up. And he really had tried to tackle a lion. He was lucky that his head was still on.
“God, I need a vacation,” C.A.P. mumbled, hugging him. “Maybe I can stay in the pit for a while. Maybe it’s quieter, there.”
He’d been out for blood, with his hyung’s hyung. His hyung’s leader. Why was Sunggyu letting him get away with it?
Was this all a ploy? Was Sunggyu being generous on purpose, trying to make Dongwoo indebted to him? Was-
No. Chunji wasn’t going to get paranoid about this. He’d screwed up, and he was escaping with his skin intact. He’d made Dongwoo feel horrible, and he was going to have to work hard to make up for it. He had enough trouble on his hands. He wasn’t looking for more.
Whatever was going on inside of Infinite, they could work it out on their own. As long as Dongwoo was happy and loved, that was all he cared about.
And Dongwoo had to be loved. All of that stuff he said about how good Sunggyu was to him, this was proof of it. Sunggyu had apologized. Taken responsibility. Promised to reflect. Told Dongwoo to stay with Chunji.
Sunggyu was putting Dongwoo’s happiness over his own pride.
Chunji wouldn’t have been able to do that. Not in the face of some screaming dongsaeng throwing coffee at him. Wow, no, Chunji would’ve drawn blood by now, and-
Blood. Shit, Sungyeol. He’d bitten Dongwoo’s dongsaeng.
The doorknob was turning.
Chunji gave C.A.P. a stricken look and tried to hide behind him.
C.A.P. shoved him forward. “You did it, you face it.”
Stumbling forward, he looked up as Dongwoo entered the room. He was so grateful that it wasn’t Sunggyu, he wanted to throw his arms around Dongwoo, but he held back. “You’re upset.”
“How can I be happy, when you’re attacking Sunggyu hyung?”
“I’m sorry.” He wasn’t thrilled to say it, but he knew that he owed it.
“Sorry to who, to me?”
Why had he fallen for such a good, honest hyung? This would be so much easier if he were dealing with a jerk. The dismay and disappointment on Dongwoo’s face were agony. “Yes, I’m very sorry to you. I was only looking out for you, but I’m sorry that I upset you. And I’m sorry to Sunggyu hyung, too.”
“Is he your hyung?” Dongwoo asked. “You called him a lot of other things, just now.”
He wanted to beg Dongwoo not to do this to him, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask for leniency. If Dongwoo was angry, then he had to endure it. Of all people, Dongwoo had never been angry with him when he hadn’t deserved it. “I thought that he wasn’t being a good hyung to you, so I thought that he hadn’t earned it.”
“Sunggyu hyung’s been a good hyung to me for longer than I’ve been a good hyung to you,” Dongwoo said. “Sunggyu hyung looks out for me when I don’t know to look out for myself.”
He still thought that there were things that Dongwoo was too innocent to see. Sunggyu was dominating and controlling, and Dongwoo was grateful to Sunggyu for too much.
But Dongwoo saw right through Chunji, and still loved him. Saw right through L, good points and bad ones, and still loved him. After all of these years, wouldn’t Dongwoo see right through Sunggyu, too?
Maybe it was like Sungyeol had said. “We get it. Who do you think you’re talking to? Everybody here knows what Sunggyu hyung’s like.” Maybe Dongwoo knew exactly who Sunggyu was.
And Dongwoo believed in him completely. Loved him completely. Just like Dongwoo loved Chunji, when everyone else thought that was the worst idea in the world.
“I’m sorry,” Chunji said. His emotions had been running so hot, he was about to start crying, just to let something out. He hugged Dongwoo, and when Dongwoo hugged him back, he was so relieved, his tears spilled over. He loved this hyung so much, he knew he was lucky. He’d thrown himself into the fire, trying to protect Dongwoo, and he’d almost lost Dongwoo doing it. Dongwoo’s wiry body and familiar embrace were a crucial part of his life, and he might not have gotten to have any of this, anymore.
Sunggyu could’ve gotten rid of him, for good.
Without losing Suho, without sacrificing Key and risking Woohyun. Sunggyu could’ve had everything he wanted, today. But he hadn’t made that move.
He had to have been tempted. Hell, in his place, Chunji might’ve done it. It wasn’t like Chunji had never plotted out how to get rid of L, before. But he’d put Dongwoo, and Dongwoo’s happiness, first. Ahead of his own.
Sunggyu had been wrong to scold Dongwoo. But he’d apologized for it.
Chunji had been right to defend Dongwoo, but he’d done it the wrong way. And he had to apologize for it, too.
“You can’t be so disrespectful,” Dongwoo said. “It’s going to be hard, but I can’t see you here, anymore. We’ll have to meet at your dorm from now on, or other places.”
“I know.” It was a harsh punishment. Chunji had been trying to see Dongwoo here, on purpose, to keep Dongwoo around the Infinite members. Now, seeing Dongwoo would mean pulling him away from his members. Which, for now, would have to mean seeing him less often. Chunji didn’t want to screw up Infinite’s healing process.
Oh, shit. He’d yelled at Sunggyu about the wedding. He definitely remembered that.
He remembered the look in Woohyun’s eyes.
How had Woohyun not ripped his skin off?
For possessive freaks, Dongwoo’s members had their shit together, sometimes.
Definitely more than Chunji did, today.
He loved Dongwoo a lot. He loved Dongwoo a hell of a lot, to flip his shit so completely. He’d never lost it over anyone but his own members, before. Or to protect himself. But he loved Dongwoo in a really deep way. And Dongwoo was so good, so honest, so genuine and open, thinking that anybody would try to crush that made him sick with rage. “I love you,” he said, wiping at his cheeks.
“I love you - - are you crying?” Looking intently into his face, Dongwoo dried his tears, brushing them away. “I should be glad that you have regrets, it should be good that you feel sorry, but this is worse. I don’t want you to cry. I don’t want any of this.”
“I know. I know, I’m sorry.” He hugged Dongwoo again. He wished that he’d been less hell-bent on confronting Sunggyu and more concerned with the long-term consequences. He’d been in a damn-the-consequences mood, and what the hell good did that do? If he wanted to protect Dongwoo, he had to think of Dongwoo’s long-term happiness, not just the immediate moment. More strategy, less emotion. He had to be smarter, more careful. He loved Dongwoo so much it made him react hard, but he couldn’t afford to be impulsive if he wanted this relationship to last.
Anyone could be a good boyfriend when things were going well. It was the most important to be a good boyfriend when things were going wrong. And he’d taken a bad situation and made it worse.
“Anybody else would hate me,” he admitted.
Dongwoo’s hands slid up from his neck, cupping the back of his head, and Dongwoo gazed into his eyes, their noses brushing. “I don’t know how to hate you.”
The tension in Infinite’s dorm was bad, and C.A.P. wanted to get out of there. But he had to make sure of some stuff, first.
Sunggyu was standing in the middle of the room with his arms crossed, waiting for them to leave.
Chunji walked over slowly. His head down, he wouldn’t meet Sunggyu’s eyes. Which was probably for the best, since Sunggyu’s expression was so furious and disgusted, C.A.P. wasn’t thrilled to be seeing it himself. “I’m sorry,” Chunji said quietly.
“Get out,” Sunggyu said. Chunji flinched. “I don’t want to hear from you. I already know what you think of me, I’ve heard enough.”
“He’s apologizing,” Dongwoo said. “Can’t you listen?”
“He was proud of himself for what he had to say, before,” Sunggyu said. “He’s not sorry for any of it.”
“I am sorry,” Chunji told the floor. “I was wrong. I should’ve just come to you and talked to you, instead of starting a fight.” He phrased everything in the most polite way possible. C.A.P. was proud of him for being willing to humble himself, when he’d erupted so furiously earlier.
“I won’t be seeing you again,” Sunggyu said. “And we won’t speak to each other again. So I’ll say what I have to say now.”
Dongwoo piled his hands on top of his head, looking miserable and helpless.
“I hope that you’ll take care of Dongwoo from now on,” Sunggyu said. “I hope that you’ll be able to look out for him without hurting him, because doing one isn’t an excuse to do the other.” Chunji was blinking, his eyes roaming the floor. “And I’m sorry that I called you names. You’re responsible for how you act, and I’m responsible for how I act, and I acted wrong.” His expression softened for a second, and then it hardened again. “Now get out.”
Chunji looked incredibly vulnerable, his throat working. Making a regretful sound, Dongwoo gathered him up and walked him to the door.
C.A.P. approached. He figured they were getting off easy. L and Changjo would be okay, and it wasn’t that bad for everyone else. Dongwoo and Chunji were still boyfriends, Sungyeol could still stop by to screw Niel, it would work out. “L and Changjo okay?” he asked, to make sure. If Sunggyu had second thoughts, he needed to know.
Sunggyu nodded. “It’s not Changjo’s fault that his hyungs are like this.”
“You’re throwing away Ricky?”
Sunggyu frowned at him. “No one said anything about throwing away Ricky. I’ll talk to him. I don’t need lectures on how to take care of my dongsaengs.”
C.A.P. dropped it. “You got any powder or cream or anything, before I walk out of here?”
