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Pride & Priorities

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Seongwoo smiled and clapped, despite he was bored to tears. He was at the wedding of a Fantagio staff member with the majority of the company's artists and staff. It was a typical Korean wedding--cookie cutter, predictable, superficial, over in the blink of an eye. Still, that honestly wasn't fast enough for him.

 He flashed a brighter smile, able to make his fake enjoyment seem genuine, and bowed his head at the familiar hyung who had at one time worked as his manager wearing a tuxedo passing by on the subway with his bride on the arm. She was cute but she wasn't anything compared to the beauties the man must have seen around the company. Still, she was a catch, Seongwoo supposed. Since the manager was short, chubby, and rather homely looking.

 They both looked and seemed like nice people. The actor in the audience wished them well, though he personally had no interest in marriage. Not just anytime soon but ever. He would rather be a celebrity forever. Being married would hamper that. Maybe after he retired? But by then, he would be probably used to living alone and likely prefer to stay that way.

 Maybe he could have a long-lasting casual relationship with someone else that felt the same? That seemed like a good option. However, he was scared to pursue people even in a crowded place like this. He felt paranoid that there were constantly judgmental eyes on him, waiting for a mistaken action to jump on and tear at like hyenas searching for a scrap of dropped meat.

 A scandal would be detrimental to his precious career. He still had so much that he wanted to do. He wanted to feature in various dramas and extend into movies with big time stars. He wanted to gain acknowledgement as one of Korea's greatest young actors. He wanted to extend into singing again. Seeing his old manager made him all the more ache for that, a familiar bitterness and uneasiness rising up from the depths.

 Fantagio had promised when he signed with them three years ago that he could do all that he wanted, which was to be an all-rounder. He'd done modeling and acting extensively but they hadn't said anything definite about a solo debut album. Everytime he asked, the higher ups involved in planning his projects diverted him, promising later after this drama or later after this campaign.

 He'd been growing extremely annoyed with that recently and had every intention of bringing the issue up seriously in their next contract extension meeting. The last one they had told him they had offers for him to sing insome OSTs and commercials but he'd told them that wasn't enough.

 He wanted a fully fleshed out debut album. He couldn't make his fans wait another year for it. Those options weren't good enough. He missed singing and dancing on a stage. He knew he could do it well. His fans had noticed him initially that way through a survival program, though he hadn't made it to the very end. He'd still ended up with a great amount of fans from there, a number that he recognized at recent fansigns.

 They were ever patient and loyal, incredibly supportive. His Welo. Especially the large number that had been with him from his trainee days. He wanted to give back to them. He hated to see comments and questions about missing his voice and wanting to see him on stage not just in a fan meeting, asking when his solo album would be out. While he couldn't answer anything.

 If he said anything his company reps would scold him. He couldn't lie or say the truth. Hence, he merely said here and there that they shouldn't worry because he was going to do everything and the song were in the process of being produced. That was all he could do and those empty words tore him up.

 As he listened to the ballad playing just barely heard above the dim of applause, he thought of how great it would be to sing again.

 Couldn’t an opportunity just fall in my lap? Why is it so hard to do what I want to do?

 

 

 

"Seongwoo, join us!" Eunwoo, one of the members from Astro, waved him over.

 The entire staff and artists were supposed to take a group picture and he had been deliberating where he should stand. He ended up in the middle steps between Doyeon and Eunwoo. He smiled cheesily like the rest of them while the camera man told them to say kimchi to force the mouths open and make everyone laugh awkwardly.

 The couple’s families were at the front with the couple standing in the middle as the central focus of the photo. He wondered what sort of lens and filters we're used to take a photo like this, dark eyes fixated on the camera. One of his many hobbies was photography, though he didn’t have nearly as much time for it as he wished.

 Just beyond the camera, a flash of gold caught his eye. His smile and hand folded into a peace sign froze while his eyes shifted that direction as if magnitized. There was a suited man loitering in the back on his phone who oddly didn't join their photo which meant he was no family member or employee of Fantagio. He must be a plus one of one of their guests and didn't know the couple personally so he voluntarily dropped out of the photo opportunity.

 There was something familiar about his face and body shape. He looked like an idol even from a distance though his body was much bigger and his features a bit rougher, manlier than the usual aesthetic. The kind of man that would he considered a beast idol maybe. Attractive and charming but not handsome in a traditional sense, certainly not enough to be an actor like most of the artists in Fantagio were picked and trained for.

 Seongwoo was strangely curious about who that man was and couldn’t get his mind off of him.

 

 

 

"Try the shellfish, Daniel. It's really good."

 Ah, so Doyeon had invited him, Seongwoo thought, wondering how fate had put him at the same table for the dinner with the person that he was interested in earlier. He was a successful solo artist turned CEO recently. His company took in a couple of straggling artists though originally it was for his own music management as well as various other ventures he'd wanted to dabble in (says Wikipedia which Seongwoo was looking up on his phone under the table discreetly).

 He'd of course heard of Kang Daniel, the soloist, but he'd been away for a year now on hiatus for personal reasons. Apparently, he had been building up a company and rescuing promising artists mistreated by their company. He wasn't marketing his company like that but somehow the coincidental previously difficult situations of the artists he took in including Somi, Samuel, Nuest, and Jaehwan, who he personally knew, resulted in Daniel getting that image.

Isn't that sort of fitting to my situation? Isn’t this what I wanted—an opportunity presenting itself easily? Should I talk to him about it? He probably wouldn't be interested though. Even if he knew of me, he would only know of me as an actor while his company thus far has only dealt with singers. I would be a huge risk factor.

 Seongwoo pocketed his phone, watching across the table curiously. He couldn’t ignore the blonde; he was absolutely magnetic. He had an incredible presence and the aura of a star. He commanded the table. Though he seemed slightly uncomfortable since he didn’t know anyone there besides Doyeon.

 "Ah, I wish I could try them. They smell tasty but I'm allergic."

 "Oh, that's a shame. I'll send them away from you."

 Seongwoo reached for the plate Doyeon was holding and put it nearby him instead. He ate while eavesdropping on their conversation, including every bit of seafood he could get his chopsticks on because he loved it.

 "I'm a huge fan, Daniel-ssi. Can I call you oppa instead?"

 Seongwoo almost gagged and rolled his eyes. There the huge flirt went again. Picking up as many handsome oppas as possible, always looking to increase her network size. If they weren’t even close, he wondered how she’d managed to get a top star on hiatus to come here.

 "Hmm, I don't just usually let anyone call me oppa. But since you invited me here and set me up at a table with Ong Seongwoo as promised, then sure."

 "Neh?" Seongwoo paused, noodles dangling from his mouth and eyes widened. He sat up and slurped in the noodles, flushing. Daniel was looking at him with a crooked, amused smile. "Why would you..."

 Daniel stood up and stretched his have politely across the table. "I wanted to meet you. I'm a fan. It's an honor. You're even more handsome in person. I have watched everything you were in. You're fantastic."

 Seongwoo stood up and shook his hand, bowing and smiling shyly, the heat spreading to his ears and shirt collar. To think that he’d been staring at and eating ravenously in front of his fan, how embarrassing.

 "Nice to meet you too, Kang Daniel-ssi. Likewise, I have seen many of your performances and music videos. You are much...taller in person."

 "Am I? That's good to hear. Tall people are usually considered handsome in this country rather than short."

 Seongwoo bit his lip refraining from saying that he never said the man was handsome. They shared a smile and then sat back down. Handsome didn’t suit him. He was more…magnificent?

 "Is there any particular reason you wanted to see me? Should I give you an autograph or ...?" Seongwoo asked awkwardly.

 It was rare for a fan of his to be famous, let alone a singer. Since he only ever was around actors, he was at a loss how to interact.

 "I wanted to see you face to face once. An autograph would be really nice. I'll give you two business cards. You can sign on one and keep the other."

 "Ah, neh..." 

 The way that he spoke was intimidating CEO boss style but his brilliant smile which made large crevices in his cheeks pop out and his warm brown eyes crinkle until they almost disappeared was the opposite. Like an oversized, extremely friendly puppy. He suddenly appeared several years younger.

 Ah, that's right he was younger. A year younger if Wikipedia was correct. The youngest CEO in the entertainment industry. He'd gotten big from his very first album and got bigger every month since then until he was practically a god here. Seongwoo recalled seeing his face now that he got a good look at it on TV and advertisements all over the place for years. Though that had died down while he was on hiatus.

 Seongwoo wanted to smack his forehead for not recognizing the popular singer dubbed the nation's son. He was popular with all ages but especially with older women. Easy to see why he was big and manly but had a cute charm. That smile probably melted their hearts and made them feel young again and brought out all these protective instincts. Now wonder he'd grown rich enough to make a company. Seongwoo wished he could do the same.

 He took the black cards Daniel offered, CEO of KONNECT, singer song writer choreographer Kang Daniel. That was a lot of titles for just being twenty-five. Impressive. He had a lot of talents and a solid mind for business.

 "It's weird, right? I'm not used to it myself. being CEO. Doesn't really suit me."

 Seongwoo lifted his head and shook it with his hands and a pen as well for emphasis. He flushed, inwardly smacking himself for possibly offending his fan and a person more famous than he was. If Daniel's fans were around, he'd be put on the chopping block online for sure.

 “No, I don’t think that way at all! You look the spitting image of a CEO. You were clearly born for suits and power. You grabbed a necktie at your first birthday instead of a rattle. And when you grabbed it, it glowed and a chorus echoed the nursery.”

Daniel laughed boisterously, clapping his hands and then putting the back of his hand to his mouth. Seongwoo thought his expression while laughing was extremely endearing. Nothing screamed baby more than that (ah, but it was still second place to his ‘hing’ of course, that couldn’t be beaten).

Seongwoo chuckled, smiling smugly with pride. He was born an entertainer. He had literally been born making silly faces which made his parents laugh. He loved to make people laugh. He wished that his company would give him more chances to go on variety shows as well so he could show off how funny he was to the world. However, actors didn’t do that sort of thing often.

There’d been a couple but the issue with that is it sort of ruined your acting image. People thought of you as a gag-man more than an actor so it was hard for the public to take your projects seriously. Hence, Fantagio limited it, preferring he go on talk shows or radio shows to promote himself and discuss more mature things, show that he had a strong mentality and sentimentality for his age.

Seongwoo signed his name on the back and returned one card, pocketing the other.

“Wah, thanks! Your signature is really cute. It’s got sense. I like how you added the moles. They really are a constellation. It’s pretty.”

Seongwoo laughed awkwardly and stuck out his tongue while poking at his left cheek over his signature moles. “Thanks. At least they help me stand out.”

“Your face is enough, believe me. It’s got to be in the top hundred faces the world has ever seen.”

“Neh? Um, no…my face isn’t that…um, thanks but it’s a bit excessive…Aigoo, I’m embarrassed…”

Seongwoo didn’t know what to do with this bucketload of flattery from this handsome celebrity. It had been hard but he’d eventually gotten used to it from his fans but this man was a lot more good looking than any of them. He was coming on so strong, Seongwoo wondered if he had other sorts of feelings for him. That idea made him all the more bashful.

 The others at the table were looking back and forth between them. Doyeon was giggling while photographing Seongwoo’s reaction as he covered his flushed cheeks and shifted his gaze down. Daniel continued to look at him with these sparkly eyes and huge, dorky grin as if he were Seongwoo’s biggest admirer.

“Sorry, Seongwoo-yah. Was I coming off too strong?”

Yeah! We just met, why are you calling me so intimately?

His heart skipped at that and the way that Daniel’s Busan accent suddenly slipped out. His voice went deeper and became sexy yet cute at the same time which was mind-boggling. Seongwoo fumbled to reach for a glass of water. He took a large sip and fanned his face.

“Um…a little…”

“Woops. I mean, Seongwoo-ssi. Sorry, force of habit as a fan. I guess I call you that at home. Well, not that you’ve ever been to my home. Just to clarify for anyone here, we only met tonight. I have a couple posters. Easier to talk to you than it is to talk to myself and feels a little less weird than talking to my cats.”

The other’s mouths dropped and then they closed them, looking away and clearing their throats. Only Seongwoo and Doyeon were laughing, finding Daniel’s honesty refreshing. That was the definition of TMI.

How could he tell the person he’s a fan of that he talks to pictures of him? That could come off so creepy and strange. Especially since he’s a celebrity himself. Instead though, Seongwoo found it cute.

The man seemed rather bubbly and talkative which was the opposite of the image he gave off when he wasn’t talking or smiling. His cheeks and ears turned red and he laughed dorkily again behind his hand as he realized what he had just said, the embarrassment coming seconds after as if he didn’t often think before he spoke.

He’s interesting. Funny. Cute. Attractive. Hmm….It’s nice to have a fan like that. I wonder if he’s…like that? Shall I flirt a little and find out? There’s not much better to do at this boring place. I’ll just blame it on the wine if necessary.

“Shall I buy a poster of you and talk to it? Then we’ll basically be talking to each other.”

“Ah, that would be nice. But if we’re going to talk to each other, there’s a more modern way to do it. Through phone.”

Seongwoo chuckled, smiling crookedly and taking the phone that the blonde smoothly handed over. He took it and put in his number, stopping to smile at the cats the man had saved on his screens, two on the home and two on the lock. In total, he had four cats, all different colors and types.

“Seems you’re from a large family.”

“Oh, you saw that?” Daniel sheepishly scratched the back of his head as he slid over to the chair next to Seongwoo.

It had been vacated by its owner because he likely felt uncomfortable having no-one to talk to and being talked over by the two.

“Hard to notice,” Seongwoo teased, handing back the phone after saving his contact information with ‘Actor Ong’ in Daniel’s contact list.

“I’ve been cat crazy since I was a little kid.”

“Ah, you have? But you didn’t adopt me?”

“Neh? Oh, I see. Because you look like a cat?” That got the attractive man chuckling, his cute dimples flashing.

“Ah, you don’t see it? How about now? And now?” Seongwoo tilted his head and then he slowly blinked his eyes with his entire lid.

Daniel laughed harder and clapped his hands. “Ah, now I see it! You do look like one!”

“So, you’ll take me home then?” Seongwoo put his hands up to his face in paw form, bugging his eyes out and pouting in an attempt to look like Puss n Boots.

A spark of appreciation flashed in those amber eyes and then dimmed. “Ah, hmm, I’ve got enough mouths to feed and a full bed already. I’d have to kick one of my sisters on the street.”

“No, we couldn’t have that. That’s animal abuse.”

Their laughter caught the attention of those at the table again. Seongwoo felt a bit embarrassed by his shameless flirting, wondering if the news would spread around the company. It wasn’t often that he did that and he wasn’t sure what had come over him—it was his rule not to overtly flirt in public or seem friendly with someone when cameras around in case it caused a scandal. Then again, there didn’t seem to be any fans or reporters around here. It was just a wedding and they were merely talking, being friendly and joking around. That wasn’t something necessarily scandalous. Just boys being boys when they had some alcohol in their system and there was literally nothing else to do to pass the time.

Do I feel like stopping? Hmm, no, not really. So let’s not. For once, let’s let loose a bit. Have fun with an attractive guy and not be paranoid about the consequences. Who cares what others might think or if they’ll spread rumors? Not like anyone would really believed that THE Kang Daniel would date me, some mediocre actor.

Seongwoo’s doe eyes went wide as the plates as Daniel leaned in, putting his hand on his shoulder and cupping his hand over his ear. His skin tingled at the proximity, the warmth of his breath, and the intoxicating smell of his cologne.

“You should visit sometime, as yourself. I have a proposition for you.”

“What sort?” he whispered back curiously, eyes flicking nervously to the group, a couple of them watching curiously, Doyeon with a mischievous grin and giggling like a fangirl. “Sounds like you’re asking me out.”

One could only dream. What’s D so giddy for anyway? Is she shipping us already? I guess we look good together. Then again, I look good with pretty much anyone. Sadly, I’m not the sort to be caught. I haven’t had a single relationship since I debuted and very few flings. Only with men that I trust to keep our stolen nights a secret.

“It’s not that, though I’d certainly not say no to a date with you. I happen to know that your contract is ending soon and your extension discussions are still in the process. I’m guessing that your company isn’t being clear about singing opportunities, which is why you’re hesitating. You don’t want to be stuck acting forever, do you? Don’t you want to be stand on the stage singing and dancing again? I can do that for you. KONNECT can give you that opportunity. Join my company, Seongwoo-ssi.”

Seongwoo gasped and covered his mouth. He turned to Daniel, glittering hope in his eyes, not sure if it were too good to be true but praying not. Daniel smiled and nodded, then swooped in to whisper again.

“You’re joking?!”

“I’m serious. I’ve been watching you for a long time, Seongwoo. I’ve seen everything there is to see online. You have unlimited potential. I believe that you can be an all-rounder and rise up high in the music industry as well. You can do so much better than what this company has been offering.”

The actor bit his lip, staring down at the table, fiddling with a fork hesitantly. “But I’ve been with them three years…”

“Yes, you have. Two years too long in my opinion. You should have left when they didn’t give you a clear opportunity to sing after your first year there. You’ve proved loyal enough by fulfilling your original contract but you should think carefully without feeling obligated in terms of the rest of the future. Think about how disappointed your fans have been feeling. Think of what you really want. Do you trust that they will give you the opportunity this upcoming year?”

“No, not really…” he commented honestly. “I really want to sing too. I’ve tried to express that in our past meetings but they keep avoiding the subject, pushing OSTs on me instead. The management constantly changing hasn’t been helping. I want to dance and sing again in front of my fans. I miss it. It was fun in a way that’s different than acting.”

“I’m sure. I know just how you feel. I’ve done other things too and I’ve been on hiatus but there’s nothing like being on the stage. We’re the sort that are born performers, Seongwoo. I can see that in you. How much you like being on stage. How alive you become.

If you come to my company, I’ll make sure that your debut album is our number one priority. We’ll develop a full album. You can choose the genre and participate in producing and composing. I’ll get you whatever choreographers and video directors and artists you want. I won’t be stingy on costs either. I don’t have that many artists and the ones that I have are successful because of their strong fanbase, so I don’t need to budget.

We’ll create the greatest album of the year and make your popularity skyrocket. Prove to the world that Ong Seongwoo is much more than just an actor and that he hasn’t given up on his singing career. What do you say?”

Seongwoo wanted to squeal excitedly but he forced himself to be calm and breathe. His heart hadn’t raced this fast since the first time he’d stood on stage for a dance contest.

“Er, um….God. I want to say yes right away because that’s amazing. But…I just met you. I hardly know anything about you or your company. I can’t just jump to some place randomly like that. Sorry, but could I have some time?”

“Sure, sure. Take all the time you need. The doors will always be open for you.” Daniel sat back, warmly rubbing his shoulder, smiling with this breezy, arrogant smile like he’d already succeeded.

Seongwoo looked at him and then back down at the table, his shoulder tingling, his heart racing, his stomach turning with butterflies, and his face flaming. He should really think about it he realized. The opportunity sounded amazing, too good to be true almost.

Also, something was odd about Daniel. Why would he go all out on an actor without an audition even? Why would he sneak into a wedding to proposition him secretly like that? Why was he so flirty and friendly?

Seongwoo felt like the man was subtly showing interest and would use this opportunity to advance on him. He might get a different sort of proposition if he entered the company, the inappropriate ‘favor’ sort. He didn’t trust himself to resist the other’s advances in that case—he realized that Daniel affected him strongly. Sparks flying, sizzling chemistry, thick sexual tension that could be cut with a knife—it was all present.

He found Daniel ridiculously attractive. He was immensely aroused just from that deep voice and warm, large hand on him, wanting so much more of it, tempted to suggest they go to his place and talk about it more in depth. He might end up in a very sticky situation, in more than one sense of the word.

He straightened up and slid away from Daniel’s hand, using his trained acting skills to seem more politely aloof.

“On second thought, we don’t need to discuss it in person. Write me up a contract and send it to my email later. I’ll take a careful look at it and get back to you within the month.”

Daniel continued to smile, seeming more amused than put-off by his sudden distance and coolness, as if he took it as an entertaining challenge. He rested his elbow on the table and set his chin on his hand, watching him with twinkling, melted chocolate eyes that made Seongwoo feel as if his insides were becoming goo. He flushed and bit his lip, feeling oddly self-conscious by the other man’s stare.

Oh, god, don’t look at me like that. Remind me never to go un-sober around him again. If I knew that he would offer me a job, I definitely wouldn’t have flirted back so hard earlier. Damn, my rotten luck and bad decision making skills.

“I hope you won’t take too long. My company could use the visuals. I bet seeing your pretty face every day in the studio or meeting room would cheer everyone right up. You have that sort of cleansing ability. Your freshness just puts a smile right on my face. Even more so live than on a screen or photograph. Like healing.”

“Eh~ That’s such nonsense.” Seongwoo snorted and flipped his hand. “I’m not a healer from some video game.”

“It’s not. It’s the truth. I’m not the only one to say that. Several people have told me that they respect you and that I should take you in. Jaehwan and Samuel especially. They were the ones that told me about Fantagio blocking you and your contract coming up.”

“Oh, was that it? Why would they even…Such meddlers.” Seongwoo chuckled.

“Especially Jaehwan, yup. He’s always been trouble. I know since we’ve been friends since our trainee days. We were in the same company for a few months and grew close since we’re the same age.”

“Ah…Was he that young? Sometimes I forget because of his jokes and the way he sings.”

“Right? Like an old man. I’m trying to break him of that habit. He needs to get a larger crowd of the younger generation as his fans in his next album. He’s sulky half the time these days because I keep returning his songs to be altered.”

“Ah, really? That’s why he’s mopey and stressed on Twitter. I see. Don’t go easy on him. He has the potential to be much fresher.”

Daniel’s next smile was absolutely dazzling, his eyes warm as they scrunched up around a layer of baby fat.

“Thank you for taking my side. I appreciate that. Others keep saying I shouldn’t be so hard on him and just let him do as he wants. However, the reason that I took him in was to help him become better. Not just let him do whatever he wants. Well, he still can but I want to lead him in a different direction. He really doesn’t have the sense to choose a trendy song progression.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll appreciate it someday. Though I hope you don’t lose your friendship over it. He can be really stubborn.”

“He can but I’m more so. I always win and he ends up following what I say and not regretting it. I’m sure we’ll get through things with our friendship intact. If he starts getting really grouchy, I just have to treat him to meat. He’s that simple.”

“Is he? Funny.”

“How about you? What do I have to tempt you with to get you on my side?”

Seongwoo smirked, flirting back with him for a brief moment though he knew he shouldn’t. Flirtatious Daniel was difficult to resist.

“I’m not easy to bribe. Or to please.”

“Hmm, that sounds like a challenge, Seongwoo…ssi.”

The actor chewed his lip, squeezing his legs together as heat pooled in the center of his stomach at the sound of his name and the way that Daniel’s eyes darkened while flickering to his lips, his own plush lips pursing in an extremely tempting manner. As if they were begging to be kissed.

Heaven forbid we’re ever alone once I enter that company….Once I enter? It should be IF. Why am I already thinking I’ll agree to that so easily? He hasn’t even tried to bribe me with anything but his good looks and a promise of an album of my own design. Well, to be honest, maybe the album itself is tempting enough. Let’s not even get started on the man…

“Think of it as you will. If I’m going to listen to your…proposition though, Mr. Kang—”

Daniel snorted. “Daniel, please. Everyone just calls me Daniel. I’m not the prim and proper stuffy sort. I keep things fun and casual in my workplace as well. You’ll see. I don’t even wear a suit. I play hip hop music and I just randomly pop in while my artists work. You might as well just think of me as another artist, because I’ll be in the studio working on my own comeback album anyway, though it’s slow moving work because I’ve got a lot to consider and I want it to be even better than my previous albums. I’m CEO by title and I give the final decisions on things, but the company is mostly run by all of the staff, working together. We’re a team. I hope that you’ll see me as a friend someday.”

“Ah, a friend…”

How about boyfriend? Or friends with benefits?

Eh? What the fuck am I thinking? I shouldn’t mess around with my CEO no matter how friendly and casually he acts!

There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. He’s hot and he’s sweet and seems fun but he’s off-limits! Even if he’s a fan and might be interested. You shouldn’t do that. Put your dick back in your pants and chill out. Don’t let him catch on to your attraction anymore than he has.

From now on, no more flirting! Got it, Ong Seongwoo? No flirting whatsoever.

“Yup, a friend. We can chill in the studio. Put on some music and dance around like fools. Go out and get a coffee or a bite to eat. Goof around. Have a drink and discuss any worries or stresses you have. Tell some funny stories. That’s what I do with the others. I’d like to do that with you as well. I’d really like to do that with you.”

I’d like that too. A date sounds nice. Or drinking until we get irrational, end up making out in the bathroom of some bar at a company dinner, a mind-warping blow job in the bathroom stall—

STOP IT. JESUS I’M SO THIRSTY. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Seeing how he was acting now, you’d think that he hadn’t been around an attractive, slightly flirty man ever. This probably wasn’t a good idea. Going to a company where the boss was his age and he kept fantasizing about and was overly friendly so it made him think things that he shouldn’t—this didn’t seem like a smart idea at all.

But then again….

“I’m curious about what sort of concept you’d choose for your album. From what I saw, you were a good dancer and your vocal range is terrific. Your tone was unique. Sweet, airy, powerful. The sort of tone that melts your insides and makes you feel like you’re floating in the clouds? That’s what I felt when I heard your voice.

You could go with ballads of course. Write sentimental lyrics. You can put in your poems. I can help with that or our lyrics team. I’d personally suggest a couple dance tracks with medium tempo at least so that we can choose a title track that can have a flashy, eye-catching performance. I’m the main choreographer so I’ll definitely incorporate your favorite style popping, as long as you remember how to do it.”

Without even thinking, he blurted out, “I’ll do it.”

“Hmm? Ballads? Popping?”

Seongwoo shook his head. “Your proposition. The album. I’ll do it. I want to do it. I want to sing badly.”

“Oh? That’s good. But what happened to seeing the contract?”

“Of course I should still see the contract. Just…I want you to know that I’m definitely interested. In case you are thinking of some others to give the opportunity to. Don’t just yet.”

Daniel reassuringly took his hand in his. They seemed to fit perfectly together. His hand was warm and smooth and comforting. He felt safe and cared for.

“I’m not and I won’t think of anyone else for this. Our main artist is going to be you or no-one else. That spot on the red-carpet is yours. This company, well, part of the reason I made it wasn’t just for me, Seongwoo-ssi.

Actually—though I’m going out on a limb by admitting this already--it was partially for you. Someday I hoped to bring you into the company. I wanted to work with you and see you every day and get close to you. I wanted to help further your career.

It’s another dream of mine to have a collaboration with you someday. But not now. Maybe later after your career as a singer is solidified. You don’t have to quit acting either. I’ll study how to get you offers and fit them around your singing schedules in a well-balanced manner. Or you can go back and forth, taking whatever you feel like. Anything you want to try, anyone you want me to contact, I’ll personally take care of it, even if I’ve got to bust a nut.”

He chuckled, hoping that nothing would happen to Daniel’s balls (unless he was the one messing with them). “That…sounds great…Thank you for taking such an interest in my abilities…”

“Not just because I appreciate your talent and want to expand on your potential, Seongwoo-ssi. Overall, I’m interested in you. Getting to know you and supporting you, as a person. I want you to do well and I want you to have the best and I want to get to know you and take care of you. I have always thought that Fantagio didn’t do enough for you. They don’t put you first. I’ll put you first though. You’ll be much happier with me. With KONNECT, I mean. I promise that.”

Somehow, I can feel that he’s sincere and trustworthy though I just met him. Like I could put my whole career, my body, my heart, my soul in his hands. How odd—I don’t ever trust people or agree to their wishes so easily. What is this strange hold that he has over me? Does he have some incredible power of persuasion?

He nodded, chewing on his lip and staring down at their still linked hands, much too aware of the tingles going through is body from the touch. His large, hot hands felt so nice yet more and more exciting. He gulped hard, tossing aside fantasies that attacked his brain of those hands elsewhere doing much naughtier things, spreading their heat like a wildfire on his body.

“Somehow I feel like I can trust you. I should still see that contract but if what you’re saying is true then it’s pretty much a set deal. I would like to join your company, Mr. K….Daniel.”

Daniel’s lips split into a radiant grin that put the lights here to shame. “You will? That’s great! Thank you so much, Seongwoo-yah!”

He’s mental broke as Daniel intimately called his name and enveloped him a crushing hug in his excitement.

“Daniel, people will think…”

In the end, he let the physical affection slide, not wanting to create any issues with his future boss more-so than worrying about what some tipsy staff that he wouldn’t be working with much longer thought. The sounds of ‘album, debut, the stage’ flitting about his mind were seducing him to ignore the fact that he was slightly worried about a future scandal. Though he couldn’t fully ignore the excited shivers and rush of heat being in contact with the extremely enigmatic, attractive man brought on.

 

Chapter Text

"Hyung hyung hyung!!"

 Daniel sighed with exasperation at the short brunette bounding into his office like a train wreck. Well, that was probably quieter.

 "Jaehwan, you broke the door again...Seriously, take it easy."

 "Oh, woops. I'll pay for that."

 The singer smiled sheepishly and scratched his head as he noticed the hinges on the door looked crooked after he slammed it open. The new doorknob was surely dented from being slammed into the wall as well.

 Daniel was at his desk, reorganizing the papers that had gone flying when the door burst open, adding to the gusts of wind coming through the open window that was airing out the room. It was hot but Daniel was trying to save energy and costs by not using the air conditioner as much as possible. Summer wasn't nearly close to being over. Later every day would be over 32 degrees and he'd be sweating and panting like the Samoyed fans thought he resembled. Every penny counted while running his own business, he realized, since the majority was out of his own pocket.

 "Oh, was that my bad too? Let me help."

 Daniel immediately raised his hands with a firm, "No thanks."

 Every time Jaehwan attempted to right his mistakes, he worsened them. Today was supposed to be a good day and he'd been in a good mood until the door flew pen. He didn't need the singer to spoil it further.

 "Why are you here? I thought you're in the middle of recording?"

 "I am, or well technically I WAS, but I just had to ask once I overheard something. It couldn’t wait."

 Jaehwan bounded to his desk with thundering stomps and laid across it, large brown mouse eyes full of sparkles, looking even more childlike than normal.

 "Is it true? Seongwoo hyung is joining our company? He's visiting today? THE Ong Seongwoo? The actor I told you I’m close to and has a great voice? How did you do it? Was it at the wedding? Did you talk then? Did you seduce him with your godly charms? Tell me all the deets, I need the tea! Spill~"

 Daniel lifted his head to scowl at him, pausing in the midst of stacking the papers in order of category and then of importance. They were all going to be presented and given over to Seongwoo, extra documents he'd asked for or Daniel's teams had prepared to show Seongwoo they were serious. Ideas for concepts, storyboards, songs they had available, interested producers, schedule opportunities they thought would be good for him, things that differed from what he'd been doing.

 Jaehwan didn't need to see any of that. He might get jealous or try to steal it while they were completely different people in different situations. They didn't need the same things. He didn’t much feel like telling him about their encounter and the flirting that had occurred thanks to being tipsy, let alone did he have the time. Seongwoo would be there any minute now.

 The president flicked his old trainee buddy turned employee on the nose.

 "Yes, he is. I'll bring him over to you as I show him the company. He's going to get introduced to everyone. You're allowed ten seconds of fanboying before you get back to recording. You shouldn’t be such a nuisance. You’re not a kid.”

 Jaehwan squinted his eyes in a playful matter. “As if you weren’t going to join me. You’re the biggest Ong fanboy I know. Come here, brother~”

 A couple of seconds later, Jaehwan and Daniel were jumping around the center of the office and shrieking at the top of their lungs like the excited, giddy fanboys they truly were. Daniel stopped abruptly and attempted to put on a serious expression, finding it difficult not to smile at least slightly.

 “Alright. That’s much more than ten seconds. Go back. I’ve got things to do.”

 “Like go pick up your wifey downstairs?” Jaehwan teased, then attempted to run but not fast enough.

 Daniel’s long leg shot out and his foot bumped the other’s bottom. “Get outta here~” he growled jokingly.

 After gathering the papers in his arms, he turned to the framed picture on his desk he had of Seongwoo to brighten his day. It was of him blowing a dandelion in a grassy, vibrant meadow, from his first ever large project, the drama that signaled his spike to fame in the acting world since he was the lead and had a ton of screen time. He looked ethereal and pretty and sweet, like a forest fairy. Since he was blowing the dandelion, his lips were pursed cutely into an oval and sometimes Daniel couldn’t resist the urge to kiss them. Like he did then. Picking up the frame and giving the brunette’s pursed lips a light smooch, then pulling back with a flush and giggling.

 “Hehe. I’m gonna see that handsome face every day from now on. I can’t believe it~”

 His phone buzzed on the table at that exact moment. As soon as he saw the contact name, Daniel squealed and bounced on the balls of his feet.

 “My dream has arrived~” He took several deep breaths and attempted to get ahold of himself.

 He wanted to appear cool and collected around Seongwoo as much as possible. He also couldn’t let his fanboy-mode get activated in front of his staff. They already knew if they’d looked around his office carefully, but he would be embarrassed if they felt he couldn’t keep his usual composure in front of his idol. Also, it wasn’t appropriate to fawn so blatantly over one artist more than the others, being the president. That would spark jealousy and discord.

 He was going to treat Seongwoo specially but he was going to be discreet about it as his position demanded, though he didn’t have any intention to cease flirting. Like he could help that. He wanted to do so much with Seongwoo; he couldn’t let any opportunity slide. He was going to get Seongwoo to fall for him, even if he wasn’t his type, even if he was straight. There had to be a way. Once he’d seen him on TV, he couldn’t want anyone else. No-one even came close to exciting him. Dating Seongwoo and collaborating with him had become his newest dream.

 

 

 

 “Hello, I’m Ong Seongwoo. Please take care of me.”

 Daniel smiled wide as the blonde in skinnies and a large hoodie with his brunette hair in the comma style that Daniel favorited greeted him with a formal bow outside the doors of the company. Daniel didn’t bow fully but merely nodded his head. Then, he held the wide open and gestured for him to hurry in.

 “I most certainly know who you are, but it’s nice to see that I’ve acquired a manners expert. I’ll offer you extra if you train the others to have as nice manners as you do,” he teased lightly, a small chuckle escaping him.

 He’s the cutest, Daniel inwardly fanboy squealed as Seongwoo straightened back up. He was flushed and uncomfortable, seeming embarrassed by a variety of things. He had had no idea that Seongwoo could be this shy and awkward. He’d been a little bit so at the wedding which was a stark contrast to how he appeared on TV, but thanks to the wine the awkwardness he’d felt initially faded within minutes.

 It was appealing in a new way. It made him seem younger, which made Daniel want to protect him all the more. His protective instincts, his desire to have the actor in every way he could, his admiration for his various talents, the dream to collaborate together on a project he was sure would become huge—those feelings were already extensive enough before that moment.

 Just where do his charms end? I keep falling deeper and deeper. There never seems to be any bottom to this pit. He’s like a freaking black hole.

 “Oh, careful there. Wouldn’t want our star to get a leg injury before he’s even started practicing,” Daniel joked, catching Seongwoo instinctively as he tripped over the carpet while entering the company.

 He was easily able to hold up the other with one arm, but he let the door close so that he could help him straighten up with two. Truthfully, it was an excuse to touch him again, which he couldn’t forget. His hand stroked down Seongwoo’s curved, delicate spine, making him shiver. The hands gripping his arm squeezed slightly, then released and dropped. He fidgeted with his sweater sleeves that were much too long so they nearly swallowed his fingers but Daniel wasn’t complaining because the effect was adorable. 

Who didn’t love sweater paws? It was one of Seongwoo’s trademarks. He didn’t like to show skin so even in the summer he often wore long-sleeved shirts and pants. Daniel had seen bits and pieces though thanks to his various advertising campaigns who seemed to love giving him shorts, T-shirts, and sometimes revealing clothing. His skin was pale as porcelain and smooth like a baby’s. It was better that he didn’t go around showing that off. All the more for him to reveal from those oversized clothes in private and keep all to himself for worshipping and marking.

 Daniel flushed and stepped a more appropriate distance from the other, feeling slightly guilty for his wayward thoughts on their second meeting. His heart raced and his skin tingled. His whole body was excited to be in the proximity of his crush and the amazing feeling lingered which he was sure he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. He stuck his naughty hands in his pockets, appearing casual, and cleared his throat which helped press down the animal like squeaks threatening to slip out.

 “Thanks…Um, I’m sometimes clumsy…”

 “I know that, of course. That’s why I caught you. I wouldn’t do that for just anyone. You have a habit of falling on the floor. Your balance isn’t good since you’ve gone without dancing so long.”

 Daniel smirked smugly as Seongwoo’s doe eyes widened and blinked slowly, his long lashes captivating when they fluttered across his snowy skin.

 “I’m your fanboy remember?” he answered the unspoken question between them with a faint chuckle.

 “Oh. Right….Why…Of all people, just some actor…” Seongwoo fidgeted and flushed some more, shifting his gaze to the floor.

 Daniel touched his elbow slightly, walking across the lobby to the stair area where he was planning to take Seongwoo around floor by floor to get him comfortable with the building and meet everyone. It might be overwhelming but he felt it was better to get that awkward, information overload part out of the way. Or maybe that was simply the way that he preferred things.

 Seongwoo followed him without hesitation, seeming set a bit more ease. That was because he liked to be led and directed, Daniel knew. Since he was full of insecurities and more of a follower type and had a hard time grasping what was going on. Good thing that he liked leading. That was one of the many ways that they complimented each other. Seongwoo would gradually learn the rest as they spent time together. Daniel would show him just how suited they were which would become arsenal for him to steal his heart.

 “The reasons not to be a fan of you would be a lot quicker to explain. You’re handsome, first off. You’re great with your expressions, second. You’re polite and humble despite of your talents and fame. I could go on, but I think I’d make the both of us feel embarrassed. So, some other time. Maybe over drinks. Not in the company.”

 “Oh…Um, I don’t really drink…” Seongwoo responded softly as they went up the stairs careful and slow.

 Daniel had a feeling that he did but was subtly rejecting the offer. Hmm, the best way to get close to someone was if they were alone and tipsy. He’d have to consider taking alcohol out of the equation or adding in someone that he could trust to be quiet if he saw the CEO openly flirting or they did something intimate (like he could only dream for now). He literally pouted at the idea that he might not get time alone with Seongwoo or that Seongwoo didn’t like him. That wasn’t in his initial plans.

 “It’s not like that, Daniel. I’m just not a good drinker. How about coffee instead?”

 Daniel visibly brightened at the suggestion and the caring way the other spoke, taking the steps two at a time with a boost of energy. “Ah, right. You like coffee, I heard? Caramel macchiatos still you’re favorite?”

 Seongwoo bit on his lip and nodded, his sweater paw reaching up to nervously scratch at his neck.

 “I’ve been on a diet as ordered by the company. I’m not sure if—”

 “No! No dieting! I hate diets. With a passion. As long as you exercise off the extra calories, whatever is good with us here. I think fans prefer us to have a little fat on our cheeks. It makes us look healthier and younger.”

 Seongwoo’s smile this time around seemed relieved and genuine. He must have been stressed out by not being able to eat what he liked. Daniel had read an interview where the actor had said that from a couple of weeks before a project started, he cut out all wheat products from his diet and lowered his sugar intake to have a better look on camera because of that ‘the camera adds five kilos’ saying.

 So, that was ordered by Fantagio. Here I always thought it was up to him. He doesn’t need to be skinny nor does he need to get any more muscular. He’s already so perfect the way that he is. It’s more than good enough. Seongwoo baby, you should just do what you want, eat what you want, don’t worry about anything but your work, hmm?

 “If you don’t like dieting or worrying about maintaining a certain weight, we won’t put pressure on you. I mean, it will be nice if you look your best for the music video and promotions later but who knows when that will be. We’re just starting. My team has got some ideas together. After I show you around the company, let’s grab some coffee at this café close by here that’s cheap and spacious and not crowded. I’ll show you the drafts of our ideas.”

