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Our Love Exceeds a Lethal Dose

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Is it worth waiting for the sun to set when you've got a movie in fifteen? 

The answer is no, definitely not. Categorically not, under any circumstance. Yet, here he is, blocks away from the shopping center, four levels below the cinema's floor and he isn't even on his feet, to make matters worse. 

After the Uber dropped them off the nearest to their destination they could get, without getting caught in traffic themself, Taemin had decided to stay there for just a little bit since the sky is so so so pretty from here. And who was Jongin to say no?

It's been about ten minutes, though, and he was starting to get anxious about getting there late. He voices his concerns and the older man springs up, too fast not to get lightheaded, and Jongin offers his hand instantly, shameless about asking for help to stand up. Taemin steps out of the small hollow on the park's nicely-kept, green grass terrain and links their hands together, intertwining their fingers.

Jongin's heart skips a beat but he's quick, and quite successful, to force it back to a semi-normal rhythm. Or just to stop beating so loud. "Yah! I need some help, not this," he reprimands, feigning anger.

A half-hearted laughter breaks through his composed facade as his friend, with more strength than necessary, helps him up without re-linking their hands into a more comfortable joining. The unpredictability of Taemin's force makes Jongin lose his balance completely, his cupula too shaken to decide his cardinal orientation, almost causing for them both to fall to the ground. 

Regaining his equilibrium, he slaps Taemin's arm lightly, frowning his brows in a half-assed puppy look, begging. 

 

It's not long until they're finally on their way, the sunset signaling that hurrying is no help by now. They're late, that he knows. What he feels, though, is indescribable, incomprehensible. It's ridiculous, too. He isn't sure what exactly drove him to do that, or why, but the world has stopped its course around the solar system as he bulls his way through some American movie he watched a handful of nights ago; the planet emphasizing its abrupt cease in motion when he gets to a random scene that caught his eye. Imagine you're one of the characters, he said, your character doesn't know mine, but still, he trusted... he— And he grabbed Taemin's hand, just to demonstrate, as he told himself, finishing the retelling of the scene faster than he should've with his senses tingling  wildly.

It lasts only a few strides forward, but Jongin's unable to shake off the lukewarm ghost of Taemin's thin fingers nestling so perfectly between his own longer ones for the entirety of the film. 

 

 

It's days after that he's laying in bed, Taemin's head on his chest, fast asleep, that he's thinking about the experience.

His breathing is uncomfortable, staggered, too careful and calculated to be natural. He doesn't want to disturb Taemin's sleep because of something as trivial as his chest's rising and falling. 

Through these thoughts, and his current sensations —his friend's head on him, the warmth spreading through his every cell— it is that he realizes why he did that in the first place. Retrospection allows him to realize: all he wanted to do was feel Taemin's hand on his own, just once more, and hopefully, this time it'd linger on for longer.

He stares at his free hand, the one that isn't posed on the older man's shoulder protectively, cautiously lifting it up to access a better view.

Long, tan fingers are splayed before his eyes. Wrapped tightly around the bone, thicker around the middle phalanges, they extend until they announce their cease with cleanly trimmed nails. Veiny, bony and fragile is the back of his hand. Too unfitting to his appearance, too resembling of his psyche. He wonders if his hands are adequate, if they could be a good lover to the man he's staring at. But before letting his thoughts drift away in that direction, he stares at Taemin's hands. Small, short fingers that are almost chode-y are crossed over his own chest. Pale and ghost-like they rest, emphasizing the tranquil motion of his chest following his breaths.  

They don't seem much compatible, judging by their hands, he concludes. Dark and thin wouldn't look too good next to faint and stubby. It's stupid, he knows, that he's inferring all of this by mere hands, but before he can help it, he's gone, further losing himself in his thoughts.

His mind is plagued by images of their past together. Taemin's hand on his thigh, caressing reassuringly. His fingers twisting loose threads on the ripped knee of the other's pants as he pays close attention to the stories falling from Taemin's lips. Small bruises tainting Jongin's arm, inciting the feather-light touch of the other's soft finger pads around the harmed skin. Taemin's hand wrapped behind his own, holding the phone in place so they can both watch the screen comfortably. Their hands brushing nearing the middle while playing the grand piano on a shared stool. Jongin's digits tangling on his friend's shirt, tightening with every swallowed sob. His thumb rubbing circles on Taemin's neck as he laid defeated after a long day. The older one's index finger wiping away some unknown food residue from the other's lower lip. Long fingers combing through bleached hair before a party. Locked pinkies as they made dumb promise after dumb promise. A stabilizing hand on Jongin's chest as they stumbled one over the other. Hands on Taemin's face as harsh cackles shake his entire frame. The shorter's hand resting on the small of the other's back, applying just the right amount of comforting pressure. A hand wrapped around Taemin's waist as they walk through the crowded streets. Gag slaps to one another's ribs after immature remarks. Waking up to a hand on his shoulder and waking up with a hand on the other's hip and to fingers brushing and to an arm twisted uncomfortably near his thigh; waking up and finding out their bodies tend to fuse together in unconsciousness, warm contact looking to find its equal. 

The romantic scenarios composing themselves on his head don't fail to take a turn for worse. He curses his traitorous mind but can't distract the thoughts away. 

Taemin is right there, having turned around, a small drool patch soiling Jongin's shirt as he curls around the latter. It's impudent to be thinking this way of someone, in the presence of said person, but he knows it's beyond his control by now. He's been through this one too many times now. He likes to think he can be deferential when it comes to it, even if everything points towards the opposite. 

