Season Two: Hope and Healing
I write about men having sex with other men. You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction. This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.
Woohyun was texting Key about last night when he got a new text from someone else.
Chen. How was it? Is it okay to ask?
Chen. He remembered the last time he’d seen Chen. When he’d been balls-deep, and Chen had been shuddering under him, working on one hell of an orgasm, begging for more until EXO’s whole dorm rang with it. Coming incredibly hard, totally enthralled, letting everyone there know it.
After last night, he was so well-satisfied, thinking of Chen shouldn’t have meant anything to him. But remembering how powerfully Chen had responded to him brought a little trickle of arousal with it. A little taste of that wicked pleasure he was so addicted to.
He texted back.
Baekhyun walked into their room and realized that Chen was masturbating. Embarrassed and turned on, he stumbled, wanting to retreat and wanting to go over there, both. He settled for hovering by the closet like he was looking for something, while totally checking Chen out.
Chen was sitting up in bed, leaning back against the headboard, shirt pulled up to expose his abs. He had his eyes closed and he was breathing hard, his lips parted, his hand working slowly but steadily over his cock. He was completely erect, his cock tall and red in his hand, and Baekhyun totally wanted to go over there and help.
Ordinarily, Baekhyun would’ve said something. But ever since the big break-up, ever since Chen had started yelling, “I hate you,” things had been bad. Awkward. They were a lot better now, they were patching it all up, but there was still some uncertainty. Especially about sex. Baekhyun was doing a lot of holding back, a lot of waiting for cues, a lot of going at Chen’s pace and not even asking for more. Which was hell on him, emotionally, but, whatever, they were making progress, that was all he cared about.
So he hung back, now, and he snuck peeks at his best friend’s gorgeous cock, and when Chen’s face squinched up and Chen made one of those deep, satisfied sounds and that gorgeous cock started spurting, he bit his lip and worked really hard on not touching himself as his own cock ached in sympathy.
“Ooohh.” Chen shook himself, then relaxed.
Baekhyun contemplated finding something else to look at, but he never got around to actually doing that, so when Chen’s eyes opened, there was a weird moment of way too intimate eye contact. Blushing, he turned in a circle, flustered.
“Ah.” Chen laughed, sounding embarrassed, tucking his cock away.
“I, I just, there, um.” Baekhyun gave up and went over, sitting by his feet. “Was it good for you?”
Chen laughed more naturally, smiling at him. With that post-sex glow, Chen looked gorgeous and fulfilled. “Yeah, actually. It was good.” He grabbed a tissue and wiped jizz off of his chest, then pulled his shirt down. “Just thinking about Infinite.”
That struck Baekhyun as tragic. It totally killed the sex buzz. But he’d said “Infinite,” not “Hoya,” so maybe it wasn’t that bad? “Were they doing anything interesting?”
“They were having sex, what do you think they were doing?”
“Hey, I don’t know what you’re into!”
“You know everything I’m into,” Chen retorted, and they smiled at each other, because, yeah. They were that close; they knew everything about each other, especially that. “Woohyun hyung said that the vows went well last night. I was just thinking about how they celebrated, after. He said it was, uh.” Chen grinned. “They played well together.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Baekhyun looped an arm around his knee. “I wonder what they said to each other.”
“Probably just that they love each other.”
“That’s not interesting, they don’t need a whole special ceremony to do that.”
“It’s how you say it. The mood. Everybody getting together on purpose, just for it. I think it’s nice.” A shadow crossed Chen’s face, and Baekhyun felt doomed and queasy. He cast about desperately for a subject change, but Chen got there first. “Do you want to go out?”
“Out?” he repeated foolishly. He was so stunned that Chen wasn’t pulling away or pushing him away or lapsing into a sad, lost, angry mood, and he was so glad, that he didn’t understand the question.
“Let’s go out,” Chen said. He wasn’t very energetic about it, but he seemed sincere. “We can go to karaoke or something, do you want to?”
“Yes.” He definitely knew how to answer, now. “Yes! Yes, you and I, together, the two of us, we’ll do that. Just us? We can sing ballads and do couple shots. Or we can invite everybody! Whoever you want. Wherever you want. Whatever you want.”
Smiling at him, Chen put both hands on his shoulders. “It’s just karaoke.”
“Right.” He might be coming across as desperate. “I’ll get dressed. Or whatever. I can just wear this, it’s just karaoke.” He tried to smile coolly, naturally, carelessly. “Jacking off is great, that’s healthy, it’s natural, but if you want to do something, later. Any time. You know. I’m usually around.” Cool, nonchalant smile.
Chen held back for a second, and Baekhyun’s heart was just about to fall apart, when Chen smiled and hugged him. “Good,” Chen said, and his heart fluttered with hope again. “I’m glad that you’re around.”
Closing his eyes, he hugged Chen back. He didn’t know how the commitment ceremony had gone last night, but it might have felt a little like this.
Changjo talked to Hwanhee often enough to be sure about him and Sehun. Sure that things were good between them, sure that Hwanhee was happy and not being hurt.
But he wanted to be sure-sure. He wanted to be triple sure. So he’d decided to throw them together without warning and then watch them like a hawk.
The only problem was that because he’d wanted it to be a surprise, Sehun hadn’t realized that he’d only invited Sehun to meet up as a pretense to bump into Hwanhee, and Sehun had brought along freaking Suho, of all people. So now Changjo had some stubborn leader, some annoying hyung, shoving all up in the middle of it.
He almost ditched the whole idea. But it had taken some real luck and coordination to find a time when Sehun was free and Hwanhee was unsupervised, and he didn’t know how long it would be until he could arrange another accidental meeting. And it was kind of important to him to be sure that Sehun was good for Hwanhee.
So he got Sehun and Suho to walk with him back to his practice room, where he’d accidentally left his laptop, and then he walked them through the hallway, and then he just happened to glance into a room and see Hwanhee in there.
A practice room. Four walls, lots of mirrors, nothing to do but interact; the perfect trap to let him observe Sehun.
Hwanhee was dancing in front of the mirrors, singing to himself under his breath, working through choreography. “Oh, hey,” Changjo said without warning, and shoved the door open, walking right in. “What, are you alone in here?”
Hwanhee turned and smiled, and then his gaze flicked past Changjo, and he bounced up onto his toes, alert, his expression going from regular pleasant happiness to giddy excitement. “Hyung!” He took a couple of steps forward, and then he finally noticed Suho. “Oh! Hello.” He bowed politely. “Welcome to Top Media.”
“Hi,” Suho said. “You’re hard at work, we shouldn’t interrupt.”
“Interrupt what, he’s not doing anything,” Changjo said, turning down the music. “How’ve you been?”
“Great, I’m great.” Hwanhee was having serious trouble keeping his eyes off of Sehun. “Can I get you anything?”
“Where’s your leader?” Suho asked.
“Oh, Jinhoo hyung’s filming, he and Sunyoul hyung have a schedule,” Hwanhee said.
“He and I have an agreement, and I don’t think that he’d be happy to have us show up unannounced,” Suho said.
“We’re in public, what’s going to happen?” Changjo asked. “You’re here, you can supervise. Let them talk, they can say hi to each other.” He sat down against the wall, relaxing. “Give them five minutes.”
Suho gave him a disgruntled look, then said, “All right, five minutes,” and sat beside him.
Frowning, Sehun squatted down on Suho’s other side. He looked tense and pissed off. “What are you doing?” he whispered to Changjo.
“Sitting here.” When Sehun kept glaring, he said, “I’m not doing anything. He likes you, I’m a good hyung, I’m giving him a chance to see you. I’m helping you, don’t get weird about it.”
Sehun’s jaw clenched and his eyebrows drew closer together. “Don’t play with him.”
“I’m not going to hurt him.” Changjo was getting pissed off. “I know about your shit. I know all about you, I put you two guys together. This isn’t all new to me, I used to have a really clean kitchen. I wouldn’t jerk him around.”
“Kitchen?” Suho asked.
“You’re wasting your five minutes,” Changjo said pointedly. “Who’s hurting him right now, me by setting this up so you can see each other, or you by fucking ignoring him and acting like you don’t want to see him?”
Sehun was up and across the room.
Changjo couldn’t hear much, so he watched their body language. Hwanhee laughed a lot and wriggled around a lot. Sehun barely moved at all, in comparison, very controlled. They sat down facing each other, and Hwanhee smiled a lot, gazing at Sehun like every word out of Sehun’s mouth was fascinating. Changjo felt like he wasn’t really learning anything. Sehun was too alert, too aware that they were watching.
“Kitchen,” Suho repeated. “There’s so much that I don’t know about. Is that okay? Maybe I should get more involved. I don’t know anything about a kitchen, I don’t even know what that could be code for.”
“You don’t need to know about it,” Changjo told him. “You don’t want to know about it. Hyung, do you even know what Sehun hyung’s into?”
Suho gave him a startled, scolding look. “We’re not going to talk about that here.”
He wondered how much Suho actually understood.
Suho crossed his arms over his chest and looked unhappy. Uncomfortable.
Sehun said something that made Hwanhee burst into laughter. “Hyung! No!” he exclaimed, his face bright with happiness.
“Well, it’s four letters,” Suho said. “And I know what the letters stand for. Why does everyone think I’m so innocent? It’s not that hard to understand.”
What was he talking about? Four letters, like a four-letter word? Oh! BDSM.
“But that last letter.” Suho looked baffled. “It must be a part of it, it’s right there with the other three, it must all go together. Is my Sehun into that? Maybe I should talk to him about it. I don’t want him doing anything to hurt himself. I didn’t think that he felt that way, I wouldn’t have guessed that about him.”
“The last letter isn’t what he’s into,” Changjo said.
“Then why is it there?” Suho asked, like Changjo was being unreasonable.
“Is Sehun hyung alone over there?” Changjo asked, gesturing.
“No, he - - oh!” Suho looked at Hwanhee with sudden comprehension. “Oh. Ah, I see.” He nodded. He studied the two of them some more.
Changjo wondered if five minutes was up now. He didn’t want to rush them, though; the longer they talked, the more he might see.
Suho looked lost in thought.
Hwanhee looked like he was explaining something really earnestly. Sehun was watching him like he was edible.
“Hwanhee seems so happy,” Suho said. “That’s what I keep getting back to. He seems so happy. He’s such a healthy, normal kid. He’s such a cute dongsaeng. Whenever I have doubts, whenever I start to second-guess my decisions, or second-guess Sehun, or when I start to get judgmental, I end up at the same point. Hwanhee’s the kind of friendly dongsaeng I wish there were more of.”
“Don’t get judgmental, it’s just sex.”
He didn’t like that quiet, solemn tone.
Suho’s expression was just as solemn. “What can I do for you? How can I help you? What do you need from me?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.” He watched Hwanhee. The room was too quiet. He tapped his fingers against the floor, discreetly, on the opposite side of his body from Suho.
“Is that what you need from me?” Suho asked. “You need me to pretend everything’s fine? You need me to act like everything’s normal.”
The tapping sped up.
“I can’t do that. I don’t think I can do that.”
Hwanhee was laughing again. He looked really happy.
“But if that’s what you need from me…” Suho’s voice trailed off. The tapping was quick, light, deliberately light, Changjo’s fingers aching from being so fast and tense. “Pretend nothing happened. Pretend everything’s normal. Nothing happened. Everything’s fine.”
Nothing happened. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. Changjo’s fingers hurt. His chest hurt.
“It’s not fine.” Suho’s voice was distressed. Hurt, angry, despairing. “It’s not fine, maknae, you’re not fine, none of this is fine.”
Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. The word bounced around, up and down, spinning and echoing inside Changjo’s head. If he thought about the word, the sound of it, the echoes of it, he wouldn’t have to think about what Suho was saying, or why Suho’s voice sounded like that.
“But if that’s what you need from me.”
Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine.
Suho sighed. He crossed his arms over his chest. He slouched a little, in Changjo’s peripheral vision. “Have you talked to L? I haven’t heard anything about the party last night.”
Changjo slapped his hand flat against the floor, pressed his palm down against it. He was breathing funny. He inhaled and evened his breathing out again.
“I hope it went well,” Suho said.
“Yeah.” Changjo cleared his throat. “Yeah, yeah.” He licked his lips and relaxed his hand. “Think L hyung cried?”
“Of course he did.” Suho shifted comfortably. “I’m glad that they did it. I don’t know how much we should expect to hear about it. The details are private. But I’m curious about how it went.”
“Do you think they’re giving you all of the credit?”
“It’s not about credit,” Suho said. “I am the one who suggested it first, I talked L into it. I even mentioned it to Dongwoo hyung, did you know that? But it’s not about who gets the credit or who brought it up first. I’m just glad that they went ahead with it. After a loss like that, even one that was handled so well, it’s good for them to reconnect. I hope that it was healing.”
“Do you think that Sunggyu hyung knows it was your idea?”
“Well, I don’t see why that would matter.” Literally one second passed. “I wonder if he doesn’t know. He wouldn’t, I guess, unless somebody told him, and it might not have come up. Do you think it came up? But it’s not about credit.” He chewed on his lower lip. Changjo smiled, watching. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Right. Doesn’t matter,” Changjo agreed, amused. “God, this is boring. Is this what Sehun hyung’s like when they’re alone together? Is it always this dull between them?”
“It’s usually louder than this,” Suho said.
“You mean the music’s louder,” Changjo said.
Suho cleared his throat.
Changjo grinned, immediately needing to hear more. While Suho turned red and tried to hide against the wall, he asked, “Hyung, what have you heard?”
Chen and Baekhyun went to karaoke in what they’d already had on, not even bothering to comb their hair first. They didn’t invite anyone else along, just slipped out of the dorm without saying anything. They ordered drinks and snacks, and they started off with couple shots.
They sang ballads to each other. They did fun, poppy songs and hopped around the room. They slow-danced together to a duet. They didn’t even sing the proper duet parts; they sang the lines they liked, spinning slowly in each other’s arms, Chen taking the high notes in the beginning, Baekhyun stealing all of the groovy runs in the middle.
They were bopping around to an old pop song when Chen realized that he wasn’t trying. He wasn’t pushing himself to stay in the moment. He wasn’t trying to put on a brave face. He wasn’t putting work in to cover up his resentment or hide his pain. He wasn’t concealing or forcing anything, like he’d been doing every waking minute of the day for weeks now. He was just enjoying himself. Authentically having fun. His smiles felt natural and his laughter bubbled up irrepressibly and this was the first time that his life felt normal again.
And then, just that fast, he was crying. He tried to hold it back, but he was sobbing. Leaning forward, he covered his mouth with one hand. He didn’t want to be breaking down in the middle of a karaoke room, but all he could think was that it was over. It was really over. His boyfriend was gone and wasn’t coming back. They were done, really done. The love they’d shared, the joy he’d found, the erotic fulfillment and romantic potential, were all in the past.
He was moving on. It was over.
Baekhyun was hovering, patting his back, turning the music off. He wanted his boyfriend, but he didn’t have one anymore, so he hugged Baekhyun. Making regretful noises, Baekhyun patted his back and let him cry.
When his tears ran dry, he straightened. He grabbed some napkins from the table and blew his nose. He felt resigned. He felt calmer.
It was part of the healing process, he guessed. Infinite was moving on. He had to, too. He had to let go. He couldn’t hold onto the past forever, couldn’t turn his life into a one-man vigil for a relationship that no longer existed anywhere but in his memories.
“You okay?” Baekhyun asked, looking concerned, touching his arm.
He nodded, sniffing. When he smiled, his eyes watered again. “It’d be easier if he hadn’t been so perfect for me.”
“Yeah. Next time maybe you could find somebody who’s more of a jerk,” Baekhyun suggested.
“Oh, so I should date you,” he said, and Baekhyun laughed. He sat down, and Baekhyun sat beside him. “I wonder if I should find a new, you know.” They’d come to their usual place, where they could talk pretty freely, but they’d just shown up on their own, and he always wondered if Suho made some special arrangements ahead of time, had some deal, said some code word at the door that made it safe.
“A new - - already?” Baekhyun looked surprised.
“It’s fast. But.” He rubbed his eyes, hot from crying. “I like being in a relationship. Maybe if I know, ahead of time, that I won’t find someone else who’s so perfect for me, it’ll be easier to find somebody.”
“What, you want to lower your standards?”
He guessed that was what he was saying. “I don’t want a string of exes behind me,” he admitted, thinking it over. “I don’t want to see just anybody.”
“Okay, because, how far are you willing to lower your standards?” Baekhyun asked. “You still have the same pool to fish in. And a lot of the fish are already taken. You have, like, Sungjong or Niel to choose from.”
“Or Minho hyung,” he suggested.
Baekhyun snorted. “Okay, we said that your standards are low, not everybody else’s.”
Shocked, he laughed, smacking Baekhyun’s arm. “Minho hyung likes me!”
“He’s still Choi Minho sunbae, don’t get excited about yourself.” Baekhyun picked at their snacks, nibbling. “I say, get someone your own age, so it’s comfortable. And get a top this time, come on. Seriously.”
“Are you trying to hook me up with C.A.P.?”
Baekhyun shrugged. “He’s hot, he’s funny, he’s low-maintenance. He’s easy-going, he’s low drama, so when you want to keep screwing other guys, or when you have to spend a couple of extra weeks on tour and can’t see him, he won’t get weird about it. Or, what about Ken?”
“From VIXX? Do you think he’s a top?”
“Ah, Ken and Chen, Chen and Ken, is that cute?” Baekhyun asked, wrinkling his nose.
Chen grinned. “There’s always L.”
Baekhyun coughed, almost spitting out the food in his mouth.
“We’ve been getting along so well, lately!” Chen smiled, feeling a little dreamy for a minute. “And he’s so handsome.”
“Okay, first, he’s kind of taken.”
“Mmm.” Chen considered that. “Would it be wrong to break them up?”
“Uh, probably,” Baekhyun said. “I mean.” He tilted his head to one side, screwing his face up, thinking. “Changjo has a great body, but you’re not gross. Neither one of you is as handsome as L is, so he’s already settling when it comes to looks. Changjo’s really young, L might want somebody his own age. Yeah, okay, let’s try it, we’ll just break them up, let’s go for it.”
Chen laughed. “Okay.”
Baekhyun nibbled on more snacks. “Would it be weird, dating someone else in Infinite? I know, you’re not serious, you wouldn’t, but if you did, like, fall for Sungjong or something, would that be weird?”
“I’d love it,” he admitted. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just still not getting over it as much as I think I am. But I got so much of an inside peek, I got to understand Infinite so much better. And I loved it, I love how close they are, I love how much they play and flirt, I love the sex. The sex is amazing. I’d love to date one of the members. Can we break up Suho hyung and Sunggyu hyung?”
“Totally,” Baekhyun said. “Let’s. Or, oh! What about Woohyun hyung?”
Chen laughed. “What about Key hyung?”
“Oh!” Baekhyun laughed, shaking his head. “Okay, no, never mind. I didn’t say that. I didn’t mean it!” he called, looking up at the ceiling, at the corners of the room. “Sorry, I take it back!”
“He’s not going to come after you!” Chen said, giving him a light push.
“I don’t know!”
“Well, I can’t date anybody right now, anyway,” Chen said.
“Yeah, maybe stop crying over the last guy, first,” Baekhyun suggested.
“Is that bad?” he asked. “Do guys not like that?”
“At least don’t do it during the date,” Baekhyun said.
“You have to give me tips like that, I have a lot to learn.” He poured out more drinks. “Maybe I don’t need to date a top, anyway. They’re so pushy. And bottoms give way better head.”
“Thank you,” Baekhyun said brightly.
He laughed. “You say it like it’s a joke, but I was thinking about you!”
Baekhyun blushed. “Then, uh. Really, thank you.” He grinned hopefully. “Who am I better than? Who were you thinking of, specifically? Chanyeol, right? I have to be better than Chanyeol. And Kai, come on, I outdo him, right?”
Chen elbowed him, laughing. “Stop fishing for compliments!”
“Fishing, who’s fishing? I’m demanding! Give me compliments!”
Rolling his eyes, he raised his drink. Baekhyun’s arm linked through his, and they drank together. As he set his glass down, he smiled. Impulsively, he leaned over and kissed Baekhyun’s cheek.
Baekhyun gave him a surprised look, so happy and adorable that he smiled and kissed Baekhyun full on the mouth this time. “What?” Baekhyun asked, smiling, blushing. “Am I sexy right now?” Then Baekhyun laughed. “Or are you just drunk?”
“I’m happy,” he said, and he kissed Baekhyun again. He wanted to cuddle, wanted skinship, wanted to make out, but they couldn’t do that here. “Come back to the dorm with me.”
“I don’t know, I kind of like how this is going, suddenly,” Baekhyun said, flushed, looking at his mouth.
He did, too. He felt so comfortable with Baekhyun. He felt confident, felt safe, felt like he could be completely himself. “You’re my best friend,” he whispered, his lashes drifting down, and he brushed his mouth over Baekhyun’s. So soft. So familiar. Sex was always so good, so easy, with Baekhyun. “Let’s do this,” he whispered, and he slid his hand over Baekhyun’s back, slipped his tongue into Baekhyun’s mouth.
“God,” Baekhyun breathed, kissing him back.
“I want to feel good with you,” he whispered against Baekhyun’s lips, guiding Baekhyun’s hand to his chest.
“Oh my god,” Baekhyun whispered, sounding shocked and infatuated. “Do you want me to go down on you in the middle of noraebang?”
“No,” he said, kissing Baekhyun again. As soon as Baekhyun made a relieved sound, he smiled, leaning in forehead to forehead, and said, “I want to fuck you in the middle of noraebang.”
Baekhyun’s eyes went wide. “Suho hyung would kill us.”
“We don’t have lube,” Chen admitted.
“We’ll get creative!”
Chen cast a look over the table. “Do you want to use red pepper paste?”
Baekhyun jerked away from him so suddenly, Baekhyun’s chair almost tilted over. “Are you trying to kill me?!”
Laughing, he pulled Baekhyun closer again. “You think that would go great for me?”
“We could go back to the dorm,” Baekhyun suggested.
Chen was having a good night, a comfortable night, a happy night. He was feeling really good about Baekhyun, and he didn’t want to complicate it with other associations and other feelings. He’d been feeling so resentful and frustrated at the dorm, lately, he didn’t want that to taint his buzz. Could they get a hotel room? No, they still wouldn’t have lube. “I have an idea.”
Sungyeol was a married man, now, so when he heard the front door opening, he hurried over. Crossing his arms over his chest, he put on an injured, petulant glare when Woohyun came into the dorm. “Where have you been?”
Woohyun closed the door, then tapped Sungyeol’s chin and kissed him. “Evening, darling.”
He pretended to be even more hurt. “Not even going to tell me?”
“Aw, are you upset?” Woohyun rubbed his upper arms and tenderly kissed him. “Don’t worry, darling. I was just out with Dongwoo hyung and Chunji. But I was thinking of you the whole time.”
The kiss had felt good, so he kissed Woohyun back. Woohyun relaxed against the door, and they made out slowly. The sensual heat simmering between them was so complete, so natural, so familiar to them both, it seemed like at any moment they might ease apart, or at any moment they might escalate. There was no rush, no destination, only pleasure.
Then there was a moan from another room.
Woohyun bit down.
Shit! Sungyeol took a step back, rubbing at his lower lip. Woohyun was holding onto him with both hands, staring over his shoulder. He glanced back, but his bedroom door was still closed. “The widow’s here. Shit, Namu,” he complained, surprised he wasn’t bleeding.
“In your room?”
“He brought Baekhyun. They were looking for someplace to do it, and they asked L if they could come over.”
“What’s wrong with their dorm?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long have they been here?”
“Half an hour, maybe. L gave them some leftover champagne.”
Woohyun’s gaze flashed from the door to him, suddenly fiery and intent.
Ah, shit. What was this about? “It’s just Chen,” Sungyeol reminded him. L? The champagne? What was his problem?
Woohyun brushed past him, stalking towards his room.
“Nam, Namu, wait.” He caught Woohyun’s wrist and dug his heels in, gradually drawing Woohyun back. “What are you going to do, barge in on them? They’re just messing around.” What was Woohyun planning to do? He didn’t want to know. “C’mere and,” and what? Talk to him? Woohyun wasn’t in the mood to talk, Woohyun was in the mood to…
He thought about the times that he’d been ambushed by a kiss.
He thought about the times that he’d seen the other members do that to Woohyun, and how well Woohyun always responded to it.
Hell, he’d give it a try. Why not?
He kissed Woohyun suddenly. Maybe too suddenly, and probably too hard, like he was new to this kissing thing altogether. He cupped Woohyun’s face in his hands, trying to seal their mouths together, trying to keep Woohyun’s attention on him.
There was one awkward second, and then Woohyun kissed him back. Kissed him back and totally took over, tongue slicking into his mouth, hand massaging low on his back. Woohyun steered him back, nudged him up against the wall, slid a hand down his pants, tender and stroking, fondling him lightly, teasing his cock. He didn’t know who was seducing whom, anymore, but he definitely had Woohyun’s attention. And, god, Woohyun definitely had his.
“Is this what you want?” Woohyun whispered, hand gliding over his shaft, stroking, circling, cradling him delicately. “This what you want?”
“Yes.” God, yes, he wanted it.
“Mmm, look at how hard you are.” Woohyun’s voice was so soft, so encouraging, so impressed, he felt super sexy, felt like his hard-on was some kind of great feat, some proof of his sexual prowess. He was a real stud, what with his hard-on and everything. “Are you horny tonight?”
“Yeah.” Woohyun’s tender, sensual kisses were turning him on so much, he was panting, eager for more. Woohyun was doing just enough talking to disorient him, to leave him wanting more kisses, to make him kiss back desperately whenever Woohyun’s mouth was on his again.
“What were you doing before I came back?” Woohyun whispered. “Sitting here alone, with Chen and Baekhyun in your room?” Woohyun’s touch on his cock was still light, still teasing, making him feel toyed with, like his cock was just a plaything. It was so unsatisfying, and so hot, he was groaning, squirming, trying to push himself more firmly into Woohyun’s hand. “Sitting in here listening to the two of them moaning? Are they humping each other in your bed?” Turned on, needing more contact, he dragged Woohyun’s shirt up, running his hands greedily over Woohyun’s muscular torso, pulling Woohyun closer. “It’s hot, isn’t it?” Woohyun whispered, and he groaned, agreeing completely. Hot, hot, yes, so hot. “Maybe Baekhyun will come out here. Your pretty, sexy dongsaeng. Maybe he’ll still be a little horny, just like you. Maybe he’ll kiss you, just like this. Touch you, just like this.” Woohyun’s thumb was smearing precum around the head of his cock, light and slippery. “Would you like that?”
“Yeah,” he breathed. He finally got Woohyun to shut up and just kiss him. A deep, passionate kiss, his tongue assertive in Woohyun’s mouth.
And then Woohyun got a more serious grip on his erection, jacking him in long, direct strokes. The sudden escalation made him groan. “God, god, yes, ooohh, yes.” This was what he needed, yes, god, oh! The abrupt intensification of pleasure lit him up, and he pushed his shoulders back against the wall, cocked his hips forward, making feverish moaning sounds as Woohyun worked him over.
He was so close to coming, he was trembling, his muscles knotting, ecstasy a breath away.
And then Woohyun’s hand was off of his cock and on his stomach, shoving him flush to the wall. In a soft, sweet voice, right in his ear, Woohyun whispered, “Then let that little fool get you off.” A light, tender kiss to his cheek, and Woohyun walked away.
The angry throbbing of Sungyeol’s cock was so demanding, he couldn’t think.
The door to Woohyun’s room closed.
He was disoriented, he was embarrassed, he was pissed off, he, he, oh, god, he needed to come. But he couldn’t just - - not standing on his own in the middle of the dorm.
He stumbled into Sungjong’s empty room, his hand already wrapping around his cock. In a few strokes, he was coming, gasping, leaning over, jizzing hard. “Fuck, oh, oh,” he panted, dizzy, jacking himself through it. “Oohh.”
Weak, relieved, he dropped onto Sungjong’s bed. He sat there in a daze for a minute, and then he wiped his hand off, put his cock away.
Then he glared at the wall. He got up, walked straight to Woohyun’s room, and pushed the door open, striding right in.
Woohyun was on his back on the floor, doing crunches.
Sungyeol dropped right down on top of him, sitting astride him and smacking at his shoulders. “God damn it!”
“What - - ow - - ya! Ya! Ya!” Woohyun exclaimed, flustered, trying to fend him off.
“What the hell was that?” he demanded. He cupped between Woohyun’s thighs, grabbing a handful, glaring. Woohyun yelped, eyes widening. “You put your hand on my junk and start stroking me up, asking me if I want it, asking me how I like it, and I get turned on? That’s about you! That’s not about other guys! Stop trying to get in my head!”
“Okay, relax, relax,” Woohyun said, stroking his wrist, trying to coax his hand away.
“What did we get married for, if you’re acting like this? I got my hand on you, are you thinking about other guys right now? No? Mostly just interested in me?”
“You, you, it’s all you, I promise,” Woohyun said, trying to give him a reassuring smile. “Let go, okay?”
“I’m not hurting you, you coward.”
“Yeah, to you.” He gave Woohyun’s balls a light tap and let go. “I’ve seen better.”
“Where? Not in the mirror.” Woohyun undid his fly, peeking down his own body, pushing a hand down there and feeling himself up.
Sungyeol gave him an exasperated look. “Not going to die?”
He got a flirty smile in return. “You should apologize.”
“I’m not apologizing to you or your junk. You know who needs an apology?” he asked. “I do.”
Woohyun laughed at him. “For what? You’re mad at me? For kissing you? Turning you on? That’s a bad thing, now?”
“For being a tease.”
“Aw.” Woohyun’s knees rose behind him, tipping him forward, as Woohyun’s hands ran over his thighs. He loved how bold, how confident Woohyun was with his body. “You want me to finish what I started?”
Woohyun’s smile was so flirtatious, so inviting, he blushed. “Not now.”
“Mmm.” Woohyun was sitting up, pulling him down, and he was totally going with it, letting it happen, already falling for it. Woohyun looked so good under him, felt so good between his thighs, fly open, gaze so seductive, lips irresistibly soft. “Then should we start something else?” Woohyun murmured, and he kissed Woohyun, closing the last bit of distance between them.
This was exactly what Chen had wanted. Time alone with Baekhyun. Just the two of them. So sexy, so cozy. “You’re my best friend,” he said, planting a kiss on Baekhyun’s chest.
“You keep saying that.” Baekhyun caressed Chen’s mouth. When he gently slid two fingers in, Chen sucked on them, eyes closing. “It’s not new, we’ve been friends for years.”
“Mmm.” But he felt so comfortable with Baekhyun tonight. Their bond wasn’t new, but maybe that was the problem. They were so used to it, they’d been taking each other for granted. And then he’d become so distrustful, so resentful, their friendship had become strained.
But if he could trust anyone, he could trust Baekhyun. His best friend. When Baekhyun’s fingers slowly withdrew, he kissed them, then kissed Baekhyun’s chest. “Remember when we first debuted?”
“Sure.” Baekhyun leaned over him, across him, reaching over the edge of the bed.
He held on so Baekhyun wouldn’t overbalance, and Baekhyun came up with the champagne bottle. Uncorking it again, Baekhyun handed him the bottle. He took a sip and passed it back. “Remember how we were separated in K and M, and we were like, aw, we’ll never see each other! We’ll be promoting separately too much, it’s such a shame!”
