“Seriously, it’s really good.” Hongjoong’s eyes sparkle as he shows Jongho the lip balm he bought earlier today. Arms crossed and eyebrows knitted together, the youngest leans forward and sniffs tentatively. He hums and that’s it. A shrug and Jongho turns around to go to god knows where. Hongjoong’s face falls a bit but lights up again as soon as his eyes land on Seonghwa who watched the rather one-sided conversation.
“Hyung, look!” He bounces over to the bed where Seonghwa lays and sits down next to his hip. The leader looks so excited as he retells his spontaneous journey to the shopping center with one of their managers after he finished up at the studio. Seonghwa tries to listen as best as he can but it’s already pretty late and he’s tired after his vocal lessons. Though, he’s glad Hongjoong had fun today. Seonghwa can’t remember the last time he saw him this relaxed.
The evening sun shines through the window and glimmers in Hongjoong’s newly dyed hair. Red suits him but he still kinda misses the mullet. Damn, Yeosang and those scissors.
“-and the best part is that it tastes like cherries.” Seonghwa jolts a bit as Hongjoong pokes the lip balm against his cheek with a teasing smile and a scrunched nose. “Did you even listen, hyung?”
“I did.” Seonghwa exclaims maybe a tad too quickly, causing Hongjoong to laugh at him. “So, uhm, cherry. Because of your hair?” He tries to get back to the topic to hide his embarrassment at being caught. Fortunately, Hongjoong nods and goes back to talking about his new hair style and the comeback preparations, twirling the lip balm in his small hands.
Seonghwa wants to listen to him discussing Wave and Illusion and which concept he prefers but Hongjoong’s voice is only a noise in the background, like he hears it through water. His mind is way too preoccupied with Hongjoong and the sweet taste of cherries. A strawberry would be quite fitting too. Either way, the intimidating image is gone together with the long hair. Seonghwa doesn’t know if that’s a good thing though, Hongjoong looks far too cute now.
His tiny hands fumble with the lip balm, absentmindedly opening and closing the cap, tapping against the plastic cover. Seonghwa remembers the first time Hongjoong gave in and allowed him to hold hands after he usually shied away from this kind of affection from the older.
“Do you think it’ll taste like cherries too?” Hongjoong pulls him one more time from his thoughts. Seonghwa blinks. He’s about to answer when Hongjoong uncaps the balm and wets his lips before he applies a thin layer on his lips. Seonghwa watches with rapid attention as Hongjoong smacks his lips lightly and lets out a pleased hum. “It does!”
Hongjoong’s lips almost have the same color as his hair now, cherry red, only a few shades lighter.
“Do you want to try as well?” His voice is so sweet and innocent. Seonghwa opens his eyes, he doesn’t even remember closing them, and bites his bottom lip. Hongjoong smiles and holds out the lip balm. Shit, his lips are so red and cute and Seonghwa might have a problem.
He doesn’t think as he sits up and leans forward to press his lips against Hongjoong’s. The touch is light and short, Hongjoong’s lips so wonderful warm under his own.
Realizing what he just has done, Seonghwa breaks the kiss and clears his throat awkwardly. Hongjoong doesn’t move and sits there with wide eyes, slightly opened mouth and red cheeks.
“You’re right. Tastes like cherries.” Seonghwa tries to smile, to play it off, but he’s sure he does a horrible job.
“Yeah.” Hongjoong breathes, eyes trained on Seonghwa’s mouth. With a start, he springs up from the bed and laughs nervously, scratching the back of his neck. “I just remembered something. Uh, you know. San had a question earlier. I should-” He points at the door, slowly walking backwards. And then he’s gone and the door shuts with a soft click.
They don’t talk about it. Hongjoong comes to bed that night when the sun is already gone and when he gets up the next morning, he pretends nothing happened.
In the span of the next days, Seonghwa thinks a lot. He doesn’t have much time between dance practices and recording, but his mind wanders off to that evening more often than he’d like. Every time his glance unconsciously wanders to Hongjoong, he’s reminded of a soft touch, warmth and cherries.
It also makes him think about some stuff, feelings to be accurate. He’s not weirded out by kissing Hongjoong, not at all. He recalls all these times he hugged Hongjoong, practically begged the other to drop the distance and reciprocate the casual affection. And that’s all it was. Casual. Bros hugging each other.
Seonghwa hugs everyone all the time, it’s nothing special, so a fleeting kiss should be nothing special too. Right? Moreover, it was barely a kiss. More like a peck? He’s sure close friends do that all the time. No need to freak out.
He thinks about kissing Yeosang and grimaces.
“Illusion is superior. I don’t know why Atiny prefer Wave.” Yeosang huffs, a pout on his lips as he stares at his phone, the chart on Mymusictaste opened on his browser.
“They’re both good.” Seonghwa murmurs, scrolling his photos in search for an old selca he could upload on Twitter. His thumb halts over a picture of Hongjoong sleeping with his head laying on his keyboard. He remembers taking that photo some months ago when Hongjoong fell asleep in his studio.
