The Aftermath

K-pop info and glossary 

Who’s who chart of idols

This story is part of a series.

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.

            Sunggyu wasn’t very surprised to see C.A.P.’s name pop up on his caller ID.  Sungyeol had been hopping around him for days, trying to get him to agree to make up with Teen Top.  Like they’d been in some feud or something.  Sitting down on Sungjong’s bed, he said, “You’d better be sure about this.”

            “Hi, hyung,” C.A.P. said.

            “Let’s not make promises we aren’t going to keep.”

            “I’m sorry about before.”

            “Mmm.”  There was enough history between their two groups that he felt inclined to give it a shot.  He’d given EXO a chance for no good reason; he might as well play along with Teen Top.  “Let’s meet soon.  All of the members.  We’ll go to dinner.  Hyung will buy.”

            “Okay.  Thanks.”

            “Get everyone dressed up, wear something pretty.  It’ll put me in a better mood.”

            “Yes, hyung.”

            “Mmm.”  He hung up.  As long as he kept an eye on L and looked out for Dongwoo, it would be okay.  Sungyeol would be happy and Woohyun would like it.  Sungjong would enjoy having someone to boss around.

            Sungjong walked in.

            “There you are,” Sunggyu said, reaching into his pants.  “C’mere, hyung has something for you.”

            Changjo had to make sure that tonight went well.  If his members made Sunggyu happy, Sunggyu would send everyone on MT.  Then Changjo could have sex with Infinite.  That was his first goal.  His second goal was to get the other Infinite members to tell L how great he was, so that L would have sex with him, too.

            He wished that C.A.P. would stay at the dorm; he didn’t need L to get upset.  He hoped that Chunji and Dongwoo got along well enough to prove that things were okay but not well enough to go too far and get in trouble.

            Sungyeol liked easy bottoms and Niel, so there shouldn’t be a lot of trouble, there.  Hoya liked aggressive tops; it would be great if he could keep Hoya and C.A.P. together.  Sungjong sometimes liked and sometimes despised Ricky; he couldn’t count on them to get along.  He’d have to keep Sungjong happy, himself.  No, no, this was Sunggyu; Sungjong was the last person in Infinite he had to worry about.  He had to keep Sunggyu happy, first.  And Woohyun.

            If L.Joe had seen Sehun yesterday, or this morning, putting L.Joe and Woohyun in the same room for hours would be perfect.  But L.Joe was going through withdrawal, and could barely handle sitting still.  Shit.

            While their hyungs got dressed, Changjo talked to Ricky in their room.  “We can’t count on our hyungs to get this right.”

            Ricky nodded.  “I know.”

            “We’ll have to handle it.  That means keeping Chunji hyung in a good mood, keeping C.A.P. hyung away from L hyung, and taking care of L.Joe hyung.  And we have to keep Sunggyu hyung happy, no matter what.”

            “And Woohyun hyung,” Ricky said.

            Changjo smiled.  “And Woohyun hyung,” he agreed.  He should’ve known that Ricky would be on top of it.

            “It’ll be tricky,” Ricky said, checking his reflection and smoothing down his sideburns.  “They think that you and I are too young for them.  You’ll have to be very respectful and very sexy.”

            “Just me?  What are you going to do?”

            Turning away from the mirror, Ricky smiled.  He looked so cute, so adorable, that Changjo wanted to hug him and tickle him and pinch his cheeks.  “Don’t worry about me.”

            Sungyeol was glad that all of that other stuff was behind them and everyone could finally hang out again.  They’d all used to be really close, and it had been weird to feel guilty whenever he tried to talk to Niel.

            They met at a nice restaurant, in a private room.  There was some awkwardness and some friendliness and some hugging.  When they sat down, he made sure to sit between Niel and Chunji.  His memories of Chunji were sexually explicit and very vivid and very, very good.

            Dongwoo was on Chunji’s other side, and his hand was all over Chunji’s thigh.  L.Joe was beside Dongwoo, barely saying anything.  On Niel’s other side was Sungjong.  Sungyeol didn’t know why Sungjong had wanted to sit there, although if Sungjong could get Baekhyun to do him, maybe he could get Niel, too.

Hoya was across the table from Sungjong, and then C.A.P., and then Woohyun.  L was across the table from L.Joe, and then Changjo, of course, and then Sunggyu.  Ricky was right in between Sunggyu and Woohyun.  That poor, poor kid.

            The food was great, and everyone ate a lot, sharing and talking and drinking.  It was just like old times, noisy and cheerful.  He teased Niel and he made Chunji laugh and it felt terrific.  Why couldn’t everyone always get along like this?

            Dongwoo was worried about L.Joe.  He rubbed L.Joe’s back, and L.Joe shivered.  “Are you okay?”

            L.Joe smiled, but it didn’t look very natural or happy.  “Yeah, hyung, it’s great.  How’s everything taste?”

            “It’s delicious.  Do you need anything?”

            Chunji’s hand squeezed his thigh.  “Don’t worry about him, hyung.  He’s just tired, it’s been a difficult week.  He’ll be happier if we leave him alone.”

            Oh, was it like that?  “I don’t want to be rude, but if you don’t feel well…”

            “It’s okay,” L.Joe said.  “Pay attention to Chunji, it’ll make him happy.”

            He felt bad that he couldn’t help.  But he did like paying attention to Chunji.  Looking at Chunji, he smiled.  “Should I pay more attention to you?”

            “If you don’t, I will,” Sungyeol said from Chunji’s other side.  His arm slid around Chunji’s waist.  “Dongsaeng-ah, how long has it been since a good hyung has taken care of you?”

            Chunji laughed.  “Way, way, way too long.”

            “Ya, don’t talk like that,” Sunggyu scolded.

            “I didn’t mean anything!” Sungyeol said innocently.  “I was talking about normal things.  Like, um, dinner.”

            “Shopping,” Chunji said.

            “Right, shopping, dinner,” Sungyeol said.  “Do you want to meet up, another time?” he asked Chunji.  “Hyung will buy you nice things.”

            “You never buy me anything,” Sungjong said.

            “Or me,” L said.

            “I don’t like you as much as I like Chunji,” Sungyeol said.

            Dongwoo glanced at L.Joe, checking on him.  He was holding very still, his chopsticks in mid-air, and he was staring across the table at L.

            Wondering what was going on, Dongwoo looked at L.  He wasn’t doing anything, just eating.  Chewing.  Taking a drink.  He wasn’t even talking.

            L.Joe was licking his lips.  Slowly.  A lot.

            Dongwoo understood that different people had different sexual interests and desires, but he couldn’t figure out what was such a turn-on about watching L eat.  Maybe he was too used to how handsome L was?  But L.Joe should be used to it, too; they’d known each other for years now.

            L.  L.Joe.  L.  L.Joe.  Heh.  They were a little matched set, here at the end of the table.  L, L.Joe, Changjo.  Oh!  “L.Joe,” he said, interested.  “L.Joe couple!”

            “What?” L.Joe asked, looking disoriented.

            “L, Changjo.  L.Joe couple!”

            L laughed like it was funny.  Changjo said, “Ew, no.”

            “Aw, that’s cute,” Sungyeol said.  “L.Joe couple.”

            “Better to be in a couple named after him than a couple with him,” Chunji said.

            “You don’t like it?” Dongwoo asked.  “I think that fan couples are fun.”

            “Hyung,” Hoya said from the other end of the table.  “No.  No, they’re not any fun.”

            “Fan couples are the worst,” Sunggyu said.  Brushing Ricky aside, he fed Woohyun a lettuce wrap.  “They always put you with the wrong people.  It’s awful.”  He raised his eyebrows as Woohyun chewed.  “Tasty?”

            Woohyun nodded, swallowing.  “Delicious, hyung.”

            Satisfied, he went back to eating.

            “Oh!” Dongwoo exclaimed, inspired.  “L and Changjo, L.Joe couple.”  He shifted his attention over slightly to Changjo and Sunggyu.  Choi Jonghyun and Kim Sunggyu.  “Changjo and Sunggyu hyung, Sungjong couple!”

            “Oh, that’s weird,” Sungjong said.

            “Sunggyu hyung and Ricky,” he said, thinking.

            “Stop putting me in couples with little children!” Sunggyu exclaimed.

            “It’s okay, hyung.”  Ricky leaned against his shoulder, hugging his arm.  He looked exasperated, and then he smiled and patted the top of Ricky’s head.  Ricky snuggled closer, and he fed Ricky some chicken.

            “Ew, stop being cute,” Chunji said.

            Ricky turned his eyes upward, gazing up at Sunggyu.  “I can’t help it, can I, hyung?”

            Looking pleased, Sunggyu pinched his nose.

            “Aw, I want a cute maknae,” Dongwoo said.

            “Ours isn’t cute anymore,” Woohyun said.

            “We have two, you can have one if you want him,” C.A.P. said.

            “Take both,” Chunji suggested.

            “No, I need Changjo for, um, for things,” Niel said.

            “Really,” Hoya said.  He cleared his throat.  “We’ll take Changjo.”

            On the way to noraebang, Changjo and Ricky whispered in the van.

            C.A.P. looked at L.Joe, who was huddled up staring out of the window.  “You okay?”

            “Yeah.”  He hugged himself tighter.  “It’s fine.”

            “You want to go back to the dorm?”

He didn’t say anything.  Then he told the window, “I want to see Oh Sehun.”

            “If you’d stop getting into trouble and getting grounded, you might be able to see him more often.”

            “C.A.P. hyung.”  Ricky turned around to look at him.  “Can Changjo show Hoya hyung his cock?”

            God, these kids.  “No.”

            “But we think that it’ll get him to convince Sunggyu hyung-”

            “No.  Keep it in your pants, all of you.”

            “Can you at least let him touch yours, and remind him how good it is?”

            C.A.P. rubbed his eyes.  “No.  I’m not going to ask Hoya hyung to grope me.”  He should have left them all back at the dorm.

            At dinner, C.A.P. had been at the far end of the table, and L hadn’t paid any attention to him.  Now, though, with people dancing together and getting up to sing, he kept crossing L’s path.  It was getting annoying.  He was just the same as he’d always been.  He laughed at stupid things, and he couldn’t sing at all, and he was a lot of fun.  Laidback, goofy fun.  He had dozens of inside jokes with his members.  He’d used to have inside jokes with L.

            L wanted to piss him off.  Wanted to cut him, just a little.  Sting him.

            L started paying attention to Changjo.  Friendly attention, flirtatious attention.  Talking to him, touching him, giving him the smiles that only L’s favorite people got.

            Changjo kept trying to go and talk to Sunggyu and Woohyun instead, so L turned up the heat.  Flirted like something might happen between them tonight, looked at him like they were about to make love.  Danced with him.  Ran a hand under his shirt and touched his abs.  Laughed at everything he said.  He stopped trying to leave; he didn’t have eyes for anyone but L.  He was so happy, so affectionate, that it was easy for L to keep it going, easy to charm and seduce him.  He was so fun, so sexy, that L looked forward to playing out the rest of this game.  “You look so handsome tonight,” L murmured, gazing deeply into his eyes and stroking his side, hand slipping under his shirt again.

            “Ya, Myungsoo,” Sunggyu said.  “Watch your hands.”

            Sungyeol laughed.  “That’s not Myungsoo, that’s L.”

            L rolled his eyes but kept his smile.  He put his hand back on Changjo’s side, on the outside of Changjo’s shirt this time.

            Why was Changjo looking at him like that?  “What?” he asked, puzzled, laughing a little and squeezing Changjo’s hip.  What was going on all of a sudden?  Changjo’s expression was falling from happiness to betrayal.  “So serious!  What’s wrong?”

            Pulling away from him, Changjo looked sick.  Confused, he watched Changjo get up and walk away.  “What?” he asked as the door closed.

            “Shit,” Chunji said.

            “I’ll get him,” C.A.P. said.

            “Should I,” Chunji began, getting up.

            “Stay with L.Joe.”  C.A.P. left the room.

            Frowning, Chunji started to sit down again.  Dongwoo pulled Chunji into his lap.  Landing across Dongwoo’s thighs, he laughed.  “Ya, no laps,” Sunggyu said.

            “Aw.”  Dongwoo hugged Chunji close, then let him go.

            Chewing on his lower lip, L sat back.  He wondered where Changjo had gone.  What had been so upsetting all of a sudden?  He tried to remember what they’d been talking about before Sunggyu had interrupted.  It had just been playful banter, flirtatious crap, meaningless.

            Worried and impatient, he got up.  He went into the bathroom, but no one was there.  He looked in the other rooms, but didn’t see anyone.  He went downstairs to where their managers were waiting, and double-checked; they still had Changjo’s phone, and they hadn’t seen anyone come down.

            He didn’t know whether to be frustrated or worried.  He’d seen Changjo look pissed off before, and unhappy before, but that darkening expression of betrayal had been different.  Changjo had looked nauseated.  Hollowed-out.  Over what?  Sunggyu scolding them not to touch?  Nothing that simple would throw off Changjo.

            He went back upstairs.  C.A.P. was back.  He scanned the room; he didn’t see Changjo.  “Where’s Changjo?”

“Hmm?” Chunji asked, looking up.

            “Changjo,” he repeated.  “Where is he?”

            “Oh, he went back to the dorm,” Chunji said.  “He didn’t feel well.”

            What?  “I was just downstairs.  Your manager didn’t say anything about that.”

            “He went out the back and got a cab,” C.A.P. said.

            That was weird.  “Should he be alone?  Should he see a doctor?”

            “He’ll be okay,” Chunji said.  “Changjo knows how to take care of himself.”

            Worried and uncomfortable now, L took a seat.  Something seemed wrong about the whole thing.  How could Changjo be unwell enough to get sick so suddenly and run out, and grab a cab without even telling the manager, but be okay to go home alone without even one of the members?  He’d left his phone behind; that wasn’t like him at all.

            C.A.P. and Chunji didn’t seem worried, but L couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.

            Hoya had spent worse evenings.  Teen Top was interesting enough to be entertaining and familiar enough to be relaxing; he could be himself and have a good time.  His members were, as usual, completely embarrassing themselves.

            Sungyeol was all over Niel and drooling all over Chunji and trying to flirt with Ricky.

            Dongwoo couldn’t keep his hands to himself, like usual.  He was enjoying himself so much that he was laughing at everything and dancing everywhere.  He joined in every song that everyone sang, like it was his favorite song, ever.

            Sungjong had been pouting because no one was paying enough attention to him.  He got so desperate that suddenly he found C.A.P., who he’d always snubbed for L’s sake, super fascinating and desirable, and practically claimed C.A.P. as his own prize.

            L was sitting alone, being completely ignored.  The Teen Top members moved around him like he wasn’t even there.  He drank and talked to the Infinite members in between bouts of sitting alone and looking confused.

            Sunggyu had decided to adopt Ricky.  Or else Ricky had decided to adopt Sunggyu.  They couldn’t get enough of each other; they were smiling and laughing and teasing like no one had ever gotten along so well.  Every time Hoya looked over, Sunggyu was smiling delightedly and caressing Ricky like he’d found some cute new little kitten.  Ricky, wow.  Hoya had seen people flatter and humor and suck up to Sunggyu before, but never so energetically for so many hours straight.  Ricky was something else.

            Woohyun was making the rounds.  He focused on the Teen Top members one at a time, all except L.Joe.  He drifted toward his new target, waited for an opening, then joined in the conversation.  He acted friendly and interested, and he settled in.  Some flirtation, some grease, some self-effacing charm, and he got them hooked.  Then he found a way to draw them away from everyone else, getting them to abandon whoever they’d been speaking with already.  An invitation to the bathroom, to sing together, to dance.  Then the flirtation deepened.  The skinship began.  He got them used to his touch.  He got them to touch him.   He made sure that they liked him.  Once he’d gotten all four members under his weird, greasy spell, he rotated through them slowly, over and over again, keeping them interested, touching them enough to turn them on but not enough to get scolded.  It was all easy and natural and nothing anyone else would notice, but Hoya knew him too well.  He was like a seductive professional, charming people and convincing them to like him.

            The Teen Top members were pretty embarrassing, too, though, so it all evened out.  Ricky, of course, was focused like a laser on charming Sunggyu.  Chunji liked Dongwoo and found Dongwoo funnier and sexier than anyone really should.  Niel genuinely liked Sungyeol, so obviously he had questionable taste.  C.A.P. liked Sungjong, so, okay, better taste than Niel, at least.  L.Joe was the only one of them not being obvious about trying to pair off; he spent the entire night drifting from one corner of the room to another, avoiding everyone and chewing on his lips.

            And then Woohyun finally moved in.

            L.Joe wished that he were with Sehun.  He wished that he could go back to the dorm.  He should’ve accepted C.A.P.’s offer to go back, earlier.  He wondered if he could get the manager to take him, now.  He wished that he had his phone.  He wondered if Sehun had texted.

            He felt really jittery and unfocused.  And horny.  Horny in a way he couldn’t control.  He kept thinking things.  Like how good it would feel if Sunggyu’s cool, smooth hands wrapped around his neck and gradually tightened.  Like how fantastic it would be if Sungyeol shoved him over the table and everyone lined up and took turns drilling him.  Like what Woohyun might do to him if he asked.  He didn’t want to ask, he didn’t want another owner, he didn’t want anyone else but Sehun, but he couldn’t stop wondering, anyway.

            Dongwoo kept trying to talk to him, which normally would be great, but he didn’t feel very normal, tonight.  Chunji kept causing distractions, and that was a relief, but it was humiliating, too.  He was ashamed not to be able to talk to anyone, not to be able to relax and hang out like everyone else.  He hated having to be grateful to his members for running interference.  He shouldn’t be like this.  But every time Dongwoo’s attention focused on him, he tensed up, afraid of what he might say or do to give himself away.  And every time Dongwoo’s hand settled on him, anywhere, even on something as innocuous as his forearm, he was so glad for the sensual contact that he shuddered, his cock hardening, his nerves crackling, a moan thick in his throat and hard to choke back.

            He didn’t drink; he didn’t trust himself.  He sat alone, at the far corner of the table, and toyed with a half-empty glass that someone had abandoned, turning it around and around.  He kept sneaking peeks over at Sunggyu and Ricky.  He told himself not to, but his gaze strayed to them again and again.  He was hot with desire and his cock strained against his fly.  The way Sunggyu smiled so proudly at Ricky, so affectionately, it was like a proud owner with a well-behaved pet.  Like Ricky had learned a new trick.  L.Joe loved making Sehun proud.  It felt so good to be an obedient pet, to learn to please quickly and well.  Watching Sunggyu smile happily at Ricky, watching Ricky glow at Sunggyu’s praise, made L.Joe yearn, made him ache with lust.

            Someone sat beside him.  Woohyun.  Suddenly ashamed, L.Joe shrank in his seat, squirming, tugging his shirt down over his erection.  Had Woohyun noticed?

            “Hey,” Woohyun said quietly.  His smile was friendly but light, casual.  He glanced around, taking in the room.  “Hard to focus, with all of these hot guys around.”

            He was right, but he had no idea what an understatement that was.  L.Joe tried to smile naturally.

            “Do something for me,” Woohyun said.  His voice was quiet.  With Dongwoo and Chunji singing, no one else could hear.  “Count to ten.”

