Actions

Work Header

fine, fresh, fierce!

Work Text:

Sure, Mingi had expected that he’d be running into a lot of hot guys in college. That’s how college works, and that’s literally the only reason he’d wanted to go to college in America, for the hot guys. But somehow he hadn’t expected that the hot guys would literally be running into him, and he hadn’t expected it to happen on his first day of orientation, but here he is, and there he is, the hot guy. A hot guy? Either way, he’s hot, and he’s on a bicycle, and that bicycle has just screeched to a halt five centimetres in front of Mingi’s feet, causing Mingi to shriek and drop the stack of dorm information papers he’d been holding.

“Oh!” says the boy, wobbling on his bike and sticking one leg out so he doesn’t fall. He has a crazy mop of light brown hair and he’s wearing a coat way too big for him and he has a lot of teeth, all of them grinning up at Mingi. It happens very fast: he quickly grabs with his small hand at Mingi’s arm, giving it a friendly squeeze. “I’m sorry, beautiful.”

Mingi goes scarlet and bursts into loud, nervous giggles, shaking his head and bending down to pick up the papers he’d dropped. “It’s OK!”

And by the time he looks up again, the boy is gone, and Mingi turns his head to watch him cycling away. Mingi kind of hopes they’re in the same dorm, but also definitely hopes that they aren’t, because he clearly won’t be able to talk to him. Beautiful. Was that some kind of joke? Mingi’s face is still bright red, and he stands up once he has all his papers together, dusting off the sleeves of his tracksuit. What a way to open his college career. He jogs to the international students’ center so he doesn’t end up being late for his info session, and wonders if maybe he should have given the bike boy his number. After all, it’s good to have friends, and Jongho and Wooyoung are really only his friends because they’d all been on the same flight from Moscow, and Mingi is still a little scared of both of them, but he’s kind of scared of everyone, so that’s okay.

Hot guys are pretty much everywhere in America. Wooyoung and Mingi go to a party for freshmen a few days later and there are all these guys from a “fraternity” — Mingi has no idea what that is or what it means, other than that they all live in a house together and take their shirts off a lot? — handing out drinks, and all of them are hot, too, but then Wooyoung abandons Mingi to go talk to some girls and Mingi ends up playing a very complicated and very silly drinking game, even though he barely understood when the rules were being explained, and he and Wooyoung stumble back to the dorm somewhere around 4 in the morning, drunk and exhausted but having the time of their lives.

“It’s weird that it’s dark at night here,” Mingi says to Wooyoung, but Wooyoung is asleep on the floor and San, Mingi’s roommate, doesn’t speak Russian (and is also asleep), so Mingi rolls over to face the wall and passes out, too.

Orientation week ends and classes start. Mingi’s calculus class is so easy that he has to switch up two whole sections, but he’s not paying all that much attention in lecture anyway, because Wooyoung has decided that they definitely have to be friends so he’s over at Mingi’s dorm room all the time, and Mingi is realizing that he loves going to American parties and Wooyoung knows a lot of parties going on, somehow, so they go out a lot. Most of the time San comes with them, and at first Wooyoung says it’s because San must not have any other friends, but then San invites them both along to a back-to-school party this weekend, which kind of proves Wooyoung wrong, and he sulks about it for a solid hour while Mingi laughs at him and eats French fries.

San says that one of his friends is hosting the party, and his friend is a sophomore so he lives off-campus in a big apartment. Wooyoung asks if Jongho can come and Mingi asks if his new friend from his history class can come and San says, “It’s not my party, I’ll have to ask Seonghwa,” then texts them both a couple hours later to let them know that Seonghwa said it was fine. Mingi helps Wooyoung come up with what to text back, which for some reason takes about fifteen minutes, and then Wooyoung texts Jongho and Mingi texts Yunho and they all agree to walk over together. Lots of texting going on, which is good practice for Mingi to learn some American slang. He likes his new friends a lot. He’s only gotten homesick a couple times during this first week, but suddenly not being the only Korean kid around is dope (a new word he’d learned from Yunho!) and he gets to play his music really loud in his dorm room because San also likes Drake. Honestly, the only bad part about being in America is that he can’t buy his own drinks since he’s too young. But that’s what parties are for!

Wooyoung comes over early on Saturday night to get ready with Mingi and San, and he brought five different shirts to choose from with him. “Wear something other than Adidas,” he suggests to Mingi, frowning, then makes San do up the buttons on the back of his sheer shirt. San doesn’t seem too happy about it, and Mingi thinks his Adidas joggers are just fine, actually, but maybe it’s too much with the matching shirt, so he puts on a white v-neck, and then they all do some shots before heading out to meet Yunho and Jongho outside.

They’re both there already, and Jongho is explaining something very seriously to Yunho, who looks a little frightened. Jongho stops once everyone else approaches, and Mingi asks Yunho if he’s okay and Yunho says he’s fine, he just didn’t know it was possible to have that many strong opinions about whether tomato sauce or ketchup should go on pizza — ketchup, obviously, Mingi thinks to himself — and they all start walking to Seonghwa’s apartment.

His first real house party! Mingi can’t wait to tell his cousins about this when they all Skype tomorrow. The apartment building looks nothing like Mingi expected it to, and the stairs creak when they all go up to the third floor. Seonghwa, San’s friend, opens the door for them, and says, “Hey, come on in, we were just about to start.”

“Have any of y’all ever seen The Office before?” San asks over his shoulder, going into the apartment, and Mingi and Wooyoung say no but Jongho says yes, although he’s probably lying. “Well, it’s great. We’ll put on the subtitles so you don’t miss anything.”

“What are we doing?” Mingi asks Wooyoung as they walk in after San, but Wooyoung just shrugs, following as close to San as he possibly can.

“San’s friends are here,” Seonghwa calls, breaking away from the group to go into the kitchen instead of the living room.

“Ahhh, the Russian invasion?” replies a loud, high voice from the living room, which is where San is leading them. “Color me terrified.”

Mingi looks helplessly at Yunho, who patiently says, “He’s being sarcastic. It means he’s not scared of you.”

Somehow Mingi is no less confused. But now they’re in the living room, and wow, Seonghwa’s TV is huge. There are two boys there already, one on the couch and another in something Mingi has learned is called a beanbag, and the one on the couch has very messy hair that’s longer in the back than in the front, a huge smile, and a drink in his hand, and oh fuck, it’s the guy.

Mingi had gone scarlet last time, and this time he goes crimson, already starting to grin nervously. Bike guy bounces up from the couch and the bean bag guy just lifts a hand in greeting, saying, “I’m Yeosang, sit wherever.”

“Hey, pal,” says the bike boy, doing a complicated handshake thing with San. “Great to see you. You gonna introduce us to your new comrades?”

“They can introduce themselves,” San says and goes over to sit on the floor next to Yeosang’s bean bag, and now it’s just bike boy, who is the hottest person in the whole entire world and makes Mingi feel like a blushing 14-year-old who can’t put two words together to say hello, and he’s wearing a yellow t-shirt that’s too short for him and Mingi’s face is so red but at least bike boy is looking at the others and not at him, for now.

“I’m Hongjoong,” he says, sticking out his hand for Jongho to shake. “Nice to meet you!”

“What’s with his hair?” Wooyoung mumbles to Mingi as Jongho shakes Hongjoong’s hand (Hongjoong winces in pain from how strong Jongho’s grip is), and Mingi laughs too loudly, then goes even redder when Hongjoong looks over and up at him.

“Oh, hey,” Hongjoong says, now looking directly into Mingi’s eyes. He pauses for a moment before speaking again. “It’s you, we’ve met before.”

