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apple of my eye

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It's Friday night and Kyuhyun's in the practice room, going over a few notes to sing. He's confident in his ability, of course, but it never hurts to want to be better.

He hears the door open behind him. Kyuhyun turns around to see one of the assistant's head poking into the room.

"Sunbae wants to see you," the assistant says. "Apparently there's something new going on."

Kyuhyun frowns a little. Something new?

He puts his papers in his bag and follows the assistant out the door. On the way to the other side of the practice building, he sees Ryeowook and Heechul. He gives them a little wave, and then continues down the hall.

It's a bit of a surprise, when he enters the room and sees two familiar faces and an unfamiliar one. He knows Kim Jonghyun from SHINee and Kim Jay from TRAX. But the third boy—a much younger one—is a boy he's never seen before. The boy looks nervous.

"Kyuhyun! So glad you can join us!" says his manager.

"Thanks." Kyuhyun's more confused than ever.

"You'll be in a new subgroup," says his manager. "It's a group focusing mainly on singing and ballads. There's been a lot of issues with this project, but... we've finally decided."

"And..." Kyuhyun glances around the room, where Jonghyun, Jay and the new boy are, watching him. "These are my bandmates?"

His manager nods and smiles.


It doesn't take long for them to get acquainted.

"What's your name?" Jonghyun asks the boy immediately. Kyuhyun rolls his eyes and see Jay furrow his eyebrows in disapproval. They don't say anything, though. They want to know too.

"Jino," the boy says, a bit shyly.

"I'm Jonghyun." Jonghyun grabs Jino's hand without abandon and starts shaking it. "And that's Kyuhyun hyung, and Jay hyung."

"I know," says Jino. He's still shy.

"Jonghyun, give him a rest," cuts in Jay, moving between them so that Jonghyun accidentally lets go of Jino's hand. Jay ropes Jino into a conversation and starts talking to him, not making any room for Jonghyun.

Jonghyun grumbles and turns to Kyuhyun. "Nice seeing you here, hyung," he says to him. "I guess we'll be spending more time together, then."

Kyuhyun's never wasted a second thought on Jonghyun. In fact, even though over the past few years since he's known Jonghyun—from predebut, to debut, to concerts together as part of the SM family and then just sharing a spotlight with SHINee in general, he's never paid too much attention to Jonghyun. So the thought that they'll be spending more time together is a bit nice, albeit strange. But sort of nice.

"We will," he agrees with Jonghyun.

"Anyways," Jay says loudly, suddenly. "I think we should practice singing. See our vocal ranges and our strengths, weaknesses and abilities."

"Aw, hyung," Jonghyun whines. "We just met and got together! Don't you think we should, you know, play icebreaker games or something—"

"The reason why I'm saying that we should practice," Jay says, very very patiently, "is because we just met."

"Not now! We shouldn't practice now!" says Jonghyun. He turns to Kyuhyun. "Right, hyung?"

Kyuhyun rounds on him. "What do you mean, 'right, hyung'?"

"You don't think we should practice now, right?"

"Well I'm not really in the mood to, but—"

"See? Kyuhyun agrees with me!" says Jonghyun.

Jay looks at the both of them for a moment. Kyuhyun's half-amused, half-annoyed but doesn't say anything. Finally, Jay gives a resigned sigh.

"Fine," he says.

Jonghyun whoops jovially. "Yes! Now, let's go get dinner together!"

And this evening, Kyuhyun finds himself not eating at the Super Junior dorms, but with three new men in a restaurant down the street.


SM the Ballad—the name of their band—practices are exactly what Kyuhyun had expected, after the first day. A lot of singing, a lot of vocal exercising, and a lot of talking.

"I will never," announces Jonghyun, "ever, talk again. For the rest of my life."

"You're talking right now, hyung," says an amused Jino, who, after a few practices, has grown accustomed to their personalities and is developing one of his own. Kyuhyun thinks it's cute.

Jonghyun shoots him a look. "You're letting Kyuhyun grow on you, Jino," he says, and ignores Kyuhyun's indignant shout of, "Hey!"

"Well it's good that we're practicing now, instead of a month later," says Jay. "We debut in November, according to manager hyung."

"And November is years from now," says Jonghyun.

"Hyung, November is in a month."

"See what I mean about letting Kyuhyun grow on you?" says Jonghyun.

"I am not growing on anyone!"

"Please. We hang out for five days and already Jay's talking about gaming and Jino's eating more Chinese food than he can handle. Even I'm considering watching those dramas you go on about."

"That's not my fault, that's yours for letting me influence you," says Kyuhyun.

"No, it's from being around you too much. You give off negative waves." Jonghyun pointedly moves away from Kyuhyun.

"You give off failure waves," says Kyuhyun with a smirk, and walks off ahead of them down the street. Jonghyun goes after him, shouting, "Hey!"

"I swear, you two are like an old married couple!" Jay calls to the both of them.

"They really are," agrees Jino.


Kyuhyun likes new things. New games, new computers, new songs. New things to do, new things to watch, new things to read. He likes new experiences and new people.

So of course he's been in subgroups before, but they've always been with Super Junior (plus M) members and he's known them for a bit. China had been nice and a fantastic place with new things to do, and K.R.Y. helped him not only see a different side to music and dramas, but also to his fellow bandmates - but here, being with a SHINee member, a TRAX member and an eighteen-year old trainee is much more different. Much more interesting.

Much more fun.

It's not part of the contract he had signed that they had to spend time outside of practices together, but they do. Sort of like a bonding thing. Kyuhyun's not complaining, because Jino is still adorable, Jonghyun is amusing, and Jay acts like a guardian of some sort though deep down, Kyuhyun knows that he's as entertained as the rest of them.

On one particular day, Jonghyun invites them over to the SHINee dorms, and then kicks the rest of his bandmates out. When Jay insists that he doesn't have to do that - though Jino and Kyuhyun merely exchange an amused glance - Jonghyun says that he does and that he wants to and they can have fun by looking through Jinki hyung's stuff.

Jay gives him that disapproving look again, but says nothing more.

"This is the bedroom?" says Kyuhyun, stepping into the room on the far side of the threshold.

"Yup!" says Jonghyun. "I don't think it's much, though."

"You should make your bandmates move into a different dorm and the four of us could have this one," Kyuhyun says seriously. "And we have one less. That's more space."

"Yeah, but if we do, we'll have to sanitize the bathroom. Kibum has bad habits."

"Ryeowook has worse," says Kyuhyun. They both chuckle at the thought of their respective bandmates.

Jay and Jino come in suddenly. "What are you two doing in here?" Jay asks them.

"Talking." Jonghyun shrugs. "Don't you guys want to look around?"

"I feel uncomfortable doing so," says Jay. "We'll stay with you here."

"All right, but let's go to the living room instead." Jonghyun gets up off the bed from beside Kyuhyun. "It's starting to get a bit stuffy."


A few days later, Kyuhyun's lounging around in the Super Junior dorms. Jino has something with the trainees, Jonghyun has something with SHINee, and Jay is apparently "busy." Kyuhyun has no idea what he could possibly be busy with.

He's jerked out of his reverie suddenly when Donghae's face appears before him.

"Hyung," Kyuhyun says, drawing his face back. And when Donghae continues looking at him with a Donghae look—Kyuhyun doesn't know how to describe it, it's just a look—Kyuhyun frowns at him. "What's wrong?"

"You've been spending less time with us," says Donghae baldly.

Kyuhyun raises his eyebrows. "What do you mean? I spend every waking moment doing something with you guys."

But 'spending time together' is a matter of concern because of the speech Jungsu hyung had given them a few weeks ago, Kyuhyun knows. Before he had been told that he was going to be in SM the Ballad, Jungsu hyung gathered them all into this dorm and told them that no matter what, they were still going to be Super Junior and stick together and not forget each other, no matter what happened. Kyuhyun doesn't know if the other members have the same doubts as he does, because what band will really stay together forever? But he's never said anything about it since.

He supposes he shouldn't be that surprised, though, when Donghae tells him, "No you haven't," followed by, "You've been with that new subgroup of yours more often lately."

Kyuhyun's eyebrows fly up even higher. "Jealous?"

"No!" says Donghae. "It's just that—hyung said that we should be with each other, that we should consider each other first. I mean, of course we can have friends from other bands and stuff, but—don't you care about Super Junior?"

Kyuhyun sends him a fierce look, a look that Donghae backs away from. "Of course I care about Super Junior," he all but snarls. "But SM the Ballad is new for me, okay? And we've been practicing and getting to know each other more for the fanservice and getting the right chemistry, so excuse me if I'm working hard on something that may not be Super Junior, but is still a part of me."

Donghae doesn't say anything.

Kyuhyun drops his gaze. "I'm sorry, hyung," he says to Donghae quietly. "But this—is different, all right? For me, and for everyone. I'm just getting adjusted to it."

