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i just want you (to stay)

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Song Hyeongjun is adorable.

Song Hyeongjun is adorable, and Dongpyo hates him.

Dongpyo knows that it’s rather hypocritical of him to say this, considering the cute caricature that he has been cultivating throughout his time as a trainee, but the boy’s teddy bear features and curly hair and fair skin - dear God, someone get him a dentist. Dongpyo can practically feel the cavities he’s going to get from having too close of a proximity to Hyeongjun’s sugary personality.

He’s a constant reminder of who Dongpyo could have been. If he was born like this, dewy eyed and sweet cheeked, with life as a red carpet rolled down to his feet and people worshiping his every move.

Every time Hyeongjun smiles, he can feel a hot white coal of resentment flare up in his stomach. What did you do to deserve this? What makes you more or less better than I am? 

Foolish, Dongpyo knows. It’s foolish of him to hate the younger boy for something that he can’t control. 

And yet, when Hyeongjun freezes up in front of the teachers and the competition and the midnight viewers tuning into Mnet for lack of something better to do with their lives - underneath Dongpyo’s feelings of pity and sympathetic frowns, he can feel a dark glee threatening to creep over him. 

X for ex-trainee. X for x-ed out. X for visuals may be 10/10, but fame requires talent , honey. 

When it’s his time to shine, Dongpyo turned up the charm. Sent flirty winks and finger hearts to the judges, using his skills in dancing to his full advantage. 

That isn’t enough. He gets a B. Not quite good enough, you will never be good enough, why don’t you just give up now, you fucking fatso-

Dongpyo powers through it, like he always does. Is he going to let one measly B defeat him? I think the fuck not, bitch.

And when he has time, he lies in bed at night and evaluates his hatred - no, strong dislike - towards Hyeongjun. 

Reason A: Hyeongjun did nothing to deserve his spot among the 101 trainees. (Alright, he’s a decent dancer, so what? It doesn’t matter when you freeze up in front of an audience.)

Reason B: Hyeongjun’s so obviously fake, it hurts his eyes. That “cute little boy” act won’t work if he becomes an idol singer, which will never happen. (Even Dongpyo knows the hypocrisy here, but if you’re going to act cute, you gotta commit to the role. Hyeongjun looked downright ready to murder poor Mingyu in that hidden box video.)

(Reason C: Hyeongjun is an outlet for Dongpyo to vent all of his self-hatred and depressive thoughts on.)

Reason D (which is a totally illogical possibility and is definitely not true, but Dongpyo hates to exclude any probable motivations from the list): Dongpyo’s strong dislike of Hyeongjun is actually his way of expressing a really fucked-up, kindergarten-level crush. (Which, no. Not in a million years. Never.)

Well, at least he’s gone now, and you won’t have to worry about him any longer.

Fate comes back to bite Dongpyo in the ass when, high on exhilaration (ha) from his new A grade, he finds out that the X trainees are back. Shit.

But when he calls Song Hyeongjun’s name for the song cover evaluation… now that’s just playing with fire. 

Dongpyo wanted to test his limits, see how far he can truly push himself in this show until he snaps. And if Hyeongjun ends up doing the impossibly challenging ‘7th Sense’ against his Avengers… that’s a different outcome, but just as satisfying nonetheless.

 

Son Dongpyo is burned out.

Song Hyeongjun watches him in concern from the other side of the room as the older boy drops to the ground, repeating the same dance moves over and over again in a valiant effort to get it right. It looks sloppier every time, sending Dongpyo trembling like a leaf in the wind. 

His body isn’t built for extended periods of working out, all slender and petite instead of muscular and tall. Hyeongjun would know - too many times he has been told to stop because he wasn’t born to survive this.

For a minute, Hyeongjun’s tempted to halt Dongpyo in his tracks, force him to rest. He sees the other’s desperate determination, his heart of tempered steel (much more forged than Hyeongjun’s own), and is about to go over when Dongpyo meets his eyes in the mirror.

I’ll stop when you do, and only then.

Hyeongjun gives a frustrated sigh, but he can’t bring himself to say anything when he’s been dancing with the same level of effort, in the exact same time as Dongpyo. He’s exhausted, too, but he feels as if this is somehow his penance.

I don’t deserve to be here.

Alright, I’m a decent dancer, so what? It doesn’t matter when I freeze up in front of an audience. And I’m so fake. This “cute little boy” act won’t work if I become an idol singer, which will never happen. If I’m going to act cute, I should commit to the role. No wonder the judges saw through me right away-

“Hey, you okay?”