Sunggyu glanced at his cheek, then nodded. “Maknae, take care of his face.”
A minute later, he was seated on the foot of Sungjong’s bed. Looking grim, Sungjong was covering up the bruise on his cheek. Not gently. He winced. “I can do it myself.”
“He told me to do it,” Sungjong said. He blinked unhappily, then pressed his lips together and kept working. “I listen to my hyungs.”
Yeah, yeah, C.A.P. had the worst members in the world, his dongsaengs were out of control. He’d heard it before. It wasn’t like he’d never noticed what they were like. “Haven’t talked to you lately. You okay?” Maybe that wasn’t the greatest question. “Besides this?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
He wondered what that was about. “Matters to me.”
Sungjong swallowed. “Does it?” he asked, toying with the makeup brush, looking down at his hands.
“Yeah.” He was kind of overloaded on other people’s emotions, but something was going on, here. “You okay?” he asked again.
Sungjong shot a quick look at the door, then cupped his unbruised cheek and pressed a light, fleeting kiss to his lips. “Go. Sunggyu hyung doesn’t want you here, and L hyung hates you, and - - just, just go.”
“We can still hang out,” he pointed out, getting up slowly. “I get why you wouldn’t want to,” he admitted. “But we can meet sometime, if you want.”
Sungjong mumbled, “Yeah,” and then looked directly at him with a pained, exasperated expression. “Just go.”
So he left.
Niel heard someone at the front door.
He peeked out of the kitchen.
“Who wants to tell the maknae?” C.A.P. asked, taking his shoes off.
“I’m going to bed,” Chunji said. “I’ll see everybody tomorrow.”
Niel checked the time. It was the middle of the afternoon.
Chunji walked right past Niel, went into his room, and closed the door.
“I’ll tell Ricky first,” C.A.P. said. “Is he here?”
“No.” Niel squinted as C.A.P. passed by. “Are you wearing make-up?”
“I will be happy not to,” he decided.
“Oh, you can’t go over to Infinite’s dorm anymore,” C.A.P. said. “Or their company building. But they can come over here, so, no big deal.”
He suspected that this was all a very big deal.
He’d wait a few days, let everything die down, and then ask questions. Yeah. That was the best move, here.
This didn’t have anything to do with Chunji sneaking out earlier, did it?
He was pretty sure that it did.
Should he have warned C.A.P. about that? At the time?
No. No, that wouldn’t have made a difference, right? No. He probably wasn’t to blame for any of this. Probably.
He shot a wary glance at C.A.P.’s back and slid back into the kitchen.
Suho picked up his phone. “EXO’s guardian leader speaking.”
“Hey,” C.A.P. said. “Oh. You’re in the country, right?”
He sighed. “I thought that I was a hoobae whose career you supported. I count on my sunbaes to show some interest. Yes, I’m in Seoul.”
“Can you check on L for me?”
“My L-ah? Did something happen?”
“Chunji decided that Sunggyu hyung’s not treating Dongwoo hyung like the precious creature that he is, and he took it out on Sunggyu hyung, and Sunggyu hyung took it badly, and, shit. Sunggyu hyung probably wanted to tell you this himself. I wasn’t thinking about that.”
This sounded like something that he needed to know about. “Where is everybody?” He had to see Sunggyu, he had to talk to Chunji, he had to check on Dongwoo.
“Teen Top isn’t allowed inside Infinite’s dorm anymore, except for Changjo. We can still all see each other, just not on Sunggyu hyung’s turf. I have to tell Changjo, and I’m not looking forward to it, but I have to do it now, before someone else gets to him first. I just, I hoped that you could check on L.”
“Sunggyu hyung’s upset.” He was trying to take this in stride, but it was hard. This was a really bad situation.
“L wasn’t there, I don’t know what he knows. I know he listens to you, so I thought, if you’d check on him. In case he takes it badly.”
“I think he’s at a photo shoot, is that today? I’ll talk to him. I’ll stop by your dorm soon, too. What did - - I’ll find that out later, we won’t discuss it over the phone.” He hadn’t seen any of this coming, and he felt rattled, but his thoughts were moving quickly, forming plans. He felt like he hadn’t slept in a week, and he’d been planning to go back to his dorm to crash, but this was too important. As soon as he got out of his meeting, he’d check on L. No, he needed details, first; it would do no good to talk to L if he only had half of the information. He had to talk to Sunggyu. “Thank you for letting me know. How’s Chunji?”
He didn’t even begrudge Chunji the rest. Sleeping meant staying out of trouble, and that was exactly where he wanted Chunji today. “I’ll see you soon.”
Changjo was leaning back in his chair, toying with his production software, mixing sounds, when C.A.P. walked in. “Hey,” he said, glancing up. He hadn’t expected to see C.A.P. in the building.
“Hey.” C.A.P. closed the door and adjusted his hat.
“Are you wearing make-up?”
“Yes, you are.” Wondering why, and wondering why C.A.P. was lying about it, he reached for C.A.P.’s face.
C.A.P. pushed his hand away. “I gotta talk to you.”
“About what?” It wasn’t regular make-up, it wasn’t a real stylist’s job. And C.A.P. didn’t have any schedules today. Had he been experimenting? Was he covering up pimples? Changjo peered at him.
“You’ll be fine, this isn’t about you, but-”
“Were you fighting?”
“Ya, listen. You heard the part about how this isn’t about you?”
He nodded, shifting in his chair. He felt like he needed to be ready to be on the move. Keeping his eyes on C.A.P., he slid his phone into his pocket.
“Chunji got upset about something Sunggyu hyung said to Dongwoo hyung. He flipped his shit and confronted Sunggyu hyung about it. Threw coffee in his face and cursed him out. Sunggyu hyung said that you and L can keep seeing each other like normal, but the rest of us can’t show up in Infinite’s dorm anymore, or their company building. Guess you’ll have it all to yourself from now on. Chunji and Dongwoo hyung can still see each other, just not there.”
Changjo processed that, then nodded, getting up.
“Chunji apologized to Sunggyu hyung,” C.A.P. added, moving in between him and the door. “Everything’s okay, for now. I don’t want you reacting to this. Sunggyu hyung’s not in the mood for it. You got through it, he’s already making concessions for you and L, leave it the way it is.”
He needed to get to L. “Who hit you?”
“Sunggyu hyung?” he guessed.
“I can take it.”
“Where’s Chunji hyung? What was he upset about?”
“At the dorm, sleeping. Something about Sunggyu hyung lecturing Dongwoo hyung and making him feel ashamed of himself for the way he has sex. Sunggyu hyung apologized for it, it’s not a big deal.”
“No, it was cold.”
“Does Woohyun hyung know?”
“Yeah, he was there.”
Changjo nodded. “I have to go,” he said, passing C.A.P. “Call Suho hyung for me.”
“I already did.”
In the hallway, he pivoted. “What’d he hit you for?”
“Not controlling Chunji better.”
He nodded. He processed that as he walked, but in the background. His primary objective was to get to L; everything else was secondary.
Sungyeol figured that they should tell L in person. And the sooner, the better. There was nothing for L to get upset about, but L was really serious about Changjo, and if shit had gone down between their members, he might get worried about being cut off from Changjo. Or something. L took bad news hard sometimes.
After finding out where L’s photo shoot was, Sungyeol got a manager to drive him over. He was getting out of the van when he got a text.
Changjo. Across the street.
He turned, scanning the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. There was a shoe store, a cell phone accessories store - - and Changjo, coming out of a café.
He moved away from the van, waiting, and Changjo jogged across the street to him.
He felt weird, tense, for a second, but he didn’t have a problem with Changjo. Now that the big, ugly scene was over, he wanted to clear the air with Chunji, but he couldn’t hold anything against Changjo.
“Here to see L?” he guessed.
Changjo nodded. “I was going to call him when he came out.”
“You can come in.”
“What, we’re just visiting the set. Come on.”
They went in together. As they entered, Changjo tugged at the hem of his T-shirt and ran a hand over his hair.
L was in front of a sky blue backdrop, holding up a dish of candy. He gave the camera a warm, inviting look, and then he held up a piece of candy like he was about to eat it.
“Is it delicious?” Sungyeol called.
He looked over, distracted, leaning to see around the camera and past the bright lights. He looked puzzled, and then he recognized Sungyeol, and then he lit up. “Hyung,” he said, laughing. And then he saw Changjo, and he dropped the piece of candy, covering his mouth with his hand. “Ya! What, what’s this?”
“We’re not interrupting, keep working,” Sungyeol said, laughing at him.
“Oh my god.” Bowing to the photographer, hastily apologizing, L handed the bowl to an assistant. And then he rushed over and hugged Sungyeol.
“Like you haven’t seen me in years,” Sungyeol said. It was really tempting to ruffle his hair and tease him for being so emotional, but Sungyeol didn’t want to mess up his styling.
“You came.” L hugged Changjo like he’d never seen anyone so precious.
Blushing, Changjo squeezed him. “I was just hanging out, and Sungyeol hyung invited me in.”
“Go, go,” Sungyeol said, tugging L off of Changjo, pushing him away. “You’re working.”
“We’ll wait over here,” Changjo said.
