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let me show you, cause talk is cheap

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The cashier pointedly thrums his fingers against the countertop as Mingyu desperately digs through his still empty pockets. His body floods with relief when his finger brushes against two more coins, pulling them out with a victorious grin. The cashier responds with a blank stare.

“$6.37,” Mingyu says, proudly, dumping the sixty some coins in his hand on the counter. The cashier slams down his three coffees in their tray, already looking behind him at the next person. “Aren’t you going to count it?” Mingyu asks. 

“Look, man, I trust you,” the cashier replies, boredly. 

“For all you know, that could be my tactic: pretending to fish for coins and end up getting two dollars off,” he points out.

“I really don’t think it is.” 

Mingyu swipes the tray off the counter with a grimace, spinning dramatically on his heel out the door. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, thumb hesitantly hovering over his bank app before ultimately deciding it’s not worth the emotional turmoil. 

The walk back to his apartment is lengthy and tumultuous, road work at every corner and several cracks in the sidewalk that nearly send Mingyu and the coffees flying. But, he doesn’t exactly have the money for gas, and he probably can make it halfway down his street before his car conks out. 

Finally, he reaches his complex, groaning at the NEEDS REPAIR sign in front of the elevator. The hike up four flights of stairs nearly breaks him, and by the second floor, he has half a mind to fall to the floor and make his home in the stairwell. Finally, he reaches his floor, trudging towards the end of the hallway. 

With a kick of the door, he crashes into his apartment.“Brought your coffees, bitches!”

“Whose dick you’d suck for those?” Minghao calls from the couch. Seokmin snickers. 

“That was literally one time. Just for the SNSD tickets!”

“And for drinks at that bougie ass bar in West Hollywood.” 

“And at that McDonalds.” 

“And for physics notes last semester.”

“Honestly, Mingyu, I think it’s been at least ten times.” 

“You’re both ungrateful brats who owe me two bucks.”

Minghao sighs, pulling two one dollar bills out of his pocket. Mingyu bites back a jealous glare. He reaches out to take it, but Minghao grabs onto his wrist, looking up at Mingyu insistently. “Are you good on rent this month?” he asks, softly. Out of the corner of his eye, Mingyu sees Seokmin look up from his phone, head tilted to the side. 

No , is the honest answer, but Mingyu nods. He’ll call his sister, butter her up a bit and get her to send a couple hundred his way, nothing he hasn’t done before. Plus, he doesn’t want his friends to worry, surely doesn’t want them to take out of their own limited funds to help him. But, Minghao doesn’t look convinced, and he’s sure Seokmin doesn’t either.

“Really, guys, I’m fine,” he tries, adds a nervous laugh that most likely does more harm than good. Minghao stares up at him for a few more excruciating moments before he eventually lets go of his wrist, but not without a disapproving twist of his mouth. 

“How’s the job search going?” Seokmin asks. Mingyu makes a noise of dissent, collapsing onto the couch, head in Seokmin’s lap, feet in Minghao’s.

“Why the fuck do I get your feet?” 

Mingyu ignores him. “Bad. None of the places I’ve interviewed for have shifts that go along with my classes.” Seokmin hums, hand going into Mingyu’s hair for comfort. 

“Time for plan B. Sugar daddy,” Seokmin says, with a laugh. “Worked for Jeongguk, didn’t it?”

Four months ago, Jeongguk was scraping up below minimum wage at his friend’s uncle’s best friend’s burger joint. Now, he’s on a flight halfway to Tokyo with his disgustingly rich, drop dead gorgeous actor boyfriend slash sugar daddy. He’s simultaneously Mingyu’s ultimate role model and the prime object of his envy. 

“Don’t mention that ass in my apartment,” Mingyu grumbles. Envy always trumps admiration. 

“He literally bought a Cartier bracelet for you for absolutely no reason at all two weeks ago,” Seokmin points out. 

Taehyung bought that for me,” Mingyu retaliates. Then, rather pensively, he adds, “It did kinda work out for him, didn’t it?”

“Oh no you don’t. That’s your seriously considering something seriously stupid voice,” Minghao says, throwing Mingyu’s feet off his lap and fixing him a stern look. Mingyu rolls his eyes.

“Dunno, could be fun. Give a rich, old guy a good time and get my rent paid in return.” Seokmin laughs again, but Minghao’s expression doesn’t waver.

“Don’t come crying to me when you get murdered in an alley.” 

“I don’t think I could do that even if I wanted to.”

——

Mingyu decides to put all thoughts of rent and jobs out of the forefront of his mind and instead work through the last few assignments of the week. He slaves over his econ class for the good half of a weekend, churns through all his calculus, and submits about five papers in the span of 3 days. He’s thoroughly exhausted and running on a couple of Monsters, half of a Cup Ramen, and two iced Americanos that he begged Minghao to buy for him.

Three days before rent payment is due, just as Mingyu is working on his final lab report, he gets a series of texts from Jeongguk. They’re all scans of developed film from various sights in Tokyo, absolutely breathtaking. Mingyu wonders if it’s too late for him to seduce Taehyung instead. 

 

mingyu

cool 

have u done the chem lab

jeongguk

>:( bitch! 

sugarseek.com 

ur welcome 

 

Mingyu stares down at the link Jeongguk’s sent, knowing exactly what it’ll lead him to. His eyes dart back and forth between his phone and the unfinished document on his computer that’s glaring back at him with inanimate judgement. With a sigh of resignation, he leans back in the chair, hesitantly tapping on the link. 

Sugar Seek is, predictably, a website for prospective sugar babies to find their match. Mingyu groans, but his finger is already hovering over the Create Profile button, dignity climbing right out the window. 

He mindlessly fills out his profile, using some dumb joke at the end of his bio that he’s sure he’s the only person in the world who finds funny. The photo selection takes a little longer, and he eventually settles for a few solo pictures from his Instagram; one of him, Seokmin, and Minghao; and one with Jeongguk from after a soccer tournament. Before he can think twice about it, he hits submit, and promptly turns off his ringer, and then his phone.

As he finishes up the report, his mind can’t help but trail back to the website. Rent is dangerously approaching, and Mingyu honestly doesn’t want to bother his sister again , and he knows, despite their assurances, neither Seokmin or Minghao can afford to help or spare the time to take on a third job to cover for him again. His parents are out of the picture, considering they pay for a considerable amount of his tuition. He shuts his laptop, side-eying his phone that’s face down on his desk. 

He figures he’ll have to pick it up at some point. Now’s as good a time as any. 

The amount of messages he’s received in the past hour and a half is completely overwhelming. He painstakingly cleans through the scammers and the too-frequent dick pics, slowly losing hope and patience, feeling himself get straighter by the minute. 

Just as he’s about to give up, he suddenly thinks of Seokmin and Minghao, who’ve worked tirelessly the past few semesters, who’ve bought him food and let him climb into their beds on particularly lonely nights, who deserve something, a lot in return. He keeps scrolling. 

One message in particular catches his eye, a simple, succinct, hey , with a pink heart emoji. And maybe Mingyu is just exhausted, or a little too curious, but he clicks on the profile picture, nearly choking on his own spit when he sees the first image. 

It’s of three guys, two unfamiliar but ethereally attractive. The third, the middle one, is unmistakably one half of Mingyu’s favorite rap group, S.Coups, or, Choi Seungcheol, in all of his broad shouldered, doe eyed, boyishly handsome glory. Mingyu prides himself on being a loyal Wonwoo stan, but he can’t deny that he’s swerved into Seungcheol’s lane a few too many times. He immediately goes back to the DMs. 

min9yu_k

are you catfishing me or do you actually know choi seungcheol

yjh95

um 

kno him … right

min9yu_k

????

 

Mingyu swipes back to the profile, scrolling through yjh95’s photos, which are all still of the three of them, although there are only three more. There’s no description on their profile, and Mingyu’s heart gives a disappointed pang. 

 

min9yu_k

it’s not nice to use other peoples pics, u know >:(

yjh95

???? these r ours

min9yu_k

ours?????

yjh95

Sorry, baby, Cheollie is painfully bad at this

Oops. Hope the baby was okay. Just slipped out. 

Anyway you r very cute and we would very much like to give u our money

 

Mingyu is rendered completely, and utterly confused. He stares blankly at his phone, fingers completely frozen, unsure even where to start to address the three messages he’s been sent. It seems too real to be staged, the implication that there’s more than one person behind the screen would take some serious creativity for a simple sugar daddy website scam. 

 

yjh95

hi so sorry the dumbass was seungcheol and the sleaze was jeonghan

this is joshua

as dumb and dumber were trying to say, we kind of all own the account together? 

basically we’re three, rich friends with way too much money for our own good and

well i guess, like jeonghan said

we’d like to give it to you

min9yu_k

???????

like im just supposed to believe choi seungcheol is trying to be my sugar daddy right now. one out of three of my sugar daddies

look, whoever u are this is quite creative but come on 

yjh95

lets see ur fourth picture is most definitely from a trauma concert, i think the first day of the ideal cut finale in LA ? just judging by the wristband ur wearing. umm thats the night wonwoo flashed his abs during lotto and a girl in the front row passed out right

min9yu_k

u could just be very good at googling.

yjh95

Oh, for fuck’s sakesjdjdjsk&skkekek84829!;’s 

 

There’s no response after a few minutes, and Mingyu can’t help but giggle at the image of three grown men fighting over a cellphone. 

 

yjh95

sorry about that 

anyway if this were, hypothetically speaking, real, would you be down?

 

Gnawing at his now chapped bottom lip, Mingyu pauses. He’s still, obviously wary, but the speed at which yjh95 deduced the setting of his concert picture was admirable, and definitely promising. It still seems too good to be true, probably was. 

 

min9yu_k

yeah, i would probably

yjh95

would you maybe be willing to meet up somewhere soon?? 

you could bring a friend, if it would make you feel better.

 

That was most definitely out of the picture, but the suggestion makes him feel just a little better. Against all seventeen versions of Minghao screaming in his brain, Mingyu closes his eyes and lets out a deep, deep breath, fully aware he’s most likely doing something that will end with him dead in an alley.

 

min9yu_k

okay, send me a time and place

 

Chucking his phone across the room, Mingyu slams his head down on his desk with a loud groan. 

——

The prospect of actually being able to make rent is the only thing keeping Mingyu from burying his head in his sheets and never coming out. 

He overanalyzes his reflection in the mirror, checking every angle of his outfit to death. If this thing goes south, he’d at least like to die looking his best. After about an hour of digging through the closet, he’d settled on his nicest pair of light wash ripped jeans that definitely did not come with all those rips and the last clean black t-shirt he owns that he grabbed off the floor. 

So, maybe not his best

The outfit is paired with his signature collection of jewelry (most, courtesy of Jeongguk): two silver chains, The Cartier bracelet, and a half a dozen rings. Fumbling with the one around his left middle finger, Mingyu stares into his own eyes, forcing his internal crisis on fast forward, and grabs his phone off of the dresser, stepping out of his room.

“Where are you going?” Minghao says, from the couch, suspiciously dragging his eyes up and down Mingyu’s figure. Mingyu startles a few steps back, he’d completely forgotten neither of them take shifts on Saturdays. 

Here’s the thing: Mingyu tried, he really tried to figure out the best way to tell Seokmin and Minghao about the situation . The conversation played in his head Doctor Strange Infinity War style: there was about one in a couple hundred trillion versions that ended up in his favor. 

“Um, the library,” Mingyu replies, dumbly. Minghao gives a blank expression that says, really, that’s the best you could do.

“If you have a date, just say so,” Seokmin sing-songs, walking out of the kitchen with a bowl of popcorn. 

“You could call it that,” Mingyu mumbles, under his breath. Seokmin makes a questioning noise but Mingyu waves him off. He pauses in front of the door, looking over his shoulder at his best friends on the couch. 

“I love you guys,” he says, earnestly, intently scanning their faces, soaking in their features for what very well could be the last time.

Seokmin coos around a mouthful of popcorn, while Minghao just rolls his eyes. “Dramatic fuck.” 

Mingyu twists his face at that, but then realizes that Minghao’s going to have to live the rest of his life knowing his last words to Mingyu were dramatic fuck . He leaves the apartment with a smug smile. 

The coffee shop he’s been instructed to meet the three at is in a part of the city Mingyu couldn’t even dream of affording. He looks down at his outfit, feeling horribly out of place among the expensive blazers, slacks, chinos, sundresses, and high heels. For the fifteenth time that day, he debates pulling out of the parking garage and driving home, or, literally doing anything else. Anything else seems better than what he’s about to do.

On the bright side, the area seems packed, people are bustling about the street and the cafe looked rather full when he drove past. It would be difficult to carry out an abduction slash murder at this time of day in this particular neighborhood. This could be the real deal, he realizes, and that’s somehow even more terrifying. 

With a final, resounding bang of his head against his steering wheel, Mingyu gets out of his car and makes his way down the street to the cafe.

He’s early, just a few minutes so. Joshua, he thinks, after a short analysis of their respective texting styles, told him to sit out front at the patio, so he takes a table for four in the corner. While he waits, he pulls out his phone, making sure his location is shared with Seokmin and Minghao, and even posting a selfie on his Instagram story with the cafe tagged for good measure. 

“You came!” a cheerful, familiar voice calls. 

Nothing could have prepared Mingyu for the sight he’s subjected to when he looks up from his phone: Choi Seungcheol’s signature dimpled grin shining down at him, flanked by the two most gorgeous men whose photos, ironically enough, do not do them justice.

Upon further research, Mingyu discovered the Joshua and Jeonghan in question were top supermodels Joshua Hong and Yoon Jeonghan, Seungcheol’s childhood friends. The three of them made the celebrity trio that are notorious for doing everything together; seen together at all events, concerts, shows, random 4 AM outings in obscure cities across the world.

Mingyu can feel himself floundering, knows he looks absolutely comical as his mouth opens and closes uselessly around poorly formed words that don’t leave his throat. After a few moments, he pulls himself out of the chair and bows at a nearly 90 degree angle. One of them snorts.

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do all that. Please, sit,” Joshua says, when Mingyu comes up. “We’re so glad you decided to come. I’m Joshua, that’s Jeonghan, and Seungcheol.”

“But, I’m sure you already knew that,” Jeonghan says, corner of his mouth quirking up. Mingyu feels his ears go red.

“Y-yeah, I did, um, I’m Mingyu, thank you for um, coming, too?” he tries, thanking whatever higher power may exist that he at least managed to remember his name. 

“Cute,” Seungcheol says, softly, and Mingyu really, really wants to scream.

Mingyu is genuinely proud of himself for being able to keep up healthy small talk for so long, considering the only few thoughts running through his mind are you’re so hot you are so hot fuck I’d do this all for free I’ve been railed to half of your discography I don’t know if I could take all three of you but I’d sure as hell try. 

They talk mostly about Mingyu, his major, what he’s interested in, a bit about his friends (Mingyu holds himself back from gushing over their accomplishments).

The three of them have astoundingly different, yet, pleasantly complimentary auras. Seungcheol, Mingyu realizes with amusement, is surprisingly shy. He tends to stutter over his words and uses far too many filler phrases for someone who, while on stage, has his tongue out of his mouth more often than in. Jeonghan, on the other hand, is succinct and bold . He says things with no regrets, with absolutely no shame, and with purpose . Joshua is some mix of the two, and by far the most level headed, leading most of the conversation with an unpracticed ease that Mingyu simultaneously envies and finds terribly attractive. 

One thing they all share is a strong level of confidence. It differs in how it manifests, but it exists, nonetheless. It’s not cocky, or out of insecurity, but rather a genuine belief in self. 

Jeonghan, true to his nature, gets the conversation onto its intended track. He reaches over the table, hooking his index finger around the Cartier bracelet with a smile. “Sure you need us?” he teases. Mingyu flushes.

“Ah, this was a gift, from a friend,” Mingyu explains. Jeonghan nods, but doesn’t retract his finger. 

“A friend?” Seungcheol asks, leaning back in the chair ever so slightly with an indiscernible expression. 

“Yeah, he’s the one who gave me the idea, for all of this,” Mingyu says, pointedly, hoping he’s made the implication clear enough. Their choir of hums tells him that he did. 

“So, all of this ,” Joshua says, same inflection as Mingyu, “what would you be looking to get out of it?” 

“Um, rent money, mostly. Meals too, sometimes, for my roommates too,” Mingyu replies. They all nod. 

“So, do we need to fill out, like, a contract, 50 Shades of Grey style, or? I made a list of all the stuff I’m most definitely not into doing, and the stuff I’d be absolutely down for.” He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out the crumpled list written on the back of a Chinese restaurant receipt. Jeonghan hesitantly picks it up, and the other two lean over to get a look. Seungcheol’s eyes widen comically when he registers the nature of the list . Jeonghan just bursts out laughing.

“How do you know what half this shit is?” Jeonghan says, rubbing away a tear. Seungcheol is still absolutely frozen, and Joshua looks like he’s about to seek directions to the nearest bridge.

“Oh, shit, no,” Joshua starts, rubbing his hand down his face. “This wasn’t, god -”

“This wasn’t about sex,” Seungcheol squeaks out, refusing to meet Mingyu’s eyes. Jeonghan is still cackling next to him. Mingyu is very, very confused. He tilts his head to the side, furrowing his eyebrows.

“No, fuck,” Joshua says, letting out a few more expletives before expelling a deep sigh. “I meant what I said over text, we aren’t really going to ask for anything in return, except for your company sometimes.” 

“Okay, to be fair, you can’t blame me for assuming,” Mingyu says, quietly. Joshua groans again.

“I mean, if you’re offering, I’d be absolutely interested in doing this ,” Jeonghan says, pointing to something near the bottom of the hell yeah list. Mingyu snatches the receipt out of his hands and haphazardly shoves it back into his pocket. His head is swimming with thoughts, with questions.

“You just want to pay for my rent, for nothing in return? Just like that? Just me? Don’t you guys have charities and shit to donate to?” 

“Plenty, which we give plenty of money to. But, like Shua said, this is also kind of for the company? We’d just like someone to spoil, spend time with. It wouldn’t just be rent either, we’d take you places, get you gifts, the works,” Seungcheol says, simply. 

“Why me ?”

“You’re cute. Nice eye candy to keep around,” Joshua replies. 

“Excellent photo choice by the way, you really know your strengths,” Jeonghan adds, and Mingyu knows exactly which one he’s talking about: courtesy of Minghao, a shot of him leaning on a fence at the beach last summer, bare skin glistening a little from the water, wet hair pushed back off of his forehead. Definitely a personal and, obviously, a fan favorite. 

Mingyu discreetly pinches his arm under the table, just to be absolutely sure this isn’t some elaborate fever dream. It feels, again, too good to be true. To be given money for doing absolutely nothing besides sitting around and looking pretty is something straight out of a thirteen year old’s One Direction Wattpad story. 

“And you’re all just friends?” They nod. “So, you’re basically like co parenting a dog.”

“Exactly!” “Kinda?” “ No .”

“We spend so much time together, we just thought it would be easier to get, well, one, together,” Jeonghan says, not helping the argument against the whole dog comparison in the slightest. It makes no sense, but Mingyu just goes with it. He’s really in no position to judge, or complain, especially not when he’s just successfully secured at least the next few months of rent with one conversation.

“Um, obviously, this requires some discretion. No Instagrams, Twitters, Tiktoks, um, whatever you use these days,” Jeonghan adds, with a wave of his hand. 

“What are you, 35?” Mingyu jokes, with a snort.

“32, actually, thank you very much .”

“Thir-thirty two? Both of you?” Mingyu asks, incredulously, looking frantically between Jeonghan and Joshua. “You literally look my age.” Jeonghan smiles in satisfaction.

“Flattery will get you very, very far with me, Mingyu-yah,” Jeonghan replies, seriously, putting a hand over his. Mingyu flushes at the contact. 

“I’m concerned that you think 32 is old,” Joshua mutters.

“Wait, both of you? Do I look 32 to you?” Seungcheol complains, more of a whine than anything. Mingyu finds it terribly cute. 

“He’s a fan , Cheollie, calm down, he definitely knows your birthday, if not your blood type,” Joshua notes, eliciting a spluttered denial from Mingyu.

“No, no, definitely not,” Mingyu assures. 

“D’you know Wonwoo’s?” Seungcheol asks, a little petulantly. 

He’s looking down at Mingyu’s phone, which is screen down, the Wonwoo photocard behind his phone case proudly on display. Mingyu flushes instantly, mentally berating himself for forgetting to take it out. He quickly turns his phone around, before taking it off the table and putting it onto his lap. 

“Oh, that’s too good,” Jeonghan says, with a bark of a laugh. Seungcheol glares at him. 

“If either of you ever tell Wonwoo, I’ll make sure they never find the body. God, I’d actually never hear the end of it,” Seungcheol says, voice trailing off into a little groan. 

“Hold on,” Joshua interjects, looking over at Mingyu with his eyes narrowed. “How old are you ? Oh, shit, you’re not one of those child geniuses who goes to college at 15 right? Oh, shit -”

“No, no, what the fuck, I’m 21, a senior, in college,” Mingyu assures, and Joshua’s face floods with relief.

“Ah, 21,” Jeonghan says, wistfully, to no one in particular. 

“Um, so, we don’t know exactly what our schedules are going to look like for the next few weeks, but we’d probably be able to squeeze in a hangout or two,” Seungcheol says. 

“We can exchange numbers so you can text us your class schedules, and your Venmo, or preferred method of payment,” Jeonghan says, so business-like that Mingyu feels the need to lighten the mood.

“And what if I said that was Red Velvet photocards?” 

“Try handing your landlord 5 Seulgis and see what happens,” Jeonghan replies.

“I don’t know, I’d take them,” Seungcheol says.

Okay , anyway, you most likely won’t see all of us at once all the time, if that’s okay with you,” Joshua says. 

Mingyu nods. It’s more than okay. This 15 minute conversation was by far one of the most chaotic moments of his life, he’s not quite sure he’s ready for a whole afternoon with all three of them. He holds his hand out for Mingyu’s phone, tapping away as he presumably makes a group chat with the three of them.

Despite the chaos, they all seem to work together like an extremely well oiled machine. They play off each other with ease, light bantering doing nothing to deter them from reaching a common goal. It’s clear, just with one meeting, how close they are, how well they know each other. Mingyu almost feels like he’s intruding. 

“Well, until then, don’t be a stranger. Just a warning, this one,” Jeonghan says, poking Joshua’s side, who hands back the phone with a grimace, “is a big texter. Don’t feel obligated to respond to any of his 1 AM rants. Actually, please don’t at all, he doesn’t need to be encouraged.” 

“Oh, and, did you want to order anything? The cupcakes here are to die for,” Seungcheol suggests, just as they’re beginning to get up from their seats. Mingyu considers it; after all, this is the arrangement, and he could go for an unreasonably expensive cupcake or two, but for some reason, he feels quite sheepish about it, so he shakes his head with a soft smile.

“This isn’t going to work if you’re gonna be this shy, Mingyu,” Jeonghan teases, reaching out to poke his cheek. 

“No, no, really, I’m fine, Seungcheol… ssi?” he tries. They’ve been speaking in English, but he’s always used honorifics with his older Korean friends. He’s just unsure what they’re comfortable with. 

“Hyung is fine,” Jeonghan says, in Korean, with a smirk. Mingyu swallows, there was nothing suggestive about what he said, but for some reason, Jeonghan’s expression says otherwise.

“O-okay then, thank you, hyungs, I’ll see you soon.” They all smile at him, before disappearing into a car pulled onto the curb that Mingyu hadn’t even noticed. Although, he thinks a tornado could have come and gone and he wouldn’t have noticed. 

A few minutes later, just as Mingyu has finished taking several deep breaths that did little to nothing to calm down his heart, and state of mind, he picks up his phone and nearly passes out in the chair when he sees the notification at the top. It’s a Venmo notification with more money than Mingyu thinks he’s ever had in his bank account at once. 

Maybe he will get a cupcake. 

——

Thankfully, Minghao doesn’t ask any questions when Mingyu sends him the rent money for that month. Or when Mingyu does the groceries himself and cooks a rather expensive set of meat for dinner one night. Or when Mingyu covertly replaces his ratty dance duffle bag with one of the really nice Nike ones that Minghao always stares longingly at when they pass by the store. 

So, naturally, Mingyu’s suspicious.

Either Minghao’s doing the thing where he pretends not to know something so he can throw it in your face a few weeks later, or he’s genuinely too caught up with all his work to turn on Protective Mode. Mingyu seriously hopes it's the latter, because even Seokmin has started to catch on, looking at Mingyu with narrowed eyes when he brings home pastries from a bakery in Beverly Hills one night after soccer practice.

“One of the guys’ girlfriends works there, she brought them,” he explains, and that seems to do it for Seokmin, who happily munches away on a danish without further complaints.

Mingyu does feel terrible for lying to them, but the conversation would be undoubtedly perilous. Plus, he’s not even sure if he’s allowed to tell them or not; Jeonghan did mention discretion, and while he’s sure neither of them would tell a soul, he doesn’t know if they’d be an exception.

Nonetheless, he maintains his front. He refrains from spending too much on himself, if not any at all. He paid his rent, and allocates most of the other spending money to getting things for his friends. 

The satisfaction of seeing Hansol’s face when Mingyu handed him the keyboard he’s been wanting for centuries as a late birthday gift lasted for a good few days. It feels good to give to them after they’ve given so much to him for so long. 

Despite their assurance, the three of them don’t text him too often, but Mingyu figures they’re just busy. He thinks he saw that Jeonghan and Joshua are walking some show this week in Milan, and he knows from Wonwoo’s recent studio selfie that Trauma is working on a new album. They do, however, continue to send him something of a weekly allowance. It takes Mingyu by surprise every time he receives the notification, no matter how many weeks have passed. 

Mingyu’s working on yet another econ paper when he gets a text notification. He hesitates, knowing if he picks it up, it’ll initiate a downward spiral of TikTok and eventually he’ll find himself two hours deep in some YouTube video essay with economics pushed out of his brain entirely. However, his resolutions are notoriously weak, and he picks up the phone. 

 

seungcheol (?!??! wtf)

hey

what r u up to tomorrow

 

Mingyu swallows, flushing a little bit at the sight of the contact name. He quickly changes it, then slides back to the conversation. If he can churn out this paper tonight, he figures, he’ll have most of tomorrow open, and he tells Seungcheol as much. 

 

mingyu

just practice until 12 ! 

seungcheol hyung

practice? 

mingyu

oh i play soccer at school lol

seungcheol hyung

so cute  

can i come

mingyu

choi seungcheol showing up to my soccer practice is practically the definition of indiscreet, hyung

seungcheol hyung

;--; :( </3 T__T

ok anyway would u maybe like to grab lunch after?

mingyu

yes of course!!!!

seungcheol hyung

great :D

ill send a car to ur school :) 

mingyu

oh um ill be all sweaty though :[

seungcheol hyung

definitely not a problem for me ;)

pack some deodorant 

 

Mingyu’s stomach is in knots all throughout practice. He’s still not sure what exactly a hangout with them entails, still somewhat suspicious of the simplicity of his involvement in their arrangement. 

He misses three easy shots on goal, fumbles passes like a kid learning how to play with their opposite foot for the first time, and finds himself staring at the sky for the greater part of the final scrimmage. None of his teammates give him too much grief, which he’s grateful for, but Jeongguk does shoot him a few suspicious looks throughout the morning. 

“What’s wrong with you today?” Jeongguk grumbles, snapping Mingyu’s captain band against his arm. They’ve finally wrapped up cool down drills, and Jeongguk and Mingyu are putting the equipment back into the team room. 

“Let’s just say I took your advice, and now I have a meetup today,” he replies, quietly. Jeongguk’s eyes widen in recognition before he claps Mingyu on the back, nearly dropping the cooler on Mingyu’s feet. 

Damn , so fast? Alright, post game dinner is on you on Saturday,” Jeongguk says, with a grin, far too loudly. Mingyu shushes him insistently. “Who is it? Actor? Singer?” 

“Can’t say, sorry,” he says, slinging his bag over his shoulder. Jeongguk whines, before his eyes zero in on the back of Mingyu’s phone, gasping dramatically.

“Shut up , you took the photocard out!” he exclaims, snatching the phone out of Mingyu’s hand. “You never take the photocard out! Oh my god ! Jeon fucking Wonwoo is your sugar daddy and you were just going to not tell me!” Jeongguk is Mingyu’s certified Trauma fan friend; they go to all the concerts together, gush over comebacks, send each other Twitter posts with keyboard smashes and frantic exclamation points. Ironically enough, Jeongguk is more of a Seungcheol stan.

“No, oh my god , no. I spilled water in my bag a few days ago and I didn’t want it to get wet later,” Mingyu lies. It’s a terrible lie, Mingyu dropped his phone in the ocean and still refused to take the card out. Jeongguk narrows his eyes. “I told you, I can’t say.”

“Oh come on , I told you about Taehyung hyung!”

“Yeah, 2 months after you started seeing him! Look, I’m sorry, but they asked me not to tell. Minghao and Seokmin don’t even know about it at all.” Jeongguk’s expression twists at that, into a little disapproving frown. 

Shit , Mingyu, you should tell them. For your own safety at least,” Jeongguk says, softly, hand going up to Mingyu’s shoulder. Mingyu looks down at his feet, staring intently at the synthetic blades of the turf.

Before Mingyu can answer, a black car screeches up to the stadium. Mingyu swallows, tightening his grip on his bag strap. He looks over hesitantly at Jeongguk, who’s still frowning. 

“I’ll share my location with you, kay?” he suggests. Jeongguk nods slowly. “I’m gonna be fine, I think. They really don’t seem like murderers or anything.”

“Wait, murderer s? ” Jeongguk calls, incredulously. Mingyu picks up his pace. 

Approaching the car, he hesitantly pulls at his shirt, checking just how bad the sweat damage is. Thankfully, due to his accidental lack of exertion, he doesn’t smell too bad. Nothing a few sprays of cologne can’t fix. 

The driver’s window rolls down, revealing a bored looking middle aged man. “Mingyu?” he asks. Mingyu nods in confirmation. “Get in, kid.”

Mingyu doesn’t think he moves a muscle the whole ride to the restaurant. He even sits on his extra jacket, terrified of ruining the leather seats. The mini fridge filled with various alcoholic beverages does tempt him, but he figures he needs to be absolutely sober for this. He does send a video to Jeongguk on Snapchat though, just to scratch the urge to just tell someone. 

 

jeonjk

nothing i havent seen before!

min9yu_k

ur an ass

jeonjk

ok but u did not answer my question?!!

do u or do u not have more than one sugar daddy

 

Mingyu leaves him on read. 

The car finally pulls up against the curb, and, not without a few deep breaths, Mingyu climbs out. He debates whether or not to take his bag, eventually deciding to hold onto it, not knowing if he was getting a ride home as well. 

If Mingyu felt out of place during the first meeting, it was nothing compared to how he feels now. He looks down at his practice t-shirt, old shorts and ratty sneakers and practically feels the plethora of judgemental eyes on him. The feeling transforms into full blown anxiety when he sees Seungcheol already sitting at one of the tables on the patio, scrolling through his phone. Mingyu wants to make a run for it. 

It’s too late; Seungcheol finally looks up and sees Mingyu standing frozen at the front of the restaurant’s gate. With a grin, he waves him in. 

“Hey- jesus , you’re taller than I thought,” Seungcheol says, eyeing Mingyu up and down with a laugh, “how was practice?”

“Oh, um, good!” Mingyu replies, sitting down nervously, hands folded over his lap.

“Captain, huh?” he notes, gesturing to the band on Mingyu’s arm. Mingyu flushes and pulls it off, shoving it into his bag. “D’you like bossing people around? Being in charge?” Mingyu’s eyes widen, but Seungcheol just laughs again. 

“Relax, I’m just teasing. Go ahead and look at the menu, order whatever you want.”

Mingyu nearly chokes when he sees the prices next to each menu item. He could easily cover a week’s worth of meals with the cost of just one of the appetizers. He looks up at Seungcheol, just to make sure this isn’t a test or something, but the older is nose deep in his phone. 

The waitress comes around a few minutes later. Seungcheol orders a cavatelli, Mingyu the seafood pasta. When she leaves, Seungcheol sets his phone down on the table, smiling up at Mingyu through long lashes, and the earnest look in his eyes genuinely makes Mingyu feel like the only person in the world. He thinks he may still have time to make a run for it, block all of their numbers, and live the rest of his life out in moneyless peace. 

Seungcheol doesn’t say anything though, so Mingyu frantically files through his brain (currently rendered useless by the sight of Seungcheol’s biceps straining in his t-shirt) for some topic of conversation. 

“So, how’s the album preparation going, hyung?” he finally asks, offhandedly. Seungcheol jolts up so fast that Mingyu nearly falls back in his chair.

“How do you know about that?” he whispers, eyes wide.

“Oh, um, I don’t, really? You guys have just been quiet lately, and when you do post, it’s always a picture in the studio so, it’s just an assumption, really,” Mingyu explains nervously. Seungcheol leans back in his chair with a sigh of relief.

“Damn, you guys are good,” he says, with a smile. Mingyu shrugs.

“All in a day’s work of being the fan of the two most cryptic individuals on Earth,” Mingyu replies. Seungcheol laughs. 

Contrary to the first meeting, most of the conversation this time around focuses on Seungcheol, who readily answers all of Mingyu’s eager Trauma related questions. Mingyu refrains from asking the most pertinent ones on his mind, aka, the Wonwoo related ones, remembering the way Seungcheol bored holes into his member’s smiling face on the back of Mingyu’s phone the other day. 

The food arrives promptly, and Mingyu salivates at the sight of his too-expensive, massive bowl of seafood pasta. Seungcheol smiles at his eagerness; Mingyu already having a prawn and a forkful of noodles in his mouth before the waitress even sets down Seungcheol’s own meal. They’re silent while they eat, Mingyu’s far too focused on savoring every single bite of his pasta. 

“Hey, would you like to come by my place for a bit? I could show you some stuff we’ve been working on,” Seungcheol says, offhandedly. Mingyu abruptly looks up, taking in the noodle that’s hanging out into his mouth with a graceless slurp. 

It sounds innocent, but Mingyu’s fluent in the language of Shit You Say To Get Into Someone’s Pants , and this seems like an excellent excuse. Then, his mind darts back to the first meeting, how they insisted that this relationship was most definitely not sexual in nature. He looks into Seungcheol’s eyes, hesitantly. The older didn’t seem deceptive in the slightest, none of them did, for that matter. And, besides, it’s Mingyu’s dream come true to hear a Trauma song prior to its release. 

Mingyu’s been quiet for far too long, and Seungcheol’s hopeful expression slowly starts to dissolve, the corners of his mouth turning down a little. Fuck it , Mingyu thinks, responding just as Seungcheol begins to open his mouth, presumably to reassure Mingyu that he doesn’t actually have to. 

“Yeah, I’d love to, hyung,” Mingyu eventually says. Seungcheol grins widely.

They wrap up pretty quickly after that. Seungcheol pays, smiling up at the waitress so sincerely that it makes her blush. Mingyu completely understands. He follows the older out to the parking garage, looking at him in confusion when they stop in front of a different, but equally expensive looking, empty car.

“I don’t like to be driven around,” Seungcheol explains, walking around the passenger side to grab the door for Mingyu, who thinks he’ll pass out if he blushes any harder. 

The drive to Seungcheol’s is, also, fairly quiet. Seungcheol lets Mingyu play his own music, which just serves to heighten his anxiety even further, because what exactly do you play for a musical genius? Mingyu settles on a bit of Troye Sivan and IZ*ONE, feeling extremely pleased with himself when Seungcheol hums along. 

Staring out the window, the ever present question he’s had since his conversation with Jeongguk floats through his head, insistently. He looks back over at Seungcheol, biting his lip nervously. However, most of the initial intimidation he felt with the older has dissipated over the course of the past few hours, Seungcheol surprisingly, or not so much at all, exuding a quite calming, open aura. 

“Hey, hyung, can I, um, ask you something?” Mingyu starts, hesitantly. Seungcheol, seemingly sending his anxiety, looks over at him with gentle, reassuring eyes, nodding slowly. 

“Of course, anything,” he says, and Mingyu’s heart threatens to melt all over the floor. 

“I know you said this needs to be kept on the D-L which I’m not going to go around and tell everyone I know or anything but would it be okay if I told my roommates no they’re not just my roommates they’re my best friends and I would feel a lot better if they knew and I feel terrible for keeping this from them and it’s okay if not I understand I swear they won’t tell anyon-“

Seungcheol stops his babbles with a large palm clamping onto his thigh. Mingyu looks up from where his eyes are trained on the floor to see the car pulled over on the side of the road, Seungcheol’s entire body turned to him, his eyes serious.

This is it , Mingyu thinks, it hasn’t even been a month and I absolutely fucked it up . His hand is already hovering over the handle of the door, entire body thrumming with disappointment. 

“Mingyu-yah, of course you can. I trust you, we all trust you, and we’d want you to do anything that makes you feel more comfortable. I know it’s easier said than done, but please don’t be nervous to ask us these kinds of things, or really ask us for anything at all,” Seungcheol says, earnestly. 

Mingyu freezes, mind unable to decide whether to focus on the soft eyes on him, the hand still on his thigh, or the way Seungcheol just perfectly absolved all of his concerns with a few sentences. He takes back what he thought before, he’s never met anyone as well spoken as Choi Seungcheol, it’s a little too much to handle. 

“Sorry, was that not helpful, like at all? I’m terrible with words, it’s why I make music, I know that’s cliche, but-“ 

It’s Mingyu’s turn to stop a ramble, putting his hand over Seungcheol’s. “No, hyung, you’re totally fine, thank you. I really appreciate it.” He smiles, and Seungcheol returns it, dimples poking out ever so slightly. 

There’s so much more that he wants to say, it’s all on the tip of his tongue, and he has to break eye contact with the older to keep it all at bay. Perhaps, he’s realizing now, this was all a terrible idea. The way his heart is fluttering, the way his stomach is in knots, and the way every inch of his skin is hot is dangerous . And it’s only been a few hours. And he hasn’t even done this with Jeonghan or Joshua yet. 

Part of the reason he’s kept the secret from Minghao and Seokmin for so long is because he knows what he’ll hear. He’s notorious for falling fast and hard, has had a billion little crushes here and there that developed from as little as one flirty conversation at a party. An indefinable, yet definitely not romantic, relationship with three generous , handsome, older guys is probably a recipe for disaster. 

It’s for the rent, he convinces himself. He’s a grown man, he can hold back his feelings for the greater good. This most definitely does not have to end the way his friends will expect it to. 