 “Sounds good. I can’t wait for that, but boring business first. Er, not that I think your company looks boring. The decoration is nice. Simple and clean and monochrome.’

 Seongwoo waved his hands with a sheepish, slightly panicked expression. Daniel smiled and chuckled softly. Flushing, flustered Seongwoo was the most adorable of all. So cuddle-worthy.

 “I’ll take that to note. Maybe it is a bit boring.”

 “No, really, it’s fine. Ignore that stupid comment. So, what’s on the first floor?”

 “This is the lobby area. The first floor is the dance studios. The second floor has the recording studio and meeting room. The third floor is the cafeteria and lounge. The fourth floor is for odd things and staff, such as stylists and cordis but they are here only when there’s a project, like on call. The fifth floor is the top floor, the smallest. It’s simply got my office. Then, there’s the rooftop. It’s got a good view of the city, a mini pool, a sitting area and tables. When the weather is cooler, it’s good to go up there for a rest. Otherwise the lounge is best since it’s air conditioned and large and it’s got TVs and charging stations.”

 “Oh. The facility is nicer than I thought. I didn’t know what to think since it’s a small company you just started.”

 Seongwoo appeared impressed and anticipating the tour more so. Daniel smiled broadly, chest swelling and broad shoulders squared as he was filled with confidence. He’d searched, picked out, and had the place designed himself from top to bottom. With a carefully chosen team of professionals, of course. He hadn’t fully known what he was doing because he was a young singer not long in the industry compared to most other executives, but he’d researched extensively to ensure it wasn’t half-assed. He was the sort of person that thought ‘if you do something, you better do it right.’

 “Well, just because we just started and we’re small doesn’t mean that we can’t afford to give our artists the best. Since I’ve worked in several shitty companies and talked to many people from some of the bigger, famous ones, I’ve carefully considered what is needed for an artist. I can’t afford all that much yet but at least I can afford the bare minimum.

 I want the company to feel like your home outside of home. If you don’t want to leave here for whatever reason, you don’t have to. You can work here, chill here, sleep here, and eat here. Ah, the only things we don’t have installed yet is a shower facility and a gym but just a couple of blocks down is a community center that has all of that. There is a membership fee but it’s really cheap. If you want us to sign up for that, then it will be taken care of on company pur—”

 “You don’t need to do that, Daniel. I can afford that.”

 Daniel pouted, pausing in the middle of the hallway on the first floor. He lightly gripped Seongwoo’s slender wrist, making him stop and turn curiously. He squeezed his wrist slightly instead of letting go, slipping his fingers down to the curve of his palm.

 As he did so, Seongwoo seemed greatly affected, as if he were incredibly sensitive even with fabric between them. His face flushed to his ears, his body shivered as if he’d performed a subtle popping move, his cute nostrils flared as he inhaled sharply, his crooked teeth captured his bottom lip, his eyes flickered with a familiar emotion that Daniel wished were arousal but he was probably imagining it.

 “Seongwoo-ssi.”

 “Neh.”

 “Wait, since you’re basically our family now, I’m not going to call you formally anymore. Seongwoo-yah.” Daniel’s ears reddened and his heart pounded just calling his name so informally to his face.

 “N-neh…” Seongwoo chewed harder on his lip, the coral shade of his cheeks turning a shade darker, his conflicted eyes stuck on Daniel’s hand on his wrist.

 “When you signed the contract with my reps, you put yourself in the hands of our company. Of myself. I vow to protect and care for you to the best of my ability. As I do everyone else. Though you will be my utmost priority at this moment.”

 Daniel rushed on when he realized at Seongwoo’s widened eyes how much that sounded like a proposal which hadn’t exactly been his intention (if he ever had a chance to date Seongwoo and propose then he would say something much more impressive than that in some breathtakingly romantic place).

 “That means that I want to take responsibility for anything you need. That includes giving you a new apartment and paying for any sorts of memberships related to your health and fitness. That is standard for any company. You don’t need to be stingy. Rely on me and make requests. I want you to be fully honest and come to me for anything you need, company police. Would you like a membership?”

 “O-okay. You can sign me up for those, then…can you, um…let go?”

 “Oh, sure. Sorry.”

 “It’s fine…” Seongwoo muttered, rubbing his wrist and looking down at it with his brows furrowed.

 Daniel was certain that he hadn’t put enough pressure to hurt him. He had been careful. Why was he staring at it with that complex expression? Was he uncomfortable being touched? It hadn’t seemed so before but maybe the fact that he was more forward, flirty, and comfortable being touched then was because he was tipsy. Maybe the sober Seongwoo was much shier and distant and not as flirty.

 Or maybe he’d done something wrong? Was he acting like that because of who he was and where they were now? Had he come on too strong?

 Daniel chided himself as he quickly tried to figure it out, silently studying the other that was standing in the middle of the hallway with his red face blanketed with discomfort towards the ground.

 I’ll just back off for awhile. He probably needs time to get used to me. Coming on so strong and being overly friendly probably makes him feel uncomfortable. Maybe things will be different later when we go to the café, when it’s just the two of us out of the company. Give him some space and change up the atmosphere. Distract him, try to get him at ease again. Just keep moving and talking is the best way. Like nothing weird happened and you didn’t notice his mood shift.

 “Come this way. I’ll show you the studios.”

 Inside the three small studios they had were back up dancers, choreographers, Somi, and Samuel. As ever, Seongwoo was extremely polite with them, bowing nearly all the way to his knees and speaking beautifully in his pleasant, smooth voice. Samuel seemed to have been waiting for his arrival, likely being the one that tipped off Jaehwan because Samuel spent far too much time on SNS.

 Enough that on occasion, Daniel had scolded him in fact. Though young Samuel was like a little brother to him, on some occasions when he acted cute and sweet, feeling like a son even. He was still a teenager after all, in despite of the fact that he had almost as many albums to his name as Daniel did. He’d even debuted before him. He was technically a senior when you put it that way.

 What the president said lightly in scolding he said out of mere love and concern. Samuel had amazing amounts of potential, after all. If only he would stop playing around and get a bit more serious about his work when it counted. For the most part, he controlled the company with really loose reigns, but with Samuel and Jaehwan he occasionally had to tighten them when they started to get out of line. Samuel with his play time and lack of focus. Jaehwan with his goofing off, nosy, loud nature and perfectionism (in only the opposite directions from which the team wanted to go, as if he were a born rebel).

 A slight prick of jealousy washed over him when Seongwoo fondly hugged and pet the head of the other. It was clear that they were closer than he suspected. And Samuel was allowed to cutely call him not just ‘hyung’ but ‘hyuuuung~’. Daniel didn’t much like that.

 Maybe he should ask if he was allowed to call him hyung too? Since he was older than him. Would he mind that? Did Seongwoo have a hyung kink like he did? God, he hoped not. Because all the men in this company went around calling everyone older than him hyung and they were certainly going to call him that, probably even some of the staff that were older than Seongwoo, since they would want to be close to a famous, handsome actor. Maybe he should make a new rule where everyone was supposed to call each other ‘ssi’ unless they were the same age (all except for with him of course).

 “Hyung, you have to go?”

 “I’ll watch your dance some other time, Muel-ah.”

 ‘Muel-ah’ Daniel repeated with his face scrunched. He didn’t at all like the sound of that. ‘Niel-ah’, now that would have a much more pleasant ring and taste to it. Maybe he could get Seongwoo to call him that in private if he said that that was how everyone addressed him outside of public events? That was even better than ‘hyung’ or ‘oppa’ to him. No-one but lovers and his family were allowed to call him ‘Niel’ or ‘Niellie’ or ‘Niel-ah’ or his personal fav, just ‘Nyel’.

 “He’ll have lots of time to play with you from tomorrow, Samuel. Right now, Seongwoo’s got an entire company to explore. Get back to practice. Work hard.”

 “Neh~” Samuel said brightly, bowing to Daniel and popping up, waving with too hands and smiling cutely.

 Seongwoo chuckled softly behind his sweater-covered hand as they walked out of the last studio that Samuel was in. Daniel’s eyebrow twitched but he swallowed down the irritation before asking curiously, “Are you close? I wasn’t aware that you knew each other.”

 “Ah, do you recall that survival show a few years ago? We go way back from there. We got close then since we were in the same group several times.”

 Of course I do. You were my number one pick. I even paid my friends to make accounts to vote for you. But those stupid girls went for only cutesy guys that look like baby dolls. They weren’t ready for someone handsome and cool and insanely talented like you. They just didn’t see that you were the greatest diamond of that show. You deserved number one, to be honest. You were the only one there who could do it all and had it all. You’ve been my star ever since then.

 “Ah…I sort of recall. You didn’t get into the group, right?”

 Seongwoo laughed again, this time with a bitter smile and slightly sad eyes. “Right, obviously. It got me enough recognition to get into a medium sized company, but my career would have been in a whole different direction if—Anyway, that’s how I know Samuel. Other stuff is in the past so it’s not so important.”

 “Ah, that’s right. He almost made it in, as I recall. He still cries if that group’s songs come along. It seems there’s a scar left over that’s difficult to get over from there.”

 “I do too. A bit. It’s a sad tale. Well, we did alright for ourselves in despite of that. Losing a survival show isn’t the end of the world, as it turns out.”

 “Yeah, you both did. Maybe your companies didn’t do so well managing you but at least they saw your potential and gave you opportunities. At least you had some sort of debut.”

 “True. You wouldn’t have noticed me without my dramas. No one would have known me. That show wasn’t enough. I went out several times in public before I debuted with Moments of 18 you know. Hardly anyone recognized me. I was depressed about that.”

 Daniel nodded in understanding as he held the door open towards the staircase area. “I recall that feeling well.”

 “Eh~ You were famous pretty much overnight though, weren’t you? From your debut album on.”

 “No, I wasn’t,” Daniel insisted. “Before my debut, I had a lot of setbacks. It was hard to get scouted. I couldn’t get recognition from anyone I auditioned for. That’s how I ended up in tiny companies.”

 “Ah, true. They’re weeping over their losses, I’m sure.”

 “They better. I put them on the map. They barely helped me with anything. I contacted producers, artists, and choreographers myself. They saw potential in me and did me a favor. Have you ever seen the album? It’s so cheap looking. The music video is famous for being amateur because the company refused to pay for the director I wanted. The only part that’s good are the dance cuts and my expressions. You could hardly call that a set and I wore my own clothes gifted from fans for it even.”

 “Oh? I don’t recall it being that bad…”

 “It was. At least compared to what I wanted. What my debut could have been. What I’m going to make yours. Because talent deserves an amazing debut.”

 “Anyway, around that time I wasn’t famous either. No-one recognized me. And I heard a lot of the time that I didn’t have what it takes to be a celebrity. Until some fan cams blew up. The public saw something in me that most company reps didn’t.”

 “That’s lucky. But it sounds like you had a rough time.”

 “Haven’t most of us? Well, I’m going to help you so that you will have an easier time from this year on. If you can just wait a little.”

 “I’ve waited twelve years. What’s the rush? I’m a pro at waiting at this point,” Seongwoo joked.

 Daniel frown-pouted. “That makes me sad. What’s wrong with this country?”

 “Nah, I just got scarred. In middle school, I went on a couple auditions and I got told some depressing things. After that, I kept dancing for fun and rejected anyone that came to me. I went on the acting path instead, modeling for cash. I thought I’d become a different sort of celebrity. But at some point, I suddenly wanted to sing and dance terribly. That’s when I took some lessons and went on that show. My life turned around from there.”

“Interesting story. You should talk more about that on interviews. It would inspire people.”

 “That I was a coward for nearly ten years after getting some negative feedback? No way. It’s shameful. I’m only telling you this…because I don’t know. Actually, why did I tell you that?”

 Seongwoo paused and frowned, pulling on his ear. Daniel shrugged and smiled breezily.

 “I guess I’m just that approachable? It’s great if you’re already feeling comfortable with me. Let’s become close, Seongwoo-yah.”

 Seongwoo stiffened as Daniel threw his arm over his shoulders, tucking him close to his side. Seongwoo appeared shocked and at a loss of what to do. Daniel smiled wider, looking down at him with a huge grin and squeezing his neck, inwardly squealing.

 “Neh? Um, okay but still, you’re my boss, so…”

 Seongwoo grabbed his arm and discreetly attempted to slide away. Daniel put strength in his arm and drug him back under. He didn’t want to let the other go yet. The contact felt heavenly and his cute reaction made him want to bother and tease him some more.

 “Eh~ Don’t think of me that way. I’ll get sulky if you’re so cold. I’m younger than you and I’m also an artist. We keep it casual here. Just treat me like any other buddy.”

 “How could I though? You’re THE Kang Daniel and now you’re a CEO of all things, as if being Korea’s beloved top star wasn’t enough…” Seongwoo muttered, flushing deeply.

 This time, Daniel released him reluctantly, snickering at how bashful and shy he appeared now.

 “At the wedding, you didn’t seem to recognize me,” he teased. “You were probably the only one. I kept looking at you, waiting for you to figure it out. I started to think maybe you never watched TV or looked around your surroundings. It was amusing.”

 Seongwoo put his hands together in front of him and bowed. “I’m sincerely sorry about that! I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together. I guess I just never put the face and the name together. Of course I knew who you were once you introduced yourself. Who would think that you’d show up at a Fantagio staff wedding? Can you cut me some slack and forgive me this once?”

 “Sure, sure. I wasn’t even angry. So, of course you’re forgiven. Who wouldn’t when you’re being that cute?”

 “C-cute? I-I’m not…”

 “You are. I’m sure the next staff dinner, I’ll be hearing from every other person various stories about you and compliments about you being adorable.”

 “Neh? N-no, no, no! I’m just…” Seongwoo drifted off.

 Daniel cocked his head, waiting for him to finish his sentence. In his head, he filled the blank with every similar adjective he could think of and various others that he’d use to describe Seongwoo in a positive way. Yet those hundreds combined didn’t come close to describing him completely. There wasn’t yet a word that existed that fit him. Ong Seongwoo was just Ong Seongwoo. Simple as that.

 Daniel cleared his throat, thinking that he’d made Seongwoo uncomfortable and embarrassed, so it was the best time to move on with the tour. With so much teasing and compliments like this, he might start to hate him.

 “The rooms we passed are just your regular office rooms for meetings. There’s too many actually. The main part of this area is the recording studio we have in the back. It’s strongly sound proofed and packed with the best, latest equipment. If you ever want to, you can come in and fiddle with it. There’s a paper on the door that has that daily schedule. It’s sort of first come first serve. I don’t prioritize. I let you guys discuss between yourselves and the producers. Ah, look who it is~ One of your biggest fans.”

 Seongwoo peeked his head through the window, hands perched daintily on the sill, looking incredibly cat-like. The CEO who was an infamous cat mania giggled behind his hand, loving the look. He imagined a headband with ears and then quickly cleared the image from his mind, less he pop a boner and get called out by the ever untactful Jaehwan.

 “Oh, it’s Jaehwan~ He looks so serious. It doesn’t suit him somehow.”

 Seongwoo chuckled. They stayed there for a moment. Daniel watching Seongwoo watching Jaehwan singing in the studio booth. The producer in the control room nodded and gave him the okay sign. That’s when Daniel snuck his hand under to grab the door handle, lightly brushing Seongwoo’s stomach on the way, accidentally on purpose.

 Seongwoo jumped back and gasped as if he’d been burned, holding onto his tummy. Daniel raised a golden brow, wondering if he was really ticklish or something. Though hopefully it was that any sudden contact when he was off guard made his senses go wild because he also felt attracted to him.

 Hey now. A fanboy can dream, can’t he? Let me.

 “Let’s go in and say hi.”

 “But he’s recording…” Seongwoo hesitated, chewing on that tempting, pretty lip once more.

 That habit was going to be the death of him someday. Daniel could imagine that he’d slip up, pounce, and take that lip in his own mouth one of these days if he did it a lot when they were in private. At least in public, he was forced to control himself. As much as he wanted to be in private with Seognwoo, he was wondering if it was a good idea just yet. He didn’t want to do something foolish like make a huge move on him like that without getting some sort of clear signal. He didn’t want to come across as an animal or get sued for sexual harassment, god forbid.

 Daniel smiled softly, pushing the door open and tugging him by the wrist inside. He felt another tremble run through the other and noticed his face coloring once more, though this time around he kept a relatively straight face and didn’t look down bashfully. Either he was getting used to the CEO being touchy or he was using his acting skills to hide his feelings about it. Either way was fine with Daniel because he didn’t think he could stop subtly touching the other. He was naturally touchy anyway but with Seongwoo he was just so small, cute, and precious that he had an urge to more than ever, in innocent ways and naughty ones. It was natural to want to share some physical contact with the one you liked.

 “If he knows I just passed by without bringing you in, he will hate me and rebel even worse. Come on in. He can take a little break.”

 “Okay, well if the boss says so…”

 “He does.”

 Daniel held the door open and followed the other in. He was hunched and walking in timid, small steps. Daniel closed the door and wrapped his arm over Seongwoo’s smaller but toned shoulders, making the other stiffen slightly. Daniel smiled at the producer and then waved for Jaehwan to come out. He had his hands over his mouth, his eyes sparkling and full of hearts for Seongwoo, so in awe that he’d frozen and dropped the headphones.

 “This is our newest recruit. Ong Seongwoo. I do believe you know each other.”

 “Wah, to think I’d someday see the actor Ong Seongwoo in the flesh. I love your acting. All your works were hits mainly because of you. You saved them. I look forward to working with you.”

 Daniel made a mental note not to have Seongwoo working often with this particular producer who seemed much too excited to be around Seongwoo and looked at him with stars in his eyes. Seongwoo let the man hold his hand longer than Daniel was comfortable with.

 Yet you’re so quick to shy away from me, hmph.

 Luckily, they were interrupted by Jaehwan, who came bounding out of the booth, making the others wince as the door slammed on the wall, adding to the chips and growing dent there. No matter how much he told Jaehwan to be careful when opening doors, he just never remembered it or didn’t know how to control his strength. That irritation the president felt was nothing compared to the levels when he jumped on Seongwoo like a koala, hugging him around the neck with his arms and the waist with his legs.

 Daniel was surprised that someone as lithe and weak seeming as Seongwoo could hold the other up. Jaehwan was relatively light but that must mean that Seongwoo worked out though he hardly looked like it. Though come to think of it, wasn’t his chest a bit firm earlier and didn’t his shoulders seem a tad bit wider than previously? Daniel went into a trance, drooling over the idea of Seongwoo having secret abs.

 “Hyung, you’re here! It’s great to see you! We’re going to see each other every day now! Are you as excited as I am?”

 Seongwoo laughed, setting the other down and ruffling his fluffy locks, smiling sweetly and looking at the other with warmth. Jaehwan flushed, smiling shyly, eyes full of adoration. Daniel almost rolled his eyes and imitated puking.

 Thank god I’m not that obvious. He looks like he’s five seconds away from trying to kiss him. He better not. We have a pact that I’ve liked him longer so therefor he’s mine unless he chooses otherwise. It’s annoying that they seem close because that might give Jaehwan an advantage.

 The jealous president broke in, lightly pulling Jaehwan back and pinching his fluffy cheeks.

 “It’s his first day. Give him some room to breathe. He’s probably nervous. You’re going to chase him away being so clingy and annoying.”

 “I am not annoying! Am I, hyung?”

 Seongwoo flashed an impish grin. “Kind of?”

 Daniel laughed as Jaehwan appeared hurt. He looked at Seongwoo with teary eyes, lips going into a sulky pout.

 “Hyung…”

 “Eh, I’m just kidding. You’re cute when you sulk,” Seongwoo teased, pulling at his other cheeks.

 “Yah, it hurts~ You’re going to leave bruises on my million dollar cheeks. Ah, hyung, Pres! Hajima~” the singer whined as Daniel and Seongwoo ganged up, playing with both of his pillowy cheeks. It felt like playing with super soft, squishy dough.

 They laughed and shared in a warm, amused glance after they stopped some time later.

 “I’m nervous and also excited. This place is as great as you made it sound.”

 “And the boss is…?”

 Daniel laughed and flushed, slapping Jaehwan on the shoulder. He suddenly felt shy as Seongwoo looked directly at him and smiled softly.

 “The boss is kind and friendly. I’m satisfied thus far. As it turns out, the best kind of CEOs an artist can trust is one who’s been an artist himself.”

 “Who’s been? Hey, I’m still an artist. My hiatus is temporary, I swear. Don’t make me sound like a has been~” Daniel whined, lightly slapping his arm.

 Seongwoo snickered, brushing the spot where his hand had just been. There came another beautiful splash of color across his cheeks.

 Hmm, he didn’t flush when Samuel and Jaehwan touched him even. Is it because we’re strangers? Or is it because he’s attracted to me and not to them? Well, he didn’t seem affected by shaking the producer’s hand either.

 The very idea of the latter made him flattered, a wide grin spreading across his face that was probably glowing with happiness. Just looking at the artist made him giddy but here he was living out his dream—interacting and playing around with him, spending an extensive amount by his side, talking about this and that.

 “What are you working on?” Seongwoo looked away from Daniel, changing the subject abruptly, a shy smile on his lips.

 “Ah, it’s a new song for my album. A side track, a ballad. Would you like to hear what we’ve got so far? I made the melody and wrote the lyrics,” Jaehwan responded bubbly with a massive, proud grin that made his famous dimples pop out.

 “Sure, I’d love to. If it’s okay with…”

 Daniel nodded. “It’s fine. I’ve cleared my schedule for you today. Take your time. I’ll be right here. I should hear his progress anyway.”

 “I didn’t sing like an old man! No fancy bending or vibrato. I sang with my natural voice and focused on being soft and emotional,” Jaehwan blurted.

 Daniel laughed. “I didn’t even accuse you of. Why do you sound so defensive?”

 “I’m just saying before you nag me.”

 “Aigoo, Jjaenie wants praise because I’ve been scolding him too much lately, is that it? Good boy, you listen so well, such a good boy you are~”

 “Hey, don’t treat me like your cats! Or sound so condescending,” he complained as Daniel pat the top of his head and scratched under his chin.

 Seongwoo laughed behind his sweater covered hand, seeming immensely amused by their impromptu gag. When Daniel went to take his hand away, Jaehwan grabbed them and put them back where they had just been.

“I didn’t mean for you to stop.”

 Seongwoo laughed harder as Daniel returned to babying him with cheesy coos.

 

 

 

 “You really are close,” Seongwoo commented when they left the recording for Jaehwan to work on adlibs for his title song.

 “Ah, with Jjaenie? Yeah, well, we’re the same age. And we went through some shit. I’m his savior, though he doesn’t always show his gratitude for it.”

 “Hmm, I think it’s obvious though. The way that he looks at you. He looks up to you and considers you a precious friend. He isn’t the sort that asks for praise from anyone unless he respects them a lot.”

 “I guess that’s true. Never thought of it that way.”

 “I like how knowledgeable you are. I can see you know a lot about music production from the advice you gave back there about his new song. No wonder all your songs became hits. Because you had a hand in fixing it and you’re a perfectionist.”

 Daniel bit the tip of his tongue and scratched the back of his head sheepishly. They were on their way up the next staircase, going slowly so as to chat more, taking their sweet time. Now that Seongwoo knew Daniel had cleared up his day to show him around, he wasn’t in a rush and of course Daniel was in no hurry to lose a chance to talk to his crush. Especially when he randomly showered him with compliments, which made his heart race and skin heat.

 He felt shy, unable to look at the other, afraid that he’d slip into fanboy mode and embarrass himself. He was working so hard to keep his cool image going. Why did Seongwoo have to be a whole box of (lucky) charms?

 “I don’t know if my advice is right. I just go with what I think is the best. Fix what I think could be better. I listen to a lot of music, maybe that’s why.”

 “You have a talent, I think. It’s musical sensibility. I wish I had that. But I’m not sure. Since I never had a chance to mess around with music. I’ve written some lyrics before though they never got put into a song officially. I’ve choreographed for auditions, that’s it.”

 “Well, we will see. You have free reign to explore that here. If you’ve got the talent for it or not. Of course, no one is just born a musical genius. I’ll give you mentors. They’ll teach you how to go about making a song. Choreography, well, I would like to do that if you don’t mind.”

 Seongwoo’s dark eyes sparkled and his lips split into a wide grin that was so sweet and pretty Daniel tripped on the stairs and had to look away to collect himself, pinching his leg not to squeal aloud.

 What an attack! What’s he so happy for? Could I be delusional and keep thinking it’s because we’ll be spending time together dancing and he likes my work? What at an honor it would be if Seongwoo liked the way I danced.

 “Now I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get started. When can I begin to make music for my album?”

 Daniel stuffed a way his disappointment into a corner of his mind. Of course he wouldn’t really care about who made and taught the dance. The first thing to focus on obviously would be making the music itself.

 “I’ve set it up so that we start right away. Tomorrow. When we go to the café, I’ll bring the papers from what my team has gathered. We’ve got some sample beats that aren’t being used yet. I personally picked what I thought would suit your voice and could become trendy with the current public. We’ve already brainstormed various scenarios for your album, debut period, and promotion schedules.

 Of course, that can all be changed depending on what you’re looking for. It’s merely suggestions since I figured it would be daunting for you to come up with these things all on your own. If you don’t like any of them or wish to tweak them, it’s completely doable. This album is yours so the idea is all up to you. I just thought options would give you a place to start. The first album can be daunting to new artists.”

 “Indeed. You guessed right. I have so many ideas and I can’t organize them in my mind. They’re all opposite and conflicting. I understand though that I can’t do everything in my first album. I’d like to see your options. Whatever snatches my heart, I want to go with that. By instinct. Then I’ll think carefully how I’d like it to be tweaked. As long as you approve it. If you think it’s a bad idea, then please tell me so. Don’t just go with whatever I want. You’re the one that has the amazing senses.”

 The president tossed his hand, face heating, lips curving up.

 “Eh~ Of course I’m going to go with what you want. I promise that I’ll tweak it so that it works out well. I want to incorporate your ideas as much as possible. Then it will feel like yours and your fans will be happier with me and with having to wait so long. It makes it more worthwhile and valuable of a piece. Also, they will know that you’re in the best hands. That moving away from Fantagio to KONNECT was a great idea.”

 “I’m sure they already think that. Even if my ideas are terrible and the album flops. I think they will be happy with the fact that finally someone allows me to sing is all. I mean, who really has a good first album anyway—”

 “You’re doing it again. Have confidence and don’t doubt anymore please, Seongwoo-yah. First of all, there’s no such thing as a bad idea, especially coming from someone smart and talented like you. Secondly, I’ve promised to make this a great album. We’re going to pull out all the stops and do that no matter what it takes. I’m getting you famous and winning you an award at the end of the year ceremonies. Guaranteed.”

 “Daniel…You’re hand…”

 “Oh, sorry.”

 Seongwoo flushed as he stared down at their hands. Daniel had caught it and held it captive in his own. Daniel’s hand encompassed all of Seongwoo’s. Seongwoo’s hand was much cooler, softer, and delicate than he expected. Once he realized what it felt like, he hated to let it go but he did, sensing that he made the other feel uncomfortable. They stood there for a few moments in awkward silence, both flushing deeper by the second.

 When things get weird, just keep talking. Make him forget about it. Distractions, distractions, pronto!

 “So, um, we’re in the lounge and cafeteria area. There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner served, for about an hour and a half window each. It’s free, by the way. You can get drinks and snacks from the vending machines when those hours are up. Those are also free. You use this company card that works as a pass here that you’ll be getting soon. You can eat at the tables or in the lounge of course. The lounge furniture is much more comfortable and there’s TVs and charging stations as I said before, so it’s much more popular…”

 Again, when he didn’t know what to do, Daniel moved on with the tour, using conversation as a distraction, hoping that he’d ease Seongwoo and right his wrongs. He’d seriously touched him too much for their first meeting. That was going overboard from his original plan.

 He hoped that Seongwoo didn’t think of him as a gropy creep. He didn’t mind if Seongwoo caught on to his interests, but he’d planned to show it subtly over time, not like causing a car-wreck on the first day. At this rate, he might have scared him off and lost his chances if he’d potentially had any. He hated that he made the other seem uncomfortable.

 The artist followed Daniel in silence, chewing on his lip and he kept brushing his fingers over the hand Daniel had been touching. His expression showed that he was conflicted and unfocused, his mind drifting off elsewhere.

 

 

 

“I’m hungry. Hmm, what snack should I get today…Ah, this one is always good. I highly recommend. It’s not fattening either. It’s full of protein.”

 Daniel caught Seongwoo staring at his ear as he taught him how to use the vending machine, which was weird. Did he have attractive ears more so than the rest of his face? That wasn’t a part of his body he was used to people giving attention to. He fingered his ear, flushing slightly with embarrassment, wondering if there was gunk or hair showing. The silver earring dangling from there jingled.

 “Something wrong?”

 “Oh, it’s nothing.”

 Seongwoo abruptly looked away, ears heating, teeth gnawing on his lip again. Those large, midnight eyes that had gone hazy as if his soul moved to another place in time temporarily cleared.

 “Where to next?”

 “Hmm, we could go to—”

 Daniel was about to say his office but then he recalled that he hadn’t hidden the evidence of his fanboying. That picture might have lip stains on it too because he hadn’t cleaned it after kissing it like usually did. He knew that he’d before been honest about being a fan but he hadn’t yet given Seongwoo notice of just how big of a fan he was.

 He might get freaked out on his first day and that would cause Daniel to miss out on his chance to get closer when they went to the café. Seongwoo might be on his guard then, seeing him as a creep or suspecting that he had ulterior motives for him being here (he did but he wasn’t going to jump on Seongwoo without a clear sign that his affections would be returned and that he was okay with acting on their feelings). That would jeopardize his plans for the rest of this month.

 “To the rooftop. Let’s go there. We’ll eat this jerky and soda up there. The sun is setting, which means the temperature will be down and the sky will be colorful. It’s the best combination.”

 “Cool. I can’t wait to see the view.”

 “It’s impressive. But not as impressive as…” he wanted to say ‘you’ or ‘your beauty’ or something cheesy and flirty along those lines, but he bit his tongue just in time.

 He’d come on to him quite enough already for one day. Anymore and it was a risk. At least he should lay off complimenting and touching him for a full hour before he initiated again. Which meant, at the café? Should he do something then?

 How could he subtly flirt and find a way that gave him an excuse to touch him? Something that made him seem not creepy but made his interest clear. Something that would put him in a positive light, make Seongwoo feel things for him and certainly not instill laughter like a terrible pick up line or a lame joke would. It wasn’t easy after people got to know him, but he hoped that for at least a few weeks he could come off as cool in front of the other, at least that much longer. Long enough to seem attractive and tempting and stir up the other’s heart.

 “Wow, it’s really nice~ What a view. I love the wind. It seems so fresh up here. Even if it’s in the middle of the city. Like the smog doesn’t reach up here.”

 Seongwoo was leaning against the wall precariously, looking out over the golden sun dropping behind the skyscrapers. Daniel stood a ways behind him with his hands in his pockets, enjoying a different kind of gorgeous view with a soft smile.

 “Hmm, I doubt that. It just happens to be a clear, dust free day. I wouldn’t recommend coming here when the dust level is high. It’s like you’re eating dirt. Not good for your throat.”

 “Ah, that’s a shame. Hopefully it won’t be so bad this year. I’d like to come up here often. I think I could think clearly here.”

 “Sure it would be a great place to write lyrics.”

 “Can I eat and drink up here?”

 “Sure you can. As long as you bring the trash down. The janitor hates loitering with a passion. He fines me extra for it, in fact. Charges an extra five hundred won for every piece of trash on the floor he finds.”

 “That’s steep.”

 “Tell me about it.”

 “You don’t check the cctv to see who did it and then take it out of their salary?”

 “That would be really petty. And I’m sure you’d hate knowing you were being spied on like that. The cctv is here just for in case of a crime or sticky situation where I can’t tell which party is telling the truth. I’m not spying on you. There’s not like some control room with a guard watching and reporting your every move. Like you said you were practicing but actually you took a nap in the studio. Or you took snacks when you’re supposed to be cutting back for your promotions. Or you’re dating someone in the company.”

 “Oh? I noticed that there oddly wasn’t any sort of dating clause in the contract. You’re serious? We can date freely?”

 “Yes, that’s right. Dating scandals are so frequent these days. Just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean you are above humans. You should be free to date and fall in love. What an empty life if you never do. It’s a lonely and stressful job. We need someone more than others even. If you date, I’d prefer you keep it low profile.”

 Well, if you date, I’d prefer you date me, to be honest. Of course, I’m not going to put a dating clause in there when I wish to date you. So, yes you’re free to date as you please, more so if that person is me.

 Seongwoo’s expression darkened. “Even if you don’t put in the clause, I won’t date anyone. I don’t want any sort of scandal to hurt my fans or ruin my chances at success. Fans don’t like to share. They hate the idea of us dating officially. I think that dating someone will eventually lead to getting caught and once that happens, my career might be ruined. So, I don’t date. You won’t need to clean up messes with me. I have no intentions of dating. I only want to focus on my career since I’m young and it’s not stable yet. I’m not where I want to be.”

 Daniel hummed thoughtfully. So, he doesn’t date because he’s worried about a scandal ruining his career. At least I don’t have to worry about competition, but that also means he won’t be an easy nut to crack.

 Is he also celibate then? He doesn’t even fool around? But the vibe that I got from the wedding was different. He didn’t seem like he was rusty or inexperienced. And there’s just no way a man can go years without sex at least unless he’s a monk or has hormone issues.

 He must have fooled around. With who though? And how?

 Now that he thought about it, Seongwoo’s record was completely spotless. Not even a single negative rumor or a controversial sentence. He didn’t go drinking or clubbing or partying. He didn’t meet up with someone alone at night or day.

“That’s fine with me, if you don’t feel like it. Though I hope that you won’t let your career get in the way if you really come to like someone. We all deserve to experience love. It’s good for your music as well. Since you can write about relationships and feelings that way.”

 “Hmm, you have a point there. Hard to write a genuine story of love if I’ve never been in love, I suppose…Just as it is hard to act a romance scene out…”

 Seongwoo’s voice was carried away with the wind, so soft he barely heard all of it. It was as if he’d been merely thinking out loud, his expression pensive and complex and with a flickering shadow of loneliness.

 Have you not every been in love, baby? Could I be your first then? Because it sort of sounds like to me that a part of you wants it.

 

 

 

 “What do you think so far?”

 “I like it.”

 “What parts?”

 “Hmm, all of it?”

 Daniel chuckled softly as he gathered the papers spread out over the café table and put them in a neat pile in front of the artist who was smiling broadly. Truthfully, he wasn’t seeming humble. He seemed genuinely excited about everything. Each idea he pounced on enthusiastically like a kitten would a shiny new toy.

 “Think carefully. We can’t incorporate all the ideas. If you pick two options from each category, we will find a way to balance them well. Sounds good?”

 “Okay. I’ll listen to the songs and look the options all over again tonight.”

 “Good idea. Listen while you eat. You said you skipped lunch, right? You shouldn’t do that. Please eat three to four proper meals a day.”

 Seongwoo smirked, his eyes flashing in a flirty manner that Daniel had seen before. Now that Daniel had backed off being physical—by sheer will-power—Seongwoo had relaxed and opened up. He’d been less shy, quiet, and jumpy since they were at the café. Possibly because they were also talking about work instead of something personal. Though Daniel figured it was because he was making his adoration and interest less apparent.

 The result was that Seongwoo’s real personality began to shine through. He was playful, bubbly, cute, sometimes cool, funny at times but pretty serious and insightful when it came to work related talks. It was clear he had exceptional focus ability, depth, and maturity beyond what his age and lack of experience would suggest.

 The president didn’t feel like he was talking to an actor anymore. He felt as if he were talking to a singer discussing a comeback album instead of his first. He’d already started tossing out additional ideas that Daniel found useful and intriguing. He seemed to have a natural sense for art, and it was a tasteful sort. As if he followed musical trends in his free time and had seen a ton of music videos. He knew of various terms that an actor wouldn’t normally know. When he listened to Seongwoo brainstorm outloud, Daniel mentally pat himself on his back.

 You did a good job bringing him over. Your instincts were right. He’s got the talent and the potential, and he really wants this. Being a singer is his destiny. How stupid of Fantagio to chain him with acting these past years when he could do it all from before he’d even entered there. He could be more famous than me someday. Since, well, after all, I can’t act for shit. He is also the reason that I got better at modeling since I followed what he did and advised.

 “Is that an order as a boss or advice as an artist?”

 Daniel smirked back and lightly chuckled. “Can’t it be both?”

 “Alright, I’ll eat properly. And I’ll stop my dieting.”

 “Thank god for that. You’re too skinny.”

 “Eh, like that’s possible. Our country is obsessed with being thin. The thinner you are the more beautiful.”

 “I believe that being healthy is the most beautiful. Even if you weighed a hundred kilos, you’d still be beautiful to me.”

 Seongwoo snorted, covering his mouth and flushing slightly. “That’s not healthy.”

 “Maybe not. But just saying. Beauty runs deeper than skin deep.”

 Seongwoo giggled, hiding the bottom half of his face, ears turning redder. It was clear that he’d flustered him.

 Dammit, where had that cheesy comment come from? You’re supposed to be laying low. Remember that and be careful. Before you reverse all the progress you made.

 “Hmm, wise words. And very true. I don’t think I would be beautiful weighting that much. But I bet you’d still be handsome with one pack.”

 He said I’m handsome!!! And what is he talking about packs? Does he know I have six packs? Has he looked my performance videos up? So he knows I have a stacked body? Oh gosh, that’s—that’s really embarrassing!

 Daniel fell back, flushing and laughing, while crossing his arms protectively. Seongwoo’s eyes flickered there and Daniel squeezed his stomach harder, feeling like the other could see through his arms and clothes somehow.

 “Why are you so red, Daniel? And you can’t stop laughing. Did I say something funny?”

 “Yes! No! I don’t know! Oh god, you’re so funny, hyung!”

 Seongwoo straightened up, smile falling and eyebrows raising. “…hyung?”

 “Ah, slip of the tongue. Because well, you’re older than me and others all called you hyung, so…naturally…”

 Daniel scratched his neck, flushing furiously and avoiding Seongwoo’s gaze which suddenly seemed rather sharp and cool.

 Shit. It seems I’ve angered him. I guess calling him hyung is too much intimacy too soon.

 “I’m not comfortable with you calling me, hyung. Because of our positions. You are my boss and you are my senior. That’s more important than age.”

 “Sorry, Seongwoo-ssi. I didn’t mean to offend you. It was really an acc—”

“Seongwoo-yah. You can call me like that. Like you were before. I don’t mind that. Ssi is too formal. We’re family from now on, right? There’s no need to appear stiff and distant.”

 Daniel sank back in relief, a smile coming across his face, his heartbeat slowing slightly and the heat in his face cooling. Seongwoo’s expression had warmed at least, though it was definitely a bit tense compared to minutes before. That was his fault for letting his mouth get ahead of him and shooting himself in the foot.

 Clearly Seongwoo was the sort to draw clear lines between employees that were difficult to approach. He should have guessed that by how polite he was and the fact that he didn’t date to avoid scandals. Obviously, Seongwoo wouldn’t accept him as a friend right away and he wouldn’t want to be called intimately in case others heard and misunderstood something was going on with them.

 He had to approach much more carefully. Though he was jealous that Seongwoo was close to Jaehwan and Samuel, there wasn’t much he could do. They’d known him when he was younger and less careful about his relationships and interactions as well as the fact that they were of equal status, but Seongwoo saw Daniel as having a status above him significantly.

 Overtime, he’ll stop seeing me as a CEO and a celebrity, right? I want to be seen as just Daniel and get close to him as quick as possible. I want to cutely call him hyung and jump all over him and get my head patted too. I want the public to see that we’re friendly and start to ship us so that he’ll be comfortable around me anywhere.

 Daniel looked down at his cup and swirled the straw inside the blueberry smoothie. He could feel Seognwoo’s curious, softening eyes on him as he drank his strawberry smoothie. Daniel tried to ignore it but how could you not get affected when your crush was studying your face?

