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Just in Time for the Season

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It is, for lack of a better word, ugly.

“Jaehyun, the fuck is this,” Johnny says as he pulls the sweater Jaehyun gifted him out of its wrapping.

“It’s an early Christmas present,” he had said.

“You’ll thank me for it later,” he had said.

Johnny can’t see any possible situation in which he thanks Jaehyun for this abomination that doesn’t include a match and lighter fluid.

Jaehyun laughs from the sofa he’s sprawled on, face split into the proudest grin; Johnny isn’t sure they’re on the same page. “I know, right? It’s fuckin’ hideous.”

“So why are you giving to me?” Johnny holds it away from his body. Part of him wants to drop it on the floor, another part of him is still idealizing burning the sweater.

Jaehyun observes him with another laugh and apparently forgets he just called the sweater “fuckin’ hideous” only a few seconds ago. “Come on, it’s not that bad.”

He takes it from Johnny’s hands and unfolds it, holding up for a full view.

And wow, Jaehyun’s right. It’s not that bad. It’s just a gross shade of murky green, like someone spilled old paint water all over it, and the collar is braided white and red, like a cheap candy cane, and then there’s a printed Christmas tree in the dead middle of the sweater with sewn on puffballs and bells, and in the middle of the Christmas tree is a huge iron-on patch of Johnny’s face and-

“It’s worse. It’s somehow worse than ‘that bad.’”

“Can you believe it was only $15? Custom made and everything.”

Johnny snatches the sweater from Jaehyun and stuffs it right back into the bag it came from. A bell comes off in the process, announcing its fall from grace with each roll. Jaehyun stares at it, and then glares at Johnny.

“Now look what you did.”

Johnny rolls his eyes. “Thank you for the present. I will now proceed to stuff it in my closet and never think about it again.”

“Oh no you don’t,” Jaehyun says as he stops Johnny from getting up. Johnny tries to side-step him, but Jaehyun moves along with him, like they’re two awkward strangers trying to use opposite ends of a doorway. Johnny almost wishes he didn’t know Jaehyun personally. “Taeyong’s family is having their holiday party this weekend.”

Jaehyun moves into Johnny’s way again when Johnny tries to go through the other side. “I know,” Johnny grunts when he realizes he’s not leaving any time soon.

“You’re coming right?”

Johnny’s eyebrows furrow for a second in confusion, because he and his parents have always gone to Taeyong’s for their Christmas get-together, but they rise up when he remembers why this year is different.

With his mom and dad on their own very personal and well deserved holiday cruise, there’s no major reason for Johnny to go this year.

The Lee’s have always been more his parents’ friends than his. Not that he and Taeyong didn’t get along, they were friendly enough, mostly because they were coworkers and their mothers had hit it off at some book club years ago, but it was an acquaintance-friendly, really.

And, if Johnny’s being completely honest with himself, acquaintance is pushing it, since most of their interactions usually involve Taeyong smiling tiredly in the waking hours of the morning and Johnny letting whatever choice concoction of coffee he’s making in the canteen spill over until it burns his hand because, wow, what a beautiful smile.

So really, they were just friendly. Still,

“Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I?” Johnny tells himself he’s doing it out of respect.

He’s been attending their holiday parties for five years now, not coming this year would make it look like he had only previously gone because his parents forced him. That may have been true the first year, but Johnny’s now grown fond of the Lee’s abundance of holiday-specific confections and the intense lights display in front of their home.

And also Taeyong; Johnny’s grown sickeningly fond of him.

Jaehyun brightens up and finally moves out of the way. Johnny considers making a run for it. “Oh shit that’s great, really thought you’d ditch it.”

Johnny cocks an eyebrow at Jaehyun but says nothing.

“Well, you know how the Lee’s are with their Christmas sweaters.” And yes, Johnny did know.