Their friendship hasn't been all that platonic, come to think of it. There's been weird times, for the lack of a better word. Doomed times, more like. There's that time he refused to share his ice cream spoon and dipped his finger in the substance, offering it to Taemin as a mere joke. Nothing more, nothing less; yet Taemin had opened his mouth too wide, and he played the game, pushed his finger in, to gross him out, to make him pussy out, anything but for him to suck on it. Fervent on top of that, as if there was more than a tiny drop of ice cream on it, his tongue tracing the length before giving it a playful bite. Perhaps not so playful, considering the teeth mark he had left that Jongin hadn't been able to help but jack off to in the bathroom minutes after. 

He felt guilty, of course he did. Taemin didn't deserve being the object of his fantasies, the subject of his dreams or the architect of his climaxes. He had never done him wrong, betrayed him, even failed him in the slightest. Jongin knew he was being selfish, heartless, to think this way of him, especially after so long. He's had years to either get the feeling under control or exterminate it completely, and he had achieved none. 

Right now being a prime example: his mind materializing self-loathing justifications in hoards. Presented as memories, for they were, still their purpose was nothing but vile. 

Thoughts of Taemin sitting on his lap, stirring awake a sensation he wanted to forget. The chapped lips of his bleeding in winter, a single eyebrow raised as he asked Jongin if he'd be nice enough to lick it off. A drunken night at a club with Taemin on his front, an arm uncomfortably laced around his neck as he ground his behind hard against Jongin's crotch. Waking up at night to a hard-on brushing the back of his hand before he turned to hug the edge of the bed, ignoring the hushed question of him being awake too. Taemin's offer of making out to see 'what happens' since he knew Jongin had been feeling concupiscent to no success. Or the time he didn't turn down the proposal and he had to break apart before things escalated. Taemin jerking off with the door open, staring directly into Jongin's eyes as he tried walking past but instead felt anchored in place, moaning brokenly as his wrist allowed the thumb to sweep just right before closing his eyes, allowing Jongin to walk away. 

He curses under his breath at his lack of self-control and his traitorous arousal. His eyes close with too much force, the well-known sting behind them being replaced by slight pain from the unnatural shutting of his eyes.

There's always been a chance, a small one but nonetheless a chance, of Taemin having considered him more than just a friend somewhere in time. But how could that matter? Jongin wanted everything. And if there was one thing that he was certain of, it was that Taemin wasn't in love with him. Casual attraction and the depth of their relationship aside, there was nothing more to it, at least, not to Taemin. 

He takes a look at the other; mouth closed as he heavily breathes through his nose. It won't be long until he wakes up now. Jongin has noticed he tends to close his mouth once he leaves the slow-wave sleep stage. Taking one decisive breath, he starts shuffling from under Taemin's weight until he's more or less free. A deep sigh breaks the silence as he stands up, legs shaky and weak as his vision blurs gradually. 

Chapter Text

It was too early in the morning to want to do something, but Taemin's inner clock was saying otherwise. After taking a quick shower, just for lucidity, he strolls down the corridor, pushing all curtains open.

On its own accord, his breath goes through his teeth, creating sweet sounds that follow a melody he's come up with but hasn't been confident enough in to write. His voice isn't late to join, whispering unsure poetry. He can't pinpoint the exact moment he starts singing, so loud that his lungs feel like blowing out the moment he reaches the tune's climax, letting the density of the frustrations worded in the lyrics —and hidden in the rhythm— dissipate ever-so-slowly, releasing pent-up stress and hurt with every note. It's like detoxing, playing music, he's noticed. At least for him, it is. 

The song isn't short, about six-minutes long, but without the instrumental breaks he's envisioned, it's probably just three-minutes or so. He isn't quite sure at what part of the song exactly he made breakfast —if you could call a single toast and two cups of coffee breakfast—, but when his eyes open after the exhaustive catharsis, he finds the first coffee cup not to be scolding hot anymore, the way he enjoys drinking it the most. Nonetheless, he's quick to finish the small meal, taking just ten more minutes to compose himself before letting his thoughts drive him away.

Something was troubling Jongin, it took no genius to figure that out. Naturally, Taemin had given him space and just deemed interaction to be fitting at times like meals and house chores. Taemin wasn't much of an interrelation-hungry person, he could do with not bonding just fine. But with Jongin, it was simply different. He craved intimacy and affection, given and received, as long as it was with him. Of course, when the younger man retreated from his company, he'd let it happen. Who has he to feel entitled to Jongin's closeness when it had taken him months to feel comfortable with it in the first place? 

 

It was much too late at night- maybe even too early in the morning, he wasn't sure. It was still dark, he knew that. The front-door had clicked, opening and closing swiftly, letting a honey-eyed presence into the house. Taemin's ears strained, heightening his hearing. Soft steps echoed, aiming towards the wrong room, following the sound of metal hitting wood when the keys were dropped.

Taemin almost always came along to Jongin's midnight walks. They never spoke much, what he looked forward, instead, was the occasions he'd let him get away with holding his hand. He knew not to push his chances if it meant he'd be able to do so again, so he refrained plenty. 

It didn't come as a shock to him that Jongin stopped announcing his walks, he had probably infiltrated a much-needed alone time opportunity of his, so he didn't speak a word. He wasn't mad about it, he was just curious as to the reasoning behind it and the subsequent decision to put it into action. He couldn't help but to wonder if he had done something wrong himself. 