“We’ll take you to lunch after,” Sungyeol said.
L looked really pleased, still smiling at them, blushing. Even while he drifted away, he barely stopped gazing at them with his heart in his eyes. When he finally took his place in front of the camera, he laughed and bowed. “I’m sorry, I’ll work harder.”
“It’s good, keep smiling like that,” the photographer said, and the assistant handed him the bowl of candy.
Sungyeol pulled Changjo aside. They sat on folding chairs against the wall, out of the way but where L could still see them. “You heard about Chunji?” he asked quietly.
Changjo nodded. “I only know what C.A.P. hyung told me.”
“You’re still okay. You and L.”
Changjo nodded again. “Were you there?”
“Tell me everything.”
“I can just tell you and L at the same time, it’s a lot to explain, I don’t want to go over it in public.”
Changjo shook his head. “I have to know everything so I know what to say when L hyung gets upset.”
Sungyeol wanted to argue, but, yeah. He could see that. That was smart, actually. Slouching down, covering his mouth with one hand, he started talking.
Sunggyu didn’t want to see anybody, so he didn’t. He went in his room and locked the door. When his phone rang, he hid it in his desk drawer and ignored it. When Woohyun and Dongwoo knocked on his door a thousand times, he ignored that, too.
He had a lot of reflecting to do.
He felt so conflicted, he scolded himself in every direction. He was angry with himself for being so hard-headed. He was angry with himself for being so soft-hearted. He was angry with himself for being inflexible. He was angry with himself for giving in on so much. He’d been too hard on everyone. He was too easy on everyone.
He heard Young Money’s voice. Inside the dorm! He flipped the light off and made sure that the door was locked and threw himself onto his bed, closing his eyes and pretending to sleep.
Woohyun knocked at his door. “Hyung? Hyung.” More tapping. “Suho’s here.”
He was being a coward. But that dongsaeng was full of too many convictions! And Money was too emotionally invested, had too many opinions about Infinite and Teen Top, had too many ideas about everyone getting along. He didn’t need to hear all of that, now.
“Is he in there?” Money asked.
He dragged the pillow over his head. He was asleep, for all they knew, he couldn’t hear a thing.
“He’s here,” Woohyun said.
“Maybe he’ll want to talk, later. And I want to see L, will he be back soon? Can I wait, or am I in the way?”
“In the way, the dorm isn’t that small,” Woohyun said, chuckling. “You can stay, we can call L and ask him when he’s coming back. Have you eaten?”
Good. His dongsaengs were bonding without him. See, everything was going well.
He rolled onto his back and sat up. Drawing his knees up, he scratched the back of his head. He didn’t know how it was so easy to want to give his best to his dongsaengs, and so hard to get it right.
Sungyeol was prepared for a lot of reactions. He was braced for L to get pissed off, or to get possessive and clingy about Changjo, or to decide to seek vengeance in Chunji’s blood. Or maybe L would decide not to care.
Instead, he looked wounded, and he insisted on getting back to the dorm right then and there. Sungyeol had to finish up the details in the van.
Sunggyu wondered what Woohyun and Money were talking about.
What did they usually talk about, when it was just the two of them? He’d always wondered. He couldn’t even flatter his ego and imagine that they compared notes on how he was in bed, because Money didn’t discuss those things with Woohyun. So what did they talk about? Ballads? Workout routines? How to turn smart, pragmatic hyungs into complete fools?
He slipped out of his room. Listening, curious, he padded around the dorm.
It was quiet. He heard the beeping and music of a videogame, turned low. Sneaking around, he peeked into the front room.
Woohyun was playing the game.
Money was asleep on the couch with his head in Woohyun’s lap.
It was surprising. Were they so close?
Sunggyu had never seen anything like this. He felt astonished. It was such a valuable moment for him, such a treasure, that he froze there, not wanting to interrupt, not wanting to shatter it. His adorable, determined Young Money. His suave, smart Woohyun.
Money looked cute and innocent, asleep. Woohyun was protecting him, taking care of him.
Sunggyu hadn’t realized how important it would be to him to see this. His dongsaengs together. He knew that Money had been trying to be Woohyun’s friend, and sometimes they met up here and there, but things always seemed a little uneasy, between them. Like they weren’t quite sure about each other. He’d just hoped for peace between them; he hadn’t thought that he could have much else. The two of them were too different, too opinionated, too full of their own ideas and pride. They thought too much of themselves to think much of each other.
But if they could be close. If they could be comfortable together, happy together, real friends who confided in each other. Could they have that? Could he have that?
He’d wished for a lot of things to be different, lately. He’d hoped and planned and made resolutions about what he wanted, going forward. But this. If he wanted anything, he wanted this. Other wishes would be nice. This would change his life.
Dongwoo wandered out of his room. Spotting Suho, he caught himself, shushing himself. He ambled over and sat down beside Woohyun’s feet. “Is Gyu hyung up yet?” he whispered.
“He’s over there, spying on Money,” Woohyun whispered.
Ya! “I’m not spying,” Sunggyu whispered, indignant.
“Oh, hyung.” Dongwoo started to get up, and then, as the front door opened, he stayed down, twisting around to see who was coming in.
Sungyeol walked in with L and Changjo. Sunggyu guessed that he wasn’t surprised to see L and Changjo together.
L rushed right over, landing on his knees beside Dongwoo. “Hyung.” He kissed Dongwoo on the mouth and ran his hands over Dongwoo’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Are you okay?”
Not liking the feeling that he was lurking in his own dorm, Sunggyu went over and straddled the armrest by Money’s feet.
“Oh, L-ah.” Dongwoo pulled L closer, and L hugged him. “How was your shoot, were the candies good? Did you get samples?”
Laughing, L caressed Dongwoo’s hand, tangled their fingers together. “It was good, hyung. I had visitors, it was nice. How are you? Sungyeol hyung told me about Chunji.” He was doing that thing where he gazed soulfully at Dongwoo with a fond smile, like he saw beautiful worlds in Dongwoo’s eyes.
Sunggyu had done a whole lot of foolish things for that smile, and he couldn’t regret any of them.
Money was waking up. He made a confused noise, and then he pushed himself up, looking around. As he noticed everybody, he looked like he wanted to go in all directions at once, wanted to check on everybody he saw.
Then, because he was Money, he paused to smooth down his hair and fix his clothes first.
“He apologized to Sunggyu hyung,” Dongwoo said. “That’s a good step. I know he’s sorry. I feel bad that he went so far for me. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s done, and we can’t erase it. We have to face it and learn from it. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to learn, this time. I guess we both have a lot of reflecting to do.”
“I’m sorry,” L said, squeezing his hand.
Sunggyu was a little disgruntled not to be getting any of this sympathy. He was the one who’d spent all morning reeking of coffee.
“I’m sorry, too,” Dongwoo said. “I’ve taken responsibility, it’s my fault that Changjo’s members can’t come over anymore. It’ll be hard on everyone.”
“You missed a big morning,” Sungyeol told Suho.
“I heard about it,” Suho said. “I’m responsible for what happened, too, I-”
“You are not.” The sound of Woohyun’s chuckle, the indulgent smile that he showed Suho, made Sunggyu’s heart flutter. He wanted this between them, this easy familiarity, this comfortableness.
“I am, I-”
“You’re not, I already told you.”
“I’m his hyung, I’m his - - his step-leader. If his behavior’s like this, then I failed, somewhere, and-”
“Are you responsible for everything that happens?” Woohyun asked.
“I’m responsible for Chunji.”
“What’s a step-leader, is that like a stepparent?” Sungyeol asked.
“Or a stepladder?” Dongwoo asked.
“He’s pretty short, for a ladder,” Sungyeol said.
“Yes, he’s a tiny guardian leader,” Woohyun said, patting Suho’s back.
“No one ever takes anything seriously,” Suho complained.
“I think it’s serious,” L said, rising from his crouch beside Dongwoo. Licking his lips, he gradually met Sunggyu’s eyes. “Can I talk to you?”
He knew that look. He felt it the whole way through his body. For an instant, he told himself to say no. He’d promised to make an effort to exercise more self-discipline, to be sexually responsible, not to give in to every little whim. It was the middle of the day, there were all of these people around, he couldn’t just take off to indulge some dongsaeng’s sexual urges.
But he knew that look. He knew what it meant. And if his dongsaeng needed him, he couldn’t deny it.
He nodded and led the way to his room. When L was in, he made sure to close the door. L moved close against him, kissing him. The heat of L’s passion for him turned him on, woke up his lust. Cupping the back of L’s head, he took control of their kiss, his touch gentle, his kisses deep.
Moaning, L pressed against him, backing him against the edge of his desk. L’s hands were all over him, greedy, kneading. “Thank you,” L whispered against his mouth.
“For what?” he asked, but he knew for what. “You don’t have to thank me for that, you don’t have to thank me like this.”
Making soft, breathy sounds, vulnerable but determined, passionate, needy, L kissed him deeply. “I love you,” L whispered. “Thank you, thank you.”
“I didn’t want you getting hurt just because everyone else is causing trouble,” he said, stroking L’s hair. “I didn’t want you suffering because of other people’s stupid choices, I’m tired of that.”
