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The pink is already fading from Taemin’s hair. When he first dyed it for DxDxD, he asked everyone but Jonghyun how it looked, probably because he already knew his answer. Beautiful. All of him his. Even in the harsh white lights of the airport, even pale and puffy-eyed and hating life. He skipped straight past shooting Jonghyun stop staring at me looks to forgetting that he exists at all, but if he wants to keep repeating all the mistakes Jonghyun warns him about in the game he’s playing, it’s not like anyone will get hurt. Except maybe Jonghyun’s phone, since Taemin’s is safe in his pocket with a dead battery. Or Jonghyun himself. He’s been slowly dying at Taemin’s hands, specifically how cute they look peeking out of the sleeves of his hoodie, the one he stole from Jonghyun years ago and probably thinks was always his, even though it still smells ever-so-slightly of Jonghyun. More importantly, it’s also the one he only ever wears when he’s depressed. Taemin has spent so many shitty days in its embrace, all while Jonghyun himself sat here uselessly, longing to hold him while Taemin waited for him to leave him be and go away.

Jonghyun can’t, in case Taemin hasn’t noticed. At least not very far. Their flight boards in thirty minutes and this place is tied with every other airport for the most boring place on earth. Still…

He barely has to lean in before his shoulder is pressed against Taemin’s, warm and solid and destroying him from the inside out. Jonghyun clears his throat. “I was thinking of getting coffee.”

“You said you stopped drinking it, that it makes your eye twitch,” Kibum says from his seat across from them. When Jinki and Minho went shopping thirty minutes back, they should have dragged him along.

“They sell water too, and anyway, I wanted to stretch my legs.” The first thing is iffy and the second is a flat-out lie, but none of that matters when Taemin isn’t listening. Jonghyun resists the urge to reach up and tip his chin towards him. “Did you want some, Taemin-ah?”

Silence. Taemin doesn’t want anything from anyone, least of all him.

At least until Kibum leans over to pat his leg and say, “Taemin-ah. Coffee,” and earns himself last place.

“Go get your own,” Taemin says without even looking up.

Jonghyun gives up, as if he could. What is wrong with him today?

Is there something really wrong? Taemin always spends his shitty moods burying himself in silence, hiding in plain sight, except for the part where he hides for real and locks himself up in his room, in the dark, and fights not to cry. His eyes aren’t red-rimmed. His voice sounded normal, even if it’s been an hour since the last time he used it. And there’s nothing broken in the slump of his shoulders or the curve of his spine, bent over his phone. The only thing out of place is that he wasn’t supposed to be here today at all. He had a solo schedule and was supposed to fly out tomorrow, but when Manager hyung swung by the studio to pick Jonghyun up, Taemin was already in the van. His heart burned so bright he forgot to ask why or how, and it’s taken this long for his glow to fade, all while Taemin’s shitty day has stayed shitty. Would he have spent tonight in his room otherwise, like those other times Jonghyun is supposed to pretend he doesn’t know about?

“You never said, did you finish early today?” No answer. Did it get canceled? Or worse? Jonghyun falters. “Did something happen?”

“You’re the one who’s still in recording, just worry about yourself,” Kibum says, like anyone asked. Whatever is bothering Taemin, his eternal solution is to change the subject until he gets over it. Which is just as effective as Jonghyun getting ignored.

“There’s nothing to worry about, it’s going really well,” Jonghyun says. He resists the urge to sneak a glance at Taemin and says to Kibum and Kibum only, “We finished mixing another song this week. ‘Orbit.’”

“What’s with the space theme? Last time you showed us ‘Moon,’ and now this.”

Taemin doesn’t even react, not even the tiniest bit, but Jonghyun’s heart flips over at the barest reminder. It took everything inside him to play “Moon” in front of Taemin, even in public, broad daylight, Minho booming at him to hurry up, and he got none of it back. It all stayed in that moment with Taemin, blushing pink from his ears down his neck and chest, hands twisting in his lap, catching all Jonghyun’s secret glances and then pretending he didn’t.

“It’s about the universe in someone’s eyes.” Someone. They all know who, he could just say it. And then die. “When you could look into them for an eternity and still fall deeper.”

Kibum purses his lips into one long thin line, precisely halfway between a smile and a frown. “And ‘Moon’ was about the universe in someone’s pants?”

Taemin doesn’t laugh. Even if he could right now, he still wouldn’t. Right? It’s just good Minho were here, or he would have fallen to the floor laughing his ass off, if he didn’t hit Kibum and give Jonghyun concerned are you okay, hyung looks that Taemin would only have to glance up to see.

Check for yourself if hyung is okay, Taeminnie.

His voice comes out sharp enough to cut: “It’s called a metaphor, Kibum-ah.” He takes one long deep breath. As he lets it out, he presses into Taemin’s side, so warm and soft and. He presses in closer. “I used the prettiest words I could, but maybe I should have been coarser. People always say they prefer men who are direct.”

“Who says that?” Taemin says, and gets up to go to the bathroom.

Jonghyun only knows because his eyes follow him until he’s out of sight, and he’ll stay right where he is until Taemin comes back to him. They’ve been in this pattern since long, long before Jonghyun learned to recognize it, and even after the he confessed to Taemin that he was in love with him and Taemin first thought it was a joke, then reminded him he had a boyfriend, and finally told him to get over him like he has everyone else, none of that has thrown Jonghyun out of orbit. It’s been two months since then of Taemin avoiding his eyes when he can’t avoid him, but it might as well have been two years. Twenty. Two hundred. Jonghyun’s heart will keep right on beating, pumping Taemin into every last cell in his body. Resistance is futile.

Jonghyun looks up to find Kibum’s eyes on him. He already knows what he’s going to say: You felt the same way about other people before. Move on already. At least try.

“Be careful what you say around Taeminnie right now.”

Or not.

“What, why?” flies out of Jonghyun, and then, “Did they push his release date back? Creative told me they filmed the teaser this week and everything.”

“Not everything is about work, not even with him.” Then what? Jonghyun’s heart is racing, a million Taemins all at once, sick or hurt or sad or. “He broke up with his boyfriend a few days ago.”

“And he told you?”

Not me? Jonghyun just barely bites it back, but then he’s left with the taste of it in his mouth, bitter and sweet and good and bad and he doesn’t know what. Taemin really broke up with him?

“Manager hyung did before he picked Taeminnie up today. He says he’s been sulking for days, he had to warn us,” Kibum is saying. “I don’t think it’s a broken heart, I think it’s his pride that got hurt.” The feeling is hooking into the corners of Jonghyun’s mouth, is that a smile? How could it be? No matter how hard he fights he can’t kill it, trapped inside him and ricocheting off his ribs, spreading beneath his skin. “Why aren’t you saying anything?”

Jonghyun takes a deep breath. Another. The air is so thin on this new planet where Taemin is single. He doesn’t even deserve to breathe it.

“He really liked him, Kibum-ah,” he makes himself say finally.

Even if Jonghyun hated him. Jaeho was a head taller than Jonghyun and a year older, and part of Jonghyun died when he had to call him hyung. At least it would have if there were any parts of him that survived the way Taemin always talked about him, Taemin pouting as he demanded Jonghyun have a meal with them, telling him to let Jaeho hyung pay the one time Jonghyun couldn’t escape, beaming up at Jaeho, holding his hand on the table, scolding Jonghyun to stop drinking, he can’t keep up, putting Jonghyun in a taxi and going home with his giant, perfect, soju-machine boyfriend.

“They were only dating for a couple months,” Kibum says.

Was that really all? It felt like forever. Still…

“That’s long enough to fall in love.”

Kibum shakes his head. “Even after he broke up with his first boyfriend, he wasn’t like this. He got dumped for sure.”

Oh. That’s what he meant. And that’s worse.

“How can you talk about Taeminnie’s heart like it’s a tennis match or something? Dumping or getting dumped, that isn’t like winning or losing. It’s not a game.”

Kibum is giving him that look again. The one that says he’s stupid.

“You’re the expert on metaphors.”

Jonghyun scrubs his hands over his face. “More like I’m the expert on breakups.”

“Anyway, the whole point was to be careful, or he could snap at you,” Kibum says, almost gently. “You never know when to leave him alone.”