“Yes, you almost hit me with your bike,” Mingi says, his voice squashed, his grin getting huger by the second. “Hello, I’m Mingi.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Jongho says flatly and claims a spot on the couch, and Mingi wants to die because now Hongjoong is shaking his hand and saying, “Well, hello, Mingi,” his words all slow and carefully pronounced.

“And I’m Wooyoung, and you don’t have to talk so slowly, we all speak very good English,” Wooyoung says. “San, can I have a drink?”

“You can go make one,” San says without looking up from his phone, and Wooyoung huffs and stomps off to the kitchen before Mingi can grab him and keep him from leaving him semi-alone with Hongjoong.

Hongjoong lets go of Mingi’s hand and looks up at Yunho instead, who hasn’t said anything this entire time. “Um… privyet?”

“Oh, I’m not… no, I’m just— uh, hey,” Yunho says. “Yunho. Not Russian.”

“Sorry,” Hongjoong laughs, his fluffy hair shaking. He looks at Mingi again. His eyes are so sparkling. “How’s my pronunciation?”

“Great!” Mingi says, then chokes on his spit a little and starts coughing, but luckily Wooyoung comes back with two drinks, one of which he gives to the dying Mingi.

“We’re just gonna watch this show and do a drinking game,” Hongjoong explains. His voice is so pretty but Mingi is still coughing and can’t really hear him. “Seonghwa has all the rules. Come sit!”

Mingi, even more panicked, grabs Yunho and shuffles him ahead of himself to the couch as Hongjoong sits down first in the spot he’d been before; this puts a comfortable Yunho buffer between Mingi and Hongjoong. Yunho makes an unhappy noise but doesn’t resist otherwise, but now Mingi is even more fucking screwed because now Jongho is on his left, and Mingi can’t sit still for long and now his options for who he can put his arms around are either Yunho, who is a casual friend at best, or Jongho, who is terrifying, and Mingi is so, so screwed.

Seonghwa comes back and says, “Who has the remote? Let’s get started.”

“Rules first,” Yeosang reminds.

“Oh, right,” Seonghwa says. “Do we want the casual version, or the hardcore version?”

“Hardcore,” Jongho says immediately, and Mingi cowers against Yunho’s side.

“If you throw up in my apartment,” Seonghwa says, clearly not all that impressed by Jongho’s terrifyingness, and Jongho just laughs sinisterly in response.

“San, love, will you toss me a pack of Gushers?” Hongjoong asks, leaning forward, and San grabs a foil-wrapped package of something from the small table in the middle of the room and throws it to Hongjoong.

“Careful with that, you broke a vase last time,” Seonghwa reminds, getting out his phone. Mingi can’t really see Hongjoong right now with the way they’re sitting, but he can imagine his big, bright smile, and he just gulps down a mouthful of whatever drink Wooyoung had mixed and stays as quiet as he can while Seonghwa starts to read the rules.

“Hey, Mingi,” Hongjoong murmurs mid-way through Seonghwa’s recitation. Mingi jumps in shock, then leans forward across Yunho to see him. “You ever had one of these before?”

Mingi blinks at the package of candies. They look absolutely ghastly. “No,” he answers.

Hongjoong fishes one out of the pack and holds it out to him between his dainty fingers, and drops it in Mingi’s outstretched palm. “Bon appetit,” he says, grinning.

Mingi eats the Gusher. It’s really, really disgusting. It bursts in his mouth like a bug and it’s so sweet it makes his throat burn, but Hongjoong is watching him so eagerly and Mingi coughs again and says, “Great!” for the second time tonight, since clearly he’s forgotten any other words at the worst possible moment.

“So it’s shit?” Wooyoung asks from an armchair across the table, and Mingi shakes his head quickly.

“Shut up,” Mingi says, laughing nervously again, and nods at Hongjoong when Hongjoong raises his eyebrows questioningly at him.

“So,” Seonghwa says, raising his voice to be heard better, “those are all the rules. Pace yourselves, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to drink juice, we’re here to have fun.”

Have fun. Right. There’s no direct Russian equivalent of the word “fun,” and Mingi had expected to figure out the meaning over the course of his first few weeks in America, but so far he hasn’t been able to pin it down. Is this fun? Sitting squished between Jongho and Yunho with handsome Hongjoong on the other side? Mingi’s sweating and nervous and gets drunk way too fast because they’re supposed to take a drink whenever one of the characters looks at the camera and the small blonde woman mentions her cats and take a shot whenever the manager man is mean to the therapist man — Mingi really has no idea what’s going on in this show. Hongjoong really knows, though. He sings along to the theme song even though it doesn’t have any words, and Yunho keeps Mingi on-track with following the rules of the game since Mingi isn’t following the plot, just laughing noisily when he thinks there’s a joke.

Once Mingi’s actually really drunk, Jongho kicks him off the couch for being too loud right in his ear, so Mingi goes to sit with San on the floor. “How do you know these men?” Mingi asks, and San shrugs, also drunk and friendly, his arm around Mingi’s shoulders.

“Seonghwa went to high school with me.”

“High school,” Mingi repeats, closing his eyes. “Americans.”

“Hey, you’re missing the show,” San says and jostles Mingi’s shoulder until he sits back up properly and looks at the screen again.

“Pam said the thing, take a drink!” Seonghwa announces, and Mingi half-groans, half-cheers, fumbling for his cup. He accidentally makes eye contact with Hongjoong when he’s drinking and nearly spills all down his front, but saves himself at the last second, and then he and San fall all over each other laughing until Wooyoung barks something mean at Mingi and Mingi backs off.

After three more episodes, Seonghwa starts cleaning, and Hongjoong gets up to help, so Mingi and Wooyoung and Jongho also join in just for the sake of maintaining this communal-good spirit, but Mingi can’t balance all that well and Jongho is getting darkly philosophical and Wooyoung is singing a sad Alla Pugacheva song, so Seonghwa sends them home. Yunho, surprisingly, stays, even though Mingi offers about five thousand times to let him walk home with them. He’s glad that his friend could befriend his new friends! ‘Friend’ is a funny-sounding word, and he expands on this idea loudly and in great detail as they all stumble back to the dorm.

“I liked that show,” Wooyoung says once Mingi is done rambling, which is surprising, considering he’d been staring at San the whole time and not at the screen barely at all.

Mingi nods very hard and nearly falls over, but he’s leaning on Jongho, who is extremely dense and sturdy, so he manages to stay upright. He’s forcing himself to speak English since San is there, but it’s difficult to hold onto thoughts in his head, and the streetlights are so bright in this town, so much brighter than back home. “Me, too. And all the people. Hong…”

“Honjoon,” Wooyoung supplies, and Mingi shakes his head also very hard and this time does start to fall, but Jongho and his freak strength catch him before his legs can slide out from under him too badly.

“Hong,” Mingi corrects, then thinks carefully about how to pronounce this next syllable, “Joon.”

“Joong?” San says. “Hongjoong. Pretty sure. I’ve only known him, like, a week, though.”

“Just say it how it would be in Korean,” Jongho says.

Mingi frowns and rolls his tongue in his mouth to prepare it for another attempt at pronouncing the name. It’s too many consonants in a row. “But I want to say it how it is in English. Hongjoon.”

“Ng,” San insists. “There’s an ng on the end.”

“Joong,” Mingi tries again. “Hong… joong. Hongjoong.”

“There ya go,” San says and his head drops onto Wooyoung’s shoulder as they walk. Wooyoung loudly hiccups.

“Hongjoong,” Mingi says. Finally, he got it right, and he jumps a couple times in excitement. He tries again, just to make sure. “Hongjoong.”

“Enough,” Wooyoung complains, jabbing Mingi’s ribs and making him laugh even harder.

If San knows him, maybe he has his phone number? Though Mingi seriously wouldn’t be able to text him. He could barely even talk to him. Hongjoong will probably forget all about him by tomorrow. God, those candies had been so nasty.

