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The car is so quiet at first that Taeyong can hear himself breathing.

When it comes to Johnny, Taeyong is used to heated conversations, tense air, and the mild feeling of being annoyed with everything he does or says, not this. This is the feeling of two people who have never been alone together, and don’t know quite how to handle the situation.

After pressing send on his last text to Mark, and watching the typing bubble pop up, Taeyong unzips the pocket of his backpack resting on the floorboards and packs his phone away.

He knows that if he read Mark’s inevitably sincere apology, he would forgive him almost immediately, and Taeyong wants to stew on Mark’s betrayal for a little longer.

And Taeyong was certainly feeling betrayed.

Mark knew all about Taeyong’s hatred of his fiancée’s older brother. It wasn’t like Taeyong (or Johnny, for that matter) was all that subtle about it. That’s not to say that Mark really understood why, because all he did was sing Johnny’s praises. “Johnny’s so cool, he showed me this new game,” “Johnny told me the funniest story earlier,” “Johnny took me and Hyuck out to dinner, he’s so nice!” “Johnny bought me this, Yong, isn’t it dope.” It was all Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.

Taeyong was sick of it.

All Mark ever had to say about Taeyong’s hatred was “Yong, you barely know him, you have to give him a chance” to which Taeyong took personal offense. Johnny had his chance --- multiple chances --- and Taeyong is yet to see any of the wonderfully hilarious and kind man Mark talks about like its his job.

Taeyong has had the pleasure of being around Johnny at least twenty times and every single time he pretends he doesn’t know his name. He even follows Taeyong on Instagram, for fucks sake, where his username literally is @leetaeyong. 

But no, in Mark’s mind, Johnny was some sort of god. How Mark doesn’t see how much of an asshole Johnny is baffles him.

It took Taeyong only five minutes to come to the conclusion that Johnny was exactly the worst type of person – a judgmental prick asshole with a superiority complex and a sense of humor that makes Taeyong feel particularly homicidal.

Thinking back to the first time Taeyong and Johnny met, it had been almost two years ago now, at Mark and Hyuck's first apartment together they had moved in to, shortly after their graduation. It’s hard to believe that there was once a time in his life he was excited to meet Donghyuck’s older brother that everyone seemed to love. To say that Taeyong hadn’t seen the appeal was an understatement.

When Taeyong had agreed to cover the late shift for his friend, Baekhyun, at Frank’s, the Italian restaurant he had been working at part-time for a few months, he had the prickling feeling that he was forgetting something.  

It wasn’t until around 8 pm, a few hours into his shift and too late to back out of it, when he got a text from his little brother reading “Where are you, Yongie? You’re like never late... R u okay?” that he realized what exactly that something that he was forgetting was.  

Fuck.

He pulled his phone out of his back pocket, and, sure enough, the date had read June 11th, the day of Mark and his boyfriend’s housewarming party, that Mark had circled not once, but twice in red ink on Taeyong’s calendar at his apartment. If it was any other party, Taeyong would just text him that something came up at work, because he knew that Mark would understand, but this was the housewarming party.

The exact housewarming party that Mark had been talking about every single day for weeks now. He had been so happy that Donghyuck had asked him to move in together after graduation, since they were both going to be working in the city. Being in love looked good on his little brother.  

Being late, however, did not look good on Taeyong. His biggest pet peeve, even, was when people were late.

He didn’t even know how much it bothered him until his current boyfriend, who he had been dating since he had graduated college, made up a catchphrase, saying that he ran on “Taeil time,” which meant he was at least 30 minutes to everything. Taeil had almost everything Taeyong was looking for, but his lack of punctuality had become such a problem that Taeyong would tell him the wrong time for dates because he could count on him being late.

So, to Taeyong, being ‘on Taeil time’ for something Mark had spent so much time planning meant he felt incredibly guilty and apologetic. Not only to Mark and Hyuck, but also to the few other people Mark had been excited to introduce him to that would be at the party.    

Taeyong had shot Mark a quick text in apology which had been read and not responded to, and had rushed out of the restaurant around 11 when it closed, making It to the Suh-Lee household in a record ten minutes.  

Hair likely sweaty from running up the stairs to the fourth floor, and still in his apron and red button-up from work, he threw open the door and stumbled into the apartment to see Mark with a beautiful woman he’d never seen before and another boy he recognized as one of his college friends, Jeno maybe, cleaning the living area, and Donghyuck talking to a tall stranger in the corner of the room. Everyone turned to look at him as he entered, and he saw the look of frustration flash across Mark’s face.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Taeyong had not only been late, but actually missed the party.

