The Husbands and Boyfriends Club
A note for context before you read:
A friend made me watch “Basketball Wives,” a reality show about the wives, girlfriends, and exes of NBA players. In the episodes I saw, the dynamics at play interested me. If you’ve watched the show, you may recognize some of what inspired me. But I hope that even if you’ve never seen it, you’ll still enjoy the story just as much.
This is an AU. The basic premise here is that Infinite is still Infinite, but the members of EXO are just guys, not idols. Most of them are/were dating or are/were married to Infinite members.
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.
As the seven of them gathered around the table, they bowed to each other, several of them hugging Suho. Sehun guessed that the one with the flashy watch and expensive clothes was probably Xiumin. The one trying to make cheap clothes look respectable was probably Baekhyun. Sehun knew how he felt. Hanging out with Suho made him feel like he’d accidentally walked onto the luxurious set of some chaebol drama.
Everyone sat, and after the waiter came by to take drink orders, Xiumin looked at Suho, who sat across from him at the head of the table. “So, what is this about?”
“I thought that with the guys coming home soon, it would be a good time to get everyone together. I don’t even think that all of you have met. Does everyone know Sehun?”
Xiumin followed Suho’s gesture, glancing at Sehun. Cocking an eyebrow, he asked, “Why, is this who Kim Sunggyu’s screwing these days?”
“Hyung!” Chen exclaimed, laughing.
“Sehun’s dating our Sungjong,” Suho said.
“Oh. Well, good luck to you,” Xiumin said, visibly losing interest.
“How long have you been dating?” Baekhyun asked.
“Only a few months,” Sehun said.
“They met right before the tour started,” Suho said.
Chanyeol looked surprised. “Infinite’s on tour?” Blinking, he sat back, feigning amazement. “So that’s why Sungyeol hyung is never home!” Laughing, Baekhyun smacked his shoulder.
To Sehun, Suho said, “You know Chen and D.O. already.” Sehun nodded as D.O. nodded back and Chen cheerfully waved. “Park Chanyeol is engaged to our Sungyeol. This is Byun Baekhyun.”
“I was engaged to Hoya,” Baekhyun said.
“And this is Xiumin hyung,” Suho added.
“I was married to Kim Sunggyu,” Xiumin said. “Was. Past tense.”
“How old are you?” Baekhyun asked Sehun.
“I was born in ’94,” Sehun said.
“Ooh, we have a new baby,” Chanyeol said.
Drinks came, and they ordered their meals. After the food came, Suho asked Xiumin, “What have you been doing lately? How’s Lay?”
“Who’s Lay?” Chanyeol asked.
“His new fancy foreign lover,” Baekhyun said, wiggling his eyebrows.
“He’s not fancy,” Xiumin said. “He’s the most down-to-earth, sweet guy.”
Curious, Sehun leaned forward. “Are you talking about the Chinese singer?”
“Wait, you picked up another musician?” D.O. asked. “You hate musicians.”
“You told us to kill you if you ever dated another musician,” Chen added.
“Hold on, hyung,” Chanyeol said, picking up his knife. “Just sit still and it’ll all be over soon.”
“Get away from me with that thing,” Xiumin said, laughing and waving Chanyeol away as he started to get up. “I know, I know, I said no more musicians. But he’s so sweet, guys, he’s really nice.”
“Good for you, hyung,” Chen said.
“So, wait, am I the only one here who’s single?” Baekhyun asked, looking around the table.
Chen nodded at him; Chanyeol shrugged. “It’s okay,” Suho said. “It’s not good to rush back into dating again.”
“What rush?” Baekhyun asked. “I haven’t even had sex since…” He pointed upward, twirling his finger in mid-air.
Bursting into laughter, Xiumin asked, “Are you still doing that?”
“Hey, it’s healthy,” Baekhyun said. “I only say his name once a day, and I just said it a minute ago, so.” He twirled his finger again.
“I still think it makes it worse,” Chen said. “You’re making an even bigger deal of it by refusing to say it!”
“It gets me to realize how much I’m talking about him, and it gets me to talk about other things,” Baekhyun said. “Once I realized how much I was talking about him, it was embarrassing.”
“What’s embarrassing is that you haven’t been getting laid,” Xiumin said. “You want us to find somebody for you?”
“Ugh, no,” Baekhyun said.
“I offered to set him up,” Suho said.
“I’m not desperate yet,” Baekhyun said. He paused, then added, “I’ll get back to you in about a week.”
“If you want some quick, hot sex, you should go meet D.O.’s dog walker,” Chen suggested. “Whoo!”
Xiumin shifted in his seat, his expression interested. “Who?”
D.O. shot Chen a look, then said, “The guy who walks the dogs. His name is Kai.”
“Kai?” Baekhyun asked. “Who’s named Kai?”
D.O. shrugged. “The guy who walks my dogs is.”
Laughing, Baekhyun reached past Sehun and punched his arm. He punched back and Baekhyun grimaced, recoiling.
After dessert, Chen nudged Suho. Noticing, Sehun looked between the two of them. “Ah,” Suho said, and Xiumin and Chanyeol broke off their conversation, giving him their attention. “Since the tour’s ending soon, and our guys are coming home.”
“‘Our’ guys,” Xiumin muttered, rolling his eyes.
“They’re not my anything,” Baekhyun mumbled into his glass, taking a drink.
“I thought that it would be nice to bring everyone together,” Suho continued. “A few days after they come back, once they’ve had a chance to unwind. A party at our place. Nothing huge, just some friends, so the guys can relax and catch up with everybody. To welcome them home. I want you all to come.”
“All?” Baekhyun repeated.
Xiumin pointed at himself, and when Suho nodded at him, he burst into laughter.
“Aw,” Suho said, chuckling. “Come on, it’ll be okay.”
“Dongwoo hyung would love to see you,” Chen said.
“Everybody would,” Suho added.
Xiumin snorted and gave Suho a look, one eyebrow arched. “Not everybody.”
“Well, I want to see you there,” Chen said.
“Yeah, hyung, we never hang out anymore,” Chanyeol said. “And you have to come,” he told Baekhyun.
“Just don’t do that finger thing in front of Hoya hyung,” Chen said. “That would be too weird.”
“I won’t say his name at all, because I’m not going,” Baekhyun said. “I’m sorry,” he told Suho. “You know I want to come, and I’d go if you invited me to anything else.”
“What if we invite the dog walker?” Chanyeol asked.
Baekhyun hesitated, then licked his lips and asked D.O., “How hot is he?”
D.O. turned his gaze on Baekhyun and said, in a solemn tone, “He’s a dancer.”
“Whoa,” Baekhyun said, leaning back. “Forget it,” he told Suho. “No, no. No, nope, no dancers. The next guy I date is going to be clumsy and he’s going to have no sense of rhythm and he’s going to trip over his own feet.”
When lunch ended and everyone got up to go, Chen and Suho agreed to meet up the next evening to finalize party plans. Chanyeol gave Sehun his number.
Suho hugged Xiumin. “Thanks for coming.”
“It was good to see everybody,” Xiumin admitted. “The new kid’s cute.” Looking away, Sehun rolled his eyes.
Chen put one arm around D.O. and his other around Baekhyun. “I like having everyone in one room again. Isn’t it nice?”
D.O. nodded at him. “I’m ecstatic.”
On the way out of the restaurant, Suho smiled at Sehun. “I’m glad that you finally got to meet everyone. It’s a unique experience, being with an idol. It’s really important for us to support each other. Any time you get lonely or stressed out, don’t be afraid to reach out. We have to stick together.”
Sehun nodded. “Okay, hyung.” He knew that Suho was sincere, but why was it so important? So far, dating Sungjong had been fun and interesting. What was so stressful that he needed some big support group?
In the dressing room, Dongwoo got out of the stylist’s chair and stretched. “Woohyun-ah. How was that lunch thing?”
Woohyun glanced over from where he and Sunggyu played videogames. “It was good, hyung.”
“What lunch thing?” Sungyeol asked, on the floor with Hoya, stretching. “Ow, ow! I said ow!”
“Suho went out with some friends for lunch,” Woohyun said.
“It was a meeting of the husbands and boyfriends club,” Dongwoo said. “Or the husbands and boyfriends and fiancés and exes club. Is that everybody, does that cover it?” he asked, laughing.
“Exes,” Hoya repeated, looking up.
“Sure,” Dongwoo said. “Chen and Suho and D.O. and Chanyeol and Xiumin and Baekhyun and that kid Sungjong’s dating.”
“Sehun,” Sungjong said.
“They all still hang out?” Hoya asked.
“They’re all friends, why wouldn’t they?” Dongwoo asked, cocking his head to one side in puzzlement.
“Ow!” Sungyeol exclaimed, drawing back.
Chen got to the airport early. He pulled in between Chanyeol’s flashy sports car and Suho’s luxury sedan. When he got out of his car, Suho’s driver let him into the backseat, where Suho and Chanyeol waited.
“D.O.’s not coming?” he asked, getting comfortable.
“No, he had to fly out to Tokyo,” Suho said.
“It’s a shame that he’s not here to see L,” Chen said, disappointed. “Won’t it be lonely, coming home to an empty house?”
“He’ll be home soon,” Suho said. “He said that he’d be at the party, so he’s not going to be away for too long.”
They talked while they waited, discussing things like the party and Suho’s upcoming commercial filming and Chanyeol’s new compositions and Chen’s students. Chen was really glad simply to be there. He’d used to be so envious, when he’d only been Dongwoo’s boyfriend, watching Suho and Xiumin and D.O. and Baekhyun go to the airport to pick up the guys. Boyfriends weren’t official enough, weren’t real enough, to make public appearances like that. But now that things were official, now that he was engaged, with a ring and a wedding date and everything set, now he could come to the airport and show up in the dressing room and sit in the family seats at concerts.
Now he was here, and Xiumin and Baekhyun weren’t. He tried not to think about things like that; Dongwoo wasn’t Sunggyu or Hoya, and he wasn’t Xiumin or Baekhyun, and things were different. But he knew that it bothered Chanyeol, sometimes.
As they talked, Suho kept an eye on his phone. After a while, he laughed, showing them a photo of Woohyun surrounded by fans at the airport. “They’re here!”
Excitement hit Chen in a rush. Giddy with anticipation, he went back to his own car, sliding behind the wheel. He pulled out behind Chanyeol, following the other two cars to the arrivals area where a van waited. Soon, fans spilled out of the airport, flashes going off. He saw Sungjong first, and he gave an eager, foolish wave, because of course in that circus the inside of his car was the last thing Sungjong was looking at. Sungjong got into the van, and Sungyeol got into Chanyeol’s car.
Dongwoo was there! Chen’s heart could have burst! Dongwoo looked around, and when he spotted Chen’s car his face lit up. Nodding and waving and bowing to fans along the way, he made a beeline for the car. Eager to be with him again, Chen reached over and pushed the door open. Amid a dazzling burst of camera flashes, Dongwoo hopped right in. “Oh my god, hyung,” Chen said, hugging him, filled up with happiness and holding on tightly.
“I’m back,” he announced unnecessarily, giving Chen a firm squeeze.
Closing his eyes, Chen hummed with joy. Dongwoo’s hands slid down his sides, over his ribcage, and he felt like he couldn’t be happier. Dongwoo was home, and they were together again, and everything was perfect. “I love you, I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.”
He couldn’t wait to get home! Hearing a steady knocking sound, he looked up and saw handlers waiting to put Dongwoo’s luggage in the trunk. He reached over and opened the trunk for them, and then he reluctantly let go of Dongwoo.
“Whew!” Dongwoo waved at the fans, then put on his seatbelt. “I’m here! Let’s go home.”
L unlocked his apartment door. He walked in, dragging his suitcases behind him. Pulling the door shut, he dropped his carry-on, and for a moment everything was still. He was home, and everything looked exactly the same as when he’d left it, like nothing had happened at all in the time that he’d been away.
And then three excited dogs rounded the corner in scrabbling, panting excitement. Glad to have someone to welcome him, he burst into laughter, crouching down and putting out his hands. Their greeting was enthusiastic, and he pressed his face against their soft fur, feeling very loved and very alone.
“Oh! You’re here!”
The voice startled him, and he looked up. Some complete stranger was standing in the middle of his home. Immediately tense, he demanded, “Who are you?”
“I’m Kai. I’m the dog walker, I walk the dogs for D.O.,” he added quickly.
Wary, L stood up, the dogs pawing at his legs. “You can go.”
“Okay, yes.” The guy picked up some things from the table in the entryway. “I’ll be back later tonight to take them out.”
“Don’t come in unless I let you in.”
“Yes, okay.” Kai bowed, said, “Thank you,” and let himself out.
The dog walker? The young, handsome dog walker. What kind of name was Kai? L locked the door, left his luggage where it was, and went over to the couch. The dogs jumped up onto the couch and climbed into his lap while he pulled out his phone. He texted D.O. I’m home. I got back safely. I met the guy who walks dogs for you. D.O. didn’t reply.
Sehun didn’t know what to wear to Suho’s party. Ordinarily he’d wear something kind of sexy, like the clothes he wore to the club, but he wasn’t sure that was a good idea for this party. Suho usually dressed like someone on the way from a nice dinner to a magazine cover shoot. So did D.O. and Xiumin. Everyone at that last lunch had looked perfectly groomed and stupidly handsome. He was used to being the hottest guy in the room, but with this crowd, club clothes weren’t going to help him.
When Sungjong came to pick him up, he still wasn’t ready. Sungjong looked chic in jeans and a simple black top. “You aren’t dressed,” Sungjong said in surprise. “Am I early?”
“No, I’m late. I don’t know what to put on.”
Laughing, Sungjong cupped his face in both hands. “Baby, you look like this. It doesn’t matter what you wear, you’re still going to be more handsome than everybody else.”
Liking that, he kissed Sungjong, already feeling better.
He decided on jeans and a tight black-and-red shirt with a mesh layer, and they drove over to Woohyun and Suho’s amazing apartment. Suho greeted them at the door, looking handsome and expensive and relaxed. “I’m glad that you came! Come on in,” Suho encouraged, hugging them and pulling them inside. “It’s so good to see you,” he told Sungjong.
“Please tell me that you have something to eat,” Sungjong said. “There’s no food in my apartment.”
“You kids! L said the same thing,” Suho said. “Go ahead, there’s plenty here. There’s some in the kitchen, and Woohyun’s grilling on the patio.”
L and Dongwoo were in the kitchen. Dongwoo offered them drinks. While Sungjong went to the patio, Chen came in and greeted Sehun. He ended up sitting on a couch with Xiumin and Chanyeol in front of a table covered with food. Chen sat on a chair beside them, popping up and down now and then to help Suho to greet people when the doorbell rang. Sehun barely knew anyone else there; he recognized a manager or two, and he assumed that the older people and young kids were family members. He couldn’t believe that Xiumin was there! Wasn’t it too embarrassing? He’d never show up at an ex’s party. Although he wasn’t sure if Sunggyu was there or not. Everyone else was - - he assumed that Sungyeol was there, since Chanyeol was, and he’d seen or heard of the others - - but maybe Sunggyu hadn’t come? Maybe that was why Xiumin had shown up? “Is Sunggyu hyung here?” he asked Chanyeol, quietly.
Chanyeol nodded. “He’s on the patio.” He laughed. “It’d be too obvious if he didn’t come! He lives right upstairs!”
Sunggyu and Woohyun lived in the same building. Dongwoo and L lived in the same building nearby; Sungjong lived in the same building as Sungyeol and Hoya.
Xiumin groaned. “I need Suho to move if he wants me to keep visiting him. I came in today and there was the same lobby, the same elevator, the same everything. At least the valet was new. I had to remind myself to come in here and not go up two floors.”
D.O. walked over and took a chair. “Hi,” he said, and started eating.
“Hi, back,” Chanyeol said. “How was Tokyo?”
“Boring.” He ate some more.
“It’s lousy that you couldn’t be here when L came home,” Chanyeol said. “How’s it been, catching up?”
“He thinks I’m having an affair with the dog walker.” D.O. didn’t look up from his food.
“Wait, what?” Chanyeol asked with a nervous laugh. Surprised, intrigued, Sehun sat forward.
“Is he right?” Xiumin asked.
D.O. looked up, his huge, round eyes fastening on Xiumin. “No.”
“He’s not serious, is he?” Chanyeol asked.
“That’s how it goes,” Xiumin said. “They cheat so much, they think you must be doing it, too. It’s so easy for them, they get paranoid that you’ll start doing it, too.”
“It’s not like that,” Chanyeol protested.
Sehun wondered if Sunggyu had cheated on Xiumin. Was L cheating on D.O.?
“It’s exactly like that,” Xiumin said. He looked across the room and said, “He’ll tell you.”
“Oh, god,” Baekhyun said, hurrying over to them. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he told Xiumin, dropping onto the chair across the table from them. “If it was all family and loving couples, I was going to walk right back out again.”
“L thinks that D.O.’s doing the dog walker,” Xiumin said.
“The hot dog walker?” Baekhyun asked. “Are you doing it?”
“No,” D.O. said.
“I do not miss that shit,” Xiumin said.
“Do you miss any of it?” Baekhyun asked.
Instead of giving a flip answer, to Sehun’s surprise, Xiumin looked thoughtful and turned his glass in his hands. His smile was so wistful that it tugged on Sehun’s heart. “I miss some of it. The early stuff, when everything was good. There were a lot of good times.” Then he laughed. “At least I don’t have to miss the money!”
“You jerk,” Baekhyun said, laughing. “You ruined it for everybody else. Now they all have lawyers and pre-nups.”
Xiumin laughed again, quirking his eyebrows. “Sorry!”
“Did you hear about that thing Chanyeol had to sign?” Baekhyun asked.
“That was just, it’s standard,” Chanyeol said awkwardly. “It’s lawyers, management, it’s their job to look out for him.”
“Chen would have signed whatever they put in front of him,” Baekhyun said. “I told him to get a lawyer and double-check everything, but he said, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, we’re so in love that nothing bad could ever happen to us!’ and he just signed it. I don’t even know if he read the whole thing.”
“There’s probably some clause in there that says he’ll owe Dongwoo alimony,” Xiumin said.
“It’s not that bad,” Chanyeol said.
“Did you read yours?” D.O. asked.
“My parents’ lawyer read it,” Chanyeol said. “There’s nothing complicated. It just says that if anything ever happens, we both walk away with whatever we came in with. That seems fair. I mean, it would be different if I worked five jobs to pay the bills while he was a trainee, and if I helped him get famous. But he was already successful when we met, so that’s his success, not mine. It’s not fair for him to owe me money for the rest of my life, right?”
“You put everything in your life on hold so that you can support him,” Xiumin said. “And he gets to walk away whenever he wants, without giving it another thought?”
“I’m not putting everything on hold, though,” Chanyeol said.
“There’s emotional support,” Xiumin said. “Always being there for him.” Sehun wasn’t impressed; wasn’t that part of any decent relationship?
“Rearranging your schedule so that you’re always available when he calls,” Baekhyun said. “He wants to call to talk to you after every show, and sometimes that means you can’t go out with your friends, and sometimes that means you have to wake up early, because he’s in different time zones on different days.” Okay, yeah, that was true, but it didn’t mean that it was worth owing someone alimony.
“Or he calls when he’s bored on the bus or waiting for a plane, and you make yourself available for that,” Xiumin said. Sehun pressed his lips together. He’d missed a few classes and pissed off his boss a few times, but so what? “You take care of the house, you make sure that everything’s clean and comfortable, you make sure that he’s eating and sleeping. His schedule’s a complete mess. There’s always practicing for this and rehearsing for that and preparing for a comeback and getting ready for something. When he’s promoting, it’s nonstop and there’s never a second to breathe, and when he’s on a break, he’s completely lost and has no idea what to do with his time, so you put everything on hold to be with him all day, every day. He only has so much time to himself, so when he has a chance to go on vacation, you go on vacation, too, no matter what else you had planned. When he’s working on new music and writing new songs, you have to respect whatever his creative process is. You know that practice can always run late and filming can always run late and something always comes up, so you get really, really used to making apologies for him and explaining to people why he isn’t where he said that he would be. You get used to accepting invitations for both of you and showing up alone. You go to shows and you attend concerts and you know your way around every broadcasting building in Seoul. You know your way through every airport.”
“You get used to suddenly having to deal with managers ordering you to show up here and telling you not to show up there. They give you commands like you’re a member of the staff, like it’s your full-time job to do whatever they want. Do this, don’t do that, you’ll ruin his image,” Baekhyun said.
“Managers, PDs, stylists,” Xiumin said. “Writers, dancers, other idols. You hear from everybody. You’re in their way, why are you always hanging around, why are you so clingy? Why aren’t you more supportive, why are you so cold, he deserves better.”
“And they’re all over him,” Baekhyun said. “All over him.”
“And then there are the fans,” Xiumin said.
“Before we broke up,” Baekhyun said. “We never talked about the fans. It got so bad, we were fighting so much, we literally didn’t say the words ‘fan’ or ‘Inspirit’ in front of each other.” Sehun tried not to make a face; that sounded ridiculous.
“They love him,” Xiumin said. “And they hate you.”
“They hated you the most,” Baekhyun said. “Because you were the first. And you married the leader. That’s like the worst crime they could think of.”
“I kind of like my anti-fans now,” Xiumin said. “They’re so creative. They’ve come up with so many different ways they wish I would die. They really put their hearts into it.”
“Just the other week - - I told you about this,” Baekhyun said to Chanyeol. “The other week, somebody spat on me.” Sehun’s eyes widened in shock, and Xiumin just laughed. “I was on campus, after class, and this girl started looking at me really funny, and I was like, oh, shit, here we go, and she was like, ‘Aren’t you Byun Baekhyun?’ Sometimes I say no, like I don’t know who that is, but I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me,’ and she cursed me out and called me a rabid dog and spat on me. Not at me, on me. I asked her if she wanted me to call the cops, and she cursed at me again and left.”
“It’s like that,” Xiumin said. “It gets worse once you’re an ex.”
D.O.’s eyes widened. “It gets worse?”
“When you’re with him, you’re under his protection,” Xiumin explained. “Once you’re on your own, that shield’s gone. They don’t worry about what he’ll think anymore. And now they’re upset with you for letting him down, for breaking his heart, for having everything they want and throwing it away.”
“It’s like you’re the one person who had the opportunity to be with him and make him happy, and you messed that up,” Baekhyun said. “That’s, like, completely unforgivable to them.”
Sehun licked his lips. “Suho hyung really seems to like the fans.” Suho never talked this way; he’d never said anything like all of this.
Xiumin snorted. “Suho and Woohyun and the fans are in a three-way.”
“They freaking talked about Inspirit in their wedding vows,” Baekhyun said.
Sehun couldn’t believe it. “Are you joking?”
“You haven’t seen the video?” Chanyeol asked. “It’s so embarrassing.”
“It was kind of sweet,” D.O. said.
“Idol alert,” Xiumin said, clearing his throat and adjusting his shirt. He suddenly smiled, and Sehun looked over to see Woohyun walking their way.
“Baekhyun-ah! You came!” Woohyun exclaimed. Baekhyun stood up, and the two of them hugged. “How’ve you been? How’s your family? Are classes going okay?”
“Everybody’s great,” Baekhyun said. “Classes are good. Suho hyung said the tour was great. Have you caught up on your sleep?”
Woohyun chuckled. “I think that I slept through a few days, but, yeah, I’m back to normal again. I already miss the tour, but it’s great to be home. I haven’t even left the building, I only go as far as Sunggyu hyung’s apartment and I come back.” He looked around at their small group. “Has everybody eaten? I can bring more meat from the grill.”
“We’ve eaten,” Xiumin said. “Everything tastes great.”
“Oh Sehun!” Woohyun smiled at him. “I haven’t had a chance to say hello yet. How’ve you been?”
“I’m fine,” Sehun said. He was kind of surprised that Woohyun recognized him. He hadn’t really seen much of the Infinite members before the tour had started. “Thank you for having us over. The food’s great, and it was nice of Suho hyung to invite me.”
“Hey, Sungjong’s friends are always welcome here.” He put his hand on Baekhyun’s arm. “Can we talk for a second?”
“Uh, sure,” Baekhyun said.
As the two of them walked away, Chen came over and took Baekhyun’s vacated chair. “Hi! What’d I miss?”
Sehun expected Xiumin to jump right back into the previous conversation and rehash all of the reasons it was a terrible thing to date a member of Infinite. Instead, he said, “Great food. And I was just about to interrogate the new kid. What do you do?” he asked, looking past Chanyeol and eyeing Sehun. “Are you a student, do you have a job? What is that shirt, did you come here after you got off work as a go-go boy?”
“Hyung!” Chen exclaimed, laughing. “Don’t be that way.”
“I’m a student,” Sehun said. He tried to speak normally, not wanting to give away how humiliated he was. Why had he worn this shirt? Why hadn’t Sungjong stopped him? “I’m a dance major. I’m working at a café right now.”
“He’s actually friends with some of my vocal students,” Chen said. “Isn’t that funny?”
“Whew! Let me sit down,” Suho said, coming over and perching on the armrest at Sehun’s elbow. “Can you hand me those chopsticks? I’ve been so busy greeting everyone, I haven’t had a chance to eat anything.” As Chanyeol handed them to him, he put his hand on Sehun’s shoulder and smiled at everyone. “How’s everybody?”
“Fine, hyung,” Chanyeol said.
“Great food,” D.O. said.
“Wait, we’re missing one,” Suho said, looking around with a laugh. “Where did Baekhyun go? He didn’t leave, did he?”
“Woohyun wanted to talk to him,” Xiumin said.
Suho nodded at that and started to eat. “What are we talking about?”
“Someone needs to take Sehun shopping,” Xiumin said.
“I think that Sehun and D.O. need to go grocery shopping,” Suho teased. “Our L and Sungjong are going to starve.”
Sehun didn’t know how to respond to that. Was it his responsibility to buy Sungjong’s groceries? Maybe he looked confused, because Chanyeol said, “It’s hard for them to go shopping. All of the fans, people taking photos, it can be a problem for the store.”
“So I should do it?” Sehun asked.
“It’s a nice way to take care of him,” Suho said. “Maybe you and D.O. can go together.”
D.O. glanced at Sehun. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Great.” He wondered how Sungjong normally got groceries. Maybe there was a service? Someone to walk the dogs, someone to buy groceries, stylists to decide what they wore, did idols do anything for themselves?
After they’d talked for a few minutes in the privacy of the master bedroom, Woohyun gave Baekhyun a solemn, searching look. “I know that it’s been hard on you.”
Not wanting Woohyun to feel sorry for him, he waved it away. “I don’t have anything to complain about. Really, hyung,” he said, when Woohyun’s expression didn’t relax. “I’m fine! Everybody has break-ups, right?”
“I’m glad that you’re taking classes again.”
He nodded. His life had kind of gotten off-track when he’d gotten together with Hoya. It was a relief and a disappointment, both, to put everything back in order. He was right back to where he’d started, only now he was behind.
“If there’s anything that you need.” He cringed, but Woohyun said, “Suho and I are glad to help you.”
With what, money? Recommendations, maybe, access to industry contacts. “I’m okay, hyung. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”
“Okay.” Woohyun gave him a reassuring smile, then said, “I’d better go check on the grill! I don’t know what they’re doing to my food without me.”
He smiled, to show Woohyun that he was okay. When Woohyun left, he sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. Looking around the big, luxurious room, he made a face. He’d gotten really used to being a part of this lifestyle, and now he thought of his own tiny apartment with fondness and disgust.
Hearing footsteps, he looked up to see Sunggyu glance into the room. “Oh, hi,” Sunggyu said. “Woohyun’s not here?”
“No, he went to check on the grill.”
“Ah.” Sunggyu smiled. “Good, he left Sungyeol in charge of it and nothing’s edible anymore. How are you, have you eaten enough? Staying healthy?”
It was nice of Sunggyu to ask. “I’m fine, thanks. It’s a nice party.” In a rush of honesty, he added, “It’s nice to see everyone again.”
“How’s your family? Are you seeing anyone?”
“They’re well. I’m just taking care of myself. Going to class.”
Sunggyu nodded. “If you need anything, hyung’s here.”
To his horror, he felt himself getting emotional. He wanted to say that he was fine, that they didn’t need to feel sorry for him or be so nice to him. Instead, he just said, “Thanks.”
After Sunggyu left the room, Baekhyun ran his hands over the gorgeous blue and yellow spread on the bed. He wondered if it was a fan gift. Most of Woohyun’s things were fan gifts, although it was hard to pin down which ones, exactly, because if he was asked, he just said something like, “Everything I have comes from the fans. I don’t have a career or money or anything without Inspirit.”
He felt a strange preoccupation with the bed. This was a marriage bed. This was a sign of a successful relationship. Suho had a happy marriage to a happy idol. The two of them lived their happy, successful lives and settled down into bed together at night like cozy bunnies in a nest. Their marriage was so perfect, they were probably spontaneously going to produce children, or something.
Why could they manage this, when no one else could? Why had they achieved something that Baekhyun couldn’t? Was it his fault, for not being as good and as strong as Suho? No, no. It was Hoya’s fault.
Old feelings of resentment stirred in him, and he gave the bed a harder look. He wondered if Woohyun had cheated here. Or was this particular bed, the marriage bed, off-limits? Woohyun wasn’t treacherous enough to do it in Suho’s bed, was he?
Hearing footsteps again made Baekhyun tense. For an instant, his mind whirled: what if it was Hoya, he’d managed to avoid Hoya so far, he didn’t know what he’d do if they were suddenly face-to-face, he didn’t know how he’d feel or how he’d act. But it wasn’t Hoya, it was a stranger, glancing in and smiling at him meaninglessly and moving on.
Breathing out, he moved away from the bed. He’d come to the party for Suho’s sake, and now that he’d done his duty to a friend, he was ready to leave.
Xiumin was laughing at Chanyeol’s joke when he noticed Sunggyu walk across the apartment. At the sight, laughter died on his lips. For a moment, he felt everything and nothing, his heart stuttering to a stop and then racing away.
It had been a long time since Xiumin had seen him. He looked thinner and paler; touring was always hard on him, physically. It felt like there was a stone lodged in Xiumin’s chest, a stone made up of complicated, unresolved feelings. Xiumin kept wanting to feel nothing for him, kept wanting to be over him, kept waiting for that final moment of clarity and letting go. Instead, all sorts of emotions surged forward, each one stronger than the last. Disappointment, resentment, desire, frustration, fondness.
Sunggyu disappeared into the kitchen, and Xiumin blinked, looking down at the glass of iced tea in his hands. After a moment, he was in control of himself enough to pay attention to his surroundings again, and he heard Baekhyun saying good-bye to Suho.
He looked up to see Suho give Baekhyun a hug. “You’re going?” he asked.
Baekhyun nodded. “You want to come?”
God, yes. “Sure.”
Suho looked disappointed but walked them to the door. “Thanks so much for coming. We’re all so glad to see you.”
“Leaving?” Sunggyu appeared right behind Suho.
Xiumin stared into Sunggyu’s eyes, willing himself to stay calm. “Yes. Good-bye.” He felt Baekhyun hug his arm, and he leaned back slightly, grateful for the friendly, supportive contact.
“Since you’re here. I found a box of stuff. Your stuff, there are photo albums and things, it was in the closet.”
He didn’t even have to ask how the box had been unearthed; he knew Sunggyu too well. After coming back from a tour, Sunggyu spent too much time holed up at home, doing nothing, puttering around, being bored and at loose ends. Sunggyu had probably just started digging around or decided to clean out the closet for lack of anything else to do. “Mail it to me.”
“I don’t have your address.”
Hearing that made him want to laugh. Or punch something. “Your lawyer does.”
Baekhyun made a noise he couldn’t interpret. Suho gave him a supportive look.
“It’s right upstairs,” Sunggyu said.
Was Sunggyu trying to get him alone? For what, to tell him something? Maybe, maybe not. Did he want to cooperate? Not really. If he were over Sunggyu, he’d just walk away. But he was curious; he wanted to know if there was some agenda here. Shit, he hated himself for being weak and stupid. “Fine, I’ll go. Come with me,” he told Baekhyun.
“Uh.” Baekhyun’s gaze flickered toward Sunggyu, but he said, “Sure, if you want me to.”
The three of them went up together. Baekhyun held his hand, and it made him feel better, so he didn’t let go. He didn’t care what Sunggyu thought of it, either.
The apartment looked the same as before. Sunggyu hadn’t redecorated or anything. He didn’t know what that meant.
“I’ll wait here,” Baekhyun said, releasing his hand and giving him a reassuring look.
He wanted an ally, but if Sunggyu had something to tell him in private, maybe they should be alone.
“It’s right here,” Sunggyu said, and Xiumin followed him. The hallway was perfectly familiar. He knew every single light switch and outlet.
He paused for a second at the bedroom door. Following Sunggyu in there made his head swim. It was too significant a place. He had too many memories here. He’d given out and used up too much of his heart here. Taking a deep breath, he crossed the threshold. It looked the same. Same bed, same walls, same curtains. He didn’t recognize the shirt crumpled on the bed. He used that as a reminder that things had changed, that their lives were separate now, that this wasn’t his home anymore.
“I thought that you’d want it.” Sunggyu picked up a cardboard box. “It has photos of your family. There’s, uh.” Sunggyu’s gaze flickered and dropped as he awkwardly shoved the box into Xiumin’s hands. “There’s the album you made after we went to Hong Kong.”
Memories of their trip together scalded him, and he pretended to balance the box to cover his flinch. Even now, after everything, he could remember how happy he’d been. Kim Sunggyu had been his, and he’d been on top of the world. “I guess you don’t want that.”
“It’s yours,” Sunggyu said. “You took the photos.”
“Right. Thanks,” he said, backing up, ready to get away, eager to be anywhere else. “I’ll be going.”
“Wait. I mean, you don’t have to rush away,” Sunggyu said. “How are you, is everything okay? Do you need anything?”
“If anything’s wrong, it’s none of your business,” he pointed out. “If it is your business, my lawyer will tell your lawyer all about it, right?”
Sunggyu scowled at him. He’d used to find that expression so cute. “Why does it have to be like this? Does it have to be your lawyer and my lawyer? If you have something to tell me, why can’t you tell me?”
“There’s nothing to tell, anyway. We’re divorced, do you remember getting divorced?”
“Why do you have to speak so formally?” Sunggyu demanded. “Am I a stranger to you?”
“Yes,” he snapped. “Yes, you’re a stranger. You’re nothing to me anymore.”
“Then are you giving my money back?”
He wanted to throw the box at Sunggyu’s head. “I’ll give your money back when you give my life back!”
“Life! What life?” Sunggyu demanded. “You didn’t even have a life when I met you! Now you have a nice apartment, a nice-”
“Since when do you know anything about my apartment?” he shot back. “I thought that you didn’t know where I lived!”
“Never mind what I know and don’t know!” Sunggyu looked sullen and hurt. He remembered feeling protective; he remembered adoring how sensitive Sunggyu was. “Are you seeing somebody? Dongwoo mentioned some guy you’re dating.”
“Are you kidding?” Xiumin asked. This was amazing. The nerve of this guy. “You just got back from a tour where you literally traveled around the world getting your cock sucked in a different country every week, and you want to know if I’m seeing someone? Yeah. I’m dating someone.”
“Is he a good guy?” Sunggyu asked. “Is he good to you?”
What did Sunggyu get out of pretending to care? “Yeah, he’s great. You know, he’s sweet, he’s talented. He’s a really sincere guy. And he doesn’t look like a hamster, so he has that going for him.”
Sunggyu burst into laughter. He looked so happy, Xiumin couldn’t hold back a smile. For a second, everything was okay.
Sunggyu’s apartment looked the same as Baekhyun remembered it. Was that sense of familiarity reassuring or creepy? He couldn’t decide. Drifting away from the front door, he studied the crap on the bookshelves. There were books, of course, but there were some fan gifts, too, and some framed photos. After his first glance at a photo of Infinite, he shied away, immediately averting his gaze. Curiosity drew him back, and he took a closer look. The seven members stood on a bridge together, smiling joyfully, their arms slung around each other, Woohyun laughing, L looking at the side of Sungjong’s head, Dongwoo crouched in front. Baekhyun’s gaze zeroed in on Hoya. He remembered that haircut, when they’d shorn the sides of Hoya’s head down to a fine fuzz. He remembered nuzzling it, then kissing Hoya’s ear. He wished, he really wished, that things hadn’t been so great between them. If he hadn’t been so happy with Hoya before, he wouldn’t be so upset now. He wouldn’t have lost so much. How could Hoya have been so good to him? Why bother with all of that? Why not just treat him like shit from the start? What was the point of setting up such a great relationship? Had Hoya actually thought that things might work out? Had Hoya actually expected that if some aspects of their relationship were terrific, he’d just ignore the bad stuff when things went to hell?
