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It's The Words We Don't Speak That Bind Us

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Kihyun knows that he isn’t the first person to develop the sort of feelings they know that they shouldn’t do for someone they live with. And work with. And spend at least eghteen hours a day with. Of course he isn’t, it would be weird if he was.

That doesn’t help, though.

He might not be the first and he is sure as hell he won’t be the last, but, still, he’s disappointed in himself, because, well, the whole longing thing just isn’t him. Kihyun’s pined before, for a chance, for debut, for recognition. But not for a person. It’s confusing and frustrating and he didn’t even get a chance to realise it was happening, to stop it from taking taking hold of him before it was too late and every time he looked at Hoseok he felt like he might have forgotten how to breathe.

He looks at him now, sprawled out on his stomach on his bed as Kihyun searches for an empty glasses strewn around the room to take to the kitchen and wash. It’s not exactly his favourite activity, but it has to be done, and Hyungwon is the worst offender in his, Hyunwoo and Hoseok’s room, so Kihyun has found two glasses already.

Hoseok is wearing shorts and a tank-top, ridden up around his stomach as he reaches his arm out in front of him and poses. He’s taking selfies. Bed selfies - the sort designed to torture the fans. They torture Kihyun too, though he isn’t sure if Hoseok realises exactly to what extent. Or at all.

“Is this too much?” Hoseok is on his kneels now, swiping through the photos and showing Kihyun each one individually. “Think I’ll get told off for posting this?” He stops on a photo from earlier when he must have sneaked back into the bathroom after his shower, a dark selfie taken in the half misted-up bathroom mirror.

The shot doesn’t leave much to the imagination, and yet it leaves just enough for Kihyun to feel the need to bite the inside of his cheek in a vain attempt to try to stop the thoughts that the photo is pushing into his mind from showing on his face.

(Hoseok, naked and running his palms over Kihyun’s back as he pushes him up against the counter.)

Kihyun would be impressed with quickly his imagination can get so damn vivid if he didn’t also want to escape from Hoseok’s intent gaze, a prickling heat rising on the back of his neck.

“Yes,” he croaks out in reply.

“Shame.” Hoseok looks down at the photo for a while and then looks back up.  Says, “I like it. Do you?”

“What?” Kihyun’s spotted a third dirty cup half under the bunk-beds, so he isn’t sure that he’s heard correctly.

“Do I look good?” Hoseok asks again. “Like that. In the photo.”

And Kihyun definitely needs to escape now, except Hoseok’s eyes are on him and his expression is so attentive and so sincere, considering the question he is asking, and-- he does look good. Kihyun can’t bring himself to even try to deny it.

“Yes,” Kihyun answers, snatches up the third cup and leaves as quickly as his legs will allow.

 

--

 

Hoseok appears later, still in his shorts but with a giant hoodie pulled up around his face. “I didn’t mean to-- sorry for asking you that before.” He hovers as Kihyun finishes cleaning up in the kitchen.

Kihyun shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“I guess I just...” He pushes his hands into his pockets. “I respect your opinion. I-- I know you’d tell me the truth about it.”

“Right. Yeah.” Kihyun arranges the cups in the cupboard neatly, turned away from Hoseok so that he can’t get distracted by the way the hood sits softly against his mussed up hair.

“You did tell me the truth didn’t you?” Hoseok asks, as if it’s important, which, it shouldn’t be, Kihyun thinks. His opinion on Hoseok’s attractiveness shouldn’t mean anything.

Kihyun just nods when he turns around.

“Good.” Hose smiles and turns to leave. Says, “That makes me happy,” as he goes.

Hyungwon is in the doorway a minute later, Jooheon behind him, a suspicious look on both of their faces. "Are you cooking?" Hyungwon asks, looks around the kitchen.

Kihyun is confused. "No, I'm cleaning up after all of you. Why?"

"Hoseok-hyung looked weirdly happy." Hyungwon leans against the doorway. Jooheon chimes in, somewhat sadly, "We thought you might be making us a midnight snack."

"Well, I'm not," Kihyun replies, shooing Hyungwon and Jooheon out of the room. 

He tries not to think about Hoseok's pleased smile and about how it was down to his wordsbut it's too difficult to push out of his mind. He falls asleep to the image of that selfie, which, Kihyun thinks, might be stuck dead-centre in his mind forever.

--

 

There are stylists everywhere, and every so often one of them pauses at Kihyun’s side to smooth down his collar.