Mouth already open to apologize to Mark, he had been cut off with a “Save it, Yong,” and directions to go apologize to Donghyuck first, because Mark was "so disappointed, he couldn’t even bare to talk to him."

After a few minutes of apologizing profusely to Donghyuck and making promises to make it up to them with free pizza from the restaurant (Mark’s favorite) whenever they wanted, he realized that in his rush to apologize, he had forgotten the man he had seen talking with Hyuck when he first came in.

He’s wearing a dark grey suit that had obviously been tailored to fit him as it hugged his body in all of the good ways, was nursing an amber drink that looked like bourbon, and was looking at Taeyong expectedly with intimidating brown eyes. It only took Taeyong a moment to place why his face had looked so familiar.

Because standing before him was Donghyuck’s older brother, Johnny. The Johnny Suh, in the flesh. Taeyong hadn’t recognized him because in all of the pictures he’d seen of him he was wearing casual clothes, and smiling, but now he stood in a fitted suit with a mildly annoyed look plastered on his handsome face.

Mark  called Hyuck away to help with something, and he excused himself to let the two of them to introduce themselves.

When Taeyong introduced himself as Mark’s older brother and only gotten an “I know,” and an unimpressed look, he had thought that was a forgivable offense. Taeyong could understand it if it was tiredness, or stress. He couldn't remember what Johnny did for a living but maybe he had a bad day at work and didn’t have the energy for meeting new people.

But then Johnny had said, “You look nothing like how I expected,” as he took a sip from his drink and with a loaded stare as he looked Taeyong up and down, lingering for a moment longer than what’s considered socially acceptable on his firetruck red hair and thick black roots he hadn’t had time to cover, and was now feeling especially self-conscious about, with a look comparable to disgust. This, this was less forgivable.

It was a look he had gotten a few times at work, often from people dressed much like Johnny was that day who liked to be rude to the wait staff just because they could.

And then, as a third strike, Johnny had to bring up his job.  

“Mark was upset to hear you weren’t coming," He had started, as if he knew Mark better than Taeyong himself. "Good time management is an important virtue, you know. It’s the first thing that a lot of people look for in jobs these days,” Johnny said as he looked down at him with a smug smile, as if this was something that would be shocking for Taeyong to hear.

The murderous glare Taeyong sent him would normally stop people in their tracks, but it only made Johnny smile a little wider.  

“I’ll have you know I have excellent time management--”

Ignoring him, Johnny continued.

“What is it that you do, again, that you couldn’t make time for your baby brother’s big party?” He had pointedly looked back down to the folded apron around his waist he was still wearing, effectively reminding him that 1. he looked ridiculously out of place and 2. Mark was probably still mad at him and he had yet to apologize properly.  

And to make matters worse, when Taeyong had said “I currently wait tables at Frank’s, but I'm trying to go into music production,” he had simply looked him up and down again, and said “I see,” with something like pity written across his face. Oh, yes, Johnny was definitely the type to be rude to waiters.

“What do you do, Johnny?” Taeyong had gritted out, trying to take the attention away from himself and forcing himself to be somewhat polite.

“I’m an investment banker at Goldman Sachs,” he had said, something like amusement written across his eyes as a look of recognition had passed over Taeyong’s features. From what he remembered, the starting salary was like 500,000 or something equally ridiculous for investment banking, and Johnny didn’t look to be much older than Taeyong himself.

No wonder he didn't seem to like Taeyong.

And then Johnny had very pointedly checked his watch (a Rolex, naturally), and with a look that screamed ‘I’d rather be anywhere else than continuing this conversation’ had called over Taeyong’s shoulder to the thin woman he had seen before helping Mark clean that they should head out.

Apparently the extremely thin, scarily wide smiled, woman was Johnny's girlfriend, Seulgi. She would later be placed just behind Johnny on Taeyong’s list of least favorite people.

Somehow, in the five minutes of knowing him, Johnny had made Taeyong feel like a piece of shit at least three different times, and Taeyong hadn’t even gotten the chance to say more than a few words back.

From that day on, he’d been nothing but disdainful and prickly to Taeyong. So, naturally, Taeyong became equally horrible back. And thus, their feud had started.

Taeyong now makes sure he looks as good as possible every time he knows he will be seeing Johnny later, and keeps up with his hair coloring without fault, even though the amount of bleaching would surely leave his scalp ruined one day. The surprised look the second time he had seen Johnny when he took in Taeyong’s vastly improved appearance had been so worth the extra time spent meticulously applying makeup and picking out his outfit.

However, as Mark failed to tell him that Johnny would be taking him, and not some nice stranger, he had failed to dress in more than his most comfortable travel clothes, his freshly blonde hair lying flat and unstyled on his head. At least he had the foresight to throw on some jewelry.