            “Ten?”  That couldn’t be right.

            “One, two, three, like that,” Woohyun said.

            Why?  Maybe appeasing him would get rid of him.  “One, two, three,” L.Joe said.  “Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”

            Woohyun smiled and set an almond in front of him on the table.  “Try one, they’re good.”

            Um.  “Thanks.”  L.Joe ate it.  It would be rude to tell him to get away, but it was horrible to have him so close.  His friendly charm and his quiet, sexual confidence were hell on L.Joe’s self-control.  He was a good-looking, available guy and he was within touching distance.  His naked forearm suddenly seemed unbearably sexy.  Bare skin, body hair, the subtle cording of muscle, L.Joe wanted to kiss every inch of his forearm.

            “Do something for me,” Woohyun said.  “Count to twenty.”

            Couldn’t he go away now?  His requests seemed strange, but L.Joe was way more worried about how handsome he looked and how close he sat.  L.Joe could touch his leg.  Touch his thigh, his chest, any part of him.  “Why?”  L.Joe felt desperate for him to leave.

            Woohyun smiled.  “Don’t you want another almond?”

            No.  No, he wanted Sehun.  Feeling lost, not knowing what else to do, he counted.  At least it was something to do.  For those twenty seconds, it occupied his mind enough to keep him from moaning and rubbing himself.

            When he got to twenty, Woohyun put an almond on the table.

            He ate it.

            “Do something for me,” Woohyun said.  “Count to fifty.”

            He did it.  If he deliberately focused on it, on the words, on counting, on the steady progression of numbers, it distracted him from his sexual confusion.  It felt like a tiny break from his turmoil and stress.  When it was over, he honestly felt a little disappointed.  He would’ve liked to keep counting.  Maybe once he got rid of Woohyun, he’d try counting some more.

            Woohyun put another almond on the table.  He picked it up and ate it.  It was funny; in a weird way, it was like…

            Like obedience training.

            Like training a pet.

            He choked on the almond.  Coughing, he stared at Woohyun.  He didn’t know how to feel about this.  It was horrible and humiliating.  But it also seemed like pathetic kindness.

            Woohyun smiled at him.  “I’ll get more almonds.  Do something for me while I’m gone.  It’ll only be a couple of minutes.  Don’t get up or move or talk to anyone, just sit here and wait for me.  Okay?”

            Unsure, he nodded.

            Woohyun gave him a reassuring smile, got up, and walked away.

            He watched Woohyun move around the room.  He tracked Woohyun’s movements: talking to Hoya, putting a handful of almonds in a dish, laughing with C.A.P.

            Internally, he felt quiet.  He wasn’t thinking about sex.  He wasn’t thinking about Sehun.  He was just watching and waiting.

            Woohyun came back to him and set the dish in front of him.  Taking one almond out, Woohyun placed it on the table, separate from the others.

            His reward.

            He decided to accept it.

            He ate it.

            Woohyun gave him a few more tasks.  Counting, listing capital cities, naming leaders.  Sitting quietly and waiting for Woohyun to come back to him.  When Woohyun was in the room, he found that very restful.  He just watched Woohyun patiently, trusting that when the time was up, Woohyun would come back to give him another almond.  He liked the almonds.  They were a treat, a reward, for being so patient and obedient.  He was a good pet; Sehun had trained him well.  It was more difficult when Woohyun was out of sight.  Woohyun left a few times, to talk to someone in the hallway or to visit the bathroom.  He started to feel uneasy, and his attention was distracted by the other guys in the room, by their bodies and their movements, by his own desperate desires.  He alternated between watching the door and staring at the almonds left in the bowl.

            He was on his second dish of almonds when Woohyun said, “Do something for me.”  He loved those words now; they made him feel happy, because they meant that he was going to be given a new task.  He was always a little afraid that each almond would be his last one, that Woohyun wouldn’t have anything else for him to do.  Chewing slowly, savoring his treat, he gazed up at Woohyun, wondering what might come next.  “Come to the bathroom.”

            Get up?  Leave the room.  Uncertain, he hesitated.

            Woohyun backed up, gesturing slightly for him to stand.

            Not sure about this, but inclined to be obedient, he got to his feet.

            Woohyun picked a few almonds from the bowl and headed for the door.

            Feeling reassured, he followed.  They went down the hallway, and he followed Woohyun into the bathroom.  Gesturing to the stall, Woohyun said, “You can pee.”

            He realized that he had to go.  He went in and peed.  When he flushed and came out, Woohyun said, “You can wash your hands.”  He blushed, embarrassed; he knew to do that!  He washed his hands.  When they were dry, Woohyun set an almond on the edge of the sink.  He ate it.  He felt awkward about it; now that he was out of that dark, quiet corner, moving around a bright place, he realized how strange all of this was.  It made him self-conscious.  But some part of him still liked his treats and wanted to earn more.

            “Do something for me.  Come with me for a walk.”

            He nodded.

            They walked around the building.  They went slowly, like they were just bored and ambling around to kill time.  They went into rooms, circled a few times, and walked out again.  They went to different floors.  In a few rooms, Woohyun told him to sit down and wait, and he did, for varying lengths of time.  When Woohyun stayed within sight, it was the best, but even when he was left alone, it was easier to wait in a calm, quiet room than with all of those guys around.

            He felt pathetic, but underneath the burn of shame, he was grateful.  Woohyun was, despite everything, being very kind to him.  There was nothing disrespectful about the way Woohyun treated him.  Nothing sexual, either.  They hadn’t even touched, not once.  There hadn’t been a hint that there was anything unusual about this long, strange interaction.  And Woohyun’s relaxed way of taking command, the simple repetition of the treats and the phrasing, really soothed him.  He felt like someone very competent was in control.  He felt like he could trust Woohyun, at least this far.

            He hadn’t felt so comfortable in his own skin, offstage, in weeks.

            Hoya finished his turn at the mike and sat down.  An instant later, Sungyeol leaned over and whispered, “How big is your cock?”

            What kind of question was that?  “You’ve seen it.”

            “I didn’t have a ruler!  Come on, Niel wants to know.”

            “You can’t estimate?”

            “I did, but he wants to know exactly how many inches.”

            He couldn’t believe this.  “I’m not telling you that!”

            “Dongwoo hyung did.”

            Fine.  “Two inches.”

            “Be serious!”

            “Seven feet.”

            “Just tell me!”

            Grabbing onto Sungyeol’s wrists, he moved Sungyeol’s hands apart.  Closer together.  A little, “Hunh.”  Yeah, about like that.

            “This?” Sungyeol asked, studying the distance of his hands.

            “Yeah.  That’s how far I’m going to stick my foot up your ass if you ask me again.”

            Sungjong was talking to C.A.P. when Sungyeol sat down beside him.  “How big is your cock?”

            Sungjong eyed him.  “Who wants to know?”


            Sungjong tucked his hair behind his ear.  “How long is his?”

            Sungyeol laughed, blushing.  “I don’t know that.”

            C.A.P. told them.

            “Oh.”  Sungjong licked his lips, willing to consider it.  “Tell him that he can find out how big mine is when he’s doing me.”

            Sunggyu was heading for the bathroom when Sungyeol got in his way.  “Ah, hyung.”  Sungyeol’s cheeks were flushed.  Too much sex talk and too much alcohol.  “How big is your cock?”

            “An extra hour of practice tomorrow, that’s how long it is.  Don’t say that word in public.”  Brushing him aside, Sunggyu left the room.

            Ricky was right behind him.  When he stepped in front of a urinal, Ricky was right at his side.  Laughing, he went into a stall and locked the door.  “Don’t be nosy.”

            “There’s nothing to be shy about, hyung.  Chunji hyung told me all about it already.”

            Sunggyu laughed to himself, flushing the toilet.  “Oh, did he?”  He went over to the sinks.  “What’d he say?”

            “That I’m going to like it a lot.  But I already knew that.”

            “Really.”  Smiling, he dried his hands and studied Ricky’s bright, satisfied expression.  “How do you know that?”

            Ricky smiled confidingly.  “Because hyung’s always been so good to me.”

            This little con artist!  Sunggyu marveled.  “You’re too used to getting your own way.”

            “You want to take me home, don’t you?” Ricky asked.

            “I’m not taking you anywhere.  You’re too young for me.”  He checked the mirror over the sink, fixing his hair.

            “But hyung.”  Moving in close behind him, Ricky put both hands on his shoulder, peeking at their joint reflection.  “That’s not what I asked.”

            Feeling helpless against this determined cuteness, Sunggyu leaned over the sink, laughing.  “Not going to give up, are you?”

            “I only want the same thing that you already gave to Chunji hyung.  That’s not so bad, is it?”

            He turned, looking into Ricky’s eyes and running his thumb over Ricky’s eyebrow.  “What do you really want?  MT with my members?”

            Ricky smiled innocently.  “If that’s what you want, hyung, it’s okay with me.”

            “Hyung will think about it.”

            Ricky hugged him.  “Thank you, hyung.”

            “And don’t listen to Chunji,” he added, returning Ricky’s hug.  “He’s full of hormones, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

            “Oh, I don’t listen to him about a lot of things,” Ricky said.  “Choreography and videogame strategy and all of my schoolwork.  But when it comes to that?  Those things?  He knows what he’s talking about.”

            Alone in the dorm, Changjo felt mean.  Hurt and angry and mean.  He synced his phone with Ricky’s computer and downloaded all of the selcas that L had sent, and he printed them out, each and every one.  He spread them all out on the floor, in neat, perfect rows.  And then he sliced them and slashed them and tore them into shreds, using a knife and a razor and his own bare hands, until not one photo was recognizable.

He’d used to cherish those photos.  They were his own private collection.  But every single one of them was a lie.

            “That’s not Myungsoo, that’s L.”

            He’d thought that he was talking to a hyung who cared about him.  A hyung who liked him.  L had talked to him happily, smiling at him like they shared something special.  It hadn’t been L’s public face, the one L showed to the rest of the world; it had been private L, the one he only saw on really good nights, when Suho was there and the mood was really comfortable and L relaxed enough not to hide anything anymore.  There had been stars in L’s eyes, and he’d thought that they shone just for him.

            It had felt like maybe, finally, L might care about him half as much as he cared about L.  Not only that L liked him and was attracted to him, but that L was finally going to do something about it.

            And then.

            “That’s not Myungsoo, that’s L.”

            He’d realized that the hyung whose affection he’d been soaking up like a sponge wasn’t his hyung at all.  It was a stranger.  An idol with his hyung’s face.  Those weren’t stars, it was set dressing, stage pyro, deliberately placed there to distract and dazzle.  Those smiles, that laughter, that beautiful affection, that happy fondness, the erotic simmer and sensual desire humming between them, it was all smoke and plastic.

            He’d thought that L was mocking him.  That L knew about his secret feelings and was making a fool of him.

            And then it had hit him.  L didn’t care enough about him to mock him.  L didn’t know him well enough to recognize his feelings.  L had been using him.  He hadn’t been the audience for that show; he’d been a prop.

            It had been about C.A.P. all along.  L didn’t even give enough of a damn about him to hurt him.  L was still tangled up in C.A.P., targeting C.A.P., trying to hurt C.A.P. and using him to do it because he was convenient, he was easy, he was just a kid, he didn’t matter.

            He’d started to believe in himself too much.  He’d started to believe in L too much.  And here was his reminder: L didn’t take him seriously.  It must have been a reminder that he needed, because it hurt.  It really, truly hurt.

            He took his lesson, and he absorbed it.  He let it in and swallowed it down.  L didn’t take him seriously.  He was never going to matter.  Not like C.A.P. did, not like Suho did, not like the people who really made a difference in L’s life.

            He didn’t know how to make himself stop caring about L.  He felt like he’d been wounded, and he didn’t know how to make the wound stop hurting.  But he knew how to walk away and not get struck again.

            Smiling, Dongwoo wrapped his arms around Chunji, hugging Chunji right up snug against his body.  “You have to go?”

            “I really do have to go.”  Chunji’s arms twined around Dongwoo’s neck, and he smiled like he knew he was lovely.  “Are you going to miss me?”

            “No,” he decided.  “Because you’re going to text me and tell me things, and I’m going to call you and tell you things.”

            Chuckling, Chunji stroked the back of Dongwoo’s neck.  “What kinds of things?”

            “Anything.”  Closing his eyes, he rubbed his nose against Chunji’s.  “Anything, anything.”  Sliding his hands downward, he cupped Chunji’s ass.  “If I could kiss you in public, I’d kiss you right on your-”

            “Enough,” Sunggyu said, grabbing him by the back of his shirt collar and hauling him away from Chunji.

            “We were only hugging,” Dongwoo said.  “We can’t say good-bye?”

            “You’ve hugged him before, you can assume what it would be like,” Sunggyu said.

            “I’ll text you as soon as I get my phone back,” Chunji promised.

            “Stop getting in trouble so much!” Dongwoo said.

            “It’s your fault that I got in trouble in the first place!”

            Ah, he’d forgotten that.  “Sorry, C.A.P.!”

            C.A.P. waved.  “It’s all right.”

            Chunji laughed.  “Shouldn’t you apologize to me?”

            He grinned.  “I’m not very sorry for what I did to you.”

            As soon as the van door closed, Niel said, “Tally, tally.”

            “Sungyeol hyung, yes,” Ricky said.

            “Dongwoo hyung, yes,” Chunji said.

            “Hoya hyung, yes, Woohyun hyung, yes,” Ricky said.

            “Sungjong, yes,” C.A.P. said.

            “Five out of seven,” Niel said.

            “But the only one that counts is Sunggyu hyung,” Ricky said.

            “You were on him all night, is he a yes or not?” Niel asked.

            “I don’t know.”  Chunji hit him; he yelped, rubbing his arm.  “It’s hard to tell with Sunggyu hyung!”

            “He liked you, didn’t he?” Chunji asked.  “He practically put you in his lap.”

            “I’d say that he’s going to say…”  Ricky thought about it.  “Maybe.”

            Niel and Chunji beat him for a little bit.  When they got to the dorm, they walked in to find Changjo sprawled on the couch looking lifeless.  “Ya, maknae,” Niel said.  “What do you think Sunggyu hyung’s going to say?”

            Changjo rolled onto his back, winced, and picked up something from between the couch cushions.  He turned it over in his hands.  It was a knife.  The maknae had a knife.  “Fuck all of them.  I don’t care what they decide.”

            “Oh, all of a sudden you don’t want to go on MT with Infinite?” Chunji asked.

            “Right,” Changjo said.  C.A.P. took the knife from him.  “I’m not going.”

            “That’s stupid,” Chunji said.  Changjo got up and left the room.

            Niel sighed, shaking his head.  “Kids these days.  Just don’t appreciate some good cock.”

            In the van, reunited with his phone, L texted Changjo.  Are you okay?  You left so suddenly, you startled me.

            By the time he was at the dorm and in bed, he still didn’t have a response.  Dongwoo climbed on top of his back.  “One second, hyung.”  While Dongwoo waited, straddling his waist, he called Changjo.

            He didn’t get an answer.

            He decided to leave a message.  “Changjo-ah.  I hope that you feel better.  Don’t scare me like that, tell me what’s going on next time.  Call me in the morning.”  He hung up.

            “Is Teen Top okay?” Dongwoo asked.  “They said that L.Joe was sick, but I don’t think so.  They said that Changjo was sick, too, but he didn’t look sick.  He looked upset.”

            “L.Joe’s not sick, hyung, he’s strange.”

            “Oh.”  A pause.  “Oh!” Dongwoo exclaimed.  “Oh, I understand.  He’s a sad, lonely little puppy without his master.  I didn’t know.  But that doesn’t have anything to do with Changjo, does it?”

            “No.”  He felt more and more uneasy.  Changjo hadn’t looked ill to him, either.  Not physically.  Upset, betrayed.  Heartsick, maybe.  He called Suho.

            “Ah, dongsaeng-ah.”  Suho sounded mostly asleep, his voice a low mumble.  “It’s late.  You should be asleep.”

            “I’m in bed.  Hyung, I was with Changjo tonight, and he seemed upset about something.  He left early.  Did he talk to you?”

            “The dinner,” Suho mumbled.  “No, what’s wrong with our maknae?  What’s he upset about?”

            “I don’t know.  I thought that you might know.”

            “I’ll call him.”

            L didn’t even think that Suho was fully awake.  “It’s okay, hyung.  Don’t worry about it now.  He’ll probably call you in the morning.”

            “Talk in the morning,” Suho mumbled.

            “Sleep well.”  L hung up.  He couldn’t really expect Suho magically to know what was going on.  He was worried over nothing, anyway.  Changjo was fine.  With all of Teen Top and management around, it wasn’t like Changjo was alone in the world.  Besides, idols were spoiled, arrogant, and demanding; Changjo was probably upset over something petty that wouldn’t matter in the morning.

            That didn’t seem like Changjo, though.  Changjo might sulk sometimes, but get that upset?  Get that look in his eyes?  That hollowed-out look of sick realization?  Something very, very bad had to happen to make Changjo react that immediately and that strongly.

            Unless it was all manipulation.  Unless it was all for effect.  Now that sounded like Changjo.  He’d probably done it to provoke one of the members or to set the stage for something later.  He had some multi-step plan in mind, and that had only been one of the steps.  The rest of the game was probably all unfolding now, back at Teen Top’s dorm.

            Reassured, L smiled.  That manipulative, mischievous kid.  Always plotting something.  Always up to no good.  Setting his phone on the nightstand, L looked over his shoulder at Dongwoo.  “What’re you in the mood for tonight?”

            Suho found it a lot easier to wake up and start his day now that he had sex in the mornings.  Before, he’d slept as late as possible and had trouble dragging himself out of bed.  He could not describe himself as a morning person.  But lately, mornings were a lot easier.  His energy really picked up faster.

            He was getting dressed and mentally reviewing the day ahead when Lay asked, “How’s Changjo?”


            “Was it not Changjo?”  When Suho continued to have no idea what Lay was talking about, he explained, “L called last night.  It sounded like something was wrong.  You said ‘our maknae,’ but I couldn’t figure out why L would call you about Sehun, so I thought that you meant Changjo?”

            What was Lay talking about?  “When did L call?”

            “He woke us up.  You don’t remember?”

            Woke them up?  “I…  No,” Suho admitted.  Frowning, he checked his phone.  He’d talked to L last night?  He called back.

            “Hi, this is L’s phone,” someone said.  “Here, I’ll put it on speaker.”

             That sounded like Woohyun.  Suho had no idea under what context this call was taking place.  Was L at the dorm?  Somewhere public?  “Hello,” he said cautiously.  “L-ah?”

            “Hi, hyung,” L said.

            “You called last night?”

            L chuckled.  “You don’t remember, do you?”

            “I might have been asleep.  Did you need anything?”

            “No, it’s okay.  I was just calling about Changjo, but it’s nothing.”

            “Everything’s okay?”

            “Hyung, time to go,” Kai said from the doorway.  He nodded, fixing his clothes.

            “Yeah, it’s nothing,” L said.  “Just Changjo being Changjo.”

            “Ah.  We’ll talk later.”


            “Bye,” Woohyun said.