“You know the reason Taeminnie is so sure he doesn’t need to talk is because it’s easier for us to let him think that, right?” Jonghyun drops his hands back into his lap, giving himself a break and letting his eyes drop too. “Don’t worry. There’s nothing he can say that could hurt me anymore.”

When he risks a glance back up, Kibum is giving him another look that means he’s even stupider, too stupid to live even. And all Jonghyun can do is smile.

“Still?” Kibum demands. “You still like him?”

“Was I supposed to get over him?” Kibum’s YES is seconds from detonation, but Jonghyun can’t help it. “He’s Taeminnie.”

Kibum’s eyes flare and his mouth tightens and for one second Jonghyun is scared he’s going to get hit or shaken or yelled at, something to knock reality into him, but this is real. His feelings are real. More real than anything else. In this life of pretending he’s someone he’s not, smiling when he feels sad, biting his tongue when he has anything to say, crying over things he can’t change, Taemin is the one thing he’s sure of. Everything circles back to him.

Like he’s read Jonghyun’s mind, Kibum deflates, slumping back in his chair and sighing loudly, “And you’re you. Ah, hyung~. What am I going to do with you?” Nothing, but that’s the one thing Kibum isn’t capable of. He’s already leveling Jonghyun with yet another look. “He broke up with this guy, but there are a million others lining up to date him. Find another universe to visit. One where you’re the only life form.”

Jonghyun would rather die.

Out loud he says, “That sounds lonely. I don’t mind if he doesn’t look back at me, Kibum-ah. Or if other people look at him. He should be looked at.”

Taemin isn’t too pretty for his own good because there’s no such thing, just shitty men who could take advantage of him. Or shitty men who play with him until they’re bored, then leave him in pieces Jonghyun will have to figure out how to put back together. Kibum opens his mouth, about to remind him that Taemin told Jonghyun to stop looking, that it hurts him to hurt Jonghyun, that there will be other Jaehos, and one of them will probably last, and Jonghyun will be alone…but he stops short. Jonghyun looks up in time to see Taemin drop back down next to him. Back where he belongs.

Back to his phone. And Jonghyun is back to staring.

Where does it hurt, Taeminnie? Everywhere? Let hyung see.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry you broke up. You don’t know how sorry I am. I’ll be good to you, I’ll make it all up.

I’m here if you need me. Even if you don’t.

I’ll be right here.

 

Jonghyun squeezes in front of Kibum to take the seat next to Taemin on the plane and sits beside him in the van, bathed in his silence. When they get out finally at their Tokyo dorm, there’s snow in the air, white and fluffy. Normally Taemin would linger outside, waiting for it to accumulate enough for him to slide around, but tonight he heads straight for their floor, not stopping until he faceplants on his bed. Jonghyun lugs his suitcase all the way up and rolls it into the corner alongside his own. When they first got this dorm, they played rock paper scissors to see who would get the one single room, and after twenty rounds Minho won out against Kibum. He ended up in here with Taemin and Jonghyun, on the cot squashed in the far corner, and all they’ve done is give him reasons to regret it. Taemin is sensitive to light and Jonghyun to sounds, and even when Jonghyun tries to sleep, he always forgets and talks to Taemin late into the night, the way they used to in their room in Seoul. It’s too early for that yet, but there’s also the TV and SNES Manager hyung helped them set up, along the opposite wall. Jonghyun jams the nearest game cartridge in, turns the volume up as loud as he dares, and settles onto the floor in front of it, pinning Taemin in the corner of his eye as he plays. Taemin, who isn’t even slightly tempted, not even to roll over and watch Jonghyun fall off cliffs, get squished and stabbed and blown up. Kibum’s running commentary probably goes over his head, too, even as it fizzes under Jonghyun’s skin, fraying his nerves.

“You’ve died the same way like ten times, just give up. What did you shout for, why are you pretending to be surprised? If there’s an easy mode, try that…unless this is it? How do you suck so bad? Die like man, at least. Quietly.”

“Like Taeminnie~?” Kibum’s look is just the latest of a million reminders to leave Taemin alone, but who cares, when Taemin raises his head from his folded arms to regard Jonghyun balefully. An opening. Finally. However tiny or unwilling or likely to close back up and snap Jonghyun in half, Jonghyun will take it. “Are you hungry?”

“No,” Taemin says, and puts his head down again.

“Do you want something to drink?”

“No.”

Jonghyun can talk to the top of his pink head, he doesn’t mind. Any part of Taemin is fine. More than fine.

“Is there a secret exit in this level, do you remember, Taeminnie?”

“No.”

“You don’t remember or there isn’t?”

“Both, probably.”

“Taemin-ah~” As Jonghyun’s voice rises into a whine, Kibum laughs at him. Taemin is probably hiding a smirk in the bedspread, he has to be. Jonghyun throws his controller down and crawls over to Taemin’s bed, laying his head down next to Taemin’s on the mattress. Until Taemin turns to look at him he can endure the bedframe digging into his stomach, the wood floor murdering his knees, the growing crick in his neck. All that fades anyway when he noses closer, floating on the scent of Taemin’s shampoo. “Then you beat it for me.” His words puff against Taemin’s soft skin, the delicate shell of his ear. It’s turning pink. “Please. Save hyung’s pride.”

Taemin pushes himself upright, sitting back with his legs folded beneath him. After all that, the face he’s wearing is one Jonghyun has seen a million times. Annoyed. And cute. Really, really cute. Shit.

“You’ll just get stuck on the next one,” Taemin accuses him.

“Like you’re so much better,” Kibum scoffs from across the universe. “You two play that every time we come here and you’re still only on the first world.”

“Please, Taeminnie. Mm? Mm? Help me shut Kibummie up.”

Jonghyun lets himself fall back onto the floor, knees protesting all the way. Should he prostrate himself or something? And not get up until Taemin gives him some part of himself to kiss, even if that’s his foot.

Kibum gets up first with a sigh like a typhoon and one last parting shot: “The only reason I said anything is because you’re so loud. You need an audience for everything.”

How else is he supposed to get Taemin to look at him? Or crawl down onto the floor next to him, which he does within five minutes of Kibum leaving. He steals the controller from Jonghyun wordlessly, crowding in against his side for the best view, so warm and soft Jonghyun will be right here, back to dying slowly. He doesn’t say anything when Taemin fails at jumps even he made, misses things they’re supposed to be collecting, walks right into enemies, blames the game for mistakes that only he could make. When Kibum reappears finally, it’s with two cans of pop and the warning, “Don’t make me regret giving you caffeine.”

It doesn’t make any difference to Jonghyun, when he can never sleep anyway. Taemin, though...

“You wouldn’t rather have milk, Taeminnie?” Taemin keeps his eyes on the screen. “I can go get some really quick, there’s that strawberry chocolate flavor you can’t find at home.”

No answer. Jonghyun slips his hand up to tickle Taemin’s side and Taemin runs straight off a cliff, but instead of shrinking away from Jonghyun he reaches across him for the closest can. Jonghyun gets there first, snapping it open and slurping up the fizz. Their fingers brush as Taemin takes it from him, hand so soft and pretty next to his own that Jonghyun spends the next few minutes in a daze, trying not to imagine how it would be if Taemin let him hold it, and then trying to try. As the night wears on, Taemin falls into the game, and Jonghyun falls into him. His eyes widening at everything the game throws at him, his smiles and pouts, all the little Taemin noises he makes, the nape of his neck and the line of his body and the light shining in his hair, at least until Kibum clicks it off and announces loudly, “I’m going to sleep soon,” but that’s all lost in the scent of his skin after he returns from his five-minute shower and wrestles the controller away from Jonghyun again. At midnight, Kibum drags his cot into their walk-in closet and informs them it’s now his bedroom. He also warns them if they’re loud enough to hear from in there, he’s going to hang them up alongside their clothes, but he should know better than anyone that Jonghyun’s survival is already dependent upon keeping Taemin happy.