“Sung-. Oh.” Standing in the doorway, Hoya blinked at him, then looked caught and guilty. “I was looking for Sunggyu hyung.”
“He’s talking to Xiumin hyung.”
“Oh.” Hoya shoved his hands into his pockets and took a few steps forward. He looked fantastic, of course, like the world wanted to show off what Baekhyun had lost. His hair was thick and glossy, his bare arms looked strong and defined, and his smooth, tan skin was flawless. He couldn’t even shuffle forward awkwardly; every step was natural and graceful, his feet carrying him forward lightly and effortlessly. Baekhyun was so going to date only clumsy, graceless fools from now on. Literal clowns, maybe, who made a living at tripping over their own feet. “How, uh, how are you?”
About a foot to Baekhyun’s right was the door to the TV room. Baekhyun could go in there and close the door and wait for Hoya to leave and avoid this whole horrible conversation. “I’m fine.” What else was he supposed to say?
“What are you doing? Are you working?”
“No, my bills just pay themselves. It’s magic.”
Hoya raised his eyebrows. “Sounds nice.”
“Yeah, you should try it.”
“Yeah, I’ll look into it.” Coming closer, Hoya crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the bookcase. “So what are you doing?”
“Retail. Clothing store. Kids’ clothing, so, probably not someplace you go a lot.”
“Yeah, I outgrew kids clothing a couple of years ago,” Hoya agreed. “You should tell Dongwoo hyung, though, he needs some new pants.”
He couldn’t help it; he laughed. Hoya smiled at him, and he smiled back, and then Hoya kissed him. Surprise struck him first, and then lust hit him, a shock to his system. “The door’s open,” he said, but he couldn’t stop himself, he was already kissing Hoya again.
Instead of not kissing him, Hoya just wrapped an arm around him and walked backward, carrying him along to the door and yanking it shut. They made out against that door for a while, moaning and sucking and grinding against each other. Then Hoya pushed him through the nearby doorway and into the TV room. Groaning, he grabbed at Hoya’s shirt, his hands sliding underneath it. God, it had been too long, he needed this. He landed on his back on the big, soft, leather couch, Hoya climbing on top of him. Hoya’s body was as hard and muscular as he remembered it, skin smooth like warm silk. Kissing back feverishly, he shuddered when he felt Hoya’s thigh pressing between his legs. All of his systems were go; he was so turned on, so ready for it, that he felt hot all over. “What is this, what the hell are we doing?” he panted, fumbling with Hoya’s fly.
“God, you’re so pretty,” Hoya mumbled, kissing him.
This was such a bad idea, shit, this was the worst idea ever. He still thought so a moment later when his knees were in the air and Hoya was sliding balls-deep inside of him. But bad idea or not, hot damn, it felt amazing. So right. Gasping, shuddering, he clutched at Hoya’s bare, muscular thighs, digging his nails in as pleasure scorched him.
“Ah, yes, yes, you feel so good, uh, you’re the best, oh.”
He could tell that Hoya was into it, because Hoya’s dialect was all over the place. Hoya’s hips were rocking, snapping, rolling, delivering one deep, powerful thrust after another. He couldn’t even handle the intense pleasure; he hadn’t had this in so long, he couldn’t get enough of it. Panting, “More, more,” he squirmed under Hoya, desperate for it and unable to hide it.
“Yeah, unh, want to make you come.”
After reveling in as much pleasure as he could take, Baekhyun came in such a strong explosion of ecstasy that tears came to his eyes. The intensity of his orgasm rocked him, and as he spurted in Hoya’s stroking, milking hand, he writhed and shuddered on the couch, his hips jerking upward to meet Hoya’s hard thrusts.
Ecstasy carried him away, and for a moment, everything was good again, his life was great again, and the familiar, sexy moans as Hoya got off brought a new wave of pleasure and satisfaction. And then, as Hoya kissed his neck, his body and mind began to cool. It hit him, all at once, that he’d just made a huge mistake. Furious with Hoya and even more furious with himself, he said, “No, no, no,” and shoved at Hoya’s chest.
In seconds, he was zipping his pants and stumbling out of the room. Finding Xiumin standing by the front door, he froze, mortified. Oh, god, he hadn’t just made a huge mistake, he’d made a huge mistake in front of witnesses! And he’d been a terrible friend to Xiumin, he’d come up here to show his support and-
“Come on,” Xiumin said, grabbing his wrist and opening the door.
He was too embarrassed to do anything but mumble apologies at Xiumin’s back while they went down the hallway. In the elevator, Xiumin finally spoke. “Tell me you at least used a condom.”
“Yeah.” He felt shocked, guilty, and dazed. “I’m so sorry, hyung, I-”
“Don’t apologize to me, just take care of yourself.” With a hand on his shoulder, Xiumin looked into his eyes. “Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it or throw up or something?” He felt - - shit, he wanted something he couldn’t believe that he wanted. He couldn’t admit it, not out loud; he didn’t even want to feel it. But he didn’t have to say anything. Xiumin knew him too well. Or Xiumin knew this situation too well. “Want to go back up for more?”
Mortified, he groaned, hiding his face against Xiumin’s shoulder.
“Ah, you poor kid,” Xiumin said, patting his back. “It’s okay. Come on, let’s just go shopping instead. I’ll buy.”
D.O. followed L into their apartment. L dropped his car keys on the table by the door, then slung his jacket over a chair. As the dogs jumped up, L crouched down to greet them.
Stepping past, D.O. went to the kitchen. The usual note from Kai was on the counter: I took the babies out. Such good kids! I’ll come back in the morning. He crumpled it up and dropped it into the trash.
“Nice party,” L said, strolling in and leaning against the counter.
“Yeah. They’re always such good hosts.” He checked the fridge, but there was nothing in there, and he’d just eaten at the party, anyway. He picked up a bottle of water that he didn’t want and closed the fridge again.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Taking Sungjong’s boyfriend shopping for groceries, I guess. You?”
“Nothing. Going over to Sungyeol hyung’s, maybe.”
He nodded and uncapped the bottle. Took a sip for lack of anything better to do. “It’s late.”
“Might as well go to bed.”
So they went to bed. They shuffled around in dull routine, brushing their teeth, rubbing on lotion. D.O. got into bed first. A moment later, L asked, “Dogs in or out?”
He shrugged. If the dogs were allowed into the room and onto the bed, there would be no sex. If the dogs were shut out, sex might happen, in some form. He opened his mouth, not knowing what might come out. Some strange internal calculation made him say, “Out.”
“Night, doggies,” L said, closing the door.
D.O. rolled onto his side. L got into bed behind him. For a moment, nothing happened. He picked up his phone, checked his e-mail. When he felt L’s hand stray over his hip, he set his phone aside again and rolled over. L kissed him, and he kissed back. It was nice, nicer than he’d expected. When he’d gotten back from Tokyo last night, L had gone down on him, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to return the favor. Tonight, though, he wanted to be intimate, he wanted to feel good, he wanted to share something with L, he wanted to recapture that magic they’d used to have. Letting go, he fell under the spell of L’s kisses, let L’s tender caress seduce him. Sliding his hand inside L’s boxer-briefs, he stroked L’s cock, and when L moaned, he moaned back, turned on, wanting it. “Get a condom, okay?”
L lifted up, reaching over to the nightstand, opening the drawer. “They’re all still here.”
What, L had counted them and memorized the exact number before leaving? “What am I going to do with them while you’re gone, make water balloons?”
L rolled a condom on. “Not rolling over?”
“No.” He wanted to be face-to-face, not some anonymous ass. Those pleasurable feelings of intimacy and desire were starting to fade and slip away, and he pulled L close again, trying to hold onto the moment. But even when L kissed him, he could feel himself holding back, could feel insecurity and resentment getting in the way. He masturbated, trying to stay aroused and into it, and when L thrust into him, it felt good. But he couldn’t get caught up, and he started to wish that it were over, that they hadn’t even bothered. It became something mechanical, a matter of stimulation and biology. After he came, L came. L threw the condom away, and he rolled over. L turned the lamp off. He stared at nothing, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. L spooned up behind him. Curiosity and something evil made him ask, “Do you cuddle with your sasaengs like this, or just me?”
L pulled away from him. “What the hell am I supposed to say to that?”
“You could say that you don’t have sex with anyone besides me, but I guess you don’t want to lie.” It was absurd to think that L could cheat on him so relentlessly but have trouble lying to him. Absurd, but he couldn’t bring himself to laugh about it.
“I’m not screwing other people!”
“No, not this second.”
“What about you?” L demanded. “Did you bring your dog boy into this bed? Into our bed?”
“I’m not screwing Kai!”
“You’re screwing somebody! You can barely get it up for me!”
Rolling over, D.O. sat up. In the darkness, he could make out the shape of L kneeling beside him. “Is that unthinkable? Is that impossible for you to imagine, that someone might not want you?”
“I don’t care about ‘someone!’ You’re my husband!”
One of the dogs was whining and scratching at the door. “Namu, stop it!” D.O. snapped.
“I’m firing that fucking kid,” L said.
“I already paid him for the month.”
“I’m not paying him to fuck my husband! He’s fired!”
“You’re not paying anyone! It’s my money! Do you think that you’re the only one with a career? What do you think I do with my life, sit around here alone waiting for you?”
“I didn’t mean it like that!”
“I feel like I’m living in some upside-down bizarre universe,” D.O. muttered, rubbing his forehead. “You cheat on me with men and women and sasaengs and idols and everyone you can find, and I’m sitting here trying to defend myself, telling you I’m not screwing around behind your back. Why would I cheat? I can’t even make this work with you, how the hell do I have anything left to give to somebody else?”
“We can make this work,” L said, putting an arm around him.
He hoped so. God, he hoped for it, so badly. Closing his eyes, he leaned against L’s shoulder. “When I go back to Tokyo, come with me, okay? It’ll only be for a few days.”
L kissed the top of his head. “Okay. I’d like that.”
In the morning, Chanyeol puttered around the house. He was on the couch, tuning his guitar, when Sungyeol shuffled out of the bedroom. Boxer-briefs, rumpled T-shirt, long legs, hair all over his head. Gorgeous. “Morning. Do you want breakfast?” Chanyeol asked, setting the guitar aside.
“No.” Sungyeol dropped down to sit beside him on the couch. “I ate enough steak to make a whole cow last night.”
Chuckling, he kissed Sungyeol’s cheek. “Okay.” He wrapped his arm around Sungyeol, pulling Sungyeol against his side.
Settling in, Sungyeol snuggled up, putting a hand on his stomach. Deliberately, they stretched out their legs and tangled them together. “It was funny, seeing Xiumin hyung and Baekhyun there last night.”
“What’d they say?” Sungyeol asked.
Hmm? “About what?”
“You know. Are they dating, are they still angry, how are they spending Sunggyu hyung’s money?”
“Xiumin hyung’s dating some musician named Lay. He’s pretty big in China, I guess. And they seem pretty angry. They were talking about how bad it was to date a musician and how rough your managers were on them, stuff like that.”
“When were any managers hard on them? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. Pushing them around, I guess. Do this, don’t do that, come here, don’t go there.”
“They’re so bitter about everything,” Sungyeol said. “It doesn’t even make sense. What do they have to be upset about now? Everybody bent over backward to include them, before. Xiumin hyung was the leader’s husband, he got to do whatever he wanted.”
He guessed that they had a right to be upset about cheating, but they went too far and made everything sound awful. It couldn’t have been that bad. Maybe there wouldn’t have been so much cheating if they’d had better attitudes. “Suho hyung sure doesn’t complain about anything.”
“Xiumin hyung didn’t, either, when he was married.” Sungyeol rubbed Chanyeol’s side. “I don’t know if you should hang out with them too much. They’re so unhappy, I don’t want it to rub off on you. I like my Park Chanyeol full of sunshine.”
Chanyeol laughed. “Full of sunshine! I sound like a cartoon character.”
“A sexy cartoon character,” Sungyeol teased, squeezing his hip.
“I think that I’ve seen those movies on your computer!”
“Hey! That’s private!”
They laughed, and then they were kissing, and the conversation was over for a while.
D.O. seemed pretty quiet in the grocery store, but in Sehun’s experience, he was usually quiet, anyway. Sehun didn’t really know how all of this worked, buying groceries for Sungjong. Was he supposed to give the bill to Sungjong and ask to be paid back? He couldn’t really afford to buy someone else’s groceries. Especially not someone who ate expensive stuff, like the brands he’d seen in Sungjong’s kitchen and the prime cut beef in D.O.’s cart. His own shelves in his own kitchen were either bare or stocked with ramen. He bought as much as his bank card could hold, and then he tried to figure out what to say to Sungjong. He’d planned to bring the groceries over as a surprise, but he hadn’t thought ahead about the money problem.
They went to D.O.’s apartment, where he helped to put everything away. L wasn’t there, and when he asked, D.O. said, “He’s at Sungyeol hyung’s.”
“Are you, uh, close to Xiumin hyung and Baekhyun hyung?”
D.O. nodded. “We used to see each other more, but we’re still close. Why?”
“Some of the things they say.” It had been on his mind since the party. “Does everybody think like that? That all idols cheat? I mean, Sungjong hyung doesn’t. Woohyun hyung doesn’t cheat on Suho hyung, does he?”
“Idols are idols,” D.O. said. “Sasaengs are sasaengs. You learn to live with it, or you get out.”
What was he saying? That Woohyun did cheat on Suho? “But Suho hyung seems so - - I mean, he and Woohyun hyung are so happy. And Dongwoo hyung and Chen hyung.” He didn’t understand it. “If L hyung cheats on you, why do you stay with him?”
D.O. held his gaze, unblinking. “Why do you stay with Sungjong hyung?”
“He’s not like that. He doesn’t do that.”
“Idols are idols,” D.O. said, putting away a box of spaghetti. “Sasaengs are sasaengs.”
Dongwoo was thrilled when Sunggyu and Woohyun came over. He was even more thrilled when Hoya showed up. He didn’t understand why Hoya was so embarrassed to see Sunggyu, though.
Chen made lunch, and the five of them ate together. That was when he found out that Hoya had screwed Baekhyun in Sunggyu’s apartment yesterday.
“Oh, he must be so upset,” Chen said.
“I wasn’t that bad,” Hoya said.
“Not - - not because of that!” Chen protested, laughing. “It has to be so awkward for him.”
“In my apartment, on my couch,” Sunggyu said. “It was awkward for me! We could hear it all over the apartment. Xiumin and I had to stand there and listen to it!”
“Are you sure you aren’t jealous?” Hoya asked. “I think that you’re jealous.”
“I don’t want Baekhyun!”
“But you wish that you could have Xiumin hyung again,” Woohyun said.
Surprised, Dongwoo stared at him. “Do you?”
“Yes! No! I don’t know!” Flustered, Sunggyu put a lot of energy into avoiding their eyes and eating. Then he set his chopsticks down and said, “Yes! Fine, okay! Yes, I want to do that again! What’s wrong with that, is it so confusing? He’s hot, I like him, he’s a great lay. We used to have sex all of the time, my penis doesn’t know why I can’t do it again. How do you explain to your cock what it can have and what it can’t?”
“He is hot,” Dongwoo agreed. “You haven’t asked him?” Xiumin seemed really upset with Sunggyu, but maybe it would be okay to ask, anyway.
“He’s dating someone else,” Chen said.
Oh, right. Aw, that was a shame.
“We’re divorced. Divorced people don’t do that. That’s the point of being divorced, isn’t it?” Sunggyu asked. “That we can’t do things like that anymore?”
“He gets all of your money,” Hoya pointed out. “Why can’t you get something, too?”
“Hey, that’s not right,” Woohyun said.
“I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it,” Dongwoo agreed. “But he used to like having sex with you, right? He might still like it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Grimacing, Sunggyu rubbed his chest. “I think it’ll hurt.”
Baekhyun was writing a paper when his phone rang. Grateful for the interruption, he answered the call eagerly. “Hi! What’s up, talk to me!”
“Hi,” D.O. said. “I heard about yesterday.”
“What about yesterday?”
“What happened in Sunggyu hyung’s apartment with Hoya hyung.”
Oh. Embarrassment burned in his face. “Uh, that was.” He didn’t know how to explain it. Runaway hormones? Muscle memory? Muscle memory probably couldn’t account for the way he’d writhed around begging for more. Damn, he was kind of turned on just remembering it. “I need to have my brain removed,” he moaned, slumping over his desk.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He wanted to get away from this paper. “Yes. Do you want to go out or something?”
They met up at the mall. Baekhyun took the bus; D.O. showed up in some shiny, expensive car that said, “I’m a successful actor married to a famous idol and you’re not.” They wandered around the mall just killing time, looking things over and talking about nothing. Then they took a booth in the back corner of a café. They talked and ate and talked and drank and then talked some more. He encouraged D.O. to give sex with L another try, and D.O. gave him Kai’s number.
“Was it harsh?” Baekhyun asked. “When L fired him?”
D.O. shook his head. “I did it myself. I told him that now that L hyung’s back from tour, we don’t need him anymore. It’s okay, he’s not independent, he works for a dog-walking company, he’s not out of work. I’ll probably call them in a couple of weeks and ask for someone else.”
“There are dog-walking companies?” Baekhyun asked, surprised. Hey, maybe he could get a job there. It would be inconvenient, though, having to show up on demand according to the owner’s schedule. Or maybe that was too much like his last relationship to be comfortable.
“Sure.” D.O. gestured to Baekhyun’s phone. “You should call him. He’s nice. And if you’re so desperate that you’re going back to Hoya hyung, you need to get laid.”
That was way too true.
“Hey,” Sungyeol said, poking his head into the music room. “I’m going out for a while, okay?”
“Now?” Surprised, Chanyeol checked the time. “It’s so late.”
“I’m just meeting up with L.”
L? “Wasn’t he here all afternoon?”
“Yeah, but he wants to go out. We’ll just grab some drinks somewhere. Don’t wait up, okay?”
“I’ll come with you,” Chanyeol said, starting to get up.
“No, it’s okay. It’s better if it’s just us. You don’t have to get all dressed up and everything. Keep working, it sounds great!” Sungyeol flashed him a smile and left.
He tried to focus on his music, but he was too distracted. Unfocused, uncertain, he drifted around the apartment. It seemed so big, sometimes. He called D.O. and L’s apartment. No one answered. He called D.O.’s cell.
“Hello?” D.O. asked.
“Hey, it’s Park Chanyeol.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Is L hyung there?”
“No.” D.O.’s voice was slow and suspicious. “Isn’t he out with Sungyeol hyung?”
“Yeah. Yes, they’re out together.”
D.O. didn’t ask anything like, “Then why are you calling and asking for him?” Because D.O. knew why.
Upset, feeling like he’d betrayed Sungyeol, he said, “I was just - - I had something that I wanted to ask, something that I wanted to talk to Sungyeol hyung about, and I thought that if they’d come back from the club, if they were there - - never mind, it’s okay, I’ll talk to him later, I’ll ask him when I see him. Good night.”
“Good night,” D.O. said.
Hanging up, he dropped his phone on the table and walked away. Scrubbing his hands through his hair, he groaned. He was letting the Ex-Husbands Club get to him. He was going to turn bitter and paranoid if he kept being like this. How could he think that Sungyeol was screwing around on him? Of course Sungyeol had just gone out with L. There was nothing wrong with that.
In the back of his mind, voices whispered that Sungyeol and L might have gone out to pick up guys together. Might have gone to meet sasaengs together. Might be up to all sorts of things.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he shook his head vigorously, trying to dislodge negative thoughts.
“Rehearsals?” Suho repeated, surprised. He stared at Chen with such a comical look that Chen burst into laughter, leaning against Dongwoo’s shoulder. “Then you got the part! But you never said anything!”
“It’s such a small part,” he confessed. “I was a little embarrassed.”
“It’s great to get any part,” Woohyun told him. “Congratulations.”
“Yes, congratulations!” Suho agreed. “When’s opening night? We’ll have to get tickets.”
“Oh, you don’t have to come,” Chen said.
“Are you kidding? I love the theater,” Woohyun said. “Hyung, you’ll get us tickets, won’t you?”
“Sure,” Dongwoo said.
“We should all go,” Suho said. “We can watch together, and then we can take you to dinner afterward, to celebrate!”
“Oh, that’s too much!” Chen objected, embarrassed. “It’s such a small part, really, I barely have any lines.”
“But they’re important lines,” Dongwoo said. “I think they’re the best lines in the whole musical.”
“I bet that all of the members will come,” Suho said. “And Baekhyun will want to be there. We’ll invite Xiumin hyung, too.”
“Is that okay?” Chen asked. “I don’t want things to be awkward.”
“What’s awkward?” Suho asked. “No one’s going to start an argument if we’re all seated in the dark watching the show. And people don’t have to sit near each other at dinner if they don’t want to.”
Baekhyun was at work, cleaning up the dressing rooms, when his phone rang. He wasn’t supposed to have his phone on when he was on the floor, so he hastily silenced it. Then he saw that Xiumin was calling, so he answered. Closing one of the stall doors, he huddled against the mirror and whispered, “What’s up?”
“Why are we whispering?” Xiumin whispered back.
“I’m at work.”
“I’ll be quick,” Xiumin said at a normal volume. “Did you hear what happened?”
“What happened?” he asked. “All I got was some message from Suho hyung about going to see Chen’s musical.”
“No, not that. About Sungjong and Sehun.”
Oooh, dirt! “Let me guess, they broke up.”
“Yes! They had some huge fight. Sehun caught him with a sasaeng.”
“Augh, flashbacks,” Baekhyun muttered, feeling queasy. “Anybody we know?”
“I think it was the one with the tattoos.”
“Aw, that one’s still around?”
“You admire the loyalty, right?” Xiumin asked.
“More loyal than we were, I guess.”
“Unh, no way am I looking at it that way.”
“Yeah.” Baekhyun peeked out of the dressing room. All clear. He huddled against the mirror again. “So how’d you find out?”
“Sehun called me. I’m taking him shopping later. You want to come?”
“Sure.” He hated himself for asking, but, “Did Sunggyu hyung ever cheat with that one?”
“Sunggyu hyung has had all of them,” Xiumin said. “I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. Bye.” He hung up. He felt bad for Sehun. And he wondered how Chanyeol was going to take it.
“I mean, you can’t hold it against him forever,” Sungyeol said.
“Right,” Chanyeol said, nodding. He wondered how quickly Sehun was supposed to get over it, though. Cheating was kind of a serious thing, and if Sehun had walked in on it, had seen it firsthand, personally, it seemed like it would be hard to forgive and forget. Suspecting something or even hearing it wasn’t as bad as watching it.
“And it’s not like Sungjong fell in love with someone else, or anything. It wasn’t even close to a relationship. No one takes sasaengs seriously,” Sungyeol said.
“It’s not like emotions were involved,” Chanyeol said. That was an important distinction, at least.
“Right. Just body parts.”
Chanyeol nodded. They were kind of important body parts, though. It wasn’t like bumping against someone’s elbow.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Sungyeol said. “Sehun’s not perfect, either. And he’s lucky to get a great guy like Sungjong. Who else is out there, does he think that he’s going to find someone better?”
Someone as good-looking and successful and talented and wealthy, probably not. Someone faithful, though… Honesty and integrity weren’t that rare, were they?
Waiting for Sehun to show up, Xiumin and Baekhyun started shopping. Looking over racks of clothes, they tried to find something for Sehun. “He could be so chic,” Xiumin said, holding up a shirt.
“He’s really good-looking,” Baekhyun agreed. “So tall and everything.”
“Being tall isn’t that great,” Xiumin said.
Baekhyun snorted. “How would you know? Ow!”
“Maybe this one,” Xiumin said, picking up a shirt with more stripes.
“He has great shoulders, too,” Baekhyun said.
“Shoulders,” Xiumin said, and made a face. “I hate broad, square shoulders. My next boyfriend is going to have no shoulders at all.”
“But isn’t D.O. married?” Baekhyun asked.
Laughing, Xiumin put the shirt back.
“My next boyfriend’s going to be clumsy,” Baekhyun said. “Completely untalented, too. No musical skill at all.”
“Isn’t Sungyeol engaged?” Xiumin asked.
“Ha! Oh! You’re so mean,” Baekhyun said, laughing. He loved it. “Hey, how’s Lay?”
“So sweet and so sexy,” Xiumin said. “I was thinking of bringing him along to the musical. But he won’t have a ticket.”
“If he’s sweet and sexy, he can share my seat,” Baekhyun offered. “Or, uh, no offense, but if Sehun isn’t coming, there’s an extra ticket.”
“Oooh.” Xiumin looked at Baekhyun, his eyebrows going up. His smile was positively wicked. “Could I? Should I bring him?”
“Do it, do it,” Baekhyun urged. “Be mean. Be naughty. Bring your hot new man.”
“Suho did say that he wanted to meet Lay,” Xiumin said.
“Great! Then you’re just bringing him along for Suho hyung’s sake! That’s so nice of you, Xiumin hyung, you’re so kind to do that. Just don’t walk in with him until I’m there, I want to see Sunggyu hyung’s face.”
“What if he doesn’t care?” Xiumin asked. “If he doesn’t care, I’m going to punch him,” he decided.
Glancing around, Baekhyun said, “Don’t say things like that in public. The last thing you need is more antis.”
“I.” Xiumin hesitated, glancing around. Fascinated, Baekhyun leaned in. Lowering his voice, Xiumin admitted, “I did hit him once.”
Gasping, Baekhyun stared at him. “You hit Sunggyu hyung?”
“I slapped him. Slapped his face.” Xiumin winced, looking guilty. “That’s one of the reasons I divorced him. I thought, if things were that bad, if everything was that out of control, I had to get out. I couldn’t stand the kind of life we were living and the kind of relationship we were in.”
“He never - - he didn’t hit you back, or anything, did he?”
“No. No, it was never like that,” Xiumin said, shaking his head. “He’s a lying, cheating asshole, but he never hit me. I can give him credit for that, at least.”
“And he never killed anyone, or burned down a shed.”
“Right,” Xiumin agreed. “No major felonies, no strangling bunnies. He’s such a prince, maybe I should have stayed with him.”
“So, Lay. Better-looking than Sunggyu hyung?”
“We are talking about Kim Sunggyu, right?” Xiumin asked. “Doesn’t that question kind of answer itself?”
Laughing, Baekhyun pushed at his arm. “Sunggyu hyung’s hot! Don’t pretend.”
Xiumin raised a skeptical eyebrow. “He looks like a hamster.”
“You look like Sohee,” Baekhyun pointed out.
“Hey, Sohee’s an idol,” Xiumin said.
“So’s Sunggyu hyung,” Baekhyun said.
Xiumin made a face. “Really? Is the bar that low these days?”
Sehun couldn’t think about Sungjong without getting pissed off. Xiumin and Baekhyun took him to a chic, upscale restaurant, and he ate angrily, chewing too fast and swallowing too soon. They wanted to know all about what had happened with Sungjong, and he knew that they probably just wanted to gossip, but they seemed friendly and supportive, too.
“I showed up with all of those stupid groceries,” he explained. He couldn’t believe that he’d actually started getting into shopping for Sungjong. Suho had made it seem like this really special way to take care of Sungjong, and doing it had made him feel like a good boyfriend, so thoughtful. Why should he be so loyal and considerate when Sungjong was lying to him? “I knocked, and this guy answered the door, this shirtless little piece of shit. He looked at me and laughed and said, ‘What, so many bags, did we order so much?’ And Sungjong hyung came up behind him, saying something like, ‘Ya, don’t just open the door like that,’ and then he saw me and he looked surprised.”
“Damn,” Baekhyun said. His expression was sympathetic. “That’s a rough one, finding them like that. I hate seeing their actual faces and knowing who it was.”
Tense, angry, Sehun shoved more food into his mouth.
“What’d you do with the groceries?” Baekhyun asked.
“What?” Xiumin asked, looking taken aback.
“No, I mean.” Baekhyun laughed, gesturing. “Your hands were full of groceries! What did you do, throw them on the floor, drop them out the window, leave with them and eat them all?”
“I took them back to the store and threw a fucking fit until they took them back and gave me my money,” Sehun said.
“Poor kid,” Xiumin said. “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m pissed off,” he snapped. “What the hell kind of set-up is this? Everyone knows about the cheating and no one talks about it? He knows he’s cheating, the sasaengs know, the rest of the industry knows, all of you know, why am I supposed to be the only one who doesn’t know? I’m just supposed to shut my eyes and pretend everything’s okay?”
“Mostly, they just get away with it until they can’t hide it anymore. And by then, you’re supposed to be in deep enough that you’d rather stay than blow everything up,” Baekhyun said. “It’s awful, but it works.”
“It doesn’t work that well,” Xiumin pointed out.
“What do you want to do?” Baekhyun asked. “Do you want to stay with Sungjong, or go back to him, or whatever? Or is it over?”
Sehun glared at his plate. “I hate him and I want to scream in his face.” He shoved more food into his mouth to keep from going off.
“Have you heard from him?” Xiumin asked.
Swallowing, he nodded. “I have like a thousand missed calls. I don’t even want to talk to him.” He snorted. “Some random number tried to text me, talking about ‘I’m sorry but it wasn’t like that’ and ‘please don’t misunderstand.’ Sungjong hyung must have given that asshole my number and told him what to say.” More lies. Lies on top of lies. Was he supposed to give in and play pretend? Did they really expect him to fall in line and be nice and go along with it? At this point, he didn’t even know if what Woohyun and Suho had was real, or if Suho was just better at playing the game than he’d realized. He didn’t know if Dongwoo was faithful or if Chen was just a gullible fool. No way was he signing up for that shit. “I’d rather be on my own than lie and be lied to and pretend I don’t know what’s going on. He asked me to be his boyfriend, not the guy he hangs out with when he’s not putting his cock everywhere else.”
Nodding, Xiumin raised his drink. The three of them clinked their glasses together.
Sungyeol was in the shower.
His phone was on the bed.
From the doorway, Chanyeol looked at it.
He wasn’t some villain from a drama, to be looking at other people’s phones. He wasn’t paranoid and bitter like Xiumin. He trusted Sungyeol. They loved each other. They were engaged! How was he going to get married, thinking like this?
If he looked through it, he wouldn’t find anything, anyway. Just friends. Just the Infinite members. Sure, sasaengs might call sometimes, but it wasn’t like Sungyeol ever called them.
Or! If he looked through it and didn’t find anything, he could use that as proof that Sungyeol wasn’t cheating on him. Next time Baekhyun said something about how all idols cheated, he could tell Baekhyun all about how honest and faithful Sungyeol was.
Quickly, he zipped across the room. Shit, there were a lot of calls. A lot of calls in, but calls out, too. Pulling out his own phone, he took some photos of Sungyeol’s call logs. He was about to move to the text messages when he heard the shower stop. Hurriedly, he put Sungyeol’s phone back. Feeling nervous and guilty but strangely victorious, he went into the bathroom. “Hyung, are you finished? Suho hyung just texted the address of the theater.”
“Yeah, I’ll be out in a sec. Is my blue shirt clean?”
“Yes, I picked it up this afternoon.”
Now that he had the numbers, what was he going to do with them? Call them himself? He could look them up on-line. He suddenly kind of wished that they were staying home tonight; he wanted to play detective! He couldn’t wait to prove to everyone what a great fiancé Sungyeol was.
Pushing aside the shower curtain, Sungyeol chuckled. “What are you smiling about? You look like you just won something.”
“Just thinking about how much I love you, hyung,” he teased, handing Sungyeol a towel.
“Ew, that’s too sappy.” Taking hold of one end of the towel, Sungyeol tugged him closer, then kissed him. “I love you, too.”
“Xiumin hyung’s here,” D.O. reported.
With an expectant smile, Suho turned around in his seat, looking up the aisle. Quickly, he faced front again, sinking in his seat. “Oh, no,” he breathed.
“What?” Woohyun asked, looking at his closed eyes and then glancing up the aisle. Was that guy with Xiumin? Who - - oh, no. “Is that Lay?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Baekhyun said, grinning from ear to ear. “Xiumin hyung!” he said, waving.
“Oh, he’s good-looking,” D.O. said. He sounded approving.
“Who is?” L asked, sitting up straighter. Following D.O.’s gaze, he frowned. “Who’s that?”
“Xiumin hyung’s boyfriend,” D.O. said.
“Suho hyung invited him?” L asked.
“No, Suho hyung did not invite him,” Suho whispered. Getting to his feet, he smiled. “Hyung, I’m so glad that you came. It’s good that so many people came to support Chen. Is this Lay?”
“He’s good-looking,” Sungjong whispered.
“I’m taller,” Sunggyu muttered under his breath.
“How old do you think he is?” Sungjong asked. “I’ll bet that he’s younger than you. He might be younger than Xiumin hyung.”
“Xiumin’s Mandarin isn’t even that good,” Sunggyu pointed out.
“He has dimples,” Sungjong whispered. “Shit, he’s really cute.”
“How talented can he be?” Sunggyu asked. “The good-looking ones never have to work very hard.”
“Hey,” L said, sitting forward. “I heard that, you know.”
The musical was actually very good, and Chen’s part might have been brief, but it was funny and memorable. Everyone met up in a restaurant afterward. Suho made sure that Sunggyu was at the head of the table, and that Lay was down near the foot. He’d thought that he could trust everyone else to choose a seat, but he must have been wrong, because Hoya ended up right beside Baekhyun. The two of them spent the whole evening joking and teasing and making sarcastic comments, and sometimes their jabs were too sharp, but at least they were getting along. Mostly getting along.
The others all seemed fine. L and D.O. seemed more relaxed than the last few times Suho had seen them, and that had to be a good sign. Chen was really happy about the musical, and Dongwoo was beside himself with pride, so they were even more adorable than usual. “They’re the cutest couple I’ve ever seen,” Suho told Woohyun.
“I know,” Woohyun said, and laughed. “I hate them.”
“We should do something really nice for their wedding.”
“Who?” Baekhyun asked. “Is someone getting married?”
“Chen and Dongwoo hyung,” Suho explained.
“Oh. You did that whole thing with the ballad singers and the dancers and doves for L and D.O.’s wedding, didn’t you?”
Suho smiled, remembering it. “We did. It went really well, didn’t it?” he asked Woohyun. “If it’s okay to say that with my own mouth!”
“I’ll say it for you,” Woohyun said, and kissed him. “It went really well, honey, you did a great job with it.”
“You, uh, didn’t have something planned for my wedding, did you?” Baekhyun asked.
“There was a honeymoon trip,” Suho admitted. “I know you both wanted to go to Hawaii, so we made some arrangements for you. We were going to surprise you, but we didn’t get a chance to tell you about it.”
“Hawaii?” Baekhyun’s eyes widened, the corners of his mouth turning down. “We missed Hawaii,” he said, turning to Hoya. “You jerk, we could’ve gone to Hawaii! They had the whole thing planned!”
“Hey, I want to go to Hawaii,” Hoya said. Leaning past Baekhyun, he asked, “You don’t still have the tickets, do you?”
“No, not anymore,” Woohyun said. Suho was glad that it was something that they could joke about. “I don’t think they’d be good anymore.”
“Hey, if I still have the tux, maybe you still have the tickets,” Hoya said, shrugging and sitting back. “It was worth asking.”
“What do you mean, you still have the tux?” Baekhyun asked. “What tux?”
“Oh. You see, I was going to get married,” Hoya explained. “To this good-looking guy with - - oh, that was you! I was going to get married to you. I don’t know if you remember. I needed something to wear, so I had a tuxedo made.”
“Were you always this annoying?” Baekhyun asked.
“Were you always this pretty?” Hoya asked.
“Shut up,” Baekhyun said, blushing. “You don’t still have any tux.”
“They made it and sent it to me, so I have it.” He shrugged. “It’s in the back of my closet.”
“Why would you have one made?” Baekhyun asked. “You have one, I’ve seen you in it.”
“Stylists put me in tuxes, but those belong to Woollim,” Hoya said. “I thought, it’s my wedding, I want my own tux. It’s not the company’s wedding.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t know about this,” Baekhyun said. He shook his head. “I guess there’s a lot of stuff you kept from me. Tuxedoes, sex with other people, little things like that.”
Pressing his lips together, Hoya didn’t say anything. He looked down and toyed with his food, his expression tense and unhappy. Baekhyun ate and started a conversation with Chanyeol.
Suho nudged Woohyun. “If it was the company’s wedding, he would’ve been engaged to Dongwoo hyung, not to Baekhyun. And Sunggyu hyung would’ve married you, not Xiumin hyung.”