“Ah, you look so cute,” Hoseok says quietly as he sits down next to Kihyun on the sofa.

“When don’t I?” Kihyun raises an eyebrow and Hoseok laughs loudly, his face lighting up. His smile is ridiculous, all white teeth and glossy lips and Kihyun thinks it might be his favourite sight in the whole of the world.

“I thought you’d prefer to be called sexy,” Hoseok replies, nudges his arm.

“Would you call me that?” Kihyun asks, and he isn’t sure what makes him actually ask it out loud, because normally he keeps these questions lingering inside his head. Having them answered seems foolish, dangerous. Selfish, too.

But he does ask, and Hoseok laughs again, says, “If you wanted me to,” and rests his head on Kihyun’s shoulder.

It earns him a worried look from one of the hair stylists, and he straightens up, puts a hand to his head to make sure every strand is still in place and smiles at her quickly. Kihyun wishes they weren’t in the middle of a busy room, and maybe Hoseok wishes it too, on some level, because he whispers, “Ah, I wish we didn’t have to go to set,” and closes his eyes.

“Me neither,” Kihyun says, close to his ear. “But I suppose we can’t both just sit here being sexy all day.”

 

--

 

There’s a line between friendly and outright flirting that Kihyun thinks they’ve started to cross more often than not, now. It’s a fine line, and whether it’s crossed or not isn’t defined by words. The words don’t count, they’re always the same. Instead, it’s something defined by  the spaces between words. By the way that they look at each other and the atmosphere in the room, and the way it makes Kihyun want to smile forever.

Being friendly is when Hoseok tells Kihyun he looks really handsome in the press shots from an awards show. It’s when Kihyun compliments Hoseok’s singing voice in an interview and they high five and make the reporter giggle behind her hand.

Flirting is when Hoseok winks at him as they pass in the doorway to the bathroom closer than they need to. Flirting is when he says, “Kihyun-ah, your lips look soft today,” and he isn’t quite looking Kihyun in the eye when he says it. Flirting is when Kihyun spots Hoseok taking a selfie near the window, and Hoseok laughs loudly at being caught, grins and says, “I took that one just for you, you like it, right?”

Flirting is when Kihyun grins back and says, “I guess you’re alright.”

At least, that’s what Kihyun thinks about the whole thing.

 

--

 

Despite this, the back and forth, the comments,  the pauses, and the smiles, they’re still the same people. Kihyun can ignore the fluttering in his stomach as easily as he ignores the pain in his legs from  so much dancing practise. He can go along as normal. Spends time with Hoseok as easily as he spends it with the next person.

And if he thinks about Hoseok in a way he doesn’t think about anyone else, that’s just something he’ll have to deal with. It’s not like he’s ever going to do anything about it.

He’s never going to act on it. He wouldn’t want to be that person: that person who fucks up the entire dynamic of his group in some misguided attempt to resolve his pent up feelings of excitement, and need and lust, just when things are going so well.

Except the longer time goes on, the less time they spend on the safe side of the line and maybe it is getting harder to separate the fantasies of being fucked (and then held) by Hoseok from the reality of sharing hotel rooms, cars, waiting rooms and stages.

But nothing he can’t handle. For now.

--

There’s an early fanmeet with Japanese fans in Osaka that finishes by seven and leaves the entire group with eagerly anticipated free time. They go to dinner, order local beers, get scolded by their managers when they try to order more alcohol. Are reminded of their impending comeback and how early their flight back to Korea is the next morning.

“That was so good.” Hoseok puts his hand to his stomach and sighs. “Do you think you could cook something that that at the dorm?”

“Is that all I’m good for?” Kihyun kneels down beside his suitcase, takes out the faded pyjama pants he likes to sleep in. It’s still only a little after ten, but no one had wanted to do anything after dinner aside from wander back to the hotel and slip quietly into their rooms.

“Hmm? No, of course not.” Hoseok smiles. “But your food is the best.”

Kihyun tries not to look as happy as he feels. “I might be able to. If I’m feeling kind.”

“So what have you and Minhyukie fallen out about?” Hoseok sits down on his bed and falls backwards, stretches his arms out over his head.

Kihyun and Minhyuk pretty much always share a room when they’re away from the dorm these days. Kihyun isn’t sure when he agreed to it because it gives him no break from clearing up after other people’s mess, but it’s nice. They’re close. And Kihyun doesn’t think about kissing him the majority of the time they’re together, which is a relief.