Or at least as close to it as he can possibly get in this moment, which stretches on and on and on, another eternity lost in his warmth, until suddenly Taemin sets the controller down and tells Jonghyun they have to get up early tomorrow. Was he watching the clock the whole time? Jonghyun snags their empty pop cans and struggles to his feet after him, legs stiff, back aching from hours hunched in front of the television. At least he won’t have to worry about eye strain, since he barely looked at the screen. He has to tear his gaze away as Taemin turns away to lift his shirt over his head, and even the second that takes is one second too long. Every breath he takes tastes like Taemin’s shampoo, strawberry and chemicals and Taeminnie, and when he closes his eyes, it’s all there inside him. The curve of his spine and the play of his shoulder blades, the soft skin at the small of his back and the band of his underwear, peeking out from his sweats. All the things Jonghyun would do. All the things he can’t.

“You don’t have to try so hard, hyung,” Taemin says once they’re both safe in bed.

I do. I can’t help it. You know I can’t.

When Jonghyun opens his eyes, the only part of Taemin he can see is the back of his head, hair spilled out across his pillow. The rest of him is safe from Jonghyun’s eyes, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets.

“Did he hurt you?” Jonghyun says.

“Who?”

“Don’t pretend you forgot him already, Taemin-ah.” Especially not for my sake. Jonghyun’s heart clenches and his feelings gush out, filling his mouth, bittersweet on his tongue. He goes on like he can’t taste it, “Give yourself time.”

For one long moment, silence. Then, “You pretended not to know all day, right? You lasted longer than I thought you would.”

“I made you think about him all day, in other words.” Even now, by saying that, he’s making things worse. And it’s not for Taemin but for himself that he can’t bite back, “Sorry, Taeminnie.”

“Why would you be?” Taemin says, in this voice that says Jonghyun is being dumb. “Think of yourself, hyung. Please.”

Now it’s Jonghyun’s stomach that’s the problem, squeezing into a ball. His body quit making sense on him once his heart started beating for Taemin, but then, maybe it’s the only thing it does. Maybe instead of lying here giving him more words he doesn’t want to hear, scanning the line of Taemin’s body for anything broken, he should let his feet carry him over there, let his hands tug the blankets back, his knees buckle at the sight of Taemin, his arms reach out to hold him. Just like he used to, when Taemin couldn’t sleep before variety shows.

Even back then, sometimes Jonghyun would wake up hard. His face goes hot and his heart is flinging itself towards Taemin again, splattering against his ribs, but he stays right where he is. And says like he’s not supposed to, “Thinking of you is thinking of me.”

Jonghyun barely takes a breath, tight and shaky, before Taemin knocks it straight out of his body: “Not when you say stuff like that.”

Does he mean he can’t bear to hear that Jonghyun loves him? Or that Jonghyun should be getting over him for his own sake. Or both.

“Taeminnie…”

You didn’t break my heart, it’s all still in one piece. With the way it’s pounding, you can probably hear it from over there.

Taemin rolls over to stare at him and the words die in Jonghyun’s throat, along with every thought in his head. It’s only been half an hour since the last time he saw his face, but the moment their eyes meet, the space between their beds melts, stretching and shrinking all at once.

“Director-nim said you asked after me,” Taemin says. “Manager hyung, too.”

“I had to,” Jonghyun says. Taemin doesn’t even blink, trapping Jonghyun in his gaze, leaving him helpless to hold back, “It hurts me more when you ignore me than when you let me see you, and it doesn’t do any good, either. Your definition of it. Since you told me to be selfish, I’ll say that much.”

What does the look in Taemin’s eyes mean? Why are they so big and dark and pretty? What does he see when he sees Jonghyun? Everything. More than Jonghyun ever wanted him to. And yet, he lies still, skin burning in the cool air, curling his fingers into a fist beneath his pillow instead of yanking his blanket up over his head and hiding until the sun finds him.

After all that, Taemin tells him normally, “I was busy. And you know I suck at phones.” His pause hits Jonghyun so hard he sees stars. “And I thought maybe you needed time too, just like you told me.”

“I don’t need anything from you, Taeminnie.” It only sounds like a lie as he’s saying it, and then he’s rushing to correct himself, “That you wouldn’t normally give, I mean.” Jonghyun breathes. And lives and dies. “Let’s stay as close as we’ve always been.”

That’s what he told Taemin when Taemin told him no. That he knew he loved him back, just not like that. That Taemin’s love in any form was enough to fill all his nights and days. And Taemin said…

“You stopped going out, that’s your problem. You were never home when we shared a room, and you went through a million girlfriends. Now everyone you meet is from work.”

Something like that. ‘Find someone else.’ ‘Hurry up and get over me.’ Every time he finds a new way to say it, somehow Jonghyun wants to hear it less. Maybe after tonight, that won’t even be possible anymore.

“You think I’ve taken leave of my senses.”

Jonghyun doesn’t realize he’s said it out loud until Taemin’s face falls open. “What?”

“I had five in four years, that’s not a million. I’m not some idiot who goes around falling in and out of love with random people,” he says as normally as he can, which is not at all. Jonghyun holds Taemin’s eyes, sweet torture as words from so deep inside burst on his lips: “There’s nothing random about you.”

And once they’re said, they linger in the air, fading into the darkness while Taemin lies there frozen. Jonghyun did that to him, on tonight of all nights. His timing sucks, and so does he. Taemin never wants to hear that from him, so why would he now, while his head is still full of another man? If not his heart. There are other things he needs from Jonghyun. The things Jonghyunnie hyung would say.

“I don’t know what reason he gave you, Taeminnie, but it has nothing to do with you. That’s just how things work,” Jonghyun says, feeling his way blindly. “You see someone who’s your type, talk to them, get to know each other, fall in love, sleep together, break up…all without ever understanding them. He’s never been inside you.” The second he hears how that sounds he’s tripping over himself to say, “Your head, I mean. Your heart.” And then he lives with it. The fact that this man held and kissed and fucked and made Taemin come, took his pleasure in his body, and then threw Taemin away. And all Jonghyun can do about is lie here and wish he could even make Taemin smile. “Don’t tell me I haven’t either. I know you.”

For one moment longer, Taemin’s eyes take him in.

“Better than anyone. Thank you, hyung.” Taemin rolls over with a whump. “Let’s just sleep. Really. You look like you haven’t been.”

Jonghyun’s heart hurts.

“Good night, Taemin-ah,” he says. He lasts another five seconds in the dark and the silence, no more moon or stars. “Say it back?”

“Good night.”

Jonghyun has to close his eyes first. Which means no more staring. Which is impossible, even if it’s at the back of Taemin’s head. Which is as cute and pretty as the rest of Taemin is. Which is…

 

Back to being annoyed at the world, including Jonghyun. He shakes Jonghyun awake on his way to shower, dialing the water up so hot he’ll be pink all over, perfuming the air with his shampoo and body wash, one hundred percent guarantee that Jonghyun will be jerking off in there later. Fuck. He’s back in the time it takes Jonghyun to even open his eyes, mattress dipping under his knee as he reaches for him, exactly as wet and naked as the Taemin in his head. His hair is dripping onto Jonghyun’s skin and the scent of his skin crashes onto him, and his hands are overpowering him, soft and tiny, shaking him by the shoulder. Jonghyun rolls over obediently, staring up at him. Taemin glares back. He’s so cute. Really…

“Hurry up or you won’t have time to shower.” Taemin hesitates for a second too long. “Since Kibum hyung took the closet we lost our place to change.”

What he probably means is, Don’t look. Then what is he doing over here, where else is Jonghyun supposed to put his eyes? Or his hands. He should be twisting them in the sheets, not reaching up to tuck Taemin’s hair behind his ear, but it was hanging in his face in that way he hates. Jonghyun’s fingertips trail down his neck as he lets go, and Taemin is up and on the other side of the room before his hand falls back onto the bed with a whump, taking all his warmth with him. Jonghyun can’t stop his eyes from following him, and Taemin doesn’t help by shooting him a look over his shoulder as he turns around, as though his back view is less likely to set Jonghyun’s blood on fire. The fall of his hair, the line of his shoulders, curve of his waist. His ass. Tight and round and firm, perfect for squeezing and biting and slapping and spreading open, exposing Taemin’s hole, pink and tiny. Kissing him there. Or looking. Just looking. Or not even that. As Taemin yanks his briefs up, cute and tiny and red, Jonghyun rolls over and hides in his pillow and tries really hard to hate himself as much as he should. He’s maybe halfway there when Taemin tells him, “Hurry up, hyung,” and his footsteps fade down the hallway. Then his phone buzzes.