Hyeongjun realizes that he had stopped in his tracks. Tinny music is still blasting from his earbuds (“blame it on your confidence, oh blame it on your measurements”), and he presses pause on his phone. “I should be asking that about you. You’ve been practicing nonstop as well - you should go and eat something.”

“And leave you here alone? Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“You’re going to work yourself to death if you’re not careful!” Hyeongjun protests.

Dongpyo raises an eyebrow. “Pot,” he said in English. He points to Hyeongjun. “Kettle.”

Hyeongjun stares at him blankly. “What?”

“Nothing, just an English idiom that I thought was funny. It basically means that you’re a hypocrite. If you keep trying to stop me, I'm just going to head to the other room and practice there,” Dongpyo says matter-of-factly.

“I’ll rest if you do,” Hyeongjun offers, changing the subject. “I’m tired anyway - I just don’t want you to overexert yourself when I’m gone. Come on, please stay with me.”

Dongpyo gives him a suspicious look, but complies. “Alright, I’m going to take a quick nap. Wake me up when lunch is over.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that,” Hyeongjun scoots across the floor to where Dongpyo is and then lies down, his head on the other’s stomach and bodies perpendicular to each other. “I’m going to go to sleep, too.”

He can feel Dongpyo’s body tense up. “What are you doing?”

“Mm, you’re so soft. You won’t mind if I use you as a headrest, right?” Hyeongjun asks, turning his head to look into Dongpyo’s eyes. “Like one of those giant body pillows that you see at carnivals. Except you’re not giant. The opposite, actually.”

“You’re only taller than me by like, two inches,” Dongpyo points out. Hyeongjun can hear him pouting. “It’s not fair for you to use that comparison.” 

They lie silent for a while, and Hyeongjun is about to drift off into sleep when he feels a hand play with his hair. “So soft,” Dongpyo mutters. “Wow, what kind of shampoo do you use?” The way he phrases the question makes it sound like he wasn’t talking about shampoo at all.

Hyeongjun lets out a contented sigh, curling in closer to Dongpyo’s body as he closes his eyes, and the rest of the world falls away. 

They wake up barely five minutes later to the sound of Believer team snickering quietly. “Since when was ‘extra dance practice’ a euphemism for ‘cuddling with the enemy’?” There’s the sound of a camera app clicking quietly. 

Hyeongjun yawns and is about to turn on his side when he realizes that an arm wrapped around his chest is preventing him from doing so.

Wait.

He opens his eyes to see that he’s curled up to Dongpyo’s slight form, the two facing each other.

Hyeongjun gives an unholy screech and scrambles away from the body, face on fire. “Guys, don’t tease us…” he whines.

Dongpyo gets up as well. The only sign of him being flustered is a faint redness around the tips of his ears. “Donghyun, delete those pics!” he pouts, grabbing the phone. “Delete, delete, delete, wow I didn’t need to see that pic-”

Donghyun snatches back the phone. “Hey! Private property!”

“You should head back to your team, Hyeongjun. I’m sure they’re all back by now,” Dongpyo says.

Hyeongjun gives a quick nod, still blushing. “Okay, see you back at the dorms! Don’t die!”

“Not if I can help it!”

 

Okay.

Maybe, just maybe, Dongpyo doesn’t dislike the younger boy as much as he thought. In fact, Hyeongjun’s pretty fun to be around. They share the same persona: cute and innocent exterior despite their more driven personalities.

Plus, it’s fun to tease him. He gets all shy and nervous whenever Dongpyo does so much as wink at him - it’s kinda cute.

“Hyung, stop it!” Hyeongjun whines, burying his face in the pillow. “It’s not a big deal…”

“I’m pretty sure almost everyone here has played the Pepero game at least once,” Seungyoun remarks, hanging upside-down from the top bunk like a jungle monkey. Which isn’t too dissimilar of a comparison, actually.

“Jinhyuk, our members, and I had to do it while we were still with UP10TION on Weekly Idol. Seungwoo and Seungyoun both went through it when they were trainees. Dongpyo does it literally whenever he has the chance - so that just leaves you, Hyeongjun,” Wooseok explains patiently.

“But I don’t have anyone to do it with,” Hyeongjun says in a feeble attempt to get out of playing. Cute. 