"The others feel the same way, you know," says Donghae. "About you, not being with us as much over the past week."

"Oh." Kyuhyun stares at him. Has he really been with his new subgroup that much lately?

But Donghae sends him a smile. "It's all right, though," he says. "I understand. Just... don't forget about us, okay? Don't be too happy, without us."

"I won't," Kyuhyun promises.


But he does, and he is. Kyuhyun's not quite sure how it ends up being even possible—but suddenly, he realizes that he likes spending more time with these three men than the other nine. And it's sort of tragic, sort of sad because Kyuhyun knows that this isn't where he belongs.

He forgets most of these worries when he's with Jino, Jonghyun and Jay. They make him laugh, and Kyuhyun feels like he hasn't laughed in a long time.

"From the top," says Jay, and they practice their song again. And again. And again. It's actually a song they've been given to actually sing, not just now but in the future.

Kyuhyun manages to hit all the high notes, and laughs when Jonghyun's voice cracks.

"I'm still young, okay," says Jonghyun, and scowls with Kyuhyun laughs even harder.

"I'm younger," says Jino, who's hit all of his notes perfectly.

"I am younger than you in disguise."

"Is that even possible?" wonders Jay.

Kyuhyun snorts. "Of course not. Jonghyun's just too scared to admit that he's not the fabulous singer everyone thought he was."

"I am a fabulous singer! And I can sing this high perfectly fine, thank you very much!" says Jonghyun indignantly. "It was just a fluke!" And just to prove it, he sings his line again—perfectly.

"No, that was a fluke," says Kyuhyun, although he can't deny that Jonghyun does have a very nice voice. He doesn't say anything about it, though.

Jonghyun sticks his tongue out at him. "You're a fluke," he says.

"Can you two stop bickering for one moment so we can get to singing again?" says Jay, exasperated.


Kyuhyun finds a new hobby when he's with SM the Ballad: teasing Jino with Jonghyun (while Jay's being the good guardian he is and standing off to the side while Kyuhyun and Jonghyun behave like children. Not like any of them care.)

It is really fun, though, mostly because Jino has soft hair and big eyes and Kyuhyun really like staring at him a lot. Despite not dating, not mentioning having a girlfriend (or boyfriend) for a very long time, he can't help but being drawn to Jino, a little bit.

Jonghyun's teasing just adds fuel to the fire. Jonghyun has this way with words, this way with doing things, this way with being that just sends Jino into little fits of giggles and adorable smiles. It makes Kyuhyun want to tease him even more—and there's nothing wrong with that. Kyuhyun's just like one of those typical boys, you know, making fun of things he likes. He doesn't know about Jonghyun, but he's glad that Jonghyun is helping him.

They're practicing again, except Jonghyun picks at Jino's shirt every now and then and Kyuhyun can't help but get distracted. Soon enough, both he and Jonghyun are plucking at random parts of Jino's jumper, while Jino is squirming and letting out little noises that make Kyuhyun smile.

Jay sighs and puts his music down. "Can you two stop it for once?" he says, looking at Jonghyun and Kyuhyun pointedly.

Kyuhyun and Jonghyun quickly put their hands down in their laps.

"What ever are you talking about?" Jonghyun asks innocently.

Jay sighs, though Kyuhyun can see a hint of a smile on his lips. "I mean, distracting all of us and not concentrating on the music."

"We're concentrating on the music," says Kyuhyun, as innocently as Jonghyun had been.

"Oh really." Jay sends them both looks. "Let's see you two sing the fourth line of this song, then. Perfectly."

Kyuhyun and Jonghyun rush to find the fourth line on their paper, and then they sing. They're both horribly not on tune, not to mention on completely different keys.

"That's what I thought." Jay pats Jino on the back, who looks mildly embarrassed, mildly amused. "Stop harassing poor Jino here and get working."

Kyuhyun stops to stare at Jino's blushing cheeks for a moment, and then Jonghyun gets his attention by poking his leg and saying, "Yeah, let's get working."


On another one of their practice days, he's greeted with a surprise. Henry Lau is there, waiting for them in the practice room.

"Hi," says Henry cheerfully, turning to them. "I'm doing a part in one of your songs, right?"

"Yeah," says Kyuhyun. He'd looked at the song listing and information earlier. Henry's supposed to be the rap in the duet with Jonghyun and Jino. Kyuhyun feels jealous of Henry.

"Hi Henry," says Jonghyun. Kyuhyun doesn't know if they've known each other before or not, but he's a bit jealous of the way that Jonghyun approaches Henry with a bit of familiarity.

Then he remembers that predebut, Jonghyun and Henry had shared a dorm together with the other SHINee members and Zhou Mi. Of course they'd know each other pretty well. Still, something in Kyuhyun's stomach clenches. He ignores it.

"Henry, this is Jino. Jino, this is Henry," says Jonghyun happily.

Jino cocks his head to the side, observing Henry. "Is he in your band or something?"

Jonghyun laughs. "Nah, he's in some Super Junior subgroup with Kyuhyun hyung over there." He nods at Kyuhyun. "We're pretty good friends, though."

Jino seems stricken with disbelief that everyone here seems to know each other, so Kyuhyun goes over to him and pats him on the back. Then he lightly flicks a piece of black hair from out of Jino's face.

"You'll get used to it," he tells him.

Jino smiles at Kyuhyun. Kyuhyun likes the way Jino smiles. "Thanks, hyung," says Jino.

Kyuhyun smiles back.

Suddenly, Jonghyun's arm comes out of nowhere and swings over Kyuhyun's shoulders and around his neck. "Let's get to practicing then!" he says cheerfully. Glancing back at Jay, who's watching the whole thing with an air of amusement, he says, "Hyung, stop being old and slow and join us!"


Practices soon turn into recording sessions, and instead of going to the practice rooms, SM the Ballad are in the recording studio. Henry's there with them, too. Kyuhyun notices again how Jonghyun and Henry talk so casually and comfortably as if they've been friends forever. He feels a little bit cut out. Even though he's been friends with Henry since 2007—three years already—he's only a bit familiar with Jonghyun. Sure, this whole new subgroup had definitely brought them closer. He only wishes a little bit that he'd been closer to Jonghyun earlier on, too.

But when Jonghyun looks at him, it's with a look Kyuhyun's always seen on him whenever Jonghyun looks at him—like Kyuhyun's an old friend, too. Even though he's not. Kyuhyun wonders what Jonghyun thinks of him.

"All right," calls their manager, and Kyuhyun breaks his gaze away from Jonghyun. He thinks, from the corner of his eye, that he sees Jonghyun still watching him. "Let's start it then."

Henry watches from through the glass window as Hot Times blasts throughout the studio. The four of them sing with passion, striking out their falsettos, throwing in ad libs and hitting those high notes perfectly. By the end of the first song, Kyuhyun's exhausted, though plenty happy.

"Again!" shouts their manager. Kyuhyun wants to throttle him.

"Again?" Jonghyun complains, voicing his thoughts exactly.

"It was great, you guys," says the producer, from fiddling with the tray of knobs and buttons. "But you might want to go a bit slower."

"Slower?" exclaims Jonghyun.

"Yes, slower. Now start again."

Jonghyun sighs heavily. Jay keeps his composure. Jino bites his lip. Kyuhyun stares at them all.

The track plays again. And again, and again, until Kyuhyun's pretty sure he's going to lose his voice for the umpteenth time today.

Finally, what feels like years later, their manager comes in and says, "Good work, you guys. I think that last time went excellently."

Kyuhyun knows it didn't and he rolls his eyes. Jonghyun nudges him in agreement. Even Jay says, "I doubt it, sunbae."

"Oh don't say that," their manager says, grinning. "You could have done a lot worse."

He walks off. Jonghyun stares incredulously after him.

"Yeah, we could have done a lot worse! We could have just not sang at all!"

"Oh, stop whining," says Kyuhyun, rolling his eyes as they walk out of the studio.

Jonghyun turns to him. "You agree with me hyung, and you know it."

Kyuhyun doesn't deny this.


Shortly after this, they're to be at a photoshoot for their album. Kyuhyun walks out on set, feeling like he should be used to this after nearly six years even though he isn't.

"Hey, Kyuhyun," Jonghyun says as soon as Kyuhyun approaches him and the rest of them. "You haven't been spending a lot of time with Super Junior, have you?"

Kyuhyun eyes Jonghyun warily. "What are you going on about?"

"I mean, you seem to be around us a lot more."

Kyuhyun briefly wonders if Donghae has died and Jonghyun is channeling his spirit.

"So what?" he asks Jonghyun.

Jonghyun gives him this pitying look, like he cares about every single detail in Kyuhyun's life. "You should come with Heechul hyung and me to dinner today," he says to Kyuhyun casually. "I think Jungsu and Siwon hyung are coming along as well."

"Why are you inviting me?"