Kihyun laughs. “He’s somehow got Hyungwon into some new anime and he thinks they’ll get a few episodes in tonight so they’re sharing.”

“Well he’s dreaming there,” Hoseok points out. “Hyungwon falls asleep within five seconds of lying down.”

“I know. I didn’t have the heart to remind him,” Kihyun bundles his pyjamas and wash-bag into his arms. “You don’t mind sharing with me, do you?”

“No. I like it.” Hoseok leans up on his elbows, his head tilted to the side in a way that makes Kihyun feel like he can’t breathe.

Kihyun loses time brushing his teeth, stares into the mirror until he can’t see himself any longer. Can see that selfie Hoseok had shown him months ago, the one that’s been seared into his memory since, playing out as a vision in front of him.

(The one that makes his brain go into overdrive. The one that sparks up hazy daydreams of Hoseok naked, eyes closed, short of breath and running his palms over Kihyun’s back as he fucks him against the counter.)

When he comes back out of the bathroom, Hoseok is opening bottles of vitamins and supplements, frowning as he counts out what he has left.  He looks up as Kihyun stops to place his towel neatly over the back of the desk chair. Says, “You always look nice in those pyjama pants.”

Kihyun looks down. They’re just worn red and grey jersey sweats. “Do I?”

“Yes,” Hoseok replies, matter of factly. “They sit low on your hips.”

Kihyun considers this - the implications behind the words that suggest that: a) Hoseok has opinions on what Kihyun looks good in, b) Hoseok thinks Kihyun looks good in low slung sweats and, c) Hoseok notices the location of Kihyun’s sweats on his hips.

It makes his head spin.

 

--

 

When Hoseok finishes washing up, he tugs at Kihyun’s arm, almost drags him across the bed. “Come over here, let’s take selfies for twitter.”

Kihyun moves with him, shifts further across the bed until they are sat thigh to thigh and Hoseok is wriggling down the pillows a little, allowing his t-shirt to ride down off one shoulder in the process.

Kihyun throws up a peace sign and purses his lips into what he hopes is a bored-but-hot expression. Kihyun isn’t sure what face Hoseok is pulling, but he can guess. Probably something faintly ridiculous and incredibly damn handsome.

He isn’t wrong. Hoseok snaps a series of photos and then pulls them up on the screen so that they can assess their art.

“I look small,” Kihyun says.

“You are small.” Hoseok zooms in on Kihyun’s face. “Small and cute. And sexy.”

“Shut up.” Kihyun rolls his eyes. Adds, after a pause, “Do you really mean it?”

Hoseok just smiles and looks at him without a word, as if this answers his question. Which it does, really. Kihyun feels like he could conquer the entire fucking world looking into those eyes.

Hoseok chooses two photos, adds a soft filter and uploads them with some sugary comment about missing the fans. Kihyun just watches his face -- the seriousness with which he adds carefully thought out hashtags. The curl of his lips as he adds one last one, one that calls him CuteKihyunie.

Kihyun laughs as Hoseok tweets it.

They sit in silence afterwards. “This is nice,” Hoseok says, distractedly tapping his fingers against Kiyhun’s thigh. Neither of them have moved an inch.

“Yeah.” Kihyun can only concentrate on the soft tip-tapping of Hoseok’s fingers. It i s . It’s nice and it’s warm here, pressed up against him, and Kihyun’s mind wants to wander, like it always does when they’re so close. Wander to thinking about Hoseok’s fingers elsewhere. And it almost feels as though he can, as though it would be okay for him to do so. Like Hoseok probably wouldn’t mind one bit.

Hoseok’s fingers still and he nudges Kihyun’s shoulder softly. “Hey, Kihyun-ah?"

Kihyun turns his head, and all at once he knows he’s made a mistake. That he’s wandered so far past the line between friendly and flirting that he might never find his way back. That he’s wandering in the wilderness of completely and utterly fucked.

Hoseok’s face is soft in the lamplight of the hotel room. His eyes aren’t soft though, they have a determined intensity that makes Kihyun’s heart thump and his mouth dry. “Yes?”

“I meant it,” Hoseok says then. So Kihyun does that thing he was never going to.

And he really wasn’t ever planning to act on his feelings, except maybe that was just a lie he told himself, because that’s exactly what he does. Or, it isn’t just him, it’s them .

