The Collar

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            Sehun wasn’t sure about this new stylist.  The clothes she’d chosen for Xiumin were great, with a soft, leather jacket and some sexy boots.  The fans were going to love what she’d put on Baekhyun.  But he hated his outfit.  Hated it.

            He asked her about it, trying to get her talking so that he could figure out a way to explain how embarrassing it would be to wear a white crop top onstage.  She started going on and on about how since he was the maknae, a white, innocent look would keep his aura young and fresh.  He asked if he could at least have a jacket, to cover up a little, but she explained very earnestly that she wanted him to look unencumbered.  “Only pretty accessories, romantic touches,” she added.

            His manager warned him to get moving, so he changed.  God, it was awful.  Grimacing, he stared at himself in the mirror, running his hands over his stomach, trying to cover himself.  Didn’t stylists think?  He was going to have to walk around all day like this.  In front of staff members and average citizens.

            He cornered Suho, who was in a distressed red sweater.  He tried to explain that he couldn’t wear this, and Suho told him to have an open mind and give it a chance, and he explained that he didn’t need to give it a chance, he already knew that he hated it.  Suho got stubborn and told him that it was their stylist’s first day, and they had to respect her expertise, and he needed to be more cooperative.  Suho said that if he went along with her ideas today, he could give her feedback afterward, but he had to give it a shot first.  He tried to explain that it was embarrassing to go around with half of his torso naked, and he thought that the way Lay and Chen were circling around him and petting his bare skin kind of proved his point, but Suho said that female idols went around exposed all of the time and if their SNSD sunbaes could do it, he could take it for a day.

            Sehun decided that he would talk to the stylist.  He’d have a long, friendly talk with her and tell her that Suho and Lay and Chen and all of his other hyungs were jealous of this outfit, and they were all desperate to try crop tops, too.

            “Chanyeol,” she called.  “Here’s your hat.  Ah, Sehun.”  She waved him over.  “Don’t forget your collar.”

            He laughed at her, surprised, disbelieving.  “What?”  It sounded like she’d said “collar.”

            She held something out to him.  “Your collar.  It’s an important touch, you won’t look right without it.”

            It was a collar.  Dangling from her hand.  A white leather collar with borders of hot pink stitching.  There was an O ring in front, right in front, for someone to attach a lead.  His pulse racing, he laughed, taking a step back.  “No, no.”

            “You need it for the look,” she said, still holding it towards him.  “Your neck looks too bare without it.”

            “I can’t.”  He couldn’t wear a collar!  He wasn’t a pet!  “Do you have a necklace or something?”  He’d wear anything else, but not that!

            “What’s wrong?” Suho asked, coming up behind him.  “Oh, it’s pretty.”  Suho took it from her hand.

            “It’s a collar,” Sehun said, his volume dropping, his gaze flashing around the room; he didn’t want anyone to see this.

            “It’ll look perfect, just try it on,” the stylist said cheerfully.

            “A necklace, anything else,” Sehun said with growing desperation.

            “Do you need me to help you with it?” Suho asked, holding it out and looking up at him.  He recognized that pinched, warning expression.  That was Suho’s “is your private life going to interfere with your ability to do your job?” face.  That was the warning look that came right before the lectures and the veiled threats.

            “No.”  He snatched it from Suho’s hand.  The last thing he needed was someone putting a collar on him.  At least he could freaking do it himself.  And Suho being the one to collar him would be too fucking meaningful; he’d never get over it.

            Kai called for Suho’s help with something.  The stylist watched Sehun expectantly, smiling.  He forced himself to smile at her and then turned away.  Looking down at the collar, he felt his lips press together in a grim line.

            It was just an accessory.  Like a necklace.  It was just stage gear.  It didn’t mean anything.  It wasn’t an owner’s collar, it was just a frill.

            He rubbed his thumb over the white leather.  He’d wear it this once, this one time, and he’d take it off as soon as they were offstage.  EXO-L would like it, and Suho would be satisfied, and he’d explain to the stylist that it was uncomfortable, and that would be the end of it.  He’d even pretend to like the stupid crop top.