The Lee’s would always don identical sweaters, matching in both style and hideousness, to their holiday parties, looking like the poster family for someone’s tacky Depop. Last year, they decided to up the ante and procure holiday sweatsuits. Johnny had actually choked when he read the words, 'NAUGHTY,' on the back of Taeyong’s sweatpants.

“So, I was thinking you should wear this,” Jaehyun points to the bag in Johnny’s hands, like there was any question of what this was, “to the party.”

“No.” There’s no way Johnny would ever wear this, and if he did, it definitely would not be in front of Taeyong.

“Come on, think about it. Taeyong would love it.” It’s Johnny’s turn to glare at the mention of Taeyong loving anything that has to do with him. Using Johnny’s slight interest in the guy as a pleading point is a low blow, even for Jaehyun.

“I’ll think about it,” Johnny says. And he is, thinking about which corner he’ll stuff the sweater in when he gets home. He might have to bury it under all the socks he gets from his grandmother, so he can be sure he’ll never set sight on it again.

“He’s going to love it, Johnny,” Jaehyun says and, before Johnny can chew him out about using the “L-word,” ducks out of the meeting room he had pulled Johnny into just to open up the cursed present. They’re still on the clock, for fuck's sake.

Johnny sighs, leaving the room to go back to his desk, only to run into no other than the crux of his problem in the hallway.

“Oh.” Taeyong startles a bit when he sees Johnny leave the meeting room, his surprise crinkling into something genial barely a second later. “Were you using that?”

Johnny jumps away from the door immediately. “Not anymore.” Then, as an afterthought, wonders if Taeyong was heading farther down the hall and Johnny has just jumped in his way like the dumbass he is. “You need it?”

Taeyong continues smiling, completely oblivious to Johnny’s dilemma. “Yeah actually, got a meeting with a contractor. Wants to switch sites.”

Johnny nods. “Good luck,” he says, internally cringing when the words register. Really? Good luck?

Of course, Taeyong laughs. And of course, it’s a kind laugh, not a “this guy is a fuckin’ idiot” laugh, though he would not blame Taeyong if he indulged in one as well.

“Thanks.” Taeyong’s hand is on the doorknob, but he hasn’t made a move to go in. His eyes are bright and hopeful. “You’re coming to the party, right?”

Johnny accidentally moves his gaze to the bag in his hands. “Of course.”

Taeyong follows his eyes, and gasps. “Is that a Christmas sweater?”

Johnny steps back when Taeyong tries to grab the sweater out of the bag.

“Wait,”

And Taeyong eyes get impossibly wider. “Are those bells? Ohmygod.”

“It’s a secret,” Johnny finds himself saying. He doesn’t really know what he’s trying to play coy for, the bells have barely faded into chimes and the printed Christmas tree is partially peeking out because Johnny couldn’t be assed to fold it: it’s clearly a Christmas sweater.

Taeyong completely ignores his attempt anyways. “Are you going to wear it the party?”

“Uh.” Johnny’s brain falters.

Jaehyun’s words play on repeat, He’s going to love it.

“Yes, yes I am.” And god, the way Taeyong’s face fuckin’ lights up, Johnny almost forgets he’s just signed his Saturday away to the Satan of fashion faux pas.

“Guess I’ll see it then,” Taeyong says, and then giggles. Actually giggles.

Johnny wants to propose right there and then. Ugly sweaters be damned, he’ll even force their future pets into them. Fuck PETA and whatever morals they probably have against making your dog the laughingstock of the doggy daycare.

“Tell your parents me and my parents said we miss them. Oh, but obviously they shouldn’t worry about us, definitely focus on vacation first.” And, as if Taeyong hasn’t done enough damage to Johnny’s, well, everything, he pouts. “But we do really miss them.”

“I’ll tell them,” Johnny says stiffly as he fights against the force of attraction that’s telling him to get down on one knee. Eat shit, Newton.

“Great!” Taeyong says. His phone rings, saving Johnny from having to explain why he has a wedding ring readily in his pocket, and he excuses himself into the meeting room with a shy smile.

