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i like me better (when i'm with you)

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to not know who i am but still know that i’m good as long as you’re here with me

 

seungyoon is stressed.

when he recognises that he’s stressed, that’s when he knows he’s really reaching the end of his tether, because most of the time he usually manages to tell himself quite convincingly that he’s doing just fine and that everything is as right as rain.

“are you okay,” mino says lightly, watching seungyoon rip apart his parcel with rather more aggression than would normally be needed to deal with plastic packing tape and cardboard boxes. “that’s the fifth t-shirt you’ve bought this week.”

“i’m perfectly fine,” seungyoon says, pushing aside the paper packaging and lifting up his new shirt. he eyes it critically, holding it up against mino slouched in the chair opposite his. “i just thought this was pretty.”

“you don’t usually shop like this until a paycheck comes in,” mino raises an eyebrow. “does it have something to do with how the demo is overdue by a week?”

“there is nothing wrong with the demo,” seungyoon says, his voice a little pitchier than he’d like. “the bridge is a little bit off and i can’t get the pre-chorus the way it sounds like in my head but it’s all good and i’ll get it done by monday and—”

“seungyoon,” mino says, and seungyoon pauses, snaps his jaw shut.

“i’ve gone mad, haven’t i,” he says miserably.

“we’re all of us mad,” mino shrugs, so matter-of-factly that it’s almost as if he’s talking about the weather. “none of us have got it together, we’re all merely pretending we have it together. sanity is an illusion.”

“you’re not helping things,” seungyoon says.

mino ignores him, leans in, his eyes bright and earnest in the dim lights of the studio. “d’you want to go on an adventure?”

“at…” seungyoon squints at the wall clock. “two in the morning?”

“yeah,” mino says, almost bouncing in his chair. “we can go get ice cream.” an alert flashes in the corner of seungyoon’s computer screen, prompting him to save his work and the flash of light dances off mino’s face and seungyoon thinks he looks really handsome, even with no makeup on, in that brief moment he looks like—

“you look like the the devil spawn.” he says. the devil comes dressed in freiknock and versace and is terribly attractive even when his hair is in a mess and sticking up all over the place.

“the managers are all asleep,” mino says, almost conspiratorially. “wouldn’t be too hard to nick the car keys.”

“this is a conspiracy i have no part in,” seungyoon manages, but it sounds weak even to his own ears.

“enough with the whining, let’s go,” mino says, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a too-familiar set of car keys. he brandishes them noisily at seungyoon.

“i must be mad, but sanity is an illusion, whatever, okay, let’s go,” seungyoon saves his work, and stands up to grab his jacket. “quick, before i change my mind.”

mino looks a little like a cat that’s gotten the cream. “anytime you’re ready.”

 

“you’re my favourite kind of person,” seungyoon says later, breaking the comfortable quiet filled only by the gentle hum of the engine as they cruise along the empty night streets of seoul back towards the dorms. “finding ice cream at 2am in the morning an adventure.”

mino doesn’t respond, but stretches out a hand to rub comforting circles on seungyoon’s knee with his thumb. seungyoon barrels on, rendered braver by a cocktail of sheer exhaustion, the lateness of the hour, the sugar rush from his bubble tea.

“you know back when i struggled with who i am, but i think i’m good as long as you’re here with me.” he says.

“careful with saying things like that, i might drive into the rails of this bridge,” mino says, not taking his eyes off the road. “couldn’t you have waited until we were on solid unmoving ground? i’m driving, my concentration is bad enough.”

“madness waits for no one,” seungyoon says, holding out his bubble tea for mino. “don’t choke on the pearls.”

“i’m mad about you, too,” mino says.

“i know.”