Jongho splits off from the rest of the group to go to his own dorm, and Wooyoung comes back to Mingi and San’s place anyway. Mingi is face-down in his pillow without even bothering to get undressed — sorry, Mom — so he can’t be sure, but he thinks Wooyoung and San might sleep in the same bed? But in the morning, Wooyoung is gone, so he’s really not sure.

After that, Mingi sees Hongjoong around campus a lot more. Usually on his bike, which he can ride with only one hand on the bars. One time while biking, he waves to Mingi, and Mingi waves back so hard he accidentally smacks a tree he’d been walking by. And another time Mingi is meant to be meeting Jongho at the cafeteria — the Americans call it a ‘dining hall,’ which is stupid — and he sees blondie Seonghwa’s head first, then Yeosang’s small shoulders, and then Hongjoong himself, scruffy, rumpled, and painfully good-looking. Yeosang smiles at him in greeting, and Seonghwa turns to see who he’s smiling at, then waves Mingi to come sit with them.

The only available seats are either right next to Hongjoong, or right across from him. Both are very bad. But the one opposite him is a less weird option, and sitting next to Yeosang seems okay, so Mingi puts down his tray on the table and folds his legs in under the metal table and gets settled. “Hello!”

“Hey, Mingi,” Hongjoong says, popping a grape into his mouth and toothily grinning at him. “What’s up?”

“I was meeting— I was going to meet Jongho for lunch,” Mingi says, and he can feel that his ears are starting to go red along with the rest of his face, and he feels a light pressure under the table and realizes it’s Hongjoong accidentally kicking his ankle and goes even redder, twitching away and trying to draw his legs as far back as he can.

“Sorry,” Hongjoong says, grinning even wider. “Jongho’s the small one, right?”

“The one that’s not San’s boyfriend,” Seonghwa nods.

Mingi frowns. “San has a boyfriend?”

“Come on, this joke literally isn’t even funny,” Yeosang says.

“Who is San’s boyfriend?” Mingi asks, still a little confused, and Hongjoong eats another grape,  then pushes the plate across the table to offer some to Mingi, who politely shakes his head, giggling slightly out of sheer nerves.

“Wooyoung, of course,” Hongjoong says. “Well, they’re not really dating. Or are they? You live with San, don’t you? You probably know all his secrets.”

Seonghwa makes a stern noise and Hongjoong glances at him, that clever smile not leaving his face, and shrugs. Mingi is more confused than ever and slowly shakes his head, thinking things over. “Boyfriends… no. We spend a lot of time together. But just as friends.”

“Hmmm,” Hongjoong says, his head tilting cutely to the side. He looks very interested, and Mingi wants to keep him looking interested, so he takes in a breath to gather some courage and continues—

“But last week, they slept in the same bed? Maybe they are dating, I don’t know.”

Oh, that’s not nice, he doesn’t even know if that’s true. But it makes Hongjoong’s entire face light up even more, his sharp little teeth on display as he cackles and triumphantly elbows Seonghwa, and Mingi stuffs his mouth full of dreadful American macaroni so he doesn’t have to keep looking at him. Then Jongho comes to join them and Hongjoong isn’t paying attention to Mingi anymore, just animatedly chatting with Seonghwa. He’s wearing another one of his big blazers, and when he stretches his arms over his head in the middle of telling an exciting story about hot air balloons, Mingi can’t help but notice that his shirt is too short for him again, this one even higher up his stomach than the one from the party. On the one hand, it suits him, but on the other hand, if Mingi’s face gets even more red, he might have to go to the hospital, so he makes up an excuse about needing to work on some homework and runs all the way back to his dorm. He didn’t even finish his macaroni, but that’s okay — his mom isn’t here to enforce her rules about the Clean Plate Society, and it was gross, anyway.

It turns out that group of friends likes to get together on the weekends pretty often, and San adds Mingi and Wooyoung to the groupchat they have going. And so now Mingi has Hongjoong’s number, and Hongjoong hasn’t texted him individually but he could if he wanted to, but he hasn’t yet, so he must not want to. Yunho was already in the groupchat when Mingi got added in, and Mingi isn’t envious, because he knows this is a good thing, it means he’ll have multiple people to babysit him through events where Hongjoong is also going to be.

Because Hongjoong really scares him, in the best kind of way. Mingi never knows what he’s talking about but that doesn’t even matter. Hongjoong is so cool, he wears heavy boots every single day and sometimes he wears jewelry and paints his nails, and Mingi watches some videos on YouTube about how to talk to boys but that only makes him feel worse because they’re all for girls and he doesn’t know how to do this. He’s never known how to do it. He really feels like a kid again, and it’s awful, but he likes going to Seonghwa’s parties, so he copes with it however he can. Usually by getting very drunk and stupid, which is what he’s used to anyway.

Mingi finds out through San that Seonghwa’s roommate isn’t Hongjoong but Yeosang, and that Hongjoong actually lives in a single room in one of the dorms. But things have been weird with San lately and Wooyoung hasn’t been coming to hang out with them as much, so Mingi hangs out with Yunho instead. At some point they’re studying together in the library and Mingi hears the familiar jingling of Hongjoong’s necklaces and the chains on his pants and looks up so fast he hurts his neck, and Hongjoong grins right at him and starts meandering over.

“Say that we’re about to leave,” Mingi says as quickly and urgently as he can, and Yunho looks puzzled. “Please?”

“Um, aren’t you friends with him?” Yunho says, but Mingi’s face is probably very serious, so Yunho sighs and closes the textbook he’d been reading. “Okay, okay. Do you want to go somewhere else?”

“Yes, good idea,” Mingi says, then closes his notebook and puts his pen in his pencil case, hot all the way down his neck as Hongjoong approaches.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Hongjoong says in his friendly, feline voice, leaning one small hand on the back of Mingi’s chair. “You two look like you should be on all the promotional materials for this place. Model students. Pun intended.”

Yunho laughs politely, shaking his head. “It’s just the table, honestly. Great seats, right? We’re actually on our way out, if you wanna steal it from us.”

“Oh. You are?” Hongjoong says, glancing briefly at Mingi, who feels his gaze but doesn’t see it, too busy shoving all his chaotic mess of papers into his bag. “Sure, I’ll take it. Thanks, fellas.”

“Good to see you,” is all that Mingi manages to say, standing up too quickly and, as a result, ending up dizzy. Hongjoong smiles at him with all his might, which only makes the dizziness worse.

“You, too, hot stuff,” Hongjoong says. Mingi should be writing down everything he says to have Yunho explain it to him later. “Are you coming this weekend?”

“Maybe,” Mingi lies. If Hongjoong is going to be there, he is definitely going to be there. He has a paper due on Sunday night, but that isn’t as important. “Are you?”

“Maybe,” Hongjoong says, teasing, and slips into the chair Mingi had just gotten out of, right away getting comfortable with his knees spreading and his shoulders slouching, his hand with its painted nails reaching into his rucksack to get out a scuffed leather notebook.

“See you,” Yunho says with a small wave, and leads Mingi out of the library.

Once they’re at a safe distance, Mingi covers his face with his hands and groans. Yunho pats him on the back awkwardly. “I’m sorry,” Mingi mumbles. “He makes me feel very nervous.”

“He seems super nice, though?” Yunho says, and Mingi feels even worse. “Just a little… artsy. Nothing to be afraid of.”

“I know,” Mingi says, uncovering his face. “He is super nice.”

“Right,” Yunho says. He looks concerned. Mingi zips up his tracksuit jacket and puts his hands in his pockets, and Yunho suddenly says, “Oh.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” Yunho says hastily. “Nothing. Just, um. You know Hongjoong is gay, right?”