“You’re smiling like a creep.” Yeosang giggles and peeks at the screen. He taps the picture to make it full-screen, tilting his head when he sees their leader drooling on his equipment.
“Yeo, I think I have a problem.” Seonghwa states with a frown.
“You don’t say.”
Yeosang shouts in pain as Seonghwa swats his arm hard. They sit in silence afterwards, Yeosang rubbing his upper arm while he leans against Seonghwa whose eyes are trained on the picture.
“What if… And that’s only an ‘if’-” Seonghwa locks his phone and stares at a random point ahead. “What if you kissed someone by accident and now you want to do it again.”
Yeosang doesn’t answers for a while. “Is this about Hongjoong hyung’s crush on you? I know, he’s obvious but I didn’t think he would finally kiss you.”
“His what?” Seonghwa shrieks and pushes Yeosang away to look at his face. The other only shrugs.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”
“Notice what?” He has to calm down but his hands tremble as he grips Yeosang’s shoulders. “He was always so distant and I had to force him to hug me!”
Yeosang rolls his eyes in slow-motion. "Because he didn't trust himself and thought he would, I don't know, melt to a puddle on the floor or something like that. Ask Yunho if you want more details."
Seonghwa gapes, his mind racing all of a sudden.
“Hyung’s crush aside. What do you think about him?”
The question makes everything stop. Hongjoong is one of his closest friends. Family. Someone he relies on and someone he wants to support and help. Someone he wants to make laugh when he’s sad. He doesn’t like gloomy Hongjoong even though he’s cute when he pouts. But his smile is precious, he wants to see him smile every day. He wants to be the reason behind that smile.
A warm feeling spreads in Seonghwa's chest, fingers tingling and throat dry.
He wants to taste Hongjoong's lips over and over again.
“Is he okay?” Mingi enters the room and squints at the oldest sitting frozen like a statue.
“Yeah, he just has a realization.” Yeosang shrugs and goes back to browsing on his phone.
The evening before their comeback may not be the best time to drag Hongjoong into their shared room but Seonghwa is done with the shy glances between them and Wooyoung's expectant stares - can't Yeosang keep anything to himself, what the fuck. He doesn’t know if it’s love he feels for Hongjoong but he knows it’s different from the affection he has for the rest of the members. It is special, after all.
Hongjoong looks confused when Seonghwa takes his wrist and pulls him into their room. When the door is closed to shut out prying eyes and ears, Seonghwa walks straight to the desk in one of the corners and opens the top drawer. He extracts the lip balm Hongjoong shoved inside the morning after their kiss and tosses it to the younger. Hongjoong scrambles to catch it and looks even more confused than before.
“Why don’t you use it? I thought you liked it.” Thankfully, Seonghwa’s voice doesn’t give away how nervous he is.
“I thought it may be too much?” Hongjoong tries to make an excuse. He carefully uncaps the balm and looks at it like it's the first time he sees it.
“It’s not too much.” Seonghwa murmurs softly from his spot a few feet away.
Hongjoong bites his bottom lip and gives in. With a small sigh he applies the balm to his lips and jerks slightly when Seonghwa takes it from his hand and caps it once again. They’re standing so close now, Seonghwa is able to smell the cherry aroma, to see every detail in Hongjoong's beautiful eyes that look at him in wonder and - hope? He cups the smaller's cheeks with both hands and presses their foreheads together, noses brushing. Hongjoong’s breath hitches, Seonghwa feels it against his own lips as the younger exhales shakily.
“Can I taste it again?” A whisper, barely audible. But Hongjoong hears him nonetheless and nods, eyes closing in anticipation.
Seonghwa doesn’t hesitate as he presses their lips together, firmer this time. He moves his mouth against Hongjoong’s, the smaller’s hands clutching his t-shirt.
“Yeah, definitely cherries.” Seonghwa leans back a bit and takes in the blush on Hongjoong’s face and the small smile.
Instead of answering, Hongjoong pulls Seonghwa in again and captures his lips. Uncountable soft kisses later, Hongjoong slings his arms around Seonghwa’s neck and nudges the other’s lips with his tongue.
Seonghwa opens his mouth easily and lets Hongjoong deepen the kiss. Their tongues curl against each other and it’s even better than Seonghwa imagined. He sighs into the kiss, hands moving down to Hongjoong’s hips.
He doesn’t know how much time passed but when Hongjoong eventually pulls away, his eyes are hooded, lips shiny and he breathes hard. Seonghwa smiles and pecks the corner of his mouth, making Hongjoong laugh.
Maybe it’s love. Maybe not yet. But that’s not important. Not when they ignore the rest of the group all evening long and cuddle into Hongjoong’s bed, lips not leaving the other’s until they fall asleep.
When Seonghwa awakes in the calm of the early morning, Hongjoong’s face is resting on his shoulder, their fingers intertwined.
They have to talk about it soon but Seonghwa doesn't worry. He tightens his hold around Hongjoong's waist and presses his face in the soft, red strands, a content smile on his lips.