The tension dissolves after that, the two of them singing loudly along to Panorama as Seungcheol turns onto a short road lined with very expensive looking penthouse complexes. Pulling into a driveway, he parks the car, handing the keys over to an attendant, and climbing out of the driver’s seat, indicating for Mingyu to do the same. 

They enter a luxurious lobby, go up a luxurious elevator, all to the entrance of a fucking luxurious penthouse. Mingyu’s heart is in his throat, obviously he expected Seungcheol to live like this, but to see it in person is quite shocking, especially when he’s dressed like, well, a broke college athlete. 

Said heart threatens to shoot right up to the sky when the door swings open, revealing a massive living room, with a sleepy Jeon Wonwoo perched on the couch, furiously scribbling on a small notebook. Mingyu grips on the doorway to stabilize himself, not sure if he should, again, make a run for it, pull out his phone and keyboard smash a few dozen tweets, or get on his knees in front of Wonwoo and pledge his unwavering, eternal loyalty. 

“What are you doing here, asshole?” Seungcheol says, throwing his phone at Wonwoo’s head, where it hits its mark, right in the center of his forehead. Wonwoo groans, rubbing at the spot with a grimace.

Ow , hyung, what the fuc- oh, hi, Mingyu, right?” Mingyu squeaks, stands frozen behind the door, feet already starting to break out in a sprint. 

He’s had many a fantasy of what a meeting with Wonwoo would look like. Ideally, he would be butt-ass naked on a bed full of roses, not dripping in sweat from practice and Los Angeles heat in his sugar daddy’s apartment. 

“Is he…  okay?” Wonwoo asks Seungcheol, hesitantly, after a few solid minutes of silence. 

“He’s your fan,” Seungcheol grumbles, and Wonwoo’s eyes light up with pure, unadulterated joy. 

“This is the best day of my life.”

“Okay, come on, Mingyu-yah. The man puts milk before his cereal, he’s not worth this,” Seungcheol says, grabbing onto Mingyu’s arm and dragging him inside. 

“No one’s perfect,” Mingyu defends. He sees Wonwoo grin out of the corner of his eye and feels his knees threaten to give out as Wonwoo gets up off the couch and comes towards them. 

“It is very nice to meet you, I’m Wonwoo,” he says, holding out his hand. Mingyu just stares at it for a few moments, absolutely blanking on what exactly he’s supposed to do with it, before it finally clicks that he should do the same.

“He knows,” Seungcheol says. Mingyu and Wonwoo both glare at him.

H-hi , I’m Mingyu, um, I like what you do,” he says, dumbly, before physically reaching a hand up to smack his forehead. “No, fuck , I mean, yeah, I’m a fan, a big one, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

Wonwoo’s expression softens at that, before his face scrunches, somewhat studying Mingyu’s features. His eyes suddenly widen in recognition, snapping his fingers. “Shit! I remember you, you’re the one who threw the wedding ring at me at the Ideal Cut finale! Crop top, killer abs, front row.” 

It was the greatest moment of Mingyu’s life. Wonwoo grabbed the $5 ring off the ground, and slipped it on his ring finger, staring right into Mingyu’s eyes with a smirk and a purposeful tilt of his head. He went viral on Twitter for it. His display name is still Mr. Jeon. 

“You remember that?” Mingyu asks, incredulously. It was pretty memorable, but Trauma fans do all sorts of crazy things at concerts. Wonwoo nods. 

“‘Course. I kept it too. You were cute,” Wonwoo explains and Mingyu is actually starting to feel light-headed. 

“Are you seriously fucking flirting with him in front of me?” Seungcheol says, indignantly. Mingyu feels a little bad that he nearly forgot Seungcheol was there. Wonwoo shrugs.

“I mean, technically, he’s a free man, right?” Wonwoo challenges. Mingyu pauses, turning to Seungcheol to gauge his reaction, but the oldest just rolls his eyes. Mingyu’s not sure why he feels disappointed.

Alright , we’re leaving. Don’t drink my alcohol, or I’ll kill you,” Seungcheol says. 

“And break Mingyu’s heart?” Wonwoo teases. Seungcheol tightens his grip on Mingyu’s arm and pulls him out of the living room and down the hallway. 

“It was nice meeting you, Wonwoo-ssi!” Mingyu calls, over his shoulder.

“Call me hyung!” Wonwoo replies.

“Do not ,” Seungcheol growls. Mingyu just laughs. 

Seungcheol brings him to something of a makeshift studio in one of the (massive) spare bedrooms. Mingyu takes in the room with awe, realizing some of his most beloved songs have come out of this very equipment. It’s all so Seungcheol too, pictures of friends and family, mostly of Jeonghan and Joshua, he notes), little trinkets from places they’ve been on tour, massive CD collection, plaques in between paintings on the wall, and strangely enough, a weightlifting set in the corner. 

“So, this is where the magic happens,” Mingyu says, running a hand over the couch pushed against the wall. The room is awfully clean, he notes, the whole house is.

“Ah, actually, I don’t really use this too much. I get too distracted while I’m at home, and honestly, I’m rarely at home. More Trauma songs have come out of Jeonghan’s kitchen than anywhere else,” Seungcheol says, with a laugh. He’s already at the desk, fumbling with the computer, scrolling through what looks like over a couple hundred files of music. Mingyu refrains from salivating.

“Here, tell me what you think,” Seungcheol says, handing him a pair of headphones and gesturing for him to sit at the desk. Mingyu doesn’t feel worthy, but he does anyway. 

It’s an R&B song, Mingyu’s absolute favorite genre for Trauma, and his heart skips a beat when he picks up on the Aaliyah sample. Seungcheol’s voice comes in after a lengthy instrumental intro, soft rap crooning about the hopeful warmth of a new love. It’s surprisingly sweet, something straight out of a teen romance movie, and Mingyu can’t help but smile as he nods along. As with most Trauma songs, it’s in a mix of Korean and English, the chorus being in the former, lyrics in the latter.

“I know,” Seungcheol says, sheepishly, taking the headphones from Mingyu once the song ends, “it’s pretty damn cheesy.”

“No, no, it’s cute , I love it. Are you guys going to use it?”

“I don’t know,” he replies, rubbing the back of his head. “The label says it probably wouldn’t work for a Trauma album, but I was thinking, maybe, for a mixtape?” Mingyu’s eyes nearly fly out of his head. Neither Seungcheol nor Wonwoo have dropped mixtapes in the 12 years they’ve been in Trauma, always dismissing questions about it in interviews. The only solo work they do are features on other artist’s songs.

“Really? A mixtape?” Mingyu asks, eagerly. 

“Yeah, I don’t know, it’s about time, don’t you think?”

“That’s so exciting , hyung. Of course, Trauma albums are incredible, but I can’t wait to hear how your individual music styles come out! That is so cool, I can’t believe I get to hear about it first.”

“You’re so cute, I can practically see a tail wagging behind you,” Seungcheol says, laughing fondly at his own joke, ruffling Mingyu’s hair. 

Seungcheol lets him listen to a few more songs. Most of them are soft like the first, but one is a lot more rap heavy, reminding Mingyu of the older Trauma songs: angry, scathing, critical, phenomenal . The lyrics in question critique elitism in the music industry via vague but powerful disses and clever wordplay signature to Choi Seungcheol. 

“You’re so talented,” Mingyu says, dreamily, his cheek smushed on the desk. Seungcheol laughs again, running his fingers through Mingyu’s hair. Mingyu’s sure he could listen to Seungcheol laugh all day, it has its own musicality to it. 

“Thank you, baby.” Mingyu’s eyes widen at the pet name, blush creeping up on his cheeks. “Fuck, sorry, is that okay? I didn’t-”

“It’s fine, I don’t mind, I, um, I like it,” Mingyu admits, quietly. 

“Noted,” Seungcheol says, grinning. 

Mingyu decides to leave shortly after that, figuring any longer and his friends would send out a SWAT team to search for him. Seungcheol offers to drive him home, and Wonwoo tries to tag along but Seungcheol shoots him a glare that could bore a hole straight through concrete, and he relents. 

He feels a little self conscious as Seungcheol pulls up to his apartment complex, far far more rundown than the one he’s just been in, but the older doesn’t betray any judgement. After he parks the car, Seungcheol turns to Mingyu with a soft grin. 

“This was really fun, Mingyu-yah. I’ll text you later, yeah?”

It feels like a date. Everything about this feels like a date, feels like Seungcheol’s courting Mingyu: expensive restaurant, listening to music, getting a ride home. It feels like a date except this is definitely not romantic, no matter how much Mingyu wants to convince himself that Seungcheol’s eyes say otherwise. This is just the arrangement, he’s literally getting paid to be here. It’s easy to forget, though.

Still, he can’t hold back the dopey smile that absolutely refuses to leave his face the whole walk up back to his apartment. He clutches his soccer bag strap tightly, trying to ease the butterflies smacking against the walls of his stomach. 

The bliss, predictably, doesn’t last long.

The second he opens the door to the apartment, Minghao and Seokmin shoot out in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere, stern looks on their faces. Mingyu knows he’s done for.

“What the hell were you doing at a 5 star restaurant in Beverly Hills?” 

“And then at a penthouse complex in Brentwood?” 

Mingyu gulps, eyes darting between the two of them. “Damn, no hello, how was your day Mingyu? ” he jokes. Minghao sighs in exasperation.

“You’re fucking obnoxious, you know that?” he says, with a heavy glare, reaching an arm out to shove at Mingyu’s shoulder.. Mingyu takes a step forward towards him, fire building in his gut at the provocation, but Seokmin stops him with a hand on his chest. 

“We know you’re hiding something, you have been for weeks now,” Seokmin starts, steelily. He then sighs, stony expression dissolving into something kinder, but no less concerned. “Whatever it is, we can figure out together, or, we can help you. We’re worried about you, asshole.”

Just as he opens his mouth to respond, Mingyu gets a ping on his phone which he’s sure is from Venmo. Minghao must sense his panic, because he narrows his eyes, looking first intently at Mingyu’s face, then down at his phone. 

“What is it?” Minghao asks, innocently. 

“Probably some shit from Twitter,” Mingyu replies, trying his best to keep his voice steady.

“Check it, then.” Mingyu stares at him with a challenging look, but Minghao doesn’t waver, just reciprocates with one of equal, if not greater, intensity. 

“Why? It’s just some dumb notification.” 

“If it’s so dumb, you won’t mind that I’m asking you to check it.” 

“For fuck’s sake,” Seokmin mutters, snatching the phone out of Mingyu’s hand who yelps in indignance. Seokmin’s eyes widen almost comically when he glances at the screen, dropping the phone flat on the floor alongside his jaw. Minghao immediately goes down to pick it up, takes one look at the notification, and drops it again like he’s been burned. 

The five minutes of silence that follow is deafening, both of his friends standing absolutely frozen, staring down at the phone that’s still face up on the ground. 

“Mingyu,” Minghao starts, voice dangerously calm. “Who the fuck is sending you 3 grand, and why?” Mingyu lets out a deep breath, he wasn’t anticipating having this conversation now , but he figures now’s a good time as any.

“Um, remember a few weeks ago when we were talking about Jeongguk-” They do, apparently, because Seokmin goes from disbelief to complete and utter bewilderment, and Minghao lets out a staggered breath ridden with disappointment. 

“Okay, it’s not as bad as you think it is-” he starts. 

“You have a sugar daddy ? Are you fucking crazy?” Minghao shouts. 

“Is that why you’re all sweaty? Oh my god , what did he make you do?!” Seokmin exclaims. Mingyu runs a hand down his face. 

“Can I please fucking explain?” Mingyu shouts over them. They go silent, looking up at him, expectantly. “For starters, they’re not asking for sex.” 

“There’s more than one ?” Seokmin asks, looking like he’s about to faint like a Victorian woman who’s just let a man catch sight of her ankles. Mingyu shoots him a glare.

“I used this website, and granted, it wasn’t very safe, but I met them three weeks ago, and, fuck , guys, they’re really nice, and just want to fucking give me money for no reason. All I have to do is hang out with them sometimes.” 

His friends do not look convinced.

“This sounds like the scam of the century,” Minghao says, arms crossed. 

“Who are they?” Seokmin asks, nervously, like he’s positive he’s not going to like the answer.

“Trauma’s S.Coups, and Yoon Jeonghan and Joshua Hong the models,” he replies, quietly. 

“What the fuck ?” 

“Mingyu, do you understand what this means?” Seokmin asks, seriously, hands on Mingyu’s shoulders. Mingyu shakes his head slowly. “You are Y slash N. You must not take this role lightly.” Minghao groans and Mingyu rolls his eyes. 

Anyways , so they really aren’t asking for, well, the sugar?” Minghao asks. Mingyu shakes his head.

“Nope, I was just with Seungcheol and we had lunch, then went back to his palace and actually just listened to music.”

“Holy shit , is that where you’ve been getting the money for all that random stuff? I thought you just started selling feet pics or something,” Seokmin says. 

“How is that any less concerning?”

I’m concerned that you think it’s not.”

“I want to meet them,” Minghao says, decisively, interrupting their banter. “And don’t,” he starts, one finger prodding at Mingyu’s chest, “think you’re off the hook. This was extremely dangerous, and even if you were going to do it regardless, you should have told us for your own fucking safety.” 

“I honestly don’t think I have to tell you why this is a terrible idea,” he continues. “But, you’re a grown man, and can make decisions for yourself. I’ll leave you be, considering you clearly didn’t value my opinion in the first place. But, do not come fucking crying to me when you fall in love and get your heart broken,” he snaps, and it burns, so much that Mingyu can practically feel the sting against his skin.

Before Mingyu can respond, Minghao shakes his head quickly and turns around, walking down the hallway to his bedroom, closing the door with a resounding slam. Mingyu frowns, looking back at Seokmin who looks like he’s deciding between either eagerly asking Mingyu a billion questions or also choosing to be angry with him. He sighs, looking up at Mingyu apologetically. 

“This was pretty fucked up, Gyu-yah. We just want you to be careful, and safe. Really, anything could’ve happened,” Seokmin says, softly, fumbling with his fingers. The oldest is terrible with confrontation, avoids it at all costs, so Mingyu knows he’s really fucked up. 

“I’m not as mad as Minghao, and I can kinda see why you didn't tell us, but you still should’ve. You’re an adult, obviously you can handle yourself, but if something ever happened to you, I don’t know what I’d-” He pauses, letting out a staggered breath, and Mingyu wants to throw himself off a bridge when he realizes Seokmin’s started crying. All he wants to do is reach out and comfort his best friend, both of them, for that matter. But , he did this, Mingyu has to remind himself, as heartbreaking as it is. 

Seokmin shakes his head to himself, brushing at his eyes with the back of his hand. He still manages to offer Mingyu a soft, sad smile, before disappearing down the hallway. 

Mingyu lets himself crash onto the floor, clutching his knees to his chest as he scoots back to lean against the door. Terrible is an understatement for how he feels; because he knows, he’s known all along that he should’ve told them the second he made the profile, if not before. All they wanted to do was make sure he was safe. Guilt is futile, he thinks, but it’s all consuming.

They don’t ever fight, not really. Just light bickering here and there that only lasts for a few hours, before someone brings home food and all animosity is promptly forgotten. But Mingyu recognizes that with this, he’s effectively betrayed years of built up trust. He doesn’t know how to fix it, or how many apologies it’ll take. 

What feels even worse is that the thing he wants to do most is not curl up in his bed and listen to FKA Twigs while the days pass him by, but instead, drive right over to Seungcheol’s and let the older run his fingers through his hair just as he was doing not an hour ago. 

Mingyu thinks he should keep the broom from the closet in his bedroom, in anticipation for the broken pieces of his heart he’ll have to eventually sweep up. 

Just on cue, he gets a ping on his phone, and his heart races, pathetically hoping it’s from Seungcheol. It’s from Joshua, and the wretched thing doesn’t slow down in the slightest. 

 

joshua hyung

hey!!! did you have fun with cheol today :D

btw he told me about the convo u guys had and i want u to know 

just like he said

please don’t be afraid of asking us about or for anything ;--; 

your comfort is our priority. i mean it!!!! 

if u ever wanna do anything or not do anything or if u ever need anything

you can ask any one of us

without hesitation . i promise

sorry for the spam but get some rest, and good luck on the chem test <3

 

He completely forgot he even told Joshua about that, is surprised the older remembered. Is even more surprised that he took time out of his likely busy schedule to attempt to absolve Mingyu of his silly anxieties. 

Minghao has a terribly likely chance of being one hundred percent correct. And Mingyu realizes he’s known that all along, too.

Chapter Text

The apartment is frosty for a good week following what Mingyu’s dubbing as The Confrontation. 

Minghao, predictably, gives him the cold shoulder, like Mingyu has just about dissolved into dust. Or that he’s a brand new pillar installed in the living room of their apartment, literally making a point to walk around with him without so much as sparing him a glance. The man is a little too good at holding a grudge.

Seokmin, predictably, doesn’t keep up the front for long. He keeps to short, chopped sentences for a few solid days, but eventually caves when he sees a dog video on Twitter that he physically cannot keep to himself, Minghao being the adamant cat person he is. Said cat person walks in on them curled up on the couch, cooing together, and shoots Seokmin a look of betrayal that says, you are weak

Mingyu sure as hell tries his best; plays Minghao’s favorite music while he makes his roommates’ favorite dinners, keeps the house clean, makes sure to shower as soon as he gets back from practice, but the youngest remains unfazed. He even goes as far as to skip Mingyu’s games four weekends in a row for the first time in their entire college career.

After the fourth game, he looks up to see Seokmin in the stands with the rest of their friends, frowning at him apologetically. Mingyu’s shoulders fall to the floor as soon he notices Minghao’s absence. Again. Despite the win, Mingyu’s mood immediately crashes, and goes to tell Jeongguk that he’s going to pass on the team dinner. Against the greater good, he pulls out his phone, dejectedly leaning against his car.

 

mingyu

hyungs are any of u home rn :(

joshua hyung

we’re all at hannie’s, actually ^^

jeonghan hyung

We were gonna ask u to come, but you had the game </3

seungcheol hyung

how’d it go!!! :D

mingyu

can i still come over :(

jeonghan hyung

Of course, sweetheart. 

 

Since his date-not-date with Seungcheol, just over two months ago now, Mingyu’s been hanging out with them far more regularly; at their places, out to restaurants just as nice as the first, attending various, always obscenely fancy, events.

There’s been many date-not-dates. 

But, they’re friends now, he would say, if the dictionary definition is anything to go by. And Mingyu genuinely enjoys it, loves their company, loves being around them in a way he thinks he can classify as platonic. He thinks. 

Not much about his initial understanding of them has changed. Seungcheol is an absolute sweetheart, always texts to check up on him at random times, Doordashes him dinner when he mentions having a rather gruesome day, is all smiles and gentle endearments when they’re together. He, despite their first outing, prefers more mellow excursions: movie nights, take out food, letting Mingyu listen to all one thousand and one unreleased music files he has on his computer.

Jeonghan is fun ; takes Mingyu to all sorts of insane galas and banquets with the most interesting people in attendance. They even go to an exclusive exhibition by one of his favorite photographers, exclusive as in bodyguards at the front, phones left on the table, windows tinted exclusive. If that weren’t enough, the man himself just so happened to actually be there. 

Except, most of Mingyu’s time was spent fighting down blushes and involuntary squirms from Jeonghan’s perpetual, almost calculated brushes of skin against skin, drawled out endearments, and suggestive remarks. It’s an awfully regular occurrence; Mingyu thinks the older just finds utmost enjoyment in being an absolute tease, giggling every time Mingyu’s ears go red (on average, twelve times per hour). He’s too easily entranced by Jeonghan’s effortlessly cast spells. 

Joshua is a mix of the two. Just as kind as Seungcheol, and just as cunning as Jeonghan. The three of them, Seungcheol, Joshua, and Mingyu, played Mario Kart the other day, and well, Mingyu and Seungcheol didn’t stand a chance. To his credit, Seungcheol definitely tried his damn best, and it was absolutely amusing to see how competitive the two of them got, practically at each other’s necks when Joshua pushed Seungcheol off the course for the eighth time that round. 

The youngest of the three prefers places like cute bakeries, walks through fucking flower fields (where he picked a little bouquet, handing it to Mingyu with the sweetest smile), and cat cafes. He definitely wins Most Damage Done to Mingyu’s (Fragile) Heart.

He hasn’t told them about his fight with Minghao, figuring they’d just feel unnecessarily guilty. Except, Mingyu ’s started to feel guilty for not doing so. Something about the three of them makes him just want to tell them everything . Maybe it’s their unrelenting kindness, the warmth in every aspect of their demeanor, or maybe, most likely, Mingyu is just crushing hard

Because, more than anything else, even more than hearing an actual overdue apology from Minghao, Mingyu just wants a hand in his hair and a soft endearment or two thrown his way. The textbook definition of pathetic. 

The drive to Jeonghan’s is second nature at this point. He’s a little more than familiar with their apartments; the animosity at home has forced him to pursue peace elsewhere. The fire in his veins is slowly dissipating into melancholy as he drives, desperately wanting to be in someone’s arms. 

The attendant smiles at him softly in recognition when he pulls into the complex. Mingyu tries his best to reciprocate, but he’s sure it looks forced, feeling embarrassed when he looks away. 

Jeonghan opens the door with a grin, and Mingyu immediately leans forward to rest his head on the older’s shoulder in exhaustion. 

“You stink,” Jeonghan says, plainly. Mingyu whines in response. A hand goes to his hair soothingly, Mingyu recognizes it as Seungcheol’s by the rings.

Hannie ,” he chides. Then, to Mingyu, “Game didn’t go well?” Mingyu shakes his head.

“No, it went fine. We won,” he says, pulling his head off of Jeonghan’s shoulder, but his despondent tone clearly doesn’t match his words. Seungcheol frowns, titling his head to the side in question. Joshua suddenly appears next to him, pulling his arm to the couch.

There’s a few boxes of pizza on the coffee table, surrounded by about a dozen cans of beer. A movie is paused on the TV, and Mingyu’s heart swells with joy when he recognizes it as the one he recommended to Jeonghan a few weeks ago. Joshua sits him down on the couch, occupying the spot next to him, and Mingyu’s head promptly goes to lean on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong, babe?” Jeonghan says, taking the seat on Mingyu’s other side, hand going straight to Mingyu’s thigh, kneading at it gently. Seungcheol pouts, dejectedly falling into the loveseat across from them. Mingyu sighs.

“Minghao and I have been fighting. It’s been… bad . He didn’t come to the game today, he hasn’t come to any of them since-”

“Since you told him about this , right?” Jeonghan finishes. Mingyu’s eyes widen.

“How’d you know?” he asks, with a small gasp. Joshua laughs fondly at his amazement.

“You’re not too hard to read, Mingyu-yah,” Seungcheol replies. “We just figured you would talk about it if you wanted to.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Joshua tries, quietly. 

Technically, yes , probably, but it seems like too much, asking them to take time out of their schedules to meet Mingyu’s friends just so they can patch up a silly argument. Then, the memory of Seokmin’s devastatingly concerned expression, tears still in his eyes flashes through his mind, and he considers that  perhaps, it isn’t so silly at all. That this is the least he can do for Minghao and Seokmin, the least he can do to try absolve the friction rooted in their admittedly valid concerns. 

“He, um, he wants to meet you guys. Seokmin too, I think,” Mingyu replies, eyes trailing down to his lap. “Just to, I don’t know, lessen his concerns. I know you guys are busy, and I’m sorry that I have to ask-” 

Hey , no, what’d I say before?” Joshua says, pulling Mingyu’s head off of his shoulder so he can turn his body fully towards him. “Don’t be sorry for asking for something that’ll make you more comfortable. It’s no problem at all. We’d love to.” Mingyu bites his lip, looking at Seungcheol and Jeonghan for confirmation, who are nodding along with soft smiles of their own.

“Okay, um, I’ll ask them, or try to, at least, when they’re free,” Mingyu says. 

“Sounds good. Now, go take a shower, then we can watch something,” Jeonghan says, with a pinch of Mingyu’s cheek. 

Mingyu’s eyes trail hopefully over to the empty box of pizzas, and then back up at Seungcheol, who just rolls his eyes in feigned exasperation.

“There’s another one on the way.” Mingyu grins.

He climbs off the couch and makes his way to the bathroom, stopping by Jeonghan’s bedroom to grab a spare pair of his sweatpants in his designated dresser drawer and one of Jeonghan’s least expensive t-shirts. 

Letting the shower wash off the troubles of the day, Mingyu mindlessly hums one of the pre-game stadium songs, indulging in his favorite of Jeonghan’s many fancy body washes that the older most definitely does not use. The prospect of pizza and spending an evening with all three of his hyungs has his skin thrumming with excitement. Maybe too much. If he gets out of the shower a lot quicker than usual, that’s no one’s business but his.

After he gets dressed, he pads back into the living room, towel working at his rapidly drying hair, to booming laughter. He smiles at the sight: the three of them huddled around Jeonghan’s phone like teenagers, probably laughing at some Epic Fail ! Vine compilation because that’s the weird shit they’re into. 

His smile wavers a little, not necessarily in a negative way, when he sees Seungcheol discreetly look up from the phone, and over at his two friends, unmistakable fondness in his eyes. Practically dripping like the sweetest, stickiest of honey all over the floor. Mingyu curiously studies Seungcheol’s face, focusing on the way he lingers, the way his arm tightens around Jeonghan’s shoulder.

It’s not like he’s never noticed it before. Because, either they lied to him, or they don’t even know it themselves, but the three of them are undoubtedly, incorrigibly in love with each other. Mingyu couldn’t say it for certain at first, but, now, seeing the three of them together after spending some time with them individually, it’s all he can see. 

Three people who take every excuse they can to talk about each other, three people who do absolutely everything together (it’s not an exaggeration), three people who look at each other with a level of affection that is so incredibly devotional. It’s love in its simplest form. 

Or, perhaps, Mingyu considers, it’s not so simple at all: he watches Seungcheol cast his eyes over to the corner of the room guiltily, hastily pulling his arm off of Jeonghan’s shoulder like a man burned. Mingyu can’t even begin to fathom the level of miscommunication going on between these three, suddenly feels like he’s walked into a lion’s den and that he’s certainly going to be eaten alive. 

Too late to turn back. Joshua looks up, and notices him in the hallway, tilting his head to the side with confusion before ushering him over. 

“Pizza’s here,” Joshua calls. Seungcheol and Jeonghan follow his line of vision, smiling softly at Mingyu as he walks into the room. 

Seungcheol holds out a beer, but Mingyu shakes his head. “Thank you, hyung, but not during the season.”

Jeonghan coos. “Aw, such a good boy.” 

Mingyu hastily clasps a hand over his too hot neck. 

“What’d you wanna watch?” Joshua asks, handing Mingyu the remote once he resumes his previous position on the couch. Mingyu just grins, directing himself to Disney Plus and straight to the movie of the century.

Cars ?” 

“Are you sure you’re not 15?” 

“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen it,” Mingyu says, leaning back into the couch with a theatrical gasp.

“We were like in high school when it came out.”

“Your point?” 

They watch Cars. Mingyu’s filled with joy every time he catches one of them laughing (which is often, Jeonghan seems to have a strange affinity for Mater). 

Then, they watch Cars 2. And Cars 3. And soon, it’s just Joshua and Mingyu who’ve managed to evade sleep, cheering silently together as Cruz finally overtakes Storm in the final race. 

“It’s really good that you came around, Mingyu-yah,” Joshua says, softly, once they’ve turned off the movie. They’re not really in any position to move; Jeonghan passed out on Mingyu’s thigh, and Seungcheol’s drooling on Joshua’s shoulder. Mingyu’s not even sure when the oldest made his way to the couch. 

“You know, we got so bored that Jeonghan bought a pet rock.”

Bought ?” 

“Damn thing cost nearly a hundred bucks. Not including the accessories or room decor.” 

Mingyu honestly doesn’t know what to say to that.

“You guys get bored? How?” Mingyu asks, genuinely surprised. If he had their kind of money, boredom wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary. 

“There’s lulls between seasons, and we don’t really take every job opportunity that comes our way anymore, just the bigger ones. I guess it’s a privilege, but, yeah, it gets boring,” Joshua replies. Seungcheol shifts his head next to him, causing Joshua to cast a look his way, small smile evolving on his face in despite of the growing pool of drool on his shoulder. “But, for Cheollie, I guess you’re more a reason to actually take a break. I’ve never seen him so relaxed, honestly.” 

“None of us honestly expected to get where we are, I mean, we grew up in a tiny ass town near Sacramento. No one was really rooting for two wannabe models and an underground rapper to make it very far. I guess, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves sometimes, no matter how long it’s been. Most of our money gets donated or sent back to our community, but-” He pauses, laughing nervously. Mingyu clasps a hand over his, a small semblance of comfort, and the older smiles up at him for it.

“I know it seems silly to throw away money like this. Just for company in return. But, um, after spending so much time just the three of us, we start to feel like one person,” Joshua laughs shortly again at that, before continuing, “gets a little lonely, honestly. It’s been good to have another person around. So, ah, thank you, we’ve been, um, having a lot of fun.”

He says the last few words so fast, Mingyu’s barely able to catch them, and a soft, sheepish smile grows on his face when he does. “Hyung, I- I haven’t even done anything.”

“You have, trust me, more than you realize” Joshua assures, so genuinely that Mingyu has to pull his eyes away, biting back a blush. 

“Did I fall asleep?” Jeonghan slurs from next to him, attempting to pull his head off Mingyu’s thigh, before falling immediately back down with a groan. 

“Just around the time where-” 

“No spoilers !” Seungcheol hisses. 

Jeonghan hums in agreement, smacking his lips rather loudly as he nuzzles his forehead into Mingyu’s leg, hand resting on the hem of his shorts. Mingyu’s hand goes into Jeonghan’s hair, which is just as soft as he always expected it to be. He shoots Joshua a quick look, a just a while longer with his best puppy-eyes and the older relents with a sigh. 

After a few more moments of silence, Joshua forces them up. Mingyu insists on taking one of the extra bedrooms, waving reassuringly at them as they hesitantly walk over to the master bedroom. One bedroom. Joshua returns after he’s dumped the two oldest into bed, covering Mingyu with far more blankets than necessary for a March evening. 

“Sure you’re okay? Plenty of room in mine,” Joshua asks. Mingyu doubts that. 

“It’s fine, hyung, I’m, uh, big, and I move around a lot, or so Minghao and Seokmin tell me.”

“None of us mind, really,” Joshua tries, again, but Mingyu waves him off. He knows they’re just being nice; of course, they’re decently close, but not enough where he can invade their space like that. Honestly doubts they’ll ever be close enough for that. 

Joshua leaves shortly after that, but not without a little brush of his hand through Mingyu’s bangs that Mingyu tries his best not to lean into. 

And as he falls asleep, with a smile on his face, Joshua’s soft voice at the forefront of his memory, he almost forgets why he’s here. The real reason. He forgets when he wakes up to the smell of pancakes and fresh eggs in the kitchen. When he gets handed a plate accompanied by a kiss on the cheek. When he gets hit with endearment after endearment like the three of them physically can’t hold themselves back from doting on him. 

They try to get him to stay the rest of the day, with promises of a four course lunch and a trip to Seungcheol’s studio, but Mingyu forces himself to refuse. He has a paper to write. Again. 

Their disappointment is poorly masked, and Mingyu’s heart pangs as he waves to them from his car, watching the prospect of a genuinely perfect day pass him by. The endless demands of academia make him wonder time and time again if it’s ever worth rejecting joy in favor of stability. If stability is even ever truly tangible.

He almost forgets why he was there, until he climbs out of his car at his complex that’s starting to look more run down by the day, to see a fresh Venmo notification at the top of his screen. 

He frowns at it, like it’s personally offended him even though it’s more than enough for rent for the next three months. It confuses him, why the sight of them honoring the agreement he pursued makes him disappointed

Minghao’s walking down the hallway into the living room when Mingyu gets in. They freeze, staring at each other, holding eye contact for far too long. If Mingyu squints, and only because he knows him well enough, he can see a sliver of guilt in the younger’s eyes, inner turmoil flashing by. 

“They agreed. To meet you,” Mingyu finally says, shortly. Minghao grunts. 

“Wednesday, at 3, here.” Minghao responds. The first thing he’s said to Mingyu in four weeks. His dedication is quite admirable, honestly. Mingyu splutters. 

“They’re busy Minghao, I can’t just ask-”

“We are too. Tell them to make time,” he interrupts, then adds, a lot quieter, “I need to know you’re not just an afterthought.” 

Mingyu nods slowly, ignoring the way Minghao’s words threaten to bring tears to his eyes, wanting nothing more than to jump forward and hug his best friend. His methods of showing it may be questionable, but Minghao’s sense of loyalty, his true devotion to looking out for Mingyu’s best interests is unwavering. Mingyu knows he has someone by his side for the rest of his days. 

Minghao looks like he has something more to say, eyes darting between the floor and Mingyu’s. 

“Thank you for asking. And I’m sorry for missing the game.” The apology surprises him, but Mingyu maintains his composure. 

“Are you?” Mingyu challenges.

“I am , I just, you, I don’t- fuck, whatever.” 

“No, not whatever , say what you have to say. You didn’t have a problem with it before. Tell me why the fuck you’re still this mad.” 

“You scared the shit out of me!” Minghao blurts out. “For a week, it was fine, maybe you just wanted to keep something to yourself, whatever, we aren’t attached at the hip. But then it went on, and on, and you were always in weird ass places with god knows who, and, fuck, I was worried, okay!”

“Why didn’t you just tell me, asshole? That’s, that’s our thing, we tell each other everything. It was concerning, that you were hiding something from me. I don’t wanna lose you, or something. Asshole.”

Acting on his previous urge, Mingyu darts forward and pulls Minghao into a tight hug. “You’re so fucking emotionally constipated sometimes,” he mutters into the younger’s hair, the scent of his melon shampoo wonderfully familiar.

Minghao tries to push him away at first, but eventually relents, letting Mingyu squeeze the life out of him with a roll of his eyes. 

“Fuck you,” Minghao groans back, but it’s clearly halfhearted, because he’s holding onto Mingyu with the same ardor.

Right on cue, the apartment door swings open, and the two of them brace themselves for a third addition, which comes promptly, with a loud screech. 

Finally , do you know how exhausting this has been?!” Seokmin exclaims into Mingyu’s neck, arms wrapped around the two of them. Mingyu laughs, leaning into his hold.

“Okay, get off of me, it’s fucking hot in here.”

——

Mingyu has found himself in the top five worst moments of his life. 

He and Minghao are sitting opposite Seungcheol, Joshua, and Jeonghan, who are in kitchen table chairs across the coffee table that Seokmin picked up from the antique store in anticipation for the… visit . It looks more like an interrogation. It feels like an interrogation.

Minghao has spent the greater part of a half an hour just studying them, as they’ve attempted to make small talk with a nervous, but eager Seokmin. 

(Key word, attempt, because Seokmin’s idea of small talk is relaying all the X-rated things Mingyu’s said about Seungcheol that he can remember. Which is surprisingly, a lot, for a person who too often forgets what he had for breakfast in the morning by noon.)

“Cookies are done!” Seokmin calls, bringing out the tray from the kitchen. Seungcheol quickly grabs one, moaning almost obscenely at the large bite, ignoring the three glares sent his way from Jeonghan, Joshua, and Minghao, respectively.

“This is so good, did you make these?” Seungcheol asks Seokmin, with a surprising urgency. Seokmin shakes his head, settling on the couch next to Mingyu and nudging him with his shoulder.

“Nope, Mingyu did!”

“You bake , too? You’re kinda perfect, you know that?” Seungcheol says, words muffled around the large bite. His eyes widen and he shoots an indiscreet look over to Minghao, whose eyes narrow at the comment.

It should be hilarious. These three, rich, famous men are absolutely terrified of someone eleven years younger who looks like he wouldn’t stand a chance against any of them. It should be hilarious, except Minghao could kick all of their asses without breaking a sweat, and would do it with no remorse. He’s quite good at expressing that sentiment.

“If anything happens, I will fuck you up,” Minghao finally says, quietly. 

He’s not too subtle about it, though.

Minghao ,” Mingyu hisses, slapping his arm. But Jeonghan, who’s sitting in the middle, stares back at Minghao with an equally intense expression, nodding seriously. 

“Trust me, we’ll take good care of him.” Mingyu feels like he’s being handed over to a rival gang as payment. Or for an arranged marriage.

Minghao hums, leaning back into the couch, hand protective on Mingyu’s thigh, who bites back the urge to roll his eyes at the motion.

Mingyu gets up to carry the plates to the kitchen, keeping a ear out towards the living room. 

“I’m glad he has friends like you, you all seem very close.” Joshua, of course, impeccable politeness per usual. 

“Yeah, we’ve been friends since elementary school!” Seokmin says, cheerfully. Mingyu smiles at that, eyes going to the picture of them from fifth grade on the fridge, all bright, youthful smiles, arms slung tightly around each other. 

“Not by choice, it’s very hard to get rid of them,” Minghao jokes.

“Ah, I feel that,” Joshua says, with a snort. Seungcheol whines and Jeonghan makes a noise of indignance. 

“Um, thank you, by the way. Sorry for all this, it probably seems excessive, but it just makes us feel better,” Minghao says. 

“Seriously, we don’t mind. Anything for him,” Seungcheol assures, and Mingyu’s heart stutters. There’s a significant silence after that; either they’ve run out of things to say, or they’re all just as affected by Seungcheol’s blunt admission as he is. Probably the former. 

He finally walks back in with a clear of his throat, eyes going to Minghao with a look of gratitude . Minghao nods back. 

The three of them leave shortly after that with some rushed out excuse, but Mingyu knows they’re itching to get out from under Minghao’s laser-like gaze, practically melting from it.

“You are not the mafia boss you think you are,” Mingyu grumbles, closing the door. Minghao just shrugs. 

“ITZY says otherwise.” Mingyu doesn’t have an argument against that.

“So, are you happy? Can I live in peace now?”

“Happy is an overstatement, but, yes, I’m satisfied. They don’t seem too bad.”

“Don’t seem too bad? You should be paying them to be in their presence,” Seokmin says, dreamily. They both ignore him.

“Doesn’t it bother you? Being the fourth wheel?” Minghao asks. Mingyu hums in question.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sure you realize they’re all in love with each other.”

“Oh, naturally,” he says, nonchalantly. “But, no, I don’t really ever feel that, actually. I think they’re just too deep into oblivious hell to even act on their feelings. It’s fascinating, really.” 

