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performance piece

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The little hat of the acorn in Taemin’s hand has a bumpy texture when he rubs his thumb over it, kind of staticy, soft but messy, and that’s exactly what it feels like inside of his brain as he stands underneath Jonghyun’s second floor balcony and tosses it at his window. 

More accurately, it feels anxious in there. 

The argument from just an hour ago plays through his mind as he nervously jiggles all of the spare acorns that he picked up and put in his hoodie pocket along the way. He tosses another one to be sure that Jonghyun knows that it wasn’t just a random noise. 

Jonghyun loud and indignant, speaking over him and piling on, Taemin guilty and defensive, lashing out and dismissing Jonghyun’s emotions, both of them out of line. Neither of them saying anything constructive right up to the point that Jonghyun threw up his hands and announced that this just wasn’t fucking worth it anymore and left.

Maybe Taemin showed up to try to talk to him again too fast. Maybe he should have waited longer. But then, wasn’t one of Jonghyun’s main points that Taemin didn’t even seem like he cared enough to put in effort? If this isn’t effort, then he doesn’t know what it is. But still, his head feels like it’s made out of static and his hands twist and knot in his hoodie pocket and maybe he should just leave and come back another time and–

And now it’s too late because Jonghyun has opened his glass door and stepped out onto the balcony and is frowning down at him, arms crossed on the banister, eyes narrowed. 

"What?” His voice, cold like ice. Somehow, though, that lessens Taemin’s anxiety. Replaces some of it with annoyance. Jonghyun really doesn’t get to be as mad as he is. Taemin came somewhat prepared for this conversation; at least the first part, so he doesn’t second-guess himself and just plows right through with it. 

“Okay, first of all,” he starts, trying very hard not to think about how good Jonghyun looks from this angle, “you were meaner to me than I think I deserved and I really don’t appreciate that and if this works out then I definitely want to talk about that later.” And Jonghyun scoffs and rolls his eyes, but he also sucks in his cheeks, what he does when he’s trying to suppress a pout, so Taemin lets it slide. “Second of all,” Taemin says, and then he sighs.

“You were right,” he mumbles. “I didn't––" 

 "Sorry, say that again? Louder? Real quick?" 

Taemin glares up at him. He’s looking all innocent, eyebrows raised, one hand on his chest, the other hand cupping his ear.

"You’re a brat,” he says, at full volume, and then tacks on, “and you were right." 

And then he sighs again. puts his face in his hands, rubs his palms into his eyes and forces himself to look back up. Wills himself to say the words that he practiced in his brain in between their looped argument. Jonghyun looks ready to listen instead of just yelling at him some more, at least. 

"I didn’t know how to,” Taemin starts. “I kept. It’s just, like.” he groans in the back of his throat, rolling his eyes. This is exactly his problem. Jonghyun was right. It’s just so hard for him to say things out of his mouth so instead of saying them he pretends like they don’t exist and gets defensive when people try to bring them up.

But not this time. He refuses to let his gremlin brain fuck this up for him.

“Every time,” he says, clenching his hands hard around the acorns in his hoodie pocket and staring so hard at Jonghyun that he starts to look through him, “every time you would flirt with me or say I was cute or imply that you had feelings for me or whatever. It would make me panic because I thought you were joking, and. And, like. Um.” His eyes drift over Jonghyun’s shoulder when he catches movement there and he is mortified to find Jonghyun’s sister leaning half around the sliding door curiously peeping out at him. “Um,” he says. Jonghyun’s mom appears behind his sister, saying something to her that Taemin can’t hear and then looking at him as well.

“Can– can you come down here?” he asks Jonghyun. “Please?”

“No,” Jonghyun says. “keep talking." 

 ”God,“ Taemin hisses. "fucker,” he snaps. He rubs his hands into his flushed cheeks this time, running through a list of his priorities in his head. Looking out for himself and keeping himself comfortable is important, yeah, but so is Jonghyun, and making sure he doesn’t lose Jonghyun is more important to him then being pushed out of his comfort zone for one conversation.

“Fine, but if I do this here then this is the only time I’ll ever do something like this and you can’t make me do it again,” he calls. “This is a one-time-only event." 

Besides, he can tack this on to the conversation that they’ll hopefully have after this about Jonghyun being unnecessarily mean to him. But first things first, they need to be able to get to that conversation.

"Do it, then,” Jonghyun calls back. His voice is steady, challenging, but Taemin can see him shifting his weight, biting his lip. Well. At least he does feel bad about it. That’s something. He isn’t completely dismissing Taemin’s boundaries. Taemin takes a deep breath and tries again. For real this time. For all the marbles.

“I thought you were just joking, so it made me panic and push you away because.” he swallows, clenches his fists so hard he actually feels one of the acorn stems pop through his skin, hisses and whips his hand out of his pocket. Pinching the tiny little wound, a bead of blood rises out of it and he quickly covers it with his thumb before he gets all woozy about it. Focus. 