 Think positives. All hope isn’t lost yet because he put up a couple little hurdles here and there. This is the first day only. So what if it takes some time to get as close as you want. Be patient and approach him carefully. There’s no need to get greedy and jump ahead. You’ll only screw things up that way since he’s obviously wary of those kinds of people who blatantly show their interest.

  This is just the second step in getting Ong Seongwoo’s heart. We’ll start the third step from tomorrow.

Chapter Text

 

“I’ve called this meeting because Seongwoo here has chosen what songs and concepts he’s thinking of for the two title tracks of his debut album. As you know, this is very important to us and to his career. I want this album to be the best thing that we’ve ever put out. Starting with the titles.

I’d like Seongwoo to participate as much as possible. That doesn’t mean that the team members here will roll over and let him walk over as he pleases. Please guide him and make suggestions using your expertise and research with the current market. Now that that is clear, I’ll give the floor to the rest of you. Starting with Seongwoo.”

Seongwoo appeared nervous as he bowed so low his forehead almost hit the table, sitting at Daniel’s left-hand side. Across the meeting room table were the proposals laid out with the notes the artist had made after discussing some things with the president. Daniel personally thought his ideas were great and approved of his choices, but he wasn’t sure about the team, who had more experience and knowledge than him.

“Hello, my name is Ong Seongwoo. For many years, I dreamed of being a singer, but I somehow ended up stuck in the acting field. My previous company didn’t want to take a chance on me. They ignored my dream to try it all and our promise with the fans from years ago that I would have an album. They took the safe route, only getting as much money from me as possible with little expense burden from them.

I had mostly acting and modeling gigs. Lots of emceeing. Occasional OSTs and variety shows. It wasn’t nearly enough. I’m sorry to say that I’m coming to this company as an inexperienced person who is only known as an actor to the current public. I worry that I will become a burden and that the album will not do well.

However, I appreciate that the president’s blind faith and whoever agreed to his decision. I will try my best and accept any advice and guidance you can offer. Please help me to achieve my dream of twelve years to be a singer. Please take care of me and thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity.

I will put in all my blood, sweat, and tears into this album. I will not slack. I will not even sleep if it’s necessary.”

Seongwoo finished his sincere speech with several more deep bows. Daniel was concerned he’d hit his forehead, but realized the reason he was tearing up was that he was touched and anxious. He reached over to pat him on the back, smiling warmly, eyes clearly fond of the other.

“Okay, okay. That’s enough groveling, Seongwoo-yah. You don’t need to go to that extent. No-one here is accusing you of being untalented, so there’s no need for you to be anxious or apologetic. We’re all going to hold hands and do our best to make you successful.

Any losses that or occur or difficulties that we face don’t come from their pockets but from mine, so don’t worry about that. They aren’t going to be against you or hold grudges because of that. They trust my judgement anyway. Believe me, I’ve done research and shown them everything related to your singing and dancing. They said there wasn’t that much but you clearly didn’t come off as an amateur, especially your voice.

To be honest, the decision to bring you to our company as our next big project was almost unanimous. It’s unlikely in my opinion that you would get anything but love and praise since you are talented and have a large fanbase already, many of which know your other talents and have been waiting a long time for you to have a chance.

Did you not see the comments on the articles about you? I saw mostly encouraging and exciting words. They’re happy you are going for your dream and they trust our company and they’re already anticipating hearing your voice. Let’s move on to your ideas now.”

The team also gave the artist some encouraging words, commenting that they were impressed with his character and his various talents. That he had many charms and natural skills that could be shaped and accentuated easily. That he had a unique color that was appealing. That the music didn’t matter all that much since his voice could go with all kinds of things and he was so handsome that that was basically all you focused on if you saw his face.

There were so many compliments and warm smiles going around that Daniel wondered if he were conducting a fan event rather than a meeting.

He cleared his throat and tapped the papers, getting gradually annoyed with the compliments making Seongwoo flattered and bashful. Seongwoo glanced down with a sheepish smile, hurrying from then to get on with the meeting, clearly thinking Daniel was doing so because he was a busy person who didn’t like delaying work (but the fact was he was purely jealous).

The artist passed out the photo-copies of his ideas around the table, then explained the best he could, gaining more confidence as he went on. The team looked over with serious expressions, listening diligently. Daniel watched Seongwoo, hiding a proud smile with his hands, thinking he looked so attractive like this. His crush was so smart and passionate.

“I like this bright summer song and this medium tempo break-up song. I like the beat and the lyrics. They both sound easy to listen to, unique yet trendy, and rather addicting. I think I could dance well to them. A dance that is somewhat sexy and beautiful? Sounds weird to say that with my own lips, but…since I’m older, I don’t think I can do a cute style. Also, since I lack much physical strength, I cannot do flips or powerful dances.

Something sensual and impressive and with clean movements that is nice to watch, artistic, and people think maybe they could learn on their own. I think these songs might get played a lot and my fans or dancers might do covers of them, which will increase the popularity and spread the songs internationally.

For the music videos and concepts, something bright and fresh for this one and subdued and clean for this one will be good. Since it is summer, this song itself has a bright, refreshing tone especially. This song would be good with clothes in neon colors maybe playing around the beach. This song would be good for a more romantic or cozy feeling like wearing loose white clothes dancing on top of a rooftop on a clear, sunny day. I’d rather it be in natural settings than in some fancy box.

We can shoot two versions, one a dance version and one visual with a sort of story that’s not super easy to figure out but matches with the lyrics and the overall mood. If that’s too much, we could not film the entire song but split it half and half with the music videos which would cut down on budgeting costs. These days, I noticed many companies put out multiple versions of the video and it’s less common to stay in a box. People got sick of it because it’s easy and predictable. It’s called the ‘SM go to’ for music videos.

To set ourselves apart, it would be nice to do things like this. And of all the songs I’ve heard, these two fit me and the summer feeling the best. I instantly liked them. I stared singing and dancing right away. I think they’re really nice.”

Seongwoo watched each individual member’s expression, looking nervous. He was about to say something else. Daniel guessed that he was going to downgrade himself, so he subtly held up a hand to stop him.

The president mouthed, “You did a great job. They’ll approve of it. Trust me.”

Seongwoo attempted to smile but he was wracked with nerves and feeling utterly stupid. He had no idea what he was talking about. He’d thought about it a lot and just gone with what he wanted, but he was no professional nor did he have any experience with this sort of thing. Surely they would think his choice was stupid and ideas amateur.

“Sounds good.”

“I like those ideas.”

“Seems like he knows what he’s talking about.”

“These were my personal favorites.”

“Surely the public and fans would both be pleased.”

“The concept is nice for the summer. Either of these would work.”

“Let’s do both instead of choosing. Since they have different feelings.”

“Can we afford to do both?”

“If it’s a natural place, then we don’t need to spend so much on props and lighting or special effects. We can always recycle designer clothes. He doesn’t need to wear ten outfits.”

“Dance videos aren’t expensive to film either. I think it’s a good idea to make the videos short and have four different versions.”

“One of them can be the title for the album and the other can be the one that gets performed extra the first couple weeks or at concerts.”

“Or we could milk the fans a bit by having a repackaged album a month or two later. It’s not like the beginning of fall would be bad for a fresh, clean sort of concept either.”

“True, we could do that. What do you think, Pres?”

“Hmm, we can work out those details later. We’ll have several more meetings. I’d like us to meet up on a regular basis to check progress and share opinions. That way we won’t have to backtrack to fix something. There will be less chance for errors and regrets. For now, let’s get the song ready.

Lyrics team, Seognwoo said that he wanted to add and change some things. I’d like you to listen to him since he’s interested in poetry. Fans will like it better if he is part of the process. They don’t need to know how much he wrote of the lyrics, just that he helped out. It will be a good experience and I think that he’ll probably show talent in that area.

Recording team, I want Seongwoo to record this week, so get those two songs finalized as soon as possible. Let’s make the songs a little bit less repetitive towards the end. Put in a place where there can be a dance break. I’ll work on choreography for both and start teaching it to him the end of next week if I get it ready.

The design team can start to make plans for the music video or jacket, whichever one you feel like working on. Contact the directors and photographers I’ve written down there as our hopefuls, see if they’re available and take who ever can do the project the soonest. Budget also doesn’t matter, you don’t need to make deals or compare. Start from the top and if they aren’t available until months later than move down. Mark them up so it will be easier to eliminate and contact.

Song team, I’d like this album to have at least four or five songs on it. Consider those two songs and what we have that will go with that. If there isn’t anything in or library, look around for songs elsewhere we can buy or create your own. I know that’s asking for a lot but we have some time for you to work on it so there’s no need to panic. Once you find those songs, we will set a date for the rest and his future schedules.

Schedule team, although we don’t know anything about dates, I’d like you to call every available broadcasting and advertising manager that I’ve listed there. See if there’s anyone who would like to have Seognwoo work together or appear on anything. We need to get him as exposed as possible, as a singer. Shows will be better.

Not just talk shows either. Music related shows and varieties. He’s actually very funny and has a sense for gags. I’d like the world to see that he’s more than a hard worker and handsome face. Variety shows will allow people to see a new side of his charms and he will become more versatile as well as that will get him in the news more often.

It’s all about exposure in areas that he doesn’t usually run in because Fantagio didn’t allow it. We’re going to play smart and show them how idiotic their way of managing a person with star-potential is.

I’ll keep you updated with a list of duties each morning, so please report at the end of each day with details of how it’s going. Do message, call, or come to me if there’s any issue or concern you have. Communication is key, especially with a large project like this.

Let’s go about this with our entire energy and positive attitudes. I’m here if you need someone to talk to or rely on. Though I won’t be in the office. I will likely be in the dance studio all this week. Meeting dismissed.”

The staff members and Seongwoo bowed to each other and said their polite goodbyes. Daniel gathered his stuff and his plastic cup of coffee, standing up to go. He paused when he noticed that Seongwoo was sitting down once more, looking at him with an awed expression and starry eyes, his hands together pressed to his slackened jaw.

“What is it?” Daniel asked, fidgeting with the cup in his hand nervously.

“Nothing…it’s just…”

Seongwoo trailed off, staring at Daniel some more with a strange look. His heart was racing, he wasn’t even sure why. Something about how Daniel had handled that, how business like he sounded, how much thought he’d already put into this album for him—he felt touched and impressed. Also, Daniel had never seemed this cool. It was different from the wedding, from the touring, from the videos he’d seen of the man on stage. Part of it was the fact he was wearing suit but another that he was acting like such a capable boss.

Why did he have so many different levels of cool? Just how much cooler could he get? What couldn’t this man do? Was he always going around being this ridiculously charming and attractive?

“Seongwoo-yah? Hello?” The president lightly rapped his temple with his knuckle, chuckling with amusement. “Anyone home? It’s just…what?”

Seongwoo snapped out of his funk, shaking his head and flushing. “N-nothing. Thank you for that.”

“For what? Doing my job? You should stop thanking me already. I should be the one saying that. For coming to us. You’re going to make us rich.”

Seongwoo bit his lip and shook his head, hands shaking as they quickly gathered his things together. Daniel reached out to help in a much calmer manner. Seongwoo jolted when their hands brushed together. Daniel didn’t immediately take his hand away. Instead he pressed his fingers around the other’s more firmly, ensuring that he didn’t drop the papers he had. As caring and touchy as the first day, the artist noted.

He hated that. And he hated that a part of him loved it and wanted more.

The feeling of Daniel’s touch was so exciting and pleasant. Reminding him of how long it had been since he’d shared in intimacy. Reminding him starkly of how much Daniel was his type.

That naggy feeling came back that he’d been wrestling with, that little devil that whispered ‘why not fool around and enjoy yourself a little bit, he’d probably make a good boyfriend, he’s definitely interested in you.’

He refused to listen to it though. The number one person in the industry that was off limits to him was Kang Daniel. Since he was his boss and he was also one of the most popular people. Just imagining the headlines if they were seen together made him shiver. That was a sure-fire way to become the enemy of the public and lose half of his fans who surely saw him as straight.

He needed to find someone else to fool around with in the meantime and fight his attraction to the president the best he could. Though it was honestly difficult when he looked and acted like that, attacking his senses randomly.

“Hmm? Why are you in a suit, Boss? You never wear a suit. It looks weird but you sure do shape up nicely. Sometimes I forget how handsome you are and that you’re a top-star.”

Jaehwan burst into the room without knocking, making the other to jump away from each other, their eyes breaking contact, both flushing and feeling guilty for some reason. Seongwoo held the papers to his chest while Daniel turned to Jaehwan with a sheepish grin.

He didn’t? Why not? He looks the hottest in a suit though. Ah, come to think of it, he mentioned that I could dress casually and the other day he wasn’t dressed like this. What was that for? Does he have a date later? Or is he meeting someone important?

“I know I don’t usually but I was thinking of something. Other companies have a casual Friday. Why don’t we have a Formal Friday? Wouldn’t that be fun? We should all dress up on Fridays, just a little. It doesn’t have to be suit of course. But if we’re always going in and out wearing sweats and trainers, won’t we look more like a gym than an entertainment company?”

“Ah, you have a point there. I don’t mind it. It seems like it would be fun. It’s just that since you suddenly show up looking as dangerously dashing as you used to on the red carpet for award shows, I thought maybe you were trying to impress someone. Like the newbie.”

Daniel’s eyes widened and then narrowed, his jaw clenching as he grit his teeth. “That’s certainly not the case. Everything I do and think of is for the betterment of the company. I don’t play favorites. Nor do I bother trying to impress someone. I’m far too busy for that. Like some guitarist should be about now.”

Though he was smiling, Seongwoo could tell that he was using it to cover up his irritation. He wondered what made him angry. Was Jaehwan implying that Daniel dressed up in a suit today to impress him?

If that was the case, he was flattered but it also made him uncomfortable. If Daniel kept being so obvious about his interest in him like this, it was going to be difficult for them to work together. Later he was going to have dance lessons with the boss. Suddenly he felt nervous about that instead of excited.

A few minutes before his heart had skipped at the idea of Daniel personally choreographing his songs for real. Because the man was a famous dancer with years of experience. He’d majored in dance and been doing it since he was a teenager. Seongwoo thought his dancing skill was incredible, possibly the greatest of all current artists and he knew that most of his dances were choreographed fully by himself.

However, the reality dropped like a pail of ice water over his head that moment--dancing would mean hours together in private, in a studio, all sweaty and panting, and what if he got touchy showing him moves. Would he be able to survive that? With how much this attraction seemed to grow despite he was doing his best mentally to shove it down? Could he remind himself that Daniel was off limits when Daniel was standing behind him with his hands on his hips? Fuck, just the idea made him all hot, tingly, and tense.

He bowed to Daniel and waved to Jaehwan, muttering, “I’m going to get going then. Excuse me.”

“Good luck, Seongwoo!” Daniel called after a double take, eyes flickering with regret.

“I’ll visit you later, hyung! Fighting!” Jaehwan said brightly. When he turned around, the blonde was glaring at him fiercely.

“You.”

“Yes, Boss?” Jaehwan attempted to play innocent.

Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed. “This brat. Come see me in my office. You need a lecture, I see. A proper one.”

“Ah, I can’t right now, sorry~ I have a dance lesson, you see. Omo, I’m supposed to have been there two minutes ago. I’m late. Gotta go!”

Daniel grabbed the man who was a terrible actor by the collar, dragging him back. “Then why the heck did you come here? Stop being nosy! It’s not at all appreciated. Even though you’re my friend, sometimes I’m tempted to fire you.”

He whined, tugging at the front of the shirt that was choking him.

“I just wanted to see how the meeting went. Seeing you guys getting all ‘oh my god, we touched, what do we do, my heart is racing, I can’t stop blushing’ like the leads in a drama, I have my answer. It seems like it’s going splendidly.”

Daniel scowled as he let him go, not liking that bratty smirk one bit. “No thanks to you. Stop barging in everywhere. You weren’t born in a barn. Freaking learn to knock already! Why should I have to teach a grown man manners? Jesus. Why are you so interested in what is going on with Seongwoo’s album anyway.”

“You missed a part there. It should be ‘my dear Seongwoo.’”

Jaehwan cackled, protecting his butt and running as Daniel attempted to kick him there.

 

 

 

“What do I have to do to keep you quiet, Kim Jaehwan? You obviously want something from me, so that’s why you said that earlier. So, go on and tell me. I’ll listen and consider it.”

Jaehwan sat in front of Daniel’s desk in his office, cackling evilly. Daniel knew that he’d guessed right. He sighed tiredly, sitting back and waiting, slightly anxious.

“It’s simple, really. There’s just one thing I need for you to keep me quiet.”

“Just how many limbs is this going to cost me? I should have never taken you in…” he groaned, rubbing his aching temples. “What was I thinking, knowing your personality as well as I did…”

“Send me to Hawaii.”

“What?! What do you need to go all the way to Hawaii for? You’re in the middle of album preparations! The date is already set. We can’t give you a vacation right now. That’s so far away too!”

“For my jacket shooting. Or for the mv. One of those. You can just change the concept to add some parts form there. It’s not like anything is set in stone yet. I know that much. You’re much slower with my stuff than you have been with Seongwoo hyung.”

“So, you are jealous? Just admit it.”

“I admit it. I was your favorite before Seongwoo came along with his pretty, sparkling self. As much as I like having him here, it’s just not fair to be pushed aside like a used sock.”

“Used—Ugh. You know what. Okay, I get it. I’m sorry you feel that way. Fine, I’ll see what I can do about Hawaii. So will you stop thinking that I’m favoriting him? And NOT say anything that would make it obvious I have a crush on him?” Daniel begged with his eyes because he had too much pride to ask the other cutely.

This was as close to a ‘please’ as he was ever going to get and Jaehwan knew it. The singer smiled smugly and nodded.

“Alright, I accept! It’s gonna be so much fun~ The ocean and parties and the beach.”

“Jaehwan. You’re going there to shoot the music video. Don’t only play.”

Even the president’s stern voice didn’t stop Jaehwan from dancing like a drunk old man at a trot concert.

“I won’t ONLY play, but I’m definitely going to play. All work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy.”

Daniel snickered. “Your English name is going to be Jack then?”

“So what? Cooler than Daniel.” He stuck out his tongue, then clapped his hands. “Oh, I have an idea! What if we shoot me riding on some dolphins—”

Daniel firmly interrupted with both hands palm up. “No! I draw the line at exotic animals. You’re going to make me broke at this rate.”

“Eh~ It’s fine. Once you debut and hyung debuts you’re going to be rolling in cash again. Don’t fret yourself.”

“Whatever. Just get to your schedule already. You’ve got a shoot. The van is downstairs. Your manager just called me.”

The adult man pouted like a toddler. “Hmm, but I was going to have lunch with Minhyunnie hyung first—”

“Nuest has practice in the studio all day. He doesn’t have time to play with you. Just go to your schedule and stop giving me and your manager a headache, Jaehwan, for the love of God!” Daniel snapped, kicking his desk and making it shake.

Jahewan jumped up and bowed formally like he rarely did. He always turned politer and sweeter when Daniel got genuinely angry at him.
“Yes, Boss! I’ll go now! I’ll work hard! I won’t disappoint you! Have a good day, Boss! Hawaii, remember, Hawaii!”

“I remember. I’ll get on it. Just scram already.”

The president flippantly waved his hand, glaring at his computer. When Jaehwan was gone and the door firmly shut, he grabbed the frame that he had of Seongwoo and reclined the chair, holding it above his head. He brushed the other’s blue sweater clad shoulders with a smile stretching across his face.

He’d been stressed and on the verge of raging because of that bratty artist he regretted taking in more times than not. Looking at Seongwoo’s face brought him healing. He recalled earlier in the meeting. How Seongwoo had expressed his opinion so coolly. How adorable he’d looked gazing at him with awe, as if he thought the same of him after giving orders.

“Did I seem cool today, hyung? You like suits, right? Hmm, if you like it when people act like a boss and order others around, I’ll have to do that more often. Well, it’s my job to, you understand. But usually I only act like that in meeting rooms or in the office. Would you like it if I ordered you around? Hmm, maybe that’s your kink?”

He blushed and wiggled his feat, squealing softly. “Ah, what am I thinking? I should cleanse my brain. He seems like such a sweet baby most of the time in real life. Thinking of all those times he gets lost and clumsy.

Why do I keep having naughty thoughts? I’m a devil, really. I can’t help it when you’re so incredibly charming though. Every time I see your face the urge to kiss you gets stronger. How can you be more handsome and adorable in person, really? Ah, sincha, I’m going crazy, how much I like you, how can I possibly keep on hiding it….”

 

 

*thump *thump

The president jumped up, pausing in the middle of kissing the glass frame. A knock had sounded on the door, then it was opened without his permission. Seongwoo poked his head hesitantly in the crack with a shy smile. The president nearly lost his shit.

“Daniel? Are you on the phone? Should I come back later?”

Daniel straightened up, putting the frame on his desk without thinking of what he’d just been doing to it. He smiled broadly, unable to dim the delight spread over his face at the sight of the artist visiting him of his own accord. Seongwoo had yet to come to his office but he remembered it. Somehow he was touched, thinking irrationally ‘aw, hyung remembers something about me and he wants to see me, I’m so uwu right now.’

He swallowed down giggles as he gestured for the other to come in.

“No, I was just talking to myself. It’s my bad habit. You’ll get used to it after I confuse you several times. Like the others have. Sometimes I wander the halls, thinking out loud and people assume I’m talking to them or in the middle of a conversation using blue tooth. Come on in. Did you need something?”

“Ah, well. Not really. I just felt like I should report back since I’m done for the day. I don’t know your email address yet and phone seemed too personal.”

Daniel liked the way that he creeped up to his desk with his sweater-covered hands fidgeting in front of his chest like a nervous meerkat, shoulders hunched as usual, making him look much shorter than he was. Overall, much cuter and shyer than he ever appeared on television. It was a large contrast the actor Seongwoo and the real Seongwoo made, but the reversal charm was appealing.

That’s how Daniel thought. He got shy and awkward in front of strangers and sometimes his fans when he met them at events, Daniel knew. From personal experience even. Since he’d gone to a couple events secretly even after his own debut. He was in Seongwoo’s fan club as well. He got news first and special items and he was able to comment on his posts directly. Seongwoo had even replied back to him twice, short but sweet once and the other time a funny picture of himself.

Daniel leaned on the desk so that he could be closer to him once he took a seat, perched at the end of the chair, hands in his lap. That day he was dressed…and his hair was…

“How did it go?” he asked with a smile.


“I think it went well. It was over quicker than I thought. They taught me how to sing the song. Gave me some advice. I got feedback on my lyrics as well. There’s some things they sent me to think over but it wasn’t bad apparently. That’s a relief.”

Daniel smiled widely, immensely pleased to hear this. Seongwoo’s happiness was his happiness.

“Indeed, it is. Were they nice to you? You have to tell me right away if anyone is harsh or ignoring you. I won’t allow that. Artists should come first and they should be treated with the utmost respect.”

“Well, I think it’s vice versa. An artist who is rude and stubborn doesn’t deserve respect. But yes, they were kind and helpful. They praised me and they were patient with teaching.”

“That’s good to hear. You’ve been singing the past couple hours then? How’s your throat?”

“Hmm…a tiny bit itchy?” Seongwoo put his hand over his throat, lifting up his head which showed off his incredibly sharp jawline.

Daniel bit his cheek and pinched his leg. It was so tempting at that angle. As if he were welcoming him to bite his neck and Daniel suddenly felt like a starving vampire. Thankfully, pinching his leg hard quickly suppressed the heat surging towards his groin. He managed to control his urges. He reached into his drawer and pulled out a box, opening the lid. Inside were various items such as

“This is a kit that our artists use to take care of their throat. Later when you have schedules it’s not so necessary because you won’t be singing more than an hour a day. However, it’s different when you’re in the middle of preparing for an album. You’ll have to practice singing a lot. Plus, recording. When you start to put the dance and song together, things will get rougher as your stamina and condition drops.

The most important thing for a singer to take care of is their voice. It’s their treasure and should be their top priority. Without your voice, practicing is almost useless and recording of course can’t happen. Once your voice gets damaged, we have to halt our progress until you’ve recovered but it takes awhile.

It’s not difficult to manage your voice. Once or twice a day care for your voice with these items. If you feel like your condition is getting worse, than use it three to four times a day and when you sing or talk use a softer voice than normal. Don’t ever strain your cords. If something is too high for you at the moment, then don’t do it and tell others your condition isn’t good.

We’ll adjust or wait. Such as recording, we can do the higher parts later when you’re confident you can do it at your best condition. The other thing that works well is to sleep with a humidifier next to your bed.”

“Ah, is that so? Hmm, I should get one.”

“I’ve taken care of it. When you go home, there will be a box in front of your door.”

Seongwoo was startled. “You know where I live?”

Daniel explained calmly, “You wrote down your address on the documents you signed before. I need to know your address for sending things and for your manager to pick you up and drop you off. You cannot drive by yourself everywhere. It’s dangerous.”

“Is it? Actors aren’t really swarmed with fans.”

“But singers are. Once your fans start seeing you a couple of times a week instead of monthly, they will become greedy. You’re going to get sasaeng fans that will follow you and spread information of your whereabouts. The first place will be where you live. We can’t avoid that or keep you secret.

When they memorize what your car looks like, you will always be swarmed. You could be tired and thinking of other things. You don’t need that added stress or risk to your health. It’s better that there’s an experienced driver and guards to help you deal with this situation.

The artist didn’t seem to believe him fully. “Ah, it’s really different. I can’t imagine it. I mean, I’ve seen some things on TV, but I can’t imagine that happening to me…”

“It will. I guarantee it. Maybe not right away but by the end of this year, that’s how it’s going to be. Who knows, things might have already started to change just because of the fact you’re popping up on the news in relation to me. My fans could be following you around because they’re curious.

It’s better safe than sorry. I’d rather you go around in a van, getting rest or doing what you like to do in the back. I’ll worry about you driving on your own.”

“I’m a good driver, but…well, whatever the boss says goes. I will listen to you and follow your orders, Daniel. You know what you’re talking about.”

Daniel’s shoulders loosened with relief when the artist agreed. He hadn’t realized he was tensed up. He beamed at the other.

“Thank you, Seongwoo. I’m glad that you trust and follow me so readily. It’s nice to have an obedient person working under me for once. Most of my other artists are willful and like to cause me headaches.”

“Even Somi? And Nuest?”

“Well, they have their moments as well. Somi…she’s a ball of energy and very quirky. And the Nuest boys get rowdy and weird. So very weird sometimes. Have you met them yet?”

Seongwoo shook his head with a small frown. “No, not yet.”

“Hmm, seems you want to.”

He could tell even though Seongwoo looked down, trying to put on a poker face. He was interested in meeting the other artists and making friends. Daniel figured he must be lonely. There were a lot of people in Fantagio and he knew that he’d been close to them.

He was closer to guys too though, which worried him. Especially there were some flirty and handsome boys in Nuest. Minhyun was the same age as him and basically a prince. He worried a bit about Seongwoo getting close and falling for them or even just fooling around like he suspected might have happened with some of those hyungs Seongwoo was close to in Fantagio.

Still, he couldn’t let his jealousy or anxiousness get in the way of Seongwoo making friends. It would be hard for him to be alone and he knew that though he wanted Seongwoo to rely on him, the other probably felt burdened or hesitant to since he was his boss. There was nothing he could do to help that. He wasn’t only an artist close to age after all. They had that hierarchy going, that invisible gap he couldn’t so easily breach.

“I’ll set up a company dinner soon after checking their schedules. You can meet everyone there. We’ll have bbq and drink. I’m sure you can get close and make new friends there. They must be curious about the new recruit as well. I hope that you will fit comfortably in our family as quick as possible.”

Seongwoo turned bashful, gnawing on his lower lip. “That…would be nice. But it’s okay. Everyone must be busy…”

“Nonsense. What did I tell you, Seongwoo? If you want something, just let me know and I’ll take care of it. This is something that should be done anyway. It’s not just because of you. It’s a tradition. We have a dinner every time someone new joins. Sometimes we have a company dinner just because. I want everyone to be close-knit like a family.”

“But…aren’t you worried about…incidents? I mean, boys and girls who are attractive getting close and drinking…without a dating clause in their contracts even…”

“Hmm, why would I be worried? I told you that I don’t care about that sort of thing. Everyone can just be human and act on their instincts. If things get awkward with a love triangle or a bad break-up, I expect that they will work it out as they are mature adults.

If there is an issue, then I will talk it out with them personally and try to improve their relationship so that at least they get along professionally without causing disturbance to the staff and proceedings of their next work. Otherwise I don’t interfere. It’s fun to simply sit back and see how things go with certain people.”

“Sounds like some people are already in a relationship then?”

“They might be? I honestly don’t know since they keep things to themselves thus far. I have my suspicions of who is attracted to or has feelings for whom. You can see at the dinner time for yourself. I won’t tell you. It can be a little game. Sit next to me and we’ll make guesses and observe the chaos unfold. Since you don’t like drinking.”

“Well…I could have a glass or two.” Seongwoo looked down at his fiddling fingers, the corner of his lip curving up.

“Seems you might like to drink there, Seognwoo?” Daniel teased, smirking and feeling intrigued. “At the wedding, you sure seemed to like alcohol to me.”

“That’s different. It wasn’t really a work function and it was free. And also, because of…”

“Hmm? Because what?”

“Nevermind. I just had a reason to drink more that night. To change my mood and calm my nerves.”

Mood? Nerves? What was that all about? Had he possibly been in a bad mood before Daniel had joined the table? Or was it that him being at the table made him want to drink? Was it because his presence made him nervous? Why though?

He had been nothing but friendly and approachable. He hadn’t even talked to Seongwoo for several minutes after he’d sat there. Well, he’d wanted to but he’d been getting up the courage to and waiting for an opportunity to make conversation naturally.

He recalled Seongwoo eating, drinking, and being on the phone most of the time, avoiding his gaze and seemingly unaware or uncaring about his appearance there. Was it possible that Seongwoo had been purposefully avoiding him and searching up about him on his phone then? Had he drank a lot to calm his nerves and gather the courage to talk and flirt with him?

“Oh, that’s from my first drama. You were a fan of it? I could have done better. I was so nervous the first few episodes during filming. Didn’t that picture turn out nice, though? The posters look better now that the years have passed. Somehow I look so much younger and happier….”

Daniel almost full out panicked when Seongwoo discovered the frame on his desk. He smiled faintly, looking nostalgic as he held it for a closer look.

“There’s a mark here. It looks like…lips?”

Daniel yanked it away, frantically rubbing a tissue over the frame, blushing furiously. He tried to play things off with a nervous laugh.

“You’re imagining things, Seongwoo! It’s clearly smudges from fingers. I was just moving it a second ago.”

Seongwoo cocked his head, his lips twitching as he attempted to hold back his smile. It was amusing to see Daniel flustered. Once he saw that photo on his desk, Seongwoo realized that Daniel was a bigger fanboy than he’d been letting on. It was pretty serious if he had a photo on his desk and talked to it and even kissed it. He’d be a fool to assume otherwise.

Daniel didn’t just think of him as someone to admire. He had a crush on him, didn’t he? That was…freaking cute. He was flattered and pleased by it. He liked the idea of Daniel having a crush, talking and kissing that photo of him all this time. That he was the ultimate fanboy living out his dream—taking care of him, helping him with his dream, protecting and providing.

He shouldn’t be because that was his boss we’re talking about, who he was going to see a lot of, who he was attracted to and found cool and kind and funny. But he was. The idea that this famous artist outside of the fact he was his boss liked him that much—it wasn’t as troubling to him as it should be.

Seongwoo covered his mouth as a giggle escaped him. Daniel put down the frame and frantically waved his hands, face scarlet and clearly mortified.

“Don’t think anything weird about it! It’s just that your photo gives me motivation and clears my mind! Like healing when I’m stressed. I really liked that drama too. It gives me good vibes. Brings back memories of simpler times. It was a feel good drama and you did well in it. I’m just a normal fan. I don’t do weird things to photos of you, I swear. It’s really just fingerprints!”

Of course he would be embarrassed. He just got caught defiling a picture of his crush. Now his crush knows that he’s hopelessly whipped, enough that he’d seriously create a company to bring him there so he could achieve his dreams. It wasn’t just ‘Seongwoo, do whatever you want’ with this particular fan. He’d put his words into actions.

Seongwoo was grateful for it and it was also incredibly amusing seeing his reactions now that he knew about it. Seeing him pretend that it wasn’t so.

Why even try to hide it, Daniel? It’s been pretty obvious from the beginning. You’re so cute, you know that?

“Alright, Daniel. I understand. It’s normal for fans to have a photo or two.”

“You don’t understand though, clearly! Why are you laughing then?”

“I don’t know. It’s your face I guess. You look really funny when you’re panicking. Your trying so hard to play it off but it’s not really working.”

Daniel groaned, saying dramatically, “Ugh, my life is over. Where is the reset button? Let’s return to ten minutes ago and I’ll hide the photo.”

“Oh, is that what you usually do? Were you planning on hiding it whenever I stopped by? I must have interrupted your make-out time. I’m sorry.”

Seongwoo laughed harder, nearly falling out of the chair. Daniel had his reddened face buried in his arms.

Daniel felt humiliated and continued to insist he never kissed the photo, so Seongwoo promised that he would pretend like he’d never seen it. It wasn’t a secret though since all the others in the company had seen that photo. So, Daniel agreed not to hide it.

 Seongwoo said he didn’t want him to because he didn’t think it was necessary. He’d told Daniel that he didn’t have an issue with him being a fan. He merely hoped that he wouldn’t do something to disappoint him and lose his admiration. Daniel insisted that it wasn’t possible.

 Daniel walked Seongwoo out of the company where a van was waiting to take him back home with a person that could possibly be Seongwoo’s manager someday, though that wasn’t official yet. Daniel planned on only giving him the best yet ugliest married manager they had after thorough deliberation and research into his character and favorite celebrities.

 

Chapter Text

Daniel was in his office late that night, dressed in trainers and a sweaty tank-top. He’d been dancing most of the day, so he hadn’t had time to check his emails. He’d noticed that he’d been sent the daily reports from the teams. He saved Seongwoo’s team reports for last because they were the most exciting. He finished wiping the towel over his damp hair and arms, then gulped down a whole bottle of water at once and tossed it across the room into the trash at the corner perfectly. Sitting down, rubbing his hands together and smiling brightly, he opened his emails.

 

From the producer team: We have nearly completed the song. Seal was nervous since it’s his second time recording but it was better than the last time. He seems to be a really hard-worker. He picks things up quickly and listens well. His voice sounds incredible when he’s relaxed and getting the hang of things. Though he’s clumsier than Jaehwan so be careful of that. We need a new floor speaker because he broke it accidentally. I promised that you wouldn’t be angry, Boss. He seemed pretty shaken up about it. So we couldn’t complete the recording today.

From the President: Aigoo, another clumsy one has joined the fam. Better put bubble wrap around anything breakable before he arrives. You’ve worked hard. I’ll have a replacement in the morning. I will talk to him as well to assure that accidents happen. Well, I’m so used to it after Jaehwan I hardly get angry anymore. Speakers are cheaper to replace than door and wall repairs at least. Hopefully you can finish it up tomorrow or the next day. Just let me know! Keep up the good work! Fighting~

 From the lyrics team: We’ve completed the new lyrics. About 20% of the first song is now Seal’s ideas, 10% of the second. I personally think he’s got some writing talent. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a chance to participate more in the other songs. He’s sensitive and understands poetry and how to rhyme and create imagery with selective words. He’s told me that he has an interest in reading poetry and has a journal. I’ve given him extra homework to write about his feelings and experiences and sights in the journal to show me once a week.

 From the President: I figured. I knew that he has an interest in poetry and I’ve seen some of his random writings. He’s a good storyteller and is good at choosing words and he’s famous for being sensitive. I’m very pleased to hear that he wrote something you approve of. Don’t go easy on him though. In order to grow, he needs constructive criticism. Tell him ways that he can improve and what’s lacking honestly. Just be a bit gentle about it. Don’t want to stump his creativity and make him feel he’s lacking in abilities. Merely give him direction. I think the idea of writing homework will be great, as long as he has an interest in lyrics composition. If he finds it a burden, then you can merely use those as inspiration. Good work today. Have a good rest~

 From the main concept artist: I have attached the files we’ve created for the title concepts. We’re thinking these available locations with these matching looks. The directors that you wanted are available and have expressed interest. Apparently, they know of Seal. Their wives are fans.

 From the President: Of course. Who isn’t a fan of our handsome, talented, good-mannered Seal hehe. Woops, sorry the fanboy slipped out. Trying to reign that in. I’m impressed with your detailed work at this speed. You are the fastest team thus far to have their work completed.

 Tell those directors that we will give them posters with Seal’s signature on it and if their families come on set, they can personally meet him. Set up the budgets and estimated dates next. Then, buy any extra props you would like for the various shoots and add those to your sketches.

 Afterwards, let’s get Seal in for a fitting for the clothes in advance, for the music video and the shoot. You might change your mind once you see how they look on the model and since fashion is very important to his fans, we should change it if it doesn’t meet our satisfaction. Please make our Seal look his absolute best. Nothing ridiculously oversized!

 From the schedulers: Here’s the list of interested parties. The starred ones show great interest and are available anytime. The triangle ones show some interest but they aren’t sure when they will be available. The X ones already have clients so aren’t available or interested at this time. I’ve relayed our number and Seal’s profile for the future to all parties.

 From the President: Very well done! There’s more than I expected. Some large projects. We’ll keep in touch with them later and discuss with Seal what he’d like to do most after showing him a portfolio of their previous works. Thank you for your quick work. Take a rest tomorrow since we’re not in a hurry on this yet and you deserve it.

 From the song team: We’ve found ten possible songs that blend with the overall concept and the two titles. I’ve attached the mp3s and sent them to Seal for review as well. We’ve also been working on contacting various artists to collaborate with. It would be nice to have a couple of rappers but it depends on what song that you would like. If you have recommendations or anyone that you can use your connections with, Boss, please help us out. We’re a bit over our heads since there’s so many potentials but we haven’t worked with rappers all that much.

 From the President: Ah, I see. Thank you for being honest and for trying despite it’s not your field of expertise. I have some hip-hop artists that I like and trust, some that I’m close to. I’ll contact those from AOMG and Fanxy first. It would be nice if we had some big names, like Loco or Zico. It’s better if I talk to them though since we’ve worked together previously. I’m pretty close to them. They might just do a favor for me.

 If that doesn’t work out, I’ll send you a list after some deliberation. We should ask Seal too. If there is some particular artist that he likes to work with. As I know, Seal likes a variety of genres. For now, good work and I’ll take care of the rappers!

 

 

“Hmm, you know what? Maybe I’ll ask him myself. Has he gone home already?”

 Daniel sent the last email, then wandered the company. He found the artist inside the lounge area, watching an episode of his currently running drama. He’d finished filming it just before his contract had ended and now it was airing.

 Daniel saved his dramas to binge watch two or three times a whole week after they ended. He’d seen some clips. Seongwoo had a smaller side part in a historical drama this time. Basically he loved the princess but got gilted even though he was absolutely sweet and perfect. A typical side-character plot.

 He’d gotten good reviews thus far because of how he looked in traditional dress on screen and the way that he spoke his lines was unique so it created some catchy phrases. Daniel had seen on some variety show that people were imitating the way that he spoke and said he was cool.

 He agreed, of course. Seongwoo was cool in every role that he did. He could adapt well to anything and he put his whole soul into each new character, taking on that personality as his own so that you could hardly tell who he was.

 Daniel was learning more and more about the real Seongwoo though. He had cool moments but more often than not he was bubbly, friendly, cute, shy, and slightly awkward. He stiffened, got awkward, hunched and fidgeted nervously, and tried to put on a chic poker face whenever the president came around to check on his work but Daniel had seen how he interacted with others. He was likable and approachable, having gotten close to most he worked with. He loved praise, got excited with his entire body, and smiled often.

 Daniel wanted to spend more time with him to break down his walls and get closer like the rest of the employees were. However, he couldn’t interfere with the progress and he was busy with making choreography on top of running the company and thinking of his own album. He stepped in to bring Seongwoo coffee or vitamins here and there, sometimes delivering lunch to wherever he was at and that entire team.