 

-

 

I don’t know what it is but I got that feeling

 

it doesn’t always happen every night, nor does it happen very particularly frequently, because most nights even if he’s dead tired sleep is just never his friend. he’s used to it, and perhaps he gets his best work done when the insomnia hits.

some nights, though, his own bed feels particularly cold, empty. it’s something he’s had to get used to again, with mino now in an entirely different apartment, and he likes to think he’s doing a pretty good job.

the moon is high in the sky that particular late autumn night when temptation wins out and he slips out of bed on bare feet, slipping into the first pair of sweatpants his fingers can find in the dark, the hems of which trail behind him on the floor as he pads across the cold hallway to the neighbouring apartment.

at the chime of the electronic door lock, rei and bei come crowding silently up to him at the door, which means jinwoo is asleep. mino’s door is slightly ajar, a sliver of warm light spilling into the dark hallway, and seungyoon pushes the door open. jhonny jumps off mino’s bed and glares at him, slinking out with a swish of her tail past his ankles.

mino looks up from where he’s sprawled over his bed sorting his film prints, and his holey 6XL sleep shirt is slipping over one shoulder, and he’s barefaced and his hair is a terrible mess, sticking up everywhere and seungyoon suddenly thinks he’s never been more in love.

the epiphany stops him in his tracks, for a moment, and when mino rolls off his bed and comes up to him seungyoon lets himself imagine—for the briefest of moments—pulling him close by the sleeve, pressing their mouths together.

he knows mino would catch up almost immediately, without hesitation, that the way mino would kiss back would send licks of fire curling in the pit of his stomach—

but for now, he just smiles, lets mino pull him by the elbow to bed, lets mino fold him into his arms.

“couldn’t sleep?”

“i’m sleepy now,” seungyoon admits, burying his nose into the collar of mino’s shirt and breathing in deep. he’s never told mino. but mino always smells really nice to him—a musky, comforting scent, even when he’s not wearing cologne. “now that i’m here.”

“i take service charges,” mino says. “insomnia is not easy to cure.”

“what do you want,” seungyoon yawns, tangling his legs into mino’s. warm, hazy tendrils of sleep are already creeping up on the edges of his brain, and mino’s arm is strong about his waist.

he doesn’t hear a reply, but he does feel a quick, warm press of lips to his forehead, just before he falls asleep.

 

-

 

I knew from the first time, I'd stay for a long time

 

seungyoon knew, even from the very first time he met mino—that he would stay for a long time. there are those people you just click with, from the get go, and mino had been one of the rare few. he had known they would be good friends. he just hadn’t thought that he would have wanted more of mino than just friends.

he’s beginning to recognise it now, signs in himself he hadn’t earlier realised. it’s the peace, the happiness settling into his skin, his bones, when mino laughs, full-bodied and shuddering, burying his face into seungyoon’s shoulder.

it’s the small simmer of warmth in his gut, affection fluttering in his lungs when mino falls asleep against his side the nights they sit crowded up against each other on the worn leather couch, head drooping at first, then eventually coming to a rest on seungyoon’s shoulder. seungyoon gently shifts to put an arm around mino, and holds him close, and he thinks he gets what it means when they say the best things feel like having the whole world in the palm of your hand, only now he’s got his entire world tucked into the crook of his arm and snoring softly into his chest.

it’s a little disconcerting, this almost overwhelming affection and fondness so warm in his chest he thinks, sometimes, he might burst.

what he worries about even more, however, is the unknown. what are they, what were they, what can they ever be? and maybe if he doesn’t acknowledge this, doesn’t admit to himself in the depths of his mind just what he wants of mino, just what he wants of whatever it is they have with each other, then maybe he won’t have to face the possible consequences of losing his entire world.

he doesn’t have an answer, not yet, to what will happen to them in the future, but that night when mino dozes off in his arms and he can’t fall asleep himself because his arm has lost circulation and gone numb under mino’s weight, and he thinks he’d rather have this present reality, than to know for sure what happens next.

 

when it comes to work, from the initial strains to the final song, it’s easier. there’s a structure, he knows where he’s going, he knows his way. with mino, he doesn’t know what lies ahead, has no map in his hand.

 

“did you know,” seunghoon says casually over grilled lobsters one night. seungyoon hadn’t been entirely convinced, when seunghoon had returned triumphantly from the neighbouring dorm clutching a frozen lobster in each hand, but the buttery, garlicky aroma emitting from the oven had been very effective in dispelling any misgivings he might have had.

“know what?” seungyoon manages around a mouthful of lobster.

“mino looks at you different,” seunghoon says. and somehow seungyoon isn’t surprised, even though he has never considered this point, even though he has yet to find the courage to put the overwhelming affection bursting in his chest into words.

now that it’s hanging in the air, though, put out there by someone else not him or mino, it doesn’t feel as frightening as he might have imagined it to be. oddly enough, he feels suddenly so much lighter—it’s almost as if an invisible weight has been lifted from his shoulders, as if this was the answer he didn’t even know he had been looking for.

it feels vaguely as if the very ground has shifted under his feet, but he looks up and seunghoon is still looking at him expectantly.