Jonghyun shifts from foot to foot. "Well, I just wanted you to come along... and I heard that whole thing about what Jungsu hyung said to you guys."

Kyuhyun's not too surprised. Half of their friends probably know by now, even though Kyuhyun hadn't witnessed anyone telling anyone else.

"And I thought you might appreciate it. Or they might." Jonghyun shrugs.

His cheeks are slightly dark, though. Kyuhyun briefly wonders what this means.

"Sure," he says.

Jonghyun brightens. "Great! I'll tell Heechul hyung you're coming along then!" He dives for his cellphone in his pocket.

The photoshoot starts once Jino comes back from the bathroom—apparently he had gotten lost for a few moments. Kyuhyun's glad to see that he stands next to Jino a lot in many of the pictures, although he notices that he stands next to Jonghyun as well. He gets slightly distracted when Jonghyun's around—questions about the dinner and just Jonghyun's strange behavior in general on the tip of his tongue.

Jonghyun gives him plenty of attention, though as usual he pokes and bothers Jino. Jino doesn't mind and play along. Kyuhyun joins the two with a twinge of jealousy, though the jealousy part comes as a shock to him.

Jay, as always, is just watching and grinning at the three of them.


Dinner that night is a bit odd, especially since Kyuhyun's pretty close with Jonghyun now and he's always been close with his three other hyungs, of course; but having four Super Junior members together plus Jonghyun is just a bit awkward. Kyuhyun sees how close Jonghyun is with his bandmates and vows to get closer with the other SHINee members. Just because.

Jonghyun smiles at him and sits next to him and drinks a bit too much wine. Kyuhyun notices how his cheeks are pink whenever Jonghyun presses up against his side.


"Our album's being postponed?" Jonghyun asks incredulously. "But why?"

"Because," says Jay, who had come bearing this news to them, very patiently. "There's actually a multitude of reasons, but we also need to finish the photoshoot and finish recording the songs. And there's also the music video."

"Music video?" says Jino eagerly.

Jay regards him with a fatherly smile. "Yeah. For Hot Times and Miss You."

"Then when's the album supposed to come out now?" interrupts Jonghyun.

"November twenty-ninth," Jay answers.

"That's like a month from now!"

"Twenty-eight days," Kyuhyun corrects.

Jonghyun shoots him a look. "Twenty-eight days. Whatever. That's still nearly a month."

"But our debut is right before that," continues Jay, like this whole conversation hadn't happened. "On Inkigayo. We'll be performing Miss You."

"When are the music videos coming out?" asks Jino.

"Some time during late November and early December. So we'll be really busy." Jay glances between Kyuhyun and Jonghyun. "They won't intervene with your other schedules for Super Junior and SHINee, right?"

Kyuhyun scoffs, "What schedules?" the same time Jonghyun says, "Nah."

They grin at each other.


"Wow," says Kyuhyun, glancing down their schedule. "We have so many photoshoots."

"Yeah. Two." Jonghyun snorts. "That's a lot."

"Shut up, you." Kyuhyun whacks him on the head.

Jino, beside them, lets out a little giggle. Kyuhyun throws him a smile.

"Well we have our other official one today, and the Nylon one next week." Jonghyun moves a little to the side. "Or is it the week after that? I can't tell."

"The week after that," says Kyuhyun, rolling his eyes. "Learn how to read."

"Learn how to be nice."

"You two should learn how to shut up," says Jay, coming up from behind them and looking too amused for his own good.

"So we're recording for the Missing You music video today?" says Jonghyun, looking over Kyuhyun's shoulder again. "What are we going to do? Stand around and sing?"

"Actually, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what we're going to be doing," says Jay, looking up thoughtfully. "The director said that there's going to be a storyline that we won't play a part in."

"Then what's the point of actually having us?" says Jonghyun.

"For singing, of course. They want our beautiful voices," says Kyuhyun.

"My beautiful voice."

"Actually, mine."

"I think Jay hyung's voice is the best," chimes in Jino.

Kyuhyun and Jonghyun glance back to him. Jay pats Jino on the head. "Thanks kid," he says to him.

Jino beams. Kyuhyun feels embarrassingly infatuated.


So the recording and photoshoots go as planned. Soon enough it's November twenty-eighth, the day of their debut.

The four of them are backstage. Jay's talking with members from other bands like they're old friends, probably because they are. Kyuhyun would be doing the same, except he feels a little bad for Jino because Jino's new, so he doesn't. Jonghyun joins him.

Some members from some girl bands come up to Jino and speak to him. They giggle when they walk away. Kyuhyun glances back at them suspiciously.

"Are you allowed to date?" he inquires Jino, and then nearly hits himself for sounding as blunt as Jonghyun usually is.

Jino blushes immediately. "I don't know," he mumbles. "The contract didn't say anything about it. But I don't think any of those girls would go for me."

Kyuhyun rolls his eyes. "Sure. And they'd go for Jonghyun. Right."

"Hey! Girls go for me!" says Jonghyun indignantly.

"Maybe on some other planet," says Kyuhyun, glancing at him disinterestedly.

"Yeah, well on all planets, more girls go for me than they go for you!"

"You wish—" starts Kyuhyun, but before he can say anymore, Jay runs up to them and puts a finger to his mouth and tells them, "We're up next!"


They perform flawlessly (at least, in Kyuhyun's opinion), and after glancing at the schedule, Kyuhyun hopes they can keep it up for the next few weeks. They'll be on Music Bank, Music Core and Inkigayo for about the next month. Not to mention the endless number of radio shows that they've been invited to.

The first music video gets decent reception, and the Hot Times gets even more. Kyuhyun knows that he looks good in it. So do the rest of them.

The day their second music video comes out, Kyuhyun, Jonghyun and Jino have been invited to Starry Night radio. Jay can't come, because apparently he's busy again.

After the broadcast and saying good-bye to Park Kyung Lim, they walk out of the building and into the cool autumn air. And that's when Jonghyun says to the both of them, "You know, we should get lunch together."

"Well weren't we about to?" asks Jino. "We're going to the practice building, aren't we?"

"I mean, get lunch out," says Jonghyun. "Around here. Somewhere."

Jino shrugs and turns to Kyuhyun. "What do you think, hyung?"

Kyuhyun's a bit flattered that Jino's looking out for his opinion. "Seems like a good idea," he says, doing his best to keep his voice light.

Jonghyun brightens. "Awesome! Let's go find a place!"

He grabs Kyuhyun's hand and tears down the street. It takes an extra second for Kyuhyun to even think about holding Jino's hand, but by this time, Jino's already too far behind them, laughing in the distance.


Eye surgery can be such a bitch. Kyuhyun put sunglasses on and wears a large coat. Just because he can. And because Hyukjae hyung had said that he should.

At Sukira open broadcast - and after this, they have Youngstreet, and then the day after, Shimshimtampa (Kyuhyun privately knows that they've been assigned to do radio shows involving Super Junior members because Jungsu, again, waits them to be together. Not that Kyuhyun's opposed, but he really is quite happy with just being a part of SM the Ballad) - Jino's asked which hyung he likes better: Kyuhyun or Jonghyun.

Jino laughs and Kyuhyun hopes, a little, that he'll say, "Kyuhyun hyung!" But he doesn't and looks too contemplative, and Kyuhyun's a little bit scared.

"Jay hyung!" the audience yells out.

Jino nods and laughs again, into the microphone. "Yes, Jay hyung," he agrees.


Kyuhyun gets a call from Jonghyun, saying that he wants to see him in their usual practice room. Kyuhyun agrees and goes there, half-expecting the rest of the SM the Ballad members to be inside as well.

What he doesn't expect is for Jonghyun to be standing there, alone, looking a little bit lost in the slightly dark room. Kyuhyun immediately worries.

"Jonghyun?" he calls softly.

Jonghyun looks up immediately at the sound of his voice. "Oh, hi Kyuhyun," he says. He sounds half-relieved, half-scared. He twists his fingers together.

Kyuhyun frowns and walks toward him. "What's wrong?" he asks him.

Jonghyun doesn't answer. Which is odd, because Jonghyun's never quiet. Not if he can help it.

"What's wrong?" Kyuhyun repeats, wishing he was better at this whole caring thing.

And that's when Jonghyun brings his head up and looks at him. And Kyuhyun's not quite sure what happens in that moment, because no one has ever looked at him like that before—and then suddenly, Jonghyun brings his face in and kisses Kyuhyun right on the lips.

Kyuhyun freezes. Jonghyun holds his face in his hand for the briefest of moments, their lips still touching. Then Jonghyun lets go, although he doesn't move back.

Kyuhyun hesitates, and then slowly works his lips against Jonghyun's. Jonghyun lets out a noise that sounds surprised, maybe even eager. He presses to Kyuhyun, again. A question.

So Kyuhyun lets himself get lost in the sensation of Jonghyun kissing him, because it's not like anything he's ever expected before, and it's new, sure—but Kyuhyun's always liked new things.