“Why would we want to marry each other?” Woohyun asked.
Suho smiled a little and went back to eating.
“Oh,” Woohyun said, nodding. “You’re one of those Inspirits.”
After leaving the restaurant, Xiumin went home and had great sex. He was lounging in bed, feeling pretty good, when someone texted him. Do you really like that guy?
He wasn’t in the habit of entertaining strange numbers. Who is this?
Ya, it’s Kim Sunggyu.
Or a sasaeng. He’d changed his number too many times; Sunggyu didn’t have this one. Prove it.
The phone rang. Wondering, not liking the eager flutter in his chest, he rolled out of bed. Padding into the hallway, he answered. “Who is this?”
“It’s your husband.”
The sudden leaping of his heart was downright painful. Giving himself a quick shake, he glared, angry at Sunggyu for still affecting him like this. “Ex-husband.”
“I’m still the only one you have, ex-husband or husband or any kind of husband.”
“What do you want?” he asked, going into the living room. He sat on the couch, tucking his legs under him. Brushing aside a corner of the curtain, he peeked out. Gorgeous view. Too bad he couldn’t enjoy it, since the curtains were always closed in case there were sasaengs out there. They tended to have some of the best camera lenses on the market.
“Do you really like that guy? That Lay?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“What’s so great about him?” Sunggyu grumbled. “He’s not tall or anything.”
“Neither am I,” Xiumin reminded him. “Hang up.”
“Is he really a singer? I’ll bet that I’m better.”
Xiumin shook his head, exasperated. “Why does that matter? I’m choosing a boyfriend, not auditioning main vocals.”
“Dimples aren’t so great.”
“Don’t you want to hang up yet?” Xiumin asked.
“Let’s meet up somewhere. Just the two of us. We can go to dinner tomorrow.”
“If you want to eat out, take your lawyer. I’m busy.”
“Why do you have to speak so formally?” Sunggyu demanded. “Why can’t you be nice and call me hyung?”
“Why can’t you be nice and not cheat on your husband?”
“Is that all?” Sunggyu asked.
Xiumin choked and coughed on his phone. “Is that all?!”
“I mean, is that - - what else was there?” Sunggyu asked. “What were the things that I did wrong, which things did you want me to fix? Wasn’t there anything that I did right?”
“You were dishonest, you were disrespectful, you were selfish, you were mean,” Xiumin said. “It all goes back to the cheating, but there’s so much more to it than where you poked your cock. I told you that, I told you everything. That’s something else, you didn’t care, you didn’t listen, you didn’t want to change. You didn’t want to try to fix things, you just wanted me to stop bothering you about it.” Remembering it was so infuriating, he couldn’t talk to Sunggyu anymore. “I’ll hang up first.”
“Maybe your lawyer will wait for you,” Xiumin said. “Maybe your members will wait for you. I’ll bet that Inspirit will wait for you forever. But I’m finished.” He hung up.
Chanyeol was so curious, he couldn’t stand it. He waited until Sungyeol was finally asleep, and then he got out of bed and went into the den. In his underwear, he sat down in front of his computer. He wrote down all of the numbers, marking the number of calls and whether they’d been ingoing, outgoing, or both. Then he looked them all up.
Most of them he couldn’t find at all. A couple he traced to fans. Some were industry people, like writers and dancers and cameramen. But that didn’t really tell him anything, did it? He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he didn’t feel satisfied.
He started to text Baekhyun. Then he realized that it was four in the morning. He texted Baekhyun anyway, and then he went to bed.
In the morning, after he’d sucked Sungyeol off, while he was on his way to the kitchen to make breakfast, he checked his phone. He had a text from Baekhyun.
Meet me for lunch. I think we should talk about it.
“So what do we tell him?” Baekhyun asked, playing with the straw in his drink.
“We have to tell him the truth.”
Baekhyun winced. “But it’ll break his big, happy heart. And he won’t blame Sungyeol, he’ll blame me, for telling him.”
“Then I’ll tell him, and he can blame me,” Xiumin said. “I’m the villain anyway, right? I’m used to it.” Spotting Chanyeol entering the restaurant, he waved. “Oooh, he’s not happy to see me here,” he said under his breath as Chanyeol headed in their direction.
“Hi,” Baekhyun said, pushing out a chair with his foot. “Sit down.”
“I didn’t think that you’d tell Xiumin hyung,” Chanyeol said, taking a seat.
“I wanted to be sure that I remembered things right,” Baekhyun said. “I didn’t want to tell you something that wasn’t true and mess things up.”
“Let’s order first, before we get into that,” Xiumin suggested.
“If it’s okay, I’d rather you just tell me,” Chanyeol said.
Baekhyun sighed and shot Xiumin a miserable look across the table.
It was up to him, then. “I know some of those phone numbers,” Xiumin said.
“Between us, we know almost all of them,” Baekhyun said.
“Some of them are just writers and other staff,” Chanyeol said. “A lot of Sungyeol hyung’s friends are other people in the industry. Idols and actors and people like that.”
“Right, but they’re also people that sleep around,” Xiumin said. “I can tell you exactly which ones of them had sex with Kim Sunggyu, if you want. While we were married.”
“One number is that bug-faced idol,” Baekhyun said. “He’s had sex with at least four of the members. Infinite’s members.”
“While we were married,” Xiumin repeated.
“A lot of those numbers are sasaengs,” Baekhyun said. “If I know those numbers, so does Sungyeol hyung. That’s why he doesn’t have them saved in his phone. He doesn’t need to save them, he recognizes them when they call.”
“That’s one of the tricks,” Xiumin said. “If he saves the number with a name, then you say, ‘Kim So-and-so, who’s that, is that who you’re screwing behind my back?’ If he doesn’t save the number, then it’s just some random number that pops up in his phone. He can say that he doesn’t know who it was. If you see that he called back, he can say, ‘Oh, some strange number called and I missed it, I just called back to see who it was, but it was some wrong number.’ Or, ‘It was just some fan who got hold of my number, I’ll have to change it soon.’ He doesn’t know that you’ll start recognizing the number, too. He doesn’t know that the same number is texting you and calling you, cursing at you and threatening you for being with him.”
Baekhyun shuddered. “I don’t miss that.”
“Suho hyung doesn’t get calls like that,” Chanyeol said. “Neither does Chen. What were you two doing so wrong that everyone had to harass you?”
Xiumin had blamed himself too much in the past to accept it from anyone else. “Why don’t you ask Kim Sunggyu what he was doing so wrong that he didn’t shield me?”
“You know what Chen does when he gets those calls?” Baekhyun asked. “He hands the phone to Dongwoo hyung, and Dongwoo hyung takes care of it.”
“If they get Dongwoo hyung on the phone, they’ll call more, won’t they?” Chanyeol asked, frowning.
Xiumin shook his head. “It works. Dongwoo and Woohyun talk to the fans, they communicate well, they meet with the fans and explain what kind of behavior’s okay and what they don’t like. Kim Sunggyu never did that for me.” But he had to be fair. He’d been the first husband, the first fiancé, the first serious relationship. He’d been an experiment, a test. Management and fans and everyone had freaked out. No one had known what to do or how things would work out. They knew more about it now, and the fans were more used to it now. Things would be different for the rest of the members’ relationships. “You need to get Sungyeol to be that way. Make sure that he talks to the fans.”
“Tell him to copy and paste whatever Woohyun hyung says,” Baekhyun said. “Woohyun hyung always knows how to treat the fans.”
“What about L?” Chanyeol asked. “Isn’t he shielding D.O.?”
“What good is what he says, when everyone knows what he does?” Xiumin asked. “He can say whatever he wants, but they all know that he’s cheating. He’s public with it, he’s not even discreet. If he doesn’t care about his marriage, why should anyone else?”
On the couch that night, Sungyeol kissed his way up Chanyeol’s long, sexy neck. “Mmm, I’m so hot for you,” he murmured, tugging Chanyeol’s shirt up. “Can’t wait to feel your tongue licking all over my cock. Gonna get so hard for you.”
“Yeah, ah, hyung.” Chanyeol’s hands slid over his shoulders, but instead of pulling him closer on the couch, Chanyeol pushed at him. “Unh, hyung. You aren’t screwing that bug-faced idol, are you?”
What? He froze, questions flashing through his mind. What did Chanyeol know? What did Chanyeol think that he knew? Why ask him something like that? “Bug-faced idol? Who is that, what are you talking about?” Carefully looking puzzled, not guilty, he met Chanyeol’s eyes.
“That bug-faced idol. Have you been seeing him? Having sex with him?”
“What are you talking about?” he repeated. “Why are you asking me? What do you think is going on? I’m not seeing anybody besides you. Aren’t we engaged?”
“You’ve been talking to him.”
“I talk to a lot of people! We see each other around sometimes. That’s okay, isn’t it? I’m friends with a lot of idols, we have a lot in common and we spend a lot of time together waiting backstage. You can’t be jealous of everybody I’m friends with.”
“What about that PD for KBS or that cameraman from MBC?” Chanyeol asked. “What about all of those sasaengs? It’s all just friendship with everybody?”
“Where are you getting all of this?” he asked, frowning. “What cameraman?”
“All of those calls in your phone! They don’t just call you, you call them, too, and there are a lot of calls. They’re not all short, either, some of them are long calls. What do you talk to them about?”
“My phone?” he demanded sharply, pulling away. “What do you mean? Were you hunting through my phone?”
“Why do you talk to those people so much?” Chanyeol asked. “If you talk to them that often, why don’t you do it in front of me? Why are you hiding it? Are you sneaking around waiting to call them when I’m not here?”
“How can you talk to me about sneaking around when you’re going through my phone?” he demanded. “I can’t believe you! You think that I’m being dishonest with you, but look at you! You’re going around my back, looking for problems, and then you jump on any excuse to make accusations! Why are you like this? How long have you been this way? I thought that I could trust you.”
“I was trying to prove to Baekhyun and Xiumin hyung that nothing was wrong! That you weren’t cheating!”
“Those two.” Shaking his head, Sungyeol got to his feet. “It’s the two of them! I told you not to hang out with them! All they do is spew all of that poison. What do you expect from angry exes? Of course they want to ruin things between us. They don’t have anything of their own, so they want to ruin ours.” He threw his hands up in frustration. “And you’re going to let them!”
“Hyung, I don’t want to fight about it,” Chanyeol protested. He looked more and more worried, his mouth upset, his eyes wide and distressed. “If you could explain to me about those phone calls…”
“I’m not going to,” Sungyeol said. “I already told you that I’m not cheating. Why should I explain myself to someone who sneaks around behind my back, gossiping and snooping and making up problems? You’ll just think up something else to accuse me of.” He grabbed his phone and headed for the door. “I’m going out.”
A couple of days after the argument, the Infinite members listened to Sungyeol’s story while they were gathered in Hoya’s living room. “What are you going to do?” L asked.
“I don’t know,” Sungyeol said. “He’ll calm down. He’s not going to call off the wedding.”
“I have an idea,” Woohyun said. “I’ve got it!” Reaching over, he grabbed Sungyeol’s shoulders, shaking. “Stop cheating on Chanyeol! Stop messing around behind his back! Stop! Cheating! You! Fool!”
Raising an eyebrow, Hoya nodded like it was a recommendation worth considering.
“It’s just a couple of quick hook-ups,” Sungyeol complained, pushing Woohyun’s hands away. “It doesn’t mean anything. I do most of it when we’re on tour, anyway. What does it matter if it’s in another country with someone I’m never going to see again? It’s not like I’m choosing someone else over him when he’s not even around. I don’t even remember their names.”
“What about all of the people in your phone?” Woohyun asked. “What about all of the people you have sex with in Korea? In Seoul? What about the ones you see over and over again? What about all of the people he knows and just doesn’t know that you’re messing around with?”
“It’s not like they mean anything,” L said. “Sex is just sex. Chanyeol’s the one he’s engaged to.”
“I don’t get it,” Dongwoo said. “If you want to have a relationship over here,” he shaped an invisible box with his hands, “and sex over here,” he made a second box, “then why don’t you have a relationship over here with someone who doesn’t care about what happens over here? There are a lot of people who’d be okay with it. Open relationships, aren’t they called open relationships?”
“I think you get off on getting away with as much of it as you can behind Chanyeol’s back,” Woohyun said frankly.
“Oh, I’m the asshole now?” Sungyeol demanded. “He went through my phone behind my back, he’s gossiping about me with-”
“You have sex with other people behind his back!” Woohyun exclaimed. “If all he did was go through your phone, you’re lucky!”
“Since when do you have such a problem with it?” Sungyeol demanded.
“Since Xiumin hyung filed for divorce,” Woohyun said. “Since Suho told me that if I ever cheated on him again, he’d leave me, and I realized that he meant it. Since D.O. and L are the unhappiest people I’ve ever met, and they don’t have to be. Things don’t have to be this way. If you had a backbone, if you had any willpower, if you had even a little bit of integrity, if you cared about the guy you say that you want to spend the rest of your life with, you’d knock it the fuck off.”
“I’m getting out of here,” Sungyeol said, pushing himself off of the couch.
“Use a condom!” Woohyun called after him. The door slammed.
“You don’t have to be so hard on him,” L said.
“He shouldn’t be so hard on Chanyeol,” Dongwoo said.
L looked away.
Pick up! Pick up! Pick up! Shifting in his seat, Baekhyun listened to the phone ring.
“Hello?” Xiumin finally asked.
“Hyung! Where have you been?” he demanded.
“In a meeting. What are you so excited about?”
“I have an eight foot tall drunk guy singing sad songs and crying all over my living room floor,” Baekhyun said. “Please come over here, I don’t know what to do with him.”
There was a pause. Miserable warbling rose up from the floor. Then Xiumin asked, “Chanyeol’s over there, isn’t he? He talked to Sungyeol.”
“He talked to Sungyeol hyung,” Baekhyun agreed. “And it didn’t go well. Please, seriously, he’s a mess. I don’t know what to say to him.”
“I don’t know, either,” Xiumin admitted. “I’ll be there in half an hour, okay?”
“The poor guy,” Chen said softly, closing Baekhyun’s bedroom door on the sound of Chanyeol’s snoring.
“Can you blame him?” Baekhyun asked.
“No,” D.O. said shortly, gathering up beer cans around the living room.
“He’s heartbroken,” Chen said. “I didn’t know that it would be this bad.”
“The first time is the worst,” D.O. said. He carried the cans into the kitchen, where Suho and Xiumin snacked and watched Baekhyun clean up. It was a tiny kitchen, so they all migrated back to the living room.
“Do you think that they’ll get back together?” Baekhyun asked.
“Probably,” D.O. said.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, right?” Chen asked.
“No,” Xiumin said.
“I should get home,” Suho said. “Does anybody need a ride?”
“I’ll take one,” Baekhyun said.
“You live here!” Chen said, laughing.
“I don’t want to stay here with him,” Baekhyun protested, waving one arm toward his bedroom door. “What am I going to say to him when he wakes up?”
“What do you wish that someone had said to you?” Xiumin asked.
“It’ll be okay,” Baekhyun guessed.
“You can get through it,” Chen said.
“It’s not your fault,” D.O. said.
“Walking away isn’t failure, it’s strength,” Xiumin said.
“Staying isn’t weakness,” Suho said. “I thought that it was. Who stays with someone who’s cheating on you? I thought that I was being so spineless and stupid.”
“I thought that leaving would be admitting to everyone what a failure I was,” Xiumin said. “I had such a great guy, the guy everybody else wanted, and I couldn’t make it work. I had so much and I wasn’t happy, when everyone was telling me how lucky I was and how much they envied me. I thought that I should be more supportive, I should be sexier. Or I should be more cynical and more jaded about how the industry works. Or I should be more loving and more accepting of his flaws. Nobody’s perfect, everybody makes mistakes, he could do better than me and I should just be grateful for what I had. My head was in a dozen places at once, and I felt like everything I did was wrong.”
“It’s like a nightmare,” Suho admitted. “Not trusting him and not knowing what he’s doing. You second-guess everything. You can drive yourself in circles, trying to figure out if he’s lying to you, if he’s at it again, if he really went where he said he would.”
“How did you start to trust him again?” Chen asked.
“I gave it time,” Suho said. “I had to stop myself and take a leap of faith. And for a while, I had a private investigator track every step that he took.” He sighed, glancing at the bedroom door. “It was a really, really hard process, and it took us a while to get through it. But that’s why I want each of you to know that I’m here for you. We have to support each other. Whether you stay or you go, you need your friends beside you.”
Xiumin nodded. “I would’ve had it so much worse without you. Even when I didn’t want to see you, you were always around.” He smiled. “Listening to me yell and helping me pack and bringing me crap for my new place.”
“You all helped me so much,” Baekhyun said. “Even when I didn’t know what to do. I kept telling myself to stick it out and make it work, and then I’d decide that I had to get out while I could. Our wedding date was right in front of me and I was like, okay, either I commit to this for the rest of my life, or I end it right now, but I’m not getting married and then getting divorced.”
“You’re smarter than I am,” Xiumin said. “I went ahead and married the jerk.”
“I should’ve married him,” Baekhyun said. “At least I would’ve gotten a nice vacation in Hawaii out of it.”
“Yeah, relaxing on the beach while Hoya screwed everyone in the resort,” Xiumin said. “Not worth it.”
When Chen got back from Baekhyun’s apartment, he found Dongwoo in boxer-briefs on the couch, watching a movie. Needing reassurance, he crawled onto the couch, snuggling in against Dongwoo’s chest.
“Hey, what’s this?” Dongwoo asked, turning off the TV and hugging him. “This is nice.”
Rubbing his cheek against Dongwoo’s chest, he closed his eyes. He couldn’t stop remembering Chanyeol’s wet eyes and anguished words. He couldn’t help but remember his own confusion and torment, when Dongwoo had been sleeping around on him. “Hyung, you’re honest with me, aren’t you?”
“What?” Dongwoo asked, stroking his hair. “Yes, I’m honest with you. I’m honest with everybody.”
He licked his lips. Raising his head, he looked into Dongwoo’s eyes, needing to see Dongwoo’s expression. “Can we add something to our pre-nup?”
Dongwoo nodded. His expression was frank and attentive. “Sure. We just have to talk to the lawyers about it. Why, did we forget something?”
“I want to add a clause about cheating. I know that if anything bad happens between us, I won’t get anything, and that’s okay. I love you so much, I’m just glad to be with you. But that’s if we fight, or if we just decide to be apart. I want something about cheating, specifically. That if you cheat on me, with anybody, even once, I get half of everything.”
“Oh.” Dongwoo nodded. “Okay. That’s fair, isn’t it?” He grimaced, looking uncomfortable. “I hate talking about these things! I don’t like thinking about something going wrong. It’s like when we had to sign all of that paperwork about funerals and life insurance policies! I feel like ghosts are reaching for me.” Shivering, he rubbed his upper arms.
“Is it okay, then? The cheating clause?” Chen wanted to make sure. It made him feel better to hear Dongwoo’s lack of objections.
“I think so. Ugh, just thinking about it is making me anxious!” he exclaimed, hugging Chen. “If I cheat on you, you can have all of my stuff, I don’t care. I’ll be too upset to worry about it. I don’t even want to think about your sad face. Things like that give me nightmares.”
Snuggling in, Chen was reassured. Their relationship had been through some very rough, painful patches, but he believed in Dongwoo. He trusted that Dongwoo was essentially a good, honest man who wouldn’t knowingly, deliberately do something that would hurt him. Not after everything they’d been through, not after the heartache. “No nightmares. Let’s have good dreams tonight.”
“Is Chanyeol okay?” Dongwoo asked. “He’s such a good guy, I wish he weren’t so unhappy.”
Chen wished that Sungyeol would treat him better. “I don’t know if he can go back to Sungyeol hyung. Especially if Sungyeol hyung won’t try to work on it.”
“Working on it’s hard,” Dongwoo said. “So hard!” Then his arms tightened around Chen. “But it’s worth it. Even if it had been five times harder, you were always worth it.”
In the morning, Chanyeol was a wreck. He stumbled out of the bedroom like an unsteady giraffe and landed on the couch, where he moaned and drank coffee. Needing to get to class and then to work, Baekhyun had to leave him there.
It was tough, seeing him like that. It was a really strong, unwelcome reminder of exactly why Baekhyun had been right to get the hell away from Hoya.
On the bus, Baekhyun texted Kai. Whether Kai was a dancer or not, it was definitely time for him to date someone new. He wanted to push his life forward. The more distance between him and what he’d lost, the better.
When Chen showed up on the set of Infinite’s photo shoot for their big magazine feature, Suho was already there. He went over and said hello to Dongwoo, and then he settled onto the couch in the stylist’s room with Suho.
They talked comfortably while people moved in and out of the room. He wasn’t surprised to find Suho there, because Suho had been the one to teach him to show up whenever he wanted without warning. Suho had also been the one to teach him not to feel embarrassed about “checking up on” Dongwoo. He hadn’t done anything that he needed to feel guilty about. And it was good for him to be present, to see for himself that Dongwoo wasn’t doing anything to make him worry, to send a clear message to the staff and hangers-on that he was involved in Dongwoo’s life.
Chen noticed a particularly friendly stylist being especially attentive to the members. She was way more flirtatious than he was comfortable with. Most of the members flirted right back, especially Sungyeol. Woohyun, on the other hand, was polite but not very responsive to it, and brought her over to the couch to introduce her to Suho. One flash of Suho’s shiny gold wedding ring and one flash of Suho’s gracious, deadly smile, and suddenly she was all professionalism and business when it came to Woohyun. Chen had to figure out how to perfect that look.
Dongwoo seemed oblivious to her interest, but that was typical enough to be reassuring. When he didn’t intend any flirtation himself, he never noticed anyone else’s flirting, either.
After a while, D.O. arrived on the set, too. Chen was glad to see him, and invited him to sit with them. “Can’t,” he said. “I’m here to work. They’re doing a section on me and L hyung.”
Sunggyu came into the room. “You came!”
D.O. nodded. “Hi, hyung.”
“Where is that kid?” Sunggyu asked, glancing around. “Ya! L! L! Where are you?”
“It’s okay,” D.O. said.
Laughing, L opened a door, emerging from the tiny dressing room in his new outfit. His shirt was still unbuttoned halfway down, and the stylist was right behind him, running her hands up his back. Chen cringed, unable to look at D.O. Noticing D.O., L smiled and came forward. “Hey, you made it.”
Silently, D.O. let L hug him. He hugged L back, but his expression was blank.
“Look at your bare face,” L said, smiling and running his hand through D.O.’s hair. “My hyungs are all fixed up for the shoot and you’re still more handsome anyway.”
“Ya,” Sunggyu said. “Don’t say things like that. Even if it’s true, you shouldn’t say it.”
L chuckled, still toying with D.O.’s hair. “Let’s get you all done up.” His hand dropped, his arm circling D.O.’s waist, and he guided D.O. to the make-up chair. Did anyone else feel as tense as Chen did? L seemed calm and charming and glad to see D.O., but did he think that D.O. hadn’t noticed that moment with the stylist? How could he be in there flirting with her one second and then hugging his husband the next? Didn’t he care? Didn’t he feel even a little bit guilty? By now, he had to know how much it hurt D.O. Did he just not care? Not enough to stop doing it, anyway. Not enough to look embarrassed now.
Chen hated this so much. He felt so tense, so stressed out, so conflicted, that he could only watch helplessly. He couldn’t speak up, D.O. would hate that. Needing to show some kind of support, though, he got up and went over to where D.O. was taking a seat in the make-up chair. “What’s the theme of the shoot?”
“Something kind of natural and sexy,” D.O. said. “I hate sexy concepts.”
“Here,” the stylist said, turning L around and adjusting his shirt. “Sexy concepts are one of the best parts of my job,” she added with a teasing look.
“Ah, it’s okay,” L told her with an easy, charming smile. He moved between D.O.’s chair and the mirror, facing D.O. as he buttoned up. “Looks okay?” He was very clearly asking D.O. and no one else.
D.O. nodded. “Handsome.” He didn’t seem to take any pleasure in it.
“One step back, please,” the photographer said. D.O. put one foot back. “That’s right.”
In front of the backdrop, D.O. faced the camera. His body was turned toward L, his hand on L’s shoulder. He kept his expression focused, his gaze directed toward the camera. He could hear Sungyeol’s sudden peal of laughter, and his thoughts strayed toward Chanyeol, and how pathetic Chanyeol had looked crying on Baekhyun’s floor. How pathetic he’d felt not very long ago, when he’d cried on Suho’s couch. He didn’t cry in front of anyone anymore, though. He kept his tears private, along with his anger.
“Ah, great. All right.” The photographer stepped aside to confer with someone. D.O. dropped his hand and took a step back. He was aware that people were watching, so he made it look natural, casual, like he was just breaking the professional pose to relax. Not like he couldn’t stand touching his own husband.
“The interview shouldn’t take very long,” L said. “I think that they’re sending over the old woman with the white hair to do it.”
That was a relief, at least. Someone he didn’t have to worry about L cheating with. “She’s nice.” He watched the photographer, waiting. He wanted to get through the shoot, get through the interview, and then. Then what? Go home to a quiet apartment where he felt completely alone whether L was there or not?
Messing with his camera, the photographer stepped back into place. “It’s going well. Let’s get some ‘What did you call me?’ shots.”
His patient, cooperative expression didn’t falter, but inwardly, D.O. resisted. He and L had met on the set of a drama, and their characters had been at each other’s throats. Ever since, people loved to make them recreate their most infamous in-character argument. Fans liked the intensity of it, especially because of the contrast between their TV animosity and their real life love story. It had been okay, at first, but the worse his relationship with L became, the more uncomfortable it was to mock-fight.
“Yes,” L said. “I think, is it okay, did we do that for this magazine before? Maybe we could recreate other characters. Readers might like to see D.O. do his Choi lawyer again, and I can do the café owner from ‘Recipe for a Princess.’ Wouldn’t they go well together?”
Relieved, D.O. stared at the photographer, mentally willing him to agree. It was a great idea. They were both happy, comedic roles; no glaring and fuming. They were also recent roles, which made it easier to get into character.
“Yeah, that would be okay,” the photographer said. “Let’s try a few shots.”
Breathing deeply, D.O. tried to get into the right mindset. Goofy, well-meaning, honest, heroic, clumsy. Optimistic, determined. Relaxing his posture, he widened his eyes happily at the photographer, laughing.
“Gosh, uh, gee,” L said, ducking his head and rubbing the back of his neck. D.O. looked over at him, and he peeked up at D.O. from beneath his lashes. “Gosh, I don’t know.” Blushing, L glanced away and then back again, looking shy. “Aigoo, what to do?”
D.O. was already smiling, and it was easy to keep smiling, easy to smile right at L, at this sweet, good-looking guy who reminded him of better moments. They smiled goofily at each other, and when L became too flustered to maintain eye contact anymore, he laughed. The camera clicked and flashed, capturing everything as they posed and chuckled. D.O. played earnest and L played bashful, and the way L smiled at him softened his heart. He’d never been able to resist those emotional, velvet brown eyes. They’d had to pretend to be other people to get to this moment, but they were both happy, and it felt so, so good to smile at L and see L smile back without any complications between them.
“Great,” the photographer said. “Let’s finish up with some arrogance. Let’s give the readers something a little sexy so they won’t want to turn the page.”
L chuckled, giving D.O. a private, knowing look. Suddenly, L was sizzling, and D.O. felt breathless. Drawn to L, he moved closer, not wanting to look away. Smirking, gazing deeply into his eyes, L was sexy, captivating his attention, stimulating his imagination. There was a world of erotic suggestion in the way L eyed him, and the way L gazed right at him, like there was no one else in the room, like no one else mattered, only intensified the gravitational pull.
With lazy slowness, L blinked, and by the time L’s eyes were open again, the room felt ten degrees hotter and the two of them had somehow moved in so close together that they were practically already kissing. His lips parting, D.O. put his hand on L’s shoulder, balling the cotton of L’s shirt in his fist, wanting to hold onto this moment, not ready for L to pull away yet.
Another private smile, and being this close when L’s eyes sparkled with such affection made D.O.’s heart melt. “One of us should look at the camera,” L murmured, his voice pitched for D.O.’s ears only. They were in a room full of people, but this moment was theirs, something only between the two of them. “It has to be you.”
“Right.” He just had to figure out how to tear his gaze from L’s handsome face and those deep, loving eyes. His chest ached; he wanted to stop time and just stay here for a while, stay here where things were good. “Why can’t it be you?”
A lazy shift, a sinuous ripple making its way through L’s body; L’s arm draped over his shoulders. “Because I want to keep looking at you.”
“Ya,” the photographer said, chuckling. “I’m over here. We’re still on the set, let’s finish this up. Try looking this way.”
L narrowed his eyes, giving D.O. a deliberately brooding, scalding stare. He liked it so much that he smiled, and L chuckled at him, nuzzling his ear in such an affectionate way that he relaxed his grip and stroked the side of L’s neck. Remembering his job, he shot the camera a few of his typical “fierce” looks, the ones that L loved and Suho said made him look scary. Beside him, L shifted and posed and brooded at the side of his face, and despite his deliberately intense expression, he was smiling on the inside.
“Great,” the photographer said, snapping a few last shots. “All right, we’re finished! Thank you.”
“Thank you,” L said promptly, the arm around D.O.’s shoulders slipping down around the waist as he bowed. Immediately, he was right back to gazing at D.O. like he’d never looked away. The affection in his eyes and the soft, slight smile on his lips spoke of genuine happiness. “I like working with you.”
“It’s nice,” he agreed. Experience told him to toughen up and get away, but he took a risk and trusted the moment to last for a little while longer. He let his heart stay soft, let himself enjoy the way L smiled at him.
“We should do another drama together,” L said. “A comedy. Your lawyer and my café owner.”
He smiled at the thought. “Aren’t they both too clumsy? All of that falling over and bumping into things, the female lead would be in physical danger.”
L’s eyes sparkled with amusement and private affection all for him. “We don’t need a female lead. We can be the love interests, just the two of us. Don’t you think that Choi lawyer would like it?”
“Yes,” he admitted. He wished that they were alone somewhere, that they were at home. He wanted to kiss L, wanted to make the most of the moment while he felt this good. “Isn’t the café owner too shy? I’d have to do all of the confessing.”
“But you’re good at confessing,” L said, the arm around his waist drawing him closer. “Didn’t you confess to me first?”
Remembering it made him smile. “I was too awkward. When you confessed, it was so much prettier.”
L smiled right back at him, and he felt like they were both in this magical moment together, like L felt all of the same love and gentle happiness that he did. “I liked you so much, every time I saw you, my heart pounded like I’d just run up a hundred flights of stairs.”
“You were so handsome, I only wanted to look at you.”
L laughed like that had been a weird thing to say. “You’re the one who’s good-looking. You’re undeniable.”
He didn’t care about his looks. He had pale skin and big eyes, that was all, the kind of stuff people liked to put on TV. L was the one with some mystical ability to capture his entire heart with one look. “I really love you,” he admitted. It wasn’t even hard to say.
L’s dimpled smile was so sweet and warm, it would have melted the coldest heart. “I love you, too,” he said, like he meant it so much that it embarrassed him. He was so sincere and happy and bashful, D.O. just smiled at him foolishly, and then he laughed a little and hugged D.O., and D.O. hugged him back, and they stayed there just like that until someone came to tell them that the interviewer was there.
Suho was glad that Chen had come to the photo shoot. He’d used to come to these sorts of things with Xiumin, and then with Baekhyun, too. Now both Xiumin and Baekhyun were gone, and the way things were with Sungyeol, he wasn’t sure that Chanyeol would ever be back, either. It was like being in some competition, some test of endurance, and so far he was the only winner. Familiar places, like the Woollim offices, were littered with memories and ghosts. It was nice to have Chen around, to remind him that this really could work, to help him to keep the faith. He didn’t want to be the only winner; he didn’t want to be alone and special in this.
While Woohyun was in front of the camera, he lingered on the edges of the set, watching. Every time Woohyun smiled in his direction and shot him a heart, he smiled and shot one right back. Sometimes that led to them fluttering a dozen hearts at each other in a row, but that was just fine with him, and Woohyun loved it.
Woohyun looked so handsome, Suho pulled out his phone and took a few photos, himself. Those muscular arms, those devilish smiles, who could resist? Scrolling through his messages, he chose a few Inspirits and texted a different photo to each one. Behind the scenes of the photo shoot today. Infinite works hard!
Stepping away from the backdrop, Woohyun paused to speak with staff for a moment. After that, he made a beeline for Suho. “One more outfit for the cover.”
“Another outfit? You look amazing in this.”
“I know!” Woohyun teased, laughing. Suho loved his smile lines. “Maybe they want me in something ugly, so I won’t be too handsome and outshine everyone else on the cover. Have to give the other members a chance.”
“It’s hard on you, being so much better-looking than the others,” he said, patting Woohyun’s arm. “Try to endure it.” His phone lit up, and he glanced at his new messages.
“What is it?” Woohyun asked.
“Your wives,” he said, showing Woohyun the screen.
“Ooh.” Curving his arm around Suho’s waist, Woohyun read, smiling. At the last reply, he burst into laughter. “Always asking for Sunggyu hyung!”
“Asking for what?” Sunggyu asked, coming up behind them. “What about me, what are you saying?”
“Here, hyung,” Woohyun said, taking his hand. “Let’s go get my phone, we have to take a couple shot.”
“What couple?” Sunggyu asked, letting Woohyun lead him away. “Isn’t Suho your couple?”
“Shouldn’t we give Inspirit what they want?” Woohyun asked.
“They want strange things, sometimes,” Sunggyu said. Trailing behind, Suho smiled.
As the seven members gathered in front of the backdrop, Hoya tugged at the hem of his shirt, then at the neckline, trying to get comfortable in the itchy fabric. Everyone shuffled into place, Sunggyu pushing at Sungyeol, Dongwoo dancing against Woohyun. Hoya glanced to the side, where Suho and Chen stood behind staff. “Chanyeol’s not coming at all?” he asked Sungyeol.
Sungyeol shot him a disgruntled look. “I don’t know, is Baekhyun coming?”
He raised his eyebrows, silently acknowledging the barb. Then he glanced over at Suho and Chen again. Sometimes he missed just having someone, missed having someone who was there just for him. And sometimes, way more often, he missed Baekhyun specifically. Baekhyun had been so much fun. So witty and playful and honest. He missed making Baekhyun laugh, missed the way they’d teased each other. He missed cracking up at all of the funny, stupid things Baekhyun said and did, and he missed how ridiculously adorable Baekhyun could be, and he missed how annoyed and grumpy Baekhyun could look first thing in the morning. He missed the fantastic sex, too. He had plenty of other people to have sex with - - that had, uh, been a big problem for Baekhyun, actually - - but there had always been something about sex with Baekhyun in particular that had kept him coming back for more and more and more. He missed feeling Baekhyun squirm against him, missed the way Baekhyun urged him on, missed kissing Baekhyun’s pretty fingers.
He wished that Baekhyun would come back, but he didn’t know how to make that happen. He’d tried to keep Baekhyun from leaving in the first place, but obviously none of that had been good enough, and he wasn’t sure that he was capable of anything better.
L wasn’t even sure why D.O. was like this all of a sudden. It was great, but he had this quietly terrified feeling that it would disappear as abruptly as it had come. It lasted through the interview, though. After the final shoot, management pulled the members aside for a quick meeting. When that was over, he was surprised but really glad to see that D.O. had waited for him.
D.O. waited through rehearsal, too. Everyone went to Woohyun’s place afterward. While everyone else ate and played videogames, he and D.O. snuck into the guest room. He didn’t even know why, but D.O. wanted it, really wanted it, wanted him like it was the beginning of their relationship all over again. He didn’t care that they were in Woohyun’s apartment and not at home, this was too rare and special to be rushed, so he took his time, giving it to D.O. nice and slow, soaking up every moan and kissing away every gasp. Even after they were finished, they stayed there, wrapped around each other in the bed, just being together, cuddling and talking. When he realized that D.O. wanted it again, he was so shocked he burst into laughter, and D.O. wrestled him onto his back. They made out energetically, and they screwed enthusiastically, nothing held back, nothing off limits, going at each other with urgent, joyful aggression. D.O. came with such noisy, uninhibited groans that the whole room echoed with the sound of it. L got off hard, feeling triumphant and primal and amazed. They collapsed together, sweaty and sticky and clinging to each other, and L turned his face against D.O.’s, cheek to cheek. He didn’t know why D.O. was suddenly so completely into him, and he didn’t want to question it. He just wanted to enjoy it, and hope that it lasted.
It was about him, wasn’t it? It wasn’t just hormones, was it? Maybe D.O. was turning to him because Kai was gone. D.O. had to get cock somewhere, right, and without Kai, he was the next best thing. At least until D.O. found someone else.