            Suho hung up and shoved his phone in his pocket.  He’d text Changjo when he had a second.  “Members, let’s go!”

            In the dressing room, Changjo stared at C.A.P.

            C.A.P. had hurt L.  But it was the kind of deep hurt that left scars.  The kind that changed the landscape of someone’s heart.  L was still, even now, feeling enough pain to cry and scream and hate.  He’d written C.A.P. off as a part of L’s past, but he’d misunderstood completely.  He’d miscalculated.  L was still this upset because a part of L still cared.

            He wasn’t the kind of person that L took seriously.  But C.A.P. was.  Still was.

            So this was the kind of guy that made a difference.  This hyung.  What was it, was it the sex?  Was it being the same age, having experiences and references in common, not having to worry about the dynamics of hyung and dongsaeng?  Maybe it was the deep voice and the relaxed chuckle.  Maybe it was that hint of butch masculinity.  Very contextual butch masculinity, but whatever.  At least for an idol, at least for someone their age, C.A.P. had been more man than flower boy.  Hell, L liked Sunggyu, too, so maybe lazy leaders were a turn-on.  Small eyes and big dicks, there was a type.

            Sighing, C.A.P. took his sunglasses off.  “Want to talk about it?”


            “I don’t…”  C.A.P. glanced at the stylist working on Niel’s hair.  “I don’t want your lunch.  You can keep it.”

            “You used to think that it was delicious.”

            “It’s good food,” C.A.P. said.  “If your lunch were a person, I’d want to be friends with it.  I don’t want to be its boyfriend.  I don’t want to take it away from you.  I just want to be friends.”

            “What are we having for lunch, anyway?” Chunji asked.

            “We’re getting something on the way out of town,” C.A.P. said.  “Maknae.  Keep your lunch.  Enjoy it, I’m happy for you.”

            “I’m in the mood for something crunchy,” Chunji decided, wrinkling his nose.  “A crunchy snack.”

            “Eat whatever you want,” Changjo told C.A.P.  “I’m not even having lunch.  Forget about it.”

            “Don’t make a big thing out of nothing,” C.A.P. said.

            “It’s nothing, I know it’s nothing, it’s nothing to me,” Changjo said.  “I don’t care.  It was always your lunch anyway, right?  I just got confused, I made a mistake.”

            “What are we even talking about?” L.Joe asked.

            “Mmm, I know what I want,” Chunji said, snapping his fingers.  “Nuts.  I could really go for some almonds.”

            L.Joe launched himself across the room, landing on Chunji.  Laughing, for every hit that landed, Chunji punched back.

            “I don’t really know them,” Niel told the stylist.

            It had been too long since Sehun had talked to L.Joe.  As long as L.Joe was being grounded, they couldn’t text or call.  He texted Niel, and at the end of their conversation, he asked: How’s L.Joe sunbae?

            He’s okay.  He was getting really weird in the weird way he gets when he’s being weird.  But Woohyun hyung helped.

            The name sent a shock through Sehun.  He texted back so fast that his message was incomprehensible and full of typos; he had to get control of himself and try again.  Helped how?

            It’s a weird thing with almonds.  We went out last night, our team and their team, and L.Joe hyung sat in the corner and ate almonds.  He’s better now.

            Sat in the corner and ate almonds?  I have to talk to him.

            It took long, agonizing minutes for Niel to reply.  Sehun handled it by breathing deeply and not letting himself imagine what “almonds” might be code for.  C.A.P. hyung says no, and L.Joe hyung says that you don’t have to worry, he’ll talk to you as soon as he can.

            That wasn’t good enough.  He had to know for himself that L.Joe was okay, and he had to know what Woohyun had done to his vulnerable pet.  He called C.A.P.

            “Yeah,” C.A.P. said.

            “Hyung, may I speak with L.Joe sunbae, please?”


            He pressed his lips together.  He reminded himself that he respected C.A.P.’s authority.  “If I come by the practice room, can I look at him?”

            “Through the door.”

            He could see his pet again.  Relieved, he exhaled.  “Thank you, hyung.  Could you, uh, one more thing.  Could you please ask L.Joe sunbae if I can talk to Woohyun hyung myself?”

            “Ya, c’mere.”  C.A.P.’s words were muffled after that.  Then, “Yeah.  He’s working himself into some kind of fit, but he said okay.”

            “Thank you, hyung.”  As soon as he hung up, he went to check his hyungs’ phones.  He found Woohyun’s number and called.  Of course Woohyun didn’t answer.  He texted.  Hyung, it’s Oh Sehun.

            Can’t talk now.  A second later: Is this about your little puppy?

            His little puppy?  He stared at those words on the screen.  What did Woohyun know?  He called L.Joe his pet, but that was private, that had always been just between them.  Even when his members made jokes about him and his sexual tendencies, they didn’t go this far.  No one spoke about L.Joe this way, no one but him, and never so openly.  Puppy!  It was too close to pet, and it made L.Joe an animal, a thing.  His, little, like L.Joe was some possession, some object that he owned, something small and inconsequential and easily dismissed.  In the right context, in some fantasy, having someone refer to L.Joe that way would be a huge turn-on, a sexy acknowledgement of their roles, but in this context, he didn’t know what to do with it.  Yes?

            I’ll call you when I get a chance to talk.

            He didn’t want to wait.  Thank you, hyung.

            It was on his mind all day.  Was L.Joe okay?  What had Woohyun done?  What did Woohyun know?  Almonds?  Puppy?  He couldn’t stand the thought of anyone touching a hair on his pet’s head.  He couldn’t stand the idea of anyone even talking to his pet.

L.Joe sunbae could take care of himself just fine, but L.Joe hyung?  Sehun felt so protective, he felt like he’d stand between his pet and anyone, anything, any threat.

Before, Woohyun had been wary around him.  Everything had been fine as long as anyone else was around, but the instant the two of them were ever alone, Woohyun had put up a wall.  But now, Woohyun knew about L.Joe.  Knew about him?  He hated that knowledge and information were out there, beyond his control.  But Suho had said that Sunggyu and Woohyun had, apparently, known all about L.Joe for a long time.  So maybe they’d been told about him, too, or maybe they’d guessed.  He didn’t know how he felt about that.  Was it a relief or a threat?

When he explained the situation, Suho agreed that he could go to Teen Top’s practice room, as long as it was okay with C.A.P.  But he had to take one of the members with him.

He got Chen to go.

“It seems difficult to be in a relationship with another idol,” Chen said as they got ready to leave.  “Someone on another team, I mean.”

“It’s probably easier if it’s a normal relationship,” Sehun said.  “There are a lot of ways that boyfriends can look like just regular friends, so you can talk and hang out and no one will think anything of it.”  He grimaced.  “And it helps if he doesn’t get in trouble all of the time and lose his phone and visitation privileges.”

“I think that’ll get better,” Chen said.  “C.A.P. says that things have calmed down a whole lot since he and Suho hyung traded leadership styles.”

“You’ve been talking to him a lot.”

Chen blushed.  Surprised, Sehun laughed at him.  Looking embarrassed, he wrapped his arm around Sehun.  “Don’t tease me!  I’m trying to find a boyfriend.”

“What?  C.A.P. hyung and you?  Hyung, that’s a terrible idea!”

“Terrible why?” Chen asked.  “He’s my age, we’re sexually compatible.”

“Compatible how?”

“I’m a bottom and he’s a top, what else would there be?”

“That doesn’t mean anything!  You like it slow and tender and romantic, and he doesn’t do any of those things.”

“I don’t think it’ll work,” Chen admitted.  “We’re close, but I don’t think that we’re interested in each other that way.”

“Plus he punished you, scolded you, and spanked you.”

“Don’t!  Sshhh!”  He ducked as Chen tried to cover his mouth.  “We all agreed not to talk about that!”

“Sorry, sorry.”  Now that the terror of C.A.P.’s brief reign was over, though, it all struck Sehun as funny.

“That does make it awkward,” Chen admitted.  “I’d rather have a boyfriend who never saw me that way.”

“For some guys, that’s a turn-on,” Sehun said.

“It was traumatizing!” Chen exclaimed.  “Why do our members like kinky things?”

“You have a sexy ass,” Sehun said.  “Who doesn’t want to smack it?”

“Plenty of people!”

Sehun grinned.  “No one I know.”

Chen walked away.  “Do you want to smack my ass?” he asked D.O.

“No,” D.O. said.

Amused, Sehun followed Chen through the dorm to the next member.  “Do you want to smack my ass?” he asked Baekhyun.

“Not really, do you want me to?” Baekhyun asked.

“No.  Do you want to smack my ass?” he asked Kai.

“Sure,” Kai said, “sometimes.”

“Ugh.”  Chen moved on to the members lined up on the couch.  “Do you want to smack my ass?  Never mind,” he said to Lay.  “Never mind,” he said to Xiumin.  “Do you want to, oh.”

Suho stared at him.

Smothering laughter, Sehun covered his mouth with one hand.

“Leaving,” Chen said, grabbing Sehun and hustling toward the door.

            Woohyun sat on the practice room floor and dialed Sehun’s number.


            “Can you talk?” he asked, rubbing his knee.

            “A little.”

            “Can you listen?”


            “Okay.  I’ll use terms that are convenient.  I won’t make assumptions about the terms you prefer, and you won’t assume about me.”

            “I understand.”

            “I think that puppy I saw belonged to you.”


            “I thought that it seemed like it needed a little play.  It needed more play than I could give in that situation, and I have a lot of thoughts about that, but we’d need to talk in person to go over those things.  For now, I’ll tell you that I played very gently with it.  I was very careful.  I didn’t excite it or groom it, I just kept it calm.  It seemed agitated and unhappy, and I only quieted it down a little bit.  I gave it some small tasks to do, to occupy its mind and calm it down.”

            “Tasks,” Sehun repeated.

            “I had it do little things for me.  Follow me, and sit, and wait, and count to fifty.  I rewarded it with almonds.”

            “Literal almonds?”

            “Right, to reinforce its behavior.”

            “How did you touch him?”

            “I didn’t.  It wasn’t that kind of situation.”

            “What did you say to him?”

            “I said, ‘Do something for me,’ and then I gave him a task.  Count to fifty, wait here for two minutes quietly until I get back, like that.”

            “What did you call him?”


            “I think that we should talk in person.”

            “Ah, I have to go,” Woohyun said as the members trickled back into the room.  “But text me, we’ll arrange it.”

            “I want to thank you for what you did,” Sehun said.  “I just can’t say that until I’m sure that I don’t hate you.  I haven’t been able to talk to him about it, and it’s really difficult, not knowing anything for myself.”

            “I understand.”  To reassure, he added, “I calmed it down, I kept it quiet.  That’s all.  It’s difficult to see a puppy suffering like that, and I wanted to help.  I called C.A.P. the next day to make sure that it was all right, and he said that it was feeling better.”  Sunggyu gave him a look.  “I have to go.”  He hung up.

            “Talking about L.Joe?” Sunggyu asked, helping him to his feet.

            “What the hell is that kid doing, letting his puppy suffer like that?” Woohyun asked.

            “You think it’s on purpose, for fun?  They can’t see each other while L.Joe’s grounded, they can’t text or call, EXO has him traveling all over the place, what do you want him to do, send telegrams?”

            Woohyun didn’t like it.  “I’m talking to him myself.  And if I don’t like what I hear, we’re taking that puppy away from him.”

            Sehun hurried down the hallway.  Reaching Teen Top’s practice room, he practically plastered himself against the door.  He stared through the window, his gaze desperately seeking out his pet.

            L.Joe.  Whole and healthy.  Dancing.  Breaking formation, laughing, and pushing Niel.  Smiling, his pet was smiling and laughing.  His pretty, happy pet.  “Hyung,” he whispered, wanting to reach through the window.  Relieved, he finally let himself start to relax.

            Chen leaned against the wall a few feet away, giving him space.

            He stared at L.Joe, consuming every bit of his pet that he could.  He felt like he could eat L.Joe up with his eyes.

            He remembered getting his first glimpse of his pet through this exact window.  He’d barely known anything, then.  But he’d recognized his pet.  He’d known that L.Joe was his, from that first look.  Even before L.Joe had realized that he existed, really, he’d known.

            Motion distracted him, and he realized that Chunji was stepping in front of the door.  Opening it, Chunji said, “Please tell me that you brought almonds.  I’m so hungry right now.”

            Whirling around, L.Joe said, “Ya!  You-”  Then his whole demeanor changed, his fists unclenching, his muscles relaxing, his expression softening, his eyes widening.  “Oh Sehun?” he whispered, like he couldn’t believe it.

            God, his pet, his perfect pet.  “Sunbae,” he said, stepping into the room.

            “Oh, Chen hyung’s here,” Chunji said.  “Come in!”

            L.Joe’s smile was wide and bright.  “Oh Sehun!”  He jogged across the room and grabbed Sehun in a tight, happy hug.  “Oh Sehun.”

            Chen laughed.  “I wish that someone were that happy to see me!”

            “Chen hyung!” Niel exclaimed.  “Chen hyung, how exciting!”

            “Our best hyung!” Chunji exclaimed.  “We’re so glad that you’re here!”

            “Thank you!” Chen said, laughing.  “Me, too!”

            Blocking them out, Sehun concentrated on his pet.  Whispering, “Oh Sehun, Oh Sehun,” like it was a religious chant, L.Joe was breathing quickly, still hugging him tightly, hands scratching and pulling and making fists in his shirt.

            He cupped the back of L.Joe’s head.  “Sunbae.  Are you all right?  Did anything happen?  With Woohyun hyung, did he do anything?”

            “Oh Sehun,” L.Joe whispered again.

            “Clear out, give me five minutes, I gotta talk to Oh Sehun.  Now you’ve got me saying it,” C.A.P. muttered.  “I gotta talk to Sehun-goon.  Ricky-ah, show Chen around.”

            “Sure, hyung.”

            Sehun didn’t relax his embrace, and L.Joe continued to cling to him like a barnacle.  He wanted to say something reassuring, but he didn’t like to say too much in front of others, even their own members.  L.Joe was too sensitive and might regret it later.

            “Yeah.”  C.A.P. sighed.  Sehun didn’t know what he was agreeing with.  “We’ve gotta do things differently.  There’s too much of this.”  He gestured at L.Joe’s back.  “It’s hard on him, it’s hard on the rest of us.”  Just when Sehun was starting to panic, he said, “You’re going to have to see him more often.  I’ll make arrangements with Suho hyung for more overnight stays or something, I don’t know.  I’ve been cutting off his playdates when he’s grounded, because I can’t let him have a reward like that when he’s in trouble.  But from now on, playdates keep going, whether he’s grounded or not.  Punishing him by cutting off sex and keeping you away, too, isn’t working.”

            Yes, yes.  Relieved, Sehun clutched L.Joe against himself like he’d just rescued L.Joe from a tidal wave.  “Thank you, hyung, thank you, really.  Thank you.”

            “Getting soft in my old age,” C.A.P. mused.

            L.Joe rubbed his forehead against Sehun’s shoulder.  “How soon can he come over?  Can it be tonight?  Can he spend the night?”

            “I’ll talk to Suho hyung,” C.A.P. said.

            “I’ll come over as soon as I can,” Sehun promised, stroking L.Joe’s hair.  “As soon as our hyungs let me.”

            L.Joe breathed in deeply, then groaned.  “You smell amazing.”

            “I wanted to impress you.  I kept on my make-up in case you’d like it.”

            Head lifting, L.Joe looked him full in the face, then moaned, smiling helplessly.  “You’re so beautiful.”

            “Eh, he’s kind of cute,” C.A.P. said.

            L.Joe shot a quick, contemptuous glare in C.A.P.’s direction, like he was disgusted that anyone would dare to say that, and then he smiled again, gazing up at Sehun.  “So beautiful,” he repeated with heartfelt devotion.

            He couldn’t kiss L.Joe here, but he needed more intimacy than this.  “Sunbae, is it all right if we sit down?”

            L.Joe smiled at him dreamily.  “Mmm.”

            Touched by his pet’s attachment to him, Sehun sat down.

            When L.Joe lowered himself to stay close, Sehun pulled him in.  He hesitated, glancing at C.A.P., then sat in Sehun’s lap.  “Oh Sehun,” he murmured to himself.  Then he smiled, looking hopeful.  “If it’s like this, I can touch.”

            “Of course, sunbae, you can do anything, I’m just a silly hoobae.”

            L.Joe smiled again.  “Silly hoobae,” he repeated, like it amused him.  He nibbled on his lips as his gaze traveled slowly over Sehun.  His hand rose cautiously.  When it came near enough, Sehun pressed a kiss to his knuckles.  He gasped, and then he laughed.  His fingertips brushed near to the corner of Sehun’s mouth, then withdrew shyly.

It was such a sweet, bashful tease that Sehun hugged him closer and kissed his shoulder.  “It’s so good to see you, sunbae.  It isn’t the same when I can’t even talk to you.”  C.A.P. was texting.  Texting Suho to make plans, Sehun hoped.  “Is this a good time to talk about Woohyun hyung?”

L.Joe blushed, ducking his head.  He flipped his hair this way, flipped it that way, and then licked his lips.  He was being so shy that Sehun had to hold him closer.  He’d been dancing hard enough that the back of his shirt was damp with sweat.  He smelled musky and delicious, and Sehun kissed his shoulder again.  Laughing, he smiled self-consciously.  “Woohyun hyung felt sorry for me, I think.  He was just being nice.”

“Did he touch you or say anything?”  Sehun needed to know everything about it, but didn’t want to upset or embarrass his pet more than he had to.

“No, he didn’t touch me.  It wasn’t, um.”  L.Joe glanced at C.A.P., who didn’t seem to be paying them any attention.  “It wasn’t sexual.  It was, for me, but.”  Making a soft, worried sound, he ran his hand through his hair.  “It wasn’t sexual the way anyone else would think about it.  He never touched me and he didn’t look at me like he wanted me.  He just asked me to do, like, little things.  Count to ten, count to twenty, wait for him to come back.”

Sehun nodded, hoping to hear more.  So far, it sounded the way Woohyun had described it, and that reassured him a little, that their perceptions of the experience matched.

“He had this thing that he said.  ‘Do something for me.’  That was nice, I liked hearing that.  It was like a, like a prompt?”  He dragged his teeth over his lower lip.  He was a constant ball of self-conscious mannerisms, and Sehun loved every single one of them.  “When I obeyed him-”  Suddenly blushing, L.Joe shot C.A.P. a horrified look.  “I mean, um, when I, when I did what he asked me to, or.  Um.  He’d give me an almond.  To eat.  That was, um, nice.  Do you want to know anything else?  Can I stop talking about this now?”

They could talk about it more, when they were alone.  “I just want to be sure that you’re okay.  There wasn’t anything that made you uncomfortable?”

“It’s embarrassing,” L.Joe admitted.  “It’s embarrassing to be like that.  But it was nice, it made things calm down.  He seemed, um, he didn’t make it obvious, he didn’t make it awkward.  He didn’t tease me.  And he kept his distance, he just put the almonds down and let me pick them up if I wanted them.”  He balled his fist in the hem of Sehun’s shirt, looking down at it.  “I hate being like that, I don’t want people to see me like that.  But he made it seem like there was nothing wrong with it.”