Jonghyun's happier nowadays and Kyuhyun's glad. No one else knows what's going on between them—stolen kisses in dark practice rooms, wandering hands at night—but it's all in good fun, Kyuhyun thinks. A great way to let his hormones out.

And because it's a great way to let his hormones out, he can't stop staring at Jino even more than usual. Maybe it's because with everything Jonghyun's giving him, Kyuhyun just wants more—and he wants more of Jonghyun, even though he's pining for Jino, and he tells himself that everything he does with Jonghyun is fueled by Jino.

Jay looks like he might know something, but doesn't say anything.

On one of the days in a dark practice room—there are a lot, and Kyuhyun doesn't know if they've used this one before—Jonghyun's lovely fingers are tangled into Kyuhyun's hair while Kyuhyun's leaning down, kissing him. His tongue snakes through Jonghyun's lips and Jonghyun responds eagerly, rolling his hips against Kyuhyun's. It takes all of Kyuhyun to suppress a groan.

"I've really wanted," says Jonghyun breathlessly when he pulls away, and Kyuhyun kisses him again to shut him up. This is not a time for speaking.

Jonghyun breaks away and looks at Kyuhyun in the eye. "This for a while," he finishes, smiling at Kyuhyun slightly.

Kyuhyun nods and doesn't know what to say. "Right," he murmurs, and bends his head down to kiss Jonghyun's jaw.

Jonghyun gasps and lets his body fall into Kyuhyun's. This time, Kyuhyun actually groans out loud. "What about you?" Jonghyun manages to say, while Kyuhyun continues to place kisses all over his skin.

"What about me?" Kyuhyun moves down to Jonghyun's throat.

"About... this... ah." Jonghyun giggles when the side of Kyuhyun's head nudges his neck, hair brushing against him. "That tickles."

Kyuhyun hums and doesn't say anything, even though Jonghyun's words run through his brain. He runs his teeth along Jonghyun's collarbone, letting the question remain forgotten in the air.


They manage to sneak by during the day as well, though they have to be more cautious than necessary. Jonghyun tells Kyuhyun that he thinks it's inconvenient, but Kyuhyun sort of likes the thrill of almost getting caught.

"Besides," he says, his hot breath on the side of Jonghyun's face. "You like challenges, don't you?"

Jonghyun lets out something that sounds like a growl; it's hard to tell, because the sound quickly turns into a whine as Kyuhyun runs his fingers down Jonghyun's body. He can feel himself getting harder. Jonghyun, too.

It's completely unprofessional, how they go about releasing their hormones, Kyuhyun knows—the other Super Junior members just do it in the shower, or in their beds when they don't think the others don't know (even though everyone knows.) But Kyuhyun has someone this time, and sure it's a man and he'll be in a load of trouble, but both he and Jonghyun are enjoying this, aren't they? And that's what's important: Kyuhyun just wants someone to use as an outlet, and Jonghyun just wants him.

Jonghyun gets off within seconds after Kyuhyun strokes him, and then Jonghyun reaches down to do the same. When they're done, Jonghyun collapses onto him, the front of his body slung all over Kyuhyun's torso.

Kyuhyun's legs buckle and he falls to the ground against the practice room wall. "Get off me," he grumbles, shoving Jonghyun off.

Jonghyun hops away and faces Kyuhyun, smiling. "Don't be so aggressive," he says, almost teasingly.

Kyuhyun can't help being faintly amused at Jonghyun's words. "I'm aggressive?" he says. "You're more aggressive than me."

"Not true," says Jonghyun, sticking his tongue out.

Kyuhyun laughs and tickles Jonghyun, and pointedly moves away when Jonghyun leans over to do the same.


"I'm starving," says Jonghyun when the food arrives. Across from him, Jino giggles. Next to Jino, Kyuhyun is looking around the restaurant.

"You're always hungry," he says without looking at Jonghyun.

"Hey! That's not true," says Jonghyun through a mouthful of beans. He swallows. "And you it loads more than me."

Kyuhyun doesn't say anything to this, knowing it's true, although he feels a bit humiliated when Jino says, "You really do, hyung."

"Hmph." Kyuhyun shoots a glance in Jonghyun's direction. "At least I don't make it obvious."

"You make other things obvious," says Jonghyun, nudging Kyuhyun's foot under the table.

Kyuhyun pretends he doesn't feel it, for the sake of Jino. In fact, he turns away from Jonghyun completely to give all his attention to Jino.

"So," Kyuhyun says to him, "that girl who flirted with you was pretty, wasn't she?"

Jino quickly turns away, though it's obvious that his cheeks are bright pink. "Um, I guess," he says. "She really was flirting, wasn't she?"

"Who was flirting with Jino?" Jonghyun asks curiously, looking between the two of them. Kyuhyun can see that Jonghyun's eyes are flickering towards him more often.

"On the way here, weren't you paying attention?" says Kyuhyun, half-exasperatedly. "A girl on the street, though she didn't seem to recognize Jino or anything. Probably just thought he was cute, though."

"Well he is cute," says Jonghyun teasingly, and Jino blushes even more. Kyuhyun feels a twinge of irritation.

"All that aside," he says, turning to Jino again. "Maybe you should date her," he tells Jino.

"She didn't give me a number," mumbles Jino, his face still pink.

"But you are allowed to date?" Kyuhyun raises his eyebrows.

Jino shrugs. Kyuhyun takes this as a yes, and opens up his mouth to say more—but at that moment, their food arrives and Kyuhyun decides not to press the matter.

Besides, Jonghyun kicks him under the table again and this time, Kyuhyun can't help but smile.


It's when the ecstasy has gone away and Kyuhyun and Jonghyun are just sitting in the restroom, not saying anything to each other—though Jonghyun occasionally shoots Kyuhyun glances—the door suddenly opens and someone from the stage comes in.

They jump up instinctively. Kyuhyun realizes that they're both clothed now, and lets out a sigh of relief.

"SM the Ballad's on soon," says the stage member, peering at them curiously. "What are you two doing in here?"

"Er—we're both just tired," replies Kyuhyun. Though this much is true: they both are tired. From certain things.

"Well try not to show it when you go on stage," the stage member tells them, and then leaves the room.

Kyuhyun goes out after her, and hears Jonghyun following him. Jonghyun doesn't say anything, although his arm brushes against Kyuhyun's. It sends warm tingles all over his skin.

They meet up with Jino and Jay, who are standing right out backstage, waiting to go on. Jino nearly jumps at the sight of them.

"Hyung! Where were you guys?" Kyuhyun is pleased to see that Jino runs to him first. He glances at Jonghyun for his reaction.

But Jonghyun doesn't even seem to care about Jino. He keeps sending Kyuhyun fleeting glances.

Kyuhyun turns back to Jino. "We were in the restroom," he says, doing his best to sound warm although all he can think about is what exactly he and Jonghyun had been doing in the restroom. He mentally shakes the thoughts out of his mind.

"And we got lost," cuts in Jonghyun.

"Oh." Jino frowns for a moment at Jonghyun, and then brightens up. "Okay! You guys ready for tonight!"

"We're ready," says Kyuhyun, beaming at him.

He notices that Jonghyun doesn't say anything to this.


Kyuhyun would really like to give Jino more attention, but Jonghyun latches onto him like a little puppy and Kyuhyun can't shake him off. Kyuhyun would like to shake him off, and he probably could; it's just that when he looks back at Jonghyun and thinks of him, Jonghyun's just someone he doesn't want to let go of.

Jonghyun practically smothers him in hugs during one of their concerts. Kyuhyun doesn't mind too much.

"Really, hyung," says Jino amusedly when they're in the dressing room again. "I thought Kyuhyun hyung was going to fall because you were hugging him too hard."

Jonghyun smiles at Jino, which is strange because if Kyuhyun didn't know better, he would have thought that Jonghyun had been acting cold to Jino for the past few weeks or so. Kyuhyun doesn't know what Jino had done wrong, though. He had been thinking of asking Jonghyun what was up.

And he thinks he should talk about Jino with Jonghyun again when Jonghyun says, "Well only I can hug Kyuhyun like that and get away with it." It sounds like Jonghyun is implying something else.

So Kyuhyun steps in. "You cannot," he says with a scoff. "I let plenty of other people nearly strangle me to death like that." In hindsight, his sentence doesn't make much sense.

Jonghyun turns to him, still amused. "Oh really," he says. "Like who?"

"Like plenty of my hyungs," says Kyuhyun. "And probably Jino here." He nods toward Jino.

Jino laughs. "Sure, hyung. Maybe I should try to see if it's true."

Kyuhyun would like that, and doesn't even think about looking at Jonghyun's face at these words—but before any of them can do or say anything more, Jay suddenly pops his head in.

"Hurry up, guys, or we're going to be late for dinner!"