“What I remember.” Baekhyun took a swig. “Is how your fans were always trying to battle my fans, picking fights about who was the better main vocal.”
“Mmm.” He gave Baekhyun a knowing look. “What I remember is somebody going around, asking management, ‘Isn’t EXO-K the primary group, since it’s in Korea, and it has the real leader in it, and doesn’t that mean that EXO-K’s main vocal is the real main vocal, and-’”
“I was asking for my parents! I told you!” Baekhyun protested, blushing. “My family wanted to know, they wanted to know how to explain it to their friends.”
“Oh, family, it’s for family,” Chen said, mocking him.
“You act like I went around to everybody, taking official surveys! I asked like one vocal coach!”
“Oh, I know who you asked,” Chen said.
“Shut up and drink,” Baekhyun said, passing him the bottle. “Do you think we can stay the night, or do we have to get out of here?”
“Mmm.” He took a sip. “I don’t know. If we can stay, you want to?”
“Sure.” Baekhyun wriggled in comfortably against the pillow, smiling at him. “I’m having a pretty good night here. Why bust that up?”
He was, too. He kissed Baekhyun and handed over the bottle. “You finish it.” He climbed off of the bed, fishing around for his underwear. “I’ll go ask if we can stay.”
Opening the door and peeking out, he didn’t see anybody. He shuffled across the front room. “Hyung?” he asked, figuring somebody would answer. He wondered where L had gone.
Woohyun and Sungyeol were in bed together, spooned up. They looked so intimate, so sweet, his heart melted. Infinite was so romantic. He watched them for a second, wistful. They were naked, Woohyun against Sungyeol’s back, their bodies curving perfectly together.
Thinking that they were asleep, he moved to turn off the overhead light. Then Woohyun moved, looking at him over a shoulder.
He smiled, gesturing in apology. “Sorry,” he whispered, taking a step back. He hadn’t wanted to disturb the moment.
“Chen-ah.” Woohyun rolled smoothly off of the bed. Something about his easy agility made Chen think that Woohyun was very, very used to getting on and off of beds. Which shouldn’t necessarily have been a sexual thought - - didn’t everybody have a bed, and make a habit of getting in and out of it? But Woohyun’s charming smile and confident posture seemed really seductive.
Woohyun was also completely naked, and not at all self-conscious about it. He was in his own dorm, and Chen had seen him naked dozens of times before, but it seemed really bold, really self-assured of him, not even to excuse himself. Chen’s gaze traveled south, to the firm curves of his pecs, down the ridges of his abs, down the exquisitely chiseled lines of his pelvis, to the black thatch of his pubic hair and the arrogant hang of his soft cock.
“I heard that you were here,” Woohyun said, giving him a friendly, teasing smile. Woohyun was whispering, and he drew closer to hear better, not wanting to disturb Sungyeol. Up so close, he felt really aware that he only had his underwear on, that if they bumped into each other at all it would be all skin against skin. “I didn’t get a chance to say hi, I didn’t want to intrude if you were having fun. Everything okay?”
“Yeah. I didn’t ask, when I talked to L, earlier, and I don’t know where he is, to ask him now. Do you have early schedules, tomorrow? Do we need to get out? Is it okay if we sleep over?”
“Oh, you want to stay?” Woohyun nodded. “Sure. It’s okay.” Woohyun cupped his chin, smiling at him. “We like having our Chen-ah spend the night.”
He smiled back, cupping Woohyun’s elbow. Woohyun was always so friendly, so good to him.
“Did you come over just to borrow a bed?” Woohyun asked, stroking his jaw. “It’s going well? Baekhyun’s giving you everything your body needs?”
“Ah, it’s going well,” he admitted, chuckling. “Baekhyun and I get along well.”
Woohyun’s thumb brushed just under his lower lip, Woohyun’s gaze dipping to his mouth and then meeting his eyes again. “You and I get along well, too, I think.” Woohyun’s smile was just teasing enough to take the edge off, but he felt the sexual heat pouring off of Woohyun like he was standing in front of a fire. “If you want anything else, later, you know where to find me.”
Tonight was about Baekhyun. About their friendship. He didn’t want to get distracted from that. But, ooohhh, what Woohyun was offering him, he wanted it so badly, it was an almost irresistible, physical urge, like a biological compulsion. Maybe while Baekhyun was asleep, or in the morning, or maybe he could come back soon, come back just to see Woohyun. “I’d like to, later.” He grinned. “You know where to find me.”
Woohyun’s touch drifted down his neck, knuckles gliding across his collarbones. “You’re a dongsaeng who’s never very far. It seems like all I have to do is turn around, and I see your face, I hear your laughter. Between you, Chunji, and Changjo, there are dongsaengs everywhere, lately.”
“Your dorm’s such a comfortable place to be,” Chen said. Woohyun’s thumb brushed up and down over his Adam’s apple, making him swallow. “I’ve always liked it here. Dongwoo hyung and Sungyeol hyung are so friendly, and even when Sunggyu hyung’s grumpy, he’s cute.” Woohyun’s caresses, Woohyun’s nearness, were having an effect on him. Giving into temptation, he ran his hands over Woohyun’s shoulders, leaning closer. “I have to go, Baekhyun’s waiting for me.”
“Am I keeping you?” Woohyun’s smile was innocent, his fingers hooking in the waistband of Chen’s underwear. “Go ahead, go and play.”
Impulsively, he stole a kiss. “You’ll explain to Sungyeol hyung why there are dongsaengs in his bed?”
“You’re not in L’s bed? I thought he’s the one who let you in.”
“Oh, but. I’ve never done it in L’s bed,” he admitted. “It seemed awkward.”
“He gave you the dorm for the night,” Woohyun said. “He probably expects it.” Woohyun grinned at him, knuckles brushing his pelvis, making him shiver. “You don’t want to go back and tell Chanyeol that you spent the night in L’s bed?”
“It’s not the same, if he’s not in it,” Chen said, laughing. Remembering Sungyeol’s sleep, he quickly hushed. “Good night,” he whispered, and he kissed Woohyun again.
Woohyun gave his underpants a light tug and let him go.
He found his phone and texted Suho to explain where he and Baekhyun were, and then he went back to Sungyeol’s room.
He opened the door, and he heard a familiar stifled gasp, and the air was filled with a flurry of paper. He was so startled, the only way he had to make sense of what he was seeing was to wonder if a confetti cannon had gone off. But the papers were too big for that, and then he recognized photographs. There were photos everywhere, falling down and scattering all over the floor.
He looked at Baekhyun.
Baekhyun gave him a wide-eyed, panicked look.
He gave Baekhyun a disbelieving stare.
“Shit,” Baekhyun whispered, scurrying over, crouching down. “Close the door, close the door.”
Exasperated, he closed the door and squatted down to help, gathering up photographs. “What the hell were you doing in here?”
“Nothing! Nothing, I wasn’t doing a thing. I might’ve been snooping,” he whispered, like someone else was in the room and might overhear.
“They’re nice enough to let us stay here, and you’re sneaking around?” He took a closer look at the photos they were hastily scooping up. “Oh, it’s Suho hyung and Changjo.” Interested, he started flipping through them. Suho and Changjo were outside in a park or something, by the river. “Suho hyung thinks he’s so cute, I can’t stand it. Oh, handsome!” He didn’t feel so bad anymore. This was personal, and Baekhyun shouldn’t have been rummaging around in L’s things, but it wasn’t like they’d uncovered something secret.
Baekhyun showed him a photo of Changjo, shirtless and smirking. “He’s not ditching this to be with you.”
“No?” Chen tried to mimic Changjo’s pose, trying to look playful and a little sultry at the same time.
Baekhyun snorted with laughter, snatching it from him. “No!”
They collected all of the photos together. “What kind of order were they in?” Chen asked.
“How do I know?”
There were some photos of all three of them together, L in the shot with Suho and Changjo. “They look so happy together.”
“Suho hyung’s standing beside an actual visual, he could try making a better expression than that,” Baekhyun complained. They spent a minute mimicking Suho’s awkward smile, trading goofy looks, and then they piled the photos into the box they’d been in. Baekhyun tried to fit it back onto the shelf in the closet, but he couldn’t remember exactly how it had been placed.
“It’s okay, we’ll just tell him that it fell,” Chen said. “They’re not secret photos, he won’t mind. That’s our leader, we know they hang out together.”
“I don’t think that he really likes me, though,” Baekhyun said. “Don’t go around telling him that I was going through his stuff.”
“Then don’t go through his stuff!” Chen exclaimed, exasperated.
“Ssshhh!” Baekhyun anxiously covered his mouth. “Ssshhh.” Baekhyun stared at him intently, both hands clamped over the lower half of his face. “Ssshhh.” At that, the moment became so absurd that Baekhyun burst into laughter.
They laughed together, batting at each other foolishly. Finally, catching his breath, he pushed Baekhyun away. “So stupid. Okay, I won’t tell him. We didn’t hurt anything, it’s okay. But stop snooping! What were you looking for, anyway?”
“I don’t know, I was just being nosy. If he has a list of reasons he can’t stand me, that might really help me out. You know,” Baekhyun said, tapping Chen’s chest. “Most people act hateful because they’re jealous. He’s probably jealous of me. For my, uh, on account of,” he blinked doubtfully, “ah, because,” he mumbled, losing confidence, “well!” he said with sudden energy. “It’s obvious!”
“Oh, it’s obvious,” he said, not buying it for a second.
“Yes! It is obvious. It is, in fact, so obvious that I won’t even bother to explain it.” Baekhyun took another look at the closet. “Maybe it was over here,” he decided, moving the box to a different shelf. “Does that look right?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never paid attention to how he keeps his closet.” Chen flopped down onto Sungyeol’s bed, getting comfortable.
Baekhyun climbed over him. “So are we staying?”
“Oh, yeah. Woohyun hyung said it’s okay.” He scooted to make room as Baekhyun squirmed in between him and the wall. Once they were face-to-face, he clapped his hand over Baekhyun’s mouth, widening his eyes dramatically. “Ssshhh,” he said as loudly as he could.
Laughing, Baekhyun pushed his hand away. “Ya, shut up.”
“So stupid,” he said again, chuckling.
“I’m glad we get to promote so much together,” Baekhyun said. He winced. “I’m not glad about - - I mean, I know that a lot of stuff hasn’t been great. I know it was supposed to go differently. But you and I get to promote together, a lot more than we would have if we’d all stuck with the plan. So. You get what I’m trying to say.”
He nodded. “I know what you mean. Me, too.”
“I love you,” Baekhyun said abruptly. “I,” he licked his lips, “I’m sorry about a lot of things. Not even stuff that I’ve done, just, I’m sorry about what other people have done. I’m sorry that you keep getting hurt. I’m sorry that you keep getting screwed over when you’re doing everything right. I hate it. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry, and that I won’t do that to you. I love you, I think you’re awesome, and I hate seeing you go through all of this stuff.” He cleared his throat, blushing. “What is it, is it the air in this dorm? Why am I suddenly confessing to you?”
“I like it,” he said. Feeling emotional, he hugged Baekhyun. “I’m grateful,” he said against Baekhyun’s bare shoulder. “I love you. You’re a good friend.” He was glad that they’d gone out together tonight. He was glad that Baekhyun had put up with his bad moods long enough to let him come back to this. “I’m sorry that I’ve been so shitty to you, lately.”
“You got fucked over.”
“Break-ups aren’t supposed to be like that,” he said. He pulled back from their embrace, but on the bed there wasn’t exactly anywhere to go, so they stayed close, eye-to-eye, thighs nudging each other. “Everything was great between us. We were happy. We were in the middle of a relationship. It’s not like things were winding down. We weren’t getting sick of each other, we weren’t fighting, we weren’t going through a rough patch. Things were getting better! It was always getting better. I was happier every week than I was the week before, it seemed like. There are gifts I never got to give him, trips we never got to go on together. We just got interrupted, right in the middle of it.”
“Like.” Baekhyun gestured. “You got the rug yanked out from under you.”
“That’s hell for you,” Baekhyun said.
He smiled weakly. “Yeah.”
Baekhyun ruffled Chen’s hair, then cupped the back of his head, leaning in, forehead to forehead. “I love you. And you know what the brainwashed robot says. We are one. I can’t fix what’s gone wrong. I wish I could, it’s killing me to see you go through this. But I’m here for you, okay? I can buy you flowers and take you on dates. I can break L and Changjo up for you. I can stand by you and keep on loving you. I can escape to this romantic getaway with you. Seriously, is it something in the sheets in this dorm?” Baekhyun asked, looking around. “Something in the fabric softener they use? I’m basically a leading man, over here, with all of the romance.”
He laughed, sniffling. “I love you, too. You’re a fool, but I love you, anyway.”
“Call me a fool,” Baekhyun said, pretending to be injured. “I’m pouring my heart out, over here, and you’re calling me names.” Then Baekhyun gasped, poking him. “We never talked about it! Oh my god, I can’t believe that you called Suho hyung a brainwashed robot to his face.”
He blushed. “I probably shouldn’t have.”
“No, he should go with it. He should own it, make it his concept.” Baekhyun grinned. “Is that what this was?” He mimicked the expression Suho had been making in the photographs. “Is that his robot face?”
Ah, Chen had missed this. How many hours had he and Baekhyun sat around together, comfortable, killing time mocking their leader? “It’s better than his sexy face.”
“Oh, this?” Baekhyun turned his face to one side, parted his lips, gave Chen a sultry look, and then rolled his eyes back in his head.
Cracking up, Chen shook him until he broke his pose.
“Ya, ya, don’t, my eyes might get stuck,” Baekhyun said, laughing.
“Yeah, and it-”
“It wouldn’t be an improvement!”
“-would be an improvement!”
They collapsed together, laughing. With Baekhyun’s arm around him, Baekhyun’s familiar body close, Baekhyun’s skin soft against his own, Baekhyun’s giggling and snickering happy in his ears, Chen felt better than he’d felt in weeks. Maybe he didn’t have grand romance, right now. But he had friendship. And there was plenty of romance, just in that.
L crossed his arms over his chest. Standing in front of the couch, he studied C.A.P.
Looking right past him, C.A.P. kept playing some videogame.
He grimaced, really doubting his own taste. Had he been really desperate, back then? “What did I see in you?”
C.A.P. ignored him.
Disgusted, he sat on the armrest. “Where’s Changjo?” he asked for the fourth time. When C.A.P. didn’t answer, he looked over and pushed the side of C.A.P.’s head. “Ya, where?”
C.A.P. clenched his jaw and refocused on the game. “I told you, out. He’s out.”
“Where?” he demanded. “You don’t know where your own members are? You don’t care?” Feeling anger rising, he swiveled on the armrest, facing C.A.P. more fully. “Ya, do you know where Chunji is right now? What about Niel, I’ll bet you know everything about his day. Not Changjo? Can’t keep track? Don’t give a fuck about him?!”
C.A.P.’s hand balled into a fist. Staring grimly at the TV, he inhaled. As he exhaled, he relaxed his hand and went back to playing.
L grabbed the controller out of his hand. “You pay more attention to gaming than to your own maknae! Goddamned Ricky has to look after him because you won’t!”
C.A.P. gave him a narrow look. “Give it back.”
He tossed it aside, letting it skid across the floor.
C.A.P. looked after it. Sighed. Dug his phone out from the couch cushions and started a different game.
L grabbed for his phone.
He twisted away, leaning back and bringing a foot up, planting his heel against L’s chest. Still playing.
L got up. The controller on the floor drew his attention. It looked familiar. Woohyun’d had the same kind. He thought that he remembered how to break it.
He picked it up and took it into the kitchen. Yeah, he remembered exactly how to break it. After he tossed the remains in the trash, he looked for something to eat. There was nothing. He thought about unearthing Changjo’s stash, but he respected Changjo’s hiding places; he wouldn’t dig around. He’d thought that it was cute when Changjo had let him know about a couple of them in the first place. It was really sweet, how well Changjo trusted him.
He went back out to the front room. C.A.P. was still on the couch. He studied the sheet tacked to the wall, and then, curious, he pulled it down.
Someone had drawn all over the wall. Circles, scribbled over and crossed out. “What’s this?”
Immediately more interested, L tried to solve the puzzle. Three rows of circles. It didn’t make sense as plotted choreography. It might be game strategy, but Changjo wouldn’t draw that on the wall. Changjo must’ve been excited, angry, proving a point about something. What had Changjo been upset about lately?
He wondered. Stepping up onto the couch, he ran a hand over the marks. “Is this us?”
He wondered which circle he was. Had Changjo crossed him out? Underlined him? “Are you making him fix this?”
“He’s paying to have it painted.”
“I’ll pay for it.”
C.A.P. rubbed his face. “I’m supposed to make him face consequences for his bullshit. There are no consequences if you bail him out.”
L didn’t want him to face consequences. It was a wall, who cared about a wall? “I’ll bring you some cash later.”
C.A.P. sighed. “L. Give the cash to him, so it comes from him, so he can pretend that it’s his money in the first place.”
He didn’t want subterfuge. He wanted everyone to know that it was from him, that he was protecting Changjo, that Changjo could do anything and he’d be there as a shield. “You can have management send me the bill, if you want.”
C.A.P. dropped his phone onto his chest and covered his face with his hands.
The door opened. L turned, stepping down off of the couch. Changjo walked in, saw him, and smiled, eyes lighting up. “Hey, hyung.”
He felt warmth swell in his chest, an immediate joy.
He’d wondered how he’d feel about seeing Changjo again, after the wedding. He’d wondered if finally cementing his relationship with his members, committing to each other in this one last way, would change his other relationships. Maybe Suho just wouldn’t mean as much to him anymore. Maybe Changjo wouldn’t be as important.
If anything, Changjo seemed even more precious to him, now. His love for his members was complete and requited, the six of them forming a single unit. That was so solid, it was untouchable.
His relationship with Changjo, by comparison, was fragile. Changjo seemed fragile. So bright, so young. A treasure.
He didn’t have to worry about his members anymore. He didn’t have to wonder about Dongwoo or question Sungyeol. It freed him up to focus on other things. And his heart had already found its next target.
He would protect Changjo. He would be Changjo’s lover, and champion, and shield. Changjo was outside of Infinite, outside of the fortress of their unified love, vulnerable.
He was across the room while Changjo was still closing the door. Fascinated, fond, he caressed Changjo’s cheek, gazing deeply into Changjo’s eyes, wondering about all of the mysterious things that went on inside Changjo’s head. “How are you?” he asked, stroking Changjo’s face, meticulously smoothing down Changjo’s sideburns. “Have you eaten?” He wanted to know everything. “How was your day?”
“Yeah, I ate.” Changjo took off his shoes. L caressed his face, fixed his bangs. “Suho hyung made me.” L ran both hands over Changjo’s chest, adjusting the hang of his shirt. He caught one of L’s hands, studying it. Then he met L’s eyes. “Is this sacred, can I touch it?”
L was captivated by his eyes, by the shape of his mouth. Not touching him more, not kissing him, was some kind of sweet torment, and L caressed his cheek, yearning for him. “You can have anything you want.”
Changjo’s eyebrows flickered, and he grinned. “Okay. I’ll just start with the ring, all right?” He drew it off of L’s finger. He turned it around, and while he studied it, L studied him. The desire humming through L felt like bliss. Wanting him this much was its own pleasure.
Closing his fist around the ring, he gave L a cocky, mischievous smile. “So if this ends up in my pocket, you’ll kill me, right?”
He knew that Changjo wouldn’t toy with something that meant so much to him. So, knowing that Changjo would never do it, he said, “I don’t mind.”
Changjo held it between his thumb and forefinger, staring through the center of it. “Woohyun hyung?”
Changjo’s mouth and eyes formed three round Os. He immediately handed the ring over and tucked his hands behind his back.
Smiling, L slid it back on.
“Tell me about the wedding, tell me all of it.” Changjo grinned again. “You’re a married man, now! Are we having an affair? Is this like adultery? Should we not be alone in my room, is that wrong now?”
“I’d never cheat on my members,” L said.
“Good. I’ve never fucked a married man,” Changjo said, taking his hand and heading for the bedroom. “I gotta see what it’s like.”
He wanted Changjo so much, he was already hot with it. When Changjo pushed him onto the bed, he went easily, leaning back. Kneeling astride him, Changjo started undressing, and as soon as Changjo’s shirt came off, L’s hands were on Changjo’s fly, unbuttoning.
“I’m the other man,” Changjo realized as L tugged his pants down. “This is totally dirty. We’re being bad right now.”
“No, it’s good,” L said. Changjo’s thighs were firm under his hands, and he cupped Changjo’s ass, pulling Changjo down to him. “So good.”
“Bad, bad,” Changjo whispered, leaning down. The wicked gleam in Changjo’s eyes was so playful, L smiled at him, adoring him. “So bad, we’re being so bad. What are you doing right now, getting into bed with me? You’re a married man, hyung, you can’t be like this.”
“But I love you,” L whispered, burying his fingers in Changjo’s hair, brushing light, sucking kisses over Changjo’s jaw. “I want you so much, I have to have you, no matter what.”
“You’re being naughty for me,” Changjo breathed. His smile was so delighted, L’s heart fluttered. “Just to be with me.”
“I’d do anything to be with you,” L promised, and kissed him.
Suho grabbed his ringing phone. “Congratulations!”
Sunggyu laughed. “What are you so enthusiastic about?”
“Congratulations,” he insisted.
“It’s already late, are you tucked in for the night? Is it too late? I shouldn’t bother you now.”
He smiled. This hyung. “Do you want to come over? It’s not late. I just got in. I want to see you. Or should you be with your members? Maybe it’s too soon for you to be running around.”
“I’ll just stop by for a minute.”
If “I’ll just stop by for a minute” was anything like “I’ll just do a little,” Sunggyu was about to move in. “Okay, hyung.”
It was good timing. Suho had his room all to himself. Although he shouldn’t make assumptions; they might just talk. They’d probably talk in his room, though, so maybe he should clean off his bed. And it wouldn’t hurt to change the sheets. Had his hair looked this messy all day? He was home for the night, maybe he’d put on something more comfortable. Why didn’t he own anything decent-looking? Did he need a shower?
He was in the shower when he heard Kai yelling about something. Annoyed, he considered scolding, but he was too busy; he didn’t have time to chastise his members over every little thing. Weren’t they old enough to know how to behave by now?
He dried off. In his underwear, he went back to his room. He hadn’t figured out what he wanted to wear, but-
Sunggyu was seated on his bed, leaning back against the headboard.
Surprised, he froze.
This might have been what Kai had been yelling about.
Sunggyu was smiling. “Congratulations, yes! Congratulations to me,” he said, rubbing his hands together.
Blushing, Suho felt flattered. “I didn’t know you were here. How’d you get here so fast?”
“I wasn’t far when I called, I had a meeting. Door, close the door, hyung has things to do.”
Guessing what those things might be, he closed the door. “Tell me about last night! I want to know all about it. Is it private, I shouldn’t ask? But did it go well?”
“I can tell you some things,” Sunggyu said. “I thought that the members might need healing. I took a risk and showed them a side of my heart I hadn’t always let them see, before. It was good, I think it reassured them. They shared a lot, too.”
He smiled, glad to hear it. “Was it romantic?” he asked, sitting near the foot of the bed, facing Sunggyu.
“I think so,” Sunggyu said. “There was a lot of talking and a lot of crying. The members are happy with it, I think. There are some things that we’ve felt and thought, that we haven’t said out loud very much, but it was time to face it. I want us to clear up how we feel, so there aren’t misunderstandings.”
“It’s good to do that. Since Chen’s been so upset, I’ve been sitting down with each of my members, one-on-one. I want them to know where I stand, and I want to hear from them, too. How’s Woohyun? How’s L?”
“L got what he needed. He’s sensitive, he wanted to be sure that we meant everything that we said. He wanted honesty, not a nice show. But I wouldn’t be insincere, not when it comes to Infinite.”
Suho nodded. He wished that he’d been there to see it all. “I’m happy for L, I know how much Infinite means to him.” He couldn’t wait to sit down with L and get the full story. The emotion on L’s face would tell him everything. “Woohyun?” he prompted.
“I got a present.” Sunggyu held out his hand.
“Oh!” Scooting forward on the bed, Suho took hold of his fingers. He was wearing a gold ring with impacted diamonds. “It’s pretty.” Gently, respectfully, Suho rotated the ring, reading the letters etched between the diamonds. “Infinite. Oh, it’s perfect. Did everybody get one?”
“There were a lot of presents.” Sunggyu took his hand back. “You’ve been very understanding. I think that most boyfriends would mind if I had private vows with other men.”
“But they’re your members. Of course I understand that.” If there was a ring, did that mean that they’d taken the idea of wedding vows seriously? “Are you being vague on purpose? Did you give your members something?” When Sunggyu didn’t immediately reply, he laughed. “Is it too private? Can you tell me if they liked it? I’m sure they did, you give good presents.”
Sunggyu smiled, tucking his hands between his knees, looking bashful. “They liked it. It was a good night, it was special.” He glanced away thoughtfully, then met Suho’s eyes again. “Infinite means different things to different people. It’s one thing for Inspirit, one thing for the public, something else for our CEO. But I think that for the members, we agree that it means the same thing to us, together.”
Suho nodded. “It’s good if you can agree on what it is. For me, Infinite means a lot. You’ve been very special sunbaes. You’ve led the way in a lot of areas. I have a lot to learn from you, and I’m grateful that you’ve let me see so much up close. Knowing Infinite has made a big difference for me, and I’m closer to my own members because of it. I’ve been able to work on my relationships with them because of the example you’ve set.”
“It’s not because of me, you showed up full of fighting, telling everybody about ‘let’s love’ and ‘we are one.’”
“But it’s one thing to say it,” Suho said. “I meant it, but I didn’t always have the right ideas about how to make it happen. You’ve taught me a lot about how to live it.” He felt emotional, the weight of his words heavy on his heart. “I owe you a lot.”
Sitting forward, Sunggyu touched Suho’s chin, looking into his eyes, and then smiled reassuringly, rubbing the side of his neck. “You’re a good dongsaeng, Money-ah. Hyung’s been glad to help you.”
He hugged Sunggyu, and it felt wonderful when Sunggyu hugged him back. “I’m lucky,” he said, being greedy, snuggling in. Sunggyu’s shirt was soft against his bare skin, and being almost naked while Sunggyu was still fully dressed was doing things to him, turning him on, but he tried to focus while he could, wanted to say what he had to say. “Most guys who already have such important relationships wouldn’t want some random boyfriend on the side. I’m glad that you still come to see me.”
“Well, you’re very cute,” Sunggyu said, arms snug around him. “Hyung likes that.”
“I know that you didn’t expect it to turn out like this, in the beginning,” Suho said. “After I threw myself at you, it was nice of you to accept me and take responsibility.”
“Is that how it happened?”
“Kind of.” His hand stole over Sunggyu’s side as he cuddled in, his cheek on Sunggyu’s shoulder. “What’s private is private, but, last night, was it nice? I don’t want details, you don’t have to tell me anything obscene, but. I just hope that you had a nice honeymoon.”
“It was nice,” Sunggyu agreed, stroking his back. “I didn’t do a lot. I wanted it to be about everybody, and, ah. Hyung can be pushy, sometimes. So I behaved myself, I was a good team player. But it was very nice. I like seeing my members make love with each other. They share a lot of themselves that way.”
He smiled, amused. “Do you admit that you’re pushy?”
“No,” Sunggyu decided, and Suho laughed, hugging him tighter. “No, but other people make a lot of accusations.”
“Ah, it’s their fault, then, they’re causing misunderstandings. They shouldn’t be so unfair to you.” He kept relaxing more and more, melting against Sunggyu’s chest. He was just so comfortable with this hyung. “I think that I’m sad. It’s a shame that you had to hold back last night. The point was for everyone to share in something together. I don’t think that L would’ve held anything back, and you shouldn’t have.”
“It’s all right. Hyung doesn’t have any regrets. And I’ll make up for it.”
“How?” he wondered. “Do you have plans?”
“Don’t make it sound nefarious! I just think that while everything’s still new, while feelings are still fresh, I might like spending some time one-on-one with my members. Getting what I didn’t get last night.”
A shiver ran through Suho. He swallowed, but that last sentence had done it for him. Arousal was taking over now, hot and urgent. Getting what I didn’t get last night. He could only imagine it, could almost see it, Sunggyu on top of L, getting things. Taking things. L, so passionate, giving everything Sunggyu wanted. L wouldn’t hold anything back. Neither would Sunggyu. “Do you.” He inhaled shakily, feeling bold about offering, needing to do it. “Do you want some things from me?”
Sunggyu kissed his cheek, thumb rubbing over his nape. “I think that you might need some things from me, Money-ah.”
He did. He always did. And Sunggyu had always been so, so good to him, so good about giving them to him. Raising his face, he kissed Sunggyu. It was amazing to him, as he gazed into Sunggyu’s eyes, the sweep of Sunggyu’s lashes captivating him, that he had this at all. “What are you doing here with me?” he wondered. With Dongwoo and Sungjong, with Sungyeol and L, with Woohyun at home, what in the world had brought Sunggyu to his bed, tonight? To him, at all?
“You don’t know?” Sunggyu asked. “You don’t know how much hyung loves you?” The hand on Suho’s nape slid up into his hair, cradling his head, and molten heat spread through him as Sunggyu dropped a kiss on his lips. “Then hyung will have to show you.”
L was super clingy tonight. All over Changjo, like their bodies were magnetically attracted, like they had to be touching at all times. And super into him. Like, even more than usual. L kept looking at him, staring into his eyes, studying his face, like there was a lot going on there, like there was something really fascinating to see. And smiling, like he was doing something great, like he was some inspiring miracle, when really he was just sitting there wearing the same face he’d always had.
The stars in L’s eyes were bright, tonight. Like, fireworks, stage pyro, launching rocket bright.
The commitment ceremony had gone well. Obviously. Super obviously, like, it was written all over L’s face. He’d seen it as soon as he’d walked in the door. L was in love. And, even more importantly, L was loved back.
That was good. It was hugely, significantly, vitally good. Infinite had already been extreme as all hell, but they’d just outdone themselves. But L was intense, and he needed reminders that his members could be intense right back. He needed proof that however extreme he got, however far he went, his members would meet him there. After losing Hoya, he’d been fighting really hard to keep himself together, working really hard to understand it and absorb the impact of it, but he’d been swinging, struggling, emotions sliding all over the place, and he’d really needed something to put him back in place, needed something to hold onto. An anchor for all of the emotions welling up inside. Thank god that Infinite could give him that, that they understood him enough and loved him enough and could be selfless enough to dive into the deep end with him.
While L rested with his head on his hand, weighing down Changjo’s side, stroking Changjo’s sideburn like he was actually personally deciding the fate of each individual strand of hair, Changjo picked up the pendant on the chain hanging around his neck.
It had looked great, earlier, swinging down while L crawled over Changjo, black and gold, sexy, that one accessory showing off how otherwise completely naked he was. It had looked great, too, resting against his chest while Changjo was on top of him. And it had been an additional point of contact when he’d been behind Changjo, the weight of it resting on Changjo’s back.
Changjo had never seen it before, and L hadn’t gotten annoyed or distracted by it and taken it off to focus on him, so it was definitely part of this commitment ceremony thing. It was nice, it had real weight in his hand. Romeo. “Who’s your Juliet?” Changjo asked. “Woohyun hyung?”