The idea of someone else taking care of his pet was always going to make Sehun uneasy.  But it sounded like nothing had gone too far.  And if L.Joe said that it had been okay, then he had to accept that maybe it had been.  “I’m going to talk to him about some of this in person.  Is that all right with you?”

Suddenly meeting his eyes, L.Joe looked alarmed.  “About me?”

“Only if it’s okay.  If it’s not, I’ll just talk about me.  Or I won’t talk to him at all, if you don’t want me to.”

“Oh, god.”  Drawing his knees up, L.Joe lowered his face onto his arms.

Giving him time to process it, Sehun rubbed his spine.

“I trust you,” L.Joe said without raising his head.  “I trust you, you can do whatever you want.”

His pet was so brave.  Moved, Sehun slowly, carefully gathered him up.  He shuddered, and then he leaned against Sehun’s chest, flinging his arm around Sehun and grasping a fistful of shirt.  “Thank you,” Sehun said, petting him.  He kept shivering, and his breathing was uneven, but he stayed.

“You have to go, we have to practice,” C.A.P. said.  “But when we get back from Indonesia, you can come over.”

It wasn’t soon enough, but it was something.  It was a date, a plan, something to hold onto.  “Thank you, C.A.P. hyung.”  Sehun rubbed L.Joe’s back.  “Is it okay, sunbae?  I’ll come over then?”

L.Joe’s voice was uneven.  “If it’s when I get back from Indonesia, then I’ll go now and come back immediately and meet you at the dorm.”

Smiling, Sehun kissed his shoulder.  “Okay, sunbae, let’s do that.”

“Say good-bye to your…whatever he is, your hoobae,” C.A.P. said.  “Get your lazy butt up, you’re not off the clock yet.”

L.Joe squirmed right there in Sehun’s lap.  Shit, it felt fantastic.  “Can we be alone for a minute?”

C.A.P.’s reply was calm and unyielding.  “No.”

“For a second?” L.Joe asked.


“Why not?” L.Joe demanded, turning to glare at him, frustrated and flushed.

“Because you’re going to break the rules.  Get up.”

“I can’t just get up!”

“Why, because you have a hard-on?  Everybody’s seen it.  Move your ass.”

L.Joe only seemed more flustered, messing with his hair and making uncertain sounds and squirming some more.  “Hyung,” he complained.  “You can’t, it, but.  Oh Sehun…”

“I’ve seen his before, too.  He’ll live.”

“I need to, I have to, can’t you just go in the hallway for a minute?” L.Joe demanded impatiently.

Sehun loved that his loyal pet wanted to take care of him.  “It’s okay, sunbae.  C.A.P. hyung’s right, I’ll live.”  He almost constantly had a hard-on around L.Joe.  Even if they only bumped into each other backstage, his body responded intensely to his pet.

“It’s not right,” L.Joe muttered.  “Aish.”  Grimacing, he rubbed the back of his head, tousling his hair and then shaking it into place.  “Ya, really!” he complained.

“Sunbae, C.A.P. hyung was nice enough to let me visit tonight,” Sehun said, stroking his back.  “I don’t want to seem ungrateful.”

Turning shy again, L.Joe caught his lip between his teeth, then almost brushed his hand over Sehun’s chest.  Not quite making contact, he dropped his hand again.

Taking L.Joe’s hand, Sehun lifted it to his lips, kissing it, across the back of it and between L.Joe’s knuckles.

Humming, L.Joe looked thrilled.  “Silly hoobae,” he said breathlessly.  “Do it again.”

Sehun smiled and planted light kisses over the backs of L.Joe’s fingers.  Then he kissed L.Joe’s neck, and it was so sexy, such tender, smooth skin, that he nibbled, just a little.  Moaning, L.Joe coiled around him, and he bit again, harder, then soothed the sensitive spot with light, soft kisses.  “I’ll come to see you,” he promised, rubbing L.Joe’s hips and squeezing L.Joe’s waist.  “Right after Indonesia, as soon as you get back.”

“I’m counting to five,” C.A.P. said.

Sehun closed his eyes and held his pet.  His sweet, perfect pet.  L.Joe clung to him tightly, arms wrapped around him, face buried against his shoulder.


L.Joe’s head snapped up.  “Three?!  Where’s one?”

“I didn’t say that I was starting from one.  Four.”

“Ya!” L.Joe shouted indignantly.

“Five,” C.A.P. said, and dragged L.Joe upward hard enough to lift him off of his feet for a second.

While the two of them fought, Sehun got up and adjusted himself in his pants.  The angry ache of his cock told him to pin L.Joe down and take what he needed, and for an instant he eyed L.Joe with predatory intent, strategizing on how exactly he’d do it, how he’d grab L.Joe, how he’d yank L.Joe’s pants down and expose that sexy ass for his use.  But those thoughts only turned him on more, and if he didn’t exert some self-discipline, he was going to start masturbating right there.  Pressing his lips together, he got himself under control.  He could handle this.  He could wait.  Deep down inside, it enraged him to be denied his own pet, but he had to share ownership with C.A.P.

C.A.P. wrestled L.Joe to the floor.  “Say good-bye to your hoobae.”

“Ugh!  Ya!  Hyung!”  L.Joe struggled, trying to get free.

These sunbaes.  “Good-bye, C.A.P. hyung,” Sehun said.  “Good-bye, L.Joe sunbae.”

“Let me up!” L.Joe shouted.  “Aaugh, I hate you!”

“Bye,” C.A.P. said lightly.  “Fuck!  Ya, why are your knees so bony?”

Sehun went into the hallway, right into a cluster of waiting idols.  Chunji peeked past him into the room, said, “Whooo!” and jogged in, followed by Ricky.  C.A.P. shouted, Chunji laughed, and L.Joe shouted, “Ya, maknae!”

Chen laughed.  “Why is everyone so violent?”

Sehun was about to answer, but then Niel’s hand was between his legs.  Holy shit, that felt good.  “Ah, ah,” he gasped, prying Niel’s fingers off of him.

“Let’s go talk in the other room,” Niel suggested.

“Hyung, don’t be like this,” Changjo said.  “Do you want to get in trouble?”

“I think it’s pretty clear what he wants,” Chen said.

“We shouldn’t be rude and let our guest leave like this,” Niel said.  “I’ll be quick.”

            Sehun was incredibly tempted.  It would be quick, and it would be great, and C.A.P. was already distracted.  Maybe he could get Chen to let him get away with it.

            But Changjo would tell on him.  That little brat.  Maybe not immediately, maybe not tonight, but he didn’t trust Changjo.  Sometime over the next few weeks, when he least expected it, like when Teen Top was packing up to come back from Indonesia, Suho would suddenly get off of the phone and ask him if there was anything that he wanted to mention about his visit to Teen Top’s practice.  Shit.  “Thanks, but, no, we should probably go.”

            “I’ll walk you out,” Changjo said with a charming smile, draping an arm around Chen’s shoulders.

            “So polite!”  Chen put an arm around Changjo’s waist.  “Bye, Niel.”

            “Bye,” Niel said, and ran into the practice room, throwing himself on top of his members and landing hard enough to make Chunji curse.

            Changjo and Chen walked down the hallway, their heads close together, Changjo playing innocently flirtatious, Chen eating it up.  Sehun followed, watching Changjo’s ass and thinking about L.Joe.

            Downstairs, Chen hugged Changjo warmly, humming like it felt good.  “You should come out with us sometime.  You don’t only have to see Suho hyung, you should spend time with the rest of us.”

            “Okay, hyung.”  Changjo kissed his cheek and let him go.

            Sehun couldn’t have L.Joe, and he couldn’t risk getting caught with Niel, but his cock was still stiff and he craved friction.  Moving in for a hug, he wrapped his arms around Changjo in a tight grip, grinding against Changjo hard.  Fuck, that felt good, and he grunted, grabbing onto Changjo’s ass.  Ungh, yes.

            “Ooo.”  Changjo laughed, squirming a little against him, giving his cock just what it wanted.  “You’re so friendly tonight, hyung.”  Changjo’s cheek brushed his, and Changjo’s voice softened to a whisper.  “I’m going to think about this while I’m watching L.Joe hyung masturbate.  And showering with him.  And letting him stare at my body.  And all of the other things we do together every single day.”  Squeezing his shoulder, fingers digging in hard, Changjo cheerfully added, “Come visit us soon, Sehun hyung, we hardly ever see you anymore.”

            Pulling back, Sehun smiled at him, patting his cheek.  “I can’t wait to watch you suck my cock again.  You’re almost good at it.”

            Changjo grinned.  “Ask L.Joe hyung what I’m good at.”

            Sehun laughed.  Squeezing the back of Changjo’s neck, he moved in closer again, smiling, his eyes narrowing.  “Want to die?  Talk about him lightly to me one more time, dongsaeng-ah.”

            “Ya, this isn’t it,” Chen said, pushing them apart.  “We’re all close, don’t be this way.  There’s nothing to fight about.”  He punched Sehun in the ribs hard enough to hurt.  “And don’t say those things in public.”
            “He started it,” Sehun complained, rubbing his side.

            “I didn’t bring you the whole way over here so that you could start fights,” Chen said, pushing him toward the door.  “Bye, Changjo-ah.”

            “Bye, hyung.”

            On the way back to the dorm, Sehun closed his eyes and fantasized about L.Joe.  Remembered how L.Joe felt on his lap, in his arms.  L.Joe’s weight against him, L.Joe’s skin warm from dancing, L.Joe’s shirt damp with sweat, L.Joe whispering his name.  “Oh Sehun, Oh Sehun.”  There was nothing like being with his pet.

            He walked into the dorm intent on fucking Baekhyun.  He was halfway across the living room when Suho grabbed his arm and pulled him back.  Surprised by the interruption, he gave Suho an annoyed look.  Then he saw Suho’s disapproving frown, and realized who he was dealing with.  Catching himself, he schooled his expression.

            It was too late.  He’d never stood a chance.  “I think that we need to talk,” Suho said.  “Chen-ah, stay for a moment.”  Pivoting, Chen came over.  Suho’s disapproval hadn’t faded in the slightest.  “Sehun-ah, is there anything that you want to tell me about tonight?”

            Shit.  But he hadn’t done anything with Niel!  “Niel touched me, hyung, but I swear, nothing happened, I moved his hand and I asked him not to.”

            “Did you threaten our Changjo?”

            “What?  No!”

            “A little,” Chen said.

            “That?  That didn’t mean anything!  You’re mad at me for that?”

            Finally letting go of his arm, Suho didn’t look any less upset with him.  More, actually.  “And did you talk about oral sex?”


            “Oh,” Chen said.

            “I, maybe, yes,” Sehun admitted.  He was in trouble for something so little?  Rules were rules, but, seriously.  “Nobody was around, there wasn’t anyone but us.  And he said a lot of stuff, too, he talked about L.Joe sunbae masturbating!  Did he tell you that?”

            “Did you hear that?” Suho asked Chen.

            “No,” Chen said.  “I never heard it.”

            “He whispered it!”  Wow, that brat!

            “Did you hear Sehun talk about oral sex?” Suho asked.

            “Yes,” Chen said.  “He said that Changjo isn’t good at it, too, and that’s not right.”

            “He said a lot of things,” Sehun insisted.  “If I’m in trouble, he should be, too.”

            “If he said anything, no one heard it,” Suho said.  “Whatever you said, you said it where anyone could hear.”

            “No one was around!”

            “That you know of,” Suho said.  “There’s always staff, there are trainees.  Maybe this time, you got away with it, but will that always be true?  You can’t have these bad habits, maknae.  You’re smarter than this.  And I expect you to set a better example for your dongsaengs.”  Oh, hell.  He couldn’t win when it came to Changjo.  Suho was always either scolding him to be more respectful with his sunbaes, or be a more responsible hyung.  It was really obnoxious, how Changjo got away with everything, no matter what.  “I want you to go to your room and reflect, and we’ll talk about it later.”

            God damn it.  Pressing his lips together so that he wouldn’t say anything, he turned and walked away.  Screw Changjo.  He was going to reflect on his pet.

            Changjo rolled over in bed.  He could hear L.Joe jacking off, making all kinds of excited sounds.  C.A.P. was screwing Niel, and Niel’s husky moans filled the dorm.  He couldn’t get into it; it was all background noise to him.

            His phone beeped.  Another text from L.  He made himself read it.  Still not answering?  Did your leader take your phone away again?  Ya, such a rascal.  Get your phone back soon, I want to talk to you.

            He turned his phone facedown, then shoved it under his pillow.  Then he beat his pillow, pounding it with his fist.  Not feeling any better, he rolled off of his bed onto the floor.  Lying there between a bag of fan gifts and a pair of Ricky’s underwear, he buried his face in his arms.

            He still didn’t know what to do about L.  He didn’t even know what to do about L’s calls and texts.  Should he reply back like everything was normal and play things out, stringing L along, not letting on that anything had changed?  That would buy him time and make sure that he still had an in; it would keep L vulnerable to his revenge.  Should he just delete L from his phone and ignore anything as it came in?  Should he block L’s number altogether?

            What good were thoughts of revenge, anyway?  He couldn’t hurt someone who didn’t care what he said or thought or did.

            Maybe he could use C.A.P. to hurt L.  Maybe he could convince C.A.P. to hurt L for him.

            “Dead?” Ricky asked, toes prodding his thigh.

            “Yes,” he said into his arms.

            “Too bad.  I wanted to screw you.”


            Ricky sat on his back.  “L hyung’s not that great.”

            He knew that.  He really did.  He just couldn’t convince his stupid heart.

            Ricky’s fingers combed through his hair.  “You should tell Suho hyung about it.  He’ll take your side.  He’ll make L hyung feel bad, and he’ll give you comfort sex, too.”

            It wasn’t the worst idea he’d ever heard.  He just had to be sure before he did it, that it was the most advantageous strategy.  Confessing everything to Suho would make it real, and he didn’t want Suho to feel sorry for him.  The thought of Suho and L sitting around discussing what a pathetic little kid he was made him sick with shame and rage.

            His phone rang.  “Destiny” ringtone.  L was calling.  Ricky picked it up when it stopped.  “Suho hyung’s texting you.”

            He took the phone.  Changjo-ah, you’re not replying to L anymore?  Shit.  L and Suho had talked to each other.  L had mentioned that he wasn’t responding, and now L knew that he had his phone, and Suho was going to want to know what was going on.  He texted back.  Sorry, hyung, I’ve been busy.  Never too busy for you, though.  He added a heart.

            Suho texted back two hearts.  Call L sometime.  Don’t make your hyungs worry about you.

            I understand, hyung.  Grimacing, he shoved his phone under his bed.  It beeped.

            Ricky fished it out from under the bed.  “You have voicemail.”

            “I don’t care.”

            Ricky played it.

            L’s voice.  He hated the sound of it.  “Ya, what’s this?  You can’t answer anymore?  You’ll only talk to Suho hyung?”  L sounded not quite happy but not quite angry, mostly just confused.  “Call me back, I don’t want to have to embarrass myself by going over there to see you.”

            “He likes you,” Ricky said.

            “He’s an asshole.  I’m like a cute toy to him, I don’t mean anything.  He’ll get bored and forget all about me in another week.”

            “What if he comes over?”

            Changjo lowered his face to his arms again.  “He won’t.”

            Before he went to meet Woohyun, Sehun changed clothes three times.  He wanted to look mature enough to be taken seriously, but not like he was making an effort.  He didn’t want to look like he was trying too hard to impress anyone, but he didn’t want to look like someone who didn’t care, either.  He didn’t want to show up wearing all black or leather pants or something like some embarrassing cliché, but he didn’t want to look too young, either.  Ordinarily, he looked good in pretty much anything, but Woohyun was used to being around idols, so it wasn’t like his natural handsomeness gave him some big advantage.

            Eventually, he put on ripped black jeans and a white V-necked sweater, an outfit that said as little as possible but still looked good.

            When he got to Infinite’s dorm, Woohyun had on jeans and a light blue T-shirt.  Unstyled hair, friendly smile.  “Sehun-ah, come on in.  Have you eaten?”

            “Yeah, hyung, I’m okay.”  He hadn’t been sure how this would go, but Woohyun seemed relaxed.

            He took his shoes off and set his phone down, and Woohyun said, “Everyone else is gone, so we can talk freely.  Come and sit down.”  When they were side-by-side on the couch, Woohyun asked, “Are there terms that you want to use?”

            “You know about L.Joe sunbae, already,” Sehun said.  “He said that it’s okay if I talk to you about him.  I call him L.Joe sunbae when we’re not,” he didn’t know what to call it, “doing that.”  He waited to see if that had been clear enough, and Woohyun nodded, leaning back and resting an elbow on the arm of the couch.  Woohyun’s posture was relaxed, confident, and seductive, like some kind of casually rumpled centerfold.  “The other things I say are private.  But you called him ‘it’ before, and that’s a little…  It’s uncomfortable.”

            “We noticed that you call him ‘sunbae’ when you call everyone else ‘hyung.’”

            “Yeah, after the blind item, it became an issue.”  He’d never had to explain all of the nuances of the situation to someone before.  “I care about L.Joe sunbae a lot.  He’s important to me.  And since things are so different, when we’re doing that, I want him to remember that when we’re not doing that, he’s in charge.  I’m younger, I’m his hoobae.  I don’t want things to get confusing, and it’s intense for both of us, so I want the difference between when we’re like that and when we’re not to be as clear as possible.”

            “What are you into?” Woohyun asked.

            “Control,” he said immediately.  It felt fantastic to say it out loud, to someone’s face.  It felt incredibly bold.  “Domination is the main thing.  Bondage is part of it, and I’m kind of sadistic, but when I get off on hurting him, it’s mostly because I’m in control enough to be able to hurt him, and he’s under my control enough that he lets me.”

            “What is L.Joe into?”

            Sehun couldn’t believe that they were just going to sit here and talk about this.  So calmly and naturally, like they were discussing sports or something.  He brushed his hand through his hair.  “Sex.  Cock.  He really likes…”  His voice trailed off as he tried to decide how to phrase it.  “He feels so out of control that he wants someone else to take over.  He’s ashamed of himself and he gets off on that.  He wants to be used and humiliated.”

            “Do you have a safeword?”

            “Yes.  God, of course.  We talked about that before I ever touched him.”

            “Does he use it?”

            “Sometimes.  Not much.  A few times.  But as soon as he does, I stop.  I want him to know that he can say it whenever he wants, for any reason, and I’ll always be okay with it.  And it’s always clear when we’re in it and when we’re out of it.  When I’m, um, in control and when I’m not,” he added, to clarify.  He could say things like that right out in the open?  This was great!

            Woohyun sat up straighter, tucking his leg under himself.  “How often do you draw blood?”

            He hesitated.  “Twice,” he admitted.  “Once when I bit him too hard, and once when I scratched him too hard.  The first time, I backed off, and when we were finished, I apologized to him, and he said that he didn’t care.  But I don’t want to leave marks on him.”  That wasn’t remotely true.  “Actually, I want to leave marks all over him.  But that’s not part of our arrangement, so I try not to.  The second time, I went with it like I’d meant to do it, and he loved it, but I was more careful after that so it wouldn’t happen again.”