            If he hid in the dressing room, and took it off as soon as the festival was over, no one would see him in it.  No one expect for the audience, and everyone watching the festival on TV, and anyone checking fancams later.  But L.Joe didn’t watch EXO fancams, right?  That would be weird.

            Xiumin strolled up to him, smirking, and reached for the collar.  “Need help?”

            “No.”  He was going to do everything in his power to convince the stylist that all of his hyungs loved wearing booty shorts onstage.  Forcing himself to smile and knowing that Xiumin wasn’t buying it, he held the collar behind his back.  “I can do it myself.”

            “Great.”  Xiumin crossed his arms over his chest, eyes never leaving Sehun’s face.  His smirk never wavered.  “Let’s see how it looks.”

            Just an accessory.  Just fashion.  It didn’t mean anything.  Sehun brought it up around his neck.  His fingers shook a little and he had trouble buckling it.  It felt snug, closing around his neck, and he swallowed.  Even after it was on, he fingered it, his heart racing.  All he could think about was that this was a sensation L.Joe was intimately familiar with, this restriction around his throat, and he felt woozy for a second.  He was turned on and shaken, and he wanted to snatch the collar off.

            Reaching up, Xiumin brushed his hands away and settled it a little bit higher, straightening it around his neck.  Smiling, Xiumin patted his bare side.  “Pretty.”

            He took a slow, careful breath.  It was just fashion.  It was just stage gear.  It was nothing.  It was okay.  He was okay.  “Thanks.”  He decided not to look in a mirror.

            “Selca?” Xiumin suggested, grinning.

            “Not in a million years,” he promised.  He was starting to feel better.  It was just for a quick performance, just for fun.  It wasn’t a real collar; it didn’t mean anything.  Breathing easier, he ran his hands over his stomach, looking down.  Maybe he should do some crunches or something before he went on.  Look good for EXO-L.

            With everyone dressed, Suho called them together for last-minute instructions, then said that they had a few minutes to greet their friends.  Half of the group immediately ran out of the dressing room, but Sehun stayed put.  Teen Top was out there, and he didn’t want L.Joe to see him like this.  Seriously, L.Joe didn’t watch fancams, right?  If he took the collar off as soon as he was finished performing, L.Joe would never have to see him in it.

            “Hyung!” Chen exclaimed happily.

            Debating between doing crunches and not wanting to sweat before he had to, Sehun turned to see Hoya come into the dressing room.  Their manager pulled the last staff member out, and Chen hugged Hoya happily.

            “Good, somewhere quiet,” Key said, strolling in.  “Come on, we can talk in here.”

            “Does he think you’re quiet?” Hoya asked Chen.

            Sehun had one second to realize who Key might be talking to, and then Woohyun walked in.  Key sat down on the couch, checking his phone, and Hoya sat on the opposite arm of the couch, pulling Chen to stand between his thighs and looking up at Chen with a really warm expression, and Sehun braced himself, and Woohyun glanced across the room and noticed him.

            “Don’t laugh,” he warned.

            Grinning, Woohyun moved straight towards him.  “Sehun-ah, how are you tonight?”

            “It wasn’t my idea.  We have a new stylist.”

            “She has fun concepts.”  Woohyun’s hands slid right over his bare sides, bold and warm.  “Aren’t you cold?”  The gleam in Woohyun’s eye made him roll his eyes.  “Should I warm you up?”

            “I’m fine,” he said patiently.

            Woohyun’s finger tapped at the collar’s O-ring.  “Need something to attach here?”

            He wasn’t going to let Woohyun get to him.  “I think that Key hyung’s waiting for you.”

            “No, this is fine,” Key said.

            “How does it feel?”  Woohyun’s voice was softer, more intimate, his hands stealing over Sehun’s waist again.  His gaze rested on Sehun’s neck, then slowly rose to Sehun’s eyes, his expression solemn, thoughtful.  “Too tight?”

            He swallowed.  “No.  It’s okay.”