“i know,” he says before he can stop himself.

“not very subtle, is he,” seunghoon says, tearing at a particularly stubborn claw.

“does it matter? to you?” seungyoon asks, hesitant.

“why would it matter to me? as long as y’all aren’t having loud sex all over the place.”

seungyoon thinks about mino, bare and pressed up against him in the most delicious of ways—he blushes, files the thought away for when he’s alone.

“you know what i mean,” he says instead. “you know.”

“look,” seunghoon jabs a lobster claw at him mid-air. “the future isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. it’s uncertain, and uncomfortable, but you have a choice.”

“a choice?”

“you can choose. what makes you happy.”

“even if i don’t know where that will bring me?”

“i think we think too much where we’re going, sometimes,” seunghoon says, finally putting down his lobster claw. “maybe you just gotta live in the present without thinking about where that will bring you.”

“why do you manage to tell me things like these but not finish your rap lyrics for the tracks i’ve been bugging you about for the past week? can you put these into your lyrics?”

“no,” seunghoon says. “i can’t choose when brilliancy will strike.”

seungyoon sighs and pats seunghoon’s socked foot with his own. “thank you, though.”

“there’s more meat in that claw,” seunghoon says.

 

-

 

to be drunk and in love in new york city

 

he might have had a little more to drink than usual, at the afterparty for their last budokan show, and he’s treading the wrong side of tipsy, mino’s soft laughter ringing vaguely in his ears, as he pulls him back to their hotel room (his arms are so warm, so strong around seungyoon’s waist and seungyoon might have leaned in a little more than was absolutely necessary).

they’re bunking together, that night in after their last show of their Japan tour, and seungyoon emerges from the shower sleepy and damp and flops into mino’s twin bed, ignoring his own. (mino’s bed is nearer to the bathroom anyway, is what he tells himself.) mino, uncaring of his dripping hair, wraps him into his arms anyway.

perhaps it’s being in another country, the false sense of freedom, coupled with the exhilaration of having completed one of their most successful tours to date—seungyoon bends to press his mouth to the warm, dry skin of mino’s throat.

mino stiffens, but doesn’t pull away, only stares down at him wide-eyed as seungyoon lifts his head, and they lock eyes, and seungyoon thinks he’s never seen mino so open, so vulnerable, his eyes so warm and soft and hesitant and anticipatory all at once.

every time they’ve kissed in the depths of seungyoon’s imagination, seungyoon never quite knows who leaned in first, but this time, planted solidly in reality he closes his eyes, very deliberately presses himself up against mino. they meet midway in a gasp, open-mouthed and searing, and seungyoon swallows mino’s whimper, cupping his jaw with one hand and kissing him hard.

mino kisses back—and he kisses the way he raps, seungyoon thinks hazily—single-mindedly, insistently, so good that he leaves seungyoon breathless.

he ends up on top of mino, and mino draws back, and his eyes are hooded and so, so dark when he looks up at seungyoon, his bangs falling into his eyes. the way he looks at him has this way, seungyoon thinks, of making him feel like he’s the only one in the world. the familiar surge of affection bubbles from seungyoon’s chest, clawing his way up his throat to form a lump he can’t swallow around, and seungyoon lifts a hand, gently brushes mino’s bangs back.

he’s a lyricist, but no words find their way up his throat past the lump, and he stares deep into mino’s eyes and nods, hoping mino gets what he means.

 

-

 

to be young and in love
waking up in this bed next to you swear the room got no ceiling

 

the open night sky swirling above them pales with the hours that pass, until swipes of paler blue streak cross the midnight blue and they twist

and turn

and swirl

until they look almost like

the petals of a blue rose

the first thing he sees when he blearily cracks an eye open is mino’s blue rose tattoo, the lines of the petals coming into clearer focus as seungyoon blinks the sleep away. he lets himself revel in the gentle rise and fall of mino’s chest pressed against his cheek, raising a finger to gently trace the outlines of the tattoo, and letting his hand trail down the lines of mino’s chest. mino isn’t very particularly ripped by any means, but he’s toned and leanly built, and seungyoon touches and touches and touches.