Mingi immediately blushes. “Well, yes, I guessed that maybe he is gay, maybe, yes,” he says, his heart going a million kilometres an hour. Why is Yunho telling him this? Is Mingi being very obvious about how he feels? He recently learned the word ‘crush,’ and he thinks he might have a big crush on Hongjoong. That’s scary, but in Russian there’s no step in-between liking someone and loving them, which is even scarier.

“Okay, good,” Yunho says. He’s giving Mingi a very strange look. “If you… ever want to… talk about things…”

“I have lots of things I want to talk about!” Mingi says. “Why in America do you have to leave tips for waiters? What are their wages? Why not just already pay the waiters enough, so the tip is unnecessary?”

“Oh, jeez, okay,” Yunho sighs. “So during the period before the American Civil War…”

The worst part is, Hongjoong doesn’t even end up coming to the party that weekend. Seonghwa announces that he caught a cold and is too sick to come, but he’s sorry he missed everyone. Mingi mopes in the corner with a drink and stares at his phone, waiting for — he doesn’t even know what, but then all of a sudden it happens, his phone buzzes with a text to the groupchat from Hongjoong: can i put in a song rquest even tho im not there

Yeosang texts back immediately with a no, and Hongjoong sends a little sneezing emoji, and then Seonghwa texts back yes, and Mingi, before he can stop himself, also starts to text back: For colds, tea with raspberry jam, and wear a scarf, even at home))

He’s about to delete it and ashamedly put his phone away, but Jongho, walking past, shoulder-checks him, and Mingi’s thumb accidentally presses the send button and it’s too late. “Motherfucker,” Mingi says emphatically, and Jongho just laughs.

Mingi’s phone buzzes again and he jolts, nearly dropping it, but then sees that Hongjoong had texted back — two kissy emojis, then one in a sick mask, then the cowboy. How confusing is that. Mingi squints at the selection, the kissy emojis making his stomach hurt, and deserts his mopey corner to do some shots with Wooyoung. Even though he loves his friends, there isn’t really a point for him to be there if Hongjoong is absent, so he goes home early. San doesn’t come back to the dorm at all. Mingi doesn’t care. He’s sulking.

The next time he sees Hongjoong is about a week later, from across the quad. Hongjoong is on his bicycle again, so he must be feeling better. How many of those huge jackets does he have? They suit him very well. The only things that really look good on Mingi are tracksuits, and he has seven, one for every day of the week. Sometimes he wears jeans, but they always make him feel like he’s trying too hard. Hongjoong never looks like he’s trying too hard. His hair is so nice. One time after a frat party, Mingi ends up staying at Wooyoung’s dorm for a change, and he’s so sleepy and so drunk, and he mumbles, “I want to get married,” face smushed against the rough material of Wooyoung’s tiny couch.

“I thought you weren’t interested in girls,” Wooyoung yawns.

Mingi nods, rubbing his cheek against the cushion. “Yeah, I’m not. I just want to get married.”

“How the fuck are you going to get married if you don’t want to marry a girl?”

“I’ll get married to Hongjoong,” Mingi decides. “You’ll see.”

Wooyoung snorts and doesn’t reply, probably falling asleep. Mingi thinks about getting married for a few more minutes, starts to overheat, stops thinking about it, and also falls asleep.

Americans have so many strange holidays. Halloween is the best one so far, because although it’s just an excuse to get drunk, everybody is supposed to come to all the parties wearing funny costumes. Yunho has to explain the concept to Wooyoung and Mingi — as usual, Jongho pretends to know everything already although he certainly doesn’t have any idea what it really is — and although Mingi is confused about the connection between children going from door to door begging for candy and college students getting extremely drunk and wearing slutty outfits, he’ll just take Yunho’s word for it. Mingi didn’t really bring any clothes with him that could make a good costume, so a shopping trip gets organized in the groupchat; to the great disappointment of Mingi, Hongjoong says he has a costume picked out already so he won’t come along, and Seonghwa is too busy, and Yunho’s going out of town, and Jongho and Yeosang never reply, so the only people who can make it are Mingi, San, and Wooyoung. Who still aren’t really speaking to each other, and Mingi has no idea why, but this is probably going to be a very strange shopping expedition for everyone involved.

They go on Thursday once Wooyoung is done with his classes — Mingi’s lectures are all in the morning and San somehow has Thursdays off — and take the metro to a secondhand store. Mingi sits between them on the train and talks to each of them individually, although it’s all one conversation. It’s very awkward, so Mingi talks extra loud to make up for it. But it’s a short train ride and the store is near the station, and once they get inside, they all go their separate ways to find some possible outfits to wear.

Mingi has been thinking about what to go as, but he hasn’t been able to come up with much. He could get overalls and be a farmer? Or round glasses and be Harry Potter? Yunho had said it’s okay to go as a fictional character or as a real person or as a job or as an “idea,” whatever that means, and Mingi doesn’t even know where to start. San said he was going to go as a cat if he could find the perfect jacket (what’s the connection there?) so maybe Mingi also could go as some sort of animal? He sees a big orange sweater and takes it down from the hanger, thinking he could probably turn this into a tiger costume. But then would he have to act like a tiger all night? On that part, Yunho’s explanation had been unclear. Mingi also takes down a big black cloak, since a witch seems like a pretty safe costume, but then Wooyoung comes out of nowhere, shoves a blue soft-topped hat into Mingi’s hands, and runs away again.

“What is this?” Mingi calls after him, but Wooyoung is nowhere to be seen, and Mingi looks down at the hat, confused. On the front is an embroidered white anchor, and the rest is navy blue, with a little bit of gold trim around the whole thing. Hmm. Mingi takes a few steps to the side to see himself in a mirror and puts the hat on. Yeah, he could totally pull a sailor costume together. Mingi really had been feeling rather confused about what to do, so it’s great that Wooyoung is always a step ahead of him.

Mingi hangs the orange sweater back up and starts looking for a shirt and pants to match the hat. He runs into San in the pants section, and unless there’s a lot Mingi doesn’t know about cats, it seems like San is going to be something else for Halloween, since he’s holding a large golden coat and is wearing colored sunglasses.

“Elton John,” San explains. “Maybe.”

“Oh! Crocodile Rock singer?” Mingi asks, and San nods, continuing to flip through the pants. “I think I’m going to go as a sailor.”

“Do you know what Wooyoung is going to be?” San asks, looking at the pants and obviously working hard to keep his face very plain, and Mingi shrugs, taking a pair of dark blue trousers down and holding them up to his legs to see if they’ll be long enough. They aren’t, so he puts them back.

“No, he didn’t tell me what he is planning,” Mingi says. He finds another pair of pants, and these do seem long enough for him, so he folds them over his arm and heads over to pick a shirt. Do American sailors wear white or blue shirts? He gets one of each, even though the only blue one he thinks will fit doesn’t have sleeves, and then runs into Wooyoung in the scarf section.

“So? Did you find anything?” Mingi asks, sorting through the scarves until he finds a couple that might work for this look, blue with white stripes, white with red stripes.

“I was planning on going as that guy from One Direction,” Wooyoung says. “What do you think of this shawl?”

Mingi wrinkles his nose. “Which guy from One Direction? Harry? Niall? You could go as Niall, but he didn’t really wear scarves.”

“Oh, I forgot you’re obsessed with them,” Wooyoung mutters. “Whichever one is most famous right now, I don’t care. The point is to look like a rockstar.”

“You already look like a rockstar,” Mingi assures him and pats him on the shoulder. “At least you and San can match, he’s going as Elton John.”

Wooyoung puts down the scarf he was holding and narrows his eyes up at Mingi. “He is? He told you that himself?”

Mingi starts to back away, not wanting to be involved in this at all. “Yeah, that’s what he told me. I don’t know anything else.” Why can’t they just talk directly to each other? Whatever, it’s not Mingi’s problem. Wooyoung is still glaring down at all the scarves, and Mingi has a costume to try on, so he goes to the fitting room and starts to get changed.