It’s Hoseok, his hands on either side of Kihyun’s face, his leg between Kihyun’s thighs, pressing against him with a purpose as he slides his tongue into Kihyun’s mouth and kisses him with such force that Kihyun swears he loses his entire mind. If he hasn’t already.

Kihyun kisses Hoseok, or maybe Hoseok kisses Kihyun. And then there’s flushed faces, clammy hands clasped together in the dark, muffled moans and fervorous touches, and Kihyun’s heart beating almost out of his chest.

 

--

 

And then there’s the next morning, with its nervous faces and their hands, empty but clammy all the same.

Kihyun’s heart sinks, because you don’t act on crushes you have on your group members. You don’t tug their tank-tops over their heads and wrap your legs tight around them and cry out their name as they fuck you in the dark.

You just don’t do it.

He panics. Drags his suitcase into the bathroom, washes and dresses with shaking hands, heads down to the lobby even though there is still forty five minutes until they’re due to leave for the airport. Doesn’t dare to glance over at the sleeping figure he spent last night skin to skin with.

Hoseok is last to meet them in the lobby. The car is waiting and his arrival prompts a cheer from Changkyun, a chorus of “Finally,” from the rest of the group.

Kihyun doesn’t look up.

Hoseok goes quiet for days, shares his smiles with every member of the group but Kihyun, and Kihyun wonders if maybe he dreamt up the soft kisses they shared. Kind of wishes he had, considering the cold feeling in his chest. But only kind of. You can only regret things you enjoyed so much, until regretting becomes a lie.

 

--

 

Over the next few weeks they avoid each other’s eyes, find reasons to avoid being alone. The subtle line between friendship and flirting no longer exists, or if it does it’s a million miles away, because even friendly isn’t the word to describe their interactions.

Nothing exists except for awkward silence and words that hold no weight and the next time that Kihyun watches Hoseok taking a selfie it’s from far away, across the room, and there’s a pain in his chest as he looks away.

It’s not easy to pretend things haven’t happened, but it’s surprisingly easy to just plain ignore the way they make you feel. He’s been practising ignoring his feelings for a long time, although he guesses that this had turned out somewhat unsuccessful, considering the fact that he stopped ignoring them for long enough to mess things up by sleeping with Hoseok.

He promises himself to be more successful in the next endeavour he undertakes: To make things go back to the way they were. Whatever that was.

In time, what happened between he and Hoseok starts to feel like a dream, blurred at the edges.

After a point, only a dull ache in his chest is elicited when Kihyun thinks about the weight of Hoseok’s body and the faint, almost not even there, taste of his toothpaste and how damn happy he felt right in that moment.

When you have to get over something, you do. Or you pretend to.

Kihyun can’t quite manage the first option, not just yet.

 

--

 

It's almost five weeks later, and Kihyun finds himself alone with Hoseok for the first time since that night.

Jooheon and Hyunwoo pass a water bottle back and forth between them as Changkyun yawns, the music still playing even though they stopped practicing two tracks ago. Hyungwon and Minhyuk aren't even in the practice room anymore and Kihyun hadn’t even noticed them slip out or he would have followed them out too. He's thinking about this when Chankyun leaves, and then Jooheon isn't in the room either.

Hyunwoo says something about leftover ddeokbokki as his stomach growls and tosses a set of keys into Hoseok’s lap as he leaves the room. Hoseok flinches only a little, offers Hyunwoo a thumbs up in response.

Kihyun doesn't even understand what's happening. He's so fucking exhausted and his legs feel like the bones in them have been replaced with lead, and he's still trying to figure out whether Minhyuk or Hyungwon left the practise room first, his mind five steps behind everything his eyes and ears are taking in.

“You not going?” Hoseok asks when it’s just the two of them.

Kihyun looks up. “What?”

“I might stay here for a while,” Hoseok says, gestures towards the door. “Go back with hyung.”

The insinuation that Hoseok doesn’t want him there stings. “I might have wanted to practise for longer,” he replies. He doesn’t, and it’s probably petty of him, but -- but everything between them is so stilted now and maybe Kihyun doesn’t want to practise really, but that isn’t the point. They should be able to inhabit the same space at the same time without wanting to escape it so desperately. They could manage it before.

“Sorry, I just assumed.”

“No, I'm sorry.” Kihyun stands up, wobbles a little as he does, his legs really are tired.  “I-- uh, I’ll make sure there’s some food left for when you come back.”