He hated that idea, but it made sense, didn’t it? It explained D.O.’s sudden sexual enthusiasm. They’d been apart for months because of the tour, and when he’d come home, D.O. had been cold to him, but now, all of a sudden, he had what D.O. wanted. Because Kai wasn’t around to deliver it anymore.
His own husband was settling for him because the dog-walker was suddenly off-limits. He wondered if D.O. was silently comparing, measuring how he stacked up. Had he been good enough? Obviously, D.O. liked what Kai had to offer, or else D.O. would have been a little happier to see him when he’d come home. But now that Kai was out of the picture, suddenly he was good enough again. For now.
Where was D.O. going to get the next one? Hire another dog-walker? Pick someone up on set, the way D.O. had found him? He wondered if anyone at the shoot today had held D.O.’s interest. The photographer’s assistant had been really obvious, asking for D.O.’s autograph and everything. Not handsome enough, but not bad-looking, either, just kind of bland. Was that the kind of guy D.O. was into?
“Amazing,” D.O. said. His voice was quiet and really happy. Apparently L wasn’t a big sexual disappointment, after Kai. Was that something to be grateful for? “Thank you.” His caress on L’s back was familiar; they’d used to cuddle like this all of the time.
“I guess I still have something you want,” L said. Unpeeling himself from D.O.’s side, he rolled away. He should shower, but he didn’t feel like bothering with it. He started to get dressed again.
D.O. didn’t say anything, didn’t even move. Didn’t even bother to defend himself or pretend to be confused about what L meant. Stung, L finished dressing. Then, right when L was reaching for the doorknob, D.O. said, “You have everything I want. You’ve always had what I want. You just keep giving it away to everyone else instead of saving any for me.”
Disbelieving, L turned around and stared at him. Sitting up in bed, he looked tense, shoulders curved forward defensively. “You’re talking to me about what I give away?”
D.O.’s black eyebrows drew together. “What does that mean?” When L turned away, he demanded, “What’s that supposed to mean?” L seized the doorknob, ready to go, too hurt and frustrated to stay. “Tell me you’re not talking about that Kai.”
Appalled, L whirled to face him. “You’re bringing him up? You’re saying his name? Throwing him in my face?”
“I’m not throwing anything!” D.O. exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything with him! He walked our dogs! That’s all!”
“Only walked our dogs?” L asked. “You made sure that when I came home, I found him there, not you.”
“I was working!” D.O. dragged his hands through his hair, looking exasperated. “He was working!”
“He got paid and he got you?” L asked. “Great job.”
“He didn’t get me!” D.O. shouted. “He never had me!” His balled-up fist came down on a pillow. “I’m not cheating on you! I’ve never cheated on you! I don’t do that, I don’t see other guys, I don’t have sex with anyone but you.”
“I’m away for months, and when I finally come home, you can barely look at me? But I should believe that no one else kept you satisfied while I was gone?”
“I can barely look at you because I know what you’ve been doing.” D.O. looked away. “Every time I think about touching you, I can see their handprints all over your body. There’s no space there left for me.”
“Then you’re making it my fault. My fault that you aren’t interested, my fault that you don’t want it, my fault that you can’t get it up.”
“No.” D.O. breathed hard, turning wide, furious, wounded eyes on him. “It’s your fault that you screw around. It’s your fault that you hurt me. It’s your fault that I can’t stand to be near you.”
When the bedroom door finally opened, Woohyun looked up. He hoped - - he almost expected - - to see L and D.O. stumble out together, weak-kneed and smiling, proud of themselves.
Instead, L burst out alone. His expression was angry, and he shoved his hands in his pockets as he passed them. His head down, he left the apartment.
Dread bloomed in Woohyun’s gut. Disappointed, he exchanged glances with Sunggyu, then met Suho’s worried eyes.
“What happened?” Dongwoo asked, shooting a confused look toward the guest room.
“Maybe the sex was too good,” Sungjong said. “Maybe D.O. picked up a few new moves from the dog-walker.”
“Ya,” Woohyun said. That wasn’t fair. They couldn’t know if D.O. had done anything with that guy or not. People assumed that Woohyun was cheating when he wasn’t, and believed that he wasn’t when he was, so he wasn’t going to guess about what anyone else was up to.
Chen slid to the edge of the couch like he was going to get up. He looked troubled. “Maybe we should talk to D.O.”
“I’ll do it,” Sunggyu said, getting to his feet. Handing a game controller to Sungyeol, he pushed down on the top of Sungyeol’s head and went toward the guest room.
Fluffing his hair back into place, Sungyeol shot an annoyed look at Sunggyu’s back.
“It seems like the person we should talk to is L,” Dongwoo said. Now that he mentioned it, Woohyun agreed.
“He’s not here to talk to,” Sungyeol pointed out.
“He’s the one messing up,” Woohyun said.
“What’s with you these days?” Sungyeol asked irritably. “Stop being so judgmental, like you’ve never done anything wrong.”
“I’ve done a lot of things wrong,” Woohyun said. “I’ve done what L’s doing right now. That’s why I know he’s the one screwing up his own life. Why should anyone talk to D.O.? What’s the point if L’s not going to be any different?”
“L can be different,” Dongwoo said. “I’m different, and so are you.”
“Maybe not everybody wants to change,” Sungjong pointed out.
“Maybe not everybody can,” Hoya said.
“If he cares about D.O., then it’s worth it,” Woohyun said. Watching his friends ruin their own lives, thinking about D.O. and Chanyeol and Baekhyun and Xiumin, made him want to wrap Suho in his arms and hold on. To keep what he had and make sure that he never gave Suho a reason to go. Suho was between him and the armrest, and when he put his hand on Suho’s thigh, Suho put a hand on top.
“What’s that mean?” Sungyeol snapped.
“What’s with you these days?” Woohyun teased. “Stop being so sensitive.”
“It seems like you’re saying that I didn’t care about Baekhyun,” Hoya said. “I guess you think that Sunggyu hyung never cared about Xiumin hyung, either. I guess you’re the only one special enough to really feel love for anybody.”
Surprised, he glanced around, wondering if anyone else had taken it that way. “I don’t mean anything like that.”
“If my relationship doesn’t work out, it’s because I didn’t like Chanyeol enough?” Sungyeol asked. “Everything’s all my fault? Sometimes things are more complicated than that.”
“How complicated is it?” Dongwoo asked. “I thought that Chanyeol was only upset because you’re cheating. If you stop cheating, won’t he come back?”
“It’s not that simple,” Sungyeol insisted.
“I’m going to get another drink,” Chen said, getting up. His voice was unsteady, and he backed toward the kitchen like he couldn’t move away from them fast enough. “Can I get anything for anyone else?”
“No, it’s okay,” Suho said. “Go ahead.”
Chen nodded and left the room. Dongwoo looked after him with a confused expression, then suddenly got up and went after him. “Chen-Chen?”
“This shit’s hard on everybody,” Hoya muttered, sinking back in his seat.
“Nobody ever said that love was easy,” Sungyeol said.
“It shouldn’t be as hard as this,” Suho said quietly.
“Well, nobody said that being an idol was easy, either,” Sungyeol snapped.
Sunggyu didn’t want to do this, but he felt obligated. L was his dongsaeng, his member, someone he was responsible for, and when L messed up, he had to do his part to set things right, if he could.
Shirtless, D.O. sat in his pants on the foot of the bed, his back to the doorway. With his small frame and narrow shoulders, he looked too vulnerable, and Sunggyu wanted to shield the pale curve of his slim back. “Everything okay?” Sunggyu asked, taking a step into the room.
D.O. twisted the shirt in his hands. “No.” His head was bowed, his hair messy. The dark blue sheets were rumpled and sliding onto the floor.
“It’s been hard on you.” He’d used to stay out of these things, because romantic relationships were private and it wasn’t his place to interfere. He’d let his own marriage fall apart, and now Baekhyun was gone, too, and he regretted that. He didn’t know if he could have helped or not, but if some effort could make a difference, he wanted to try. He felt like he’d been a bad hyung, letting everything fall apart before. He really, really didn’t want all of that to happen all over again. He sat beside D.O. on the foot of the bed.
“Is it really so much fun?” D.O. asked. “Or is it just some self-indulgent habit you don’t feel like breaking?”
Sunggyu would have asked what D.O. was referring to, but he’d had too many conversations like this with Xiumin. He hadn’t been honest enough with Xiumin, then, so he tried to be more honest, now. “It’s some of both. Sometimes it’s exciting and hot and you feel great, and sometimes you just do it because you can, because it’s there and it’s habit. You can get away with it, so why not?”
“Why not.” D.O. ran both hands through his hair, pulling on it. “Why not.” He stared at the floor. “I thought that I was supposed to be the reason why not.”
Sunggyu winced. He’d come in here to help, not to make things worse. “It’s not about you. He’s not thinking about you.” He’d never had to explain L’s behavior to anyone. He hadn’t done that great of a job explaining his own behavior to Xiumin. “He’s just doing it. It’s right in front of him and it’s easy. He always said yes before, and it seems like one more time won’t make a big difference. If you do something one week and the next week and the next week, when it shows up again, you feel like it’s already happened so many times, there’s no point in not doing it this time.”
“There’s no one to stop you,” D.O. told the floor. “There’s no one there to tell you not to do it. Woohyun hyung didn’t stop until Suho hyung forced him to. And now he only stops himself. He doesn’t say anything to L hyung about it.”
“We don’t interfere like that.”
D.O. finally looked at him, with those big, desolate eyes. “Why not?”
Baekhyun was so used to sex with Hoya, it was a little awkward to do it with someone new. He and Kai didn’t know each other well enough to know each other’s habits and quirks. In some ways, that made the sex more interesting, more exciting; it was like a little adventure, to figure each other out, to be surprised by things. In some ways, that made him wonder what he was doing. Was this a mistake? Was this right for him?
It was great sex, actually. Kai was really fun and kind of aggressive and not shy at all. Plus he was handsome and had a good-looking body and had great moves. All of that lip-biting and hip-rolling, those sexy-flirty looks, it was all fantastic.
It just. It wasn’t Hoya. It wasn’t someone Baekhyun knew and cared about, someone who really knew him and cared about him, too. When he shivered and squirmed, Kai didn’t know that meant that he loved it; Kai asked if he was okay, if it was good. He really wanted to suck some cock, and Kai’s was attractive, but he felt like he wasn’t comfortable enough to do that with someone he’d just met. It seemed too trusting, too intimate, too bold.
Sex with Hoya was amazing, physically, but it was great in other ways, too. He missed being right in the middle of sex and finding Hoya looking down at him, watching his face, staring right into his eyes like the show was right there and not farther down where the thrusting was. He missed knowing every inch of Hoya’s gorgeous body and knowing exactly how to make it respond. He missed the cuddling, kissing, tender, comfortable aftermath. He’d had to teach Hoya to stay and snuggle, had to coax and cajole, and it had been a sweet victory when it had become habit, when Hoya had learned to offer it and to prefer it. There was nothing better than feeling kind of high and affectionate after great sex, and cozying up against Hoya’s warm, toned, agile body, and running his hands slowly, meditatively, over Hoya’s muscular torso while Hoya trailed kisses up and down his neck. It had made him feel so sexy, so loved, so secure in what they shared.
It was scary, that he felt like there was nothing better than that. Because he’d never have that again.
But he could find happiness with other people, right? He could get pleasure and intimacy and even love with other guys. And even if for some reason he never ended up in another relationship, he’d still be just fine. He had a great life ahead of him. Tons of potential. Endless possibilities. Infinite, um… Aw, shit.
For a moment, Baekhyun just stared at the ceiling and wondered if there would always be some lingering doubt in the back of his mind. Had he tried hard enough? Had he really loved Hoya enough? Couldn’t he have made it work, if he’d stayed a little longer?
But all of that was behind him, and he couldn’t get it back. He didn’t want it back. He’d had good reasons, strong reasons, really compelling reasons, to go. And Hoya hadn’t made it worth his time to stay.
His life was full of potential, and his future looked great. He wasn’t going to have any doubts about his life anymore. He wasn’t going to give himself a chance to look back and wonder if he’d tried. He was going to make the most of every opportunity. Feeling determined, he rolled over, toward Kai. “Hey,” he said, rubbing Kai’s chest. “Let’s do it again.”
Sungjong was surprised when he actually heard from Sehun. It had been so long, he’d started to think that there was no chance they’d talk again. But he was still eager to make things work, and when Sehun texted and asked him to come over, he felt familiar sensations of interest and desire.
He really liked Sehun. On the way over, he practiced what he’d say. He’d explain that it had been a misunderstanding, that Sehun had left too fast. If Sehun was the one making contact and asking him to come over, then Sehun wanted to be together, too, right? They could definitely get back together.
Sehun answered the door looking chic and handsome. He made sure that he seemed conciliatory, softening his tone when they greeted and putting a little bit of sadness in his expression.
Sehun sat on the couch, leaning back, crossing his legs and lacing his fingers behind his head. “Found somebody else yet?”
“Of course not.” He sat down beside Sehun, nice and close, tucking himself prettily against Sehun’s side. “Why would I want anybody else?”
Sehun pursed his lips, giving Sungjong a long, narrow look. Then he asked, “Want to get back together?”
Happiness lit him up, and he smiled. “Really?”
“Only you can’t be a lying asshole this time.”
Surprised, put out, he gasped. “Who are you to be calling your hyung a lying asshole?”
“Who are you to be a lying asshole?” Sehun snapped. Uncrossing his legs, lowering his arms, he sat up straighter. Wary now, Sungjong sat back a little. “Look, I’m not going to be some sweet, old-fashioned wife like Suho hyung and I’m not going to be some unquestioning fool like Chanyeol hyung. This is a bullshit set-up and I’m not playing along with these stupid games you all like so much. If you want to have a boyfriend and still be able to screw anyone you want, then tell me that’s what you want. Say, ‘Sehun-ah, I really like you, and I want to be with you, but I don’t want to stop having sex with other people. Is that okay?’ And then I get to decide for myself if that’s what I want. You don’t get to do whatever the hell you want and expect me not to notice it. Unless you think I’m stupid? You take me lightly?”
“It’s not like that,” Sungjong said. He felt strange and a little desperate. And confused, mostly just confused. What was Sehun saying?
“We’re going to be honest with each other,” Sehun insisted. Then he snorted. “I’ve always been honest. You’re going to have to be honest. Can you do that?”
“Honest, honest about what?” he asked uncertainly.
“About everything!” Sehun exclaimed. “Hyung! Do you want to be my boyfriend?”
“Yes, of course I do, you know that. I never wanted to break up.”
“Do you want to keep having sex with other people?”
“No, I just said, I want to be with you.”
“Oh my god, you lying asshole, you can’t even be honest when I’m telling you to! Should I give up?” Sehun demanded.
At a loss, Sungjong gestured helplessly. “I don’t know what you want me to say!”
“The truth!” Sehun shouted. “Tell me the truth! That’s all I want. I want you to be honest with me. When I call and ask, ‘How was filming today?’ I want you to tell me, ‘It was great, Hoya hyung was really funny and I banged some writer in the bathroom.’ Then I’ll say, ‘Sounds great, do you want to come over?’ Like that. Just be honest. Tell me what’s going on. Tell me what’s really going on, not what you think that I want to hear. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t understand. I don’t want to think you’re doing things you’re not, and I don’t want to have to wonder. I want to know. As long as you tell me everything and don’t keep things from me, and as long as you keep using condoms and being smart, I’ll be okay with it.”
Sungjong didn’t understand this at all. “You want me to be your boyfriend and have sex with other people.”
“Is it this hard to get?” Sehun demanded. “I don’t want you to have sex with other people. I want you to tell me and be honest when you have sex with other people. You’re not going to be monogamous, you’re not going to have sex with only me, you’re going to screw around. So don’t pretend otherwise and don’t lie about it. We won’t even call it cheating, we’ll call it an open relationship. You know what you’re doing, and so do I, so let’s at least admit it.”
“An open relationship,” Sungjong repeated. He didn’t trust this, it sounded too good to be true. “And you’re going to see other people, too?”
“No. No, I’m going to be monogamous. And there’s no ‘seeing other people.’ You can have sex with them, I’m not going to care much about that, but there’s no dating other people. There’s nothing like a relationship. I don’t want you calling and texting and making new friends. Stick to sex.”
He didn’t get it. “You’re not going to like it. You’re going to get all upset and jealous anyway.”
“What I’m upset about is you lying to me. I’m upset that you made me think that we had one kind of relationship when really we had something else entirely and I was the only one who didn’t know about it.”
Sungjong wondered if Sehun was a lot tougher than he’d realized. He was seeing new sides of Sehun tonight, and he really, really liked it. “Is it going to be okay? Can it work like this?”
“It can work if you trust me,” Sehun said. “If you don’t trust me and can’t be honest, then let’s not bother.”
He looked Sehun right in the eye and said, carefully, “Sungyeol hyung and Hoya hyung and I took turns banging the stylist at our photo shoot yesterday. It was great.”
Sehun nodded. “Do you share the same people a lot?”
Quietly, carefully, Chanyeol went into the apartment. Everything was still. It all looked exactly the same as he’d left it, only messier. Seeing coffee cups on the tables and mail strewn around and take-out cartons everywhere, he felt so many regrets. He felt sad and resentful. He wanted to start tidying up, to take care of things like he was used to.
“Hello?” Behind him, Baekhyun whispered into the silence. “Sungyeol hyung? Lee Sungyeol? Is anyone here?”
“Stop it, that’s creepy,” Chanyeol said. He was half frightened that Sungyeol would suddenly come around the corner, but Chen had promised him that Sungyeol was busy all day. “Let’s just get this done.” He said it with way more resolve than he felt. He wasn’t sure about this at all. But what else could he do?
They brought the bags in and started to pack up his stuff. He moved fast, at first, wanting to scoop everything up and get it over with. But Baekhyun had too many questions about what was his and what wasn’t, and for some of it he honestly wasn’t sure if he should take it or leave it, and that slowed him down.
He was in the walk-in closet, packing up clothes; Baekhyun was poking around, investigating the jewelry and crap on the shelves. Picking up a watch, Baekhyun squinted at it. “‘To Yeolie hyung from your Yeolie sweetie.’ Wow, should I applaud or barf?”
“Shut up.” He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t stand it. It hurt too much, he was too angry and too sad and too confused. He didn’t want to do any of this, he didn’t want to pack, he didn’t want to leave, he didn’t want to be away from Sungyeol. But he didn’t have any choice.
The doorbell rang. Horrified, he stared at Baekhyun. Who was that?!
“It can’t be Sungyeol hyung, he wouldn’t ring his own bell,” Baekhyun said.
Should they ignore it? Answer it? Wide-eyed, he tried to guess who it might be.
“Let’s go look,” Baekhyun said. Right, good idea. He followed Baekhyun, creeping along, not wanting whoever was out there to hear him. Baekhyun peered through the front door and whispered, “It’s Suho hyung.”
What? “Why?” Chanyeol whispered, surprised.
Baekhyun sighed, dropping his forehead against the door. “Chen probably told him.”
He couldn’t just not answer, if it was Suho. Trying not to look guilty, Chanyeol opened the door. “Hi, hyung.”
Looking handsome and concerned, Suho hugged him. “How are you?”
“I’m okay.” He wasn’t.
“Did you come to help us pack?” Baekhyun asked, closing the door. “He has so much clothing, I don’t know if we have enough suitcases.”
“I’ll send for some more,” Suho said, pulling out his phone. “Are you sure that you’re okay staying with your parents? Our other place in town is open, you might be more comfortable there.”
“I don’t want to - - it’s okay,” Chanyeol said. Suho was probably the best hyung he’d ever had, but staying somewhere Woohyun owned was too much. He wanted to get away from Infinite for a while.
They packed everything up. It was a lot of clothes and some knickknacks, and his computer stuff and music stuff. It all ended up being way more than he’d realized, and he was glad to have help. They loaded up his car, and Suho hired a van to take the rest over to his parents’ place. He was going to have to get a new apartment. He was going to be on his own again, and he was going to have to sort out his life. It was so wrong and depressing, he wanted to give up. He didn’t want any of this. He’d been ready to get married, he’d expected to spend the rest of his life with Sungyeol. He didn’t understand how this had happened. How long had Sungyeol been lying to him? Was he wrong, had he misunderstood? Maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought. Maybe Sungyeol had been right about Xiumin being a bad influence. Maybe, if he just gave it another shot…
“If you forgot anything, you can come pick it up or ask him to send it, later,” Suho said.
He nodded. Standing by the front door, he took one more look around. He didn’t want to go. This was his home, he lived here. He belonged here, he was supposed to be here. Wasn’t he making a big mistake? He was going to live with so many regrets.
“Should you take the keys or leave them?” Baekhyun asked.
He wasn’t ready for this. Feeling tears in his eyes, he blinked quickly. He felt too torn up inside. He couldn’t believe that his life was like this all of a sudden.
“I never had to decide,” Baekhyun said. “Xiumin hyung gave his keys to one of Sunggyu hyung’s sasaengs, and Ho-, uh, I mean,” he twirled his finger in the air, “was afraid that I’d do that, too, so he changed the locks. Such a jerk. I had to arrange to go over and get my stuff, and he was there the whole time, and it was horrible.”
“I can’t do this,” Chanyeol said. He wanted to plaster himself against the wall and cling to it.
“You don’t have to,” Suho said, rubbing his arm. “You can do whatever you want. This is up to you, it can go however you want it to. Whatever you need.”
“Can you stay and kick him out?” Baekhyun asked. “Is your name on the lease?”
“No. I can’t afford this, anyway,” he admitted.
“You and I can live here together,” Baekhyun suggested. “Suho hyung will pay for it. Ooo! What if you stay and get married, and get your name on everything, and then kick him out? Aw, the pre-nup, I guess that wouldn’t work. Can we get rid of that?”
“Baekhyun-ah,” Suho chided. “That’s no way to solve things.”
“Are we leaving or not?” Baekhyun asked, nudging Chanyeol’s back and prodding between his shoulder blades. “Do you want to invite Xiumin hyung over and have a party and just hang out here for a while? We can ask Chen and D.O. to come, too, and we can eat and sing and maybe accidentally spill soda all over Sungyeol hyung’s computer.”
This was his place, still. Wasn’t it? His stuff was gone, but as long as he didn’t leave, he still belonged here. And Sungyeol wouldn’t be home for hours.
“I’ll call everybody,” Suho said.
When they’d finally finished filming and then finally finished practice, and they’d been making half-hearted efforts to decide whether to separate or hang out or eat or what, Woohyun had told Sungyeol that Chanyeol had planned to move out that day. He’d wanted Sungyeol to know; it seemed cruel to let the guy go home without any warning.
Sungyeol had gotten angry about it, and they’d decided to go home with him, to support him, to make sure that he was okay. Now, as the seven of them approached his apartment door, Woohyun frowned. Was that noise coming from inside Sungyeol’s apartment?
“He left your stereo on?” L asked.
“Is he still in there?” Dongwoo asked.
Woohyun frowned, exchanging a look with Sunggyu. Maybe they should go. If Chanyeol was still in there, then this was something for Sungyeol to handle privately.
“What the hell,” Sungyeol muttered, unlocking the door. “What’s he doing, trying to piss off my neighbors and get me in trouble?”
The music was loud, a fast song. All of the lights were on, and now that the door was open, he could hear voices. Someone was singing along, or several someones. Looking over Hoya’s shoulder as they slowly advanced through the doorway, he suddenly saw Baekhyun.
Baekhyun stared at them, startled, clutching a bottle and only wearing plaid underpants. “Holy shit!” Turning, Baekhyun sprinted away, shouting, “Idol alert! Idol alert!”
“What the hell?!” Sungyeol demanded, storming in.
“We should go,” Sungjong said, backing up.
“Isn’t that my Chen?” Dongwoo asked, heading in.
Wondering if Suho was there, too, Woohyun followed. He walked into the living room to find chaos. The shelves were half empty, there were food containers and dirty plates everywhere, and there were enough cups and bottles to suggest that there had been a lot of drinking going on. Chen was staring at them in shock, standing in front of the TV, clutching a microphone, lyrics scrolling onscreen. Baekhyun was rubbing his bare feet over a huge blue and pink stain on the white carpet, like he could scrub it clean if he kicked hard enough. Chanyeol was on his hands and knees, wiping at it with a cloth. So far, Baekhyun was the only one in underwear, although everybody was shirtless.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Sungyeol demanded.
“Whoa, idol alert!”
Woohyun turned around at the sound to see Xiumin coming in from the kitchen. “I already said that!” Baekhyun exclaimed. “Help me with this!”
“That,” Xiumin said, “is not coming out.” He snorted and burst into giggles. Covering his mouth with one hand, he turned away and headed back into the kitchen. “Idol alert, everybody!”
“Who the hell is even here?” Sungyeol demanded. “Get out! Byun Baekhyun, get out of here! And take that Xiumin with you!”
“Ya,” Sunggyu snapped. “Is that how you talk about your hyungs?”
“He’s not my anything!” Sungyeol snapped. “He’s your ex, get him under control!”
“Whoa, ya, ya,” Woohyun said, pushing Sunggyu back with one hand. Sungyeol was furious, and he recognized the murderous look in Sunggyu’s eyes, and nothing good was going to happen here. “Chen-ah, do hyung a favor and turn the music off, okay? Dongwoo hyung, can you help them clean that up? Chanyeol-ah, who’s here?”
Chen turned the karaoke off, and Dongwoo trotted away, maybe to find cleaning supplies. Chanyeol, still on the floor, said, “Xiumin hyung, Suho hyung, Baekhyun, Chen, and D.O. And me. I’m still here. I don’t want to go,” he mumbled, scrubbing uselessly.
Raising his voice, Woohyun called, “Honey?”
“Why the hell aren’t you dressed?” L demanded.
“I spilled,” Baekhyun said, looking guilty.
“What did you spill?” L asked. “You spilled it on everybody at once? Where’s everybody’s clothes?”
“Can everybody get out of here?” Sungyeol demanded.
“I’ll take Baekhyun,” Hoya said. “I don’t think he should go on his own.”
Dongwoo bustled past everyone with rags and cleaner and a bucket of water. Crouching down, he started to spray the stain.
Coughing from the fumes, Woohyun backed away. Moving around the apartment, he found D.O. in the kitchen, solemnly and studiously washing dishes. Xiumin was in the bathroom, drunkenly making some half-assed attempt to clean up what might be Baekhyun’s clothes. Suho was in the bedroom, shirtless on top of the covers, sound asleep and pretty as an angel. Smiling, Woohyun sat down beside him and kissed his cheek. “Hey, honey. My Suho honey, wake up, Woohyun’s here.”
Another kiss, and he stirred. Blinking slowly, he squinted up at Woohyun, then smiled blissfully. “Ah, you came.”
“Did you have fun playing with your friends?” Woohyun teased, smoothing his tousled hair away from his face. “Everybody’s drunk and in trouble.”
“Trouble?” Suho pulled on the front of his shirt, tugging him close. Amused, happy to oblige, he kissed Suho’s cheek again, then Suho’s mouth. He smelled soju and fruit punch.
“I think that we should go home,” he suggested, caressing Suho’s cheek. Suho gazed at him trustingly, drunkenly trying to focus and understand. “It’s late, and good husbands should be at home in bed. We should let Sungyeol and Chanyeol talk on their own.”
“He doesn’t want to leave.” Suho’s smile was so sad, Woohyun’s heart hurt. “It’s really hard to go.”
“I know, honey.” He’d never forgive himself for hurting Suho. He didn’t want to forgive himself; his regrets helped him to work on being a better husband. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Mmm.” Eyes drifting shut, Suho kissed him.
He kissed back, because he never missed a chance to kiss Suho. Desire and Suho’s responsiveness drew him in, and he got into it, indulging himself in long, deep kisses, stroking Suho’s bare skin. Feeling Suho’s hand between his legs made him groan. “Ah, honey,” he said, so turned on, wanting it so much. “Maybe not now.”
“No?” Suho asked. Suho’s kisses made him feel so sexy, so wanted, and that hand was still between his legs, rubbing the stiff ache of his hard-on, coaxing moans right out of him. “You always want it.”
That was so true. But, “Maybe not on Sungyeol’s bed.”
“Sung-?” Breaking the kiss, Suho looked around, frowning. Then his eyes widened and he stared at Woohyun. “We’re not home.”
“We’re not,” he agreed, chuckling. “Come on,” he said, getting up. “We can finish this at home.”
Frowning, Suho let Woohyun guide him onto his feet. “I think that I’m drunk.” He looked down at himself in confusion, then turned a helpless, wondering expression on Woohyun. “Don’t I have a shirt?”
“I don’t want you to take me home,” Xiumin insisted, drawing back.
“Just get in the stupid car,” Sunggyu grumbled, trying to shove him in.
“I don’t want you to take me home!” Xiumin shouted, pushing him away and stepping on his foot.
“People are watching!”
“Do I care?” Xiumin demanded, glaring up at him. “Why should I care about your reputation? Did you ever care about mine? Did you care about what people said about me and thought about me?”
“I care about everything! Now get in the damned car!”
Xiumin glared at him and then, surprising him, actually got in the car. Taking advantage of the sudden capitulation, he closed the door and hurried around to the driver’s side.
The car was too quiet. As he drove, he turned on the radio. Turned it off and turned on the new recordings they were considering for the next album. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t play that with someone else in the car, but he didn’t think to second-guess that until the music was already playing. He’d always let Xiumin hear new stuff and whatever they were working on.
After a while, Xiumin said, “This is new.”
“Yeah.” He hadn’t been sure that Xiumin would even realize that; he didn’t think that Xiumin paid any attention to his career anymore.
“It sounds great.” Xiumin sounded grouchy about it. “I hate you and your voice.” He leaned against the door, looking out through the window. “Goddamned Jang Dongwoo,” he muttered. He liked to blame Dongwoo for introducing the two of them in the first place, like his life would’ve been so much better if that had never happened.
“You should come home with me,” Sunggyu said.
“I’d rather drown in a lake of fire,” Xiumin told the window.
“Aren’t you too drunk to be alone? Someone should supervise you.”
“Kim Sunggyu.” Xiumin turned to face him, looking at him so intently that he swallowed and focused on traffic, flexing his hands on the wheel. “Do you think that because Baekhyun made a mistake with Hoya, I’ll make the same mistake with you? Do you think that you’re so sexy that I can’t say no? You’re a self-centered, lying, narcissistic slut. Does that sound sexy to you? Is that irresistible?”
“You don’t have to call names,” he muttered. “I’m not so bad. I’m not those things. You liked me before,” he accused. “You liked me enough to marry me, what does that make you?”
“Stupid,” Xiumin said, sagging back in his seat. “Really, really stupid.” He pulled his knees up, resting his feet on the dashboard. Sunggyu tried to push his feet back down, and he slapped Sunggyu’s hand away. “I just wanted to adopt a cute hamster and take it home and feed it and watch it play. Instead, I got some overrated jerk who’s so full of himself he doesn’t even know what’s real anymore.”
“Do you always have to call me a hamster?” he demanded, irritated. “Don’t say mean things, I’m being nice, I’m taking you home.”
“Take me to my home,” Xiumin said. “Not your home.”
“You used to live there, too, didn’t you? Wasn’t it your home?”
“Why do you push so much?” Xiumin demanded. “I thought that you hated me.”
“I don’t hate you.” He scowled at the windshield. “I was upset, I said things. You were divorcing me, you couldn’t wait to get away from me, you were doing things just to hurt me.”
“Who hurt who?!”
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody! It was a mistake, I made some mistakes, things happened.”
Xiumin rubbed at his face. “I’m too drunk to have this conversation with you. I don’t even want to talk to you when I’m sober.”
Sunggyu peeked at him. “If I take you to your apartment, can I come in? Will you let me stay? Someone should be with you.”
Sunggyu sped up. “Let’s not bother him. You can stay with me.”
“Kidnapping’s illegal.” He didn’t say anything. “So’s adultery.” He definitely wasn’t replying to that! “And speeding.”
“I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Kim Sunggyu, make some sense,” Xiumin ordered. “I have to go home with you because I need supervision, but you’re going to stay in a different room? Just take me to my place, stop playing around.”
He went to his own apartment. Xiumin tried to call Lay, and he took Xiumin’s phone away. When he pulled Xiumin out of the car, Xiumin groaned and pushed at him, walking a few steps away. “I hate you,” Xiumin said. “I hate you so much and I’m so drunk and I want to throw up. Why can’t you leave me alone? Do you really think that I want to be around you?” Grimacing, Xiumin turned around and vomited. Wincing, he patted Xiumin’s back. “Shit.” Xiumin spat, then leaned against the car. “I’ll go upstairs if you do something for me.”
“If I do what?” he asked.
“I’ll figure it out in the morning,” Xiumin mumbled, and headed for the elevator.
Hoya finally found Baekhyun’s clothes in the bathroom. They were soaking wet and stained, in a sink full of pink, soapy water. “What the hell did you do?” he asked, poking into the water.
“There was an accident,” Baekhyun explained, dragging a pair of pants out of the sink and spilling water everywhere.
“What are you doing?” Hoya asked, grabbing the pants away from him.
“I have to get dressed,” he explained, reaching for the pants again.
“You can’t wear this.” Baekhyun was so cute. And so drunk, simple-minded with flushed cheeks. It was a shame to have to put clothes on him. “Come on.”
“I have to get dressed,” he said again, as Hoya towed him into the bedroom.
“That’s what we’re working on. What accident?” Hoya asked, pulling him into the closet.
“There was an accident?” Baekhyun asked, startled and worried.
“You.” God, this was hopeless, it was like talking to Dongwoo. “What happened to your clothes?”
“They’re wet,” Baekhyun explained, like he was puzzled, like Hoya should know that already. “Aren’t they in the sink?”
Hoya looked around, wondering what he was doing in this closet. Sungyeol was too long and lanky; all of this stuff would look ridiculous on Baekhyun. Ah, hold on. “Why are your clothes dirty and pink?” Crouching down, he dug into a drawer in the corner.
The members had some of each other’s clothes. He found a bunch of random stuff, some of which he recognized. He pulled out a pair of navy blue sweatpants and a faded red T-shirt. “Put this on,” he said, getting up and handing it to Baekhyun.
“Your clothes are wet and you can’t stay naked forever.”
Baekhyun was so clumsy with the pants that Hoya helped him with the shirt. He looked so cute, in a baggy T-shirt with his hair messed up, that Hoya kissed him. Moaning, he kissed back messily, enthusiastically. “You’re so good at that,” he breathed, sliding his hands into Hoya’s hair and coming back for more.
The borrowed clothes didn’t stay on too long. They made out in the closet, and then, needing condoms and lube, they moved to the bed. Baekhyun was so into it, so hot for it, that Hoya felt like a champion. After he came, he panted against Baekhyun’s neck, leaving soft kisses there and loving the way Baekhyun felt shivering and hot against his body.
“Don’t go,” Baekhyun whispered. Slim, strong arms slid around him. “Don’t go for a minute, okay?”
He was okay with that, so he stayed, kissing Baekhyun’s neck, rolling onto his side and stroking Baekhyun’s back. They were there for a while, and then he realized that Baekhyun was asleep. He coaxed Baekhyun back awake, and he got Baekhyun dressed again, and they snuck out.
Baekhyun fell asleep in the car. When they went up to Baekhyun’s apartment, Baekhyun looked surprised and asked, “You’re coming in?” He said yes, and they went in together. They got into bed, and he didn’t initiate sex, he just stayed there until Baekhyun fell asleep.
He didn’t want to leave, so he didn’t. He watched Baekhyun sleep, and he caressed Baekhyun’s smooth forehead and flushed cheeks. He missed this. He really missed it a lot. He missed the two of them being together. Sleeping together. Looking out for each other. He hadn’t really had serious relationships before Baekhyun - - he hadn’t even been sure how to - - and he hadn’t realized how much he’d miss it once it was over. He’d thought that things would just go back to normal, and they had, but now he knew that things could be different. Things could be better. He could have an adorable, sexy, really fun partner. Someone to laugh with and talk to. Damn it, he was still in love. He hadn’t expected that to last like this. Shouldn’t he have stopped feeling this way, once they’d broken up?
“Hyung,” Baekhyun mumbled, pressing closer.
He smiled, rubbing Baekhyun’s side. “Hyung’s here.”
L found D.O. in the kitchen. He felt angry and sensitive, and he just stood back for a while, watching. D.O. was doing dishes. That was normal enough that it relaxed him a little. It was a familiar thing, typical; D.O. didn’t like being drunk very much, and usually responded to it by finding a simple task to focus on, like folding clothes or alphabetizing videogames. He watched as D.O. silently, methodically finished rinsing plates and started to scrub silverware.