“Mmm.” L smiled, blinking slowly, all sated and dreamy. “Yeah.”
“So, what happened? You all stood in a circle and held hands and promised to love each other? And then you boned all night? Or, plus crying, I forgot the crying.”
L looked tickled. “Yeah, that’s how it went. Sunggyu hyung proposed to us, and then we, um. We talked to each other, we made some confessions. And then we kind of got married. We made promises to each other, we said our vows.” He grinned. “And then we boned.”
“So that’s what the ring is? He actually proposed?” That was super disgusting. Changjo was fascinated. “What’d he say, did he like get down on one knee and everything?”
To Changjo’s delighted horror, L actually nodded. “He was on his knees. He said.” L blushed, turning his face away, embarrassed now. “He said it the regular way. Sungyeol hyung proposed to me, too. I kind of.” He licked his lips. “I wasn’t sure that everybody meant it. I didn’t believe that it was as serious for them as it was for me. Woohyun hyung had tried to warn me that I’d feel that way, but I wanted it so badly, I thought I’d just want it to happen, however it went, and that wouldn’t matter. But then when it was happening, I needed it to be real, I had to be sure.”
Changjo nodded. “But you’re sure, now.”
“Yes. Yeah, I just. It seemed too good to be true.”
“Good.” Changjo had to be honest for a second. “I’m glad that you got your wedding,” he said, rolling onto his side. “I’m really glad. I want your members to love you as much as you love them. I want you to know that they’re totally committed to you. Losing people hurts, and it’s been hell on you, and I don’t want you to worry about your members.” L was gathering him closer, gazing soulfully into his eyes, hands all over him, and with other guys all of this constant skinship would’ve made him claustrophobic, but it was L, so he was good with it. “You’re fucking amazing,” he said frankly. “You deserve for people to be batshit in love with you, I want you to have that. I’m really glad that last night went right, I’m really happy for you. You’d do anything for your members, and now you know for sure they’ll do anything for you, too.”
L smiled at Changjo, beautiful, all stars and dimples. “You-” Then he blinked, abruptly pushing himself to sit up, one hand grabbing Changjo’s thigh. “I almost forgot! It was you, wasn’t it?”
“What’s me?” he asked, startled, laughing. Totally caught.
“The clothes,” L said. “The shampoo, the whole bag, everything. Two outfits, why were there two?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about. It was you,” L said, watching him intently.
“Mmm, whatever,” he said, deciding not to talk about it. “Should I ask why both Sunggyu hyung and Sungyeol hyung proposed to you? Or should I ask why the other members didn’t? What’s wrong with them?”
“You completely fucking saved my ass,” L said. “You don’t want credit for it?”
“The ceremony’s about you, it’s about Infinite, it’s not about me,” Changjo said. “I didn’t have anything to do with it, it was all you.”
“You saved it,” L said. “You saved me. I don’t even know how you did it.”
“You saved it,” Changjo told him. “Your members saved you. I’m just some stalker who knows what kind of shampoo you like.”
He kissed Changjo. “I love you.” His voice was soft, and he looked completely infatuated. “I love you so much,” he murmured, caressing Changjo’s cheek. “Last night was about Infinite. But you helped to get me there. If it wasn’t for you, if it wasn’t for Suho hyung, last night wouldn’t have happened, and it wouldn’t have been right.”
“I can get you cologne and pants,” Changjo said. “I can’t get your members to love you so much they literally take turns proposing marriage to you. That’s you, you did that.”
He smiled. “I’m lucky.”
“You’re fucking amazing,” Changjo told him.
He nibbled on his lower lip, then gave Changjo a guilty smile. “Woohyun hyung wore the other outfit.”
“During the ceremony? Because he was wet? What happened with that, why did he go running around, what’d he forget? How’d he forget anything, I thought Woohyun hyung would’ve had everything already planned out. What’d he wear, what’d you put on?” Then he asked the most important question. “Does he know where you got it from?”
L shook his head. “I don’t think so. I don’t know how he’d take it. He might feel grateful to you for being so supportive, it might make him feel good to know that you were so encouraging about the vows.”
Or he might decide that Changjo was interfering. “He doesn’t need to know.”
“Sungyeol hyung’s curious about you. He wants to know why I love you so much.”
“We’ve been together this long and he never cared before?” How much did Sungyeol actually love L if he wasn’t even a little bit interested in who L was in a relationship with, or why?
“I think that he tries to stay out of my relationships,” L admitted. “He didn’t always like who I hung out with, before, and sometimes he told me he didn’t approve, and I got pissed off. Or he tried to be supportive, and then the relationship got,” L winced, “bad, and he felt guilty. So now he just lets me do what I want to do, and he tries not to say too much about it.” He nibbled on his lower lip again. “I think that he was okay, when he thought that I was dating Suho hyung. I think he kind of approved of that. He was, uh, surprised, when it turned out that I was dating you, instead.”
“You were surprised, too,” Changjo reminded him.
He laughed. “You were some annoying kid!” Love shone in his eyes as he cupped Changjo’s face. “Who knew that you were stealing my heart away, the whole time?”
“I wasn’t trying to steal your heart,” he objected. “I was trying to get you off of Suho hyung.”
L kissed him. “How much is it going to cost to repaint the wall out there?”
“I don’t know, why?” L was too absorbed in nuzzling his cheek to reply, so he kept talking, toying with L’s pendant, sending it swinging back and forth. “Not too much, if they just cover up that one area. The members are super pissed off, because we just had the whole dorm repainted, so they want me to have the whole room redone, just to get back at me, but, like, they can just redo that spot, whatever. I could do it myself, if I wanted. If I were allowed to have paint in the dorm.”
L’s head lifted, his smile captivated. “You aren’t allowed to have paint in the dorm?”
“Mmm, stuff happened once,” and he pressed his lips together, widening his eyes slightly, totally innocent and ready to move on.
L kissed him so tenderly it did things to him. “Have the whole room redone. Get whatever kind of paint you want, have them do a whole mural if you want. Send me the bill, I’ll cover it.”
“Do you think I want your money?” he asked, curious.
“No,” L said. “Just do it. Do it next time, too. Whatever happens, whenever something comes up, send the bill to me. I’ll take care of it, I don’t even care what it is. I won’t even ask, if you don’t want me to.”
“You’re my sugar daddy,” Changjo said. “You’re my accomplice? You know the number one rule around here is, don’t encourage the maknae. They fire people over it.”
“Have them paint a whole mural,” L said. “Redo the whole room, whatever you want.”
“C.A.P. hyung won’t like it,” he said. “Suho hyung really won’t like it. Having to redo the wall is supposed to be a consequence. C.A.P. hyung isn’t going to want me getting out of it, and Suho hyung’s going to freaking lose it if you start covering for me.”
“Then they don’t have to know.” L’s expression darkened, his touch sliding along Changjo’s jaw. “I want them to know.”
Okay. “What are you trying to prove?”
“That you’re mine,” L said without hesitation. “And I’ll shield you, no matter what. If they want to get to you, they have to go through me.”
“Nobody wants to get to me.”
The stubborn set of L’s mouth made him look like a petulant teenager who was going to be moody and unbearable if he didn’t get his way.
“Look, things are great with your members right now, you don’t want to start something.” Although. “If you want to piss off my members, you can prove something to them. I don’t care, Chunji hyung deserves it, anyway.”
An evil smile tugged up one side of L’s mouth.
“But nobody’s out to get me,” he said, needing L to get that point. “My members mostly like me, EXO mostly likes me, your members…”
L suddenly had no expression anymore at all.
Oh. “But things are good right now, right? You and your members, everybody’s close, you just had a whole commitment ceremony, Infinite’s stronger than ever, right? So there’s nothing to worry about. If, maybe, Woohyun hyung, maybe, was worried about Chunji hyung, maybe, distracting Dongwoo hyung, maybe, he won’t be worried about that anymore, right? Not now.” That had been the whole fucking point.
“Right,” L said. “Right. I think. Yeah.”
“Are you worried about Chunji hyung right now? Are you worried about Suho hyung?” Maybe he could use L to take Infinite’s temperature. See where the obsessive, jealous baseline was.
“No,” L said. “No. Dongwoo hyung loves us, whether Chunji’s around or not. Chunji’s separate, that’s some other thing, it doesn’t have anything to do with us.”
“Okay.” Good. Then Woohyun probably felt the same way. Right? Changjo was safe. As long as everything was good inside of Infinite, as long as Changjo kept his head down, as long as L was a loyal, satisfied husband, Woohyun wouldn’t have a reason to care about Changjo.
Maybe he should be glad that Chunji had started throwing coffee. And that Chunji had broken Dongwoo’s heart, before. He could let Chunji draw all of the attention while he slid under the radar. Chunji was way more of a problem than he was. He was just some random dongsaeng L kept around.
“EXO only mostly likes you?” L asked. “Who’s giving you shit?”
“Nobody.” When L didn’t look satisfied, he said it again, more emphatically. “Nobody, really. They all like me, they think I’m great.”
“Suho hyung’s not being hard on you about anything?”
Changjo grimaced. “He feels sorry for me. He thinks I’m traumatized, and he wants to be a responsible hyung, so he’s trying to be supportive. So far it’s mostly treating me like a little kid. He’s trying to pretend that everything’s normal, but he’s worried about me, it.” He stopped talking.
“You love it when he babies you.”
Suho thought that he was a victim.
He didn’t know what showed on his face, but L immediately, seriously asked, “Do you want me to talk to him?”
He shook his head. “You’re too scary when it comes to me. You’ll just make him think something’s really wrong with me, or that something’s wrong with you.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
He loved L for believing that. He waited, a beat, and then he smiled. “Hyung. Don’t just defend me, defend yourself, too.”
“I don’t care if he thinks that something’s wrong with me.”
“Yes, you do. It’s Suho hyung, you care what he thinks,” Changjo reminded him.
He grunted, accepting that. “I must really love him,” he mused. “Oh, you’ll like this. Chen called tonight and asked me if he could come to my dorm and borrow a bed, and I said yes. He brought Baekhyun over, they’re on a date or something, I don’t know. Chen was in a really good mood, it was nice. I gave them some champagne and everything.”
Amazed, Changjo laughed. “You answered the phone when he called and you let him come over?” With Baekhyun? A bed, champagne, all of it? Changjo felt really proud of him. “You have a friend!”
“I don’t know.” He blushed. “I guess so. Chen’s okay.”
“You want to protect the widow,” Changjo said.
L gave him a closer look. “Is that why…”
Why he kept reconnecting with Sehun? He shrugged. “Kind of. It’s part of it.” He thought about it. “Really, I think that’s why I care about Hwanhee so much. He reminds me of stuff. It makes me feel things.”
L nodded, rubbing Changjo’s shoulder. “I hate that.”
“What, feeling things?”
Changjo smiled. “Is that why you like being around me? I don’t make you feel things?”
He laughed. Rubbing his nose, he looked happy. “You make me feel everything.”
The stars were so bright that night.
Chen had a great morning.
He woke up in Infinite’s dorm. It hurt to be there without his boyfriend, but the pain was a pang, not a brutal stabbing.
He and Baekhyun stayed in Sungyeol’s bed for a while, just talking. He’d been so estranged from the members, he and Baekhyun had missed out on a lot of conversations, so they made up for it that morning, covering everything they could think of.
When they got up, Dongwoo was there. He helped them to find something to eat, and then he told them all about the wedding. It sounded like it had gone just like Chen had guessed it would, only more. Chen had told himself that it wouldn’t really be a wedding-wedding, that was way too much to ask; they’d just open their hearts to each other, maybe make some confessions and some promises, and agree to move forward as one. When Dongwoo told them that Sunggyu had actually proposed, Chen was incredulous. He had to know every single detail. When Dongwoo showed them the actual ring Sunggyu had proposed with, Chen couldn’t believe how perfect it was. It was full of color, it shone and sparkled from a mile away. Just like Dongwoo.
Then Dongwoo showed them the necklace Woohyun had given him, and Chen couldn’t get over it. It was one thing for Sunggyu to make a big overture to the members, but Sunggyu was their leader; it was his job to take on that role. For Woohyun to do it, too, just showed how romantic Woohyun was, how much he loved Infinite. Chen was impressed that he’d open up his heart and be so generous, especially if no one else but Sunggyu had done it. It wasn’t like all of the members had gone that far, just their leader and Woohyun. There was really something special about Woohyun.
The Infinite that Chen had learned to believe in was still there. The love between the members was stronger than ever. Knowing that helped Chen to heal. If Infinite, after everything, could grow, then he could, too. He’d be a selfish fool if he did anything else.
When he and Baekhyun went back to the room to get dressed, he wasn’t in any hurry to go. He didn’t want to avoid EXO’s dorm anymore; he was so comfortable with Baekhyun, he thought he’d feel better about all of the members, now. But there was healing and romance in these walls, and he wanted to soak in it for a little bit longer.
He tugged Baekhyun down onto L’s bed to make out.
He was in such a good mood, so ready to celebrate love, so ready to feel something good again, that he got really into it. And Baekhyun had always been an excitable partner, always ready to ramp things up. By the time they were done, he was as ecstatic and exhausted and high as if they’d just finished a major concert. Baekhyun wiggled against him, flushed and giggly, and seconds later was totally passed out.
He got up and stretched, feeling fantastic. He didn’t know why, but he really got some of his best healing from sex. Maybe the physical high did it; maybe the intense intimacy of it forced him to reconnect, to bond, to feel good about being close to someone.
He took a shower and got dressed. He decided to let Baekhyun nap a little longer, but they were definitely going to have to change L’s sheets before they left; they’d given the bed a serious workout. To be nice, he changed Sungyeol’s sheets, and then he went to talk to Dongwoo.
He asked more about the wedding, just because he loved hearing about it. Infinite’s bond inspired him, and what was even better was how open they were about it. Dongwoo told him everything candidly, like it was only natural for Sunggyu to have knelt down and proposed marriage. Chen didn’t know any other idol group, literally, any other idol group at all, who felt this way, but it didn’t even occur to Dongwoo to be self-conscious about it.
Dongwoo’s necklace was beautiful. When Dongwoo let him hold it, he almost refused; wasn’t it too precious to hand to just anybody? But he’d be careful with it. “Do you believe in destiny?”
“Yes,” Dongwoo said. “Sure.”
Of course he did. He believed in magic, too. “I want to believe like you do,” Chen said, smiling at him.
“Sunggyu hyung thinks I’m foolish,” he admitted. Taking the necklace back, he held it in one hand. It draped across his knuckles, and when he turned his hand, the diamonds caught the light. “He doesn’t think magic is real. But I feel it with him more than anybody.”
“With Sunggyu hyung?”
He nodded. “Him and Chunji. But it’s different. Different magic with different people.”
As Dongwoo hung up the necklace on the wall, Chen thought about that. Whatever magic was, he wanted to feel it, too. But his best chance for it was gone. Where was he going to get it now? Suho? Maybe he should try dating Chunji.
Baekhyun padded into the room, looking rumpled and embarrassed. They thanked Dongwoo for letting them crash and said good-bye.
On their way out, as they collected their phones and checked their messages and put on their shoes, he thought that he was forgetting something, but he couldn’t remember what it was.
Everything was going right.
A lot had gone wrong. L had been left hopeless, despairing, furious, heartbroken, betrayed. He’d been hanging on, but even that had felt wrong.
But his members had pulled him out of it. Suho, Changjo, and his members. They were everything to him. He felt stronger than ever. Lighter. Life wasn’t such a burden. He was ready to lift his head and look around, venture out into the world.
He thought that maybe Chen could be a part of that. Changjo was so foolish, making a big deal of whether he and Chen were friends or not, but maybe he and Chen really could be friends. He had a soft spot for Chen, a sense of loyalty.
Suho would like it. Sunggyu would approve.
Letting himself into the dorm, he called out, “I’m here!”
“Hi, husband!” Sungjong called.
He smiled. “Hi, husband!” He went to see what Sungjong was up to. They hung out, and they tried to calculate when, exactly, Sunggyu and Woohyun had bought the jewelry.
When he went to his room, he noticed a champagne bottle peeking out from under Sungyeol’s bed. He grinned, fishing it out. Chen’d had a good time, he hoped.
Then he turned and noticed his own bed.
What the hell.
He went over, staring. “What the hell,” he said out loud, disbelieving. Had they fucked on his bed? The top sheet was twisted, the fitted sheet had popped off of one corner, and there were streaks of dried jizz everywhere.
He blinked, trying to yank his emotions back down before they escalated. It wasn’t necessarily Chen. It might’ve been his own members. Woohyun and Dongwoo left beds looking like this all of the time, and Sunggyu left him looking like this, so, okay, he shouldn’t freak out over it.
Hesitant, he leaned closer and sniffed.
Instantly, he recoiled. Shuddering, he stepped back. That wasn’t his members. He knew that musk, that was Chen. Chen, all over his bed.
For a second, his emotions teetered.
He closed his eyes and kept himself together. It was just Chen. He liked Chen. He’d let Chen in. He’d let Baekhyun in. He’d told them to make themselves at home and given them champagne. It was just a bed.
He’d had sex on Chen’s bed. He remembered it vividly.
So this was payback.
But it wasn’t. Chen wouldn’t do that. Chen’s mind didn’t work that way.
Baekhyun’s mind…worked, technically. But not on any level that was a threat to L.
He was pissed off, but he could deal with it. He’d make himself deal with it.
That was his bed. Where he slept. Where he made love with his members. Where he seduced Changjo. Where he escaped, into sleep or pleasure. They couldn’t respect that? They couldn’t-
But they wouldn’t see it that way. To them, beds were communal property. The two of them barely got to sleep in their own beds; they were constantly sleeping and screwing in whichever bed was available.
He’d throw the sheets out, and he’d ask Chen not to touch his bed again. Chen would tell Baekhyun for him; he wasn’t going to do that himself. He’d ask Chen calmly, even. Chen probably genuinely had no idea that he’d care this much, and would probably be more considerate in the future, because Chen was basically decent.
Reassuring himself, L stripped the bed. He dropped the sheets on the floor outside his room, and then he went back to flip the mattress.
There was a picture under it. He picked it up, finished flipping the mattress, and took a closer look.
It was a photograph. A glossy photo of him in a dressing room at one of the music shows. Not a selca; there was a watermark in the corner, like someone on the production staff had taken it. He was giving the camera an earnest, wide-eyed stare.
It was from his rookie days. Judging by the hair, and what he remembered of the outfit, it was pretty close to debut. He smiled, awash in memories. Remembering what a hopeful, busy time that had been, he made the same expression he had in the photo, recalling exactly how to do it, which muscles to use, how sure he’d been that it made him look chic.
He wondered what this photo was doing under his mattress. He hadn’t hidden it there himself; he hadn’t seen this photo in years. Might not even have seen it at the time, just been there to have it taken. But who would stash a photo of him under his bed? Some random surprise from his members?
Then he noticed the background.
The background was almost empty. It was just a dressing room table, a couple of chairs, and Changjo.
Changjo. Standing a few feet behind him, over his left shoulder. Turned towards the camera, but not paying attention to it, Changjo was in mid-dance move, one arm up and angled, knee bent.
His hair was over-styled, his outfit over-accessorized, just like L’s. He looked like such a baby! Hardworking, though, dedicated, energetic. They looked like such rookies, both of them.
L hadn’t even noticed Changjo, back then. Changjo hadn’t noticed him, either. But they’d both been there. Debuting in the same industry at the same time, in and out of each other’s lives, personally, professionally. This photo was proof of it. He’d been thinking about himself, about Infinite, and Changjo had been thinking about himself, about Teen Top, but for a moment, they’d been captured together, just the two of them, in the same place, at the same time.
A snapshot of their ignorance, a glimpse of what was to come.
He cherished this photo.
He needed to frame it. To hang it up, put it on the wall. His earnest, rookie expression and Changjo’s hard work, their more innocent days. Proof that he should never, ever believe that he knew where his life was headed. Anything could happen; the random dongsaeng he’d never even noticed might become his whole world.
He wanted to keep it safe until he could buy a decent frame for it, so he decided to keep it with the rest of his photos of Changjo. He didn’t have nearly, nearly as many of those as he wanted, so the set he did have was incredibly precious to him.
The box where he kept them wasn’t in the right place. Had somebody moved it? The housekeeper wasn’t supposed to touch his shit, and his members usually didn’t go in the closet. Maybe Sungyeol had done it, moving stuff around, looking for something. Okay with that, he opened the box.
His photos. His photos of Changjo. His photos of Changjo and Suho. His photos of the three of them together. His tangible memories, his proof of their time together. That perfect, innocent day when he’d been in love with Changjo and hadn’t even known it.
They were sideways, they were all mixed together, they’d been tossed. Someone had gone through them. Someone had gone through them and not even bothered to hide it.
Furious, betrayed, he screamed, his peace shattered. He sat down on the nearest surface, clutching at the box. Disbelieving, in shock, he didn’t even know what to do. Then, panicked, his hands shaking, he tried to organize the photos, tried to restore order. Were they all here? Were any of them damaged?
“Hyung?” Sungjong asked from the doorway.
“Did you go through my shit?” he asked, but he was focused on the photos, on sorting them, setting everything right again. Every photo both soothed and enraged him. His beautiful Changjo, his smiling hyung. How could anyone do this to him, how could anyone fuck with his memories of one of the best days of his life? He and Suho had been so close, that day; they’d just made up, they’d just made love, there had been a happy new intimacy between them, so fresh and tender they’d still been getting used to it. And Changjo, his precious Changjo, so bold that day, in such a good mood. He’d been head over heels and he hadn’t even realized it.
These photos showed so many sides of Changjo. Sexy. Experienced, professional. Cute, charming. An innocent, adorable maknae. A foolish, playful dongsaeng. So handsome, here. So sultry, there. Having fun, goofing around with Suho, carefree. Knowing, mischievous. Stealing his heart with every look, with each click of the shutter.
Who would screw with his memories? It felt like a threat, like a violation. Why had he bothered to ask Sungjong? He knew who’d done it. Nam Woohyun. Woohyun hated Changjo, hated Suho. This was a warning.
And then, in his peripheral vision, he saw the bare mattress under him.
Woohyun loved him. Woohyun had promised to try not to do things like this. The box had been in the right place yesterday, hadn’t it? He thought so. And this close to the wedding, this close to all of those promises, Woohyun wouldn’t have done this to him. Not this. Woohyun was more likely to claim him than threaten him. Threaten Changjo. Threaten Suho. Sunggyu’s Suho.
No. Not Woohyun.
But someone else had been in his room.
Someone else had violated his private space.
Sungjong sat beside him.
He focused on the photos. They were what mattered most, now. Sungjong helped him to restore order, held stacks for him while he sorted. When he had them all organized and tucked safely, correctly into the box, he double-checked. “I’m missing one,” he said, his heart pounding. “Changjo, he was by the bike rack, he was wearing my hoodie.” These were photos of his Changjo. Of the day the three of them had spent together, healing, reconnecting, after everything had gone wrong. Of the day Suho and Changjo’d made love for the first time. Every photo was another part of his heart.
“Okay, I’ll look,” Sungjong said. “We’ll find it, right, it’s here somewhere.”
While he went through the photos again, triple-checking, Sungjong searched the room. The familiar photos, the familiar sequence of shots, the familiar ritual of flipping through them, soothed him. But he was still upset, agitated; one was missing, one wasn’t where it was supposed to be, they were supposed to be a certain way. The set wasn’t complete.
“Ah! Yeah, here,” Sungjong said. He popped out from under Sungyeol’s desk and came over, holding it out.
The last photo. Taking it carefully, L blew a speck of dust off of it. It was unharmed; it looked just like it had the evening they’d had it developed. He remembered how insistent Suho had been about wanting to develop them that very night. He remembered the three of them poring through the photos, admiring and teasing each other. His relationship with Suho and Changjo was part of his foundation, and that night had been a crucial part of it, a fundamental step in their progress. A time they’d given each other a second chance. A time they’d acknowledged that the three of them were linked. There never would’ve been an L and Changjo if there hadn’t been a Suho, L, and Changjo, first.
He carefully tucked the final photo into place with the others. He put his new photo, of two ignorant rookies, in the back. He fitted the lid back onto the box. He sat there, holding the box on his lap, staring at where he could see a lump of wadded-up sheet through the open doorway.
“What happened?” Sungjong asked, sitting down beside him again.
“Chen and Baekhyun were in here, going through my things.”
“They wouldn’t do that.”
“Chen hyung wouldn’t,” Sungjong said.
He looked around his room. His gaze slowly traveled from object to object. What else had they touched? How else had they violated him?
“I can find out what happened,” Sungjong said.
“Hyung, let me find out for you,” Sungjong said. “It might’ve been an accident. It might’ve been somebody else.” Sungjong’s hand rested on top of his. “I can help you before you do something you’ll feel bad about later.”
He looked down at Sungjong’s slim fingers. “You’re not wearing your ring.”
“Everybody kept saying about how rings can be lost, rings can be taken off and forgotten, you all made me nervous,” Sungjong said. “I put it somewhere it’ll be safe.”
He was momentarily distracted from his dark thoughts. “Do you have a hiding place?”
Sungjong smiled. “I have three,” he said, holding up three fingers.
“Can I see?”
Still smiling, he shook his head. “But I’ll wear my ring, sometimes, for special occasions. It’s really pretty. Sunggyu hyung likes me more than I thought.”
“He loves you,” L said, petting him. L kissed his cheek and then got up, putting the box away. “Find out whose fault this is.” The new photo had to be from Changjo. He wondered if Changjo had stashed anything else in his room, any other secret treasures for him to find. “I don’t want to take it out on Chen if he doesn’t deserve it.” He was willing to hold off. For the sake of getting along. For the sake of love and loyalty. He’d wait until he was sure. “And throw those sheets away for me, okay? I want them out of the dorm.”
Chunji was trying to stay out of Infinite’s dorm. He wasn’t making a big deal of it, he just kept making plans to meet Dongwoo anywhere and everywhere else.
Dongwoo had forgotten his gym card at the dorm, though, so they stopped by to pick it up. He tried to stay in the car while Dongwoo ran in, but Dongwoo wanted to show him some new décor stuff that had just been delivered.
He checked out the new closet organizer, and they played with that for a minute, figuring out the best way to use it, deciding that Dongwoo might need a second one. He sat on the new ottoman, testing it out. Dongwoo thought that he looked so handsome on it, apparently he was irresistible, and they started kissing. The kissing got really good, turned him on, but the ottoman wasn’t built to hold two adults, and they ended up landing on the floor in a tangled tumble of limbs, laughing.
“Oh, you’re here!” Sungjong said from the doorway. “Hello, husband!”
Lolling on the floor, Dongwoo smiled broadly. “Hi, husband!”
“Is Sunggyu hyung here?” Chunji asked. He figured that he’d better have this conversation sooner, rather than later. Really, he’d rather avoid it altogether. But he had to be mature about it, for Dongwoo’s sake. Shit, he really had to be in love.
“Yeah, in his room,” Sungjong said.
“I’ll be right back,” Chunji said.
“To see Gyu hyung?” Dongwoo asked as Chunji got up. “Ask him if he’s seen my gym card!”
“I’ve seen it,” Sungjong said as Chunji left the room. “Let me look.”
Chunji went to Sunggyu’s room. As soon as he was in the doorway, he realized that he’d forgotten to ask Sungjong something important. He’d forgotten to ask if Woohyun was around.
Woohyun was on Sunggyu’s desk chair, doing something on the computer. Sunggyu was on his lap, pointing at the screen, laughing. Before Chunji could rethink this and back away, they noticed him. Woohyun just glanced at him; Sunggyu recoiled dramatically. “No throwing anything! This is clean!”
“No, it’s not,” Woohyun said.
“Is it not?”
Woohyun sniffed Sunggyu’s sleeve and shook his head, wrinkling his nose.
“No?” Sunggyu tugged at the front of his shirt, sniffing. Then he grimaced. “Doesn’t anyone do laundry?” Then he smiled, tickling Woohyun under the chin. “Ah, you’re my husband, not my housekeeper, right? I won’t ask you to do things like that. My husband’s hands will never touch the laundry, or the dishes, or any of it.”
Woohyun smiled up at him. “Am I your husband?”
“We just agreed to it. Did you forget about me already?” Sunggyu asked, pretending to be hurt. “Ah, I see.” He nodded. “I’ll have to remind you, then.”
Woohyun tilted his chin up, his arm tightening around Sunggyu’s waist. “I might need a lot of reminding.”
Sunggyu was leaning closer, lashes drifting down, their noses almost brushing. “Are you very forgetful?”
“So much,” Woohyun whispered, smiling at him.
Sunggyu cupped Woohyun’s chin, his thumb whispering across Woohyun’s lips. He looked proud, like a conqueror eyeing his hard-earned prize. Then he asked, “Is that dongsaeng still there?”
“Yes,” Woohyun said, not looking away from Sunggyu’s face.
“I’ll go,” Chunji said, taking the hint and backing away.
“Ya,” Sunggyu said, so he stopped. “I want you on my bed, now,” Sunggyu told Woohyun, getting up. He gave Chunji an impatient, deliberately patient look. “What, you want something, what?”
“You’re busy, I just wanted to say something, I can do it later.”
Moving with lazy nonchalance, Woohyun got up, stepping away from the desk.
“You’re here, I’m here, say it now,” Sunggyu instructed.
Chunji licked his lips. He leaned his shoulder against the doorframe. He hadn’t wanted an audience, and he hadn’t expected to feel so rushed, but he’d rather get this over with. “I just wanted to make sure we’re okay.”
“I don’t hold grudges,” Sunggyu said.
“Yes, you do.”
“No, you do,” Sunggyu said. “I do, too,” he admitted. “But I don’t think that it’ll be good for anybody if you and I stay mad at each other. I told you that I forgave you, and I meant it. We’ll have a fresh start.”
Woohyun pulled his shirt off over his head. Dropping his shirt onto the chair like he’d done it a million times before, which Chunji knew he had, he rubbed his hand over his pecs and crawled onto the bed. He wasn’t flirting with Chunji, wasn’t acknowledging Chunji at all. He was completely Sunggyu’s, now, and no one else mattered. Chunji wondered if that was on purpose, and which one of them he was trying to send signals to.
It was really hard not to read a hundred secret messages into everything that the Infinite members did, lately. Maybe none of it was manipulative, maybe none of it was designed to mean anything, but he kept seeing layers and layers of code in every move. He wondered if he was getting paranoid. He was so invested in Dongwoo, he’d gotten too invested in the dynamics inside of Infinite. He had to stop overthinking it. Whatever was going on, it didn’t matter to him, anyway, as long as Dongwoo was okay.
“I’m sorry for what I said,” Chunji said. Woohyun stretched out on his stomach, facing the foot of the bed, ankles crossed up by the pillows. He remembered how much Woohyun had flirted with him, lately, how Woohyun had told Dongwoo to treat him like he was a treasure. He wondered if that was gone forever, or if it would be back next time he was in the dorm. “And I just wanted to say congratulations about the healing ceremony. It meant a lot to Dongwoo hyung, he’s really happy about it, he can’t stop talking about it. He received a lot of healing from it. I feel like I should thank you.”
“I didn’t do it for you, I did it for him,” Sunggyu said. “I did it for myself. It was healing for me, too. Is he saying too much about it?”