Dongpyo frowns, pondering those words for a second. Then, his face lights up, and he jumps down from his bunk bed, dragging Hyeongjun with him. “You could do it with me?”

Hyeongjun’s face turns a fantastic shade of pink, then red, then almost magenta, before it goes back to red again. “I don’t want you to be my first kiss!”

“Well, then you better eat it properly,” Dongpyo counters. “And why not me? It’s not as if there are any girls around. Plus, I’m like, a kissing veteran.”

Hyeongjun’s lips quirk up into a reluctant smile. “A kissing veteran, huh? Was your service mandatory?”

“Only for you, baby,” Dongpyo coos, bopping Hyeongjun’s nose with one finger. The other boy pulled away, nose wrinkling.

“Do you want me to sneeze in your face-”

“Ew. How dare you try and purify this den of sin with your wholesome love?” Seungyoun interrupts, mock gagging. He hands a Pepero stick to Hyeongjun, the chocolate slightly smeared among the stick part. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Hyeongjun hesitantly takes it in his mouth. “Whenever you’re ready,” he repeats, voice slightly muffled by the Pepero stick.

Dongpyo smirks at him, leaning in closer. “Whenever you’re ready, baby.” That… came out a lot more flirtatious than he had intended. No, not just flirtatious. Seductive.

Unfortunately, a Pepero stick isn’t that long, and Dongpyo and Hyeongjun end up accidentally bumping heads on their first try. “Ow! That hurts!” Hyeongjun complains around the stick.

“Shut up,” Dongpyo murmurs. “I liked it better when you were all shy and quiet.”

Hyeongjun doesn’t respond, too focused on moving in closer and closer. Of course Dongpyo got the chocolate end.

Dongpyo takes tiny bites as he goes along, savoring the taste of sweet chocolate and the crunch of the cracker, when he hears the nibbling from Hyeongjun’s end stop.

He looks up to see what the matter is, and finds Hyeongjun staring at his lips, a hint of pink coloring his cheeks. His doe eyes are even wider, gaze flickering down to Dongpyo’s lips then back up again to meet his stare.

For a minute, they just stare at each other like this, chocolate staining a corner of Hyeongjun’s lips, and Dongpyo is very very tempted to wipe it away with his thumb. Just like in the dramas Hyeongjun watches.

He faintly hears a loud (and obnoxious) voice yelling in his ear, “Oh my God, just kiss already!” And then, a hand shoves his face into Hyeongjun’s own.

It’s brief. Too brief. Dongpyo dimly registers the softness of Hyeongjun’s lips, and the taste of his strawberry lip tint, overpowered by the sweet chocolate of Pepero.

Then Hyeongjun pulls away, shrinking to the floor. He seems to be going through cardiac arrest. His hands are covering his eyes and cheeks, but Dongpyo can tell that the bright red blush from earlier is back.

“Yah! Jinhyuk!” Dongpyo yells, not bothering to use jondaemal. “Look at that, you broke the poor kid. Funeral expenses aren’t cheap, you know!”

He chases Jinhyuk around the room as the others laugh like hyenas, teasing him and Hyeongjun in between breaths. 

Hyeongjun is in a state of permanent(?) shock, curling in on the floor like an armadillo. “You stole my first kiss…” he mumbles.

“Nope! Three minute rule!” Dongpyo says, kneeling on the floor as well. Jinhyuk has fled the dormitories, possibly to never be seen again. He swipes his finger across Hyeongjun’s lips, ignoring the chocolate now smeared on it. 

“This is a reverse kiss. Since I just deleted this kiss and the circumstances surrounding it - aka Jinhyuk hyung - congratulations! You are now kiss-free once more!”

Hyeongjun slowly removes his hands, looking up at Dongpyo. He smiles hesitantly, like a rose of sharon about to bloom. “You have something. Right here.” He points to the corner of his mouth where the chocolate stain was earlier. “I think I must have got chocolate on you earlier when we… bumped lips.”

Dongpyo has to stifle a laugh. “Thanks,” he says, wiping the spot with his sleeve.

“No, a bit lower. You just smeared it all over your chin. Here, let me do it for you,” Hyeongjun tugs on Dongpyo’s sleeve to get him to bend down a bit more. He sticks one finger in his mouth, then rubs at Dongpyo’s cheek.

“What are you, my mom?” Dongpyo jokes, but stays where he is anyway. Hyeongjun’s hands are soft and his administrations are tender, and without knowing it, Dongpyo leans into his touch.