Almost subconsciously, Taeyong tugs his sleeves over his hands, the soft red and black striped sweater he had thrown on this morning being the only protection from the cold morning air.

Is Johnny's car’s heat broken?  

Even if it wasn’t, Johnny had definitely not bothered to turn it on. He probably thought it was bad for his skin or something, the pretentious ass.

He shivers, leaning back in his chair and putting his feet up in on the dash, most likely going to leave a mark.

If Johnny minds, he doesn’t show it, which shocks Taeyong because Johnny seems to be fussy about literally everything.

Taeyong adjusts until he gets comfortable, finally relaxing in the old leather seats. Once settled, he realizes that in the midst of the rage fit he had upon seeing Johnny, he had just gotten in the car and busied himself with his phone, not even taking in his surroundings.

To say that Taeyong was surprised that Mr. I don’t eat from buffets, I wear a 40,000 dollar watch, stereotypical corporate asshole, Johnny Suh had a real-life car, despite living on the upper east side and being able to easily afford a driver, would be an understatement. A massive understatement. Not to mention the car was so old it didn’t even have a built-in GPS, or Bluetooth. It had a CD drive, for Christ’s sake. Taeyong was so out of his element, he almost forgot that he was furious at Johnny for being almost an hour late.

He whips his head away from the radio to burn holes in the side of Johnny’s head with his glare. Taeyong’s on his fourth mental draft of what he’s going to say to Johnny to describe how disgusting his lack of punctuality was when his inner monologue is rudely interrupted with Johnny’s voice.

His very deep, still slightly scratchy, just rolled out of bed voice.

If it was literally anyone but Satan incarnate himself, Taeyong would have thought it was hot. Wasn’t that a terrifying thought. 

“That’s for you, by the way,” Johnny says, pointing to a cup that Taeyong had failed to notice, sitting in the cupholders between them.

In sharp contrast to Johnny’s engraved travel mug most likely filled to the brim with black coffee in it, because what else would he choose but a drink so tasteless and evil, the plastic cup in Taeyong’s cupholder was topped with obscene amounts of whipped cream, and what looks like chocolate shavings.

Taeyong has to stop himself from the “thank you” that almost slips out of his mouth, habitually, from someone doing something nice for him. 

But, of course, Taeyong refuses to admit defeat in anything Johnny-related, so he sets his jaw and crosses his sweater clad arms across his chest. The car pulls to a stop at the next light, the city traffic still scarily dense from the morning work shuffle. Johnny reaches to the middle to take a sip of his own drink, sighing contently at the warmth it undoubtedly brings to his body. Taeyong watches as he swallows, his Adam's apple bobbing, and has to force himself to tear his eyes away from the sight.

Johnny turns to look at Taeyong, waiting for him to pick up the drink.

“I don’t like coffee,” Taeyong spits, staring with extreme focus at a pigeon he can see out of the window, forcing himself to think of anything not-Johnny related. His dislike of coffee in all forms wasn’t even a lie, surprisingly. Coffee had always been way too bitter for his taste.

“It’s not coffee, just try it, you’ll like it” Johnny counters, amusement creeping into his voice, no longer quite as scratchy as before, but equally deep; so deep Taeyong wonders what it would sound like in his ear if he were to whi- Get it together, Yong. It was way too early to be thirsting over his nemesis’s voice.

Why do all evil people have to be so handsome? He’s seconds away from banging his head against the window just to force himself to get a grip.

“I don’t trust you.”  

Also not a lie. Johnny knows pretty much nothing about Taeyong other than that he has perpetual foot-in-mouth syndrome and has a knack for arguing even when he’s wrong. He definitely doesn’t know what his Starbucks order is.

“My god, you are so dramatic,” Johnny laughs, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to drink it.” 

And then, as if he reads Taeyong’s still wary expression, he adds, “It’s not poisoned,” rolling his eyes.

He picks up the cup and shoves it in Taeyong’s direction, eyes drifting back to the road as the light turns green. Taeyong forces his gaze away from the pigeon and back to Johnny, taking the drink from his hand reluctantly.

Trying not to look too eager, Taeyong takes a small sip before pulling the cup away. He closes his eyes as the warm drink hits his throat, leaving a pleasant warm buzz through his body even from the tiny sip. Taeyong puts it down before he can moan accidentally at the heavenly taste of what Taeyong recognizes as a Starbucks chocolate cookie crumble crème frappuccino.

Johnny waits a long second, anticipating any sort of verbal response.

Taeyong, refusing to admit that Johnny was right, stays silent, looking anywhere but to his left.