“Not to anybody he shouldn’t,” Chunji said.
Sunggyu nodded. “Thank you for the congratulations. You aren’t upset about it? You won’t get jealous?”
“No, you’re his members,” Chunji said. “What’s there to be jealous of?” It was annoying, how totally in love with L Dongwoo was, but it was cute, too. “He’s happy. I’m glad you did it.” He really was. Losing Hoya had really thrown Dongwoo, made him doubt a lot of his perceptions, rattled him. All of that was gone, now. He believed in Infinite completely, believed in his members, believed that the ground was solid beneath his feet again. He was probably going to be twice as convinced of Sunggyu’s essential goodness, now, but Chunji could put up with that.
“Okay.” Sunggyu looked thoughtful for a moment. “I won’t tease you about the coffee anymore, we’ll put that behind us. Are you having trouble with anything? Do you need advice? How’s Ricky?”
“No, I’m okay.” He was surprised that Sunggyu was asking, but it was nice. Maybe Sunggyu really did want to make an effort to get along, to create a hyung-dongsaeng relationship. “Ricky’s okay.”
“He’s okay, or he’s okay, or he’s okay?” Sunggyu asked.
Chunji laughed. “He’s fine. He’s annoyed with me for causing problems, he’s fussing that he can’t just have a normal week with seven quiet days in a row anymore, but he’s okay.”
Sunggyu nodded. “Okay. Go, now, close the door.”
Smiling, Woohyun rolled onto his back, rubbing his stomach, fingers dragging over his defined abs.
“Okay, have fun.” Chunji left, closing the door. He wandered around the dorm. He found Dongwoo’s gym card beside the microwave.
Suho stretched out on the couch, his head on the armrest, his ankles crossed. “I’m too young to feel this old,” he said to nobody in particular.
“No, you’re just old,” Baekhyun said, sitting down.
“Are you home?” he asked, surprised.
“Uh, yeah,” Baekhyun said, looking around. “I’m pretty sure I’m sitting right here. Hyung, we got back hours ago.”
“Yes!” Baekhyun exclaimed, exasperated.
“I have a lot of members to keep track of!” he said, defensive. “I have a lot of dongsaengs to keep track of,” he added. “I have a lot of, just, people,” he mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “I need a vacation.”
“You can come to China,” Baekhyun suggested.
He sighed, dropping his hands. “Chen doesn’t want me to go along, it would ruin it for him.”
“I don’t know,” Baekhyun said. “He’s feeling a lot better. He really seemed like himself, last night. It was kind of a miracle.”
Suho wanted to believe that, but he’d wait until he saw it for himself. Chen was definitely feeling better than before, and he’d seen improvement in a lot of ways, but there was still a lot of distance, a lot of coolness when it was just the two of them. Chen was a lot better with other people around, but not so great one-on-one. He hated it, but he just had to do his best to prove himself and give Chen time. “When’s the last time things were normal around here?”
“Before Infinite got married?” Baekhyun asked. “That’s definitely one of the weird moments, recently. Before Chunji attacked Sunggyu hyung? I kind of wish I’d seen that. Not that I wanted to be there for it, but what was that even like?”
“Before Hoya left,” Suho said, sighing.
“Before Changjo tried asking Sehun to be his master.”
“Before L.Joe left,” Suho said.
“Yeah, that fucked a lot of stuff up.” Baekhyun sighed, leaning back and tucking himself into a ball.
“Our sunbaes get really rattled when their members leave,” Suho reflected.
“Yes, not like us, we’re used to it,” Baekhyun said. “God, why is that something people joke about?”
“It’s a way of coping. Everybody needs to deal with it differently.”
“Don’t cope that way in front of me,” Baekhyun said.
“I won’t,” he said patiently. “I’m sorry.”
Baekhyun shuddered, hugging himself.
Feeling bad for him, Suho sat up and leaned against him, obnoxiously close. “Do you need some reassurance? Do you want to feel more confident in the members? Do you need a reminder that we’re one? I’ll have to pay more attention to you,” he decided. “We’ll be even closer from now on. We’ll spend all of our time together, so that you know how much your leader cares.”
Baekhyun gave him a wary look. “Are you threatening me?”
“All of our time together,” he repeated, linking their arms. “We’ll share all of our meals together. Spend our free time together. I’ll wash your back.”
“My back’s fine. Don’t you already have a boyfriend?”
“He does,” Chen said. He climbed right on top of Baekhyun, curling up on Baekhyun’s lap, tucking his head on Baekhyun’s shoulder. “Did you hear about the proposals?”
“Were there proposals?” he asked, seizing on the word. “I haven’t talked to L yet, I don’t have good details.”
“Sunggyu hyung didn’t tell you about the proposals?” Chen demanded, smiling from ear to ear.
“Uh, should we not say anything?” Baekhyun asked.
“It’s not a secret,” Chen said. Then he laughed. “Is it? Did Dongwoo hyung tell us too much? But they were there to renew their vows, weren’t they? We all knew that, we threw them a bachelor party, we can’t be surprised there was a wedding.”
“I was kind of surprised,” Baekhyun admitted. “I was thinking like, it’s conceptually a wedding, just because we didn’t have a lot of other convenient words for it. I didn’t think they were actually doing the whole kneeling, proposing, ring thing.”
“Who proposed?” Suho demanded.
Chen laughed at him.
He gasped. “No!” he exclaimed, shocked.
“Yes!” Chen exclaimed back at him.
“No!” he exclaimed, up on his knees. “Kim Jongdae, are you mocking me right now?!” He turned to Baekhyun instead. “Who proposed?”
“Are you angry? What, what’s happening, I don’t want to get in trouble,” Baekhyun said, flustered. “Nobody, nobody proposed, they just ate pizza and went to bed early.”
“There’s no pizza,” Chen said, rolling his eyes. “Sunggyu hyung proposed,” he told Suho. “To everybody, one by one. ‘Lee Sungjong, will you marry me?’ ‘Kim Myungsoo, will you marry me?’ Like that.”
“My hyung?” Suho asked, pressing his hand to his chest. That was the kind of hyung Sunggyu was? That was the kind of leader Sunggyu was? That devoted, that shameless and selfless, that loyal? He was so impressed, he was beside himself. He’d given his heart to the right man. “He didn’t even tell me! He didn’t say anything! He acts like this and then he’s so humble that he won’t talk about it? Oh, he’s too much.”
“Humble,” Baekhyun said. “Embarrassed. Mortified. But, yeah, ‘humble’ works, too, I guess.”
“L must’ve loved it,” Suho said. “Loved it, that would mean so much to him. And Woohyun! Oh, they finally got married.” He shook his head, dazed. “Kim Sunggyu and Nam Woohyun, it finally happened, they really did it. Oh, I have to talk to everybody! Why didn’t Sunggyu hyung tell me? We should get Woohyun a wedding gift, don’t you think? Some kind of acknowledgement? What do you get for newlyweds? A blender?”
“So you - - let me get this right,” Baekhyun said. “Your boyfriend. Who you act really shocking and embarrassing around. Just proposed to the guy he’s been in love with for seven years. And you want to celebrate?”
“When have I been embarrassing?” he demanded.
“Oh,” Baekhyun said. “Oh, so many times.”
“Tell me everything,” Suho said to Chen. “Exactly what Dongwoo hyung told you.”
“Ah, there’s so much to say!” Chen was smiling at him. It was such a comfortable, bright expression, he almost didn’t realize what he was seeing. He was so used to seeing Chen smile at him like that, it took him a second to realize that this wasn’t so familiar anymore. Chen had smiled at him this openly, this happily in the past, but not lately. Not for weeks. But it was happening again, happening now. Chen’s natural, healthy smile. The smile that had warmed his heart for years.
Feeling hope rise up in him, Suho reached out. He took Chen’s hand, gazing into Chen’s eyes, wondering.
Holding his hand like it was normal, like they did it every day, just like they’d used to, Chen said, “I’ll try to put it in chronological order. Dongwoo hyung’s story jumped around some.”
“He’s not a very linear thinker,” Baekhyun said.
“It’s logical to him,” Chen said. “Oh, I’ll start with the flowers! Dongwoo hyung bought them.” He was still happy. Still holding Suho’s hand. Still being Chen. The warm, friendly dongsaeng that Suho loved so much.
Suho couldn’t fool himself with thoughts that the old Chen was back. Chen had been through too much. Losing love left its marks, Suho knew that. Hard choices took their toll; some days, Suho felt like he knew that better than anybody.
But Chen was healing. Letting his positive, loving side see the light of day again. Sharing it with Suho again.
Suho tucked in close against him, and held his hand, and basked in the glow of his smile, and listened to every word.
Across the café table, Sungjong’s smile sparkled. Lifting his cup, he held it in the circle of his thumb and forefinger, wiggling his other fingers. With a happy giggle, he asked, “Notice anything different about me?”
C.A.P. grinned at him. “Is that your healing ring?”
His smile grew and he set his cup down, leaning forward. “It is! Do you like it?”
Taking a closer look, C.A.P. grunted. The ring was delicate-looking. Flowery. “It’s pretty.”
“Mmm.” Sungjong looked really proud of the ring, really proud of himself, giving it a loving smile. “I didn’t know Sunggyu hyung was this kind of hyung.”
“Sure, you did. That’s why you did the whole healing ceremony.”
Sungjong sipped his drink, then eyed C.A.P. over the rim of it. “Are you going to do that with your members?”
He laughed, shook his head at the absurdity of it, and drank.
“You could,” Sungjong insisted, laughing. “Why not?” Setting down his cup, he propped his chin on his hand. “Is it because you don’t care about your members?”
“I don’t care about those fools.” He adjusted his hat, shifting in his seat. “Ah,” he finally said. “That’s an Infinite thing. It’s not a Teen Top thing. Sunggyu hyung’s a different kind of leader, you’re a different kind of team.”
“If you can’t even have a healing moment with your members.” Sungjong stopped talking.
He raised his eyebrows, wondering what Sungjong was getting at.
“You’re really never going to confess to anybody, are you?”
“Confess?” he asked, embarrassed. Confess to who about what? “I care about my members. We heal if we need to.” He shifted in his seat again, gesturing. “We just don’t give each other rings and tell everybody about it.”
“Is that what’s different between our teams?” Sungjong was looking at him with a lot of interest. “You’re the same as us, we’re just, what? Louder about it?” Sungjong smiled. “My hyungs are pretty noisy.”
“I don’t know, a lot of things are different.”
“But what’s it like in your dorm?” Sungjong asked. “What’s it like when it’s just the five of you? You’re not wild animals all of the time. If Ricky’s hurt, or something, how do you help him?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. When something’s wrong, I take care of it. If I can’t fix it, I see if the other members have any ideas. If we can’t do anything about it, then we do whatever we need to do so we can live with whatever we have to live with.”
“Do you ever tell your members that you love them?”
He didn’t normally discuss that in public cafes, but it wasn’t actually a forbidden, private topic. It was a pretty commonly assumed idea that any idol group’s members loved each other, or at least all got along. “Yeah. If it comes up.” He rubbed his eyebrow, feeling shy about it. “If I have to.”
“Have you ever confessed to anybody else?”
If he had, he wouldn’t talk about it here. “No.”
They were outside, walking to the nearby PC bang, when Sungjong asked, “I guess, if you were that close to L hyung, and you didn’t say it to him, who would you say it to?”
He didn’t know if Sungjong had a good point or not. “Yeah,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know.”
Suho couldn’t wait to talk to L. When he got to Infinite’s dorm, Sungyeol let him in. “I heard that you got married!” he said, taking off his shoes. “Can I see the ring? The dress?”
“The what?” Blushing, Sungyeol looked around. “Who’s telling what about me?”
“Ah, was it a secret?” Suho asked, embarrassed. “Sorry! I heard how pretty it was.”
“I looked great,” Sungyeol said. “I just didn’t think everybody was going to hear about it. Seriously, who told?”
“I think Dongwoo hyung might’ve talked about it,” he admitted. “But I don’t want to get anybody in trouble! And he only had good things to say.”
“He, uh.” Sungyeol scratched at the corner of his mouth. “He didn’t mention anything about stockings, or anything, did he? Anything about, uh, like that?”
“Stockings?” Suho repeated. “No, not that I heard.” Curious, he asked, “Why, did-”
“Okay. L! Young Money’s here!” Sungyeol called quickly, pushing him towards the bedroom.
Laughing, he went. “What about the stockings? Did you wear some? To match the dress?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, see you later,” Sungyeol said.
He chuckled his way into the bedroom. “L-ah!” he exclaimed happily, seeing L lounging on Sungyeol’s bed. “Congratulations!”
L’s smile was warm and broad. “What are you so happy about?”
“Your wedding!” He sat down beside L, grabbing L’s knee. “Sunggyu hyung proposed to you! Tell me about it, I only heard from somebody who told somebody else who told me, I want to hear it all from you. What happened, how was it?”
L told him everything. For some of it, L blushed, and for some of it, he blushed, and once in a while there were tears in L’s eyes. It was exactly what he’d wanted for L, a really healing experience, really good for the members. He knew that everyone else kept saying that Infinite was going too far, but that was exactly the point of it. If they went this far, they couldn’t pretend that they were any less to each other than they were. If they made a big, showy deal of it and went through with a whole private ceremony, then there wouldn’t be any doubts about where everybody stood. Just hanging around and elbowing each other and saying, “Hey, we’re still good, right?” wasn’t enough. Just having sex and mumbling nice words wasn’t enough. They’d needed real healing, real commitment, no doubts. Especially for someone like L; if it seemed too casual, the emotion of it wouldn’t stick with him, and he’d start to wonder how much everybody really meant it. They had to go so far that L couldn’t brush it away.
Suho loved hearing about how far Sunggyu had gone, and how romantic Sunggyu was. Real proposals! Down on one knee! With a ring! He made L describe everything about it.
They talked for a long time. Then he asked L about Chen. He didn’t want to pry into Chen’s private friendships, but Chen had started confiding in L lately, and Suho was hoping that L could give him some advice. L just said, “He’ll be okay. He’s resilient, he’ll get over it.” He’d wanted more specific direction than that, but if someone Chen was confiding in thought that Chen would be okay, that was a good sign, right?
When the subject of Changjo came up, Suho said, “I need your help with him. He’s going through so much, and I want to help him, but I feel useless. He wants me to pretend that everything’s normal - - I think that’s what he wants - - and I’m trying, for his sake, but is that right? How does that help him?”
L looked tense.
“Are we not supposed to talk about it?” Suho asked. “Not ever? But someone has to say something.”
L glared at him. “He wants you to act like everything’s normal because everything’s exactly the same as it was. He’s the same as before. What Sehun did to him didn’t change him. I hate Sehun, I’m the one who can’t get past it. Nothing’s wrong with Changjo.”
“But something is wrong,” he insisted. “How can it not be Sehun? Did something else happen?”
L was breathing hard, and his expression was dark. “You’re not this stupid.” He almost took exception to that, almost scolded L for speaking to him that way, but L said, “If you get hit by a fucking car, and later you’re crossing the street and a different car comes speeding around a corner and almost hits you but honks and swerves at the last second, what’s your real problem? What are you really afraid of, being honked at?”
Suho froze. He blinked at L, a million ideas buzzing to life in his brain. He felt scared, and angry, and sad, so sad. “Not being honked at,” he said, finally, and his voice was very small.
L looked away, glaring hatefully at nothing.
He had so many questions. So much he wanted to say, brewing in his chest. But he kept his mouth shut, wanting to hear it if L said anything else.
“I want to get Sehun,” L said, and finally looked at him again. “I’m the one who’s different. Changjo wants to be done with it, he wants us to get over it, he wants us to let it go. Every time we worry about him, and baby him, and get upset, and ask him if he’s okay, we’re keeping it alive, we’re reminding him of it, we’re making him feel like a damaged victim. That’s what’s wrong. We’re the ones hurting him. So if you want to help him? Get over it. That’s what you can do for him. Let him be normal again.”
Suho wanted to argue. He just didn’t see it that way. He wanted to dig in and help Changjo, get Changjo in therapy. Making Changjo face it and work through it had to be better than smoothing it over like nothing had ever happened. It had to be.
L was staring at him with hard, narrow eyes. “You know what doesn’t help? Pushing your ideas on him. Making him do things your way. Forcing him to do what you want. Taking control of his life away from him. I don’t give a fuck how right you think you are.”
Making him, forcing him, taking control away. Suho nodded slowly, swallowing. Yes. “I understand.” His voice was quiet, subdued. He was sure that L was phrasing it that way on purpose, and he got the point.
He’d tried to figure this out on his own, earlier. It just hadn’t sat right with him. But he got it, now. Better than he wanted to.
Sungjong walked into the dorm and closed the door. “I’m back!”
“Hi, husband!” Sungyeol called.
“Hi, husband!” Woohyun called.
“Hi, husband!” L called.
“Hi, normal hyung I don’t have a creepy, inappropriate relationship with!” Niel called. Sungyeol laughed.
Sungjong smiled, taking his shoes off. He found L curled up on Woohyun’s bed with Sungyeol’s new laptop, watching fan videos of Sehun. “Hey, hyung.”
“Mmm.” L closed the laptop, pushing it out of the way.
Sungjong leaned in against him. “I talked to Chen hyung and Baekhyun hyung. Baekhyun hyung’s the one who was going through your closet. He dropped the photos by accident, Chen hyung came back into the room and startled him. He’s embarrassed, he feels bad about it, and Chen hyung didn’t have anything to do with it other than helping him to put them back.”
L grunted, not looking interested.
“You could ask them to leave your things alone. I don’t think that you need to say it to Chen hyung. I could talk to Baekhyun hyung for you. I don’t know why he was in your closet, anyway, I’ve never seen him going through anyone else’s stuff.”
“Just don’t invite Baekhyun over for a while,” L said. “I don’t want him in the dorm, I don’t want to see him in here and have to worry about what he was doing when I wasn’t looking. Tell the other members I don’t want him around for now.”
“Okay.” Sungjong patted his shoulder. “I’ll tell them.”
L closed his eyes, then rolled onto his back and opened them, gazing in despair up at the ceiling. “Did you ever hate everybody in the world all at once?”
“Did you ever hate one person so much, it made your hatred for everybody else feel like nothing?”
He sighed, rubbing his eyes. “I just want every second of Sehun’s life to be a waking nightmare. Why is that so much to ask?”
Sungjong hesitated, rubbing L’s stomach. “Maybe it’s not only Sehun you’re mad at.”
He blinked, then frowned slightly. “Yeah. Maybe not.” He bit his lower lip, then sat up. He pulled the laptop onto his lap, opening it again.
Sungjong kissed his cheek and left him to it.
When Niel got back to the dorm, he smelled paint from out in the hallway. He hoped that the painting crew was gone; he wanted to collapse and rest, not be polite to strangers.
He went inside.
The crew was gone. The room had been repainted, all right. Three of the walls were soft teal. The wall behind the sofa was mostly black, like an empty stage, with a bright spotlight shining on Changjo, dancing.
They’d painted Changjo on the living room wall.
Niel stared at it. Pressed his lips together grimly. Gave the wall a sour look. “Maknae!”
Changjo danced into the room, twirling through the doorway and then posing in a perfect mimic of the Changjo on the wall, on his toes, arm out.
“What the hell is this?” Niel asked. “What the hell did you do to our living room, I can’t live like this. You know I don’t like this teal color, this is gross.” He gave Changjo a disgusted shove and walked away. “Get it redone.”
L yawned as he entered the dorm. When Sungyeol came over, L got a hug, yawning again. “Hey, husband,” he mumbled. It was late and he was exhausted. He was going straight to bed. Getting a blowjob and going straight to bed. Getting a blowjob and calling Changjo and going straight to bed.
“Hey.” Sungyeol ruffled his hair. “Did Baekhyun do something to you?”
“Yeah, why?” He toed out of his shoes, then shed his jacket.
“Don’t leave your shit around.” Sungyeol picked his jacket up off of the floor and draped it over his shoulder. “We were at EXO’s dorm and Sungjong went the hell off on Baekhyun.”
L blinked in surprise, paying more attention now. “Our Jongie?”
“Yeah, it was epic. ‘Don’t you ever do it again! You’d better respect L hyung’s privacy from now on! I’m not letting you fuck with one of my favorite husbands!’ It was hilarious and he was so freaking pissed off, nobody knew what to do. I kept asking him what he was even yelling about, and he just said, ‘He knows!’ What’d Baekhyun do to you?”
L smiled, touched. “He did that for me?”
“Yeah, but what’d Baekhyun do?”
“He went through my stuff. Fucked with my photos of Changjo.”
“What, the ones in the box?”
He nodded. Sungjong had defended him. Had yelled at a hyung over him! “Did he scare Baekhyun?”
“He scared everybody. I didn’t know what was wrong with him.”
Sungjong was so sweet. “He’s a good maknae.” He smiled at the thought of how bewildered and exposed and guilt-stricken Baekhyun must have been. He loved Sungjong for standing up for him, for taking on a hyung for him. “Is he here?”
“No, he’s still over there.”
L would thank him for it tomorrow. “I’m tired, I’m going to bed,” L said, hugging Sungyeol again. “Come and tuck me in.”
“Ya! Maknae!” Ricky shouted. “That hyung’s here!”
Oh. Changjo finished getting dressed. Usually he was glad to see Suho, but he was uneasy about it, tonight. Suho felt sorry for him and wanted to heal him and wanted to give him therapy, and he didn’t want any of that. He wanted to hang out with Suho tonight, but he was braced for a long, painful evening of awkwardness.
Heading for the front room, he paused in the doorway. Suho was standing in the middle of the room, studying the wall behind the couch.
Suho put his hands on his hips.
He winced. Was there going to be a lecture about this, too? Changjo started thinking up ways to cut the evening short.
“You know,” Suho said. “This is really well-done. So much detail, and they did it so fast? I should hire them for my dorm.”
“You want a big painting of you all over your dorm?” Ricky asked.
“No, I want this,” Suho said. He walked over to kneel on the sofa, taking a closer look. “It’d be nice to have our special sunbae painted on our wall. Like a tribute. Changjo and Niel dancing, Dongwoo hyung and Woohyun dancing, oh, and we’d have to add L and Chunji. If we’re painting anybody, we have to paint the visuals.”
“And the leaders,” Changjo added, bursting in. “You have to paint the leaders, too, right?”
“I can’t put Sunggyu hyung on the wall, it’s embarrassing,” Suho said. “He’d just tease me for it.” He hugged Changjo, and it felt really good. It felt good because it felt normal. It felt like one of the best days between them, when Suho was really fond of him, in love with him enough to initiate skinship. “I’ll bet that a lot of Angels are jealous that you have such a nice mural.”
“I look great, right?” Changjo asked.
Suho smiled at him, not even looking at the wall. “So handsome.”
He blushed. “So, where are we going? Somewhere good?”
“I was hoping that you’d come shopping with me,” Suho said. “I want to get a housewarming gift for Infinite. You’re at their dorm a lot, and you pay attention. Can you help me think of something they’d like?”
He grinned, feeling good. He liked it when his hyungs let him help them. “A housewarming gift? Are they moving?”
“They’re married now, I want to give them a newlywed gift,” Suho explained.
“Gross.” He loved it. “Wedding gifts, shouldn’t you give money?”
“I want to get them something nice.”
“Oh! You’re on the groom’s side, aren’t you? The groom’s family buys a house, are you getting them a new apartment?”
“I’m the groom’s boyfriend! I don’t think that there’s a traditional gift for that.”
“A big family-sized rice cooker,” Changjo mused. “Nice hanbok?”
“Are you going to be any help or not?” Suho complained. “Come on.” Suho nudged him towards the door. “I want to stop in a bunch of stores so I make sure I get the right thing.”
This was so great. They were back in their groove, familiar, comfortable with each other again. “If you want a gift they won’t expect, you could hire somebody to paint a big mural of you in their dorm. I know a guy.”
“Ooohh, that’s a good idea,” Suho said, fixing his hair. “What kind of pose should I do?”
There were flowers on Chen’s nightstand, a big bouquet of orange roses and yellow orchids.
He kept finding notes. Hastily scribbled love notes. On his pillow: Have sweet dreams of good things, I love you. Tucked in his bag: You’re so handsome and so much fun, I’m so lucky to know you. Stashed inside his shoe: Come back soon, okay? We miss you when you’re out.
Chanyeol took him to dinner. They had fondue by candlelight and told each other outdated jokes and laughed all night.
Kai took him dancing. It was just in the practice room, but Kai had a playlist of slow, sexy songs, and lit candles on the floor, and they spun slowly around the room, the lights reflected in the mirrors, Kai gazing into his eyes and seducing him with every smile.
The orchids were replaced by a bouquet of roses and daisies.
D.O. took him to the movies. They shared nachos and whispered through the first half; they held hands through the second half. When they got back to the dorm, they snuggled up on the couch and watched another movie, and it was so cozy, Chen fell asleep with D.O. in his arms.
He talked to Sehun a lot about how rare and amazing it was to find the right person, and what it felt like to lose not just that person but all of the potential of that relationship, to lose any possibility of ever finding that happiness again. Hwanhee became precious to him as a symbol of hope. If Sehun could find another sub, under these conditions, then he could find love again. It would happen. He started to believe in it, and it made him feel less burdened, less desperate. Once at the end of a long day, when he felt tired and discouraged, he called Hwanhee, just to get in touch with hope, just to remind himself that lightning could strike twice. Hwanhee was so cute and made him feel so much better, he did it again, a couple of days later.
Xiumin took him shopping at an art gallery and bought him a really beautiful blue crystal bowl. It was so extravagant, he kept laughing. “What am I going to do with it?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Xiumin said. “Sit it out somewhere. Put your wallet and stuff in it so you always know where they are.”
“I’m so spoiled,” he said, smiling at Xiumin, hugging his bowl, thinking of the flowers, the love notes, the dates. He felt really special. Really loved and cared for. It was a feeling that he hadn’t expected to feel again. Not so soon, and not from his members.
That night, back at the dorm, he felt so good, so full of hope, that he flopped on his bed and called Hwanhee.
“Hey, hyung,” Hwanhee said.
“Are you busy?” Chen asked, putting the call on speakerphone.
“No, I’m just waiting for practice to start, some of the hyungs aren’t here yet. How are you?”
Sehun slid through the doorway, staring at him. Startled by Sehun’s sudden arrival, he laughed. “I’m okay. I had a nice night, how about you?”
“We did a radio broadcast tonight. I think it went okay. I might’ve tried too hard to be funny!”
“Ah, that happens,” Chen said, smiling. Wide-eyed. Sehun was crawling onto his bed, right into his lap, practically wrapping around the hand holding the phone.
“Did you want something?” Hwanhee asked.
“Not really,” Chen said. “I just wanted to talk.”
“Should I tell you about my day?” Hwanhee asked.
“Yeah, tell me all about it.”
While Hwanhee talked, Chen relaxed, his arm around Sehun. Cuddling in against his chest, Sehun nuzzled his neck and masturbated slowly. Hwanhee rambled on, sometimes lighthearted, sometimes thoughtful, telling them all about Up10tion’s schedules. Chen didn’t even care what he said; it was more about the idea of him, the fact of him, the reality of his role in Sehun’s life. Sehun being there, and reacting so immediately to him, only made him more significant, gave Chen’s hope more to hold onto.
Hwanhee’s hyungs showed up, and he said good-bye.
Ending the call, Chen set his phone aside. “C’mere,” he murmured, leaning back against his pillow.
“My mood,” Sehun said softly, already shifting against him, moving on top of him.
“I don’t care,” he said, tugging Sehun closer for a kiss. He had hope again, he felt good again, and he wanted this, wanted intimacy, wanted his maknae.
They made out slowly. It was intense, but lingering, their mouths clinging to each other, Sehun kissing Chen hard. He took his time fingering Chen open, his fingers sliding in and out, in and out, stretching gradually, making Chen quake with each hot pop of pleasure. When he finally thrust in, it felt so right, Chen groaned, pulling him closer, loving everything about it. God, it had been too long. “I missed this,” Chen panted, cupping Sehun’s ass, holding on as Sehun rocked into him, so full, so deep.
Sehun was focused and intent on top of him, fucking him to a slow rhythm. “Yeah, hyung.” Sehun’s voice was soft, deep, Sehun’s erection sliding into him over and over again, making him shudder. “I want you to come for me, come so hard.”
“Touch me,” Chen urged, moaning, guiding Sehun’s hand to his cock. “Touch me like you were touching yourself.”
“Mmm.” Sehun smirked at him, nuzzled his cheek, hand wrapping around his hard-on. “You want me to pay some attention to your big, sexy cock, hyung? You want me to play with it, make you feel good?”
“Mmnnngh, ahh, yes.” Groaning, he shuddered again, Sehun’s stroking making pleasure throb through him. “God, maknae.”
“I’ll be good to you,” Sehun whispered, fingers sliding tenderly over his shaft, lips brushing over his jaw, cock driving in deep. “I know what you need.”
He’d been so resentful and so withdrawn, he hadn’t done this with any of the members lately, hadn’t felt comfortable with anal. His body had really been missing it, though, and Sehun had always known how to give it to him. Finally getting this again after so long, his body responded eagerly, and he got off fast, got off hard, so hard, gasping, shaking with hot spasms, jetting helplessly in Sehun’s hand. It felt incredible, reminded him of everything he’d been doing without, all of the pleasure he’d been holding back from lately. “Mmm, oh, maknae,” he moaned, writhing under Sehun’s body, pulling Sehun closer. “Fuck me hard, I want it.”
“God, no, you don’t,” Sehun said with a breathless laugh, thrusting quickly.
“I do!” He felt so good, and Sehun’s laughter was so cute, he laughed, too. “What, come on, give it to me.”
“Ah, ooh, you really, ooohh, don’t.”
Stroking Sehun’s body, he flicked at Sehun’s nipples. Groaning, Sehun pulled out of him and jacked off, kissing him, squirting on his thigh. When he felt the pulse of Sehun’s jizz, he smiled into their kiss. “Mmm. Thank you.”
“Fuck, I love you so much,” Sehun whispered, kissing him harder. “I missed this so fucking much.”
Aw. “I shouldn’t have held back so much. I’ve missed you, too.”
“You weren’t ready for it.” Sehun’s mouth met his in soft, clinging kisses, melting his heart. When Sehun broke their kiss, he caressed Sehun’s chest, relaxing. “Are you okay?” Sehun asked seriously.
“Yeah. You mean with...everything?” Sehun nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I think - - it’s been two different things. I’m getting over Hoya hyung, that’s one thing. The other part of it is forgiving all of you, or forgiving myself, or, I don’t know. It’s not about Hoya hyung, it’s about me and EXO.”
“I’m sorry that you’ve been going through that.”
“I think you’re all too nice. I’ve been cold and rude, and I get flowers and love notes for it?”
“We hate seeing you like this,” Sehun said. “Flowers, whatever, I’ll do anything if it’ll make you feel better. We’re desperate. We rely on you, what are we going to do if you keep hating us?”
“I don’t hate you,” Chen said.
“You’ve really hated us.”
“A little,” he admitted. “But I can’t stay upset. You all love me too much, you’re my best hyungs and my best dongsaengs and my best friends. I can’t get through this without you.”
“You wouldn’t be going through this if it weren’t for us.”