Taemin hated blaming himself when there were so many rational explanations unrelated to his own doings. It had taken him time to get where he currently was, self-improvement that wasn't easily earned, but there was no escaping the human condition. Guilt being an indispensable fraction of it. That's why he allowed himself to feel that way.

It wasn't long until he heard the couch sink down, faux leather creaking in the absolute silence. He waits, his heart beating out of his chest as the minutes pass without much activity.  

Taemin gets up, shaving through the sharp silence and even-sharper darkness as he does, slipping his indoor shoes on. His light body doesn't make much sound, doesn't work as an announcement or a warning of his upcoming presence, and when he reaches out for Jongin, he jumps lightly. He murmurs something under his breath and Taemin pokes his chest in an attempt to make him react. Jongin doesn't budge much, though. "Sleep with me," he begs. "The couch isn't comfortable." 

The taller man hums, closing his eyes forcefully as if to get a cleaner sight. With not nearly enough strength to get out of his sleepiness, Jongin answers, "I know that. Just say you want me to go back there."  

"I want you to go back to our room."  Taemin says, with enough need to perplex his friend, who blinks a couple of times again. "You know, you need to stop blaming your eyes for what you hear." 

There they are, finally, Jongin's soft chuckles. Taemin watches as the other stands, instantly holding him by his lower back. His skin is cold, noticeable even through his shirt, he must've not changed or showered. He wants to complain, ask him why he thought to sleep in the coldest area in the house when he was already cold. He wants to ask him if he's still okay with, well, living together. He has so many questions, all of them leading to himself, somehow. To the way he is, towards Jongin specifically.

Jongin makes his way towards the bed, slight hesitance tainting his steps before reclaiming his spot on the bed near the wall. 

"Why did you go to the couch?" Taemin asks, soft-voiced and a little worried, as he lays his body down on the free space.

The other shifts onto his stomach, his head in his hands, "Just didn't wanna wake you up, hyung." His eyes are scanning Taemin's covered body, looking for the right place to settle on. 

He can't help but smile softly at the innocence of that comment. "I don't mind." He follows Jongin's eyes, hoping to catch them with his own, but the other is too quick to avert his gaze, to focus his eyes someplace else. It's not right, it doesn't feel right when their stares aren't meeting.

Taemin isn't sure what's the motive when he gets closer, his own arm extends before him, working as some sort of pillow for him to rest his head. It's never been comfortable, his arm tends to fall asleep in that position, but he does anyway. Just to be closer to Jongin, to make him meet his eyes. "I really don't mind," he whispers, reassuringly. 

Jongin's eyes seem to lose focus, he seems disoriented, scared, even. Yet, Taemin is able to read past that. The youger's thoughts point towards him, towards Taemin. He isn't sure what the nature of those thoughts is, if it's positive, neutral or negative. He can just sense they're about him. And he's fine with that.

"You really like sleeping with me," Jongin blurts out, almost instantly turning his head. Even if Taemin didn't know him this well, he'd be able to recognize that such behavioural pattern is the one that follows blushing.

He's never been a shameful man, despite that having backfired more times than he can count, he could not let go of his nature. "I do." Any other possible implications behind the statement he ignores before proceeding, "It's comfortable. I sleep well." 

Jongin turns his head slowly to its original position, that's when Taemin notices how much closer they had gotten.

In the very dark they are this little apart, heads so close together that if Jongin were to lose the hold keeping his head up, there'd be no space between them. They could kiss, without much shifting at all to achieve that. They could kiss and then forget about it. Or they could kiss and remember the feeling for the rest of their days. There's a tingling feeling in Taemin's chest, kind of a warning as he takes it. Or a reminder. He doesn't know, doesn't bother to find out either. 

He ends up letting it go.  

 

Taemin wasn't sure when he started somewhat depending on his friend's affection and warmth. He didn't know what to attribute it to. Was it Jongin's kindness? Sincerity? Thoughtfulness? Beauty? Every time he thought he might've come up with the correct answer, a million other options were encountered. Each of the younger man's features and characteristics seemed to inspire his reliance on him, they were worth admiring— all of him, from the deepest corners of his personality to his outer appearance. But explanations aside, when he noticed he more than wanted, needed it, he knew he was doomed. 

It had been a week, almost, since Jongin last slept on their bed, he was trying to be objective about it but the moment he woke up in the mornings, leaving an empty space for the other even in his unconsciousness biased his judgement. It was almost like the more privacy he gave him, the more he demanded. It hurt him, deeply, and he knew he wouldn't stay the slightest bit rational about it much longer.

He was going to do something about it. He didn't know what, or when, but he'd figure it out. He needed Jongin, and he had to show it. Be that for better or worse.

Taemin's heart was bound to break, anyway.

Chapter Text

"Hyung," a small voice called, shyly. 

Taemin reacted to the plea automatically, getting on his feet much quicker than his weak nervous system allowed, hurrying over to the couch, before grabbing it and stabilizing himself. 

Once there, he couldn't refrain from smiling softly at the scene before him: there was Jongin, napping on the couch, his mouth moving and whispering Taemin's name. 

The older man felt his heart grow warmer, swelling at the incident. Biting his lip to stifle a chuckle, he takes a few deep breaths, failing to slow down his heartbeats. His hands shook, unsure of where to land, wondering whether they should go near Jongin at all. A light touch would go unnoticed by all means, given the slight shift of his eyelids and the movement behind them, still, he is seized of self-indulgence being not that good of a state to engage with. He scans his surroundings once more, feeling his breathing stagger slightly as he feels a spark of anger being born—directed at himself—, but he fails to fuel it, acknowledging the little he understood when it came to the nature of his feelings.