Johnny looks at the sweater bitterly. He’s promised Taeyong that he’d wear it this weekend, and he doesn’t think it’ll be easy to wash, especially if what he’s trying to wash out is blood.

He sighs, hoping another method to literally choke Jaehyun to death will fall into his hands later.

 

 

  ҉*

 

 

If there’s one thing Jaehyun is consistent in, it’s his fuckery.

Which is why Johnny is not surprised to find out that the sweater fits him perfectly. And perfectly in the sense that it’s big enough for the sleeves to fall over his hands a bit, just the way he likes it, but also tight enough that he doesn’t need to fold it over too much to get the perfect cuff, which he also likes.

All in all, it’s amazing quality for only $15. And it was custom made.

“I told you,” Jaehyun says when Johnny pulls up to his apartment. He tries to sit in the front passenger seat, only to look completely betrayed when Johnny doesn’t move the pack of wine from it. It’s only its first time riding in the front and it’s already made a better shotgun than Jaehyun could ever be.

Johnny doesn’t really get it. Jaehyun’s parents have no idea who the Lees are, Jaehyun just happened to tag along with Johnny once to a past party, and he’s kept coming since. Jaehyun’s even made friends with Taeyong’s parents, and Taeyong’s younger brothers, who still regard Johnny like he’s the most uninteresting thing on the planet. Not to mention Jaehyun is on more than acquaintance-friendly terms with Taeyong.

Life really isn’t fair.

Jaehyun seems to think the same, because he mumbles to himself throughout the whole ride, grumpily slouching in the backseat.

When they get to the Lee residency, Johnny hugs the pack of wine. He needs the emotional support right now.

“Stop being fuckin’ dramatic.” Jaehyun’s already outside the car, looking at Johnny like he’s the biggest disappointment he’s ever had the misfortune of meeting. But this disappointment is Jaehyun’s ride home, so Johnny challenges an eyebrow at him.

“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one who has to wear the new Christmas line of Cosby sweaters.”

Jaehyun, because he’s the Judas of all betrayers, is not wearing a Christmas sweater like he practically blackmailed Johnny into wearing. No; instead Jaehyun is wearing a normal sweater, and it’s not even a Christmas-y color, it’s plain black. He gets to look like a normal human, while Johnny has to look like the forgotten child of the Brady Bunch.

Johnny hugs the wine, his new best friend, tighter. It’s sad he’ll have to part with it soon so he can gift it to Taeyong’s mother; they were getting along so well. He hopes it understands.

Jaehyun rolls his eyes and starts for the house. Johnny follows him dejectedly, but only until they reach the door.

Then, he puts on his most future-in-law smile and steps in front of Jaehyun as Taeyong’s parents greet them.

“Johnny! Jaehyun!” Taeyong’s parents are small and warm, as they always are when Johnny hugs them.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lee! For you,” he gifts the wine with a bow. Taeyong’s mom preens.

“Johnny! You shouldn’t have,” she says, accepting the gift with an appraising look.

Apart from romance literature, the other thing that bonded his and Taeyong’s moms right away was their love for wine. They had ditched their book club months after meeting to start their own evening reading sessions, accompanied by fancy glasses of wine and the other mothers of the club they didn’t mind.

A woman from work had recommended the brand of red wine to Johnny, vowing that it was a favorite of all housewives with taste. From the way Mrs. Lee tucks it into her side for herself instead of setting it on the counter with all the drinks for the guests, Johnny figures she was right.

“And your sweater,” Taeyong’s mom goes on, as they move from the doorway into the house, “I didn’t know you’d be joining us.”

Johnny is about to ask what she means, because he figured Taeyong had already told them he was coming, but the words get stuck in his throat when he looks, really looks, at Taeyong’s parents.

Like all the holiday parties before, they have matching sweaters.

But unlike all the other times, Johnny is matching with them.