Well, yeah. That was true. “If it comes to that, then I want to go through it. Is that awful?” he asked. “I think that’s terrible. But it’s true. I want to have EXO in my life. I want to have this great, amazing thing that I’d give up everything else for. Not just a musical career, but all of you, too. The members. If you all weren’t my members, it wouldn’t be worth it.” He smiled, accepting it, skimming his fingers over Sehun’s cheek. This sweet maknae. “I love you. I’d give up anything for you.”
Sungyeol was horny. As the van headed for the dorm, he called Baekhyun. No answer. He called Niel. No answer. He glanced at Dongwoo. Asleep. He called Ricky. No answer. Sehun? No answer. “Where is everybody?” He reached over and poked L. “Where’s Teen Top right now, I thought they were free tonight?”
“I don’t know what Teen Top does,” L said.
He rephrased it. “Where’s Changjo?”
“I don’t know, he isn’t answering.”
If Teen Top and EXO both had free time, they were probably meeting up. They’d probably already made plans without him, expecting him to be busy; he’d be at an interview right now, if it hadn’t been cancelled. “What am I supposed to do tonight? Shinee’s touring.”
“Talk to Woohyun hyung, go find some hoobaes,” L suggested.
That was an excellent idea. He called Woohyun in the other van. Woohyun agreed to contact a couple of hoobaes and set something up.
In the elevator, Dongwoo napped on L’s shoulder and Sunggyu tried to talk Woohyun into staying home to suck his cock. “The maknae will do it,” Woohyun said.
“We have time, let’s go out,” Sungjong suggested.
“I’m tired, I don’t want to go all over the city,” Sunggyu said.
“I’ll go with you, and Dongwoo hyung can stay in with Sunggyu hyung,” L suggested.
“You want to go out?” Sungjong asked.
“Sure.” L’s smile was charming. “For you.”
Glowing, Sungjong hugged him.
As they got off of the elevator, Woohyun palmed Sungyeol’s ass. In the hallway, he grabbed Woohyun’s ass right back. Woohyun grinned, bumping against him, and he slung his arm around Woohyun’s shoulders.
Rubbing his eyes and stretching, Dongwoo started to wake up as Sungjong unlocked the door. “If we’re off early, should we go out? Does anybody want to eat?”
“I’ve got something for your mouth,” Sunggyu told him, pushing him inside.
He hooted with laughter, dancing into the dorm. Sungyeol followed him in, and, whoa! The dorm was already full. Suho was there, smiling, and Chen, clapping, and Xiumin, hugging Dongwoo. All of EXO was there, and there were pearl metal gold balloons, and streamers hung up, and Teen Top was stacking up gift-wrapped boxes, and C.A.P. was carrying in a big cake from the kitchen.
There was chaos for a second, everybody exclaiming at everybody else, everybody hugging and laughing, Sungyeol and his members surprised, EXO and Teen Top smug and happy.
Sungyeol was trying to ask if all of the presents were for him or what, when Sunggyu suddenly said, “Ya, ya, ya.” The whole dorm fell silent, all eyes on Sunggyu. Sungyeol was sure that everything was fine, but he held his breath for a second, anyway.
Sunggyu narrowed his eyes. “How did you all sneak in here?” He was looking right at Changjo.
“I bribed your manager,” Suho said. “It was very underhanded.”
“Bribed with what?” Sungyeol asked. How cheap was the rate to let people into their dorm?
“I had to promise autographs from some company sunbaes,” Suho said. “And a date with Teen Top’s manager.”
“Wait!” Dongwoo exclaimed. He laughed, pointing at Suho. “There was no interview! Again!”
“Everybody seems so unprofessional, canceling on us all of the time,” Woohyun said, laughing. “They’re about to get a bad reputation.”
“What is this, why are you all here?” Sunggyu asked.
“It’s a wedding reception,” Chanyeol said. “We’re congratulating you!”
“We wanted to celebrate your wedding,” Suho said.
“We have presents!” Baekhyun said.
“Cake,” D.O. added.
“I like presents,” Sungyeol said.
“I like cake,” Dongwoo said.
“Who wants to cut the cake. Hyung?” Suho offered.
“I’ll do it,” Sunggyu agreed. “Are there strippers at this party?”
“Maybe, if you’re nice,” Chen said, grinning.
“Oohhh.” Sunggyu smiled, his eyebrows going up, and Sungyeol laughed. “I can be nice.”
Sunggyu cut the cake in the kitchen. Everybody crowded in and Changjo poured champagne. The kitchen wasn’t meant to hold that many people, so they were packed on top of each other. Sungyeol leaned back against the sink, one arm around Niel, Xiumin beside him sitting on the counter and resting against his shoulder. Sunggyu started feeding the members, and Suho said, “We should toast. Does anyone want to say something?”
“That’s the leader’s job,” Ricky said.
“That’s Niel’s job,” C.A.P. said.
“I think that Suho hyung has something to say,” Niel said.
“I don’t have anything prepared,” Suho mumbled. “I was busy with the rest of the party. Ah.” He watched Woohyun feed Dongwoo a bite of cake. “I’ve learned a lot from my Infinite sunbaes. So many lessons, since I met you. Sungjong’s taught me that it’s okay to put up boundaries when you need to, and okay to take them down when you want to.” Surprised, Sungyeol glanced at Sungjong, who smiled, looking pleased. “Sungyeol’s taught me to have fun, and take pride in what I’m good at, and keep working on what I’m not.” Where had that come from? Sungyeol felt pretty proud of himself. “Dongwoo hyung’s taught me to embrace life and enjoy the moment for what it is. That’s an example I need to follow more.”
“Ah, I did that?” Dongwoo asked, smiling. Chen put an arm around him.
“Woohyun taught me that I can have everything, if I want it. I look at you and I envy you so much,” he told Woohyun. “Sunggyu hyung taught me a lot. He set a good example and he lectured me a lot, and I think that I’ve finally learned to listen. He’s taught me about loving my members, and how to get that love out of my heart and into them, so it’s not just something I feel for them but something they know about. But all of it started with L. I owe him the most. I wouldn’t have known how important it was to listen to Sunggyu hyung if I hadn’t seen so much in L, first. He taught me the difference a good leader can make. He told me how to open up to my members and not hold back so much. He taught me about loyalty, and love, and forgiveness, and how to be more sensitive. I have a lot more to learn, and I hope that I’ll keep listening and growing. To Infinite.”
“To Infinite,” everyone agreed.
“We’re pretty awesome,” Sungyeol said.
“Can I go next?” Chen asked.
“Yeah, I can hear more about how great we are,” Woohyun said, grinning. Dongwoo was feeding everyone around him, forkful by forkful.
“I just want to say that I’ve learned a lot from you, too,” Chen said. “I’ve been inspired by Infinite. You’ve taught me about love, and about myself, and, oh, a lot of things!” He smiled, and Dongwoo fed him another bite. “Mmm, thanks.” He licked frosting from his lips. “You’ve loved each other so much, you’ve given each other everything you have, and you keep giving. You’ve faced a lot and stuck together and kept going. I hope that my members and I will follow in your footsteps. The love you have for each other is the kind of love I want in my life.”
“To Infinite!” Chanyeol said.
“To Infinite!” everyone agreed.
“Say something,” C.A.P. told Changjo.
“Niel hyung, your toast?” Changjo asked.
“I just wanted to debut,” Niel said. “No, seriously,” he said helplessly when they all laughed. “I just wanted to sing and dance and be onstage and be an idol and crap. And then I got stuck with these weird fools.” He gestured to Ricky. “They’re so stupid and strange and annoying, I can’t stand it. But.” He scratched his nose, and Sungyeol watched him think. “I guess if you spend enough time with somebody you get used to him. I kind of like them, now. When we debuted, I met this hyung,” he said, gesturing to Sungyeol.
“He was shorter, then,” Sungyeol explained.
“You weren’t so hot, then,” Niel told him. “I met this hyung, and I thought, oh, he’s the same as me. He’s the normal one, surrounded by all of these weird people. I mean.” He gestured at Dongwoo, who laughed happily. “Sorry, hyung,” he said, squeezing Dongwoo’s shoulder, and Dongwoo fed him some cake. “So.” He swallowed. “I thought that Sungyeol hyung was the normal one. And then I got to know him better and I realized that he’s as bad as they are, because he knows how bad they are, and he likes it. This one’s grabbing asses, Sungyeol hyung grabs his ass. This one’s spoiled, Sungyeol hyung spoils him. This one bites? ‘Ah, okay, just not where it shows.’”
“What are you saying?” Sungyeol asked, laughing.
“My dorm’s a zoo? Yours is a circus,” Niel accused. “And you keep feeding the elephants. Your members are clowns and lion tamers, and you think it’s great, you’re buying season tickets. And now you’ve gone ahead and married them! You couldn’t just sign your contract and be done with it? You dressed up for a secret ceremony with private vows?” Niel shook his head. “Good choice. Respect,” he said, raising his glass. “To Infinite!”
Sungyeol cracked up.
“To Infinite!” everyone cheered.
After the toasts and cake, they went to the front room to open presents. While everyone tried to pile onto the couch at once, Sungyeol shook the presents, trying to guess what everything was. There were a lot of boxes, all wrapped in gold paper. Suho tried to give everyone credit, and then he tried to give Changjo credit, but Changjo said that Suho had bought everything himself.
“It’s from all of us,” Suho finally said. “And whatever you like, give Changjo credit, it was his idea.”
“I didn’t pay for a thing,” Changjo said cheerfully.
“Gifts aren’t about price, maknae, they’re about being thoughtful,” Suho said.
“Changjo’s never thoughtful,” Chunji said.
“I know, right?” Ricky asked.
“I spat in your champagne,” Changjo told Ricky.
“I know, that’s why I switched with Kai hyung,” Ricky said.
Kai chuckled, and then he looked worried, and then he looked nauseated. “Wait, what?” Ricky laughed.
“He’s not diseased, or anything,” Niel told Kai. “Not with anything we can diagnose.”
“What can I open?” Sungjong asked, picking up a box.
“Anything you want,” Suho said. He scratched his head, looking over the pile of gold-wrapped boxes. “Some members might like one gift more than another, but it all got mixed together, so I don’t know who should open what, anymore.”
“Ooh, I can figure it out,” Changjo said. He started sorting out the stacks, handing some gifts to each member, shaking the boxes and thumping them and holding them up to the light as he passed them out. Curious, Sungyeol started opening everything he handed over, and the other members opened theirs, too.
Suho had bought them some of everything. Kitchen appliances and videogames. Books and clothes. Skincare products and new tech gadgets. But not just any kitchen appliances; the exact new coffeemaker Sungyeol had been lusting over. The exact same blender Dongwoo had kept quoting the commercial for. A new book from an author Woohyun liked. A pile of shirts from the designer Sungjong had been talking about. A big, leather-bound, blank photo album for L; Sungyeol could already imagine him spending hours obsessively filling it with those photos of Changjo and Suho, to keep them safe.
“This is great,” Sungyeol said, already flipping through the instructions to his new coffeemaker.
“This is so pretty,” Sungjong said, hugging a shirt. “I’m going to go try it on,” he decided, hopping up.
“Where are you going?” Xiumin asked him.
“To try it on, I said,” Sungjong said, disappearing into his room.
“Is he being modest?” Xiumin asked.
“He’s a married man, now, he doesn’t need a bunch of horny guys staring at him,” Suho said. “Now, there’s one more gift.” He took a business card out of his wallet and handed it to Sunggyu. “I didn’t want to assume too much and make real plans. But that’s a travel agent. I’ve made arrangements. You and a guest, anywhere you want to go, any time you want to go, she’ll book everything for you.”
“Wait,” Chen said. “Are we allowed to do that? Can we do that? Just go on trips with each other?”
Suho looked puzzled. “Of course we - - no!” he said suddenly, blushing. “No, Chen-ah, I didn’t mean me! I meant a honeymoon trip! Sunggyu hyung and Woohyun, it’s for them to go on their honeymoon together. Or Sunggyu hyung and Dongwoo hyung, or Sunggyu hyung and anybody, that’s up to him. Or even three people, I don’t know, it’s his honeymoon, he can have as many husbands as he wants.”
“You’re trying to send Woohyun on a honeymoon with your boyfriend?” Chunji asked.
“I thought it would be nice,” Suho said.
“It’s very nice,” Sunggyu said. “Thank you.”
“Take me,” Sungjong said, padding out of his room, buttoning up a striped blue shirt. “This is so hot, I love this. Pretty?” he asked L.
L got up and fixed the collar for him, focusing on unfolding and refolding it. “It looks great,” Kai said.
“I’d do you,” C.A.P. said.
Chanyeol laughed and elbowed him. “You’d do anybody.”
“Yeah, but I’d do Sungjong twice,” C.A.P. said.
“And he won’t even do Young Money,” Dongwoo said.
C.A.P. snorted, and Suho coughed, and Chunji laughed, and D.O. asked, “Is ‘I’d do him’ actually a compliment?”
“Totally,” Kai said. “Think about how hot you have to be for somebody to want to do him.”
D.O. considered that. “Yeah, okay,” he said, nodding.
“Thank you for the gifts,” Sunggyu said. “Thank you to everybody, or to Changjo and Money, or to just Money. They’re very nice, this was very thoughtful of you. We’re lucky to have such good friends.”
“You’re totally welcome,” Baekhyun said.
“Yeah, we really went all out, here,” Niel agreed.
“Yes, thank you,” Dongwoo said, hugging Suho.
Suho blushed and hugged him back. “Congratulations, hyung. We all hope that you have a happy, lasting marriage.”
“Okay, just - - we’re not actually married,” Sungyeol said.
“Do you actually want to keep your presents?” L asked him.
“Yes,” he said, clutching at his coffeemaker.
“Then we’re actually married,” L said.
He had to enjoy this thing before somebody decided to sabotage it to teach him a lesson. It would happen, sooner or later. “Thank you,” he told Suho. “Come help me set this up,” he said, getting up and pulling Chanyeol along. He was going to have as much great coffee as possible, while he could.
After the party ended and EXO was gone, Woohyun took off his shirt, tousled his hair, and went into Sunggyu’s room.
Sunggyu was trying out the new exercise toy that Suho had given Dongwoo, a weight resistance band. He had it hooked around his elbow wrong, and after messing with it for about five seconds, he winced and gave it an injured look, like it had insulted his family. Then, pouting, he dropped it. “That’s broken.”
“Sure, hyung, it’s definitely broken.” Smiling, Woohyun crawled onto his bed. “Where are we going on our honeymoon?” Lacing his fingers behind his head, he sighed, crossing his ankles. “Let’s go somewhere warm. With beaches.”
“Should I take you?” Sunggyu asked, sitting beside him.
He gave Sunggyu a look.
“Yes, yes, I’ll definitely take you,” Sunggyu said quickly, patting his shoulder. “You’re the one, it’s always been you.” Lightly, Sunggyu stroked the side of his neck, under his chin. “Beaches are nice. It’ll be good to take a vacation. And someone else is paying for it! Oh, I like that part the best.”
Woohyun’s chest grew tight. Their honeymoon was a gift from Suho. It would have Suho’s handprints all over it. Everything they did, the bed they slept in, the meals they ate, it would all be because of Suho, thanks to Suho, and-
“The real best part will be you,” Sunggyu said. “Let’s not go somewhere everybody always goes. Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been, where other people we know haven’t been, so we’ll have just our own memories of each other, together. So when we think of it later, we’ll only have memories of our honeymoon, not a bunch of memories of other vacations and tours and everything jumbled together.”
He liked that. “Let’s go soon,” he suggested, sitting up. “I don’t want a honeymoon a year after the wedding.”
“Yes, you’re my husband now, I should be generous with you,” Sunggyu said. “Our marriage is still new, I still want to impress you so you think I’m a good husband. We’ll go soon,” he agreed, nodding.
They talked about where they wanted to go, about European hotels and South American beaches and Mediterranean villas. He wondered if Suho had given the travel agent a specific budget, or if they could do whatever they wanted and she’d just send Suho the bill. He wondered if they should be polite and frugal, or if he should take advantage and run up outrageous charges and squander Suho’s money just because he could. He wondered if Suho would dare to complain about it.
Then Sunggyu made love to him, and when he groaned and shuddered and panted, “Love you, I love you, I love you,” Sunggyu whispered, “My Woohyun-ah, my husband, mine now,” and he forgot to worry about Suho at all.
Chen was fine, on the flight over. He flew back and forth to China all of the time; he barely thought anything of it. He and Baekhyun yawned their way through the flight and joked their way through the airport.
Then they got to their hotel, and Lay was already there, waiting for them. They talked all of the time, but they hadn’t really connected, hadn’t been face-to-face, in too long, and when he saw Lay’s dimpled smile it hit him, everything hit him, and when Lay hugged him he said, “Hyung,” and his heart was full of emotion, and he burst into hot, helpless tears.
Chen was gone. But Chen wasn’t gone, just gone. He’d be back, because he was part of EXO, because he was as committed to EXO as anyone.
Suho wanted things to stay that way. And he had to do his part. Chen was a loved, valuable member of EXO, so there was no reason for Suho to hold back and not let Chen know that, explicitly. He wasn’t going to be shy and selfish and insecure and just assume that Chen felt like an important member, somehow. He was going to let Chen know how he felt.
It was just hard to know exactly what to say. He’d been leaving notes for Chen. Simple notes. It was all heartfelt, but it looked silly, written down. He’d tried to use more elegant handwriting, something stately and romantic, to make it seem more serious. He didn’t want Chen to think that he was joking, when it all felt so sincere in his heart.
While Chen was away, he wrote a bunch of notes. He hid them in Chen’s sock drawer, and under the book on Chen’s nightstand, and tucked in between bottles of skincare products. He hoped that they were at least cute and not annoying. He hoped that Chen knew how much he meant them. He thought that he should be brave enough to say it all to Chen’s face, but then he thought about how angry and withdrawn Chen had been, and he wondered if Chen would even want to hear that, coming from him.
Chen rested beside Lay in bed. “When I was younger, love seemed so easy. It seemed like any two people could be in a relationship, if they got along.”
“No, relationships take work,” Lay said. “It’s the parts of a relationship that look easy. Any two people can have sex, or go to a restaurant together, or buy each other nice gifts. That part’s so simple, it makes it seem like things can work out between anybody. But all of the in between stuff, that’s where the real relationship is, and that’s where everybody falls apart.”
“Maybe that’s why bad relationships happen,” Chen said. “The sex is good, a couple of dates are good, and you think that’s all working out, so you think you can make a relationship work, too.”
“Mmm.” Lay rested against him, stroking his abs. “Everybody thinks that being in a relationship is a goal, so they jump in too soon, too often.”
“But being in a relationship is great.”
“But you’re ready for one,” Lay said. “You have your life together. You’re a good person. A lot of people I know don’t have themselves together at all. They’re not ready for a relationship, they just don’t realize it.”
Chen smiled, brushing the tip of his nose against Lay’s hair. “I should date you. You’d be good to me.”
“I hope that I’m always good to you,” Lay said. “But you don’t want a member, you want a boyfriend.”
Chen smiled at him. “What do you want?”
“Ah.” Lay rested his head on Chen’s shoulder. “A porn star.”
“Six people, four rooms,” Sungyeol said, dragging a bedframe across the room. “We could all double up, two to a room, and turn the extra room into a playroom.”
“I think that Dongwoo hyung’s room will be a playroom,” Sungjong said, shoving the desk into place.
There was an outraged howl from the next room.
“Not it,” Sungyeol said.
Sungjong rolled his eyes. “My husband?” he called, going to the doorway.
“I can’t get this fucking thing to fit together!” L shouted.
Sungjong sighed. “You help him,” he told Sungyeol. “I’ll get the bed.”
Sungyeol left the room, and Sungjong wrestled the mattress onto the bed. He wasn’t thrilled with having a new roommate after finally having some privacy, some space of his own, for once. But at least it was Sungyeol. Rooming with any of the older hyungs would just be more difficult. And rooming with L would mean having Changjo around. As long as Sungyeol stayed single, it would be pretty easy.
“This is good,” Sunggyu said from the doorway, surveying the room and nodding.
“Do you want to help?” Sungjong suggested.
“It’s good, both of my bottoms in one convenient place,” Sunggyu said.
“We’re all your bottoms,” Sungjong said.
Sunggyu smiled. “Yes, that’s convenient, too.”
God. Sungjong ignored him and started carrying armloads of clothes from one closet to the next.
“I’m not rooming with a hyung anymore,” Woohyun announced, carrying a box down the hallway.
“L’s great,” Sungyeol said. “He sleeps all day, he’s away working a lot, and he’s a really easy lay. His boyfriend’s around a lot, but you’ll get used to it.”
“Don’t worry about him,” L said. “He won’t bother you.”
“I’m great with boyfriends,” Woohyun said. “Chen always liked me.”
“That’s because you were always balls-deep in Chen’s ass,” Sungyeol said, laughing.
God, it was like Sungyeol was trying to taunt Woohyun. How was it so easy for him to forget who he was talking to?
“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” Sunggyu said. “If you two room together, that other team’s maknae is going to find all of Woohyun’s toys, and I don’t want him knowing anything about that.”
“He doesn’t already know?” Sungyeol asked. “I thought that L would’ve told him by now.”
“That’s Infinite stuff, I don’t have to tell him private Infinite stuff,” L said.
“He won’t find it,” Woohyun said.
“He’s gonna find it,” Sunggyu said.
Woohyun laughed. “What do you want me to do, get rid of it?”
Sunggyu frowned. “Maybe you should room with Sungjong, instead.”
“No,” Sungjong said. “No, when he gets horny at three in the morning and starts pulling all of those toys out, he’s not using them on me.”
“They’re fun,” Dongwoo said. “Sexy fun!”
“If they’re fun, then you room with him,” Sungjong said, exasperated.
“I’m an adult, I want my own room,” Dongwoo said.
“What do you need privacy for, that I don’t?” Sungjong asked.
“His boyfriend,” L suggested. “He’s kicking Woohyun hyung out so he can be with Chunji.”
Wow, okay, if everybody was just going to pour flames onto fires, today, then Sungjong was staying out of it. He grabbed another armload of clothes and got back to work.
Chen was really glad that he’d gone to China. Spending time with Lay had helped to heal his heart. He felt better about his commitment to EXO, now.
When he and Baekhyun got back to Seoul, when their manager picked them up at the airport, D.O. was in the van, just to ride along and welcome them home. It was such a sweet, simple thing to do, Chen was really touched.
That night, it was his turn to be with Suho. He told Baekhyun to do it, instead. “It would’ve been your turn, last night, anyway,” he said. “You only missed it because you were with me.”
Baekhyun seemed unsure. “It’s really your night. You can take it, you should do it. I think he’d rather see you than me, anyway.”
He tried to smile convincingly. “Go ahead. You take my slot. I’ll just do it next time, it’ll come around again, you take this one.”
He crawled into bed with Sehun that night, and called Hwanhee, and held on tight when Sehun made love to him.
Woohyun came back from the gym in shorts and a tank top. And as soon as he got to the dorm, he wanted to leave again.
Sungjong was in the front room, setting something up. A low table, plates, candlesticks. Woohyun watched, bewildered, disbelieving. It reminded him of the dinners he’d helped Hoya to set up for Chen, and that gave him feelings. Complex feelings. What was Sungjong doing? Who would Sungjong be prepping a romantic dinner for? Kai? C.A.P.?
He couldn’t be here for this. He couldn’t watch this, he couldn’t even be in the dorm to hear their voices. He couldn’t tolerate his maknae throwing himself at some careless jackass. Candles and wine for C.A.P.? Sungjong wouldn’t even take Woohyun’s flowers, but he’d go this far for some-
“Oh! Hyung!” Looking up, finally noticing him, Sungjong smiled. “I don’t know how you do this, it’s so awkward. I wanted it to be a surprise, but if you don’t know about it ahead of time, you might make other plans, but - - you don’t have other plans, do you?”
“I have to go,” he said, stepping back. He’d go to his room, he’d change out of his gym clothes, and he’d leave, he’d be out, he’d be gone. He wasn’t handling this well, and he needed not to be anywhere near Sungjong right now.
“Oh. Oh,” Sungjong repeated, his face falling. “Oh, okay.” He hopped up, and Woohyun turned away, needing to escape him, but he followed, hurrying right behind. “We can do it tomorrow night! Or any time, whenever, it’s okay. I can just set it up again later. Is tomorrow okay, or - - maybe tomorrow’s better, anyway, I can get red roses for tomorrow. The red roses they had today looked bad, they were all old and wilted, so I got these, instead, but I know that red roses are your thing, so - - maybe we can try again tomorrow? I knew that making it a surprise would mess everything up, I should’ve just asked you, but I thought that it would be more romantic, this way.”
Frozen in the doorway to his bedroom, Woohyun stared. There were bouquets of white roses all over his room. On his desk, on his nightstand, on the floor in front of his closet.
“They’re in the way,” Sungjong said, sounding embarrassed. “You hate it. Never mind, I’ll move them.” He tried to slip past Woohyun.
Woohyun put an arm around him, catching him close. Still staring at the bouquets. “What are these for?”
“They’re a surprise. A romantic surprise. I wanted to do something nice for you. You think about us so much, maybe we haven’t let you know that we think about you, too.”
A romantic surprise. Smiling, he cupped Sungjong’s chin in his hand. “Are you trying to seduce me?”
He gave Woohyun a coy, flirtatious look. “Maybe.”
He leaned in close, nice and intimate, his lashes drifting down. “Jongie.” His thumb whispered over Sungjong’s lower lip. “Who else did you invite to dinner?”
Sungjong’s gaze was flickering, up to his eyes, down to his mouth, checking on his intentions, wanting a kiss. “Nobody. Just you, hyung.”
Liking that answer, he brushed his lips over Sungjong’s. “A romantic surprise, just for me?”
“Yeah.” Breathless, Sungjong stole a kiss. Smiling, pleased, he left chaste, sweet kisses at the corners of Sungjong’s mouth. “Yeah, it’s only for us. Sungyeol hyung’s bringing dinner, I asked him if he could get it for me while I set everything else up, but he’s not staying, and - - do you have to leave?” Sungjong’s eyes were hesitant, plaintive. Hopeful but braced for rejection. “Is tomorrow night better?”
“Tonight’s fine. We can eat now.” His maknae wanted to please him. He liked this so very much, all of his better angels and all of his wickedest demons were shouting at him. He just smiled and kissed Sungjong again, very lightly, very tenderly. “I like this side of you.”
“Oh, okay, good.” Sungjong looked relieved. “Okay, I’ll finish setting up, and I have to change, and the food should be here soon, I don’t know what’s taking so long. And you have to shower first, okay?”
He liked what he was hearing. “You’re going to dress up for me?”
Sungjong smiled at him. “It’s a romantic dinner, it’s a date with my husband, I want to look nice.”
Chen reached into his drawer to grab a pair of socks when he found a note. Another one! They were everywhere, lately. Smiling, curious, already anticipating something nice, he unfolded it.
You’re the sexiest one out of all of the members. Don’t ever let anyone say anything different.
Laughing, he relished it. “Who’s lying?” he demanded. He loved this. “The sexiest member, ya.” Chuckling, he read it again, then tucked it into his nightstand drawer. At first, he’d been throwing the notes away. But a couple of them had hit his heart in just the right way, and he’d wanted to hold onto them, to remind himself that someone who knew him would say something so earnest and romantic to him. He’d held onto a few more, putting them back where he’d found them to enjoy finding them again next time, using them as bookmarks, keeping them in his nightstand. They were nice.
He wasn’t sure who they were from. The handwriting was the same on each one, but it wasn’t handwriting that he recognized. And he knew his members’ handwriting, so it baffled him not to be sure who was sending him love notes. But he kind of liked not being certain about it. He liked not having to deal with someone directly, personally, saying these things to him. He liked it coming from an anonymous one of his members. That was easier on him; it kept the notes simpler, so he could enjoy just knowing that someone liked him and wanted him to feel good about himself.
He’d missed having someone say romantic things to him. Having someone who felt an explicitly romantic way about him. With his members, with Teen Top and Infinite, there was friendship, there was sex, but romance was its own creature. And he’d missed it. It felt really, really good to be flattered this way again.
He wanted to give some romance back.
Impulsively, he grabbed a piece of paper and tore off a third. He scrawled out, I think you’re sexy, too. Then he went to hang it on the fridge, where his note writer might see it.
Dongwoo was restless. It was too quiet in his room. It was too dark.
No, he realized as he rolled over again. It was too lonely.
He flopped onto his stomach. He flipped his pillow over. He tried sleeping with his head at the foot and his feet at the head. Nothing helped.
He sat up, sighing.
Naked, he padded out of his room.
There was a lamp on in Woohyun’s room. Nobody was in there, though. But if the lamp was on, maybe Woohyun was coming back. He crawled onto the bed. Woohyun’s bed was so familiar, so cozy. His new bed was terrific for sex, but it was too big for regular sleeping; he didn’t know what to do with all of that space.
Immediately comfortable, he let his eyes close. Rubbing himself lightly, he yawned.
It seemed like only a minute later that he was waking up. Trying to open his eyes, he mumbled, “Namu,” and rolled over, squirming over to the edge of the bed to make room.
“Hyung, what are you doing in here?”
“Sleeping.” He rolled onto his stomach, burrowing into the pillow, avoiding the lamplight.
“You have your own room, you have that fancy new bed, why are you in here?”
“It’s comfortable here, I like it.” Woohyun said something else, and he meant to reply to it, but he was dreaming already.
It was weird.
If Chanyeol looked at his night head-on, it was just another night. It wasn’t anything special. He and Chen went to dinner, and they had good food, and they went to this lounge place after and just sat and talked. Hung out. Had a couple of drinks and flirted. Went back to the dorm and got off together. It was like any other night.
But if he squinted. If he looked at it from an angle. It was kind of special, after all. He took Chen to dinner. They went to a really nice restaurant he’d been wanting to try. It was a quiet, posh place with discreet lighting, so it felt like he and Chen were having a romantic, semi-private dinner. They looked over the menu together and decided to order things they weren’t used to eating, to try new things. They shared some experimental lime sherbet for dessert and laughed at the way it fizzed on their tongues. Chen was smiling so much, and seemed so comfortable, Chanyeol didn’t want the night to end, so he invited Chen to the lounge. It had terrible music, but everybody there was trying so hard to seem cool, nobody bothered anybody else. He and Chen found a black leather couch in a back corner. He made Chen laugh a lot, a happy, relaxed kind of laugh that sounded like home to him. They cuddled in close, and it felt really familiar, felt really personal; he was gazing into Chen’s eyes, and Chen’s hand was on his thigh, and the way Chen smiled at him opened his heart right up. He thought about how close he and Chen were, the memories they shared, the incredible life they’d built together. Wishing for more skinship, he shifted closer. He felt foolish for yearning for his best friend, but he couldn’t help it. He’d really, really missed Chen, and every little bit of progress between them made him hopeful and vulnerable and overeager.
Then Chen’s gaze dropped to his mouth, and a little smile curved Chen’s lips, like Chen was relishing some personal secret. Chanyeol felt so turned on and scandalized, he wiped at his mouth like a fool, embarrassed. Since when did Chen look at him like that?
Laughing at his reaction, Chen looked fond of him.