But, there it was again, and he knew that he wouldn't be able to shake it off of him for God knows how long now. There was no going back at this point. Jongin whispering his name in his sleep meant nothing, yet he felt this way.

He disliked moments like this for that sole reason— it wasn't salubrious for him to adopt awareness of such a thing. At the same time, though, he venerated those same moments, in a way, considered them as sacred. Jongin was deified to him, and it took nothing more than their initial exchange of words for Taemin to put him in a pedestal as unparalleled as the one where he belonged currently. 

Long after, moments of consideration and conflict not allowed to extend any further, he decides against it. He can wait, his patience is a gift and he knows it's convenient to apply it to this exact situation. 

He knows the image won't leave him for weeks, haunting him when he leasts expects it, but he's thankful to it, too, for some reason. 

 

***

 

"Hyung," The same timid, honey-laced voice calls out. It's barely there, a mere string of the many strands that compose such a heavenly sound. 

Taemin feels himself smile widely, unable to hide the lingering traces of adoration from earlier resurfacing, stronger than ever. "Yes?" 

As soon as he reaches the living room, he feels a blush threatening to taint his cheeks. After blinking somewhat forcefully twice, he focuses his eyes on his housemate, having the reddening under control, now. Looking, but not really seeing.  

Despite having lived together for long enough to know each other too well for any normal person to still get along with one another, it takes Taemin by surprise. He's aware that Jongin's been working out *plenty, but he hadn't seen the totality of the results. More muscle mass on his upper arms and thighs, the widening of his shoulders, that he'd witnessed. Maybe a firmer, more noticeable Apollo's belt when, at times, his shirt would ride up. But he'd surely never seen the ridges of his abdominal muscle, the taut pectorals standing by his visible ribs and such broad waist complimented by sharp hipbones below it. 

He should've expected it. Jongin's barely waking up from a 4-hour long nap, it was only natural for him to pick up a new shirt and change. Still, he couldn't shake the shock off of himself, albeit he was able to hide it for the most part. He nods to the other man, enquiring. 

"Taemin-hyung, I know we haven't gone out in a while... together. Do you want to go for a walk?" 

It takes him aback, Jongin wasn't one to ask. He'd usually just find Taemin, wherever he was, and offer him a jacket. He'd put it on without a second thought.

Maybe, it was because he had been going on his walks after Taemin went to bed, so he could've considered it awkward to just show up and get Taemin to come along, no words spoken. Maybe, he simply needed Taemin tonight. It didn't matter why he asked, really, but Taemin does ponder on it a little further.

"It's quite early," He states, as the clock points at some time around 10:30 PM, before offering his hand to get Jongin up from the couch. He catches the small dimple on Jongin's face before the younger looks to the floor, his hand being gripped between his hyung's fingers, and stands up. 

Taemin knows there's no point in dragging Jongin by the hand to the front door, but he's not wasting any potential opportunities at physical contact. A stride or two ahead, he slowly adjusts his hand so he can lace their fingers together. Jongin holds him tight when he does.

 Sliding off his slippers, he changes into some sandals. He would've very much preferred some proper shoes, but he wasn't going to let go of the other's hand for something as trivial as that. As he unlocks the door, he can feel Jongin struggling to put on his running shoes, not loosening his grip on Taemin's hand the slightest bit. He can't help but to smile at that, he can't help his racing heart. 

They walk in the general direction of the Han River, keeping their hands tight. If there's any awkwardness between the two quiet men, Taemin can't sense it. He's not someone sensible to discomfort. Be that a flaw or a gift. 

Once at Yongsan Park, Taemin notices the low temperature of his friend's hand. It's usually himself the one who's cold, but, this time, Jongin is freezing to the touch. The older doesn't hesitate to shove their hands down the pocket of his coat, giving the other a shy smile. The moment it's returned, he looks forward and smiles widely again. He knows Jongin can notice his thrill, the puffing of his cheeks when he smiles gives it away. He refuses to hide any of it.

He lets the younger lead the walk, having no rush and no desire to put an end to the contact and overall situation, he lets himself feel at ease. Just the gradual heating of the palm wrapped around his own brings his heart to double its heartbeat count. His pocket isn't warm enough to excuse his sweating, but he knows Jongin won't be questioning a thing. Even if he can perceive his rapid pulse, which he already has in similar instances, he won't criticize. He's either much too understanding or much too naive. 

The cold weather seeps into his system tortuously slow. It starts from his scalp, all the way down his neck to every vertebrae, goosebumps rising after the trajectory of a certain harsher gust of wind, making him shiver despite of himself. His grip on Jongin tightens reflexively, who picks up on it and caresses lightly the areas he can reach merely with his thumb without changing the position of his hand. 

Taemin wasn't sure just how in love he was until now. Just a couple of strokes of his finger and he could feel his skin rejecting the wind, interdicting the icy penetration. His cheeks start reddening almost comically, blood rushing over as if it was meant to conglomerate there all along. He guesses he should feel, at the very least, partially ashamed for blushing over something as minimal and as common between the two of them, but he doesn't. 

 

Walking can be a blessing, as it is to Jongin. Not like he's elaborated over its wonders or even explained his fixation with following such a tradition, but Taemin knew it was more than therapeutic for the other. He couldn't quite understand how, but he admired its cathartic effect on him. Jongin usually seemed much more relaxed and in good terms with himself posterior to his walks, he made sure to never skip them and set them as a healing habit, one that had helped, too. Taemin could tell. 