When Johnny realizes that Taeyong isn’t going to speak unprompted, he sighs, “Well? How is it?”

“I hate it.” It was fucking delicious. How Johnny had actually managed to get him a one of his favorite drinks from Starbucks shocked him. Was he that easy to figure out?

“You hate it?” Johnny parrots, eyebrows shooting up, amusement evident in his tone.

Taeyong has dug his grave now, so he has to lie in it.

He hums in agreement, making sure to look back out the window so that Johnny can’t see the lie in his eyes. That is, if his burning ears haven’t already given him away.

A few seconds pass, and Taeyong thinks he’s gotten away with the bluff, but Johnny doesn’t let him off that easily.

“You’re the worst fucking liar on the planet,” Johnny responds, laughing even louder now.

At that, Taeyong whips his head to his left as his eyes go a little bigger in shock.

“Excuse me? What did you just say?” Taeyong feels his neck flush, heat rising in his face as his embarrassment at Johnny knowing he’s lying sinks in.

“I said you’re the worst fucking liar on the planet.” He pauses, as if mentally listing all of Taeyong’s tells. “Your ears are redder than the sweater you’re wearing, you can’t meet my eyes, and have been staring out of that window like it’s your job since you got in Tina.”

“Who names their car Tina?”

Johnny ignores that, continuing on as if Taeyong hadn’t said anything, sounding increasingly more pleased with himself as he rails into Taeyong.

“And on top of all of that," He pauses, as if for dramatic effect. "You wanna know why I really know you’re lying out of your ass right now?”  

Taeyong is so embarrassed he thinks he’s going to melt into a puddle of shame on the leather seats. If Johnny doesn’t stop soon, he’s going to have to put himself out of his misery using Tina’s seatbelt as a DIY noose.

The idea becomes twice as appealing as Johnny hedges him again, “Ask me why.”

“No.” Taeyong shrinks even further into his seat.

“Ask me why. I know you want to know,” Johnny says. The fact that he isn’t even wrong has Taeyong swallowing his already pummeled pride.

“Why?” His heart flies out of the window and getting stomped on by the angry taxi man riding their bumper.

“Because this morning I texted my dear friend Mark Lee and asked him what his older brother’s favorite drink at Starbucks was,” Johnny starts, smiling so wide his cheeks have to hurt.

Taeyong’s eyes near fall out of his face they go so wide as soon as he hears his little brothers name. That little shit. If Mark had previously been skating on thin ice with his first betrayal, now he was nearing a spot on Taeyong's hit-list. After Johnny, of course, who is at the top.

“And he told me that your favorite drink at Starbucks is, and I quote, a ‘chocolate cookie crumble crème frappuccino with extra whipped cream.”

Johnny’s grin is positively infuriating. How is it that he somehow consistently makes Taeyong look like a complete idiot? Taeyong is begging for the torture to end. He would even listen to Johnny talk about the stock market for the rest of the day, or whatever it is that an investment banker talks about, if it meant he would shut up about the drink.

But, it’s Johnny, so he just continues; “I mean, shit, there I was, embarrassed to be ordering a glorified milkshake at a coffee shop, not to mention a drink that I’m pretty sure they market towards literal children.” At that, Taeyong scowls. “Well, not that you’re not a child, you are, don’t worry… but I’d have done it gladly had I known I’d get to see your face just then.”

“I bet you’re awfully pleased with yourself, John,” Taeyong responds, dragging out the ‘aw’ sound for added sass. Taeyong has gone from a flustered mess back to his default emotion in Johnny’s presence, annoyed.

“Oh, you have no idea.”

The shit eating grin plastered on Johnny’s face has Taeyong feeling the need to throw something. Preferably at Johnny, but throwing anything would do the job.

His hands are now balling into what Mark calls Taeyong's rage fists, as he wrings his hands in his sweater. He wishes he could take a walk and cool down but is instead forced inside of the freezing metal deathtrap with his nemesis. Maybe that's why Johnny agreed to let Taeyong crash his road trip, he had a high chance of not making it to California alive.

The silence is at least good for fueling his revenge plot. The top contenders in his mental list right now are 1. Putting laxatives in Johnny’s food, and 2. Purposefully spilling glitter in his suitcase. 

Johnny gives him another once over before turning back to the road, the traffic beginning to thin out now that they are beginning to leave the city.

“Are you just a pathological liar and can’t help yourself, or do you just talk out of your ass around me?” Johnny asks playfully.

"Throw yourself off a cliff, Johnny.” Just around you.

Johnny gives a full laugh at that, “I’m sure you’d like that, Taeyang. You are so ridiculously violent for someone so small.”