“Be careful, Mingyu. I’m not gonna hit you with a lecture or anything, just, this seems a little-”

“Hazardous? Trust me, I know. But I was able to send a real birthday gift to my sister for the first time since my senior year of high school, so it’s worth it.” He shrugs. “They’re lovely people who take me cool places, and allow me to afford rent. We have a good thing going, I’ll be fine. I promise.” The promise sounds empty even to his own ears.

Thankfully, neither of them pry further, and they end up curled up on the couch together watching New Girl not 10 minutes later. Mingyu hums in contentment, head resting against Minghao’s shoulder, Seokmin’s on his. 

“I love you guys.”

“Dramatic fuck.”

——

“I don’t even know what to say.”

“Oh, please tell me you’re joking.”

“You might as well go wearing a trashbag. Actually, that would probably look better. I’ll check the kitchen.”

Mingyu groans, trudging dejectedly back to his closet. The scathing onslaught of insults he’s faced in the past thirty minutes are sure to damage his ego for good. 

Putting Minghao, Seungkwan, and Taehyung in the same room is possibly the worst idea Mingyu’s ever had. They’ve rejected every single outfit Mingyu’s picked out, Jeongguk obnoxiously cackling from his front row seat on Taehyung’s lap with every hit. 

“Why don’t you guys just pick an outfit for me?” Mingyu grumbles. The three of them immediately get up off the bed.

“Thought you’d never ask,” Minghao says, clapping Mingyu on the back. Mingyu takes his seat on the bed, crashing on his back next to Jeongguk. 

The outfit in question is for whatever Joshua has planned for him this evening. The only hint he got was a cryptic text telling him to dress nice . Whatever that meant. To Mingyu, dress nice means wear something that’s not off the pile on his desk chair, which severely limits his options.

Roughly five minutes later, Seungkwan throws three articles of clothing at him, the hangers smacking him in the face. “Go change,” he commands, thumb jerking towards the bathroom. 

“Ugh, remind me to tell Hannie to take him shopping, that closet is a disaster,” Taehyung says to Jeongguk, pulling the younger back on his lap, who grins happily. Gross . Mingyu ignores it for the meantime, swiveling back around to stare at Taehyung in bewilderment. 

“Hyung, you know Jeonghannie hyung?” Taehyung furrows his eyebrows, looking at Jeongguk, then back at Mingyu.

“Yeah, they didn’t tell you?” he asks, slowly. “I know all of them, met them through Jimin.”

“Jimin? Who is-”

Jimin? Park Jimin , the dancer?” Minghao’s voice comes, loudly, from the closet. The last time Mingyu saw him this shocked was when the boba place by their complex closed down for a week during finals for maintenance. In his defense, it was a real tragedy. 

“That means,” he starts, eyes going wide almost theatrically, “ no way, Taehyung, do you know Kwon Soonyoung?” 

“Soonyoungie? Of course, Jiminie’s little mentee, he’s a sweetheart! And, you’re a fan, I presume,” Taehyung says, with a small smirk. Minghao nods vigorously. 

“A fan? He’s in love with the man,” Mingyu mutters. Minghao swats at his arm. 

“Who wouldn’t be?” Minghao defends. “And I wouldn’t be talking, if I were you.” 

“Wait, you seriously didn’t know we were friends? Or about Jimin ? Jeonghan and Jimin have been close for, god , years now,” Taehyung says, lips parted in incredulity. Mingyu frowns at that. 

“Um, no, I guess they don’t really talk much about their personal lives. Mostly about work.” He pauses, trying to collect his thoughts. “Honestly, actually, we really only talk about me,” he realizes, pensively. 

Not wanting to see any of their pitying expressions, Mingyu clears his throat, gesturing towards the bathroom as he awkwardly pads over to change. 

Joshua picks him up a few hours later. Mingyu doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the sight of a shiny white BMW pulling up in front of his ratty apartment complex. He always feels a little embarrassed, rushes into the car and makes sure they get going as soon as possible. 

“So, where are we headed?” Mingyu asks, bouncing in his seat. 

“You’ll see,” the older says, with a small smirk, hand squeezing Mingyu’s thigh.

That’s a thing they do, all three of them, while driving. A hand always finds its way to his left thigh as soon as he settles into the passenger’s seat. Whether it’s out of comfort, possession, flirtatiousness, or if it even has no intention at all, that Mingyu doesn’t know. What he does know is that it gets his heart going like crazy, entire body tensing up, no matter how many times they do it. 

Drives with Joshua are always this quiet; soft, acoustic ballads from the speakers the only thing filling the silence. It never bothered Mingyu before, but after his short conversation with Taehyung, he feels slightly unsettled. He discreetly casts a look over to Joshua, wondering how his day was, his week, at that. What brought him joy or sorrow, what did he laugh at, what did he enjoy. Anything, really. 

“Hyung, how’d you learn to ride a bike?” Mingyu asks, suddenly. Joshua hums a little, but he doesn’t question the sudden inquiry.

“My uncle taught me. We got up at 7 in the morning on a Saturday, he said he wouldn’t let me go home until I could make it all around the block by myself,” he laughs a little. “By 10, I was going all up and down the steepest hills of the neighborhood. Powerpuff Girls was on at 11, couldn’t be missed.” Mingyu laughs along with him.

He lets the silence come after that, content with the bit of information he procured. 

Mingyu doesn’t know when he falls asleep, definitely does not mean to. He’s awoken by a gentle hand running through his hair, bleary eyes fluttering as he registers Joshua’s soft smile down at him, holding the passenger door open for him. He always hates when a friend falls asleep on a road trip, and feels immediately bashful for it, curling in on himself in the seat. 

“We’re here, baby,” Joshua says, not even a shred of vexation in his tone.

 Mingyu nods dumbly, climbing out the car, letting Joshua hook their arms together. Joshua hands the keys to the valet with a small nod, leading Mingyu down the street.

“Sorry for falling asleep, I didn’t realize I was that tired,” he says, sheepishly. 

“Don’t apologize, I’m glad you got some sleep, you deserve it,” Joshua says. Mingyu furrows his eyebrows, opening his mouth to respond, but the words are caught in his throat when he’s led around the corner to a glamorous looking restaurant on a concealed street. Mingyu recognizes it immediately as the background of numerous high class celebrities’ paparazzi pictures. His eyes widen, arm tightening around Joshua’s nervously. 

“Hyung, this is way too fancy, what the hell?” Mingyu hisses.

“Looks fun right? I haven’t been yet, but Cheol said the sashimi was to die for,” Joshua says, holding the door open for him. Mingyu’s jaw nearly drops to the (glass) floor when he gets a look at the interior: massive fountain display in the center, surrounded by sleek black tables, with walls lined with gorgeous floor length windows, enormous crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. 

“Hong for two,” he tells the waiter. For some reason, Mingyu finds that terribly attractive. But, he thinks even if Joshua got a pie thrown in his face Mingyu would find that attractive too. Down terrible , Hansol’s voice echoes in his head. 

The waiter doesn’t lead them to any of the tables. Instead, they’re taken behind the fountain to a concealed staircase, lined by soft white lighting fixed on the walls, up to another floor, which is somehow more awe-inspiring than the last. This one is considerably above ground, at least a few stories worth, still lined with floor length windows. 

They’re seated at the far table, quite secluded from the ones around it. There’s only about two other tables occupied, and Mingyu’s stomach does a few flips in anxiety. Out the window is a gorgeous view of Santa Monica Bay, the moonlight glittering elegantly off the water, fitting for the environment of the restaurant. 

“Nice view,” Joshua says, simply, leaning back into his chair like he just casually goes to places like this every weekend. Which, he probably does, Mingyu realizes. He forgets, sometimes, somehow , the ever-present gap in maturity and, well, status , that exists between the three of them and him. 

He swallows, tearing his eyes away from the window and down at his outfit. This is easily an ensemble of the most expensive things in his closet, and yet, he feels horribly underdressed. 

Joshua, on the other hand, looks absolutely gorgeous: dressed simply in black slacks and an ivory turtleneck to match, delicate gold chain around his neck. His dark blue bangs are matted against his forehead, brushing the tops of his perfectly shaped eyebrows. His side profile is impeccable, Mingyu notes, eyes shining as he looks out at the water. 

The waiter comes back a few minutes later with a menu, and Mingyu feels like he doesn’t even deserve to be looking at these prices. He doesn’t know what half this stuff is

“D’you want me to order?” Joshua asks, softly. It’s not said with judgement, but genuine concern. Mingyu nods apologetically.

“It’s an acquired vocabulary, they use these big ass words unnecessarily to throw people off,” he assures. Mingyu just smiles, wholly unassured. 

Joshua encourages him to talk about his day. Mingyu fumbles a bit around his words, eventually settling for some mediocre story of Seungkwan running three miles across campus to turn in an assignment that ended up being due the next week. The older laughs, nonetheless, but it doesn’t do much to relieve Mingyu of his anxieties, or make him forget about Taehyung’s incredulity from earlier in the evening.

Their kindness, the three of them, is beyond admirable. They speak with such earnestness that not for one moment has Mingyu considered it was anything less than genuine. But, now, he can’t help but wonder, if he’s placed more weight in their words, in their actions, than they had intended. If maybe he’s kidding himself to think he’s that important to them where they may be compelled to share the more intimate feelings and moments of their lives. Maybe it’s his fault, for expecting more. Maybe a hand on a thigh is just a hand on a thigh.

“Mingyu-yah, is something wrong?” Joshua asks, pulling Mingyu out of his thoughts, and he realizes how long he’s been silent for. He shakes his head, forcing a small smile, but Joshua doesn’t seem all that convinced. 

The older reaches his hand across the table, brushing his thumbs over Mingyu’s knuckles from where his fist is clenched tightly by where the appetizer plate rests. Mingyu flinches a little at the touch. Either Joshua doesn’t notice, or it doesn’t faze him. 

“You can tell me, whatever it is.” Mingyu pauses, looking down at their hands, side-eyeing the ocean out the window.

“I feel like, um, we talk about me a lot,” he tries, last syllables trailing up in pitch so its somewhat of a hesitant question. “Not that I feel entitled in the slightest to know, well, things, about you guys! But, um, is there a reason, or something? Did I do something? I was talking to Taehyungie hyung earlier, my friend Jeongguk’s boyfriend, and apparently you guys know him? And he was surprised that I didn’t know that, and, it was just weird, I don’t know.”

Mingyu feels like curling in on himself entirely. He’s never been one to be good with words, so many thoughts flying around his head, smacking against the walls of his brain like particles in a closed container. He often struggles to bring one down, can’t verbalize its emotions if he does; an affliction that always fails him in the worst of times, causing him to flounder like a fish out of water. 

“I don’t even,” he starts, eyes widening at his own realization, “fuck, I don’t even know yours or Jeonghan hyung’s birthdays.”

Joshua must realize the extent of his distress, because he forgoes the gentle ministrations and instead takes Mingyu’s hand in his own, squeezing it tightly, forcing Mingyu to look at him. The older’s eyes are full of dismay, all wide in a silent apology. It makes Mingyu hesitate, fumbling to backtrack.

“Sorry, sorry , it’s so stupid, I know. I shouldn’t be asking for more when you’ve been giving so much, I sound like a kid, you’re all grown adults, I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he rambles, more graceless words falling off his tongue, rolling on the floor as he tries to collect himself in vain. 

To Mingyu’s surprise, Joshua puts his head in his other hand. “ God , we’re absolutely terrible at this,” he starts. Mingyu makes a noise in confusion, but Joshua barrels ahead.

“I am so sorry, fuck. Not to play this card, but we honestly don’t have many friends. Jimin and Tae are lovely, and we see them often, but, honestly, we’re – I’m – not too good at real friendships, clearly, since I haven’t been able to convince you that this is so much more than a transaction to me.” 

He groans again, muffled slightly by the hands over his face. “I don’t even know how to do this right, where to take you, what to do, what to talk about. I never meant for you to feel like that, we never did, I’m just debilitatingly awkward. I’m so sorry, Mingyu-yah.” 

And Mingyu really doesn’t know what to say to that. The three of them, especially Joshua, are excellent at maintaining an aura of unpracticed, all natural confidence. Mingyu could have never guessed the insecurities that lay underneath. He reproaches himself for his selfishness, once again. 

“No, hyung, please don’t be sorry, I never thought you meant for me to feel this way, I don’t-” he pauses, looking over at Joshua, who looks absolutely anguished. “You know, you don’t have to take me to these fancy ass restaurants and send me obscene amounts of money just for a few hours of my time. Honestly, the best night I’ve had was at Jeonghan hyung’s place eating pizza and watching Cars.” Joshua snorts at that.

“Typical college kid,” he mutters, but it’s half-hearted, because his thumbs resume their motions against Mingyu’s knuckles, soothing and soft. 

“Can I take you somewhere?” Mingyu asks, suddenly. It’s a long shot, easily could appear mediocre to someone like Joshua who’s seen the world and then some, but the place in mind is all too special to Mingyu. He has a feeling, a small instinct, and for some reason, he doesn’t think he wants to be anywhere else. “Unless you, um, want to stay for a bit, it was probably hard to get a reservation, so-”

“No, trust me, I really don’t, take me away, my prince,” he says, holding his hand out. Mingyu flushes a little at the title, but clasps his hand in Joshua’s, leading him down the atrociously lengthy staircase and out the door. 

The valet comes around shortly, clearly surprised at how quickly the two of them returned. Joshua takes the keys with a gentle thanks, and places them in Mingyu’s palm. Mingyu stares down at them with wide eyes, like they’ve dropped down from a UFO in the sky and into his hand. 

“You wanted to take me somewhere,” Joshua explains.

“I can’t, oh my god, I can’t drive that !” Mingyu exclaims, hurrying after Joshua who’s making his way into the passenger seat.

“Do you have your license?” Mingyu nods. “Then you can drive, this . Don’t be scared, it’s just a car.”

It’s most definitely not just a car, considering it’s worth more than Mingyu himself, but Joshua doesn’t look like he’s going to give in any time soon, so Mingyu hesitantly opens the door on the driver’s side. He takes a deep breath as he starts the car, not used to the way it actually gets going on the first try. He hasn’t driven a car that’s done that in, well, ever. 

Mingyu drives at roughly ten miles below the speed limit, knuckles turning white from how tightly he’s holding onto the wheel, posture so perfect he’d be giving his nitpicky driver’s ed teacher from tenth grade a run for his money. After about fifteen minutes, Joshua starts fake snoring, and Mingyu glares at him so quickly he’s not sure the older even notices, not wanting to take his eyes off the road for even more than a second. 

He wants to go faster; he wants to go fast , open the window, blast some music, and feel the spring evening breeze fly through his hair. But more than any of that, he doesn’t want to have to pay for a half a million dollar car. 

Joshua sighs in exasperation, reaches over, and unclasps one of Mingyu’s hands off the steering wheel, who yelps in response. 

“Mingyu, you’re not going to crash my car. Relax.” 

“You don’t know that,” Mingyu bites back, hand going back to the wheel, but Joshua grabs his wrist to stop him.

“Yes, yes, I do. Now, drive the car.” 

Mingyu bites his lip, pushes his foot down on the accelerator, and drives. 

The car speeds up with such smoothness that Mingyu feels like he could melt right into the seat. Joshua laughs as Mingyu goes to let the windows down, reaching over to the sound system to turn up the volume. He feels weightless, can’t help but smile as well, one hand on the wheel, the other out the window, the slightly chilly air whipping through his fingers. 

The drive to central LA doesn’t take too long, despite it being a Saturday night. Him and Joshua sing along to each and every song that comes up on his playlist, even if they don’t know the words. He finds he likes listening to Joshua sing, especially when it’s in Korean. There’s a lightness to his inflections, an airiness to his tone that makes his voice wonderfully pleasant. 

Mingyu smiles as he drives down the familiar streets. He hasn’t been home in a while, not since the last blow up with his parents. There’s a bittersweetness to passing the stores he frequented with Minghao and Seokmin as a kid. A pang for his youth, he supposes. 

“Is this where you grew up?” Joshua asks. Mingyu blinks rapidly a few times.

“Yeah, it is. How’d you know?” 

“You look really peaceful. Just a guess, though,” he says. Mingyu wonders if he’s that easy to read, or if it’s Joshua who can speak his language with such fluency. 

The turns come like a second nature, and his heart swells with anticipation when he can catch traces of the bright lights in the distance. He pulls into a lot a block away, running around to the other side of the car to open the passenger door for Joshua with a grin. 

Mimicking Joshua’s movements from before, he hooks his arm with the older’s, leading him down the street and around the corner. “ Wow , Mingyu, this is-” Joshua says, once they’ve reached the entrance of the destination. 

The week of the spring equinox, the community park slash garden right by Mingyu’s high school holds a light show. The entire park is decked out with massive light structures and displays lining the paths. It’s a visual journey, awe-inspiring man-made creations meshed with the organic beauty of nature. His parents would take him and his sister every year. 

“It’s nothing too special,” Mingyu says, sheepishly, handing the person at the ticket booth a ten dollar bill for two tickets. He takes the yellow wristband and wraps it around Joshua’s lithe wrist. 

“It’s lovely, I’m very excited,” the older assures, playing with the wristband, and Mingyu smiles at that. 

Giant effervescent purple and pink lilies welcome them by the entrance, and Joshua gasps in awe. The tendrils of their leaves intertwine with the streetlights on the path. 

They walk in silence for the first few minutes, although Joshua does slide his fingers in between Mingyu’s. The warmth is placating. 

“December 30th. That’s mine. Jeonghan’s is October 4th. We call him angel, for it,” Joshua says, suddenly addressing Mingyu’s earlier question. Mingyu nods, eyes trained on the bright blue glass birds hanging from a tree. He remembers those from last time.

“A Capricorn and a Libra. Should’ve guessed,” he replies, with a solemn shake of his head. Joshua laughs. 

“You know, you say you always talk about yourself, but I don’t feel like I know that much about you,” Joshua then says. It’s not accusatory, rather, more reflective. Mingyu hums.

“Up for a game of twenty questions?”

“Always.” 

They pass by three enormous swans placed by the stream. Approaching the bridge, Joshua tugs him onto it, stopping in the middle to lean against the railing and stare out at the clear sky, adorned with specks of white stars. The white light of the swans matches that of the moon, both of their reflections cast across the still water. 

“Why’d you major in business?” Joshua asks. 

“Dad wanted me to.”

“And if you could choose?” 

Mingyu pauses. No one’s asked him that in a while, not since his guidance counselor freshman year sensed his hesitancy and tried to urge him along his desired path. The unstable one, his father would say. He breathes out, looking up from the water at Joshua’s face, illuminated by soft white light. Much prettier than the one at the restaurant. Much more natural. His hands itch for a camera, and his heart itches for a bout of honesty.

“Photography. That’s what I would do. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.” His voice goes ragged, he doesn’t think he’s ever voiced it out loud like that. Not to Minghao, not to Seokmin, certainly not to his parents. It’s one thing to know you wish to pursue a fruitless dream, it’s another to tell the world and let them laugh. 

Joshua doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t ask why, why he wasn’t brave enough to follow through, why he would give up the one thing that gifted him the highly coveted Spark . Instead, being so wholly Joshua, he asks: “What do you love about it?” 

“Ah, it’s my turn, isn’t it?”

“I’m a bit of a cheater,” Joshua replies, with a wry smile. Mingyu sighs in resignation. 

“People often don’t consider photography to be self expressive, they think you’re just showing what everyone can already see for themselves. But, I firmly believe I can capture an experience, a memory, through a photo, just how I perceived it, and display it as such. Like, I wouldn’t capture this bridge the same as you. Just as writers write about love, as artists paint a singular scene; perhaps one can draw parallels between the works, but everyone possesses an intrinsic style to their visions of the world. It’ll always be different. I’m not good with words, not much of an artist either, but give me a camera and I’ll relay my emotions in return..” 

He gives a little self depreciative laugh. “That most definitely made no sense, fuck.” 

Joshua is silent, and Mingyu hesitates to turn to him. Eventually curiosity gets the best of him, and he turns his head to directly meet Joshua’s eyes. The older is looking at him with an unmistakable, absolute fondness. His eyebrows are furrowed ever so slightly, like he’s thinking a series of thoughts he knows he can’t, he shouldn’t voice. Mingyu involuntarily flushes under his hard gaze.

“In any case, it’s a pipe dream. I wouldn’t even know what to do, and I can’t take any classes because there’s no way in hell my dad would pay for them.” He shrugs, taking in Joshua’s apologetic expression. “It’s okay, really, I’ve made my peace. I live vicariously through Minghao and his painting and Seokmin and his acting, I’m absolutely content with that,” he tries to joke. Joshua doesn’t laugh, just smiles sadly. 

“You could do it. If you wanted to. I know it,” Joshua says, softly. Mingyu swallows, body tense and uncomfortable, itching to change the topic of conversation. 

“My turn, right?” he asks. Something indiscernible crosses Joshua’s expression, but he eventually nods. 

They drift off of 20 questions, end up just having lengthy conversations with numerous tangents. He learns the details of the infamous origin story: Joshua and Jeonghan were scouted by an agent passing through their town when they were 16, just when Seungcheol’s Soundcloud was starting to pick up. Seungcheol took Wonwoo under his wing two years later, and the four of them moved to LA when Wonwoo graduated. 

Some of it, Mingyu knows, from Trauma interviews, Instagram lives, Wikipedia stalking. Some of it is clearly personal, and Mingyu cherishes the trust more than anything else. 

He learns that Seungcheol’s parents never approved of his passions, still don’t, and that he hasn’t spoken to them in 14 years. Learns Jeonghan was born in Korea, came here when he was 10, and that Joshua and Seungcheol would always beat the hell out of anyone at school who would harass him for his accent. Learns how indescribably difficult it was for Seungcheol and Joshua when Jeonghan had to enlist five years ago, two years of feeling wholly unwhole. 

He learns, through his own deductions, that the intimacy between the three of them is deeper than he could have ever imagined. Because under the moonlight, on this secluded bridge in the middle of the night, Joshua lets his eyes shine with an unbridled joy when talking about his best friends. He lets as much fondness as he can physically muster seep into his tone, and he looks peaceful, quite relieved, at that. Like he’s never allowed himself to do so before. He looks like he’s home, 400 miles away from what he should consider to be it.

20 some years of devotion, trust, and loyalty. It’s incredibly admirable, and Mingyu no longer feels inadequate, instead he feels as if he’s witnessing something beautiful. He hopes he sees it come to fruition the way it’s always meant to. 

And, in a brief moment of selfishness, he wonders if he could ever fit in between them. In another brief moment of naivety, he thinks he can. 

“Have you ever hooked up with Minghao or Seokmin?” Joshua asks, suddenly. Mingyu’s eyes widen, jolting backward as he splutters. “Or… both? Oh, that’s a story I’d like to hear.”

“No, no , what the fuck, hyung, where did that come from?”

“We’re still playing right?” It’s said teasingly, tilt of the head, quirk of the mouth. Mingyu scoffs. “I’m simply curious.”

“Have you? With the hyungs?” he retaliates. He’s not really serious, it’s just a bite back, but Joshua’s eyes widen. Glaze over a little. And Mingyu isn’t all that surprised. 

Almost instantly, Joshua’s expression flickers back, smirk returning like it never left. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” 

Mingyu resists the urge to stutter, maintaining his composure. He’s been around Joshua and Jeonghan long enough to recognize what reactions they attempt to pull out of their victims. 

“That’s not the game, hyung.”

“Told you, I’m a cheater.” 

Mingyu hums. “Alright. Although, I think you answered the question already.” Joshua grins, and Mingyu’s surprised to see a blush creep up slowly on his cheeks. Or, perhaps, he’s not surprised at all. 

“I suppose I did, didn’t I.” 

Silence envelops them again, but, like always with Joshua, Mingyu welcomes it. It’s strange, how comfortable he can find something he usually despises when with the right person. Silence has always been unnerving, and Mingyu knows he talks too much, always tries to fill a void even when it’s begging to be left alone, but he simply can’t help it.

Back home, back when Mingyu had some semblance of bravery, silence at the dinner table meant a subsequent lecture about the direction of Mingyu’s future. About how he should spend less time with his hippie friends taking silly pictures by the coast and instead start searching for internships for over the summer. About how a 100 in music theory but a 80 in math wasn’t going to get him any of those said internships. 

Those were the nights he couldn’t bear, would do anything to get out from his father’s insistent gaze and his mother’s apologetic one. Away from his sister, who expected him to fight back, getting increasingly disappointed when he got decreasingly resistant, her own dream of becoming a violinist slowly lost in the wind. 

But now, he can stand here with Joshua and not say a word, not have Joshua say a single thing back, and be absolutely okay. It’s a little frightening, the realization, the fact that more than thirty seconds of silence isn’t frightening to him. He remembers comparing their relationship to a lion’s den. It’s become all too relevant. 

“Mm, it’s getting a little chilly, should we finish the walk?” Joshua asks. Mingyu nods, grateful for his suggestion. 

There’s not much left, just a few more animal collections and the infamous arch display. Joshua pauses in front of it, a little bit ahead of Mingyu. He turns around, holds his phone out to Mingyu with a soft smile. 

“Take my picture?” he asks. Mingyu takes the phone immediately. 

Mingyu doesn’t think he can hold it all back, not like this, under the moonlight, the older’s face illuminated by the hundreds of effervescent multicolored fairy lights wrapped around the arch. There’s a butterfly garden in his stomach, a new one escaping its cocoon every minute.

He wonders, as he snaps photo after photo of Joshua’s soft, forever gorgeous, face, if Joshua will look at these and know. 

——

Mingyu wakes up engulfed by blankets. 

He vaguely remembers playfully fighting with Joshua over getting home, the older eventually insisting it was too late, and that he should just stay at his place, despite Mingyu’s apartment being closer from the gardens than Joshua’s. 

What he doesn’t remember, is how he ended up in Joshua’s bed. Reflexively, he looks down, sighing in relief that he’s still clothed, although, he’s not sure why he expected to not be. The next thing he notices is that the pillow next to him is unoccupied, the sheets pulled aside. 

A glance at his phone tells him it’s already ten. There’s a strangely large influx of notifications, but he ignores the 100+ Instagram ones in favor of the 27 missed calls, yelping when he realizes he never told Minghao and Seokmin that he was staying at Joshua’s. 

 

minghao

gyu what time r u coming home

???

its already 2 

[Missed call from Minghao (2)]

seokmin

whose place r u at

MINGYU????

[Missed call from Seokmin (16), Minghao (11)]

we lost him. 

minghao

if ur still alive i will kill u when u come home

mingyu

fuck im so sorry i slept over at joshuas 

SORRY </3

minghao

oh we know now!

mr celebrity

mingyu

???

seokmin

… slept… over….. 

its happening...

mingyu

not like that u .. perv!!!!!! >:( 

seokmin

your loss! 

 

He sets his phone down, head falling back onto the pillow. When he closes his eyes, he hears muffled voices coming from the kitchen. Upon further focus, he makes them out as Joshua and Jeonghan, speaking in hushed Korean. 

“Did you call hyung?” Jeonghan asks. 

“Yeah, yeah, he’s getting it cleared up. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal honestly, I’m just worried-” 

“He won’t be able to handle it.” A groan subsequently resounds through the kitchen.

“I should’ve been more careful. But, shit like this-”

“Never happens,” Jeonghan finishes, again. “It’s not your fault, Shua-yah. We’ll just have to tell him when he gets up, as gentle as possible. Fuck, Cheol would be best at this.” Joshua hums despondently in assent. 

Mingyu takes that as his cue to get out of bed, heart pounding so hard against his chest that Mingyu fears it’s going to escape and take off without his body. He hesitantly pads into the kitchen, shoulders hunched, footsteps soft. 

If Mingyu didn’t know better, he’d think Joshua and Jeonghan had seen a ghost when he walks in, eyes widening comically, before they quickly mask their expressions.

“You’re blond,” Mingyu blurts out, upon seeing the newly bleached, silky strands of Jeonghan’s hair. Jeonghan looks taken aback, running his fingers through his hair, expression softening

“That I am,” he grins. “D’you like it?”

“You could go bald and I’d like it.”

“Please don’t put that image into existence,” Joshua says, walking up to Mingyu and placing a chaste kiss on his cheek.

“Good morning, baby. Sleep well?” he says, but the anxiety is clear in his voice. Mingyu hums. 

“Is there something wrong, hyungs? You kinda look like someone died,” They share a look, almost like a you first . Joshua sighs.

“Last night a pap managed to catch some pictures of us outside the restaurant, one of the amateur, tabloid lowlife ones. Problem is, they didn’t try any blackmail or anything, just posted them straight to their site.” 

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Jeonghan hurriedly assures. “Shua’s manager is going to take care of it soon, but, people did find your socials.” Mingyu’s eyes widen as he goes to pull out his phone.

Sure enough, he’s gained about five thousand Twitter followers and eight thousand Instagram ones. It seems a bit daunting to begin with, considering his recent Instagram post has ten times the likes of the other ones. But, he snorts once he hits the comments; they’re all colorful variations of you’re hot, you’re so lucky , and, most amusingly, sugar baby tips

Due to his reputation , people on Twitter recognize him with ease, and half of the replies on his recent Tweet (a selfie with Jeongguk, who also gained a couple thousand followers in turn), are commenting on his display name.

 

@backbackbackitup : MR JEON???!! 

@jeonwonu : omfg its wonwoo’s husband from ideal cut

     @cherrycheol : FUCK if he’s with joshua does that mean they actually got married

     @traumassss : someone zoom in on his ring finger

     @wwloves : you dumbasses he’s like 21 

          @lottoremixes : someone’s salty

@seungcheolwife : honestly if wonwoo didn’t marry him i will. now That’s a FACE.

     @ idealscut : okay seungcheolwife 

     [This tweet has been deleted.]

@voguehans: oh to be jeon wonwoo’s husband and joshua hong’s sugar baby

     @jeonwonu: living our dream. good for him. 

 

“Fuck, I’m so sorry, all that publicity must be so uncomfortable, we’ll get this cleaned up as quickly as we can, I promise. Hyung is so sorry-” Joshua rambles. Mingyu walks up to him and puts a hand on his shoulder, hoping his smile is as reassuring as he intends for it to be.

“Hyung, it’s fine, really, I honestly don’t mind. People just seem to think I’m married to Wonwoo hyung, which I really really don’t mind,” Mingyu jokes, with a wry smile. “Plus, we look good in these,” he says, scrolling through the blurry pictures of them in front of Joshua’s car. “I appreciate being referred to as a potential model in the making in this article. If anything, this just does wonders for my ego.” 

“Which doesn’t seem to be a good thing,” Jeonghan mutters, ruffling Mingyu’s hair good-naturedly. Mingyu grins. 

“What’s for breakfast?” Mingyu asks, seating himself at the countertop. Joshua rolls his eyes. 

“I don’t know what we were worried about, the kid cares for nothing but food,” he tells Jeonghan, who laughs in turn. Mingyu pouts, going back to his Instagram comments to recover from the hit. 

He stays at Joshua’s for a few hours longer, perpetually giggling as Jeonghan relays all the gossip he obtained from Junhui at the salon the night prior. Mingyu barely recognizes any of the names, but Jeonghan’s dramatics make the stories enjoyable, nonetheless. 

“Oh, hyung, you’re close with Park Jimin, right?” Mingyu asks him, suddenly remembering Minghao’s outburst from the day before. Jeonghan nods.

“Of course. If Joshua were to unexpectedly keel over one day, Jiminie would be next in line for the role of my partner in crime,” he says, seriously. 

“Good to know you’ve thought about that,” Joshua mutters. 

“Minghao is a huge fan of Kwon Soonyoung, and, maybe it’s too much to ask but-”

“Text me Minghao’s number, and consider it done,” Jeonghan says, with a wink. Mingyu grins. “Anything for you, baby,” he then coos, reaching out a hand to brush at Mingyu’s fringe.

And there it is again, the anything for you , anything for him , anything. Anything. No matter what, unconditional, any single thing he wants. It’s beyond affectionate, to Mingyu, who in moments like these feels the difference in maturity hit him like a bullet train. Because, to them, it could be playful, a little tease or a joke. But to him, to someone whose heart has not yet belonged to anyone else, it’s everything, absolutely overwhelming.

Jeonghan pouts and clutches onto his arm when he finally says he should probably be heading out, remembering the assignments still piled up on his computer. Joshua eventually pries him off, not without a few attempts of getting Mingyu to stay of his own. He declines a ride home, knowing Joshua would just try to get them to stop for lunch somewhere.

“Next time, bring your stuff here, I’ll feed you ramen every hour for sustenance.”

“Hyung, I’m not sure you realize what you’ve just agreed to.” 

A permanent smile fixates itself on his face the entire Uber ride home, remembering the night’s events, the vulnerability he’d finally allowed himself to experience, and the relief it provided him. 

When he gets back to his bedroom, he opens Instagram again to see Joshua has posted a few of the pictures Mingyu took, and Mingyu feels the butterflies wake up all over again. 

This time, they feel a little more dangerous.

Chapter Text

Walking into the living room first thing in the morning to a crushing hug from Minghao should’ve been Mingyu’s first hint that this was going to be an unusual day.

“I love you. You’re perfect. I will never speak ill of you ever again,” Minghao says, seriously, firmly holding onto Mingyu’s shoulders once they pull apart. 

“Say that again so I can get it on video.” 

“I’m ignoring how inherently humiliating it is that you told them about this because, fuck, Kwon Soonyoung is texting me right now, and-” he cuts himself off with a yelp when his phone gives another ding , immediately checking on it as if he wasn’t in the midst of conversation. 

Mingyu’s about to concoct a snarky response to Minghao’s repulsively whipped behavior, but then Minghao’s shoulders rise in a full bodied giggle, smile stretching from ear to ear across his face, and all sarcasm is instantly forgotten. It brings a smile to his own face, knowing he could make his best friend happy with something as simple as getting his sugar daddy to connect him with a world class dancer. Jeonghan truly works fast, it’s only been a few days since Mingyu initially asked. 

“Cute,” he says, fondly ruffling Minghao’s hair, because he knows this is the only time he could get away with it. Predictably, Minghao ignores him completely, eyes widening in response to whatever text Soonyoung’s just sent him. 

Fuck , what do I say, fuck ?” he exclaims, flashing his phone towards Mingyu for a fraction of a second before holding it close to his own face. He looks up at Mingyu, expectantly, for an answer, and Mingyu just gives him a look of confused bewilderment, shaking his head in question. Minghao takes a deep breath. 

“He wants to come watch me next weekend at the, the, fuck, the thing!”

“You are so lucky I know you so well because that could quite literally mean anything. And I mean anything .” Minghao huffs. 

“Can you please be useful for once? If Soonyoung comes to the show, I’m guaranteed to fall on my face in the first two seconds of the routine.”

“Really should’ve gotten that on video,” Mingyu mutters. He then sighs, hand going to the nape of Minghao’s neck, gently squeezing at the skin. “You’re an amazing dancer, and you know it. You and I also both know that the stage could be hit with an asteroid mid performance and you still wouldn’t be thrown off your game, a boy isn’t going to change that.”

“He’s not a boy , he’s-” Minghao protests, but Mingyu immediately shushes him. 

“Tell him to come. Besides, I don’t think it’s the performance you’re actually worried about,” Mingyu says, raising one eyebrow. 

“Yes, it is, actually, you dumbass, a world class dancer is coming to watch me dance, of course it’s about the fucking performance. Don’t pull shit out of your ass like that.” 

“Hope you know you swear like, three times more than usual when you get overly defensive,” is all Mingyu says, poking Minghao’s cheek before he goes into the kitchen for breakfast.

The breakfast in question is a haphazardly cream-cheese slathered bagel, shoved into his mouth and swallowed down with a large glass of water. 

“Should I be concerned?” Seokmin says from the oven, flipping a pancake. He puts it on a plate, handing it to Mingyu, who shakes his head in dismissal. 

“No time, more important things to do,” Mingyu says, hastily, hurrying out of the kitchen.

“I’m taking that as a yes!” Seokmin calls after him. 

Mingyu ignores him, swiftly making his way to his room, beyond excited, for once , to throw on the outfit he’d picked for himself. Taehyung had been good on his word, complaining to Jeonghan that Mingyu’s closet was the picture of disaster, and that he should be ashamed and embarrassed to show his face at work for allowing Mingyu to roam freely, dressed like that. At least, that’s how Jeonghan relayed it, which is almost surely a preposterous exaggeration of the truth. 

But, whatever Taehyung did say, it seemed to kick Jeonghan and Joshua into action, insisting on taking Mingyu on an exorbitantly expensive shopping trip, leaving with shopping bags full of items Mingyu’s only ever seen on runway models. To say Minghao was jealous would be a severe understatement; Mingyu figures he’s going to have to keep his bedroom door locked when he leaves the apartment. 

The outfit he’s chosen is still quite simple, light washed skinny jeans with a black t-shirt underneath a brown corduroy jacket that he’s most definitely going to overheat in.

He’s been looking forward to putting the clothes he didn’t ask for to use, especially for a trip to Seungcheol’s real studio which he’s only ever seen through lives and the occasional studio vlog that Trauma fans so closely cherish. 

Seungcheol, being the obnoxiously cryptic man he is, gave no concrete reason for the invite, claiming he had a surprise for Mingyu to hear. And that, of course, unleashed the wildest demons residing in the depths of Mingyu’s imagination, causing him to toss and turn all night in anticipation. It’s frustrating to think of the smirk on Seungcheol’s face as he sent the message, even more frustrating to know Mingyu’s giving him the reaction he intended for. 

Mingyu greets Seungcheol’s driver, Hyunseok, with a cheerful smile when he climbs into the car Seungcheol sent for him. They seldom take the car, both Seungcheol and Joshua preferring to drive themselves, but Jeonghan frequently rides in it, so Mingyu’s become decently familiar with the older man. Mingyu’s not exactly sure how he’s been introduced to Hyunseok, but he’s sure it’s far from the truth.

“Hey, Mingyu-yah, how was the game yesterday?” Hyunseok asks, in Korean. 

“4-1, our win! My assist in the second half would’ve made you proud, hyung,” Mingyu replies, with a grin. 

“I’m sure it would’ve,” he agrees. 

Mingyu settles back into the seat at that, opening up Instagram to snap a quick selfie for his story. He figures, with the newfound exposure, he should keep up appearances. It’d been a little more daunting than he’d initially let on, especially when his older, more colorful Trauma related tweets from high school were uncovered. But, like before, most people ended up finding them terribly amusing, and relatable, pleased that one of them had made it so far. 