Jonghyun slaps his hand over their bedside table until he closes his fingers around it. He’s still so dizzy with Taemin he has to read it three times for it to make sense.

i miss you

He grabbed Taemin’s by accident. It’s an unknown number, but all that means is Taemin deleted Jaeho from his contacts. That and Jaeho wants him to put him back, under boyfriend again. Jonghyun’s stomach churns and his skin runs hot and cold and it’s none of his business, he has less right to be looking at this than he did at Taemin naked. He’s seen him that way too many times to ever forget, but the only texts he’s ever read are the ones he writes, deletes, re-writes a million times before sending them to Taemin.

Jonghyun gets up. Gets dressed. Piles into the van with the others, watches Tokyo wake up around them, and then tries that himself once they reach the venue. Taemin lets him settle next to him as they do their stretches, but whatever Jonghyun says to break the silence between them, all he gets back are grunts and mm’s and secret looks that feel like an accusation. Whatever his crimes, rehearsal is his punishment. The concert is tonight and they’re supposed to keep it light and save their strength, but Taemin forgets all about that once the music starts. Or maybe he’s just trying to forget himself. He burns through each song and then drags them all through the choreo over and over and over, picking apart each tiny mistake he makes until they grow bigger and bigger, forgetting the steps and the words, tripping over himself, bumping into Jinki, missing his cue, jumping in on someone else’s line, going off key. If he fucks up like this tonight…that would hurt him more than any man could.

Jonghyun leaves his spot mid-song and takes Taemin by the wrist, dragging him off while the music cuts off behind them. He’s expecting Taemin to struggle and snap at him, but he follows him all the way the edge of the stage, and sits there while Jonghyun finds his water bottle. When Jonghyun sinks down onto his haunches next to him, he doesn’t look up, too busy staring at his feet, swinging uselessly in the air. He looks so lonely it makes Jonghyun crazy, heart fluttering as if to fly, then cratering in his chest.

Jonghyun presses his shoulder into his. “You must have really liked him.”

Taemin shoots him a sideways glance, almost reproachful. “He was my boyfriend.”

That word on Taemin’s lips…about another man. That up-down feeling is back, like it ever left.

“You’re having regrets?”

“It’s not that.”

“Is he?”

That’s as close as Jonghyun can get to telling the truth without wanting to die: I read his message, that he misses you. Let him, Taeminnie. Let him touch himself thinking of you for the rest of his life. He doesn’t even deserve that much.

“There’s nothing for him to regret or not, I’m the one who was at fault,” Taemin says. He narrows his eyes at Jonghyun. “You don’t believe me.”

It’s not that Taemin is lying. It’s just who he is.

“You blame yourself for everything.” Jonghyun is the last person in the world Taemin should be hearing this from, but he would have said it all before he grew selfish enough to want Taemin for himself. “Don’t go back to him, Taeminnie. After you’ve broken up and gotten back together once, it becomes a habit.”

“You’d know.”

“And you wouldn’t. Keep it that way for hyung’s sake, if not your own,” Jonghyun says, as gently as he can.

That only makes Taemin regret saying it more, Jonghyun can tell, and now all Jonghyun can think about is smoothing away the crease in his brow, kissing his mouth until he feels it curve up into a smile. The most he lets himself do is run his finger down Taemin’s nose. Taemin blinks at his touch, shying away like even that is too much, and then he’s back to looking at his feet.

“You can think of it like you and I broke up, if that helps,” Taemin says, of all things.

“How long did our relationship last, a minute? A second?” Jonghyun’s laughter scrapes up his throat, ragged and breathless. “You turned me down so fast I almost missed it.”

Taemin sneaks a glance at him that Jonghyun catches in half a second. He doesn’t look away, even as his ears glow pink. “You talk like it doesn’t still hurt.”

“Not when I’m with you.” In this moment at least, that’s not a lie. In others it could be the biggest one he’s ever told. Jonghyun bites his lip, but he can’t stop himself from adding, “Or at least then it’s the good kind.”

“There’s no such thing, hyung,” Taemin informs him.

There isn’t? In French, another word for orgasm is “little death.” Jonghyun dies whenever he’s with Taemin. Not like that, he’s not a pervert, that only happens at home, in his room or in the shower, taking Taemin’s name between his teeth as he comes. But like that. Kind of.

Anyway.

“What about when you practice?” Jonghyun says, as close to something he should as he’s going to get. “You never want to stop until you’re about to collapse.”

“That’s different, that’s work.”

He’s right, it is different. Jonghyun is dying again. “You’re more important to me than that.”

Taemin makes this face like he’s about to explode, laugh or yell or smush Jonghyun’s face between his tiny hands, before it all comes out in one long, “Hyuuuuuung~.” He scrubs his hands through his own hair, knotting his fingers in it. “How can you just say stuff like that? Especially when I look like this. If you were anyone else, I wouldn’t even believe any of it.”

He’s the most beautiful creature Jonghyun has ever seen. And more importantly:

“If you were anyone else, I wouldn’t be saying it.” Jonghyun’s face is going hot, way, way too late. He wants to hide, but he’d also rather die. For as long as Taemin looks at him, he won’t ever look away. “You think I’m hitting on you, right? I’m being honest with you. I always am. I can’t help if it’s the same thing sometimes.”

Taemin opens his mouth, then closes it. When he reaches for Jonghyun, Jonghyun’s heart takes off, but he only wants his phone. It only takes him three tries to use his own birthday as the passcode, and then he flicks over to Jonghyun’s folder of demos. He should be getting up, reminding Taemin the others exist and they’ve already lingered too long, but when Taemin says, “Which one is your new song? The one you were bragging about to Kibum hyung,” all he can think is, The one that’s about you. They all are.

He shows him.

Jonghyun watches as “Orbit” plays across Taemin’s face and kicks into his body. He can’t breathe. His heart is pounding, yet again. His stomach is tightening and his skin is burning. He could sit here just like this forever, but he only has three minutes and eighteen seconds to take every last thing inside him, and use it to tell Taemin what he already knows:

“You liked it.”

“Mm.”

There should be nothing left for Jonghyun to say a thing like, “What did you like about it?”

Taemin is staring at him again. If he wants Jonghyun to stop being like this then he should stop making him fall even harder, doing all these things like breathing Jonghyun’s air and meeting his eyes and showing him his bare face, making all kinds of cute faces with it, letting him sit so close he can smell his hair without leaning in.

“What do you like about me?” Taemin says finally, painfully.

How can he not know?

“Everything.”

Taemin presses Jonghyun’s phone back into his hand and stands. That’s not an answer, and neither is pulling Jonghyun up too and not letting him go until he’s dragged him back to their lives.

 

Taemin is perfect as ever in concert and blacks out on Jinki’s shoulder on the way home. Jonghyun spends half the ride wondering if Taemin slept as little as he did, and the other snatching glances at his sleeping face, until Kibum flicks him on the forehead and says, “Are you imagining you’re going to piggyback him up to the dorm or something? The look on your face…get it off. Please.” And after another five minutes of Jonghyun squishing himself against his window and staring out at the snow, glass like ice against his cheek, “I was wrong about leaving him alone. Sometimes you have to make it worse to make it better.”

If that’s how he wants to see it. All these years, Jonghyun thought he knew better, that Taemin needed to talk when he said he didn’t, but Jonghyun is the one who can’t live without Taemin talking to him. As frozen and brittle as Taemin’s silences were when they flew in, they’re warm and soft now, carrying Jonghyun up to their room and into bed, all without peeking at Taemin as he undresses across the room. Maybe only because Taemin is already crawling under his blanket by the time he looks, but still. For once, he deserves to hear, “Night, hyung.”

“Sleep well, Taeminnie.”