Now, Taemin, he could live without them. Walking wasn't necessarily remarkable to him, and he didn't do much of it as long as he didn't have to. It never fueled his thinking, let alone brought him joy or satisfaction. If he wanted any of that, he'd just retreat to his room and watch the skies changing until its colours pleased him.

It all changed pretty drastically once Jongin became a constant, almost fixed part of his life. They got really to know each other during Jongin's scheduled walks. He can't help the chuckle that frees itself at the memory.

 

 

"So, there's something I do everyday," The taller man muttered. "I mean noth-nothing like... that." 

Taemin smirks, not giving into the pleasure of laughing at an unintentional double entendre, he just nods, asking the other to continue. "Oh, right. I go out on walks late at night, no reason, just need to get some air. It's a sort of tradition, if that's okay with you, Taemin-ssi." The last few syllables come out more intoned, in the same cadence you'd ask a question.

Taemin doesn't see why Jongin would ask if it's okay with him. Or why he'd tell him about it. "Hyung is okay. You can leave for a walk whenever, you're not a captive, you know."

The younger blushed a dark shade, opening and closing his mouth twice. "Taemin-ssi— Sorry, hyung, that's not what I meant, at all. I thought that maybe you'd be uncomfortable with having to attend to my habits knowing that I was the one who moved here." 

Yet another giggle almost slipped past Taemin's self-control. It wasn't like Jongin decided to move here, he had offered in the first place. Why? He wasn't quite sure just yet.  

"A kid from Jeollanam-do is looking to move to Seoul. He's a dancer, I've known him for a good couple years, he's harmless. A year younger than you. Could he move in with you for a while? Until he finds a place to settle on?" 

That's what it took for them to meet, a pretty pathetic and non-convincing phone-call, yet Taemin had arranged almost everything for him to live there right away. 

He decides he should lighten up the mood a little for the other's sake. Jongin's nervousness was quite adorable for him, but not something pleasant for the other. "As long as you don't bring in dead animals, it's all good." 

Jongin finally chuckles, slowly allowing himself to properly laugh. Taemin feels a sense of  pride deep in his chest blossoming. Hopefully, he wouldn't make the kid any more anxious. 

"It's late already, maybe I should walk you around the area so you get used to the surroundings. That sound good?" Taemin offers, already making his way towards the front door to change into running shoes.

Jongin quickly follows suit, grabbing Taemin's arm urgently, "You don't have to."

Now that's something he wasn't expecting from such a shy kid, the tight grip on his wrist, Jongin's resolution to not get any more unnecessary favors done. "It's okay, I haven't gone out for a simple walk in forever." The clutch loosens and Jongin looks down to him, the height difference enough for Taemin to have to take a step back so he doesn't have to look up, giving him a smile full of gratitude, significant to the point that words wouldn't have done it justice. "Let's go."

After walking down a good handful of blocks, signaling to and naming almost every building and store, Taemin says, "Okay, this is Yongsan Family Park, it's open 24/7, maybe not on holidays, I'm not too sure. I think it'd be a nice place for your walks."

A spark of recognition flashes in Jongin's face. "Oh, oh! Heechul-hyung showed me a picture of you and Kibum-hyung near that creek right there." 

"You know Kibum-hyung?" Taemin asks, a bit perplexed, following the direction of his index finger pointing eagerly.

"Not really, we've just met a couple of times." The ghost of a natural 'why?' leaves his lips, he quickly masks it with a forced yawn. 

"We dated, didn't last enough together. Heechul-hyung insisted that we did a couples photoshoot here, that's where that picture came from, I'm guessing."  He explains carelessly. If Jongin knew either of them, he probably didn't mind homosexuality in the slightest. 

"Oh, I see."

"No cursing," Taemin reprimands mockingly, getting yet another laugh out of Jongin. He basked in awkward puns, it seemed. Noted. 

They keep walking, the moon lonely in the sky. Just a few stars surrounding it from afar, almost like they're tied to the bigger one with string, trying to break free.

"I could get used to—"

 

 

"—walking with you," Jongin swallows, his hand twitching under the older's, "I truly enjoy it a lot. I think that— that your company is truly wonderful." Looking away again, he pushes his hair back with his free hand. 

He's nervous, Taemin wonders why. He knows that if he lets himself overthink the situation, he'll end up delusional, to say the least. He needs to get rid of the evidence that could help convince himself that Jongin meantt something deeper when acknowledging his company. 

Discarding the plan, he asks what he truly needs to know. "Why hadn't you asked me to come along earlier?" 