“The maknae’s not actually - - he’s not better than I am.” Chanyeol blurted it out and then wished that he hadn’t. God, was he trying to embarrass himself? Chen was laughing at him again; he scrambled to recover. “No, it’s just - - Suho hyung said that we shouldn’t worry that you prefer some members to others right now, he said that it’s not about us, we have to respect your, uh, respect - - I’m not complaining, I’m not judging, you can do whatever you want,” he added hastily, sure that he was seriously screwing this up. “So it’s not like Sehun’s better, or something, it’s just, you’re comfortable with him, right?” But why wasn’t Chen comfortable with him? Hadn’t he always been someone Chen felt close to?
“He’s not better,” Chen said. He hesitated, humor glinting in his eye, and Chanyeol groaned. “He’s not bad,” he admitted, and Chanyeol immediately felt competitive. “But, no, it’s not about that. It’s just that he’s the maknae. I can trust him, I don’t have to worry about him. And he knows what I’m going through, I think that we understand each other.”
Chanyeol frowned, wanting to catch on but not sure how to hear what Chen was saying. “It’s because you don’t take him seriously?”
Chen considered that, then nodded. “Yeah.” He looked thoughtful, running his hand over Chanyeol’s forearm, a meditative caress. “He’s just the maknae, when has he ever had the upper hand? Doing the, um.” He glanced around, lowering his voice. “Doing that, lately, it makes me feel vulnerable. Physically. Or not physically, psychologically. It feels like it takes trust. It didn’t used to, it’s different, lately, it’s been hard on me. I’ve been feeling resentful, I’ve been feeling - - there are trust issues. And I don’t want to give people more power over me, more power to hurt me. So I haven’t been comfortable doing things I used to do.”
Chanyeol felt incredibly hurt. He tried not to show it. How could Chen talk about the members this way? How could Chen talk about him like this? “You can trust me.”
Chen grimaced. “I know. I know,” he repeated. “I just… The positions, the actions, they’re hard for me, right now.”
Wanting to help, wanting to fix it, needing Chen not to feel this way about him, he whispered, “Do you want to be on top?”
Chen rolled his eyes. “All right, then, how about I be on top?” he asked, and he raised his eyebrows in a significant way.
Hadn’t Chanyeol just - - oh. Oh. Um. Chanyeol cleared his throat, unsure. “Yeah, uh. I mean, if you want to.”
Chen gave him a long, tired look, then rolled his eyes again. “All right, let’s talk about something else.”
“What, we - - we can, if you want. I can, if you want. If it’s what you’re in the mood for.”
Chen shot him a conspiratorial look, then leaned closer. “You know what I’m in the mood for.”
“What?” he asked, immediately drawn in. He’d used to be in on all of Chen’s secrets; he’d really missed this.
Chen discreetly hollowed one cheek, giving him another significant look, then whispered, “The nice things that Suho hyung used to do for me.”
Whoa! Bursting into laughter, Chanyeol felt completely freaking scandalized. Chen was trying to shush him but he couldn’t control it, and then Chen was laughing with him, leaning into him. “Shit, Chen,” he said, cracking up.
“It’s been a while!” Chen explained, defensive.
“How has it been a while?” he whispered, titillated. “I mean, he’s not Baekhyun, you can’t just have it any time you want it, but-” Remembering, he suddenly said, “You aren’t even taking your turns.”
“No, it seems weird. It seems wrong, doesn’t it? Things are still awkward between us, I’m not ready to do anything in return. I can’t ask him for that if I can’t give anything back.”
“Maybe things will be less awkward after it. You’ll definitely feel better, after.” He spoke from vivid experience. “Good and relaxed.”
Chen chuckled. “Yeah, I remember. But Suho hyung feels bad, and he feels sorry for me, and he - - you know how he is. I don’t want to take advantage. I just.” He sighed, smiling. “I just really miss it. It feels so good, I really want to feel that again.”
Looking for a solution, Chanyeol offered, “I could try it. I’m not a specialist, but I know what I’m doing around there.”
Chen’s smile was speculative, now. “Oh, you want to do that for me?”
“The leader can’t always be around for everything. Sometimes the members have to look out for each other.”
“But the leader really loves his work,” Chen murmured, stroking Chanyeol’s forearm. “I don’t know if you love it the same way.”
He couldn’t believe that Chen was talking like this, about Suho, in public. “I’m a hard worker,” he argued. “I’m very dedicated.”
Chen relaxed against the back of the couch, looking so comfortable and at home in himself that Chanyeol felt lucky to be the guy he was there with. “What else are you dedicated to? Who do you like working so hard for?”
Was he asking who Chanyeol liked going down on? Um, shit, uh. “Baekhyun,” he admitted. “He reacts like I’m really doing well, it makes me more confident. And, uh, Chunji.” He felt so embarrassed. “I like the way he talks me through it. And Suho hyung. Just because he’s Suho hyung.” He wondered who Chen’s favorite was, but he didn’t ask, because he was pretty sure that would just make Chen miss Hoya.
When Chen looked thoughtful for a second, Chanyeol braced himself, expecting the worst. But Chen just said, “You know, I think that C.A.P.’s one of my favorites. He just lets me do whatever I want to do. He doesn’t rush me, he’s not pushy about it, he doesn’t try to make it interesting. I can just go at my own pace, whatever I’m in the mood for.”
“That sounds nice,” Chanyeol admitted. “Low-pressure.”
“Yeah. Kai, too, Kai’s good at that, and Sehun, but they’re dongsaengs, it’s more comfortable with someone our age.”
“What’s L like?” He had to ask.
“He’s great, if you ask-” Chen cut himself off, then gave himself a little shake. Then he gave Chanyeol a puzzled look, and then he laughed. “You’re asking me? How would I know?”
“You don’t know?” When Chen just laughed at him, he said, “You’re spending all of this time with him! I thought you were getting close.”
“As friends! Not like that.” Chen tucked a leg up. “Nothing’s happened, I don’t think he’s interested.”
“Shit. I was sure that something was going on.”
Chen snorted. “Sometimes people hang out just to talk, like friends.”
Curious, he asked, “But you know what he’s like?”
Chen nodded. “Some of it.”
“You’re not going to tell me about it, are you?”
Smiling, he shook his head. “What’s private is private.”
“You need to learn to gossip more.” His thumb stroked up under the edge of Chen’s sleeve, over Chen’s biceps. “I wonder how people talk about me.”
“Mostly they complain about how annoying you are, and - - oh, do you mean, privately?” Chen asked.
“Ya, hey,” he said, laughing. “Yeah, I mean privately.”
He shifted, turning his arm, angling closer to Chanyeol’s caress.
That simple move meant so much to Chanyeol, he gentled his touch, stroking more deliberately now, not taking skinship for granted.
“Niel only says good things about you,” Chen said. “Sungjong says a lot of good things. Ricky likes it. Our members, well, Suho hyung loves it, I think we all know about that.”
“Me?” he asked, taken aback. “They say good things about me?”
“What else are we talking about?” Chen asked, laughing. “Yeah, you. You must be good, you get everybody to play silly games with you.”
He blushed, wondering when Chen had become so bold about talking in public. “It’s not silly,” he mumbled, embarrassed.
“Oh, is it serious?” Chen asked, grinning at him, teasing. “Is it very serious, should we take it very seriously?”
That seemed even more embarrassing, somehow. “You don’t have to think anything about it, it doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
“You don’t ask me for it anymore.”
“You never agreed to it! Why would I keep asking?”
“Do you not want me to do it anymore? Am I not your type?”
“I’d lose my shit if you did it.” God, what was wrong with him? He couldn’t believe that he’d just admitted that!
“Me?” Chen laughed like he was surprised. “I’m not even the right type for it! I thought you wanted young, pretty guys.”
“Can we not talk about this in public?”
“No, tell me.” Chen looked really interested. “Do you want me to do it?”
“Of course I do, why do you think I used to ask so much?”
“Maybe - - no, I’d be terrible at it!”
“Maybe what?” he asked, his heart leaping.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he demanded, laughing, leaning away.
“Maybe what?” he repeated, dragging Chen close again.
“I won’t even do it right, I’m terrible at those games.”
“Play with me and let’s find out,” he said breathlessly, trying to drag Chen onto his lap.
For one perfect, tantalizing second, Chen was on his lap, smiling at him, fresh and happy and available. And then Chen was sliding away, off of his lap, sitting down on his other side. “Order us some drinks,” Chen said, one leg still draped over his. “I want you a little bit drunk for this.”
They drank just enough that Chen laughed at everything, happy and foolish, and he got loud, like he couldn’t control his own volume. They escaped to the van and went back to the dorm. They tumbled onto the couch and made out, sloppy and turned on, clinging to each other and mumbling breathy nonsense. He went down on Chen, and Chen pulled his hair and called him “oppa” while he was down there, and it turned him on so much that he came in his own hand.
They went to his room and fell onto his bed. They nuzzled together and traded messy, comfortable kisses. “Say it again,” he whispered, “call me your oppa, tell me how good it is,” and Chen said, “C’mere, get on top of me, I want you.” He rolled on top, and they made out, grinding against each other. Chen scratched his back and moaned, “Oppa, yeah, mmm, it’s good,” and it wasn’t sweet or high-pitched or feminine, it was just breathless and drunk and sincere, and he was so into it, he started groaning, “God, I love you, you’re the best, god, Chen,” amazed and heartfelt, and then they were shuddering together, coming against each other, clutching at each other as they climaxed.
It felt like a date. Like they’d had a date. An expensive meal, some conversation where they reconnected and opened up to each other, some flirting, and then they’d tried out some sex, open-minded and trying to please each other like they were still figuring each other out. He’d just dated Chen.
And it had been great. It had given him new, fluttery feelings. He’d felt really off-balance at certain points, but he’d also felt really eager to make Chen happy, and he’d felt all kinds of potential between them, like they could have something great between them if they kept connecting. He felt like he’d gotten parts of his old Chen back, and he wanted to grab onto that while he could. And he felt like there was more out there, more things about Chen for him to learn.
He wanted to do it again.
In the morning, when they were huddling in bed pretending not to be hung over, Chen cuddled right up to him, fitting against him just like before, like there hadn’t been any time at all since the last time they’d snuggled up in bed together. Quiet, solemn, Chen asked, “How do you think guys talk about me? What I’m like in bed, or - - or what I’m like as a guy, as a boyfriend.”
“Only good things,” Chanyeol said immediately. He tried to inject earnestness into his tone, so that he’d sound convincing, but he overdid it and his words came out a little too eager, a little too fierce. “They only say wonderful, great things about you. Anybody who’s ever been with you has only had good things to say. No matter what.”
Chen smiled and rubbed his cheek against Chanyeol’s chest and didn’t ask anything else about it.
Changjo had been playing this really carefully. He’d been tracking Infinite’s schedules and coordinating with Chunji. He got L to sleep in Infinite’s dorm as often as possible, especially at times like when Suho was with Sunggyu and Woohyun might be feeling sensitive. He tried to visit L without getting in the way, and he only stayed over on nights when Woohyun was out with Key, or when Woohyun and Sunggyu were flirting so much that they didn’t even notice that he was there. The wedding had gone well, the Infinite members were happy with each other, and he didn’t want to jinx it.
One night, he was in Infinite’s dorm, chilling on L’s bed, naked and texting Chen from L’s phone, when he heard Woohyun come home. Shit. He sat up, reaching casually for his underwear. He wondered what Chunji was doing in the next room, wondered if he should try to get Chunji out with him or just leave Chunji behind to slow Woohyun down.
“What.” Between him and the wall, L woke up enough to try to tug him back.
“Just going to pee,” he said, but that wasn’t true, and he couldn’t lie to L. “And then I gotta go. Don’t get up.” Rubbing L’s chest, he tried to get L to relax and go back to sleep.
“Why are you always taking off?” L’s smile was full of understanding. “Stop being such a coward. Come on, stay. You’re never in my bed anymore.”
“Coward,” he repeated, mortally offended. “Who’s a coward, I’m not a coward. Say it again, let’s fight, right now.”
“You don’t have to worry anymore. Stop avoiding my members.”
No way was that true. He wanted it to be true. He’d planned for the wedding to solve his problems. That had been the whole point. He just didn’t trust it.
And he definitely wasn’t a coward. No, no way. He just needed to have clothes on before Woohyun found him in L’s bed. He wriggled back into his underwear and was halfway into his pants when Woohyun walked in.
Looking right past him, Woohyun smiled at L. “Have you eaten?”
“Yeah. Where’ve you been, you were gone all night.”
“I’m sorry, did you miss me?”
L’s grin was charming bullshit. “I totally did.”
Changjo zipped up carefully, edging out of the way.
“And how are you?” Woohyun came over and sat on the side of L’s bed, running his hand right over L’s bare chest. “How’s all of this? Is that little boyfriend treating it right?”
L laughed, leaning back and letting Woohyun feel him up. “He won’t come on my face.”
“He’s a fool,” Woohyun said, cupping L’s chin. “He’s a worthless fool, he’ll never appreciate you.” Woohyun kissed his forehead. “Hyung will take care of you later, I know how to give you what you like.”
“Mmm, you do,” L murmured, tugging him closer for a real kiss.
“Love you,” Woohyun whispered, kissing him again. “You’re my best husband, I love you.” Drawing away, Woohyun got up, tugging the sheet over L. “Get lots of sleep, we’re showing you off in front of a lot of cameras tomorrow.”
L smiled. “Okay, I will.”
Woohyun smiled at Changjo, friendly and charming. “Don’t take it personally. It’s not just you, nobody deserves my L-ah. Nobody’s good enough for any of my husbands.”
Changjo grinned. “It’s okay. I don’t think that you’re good enough for him, either.”
Woohyun laughed, and L laughed, and Changjo smirked to show that he wasn’t backing down from it, wasn’t going to soften it or apologize.
“You’re right,” Woohyun said, chuckling. “It’s okay, you’re right. I’m not good enough, either.” He brushed the backs of his fingers over L’s cheek, and then he adjusted the pendant around L’s neck, the one he’d given, the one L never took off. “But I’m his husband now,” he said, gazing down at L, totally absorbed, his fingers slipping under L’s jaw, tilting L’s face up. “So it’s my job to take care of him and make sure that he lives well.”
“Great,” Changjo said, watching Woohyun stare down at L like a possessive, territorial freak. “So if I want to make L hyung happy, can I practice coming on your face?”
Woohyun smiled at him, finally letting L go again. “Try practicing on your company hoobaes. I think that some of them might like it.”
As soon as Woohyun left the room, Changjo crawled on top of L. “He’s not okay.”
“He’s fine,” L said, cupping his ass.
“He’s not fine, he’s saying shit on purpose.”
“You said shit to him on purpose,” L said, laughing. “Don’t push his buttons. You can’t start shit and then get upset if he reacts to it.”
“He’s way too into your looks,” Changjo decided. “All of your members are. Why are your members so obsessed with your face? I don’t sit around staring at Chunji hyung like that.”
“Chunji’s not good-looking.”
Changjo didn’t miss a beat. “Neither’s Lee Sungyeol.”
L immediately took offense to that. “Sungyeol hyung’s handsome.”
“You’re handsome,” Changjo corrected him. “But I don’t care about your looks.” He toyed with L’s pendant. “You don’t look like anything, to me, I don’t even think you’re good-looking. Bleah.” He placed the pendant just so, lining it up between L’s pecs.
Smiling, L wrapped an arm around him. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”
He grinned, caught. “I care about your looks a little bit,” he admitted.
L kissed him. “Spend the night with me.”
He touched his forehead to L’s, thinking about it. L wanted him to stay, and he wanted to be with L, so. “Yeah, okay.”
L made a soft, dreamy sound, nuzzling his cheek.
Just for that, he was so, so glad that he’d said yes.
There were notes on the fridge. Chen kept putting them up.
Suho read them over again.
I think you’re sexy, too.
You make me laugh, too.
Let’s go out together, just us.
He was lingering over the notes when Chen came into the kitchen. Glancing over, he asked, “You like the notes?”
Chen smiled a little. “They’re romantic. It’s nice.”
Good. He was glad. He started to shift the magnets, to slip Chen’s notes free. “It- ”
“What are you doing?” Chen’s hand curled around the fridge’s door handle. His expression wasn’t good.
“Well, we can’t just leave them out,” Suho explained, gathering up the rest. “The housekeeper’s coming, we can’t let just anybody see them.”
Chen nodded, his expression subdued. “You’re always thinking of things like that.”
It didn’t sound like a compliment, but it should have. “I have to look out for the members.”
“Yeah,” Chen said. His smile didn’t reach his eyes and he was already turning away.
Suho wished that Chen would respond to him as well as Chen responded to his notes. “Do you want to go to dinner? Just the two of us?”
“No,” Chen said, and kept walking.
Grim, regretful, Suho dropped Chen’s notes into the trash.
Woohyun took Sungjong out for expensive dinners, just the two of them. A private treat to spoil his youngest husband.
He and Sungyeol planned Sunggyu’s honeymoon together, researching locations and bugging the travel agent constantly.
He got used to finding Dongwoo fast asleep in his bed.
He and Sungjong plotted out romantic dates they wanted to go on, places they wanted to take other guys, things they wished that guys would do for them. And then they did them together, creating for each other the romantic relationships they wished they had. It brought them a lot closer. Planning the dates meant admitting out loud to each other all of the simple, and foolish, and clichéd romance they privately yearned for, but no matter how embarrassing it sounded, they pledged to do it all, together.
He and L had sex, a lot of sex, sex so intense that L was too sated to respond to the other members. He got L worked up enough to call out Changjo’s name for him, and then he rewarded L for it, because he couldn’t bring himself to punish his sweet, sensitive husband.
He made plans to go out with Suho, just the two of them, to get to know each other better. At the last second, he couldn’t go through with it, and he canceled. But he wished that he’d done it, for Sunggyu’s sake.
To make up for that, he made an effort with Chunji. They hung out together, on their own, without Dongwoo or other members around. Every time he met Chunji, he got Sunggyu to make love to him first, or he got L to go down on him, to relax him, to improve his mood, so he’d be in a better frame of mind for it. But Chunji was fun. He couldn’t pretend otherwise; he knew exactly what Dongwoo saw in Chunji. They got along really well. Flirting with Chunji kept him on his toes, and the sex was great. When he saw Chunji as a complex, vibrant, precious dongsaeng, as someone Dongwoo loved; when he turned off his brain and just went with his heart, he wanted to welcome Chunji in, wanted to make the most of their time together. Chunji was in love with his husband; shouldn’t he be glad to include someone in his life who recognized how wonderful and unique Dongwoo was?
He didn’t touch Changjo. He literally kept his hands to himself and refused to touch Changjo. He wasn’t going to get away with it for long without someone noticing, but he didn’t trust himself around Changjo. And the more Changjo was around, in his bedroom, in his husband’s bed, the worse it got. So he turned to his other husbands, because while he was fighting his demons over one husband, it helped him, it really helped him, to immerse himself in the other parts of this marriage. So when Changjo came over, he left the dorm with Sungjong for a special date. When L was on the phone again, flirting and smiling and sending dimpled selcas, he took Sungyeol behind a closed door. When Changjo’s name came up one too many times in conversation, he’d ask Sunggyu a question and distract himself with a new conversation. When he was fighting off the urge to touch Changjo, he touched Dongwoo, instead, because he could put his hands on that hyung whenever, wherever, however he wanted. So he caressed Dongwoo, and he pinched, and he stroked, and he squeezed, and he kissed, and he snuggled, and he did whatever he needed to do to occupy his hands, to occupy his mind, to distract his body. And Dongwoo would give him as much or as little as he needed, would tolerate it for a minute or respond to it for an hour, until he stopped caring about Changjo and was only interested in his sexy, fascinating, foolish husband, and how much of Dongwoo there was to love, and how much of Dongwoo’s heart and body and soul were his for the taking.
His members loved him. And if one of them disappointed him, he had four others ready to soothe his wounded heart. Frustrations, annoyances, none of it mattered as much, none of it sunk in as deeply, none of the pains lingered, the way they had before. He didn’t doubt his romantic impulses as much anymore; when he wanted to give to his members, he gave. When he wanted to take from them, he took. Sunggyu thought that he was becoming aggressive and brazen, and loved it.
Chen felt better every day. Kai kept seducing him and Sehun kept buying him flowers. He went shopping with L and went to dinner with Chanyeol and went to the movies with D.O. He had sex with C.A.P. when he needed bone-deep satisfaction to turn his mind off, and he had sex with Baekhyun when he wanted to feel close to somebody, and he had sex with Woohyun when he wanted that cataclysmic high.
He just couldn’t get past his resentment of Suho. It waxed and waned; some days were almost normal. He genuinely loved Suho and wanted things to be good between them.
But he couldn’t even enjoy his love notes anymore, not the same way, because of Suho. He stopped writing replies to them; all he could think about was Suho gathering them up to throw them away. His pleasure in finding a new one was tainted, now, and that pained him, because he’d really prized them. Thinking of Suho, he started to throw them away whenever he found them, but then he got pissed off and resentful anew. He wasn’t going to let Suho ruin this for him, too. So he went back to saving them, tucking them in his nightstand, re-hiding them so that he’d run across them again later. They meant a lot to him. They meant that someone was thinking of him, someone saw him in an affectionate, flattering light, someone was willing to be clichéd and romantic over him. He’d thought that he’d lost that, and if he had it again, he wasn’t going to let Suho take it from him.
When Teen Top’s practice ended, Changjo came over and dropped right down into L’s lap. He was heavy and his clothes were damp with sweat and he didn’t say anything, he just groaned and curled up against L’s chest while everybody talked and milled around them. Ricky invited him to dinner and Niel kicked him and he talked to C.A.P. about tomorrow’s schedules, all from L’s lap.
Wrapping both arms around him, L wanted to hold onto him, always. When everyone else was gone, L nuzzled against him and whispered, against his cheek, “I want to marry you.”
“You’re already married, you can’t get married again, there’s a six-person limit,” Changjo said.
L had known that he’d say something like that. “Then I want something else.”
Woohyun didn’t know what made him do it. He knew that he shouldn’t say it. He felt the words coming, and he knew that he should hold them back, and he said them, anyway.
Chen was naked, in his arms. Resting, sated, comfortable in his bed, lingering with him. He could still feel the place on his thigh where Chen had gripped him.
He brushed tender kisses across Chen’s spine. And then, with Chen so trusting in his embrace, so vulnerable to him, he whispered, “Chen’s kisses are the best kisses.”
Chen went absolutely still. Neither one of them said a word for what felt like an eon.
Chen couldn’t get it out of his head.
It was like his mind had been hijacked. Chen’s kisses are the best kisses. It was taking over his thoughts. In the shower, when he was falling asleep at night, when he ate, when he tied his shoes, in the van, onstage - - onstage - - it flared across his brain, obliterating all other ideas. Chen’s kisses are the best kisses.
He didn’t know what Woohyun had done to him. He didn’t know what Hoya had done to him. He didn’t know what to do with himself.
He’d thought that he was okay. He was getting better, he was sure that he’d been getting better. But now - - now this - - he felt like he was in a tailspin.
He’d had someone who’d loved him. He needed that again. He needed somebody who loved him.
This was just unacceptable. Suho had been willing to put up with a lot, and he’d been very patient for a long time, but this was going on for too long, and it was going too far. It was bad enough when Chen was rude to him at the dorm or curt to him backstage, but now it was affecting work, now it was public, now it was showing up onstage. Right onstage, in the middle of a ballad, Baekhyun had finished his lines, and instead of smoothly picking it up and carrying the song forward, Chen hadn’t made a sound. For a full four seconds, Chen had just stood there like he was waiting for someone else to come in. Four. Entire. Seconds. In front of a crowd of thousands. Suho had been so livid, he hadn’t trusted himself near Chen for the rest of the night.
He’d talked to the members the next morning, and he’d made clear what his expectations were. But he thought that he and Chen still needed to address the problem, one-on-one. No more being patient, no more hoping that problems would resolve themselves. It was time for confrontation and action.
He marched into their bedroom, intent on finding a solution.
Chen was seated on the bed, a slip of paper in his hands. One of Suho’s notes, maybe. Suho was about to speak, to insist on getting everything out in the open, when Chen suddenly looked up and said, “I need someone to love me.”
Off-balance now, Suho said, impatiently, “We all want that.” Then he thought more specifically of Chen’s situation. Then he said, “I love you. We all love you. You’re loved very strongly by a lot of people. I know that it’s not exactly the kind of love you’re looking for, but that doesn’t mean that you should just dismiss it so easily.”
“Your laughter is my favorite sound,” he said. That seemed like a direct quotation from Suho’s note. “Chen’s laughter is the best laughter.”
“The way you laugh is kind of - - I can hear it from anywhere, any room in the dorm, anywhere backstage, and I always know that it’s you,” Suho explained.
“I want this,” Chen said, gripping the note in both hands, shaking it. “I want someone who loves me like this.”
“But I do,” Suho said. “I love you just like that, I said it.” He felt like he wasn’t quite catching up with this conversation. “We have to talk about what happened last night, your attitude lately. You know that I’ve been trying to give you time to-”
“If you and I love each other so much, why is it so hard to be alone with you?” Chen asked.
That hurt. He pressed his lips together, enduring it. “You’ve been through a lot,” he finally said. “You’ve trusted people, and they’ve hurt you. You’ve believed in them, and they’ve left you. Not one of them left because of you,” he added, because it was an important point. “No one’s left Kim Jongdae, they’ve left situations that they were in with you. It might feel the same sometimes, but it’s not.”
“I love you more than I ever loved any of them,” Chen said. He was looking right at Suho, directly and clearly. “I know that you aren’t going anywhere. So it’s up to me to make the choice to stay or go. And I’ll choose to be with you, every time.”
“Why isn’t that a good thing?” he asked, sitting beside Chen on the bed.
“It is,” he said. “It is, I just. I want something back. It feels like a lopsided relationship, it feels like you’re in love with a concept and I’m in love with you.”
Suho frowned, not agreeing at all. “I love you. I’ve told you, I’ve shown you, you know that about me.”
“You love EXO,” Chen said. “You love the members. You chose to love Changjo, you found L. You never chose me, you ended up with me. You love me like you love a piece of furniture that comes with the set.”
“No. No, that’s horrible, you’re not even making sense.”
“I don’t want you to love me like you love Sunggyu hyung. I don’t want Woohyun hyung to love me. I just - - I want what Sehun has.”
“What does Sehun have?” He wasn’t following along at all.
“I want Lee Hwanhee,” Chen said, and suddenly Suho saw Chen in a whole new light, and he felt alarmed and doomed. Chen was a - - was Chen into - - not his Chen! “I want someone who thinks about me, I want someone who wants to see me, I want someone who’s happy to hear from me. Have you heard it? Just the way he answers the phone when Sehun calls.”
“Well, that’s a very special kind of relationship,” Suho said cautiously.
“It’s not that different from how you sound when Sunggyu hyung calls.”
Suho stared at him. “Take that back.” What in the world! “I’m not kidding with you, take that back.”
“You should listen to yourself sometime.”
“If we sound the same, then Hwanhee must be a very mature, respectful hoobae, and I’m glad to know that about him.”
“I’m greedy,” Chen said. “Maybe I’m still angry. I feel like I was given things, and I was promised things, and it all keeps being taken away from me, and now I don’t want to play nice anymore. I don’t want to be patient and wait. I want what I want, and I want it now.”
Suho tried to process that. “The world doesn’t owe you love. But you’ve been - - you’ve been wronged, I think. I think that we can call it that. And we - - I don’t even know who ‘we’ is, but we owe you something.”
“I’m too demanding, I’m not even being fair anymore,” Chen said. “I know that’s not right. My heart’s just so greedy right now.”
“You want to feel loved. That’s not a bad thing, everybody feels that. But I don’t think that you’re even noticing that you are loved, already.” He hesitated. “Is it not enough? Is that what you’re saying? That you’re so greedy, now, no matter how much we love you, it won’t be enough?”
“I thought that I wanted to date another Infinite member,” he said. “They love so much, and the sex is amazing, and they’re so romantic. There’s just so much passion, in Infinite, I thought that I wanted that again. But I don’t want someone to love me the way that Sunggyu hyung loves you. I want someone to love me the way that you love him. The way that Hwanhee loves Sehun.”
“You want a dongsaeng?” Suho asked.
Chen looked startled, for a second. Then he looked thoughtful. “Hi, hyung,” he said, like he was repeating something he’d just heard. He studied the floor. “Yeah,” he finally said. “Yes. I want a dongsaeng. I want a dongsaeng who thinks I can’t do anything wrong. I want a dongsaeng who acts like hearing from me is the best part of his day.”
“Well, you already have fans.”
“I can’t date a dongsaeng,” Chen said suddenly. “Nobody takes dongsaengs seriously.”
Suho bristled at that. “Sunggyu hyung takes me very seriously.”
“Hoya hyung took me seriously,” he said slowly, thoughtfully. “A dongsaeng’s someone I can do things for. I can treat him well, I can look after him.”
“Do you want to date D.O.? No, I guess he’s taken. I guess that rules out Kai, too. Do you want to date the maknae? No, he’s too foolish, you need someone more mature.”
“A dongsaeng,” Chen said, like he was still trying to come to terms with the idea.
“Sunggyu hyung takes me very seriously,” Suho said again, because he wasn’t satisfied that Chen fully understood him on that point.
“I think that there are already some hoobaes who have crushes on me,” he mused. “But who’s a dongsaeng that I could…” He hesitated. “Love?”
“Well, you don’t have to figure it all out tonight. But it’s good that you’re open to more options. It’s not good to rule anything out. You thought that you wanted someone your own age, but Hoya was older. You probably assumed that you’d want someone who preferred certain sexual positions, but it went well between you and Hoya, anyway. So don’t get too tied up in only one idea or one kind of guy. What matters isn’t who’s a hyung or who’s a sunbae or who’s a top, what matters is how you feel when you’re with him. People can surprise you.”
“Yeah.” He looked down at the note in his hands, reading it again.
Suho peered at it. “It’s nice handwriting, isn’t it? It’s hard to be consistent when it flourishes like that, the G and the K give me a lot of trouble.” He made a thoughtful sound, admiring his handiwork. “But it’s not bad, really.”
After a moment, Suho realized that Chen wasn’t replying. But Chen had a lot on his mind.
Suho decided to give it a day and see if Chen’s behavior improved. Maybe there would be fewer problems in the future, and he wouldn’t have to lecture.
“Hmm?” He met Chen’s eyes.
Chen looked like he had a lot of questions, but he wasn’t asking any of them.
Chen hesitated, and then his expression softened. “Maybe we should go out sometime. Just the two of us.”
“Okay.” He wanted to set a date, but maybe he shouldn’t push. “You let me know when,” he decided. “I’ll be around.”
Changjo frowned at the mirror. He made a face at himself. He ran his hands through his hair, ruffling it back up and then smoothing it down. He stepped back, studying his reflection. He grimaced and went to change shirts.
“Ya,” Chunji said from the next room. “What’s the maknae-”
“I don’t know,” Niel said. “I don’t want to know.”
“It’s nothing,” Ricky said. “It’s just some stupid date, don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” C.A.P. repeated blissfully. “My favorite words.”
Changjo checked the mirror again. Good, good, yeah.
“Shit,” C.A.P. said. “Now I’m worrying about it. Maknae!”
Chen crouched on the floor of the practice room, waiting for the break to be over. While the other members drank water and checked their phones and stretched, he found himself watching Suho.