“This is you,” Hyunseok calls, after about half an hour. Mingyu stares out at the window in awe, tempted to pull up his private Twitter to key smash a couple hundred tweets to calm himself down. Seungcheol’s label building is enormous, just as regal as it looks in the pictures, if not more. A photograph of Seungcheol and Wonwoo are displayed proudly on the three massive billboards near the entrance, which is just behind an impressive, modern looking fountain. 

It occurs to Mingyu then that there’s a high likelihood of him running into Wonwoo in the building. Despite having met the older on numerous occasions now, including sharing a bowl of popcorn with him (highlight number two of Mingyu’s life) when they watched a movie at Seungcheol’s place, the prospect of breathing the same air as him has Mingyu’s skin crawling as he clutches onto the door handle with a tight grip. 

“Alright kid, get out, I got a cheese steak with my name on it waiting for me,” Hyunseok says. Mingyu swallows in embarrassment, nodding rapidly.

“Sorry, hyung, thanks for the ride, see you later!” he rushes out, climbing out of the car with a hasty wave.  

He’s so distracted by the extravagance of the lobby that he walks right past the secretary’s desk and straight towards the elevator, neck craned to ogle the floor length windows and impressive, expensive looking cylindrical light fixtures.

“Um, sir, can I help you?” the receptionist calls after him, but he fails to register it. “Sir?” she tries again, in bewilderment. 

“He’s with me, sorry, Danielle.” That gets Mingyu’s attention, whirling himself around to see Seungcheol, arms crossed with his eyebrows raised. Mingyu bites his lip, looking over Seungcheol’s shoulder to wave apologetically at the receptionist, who just shakes her head in amusement and climbs back down to her desk. 

“Didn’t I tell you to text me when you got here?” Seungcheol asks, reaching around Mingyu to press the elevator button. 

“Sorry, hyung. This place is just so cool , I would die if I got to work here every day, and woah- ” His words get caught in his throat when the doors slide open to reveal an all glass elevator, exposing a gorgeous view of West Hollywood. Mingyu rushes in, pressing both palms to the glass in awe. “Awesome,” he says, dreamily. Seungcheol laughs fondly, leaning against the wall with a grin. 

The bliss is short-lived. They’re taken up floor after floor, Mingyu inching closer and closer into Seungcheol, clutching at his shirt as they travel farther and farther off the ground. He whimpers, a little, when the elevator gives a miniscule shake. 

“Are you scared, baby?” Seungcheol asks, softly. Mingyu nods, shortly, cheeks heating up in embarrassment. “We’ll take the stairs next time.” Mingyu whines again.

“It’s so pretty though,” he says, untucking his head from Seungcheol’s shoulder to look out at the skyline, the sun shining bright, high in the cloudless sky. 

“You look like your heart is going to give out if we go any higher.” 

The elevator comes to a smooth stop just a few moments later, doors opening to reveal a dimly lit hallway. Seungcheol takes his hand and guides him all the way down to the end, opening a slightly opaque glass door to his massive studio, much more suitable than the makeshift one he has at home. 

And if that one screamed Seungcheol, this one seems like Seungcheol somehow extracted some of his own DNA and cloned himself into a room. It’s surprisingly neat, save for a few crumpled pieces of paper that missed the trash can. The large wooden desk is clearly the center of attention, pressed against the main wall opposite from the door, computer and producing equipment perched on top in an orderly manner. There’s just one picture frame on it, one of him, Joshua, and Jeonghan from what Mingyu figures is their high school graduation. 

On either side of the desk are two potted plants, a stack of CDs next to the left one and an acoustic guitar on a stand next to the right one. There’s a small living area on the other side, two couches arranged around a simple black rug beneath a coffee table with the same wood as the desk. On the wall by the couches are where all the chart achievement plaques are proudly displayed, lit by soft white LED lights around the frames. 

Opposite that wall are two shelving units, one displaying the physical awards, also lit up by the same LED lights, and the other with miscellaneous books, picture frames, vinyls, and bins full of cords and other equipment. In between the shelves is a framed jersey, clearly Seungcheol’s, indicated by the CHOI 01 on the back. 

Mingyu takes note of the miscellaneous things in the room that are so wholly Seungcheol : the numerous candles of Seungcheol’s favorite scents, the dents in the couches that betray how much he must tend to lounge on them, the pillows and blanket haphazardly shoved under the larger couch, the rings scattered across the various surfaces, a hoodie thrown over the desk chair that he’s surely seen on Joshua and Jeonghan both. 

Mingyu follows Seungcheol to the desk, fingers gripping the back of the chair as Seungcheol plops down with a sigh. His eyes trail over to the picture on the side while Seungcheol clicks away, smiling at the brightness of his hyungs’ smiles: their whole, equally bright futures ahead of them. Seungcheol’s in the center, per usual, arms slung around the other two’s shoulders; Jeonghan to his right, holding up bunny ears behind his head, Joshua on the left, holding his diploma proudly in the air. 

“Hard to believe we were ever younger than you, huh?” Seungcheol teases, neck craned to look up at Mingyu, eyes flitting to the picture. “Wonwoo took it; there’s another one with him in it but I switch it out when he pisses me off.” He reaches into one of the desk drawers and pulls out an identical picture frame. 

This one is, somehow, cuter than the last: the three of them engulfing a much shorter Wonwoo in a bear hug, the youngest smiling widely at the camera with noticeable tear tracks on his cheeks. 

“He used to be so cute. Everything went downhill once that growth spurt hit him,” Seungcheol grumbles, and Mingyu laughs in response, rubbing his thumb gently against the wood of the frame. 

“Didn’t know you were a jock, hyung,” Mingyu says, jerking his head towards the framed jersey. Seungcheol smiles. 

“Lacrosse, all through high school. Josh was on the swim team ,” he says, with a grin. Mingyu’s jaw drops. 

“I need pictures, now.” 

“I’ll look for the yearbook, we keep it laying around somewhere.”

Seungcheol looks back to the computer, clicking through a few files. The mouse hovers over the play button of one of them, and he whirls around with a grin, gesturing towards the monitor. 

Mingyu leans in slightly, eyes widening when he reads the name of the file. “ The mixtape ? You finished? Already?” 

“Had a lot of inspiration,” Seungcheol says, some vague implication in his tone that Mingyu can’t quite decipher, the same sort of haziness in the way he’s looking up at Mingyu.

“Wait,” Mingyu interjects, just as Seungcheol is about to hit play. “I want it to be a surprise.” Seungcheol tilts his head in confusion at that, and Mingyu nods, shyly, in full confirmation.

“It’s always special, listening to your music on the intended release date, refreshing YouTube like crazy at midnight. I don’t know, I’ve never even considered listening to any of the leaks over the years because you set a date when you want your art to be released to the world, and I wouldn’t want to hear it a second before then. Unless, of course, you want me to now, I’m sorry, I didn’t-” 

Seungcheol shakes his head with a soft, genuine smile. “I understand, baby. That’s actually really cute. Now I can’t get the image out of my head of a younger you hiding your phone under the covers so you don’t get caught up past your bedtime.” He grins at that. “Your parents must hate us.”

“Actually, my mom’s a little in love with you, hyung. She’s called you the ideal son in law on numerous occasions.” Seungcheol puffs his chest out in pride at that, just as Mingyu thinks he hears a scoff followed by muffled laughter coming from out the door. He turns his head towards the noise, then looks back at Seungcheol, who’s sporting a puzzlingly exasperated expression.

“Are you sure you’d like to wait, though? Not even a sneak peek?” Seungcheol tries again. Mingyu bites his lip in contemplation, after all, it’s practically his wildest dream. But still, it doesn’t feel right, so he eventually shakes his head. 

“Nah, I’ll just wait for the teaser rollout,” Mingyu replies.

Seungcheol nods, smiling as he closes the file folder. He then quickly looks at the door and then back at Mingyu, who follows his initial line of vision with curiosity. 

“Actually, that wasn’t the only surprise I had for you,” Seungcheol says, but he doesn’t move a muscle or say a word after that, eyes flitting, again, between Mingyu and the door. He then sighs. Mingyu raises an eyebrow, slowly starting to catch on.

That wasn’t the only surprise I had for you ,” Seungcheol repeats, more forcefully. 

“Shit, was that the cue?”

“I don’t know, just go!”

The door bursts open to reveal, verifying Mingyu’s suspicions, Jeonghan and Joshua, grinning widely as they stumble into the studio. 

“Can I have something else?” Mingyu asks Seungcheol, who has his face in his hands. 

“You guys had one thing to remember, just one,” Seungcheol mutters. 

“It was a really long sentence!” Jeonghan defends, as the two of them walk towards the desk. 

Joshua wordlessly holds out a piece of paper to Mingyu, who hesitantly takes it out of his hand. It’s a first class plane ticket to Tokyo, flight set for later that evening. Mingyu clutches onto it in shock, looking up first at Joshua, then immediately at Jeonghan. 

“We’re walking for Fendi at Fashion Week,” Jeonghan explains. “We’ll be busy the first day, but after that, we’re all yours. Little spring break trip for you, since you’ve been working so hard.” 

Mingyu flushes, excitement thrumming through his veins as he refrains from literally bouncing up and down. He wasn’t looking forward to spring break in the slightest, knowing all three of his hyungs would likely be working, ignoring Minghao and Seokmin’s attempts to get him to go back home with them. 

“I’d love to go, hyungs, thank you so much,” he says, quietly, still staring down at the ticket in disbelief, reading the location over and over again. 

“I expect pictures sent regularly to the group chat,” Seungcheol says, seriously. Mingyu tilts his head in confusion.

“You’re not coming, hyung?” he asks, with a pout. 

“You’re too cute,” Seungcheol says, a little breathlessly, like he just can’t help himself. “I got some stuff to finish up, can’t really get away. But have a lot of fun for me, okay?” He squeezes Mingyu’s arm in reassurance. Mingyu eventually nods, slowly, still pouting. 

“Alright, we’ll get you home so you can pack,” Joshua says, mindlessly touseling Mingyu’s bangs. Mingyu nods eagerly, pout dissipating as he imagines the night ahead of him. 

Minghao and Seokmin practically turn green when Mingyu bursts into the apartment, waving the ticket high in the air. Seokmin darts off to his room to make Mingyu a list of things he wants as reparations for every single pizza he’s had to pay for since they were 11. Minghao insistently trails behind him as Mingyu throws clothes into his suitcase, making small noises of discontent at every other article Mingyu pulls off of a hanger. 

Eventually, he throws his hands up in exasperation,  stepping aside to let Minghao pack the rest of his clothes for him. “Have at it,” Mingyu grumbles. Minghao makes a happy little noise and gets straight to work. 

The two of them leave an hour or so before Joshua and Jeonghan are expected to pick him up. 

“Are you sure I can’t fit in there?” Seokmin asks, staring longingly down at Mingyu’s suitcase. Minghao shakes his head in exasperation. “First class, you’re living in luxury , damn.” Mingyu laughs and claps his hand against Seokmin’s shoulder, pulling the older into a hug before he walks out the door. 

“Have fun, Gyu, you deserve it,” Minghao says, softly, foot holding the door open. Mingyu grins fondly, engulfing the younger in a tight hug. “ Urgh , fuck, let go of me.”

“Stop saying things that make me want to hug you then,” Mingyu replies, into Minghao’s shoulder. 

“I’d have to stop talking altogether then, clingy fucker,” Minghao says. 

“Get out of here,” Mingyu says, good-naturedly as he withdraws his arms. Minghao gives another little wave before the door closes shut.  

–––

Luxury, it turns out, is an offensive understatement for the first class cabin. A seat isn’t actually a seat at all, but rather a bed , walled off from the other ones. A rather large TV is mounted by the foot of the bed, a table beneath it. The head can also be used as a chair, moving back and forth at the passenger’s will. To the right side of the seating area is a mini fridge, already stocked with sodas and various alcoholic beverages.  

As soon as he situates himself and his backpack, Mingyu reaches for a can of beer. He’s not thirsty, or even looking to get drunk, but it’s right there

“Ah, sorry, he’s 21,” Mingyu hears Joshua tell a flight attendant. Mingyu looks up from his large sip to see said flight attendant give him a concerned look, that slowly dissolves into something of amusement, shaking her head as she continues down the aisles. 

He’s seated between Joshua and Jeonghan, the latter having already thrown an eye mask on, snoring softly, despite them having not even spent 5 minutes on the plane. Joshua’s flipping through movies, sipping on a glass of white wine. 

“Please tell me that’s not your typical drink of choice,” Joshua says, the corner of his lip curled up. Mingyu shrugs, taking another sip. 

“This is typically all 5 dollars in the bank account can get you, hyung.”

“We’ll get you the really good shit in this one bar in Tokyo, just remind me,” Joshua says.

“Like he’d need to remind you,” Jeonghan says, with a scoff, not having moved a muscle. Mingyu nearly jumps at the sudden sound of his voice. 

The flight is quite long, and the three of them stay in relative silence for the majority of it. Mingyu watches a couple of movies, flips through some of the film magazines he brought, sleeps on and off, and greatly enjoys the numerous rounds of plane meals. 

“I thought airplane food was supposed to be bad,” Mingyu says, around a large bite of spaghetti. Jeonghan snorts. 

Joshua lets Mingyu lean over him to gape out the window as the plane lands, snapping photo after photo of the Tokyo skyline.  

A car is waiting for them once they get their bags, just as lavish as the one Seungcheol sends for him. The ride to the hotel is relatively short, but Mingyu still manages to snap nearly a hundred pictures of the sights he passes. 

As he does so, Mingyu misses the fond looks Jeonghan and Joshua send his way. Misses the accidental eye contact they make, the mutual expression they share once they pull away: brewing with knowledge, a little jealousy, and a little relief too. 

Mingyu shuffles behind Jeonghan and Joshuq into the hotel, forehead on Jeonghan’s shoulder blade. He watches through bleary eyes as the receptionist slides two room keys across the desk, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Joshua takes one, Jeonghan takes the other, turning around to hold it out to Mingyu. 

“Shua and I usually share a room, and, um, we didn’t know what you’d be comfortable with, so,” Jeonghan says, voice slowly tapering off. Mingyu forces a tired smile, taking the card with a gentle nod. 

“That works, hyung, thank you so much,” he says, and it sounds weak, even to his own ears. He grabs his bag and walks ahead of them to the elevator, again, missing the look they exchange, the forlornness in it all. 

Boundaries must be set, he convinces himself, in a situation like this. He’s barely their friend, doesn’t want to intrude on their ardent intimacy, so he shouldn’t be disappointed, not at all. He should take the key with grace and cherish the fact that he has an enormous room to himself for an entire week. 

Except, when he slides the key, when the door clicks to reveal a room nearly half the size of his entire apartment, Mingyu feels a significant absence of joy. A wave of loneliness hits him, everything around him seeming so clinical, so empty. He dejectedly drops his suitcase down, throwing some of his clothes into one out of the seemingly hundreds of dresser drawers. 

After a quick shower, Mingyu hesitantly climbs into the bed, feeling as if he could drown in the sheer size of it. He can spread eagle without any of his limbs stretching over the mattress, and he hates it. He pathetically crawls up the bed, pressing his ear against the wall in hopes of catching a stray sound from either one of them. It lasts about two minutes before he realizes their room is on the opposite side, and that he’s likely losing his mind. 

They’ve funded his entire life for the past three months, given him a place in their luxurious lives, brought him to Tokyo with absolutely no real benefit to themselves; it’s beyond selfish for him to be feeling this way, all whiny and clingy because he has to live in a rich man’s hotel room for a week by himself. It’s pathetic, and he knows it, but it doesn’t help the pout that seems to have taken permanent residence on his face, arms crossed as his head hits the pillow with a groan, falling asleep just like that.

He wakes up to a familiar hand carding through his hair, blur of voices around his room. Eyelashes fluttering, he looks up to see Jeonghan above him, presumably talking to Joshua. 

Jeonghan hums when he notices Mingyu’s woken up, smiling softly down at him without halting the movement of his fingers. “Good morning, baby.” Mingyu smacks his lips in response, squeezing his eyes shut to stave off sleepiness. 

“Sorry to wake you up, but we realized we never gave you any time for breakfast or anything. We have a pretty early call time, so we’ll have to be out of here soon. You can have the day to do whatever you like,” Jeonghan says. Mingyu nods, sitting up, quelling the familiar disappointment. He, once again, foolishly thought he would be with them the whole day. You can’t be with them at work, he scolds himself. 

“Were you okay in this big room by yourself last night?” Joshua asks, once Mingyu climbs out of bed. There’s something akin to hesitance in his eyes, acutely waiting to gauge Mingyu’s reaction, for reasons unknown. But Mingyu just nods again, smiling reassuringly. Initially, Joshua doesn’t return it, a glint crossing his eyes, but after just a fraction of a second, he smiles as well. 

Hotel breakfast, to Mingyu, has always been sitting at a tiny table definitely not suited for twelve soccer players, scarfing down bowls of cereal and funky tasting fruit in record times in order to make it to their early morning games. It’s never been this : ginormous buffet with every breakfast item under the sun, still fresh and hot, all sorts of beverages to match. He goes for three cinnamon buns, a couple of handfuls of bacon, two stacks of pancakes, and a tall glass of orange juice. 

Jeonghan laughs in amusement when Mingyu brings his two plates of breakfast to the table, sipping on his own mimosa. The two of them are skipping out on a real breakfast, which makes Mingyu frown, and he continuously urges them to take one of his pancakes. 

“We’ll have a big dinner,” Joshua promises. Mingyu pouts around his cinnamon bun. 

True to their word, the two of them leave rather soon after that. Joshua hands him a small envelope as they get up from the table. 

“There’s a ticket for the show tonight, and your own credit card.” Mingyu looks up at him, eyes wide, about to hand it back in refusal, but Joshua levels him with a hard look. “Get whatever you want and eat whatever you want. We’ll be mad if there’s no charges on there, okay?”

“The car will come get you from here at eight, then we’ll meet you out there after the show for the after party,” Jeonghan says. “I left an outfit for you in your closet, wear that chain Cheollie got you a few weeks ago, ‘kay?” Mingyu nods obediently. 

“I’m excited to see you guys later,” Mingyu then admits, quietly, just before they walk away. “You’ll do great.” 

Mingyu nearly melts into the chair at the twin sets of looks they give him, excessive amounts of fondness glistening in their eyes as compared to the simplicity of his words. He flushes a little, curling in on himself at the intensity of their gazes. 

“So cute,” Jeonghan whispers, just as Joshua says, “Thank you, baby, we’re excited to have you there.” He reaches out to ruffle at Mingyu’s hair. “Have fun, okay? We’ll see you in a bit.”

“Don’t be afraid to use the card,” Jeonghan calls over his shoulder. Mingyu looks down at the black card in his hand, utterly foreign in just about every aspect. He should’ve just discreetly slid it back into Joshua’s pocket or something, he already has plenty in his account that he was planning on spending, this was completely unnecessary of them. He decisively stores it in his wallet, with no intention to use it. 

Mingyu thrums his fingers against the table, scrolling through the list of locations Minghao made for him. Just as much as he hates the nihility of silence, Mingyu loathes being alone, will do anything for some company. It’s as if another person’s presence is necessary to verify his own existence. 

Except, he’s found himself in a foreign country with the people he came with busy at work, and realizes he has no choice but to seize the day by himself. 

At least, he figures, throwing his Airpods in, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and heading out of the dining room, it’s the height of sakura season, an excellent time to test the new camera Joshua bought for him. He decides to walk, taking in the buildings and bustling streets as he strolls mindlessly through the city in search of a park. 

He comes across a small one opposite a rather large shopping complex, cherry blossoms in bloom creating a beautiful pink canopy across the area. His finger taps away at the shutter button, the other hand running along some of the flowers on a branch that’s falling quite low to the ground. 

Lowering the camera, he plays with the petals between his fingers. His eyes go unfocused, pink blurred in his vision, mind focused on the black card stowed safely in his backpack, just next to the key for his excessive large single room, which is next to the polaroid of him, Seungcheol and Joshua, taken by Jeonghan. 

Mingyu wonders then, if, to them, he’s as ephemeral as these flowers: something lovely while they have him, yet forever exists the reminder that their time is fleeting, on an hourglass. 

It’s one of those feelings: to truly know something all along and yet feel utterly clueless when the realization hits. Of course, it’s fleeting, this relationship, how could it not be. But, could it not be? 

He doesn’t want it to be, surely not, wants to be by their side every minute of every day and can’t honestly see himself ever losing that desire.

But he knows, at the bottom of it all, that it’s beyond unrealistic, that the aforementioned timer is most certainly closer to zero than whatever it started out at.

The petal between his fingers slips out of his tight hold, breaking off of the flower and falling towards the ground. It gets caught midair by the wind, and Mingyu intently watches it fly towards the bridge he’d just crossed. Atop it now is a couple with a small child, who giggles loudly as the petal flies over her head, jumping as high as her little legs can take her to try and reach it, her parents smiling fondly down at her. 

Then, he considers, looking away from the family and at the other people at the park, enjoying the presence of the pink trees, perhaps transience isn’t as awful as he’s making it out to be. Perhaps, there’s something profound in cherishing something that’s known to be temporary, perhaps it makes it all that more special. 

Maybe, this really won’t turn out as bad as everyone, including Mingyu, expects it to. Does it have to?

After the park, Mingyu has lunch at a little hole in the wall restaurant down the street, indulging in some pork and bamboo shoot soup and a bit of sake. He then goes back to the shopping center, deciding to tackle the list Seokmin gave him, which is mostly anime merchandise, unsurprisingly. Mingyu eliminates some of the items himself, absolutely refusing to walk up to any cashier with a Oikawa body pillow in tow. 

Mingyu ends up grabbing a few things for himself and Minghao as well. He thinks his taste in clothing is improving, with all the time spent around models and luxury clothes. He smiles with pride, walking back down the street, bags in hand. 

Soft R&B croons in his ears as he passes the trees, and Mingyu loses track of time, just like that, mind absent of thoughts. He doesn’t hate it, the lonesomeness, as much as he thought he would. Almost thinks he could get used to it. There’s something wonderfully mundane in this wholly unfamiliar moment. 

Almost, because his heart floods with unmistakable relief when his phone goes off, pulling it out to see Minghao’s contact picture smiling back at him. People can’t change that easily, Mingyu figures, accepting the call. 

“Hey, what’s up?” Mingyu asks, hesitantly, because Minghao’s looking at him in complete disorientation, his face and tips of his ears bright red. Mingyu scans Minghao’s background, tension slightly alleviated when he recognizes it as Seokmin’s childhood bedroom. 

“Soonyoung and I just called for two hours ,” Minghao says, breathlessly, in disbelief, slowly enunciating each word like he’s trying to convince himself it actually happened. Mingyu would give him shit for it, except he relates to it a little too hard. “He’s the most perfect person I’ve ever met,” he then adds, pushing his face down into bed with a whine. 

“He made me sit in the hallway, in my own house!” Seokmin cries, indignantly, climbing onto the bed next to Minghao, shoving at his shoulder. 

“Well, you couldn’t be here because I can’t trust you to keep your mouth shut, and you had to be close in case I needed to be saved from awkwardness!” Minghao explains. Seokmin scoffs. 

“I don’t think there was more than ten seconds of silence in that entire two hour conversation,” he mutters. 

“I know , right? We get along so well,” Minghao says, dreamily. 

“So, you going to let him come to the show?” Mingyu asks. Minghao shrugs.

“I think so, he really wants to, and I’ve already sent him videos of some of my other routines, so, what’s the worst that could happen?” Mingyu grins at that, in pride. 

“How’s Tokyo?” Seokmin interjects, “Should I make room on my bed for Oikawa?” Minghao rolls his eyes. 

“No, but I’ll bring home less mortifying things, promise,” Mingyu assures. Due to lack of focus, he stumbles over his own foot, nearly crashing into an elderly woman. He gives her his most charming smile in apology, and she scans him through narrowed eyes, before eventually returning the smile when she deems him worthy of it.

He looks back up at the phone to see Minghao and Seokmin shaking their heads with amusement at his clumsiness, which he responds to with a glare. “It’s gorgeous here, I got some great shots,” he says, excitedly. “I wish you guys could be here, though especially for tomorrow,” he adds, with a pout. 

This year will be the first birthday since he was nine that he won’t be spending with Minghao and Seokmin. But, also, it’ll by far the most luxurious of birthdays he’ll probably ever have. It’s bittersweet, memorable in different ways. He knows it won’t be as fun as it could’ve been without them by his side. Everything’s always better with them by his side. 

“I know,” Minghao says, frowning. “But you’re going to have a lot of fun, and we’ll celebrate when you get back.” Seokmin nods, smiling comfortingly. Mingyu wants to hug them both so bad. 

They make their goodbyes shortly after that. The call ends, revealing Mingyu’s lock screen, which tells him that it’s nearly seven already, and Mingyu realizes that he probably should have been back at the hotel getting ready a half hour ago. He picks up his pace back to the hotel, flying down the last few blocks, bags swinging behind him. 

Mingyu takes a shower, and throws his outfit on in record time, giving himself a bit more time to do his hair. Slicking his fingers with the gel he stole from Joshua, he wets his bangs a little, giving them a tasteful fresh-out-of-the-shower look. He fumbles through his suitcase for the jewelry pouch, eventually pulling out the chain Jeonghan had mentioned, along with a few matching rings and a dainty bracelet. 

After doing a brief analysis of his appearance in the mirror, Mingyu’s eyes trail down to the makeup pouch Minghao had handed him while he was packing, saying it was just in case he changed his mind about wearing it. Minghao had done his makeup for him once a few years back when the soccer team had gone to the campus Halloween party as vampires, and to Minghao’s credit, he’d gotten hit on a lot more than usual that night. 

Fuck it , Mingyu thinks, roving through the bag, pulling out a black pencil eyeliner, glittery sheer eyeshadow, and a clear lip gloss. With a deep breath, he lightly lines his eyes with the pencil, pulling back with a grin, pleased at his quick learning. The eyeshadow is actually a little more daunting, he’s not quite sure what to do with it. He resorts to swiping it over his lids, then on his cheekbones like he’s seen Minghao do. The lip gloss is the finishing touch, and he grimaces at the sticky feeling as he smacks his lips together. 

Standing back, he gives himself another scan, this one a little more concentrated than the last. Jeonghan has a keen eye, Mingyu notes: the older’s given him a perfectly fitting black shirt with a plunging neckline, a black blazer made of a shimmering fabric to go on top, and fitted black slacks to match. It should be simple, plain all-black pieces, but it comes together well, he looks expensive, distinguished. 

After snapping a few selfies in the mirror, one of a close up of his makeup which he sends right to Minghao (who texts back immediately: !!!!! told you ), he heads down to the hotel lobby to wait for the car. Unsurprisingly, it’s already arrived, and Mingyu hurriedly climbs in, feeling like someone of importance, being paraded around Tokyo in a covert black car with enough drinks inside to feed a party of ten. 

The venue is in the same area as the hotel, surrounded by dozens of black cars akin to the one Mingyu’s in. There’s a whole mob of people bustling around, most of them holding cameras or notebooks, all dressed expensively with serious looks on their faces. Mingyu nervously gets out of the car, pushing through the crowd to get to the entrance, where he shows the attendant his ticket.

A man dressed in all black leads him inside, through a few hallways also lined with people, into a large room where people are seated in front of a runway. Mingyu nods at him in thanks, looking between his ticket and the numbers associated with each seat. He finds his in one of the front rows, towards the left of the runway, sitting down in between a pinched looking man looking intently down at his phone and a younger woman, who he nods at politely. 

Mingyu awkwardly busies himself with his phone while he waits for the show to start, flipping back and forth between two of the selfies he took, trying to decide which one is more Instagram worthy.

“What agency are you with?” the woman next to him says, in English. Mingyu jolts at her voice, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion before he eventually recognizes the context of the question.

“Oh, I’m not- um, two of my friends are walking, I’m just here to see them,” he explains. The woman raises her eyebrows, then immediately goes to fumble in her purse, pulling out a card from her wallet. 

“Well, if you’re ever interested in modeling yourself, give me a call,” she says, pushing the card in Mingyu’s direction with a grin. Nayeon Im, CEO, JYP Management , it reads, above a phone number and email. “You certainly have the, well, everything , for it.” 

Mingyu politely takes the card, still in bewilderment, but, before he can respond, the lights dim, indicating the start of the show. The music starts, bass heavy, thrumming through Mingyu’s veins as he takes in the models that cross the stage, arms swinging, faces neutral. Jeonghan mentioned they’d both be among the last few models to walk the stage, so, truthfully, Mingyu zones out for most of the show, slightly blinded by all the cameras flashing near him. 

After another forty five minutes, in which Mingyu indulges in at least three glasses of champagne from passing waiters, Mingyu nearly chokes on his sip as Joshua steps onto the stage. At least ten people around him also snap to attention, more cameras going off than before. 

Joshua’s ensemble is all gray: a long overcoat paired on top of slacks with an ombre detailing down the leg, simple and elegant. Except, Mingyu’s barely focused on the outfit, lips parted as he unabashedly stares at Joshua’s face. He’s wearing thick black eyeshadow with a bright silver shade pressed into the inner corner of his eyes, highlighting the gorgeous dark brown of his irises. He looks ethereal, Mingyu thinks, and everyone in this room must feel the exact same way. Mingyu’s overcome with a combination of pride and, strangely enough, possession, knowing he’s one of the only, extremely privileged, people to know just how beautiful Joshua really is. 

His appearance is brief, but impactful, the sounds of pens scribbingly against paper in what surely must be praise filling the room. In fact, there’s a significant amount of time before the next model crosses the stage, a gorgeous woman Mingyu’s definitely seen in a magazine or two. 

Right after her, though, comes Jeonghan. His number is all white: something of a button down for the top, sleeves mesh, hems of them lined with a feathery fabric, with slacks that cut off at the thigh to reveal high knit socks. 

Again, it’s not the outfit, but rather Jeonghan that truly steals the show. It’s impossible for him not to, he could be wearing the most extravagant piece on earth and still, his face would take center stage. He looks like a true fallen angel, slightly long, bright blond hair framing his face like a halo. His makeup is a little more subtle than Joshua’s, but there’s a prominent rogue dusted high on his cheeks, with lipstick to match. Him and Joshua make quite the pair, the most stark of contrasts that hardly translates into real life. 

His walk gets as much attention as Joshua’s, cameras going wild as he walks off the stage. It turns out, Jeonghan’s the last model, and the lights come on again. Nayeon whistles quietly next to him, uncrossing her legs as she stows her phone back in her bag. 

“What I would do to have Yoon Jeonghan and Joshua Hong under me,” Nayeon says, offhandedly. “Under my label, that is,” she adds, with a smirk and a wink. Mingyu wants to ask her if she knows them personally, but he figures it violates the whole discretion agreement, expressing curiosity will surely arouse suspicion. 

“Who was your friend?” Nayeon then asks. So much for that. Mingyu swallows, cursing himself for not knowing a single other one of the model’s names to use as a cover. He looks at Nayeon, whose eyes are beginning to narrow in confusion. She looks like a woman who can root out a lie like a police trained dog. 

“Yoon Jeonghan and Joshua Hong,” he says, quietly. Her eyebrows shoot up to her hairline, before her expression morphs into something of recognition, then, strangely enough, disbelief. Mingyu starts to fumble for a backtrack, but Nayeon interrupts his babbles with a short, high pitched laugh. 

You’re the boytoy?” she asks, incredulously. So, there’s his initial question answered. “I thought Jeonghan was just fucking with me again. Damn, didn’t think they made college boys this cute anymore.”

“What’s this, your cougar era, Nayeonie?” Jeonghan’s voice calls from behind them, in Korean. They both whirl around to follow it, to see Jeonghan and Joshua standing together, their clothes changed into equally luxurious looking suits, makeup removed. The female model who walked in between them is standing behind them, her amused look matching the men’s in front of her.

“Unnie, leave him alone, poor thing,” the woman chides, walking over to where they’re sitting. Her makeup is also less heavy than it was on stage, her dress a lot more plain than the one she’d walked in, but she looks no less gorgeous, strawberry blonde hair tumbling effortlessly down her back. She turns to Mingyu, who swallows at the attention. 

“Hi, I’m Sana, it’s nice to meet you,” she says, with a bright smile. Mingyu short circuits a little before nodding in recognition, standing up to bow his head politely. 

“I’m Mingyu, um, you too, you looked great up there,” he says, nervously. 

“Cute,” Joshua mutters, appearing behind him, hands on his shoulders, just as Nayeon says, “Tall, too. Where’d you find him?”, unabashedly eyeing Mingyu’s figure before turning to an exasperated Jeonghan. Sana glares at her. 

“Sorry, babe,” Nayeon says, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Sana hates when I tease.”

“You enjoy flustering people for pure enjoyment, it’s despicable! Oh, look at him, he’s all red,” Sana tuts. Mingyu looks pointedly over at Jeonghan, who’s smirking back at him knowingly. 

“Alright, we’ll see you two at the afterparty, yeah?” Joshua says, to which they nod in response, turning around to head towards the exit. “Great job, Sana!” he then calls. She grins widely and waves, blowing a kiss before the door closes behind her.

“Nayeonie’s own dirty little secret,” Jeonghan tells him, Mingyu’s not sure how he feels about the many implications behind that sentence. 

Jeonghan hooks their arms together and hurriedly leads Mingyu out the exit, where the car is waiting for them right at the front. When they settle in the seats, Joshua leans forward to absentmindedly play with Mingyu’s hair, humming quietly.

“You look great, baby,” he says, with a soft smile. “Good outfit choice, Jeonghan-ah.” 

“Did you ever doubt me?” Jeonghan asks, fingers running across the chain he instructed Mingyu to wear. Mingyu bites his lip at Jeonghan’s appeased smile. It feels good, to be recognized for following directions, satisfied he was able to please. 

“T-thank you,” Mingyu stammers. “You both looked, um, wow , you looked really good. You’re so good at what you do, I’m so glad I got to see you in action. It makes sense, how you got the reputation you did,” he adds, a little more confidently, with complete earnesty.

The two of them are silent at that, seemingly taken back by the lengthy compliment. Jeonghan blinks rapidly a few times, shaking his head to himself. “Thank you, sweetheart, I’m so glad you could come,” he says. His lips stay parted, words seemingly on the tip of his tongue, but his eyes suddenly dart to the side, making brief eye contact with Joshua, and they close again, forced smiling returning. 

Mingyu furrows his eyebrows, leaning back to look back and forth between the two of them, who are still holding eye contact with steely challenge. He almost feels like he’s interrupting something, a silent conversation of sorts. 

Joshua breaks eye contact, giving Mingyu a small smile of his own with a squeeze of his thigh. “This afterparty should be decent, I think Sana said it's open bar.” 

“It better be,” Jeonghan says, with a snort, as the car comes to a stop.

They don’t end up staying at the party for too long. Mingyu mostly trails behind Jeonghan and Joshua, sipping on whatever alcohol they shove at him as they mingle with the people around them. He laughs when they laugh, nods when they do, listens intently as they whisper random gossip to him when they pass someone of interest. Nayeon tries to get his contact information again , and he’s handed at least three cards from various other agents. 

“Shit, we better get going soon, it’s late,” Jeonghan says, about an hour and a half in, glancing down at his watch with a yawn. Sana laughs. 

“You’ve been here for like, 5 minutes, Jeonghan,” she says, one eyebrow raised. 

“We got a long day tomorrow,” Joshua explains, teasingly, squeezing at Mingyu’s neck. The very action has him teetering off balance, tightly clasping onto Mingyu to stay upright. “It’s someone’s 22nd.”

“Oh, happy birthday!” Sana says, excitedly, flashing her phone in his face. The clock reads 12:08 and Mingyu smiles shyly, as the others relay the same congratulatory sentiment. 

They eventually pull themselves away, heading out of the venue and to the car. Mingyu’s always prided himself on his ability to hold his alcohol well (it’s clearly because of his size, but he still considers it a talent), but the other two clearly do not fare the same. Jeonghan’s barely walking in a straight line, clutching onto Mingyu’s arm for dear life, slurring out incoherent babbles to himself. Joshua maintains a little more composure, but, he too is incessantly talking, a lot louder than Jeonghan. 

Mingyu smiles apologetically at the driver as he drags them into the car, who shoots them a look of confusion through the rear view mirror. Five minutes later, Jeonghan is snoring loudly, head on Mingyu’s lap, limbs sprawled across the seat. His hands are both encircling Mingyu’s left bicep, in some semblance of comfort, Mingyu supposes.

“You should get some sleep, the ride back to the hotel is pretty long,” Joshua slurs softly, leaning against Mingyu’s shoulder. 

“I think I better keep an eye on you two,” Mingyu replies. Joshua sniffs, falling silent again. 

After another twenty minutes or so, he smacks his lips, looking up at Mingyu with soft eyes. “So good, you’re so good, you know that?” he says, hand going up to play with Mingyu’s hair. “And so pretty, too, do I tell you that enough? I feel like I don’t, which is like, a federal crime, because-” he pauses, intently scanning Mingyu’s face. “Because you’re so pretty. And good. And cute. We think you’re so cute, everything you do and say , and you probably don’t even know how cute you are.” 

Joshua then snuggles his head into Mingyu’s shoulder, before, quite suddenly, sitting perfectly upright, turning his entire body to look directly into Mingyu’s eyes. Being drunk means you have absolutely no idea as to how terribly you’re failing to mask every one of your very candid emotions, Mingyu notes, watching Joshua’s eyes unsubtly dart back and forth between Mingyu’s eyes and his gloss slicked lips.

If Joshua leaned in right now, Mingyu realizes, he’d do absolutely nothing to stop him. He’d kiss and let himself be kissed with no inhibition. If he were a little more drunk, maybe he’d be the one to lean in. Maybe he’s about to do it right now. Maybe he’ll meet Joshua halfway. 

He doesn’t have time to find out, as the car comes to a screeching halt in front of the hotel, and Mingyu lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Joshua blinks about a dozen times, lips parting and closing almost comically. Mingyu pathetically wants to scream please, please kiss me, please , with all the desperation he can muster. They could pass it off as a drunk mistake, they could never speak of it again, he doesn’t care, all he wants is to feel Joshua’s lips against his. 

“Happy birthday, Mingyu-yah,” Joshua says, softly, instead of the hundred other things Mingyu knows he wants to say. Mingyu searches for them in his eyes, but the older breaks eye contact with a flush high on his cheeks. 

The timer ticks above his head, as another cherry blossom petal falls to the ground.

–––

“Try this one.”

“No, no , this one!” 