“Thank you.” Hoseok looks up at him, frowning a little. “We're still friends, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, of course we are.” Kihyun smiles. He catches sight of himself in the mirror along the wall. It looks more like a grimace. “Same as always,” he adds.

They both know that isn’t true, but Hoseok replies, “Good. See you later,” anyway.

 

--

 

It’s not the same as always, because same as always was laughing and teasing. It was admiring and flirting and enjoying each other’s company.

Each other’s company, now, is fraught with a nervous energy and awkward conversations that run in endless circles of niceties and flippant remarks.

Kihyun sets things out in his mind, tries to figure out exactly where he went wrong. Can’t decide whether it was sleeping with Hoseok or just in running away from the fact the next morning. He wishes he hadn’t done the latter so badly.

It’s harder to wish that he hadn’t done the former, because, if he’s honest, he just doesn’t . It’s just-- it turns out that acting on something you’ve always assumed won’t be anything but a stupid fantasy has its downfalls in that it can tip the world onto its axis.

 

--

 

Kihyun goes back to sharing with his usual hotel roommate.

He stares at the ceiling, trying to make out shapes in the darkness, until he can no longer stand the incessant jabs to his ankles. He sighs loudly, audibly, even though Minhyuk is sleeping soundly so won't hear his dissatisfaction, and climbs out of the bed.

He needs to get this air-conditioning unit turned off. It must go off. It turned on pretty easily, after all. It's just-- if there is a control for it, Kihyun isn't sure where it is, and the buttons on the vent itself don't mean anything to him.

He gives up trying to turn it off, sits on the edge of Minhyuk's bed and calls down to reception. No one answers the phone and Kihyun is annoyed because, okay, so maybe it's the middle of the night, but this is a hotel and he needs assistance. Minhyuk is no help, Minhyuk who turned on the air-con for no reason other than boredom and then couldn't switch it off. Minhyuk who crawled into his bed and pressed his cold hands to Kihyun's arms and laughed as Kihyun squirmed.

Minhyuk who fell asleep quickly, easily and has been happily kicking Kihyun in his sleep for the last hour. The cold and the kicking is distracting him from the constant thoughts of Hoseok, at least, but he needs to sleep.

He also needs to stop overthinking the looks that Hoseok has or hasn't been giving him since that -- that mistake they made, all those weeks ago. At least, Kihyun assumes it was a mistake. It didn't feel like one, if he's honest, but it must have been because it hurts to think about it.

Kihyun makes sure to pocket his keycard, and shuffles out of the hotel room in his pristine hotel slippers. Even if no one is answering the phone down there, there has to be some semblance of staff in the lobby, and he's going to find them and beg them - if he really needs to - to sort things out in his room.

When he steps out of the elevator in the lobby, Hoseok is there, jacket on, cap pulled down low, hands pink from the cold. Kihyun pauses, like this could be a dream. It wouldn't be unusual, Hoseok is in them a lot, not that Kihyun wants to think about that right now. Thinking about Hoseok doesn't help him to sleep, and what he needs right now is blissful, dreamless slumber. Without any aircon. And without a restless Minhyuk in his bed.

“What are you doing up?” Hoseok asks. The elevator doors close behind Kihyun with a thud.

“Minhyuk won’t stop kicking me," Kihyun replies, wraps his arms around himself. He'd forgotten that it would be colder in the lobby. Not as cold as his room, though. He looks down at the hotel slippers on his feet.

Hoseok pulls down his hood, takes off his cap for a brief moment to smooth down his hair, before pulling it back over his head. “Why are you even in the same bed?” Kihyun tells himself he's only asking to be polite, but part of him (most of him) wants Hoseok to be jealous. He's pathetic, he realises this, but it doesn't stop him from wanting it.

“We can’t turn the air-con off." Kihyun sighs. "I think I hate hotels. Reception aren’t even answering the phone, so I came down.” He looks behind Hoseok for a sign of life from the line of reception desks. “Where have you been, anyway?”

He says it nonchalantly, like he doesn't care, like he isn't worried, except he really, really is.

"Just-- just out for a walk." Hoseok shrugs. "Couldn't sleep."

"Is your air-con on high too?" It's meant to be a joke, but Hoseok doesn't laugh. He would have, Kihyun thinks. Before.

"No, I just needed some fresh air to -- I don't know. To clear my head and all that."