Once all of the dishes were finished, D.O. cleaned out the sink. When he turned, his eyes widened at the sight of L, but he didn’t say anything. L handed over his shirt, and he put it on. “Want to go home?” L asked.
He nodded, then frowned. “My car.”
“We can get it later.” L put his hand out.
D.O. took it, and they left together.
They didn’t have sex that night, but as soon as L got into bed, D.O. moved in against him, and they spooned up, snug and intimate. One of the dogs jumped onto the bed, taking up room, and L and D.O. stayed close all night, sleeping like lovers, not strangers forced into the same space. It was good to feel D.O. so relaxed in his arms. He wished that things could be this way more often.
Sungyeol hadn’t even seen Chanyeol in person since their last argument, Chanyeol had spent all of this time hiding at his parents’ place, and all of a sudden this?! Coming into his home, taking everything, making a mess?! “What are you doing, robbing me or moving back in?”
“I’ll help, hyung,” Chen said, crouching down and grabbing a rag.
“Park Chanyeol!” Sungyeol yelled. “What are you doing here?”
“I can fix it, it’ll come out,” Chanyeol said, scrubbing at the stain.
“Hyung.” Sungjong took Sungyeol’s arm, pulling him back. Not wanting to be coddled, Sungyeol jerked away. “Just leave him alone for a minute. He’s drunk, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
“Making this mess, throwing parties while I’m gone.” This wasn’t even like Chanyeol. Sure, Chanyeol had friends over all of the time, but did make that sense now, when they were fighting and Chanyeol wasn’t even staying here anymore?
“I think everyone’s leaving,” Sungjong said. “Let him clean up, you can talk to him when he’s sober.”
“I don’t even know why he’s acting like this.” Sungyeol was so fed up, so frustrated! “Am I such a bad fiancé that he has to trash my place while I’m gone?”
“They just got drunk and spilled something. You’re the one who wanted a white rug in the first place.”
“Oh, should I take decorating tips from the members?” Sungyeol asked. “I’ll end up with a purple rug, purple walls, purple lightbulbs.”
Sungjong laughed. “Hoya hyung’s place isn’t that bad. He doesn’t have the lightbulbs, at least.”
Sungyeol took a look around. Food, trash, and bottles everywhere. “Help me clean this up.” The place hadn’t been that clean to begin with. Chanyeol was the one who let the maid in once a week; Sungyeol didn’t know which day to let her in, and wasn’t interested in rearranging his schedule for it anyway.
“Uh, I have to go,” Sungjong said, backing toward the door.
“Ya, since when? You’re all of a sudden too busy to help?”
“Sehun’s waiting for me,” Sungjong said. He blew Sungyeol a kiss and jogged away. “Good night, hyung!”
Sungyeol cleaned up. One by one, his members left, everybody taking some drunk fool along. Eventually, he was alone with Chanyeol. He knew that he should take this opportunity to be nice and patch things up, but he was just so bewildered and frustrated. Seeing so many empty spots where Chanyeol’s belongings were supposed to be only upset him more.
But he told himself not to fight; that wouldn’t help. When they finished cleaning up, Chanyeol stood in the middle of the front room, looking lost. “Come on, come to bed,” he said, putting his arm around Chanyeol. When he hadn’t heard from Chanyeol, he’d thought that Chanyeol was leaving him for good. But seeing Chanyeol so unhappy like this made him think that Chanyeol still cared, and if that was true, then they could work things out. It didn’t have to be over. Chanyeol’s stuff was gone all of a sudden, but as long as Chanyeol wasn’t gone, he still had a chance.
“Okay.” Leaning into him, Chanyeol walked back toward the bedroom. He got Chanyeol onto the bed with a little push. His long, pretty Yeolie took up all of the space, limbs everywhere. Smiling, he climbed into bed, too, negotiating for room and rubbing Chanyeol’s stomach. “I thought that you loved me,” and all of a sudden Chanyeol was about to cry.
“I love you. You know I do, aren’t we getting married? What’s this?” Sungyeol wiped at the tears leaking out of Chanyeol’s eyes. He always got too sensitive when he drank, foolish and enthusiastic one minute and then weepy over nothing.
“I don’t know.” Rolling onto his side, Chanyeol rubbed at his eyes. “What, we aren’t still getting married, are we?”
“Sure. Why not?” he asked, stroking Chanyeol’s hair. “Come on, stop crying, you don’t have to be like this.”
“You cheated on me.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, kissing Chanyeol’s forehead. “I’m sorry, I made a mistake. You know I love you, don’t you?” he asked, searching Chanyeol’s face. “You know you’re the best. Of course we’re getting married, what would I do without you?”
Chanyeol looked conflicted. He frowned, wiping the last stray tears from his eyes. “Then you still want to?”
“I’ve always wanted to.” Sungyeol caressed his ear, and he shied away, looking bashful. He was so embarrassed about his ears, it was cute. “Why else would I propose to you? I’ve wanted to marry you forever.”
Chanyeol broke into a big, pretty, goofy smile, and they hugged. “I love you so much, hyung,” Chanyeol confessed. “Let’s not fight anymore, okay? I felt so sick, I kept going to the doctor, and they could never find anything wrong.”
Thank god. “I don’t want to fight,” Sungyeol said, holding onto him and rubbing his back. “Everything’s okay.”
When Xiumin woke up in a familiar bed and a familiar room, he was completely disoriented. What was he doing in his - - his old - - Sunggyu’s apartment? Had the divorce been a nightmare? Then he remembered last night. No, no nightmares, just his own life. Grimly amused by that, he got up and went to the bathroom, where he vomited and peed and washed his face and admired Sunggyu’s skincare products.
Sunggyu was asleep on the armchair in the corner of the bedroom, still dressed, head back, mouth hanging open. Standing over him, Xiumin tapped his chin until it closed, and then he wakened with a start, snorting and blinking and staring around. “What, why?” Focusing, he stared up at Xiumin. “You’re here.” He blinked again, his eyes widening. “You’re here!” He shot to his feet, gripping Xiumin’s shoulders. “I’m still dreaming?”
He loved Sunggyu’s wide-eyed, wondering expression. Surprised hamsters were adorable. “Yes, you’re still dreaming. Give me money for a taxi.”
“I’ll make breakfast,” Sunggyu decided, setting him aside and leaving the room. “Oh, gotta pee.” Sunggyu veered off for the bathroom.
He followed. Hitching himself up to sit on the sink, he took a frank look at Sunggyu’s cock. Yep, there it was. “I’m not walking, so I need a taxi. If you’d done what I asked, you would have taken me home, but you brought me here, so you owe me the fare.”
“What do you want for breakfast?” Sunggyu asked.
“You can’t cook, and I’m not staying.”
“I’ll order something.”
Xiumin decided to get the money himself. Leaving the bathroom, he went into the closet. Cash was stuffed haphazardly into a glass bowl just inside the door. Plucking out a few bills, he counted out enough for the fare. And a tip, he’d need a tip. A generous tip. Okay, maybe not that much; he wasn’t trying to buy the actual cab. He put some back and pocketed the rest.
“Stealing?” Sunggyu asked, suddenly at his elbow.
“Should have taken me home when I told you to.” Turning, he nudged Sunggyu out of his way. Sunggyu didn’t budge, so he pushed harder.
“You should stay for breakfast.”
“We can talk.”
“You can talk to my lawyer.”
“I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.”
“My lawyer will be very glad to hear all about them. So will your lawyer! Why don’t you have the two of them over for breakfast while I go?”
Sunggyu wasn’t moving. “I talked to D.O.” He crossed his arms, rubbing his elbow. He looked thoughtful and unhappy. “I don’t know, I think that I could have done a lot of things differently. We all could have. Maybe there are some things that I should do now, to help the members.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I don’t care,” Xiumin said. “But it sounds like you’re coming to some very important realizations, and you should keep working on that. Without me. Like you do everything else without me, since we’re divorced and I don’t live here anymore and I’m going to have breakfast at my own place, where my boyfriend’s waiting for me.”
“Boyfriend,” Sunggyu said, frowning at him. “What’s this boyfriend? Is it that Lay person? Is he your boyfriend, is he serious now?”
Xiumin wasn’t about to discuss the private details of his relationships with Sunggyu. “Let me leave right now, or I’ll start taking photos and uploading them to anti sites.”
“You can’t, I have your phone.”
Shit! “Give it back.”
“You can have it after breakfast,” Sunggyu said, walking away.
Xiumin was going to throw the entire closet door at Sunggyu’s back. “Kim Sunggyu! What do you want?! Why are you like this?!”
“I can’t talk now, I have to order breakfast. We can talk about it after we eat,” Sunggyu said, leaving the room.
What the freaking hell. Fine. Fine! He’d stay. But he needed aspirin. And a shower. He locked the door and immediately felt better. He took some headache medicine and drank some water, and then he shaved and washed up and used generous, luxurious amounts of all of Sunggyu’s fancy personal products. Much more comfortable, he shuffled around, poking into drawers and dropping clothes all over. He left his clothes in the bathroom and put on nice, clean, new clothes. Sunggyu would never miss this belt, and, ooo, what a great shirt! He took socks right out of the package, tossing the rest onto the floor. Then he went back to the bathroom and worked on his hair. Sunggyu had some new brand of gel he hadn’t used before, and it was great stuff. Feeling adventurous, he tried something spikier than usual. His antis always accused him of trying too hard to look like an idol himself. Was it his fault that he was so damned handsome? Pleased, he winked at his reflection.
Sunggyu knocked at the door. “Not setting fires, right?”
“Only small ones!” Satisfied with his look, he opened the door and smiled. “Breakfast ready? I’m starving?”
Ow, ugh. Baekhyun felt awful. Why did his head hurt like this? He opened his eyes to find out that he’d been asleep with his nose practically in Hoya’s armpit. Oh, look, Hoya hadn’t shaved there lately. Wait, shit! What, Hoya?! Astonished, he backed up. Hoya, that was Hoya, asleep in his bed. What, why? He was still dressed, but how comforting was that when these weren’t his clothes?
He escaped to the bathroom, where he took aspirin and panicked and texted everybody for help. He peeked out; Hoya was still there. Still asleep, for now. His phone beeped, and he recoiled, shushing it and hastily closing the door. Woohyun had replied, and - - hold on, Woohyun had replied? Why - - shit! He’d texted Woohyun?! Double-checking, he realized that he’d accidentally added Woohyun in when he’d texted Suho and Xiumin and Chen and Chanyeol and D.O. and Sehun. He’d texted Sehun? Oh, hell, why not?
Woohyun’s advice was super helpful. Shave his head. Great, that was definitely the best answer anyone could have come up with. Sighing, he set his phone down. He wondered where these clothes had come from. Were they Sungyeol’s? He sniffed at them; they smelled clean enough. He peeked out. Hoya had rolled over. Shirtless but not naked, that was a relief. Wait, if Hoya still had pants on, and he was still dressed, then they hadn’t had sex? But he remembered sex. His body remembered sex.
He wondered if he should just sneak out. Leave his apartment. He had class later anyway. He’d stay away for a while, and by the time he got home, Hoya would be gone. Problem solved.
He nibbled on his lower lip and waited for Hoya to spontaneously disappear. It didn’t work.
The sex had been real, right? He tried to remember more about it. He’d been at Chanyeol’s apartment - - Sungyeol’s apartment - - whoever’s place it was, he’d been there. And all of a sudden Infinite had been there, and that had not been a good thing. And then Hoya had been kissing him and he’d felt amazing. Sex with Hoya was way better than sex with Kai, not because it was better, necessarily, but just because it was better. He chewed on his thumb, worrying. He really didn’t want to deal with this. He really didn’t want Hoya to be in his apartment. Hoya had never been here before, and it was a really tiny, ugly-looking little squalid box, and he didn’t want Hoya to see him living like this. He wished that he’d cleaned up or something. Should he clean up now, or would that just wake Hoya up?
His phone beeped. He jumped, startled, and then he shushed it.
Xiumin had texted him. Make him breakfast.
What?! Was Xiumin joking? He texted back. Hyung!
Be nice to him. He’s your hyung, isn’t he?
What in the world? Xiumin hyung, are you okay?
He didn’t get a reply. Baffled, he set his phone down and peeked again. How long was Hoya going to sleep, anyway? He snuck out of the bathroom and stood there, indecisive. He looked at the front door. He looked at his fridge. He looked at Hoya. He looked at the front door again. He looked at the stove. The fact that he could see all of those things from one spot only made him more embarrassed. He closed the bedroom door and opened the fridge. Was he really going to make breakfast? He was losing his mind. Just like Xiumin, apparently. He reached for the eggs.
Same dining room, same table. Really ornate chopsticks. Xiumin examined one. “Fan gift?”
Pulling his foot up onto the seat, Xiumin hugged his knee. He poked at one bowl, then another. He watched Sunggyu eat. He drank some coffee, then some orange juice. He tried the pancakes. He wondered if these clothes had been fan gifts, too. Probably. He wondered how the fans would react if they saw him wearing them. Had they seen him in Sunggyu’s car last night? Oh, his life was about to be hell all over again. The villainous ex, showing up in Sunggyu’s car and staying the night and leaving in Sunggyu’s clothes? They were going to send threats written in questionable substances, he just knew it.
Maybe if he changed into his clothes and got Suho to walk him out - - but that wouldn’t do any good. Someone had seen him in Sunggyu’s car, he was sure of it. Shit. He should’ve been more careful. He should’ve not gotten into Sunggyu’s car in the first place.
Sunggyu pushed his plate aside. He still had on his clothes from last night, and he must’ve gone to Sungyeol’s place after rehearsal. No make-up, flat hair, a shapeless gray shirt, a little stubble darkening his upper lip. Xiumin tried to be judgmental about how bad he looked, but it was useless. Xiumin had spent too many years and too much energy being completely and totally in love with him to find anything wrong with how he looked now. He was too handsome, too sexy, too adorable, too Sunggyu. Meeting Xiumin’s eyes, he folded his hands on the table, put them in his lap, laughed nervously, and visibly prepared himself.
Xiumin considered running for the door.
Sunggyu put his hands back on the table. “I think that we should get back together.”
Xiumin got up. “My lawyer will send someone for my phone,” he said, walking away.
“I mean it! Xiumin-ah! Wait, don’t be like this, come back!”
He closed the door behind himself.
It was so familiar, Baekhyun felt kind of nostalgic. He’d used to cook for Hoya at his old place, when they’d first met, and then at Hoya’s apartment. Their apartment, when they’d both lived there. And at that great little apartment he’d moved to while they’d been dating. His first place had been in a bad neighborhood and Hoya hadn’t liked to visit him there, so he’d gotten a new place, closer and more convenient. Of course he hadn’t been able to afford it, so Hoya had paid for it. He’d been uncomfortable about that. He’d been the third serious relationship, then, the new kid in the club. There was Xiumin, who’d been with Sunggyu since forever, and there was Suho, who sneezed money and picked up modeling gigs for fun. No one had known what to do with him, because Hoya had never brought a boyfriend around before, and he’d been nervous with all of the celebrities and idols and impatient staff around. But Xiumin had accepted him, and Suho had taken care of him.
He’d been there when L had fallen in love with D.O. He’d been the one who’d introduced Dongwoo and Chen. He hadn’t meant anything by it, he’d just been friends with Chen, and Chen had been visiting, and Dongwoo had stopped by, so he’d introduced them. He hadn’t expected them to start dating!
He’d used to cook for Hoya. Shop and pick things up and run errands for Hoya. Attend all sorts of events, especially once they’d gotten engaged. He’d learned all sorts of things about sore muscles and twisted ankles. He’d learned which managers to approach when he had a question and which managers to avoid as much as he could. He’d learned not to notice when Hoya’s occasional bruises looked more like zealous hickeys. He’d learned not to complain about the way the fans treated him. He’d learned that nothing made him happier than being with Hoya. He’d learned that eventually, that wasn’t enough anymore.
He considered throwing the eggs in the disposal, but this apartment didn’t have one. He scraped the eggs onto a plate and thunked the plate down on the tiny folding table with the side dishes. He wondered if Hoya had noticed that he didn’t have a kitchen table. Or a TV. Or a couch. He kept meaning to get one. He didn’t know what his problem was, all of a sudden. Hoya didn’t care about things like that. He felt foolish for being embarrassed; he was too sensitive. It was just that he didn’t want Hoya to think that there was anything not great about his life. Living well was supposed to be the best revenge, and he was failing at it.
Did he want revenge? No, not exactly. Not really. He mostly just wanted to get away and start over. He wanted his life to be in a healthy, satisfying place that had nothing to do with Hoya or Infinite or idols at all. He wanted this mess to be some distant memory that he didn’t care about anymore.
He pushed open the bedroom door. Still asleep. He crawled onto the bed, kneeling at Hoya’s side, and nudged one bare, muscular shoulder. He opened his mouth, then closed it, not sure how formal to be. He chewed on his thumb and watched Hoya sleep. Those thick eyebrows, that stupid jawline the fans couldn’t shut up about. He’d used to giggle at how much make-up the stylists painted on, and then he’d been so in love that he’d swooned over every polished photo, so incredibly proud that the handsome, talented idol was his. He’d been late to realize that he was sharing that idol with anyone and everyone who wanted a piece.
He prodded Hoya’s arm. “Hyung. I made breakfast. I have to go soon, I have class.”
“Ungh.” Hoya pushed himself up onto one elbow, squinting. “Baekhyun-ah?” He smiled a little. “Hey.”
“Yeah.” He had no idea what to say. He hadn’t expected Hoya to look happy to see him. He didn’t know what to do with that. “There’s breakfast. I made eggs. I have to get dressed, so.”
Hoya nodded, sitting up. “Going to class? Vocal class?”
Hoya nodded again. “Can I come?”
Oh, hell, what? Hoya had used to come to his classes, sometimes. He remembered the first time vividly. He’d been so excited and so nervous. He’d gotten flustered over every little thing. And it had kept happening; Hoya would just go with him, and ask the professor for permission to stay, and sit in the back of the class. Hoya had even paid attention and learned things and asked the professor questions after class. Hoya had signed autographs, too, but it hadn’t ever seemed like Hoya had shown up to cause a splash or show off. No, Hoya had just been interested in his classes and liked to hang out with him. They’d liked to be together all of the time. Like L and D.O., only not so obsessive and creepy.
“I should change first,” Hoya said, rubbing a hand over his bare chest. He had such a sexy body, and he got to touch it whenever he wanted. Baekhyun remembered being irrationally jealous of him for that. “You got something I can wear?”
He didn’t know how to answer that, so he didn’t. “Where did these clothes come from?” he asked, pulling at the front of his T-shirt.
“Sungyeol,” Hoya said. “Those are my pants and Dongwoo hyung’s shirt, I think. Or his pants and my shirt, I don’t know. Your clothes are still at Sungyeol’s apartment. We can pick them up after class, if you want.”
All of a sudden he had a whole day full of plans with Hoya. Breakfast together. Then class. Then a visit to Sungyeol’s place. He wasn’t ready for this. It was like some weird time warp. That wasn’t his life anymore, but Hoya didn’t seem to realize it. “Are you trying to date me?”
Hoya nodded. Then he shook his head. Then he nodded. “Eggs?” he asked, getting up.
Woohyun loved days off. He was going to spend all day at Suho’s side, giving Suho all of the attention and love he couldn’t when they were apart. They had plans to eat dinner with Suho’s parents that night, so they’d have to go shopping that afternoon. He never showed up in front of Suho’s mother empty-handed.
They were cuddled on the couch together, being lazy and watching a movie, when someone rang the doorbell. “Expecting someone?” Suho asked.
He shook his head. “I’ll get it.” He kissed Suho, then got up, tugging his T-shirt into place and combing his fingers through his hair. Oh, it was just Sunggyu. “It’s nobody!” he called to Suho as he opened the door. “Hi, nobody.”
“Suho’s here?” Sunggyu asked, passing him by.
“Yes, Suho’s here. Please, come inside, welcome to our home,” he told the air, ushering an invisible person into the apartment.
“Give this to Xiumin,” Sunggyu said, handing Suho a phone. “I want to talk to you,” he told Woohyun.
“I want to hear every word of it.” Putting his arm around Sunggyu’s shoulders, he steered Sunggyu back toward the door. “Let’s talk tomorrow. Today’s our day off, and I want to spend it with my honey, not with my leader.”
“I’m serious,” Sunggyu said. “There’s a lot that we have to talk about. Aren’t you worried about D.O.?”
“Worried about a rich, handsome actor? Not a lot, no.” Sunggyu was being serious, though, and he sighed, nodding. “Yeah, okay, I worry about him. I worry about a lot of things. Can we worry more about them tomorrow, when Suho’s not waiting for me?”
“Tomorrow,” Sunggyu said. “I mean it. And be good to Suho,” he ordered, turning at the door. “I know how hard it is to put up with you. I don’t know why he doesn’t complain more.”
“Oh, you know why,” he said with a flirtatious grin.
“Ew,” Sunggyu said, and left.
Chuckling, Woohyun locked the door. “I’m all yours!” he called, heading back to the couch.
Smiling, Suho scooted over, patting the seat. “Good. Come here, you’re missing things.”
“The movie?” he asked, sitting down with his arm around Suho’s shoulders. He glanced at the screen. “What’s happening?”
Kissing his cheek, Suho slid a hand under his shirt. He laughed, liking the attention, turning his head. Suho’s kisses were soft on his lips. “Who cares about the movie?” Suho asked, tugging him forward.
After his day off, Dongwoo felt really good. Energetic. All jazzed up. It got him scolded, though, because he had trouble sitting still in their meeting. Practice went really well. When it was over, he was ready to go meet Chen and go out for a while, or maybe just pick up something to eat and go home, whatever Chen wanted to do. Then he found out that Sunggyu wanted to talk to him. To him and Woohyun and L.
“Leaving me out?” Hoya asked. He was still there. Sungyeol and Sungjong had already taken off, but Hoya was always one of the last ones out of the practice room.
“You can come, if you want,” Sunggyu said.
“Can he go instead of me?” Dongwoo asked. “Chen’s waiting for me.”
“Waiting where?” Sunggyu asked.
“At home, I think.”
“Then we’ll talk at your place.”
That didn’t seem like the right answer, but Sunggyu was already leaving. He called Chen, and Chen said that it was okay if everybody came over, so that was all right, after all. He picked up some food on the way home, only he ordered a whole lot, since apparently he was having the members over, too.
Everybody sat around the big dining room table, himself and Chen and Sunggyu and Woohyun and L and Hoya. L was quiet and hungry, and Woohyun was flirty, and Sunggyu asked if Chen could give them a few minutes alone.
“Why?” Dongwoo asked. “He can stay.”
“What is this big thing you want to talk about?” Woohyun asked Sunggyu.
“I don’t mind,” Chen said, getting up. He seemed totally comfortable and not hurt about it, so it was okay. He kissed Dongwoo’s forehead on the way by; that was nice.
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” Sunggyu said. “I think that we haven’t been honest about things. And we haven’t taken care of each other. We should look out for each other more. Maybe I set a bad example.”
“What bad example?” Dongwoo asked, not catching on.
“If we’re making bad choices and doing things that hurt other people, we should stop each other,” Sunggyu said. “If you went around picking fights with your sister and hitting her, or something, shouldn’t we say something?”
“I hope so!” he exclaimed. “Don’t let me do something like that!”
“When you started working on your marriage, it was hard on you,” Sunggyu said to Woohyun.
“It was horrible,” Woohyun admitted. “I had to fight with myself every day.”
“Maybe we should have helped you with it,” Sunggyu said. “Maybe we weren’t as supportive as we should have been.”
“I would have liked that,” Woohyun said.
Dongwoo nodded. “Me, too. It was so difficult! I think that I called Suho every day.”
“You mean, you called Chen,” Hoya said.
“No. I called Chen, too! But I called Suho every day. It was so hard for me, and I didn’t want to bother Chen with things that upset him. Suho went through everything already with Woohyun, so I called him. Chen shouldn’t have to hear about how much I want to have sex with other people, that’s not something I can burden him with.”
“The other day. I talked to D.O.,” Sunggyu said.
L put down his chopsticks. Sitting back, he crossed his arms over his chest and looked down. His expression was empty, like nobody was home and maybe L would be back later.
“I like you,” Sunggyu told L. “I like you a lot, and I like D.O., too. I want you to be happy, and you’re not. I want him to be happy, and he’s not, either. We don’t intervene in things because we don’t monitor each other’s lives. Our private lives are private and we don’t get involved in those things. But maybe we should.”
“What do you mean?” Woohyun asked.
“When we’re out, and someone hits on you, I don’t say anything. I know that you’re in love with Suho and you don’t want to hurt him. If you took somebody to your hotel room, should I do something? You’re an adult, don’t you make your own decisions? Should I speak up?”
“That would be great!” Dongwoo said. “I wish somebody would stop me once in a while. I don’t do anything bad, but I don’t know, it would be nice if I had a bodyguard or a safety net. Somebody to catch me if I mess up.”
“It’s a lot easier when Suho’s right there, but when we’re on tour.” Woohyun nodded. “I’d like it if I knew that you’d speak up. I think that Suho would be glad for it, too.”
“Chen would be so happy,” Dongwoo agreed. “He’d feel so much better if the members looked out for me. I hate that he worries, I feel so bad about it. Maybe this way, he wouldn’t worry so much.”
“Then if it’s okay with you, I want us to all look out for each other,” Sunggyu said. “For the three of you, especially, and Sungyeol. I guess we don’t have to worry about Hoya and Sungjong.”
“What do we do?” Hoya asked. “Where do you draw the line? Woohyun flirts with everybody, how do you know when to stop him?”
“Oh, there are rules,” Woohyun said, sitting up straighter. “Rules for everybody besides members and family. Being greasy is okay. Skinship with people I don’t have sex with and have known for a long time is okay. Touching and flirting at the same time is trouble and I have to be careful. No hugging, unless it’s a fan, and only fans I’m meeting for the first time or fans Suho approves of, never fans Suho put on the off-limits list. No kissing. No being alone behind a closed door, even with stylists. Always open doors, always witnesses. I put my own clothes on myself, no getting my pants zipped up by somebody else, and once everything’s on, then the stylist can fix things. Nobody in my hotel room, and I don’t go into anybody’s hotel room, either. I have to leave the room if one of the members starts touching things or making out or doing anything like that. If anyone makes a move, I have to tell them that I’m married and I’m faithful, and if they make a second move after that, I can’t talk to them.”
“What, at all?” Hoya asked in disbelief.
“Not for the rest of the day or the rest of the shoot or whatever it is that we’re doing,” Woohyun said.
“It’s too strict and complicated,” Sunggyu complained.
“I don’t have rules,” Dongwoo said. “Should I have rules? Does it help?”
“It helps me,” Woohyun said. “It makes Suho feel better, too. I know when to cut things off. But you have to care about the rules. It doesn’t mean anything if you always look for excuses and loopholes. You have to want to follow them, you have to remind yourself to feel good about it. It’s something I do for Suho, but I do it for myself, too, because I want a good marriage. I want a happy husband. I want things to be romantic and healthy.”
“Maybe I’ll make rules,” Dongwoo said, interested in the idea. “Can I borrow some of yours? Chen might like them.”
“Sure,” Woohyun said.
“It sounds like hell,” Hoya said.
“Is that what it’s like?” Sunggyu asked. “You have to police everything! Uh-oh, don’t touch me there!” he scolded, turning to his right and batting an imaginary hand away. “Uh-oh, don’t smile too much!” he scolded to his left. “Uh-oh!”
“I have a happy marriage and you have alimony,” Woohyun pointed out. “The guy I’m in love with is always happy to see me, and the guy you’re in love with hates everything about you. Maybe the rules are okay.”
Dongwoo felt bad for Sunggyu. He’d rather be in Woohyun’s shoes! Chen was always glad to see him, and that felt terrific. Their relationship had been great before, but it was really a lot better these days. Chen was a lot happier. So relaxed, so affectionate, so full of smiles and fun. He wouldn’t go back to the old way for anything.
“I don’t need a baby-sitter,” L said. “I can take care of myself.”
“No,” Sunggyu said. “You don’t have a choice. I like D.O., and the next time I see someone reaching inside his husband’s pants, I’m putting a stop to it. If you want to play those games, do it when I’m not around.”
“Look at it this way,” Woohyun said. “Think about meeting a sasaeng or getting a quick one from another idol. It’s hot, it’s sexy, you get off, it’s a total rush. It’s great, right?”
“Right,” Hoya said. “That’s why we do it.”
“Then think about your best moments with D.O.,” he told L. Dongwoo nodded, thinking about D.O. and then mentally substituting Chen, because that made more sense. “Everything’s great between you, he’s happy, he’s got that smile on his face, you’re so in love with him that you’re like, ‘Shit, if I weren’t already married to this guy, I’d propose to him right now.’ You’re happy and you’re so glad that you’re with him, it doesn’t feel like a burden to be with the same person forever, it feels like a miracle. So you have the quick hook-up on one side, and D.O. on the other side. If you had to open a door, which one would you rather have waiting for you on the other side?”
L just glared at him. Sunggyu said, “D.O. I mean, Xiumin.”
“Right,” Woohyun said. “All you have to do is keep that in mind. Keep making that choice, over and over again. Every time you say no to the quick hook-up, you get to keep a happy marriage with a happy D.O. It’s worth it.”
“It’s really worth it,” Dongwoo agreed. “It’s the most difficult in the beginning. It gets a lot easier once you get used to it.”
“You have to learn new habits,” Woohyun said. “Learn to say no, learn to back up. Once you recognize the stuff that always gets you in trouble, like this person or that situation, you stay away from that person and avoid that situation. And you have to relax and be okay if D.O.’s suspicious. It was hard for Suho to trust me. It’s okay if he keeps tabs on me. Sometimes I flirted too much, and he took the phone right out of my hand and finished the conversation for me. I didn’t get angry, I just learned not to talk that way, or not to talk to that person for a while. I’m the one who was cheating, I’m the reason our marriage had problems in the first place, so I’m the one who has to prove myself to him and earn his trust again.”
“We’ll watch the three of you and Sungyeol,” Sunggyu said. “We’ll do it for Suho and Chen and D.O. and Chanyeol, so they won’t have to worry as much. I like them, they’re good kids, they shouldn’t be this upset all of the time. I don’t think that you’ve treated them right.”
“Are you kidding?” L asked.
“I want you to watch me, too,” Sunggyu said. “I want to see if I can do it. I want to try being, not doing, you know.”
“Why?” Hoya asked. “Who are you saving yourself for?”
“I want to get Xiumin back.”
What did he mean? “Xiumin?” Dongwoo repeated.
“You’re hallucinating,” L said.
“You think I can’t do it?” Sunggyu asked. “I can do it,” he said to himself, nodding. “I’ll do it.”
“He hates you,” Hoya said. “If you ask him out on a date, he’ll make you take his lawyer to dinner, instead.”
“Worry about your own life,” Sunggyu said.
“I don’t know about Xiumin,” Woohyun said. “But I’ll have a lot of fun getting you to stop whipping your cock out for everybody who smiles at you.”
Sunggyu offered his hand, and they shook on it. Feeling good about the agreement, Dongwoo shook hands with them, too.
“Eh, why not,” Hoya said, and shook hands. “You’re right, it’ll be fun to cockblock. Sungyeol’s going to hate us so much.”
“I don’t need a baby-sitter,” L said, getting up.
“D.O. needs a husband,” Sunggyu said.
“He has one,” L snapped, walking away.
“He deserves a better one,” Hoya muttered under his breath. Frowning, he looked down, rubbing his hand across his mouth. “Maybe you’re not so stupid after all,” he finally told Sunggyu. “Maybe you’re right. We could’ve looked out for each other. I knew things were bad with you and Xiumin hyung, and I didn’t do anything about it.”
“We at least could have said something,” Woohyun said. He mimed tapping someone on the shoulder. “‘Ah, hyung, are you sure that you want to have sex with her? Aren’t you going to see Xiumin hyung tonight?’”
“Yeah, at least ask,” Hoya said.
“I’m sorry,” Dongwoo said to Hoya. “Was I a bad hyung? I should have helped you more. I feel bad about you and Baekhyun. You didn’t want him to leave.”
Hoya shrugged uneasily, crossing his arms over his chest. “I never helped you, either.”
“Sungyeol’s going to hate this so much,” Woohyun said. “We can have so much fun interrupting him.”
“Oh, let’s bring up Chanyeol every couple of minutes,” Sunggyu said. “Right in the middle of his flirting. ‘How’s your fiancé? Should we call him?’”
“Are you really going to date Xiumin?” Dongwoo asked. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. “I think that he’s too angry.”
“I have to learn to be, to do, to not. I have to learn that first,” Sunggyu said. “And I have to do it fast, because he has that stupid guy around, that Lay. He’s not that handsome!”
“He’s really cute,” Hoya said.
“Hyung, how can you be monogamous if you can’t even say it?” Woohyun asked, laughing.
“When’s the last time you turned down sex?” Dongwoo asked. “Maybe you should practice.”
Hoya nudged Sunggyu’s chair with his knee. “Want to have sex?”
“Sure,” Sunggyu said, starting to get up. “Should we go to the bedroom?”
“That’s not it!” Dongwoo exclaimed, laughing. “Say no!”
“Chen!” Woohyun called. “Chen-ah, we need you.”
“Aw, not him,” Sunggyu said. “He’s too cute, I’ll want to say yes.”
“Hyungs?” Chen asked, coming into the room.
“Ask Sunggyu hyung to have sex with you,” Woohyun said.
“He needs practice,” Dongwoo explained.
“Practice saying no,” Hoya added. “Not practice doing it, he’s had plenty of that.”
“What?” Chen asked, laughing.
“It doesn’t count, I wouldn’t do that with Dongwoo’s fiance, anyway,” Sunggyu said.
“You tried to do it with Baekhyun,” Hoya pointed out.
“I didn’t think that you were serious about him! You weren’t engaged then, it’s not the same.”
“Ask him,” Dongwoo encouraged, shooing Chen in Sunggyu’s direction.
“Uh.” Chen laughed, leaning against the table. “Hyung, do you want to do something later?”
“No,” Sunggyu said solemnly, and then he turned excitedly to Woohyun. “I said no!” he exclaimed, and they cheered at each other across the table.
“Ask me,” Dongwoo said, pulling Chen into his lap.
Smiling at him, Chen tickled his neck. He squirmed, and Chen laughed. “Hyung, do you want to do something later?”
“Yes. Yes!” he said, squeezing Chen happily. “Let’s do everything later.”
This was bullshit. “That’s bullshit,” Sungyeol said.
“I know.” L frowned at his drink. The three of them were at a booth in a dark corner of the club.
“They’d better leave me out of it,” Sungjong said, tossing his head. “I can do whatever I want.”
“Good for you,” Sungyeol said. “Shut up about it for once.”
“Maybe they’ll give up,” L said. “Sunggyu hyung’s not going to want us telling him what to do. He might put up with it for a little while, but it won’t last.”
“Yeah.” L was right. “If we make it too hard on him, he won’t want us to do it anymore. He’ll call the whole thing off. He’ll be too pissed if we start getting in his way.”
“Let’s make his life hell, then,” Sungjong suggested. “Cut him off every time he starts flirting with someone. Make sure that he never gets his cock wet again.”
“I would love to,” Sungyeol said emphatically. “Operation Get Kim Sunggyu,” he proposed.
“Operation Make Him Celibate,” Sungjong giggled.
L was still brooding over his drink. Sungyeol elbowed him. “Hey. Relax. Want to go dance?”
“Yeah.” Instead of moving, L brooded some more. “No. I’m going home,” he muttered. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“What, you’re leaving?” Sungyeol asked as he got up.
“Yeah, I’ll be going first.”
Frowning, Sungyeol watched L go. “What’s with him?” he asked Sungjong.
Sungjong shook his head. “I don’t know.”
D.O. came home late. He’d had a long day of meetings and appointments and dinner with a director who was thinking of hiring him. He wished that he had someone to tell about it. He’d used to talk to L about that stuff. L had even used to go to that kind of thing with him, not to get a role, too, but to support him, to talk him up and charm the director.
He wasn’t surprised to find the apartment dark and still. He picked up the smallest dog and wandered around aimlessly, sorting the mail and checking on the dogs’ food and water. “I might have a new job, soon,” he told the dog, petting it as he drifted. “I might be a leading man’s troubled younger brother. I’ll have a bunch of scenes on a yacht and everything. Do you think that’ll be fun?”