He closes his eyes in embarrassment, not wanting to see the mocking smirks of the other trainees. This- this isn’t a joke. Not for me, at least.

All thoughts of the others fall away as Hyeongjun’s fingers travel downwards, straying towards his lips.

Now it’s Dongpyo’s turn to blush, and he fervently hopes that Hyeongjun can’t feel the fiery warmth of his cheeks. And, you know, that other problem he has.

With mortification, Dongpyo realizes that he’s practically sitting in Hyeongjun’s lap now, the proximity between the two almost unbearable. He briefly considers pulling away and going to the restroom to take care of it on his own, and then Hyeongjun’s drawing a spit-slick thumb over his lips.

A desperate whine rips through the air, and the low buzz of chatter around them vanishes. Dongpyo’s first thought is one of the others must have whined watching us lol and then the second thought hits him like a speeding train. Oh, shit. That was ME who whined.

His eyes stay shut, not wanting to see Hyeongjun’s shocked ( disgusted , his mind whispers) expression. Please leave, like, right now. Staying away for a couple of decades would be fine as well.

Hyeongjun’s finger doesn’t move. 

It stays right in the center of his lips, and Dongpyo can almost feel every distinct groove in Hyeongjun’s finger, the blood vessels pumping underneath the younger’s skin.

He has an irrational urge to part his lips and take Hyeongjun’s finger (and maybe more than that) in his mouth, to swirl his tongue around it and bite down softly-

And just like that, Hyeongjun pulls away. 

Dongpyo’s eyes fly open in shock, and he quickly brings his legs up to cover his crotch, realizing too late that they were previously spread wide open. Shiiit.

“You had some on your lips, too,” Hyeongjun says, giving an easy smile. “Maybe you shouldn’t play with your food before eating it, yeah?” And with that, he gets up and heads out the door, not a trace of arousal in sight.

Dongpyo is now the one who’s in shock, sitting on the cold tile with bright red cheeks and dilated pupils. Then, his mouth opens in a silent scream and he flings himself onto the nearest bed, burying his face in the pillow.

He feels the weight of the bed shift, and a gentle hand pats his back. “Dongpyo, I hate to tell you this,” Seungwoo says patiently, “but you really are an idiot.”

“Not helping!”

 

Okay.

Maybe, just maybe, Hyeongjun doesn’t know the older boy as much as he thought. In fact, when they’re not on-camera, Dongpyo closes himself off. While Hyeongjun prides himself for being a hard worker, Dongpyo is almost scarily ambitious.

And he performs for the audience a lot. Sometimes, Hyeongjun doesn’t know which side of Dongpyo he’s looking at, and that scares him the most. 

“Dongpyo, are you sure you’ll fit this concept?” Wooseok asks, concerned. They’re back at the dorms, tired after a long day of practice. “I know you want to have a manly image, but the cutesy thing you have going on works fine right now.”

Right away, everyone knows that Wooseok said the wrong thing. Dongpyo raises his head, eyes flashing with a dangerous fury. Hyeongjun is so unused to seeing that expression on the otherwise cheerful boy that he takes a step back.

“See, this is why I want a more manly image. No one takes me seriously because of my looks, not then, and not now! Why do we have to pretend to be something we’re not just to make the fans feel good? And Wooseok, you’re the one who knows best out of all of us that once we step out of line, our careers will be flushed down the drain!” Dongpyo ranted.

The others are stunned to see this side of Dongpyo. Seungwoo takes a step forward, as if to embrace the smaller boy, but then thinks better of it. 

Hyeongjun sees Seungyoun look fearfully at the camera in the top corner of the room. Miracle of miracles, it wasn’t blinking, otherwise Hyeongjun didn’t know what might’ve happened to Dongpyo. Even if he is a PD-pick.

“People pigeonhole us into what they want us to be, and if they’re not satisfied, then guess what? We’re dropped from the show! And this will only get worse if we become idols. They squeeze us into these tight little boxes and idolize us, forcing us to their image of perfection? Perfect? No one’s perfect! So why do we have to be?” 

Hyeongjun shakes his head, denying the truth of what Dongpyo’s saying. The words ring in his ears like church bells. “Dongpyo, stop it-”

Dongpyo turns the force of his rage on him. “And you, Hyeongjun--”

Hyeongjun shrinks back from Dongpyo’s fiery gaze, but doesn’t duck his head and decides to look the other square in the eyes.