 Those were his excuses to see him since he felt wrong asking him out in the middle of the afternoon when there was all this work to be done like he truly wished to do. He tried to talk about more personal things but Seongwoo always deflected back to discussing the album and his progress and concerns after a minute.

 Daniel didn’t mind of course hearing how excited he was and giving him advice and encouragement. Still, he hated that abrupt shield of professionalism the other seemed to put up when he tried to chat about other things friends might. It was as if Seongwoo was determined to keep a distance with him, which he hated but grudgingly accepted.

 He figured it was because they were around others. At that moment they were alone. For the first time all week. He wondered if Seongwoo would still act awkward, stiff, nervous, and polite with him now. He slowly approached the other who was curled up without shoes on one of the lounge sofas, arms crossed over his hooded chest as if he were cold, eyes fixed on the TV screen. He was so cute while being into reviewing his performance that he didn’t notice Daniel was sitting on the same spot next to him even a minute after. He stared at the other, fighting back a snicker.

 “Boo!”

 “Ahhhh!”

 Seongwoo nearly fell of the coach he was so shocked. He screamed and shook his feet wildly in the air, slinking back and folding himself up more into the corner with his face and hands looking like the Scream painting. Daniel laughed hard at that.

 He gasped out, “Boss—I mean, Daniel! What are you doing here? You scared the life out of me!”

 Daniel sat back, tossed his arms over the couch and lifted his feet up on the table as if this were his living room.

 “Hmm? What do you mean? This is my company, Seongwoo-yah. I bought and designed this entire building. I can do whatever I want here. Even live here and keep the place open all night if I feel like it. The question I have is what are you still doing here. It’s practically the middle of the night and you have a home of your own.”

 Seongwoo played with his flexible toes he nervously shifted, his face flushed, eyes going to his knees.
The artist murmured, as if he were confession to some crime, “I wanted to watch a drama but I didn’t think I’d be able to make it back home in time.”

 “Was that so? What do you think of it?”

 Seongwoo cutely scrunched his button nose in distaste. “It’s so weird watching myself on the screen. Honestly, I don’t like it. I feel like I turned out awkward this time because of the old language.”

 Daniel mimicked his infamous line in a teasing fashion. Seongwoo scowled and kicked him lightly.

 “Don’t tease me about that! It’s really embarrassing! I could have done better but I had a stomachache that time.”

 “Ah, blessed stomachache then. That line is becoming huge. You’re helping the drama become more popular, Seongwoo. You shouldn’t be embarrassed. I’m not teasing you and they aren’t making fun of you either, I don’t think. People honestly liked the way you said that line. It’s memorable. You made a really boring, predictable character with little screen time quite interesting and unique and memorable. It’s something to be proud of.”

 “I…er, thanks…” Seongwoo continued to twist and bend his toes and looked down once more, a shy, flattered smile creeping up his sculptured face. “That helps…”

 Daniel smiled smugly, chest puffing out. “Glad I can help. Will you stay here long?”

 “Just a little bit…”

 “Do you mind if I stay with you? I happen to like this drama but I haven’t seen this episode yet.”

 Seongwoo’s head popped up, his eyes widening like a deer, then they sank down once more. His ears were pinkening and he chewed his thin lower lip. After a few seconds, he nodded.

 Daniel smirked, inwardly freaking out about how cute and precious he was right now. That poker face really was gone when they were in private, thankfully. He was still awkward and shy but he wasn’t misdirecting their conversation nor was he being overly polite. He’d even called him Daniel instead of Boss, correcting himself for once. The idea made him relieved.

 Daniel slid over, laying his arm casually across the top of Seongwoo’s knees like an arm rest. Seongwoo stared there but didn’t push him off. He looked like he would soon gnaw a hole through his lips and his breathing had turned uneven.

 Daniel himself felt his face heating and heart racing, his arm tingling at the contact. It wasn’t of course the first time he’d touched him all week. He’d been casually touching Seongwoo any chance he could get but Seongwoo seemed as if he was anticipating it. He’d grown much better at dodging and slipping away before Daniel could enjoy more than a couple seconds of subtle contact.

 They stared at the TV for several minutes, watching the drama in silence. During commercial breaks, Daniel would comment about something that he’d learned from the emails, attempting to cover things he needed to talk about mixed with something personal which he figured would make Seongwoo feel good at the same time subtly learn something about the other without it seeming direct.

 He was getting much better at flirting smoothly, his crush not as painfully obvious (though he figured Seongwoo might have guessed already after that photo incident). Seongwoo responded a bit differently when they were alone than he usually did. He smiled and glanced over at him more. He didn’t brush off his arm or hand on his leg. He appeared slightly more relaxed and gave him a longer response. It wasn’t flirty like he wished back but it was a least friendly and he didn’t speak as formally as usual.

 “I heard that you had an incident with a speaker today. What did that speaker do to you that it deserved to die?”

 Seongwoo apologized immediately, face flaming and eyes panicked, “I’m sorry! I just bumped it with my elbow. I can replace it. How much does it cost?”

 “I’ll take care of it. It doesn’t cost all that much. No worries. Accidents happen sometimes. Hopefully you’re not as clumsy as Jaehwan. Then we’ll be fine.”

 “Um, I might be…?”

“Oh no. We should have gotten extra insurance,” the president joked.

 Seongwoo ducked his head in shame, face coral colored. “I’ll be as careful as possible. Any damages that happen to company property, I’ll pay for it.”

 “It’s fine, really. I’m just joking. You’re cute when you get teased.”

 “I’m not cute,” he grumbled, sticking out his bottom lip.

Daniel laughed brightly, having to look away for his sanity but unable to. Well, he’d die a happy death then.

 “You really are though. As cute as an angry squirrel.”

 Seongwoo went to object but Daniel moved on before things could get flustered.

 “I’ve seen that there’s new songs for you to choose from.”

 The brunette slightly nodded, expression relaxing at the change in topic. “I’ve listened to them.”

 “Anything that you fancied?”

 “Hmm, a couple were alright? Sorry, it seems that I’m a little bit pickier than I expected.”

 “That’s a good thing, Seongwoo. You should be picky. This is your album. If you don’t 100% like it, we’ll pass on it or we’ll fix it to suit your tastes. I would like you to go by instinct and not concern so much about what others like. If you aren’t satisfied with it, then it’s as good as a failure. Which ones are you thinking? What was the issue?”

 Seongwoo stared at the TV which he wasn’t currently in, taking some time to gather his thoughts. Daniel simply enjoyed the view (of his crush).

 “I liked the third and fifth ones. But I wish they’d be a bit calmer and groovier. I want to try R&B. That’s my favorite type of music. I would like to add a rapper or two as well. Something like Bruno Mars or Chris Brown or R. Kelly. I like this sort of feeling, those songs. They are nice to listen to. They get you in the mood.”

 In the mood? Why does that sound sensual? Ah, maybe because the fact that many R&B songs are good for sex playlists. Or maybe that’s just my opinion. Surely that wasn’t what he meant. He’s not thinking of sex every other hour like you are. That was simply because he was drunk before. In reality, he’s an innocent, pure seeming ball of fluff it seems. As if he’s never even fooled around with someone. So get your mind out of the gutter, Dan.

 “I like that sort of music too. It’s got soul, it’s sort of sexy but emotional, good to listen to when you’re driving, and it’s great to dance to as well. We can make you some feel good romantic tracks or confession tracks. Something girls will go crazy for because they can picture that you’re serenading them. I haven’t heard them yet but I have an idea what you’re going for, so I’ll work it out with the creators.”

Seongwoo turned with him with those adorable, wide, pure doe eyes again. “Just like that? Are you really sure it’s okay?”

 “Yup, it is. If we don’t go with what you want, it won’t feel like your album and you won’t be satisfied with it. Like I wasn’t on my first. I’d rather you not feel that lingering regret like I did. Every time you hear your song or see your music video later, you will be thinking of what could have been and how it wasn’t what you wanted. I want to make something you love and are proud of. So, what you says goes. Only what you say.”

The brunette went back to fidgeting and chewing, seeming like he wanted to argue. “Hmm, I still think it should be what the experts and the boss says that goes…”

 “Don’t sell yourself short, Seongwoo. You know, if your ideas sucked or were impossible, we would have turned you down flat and pushed you in a more suitable direction. Like we do with Jaehwan. We push him and reject his ideas a lot. Because it’s just strange or old-fashioned or down-right cheesy.

 You are different. You have great ideas and a sense for art and trends. I could tell from your fashion and music recommendations and the performances you did on the survival show that you had talent and taste both. That’s why I trust you. The team has nothing but praise for you and they are becoming to trust you as well.

 Believe me, they aren’t just going along blindly because I told them to follow your lead. We’re taking this album seriously. We all want it to be the best. At the same time, we want you to be involved in it because you see things in a different way and we need that. I’ve heard parts of the songs that you’re working on. I saw your lyrics too. I honestly think it’s way better than what just our team came up with. Several heads are better than one, especially when one is a natural genius.”

 He winked. Seongwoo became flustered, waving his hands in disagreement.

 “Eh, I’m hardly that~ I’m an acting major. I just like listening to music and I danced a bit is all. Music has been a hobby. I haven’t learned anything professionally like everyone else.”

 “Sometimes the best ideas come from those who are not professionally trained. Because they haven’t been forced to think formatically. On some level, those professionals who majored in music think inside of a rigid box. They have boundaries though they might not be aware of it. That invisible box stumps them and it’s the reason why so many songs these days sound the same.

 We need fresh talent who can give us unique ideas. Who haven’t ever learned about the professional box. We need that natural talent and creativity. That’s where you come in. I like people like you because of that. It’s how I am as well. Although I can’t write lyrics well. But it’s how I approach my music and my dancing. I think that is the secret to getting popular quickly. People want something different. Look at what happened with BTS.”

 “I guess you have a point there. I’ll try my best then and I won’t hold back on expressing my ideas. Though I hope that I don’t come off as ignorant…”

 “You won’t~ You really are full of a bunch of worries, aren’t you? This worry-wart~”

 Seongwoo ducked but didn’t dodge his large hand as it covered and fluffed his locks.

 “It’s my bad habit, yeah. I’ve heard I worry too much. In some cases, it works out but other cases it hinders me. I get stressed more than I should.”

 “Hmm, stress isn’t good. How do you usually relieve your stress?”

 “I listen to music and dance randomly. I watch some stupid video that makes me laugh. I go to a café with a nice vibe and write. I go the norebang and sing and shout.”

 “That sounds like it works well. I usually just eat or drink or exercise or dance.”

 “That sounds interesting. So, you get all these calories one day and then another day you lose double that. No wonder you stay fit despite your jelly addiction and eating two bowls of rice.”

 Daniel’s eyes widened. “How did you know about that? I never mentioned anything like that to you. Have you done research on me? Watched shows I was on?”

 “Um…er, no comment.” Seongwoo covered his mouth once he realized what he’d said unconsciously.

 Daniel laughed, feeling ecstatic. “I hope that you become my fan as well. Do I seem so intimidating now?”

 “Hmm, sometimes. When you’re on stage. And when you’re in the meeting room or in a suit. But mostly not so much. You seem like a child or a puppy much of the time. I’m reminded that you’re actually very young, even more than I am.”

 “Ah, do I? I get that a lot. I try to change my image, but it just seems to get more like that.”

 “You don’t need to change it. Isn’t that what makes people like you? That reversal charm. That you are mature and fierce one moment, then a cute baby the next.”

 “Cute baby and fierce, huh? I feel giddy. It’s really nice getting compliments from the king of reversal charms, THE great Ong Seongwoo.”

 “Would you quit that? If you want to give a compliment, do it seriously and without exaggerating. It sounds like you’re being sarcastic.” Seongwoo bumped him with his foot in reprimand.

 Daniel tickled his foot, making him squeal and sink back.

 “I AM serious though. I noticed things working with you this week that I didn’t notice so much as a fan. Maybe that’s because as an actor you don’t have much time to show the public yourself. Compared to singers, your interactions with fans are limited as well as you’re more careful during interviews. Actors simply have a different sort of image to maintain than singers do. They are much cooler and composed usually.

 That must be why you were polite the first times I met you for business. In actuality, your personality is quite different. You’re warm and caring. You smile often. You’re chatty and friendly. You’re clumsy and full of unnecessary worries. You’ve got insecurities but you work hard to cover for them. Overall, the real Seongwoo is more cute than cool and he’s much more likable than most people would think. He’s not the least bit intimidating. He’s rather like a baby who seems to need protection.”

 Seongwoo scrunched up his face, scowling in offense. He looked like he wanted to kick him again but held back because the other was attempting to give him compliments.

 “A baby…You’re more like one…”

 “Eh, I don’t think so. At least I don’t trip over things all the time.”

 Seongwoo smirked as he shot back, “At least I don’t eat two bags of jellies in one sitting and sleep with a Spiderman nightlight.”

 The attack didn’t have the affect the artist desired. The president merely smiled wider, his eyes twinkling with delight and mischief.

 “Oh, so you were watching me on Dangerous Outside the Blankets, huh? Now I see where you know about me. That means you saw my body shirtless, too. Isn’t it irritating that I eat like that, but I’ve got these awesome abs? Lots of male singers hated me for that.”

 Seongwoo turned redder and bit his lip, attempting to put up a poker face in response. Daniel kept watching him instead of the drama, snickering off and on.

 To think he’s taking an interest in me enough to watch shows I’ve been on and he’s seen my body too. Can I think that, Seongwoo baby? Are you starting to crush on me as well?

 I can’t wait to get closer to you. Soon we’re going to be spending hours alone together. Just wait. I’ll make you fall with my various charms and hot body very soon.

 Look at him blushing and trying to pretend like I don’t affect him at all. It’s becoming clear now. You’re just acting when people are around, right? You’re not actually feeling all that uncomfortable with me. Thank god for that. If I keep approaching you when you’re alone, I can crack away at your resolve.

 I’ll bring that flirty, honest, free-spirit version of you back out, this time without alcohol needed. It’s just going to take a bit of time. But I’ve got lots of time after all. All the time in the world. Since you’re under my jurisdiction for the next three years at least. And my plan is already past 20%.

 “I’ve almost completed the choreography. What do you think about learning the first half from tomorrow after your recording is completed?”

 “Hmm, I don’t think I really have a choice about my schedules, Daniel. If you’re willing to teach me, then I’m willing to try. I should warn you though. I seriously haven’t danced in years besides just randomly in my room or some covers when I got bored and saw a video I liked. I’m going to be rusty and my stamina was never any good. I’m also slow at learning choreography and stiff.”

 “That’s fine. Don’t worry about that. I understood what I was getting into before I hired you Seongwoo-yah. I’m fully prepared for it. Actually, patience is my middle name. I’ve taught a lot of people dancing over the years. You at least have the basics down. You don’t forget those fully. It’s ingrained in your bones. I’ll teach you kindly and I won’t jump on you for mistakes. It’s my pretty hard working Seongwoo. How can I possibly scold him?”

 Seongwoo slid around, putting his feet on the floor. They were right next to each other in consequence, though it wasn’t clear if Seongwoo had meant that to happen or not. Daniel instinctively put his arm around his shoulders. To his surprise, Seongwoo shifted so that his head was on Daniel’s shoulder, his sweater covered hands up this mouth, his eyes fixated on the screen.

 His expression was difficult to read but Daniel liked to think that he saw bashfulness there and that he was cuddling up to him for a moment because he felt a small amount of affection for him or that he was allowing himself to loosen his guard a moment. It was incredibly comfortable and natural, more so than the fanboy had ever dreamed possible. Seongwoo fit perfectly under his arm.

 “I’ll try my best not to make you frustrated and disappointed in me. So go easy on me please, Daniel…”

 “Sure, I will. You’re tired, right? You can take a rest here. I’m a good pillow.”

 “Hmm, you are. But I’m not so tired at the moment.”

 “I’ll drive you home once the drama is over then.”

 “You don’t have to.”

 “I do though. I’m in charge of you and I should see that you get home safely. The managers are already gone. It’s quite late, you know. It’s up to me to get our prince home now.”

 Seongwoo relented once his stern boss tone slipped out, nodding slightly. “What about you though? You’re more famous than me.”

 “Eh~ My fans know better than to go crazy. They respect my distance at the company and my home at least. Most of them are older. They don’t camp out for a chance to see me just walking by. They know that I hate that and they don’t want to burden me. I’ve been through a lot of crap, so they’re more careful nowadays not to make me feel stressed out worse. You haven’t seen anyone outside, right?”

 “Well, I did see some fans lingering but I don’t know who they were here for honestly.”

 “Not necessarily me. If there’s anyone doing something suspicious, I’ll call the police to manage them. They aren’t supposed to loiter at all actually. As long as it’s not large groups and they remain quiet and respectful, I usually allow it.”

 “Hopefully my fans will be that respectful…”

 Seeing that he was becoming anxious again, Daniel reassuringly rubbed his arm.

 “I’m sure they will be. Look at how polite and kind you are. They would follow your example. But we will have to see with the newer ones. Especially if you attract a younger crowd once you debut as a singer. Those ones are more troublesome.”

 Seongwoo looked slightly fearful after that, probably picturing horror stories of those sort of fans that shoved and grabbed and caused injury to artists or those sasaeng that slipped into some artist’s homes illegally.

 Daniel rubbed his shoulder some more in comfort, pulling him a smidgen closer. Seongwoo flushed, looking at his hand, his body shivering. Rather than being relieved he seemed anxious, so Daniel stopped after studying his expression. He hadn’t meant to make the other uncomfortable and figured he was pushing their intimacy too much too fast.

 “Don’t worry about that for now. We’re going to make sure you have proper protection just in case there are those sort of difficult or invasive fans. I told you that you are my top priority, did I not?”

 Seongwoo looked at him and then back at the TV. He nodded slowly, pressing his fingertips to his curvy lips as if playing with them calmed his nerves. Daniel smiled warmly, forcing himself from swinging his other arm around and hugging the adorable man close.

 Really, he looks like such a baby like this. The more I crack that cool exterior, the more I like him. He’s just so charming. How not to like someone like this? Not to mention, that gorgeous face! I could simply stare at that for hours and never get bored.

  His expressions are so vivid when that poker face is down. It makes him easier to read. It’s like he’s conflicted between running away from me or snuggling closer, pushing me away or asking me to kiss him.

  You like me a tiny bit, don’t you, Seongwoo? Admit it, you can’t hide it from me forever. I think you are at least clearly attracted to my body and you are hoping that I can cure your loneliness for a moment. You’re actually really affectionate, aren’t you? You’re just pretending that you’re alright being alone. That’s why you snuggled into me as soon as I gave you the opportunity and no one can see us, right?

  Maybe I’m being delusional…

 “I was serous about that. I won’t let anything bad happen to you, ever. You’re only going to walk the flower path and you’re not going to lack in anything. I’ll be sure of it.”

 “Okay…Um, the drama is over…I guess I should go…”

 “I didn’t see the beginning though. Let’s stay and watch the re-run.”

“Hmm? Alright…”

 Seongwoo tried to be subtle but Daniel noticed how he shifted so that his shoulder and legs were pressed up more into him instead of making a move to go. It was as if he were a squirrel burrowing into a leaf for warmth in winter.

Daniel figured that he must wear hoodies all the time partially because he grew cold easily. He recalled that from an interview. Good thing that he was naturally too warm. He couldn’t yet be Seongwoo’s boyfriend or even close friend, but he could become his advisor, his confident as well as his furnace and pillow.

 The warmth and feeling of Daniel’s chest raising and falling steadily gradually lulled Seongwoo to sleep. Daniel watched him sleeping and brushed his hair for the next forty minutes. Drama Seognwoo was nice but the real deal was a hundred times better. He wished that he had the power to stop time.  

 

 

 

“The choreo won’t be ready until tomorrow, hmm…But I miss him…What is his schedule today? Should I pop in…Oh, seems like he’s recording for a side-song.

 Boyeo is it? Ah, that song that Jaehwan made but it’s too sexy for him so it doesn’t work. Seongwoo doing that…Hmm, I should make some choreography for that to shock fans. Dress him in black. I can picture a collar with a long ribbon. Maybe some grinding moves on the floor.

 Omo, could he pull that off? Could I handle watching that even one time? I’d have to teach it to him. Oh, god, wait I--- I need a cold shower. My imagination is way too stimulating.”

 Daniel darted from the studio to the showering area. He washed off his sweat, took care of his problem so that he could think clearly once again, got dressed into his spare clothes which were more stylish than his dance clothes were. After drying his hair halfway, he went to the recording studio. When he came in, the producer bowed and smiled warmly at him. He mouthed for him to keep proceeding as if he weren’t there. He watched from the back. Seongwoo was focused on recording and didn’t notice him.

 “Now I only see you~ Only you. I still see only you. Your sweet voice, even just your appearance is beautiful. My feelings overflow. I’m at ease when I see you for no reason. Just because I see you.”

 The producer pushed a button on the control panel and spoke into the mike clear and kind, “Let’s do that one more time. That was a bit too much power. We want power but keep it soft and sweet. Seductive and romantic. Drag out the end of the notes a bit more.”

 Seongwoo listened with his mouth slackened, then nodded. As he responded, his airy, cheerful voice rang through the studio. “Neh, I understand. I’ll try it.”

 Daniel smiled, stroking his lips. It was fun watching Seongwoo wearing headphones and singing seriously. When he sang, he closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to the round mic and tapped his hands on his legs to keep the beat. When he got really into the emotions or the high notes, he furrowed his brows and shook his head. Somehow the emotion and sounds rang out more.

 The producer played it back, looking over at the president for confirmation. Both of them wore rounded expressions of surprise. Daniel gave him a thumbs up and nodded with a wide grin.

 It sounded terrific, really nice. It had a sensual, romantic sort of mood. It was way better than when Jaehwan had tried to sing it for his last album. They had felt bad for scrapping it because it was such a great song but it just hadn’t suited it’s maker. Boyeo and Seongwoo meeting was like a fish in water.

 “Oh, Boss. Hello.”

 Seongwoo had spotted him finally. He removed his headphones and bowed a couple of times, smiling rather cute and bashful. It seemed like he was surprised and nervous after seeing him appear suddenly but at least he didn’t hate it. If he’d seemed like that, Daniel’s heart would have cracked.

 Daniel motioned for him to slip out for a moment. Seongwoo looked at the producer with hesitation, fiddling with the earphones. The producer told him of course he should do as the boss wanted and that he deserved a break anyway.

 “Hello. What are you doing here, Boss?” Seongwoo asked, bowing and greeting him formally once more, his cheeks lightly flushed and doe eyes wavering with nerves.

 “I just came to check on how things were going. I haven’t seen you record before, come to think of it. I was bored and curious, that’s all. I’m not here to scold you, so relax. And I hate the ‘boss’ word. Just Daniel, please.”

 “S-sure. I forget…” he admitted sheepishly, scratching at his slender, milky collar.

 Daniel got distracted looking there. If he was wearing a shirt under that hoodie then the collar must be very low. That made the nerves in his brain frazzle for a moment.

 “I brought this. You should keep your energy and vitamin intake up. It’s good for your skin as well.”

 The president handed a packet of blueberry extract. Seongwoo took it, smiling wide and looking down at the packet. The tips of their ears turned red.

 He responded meekly, “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.”

 Suddenly, Daniel felt bashful, as if he’d been called out. “It’s nothing. It’s standard. I should take care of all my artists.”

 “Still. It was enough to give me the throat care kit. I’m using it diligently, I promise.”

 “Ah, you are? Well, that’s good to hear. Your voice condition sounded amazing earlier. I think you really nailed the songs or at least the bits that I’ve heard before. You’re a great singer. Your voice is really unique and powerful.”

 "Thank you for saying so. It’s getting better the more I practice. I’m still rusty but at least it’s fun. I missed singing outside of the car or a room.”

 "I’m sure you did. People who are born to be multi entertainers must feel depressed having their talents hidden like that. Sing to your heart’s content here. You can even mess it up if you want to sing longer here. I’m alright with that. Whatever you feel like.”

 “Eh, I couldn’t do that. That would be wasting the team’s time. I will do my best and stay focused in order for the preparations to move as smoothly as possible.”

 The producer was watching their slightly awkward interaction with an interested look, his hand at his mouth as if he were trying to hide the fact he was sneering at them. Daniel figured he must get out of there quickly though he wished that he could have kept watching a few more minutes secretly. It was probably too obvious at the moment that he cared for the other specially.

 This producer worked with all their artists and had been there the longest, so he knew for certain that Daniel rarely came to see how recording was doing. He hardly stepped foot in this room unless it was his turn to record, in fact. Suddenly, he felt mortified and had an urge to slap some sense into himself. Why hadn’t he just watched secretly from outside?

 “That sounds good. You should go ahead and keep on going with that then. Sorry to have bothered you. Tell me how it goes and stop early if his voice is showing strain or he starts getting dizzy.”

 “I will. Though he doesn’t really need his voice for awhile because he’s going to be learning dancing?” the producer commented with an impish look.

 Daniel fumbled, flushing furiously. He looked like such an idiot there forgetting the singer’s schedule right in front of him. A schedule with himself that he’d set up even.

 “Of course I know! I’ll need to talk to him though, so it won’t be good if his voice is gone, that’s all that I meant. We have to count too. I’ll see you tomorrow at the dance studio then. Good luck and goodbye.”

 Seongwoo waved with two hands, bowed 90 degrees, and then waved again, looking as adorable and cheerful as ever. Daniel at first had been annoyed by his inability to be completely casual with him but the switch between formal and casual and how Seongwoo clearly was rather charming. Like he wanted to be casual but he was forcing himself not to be or the opposite, he wasn’t sure sometimes. Being formal was obviously his comfortable habit and he didn’t think that it was appropriate to be casual with Daniel despite that was what he wanted.

 At least his smile was brighter and more sincere as if he were warming up to him. He seemed more comfortable with him gradually, majorly thanks to the previous night. That had been an amazing time. Sharing in conversations and intimacy like close friends.

 “See you tomorrow, Daniel. Have a great day!”

 He smiled sweetly as he slipped out, ears flaming.

 Don’t you know, hyung? Every day has been a great day since you joined us.

Chapter Text

“You got it so far? Let’s go from the top then. This time I won’t do it with you.”

“Neh? N-neh…”

Seongwoo was in trainers, his fluffy hair damp and stuck to his face. They’d been going over the choreography for one of the title tracks, Heartsign, the last two hours. It was sort of fun here and there but also grueling.

At first, Seongwoo was stiff and awkward so Daniel had only taught him the arm and foot movements separately for half of the song. Once he saw that he was picking it up and gathering confidence and getting looser, Daniel taught them to him together. Whenever he got something wrong, the artist would become flustered and frustrated, apologizing and turning strawberry-tinted. Daniel would encourage him and do something silly or crack a joke that would get him laughing.

Occasionally, he would pause to show Seongwoo some simple stretches to keep his muscles from tensing up or getting too sore later. As the other stretched, Daniel would show the steps slowly, counting each one out. Seongwoo just as he’d been during the recording showed that he had an amazing ability to stay focused and that he was serious about work-related things. His eyes were sharp even two hours into their practice.

Even though he was slow in learning choreography and his lines were sloppy and stiff because of how long he’d been out of practice, Daniel saw many things that were promising—like the fact that he didn’t give up, he corrected himself right after he saw his moves were different than Daniel’s, and he had a solid basic foundation. The moves had the potential to look nice. His footwork was especially impressive.

It was clear that Seongwoo was no beginner trainee. If they put him back in lessons, he’d likely be the same level as Samuel in less than a year. No matter how rusty someone’s skills got, it was clear that a natural dancer who received training once never truly forgot the basics.

“You’re doing well, Seongwoo. Don’t be nervous. I’m actually impressed. I thought your skills would be worse than this. In no time your body will be how it originally was. This is just your first day. Don’t be frustrated with yourself. It’s natural that you’d be a bit sloppy and everyone learns choreo at a different place. We’ve got a lot of time as well.

So, what I mean is, don’t stress. Just do your best at your own pace. I want to check how the progress is so far and where we need the most cleaning up. I’m not a fierce teacher, I swear. It’s not like I’m going to snap at you for one mistake like that one trainer before. She was way too strict.”

Seongwoo smiled slightly. “Yeah, she seriously was. I’ve never been more terrified of a girl. I swear she could cut you with invisible lasers from her eyes when you messed up. I’ll try my best then. But I hope that you won’t expect much. I don’t feel like my old self and I’m not confident I’ve got this down yet. I will practice hard though, until I’m no longer nervous and lacking. Even at home or in the street or in the car. Wherever I go.”

Daniel smiled widely. “I like your resolve. People who know their faults and try hard to get better all the time, those are the kind of people that will definitely be successful someday. Just try to be as exact as possible. Do what you remember for sure. I’ll start counting out. Are you ready?”

Seongwoo took a deep breath, then got into the initial pose. He nodded, eyes on the mirror and his handsome face set with determination.

A shiver ran down Daniel’s spine. He really liked that look. It was so fierce and powerful and sexy as hell. Though this was a bright, cheerful, breezy sort of song so they would have to change his expression later. But well, the most important thing now was how his limbs were moving. They’d work on the details later once he was comfortable with the moves and they’d become second nature so that he didn’t have to concentrate so hard. Daniel was more lenient than some other dance teachers would be about this sort of thing since he’d had experience as an artist.

“Good, good! Not bad at all.”

“Oh, thank god. Ugh, that was nerve-wracking.”

Seongwoo collapsed on the ground after dancing for nearly two minutes. He wiped at his face with the back of his hands, huffing and puffing, his shoulders hunched as usual. Daniel came over to him, chuckling softly. He pat his shoulders and then pressed down on the middle of his back. Seongwoo knew what he was doing and obediently bent down, grabbing at his toes. Daniel pressed down on the center of his back.

Seongwoo’s body was too stiff to fold over much and the pain made him grunt and bite down on his lip, his groomed brows folded in pain. Still, he held himself there and stretched the best he could.

Daniel appreciated that. He liked that Seongwoo listened to him so well. It sort of majorly stroked his ego. He also loved the excuse stretching allowed to touch him even subtly. He grabbed his slender wrist and helped him stand up. Seongwoo turned around when Daniel linked their arms together. It was another sort of back stretch. They stood back to back, arms linked around the elbows.

“Ahhh…” Seongwoo cried as he was lifted up into the air, resting on Daniel’s back.

His legs daggled in the air, cutely seeming like he was running in the air. At first, he’d been amazed at how strong and heavy Daniel was. He made this look so easy. When Seongwoo had tried on him he’d nearly flipped over onto their heads.

“Put me down, Daniel,” he whined, feeling terrified and embarrassed more than painful.

Daniel laughed, twirling and bouncing him around instead. He liked to tease Seongwoo this way. He became scared out of his mind and squealed like a little girl. It was adorable.

“Ahh, don’t, put me, down, ahh, it’s scary, stop it!”

Once he did, Seongwoo turned around and lightly swatted him. “Would you stop doing that? It’s terrifying! And we’re not children!”

Daniel snickered, then went to grab some water bottles. “Couldn’t you tell already? I’m basically an overgrown child.”

“I didn’t know that but I’m certainly seeing it. Why you’re nicknamed Kang choding. It’s making more sense by the hour.” Seongwoo rolled his eyes, taking the bottle from him, irritated and frazzled. “I’m not letting you do that next time.”

Daniel took a large swig of water and then wiped his smirking mouth. “You won’t let me? I’d like to see you try to stop me. You’re several kilos too small.”

“Tch. I can stop you if I tried. I’m stronger than I look,” the artist commented coolly, looking away from him as he drank.

Daniel merely laughed. He doubted that. He wouldn’t want the other to be all strong and buffed out anyway. He was cute like this. Slender and fragile and in need of protection and so very soft.”

“Oh, ew! Don’t touch my hair! I’m so sweaty right now. It’s embarrassing,” the brunette complained, ducking and dodging his hand when he ruffled his hair, face shading a deeper shade of pink.

“Eh, look at me. I sweat buckets compared to you. And what’s embarrassing about it? We’re men and it shows how hard we’ve worked.”

Daniel spread out his arms, showing off his shirt which was ninety percent several shades darker. His body was shimmering from the sweat leaking out of his pores. There wasn’t a part of his skin that wasn’t dewy. Seongwoo scrunched up his nose, stubbornly stepping further away and wishing he could hide behind something.

“It’s just gross. Sticky and smelly. I hate sweating.”

Daniel set down their bottles and tossed him a towel to wipe off the disgusting offensive sweat he was griping over, dabbing at his own neck and arms which were fully soaked.

He was tempted to ask about how he managed to have sex then but held his tongue in check at the last minute. “How you dreamed of being a dancer once, I wonder.”

“I try to get what I need done with the minimal amount of sweating. As soon as I’m done, I rush to the shower.”

“There’s a shower here. You can use it. But we’ve got four more hours to go today. I guess you won’t be going out for lunch then.”

Seongwoo scrunched up his button nose at the idea. Daniel loved when he did that. The president smiled in amusement, finding all of the other’s expressions so endearing and entertaining.

“We can order in, then,” he suggested.

Seongwoo smiled gratefully. “That would be much appreciated.”

“What are you craving?”

“Hmm, chicken….but I shouldn’t…”

“Let’s get it then. Half fried half seasoned good for you?”

Seongwoo’s eyes brightened for a moment before he hesitated again, biting on his lower lip in that frustrating sensual habit he had. Daniel couldn’t help but stare hard there for a second. Seongwoo’s lips were so sweet and delicious looking. If he could have a bite, that would make a satisfactory enough lunch and dinner.

“Fried…? Is that really okay?”

It took Daniel a few moments to figure out what he was worried about. He shook his head, forcing his eyes to Seongwoo’s pretty eyes which was much safer for his body than elsewhere. Thankfully, the pants and shirt he was wearing were baggy and Seongwoo couldn’t hear his racing heart from this distance. He smiled innocently.

“Sure, it’s fine. I told you not to worry about dieting. You’re too skinny. Let’s get some fat and meat on your bones.”

“Eh, really. You’re so full of shit.” After he cursed, Seongwoo cutely covered his mouth and bowed. “I’m sorry. That just slipped out. I guess—”

Daniel smiled brightly. “You’re getting more and more comfortable with me. Even cursing in front of me now. Good. Stop thinking of me as your boss. I’m just another artist right now. One with more dancing experience than you, that’s all. We’re only an age apart, in fact. Maybe I can call you hyu—”

“No. Don’t do that. I draw the line at that. There’s still a hierarchy we should keep here. You’re my sunbae and my boss. It’s too strange for you to call me hyung. It doesn’t make sense one bit.”

Daniel pouted, slightly hurt by how cold and firm the other turned as if he were putting up an icy mask along with a thick wall between them. “Aw, can’t I do it a couple times? It’s just us here anyway. Hy—”

“No.”

“Hyun—”

“I said don’t do it. It’s not right. You are my boss and you are also an extremely famous sunbae.”

“But hyung~”

“Yah! I said don’t! Are your ear drums busted?”

Their interactions turned comical as Daniel teased him and Seongwoo chased him around, hitting him with his towel. They both were laughing. Seongwoo’s icy mask slipped once he started to act childish. One time, Daniel took the towel and then started to chase him around, swatting him on the butt with it as Seongwoo squealed and tried to protect himself.

It stopped when Seongwoo tripped over literally nothing and tumbled to the floor. Once Daniel was sure that he wasn’t hurt anywhere after a pat down and spin around with the other practically dying from embarrassment, he burst into laughter so hard that tears came to his eyes.

“Oh my god, what will it take for you to stop laughing and forget about that?” Seongwoo snapped, running his hands through his wet hair in frustration.

Daniel winked at him with a bratty smile on his face. “Let me call you hyung when we’re in the studio then.”

“Ugh. Anything but that.”

Seongwoo groaned, sinking to the floor and burying his red face in his hands.

“Don’t you think we’ve played around a bit much, hyung? I think we should practice with the music now, hyung. Are you ready, hyung?” the president commented with a sweet, playful tone and impish smile.

“Would you at least limit it to once every other minute! Jesus! If I knew my boss was going to be such an infuriating childish brat that loves to see me suffer, I wouldn’t have come here!”

“Okay, I’ll stop. Sorry. You’re just sort of fun to tease. Let’s get back to dancing.”

Daniel tried to be serious again but couldn’t stop his lips from curving up as he went to the stereo to play the completed song from the beginning.

Seongwoo tried to keep up his poker face as they went back to practicing but his curvy lips slid up at the corners each time their eyes met in the mirror. They both had to admit that it was a fun first day of practice and they got along splendidly well.

 

 

The third day of practice in the studio, they switched to practicing the other title song, Don’t Wanna Cry. This choreography Daniel warned was more difficult because of the details and delicacy the moves required.

Seongwoo sat by the mirrors and watched Daniel perform it first. He liked this song the best of the ones that he recorded so far. The choreography was exactly what he’d been imagining but even better. It was more beautiful and sadder and smoother. This was clearly the kind of dance that Daniel was an expert on. It was more like what his major was, modern dance.

He was in awe through the entire thing. When Daniel finished, he clapped enthusiastically, his face slackened.

“Wow, that was so good, Daniel. You’re a really amazing dancer. The public wasn’t exaggerating about their favorite performer. And you came up with that all on your own? Wah. This song’s gonna be daebak. I bet there will be a ton of people wanting to cover it.”

Daniel flushed and smiled shyly at the praise. “Thank you. I personally am proud of this one. I think it’s possibly the best choreo I’ve ever put together.”

“That’s great. I’m glad that my voice and song choice inspired you so. But…can I do it?” Seongwoo appeared unsure when he thought of certain parts. “You know my moves are a lot sharper and jerkier than yours. Because I mostly danced popping…”

“I think you can do it. I’ll help you out. It’s going to look different when you do it anyway. Since our backgrounds and fortes are slightly different. But I think you can pull this off. It will still look great even if it’s not as graceful as what I can do. You’re prettier and more slender than me. So, it will suit you well.

I know that you are delicate with your hand movements. You can focus more of your detail there. And you are very expressive. That’s going to be crucial for this. You have to look really sad and lonely but like you’re fighting from crying.”

“That’s a lot of things to focus on at once.” Seongwoo sighed softly, feeling discouraged and burdened already.

He’d just started getting confident after mastering one dance but now he was back to square one. The initial insecurities and worries came rushing back.

Daniel came over and lightly patted his shoulder, letting his hand linger and slide across his back which made the other shiver and bite on his lip. He stood up, shying away from the president’s hot touch that felt much too good.

Daniel looked at his hand as if it had committed some offense and put it into his pocket. His smile was slightly apologetic but mostly playful. He loved that his touch obviously affected the other because it gave him delusions that Seongwoo might return his affections some day and that he was somewhat attracted to him still.

“You can do it. I made this while thinking of you. I’m a big fan of yours, so trust me. You can pull this off. And it’s going to be really popular, making all the girls even older than you go ‘Wah, Seongwoo oppa, you’re so sexy!’”

Seongwoo snorted and rolled his eyes. “Me, sexy, right.”

“Yeah, that’s right. And I’m sure you know it. Seeing by some of your magazine spreads. I think you’re just being humble.”

“Or maybe I forget.” The artist shrugged. “When I’m modeling, I’m also acting. I make up a character for myself and I go into another zone. I don’t really do that when I’m dancing. I try to think I’m cool or the best, but I don’t really feel like my dancing has ever been sexy.”

Daniel snapped his fingers, startling the brunette.

“That’s where you’re wrong. We’re going to pull people into your fandom by showing that you can be all sorts of things. That you’re versatile with dancing, singing, and expressing yourself with various moods. You can think of the character and start thinking of yourself as sexy before you go on stage. Sexiness is mostly about expressions and confidence anyway. For now, let’s just try to get some moves down.

First, we stand. Then, we walk around like we’re really depressed. Strike a pose that’s sexy. Then we focus on arm movements. The trick is to move big and do it with flair because the song is dramatic. After that, we get into some footwork and the moves become even flashier and quicker while the song is picking up tempo. Then, we have a modern dance solo sequence. Try to move as lightly and gracefully as possible. Express the sadness and desperation to the tips of your fingers even. Then, some more crazy awesome footwork that will look really cool with a bunch of dancers behind you. At the end, we drop down on our knees like were totally heartbroken.”