L’s smile was like a sunrise, slow and warm, lighting his expression. Love shone in his eyes. “Thank you,” he murmured, kissing Sunggyu tenderly, and then he slid down onto his knees.
Changjo had to endure Suho being embarrassing all over him, in front of everyone. Suho wanted to pet him and ask about his members and give him a thousand messages to relay. Finally it got through to Suho that he hadn’t even seen his members aside from like thirty seconds hearing the news from C.A.P., and that maybe it would be easier if Suho just went over to Teen Top’s dorm later to see them all for himself.
Waiting for L to finish, having no idea how long it might take, Changjo talked to Dongwoo. He wanted to know how all of the Infinite members were taking it, and it was already obvious that how Dongwoo felt about it was going to have a lot of influence on how L felt about it.
Dongwoo seemed mostly worried. He was burdened by feeling responsible, and he seemed bewildered by how his life had suddenly gone so wrong. He didn’t want to come down too hard on Chunji, but he had it in his head that attacking Sunggyu was practically unforgivable, so he was helplessly taking the blame on himself.
Sungyeol said, “We’ve all gone off on Sunggyu hyung for something. Don’t your members get pissed off at you, sometimes?” he asked Suho.
“There are different ways of showing disrespect,” Suho said. “But, yes, it happens, sometimes.”
“I’ve never,” Changjo said. “I would never raise my voice to a hyung.”
When everyone finished cracking up over that, Suho asked Sungyeol, “You aren’t disrespectful to Sunggyu hyung, are you?”
Woohyun laughed. “‘Hawaii, hyung, I want to go to Hawaii!’”
Sungyeol blushed, laughing. “God, don’t bring that up!”
“That was so bad, you cried so much over it,” Dongwoo told Sungyeol. “We had a few days off, it was right at the end of a promotional cycle, was it 2012?”
“We hadn’t had a single hour off since we’d debuted,” Sungyeol explained. “We finally had a couple of days. Everybody else was just going home, they wanted to see their parents, but I wanted to go somewhere! Do something! Have a vacation, for once. So I got a ticket to go to Hawaii. I booked a hotel room, it had this really big balcony.”
“He printed out photos of the hotel and hung them up on the wall,” Woohyun added.
“Didn’t you pack your suitcase early?” Dongwoo asked.
“I was looking forward to it!” Sungyeol exclaimed. “I was all ready to go. And then management booked us for a festival right in the middle of it. Some concert in Vietnam, and interviews and stuff, while we were there. All of a sudden we had a hundred new schedules.”
“No more Hawaii?” Suho guessed.
“No freaking Hawaii!” Sungyeol exclaimed, and everyone laughed. Dongwoo leaned against Changjo, rubbing his thigh. “I was so pissed off, I wanted to just get on the plane, anyway.”
“He showed up to practice in shorts and a straw hat and one of those Hawaiian print shirts, with the big flowers,” Woohyun said.
“It was my vacation time! Those were my vacation clothes!” he insisted. Dongwoo was cracking up.
“A foreign concert’s a good opportunity,” Suho said.
“Ya, don’t take management’s side,” Sungyeol complained. “Ah, leaders are all the same.”
“You yelled at Sunggyu hyung?” Suho asked.
“He wouldn’t show me any sympathy! ‘We’re all giving up our vacations, this is what we signed up for, this is what it takes,’ he lectured me for twenty-four hours straight.”
“He cried so much,” Dongwoo said. “He wouldn’t get over it for anything.”
“It was going to be a good vacation!” Sungyeol exclaimed.
“Ya, tell the rest of the story,” Woohyun chided.
“Did the concert get a good response?” Suho asked.
“No, it was terrible, actually,” Sungyeol said. “It was pouring rain, the sound system kept going out, the crowd was full of bored grandpas.”
“Oh, Vietnamese Inspirit is older than I thought,” Suho said, and they laughed.
“After the concert, we went back to the hotel,” Sungyeol said. “Sunggyu hyung took me down to the hotel pool, and bought me expensive fruity drinks, and he got Sungjong to be our pool boy. I’d booked a massage at the Hawaiian hotel, some expensive treatment, and Sunggyu hyung took me to Dongwoo hyung’s room like Dongwoo hyung was some formal massage therapist, and Dongwoo hyung gave me a massage, and then Sunggyu hyung gave me his card and I took L to dinner.”
“He gave you his card,” Suho repeated, impressed. “Oh, he really was taking care of you well.”
“It was a good night,” Sungyeol said. He grinned. “L puts out on the first date.”
Dongwoo hooted with laughter, and Suho blushed and scolded Sungyeol, and Changjo wondered if it was a coincidence that Woohyun had brought up this Hawaii story. It had done a good job of reminding everybody that even when Sunggyu had to be hard on them, he went out of his way to be thoughtful and generous, too.
It wasn’t necessarily some underhanded, manipulative move. It was something a lot of idols did. They were trapped with their members in a relationship they mostly couldn’t get out of, and they had to deal with the negative parts of that relationship somehow. It was easier to put up with the crap if they could remind themselves of the better moments. Whenever Ricky and Changjo were being punished, and they were trapped in their room stewing, they’d spend a while complaining to each other about their awful hyungs, and they’d moan and dredge up every old grudge they had against C.A.P., and they’d plot revenge. And then, after a while, they’d start reminiscing about good times, about funny moments, about times that C.A.P. had been good to them. It was a pretty natural process; Changjo was as guilty of it as anybody. He couldn’t get rid of C.A.P. - - he didn’t really want to - - so he had to make himself feel better about how C.A.P. treated him, somehow. And reminding himself of the times that C.A.P. had been good to him made it easier to swallow the times that C.A.P. came down too hard on him and hurt his feelings and pissed him off.
Sungyeol turned to Changjo and said, “Did you,” and then he cut himself off, waving a hand. “I shouldn’t ask that.”
“What?” Changjo asked. “Did I what?”
“If it’s Changjo, whatever you’re asking, the answer’s yes,” Suho said. Changjo laughed, and Dongwoo squeezed his thigh.
“I don’t want to bring up bad memories,” Sungyeol said. “Did Chunji really tell you to die in a pit?”
He was really glad that L wasn’t in the room to hear this. “Probably, when?”
“He - - ah, I feel weird saying it to your face,” Sungyeol said. He glanced at Dongwoo. “Something about how you’re a freak and you should spend the rest of your life alone in a pit.”
“Oh, yeah.” He nodded, remembering that one. Suho’s expression wasn’t good. “It’s just because I lost something, and he thought that I stole it and was hiding it from him on purpose. I told him that I didn’t know where it was, I really apologized, but he didn’t believe me.”
“Something of his?” Sungyeol asked.
“Yeah. I felt really bad, I cried like a little kid, I looked all over the dorm for it. I even looked in places I knew it wouldn’t be, just in case it got there somehow. C.A.P. hyung found it in the laundry and gave it to me and told me to give it back to Chunji hyung like I’d been the one who found it, so I could get credit for it, but I felt so bad that when I gave it to him I suddenly confessed about that, too.”
“What was it?” Woohyun asked.
“Don’t get mad,” Changjo told Dongwoo. Dongwoo looked surprised, fingers tapping over his thigh. “It really was an accident. It was that bracelet you gave him, the one he wears on his ankle. I really never meant to lose it.”
“He said all of that to you over a bracelet?” Dongwoo asked. “But I could have bought him another one.”
“Shit, Chunji goes the hell off when he gets upset about you,” Sungyeol told Dongwoo. “Don’t break up with him, he’ll throw coffee on everybody he sees.”
“Changjo-ah, if you’d stop taking people’s things, they wouldn’t jump to conclusions when something goes missing,” Suho said.
He groaned, flopping bonelessly against Dongwoo, too burdened by this hyung to take it anymore.
L came out. His posture was relaxed, and he came around the end of the couch. Crouching down beside the armrest, he smiled up at Woohyun. “Can we talk later?”
“Sure.” Woohyun tickled him under the chin.
L took Woohyun’s hand and kissed it, then gazed at Changjo. “My room?”
Changjo nodded and got up.
As soon as they were in L’s room, L hugged him, wrapping all around him.
He had a lot of feelings about what was going on between their members. He had a lot of ideas and opinions about it, and he was already forming some early plans. But for a minute, he let go of all of that and just hugged L back. He’d been hanging out, going through his day like nothing was going on, with no clue. He might’ve lost L today. He might’ve lost L for good today.
“I love you,” L whispered, arms still close around him.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He reflected for a second, then pried the words out of his heart. “I love you, too.”
L made a muffled sound of relief.
“We can’t do anything now,” Changjo said. “We have to wait. Give everybody time. They’re still reacting, we don’t know how this is going to shake out.”
“It’s going to be hard on Dongwoo hyung, feeling like there’s so much distance between Sunggyu hyung and his boyfriend,” L said against his shoulder. “It’s going to be too much of a burden. And if your members aren’t welcome here, it’s going to be hard on you, too, you’re going to feel like it’s an insult, you’re going to get resentful.”