If Johnny says his name wrong one more time, there will be a murder.

Not to mention pointing out Taeyong’s slight build. Not everyone can be seven feet tall, John.

The laxatives for spiking his food have become Taeyong’s number one priority for the next time they stop for gas.

“Oh, you have no idea,” he mocks Johnny from earlier. Great, he’s resorted to mocking. His middle school humor always finds a way to come out around Johnny.

After that, the car finally falls silent for a few minutes, allowing Taeyong to zone out, watching the passing cars on the intersection, listening to the buzz of the road. Taeyong had gotten so caught up in trying to save face after lying about the drink he had almost forgotten about Johnny being an hour late to get him. Almost.

“Hey, Johnny?” Taeyong asks, his voice immediately breaking the peaceful barrier of silence in the car.

He wasn’t letting Johnny get away with this easily, especially not after he just had to sit through being ridiculed for his extreme foot-in-mouth tendencies that always appear when Johnny is around.

“Hmm?”

“Care to tell me why you made me sit on my front porch for an hour waiting for you to show up this morning in the freezing cold?” At Johnny’s wince, Taeyong can tell that he had thought he had gotten away with it when Taeyong didn’t immediately bring it up.

“It wasn’t an hour late, just a litt--”

“Apologies, you got to my apartment at exactly 7:23,” Taeyong interrupts, “only 58 minutes late, much better.” He was positively glowing as he watched Johnny’s previously smug face turn into a borderline embarrassed one.

“I was getting us Starbucks.”

“For 58 minutes?” Taeyong asks, incredulously.

Fine, and maybe I snoozed my alarm once or twice,” Johnny concedes.

Taeyong, with some stroke of luck, actually recalls some of the first words Johnny had said to him when they had first met, spitting them back at Johnny with as much venom and mocking as he can muster.

Good time management is an important virtue, you know.” He's been waiting for the chance to get Johnny to eat his own words after being rude enough to say them in the first place. It only took him two and a half years.

It takes Johnny a few seconds for his own words to register, but when they do, God, is it glorious. Taeyong feels particularly pleased with himself when he notices the tips of Johnny’s own ears are slightly pink. Johnny is anything but a blusher. 

Riding the high of actually verbally besting Johnny --- for the first time in what feels like a long time --- Taeyong decides to quit while he’s ahead, and announces he’s going back to sleep, since Johnny had gotten to sleep in while he suffered, before Johnny can get a last word in.

He pulls his feet into his seat, irrationally pleased when he sees two footprints imprinted on the dash, and leans his head against the window, closing his eyes with a smile plastered on his face.

"Wake me up for lunch," Taeyong adds, feeling himself already drifting off to the sound of the engine rummaging. 

 

☽☽☽☽☽☽  ☾☾☾☾☾☾

 

Taeyong wakes up to the deep rumble of Johnny speaking, his voice soft and low as if he’s trying not to wake him. Not that it worked, of course, because Taeyong’s an incredibly light sleeper, but the gesture was there.

Taeyong can hear the soft murmur of another voice on Johnny’s phone, but can’t make out any of their words.

He catches a few of Johnny’s words, here and there, but for the most part doesn’t pay attention to what he’s saying, as he is soaking up his last few moments of comfortable peace and quiet before he has to rejoin the land of the living.

That is until something catches his attention.

“With Taeyong? Funny,” Johnny responds with a huff of breath, his tone almost disappointed.

His ears perk up when he hears Johnny say his name, but he pretends to stay asleep, remaining stuffed between the window and edge of his seat, curled as far from Johnny as humanly possible.

Even when he’s asleep Taeyong is always on defense when it comes to him.

He is trying to figure out what the ‘very funny’ could be in reference to when Johnny speaks again.

 “I know he does. I don’t think that’s ever going to change.”

Knows what? What’s not going to change?

Johnny sighs, “Stop. You know I don’t know why.”

Taeyong waits, the silence deafening. What the hell was he talking about? He’s never wished he could hear the other line of a phone call more than right now.

“I know. Love you too, ‘kay? I’m excited to see you.”

And just like that, Taeyong has had enough of the conversation.

Taeyong makes a show of ‘waking up,’ fluttering his eyes open, and stretching his stiff limbs, moaning at the feeling of stretching out his cramped muscles from curling himself into the car door.

He almost feels bad for eavesdropping on what seemed like a private conversation, but then he realizes with a frown that the “I love you” must have been for Seulgi, and it puts a bad taste in his mouth. He hopes he ruined their conversation, before they could slip into using the handful of pet names Taeyong’s heard them use before. 

The mere thought of hearing Johnny call his grown ass, 24 year old girlfriend "princess" from two feet away from him makes him crave death.