Kihyun wants to probe further, ask what needs clearing and why it needed to be cleared alone and whether it's about him. He feels selfish and stupid for it, because he's thinking about himself again, when Hoseok is cold and tired and needs to clear his head.

“You shouldn’t leave the hotel without telling someone," Kihyun says. It comes out sounding like a scolding. Kihyun doesn't mean it to. Lots of things come out that way and they aren't meant to. Concern and frustration and irritation all mixed up inside him, especially where Hoseok is concerned.

“I didn’t go far," Hoseok replies and then, to Kihyun’s delight, a brief smile passes his lips and he says, "Look, I know how to turn off the air-con in the rooms. Let me drop back in at my room and then I’ll come fix it for you.”

 

--

 

They take the elevator back up the the sixth floor. "If you want to talk about-- anything, just, uh, let me know," Kihyun says. He doesn't know why, because it's not like he's tried to bring up the subject himself. Maybe he wants to now. Maybe he needs to.

Hoseok looks at him out of the corner of his eye, as though he's weighing up this offer. "Okay," he replies, but he doesn't say anything more until they reach their floor.

Kihyun isn't sure what to make of this. He wishes that Hoseok was less of a mystery that only he can't seem to solve.

Kihyun follows behind him as they reach his and Hyunwoo's room. When they get inside, light from the television screen guides their way as Hoseok sheds his layers of warm clothing. Hyunwoo's sleeping figure shifts a little in his sleep and Hoseok lets his voice drop to a whisper as he pads across the room. "I'll just put my ipad on charge and-- oh. Hello.” Hoseok stops next to his bed. "Minhyuk's here," he whispers for Kihyun's benefit. He moves across the room to slip off his shoes.

“How the-?”

Minhyuk sits up on his elbows and rubs at his eyes. He looks as though he's been fast asleep for a week, except he was kicking at Kihyun’s legs in a room down the corridor ten minutes ago.  

“I woke up and you were gone!” Minhyuk pouts. He isn't whispering.

“Yeah, because I couldn’t sleep. How did you even get here so fast?” Kihyun half hisses.

Minhyuk yawns. Says, “This room is a lot warmer than ours.”

This doesn't actually answer Kihyun's question, but apparently it's meant to because Minhyuk doesn't elaborate.

“I know." Kihyun says. No one is whispering anymore and it doesn't seem to have had any effect on Hyunwoo, anyway. Still fast asleep in the corner of the room. "That's probably because no one in this room messed with the aircon. Anyway, Hoseok-hyung says he is going to figure out how we turn it off.”

“Cool.” Minhyuk lies back down, the duvet wrapped around him like a tiny, soft cave. It does look warm.

“Are you not coming?” Kihyun asks.

“Nope. Swap?” Minhyuk throws his key-card towards Hoseok haphazardly without looking. It lands near his feet.

“Whatever," Hoseok replies, picking up the card. "Can't believe I'm letting him kick me out my own room,” he says to Kihyun, but Kihyun can tell that he doesn't mind really. He's like that, Hoseok. Sensitive but easy going, especially where the members are involved. Kihyun has always been secretly impressed by it. By him. Can't imagine life without him, now. He just needs to make things right. Or, better, at least.

If only he knew how.

"Thank you," Kihyun says as they walk along the corridor to what was his and Minhyuk's room ten minutes before. There’s an atmosphere, a tension in the air. There’s a lot Kihyun wants to say, but thank you is the only thing that he feels he really can.

Hoseok looks up, catches Kihyun's eye as they step into the room. "For what?"

Being you, Kihyun thinks. "The air-con thing," he replies.

"I haven't fixed it yet," Hoseok points out, but there's a pleased smile forming on his tired face.

Kihyun shrugs. "But you will," he says, and he has every confidence that he is right.

 

--

 

“There you go." Hoseok is stretched up on his very tiptoes, pressing at a combination of buttons on the side of the unit. His t-shirt, already short, has ridden up around his waist, distracting Kihyun from learning how to use the air-con. "I think that should be off now," he says as he steps back. "Although I have to say, it isn't even that cold in here."

“You’ve been outside, of course it seems warm." Kihyun leans back against the headrest of his unmade bed. "What was it out there, minus ten?”

“Something like that." Hoseok kicks off his shoes and sits down on what was Minhyuk's bed. He doesn't want to talk about it, Kihyun can tell. Not yet, anyway.

He changes the subject pretty quickly, asks, "Want to watch a movie? Or are you going straight to sleep?” as he gets comfortable, piling the cushions up behind his back carefully.