Yeah. That sounded right. L knew him really well. They hadn’t even talked yet, and L had already figured out how he was going to feel two months from now. L knew him this well, and he was okay with that, and his acceptance of it was what made him shiver and hug L more tightly. “We can’t do anything about it tonight or tomorrow. There are too many hyungs involved, and Sunggyu hyung’s going to need time to get over it. If we move too early, he’ll have his guard up.”
“They can still see each other.” L sounded like he was reminding himself. “Dongwoo hyung can still see Chunji, they’re still together. And I still have you.” He made a delighted sound and buried his face against Changjo’s neck. “I still have you,” he whispered, and he sounded so blissful about it, Changjo whispered, “I love you,” again, just for him, really soft, like a secret.
When Sunggyu walked back into the front room, Suho got up. “You’re okay?” he asked, approaching Sunggyu. “I’m sorry about Chunji, I’ll talk to him. You’re okay?” he asked again. His fingers drifted over Sunggyu’s shirt, low on Sunggyu’s torso, plucking lightly at the fabric. “Woohyun said that it was cold coffee, you weren’t hurt?”
“He’s been talking to you? You’ve been getting along?” Sunggyu’s hands reached for Suho, brushed over his waist, and then pulled back again, like Sunggyu wasn’t sure about touching him.
“Yes, he told me everything. I heard it from C.A.P. first, but we were on the phone, he couldn’t go into detail.” He felt himself frown, his eyebrows drawing together. “I’m very upset with Chunji, I can’t believe that he’d go so far. It’s good that he has an instinct to protect his hyung, but that’s no way to go about it. I’ll talk to him.”
“How many people think that my own dongsaeng needs to be protected from me?” Sunggyu demanded. “Are you afraid of me, do you need bodyguards, need someone to shield you when I’m around?” he asked Dongwoo.
“I don’t need to be shielded from you,” Dongwoo said. “You’re not dangerous. A good hyung should be good for you.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Suho told Sunggyu, keeping his hands to himself. “Of course Dongwoo hyung doesn’t need protection. It’s been exciting around here today, maybe you and your members are tired of other idols showing up. I just wanted to see you, with my own eyes, but I’ll go now, so you can be together.”
Sunggyu reached for him again, drawing him closer. “You’re going?”
Gazing into Sunggyu’s eyes, he felt breathless. His heart was trembling with the kind of excitement he only ever felt around Sunggyu, an anticipation that something incomparable was about to happen. “I don’t have to. Whatever you want.”
Sunggyu hesitated, hands faltering on his waist. He wasn’t used to Sunggyu being so uncertain with him. “Maybe,” Sunggyu began, and he wondered if he’d gotten the wrong signal.
Sound blared, the videogame soundtrack soaring. “Oh, shit,” Woohyun said, laughing, “sorry.”
“Are you on the ninth level already?” Dongwoo asked.
“Yeah, I told you, it’s easy,” Woohyun said, and a blast of staccato beeps came from the speakers.
Sunggyu glared at the TV, looked conflicted for a second, and said, “We can’t talk here, like this.”
“We could talk in your room?” he suggested. “I want to hear everything from you, I think that we should talk about it.”
Sunggyu hesitated, then nodded. “You’re going to have a lot you want to say to me about it. I can listen.”
“I wasn’t even there, I want you to tell me about it,” Suho said, following him. “What would I have to say?”
“You always have a lot to say, you’re very chatty,” Sunggyu said.
Stepping in, Suho closed the door. “How did it start? Woohyun said that you just opened the door and Chunji was already there.”
Reaching past him, Sunggyu opened the door. “He was waiting for me. I wasn’t even awake yet. I didn’t know what was happening, I didn’t know if it was a prank or a hidden camera.”
“He at least should’ve given you a chance to talk.” Suho sat on the bed.
“He didn’t give me a chance to do anything! I was still half-asleep and there was coffee up my nose and some dongsaeng was cursing at me, calling the wedding off!”
“He called the wedding off?” Suho demanded. “Now, that’s going too far! It’s not his place to say that!”
“It wasn’t his place to say any of it!”
Suho pouted, feeling regretful. He hated to think of Sunggyu enduring such deep insults. “I think that I need to comfort you.”
“Who’s the dongsaeng, here? I don’t need to be comforted.”
“It’ll make me feel better. I’m hurt, I’m angry, I want to take care of you.” Looking up at Sunggyu, he patted the bed. “Will you sit with me?”
Wincing, Sunggyu tugged at the hem of his shirt. “It won’t just be sitting.”
The sudden throb of heat between his thighs made Suho shudder. Wanting, wanting badly, he swallowed. “I know.”
Sunggyu scratched the back of his head, looking doubtful. “I’m not in a very nice mood, today. I might not be very considerate. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
He knew how hard Sunggyu worked to be careful with him, to be gentle and considerate. And he knew how intense the experience was for him, even with that extra effort. He could hardly stand to imagine what it would do to him, if Sunggyu weren’t so generous.
Feeling very bold, very daring, he scooted deliberately up the bed, sitting by the pillows.
Sunggyu gestured at him helplessly. “Ya, don’t be like this. Don’t do things you aren’t ready for.”
He felt determined, but he was quivering on the inside, excitement bubbling up in him. He took off his shirt and set it aside. “I’m ready.”
Breathing in, Sunggyu rubbed his hands on his thighs. “I’ll just do a little,” he decided, and he approached the bed.
It was really about to happen. Feeling a thrill, Suho sank back against the pillows as Sunggyu climbed on top of him. He felt irresistible, like he was too tempting for Sunggyu to refuse, and his heart was pounding with anticipation.
Sunggyu’s hands were assertive, matter-of-factly claiming the right to touch him, positioning him right where Sunggyu wanted him, and he moaned, his back arching. “Just a little,” Sunggyu repeated, kissing him.
At first, he was so turned on, he just kissed back, moaning, running his hands over Sunggyu’s chest, too aroused to think of anything. He never did much thinking when Sunggyu was kissing him; he just fell completely into pleasure and trusted Sunggyu to guide him through it.
But the way Sunggyu kissed him was different, tonight. It was more aggressive. And everything was moving so much faster; Sunggyu was undressing him already, impatient with his clothes. There was something a little - - not careless, really, just less careful. It was like he was having sex with a hyung who wasn’t his boyfriend, a hyung who wanted him but didn’t cherish him the same way.
He’d never had sex with someone who wasn’t shielding him through it. It was so exciting, he felt like he was taking an exhilarating risk, swinging out on a trapeze without the safety of a net, nothing but open air underneath him. Thrilled, wondering, he swung out and let go, trusting in Sunggyu to catch him.
Once he had Suho completely naked, Sunggyu shed his own clothes. His kisses were demanding, dominating, and Suho couldn’t have loved it more. It was exciting, it was new. The more Sunggyu took control, the noisier and more energetic Suho got in response. Being in the hands of someone so assertive about being in charge made Suho feel free, free to react to what felt good, free to fling caution to the wind. He didn’t have to worry about where this was all going, how he was responding, whether he was embarrassing himself. Sunggyu was so completely in command, none of that was his responsibility anymore.
He was so turned on that he masturbated enthusiastically. His hard, throbbing cock was as demanding as Sunggyu’s kisses. When Sunggyu kissed his neck, his chest, Sunggyu’s mouth seemed more aggressive than he remembered, the sting of teeth sharper, and he writhed, moaning, “Please, hyung, please,” trusting Sunggyu to give him what he needed. Grinding against him, Sunggyu cupped his ass, and he was in paradise, arching, squirming in Sunggyu’s hold, begging for more.
Pleasure was burning hot in him. Sunggyu’s aggression and complete command made him feel like he was on a wild ride, Sunggyu in the driver’s seat, the world speeding by. When Sunggyu suddenly rolled them over, he was already so turned on, the slide and twist of their bodies together almost got him off. Groaning, he shuddered in Sunggyu’s hold.
“You see my cock,” Sunggyu said, and pushed on his shoulder, pushed him down. “You know what hyung likes.”
God, oh, yes, he knew. Mouth opening eagerly, he slid down. Sunggyu’s cock was already stiff, and he wrapped his hand around the shaft. Giving head was already one of his favorite things, and it was always a special pleasure, with Sunggyu. Moaning, he wrapped his lips around the head. His own cock throbbed, and as he lowered his head, swallowing Sunggyu’s cock, he rubbed himself against the sheets. His hips worked desperately as he did his best to please his hyung. Sunggyu’s cock felt huge in his mouth, stretching his lips, sliding down his throat, and he rutted joyfully. He was so turned on that he was drooling a lot, slurping noisily, sucking hard, and then he was coming, rubbing himself off against Sunggyu’s sheets. Moaning around the girth of Sunggyu’s erection, he spurted in violent pulses, shaking all over. He’d come so fast, so urgently, he felt dizzy with ecstasy, and he groaned, lifting his head from Sunggyu’s erection and then diving on for more, bobbing enthusiastically, mindlessly humping the soggy mess he’d made on Sunggyu’s bed.