It's their own free time, which is a relief and slightly strange, since they rarely have any free time. Kyuhyun would like to be with Jino, or his Super Junior members, or be playing video games, watching dramas or doing something of that sort. But he's a bit busy doing something else.

"You," says Kyuhyun against Jonghyun's neck, "are completely useless."

"I appreciate your kind words," Jonghyun murmurs, craning his neck some more for Kyuhyun to get better access. Kyuhyun rolls his eyes, but licks at the skin, relishing in Jonghyun's taste.

"Really, I have to do all the work around here," says Kyuhyun without venom, his fingers working on the waistband of Jonghyun's trousers. "And show you a good time."

"Because you like having control, remember?" gasps Jonghyun as Kyuhyun's hand plays about around the front of his crotch.

Kyuhyun hums. "I suppose this is true," he says, taking in one of Jonghyun's earlobes with his teeth and lightly biting on it. Jonghyun gasps again, his hands forcing themselves into Kyuhyun's hair.

"You really have no self-control, do you?" says Kyuhyun amusedly, his fingers toying with Jonghyun's erection.

"Neither do you," mutters Jonghyun as Kyuhyun goes down on his knees.


"Start again," says Jay, and the four of them sing the second verse again. Not that they need to, really, but a little practice never hurts and neither does a little practice. At least, this is what their manager keeps telling them.

When they're done, Jonghyun sighs. "I miss dancing," he says. "Instead of standing around and doing nothing."

"Even though you're a horrible dancer," says Kyuhyun, and Jino giggles.

Kyuhyun looks at Jino. He looks the same—small, wonderful.

"Hey, you know how it feels," says Jonghyun accusingly. "Don't tell me that you like just singing and standing. I mean, what's the fun in that?"

"Jonghyun, be quiet unless you're singing," says Jay, though he doesn't sound strict at all.

"Then I'll sing," says Jonghyun, and he does. Kyuhyun, Jay and Jino quickly catch up with him as Jonghyun leads, though Kyuhyun doesn't quite want for Jonghyun to have most of the control. He increases the volume in his own voice, and when Jonghyun doesn't step down, Kyuhyun quickly switches note—harmony, as opposed to Jonghyun's preferred melody.

"Good!" says Jay the instant they're done. "I didn't expect that of you, Kyuhyun, since it's not your typical line, but—I suppose you've always had a knack for the alternate parts—good, you were both good."

"Since when were you an expert on music, hyung?" Kyuhyun asks him. But the thought of being good with Jonghyun makes him happy, anyways.


"Kyuhyun, there's a pipsqueak for you at the front door!" calls Jongwoon's voice, followed by Sungmin saying indignantly from the kitchen, "Hyung, don't call people pipsqueaks!"

Kyuhyun walks in from the living room, saying, "Who—oh, hello, Jino."

Jino is standing there in the doorway, shifting from foot to foot and looking around.

Ryeowook pokes his head out of the kitchen, apparently in it as well. "Hey, you're Kyuhyun's bandmate from the Ballad, aren't you?" he says.

Jino nods. "Um, yes," he says. He looks at Kyuhyun directly. "Er, I just wanted to come here, since I don't really have anything going on today and I heard you don't, either."

"Oh, sure," says Kyuhyun, still completely surprised. He walks over to Jino and guides him away from the door. "Come on in."

As they pass Jongwoon in the hallway after closing the door, Kyuhyun hisses to Jongwoon, "Don't call my friends pipsqueaks!"

"But he's short!" says Jongwoon, pointing at Jino.

"You're short!" Kyuhyun shoots back. And to prove it, he raises himself above Jongwoon a little before dragging Jino away into the living room.

Hyukjae is there, fiddling with his own laptop. He looks up when Kyuhyun and Jino come in.

"Hey," he says to Kyuhyun. He glances at Jino. "Isn't this your bandmate from—?"

"Yes, he's Jino," cuts off Kyuhyun, not bothering to look at Hyukjae. He just focuses on Jino some more. "Want to do something with the other Ballad members?" he suggests, because he can't really think of anything else to say.

Jino shifts on the couch they're sitting on. "Well, apparently Jonghyun and Jay hyung are busy with their bands, so..." He looks at Kyuhyun. "I guess it's just us? We can go out, if you'd like."

"No, it's okay," says Kyuhyun. As much as he'd want to be with Jino, he's never been with Jino alone before and he imagines it'd be a bit uncomfortable. Still, he can't let go of an opportunity like this. "But you can hang around in our dorms."

"As long as you don't break any of our stuff," says Hyukjae from the side.

Kyuhyun almost changes his mind about not being his bandmates anymore, but when Jino beams at him and says, "I'll do whatever you say, hyung!" with endearing enthusiasm, Kyuhyun decides that spending time with Jino anywhere, regardless of the place, is a good time—because it's Jino, and Kyuhyun doesn't really care as long as it's about him.


Winter comes, and though they don't get vacations like most careers do, there are the occasional longer breaks than usual.

Kyuhyun spends most of his holiday with Super Junior, although something feels missing. He loves his band and everything in it, but with the recent events, more things have been added on and Kyuhyun doesn't want to let them go. Of course he doesn't want to let anything go, but he's more used to beginnings rather than routine, than end.

Christmas is a cheerful, if not slightly boring affair, with exchanging of presents and deliveries from mailmen—also, some members are gone to visit their families for a few hours. Kyuhyun would, except then that would be even less different than usual, and Kyuhyun doesn't want that. He doesn't want a lot of things.

New Year's comes quicker, and as usual, they're invited to the entire label party. As usual, Kyuhyun finds himself in the back of the room, quietly sipping from a glass of wine and not feeling nearly as inebriated as he should be.

He gazes around the room, eyes looking but not searching for anything in particular. He does a double take when his eyes go over the center of the room, near the television. He's found Jonghyun, laughing with his bandmates and sipping from his own bottle of alcohol.

Without much thought, he gets up from the couch and walks over to Jonghyun, and taps him on the elbow lightly. Jonghyun turns around. His eyes light up when he sees Kyuhyun.

"Hey," says Kyuhyun, quietly, into Jonghyun's ear. "Want to go somewhere else to have fun?" He knows that Jonghyun knows what he's talking about, by the way Jonghyun's eyes get even brighter.

Jonghyun nods, and silently they both put their drinks down and make their way out of the room. No one gives them a second glance. Soon enough they're out in the cold winter air, snow crunching beneath their shoes.

Kyuhyun presses Jonghyun against the wall. Jonghyun smiles, a little teasingly, as Kyuhyun moves closer to him.

"This is your idea of fun?" he says, raising his eyebrows.

Kyuhyun just shoots the look back. "Can you think of anything else more fun?"

Jonghyun throws his head back and laughs.

"You are so drunk!"

"Am I?" Kyuhyun whispers, lips millimeters away from Jonghyun's now.

The rest of their night is covered with heated kisses and passionate hands, roaming each other's bodies. Kyuhyun likes the way Jonghyun's fingers dance across his skin.


Shortly after New Year's Eve, SM the Ballad resumes their practices, although they're on fewer shows now. Meanwhile Kyuhyun and Jonghyun continue to have their idea of fun, together. Kyuhyun finds himself sort of enjoying it, not just the physical aspect of what they're doing, not just the feel of Jonghyun's lips and the taste of Jonghyun in his mouth, but also just being with Jonghyun, the words that are whispered, the glances that are shared in between everything else. But Kyuhyun's eyes still look for Jino's first.

Perhaps somewhere in the bottom of Kyuhyun's heart, he feels a bit guilty—not because he's using Jonghyun, but because he likes Jino. Kyuhyun doesn't feel guilty for what he's doing at all. Just what he's feeling.

"Hey hyung," says Kyuhyun, walking into the practice room. Jay nods at him and smiles.

"You should say hi to me too," says Jonghyun, coming in from behind him and putting an arm around Kyuhyun's waist.

Kyuhyun rolls his eyes and turns to him. "And you should stop harassing me," he says. But he doesn't try to push Jonghyun away.

"Oh, look who's back," says Jay, looking toward the doorway again. Kyuhyun and Jonghyun turn around to see who it is.

"Jino!" Kyuhyun almost shoves Jonghyun off of him. "How've you been? You missed some practices!"

"Yeah, lucky you," adds Jonghyun, though not loud enough for Jay to hear.

Jino laughs at Jonghyun. "I'm fine," he says. "How were your holidays?"

"Oh, you know, the same," says Kyuhyun, shrugging off-handedly.

"All we did was sit around and eat all day," adds Jonghyun.

"Maybe you did," says Kyuhyun, rolling his eyes at him. "No wonder you look like you gained weight."

Jonghyun sticks his tongue out at him. "Mean."

"Honesty is the best policy."

"Your face is the best policy."

"At least my face doesn't look fat like yours—"

"I think I gained weight too," interrupts Jino, blushing as he says this. He looks like he hadn't meant for the words to spill out.