            “You’ll get used to it,” Woohyun said, fingertips lightly caressing up and down Sehun’s sides, thumbs whispering over his skin.  “But you never forget that it’s there.”

            This, just this, was already too much for him.  He couldn’t imagine taking another step, couldn’t imagine making himself any more vulnerable than this.  The idea fascinated him, but it seemed unbearably dangerous, too.  Getting on his knees?  It sounded impossible.  He was already grateful to be standing, to have a height advantage.

            Woohyun tugged on the hem of his top, smoothing it down.  A light pinch at his right nipple made him groan, and he clamped his teeth together, trying to cut the sound off, arousal pulsing in his cock.  “Should we send Chen-ah to find your sunbae?  He’ll want to see this.”

            “No,” he said immediately.  He thought that he should be embarrassed for Woohyun to see him like this, and that he should get Woohyun’s hands off of him.  But what he really wanted was to grab Woohyun and make out, right there, hot and heavy against the stylist’s table.

            “He’ll want to see it,” Woohyun said again.

            “Would you?  Do you make sure to have Key hyung see it?”  It was part a challenge, part honest wondering.

            “Don’t bring me into this,” Key said.

            “No, not that,” Woohyun said.  “But this isn’t that, this is a stage costume.  He’ll want to see it.”

            He was L.Joe’s owner.  He couldn’t let his pet see him like this.  Stage costume or not, it was still a collar.  If it was just for fun, to make EXO-L happy, then he was okay with it, he could relax.  But L.Joe was completely different.  L.Joe changed the context.  L.Joe made it a collar, and that turned him on, rattled him, made him too aware of the restriction around his neck.

            “I’ve told you,” Woohyun said in a low voice, knuckles brushing lightly over his abs again and again.  “It’s good to try the other side once in a while.  Just to know what it’s like.  Getting a little taste of it now?”

            “It’s not for me,” he admitted.  “I couldn’t do it.”

            Woohyun’s smile was full of good humor and understanding.  “Scared?”

            “God, yes,” he said, and Woohyun chuckled.  “I can’t wait to take this off.”

            “It’s a good look,” Woohyun said.  He grinned, fondling the O ring, hooking his finger in it and tugging lightly.  Sehun grunted, chin going up, keenly uncomfortable, and he made a soft, pleased sound, stroking the side of Sehun’s neck.  “It’s all right,” he murmured.  “I won’t do it again.”

            This was completely fucking with Sehun’s head.  “Are you busy tonight?  Can I come over?”  He didn’t even know for what.  To make out, pushing and pulling, hot for each other.  To team up on Woohyun’s members.  His gaze slid past Woohyun to Hoya, calculating, assessing.  Woohyun’s members were used to being dominated, and god damn, he needed to dominate somebody.

            “Yeah, you can come over.”  Woohyun smiled, still caressing his neck.  “We can have some fun.”

            “It’s selfish, he shouldn’t make such a big fuss over nothing,” Suho was saying.  “We all have to do foolish things sometimes, we have to accept stylists’ advice when we aren’t sure about it, we have to embarrass ourselves to make the fans happy.  He knows that, he should be more cooperative.”

            “A collar, though?” Changjo asked.  “A real collar?”

            “Hyung!  Hyung, hyung, L.Joe hyung.”

            “Maknae,” L.Joe complained, pushing him aside.  Always bounding up on people like a big dog.  “I’m talking.”  He was seated on the stylist’s table, talking with D.O., who looked really handsome and kept laughing at his jokes.

            “But Sehun hyung,” Changjo said, moving close again, undeterred.  He was so willful, seriously, just brushing him off never did any good.  “Have you seen what Sehun hyung’s wearing?”

            Immediately, he needed to know exactly what Sehun had on.  He froze for a second, consumed by thoughts of Sehun.  Picturing the handsome, sexy outfits Sehun had worn.  He wanted to rebuff Changjo with a cool, “Why are you bringing up him to me?” but he couldn’t pretend.  “Oh Sehun?” he asked, turning to D.O. for confirmation.