Mingyu swallows, looking anxiously back and forth between the two spoons being shoved in his face from either direction. 

They’ve taken him to some quaint little bakery for breakfast, insisting on each buying him a different slice of cake, so he can decide who has the best taste. Mingyu feels like he’s found himself in an extremely volatile situation. If there’s one thing about the three of them that jumps out almost instantly, it’s that they’re intensely competitive with each other, and God help any poor soul that happens to fall in the midst of it.

Without thinking, Mingyu takes Jeonghan’s bite first, then Joshua’s, ignoring the smug smile Jeonghan gives Joshua, despite the choice having no implication either way whatsoever. Truthfully, Joshua’s strawberry hibiscus choice is a lot more appealing at the moment than Jeonghan’s, still absolutely delicious, hazelnut coffee, but, obviously, he can’t let either of them know that. 

“They’re both so good,” he says, taking a second bite of hazelnut coffee, out of fear that he’s making his preference obvious. 

“But which one’s better?” Jeonghan urges. 

“Mine, obviously. He just took a second bite of yours to avoid suspicion,” Joshua says, leaning back in his chair. Mingyu freezes for a fraction of a second, quickly going to mask the surprise, but, of course, they notice. Jeonghan scoffs. 

“You’re off the hook because it’s your birthday,” he says, with a pout. 

“Not his fault he has good taste,” Joshua teases. 

Okay , I think we’re good on breakfast,” Mingyu says, before Jeonghan has a chance to snap back, desperately trying to avoid a brewing bickering match.

Just as promised, Jeonghan and Joshua really do have an entire day’s itinerary planned out for him. After breakfast, they take him to another shopping center, making rounds through every designer store, shoving hanger after hanger for him to try on, purchasing clothes for him while ignoring his every protest. 

Two hours later, with about a dozen shopping bags in the backseat, they take him to lunch, a seafood restaurant with the most delicious, fresh clams Mingyu’s ever tasted in his life. For dessert, they’re served beautifully plated sakura mochi, which Mingyu readily devours, to his hyungs’ amusement. 

“Baby eats so well,” Jeonghan coos, making Mingyu nearly choke around his bite of mochi. 

He doesn’t know why the comment affects him so much: they slather him with endearments in every other sentence, incessantly pinch his cheeks and play with his hair, it’s definitely nothing new . They’ve done this for months, since the first day, since the first conversation, at that.

But today , he’s been spoiled, attended to, doted on, to a new extent. It’s common knowledge, because he doesn’t do too well a job of hiding it, that Mingyu loves attention. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering he mostly receives it through doing things for other people. Which, he adores, adores knowing people are smiling because of him, adores the praise he receives in turn, adores feeling needed, wanted. 

Sometimes, though, as in, right now, it feels good, to take, and take, and take, and not be expected to give anything in return. Everyone, he figures, feels that way, needs to live that way for just a little while, be just a little selfish sometimes. 

Perhaps that’s the reason he’s grown so attached, why he’s crushing so incredibly hard: no one’s ever given it to him before, not like this, at least, no one’s ever given him every ounce of their attention like he’s the only other person in the room. 

It’s fine, he thinks, the attachment that he’s grown to acknowledge. A crush is just a crush, it comes and goes, momentary as a cherry blossom. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be vicious. He could, he should , just enjoy it; the feeling of weightlessness at every instance of eye contact, every touch. It can be pleasant, if he lets it be. So, Mingyu doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t back away from their attentions, he chooses to embrace it all instead. 

He’ll let them call him baby , sweetheart , honey , and every other devastating endearment under the sun. He’ll let them hold his hand, squeeze his thigh, play with his hair, cup his jaw, and kiss his forehead. He’ll let them pamper him far more than he deserves and ask for nothing in return. He’ll let them do whatever they want, and pretend he’s not falling twenty feet deeper in the hole he’s dug for himself by the day. 

It’s fine. It’ll be fine. A crush is just a crush. 

After lunch comes a trip to an art museum that Mingyu’s been dying to visit (he’s surprised that they remembered him talking about it), followed by a walk through a spring market where he leaves stuffed with even more food and holding three bouquets. Before he knows it, the sun’s starting to go down, and they head back to the hotel just as it gets dark.

“Outfit I chose is on your bed, meet us in our room in 45,” Joshua says, once they reach their floor, leaving him at the door to his room. Mingyu has no idea when Joshua found the time to do that, he didn’t leave Mingyu’s sight all day. He’s learned, however, not to question their methods. 

“Wear the silver chain that we got today,” Jeonghan adds. 

“Wait, where are we going?” Mingyu calls after them. They poke their heads out the door with grins so identical that it’s almost a little freaky. 

“You’ll see,” Jeonghan says, just as Joshua says, “Somewhere fun, promise.” 

“Why can’t you just tell me, I’ll find out soon enough, anyway,” Mingyu grumbles. 

“Don’t talk back, baby,” Jeonghan scolds, but instead of irritation in his tone, there’s a playful glint in his eyes. Mingyu doesn’t know why he flushes. 

Joshua’s taste in fashion, for Mingyu at least, is, surprisingly, a lot more daring than Jeonghan’s. A lot . The outfit he’s chosen is another all black ensemble: long sleeved, plunging neckline top lined with white lace, paired with simple, black skinny jeans. Except, Mingyu realizes as he pulls it on, the top is cropped, quite small, really, and he silently thanks Jeongguk for forcing him to do those ab workouts with him. 

Mingyu spends so long analyzing his appearance that he loses track of time entirely, realizing there’s only about five minutes left before he has to be next door. He frowns, knowing he won’t have time to do the makeup he did yesterday, barely has enough time to style his hair. 

Before he heads out the door, he goes to clasp the silver, three layered chain around his neck, but, he hesitates, deciding instead to keep it in his palm, squeezing it tightly as he walks into the hallway. 

Joshua hums in satisfaction when Mingyu comes into their room, securing a dangly silver earring onto his left earlobe as he walks over to the door. 

“Just as I imagined,” he says, proudly, hands going to rub at Mingyu’s bare sides. It takes a lot of willpower for Mingyu not to jump out of his hold. Or lean down to kiss him. “You’re like a Ken doll. We should do a mini fashion show at home soon, dress you up a little.” He lets go, moving to the other side of the bed to grab some more jewelry off of the bedside table.

“Mm, Cheol would love that,” Jeonghan says, coming out of the bathroom. “No chain?” he then asks, pausing in front of him, frowning a little. Mingyu holds it out towards him with a soft smile. 

“Put it on for me?” he asks. Jeonghan returns the grin, twirling his finger to prompt Mingyu to turn around. 

His fingers are gentle, brushing Mingyu’s skin lightly as he fastens the chain around his neck. Mingyu turns around once he’s done to see Jeonghan staring up at him with uninhibited affection in his eyes, along with something else, something Mingyu doesn’t think he’s quite ready to identify. 

“You look great, hyung,” he says, softly, to fill the silence that follows. Jeonghan does look great, in a sheer white button down with a black leather jacket on top, paired with black leather pants that sinfully hug every inch of his long legs. His white blond hair looks terribly soft, Mingyu longs to reach out and touch it. 

So, he does, hand outstretched to tuck a lock behind Jeonghan’s ear, who genuinely blushes , eyes widening ever so slightly. Mingyu suddenly realizes how close they are, stepping back with a clear of his throat, palms starting to get a little sweaty. 

“Says you,” Jeonghan says, sultry smile finding its way back on his face. “Hope we run into a ton of people there, want everyone to see the eye candy hanging off my arm.” And, the roles are back to normal, Mingyu flushing deeply at the compliment. 

“Alright, drink now, flirt later,” Joshua says, holding out two shot glasses to the two of them. Mingyu downs it swiftly, the liquor burning as it goes down his throat. 

The mystery location turns out to be not so mysterious after all, just an extravagant looking club (it’s crazy, to Mingyu, that that’s what’s become just to him) a couple of blocks from the hotel. 

They do about three rounds of shots right off the bat, and Mingyu’s pleased to be already feeling the buzz. It’s clear this club is something of an exclusive setting; it’s not too packed, not too empty, everyone around him dressed just as expensive as he is. 

“Isn’t this a sight? Yoon Jeonghan and Joshua Hong are actually out of their cave and at a club,” a voice calls from behind him. The three of them whirl around, Jeonghan immediately gasping and going to hug the owner of the voice: a tall, extremely handsome man with legs for miles. Behind him, are a few familiar faces, namely Taehyung, Jimin, and another dancer whose videos frequent Minghao’s Youtube history, Hirai Momo. Joshua peels himself from the table to give his own round of hugs. 

“No Seungcheol?” Jimin asks, with a frown. 

“He had work , or whatever,” Jeonghan replies, rolling his eyes. 

“Ah, shit, sorry, Mingyu, this is Junhui, Jiminie, Momo, and, of course, Tae, who you know,” Joshua says, gesturing to each person as he introduces them. 

“Guys, this is Mingyu, our birthday boy ,” Jeonghan croons, squeezing Mingyu’s arm. 

“22, right? Enjoy it while it lasts,” Jimin says. 

“Alright, old man,” Jeonghan says, with a snort. Taehyung and Momo laugh. 

“You are older than me.”

“By nine fucking days!” 

“You’re both old, now move. Next round’s on me, for pretty boy’s birthday,” Junhui says, winking at Mingyu before he heads to the bar. 

Joshua and Jeonghan, it turns out, are delightfully different people when they’re around this particular group of friends. Taehyung and Joshua are a formidable competition for Jimin and Jeonghan, getting into debates over absolutely anything, until Junhui repeatedly shuts them down with a single, witty remark. Momo, thankfully, keeps Mingyu a part of the conversation, always whispering context to him when an inside joke comes up. 

It’s his birthday, but Mingyu finds enjoyment in watching Jeonghan and Joshua have the time of their lives, laughing and drinking, just being themselves. He’s not too drunk himself, just pleasantly tipsy, which actually improves the situation, he wasn’t looking to get sloppy drunk anyway, wanting to enjoy the night as much as possible.

Although, he can’t help but miss Seungcheol, just a little, the table feeling somewhat incomplete without him. Mingyu sends him about a dozen selfies to let him know that he’s thinking of him. Maybe he misses him more than a little. 

“What the fuck are we doing?” Jimin exclaims, rather suddenly, after it’s been nearly an hour since they sat down. “Let’s dance!” All of them, but Jeonghan, make their way to the dance floor. Mingyu hangs back for a second, pouting at him, pulling at his arm. 

“Are you sure, hyung?” he asks. Jeonghan nods.

“You go, baby, I’ll have a lot more fun watching you.” Mingyu swallows, nodding slowly.

Minutes later, he finds himself sandwiched between Joshua and Taehyung, who’s just hung up an impromptu FaceTime call with Jeongguk. The younger had answered the call in nothing but a pair of boxers, clearly not expecting Taehyung to be in public. He shouted a quick happy birthday to Mingyu, and hung up. Mingyu plans on holding that over his head for the next thirty years. 

Mingyu suddenly feels a pressure on his arm, looking left to see Junhui smirking at him. “Let’s put on a show for your hyungs, hm?” he whispers, against the shell of Mingyu’s ear. Mingyu nods, dumbly, forever rendered speechless by the presence of an attractive human being. 

Junhui is, apparently, dead serious, dramatically slinging an arm over Mingyu’s shoulder, pressing his body quite snugly against Mingyu’s as he sways his hips rhythmically to the beat of the bass heavy music. “Hand on my waist now, cutie, don’t be shy. Pretend I’m Jeonghan.” Mingyu attempts to sputter out a denial at that, but Junhui just throws his head back with a laugh. 

Mingyu loses himself a little after that, feeling the sweat trickle down his forehead, then his neck. Junhui is quite the dance partner, not betraying any sort of exhaustion, maintaining his sultry expression throughout. Ever so often, Mingyu will look down and make accidental eye contact with him, to which Junhui will smirk like a pleased cat and push their bodies closer together.

The next time it happens, Mingyu looks over at the table to see it completely empty. He furrows his eyebrows in confusion, just as Junhui lets out a breathy laugh. “Ah, all he needed was just a little push, huh?” Junhui says. 

Before Mingyu can ask what the hell Junhui’s talking about, he feels a hand on his waist, clamped down, tightly, and he looks behind his shoulder to see Jeonghan standing behind him, a determined expression on his face. “Think I’m going to steal him from you now, Jun-ah,” Jeonghan says, voice deep, raspy a little. Junhui grins, nodding. 

“You’re welcome,” he sing-songs into Mingyu’s ear, before abruptly peeling himself off of Mingyu, disappearing into the crowd with a final waggle of his fingers. 

Mingyu spins around to face Jeonghan with a soft smile, contrasting the older’s own firm one. “Change your mind?” Jeonghan hums. 

“Had to get my hands on you myself,” Jeonghan replies, pushing their bodies together, just as closely as he was to Junhui moments prior, hands tight on the bare skin of his waist, almost possessively. Mingyu tries to relieve his tension, letting it flow out of his nerves as he slowly regains his smoothness. 

Jeonghan hums in satisfaction, setting a rhythm that Mingyu readily follows, throwing an arm around the back of Jeonghan’s neck. He scans the crowd for any sign of Joshua, but comes up short, deciding then to focus all his energy on the once in a lifetime event happening right in front of him, happening to him. 

“See how many people are watching you? That’s how good you look,” Jeonghan says, quietly. “Sexy baby.” Mingyu swallows, looking up to see a handful of people, in fact, watching them dance. He laughs, dryly, nervously. 

“Who’s the model, hyung?” he jokes. “They’re definitely looking at you.” Jeonghan shakes his head.

“You have no idea, do you? With your pretty face, all sharp features, tiny waist, long legs, fucking– fuck – fucking abs .” Jeonghan enunciates his words by running a hand down Mingyu’s taut stomach. “Wish I could show you, somehow.” 

Mingyu should keep his mouth shut , he should keep dancing, because he most definitely isn’t drunk enough for this. Jeonghan doesn’t seem like he is either. There are things he should do. 

But, there are more enticing things he could do. 

“You can, you can show me,” he says, quietly, and he’s not sure if Jeonghan even heard him. Except, moments later, the older looks up, with the emotion in his eyes, the one Mingyu didn’t allow himself to put a name to: desire.

“Tell me, you have to tell me, that you want it,” Jeonghan replies, nose just inches from Mingyu’s. Mingyu lets out a deep breath.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. 

“I want it, please, I want you . Want you to show me,” Mingyu says, fully aware of the pathetic desperation in his voice. Jeonghan takes in a sharp intake of breath, hands tightening around his waist. 

“Let’s get out of here,” Jeonghan says, breathlessly, pulling at Mingyu’s arm, like he can’t wait a second longer. Mingyu doesn’t think he can either. 

“What about Joshua hyung?” Mingyu asks, as he’s led through the crowd. 

“He’ll find his way, he’s resourceful,” Jeonghan assures, and Mingyu laughs quietly. 

They make it back to the hotel in record time, grabbing a taxi outside of the club. Jeonghan pays extra for the driver to go 20 over the speed limit. 

Although the tension is still most definitely existent by the time they reach Mingyu’s room, the fire has, admittedly, dissipated a little. The realization of what they’re about to do has started to kick in, but Mingyu really doesn’t want to give himself time to think about it. 

“Do you still want this?” Jeonghan asks, pressing Mingyu against the door. Mingyu nods. “Will you tell me, at any time, if you start to not want it?” Mingyu nods again, and Jeonghan slots a thigh between his legs. “I’m going to kiss you now.” 

This time, he doesn’t give Mingyu time to nod, leaning up to crush their lips together in a searing kiss, which Mingyu returns with equal intensity. “Fuck, I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you at the cafe that first day. You’re so damn kissable, you know that?”

Again, Mingyu’s given less than a second to react to that admission, Jeonghan leaning back in, hand going to the back of Mingyu’s head, tugging gently at his locks. And that is something Mingyu didn’t realize he was into, whining against Jeonghan’s lips at the sensation. The older grins into the next kiss, pulling a little harder this time, experimentally. 

Jeonghan pulls back, still sporting the grin, cupping Mingyu’s cheek with his hand, thumb pressing against his bottom lip. “You look best like this, I think, so pretty. Such a pretty baby.” Mingyu doesn’t even have it in him to blush, or look away, just nods rapidly instead, and Jeonghan laughs.

“Wearing too many clothes though,” he says, tugging at the hem of Mingyu’s shirt, his other hand splayed against Mingyu’s stomach. Mingyu helps him take it off, feeling quite prideful at the breath Jeonghan lets out at the sight of his bare chest. He mindlessly maps the skin, fingers running all over, thigh going upward to press right between his thighs. The various, nearly overwhelming sensations set Mingyu’s skin on fire, pushing himself into the pattern of Jeonghan’s hands, down onto his thigh, chasing any sort of relief. 

Jeonghan grips his bicep, pulling him to the bed, lying him down and then straddling on top of him. Mingyu pouts, tugging at the fabric of Jeonghan’s shirt. “Hyungie too,” he whines. Jeonghan grins and pulls his shirt off, then quickly leans in for another kiss. 

“Is there anything you’re not okay with?” Jeonghan asks, seriously, hands rubbing at Mingyu’s sides. Mingyu whines, shaking his head.

“No blood, or anything really weird, but, no, nothing else, I trust you, just please ,” he says, pushing his hips upward into nothing. 

“Anything you’re really okay with?” he follows up with, a little more teasingly this time. Mingyu sighs, biting his lip. 

“Um, I like being told I’m doing good. I also, hng -” He’s interrupted by Jeonghan’s thigh going back in between his legs, moving slowly, so slowly. 

“Keep going, baby.”

“I don’t mind if you’re a little mean, too.” 

“And what do you want, right now?” Mingyu whines again. Never in any of his hookups has there been this much talking

“I don’t care , just please touch me,” he begs. Jeonghan does the exact opposite, pulls his hands off of Mingyu’s chest, retracts his thigh from between his legs, leans back on his heels, far away from Mingyu. “Wh-”

“You’re not being very good, are you? I asked a question, I expect an answer,” Jeonghan says, eyes stern. Mingyu pouts at the words not good , their disdainful syllables ringing through his ears, scrambling to make up for it.

“Want anything you’ll give me,” he says, seriously. But Jeonghan still doesn’t move a muscle, so he adds, quietly, “Want you to, to, um, fuckmeplease .” 

“What was that? Didn’t hear you,” Jeonghan says, eyes narrowed, but Mingyu sees how they’ve darkened, knows he understood him perfectly.  Mingyu whines, throwing his head back against the bed indignantly. “Okay, okay, I got you,” he then says, with a laugh, leaning down for a kiss. This one is a lot more tender than the last few, chaste and sweet.

“Stuff’s in the top drawer,” Mingyu says, jerking his head towards the left bedside table. Jeonghan raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t question it, reaching over to pull out the box and bottle. He crawls down the bed, placing himself in between Mingyu’s legs as he slowly pulls down the jeans, hand immediately going to cup at Mingyu’s cock through his boxers. Mingyu bucks up into the contact, holding back a groan by biting his lip. 

Throwing the jeans somewhere across the room, Jeonghan snaps the waistband of Mingyu’s boxers against his hip, humming in contemplation. “You’d look very good in some lingerie,” Jeonghan says, taking off the boxers in one smooth motion. 

He then slicks up a finger with lube, kissing Mingyu’s hip as he circles his rim with said finger. “Ah, hng , I have some, that my ex bought for me.” At that, Jeonghan’s mouth twists, and he swiftly pushes his finger into Mingyu’s hole, leaning up for a kiss as he does so. Mingyu moans, loudly, sound muffled against Jeonghan’s lips. 

“Rule number one,” Jeonghan whispers, “don’t talk about other guys when you’re with me .” 

Soon, he adds a second finger, then a third, and by the fourth, Mingyu’s kicking his heels against the bed, squirming and whining, all incoherent begs and babbles. “So cute. You look so good, just like this, so pretty. Such a nice body, you’re packing, aren’t you, baby?” he says, other hand going to graze over Mingyu’s cock.

“Next time, I’ll let you fuck me. Sit on your lap, ride you with your hands behind your back, you’d look so hot like that. Fuck, I’ve thought about you so much, all the ways I could make you feel good.” Mingyu whines again, at the thought of everything : the thought of fucking Jeonghan, the thought of Jeonghan thinking about him, the thought of Jeonghan touching himself to the thought of him. 

“Please, please , make me feel good, please. I’ll be good, just, please, please, hyung,” he begs. 

“You can come more than once, right?” Mingyu nods rapidly. Jeonghan grins, crawling back down the bed to suddenly engulf Mingyu’s cock with his mouth. Mingyu moans, bucking up into the heat. 

“You’re gonna come for me, just like this,” he says, scissoring his fingers as he sucks gently at the tip, before he takes Mingyu back down to the base, keeping himself there for an impressive amount of time. 

With just a few more bobs of Jeonghan’s head, a couple more presses of the pads of his fingers against his prostate, Mingyu comes right down Jeonghan’s throat. 

“Fuck, sorry, hyung,” Mingyu says, eyes wide, looking down at Jeonghan. Except, Jeonghan isn’t mad, doesn’t even look taken aback, just holds eye contact with Mingyu as he swallows all of Mingyu’s come, smiling innocently up at him. “Oh, fuck .” 

“Need a break?” Jeonghan asks, as he pulls down his own pants. Mingyu shakes his head, eagerly. 

Jeonghan grabs onto his thigh, nudging him around to flip him over so he’s on his hands and knees. Mingyu looks over his shoulder, watching Jeonghan take off his own boxers and pull out his cock, rolling a condom over it as he bites his lip, taking in Mingyu’s figure. Mingyu whines, squirming a little at the attention.

Running his hands down Mingyu’s sides, Jeonghan presses kisses all down his spine, stopping right at the dimples of his back. 

Mingyu then feels Jeonghan line himself up, tip pushing slightly at his rim, teasingly pushing in then out. “Ready?” Jeonghan asks, softly. Mingyu nods. 

“Words, baby.” 

“Yes, please, I’m ready, please, please , fuck me, oh, fuck .” His words taper off into a deep groan as Jeonghan pushes in, one hand right above the swell of Mingyu’s ass, the other one on his hip. Jeonghan moans once he bottoms out, a most beautiful sound that Mingyu wants to draw out of him over and over again. 

Jeonghan leans his body over Mingyu’s, chest against Mingyu’s back, mouth ghosting over his neck. “So fucking tight, fuck, better than I could’ve ever imagined.”

“Move, please, hyung,” Mingyu chokes out, and Jeonghan obeys immediately, pulling out halfway to slam back in, eliciting a groan from the both of them. 

He sets a quick pace after that, each thrust controlled and hard , tip of his cock hitting Mingyu’s prostate dead on each time. After a bit, one hand goes to the back of Mingyu’s head, threading his hair through his fingers, tugging gently. 

“Harder,” Mingyu requests, softly. Jeonghan does just that, pulling back hard enough to pull Mingyu up. The arm on his hip goes around his waist, holding Mingyu flush against him. Jeonghan’s a lot stronger than he looks, or, at least when he wants to be. The older takes the opportunity to nip at his neck, pressing chaste kisses to each bite, groaning softly against his ear. 

“Baby feels so good . I’m gonna mark you up, all over, let everyone know you got fucked like the good boy you are.” Mingyu can’t do anything but whine

The position doesn’t last too long, as the movements of Jeonghan’s hips gradually increase in intensity, their force sending Mingyu forward, face falling into the mattress. Jeonghan lets go of his hair to put both hands on his waist instead. 

Mingyu wishes he could see Jeonghan’s face, feels like it’s a bit unjust that he can’t, knows Jeonghan must look absolutely beautiful like this. He wants to tell him as much, except, he’s quite literally been fucked stupid: lips parted in a silent, endless moan, hands scrunched up in the sheets, mindlessly fucking his hips back to meet Jeonghan’s thrust in an attempt to chase his release. 

He feels utterly debauched, letting Jeonghan rail him to heaven and beyond, body pressed against sheets in a hotel room Jeonghan booked for him, wearing nothing but an expensive silver chain Jeonghan bought for him, Jeonghan’s name the only thing falling off of his lips like a prayer. He feels owned , and he loves it. 

While trying to focus on the delicious drag of Jeonghan’s cock against his walls, Mingyu can’t help but wonder what’d it feel like for Joshua to fuck him, for Seungcheol to. For them to all together, three sets of hands on his skin, their voices in his ear. He wonders how Seungcheol and Joshua would treat him, thinks he already knows. He’d be lying if he said he’s never thought about it before. He’d be lying if he said he doesn’t think about it often. 

It almost feels like cheating, having the two of them on his mind while Jeonghan is fucking him like this. Almost, because Mingyu’s sure if he voiced his thoughts out loud, Jeonghan would love it just as much, probably would spur him on. But he opts, instead, to keep them to himself. For now. 

Jeonghan’s hand goes back into his hair, this time, using a grip on the strands to hold his face into the mattress, fucking into him harder than before, if that were possible. He’s clearly close, holding back to let Mingyu come first. Mingyu snakes a hand in between his thighs, reaching for his cock, but Jeonghan swats his hand away.

“Want you to try and come untouched, just on my cock. D’you think you can?” Mingyu pauses at that, he’s never before, with another person, just by himself after what felt like ages . But now, feeling the way he’s feeling, with the way Jeonghan’s continuously hitting his prostate with every hard thrust, Mingyu seriously thinks he can. He nods, and knows Jeonghan’s grinning. 

And, just like that, with a few hard, fast, calculated thrusts, coupled by Jeonghan’s relentless, filthy words in his ears, Mingyu does come untouched, all over his stomach, moaning loudly, and deeply into the pillow. Jeonghan follows almost seconds after, with a growl into Mingyu’s neck, vibrations sending goosebumps against his skin. 

Mingyu whines when Jeonghan pulls out, crashing stomach first onto the bed. Jeonghan rolls him over moments later, wiping at his stomach with a towel. He leans over and kisses him softly on the mouth, then on the cheek, then the forehead, and finally, back on his mouth again. 

“How are you feeling, baby?” 

“Brain dead,” Mingyu replies, crawling under the sheets. Jeonghan laughs, kissing him again, one hand going to his cheek, fondly rubbing his thumb against his jaw. “Wanna sleep.” Jeonghan hums, propping himself up on one arm, stroking gently at Mingyu’s hair with his other hand. 

“Let’s sleep, then,” Jeonghan says, climbing into the bed next to Mingyu, who makes a happy little noise, nuzzling his head into Jeonghan’s shoulder. 

He falls asleep feeling more content than he has in months, maybe years, right by Jeonghan’s side. 

–––

He wakes up, however, to an empty bed, the sound of muttering coming from across the room. He opens his bleary eyes to see a fully dressed Jeonghan, in clothes different from the night before, pacing back and forth in front of the bed.

“Hyung?” he asks, softly. Jeonghan’s head snaps in his direction, eyes wide. The older swallows, sitting down on the edge of the bed. 

“Good morning, ba- Mingyu, how do you feel?” 

“Ass hurts,” he replies, sitting up, back against the headboard. But, Jeonghan doesn’t laugh like Mingyu expects him to. His eyes go wider instead, concern flooding his expression. 

“Fuck, did I hurt you? Was I too rough? I’m so sorry-”

“No, hyung, I’m fine, really, just a little sore. You were fine.”

“Okay, okay, good. I’m, fuck, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for that to happen, I swear,” he says, earnestly. Mingyu’s heart sinks. Of course he didn’t. He must’ve been drunker than he let on, and Mingyu had just goaded into doing something he clearly regrets. He wants to crawl into the sheets and never return, wants to go home and cry into Seokmin’s lap because how, how, how could be so foolish? His skin is crawling with anxiety, but he has to say something , something to absolve Jeonghan’s worries.

“Not that I didn’t want it,” Jeonghan continues, softly, after a few moments. Mingyu looks up curiously at that. “I- I really wanted it. I only regret it because of the nature of our arrangement. I don’t want it to seem like I’m paying you for sex, or taking advantage of you, or exploiting our relationship. You were perfect, you are perfect, and I don’t ever want you to feel uncomfortable.”

Again, there’s things Mingyu should do. He should nod, he should say he agrees and that last night probably should just be a one time thing. He should ask Jeonghan to leave and ask him to forget that they ever slept together. 

“I wanted it too, hyung. I don’t think you’re taking advantage of me, because I wanted it, I want it. With you. Again. And I don’t want money for it, either.”

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.  

You- are you sure?” 

“Yes, I’m sure, I’m so sure.” 

Jeonghan’s chest is heaving, his cheeks pink, lips parted. He looks like he wants to kiss Mingyu, and Mingyu wants him to do so, except, they both know there’s things that have gone unsaid that can’t be left that way. A few more things left to cover. 

It’s fascinating how two people who aren’t even in the room can manage to still have such a presence. 

“Did you tell them?” Mingyu asks, not having to specify who the them in question is. Jeonghan bites his lip, then nods.

“I did, I’m sorry, I should’ve asked you, I was just freaking the fuck out.” 

“No, it’s okay, I was going to ask you to anyway,” Mingyu replies, hoping his implication is clear. It is, apparently, because a glint crosses Jeonghan’s eyes, face dissolving into recognition. “Would they, um-”

“They would. They do . I’ll tell them, yeah?” Mingyu nods, a mixture of anxiety and anticipation creeping up on him. “But, we’ll still have to talk about this, though, properly. Set rules and boundaries, and other things, when we get back home,” Jeonghan says, seriously. Mingyu nods. 

“Will you kiss me, again?” he tries, quietly, so nervously, teeth worrying at his bottom lip. Jeonghan softens, nodding. 

“Of course, baby.” He gets off the corner of the bed, walking around to where Mingyu is sitting, seating himself next to him, right where he had fallen asleep last night. “I could kiss you all the time,” he admits, softly, eyes shining. Mingyu flushes.

“You can, now,” Mingyu replies, and Jeonghan leans in with a sigh, one hand going to his cheek, the other going to his bare arm, encircling it with his fingers. 

They kiss with all the lanquidity of a slow, soft morning, Jeonghan eventually going from sitting on the bed to straddling Mingyu’s lap. They kiss, they kiss, and they kiss, and for those beautiful moments of lips against his, Mingyu’s able to drown out the timer still ticking above their heads.

Chapter Text

Sex with Joshua, is, predictably, uncomplicated. Joshua waits patiently until they get back from Tokyo, until after the four of them sit down to talk it all out, to initiate something. It could’ve been, it should’ve been honestly, terribly awkward, but the older eases him into it, without any shyness or inelegance. 

Joshua’s all lengthy makeout sessions, wandering hands, chaste kisses and tiny nips against heated skin, and sweet nothings.

He’s also an absolute tease.

Hyuuuung ,” Mingyu whines, throwing his head over the back of the sofa. Joshua grins against Mingyu’s neck, before placing an open mouthed kiss to where he’s just left a mark. He reaches up a hand to grip the side of Mingyu’s throat, keeping his head in that position to further map the skin with his lips, dragging them up to his jaw. He then hums in question, completely innocently. 

“You’re so mean ,” Mingyu complains.

“How can I give you something you haven’t asked for?”

“I don’t recall asking for this ,” he replies, wiggling his wrist, causing the golden bracelet hanging off of it to twinkle a little. 

“Fair enough,” Joshua says, unceremoniously shoving a hand down at Mingyu’s sweats, grinning when he brushes against Mingyu’s cock. Mingyu bucks up into the barely there touch with a choked moan, feeling like a teenager who’s experiencing his first anything under the bleachers of a packed football game (not that he would personally relate to that, of course.)

“Dirty baby, nothing underneath. Came here to get fucked, didn’t you?” 

So, maybe not so sweet nothings. But this, to Mingyu, is something close to heaven anyway. 

Joshua gently encircles his fingers around the middle of Mingyu’s cock, forming a loose ring as he flicks his wrist slowly. The slide is dry, could be uncomfortable, but Mingyu just relishes the contact, biting the urge to fuck into Joshua’s hold. 

“I did , I did, fuck, please ,” he whines. 

“Mm, not today, sweetheart. I think Cheol had a little too much fun with you last night, I don’t wanna hurt you.” Mingyu’s torn between grimacing at the rejection and groaning at the memory of Seungcheol fucking him against the wall the night prior. 

He doesn’t have time to comment, though, because Joshua pulls his hand out of Mingyu’s sweats and holds his palm up to the younger’s face. “Lick,” he commands, and Mingyu does just that, holding Joshua’s eye contact all the while. 

After deeming his hand properly soaked, Joshua snakes it back around Mingyu’s cock, resuming his motions, a lot faster. Mingyu throws his head back again, prompting Joshua to continue biting his way down the line of Mingyu’s neck, a kiss complimenting each thumbing of Mingyu’s slit. 

Mingyu hasn’t gotten a handjob in a long time , hasn’t gotten just one in even longer, always seeming like a bit of foreplay to get him to the good stuff. But Joshua does it with clear expertise, teasing, featherlight touches transitioning into tight squeezes and fast strokes. Mingyu feels his eyes roll back into his head and the both of them are still fully clothed. He’s quite literally about to come in his pants. 

“Close, baby?” Joshua says, against his jaw. Mingyu nods frantically, and Joshua continues the same pace of his perfect motions, bringing Mingyu closer and closer to the edge with each upstroke. With little warning apart from a stuttered moan, Mingyu comes all over Joshua’s fist, stars flashing white behind his eyelids. 

Joshua then brings his hand up to actually suck at the come that covers his fingers, while, just as Mingyu did, holding unwavering eye contact. Despite coming not more than seconds prior, Mingyu’s cock gives another twitch of interest at the brazen sight. 

It does, also, give him an idea. He pushes at Joshua’s shoulders, manhandling him from where his body was turned towards Mingyu to all the way back into the couch cushions, back first. He tilts his head in question, but Mingyu doesn’t offer a verbal response, instead climbs off the couch and down onto his knees, in front of Joshua’s legs, which Mingyu pushes apart to give himself more room. 

He looks up at Joshua for consent, and the older just nods rapidly, rather eagerly. Mingyu finds it endearing. With a bit of help from Joshua, he pulls his sweats off down to his ankles, mouthing at his erection over his boxers, one hand kneading at his thigh. 

“You don’t have to,” Joshua assures, but the brokenness of his voice betrays his desire, as do his blown pupils. Mingyu grins, toying with the waistband of Joshua’s boxers before he eventually pulls them down as well. 

“I know. I want to,” Mingyu replies, before taking Joshua’s cock in his mouth all the way down to the base. Joshua moans at that, possibly louder than Mingyu’s ever made him, and the pride goes straight from his heart down to his cock. 

Taking Joshua is a challenge to say the least, but Mingyu’s an ardent competitor, and soon he’s readily bobbing his head, using his hand to work at what his mouth can’t reach. He notices Joshua gripping at the fabric of the couch, like he’s holding back, frowning a little. 

“Fuck my mouth,” he says, breathlessly, pulling off entirely, tip resting on his bottom lip. Joshua’s breath hitches, cock twitching in Mingyu’s hand. 

“I don’t want to-”

Hurt me , yeah, I know. I’ll tell you if it’s too much. C’mon, please, I want it, I like it.” Joshua groans at that, involuntarily bucking up against Mingyu’s lips. Mingyu opens his mouth, letting the cock slide in, an invitation, of sorts. 

“Two taps on my thigh if you get uncomfortable,” Joshua says, breathlessly. Gripping onto the couch, the older sets a slow pace, lips parted as Mingyu’s eyes flutter, before snapping open, with another frown.

Mmfh , wait, wait,” he says, hurriedly, pulling himself off. Joshua jolts back, looking down at him in concern, hand going to cup one of his cheeks. Mingyu reaches out to grab his other wrist, handling it gently to place Joshua’s hand on top of his hair. “In my hair, please, as hard as you want,” he says, shyly. 

One hand gripping tightly at Mingyu’s locks, the other on his cock, Joshua wordlessly guides himself back into Mingyu’s mouth, then thrusts in hard, down Mingyu’s throat. His pace picks up rather quickly, as he rapidly tries to chase his release. Mingyu relaxes his throat, allowing Joshua to push himself all the way down, swallowing around him on every other thrust.

“You’re- ah , fuck, so, good. So fucking desperate for it, huh. Needy, fuck , baby,” Joshua groans out. Mingyu just whines around his cock in response, good being the only word his one track mind can focus on. 

Mingyu knows he’s getting close when Joshua’s soft grunts evolve into open mouthed moans, eyes glazing over ever so slightly. On one particularly harsh thrust, Joshua’s hand pulls even harder at Mingyu’s hair, causing Mingyu’s eyes to roll back slightly at the sharp pleasure. Joshua responds to the reaction with a guttural groan, suddenly spilling all down his throat, Mingyu’s lips grazing the base of his cock. 

His eyes flutter open to see Joshua practically melted into the couch, eyes shut, lips parted in a silent groan. Mingyu’s chest swells with warmth with the knowledge that he did that, he made him feel that good. 

“Sucked the soul out of me,” Joshua mutters. Mingyu giggles, wiping the drool away from his chin and climbing back up to lounge back on the couch. “C’mere,” he then says, tilting his head to the side, looking at Mingyu through hooded eyes. Mingyu obliges, shuffling over to where Joshua’s hand is held out, ready to pull MIngyu into an ardent kiss. 

Mingyu whines when the older nips at his bottom lip, hand going back to his hair to tug gently. He ruts slowly into the couch, and it doesn’t go unnoticed, Joshua laughing incredulously against his lips. 

“Already? 20 year olds are an enigma.”

“You were in your twenties like 3 years ago, hyung,” Mingyu says. Joshua shrugs, leaning back in for another kiss, as hard as the way he grabs onto Mingyu’s hair. He grins when Mingyu whimpers quietly.

“This is a very fine piece of information,” he says, teasingly scratching at Mingyu’s scalp. 

“Are you going to help me, or not?” Mingyu complains. Joshua hums in assent.

“Of course. There’s something on your little list I’ve been meaning to try.”

——

Sex with Seungcheol happens… rather suddenly. One minute they’re fumbling around a sloppy, awkward kiss in Seungcheol’s car, and the next Mingyu finds himself on hour two of having Seungcheol’s cock nestled inside of him, perched on the older’s lap as he works on music at his desk. 

It’s more enjoyable than he expected it to be, muted pleasure combining with a slight haze to envelop Mingyu in languor, arms slung around Seungcheol’s shoulders, head tucked under his neck. 

Seungcheol’s phone rings, and, much to Mingyu’s surprise, and slight panic, he picks it up. “Not a sound,” he hisses in Mingyu’s ear. “Hey, Jihoon-ah, what’s up?”