Not that his cheaply printed sweater holds a candle to their hand-knit ones, but the sentiment is there. While his is still that ugly shade of green, theirs is a bright red that could rival Rudolph’s nose, and their knitted Christmas tree doesn’t just have bells and puffs, but bows, LED lights, and fucking presents at the bottom, and then their faces.

Their faces are just as carefully stitched, animated caricatures of them, rather than the ironed-on depiction of Johnny that looks more like Leonardo DiCaprio. Not that Johnny minds that part, he thinks it’s a fair comparison.

And Johnny has no doubt Taeyong and his brothers are donning identical ones, and Johnny can’t imagine ever attempting such handiwork. It must have taken ages, he wonders if they did it as a family project, but the consistency of the sweaters makes him feel like it was all delegated to one person, and-

“Taeyong made them all for us, aren’t they amazing?” Mr. Lee supplies proudly.

And nevermind, Johnny can definitely imagine Taeyong bent over (oh god, not that way), carefully stitching his yarn with his cute little knitting needles, eyebrows joined in concentration, tongue probably peeking out because it’s a habit Johnny’s noticed when Taeyong is focused on passing out everyone’s lunch orders. Johnny thinks it’s a cute habit.

“They are,” Johnny grits out as it hits him: Jaehyun’s made him crash the Lee’s holiday tradition. This is not how he wanted to introduce himself as their future son-in-law.

“We had an example picture with the text invite so other people could make their own in time too, but so far you’re the only one who’s participated.” Mr. and Mrs. Lee look so much like Taeyong when they pout, but then also not much like Taeyong because Johnny doesn’t want to kiss them. At least not on the lips.

Someone else announces their presence at the door, and Mr. and Mrs. Lee excuse themselves with a smile that is also very Taeyong-like before they go to greet their new guests. Johnny looks at Jaehyun for answers.

“You know how the Lees are, normal Christmas sweaters can’t satisfy them anymore. This year they wanted all their guests to join in on the fun.”

Johnny frowns. “So you,”

“So I, knowing the text was probably sent to your parents instead of you, didn’t want you to miss out on this once in a lifetime chance.”

“But,”

“And it’s working,” Jaehyun continues to cut Johnny off, “Mr. and Mrs. Lee practically looked ready to marry you off to Taeyong, or to themselves quite honestly.”

Jaehyun looks at Johnny expectantly, probably hoping for Johnny to try to talk just to get cut off again. Johnny won’t fall for it.

“Just imagine how Taeyong will feel,” Jaehyun says when Johnny doesn’t offer anything but silence. He claps Johnny on the back and heads over to the snack table to abandon Johnny for snowflake shaped cookies.

 

 

  ҉*

 

 

Johnny does imagine how Taeyong will feel. He kind of has to, because he doesn’t see him at first. While waiting for a glance of Taeyong’s brown hair and wide eyes, he socializes with the people he recognizes from past parties.

He thinks he sees Taeyong slipping in from the backyard glass door, but it turns out to be his younger brother, Donghyuck. They make eye contact anyway, and Donghyuck smirks when he realizes what Johnny is wearing.

“There are more dignified ways of getting in my brother’s pants, you know?”

“I’m not,” Johnny sputters, “I’m not trying to get into your brother’s pants.”

He’s more surprised that Donghyuck’s even talking to him than he is about Donghyuck knowing of Johnny’s interest in his older brother. Johnny would like to think he’s been subtle, but he probably hasn’t, and Jaehyun has a very big mouth.

“K,” Donghyuck says with the air of someone who doesn’t believe a word Johnny’s just said. “He’s getting out of his car. We went out.”

“Oh?” Johnny tries for an in-between of not that interested but also partially interested, but with the way Donghyuck snorts, he probably just sounds his usual grade of stupid.

“God,” Donghyuck sighs, and then pats Johnny’s back in a Jaehyun-like fashion and even goes over to the bad influence himself, because apparently Jaehyun’s better company than Johnny.

Not that Johnny would be able to entertain Donghyuck anyway, not when a festive yarn clad frame is struggling to carry three cases of soda.