And Kihyun knows the whole point of him getting up in the first place was because he wanted to sleep so badly, but he's awake now, and he wants to see Hoseok smiling more - wants to believe it's a real smile and that everything isn’t ruined forever - before he goes back to sleep.

“Yeah, yeah okay, a movie sounds good.” Kihyun half shrugs as he says it, as if this is a flippant, unthought out decision. "It doesn’t seem like you’re getting your bed back from Minhyuk tonight, anyway.”

“I get that impression," Hoseok replies, still working on perfecting the cushions behind him. “Obviously you weren't being good enough company. Not that-- not that you're not good company. You are.”

“No, you’re probably right. I don’t think I was being a good enough human pillow for Minhyuk,” Kihyun says. It’s probably the truth, since Minhyuk will do just about anything to magically have to appear in your bed and attempt to cuddle.

The members have varying degrees of tolerance towards this. Kihyun is on the accepting side of the scale, with a degree of reluctance. He wouldn't have imagined when they all started to train together, but the person with the highest tolerance to this is Hyunwoo. Kihyun sometimes wonders if he actually likes it. Maybe he does, Kihyun wouldn't blame him or anything. It's not like he doesn't feel lonely sometimes. It's not like he doesn't think about holding someone close again. Just that for him it’s someone in particular, someone on the other bed across the room, hiding a yawn behind his fist.

"You can choose what we watch." Kihyun throws the television remote control onto the other bed. He checks his phone for the first time since he went to sleep, is greeted by three missed calls from Minhyuk that he guesses were made about a minute after he left the room.

Hoseok looks over at him, and Kihyun feels exposed. "You won't be able to see the TV properly from there,” Hoseok says and looks away, back at the guide on the television.

"That’s okay." The words feel like they're stuck in Kihyun’s throat.

"So… Drama? Thriller?" Hoseok scrolls through options as Kihyun settles next to him. "Action?"

"Anything."

Hoseok huffs out a breath. Says, "’Anything’ is too broad a genre."

"Well, what about a comedy?" Kihyun suggests. He won't be able to concentrate on the movie, anyway. Never can when it's just the two of them, always thinking about how much he wants and whether Hoseok wants it to. It seemed like he did, at least once, that time Kihyun tries in vain not to think about.

Kihyun doesn't know now and somehow it's so much worse than nursing a crush. The unknown may be scary, but the aftermath is just sad.

The room feels claustrophobic right now, like maybe the walls are moving in on them.

"I'm not in the mood for a comedy.” 

Kihyun bites at his lip. "Why?"

"Just..." Hoseok shrugs. "What about a sci-fi?"

"I’m not really… I mean, we don't have to watch anything,” Kihyun says. “Should we just put on some music or something?"

The room is getting smaller.

"Okay,” Hoseok replies. He flips the remote control in his hands distractedly. Doesn’t make a move to put any music on.

Kihyun sighs. "Sorry. I'm not very good at this."

"At what?" Hoseok’s gaze finally leaves the television screen and Kihyun resists the urge to avoid his eyes.

“At trying to-- I don’t know. I just want to fix things.”

“What is there to fix?”

“Oh come on. It was never like this, it wasn't awkward. There’s this-- this atmosphere now.” He takes a breath.

Hoseok doesn’t say anything else at first. Draws his eyebrows together, pulls his bottom lip into his mouth and bites down. Kihyun wonders what he is thinking. “You left,” he finally says.

“What?”

“In the morning,” he says. “You left.”

Oh. So, they’re talking about that now.

“Wasn’t that the right thing to do? Wouldn’t you have, if you’d been awake first?” Kihyun asks. Panic rises in his chest, because he doesn’t understand what else he could have done after turning everything about them on its head.

Hoseok nods slowly. “Probably, but that’s not fair to say because -- because you’re always awake first. It was always going to be you leaving.”

“What else could I have done?” Kihyun feels like he’s arguing against himself. Has had this conversation inside his own head countless times since they last shared a hotel room. “ I -- I messed up. I complicated things.”

“It wasn’t just you. This isn’t just about you,” Hoseok replies, and Kihyun feels embarrassed and selfish, and like he is making the worst possible attempt at fixing anything that has ever been made.

He closes his eyes. “I know that. I didn’t mean-- It’s just that I -- I like you. A lot. I have done for a long time, but-- but that was all it was: me liking you. Until I - we - complicated things.”