“Here, now,” Sunggyu said, pulling his hair and guiding his head aside, nudging him with a knee. He didn’t know where Sunggyu wanted him, but he didn’t have to know; Sunggyu put him there, turning around, pushing and positioning, until he was on his hands and knees facing the opposite direction, looking at the foot of the bed. Sunggyu was behind him, angling his hips, thumbing him open. He groaned, shuddering, when he felt Sunggyu’s finger push into him. “That’s it, just what hyung wants,” Sunggyu said, and it didn’t sound like a flirtatious compliment meant to titillate him, it sounded like arrogant satisfaction. He moaned, anticipation burning through him, hot and excited. He could tell, from the way Sunggyu was stroking him, that this wasn’t about his pleasure. It was about Sunggyu, what Sunggyu wanted, Sunggyu’s pleasure. He wasn’t used to that; Sunggyu always put him first, always thought of his desires, designed sex to make him feel good. Sunggyu was being selfish, and he found that incredibly erotic.
Moaning, he writhed, squirming on Sunggyu’s fingers, trying to stay where Sunggyu wanted him but needing to move, needing more, aching to be fucked. “Do you want it, is this what you want?” He wanted to hear more. This was all about Sunggyu’s experience, about Sunggyu’s pleasure, and he craved feedback, needed to hear that Sunggyu’s desires were being fulfilled.
“It’s what hyung wants, it’s what hyung’s going to have.” Sunggyu sounded entitled to it, except that it was him, Suho, Suho’s body. It was shocking, and Suho gasped, “Oh, oh, god, hyung, like this?” in a sudden flurry of ecstasy. Sunggyu thrust into him. It felt abrupt, a swift plunge, his body suddenly full of the sizeable length of Sunggyu’s cock. His responsive cry was out of his control, an involuntary howl at the sudden invasion. Being penetrated so crudely was an intensity of sensation his body adjusted to before his mind could comprehend it, and he was bucking eagerly before he could get control of his jubilant cries. Stretched wide around Sunggyu’s girth, shoved full, he wriggled enthusiastically, making needy, panting sounds. Was that what Sunggyu wanted, to fuck him like this, was this what would make Sunggyu feel good? He felt so flattered, he rubbed at his nipples, preening.
“Yeah.” Grunting, Sunggyu was thrusting into him hard. It was more forceful than he was used to, and it kept him jerking on the bed, one deep jolt after another. He clutched at the bed, tried to hold on, but Sunggyu’s hammering thrusts were pushing him, making him slide along the mattress. Just when he was gasping, slipping, Sunggyu snatched him back, yanking him back for another hard thrust, controlling him, always in charge.
Moaning happily, he arched in Sunggyu’s grasp. “Oh, oh, hyung!” Sunggyu wanted this from him, Sunggyu liked it? “Yes, oh, oohh! Oh-oh-ouhh!” It seemed like Sunggyu could be doing anything in that moment, could choose any activity, any position, any partner, and he was aglow with pleasure at being Sunggyu’s choice. “Yes, please, ah, please!” He loved Sunggyu so much, trusted Sunggyu so completely, he felt uninhibited joy in this experience, felt the kind of deep, overwhelming ecstasy of sex with a dazzling, shocking edge of intensity. “It’s big, it’s so big,” he moaned, as Sunggyu drove him along the mattress again. “You’re fucking me so hard, hyung, please.”
“Please what?” Sunggyu demanded, and when Sunggyu thrust into him again, he cried out, a wild sound shocked out of him. He hadn’t realized that Sunggyu could fuck him even harder. Wailing ecstatically, he writhed at each explosive bolt of pleasure. “Begging for it?”
Sunggyu’s challenging, imperious tone was so familiar, he groaned. This electrifying experience came from his safe, generous hyung; love washed through him. “Yes, yes, please.” His cock was straining, every thrust bringing a new throb of pleasure, but he needed to grip the mattress; he couldn’t spare a hand to touch himself. “Please, hyung, I need you.”
“Need what?” Sunggyu popped out of him, and he moaned, disoriented, slumping in a confused sprawl, lost without Sunggyu inside of him. But Sunggyu was already handling him, rolling him, angling him, and he was still catching his breath when he was on his back, his knees pushed to his shoulders, Sunggyu right on top of him.
Looking up and seeing Sunggyu there, the right to claim him burning in Sunggyu’s eyes, Suho moaned, panting with desire, love pounding in his chest. “Yes, yes.” Sunggyu put a hand down, and when he felt Sunggyu’s fat cockhead nudging against him, pushing in where he craved it, he started masturbating, moaning encouragement, desperate for it. “Please, I need you, it’s you, I need you.”
“Need this?” Sunggyu asked, and thrust into him with one deep push, entering him all at once. “This is what you’re begging for, this is what you want?”
Sunggyu was thrusting into him steadily, fast enough to make everything seem urgent, pleasure flaring and sparking deep inside of him. “Yes, ah, yes!” Crying out, he jacked himself with Sunggyu’s thrusts, matching the intense pace. A bead of sweat dropped from Sunggyu’s chin, and he licked it from his upper lip, groaning as the exquisite salt exploded over his tongue. “More, oohhh, please, hyung, yes.”
On his back, with Sunggyu on top of him, Sunggyu so aggressive, so dominant, stuffing him full of cock, he was in paradise. The thrill of being fucked so hard, of being claimed so shamelessly, had him coming in chaotic spurts, cum arcing over his head. The power of his orgasm made him feel so completely fulfilled, as he writhed on Sunggyu’s cock, he rubbed stray drops of cum over his abs, rubbed sweat over his chest, pinched his nipples so they’d stand out nice and red for Sunggyu to look at. He wanted Sunggyu to like fucking him, wanted Sunggyu to get off on him, wanted to look sexy for his hyung.
Gazing up at Sunggyu, he was in love with the black fringe of Sunggyu’s eyelashes, in love with the pink sensuality of Sunggyu’s parted lips, in love with the deep, rocking aggression of Sunggyu’s thrusts. So deep, driving right to the center of him, taking over completely.
Grunting, lips curling in a grimace, a snarl, Sunggyu came. He saw the spasm of tension cross Sunggyu’s face, gasped as Sunggyu drove into him with extra force. Staring down at him, arrogant, conquering, daring him to object, Sunggyu ejaculated in him.
Shivering, he ached. “Mine,” he whispered, as Sunggyu spurted deep inside of him. His hand slid down over his abs as he arched. “It’s mine, now.”
With a final grunt, Sunggyu pulled out of him. Abandoned him, crawled right off of him, collapsing beside him, stretching out, finished with him.
His heart was pounding so furiously, it felt like it took forever to come down from his high. He kept trying to understand what had just happened, but it was too intense to comprehend. He knew this side of Sunggyu, but he’d never come in contact with it, sexually. Never like this. He felt overwhelmed and overjoyed. This was a rollercoaster he was going to need to ride again.
Feeling shy, but trusting, he rolled over.
Sunggyu was on his back, breathing evenly, eyes closed. His body was relaxed, his pale skin soft and smooth, inviting.
Licking his lips, Suho ran his hand up Sunggyu’s arm. Only then did he realize how much he’d kept his hands to himself, earlier. Sunggyu had pushed, positioned, manhandled him, decided for him how he would move and pose and submit, but he’d mostly touched only himself.
The thought made him wish for more skinship. He scooted closer, pressing himself against Sunggyu’s bare side. He tucked himself under Sunggyu’s arm, snuggling in, his hand stealing over Sunggyu’s chest.
Feeling contented, he closed his eyes.
He felt lucky that Sunggyu was usually so thoughtful with him. He didn’t think that he could take this brusque side of Sunggyu very often! But, wow, that had been a firestorm. Just knowing that was inside Sunggyu made him even more grateful for the care Sunggyu took with him.
He rested, his eyes closed, his thoughts drifting. Then he felt Sunggyu shift against him. As he opened his eyes, Sunggyu rolled towards him, and they regarded each other in silence for a minute. Reading his expression, Sunggyu nodded slightly, and he smiled at that, wondering what Sunggyu was looking for. When he smiled, Sunggyu smiled at him, nudging his chin up, caressing his cheek. The smooth stroke of Sunggyu’s fingers over his cheekbone made sweet warmth spiral through him, and he sighed happily, rubbing Sunggyu’s abs.
“You feel good?” Sunggyu guessed, thumb skimming around the shell of his ear.
“You always make me feel good.”
“I tried only to do a little,” Sunggyu said, watching his expression. “But I think that I was rude to you. You don’t hold it against me?”
That had really just been a little? Suho laughed, pushing himself up on one elbow. “What in the world do you do to your members?”
“Never mind that,” Sunggyu said, blushing and pushing him back down.
Laughing, he snuggled in again. “We should do it again sometime. I’ll have regrets if it’s just this one time.”
“Mmm.” Sunggyu’s lips brushed over his.
“Do you feel better?” He genuinely wanted to provide Sunggyu with some comfort, some caring, some support, whatever Sunggyu was looking for.
He nodded. “I still have some,” his expression flickered, “some feelings, but it’s better, now.” He smiled, his thumb drawing a light circle around Suho’s nipple, making pleasure shiver across Suho’s skin. “I like seeing you play with yourself while I’m inside you. That was nice.”