Johnny takes the case that Taeyong is scrambling to balance on his thigh, and makes for the one that slips out of Taeyong’s hold when he slumps in relief.

“Thank you,” Taeyong says when he rights himself. He offers his hand out to take back one of the cases, but Johnny shakes his head. Taeyong’s smile grows.

“It’s no problem.” If anything, it’s an opportunity for Johnny to show his strength; there’s nothing hotter than a guy who can lift 2 forty-eight packs of soda without breaking a sweat, really. “Running out of drinks?”

Taeyong laughs good-naturedly. “A bit yeah, but I was online last night and saw these limited edition Christmas flavored sodas, and it was just like, we need these, yeah? But the only way to get it was through factory pick up, so.”

“So you drove all the way there just for soda?”

The apples of Taeyong’s cheeks bleed a shy red. “It sounds stupid, I know, but I did it anyways.”

When they reach the drink counter he sets the case on the floor, and Johnny follows suit. He helps Taeyong put some of them in the cooler, and when Taeyong stands back up, he still has a smile on his face.

“So, do you want eggnog, gingerbread, or,” he reads the label of the last soda, “pine?”

“Like the Christmas trees?”

Taeyong tries to pull his smile into something serious when he nods, but the corners of his mouth are already betraying him. “Like the Christmas tree.”

“I’ll take the guillotine.” Johnny would do a lot of things for Taeyong, but this might be the dealbreaker.

Taeyong laughs and tries to cover his face with the soda, but it’s too late, Johnny’s seen the scrunch of his nose, he’ll never know peace now.

“Gingerbread doesn’t sound too bad,” Taeyong muses and then makes no move to actually open it and find out, even when Johnny looks at him expectantly.

“Anyways,” Taeyong says over Johnny’s chuckle of disbelief, “your sweater.”

Johnny freezes. He had completely forgotten about the sweater, and now he feels conscious about it. It’s definitely no match for Taeyong’s, who manages to look good in his despite the fact that it’s designed to be an actual act of terrorism.

“Oh yeah, this.” He laughs tightly, shifting a bit so that maybe his arm can kind of cover his/Leo’s ironed-on face.

“I love it,” Taeyong says, and Johnny can tell it’s genuine, even though he’s not chancing a glance at Taeyong’s face, from his tone. Not that Taeyong’s ever been anything other than genuine. He’s the most genuine, honest, caring,

“I’m really glad you participated,” Taeyong goes on, “the whole thing was my idea, but I wasn’t sure anyone would actually, you know, join. And most people didn’t.” He lets out a little self-deprecating laugh at that, and Johnny almost pulls him into his chest for a hug. “But when I saw you at work with the bag, I was hoping that you would, so yeah, I’m really happy you did. Like, really, happy.”

Taeyong’s face looks like some preschooler just discovered the color red, and it’s his turn to avoid looking at Johnny directly.

“It’s no problem,” Johnny lies as if he wasn’t bitching about the sweater barely an hour ago to Jaehyun. People can change, he reasons. “I love the idea, I think it’s cute. I really like your sweater too.”

The last part is not a complete lie. Johnny likes the idea of Taeyong’s sweaters, and the effort, and how they look on him. It’s basically the same thing.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” They both breathe out, and the corners of Taeyong’s eyes crease with merriment.

“I was hoping you’d say that, too actually. You know how our office has its own Christmas party next week?”

Johnny’s still focused on the way Taeyong’s eyes seem to actually twinkle, and maybe it’s the expensive chandeliers that Mrs. Lee has an eye for, or maybe it’s just Taeyong’s magic. Maybe it’s a mix of both. “Yeah?”

“Well,” Taeyong bites his lip nervously. Johnny is glad he left the ring he usually carries around in his pockets at home because he does not have the strength today. One more unmindful move from Taeyong and he will ask for his hand in marriage. “I was thinking maybe we could wear these sweaters again, there.”

And, oh god. “Together?”