He rolls his eyes at the thought, turning to find Johnny already looking at him as he sits up in his seat.

“Did you actually just roll your eyes? How are you already mad when you’ve been awake for less than a minute?” Johnny asks, a small smile pulling at the corners of his lips.

At that, Taeyong laughs, “I’m mad because you woke me up with your phone-call, you doorknob, all I love you so much, can’t wait to see you, that mushy shit,” he mocks.

And because a little part of Taeyong can’t help himself, he adds: “And how is Satan -- I mean Seulgi, sorry, they sound so similar!”

What Taeyong expects is for Johnny to dish it back to him, sing praise for his skeleton viper girlfriend, and tell Taeyong to rot in hell, but what he is met with instead is a quick look of fleeting sadness and Johnny looking down at the keys in his hands.

If Taeyong didn’t know any better, he would say he looked shy.  

“Nope, not Seulgi,” Johnny says, bitterly, “I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that she ended things with me.”

And Taeyong so desperately does want to be happy to hear that Johnny’s walking cigarette of a girlfriend who probably drank children’s tears to wash down her diet pills, who Johnny had acted like hung the moon, had dumped him.

Instead, he feels empathetic. Because Taeyong knows that pain all too well, constantly being left broken hearted when his boyfriends decide that they have had enough of him.

So, he concedes, “As much as we don’t get along because you’re kinda a pompous jackass and I have no filter when it comes to you, I’m not actually evil.” Then in a much softer tone, “not that it’s worth much coming from me, but, like, I am sorry to hear that. You seemed to really like her,” Taeyong adds.

“Means something to me,” Johnny says, so quietly Taeyong thinks he’s misheard him.

Then, running a hand through his hair, Johnny forces a shaky laugh, and says “Well fuck, that got depressing fast. We don’t do deep and emotional.”

And then, to get some semblance of normalcy between the two, that Johnny is clearly searching for, Taeyong adds “Nah, too much deep-rooted rivalry between us for deep and emotional.”

Johnny seemed to relax at the jab, laughing a little more genuinely as the air lightens a bit.

Taeyong looks out the front window of the car, seeing that they are parked in a mostly deserted parking lot, off the interstate. 

“So, Lanky Schmidt, where the hell even are we?” Taeyong doesn’t know how long he’s been asleep, as his phone is stowed away, and Johnny’s car is from the ice age so he doesn’t think the clock even works anymore.

“I’m sorry, wait,” Johnny holds up a hand, laughing so hard his stomach bends, his head dropping onto the steering wheel for a moment. “Lanky Schmidt?” His eyebrows raise dramatically. “Who the fuck is Lanky Schmidt?”

“You know, Lanky Schmidt!” Taeyong responds. It had been the first tall person insult he had thought of.

Is Johnny kidding or being serious?

At Johnny’s titled head and obvious confusion, Taeyong sighs, “From Monsters Inc, c’mon you know him.”

Not even a hint of recognition flashes in Johnny’s eyes, so Taeyong tries again, “the cute little pink guy that’s like all legs with big ass hands and feet? Has like orange stripes on his arms.”

Taeyong is just met with amused eyes and a shake of the head, then a thought pops in his head.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t seen Monster’s Inc.”

Another shake of Johnny’s head, no.

“God, have you been living under a rock? It came out like twenty years ago, dude,” Taeyong shakes his head again, of course Johnny hasn’t seen it.

“Glad you think I’m cute though,” Johnny responds with a smirk.

At first, Taeyong is confused, then remembers that’s how he had described the character, and rolls his eyes, moving to push a laughing Johnny into the driver’s side door.

“Of course, that’s what you chose to hear, you moron” Taeyong laughs. “Seriously though, where are we? I have zero idea how long I passed out for.”

Johnny points behind Taeyong’s head at the sign just outside of his window.

“Dr. Doolittle’s Roadside Café and Creamery?” Taeyong reads, turning back to Johnny with furrowed brows.

Johnny snorts.

“Well, I mean yeah, that’s where I was thinking we’d eat lunch, but I was more so pointing to the big sign that says, ‘welcome to Falls Creek, Pennsylvania’ that's literally right next to it.”

Fuck. Surely not that Falls Creek, right?

But sure enough, as Taeyong whips his head back around to the sign Johnny had pointed to, he reads Falls Creek, Pennsylvania. The smaller than small, middle of BFE town in Pennsylvania, that Taeyong’s most recent heartbreak had moved to with his new boyfriend, who he had been cheating on him with the whole time! Taeyong wants to crawl in a hole and die.

If he even sees a glimpse of Yuta, he is dragging Johnny to the car and not looking back until they are at least fifty miles out.