Not too difficult of a task, Mingyu thinks, until Seungcheol snakes his other hand down in between their bodies. His fingers graze across Mingyu’s nipple, eliciting a whine that Mingyu manages to muffle into Seungcheol’s shoulder, then down his chest, resting right below his stomach. The touch is heavy, just inches above where Mingyu wants it most. 

“Mm, I just finished the edits on that. I’ll send it to you in a sec. Did you get the revised lyrics from Wonwoo?” 

Mingyu thinks he must be absolutely deranged. Hearing Seungcheol talk about work, watching him work turns him on so much that he’s genuinely resisting the urge to grind down just at the sound of Seungcheol’s low voice in his ear. 

It doesn’t help that Seungcheol’s moved his hand down, rubbing a palm against Mingyu’s cock. His phone is tucked underneath his ear, other hand casually clicking away at his monitor like Mingyu isn’t a few more calculated strokes away from coming all over his hand. Seungcheol uses the readily spilling precome to slick up the slide, sounds so lewd Mingyu wonders if Jihoon can hear them. 

“I understand, yeah, yeah, that would probably work better. Let me write that down.” 

Seungcheol then leans forward to reach for something, causing his cock to jostle inside of Mingyu ever so slightly. It’s enough, however, for the tip to graze against Mingyu’s prostate, and that, combined with the tight upstroke of Seungcheol’s wrist, makes Mingyu nearly break his silence, biting hard at Seungcheol’s shoulder through his t-shirt instead. 

“Yeah, Mingyu’s right here, you can say hi,” he says, pulling the phone out from under his ear and into Mingyu’s face, shooting the younger a wolfish grin. Mingyu glares at him. 

“Hey, Gyu-yah,” Jihoon’s voice comes through the speakers. “How was the test? I hope I was able to help a little.” 

“Hi, hyung,” he replies, trying to control the air of his voice. “It went, ah, well. I didn’t know you’d be so good at physics- oh, what the fuck -” Seungcheol’s begun thrusting up in earnest, one hand on Mingyu’s waist. 

“Are you oka-” Jihoon’s voice is cut off at Seungcheol plucks the phone away. 

“Bye Jihoon, I’ll get those edits to you in, um.” He scans Mingyu’s figure. “15 to 20 minutes.” Jihoon groans in disgust. 

“You’re fucking awful, hyung,” Mingyu hears through the speaker, before Seungcheol hangs up. Grabbing Seungcheol’s wrist to force him to set down the phone, Mingyu whines insistently, trying his best not to grind down out of the more overpowering urge to be good

Seungcheol takes note of it, hand going up to scratch at his scalp, the other rubbing at his waist soothingly. “Good boy, so good, so quiet.” The hand on Mingyu’s waist strengthens its grip as Seungcheol slowly resumes his previous pace. “Hyung teases a lot, doesn’t he?” Mingyu whines in assent, clutching onto the older’s shoulder as he croons into his ear. “‘M sorry, baby, it’s just fun to get you like this.”

Quite suddenly, Seungcheol snakes his hands in between his and Mingyu’s thighs, lifting Mingyu right up, cock still deep inside of him. Mingyu wraps his limbs around Seungcheol, simply on instinct, groaning as soon as his back hits the couch. Seungcheol laughs at Mingyu’s incredulous expression, leaning down to give him a chaste kiss. 

“Guess the few extra days at the gym last week paid off, huh?” he says, with a grin. “I got you, baby, I’ll give you what you want.”

Mingyu thinks he’s going to lose his mind, between the three of them. They’re all way too good in bed for Mingyu’s own good, probably learned it all from each other in whatever weird sex arrangement they’ve had for the past two decades. Not that he’s complaining; he’s had more orgasms in the past six weeks than he’s had in his entire life. Mind blowing ones at that, every single time. 

Digging his knees into the plush cushions, Seungcheol quickly sets an unforgivable pace.Mingyu clutches onto the arm of the couch as to prevent himself from falling off entirely. Seungcheol’s like this, a lot of the time, rough in all the best ways, except, it’s always complimented by sweet comments, gentle doting praises. 

Hyuuung ,” Mingyu whines, running his hands appreciatively over Seungcheol’s biceps, “kiss, please.” Seungcheol slows down significantly, smiling softly as he leans down to obey Mingyu’s command. In an effort to keep him there, Mingyu threads his fingers through Seungcheol’s hair, keeping their lips pressed together. Seungcheol grins against his lips, breaking the kiss and going down to bite insistently at his neck, hips resuming their initial pace. 

Mingyu feels utterly overwhelmed, the combination of being worked up for so long and Seungcheol’s rough ministrations hitting him hard. He fucks his hips back desperately, one hand in Seungcheol’s hair, the other grasping tightly on the couch cushion. 

Hyung, hyungie , want it so bad, want it, fuck.” 

He must sound more desperate than he means to, as Seungcheol lifts his head, eyebrows furrowing in concern as he stops all together, making Mingyu whine even louder. “I know, baby, I know. Are you okay?” he asks, as he strokes his fingers through Mingyu’s bangs. Mingyu nods rapidly. 

Mm , I’m okay, I just want it, I feel so good, everything feels so good.” Seungcheol smiles in amusement, leaning back down to place a soft kiss on Mingyu’s shoulder. 

“I’ll make you feel so good, baby, promise.” He doesn’t give Mingyu any time to respond, pulling his cock all the way out to the tip before slamming back in with a grin. His hands are tight on Mingyu’s waist, fingers digging into his skin hard enough to bruise. Mingyu wonders if it’s bad that he hopes they do. 

Feeling the familiar burning in his gut, Mingyu begins fucking his hips back onto Seungcheol’s cock, which is hitting his prostate on each thrust. He clenches ever so slightly, as to help Seungcheol along, just a bit. It works, because Seungcheol groans loudly, one hand going off his waist and around to the back of his neck, tugging hard at the hairs at his nape, exposing his neck. 

“Look so pretty taking cock, don’t you?” Seungcheol says, punctuating the sentence with a few harsh bites to the newly exposed skin. “We got so lucky with you, so hot, so good, so many things I want to do to you. So many ways I could make you come.”

Please , want to come, now , please. I’m so close.” Seungcheol nods, bringing Mingyu closer to him by his waist, leaning over him to continue fucking him hard , with purpose. “ Y-yeah , there, right there, please, fuck, fuck,” he moans, nearly screams, running his nails down Seungcheol’s back. 

“Come for me, c’mon sweetheart, wanna hear you,” he whispers, right into Mingyu’s ear, encircling his fingers around Mingyu’s cock, tugging at it in time with his fast thrusts. All it takes is a few pumps for Mingyu to cry out loudly, coming all over Seungcheol’s fist and his own stomach. Lights explode behind his eyes, orgasm feeling neverending as he moans unabashedly through the studio.

When his orgasm finally dissipates, Mingyu realizes Seungcheol hasn’t stopped at all, opens his eyes to see Seungcheol’s serious expression, gaze trained on where his cock disappears into Mingyu’s body, grunting deeply as he fucks into him harder than before. “Baby takes cock so well, fuck, you’re so good,” he mutters, almost to himself.

Mingyu’s haze slowly clears the more Seungcheol fucks into him, and, when they finally begin to refocus, his eyes trail down to where Seungcheol’s come covered hand is haphazardly resting near his stomach. He reaches down, taking Seungcheol’s wrist and bringing it up to his mouth, slipping two of his thick fingers between his lips, eyes fluttering shut. Seungcheol looks up at the sudden feeling, eyes widening slightly as he watches Mingyu run his tongue around his fingers. 

Fuck , wh- you’re-” He doesn’t finish his sentence, suddenly coming into the condom with a guttural groan. 

They stay like that for a significant amount of time, panting as they attempt to catch their breaths. Head still hanging between his shoulders, Seungcheol leans down to pepper kisses down Mingyu’s collarbone, somewhat mindlessly as Mingyu whines softly. 

“That was, hng ,” Mingyu starts, memories of the past few hours slowly bringing his body back to life, rendering him unable to finish his sentence. Seungcheol hums against his neck in assent.

“Probably worth being murdered by Jihoon tomorrow morning,” Seungcheol says. Mingyu whines.

“Now he’s never going to help me with physics again!”

——

Sex with Jeonghan doesn’t happen as much as Mingyu expects it to. 

After the first escapade in Japan, Jeonghan surprisingly backs off almost entirely, even after the conversation , wherein he expressed extensive reluctance to escalate the relationship at all. Mingyu had expected it to be Joshua, perhaps even Seungcheol, to be hesitant about adding sex to the equation, not Jeonghan. Jeonghan, who’s always so spontaneous, so eager to get someone wrapped around his finger. Jeonghan, who started this whole affair.

It’s not as if he ignores Mingyu. Actually, he ends up taking Mingyu out more often than the other two. They hit practically every five star restaurant in the city, shop so frequently that Mingyu runs out of space in his closet, start and finish a Marvel marathon in just a week.

Yet, every time he leans over as Jeonghan’s dropping him off, every time he tries to straddle his lap while they’re watching a movie, every time he sends a more than suggestive selfie at an ungodly hour, Mingyu’s advance is rejected as quickly as it came. The only responses he manages to receive are a kiss on the forehead, a few sweet emojis, or a gentle smile. 

He shouldn’t complain. Nor should he shouldn’t sulk around his apartment like a man starved, not when he’s successfully gotten laid every day in the week. Yet, he’s had, and continues to have, many vivid dreams about the night in the hotel, and all he can think about is more more more .

I’ve thought about you so much, all the ways I could make you feel good, Jeonghan had said. So, what changed? He had said he wanted it, but, the key word is wanted . Did he experience the real thing and decide it wasn’t what he was expecting at all? Was Mingyu not good enough? The thoughts eat at Mingyu’s head every time Jeonghan turns his mouth away, or pulls himself back from a potential heated moment. 

He gets close, one night, when the both of them are significantly tipsy off of some rosé. Mingyu perched himself on the older’s lap to be, for once, met with no resistance. Mingyu initiates, of course, boldly pressing their lips together, pleasantly surprised again when Jeonghan kisses back, hands going into Mingyu’s already mussed hair.

The moment lasts for not more than five minutes, as Jeonghan suddenly pulls away, albeit a little breathlessly, a little reluctantly. He mutters a little I’m sorry , before gently pushing Mingyu off of his lap and climbing off the couch to retrieve the popcorn he had made, leaving a confused and pouty Mingyu in his wake. 

After a month or so, Mingyu brings it up to Joshua as they’re walking back to the older’s car after dinner out of slight concern. He tries his best to keep it casual, just a simple mention of how he hasn’t really done much with Jeonghan since Tokyo, wondering if he’s okay. But Joshua’s eyebrows furrow in serious concern, face going taut with reflection. The way he waves Mingyu off isn’t convincing in the slightest, because he’s silent for the rest of the ride, hand gripped tightly onto the steering wheel.

Mingyu just figures Joshua doesn’t want him to push any further, so he desperately tries to forget it. That is, until it finally comes to a breaking point when Mingyu’s having dinner at Seungcheol’s with him and Jeonghan. 

Carrying three plates in from the kitchen, Mingyu gently sets them down in front of his hyungs, receiving a kiss on the cheek from Seungcheol in thanks. When he goes down for one from Jeonghan, Mingyu’s met with a genuine recoil, causing him to flinch in turn, frowning deeply as he dejectedly goes to his own chair. Seungcheol’s expression tightens.

“Jeonghan, can I see you in the kitchen?”

Mingyu doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, but, in his defense, the kitchen is right next to the dining room. 

“If you weren’t comfortable with it, you should’ve said something weeks ago when the four of us were trying to have an adult conversation,” Seungcheol hisses. Jeonghan scoffs.

“Don’t try to paint me as immature. You and Shua were so into it, you probably would’ve just relentlessly tried to convince me until I gave in. Like always.”

“Don’t try to paint me as manipulative. This isn’t about just the three of us anymore, there is another person involved whose feelings are hurt by you .” Mingyu nearly winces at that, he doesn’t want them to fight because of him, horribly regrets saying anything at all. “If you didn’t want to speak up then, you at least should have at some point, instead of letting it go this far.” 

“I know , I’ve been trying to make it up to him, I’m just, fuck , I’m worried. He’s so young, Cheol, I’m afraid his feelings are going to get hurt. I’m worried about imbalances, I’m just worried about a lot.” And Mingyu definitely doesn’t know how to feel about that, body torn between softening at Jeonghan’s concern and tensing up at the reminder of the high chance he could have his heart broken into two by the end of this.

“Make it up to him how ? By blatantly rejecting every single one of his advances and bringing down his self esteem? You said it yourself, he’s young , this shit isn’t just going to fly over his head and not be taken personally.” He sighs. “I don’t get it , you were the one who started this in the first place.”

“I was- we were drunk. I didn’t realize what the fuck I was doing, or, more specifically what would come after. And, the next morning, I, I don’t know what got into me. It shouldn’t have happened, not like that, at least.”

That’s the breaking point for Mingyu. He steps out of his hiding place, eyes welling with tears, bottom lip quivering. “You don’t want me?” he asks, softly. 

Jeonghan and Seungcheol whip around swiftly, panicked expressions on both of their faces quickly morphing into absolute devastation. Seungcheol stays frozen, lips parted and eyes wide, like he has no idea what to do. Jeonghan, on the other hand, just shakes his head, hurrying over to cup Mingyu’s cheeks in his hands, insistently wiping at the tears that have begun to slip down his face.

“No, no, no, no , I’m so sorry, fuck, no , of course not,” Jeonghan says, in a rush. “I’m so sorry, hyung is so sorry that I made you feel that way. I just don’t want you to get hurt, and I’m still worried you’re going to think we’re just using you.” He sighs, swallowing a little, eyes scanning Mingyu’s face. “I wanted you, I want you, it’s been so hard to keep my hands off of you, you have no idea, I- fuck, I’m so sorry.”

Mingyu shakes his head, wiping at his tears himself. “I-I need you to tell me that. I’m an adult, hyung, I know what I’m getting myself into, and I can run through these things by myself. It just, it didn’t feel good, to have you treat me like that,” he says, softly, trying to not curl into himself at the confrontation.

It’s immensely difficult for Mingyu to not backtrack when he looks up to see Jeonghan looking absolutely distraught, his eyes wide in apology. “I’m so sorry, it’s all I can say, I know, but I’ll talk, I’ll bring these things up when necessary. I knew you were upset, and I still didn’t do anything, and I’m so sorry.” Mingyu nods.

“It’s okay, genuinely. Thank you for, for telling me now.” 

They’re silent for a bit, Seungcheol still standing behind them with a satisfied little smile on his face. Jeonghan keeps one hand on his cheek, rubbing his thumb against the skin, eyebrows furrowed in contemplation.

“C-can I kiss you? Now?” he finally asks, tripping over his words. Mingyu raises his eyebrows, he’s never heard Jeonghan speak with anything less than confidence, realizes just how bad the older must feel. He nods, earnestly, eyes shining with joy.

Jeonghan looks back up at him with what he’s sure is the same look, craning his neck to meet Mingyu halfway, kiss gentle, and quite literally all Mingyu’s wanted for the past month. He savors it, lets himself fall into it.

Later, it’s just him and Seungcheol on the couch, Jeonghan having to leave due to having a shoot the next morning. They’re watching some silly sitcom, Joshua’s favorite, Mingyu thinks. Rather suddenly, though, Seungcheol fumbles for the remote, hitting pause and turning to Mingyu with a serious expression, sighing deeply.

“Jeonghannie has had an unfortunate series of bad relationships. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but he has difficulty with intimacy, sometimes. He really cares for you, like really does. I just... want you to know, it’s not you. And it’s not his fault either, those bastards really-” His voice tapers off, clearly holding back sharper words.

“They weren’t good people, to put it simply. But you, you brought a lot of goodness to our lives, filled something Shua and I couldn’t. I’ll always be grateful to you for it.”

Hyung, I haven’t even done anything, he wants to say, again, just as he did to Joshua that night. But he holds himself back, because he feels it too, the undoubtable shift in his life that came from neither the money, nor the sex, but simply, them

There’s so much fondness in Seungcheol’s voice, for Mingyu, and for Jeonghan. It causes a significant swirl in Mingyu’s gut. And maybe, if he looked closer, if he was brave enough, he’d see his own fondness, a slight jealousy, and his confusion at the combination of the two. The strange compound he’s been silently, unconsciously been battling with all the while. 

He lets it sit, lets it flow, not quite sure what to do with it, just yet.

——

The sheer amount of adrenaline flowing through Mingyu’s veins makes him feel like he could stop a bus with his bare hands. The only thing running through his mind us they came, we have to win, they came, they came, they came.

He’d offhandedly mentioned to the three of them that the championship game was today, not intending, or expecting them to come at all. But, five minutes before he went back on the field after practice drills, he got a series of insistent texts from Seokmin and Minghao that, in summary, said that Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua had all showed up in a bright red convertible with no one else with them, walked carelessly through the bustling crowd and greeted them cheerfully like old friends. 

Naturally, they’ve attracted attention. A lot more with the #9 on the field, #1 in our hearts, GO KIM! sign that Jeonghan’s holding up. It should be embarrassing, but Mingyu just grins and waves back, before taking his spot at center mid. Truthfully, Mingyu doesn’t mind attention. 

He successfully puts all of that adrenaline into the game, securing two assists in just the first half. The second one was a volleyed cross all the way across the goal to Jeongguk, who nailed the shot with his head. They nearly fall down onto the turf from how tightly they hug each other.

However, the real celebration doesn’t come just yet, they’re tied at 2-2, halfway through the second half. Mingyu gnaws on his bottom lip as he watches one of their juniors miss a penalty shot, trying to hold back his complete disappointment as he runs over to reassure the kid. 

Thirty minutes later, the other team scores in a completely unexpected moment of weakness for their defense. Mingyu feels all of his elation slowly seep out of him as he watches the score change, the clock mockingly glaring back five minutes left at him. With how tired his offense is, Mingyu figures there’s a small chance they’re going to be able to get behind the opposition’s fresh cycle of defense. He grimaces, quickly calling a time out to provide a little recovery and recuperation time. 

They run through a few potential plays, and Mingyu tries his best to revive his team’s spirits while attempting not to betray his own hesitance. As they break up again, Jeongguk lingers behind to clap him on the shoulder, leaning in towards his ear.

“Next one’s you. Look up, it’s all you need,” he whispers, pulling away as he makes it up to striker position. Mingyu furrows his eyebrows in confusion, looking up at the crowd.

His tunnel vision comes in handy, as he zeroes in on Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua waving eagerly down at him, their thumbs up in support. Mingyu can’t really tell, but he thinks their eyes shine with reassurance. 

It was, really, all he needed.

Jeongguk passes the ball back to him, and Mingyu dribbles it all up the field, maneuvering past the burly center defender in some random bout of skill. He slams it into the top right corner, right out of the goalkeeper’s reach, crashing down to his knees in victory. 

Mingyu breathes in deeply at the subsequent kickoff, looking around at his teammates, who all have hopeful expressions on their faces. He sends a silent, desperate prayer up that they won’t have to go into overtime, hoping they’ll get a goal in in the last three minutes. 

Someone was listening, because Mingyu himself gets fouled right in the penalty box, earning a shot right on goal. The blood thrums through his head, vision blurring in anxiety. He closes his eyes, recalling every single one of the hundreds of penalties he’s practiced throughout the year, thinks of everything he has to gain instead of everything he has to lose, the pride of his teammates, his friends, his hyungs. His hyungs

The ball hits the left post, and then the back of the net. 

Everything’s a blur after that, his teammates dog pile him as the buzzer goes off, something straight out of a movie. He laughs as Jeongguk aggressively smacks kisses all over his face, slinging his arms around the younger’s shoulders in joy. 

After the short ceremony, Mingyu runs around the stadium on their school’s side, holding up the trophy as the crowd cheers in excitement. They take several pictures: with the trophy, biting their medals, lifting their captains up on their shoulders. Mingyu doesn’t think he’s ever felt more alive.

That is, until they head off the field with their bags after washing up, and Mingyu catches sight of Seungcheol, Jeonghan, Joshua, Minghao, Seokmin, Seungkwan, and Hansol waiting for him in a small crowd by the bleachers. Minghao and Seokmin run at him first, enveloping him in a tight hug, pressing twin kisses to each of his cheeks. Seungkwan and Hansol come next, cheering excitedly, hands all over his face and his hair. 

“You’re so fucking cool!” Seungkwan screams, and Mingyu laughs in response.

Lastly, the three of them approach him, wonderfully prideful smiles on their faces, and Mingyu’s heart quite literally soars to heaven and beyond. There’s nothing better than this, he thinks. 

“You did amazing! We’re so proud of you, ba-” 

“I wanna make you dinner. Right now. Can I?” Mingyu interrupts, bouncing on his heels. They look back at him with various, yet equally incredulous expressions. 

“Aren’t you tired, sweetheart?” Joshua asks, slowly.

“And don’t you want to be with your friends? Your team?” Seungcheol adds. Mingyu shakes his head.

“We’re eating dinner tomorrow night. But tonight, I’m all yours. If you want me to be.” 

“All ours, huh?” Jeonghan says, tucking a strand of Mingyu’s soaked hair behind his ear. “Alright, dinner’s on you then, baby.” Mingyu grins.

He meets them at Joshua’s place a half an hour later after making a rush trip to the grocery store, two full paper bags in hand. They smile at him in amusement from the living room as he practically runs through the kitchen from thing to thing, still clad in his uniform. The memory of the two goals and the looks of pride he received in return are fresh in his mind, spurring him on to make the best meal of his life.

The menu is a few things he knows like the back of his hand: gochujang chicken, a large serving of bibimbap, and several quick banchan. His mother would be proud, he thinks, almost pulling out his phone to take a picture to send to her once it’s all done. 

Except, he hasn’t spoken to her in months, save for a succinct response to her long birthday text. He wonders how she would react if he told her about the win, how his father would react, someone who’d always been, surprisingly enough, quite proud of his soccer career. He brushes it off with a shake of his head, not wanting to allow anything to spoil his evening. 

“Quit everything. Open a restaurant,” Joshua says, pulling up a chair as Mingyu sets the finished dishes down onto the table. Mingyu smiles, going to retrieve the chopsticks from the countertop. 

His heart swells with joy at every pleased noise they make, at every second helping they take, at every small smile they send his way. He’s been wanting to do this for forever , make a meal for them, is glad he picked (or rather spontaneously decided on) tonight to do so.

“This is delicious ,” Seungcheol says, ruffling Mingyu’s hair when he reaches over for the radish salad. “How’d you learn?”

“My grandmother, mostly. I used to be so hungry after practices, so she would make me help her make my meals. It’s therapeutic, and, plus, it helps me feel connected to where I came from, you know, considering I haven’t really been to Korea that much.” His parents would go every summer, but once he started high school, then once his sister did, they would leave the two of them behind, urging them to focus on exam prep and extracurriculars instead. 

“That’s sweet,” Jeonghan says, softly. Seungcheol and Joshua nod in agreement with small smiles of their own.

The four of them manage to eat the plates clean, much to Mingyu’s satisfaction. They insist on cleaning up the table while Mingyu goes and picks a movie in the living room. He settles into the couch, the warmth in his heart continuously spreading across his chest as he blindly scrolls through Netflix, deciding on some random romantic comedy for what he hopes is more background noise than anything else. 

They soon gather around him, Jeonghan and Joshua sitting down to his sides. Seungcheol, strangely, takes a seat a sizeable distance on the other side of the couch, receiving an indiscreet glare from Jeonghan in response.

Predictably, Mingyu doesn’t focus much on the movie, body forced to concentrate on the fleeting hands in his hair, on his neck, around his bicep (Jeonghan’s strange, persistent habit), on his bare thighs, playing with the hem of his t-shirt, brushing his stomach in the process. He’s constantly torn between flinching away or leaning in, asking for more. 

The thing is, when it comes to the bedroom , it’s only ever been one . Which is rather bizarre, to Mingyu, considering the tension that exists when the three of them occupy the same space is surely enough to suffocate an entire county. Also, considering that the three of them have surely slept together in some multitude of unknown combinations, and, probably, all together. 

And Mingyu wants it, he wants it. He wants it every time they’re together like this, he wants it every time one of them makes an offhanded mention of the other two while they’re in bed with him. He wants it, and he knows they do too. He also knows they won’t do anything about it unless he does first. 

Now, despite his confidence threatening to bubble over and all the teasing touches he’s practically drowning in, still doesn’t feel like the right time. He figures, unlike how this whole affair started, he should ease into it, as to not utterly freak them out. So, he settles back into the couch, relaxes his muscles and preens into their attention. 

It’s hard to forget about it, though, when Joshua leans forward to place a random, chaste kiss on the middle of his neck. It sends a significant chill up Mingyu’s body, which, doesn’t go unnoticed by Jeonghan, who Mingyu sees smirk out of the corner of his eye. 

He wonders, how they would be together, how much more of a tease Joshua would be in Jeonghan’s presence. If Seungcheol would pick up his pace when with a more impatient Joshua, or if Joshua would be more willing to slow things down. If Jeonghan and Seungcheol would bicker just as much in bed, if maybe they’d even fight over who got to fuck Mingyu first. 

Fuck , he thinks, eyes slamming shut as he forces all X rated thoughts out of his head, reigning in the heat creeping up his body. Not now, not now

Unsurprisingly, Seungcheol and Joshua crash quickly, Joshua snoring into Mingyu’s thigh, Seungcheol draped over the couch cushion in a rather uncomfortable position. Mingyu, on the other hand, has his head on Jeonghan’s shoulder. The older gently cards his fingers through Mingyu’s hair as he attempts to piece together the rest of the movie to understand why the lead heroine has crashed a wedding and is giving a drunken speech to her love interest. It doesn’t prove too difficult. 

“We’ll take you back, soon,” Jeonghan murmurs, scratching at his scalp on the next stroke. Mingyu hums in question. “To Korea. I’ll show you where I grew up, it’s a lovely place.”

“I’d love that, hyung,” Mingyu replies, softly, earnestly. They’re quiet for a small while longer, the pleasant instrumental of the end credits filling their silence, along with Joshua’s slow, measured snores. 

“Thank you for tonight, and for letting us come see you play. You’re amazing, in so many ways, you know that?” 

Mingyu doesn’t know if it’s an indication of maturity that he’s not typically used to, or rather, just the way they are, but the three of them expel such heartfelt comments with such ease, so frequently. He’d like to think he’s used to it by now, yet, every time he finds himself on the receiving end, it sends a shock through his system. 

“Thank you for coming. I don’t think I would’ve won without you there,” he says, in his own bout of uninhibited earnesty. Jeonghan’s fingers stop their ministrations, just for a fraction of a second.

“Don’t say that, we didn’t even do anything,” Joshua says, sleepily, head still on Mingyu’s thigh. His voice takes Mingyu by surprise, and he wonders if perhaps Joshua’s been awake the whole time. Judging by Jeonghan’s eye roll, he probably has been. 

“Neither have I,” Mingyu replies, simply, knowing he’s gotten his point across, nuzzling into Jeonghan’s shoulder. Joshua hums, patting at his thigh rhythmically, causing Mingyu’s eyelids to flutter shut, breathing slowing down as he relaxes into their touches.

Mingyu doesn’t know when he falls asleep, but he wakes up a significant amount of time later, head on Jeonghan’s lap, hushed voices all around him. 

“You do this every time,” Jeonghan hisses, “and then call me the bad communicator.” 

“I don’t know what there is to talk about, we do this all the time,” Seungcheol replies, slowly. 

This hasn’t happened in a while. And when it does, you ignore us, run away, sit across the room like your skin will boil if you get any closer. We’re 32, Seungcheol, not 16 in high school terrified of every single damn thing around us,” Joshua says. 

This would be a good time for Mingyu to announce his presence and promptly leave this vicinity. Except, they give him absolutely no time to speak up, shooting back retorts at each other without leaving a breath of silence in between.

I don’t run away. You’re the ones who rush things along, throw some it meant nothing at each other and ignore any other feeling that exists underneath. I’m not the fucking coward here.” 

“You’re the one who climbed on top of me -” Jeonghan starts, but he’s quickly shushed by the other two. 

“You know what, we all clearly have fucking issues, and that’s why we, we haven’t-” Joshua’s voice tapers off into a sigh.

“We have issues because of that. Skirting around something so fucking obvious for two decades and refusing to move on is obviously emotionally damaging,” Seungcheol retaliates. 

“You’re acting like we’ve never had this discussion before. It was best for us, for our friendship, for our careers,” Jeonghan says. Seungcheol scoffs.

“It wasn’t very effective, was it? Neither of you can even say it, you won’t admit to it! You said it yourself, we’re 32, not 16, but we sleep with each other every fortnight and throw some shitty explanation to excuse it. None of us have dated in years , the closest we’ve gotten is a college student who we pay to spend time with us.” 

Mingyu can’t decide if that should sting or not. 

“He’s more than that and you know it,” Joshua says, softly. 

“Of course he fucking is! And that’s the problem, isn’t it, because god knows we’re never going to talk about that either!” 

Not wanting to make anything of that until he successfully eradicates himself from the situation, Mingyu decides now is the best time to ‘wake up’. Hyung?” he croaks out, tentatively opening his eyes. Jeonghan’s body immediately tenses up beneath him.

He doesn’t say anything after that, and they presumably take it as him missing their entire conversation. Jeonghan relaxes and goes to pat his hair. “Hey, baby, sleep well?” Mingyu hums.

“Very,” he lies. “I should probably get going now though.”

“Why? Stay here for the night,” Joshua tries. Mingyu follows the sound of his voice, looking up to see him in between Jeonghan and Seungcheol on the couch, expression still tense. Seungcheol says nothing, lips pursed. 

“No, no, I should go home, I think Minghao and Seokmin are expecting me.” They nod, helping him out with a few soft kisses to his hair and cheeks as a parting gift. They being Jeonghan and Joshua, Seungcheol still lingering in the back, eyes swimming with turmoil. Eventually, he steps forward, between the other two, reaching up to tuck a lock of Mingyu’s hair behind his ear.

“You really did so well today, baby. I’m so proud of you,” Seungcheol says, with a small smile. “Drive safe, text us when you get home.” Mingyu nods, dazedly, missing the way the contemplative way Jeonghan and Joshua stare at the back of Seungcheol’s head. 

Mingyu drives home with his stomach in knots, fearing they’re beginning to face something for real, this time. Something he’s both hoped for, and dreaded, knowing what his own fate is when they eventually do. He’s not ready, not just yet, but he also wants the best for them. And he knows that they’re the best for each other. And, yet, he can’t help but yearn

He’s more than that and you know it . If Mingyu thinks about it for more than fifteen seconds, he’s sure to drive his car off of the side of the road with how severely it makes his head spin. Seungcheol was right, in a way, he can’t run, he shouldn’t run. Except, he doesn’t know how not to.

Either way, he figures, he’s running. He’s either running into what appears to be the safer direction, or he’s running into an uncharted abyss with the slim chance of something sweet on the other end, with a lot to lose. One can’t walk into darkness, you go full speed ahead, or you don’t go at all. 

So, it can’t mean anything. He can’t let it, even though it does, even though it has since day one, he still can’t let it. He has a lot to lose and he can’t afford to lose any of it just yet. 

After all, a cherry blossom is meant to fall, not to be picked. 

——

Operation Threesome is proving to be a lot more difficult than Mingyu expected. 

(“Why not Operation Foursome ,” Seokmin urges. Mingyu tsks. 

“Gotta start somewhere, right?”)

It’s dreadfully difficult to get two of them in the same place, with their sporadic schedules that seem to be perpetually filled. Which is strange, considering Jeonghan and Joshua typically have similar events to attend, similarly timed shoots, for the image they like to keep up of being attached at the hip (which isn’t just an image). 

He wonders if they’ve been ignoring each other since the argument he… overheard , but he always notices them texting each other, hears stray phone calls that seem normal, takes note of the usual thousand mentions of the other two one of them will slip into any conversation. Nothing seems astray: Mingyu may not see them too often as a unit, but he sees just them just as often individually, gets laid just as frequently. Except, not in the way he’d like to. 

“I need seduction tips,” Mingyu whines, draping himself over Seokmin and Minghao. The latter, surprisingly, makes no dramatic noise of disgust, just pushes at Mingyu’s head instead. 

“Not the weirdest thing I’ve heard you say,” Minghao says. 

“Not even close,” Seokmin adds. “Don’t you have three people who readily and eagerly give it to you, like, whenever you want?” 

“Yes, but they don’t do it together .” Minghao, finally, groans. 

“You’re so damn greedy. Just enjoy what you have, dickhead,” Minghao says, rather bitterly. 

“This is just because Soonyoung hasn’t dicked you down yet.” 

“I’ve been dropping hints like a bird flying over a fucking highway!” Minghao says, head hitting the back of the couch cushion. 

“Just ask him to Netflix and chill, I’ve heard that usually gets the job done,” Seokmin suggests to Minghao, completely seriously. 

“How have you ever gotten laid?” Mingyu asks, shaking his head. Seokmin makes a loud noise of indignance. 

“Whatever, look, why don’t you just ask Jeongguk? He was sandwiched between Taehyung and Jimin like, last weekend, I’m sure he has some tips for you,” Minghao says. 

Mingyu’s eyes nearly bug out of his head, jaw dropping straight into Seokmin’s lap. “He what ? That little shit, he didn’t tell me that!”

“He probably didn’t want you to feel jealous,” Seokmin says, soothingly. 

“He probably doesn’t even know how it happened . Random things just happen to that man,” Mingyu grumbles, slightly (immensely) envious. The two of them just shrug. 

“Why are you so serious about this, anyway? You’re usually pretty good at just letting things happen,” Seokmin asks.

“Season’s over, I’m bored as hell. Need some sort of project.”

“Finals are in literally in less than a month,” Minghao says. Mingyu lifts his head to glare at him. “Look, I think it’s bound to happen at some point, I mean, I’ve been in a room with them, the tension is beyond overwhelming. Just be patient, I guess.” 

Turns out, Mingyu doesn’t end up having to be patient for much longer. 

Finally, one night, he makes a completely deliberate visit to Jeonghan’s, clad in a loose muscle tank and tight shorts, when he’s 100 percent positive Joshua’s also there (based on the series of images sent to the group chat). The excuse is for some late night studying, with the complaint that Minghao and Hansol were gaming too loudly in his living room for him to focus properly.

Ten minutes later, he’s already whining and squirming on Jeonghan’s lap, waiting for Joshua to emerge from the study. 

Hope seems lost, at first, when Joshua walks into the living room and does nothing more than raise an eyebrow at the scene in front of him, taking a seat in the armchair with his laptop. Mingyu glances over his shoulder, waiting for any sort of reaction, frowning when Joshua makes no movement to look up at them again. 

He turns his head back to Jeonghan, leaning in for a kiss, but the older tilts his head away with a grin. Mingyu pouts, trying to chase his lips again, only to be faced with another smug refusal. He whines, nosing against Jeonghan’s neck, pressing a few small kisses there. Jeonghan hums. 

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Jeonghan says. Mingyu whines, again, head still tucked into Jeonghan’s shoulder, missing the pointed look Joshua and Jeonghan share.

To punctuate his seemingly innocent question, Jeonghan drags the hand not on Mingyu’s waist down Mingyu’s clothed stomach, playing with the hem of his tank, twisting the fabric there between his fingers. He lingers there, for just a bit, before sliding the same hand down his inner thigh, resting a bit above his knee, kneading at his leg through the shorts. 

“Oh god , please.” Mingyu’s not sure why he expected to be in control for anything longer than three minutes.

“So mean, Jeonghannie,” Joshua says, still not looking up from his laptop. 

“Says you,” Jeonghan retorts, against Mingyu’s collarbone, before grazing his teeth against the skin. Mingyu whines again, although he’s not quite sure it’s being registered by anyone anymore. 

Hyung , k-kiss,” he says. Jeonghan hums again. 

“Tell me first, baby, did you really come here to study?” he asks. Mingyu pouts, digging his head underneath Jeonghan’s. 

“No, I didn’t,” he mutters, guiltily. 

“Mm, s’what I thought. Remember when we told you how easy you were to read?” Jeonghan replies, amusedly, scratching at Mingyu’s scalp. “Gonna use your words for hyung now? Tell me what you want?” 

“Well, you know , don’t you?” Mingyu tries, with a pout. Joshua clicks his tongue. 

“And I asked you to tell me. Want to hear you say it.” Mingyu’s cheeks heat up, feeling awfully shy when he glances over his shoulder again to see Joshua staring up at them, eyes dark. 

“Want you, want hyung, I want, both , now.”

“It’ll do,” Joshua says, and Mingyu hears the chair push back against the floor as he gets up, setting his laptop down on the coffee table. The couch dips as Joshua sits down right next to Jeonghan, hand going to knead at the back of Mingyu’s neck. 

“Same rules apply, okay, baby? Let us know if you don’t like anything,” Jeonghan says, manhandling Mingyu to sit upright. 

“Sneaky baby, tried to play us, huh? I guess it ended up working out for you,” Joshua says. “I think we’ll take it from here though. Ah, so many things we could do.”

“I got something in mind,” Jeonghan says, squeezing Mingyu’s bicep. “Up, to the bedroom.”

Jeonghan and Joshua are pretty fast workers by themselves, at least, once they’ve decided to stop teasing, but, together, they manage to get all of Mingyu’s clothes off and him splayed on the bed in a minute flat. Jeonghan crawls up the bed to hover over him, as Joshua fumbles through the drawers. 

“Keep your eyes open, kay? If you close ‘em, we’ll stop,” he warns, hand cupping Mingyu’s jaw gently. Mingyu nods in understanding. “Ah, words .”

“Yeah, yes , I’ll keep them open.”

“Good boy,” Jeonghan says, unceremoniously taking Mingyu’s cock in his hand. He gives it a few pumps as he slowly climbs back down the bed, right by where Joshua is kneeling right beside Mingyu’s thighs, rubbing his hand over Mingyu’s abs. 

“Watch, okay?” Joshua murmurs, giving Mingyu no time to respond as he takes his cock all the way down his throat in one go. Mingyu arches his back off the bed, only held down by Jeonghan’s insistent hand on his hip. 

That’s nothing, because when Joshua pulls off, Jeonghan immediately replaces him with his tongue on the side of Mingyu’s cock, light and teasing. Joshua soon rejoins him, on the other side. When they meet at the tip, they insistently press their lips together. 

Mingyu did not think the first time he’d see them kiss each other would be around the tip of his cock. 

“Oh my god ,” he groans, breathlessly, trying to refrain from throwing his head back. 