Taeyong’s eyes shine with expectation, and a little apprehension? “Yeah, together. If you want to, I mean,”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay.” The devil and angel and all their fuckin’ friends on Johnny’s shoulder are screaming at him, telling him that this is a horrible idea. Johnny mentally flicks them away, and then stomps on the ground for good measure. He knows what he’s doing.

Taeyong watches him, amused, but happy. “Good, good. I’d ask Jaehyun too, but I don’t know if he could get one made soon enough, and I don’t mind just matching with you?”

I don’t mind just matching with you.

That’s, beautiful. Johnny might actually shed a tear. Taeyong’s basically told him that he likes matching with him; the Taeyong who likes matching with his family, and Taeyong likes his family, which would sort of mean that Taeyong likes him? At least enough to match with him.

“I don’t mind matching with you, too.”

Taeyong giggles again, and Donghyuck steps in between them to grab a soda, loudly groaning out his disgust.

“Get a fuckin’ room.” It earns him a smack on the head from Taeyong for cursing, but Donghyuck seems proud of himself as he walks back to Jaehyun, who’s been joined by Taeyong’s other brother, Jeno.

The pride lasts until he takes a sip from his soda, immediately spitting it onto Jaehyun.

“What the fuck is this?”

 

 

   ҉*

 

 

Their office Christmas party comes the Friday after the Lee’s holiday gathering. Johnny finds himself, once again, adjusting the sweater comfortably on his body. After wearing it once, he has come to peace with its being. He’s even come to like the color a bit; it reminds him of a swamp, ugly, but well-meaning. Johnny doesn’t mind swamps.

Plus, there’s the fact that he and Taeyong will be matching, like a couple. Their sweaters don’t really look alike, so Johnny doubts people will be able to notice that they’re matching. But Johnny doesn’t really need other people to know, because he knows, and Taeyong knows — and Jaehyun knows but that’s not part of Johnny’s ideal situation — and they’ve planned this, together. And that’s what counts.

“You guys are so disgusting, and you haven’t even actually started dating.”

Johnny flips Jaehyun off, because there’s nothing disgusting about Taeyong, even his love for over-the-top weird things is cute, and since Taeyong seems to like him, there’s nothing disgusting about Johnny by association. And together, they’re double not disgusting, which is basically as not disgusting as two people can get.

“This whole thing is your fault, why are you switching sides now?”

“Because,” Jaehyun says as he settles in the desk space across from Johnny. It’s Ten’s desk, because Jaehyun is apparently comfortable with everyone despite the fact that Johnny has probably known them longer. Jaehyun doesn’t even work on this side of the office. “You guys are seriously disgusting. Like, I really thought I could handle it but really, matching at work?”

Johnny smiles despite himself; Jaehyun gags.

“He wanted you to join too, if that counts for anything.”

“No, he didn’t, he was probably just trying to be nice. Anyways, I couldn’t miss the chance to wear my own Christmas sweater.” Jaehyun, a frequent shopper of all things dude-bro, bought his own version of an ugly Christmas sweater. But instead of gaudy decorations and terrifying depictions of Christmas spirit, his is just a badly printed crewneck that says, 'WELL HUNG,' lined with stockings underneath.

“I should be able to sue you for making me read that.”

“I think it’s funny,” Ten quips as he walks towards them, the Rice Krispie he procured from the canteen already half eaten.

Johnny thinks Jaehyun is going to move out of Ten’s seat, but he doesn’t. Even weirder, Ten doesn’t seem to mind, and simply plops himself on Jaehyun lap.

Johnny blinks at the development.

“You two,” he starts, but all he receives are blanks stares. He points a finger at their situation, but they don’t even blink. “Nevermind.”

“Good.” If it had come from Ten, maybe Johnny would have found it slightly threatening, but only because Ten is a bit intimidating when Johnny’s not at full height. But with the semi-threat coming from Jaehyun, all Johnny does is snort.