Nice. Suho blushed, remembering how energetically he’d masturbated, how he’d preened and flaunted himself. Nice. He was too embarrassed to say out loud that he’d wanted to look sexy for Sunggyu. And he didn’t know how to explain that, with some vague understanding that Sunggyu was being selfish, he’d had to take his pleasure into his own hands. It would sound like a complaint, even though it definitely wasn’t. Should he just admit, right to Sunggyu’s face, in so many words, that he’d been too worked up to control his need?
Sunggyu smiled, and when Sunggyu’s thumb brushed directly over his nipple, flicking at it, he gasped, arousal tickling him. “You like showing off for hyung.”
Blushing, he felt exposed. “Don’t say it like I’m a, a, a brazen showboat,” he complained, flustered. “You know that I can’t control myself.” So embarrassing! “I like that you like the way I look,” he admitted. “I like that you like to look at me. It feels good, you flatter me.”
“You know how pretty you are,” Sunggyu said, kissing him again.
“Mmm.” He pressed his mouth to Sunggyu’s, coaxing more kisses. “Handsome,” he corrected.
“Cute, pretty Money,” Sunggyu whispered, kissing him gently.
“Sexy, handsome Money,” he said.
Sunggyu snickered, squeezing his hip. “It’s okay to tell me how sexy you think you are, it’s good that you can trust me with how proud of yourself you are.”
“I don’t understand how you can have so much fun accusing me of being full of myself, when I’m nothing compared to you,” he objected.
Sunggyu took a deliberate, speculative look downward. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, I wouldn’t call it nothing.”
“Hey!” Indignant, laughing, he gave Sunggyu a hard push.
“Who are you - - treating me like this - - I thought that you were going to be nice to me!” Sunggyu said, laughing, pinning him on his back.
Loving their play, he coiled an arm around Sunggyu. “I’ll be nice,” he promised. He was happy just to be with Sunggyu. Just to make Sunggyu smile.
There was a sudden cough. Funny, it sounded louder, or closer, than he was used to dorm sounds being from Sunggyu’s room. He glanced over Sunggyu’s shoulder-
-to see Sungyeol rushing past at a jog, ducking his head, one hand shielding his eyes.
Sunggyu stared at Suho with alarm.
The door was open. The door had been open the whole time. The door. Open. Open door.
Sunggyu scrambled off of the bed in a panic, flying across the room. Slamming the door shut, he threw his back against it, arms spread, holding it shut.
“The door was open,” Suho said, sitting up.
“Don’t hate me,” Sunggyu warned.
“You left the door open!” he exclaimed, still absorbing the significance of it.
“Now, Money, don’t - - you’re going to hate me,” he realized.
“You’re the one who opened it!” he shouted.
Sunggyu gestured Suho on. “It’s okay, I can take it.”
“You deserve it!”
“We did everything with the door open!” he shouted. “Your members and Changjo and anyone who walked into the dorm could see everything! All of that! All of me!”
“I have very nice members, they’re good dongsaengs, they wouldn’t peek.”
“They heard everything! Think of what they heard,” he realized. “Well, they know all about me, now, that’s done.”
“I think they’ve heard a lot, before now,” Sunggyu said, and then flinched again when he glared hotly. “Yes, no, that’s not the point,” Sunggyu mumbled.
“You were being inconsiderate,” Suho said, figuring it out. “Normally you take such good care of me, you think of everything. But you weren’t thinking of me, tonight, you were thinking of yourself. You weren’t remembering all of the details that make me feel comfortable and safe with you, you were thinking of what you wanted. I had sex with a selfish jerk, and this is what happened.”
“You don’t have to call names,” Sunggyu muttered. “I think I’ve had enough of that today.” He scratched the back of his head. “I’m maybe not very shy, when I’m comfortable with my members. Sometimes doors are left open. I got too comfortable, tonight. It’s my fault.”
“That wasn’t ‘comfortable’ sex,” Suho said. “It wasn’t ‘nice,’ either. I think that you don’t know how to describe things.”
“I’m sorry about the door.” Sunggyu turned, solicitously patting it, proving to them both how firmly closed it was, and then came back to the bed. He gave Sunggyu a stubborn, injured look on purpose. “I think that my members were polite. They respect you, they know that you’re shy. Modest,” he amended, when Suho glared at him. “Conservative,” he guessed.
“I’m normal!” Suho exclaimed, exasperated. “It’s normal to have sex behind a closed door!”
“Oh. Sure, yes,” Sunggyu said quickly, reassuringly, giving his leg a patronizing pat. “Yes, normal, good. Good to be normal.”
“Next time I close a door, leave it shut,” Suho ordered.
“Yes.” Sunggyu gave him an honest look, stroking his nape. “Hyung’s sorry. It wasn’t deliberate, hyung made a mistake. I don’t want to make you feel like you can’t trust me.”
“It was an accident,” he acknowledged. It was more proof of how Sunggyu usually managed their sexual interactions with so much care, and more proof of how completely he believed in Sunggyu. It hadn’t occurred to him to think about the door, or to think about anything. “I won’t be upset with you anymore, you’ve already suffered a lot, today.”
“Suffered so much,” Sunggyu said.
He smiled, caressing Sunggyu’s shoulder.
Sunggyu kissed him, and it was a wonderful moment, lazy and sensual, Sunggyu’s lips soft against his own. When Sunggyu broke the kiss, Suho sighed pleasantly, leaning in, resting his head on Sunggyu’s shoulder. “You want to talk about Chunji?” Sunggyu asked, rubbing his back. “You want to lecture me about your precious Teen Top dongsaengs?”
“They are my precious dongsaengs,” he said, lifting his head. “And you’re my special hyung,” he admitted, meeting Sunggyu’s eyes. “It’s difficult, I understand why Dongwoo hyung’s so confused. I love Chunji, we’re close, I don’t want to punish him unfairly. But I feel very…” He nibbled on his lower lip, searching for words. “Very strongly about you,” he finally said. “If it were anybody else who’d treated you so badly, I think that I’d become very scary and cold-hearted, and no punishment would be too harsh. But I’ve already taken Chunji into my life. So I think that I have to have a very serious talk with him and figure out how to handle this. And I think that I need to take responsibility.” He faced Sunggyu squarely. “I’m sorry. As Chunji’s hyung, I’m to blame if he’s behaving so badly. I want you to punish me, too.”
Sunggyu gave Suho a helpless look. “Money-ah. Is this a test? Have some sense. Put some clothes on before you sit in hyung’s bed and ask to be punished.”
Oh. Oh! Mortified, Suho skittered off of the bed. “I didn’t mean that!” He could hardly find his clothes; Sunggyu had flung them in all directions. His underwear was over by the closet. “You shouldn’t have such a filthy mind.”
“Hyung’s mood is strange, it’s been a bad day. Punishing dongsaengs is very tempting, tonight.”
Suho wasn’t going to spend any time speculating about what Sunggyu might actually mean by that. He zipped up his fly and pulled his shirt on. “I meant what I said. I want to stand in for Chunji, I deserve some punishment, too.”
“I’m going to say no, and you’re going to insist, and we’re going to argue,” Sunggyu said.
“I don’t want to argue, I want to be punished,” he said, running his hands through his hair.
“Am I being punished?” Sunggyu asked. “There are no extra punishments for you. Chunji got himself in trouble. If he can’t show me any respect, then I won’t have him around me. An out of control idol like that proves things about his leader, so I’m finished with all of Teen Top, now. They don’t need to be in my dorm. That’s it.”
“I’ve already claimed responsibility for Teen Top,” Suho said slowly. “I think that, maybe, while I’m reflecting, I-”
“You haven’t been disrespectful to me, you don’t need to work on your behavior.”
“C.A.P. wasn’t disrespectful, either, but you’re kicking him out, so-”
“You’re volunteering to avoid me?” Sunggyu demanded. “If you need to practice respecting your hyungs and setting a better example for your dongsaengs, then that’s what you’ll do. That’s your punishment. You’ll come over here and show how good your manners are. You’ll work on forming better habits so that you can show your dongsaengs and members how it’s done. You’ll be very, very polite to me, here in my dorm, until I’m satisfied that you’ve learned your lesson.”
“I think this doesn’t sound very much like a punishment.”
“Complaining already?” Sunggyu asked. “Can’t even be humble for that long? This is already showing a bad side of you, Money-ah. You have a lot of work ahead of you.”
Smiling, he bowed. “Yes, hyung, I understand. I’ll work hard to improve.”
Licking his lips, Sunggyu got off of the bed. “This is a bad night to start. We’ll begin it next time. Hyung’s mood is strange, tonight.” He opened the door, making sure that it stood wide open. “There, that’s safer. Better,” he hastily corrected himself. “Better, I said.”
Suho laughed, handing over his underpants. “Let’s talk in the living room.”
Woohyun wanted privacy, but he wasn’t going to get it. Not tonight. Not ever, if everyone kept having so many people over.
Suho was still there, Changjo was there, but he couldn’t wait.
He took hold of Sungyeol’s arm and got up from the couch. “Hyung, I need the room for a minute,” he told Dongwoo.
Sungyeol was making confused, embarrassed sounds, but that didn’t slow him down.
