Johnny has lost count of how many tattoos Yuta has acquired in the last five years.
When he’d first met him, Yuta’s skin had been bare. His hair had been a soft, dark brown. There was only one earring dangling from his lobe, this small silver ball hanging from a chain.
The Yuta of then had been shy about everything when he didn’t have his bass in his hands, but he’d been a quick study. Very soon, the little band that Johnny and Doyoung had cobbled together had turned into something that felt like family. Jaehyun and Yuta would loop them in for games of football when they weren’t trying to turn out lyric after lyric, note after note. Johnny and Doyoung would wind down, head out together with the rest of them to see small gigs, check out the local art scene when they had the chance. They built a network slowly, surely. A modest following, a devoted fanbase.
When they’d turned out their first EP, produced by Taeyong and Johnny, with lyrics written by Yuta, Doyoung, and Jaehyun, back when their name had been some attempt at some edgy alt-rock shit called Matilda and Sons, the launch party had been in a small warehouse, with a gathering of about three hundred people who sang along to some of their music, and moshed to the songs they didn’t.
It had been surreal, having people shout their names out from the small audience they had.
That’s when Yuta had started getting inked, and that’s also when they’d met Ten.
Johnny remembers how he’d dragged the entire band to the nearest tattoo parlor, no plan at all in place, just him and his excitement, ready and raring to go.
“Just a tiny one, come on,” he’d said. “This is for keeps, man, I know it. I know.”
By this, Yuta had meant the band. Over the course of the year leading up to their EP’s release, Johnny had watched Yuta come alive, bloom in the face of new fans that started coming up to them after their gigs to take photos together. Jaehyun had been a natural charmer, that much had been clear. Doyoung, having been a choir boy all his life before he met Johnny in their first year of the university together, no longer got jitters when he was in front of the mic stand. Together, they’d become cohesive, tight-knit with a synergy that Johnny had never expected, and when Taeyong had entered the picture, it had all clicked into place.
Johnny remembers the evening Yuta got his first tattoo. He’d been stood outside of the parlor smoking with Doyoung while Yuta and Jaehyun talked to the artist, deciding on what to get. Just as Johnny had stubbed out the cigarette butt under his boot, Yuta had stuck his head out through the glass door that was slightly ajar, saying, “I’ve decided!”
Johnny had laughed, and they’d all sat down while Jaehyun recorded the entire process, the tiny kanji for “bright” being illuminated on Yuta’s right forearm in ink from the transfer paper while their new friend Ten, the owner and artist in the tattoo shop near Johnny’s apartment, prepared his tattoo gun.
“What does it mean?” Doyoung had asked.
“Bright,” Yuta had replied. “We’re gonna shine like the sun, baby.”
Five years down the line, all of his little symbols are scattered across beautiful expanses of skin, never too cluttered in one spot, varied in their meanings, varied in the stories that seep deep into his flesh. Johnny knows what most of them mean— the most obvious ones have been explained in interview after interview. Hell, he’d been present for almost all of them whenever Yuta was in a mood.
But there were a few that would appear on Yuta’s skin without his knowledge, and after they had started sleeping together when Johnny would try to ask about them, Yuta would brush him off.
"I'm keeping this one for myself," Yuta would laugh as Johnny kissed near the raw skin. Johnny never pushed, never held it against Yuta for not saying anything. Not quite a lie, not quite a truth either. Johnny had learned to roll with it.
They’re in bed now, a few days after the media sensation caused by their blatant public display of affection. A quiet moment to themselves now that the clamor for interviews from SPIN and Forbes have somewhat slowed down. Yuta is lying on his belly, propping himself up on his arms while he scrolls through his timeline on his open laptop, sprawled out naked in front of Johnny who is sat up in bed with his legs crossed. Johnny allows his eyes to roam over the expanse of skin dotted with small constellations, tiny artifacts that Yuta has given himself over the years.
Johnny leans down to press his lips over a blue swallow perched on Yuta’s right shoulder. Then another one on the dagger through a heart. Then another on a character Johnny doesn’t recognize.
“You want to know what they mean, don’t you?” Yuta asks, turning to look at Johnny over his shoulder, a small smile on his lips.