            “Then you don’t bruise him?”

            He shook his head.  “If he already has a bruise, from fighting with his members, sometimes I deliberately touch it to get him to react, but I don’t want to bruise him, myself.  Like I said, that’s not part of our arrangement.”

            “Do you use lube?”

            What?  “Do you mean do I screw him?”

            “I mean when you penetrate him, do you use lube?”

            “What else would I use?” Sehun asked, not getting it.  Then it hit him.  “Are you kidding?  I don’t want to hurt him!  I mean, I want to hurt him, I love hurting him, but that’s going too far.”

            “The way he was the other night, is he like that a lot?”

            “I.  Yeah.”  He hated admitting that.  “Since we’re on different teams, we can’t see each other as often as we want to.  We call and text in between, but when he’s grounded, he doesn’t have his phone.  So if I’m busy, and he’s busy, and he’s grounded, we have to go a while without seeing each other.  It’s not good.  I just talked to C.A.P. hyung, and he’s going to make sure that I get to visit more often, even when he’s being punished.  It’s difficult for me, not being able to see him, but it’s worse for L.Joe sunbae.  He has a hard time.  I wanted to ask you about the almonds.”

            Woohyun nodded.  “It’s a training exercise.  There are a lot of simple things like that you can do to get a puppy in the right mindset.  They’re obedient, they’re calm, they’re focused on pleasing you.  You’re in control and you reward them for the right behavior.”

            “I’ve done a couple of things like that.  L.Joe sunbae really likes it.  Do you just come up with them, or is there a book or something?” he asked self-consciously.  He couldn’t get caught with a book like that, and he wasn’t allowed to search kinky websites.  He’d asked.  More than once.

            “They’re easy to come up with.  It’s like any kind of training,” Woohyun said.  “You start with very simple, basic commands.  Once he’s doing well, you escalate.  Not fast enough to overwhelm him, but you don’t want him to get bored, either.  You can train him to do the same task for longer and longer periods of time, and make it more intense, or you can come up with more difficult jobs.  For training, you reward good behavior.”

            “And you punish bad behavior,” Sehun guessed.

            “Or you can ignore bad behavior, or make him try it again.”  Woohyun flashed a grin.  “But punishment is more fun.”

            Sehun laughed.  He couldn’t believe that he could finally talk to someone who understood!

            “L.Joe seemed neglected,” Woohyun said.  “Maybe you’re just not seeing him as often as you should?  Or you’re not a good fit?”

            “We’re a perfect fit.  No, hyung, I mean it, he’s perfect,” Sehun emphasized.  “I don’t like it that he’s unhappy without me.  If I can see him more often, like C.A.P. hyung said, that’s what I want.”

            “In between times, what’s it like?  When you call and text, is it just friendly?  Is he in training?”

            “We can’t do very much over the phone.  It’s difficult.  We want to say so much more than is safe.  Mostly it’s checking on each other.  And mostly it’s our hoobae-sunbae relationship.”

            “Ah.  Maybe that would help,” Woohyun said.  “If he responds well to simple training, you can do basic things.  Give him something to do.  You give a task, he does it and reports back to you, you give him a reward.  It can be a point system.  One point for this, two points for that.  Or you can have a code to praise him.  If you repeat the same phrases a lot, it gives him a feeling of security and it’s something that he can look forward to.”

            Sehun liked the idea.  “He might be really happy with that.”  His pet really liked to please him.

            “You can tell him to do anything.  If he has a collar or a harness or another piece of gear, he can wear that.  Do a hundred jumping jacks.  Scrub the bathroom floor on his hands and knees.  Wear a plug for a while.  Sit in a certain position in the closet.  You can reward him with a simple ‘you’ve done well’ or give him permission to get off, whatever you want.”

            It turned Sehun on to imagine L.Joe doing all of those things for him.  “I wish that he had a plug.”  He tried to be discreet and natural about adjusting himself in his pants.  “He’s not allowed to have that kind of thing.”  Neither was Sehun, and he understood why, but it still chafed.

            Woohyun nodded, looking thoughtful.  He rubbed his nose, then laughed.  “I feel like I want to smuggle one to him.  But I shouldn’t interfere like that.”

            Shit, Sehun wanted to take him up on that offer.  “It’s risky.  Especially with sasaengs breaking in, you never know what might be made public.  You don’t worry about those things?”

            Woohyun smiled.  “You really don’t know, do you?”

            He frowned.  “Know what?”

            Chuckling, Woohyun squeezed his arm.  “You’re so cute.  If your company sunbaes haven’t told you, I won’t ruin it.”

            Sehun couldn’t stand this.  “What are you talking about?”

            “Maybe they’re waiting until you’re older.  You’re a little young, and it seems like no one knew about you until after you debuted.  Maybe they want to be more sure about EXO before they trust you that much.  They don’t need someone running off to China and starting rumors about these things.”

            Replaying the conversation in his head, Sehun tried to figure out what the hell Woohyun was talking about.  Something about sasaengs?  Or.  “You have toys, don’t you?”  Sitting up straighter, he looked around the room.  Where would an idol keep something like that?  Under the mattress?  Locked in a drawer?  From what he’d seen, Infinite kept lube right out in the open, like EXO did, but the EXO members had been instructed, if they were ever caught, to pretend that the lube was for masturbation.  A lot of masturbation.

            Woohyun smiled.  It was a happy, knowing smile.  “We’ll talk about something else.  Do you have any other puppies?”

            “There’s only L.Joe.  My members aren’t into that.”  What kinds of toys did Woohyun have?  Butt plugs, apparently.  Simple stuff like blindfolds?  Collars?  Gags?  If there was a whip around here somewhere, Sehun needed to see it.

            “We tried to talk to C.A.P. and Chunji about what to do with him, but it wasn’t right, for C.A.P.”

            “L.Joe sunbae hates being that way with his members.  He doesn’t like for them to see him like that.”

            Woohyun nodded.  “It can be tricky.  Then this is the first relationship like this, for both of you?”

            “Yes.  I’ve wanted to talk to you for a long time.  I love what I’ve been doing, everything’s been perfect so far, and L.Joe sunbae likes it, but he’s really important to me.  I don’t want to look back later and realize that I’ve been making mistakes.  I don’t want to hurt him, or accidentally set things up in a bad way.  He trusts me so much, he just, he turns himself over to me, completely.  I don’t even know how he does that!”

            “It’s a big responsibility,” Woohyun agreed.  “You’ve never been a sub?”

            “God, no.”  He couldn’t imagine it.  Especially now that he’d actually seen it, in person.  It took so much trust and faith and courage, he could never do it.

            “I think that you should try,” Woohyun said.

            No way.  “Have you?”

            “Sure.”  He smiled.  “Nothing heavy.  It’s just for fun.  I’m a very naughty puppy.”

            Amazed, Sehun wanted to climb right on top of him.  Sehun had never, ever been more attracted to him.  “Can I-”

            Woohyun laughed, cutting him off.  “I don’t sub for dongsaengs.”

            Shit, Sehun had never pictured him as a sub.  This only made him sexier.  He was so confident, so comfortable in his sexuality.  “What do you do?  What is it like?”

            “You should try it.  A little light training.”  Woohyun laughed.  “You’re already a maknae, you’re used to being ordered around.”

            Which was how he knew that he’d hate it.  It was one thing to fetch shit for his members, and it was one thing for Xiumin to get pushy during sex, but submit to someone like that?  “When L.Joe sunbae does it, he lets go of everything and lets me have complete control.  I can say anything and do anything I want.  How do you let go like that?”

            “You have to trust your partner.  He has to be someone with good judgment.  If he has experience, if he can read your cues, it helps.  And it has to be someone you know will respect your safeword.  If you know that the whole thing will stop as soon as you want it to, it’s easier to get into it, because you always have that safety net.”

            “I don’t know why L.Joe sunbae ever let me touch him,” Sehun admitted.  “I was some hoobae he barely knew.  We talked first, but he didn’t know anything about me, really.”

            “Sometimes you make a lucky match and everything clicks,” Woohyun said.  “Sometimes it takes a while to build that trust and rapport.  And sometimes two people can’t connect and they can’t make it work.  It’s like any other relationship.  Not every dom and every sub click.”

            “How did you know that it was right with - - can you tell me who you do all of this with?”

            Woohyun smiled.  “Our almighty Key.  And some of my members.  And maybe I play a little with some of the other Shinee members, but you don’t need to know about that.”

            Fuck.  Woohyun was wrong.  He needed to know everything about that.  Which Shinee members?  Did Kai know about this?  “Not all of the Infinite members?”

            He shook his head.  “Mmm.  Our maknae doesn’t like it.  It’s a shame.”  Woohyun sighed, the corners of his mouth twitching upward.  “He’d be so pretty in bondage, don’t you think?”

            “Hell, yes.”

            “Such a shame.  Tell me about your after care.”

            “After care,” Sehun repeated.  He was still picturing Sungjong in bondage.  Tied up, eyes pleading, black rope against soft skin, pink lips stretched around a gag.  Arms forced back, chin forced up, that pretty cock soft and shy in Sungjong’s distress, or stiff with lust and need.  Woohyun didn’t just dominate Key, but Infinite, too?!  Damn, he needed to hear everything about that.  Was L a part of it?  Did Suho know?

            “What do you do when you’re finishing?”

            “No, I know what it is, I’ve heard about it.”  He tried to redirect his thoughts, but it was really difficult to get his mind off of other things, like L kneeling in front of him and shivering at his touch and whispering, “Yes, Sehun-ah.”  God.  “We talk a little bit, and I hug him.  After I get back to the dorm, I call him or text him to check on him.”

            “Is that all he needs?”

            Was there supposed to be more?  “Should I do something else?”

            “If that’s all he needs, it’s okay.  It’s different with everyone.  In my experience, it seems like most guys need some more than that.  They need some time alone to process it, they need to be held and soothed for a while, maybe they like to be washed and cleaned up.  Does he cry?”

            What?  “Why would he cry?”  Did he cry after Sehun left?  That was a terrible thought.  If he needed to cry, Sehun wanted to be with him for it.

            “Maybe he doesn’t.”

            Maybe.  But what if he did?  The situation could get intense, and it was so emotional for L.Joe, crying only made sense.  Sehun felt amazing afterward, but maybe L.Joe needed some kind of emotional release.  Like a catharsis.  Why hadn’t this come up before?  Did he cry and not say anything?  Why hadn’t Sehun thought of it?  Shit.  Sehun wanted to call him right then and there.

            “You could try setting some time aside to sit with him, when you’re finished.”

            “We’d have to stop earlier.”  That wasn’t a good thought.  “But if he needs it, then I want to.”  Did he need to be comforted, when it was over?  Did he handle it by himself?  Of course he did, he had to; what was he going to do, turn to Chunji?  “He seems okay, when we’re finished.  If he didn’t, I wouldn’t just leave him.”

            “Some guys don’t need as much attention.  Some of them would rather deal with it on their own.”

            That final hug, at the end, always felt great.  It was like a moment of reconnection.  It was an important moment, and he never skipped it, because it seemed to reassure L.Joe.  It grounded them back in their everyday roles.  Maybe it should last longer.  “I’ll try, and I’ll talk to him about it.”

            “Some people don’t like to talk to their partners outside of the scene, because they like to keep their identities separate.  They like the scene to be pure.  But I like having a relationship with my partners outside of that.  I’ve never done it with someone I wasn’t already close to.”

            “I guess it’s sexy, if this person is only ever a dom or only ever a sub, and you never see them any other way.”  That could definitely be very hot, and he fantasized about it, sometimes.  “But I like knowing about L.Joe sunbae.  I like that he’s a complete person.  And it turns me on so much, to see him around.”

            “Do you want another sub?”

            “God, yes,” Sehun said immediately.  “I can’t, I don’t have time.  Between EXO and L.Joe sunbae, I can’t take on any more responsibilities.  Being his dom is a really important commitment.”  He’d almost said “owner” but he wasn’t ready to let that slip yet.  “I’d love to have another sub, I want eighty of them, but I don’t have time for it.”

            “I might be able to let you borrow some of my members once in a while.  I might want to talk to L.Joe, first.  But maybe you can come over, or we could play while we’re on MT.”

            Sehun couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “You’d do that?  That would be amazing.  That would be fucking amazing,” he repeated.  “Could I, really?”

            “Maybe, yeah.  Dongwoo hyung would be okay with it.  We’d have to talk about it first, and I’d have to be there for it.  I mean, I like you,” Woohyun said, laughing.  “But he’s my hyung, I can’t let you do just anything to him.”

            “That hyung?”  Sehun’s mind spun with all of the incredible, erotic, blazing hot things he could do.  “He doesn’t have any boundaries.”

            “That’s why I have to be there,” Woohyun said.  “He’ll let you do whatever you can come up with.  That’s why we don’t let Sungyeol play dom anymore.  He’s just not allowed.  He doesn’t have any sense, and when the two of them play together that way, it gets completely out of hand.”

            “Are you saying on nights that I’m free, if I can’t see L.Joe sunbae, I can come over here and dominate your members?”

            “Sure, if they’re into it.  Mostly Dongwoo hyung.  I think that the others won’t be so sure about a hoobae dongsaeng.  Even if you do look like that.”

            Sehun laughed at the compliment.

            “Is it okay with you if I talk to L.Joe?”

            “I’m okay, if he wants to.  If it’s good for doms to try being subs, is it good the other way, too?  Should L.Joe sunbae try being a dom?”

            “It wouldn’t hurt to try it once.  I think that it’s more important the other way around.  Especially the heavier your scenes get, the deeper you go, I think you at least need to try some training so you have even a little idea of what you’re putting people through.”  Woohyun smiled.  “L.Joe would be such a bad dom.  I’ll invite him to come over and try it.”

            “Could I watch?”

            “Sure.  If it’s okay with L.Joe.  Dongwoo hyung won’t mind.  It’d be fun.”  Woohyun rubbed Sehun’s thigh, and his smile was affectionate.  “This is nice.  I wasn’t sure about you, or what you were up to, or how you treated L.Joe.  But you’re cute, and I can tell that you care a lot about him.  I won’t worry about you anymore.”

            “It’s nice to talk to someone about this stuff,” Sehun said.

            “I think that I’ll like having a hoobae in this.  You should call me whenever you want to talk.  Hyung’s here for you.”

            For a moment, they just sat there and smiled at each other.  Sehun was really glad that he’d come; he’d spent so much time wishing that he could talk to Woohyun.  “Can you tell me what it’s like, with Dongwoo hyung?  So I know what to look forward to?”

            “Sure.”  Woohyun laughed, rubbing his chin.  “Where should I start?”

            Suho sat in the back of the van, on the phone, his members asleep around him, Baekhyun twitching and muttering.  “You’re almost packed to go?”

            “Yeah,” Changjo said.

            “I’ll miss you.  Stay healthy and listen to your hyungs.”

            “Yes, hyung.”

            He smiled at Changjo’s patient, cute tone.  “Have you called L?”  When Changjo didn’t reply, he tsked.  “What’s going on between you?  Call him before you leave.”

            “I can call any time, phones work in Indonesia, too.”

            “He’s worried about you.”

            “I don’t think that L hyung worries about things like that.”

            Something was going on.  It was strange; why was Changjo resisting?  “You won’t talk to him?  Did something happen?”

            “I’ve been busy.  We’re preparing a lot for our trip.”

            Suho didn’t like this.  He sat up straight.  “Maknae.”  His tone must’ve been too firm; with a sudden start, Sehun sat up, looking around.  Rolling his eyes, he waved Sehun back down.  “What’s wrong?  Did L say something to you?  Was there an argument?”

            “No, we haven’t argued.  It’s nothing, hyung, you worry too much.”

            Changjo’s tone was so convincing, Suho relaxed.  Catching himself, he almost laughed.  Was he going to fall for that?  “I wish that I could see you in person, before you go.  I want to hug you good-bye, and I want to see for myself that everything’s okay.  You’re keeping things to yourself.  You can’t trust me?”

            “Aw, hyung, don’t say things like that.”  Changjo’s voice became sweet and coaxing and just shy enough to be adorable.  “You know how I feel about you.”

            “You know how hyung feels about you, too,” Suho said softly.

            “Embarrassing,” D.O. said.

            Suho got up, leaning forward far enough to smack him with Baekhyun’s empty water bottle, then sat down again.  “Did L hurt your feelings?”

            “I’m not a baby, I don’t cry over hurt feelings.”

            Suho licked his lips, looking down.  He’d been worried about this happening.  Changjo seemed to like L a lot.  Both of them were so sensitive and so quick to overreact, he’d been dreading any kind of misunderstanding between them.  “It’s tricky, liking someone who doesn’t know how you feel about him.  Is it okay to hold him responsible for not responding to you, if he doesn’t know that there’s anything to respond to?”

            “What are you talking about?” Changjo asked.  “Hyung, nothing like that’s going on.”

            “Hypothetically,” Suho said.

            “Hypothetically, is he stupid?” Changjo shot back.  “Who doesn’t know when someone likes him?”

            “A lot of people.  Especially if you’re already close.  If you’re happy to see him, if you’re affectionate, those are things that he’s already used to.”

            “Nothing like that’s going on,” Changjo repeated stubbornly.  “You’ve misunderstood.”

            “I don’t want you to go the whole way to Indonesia feeling like this.”

            “It’s not that far, and I don’t feel any way.  I have to finish packing, hyung.  I’ll hang up first.”

            “Changjo,” Suho said, but he’d already hung up.  Darn it.  Unhappy, Suho called L.


            “What did you say to our Changjo?”  He sounded more impatient than he’d intended to.

            “I haven’t said anything to him, he won’t answer his phone.”

            “You should be more careful how you treat him.”

            “I haven’t treated him any way!”  L sounded surprised and defensive.  “What are you talking about?  Did he say something to you?  Do you know what he’s upset about?”

            “You should talk to him and set things right.”

            “How can I talk to him if he won’t answer?” L demanded.

            “Are phones the only way to communicate?” Suho asked.

            “What do you want me to do, go to Teen Top’s dorm and throw rocks at the window until he comes down?”

            “Ya, I’m serious,” Suho said sternly.  “He’s leaving in the morning, and he should be able to greet Angel happily.”

            “Why can’t he greet Angel happily?  Hyung, I don’t even know what’s wrong with him.”

            “Have you asked him?”

            “He won’t answer his phone!”

            This conversation was going in circles.  Frustrated, Suho said, “I’ll hang up first.”

            “Wait!  Hyung, don’t be angry.”

            “I’m not angry with you, I’m upset for Changjo.  He’s precious to me, and I don’t like that he feels this way.”

            “You can’t, I mean, he’s precious to me, too,” L said, sounding embarrassed.

            “Does he know that?”

            “That kid thinks he knows everything!”

            “But he doesn’t,” Suho said firmly.  “And neither do you.”  Burdened by this whole situation, he sighed.  “You’re precious to me, too, dongsaeng-ah.  I worry about both of you.  You’ve asked me to take care of him and accept responsibility for how I treat him, but I’m not the only one who can hurt him.  You need to take responsibility, too.”