Kyuhyun reaches over and pinches one of Jino's cheeks. "It makes you look cuter," he tells him, because it's always about Jino.


One of Kyuhyun's hands is down Jonghyun's pants, the other on his cheek. Kyuhyun is breathing heavily against him, lips inches away from Jonghyun's.

"Are you done teasing me yet?" complains Jonghyun; he's almost whining, though his breath seems too strained to form a proper whine.

"What if I say not yet?" whispers Kyuhyun, allowing his hand to brush over the length of Jonghyun's cock once more. Jonghyun twinges a little and gasps into Kyuhyun, blowing on the inside of his mouth.

"Then I'll say just touch me already."

Jonghyun almost manages to knock Kyuhyun's wrist right where he probably wants it, except Kyuhyun grips his face harder and draws Jonghyun into a kiss. Too lost in the sensation, Jonghyun's attempts render fruitless as Kyuhyun continues kissing him, continues teasing him.

"You're a dick," says Jonghyun when they finally break apart for air.

"You love it." Kyuhyun grins, and tugs on Jonghyun this time.

It's rough and messy and wild, but Kyuhyun can't help think it's all right as Jonghyun loses complete control of himself—not that he ever had any control in the first place—and comes all into Kyuhyun's hand. Grinning and feeling rather pleased with himself, when Kyuhyun's done (having come too, in his own pants—but it's okay because he can get to his dorm and change without anyone noticing, soon) he pulls away and looks Jonghyun in the face.

"I hate you," Jonghyun repeats, still panting.

"That's news to me," says Kyuhyun, rolling his eyes. He slumps on the ground next to Jonghyun, and, as Jonghyun straightens his clothes out and zips up his pants, Kyuhyun reaches over and wipes his hand on Jonghyun's shirt.

"Hey!" Jonghyun yelps, brushing the spot before quickly drawing away. "Ew! It's all sticky!"

"What do you think it is?" says Kyuhyun, grinning.

"Wait, it's not—oh, hyung!" Jonghyun jumps up and starts hitting Kyuhyun, while attempting to smear the residue of what Kyuhyun had wiped on him onto Kyuhyun instead. "Oh, you're gross! Dick head!"

Kyuhyun laughs and pushes Jonghyun off, but Jonghyun gets back up and hits Kyuhyun over the head, trying to crawl onto him once more. Kyuhyun, still laughing, pushes Jonghyun off again, just to have Jonghyun come over and hit him again.

"Jonghyun!" Kyuhyun cries, as Jonghyun kicks Kyuhyun onto his stomach before clumsily falling over himself.

Even though they're both sweaty and sticky and messy, Kyuhyun is sure that he's never been this close with another human being before. And he loves it.


It's always been about Jino. Kyuhyun knows that despite his friendship with his bandmates, despite his relationship with his labelmates, despite his bond with anybody else, despite this thing he has with Jonghyun—it's always been about Jino. He doesn't stop staring, doesn't stop listening, doesn't stop thinking about Jino. It might be a bit unhealthy.

Because he's honest and because Kyuhyun knows how to be sincere, it's odd not saying anything, not telling anyone (most of all, not telling Jino.) But Kyuhyun knows how it would be if he told anyone he was in love with a man (if he's really in love, that is.) The only person he can tell is Jonghyun, and he's pretty sure that Jonghyun wouldn't like it if Kyuhyun told him this. Besides, Kyuhyun has a distinct feeling that Jonghyun already knows.

Still, it's this whole insincere thing that's throwing Kyuhyun off his game, and he never likes being thrown off his game. It means he's not controlling himself well enough.

They go on some more shows and open broadcasts, though their schedules are dwindling a bit because SHINee's doing some stuff and TRAX is doing some stuff and Super Junior M is going to be do some stuff (Kyuhyun hears that Jino will be busy as well, though with what specifically he has no idea.) Kyuhyun is sure that these are the last days that they'll have together, for a while.

It's the middle of January, backstage before some performance. Kyuhyun's coming out of his dressing room, getting ready to go up.

He sees Jino and Jay standing together, waiting for the show to start as well. Suddenly Kyuhyun acts on impulse, and he calls over to them, "Jino!"

Jino and Jay turn to him. Kyuhyun smiles and nods at Jay, and then looks pointedly at Jino.

"Can I talk to you in private for a second?" he asks him.

Jino looks unwary, but the look is quickly replaced by one of mild curiosity as Jino says, "Sure!"

They walk back behind near one of the curtains, where they can't be seen outside of the shadows.

"So what's up?" asks Jino, cocking his head to the side.

"Nothing really, I just..." Kyuhyun clears his throat and looks down somewhere on the ground. "I mean, um. Nothing's really up, I just wanted to tell you something..."

"All right," says Jino. And when Kyuhyun doesn't say anything at this, Jino presses on, "What is it?"

"I... uh..."

Kyuhyun doesn't really know how to say it properly. So he just says it.

"I like you."

Jino laughs.

"Kyuhyun, I like you too," he says. "I was never under the impression that you didn't like me. Unless you didn't?" he adds with the teasing air of suspicion.

"No, it's not..." Kyuhyun takes a deep breath.

Something overcomes him, and he grabs Jino's shoulders and kisses him on the lips. It doesn't feel right.

Kyuhyun pulls back.

"I like you," he says, just as footfalls fade away.

Jino looks stricken. "I..." He touches his lips to his mouth, then gazes back up at Kyuhyun.

"I'm sorry, hyung," he says. His eyes are more apologetic than his words.

The message can't be any clearer.

Kyuhyun clears his throat again, blinking back anything that might have caught in his eye. Then he forces himself to look up and smile.

"It's okay," he says, feeling like something has been dislodged from his throat. He'll get over it, he tells himself. At least, he hopes he will.

Jino looks relieved. "I'm sorry," he says again. "I don't want to hurt you, but it's just not—the way you wanted it, I guess."

Kyuhyun nods. Jino may have a point. And Kyuhyun really will get over it—there's something inside of him assuring that this will happen.

He and Jino come out from behind the curtain, to see Jonghyun, who is now standing in the spot where Jino had been, and Jay standing there, waiting for them.

Kyuhyun and Jino greet them with enthusiasm. Jay says hello back, but Jonghyun is uncharacteristically silent.


For some reason, Kyuhyun feels like Jonghyun knows what had happened behind that curtain, although there's no possible way for him to know, as Kyuhyun hadn't seen him there. But he still feels like Jonghyun at least has an idea of what had happened, if he hadn't seen it.

This doesn't stop Kyuhyun, however—there's no proof, so why should he be assuming this? Besides, nothing's changed: Jino doesn't like Kyuhyun, which Kyuhyun's okay with. Either he can wait for Jino to realize he returns feelings for him—though by Kyuhyun's calculations that's about a 0.2% of happening—or move on, like he'd promised. And Kyuhyun decides that even if a part of him is so used to liking Jino so much, it'll go away just as quickly as it had come.

Meanwhile, Kyuhyun can deal with any remaining hormones with Jonghyun, right?

A few days later after that performance, Kyuhyun calls Jonghyun up. They haven't seen each other for a while, due to their growing schedules.

"What are you doing?" asks Sungmin. "What about us?"

He, Hyukjae, Donghae and Ryeowook are all sitting around the television, watching some drama on their spare day of break. Jongwoon's out in the gym with Siwon and Shindong.

Kyuhyun rolls his eyes. "You guys are boring. And I want to do things with my other friends, thank you very much." Things that include kissing and biting and licking.

"What about us?" Sungmin repeats.

Kyuhyun sighs. "In the spirit of Super Junior, I'll leave you all together to bond over ogling old actors and actresses," he says. "But I'd rather do something else."

He checks his phone, which hasn't been answered by the annoying voice of Jonghyun yet. Actually, it's on voicemail. Kyuhyun frowns, and dials again.

"You've been doing 'something else' for the longest time," says Ryeowook, looking not only visibly upset but also worried. "Shouldn't you spend any break time with us?"

Ryeowook's impeccable knack for guilt-tripping Kyuhyun almost works, but then he thinks of Jonghyun and decides against it. Kyuhyun's always one to give into lust.

"No, it's okay," he says distractedly, before looking down to his phone again. "Why won't he pick up?" Without any thoughts of Super Junior left in his mind, he walks out of the dorm and out of the building to find Jonghyun.


"Hi, it's Jonghyun! Sorry I'm not answering, but leave a message and then I'll answer then! I mean, if you give me your number first, too."

"Hi, Jonghyun," says Kyuhyun, fumbling around with his fingers. "Um, I'm wondering if you're free tonight, because apparently you weren't all day, okay? Call me back. Bye."

He puts his phone down and paces back and forth across the room. Sungmin's still irritated at him for not spending time with them earlier today, but at least this means that Sungmin won't come into their room.