Daniel counted out the first steps for a minute and before the chorus hit, commenting where he could improve. The moves weren’t complex but they were fast and dramatic and needed to be done delicately with a sentimental feel. It took him an hour to get that part down.

Then, they did it a couple times together with the music. Their eyes watched each other moving side by side through the mirror, staring unnecessarily hard and often smirking in a flirty fashion though it was a sad song. They both couldn’t help but admire each other.

Seongwoo admired the way that Daniel looked when he danced which was powerful and sensual and delicate at different times. Daniel admired the way that the artist looked sweaty and how amazing his proportions were. Sometimes when that happened, the atmosphere became oddly charged. Until Daniel would break the serious moment with a joke or silly dance.

Often, Seongwoo was frustrated with himself and complained at how there was a clear difference in their dance and he’d never be able to get this down the way Daniel wanted it. Rather than being strict, Daniel would point out only where he was doing well and encourage him that he’d get the rest with practice.

After laughing, Seongwoo would feel better and then get right back with a fighting spirit, shouting something like ‘I can do it!’ in a comically loud voice that rang through the studio and made the other laugh.

Thanks to their stretching routines and the constant practice, Seongwoo was becoming less stiff and could recall most of the movements. Daniel left Seongwoo alone to practice by himself, figuring he felt less pressured that way. He went to the other studio to work on the choreography he was making for a different song just in case there was a chance for Seongwoo to be able to perform it.

He couldn’t get the moves off his mind once he’d thought of them, so he decided he’d better strike where the inspiration iron was still hot before the ideas flew out of his mind. He wished he had this many amazing ideas popping up for his own album but figured Seongwoo was his muse that was why. Every time he closed his eyes and listened to the song, pictures of movements popped up clearly in his mind like mushrooms in a rainstorm. He was excited about all the projects that they could create with the versatile artist who was multi-talented and basically a blank slate. He was more of a perfectionist with his own work too that it was hard to make progress on anything.

 

 

“Great job, Seongwoo. Another successful day of practice. I’ve ordered this today.”

“Wah! Chinese food! I’ll eat it in a moment.”

Daniel chuckled, sitting down with the bag of food and leaning against the wall. Seongwoo was busy going over the tutting scene on the floor that was a highlight. Daniel watched him go through it several times and then when he glanced his way for feedback, he nodded in approval.

“You’ve got it down. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. You’re good at tutting thanks to your popping skills.”

Seongwoo beamed, appearing immensely relieved at the praise. He looked so adorable when he was sweaty and delighted like that. Daniel couldn’t get enough of it, so he showered the other in praise more than he might with some others. He couldn’t bring himself to speak harshly to Seongwoo, though honestly he didn’t really need it. Since he was talented and hard-working.

“Yes! Nice! Finally my popping skills come in handy.”

Daniel’s expression turned understanding and apologetic. “I should have put popping in somewhere but I figured that your fans would be expecting that so it would be more exciting to put it in another song later.”

“I don’t mind. I like that I will be able to surprise them. They wouldn’t expect I’d be able to pull off these kinds of dances. I basically only had two styles before. But you’ve put in like ten different kinds here. Styles that I never learned and didn’t think I could possibly pull off. If I can adapt well, I think it will be an impressive shock. It will show people that I’m still an all-rounder and, in fact, I’ve improved over the years. Show them that I haven’t just been acting.”

“That’s the goal. Come here, practice bug. You must be starved. You deserve a hearty meal.”

“I don’t think about it when I’m absorbed in practicing. Now that I stopped and can smell the food, my stomach sounds like there is a tiger living inside. What time is it even?”

Seongwoo sat down, kindly helping Daniel take out the bowl of jjajjang noodles and the plates of fried dumplings and sweet and sour pork. He kept licking his lips, salivating over the delicious smell. Daniel watched with amusement, swallowing a laugh. The man really loved oily, fattening foods. He ate so well that just watching him eat would make the president full.

 

“It’s nine now. You’ve been practicing for three hours now.”

 Seongwoo’s eyes widened. “I have?”

 Daniel picked up a mandu with his chopsticks and handed it to him. Seongwoo looked down at it, smiled shyly, and then took it into his mouth, his pale hand daintily cupping underneath in case some stuffing fell. Daniel smugly as he took the food he fed him and munched happily, humming excitedly at the taste.

 “Yes, you really have. You officially practice harder than any artist in this entire company. I bet you didn’t even see people passing by and stopping to watch you.”

 “Oh…were there some? You too?”

 “Yes, me too. I was doing my own thing but even I take a break every thirty minutes or so. I checked on you a few times.”

 “You could have come in…why would you just stay outside…”

 Seongwoo was clearly embarrassed at the idea of Daniel secretly watching him. The president wondered why that was. Was it that there was something about himself that he wanted to hide? But Daniel couldn’t see why. The Seongwoo that he had seen had been hard-working, focused, sometimes cutely frustrated, but overall cool. You didn’t get much cooler than someone who tried their best to improve, especially even when no-one was patrolling them.

 “Would you rather me stay in the back of the room and stare at you then? Did you miss me so much?” he teased, causing Seongwoo to choke on the noodles he was slurping.

 Black sauce got all over his face. Daniel pat his back and then passed him a tissue to wipe his mouth with, attempting to hold back his snickers.

 “That’s not what I meant! It’s just…embarrassing…”

 “Sorry but I’m not going to forbid people from peeking in or black out the windows, hyung. You’ll just have to deal with some curious or amazed looks. Even if it’s from your nosy boss.”

 Seongwoo’s ears turned red at the intimate word Daniel enjoyed using frequently after he’d been given permission. He poked angrily at some pieces of pork before biting roughly into them. They ate in silence for several minutes, Seongwoo ignoring the fact that Daniel was looking at him but clearly being bothered by it as usual.

 Daniel couldn’t help it even if he’d tried though. Since they’d started spending hours together in the studio, Daniel felt more and more comfortable and fond of the other. He didn’t feel as shy or nervous. He’d come to act like himself. He joked, flirted, touched, smiled like a dork, and stared.

 Seongwoo sometimes seemed to be used to it, other times didn’t seem to mind it or even to like it. Yet there were times like then that he appeared bothered by it, followed by him acting cool and indifferent with his icy mask on. Daniel wanted to tease him about it—it was so obvious that he was holding back while scolding himself ‘that’s your boss, you cannot like him, don’t even think of it, you must resist the sexy cutie charm, don’t you even laugh’.

 He decided though that he’d rather secretly be entertained instead. Seongwoo knew that he liked him but he didn’t know that Daniel knew that the feeling was being returned yet, that he was winning the other over day by day. He didn’t know that Daniel knew that he shivered and heated whenever he touched him. He didn’t know that Daniel caught him staring at his abs whenever he wiped his sweaty forehead with his shirt or at his butt whenever he bent over to get to his water bottle.

 Daniel was good at feigning innocence and appearing clueless while snickering and squealing giddily about it when he was alone. Sometimes he’d tell things to Jaehwan to make him jealous as revenge.

 “You’re such a messy eater,” Daniel teased with a parental tone as he wiped the napkin over the corners of the other’s lips which had sauce on it.

 Seongwoo brushed there with a bashful smile, demurely looking down. “I can get that on my own…”

 “You could but I’d rather do it. It’s my job to care for you, you know.”

 “I know but that’s…a bit much…it’s not necessary…” he muttered.

 “I’ll be the judge of that, hyung. What sort of care is necessary for my most precious artist or not,” Daniel commented, using his chopsticks to put a couple more pieces of meat in Seongwoo’s bowl since that was the best part of the jjajjang and Seongwoo mostly had just noodles he noticed.  

 Seongwoo grunted, glaring at him for the use of ‘hyung’ again. His ears were the color of rubies. Daniel smiled softly at him and gestured for him to eat more, as much as he wanted. If he was still hungry, Seongwoo knew that the boss would order something else for him to eat.

 The president really was such a caring person that it was overwhelming. Seongwoo liked it but at the same time he was worried about it. It was obvious that Daniel was playing favorites and the entire company probably figured out the reason—that Daniel had a crush on him that went way back and was attempting to get into his pants.

 At this rate, Seongwoo was afraid he might be successful. He was on his last nerve attempting to play blind to his own attraction, ignoring how his heart raced and how he craved more of his touch, denying that his boost in happiness was because of Daniel’s praise. He’d always been weak to being cared for and complimented, which Daniel did frequently. He was gradually falling for the other’s charms, finding him very sweet and funny and cute and sexy as the days went on. He’d never like a single guy this much, honestly.

 It usually took much less to get him into bed—but that was if he knew things were going to be temporary and no-strings attached and feelings weren’t involved. He didn’t know that with Daniel. He couldn’t expect that either.

 He kept telling himself to hold back and play cool, that eventually Daniel would get the hint that he wouldn’t let anything happen between them to ruin their professional relationship. That they couldn’t have a physical relationship. That he was strongly against being specially close to him.

 Eventually wasn’t coming soon enough though. Daniel couldn’t take a hint. Or he purposely was refusing to. He was too persistent. The colder that he acted, the harder Daniel seemed to try to warm him up. And he felt bad if the guy thought that he hated him. He was his boss and his mentor and his choreographer and his fan, after all. He couldn’t tell him his feelings honestly or drive him brutally away like he would with others in the past that had been this stubborn or dense.

 Seongwoo was at a loss at what to do in this risky situation. It was terrifying—like he was in a car that he knew was going to crash but unable to turn the steering wheel to swerve to safety. But then there were moments like this where they just relaxed and ate and talked together that felt comfortable and natural. At those times, Seongwoo found that his walls fell on their own naturally. He didn’t think of resisting the president’s affections and he was fully aware of his own growing ones.

 Which was how he’d ended up feeding the president a piece of pork in return. He stared at it in horror when he realized what he’d been about to do and went to put it in his own mouth instead, playing it off. Daniel had seen though. He smiled brightly, catching Seongwoo’s hand and pulling it towards his face.

 “Thank you, hyung. That’s so sweet of you. Hmm~”

 Daniel ate the piece and smiled widely, keeping their hands connected. Seongwoo was mortified and mentally slapping himself.

 Why did you go and stupidly create some domestic moment like you’re his caring boyfriend? You idiot! What if he catches on that you might have feelings, huh? He’ll be twice as flirty and touchy then! How do you expect to possibly resist his flirty approaches if he’s any worse than this?

 He was shocked out of his reverie when a curved piece of hard plastic poked his mouth. Daniel had handed him some water. He took it and drank it, annoyed the way that Daniel casually rested his hand on his leg in the process and how his eyes stuck to his throat. He glared there, ears flaming. Daniel slightly smirked but didn’t remove his hand.

 

 

 “Everyone, this is Seongwoo. This dinner is for him to officially meet each other. Hope you’ll all treat him like family and help him out since he’s new to singing.”

 The gang gathered around two long tables at a BBQ restaurant nearby the company waved and smiled at the pair who’d just arrived. They’d joined the dinner while still in their training gear from their practice time. Daniel had his arm wrapped intimately around Seongwoo’s shoulders. The brunette dressed in an oversized hoodie and sweatpants bowed deeply to each side.

 “Hello! I’m Ong Seongwoo! Not Gong, not Ong, not Hong, but Ong. Ong Seongwoo, that’s me. I have a lot to learn as a new artist and I’m lacking in many ways, but I’ll try my very best. Please take care of me and look upon me prettily!”

 The group clapped and cheered excitedly. Daniel sat down next to Seongwoo in the empty spot at the end of the table, asking the group to introduce themselves quickly while he thought about what to order.

 Seongwoo had a short, slightly awkward conversation with the people he’d never met before. (there were members of Nuest and Pristine, then soloists Samuel, Jaehwan, One, Ailee, and Somi) Luckily, the ever talkative Jaehwan and Samuel acted as a bridge, saying this and that about the artists present and Seongwoo so that they could find some common ground.

As Daniel suspected, the longest amount of time ended up being with the last to be introduced, Hwang Minhyun. Their conversation bothered him. He glared at Jaehwan as Seongwoo and Minhyun who were the same age and had similar hobbies and had even lived in the same town for awhile talked back and forth casually.

 Jaehwan shrugged, mouthing ‘What? He needs friends other than you. Don’t be that sort of possessive guy’. Daniel mouthed back, using the menu to hide himself from Seongwoo’s vision. ‘That’s your crush so why would you sabotage your future relationship by inviting in a rival! You just made them close by telling them all the unnecessary stuff they have in common’. Jaehwan’s face slackened and his skin went pale. It seemed like he hadn’t considered that and once he realized it, he also didn’t like the idea. It wasn’t a good feeling to have your future relationship threatened by a rival.

 “Um, guys, sorry to cut in but what do you think about this set?” Daniel said as breezily as possible, his smile tight. “Seongwoo, what do you think? You’re the guest of honor.”

 He tapped on Seongwoo’s shoulder and showed him the menu. He’d successfully stolen him away from Minhyun for the moment but it was likely not going to be the last time he had to that night. He was relieved but that was tinged with uneasiness and conflict.

  Eh, don’t be like this, Niel. Seongwoo needs new friends. And Minhyun also sort of likes Jaehwan now, right? It seems that they’re growing on each other and Jaehwan said that Minhyun flirts with him on occasion now. There’s nothing to worry about. Don’t be that sort of jealous, super insecure crush.

  You can’t pick and choose his friends just like you shouldn’t monopolize his time as his boss. That’s wrong and it’s also painfully obvious. The kids won’t let you live it down acting like a territorial boyfriend right in front of them. It’s hard but hold it together.

 Seongwoo, on the other hand, was thoroughly enjoying himself. It had been a long time since he’d had a party with new people and it was an honor because he knew of all of these singers. It was weird to think of himself as being in the same group, being a part of a new family. However, they were all working hard to include him.

 The bunch was talkative and lively. There didn’t seem to be bad or awkward relationships between any of them. He mostly watched the clear friends converse and catch up and joke around which was mostly what Daniel did. He didn’t have to worry about grilling meat because the president took care of it, always making sure that he had meat and vegetables to eat. He also did it for everyone on his side of the table like a caring father. He encouraged everyone to eat and drink a lot which they promise that they would try to make his credit card cry this time because they were starved and it had been too long since their last dinner. Daniel seemed slightly uncomfortable, but he didn’t go back on his word and promised that they’d have more dinners.

 “As long as Seongwoo says he’ll attend, right?” Jaehwan teased, then dodged a chopstick flying at his head.

 The group laughed brightly. Seongwoo had his hand over his dropped mouth. It seemed the boss was not as in control of himself when he was drinking. They’d had some beer spiked with soju and a large helping of meat already. Everyone was comfortably buzzed. Seongwoo was possibly the most so since he couldn’t hold his liquor well. Daniel kept asking him if he was alright but Seongwoo insisted that he could drink more.

 “If you don’t want to drink anymore, just say so. It’s fine for you to stop so that you don’t go beyond your limit. Or I’ll drink it for you later if there’s some game and you need to take a soju shot.”

 Seongwoo’s waved his hands, face flushed from the alcohol, his speech slightly stirred. For some reason he couldn’t stop giggling as he observed the others. Especially it was funny to see the ‘couples’ Daniel mentioned interacting together.

 There were Somi and Samuel who cracked lame jokes in English and mimicked comedians. There were Dongho and Minki who were attempting to balance spoons on their noses. Then there were the three that seemed to be in some sort of weird love triangle. Minhyun, Jaehwan, and Jonghyun.

 It seemed like Jonghyun and Minhyun were friends, maybe they had fooled around at some point. They were close and acted caring towards each other. However, Minhyun more so often looked at Jaehwan, frequently teased him, and even embarrassed him by saying these stories that made him out to be a messy, dirty fool. Jaehwan kept leaning on him or hitting him with his face red, whining ‘hyung~’ over and over.

 Minhyun seemed to get a rush out of making fun of him and on occasion would brush Jaehwan’s shoulder or the back of his head affectionately in apology or comfort. It was a confusing situation that Seongwoo couldn’t figure out, but it was also entertaining. The three were so flirty and performed skinship so naturally it was hard to tell who had mutual feelings and were closer in an intimate way.

 After another sip of alcohol, Seongwoo broke into a series of tiny giggles. Minhyun had kissed Jaehwan’s finger which shocked the soloist and made him into a scarlet mandu with the shyest of smiles. It was so obvious that Jaehwan had a huge crush on Minhyun and it was a brand new, alarming side of his friend.

 “Are you sure you’re alright? You seem pretty drunk…”

 “I’m really fine. I can drink more. I’m nowhere near my limit yet.”

 Daniel gave him a look like he didn’t believe him but he was going to let him go this once. He slid down the booth and whispered to him, “Are you at least having fun? Be honest. If it’s no fun we don’t have to attend this sort of thing again.”

 Seongwoo turned to him and smiled wide. “I’m having a lot of fun! I hope I can be close to everyone in this family as well soon. They are a really nice and sociable bunch.”

 “Yeah, they can be brats but they’re good people. I’m glad that they’re taking you in so easily. It shows they have had good upbringings and they’re open-minded. Once you’re close to them, they’ll introduce you to other people in the industry and help you out with the nerves and the troubles. They can be your shoulder to lean on. Well, besides mine. Mine are the biggest and sturdiest. It’s comfy too.”

 For a second, Seongwoo—it was all the alcohol’s fault—leaned his head on Daniel’s shoulder and smiled softly. “Yup, I know. Very comfy and big. I missed this spot, so let me borrow it for a minute.”

 Daniel looked at him in surprise, his face turning pink. He stuttered for a moment, seeming at a loss at what to say. Seongwoo merely watched him with an amused smirk on his face, eyes lazily blinking. Then he sat up and nodded towards the grill.

 “The meat’s burning, Daniel.”

 “Oh, shit!”

 The adorably flustered president hurried to save it while those across the table complained about how he wasn’t doing his job properly and should stop flirting. Daniel flushed deeper, insisting he was simply talking not flirting. His voice was sharp and loud, much too defensive.

 Seongwoo snickered, thinking how funny and cute Daniel was then. It had been worth it to let go of his resolve and initiate a tiny bit of intimacy for a moment. As long as the majority of the table hadn’t noticed. Well, at least if anything happened, he could safely blame it on the alcohol. He could still avoid anyone knowing that he was interested minimally in their boss. He could flirt with him without his feelings being caught onto by the boss as well, since it could just be a drunken habit.

 

 

 They played games once their bellies were full of meat. These games all involved some amount of drinking as punishment. Once Seongwoo said that he figured he shouldn’t drink anymore or he wouldn’t be able to walk straight, Daniel who had a much higher tolerance supposedly volunteered to be his black knight.

 The more the minutes ticked by, the more the soju and beer he’d consumed started to affect the artist. The tipsier he became, the more he took notice of Daniel next to him. How he smelled. How big he was. How handsome he was when he laughed. How cute he was when he lost and turned sulky. How sexy he looked with his low tank-top and unzipped jacket, especially when he tossed his head back to take a shot. How veiny and tan his hands and arms were. How toned and smooth his pecks were.

 His eyes zoned on dangling earrings and a side profile he swore he’d seen before. He held up his hands to cover part of his face, comparing it with someone in his memories.

 “I swear…I’ve seen you before…where was it though…”

 “Neh? What was that?” Daniel leaned in for him to repeat, seeming interested in what he said.

 Seongwoo reached up, spinning and tugging at the dangling silver crosses. “I’ve seen you before. With these earrings. But you wore a mask then. Ah, it was at some kind of event with fans, I’m sure. Why did I just remember that? But it can’t be…”

 “Ah…” Daniel touched his other earring, smiling sheepishly. “Um, actually. We’ve met before. Once. I joined your fan club once and I won a chance to go to a fan event. It was a high touch. I passed by you just a few seconds. I was wearing a mask and a cap so that I wouldn’t be recognized. And I think these earrings? But I don’t remember that clearly. You recognized me? With all those hundreds of fans you met that day? It was a long time ago as well…”

 “Yeah, somehow I did. I guess because not many male fans come to those things. Also, I thought you were…”

 Incredibly handsome with really soft, big hands and sweet eyes. Not to mention so tall and with a rocking bod.

 “…unique. Your styling was interesting. I thought maybe you’re a model.”

 “No, I just wanted to impress, I guess. I dressed nicely that day. I would have taken off my mask but then it was already likely that I would get noticed. Luckily, fans there were mostly focused on you. The few that saw me in photos or videos later assumed it was a Kang Daniel look alike.”

“Wah, you even came to my fan event…You’re even in my fan club…You risked being mobbed and your days as a fanboy being over to meet me once. That’s serious dedication…”

 Daniel laughed, smiling smugly yet slightly embarrassed at how Seongwoo looked incredibly touched. “Yup. When I become a fan of something, I’m serious about it. You were my number one pick. I should support you and see you anyway I can. What does it matter if I’m famous myself? Were you touched?”

 Daniel didn’t seem like he expected what Seongwoo said honestly. “Yes, I am. I’m very touched by this knowledge. What’s your username?”

 Daniel waved his hand. “Eh~ There’s no way that you’d remember my fan café username. There’s over a million people on the fan café now. You get thousands of comments and replies a day.”

 I might know though. Who knows? I’m curious. Tell me what it was.”

 “No, I won’t. It’s embarrassing. You won’t possibly know—”

 “I’ll let you call me hyung as much as you want.”

 “It’s ‘ongcheongie1210’.”

 “Ah…Ah! Ongcheongie one-two-one-oh! I know you!” Seongwoo smacked the table, expression delighted.

 “You can’t possibly! What do you remember me writing?” Daniel appeared both horrified and unable to believe it, nervously laughing and flush deepening.

 Seongwoo merely smirked mysteriously. “It’s a secret. But I do remember some things. And I liked it.”

 Daniel shook his arm and pouted. “What? Why? That’s no fair. No secrets from your boss.”

 “I can have secrets from my fan though. Which is what you are right now.”

 “Hyung~”

 The brunette’s doe eyes expanded into planets. He hissed in panic, “Shh, people will hear you. That only goes for the studio. You still can’t just go around calling me that anywhere. What will people think? They shouldn’t think we’re close.”

 The president resembled a Samoyed puppy tilting his head back and forth with a precious blank expression. “Why?”

 “Because you know why. The reason I told you on my first day.”

 “Ah-ha. Right. The excuse.” The blonde nodded with a bratty smile.

 Seongwoo pouted, slightly stiffening. “It’s not an excuse. It’s the truth. It’s how I’ve lived my life. It’s how I’ve survived without any scandals.”

 “Hmm, well I think you need a chance in the way you live your life because that doesn’t sound like any proper way to live. Who cares if you’re close to your boss? I’m a human. I’m an artist and your fan and your mentor. Why is it that only Jaehwan and Samuel can openly call you that while you play the boss card with me? Sounds like an excuse…”

 Well, you’re not just any boss or any artist. You’re freaking Kang Daniel the great beloved son of the city. Even the idea that we might be friends would set your fans aflame. I’d be the top of the search engines with dating and sexuality rumors. That might hurt my career and my fans as well. I can’t risk that. Of all the people to create even a rumor with, you are the worst possible person. I feel bad about it because you’re so painfully obvious about liking me, but what else can you really expect of me? I have to survive.

 Seongwoo smiled warmly and rubbed the other’s arm to appease him, feeling genuinely bad. Daniel had turned sulky.

 “Sorry that’s just the way it’s got to be. You can do it in the studio. It doesn’t mean that they’re any closer to me anyway.”

 True. Seongwoo had shared more touches and flirty smiles and charged stares with Daniel than he had with them. He had also never fantasized about them or wanted to touch them inappropriately.

 Daniel was closer to him than he even realized. He had a special place the others didn’t. Being called hyung in public was nothing compared to the intimacy they’d had in private or in his mind thus far. Daniel didn’t and shouldn’t know how important he was becoming to him. It would give him hope and confidence which would result in making him all the more difficult to resist. He didn’t want to openly reject him, hurt him, and make their growing friendship awkward.

 “I can’t take it. I’m full and don’t want to drink anymore. Shall we go practice?”

 “Neh? This late?”

 “That was the original plan. You said you wanted to practice at least another hour before going home.”

 “But um…I’m seriously tipsy. Wouldn’t it be useless for me to dance?”

 “Hmm, that might be true. Let’s just go back and loosen up. Dancing randomly is good for sobering up and it’s too early to go home yet. I told the manager to be downstairs between eleven and twelve to get you. It’s nowhere close to that. What do you say?”

 “Hmm…” Seongwoo looked back.

 The others seemed in their own world. They were either drinking more or sloppily talking in pairs. He didn’t see any room for a stranger who was only a bit tipsy and didn’t like drinking to fit in. He’d probably feel left out and bored sitting here watching them. He would rather go dance with Daniel then feel awkward. He was really full and heavy too. He could tell he’d consumed something like 3,000 calories in one sitting and that made him feel gross. He hated more than anything the feeling that he was getting fat.

 The artist finally turned back to Daniel and nodded.

 “Let’s go.”

 “We’ll slip out.”

 "No, I’ll say goodbye properly. It would be rude otherwise. You set up this dinner for me especially. I’m just not so charismatic and sociable that I can stay the center of the room.”

 When they stood up together, the others turned to them, asking where they were going to. Extremely drunk Jaehwan said that ‘practice’ was an excuse for a date. They both appeared mortified and this time the chopstick Daniel tossed landed on his chest. Minhyun laughed, rubbing the spot as Jaehwan fake cried like a drama queen.

 Seongwoo insisted much too strongly that their relationship was strictly professional, watering any sparks of that idea before they could catch fire. Daniel couldn’t help but feel disappointed and comment about it once they got outside on the street.

 “You didn’t have to make it seem like dating me would be so detestable. I’m a catch, not a cockroach. There’s…”

 Seongwoo kicked at a rock on the ground as he admitted softly, “Yeah, you’re right. There’s millions of people who would be willing to date you. But I’m just not one of them. You’re not a bad guy of course. I respect you and I appreciate you being my fan and all your help and I admit that you’re attractive. Objectively so, from a man or a woman’s point of view.”

 Daniel smiled widely at that. That was the first he’d admitted that. He hadn’t expected it. Just hearing that Seongwoo thought he was good looking made his body full of hot hair so he felt as if he were floating.

 “But it’s not just you. I don’t date. Period. Anyone. Especially I wouldn’t date some super famous star. I’d be crazy to. It would be career suicide. Your fans would slaughter me. The reporters would slander me.”

 “Eh~ I’m sure they wouldn’t. They’d get over it after awhile. If they leave because of something like that, well who needs those kind of shallow, close-minded, homophobic fans. They don’t own me. They should support me for my music not because they want to date me. I think that there would be many international fans around the world who would support us as a couple. They would think we’d look good together. You know, Korea is becoming more progressive so--”

 Daniel stopped, mentally slapping himself. He was getting way too ahead of himself. It was as if he were promoting himself as Seongwoo’s official boyfriend, which he hadn’t planned. He hated how sometimes alcohol made his lips flappy.

 “Anyway, I’m not asking you to date me. I was just a little offended the way that you talked back there like I’m slime. But it’s fine. I understand where you’re coming from. You just don’t like the idea of rumors and appearing like I’m favoriting you.

 I’ll be more careful. So, don’t go all Jack Frost on me after we just started getting close. I’ll be clear in the future that we’re not in any sort of special relationship, especially if some weird rumor gets to the press. Jaehwan gets so obnoxious when he’s drunk. Just ignore it. Everyone else does. They probably won’t remember anything that happened tonight from the middle point on anyway. Hmm, Seongwoo-yah? Hyung?”

 Seongwoo sighed, stopping when he felt Daniel’s arm on his elbow. He smiled as he gently pulled his hand off, letting it drop to his side.

 “Alright. I’m sorry. I think I was over-sensitive there. That’s probably because I’m tipsy. Of course Jaehwan was just joking because he knows you’re my fan. I took it too seriously. I didn’t mean to insult you. You are a completely dateable person that anyone would be honored for you to have an interest in them. I wasn’t trying to put up a wall between us if that’s what you thought. I’m not upset anymore. Let’s just go dance and loosen up. My mood will be better then.”

 Daniel wanted to say that Seongwoo was being a hypocrite. He’d clearly put up a wall between them when he felt like people were noticing that they were being flirty and talkative and assumed they had some sort of intimate relationship going on. It wasn’t the first time even. He wouldn’t even let the implication as joke rest. He had to knock it down brutally as well as Daniel’s subtle advances, like any other time.

 It seemed over the last several days like he knew of his feelings and was trying to turn him down subtly. But Daniel wasn’t going to let him do that. He’d let him think it worked. But he wasn’t going to give up so easily. Because he had a feeling that Seongwoo was interested in him but fighting it.

 He could just see it in his eyes here and there, especially earlier the way he’d been staring at him while he was playing the game and he’d seen a softness come to his eyes when he’d found out that they’d met at a fan event before. He’d realized how dedicated Daniel was and he’d clearly recalled some of the nicer things that he’d said to him.

 Daniel couldn’t remember but he was afraid that he’d recalled the really cheesy romantic lines or the poetry he’d attempted before. Sometimes he’d even expressed his love through song lyrics, which made him delusional when later Seongwoo recommended that very song and said he liked those particular lyrics.

 Now he was becoming even more delusional. Could Seongwoo really remember what he’d written? Had he liked it? Had it ever made his struggles easier to deal with? Had he been able to give him encouragement and show his love? Was he found out even more so now?

 The idea made him flushed on top of the heat from being tipsy.  

 Somehow Daniel felt bad for ruining the mood. He shouldn’t have acted sulky. He shouldn’t had even brought up his complaint. He knew where Seongwoo was coming from and how he worried about company related scandals. The artist had told him from the first day he’d been in the company, as if he were drawing a line between them.

 Seongwoo didn’t mind so much being close to Daniel, but he certainly would be uncomfortable by people suggesting they were less than employer and employee. He should have respected that and expected that and just let it go. Anyway, what mattered more was how they acted when they weren’t in public. Which the fact was that Seongwoo’s icy walls were either slipping or being melted down bit by bit and he should think positively about that.

 The president had made more progress with his crush than he even hoped. He’d gained the right to call Seongwoo hyung whenever he wanted as long as it was in private as well as Seongwoo gave him certain looks here and there that were sometimes sweet, other times flirty. Plus, he didn’t brush him off as much when he touched him. He’d even initiated touches first on a couple of occasions which had been delightful, so much so that he’d had to go to his office for a moment to fanboy squeal and jump around before returning to work with his usual composure.

 

 

 In order to improve the mood and change up their slightly awkward atmosphere, Daniel turned on a random playlist of funky songs once they were in the studio. They had a dance battle but they didn’t do it so seriously. They did the silliest, most difficult and random dance moves they could think of, trying to have the other repeat it and laughing hard throughout the next hour.

 Like that, they danced off a large amount of the alcohol in their systems and nearly bust their gut laughing hard. The mood then was completely different then before they started. They felt comfortable around each other like a pair of close friends, there wasn’t a hint of awkwardness. Dance had truly been the key. Maybe because they’d both started out as dancers and that was the best way for them to communicate and release stress.

 They laid on the floor for a bit with wet towels on their sweaty foreheads, giggling each time they looked over at each other, panting from the work-out. Their hands were bumping back to back on the cool floor but Seongwoo didn’t seem like he minded it. He didn’t shy away though he could have easily moved his hand a couple inches away up against his thigh. Daniel subtly wiggled his hand so that their knuckles brushed, relishing in the stolen contact, taking advantage of the situation subtly. Stealing skinship with Seongwoo was the highlight of his day.

 “What were you working on earlier today?” the brunette asked lightly.

 “Oh…I was working on a side song of yours. I didn’t discuss it with anyone but I got this idea for a dance for it. Of course, I’m not going to force you to learn it or promote it. Just, if you happen to like the song and the dance, then maybe I thought you could perform it at a fan meeting later.”

 “Oh, I’m curious. What song is it?”

 Seongwoo currently had three side songs picked out, two of which he’d fully recorded.

 He wasn’t sure why, but the blonde felt shy as he admitted, “It’s Boyeo…”

 “Oh, that one. I happen to like that one. It’s my favorite side song so far.”

 “Yeah, it’s mine too. It’s a special one. Jaehwan really outdid himself with it. He was so bummed when we took it off his last album and when he finds out that we’ve gifted it to you, I’m not sure how he will feel about it. I’ll persuade him though once it’s complete and we can show him how amazing it is. It’s perfect for you. That’s totally your song now. Once he hears you singing it, he’ll give in. It’s like you’re destined for that track. I wouldn’t dream of giving it to anyone else after hearing you sing it.”

 Seongwoo flushed, chewing on his lip and turning to look up at the ceiling. “Is it? I don’t know about that but thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m glad that it turned out well. Hopefully the fans will like it.”

 Daniel snickered. “Oh, they will. They’re going to like it so much that they’ll faint when they see the dance that I made for it.”

 “Can you show me?”

 “Eh? No, it’s not finished yet.”

 “Just show me a preview. Please?”

 “I shouldn’t. It’s embarrassing…” Daniel covered his face and burst out into nervous laughter.

 Seongwoo looked over at him, chuckling and looking even more curious than ever. “Just what could it have been that it’s embarrassing for you to show? I’m sure it’s something sensual but I hope you didn’t put in stripping and pole dancing.”

 “Oh, not a bad idea. Maybe in the second half—”

 “Yah, don’t you even think of it, Daniel! I’ll kill you!” Seongwoo snapped, slapping him on the chest.

 Daniel groaned and then chuckled as he sat up, subtly gliding his hand along the other’s dainty arm and basking in the light tremble that followed. He set aside the towel and looked down at the flushed other with a smirk.

 “Shall I really show you? And you’ll promise to hold back judgement? It’s no where near perfected yet.”

 The artist sat up, nodding eagerly. “Yes, please. I really am curious. I can’t picture this song having choreography since it’s not so up-tempo. Just show me the main point that is the most done.”

 “Okay. You asked for it. Ugh, it’s embarrassing though. How am I gonna do this?”

 Daniel jumped up and paced, running his hands through his hair. When he convinced himself that he could do this because he was still tipsy, he played the song from his phone hooked up to the speaker and showed the rough choreography that he had, using the ribbon that he had in his pocket to practice with. Seongwoo watched with his knees bent up to his chest and his hand over his mouth, his eyes widened and his face pinkening.

 “No way can I do that…that’s so sexy…that’s risqué! What’s the difference between that and stripping? You’re just missing the pole!” he accused in horror.

 Daniel laughed awkwardly as he turned the music off and shut down. The ribbon around his neck dangled.

 “Is it that erotic?”

 “Yes! You’re humping the floor and touching yourself and just how many dirty waves are in that song? There’s no freaking way I could do that.”

 “Why not? I keep telling you, you can pull off a sexy vibe if you try. I’m sure of it. This will suit you if you just have confidence and we put you in all black with a devilish sort of sultry look with your styled hair up off your face and dark, thick liner on. It’s going to be wild. Your fans will faint or suffer gigantic nosebleeds. It’s Ong Seongwoo like they’ve never seen, the fuckboy devil version. The man they want to hump them in their dreams.”

 Seognwoo shook his head and hands frantically, his face flaming at Daniel’s crude, descriptive language. “I can’t do that! It’s impossible. If I just try one wave while grabbing that ribbon like I’m some sort of dog, then I’m going to burst out laughing. No way could I do that seriously. You got the wrong guy. I can’t dance erotically like that. Not seriously. You should just take that choreograph for yourself. I mean, it’s gold. You’re famous for being sexy. But for me—”

 “Eh, hyung. Stop you’re whining. Don’t judge like I said. One, it’s not finished. I can still adjust it to fit something you’re more comfortable with. Two, you haven’t even tried it. At least attempt the choreo before you insist it doesn’t suit you.”

 “Usually you’re right but sometimes when you just know you know, Daniel. Like with a pair of jeans. You can just see it’s too big for your flat ass. Well, not like you have that problem. Wait, that sounds like I’ve looked at your ass, but I never did. I swear I didn’t. And--oh my god, I must still be drunk. Shut up, Ong Seongwoo!”

 The rambling, flustered cutie slapped his mouth. Daniel laughed, grabbing his wrist and forcing him up. He knew but he chose not to comment about the moments he’d caught the other staring at his ass.

 “Let’s just try it, hyung.”

 “Daniel, no! I really can’t be sexy. You’ll see. I’ll just end up laughing the whole time,” Seongwoo complained and attempted to fight him off as the blonde wrapped the ribbon around his neck, sticking the end through the silver ring that rested on the center of his neck. He smirked as he tugged at it.

 “How does it feel?”

 The brunette looking at the ground muttered, “Like I just jumped into someone’s SM fantasies. Jeez, where did you even come up with this perverted idea?”

 Seognwoo flushed deeper than he’d ever seen and couldn’t look at Daniel straight in the face. The collar was extremely becoming on him. It was sensual and hot. Daniel kind of wanted to tug on it and force him closer but he resisted thankfully. He put ‘kitty’ Seongwoo’s hand around the black ribbon and showed him how to move with it, pulling it to one side, dropping his hips low as he spread his legs, performing a slow full body wave like the collar being pulled sent electricity through his body.

 “Now we do the part where we drop to the floor.”

 Seongwoo was mortified and reluctant. He whined, “Oh, come on, Daniel. That’s enough really. I can’t—”

 Daniel turned firm then, wanting to see Seongwoo attempt the whole thing. For science purposes.

 “Hyung, just do it. I’m not going to let you go home until you try it. You want to sleep here?”

 “Ugh, fine. For the sake of my poor weak back, I guess I must.”

 He groaned and sighed dramatically before following Daniel, dropping to his knees. They were both facing the mirror. Daniel explained how to lean back and slowly slide his hand down his chest, onto his thigh. Seongwoo saw it incorrectly or he was into the move—he went straight down over his crotch, which was hot. Until he lost his balance and fell over, howling in pain.

 “Ah! My legs! Save me! Ah, it hurts! I got a cramp! Daniel, get me up, please!”

 Daniel laughed, teasing him about how inflexible and weak his old man body was, righting and helping him into the cat position. He rubbed the cramp out of his legs, noticing they were slender and shapely and firm.

 “That’s not how you do it. You went too far back and you weren’t putting the pressure in the right place. You need to increase your core strength, using the power of your abs.”

 “I don’t have chocolate abs like you do, excuse me. I was born a noodle and I will stay a noodle.”

 “Eh, there you go again. There’s nothing you can’t do, hyung. You don’t need actual abs. You have muscles even if they can’t be seen there. I’ll show you how to do it. Lie down on my hand.”

 Seongwoo pouted at him with sad kitten eyes through the mirror. With that collar, it was both cute and alluring. “Do I have to?”

 “Yes, you do. Lie back. Trust me. I won’t let you fall.”

 He sighed and then did so, closing his eyes tight out of fear which was unnecessary. Daniel caught his back and held him steady, slowly dropping him back to the angle that was proper.

 “Now try and hold this for a minute as I let go. Focus on tensing your thighs and core.”

 He made it to forty seconds before he collapsed again, grabbing at Daniel’s shirt in panic. That threw the other off balance. They fell back to the floor, Daniel tumbling over him. He luckily put his hands on the floor to catch himself before he crushed the other. For a second they laid there, their faces a mere inch apart, expressions startled, their hearts racing and sweet breath mingling.

 Daniel smiled softly. “Seems we need to work on that. Maybe this choreography is to difficult for you. You’re going to sprain your back at this rate…Hyung? Why are you looking at me like that?”

 Seongwoo’s eyes were dark and flickering all over his face. He didn’t seem to be fully present and his emotions were chaotic. Daniel flushed, his heart racing harder, and he gulped. It was disconcerting to be stared at so intensely from this close. He wasn’t sure what he should do or if he were misreading the signs the other seemed to be sending him. He didn’t think it was a good idea though to take advantage of his crush when he was tipsy. If he was going to kiss him, it shouldn’t be in the spur of the moment when they’re under the influence. Seongwoo would regret it and things would become awkward from the moment the kiss stopped—there was a good chance of that.

