Hwitaek didn’t exactly plan on breaking down on stage. Yeah, he knew he was going to shed some tears, but god , he really didn’t mean to cry that much. In his defense, though, he’s always felt emotions too strongly, and he might love Jinho a bit too much.
Really, no one could blame him. The way Jinho caressed his cheek oh-so lovingly, telling him not to cry while holding tears back himself— yeah, Hwitaek’s heart was already gone, beating so hard that Jinho could probably feel it thumping under his skin.
The performance was a blur, to be honest. They went on stage, they performed, they cried, they got off the stage. Hwitaek refused to let go of Jinho as soon as the cameras were off. He knew he was ruining both of their makeup, but he really couldn’t care. Yeah, they still had time together, but fuck, it really really hurt.
Unsurprisingly, it took awhile for Hwitaek to stop crying. Even with them back in the dressing room, only staff and members and cameras in the corners to see, he couldn’t stop hiccuping with each new wave of tears. Jinho was still there, though, still holding onto Hwitaek and rubbing his back while he tried to dry his own tears.
“Do you want to go to the bathrooms?” Jinho murmured into Hwitaek’s ear. Hwitaek nodded, not trusting himself to speak in fear of his voice breaking again.
Gently, Jinho guided Hwitaek to the closest bathroom, hand pressing comfortingly into the small of his back. The door closed behind them and Jinho helped Hwitaek onto the bathroom counter like a small child.
Hwitaek heard the water running before a cold paper towel was pressed just under his left eye. It startled him, eyes finally blinking open to see Jinho dabbing at his tear-stained cheeks. The sight only made fresh tears fall, a whimper leaving his lips as he weakly tried to grab onto Jinho’s wrist.
“ Hyung ,” he tried to say, voice cracking at the end.
Hwitaek could see Jinho’s bittersweet smile through the blur of his own tears, could hear the melancholy as he said, “Hui-ya,” in the most loving voice possible.
More tears, more dabbing, but Jinho continued to look up at Hui like he was the only man in existence at the moment.
Once his face was mostly clean, tears only leaking out every so often, Jinho threw away the bundle of wet paper towels he accumulated and slotted himself back between Hwitaek’s legs. He looked at Hwitaek with such loving eyes, hand cupping his cheek once more and thumb rubbing at the corner of his eye, probably trying to dry any stray tears that came out.
“Hyung,” Hwitaek tried again, voice still unstable, but no longer cracking along the edges. He bit his lip, frowning to keep the welling tears at bay. “I’m gonna miss you.”
Jinho’s small smile broke out into a full grin. His other hand went to grab both of Hwitaek’s, threading their fingers together.
“I know,” he said, his own voice weak from crying earlier. “I’m gonna miss you, too.”
“I love you.”
They said it so often. Said it as greeting, as a farewell, as a compliment, as a threat, as a placeholder for other emotions they couldn’t name. It should have lost its meaning a long time ago, but it seemed that any time they said it, the feelings behind it doubled. It was no longer a phrase, but a promise, a fact that could never change.
They said it to each and every member and they all said it back with just as much meaning. They said it at night, into the darkness for whoever could hear. They said it in their dreams where everything was okay and they were free to scream their love from the rooftops. They said it during the rare instances when all ten of them were able to meet again and exchange long overdue hugs and kisses.
Jinho didn’t have to say it back, but that would betray the way his own heart rate picked up.
“I love you, too.”
It wasn’t clear who pulled who into the hug first. All either of them knew was that they were breathing in the other’s scent like it was the last time they could ever touch. Hwitaek’s face was tucked snugly into Jinho’s shoulder and Jinho’s face was pressed into Hwitaek’s chest.
They stayed like that for god-knows how long, sharing warmth and breath and quiet whispers of “I love you.” Hwitaek wanted to gather Jinho in his lap now that all his tears were dried up. He wanted to smother Jinho in kisses and hugs and caresses and hands where they shouldn’t be. He wanted— needed — Jinho to know how much he was going to miss him.
All of the lyrics he ever wrote paled in comparison to the utter raw feelings he had towards Jinho, towards all of his members. It was impossible to describe how he felt with words, so he had gotten into the habit of portraying them through actions in the privacy of their dorms, sometimes accidentally slipping in public.
His body was screaming to somehow show Jinho every little thing he felt, how he made stars explode behind his eyes and pink blossom from inside his heart. He pressed his lips to the juncture of Jinho’s neck, a promise, before pulling away.
They were still in a public restroom, after all.
They were still wrapped around each other, though, only centimeters apart. It took everything in Hwitaek to not rush forward and gobble Jinho whole.
Instead, both of his hands came up to wrap around Jinho’s neck. Not pushing or pulling, simply resting there and keeping Jinho close.
“Come back to dorm A tonight so you can stay with me.” It was a request bordering on a demand.
Jinho replied with a toothy smile, the apples of his cheeks rising and upturning his eyes. Hwitaek was enamored.
“You know the kids won’t like that,” Jinho said, teasing.
Hwitaek pouted. It was true, but all Hwitaek wanted to do tonight was go asleep wrapped around Jinho. “I don’t care,” he ended up saying, sounding like a stubborn child, “They can have you tomorrow night. I’m pulling the leader card. You’re staying the night tonight.”
Jinho grinned impossibly wider and nodded. “You know I wouldn’t say no to you anyways,” he said before pulling Hwitaek back in for a quick hug. This time, he felt the barely-there press of puckered lips to the side of his neck before Jinho was detangling them and helping Hwitaek down from the counter.
And if they left the bathroom holding hands, no one would pay too much attention.