            “How can I hurt Changjo?”  He sounded baffled.  “I haven’t even said anything to him, what is he upset about?”

            “We’ll talk later,” Suho said, and hung up.  He couldn’t say anything else.  He felt like explaining too much would betray Changjo.  The two of them had to figure things out for themselves, somehow.  But he worried about whether they’d be able to.

            L stared at his phone in disbelief.  He’d hurt Changjo?  He hadn’t done anything!  What was Suho scolding him about?

            Oh.  Growling under his breath, he glared at his phone.  Changjo.  That kid was up to something again.  What was the game now, turning Suho against him?  Back to those tricks?  Pretending to be upset and getting Suho angry with him?

            That goddamned kid.  These little games were cute, but this was going too far.  He felt betrayed; he’d thought that he and Changjo were getting along now, that all of that competition over Suho’s affection was behind them.  Until now, he’d felt really good about Changjo, and it was disorienting to find himself on the defensive.  They weren’t as close as he’d thought?  Had he been too trusting?  Had he let his guard down too much?  The more he thought about it, the more upset he was.  It was embarrassing to talk about, but Changjo meant a lot to him.  He just didn’t like to examine it too closely.

            He called Changjo, and of course the little shit didn’t answer.  He set his phone down, and then he remembered that Changjo was going to Indonesia.  Hadn’t Suho said that Teen Top was leaving tomorrow?

            Worrying his lower lip between his teeth, L stared into space for a few minutes.

            He didn’t want to do this.

            He didn’t like it.  He was only going to humiliate himself.  He cared too much; he was making a fool of himself.  And over some annoying kid!

            Unhappy, he got up.

            The doorbell rang.  Curious, Changjo sat up in Niel’s bed.  “Who’s that?”

            Niel was long and naked beside him, eyes closed.  “Shut up, you’re ruining my afterglow.”

            “Sorry,” he said, grinning.  He patted Niel’s ass and got up.  Skipping underwear, he pulled his track pants on, and then he went to the doorway, listening.

            “Yeah, it’s okay,” C.A.P. was saying.  “Changjo!”

            A visitor for him?  Oh!  It had to be Suho!  Suho had said something about wanting to come to see him before he left.  Grinning, he put a shirt on and smoothed his hair.  If it seemed too obvious that he’d just been having sex, Suho would get embarrassed, and he wanted to get a nice, good hug.  Maybe even a kiss.  “Hyung?” he asked innocently, walking out.

            Standing by the door, L looked at him.

            He flashed hot and cold all over.  Furious, scared, hurt, yearning, he stopped moving.  The power of L’s gaze, those deep, intense eyes, was too strong; he couldn’t risk getting any closer.  “What are you doing here?”

            “He came to see you, stupid,” C.A.P. said.

            “I’m busy.”  He went to his room and closed the door.

            Before he could put his suitcase against the door to barricade it, C.A.P. opened the door again.  “Get your ass out here.”

            “What does your friend want to see me about?” Changjo asked.

            “I don’t think that we’re friends, anymore.”

            “Oh, right, sorry.  What does your boyfriend want to see me about?”

            “Stop being stupid and go talk to him.”

            “I’m not finished packing.  You want me to get on the plane with an empty suitcase?”

            “It’s not empty,” C.A.P. pointed out.

            Jerking it open, he turned it over, dumping everything onto the floor.  Then he threw the suitcase onto Ricky’s bed and stared at C.A.P., silently daring C.A.P. to react.

            “You’re the one who has to pack it again,” C.A.P. pointed out.  He raised his voice, moving to the door.  “L, come and talk to him in here.”

            “I’m going out,” Changjo said, going past C.A.P. and into the hallway.

            “You’re not going anywhere,” C.A.P. said, and tripped him.

            Fuck!  Catching himself against the wall, he righted himself.  Whirling around, he grabbed C.A.P.  Seconds later, his face was jammed against the wall, his arm was wrenched up behind his back, and he couldn’t get free.  Snarling, cursing, he flailed at C.A.P. with his free hand, then pounded his fist against the wall in frustrated outrage.  He was so angry, his scalp was burning.  He hated C.A.P. for having L and hurting L and still having L, he hated L for not giving a fuck about him, he hated himself for caring so much.  Why did he have to care?  Why did it have to hurt?  He’d been so pissed off when L had called him dead inside, but wouldn’t that be better than this?  “Aaauurrgh!” he shouted, beating the wall.

            “Calm the fuck down,” C.A.P. ordered.

            “Let him go,” L said.

            “If I let him go, he’ll punch you in the face,” C.A.P. said.  “Maknae.  Get a grip.”

            “Fuck you,” Changjo panted.

            C.A.P. twisted his arm, and he gritted his teeth, refusing to cry out, not willing to give C.A.P. the satisfaction.  Physical pain meant nothing to him; he could take this all day.  “Get your shit together, and I might be willing to forget that you said that.”

            He laughed breathlessly.  “Fuck you.”

            “Okay.”  C.A.P. pulled him back and slammed him against the wall again, hard; he winced.  “Clearly, you’ve lost your damned mind.”

            No, he was just getting it back.  If he kept pissing C.A.P. off, he’d be punished, and C.A.P. would have to discipline him, and L would have to leave.  He couldn’t act like this and still get to sit down for a quiet visit with L.  C.A.P. would tell L to go.  That was all he wanted, to get rid of L, to be left alone, not to have to deal with L, not to have to face how much it hurt, not to have to hear whatever bullshit sympathy L had to offer him.  He’d say whatever he had to; there was no such thing as too far, if it got rid of L.

            He was going to be in so, so, so much trouble for this.  But he’d deal with it.  It would be worth it.

            “How much time do you have?” C.A.P. asked L.  “He’s going to be like this for a while.”

            “If you let him go, I can talk to him.”

            “Do you want to get punched in the face?”

            “He won’t.”

            “It’s either you or me, and I know how to duck.”

            “He won’t,” L repeated.

            From C.A.P.’s tone, he was grinning.  Changjo hated both of them.  “Want to find out?”

            “Yes, just let him go.”

            “Okay.  But you’d better duck.  One, two, three.”  C.A.P. let go.

            Changjo whirled around and punched L in the face.

            “Fuck!  Fuck!  Shit!” L shouted, stumbling back and throwing an arm up.

            Changjo almost landed a second hit, but C.A.P. grabbed him and threw him against the wall again.  Wincing at the force of it, he grunted.  He rolled his eyes up, looking at the ceiling, so he wouldn’t have to see L.

            “Fuck,” L said.  “The fuck is wrong with you?!”

            “Chunji, get an ice pack,” C.A.P. said.

            “Ow,” L said.

            “I warned you,” C.A.P. said.

            “Why did you hit me?” L demanded.  “You think this is going to get Suho hyung to choose you over me?”

            “You think this is about Suho hyung?” C.A.P. asked.

            “Here,” Chunji said.

            “Thanks,” L said.  “Ouch, shit.  Yeah, he’s in some weird competition all by himself to turn Suho hyung against me.”

            “You really are stupid,” C.A.P. said.

            “What do you think is going on?” L demanded.  “He has Suho hyung calling me up scolding me for shit I’ve never done.”

            “You don’t have a photo shoot tomorrow, do you?”

            “I have fans.  With Inspirit, every day’s a photo shoot.  I’m on camera every second I’m not locked in the dorm.”

            “You might want to wear a face mask.”

            “Fuck you, fuck both of you,” L snapped.  He grabbed Changjo’s face.

            Immediately, Changjo squeezed his eyes shut.  No way was he looking at L.  Not now.  Not ever, if he could help it.

            “The hell is wrong with you?” L demanded, gripping his jaw.  “What is it, you want Suho hyung all to yourself?”

            Clueless, worthless asshole.  Changjo worked his tongue, gathering up spit.

            “I don’t want to fight with you!  It doesn’t have to be a competition.  You manipulative brat, why can’t you just let things be?  I wanted to get along!  I thought that we were close!”

            “You need to back up,” C.A.P. said.

            “What, is he a wild animal who bites if you get too close?” L demanded.

            Opening his eyes, Changjo spat in L’s face.

            “No, but he does that,” C.A.P. said.

            “Ya!”  L wiped furiously at his face, then grabbed Changjo’s collar.

            Eyes closed, Changjo refused to react.  He was already pinned against the wall, and it wasn’t like L was going to hit him.  There would only be a little yelling, and then L would leave.  That was all he wanted.  For L to leave.  He’d wasted time, wondering what he should do about L’s calls.  There wouldn’t be any more calls after tonight.  It would all be over, for good.  These were the last minutes he’d ever have with L.  A little yelling, a closed door, and he’d never have to see L again.  He couldn’t wait.

            “I’ve had enough of your shit!” L shouted.  “What do you think you’re doing?  You want Suho hyung all to yourself?  What are you going to do, get rid of his members, too?  Lock him in a room until all he sees is you?  I don’t even know you anymore!”  Everything was quiet for a moment, and he wondered why L wasn’t leaving.  “I thought that it was all okay.  I thought that we were close.  We weren’t?  You can’t stand sharing with me this much?  What’s happened to you, why are you being like this?  Is it all an act, are you playing a game?”  L’s grip lightened, and L’s thumb brushed over his cheek.  “Were we only ever close in my head?  Did I make it all up?  You never meant it when you smiled at me?”

            It was like being stabbed in the chest.  L sounded hurt and confused, and Changjo couldn’t take it.  Hearing L’s soft voice made him want to rush to comfort and console, made him want to explain everything so that L understood that he did care, he’d always cared, he’d meant every single smile.  But he was furious, too, enraged that L would play on his sympathy, that L would pretend to be unhappy over him.  It was all fake, it was another stream of lies.  He couldn’t trust L, never, ever.  Did L get off on pretending to be a good person?  Or was this all for C.A.P.’s sake?

            L caressed his cheek, knuckles brushing lightly along his jaw.  He gritted his teeth, trying to endure it, reminding himself that it would be over soon.  It would be all over, completely, entirely.  “You played your games too well.”  L’s voice was soft.  “You had me convinced.  I fell for all of it.  I thought that, despite everything, you were as sweet and silly as Suho hyung said.  I knew that you were mischievous, but I thought that you were just an energetic maknae, too grown up for your own good and too immature to know better.  I trusted you, I looked out for you, I wanted to give you everything.”  L’s voice cracked.  “Did I make a mistake?”

            He wasn’t going to look.  He didn’t want to see the tears brimming in L’s eyes.  He wasn’t going to fall for this.  He couldn’t let himself believe in it.  He was never going to let L hurt him again.  It was an act.  It was a cheap con made up of nothing, and he wasn’t going to let L exploit him.  Not to satisfy L’s ego or to impress C.A.P. or whatever the hell this was all for.  Through clenched teeth, he snarled, “Get out.”

            L’s hands dropped.

            He wasn’t going to relax until he heard the door close.  This wasn’t over until L was gone, away, out of his life for good.

            “You sure about this?” C.A.P. asked quietly.  “He’s walking away.”

            Changjo needed to hear the door.  He needed it to be over.

            The door closed.

            He sagged against the wall, panting.  It was done.  No more calls, no more talking, no more L.

            No more dimpled smiles.  No more long, comfortable talks.  No more brown eyes.  No more stars.

            “All right, c’mere,” C.A.P. said quietly, pulling him around.  He fought it, trying to get away, but C.A.P. hugged him, and then he was gripping C.A.P., holding on for his life while he cried, and cried, and cried.

            “Whoa,” Sungyeol said, doing a double-take.  “What happened to you?”

            “Nothing,” L muttered.  He went to his room.  Pushing back his hood, he looked at his face.  Shit.  It looked as bad as it felt.  There was an obvious, darkening bruise across his cheekbone.  Wincing, he touched at it lightly.

            “What’d you do?” Sungyeol asked, following him into the room.


            “Management’s going to kill you.  Sunggyu hyung’s going to kill you twice.”  Sungyeol leaned over his shoulder, taking a closer look.  “Did somebody hit you?!”

            “No.”  Would more ice help, or was it too late?  He’d have to call his manager and push back tomorrow’s meeting.  He’d have to do his own make-up, too, he couldn’t go to the salon like this, it would just start rumors.

            “Did anybody see it?  Was it an anti?”  When he didn’t answer, Sungyeol grabbed his shoulder and turned him around, staring into his eyes.  “L-ah, what, what happened?”

            He looked down, and he really didn’t want to cry, he felt so stupid.  “It hurts more than I thought,” he said, his voice shaking.  He wasn’t talking about being hit.  Blinking, he tried to clear his vision, but the tears kept coming.  He looked at the floor, the wall, the door; he couldn’t meet Sungyeol’s concerned gaze.  “He was faking it.  He didn’t.”  His voice cracked and he sniffed, dragging the back of his hand across his nose.  “He didn’t mean any of it.  The whole time, I guess, I don’t know.  None of it was real, I was just too stupid to know.”

            “What?  Who?” Sungyeol asked, peering into his face.  “Don’t tell me that EXO’s Suho punched you!”

            “No.”  Needing his hyung, he wrapped his arms around Sungyeol, his tears falling faster.

            “It’s okay, you’re okay, don’t cry about it,” Sungyeol said, hugging him.  “Wait, hold on.”  Pushing him back again, Sungyeol stared into his face, holding him at arm’s length.  “You’re not crying over Teen Top’s Changjo, are you?”

            He shook his head.  Then he burst into tears and clutched at Sungyeol.  He was sobbing like his heart was broken and he couldn’t help it, he couldn’t stop it, he just clung to Sungyeol and cried.  Changjo had been something good in his life.  Not his, never his, Changjo belonged to Suho and he knew that, but Changjo had been a ray of sunshine, a ball of happiness, popping up and making everything bright.  Changjo was a dozen things, a hundred contradictory things, annoying, smug, sexy, playful, devious, sweet, deceptive, but always fun, always incredibly interesting to L.  He’d wished, sometimes, that things were different, that he were different, but he’d always pushed those thoughts away, because what was the point?  But Changjo had stolen right into his heart and settled in to stay, and the secret part of him that was willing to acknowledge that was also happy about it.  Privately glad for it.

He’d fallen in love with that adorable, sexy, mischievous little brat, and now he was paying for it.

            C.A.P. sat up in bed.  Beside him, Changjo was finally asleep.  Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he wondered what the hell he was supposed to do about all of this.

            Ricky crept to the doorway.  “Is he okay?”

            “No.”  Maybe going to Indonesia would be good.  Get Changjo’s mind off of all of this personal crap, put the focus on work and Angel.  “Go pack his suitcase.”

            “Me?” Ricky asked, like it was a huge injustice.

            “Do it.”

            Ricky left.

            Sighing, C.A.P. watched Changjo sleep.  Was this one of those times where a good leader interfered, or where a good leader stayed out of it?  Should he confront L or comfort Changjo or what?  He’d definitely have to apologize to Sunggyu.  That would not be fun.

            Hey, he’d warned L to duck.

            Something was going on.  Suho’s members had been whispering to each other all day.  They kept gathering up in corners together, they abruptly shut up and shushed each other whenever he got close, and they shot him guilty, questioning looks whenever he walked by, like they wanted to know if he knew and what he thought.  It couldn’t be very bad, though.  At least, that was what he told himself.  If they kept it up, he was going to have to force one of them to crack and tell him.  And he didn’t want to do that.  It had been a nice few days, and if there was drama going on, he didn’t want to hear about it.  He was already worried about Changjo and L; wasn’t that enough for now?

            If they thought that they were being subtle about keeping things from him, they were wrong.  All of the members were in the dorm, and he had the couch entirely to himself.  They were all huddled up in the kitchen, whispering.  He hadn’t had uninterrupted couch time in months.  Weren’t they being too obvious?

            They started to play rock, paper, scissors.  He wondered what they were bargaining over.

            “No, again, again,” D.O. said.

            “You lost, it’s fair,” Chen said.

            “Shouldn’t we not say anything?” D.O. asked.

            “Go,” Xiumin ordered.

            There was silence.  Suho looked up to see D.O. coming in his direction.  So much for uninterrupted couch time.  He sat up, bracing himself.

            Glumly, D.O. sat beside him.

            Suho picked up the remote and turned on the TV.  Maybe if he didn’t say anything, D.O. would-

            “Someone should tell you.”

            Ugh.  Disappointed, he turned off the TV.  “Tell me what?” he asked, resigned.

            “L hyung went over to Teen Top’s dorm.  He and Changjo had a fight.  Changjo punched him.  He had to cancel his schedules.  Sunggyu hyung is pissed off and Changjo’s been crying and L hyung’s been crying and nobody wants to tell you about it.”

            Suho didn’t know whether to be angry or worried or sad.  He didn’t know whether to call L or fly to Indonesia or demand that D.O. explain.

            “So.”  D.O. studied Suho.  “Now you know.”  He slowly got up.  “I’ll be going now.”


            D.O. sat.

            Suho gripped his forearm to hold him in place.  “Who told you?”

            “It’s all everybody’s talking about.”

            “Everybody who?” he demanded.

            “Us and Teen Top and Infinite.  Niel told Kai, and Kai told me and Sehun, and Sehun talked to Niel, and Xiumin hyung talked to Dongwoo hyung, and then it was everywhere.  But no one else knows.  Infinite doesn’t want anyone to know.  Sungyeol hyung’s really worried about L hyung, and Sungjong hates Teen Top, and C.A.P. hyung doesn’t want to say anything about it, and Ricky said that Changjo doesn’t want to come back to Seoul.”

            “God.”  Letting go of D.O.’s arm, Suho sat forward, his elbows on his knees.  He ran his hands through his hair, trying to wrap his mind around the problem.  He’d pushed L to talk to Changjo, and now this.  Fighting.  Hitting each other.  “No one’s talked to L?”

            “Chen hyung tried, to make sure that he was okay, but he just said that he was fine and hung up.  Chen hyung said that he didn’t sound fine at all.”

            These kids.  Suho groaned, rubbing his face.  Then he looked at D.O.  “Everything’s fine with our members?  Everyone in EXO is okay?”

            D.O. blinked at him.  “Yes, we’re okay.”

            Suho hugged him.  “Thank you for that.”  Suho was grateful to have such good members.  “Hyung will buy all of you dinner tomorrow.  You can order whatever you want.”

            C.A.P. was signing merch in the dressing room when his phone rang.  “Hello,” he said, moving to another stack of posters.

            “How is everything?” Suho asked.

            He took the call off of speaker and put the phone to his ear.  “Great,” he said, signing as he talked.

            “How’s Changjo?”

            C.A.P. glanced over to where Changjo was retying his shoes.  “Great.  How are you?”

            “Not happy.”

            He winced.  “Who told you?”

            “Not Changjo.”

            “Yeah, Ricky’s been holding onto his phone for him.  He’s focusing on work right now.  Can I call you back?  We have to go on soon.”

            “Ask him to call me.  I won’t scold him until he’s back here, I just want to hear from him.”

            “Sure, hyung.”

            After hanging up and finishing up with the posters, he went over and clapped Changjo on the back.  “Ready?”

            Bouncing on his toes, Changjo nodded.  His expression was calm, but there was energy in his eyes, a little pre-show electricity in his smile; he was ready to go.  “Teen Top fighting.”