The taller man sighs, defeat soiling his flawless features and exposing his regret. He tightens his hold on Taemin and pulls their hands from his pocket. He leads them to a bench beneath a sad-looking tree, where the older sits and watches as Jongin slowly brings their intertwined fingers towards his face, caressing his own face with the back of Taemin's hand. He splays out his fingers, looking to feel more of the soft, tan, faultless skin. Feeling his cheekbone, then the silky texture of his cheek, Taemin closes his eyes, in an attempt to erase everything around him, anything existent except for the sensations taking over him. A knuckle hits a damp area, the corner of his mouth, he immediately recognizes. The back of his hand catches the tip of his nose, pushing it upwards before freeing it. His fingers brush Jongin's temple, his nails barely graze his hair. He can tell the other's eyes are closed too. The hand lowers again, caressing his other cheek and landing on his jaw, leisurely making its way to his chin. There's small hints of stubble, almost unnoticeable, tickling the area around his knuckles. Suddenly, the contact disappears. "Look at me," Jongin murmurs, too low to hear clearly, but too close to his hand for him not to feel it. Taemin lets his eyelids rise, setting his gaze on Jongin's lips. Almost, almost touching his hand. The younger nods and brings Taemin's hand towards his face again, softly kissing all five knuckles, letting his lower lip drag along the small space between them. Jongin closes his eyes again, kissing the very center of the back of Taemin's hand now. He stares at it, almost like it's sacred, eyebrows furrowed and eyes focused. Taemin knows he's noticed that he's shaking, his hand much too warm to blame the cold for it. It's something he's never experienced before. And he wants more.

The tremors gently rattle his frame, breaking through Jongin's concentration. Without dropping his hand, he sits beside him. Too close considering the amount of space left on the bench, but Taemin is okay with it. He needed that. He licks his lips, "Jongin." 

The younger stares for a few seconds, before looking down and getting closer to him until their foreheads touch. Taemin looks down, sees his wrist leaning on the other's thigh, laced hands resting on his knee. It's too much. In just five minutes, or less, he felt the most delight he's known, the most love he's ever felt. His eyes close again, with more force this time as tears tingle behind his eyelids. Breathing in, breathing out, he smiles, tears gone.

Heart too weak to handle any more of Jongin, but mind too determined to get more of him, Taemin lets out a shaky breath before he does something he might regret, despite needing it so bad. Self-control. He's got this.

"Thank you."

Ever since you moved to my place my life has been better, is what he means. It's what makes him bite his tongue. 

Chapter Text

"Heechul-hyung is coming over next week," Taemin shares through a mouthful of bulgogi. He feels a big drop of the kimchi's brine dripping down out the corners of his mouth, but the heat of the meat deeds him incapable of darting out his tongue to wipe it. At the same time, both of his hands are occupied, one busy with the chopsticks and the other holding the cup with kimchi. On top of that, he had just mopped the kitchen in the morning, and God damn him if anything was coming near it.

It wasn't a particularly expensive shirt, —nor a memory-ridden, significant one— but it almost physically hurt when he saw his shoulder inching closer to his chin and wiping the red substance off, leaving a dark stain. 

The adrenaline that surged within him in just those seconds was exceptional, and it took him a pair of labored breaths to come down from it. "Holy shit, fuck." He swiftly lets the kimchi and chopsticks down and bends down to inspect the kitchen tiles. Neat. He washes his hands and resumes wrapping his food in lettuce. That's when Jongin erupts in laughter. It wasn't his usual laughter, it was worse. High-pitched guffaws were followed by squeals when he'd run out of air.

Taemin stares, dumbfounded, at Jongin's neck, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down almost unnaturally. "You know I could've dropped the kimchi, right?" 

A squeezed out 'yes' comes out through fits of laughter as the younger nods his head at the statement.

"You know, I could've shattered the cup too." This time, Jongin snorts and slaps his own thigh, "And I could've gotten you dirty at the same time."

When Jongin doesn't stop laughing, Taemin's mouth parts slightly at the ludicrousness of the situation. He could've sworn it wasn't funny at all, but then again, Jongin was right in front of him hiding his face between hands, his shoulders bouncing up and down rapidly as no sound came out of his open mouth anymore. 

Taemin purses his lips and waits for the other to stop laughing,  or take a break from it, because he's certainly passed the stage where his stomach starts aching. He stares as he takes deep, full breaths and waits. 

"Hyung, you should've seen yourself, I swear," Jongin mumbles, coughing a little bit and wiping a small tear from his eye. "It seemed like it happened in slow motion. Ah, you seemed like one of the characters from those weird TV shows for kids." 

He smiles and scrunches his nose a little bit. "You're always laughing at all my mishaps," Jongin bows his head apologetically in an almost automatic manner, "No, I'm glad they happen so often, it's nice seeing you like this." Taemin clicks his tongue, he isn't liking the sound of this. "But if I'm going to keep being your personal clown, I'll need some salary." Taemin can't help but chuckle as he says that. The younger has brought his sense of humor down almost as much as he has improved it.

"No worries, hyungnim, I'll keep you happy and unlucky." He stands and does a 90° bow, before running over to the other side of the table and swinging his arms around Taemin's neck. He automatically rests his hands on top of Jongin's, caressing over the knuckles before tickling in between his fingers. He slaps both hands softly.

"I meant money, or food, or something serviceable." Jongin just hugs him tighter. He slaps his hands away again.

"Okay, go, go eat. I didn't pretend to make the food myself for nothing." He looks up to Jongin above him and smiles, then proceeding to give little pecks to the arms around him. Gestures like that are more intimate than they seem, Taemin knows that, though he isn't sure why they are so normal between the two. He recognizes that and leaves the fact alone, there's things about the two that don't require explanations. 

Instead of going back to his place on the opposite side of the table, Jongin just flops down next to him. "Where'd you order this, hyung? It's good," He drags the 'ood' as he stares at the food with his eyes wide open, not blinking, looking like some sort of caricature. Taemin retrieves his chopsticks and grabs a longer piece of kimchi, shoving it swiftly into the other's mouth. The younger grimaces and shakes his head, wiping his mouth on his hand.

"Ow! That's strong, that's strong."