Jonghyun does. Too well. When he wakes up the clock tells him it’s two. In the afternoon, based on the sunlight drilling into his eyes. Four hours after their flight. Taemin’s bed is empty, and when he throws open the door to the closet, Kibum isn’t there to murder him. Did they really leave him behind? That makes no sense, but try telling his body that. Panic slams into him all the same, rising up like a wall, up up up—

Taemin. Lying on the couch in the living room in sweatpants and the same big old depression hoodie. Reading a manga. That hentai one he snaps shut whenever he catches Jonghyun reading over his shoulder. He doesn’t look up when Jonghyun’s shadow falls across the page, covering his tentacle porn.

“How come no one woke me up?” Jonghyun demands.

“Flight got canceled,” Taemin grunts. Which, Jonghyun forgot to even check for their suitcases, he’s so stupid. “Look outside.”

Jonghyun’s feet are already obeying him before he can think twice, carrying him over to the window. The world has turned white. Manager hyung said there was a system moving through, but he never mentioned anything about a blizzard. Icicles hang from the sill and snow lines the freshly plowed streets, and if Jonghyun holds his breath, he can almost hear the trees groaning and sighing in the wind. When Jonghyun turns back to Taemin he’s right where he left him, probably still lingering on the same page. He likes to take his time. Look his fill.

Jonghyun knows the feeling. It takes him too long to decide which seat to try and steal, but the thought of Taemin’s head in his lap is too much in the end, let alone the thought of Taemin sitting up and scooting away instead. His feet are a lot safer. He doesn’t even react when Jonghyun pushes his legs up and drops down onto the couch, laying them across his thighs in place of the cushion.

“Where are the others?” Jonghyun asks him, stroking his thumb over the bump in Taemin’s ankle.

“Sightseeing. They all said to let you sleep.”

“What about you?”

“You know the mood I’ve been in.” Taemin peers over his manga at him, this look on his face Jonghyun can’t quite read. “You’re the only one who can put up with me when I’m like this.”

Jonghyun has never had to put up with Taemin at all. Whatever he’s feeling, however much he takes it out on Jonghyun, that’s the last word Jonghyun would ever use.

“Have you eaten?” he says.

“Mm.”

“But you could eat again?”

Taemin hides behind his manga again, but his heel digs into Jonghyun’s thigh. “Mm.”

“I’ll see what we have in the fridge.”

Which means he has to get up again and lose contact, but he’s the one who went and made that promise. And anyway, the smell of food will lure Taemin over to him, or just the sounds of him rummaging through the refrigerator.

“We can just get takeout, hyung,” he says.

When Jonghyun doesn’t answer, he presses in behind him to peer inside, hanging onto Jonghyun’s shoulder like he doesn’t even realize he’s touching him, hand so soft and warm and small and. And there are eggs. Half a carton. Taemin’s latest obsession is tamagoyaki, and when Kibum and Minho dragged Jonghyun along for shopping the last time they were here, he found a square pan made just for that. He lets Taemin whisk the eggs while he searches the cabinets for it, and then Taemin hovers beside him, probably watching to see how ugly the omelet will look in the end when he’s done rolling it up. He doesn’t say anything even when it turns out browned and runny at the same time, just tells Jonghyun to hurry up and cut it, and heads over to the table, scooping rice for them both and splitting the last of the coffee Manager hyung must have made between two mugs. It’s harsh and bitter and too cold, but it poured from Taemin’s pretty hand, so Jonghyun drinks.

Taemin isn’t eating.

“Back when we first met, I always wondered why you were so nice to me,” he says, this weird almost-smile playing about his mouth. “I could barely even talk to you. Most of the other hyungs who trained with us acted like I didn’t exist.”

“You caught my eye right away,” Jonghyun says. “You were too cute to ignore. And too good.”

Taemin just looks at him from across the table.

“Am I still cute, even now? You keep acting like I didn’t hurt you, but that’s because you don’t want me to feel bad. That just makes me feel worse.”

And how does he think it makes Jonghyun feel to hear that?

He should have just said that, but what comes out instead is, “If you liked me, would you want me to feel sorry for you?” Jonghyun can’t bear to see those words land on Taemin’s face, so he reaches over to pinch his cheek, until Taemin scrunches his nose in annoyance. Then he has to let him go, somehow. “If we’re talking about the past…I didn’t want you to see me like this at all, I was only going to show you the good things. You snuck past all my defenses.”

“It wasn’t because there was anything wrong with you, hyung,” Taemin says in this awful rush. He takes a breath and tries again. “It wasn’t you. Everything you’ve said to comfort me applies to you too.”

Taemin didn’t even believe him when he first told him, he thought it was a joke or a prank, and even now, he thinks Jonghyun is crazy for liking him. Jaeho was a stranger when Taemin met him, so he was a man to him from the start. Then he was a boyfriend, and now an ex. Jonghyun has always been, will always be hyung. Even now that he’s confessed and left Taemin to die of embarrassment over things he never thought Jonghyun would say or think or feel about him. He would rip his heart out of his chest to give to Taemin, but there’s no point. Taemin has already seen all of it. He’s looking into it right now.

“This is you and me, Taeminnie,” Jonghyun shouldn’t have to tell him. “You know me.”

“I love you.”

Taemin doesn’t say that easily, but he still has a hundred times before over the years. Why are his ears turning red, how can he still be so shy?

“Eat your food,” Jonghyun says.

Instead of picking up his chopsticks, Taemin leans forward and waits for Jonghyun to feed him. Jonghyun should shove his whole plate towards him and tell him to stuff himself, get up and get dressed and go out and walk until his insides are as white as the snow, but how is he supposed to resist that face? He never could. He picks the least ugly piece and cups his hand under his chopsticks and tries not to crumble any further at the sight of Taemin’s mouth, soft and pink and opening for him. He takes everything Jonghyun gives him and sits back.

“Jaeho hyung didn’t break up with me,” Taemin says, half in Korean and half in tamagoyaki. “I broke up with him.”

What?

“Then why did you let me think—?”

“I didn’t let you, you just thought that.” Taemin smiles. “You’re always telling me how perfect I am, but you think I’m the type to get dumped.”

“That he was the type to dump you,” Jonghyun corrects him, even as he’s desperate to catch up. What does this mean, what is he supposed to take from this?

“He was a really nice guy,” Taemin says unhelpfully, before his smile curls into something so close to a smirk, this look that stings across Jonghyun’s skin and leaves him burning. “Just because you were jealous.”

Jonghyun picks up his spoon just to rap Taemin’s forehead with it, but in the next second his other hand betrays him, reaching across the table to rub it better. “Is it fun to play with hyung?”

Taemin should laugh and reward him with an 'mm' and go back to the tamagoyaki Jonghyun slaved over, but instead he’s sitting there and studying Jonghyun, dark eyes staring into his. Finally he says, “Did you try to get over me at all?”

Jonghyun’s stomach flips over and his heart pangs. He should be sitting on the plane staring at Taemin and pretending he’s staring across him out the window, waiting to go back to their separate lives. But somehow they’re here, snowed in, having this conversation. The only two people in the universe.

“Did you think I’m the type who could?” Jonghyun says.

Taemin’s expression barely flickers. “I’m not the first person you’ve liked, hyung.”

Taemin can go ahead and not believe him, but with all his heart and soul and everything else inside him, Jonghyun means it: “You’re the last.”

Taemin’s eyes narrow and his mouth tightens, almost like he’s bracing for the weight of those words to crush him. In another moment, he’s back to smiling at Jonghyun.

“You know how they always ask us which member we’d date? I just pick someone random and make up a reason, without thinking about it,” Taemin says. “With you, I don’t even have to. If you were my boyfriend, what would change? You would buy me everything I want, say cheesy things, sit at home when I wanted to sit at home, go out when I wanted to go out, all that just because you loved me. And you could handle me, you know my feelings better than I do.” Taemin’s smile fades. From his face, at least. It sticks in Jonghyun’s heart. “The problem is if I were yours. You’d have to do everything. You wouldn’t expect anything back, either.”

“Is that how you think things are between us? I give and you take?”

“I have that much self-awareness,” Taemin says, this look on his face like Jonghyun accused him of being stupid.