He won’t pry, mostly because he doesn’t actually care, but he’d be damned if Jung, I Let A High Schooler Spit Carbonated Eggnog On Me, Jaehyun ever scared him.

Ten settles further in Jaehyun’s lap, hand flicked out as he observes his nails. “Since we’re asking questions now, why are you doing work?”

“Why wouldn’t I be working?”

Their company is launching a new UX system with the start of the new year, but he and Ten had run into some technical problems while testing out the new site yesterday. To make sure they can fix them, he needs to draft up all the issues he can identify and send a report to his boss, and then he needs to ask someone on the tech team who’s not Jaehyun for access so he can help recode, and then,

“It’s the day of the Christmas party, no one’s working.”

Johnny rolls his eyes. If no one was working, he wouldn’t currently be getting told off for working, which, he will continue to do because he earns his paycheck, unlike some people. Also, his intern is a few desks away and he can’t slack off with Mark around.

Jaehyun and Ten still pester him to drop his work and join them for a game of Tetris. And really, it’s such a compelling offer; as Johnny fishes out his earphones, he almost finds himself considering. Really.

“Taeyong!” Ten yells because why not, and Johnny’s fingers falter from where they are untangling his earphone wires.

He hasn’t seen Taeyong all day, not for lack of trying though. In the morning, he had hung around the canteen until he finished his second cup of coffee in hopes of catching the other, and he’s practically full circled Taeyong’s department five times in the past few hours.

Appearing now, when Johnny’s least ready to confront him, is so Taeyong. Johnny hates that he loves it.

“Hey, Ten. Jaehyun,” Taeyong’s voice is tired, and his usual smile doesn’t appear until he sees Johnny’s sweater. “Johnny, hi.”

Jaehyun groans, but Johnny thinks it might actually have more to do with how Ten keeps wiggling in his lap, rather than how “disgusting,” as Jaehyun had put it earlier, Johnny and Taeyong are.

“Hey,” Johnny grins at the delight in Taeyong’s eyes. He stills looks kind of tired though. “Long day?”

A long-winded sigh makes its way past Taeyong’s mouth. “You have no idea,” he sags out, and his eyes wander for a place to sit.

He seems to finally consider Ten and Jaehyun’s position, but unlike Johnny, doesn’t try and comment on it, just smiles knowingly.

“You can sit Johnny’s lap, he wouldn’t mind.” Jaehyun offers because he actually is Johnny’s worst mistake in a past-life, come back to haunt him.

Taeyong brushes the comment away with a kind laugh. “It’s alright, I can just pull up a chair.”

“But,” Jaehyun starts, and doesn’t get to finish because Johnny’s shoe comes down on Jaehyun’s foot, which is both shoeless and sockless because he was raised along with fuckin’ Tarzan it seems.

Taeyong comes back with a chair and sits right next to Johnny, who tries not to read too much into it. There’s only so many places to sit a chair down.

Ten studies them for a minute, then, “Are you guys supposed to be matching?”

After frozen silence, there’s a loud guffaw from Jaehyun that pushes Ten off of his lap. Ten looks so offended, but Jaehyun simply hunches over and continues laughing.

To Johnny’s surprise, Taeyong is smiling. And it’s not his usual polite smile either, it’s a full-on grin. He looks so proud.

“Yeah,” Taeyong says softly. “We are.”

Jaehyun falls into another fit of laughter, and Johnny honestly doesn’t see what’s so funny. Ten doesn’t seem to either; in fact, he looks rather bored.

“Oh, that’s cool.”

Jaehyun’s righted himself up, and eyes Ten expectantly, his lap ready to be occupied again. Ten pulls up a chair instead; Jaehyun deflates in his chair.

Johnny, for one, is a fan of the karma Jaehyun seems to be getting lately. He tells Taeyong so and gets to enjoy Taeyong leaning into his shoulder to laugh discreetly.

 

 

  ҉*

 

 

The Christmas party starts shortly after the building closes to the public. They all gather by the Christmas tree to distribute the Secret Santa gifts that were left under it.