            C.A.P. smiled at him, squeezing his shoulder.  No matter what, the members could put everything else behind them and get the job done.  Problems with family, the stress of school, arguments between the members, whatever management threw at them, they could leave it all backstage and go out there and perform.  “Teen Top fighting!”

            The problem with joint custody, Suho was learning, was that he didn’t have the same control over Changjo or L that he had over his full-time members.  If he needed to talk to Chanyeol, he could beckon Chanyeol to his side, and Chanyeol had to come to him, like it or not.  If he wanted to talk to Changjo, Changjo could avoid him, and the best he could do was go through C.A.P., at which point it was all up to C.A.P.’s whim.

            L wouldn’t talk to him.  Sunggyu wouldn’t let him come over, because Sunggyu was refusing to, as Sunggyu put it, “referee your mixed-up threesome.”  Frustrated, he finally asked, “Can I come over to see you, then?”

            “Sure,” Sunggyu said.  His tone was completely accepting, as if he hadn’t been blocking and blustering and shutting Suho down for the last five minutes.  “Bring something to eat, my members look hungry.”

            Asking a dongsaeng to bring a meal for everyone?  He was shameless.  Smiling, Suho said, “Okay, hyung, I’ll bring something good.”

            “Wear something pretty,” Sunggyu instructed.  “My visual’s a mess these days, and I need something better to look at.”  With that, Sunggyu hung up on him.

            He couldn’t possibly be meant to take that seriously.  But he did it anyway, putting on his favorite striped sweater.  And BB cream.  And cologne.  And the jeans that Key liked.  While he was at it, he tried to fix his hair.

            “Whoa, did U-Know Yunho call?” Chanyeol asked, laughing.  “Do you have a date?”

            “No,” he said, blushing.  “I’m, um, going out.  Be good, and listen to your hyungs,” he added automatically, heading for the door.

            “Hyung,” Chanyeol said, following him.  “Where are you going?”

            Chanyeol’s expression was too bright and interested.  Lay and Baekhyun were coming over.  “Wow, you look great,” Lay said.  “Are you meeting Changmin hyung?”

            “What is - - no!” he said, laughing, flustered.

            “See, I keep telling Sehun that he’s not the visual,” Baekhyun said.  “He needs to understand that some members are better-looking than he is.”

            “Hey, I know that I’m handsome, but we’re talking to Suho hyung,” Chanyeol said.  “Hyung, where are you going?”

            “Out,” he said, putting on his shoes.

            “In your best shoes,” Baekhyun noticed.

            “Don’t you want your lifts?” Lay asked.

            Laughing, he pushed at Lay, and Lay ducked, chuckling.  “Why does everyone have to be in my personal business?”

            “Because we care, hyung, we really, eh, no,” Baekhyun said, shaking his head.  “I can’t lie.  We’re just nosy.”

            “I’m going to Infinite’s dorm,” he said.

            “Is L feeling better?” Lay asked.

            “I’ll find out.”

            “Wait, are you, um, you’re not staying out all night, are you?” Chanyeol asked.  “You’re coming back, right?”

            For a moment, he wondered what Chanyeol was talking about.  And then he remembered that it was Chanyeol’s night.  Blushing, he tugged at his sweater.  “I won’t stay out all night, I don’t think.  If I need to, I’ll call.”

            “Okay, just in case, hug me good-bye,” Chanyeol said.

            “Hug you good-bye?  What are you, a toddler?” Baekhyun asked.

            “I want a hug,” Lay said.

            “Well, I mean, if you’re just handing out hugs, I’ll take one,” Baekhyun said.

            “This isn’t a hug event,” Suho said, laughing.  He hugged Chanyeol, and then Lay, then Baekhyun.  “Members!  I’m going out!” he called.  Chanyeol hugged him again.  “Let’s all behave!”

            “Hold on, I just want to take a photo,” Baekhyun said, pulling out his phone.

            “You see me every day, what do you need a photo for?” Suho complained.  Well, as long as Baekhyun was taking his picture, he might as well smile for it.

            Baekhyun snapped the photo.  “I just want to show the rest of the members and ask them where they think you’re going.”

            “You look like a sunbae summoned you,” Lay said.

            “L’s a sunbae,” Chanyeol said.

            “But a big sunbae,” Lay said.  “Not L, he never dressed for L like that before.”

            “Are you all trying to say that I normally look like an unkempt mess?” Suho asked.

            “You’re handsome enough that you look good no matter what,” Lay said.

            “Right, you’re not Chen,” Baekhyun said.  Chanyeol poked him and he grinned.  “I’m just saying, not everybody gets the fuck-me jeans.”  He gasped, covering his mouth with one hand.  Wide-eyed, he backed up.

            “Okay, bye, hyung,” Chanyeol said, opening the door and pushing Suho through it.

            Shocked, Suho looked at his members.  “What - - is that what - - did you-”

            “Bye, now,” Chanyeol said, closing the door in his face.

            Fuck-me jeans!  Embarrassed, Suho looked down.  Feeling self-conscious, he cupped his butt with both hands.  The way Baekhyun had said it!  Like it was an established thing.  He got the definite impression that this was something his members had already discussed among themselves.

            He should go in and change.

            He.  Um.  Hot with shame, he wondered if Sunggyu would like, if Sunggyu would think, if…

            He really had to go in and change.

            But.  As long as he was already out here.  And the door was already locked.  He might as well just go ahead and leave, right?

            L didn’t want to see Suho.

            No.  He wanted to see Suho.  He really wanted to curl up in bed with Suho and talk about everything.  He wanted to snuggle close while Suho stroked his hair.  He wanted to pour his heart out and let Suho reassure him.

            But he felt uneasy.  About everything.  He felt sensitive and he felt unbearably, painfully stupid and he felt vulnerable.  He felt like he couldn’t even protect himself anymore.  He couldn’t figure out what to protect himself from.

            He’d been wrong about Changjo.  He’d held himself aloof, because he had no reason to care, and then he’d surprised himself by caring anyway, and then he’d fallen in love, and then Changjo had plunged a knife into his heart and he’d never seen it coming.  He wasn’t wrong about Suho, too, he knew that he wasn’t, but what if he was?

            He didn’t want to see Suho until he felt better.  Until he’d healed at least a little.  Until he didn’t feel so sore and shaky.

            They had to talk about Changjo.  He couldn’t let Suho go through this, too.  He had to warn Suho in a way that would sink in.  But he’d do it tomorrow.  He wasn’t ready, today.

            He told Sunggyu that he had to go out for a while.

            “Running away?” Sunggyu asked.

            He nodded.

            “Take the maknae with you.  I don’t want you out there alone getting into trouble.”

            He hugged Sunggyu.  He didn’t want to let go.

            Suho smiled as the Infinite members descended on the kitchen.  Grabbing food, they teased each other.  Hoya and Sungyeol argued, accusing each other of taking too much food, then taking more; Woohyun fed everyone.  Dongwoo thanked Suho and felt up his ass.  He got flustered, and Dongwoo apologized, and that only embarrassed him more, because the apology was incredibly sincere and he felt bad for making Dongwoo feel bad.  He knew that Dongwoo’s naughty hands were just a habit, and that it wasn’t some sexual prelude, but his body didn’t know the difference.

            Sunggyu came in, brushing everyone out of the way.  He complained that his members were greedy and had taken too much food for themselves, and then he proceeded to take more than anyone else.  Once he’d eaten half of it, stuffing his adorable hamster cheeks, he nodded at Suho.  “Come.”

            “Ah, sure, hyung.”  Following him as he carried his plate out of the kitchen, Suho realized that they were headed toward his room.  “Isn’t it more comfortable in the living room?”

            “No.”  Sunggyu went into his room, then nodded at the bed.  “Sit down.”

            It was okay.  This was totally okay.  Sunggyu had turned him down repeatedly.  Sunggyu had turned down Kai repeatedly.  There was no chance of anything happening here.

            Even if Suho wanted it.

            Which he did not!

            Trying to seem normal and not like a lust-sick sex-hungry fool, and not like a prim virgin, Suho sat on the edge of Sunggyu’s bed.

            “Mmm, up there,” Sunggyu said, sitting on the foot of the bed and gesturing toward the pillows.  “My visual’s not here, I want something to look at.”

            Suho knew that L was Infinite’s visual, but did that also make him Sunggyu’s personal eye candy?  Suho’s members were, frankly, beautiful, but Suho didn’t make them sit around and pose just to be stared at.

            Self-consciously, Suho moved up the bed.  He sat against the pillows, not sure what to do with his legs.  Or his hands.  He rubbed his palms over his thighs and tucked his legs in.  “Um.  L’s not here at all tonight?”

            “He and the maknae went out.  He doesn’t want to see you.”

            That hurt.  “Why not?”

            Sunggyu chewed.  He seemed completely in command of himself.  He was always entirely self-assured, like he trusted his own capabilities and trusted himself to handle whatever came up.  Suho envied that about him.  Admired that about him.  Really, really, wanted to-

            Feeling a pulse of desire, Suho blushed.  Hot, turned on, embarrassed, he looked away from Sunggyu, gaze turning to other things.  That unlabeled bottle of lube was still right there, beside the bed.  The lube that Sunggyu used on Infinite.  The lube that L had used on Suho.  Remembering how it felt to have L on top of him, to have L inside of him, the raw ecstasy that had shaken him to the core, he hurriedly looked down.  He really, really needed to shift positions to ease some of the pressure on his cock, and he really, really needed to tug his shirt down over his hard-on, but he knew that Sunggyu would catch him squirming, and he couldn’t bear the humiliation.

            “He doesn’t want to see you because some careless kid broke his heart.”

            Broke his heart.  Oh, no.  With those words, Suho’s focus shifted completely onto L; his own embarrassment was shoved aside.  “I heard that he’s been crying?  But if they fought like that, why isn’t he angry?  He’s sad?”

            “It’s a mess,” Sunggyu said.  “The whole thing’s a mess.  My visual’s a mess.”  He eyed Suho.  “Because of what you started.”

            Suho was surprised to be put on the spot.  “I started?”

            “You pulled on L and made him your favorite dongsaeng.  You brought that Changjo into our dorm and into L’s life.  You brought them together and promised to take care of them.”

            Suho tried not to become defensive.  “I don’t want things to be like this.  I don’t want everyone to be so upset.  Punching, fighting, that’s not what I’ve taught them.”

            “You didn’t teach them to fight over you?”

            “No!  I hate it when they’re competitive.  It’s nonsense, and they don’t do it anymore.  It was a bad habit, and they’ve stopped it.  I can care about more than one person at once, they know that.”

            Sunggyu nodded, eating.  “What are you going to do about it?”

            That was the big question.  “I don’t know,” he admitted.  “There’s information that I think that L doesn’t have, and I want to tell him about it.  I think that it’ll help him to understand.  But it isn’t mine to tell.”

            “Mmm.”  Sunggyu nodded again.

            “But I can’t leave things the way they are.  This situation, it’s gone too far.  I can’t let them go on like this, hurting themselves and attacking each other.  It’s no good for anyone.  If I can set things right, I should do it.”  But that brought him back to the other side of the problem.  “But I don’t want to betray Changjo and give away information that’s not mine to give.”

            Sunggyu nodded and fed him a bite of sushi.  It happened so naturally that he just ate it.  “I’ll ask you to bring dinner more often, if it’s like this,” Sunggyu decided.

            He smiled.  “I don’t mind doing things for my special sunbaes.”

            “Good.”  Sunggyu ate some more.  “Then fix my visual.”

            He didn’t know how.  He didn’t want to make a mistake and make everything worse.  “Hyung.  What would you do?”

            “Ah.  I’d tell L everything.  Your heart, his heart, Changjo’s heart, everything.  If that didn’t work, I’d shove him and Changjo in a room together and keep them there until they got it right.  They’re too stupid to figure it out on their own.  If it were someone else, you could let them sort it out, but they’re too self-destructive and immature.  You can either force them or let them keep getting hurt and ruining their own lives.  So you force.”

            Sunggyu made it sound matter-of-fact.  But Suho hesitated.  “I don’t want to betray Changjo.”

            “Did he ask you not to?”

            Hmm.  “No,” Suho admitted.  “We haven’t talked about it very much.  I tried to bring it up, but he didn’t want to talk about it.  He actually told me that I was wrong.”

            Sunggyu looked at him.  “Are you wrong?”

            “No.”  He knew Changjo too well for that.

            “How are you betraying his confidence if he never told you anything?  What’s wrong with telling L your opinion about the situation?  You can even tell him, ‘I think that it’s like this.  That Changjo told me that it’s not true, but I know that I’m right, and you need to hear all about it.’  You’re being honest.”

            Suho wanted to be sure that he was doing the right thing.  “Would you betray L?”

            “Yes.  For his own good, yes.”  Sunggyu didn’t even pause to think about it first.

            Suho smiled.  “You’re so sure about yourself.”

            “I’m a leader.  Aren’t you sure about yourself?”

            Yes.  Aside from his sexual embarrassment, yes.  When it came to everything else, he was confident.  He knew right from wrong; he trusted his judgment.  “I am.”

            Sunggyu nodded at him.  “Good.  You can stay for a while and play with your friends if you want.  Just go home at some point before L gets back.  And send Dongwoo in here, I want him.”

            Suho blushed; did Sunggyu mean that sexually?  But he was amused by Sunggyu’s frank dismissal.  “Okay, hyung,” he said, getting up.  He left the room, asked Dongwoo to check on Sunggyu, and talked to the other three for a while.  It was nice to hang out with idols his own age, and he stayed for a couple of hours.  He felt better now that he’d talked to Sunggyu.  He had a plan in mind, a clear path ahead of him.  He was glad that he’d come, and he was eager to talk to L.

            Sunggyu had called L and Changjo self-destructive, and he was right.  Suho hated to admit it; it was a painful truth.  He had to help them.  And he had to believe that it wasn’t too late to do it, that they hadn’t gone too far in hurting themselves and each other to come back from it.

            Changjo picked at his breakfast.  He was hungry, but he didn’t want any of this.  He didn’t want anything.  He didn’t like anything or anyone.

            They were leaving tomorrow.  Going back to Korea.  L would be there.  Beautiful and fake, like a fancy diamond ring that was really just plastic, like a bookcase full of leather-bound books with gorgeous covers and blank pages.  He didn’t even know what was really in there, behind all of the pyro and dazzling lights.  Who was L?  What was the point of it all?  What was fake and what was real?  Did L even know anymore?  All of that cuddling up to Suho, was that real?  All of that noise about Sunggyu making love, was that real?  Had L just said it to hook Suho?  L was like an empty shell of a human being.

            C.A.P. went over the day’s plans and reminded them about leaving for the airport in the morning.  L.Joe said, “Oh Sehun,” to himself and ate happily.

            Ricky nudged Changjo under the table.  “Do you want your phone back?  Suho hyung’s been calling you.”

            He shook his head and pretended to eat.  He wanted to spit it out.  “I have to go back to the room,” he said, getting up.

            “For what?” Chunji asked.  “Sit down.”

            He sat.  It wasn’t worth arguing over.  He didn’t care enough to bother.

            “Let me see,” Chunji said, holding out his hand.

            Ricky gave Changjo a worried, questioning look.

            Changjo tried shrugging and gave up halfway there, hunching his shoulders and looking down at his plate.  It didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered.  He didn’t matter.  How he felt didn’t matter.  Not to L.  Nothing made a difference.

            Ricky handed over the phone.

            Sitting back, Chunji sniffed and went through it.  “Doesn’t he have his own members to worry about?  Why is he so busy asking about you?”

            “He wants you to talk to him,” C.A.P. told Changjo again.  He’d heard this before.  “He doesn’t want to scold you, he’s worried about you.”

            “I’m worried, too,” Niel said.  He sounded more annoyed than worried.  “You look awful.”

            “He’ll be okay once he has his make-up on,” Ricky said.

            “I’ll be back in a minute,” Chunji said, getting up.

            “Don’t make us late,” C.A.P. warned.

            “I won’t,” he said, fixing his shirt.

            “Where are you going?” Niel asked.

            “I have a call to make.”  He walked out with Changjo’s phone.

            “Is he calling Suho hyung?” Ricky asked.  “Can’t he use his own phone for that?”

            “I hope it’s Suho hyung and not…you know,” Niel said.

            “L hyung,” Changjo told his plate.  “His name is L hyung.  You can say it.”  He hadn’t said it in days.  The words made his mouth feel strange and tense and uncomfortable, like he wasn’t used to talking.  “L hyung.”  He felt like his chest was cracking open.  “L hyung.  L hyung.”  He tightened his grip on his fork.  His chest, his heart, his skull, everything was cracking open and important things were bleeding out and all that was left was fury, white-hot, boiling over.  “L hyung, L hyung, L hyung.”

            “Okay,” C.A.P. said, taking the fork out of his hand.

            “Are we at this stage?” L.Joe asked.

            “I don’t like this stage,” Niel said.  “Put him back.”

            He gripped the edge of the table.  That fucking asshole.  Using him like that.  Taking him for granted.  Taking advantage of him.  That thoughtless asshole, pretending to be so vulnerable, pulling him in and then using him when it was convenient.  How far would it have gone?  Would L have screwed him?  Made him a boyfriend?  Exploited his love just to make C.A.P. jealous?  Like C.A.P. gave a fuck?  That was worth it, to L?

            “Don’t,” Ricky said quickly.

            “No flipping tables,” C.A.P. said, pushing his hands down.  “No breaking things.  We’re in public, calm it down.”

            “Let’s go back to our room,” Ricky said, getting up.  “We’ll take the stairs.”

            “Get back in time,” C.A.P. said firmly.  Lowering his voice, he caught Changjo’s wrist.  “Break your own shit, not the hotel’s stuff.  And no fires.  Understand?”

            “Yes.”  As soon as C.A.P. let him go, he walked out.  Ricky was with him.  He took the stairs two at a time, slamming his feet down, expelling energy.  In their room, he banged the door open.  Ricky barely had it shut again before he shouted, “Fuck him!”

            “Right, okay,” Ricky said, closing the curtains.

            “Fuck him!  Fuck him!  Fuck him!”  He kicked Ricky’s suitcase, sending it against the wall.  Grabbing his own, he raised it over his head and brought it down on the bed, swinging it over and over again.  He got lost in that, pouring out his rage in the repetitive violence, until he lost interest and flung his suitcase across the room.  He grabbed all of the pillows off of his bed, throwing them in all directions, then hurled all of Ricky’s pillows at the window.  “Ya!  Myungsoo-ya!” he shouted.  It felt so good, he spread his arms wide, yelling it to the ceiling.  “Ya!  Myungsoo-ya!”

            “Ya!” Ricky agreed.  “Forget him, right?  With his stupid dimples and his, um, I don’t know, what’s wrong with him?”

            “He’s full of shit!” Changjo shouted.  “Full of shit, full of shit, full of shit!”  It was so freeing to say it, he yelled triumphantly, shoving everything off of the nightstand.  He kicked a chair across the room.  Spotting something on the table, he moved toward it.  Ricky hastily blocked the TV, but he reached past and grabbed a pen.  Clenching it in his fist, he flung himself at the bed.  Stabbing the mattress over and over again, he said, “Full of shit!  Full of shit!  Ya!  Myungsoo-ya!  You’re full of shit!”