Is that really what he thinks? That Jonghyun is here out of selflessness? When he’s more selfish than Taemin will ever be. All the things he told Taemin he needed, space, time, a new start, Taemin has tried to give him. Even if that meant staying away from Jonghyun when he needed him most, trying to do everything on his own when he’s probably out of his mind with stress and nerves from his album and his relationship falling apart, even then. If Taemin had been the one to confess when Jonghyun couldn’t return his feelings, Jonghyun wouldn’t have been able to go a day without seeing him. He would have confused him and hurt him and kept him from ever getting over him, all because he couldn’t live without him. That came long before he ever fell in love.

Or maybe it just took him too long to realize that’s what this is? Maybe he’s been in love with Taemin forever. Anyway…

“If we were dating right now, without changing anything, I’d be happy,” Jonghyun says.

Taemin half-smiles. “No sex?”

“Except for that,” he says, helpless to stop himself. “If you teased me like this then, I’d tie you to my bed.”

And Taemin would want it. As it is, his ears are burning red. Even as his blush spreads to his cheeks, though, something in his face breaks.

“But things are the way they are, and right now you’re unhappy,” he says. “Right?”

Yes. No. Happiness, unhappiness…Jonghyun has been like this for so long he doesn’t know what those words mean. Where they overlap.

“Not because of you, Taeminnie, because of how I am.” That’s so much harder to say than he thought it would be. “The fact that someone like you loves me at all…”

Taemin reaches over and presses his fingers to Jonghyun’s mouth, as if to seal it. If Jonghyun just pressed back, that would be a kiss. And if he opened his mouth to talk, they’d end up inside, on his tongue, and. Jonghyun’s brain blinks. When Taemin lets his hand drop, he’s too slow to catch it in his, and then Taemin is back on his side of the table, giving him another one of his looks.

“I hate it when you talk like that. There’s a lot that annoys me, but that’s the one thing I hate about you. I don’t know how to make you see my Jonghyunnie hyung.”

Not by saying stuff like that. Jonghyun’s ears, his heart, his everything stops working at 'my.' So you know I’m yours. Be a good owner, Taeminnie. Keep me close to you, out of the cold.

Somehow what comes out of him is, “I could say the same thing. Stop saying bad things about my Taeminnie.”

“I barely said anything.” Taemin hesitates. “You’re not going to ask why I dumped Jaeho hyung?”

Jonghyun never wants to hear his name again.

“You worked too much and felt bad. You were late to things and felt bad. You forgot to call him and felt bad. You broke up and you still feel bad.” None of that changes Taemin’s expression, so Jonghyun cheats and reaches across the table again to change it for him, smushing his cheeks. Except now Jonghyun has Taemin’s pretty pretty face between his hands and his heart is lurching and he’s dying to kiss him. And he can’t. He can’t. “Let’s stop there, Taeminnie. Hm? Hmm?” Jonghyun strokes his thumb over his skin. “Hating yourself won’t change anything, especially over shit like that.”

Taemin just stares at him some more, eyes dark and endless.

“I fell for someone else,” Taemin tells him, this weird rush in his voice. “It’s all so stupid. I didn’t do anything, I avoided him and everything, I tried so hard, but that just made me think about him more.” Something brushes Jonghyun’s leg under the table. Taemin’s foot. As it climbs his shin, all the air whooshes from Jonghyun’s body, along with every single thing that’s not Taeminnie, please, what. Taemin is looking at him like he should know. “That counts as cheating.”

Still, even as Jonghyun leans in. It’s not until he’s half out of his seat and he can count the stars in Taemin’s eyes that he closes them, tipping his head up and waiting.

For Jonghyun to kiss him.

Is this real? It has to be. Taemin lives to play with Jonghyun, or maybe Jonghyun lives to be played with, but the one part of him he’d never touch is Jonghyun’s heart. Which means Taemin’s is probably beating just as fast. He’s dizzy and overheated and just the feel of Jonghyun’s breath on his lips is good enough to make his toes curl. Or something like that.

“Counted,” Jonghyun corrects him in a murmur, before closing the space between them to fit their mouths together.

One press of their lips, and Jonghyun isn’t going to survive. Taemin’s are so full and soft, made to be kissed, a biological imperative Jonghyun lived his whole life up until this moment to fulfill. Is he dead, did Taemin just kill him? But his hair was made to be stroked and petted and pulled, too, like silk between Jonghyun’s fingers, and there’s the rest of his body, all the places Jonghyun has put his eyes but never his hands or his lips or his dick or. The edge of the table gets in the way as he leans in closer, but then Taemin breaks away to gasp for air, mouth wet and open. He slides his hands up to hold Jonghyun’s face, hold him in place, as if every other tiny part of him isn’t already keeping Jonghyun right where he is.

Even if each breath is another reminder of the distance between them, knees aching, table digging into his stomach, forcing, “You turned me down,” out of him.

“You made me think about it.” Taemin takes a breath, tight and shaky, lips brushing Jonghyun’s with every word. “You made me think and think and think, you never told me how it would be.”

Because Jonghyun didn’t know. He didn’t know anything. He still doesn’t, except that when he kisses Taemin again, Taemin kisses him back. They kiss and kiss and kiss, another galaxy exploding into being with each press of their lips. He makes this tiny noise when Jonghyun licks his bottom lip and gasps as he bites down on it, mouth opening at the barest hint of teeth. Jonghyun slides his tongue inside, touching it to Taemin’s, teasing, flirting, finally rubbing it up against Taemin’s, hot and dirty. As he draws away to breathe, Taemin’s lips close around it, sucking on it sloppily, slick wet sounds that set Jonghyun’s blood on fire. How could he ever think he needed oxygen to live when there’s this. He holds out until Taemin’s moaning around him and his hands form claws in his shoulders and he’s rising out of his chair, one knee up on the table. Next thing Jonghyun knows his ass hits his own seat again, so dizzy he’s seeing stars, and Taemin is on all fours before him, ass in the air, eyes dark, whole body clumsy with need. For what? Jonghyun’s love and his mouth and his tongue and his dick, all over his body, in every hole he has. His come, filling him up and coating his skin, but that has to wait. He has to last for Taemin.

Somehow. He’s already harder than he’s ever been in his life.

It’s instinct that has Jonghyun sweeping the remains of their breakfast out of the way, plates and cups skittering across the wood and chopsticks clattering to the floor. He gets his legs under him as Taemin crawls towards him, pulling him up into his arms, taking his weight and crushing him to his body, until Taemin is balanced on the very edge, clinging to him with all he has. He’s as hard as Jonghyun, dick pressing into his stomach. As desperate, too. His nails dig into Jonghyun’s shoulders and thighs squeeze Jonghyun’s hips as he sticks his hands up Taemin’s hoodie and spreads his fingers over his bare flesh, burying his face in his neck and breathing him in. Nothing will ever come between them again. Jonghyun is never letting him go, never letting the space that separated them open back up, not even if the others walked in the door right now.

“I’m going to take you places you’ve never been,” Jonghyun says, each word another kiss, hot and wet on Taemin’s skin.

Taemin’s laughter shivers into a moan as Jonghyun drags his tongue down his neck. “To the moon, right?”

“Did I make you uncomfortable?” Taemin’s body says the opposite, hips rocking against his restlessly, breath hitching in his ear, pressing back into Jonghyun’s hands as he traces the curve of his spine. Jonghyun is confessing, “I knew you knew, I wanted you to. It’s all for you.”

“You’re so stupid.” Taemin’s hand slips into his hair, tugging his head back up so they’re face-to-face, dark eyes, pink cheeks, lips bitten red. When Jonghyun leans in for another kiss, Taemin’s eyes slide shut and he makes this tiny noise, saying into Jonghyun’s mouth, “You have to tell me when I’m wrong, hyung. Don’t wait for me to figure it out on my own, or I’ll end up hurting you again.”

“A little bit is okay.”

Taemin nips his bottom lip, then licks it better. He pulls away just far enough to meet Jonghyun’s eyes. Once he gets them open.

“I want to be good for you,” Taemin says, sending Jonghyun white hot. He is. Even when he’s bad he’s good, he’s like sunlight and air and water and everything Jonghyun needs to live, except softer, warmer, more than he could ever handle. Jonghyun presses closer, forcing Taemin’s thighs open so wide his legs splay, feet turned awkwardly, toes curling. When he thrusts against him, Taemin almost sobs, hands fisting in his shirt, and still he’s saying things like, “I don’t even know how you like it, I’ve never even walked in on you jerking off. I wanted the real thing and all I had were fantasies.”