He wished that he were telling L. But he couldn’t tell someone who wasn’t home, could he? Scratching the dog, he went into the bedroom. He might as well - - “Oh my god.” He was so surprised, he almost dropped the dog. L was there!
L was home? He was on the bed. He was on his stomach, his face buried in the pillows. He was still dressed; he had his car keys in his hand. “Hyung?” Was he asleep?
Soundlessly, he rolled over. He stared at the ceiling. He wasn’t blinking, and his eyes were wet. His cheeks were wet. “Hyung.” D.O. sat beside him, setting the dog down. Had something happened? “What’s wrong?” Worried, D.O. put a hand on his chest. “Say something, you’re freaking me out.”
L licked his lips, swallowed, and looked away. Fresh tears leaked out of the corners of his eyes, dripping toward his ears. And then he said something horrible, something D.O. had never wanted to hear. “I hate my life so much.” He sniffed, wiping his hand under his nose, blinking out more tears. “I don’t know how to be happy anymore. I don’t know how to make myself happy, or how to make you happy, or how to make anybody happy. Every day is so miserable, I hate it.”
It was so upsetting to see him like this, D.O. didn’t know how to react. “Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying this to be hurtful. But it would be really easy to make me happy, if you stopped trying to make other people happy, too.” L kept looking at the wall, away from him. “I’m not hard to please, this isn’t some mystery. And if what you’re doing, all of this with other people, isn’t making you happy, what are you doing it for? You’re ruining everything for us and you aren’t even enjoying it?” Hearing the tension mount in his voice, he breathed out, dragging his hands through his hair. “What happened, did something happen today?”
Like it took real effort, L sat up. Sniffing again, he wiped at his face with his hands, but it didn’t make a difference; the tears kept coming. Bursting into sobs, he curled up onto himself, leaning forward.
“No, no,” D.O. said. Scared, feeling horrible, he hugged L. He didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so he didn’t say anything. He just wrapped his arms around L and let tears run down his own cheeks. He didn’t know if he was crying for L or for himself or for both of them. He’d wished for a lot of things, but he’d never wished to hear L say, “I hate my life.” Knowing that things were this bad was alarming. Had he been kidding himself? How broken was their relationship if L was this unhappy and he hadn’t realized it? He knew that he was miserable, but what kind of husband was he if L was this low and he didn’t even know about it?
He’d had a lot of thoughts about wishing that L would just decide to divorce him. He’d wished that L would cut things off and let him go, so that at least it would be over. That would push him into starting over. But now that L was talking like this, tonight, he realized that he didn’t want anything like that. He didn’t want to start over. He didn’t want to end their relationship, he didn’t want L to abandon him. “Don’t leave me,” he whispered into L’s hair. His voice sounded thick with tears. “Stay with me, please.”
After a while, L relaxed, slumping against him. He wasn’t ready to let go, so he didn’t. The dogs came and went. When L finally pulled away, he balled his hands into fists, tucking them between his legs. Whatever came next, he’d have to endure it.
L looked awful, his face all red and puffy. He put the car keys on the nightstand. “The members.” He cleared his throat. He wouldn’t meet D.O.’s eyes. “The members have this thing. This new idea. They’re going to start policing each other.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Keeping sasaengs away and interrupting each other if flirting goes too far. With other idols and staff and everybody. To protect their marriages and relationships, I guess.” He dropped his hand. “They’re going to watch me, too. Stop me from. Doing things I shouldn’t be doing.”
D.O. took a moment to absorb that. Was this a miracle?
L picked at the bedspread. “Woohyun hyung said that there’s a door, it’s like a choice.” His voice trailed off. His hand fell still. “I can’t make everybody happy, can I?” He said it like it was a new thought. He blinked slowly, tilting his head like he was considering it. “I can’t make everybody happy.” He tilted his head to the other side. “I have to choose.”
D.O. gave him time to think about that, since he seemed to be having some kind of revelation. Eventually, when he hadn’t said anything in a while, D.O. asked, “Do you want to tell me about the door?”
“Door?” L finally looked at him. “What - - oh. Woohyun hyung said that it’s a choice you have to make over and over and over again. Like a door you open. What do you want on the other side? Quick, easy sex and a good time, or a relationship with you.”
He wasn’t used to L talking about this kind of thing so openly. Not with him. L admitted to it sometimes in the middle of arguments, but never in quiet conversation. He wasn’t sure how to take it. Was it a good sign, that L was being honest about it? Or did it mean that L wasn’t even going to pretend anymore, that he was going to be expected to know all about it and just accept it like Sehun? He wasn’t okay with that, he hadn’t signed up for that like Sehun had. He’d been promised faithfulness and monogamy.
“It’ll be easier if the other members keep an eye on me.” L went back to picking at the bedspread. “I don’t know. It’ll be hard, anyway. And what if they stop? Or what if I can’t do it, what if I try and I just can’t? What if I lose fans, what if I piss people off? I didn’t get here by saying no to people.”
D.O. hadn’t realized that L thought that way. “Hyung. Seriously.” He put his hand on L’s arm, trying to look into L’s eyes. “Do you think that you’re successful, famous, Infinite’s L because you slept your way there?”
L huffed and wouldn’t look at him. “I’m good-looking and untalented. How else did I get here?”
“You’re not untalented!” He’d known that L worried about things like that, but he’d never realized that it was this serious, that it ran this deep. “You’re good at what you do and you work hard at it. You work really hard. You’ve come so far. Your fans love you because of good things. I fell in love with you before you ever touched me.”
Staring at the bedspread, L shook his head.
“You don’t realize how wonderful you are,” D.O. said, caressing the back of his neck. “You’re breaking my heart. I’ve known how amazing you are for years now. Everybody else knows, too. How can you be the only one who doesn’t know?”
“I don’t think I can do it,” L told the bedspread. He swallowed, shaking his head again. He looked like he was staring into a terrifying abyss. “I don’t think that I can say no to everybody. Over and over and over again.”
It had never been a problem for D.O. But L was so sensitive, and more insecure than he’d realized. “Can I help?” he asked, stroking L’s shoulder. “It’s like walking, one step at a time. One no at a time, one person at a time. Don’t think of it all at once, just take it piece by piece.” He wondered if the other members would really help. That would make a huge difference. “Woohyun hyung and Dongwoo hyung say no, right?” He hoped so. He really, really hoped so. “They can help you.”
One of the dogs climbed into L’s lap. He glanced down at it and petted it. “I want things to be different. I can’t do it like this anymore.”
“I want things to be different, too,” D.O. said. He’d never heard L talk like this. He could feel hope fluttering in his chest, and that scared him. Could he believe in this? Could things change? Could L change? “I’d really like that.”
L hugged him with one arm, chin on his shoulder.
“I love you,” D.O. said, hugging him back. “I really want this to work.”
“I want to choose you every time.” L’s voice was quiet. “I want you to be behind every door.”
It was like a game. They were in some cutthroat competition to see who could do the most cockblocking. Hoya loved it, because he could ruin all of Sunggyu’s fun, all day long. They interrupted even ordinary conversations, and burst in on each other in changing rooms in hopes of catching each other at something. Whenever Hoya saw one of his members standing too close to someone, even an old PD they’d known for years, he zipped right over and got all up in the middle of the conversation.
The frustrating thing was the members kept doing it to Hoya in return. That wasn’t fair; he could do whatever he wanted! He didn’t have some clingy fiancé to answer to! But they kept spoiling his good time, anyway.
After a couple of weeks, Woohyun said that they had to keep doing it. Apparently things with Suho had never been better. Dongwoo said that Chen loved it, too. “How do you feel about it?” Sungyeol asked Sunggyu.
“No, it’s horrible, I hate it,” Sunggyu said. He immediately added, “Keep doing it, it’s working. I haven’t cheated on Xiumin in,” he checked his watch, “too many days. Can I get laid soon?” he asked, looking pathetic. Squirming, he rubbed between his legs. “I really need it.”
“No,” Woohyun said.
“Ask Xiumin,” Dongwoo suggested.
“How are you?” Hoya asked L.
“I don’t know.” L rubbed the top of his head. “There are some unhappy people. It’s easier if I just work and go home. When I go out, it.” He shook his head. “It’s better if I’m at home. D.O. wants me to see a therapist.”
“What, we need therapy, now?” Sungyeol demanded.
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Woohyun said.
“How’s Chanyeol?” Dongwoo asked. “Does he like things this way, too?”
“I haven’t told him,” Sungyeol said. “How do you think it sounds?”
“Won’t Chen tell him?” Dongwoo asked. “Don’t they talk about everything?”
“What? He knows?” Sungyeol asked, staring at them.
“Doesn’t he?” Hoya asked. “You tell one of them, it’s like making an announcement to all of them. They talk to each other more than we talk to each other. And I can’t get the six of you to shut up.”
“You do talk a lot,” Woohyun told Sunggyu.
“Who? Me?” Sunggyu demanded, sitting up straighter and pointing at himself. “You! You talk all of the time! Chittering and chattering, who even knows what you talk about?”
“Shit,” Sungyeol said, looking unhappy. “What’s he going to think?”
“That maybe now you’re worth getting married to?” Hoya suggested.
“Seriously,” Sunggyu said, squirming in his seat again. “I need to get laid. Can one of you do it? That’s not cheating, is it, if it’s one of you?”
“I have to go home,” Sungjong said, getting up.
“Ask Xiumin about it,” Dongwoo suggested again. “Maybe he’ll help.”
Hoya hoped not. It would be entertaining to see Sunggyu’s losing battle with celibacy.
Chanyeol snuck through the crowded club. He felt guilty, showing up somewhere Sungyeol would be without letting Sungyeol know first. But Chen and Suho were there, and Chen had told him that he had to come and watch Infinite for himself. Hunching over to try to disguise himself, he went toward the stairs to the second floor. When a bouncer moved in his way, he darted a quick look around and said, “I’m Park Chanyeol.”
He leaned in closer, raising his voice, trying to be discreet but also be heard above the noise. “I’m Park Chanyeol.”
The bouncer offered a hand. “Nice to meet you. Get lost.”
Exasperated, he gestured to the stairs. “I’m on the list, I’m with Infinite.”
“No, you’re not.”
The bouncer shook his head. “No, you’re not.”
“I’m on the list! I’m with Lee Sungyeol, do you know Sungyeol hyung?”
The bouncer nodded. “I know him.”
“I’m engaged to him. I’m on the list, I’m his fiancé.”
The bouncer shook his head again.
Now what? “Can I see the list?”
The bouncer shook his head.
He texted Chen. A minute later, Suho came down the stairs. Moments after that, Chanyeol was headed up the stairs and the bouncer was still apologizing. Suho pulled him around the edge of the dark, crowded room. Sungyeol was going to be so pissed off at him for coming here like this, without warning. He hadn’t been on the list, and that made him uneasy. Maybe the fact that Sungyeol never liked for him to show up anywhere without advance notice had been a sign that something was wrong. He felt like he should’ve paid more attention to things like that.
Chen greeted him cheerfully, pulling him into a booth, Suho sliding in on his other side. “Watch, watch, you have to see this,” Chen said. “It’s the best, watch the members, any of them.”
He looked for Sungyeol first. Immediately, his gut clenched; Sungyeol had one hand on the bar and was leaning toward a pretty young woman with long hair and big, uh, earrings. He shouldn’t have come; he wanted to go. In the back of his mind, he was making excuses, explaining things away, telling himself that Sungyeol was just being friendly and it was an idol’s job to be likable. Sungyeol was engaged to him, what more proof did he need that Sungyeol loved him? This was just some nobody in a club; Sungyeol wouldn’t even remember her name tomorrow. Sungyeol tucked her hair behind her ear, and he wanted to go over there, wanted to interrupt.
“Wait, wait, it’s okay,” Chen said, rubbing his thigh. “Look.”
He saw Woohyun walk right over and clap a hand on Sungyeol’s shoulder. Sungyeol gave Woohyun a narrow look, but it wasn’t an angry look, just disapproving. Woohyun nudged Sungyeol aside, inserting himself between them, and introduced himself to the young woman, shaking her hand. He started talking, smiling and gesturing to Sungyeol and sketching a line over his own head.
“That’s you,” Suho said. “They’re talking about you, they always mention how tall you are when they describe you.”
“They’re talking about me?” Chanyeol asked, surprised.
“They like to bring up the significant others,” Chen said. “It helps to chase people away.”
Woohyun kept talking for a while, and then he thumped Sungyeol heartily on the back and moved on. Once he was gone, Sungyeol and the young woman tried to talk again, but the mood was different. They weren’t clicking anymore, and soon Sungyeol drifted away. The young woman wasn’t as interested anymore, but neither was Sungyeol. Why not? Chanyeol didn’t like to think that anything would have happened between them, but Sungyeol liked to flirt, anyway.
His gaze followed Sungyeol. He saw Sungyeol’s expression perk up, and then Sungyeol descended on a table, pulling up a chair to join Dongwoo and another idol. Sungyeol started talking animatedly, and then he gestured across the room to their booth. When the idol looked over, Chen waved. Dongwoo laughed and waved back. Sungyeol did a double take and froze, staring.
Chanyeol sank lower in his seat. Could he slide under the table?
Getting up, Sungyeol came right over toward the booth. “What are you doing here?” He planted both hands on their table, leaning forward. He didn’t look angry. He looked baffled, and then he reached out, cupping Chanyeol’s chin and stealing a quick kiss. Chanyeol blushed, liking it. He looked happier, now; he nudged Chen aside and took a seat. “How long have you been here? Why didn’t you tell me that you were coming?”
“Not long. Chen asked me to come, I just showed up.” All of Sungyeol’s annoyance was gone, just like that. He couldn’t believe it. Usually there was a lot of weird tension, and he’d feel completely unwelcome, and later he’d be accused of checking up on Sungyeol and not being trusting enough and not understanding how the industry worked. Tonight, Sungyeol seemed totally accepting and not at all unhappy that he’d come.
“It’s not a very - - what?” he asked, glancing over when Hoya came up to the table.
“Come on,” Hoya said, tapping his arm. “L’s dancing with somebody.”
“Oh!” Sungyeol leaned past Chen and kissed him again, then got up, looking gleefully mischievous. “Hold on a second, I’ll be right back.”
Happy, Chanyeol watched them squeeze past people. Sungyeol was tall enough that Chanyeol could track him as he moved between dancers. He and Hoya moved in on either side of L. A minute later, L emerged from the crowd with them, laughing. The three of them teased each other for a moment, and then L spotted something and hurried off with Hoya. Grinning, Sungyeol came back to the booth. “You want to dance?”
The way Sungyeol asked him sounded so natural and friendly, it reminded him of the first days they’d been together. Amazed, realizing how much he’d missed that, he said, “Yeah.” He crawled past Chen, and Sungyeol pulled him in among the dancers. The music was so loud and fast and fun, he got caught up in it, and he danced with Sungyeol like he had when they’d first met, just enjoying it, grooving against Sungyeol’s body, not tracking where Sungyeol’s attention went, not worrying about a thing.
Feeling a slap on his ass, he looked around, and he found Hoya on his right, Sungjong moving in on his left. “Hi, hey, how are you doing?” Hoya asked. He leaned in to hear better. “How long have you known Sungyeol?”
“Uh.” He glanced from Hoya to Sungjong and back, confused.
“Have you met his fiancé?” Hoya asked. “You know that he’s engaged, right?”
“Tall guy,” Sungjong said, gesturing over his own head.
“Yeah, I saw him here tonight, he’s around here somewhere,” Hoya said.
“He’s really good-looking,” Sungjong added.
“Guys, seriously,” Sungyeol said, laughing.
“Really good-looking,” Hoya agreed, like Sungyeol hadn’t said a thing. “It’s going to be a great wedding. Maybe you can go.”
“They’re so in love with each other,” Sungjong said. “It’s kind of embarrassing.”
“Yeah, a lot of idols get around, you know. But not our Yeolie!” Hoya said, squeezing Sungyeol’s shoulder. “Always faithful, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes, now get away,” Sungyeol said, pushing at them. “Bother someone else, Chanyeol doesn’t want to hear it.”
“He looks a lot like you,” Hoya said, giving Chanyeol a once-over. “His ears are bigger, though. They stick out,” he explained, gesturing. “Have you ever seen that movie, Dumbo?”
“Ya, shut up.” Sungyeol cupped his hands over the sides of Chanyeol’s head. “His ears are better-looking than everything about you.”
“Ooo, ooo, Sunggyu hyung,” Hoya said. “Come on,” he said, and he and Sungjong took off.
Laughing, Chanyeol hugged Sungyeol. “Is that how it goes? I like this new game.”
“They’re just being stupid.” Sungyeol kissed him. “I’m glad you came. It’s more fun with you here.”
He loved hearing that so much, he knew he was wearing a big smile. “It’s better being together,” he agreed, and Sungyeol kissed him again.
Xiumin was loading the dishwasher when his phone rang. It was the apartment building’s security office. Not another incident with a sasaeng, he hoped. “Hello?” he asked, starting the washer with a click and a hum.
“Yes, there’s a Kim Sunggyu here to see you.”
“Kim Sunggyu?” he repeated. Was this a joke? “I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone by that name, and it’s too late at night for games.” He hung up. Not knowing whether it was Sunggyu or an imposter or an anti’s prank, he deliberately put it out of his mind. He finished tidying up the kitchen, and then his phone beeped. Telling himself not to get emotionally invested, he checked his texts.
It was Sunggyu. I have to see you. Let me up.
He didn’t reply. Instead, he walked back to his office and sat down in front of his computer. Deciding to do some work while he was still awake, he began to review audition videos.
Another text. I pay rent on that apartment, don’t I? Let me up.
Oh, hell, no. Pressing his lips together, he texted back fast. You pay me what the court says you’re legally obligated to pay me. That doesn’t give you the right to wear my clothes, eat my food, drive my car, or come into my apartment. If you want to see someone so badly, go visit your lawyer. He’d love a visit.
Why is every word I hear from you “lawyer?”
He snorted. Who used the word first? I wasn’t the one.
His phone rang. He didn’t answer it.
Things were quiet after that. Wonderfully quiet. Relaxing again, he reviewed the auditions and made notes. After emailing some comments to management, he decided to go to bed. He moved around the apartment, turning off lights and double-checking locks. Undressed, he crawled into bed. He was stroking his cock and letting his mind drift when his doorbell rang.
Startled, he sat up straight. “Fuck.” Rushing out of bed, he yanked his pants back on. He wiggled on his way to the door, tugging at things; he hadn’t put on underwear, and his cock was still a little stiff, and now he was uncomfortable, and screw it. He checked the peephole, then jerked the door open as far as the chain let him. “What the hell are you doing here?” he whispered through the crack.
“I have to talk to you.”
“No! How did you get up here?” He was getting everyone in building security fired.
“I know other people who live here. Let me in, really, this is serious.”
“Which other people?”
“Do you have a hard-on?” Sunggyu whispered. He scowled. “Is that Lay in there?”
“Get out of here!” He shoved the door shut again, then locked it and set the alarm.
The doorbell rang.
Damn it! He grabbed his phone. What do you want?!
I have to talk to you.
I can’t say it like this. Let me in.
No staying overnight. No breakfast. Talk and leave.
He was going to regret this. He opened the door and whispered, “Who do you know in this building?”
Sunggyu stuck his fingers through the gap in the door. He probably thought that would prevent Xiumin from closing it. He was probably right. “Just some fans. Can I come in?”
Fans? Living here? Watching him come and go? Keeping tabs on him? Making notes about his trash? Maybe he should move. “Come in and say it and get out.”
Sunggyu came in and then just stood there, looking around and nodding. He locked the door and sat down, and Sunggyu was still looking around and nodding. He scratched his arm, wishing that he’d put a shirt on. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited. Finally, Sunggyu looked at him. “It’s nice. A nice apartment.”
“Thanks.” Spreading his arms out, he patted his couch and smiled. “My lawyer worked hard and got me a whole lot of money.” Still smiling, he tilted his head to one side, fluttering his lashes cutely. “Why not spend it?”
Pressing his lips together, Sunggyu nodded. Then he dragged the ottoman over and sat down on it, clasping his hands together, right in front of Xiumin. “We should get back together.”
Xiumin waved Sunggyu closer. Sunggyu leaned in. He waved Sunggyu even closer, and Sunggyu leaned in even more, eyes widening like that would help to hear him better. Cupping his hand over his mouth, he whispered, “I have a boyfriend.”
“You should get rid of him,” Sunggyu said, sitting back.
“What is this?” Xiumin asked conversationally, crossing his arms again. “What is this, what do you want? Are you bored? Does it bother you so much that I don’t like you anymore? Why do you think that any of this makes sense?”
“We had a good marriage,” Sunggyu said. Silently, Xiumin widened his eyes as far as they could go. “I made mistakes. But I won’t do that again! I’ve been practicing.” Sunggyu squirmed in a really…familiar…way. Oh, hell, no. “I haven’t had any sex for three weeks. But you have to help me, I think that I’m dying. I have blue balls or something, it’s a real medical problem.”
The fact that Sunggyu was even a little bit serious was amazing to him. “You showed up here because you thought that I would get you off?”
“No! Yes! I want to explain things to you. I’m trying, I’m working really hard! I turn down everybody!”
“You don’t turn anybody down. I know all about it, they told me. Your members get in your way and scare everybody away from you. If it weren’t for them, you’d do whatever you want, like always. As soon as they get bored with their new game, they’ll stop, and you’ll go right back to a different person every night.”
“No, I’m working on it,” Sunggyu insisted. He looked really sincere. He probably was. He probably thought that he was really onto something. He had to want this, but Xiumin couldn’t figure out why. “I can do it. If I can lead those six funny-looking kids to success and make a profit for Woollim and be an idol with this face, I can do this, too. I can be monogamous. I can control myself. I can say no to people.”
“You could always control yourself,” Xiumin said. “Your problem isn’t impulse control, it’s an ego the size of the world. You get laid because you want to, because you like it, because you’re rock star Kim Sunggyu.”
Sunggyu nodded, lowering his gaze. He didn’t like hearing things like that about himself. For a moment, he was still, and then he looked at Xiumin again. His tone was serious and there was no humor in his gaze. “I work hard on things that I want. I do what I have to do to get what I want. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes it’s not easy. Not all of it comes naturally. I don’t have as much energy as Dongwoo. My body doesn’t move the way Hoya’s does. I’m not greasy, I don’t have aegyo, I’ll never look like L, it’s hard being the leader, there are so many things I have to work on. But it was always easy with you. I never had to try when it came to you. It was fun and I really liked having this part of my life that felt so good. When things got bad, I wasn’t used to trying with you. I wasn’t used to working on our relationship, and I didn’t understand that I had to. It had always been so easy, and suddenly it wasn’t anymore, and I didn’t get it. I didn’t figure things out. I just wanted it to go back to being easy, like it was supposed to be.”
Xiumin nodded. Drawing his legs up, he leaned against the armrest. It was important to him to hear this. It didn’t feel good, at all, but it was still something he wanted to know.
Sunggyu looked down, then at him again. “I’m sorry that I didn’t know what to do before. I want to try now. I want to work on making things right with you.”
Xiumin rested his head on his hand. Honestly, he felt bad for Sunggyu. “It’s too late for that now.”
“We were together for a long time, weren’t we?” Sunggyu asked. “You saw what Infinite was like before we debuted. You know how things are now. Nobody ever thought that we’d make it like this. I did that. I can do this, too, I can do anything.”
He felt like commenting on Sunggyu’s arrogance would be redundant. “You should go home and forget about me. Let’s stay out of each other’s lives from now on. You’ll meet someone else. I’m the boyfriend you had before you debuted. Imagine the kind of guy you could be with now. Don’t you want someone to parade around and make everybody’s jaw drop? You shouldn’t let Woohyun and L have the best husbands, it’s embarrassing.”
“Write down all of the reasons you left me,” Sunggyu said. “Everything that ever bothered you. I’ll work on those things. I’ll be a better Kim Sunggyu. If you left because I cheated, and I stop cheating, doesn’t that make a difference?”
“No. I can’t go through this with you again. I can’t hope and try and wish for things and lie to myself. I did that for too long already. I endured everything I could endure, and I fought as hard as I could fight. It’s over. I’m too tired and I’m too angry and I’m too bitter and I’m all of those things Sungyeol thinks of me.”
“If you’re tired, give in,” Sunggyu said. Leaning closer, he braced his hands on the edge of the couch, bracketing Xiumin’s legs. “If you’re angry and bitter, date me and make my life hell. Move in with me and ruin the apartment. Be mean and jealous and rude. Just let me try.”
A second chance was right in front of him. A fragile second chance, glinting with promise. The last chance he’d ever have. Xiumin had been so sure that he was right to push Sunggyu away, but suddenly his footing was uncertain and the ground beneath him seemed shaky.
He could say yes. They could try again. What if it worked this time? He couldn’t tamp down on the hope swelling inside of him. He could be with Sunggyu again. They could be together and happy, the way they’d been before, when everything had been so good between them. He could be back, snugly ensconced in the life he’d had to give up. Back at Sunggyu’s side, loving Sunggyu openly and freely.
But wasn’t he just opening himself up to more pain? More frustration and rejection? Everything had gone to hell before, no matter how much he’d struggled to pull their relationship out of its death spiral. What made him think that it could all work out this time? There was no magical snap of the fingers that would fix things. He and Sunggyu just weren’t a good match. The fun and happiness and incredible sex couldn’t make up for the arrogance and selfishness. He didn’t want to be brushed aside and used when convenient and taken for granted again.
And even if, somehow, Sunggyu changed, what about everyone else? What about all of the rest of the lifestyle? What about the cheating, distrustful members and the hostile management and the furious sasaengs and the tempting celebrities? Marrying Sunggyu meant being submerged in idol culture, and Xiumin had already gotten a very vivid view of the ugly side of that.
But Sunggyu wanted to be with him again. His lips parting, he stared into Sunggyu’s face. He loved Sunggyu so much. He’d been in love with Sunggyu for years. He’d been in love since Sunggyu had been a desperate trainee. He’d known Sunggyu for longer than some of the actual Infinite members. He’d been there for Sunggyu’s humble, determined debut. He’d been there for every painful step toward success. He’d watched Sunggyu struggle and bloom and doubt. They’d been a part of each other’s lives for so long, if they hadn’t been able to make it work after everything they’d been through, didn’t that mean that they were doomed, that there was no possibility that it would ever last? Or, they’d been together for so long, didn’t it mean that they owed each other another chance? That after all of the push and pull, maybe this was an inevitable step?
Or maybe Sunggyu just couldn’t stand the fact that Xiumin was seeing someone else, and wanted to stake a claim.
His heart hammering in his chest, Xiumin felt a kind of terror. His whole future hung in front of him, and he had no idea which way to turn. He’d been so sure of himself, but what if he was making a huge mistake? Should he stubbornly keep forging ahead, fleeing and not looking back? Should he give in to hope and optimism? Was any chance at happiness a good chance, or was this one too fragile to hold onto? Did he owe it to himself to give Sunggyu another shot, or did he owe it to himself to protect himself from more heartbreak? Silently, staring at Sunggyu, he shook his head. He didn’t know. He couldn’t do this.
“Ah, Xiumin-ah.” Sunggyu took hold of his shoulders, steadying him. “Trust hyung. You can do that, can’t you?”
“No.” No, he couldn’t trust Sunggyu. He knew that, if he didn’t know anything else. God, what was he thinking?
“We’ll go out tomorrow. We’ll go to dinner. We’ll go with Dongwoo and Chen. I’ll pick you up after practice, we’ll eat somewhere nice. Okay?”
He shook his head again.
Gently taking hold of his chin, Sunggyu guided him into a nodding motion.
He pushed Sunggyu’s hand away, then pushed Sunggyu’s face away. Needing to think clearly, he twisted away, crossing his arms over the back of the couch and taking a steadying breath. Maybe if he wasn’t looking at Sunggyu, he could hold onto a coherent, sure thought.
This was a bad idea. A monumentally bad idea. He had to admit that, right up front. No doubt about it, no denying it, getting involved with Sunggyu again was a horrible idea. He was going to end up screaming and furious and regretting every second of it.
He’d have to give up Lay. He’d regret that, too. Lay was way too nice a guy to deserve to be jerked around and dumped just because he wanted some fling with his ex.
A fling with his ex. There were perks to that. He’d be Sunggyu’s boyfriend again, not the villainous ex. He’d be back in the inner circle, right in the center of it, not hanging on the fringes. He’d pretty much lost his friends in the break-up, since everyone’s ties to Sunggyu were stronger than their ties to him. Lately, he’d gotten to see some more of them, and it only reminded him how much he liked them and how lonely he’d been without them. It would be great to be able to see everyone without reservations.
The sex would be phenomenal. That was definitely enticing.
He wondered if he was tough enough to do this. To have a fling. If he stayed realistic, if he kept one foot out the door, if he reminded himself that he knew full well it wouldn’t last, could he enjoy the perks and avoid the worst of the damage?
What would the worst parts be? Losing Sunggyu again, that would be hell. Aside from that?
Smooth, confident hands stroked over his sides, warm against his bare skin. Sunggyu was behind him on the couch, coaxing him back. As he was drawn back against Sunggyu’s chest, he heard Sunggyu’s voice, soft in his ear. “Hyung missed you.”
For an instant, he gave into it, leaning back against Sunggyu, his head falling back onto Sunggyu’s shoulder. His back arched as those warm hands caressed his chest, and when he felt Sunggyu’s fingers move lower, over his stomach, he moaned, already writhing, welcoming every touch. His body knew what it wanted, and it had always, always responded to Kim Sunggyu.
The strength of his immediate response hit him hard, and his eyes flew open. When had they closed? He was too into this, too susceptible, and if he gave in now, he’d never regain control. There would be no staying realistic, no one foot out of the door; he’d do anything and rationalize everything and end up in the same miserable, devastated, heartbroken place he’d already lived for too long.
Hurriedly, he dove forward, scrambling off of the couch. On his feet, he whirled around to keep Sunggyu in sight, and then he backed up warily, one hand out to keep Sunggyu at bay. “No sex.”
“I haven’t had anybody else in weeks,” Sunggyu said. He started to get up, and Xiumin’s eyebrows shot up in warning, hand signaling him to stay down. He submitted, sinking back down. Good.
“That’s your choice. I’m not your parent or your puppet master. You’re an adult, you make your own decisions. It’s up to you and your partners when you have sex or don’t. If you’re staying celibate, that’s your choice. Don’t blame me or hold me responsible or expect me to owe you something in return for it.”
Sunggyu nodded, eyes flickering, expression thoughtful.
“You have to do something for me, though.”
“I said that I would.”
“I think that you’re too drunk to remember it, or your lawyer would have said something by now,” Sunggyu said. “I promised you that I’d do something for you if you came up to my apartment. Our apartment.”
“Your apartment,” Xiumin corrected him. Sunggyu had promised him something? It was good of Sunggyu - - honest of Sunggyu - - to stick to that, especially since he hadn’t remembered anything about it. “You promised to do anything for me?”
“Whatever you ask for.”
Oh, that was tempting. He could use this opportunity to make Sunggyu’s life gloriously painful. But he had something more important in mind. “I want you to do a better job of smoothing things over between me and your fans. Whatever happens between us or doesn’t happen. They take their cues from you, and if you’re firm and clear with them, they’ll respond to it. I want you to tell them to behave. They’re your responsibility, and so am I, so do a better job of making peace.”
Sunggyu slumped, looking away and nodding to himself. He shifted uncomfortably and rubbed between his thighs, but it was almost an unconscious action; his thoughts were clearly somewhere else. “They won’t like it, but I can be firm with them.”
Xiumin was relieved. Kind of surprised that it had been this easy, but relieved, too. It wouldn’t stop all of the harassment, but it would make a difference. “Thank you.”
Sunggyu looked at him. “Will you be less formal and call me hyung?”
“Maybe another time. I’ll go to dinner, though, if you leave right now without talking.”
Sunggyu’s mouth opened, eyes widening. Then he clamped his mouth shut. His expression asked, “Really?”
“Yes. I’ll go to dinner.”
Sunggyu’s smile was so big and happy, Xiumin laughed. He gave Xiumin a big okay sign with his fingers, then two thumbs up. Getting up, he bowed to ninety degrees, and then he waved cheerfully with both hands.
“Good night,” Xiumin said, shooing him toward the door.
Backing toward the door, he gave Xiumin more thumbs up, his smile bright. Such a goddamned adorable hamster. It was so easy to make him happy, sometimes. So rewarding, it was addictive. The more he smiled, the more Xiumin smiled back. At the door, he bowed again, and Xiumin undid the locks. He waved again, and Xiumin gave him a tiny wave back, closing the door in his face.
After locking the door up securely, Xiumin stood there, amazed at his own stupidity. He was falling right back into the same trap he’d just escaped. And he felt great about it.
“You’re so stupid,” Baekhyun whispered into his phone.
“I know I am, I’ve been telling myself that all morning,” Xiumin said. “Why do you keep whispering?”
“Already? What, did he spend the night?” Xiumin’s voice was flirty and suggestive. “Is it Kai again?”
“Who? What are you up to, juggling two new guys?”
“He’s not very new,” Baekhyun admitted. Cringing, he whispered, “It’s Hoya hyung.”
“He spent the night?!” Xiumin demanded.
“You’re dating Sunggyu hyung!”
“Are these jackasses addictive?” Xiumin demanded. “Why are we with them again?”
“Maybe we’re addictive,” Baekhyun suggested. “They keep coming back for more. Maybe we’re just that great.”
“That makes sense,” Xiumin said. “For me. I don’t know about you.”
“Okay, hyung, I’m hanging up now.”
Baekhyun hung up, left the bathroom, and crawled back into bed. Snuggling up, he rested his head on Hoya’s chest. He couldn’t figure out why Hoya wanted to be with him again. Maybe it was just habit. Maybe it was insecurity. He’d been Hoya’s only major relationship. Maybe he was familiar, and Hoya didn’t know how to start over with someone else. That was kind of crappy; he didn’t want to be somebody Hoya settled for because it was easy. He wanted Hoya to feel confident about being with hundreds of guys and choose him anyway because he was special.
For Hoya, sex was like dancing. Something physical, something he felt confident about, something he knew he was good at and honed through practice. Relationships and opening up and emotional honesty and intimacy were a lot more difficult, something he wasn’t as comfortable with, something he shied away from most of the time. For whatever reason, he felt like he could be himself with Baekhyun. That was a tremendous gift, and Baekhyun had never taken that lightly. But was his sense of comfort with Baekhyun keeping him tethered? Maybe he kept coming back out of habit, like a homing pigeon or something, when what he really needed was to find someone new. It had been hard for Baekhyun to get back out there and try dating; maybe Hoya was having trouble with it, too.
Would the smart move here be to push Hoya away? For his own good? For everybody’s good? Maybe Baekhyun was making a similar mistake, settling for something familiar instead of breaking in someone new.
But he’d tried someone new. He’d dated. He’d met guys casually, he’d gone on formal dates, he’d even had sex! Only with Kai, but still, that definitely counted. He knew that he could get back out there, if he wanted. He could pick up new guys if he tried, and his friends would introduce him around if he asked. He just honestly preferred Hoya. He always had; that was why he’d gotten engaged in the first place.
He knew why he was here with Hoya. It was because he wanted to be, no matter what his other options were. He just wasn’t sure that Hoya was here for the same strong reasons.
“We don’t have much time,” Suho said, walking into Xiumin’s apartment with a garment bag over his shoulder.
“I’m so excited for you!” Chen exclaimed, following Suho and greeting Xiumin with a hug.
“This is a trip,” Sehun said, strolling in on Chen’s heels.
“What he said,” Baekhyun said, right behind him.
D.O. saluted, following.
Xiumin stared at the parade, then at Chen. “You brought the whole circus?”
“Sehun and D.O. were with Suho hyung when we talked, and Baekhyun came over,” Chen said.
Xiumin started to close the door. When he met with resistance, he looked out again and found Chanyeol on the threshold, looking stunned and wary. “This is a dream,” Chanyeol said. “It has to be. You’re not dating Sunggyu hyung.”
“Don’t announce it to the world,” Xiumin said, dragging him in and closing the door. That was everyone, right? He counted heads and came up with six, plus his own. Oh, great, seven, a perfect set. “What is this?” he asked, gesturing at the garment bag. Then he noticed the bag in D.O.’s hand. “Moving in?”
“We brought supplies,” Suho said, heading for the bedroom. “Have you showered yet?”
It was like a party. A comfortable, casual party. Sehun and Chanyeol raided his fridge while Suho unzipped the garment bag to reveal half-a-dozen outfit choices. Everyone settled in his bedroom to talk while he changed clothes. Chen and Suho hovered over him like his appearance was their pet project while Baekhyun and D.O. discussed Infinite’s new cockblocking policy. He was alone with Suho and D.O. in the bathroom when he found out, confidentially, that L had a therapist. Shit, things really were changing.