The pants are perfect, and he expects the white shirt to be a better match, but it’s the blue sleeveless one that ends up looking better. He likes that it shows off his arms, and he doesn’t get cold easily, so it’s perfect. Then he puts the hat on and starts experimenting with different ways to tie the different scarves. A tight bow right around his neck looks weird, but just draping the neckerchief around his shoulders isn’t quite right, either. He hears people coming into the fitting room cabins on either side of him, probably Wooyoung and San, but he’s focused on tying a good, even knot and doesn’t ask if it’s them.

He’d expected the blue and white scarf to look best, but he likes the red and white one more, folding it in half to make a triangle and draping it so one corner hangs over his back and the other two tie in front. Yes, this looks cute. If he sees Hongjoong at the party, Hongjoong might think so, too. Mingi reties the knot a couple of times to get it smooth, then pulls back the curtain of the fitting room and steps out to see himself in the bigger mirror outside, but he can’t do that, because San and Wooyoung are both out there, both fully in costume, staring each other and not saying anything, like two alley cats in a standoff before the claws come out, just puffing their tails and hissing for now.

Mingi nervously swallows. “You both look very nice,” he attempts.

Nobody reacts. San is wearing multicolored pants, the golden coat, and pink heart-shaped sunglasses, which look better than the orange ones he’d been wearing earlier. Around Wooyoung’s neck are three different paisley scarves and his jeans are so skinny that Mingi starts to worry for his circulation, but he does somehow look a little bit like Harry Styles. Mingi fidgets, eyeing the large mirror without being able to see his own reflection from this angle, and then apprehensively looks at San and Wooyoung again, who are still not moving or speaking.

But Wooyoung speaks first: “You look stupid,” he says coldly.

“Wooyoung,” San says, looking stupid. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I said, okay? It came out all wrong. I was trying to flirt with you, but it wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t okay for me to talk like that to you when I knew how you felt. I promise I wasn’t making fun of you. I feel the same way, I swear. And I hate being like this, I hate not talking to you and you ignoring me. I really miss you.”

“You miss me,” repeats Wooyoung just as coldly.

“I do,” San says, and takes a small step forward. “And I’d never forgive myself if a stupid joke meant I had to lose you. What can I do to make it up to you? I’ll do anything.”

Mingi is so uncomfortable. Although he kind of feels like he should be filming this. Wooyoung sniffs haughtily, crossing his arms. “Anything?”

“Anything,” San nods eagerly, stepping forward again. “Well, within reason. I don’t have that much money, if you were going to ask me to buy you something.”

Wooyoung uncrosses his arms and tilts up his chin. “Kiss me.”

“R-right now?” San splutters.

“If you’re being serious about being sorry,” Wooyoung shrugs. “Right now. I will not ask again.”

“Okay,” San says and grabs Wooyoung by the face and kisses him.

Mingi averts his eyes, his face bright red. It seems like after all, Hongjoong and Seonghwa had been right about something going on between them. If Mingi remembers all their interactions as a trio since the start of the school year, wasn’t Wooyoung was the one who was more determined, who asked San to get him drinks and ogled him all the time and teased him? But now San is the one asking for Wooyoung’s attention. Mingi would be curious about what happened if this weren’t so awkward. They’re really, really kissing now, probably with tongue, and Wooyoung has pushed San’s sunglasses off and tossed them to the floor so they won’t get in the way.

Mingi quietly sighs and heads for the mirror to finally see his outfit in all its glory. It’s very suitable for Halloween, and he has some white shoes at his dorm that’ll complete the look. He adjusts the hat so it’s crooked on one side, turns around to see the outfit from all sides, thinks about if Hongjoong will like it or not, blushes, and scurries past the still-kissing San and Wooyoung to go back into his fitting room and change back into his own clothes.

By the time he comes back out with his costume folded in a neat bundle over his arm, Wooyoung and San are no longer there. “I’m going to go buy these things,” Mingi says hesitantly, not knowing if they’re still in the fitting rooms or if they left to go make out somewhere else, and quickly heads to the cash register to pay. But by the time he’s being handed a bag with his costume in it, Wooyoung and San both emerge, wearing their regular clothes from earlier and holding hands.

“We’re dating,” Wooyoung hisses gleefully to Mingi.

“I guessed that,” Mingi mumbles. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you!” Wooyoung beams, and San kisses him on the cheek and says, “Spasiba,” right against his face, which makes Wooyoung giggle and throw his arms around him to hug tightly.

Mingi feels his phone buzz in his pocket and takes it out to see a notification from the groupchat. Heart pounding, he unlocks his phone to read the text message, but it’s just Yeosang saying that he’s going to be in the Starbucks on-campus for the next three hours if anyone wants to come study together. Of course it wouldn’t be Hongjoong asking after Mingi. He’s never wanted to talk to Mingi, and Mingi has never been brave enough to start a conversation himself. Mingi puts his phone away and goes to wait for Wooyoung and San outside, trying to just be happy about having found a costume so easily. And the party will probably be fun, too, Mingi has obviously never been to a Halloween party before, even if Hongjoong doesn’t even look at him the entire night.

This year, Halloween is on a Friday. How fortunate! Mingi is going to pregame with Yunho, then meet up with Wooyoung and San and Jongho and walk to the frat party together. The sophomores will be there already, since Seonghwa’s apartment is close to the frat house and Hongjoong has seemingly been staying over there while his dorm gets its water heater fixed. Mingi has no idea what Hongjoong’s costume is going to be, and it’s scary to even imagine it. But he tries not to think about it too much, because the last time Mingi really got his hopes up for seeing Hongjoong at a party, it didn’t end up turning out how he’d wanted, so he tries not to think about it. Just goes to class, dutifully takes notes, and goes home right after to get changed into his costume.

He and Yunho — who is dressed as a vampire, he even has light contact lenses and a drip of fake blood coming from the corner of his mouth — drink just enough at Yunho’s dorm that Mingi stops being nervous about this party and starts just getting excited to see what it’s like. When they walk out of Yunho’s dormitory, there is the feeling that half of the university is out and about right now, most of them in costume. Mingi sees a lot of witches, sexy mice, characters from animes, so Yunho really had been very honest in his description of what this holiday is. They meet the British rockstars and Jongho, wearing a formal suit and simply saying that he’s dressed as a politician, and all five of them set off for the fraternity. San and Wooyoung are still holding hands; Mingi is pretty sure they haven’t stopped holding hands since last week. Now that he’s a little tipsy he’s just happy for them, and so far he hasn’t walked in on them doing anything in Mingi and San’s dorm room, so for once he doesn’t feel like a side character in the story of his own life and just enjoys himself and the company of his good friends.

The party is audible even from a block away. Mingi swings his arms back and forth to keep his energy up as they walk, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, and San checks his phone, yelling, “They’re in the game room,” over the loud music as they walk into the building.

“Let’s go get some drinks first,” Wooyoung shouts, and Yunho leads them through to the kitchen, where there are trays and trays of tiny plastic shotglasses full of suspicious liquids of all the colors of the rainbow.

“Do they have Jello shots in Russia?” Yunho asks, and Mingi shakes his head, staring around with wide eyes at the decorations of the party, fake spiderwebs and carved pumpkins and orange lights everywhere, as well as all the costumes.

“Give it to me,” Jongho says impatiently, grabbing two shotglasses from the tray, and sucks them down in immediate succession. Mingi can’t even be impressed, he’s looking around and nervous for if he sees Hongjoong, but he lets Yunho coach him through taking a Jello shot and finds that he really likes it and does another one.

“Okay, let’s go find them,” San says once they’ve all had their fill of the alcoholic gelatin, and they form a chain to walk through the crowded party to the game room, Mingi in the very back.