It feels like a dream, except, he doesn’t think his mind could possibly conjure something like this , not even close. The fact that he has two people who get paid to be pretty, looking up at him with sinfully innocent eyes as they share his dick is enough to bring Mingyu pretty damn close to the edge. 

Squinting, he realizes he’s not even sure when they took their own clothes, not caring in the slightest as he watches a spurt of precum get shared from Joshua’s tongue to Jeonghan’s. 

They part after a few minutes of messily slurping around each other, spit dripping down Mingyu’s length, spread by Jeonghan’s still moving fist. Jeonghan then takes him down again, fist working at what he can’t reach. Neither of them have much of a gag reflex, he figures. 

“So big, huh?” Joshua croons, one hand in Jeonghan’s hair, the other kneading at Mingyu’s thigh. “Hannie’s having a little trouble, I think.” Jeonghan immediately pulls off at that, ignoring Mingyu’s whine at the loss of contact, glaring at Joshua. 

“Fuck you, I am not. ” Mingyu doesn’t really think so either. But, he knows Joshua’s just trying to work Jeonghan up, which turns out to be rather successful, as when he takes Mingyu back down to the base, Jeonghan stares right at Joshua with a smug look. Joshua just grins back

Working his tongue against Mingyu, Jeonghan swallows several times, the sensation causing Mingyu to involuntarily buck his hips up into Jeonghan’s mouth, fucking into his throat a little. 

“Ah, calm down baby,” Jeonghan says, still sucking at Mingyu’s tip a little. “That’s not what you’ll be fucking tonight.” 

Mingyu makes a little noise of confusion, especially at the look of amusement Joshua and Jeonghan share, which he, honestly, should be used to by now. “You’re gonna come for us first, though,” Joshua says, giving a few kittenish licks to the tip before slowly sucking down his length. 

This time, however, Joshua keeps eye contact, looking up at Mingyu through his eyelashes as he bobs his head. Mingyu vaguely feels the pressure of the bed change, Jeonghan moving up by Mingyu’s head. 

Carding his fingers through Mingyu’s bangs, Jeonghan smiles down at him. He traces Mingyu’s jaw with a single finger, turning it towards him to pull the younger into a soft kiss, eyes fluttering shut. 

Just as their lips meet, the obscene slurping coming from below ceases, all heat on Mingyu’s cock lost. Mingyu breaks the kiss, eyebrows furrowing as he whines at Joshua. 

“Said we’d stop if you closed your eyes,” Joshua explains, with a shrug. Mingyu whines, 

“But- but, you, that’s not fair!” Mingyu cries. Jeonghan laughs, rubbing at Mingyu’s jaw apologetically. “Mean, hyungs.” 

“Gonna be good, now?” Jeonghan murmurs. 

“I was never not - oh fuck -”

Joshua works at him again with a clear purpose, tongue moving against the underside of Mingyu’s cock with every other bob of his head. Occasionally, he’ll graze his teeth against a vein, just the way he knows Mingyu likes it. Mingyu groans, pushing up into Jeonghan’s hands which are mindlessly mapping across his chest. 

Bringing one hand up to muffle his noises, Mingyu feels his entire body tighten as he reaches his peak, but Jeonghan quickly pushes his wrist away. “None of that. Wanna hear you, okay?”

The next time Joshua swallows around him, Mingyu physically can’t hold back anymore, croaking out a vague warning before coming down Joshua’s throat with a deep moan. 

“That’s it, baby, good boy,” Jeonghan croons, as Mingyu’s orgasm just continues to hit him, hips bucking into Joshua’s mouth, tiny little gasps and groans escaping him ever so often. 

Finally, Mingyu lets out a deep, conclusive sigh and sinks into the bed with a breathless laugh. Joshua climbs up the bed to straddle his waist, placing a gentle kiss to his forehead. 

“Why hasn’t that happened before?” Mingyu asks. 

“Because you’re always so desperate to have dick in your mouth,” Joshua says, poking at Mingyu’s cheek. “Never give anyone a chance.”

“Your fault for not being able to say no,” Mingyu retaliates, through narrowed eyes. 

“Fair enough.”

“Alright, up,” Jeonghan commands, patting his stomach. He retrieves a bottle of lube from seemingly nowhere, pulling Joshua off of Mingyu’s lap and towards him. “You have two choices, you wanna watch, or play? Whatever you don’t choose now, you’ll get later.”

Mingyu seriously contemplates this. He figures, as the night goes on, knowing himself and, well, human nature, he’ll get increasingly desperate, and will want to do much more than just watch . Plus, right now, whatever watching entails, if the double blowjob he just witnessed ( experienced ) is anything to go by, sounds pretty damn appealing. 

“Watch,” he says, decisively. Joshua nods, tossing Jeonghan the lube. He takes Mingyu’s previous spot, except a little higher on the bed, leaning against the headboard, legs spread slightly. 

Jeonghan climbs in between them, uncapping the lube to spread a bit across his fingers. Mingyu’s eyes widen in recognition, mind hazing over as he considers every possibility of how the next few hours could play out. 

“Up for topping tonight, babe?” Jeonghan asks, corner of his lip quirking up as he teasingly circles Joshua’s rim with one slicked up finger. Mingyu nods eagerly, dick kicking a little at the thought. 

“Kay, stay quiet and don’t touch yourself, then we’ll consider,” he adds, before pushing his finger in with one smooth motion. Joshua moans, and Mingyu almost does the same. 

All in all, Mingyu thinks he’s made an excellent decision. This is almost just as good as watching them make out around his cock (they set a pretty high bar with that.) Joshua’s letting out all sorts of tiny, high pitched noises that Mingyu’s never been able to get him to make as Jeonghan’s expert, lithe fingers work him open. Most of the sounds are muffled by the way they’re ceaselessly stealing kisses from each other, still fighting for control, Joshua constantly nipping at Jeonghan’s bottom lip, hand tight in his hair just as it was before. When they’re not kissing, Jeonghan’s sucking at Joshua’s inner thighs, not enough to leave a mark, obviously, but enough to get him riled up. 

They really do look too good together, years of practice and experience with each other becoming awfully clear. Jeonghan obviously knows Joshua’s body like the back of his hand, and Joshua Jeonghan’s. 

Yet, they still don’t let Mingyu feel left out, shooting him sly glances ever so often, especially mid-kiss, which drives Mingyu insane. He’s desperately fighting the urge to grind on the bed from where he’s kneeling just a few feet away from the two of them, knowing they’d surely feel it if he did. 

After a bit, Jeonghan has four fingers deep in Joshua, the younger of the two groaning, fucking back on them as best as he can. “You’re such an asshole, I’m good ,” he complains, glaring up at Jeonghan. 

“Baby’s dick is big, Shua-yah, wouldn’t want you to get hurt,” Jeonghan says, with a little laugh. 

“Wouldn’t you?” Joshua grits out. 

Jeonghan does pull his fingers out at that, Joshua making a small noise at the loss. Mingyu takes this as his cue to crawl over, dick already painfully hard again, kneeling next to Jeonghan who pulls him into a slow kiss. 

“How do you want it, baby?” he asks Mingyu. 

“Whatever hyung wants,” Mingyu replies, instantly, looking down at Joshua for confirmation. Joshua smiles fondly, sitting up a little to stroke Mingyu’s cheek. 

“How ‘bout just like this?” Joshua suggests. Mingyu nods, hips kicking as Jeonghan takes his cock in his hand, lining it up with Joshua’s entrance. 

“Go ahead, baby, floor’s all yours,” Jeonghan says, leaning back on his heels. Mingyu nods, one hand going to Joshua’s waist, the other into the mattress on the other side of Joshua’s body, leaning over the older’s figure as he slowly pushes in. 

The two of them moan loudly in unison, the harmony of their noises echoing off the walls of the very loud bedroom. 

“Ah, hyung, ah , so good, feels so good-“ 

“Yeah, yeah, you too, so good for me, so big , baby. You can move, whenever you’re ready.” 

Mingyu’s been ready. He pulls out to the tip and slams back in, the force of the thrust jostling Joshua’s body up the bed. One hand moving up to grab onto the headboard, Mingyu sets the pace just like that, grunting and whining as he watches Joshua’s mouth fall open, little ahs escaping him with each thrust. It’s an indescribable satisfaction that he couldn’t meet anywhere else. 

“Look so good, hyung, you’re beautiful , what the fuck,” Mingyu breathes out, and it’s absolutely true. Sometimes, it’s difficult to truly grasp the reality of the situation he’s in, but, it’s never been harder than it is now: Joshua Hong underneath him, eyes glazed over from how good Mingyu’s giving it to him. 

Joshua’s not very silent, even when he’s the one getting fucked, constantly expelling praises to Mingyu, telling him how good he feels, how good he looks, how desperate he looks. Soon, he’s snaking a hand between their bodies to tug at his own cock, moans increasing in volume as Mingyu continues to fuck into him at the same angle. 

“Don’t you dare come,” Jeonghan’s voice comes in his ears. Mingyu turns his head to follow it, realizing he hasn’t been watching what the older’s been doing all the while. 

And Mingyu nearly does come when he sees that Jeonghan has three fingers in himself, watching intently where Mingyu’s cock disappears into Joshua’s hole. He eventually looks up to meet Mingyu’s bewildered eyes, smirking with a little shrug. 

“What? I wasn’t just going to watch,” Jeonghan explains. Mingyu chokes back a moan. 

With a few more thrusts, Joshua comes all in between their stomachs with a prolonged moan, Mingyu fucking him slowly all the way through it. “Keep going, make me feel it,” Joshua breathes out. Mingyu swallows and nods, resuming his initial pace as he brings Joshua to overstimulation until the older physically can’t take it anymore. 

After a few minutes of catching his breath, Joshua rolls over to the side of the bed, climbing to his side to give himself a good view of the show to follow. 

Jeonghan takes his place in a blink of an eye, linking his legs around Mingyu’s waist, arms around his shoulders, to pull him closer. “Nice and hard, okay baby? Make me come on your cock.” Mingyu groans in response, lining himself up and pushing in to the hilt. 

Gauging Jeonghan’s expression as he goes, Mingyu starts with a few shallow thrusts just as he did for Joshua. Yet, the oldest seems to get adjusted a lot faster, heel digging into one of the dimples of Mingyu’s back, which prompts him to pick up his pace rather quickly. 

Per Jeonghan’s request, Mingyu thrusts into him hard enough to nearly slam his head against the headboard, Jeonghan having to splay a palm against the wood to brace himself. “Yeah, just like that, a little harder, though, don’t be shy.”

Mingyu’s skin heats up at the sight of Jeonghan’s body practically caged underneath him, his own broader shoulders making the older look so small. A flash of an image of Jeonghan underneath Seungcheol crosses his mind and Mingyu thrusts in so hard that Jeonghan nearly screams. 

After a few more angle changes, Mingyu finally hits Jeonghan’s sweet spot, letting out the most lewd noise as his back arches off the bed. Just then, Mingyu feels the pressure of the bed change, a light scratching against the nape of his neck as Joshua begins to press light kisses to his jaw, a hand trailing up the curve of his neck. 

“Tap me if it’s too much,” Joshua whispers, just as he presses his hand down onto Mingyu’s neck, inhibiting the amount of air he’s able to take in ever so slightly. 

Mingyu groans at the feeling, hips losing their rhythm for just a moment before he eventually finds his pace again. His mind is hazing over at both the hand around his neck and the heat around his cock. Jeonghan’s panting in his ear, trying to form a sentence but losing it halfway each time. 

Hyung , want you to come for me. Wanna hear you come, please, haven’t I been good?” Mingyu whispers, softly, loud enough for Joshua to hear him as well. 

“Mm, yeah, Jeonghannie, hasn’t he been good? Come for us, yeah?” Joshua adds, hand tightening on Mingyu’s neck. 

That’s all it takes for Jeonghan, who lets out a faint, fuck, yeah, coming , before coming untouched, clenching wildly around Mingyu’s cock. Mingyu, again, fucks him through it, eyes fluttering shut as the pressure on his neck only increases. 

Once Jeonghan comes to, his body relaxes, and Mingyu reluctantly stops his movements so as to not hurt him. However, the older doesn’t unlatch his limbs, tightens them insteads.

“Keep going, baby, come whenever you’re ready,” Jeonghan assures. Mingyu nods eagerly, quickly resuming his previous pace in pursuit of orgasm.

Which, doesn’t prove to be too hard, as Joshua continues pressing down, the haze only increasing as Mingyu loses more and more air, gasping for it. Jeonghan clenches around him on every other thrust, continuous praises falling from his lips, and really, all Mingyu can do is whine. 

He comes with his cock fully seated inside Jeonghan, finally spilling into the condom with a series of stuttered moans, inhibited by his lack of air, guided along by Joshua and Jeonghan’s low words. Joshua lets up once Mingyu crashes down onto the mattress next to Jeonghan, letting out a deep sigh as he takes in a fresh breath of air, eyes fluttering shut. 

Hyung ,” he whines, hearing one of them climb off the bed (probably Joshua) to presumably get something to clean the three of them up with. Jeonghan appears in front of him, kneeling next to his worn out body, smiling down at him, hands gentle in his hair. “Kiss, please.”

Jeonghan obeys instantly, leaning down to kiss Mingyu slowly, languidly, swallowing up all of his soft moans. 

“Did so good for us, baby, so so good,” Jeonghan says, against Mingyu’s lips. Mingyu whimpers at the ardent praise, chasing Jeonghan back into another kiss. 

Joshua comes back into the room a few moments later, wiping down Mingyu’s stomach as he kisses all over the younger’s face, each kiss followed by a few praises. 

They settle in on either side of him, Jeonghan’s hand slung over his waist, Joshua’s head buried in his shoulder. 

“Sleep well, sweetheart,” Jeonghan murmurs, turning the lights off with a light clap of his hands. Mingyu smiles in response, wonderful warmth all around him. 

——

Mingyu comes to a few hours later, strangely absent of aforementioned warmth, seeing the clock above Joshua’s dresser read 2 am back to him. 

The next thing he notices, however, is the tell-tale sounds of kissing coming from next to him, turning his head ever so slightly to see Jeonghan on top of Joshua, clearly occupied with each other. 

His stomach involuntarily twists with a level of jealousy and pure want that he surely hadn’t felt earlier in the night when he actively watched them fuck in front of him. This feels a lot different, this feels like he’s intruding, this feels like he’s being left out.

It’s absolutely unfounded, considering he’s more than well aware they harbor a certain intimacy for each other that they definitely do not for Mingyu. Except, it’s the same feeling Mingyu has for them , awfully, forever unrequited. 

They’re so wrapped up in each other that Mingyu manages to slip out of the room, and then out of the apartment with neither of them noticing. 

Chapter Text

How have you been keeping this from me?” Mingyu asks, waving his arms wildly through the air.

The this in question is an enormous two-storied, two building, beach house (villa, rather) right on the coast.  Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua have brought him down for the weekend to give him a much needed break from finals cramming. Apparently, they chipped in and bought it together years ago, and have only come out to stay twice. Criminal, in Mingyu’s eyes.

Massive pool and courtyard out front, another pool and jacuzzi out back, private beach zone, five suite-style bedrooms, and a polished modern exterior all come together to make the most expensive location Mingyu’s ever seen, much less been inside, much less stayed at. 

Duffle bag falling out of his hand and to the floor, Mingyu practically jumps around the foyer as he takes it all in. “Can we go to the beach now?” he asks, excitedly, looking over his shoulder at the three of them who’ve finally caught up with him, trudging into the house with their bags. 

“Ah, maybe tomorrow, sweetheart,” Jeonghan says, with a small groan as he sits down at one of the chairs by the entrance. “We’re old, hour drives really do us in.” 

Joshua scoffs. “Speak for yourself. C’mon, let’s put our stuff down and then I’ll go out with you, baby,” he says, hurrying in front of Seungcheol and Jeonghan to take Mingyu’s hand and lead him up the stairs.

“Slow the fuck down, we’ll come too,” Seungcheol grumbles. 

“He thinks our 2 months difference is 2 years. 15 minutes in that water and any sort of physical exertion and he’ll be out like a light,” Jeonghan says to Seungcheol, purposefully loud enough for Joshua to hear. Mingyu giggles. 

This time around, they each take their own bedroom. The three of them plays rock paper scissors for the master bedroom, Jeonghan taking the win, like he always does. He victoriously throws his fist in the air as Joshua and Seungcheol mutter curses under their breaths all the way to their own rooms. 

A regular bedroom, however, is far from what Mingyu considers regular. The king sized bed is pushed against the main wall, which is adjacent to a fully (likely tinted) glass wall, save for the door in the center that leads to a personal balcony overlooking the ocean. It’s decorated with all sorts of expensive looking room decor pieces, a few modern paintings, and a flat screen TV across from the bed. Mingyu wonders how he’ll bring himself to leave. 

Mingyu quickly fumbles through his bag for his swim shorts, throwing them on, muscle tank on top. The others emerge a few moments later, the older two completely covered from head to toe with a long sleeved shirt and long pants. 

“Hyungs, you’re going to burn up,” Mingyu says. 

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid, babe,” Jeonghan says, pulling his hat over his face before walking right out the door, Seungcheol right behind him. 

“Seriously, don’t expect them to engage in any activity,” Joshua warns.

Sure enough, Seungcheol and Jeonghan barely move a muscle once they (they being Mingyu) set up the umbrella and the chairs. Mingyu heads out to the water by himself as Joshua slathers every inch of his skin with sunscreen, despite it being 8 in the evening already. 

The private beach is quite cozy, the water not being too far out from the house, easily putting Mingyu in his hyungs’ line of vision. So, if Mingyu flexes, throws his wet hair back, swims laps a little (a lot) more than usual, then that’s no one’s business but his. He doesn’t think they mind in the slightest, noting the sly smiles and lowered sunglasses. 

Finally, Joshua runs over, blown up beach ball underneath his arm. He spikes it over to Mingyu as he wades into the water, who hits it back to him with a grin. 

They sustain a decent rally, lunging this way and that into the water with loud yells to keep it up. Mingyu tries (and succeeds, he thinks) to not get distracted by the way Joshua’s perfect skin shines golden in the soft light of the sunrise. He’s gorgeous like this, a perfect shot for a photo, whole body immersed in unabashed laughter, water dripping from his hair, down his toned stomach, causing his trunks to cling to his thighs and-

“Ah, Mingyu-yah!” Joshua calls, just as the ball flies right by his head. Maybe he’s not entirely successful. But Joshua doesn’t seem too torn up about it, taking the moment to lean over, hands on his thighs as he gasps for air. 

Mingyu just raises his eyebrow, wading over to Joshua with a the ball in between his palms. “Okay, hyung?” Joshua looks up and swallows, grin not quite reaching his eyes. 

“For sure. I think we can beat 145 this time,” Joshua says, breathlessly. 

“You’re not fooling anyone, grandpa!” Seungcheol shouts. 

Offering him a soft smile, Mingyu holds out a hand to Joshua, who takes it with a sigh, allowing Mingyu to pull him up and lead him back towards their chairs. Seungcheol and Jeonghan shoot Joshua a knowing look when he reaches for a towel, responding to them with a pointed glare. 

Once Joshua settles down, Mingyu turns his attention towards the other two, fixing them a pout. “Are you both seriously not going to get in? It’s so nice!” he tries. Jeonghan hums in clearly feigned consideration.

“Hm, maybe later. The hot tub looked nice. But you should go back, baby. Enjoy yourself.” Seungcheol makes a small noise of assent as Mingyu’s pout deepens. 

“I don’t wanna get in, then,” Mingyu whines, sitting down on the sand between Seungcheol and Jeonghan’s chairs, Seungcheol’s hand reflexively going to play with Mingyu’s wet hair. “It’s no fun alone.” 

“Don’t worry, I can think of several, much more fun things that we can do together,” Jeonghan replies, patting Mingyu’s cheek, which heats up rather quickly at the innuendo. 

They go back up to the house shortly after that, showering before ordering delivery from a local Thai restaurant for dinner. Mingyu scarfs four bowls of curry as the three of them watch on with equally fond looks. 

“You’re so cute.” Joshua coos, poking at Mingyu’s stuffed cheek. “Is it good?” Mingyu nods eagerly. 

“This is probably why you’re so tall,” Jeonghan says, staring in amazement as Mingyu inhales a bowl of rice in ten seconds flat. 

“Still growing,” Mingyu notes, mouth full. “I think I grew another inch over the last few months.”

“Save some for the rest of us,” Seungcheol grumbles, but he ruffles Mingyu’s hair anyway. 

After dinner, they make their way out to the back gardens, adjacent to the jacuzzi that Jeonghan had expressed interest in earlier. Mingyu makes pointed glances over in that direction, which don’t go unnoticed. 

“You have way too much energy for your own good,” Jeonghan says, with a halfhearted sigh, filling Mingyu’s glass with the wine he’d procured from by the pool. Mingyu gives him an unapologetic grin in response, taking a sip of the wine, resisting the urge to scrunch his nose up at the taste. 

He’s tried , with the knowledgeable guidance of Minghao, to enjoy the finer delicacies that they all do. Yet, he still can’t bring himself to actually like the tastes of wine, or honestly anything that exists on a fine dining menu. Mingyu would much prefer his cheap beer and pizza to a bitter glass of wine and an entree portion that wouldn’t even be filling for a mouse. 

Hesitantly sipping at the wine, Mingyu barely finishes his first glass as the older three are topping off their fifth. When Jeonghan nearly drops the bottle to the ground, Mingyu decides it’s probably a good idea to cut them off. They pout and whine like kids as Mingyu plucks the somehow already empty glasses out of their hands, but still let him guide them back to their rooms. 

Joshua and Jeonghan go in with relative ease, save for the dozen kisses they each pepper to every inch of his face. Each. Seungcheol, however, insistently clings with both hands onto Mingyu’s left arm, all throughout the house, and tightest once they approach his room. 

“Stay with me,” Seungcheol whines, resting his temple against Mingyu’s shoulder. Mingyu laughs a little, pushing the double doors open to bring the older to his bed. 

Seungcheol does sit down, but not without pulling Mingyu next to him. “What if I fall off my bed in the middle of the night?”

“You’re not that drunk, hyung. Plus, this bed is enormous, I don’t think you could fall off if you tried,” Mingyu responds, but Seungcheol is still pouting when Mingyu turns his head to look at him. With a sigh, Mingyu reaches over to pull at the bedsheet in invitation, and Seungcheol grins happily. 

Slinging an arm around Mingyu’s waist, Seungcheol hums in contentment as Mingyu curls into the warmth of his chest, their legs tangling around each other under the heavy comforter. Mingyu truthfully isn’t all that sleepy, and he knows Seungcheol isn’t either. But, they both bask in the silence, quietly enjoying feeling the rise and fall of each other’s chests, the closeness of it all. 

It’s all quite surprisingly wholesome. At least, until they shift positions: Mingyu’s back to Seungcheol’s chest, the older’s arms still tight around Mingyu’s waist. Gradually, one of the hands makes its way over Mingyu’s hip, down his waist, his thighs, resting half over the swell of his ass and half on the back of his thigh. The movements are accompanied by chaste kisses to the nape of his neck, behind his ear, on his jaw. 

“Having fun?” Mingyu asks softly, rocking back into Seungcheol’s hand. 

“Sorry, baby, are you trying to sleep?” Seungcheol asks, not sounding apologetic in the slightest. 

“Mm, not really.”

“Stuff’s on the side table.”

Seungcheol loosens his grip on Mingyu’s waist to allow him to reach over and grab the necessities. When his head hits the pillow again, Seungcheol turns Mingyu’s head towards him, pulling him into a soft kiss as he already begins to pull the younger’s shorts down. Mingyu sighs happily, keening into the hand on his jaw.

Taking the tiny bottle out of Mingyu’s hand, Seungcheol kneads at Mingyu’s heated skin as he continues his incessant soft kisses, adding a nip or two in between a few, crooning softly into Mingyu’s ear. 

“Looked so good today baby, ‘s like you were made to be in the sun like that.” The gentle compliment directly contrasts the motions of Seungcheol’s hands, one finger already teasing at his rim. “Your stamina is pretty crazy too, huh? Bet you could’ve gone all night,” he adds, grinning when Mingyu whines at the innuendo. 

Seungcheol’s finger then slowly starts to push in, but his breath hitches in confusion when he meets minimal resistance. Mingyu flushes, “I already, um, in the shower, earlier.” 

“Fuck, that’s, fuck . Can I, are you-” 

“I’m good, hyung, whenever you're ready.”

Seungcheol fucks him just like that, on their sides, arms snug around his waist, voice low in his ear. Then, on his knees, his own shirt lost somewhere in the room, while Seungcheol is still nearly fully clothed, his sweats riding low on his waist. Mingyu just wonders where all this energy was a few hours ago.

Just as Seungcheol is shifting Mingyu onto his back, a soft knock comes at the door. “Come in,” Seungcheol calls, lining his cock up with Mingyu’s entrance. Mingyu makes a small noise of bewilderment as the doors open to reveal Jeonghan, water bottle in hand, one eyebrow raised once he registers the scene in front of him.

“Hi,” Seungcheol says, a little breathlessly. 

“Hi there,” Jeonghan responds. “Thought I’d come and check on you.”

“I’m doing great,” Seungcheol says, with a toothy grin, pushing into Mingyu, who lets out a deep groan. 

“Good. You seemed a little more than tipsy before,” Jeonghan says, lip quirked up in amusement, still not acknowledging Mingyu’s presence. He feels terribly debauched like this, being used while the two of them just have a conversation right above him. 

Seungcheol hums, holding Jeonghan’s eye contact as he pulls out all the way and thrusts back in, hard . “Mm, that wine was nice. Remind me to pick up a few bottles when we get home.” 

“Of course.”

And maybe Mingyu’s lost it, but they almost sound a little shy , and not because Seungcheol is literally recklessly fucking into Mingyu in front of Jeonghan without a care in the world. 

His suspicions only grow when Jeonghan lingers there for a minute, not moving in either direction. Eventually, he shakes his head slightly to himself, making his way to the bed, where Mingyu’s hair is splayed across the sheets, running his fingers through the locks. “Hi, baby, how are you? Has Cheollie let you come?” Mingyu shakes his head with a pout. 

“Mean,” Jeonghan says to Seungcheol, who just shrugs, slowly moving his hips back and forth. 

“Wanted to test his stamina,” Seungcheol explains. 

“I think you should have a pretty good idea by now,” Mingyu complains, sentence ending with a whine. Seungcheol raises his eyebrows. 

“Careful, baby. I’ll leave you just like this and make you watch Jeonghannie and I get each other off right in front of you.” Mingyu shakes his head insistently at that, eyes wide. Jeonghan laughs, leaning down to press a kiss to Mingyu’s forehead. 

“Be good, sweetheart. Make hyung come first, okay?” Jeonghan instructs, crawling onto the bed and pulling Mingyu’s upper body into his lap. Mingyu immediately grabs onto his thigh for purchase. 

“Already running the show,” Seungcheol mutters, but there’s an amused smile on his face. 

“You know me, Seungcheollie. Go on, fuck the baby like he deserves.” 

And Seungcheol does just that, bed creaking from how hard his thrusts are, all three of their bodies jostling up the sheets. Mingyu doesn’t hold back his noises, whining and moaning loudly, especially when Jeonghan reaches down to tug at his cock in time with the fast movements of Seungcheol’s hips. 

Mingyu moves his hands from the sheets and Jeonghan’s legs to around Seungcheol’s back, dragging his nails down his broad shoulders, all down his skin. Seungcheol groans at the sensation, picking up the pace of his hips. 

They both lather him with continuous praises, Jeonghan’s, obviously, a little more filthier than Seungcheol’s. Continuously tell him how pretty he looks, how pretty he sounds, how good he takes it, how good he is. Mingyu could practically melt into the sheets with how good everything feels. 

“Want it so bad, don’t you, baby? Little cockslut, would take it however we gave it to you,” Jeonghan says. Mingyu moans quite loudly at that, turning his head to muffle his noises into Jeonghan’s thigh. 

“J-just you, just for you, please ,” Mingyu whines, digging his heels into Seungcheol’s lower back.  

“Just for us, huh? You’re so good, baby, always so good. And you feel like a fucking dream come true, I could do this all day, just with you, all the time,” Seungcheol says, punctuating his sentence with a bite to Mingyu’s earlobe. 

“I want it, with you, all the time,” Mingyu confesses, fingers tangled in the hair at the nape of Seungcheol’s neck.

With a deliciously deep groan, Seungcheol finally comes into the condom, body pressed against Mingyu to sink his teeth into his shoulder. “Come, baby,” he says, gruffly, right into Mingyu’s ear. 

Jeonghan tightens his grip, quickens his pace and Mingyu’s coming minutes later, moaning so loudly that Mingyu thinks it’s a wonder Joshua hasn’t woken up too. 

“Hyung too,” Mingyu says, once Seungcheol’s cleaned him up, turning around to face Jeonghan, who just smiles softly.

“You don’t have to, sweetheart, you must be exhausted,” he assures, hand carding through Mingyu’s matted bangs. Mingyu shakes his head insistently, climbing down the bed to nose at the tent in Jeonghan’s shorts. 

Once Jeonghan gives him the go ahead, Mingyu gets him out of his shorts and his cock down his throat in record time. Soon, a hand, Seungcheol’s, actually, goes into his hair, fingers tight on his strands, guiding his head down on Jeonghan’s cock, Jeonghan moaning unabashedly throughout. 

After a bit, though, the noises seem muffled, and Mingyu looks up curiously to see the two of them passionately making out above him. He whines around Jeonghan’s cock at the sight, them fighting for control, kisses likely more teeth and tongue than anything else, Seungcheol’s other hand on the back of Jeonghan’s neck to hold him there. There’s nothing tender about it, nothing reminiscent of the way they treat Mingyu, it’s all sensual and intense

“Come on, Jeonghan-ah, come for us. On his face,” Seungcheol says, against Jeonghan’s lips. 

Jeonghan groans, pulling his cock out of Mingyu’s mouth, resting it on his bottom lip as he jerks himself off, grunting a little as he stares down right into Mingyu’s wide eyes. 

“Coming, fuck .” Mingyu squeezes his eyes shut, feeling the warm come hit his face, falling mostly down his cheeks, a little on his eyebrow, some on his lips. 

Once he comes down, Jeonghan leans down to catch Mingyu in a kiss, licking at the come on his lips. “Look pretty like this, sweetheart,” he says, softly. Mingyu blushes innocently, despite the indecency of his appearance. 

“You’re prettier, hyung,” Mingyu whispers back, earnestly, stealing another kiss. “Always are.” 

Seungcheol kisses him right after, towel in hand to wipe the come off of his face. 

Mingyu smiles dopily as he’s guided back under the covers, the both of them taking the spots next to him, dropping kisses to his forehead before their heads hit the pillow: Seungcheol’s cheek pressed against his arm, Jeonghan’s head tucked under his neck, warmth incomparable, indescribable. 

And, he almost, almost , feels loved like this. He would, if he didn’t know better. 

——

After much grumbling and resistance, Mingyu finally gets Seungcheol to come into the water with him the next morning. Jeonghan and Joshua had some impromptu work event to attend at a venue a few miles away from the house, apologizing profusely to the two of them before they left. 

Seungcheol, just as Mingyu predicted, does seem to be enjoying himself, wading slowly in the water and collecting shells just where the waves hit the sand. He looks adorable, sifting through the sand, eyes lighting up when he finds a shell he likes. Mingyu wishes he brought his camera outside with him, berates himself for leaving it in his suitcase. 

Mingyu joins him after swimming farther out for a bit, sitting by his feet and digging through the sand. 

“This one’s pretty,” Mingyu says, handing Seungcheol a light orange piece of sea glass. Seungcheol takes it out of his hand with a smile, scanning it before putting it into his palm along with the other shells. 

With a sigh, Seungcheol settles down next to Mingyu, digging a small hole in the sand to safely store his shells in. “I used to collect them a lot, when I was a kid. We wouldn’t get out to the beach a lot, but when we did, we would stay for hours,” he says, staring out at the horizon. Mingyu nods. 

“Those are fonder memories, back when my music was just a hobby and to them, I had a bright, better, future ahead of me,” Seungcheol adds, with a dry laugh. Mingyu places his hand over Seungcheol’s in comfort. He’s silent after that, staring down at the crashing waves with an indiscernible, but clearly pensive expression, and it’s obvious he doesn’t wish to talk about it further, so, Mingyu decides to shift the topic of conversation. 

“Sometimes, I just want to say fuck it, do what you did, and give this all up. Forget the nearly completed business degree, pack up all my stuff and drive north to Canada and take pictures of every beautiful thing I come across. Live life,” Mingyu says. “I’m doing this all for my parents, and I haven’t even spoken to them in, what, months now? It’s just like, what’s the point? But, it’s also like, I don’t want to be a bad son; I have to take care of them, because, well, they’ve done so much for me.” 

“You don’t have to go to Canada for all that, Mingyu-yah,” Seungcheol says, fondly. “And you can still provide for yourself, and your parents, doing something you love. Look at me, I gave everything up for music , perhaps, the biggest pipe dream career to exist, and now, I can send money back home every month. I still don’t talk to them, I don’t even know if they use it, but I can, and I do.” 

Mingyu pauses. He’s more than aware of Seungcheol’s situation with his family, but he had no idea that he still sent money back for them. His heart swells with affection, and a little ache too; Seungcheol is so good, too good. He’s so lovely and Mingyu wants to kiss him breathless and show him just how much. 

Except, now that he’s thinking about it, the future ahead of him has become more daunting, the emotion that comes with it more overpowering than anything else. He stares out at the horizon, eyes squinted, trying to commit the hopeful, uncharted expanse to memory. The image could come in handy some days, when everything feels so constricted and he seeks security in the unknown nature of the ocean. 

He’s just too confused: there’s more things whirling around in his head than the human brain is surely built to handle. All Mingyu knows is that he’s yearning for a collective fantasy of the future that simply could never come to life, and it breaks his heart all over again every time he remembers it. 

“I don’t want to disappoint them,” Mingyu admits, quietly. 

Seungcheol sighs. “I know they’re your parents and all, but you should be more concerned about disappointing yourself . You have one life, you can’t live it for someone else. And, you don’t have to have everything figured out yet. I know you’re graduating, and life seems fucking terrifying , but no matter you want to do, you’ll have people behind you to help you through it all. That much I can promise you. You’re so young, you have a long time to decide what you think your future should hold. And once you do, you’ll do great things, and be able to provide for your parents. That , I can also promise you.” 

Mingyu holds back tears, refusing to look at Seungcheol, in favor of watch the seagulls crossing the cloudless sky, mind absent of thoughts much unlike how stuffed it was moments prior, only one thing, finally, occupying his entire soul. 

“Thank you, hyung, thank you for believing in me.” I love you, I love you so much, all I want is for you to feel the same. Please feel the same

Pulling Mingyu’s head onto his shoulder, Seungcheol drops a kiss down into the center of his hair, rubbing at his neck. “Of course, sweetheart. You have so many wonderful things to offer the world, trust me.” And Mingyu does, how could he not? He’d place his still beating heart into Seungcheol’s hands knowing it would be returned without a scratch. 

Joshua and Jeonghan come back from their event a while later, just as Mingyu and Seungcheol are finishing up dinner out on the master bedroom balcony. 

“Hi, hyungs, how was it?” Mingyu asks, leaning into the kiss Joshua places on his temple as he walks by and takes a seat at the table. 

“Boring,” Jeonghan responds, pouring himself a margarita. “At least Junnie and Jeongyeon were there.” 

“I missed Jeongyeon? Fuck,” Seungcheol curses, before turning to Mingyu. “You haven’t met Jeongyeonie, she’s an absolute riot.” 

“Oh, I know her, she’s the singer who went viral for mimicking Wonwoo hyung’s stage tongue thing at that one awards show, right?” They all nod.

“That’s her. He hasn’t done it since,” Seungcheol says, with a grin. “Can’t rap with a dry mouth, my ass.” 

Mingyu giggles, conclusively setting his glass down onto the table. “So, hot tub?” he asks, only to receive a chorus of apologetic sighs in response. 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, I have a few things to finish up to send to Wonwoo and Jihoon,” Seungcheol says, with a sad smile, getting out of his chair.   

“I got a work call for a shoot next week,” Joshua says, worrying his lip under his teeth. Mingyu pouts, what was the point of a vacation then?

He then feels a finger tucking a lock of hair behind his ear, looking up to see Jeonghan behind him. “Just you and me then, huh, baby?” 

“No come in the water,” Seungcheol calls as he heads out of the room. Jeonghan rolls his eyes. 

After they clear up the food, Jeonghan manages to (quite easily) convince Mingyu to take a nap with him before they swim. This time, it actually does turn out to be just a nap; not that Mingyu’s complaining, the heat from the morning did a toll on him, and Jeonghan is a very good spooner.  

The master bedroom bed is so damn comfortable, that Mingyu finds himself not wanting to get up, perfectly content with crashing here for the next twelve hours. Jeonghan pulls insistently at his arm, dragging him across the sheets, albeit quite slowly. 

“Come on, babe, I wanna try those jets,” Jeonghan says. Mingyu groans, barely lifting his head off his too comfortable pillow. 

Eventually, Mingyu picks himself up, trudging into his still-damp swim shorts and letting Jeonghan lead him into the jacuzzi, which is, admittedly, absolutely enjoyable. Jeonghan lets out a dramatic sigh as he settles onto the bench, leaning his head back on the edge. He peeks an eye open to look over at Mingyu, holding his hand out to him in invitation. 

Mingyu scooches over, tucking his head in Jeonghan’s neck and hooking their heels together. “Missed you today hyung, Shua-hyung too.” 

“I know, sweetheart, we work too much, huh?” he responds. Mingyu nods. 

“You’re on vacation , though,” Mingyu says, more like whines. 

Jeonghan sighs, arm slinging around Mingyu’s shoulder, kneading at his bicep. “I know, baby, but, our careers are all, well, insane . Sometimes it feels like if we don’t dedicate every waking moment to keeping them alive, it’ll all slip through our fingers. Honestly, it’s probably true. We’re so damn busy all the time because we wouldn’t be able to keep up if we weren’t,” he explains, softly. Mingyu pales, feeling instantly guilty. 

“Oh, hyung, I guess I didn’t think about it that way. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound all whiney.” Jeonghan coos, thumb soothingly stroking against Mingyu’s shoulder, other hand going to pinch at his cheek.

“Don’t be sorry , angel, your concern is justified. Good thing we have you around, give us some leisure time,” he jokes, but it only elicits a sudden swirling in Mingyu’s stomach. 