“Don’t tell anyone,” D.O. said quietly. Suho nodded. They all trusted Suho; he probably knew more about Infinite and their significant others and their relationships than anyone did. “I think that it’ll be good for him. It was hard to choose someone. We’re going together for the first appointment. It might take him a while to get comfortable.”
“It’ll be good for him,” Suho said. “He’s been through a lot. It’s good to talk to someone about it.”
“They probably all need therapy,” Xiumin said. “Shit, sign me up, too.”
“All of us,” Suho said. “Except Dongwoo hyung and Chen.”
“What’s with them, anyway?” Xiumin asked, wrinkling his nose. “Is it right for them to be so well-adjusted and happy all of the time?”
“Suspicious,” D.O. said.
After Xiumin fixed his hair and got everyone’s approval - - not that he’d asked, but they all felt the need to weigh in, anyway - - Suho dug through the bag D.O. had carried in. So far it had held three pairs of shoes, some belts, and other accessories. Now Suho pulled out a make-up bag. Full of make-up. “What?” Xiumin asked as Chen guided him back in front of the mirror. “Am I going to have a photo shoot later? I don’t need make-up.”
“Just a little,” Suho said, setting mascara on the counter and inspecting lip gloss.
“I’m not an idol!”
“You want to look pretty for Sunggyu hyung, don’t you?” Chen asked.
“There will be photos,” D.O. reminded him.
“You could use some foundation,” Chanyeol said, leaning in the bathroom door. Xiumin stared at him and he backed up. “No offense, hyung.”
“I do not need foundation!” His skin was flawless, thank you very much. “You’re not putting that shit on Chen,” he argued, dodging as Suho moved toward him, eyeliner in hand.
“I’m not pretty like you, hyung,” Chen said.
He glared at them. “This is because I don’t have double eyelids, isn’t it?”
“Who cares about things like that?” Suho asked. “Now hold still.”
He relented. They skipped the foundation, but he got mascara, eyeliner, and a little shimmery lip gloss. He looked sexy as hell, of course. “I might be too good for Kim Sunggyu,” he decided, smirking at his reflection. Oh, yeah, he looked great. He winked at Suho. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Ah, I love it when you get confident,” Suho said, grinning at him.
“Makes me want to pinch your cheeks,” Baekhyun said.
“What’s he like in bed, anyway?” Sehun asked.
“Don’t ask things like that,” Suho scolded.
“Who, Kim Sunggyu?” Xiumin asked. He checked himself out again, turning his face from side to side, admiring his eyebrows. Oh, yeah, he definitely still had it. “Pretty terrible.”
“You want to talk terrible in bed,” Baekhyun said. “Hoya hyung.”
“They’re all such show-offs, right?” Suho asked. He pouted at D.O., who sighed at him and then stood there placidly while he applied lip gloss.
“All of that stamina,” Baekhyun said. “Oh, so you have the highest sex drive known to mankind, good for you.”
“Oh, so you know a thousand different sex positions,” Xiumin said, rolling his eyes.
“Having superb muscle control isn’t everything,” Baekhyun said.
“All of that experience doesn’t mean that much,” Xiumin said.
“Having a big cock isn’t that great,” Baekhyun said.
“Nobody likes all of that foreplay, anyway,” Xiumin said. “Skip the build-up, just get to it and get it over with.”
“Cuddling afterward, please, who needs it?” Baekhyun asked.
“Who really likes kissing that much?” Xiumin asked. “We’re not teenagers.”
“So, they’re terrible?” Sehun asked.
“Awful,” Baekhyun said. “So bad.” He coughed, looking away. Xiumin scanned the ceiling. Chen laughed at them.
“Well, I don’t have any complaints,” Suho said. “Sehun-ah, come here, let me see those pretty eyelashes.”
“Is my bathroom a make-up counter now?” Xiumin asked.
“Yes,” Suho said, uncapping the mascara.
“Of course you don’t have any complaints,” Chanyeol told Suho. “Woohyun hyung is super romantic.”
“And has a great body,” Chen said.
“And has that gorgeous cock,” Xiumin said.
Suddenly the entire room was staring at Xiumin in silence. The entire room except for Suho, who was digging in the make-up bag and smiling to himself.
“What?” Xiumin asked. “Like no one else has noticed.”
“He hasn’t exactly shown it to me,” Chanyeol said, laughing.
“I’ve never seen it,” Sehun said.
“Are you saying it’s better than Sunggyu hyung’s?” D.O. asked.
“Dongwoo hyung likes Sunggyu hyung’s more,” Chen said. “What?” he asked, laughing, when they all turned to him. “He talks about those things.”
“He would,” Chanyeol said.
“Ya, what’s that supposed to mean?” Chen asked, giving him a mock-challenging look.
“Come on, let’s stop,” Suho said. “Someone’s feelings might get hurt.”
“Not mine,” Chen said, crossing his arms over his chest with a knowing expression.
“Yes, we all know about you,” Baekhyun said.
“Know what about him?” Sehun asked.
“Oh, the new kid hasn’t seen it?” Xiumin asked, interested. “Go ahead, give him a show.”
“No!” Laughing, Chen covered himself modestly with one hand. “That’s embarrassing.”
“What, are you hung?” Sehun asked, looking curious.
“Are you?” D.O. asked in return.
“Kids, hush,” Suho said, packing everything back into his bag. “Rehearsal will be over soon. Are you ready?” he asked Xiumin. “Do you need anything else?”
“It took seven of us to get me dressed, but I’m ready.” He went out to the bedroom, where there was a full-length mirror. His shirt was great, his pants showed off his ass, and his hair was totally on point.
While Suho plucked at his clothes, adjusting the hang of his shirt, he heard giggles from the bathroom. “Oh, it’s cute,” Baekhyun said.
“Thanks,” Sehun said.
“We need more mature friends,” Xiumin told Suho.
“Well, we always have each other.” With a sudden smile, Suho hugged him. “I’m really happy for you. However it goes, okay?” Pulling back, Suho held up a fist. “Hyung fighting!”
“You’ll help me recover when my whole life falls apart again?”
“Always,” Suho promised, squeezing his arm. “We’ll go on vacation together and get away from all idol news and take happy selcas to send to your antis. Nothing pisses them off more than knowing that you had Kim Sunggyu, you left Kim Sunggyu, and you’re happy without him.”
“You’re my favorite dongsaeng,” Xiumin said, hugging him hard.
“Whoa, shit!” Sehun exclaimed from the bathroom. “Where’d that thing come from? Does it bite?”
“Did you get a pet?” Suho asked, pulling back.
Xiumin wished. “I think he’s talking about Chen’s cock.”
Sunggyu was so nervous, everything flustered him. He tried to open the car door for Xiumin, and Xiumin told him to calm down. He drove too cautiously, until Xiumin asked if they were going to get to the restaurant before the next Ice Age, and then he drove too fast. What did Xiumin expect? He was too distracted. Why did Xiumin have to look so good? It made him feel like he should’ve put on eyeliner, himself, or something! He’d cleaned up after practice, and he thought that he looked good, but Xiumin, with those pretty eyes, with that soft, pink, shimmery mouth, shit, he couldn’t keep his eyes on the road.
“Can I get laid tonight?” he asked, glancing over again, taking another peek.
Casually, Xiumin shifted in the seat. “No. Everyone’s braking in front of you, you know.”
He managed to get them to the restaurant safely. Dongwoo and Chen were already there, and the four of them got a table in a private room. Dongwoo and Xiumin were full of conversation, talking about this and that and everything else, and Chen was all smiles and laughter. Sunggyu couldn’t sit still and didn’t want to eat anything and couldn’t focus. He couldn’t relax! Tonight was too important to him. Xiumin was too important to him. They’d gone out a million times before, but everything was different now. He couldn’t do any of the things he’d used to, because he wasn’t allowed. They weren’t married anymore, they weren’t even boyfriends, and he didn’t know how to act. What did Xiumin want from him?
Oh! “Here,” he said, pulling out his phone. “Couple selca,” he told Xiumin.
“I’m not taking a photo with you,” Xiumin said.
“Hyung,” Chen said.
“Sorry, habit,” Xiumin said.
“I want to show my Inspirit friends how well we get along,” Sunggyu explained. Raising the phone in one hand, he wrapped his arm around Xiumin, pulling Xiumin against himself. “Okay, say ‘No lawyers!’” Xiumin started laughing, and he snapped the shot. “Good. Oooh, handsome!” He admired the photo. “You look good, too.”
Chuckling, Xiumin elbowed him and pulled away. He wished that Xiumin had stayed a little longer; it felt so good to be together again. He’d always loved skinship with Xiumin. All of the touching and kissing and everything else. Xiumin was a powerful little ball of sex.
Xiumin picked up his chopsticks again and glanced at Dongwoo. “Chen showed the new kid his cock today.”
“New kid?” Dongwoo asked. “Who?”
“Aw, hyung, nobody wants to talk about that,” Chen said, blushing.
“The new boyfriend, Sehun,” Xiumin said.
“Oh.” Dongwoo nodded, then grinned at Chen. “Did he love it?”
“Of course he did,” Xiumin said.
“Why are we suddenly talking about cocks?” Sunggyu asked, irritated. “Let’s not talk about sex, not at dinner.”
“You don’t want to talk about it because you’re pissed off that you’re not having any,” Xiumin said.
“What, are you having so much?” Sunggyu asked.
Xiumin shrugged and grinned at him. He loved that sexy, confident grin. He loved Xiumin’s expressive face. He’d missed this face so much! And those eyebrows! He’d missed Xiumin’s eyebrows. He liked this guy way too much. “I’ve had it more recently than you.”
Hey! “No more of that Lay,” he insisted.
“I talked to him this morning,” Xiumin said. “We’re going to meet up tomorrow to say good-bye. Assuming that I’m still interested in you by then.”
Meet up tomorrow? They couldn’t have finished everything this morning? What were they meeting up for? “No more of that Lay,” he said again, firmly, feeling grouchy about it. “You’re a married man, you shouldn’t be having sex with strange musicians.”
“I’m not married to anyone,” Xiumin said, like he’d needed some reminder. “Aren’t you a strange musician?”
“I’m not strange!” He hated thinking about Xiumin dating some other guy. Going to bed with some other guy. He wanted to ask if there had been men besides Lay, but he didn’t want to know. He didn’t want names or faces or ideas. Xiumin would be his from now on, only his, and that was what mattered.
L smiled, rubbing his thumb just under the curve of D.O.’s lower lip. “You look pretty in make-up.”
“Thank you.” D.O. kissed him, then stretched out along the couch, head in his lap. While the movie started, he ran his fingers through D.O.’s hair. It was nice, staying home so much. A lot nicer than he’d expected. He felt so much more comfortable lately. And he slept more, or slept better, or something. Not paying any attention to the movie, he gazed down at the side of D.O.’s face. The two of them were so much closer, these days. He felt like they’d gone back in time to the beginning of their relationship again, when they’d been happy with each other and stayed together all of the time. He’d become too distracted by other things and stopped focusing on what really mattered. He would make sure that didn’t happen again.
D.O. shifted, stretching his legs and tucking a hand under his cheek, against L’s thigh. Then he said, “Hyung.”
“Mmm?” L threaded his fingers through D.O.’s hair.
“Do you want to make out?”
“Yes,” he said immediately. Not even hesitating, D.O. was already sitting up, and the two of them were reaching for each other, moving against each other, falling back on the cushions.
“Okay, good night, I’ll be going,” Xiumin said, unhooking his seatbelt and reaching for the door handle as soon as the car stopped moving.
“Ya, what’s this rush?” Sunggyu asked, putting a hand on his arm. “You’re running away? I can’t say good night?”
Xiumin turned back to him, and said, “You can’t come in,” at the exact instant that Sunggyu asked, “I can’t come in?” The two of them gave each other exasperated looks, opened their mouths simultaneously, cut themselves off, and glared at each other. “No!” Xiumin exclaimed.
“Then we’ll kiss good night here,” Sunggyu said.
“There’s no kissing.” This was an impossible situation. He couldn’t let Sunggyu into his apartment, or he’d do something he’d regret, like wind up sliding his enthusiastic asshole all over Sunggyu’s cock. But he couldn’t kiss Sunggyu in the car, where someone might see. Especially since Sunggyu had spies in the building. So they’d have to say good-bye here, without touching. “Thank you for dinner.”
“Can I say things?”
Immediately, Xiumin was wary. “What things?” he asked, lifting his chin.
“The things I’ve been thinking tonight.” Sunggyu’s hand slid down his arm, slowly, like he felt good to touch. “I’ve missed you a lot. You look really pretty tonight. I don’t know what you want from me or how I should be with you, but I want to learn. I’ll keep working on it. Can you be patient with me?”
“Oh, hell,” Xiumin said, and leaned over, throwing his arms around Sunggyu. Sunggyu caught him up in a tight hug, and he twisted, getting a knee under himself and committing to it, closing his eyes and holding on. “Damn it, I love you so much.” Hugging Sunggyu again was like being in a dream, and he was afraid that he’d wake up to find it all gone. He’d missed this so much. Sunggyu’s broad shoulders and smooth cheeks, the feel of Sunggyu’s arms surrounding him, he couldn’t believe how well they still fit together.
“I love you, too,” Sunggyu mumbled. “I loved you the whole time.”
Maybe he was only kidding himself all over again, but he kind of believed it.
Hoya had gone to noraebang with Sungjong and a couple of other idols. They’d been joined by the kind of good-looking, very friendly people who always showed up for a good time, the kind he usually responded to without a second thought. It was getting late, and the guy he was talking to was touching him a lot and talking about going somewhere private. He was about to suggest that they leave together, when Baekhyun crossed his mind.
But that didn’t matter, right? They weren’t exclusive. They weren’t officially together.
He wondered what Baekhyun was doing. By now, Baekhyun should be off work. Excusing himself, he slipped out into the hallway and pulled out his phone.
“Ah, hyung?” Baekhyun sounded curious and hesitant.
“Where are you, off work?”
“Yeah, I’m waiting for the bus.”
The bus, that wasn’t fun or comfortable. “I’ll come and get you.”
“What? No, it’s okay, it’ll be here soon.”
“I’ll pick you up.” He gave a light wave to one of the other idols, then jogged down the stairs. “Do you want to go to your place? My place?”
“Hyung, you don’t have to come.”
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he slowed down. “Do you not want me to come?” Maybe he’d assumed too much.
There was a moment of silence, and then, “I didn’t say that.”
“Ya, don’t be coy. Where are you, outside the store?”
“Yeah, I’m on the corner. But I still have homework to do, it won’t be fun for you.”
“What homework?” he asked, stepping outside.
“That crappy music history.”
“You should take a lyric writing class.”
“What, like poetry writing?”
“Hey, can you take a poetry course?”
“Why?” Baekhyun laughed. “So you can learn to write better rap lyrics?”
“It might help, right?”
Hoya drove over to the store, and when Baekhyun got into the car, he looked so cute, Hoya kissed him. He laughed, casting a quick look around. “Not here, we’re in public.”
“Why not?” He’d used to kiss Baekhyun in public all of the time. He leaned in, and Baekhyun shot a happy, guilty look around and kissed him. When he started brushing kisses over Baekhyun’s neck, he got some sexy squirming in response, and then Baekhyun moaned and pulled on his shoulder, encouraging him. The soft, smooth skin of Baekhyun’s neck lured him on, and he sucked a little, his hand sliding up Baekhyun’s thigh.
Suddenly, Baekhyun said, “Oh, shit,” and shoved him away. “Don’t, don’t, tabloids.”
Immediately, Hoya scanned the street. Shit, he recognized a photographer’s car. He sighed, putting the car in drive. “Sorry.”
Baekhyun chewed on his fingers for the rest of the drive, which meant that things weren’t okay. There were two fans waiting outside of Baekhyun’s building, when Hoya didn’t remember having seen them around there before. He looked so worried in the elevator, that as soon as they got into the apartment, Hoya tried to hug him. Dodging it, he walked around, peeking out of his windows.
“They can’t see in,” Hoya said.
“The security here’s awful,” Baekhyun said. “It was okay before, I moved here after they stopped coming around so much. But if it’s going to be like this again, they’re going to get in here.”
“You can move.”
“I can’t afford to move.” He fingered his curtains. “Everybody must have noticed that you’re around me again. They’re going to start following me and waiting for me. If they’re too much of a nuisance, I might get kicked out. They’re going to bother me at school again. What if they start showing up at my job?”
“You’re panicking.” Hoya sat on the foot of the bed, needing one of them to seem calm. “It doesn’t have to be like that. Things got bad when we broke up, because people felt like they had to take sides, but it can be okay. Nobody bothers Chen like that.”
“Dongwoo hyung protects Chen.”
Hoya’s head swam; it was like déjà vu. Were they going to have this fight again? They’d torn apart their relationship one argument after another with this disagreement. Resting his elbows on his knees, he clasped his hands. “What do you want me to do? You can move, you can find somewhere with better security.”
“What - - hyung! I just told you, I can’t afford that!” Turning away from the window, Baekhyun didn’t look angry, just exasperated and on edge and miserable.
“I can. We’ll find you somewhere you can be comfortable.”
“Oh my god, it’s happening again,” Baekhyun said, pacing away and rubbing the sides of his head. “What year is this, did we fall through a wormhole? Is this Groundhog Day? Should we just skip to the end where I’m crying every day and your fans are hitting me and calling me names and you’re trying to pretend that everything’s okay?”
Hoya winced. “I’m sorry about that.” He didn’t know how to tell Baekhyun how sorry he felt. He knew that the words weren’t enough. “Do you want to move in with me?” That would be better, right? His building was more secure, it was safer there.
Baekhyun paced over to the window, hugging himself. “I can’t do this again. I’m sorry, hyung.” He lowered his head, his voice quieter, his words less distinct. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
He couldn’t mean it. “Come and live with me. I can talk to the fans. Sunggyu hyung’s going to put up a message on the fan café, I can write one, too. That should help. That’s what you mean, right, protecting you?”
“The fans are only a part of it.” Baekhyun faced him. “What about everything else? What about the sex?”
Surprised, Hoya didn’t understand. “You love having sex with me.”
“Not me! The sex you have with everybody else!”
Oh. “Maybe.” He rubbed his jaw, uneasy, thinking about it. “I don’t have to. I don’t care about that as much as some of the other members. Maybe I could stop.”
“Are you serious or are you just saying that?”
“I can try it.”
“You’ve never tried to stop before.”
Hoya rubbed his hands together, shifting his feet as he studied the floor. “I don’t like being without you. I thought that I’d be okay once I was used to you being gone, but I wasn’t. I like having you around too much. I never felt right once you left. If you came back, I guess I’d be willing to do a lot of things to get you to stay.”
Baekhyun crouched in front of him, in his line of sight. “I didn’t know it made a big difference.”
He nodded. It made a huge difference. He felt more comfortable in his own life again, now that he was seeing Baekhyun.
“Is it me? Me, specifically, Byun Baekhyun? Or did you just miss having somebody around? Maybe if you met someone else, you’d feel the same way.”
He frowned. That didn’t make any sense. “I don’t like anyone else as much as I like you, though.”
Baekhyun was squatting in a little ball, his arms crossed over his knees. “But you could.”
He shook his head. “There are people in my family I don’t like as much as I like you. There are members I don’t like as much as I like you. All of them, but don’t tell them that. I’d rather hang out with you than anyone else.”
“You haven’t given anyone else a chance. There are a lot of people out there.”
“I don’t like any of them. I’ve met them, I don’t get along with them. They’re too loud or they’re too complicated or they’re too boring. I like you.” Smiling, he poked Baekhyun’s forehead. “Just you.”
“How do you know if you haven’t tried? You haven’t even had other long-term relationships.”
“I’ve been in this industry long enough to know practically everyone in it,” Hoya said. “I know all of the idols and actors and staff. I know sunbaes and hoobaes and all of the people at their companies. I’ve met every escort in Seoul and Busan. Don’t get mad, but I’ve had sex with every single one of those people, I think. And the number of those people I want to eat a meal with is, like.” He made a zero with his hand. “I’m just not as comfortable with them as I am with you. I feel like I can be Hoya with you and Lee Howon with you and anything else, and it’s all okay.”
Baekhyun grinned at him. “Really?”
“I’m tired of going out all of the time. It’s boring. I keep doing it because I don’t have anything else to do. But I’d rather just hang out with you.”
“Aw, I can’t believe that,” Baekhyun said. “You could go out with some good-looking model and get your cock sucked, and you’d rather sit around here and watch me do homework?”
He nodded. “Isn’t that what I’m doing tonight?”
“Where’d you call me from?”
“Who was there?”
He shrugged. “Some hot model who wanted to suck my cock.”
“But you came to pick me up.”
“Oh.” Baekhyun scratched his chin. “Are we going to be monogamous? No more hot models for you and no more dates for me?”
“And you’re going to protect me? You’ll talk to Inspirit?”
“I’ll talk to them.”
Baekhyun drummed his fingers against his chin. “I can’t quit my job, because I need the money. I want to keep going to class, because last time, I gave everything up just to be with you, and that didn’t work out so well. It’ll be good if I can keep some of my own stuff. But if I’m going to school and working, I’ll be too busy.”
“We’ll see each other more if you live with me. And you don’t have to work. You should stay in school, though.”
“When we break up, you’ll have all of your Infinite money, and I’ll have nothing. I had to ask my parents for money and sell all of that crap you gave me to be able to afford rent.”
What?! “You should’ve told me!”
“When, while you were busy changing the locks on me or when you were sending your lawyer to talk to me?”
“I didn’t know things were that bad. I would’ve helped you.”
“What did you think? That I had some big inheritance to support me? That I secretly had some job on the side you didn’t know about?”
He didn’t know. He hadn’t thought about things like that. He’d been too upset. The thought of Baekhyun struggling made him feel horrible. “We’ll set aside some money now. Or you can get a job at Woollim, that’s better than a clothing store. I’ll hire as you my assistant.”
“That’s not the way to do things.”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a bad idea.”
“Move in with me first. Then we’ll figure out the money and the job. Maybe you can walk L’s dogs!”
“They spoil those dogs,” Baekhyun said. “I’d probably get paid more than I do now.”
Hoya grinned. “You’ll move in?”
“Can I have a day to think about it?”
“Okay. C’mere.” Reaching down, he pulled Baekhyun up, guiding Baekhyun right into his lap. “Yeah, that’s it,” he murmured, running his hands under Baekhyun’s shirt.
“Ooh, what’s this?” Baekhyun asked, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and kissing him.
“Giving you a little more to think about,” Hoya whispered, and kissed him back.
Xiumin couldn’t believe how well it was going, dating Sunggyu. Everything was so great, he kept bracing himself, waiting for the inevitable crash. Why were things going so well? How long could it last?
Sunggyu was fun and sexy and, most importantly, considerate. He could see the work Sunggyu put into being a good date. They went to places he liked: dinner with L and D.O., a soccer match, a show where Suho was walking the runway. When Sunggyu was polite, he appreciated the effort, and when Sunggyu relaxed, he fell in love with that adorable hamster all over again.
The sexual tension was incredible. He didn’t dare to invite Sunggyu into his apartment or go to Sunggyu’s, because he knew that he’d be naked before the door closed. Even just being alone in the car together was too much for them. Their good night hugs lasted longer and longer, and the way Sunggyu’s hand stroked his thigh at red lights had him writhing all over the seat.
Sunggyu’s letter to the fan café had made a huge difference. To his absolute shock, the two major anti-fan sites had closed down, and a few people had even texted him their apologies. Some of the apologies had seemed sincere and thoughtful, and some had mainly begged him to ask Sunggyu not to be upset with them, but he was grateful, regardless.
He felt like he was settling back into a familiar pattern. So far, he was getting all of the good and none of the bad. But it only made him nervous, because didn’t those two things go together? How long did he have before the lying and cheating started? How long before Sunggyu took him for granted again?
Helping to move Baekhyun into Hoya’s place was one of those very familiar things. He’d helped with the move the last time the two of them had moved in together. When he mentioned that, Baekhyun groaned and said, “I know, don’t tease me. I’m scared that next month I’ll have to move right back out again.”
“Things will be better this time,” Suho promised him.
“I’m going to keep taking classes,” Baekhyun said. “No matter what, even if I have to miss a concert because I have a test.”
“Oooh, blasphemy,” Xiumin said, dumping a box on the floor of the closet. “What kind of Inspirit are you, missing a concert for a test?”
“Ha,” Baekhyun said. Then he grimaced. “I know, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. Miss a concert, I’d rather miss the test!”
“How’s your job search?” Suho asked.
Baekhyun sighed. “Not great. I almost had a job as D.O.’s assistant, helping him run lines and crap, but I’d have to go with him when he has to travel. I need some magical job where I can make money but still be around whenever Hoya hyung has free time and also be able to go with the tour sometimes.”
“Chen’s probably going to be hired by Woollim,” Xiumin said. “If they take him, maybe you can be his assistant.” Chen was a vocal coach, Baekhyun was a music major, it made sense.
“That would be great,” Baekhyun said. “Is it too much like a pity job? I don’t care,” he decided. “Unless management starts jerking me around.”
“If you don’t find anything else, I’ll hire you,” Suho said.
“For what?” Baekhyun asked, laughing. “You’re the most on top of it, efficient person I know.”
“I could use a personal assistant,” Suho said. “It’ll free up some of my time so I can focus more on Woohyun.”
“If you focus more on Woohyun, you’ll turn into Woohyun,” Xiumin said.
“I’d rather work for Chen than you, but I’d rather work for you than Woollim,” Baekhyun said.
“Which job’s most likely to give you time to meet the members abroad when they’re on tour?” Xiumin asked.
“Oh, if I work for you, do I get to go with you when you visit Woohyun hyung?” Baekhyun asked.
Suho nodded. “I’ll bring you with me any time you want to come along.”
Baekhyun smiled at him and bowed. “Thank you, my new favorite boss.”
Later that evening, at dinner with Sunggyu, Xiumin found his mind on the job question again. He worked now that he was on his own, but before, he’d thrown everything aside to focus completely on Sunggyu. What if he fell into the same patterns and did that all over again?
Suho claimed to be independent, and had his own career as a model and spokesman, but everyone knew that he arranged his schedule and took jobs selectively so that he could be at Woohyun’s beck and call. Baekhyun was determined to keep taking classes, but would that last? Didn’t everything eventually get set aside for the good of Infinite? Chen was a great vocal coach, but picked up and dropped students depending on Dongwoo’s schedule. Chanyeol was little more than a professional fiancé at this point.
D.O. was an exception; D.O. had an entirely separate career. But was it a coincidence that when things had gotten worse with L, D.O. had picked up more demanding work? Now that things were going well again, maybe D.O. would turn down more jobs to accommodate their relationship.
The excuse was always that the Infinite members had no control over their own schedule, so everyone else had to move at their pace. Xiumin had to be available whenever Sunggyu was off, and had to be supportive when Sunggyu was busy, and had to provide entertainment when Sunggyu was bored, and had to handle life’s details when Sunggyu didn’t have time. He’d done all of that with a smile, at first. He’d been encouraging and loyal. The managers, the stylists, the boyfriends, the fans, the world, it all centered on Infinite, and he’d been no exception. Infinite had been his world. Sunggyu had been his world. And Sunggyu was the leader! The hyung, the main vocal, the variety star. Being at Sunggyu’s side had been the most enviable position possible. What right did he have to complain? Why couldn’t he be more understanding, why was he so selfish, couldn’t he sacrifice a little bit when Sunggyu sacrificed so much?
He didn’t want his whole life to be sucked up in that whirlwind again. He had to keep something for himself. Some of his own identity. But Baekhyun was right; regular employment would be incredibly inconvenient. He really did want to be available to show up to concerts and visit the tour and pop up to support Sunggyu for special moments. When Sunggyu was caught up in the demanding preparations for a comeback, he’d want to be there with vitamins and encouragement, not stuck at his office.
Should he quit? Find a different job? Not work at all for a while? Ask Suho to hire him?
“What are you thinking about?” Sunggyu asked.
“I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life,” he admitted.
Sunggyu nodded. “You should marry me.”
He ignored that. “Maybe I need a new job. L still needs a dog walker, right?”
“You could teach Hoya how to dance,” Sunggyu suggested. Making a face, he picked up his glass. “That kid, his footwork needs so much work.”
“I could teach you how to sing.”
Sunggyu’s jaw dropped in a completely fake, delighted smile.
Chuckling to himself, Xiumin ate.
“You’re good at a lot of things,” Sunggyu said. “What’s wrong with the job you have?”
“I need flexible hours. In case my next boyfriend after you has an erratic, demanding schedule, like if he’s a successful idol or something.”
“What do you like to do? You could coach kids’ soccer. Then you’d have time off between seasons, or however it works with kids’ sports.”
“I could sell Kim Sunggyu collectors’ items.”
“Those are worthless, there’s no money in that.” Sunggyu chewed. “Do you have to have a job? You don’t have to work for someone else. You can do it more like a hobby. Do as much as you want to whenever you want to.”
“I was thinking like those people who hop around on charities and go to board meetings and run fundraisers. You can raise money for soccer uniforms for poor kids or plant forests, like that. You don’t need a job, you don’t need money, do you? You can do whatever you want with your time.”
He thought about it. He could picture himself sweeping into a board meeting, then taking off for the airport to fly out to meet Infinite in Japan, then coming back in time for a ribbon cutting. He could donate to some charities, get involved, see who could use his help.
It would be a way to hold onto his own identity and feel useful to the world outside of Kim Sunggyu. And it would provide an opportunity for Sunggyu to support him, instead of it always being the other way around. “If I did it,” he said, pretending to look down at his plate and then eyeing Sunggyu from beneath his lashes. “Would you help me out, if I asked? If I needed you to come to a fundraising dinner?”
“Okay. I can attend benefits or donate things if you want.”
“Would you come as Infinite’s Kim Sunggyu, making a big idol splash? Or would you come as my date?”
“Whichever one you want.”
Sunggyu’s tone was so genuine, it sounded like real support. He smiled. “You just want me to quit my job.”
“I don’t have a problem with your job.” Sunggyu didn’t even pause before his next sentence. “Why’d you have to work for SM?”
“They’re the ones who hired me.”
“But scouting talent and holding auditions and telling kids they aren’t good enough, you can do that anywhere.”
“Look at it this way. They turned you down, right? Obviously they’ve made mistakes. I never would have rejected you.”
“They rejected me because I wasn’t some pretty little thing with big eyes and a tiny face.”
Xiumin grinned. “I guess they like flowers, not hamsters.”
Sunggyu gestured at him. “Be quiet and eat.”
L and D.O. had been invited to an important director’s wedding. At the reception, they were separated. D.O. talked with some other industry people, shaking hands and catching up on potential projects. He danced with a few people, to be nice. He didn’t see L anywhere. He told himself not to worry about it, but he felt himself growing tense. They’d been so good together lately that he’d thought that maybe they were getting past this sneaking around bullshit. He’d known that it would take a lot of work to keep their relationship stable, but was L even trying? They’d been really happy together, and L said that therapy was going well, and now this? He couldn’t believe it, but why was he surprised? How long had he really expected the good times to last?
He contemplated just walking out. He’d leave on his own, and when L came home, they’d talk about whether they had any future together at all. This reception was a great opportunity to strengthen his contacts in the business, but he was too upset. Too angry, too hurt. He’d really started to trust L again. He’d really thought that they were building something special.
He was making his way toward the bride and groom to say good-bye, when he saw L moving rapidly toward him. Something was wrong; L looked upset. Not openly upset, trying to hide it, but he could read L’s expressions too well to be fooled. Wondering what was going on, he looked at L with a question in his eyes.
“We have to go, okay?” L asked, cupping his elbow. Wordlessly, he nodded, not so sure that he’d jumped to the right conclusions anymore. Turning on a winning smile, L put an arm around him and went over to the bride and groom. They said a polite, respectful good-bye, and then they were on their way out. While they waited for the valet to bring their car, L’s mask dropped, revealing a worried, brooding expression.
“I’ll drive?” D.O. asked. L nodded and got in on the passenger side. Worried about him, D.O. took them home. It seemed more and more clear that something unpleasant had happened. D.O. felt regretful and guilty for having assumed so much.
When they got home, they went into the bedroom to change. L jerked his tie off with a vicious motion, and D.O. couldn’t take it anymore. “What happened?”
“Somebody wanted the things I used to give. I said that I couldn’t do that anymore.” He smiled emptily at nothing, rubbing the back of his neck. “He said that I’d never had a problem with it before.”
D.O. stood there in his underpants, holding onto a hanger. “You turned him down.”
L’s smile was tense and insincere. “And he didn’t like it.”
In his sudden rage, D.O. almost broke the hanger. Tossing it aside, he went to L, his hands sliding over L’s sides and skimming L’s biceps and cupping L’s face like he needed to perform a physical examination. “Are you okay?”
L nodded at him, then hugged him. Immediately returning the hug, he buried a hand in L’s hair. “I’m sorry,” L said, and he felt tears on his shoulder, dripping on his skin.
“No, no. You did the right thing, you did well. You did well, thank you.” He wanted to know who it had been, what kind of asshole got off on treating people this way, who would act this way with L. With his L, his beautiful, special L. If a married man said, “No, sorry, I think that I should skip the extracurricular sex tonight,” what kind of arrogant, entitled jerk tried to make him feel this bad about it?
“I don’t think that I’m going to get that vice-president role.”
D.O. was so furious and so hurt for L, he didn’t even trust himself to speak for a second. Even in his outrage, he kept his touch gentle as he stroked L’s hair. “That’s okay. That’s okay, let someone else have it. You don’t need it.” He could guess exactly who’d done it, now. Shit. L had really wanted that role. Woollim had really wanted L to have that role. “I’m so proud of you. You did so well, darling, you did so well.”
L sniffed, straightening. His eyes were still wet, but he was smiling. “You called me ‘darling.’ You never say that anymore.”
“It’s embarrassing, it sounds like my parents.” He hugged L again, wanting to be close. “I mean it, I’m proud of you. It wasn’t easy for you.”
“I just fucked up my own career.” L sat on the edge of the bed, still holding onto him, and he stood between L’s thighs with L’s arms around his waist. “He’s going to tell everyone that I’m irresponsible or unprofessional, or that I’m just not a good enough actor to keep the role.”
When L pressed his face to D.O.’s stomach, D.O.’s fingers carded through his hair. “It’ll be okay. You’ve been in the industry too long, you have a lot of friends. People know how hardworking you are, they know about your talent.”
Sighing, L sat back, wiping at his face. “Sorry I dragged you out of the wedding.”
“It’s okay, I was ready to go.” He cupped L’s face, looking into those heartbreaking, emotional brown eyes. “I love you so much. You did the right thing, you really did.”
L smiled up at him, the kind of affectionate, happy smile that stole his heart. He kissed L, and L kissed him back, leaning back and pulling him close. Putting a knee on the bed, he fell forward as L dropped back, and then they rolled over, kissing. They made out for a long time, not rushing it. He was turned on, and he knew that the lust burning between them was mutual, but this desire and intimacy were so precious, he wanted to savor it.
L was still dressed when he slid down between D.O.’s thighs. He left slow, sucking kisses on D.O.’s abs, lingering, obsessive, not missing an inch. When his tongue flickered over D.O.’s pelvic bone, D.O. arched off of the bed, groaning. He teased D.O.’s underwear down like he’d never unwrapped a more fascinating present, and when D.O. panted, “God, come on, just fuck me,” he laughed and rubbed D.O.’s balls.
“Getting greedy?” he asked, crawling back upward.
D.O. tugged him in, kissing him. “Mmm, ummmm, oh.” Clumsily, insistently, D.O. undid his shirt buttons. “We’ll go slower the second time.”
“Second time?” L’s smile was approving and delighted. “We’re doing this twice?”
“Yes, at least.” He kissed L again, breathing hard, and together they worked L’s clothes off. He was so turned on, he had to groan and beg a little while L lubed him up, and L kissed him hard, telling him hot he was, how handsome he was, how perfect he was and how much L loved him. Blood thrumming, he rolled the condom on and guided L’s cock right into himself. The moment their bodies fit together, they moaned, their hips hitching, and then they were rocking together, finding their favorite rhythm. L thrust into him deeper and deeper, and he felt so full, so amazing, he wanted to come.