The image bursts in on Jonghyun’s brain. Images. Taemin lying on his bed with his hand between his legs. Taemin running his hands over his body, too small and soft and weak to even pretend they’re Jonghyun’s. Dildo, same thing. Cold and silicone, not even hard for Taemin, for his soft mouth and his tight little hole and his body that was made to be fucked in ways humans haven’t even discovered yet. Just hard. Waiting for Taemin to do all the work and fuck himself.

Jonghyun slips his hand out of his shirt to find Taemin’s, tangling their fingers together, dragging it down between their bodies to press it to his dick. At the barest touch, Jonghyun fucks into his palm helplessly, heat and friction and pressure that rips through him like starburst. Taemin bites back this noise, crushing his lips to Jonghyun’s, hard and open-mouthed. He draws Jonghyun’s tongue into his mouth, lets him fuck it in as deep as it can go, lets him fuck his hand too, twisting it in Jonghyun’s grip, fingers tracing the outline of his dick, squeezing, rubbing, cupping, taemin. taemin. taemin.

“This is what you do to me,” Jonghyun says, lips still mashed against Taemin’s. “Is it what you want?”

Taemin yanks at his hair, teeth closing around his bottom lip, and then his hand slips into Jonghyun’s sweats and wraps around his dick, so small and soft and warm Jonghyun’s whole body burns away.

All that’s left is, “You’d let me?”

Taemin squeezes his dick for an answer, but the moment Jonghyun’s hand closes around the back of his neck, “Yes, hyung,” spills out of him. His eyes are blacker than black, staring into Jonghyun’s.

“Let me what?”

“Anything.”

Whatever Taemin thinks that word means, he doesn’t know half of it yet. Jonghyun will show him. In every position possible and some that aren’t, all the secret places on Taemin’s body that send him to outer space or make him melt into the bed, noises Taemin doesn’t even know he can make yet, the things Jonghyun will do to him for just a look or a touch or a word, or even a grunt if he has none of those. But right now, in this moment…

This is their first time.

And just lasting long enough to come inside Taemin instead of all over his hand sounds like a miracle, that too.

It kills him, but Jonghyun steps back, out of Taemin’s arms. His feet skid onto the floor without Jonghyun between his legs to hold him up, hands shooting down to grip the edge of the table as his knees buckle. His eyes burn black and his dick is tenting in his sweats, big and thick and hard and all for Jonghyun. He’s already reaching for him blindly when Jonghyun stops him with a word:

“Get naked.”

Taemin plays with the hem of his shirt, lifting it slowly, teasingly, cute little navel, soft stomach Jonghyun wants to rub off on until he comes. Then a little higher, the curve of his waist and the line of his ribs, his nipples. Fuck. Tiny and pink and hardening in the cool air, begging for Jonghyun to pinch them and play with them and suckle them—

“You too,” Taemin demands as he emerges from his shirt, flushed and breathless.

He barely gives Jonghyun a chance to breathe before he’s stepping out of his pants and underwear. Naked, just like Jonghyun said. He’s so good. And beautiful. Somehow Jonghyun gets to touch him. He jerks his shirt over his head and kicks off his pants, blood pounding, dick throbbing, but when he reaches for Taemin, Taemin laughs of all things, shrinking past him and making a run for it down the hallway. Jonghyun catches him up in his arms at the door to their room. Taemin’s smile widens as Jonghyun presses kisses to his lips, soft and sweet and endless, clinging to him like he didn’t just try to escape, or let Jonghyun live for months on old texts and stolen glances. He lets Jonghyun lay him down on the bed, spreading his legs and twisting his hands in the sheets, dark dark eyes staring up at Jonghyun as he braces himself over him. They close as Jonghyun leans in for a kiss, whole body arching up when Jonghyun just barely brushes his lips against his.

“I’m not going to last long, not this time,” Jonghyun gets out, voice so breathy his face flames. “The me in your fantasies must have stayed hard even after he came. I can’t compare to him.”

“Are you jealous of yourself now?” Taemin is laughing at him, his eyes say so. “You didn’t even know I wanted it until just now.”

Jonghyun slips his hand up to pat Taemin’s lips shut, but it’s too late, his words have already hit his heart, then his blood, his face and his dick. ‘It.’ As in Jonghyun fucking him. Jonghyun thrusts against him, long and slow and smooth and not at all when their lengths rub together. Taemin’s thighs tighten around his hips and he moans, broken and breathy and lost in Jonghyun’s palm. He drags his open mouth across Jonghyun’s skin, before taking his fingers inside, wrapping his tongue around them, sucking, hot and wet and messy, eyes burning into Jonghyun’s. And Jonghyun is back to the dying thing. That’s going to be his dick next, Taemin’s look is telling him, just not now. After he’s come inside Taemin and rolled off to get his breath back and Taemin takes it away again, taking him into his mouth and bringing him back to hardness on his tongue. Then.

“Lube,” he gets out.

Taemin squirms beneath him to reach for it, before Jonghyun stops him with a kiss. Slow and lingering melts into messy and deep, right up to Taemin sinking his teeth into his lip and telling him impatiently, “Top drawer.”

For the first time in their lives, something is where Taemin said it would be. Otherwise Jonghyun’s would have ended this minute. Taemin would have eaten him or burned him to ash and blown him away, strangled with him his thighs or sat on his face or sucked his brains out his dick, or something. Something. The tiny crease in Taemin’s brow as Jonghyun traces his finger over his hole, his gasp as Jonghyun presses the first one inside him, the way his body opens around Jonghyun, so tiny and hot and tight Jonghyun can barely even breathe. And that’s before he lines up his dick. His hand is trembling. All of him is. Can Taemin tell, is it a turnoff? That Jonghyun wants him too badly, loves him too much, that he’s not the kind of beast who could have bent him over the table and fucked him staring out at the snow. That after all the women he’s slept with, millions according to Taemin, his first time with Taemin feels like his first time ever.

Taemin strokes his hair back from his face and pulls him down for a kiss. Jonghyun shuts his eyes and leans into the feeling, and pushes inside. Taemin’s gasp is lost in his mouth. Jonghyun goes as slow as he can. Slower. Taemin takes him deeper, millimeter-by-millimeter, until finally Jonghyun’s hips are pressed to his ass and Taemin is split open on his dick. And Jonghyun is moaning, that too, helpless and loud and breathy, grinding against him helplessly, as if to force his way deeper, find more of himself for Taemin to have. Taemin’s breathing spikes at the barest movement, hands forming fists in Jonghyun’s hair, but he won’t even let Jonghyun think about keeping still until the pain fades, rubbing his foot up Jonghyun’s leg, working his hips, clenching down around him and searing Jonghyun’s vision white. When he can see again, Taemin is staring up at him. If Jonghyun’s not careful he’s going to fall into his eyes and never find a way out. He won’t even want to.

Pulling out almost kills him, and then pushing back in really does, tight and hot and soft and warm and pretty and beautiful and perfect and. “Taeminnie.”

Taeminnie. Taeminnie. Taeminnie.

Taemin tangles his hands in his hair as if to draw him down for a kiss, but Jonghyun resists, watching his face, as he shifts his weight, angles his hips, fucks him slow and sure and deep. The bed squeaks beneath them as he builds up a rhythm, in time with Taemin’s hitched little breaths. He yanks at Jonghyun, one leg coming up around his waist, heel digging into his ass even as Jonghyun pulls out again. Jonghyun’s next thrust gets this moan out of him, high and breathy, but Jonghyun’s heart stops at his words: “I love you.”

How is Jonghyun supposed to last when he says stuff like that? So easily, too. But that means that’s just the beginning, that there’s so much more he’s wanted Jonghyun to make him say. Maybe if Jonghyun leans down and gives him his mouth, he’ll say into it, “Please, hyung, please,” and if he kisses and bites and licks his way down his neck, Taemin will press bruises into his shoulder and rake his nails down his back and tell him breathlessly, “I’m going to sit on it next. Or suck it. Both. You can’t wear sweatpants around me anymore, you made me look at your dick all day for the last three.” And when Jonghyun hits that spot inside him…

“Hyung!” Taemin cries out, whole body tightening around him, his thighs and his hands and his hole, his teeth sinking into Jonghyun’s shoulder. “Hyung. Hyung. Jonghyunnie hyung.”