Either his luck was truly shit, or Johnny somehow had planned this, but that seems too diabolical for even Johnny.

As if Johnny had felt the shift in the mood, he reached a tentative hand out as if to touch his shoulder, before retracting it when he realized how out of place the gesture would be between them.

“What’s in Falls Creek, Taeyong?” Johnny asks, his voice soft as if not to startle a scared animal. Taeyong doesn’t even notice that Johnny had said his actual name

“Nothing!” Taeyong responds way too quickly for it to be the truth, wincing at how raw his voice already sounds.

Johnny just looks at him, his eyes urging Taeyong to continue when he’s ready.

Taeyong sighs, flexing his hands as he tries to calm down.

“Not a what, but a who,” He starts tentatively, unsure of how to explain to Johnny how broken he had been when Yuta left him after admitting he was cheating, without sharing too much. The last thing he wants to be is vulnerable to the one person who can get under his skin like nobody else. “I don’t think you ever met him, but his name was Yuta, and he um was kinda terrible to me, and he lives here with his boyfriend who he was kind of cheating on me with, so yeah,” Taeyong trails off, unsure of what else to say. He'd probably already said too much.

He meets Johnny's eyes and sees the warm brown harden, anger written into the lines of his face. Taeyong bites his lip to stop it from trembling as he drops his gaze to his lap, picking at the hem of his sweater, while he lets Johnny process the information.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I promise I didn’t bring you here on purpose, please don’t think that I would do something like that.” Johnny sounds genuinely apologetic, too surprised to have known anything about it before.

Taeyong can only nod his head, his throat too constricted from almost-shed tears to voice out any reaction.

Johnny lets his gaze linger on Taeyong a little longer before he goes to open up the driver’s side door.

“I’m gonna go get us a table, how about you just meet me inside?” Johnny asks, Taeyong eagerly nodding his agreement once again, needing a moment to himself.

With another lingering look and a “m'kay, take your time,” Johnny turns to the diner and leaves Taeyong to swipe at his eyes and collect his thoughts before following him in.

 

☽☽☽☽☽☽  ☾☾☾☾☾☾

 

Taeyong eyes almost fell out of his head when he saw the size of the burger that was placed in front of him.

A few minutes ago, after Johnny had ordered his second (third?) coffee of the day and whatever the special was, the waitress had turned to Taeyong to collect his order.

When he said he wanted the “classic burger” which had sounded like just the comfort food that he needed, she took one look at his petite frame and told him that he should consider a different menu item, to which he told her almost rudely that he was a big boy and could order whatever he wanted, his foot-in-mouth-syndrome definitely acting up again.

She had rolled her eyes at him, and angrily snatched their menus from their hands before storming away, and Johnny had joked that she was now definitely going to spit in their drinks.

But nothing compared to the smug look on the waitress’s face, or the way Johnny had just sat there and laughed at him, when he had to sit there and eat his words as she dropped the honest to god biggest burger Taeyong had ever seen in front of him and told him to “Enjoy!” With the fakest smile he had ever seen.  

She without a doubt had spit in their food.

About 1/3 of the way through the big daddy burger, as Taeyong had lovingly named it in his head, Johnny had gotten up to go to the bathroom, and Taeyong got out his phone to check his texts.

As he expected, he had a few unread texts from Mark, and even a text from Donghyuck, reading “Don’t kill my brother, even if you want to. I kinda like him. See you soon, yong, love you!” To which Taeyong had responded “love you too, Hyuck. & no promises~”

He swiped back to open Mark's texts.

From Markie:

9:15 am: i’m sorry yongie :(

9:15 am: you know why I didn’t tell u right????

9:16 am: he’s really not that bad once you get to know him! hyuck idolizes him!

To: Markie

1:02 pm: *sigh* you’re lucky you’re cute, Markie

1:02 pm: forgiven, only because its for ur wedding and I would

rather be trapped in the car with satan for a week than miss it.

1:02 pm: we r stopped for lunch rn, and I haven’t wanted

to kill him more than a few times yet- baby steps!!

Taeyong slips his phone back into his bag and with a sudden look at the cute café, fishes around the main pocket until he finds what he’s looking for with a grin.

He pulls out his polaroid camera he had thrown in that morning thinking it could be fun to take some pictures throughout the week, since he had never actually gone on a road trip before. He sits up in his seat and snaps a photo of the café, waving it as he watches the picture develop.

He doesn’t even notice that Johnny has come back from the bathroom until he feels the camera being lifted out of his hand and looks up to find Johnny pointing the camera at Taeyong, barely having time to throw up a peace sign before Johnny snaps the picture.