Jongin's eyes are squeezed shut as he reaches out for a napkin. Taemin realizes he should've just handed him one a second too late when he feels a fist twist his shirt and something damp landing on it. A dry sob scapes his throat as he stares down at his own shirt, pouting almost exaggeratedly.

If his day wasn't damned, in terms of cleanliness, it sure was now. Laugh echoes in the kitchen once again, followed by a very unconvincing 'I'm sorry'. 

He sighs, for the umpteenth time, and removes his shirt fast, careful not to get any kimchi —or spit— on his face. He joins in on the laughter this time, though. "You owe me a shirt." 

Jongin nods, still smiling, and gulps down some water. "You said Heechul-hyung is coming?" He's staring intently at the older, his head tilted and his gaze somewhere on his body. The latter isn't sure where, but he's better off not knowing. He evades a misunderstanding, disappointment and potential false hope that way. 

"Oh, right. Right. Yes, he'll stay here for a few days to a week. He's going on vacation so he wanted to drop by beforehand." He folds a fat lettuce wrap and gets rid of it in one bite. Jongin mimics him. "You know how all of his friends live near us? Well, that's why."

"So, you're saying we'll only see him, what, 5 hours a day? That he'll disappear at midnight and come back at dawn?" 

It's supposed to be a joke, he knows, but he can't deny it either. He smiles. "Probably."

Jongin scoots closer to him, holding a small plate with almost a dozen well-made lettuce wraps that Taemin didn't see him making. Just half of his back is in front Taemin when Jongin lays his head on the other's shoulder, not putting enough pressure to throw off his balance but more than sufficient to get his heart beating a tempo or two faster.  

"You know, I wonder why Heechul-hyung's hookups don't let him stay the night," Jongin vocalizes, two and a half wraps inside his mouth.  

Thinking back to the short-lived time Heechul and him were roommates, he realizes the first used to be much calmer, shyer. His conclusion is that it must've been a midlife crisis. "Surprisingly, it's not plural anymore." 

The younger twists his head, still on Taemin's shoulder, staring up to the latter's face with widened eyes once more, questioning the truth of the statement. The position makes Jongin's lips be too close to the other's jaw. If he were to look to his right side, said lips would undoubtedly be in contact with the underside of his chin, if his calculations are correct. It tickles, the proximity, and it's hardly bearable when there's no movement, apart from his own chewing. It itches, the lack of intention of keeping a healthy distance between the two. He can only distinguish the details on his face through his peripheral vision, it's overwhelming. He moves his head, staring fixedly at the corner of the ceiling the farthest away from Jongin. 

"Well, you met hyung at his worst. Or his best, I don't know. But he seemed calmer when we met, he was, in a way. Just slightly, though. He'd keep his activities to himself in his late twenties."  

The other yawns, and, just like a cat would do, rubs the back of his head against Taemin's bony shoulder. "Isn't he a little too young for that to have been a midlife crisis?" 

"Maybe he won't live past sixty."

"Ah– Hyung, don't joke like that." His whining and the soft slap he gave his thigh makes Taemin bite his tongue to suppress laughter. He fails.

"When he comes over, ask him how long he's living." He still remembers one of Heechul's main concerns before hitting thirty. His recklessness and carelessness made himself —and everyone around him— believe he would die both young and stupidly. Yet, all he worried about was becoming a regular customer in every bar and every shop in every gay district in the country. Not like there were many, he just didn't have that much free time. He still had a couple years to fulfill that wish, Taemin thought it was in single digits by now. "If it were for him, he'd say he's dead already."

Jongin cracks up at that, following the other, and seemingly recalling such an experience. "We'll have to ask him that, then."  

"For sure," He adds, feasting on the last wrap and leaning his head on top of the other's. "Well, as I was saying, he's just going to stay here for a week and then he's going back to his place. Just, get ready to handle him and his... insanity." A soft chuckle reverberates on his shoulder and head, making the area feel all warmer.

Jongin sits straight and makes enough wraps to finally empty the bowl of bulgolgi. Taemin feels like the other's still there, his weight a ghost on his skin, his touch lingering. Except it isn't there, and he isn't certain that he'll experience anything similar soon. He detests to find out he was right when Jongin leaves a decent amount of space between both when he sits.

"I was actually very comfortable before." Staring at Jongin, he learns that his words caused him to blush. Slightly, but a reaction is a reaction. The latter licks his lips and presses them together before, once again, leaning on Taemin's torso. 

He props his arms behind his own body to take the weight and closes his eyes. Jongin's hair tickles his neck. "Yeah, me too."  

The rest of the wraps disappear in no time, mostly due to Jongin's habit of shoving several of them to his mouth at a time. Taemin would've normally asked for more kimchi in his wraps, more condiments, less meat, but he couldn't bother being picky with that. "Is it your turn to do the dishes?"  

"Dunno," He answers, groaning as he plops down on Taemin's lap. He stares up at him, his head near Taemin's stomach, and pouts, "What day is it today?" 

"Monday or Tuesday." Unsure, he narrows his eyes and stares at the calendar on the fridge, only to find out it's few months behind. "Seems like I really should go find a job again, I could at least know the dates then."

"Hyung, you've never worked a day since I came here and it's been over a year," Jongin points out, grinning at him. 

The accusation takes him by surprise, but it makes him laugh. His smile takes up so much of his face that he can see his eyelashes. He moves his hand from its place on the floor and wipes it on his jeans, then proceeding to cup Jongin's cheek and caress it. "Well." He pauses to snicker and trace the other's jawline, "I haven't felt the need to until now."