He notices that Jonghyun’s mom has moved to the other side of the door, so the two of them look like they’re flanking him, all three of them arms crossed, and that almost makes him even more woozy. He forces his eyes back to Jonghyun. Focus.

“Because I. I feel. About you. And when I thought my feelings were real and yours weren’t, I–”

“You feel what about me?“

God, Jonghyun really is perfect for him. All his life Taemin has wanted someone that would cut through his bullshit and help him get his thoughts out clearly. He just wishes that it was as easy as he always dreamed it would be instead of how this is right now, sweat soaking his back, blinking so fast it’s like he’s his own personal strobe light. Maybe it’ll get easier with time. Maybe that’s the idea.

 Fuck, he sure hopes so. 

"I feel so– so much. About you,” he says. He shakes his head, shrugging his shoulders, trying to think of all of the things that Jonghyun makes him feel and coming up with so many that they all mix and blend together into one cohesive mass that he can’t pluck one specific thing out of. “I look at you, and I.”

He looks at Jonghyun, and feels how Jonghyun makes him feel, And his face breaks into a smile, His lungs push out an enamored breath, and his body relaxes just enough for his heart to get out of his throat and swell in his chest Instead. “I feel–” he starts.

 Then Jonghyun’s left neighbor opens their window.

 Loudly. And slowly.turning the squeaky crank deliberately, plastic blinds clacking together, until it’s all the way open. And when they finish, they lean out of it, chin in their hand, and look at him.

 Casually, pleasantly, like he’s a fucking street performer or something. 

Taemin looks back at them, mouth open. What the fuck. He looks at Jonghyun, gestures at them, looks around to see if there is literally anyone else around here that they could actually be looking at. 

He doesn’t find anyone behind him, but on the sidewalk, he finds a whole family, mommy and mommy and two 5 year olds all on matching scooters, stopped with every eyeball also on him. 

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he mutters. He lives in clown town and he’s the main fucking attraction. Wrenching his eyes back up to Jonghyun, all he sees is raised eyebrows and smirking lips and he scowls. “Okay, fuck you too,” he snaps. All Jonghyun does in response to that is smile wide, bright, dazzling, and lick his lips, nod at him in an order to keep talking. Taemin sighs loud and mucousy in the back of his throat and then decides to just rip the bandaid off and say it. 

 "I,“ he says confidently, "am,” he says loudly, “i-in,” he says noticing the neighbor downstairs and to the right of Jonghyun looking through their own window, “love with you,” he says quietly, face on fire. and then, because he knows Jonghyun well tell him to say it louder anyway, repeats himself in a loud rush: “I am in love with you!" 

And then quickly puts his face in his hands and crouches down in the dirt for a moment as the family on the sidewalk actually cheers.

Then he pops back up before anyone else can say anything, including Jonghyun, who’s smile has changed into the one where the corners of his lips disappear behind his cheeks and his eyes glitter behind his lashes. 

Taemin knows that smile so well, and he knows what it feels like inside of himself, and underneath all of his embarrassment and anxiety and shyness, he feels it now, repeating that confession over and over in celebration.

"And I’ve been-– like that with you for a long time. And so I thought you were joking and I brushed you off because I couldn’t make myself believe that you felt that way about me back. But then, that made you confused. Because you thought-–” Their argument flashes through his mind again. “because you thought I wasn’t taking you seriously. and you couldn’t make yourself believe that I cared. And I am so sorry about that.” He is so sorry that he ever did anything to make Jonghyun feel that he didn’t care about him. 

“But,” he continues. “you said this-–” he flaps his hand back and forth between them two mean their friendship, then remembers he stabbed himself earlier and presses his thumb back into his palm– “I want to be worth it,” he says. “I want us to make it worth it. Together.” he doesn’t care how hard it is. He cares about Jonghyun so much and if he has to stay up all night talking with him to make it work then he’ll do it. “because,” and then, still blushing, he repeats for good measure, “I love you." 

 One of the kids on the sidewalk cheers again. 

Jonghyun stays quiet, looking at him, smiling at him, tongue between his lips. Taemin stays quiet too because he feels like he made his point and he also feels like if he said any more then he wouldn’t shut up. Eventually, Jonghyun gets his forearms off of the banister and pushes himself up with his hands there instead, biting his lip before saying, "You really figured all of that out in an hour, huh?”

“Yeah, well,” Taemin says. “Yeah.” he brings both hands up together to push through his hair. It was honestly wild to figure out both Jonghyun’s feelings and his own in an hour , but he always has worked best under pressure. “Now you say it back.” he demands. Sternly. Definitely without pouting. No matter what anyone else watching might say.

“What?” Jonghyun says blankley. 

“Say you love me back, Jonghyun!” Taemin says, definitely in a very strong and clear voice that is not at all whiny, and definitely without stomping his foot into the dirt like a child. The whole fucking reason that they got into that argument in the first place was that Jonghyun was trying to lead into a confession, and if he’s not even going to-–

“You tell him.”