 He went to pull away but Seongwoo’s hands moved to his neck, linking behind and pulling him down. He was hanging up off the floor, bringing his pretty face a centimeter away from Daniel.

 Time stood still. Daniel looked at the other with shock and hope while Seongwoo looked at him with this wild, conflicted sort of look, his eyes hooded and dazed, full of desire. A second later, his gorgeous eyes closed and his face moved in closer.

 Then their lips were brushing, firm and hot and sweet together. Seongwoo kissed him three times one way and then turned his head to kiss him three times the other, slow, curious, and steamy. Daniel’s hands slid down until he was on his elbows, one hand buried in Sesongwoo’s hair and the other resting gently on his cheek. Seongwoo’s hands went into his hair and pulled him closer after the sixth kiss, pressing his chest up against him.

 Their breaths were shaky, their mouths warm and silky, their skin hot and tingly, their nerves on fire, their brains hazy, their hearts pounding against their ribs. All sense of reason was gone. In that moment, all they could feel were incredible sensations. Their chemistry when they kissed was skyrocketing. They hadn’t even gotten to tongue action but their kisses were the most arousing and well-matched ever as if they were dance partners of ten years. They couldn’t get enough of each other. They were drunk off the intimacy.

 They kissed longer and harder, letting their lips part, slide, and caress each other over every part until their lips were swollen. Then, Daniel despite he was nervous took the boldest action. He dared to press his tongue out to the center of Seongwoo’s bottom lip, sliding it down to the corner and then around to the other side.

 Seongwoo dug his fingers harder into his hair and a husky groan slipped out of his mouth, music to Daniel’s ears. He inhaled sharply and then his lips parted for more, his eyes the blonde saw pleading for more.

 Seongwoo wanted to play and Daniel felt the same. He’d wanted to play with Seongwoo like this for years. Thanks to alcohol and some difficult choreography he’d finally gotten the chance. He didn’t know what was going to happen after today with their relationship but at the moment he couldn’t resist taking things a step further since it was one of his dreams. At that moment, risking them being awkward and Seongwoo tossing up a thicker wall of ice between them from the next day on strangely seemed worth it. At least for several moments all the walls were down and the pretty, sensual man was willing to act on their mutual attraction.

 Whether this causes me hell afterwards, I want to spend a minute or two in heaven. This is an insanely bad idea but I’m going for it.

 He cautiously darted his tongue in which was met with the sweet pointy tip of Seongwoo’s. He seemed surer of what he was doing and of what he wanted than Daniel was. He flicked Daniel’s tongue boldly in an encouraging manner, spreading his mouth open more. Daniel delved his tongue in deeper, swirling it around. Seongwoo moaned sweetly, rubbing their tongues together more firmly, lightly sucking it in deeper.

 A groan of pleasure slipped out of the president’s throat, surprising the owner with how thick and desperate it sounded. He would have been embarrassed but the way Seongwoo’s tongue moved more enthusiastically and how his hand moved to scratch at his shoulders under his jacket, it seemed that it had made the other more excited.

 They slowly explored each other’s mouths, barely curbing their passion and keeping their hands in mostly appropriate places, letting the boiling passion bubble slowly but not spill over, soft moans mixing amongst the sounds of smacking and slurping and shaky inhales and exhales.

 I should stop before things get out of hand even more, Daniel thought several times but each time the impassioned Seongwoo sensed he was about to pull off, he would pull his head down and move his tongue more enticingly, convincing him to stay. The singer when he was warmed up and taken over by his inhibition was such a fantastic kisser Daniel really couldn’t bring himself to stay off for more than a couple of seconds.

 Some part of Seongwoo knew that what he was doing was unreasonable and a terrible idea but he blatantly ignored it. The alcohol and the events of the night and the things that he’d found out about Daniel all combined, making him all the more irresistible compared to usual. A string in him snapped and the short, thin wall he’d been forcing up to block his feelings and attraction, brittle as it was, between them came crumbling down without any certainty of being repairable anytime soon.

 Every time that he thought he shouldn’t be making out with his boss, Daniel would moan or stroke his tongue in just the right way. As if they’d already kissed a thousand times and he had his sweet spots memorized. Then his mind would cloud over, strangling reason and tossing it out of his ear. Making him think ‘oh, fuck it, this is too hot to stop’.

Chapter Text

“Let’s see it from the top then, shall we? When you’re ready, Seongwoo.”

 Seongwoo’s throat was parched, his heart racing, and his body trembling from nerves. He wasn’t sure if it was more from the intimidating group sitting in chairs lined up along the studio wall to watch him perform or if it was from his charismatic, even more intimidating boss.

 Daniel looked sexier than he’d ever seen him. Dressed in all black, his sweater fitting his stacked body firmly, his blonde hair styled elegantly in waves off his face, his expression sharp and intense. It was the first time that he’d been in Daniel’s presence since their kissing incident a week ago. That was his own fault though so he shouldn’t miss him or be affected by this. He was the one that pushed the boss to avoid and act cold with him. He hated himself for that, for having this twisted personality. When he wanted something, he pushed it away.

 “Let’s pretend that never happened. I’ll practice on my own for awhile. I think we need some place. We’ve been spending too much time together for employees. You should focus on your own album or other artists now. I can get lunch and practice on my own. If I need something, I’ll go seek you out. For now, I’d prefer not to see you.

   This happened because of me. I need some time to cool off. I’m sorry if I sent you mixed signals. Just think of it as the cause of the alcohol and my own loneliness. It won’t happen again. I hope that we can maintain our professional relationship. Strictly professional. Without hard feelings.”

 To his surprise and slight disappointment, Daniel had listened to his words. Too well. He had agreed without a single hint of reluctance or hesitation, seeming even as if he’d been prepared to hear that. Things had drastically changed between them since.

 Seongwoo had only ever seen him in the meeting room once and the hallway by chance twice. When he’d seen him, the blonde who was usually smiling and flirting with him maintained a distance, kept his face serious and stiff, and barely said a word to him. Just like now, he merely stared intensely at him with these complex, deeply emotional eyes.

 Seongwoo felt like if he stared back long enough, he could understand but he was afraid to. He didn’t wish to be tempted further or break his resolve again. He somehow hadn’t expected Daniel to back off so easily. It slightly hurt.

 Did he respect him that much or had ne never really meant that much to the CEO in the first place? Maybe he had simply been a target and he was being nice to get into his pants but now that he’d rejected him, the man was showing his true colors.

 Seongwoo hated to admit it but he missed that person that would greet him with an excited, huge puppy smile and pop up wherever he was working with treats and encouargement. Why couldn’t he have Daniel as a friend without the attraction part? Why had he stupidly kissed him and ruined everything that had been going well?

 He spent the week missing Daniel and regretting his actions and his words. To get his mind off Daniel as much as possible, he stayed long hours in the practice room, repeteadly dancing and singing the same two songs until he became exhausted. Sometimes he even fell asleep on the floor. As a result, he had some confidence that he was ready for the music video. Or he thought he had until Daniel and others were there with their work mode on, ready to judge him as cut-throat and unbiased as possible.

 “Are you going to be ready any time soon? If not, I’ll go to the bathroom…”

 The man that got up sat down when he got a firm look not to do so from the president. Daniel turned to the hesitating artist fidgeting with his fingers. All it took was one soft smile and warm look in those amber eyes for Seongwoo to melt and relax. His face flushed and a smile crept up on his face as well, which he shyly hid by bending his head down.

 “Take as much time as you need. It must be nerve-wracking. Part of being an artist is getting feedback both positive and critically. That will allow you to grow. Think of it as a necessary experience to go through. Do as you do in practice. Think of us as your audience. Make us fall in love with you by the end of the song. I’m sure you can do well.”

 “Thank you, Boss. Your advice and encouragement means a lot to me.”

 Seongwoo bowed deeply to the president, coming back up with a wider smile and much less tension in his shoulders. Daniel nodded, charming eyes showing approval and affection. Seongwoo hated that his heart could so easily flutter up into his throat like that. Daniel affected his mood so effortlessly. The nagging feeling rose up again to pester him—that he must like his boss more than he thought.

 Seongwoo bit his lip, looking down shyly at his thumbs and face heating for a moment. Then, he attempted mind control on himself.

 This isn’t the time or place to think of that. Daniel is not your crush your fighting feelings for now. He’s not someone who looks at you like you’re a national treasure he wants to polish all night or you had a hot make-out with session either. He’s simply your boss here to inspect how you’ve been doing your homework digesting the song.

   You have a whole room of people to impress and you can’t afford to make a fool of yourself. No distractions, no matter how attractive. Only think about the performance at the moment. Show what you’ve practiced until now.

 Seongwoo motioned for the music to be turned on and then got into the beginning pose for Heartsign first. He did his best to dance with a fresh, cheerful vibe, thinking he must be as ‘breezy’ as possible. He made his high notes refreshing and his movements full of snapping energy and his expressions vibrant and youthful. He filled his head with positive thoughts so that he could overflow with confidence and seem like he was having the time of his life.

 While performing, he was sure to make eye contact with each person sitting in front of him in turn. He knew that he’d done well when there were smiles and nods all around even before the end of the song. He took a small rest with water while they discussed amongst themselves.

 Then, when he was ready, he showed them the second song. He felt a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable getting on the floor in front of all those people so during those parts he looked at Daniel since he was more used to Daniel seeing that. He was able to pull it off, though his ears were surely red from the embarrassment and his heart was racing since for a second their eyes had locked and made the atmosphere between them charged.

 Daniel broke their intense, charged stare first by looking at his raised arm instead of his eyes, exhaling shakily and face heating. Seongwoo wondered if he were recalling their night together and wanting to do it again. Because he certainly was. Even in the midst of performing a sad song, his body was quivering with desire that he forecefully suppressed.

 Seongwoo bowed at the end of the song, panting and sweating slightly (his stamina was improving so the songs weren’t as difficult on his body now as they’d had been before). After bowing, he stood with his shoulders squared, head bowed, and hands folded politely in front of him to show his respect. His nerves returned as he anxiously waited for feedback.

 “Overall I enjoyed that. He seems to have digested the songs well enough.”

 “That’s good enough for the music video I think. He did a good job in a short time. He clearly works hard.”

 “Seems like a practice bug. Like Samuel used to be.”

“We just need to get him working with the back-up dancers now. We can do the music video by the end of the week I think.”

 “I liked his expressions. Since he’s an experienced actor, he is excellent at portraying the emotions in the lyrics. It makes you feel something.”

 “His movements are very large and sharp and precise. The dance looks almost as nice as when Daniel did it. It’s different but not in a bad way.”

 “Each song was digested well. It has such a different vibe and meaning that it almost felt as if I were watching two different people with a similar voice. Even the way he sang and moved was different, did you notice? That’s impressive. Something only veterans are usually good at. It seems he hasn’t lost his touch though it’s been years since the survival show happened.”

 To each comment, Seongwoo smiled shyly and bowed, thanking them sincerely. His confidence and happiness spiked with each positive feedback. They all turned to Daniel who was caught smiling wide. He put on a serious face, fighting his smile. He commented simply and firm, though his eyes still brimmed over with pride.

 “That’s as I expected. He did well. I can’t find anything in particular to pick on. We can move on to getting ready for the music video then. Let’s dismiss.”

 The group took turns personally introducing themselves, shaking Seongwoo’s hand, and complimenting him. He was ecstatic that he got lots of love and zero negative feedback. He hadn’t been expecting that. People in Fantagio had always had something to say about him being lacking but they’d always been vague so it wasn’t much helpful as criticism. He seriously didn’t miss that company.

 Especially because that company didn’t have a stunning god.

 Daniel hung around while the other’s left one by one, hanging back towards the corner of the studio. Eventually, they were the only one in the room and Seongwoo was uncertain of how to act or what to do. His instinct was to run to the bathroom, but he knew he shouldn’t. That would be rude.

 The nervous artist scratched his neck and fanned his shirt that was clinging to his body because of sweat. He felt conscious so he couldn’t look at Daniel though he knew the president was looking at him with his arms crossed. He wasn’t as intimidating seeming as before the dance since his body was relaxed and he had a faint smile on his handsome face.

 “I didn’t hear what you really think…How was I?”

 “Hmm, it’s hard to explain just what I felt while watching that, hyung. There’s hardly words for it. I guess the best way is…”

 Seongwoo gasped as Daniel grabbed him and spun him until his back was pressed to the wall. He filled the gap between Seongwoo’s lips with his tongue. Seongwoo couldn’t help but get swept away. The kiss was even more amazing when it was sprung on him suddenly and his senses weren’t dulled from alcohol. He stood on his toes, leaning up into the kiss, his hands fisting in Daniel’s sweater.

 The kiss was slow and sensual and breath-taking. They pulled apart, both breathless and dazed. Daniel raised a hand up to cradle his face ever-so-gently. Seongwoo looked down at his hands clutching Daniel’s shirt, his face reddening, his mind a mess, his heart working twice as fast as when he’d been dancing earlier. Daniel leaned in to kiss and whisper against his ear in that alluring husky tone he had.

 “You’re fantastic and I’m a bit jealous of how many thousands of people will get to see that image of you and fall for you. But that’s what you want and that’s what’s good for the company and your career. So, I’ll curb my jealousy. As long as I can steal a moment with you here and there. Sorry but I couldn’t resist. You were too attractive there. And I’ve missed you. Terribly.”

 “Daniel, what are you doing…I told you…”

 “I know what you told me. And didn’t I do a good job listening to you? I held off for a whole week. Though I like you so much I’m going crazy being apart from you. It seems like you’ve missed me too. You didn’t resist me at all and you’re still clinging to me now.”

 Seongwoo abrumptly released his clothes and stepped back against the wall while Daniel chuckled. He pinned him there and nuzzled his flaming cheek. Seongwoo shivered, biting down on his lip. The tension between them was suffocating. He’d never felt so turned on and on edge. His skin felt like he was receiving low-voltage electric treatment.

 “You’re obviously attracted to me. It’s okay if you don’t like me, you know. I like you enough for the both of us. It must have been hard for you all these years not having a regular partner.

 I’m not going to ask for you to be in a committed relationship with me. I completely understand where you’re coming from. As long as I understand that and don’t put pressure on you, then there’s no reason you can’t fool around with me, right? That’s safer than you going to some bar or club hooking up with total strangers.

 Let’s make a deal, Seongwoo hyung. I’ll help you relieve your stress and loneliness. And you can let me do something about these overwhelming feelings and desire I have for you. It’s hard just watching you and not touching after I’ve had a taste of heaven.”

 “You’re crazy. That’s a terrible idea. We’ll get caught.”

 “I can be sneaky. We won’t.”

 “It’s risky. And what if feelings get in the way…This is wrong. I don’t want to hurt a fan…”

 "Well, maybe you won’t. Maybe I’ll like you less over time after I get my fill of you. Isn’t that what usually happens with people anyway? I want to take care of your needs, Seongwoo. Stop pushing me away and let me. I promise I won’t put pressure on you or get my hopes up so then I won’t be hurt, hmm? Let’s relieve our loneliness together sometimes.”

 “Daniel…I can’t…We shouldn’t…This is a bad idea…”

 So he said but as Daniel pecked along his jaw and rubbed his waist under his shirt, Seongwoo moaned and shivered, tipping his head and closing his eyes. The feeling of every little brush and touch on his sensitive skin set fiery tingles through him and made his mind cloudy. Lust poured over him like a waterfall.

 “Ugh, I hate that you’re so good at this…it’s unfair…”

 “You’re not so bad yourself, hyung.”

 Daniel chuckled and then bit hard under the collar of his shirt, leaving a mark and making Seongwoo gasp and groan, digging his fingers into his chest. Daniel slipped forward to press his thigh over Seongwoo’s hard crotch, rocking it. Seongwoo hissed and rolled against his leg, one hand slipping to his neck and threading in his hair. He licked the spot and Seongwoo pulled him closer. Daniel moved to lightly tongue and suck along a prominent vein, continuously rubbing his leg against Seongwoo’s crotch. Seongwoo whined, clung for dear life, and shivered.

 “Ah…no…don’t, Daniel…stop it…”

 “If you don’t want it, it’s simple, hyung. Just push me off.”

 The blonde came up, then crushed their lips together while Seongwoo was hesitating to respond. They both knew that he wasn’t going to push him off and that he didn’t really want him to stop. As risky and wrong as this whole thing was, they couldn’t stop their desire after a week of not being together at all. They were like strong magnets with opposite charges, lips and bodies stuck by the forces of nature.

 Seongwoo moaned, eagerly meeting his tongue in the air and swirling around it furiously. His leg and arms wrapped around Daniel, clinging and pulling him closer. Daniel pressed up against him, this time their firm fronts and chests meeting, pushing him back onto the wall, one hand gliding along his though and the other caressing the curves of his back.

 

 

 

 “Oh, Boss! What a pleasant surprise. What are you doing here?”

 The stylist pinning the hems of a pair of pants in the midst of Seongwoo’s fitting for his album jacket shooting stopped and stood up with a delighted expression. Seongwoo took one look at the casually dressed blonde who was smiling brightly at him and then looked in another direction with an impassive, cold face. Inside, his heart was racing and his stomach flipping.

 Whenever Daniel popped into his schedules these days, he found himself getting excited and happy that he was thinking of him. Then, he’d recall what happened between them the last time they were alone and he’d feel a mix of embarrassment and anger. Daniel refused to listen to him. He continued to approach him and was flirtier than ever and then pounced on him as soon as he smelled a hint of hesitation or wavering.

He hated Daniel for that and he hated his body even more so for not being able to resist him. As soon as Daniel kissed him or looked at him sweetly while complimenting him and calling him hyung he found himself melting like hot butter. Despite he told not to stop and that they couldn’t be involved because of all the risks.

 "I was bored and in need of something to do.”

 “Eh, you’re the president and a popular singer with a comeback album in the process. I don’t think that you had nothing to do. You just wanted to see your favorite singer because you’re a worry-wart, right?”

 The girl eyed him suspiciously and giggled before turning to grab her phone. “I’ll step out so you can have some alone time then. To discuss whatever you need to…in private.”

 “Neh? You don’t need to. He can talk to me with you here. You have work that needs to be done. Please don’t feel burdened.”

 She shook her head, already walking out of the room. “I don’t think I can do my work with two ridiculously handsome stars like you in the same room anyway. It’s distracting. I’ll come back later. Have fun~”

 Flustered, Seongwoo stuttered after her. The door shut and then he turned to Daniel with an irritated look. Daniel smiled innocently and shrugged.

 “Hey, I didn’t chase her out. She left on her own. So don’t give me nasty looks.”

 “Yeah, but you probably made her think something is going on! You deserve a solid kick in the balls. Nasty looks and a lecture won’t suffice!”

 “I don’t see any reason that I need to be punished. She left all on her own. You heard her. She feels intimidated being around us both. That happens sometimes. Because both of us are as good looking as gods.”

 Seongwoo rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “I can’t believe the nation’s center is so full of himself.”

 “I’m not. I just act that way to give confidence to myself. It’s self brain-washing. If I keep saying that I’m handsome then I won’t feel so much like a potato next to you. Because you’re the one that’s ridiculously gorgeous.”

 Seongwoo snorted. “Yeah, right.”

 “I AM right,” he joked, stepping closer. “What planet did you come from?”

 Seongwoo immediately stepped back and put his hands back. “Don’t do anything, Daniel.”

 “I wasn’t going to. I just feel weird talking to you all the way across the room. I’m just here to chat. See how things are going. Take a look at the clothes. The stylists are treating you well? No one pinned you or touched you inappropriately?”

 “Besides you, no one has. And I’d rather not be again today. I implore you to keep your hands to yourself.”

 “Okay then. I’ll take your wish into consideration.”

 That evil smirked and twinkle in his eyes suggested he was up to something. Seongwoo had a feeling he wouldn’t listen to him. He sighed and went to go drink some water. Daniel laughed at the funny way he had to walk. He winced and yelped at pins poking him.

 “Stand still before you put holes in your legs. I’ll get it for you, hyung. So, you’re thirsty? Are you hungry too?”

 “Hmm, a little bit.”

 “Alright. I’ll take care of that.”

 Daniel came back to the center of the room where Seongwoo was standing with a choco pie and a bottle of water.

 “Thanks…” Seongwoo murmured while twisting off the cap.

 Daniel was already standing too close for comfort (which was within ten feet from him). The atmosphere was becoming heavy and steamy between them. He was tingly and hot all of a sudden, his stomach turning and his face flaming. Daniel intently stared at him, making him further flustered and aroused.

 “Stop that. I don’t like it when you stare at me.”

 “Why not? Lots of people stare at you all the time. On TV and in the company. What’s one more?”

 “You’re different that’s all…You’re not allowed to.”

 “Why am I the only one not allowed to?”

 “Because you…unsettle me. Especially when you’re standing close.”

 “You mean I make you feel things you don’t want to feel? Like you get hot and sweaty and your heart races?”

 “More or less…”

 “Well, that’s payback. You made me feel things I didn’t want to feel for years and you didn’t even know who I was. Here. Take a bite. You like these, I know.”

 Seongwoo grudgingly admitted that he did. He liked the taste of the chocolate and the fluffy feeling of the marshmallow filling. He carefully bit off a piece, looking away from Daniel as he chewed. After he’d eaten it and drunken half the bottle while Daniel investigated the clothes and photos that had been taken of the sample looks on him, he nodded and hummed.

 “Looks all good so far. You really can’t take a bad picture. Every angle is exquisite.”

 Seongwoo licked his lips and wiped his mouth. “Exagerating again…”

 “I wish I was. It’s unfair. It took me two years to be somewhat decent at modeling. Even then only about half the pictures are decent. I hate natural born models. You make the rest of us look talentless.”

 “Well, not like every idol has to be good at mod—Hey, no touching! Ouch!” Seongwoo winced as a sharp pain came to his ankle.

 Daniel finished wiping some chocolate off the corner of his mouth. Seongwoo flushed redder as he put his thumb in his mouth, smirking with amusement. Then, he abruptly bent down on one knee. Seongwoo thought for one horrific moment he was going to propose, then his large hands wrapped around his calf. He squealed a second later as Daniel lifted him in his arms and carried him to the vanity, setting him on top of the counter. He put his foot on his knee and then flipped the bottom of his jeans, revealing a large patch of his bare flesh.

 “Hey, what are you doing?” he squeaked, looking stunned.

 “Just checking on where is hurting you. Can’t have my precious artist being bloodied up. Ah, there it is.”

 Daniel fixed the pin that was pricking at his skin. Seongwoo was honestly relieved. Those little shits stung, making it difficult to move. Then he stood up, coming between Seongwoo’s legs. Seongwoo attempted to slide off the counter but Daniel caught his hips and pushed him back, then pinned him there, hovering above his head. Seongwoo glanced up and then turned his head away, lightly pressing on his chest.

 He murmured meakly, “Yah, let me down. She could be back any moment. You said you weren’t going to do anything.”

 “I wasn’t originally planning on it, but you know. You’re really cute right now. I like that expression when you’re trying so hard to hide how you want me but you know you’re failing and you get all the more frazzled and desperate. That sort of lustful and hopeful but frustrated, slightly nervous look—it’s very becoming. It’s excited me.”

 Seongwoo’s eyes widened, meeting with Daniel’s which were dark and intense. “Daniel, we can’t—”

 “We can though. We’re alone. I won’t damage the clothes. We’ll stop as soon as we hear a knock on the door. Surely I can have a kiss here and there? You’re not the only one that gets hungry.”

 Seongwoo flushed, pushing at his firm chest but the other wouldn’t budge. He chuckled with amusement, watching the other’s heartless attempt.

 “Push me away like you mean it, hyung. I can’t be driven away by these half-ass attempts. It’s clear that you don’t really want me to go away. It’s like you’re doing this on purpose to turn me on more. You hardly need to try in that department for you. Just one look at your face and I’m ready to go half the time to be honest. You’re gorgeous and sexy and adorable. I like you, hyung. Let me hold you at least.”

 “O-okay. But j-just a hug…And if you think I’m playing some push and pull game, I’m not so don’t get the wrong idea…” Seongwoo stuttered shyly, slipping his hands around Daniel’s waist as Daniel embraced him warmly.

 “I won’t. Hmm, this is nice. I needed this.”

 “Why? Is something bothering you?”

 “There’s often something bothering me. I’m a CEO and a singer on top of that, Seongwoo. I’m a busy person with a lot of burdens and stress. I’ve got a lot of people to take care of and there’s thousands waiting for me to make a wrong move or be a disappointment so they can brutally criticize me. It’s a wonder I am able to sleep still.”

 “Ah, I guess that makes sense. Of course you’re stressed…”

 Seongwoo bit his lip and thought for awhile. He wanted to comfort the man somehow though he wasn’t sure how to do that. He didn’t do that sort of thing. His past relationships were purely physical. Well, it wasn’t that he didn’t know how to comfort someone though so he treated him as he would a friend. After some hesitation he stroked his back up and down gently.

 Daniel stiffened and then relaxed, chuckling softly. “You’re comforting me? Hmm, never thought the affectionate, sweet Seognwoo of my dreams would come out in the real world. So, you do have this side of you, not just when you’re acting…”

 “If you tease me about it, I’ll stop being nice…” he grumbled, hiding his face with shame in the crook of Daniel’s broad shoulder and thumping his back.

 “Okay, I won’t. Since it would be a shame if you stopped. Thank you. Just a few seconds with you is all I need, hyung. You’re a very comforting person. Since you’re cheerful and positive. You just give off all these good vibes. It calms and energizes me at the same time. Thank you for existing.”

 Seongwoo cleared his throat and bit down hard on his lip, going back to gliding his hand along the other’s broad, slouched back. “Don’t say stuff like that…”

 “Why?”

 “I hate it. That’s why. It’s so cheesy. It’s an exaggeration. I’m not someone special like that…”

 “But you are. To many people. To me. You are very special. If you weren’t, then you wouldn’t be loved by so many. You should figure that out. The reasons people like you. You are full of charms and you bring hope, happiness, and comfort to lots of people. Just by being yourself.

 Someday, you’ll get it. I’ll keep telling you the reasons you’re amazing until you believe it. That way you can take advantage and sell your charms in the future. I’m telling you, you have the ability to be huge, hyung. Bigger than me even.”

 Seongwoo shook his head. “I doubt that. You’re…”

 “I’m what? Tell me. What do you think of me honestly?” Daniel commented curiously.

 He tried to lift up Seongwoo’s head to see him, but the artist was stubborn. He held tight to Daniel and kept his face buried. Daniel laughed, returning to stroking his head.

 “You aren’t willing to tell me that, huh? Well, if you ever want to, shy boy, I’m more than ready to listen. I wonder what makes me attractive to you. Enough that you’ll break your rules for once to fool around with me.”

 “I wonder why…”

 “Eh~ Acting like you have no idea.”

Well, he did but he also didn’t. He knew that he liked parts of Daniel’s personality and he admired him as an artist and he found him attractive. Sometimes, Daniel made him feel at ease while other times he made him feel unsettled. Always, he felt this underlying attraction and pull to him that couldn’t be explained just by his looks. He wanted to be with him all the time, but he forced himself to never approach him or seem desperate to have his attention or spend time together.

 He never once approached Daniel on his own since their first kiss. It was always Daniel popping up wherever he was as if he knew his schedule and whereabouts at all times. Then, once he’d get him alone, he’d say and do things that made his icy resolve waver. Seongwoo attempted to be cold and stern with him, keeping a polite distance and reinstating that he didn’t want romance with anyone famous, but it never prevented things from getting intimate for long. Eventually, Seongwoo would let Daniel touch him and things would get hot and steamy not much later.

 Daniel knew that and he took advantage of it. He’d become increasingly aggressive and mischievous and he always had this cocky, alluring smirk on his face when their eyes met even in the meeting room now. He was too obvious in front of people so it led to Seongwoo scolding him, but he’d always play it off. Since he didn’t get physical at least.

 Seongwoo was pretty sure there were already rumors going on in the company though and it was terrifying and humiliating. He didn’t want to be seen as the president’s pet or favorite. At the same time he sort of wanted to be. He wanted Daniel’s attention and his affection more and more as the days passed and their intimate encounters grew. In his mind, Daniel was gradually becoming ‘his’ and the feeling he had with him was addicting. That feeling of excitement and of being intensely loved, of being genuinely close with someone and no longer alone.

 Once Daniel learned that the attraction was returned, he’d poured out his feelings not with just words but with his every action. He could feel how much Daniel cherished him with just this embrace. It felt wonderful but it was also suffocating. Since he wasn’t used to it and he didn’t know how to respond. He didn’t likely love him back the same way. Maybe he could but he wouldn’t let himself try.

 He was repressing his feelings and deluding himself that this was purely physical and maybe a tiny crush that wasn’t going to go anywhere fast. He drew the line when Daniel tried to go beyond kissing and hugging. He kept his feelings in check. He hadn’t once told Daniel that he liked him or wanted him and he kept their intimacy to a limit.

 That’s how things he had to be. As soon as he said did the opposite, then he’d be in real danger. Since he couldn’t have a relationship with anyone and admitting he liked and wanted Daniel allowed would open up the lid of that box of evil. He’d surely want Daniel to be officially his once they took things further and he knew their crush was reciprocated.

 I need to keep things to myself. I need to deny and stuff all these feelings down. This is just a physical thing like everyone else. This feeling of excitement and happiness, this urge to hold him, this tingling and floating on air feeling—it doesn’t mean anything serious.

   After a few days, we’ll get over it. We’re just relieving stress and weak from being alone. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re not going to get caught. He’ll stop doing this once he realizes he’s not going to get to go all the way with me. This is just a casual thing no one will know about. Just keep him in line and don’t enjoy it so much.

 “Ah, Niel, not there…”

 Daniel was sucking his neck with his hands up his shirt, fingering his nipples. Seongwoo moaned, clutching his shirt and arching his back, his sensitive body shivering. His nipples swelled as soon as the president touched them.

 “Yes, here. You love it.”

 “Ahn…No…I don’t like it…it feels weird…stop it…hmm…”

 As usual, saying ‘stop it’ only made Daniel do something more. Because he accurately saw right through him. Seongwoo said stop it and tried to push him away only when something was starting to feel really good. Then he’d work hard to crack his resolve and make him melt further. Daniel sucked and twisted, making Seongwoo cry out, push him with his knees and tug on his hair. He tried to pull Daniel off without hurting him, but Daniel stuck to him like glue, working harder to make his body feel amazing.

 “No…ahn…don’t do it…I don’t wanna…ohh, there, oh god, hmm…Niel, don’t…don’t…”

 Tears came to his eyes because it felt tortuously good and he hated himself for loving it and moaning this much. His mind screamed at him not to do it and to push the other off but as usual his body didn’t listen. He couldn’t bring himself to put strength in his arms or his voice. If he strongly said ‘no’ once and pushed him off hard, then Daniel would surely get the hint and then stop. Because he listened well and he cared about him.

 Instead, he had to send these infuriating mixed signals by moaning as he weakly told him not to do it and he’d pull him closer instead of pushing him off right after he’d tell him to go away. Of course, Daniel listened to his body more than his words since his body was more honest as were his eyes. Daniel stopped to look at him, wondering if he was serious this time. His eyes went wide and flashed with concern when he saw that Seongwoo was crying. He took his hands off his chest, reaching up to brush away the streaks with careful, shaky hands.

 “Hyung? Are you alright? Was I taking it too far? Sorry. I guess I got carried away. If you don’t want to right now, then—”

 Seongwoo hugged his neck and pulled him down to his eager, parted lips. His legs went from pushing on Daniel’s chest to wrapping around his waist and yanking him closer. Daniel hummed thickly in his throat, desire pouring out to consume them in a burst of flames.

 They collapsed on the counter in a frenzy of twisting tongues and suckling lips and groping, desperate hands. Seongwoo’s hands dived down the back of his shirt and threaded his hair, his hips rolling off the counter, making the wood creak and shake. Daniel returned his hand to his shirt, the other on the center of his curved back, keeping him from falling onto the hangers and pins there, so sturdy, soft, and hot.

 “More. Touch me more. Don’t stop. Make me cum, please. It hurts, Daniel. It’s too hard.”

 He wanted to do the forbidden. He wanted to go beyond the point of no return for once. It was torture to only kiss, rub, and fondle Daniel when his hands and lips felt so amazing. He’d been suffering all kinds of blue balls and wet dreams because he’d never yet allowed Daniel to get him off yet. He’d once done it to Daniel with his hand in the lounge while they were watching his drama one late night, but he’d refused to let Daniel do it to him repeatedly. It was the second to the last big wall of his resolve that he was terrified to have crumbling down should it have a domino effect. However, in the midst of that incredible desire, he was nothing but a moth to a flame. He was hopeless. He wanted to come so desperately that it consumed his mind and got rid of all rationality. He wanted Daniel’s hands and mouth and body there this instant. He couldn’t hold off until he got home. Doing it by himself wasn’t enough anymore.

 “Daniel. Touch me there. Please. Hurry. I can’t take it.”

 Daniel paused in kissing his neck to lightly peck his lips. It was sweet and calming. It made his heart flutter and his ears redden. Kissing was so much more intimate like that. Daniel kissed with such care and gentleness sometimes that it made him weak.

 How nice it would be to have a boyfriend that regularly kissed him with such love, he wondered but usually would quickly dismiss. This time though, he let himself think about it for a second.

 Daniel was surprised that Seongwoo kissed him sweetly back, more tears spilling out of his eyes. Usually the other wanted only to make-out fiercely. It was rare that he’d give him a soft, emotional kiss back. And he’d never seen Seongwoo cry until today. He figured he must be suffering intense blue balls these days.

 “Don’t worry, hyung. It’s been hurting a lot, right? I’ll take care of it. Just enjoy. And stop crying please. That hurts my heart.”

 Seongwoo sniffled. “I’m not crying…” he muttered stubbornly.

 “Sure, you aren’t. You’re just leaking salt water.” Daniel laughed softly before kissing and licking away his tears.

 Seongwoo was shaking from nerves and excitement as Daniel undid the pants and slid them down. He caressed his pert nipple as he lightly stroked and pumped his exposed cock which was bulging and a painful shade of purple. Seongwoo had his face covered, biting back his moans, sometimes gasping. His sensitive body shook and jerked with each gentle brush. Daniel watched with an expression of wonder and amusement. He loved how responsive and shy Seongwoo was being at the moment.

 "Oh god…we’re really doing this…I can’t look….” Seongwoo groaned, covering his eyes after peeking down for one second with his fingers.

 Daniel laughed, kissing across his knuckles while continuing to slowly stroke his silky, leaking member.

 “Why are you acting like a squeamish virgin, hyung? So cute when you’re shy. Look at it. It will make it more erotic for you.”

 “No, I can’t. It’s too much…this is so wrong…doing it here…and with you of all people…”

 “It’s not wrong, hyung. It’s right. We are adult men with needs and we’re attracted to each other. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if we’re in this sort of place or position. Even if I happen to be your boss, it’s not like I’m some perverted, ugly old man demanding favors of you. We need to get you going quickly before she comes back. You don’t want her to see you with a hard on or moan when she touches your sensitive body. I’m sure it would be embarrassing.”

 Seongwoo pictured the stylist just brushing his skin and then him moaning like a porn star. He shook his head in horror. They couldn’t have that. Only Daniel was allowed to see him like this, though he tried to keep his composure as much as possible when they did things. It was embarrassing to do it here and have Daniel see how he looked in this bright light when he orgasmed, but he had no choice. He couldn’t have his reputation damaged by their staff thinking he was a total pervert and spreading that amongst the others.

 “Alright. Hurry then. Before she gets back.”

 “It’s not going to take long at all. You’re really built up. You haven’t been with anyone? Didn’t do it yourself?”

 “Ah! Why are you asking…Hmm, ha…” Seongwoo exclaimed, shivering all over as Daniel picked up the speed and grasped more firmly.

 The blood rushed rapidly down his veins to the center of his body. His stomach started to boil and twist. His body tensed and trembled, sweat slipping out of his overheated pores. His climax was already near. His cock seemed to love Daniel’s hand more than it loved his own. It barely listened to him these days.

 “I tried…by myself…but…it’s not…enough…didn’t meet…anyone…too busy with…preparations…you said not to…meet strangers at the…club so…”

 “Ah, is that so? I didn’t think you’d listen to me so well to be honest, hyung. I sensed ages ago that you had a rebellious streak. I’m surprised you listened to me on so many cases. You seem like a troublemaker sort, but actually you’re a good kitty, aren’t you?” he chuckled, rewarding Seongwoo with soft kisses on his cheek.

 “But that’s cus…you’re my…boss…”

 “Eh, is that the only reason why? I wonder about that,” Daniel commented playfully before slipping into suck on his ear.

 Seongwoo watched him pumping from time to time, his fingers over his mouth to hold back the volume of his moans.

 “Let me hear you better. Your voice is such a turn on, hyung. I want to hear just how good you’re feeling thanks to me.”

 Seongwoo looked mortified, his cutely flustered, pretty face the color of ripe strawberries. “Ugh, I hate you sometimes…”

 “As long as most of the time you don’t. Fingers off.”

 When Seongwoo refused, he stopped sucking on his ear to capture his wrists and lowered his mouth to his exposed chest. His nose brushed the scrunched fabric of the shirt as he flicked the tip of his tongue around and over the pert, rosy treat. Without his hands to cover his face, Daniel could clearly see how aroused Seongwoo was. He was on the verge of falling apart, torn between shame and pleasure.

 His face was erotic and beautiful. Soft moans and gasps spilled out of his swollen, pink, bow shaped lips, his doe eyes were half shut and dark as night, filmed over with a film of desire as he watched the erotic act before him. Daniel turned his hand and caressed along the ridges and dips with his thumb, squeezing firmly as he traveled up and down the silky shaft. He changed his grip and pressure to keep Seongwoo on edge and spiking his excitement up.

 “Daniel…close…keep going…”

 “I wouldn’t dream of stopping. You’re so beautiful right now, hyung.”

 “Oh god, give me my hands back…so embarrassing…”

 “Nope.”

 Daniel refused, tugging his wrists firmly with a smirk. Seongwoo glared at him, a pout coming to his prettily shaped lips. Daniel pecked him once and then lowered to his chest again.

 “Ah~” Seongwoo sang, arching his back as Daniel’s wiggling tongue found his sensitive flesh again.

 A second later, Daniel’s hand was soaked with hot, sticky fluids. Seongwoo groaned, hiding his face in his neck, dripping sweat and panting harshly. Daniel winced, rolling over his fleshy thigh as the sounds of his crush moaning and the sight of his seed spilling over his hand and the feel of his warm, hard, fluctuating flesh drove him over the edge suddenly. Seongwoo watched the blonde groaning and rubbing his crotch against his thigh for several moments lazily.

 “Did you…?” he wondered.

 Daniel admitted with embarrassment, “I did.”

 “How even…?”

 “I don’t even know. It wasn’t intentional. It came out of nowhere. I’m not usually so easy to get, I assure you. That should show you how hot you are, hyung. Just watching you come and hearing your lovely voice was enough to do me in. I guess it’s because it’s been a long while for me. I thought about doing it on my own, but I felt like you’d be offended. Since I usually do it while imagining your face…”

 Daniel shivered and whined in complaint as Seongwoo poked at his bulge. It was sensitive and damp there, so it felt weird. He seemed entranced by it and continued anyway.

 “I wouldn’t mind really…Imagining a person you like is better than watching strangers fake it for money, I guess...”

 “So I can? To thoughts of things with you?”

 Seongwoo looked at him, nodded, and then shyly glanced away. His face flushed deeper.

 “I don’t mind so…don’t get blue balls or that will make working harder for you…Not that I’m giving you permission to tell me when you’re about to…”

 Daniel captured his naughty hand and brought it to his mouth, giving the inside of his wrist a sweet kiss. He smiled lazily, looking at the cute artist with affection. A part of him couldn’t believe this was reality. He’d shared in a seriously intimate moment with his crush finally and it seemed like Seongwoo was coming to like him more and more every day. He was breaking down his walls bit by bit and reaping all kinds of benefits from it. The more that he found about the real Seongwoo that didn’t hide behind cool, composed masks, the more that he fell for him. He was in actuality so incredibly charming and adorable beyond what Daniel had known of as a fan.