“Oh? Okay,” Dongwoo said. “Just let me in later, I need to go to bed sometime.”
“Okay.” He pushed Sungyeol in and closed the door.
“Nam, what?” Sungyeol asked, flustered.
He knew what. Woohyun locked the door.
Changjo was tucked under L’s chin, chest-to-chest, their arms around each other.
L cupped the back of Changjo’s head. He stared across the room without seeing anything.
He still had Changjo. As long as that was true, he didn’t care about anything else. What happened to the others, to Changjo’s members, that didn’t mean anything to him.
But it meant something to Changjo. And if L’s members treated Changjo’s members badly, Changjo would start to resent it.
He couldn’t afford for Changjo to be unhappy.
He couldn’t afford for Changjo to look expendable, either. Right now, Changjo was an exception to the “no Teen Top” rule, but how long would that last?
This was a temporary situation. Dongwoo only being able to see Chunji at Chunji’s dorm, not here. Changjo being allowed in when no one else was. It wouldn’t stay this way.
It might get better. Sunggyu might be willing to relax the rules, make more exceptions, give Chunji a second chance.
But it was way more likely that it would get worse.
Feeling desperate, L pressed a kiss to Changjo’s hair. “Let’s do our own ceremony,” he said, clutching at Changjo’s shoulders, sliding down a little to look into Changjo’s eyes. “Just the two of us. We’re members, right, and I’m renewing my vows with the other members, so-”
“Hyung,” Changjo said, taking hold of his wrist. “Hyung. Hyung. Hyung.”
“Stop saying ‘hyung!’”
“You’re doing the vows thing with Infinite, because Infinite’s going through some stuff,” Changjo said. “You and I aren’t going through anything, we’re fine. We’re great, this is great, between us, it’s all great.”
A chill went through him. “You don’t want to do it.” He wanted to back up, to recoil, but he couldn’t. He was holding on harder, now, his grip tightening.
“The fuck I don’t,” Changjo said. “Vows, ceremony, I’ll do all of it. But we can’t. This vows thing is between you and Infinite. It has to be just you, your team, your bond, the six of you together. If Sunggyu hyung does this with you and then after does the same thing with Suho hyung, what’s that going to mean? If Dongwoo hyung does the ceremony with you and then you find out he did it with Chunji hyung, too, you think you’re going to be okay with that? It’s going to piss you off. It’s going to piss everybody off, you think Woohyun hyung’s going to be happy about it?”
L shook his head, fighting off what Changjo was saying. “They don’t have to know. They don’t know that you and I are already members, they don’t have to know anything.”
“You’re going this far and having some weird six-person wedding, it’s that serious, and you think this is a time to start keeping new secrets from your members?” Changjo asked. “I’m sorry, hyung, but Infinite is extreme as hell right now, and I’m not going to be the one to mess it up for you. This wedding thing means too much to you, and it means too much to your members. This is a moment for Infinite, just Infinite, just the six of you together. You and I can do our own thing, something else, something totally different, at some totally different time. This isn’t about you and me.”
He blinked, hurting. He felt rejected, and he fought with himself, trying not to overreact.
“I’m not rejecting you,” Changjo said, rubbing his upper arms. “You get that, right, I’m not rejecting you. I’m still Choi Jonghyun and I still love you. I’m still yours. Okay?”
He nodded, blinking back tears, his grip relaxing and then tightening and then relaxing again.
“You got it, you’re listening?” Changjo asked. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m still here. We’re still in this. But you need to focus on Infinite right now, not on me. It’s not about me.”
Conflicted, he rubbed his thumb over Changjo’s cheek. “What happened today.” He swallowed. “It wasn’t good. It might get worse.”
“We can fix it,” Changjo said. “You and me. Suho hyung. Dongwoo hyung.” Changjo looked deep into his eyes. “But you need to tell me if anyone is going to be a problem. If there are any members who might work against us.”
He opened his mouth, and then he faltered. He closed his mouth again, unsure.
“Okay.” Changjo inhaled, then nodded. “Okay. Fuck. But, okay. No problem, not a problem.”
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
“We’ll deal with it. Kiss me, and tell me that you love me, and tell me that we’re together on this.”
He swallowed. He leaned in, and then he felt himself smile. He kissed Changjo gently. “I love you,” he murmured. This sneaky kid! He already felt better. “I love you,” he whispered, and kissed Changjo again. “We’re together. We’re in it together.” His smile growing, he stroked Changjo’s sideburn. Warmth flooded his heart. “I really love you.”
“Sure, I’m great.” Changjo’s fingers tapped across L’s chest. “Don’t worry about me. I’m here, I’m good. Focus on Infinite, do whatever you need to do, focus on the vows. That’s the most important thing right now.”
After Young Money left, Sunggyu spent a couple of minutes getting ready for bed. He was glad that Money had come over. He really felt like shit about leaving the door open, though. Money must really, really feel bad for him, to forgive him so fast. He’d expected Money to run out of the dorm and never come back.
His thoughts drifted from Money to Chunji. To being assaulted like that in his own dorm. To being screamed at and cursed at by some stupid, emotional kid. Someone he’d invited into Infinite’s life, someone he’d given a second chance. Chunji was Sungjong’s age!
Stewing, he stood in the doorway to his bedroom. “Woohyun!”
There was no answer. He scowled, feeling tense. Woohyun hadn’t heard him? Didn’t want to reply? His own dongsaengs, his own members, no one could show respect anymore, nobody-
“Hyung?” Woohyun called.
“I need you!” Still tense, he paced around his room.
Woohyun came to the doorway, pulling his shorts up, flipping his hair out of his eyes. “Hyung?” He eased into the room and pulled the door shut. “I came.”
In the morning, L didn’t want to let Changjo go. He couldn’t even let Changjo out of his bed. He kept Changjo there with him, talking, for as long as he could. Even when he couldn’t think of anything to talk about, he brought up stupid things, ridiculous questions. Anything to keep Changjo with him, anything to keep Changjo close, where he could run his hands over Changjo’s gorgeous body and gaze into Changjo’s happy eyes and see the light of Changjo’s smile. Changjo’s energy was like fuel.
When Changjo was finally gone, he wandered the dorm aimlessly. He didn’t want to shower; he didn’t want to wash off whatever traces of Changjo might have lingered. He slumped on the couch and leaned against the wall and sprawled over the floor, closing his eyes and remembering how perfectly Changjo had fit in his arms last night. How every single one of Changjo’s gasps and moans had sounded. “Yeah, hyung, oh,” could sound sexy and sultry, or mischievous and daring, or vulnerable and ecstatic, from Changjo.
He needed to talk to Woohyun. L went into Woohyun’s room, but he wasn’t there. Sungyeol was on his bed, still asleep, one long arm hanging off of the bed.
He went to Sunggyu’s room. He tapped at the door.
“Go away!” Sunggyu called.
“It’s just L,” Woohyun said.
“Do you have any coffee?” Sunggyu demanded.
“You’re safe,” Woohyun said, laughing. “I’ll protect you.”
“Who’s the hyung here? I’ll protect you.”
“Would you?” Woohyun asked. “Would you get in front of me, would you take the coffee?” They were laughing. “I think you wouldn’t!”
“You can get in front of me,” Sunggyu decided. “Go open the door. Make sure there’s no coffee out there, I don’t want any.”
“I’m going to get some clean sheets, is what I’m going to do,” Woohyun said. “Your bed’s a mess.”
“That’s not mine! Oh, I shouldn’t - - well, you know whose it is. He can’t help it! A lot happens, sometimes.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
“It gets everywhere,” Sunggyu mumbled.
The door opened. Woohyun came out, passing L.
Had he just spent all night on the bed where Sunggyu had just had sex with Suho? With Suho’s dried jizz all over the sheets? That was gross, but it was also not going to be great for Woohyun’s mood. And L needed him to be in a really good mood, so that they could work together on getting Teen Top back. Nobody had more influence over Sunggyu than he did.
“One second, hyung,” L said to Sunggyu, and went after him.
He was standing in the laundry room, hands braced against the dryer. His head was down, and he wasn’t moving.
L eyed his naked back. “Hyung?”
A beat, and then his head came up. “Yeah,” he said, sounding distracted. He turned and smiled at L. “Yeah?” He dug into a laundry basket for clean sheets. “Ya, spit it out,” he teased.
“About Chunji.” L didn’t know where to start.
“Since when do you care about Chunji?” Woohyun asked. “You’ve hated him for a long time, haven’t you?” He gathered the sheets up into his arms. “You still have that maknae, don’t you? Enjoy that, don’t worry about anything else.” He patted L’s shoulder, his smile cajoling. “Be happy with your cute baby Changjo, okay? Let hyungs worry about the rest of it. Sunggyu hyung knows what he’s doing.”
He couldn’t read Woohyun well enough to know what was happening. “I don’t want Dongwoo hyung to get hurt.”
Woohyun patted his shoulder again. “If you don’t want to get hurt, then you should tell your boyfriend not to bother Sunggyu hyung like that, right?” Woohyun smiled at him and walked out.
He licked his lips, grimacing. He knew exactly how to read that.
October 19, 2017
by Matthew Haldeman-Time