            D.O. nodded.  “He has on a half-shirt thing, like a crop top or something, his abs are out.  And they gave him a collar to wear, he hates it.”

            L.Joe’s mind had been overtaken by the idea of “crop top,” and then D.O. said “collar” and his whole brain froze up.  Collar.  Sehun had a collar.  Sehun was wearing a collar?  Needing to see it, he slid off of the table, ready to find Sehun and-

            But he hadn’t been invited to see Sehun.  What if his owner didn’t want him to see?  He didn’t have permission.  Stuck, he blinked, not sure what to do now.

            Did he need permission?  Everyone was milling around backstage.  He was a sunbae.  He could go wherever he wanted.  He could check on any hoobaes he wanted.

            But Sehun in a collar.  It was too much.  He couldn’t just barge in and demand to see it.  Or maybe he was overreacting.  It wasn’t a real collar, was it?  Maybe it was some flimsy ribbon.  Like a lace choker or something.  It might be a sexy look, but it wasn’t an actual collar.

            “He’s in EXO’s dressing room, you have to see it,” Changjo said.  “Come on.”

            Worrying his lower lip between his teeth, he didn’t know what to do.  Uncertain, he wished that he knew what Sehun was thinking.

            “Just go look at him,” D.O. said.

            Looking at his owner was never an uncomplicated thing.  He licked his lips, searching his mind, and then he grabbed Changjo’s arm, pulling.  “Do something for me.”

            Sehun was standing with his hands braced on the edge of the table behind him, his ass resting against it.  Woohyun was intimately close, left knee cocked forward and thigh brushing his, subtly penning him in.  Woohyun’s knuckles dragged lightly, slowly, up and down his abs.  It was such a sensual caress that his body kept wanting to breathe with it, to inhale when Woohyun’s touch went up, to exhale when it went back down, and he kept having to take back control, to override it.  He wasn’t going to let Woohyun train his body to respond.

            There was a sudden thud just outside the door, from the hallway.  And then he heard Changjo’s voice calling, “Hyung, hyung, L.Joe hyung!”

            Immediately alert, Sehun tensed, pushing himself up straighter.

            “Maknae, not now,” L.Joe’s voice said.  “I’m going to the bathroom, I have to wash my hands.”

            His pet.  He needed to see his pet.  The collar didn’t matter to him one way or another now; his pet was close, and not with him.  Gripped by the compulsion to track his pet down, he slipped away from Woohyun.  “Excuse me, hyung, I have to go.”

            “God, finally,” Key said, gesturing Woohyun closer.  “Get over here before the whole freaking festival’s over.”

            “Have fun,” Chen said cheerfully as Sehun hurried past.  “Don’t do anything stupid.”

            Sehun needed way fewer hyungs supervising his life.  He slipped down the hallway.  When he passed, Changjo grinned at him and said, “Hey, hyung, going somewhere?”  He ignored that and went straight for the bathroom.

            Niel and Hyuk were in there, talking.  L.Joe was by the sinks.  Fighting the urge to go right up to him and claim him, Sehun stayed in control.  Pretending everything was normal, Sehun went over to the urinals and peed.  Went over to the sinks and slowly washed his hands.

            Finally, Niel and Hyuk walked out together.

            Sehun pivoted, devouring L.Joe with his eyes.  He loved L.Joe’s tousled, styled hair.  He loved the hopeful, greedy way L.Joe stared up at him.  He could barely stand looking at the sexy curves of L.Joe’s mouth.  He wanted to - - needed to - - push L.Joe against the sink and take what belonged to him.  Every part of L.Joe belonged to him.

            Staring with wondering eyes, L.Joe raised a hand.  Lightly, he touched his own neck, gazing up at Sehun.

            The bathroom door opened.  Chunji and Hongbin walked in, talking.  Quickly, Chunji’s gaze flashed over the two of them.

            Sehun slowly started to wash his hands again.

            L.Joe drifted back to the sink on the end.

            When Chunji came over to the sinks, Sehun asked, “Chunji hyung.  Could I borrow something tonight?”