After about fifteen minutes—which is the amount of time that usually passes, at most, before Jonghyun usually calls back—Kyuhyun sighs, picks up his phone again, and redials the number.

"Hi, it's Jonghyun! Sorry I'm not answering, but leave a message and then I'll answer then! I mean, if you give me your number first, too."

"Um," says Kyuhyun. "I hope you haven't lost your phone or anything, even though it's still on so it must be charging... you're not in the middle of something, I hope? I just wanted to see you today, if you wanted to do anything, so... call me back, okay?"

He hangs up. Then losing his patience completely, Kyuhyun snatches up his phone again and calls Jinki.

"Hello? Kyuhyun?" says Jinki's surprised voice.

"Hi, Jinki," says Kyuhyun dispassionately. "I'm wondering if Jonghyun's there? He's not answering his phone."

"Oh, of course Jonghyun's here," says Jinki cheerfully on the other end. "And what do you mean? His phone hasn't rung all day."

"What?" says Kyuhyun, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, it hasn't rung all day." Jinki sounds amused. "Want to talk to Jonghyun? I've got him right here."

"Oh, that'd be great—" starts Kyuhyun as he hears a rustling.

Then a dial tone.


Kyuhyun sort of feels like Jonghyun's avoiding him. But what would Jonghyun avoid him for? So Kyuhyun ignores this feeling.

But he does try to contact him again, though now Jonghyun's phone goes straight to voicemail instead without even ringing. Kyuhyun tries to see him in person, but ever since he's called Jinki, it seems like Jonghyun is spending less time in his own dorm as well, and Kyuhyun doesn't know the first place to look. He sort of wishes that his attraction to Jonghyun hadn't been all lust, so that he'd have gotten to know him better, not just his personality and his reactions, but the basic things, like what Jonghyun likes and what he doesn't. Then Kyuhyun would know where to find him.

No SM the Ballad meetings, practices, promotions or anything come in the next week, so all Kyuhyun is working on is Super Junior M. They've gone to China for a few days, and Kyuhyun sort of likes the change of scenery (though it still feels like routine, despite being in a different country.) He can't try and contact Jonghyun here, though.

The next week they're back for a day, before heading to China again. Kyuhyun sits in the couch in the dorm, calling Taemin.

"What do you mean, you haven't seen him?" he asks. "Isn't he supposed to be your bandmate?"

From the other side of the room, Siwon, who had so graciously let himself in this morning, snorts at Kyuhyun's words.

"Well I've seen him a bit, at practices and stuff," says Taemin's hesitant voice. "But we're always so busy with practicing and working and there's no time for us to talk. And Jonghyun hyung's been acting weird, we're worried."

"So then what are you doing, not asking him anything?" says Kyuhyun impatiently. "He's been acting weird? Do you know why?"

"Of course not!" Taemin says, sounding slightly hysterical. "And we don't really want to know why, because he's scary and Jonghyun hyung's never scary, that's always Kibum!"

"Hey!" shouts a voice on the other end, but Kyuhyun ignores him.

"Ask him!" he growls to Taemin.

"If you want to know why, why don't you ask him?" says Taemin in that same slightly hysterical voice, and then he hangs up.

Kyuhyun snaps his phone shut, then looks absently at Shindong, who's sitting on the opposite couch, eyebrows raised.

"Kids," Kyuhyun mutters under his breath.


Kyuhyun really doesn't have any opportunities to talk to Jonghyun now that Jonghyun isn't answering his phone—what Kyuhyun's assuming, anyways—so Kyuhyun looks for every opportunity. Unfortunately they don't have many practices at the same time, not to mention they live in completely different buildings and Kyuhyun spends most of his time in China nowadays, anyway.

So seeing him walking down the street with SHINee one day, on one of Kyuhyun's rare days in Korea is a nice surprise. Kyuhyun runs over to them, excitement bubbling in his veins.

"Jonghyun," he says when he catches up with them, holding onto Jonghyun's shoulder. "Can I speak to you?"

Jonghyun casts an eye over his bandmates, who look nervous. "Sure," he finally says, which comes as a relief to Kyuhyun. He thought for a moment that Jonghyun would say no.

They go in the opposite direction, leaving Jonghyun's bandmates behind. Kyuhyun doesn't know where he's going but he's happy with being with Jonghyun again, for so long.

"Why haven't you picked up your phone?" he asks, after a moment of silence.

Jonghyun shrugs, his hands in his pockets. He's looking at his feet.

"Well no matter," Kyuhyun goes on, "you were probably just too lazy to."

He expects Jonghyun to make a comment, some sort of retort; but Jonghyun merely tries a smile that ends up as a grimace, and then it falls.

"Something wrong?" asks Kyuhyun. "I talked about it with Taemin a few weeks ago, though I doubt he really told you anything about it."

"He didn't," says Jonghyun, with another shrug.

A few more silent moments pass. Kyuhyun glances at Jonghyun, and then pauses.

"Want to do something together?" he asks, hoping he's making his tone as suggestive as he feels.


"'Why?'" echoes Kyuhyun. "What do you mean, 'why'?"

"I mean, 'why?'."

"Since when did you ever have to ask why?" says Kyuhyun, baffled.

"You don't like me," says Jonghyun. Then he turns and walks away.


Jonghyun is stupid, Kyuhyun concludes later that day. Of course Kyuhyun likes him. Not, perhaps, as he usually likes people—but lusting is the same as liking, right? And Kyuhyun's always expressed this, his lust to Jonghyun, no matter what. So Jonghyun is stupid.

Jonghyun is stupid, Kyuhyun tells himself the next morning.


Jonghyun is stupid, Kyuhyun tells himself again a few days later. Of course he likes Jonghyun too—not just lust, maybe, but he likes Jonghyun as a person! As a friend! They've always gotten along, ever since SM the Ballad had started, always were good together, even when Kyuhyun had liked Jino, even before he and Jonghyun had started this crazy thing together. And then even after that, they were even better friends, better bandmates, better... whatever. Jonghyun should have seen that. Though of course, Kyuhyun thinks, Jonghyun is stupid.

Super Junior M falls into place with the rest of his life for the next month, with promotions mostly around Taiwan—plenty of distractions there. And then the overwhelming, as-always fanservice which sort of irritates Kyuhyun but he doesn't say anything about it anyway. He sees Zhou Mi look at him worriedly after they hug and whisper to others backstage, but is secretly glad that at least one of his bandmates isn't bothering him about everything that he's doing.

Jungsu hyung continues to tell them to keep it up, even when they're off in China, because the Super Junior album is coming out in July and that's closer than it sounds (but really, it isn't.) They're still friends, still a band, even if Kibum isn't participating, because it's what's most important to all of them. It comes before everything else.

All Kyuhyun can think about is Jonghyun.


SM the Ballad promotions and performances are officially over for now, even if it's taken Kyuhyun a few weeks after the last practice to admit it to himself. At least he has other things on his plate.

He wants to stay in contact with Jino, but it'll make him think of Jonghyun and then he'll feel guilty.

"Come on, smile Kyuhyun!" shouts one of the photographers, and Kyuhyun's shoulders tense as he forces a smile.

"Relax yourself!" calls another photographer. "You look uncomfortable. Come on, Kyuhyun, relax!"

Kyuhyun glances over in the corner, where Henry and Sungmin are talking and laughing. It really doesn't make him feel any better.

Hyukjae, Donghae and Ryeowook are chatting off-set while Siwon is fussing with the wardrobe manager. Kyuhyun feels Zhou Mi's worried arm tighten around his waist as they pose for the camera again.

It reminds him painfully of Jonghyun, only not as nice.


It's been a bit since Kyuhyun has last seen Jay. He approaches him far down the street.

"Hi, hyung," Kyuhyun says.

Jay turns around. He still has that sense of omnipotence, of caring.

"You really fucked things up," he tells him.


Kyuhyun hates it how he can look at the most random things and think of Jonghyun, even though he's a country away. Kyuhyun really hates it.

And Jonghyun is stupid.

He distracts himself with work, which has always been a good mood-killer, whether positive or not. Despite his attitude and the nagging voice in the corner of his mind telling him to actually do something, Kyuhyun remains in China, cuts off connection with everyone but Super Junior members, and refuses to think.

"Are you okay, Kyuhyun?" asks Sungmin one day when they're backstage from a show in Taiwan. Kyuhyun tries to think of no one except for Sungmin, when Sungmin speaks.

He nods and continues working.


Night is the best time for everything to go away, Kyuhyun concludes as he lies on the floor in his boxers and pajama top, a bottle in his left hand.

Zhou Mi is snoring a little ways off and so is Hyukjae; but Kyuhyun notices the absence of Siwon's breathing. He shifts his head a little to see Siwon staring up at the ceiling with open eyes.