"How rich is your family again?" Jongin mocks, earning another smile.  

"Shut it. We'll just wash dishes later," He adds, still smiling. "Let's just take them to the sink for now." 

The younger makes an X shape with his arms and shakes his head forcefully. "Not yet." He stretches and, suddenly, wraps his arms around Taemin abdomen, his cheek against his belly button. The hug is tight, warm, all around cozy— He knows he's being dumb not to properly retaliate, but ending up on his back with Jongin on top as a result of taking his other hand off the ground isn't that good of a prospect. So he does his best to show his appreciation by allowing the dumbest grin to be on his face.

"Okay, okay, stand," He demands, a little gone because of the overwhelming sensations. "Jongin-ah." He comes to find out that the more he protests, the tighter the hug gets. It's addictive, their closeness is almost perfect. He parts the arms around him and leaves Jongin in a sitting position. "Alright, Jongin, get up. Up," The last word is whispered into the area behind his ear before kissing it. The recipient shivers and propels himself up.  

Taemin focuses on clearing the table while Jongin rummages through his cabinets, looking for a presentable shirt for the older to wear. "Is this one okay?" He yells before throwing the shirt in the very general direction of the kitchen, Taemin strides —for the life of his— and grabs the cloth midway, but the momentum was a little too much and his shoulder hits the wall. "Ouch."

"Why are you saying 'ouch' when I was the one who got hurt?" Taemin counters, laughing at his reaction as he brings his entire arm to his chest. 

"It sounded like it hurt." Taemin rubs the area until Jongin's hand is placed on top of his. He can't bring himself to keep rubbing, so he just stares at their hands, almost pathetically. "I hope it feels better soon."

"Yeah, thanks. Let's, uh, let's go clean the guest's room for Heechul-hyung, okay?" Taemin turns his hand and squeezes the younger's, letting go almost right away. It was still early and he had more than humored himself when it came to physical contact. The more he got, the harder it was to deny and stop it. There'd be no going back if he touched him just once more. The knowledge was there in his head as a warning, or advice, when he grabs Jongin's hand again and intertwines their fingers. "Nobody has been there in forever." 

The taller man relaxes his grip on the other's hand and lets himself be dragged towards the room. "How come I never slept there?"  

"You're asking me that? It was you who always fell asleep on my bed or the couch," Taemin reminds him, smiling at him, and at the same time recalling their closeness having always been present. 

"Well, yes. But," Taemin raises an eyebrow at him, knowing there'll be no decent excuse he could pull out. "Ah, why am I being honest? Well, the guest room is too far away from yours." 

One of the few things Taemin wasn't exactly expecting was an actual reason why. It confuses him that said reason also involved him. Clenching his teeth, he tightens his grip on Jongin. "One would assume you wouldn't want to be near hyung when we had just met."  

"Yeah, but it was different." Jongin's free hand cups their linked hands. "I was alone and scared, in a completely new territory. And not just geographically. You understood me, you were caring and sweet and comfortable to be around since the beginning... How could I not, uh, you know, want to be near you at all times?" As soon as the question is spoken, the hand falls back on Jongin's side. "On top of that, I had only heard wonders about you from Heechul-hyung and his close friends. The few times I met Kibum-hyung, he spoke the sweetest things about you, bu– But you turned out to be better. I guess I'm just rambling now. I should stop, shouldn't I?"  

A slight blush taints Taemin's ears and cheeks, but it's way beyond his control at this point. "I– I," He rubs his face harshly, he was much taken aback by the sincerity, "It's okay. Just... Thank you." He certainly had lots to think about later. But later was the keyword. Even if he wasn't busy, he'd find something to do to postpone it. There was no way he was risking such vulnerability in front of its very cause.

"It's all true, hyung." 

 

**

 

That night he turned down Jongin's offer to go on a walk. It was hard to do so, he knew they were both looking forward to going together after the day's occurrences. They aren't always that clingy, that confident. And now they wouldn't be anymore.

It hurt him to know that Jongin was out there alone when he could've simply asked for the stroll to be shorter. But the excuse was genuine, he did have to clean the guest room.

The bedding was on the washing machine, the floor was swept and he had gotten rid of some of the dust in the room. Just some. Heechul had to pay for the unexpected visit somehow, and he sure as hell was going to be ordered to dust by his donsaeng to make up for it.  

His light steps on the wooden floor barely made any noise when he left the room, unlike Jongin's decisive, heavy steps that tended to closely follow his own. It's funny, considering his ballet background, how his steps tend to be so loud. It was one of his quirks. One of the things about him that didn't make sense, but made him all more charming.  

He hated that so many things, and lack of things, reminded him of Jongin. Taemin isn't one to settle easily after changes, but he had adapted to Jongin to perfection in no time. Something was wrong with Taemin. He might have to have a deep conversation with his hyung next week. And that's not something he would ever look forward to. 

"Well, fuck." Too much alone time did this to him. That being twenty minutes. Defeated, he pulls out his phone and dials Jongin. "Jonginnie, where are you? I'll go catch up with you, Heechul-hyung can take care of the room himself." 

Unnecessarily enough, Jongin hangs up and texts him a selfie at a distinct location of the park unlike a normal person would do. He's about to get distracted by the picture when he remembers how phones work, he can look at it later.  

He grabs a water bottle, puts on his running shoes and apologizes to himself for not exercising regularly. God wouldn't kill him while running a flew blocks for his lack of practice, right?