“enjoying yourself?” mino’s voice is gruff with sleep, and a warm hand comes up to card through seungyoon’s hair, bleached blonde, pale against his skin.

“you’re nice to touch,” seungyoon murmurs. “nice and warm.”

“thanks,” mino yawns, and he ruffles seungyoon’s hair. “did you sleep well?”

“i had a good dream,” seungyoon says. “i dreamt about the two of us.”

“you did?” mino has his eyes closed again, but the regular rhythm of his fingers sliding through seungyoon’s tousled hair is firm and deliberate and seungyoon knows he’s listening. “what did you dream about?”

“i dreamt that we went out camping.” seungyoon laughs, a little, as he recalls the dream. “you drove a truck and we slept in the truck bed and there were fairy lights and we built a small campfire and i’d brought my guitar.”

“sounds like something straight out of a music video.”

“it was eternal night, but we were lying on the truck bed and looking up at the sky and it felt limitless. like we could do anything in the world, if we’d just set our minds to it.” seungyoon wriggles closer, if possible, into the crook of mino’s neck. “it felt wonderful.”

“it really does sound amazing,” mino agrees. “i do wanna try that someday.”

“but then waking up i felt the same, anyway,” seungyoon says. “waking up and having you here. felt the way i did when i was laying on that truck bed under the night sky with you. like the room’s got no ceiling.”

mino’s hand in his hair stills for a long moment, and seungyoon is about to whine in complaint when a large hand cups his cheek and he’s pulled up mino’s chest, and he clamps his lips shut just in time.

“need to… brush my teeth,” he tries to mumble against mino’s mouth, but mino slips a thumb between the seams of his lips and kisses him anyway, soft and warm and wet and seungyoon gives in, opens up, lets mino take his breath away.

 

-

 

burning through the hours talking
if we lay, if we just let the hours pass us by
i might get to too much talking
i might have to tell you something

 

“it’s past two in the bloody morning,” seungyoon says, when he’s blinked his too-bright phone screen into focus, ignoring all the messages and missed calls.

“maybe we should go back to bed, then,” mino yawns into seungyoon’s neck.

“we only just got out of bed at six in the evening and you want to go back?” seungyoon rubs at his eyes. “all we did was sit here and do nothing for an entire night.”

mino shakes his head, the tips of his bleached blonde hair ticklish against seungyoon’s jaw, warm fingers beginning to sneak under the hem of seungyoon’s shirt. “we’ll start again in the morning. let’s just go back to bed for today.”

seungyoon lets his head fall back against the couch. “no,” he says, half-heartedly trying to pull mino’s hand out from under his shirt.

“thank you, though,” mino says into his shoulder, and seungyoon lets mino’s wandering hands escape his grip in his surprise.

“what on earth for?” he asks. there’s so much that he’s thankful to mino for, when mino has done so much for him in his darkest, most difficult times. he can’t comprehend what use he’s been of to mino, not even during those long nights that melded into days when mino was working on everything at the same time, constantly holed up either in his room or his studio. “i haven’t done anything at all.”

he always wishes he could have done more.

“thank you for you,” mino lifts his head, peers up at seungyoon from under thick, dark lashes, searching fingers ghosting over one of seungyoon’s nipples. seungyoon shudders under the touch, sensitive. “i needed this.”

“a day off?” seungyoon asks.

“it makes me happy,” mino says, and his eyes are tired, but bright, and so soft. “doing absolutely nothing at all and just burning through the hours talking. i’ve almost forgotten what it feels like.”

“i have actually forgotten what that felt like, too,” seungyoon murmurs. “we’ve all forgotten how to rest, to turn off.”

“yeah. but it comes so easily when i’m with you,” mino says, eyes drifting closed, palm warm against the skin of seungyoon’s chest. seungyoon curls his body in, dips his head down, but pauses just an inch away from mino’s mouth.

mino opens his eyes, looks right back up at him, and seungyoon looks into mino’s eyes, searching, but finds only warmth. mino smiles, stretches up, closes the remaining distance between their mouths.

 

and the future’s never certain, and seungyoon can’t be sure of anything, but he thinks he can make an exception for mino.