 "Wuh?“ Taemin turns, baffled, at a voice from the sidewalk. The family is still there, but now there’s some elderly gay there also, grizzled and grumpy looking, leaning on his walking stick and looking right at him.

"You tell it to him good, kid,” he says. “Don’t let him play you. He needs to be honest too.” and he taps his walking stick on the ground with much more authority than Taemin thinks he will ever have.

“Uh,” Taemin says, still baffled but at least glad that this nosy asshole has a point that he can use. He whips back to Jonghyun, pointing at the old gay loudly. “Yeah,” he says. “Yes. Yeah! Say it back. Tell me you love me and you weren’t joking!” He demands loudly. “Please,” he adds, quieter, sheepish, because he immediately feels bad about yelling. 

“OH!” Jonghyun exclaims, eyes wide. He giggles, tapping his temple with the heel of his palm and rolling his eyes. "Yeah, right, of course. Taemin.” he takes a deep breath, steadies himself, widens his stance, and gets his face into something more serious. Or at least, is trying to fight down his smile.

“I am in love with you back,” he says, and Taemin instantly inflates with the happiest breath he’s ever breathed. “And I was never joking,” Jonghyun continues. “Never ever. Never ever ever. And I’m sorry that I was so harsh with you when we were arguing,” he adds. He has more of a sad smile now, guilty, regretful, which again, Taemin appreciates. “I really crossed a line. But I want to work on that and with you.” He flaps a hand back and forth between them the same way Taemin did earlier. “To make being with me also worth it.”

And then he falls silent, having made his point. Taemin looks up at him, and Jonghyun looks back down at him, and both of them just look at each other for a long while. Taemin bites his lip, feels His heart thudding throughout his entire body.

 "Okay,“ he says.

"Okay,” Jonghyun says.

 "Okay,“ Taemin smiles.

"Okay,” Jonghyun beams.

“Kiss him!” One of Jonghyun’s neighbors calls. Taemin doesn’t even know which one because there are so many fucking people watching them by now. This is the worst possible place he could have picked for a confession, but he’s here now, and honestly, the hard part is over. Talking about his emotions is awful. Kissing is easy. 

Besides, for the first time, Jonghyun is blushing, pink over his nose. For the first time, Taemin smiles confidently and raises his brows up at him. 

“Will you come down here now?” he asks. Jonghyun blushes harder, but he bites his lip and nods, turning to slip through his mom and his sister, hands coming up to his face. Taemin smiles at his back, then looks down at his hands, then remembers again that he stabbed himself with an acorn. “and can you bring me a Band-Aid?” he calls hopefully.

“Yeah,” Jonghyun calls back from halfway through his house.

And then it’s a minute or two of Taemin just standing there, in the dirt behind this apartment complex, trying very hard to pretend that he doesn’t have at least 10 people watching him, before Jonghyun comes down the steps a few windows down and jogs up to him. 

“Hey,” he says, and “hi,” Taemin says, and then they just stand there, both of them, smiling, blushing, blushing and smiling. Jonghyun picks up his wrist and Taemin shows him his hand, the little pinpoint cut that had stopped bleeding by now but pops and starts again when he squishes it to demonstrate.“Ew,” Jonghyun mumbles. He pulls out a little disinfectant wipe and a tube of medicine, and he very gently cleans and bandages the wound with a small circle Band-Aid with a puppy on it. 

Then he kisses Taemin’s hand, lips touching only the Band-Aid, and then he just holds Taemin’s hand in both of his, under his chin, smiling at him, blinking at him through his lashes, expectant in a way that takes Taemin a very long time to understand. He’s just too busy getting lost in Jonghyun’s gorgeous brown eyes to think about anything else. Eventually, though, he remembers they’re supposed to be kissing, and with a start, he says, “Oh! You want me to kiss you?”

“Yes,” Jonghyun says, bouncing down and up once like it should be obvious. Taemin blows a lot of air through his lips, shrugging.

“Well, I don’t know,” he says. “You’re the one that’s always talking about, like, how forward you are, and how you like initiating things, and, like. Like you’re an extrovert, and you’re outgoing, and you always say you’re an Aries like that means something. And I figured, I don’t know, you were the one that was trying to confess to me in the first place, so maybe you’re the one that wanted to kiss me first, and like…." 

He’s rambling. Taemin knows this. He’s rambling so quiet and fast and disjointed that he barely even knows what the fuck he’s talking about, and it occurs to him while he’s doing it that he could just be kissing Jonghyun instead. So he does that. He stops mid-sentence, cups Jonghyun’s face with both hands, and presses their mouths together. 

Applause erupts from all around them, but in his hands, Jonghyun’s cheeks push his thumbs up, and that’s all that Taemin is going to focus on from here on out.