"I wonder if this will be our last Super Junior M promotion... for a while..." Siwon lets out a sigh, and Kyuhyun wonders how he's feeling. He wonders if Siwon's thinking about Super Junior, Super Junior M, even possibly Hankyung. He wonders if the rest of them are thinking about them. While Kyuhyun's only (not) thinking about Jonghyun. The idea makes him feel impossibly selfish.

"It could be," Siwon whispers to himself, almost like an assurance. Then he turns over and looks at Kyuhyun. "Get some rest Kyuhyun," he says, smiling a little.

Kyuhyun does try to rest, but it's the guilt of not caring that takes him to sleep.


Yet there are things that Kyuhyun still cares about, that he does care about—things he doesn't want to care about, but is forced to remember. He sort of remembers the way Jonghyun used to touch him, used to suck him, used to feel. But Kyuhyun definitely remembers the way Jonghyun had looked at him, had teased him, had been so stupid that Kyuhyun had actually found it endearing. That he still finds it endearing.

And it's sort of funny, how he doesn't even see Jonghyun every day anymore and the weight in his chest is growing heavier and heavier.

He's pretty sure—ninety-nine percent sure, in fact—that Jonghyun had seen, had known what had happened behind the curtain that time, with Kyuhyun and Jino. He's not quite sure how (perhaps he had heard? Or even worse, seen?) but how else would Jonghyun know? Kyuhyun may not know certain things about Jonghyun yet, but he does know that even if Kyuhyun had been completely obvious with his infatuation for Jino before, Jonghyun would have been too dense to notice. It would only take explicit words, direct action for him to understand.

But things change of course, and even though Kyuhyun's accustomed to change, he likes change, this isn't the type he's going for. A turnabout of feelings, a miscalculation of his heart. Kyuhyun doesn't know what to do, he's never been the best at doing. He knows now, but he's lost. He's fucked up.


Eight weeks after the last time he's been with SM the Ballad, Jay calls him up, as well as Jino and Jonghyun and invites them out together just for old time's sake. Kyuhyun's sure he hears hesitance when Jay talks to him, and when Jay mentions Jonghyun, but Kyuhyun says okay.

Isn't he disappointed when he finds out, when he goes out to dinner to meet them, that Jonghyun had unfortunately said no. Kyuhyun doesn't know if he should be thankful or disappointed, and the knot in his chest gets even tighter. He tells himself to get over it, and smiles when he sees Jay and Jino.

"Hi," says Kyuhyun. It's been ages since he's seen them both; it definitely feels that way. It feels even longer since he's last seen Jonghyun, even though Kyuhyun's sure it's only been about a month.

Neither of them has changed of course, and Jino asks Jay, "Why isn't Jonghyun here?"

"He said he was busy," Jay answers. Kyuhyun wonders how he knows this if Jonghyun doesn't even pick up his phone.

"Oh, that sucks," says Jino, looking disappointed. He looks over at Kyuhyun and smiles, and he's still cute and Kyuhyun can see how he'd fallen for him. He just likes Jonghyun now.

A few hours later finds him sitting in the near-empty restaurant, with Jay passed out on the table from too much wine (it's probably been a while since he's drunk this much, Kyuhyun figures, and being around him and Jino had probably tempted him.) Kyuhyun and Jino are sitting close to each other, not really drinking but occasionally eating, and talking.

"Remember you liked me?" giggles Jino, then straightens up and suddenly looks serious. "Wait, you don't still like me, right?"

"No," Kyuhyun scoffs, grabbing a raw soybean and eating it.

Jino nods. "Good." Then he tilts his head to the side and looks at Kyuhyun curiously. "Do you like people often? You don't really seem like the type."

"Thanks," says Kyuhyun sarcastically, but Jino knows him too well and laughs. Kyuhyun shrugs and smiles too. "I don't know. I just do."

"Do you like someone else right now?" asks Jino, evidently too interested.

Kyuhyun considers telling him no, but then he remembers that Jino is a bandmate and a friend and had been completely understanding when he had let Kyuhyun down. So Kyuhyun says, "Yes," and Jino positively squeals in excitement.

"Really? I won't ask who, though," Jino adds with a grin, "it'll probably be prying too much. Is it a guy too?" He seems completely undeterred that Kyuhyun is attracted to men. "Ooh, or is it a girl... I'd guess, but it's like prying again." He grins to himself.

Kyuhyun shrugs and eats another soy bean again. He really doesn't want to think about it.

But Jino continues rambling on.

"Is it Seohyun? Or one of your Super Junior bandmates? Nah, that'd probably be weird, you guys are like brothers." Jino waves a hand. "Changmin from DBSK? You and Jonghyun, though," and Kyuhyun's eyebrows fly up at this, "could work, you guys were always together when we were doing Ballad. But I don't think you'd like Jonghyun, he's not your type and you never acted like you liked him, right?"

Kyuhyun doesn't know what to say to this. He drinks some of his wine instead, hoping it'll wash all his thoughts away.


It feels entirely too long, and it probably is: it's longer than the time they've been doing SM the Ballad promotions, but it feels three times longer than that. Kyuhyun hasn't seen a spot of Jonghyun for months, and not only is it strange, it's annoying and extremely upsetting.

He knows they can't avoid each other forever, because even though his band might be splitting up soon (Kyuhyun's always been a realist) he'll still be under the label for quite a while. Which means that he'll be around Jonghyun whether he wants to or not, and they'll have to talk to each other some time.

Besides, they were friends before and who says they can't be friends now? And even if Jonghyun doesn't want to do this—sex—thing anymore, that's fine with Kyuhyun. Sometimes he doesn't even care about sex, he just wants to see Jonghyun around.

But unfortunately Kyuhyun is unfortunate, and many, many days pass before he sees Jonghyun again, and by then it's probably too late. For him, for Jonghyun, for their relationship, friendship, and whatever else they've had. It's too late because they're Kyuhyun and they're Jonghyun but they're not Kyuhyun and Jonghyun, not anymore.


Of course, though, when it happens it's entirely by accident.

Entirely on Kyuhyun's part, anyways. It's way after whatever promotions he's had—after weeks enduring the fans and the interview and the hectic schedule that is life—when Kyuhyun wants to go outside, away from the dorms, and perhaps to the practice buildings to do something with music other than talk and sing and dance. Perhaps to listen.

But not, perhaps, after pained glimpses and brief mentions, to run into Jonghyun.

Jonghyun looks as surprised as Kyuhyun feels, maybe even more. Which is a typical look on his face, but god if Kyuhyun hasn't missed it. He stands in the middle of the sidewalk, staring, with the new season wind whipping around him.

"Um," says Kyuhyun, breaking the silence. The streets are empty. He is grateful for this.

They're fairly close to each other, close enough for either one of them to reach out and touch the other's shoulder. He can't remember the last time Jonghyun had touched him at all. But this had always been bound to happen, them running into each other, and Kyuhyun knows this. It's just that it's happening right now.

"Hi," says Jonghyun, an inexplicably blank look on his face.

"I." Kyuhyun stares at him.

For the first time in living memory, neither of them have no idea what to say.

Kyuhyun feels like he should apologize. He knows he should apologize. For everything. And he knows Jino's off at training right now and Jay is doing whatever it is that Jay does—but it's always been about Jonghyun, right? It's been about Jonghyun, during SM the Ballad, after SM the Ballad and Kyuhyun is grateful for having gotten to know him better like this because now it's just Jonghyun; for Kyuhyun, he can't think of any other answer.

He just doesn't know how to put it into words.

"Hi," Kyuhyun finally says back.

"I-I need to go," says Jonghyun, and as they stand here longer, Kyuhyun can feel heat crawling up the back of his neck. "For—" He points down the street. "That's why I-I'm here. 'Cause I need to go."

"Oh." Kyuhyun is disappointed. He wishes the word 'sorry' will come out of his mouth, but his lips aren't quite sure how to form the word. He wants Jonghyun to stay and talk. He wants Jonghyun to stay. He wants Jonghyun.

He says, "Okay then."

"Well, um."

Kyuhyun is aware of every move Jonghyun makes, of every blink and nose scratch. There are no cars in the distance, nothing to interrupt. This is everything he's waited for.

"See you then," says Jonghyun, when Kyuhyun remains silent.

Kyuhyun somehow manages to find his voice and his courage just as Jonghyun's about to move away.


Jonghyun looks at him.

And then Kyuhyun is reaching out to Jonghyun, bringing him close, and it's all happening so fast, fingers holding, shoulders pushing, knees brushing and Kyuhyun really, really doesn't know what he's doing,

and their lips touch.

Jonghyun pulls back after a second, or perhaps two. A small smile that Kyuhyun can't quite read is on his face.

"Bye Kyuhyun," says Jonghyun, and he turns to walk away.

Kyuhyun watches as he leaves, feeling confused. There's a taste lingering on his tongue, on his lips, and he doesn't know what it is.

He licks his lips, like he's kissing Jonghyun again, like he knows Jonghyun again. Jonghyun tastes different.