“You should know more than anyone else how hard it is for me to adopt a completely different persona every time. The aegyo, the cutesy gestures, the fans eat all that up. So tell me, when will they eat us up?”

And with that, the light goes out of Dongpyo’s eyes. He slumps forward, posture like that of a broken man. Which he is, in a way. “I’m so fucking tired of all this scheming and lying, Hyeongjun. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

He stands up, and when Seungwoo tries to gently tap his shoulder, Dongpyo shakes him off. “Leave me alone, hyung. I just need some time to think.” He walks out of the room, and no one dares stop him.

Slowly, the others begin filtering out of the room until Hyeongjun’s the only one left, sitting on the bed in shock. What the heck just happened?

“You should know more than anyone else how hard it is for me to adopt a completely different persona every time. The aegyo, the cutesy gestures, the fans eat all that up. So tell me, when will they eat us up?”

It isn’t a persona… right? Dongpyo believes that Hyeongjun’s like him, that Hyeongjun’s just as ambitious as him, when in truth Hyeongjun is perfectly happy with who he is now.

Is there something wrong in the way he acts? Even before he became an idol, Hyeongjun was always conscious about his appearance and dressed himself in ways that flattered his child-like, almost feminine looks.

Maybe Dongpyo’s just upset after the harsh criticism he got after Believer today and took it out on the others instead. Maybe it’s some really screwed up joke. Or maybe he truly feels this way, and knows nothing other than to suppress it if he wants to become an idol… 

And then suddenly his phone is beeping with a notification and Hyeongjun’s eyes wrench open, mind breaking the surface of a strange dream. Everyone else is washed up and asleep by now - that is, everyone except for Dongpyo.

Hyeongjun pads down the hallway in his sock feet, grabbing his sneakers and heading to the training center. It’s late, almost two in the morning, but considering Dongpyo’s workaholic habits, it makes sense that he’d be there.

Sure enough, Hyeongjun sees that the lights are on in the first training room he comes across, and he peers through the crack in between the door and the wall.

Dongpyo is dancing to music that only he can hear, one earbud dangling through the air. His movements are no longer light and graceful; they are angry, dark. Every sweep of the arm, turn of the head is forceful, as if he’s constantly being pissed off. Hyeongjun can see the toll it’s taking on him, and it pains him so much to watch Dongpyo like this.

At the end of his routine, Dongpyo shudders to a halt, sweat dripping off his hair and thin frame folding in and out with every breath. “It’s not good enough,” he whispers. “I’m not good enough.”

He lifts up his shirt, and Hyeongjun starts to blush again , when he sees that Dongpyo is running his hands over his flat stomach angrily, despairingly. He marks lines in his skin with his fingernails, small white half moon shapes punched into his stomach, and begins to curl in upon himself.

Without thinking, Hyeongjun slams open the door and sprints across the room, wrapping up Dongpyo in a warm hug. Caught off guard, Dongpyo doesn’t struggle or tense up, instead relaxing in Hyeongjun’s tight grip.

Dongpyo leans back, sighing as he does so, and his breathing starts to even. He melts into the embrace and feels like he’s a giant puddle of chocolate, all gooey and sticky sweet. The liquid form of Pepero.

“Dongpyo,” Hyeongjun says quietly. “It’s late. You should go to sleep.”

There’s a pause that lasts for one second, or maybe a million years. 

And then, for the first time in his life, Hyeongjun sees Dongpyo cry for real. Sure, he cries for the camera, or he sometimes fake cries to tease the other trainees, but nothing like this. Never like this. 

Dongpyo’s face screws up, and he turns very red, and then he frantically pulls away from Hyeongjun, crumpling. Hyeongjun watches in disbelief as Dongpyo tries to hide his face with his hands even though his back is already to him. Everywhere Dongpyo turns, the floor-to-ceiling mirrors only serve to reflect his expression.

He leans in closer, hovering over Dongpyo’s body with concern, and catches the faint whispers of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-”

“It’s okay, Dongpyo,” Hyeongjun says quietly, not touching Dongpyo. “It’s okay. I’m here with you, and everything’s going to be fine.”

Dongpyo doesn’t turn back to Hyeongjun, but he reaches one hand out behind him, like a signal. Hyeongjun squeezes it comfortingly, rubbing his thumb along the back of Dongpyo’s hand. “It’s what my mom and dad do whenever the other’s stressed.”