“That isn’t all it was. If it was just you liking me, nothing would have happened,” Hoseok says.

It’s Kihyun’s turn to pause. “I guess that… That makes sense.”

Hoseok continues, “So, I think that… The way I see it is that we have two choices. The first is to get past what happened between us. Chalk it down to an error of judgement and put it to the back of our minds and try to go back to like it was before, somehow.”

“And the second?”

“To admit it didn't feel like a mistake at all. Get past it that way.”

Kihyun nods slowly. Both options sound pretty scary. The room is too stifling, too closed in to be doing this, he thinks. Which is ironic considering the only reason Hoseok is here right now is because the room had been too damn cold. “Is that what you were out thinking about tonight? When you couldn’t sleep?”

“I'm always thinking about it,” Hoseok says.

“Me too.” Kihyun can’t help but smile, if only because this is one of the most ridiculous and yet oddly satisfying conversations he’s ever had. Being honest, totally honest - no tiptoeing over lines - is rather liberating, really, if also completely fucking terrifying. And why stop now? “I-- I don’t think I can do the first one. I’ve tried,” he admits, looks down at the bed.

“Good,” Hoseok replies decisively. “Because neither can I.”

 

--

 

It’s not like flicking a switch (unfortunately, Kihyun thinks). Things aren’t suddenly normal between them; there are still awkward silences and tiny glances, but they’re accompanied by smiles again. And other things, too.

Things like Hoseok holding his hand in the back of the car.

Kihyun looks down at their hands entwined together. “Is this wise?” He whispers, though he makes no attempt to let go.

“Probably not.” Hoseok closes his eyes, a lazy smile plays on his lips. “But bad decisions seem to be our forte.”

 

--

 

Minhyuk pokes him in the side and says, "Tell me your secret," and Kihyun sees a flash of white before his eyes, blind panic taking over. It was one thing to admit to himself that he is pretty much head over heels for Hoseok, and it was another thing to admit it to Hoseok, but admitting it to a third party... Well, he's not ready to deal with that kind of fall-out just yet. It's not going to be easy if anyone else finds out, he knows that. Sure, Minhyuk is their friend and there's no doubt he would be supportive, but-- but the worry will always linger. The worry that they're messing with a good thing, twisting the group dynamic and taking a risk that could effective all seven of them.

Kihyun is practical enough to know that holding hands with Hoseok in the back of the car is still pretty selfish, even now he knows that Hoseok wants it too. 

"What?" He manages to blurt out.

"Your skin is so nice lately." Minhyuk raises his hand to Kihyun's jaw. "What are you doing differently?"

Kihyun just blinks. 

"That is a compliment, by the way," Minhyuk says slowly. "You can smile."

And Kihyun shakes his head, laughs. "Sorry, I'm-- my mind is somewhere else. I-- I got these free samples the last time we were at the dermatologists. I'll share them with you."

He holds Hoseok's hand again under the dinner table that night.

 

--

 

They group are in Hong Kong and it’s raining so heavily that the rain is sheeting against the hotel room window like something from a disaster movie. “It’s a shame we have to stay in,” Kihyun says, and he means it. A little. Maybe he would mean it more if he wasn’t alone with Hoseok.

“Hmm.” Hoseok pushes his hair out of his face and runs his tongue along his bottom lip slowly, takes four photos in a row before looking up at Kihyun. “Are you going to be here in the morning?” He asks, suddenly, a crease between his eyebrows as he looks at him with hopeful eyes.

Kihyun swallows a tiny fragment of panic. “Yes. I think-- I mean, I want to be.”

“You should do the things you want to.” Hoseok presses his lips together, holds out the phone. “Hey, do I look good in this selfie?”

“Very.” Kihyun can’t help but smile. “You know you do.”

Hoseok grins. “But I like to hear you say it.”

Kihyun rolls his eyes at this, but he likes it, because it feels like maybe they have managed to fix things, like choosing not to regret was what they needed all along. “The lighting isn’t great in here, though. It’s better in the bathroom, you should go take one in there.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Hose murmurs are he reaches out, trails his fingertips along the tiny strip of exposed skin where Kihyun’s t-shirt skims his grey pyjama pants, and Kihyun could say, “yes”, but he doesn’t need to.

So, instead, he smiles, rocks onto his tiptoes to close the gap between their mouths and allows the spaces that take place between words to answer for him.