Murmuring love and encouragement, L kissed his chest. One hand in L’s hair, he wrapped his other hand around his erection. The familiar, erotic sensation of being penetrated and filled, of L’s body rocking against his, of L’s hot, bare skin sliding over his as their bodies moved together, felt incredible. The pleasure was so intense that he wanted more of it, more, more, and when he groaned, “More, please, like that, ah, like that,” L kept it steady, driving into him in quick, deep thrusts. “Oh, oouuuhh, that’s it, now, now, oh!” Gasping, moaning, he came in a rush of ecstasy, his body tightening and shaking in sudden spasms. Stroking his dick, pushing himself through climax, he dribbled a messy stream of cum. “Oh, hyung, hyung, god.”
Over him, L fucked him steadily, staring down into his face, eyes locked on his. When he reached up, L nuzzled into his hand, eyes closing. He caressed L’s cheek, and L grunted, eyebrows contracting. Recognizing that flushed breathlessness, he smiled. “Come on, do it, give it to me.”
“Gah, uh, I’m gonna, oh!” Pushing D.O.’s knee higher, L thrust in hard, drilling into him a few times and then gasping. Eyes widening in shock, L came. Staring down at him in amazement, like someone witnessing a miracle, L fell still, then grunted, hips jerking in a couple of deep thrusts. “Oh, oh, god,” L moaned, sinking down onto him.
Pulling L into his arms, D.O. rubbed his face against L’s shoulder. L’s hot, satiny skin felt luxurious against him. Relaxing, he wrapped L up in his legs, too, to make it clear that he didn’t want either one of them to go anywhere. It had been so long since things had been good between them, it was incredible how easily these moments happened, now. He was so glad they were growing close to each other again.
“I’d rather do it with you,” L mumbled against his neck. L’s hair was soft against his cheek. “I’d rather have sex with you than anybody else.”
Good. “Me, too,” he said, caressing down the length of L’s back. He smiled and kissed L’s ear. “Me too, darling.”
L hugged him tighter.
Sungyeol had come home in a good mood. A horny, kind of sexually aggressive mood. Chanyeol was getting used to that; Suho had warned him about it. Woohyun had gone through the same phase, and still did, sometimes. They’d be in a situation where they were used to getting laid, and they’d turn down sex but their bodies would still be charged up and looking for it, so they’d come home and try to get what they needed there. Chanyeol definitely wanted to be the one Sungyeol came home to get sex from, and he liked Sungyeol’s horny energy.
The kissing and groping had started in the kitchen and moved to the couch, and now Chanyeol had his hand down Sungyeol’s pants and his own shirt was on the floor and god, Sungyeol’s cock was so great. On top of him, Sungyeol was kissing him and playing with his nipples and making him moan a lot, a whole lot, all of these pleading, whimpering sounds he’d never heard before he’d met Sungyeol.
“Yeah, mmm, you’re so hot, babe,” Sungyeol murmured. So sexy, god, he wanted it so much. Pulling out Sungyeol’s cock, he rubbed the long, stiff shaft.
“Unh, so hard.” He sounded shocked and needy and grateful, it was so embarrassing, but he couldn’t help it, he was too turned on. He loved sex with Sungyeol, and there was so much of it lately.
“Yeah, I’m gonna - - fuck,” Sungyeol said suddenly, sounding fed up. Startled, Chanyeol let go of his cock. What was wrong? This was the part where Sungyeol said something like, “I’m gonna make you feel so good, babe,” and asked him if he wanted it. Not the part where Sungyeol looked frustrated and stopped kissing him.
“Hyung?” Had he done something wrong?
Sungyeol’s eyebrows came together. Then he smiled his coaxing, convincing smile. “Let’s try it with you on top.”
“Okay.” They didn’t do it that way as often, but he liked it. It felt so good, and he loved sitting up there with Sungyeol spread out under him, Sungyeol’s erection filling him up, those dark eyes watching him, that little smile, Sungyeol urging him on, telling him how sexy he looked, how great it felt.
“No, not.” Sungyeol shook his head. “I mean, I want you to do me. You, with the.” Sungyeol brought his hands together, poking his index finger into his fist. “Okay?”
Chanyeol couldn’t have been more surprised. “Hyung?”
“It’s been, like, weeks,” Sungyeol said. “Weeks,” he insisted, his eyes widening in a flash of exasperation. “Come on, it’s easy, you’ll love it.” Shedding clothes as he moved, he got up. “We’ll do it on the bed.”
“You want me to do that? To you?” He wanted to be sure; there couldn’t be confusion or miscommunication about this! But if Sungyeol wanted it, then he was eager to try it. He was a little nervous, since it had been so long since he’d tried anything like that. Wait, if it had only been weeks…
“Yeah, is that okay?” Sungyeol asked, drawing him toward the bedroom.
Hand-in-hand, he followed Sungyeol’s long, naked back. “That’s something you do with everybody else?” But not with him?
“Not everybody. Some people.” At the bed, Sungyeol turned to him. “I know you don’t want to hear that stuff, and I don’t want to tell you that stuff, but the members have been talking about how important it is to be, you know. Honest. I don’t want to tell you the story of my greatest top ten sex encounters, but we’re supposed to ‘communicate.’ So, with some people, I had sex different ways, and I’m kind of craving a good, hard ass hammering. You’re freaked out.”
“No, no, I’m not.” He didn’t want to be. He wanted to be supportive about this, mature about this. Suho had said that a lot of weird stuff might come up and it would be a big help if he was accepting. Was there going to be weirder stuff than this? He was going to have a lot of trouble processing these revelations later, because he really, really, viscerally hated hearing that Sungyeol had been doing all of these things with all of these people and he’d had no idea. But he’d get into it later. Right now, he was being accepting. “I can hammer your ass,” he offered. It felt so awkward!
“Here, I’ll do the stuff,” Sungyeol said. “Take your clothes off.”
Chanyeol got undressed while Sungyeol got the lube. For a second, Chanyeol was confused, because he was squirting the lube onto his own fingers, like he did whenever he was about to lube up Chanyeol. But then he reached behind himself and, oh, shit, really? He was lubing himself! That was so new and so sexy, Chanyeol had to walk around behind him. Oh, god. It was so different and erotic, Chanyeol’s knees were weak. Those long, slim fingers slid right in there. Was this what it looked like when he lubed up Chanyeol, his slick fingers stroking in and out? Making a shaky, “Oh-uuuh-ooh,” sound, Chanyeol started to masturbate.
With a really subtle shimmy, Sungyeol straightened. “You know what to do, right? You did it with that friend, before.”
“Okay, I’m gonna be on my stomach. You can be a little rough, right? Pull my hair, things like that.”
He’d never in his life been rough with Sungyeol. “Okay, hyung.”
“Great.” Sungyeol kissed him, then handed him a condom and got onto the bed.
Sungyeol looked great, spread out like that. He was tucking a pillow under his hips, and it raised up his ass, making a round, sexy target. Apprehensive, eager for it, condom on, Chanyeol climbed onto the bed. He shifted around like he was getting comfortable, and Chanyeol rubbed his back for a second, reassured by how normal the contact felt. This was his same, familiar Sungyeol, and this was the same thing they’d done a million times, they’d just switched roles, that was all. Like they’d been washing dishes, and Sungyeol had gotten bored and said, “Let’s switch, you wash, I’ll dry.” With hair-pulling.
He ran his knuckles up from Sungyeol’s balls and caressed that little, puckered asshole. Sungyeol shifted around again, and he started to back off, but Sungyeol said, “Come on, babe, get in there.” He smiled, surprised; he liked how eager Sungyeol was for it.
“Okay, I’ll just start.” He tried to be gentle, wanting it to be comfortable for Sungyeol, but as soon as the head was in, he started making these soft, whimpering noises. God, oh, he couldn’t take it, why did it feel so good? “Oh, oh, hyung,” he moaned, sinking in deeper.
“Fuck, yes,” Sungyeol groaned, and pushed up a little, rocking back against him. “That’s it, Yeolie, pack hyung’s ass full of your giant tool.”
Oh, god! “Hyung, hyung,” he said helplessly, overexcited, shoving in all the way. He’d never heard Sungyeol talk like this before! He’d never, never, oh, oh, it was incredible, so warm and slick, gripping his cock.
“Yeah, plug me up, come on,” Sungyeol urged, squirming back against him, making him gasp. “Put your hips into it, put some muscle into it, drill me raw.”
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing! Or seeing, or doing, or, god, it was like an adventure, like he was discovering some whole new world inside his own everyday life. “Hyung, I’m so hard,” he moaned, rocking his hips. He thrust into Sungyeol with energy, starting off with short little bursts, not wanting to pop out or anything. “You feel amazing, oh, oh.”
Harder than this? He didn’t want to be rude. But if Sungyeol wanted hair-pulling, maybe he was supposed to be rude. “Don’t get mad,” he said, and he put more effort into it, thrusting more aggressively.
“Huuuooohh, yeah, right there.” Sungyeol groaned, hips pushing toward him. The long, gorgeous arch of Sungyeol’s back beckoned him, and he stroked it with one hand, his other hand holding on to Sungyeol’s waist. That low, sexy, do-me-do-me it-feels-so-good groan was something he’d never heard from Sungyeol before, and he wanted to hear it again. What other sounds could he get Sungyeol to make?
Curious, wanting to find out, he picked up the pace. Immediately, Sungyeol groaned again, tossing his head. “Like this?” Chanyeol asked, amazed, thrilled.
“Oh, yeah, I want it.” Sungyeol’s voice was ecstatic and throaty in a way Chanyeol hadn’t heard in months! Encouraged, Chanyeol fucked him harder, harder, really slamming into him, muscles working. “God, god, oh, god,” he groaned, clutching at the sheets to keep from skidding into the headboard. “Now, now, pull my hair, do it.”
Being aggressive was unleashing something inside of Chanyeol. Suddenly bold, he reached right out and grabbed a handful of Sungyeol’s hair. He jerked hard, yanking Sungyeol’s head back, and Sungyeol cried out. When Sungyeol’s hand flailed out, he let go, startled, sure that he’d gone too far, ready to apologize, but Sungyeol didn’t reach back to slap him.
No. Sungyeol made a hot, anguished noise and shoved his hand down between his own thighs, instead.
Chanyeol blinked, and in an instant, lust soared inside him like wildfire. His hips slammed forward, driving his cock deep in one rough thrust after another. Grunting like an animal, overexcited, he grabbed Sungyeol’s hair again, a good handful right at the crown, and snatched Sungyeol’s head back. When Sungyeol cried out again, masturbating furiously, the busy working of Sungyeol’s hand only turned him on more. Completely worked up, losing control, he fucked Sungyeol in fierce, jackhammer thrusts. “Want me to drill you raw?” he asked, licking at the shell of Sungyeol’s ear, biting suddenly, using his teeth.
“Fuck, Yeolie, don’t stop, don’t stop,” he gasped, muscles flexing all up and down his back as he twisted in Chanyeol’s grip, his hand pumping fast.
This experience was new and wild, and Chanyeol was so excited, he was panting and grunting, exerting himself, putting everything he had into it. Sungyeol’s long, eager body shook with his thrusts, rocking under him. Finding Sungyeol’s smooth, pale back too tempting, he let go of Sungyeol’s hair just to dig his fingers in below Sungyeol’s shoulder blades, raking his nails over Sungyeol’s pretty skin. Howling, Sungyeol writhed under him, and he did it again, loving so much about it, loving the way Sungyeol’s volume rose, loving the rise of pink marks on Sungyeol’s pale skin. How many times had he seen marks on Sungyeol’s skin, those randomly appearing bruises and scratches from all of those other people? They were his marks now, his claim, a sign of his presence here.
“Over, over, let me roll over,” Sungyeol panted. “I want to watch you jizz, I want to see you come on me.”
Oh, hell, yes. Eager for it now, eager for everything, Chanyeol pulled out. In a scramble of long limbs, Sungyeol rolled over under him, and when Sungyeol’s knees went up, he thrust back in. He was too aggressive with it, too rough, and Sungyeol groaned, shuddering, muscles squeezing down on his cock. Whimpering, he dropped forward, bracing himself on his hands, staring at Sungyeol in amazement. So flushed, so sweaty, eyes glittering with erotic fever, Sungyeol looked as out of control as he felt. His hips a runaway train now, his cock driving like a piston, he kept going, feeling primal, forceful. Under him, Sungyeol groaned and masturbated and cried out, “So deep, god, you’re fucking me so deep,” like he was doing it better than anyone had ever done it before.
Hearing that tipped him right over the edge. Needing to come, he didn’t warn Sungyeol, didn’t ask, just moaned helplessly as he felt orgasm burst into ecstasy. Popping his cock out, snatching off the condom, taking himself in hand, he jacked off right there, grunting enthusiastically as he spurted in sloppy stripes all over Sungyeol’s stomach.
“Damn, Yeolie, yes, yes,” and Sungyeol was spurting, too, thick globs and squirts mingling with Chanyeol’s cum. “Oh, I’m done, ugh!” He was panting, his other hand reaching for Sungyeol, and then they were kissing, kissing ferociously, gripping each other and pulling on each other and biting. “God, I’m going to hop on your cock every day,” Sungyeol breathed, and kissed him again.
This was amazing. He felt like he’d just met a new side of Sungyeol and a new side of himself.
Moaning, they rolled over, still kissing hungrily, enthusiastic, devouring.
He was always going to take Suho’s advice from now on.
“It was like that with Woohyun, too,” Suho said, nodding. Their little significant others’ club had gathered in Chen’s apartment, and Suho had arranged for his new assistant, Baekhyun, to bring coffee. They’d been catching up on each other’s news, and Chanyeol looked embarrassed and really happy. Xiumin hid his smirk in his cup. It sounded like things were getting interesting over in the Yeol-Yeol household. “His sex drive - - it seemed like it went way, way up. It was always, high, before, but he had more outlets for it. Suddenly there was only me. And he wanted things he hadn’t asked for, before. Nothing scary, just different.”
Chen laughed. “It can get kind of exciting!” Chanyeol blushed.
“Hoya hyung’s that way, too, all of a sudden,” Baekhyun said. “He wants it all of the time. All of the time. Sometimes I can’t keep up, so I just kiss him and jerk him off, or watch him masturbate.”
“You have to pace yourself, because this might not be a short phase,” Suho said. “This might be the way things stay, and you have to figure out how to keep up with him. Watching him masturbate is good, sometimes they just want the excitement of having someone’s attention.”
“You’re like a helpful sex manual,” Xiumin teased. “What else are you going to tell us?”
“Use lots of lube,” Suho advised. Sehun rolled his eyes, and Chen elbowed him. “And make sure that you want it. If you start to have sex you aren’t into, and you get resentful about it, that’ll only make things more difficult.”
“Been there,” Xiumin admitted, taking another drink.
“I think that it’s so great, having all of Dongwoo hyung’s energy focused on me,” Chen said. “We have so much fun all of the time.” Xiumin grinned at the sight of D.O.’s satisfied smile. It was no secret that D.O. and L’s marriage was thriving. They couldn’t have hidden their happiness if they’d tried; they glowed every time they were in the same room. “I feel kind of bad for Sunggyu hyung, though.”
“You’re never allowed to say that in front of me,” Xiumin reminded him.
“I’m sorry! But everyone else - - Sungyeol hyung has Chanyeol, and L has D.O., and Hoya hyung has Baekhyun. When Dongwoo hyung went through this, he would’ve exploded if I hadn’t been there for him. I just feel a little sorry for Sunggyu hyung.”
“Because he’s spending a couple of weeks without getting his cock sucked?” Xiumin asked, raising his eyebrows. “Really? His cock isn’t going to burst and fall off.” Chanyeol winced; Baekhyun squirmed uncomfortably. “If it does, he can buy himself a new one.”
“He’s been trying really hard,” Chen said.
“And he deserves applause for that? Maybe you can suck his cock for him, then.”
“Let’s not argue about it,” Suho said, putting a hand on his thigh.
“I’m not arguing,” Xiumin said, irritated. “I’m just pointing out that people have been through a lot worse in their lives than a short dry spell. Kim Sunggyu himself has endured a lot worse than this. He’ll survive.”
“Maybe you want him to fail,” Sehun said.
Xiumin considered throwing his drink in Sehun’s face. It was iced coffee, so it wouldn’t scald anything.
Sehun shrugged, glancing to the side like he didn’t give a shit. This kid was getting way too chic these days. “If he can’t handle it, and he messes up and screws somebody, then it proves you were right the whole time. You can give up on him again and go back to hating him. Maybe trusting him and getting your hopes up and patching up your relationship is too much work.”
“It’s a lot of work,” D.O. said.
“Everybody understands if Xiumin hyung has reservations,” Suho said. “We all have reservations. Rebuilding trust can be scary.”
“I don’t know if I could ask L hyung to go through this on his own,” D.O. said. “There’s so much pressure on him. I’m glad that I can help him with it. It’s better for our relationship than standing back and expecting him to be perfect all on his own.”
“I’ve never asked Kim Sunggyu to be perfect,” Xiumin said, feeling defensive.
“Haven’t you?” Sehun asked.
Xiumin turned to Suho. “Can we kick this kid out?”
“Sehun-ah, we’re here to support each other,” Suho said. “It’s important for us to take care of each other. Let’s all try to be more considerate.”
“I’m so glad that I have all of you,” Chen said, snuggling up against Baekhyun’s shoulder. Baekhyun rolled his eyes but patted his arm. “You make everything so much easier. I’d really struggle if I had to go through it on my own. Dongwoo hyung’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but that doesn’t make it all simple.”
For the rest of the day, Sehun’s questions haunted Xiumin. They were very familiar. How many times had he asked himself if he was being too hard on Sunggyu? How many nights had he sat up, wondering if he expected too much? Maybe his standards were unfair; maybe he was too demanding a husband. Sunggyu was so busy, how could he expect Sunggyu to remember about their plans, or call him back, or check text messages? Sunggyu was so overworked, did he really expect Sunggyu to be in a good mood all of the time or have the energy to do what he asked? Sunggyu did so much, was he really going to hold a grudge if Sunggyu wanted to hang out with friends or go to a party or flirt a little? He’d second-guessed his every move and questioned his own motives until he agreed with every bad thing anyone had ever said about him.
He wasn’t going back to that. He couldn’t tear himself apart with doubts.
But was he being too hard on Sunggyu?
He turned it over in his mind that night as he sat on his couch, surrounded by file folders. Suho had selected a few charitable organizations he might like, and Baekhyun had given him informational packets on each one. He was too distracted by his own thoughts, and he was getting the organizations’ details all mixed up. Setting a pamphlet aside, he thought about calling Sunggyu.
Was it unfair to expect Sunggyu to be faithful? No. It was completely reasonable to ask Sunggyu to be monogamous.
Was it unfair to ask Sunggyu to be celibate? No, not really. It wasn’t a particularly kind and generous expectation, but it wasn’t hideously unfair, either.
Was it unfair to ask Sunggyu to endure it alone? That question gave him pause. Maybe he should be more supportive. He wasn’t sure how, though.
It would be great if they had a timeframe, but he couldn’t have sex with Sunggyu until he was sure that he was ready for it. Holding himself back sexually was his last defense, his final, flimsy way to protect himself. Once that was gone, he’d be the whole way in, over his head, no way out. He wasn’t ready for that kind of re-commitment, and he didn’t know when he would be.
Was he waiting for some mystical sign? Did he think that one day he’d simply wake up and know? What were his requirements? Did he need to date Sunggyu for so many days, or did he need Sunggyu to say something specific? He had to set some kind of benchmark, or he’d keep them both waiting forever. And that, he knew, wasn’t fair.
His phone rang. Seeing Sunggyu’s name listed brought joy and anticipation to his heart. He shouldn’t still be so excited over someone he’d known so well and for so long. “Hyung?”
“Xiumin-ah. Are you alone?”
“Yes, hyung. I’m at home.” He wanted to ask if Sunggyu was, too, and then he reflexively chastised himself for checking up on Sunggyu, and then, annoyed, he reminded himself that he wasn’t a cowed husband anymore. “What about you?”
“I’m home. Alone. In bed. Are you in bed?”
“I’m on the couch. Hyung, are you naked?”
He smiled to himself, licking his lips. “Ah, hyung. Did you finish building the tower? Is the rocket ready to launch? Did the old man stand up?”
“Oh, don’t say those things, it’s getting worse.” Sunggyu groaned in his ear, a long-suffering, poor-me groan, a “Xiumin-ah, you don’t understand, I’m so desperate right now” groan. “Be nice to hyung, please.”
Hugging his knee, Xiumin smiled. “I miss Leader Gyu. Maybe we should meet again sometime. It’s been so long, I wonder if he still likes the same things that he used to like.”
“Don’t call it that!” Immediately, he added, “He likes you, he likes you so much, you’re all he likes.”
“Does it remember me?” he asked, running his thumb up and down his shin.
“I remember everything about you,” Sunggyu promised. “Oh, Xiumin-ah, hyung remembers all of it.”
Closing his eyes, he leaned back, tilting his head back. “Maybe after our date tomorrow night, we should come back to my apartment.”
“I’ll come now,” Sunggyu said suddenly.
“No! No, hyung, not tonight. I have to get ready.”
“What do you have to get ready? Do it now while I drive.”
“Hyung! Let’s wait until tomorrow.”
“After our date.”
“Let’s meet early. We’ll go out for breakfast, that’s a good date. No, that’s too late. I’ll come over and we’ll look at the sunrise together, a nice sunrise, that’s romantic.”
“We already have plans,” Xiumin reminded him. “Let’s stick to those.”
“After our date, what will we do?” Sunggyu asked. “Can we launch the rocket? I have somewhere special I want to send it.”
“Let’s not make promises,” Xiumin said. “Maybe not much will happen. Is that okay?”
“No. Yes. Yes, it’s okay. I can come into your apartment?”
“Yeah, you can come in. I just don’t want you to expect a lot of things. I don’t know if I’ll want to do all of them.”
“I’m not sexy to you anymore.”
“God, what?” he demanded, sitting forward. “Hyung, you’re sexier than anyone. You’re so sexy, all of the time, when you try to be and when you don’t try at all. It’s just difficult for me.”
“I know you’ve had a hard time. That’s my fault. I’m sorry, Xiumin-ah, hyung has to live with a lot of regrets.”
“Let’s have a good date tomorrow,” Xiumin said. “Let’s have a really good time and be happy together.”
“Yeah. I’d like that.”
Xiumin smiled. “I have to go to bed, and you have rockets to launch, so I’ll hang up now.”
“I know it’s not a new, shiny rocket, and you’ve gone for some trips on other rockets since then. But hyung can still satisfy you. It’ll be good, I promise.”
He laughed aloud. “Hyung, don’t worry about that. You don’t have to wonder about those things. The things you do and the way you do them is always good for me. When the relationship is good, the sex is good. So work on the relationship. Don’t worry about the sex.”
“Okay,” Sunggyu said. “Xiumin-ah. Thank you for calling me ‘hyung’ again. Sleep well.”
Xiumin stared at his phone in shock as Sunggyu hung up. He’d been saying it the whole time, hadn’t he? It had popped out when he’d answered, and he’d never given it a second thought. It was so familiar, he hadn’t even noticed.
It was a step. A step forward, or a step back? Remembering the sound of Sunggyu’s voice in his ear, he smiled, relaxing against the cushions. It felt like a positive step. It felt like he was walking right toward happiness.
Sunggyu kept in mind what Xiumin had said about working on their relationship, not on sex. He tried to be a good boyfriend - - were they boyfriends now? - - and be a good date. After dinner, he held his tongue and didn’t push, didn’t mention anything about sex, he just drove Xiumin home and kept his hands to himself.
When Xiumin said, “Thank you for dinner,” Sunggyu smiled and nodded. Maybe Xiumin’s mind had changed, and that was okay. He felt like if he had to go home alone one more night, he was going to turn into a screaming freak, but he’d worry about that on his own. Xiumin opened the car door. He really wasn’t going to get to go upstairs, was he? He wasn’t even going to get a hug? Hugs were all he had anymore! He lived for Xiumin’s hugs, they were what got him through the day! Through the day and through the long, hot, unbearable night. Oh, god, he was going to have to ice down his balls when he got home.
“Okay!” he said cheerfully. “Good night!” He flexed his hands on the wheel to keep from reaching for Xiumin.
Halfway out of the car, Xiumin shot him a coy look, all wicked eyebrows and flashing eyes. “Want to come upstairs?”
He pretended not to care. “Oh, okay,” he said indifferently. Then he leapt out of the car, running around and helping Xiumin out. “Up to your place?” he asked, slamming the door shut and grabbing Xiumin’s hand. “We can, if you want, it doesn’t matter to me.” He rushed toward the elevator to the sound of Xiumin’s laughter.
In the elevator, he held onto Xiumin’s hand and shoved his other hand into his pocket. He hadn’t been invited to touch anything, so he couldn’t grab Xiumin, and he couldn’t touch himself, that would be rude, and they were still in public, elevators like this one had cameras. “Nice night.”
“Great night,” Xiumin said, watching the numbers over the door. “Hyung.”
He glanced at Xiumin. “Mmm?”
His eyes still on the numbers, Xiumin smiled. “Nothing. Just wanted to say it.”
Happy to hear that, he squeezed Xiumin’s hand.
In Xiumin’s apartment, he parked himself on the couch. Xiumin wandered around, turning on music and getting water. Without shoes, Xiumin looked even smaller. Such a little bitty thing, but there was so much sexiness and energy and power packed in that small frame. As a teenager, Sunggyu had always been attracted to the guys who had all of the society-approved stuff that everyone else wanted, tall guys with all of the stuff he didn’t have, a tiny face and big eyes and double eyelids and all of that. Then Dongwoo had introduced him to Xiumin and wham, just like that, he had a brand-new type. But he couldn’t even call Xiumin a type. Xiumin was one-of-a-kind, the only one in the world, tiny and fierce and beautiful. So tough and so sexy.
Collar undone, sleeves rolled up, Xiumin came over and sat beside him. Turned sideways, one elbow propped on the back of the couch, Xiumin gave him a saucy smile. His temperature shot up a hundred degrees, and if he didn’t get to have sex with Xiumin tonight, he felt like he was going to explode. But he hadn’t been given the go-ahead for sex, and he had to be on his best behavior. Hot all over, he shot to his feet, needing to gain some distance, to get out of touching range. “Dinner was good,” he said, stepping away.
“Hyung.” With a light, happy laugh, so innocent and so evil, Xiumin caught his hand. “Where are you going? Let’s sit together. Hasn’t it been too long since we’ve relaxed like this?”
Xiumin was trying to kill him! Letting Xiumin tug him back down, he cleared his throat and looked all over the room, finding things to look at that weren’t so sexy and tempting. “It’s been a long time,” he agreed. “I like your speakers, they’re nice.”
Xiumin still had his hand. He glanced down, but the sight of their hands clasped like that, his and Xiumin’s, those strong fingers holding onto him, did things to him. Sexual things and emotional things and all kinds of things. Like they’d just said, it had been a long time since they’d been together like this. A long time since they’d had sex, but not only that, a long time since they’d been close, since they’d shared skinship, since they’d had any kind of comfortable intimacy. He’d missed it so much. Xiumin had been so important to him for so long, he couldn’t believe they’d been estranged.
He couldn’t mess this up. He was never going to get another chance. If he made a mistake with Xiumin now, it would be silence and lawyers from now on. Looking away from their hands, he scanned the room. It was a really great place; Xiumin lived well. He opened his mouth, then closed it. He couldn’t bring that up; it would sound like he was complaining about how Xiumin spent money. He wanted to ask if the apartment wasn’t too big, if Xiumin didn’t feel lonely here, but that would stir up all kinds of bad things. Desperate, he searched his mind for other things to talk about.
“Are you okay?” Xiumin asked.
When he felt Xiumin’s fingertips brush the back of his neck, he jumped. Pleasure and desire and little sparks of light skidded the whole way down his spine, tingling all the way to his fingertips and shooting up into his brain. With a gasp, he sprang away, landing halfway across the room. Gripping the back of a chair, he stood behind it, using it like a shield to keep that wicked little tease away from him. “Party,” he said. The electric shock of Xiumin’s touch had jolted him enough to rouse his thoughts. “Sehun’s having a party for Sungjong’s birthday. I want you to come with me.” No, he had to be a good date, he had to ask, not tell. “Will you please come with me?”
“Sure.” Xiumin was getting up. Why? Walking right toward him! Why?! “Hyung.” He tightened his hold on the chair, considering backing up and dragging it along with him. Wearing a knowing smile, tormenting him with those pretty eyes, Xiumin stepped right up and knelt on the chair, leaning toward him, bold and saucy like a minx. “It’s not like you to be so skittish.”
“Skittish, who’s skittish, what’s skittish?” he asked. He had to keep his grip on the chair, because if he let go he’d reach for things he wasn’t supposed to touch. He watched, frozen, excited, as Xiumin slowly laid a cool, agile hand over his. Oh, god, they were touching again. What was with all of the touching?! “The couch was comfortable, right, maybe you should go back to the couch.”
Xiumin was still giving him that wicked little smile. “Isn’t it comfortable here, too?” Xiumin’s gaze dropped to their hands, and he looked down, too. Xiumin’s index finger traced over the back of his hand, drawing light swirls. Teasing him.
“Do you hate me?” It had to be hatred, Xiumin was tormenting him too much.
“Mmm, not too much anymore.” Xiumin flashed him a new smile at that, and he didn’t even know how to take it. “Such a shy hamster tonight. Do I make you nervous?”
“Not a hamster,” he mumbled. “It’ll be a nice party. Sehun wanted to hold it somewhere big, but Suho said that it’ll be better if it’s private so everyone can relax, and I think it’s going to be at L’s place. L’s other place, the country house. I’ll pick you up, we can drive down together.”
“That sounds fun. You’re blushing.”
“I’m not.” He was on fire. “I have to pee, can I use your bathroom?”
“No?” he repeated, feeling like he’d stumbled into a sudden wall. “What, no? What kind of host are you?”
“You don’t have to pee,” Xiumin told him, still stroking his hand. That light, swirling touch had his cock throbbing. “You’re trying to run away.”
It wasn’t fair for Xiumin to know him this well.
“It’s okay. I’m nervous, too.” Xiumin’s smile was softer now. “It can be hard to date. I’m too shy and too sensitive, sometimes. I’m divorced, did I tell you that?”
“I.” He gave Xiumin a strange look; he was pretty sure that he was the guy Xiumin was divorced from. “Maybe I heard about it.”
Xiumin nodded, looking down, fingers spreading over his hand and then falling still. “I was married to this incredible, driven, hardworking, sexy guy. He was so much fun.”
“I can beat that.”
Xiumin smiled, eyes lifting to his again. “It’s a competition, now?”
“The guy I was married to was way sexier than yours. He had the prettiest mouth in the world.”
“Oh, in the whole world? Really?” Xiumin asked, grinning.
He looked directly at it, and desire tugged on him. Making an inarticulate sound, he leaned forward, wanting Xiumin so badly that all he knew was raw lust. Sexy, sexy Xiumin and that pretty, pretty mouth. So pink, so pert, those tender, parted lips.
“Ah, hyung,” Xiumin said, leaning back.
He leaned even farther, chasing that pretty mouth, and Xiumin leaned back more, and he wished that Xiumin would hold still, darn it.
All of a sudden Xiumin’s eyes widened and he let out a “whoop!” and swayed. One arm swung like a pinwheel, his other hand reaching out and clawing at the chair. Grabbing his hand, Sunggyu yanked him forward, snatching him around the waist. Falling forward again, he landed against the chair back, against Sunggyu’s chest. He looked up, and for one second there was no air in the room and they were staring at each other and they just stayed there, lips parted, his hand gripping Sunggyu’s shirt. He was right there, his beautiful familiar face that Sunggyu knew so well, his soft, unsteady breaths.
There were limits to what Sunggyu could take. He was only human, and not a very strong-willed human when it came to things like this. “I have to go home now,” he decided, carefully pushing Xiumin away and stepping back.
“Hyung,” Xiumin said, and he didn’t look at Xiumin, because he knew that voice, he knew that breathless, aching tone, he knew that if he tried to kiss Xiumin now, he could. He could do everything now, he could do whatever he wanted, he could have it all.
For an instant, he wavered. He could have it all.
But a second ago, Xiumin hadn’t had that tone. A second ago, Xiumin had said “hyung” in a very different mood, a “we shouldn’t do this” mood, a “this isn’t a good idea” mood. And not enough had changed in that one second. Not enough to justify sex. He could make the sex good, he could make sure that Xiumin loved it, but this wasn’t really about sex. It was like Xiumin had told him over the phone; he had to work on the relationship. And Xiumin had pulled away from him for a reason.
“Hyung will call you,” he said, and he made a beeline for the front door.
It was so weird, being back in Hoya’s apartment. Baekhyun was home again, and he wanted to make sure that he belonged here. He kept going around, checking on things. Opening the kitchen cabinets just to run his hand over the rows of clean glasses. Deliberately hanging his shirts all in between Hoya’s in the closet, mingling them, absorbing the way they looked all side-by-side like that. He’d go into the bathroom to do something ordinary, like pee, and he’d get stuck in there and end up sitting on the floor with the first aid kit open across his lap, counting bandages. This was his home now, his home all over again, and he wanted to re-familiarize himself with all of the old stuff and learn all of the new stuff. He wanted to feel like this was where he belonged.
So much of it was unchanged, it unnerved him when things were different. He opened the cleaning closet, and everything was strange, he didn’t know these products, this wasn’t how things should be kept. He asked about it, and Hoya said that the new maid liked things a different way. He thought about it for a day, and then he fired the maid and put everything back the way he wanted it and hired someone new.
He exerted his power in weird ways like that. Over things that would seem pointless to anyone else but for some reason seemed incredibly significant to him. He didn’t know who’d been in Hoya’s bed since he’d been gone, so he threw away all of the sheets and bought new ones. He’d never liked the way the microwave and rice cooker and blender and everything were arranged on the counter, so he unplugged everything and moved it all around the way he’d always wished it would be. He wasn’t going to put up with inconveniences and annoyances anymore. This was his life, damn it, he was going to have things his way.
He came home one evening and made dinner, and he and Hoya ate together, and he sat down to study while Hoya looked up dance videos on-line. He couldn’t concentrate, and all of a sudden he jumped up and scooped up his homework and carried everything into the office. He went to get his other schoolbooks, too, and he dumped everything on Hoya’s desk, and he started making room on the shelves, making space. He was cramming his books on the shelves and mentally making kind of intense plans to go out tomorrow and buy a desk for himself, when Hoya came into the room and leaned against the desk and watched him. Trying to look normal, breathing too hard, he lined all of the spines up, wanting it to look just right.
“You okay?” Hoya asked.
“I want to be more like Xiumin hyung.”
“What, you want to be shorter?” Hoya asked doubtfully. “You want to be older,” he guessed.
“No.” He got up and didn’t know where to look. He looked at Hoya, and suddenly everything seemed manageable again. He was still freaked out, but it didn’t seem so bad anymore. Why was that, why did just being with Hoya make him feel better? “He’s taking control. He’s setting limits and he has terms and stuff. He’s making Sunggyu hyung go at his pace. I.” He gestured at himself, at Hoya, at the whole room. “I didn’t do any of that. You said, ‘Hey, c’mere,’ and now I’m here. I don’t even know what I’m doing here!”
“You live here.”
“I’m not supposed to live here anymore! We broke up! I moved out!”
Hoya crossed his arms over his chest. His expression wasn’t so open anymore. “You don’t want to be here.”
He didn’t know what he wanted. No, that wasn’t true. “I want to be here. I just don’t know if I should be here.”
If the mood had been better, Hoya would have pointed at himself and asked, “Should I go?” Instead, Hoya just nodded and looked away.
“Hyung.” He didn’t know how to explain it in a way that wouldn’t be hurtful. “Maybe it just seems too good to be true. You want me back, and I’m here again, and everything’s great, and I’m so glad to be with you, and - - I mean, you’re still in love with me! These are all of the things I wanted and couldn’t have. These are all of the things I fantasized about and knew I was never going to get. Like I literally used to be in bed at night, thinking to myself about what if I woke up tomorrow and you knocked on my door and begged me to come back, and I moved back in and you asked me to stay with you forever. And now that’s happening, I’m here, and it seems too perfect. Maybe it was too quick.”
“Quick,” Hoya repeated. He rubbed his jaw, looking unsure. “Seemed like you were gone for too long.”
“I think I need to set my own terms, like Xiumin hyung’s doing. I want to have things my way for once. The whole time we were together, everything was always about you.” His ideas evolved as he spoke; he felt like he was having some kind of breakthrough. “Maybe it would be good to break that habit so we’re both sure it isn’t that way again.”
“We’ll make everything about you,” Hoya guessed.
“Yeah, for a while. To se