Silently, they head back to the dorms without speaking. Hyeongjun changes into his Kumamon pajamas (at least they’re not Olaf) and is about to fall asleep when he feels a warm body slide next to him under the covers.

“Can I stay with you?” Dongpyo asks. Hyeongjun notices that his hair is still wet from the shower. “I… I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”

Hyeongjun smiles brightly, then scoots over to make room for Dongpyo on the other side. The bed’s too small, but that’s okay. The two lay like that for a while, hearts beating as one in the dark.

Dongpyo closes his eyes and curls up on his side, facing away from Hyeongjun. He doesn’t touch Hyeongjun any more than he has to. Just their backs grazing, feet entangled, and that’s it. 

Hyeongjun mumbles, half-asleep, “Do you regret joining Produce?”

Dongpyo doesn’t respond, and Hyeongjun’s starting to think that the other fell asleep when there’s a whisper, so soft it could be the sound of a snowflake hitting the dirt. “No. I don’t.”

“Why not?” Hyeongjun asks. He’s genuinely curious now.

“Because then I never would have met you.”

Dongpyo falls asleep eventually, but Hyeongjun stays awake until the early hours of the morning, mind and heart racing.

(Seungyoun wakes up first and catches them completely woven together, bodies flush and arms wrapped tightly around the other. And, though it would be funny and interesting and new, he doesn't say anything to the others, like he doesn't think it's his place to say anything, like he thinks there might actually be something to say.

They don’t say anything, either.)

 

“Do you think purgatory exists?” Hyeongjun asks out of the blue. Now that the show’s going to draw to a close soon, these moments of downtime are few and in between. And since any of them might be surprise eliminated, Hyeongjun resolves to spend as much time with his friends as he can.

And if he’s spending more time with a certain charismatic dancer than the others, that’s no one’s fault but his own.

Dongpyo props himself up on his elbow, turning to Hyeongjun. They’re lying down on the practice room floor again, sucking on ice pops because the air conditioner is broken. The rest of the Pretty Pretty team is checking out the competition, or “surveying our enemies,” as Minhee puts it. “What made you ask that?”

Hyeongjun shrugs, suddenly feeling bashful. “No reason at all. I was just thinking about heaven and hell and stuff.”

“Well,” Dongpyo hums. “To answer your question, no, I don’t think exists. A perfect balance is impossible to achieve, and doesn’t purgatory require the exact amount of good and evil to get in? I don’t know a lot about religion, sorry.” 

Well, purgatory may not exist, but they’re still stuck in this strange limbo. Hyeongjun avoids any attempts from the others to bring up Dongpyo’s outburst, and Dongpyo doesn’t flirt with Hyeongjun like he used to.

Dongpyo now crawls into Hyeongjun’s bed every night as Hyeongjun is about to fall asleep, though. No matter how far apart they are, they always end up entangled in their sleep. And no matter how close they are, Dongpyo always leaves before Hyeongjun wakes up.

It hurts him, although he doesn’t want to admit it. I just wish you would stay.

Hyeongjun shakes himself out of his reverie. Forget about it. He doesn’t feel the same way I do about him. As he sucks on his ice pop again, he catches sight of Dongpyo, gazing in his direction like he’s caught in a trance.

“You’re staring,” Hyeongjun says, shaking Dongpyo out of his reverie. He’s half-smiling, a dimple forming on his right cheek. “What, you’re thinking of me?”

“Yes,” Dongpyo admits without thinking. Hyeongjun’s cheeks are so soft and his eyes are so bright when he smiles, like stage lights, like stars. 

Hyeongjun’s so beautiful, sometimes, all the time. And that scares Dongpyo more than he cares to admit. He doesn’t know which stars he’s chasing, now - the ones in his daydreams or the ones he sees at night.

There really isn’t much difference.

 

“Really? Tell me what you think of me. Go on. Don’t spare any details,” Hyeongjun says, lying back down. His fingers are clenched around the plastic container of his ice pop. No, Dongpyo’s ice pop. They switched halfway.

“Why don’t you tell me what you think of me instead?” Dongpyo asks. Thankfully, Hyeongjun is easily distracted.

“Okay, let’s see… You steal my snacks whenever you get the chance, you cry or do aegyo to get what you want, and you drool in your sleep,” Hyeongjun says, fighting to keep a smile off of his face.

“Wow, tell a man what they want to hear, huh?” Dongpyo teases. He pouts in an exaggerated manner and turns away from Hyeongjun, curling up on his side.