What is a game room? Once they get there, Mingi learns that it is a room full of games. There is a billiard table, a set for table football, some TVs with Guitar Hero playing on them, a few dartboards. And, in the very middle, Seonghwa’s blond head gives away the sophomores’ position. From his nerves, Mingi nearly trips over his own feet but steadies himself on Yunho’s shoulder, and San shouts, “Hey, we’re here!”

The slim figure next to Seonghwa turns around. Hongjoong. “Ahoy, me hearties!” he cries, throwing his arms into the air. Mingi’s stomach drops out. Hongjoong is holding a bottle of beer in one hand and one of his eyes is covered with an eyepatch; the other one is smudged dark with eyeliner. He’s wearing a loose, ruffled white shirt that’s unlaced halfway down his chest, his tiny hips cinched with a broad leather belt and a dramatic scrap of dark burgundy silk, and his pants are striped and tight, leading down to knee-high boots with flaps on the top. As Mingi and the rest of the group fight their way closer, Mingi can see that his hair is sparkling with a few strands of beads and feathers woven in. He’s a pirate. Mingi might throw up, he looks so hot.

“Ah, man,” Yunho says, amused, when he sees that Seonghwa’s costume is almost identical to his own. Meanwhile, Hongjoong is spotting San and Wooyoung’s linked hands and giving a little scream of happiness, saying, “Mazel tov!” and pulling them both in for a tight hug. Mingi stares at his fingers; he’s wearing at least one ring on each, some of them have two. Beaded bracelets on his wrists, too, but his nails aren’t painted. He looks so good that Mingi might cry.

But before Mingi can run off to go get drinks instead of interacting with anyone ever again, Hongjoong releases the boyfriends and looks right at him. His eye flickers up and down Mingi’s body and lands on his face, and his grin is so sharp, so teasing, that Mingi’s already-bad blush gets even worse and he doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he just takes his hat off and fidgets with it. “Hello, sailor,” Hongjoong drawls. “You’re adorable.”

“Thank you so much,” Mingi mumbles, redder than the stripes on his neckerchief.

Hongjoong’s accessorised hand comes up to lift his eyepatch off so he can get a better look at him, and Mingi still doesn’t know what to do so he just puts his hat back on. Hongjoong laughs, but not meanly, and reaches up to adjust the hat so it’s slightly crooked again. Mingi can’t help looking at the way his unlaced blouse shows off the skin of his wrists and his throat, and no, he hadn’t expected Hongjoong to outright ignore him, but this is too much attention all at once. “Wanna dance?” Hongjoong asks, and takes a swig from his bottle, looking at Mingi even while he drinks.

Mingi bursts out laughing, nervous and clutching for Yunho, who is starting to walk away. He only manages to get a handful of his cloak, and Yunho glances back at him briefly but he and Yeosang — some kind of wizard, maybe? — are heading for the billiards, so Mingi lets him go with great reluctance. “I don’t, um, ehh, I don’t know how to dance,” Mingi explains.

“Sure you do,” Hongjoong says. “With legs like that? C’mon.”

“Wooyoung, help,” Mingi attempts, but Wooyoung and San are staring deep into each other’s eyes and not helping him at all. Mingi looks down at Hongjoong again, and discovers that Hongjoong hasn’t looked away from him even for a second. Shit. Fuck. “…OK,” Mingi finally says, and Hongjoong grins and slips past him, expecting Mingi to follow him to the main part of the frat house. Mingi grumbles very quietly to himself, then takes in a deep breath for courage and follows, watching Hongjoong’s mullet bobbing through the crowd so they don’t get separated.

They reunite in the large room towards the front of the building, where the music is loudest and the most people are dancing. Hongjoong got rid of his bottle somewhere along the way, and once they’re back together again, he steals Mingi’s hat from his head and puts it on himself instead. “Feels like I haven’t seen you in so long,” Hongjoong says, and he’s not talking louder to make it easier to hear him through the music, so Mingi has to lean down closer to him, clumsily swaying from side to side in time with the Michael Jackson song playing.

“Um,” Mingi says, blushing, “sorry.”

“Have you been avoiding me?” Hongjoong says, raising his eyebrows. “Again?”

“Sorry,” Mingi repeats, blushing even harder. He’s still not good at being one on one with Hongjoong, and having people all around them who might be looking is only making it worse.

Hongjoong is dancing, but then all of a sudden his hand is coming up to grasp the back of Mingi’s neck and pull him down even lower. “Can we go somewhere quieter to talk?” he murmurs. “Or do you want another drink?”

“Yes,” Mingi says immediately, not knowing which one he’s agreeing to.

Hongjoong laughs and lets him go. “Wait here,” he says, then slips into the crowd. One glass bead in his hair catches the light for a moment, but Mingi quickly loses sight of him.

Mingi’s heart is beating so fast. When they’d gotten to the party, he’d been tipsy, but now he feels more sober than buzzed, and he’s just standing there with his limbs like noodles around him, doing his best to dance along barely enough so he won’t get crushed by the partying crowd. But he’s nervous that Hongjoong will come back and see him making a fool of himself, so he doesn’t go all-out, just bops. His head feels a little cold without his hat, but it had looked better on Hongjoong than it had on him, because Hongjoong is always stylish, in a pirate costume, in his normal clothes, in just shorts and a t-shirt and neon-colored necklaces that clash with everything else he’s wearing. Mingi squeezes his eyes closed and swallows, just trying to enjoy the music and build his good vibes back up, and when he opens his eyes again, he sees that Hongjoong is coming back; Mingi’s hat is tucked under his arm, and he’s holding a pale glass bottle in each hand.

“This way,” Hongjoong shouts over the loud bass, and Mingi follows him and follows him — sticking as close as he can so no one walks between them — until Hongjoong is pulling him into a small bathroom further back down the hall, and locking the door behind them.

Here, it’s a little quieter, but Mingi can still hear the loud thrum of the music, people cheering and laughing and yelling from the party. Hongjoong hands him one of the bottles and Mingi turns it around in his palm to see that it’s something called Smirnoff Ice.

“Best I could do,” Hongjoong shrugs, grinning, and he hops up to sit on the bathroom counter and starts pulling off his rings.

“It seems good, thank you,” Mingi says and easily twists off the red bottlecap.

Plink-plink-plink as Hongjoong collects his rings in his other hand. He’s swinging his legs back and forth and not looking at Mingi. What did he want to talk about? Mingi is getting nervous again and he takes a sip from the bottle. It’s very sweet and very weak, probably barely any vodka in this at all, but Hongjoong still tried to find something Mingi would like, something to remind him of home, and Mingi takes another mouthful.

“So,” Hongjoong says, and Mingi squeaks and chokes on the Smirnoff Ice, inhaling it down the wrong pipe. Hongjoong waits until Mingi is done coughing, then pours all his rings into one of his pockets and hops down from the counter. “You’ve been avoiding me?”

“No,” Mingi protests, still a little out of breath. “Not… on purpose. I was busy.”

“Right,” Hongjoong says. He starts walking closer to Mingi, and Mingi has nowhere to go, so he just lets Hongjoong back him up against the door. “I always looked for you.”

“I’m sorry,” Mingi says automatically, his eyes opening wider, his heart beating faster, his face so red by now. “I— I didn’t mean—”

“Did you look for me, too?” Hongjoong murmurs.

What’s going on? Mingi swallows around the sweet aftertaste of the drink in his mouth and nods, once, and Hongjoong stands up on his toes and presses their lips together in a kiss.