It catches Johnny off-guard, how Yuta reads him now. He thinks this isn’t new, Yuta being able to tell what’s going on in his head, but the freedom with which Yuta reads him now has shifted somewhat, like he’s no longer afraid to let Johnny in on the fact that he can hear Johnny’s thoughts, that he can guess what Johnny is going to ask next. Johnny had only ever asked twice before he’d decided not to ask anymore. Yuta would tell him if he wanted to, and Johnny wasn’t going to make him open up if he was being coy about his new ink.
Johnny swallows, reaches out to trace a tiny blue snake that rests on Yuta’s third rib.
“Only if you want to tell me,” Johnny says softly.
Yuta tones down the music playing from his laptop, Lana del Rey’s voice looping “California dreamin', I got my money on my mind, drugs is in my veins, running out of time” as Yuta turns on his side to look at Johnny properly. Johnny watches his movement as Yuta reaches up to push his faded red curls away from his face, the TIMELESS on his right wrist stark against pale skin. Johnny remembers that one, the day they got them. His own LIMITLESS rests on his left shin.
“Ask away, baby,” Yuta replies, gesturing with his hand down his body with a flourish in imitation of Kate Winslet posing like one of Leo’s French girls in ‘Titanic’.
"What about this one?" Johnny walks his fingers over skin to stop just below his fifth rib. There's a tiny bird in a cage inked in yellow and blue.
Yuta inhales. Exhales. Reaches out with his fingers to push back some stray strands behind Johnny's ear. The cross hanging from his helix sways back and forth from the movement.
"It was February. It was the night before your birthday," Yuta starts, looking past Johnny's head to the wall behind him. "That was when you slept with, God, who was it? Wonwoo? Hoseok? I can't remember who. I almost told you then. I watched you slink away with him an hour before 12 midnight, at your own party."
Yuta smiles a bit, but it's clear that the memory still stings. Johnny reaches out, smoothes the skin between Yuta's eyebrows until he stops frowning.
"I wanted to scream at you, tell you not to leave," Yuta continues. "But I didn't have any claim over your beautiful ass, so I just downed a shot and went to Ten to get this inked instead."
Johnny rolls his eyes and presses his fingers into the skin next to the birdcage.
“God, you’re so fucking dramatic,” Johnny laughs.
“You have no idea,” Yuta replies. “Ten has this— he’s so got this little notebook where he’s got his own system. Like Kanji but made up.”
Yuta shows his wrist. There is a small character there, right beside his smaller version of Johnny’s LIMITLESS.
“Ten knew the whole time that I was in love with you,” Yuta says while a fond smile. “One time, you’d drunk called me. I don’t think you even remember this, and I never brought it up because it was stupid, but you’d said, ‘Yuta, I want you all the time,’ and then fallen asleep on the line. I kept waiting for a sign that you remember ever saying it, but you never brought it up, so I never did, either.”
Johnny cannot for the life of him recall this ever happening, and he tells Yuta as much.
“I figured you didn’t remember,” Yuta says, reaching out for Johnny’s hand. “Anyway, I called Ten up and scheduled an appointment and he did this one. It means ‘asshole’, by the way.”
“Charming,” Johnny laughs, leaning in bring his lips to Yuta’s.
Being physical isn’t new to them anymore, but the manner in which Johnny kisses Yuta now has changed. He had underestimated just how much he had held himself back when he thought that all he was allowed to show Yuta was the desperate lust that Johnny constantly had for him. Kissing Yuta now feels like he’s swimming through a lake, like they’re both floating, suspended, with waves washing over the both of them. Johnny runs his tongue over Yuta’s lower lip, over Yuta’s tongue, kisses him deep and filthy, Yuta’s breathing broken as he adjusts himself so that he’s lying on his back.
Johnny kisses him everywhere, but Yuta's tattoos serve as a placeholder, a guide, a map to the inner workings of his boyfriend's mind. There's ink scattered all over his body: the insides of his wrists, his ribs, his forearms, his thighs. Johnny sucks on the skin of Yuta’s throat hard enough to bruise, and Yuta is marked, the color red blooming near where Yuta has small roses by his clavicle.
“Keep talking,” Johnny whispers, straddling Yuta, his knees on either side of Yuta’s hips. Neither of them is fully hard yet, but Johnny’s cock hangs heavy between his legs, and Yuta brings his hands to Johnny’s ass to encourage him to grind down on his own burgeoning erection.