            “So stupid,” Ricky said.  “And he’s not that good-looking, anyway.”

            “Ugly!  Arrogant!  Liar!”  With each word, Changjo viciously stabbed the bed, bringing his hand down with punishing force.  “Liar!  Liar!  Liar!  Selfish!  Conceited!  I hate you!” he shouted.  “Hate you!  I hate you!”

            “We have to go soon,” Ricky said.

            “Aaaugh!”  Flinging the pen aside, he looked for something to break.  Storming into the bathroom, he grabbed the first thing he saw-

            “No, no, not-”

            -and hurled it as hard as he could against the shower wall.  It cracked and broke.

            “-my cleanser,” Ricky moaned.

Not satisfied, he grabbed another bottle-

“No!  Not glass!”

-and threw that, too.  It shattered, filling the room with the heavy stench of cologne.

“Here, throw the toothpaste, or something,” Ricky said, shoving things into his hands.

“I hate you!” he shouted, throwing everything he could get his hands on.  Toothpaste, toothbrushes, handfuls of wet towels, rolls of toilet paper.  “I’m going to hate you forever, you selfish, fake, lying fucker!”

“Feel better?” Ricky asked.

Panting, exhausted, drenched in sweat, he glared at Ricky.  He really, really needed to punch somebody.  He really, really needed to hurt somebody.

Ricky winced, then turned around.  “It’s okay,” he said bravely, bracing himself against the sink.  “I can take it.”

Breathing hard, Changjo pulled his fist back, then punched Ricky as hard as he could.

Crying out, Ricky landed on the floor.

Exhaling, Changjo shook his hand out.  He caught his breath.

Grimacing, Ricky rubbed his back.

“I feel better,” he decided.

Ricky looked around at the chaos.  “I’m not cleaning this up.”

            Draped across L.Joe’s bed in their hotel room, Chunji rested his feet on L.Joe’s pillow.  He and Suho were having a nice talk about how completely fucked up Changjo was and how incredibly stupid L was.  “So you’re going to talk to him?” Chunji asked.  “Before we get back?”

            “I’m trying to,” Suho said.  “I want him to understand everything before Changjo comes home.  But I don’t know if I understand everything.  Do you know exactly what happened to upset Changjo so much?  What started all of this?  I know that L must have done something to hurt his feelings, but I don’t know what it was.”

            “You don’t know?” Chunji asked.  “Doesn’t anybody tell you anything?”

            “None of my members know, and C.A.P. won’t tell, and we’ve only been able to talk to Niel and Ricky.  Are you allowed to use the phone, does C.A.P. know that you’re talking to me?”

            “It’s okay, he knows.”

            “It happened at the dinner with Infinite?  After, at noraebang, that night?”

            “Right.  L hyung was all over Changjo.  Flirting with him, it was gross.  So much skinship.  Changjo loved it, he thought it was the best thing ever.  Anybody watching them would’ve thought that L’s only goal was to get in Changjo’s pants, and Changjo was about to let him.  And then Sunggyu hyung noticed that L’s hands were everywhere, and he said, like, ‘Ah, Myungsoo, stop it.’  And Sungyeol said, ‘That’s not Myungsoo, that’s L.’”

            “Oh,” Suho said, like he was bracing for impact.

            “Changjo walked out of the room and never came back.  That was it, he completely lost his shit.”

            “Our poor maknae,” Suho said.  He really did sound like he felt awful about it.  “But then L has to know what’s wrong.”

            “I don’t think so.  He acted confused about it, like he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Changjo.  And he showed up at our dorm talking about how Changjo’s turning you against him.”

            “I don’t understand them,” Suho said.  “Why can’t they talk to each other?”

            “Changjo doesn’t talk things out,” Chunji said.  “He either rips them apart with his bare hands, or he plots on how to destroy them.  I don’t know about L hyung, I guess he just broods and screams.”

            “That’s no way to have a healthy relationship.”

            “They don’t have any healthy relationships.”

            “They have friends.  They have their members.  Changjo talks to you, doesn’t he?”

            “If he has to.”

            “That night, if L was cosplaying, why?  Why did he need to be L?”

            “Because C.A.P. hyung was there.  Changjo thinks that he was trying to impress C.A.P. hyung, or hurt him, or something.”

            “Oh, this is no good,” Suho groaned.

            “Yeah, it’s been interesting between our members, lately.”

            “I’ll talk to L,” Suho said.  “As soon as I can.  Today, I hope.  You’ll tell Changjo that I love him.”

            Chunji wrinkled his nose, thought about it, and said, “Okay.”  He might as well agree.  Suho would never know if he’d done it or not.  And Changjo needed to hear it, assuming that he could get the information to sink in.  The only thing Changjo actually heard lately, though, was stage directions and official orders.  Maybe he could stick it in among some kind of instructions.  “Here’s your mike, and remember that we have to be onstage in ten, and Suho hyung loves you, so should I still go left after the second chorus or did we switch it back?”  That might work.

            When L let Suho into Infinite’s dorm, he felt awkward.  There was a lot to talk about, and he wasn’t sure how Suho would feel about any of it.  He wasn’t sure how Suho felt about him, or what lies and distortions Changjo had been feeding Suho all of this time.  Then Suho patted his arm and said, “It’s been difficult, hasn’t it,” and that little bit of empathy undid him.  Relieved, aching, he hugged Suho.  “Ah, L-ah,” Suho said, hugging him back.  Suho’s arms closing around him reassured him.  Suho’s quiet, regretful tone acknowledged his pain, and that made him feel worse; it made the whole situation more real.  In the middle of his own hurt and emotional confusion, Suho seemed like a rock, steady and competent, and he was glad that Suho had come.

            They went into his room.  Lying down on his bed, he pulled Suho down with him.  “How does Infinite have such lazy members?” Suho teased, settling in against him.  “You and your leader, always wanting to be as prone as possible.”

            “Dongwoo hyung makes up for it.”  Once he and Suho were snugged up against each other, he felt better.  He gazed at Suho’s face for a moment.  He should’ve fallen in love with this hyung, instead of with that stupid kid.  What was wrong with his heart, that it always chose the worst targets?

            Hmm.  He was in love with Suho, though.  It was just different.  He understood that right now, he wasn’t what Suho needed.  And he was okay with that.  They had what they had, and right now, that was all he wanted.  They were close, and they trusted each other, and they supported each other, and they had smoking-hot, amazing sex, and he didn’t need to ask for anything else.  But with Changjo, L kept wishing that there could be more.  Kept having to push away annoying, wistful thoughts of what else might grow between them.  Kept having fleeting, flitting little ideas about what it might be like if he and Changjo were closer, if Changjo liked him, if they dated, if Changjo looked at him once in a while instead of Suho.

            “We have to talk about Changjo,” Suho said.  L nodded.  “There are things that you don’t understand.”

            “It’ll be better if I talk first.”  Suho wasn’t going to want to hear this, but L had to get through to him.  He put his hand on Suho’s waist, feeling like he might need to hold on if Suho got upset and tried to get up.  “I don’t know what Changjo’s been telling you, but you can’t believe him.  I know that you want to, I did, too.  I thought that he…”  L caught his lower lip between his teeth and looked down, regulating his breathing.  Tears were welling up in his eyes, and he hated them.  He’d already cried too much.

            “You thought what?” Suho asked, searching his face.

            His emotional stability was precarious, but he swallowed and kept going.  “I thought that he and I were close.  It was tense, before, between us, but after that other time we fought, it seemed like we understood each other.  He…”  L wasn’t ready to admit everything to Suho’s face.  “But I was wrong.  It was never that way.  He’s been competing with me since the beginning.  He wants you all to himself, and he’s doing everything he can to win.”  Needing Suho to believe him, he held Suho’s gaze.  “Whatever he’s been telling you, he’s lying.  He’s turning you against me, he wants it to be only the two of you.”

            Suho couldn’t believe him.  He could see it, there on Suho’s face, and it twisted the dagger already stuck in his heart.  It made him feel desperate; it made him wonder if Changjo had already done too much damage.  “Is that what you think?  That he’s been lying all of this time?”

            “Yes!  Hyung, you don’t understand.  It’s a game, he’s only playing a game.  He’s a lot sicker than you know.  You should have seen him at his dorm, he was out of control.  I felt so bad for him, I only wanted to talk to him, and he punched me in the face!  He spat on me!”  Suho looked disapproving.  Disapproving of him?!  “I’ve never done anything to him, I haven’t said anything, I never punched him back.  He’s not the playful dongsaeng you think he is.”

            “He’s done a lot of things to apologize for,” Suho said.  “But so have you.”

            “Like what?” L demanded.  “What have I done?  What’s he telling you?”

            “He hasn’t told me anything, but I know him.  You think that I don’t understand our maknae?  He’s not a big puzzle to me.  He’s not competing with you, L-ah.  He’s fallen for you.”

            L couldn’t comprehend that for a moment.  Pulling away, he backed into the wall behind him.  “No, he hasn’t.”

            “Yes, he has.  He likes you so much, I’m worried that he’s in love.  You haven’t noticed at all?  He doesn’t hide it well.  When it comes to you, his heart is there for the world to see.”

            In love?!  It was like Suho was living in a completely different reality.  “All he cares about is you,” L insisted.  He couldn’t believe that Suho had it all so wrong.  He’d never expected this.  He didn’t even understand where it had come from.  Was this Suho misreading situations?  Or was this all part of Changjo’s game?  “He must want you to think that he likes me, it’s some phase of his plan.”

            “Phase of his plan?  Is he an evil mastermind who’s been plotting out step after step for months, just to twist things around and around?  He wants to get rid of you, he’s tricking me into thinking that he loves you, how many plans do you think that he has?”

            He wanted Suho to stop using the word “love.”  He couldn’t take it.  “You trust him too much!”

            “Or you’re too suspicious,” Suho said.  “He really cares about you, and you’ve hurt him.  You need to take responsibility.”

            “How have I hurt him?” L demanded.  He couldn’t even let himself contemplate the idea that Changjo might like him.  It didn’t make any sense.  He wasn’t going to let it touch him.

            “When your teams went out together.  Weren’t you flirting with him?  A lot of skinship, things like that?”

            “Sure.  So?  He flirts with me all of the time, it never means anything.”

            Suho’s disapproving look was back.  “It meant something to him.  Until he found out that you were cosplaying.  ‘That’s not Myungsoo, that’s L.’  He likes you, L-ah, and all of your attention made him feel good.  But you were the one playing a game.  Not Changjo.”

            That didn’t make any sense.  It wasn’t possible.

            But that had been that weird night.  When Changjo had suddenly bolted and never returned.  He’d been flirting a lot, he knew it; he’d turned on all of his charm, used every trick in his arsenal.  He’d been trying to annoy C.A.P. with it.  Stupid plan; he didn’t care about that anymore.  Changjo had left so abruptly, and that look on Changjo’s face.  Sickness and betrayal.

            Oh, oh, god.

            No, no.  No, it hadn’t been like that.  This was all what Changjo wanted them to think.  It was part of Changjo’s game.  He was setting L up, trying to use L to get Suho, somehow.

            He’d know if Changjo liked him!  He wasn’t that stupid.  He could tell flirting from real interest.  He could tell sexual interest from deeper, genuine feeling.  Changjo just wanted to toy around with him, have sex with him; he was a challenge, that was all.  How stupid would he have to be, not to recognize if someone he was that close to, and spent that much time with, really liked him?  He’d been on the other side of that, with C.A.P.  He knew the difference.

            He’d never hurt Changjo.  Fuck, he was in love with Changjo.  He’d been the one warning Suho to be a better hyung.  He’d been the one trying to protect Changjo, feeling like he was Changjo’s last defender, willing to rip Suho apart for the sin of betrayal.  He’d never do anything to Changjo.

            It couldn’t be true.  It couldn’t.  “No,” he said, shaking his head.  “No, it’s not like that.”


            “No,” he insisted.  “No!”  He’d never hurt his Changjo.  “You’re wrong, it’s a lie, he’s playing a game, that’s it, that’s all.”  He scanned his memories, scrabbling through them for proof, desperation making his chest tight.  There had to be evidence, slip-ups, things Changjo had said, details that didn’t match up.  But all he could remember were the good times, the ways Changjo made him feel good, Changjo laughing, teasing him, hitting on him, smiling in the sunshine, sitting here in his room, making him laugh, so impish, so spoiled, carefree on the outside, always overthinking everything on the inside.  That sexy, mischievous, overgrown maknae.

            They’d become so close, after their first fight.  They’d become allies.  He’d gone from not wanting to have sex with Changjo, to feeling like it would be okay if they did.  He’d been willing to share his body with Changjo, to find mutual comfort and pleasure.  But that window had closed as abruptly as it had opened, when he’d realized that he wanted to have sex with Changjo too much.  That it would be special to him, meaningful to him.  More meaningful to him than to Changjo, and he wasn’t willing to open himself up to that kind of pain.  He wasn’t willing to be used for his body by someone he cared about, ever again.  And with every passing day, the gulf between how he felt about Changjo, and how Changjo felt in return, had widened.

            “He loves you,” Suho said, like just saying it more firmly could make it true.  But it wasn’t true.  It couldn’t be.  He would’ve known.  “He thought that you were opening up to him.  But you weren’t even being you.”

            “No, no,” L insisted.  Suho was wrong, had to be wrong, had to be.  He’d never treat someone he cared about so cruelly.  It was a careless, merciless thing to do, and he wouldn’t hurt his Changjo, he’d never, no.

            “That’s why he’s so upset,” Suho said.  “It’s a big misunderstanding.”

            “No!”  Sitting up, he climbed over Suho, pacing across the room.  Running both hands through his hair, he felt his eyes fill with tears again.  Hot, painful tears.  “No, no,” he said miserably.  He knew this situation, he’d been in this situation, with C.A.P.  But this time he was C.A.P., he was the thoughtless asshole who didn’t recognize what was right in front of him.

            But it wasn’t only that.  It was worse.  It had broken his heart to think that Changjo had smiled at him and not meant it, that Changjo had opened up to him and flirted with him and never cared at all, but he’d been the one doing it.  Remembering how he’d treated Changjo that night at noraebang filled him with shame.  He’d done everything he could to act happy and affectionate and turned on, he’d played his game at his best and he’d enjoyed it, he’d pulled out all of the stops, and Changjo had thought that he’d meant it.  And he hadn’t meant a word.  Changjo had trusted him, and it had all been an act.  He’d been using Changjo to hurt C.A.P.

            He was the liar.  He was the fake.  He was the villain.  It had been him all along.

            That look of betrayal.  The fury of Changjo’s violence.  The way Changjo had refused to meet his eyes in the dorm, wouldn’t even look at him.

            He’d been beside himself with rage at the thought of Suho hurting Changjo.  He’d felt so protective, like he had to stand between Changjo and any harm, like he was Changjo’s self-appointed bodyguard.  And then he’d misunderstood and taken Changjo lightly and treated Changjo like some cheap, worthless nobody he’d never give a second thought.  A pawn in his game, to be used and thrown away.

            “The two of you need to talk to each other,” Suho said, getting up.  “You have to talk face-to-face and explain yourselves for once.  No more of this making assumptions and overreacting.  You both play too many games.  It only causes problems.”

            Suho was wrong, he had to be wrong.  Changjo had to be lying, this was all part of some scheme, it had to be.

            Two options stared L in the face, and he rubbed at his face, torn, hopeful, terrified, desperate.

            Either Changjo was a devious mastermind with weeks-long, months-long schemes who had completely fooled both Suho and L with a flawless performance only to suddenly, brazenly, violently expose his true colors to L while still trying to keep Suho spinning, and his plan had been to have feelings for L which were obvious enough to be recognizable to Suho yet hidden from L, so that he could bide his time until the opportunity arose through outside events for him to accuse L of breaking his heart and use Suho’s sympathy to win Suho to his side for good.

            Or some of Changjo’s flirting and sexual attraction had been real, and in all of the time they’d spent together and through the bond of trust and intimacy they’d created, Changjo had fallen for L, only he’d been too guarded about his true feelings to make a confession, and when L had seemed to like him, he’d gotten his hopes up, and when it had become obvious that L was only using him to get to his hyung, he’d been crushed, and being the kind of person he was, he hadn’t reacted to that very well.

            Either Changjo was a masterful villain with flawless performances and serious long-range goals.  Or L had broken Changjo’s heart.

            “Oh my god.”  Dropping into a crouch, he pulled on his hair.  What had he done?  What had he done?!  His Changjo.  He knew how Changjo was, he knew how tender Changjo’s heart was under that carefree, resilient exterior.  Changjo was like a steel frame casing erected around an interior of marshmallow and dandelion fluff.  Nothing got through to Changjo’s core, nothing was allowed in, but when it pierced through, it was devastating.  Hell, he understood that better than anyone.

            “L-ah.  L-ah,” Suho repeated firmly, squatting in front of him and lowering his hands from his hair.  “This is a time to take responsibility.  You’re Changjo’s hyung, you have to be an adult.  You have to set things right.”

            “I…”  Had he broken Changjo’s heart?  Had Changjo really fallen for him?  Really, truly cared about him?  That precious gift, was it possible?  If he’d thought it for a second, he would’ve treasured it.  He would’ve protected Changjo’s feelings, shielded them.  It would’ve meant so much to him.  Overwhelmed with grief and self-loathing, he burst into tears.  Hot, they stung his eyes, and he curled into himself, hugging himself, feeling helpless and horrible.  He’d been the selfish one, he’d been the thoughtless one, he’d been careless with something immeasurably valuable.  And now it was broken and ruined, and Changjo was suffering, and nothing would ever be the same, he’d destroyed it all and he hadn’t even known.

            “Blaming yourself isn’t the answer,” Suho scolded.  “How does this help Changjo?”

            Sobbing, he couldn’t reply.  He couldn’t help Changjo.  He couldn’t help anyone.  It was better if he stayed away, before he made everything worse.  Changjo wouldn’t want his help anymore, there was nothing that he could do.

            “The only way relationships work is if we’re honest and we trust each other,” Suho said.  “You and Changjo are too used to putting on shows and pretending and manipulating everybody.  It can’t be that way anymore.  You have to be honest with each other.  You have to be able to trust each other.  You have to talk more and let go of these games.  Be that way with the world if you have to, but not with each other.”

            “He, he hates me.”  Trying to get himself under control, he sniffed, wiping at his nose with the back of his hand.

            “You hated me, too, didn’t you?” Suho asked.  “But we’re here, now, together.”

            He sniffed again, so miserable he didn’t know what to do.  “He’ll never forgive me.”

            “You never forgive, do you?  But you forgave me.”  Suho patted his shoulder.  “If you want him to forgive you, you have to try.  You have to ask for it and prove yourself.  Can you?”

            He’d do anything for Changjo.  Anything to protect Changjo from hurt.  But he’d been the one causing pain this time.  Even if Changjo forgave him, how was he supposed to forgive himself?  Neither one of those things seemed possible.  “I…  He won’t do it,” he said, and he felt like he could start crying all over again.  “But I have to try.”

Series page: "Let's Love"

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Copyright September 13, 2015
by Matthew Haldeman-Time