Jonghyun is going to die, he’s dying and becoming part of Taemin the way people become part of the earth, but not yet, not before. He skims his hand down Taemin’s stomach and takes him in his hand. Just one touch, and Taemin comes, hot and wet and everywhere, coming and coming and coming. “Jonghyun hyung.”

Jonghyun comes so hard he sees stars. And the moon and the sun and the space beyond. The universe and back.

Taemin closes his eyes to lean up and kiss him.

 

Back in Seoul, January is as ugly as it should be. The weak winter sun peeks through the clouds at Jonghyun and the grey world around him, the passersby and the pigeon on the sidewalk and the dead neon sign overhead, the rickety plastic table the convenience store owner let them sit at for the price of two bottles of water. It’s no wonder when it goes back to hiding. Half an hour ago, when he was still shut up in the recording studio, there were no seasons or space or time, just Jonghyun and his album, PD-nim and the engineers. And then Taemin, too, standing over Jonghyun with accusing eyes. His crime? Forgetting to eat lunch like he promised he would. As for his punishment…

“Did you make this yourself?”

Jonghyun watches apprehensively as Taemin unwraps the lunchbox and takes it apart next to him, snapping the lid off the first container to reveal something…that could be considered food?

“My mom’s banchan,” Taemin admits. “It means less that way, but I have to keep you alive.”

The pink has long since faded from Taemin's hair, but it's creeping into Taemin’s ears as he passes Jonghyun a pair of chopsticks, and he sneaks him glances Jonghyun isn’t supposed to notice the whole while he rips the paper open with his teeth and pries them apart.

Jonghyun leans in and plants a kiss on his cheek. “Just seeing you is enough.” He pulls away to watch Taemin’s blush deepen and him to smile that smile, shy and secret. He’d never seen it before they were grounded in Tokyo, the day they spent naked in bed, talking and kissing and fucking, and the night they sat on the floor and Jonghyun played video games while Taemin played with him, all under Kibum’s very loudly annoyed watch. Since then, Jonghyun has seen it every time he sees Taemin, and for once it’s not because he’d say or do anything to bring it to his face. He barely has to exist before Taemin is smiling to himself again.

“I just crossed the street, hyung.” And dragged Jonghyun two blocks away to find a place to eat by themselves. He said Jonghyun needed fresh air, but Jonghyun just needed him. He’s been locked up in the practice room in the main building all week, burning the choreography for Press Your Number into his body. Last night Jonghyun finally snuck over to distract him, and just watching once left him breathless. Taemin doesn’t even look tired after a whole morning of that, but he’s eating enough for three people, chopsticks on automatic. “How’s recording going?”

That’s easy for once: “Well.”

“Which song?”

That shouldn’t be hard, it really shouldn’t, but before Jonghyun can even think, he’s already evading it. “An old one. I wrote it a long time ago.”

He first drafted “Suit Up” in 2010, dreaming of his wedding night. He was too young to even know what that meant back then. Now, though…it means too much. Way, way more than it would to any normal person weeks into a relationship, but there were all the years leading up to it, and whoever decided that wasn’t dating Taemin. And they won’t be. No one will, from now on. Only Jonghyun. For forever.

“So it’s not about me,” Taemin is saying. Even as his mouth forms a pout, his eyes give the joke away. “You said it all was.”

It’s not funny, not to Jonghyun. He reaches up to pinch Taemin’s cheek, picking rice off it while he’s there.

“It could be, if you’re good.” Just saying that much has Jonghyun’s heart fluttering like crazy. “I’ll show you later, once it’s finished.”

“Sounds like it’s something weird.”

“It’s not.”

Taemin smiles around his chopsticks. As soon as Jonghyun picks his own up finally, he’s pushing all the containers towards him, ten different things he’s supposed to try. All his favorites from years of eating with Taemin’s family and stealing his food in the dorm. Taemin used to go a whole day without talking to him sometimes if he caught him in the act, but now he’s watching to make sure he eats. Jonghyun doesn’t know how to tell him his heart so full all of the sudden there’s no room inside him for food, so he stuffs himself instead. It all tastes like Taemin to him, like love. And it goes down somewhere.

Taemin waits until they’re almost done to say way too casually, “Manager hyung said it’s supposed to snow tonight.”

The last time they saw snow was in Japan, the day it brought them together. He’s speaking in code. Right? He has to be. Let’s sleep together at the dorm tonight, hyung. One look at Taemin’s face and Taemin’s eyes are fixed on the ground instead, ears glowing red in confirmation. Jonghyun reaches up to cup his cheek, turning his face to his and pressing a kiss to his lips this time. Taemin makes this tiny noise, falling into it, soft and slow and lingering, and yeah. Better stop before the owner tears his eyes off the sageuk blaring on the TV and looks out the window, or Taemin opens his mouth for his tongue and things get really dangerous.

Like they aren’t already. Taemin is. He melts against Jonghyun’s side, so soft and warm Jonghyun can’t feel the cold. And that’s before his hand finds Jonghyun’s thigh under the table, sending heat lacing through him. Jonghyun traps it with his own, threading their fingers together.

“Minho and Jinki hyung are going to hate us pretty soon,” Jonghyun says. “We’re just lucky Kibummie moved out.”

Taemin smiles yet again. “What time do you have to leave for Blue Night, nine thirty?”

“Mm.”

“Are you taking your car?”

“Mm.”

“You don’t need me to come pick you up, then.”

He sounds disappointed. He’s so cute. Jonghyun rubs his thumb over his knuckles, playing with his fingers. “Just don’t fall asleep before I get home.”

“You can just wake me up.”

“What kind of answer is that? You’re not even excited by me anymore, you’re not even pretending.” Jonghyun leans into him. “Hm?” Brushes his nose along Taemin’s cheek. “Hmm?”

“It’s cold out here.” Taemin sneaks another speaking glance at him. “Do you want to finish eating in your car?”

Do you want me to give you a blowjob before you have to go back to work? he means. And then his foot rubs up against Jonghyun’s: Because I do. So badly. I need you, hyung, I can’t wait until tonight.

“I never thought you’d be so indirect,” Jonghyun says. “You’re a fox disguised as a bear.”

Taemin makes this face like he’s on the verge of yelling at Jonghyun or kissing him stupid. Or saying something like, “I want to suck your dick. Happy?” in broad daylight, where anyone could hear. The rest of Jonghyun might be evaporating on the spot, but his dick wants to be sucked. Really. It’s life or death now. And he's not unhappy either, how could he be? He's so happy he's scared to call it that. When Taemin stands to pack the rest of their lunch away, Jonghyun lurches to his feet beside him to help, sparks flying every time their fingers brush. Jonghyun grabs Taemin’s hand as they start back down the sidewalk, drawing it into the pocket of his coat.

“Hyung,” Taemin starts up, before he falters. Whatever it is, how can it be worse than what he just said? Unless it’s from the heart. When Jonghyun squeezes his hand, Taemin squeezes back. “You know how you said you liked everything about me? When you showed me ‘Orbit.’”

Does he mean…?

“I didn’t say I disliked it, Taeminnie,” flies out of Jonghyun. “I do. I like it when you play around with me. Directly or indirectly.”

“I know.” Good. And what? Taemin takes his time coming out with it, all the way until they reach the corner and the light turns. Cars hurtle by like comets, but Jonghyun keeps his eyes on Taemin, so that he’s ready the next time Taemin glances at him. Taemin’s ears are going red again, but he doesn’t look away. “It’s the same for me, is what I meant. The way I feel about you. You’re so sure you orbit around me, but really, I’m the one who orbits around you. I have my whole life.”

There’s no science that can settle it.

When the light turns again, he tugs Taemin forward, and Taemin breaks into that smile. Jonghyun can feel the answer already forming on his face, just as bright and stupid. Maybe Taemin looks for it the same way, maybe he thinks he has to work really hard for it, maybe it’s his reward for getting through his day, just like Taemin’s smile is his. Jonghyun gives it to him without even thinking.

They set off together.