“You didn’t let me finish!” Hyeongjun protests. “But you’re one of the hardest workers I know, and you’re one of the smartest, too. And you’re cute, too. I love your eyes.” He regrets those words as soon as he says them. “Never mind.”

“No, no, I heard that. Hard worker, yes, smartest, hell yeah… and you think I’m cute, too?” Dongpyo asks. 

Hyeongjun pulls Dongpyo closer, resting his chin on the other’s shoulder. “No. I don’t think you’re cute.”

Dongpyo slumps in his grasp. “Oh,” he says, and for once, it doesn’t sound like teasing.

“I think you’re beautiful, Dongpyo,” Hyeongjun says softly, and to his dismay, it sounds genuine.

Dongpyo actually sits up to face him, eyes wide. He makes a small sound, like a punched-out exhale. Oh. “You- you can’t just say stuff like that! And mean it!”

“Bold of you to assume I mean anything I say,” Hyeongjun jokes, trying to lighten the tension. There’s a ball being dropped, somewhere. “What, you don’t think I’m beautiful?”

Dongpyo cocks his head like he’s in deep thought. “Well. Only sometimes. On a good day,” he pronounces.

Hyeongjun tackles him to the ground. “You jerk -” He begins to tickle Dongpyo under the ribs, aiming for the spots that he knows can make the other boy laugh the most. 

The noise that bursts forth is like a cross between a snort and a drunken laugh, yet to Hyeongjun it’s the most musical laughter that he has ever heard. “Stop it, Hyeongjun-”

“What the heck are you doing?” Jinwoo asks, walking back into the room. Hyeongjun pokes Dongpyo in the ribs one final time, then manages to get back in a mockery of a sitting position. “Having fun? Without me ? Hyeongjun, how dare you!”

“Nope, he’s mine!” Dongpyo says, perching on Hyeongjun’s lap sideways. Out of habit, Hyeongjun twines his arms around Dongpyo’s body, shifting them into a more comfortable position. “We’re going to elope and leave you in the dust. No one can stop us!”

“Elope, huh?” Jinwoo teases, sitting down next to them. “Where? Busan? Jeju-do?”

“Hyeongjun doesn’t like the beach. Too sandy,” Dongpyo says on autopilot, not even bothering to glance at Hyeongjun’s face in the mirror. “We thought it’d be in somewhere in Europe, maybe Paris.”

There's just the briefest pause in the conversation, a hiccup of silence in which the three acknowledge that Dongpyo just said we, as in the two of them have previously discussed this before, and that he does not sound like he’s joking in the slightest. In which Dongpyo realizes the exact same thing, and tries to figure out a) how the heck he knows that information and b) when exactly he filed it away in the do not forget folder of his brain.

“I guess I’m just a romantic,” Hyeongjun admits. 

Dongpyo curls his fingers around Hyeongjun’s. “Yeah, you are,” he says, and Hyeongjun feels as if butterflies are going off in his stomach. Fireworks. Shooting stars. 

Change that to hopeless romantic.

 

“Do you think I have a nice voice?” Dongpyo asks out of the blue. It’s the first time he’s spoken ever since they’ve started… whatever it is that they’re doing. The concept evaluation is tomorrow, and everyone else is trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Off the bat, Hyeongjun can tell. It’s going to be one of those conversations. The three a.m. ones that don’t matter, don’t seem to matter. The ones where his thoughts evaporate into gray fog and he says whatever’s on his mind at the time.

“Don’t fish for compliments, you have enough of them already,” he mumbles, half-asleep. 

Not from you. “But do I?” Dongpyo presses, leaning in closer. His breath tickles the back of Hyeongjun’s neck, but in a good way. A familiar way.

“I don’t know. I guess? I’ve only ever heard you sing Pretty Pretty. And a bit in X1-MA, Boss, and Believer-” Hyeongjun stops himself from saying ‘I guess’ again. He tends to ramble when he’s tired, but Dongpyo thinks it’s endearing. “Why’d you ask?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m saying around you,” Dongpyo mumbles. He pulls one earbud out, taps Hyeongjun’s shoulder - “Want one?”

Hyeongjun doesn’t protest as Dongpyo slides an earbud in his ear, doesn’t complain about the volume. It’s one of Blackpink’s, he can tell, but the title doesn’t quite come to him in his sleep-fogged state. He likes Jisoo the best - she has a nice voice. ( Not as nice as Dongpyo’s , his traitorous mind supplies.) “Blackpink’s your favorite girl group, huh?”