            “What, tonight?”  Facing the mirror, Chunji touched his hair, lightly nudging strands into place.  “Not at my dorm, I’m busy tonight.”

            Sehun’s muscles tightened; he didn’t like being denied his pet.

            “I might be able to have it dropped off at your dorm, though, if you don’t need it long.  Tell Suho hyung to text me.”

            Yes.  Satisfaction growled in Sehun.  “Thanks, hyung.”

            Mmm.”  He turned to Hongbin, and the two of them left.

            L.Joe drifted towards Sehun again.  He licked his lips before he spoke, and his voice came out shaky.  “This is how they’re dressing hoobaes these days?”

            “It makes the fans happy.”  L.Joe wouldn’t meet his eyes, but L.Joe’s gaze was all over his body, running hungrily over his bare skin, returning again and again to his neck.  “Do you like it?”

            L.Joe answered quickly.  “I like everything you wear.”

            So loyal.  Such a good pet.

            Licking his lips, L.Joe gazed at Sehun for a little while longer.  “Handsome hoobae,” he murmured.  Then he frowned slightly, eyebrows drawing together.  “You’re not borrowing anything from Chunji.  Nothing belongs to Chunji.”

            He smiled.  “My mistake, sunbaenim.  I meant that I needed to borrow something from C.A.P. hyung.”

            L.Joe grunted, looking annoyed.

            A flock of rookies came in, nervous and excited.  Seeing the two of them, they stopped short, bumping into each other, and did their group greeting.

            Sehun and L.Joe said hi to them.  While they bustled around, Sehun pretended to fix his hair in the mirror, then bowed to L.Joe.  “It was good to see you again, sunbaenim.  I’ll look forward to watching your stage.”

            L.Joe looked exasperated, and the rookies were staring.  Ya, foolish hoobae.  Worry about your own performance.”

            Wide-eyed, the rookies were nudging each other, looking amazed by L.Joe’s confidence.

            Smiling, Sehun bowed again.  “Okay, sunbaenim.  Teen Top fighting!”

            Suho was on the couch, talking with L, when Sehun came over and crouched down in front of him.  Glancing over, he asked, “Mmm?”

            Changjo came in, crawling up behind him on the couch.  Ya, where have you been?” L asked.

            “Nowhere.”  Changjo leaned against Suho’s back.  “What does this hoobae want?”

            “Hyung,” Sehun said to Suho, ignoring the other two.  “Can someone come over tonight?  To the dorm?  Just for like an hour?  Chunji hyung already said that it’s all right, so could you text him to arrange it?”

            “Tonight?  So suddenly?” Suho asked.  “I don’t know, maknae.”

            “It wouldn’t be inconvenient.”

            Suho frowned.  “I don’t want to talk about this here.”

            “We don’t need special conditions, can’t he just stop by?”

            “Maknae, what did I just say?”

            “Could you text Chunji hyung and just ask?”

            “Yes, I’ll text him, now leave me alone.  Can’t you see that I’m talking?”

            “Yeah, hoobae, your hyung’s talking to important sunbaes,” Changjo said.

            Reaching back, Suho smacked Changjo’s thigh.  “Watch it.”

            Changjo laughed, and Sehun got up.  “Thanks, hyung.”

            Aish, this life.  Arranging sex playdates.  Suho would text Chunji after the festival.  He didn’t have to worry about forgetting; Sehun would remind him.

            “What do you think?” Changjo asked as Sehun walked away.

            “About what?” L asked, looking relaxed and comfortable.  Suho arranged the fall of his long jacket for him, and he gave Suho a warm, flickering smile.

            “Sehun hyung.  He looks good, right?”

            L shrugged, not interested.  Then he smiled.  “It would look better on you.”

            Changjo laughed.

            “I don’t know what the stylist was thinking,” Suho said.  “It would look better on me.”  Shaking his head, he ignored L’s laughter.  “She’s new, she’ll learn.”

Series page: "Let's Love"

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Copyright October 24, 2016
by Matthew Haldeman-Time