“The— the roses,” Yuta gasps as Johnny begins to harden against his hip. “The roses were for when— fuck, yeah— for when we first slept together.”
Johnny pauses at this, pushes himself up on his arms to look down at Yuta.
“How many of these did you get with me in mind, baby?” Johnny asks, incredulous.
Yuta has the decency to look sheepish, and he turns his face to hide against Johnny’s forearm.
“How many?” Johnny asks, bringing himself down, chest to chest with his boyfriend, his breath hot on Yuta’s ear.
Yuta rakes his nails over Johnny’s back once.
“Five,” Yuta says, his eyes sliding closed as Johnny kisses the spot behind his ear and bites down on his helix.
“Do you regret any of them?” Johnny whispers, his hand cradling the back of Yuta’s head, thumb by his jaw.
“No,” Yuta replies. “Not a single one. I knew when I was getting them that that would mean something indelible related to you.”
Yuta runs his fingers against the sun tattoo Johnny has on his elbow.
“Stupid, rash, impulsive, I know,” he continues, looking up at Johnny. “But I’ve always been sure of how I felt about you. If we didn’t work out, that was something I was ready to accept, that I’d have reminders of you on my body either way.”
This makes something tender break inside Johnny. They wasted so much time dancing around each other. So much time where they could have had this but instead, they'd kept quiet. Instead, Yuta had chosen to wear his truths hidden in plain sight, his heart on his sleeve, literally.
"Stupid," Johnny says, kissing the tip of Yuta's nose.
"Rash," he says, a kiss on Yuta's eyebrow.
"Impulsive," he whispers against Yuta's cheek.
"Mine," Johnny says and Yuta surges up to catch Johnny's lips in his with a roll of his hips where Johnny can feel his hardness.
There's color everywhere Johnny touches, and even he's studied them all, even if he's studied all of the lines and curves that Ten's skilled hands have made permanent on Yuta's skin, for the first time, Johnny allows himself to see, allows himself to think. He knows 3 already.
There's no urgency in their movements, even if Johnny's hips keep torquing down for friction. Yuta's skin is heated, almost feverish in his want.
Johnny finds another symbol he doesn't understand, a small rabbit that he'd thought this entire time meant Doyoung.
Yuta opens his eyes, breath coming out short as he moves his hips to meet Johnny's.
"Rabbit heart," Yuta replies. "How you make me feel."
Yuta tugs on the back of Johnny's neck, brings John's head down to press his ear on Yuta's chest. Johnny can hear his heart racing.
"Funny, that," Johnny says, reaching out blindly for Yuta's hand, pulling it to press down flat on his own chest. "Same for me."
"Perhaps you'd consider getting a bunny of your own?" Yuta teases softly. He's still hard, they both are, but there's no hurry. This is part of it.
"Perhaps," Johnny replies.
He moves himself up again, turns his face to take one of Yuta's nipples between his lips making Yuta gasp out from the sudden warmth, the wetness of Johnny's tongue making his breath catch in his throat. Johnny rubs his thumb onto Yuta's other nipple.
"Last one," Yuta says, coherence now a struggle considering that Johnny rakes his teeth over his sensitive nipple, and tugs on the stainless steel bar pierced through it gently.
"The lungs," Yuta continues. "The last one I got after you kissed me at Mr. Lee's."
Stylized, anatomically correct lungs with flowers bursting from them, a new tattoo that had appeared on Yuta's forearm that Johnny had had to be careful with, that Johnny had opted not to ask about for the express reason that he hadn't invited Johnny to get it done.
"It's the Florence song, isn't it?" Johnny says, taking Yuta's hand, pressing a small kiss right where the two lungs meet.
Yuta nods, pulls his hand back to hook it once again behind Johnny's neck.
"Enough talking," he whispers just before kissing Johnny.
It's all wet kisses and warm breath on open lips, on decorated skin after that. Johnny opens Yuta up slowly, one finger, then two, then three before he's pushing into Yuta with a renewed sense of urgency. Yuta has his lower lip caught between his teeth as Johnny fucks into him.
Johnny tries very hard to keep the wonder out of his emotions, at how cliche it is to say that they no longer just fuck, but make love instead, but he can't help it, not when they've both gotten tested already, not when they'd held hands to reveal that they were both clean.