Talking to Xiumin, gesturing, Suho looked so earnest. He cared so much, sometimes. He really did a lot for the members. He tried hard to be a good leader; it meant a lot to him to be someone they could follow and rely on. And he really was, truly. EXO, being an idol, a lot of life hadn’t turned out the way that Chen had expected, but that wasn’t Suho’s fault. No, he did his best. And he was always there, lecturing and complaining and embarrassing himself and earnest, to support Chen through it, to keep things moving forward.
Suho checked the time. “Okay, members,” he said expectantly, glancing around.
Obedient, Chen got up and moved into position with the others.
“Wait.” After they got out of the elevator, L held Changjo back. There in the hallway, he breathed in slowly and touched at his hair. He was too used to being himself around Changjo; it was too easy to forget himself and let the private sides of himself show. He needed to be in a more public headspace for this.
“No,” Changjo said. “You don’t have to-” He cut himself off. “Maybe - - okay, you can be like this for introductions, I want to show off this side of you. But you don’t have to keep it up if you don’t feel like it.”
“I don’t mind.” It wasn’t hard to cosplay. Sometimes it was easier. And he wanted to make a good impression.
Changjo led the way to an apartment door. He coughed and touched his sideburns before he rang the bell.
The door opened.
Changjo grinned. “Hey, hyung.”
“You’re early. I told you not to be early. But I knew that you would be, so I ordered the food early, and now it’s getting cold. Come on, come in.” He gestured Changjo in, then offered L his hand. “We’ve seen each other around, right? I’m Andy.”
Chen was standing inside the front door, talking to D.O., when Baekhyun and Suho started making out on the couch. The members made out on the couch all of the time, it was their nonstop hobby, but both Baekhyun and Suho were always kind of loud about it, making happy sounds like they were super aroused and super into it. And they were both pretty excitable, so the more one of them moaned, the more the other one moaned in response to that, and they just got each other worked up.
When D.O. left, Chen closed the door. He’d been avoiding Suho, sexually, for weeks now, but there were certain things that he missed.
He missed everything. He missed the way Suho kissed, and the way Suho moved against him, and the way Suho made him feel. It had been too long, god, he felt like such a fool. When he’d already lost so much, why would he push away something so good?
He drifted towards the couch, watching. Suho was totally focused on the kiss, pouring himself into it, eyes closed, hand sliding over the back of Baekhyun’s neck. Baekhyun was making soft, urgent sounds, his hand disappearing under Suho’s shirt. Suho groaned, kissing him harder, and he squirmed closer, echoing Suho’s sound.
Chen really, really wanted Suho. He wanted to be the one earning those moans, wanted to be the one putting that color in Suho’s cheeks, wanted to be the one getting up close with Suho’s body. Baekhyun had this all of the time, but it had been a while, for him, and he was ready, now. Very ready. He sat down on Suho’s other side.
Suho was kissing Baekhyun slow and deep, slicking their tongues together. Baekhyun was pulling his own shirt up, guiding Suho’s hand onto his body, leaning backward.
If Baekhyun got horizontal, Suho was going to be too invested to stop. Or Suho might decide to take it to the privacy of the bedroom. Chen wasn’t willing to let him go yet.
Running a hand over his thigh, Chen murmured, “Hyung,” and leaned in close.
As soon as Chen kissed the back of his neck, Suho said, “Oh,” and put a hand out, pawing at the air.
“It’s been a long time,” Chen whispered, coaxing him around.
“Oh, Chen-ah,” he said, looking surprised. Flustered, uncertain, he looked from Baekhyun to Chen, trying to fix his hair. “I can’t - - I don’t - - two of you.”
“It’s okay,” Chen said, and kissed him.
“What the hell, no, it’s not,” Baekhyun said.
“Go away.” Chen shoved Baekhyun aside without looking over. “Mmm, I missed this,” he breathed, and he deepened their kiss. Damn, it really had been too long. Nobody else kissed like Suho.
“Chen-ah.” Suho’s kisses were long and loving, giving him everything. He couldn’t believe that he’d ever stayed away.
Xiumin’s head popped up. Oh, he knew what that sound meant. He texted the group. Joonmyun. Jongdae. Couch.
Chanyeol texted right back. Pics!
D.O. texted, I haven’t seen this episode in a while.
Xiumin texted back, It’s been forever.
Lay texted, Pics? Are we allowed to take photos?
The screen filled up with members shouting, No!
Chen hadn’t planned on things turning out any particular way between himself and Suho, that night. But his body had certain habits and it liked certain pleasures, and the more Suho turned him on, the more he wanted the deep, gorgeous penetration that he knew Suho could give him.
His anger and resentment were gone. He regretted ever letting them take such strong hold of him. They seemed wrong, now, irrelevant; they didn’t have anything to do with how he felt about Suho.
They went to their room, tugging each other’s clothes off. Feasting on Suho’s loving kisses, groaning as Suho stroked his cock, he palmed Suho’s ass, encouraging Suho to grind against him. “Fuck me, I need it.”
“God, Chen,” Suho panted, and he lifted his head. He was breathing hard, his lips red from kissing; his eyes were worried, searching. “Are you sure? We don’t have to, we can do anything. I don’t want you to regret it.”
“I want it.” He was ready, he didn’t want to hold back anymore. He was committed to Suho; he didn’t want to look back and see a lot of times he’d pulled away and cut things off when they could’ve been closer. “I’ll regret it if I don’t do it.”
“Chen-ah.” Suho swallowed, his hand tightening agitatedly on Chen’s side. “Don’t tempt me, I’m not good at holding back, I can’t play games when it comes to sex.”
“No.” Loving this hyung, sympathetic, he cupped Suho’s face in his hands. “I’m not playing games with you, I want this. I love you.” He kissed Suho, his heart full. “I want you to make love to me.”
Suho hesitated for one second, and then he breathed, “Chen-ah,” and surged forward, his kiss fervent, his hand already sliding down between Chen’s thighs.
They made urgent, passionate love. It was hot and familiar. Suho’s satiny, muscular body so intimate against his, Suho’s greedy, lusting hands caressing hungrily over his skin, Suho’s ecstatic cries and insatiable need for him, it was everything that he’d been denying himself, everything that he’d wanted. This was love, this was romance, this was a hyung who couldn’t get enough of him. “Chen-ah, Chen-ah,” Suho panted, driving deep inside him, shuddering against him, jaw dropping on another tormented, blissful cry. “Ah, my Chen.”
When it was over, when Suho finally rolled off of him, spent and panting and moaning senselessly, he rolled onto his side and hugged Suho. He gathered Suho close against his body, not wanting the intimacy to end, not wanting awkward distance to spring up between them. Suho hugged him, and he burrowed in, letting himself be just a dongsaeng, just a member, vulnerable but protected here in his guardian’s arms.
Suho gradually caught his breath. His arms tightened slightly around Chen, and then he tried to let go and back up. Not letting him, Chen held on, resisting. He made a confused sound but relented, patting Chen’s back.
Chen buried his face against Suho’s neck. He still had this. He still had his awkward, embarrassing hyung who would do anything for him.
Tonight wasn’t Chen’s night, but he didn’t care. Suho was his, tonight. He loved this precious hyung, and he felt grateful to Suho for everything. For standing by him, for letting him have Hoya in the first place, for giving him room to fall apart, for waiting for him to come back. His heart felt raw and new and tender, tonight, but it was healing.
“I wasn’t sure that you’d want this anymore,” Suho said.
He hugged Suho more tightly. “I’m always going to need you.”
Woohyun and Sungjong had tried to have a nighttime picnic. They’d thought that it would be romantic to eat by the river in the moonlight. But it was too dark to see anything, and that made eating too clumsy and messy, and there were bugs around, and they weren’t sure how many bugs were around that they couldn’t see, and there were fans recording every move.
They were about to give up and leave and just abandon the whole thing, frustrated and complaining, when all of a sudden Dongwoo and L joined them. “What are you doing here?” Woohyun asked, surprised.
“What are you doing here?” L asked in return, laughing. “Are you trying to have a picnic? It’s the middle of the night.”
“I’m not sitting on the food, am I?” Dongwoo asked, joining them on the blanket. Dongwoo was carrying bags, and L sat down, too.
“We’re leaving,” Woohyun said.
“How did you find us?” Sungjong asked.
“Inspirit,” Dongwoo said. He was unpacking food containers from the bags. L was setting up their phones with their flashlights on, making little spotlights to see by. When he asked for Woohyun’s, too, Woohyun handed it over. Dongwoo had brought chicken and beer and cake. More Inspirits were gathering around every minute.
“This is nice, hyung, thank you,” Sungjong said.
The chicken was hot and fresh, and the beer was cool, and L concentrated hard on angling the phone flashlights just right. Dongwoo started singing some kids’ picnic song, and Sungjong laughed, and Woohyun’s heart felt soothed.
It was a good night. A happy moment. Dongwoo ate hungrily and L was in an affectionate, cuddly mood and Sungjong talked cheerfully about nothing. Woohyun made sure that his husbands had enough to eat, and that L’s carefully placed flashlights didn’t tip over, and that everybody had drinks and napkins.
When they got back to the dorm, L and Sungjong snuggled up in Dongwoo’s bed. Woohyun sat on Dongwoo’s desk chair, swiveling. When Dongwoo left the room, Woohyun said, “I pissed off Chen.”
“Good,” L said. Then he caught himself, blinking. “Wait, shit.”
“How?” Sungjong asked, sitting up, brushing his bangs out of his eyes. “What’d you do?”
He’d thought that he’d regret bringing it up, but he could trust them. “I said something I shouldn’t have. He hasn’t said anything to me since then. I texted but he hasn’t replied.”
“I’ll talk to him,” L said.
“I miss him.” He hadn’t meant to say that. He breathed in and his chest hurt. He pressed his lips together. Sungjong was sliding forward, getting off of the bed, coming over to him; he shook his head, rolling the chair back. “I don’t miss him,” he said. His voice shook. Sungjong sat on the foot of the bed, looking sympathetic. He looked away, not wanting to see that. “I miss Hoya. I don’t have him anymore, I can’t have him anymore, but I - - if I still have Chen, if he’s still around, if I can get him to laugh for me and smile at me and come when I make him feel good - - it’s not the same but.” His voice cracked and he cut himself off, embarrassed, frustrated with himself. “But I drove him away, too, so. Now he’s gone.”
“Hyung,” Sungjong said, reaching for him. “Hyung, what are you saying?”
He shook his head. He hadn’t meant that, it had come out wrong. “I-”
“You didn’t drive anybody away.”
“I know, I know.”
“I mean it, no, you didn’t drive-”
“I know! I know, I know,” he said again, sniffing, annoyed with himself for having been so clumsy, with Sungjong for talking about it. “That’s not what I meant, I didn’t mean that.”
“Chen’s not gone,” L said. “We couldn’t get rid of him before, we can’t get rid of him now. He’s tied to Suho hyung, we’re tied to Suho hyung. We had to deal with him whether we wanted to or not, before, and now he has to deal with us whether he wants to or not.”
“I really fucked up.” Woohyun shook his head, hurt and frustrated. “I don’t even care about Chen. I don’t even know if I’m sorry or not.”
“You’re sorry,” L said. “It’s okay.”
Sungjong quickly hushed them. Woohyun casually looked away, averting his face, as Dongwoo wandered back in. L said something distracting, and a moment later, Woohyun snuck out of the room before Dongwoo could notice that anything was wrong.
Before he went to bed, he texted something very nice to Chunji. He had to be able to hold onto at least one decent relationship with at least one of his husbands’ boyfriends.
In the middle of the night, he rolled over and called Sehun.
“I’m not introducing anybody to Andy hyung,” Niel said. “I don’t want him knowing the kinds of fools I hang out with.”
“Andy hyung’s been in the business for too long,” Ricky said. “He already knows everybody, anyway.”
“Andy hyung’s an old man,” Changjo said. “He doesn’t know anybody. All of these rookies are nobody to him, he’s like a grandpa.”
“I’m not introducing him to anybody,” Niel said.
“You don’t even know anybody to introduce him to,” Ricky said.
C.A.P. glanced at Chunji. Nudged him. “What about Dongwoo hyung?”
Chunji snorted. “What about Dongwoo hyung?” He licked his lips, lowering his gaze. “They’ve met, anyway, they’ve seen each other around. I’m not setting up some big dinner.”
“Scared?” Changjo asked, poking him. “Hunh? Scared? Afraid of-”
Laughing, Chunji grabbed his hand, bending his fingers back. “Scared of what? What? You got something I should be scared of, maknae?” Chunji smacked him in the back of the head, chuckling. “Asshole.”
Watching, C.A.P. grinned.
“Are you going to introduce him to anybody, hyung?” Changjo asked C.A.P., moving on like nothing had happened.
Niel snorted. “Andy hyung already knows Chunji hyung, anyway,” he muttered under his breath. He pretended not to notice when C.A.P. punched his arm hard enough to bruise. Then he punched Ricky, just to pass it down the line.
Chen hadn’t wanted to let Suho go. He had a hyung who loved him, who looked out for him, who wanted good things for him, who laughed at his jokes and had an adorable smile. They talked, and they made love, and they puttered around their room, not really doing anything, just being together. It felt really good, it felt familiar. It felt like old times.
That afternoon, they were still in their room, relaxing on their beds, complaining about having practice that night, when Sehun came in with a new bouquet. Happy to have new flowers, feeling spoiled, Chen sat up for a better look. “The old ones are still nice,” he said as Sehun set down the new bouquet and picked up the last one. The flowers hadn’t wilted yet.
“He can have both,” Suho said. “Put that one on the dresser.”
“That one isn’t from me,” Sehun said, obeying Suho. “It’s from me,” he immediately said, contradicting himself, and Suho laughed and asked, “Maknae, how is this confusing, are you bringing Chen flowers or not?” Sehun rolled his eyes and said, “It’s from me but it’s from Woohyun hyung, too. He chose it and he paid for it.”
“Then it’s not from you at all,” Suho said. “Why are you trying to take credit for somebody else’s flowers?”
“Woohyun hyung?” Chen asked. Surprised, he slid closer. It was a simple bouquet, yellow roses mixed with something pink. He touched the petals, wondering, uncertain.
“He said that it’s an apology,” Sehun said.
“That’s not like him,” Suho said. “He should be a man and apologize in person, he knows that. I’m sure that Sunggyu hyung’s taught him that.”
“Why is everything about Sunggyu hyung with you?” Sehun asked.
“Don’t say something like that to me,” Suho said. “What are you trying to accuse me of? Why are you paying so much attention to my personal life? You should focus on your work more, maknae, we have-”
“Oh my god, why are you lecturing me?” Sehun asked, laughing.
Chen tuned them out. Hugging a knee, he rested his gaze on his new flowers.
A guy had sent him flowers.
Not his boyfriend. Not his maknae. Just a guy. A man who made him feel good and felt bad for upsetting him. He liked Woohyun. Sex between them was intense, it always had been, but it wasn’t just that. They had fun together, Woohyun was great, he wanted the two of them to be close. Especially now that Hoya was gone, he’d wanted to hold onto his relationship with Infinite. Only losing Hoya, not losing everything, was what was keeping him going, and still being close with the other members was a big part of that.
What Woohyun had said had…rattled him. He hadn’t understood where it had come from, why Woohyun had said it to him. But maybe it had been a way of trying to connect. He’d reacted badly, but that hadn’t been fair.
He texted Woohyun. Sehun gave it to me. Thank you. It’s really nice, hyung.
Woohyun texted back. I owe you an apology.
He felt bad. No, it’s okay. Woohyun was going through so much more than he was. You don’t owe me anything.
“Do you know any nice dongsaengs?” Suho was asking Sehun.
“What, like NCT?” Sehun was asking.
“No, not them. It’s strange, inside the company,” Suho said, looking thoughtful, swinging one foot over the side of the bed.
“We don’t really have dongsaengs, besides them,” Sehun said.
“Oh! What about Up10tion?” Suho asked suddenly, looking at Chen.
“What?” Sehun asked.
“What about them for what?” Chen asked, texting hearts to Woohyun.
“You can date one of them!” Suho said. He looked proud of himself. “That’s perfect. Chunji and Ricky and Changjo already have somebody, so that just leaves Niel or Sungjong, or Taemin? Are you interested in Taemin? But Up10tion’s great, they’re nice, and we already have an agreement with their management. What about Wei? He’s fun.”
“Date?” Chen repeated. “Hyung, what are you talking about? I don’t want to date Taemin.”
“No, you can date Wei, I said,” Suho said. “Or Kuhn, he seems like he’d be all right. I would say Wooshin, but he’s a little - - well, and you don’t care about looks, anyway, so.”
Chen was so offended, he burst into laughter. “What are you trying to say?”
“You’re not dating Up10tion,” Sehun said. “He’s not dating Up10tion,” he added, turning to Suho. Then he pointed at Chen. “You’re not dating Up10tion.”
“Ya, we heard you, everybody heard you,” Chen said, pushing Sehun’s hand out of his way. “I’m not dating Up10tion,” he told Suho.
“You said that you want your own Hwanhee, and-”
“What?!” Sehun demanded, jerking back.
“They’re kids,” Chen argued, ignoring Sehun. “They’re little kids.”
“Kuhn’s only three years younger than you are,” Suho said. “Is that right? I think that’s right. He’s Changjo’s age, isn’t he? And Changjo’s with L.”
“Changjo’s not old enough to be in a relationship,” Sehun said.
“Neither are you, but we let you try it,” Suho said.
“I’m an adult!” Sehun argued.
“I’m an adult!” Chen exclaimed, and they both looked at him, startled, and he laughed, because he had no idea what he was saying, anymore. “I don’t want to date some hoobae. And I don’t need you to find a boyfriend for me. I’ll figure it out by myself.”
“You’re unhappy,” Suho said, and he was frowning like that was just an inexcusable state of things and he couldn’t let it go on.
He was so sweet, Chen wanted to hug him. “I’m not. I’m okay.”
“Are you?” Suho peered at him, brow furrowed.
He really was. He nodded, smiling. His resentment was gone. His heartbreak was fading. He was healing, and it was a relief. “I’m okay.”
Suho thought a lot about Chen. What Chen needed. What Chen had said to him.
Chen wanted to be loved. He wanted to feel special. He wanted to feel wanted, to feel chosen.
It was true that Suho hadn’t personally selected Chen to be in EXO; their company had done that for him. But that didn’t mean that Chen was any less important to him or any less special than the new dongsaengs in Suho’s life. If he could go back in time and assemble EXO himself, from the beginning, of course he’d want Chen. He couldn’t think of an EXO, on or offstage, without their Chen. Could he get Chen to understand that?
The closer the honeymoon trip drew, the more certain Woohyun was that it wouldn’t happen. Something would go wrong. Sunggyu would cancel it. Management would forbid it. Sunggyu would suddenly have work and schedules and meetings and would send Sungyeol with him, instead. Sunggyu would get pissed off at him and take Dongwoo, instead. Sunggyu would decide that it wasn’t fair to spend all of Suho’s money and would take Suho, instead.
Something was going to go wrong. He wasn’t going to be allowed to have this.
He planned it, anyway. He and Sungyeol planned every part of it. Not just the resort, but the exact suite in the resort. They researched restaurants and read over menus and studied photos on-line. They ordered brochures and flipped through pamphlets and jotted down notes. They decided on activities that Woohyun would love and activities that Sunggyu would want and activities that would be new and strange for both of them. This was his romantic getaway, his sweet escape with Sunggyu, just the two of them with no distractions, no management, no members, no stress, no Suho. It was like a dream that Woohyun couldn’t stop building up in his mind.
He was sure that as soon as they got there, Sunggyu would meet some pretty young woman in the lobby and spend the rest of their vacation with her, while he’d split his time between being a third wheel and going off to do things alone.
Maybe he should cancel. Back out, now, while he could. If he shattered it himself, he could preserve the fantasy of what might have been, and he’d never have to face Sunggyu’s destruction of it. He could talk to management and make sure that Sunggyu couldn’t go, and then just take Sungjong. He could explain that he was too busy, and then send Sunggyu with Sungyeol, instead. He could say that he was sick.
He couldn’t bear for Sunggyu to ruin the trip. He couldn’t stand the thought of it all going wrong. Part of him wanted to sabotage it himself, just to get it over with, just so that he wouldn’t have to live with the pain of Sunggyu’s betrayal. And part of him wanted to force Sunggyu to the edge, to endure the full experience of Sunggyu destroying their honeymoon, to face the truth of it. He needed to know exactly how far Sunggyu would, or wouldn’t, go.
As practice ended, Chen was talking to Xiumin and changing his shoes when Suho called, “Chen-ah,” and gestured him over.
Obedient, he went to Suho’s side. Suho led the way out of the practice room. Suho’s expression was normal, calm but serious. After a moment, Chen asked, “Where are we going?”
“I have to talk to management.” Suho pushed open a door and entered a stairwell. And took the wrong set of stairs.
“Management?” Chen repeated, following him. Confused, Chen chuckled. “Which management, this is the wrong way.”
Suho didn’t explain, just kept going.
Chen didn’t get what was happening, here, but he trusted that Suho did. Maybe they were just meeting in a different room from usual. To make conversation, he asked, “Are you going to get to see Sunggyu hyung before he leaves?”
“I’ll see him tomorrow. I asked if I should help him to pack, but he says that he’s packed so many times for so many trips in his life, he doesn’t need anybody’s help with it. But I think that I could help. I’m good at packing!”
“You think that you’re good at everything,” Chen reminded him.
“I think that I am, or I am?” Suho asked. Opening another door, he led the way out of the stairwell and down a hallway.
Chen looked around with a sense of nostalgia. When he’d first joined the company, their pre-debut and rookie managers had been on this floor. Their management team and the building’s layout had both been restructured since then, so he didn’t have much reason to come to this floor anymore, but he remembered how shy and excited and overwhelmed he’d felt back then, summoned into cramped offices to be instructed and scolded.
Suho knocked on a door that was now marked for someone in media relations. Chen remembered it as a trainee manager’s office. He’d had to stand in there, panicked and eager and respectful, while the managers and vocal coaches debated whether he had the right amount of potential. They’d eventually decided in his favor, but, oof, what if they hadn’t?
“Come in,” a bored, brisk voice called.
Chen was surprised and not surprised when Suho opened the door and he saw their old trainee manager in there. He laughed, taking in the sight. What was this, nostalgia day? “Are you the media relations clerk, now?” Chen teased, following Suho inside.
The trainee manager glanced up from his desk. “Close the door.”
His dismissive manner was a surprise; they had a more familiar relationship these days. Suho closed the door and stood in front of the desk. Wondering about all of this, Chen stepped up beside him. Suho looked tense, now, the way he did when he thought that someone was going to deny him something that was important to him; he was on the verge of becoming stubborn and fighting for it. “Hyung?” Chen asked. Was he okay?
“What is it?” the manager asked like he didn’t have time for this.
“I want to talk about the team,” Suho said. “I want Jongdae on the team.”
The manager glanced at Chen like he wasn’t interested. “We have other vocals.”
“Not like him,” Suho said. “Jongdae’s talented, he’s stronger than the others. He works hard, he learns fast. He does his best, he wants to improve, he doesn’t complain. I need that, we need someone like this.”
“We’ll think about it,” the manager said. Chen looked between them, baffled into silence. What were they talking about? Was there some new project group?
“This is my team,” Suho said. His tone was insistent now. In this setting, it was too much like their pre-debut days, and in that context, Chen felt alarmed. Suho was becoming dangerously pushy, his expression too stubborn, and a trainee speaking this way to management would be labeled disrespectful. What was he doing? “I want Jongdae in EXO. He’s a good fit, I need him. He cares about the team, he wants to get this right, he’s passionate about it. He listens to me, he supports me, he’s close with the other members. He backs me up, he makes us laugh, he can still smile when the rest of us are tired. He’s talented, he has way better vocals than any of those other guys. I want EXO to be the best, we’re all putting everything we have into it, and Jongdae’s going to give EXO everything that he has. I want him with us, I want him on the team.”
The manager sighed. “He-”
“I’m EXO’s guardian leader,” Suho snapped, his eyebrows coming together. “And I need Kim Jongdae to turn this group into EXO.”
Astonished, Chen stared at him. Was he - - what was this?! “Hyung.” This room, this manager, were they roleplaying? “Are you fighting for me?”
“I’m choosing you,” Suho said, turning to him with a face full of determination. “I want you in EXO, I want you with me.”
“I am in EXO,” he said helplessly, hugging Suho. “I am with you. Of course I’m with you.” He felt hot, abrupt tears fill his eyes. “Are you cosplaying, did you set this up?”
“I love you,” Suho mumbled against his shoulder, squeezing him tightly. “I’ll always choose you, I need you.”
Crying, he laughed. “It’s okay, Joonmyun hyung. I’ll do it, I’ll debut with you. I love you, too.”
Woohyun wanted to warn the members not to let C.A.P. into the dorm while he and Sunggyu were away. Sungjong didn’t need C.A.P. hanging around. It wouldn’t be good for the maknae.
He wanted to warn them not to let Changjo or Suho into the dorm, either. He didn’t want them around too much while he was gone.
He wanted to remind the members to take care of each other. To be nice to Sungjong, give the maknae a little romance. To give L sex and attention, mark him a little, let him know that he was wanted. To keep Sungyeol tethered, not to give him too much freedom, not to let him roam too far.
He wanted to put Dongwoo in his closet before he left. Keep Dongwoo in there, let him back out when he came home. He liked the thought of that, Dongwoo nice and safe in his closet while he was away, waiting for him patiently like a good puppy in the bottom of his closet. Not bound up too tightly, just not able to get out. Held there, secure, where he couldn’t get into trouble, couldn’t get hurt. Couldn’t wander off, loose. Where Chunji couldn’t get to him.
He shouldn’t treat a hyung that way, but Dongwoo wasn’t just any hyung.
In the last days before the trip was supposed to start, he saw Key. He saw Ricky. He locked Sungyeol in the bathroom with him. There were things that he needed to get out of his system. The trip was too close, now, and too important, and he could feel the pressure mounting. He was very, very nice to Dongwoo and he spent a lot of time on his knees, spoiling the maknae. He wanted to be a good husband, an attentive husband, romantic. He wanted to go too far with L, he wanted to cross boundaries, he could imagine how beautifully L would tremble at his touch. He could make L forget all about Changjo. He fucked Chunji as hard as he dared.
Sunggyu packed up his suitcase. It was a matter-of-fact routine, automatic by now. When he was finished, he set the suitcase aside with a satisfied nod and walked away.
In minutes, he was back. He dragged the suitcase onto his bed and opened it again. He stared into it, annoyed. None of this was right. He wasn’t going on tour, he wasn’t going to promote, these weren’t the right things.
Well, why weren’t they? It was just clothes and toiletries and things. Typical, normal items anybody would need over the course of a trip. He had to wear pants and change underwear and shave; what else was he supposed to pack?
It just didn’t seem right. He was packing for a honeymoon. Shouldn’t that be different? He dragged everything out of the suitcase and dumped it all over his bed, and then he looked around, at a loss. Now what? His empty suitcase damned him for his incompetence. He was married to five different people and he still didn’t know how a honeymoon should go.
Nice underwear, maybe. The newer stuff. Some nice cologne, that would be good, right? Some good clothes, so that he could look nice when they went to dinner. Not just trendy stuff but grown-up clothes, something handsome. Lube, he was going to need a ton of lube, he wanted to fuck Woohyun a lot and he wanted things to feel comfortable. He rubbed himself, anticipating it. Yeah. Lots of lube.
He put in some of his good jewelry. He put in a book of poetry. Not that he had any idea what he’d do with it; he wasn’t going to sit around reading romantic poems to his dongsaeng. But it added to the right mood, he thought, just to take the book along.
By the time he’d finished packing, he felt horny. He went to L and got a blowjob. Then he fucked Sungyeol, because he wanted someone howling and twitching and moaning on his cock. It was just right, so he did it again, made Sungyeol take it twice. He couldn’t wait for his honeymoon. It was going to be great.
“Would you really have chosen me?” Chen asked, leaning against Suho on the couch.
“Of course I would have. You’re our Chen, you’re part of the team,” Suho said, patting his knee.
“There were other guys, though, other trainees. You didn’t even know me that well, not compared to some of them.” He was fishing for compliments; he wanted to hear how Suho’s heart had been set on him from the beginning, how indispensable he was.
Suho made a dismissive sound. “They’re not as talented as you. They didn’t have the right attitude, either. You’re a good team member, you know how to support your leader and listen well, you click well with everybody, you keep the mood up.”
“They were talented,” he argued.
“Eh, they were good-looking,” Suho said.
Hey! Laughing, Chen pinched him.
“Ya,” Suho objected, rubbing the sore spot. “You’re handsome enough, it’s fine.” He shifted, putting his arm around Chen. Liking that, Chen snuggled in closer. “You’re our Chen. It doesn’t matter about other guys, I don’t care about them. You have what you have. The right talent, the right attitude, focus, passion. You give me everything I want onstage and you’re my best, favorite dongsaeng offstage.”
Smiling, feeling flattered, Chen hummed softly, resting against him.
“And that gorgeous cock,” Suho murmured. “I know they didn’t have that. Yes, we did the right thing, putting you in EXO. You were the right choice.”
Sunggyu had too many dongsaengs, now. This was a real problem. This was too much responsibility. Couldn’t these fools look after themselves? He was going to have to get rid of some of them, soon, before they multiplied.
Before he left, he talked to Dongwoo. He reminded Dongwoo to be responsible, to look after the kids for him, to keep the dorm clean, to check in with management. “You’re in charge while I’m gone, everybody’s counting on you.”
He talked to Sungyeol. He reminded Sungyeol to be responsible, to think before acting, not to take advantage of Dongwoo, to look after L and the maknae. He talked to Sungjong. “I won’t be away for that long, so don’t start thinking that anything’s different just because I’m not around for a few days. I’ll be back and I’m going to expect everything to be just the same. If your hyungs start acting up while I’m gone, if they start inviting their silly friends over and having a bunch of sex parties, don’t let them bother you. You can stay in my room and lock the door, or you can go to EXO’s dorm, it’ll be quieter there.” He talked to L. He told L to spend time with Dongwoo and to listen to management and to be professional. “Call Young Money every day. He’ll like it, it’ll make him feel useful, if he has a dongsaeng to take care of. Just check in with him and tell him what you’re doing and let him fuss over you. It’ll be good for you. For him, I mean, I said.”
He called C.A.P., just to be responsible. He saw Ricky in person, so that he could look into Ricky’s eyes and read Ricky’s expression and make sure that everything was okay. He hoped that Chunji wouldn’t cause any problems, but he didn’t know how to say that to Chunji personally without immediately causing problems, so he gave up on it and just prayed that when he got back, both his dorm and his Dongwoo would still be standing. He checked in with Chen; it was nice to have such a friendly, easy dongsaeng.
He was already sure that by the time he got back, Changjo would have gone over every inch of his room and Woohyun’s, peeked into every corner, and discovered everything. It was inevitable; the kid couldn’t be stopped. He made sure that Woohyun’s private things went home with Key, and he told Sungjong to hide a few things for him.
He had a date night with Suho the evening before he left. They had a nice dinner, and they made love, and things were comfortable. Suho had all kinds of romantic ideas about what the honeymoon would be like, but that was too much pressure; he said that they weren’t filming a movie, that it would just be him and Woohyun hanging out in a hotel room like they always did. Nothing special, just a scenic place to relax in and some good room service.