Oh. Oh. Hongjoong’s hands move to slide up Mingi’s chest and Mingi has only ever kissed one person before and he doesn’t remember how it works, but that’s Hongjoong’s tongue, right there on Mingi’s lower lip, and then there are Hongjoong’s teeth, biting at the same place he’d just licked. Mingi, surprised, moans, a flash of heat sparking down his whole body, and the moan makes his mouth open up and Hongjoong eagerly licks inside, wet, with hunger, his hands by now having come up to seize the sides of Mingi’s neck.

Mingi trembles. Hongjoong lets go of his neck with one hand to grab one of Mingi’s arms and move it, dragging it over until it’s wrapped around Hongjoong’s body, and Mingi can’t even breathe, Hongjoong is kissing him too hard, but he moves his other hand so he’s holding onto him with both. Hongjoong’s waist is small and tight under his grip, and Hongjoong steps closer, pressing their bodies together from shoulder to hip and pressing one leg between Mingi’s thighs.

“You drive me crazy,” Hongjoong groans, his voice so breathy, so much breathier than usual. He sucks at Mingi’s lips, tilts his head to the other side to kiss him deeper, and Mingi just presses in helplessly as much as he can, moving his lips more hesitantly, panting desperate breaths against Hongjoong’s mouth when he gets the chance. He has the feeling that he’s choking, that he’s drowning, his hands are probably holding Hongjoong too tightly, and Hongjoong breaks the kiss — licks his lips like he’s just eaten something delicious — and dives back in, going for Mingi’s neck this time.

Mingi whimpers from the back of his throat. Hongjoong’s clever, deft fingers are undoing the tie on his neckerchief to give himself more room to kiss and bite and lick and suck, and Mingi’s hips jump off the door, bumping against Hongjoong’s. Hongjoong responds immediately, the thigh between Mingi’s pressing into his hips more firmly, and Mingi tries not to moan but he’s never been kissed like this before, he didn’t know people kissed like this, and his palms drag up Hongjoong’s back to grab into his messy, beautiful hair.

“You’re so hot, baby,” Hongjoong breathes, his lips right underneath Mingi’s jaw. “So fucking cute.”

All Mingi can do in response is whine, and Hongjoong lifts his head to kiss him, filthy and messy in his rush to get their mouths together. The music of the party is resonating through the door and into Mingi’s body, there could be someone right outside the bathroom, anyone could overhear, but Hongjoong rolls his hips forward and the friction drags right against a very sensitive place and Mingi gasps roughly, and Hongjoong makes a low noise like a purr and kisses him again.

Hongjoong’s hair is so much softer and fluffier than it looks. Mingi sinks his fingers deep into it and keeps him from pulling away, doing his best to kiss him back, learning on the fly how it works. “You ever kissed anyone before, sweetheart?” Hongjoong murmurs.

“Y— yes,” Mingi gasps between bruising kisses. Hongjoong is rolling his hips against him more regularly now, and it’s getting difficult to think. “Yes, but not anything more than— more than kissing—”

So cute,” Hongjoong growls, licking into Mingi’s mouth so deeply as soon as he’s done speaking. Mingi makes a helpless sound, and he likes that Hongjoong’s voice gets lower when he’s doing… whatever he’s doing right now, and then one of Hongjoong’s hands goes up Mingi’s shirt, his small fingers cold on Mingi’s overheated skin. This time, Mingi’s noise is very unsexy, a high and needy little cry of shock, and Hongjoong grins and nibbles at his lower lip again and runs his hand up higher.

Mingi can’t believe this is happening. He’s wanted this for so long, he can’t even believe how long he’s wanted it, and now Hongjoong is really paying attention to him, really kissing him, he really knows him. If he weren’t so aroused he might be about to cry just from emotion, but he really is very turned on, and Hongjoong can probably feel how hard his heart is beating. Hongjoong slows the kiss down, sucks on Mingi’s upper lip for a long second, and murmurs, “But you’ve always been cute. I’ve been thinking about this cute face every day for five years, and you’ve only gotten cuter since then.”

Mingi shudders in a shocked gasp and sags back against the door. “You remember,” he breathes.

Hongjoong pulls away just enough to see him, giving him a warm, amused look through his long eyelashes. “Of course I remember. How could I forget?”

“I didn’t— I didn’t even talk to you,” Mingi says, blushing even harder now than he’s been this whole time. He can’t look at him, he can’t really breathe, and Hongjoong pulls his hand out from under Mingi’s shirt and leans in for a smaller, softer kiss, humming against his sensitive lips.

“So? I’d still recognize you anywhere, you were a super formative crush for me,” Hongjoong says. “Mingi. What were you doing here? I was always so curious, and I asked around, but nobody knew your folks.”

“Visiting my uncle,” Mingi answers, still bright red and dizzier than ever. “My first time in America. If you— if you remember, why didn’t you—”

“I didn’t say anything because you didn’t say anything,” Hongjoong shrugs. “And just in case you forgot, I didn’t want to make things weird.”

Mingi gasps out a hysterical laugh. Forget? How could he forget? He’d been 14, stuck in San Diego with his family for two weeks and petrified to leave his uncle’s house without any of his cousins. America was so bright and shiny and exciting and scary, and nothing was more exciting or more scary than the boy who worked at one of the fishing supply stores on the boardwalk by Mingi’s uncle’s house. He’d been shorter than Mingi but about his age, wearing colorful, wide rubber bracelets on his wrists, one earring, a tie-dye tee and board shorts and flip flops. Mingi only knew three sentences of English, barely enough to say please and thank you, but he’d been terrified to talk out loud when he was in that store, just in case the beautiful boy behind the counter laughed at his accent. He’d pointed to the energy drink he wanted, quivered in terror when Hongjoong had said, “I’ll grab a cold one from the back, ‘kay?” and all but run away after tossing his handful of crumpled bills onto the counter. Mingi came to the store three times with his closest cousin, twice alone, once with his mom. That had been the last time. Hongjoong, black-haired and big-eyed, had rung them up, put their bait and tack and a couple packages of chips into a bag for them, and then said, “Oh, hey, there’s gonna be a summer BBQ tomorrow night. Food, live music, fireworks? I really hope you guys can come.” And he’d looked right at Mingi while saying it, then handed Mingi’s mom a flier with the information he’d just said, and smiled so brightly. Mingi spent the whole next day talking himself in and out of going, and finally said he had a really bad headache and just stayed home to watch cartoons with another cousin. Hongjoong’s face swam behind his eyelids nonstop every time he closed them for the next few months, even when he got back home he constantly thought about the friendly, sunshiney boy from California, two worlds, two childhoods. While Mingi was memorising Pushkin poems, that boy was probably surfing. Mingi did his pining, did his fantasizing — God, so much — and spent endless amounts of time regretting not going, not talking to him, and when Hongjoong had run into him that first day, Mingi had thought finally, I can try again, but it didn’t seem like Hongjoong remembered, and everything had turned out exactly the same way as it had five years ago anyway, until right now.

Hongjoong is looking at him so kindly. Now his hands are on Mingi’s shoulders, and his lips are pink from so much kissing. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Mingi says. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Hongjoong smiles and kisses him again. “I was so happy to see you. Like, it’s destiny, right? And you grew up so hot, too, God damn. It’s so cute, the way you look at me. Been wanting to get you like this for so long, y’know? Was waiting for ya. But then I realized you might need me to make the first move, if you catch my drift.”

Mingi doesn’t know what ‘catch my drift’ means, but he’s pretty sure that he understands — Hongjoong knows Mingi better than Mingi knows himself. Out of words, tongue-tied like a kid again, he just nods, and Hongjoong closes his eyes and leans up to kiss him slow and deep. Mingi squirms a little, because despite that conversation taking things in a different direction, his body is still overexcited, and Hongjoong makes an amused sound into the kiss and rubs his body up against Mingi’s, causing Mingi to moan in surprise again.