So when Yuta, close to the edge and nearing incoherence, says, "Come inside me," Johnny doesn't bother stifling the moan that escapes his lips.
"Are you sure?" Johnny pants, begging the high heavens that Yuta says yes, and he does.
"I've wanted it forever now," Yuta groans.
It's all it takes for Johnny to haul Yuta in by his hips, change the angle and have Yuta screaming his name, no regard whatsoever for who can hear them outside of this hotel room. Every press of Johnny's hips makes Yuta's breath leave him. He can't speak. All he knows is Johnny.
The room is too hot, Johnny's hands a brand on hips skin, Yuta's legs wrapped around Johnny's waist, and a mantra of, "I'm close, I'm close," spilling from Yuta's lips until Johnny takes Yuta in his hand and strokes once, twice, before Yuta stretches out a "fuck," under his breath.
Yuta squeezes around Johnny's cock impossibly tight, making Johnny lose his rhythm, and Johnny is so, so close, he's right there, and Yuta has his fingers pulling Johnny's hair, fingers twisting Johnny's nipple, sweat starting to fall from Johnny's temple, and then-
Johnny is spilling hot inside of Yuta, filthy, an absolute fucking mess, and he can't seem to stop, his hips pistoning still as he empties himself. Yuta tries to keep his eyes open, tries to keep his focus on Johnny, but it's too good, it's too much.
"Fill me up," Yuta whispers.
Their breathing slows, and Yuta keeps his legs locked around Johnny's waist, Yuta still tight around Johnny even as he begins to soften. Johnny leans in to press soft kisses on Yuta's cheeks, the corner of his lips, over Yuta's closed eyelids as Yuta huffs out a small laugh.
Johnny reaches in between them to stroke Yuta's softening cock once, cum on his fingers. Yuta watches as Johnny takes two fingers into his mouth to clean them.
"You can't just do shit like that when I'm too tired to go another round," Yuta says. "You're so hot, what the fuck?"
Johnny laughs at this, gently rubbing the tip of his nose on Yuta's cheek until Yuta turns to offer his lips up for another kiss.
"I like teasing you," Johnny says. "You know this."
"You like it more when I do it to you, though," Yuta replies, bringing Johnny in closer.
"I would be stupid to deny this," Johnny says, pulling out slowly as Yuta hisses from the loss of him. Johnny moves to leave the bed, but Yuta refuses to let him go.
"Let me clean us up, baby," Johnny says, a bright smile on his lips.
"Leave it," Yuta says, eyes closed. "Stay."
So Johnny rearranges them so that he's resting his head on Yuta's chest again, his heartbeat steady, calm.
Johnny traces the wasp inked on Yuta's hip, a tattoo he had gotten the night their first tour was announced.
("Why a wasp?" Johnny had asked.
"Why not?" Yuta has said.)
"Does it scare you?" Johnny asks, fingertips on the wings of this creature. The skin is raised under his finger pads like the tattoo is embossed.
"What?" Yuta says, fingers playing with Johnny's hair.
"Baring your secrets," John says. "Letting me in."
"Johnny," Yuta replies. "You know that I trust you."
Johnny nods, doesn't quite know where Yuta is going with this, so he remains quiet.
"I trust that when I tell you something, you're actually going to listen to me, that you can handle the truths I divulge of myself."
"So no," Yuta finishes. "It doesn't scare me."
Johnny remembers just a few short days prior when the ugly, dark thing in his chest had threatened to overtake everything. Thinks about how there isn't a single trace of it left that's palpable.
"I trust you, too," Johnny says.
Johnny spends the rest of their hours counting Yuta's tattoos. He says, "Fifty-two?" out loud when he reaches the last one, a minute sun on Yuta's ankle, which he had gotten when they'd made friends with Donghyuck, a solo idol they'd met and began to dote on almost immediately.
"Fifty-two and counting," Yuta says, spread out and languid on their covers after they've cleaned up.
Fifty-two tattoos and counting, Johnny thinks, admiring the works of art Ten has immortalized on the canvas that is Yuta's body.
Yuta shows Johnny his next one planned: two hands reaching out to each other.
"What's this one mean?" Johnny says with a smile.
"I think you can guess, baby," Yuta replies.
Johnny can. Yuta doesn't need to say it out loud. Johnny thinks, "Maybe I'll get that one done, too."