Johnny’s not surprised that his Secret Santa has a warped sense of humor, and gifts him mistletoe with Taeyong’s picture attached to it. Under it is a fifty dollar gift card to Johnny’s favorite chain bakery, but he ignores that in favor of hunting Jaehyun down and actually killing him.

“What did you get?” Stops him dead in his tracks, and he turns to a content Taeyong, eyes full and smile wide.

“What did you get?” Johnny counters, mostly because he wants to know what could put Taeyong in such a good mood. Not that he’s jealous, he just wants to thank whoever Taeyong’s Secret Santa is, and maybe give them his ring because it seems they’ll need it more than he will.

Taeyong huffs in mock annoyance, but his eyes are still curved happily. “I got a fifty dollar gift card to my favorite bakery, and then,”

He pulls out a piece of mistletoe, and Johnny squints at it. There’s a picture hanging underneath it, and it looks suspiciously like someone he knows.

“Is that Leonardo DiCaprio?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Taeyong laughs out a breath of pure joy.

“I don’t know,” Johnny wiggles his eyebrows in an attempt to smolder like the acclaimed actor. “I think I can give him a run for his money.”

“Yeah?” Taeyong’s giggles have smoothened out, but he still looks properly amused. “You still haven’t told me what you got.”

Johnny looks at the mistletoe still hanging in his fingers, that he's made no attempt to hide, and then back at Taeyong’s barely contained glee. “I think you know what I got.”

“Maybe, why don’t you show me?”

And well, that's as far as Johnny's self-restraint goes. He raises the mistletoe above them, and leans in, only to be stopped by Taeyong’s hands pressing his lips back, his eyes crinkled in pleasant shock.

“Not here,” he says, eyes flickering to their surroundings. No one’s paying attention to them, except Jaehyun and Ten, who are smugly hanging off of each other in their own display of affection. Though in their case, it might just be a display of lust.

“Right,” Johnny lets Taeyong discreetly lead him out of the lounge, but once they’re out of eyesight it’s free game. He leans into Taeyong, and Taeyong obliges by letting himself settle into the wall. It’s only after the first few kisses that Taeyong pulls away a little.

“We forgot the mistletoe,” he puffs out, breathless. Johnny makes to pull back too, but Taeyong keeps him there.

“We should probably get back to the party.” Johnny doesn’t want to, he really doesn’t want to, but it sounds like the best idea right now. He doesn’t think he can stay office-appropriate if he keeps kissing Taeyong.

“Oh god, no. I cannot go back there. Nope.” Johnny laughs at the firmness in Taeyong’s tone.

“Well,” Johnny muses, “we could go to the bakery?”

If they combined both of their gift cards, no doubt from two very nosey horndogs, they could get themselves some nice treats, and then get some for their parents too. Johnny’s had just arrived back home two days ago; he’s sure they’d love a cake to celebrate their return.

Taeyong seems to have the same train of thought, because he smiles and grabs Johnny’s hand, pressing a quick kiss to Johnny’s lips. “It’s a date then.”

 

 

And really, Johnny thinks it’s character development how he walks, hand in hand, with Taeyong to the bakery, and his mind doesn’t even worry about what crimes people might be justified in committing because of their sweaters. Even better, he simply smiles when the baker raises a judging eye at Johnny’s ironed-on face and some little kid asks him why he looks like a Goodwill mannequin.

It’s worth it, he thinks, when they get to Taeyong’s house and find both their mothers already congregated in a critical discussion about some book with a half-naked man on the cover, and their linked hands are only regarded with a huff of, “about time.” Donghyuck doesn’t even seem fazed, he just stomps down the stairs and announces that he can now borrow Johnny’s car.

Johnny would stop him, because his humble Toyota cannot withstand another bout of reckless teenage driving, but Taeyong’s pulling him into his room with another kiss, and yeah, it’s all definitely worth it.