 “Hmm, if you’re worried about that. Why don’t we just relieve ourselves regularly? That’s more satisfactory than doing it alone.”

 Daniel was expecting Seongwoo to slap him and refuse in a whiney tone. He was expecting resistance and denial followed by Seongwoo acting as if he didn’t have any intention of doing more with him, as usual. To his surprise, Seongwoo muttered ‘hmm-hmm’ in an affirmative, cutely bashful response, biting his smiling lip. Daniel was so pleased by that first win he’d gotten without battling and seeing through Seongwoo’s stubborn defenses that he hugged him too tightly.

 “You’re the best, hyung! I like you so much~”

 “Ah, my lungs! Daniel, stop! Can’t…breathe… Ack--!”

 

 

 

“We’re going to take a break for thirty minutes. You can go to the waiting room.”

 Seongwoo found his steps hurrying there though he cursed his feet that didn’t listen to his brain. He knew that Daniel was going to be there, waiting for him. He knew that they were going to do unspeakable, wonderful, sinful things that were going to drain him of energy he needed while he was supposed to be resting. He shouldn’t go there, especially not eagerly. He should avoid there until the last five minutes, then they’d have no time to do anything even if Daniel tried. That was reasonable.

 His body never listened to his rational speaking brain, however. Just like his heart didn’t listen—it beat hard against his chest like a drum solo.

 “This is nuts…” the artist muttered shakily, steps further quickening.

 Before he knew it, Seongwoo found himself eagerly opening the waiting room door. Daniel was there as he’d expected. They were both already aroused and taken over by their desire to the point they were flushed and panting like two wolves in heat. Seongwoo dived into his chest, teeth finding a place he wanted to mark on his neck, his hands going under his shirt to scratch his abs. Daniel’s laugh turned into a thick groan as he shut and locked the door.

 “Seems you’re hot today, cute kitty? We haven’t even got the door closed yet.”

 Seongwoo smirked as he meowed on the red spot he’d caused, clawing his skin with his finger nails. Daniel shivered, his cock springing to life. Seongwoo slid his hand down to grab it firmly. As he teasingly stroked, Daniel moaned his name and jerked against him.

 “Seems you’re even hotter today, sexy puppy,” the brunette teased, looking up with a smirk, then licking his lip in an enticing fashion.

 “Because you’ve been tempting me for hours. This is why you invited me to the shoot, isn’t it? I was wondering why all of a sudden you would ask me to come to your schedule. You never did that before. Usually you threaten me not to come. You planned to use your excellent modeling skills to seduce me. As some sort of bratty revenge.”

 “Yes, that’s right. I was waiting for the right moment. It’s not fun if I’m the only one put at a disadvantage. It takes two to tango and sometimes I want to be the one that leads. I wanted to be the one to drive you crazy this time.”

 “Okay, you got me. You lead what we do. I don’t mind at all. Fuck this is hot…” the president huffed, collapsing on Seongwoo’s shoulder, helplessly rocking as Seongwoo’s hand ruthlessly pumped his erection.

 Seongwoo licked along his soft jawline, inhaling his enticing cologne. “I want you to…”

 

 

 

“Ugh…yes, that’s good, Niel…like that…hmm, your mouth is boiling hot and so soft…”

 Seongwoo was sitting in the waiting room sofa, getting the best blow job of his life. It was the first that Daniel had ever bestowed upon him and once he had it, he was regretting why he hadn’t asked for it weeks ago. The most passionate of his kisses couldn’t compare to how much this drove him to the edge of insanity. Daniel’s mouth sucking him off was another plain of pleasure he’d never traveled to.

 “Ahh, I’m gonna…move away or…ohhh…”

 It was too late. Daniel didn’t listen. He continued sucking with lude slurping noises, bobbing his head quickly as Seognwoo reached the peak of an intense orgasm. Seongwoo moaned and tossed his head, shoving Daniel’s head down to take him deeper. When the first bead of sperm came out, Daniel sank deep until the swollen tip hit the back of his throat. Seongwoo cradled his head as he tensed and arched up off the sofa, his toes curling over the edge.

 Daniel swallowed and sucked until the artist was left limp. Then he crawled up, kissing him sweetly all over his flushed, sweaty face. Seongwoo soflty moaned and panted, nuzzling and kissing him back. Then their tongues lazily tangled as they worked to both pump Daniel to his own release. A hot minute later, Daniel’s cock was bursting white, warm liquid onto Seongwoo’s stomach. They’d removed his shirt at least so it wouldn’t get stained since it was designer and they’d be in huge trouble with the stylists later.

 Most women could surely tell a cum stain and would wonder about their relationship then for sure. It was no secret that Daniel had been resting in the waiting room since he said that he’d had a headache (in actuality he’d simply gotten so turned on by watching Seongwoo modeling that it was dangerous to stay in his vicinity).

 “God damn, you look so sexy right now…I don’t want to let you go back out there like this…ah, hyung, I feel so good…” he murmured, looking over the brunette who was flushed, blissful, starry eyed, and with his hair rolled up off his forehead.

 He was irresistible especially with his hair up and then even more so after an orgasm. Post-intimacy version of Seongwoo was currently his favorite.

 “If we only could stop right now. I wouldn’t mind doing that again…”

 “Same…That was so intense. I didn’t know you wanted that. I hope I wasn’t a disappointment.”

 “Wait. Was that…your first?”

 Daniel smiled sheepishly and nodded. “Yeah. I’ve only ever been on the receiving end.”

 Seongwoo smiled despite he felt jealousy coursing through him. Just a little spark of it. Because he knew clearly that he wasn’t allowed to truly feel jealous. Daniel wasn’t his possession. He never would be. He was his boss and his friend and his casual sex partner. That was all. All they’d ever be. All that ever could be. Even if his pesky heart was crying for more.

 “Seems you had some good teachers then to base your moves off of.”

 Daniel chuckled, leaning in to kiss across his cheeks and nose fondly. The way he was ever so gentle and slow about it made Seongwoo’s heart flutter. He closed his eyes, allowing himself to bask in the moment and think for one dangerous moment that ‘ah, my boyfriend loves me so much, this is heavenly…’

 “I wasn’t thinking of what they did to me. I was simply listening to you the best I could. Reading the cues your body gave me about what you liked.”

 Seongwoo groaned, hiding his face in his hands. “Don’t say things like that. I told you already.”

 

“Neh? Like what? You silly hyung. I can’t help saying these things because I like you. You’re too cute right now, you know that? You’re freaking adorable and so sexy…” He kissed playfully between each finger he could weasel his way between, trying to tug off Seongwoo’s hands.

 Seongwoo didn’t want Daniel to see his face right then though. He knew the words ‘I love you’ would be written all over his face at that moment for sure. It was taking significantly longer than ever to get his mask up these days, especially after an intimate moment. He couldn’t let Daniel know about his feelings though. He couldn’t let it consume himself either.

 He needed to keep it at bay as much as possible and continue to deny and ignore it. He could only have Daniel this way. He couldn’t have more. If he had that hope rise up and then got cruelly dashed later, he’d be heartbroken and that would jeopardize his debut. Daniel already took up a much larger amount of his brain power than he should.

 “Seongwoo hyung. Let me see your face.”

 “No. I’m ugly right now. I’m all sweaty and my make-up got smeared. I look like a clown. Don’t look at me right now.”

 “Whatever, no you don’t. You’re always beautiful. Stop trying to hide.”

 “Someone’s going to come soon. Hurry and get dressed. Leave me alone.”

 Daniel chuckled but finally stopped struggling with the stubborn, whiny singer rolling away from him and hiding his face. He pecked his hairsprayed temple before getting off of him. He got dressed and then slipped out of the waiting room to the bathroom, wishing him good luck for the rest of the shoot.

 Seongwoo slipped on his clothes and then buried his face in the couch, stretched out on it.

 “That was too close…I’m seriously slipping…I can’t believe I attacked him with the door wide open and asked for him to do THAT….What in tarnation has gotten into me…”

 Kang Daniel, that’s who, his conscience snidely remarked at him. He’s nestling into your heart and every corner of your mind and every aspect of your life. You’re into him. You’re falling for him. You’re not even resisting his advances anymore. All like you feared would happen. So…what are you going to do about it?

 He whined, burying his face in the pillows and kicking his feet. “Ah, molla~ I’m tired now. It’s like he sucked out all the rest of my energy…”

 

 

 

“Daniel, you’re officially insane. Not here. It’s dangerous.”

“Yeah, but it’s hot. Admit it. You like the thrill of almost getting caught even though you say that would be the worst thing in the world.”

 “I don’t,” he denied before succumbing to thick moans which showed how much of a hypocrite he was.

 They were in the salon, waiting for the make-up artist to come. He was supposed to start his music video filming in the next hour. Daniel had come because he was curious about how the hair color he picked out would look like on him.

 Seongwoo had never once dyed his hair since before he appeared on TV as far as he knew. The president was curious what other colors would be like on him though he loved his black and brown hair as well since it was rich and made his creamy stand out. He looked like a prince with his raven hair and he looked sweet and young with his brown shades.

 Daniel learned that day that it was dangerous to mix Seongwoo with any other color. He looked so hot with the arranged ash colored hair inspired by Jack Frost that Daniel had been setting him on fire with smoldering looks through the mirrors. It was a wonder he’d held off until the hair stylist had finished styling his hair.

 After that, Seongwoo had agreed they could do something because Daniel looked like he might just combust and it was making him unable to concentrate on anything he needed to get mentally prepared for the shoot. As long as Daniel agreed not to touch his hair or make him do anything too energy consuming.

 He succumbed reluctantly to those plump, tempting lips, complaining about Daniel being a pervert. However, he wasn’t complaining about it ten seconds later. He was enjoying having Daniel on the couch, riding him while grinding their erections together, Daniel’s hands in his loosened pants cupping his butt and pulling him in an erratic rhythm, his tongue shoved deep in his mouth. They kissed passionately and moaned against each other as they grinded hotly.

 Seongwoo loved being in control for once. He chose their speed and he could stop kissing the other whenever he wanted. He’d slow down and pull his lips away to his slightly stubbly chin, making the sex-crazed blonde whine and sulk so cutely. Then he’d slam their lips together and rock his body fiercely, making Daniel groan in extasy and tense like a block. He teased him like this, forgetting about the time restraints.

 Seongwoo had to admit that Daniel was right—as much as the idea of getting caught was horrific it made fooling around all the more exciting. As long as they didn’t strip and be in the middle of preparation, he was pretty confident that they could play it off and hide what they were doing. His ears were always trained on any sound just in case. He was excellent at picking up when someone was about to come no matter how much he got caught up in the moment.

 Since getting caught meant something even more horrible than a scandal—it would mean that this great thing he had going on with his crush would be finished. Honestly, as much as he hadn’t wanted it to happen, he didn’t want it to stop twice as much more. He’d never felt more alive and happier than this past month fooling around with Daniel. It was like he had all the benefits of a lover without the hassles.

 They didn’t have to call every night or try to sneak out on dates without getting caught by the public. They just texted on occasion and they hung out for lunch and dinner or at the lounge when everyone was gone for the most part and they had wildly hot moments when they could steal a moment alone. It was the best arrangement.

 Daniel was hot, kind, gentle, caring, and for certain he was clean and unattached. They enjoyed each other’s company when they weren’t getting physical. They had incredible chemistry and there was no pressure put on him to give more of his body or his heart.

 The only thing was that sometimes he felt guilty, taking advantage of his man’s feelings for him. Daniel liked him so much that he would have him any way he could and went by his rules and impulses most of the time. He didn’t demand cuddles afterwards or a friendly conversation and some sweet kisses before. He let Seongwoo do whatever he wanted and he did what Seongwoo asked or hinted at.

 It was unfair how good Daniel was to him. Seongwoo didn’t deserve someone like Daniel. He wanted to treat him kindly as well. He wanted to give him something in return for all that Daniel had done for him and given to him. All he had to give though was his body. The only reward being to make him physically feel good.

 Admitting he loved him? Going all the way? Going on a real date? Visiting his place or inviting him over to spend the full night? He couldn’t possibly do those things, though there were several occasions where his conscious and heart nagged at him about it. He wanted to do all of that, but he shouldn’t.

 Rationally, it was a terrible idea to encourage Daniel’s feelings. Things would get messy and he didn’t have confidence that he could be a good boyfriend. Daniel didn’t deserve someone that was a coward who wanted to keep their relationship completely hidden from the world even in the case it became serious, that put his career and fans ahead of those he supposedly loved.

 Seongwoo figured he loved Daniel in his own way but he was sure that it wasn’t enough and not in the right way. If he really loved him the proper way, then he wouldn’t care about scandals, he wouldn’t be afraid of rumors spreading, he wouldn’t hide from the world and even the entire company that they were close friends even. He acted polite and cool to him in public then fell apart like this in private—consistently.

 Daniel acted like he was okay with that but how could he possibly be? When every time they kissed and held each other, every sweet look showed Seongwoo that Daniel’s feelings were real and growing more intense by the day. Daniel didn’t say it but in his mind, surely he wanted Seongwoo to be his officially and was simply holding out while waiting for the day that Seongwoo wanted the same and gave in to him. It didn’t seem like Daniel’s feelings would cool off anytime soon.

 Seongwoo so wanted to give Daniel a gift. He wanted to be selfish and impulsive. He wanted to give into his feelings and tell the man he cared for that he wanted to be called his boyfriend at least between just them—but his guilty conscious and maturity stopped him.

 What he wanted from a relationship and what Daniel wanted were different. How he felt for Daniel wasn’t as intense, pure, and sincere as how Daniel felt for him. He couldn’t give Daniel what he wanted or needed, not in full. It was wrong even to string him along with the hope that it might happen but he selfishly kept it going. Because he loved being physical and he was addicted to feeling loved and cared for.

 So many years alone without the basics of a relationship and he’d forgotten what he’d been missing. He’d forgotten the reason people fell in love. It was so incredible, even without the dating part. The bliss and confidence and ease that he felt when Daniel told him he liked him and embraced him were unbeatable. There was no other thing that could give him the adrenaline rush that Daniel did. He was his drug. His newest favorite flavor of coffee with a strongly addictive taste. And he was just as dangerous for his life, someday bound to lead it into the gutters if he wasn’t careful about the dosage he took.

 “Hey! What are you—hmph!”

 Seongwoo found himself flipped onto his knees with his pants pulled down mid-thigh, Daniel’s fingers in his mouth. He sucked on them instinctively as Daniel hovered over him, his humongous bulge rubbing against his cheeks.

 “You teased me too much. You asked for this, hyung.”

 Seongwoo’s eyes expanded, fear coursing through him. “No, you’re not going to--! Not here!”

 “I’m not going to put it in, hyung. I won’t until you’re ready and that won’t be a quickie. One day when you say that you’d like to spend the night with me. One day when you want to be officially mine instead of simply fooling around…I’ll wait for you to ask for it.”

 That won’t happen, Dnaiel. I’m sorry to say. I wouldn’t mind it once but if the condition is that we’re official, then I can’t ever give in to that impulse at least. I’m so sorry…God I really want to…I want him to put it in me…But I can’t commit…This is torture…

 He gripped the cushion he moaned into as Daniel carefully thrust his fingers inside his trembling center. The sound was both embarrassing and erotic.

 “More…” he chocked out, bucking back.

 “You’re okay? I’ll put in one more then, hyung. Tell me if it hurts.”

 Stop being so sweet. It’s irritating...

 Daniel made him melt further when he kissed his neck and shoulders as he gently applied another finger. He pumped in and out carefully, curling his wet fingers to search for a spot, his lips tingly, warm, and calming. Seongwoo jerked and bit the pillow, a shiver running through him. Daniel smirked victoriously.

 “Oh, I found it. It was easier than I thought. Yours must be big and sensitive.”

 “Shut up and move properly, Niel…” he glared over his shoulder at the puppy that had a massive body and eyes full of childlike wonder.

 “Alright. I guess you’re an impatient kitty when it comes to something inside.”

 You have no idea. I’m about to ask for something much bigger which would be a stupid idea. So hurry up and get me off so I can go back to thinking rationally. My mind is such a mess right now, all because of you…

 “Very. Ugh, hmm, ahh…”

 “Hmm, hyung. You’re so hot and tight. It’s sucking me in. I’m so hard now.”

 “Put it in. Between my thighs then. I’ll squeeze it. It will be like we’re having sex.”

 Fuck. What did I just say? The sex demon has possessed me. This is not a good idea! Take it back right now!

 “O-on second thought—” he started to say with his face flushing deeply.

 Daniel however was already taking him up on the offer since he hadn’t spoken fast enough. His silky, large head was poking at his thighs. Seongwoo let him slide in and then squeezed his legs around the hard member. Daniel held his hip, then pulled back with his fingers and hips in tandem, slamming in quickly a second later. They both tensed, pressed together and groaned.

 “Hyung…”

 “Daniel…”

 “It’s okay? Too much?”

 Yes, it’s too fucking much. This is a terrible idea. I’m going to want you so much more after this. Stop it right now. Pull out and we must never attempt this idea again.

 “No, it’s good. Give me more.”

 “Yay~ I’m already enjoying this. It won’t last long. I’ll get you there quickly too.”

 “You don’t need to…Ah! Hmm, ha…Oh, god, yes~! Daniel, ah! There! Ah, it’s so good. Hmm, harder. Ah~ Feels good, keep going…”

 Daniel grunted, biting down on his lip, brows furrowed in concentration as he watched his hand sandwiched between his stomach and Seongwoo’s puckering center, the fluffy, creamy bottom pressed eagerly back to meet him with each thrust, the tan monster slipping amongst the milky curtains.

 It was a sight like something out of a fantasy. He swore he saw things in a dreamy, fuzzy sort of state. Seongwoo sparkled and his moans were like the sounds of birds singing. It was a magical moment that didn’t last nearly long enough.

 Afterwards, they collapsed on the couch, Daniel laying over him with his wet member nestled in his legs, their hands linked and their sweaty heads pressed together. They panted and moaned, nuzzling and kissing each other slow and sweet.

 “I like you, hyung. That was amazing…”

 “Yes, it was. We should do it again.”

 I like you too, Daniel. I like you so much. I wish I could say it once. How can a person like you even exist? You’re far too good and perfect for me. What did I ever do to deserve your feelings? I’m nothing but a dishonest and selfish coward…If only I could give you what you want. You should find someone else but at the same time I couldn’t bear the idea so I can’t send you away to do that.

 

 

 

Daniel watched over the entirety of the Don’t Wanna Cry music video they were doing first, giving direction to the staff and advice to Seongwoo for the shots to come out well. He took care of his artist like a child on his first day of school, relieving his stress, nerves, and fatigue any way he could (getting him coffee and food, lightly hitting his stiff muscles, cracking several jokes and acting silly with some props to get him to laugh).

 Seongwoo didn’t want to feel grateful and in debt to his boss but he did. Shooting the music video would have been much more grueling and boring without him. The time flew by with Daniel by his side more often than any others, enough that the staff members began to comment on it. Not all of them were joking either; some gossiped and looked at him differently.

 Seongwoo couldn’t hear clearly but he had an idea what it would be about (his paranoia wasn’t helping in this case). That they were gay. That they were seeing each other. That Daniel chose him in order to see him more frequently. That Daniel was playing favorites. That Seongwoo got in through connections rather than his skills. That he was sleeping his way through the industry.

 He hated it. Because it was true but then it was also not (or so he didn’t want to believe). He wanted to think he got here based on his skills, not because Daniel wanted into his pants. His career was important to him but he’d never sell his body for it. So, it offended him that some might be thinking of him that way. The misunderstanding was infuriating and everything that he’d wanted to avoid.

 During a break after five hours of fimling, he said he’d be going up to the top of the building for some fresh air. They’d first shot a dance scene there in the morning before the weather got unbearably hot and he recalled the view was nice. Being somewhere high all alone relaxed him, made him feel separated from the bustling, judgmental world below, like he were freely flying with the birds that he watched. He would feel calmer there and he’d be able to think clearly.

 He didn’t notice that Daniel had followed him until he was reaching for his hand as they went up the stairs. Seongwoo jerked away, folding his arms over his chest. That didn’t discourage the blonde fully. He took the stairs two at a time until he was next to the artist, snaking his arms around his waist. Seongwoo grunted, feebly elbowing at his chest, his face flaming.

 “Someone could see. Stop that!” he hissed.

 Daniel chuckled, smirking playfully. “Look around, hyung. We’re the only ones here.”

 “Go back. I need sometime alone.”

 “Okay.”

 “Why aren’t you going?”

 “Oh, I thought you meant alone with me.”

 Seongwoo stopped at the door, rolling his eyes and huffling. Daniel untangled his arms until he managed to capture his hand. Then he opened the door and pulled him towards the opening.

 “I’m pretty sure you knew what I meant but you’re just ignoring it. I meant I wanted to be alone alone.”

 “Yup, you’re right.”

 “Why?”

 “Because I’m lonely without you? Because I like spending time with you? Because I’m worried about you and don’t think you should be alone because you also happen to look really lonely? You choose one.”

 “Isn’t it all of the above?”

 “It could be. Anyway, I don’t want to go back. I want to stay with you, hyung. I’ll be quiet and keep my distance. But at least let me look at you.”

 “Fine.”

 Daniel sat in the shadows on one side of the roof while Seongwoo stood next to another side, looking out at the horizon. After thinking for several minutes, conscious of the eyes boring into his back, he spoke seriously.

 “We should stop this, Daniel. You must know what people are starting to assume and gossip in negative ways. It’s the beginning of exactly what I don’t want. Before it turns into a scandal and we lose all the respect of the staff, we should put an end to it before you get more serious about me.

 No matter how much you like me or wait while doing sweet things, I won’t date you. Or anyone. It’s nothing personal. I just…can’t date. Not now or anytime soon. The more we drag this one, the more false hope will lead you on, make you want more. I’ll end up hurting you and that will ruin our business relationship.

 If you want to be my friend, that’s fine. But it should stay platonic. I want you to leave me alone so I can properly focus on the album. This whole thing we have going is distracting and wrecking my nerves. I can’t put my full energy into performing. I’m worried about that. We’ve got to put a stop on the physical stuff and I need space.”

 “Ah, hmm, I see. So my feelings and approach have been stressing you out. And that’s making it hard for you. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I wanted to make your life easier and relieve your stress and loneliness. I’m sorry to have done the opposite. I’m sorry that I was too obvious and caused gossip that could affect your image negatively. I’ll do my best to keep my feelings in check and keep a proper distance from you. If that’s what you want.”

 Seongwoo turned around, surprised at how rational and calm Daniel was at this subtle rejection. He smiled with relief and gratefulness. That had gone a lot smoother than he thought. He should have gotten the courage to be honest in the first place. Daniel was a reasonable, understanding, and good person after all. He’d take his side and do as he wished. Why had he feared otherwise?

 “That is what I want. Thank you for understanding my position. It’s not…too hard for you? I was worried about upsetting you but after today I really felt like I shouldn’t stay quiet anymore. There was a lot of staff members talking about us and you were getting pretty clingy…”

 “Well, I would be lying if I said I was happy about it, hyung. From the beginning, you told me that you didn’t date and you didn’t want to be more than friends with me. And I respect that. I like you so I wanted to have you in any way that I could, but first and foremost your healthy and happiness are important to me.

 So, if you say that it’s stressing you out, I should back off for the time being and let you do what you need. I can still wait for you without doing something physical. I’ll be there for you still whenever, whatever, however you need. More from the shadows, I promise. As long as you simply ask, I’m here for you—as a fan, a friend, or as more. Even if it’s three or four albums from now.”

 Seongwoo stared at him smiling bitterly with these sorrowful eyes for a long moment. He felt a mix of emotions, more sharply than usual. He wanted to run into his arms and cancel the whole thing now that he saw rather than Daniel being alright with it that he was playing strong for his sake. He also sort of wanted to run to the corner of the building, curl himself up in a ball, and cry on his own, shouting at Daniel to leave him alone forever.

 He hated feeling this way at the same time he was rather amazed by it—as he’d never known what it was like to love and break up with someone before. Even if it hadn’t been with his full heart nor had they really ever been in any semblance of a serious relationship. He would have a moment to recall now when he needed to sing a sad ballad. These emotions were precious and new as painful and scary as they were.

 He blinked away his tears and forced on a smile.

 “You shouldn’t wait for me like that. You deserve better, Daniel. Next time you like someone, make sure they like you and are up for dating first. That way you don’t get disappointed.”

 “Eh, hyung. With a face and personality like yours, you could never disappoint me. Come here. At least give me a last hug.”

 “Should I?” he hesitated, nervously biting on his lip and ducking his head.

 Daniel stood with his arms spread wide and beckoned with his hands. “Yes, you should. It’s an order, in fact. As your boss.”

 “Alright. As long as it’s the last time you act overly friendly.”

 “Okay, okay. I’ll stop calling you hyung and I’ll act like a proper boss. Not as friendly or flirty. Just come over here. I’m feeling chilly from this wind.”

 He fakely shivered, making Seongwoo chuckle. Despite the sad moment uncomfortably pricked at his heart and a part of him hated the idea of Daniel not being physical with him or calling him intimately, he couldn’t help but smile. Daniel was that amusing and cute even when he was having his heart trampled on.

 In another universe, they would have been best friends or the closest of lovers. It was unfortunate that in this one, they couldn’t be either anytime soon. Since his career and his fears got in the way. He realized then that just getting Daniel to agree to putting distance between them and stop fooling around might not be enough to make his feelings stop or reverse like he wished they would. It might be difficult for him to stop liking Daniel as much as it would be for Daniel to towards him.

 Why were they drawn to each other after such a short time anyway? Was it because they matched each other well? Was it because of the intense attraction and them being the same age? Was it because they respected each other as people and artists and had a lot in common?

 Seongwoo put his mixed feelings in the back of his mind the most he could planning to deal with them later whenever he had time (if, actually). Then he ran to Daniel, getting enveloped in his snug, warm embrace. Daniel held him and tugged them into the shadows behind a plant so that if someone came out on the roof, they wouldn’t immediately be visible.

 They stood there against the wall, hugging tight and silently for several moments. Both were fighting tears and struggling with their feelings of sadness. Both had things on the tip of their tongues that they wanted to or thought they should say but in the end they didn’t say any of them. They merely assumed what the other was thinking or feeling at the time.

 

 

 

Daniel seems more fine about this whole thing than I thought I would be. He agreed so easily. I’m relieved but at the same time, it feels…unfair? I struggled with this so much and regretted it after I said it even up until now. But he’s not fighting me like I thought he would be. He accepted it without blinking and doesn’t even seem all that hurt.

  Maybe his feelings weren’t all that serious? Maybe he was more into me physically? Well, in that case, I did the right thing for the both of us. We can survive without doing these things, right? I mean, if I need something physical, I can just go elsewhere and it’s the same pretty much.

  Everything else will be the same—he’s my boss and he’s a nice guy. He will still care for me and give me what I need, right? I hope that he wouldn’t completely turn on me and go back on his word out of pettiness. Because I hate to say it but I need him….his advice, his power, his encouragement, his smiles, his influences…

  Don’t hate me, Daniel. Though I’m a rotten, selfish, cowardly pain the ass. At least don’t hate me please…

 

 

I hate to put distance between us again, but if that’s what Seongwoo wants, then I have no other choice. I have to respect him. I didn’t bring him in the company to date him or fool around with him, but because I wanted him to spread his wings and reach his full potential. I can’t rob him of his singing career by forcing my feelings on him.

  I’ll miss this so much. It’s been nice. Like living a dream. I guess it’s time to wake up. But, sorry, hyung. I’m going to wait until you’re married to someone else. Because you’re the only one for me, there’s just no one better. I don’t think I can be into anyone else to this extent.

  I’ll give you space—for now. Hopefully, you’ll approach me soon and we can have our deal back on again though. It’s not as painful as you think, hyung. I’ve enjoyed having a taste of what it would be like to date the most perfect guy in the universe and I was happy that you were attracted to me, even if you haven’t fallen in love yet.

  I wish you wouldn’t suffer alone but I’ll be there for you in the shadows. I’m always going to be within reach should you need me. Because I’m your biggest fan. No one cares for you like I do. My love being confirmed once more to be love-sided won’t change any of that.

I already miss you, hyung...

Chapter Text

 

Seongwoo was looking out over the ocean near the van, feeling lonely and grumpy. It was chilly and windy even in the afternoon, so he was wearing a sweater and a padded jacket. He’d been at the site on the beach, filming for the Heart Sign music video since the early morning with around ten staff members, none of which were familiar to him. He would have liked to have someone to talk to like the previous time he shot. Someone to care for him and compliment him and share his worries with and crack jokes with. His stress would be relieved and his stomach would be filled. Maybe he’d feel less cold, down, and on edge.

 When his stomach rumbled, Seongwoo placed his hand over it and pouted, squinting at the aquamarine shimmering ocean. It was beautiful but blinding and so very empty. Beaches looked strange to him without people enjoying them.

 “I’m hungry…He’s really not coming? Even though he’s the CEO…I guess he doesn’t care what happens to me now…shallow jerk! You bad man that only cares about one thing!” he shouted into the wind, venting some of his anger and disappointment.

 His eyes stung from the rushing wind. He ducked inside the van, wiping at his teary eyes. However, once the dam was broken it was difficult to stop. The tears welled up, growing larger by the second despite his best efforts.

 “Why am I crying over something so stupid? He’s a busy person and you’re the one that drove him away. What did you expect? I’m such a hypocrite…”

 He laughed bitterly, laying his head back on the headrest. Some tears slipped out, rolling hot down his temples. He bit on his lip, hoping they’d stop soon, not wanting his swollen eyes and smeared make-up to give his less than elated emotional state to the staff.

 I’m lonely. I wish I could see him even for two minutes for a casual talk. How can a person change so drastically over night?

 Seongwoo hadn’t seen Daniel in several days outside of their meeting times. He wasn’t even sure if the man was in the company. One thing was certain—Daniel was avoiding wherever he was. He hadn’t even bumped into him on the way to the bathroom or in the lounge where he stayed late to catch his drama.

 Of course, it was an unexpected but good thing that Daniel listened to his request for space. However, wasn’t he listening to him a bit too well? He hadn’t wanted Daniel to suddenly disappear completely from his life to the point that they never even saw each other. It bothered him a lot since the day he’d ‘broken up’ with him. How he was calm and unattached and agreed to everything he asked. It wasn’t the Daniel that Seongwoo knew and it made it seem like his supposed feelings hadn’t been genuine, which he didn’t want to think about because it felt like an unjust defamation of character.

 Didn’t he really like me? Or did he simply want to get in my pants? How can he give up so easily? He doesn’t miss me or want to see me at all? How is it I haven’t even gotten a message about how I’m doing on the shoot? It’s like he doesn’t care now there’s no chance. I probably pushed a bit too hard so it turned him off completely…

 “Are you so hungry that you’re tired? It must be an emergency. Scoot over.”

 He turned his head, blankly staring at the person that appeared at the entrance of the open van with a box. It was Jaehwan, bringing him food from the looks of it.

 The artist sat up and scoot over, commenting in a surprised tone, “Jaehwan? What are you doing at my shoot? You’re supposed to be…”

 “Yeah, I’m supposed to be writing lyrics in the studio right now. I was given a task to bring you food and see how you’re doing.”

 “A task? By who?”

 Jaehwan wiggled his finger. “That’s technically a secret but I bet you can guess it.”

 Seongwoo smiled weakly, his mouth salivating as he smelled what was in the box—fried chicken. Then he scowled, stuffing down his soaring heart.

 “He’s so busy that he couldn’t even deliver it himself?”

 Jaehwan chuckled with a mysterious smile. “At least he’s looking out for you in his own way. He never did this sort of thing for me on my music videos, believe me. He visited on the first one for an hour to make sure I wasn’t causing chaos, but that was it. Anything else, he told me just to ask the staff since they have company cards. As far as I know, you’re the only artist he’s ever personally bought food for. Oh, and drinks. He said you prefer Pepsi to Srite or Coke. But I can’t for the life of me think of why…”

 “I used to advertise for Pepsi, that’s why…” the other muttered, taking the blue can and popping it open.

 The cool, burning liquid in his throat made him feel refreshed. He set down the can and dug into the box.

 “What about tissues?”

 “He said you’d prefer wet wipes. Here.”

 Seongwoo attempted to fight a smile when Jaehwan put a package of wet wipes in his lap. He held it gingerly, brushing his thumbs over the edges. The smile creeped up his face, triumphing.

 “What’s he trying so hard for when he knows it’s helpless? I’m not worth any of this. Stupid puppy…”

 “That’s not all. He said that since it’s dry and cold, you’d need these.”

 The next things tossed on his lap were a tube of hand cream and two hot packs.

 Seongwoo let out a sigh. “What’s this idiot doing, really. Confusing me like that…such an irritating meddler…I hate this sort of unnecessary act…I absolutely detest it…”

 He looked out the window and wiped subtly at his tears. As soon as he sniffled though, Jaehwan seemed concerned.

 “Hyung? Are you crying? Or did you catch a cold? What’s wrong? If you need to stop the shoot or talk to the boss, then—”

 “No. I don’t need either. Don’t tell him anything. I don’t actually hate it or want him not to do that. I’m a little moody now. Just say that I was thankful for his kind gesture,” Seongwoo insisted, smile tight, his eyes still dewy he was sure.

 Jaehwan pouted with sympathy, wiping his hands in the air to dry the tears.

 “Hyung…”

 “I’m fine. So don’t say anything to him. Tell him that I’m doing really well. You can’t say anything about me crying, you got it? I need you to lie. It’s imperative.”

 “I can but I don’t know if I should, hyung…I don’t like to lie especially when it involves a friend’s well-being. I’m guessing that something bad happened between you two. That’s why he didn’t come here and sent me instead and why you’re crying from his act of kindness. Do you want to talk about it?”

 Seongwoo looked down and shook his head. “Not now. I’ll cry more and ruin my make-up if I tell you the story. It’s also a long and complicated one we don’t have much time for. I’ve still got to get back to shooting in ten minutes. Work is my main priority. My fans deserve to see me looking my best.

 Wow, this chicken looks delicious. Hmm, what a yummy smell! Man, I’m starving. There’s too much for me though. Let’s eat it together. What part do you like? Legs, breasts, or wings?”

 The artist attempted to change the subject, sniffling and gulping back the uncomfortable lump in his throat, forcing a bubbly, fake smile on his face that he prayed was convincing. He sort of wanted to talk about the situation with his friend, but he honestly was worried that Jaehwan would judge him and be angry at him. Since it was his fault. If Daniel was avoiding meeting him because he was hurt, that would make Jaehwan upset and he’d feel all the guiltier.

 The touching way that Daniel was taking care of him from the shadows like he promised made him recall what a terrific guy he was and how he was intentionally missing out on that (and his own happiness). That made him want to cry and throw things. He couldn’t afford to be emotionally distraught at work, however. He needed to keep his grip together until he got home. He could sink into self-hatred, drink until he became numbe, and tear up his room then.

 In the middle of eating, Jaehwan said, “If you’re having a hard time because of Daniel, hyung, let me know. I’m your friend too. I’m a good listener and have experience mediating. I won’t tell him anything if you don’t want me too. I promise. Don’t keep things bottled in. That makes your work harder.”

 “Thank you for the offer. Maybe some other day over drinks. Outside of the company. I don’t want to become a mess at work.”

 Jaehwan smiled softly and patted the singer’s back. “That bad, huh? Well, being in between relationships can really suck. I know all about that.”

 Seongwoo licked his smirking lips. “Yeah, I bet you do. I’m curious about this situation with Minhyun and Jonghyun you got yourself caught up into. Talk about a mess. A love triangle between two singers in the same company and even the same group, yikes.”

 “Oh, you have no idea! Do you know that they’re actually childhood friends and exes? They dated for a short time before they formed the same group. It was awkward because they didn’t have a good split, but they found a way to be friends again. I guess the physical attraction is still there. I can see that and it sort of drives me nuts the way they’re comfortable with skinship…”

 Seongwoo was thankful for the entertaining distraction Jaehwan provided. He ate his chicken and drank his Pepsi, wiping his mouth and greasy fingers with the wet tissues from Daniel as he listened attentively. Work and conversation was just what he needed to keep his mind off of his crush and his complicated emotions he was struggling to deal with and wanted to run away from.

 He’d never liked someone this much. He’d never caused or suffered from heartbreak. He’d never felt such loneliness, guilt, suspicion, jealousy and frustration. Of course, it was obvious that he’d have difficulty coping.

 Jaehwan picked up his phone because he couldn’t ignore the vibrating of it. As he expected Daniel was calling him like he had every five minutes since he said that he arrived at the set. He was in the company car he’d borrowed on his way back luckily. Seongwoo was taking a bathroom break before he needed to get his smeared make-up redone.

 “You’re going to make a bothersome, naggy husband someday, aren’t you?”

 “How was he? Is he doing alright? Did he get in any accidents? He didn’t catch a cold, did he? I told them not to put more than his feet in the water.”

 Jaehwan rolled his eyes. Of course Daniel didn’t give him a second of concern and went straight to the point. Like the lovesick puppy he was.

 “He’s fine, he’s fine. Stop your worrying. There’s been no accidents and they aren’t going to shoot the water scene until the very end. It’s not even all that cold here, just a bit windy. If you keep treating him like a princess, he’s going to get spoiled and you’re going to reget it.”

 “I won’t. He can be however he wants. I’ll still take care of him, spoiled brat or otherwise. How was he feeling about the shoot? Did he say the staff has been scolding him? That director can be picky.”

 Feeling irritated, Jaehwan couldn’t help but snap at the overprotective boss, “He’s perfectly fine! A hard-working angel that’s always smiling and eager to please as usual. The director seemed quite taken with him and I’m sure the staff are already fans. Everyone is praising and caring for him. They ask if he’s cold or tired and tell him he can take a break whenever he wants. The director is satisfied with everything in almost one cut. You have nothing to worry about, like I said.”

 “Oh, that’s a relief. Seems he’s less nervous this time around.”

 He commented sarcastically, “Well, he would be. Without you around and it being his second shoot.”

 “Hey! What’s that supposed to mean? Why would I make him nervous?” Daniel asked with an offended tone.

 “Of course, having the one that you like around you would make you nervous. Because you don’t want disappoint them and you can feel them staring at you.”

 Daniel laughed, a bit awkwardly. “Eh~ He doesn’t like me. What gave you that idea? We’re not anything.”

 “Sure you aren’t. Nothing at all. Which is why…nevermind.”

 Jaehwan bit his tongue, stopping himself from saying something. He didn’t want to get in the middle of things and lose Seognwoo’s trust by telling Daniel what he’d seen. From what he gathered, Seongwoo liked Daniel but was pushing him away and secretly missing him while Daniel was likely being selfless and staying away despite he wanted to be with him desperately.

 “How are things going with you two anyway? Any progress? Did you confess?”

 Daniel snorted, his voice coming across with a tinge of bitterness and annoyance. “If I hadn’t, do you think I would be here instead of there? Really, Jjaenie, grow some brains or develop some tact. Of course, I confessed and I got rejected.”

 “So…then things aren’t…”

 “No, things aren’t going well. Thanks for asking,” he snapped.

 Jaehwan was thrown off. Seongwoo obviously liked Daniel as well. If their feelings were mutual, then…

 “Why did he reject you? It seemed to me that you were growing on him…”

 “Because he cares more about his career than he likes me, I suppose. He’s not ready to be in a relationship. He doesn’t DO relationships because of potential scandals. And he’s certainly not going to get involved with his boss of all people. He warned me about that from the beginning.

 I stupidly followed him around, falling more in the process, thinking I could win him over and change his mind by being charming. But he’s brutally drawn the line. We were getting closer and more physical, then he heard the staff talking about us suspiciously. Seems like he was scared after that. It snapped him out of our fantasy into cruel reality.

 He said just a couple minutes after that that he wanted distance and for us to remain professional. So, I’m being a good puppy abiding by his rules. I can’t help worrying and carrying for him though. You didn’t tell him that I was the one that sent you, right?”

 “No, I didn’t.”