Hongjoong puts his hand up Mingi’s shirt, where it had been before. He presses his thumb right over Mingi’s nipple and Mingi’s breath becomes shaky and unsteady, feeling all hot and tense below the waist. And all over, too, wherever Hongjoong is touching him. But especially in his pants. Hongjoong can probably feel Mingi’s condition, it’s kind of difficult to hide it, but he doesn’t seem put off, just grins against Mingi’s mouth and puts his other hand down between Mingi’s legs to palm over the hard outline of Mingi’s dick through the fabric of his sailor trousers.

“God,” Hongjoong mutters, or at least that’s what Mingi thinks he says; the second Hongjoong’s hand makes any kind of direct contact, he whines so loud, his head knocking back against the wooden door and his hips desperately bucking forward. “You’re huge. Fuck yes, I’m so lucky, baby, you wanna fool around?”

“I— I don’t know what that, that means,” Mingi pants.

Hongjoong kisses him again, his fingers rubbing Mingi’s dick so slowly that it feels like torture. “Do you know what this means?” he asks, low, and suddenly drops to his knees, looking up at Mingi through his fluffy fringe.

Mingi starts nodding immediately, frantically, and Hongjoong grins up at him with those sparkly eyes, all his perfect, pretty teeth, and undoes the fastenings of Mingi’s pants in seconds. “I can take it hard, don’t be shy, I know it’s your first time,” he says, then blows Mingi a kiss, but before Mingi can even react to that, Hongjoong opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue, and does something so— so pornographic, so hot, so intense, that Mingi’s knees very nearly give out and he has to clutch for the doorknob behind him and the towel rack on the wall to keep from collapsing to the floor.

“Fffffuck,” Mingi gasps.

“That’s it, gorgeous,” Hongjoong murmurs, circling his slim fingers around the root of Mingi’s dick and diving back in again, taking nearly the whole thing in his big mouth and sucking so hard, swallowing around him, it’s making so many obscene wet noises, and it feels better than anything Mingi has ever felt before. Hongjoong is so good at this. Mingi’s hips jump forward all by themselves, and Mingi rushes to apologise, hiccuping out his words, but Hongjoong waves a hand to let him know he’s okay, and sucks him even more intensely, starting to bob his head back and forth. Even like this he’s so handsome, his pointy nose, his expressive hair, his sharp cheekbones, and Mingi moans and moans and his vision is going blurry so he closes his eyes.

Mingi doesn’t even realise how much noise he’s making until Hongjoong pulls off, his mouth and chin dripping, soaking wet, and groans, “You sound so hot. Does it feel good?”

“Yes— please— keep going,” Mingi begs, shaking like an aspen leaf. Who cares if the people behind this door can hear him? He’ll never see them again, and besides, right now no one in the entire world matters except Hongjoong.

“Of course, angel,” Hongjoong croons, licks at the aching tip of Mingi’s dick like a kitten, then squeezes with his hand and suckles on the upper few centimetres, and all of a sudden Mingi realises this is about to be all over and he helplessly, clumsily pulls at Hongjoong’s hair to warn him because he can’t remember how to say anything in English, wouldn’t even trust his Russian right now, everything is getting him closer and closer to the edge, but Hongjoong doesn’t stop. In fact, he does everything even more intensely, strokes Mingi’s dick with his fingers, moves his tongue in such a bewitching way, and Mingi’s whole body shakes and he moans and his back arches and he finishes, right in Hongjoong’s hot unbelievable mouth.

When Mingi’s done, Hongjoong draws away, sitting back and licking his lips. “You’re amazing,” he rasps, smoothing his hands up Mingi’s thighs. His eyes are darker than usual, his lips are so red, and when Mingi manages to focus his vision enough to be able to really look at him, he can see that Hongjoong’s trousers are straining as well, and Mingi reaches out for him with shaking hands.

“Amazing— you are amazing,” Mingi says, very slowly, and in his mouth his tongue feels numb. Hongjoong tucks Mingi back into his pants and zips them up for him, and Mingi shivers in response, his uncoordinated hands curling around Hongjoong’s hips to pull him closer. “Can I…?”

“You don’t have to,” Hongjoong says, but he sounds like it’s difficult for him to speak, and Mingi does the same thing Hongjoong had done earlier, puts his hand between Hongjoong’s legs to hesitantly feel him out. “Fuck— hang on.”

Mingi hesitates, and after just a few quick movements, Hongjoong has his leather and silk belts undone and falling down around his legs, then his pants opened so Mingi can put his hand inside. Here, his skin is even hotter, and Hongjoong nods encouragingly for Mingi to continue, so Mingi continues. Hongjoong’s dick is very hard in his hold, the perfect size, and when Mingi starts stroking him, Hongjoong moans oh-so-sweetly and presses his face into the base of Mingi’s neck.

“I’ll try— I want to try, um, doing that, next time,” Mingi says shyly, and Hongjoong presses even closer to him, his moans breathier than ever before. Hongjoong’s dick is wetter than Mingi’s had been, so stroking it is easy even though Mingi doesn’t know how he likes to be touched, and he can’t believe he gets to do this, he can’t believe Hongjoong really wants him to do this, and he keeps stroking him until Hongjoong gasps like he’s dying, blindly lifts his head to get a kiss, and Mingi immediately kisses him while Hongjoong finishes all over his hand.

“We should be dating,” Hongjoong murmurs against Mingi’s lips, breathing heavily. “I want to be boyfriends.”

“Yes,” Mingi says in Russian, and Hongjoong pulls him down to hug onto him.

“Da,” Hongjoong mimics, pronouncing the d completely wrong. “You’re so cute.”

Mingi just grins, self-conscious but so happy, and Hongjoong kisses him soundly and then lets him go so they can both clean up. Mingi takes another drink of Smirnoff Ice, which still tastes too sweet, and offers the bottle to Hongjoong when Hongjoong finishes washing his hands and putting all his rings back on.

“Thanks, stunner,” Hongjoong says, winking up at him and taking a pull from the bottle. “Teach me some more things in Russian?”

Someone is knocking on the door, but Mingi doesn’t care. He can’t tear his eyes away from Hongjoong, whose hair is so messy, whose lips are so puffy, who is smiling like that because of him. “Um… like what?”

“Like, you’re so handsome?”

“Ты такой красивый,” Mingi tells him, and a very cute crease forms between Hongjoong’s eyebrows as he tries to repeat it, mostly succeeding except for not being able to roll the r. “Good job!”

Hongjoong beams, putting his arms back around Mingi’s shoulders while Mingi puts his hands on Hongjoong’s waist. “How do you say… I like you a lot?”

“Я тебя люблю,” Mingi says before he can think about it twice, and he regrets it as soon as he says it, his cheeks flaming red and a giggle bursting free.

Hongjoong tilts his head to the side, fingers brushing through the hair on the back of Mingi’s head. “Ya tebya… lyoo-blyoo?”

“That’s right,” Mingi says, still giggling, and maybe it’s wrong, maybe he shouldn’t be tricking Hongjoong into saying he loves him, Hongjoong will probably find out eventually, but he’s just so happy, so, so happy.

“What’s so funny?” Hongjoong grins, leaning up to nip the very end of Mingi’s nose with his teeth. “Am I saying it wrong? I love you?”

Mingi laughs harder, hugging Hongjoong closer in his arms. “I’m not sure,” he says, and Hongjoong’s face presses into his shoulder, and he smells wonderful, a little of alcohol but mostly of some kind of incense. “Maybe— maybe say it one more time, then I’ll know.”

Hongjoong pulls away, still smiling so brightly but trying to look more serious. “You say it first.”

“I love you,” Mingi says, not giggling anymore, his heart in his throat, and Hongjoong is so close to him that Mingi can count all the freckles across the bridge of his nose. “Your turn.”

Hongjoong says it again.