“No, actually. I prefer Twice - it’s happier, and I like their choreos better. A lot of guys I know listen to them for their visuals, but I don’t care as much about that.”

A sudden urge to see Dongpyo, gaze at his closed eyes and his dark eyelashes - so long they seem to be spilling onto his cheek - overcomes Hyeongjun, and he rolls onto his left side. “What do you think of this song, then? What’s it about, for you?” he asks.

“It’s nice. Not something I would sing or listen to on a daily basis, but nice. It’s a song about longing. Wanting for the other person to be in love with them, but hating them at the same time. It’s kind of sad, but good,” Dongpyo says.

“Aren’t all sad songs good?” Hyeongjun asks. He doesn’t really expect an answer.

They’re quiet for a while, but it’s a good silence, not an awkward one. The kind where neither person has anything to say, and yet they understand each other perfectly. When the song rolls to a stop, all guitar chords and melancholy longing, Dongpyo rewinds and starts it over again. 

“If I ever become an idol, I’m going to have to live without falling in love. Isn’t that sad? Not falling in love?” Hyeongjun whispers in Dongpyo’s ear. 

“Lie down properly. You’re going to have back problems tomorrow.”

“Are you in love?”

There’s a beat. Then another one. Dongpyo rolls over to face Hyeongjun, and now they’re only a couple inches apart. It’s a small bed, thank God after all. 

Dongpyo doesn’t respond, doesn’t want to respond, but the words spill out of him. It’s something you can’t hold back, not in a three a.m. conversation. “Yes. I am.”

Hyeongjun doesn’t know who it is, doesn’t want to know who it is, but the words spill out of him. It’s something you can’t hold back, not in a three a.m. conversation. “With who?”

Deep inside, they both know the answer.

Dongpyo leans in, closing his eyes. Opens them. Squeezes them tight. Hyeongjun’s body seems to tremble like a leaf, and Dongpyo doesn’t know if it’s him or Hyeongjun that’s shivering. He dares a swift glance at the camera over Dongpyo’s shoulder.

It’s off.

Everything’s hazy, and the world’s taking on that kind of ethereal quality that only happens in three a.m. conversations. The air is thick and stuffy, almost unbearable. It drips like liquid mercury. 

Dongpyo feels hot, then cold. Vertigo, like the kind you’ll get when standing at the top of a large mountain, swoops in and numbs his brain. 

It’s supposed to be easy. Just eight words. Song Hyeongjun, I am in love-

“With you.”

Suddenly, the world falls out from under their feet, and they’re floating in a haze of chocolate Pepero and melting ice pops and stars.

It’s still three a.m, but they’re no longer having a conversation.

Hyeongjun is wonderful at kissing. Definitely not practiced, but he’s just got a soft, sweet mouth, the creases worn from smiling. He touches Dongpyo here and here and here-

Dongpyo likes it. It feels good and right. It’s not the first time he’s kissed someone he likes, knowing he is liked back, but it feels far less disgusting and hard and mechanical than it has before. He knows how to do this, he wants to do this, he wants to be closer to Hyeongjun.

It feels like a very natural progression from lying next to each other on the bed, heads turned awkwardly, kissing chastely, to adjusting their positions so that Dongpyo’s lying on top and kissing deeply, fully, closely, fitting their lips together. 

Hyeongjun whispers I love you, I love you, I love you in between kisses, spills sweet words from his lips and causes Dongpyo’s voice to shake and sends his body trembling like a leaf in the wind. 

Eventually, Hyeongjun spreads his legs ever so slightly and Dongpyo slots one leg between them, and they lace one hand together on the bed. Hyeongjun brings a hand to the back of Dongpyo’s head and tangles it in his hair. They break apart for a second, sitting up, and Dongpyo feels like time has stopped, just for them.

“I don’t think I want a reverse kiss for this,” Hyeongjun breathes, and Dongpyo gives a quiet laugh that seems to be half a sob, but it’s all happiness.

“Shut up and go to sleep, Song Hyeongjun,” he demands, and Hyeongjun gives him one last kiss and then lies back down. His hesitant smile is an invitation for Dongpyo to join him, and begrudgingly, Dongpyo lies down as close to Hyeongjun as he possibly can.

Dongpyo wakes up first like he always does, and for once, he decides to stay.