 He guessed actually, but I’m just going to keep that to myself for now. It’s likely that Seongwoo won’t mention it to him anyway.

 “Good. Thanks for doing me that favor. Why don’t you keep the car a bit longer and go for a drive?”

 “Really? Can I borrow Minhyun?” he asked excitedly.

 “Well, it’s his day off so I don’t see why not. You’d better ask first though. Don’t get your hopes up though. He’s probably caught up cleaning his apartment.”

 “Eh, still~ Minhyun likes to hang out with me more than cleaning, I assure you~”

 “Right~” Daniel commented with disbelief.

 “Seriously, he does! You don’t know how much Minhyun hyung adores me now. We’ve made a mountain of progress. I’ll three-way call him, hold on—”

 “I’m gonna go now, Jjaenie. I’ve got some things to do and I’m not really in the mood. It will only make me jealous…” Daniel interrupted him, his voice sounding heavy and blue.

 Jaehwan immediately sobered. “Oh…I understand. Hey, Boss…”

 “Yes?”

 “Cheer up. In my opinion, Seongwoo is developing feelings for you. If you just wait a bit longer, I think he might change his mind in your favor. That’s simply my personal opinion after observing him.”

 “I don’t need you to tell me that. Of course, I’ll wait for him. Like anyone could replace Ong Seongwoo in my heart after all this time. But don’t get my hopes up. I don’t need to suffer a broken heart all over again. Once a month is more than enough to deal with.”

 Jaehwan frowned, his body feeling like a large storm cloud was hanging over it, drenching him. The depression the boss was going through came across the phone and infected him.

 “Boss…Daniel, my buddy…Let’s go out for a drink. It sounds like you need it. I’ll be your shoulder to lean on so you can tell me the whole story and cry all over me. I don’t mind. Hmm? The way you sound right now has me worried…”

 “I’m a big, strong guy. Don’t worry about me so much. I’m doing alright. Thanks for the offer. I’m okay on my own for now. Enjoy your free time. Drive safe.”

 “I will, Boss. Take care of yourself. Turn that frown upside down!”

 “Haha. Alright, alright. Stop being so nice and cringy. It’s unlike you.”

 “I understand. But can I say one more thing…?”

 “Sure, but that better be the last.”

 “Sorry to cross the line but let me just say as a friend. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to act so cold to Seongwoo hyung right now. I noticed you’ve been avoiding him and he’s obviously noticed it too. I think it’s making him upset and that’s bound to affect his work. Even if you guys are in a fight or something right now, you shouldn’t make things worse and awkward. At least you should look in on him here and there like you normally would. Don’t send me on an errand next time. Do it yourself. Even if it’s a bit uncomfortable. When Seongwoo hyung said he wanted space, I don’t think he meant for you to become invisible. Stop playing ninja. You’re too big for it anyway.”

 “Um…Thanks for the advice. I’ll consider it. Maybe I was being a bit drastic.”

 

 

 

 Seongwoo had asked to be dropped off a couple blocks from his home so he could walk to his place. His manager drove along the street slowly in case there was an issue with fans and he needed to intervene. Seongwoo hardly noticed.

 He was absently strolling down the nearly empty sidewalk, staring blankly at the various items in the shops along the street. A large white fluffy doll caught his eyes. The size and proportion of waist and legs as well as the slanted eyes reminded him of Daniel somehow. Instinctively he went into the store and pointed to it, asking the clerk how much it was.

 He was cuddling on the sofa with the doll called ‘Plain’, wrapped in a cozy blanket, blinking absently at the TV. He was supposed to be monitoring his drama, but he couldn’t focus on it. It reminded him of those times in the lounge where they’d watched it and cuddled together. Now all he had was Daniel’s replacement which wasn’t nearly as solid and warm bought brought him some comfort and almost made him smile. He hugged the doll’s waist and snuggled into his chest, frustrated with himself when tears came into his eyes again.

 “What’s wrong with you, Seongwoo? Get a grip. You’re not some lovesick teenager. You’re a freaking adult who’s used to being alone for goodness sake. Stop missing him when you were the one that drove him away in the first place, you damn hypocrite,” he groaned, slapping himself on the head.

 His phone vibrating on the coffee table stopped him. He lifted his head up to see who was calling. It was his boss.

 He shot up, fidgeting with the blanket nervously and chewing on his lip. He wasn’t sure whether he should answer it or not and the idea of what he should first say made him panic. Maybe it would be better not to pick it up. Daniel would think he was sleeping. He could send him a message the next day about how things went. A short, composed one. That would be better.

 It wasn’t a good idea to talk over the phone in his frazzled state. Who knew what he’d say if he’d even be able to say anything at all. He might just blurt out that he missed him and that he was sorry and wanted to take back his words before or he might snap and scold him for sending Jaehwan to spy and care for him in his place. He might just start an argument and insult him for being shallow and cowardly and fickle.

 He couldn’t trust himself at the moment in his unhealthy emotional state, so he dived back into the doll’s chest, dragging the blanket cover over his head. His heartbeat slowed and he let out a shaky sigh of relief when the phone stopped ringing. Then the phone started to buzz again. He peeked at the caller ID and groaned.

 “Go away. Make it stop. You don’t hear anything, Seongwoo. No one’s calling you. No one at all. That’s the sound of um, construction…right, a drill that’s all you’re hearing…ignore it…just ignore it…”

 After the third time and the hundredth vibration, he sat up and snatched his phone in irritation.

 “Hello? What is it, Sir?” he asked spitefully and formally.

 “Ah, you picked up finally. I was getting worried that something happened on your drive home.”

 “I’m fine,” he answered cliply, thinking ‘no thanks to you but Jaehwan who you sent in your place, you meanie’.

 “Good to hear. I know your manager has the best driving skills but sometimes people in this country really drive crazily, especially at this time of day. So, how was the shoot? Did it go smoothly? Was it fun or nerve-wracking?”

 “It was fine. It was a bit cold and hectic and super long this time around. But it was a beautiful setting. Very bright and dandy. I think people will feel like they’re on vacation while watching it. It matches the song well. I hope my lip-synching turned out naturally. It’s hard to do that.”

 “Yeah, it takes some getting used to. If there’s an awkward part, we can just put a part with you acting on the beach or the campgrounds instead. I’ll make sure the editors look out for that part. I was planning on seeing the final product and critiquing it anyway. Did you eat and get warmed up?”

 “Hmm-hmm. I’m in a hoodie and blanket and I had something to eat…” he murmured, looking at the half-finished bag of chips that were his go-to comfort food though he hadn’t had much appetitive even for them today.

 “That’s good. You must be tired and sore. Shower and put on some pass where you ache before sleeping. It’s best if you go to bed early. You don’t have a schedule tomorrow so come in after you get as much sleep as you need. You deserve a full day’s rest.”

 “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep that long…”

 “Why not? These days you haven’t been sleeping well? What is it? Stress? Nightmares? Anxiety?”

 Loneliness, anger, self-pity, guilt mainly. All because of you. Not that you’d care much if I told you so since you’re over me and all.

 “Nightmares. I watched a scary movie with a friend the other day.”

 “Ah, is that so? Hmm, the best way is to sleep with your feet covered and a lamp on. I have my Spidey night light that helps. I can have one sent to you immediately. Or I’ll send someone to retrieve mine and bring it over to you.”

 Of course, he would have a Spiderman nightlight. That was cute…not.

 “You don’t need to. I have a lamp. I’ll try to use it. Thanks for your concern…”

 “Sure, anytime. It’s my job to be concerned and provide your needs. Since you’re part of the family now.”

 “Yeah, right. Family…”

 “You don’t like that either? Sorry but this I can’t give in on. You’re family now, Seongwoo. Whether you want to be or not. You’re going to have to put up with us obnoxious overly caring lot.”

Seongwoo chuckled, playing with his toes, smiling softly for the first time in what felt like forever. Joking around with Daniel and hearing that nostalgic caring, gentle way of speaking—it lifted one of the invisible rocks off his chest.

 “Alright, I understand. I didn’t mean that I was objecting to the idea. It just made me nostalgic for my own family. I miss them,” he lied, replacing the then with a ‘you’ in his mind which was the honest truth.

 “If you need anything, just tell me. I can call them up and bring them to your place if that’s what you need.”

 He missed Daniel so much. His voice wasn’t enough to take the heaviness and gloominess away. He needed to lay in his strong arms, hear his husky laugh up close, feel his plush lips gently brush his skin. He needed to feel adored and cherished so that he could feel whole and happy again. Only then would he truly feel better. However, he was too much of a coward to say what he wished for most. He couldn’t reverse time as much as he couldn’t go back on his words which he still believed had been the right thing to do at the time.

 “No, it’s fine. You’ve done more than enough. I don’t need that. I’ll just call them and then go to sleep. Have a good day, Sir. I hope you won’t stay there all night.”

 “I’ll stop working on my album if you tell me too. Oh, and if you call me Daniel again. We’re family, Seongwoo. You agreed to not call me that. Let’s not back track all the way to a whole month ago now. Hmm? It hurts.”

 

Does it? Sorry. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you but that’s all I keep doing. Maybe that’s my real talent. Hurting and driving away the people that like me. Sabotaging my chance at having a happy, normal relationship. Like I’m some perverted masochist instead of a normal person.

 He sighed, covering the bottom of the phone with his fingers so it wouldn’t be heard. Then he smiled faintly as he commented, “Don’t work all night, Daniel. We’re only as strong as our boss is. You should stay healthy.”

 “Aw, thanks. With a sweet, genuine request like that, I would be a jerk to refuse. I’ll leave after another hour. Swear on my cats.”

 Daniel chuckled sheepishly. Seongwoo pictured his dimples, scrunched up almond eyes, and flaming ears. He smiled wider, his stomach flipping at the cute image in his mind.

 He cleared his throat, putting the corners of his mouth straight and sounding more business like. “I’m going to go now. Have a good night.”

 “You too. Good night. Pleasant dreams.”

 

 

 

 For the first time in days, Seongwoo was able to have a deep sleep and pleasant dreams. He woke up in a good mood, thinking that Daniel maybe still liked him. At least he didn’t hate or blame him or feel completely uninterested all of a sudden. He danced around with the Plain doll in his bedroom still wearing his pajamas with his hair puffed out, singing about how maybe just maybe Daniel hadn’t just wanted him physically and he wasn’t shallow at all.

 He kissed the doll and pinched its fluffy cheeks before setting it on the bed and hopping to the kitchen. He turned on the TV to the news, then went to the kitchen to put a slice of cinnamon raison bread in the toaster and get some orange juice.

 “Kang Daniel and Somi are rumored to be dating after being seen last night at ten pm at a restaurant. There has yet to be an official statement from the media. The pair were known to have been friends since they’re trainee days, when they both were working with JYP. There were question marks when the young idol turned CEO first brought the soloist into his company after her departure from JYP. It was suspicious then since it was immediately after, suggesting that they were in contact.

 This isn’t the first time that they’ve been photographed together outside of the workplace. Last year, they were spotted getting coffee together at—”

 Seongwoo dropped his glass on the floor. He jumped back as the shattered pieces flung around him, letting out a shout. Luckily, he hadn’t dropped the juice carton. He shakily put the cap on and leaned against the counter, his eyes stuck on the TV. The news was showing blurred pictures, but it was clear enough to tell who they were of. That was definitely Daniel and Somi, seeming like they were caught by paparazzi or saseang fans on a date.

 How had he never heard of that before? They were clearly close friends and Daniel had had dating rumors before, so he was certainly into both boys and girls? Had he been fooling around with him while dating Somi? Or was it that he went back to her because he was lonely after Seongwoo rejected him? Could he not go a couple days even without someone to be physical with? What was their relationship? Had he called him when he was with her? Had he been so sweet and flirty and then went back to meet her? Had they gone to his place and messed around right after?

 Seongwoo felt suck to his stomach but he couldn’t rush to the bathroom because the floor was covered with shards of glass he couldn’t see enough to hope avoid. He was currently barefoot with a bleeding slight scratch on his ankle.

 He sank down on the floor in the corner after swiping the few wandering glass pieces away. He pulled up his knees to his chest and bit on his thumb, rocking back and forth anxiously. He didn’t attempt to fight the tears. When his heart felt like it was being trampled and ripped at the same time, how could he hope to?

 "That bastard. How dare he. He lied to me. He must have. He didn’t like me honestly. He just was trying to get with me. And when I pushed him away and refused to give him anything, he went back to his usual. He rebounded on me. With a girl even. Maybe I was just an experiment. That must have been it. I was just a fun time for him. He wasn’t serious.

 He never took me out on any dates. He must have been ashamed to have been seen with me. He didn’t want to risk being seen with a guy. Or I’m not worth the money. That lying, horny, shallow jerk. I hate him. I hate him so much. No more. I refuse to let him take over my mind for a second anymore. Today’s the last day I give a shit about the likes of Kang Daniel. Let the rats have him.”

 

 

 

 From that day on with his showcase coming around the corner, Seongwoo buried himself completely in his work. He practiced until he passed out at the studio between his schedules, forgetting to eat and sometimes even to drink water. He noticed there was food brought to the studio and he knew who it was likely from, but he refused to eat that especially. Just as he refused to take the boss’s calls or read any of his messages and locked the studio door when he was working.

 Seongwoo had Jaehwan keep an eye on Daniel’s whereabouts so he could avoid him. He would only go out of the studio when Jaehwan assured him that Daniel wasn’t anywhere near there. He knew that Daniel watched him sometimes from the door with a concerned or frustrated expression, but he ignored him and danced harder, not sparing him a single direct glance.

 He couldn’t afford a mental break down. He was still angry, even if the company had reportedly denied the rumors. Of course, they would. All companies said that a couple was simply friends and then admitted to it later after getting caught some more times. He was certain that they were together again and that he’d merely been used as a rebound or to make her jealous, so they’d get back together.

 No-one could convince him otherwise, though Jaehwan insisted that those two dating was absolute nonsense. But Seongwoo knew how dating worked in companies. They wouldn’t necessarily tell anyone the truth. People had to trust their instincts and unless Daniel and Somi told him otherwise with a lie detector attached to their fingers, he didn’t think he’d be able to believe it.

 What did it matter anyway who Daniel dated or didn’t? Seongwoo had a career to focus on and he’d pushed Daniel away in the first place because he had no intentions to date him any time soon. It wasn’t like if Daniel wasn’t dating her that he’d be chasing after him anyway.

 Good for him. He deserves to be happy with someone if dating is really that much more important than the security of his career (foolishness). He should just admit that they’re dating honestly and weather out the storm. Since they’re both popular and successful on their own, then I’m sure fans will eventually accept and be on their side. They are opposite sexes after all. Unlike me.

 It’s not likely anyone would accept me with him, not as more than a friend. Even if an article came out with us eating at a restaurant, it probably wouldn’t blow up like this was. This is better off. He’ll stop bothering me and I can live in peace. So what If I’m a bit lonely. I’ll get used to it.

 The best way is to focus on something else. Stay busy. I’ll be so busy and tired that I can’t even think of him. When I sleep feeling tired, I don’t have any dreams either. This is for the best. Things are going to be just fine for me. Good for him.

 He’s still an asshole for using me and leading me on and only caring about physical stuff and lying about feeling things for me while he had feelings for another. But still. He’s not fully a bad person and everyone deserves to be loved. So good for him and for her. They should just be honest so that their fans aren’t angrier later when they get caught again and it seems like they lied before.

 Though a part of me still wishes they’d rot in hell and their success gets largely damaged from this scandal.

 Seongwoo couldn’t help but feel a little bitter and jealous. Since he did like Daniel after all. More than he realized now that he was living without him and had been hurt unintentionally by him. Those nasty, irrational feelings enraged him and also impassioned him, making him want to work harder.

 He’d show Daniel that he was doing well on his own without any help from him. He’d mastered the three dances without any lessons from Daniel even. He’d merely watched his choreography videos and practiced repeatedly, taking videos and sending them by email to update his progress. Daniel had nothing but praise for his efforts (by email) along with some concern that he was pushing himself too hard. Those sort of kind words only infuriated him and made him more determined, so he pushed himself harder.

 He decided he was going to impress Daniel and everyone in the company. He was going to show Daniel what he was missing out on and that he’d gotten more than he’d expected as an investment. And he was going to show Somi that he was the fiercest soloist in this company rather than her. He could sing better and dance better and he was more charismatic and sexier. He had never had that sort of goal before but he couldn’t help but see her as a rival now. The bitch that had stole away his man (he knew that Daniel had never been his but still he somehow felt that way). He couldn’t even bring himself to smile at her when they happened to be in the same area.

 

 

 

“Seongwoo, what are you doing to yourself? At this rate, you’ll pass out. You look so skinny and are you even sleeping properly? At least eat and drink something. He hasn’t had a break in over an hour. This is concerning…”

 Daniel was leaning on the door jam, watching Seongwoo dancing to Boyeo (Day by Day) on repeat. His fierce eyes only stayed on the mirror while his shoes made the floor squeak by putting so much force into them. His jaw was clenched, his breath uneven, his cute nostrils flaring like an angry bull, his hair stuck to his face. The man that once claimed he hated to sweat was drenched with it, like every other day this past week.

 His showcase was in two days. Daniel wasn’t worried at all that he’d do a bad job. With this much practice, he’d perform expertly and blow everyone away, especially those critics who didn’t expect much of an actor turned idol. However, that was only if he didn’t pass out halfway through. From what he knew from his spying and reports from spies, Seongwoo was overworking himself and not eating or drinking properly.

 He called up Jaehwan, sighing as he walked away with heavy steps.

 “Hey…I have a favor to ask of you…”

 

 

 

“Why did you drag me here? What’s all this for?”

 “It’s for you. From the boss. He told me to make sure you eat regularly until the showcase even if I have to force-feed you.”

 “Tch. He should care about his girlfriend rather than me. I’m an adult fully capable of eating or not eating as I choose. He should stop wasting money on meals. What does it matter as long as I look good on stage? It’s better if I’m thin. My bone structure stands out.”

 Jaehwan sighed, filling up his plate with various side-dishes that were as expensive as they were healthy. He set it down in front of him and forced the chopsticks into his hand.

 “I wonder how I even got stuck in the middle of this married couple quibble really…Are you still going on about that, hyung? I’m telling you, there’s no way those two are dating. Reporters just misunderstood and stir up drama. Probably paid off from his old companies. They do whatever they can to ruin his reputation, thinking it will make some dent but it never does. This happens from time to time.

 However upset you are about that being true or not though, you need to eat. Especially when you’re burning extra calories. I heard all you ever do is practice now. Lock yourself up in the studio between schedules. No one has even seen you. We’re concerned. Daniel most of all. You’re clearly over-working yourself to keep your mind off things.

 I know you want to do well at your showcase because of all the critics and your fans looking forward to your singing career for many years but still. At this rate you’re going to pass out in the middle of your showcase and not be able to show much of what you prepared. Can you think about how worried your fans would be then? How it will make the company look?

 Don’t make Daniel out to be a bad guy. He’s paying for this and he’s been watching over you. If you won’t eat for him because you’re upset about the rumor or whatever, then eat for me and your fans. I can’t stand to see you this thin. I’m worried. Please eat something proper.”

 Seongwoo grudgingly picked at the vegetables. “Alright. For you and for my fans only. I don’t want to make you worried. But I’m honestly not hungry these days. I don’t have much appetite even when I remember to eat. I’ll try but don’t expect me to be able to eat even half of this…”

 “What’s wrong, really? When we ate at a buffet before, you were able to eat up to ten plates, hyung. I’ve never known you to not have an appetite.”

 Seongwoo didn’t answer until he’d eaten half of what was on his plate and drank a cup of water.

 “I’m just a bit upset and stressed about some things. You don’t need to be concerned with it.”

 “Maybe talking about it would make you feel better? Why don’t you tell me what’s been going on with you and Daniel?”

 “Hmm…I’ll consider it. If you let me have some soju.” He smirked, biting the end of his chopsticks, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

 Jaehwan knew that he was forbidden at the moment from drinking alcohol and he definitely shouldn’t have any when he’d barely been eating or sleeping and was about to keel over from the exhaustion of overworking himself (he’d been dancing for eight hours already on top of two advertising schedules in the morning). He figured Seongwoo hadn’t gotten more than three hours of sleep in the last twenty-four hours judging by his dark circles. He sighed, knowing that he was going to give in because of his concern and curiosity.

 “Alright. But you need to eat that plate plus one more before you get any dangerous fluids in your system. And you’re not allowed to get wasted. Tomorrow is your rehearsal.”

 “I’ll keep myself under control. If there’s anything I’m talented at, it’s that. Believe me.”

 “Well, I envy you there. If I was in your situation, I don’t think I could. I can’t even imagine practicing for more than three hours without a break and food. You’re amazing, hyung. Worrisome, but amazing nonetheless.”

 “Thanks,” Seongwoo commented smugly, taking another mouthful of salad.

 

 

 

“Did you get him home at least? How drunk is he?”

 “He’s not that drunk. He’s mostly just tired, I think. He’s home and sleeping in his bed. I tucked him in. Don’t worry, I didn’t change him. I figured you’d be upset if I saw him naked or touched what’s yours.”

 Daniel chuckled. “Thanks for that. I would have probably torn up my pillows from jealousy if you had, that’s true. Though he isn’t mine except in my fantasies. I haven’t even seen him fully naked.”

 “Oh, so you didn’t…go all the way?”

 “How could I? We’re not even dating. We never even got the chance to be in a bedroom together. I’m not so scandalous that I’d just take him in the company. He deserves better. A romantic night with a loving boyfriend. That’s what Seongwoo deserves. What I wish I could give him. If he’d let me get close to him that way.

 How in the hell did things turn out this way, Jaehwan? He won’t even see me or talk to me now. We’ve only responded by email. You know that I haven’t even seen his eyes on mine in over a week besides his freaking picture? I’m going crazy here. This dumb rumor happened at the worst time.”

 “Well, I wish I could help you but after what I heard…It seems that he hates you right now. He thinks that you used him for physical things or as a rebound to make Somi jealous. He honestly thinks you’re dating and everything I’ve said or the company says is some cover-up. You’ll have to tell him that it all isn’t true yourself. Preferably with a lie detector on you. Because I’m not sure he’ll believe anything else at this point.

 He’s just hurt. Badly, I presume. I know you didn’t mean to on purpose. But the scandal seems to have hurt and scarred him. That’s why he’s working so hard. To keep his mind off you and avoid his emotions. And to show you both that he’s talented. I guess he sees Somi as his rival now and wants to impress you and maybe to win you back? I noticed he gets all icy when she’s around. Though in general, he hasn’t been pleasant company any time of the day lately. I don’t know.

 He told me lots of things tonight once he got tipsy, but he was talking fast and mumbling and contradicting himself. I think his brain and emotions are a total mess right now. He’s not stable. You should be careful when you approach him. Handle him with care. I’m not sure if it’s better to talk to him now or after the showcase. That’s really up to you to decide. But it needs to be soon. Before he hurts himself or ends up in the hospital.”

 “Is it that bad?” Daniel’s heart sank.

“Yes, I think so. He’s barely sleeping four hours a day and I think he’s possibly only eating once a day. He’s lost several kilograms. I think he’s going on sheer willpower now. There’s no way to tell how much longer the little bit of energy he’s going on will last. I’m worried he’ll collapse any moment. Luckily, he’s drunk so he should sleep tonight. I set his alarm for seven hours from now. He will be angry at me since he won’t get as much time to practice but I figured it’s fine since he’s got no morning schedules.”

“You did the right thing. Let him sleep as much as possible. I want you to bring him breakfast. Well, I’ll have it delivered. Both breakfast and lunch. I want you to be there like you ordered it. Make sure that he eats and drinks a gallon of water. Tell him he’s not allowed to step into the company without doing that. Hopefully, some sleep and meals will be enough to get him through today and tomorrow. I’ll think of how and when is the best way to talk to him about this misunderstanding.”

 “So, it IS a misunderstanding, right?”

 “Of course it is. When have I ever been into girls like Somi? We were at that restaurant because I promised last year to treat her to a meal on her birthday, but it turns out she has a schedule then, so we did it earlier. She’s just a friend from old times. She’s like a sister to me. I’m still crazy for one person only. And he’s been driving me crazy because I’m learning how terribly destructive and stubborn and delusional he is. Who would have thought Seongwoo would give me this much headache? Maybe I need a drink too.”

 “Alright, but only one, Boss. I can’t handle two hungover people at one time. Don’t stress so much. Leave Seongwoo to me. I’m sure he’ll be more agreeable tomorrow. Well, at least he’ll come to the office looking less like a half-dead man.”

 “Thanks, friend. Take care of him for me. I wish I could be there, but he’d probably stick a knife through me at this point…Seeing as he puts up a fuss just eating when he suspects it’s from me…”

 “Eh~ He doesn’t hate you to that extent. He’s having a bit of a bratty, vengeful tantrum is all. He’s more innocent and childish than you’d think. Different than his entertainer image. He told me he misses you, you know. That you give the best hugs in the world. He bought a doll that looks like you kind of. He wouldn’t sleep until I’d given it to him, and he cuddles with it like it’s a person.”

 “Does he? He’s surprisingly quite cute, isn’t he?’

 “Yes, Boss. He’s very cute. I’ll send you a photo. Then you’ll be able to sleep better.”

 “Much appreciated. Stay with him for a while longer. In case he has nightmares or throws up.”

 “I got it. But I think this time I’m going to need to ask for a raise.”

 “Alright, we’ll put some exotic animals in your music video.”

 “Sweet~ I wuv you, Niellie.”

 “Oh, shush. I know who you really love. He’s more fox-like.”

 “Hehe. Well, you’re definitely my second favorite person in the world.”

 

 

 

At the rehearsals for his showcase, Seongwoo was scolded repeatedly for making mistakes and lacking energy. Daniel couldn’t take it anymore. He’d stayed back, giving him respectful distance, caring from the shadows, being ignored blatantly all while watching Seongwoo self-destruct and be an incredible sulky, stubborn brat. Today was the end of it. He’d reached the limit of his patience.

 “B-boss…?”

 He barged into the waiting room, seeing that Seongwoo was bandaging his bleeding feet. Seongwoo attempted to cross his legs and hide them but Daniel gently grabbed and pulled, exposing one of his feet. He knelt down and stared at it with gritted teeth.

 “It’s not as bad as it looks…” Seongwoo stuttered. “I’ve been taking care of it. I can push through the show, so…”

 He drifted off, watching as Daniel bandaged him up with a complex expression. He looked both furious and sad.

 “Why did you work yourself this hard…Why didn’t you say something earlier when they were giving you a hard time…Things would have been easier if you simply said you’re hurt and not in a good condition…Why do you always keep things to yourself like a total child…”

 “Like you’re any better,” Seongwoo muttered with a sulky pout. “You’ve got no right calling me childish.”

 Daniel sighed heavily, putting the sock on his foot. He went to grab the other but Seongwoo put the sock on first and then moved to slip on his shoes, brushing away his hands. He stood up and started to go towards the door.

 “Where are you going? You need to rest. You shouldn’t be on your feet until it’s time to get ready. I’ll explain to the staff, so just sit still and—”

 “I’m not some princess nor am I your boyfriend, Daniel. I can handle myself and I do not need to be babied. Especially not by you. I hate it. Just ignore me and act like you don’t care. As usual. You’re good at that. Your acting skill is more impressive than I would have guessed. You should be given an Oscar, really.”

 The door slammed. Daniel was haunted by the fiery pain-filled accusatory glare that he’d been shot at by those pretty doe eyes. He couldn’t leave Seongwoo alone this time. Even if it was going to make Seongwoo angry and risk their delicate professional relationship which was all he had to survive on, he had to make sure that he didn’t get hurt worse, emotionally or physically. Just this once he’d go against Seongwoo’s wishes for distance and professionalism. He was going to make things better somehow.

 “Don’t follow me. I want to be alone. I’m perfectly fine. Leave me alone.”

 No matter how much he snapped as Daniel followed him up the flight of stairs to the rooftop, Daniel didn’t give up. He maintained his distance, no closer than a foot behind, watching with concern and hands ready to catch him should he stumble or seem in pain. He remained silent and stubborn. On top of the roof where the sun was setting a soft, creamy orange hue, Seongwoo eventually spun around and exploded.

 “I told you not to follow me! Why do you listen to me so well when I don’t want you to and not listen to me when I do?! It’s absolutely infuriating, not to mention childish! I wanted to be alone. I told you that I like to be alone. I’m always alone and I’m used to it. I’m comfortable with it. I’m fine without a relationship of any sort. Or so I was.

 Then, you had to stupidly push your way into my life and make me feel how nice it is to have someone which I never needed or wanted to know about. And then I push you away once because I got panicked, and you actually believed me, and then you just left? How rude! Making me feel the sting of being alone again.

 You idiotic puppy! Why do you not know the heart of the person you claimed to like? How could you just abandon me because I said I wanted some space? Do you not have a backbone? Are you only stubborn when you feel like it? Do you only like someone when you think they’re willing to give you their body? When they’re not willing to do that, then it’s not even worth your time to purse them? Is that it? I’m not worth your precious time or money because you can’t touch me? So you won’t even take me out on a date and then you go to another person instead? Getting yourself plastered all over the news.

 You infuriate me! You disgust me! I hate you! Why did you bring me to this company? Was it really because you believed I had talent or was it that you wanted to use me as an experiment? Why did you chase after me when I first tried so hard to put up walls between us? Why did you just disappear from my side when you were so insistent before? Why did you knock down all my walls and then make me feel what it’s like to be loved by someone other than a fan or family, only to take that all away at once?

 Things weren’t supposed to be like that! I was supposed to be excited and focused on the new steps of my career and seeing my fans! I wasn’t supposed to be thinking of anything but my work! This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. But what’s happened instead thanks to your insensitivity and selfishness? Because of you, I can’t sleep or eat or think! The only thing that sort of helps is working but now I’m hurt! Because of you! My showcase will be ruined and there will be all kinds of hateful or ridiculing comments and articles about me now. Because of you!

 Why is that, you ask? Because you have to be so wishy washy, confusing, jerky, and charming! I hate you so much! And I hate that I can’t get you off my mind because I don’t really hate you at all but it’s just my feelings and emotions out of control. Get out of my sight. The damage is done. I’ll pick up the pieces and calm myself down on my own. I need to recollect myself so I can do well today. At least now I spilled out everything, I feel refreshed.”

 “Seongwoo…” Daniel was put at a loss, left blinking, taking in all the words that had been rapidly shouted at him.

 Seongwoo was huffing and crying. He sniffled and wiped at his cheeks, looking up at the sky. He turned around, shoulders quivering. Daniel took a step towards him. At the sound of it, Seongwoo held out an open palm and tensed up.

 “Don’t! Don’t you dare come near me. I can’t look at you right now. Sorry. But I just can’t. I’ll snap at you even worse. I didn’t mean to have that outburst. It’s not like you did anything wrong. It’s not my business who you like or who you date. This is all on me. I’m the one to blame. I’m a mess and I know I’m hypocritical. I told you to give me space and you did. I told you I didn’t want to date you and then turn you into a criminal because you want to date someone else.

 I’m sorry to have yelled at you like that. You didn’t deserve it. Not fully. And it was very unprofessional, which I promised I would not be. Catching feelings I guess turns you into a childish, immature person. I’m just assuming things that hurt myself, though I don’t know the truth about how you feel or why you were able to stay away from me so easily. I need time to regroup. Leave me alone and just forget I said anything for now. We’ll talk about this some other time when I’ve got my thoughts and emotions together…”

 “I don’t want to talk some other time, Seongwoo. I want to talk now. Even if you’re emotional. It’s alright if you need to curse or throw a tantrum, shout or hit me. Whatever you need. I want to sort this all out. You’re misunderstanding things, just so you know.

 I merely stayed away all this time to respect your boundaries because I’m considerate and think of you before my own feelings. I realized I was pushing you too hard too fast. I wasn’t being considerate or careful enough. I’m sorry that those rumors got started at this terrible timing. About the dating thing…You heard that’s not true, right? I denied it but I haven’t had a chance to properly explain because you’re busy and been avoiding me. I should have messaged or called and made you listen. That’s why you’ve been upset, right?

 Honestly, she’s nothing but a friend and we just had a casual dinner for her birthday as I promised last year. It’s always been and will be you, Seongwoo. I’m not dating anyone nor interested in anyone. I didn’t stay away from you because I stopped liking you, I promise. Of course, I’m not the kind of guy that only cares for physical stuff. I was merely respecting you and moving carefully because that’s what I figured you wanted. Just like years ago and days ago, I like you and I want to be someone special to you. I want to take care of you and go out on dates and--”

 “I don’t want to listen to this now. If you won’t leave then I will.”

 Seongwoo turned quickly and ran for the door as if he were running for his life.

 “Stop! Before you make me angry for real. Seongwoo, stop!”

 Daniel chased him and grabbed his wrist. Seongwoo gasped as he found himself being pulled hard. He spun and fell against Daniel’s chest. Daniel instantly wrapped his arms around him and locked him into place.

 “Let me go! I don’t want to talk to you now! I don’t want to hear any of your lies!”

 “I’m not going to. I’m going to talk to you right now and clear up what you think are lies.”

“Let me go! I don’t want to see you!”

“I won’t. I want to see you. I’ve missed seeing this gorgeous face up close.”

 “Yah, Kang Daniel! Let go!”

 Daniel’s voice turned softer, his hands rubbing soothing circles on his back. “Seongwoo-yah…I don’t want to let you go now. I couldn’t bear it with you in this state. I won’t. Stay here and hear me out.”

 Seongwoo’s struggles grew weaker and weaker as the seconds ticked by. Eventually he laid his chin on Daniel’s shoulder, tears streaming down his face and his body shaking but so very warm in Daniel’s arms.

 “I hate you…let me go…”

 “Well, I love you enough for both of us. I’m going to get you to forgive me and like me again even if it takes all night. Since there’s nothing more important to me than that. I’m never going to let you go. I let it happen once but never again. Life without you as a part of it hasn’t felt much like living at all. I’ve been a zombie. I’d have eaten Jaehwan’s brain by now, but I think it’s rotten…”

 “Don’t make lame jakes now, it’s not funny…” Seongwoo grumbled with a scowl.

 “Oh, sorry. I guess it’s not. I’m sorry for everything, Seongwoo. I’m sorry that I didn’t see through your defense mechanism. You were pushing me away to test me back then, wasn’t it? And you were scared of your feelings growing too. I wasn’t able to see through that. I thought you genuinely wanted space and were against dating and that you didn’t feel the same way that I did.

 I didn’t know that it was your way of saying you liked me and wanted more. I failed your test. But let me tell you that there wasn’t a day that I didn’t want to be with you. I thought of you all the time and I practically had to be tied to my chair not to go see you. I even lost the battle, you know. I spied on you when you were practicing. And I had people check on you and report to you. I sent them with things for you and asked them to pretend it wasn’t from me.

 I couldn’t help but care for and check up on you since I was worried. I was tossing and turning at night wondering if you ate and were sleeping. Because I love you that much. I’m sorry that you were hurt by those rumors and my lack of sense. From now on, when you push me away, I promise I’ll hold on to you harder and ease away all your insecurities.

 I want to stop this whole push and pull pretend we don’t exist thing, Seongwoo. Let’s just go back to how we were before, casually meeting up in secret. We’ll be more careful in public so people don’t talk and this time we won’t fight our feelings if they grow. Hmm? Can’t we do that?

 I truthfully miss being with you so much that I’m slowly dying inside. I’m an empty shell without you. I’ve got this giant, stinging hole in my heart that can only be filled with your smiles. Every day is so gloomy. I mean it, as cheesy as it sounds. I need you in my life. You make my day bright. Isn’t it the same for you? Don’t I make you happy? And make things easier to get through? Less lonely? Can you honestly tell me that that’s not the case? I’ll buy a damn lie detector and ask you again if you say no, don’t think I wouldn’t.”

 “I hate…to admit that that’s all true. It’s been…hard to say the least. I’d deny it but you heard all that embarrassing outburst. I like you and I’ve been missing you and I was hurt thinking that you played me all along. I’m glad to know that your feelings aren’t as fickle as I thought. You’re really not…dating anyone…right?”

 Daniel pulled back, cradling the artist’s chiseled jaw. He blinked his dewy, hopeful eyes. Daniel smiled and shook his head, thumbing his wet, milky skin.

 “I’m certainly not and don’t have any intention to the rest of my life. Unless the person in front of me asks me to date first. I’ll wait however long it takes and be whatever he wants. The only thing that is important is that he’s by my side. My special shining star.”

 Seongwoo smiled, looked down and blushed. He bit his lip, trying to hold back but his happiness eventually spilled out in a faint, attractive giggle. Daniel smiled wider, slipping in to steal a kiss on his button nose which made his flush deepen and smile turn shyer.

 “Hehe. Cutie. I think I like this bashful version of Seongwoo even more. The one that likes me back and is honest about it though he’s innocent and shy to express it fully just yet. I should make you angrier and jealous more often. You’ve been quite adorable today. My precious~”

 “Shut up with the creepy voice thing and lame comments. You’re giving me goosebumps. Who ever said I was jealous? It was...something else…”

 “Okay, sure. Whatever you say. Hyung. I like you just the way you are, hyung~ So, so, so~ much.”

 Seongwoo bit his lip, ears flaming, expression as if he wanted to jump off the roof to hide his flattered, embarrassed reaction. He slapped his chest lightly and whined, “Stop that rudeness. I don’t deserve that sort of attack right now.”

 “Hmm, you’re right? Someone as foolish and bratty like you who overworks himself and gets worked up over misunderstandings deserves a punishment,” he teased, then swooped in to shower his face with kisses.

 Seognwoo squirmed and yelped, trying to wiggle out of his hold but Daniel gripped his clothes tight, forcing him to bend backwards. Seongwoo held on to his shirt afraid he might fall.

 “Alright, alright! Stop before I break my back! Or I can’t dance at all!” he whined.

 Daniel righted him, rubbing his back in comfort and chuckling lightly. Seongwoo got caught up in staring at his face. It was the first time in weeks he’d seen that handsome face up close and smiling. His smile was gorgeous, breath-taking even.

 “What’s with the staring? Something on my face?” Daniel teased with a raised eyebrow and alluring smirk.

 Seongwoo looked down shyly, muttering, “No…”

 “Ah. Was it that you forgot how handsome I am and you’ve fallen head over heels with one smile? Indeed, I’m quite the heart throb. I bet your heart just jumped into your throat and your legs are all weak and tingly.”

 Seongwoo snorted and flicked his neck. “Yah. That may true. But you should stay humble. Arrogance isn’t attractive. The tingling is gone.”

 “Hmm, I’m pretty sure you found me attractive when I acted cocky. Or maybe it was just me co--.”

 “Shh! What if someone was coming?!” Seongwoo clapped his hand over his mouth, eyes popped wide.

 “Woops. Being careful in public, right. I’ll keep my mouth under control. I shouldn’t say the C word. My apologies, hyung. Do forgive me~”

 “Good.” Seongwoo dropped his hand, smiling mischievously and eyes flashing. “Since you said sorry and seem sincere, I’ll give you one free pass. Though you know, we are alone up here. I guess if you’re quiet, you can let loose for a moment. Maybe I’ll forget some things if I’m feeling tingly…”

 Daniel smiled broadly, eyes flickering with excitement. “Only a moment though. I don’t want you staying on your precious feet for long. You need a rest. Boss’s orders.”

 “Just a boss? I think you’re allowed to say boyfriend’s orders now.”

 “Boyfriend? Seriously? Do I already get an upgrade?”

 This boss lit up like a Christmas tree, squeezing the other tight. Seongwoo nodded, smiling widely. Daniel squealed and danced gleefully like a kid. Seongwoo let himself be swayed, giggling up until the point Daniel’s sweet, pillowy lips pressed gently against his. His eyes drifted closed as he drifted off into heaven, fitting their lips together like the last two pieces of a magnificent puzzle he’d been working on for months. Although he’d achieved a lot in his life, having his first crush become his first boyfriend made him feel more successful and blissful than any of those other shallow achievements.

 

 

 

 The End

 

(but stay tuned in for something extra)