“Not fair,” Taeyong whines, “I wasn’t ready.”

“I know, that’s half the fun.”

Taeyong scowls, taking the camera from him and taking a quick picture as soon as he has it in his hands, catching Johnny in the middle of a sentence.

“There,” he says with a small smirk, placing the picture in a pile with the others on the table, laughing as he watches Johnny’s surprised face develop on the polaroid, “Now we are even.”

Johnny sits back down, resuming his place in the seat before Taeyong.

They sit in silence as they finish the rest of their lunch. AKA as Johnny finishes the rest of his meal and Taeyong alternates taking bites of the big daddy burger and sending daggers of glares at the waitress and Johnny in turns.

The waitress brings back their checks, dropping them onto the table, and shooting Taeyong a glare with a terrifyingly grim smile as she takes away his plate with more than half of the burger still on it. She was definitely getting a small tip. 

As Taeyong is almost done signing his receipt, Johnny takes the pen and writes something on a Napkin, sliding it back across the table. It reads, in barely legible scrawl “scary waitress is staring at us w/ crazy eyes. If we die, it’s all on u." Taeyong rolls his eyes, taking the pen and writing back “I hate you, Johnny Suh,” followed by a “we aren’t gonna die tho … right…she really does have crazy eyes.”

Taeyong feels himself smiling as he watches Johnny scribble on the napkin, almost forgetting his mini breakdown in the car. It felt as if for once the bickering was light-hearted and not aimed to hurt.

But then his luck runs dry and the potentially happy moment dies the second that the bell at the front of the café rings, causing Taeyong to glance up at the door as a reflex. He feels time physically stop, and his smile falls. The air in the room felt too thick and Taeyong felt the pressure creeping back up into his chest as the wind is knocked out of him.

For standing at the front of the restaurant, about to get a table, stands Yuta Nakamoto, with his boyfriend, Sicheng, draped across his shoulders.

Taeyong feels like he’s going to be sick.

He snaps back to reality as Johnny slides the napkin across the table once more, with something new written on it.

Taeyong doesn’t even have the chance to read it, he just moves, tugging on Johnny’s wrist and jerking his head at the door in a panicky movement.

He watches as Johnny’s gaze follows his to the front of the store, and he turns back with furrowed brows, mouthing “Your ex?”

Taeyong nods once, removing his hand from Johnny’s arm before he causes too much damage from his vice grip.

"Okay, let's get out of here, then."

Just as Johnny begins to collect their things from the table, shoving them in his bag carelessly in an attempt to get out of there unnoticed, a voice calls out.

“Taeyong? Taeyong Lee? Is that you?”

Taeyong closes his eyes, his hand forming empty fists on the table, before he turns to greet them, his biggest smile forced onto his face, “Hey Yuta. Sicheng.” He nods his head to the latter who at least has the decency to look away, a light blush of what Taeyong hopes to be shame sitting high on his cheeks.

“I thought that was you!” Yuta responds with a giggle that Taeyong once thought was the cutest sound in the entire world, but now makes him want to pick up the knife on the table and gauge out his ear drums. That laugh haunts him. “What are you even doing here? You never leave the city!”

Taeyong can’t breathe, much less respond.

Thankfully, Johnny responds for him, a simple “We're on a road trip.”

When Johnny speaks, Yuta turns away from Taeyong with wide eyes as if he forgot that he had company.

“Oh, how rude of me! I’m Yuta, and this beautiful boy right here is my boyfriend, Sicheng. Taeyong and I used to be close before I moved out here! And you are?” He asks Johnny, as if confused that Taeyong could have friends that Yuta had never met.

Taeyong’s jaw clenches at the word “close.”

Saying they were close, as if they had been nothing more than friends, and Yuta hadn’t taken Taeyong’s heart and jumped on it like a trampoline.

He feels his heart rise to his throat and looks at Johnny pleadingly, the words help me written across his whole face.

And as if Taeyong’s desperate, pleading eyes had been understood, Johnny nods his head.  

Like a switch had been flipped, Johnny puts on the most charming smile that Taeyong had ever seen from him, and loving gazes at Taeyong, a look he had never seen on Johnny’s face. 

What was he doing?

After squeezing Taeyong’s hand resting on the table lightly so he meets his eyes, with a look that screams “trust me” Johnny stands up and shakes Yuta's hand, saying a sequence of words Taeyong would have bet his whole life’s savings on never hearing from Johnny’s mouth voluntarily:

“Johnny Suh, so nice to finally meet you.” He grips Yuta’s hand forcefully, coming to his full stature to tower over him, “I’m Yongie’s fiancée. I’ve heard so much about you.”