“It’s going to be romantic,” Suho said. “You love him too much. Once you’re there with him, and you’re alone together, you’re going to want to tell him how much he means to you. You’re going to want to show him a good time and make good memories together.”
“He’s just my dongsaeng,” Sunggyu mumbled. Besides, “He already knows how I feel about him, I’ve said it a hundred times, he doesn’t need to hear it again. There aren’t any new words to tell him about it.”
“He wants to hear the same old words, anyway,” Suho said. “I know how nicely you must say it to him.”
“What do you know about it?” That was private, that was just between him and Woohyun.
“I know how you say it to me,” Suho said like it was all reasonable. “I’ve heard about how you say it to L and Dongwoo hyung. It must be just that nice, or even better, with Woohyun. Probably nicer.”
“Does it sound okay, when I say it to you?” He rubbed his chin, thinking of how it normally went. “It isn’t too awkward?”
Blushing, Suho smiled at him. “I like it.” It sounded like a shy confession, and that made Sunggyu feel more confident, already. “It’s nice. I can tell that you mean it, and that’s what matters.”
“I mean it,” he said, nodding. “I mean all of it. I wouldn’t tell you that I care if I didn’t.”
It was a good date night. He decided to say something he’d been putting off. He couldn’t keep avoiding it; it would be rude not to warn Suho about it. “While I’m gone, I might not call you very much. I might not call at all,” he admitted, wanting to avoid Suho’s eyes but making himself look. Suho mainly looked surprised, so far. “It’s my honeymoon, and I think that if I spend my honeymoon calling my boyfriend - - it doesn’t seem right.” He was very uneasy about this, but he wanted to do the right thing. He’d had to consider what would piss Woohyun off, what would piss Suho off, what Woohyun might tolerate, what Suho might tolerate, and what he thought was right. He was probably the stupidest person in the world for trying to be in a relationship with both of these dongsaengs, and it was probably going to explode in his face and destroy his whole life someday. He tried to pretend that it would all work out; being in denial was easier than admitting what an impossible situation he’d created.
Suho was quiet for too long. He pouted thoughtfully at the wall for a while. Then he blinked and looked at Sunggyu again. “I think you’re right. It’s okay. Who calls their boyfriend from their honeymoon, that’s no good!” Suho smiled bravely. “I’ll wait for you to come home, and you can tell me everything, then.”
“It’s just - - it won’t be that long,” Sunggyu said. “And you’ll be busy, anyway.”
“It’s fine,” Suho said. “It’s your honeymoon, you should be focused on Woohyun. I’ll just look forward to seeing you again. You wouldn’t be able to say much over the phone, anyway, and it’s awkward trying to say anything private. And there’s the time zone, so.”
“Ah, time zones are always annoying,” Sunggyu said, and they talked about that for a minute, about the frustrations of traveling, and it was a relief to put the moment behind them.
In the morning, Suho had to leave early. Once Suho was gone, Sunggyu dragged himself out of bed, too. He had to finalize some details with management and remind Dongwoo to be responsible and get to the airport on time, and he also needed time for L. He wanted to fuck L thoroughly, completely, before he left, wanted L to hit that exhausted, sated, dreamy place. L was sensitive, and he wanted L to be in a good mood when he left, wanted L to have good feelings and good memories while he was away.
L needed a lot from him that morning, even more than he’d expected. He said a lot of private things, from deep in his heart, and he made sure that L felt good, and when he’d finished, L curled up against him, clinging to him, just wanting to be held. He didn’t want to go away while L was feeling needy; he didn’t want L to latch onto the wrong person in his absence. He wished that he could leave L in Woohyun’s hands, but Woohyun was going with him. So inconvenient.
Stroking L’s back, he pressed a kiss into L’s hair. “Will you take care of our husbands for me, while I’m gone? Having all of these husbands is a big commitment, and I don’t want to be neglectful. It would be a big help to me if you’d look after the rest of the marriage for me.”
L lifted his head from Sunggyu’s chest. Interest made his eyebrows quirk. “The rest of the marriage?”
“Yes. Spend time with our husbands, and flirt with them, and look good for them. There are things that everybody contributes to the marriage, but I won’t be here to do my part, and Woohyun won’t be able to do his, but you.” Sunggyu stroked L’s hair, smoothing his bangs. “You can fill in for us.”
Uncertainty overcame L’s expression. “What do you two contribute?” he asked, and then he shook his head. “I can’t do those things!”
“The marriage things, not the Infinite things. No one’s asking you to be the main vocal, don’t get excited.”
“I can’t do those things, either.” He shook his head again, beginning to pull away.
Sunggyu scooped him back in. “It’s just sex and romance. All you have to do is be nice and express some interest, you can do that.” Sunggyu held his gaze, turning solemn. “My husbands are important to me, L-ah. I need to know that they’re having a good marriage. I need you to love them for me.”
L winced. “It’s not that I don’t love them.” He scratched his head, wrinkling his nose. “Why did we call it a marriage, how did this go so far?”
Sunggyu gave him a light shake. “Ya. Don’t ask foolish questions. Hyung has a real problem right now, are you going to help?” L blinked at him, disoriented. “I’m not going to be some neglectful husband with a bad marriage, this isn’t some cheap relationship where everyone drifts apart. Somebody has to be here to pay attention to the maknae and check on Sungyeol and look after Dongwoo. Woohyun’s not going to be here to do the flirting and the flowers and the romance, so I need you to take Sungjong to dinner and make him feel confident and remind him that he’s too good for those stupid guys he likes. You have to make Sungyeol blush and work him up a little bit. You have to remind Dongwoo to be a good boyfriend and give him some romance, set a good example so he knows what to do.”
L looked lost in thought, processing everything.
“You don’t have to play puppies, there don’t have to be games. But Woohyun’s very energetic when it comes to sex, and I’m very attentive, I’m a good husband that way. So you’ll have to take that responsibility very seriously. I don’t want to come home and hear any complaints about anybody being horny and unsatisfied while I was gone. You have work to do.”
L looked alarmed. “I have to cover for you and Woohyun hyung?”
“Ya, what do you think I’m going to have to put up with? I’m going to be alone with him for all of this time, I’m the only one around to keep him happy. Don’t go feeling sorry for yourself, think about my struggle.”
L laughed, relaxing against him. “I think that he’s the one I feel sorry for. He’s going to be the only one available when you’re in the mood.”
“What are you saying? Do you think that I’m demanding? I don’t get that way.”
“You’re always that way.” L licked his lips, and his face shone in a dreamy smile. “Maybe I’m jealous. He’ll be the only one there with you. Everything you want, he’ll be the only one who can give it to you.” L’s eyes slipped shut, his hand stealing over Sunggyu’s side, and Sunggyu couldn’t help but notice the sinuous way his hips shifted. “He gets to be the only one.”
Gets to be the only one. It sounded like a good thing, like L thought that it would be a privilege. Flattered, Sunggyu rubbed the small of his back. “Maybe you’ll miss me, while I’m gone? But I don’t want your body to miss me, too, and I don’t want the other members to feel lonely. You know how Sungyeol gets when he hasn’t had enough cock, nobody wants to deal with that. And the maknae gets whiny when he thinks that no one’s paying attention to him, you know how he is. Will you take care of it for me? You’ll look after things?”
“Mmm.” L was warm and pliant against him, caressing his chest, dreamy-eyed. “I’ll handle it. You and Woohyun hyung take such good care of us, it’ll be hard without you, but I’ll try.” L’s touch drifted across his pecs, and L’s smile was so coy and inviting, it seduced him. “Maybe when you come home, you’ll have something for me.”
Chen slid open a drawer. Nestled inside were slips of paper, layers of them, all tossed in on top of each other. All of the love notes that he’d been keeping. The little bits of love that he’d hidden away, saving them up, hoarding them like treasure.
Suho’s love. Suho’s love for him.
He’d been so anxious over who loved him and how much. He’d been so resentful of everyone else’s love, so jealous. He’d been so frustrated over Suho, and all of the people and concepts and things that Suho loved more than him.
But he’d had Suho’s love, all of this time. It was right here in front of him. It always had been.
Suho loved him the way he wanted to be loved. Completely. Reflexively. Generously. Suho would do anything for him. Suho thought about him, kept him in mind, looked out for him. Appreciated him, liked him, wanted only good things for him. Made good things happen for him. He never would’ve had Hoya, not for a day, without Suho. He wouldn’t have any of this without Suho. Not these friendships. Not this career. Not this life.
Feeling a rush of emotion, he put a hand to the ache in his chest. Staring down at the tumbled scraps of Suho’s love, he could have laughed, or cried, he felt so much.
“I’m not becoming forgetful,” Suho muttered, shuffling into the room. “My mind’s as sharp as it ever was, I don’t know why he’s saying these things to me.” Grumbling under his breath, he started opening dresser drawers, digging through them, closing them, opening them again, digging some more. Watching, Chen adored him. “I know exactly what I told him, and I know exactly where I put - - well, somebody must have moved it. Everybody’s always going through my things, I don’t have any privacy around here,” he mumbled to himself.
Chen closed the door.
“So disrespectful, I don’t know why he talks to me that way,” he mumbled to himself as Chen walked over to him. His head came up and he frowned at Chen, distracted. “Have you seen,” his frown deepened, “seen my,” he blinked, “my,” and his voice trailed off.
Smiling, loving him so much, Chen drew him close.
“Chen-ah?” he asked, faltering.
“Hi, hyung,” Chen said softly. So earnest, so handsome, so wonderful, this hyung. Chen really needed to appreciate him more.
“I, uh,” he said, turning red, growing tense in Chen’s arms. “Are you, do you, um.”
“I think that I’ve taken you for granted.” Chen’s hand slipped under the hem of Suho’s shirt, up his side, over taut, satiny skin. Suho made a low sound, lips parting. “I think,” Chen brushed his nose against Suho’s cheek, touched their foreheads together, breathing in Suho’s shaky exhalations, “that I didn’t pay enough attention. I let other things distract me from what was right in front of me.”
“In front of you,” Suho repeated breathlessly, clutching at Chen’s shirt.
“I love you,” Chen said softly, feeling it pound in his heart. “I’ve loved you from the beginning, I’ve loved you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. But I didn’t even know how much you loved me.”
Suho’s lashes fluttered in surprise. “You’re my Chen-ah,” he said, like that summed up everything, like it was so obvious that it should be taken for granted. “Of course I - - how could you not know? Doesn’t everybody know?”
He was greedy for the knowledge. “Know what?” he whispered, pulling Suho’s body flush to his.
Suho’s arm wound around him, Suho’s lips finding his in a giving, passionate kiss. “You’re my Chen,” Suho breathed, kissing him again. “You’re my Jongdae. You’re my heart.”
Going to the airport with Sunggyu was something that Woohyun had done so many times, he expected that part to go the same as usual. Part boring routine, part hassle, it would be like the start to any other trip. And that might be a good thing; he was hoping that the familiarity would lull Sunggyu into a sense of security. Then they’d be on the plane before they knew it, in the air and on their way.
The more steps of this trip they got through before it all fell apart, the better.
He wanted to look nice for his honeymoon trip, but he didn’t want to put too much effort in and scare Sunggyu off. He worried that any little thing might scare Sunggyu off. Wondering what might be the final detail that spooked Sunggyu and destroyed their trip, wondering how to anticipate problems and head them off before Sunggyu reacted, had him on edge.
He didn’t want to look like he’d just rolled out of bed, but he didn’t want to up the pressure by styling himself too much, so he settled for an everyday T-shirt and jeans. Then, passing by the kitchen, he spotted Sunggyu. He blinked and backed up past the doorway, then peeked in. What was Sunggyu dressed up for? Those were Sunggyu’s good jeans. And that was one of Woohyun’s favorite shirts, one Woohyun had given him and pretended had come from a fan.
Sunggyu turned and saw him there. Immediately, Sunggyu smiled. He stared. Was Sunggyu wearing eyeliner? For what? Oh, god. He reeled, his stomach turning over. Sunggyu was going to a schedule. Sunggyu was about to tell him that something had come up, that it couldn’t be helped, that work came first.
“Are you ready?” Sunggyu asked. “All packed? I don’t want to rush you.”
He couldn’t trust what he was seeing or hearing. He couldn’t get his hopes up. He couldn’t afford to get his hopes up. The fall, the plummet, would be too devastating, after. He’d already gotten so much, he should be happy with that, but he always had to push, always had to get just a little bit more, always had to keep reaching. Sunggyu had already gone so far with him, so far for him, he should learn to be content with what he had, he had to learn when to stop. Had to learn before this all blew up in his face. He was asking for too much, this time; Sunggyu was never going to give him this.
He smirked. “You look nice.”
Sunggyu blushed and patted at his jeans. “They’re just jeans. Nothing fancy.”
He looked so good, god damn it, Woohyun loved him so much. Could he really have dressed up for their trip? For Woohyun? Could this really be a special occasion, the kind he made an effort for?
“I have to finish making calls and scolding the kids,” Sunggyu said. “Your suitcase is ready?”
“Ready,” he agreed, nodding. Sunggyu was getting his hopes up. It felt so, so good. It hurt. Sunggyu was better than anyone at giving him that mix of emotions, those competing sensations.
“Okay.” Sunggyu came closer and cupped his cheek, looking into his face. His breath caught and he swallowed, tried to resume normal breathing, hoped that Sunggyu hadn’t noticed how affected he was, how emotional he was. This was just like any other day, any other trip to the airport. Sunggyu’s expression was calm, soft, and for a second, he thought that Sunggyu might kiss him. Then Sunggyu’s face broke into a smile. “It’s crooked, right, you see how crooked it is? This is what happens when I do my make-up by myself.”
He couldn’t help it, he laughed. Some of the tension bled out of him as he admired Sunggyu’s eyeliner. “Very straight,” he promised. “Nice and even.” He patted Sunggyu encouragingly. “Good job, hyung.”
Sunggyu kissed him, so quick, a soft peck that stole his breath, stole his everything. “We’ll be ready to go soon,” Sunggyu said, moving past him, leaving the kitchen.
He’d just been given this, and so he had to stretch and reach for a little bit more, had to push and grab. “I’ll call our manager for the van, to go to the airport,” he told Sunggyu’s back, just to progress things forward to the next step, to remind Sunggyu that things were in motion.
“No, I called a cab already,” Sunggyu said over his shoulder.
Woohyun touched his lips, feeling an echo of the kiss there, Sunggyu’s lips so soft against his. Dropping his hand, he asked, “A cab?”
Sunggyu turned in the hallway. “To take us to the airport,” he explained. “I didn’t want a manager today, not for this, this isn’t a work trip, right? This is us, it’s personal. I’m not taking my lead vocal, I’m taking my husband, it’s a honeymoon.”
Woohyun’s thoughts whirled. “Okay, hyung,” he said, because he didn’t know what else to say. If he said anything else, he’d say too much.
Sunggyu nodded at him and turned away again.
“I’m still your lead vocal!” he called.
“Who else would it be?” Sunggyu called back.
Smiling, he touched his mouth again. Then he hurried to go change his shirt or fix his hair or something.
This was really happening. They were going on their honeymoon. Sunggyu was in a good mood about it. He sang to himself as he dug through his closet. He found a shirt with a broad enough neckline to show off his collarbones. He was just turning away from the mirror when Sunggyu came to the doorway. “All ready?” Sunggyu asked, reaching for his suitcase with an expectant look.
“Yeah.” His heart was getting lighter. Filling up with hope.
“The cab will be here in a minute,” Sunggyu said, and carried his suitcase out of the room.
Watching Sunggyu go, he felt his head tilt to one side. Had Sunggyu just come in to get his suitcase? Sunggyu didn’t like carrying his own suitcase, much less anyone else’s.
He sent a few last-minute texts. The only other member in the dorm was the maknae, and he went to say good-bye. Sungjong pretended not to care for an instant, but he coaxed Sungjong into giving him a hug. Giving in, smiling, happy for him, Sungjong embraced him. “I hope you have a wonderful time, a great time,” Sungjong said. And then Sungjong smiled at him. “And bring me lots of presents. You have to bring me a lot!” Sungjong insisted while he laughed. “You went off on a honeymoon without your best husband, you owe me!”
“Are you my best husband?” he teased, caressing Sungjong’s neck. “Is that what you are, is that who it is?”
“Yes,” Sungjong insisted, his smile daring Woohyun to deny it. Chuckling, Woohyun kissed him.
It was a light kiss, at first; Woohyun wanted to keep it tender, a romantic good-bye. But his mood was too complicated for that, and he started to escalate, bringing more heat into it, making demands. In another moment, he was kissing Sungjong up against the wall, claiming and passionate.
“Oh,” Sunggyu said. “This is happening. No, I won’t rush you. But the taxi’s here.”
It seemed impossible that they were actually going to get to that taxi, going to make it across town, going to get on that plane. Lifting his head, Woohyun smiled at Sungjong.
Flushed, breathless, pinned to the wall, Sungjong wiped at his mouth and tried to look in control of himself.
Woohyun kissed him again, a feather-light brush of lips, just enough to make contact. “You’re going to think about me while I’m gone?” He gazed into Sungjong’s eyes until he got a nod. Blushing, Sungjong was trying to look exasperated, but when he moved in for another kiss, Sungjong kissed him back without hesitation, going for it, shivering a little against him. Mmm. He licked his lips. “Will you think about me when you touch yourself?” he asked, sliding his hand slowly over Sungjong’s thigh, squeezing. “Will you remember me when you spread your legs for-”
“Ya, ya, none of that,” Sunggyu warned, grabbing the back of his shirt.
He laughed, lifting his hands harmlessly, as Sunggyu dragged him away from Sungjong. “I was just saying good-bye!”
“I know what you were doing,” Sunggyu said. “Don’t pay any attention to him,” he told Sungjong. Then he reconsidered that. “You can think about him when you jack off, though, you should.”
“He should?” Woohyun repeated, raising his eyebrows.
Sunggyu looked flustered for a moment, opening his mouth without sound. Then he abruptly said, “Taxi, taxi’s waiting.”
Sunggyu left the room with that. Woohyun grinned at Sungjong. Taking a deep breath, Sungjong patted his cheeks, calming himself down. “Good luck with him,” Sungjong said, and then he shook his head, patting his hair. “Or maybe I should tell him good luck with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Woohyun asked, following him out of the room.
Their suitcases waited together at the door. It was an ordinary sight, their suitcases sitting together. Funny, to have just two, though. No other members, no managers, no stylists, just the two of them. On their own, together.
“Okay,” Sunggyu said. “Be good,” he told Sungjong, lifting Woohyun’s suitcase.
“That’s mine,” Woohyun said.
“Of course it’s yours, that’s why I’m carrying it, I can’t let my husband carry his own suitcase, what kind of marriage is this?” Sunggyu asked. “It’s our honeymoon, I’m a good newlywed.”
“Then should I carry yours?” he asked, reaching for it.
“No! No, my husband doesn’t carry my suitcase, it’s heavy, I have to take better care of you than that. Maknae, get my suitcase.”
“Hyung! I’m your husband, you can’t be good to me, too?” Sungjong asked, exasperated.
“Ya, just do it, I’m not carrying two, and no one else is here. You can help.” Sunggyu quickly cupped his chin and kissed him. “Hyung loves you, behave yourself while we’re gone. Hyung will call you.” An extra beat, and then Sunggyu added, “If you think about Woohyun while you touch yourself, remember how it feels, I want to hear about it later.”
Sungjong turned red. “Hyung!”
“Kinky,” Woohyun said, grinning.
Sunggyu snorted at him. “Of all people. Of all words. Of all-” Sunggyu shook his head, cutting himself off. “Taxi,” he decided. He kissed Sungjong again and picked up a carry-on.
Woohyun put out a hand. “Can I-”
“No! It’s your honeymoon, you don’t carry things on your honeymoon,” Sunggyu scolded. “I don’t want to see you holding anything the whole time.”
As Sunggyu unlocked the door, Sungjong whispered, “Not even his cock?”
“Mmm, it’s so big and heavy,” Woohyun whispered back, and Sunggyu fumbled the doorknob, cursing.
“It stands up on its own, though,” Sungjong whispered. “You won’t have to hold it much.”
“Can’t use my hands,” Woohyun said. “He never said I can’t use my mouth.”
Sungjong laughed. “I don’t know why you and Sungyeol hyung planned all of those activities. He’s never going to let you leave the hotel room. I don’t even think that you’ll get off of the bed the whole time you’re there.”
“He’ll let me off of the bed,” Woohyun said, and then he grinned. “He’s going to want me to go down on him in the shower, too.”
Sunggyu abruptly shoved the door open. While Sunggyu and Sungjong lugged everything to the elevator, Woohyun strolled along behind, relaxed, unencumbered. He sang to himself as he got on the elevator, not so much as pushing a button.
The taxi was waiting. It was a specialty cab, expensive and roomy. Sunggyu was spoiling him.
They hugged Sungjong and got into the taxi. As soon as it pulled away from the curb, he felt a spike of panic. “Passport!” What had he been thinking?! “My passport, hyung, the-” he said, his heart racing.
He was about to scramble out of the moving vehicle when Sunggyu put a hand on his thigh and squeezed. “Ya, what passport? Your passport, mine, they’re here, I have them. Of course I have them, we can’t go without them. I got everything ready, already,” Sunggyu explained. Still on edge, alarmed, he stared as Sunggyu unzipped the front pocket of the carry-on. “See?”
Their passports. He blinked, disbelieving. He’d printed out the info for their flights, he’d gotten his passport, he’d put everything together, he’d set it all aside, not wanting to miss a detail. Sunggyu had everything, his and Sunggyu’s, right there in the carry-on. Sunggyu must have gone into his room to get it. Sunggyu had planned, prepared. All of the details. Their passports. The taxi. Sunggyu was taking this seriously. Taking charge of it all. Not just letting him handle it. Not just letting it happen as it happened. Not relying on management, putting it all in someone else’s hands. Sunggyu was arranging it all, step by step, and ushering him through it, taking care of everything, taking care of him.
“It’s here,” Woohyun said, touching the edge of his passport, just to prove to himself that it was really there.
“Mmm.” Sunggyu nodded and zipped the pocket back up. “You’ve traveled this much and you forgot about your passport?”
“I usually get my bag and my passport and everything together,” he said. “Pick up one, pick up the other.”
“Well, I got those things, this time.” Sunggyu patted his leg. “Hyung’s handling it all. You don’t have to worry about anything but enjoying yourself.”
It was too good to be true. He felt hope filling his heart again, pulling it upward. He leaned against Sunggyu, relaxing himself, putting a hand on the carry-on, rubbing his thumb over the pocket until he could feel the shape of a passport through the fabric. Sunggyu made an agreeable sound and squeezed his thigh again.
When they got to the airport, he was surprised to see the fans. He’d thought that he might see a few of the usual Inspirits, but he found a whole crowd of them, way more than should’ve shown up for such a minor, low-key event. “What’s this?” he asked, checking his hair.
“They came to see you off, to show support,” Sunggyu said. “Are you new here, you know how this works. Our Inspirit friends want to say good-bye and wish you well.”
He thought that he knew Inspirit pretty well, how this worked, and a personal trip they’d tried to book discreetly for just the two of them shouldn’t have generated this big of a crowd. Unless someone had tipped them off. He gave Sunggyu a look, suspicious. Wondering. It wasn’t possible. He knew Inspirit, but he knew Sunggyu, too, and there was no way…
“Why are you staring at me, look at them,” Sunggyu said, prodding him. “They’re the ones taking your picture.”
“You told them,” he said. Sunggyu sort of froze. “Did you invite them?” he asked, amazed.
“I thought that you’d want to see them before you left,” Sunggyu said. “So you can say good-bye and get their support and warn them not to forget about you while you’re gone.”
This hyung dazzled him.
Sunggyu smiled helplessly. “There are going to be a hundred photos of you looking at me like this, now.”
Happy, emotional, he leaned into Sunggyu briefly. He slung an arm around Sunggyu and rested against Sunggyu’s shoulder, just for a second. Then, sniffing, he straightened up. “This is good,” he said, touching at his hair. Pulling himself together, he flashed a smile. “I see more of my fans here than yours, don’t you think so?”
“I see plenty of mine,” Sunggyu protested. “Don’t be competitive, our Inspirit friends support all of us.”
Woohyun wondered if Sunggyu had mostly just put out the word among his fans, not Sunggyu’s as much. He tried not to think about that, tried not to read into it. And then, rounding a corner, they found a whole pack of Sunggyu’s fans waiting for them, and Sunggyu was beaming, and his heart was soaring again.
They talked to Inspirit, and they got through security. They sat down for a minute, and Sunggyu pulled the carry-on up onto his lap, unzipping it. “Do you want anything?”
He glanced into the bag, wondering what Sunggyu had brought.
“There are snacks, are you hungry? If you want to eat, there’s a lot, I didn’t want you to want something and not have it. And, here.” Sunggyu handed him a music player. It wasn’t his, but he didn’t recognize it as Sunggyu’s, either. “It’ll be soothing, for the plane ride, it’s a long trip. I put a lot on it, all of those sappy ballads you like, it has good playlists. There are a couple of books, if you want to read, later. And this, I got these for you.” Sunggyu handed him a glasses case. “And some other things, I want you to be comfortable on the plane. Do you need anything else?”
He couldn’t believe this. Overwhelmed, he opened the case. Inside nestled a pair of sunglasses. New, designer sunglasses. “You got these for me?” he asked.
“I thought, it might be sunny, and they’re nice, they’ll look handsome on you.”
He laughed, incredulous. “Hyung.” He looked at the sunglasses in his hand, the player full of his favorite songs, the bag full of his favorite snacks. “You’re spoiling me.”
Sunggyu looked mystified by the accusation, then said, “Yes,” very affirmatively. He nodded vigorously. “Yes, that’s right.” He smiled from ear to ear. “You noticed. Is it selfish if I’m glad that you noticed? I’m not doing it to get credit! I’m doing it for you, it’s the right thing to do, it’s not so you’ll be grateful to me. It’s my responsibility, it’s my duty, I’ll do it anyway, even if you become very spoiled and ungrateful and take it all for granted. But I like that you noticed. It’s nice to do things for you if they make you happy.”
Hope was running away with his heart. He had to put his hand to his chest to ease the feeling there. “I’m happy,” he said, gazing into Sunggyu’s earnest face. “I’m,” he laughed. “I’m really happy right now.”
“Good.” Sunggyu was pleased, satisfied, glowing a little. “Good, that’s good. It’s a good start for our trip.” Sunggyu patted his leg. “If you want anything, you just tell hyung all about it, and I’ll arrange everything for you.” Sunggyu looked up, alerted by something. Woohyun was too preoccupied in loving him to worry about what it was. “Ah, it’s time to go.” Sunggyu patted over the carry-on, checking inside it, and he seemed a little nervous for a second, his gestures uncertain, his expression flustered. But then he smiled and zipped the bag shut and got up, sure of himself again, putting a hand down for Woohyun. “Time to go,” he repeated, “we have somewhere special to be. Are you ready?”
Sitting there, Woohyun stared up at him. At his patient, expectant smile. At his outstretched hand. He was offering. He was reaching. He was going somewhere special, and he wanted to take Woohyun along with him. “Happy,” Woohyun said, grabbing his hand.
Laughing, he pulled Woohyun up. “‘Happy’ was the last answer, dongsaeng-ah. I asked you if you’re ready.”
“You’re ready,” he said, still holding onto Sunggyu’s hand. His heart was full of hope and completely in Sunggyu’s possession. “I’m ready. We’re ready.”
“Everybody’s ready,” Sunggyu decided, smiling at him. “Let’s go.”
Chen let himself into the Top Media building. Up on the second floor, he heard music and the thump of a beat. He peeked in through a window in the door and saw Up10tion practicing choreography. Hard at work, they moved in unison, feet coming down and hands flying up, everyone sweeping away and then swinging back.
He smiled, watching. After a moment, he picked out Hwanhee. Completely focused, moving quick and sharp through the practiced moves, Hwanhee looked earnest and professional. He probably had no idea that he was Chen’s personal representation of hope.
Chen’s phone pinged. For a second, he froze. He felt caught, wondering if Sehun was texting him, if somehow Sehun knew where he was and who he was looking at. But Sehun couldn’t possibly have guessed. Although it was a little strange how every time Chen called Hwanhee, Sehun appeared out of thin air.
He checked his text messages. It was Suho, asking where he was and using way too much punctuation. He texted back that he was on his way and then sent a string of hearts just to be annoyingly cute.
The music stopped; he tucked his phone in his pocket and ducked out of sight. Up10tion members briefly filled the hallway, then dispersed, some chattering brightly, others groaning about sore backs and aching feet. Chen waited around the corner until it was quieter, then peeked out.
Wooshin stood alone, waiting for him. For an instant, Wooshin’s expression was blank, face like a mask, an unblinking pixie. Then, like someone had flipped a switch to activate him, he smiled, pretty and charming and interested in Chen. “You made it,” he said, coming forward, his voice hushed.
“I wanted to say thank you,” Chen said, keeping quiet. He knew what a risk Wooshin had taken, giving him entry codes to the building. He could only imagine the world of trouble he’d be in if he gave someone open access to SM. “I won’t be coming by anymore, I… It’s okay, now.”
Wooshin nodded. “Nobody bothered you?”
“No, no. It was perfect, thank you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny box. “I wanted to give you this. It.” He hesitated, not wanting Wooshin to take it the wrong way. “It’s just to say thank you. It’s funny.” It wasn’t funny at all, it was just painful. But the pain wasn’t as acute today as it had been last week, and maybe next week it would be a little more manageable than today. “I bought it for someone, but I can’t give it, now, and I - - maybe you’ll take it. To keep it, to wear it, or maybe to give to someone else.” He put it into Wooshin’s hand, and he was glad that he’d done it. He couldn’t keep it, himself, but he couldn’t throw it away, it wasn’t trash. “It was for someone special.” He smiled at Wooshin. “So maybe you’re someone special. Or maybe you know someone special to give it to.”
Wooshin gazed into his eyes in silence for a moment, very still, then nodded again, smiling. “I am special, so, thank you.” Looking very pretty and very calm, he tucked the box into his pocket.
“You won’t have to worry about random EXO members showing up anymore,” he said, chuckling, taking a step back.
“Except for Sehun hyung,” Wooshin said. “And Suho hyung. And-”
“Okay, so we’ll constantly be around,” Chen admitted.
Wooshin smiled at him. “It’s always nice to see our sunbaes.”
When Chen was on his way out, headed down the stairs, his phone rang. Seeing the caller ID, he smiled. “Yes, hyung, I’m coming.”
“Where are you? You should be here by now,” Suho complained. “The movie starts on time whether you’re here or not, Chen-ah. You think that you’re a big celebrity, now, but the whole world doesn’t wait for you.”
“You’re waiting for me,” he pointed out.
Suho sputtered and fussed.
He enjoyed that for a moment, then said, “I’m on my way, I’m almost there. Don’t worry about the movie, they’ll have trailers first, you won’t miss anything.”
“I think that you’re taking me for granted,” Suho said. “Keeping your hyung waiting like this, what kind of dongsaeng are you?”
He was the kind of dongsaeng who had a hyung who loved him. A hyung who’d wait for him. A hyung who’d call him up just to annoy him. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he smiled. “I’m the dongsaeng you chose.”
October 19, 2017
by Matthew Haldeman-Time