That sentiment comes around a little too often; that he balances them out somehow, that he’s just as much of a positive effect on their lives that they are on his. It gives him dangerous hope, thinking about the possibility of reciprocation, usually so far out of reach, but sometimes almost fathomable. 

And then, of course, just as soon as the rush of hope comes, follows the inevitable wave of logic. They’re adults, with very successful careers, boatloads of money and influence, what could they ever want with a clueless almost college graduate like him who has little to nothing in his life together? As Jeonghan said, he gives them leisure time , almost like a hobby, he figures, and a good fuck when they need it. Why would it be anything more? 

Besides, most importantly, they have each other . Have had each other for 20 some years, and did just fine with no one else. Their level of intimacy has been daunting since day one, still is, in despite of how much time Mingyu has spent with them, how close he’s gotten with them. Maybe he’s wormed his way in for now, but the timer still ticks, ending unclear, but ever present. 

Mingyu’s new mission, however, before he inevitably leaves their lives, is to try and push them closer together. It’s quite painful, how close they are to abandoning whatever inhibition is holding them back and letting themselves have what they clearly want so damn bad, what’s clearly the best for them in the end. Honestly, and he’s sure they could admit to it too, they’re already practically in a relationship, just minus the label. He just thinks they need that final push. He’s just not too sure what it is yet. 

“Hyung, are you happy right now?” 

“Wh- of course I am, sweetheart, I’m very happy,” Jeonghan responds, planting a kiss to the crown of Mingyu’s head.

“D’you think there’s anything that would make you happier?” Mingyu would be the first to admit that he’s not exactly graceful with these sorts of things, but, as unsubtle as his methods are, they often work. Plus, he’s tired, both physically, and watching the three of them dance around each other like awkward teenagers. 

“Well, I mean, probably. I wouldn’t say no to a slice of chocolate raspberry cake.” Mingyu laughs a little at that.

No , I mean, like, anything you could do, you know, any step you could take.” Jeonghan’s silent for a moment after that, genuinely contemplating Mingyu’s question, for once. It’s the only answer Mingyu really needs. 

“I guess, yeah, there is, I don’t-” he pauses, tensing up a little underneath Mingyu. “Where’s this coming from? Anything you’d like to tell me?”

“Oh, no, not really. Just been thinking, a little, about regrets and missed opportunities,” Mingyu says. “I don’t want to be afraid, you know, of something that could bring me joy just because of the uncertainty that comes with taking that path. I think some things are worth that precariousness.”

“Is this about school, baby?” Jeonghan asks, softly. 

And well, no , it’s not, but Mingyu blinks rapidly anyway, struck by how many similarities he can draw between their predicament and his. By how easily he can apply the advice he has in mind for them to his own situation. He tries not to let his attention get derailed, but it sure is food for thought. Jeonghan must take his subsequent silence as confirmation, because leans down to place another kiss to Mingyu’s hair. 

“Oh, sweetheart , whatever you choose, you’re going to do just fine. Do whatever makes you happy, I think it’s worth it,” he says, cheek resting against Mingyu’s head. “It’s always worth it.” 

The last words are said much softer, with a hint of rumination, and Mingyu knows he’s successfully planted a seed. Or rather, nourished an already growing seedling with a little water and warmth. Now, to watch it bloom. 

They soak for a while longer before heading up to the (massive) shower, stealing kisses as they haphazardly wash the chlorine off of each other’s bodies. Mingyu then excitedly climbs into Jeonghan’s bed, letting the memory foam relax him straight to sleep, fully aware he hasn’t spent more than 10 minutes this whole trip in his own room. These beds are too big to be slept in alone, he asserts. 

“Will you come into the ocean tomorrow? You’re the last one,” Mingyu sing-songs. Jeonghan dramatically hums in fake consideration. “I’ll let you fuck me on the beach.”

“You’d have sand up your ass until you were fifty.”

“Worth it.”

Jeonghan laughs, then stretches up to kiss the underside of Mingyu’s jaw. “Goodnight baby,” he whispers. Mingyu hums in response, and it’s terrifying how easily the Love you almost falls off his tongue. 

Mingyu wakes up the next morning, to an empty bed, and more peculiarly, an empty house. 

A glance at his phone reveals a text from Joshua, saying that the three of them have headed down to the beach for the morning, and that he can meet them down there for breakfast whenever he’s ready. That was about four hours ago, it now being nearly 1 in the afternoon. In his defense, that bed is really damn comfortable.

Eyes still bleary from sleep, Mingyu climbs down the stairs to the beach, smiling at the sight of the three of them sat on the sand by the water, knees tucked up to their chest as they converse. Yet, when he gets closer, he registers the serious expressions they wear: their mouths moving insistently, eyebrows furrowed, face taut. 

They seem to be engaged in rapt conversation, and Mingyu decides that it’s probably best if he heads back up to the house and pretend that he just slept the whole day. Before he can turn back, he sees Jeonghan throw his hands up in the air in exasperation, making a move to get up, Seungcheol reaching to pull him back down, an action that proves to be futile. Mingyu freezes, nowhere to go. 

Jeonghan notices him when he finally turns around, eyes widening a little as he continues his hurried pace off the beach. When he passes Mingyu, he offers no greeting except for a short, breathless I’m sorry , going forward into the house. 

Seungcheol still runs after him, but stops when he gets to Mingyu, who stares back at him in bewilderment, knowing he should’ve never left the bed. “Hyung, is everything okay?” 

Seungcheol swallows, failing to mask his concern. He sighs, looking at the door that’s just been slammed shut before trudging over to Mingyu and placing his head on the younger’s shoulder. “Not really. But it will be, I think.” 

Hand in hand, they walk back over to where Joshua is still seated, staring out at the horizon through narrowed eyes, discernible tear tracks down his cheeks. Mingyu sits down next to him, hand going to his knee. Joshua looks at it, then up at Mingyu, small, though still sad, smile on his face. 

“Did he go inside?” Joshua asks Seungcheol, who lies down next to Mingyu, waves falling over his bare feet, arm slung back for his head to rest on.

“Mhm. He just needs time, you know that.” 

Joshua then places his hand on Mingyu’s from where it’s still resting on his knees, intertwining their fingers and squeezing a little. “I’m sorry the weekend took this turn, sweetheart. 25 years later and we still have a lot of shit to sort through,” he says, with a dry laugh. Seungcheol hums in assent. 

“Is it something bad?” Mingyu asks. Joshua makes a small noise of contemplation.

“More like something recurring that just gets worse every time. When feelings get built up for so long, it gets pretty ugly, and-” He cuts himself off on a hitch of breath.

“That’s okay, hyung, you don’t have to tell me anything. I know you’ll work it out soon, and I hope, at the very least, the resolution makes you all happy. You deserve it, after everything.”

He realizes how vague, how strangely serious his sentiment was despite claiming to not know the root of the argument. Except, of course he does, looking at them, thinking about last night, he does know, watches their flower blossom, and the first few petals of his fall. 

Joshua reaches over to pinch his cheek. “Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that you’re that much younger than us,” he says, fondly. “You deserve to be happy too, angel.” 

Not as much as you do. You’re perfect to me. I want to be by your side like this until my very last breath. I love you, I love you, I love you. “Thank you, hyung.” 

They go back home that evening. Mingyu drives, and the three of them are nearly silent for the entire car ride, save for a few stray comments, always directed to Mingyu, here and there. Mingyu doesn’t think any of them are particularly angry with each other, just confused, in disarray. 

Heart in his stomach, he climbs out of the driver’s seat once they arrive at his complex, Seungcheol sluggishly taking his place. He slings his duffel bag over his shoulder and waves sadly back to them as the car pulls off the curb. Jeonghan smiles back at him through the window, face pinched, but eyes still full of so much warmth that Mingyu’s knees threaten to give out.

The three flight walk up to his apartment suddenly feels like thirty. When he finally reaches his apartment, Mingyu barely even has the energy to turn the key in the door, weakly pushing it open once he does. 

Seokmin’s on the couch in the living room, intently staring down at a page in a textbook that he’s probably been attempting to read for the past hour. He looks up when he hears the door open, bright, always soothing smile on his face. “Hey, welcome home! How was the trip?” 

The light in his eyes falters, however, when he registers Mingyu’s surely despondent expression, eyebrows furrowing in concern. “Is everything okay? Does Minghao have to bust someone’s kneecaps?”

“I think, fuck , I think I caught feelings,” Mingyu says, expression blank, staring straight ahead at the clock on the wall to avoid seeing Seokmin’s reaction. 

But Seokmin makes no noise of surprise, or distress, or anger, causing Mingyu to look back over at him in curiosity. His eyes are sad, now, shoulders fallen, but there’s still a small smile on his face; it’s tight, but it’s genuine. He holds a hand out, and Mingyu trudges towards him, inevitable tears falling down his face. 

“I know you did, you loving idiot,” Seokmin whispers, petting Mingyu’s hair from where its splayed across his lap, both of their bodies shaking from how hard Mingyu is sobbing. 

——

The next few weeks fly by, finals looming over Mingyu like a wildcat waiting to pounce at him and drag his body back into the forest. If things weren’t bad enough, the AC in their apartment breaks down in the hottest week of the year yet, and due to the coffee shop and library both being constantly packed, the three of them are forced to do all their studying at home.

Minghao, due to his newfound source of stress relief, and Seokmin, due to his pure argument avoiding nature, manage to keep collected, and relatively sane. Mingyu, on the other hand, finds himself in a self imposed dry spell, terribly lonely for most of the day, and overwhelmed with all the studying he’s not doing. He snaps at practically everyone he talks to, almost punches a wall when they run out of fat free milk, and scrubs so hard in the shower his skin starts to burn. 

He tries to pour all of his pent up stress into cracking down on his books and forcing the entire year’s content back into his head, but the heat refrains him from retaining anything whatsoever. 

It’s coming up on day five of Mingyu not speaking to a single one of his hyungs, not even an audio message or even a goodnight text. The last time was a fifteen minute call with Jeonghan who was driving home from a gala, and he went in and out of service at least thirty times, so it barely counted. It’s not even that Mingyu’s avoiding them: they’re all just extremely busy, more so than usual, with so many things that Mingyu can’t even keep up anymore. 

And lovesickness is really not a good look on him. Mingyu mopes around enough as is without the added bonus of being in love with three people and having no chance of them reciprocating to anywhere near the same extent. Worse, he has no one to confide in: Seokmin is almost never home with how many hours he’s scheduled for, and Minghao would give him some unwarranted I told you so lecture that would be the quite literally the very last thing he wants to hear.

Except, it’s probably exactly what he needs to hear. He knows, already, how absolutely stupid it is that he’s managed, or rather, allowed himself to somehow fall in love with his sugar daddies. All three of them. Who are just a few steps away from being in a lifelong relationship with each other, practically have been all their lives. Good god, it’s fucked up on just so many different levels. 

And yet, apparently, the universe doesn’t think that’s enough for him, because D-3 before finals week begins, Mingyu gets a call at around 11 PM, mindlessly picking it up, only to hear his mother’s voice on the other end. Which, of course, was a plead to see him, for him to come home, which he responded to with vague assurances that he would for a bit during the summer, reminding her that graduation is just a few days away, which is what placates her in the end.

Then, more surprisingly, the call was turned over to his father, and from there began the signature post college lecture, the reminder that Mingyu had to ace these exams if he wanted to secure the internship his dad had lined up for him for the next year, the one that would practically lead him into a job months after its completion. 

The more his dad went on about the job, the more Mingyu felt like throwing up. The all too real prospect of working a 9 to 5, doing something he genuinely couldn’t enjoy less, sent his head for a spin. Everything seemed to collapse in front of him, his future becoming dimmer as his father saw it glow. 

All he wants to do is interject, tell his father that he’s been researching positions at magazines, and studios, wants to tell him that with the portfolio he’s been secretly building for years, he thinks he has a chance to make it. He wants to beg for a chance. 

But, Mingyu stays complicit with his own demise, nods along, hums every once in a while to mask his distress, whispers a goodbye and nothing else when the phone is passed over to his sister. 

They’ve spoken recently, so all Mingyu does is ask her about school, about her friends, to which she replies with short, small answers. She sounds tired, a little sad, Mingyu notes, and the guilt threatens to take him whole. 

Before they hang up, she whispers a small, “I’m sorry, oppa,” the line cutting out before she finishes the word. And it’s enough to make Mingyu burst into tears, incessant sobs muffled by his pillow, hopeless dream falling right through his fingers. Key word hopeless. 

Everything is frustrating, and everything is a mess. Mingyu is tired, burnt out, horny, and hopelessly in love. Key word hopeless. 

Emphasis on tired, because he’s currently running on about 45 minutes of sleep over the course of a week and a half, and definitely not by choice. No matter how hard he tries, sleep doesn’t come, his mind a whirlwind of thoughts and concerns.

Which is why he’s almost certain he’s hallucinating the scene in front of him.

“What the hell.”

Mingyu’s just come back from a nearly 12 hour cram session at Hansol’s, who, thankfully, let him crash at his dorm when Minghao exiled him for the night. Or, more accurately, sexiled, because Mingyu’s opened the door to the apartment to reveal a very shirtless Kwon Soonyoung coming out of his kitchen, carrying three bottles of water through the living room. 

Soonyoung nearly drops said bottles of water when he sees Mingyu in the doorway, and Mingyu suddenly becomes aware of how atrocious he must look: sweat matted hair sticking up in five million directions, textbooks haphazardly shoved under his arms, clad in clothes that he’s been wearing for at least the past 3 days. It doesn’t help that this is actually their first meeting ever. 

Mingyu clears his throat, flushing a little at his outburst. “Um, sorry, hi, I’m Mingyu, I don’t think we’ve really met yet,” he says, holding a hand out. Soonyoung stares down at it, then at the water bottles he’s juggling in his own hands, looking back up at Mingyu apologetically. Mingyu retracts his hand, squeezing his eyes shut in embarrassment. 

“Sorry, yeah, I’m Soonyoung, it’s nice to finally meet you,” Soonyoung replies, with a dry little laugh and a tight smile. Mingyu returns it, lingering for a little, unsure if he’s supposed to make small talk or if he’s allowed to dart to his room and bury himself in his sheets. 

“What’s taking you so long? I’m sore as fu-” Minghao calls, words coming to a halt when he registers the two of them in the entryway. “Oh, Mingyu, I didn’t know you would be home so soon, I’m sorry.”

“Hansol had a lab exam,” Mingyu replies, with a shrug. “I can leave again, sorry, I think I saw an empty table or two at the coffee shop on my drive here.” 

“No, no, you don’t have to do that,” Minghao says, but his eyes say otherwise, a silent plead in them, and Mingyu nods, despite his entire body screaming in refusal. He’s dead tired, to the point where he doesn’t know if he’ll even be able to make it to the coffee shop. 

“It’s cool, I have a bit more work to do anyway,” he replies, with a forced smile that Minghao can surely see right through, as the younger’s shoulders fall in immediate guilt. 

Hand on the doorknob, Mingyu offers Soonyoung a soft smile and a nod, whispering a soft goodbye that the older most likely didn’t catch. 

“It was nice to meet you, Mingyu! Um, we should all do something more formal sometime, um, with the hyungs, or something,” Soonyoung calls. Mingyu looks back over his shoulder to nod in agreement, smile more genuine this time. Soonyoung seems to be making a real effort to get on Minghao’s friends’ good side, and Mingyu appreciates the effort this guy is putting in to be with his best friend. 

“For sure. See you later,” Mingyu says, with a small wave, ignoring Minghao’s furrowed eyebrows and parted lips. 

Mingyu doesn’t even make it onto the street, vision fading to black when he gets to the bottom of the staircase. 

——

Slowly blinking his eyes open, Mingyu holds back a groan as he comes to, head still spinning, vision still blurry. 

“Oh, thank fucking God.” Instantly there’s hands all around him, on his face, in his hair, squeezing his arms. He belatedly registers the worried face above his as Joshua’s, and proceeds to silently curse Minghao’s entire existence. 

Said ex-best friend then walks into his bedroom with a tray of various foods, guilt written all over his face. He sets it down on the desk, and immediately hurries over to the other side of Mingyu’s bed. 

“How long was I out for?” Mingyu asks, groggily. 

“About thirteen hours,” Minghao replies. He then, quite suddenly, begins smacking Mingyu’s arm. “You scared the shit out of me! Again!” 

“Ow, ow, fuck , Minghao, stop,” Mingyu complains, swatting Minghao’s hand away. 

Then, much to Mingyu’s surprise, Joshua pulls Mingyu’s afflicted arm towards him, away from Minghao’s reach, and actually looks up to shoot Minghao a blatant glare. Minghao doesn’t respond, just looks at Mingyu with one eyebrow raised, corner of his lip quirked up in amusement. He pats Mingyu’s stomach and excuses himself, closing the door behind him.

“I’m sorry he called you, I’m fine, really,” Mingyu assures, quietly, mindlessly playing with his fingers over his lap. 

“You’re not fine , you passed out from exhaustion, baby,” Joshua replies, seriously, eyes steely. 

“It’s just from the heat and a few too many all-nighters, hyung,” Mingyu says, sighing, throwing his head back into the pillow. He wants Joshua to leave , he wants to wallow and enjoy a two week self imposed isolation before finals to avoid losing his mind over school and slash or accidentally telling his sugar daddies that he’s madly in love with them. 

Joshua gives a sigh of his own, running his hand down his face. “Why didn’t you tell me, or us, or someone? Even if we weren’t home, you could’ve stayed at one of our places, or just come over to study, I don’t- You didn’t need to do all this alone.” 

“You were busy, I didn’t want to bother you,” Mingyu explains, earnestly. Joshua’s shoulders fall, eyes sad, eyebrows furrowed. 

“You wouldn’t, we’re your, we want to- fuck , I’m not as good as this as Seungcheol is, you know that, I can’t put everything up here into words.” He emphasizes this by waving his hand wildly above his head, before continuing, “but, we’re never too busy for you. You are a top, top priority.” He stretches over to pet the top of Mingyu’s head, placing a kiss right there, lingering just a little longer than usual. Mingyu’s entire body heats up against his own accord, and it’s definitely not because of the outside temperature. He’s just in love, disastrously so. 

Pulling away, Joshua keeps the back of his hand against Mingyu’s face, fingers brushing against his cheek as the tip of Joshua’s thumb tenderly rubs against the skin there. “We’re here for you, yeah? Seriously, you really did scare me. And Jeonghan’s been blowing up my phone for the past hour to make sure you’re okay, so, we all feel the same exact way. Although, to be fair, I probably freaked him out when I practically ran out of the shoot like someone’d just died,” he says, with a laugh, but Mingyu’s head just spins with alarm. 

“You left work , hyung?” he asks, incredulously. 

“Minghao told me you passed out, sweetheart, I had to come check on you,” Joshua says, slowly, like he genuinely can’t find anything wrong with that sentence. 

Mingyu, on the other hand, feels absolutely sick. They’re way too busy, way too important to be sitting around and babysitting a, clearly, high maintenance 22 year old who doesn’t know how to take care of himself and so easily loses himself in self-pity. He furrows his eyebrows, stomach swirling with guilt. There’s only so much one can take, without giving anything in return. Mingyu realizes he may have crossed that line months ago. 

Joshua doesn’t question Mingyu’s lack of reply, just continues his ministrations against Mingyu’s cheek, looking down at him with soft eyes that Mingyu just can’t bring himself to meet. He’s never known how to handle it, the way they never seem to mind any of the random shit he continues to put them through. How they look like they would do it time and time again, the way they would do for each other.

Mingyu doesn’t even think he can fathom being cared for as unconditionally by them as they do for each other. He thinks he has something like it with Seokmin and Minghao, but that’s (almost) always been strictly platonic, a friendship deeper than family. Theirs is more, theirs has much more buried underneath, so many layers you could get lost in it. To possess that feeling for one person is something else, but for two? And for three ? He doesn’t even want to let himself get into how horribly inadequate he finds himself in comparison to them , perfect in just about every way. 

And yet, he has no explanation for the way Joshua is currently looking at him like he’s personally hung all the stars in the galaxy. He’s not completely stupid: he knows, he notices, and he understands. It’s some short lived attachment, he figures, considering the amount of time they spend together in rather intimate settings. It would be impossible for things not to develop a little past attraction given the situation they’re in. But, of course, it’s nothing, practically just a blip of a crush, compared to what they feel for each other. 

Then again, Mingyu wouldn’t expect Joshua to just ignore him if Minghao called with an emergency, none of them would for that matter; they’re close enough for that. Perhaps, he shouldn’t be all that surprised. 

He’ll take it, like he’s taken every other questionable interaction lately, lightly, won’t let it get to his head, or more accurately, his heart. Unlike many other things, he absolutely cannot lose himself in this, or he’ll never come out. Because the timer is always ticking, and if Mingyu is so submerged in his feelings when it ends, he has no chance of recovering. He often wonders if maybe he’s already in too deep. 

He probably is, because the more Joshua sits here, playing with his hair, feeding him snacks, toying with his fingers, the more Mingyu loses all and any desire for him to leave. Ever. It’s quite terrifying, because he doesn’t think he’s ever had this visceral of an emotion in any direction, much less love. It’s quite terrifying, because he knows they’re his first loves, and also three of some of the only people on planet Earth he is absolutely not allowed to love. 

And maybe, Mingyu is starting to realize, he really won’t ever recover from this.

“If you’re feeling better, would you like to come to lunch with Seungcheollie and I? Don’t feel like you have to say yes, I have no problem staying in and ordering with you.” 

Mingyu swallows. He wants to say no, but probably should say yes. After all, for some reason, this is the deal, isn’t it? If Joshua took time out of his workday to come and take care of him like a sick child, the least Mingyu can do is actually honor the agreement they made. 

“Sure, hyung, I’d love to.” Mingyu hates the way his heart soars at the sight of Joshua’s blinding smile. 

They meet Seungcheol at a small pho place just a few blocks from his complex. The oldest’s eyes light up when he sees Mingyu and Joshua coming towards the table, immediately darting out of his seat to envelop Mingyu in a tight hug, nearly lifting him up off the ground. 

“Hi, baby, it’s been a while, huh?” Seungcheol says, with a dimpled grin, tucking a lock of Mingyu’s hair behind his ear. His expression then goes a little more serious, fixing Mingyu a hard look. “How are you feeling? I heard about the scare.”

“I’m fine, hyung, no worries,” Mingyu assures, with a wry smile. Seungcheol reluctantly returns it, shaking his head before stretching around Mingyu to reach Joshua.

“I trust you gave him the lecture already,” Seungcheol says to Joshua, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. And that’s definitely new.

Very new, because Joshua actually blushes , profusely, looking nervously back and forth between Seungcheol and Mingyu, seemingly forgetting that he has to open his mouth and access words to respond to Seungcheol with. Seungcheol even looks taken aback at his own action, eyes a little wide. But Mingyu attempts not to betray any suspicion, keeps his expression controlled, and they both relax. 

“Of course, and he promised he wouldn’t let it get that bad again, right, baby?” Joshua asks Mingyu, hand at the nape of his neck. Mingyu has just now realized how incredibly touchy the three of them are, not that he minds, but rather, he doesn’t think he minds enough. 

Mingyu mostly listens to the two of them converse, truthfully not having much to contribute to the conversation other than his obnoxious school related rants that they surely have no interest in listening to. He sips quietly on the broth of pho, small, amused smile on his face as they bicker over the best Girl Scout cookie, giving his own preference of Samoas when prompted by Joshua, who throws a fist up in victory. 

“You’re killing me, babe,” Seungcheol says, resting his head on his folded arms, looking up at Mingyu with a devastating pout, and fuck , Mingyu is nothing but terribly in love with him. He swallows nervously, breaking eye contact with a half smile, feels like bursting into tears from the way his heart is being viciously yanked at. 

As soon as Joshua excuses himself to the bathroom, Seungcheol turns to him with the same serious look he was sporting before, taking Mingyu’s free hand in his. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright? We can go back to mine and you can take a nap, or stay for the night, or even until your AC gets fixed, whatever you want, whatever you need, I-” He breaks off his own tangent to squeeze Mingyu’s hand, bringing it up to brush his lips against the back. “Just want you to be okay.”

“I’m okay, hyung, promise,” Mingyu croaks out.

He is so far from okay, Mingyu thinks, if anything, he’s fucked to a new degree. So fucked. 

——

Finals and graduation pass by just as fast as Mingyu wanted them to. 

Graduation isn’t too much of an emotional affair; Mingyu, Seokmin and Minghao couldn’t be more ready to get the hell out, quite similarly to their high school one. Mingyu’s parents come down, and so, Seungcheol, Jeonghan and Joshua do not. They do send him about a dozen and a half congratulatory texts each, promising to celebrate with him at a later time. Mingyu feels a little guilty that he’s looking forward to that more than anything else.

Their parents take them out to lunch, and, of course, Mingyu’s dad brags about the job he has set up for his son just about every time he opens his mouth. On the bright side, Seokmin’s mother absolutely insists on sitting next to him, squeezing his hand every time she feels Mingyu tense up at the reminder of his post graduation plans. Kindest woman he knows, it’s terribly evident where Seokmin gets it all from. His own mother is eagerly nodding along, completely oblivious to her son’s distress.

Mingyu then, quite suddenly, less than three hours of leaving it, desperately misses the security that college provided, realizing how horribly he took it for granted. Stomach in his throat, he mindlessly plays with his food, trying to eliminate all thoughts of sitting at a cubicle for the rest of his life. 

He looks up to see Minghao and Seokmin staring right at him from across the table, twin concerned looks on their faces, to which Mingyu shakes his head in reassurance, forcing a smile that isn’t convincing in the least. 

They all part ways shortly after the waitress comes with the check, the parents going to some wine tasting joint they found on Yelp and the three of them going back to their apartment for their own personal celebration. 

Five shots of tequila later and Mingyu has his entire body draped over Minghao’s lap, head and feet hanging over the couch. To be fair, Seokmin and Minghao aren’t doing much better: Mingyu had to lock Minghao’s phone in his room to prevent him from sending a dick pic to Soonyoung, and Seokmin, is, well, Seokmin .

“I can’t do this, Hao,” Mingyu whines. “I can’t take this job, and I can’t see them ever again. I’m going to die .” 

Minghao sighs, patting the small of Mingyu’s back gently as he plucks the shot glass out of Mingyu’s hand to rest it back on the coffee table. “You are not going to die, and you do not have to take that job. You have full agency over your own life, and I know I’m not the only person who’s told you that.” Mingyu groans.

“You’re not, and what am I supposed to do with that? How am I not supposed to fa-" he cuts himself off with a gulp, looking up at Minghao with shaky eyes, hoping he didn’t catch on, preparing himself for the lecture that’s to come because there’s just no way he didn’t. Minghao just sighs. 

“Supposed to what? Fall in love? Mingyu, I’ve known you since we were six, and even then, you are painfully unsubtle. We’ve probably known you were in love with them before you did,” Minghao says, pointing back and forth between him and Seokmin. 

“I just, I need to get laid. With someone else. Do you think Jaehyun would be free right now?”

“Oh god, no ,” Seokmin begs. “Once you go down that road again, you’ll never come back.” Mingyu doesn’t deny that.

“But you don’t really want to, do you?” Minghao asks. Mingyu dejectedly shakes his head. The thought of being with anyone else does, truthfully, make him sick. Which in turn makes him even more sick, realizing, once again, how horribly deep he is in this mess.

“Look, I don’t think we can really tell you exactly what to do here, but, just take care of your heart. You are lovely, and anyone who has you in their life is lucky, and should cherish it.” 

“You’re not going to lecture me?” Mingyu mutters. Minghao laughs. 

“Not today, loser. There’s no lecture to give. You’re in love, there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be scary, and it can be overwhelming, but it’s never wrong .” 

Mingyu doesn’t have time to respond, or burst into tears because Seokmin immediately runs over and jumps onto the couch, curling into Minghao’s side and cupping Mingyu’s cheeks in his hands.

“You’re perfect. And sexy,” Seokmin says, seriously, and Mingyu just nods along, mindlessly. “I don’t want you to get hurt, Gyu-yah.” 

“I think it’s a little too late for that, Seokminnie,” Mingyu says, resting his cheek against the couch with a pout. He probably should’ve locked his phone in along with Minghao’s, because it’s a little too heavy in the pocket of his sweatpants, lovesick text already at the tips of his thumbs. 

Thankfully, sleep wins over the unpredictable whims of heart, and they all fall asleep just like that, limbs tangled, so close Mingyu can feel their heartbeats, and it’s the most relaxed he’s felt in weeks. 

That is, until he wakes up with what feels like the worst hangover he’s had to deal with in his lifetime. And, because of the position they fell asleep in, they all moan in aching pain as they trudge through the apartment, attempting to put together some sort of breakfast together in disarray. Sitting at the kitchen table, they humiliatingly struggle to cut up their waffles, eating a single bite every two minutes, movements beyond lethargic. 

When Mingyu gets a notification, they all groan in unison at the sound, though his phone volume is nearly the lowest it can go. He mumbles out an apology and pulls it out of his pocket, trying to decipher the words on the screen through bleary eyes. 

 

jeonghannie hyung

Hey Mingyu, would you mind coming over for just a bit today? At around 2, maybe. 

If you’re free, of course. 

 

Mingyu blinks a few times in confusion. He genuinely can’t remember the last time one of them used his name when speaking to him, always a nickname, or an endearment. The texts themselves seem slightly menacing, awfully business like. His gut swirls with anxiety, and he tilts his phone to the side to show Minghao.

“Weird. Is everything okay?” Mingyu shrugs, rereading the texts, trying to imagine how Jeonghan might’ve said that out loud. 

“I hope so.” 

Mingyu downs a few waffles, takes a shower, checks the fridge to make sure they have ice cream just in case and mentally prepares himself in the mirror before he eventually forces himself to head out to Jeonghan’s. 

The whole car ride there Mingyu comes up with about a hundred different possibilities for how the next hour or so is going to play out. Many, in fact most, of them consist of some variation of the three of them ending things and cutting him out of their lives for good because they’ve finally realized he’s madly in love with them and they most definitely do not feel the same.

His head is still pounding, his stomach is in so many knots that he’s sure it’s one tug away from breaking completely, and his legs feel like jelly. He stops in front of Jeonghan’s front door, wrist one twist away from unlocking the door with his spare key, entire body, mind and soul screaming at him to turn around and go the fuck home. 

With a deep sigh, Mingyu pushes the door open to reveal the three of them sitting on the couch, engaged in deep conversation. They somehow don’t notice him at first, and it gives him the chance to fully assess the situation, taking note of how close they’re sitting, their hands clasped together, entire bodies turned inward towards each other. They share soft smiles, eyes shining in a way Mingyu has never seen before. 

Because, it’s not the same desperate yearning he’s seen over the months. If anything, Mingyu’s noticing a significant absence of anything like it. Now, it’s relief . And all Mingyu can feel is a hopeless, selfish dread. 

He takes a step forward, sneaker squeaking against the floorboard, causing them all to jolt up in surprise, looking at him with something akin to anticipation. Mingyu offers them a soft, nervous smile. 

“Hey, I’m glad you could come. Sit down,” Joshua says, kindly, gesturing towards the armchair. Mingyu nods, hesitantly taking a seat. 

There’s a palpable silence after that, tension thick in the air as the three of them look between each other, lips parting and closing as they clearly scramble for words. 

Blood roars in his ears as the world crumbles down all around him. He swallows, fearing, knowing his worst suspicions have been confirmed, that their time is up, and that it’s finally time for him to go. He’s not even sure if can hear them say it. 

“Mingyu, um, we’ve been talking, a lot, about our lives, and our relationship. And, um, we realized that we all had feelings for each other, or, rather, we finally communicated about it,” Seungcheol says, slowly. Mingyu nods along, does his best to look surprised. “And we’ve decided to try things out.” 

“That’s so great, hyungs, I’m, uh, I’m really happy for you,” Mingyu says, with a gentle smile. And he really is, because this is what he’s wanted all along, their happiness, even if he’s not a part of it. They’re positively glowing with it, newfound fulfillment evident in just about every aspect of their demeanors. 

Yet, his anxiety overpowers his satisfaction, because he senses the but at the end of Seungcheol’s sentence, the comma that indicates something more, something that has to do with him . The something he knows all too well. 

Seungcheol nods, then leans forward to pull Mingyu’s hand out of his lap and intertwine their fingers, rubbing his thumb against Mingyu’s knuckles. 

“We are too, really. But, um, we also wanted to just tell-”

He can’t do it. 

“Actually, hyung, I think I get it,” Mingyu interjects, willing back the inevitable tears that he’s planning on saving for the car ride home. 

“You do?” Jeonghan asks, eyes bright for reasons unknown. Have they been wanting this for a while? Has Mingyu just been absolutely oblivious to their distress?

“Yeah, I’m- I’m sorry. Um, thank you, really, for everything,” he says, fishing his wallet and keychain out of his sweatpants pocket. He roves through his wallet, pulling out the black card, and then pulls off the three keys to their houses from his keychain, placing them on the coffee table in front of him. 

“Wait, Mingyu, what do you mean?” Seungcheol asks, tightening his grip on Mingyu’s hand when Mingyu attempts to pull away.

“Well, you’re ending things, right,” Mingyu replies, plainly, looking down at his lap where other hand is clenched tightly to the fabric of his sweatpants.

“Hold on, fuck, slow down, that’s not really- This isn’t something that can really be explained in one sentence,” Joshua says, a little desperately, eyes wild.

“It’s okay, hyung, you don’t have to sugarcoat it for me. I understand. Um, I do have somewhere to be in like ten minutes though, so I should probably get going soon, but, um, again, thank you so much. I wish there was some way I could repay you all for everything, but,” Mingyu’s voice tapers off into a whisper.

“You have, you don’t need to because you’ve- That’s what we’re trying to tell you, and-” Jeonghan starts, but Mingyu just shakes his head, rising up from the chair, already making his way towards the door.  He knows they just want to be there to wipe his tears, to try and give them all a more amiable goodbye. 

“No, I know what you’re trying to say, hyung, and I know you’re just trying to be nice but,” he swallows, knowing the tears have already begun to well in his eyes, a sure sign that he needs to get out of here stat . “I know, and I’m sorry. But I don’t need to, and I can’t , listen to all of it.” 

Please , just listen to us!” Seungcheol says, in a near yell, standing up, walking towards Mingyu to pull him back. And maybe he should let them, maybe he should hear them out, because it could save a little more of his heart than he expected. 

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. 

“I’m sorry, it’s just too much, I’ll see you around,” Mingyu says, hurriedly, slamming the door shut behind him. 

The dam bursts the second Mingyu hears the door click, sobs wracking his entire frame as he walks to his car, feeling as if he left a little bit of his heart behind. Maybe more than a little bit. 

And that’s always been the problem, hasn’t it? 

Chapter Text

An ex-boyfriend once told Jeonghan he was on the wrong career path, that he should’ve been an actor, not a model. That he’s done a good job, maybe too good of a job, of concealing his real feelings in favor of behaving the way everyone needed to. 

When the door had slammed in his face and he found himself curled on the couch, fingers tight around the neck of a bottle of soju, apartment glaringly empty, Jeonghan realized with a start, that there was truth to be found in the scathing insult. 

He’s put on an act for 22 years as the brave one, volatile sometimes, but brave: carrying as much of Seungcheol and Joshua’s burdens as he possibly could handle, being their set of shoulders in the middle to cry on. The glue, Junhui would joke, holding the string that ties the three of them together, putting all his energy into keeping it alive no matter how costly the effort may be. Like a fool in love, he figures, his true vulnerability buried so deep down Jeonghan himself hasn’t been able to reach it in years. 

He was the brave one when they were 13 and Seungcheol and Joshua had kissed for the first time in front of him in a game of spin the bottle and he had to pretend like he didn’t want to throw up every meal he’s ever consumed right then and there at the look of pure affection they both gave each other as they finally pulled away.

He was the brave one when they were 17 and Seungcheol had The Fight with his parents and showed up at Jeonghan’s doorstep with tears streaming down his face, backpack slung over his shoulder and Midi keyboard under his arm. 

He was the brave one when they were 21 and he woke up to a very naked Joshua and Seungcheol on either side of him, their limbs tangled together in some wonderfully intimate design, knowing what brought them together was something far beyond lust.

He was the brave one when they were 26 and Jaebeom proposed to Joshua and he had to spend the whole night caring for an inconsolable Seungcheol, who genuinely couldn’t explain why he was so upset. When he was consoling Joshua five months later, who genuinely couldn’t explain why he broke off his near perfect engagement. 

He was the brave one just a month ago, when the air between the three of them was thicker than it ever had been, brought about by a harmonic, overpowering feeling for someone they were most definitely not allowed to have said feeling for. When they faced what they were dancing around for two decades, and agreed there was more than enough room for one more. 

Every act must come to a close, Jeonghan figures, as he stares at the closed door like it’s personally wronged him in some way, resolve crumbling, trying to piece together the events of the last fifteen minutes. 

“Wh- why- I don’t-” Joshua tries, eyes trained on the same spot as Jeonghan. Seungcheol is still standing by the entrance, his lips still parted helplessly around Mingyu’s name. Eventually, he regains some composure, fixing Jeonghan the most devastating, confused look ever, already big eyes impossibly wider, tears threatening to fall. He looks years younger. 

“Why, why did he leave?” Seungcheol asks, so softly, so brokenly. 

He’s never had to be the brave one more than he does now, looking back and forth between the two of them who look like the universe has collapsed all around them and they were helpless to stop it. He wants to, he should , take them into his arms like he always has and tell them everything will work itself out, that they have nothing to worry about because we all have each other

Except, the words each other no longer feel like they apply to the three of them. Except, every act must come to a close and Jeonghan doesn’t think he can be brave for a second longer. It does feel like the world is ending, that the sun has exploded and he’s burning so slowly from the inside out. 

“Hannie?” Joshua asks, eyebrows furrowed in concern at Jeonghan’s protracted silence. 

“Isn’t it obvious?” Jeonghan croaks out, voice foreign to his own ears. “He doesn’t want us, clearly.” Jeonghan realizes how foolish it is that they hadn’t even considered the possibility. Fools in love. 

“Do you really think so?” Seungcheol asks, curling in on himself with insecurity. 

Jeonghan laughs incredulously, mirthlessly. “We try to tell him we love him and he runs out of here like we were going to throw him into a torture chamber, what do you think was the reason? I don’t know why we would just assume he was going to run into our arms with ease, are we forgetting why we met him in the first place? To pay his fucking rent! He’s twenty two years old with his entire future ahead of him, for gods’ sake. How could we be so stupid?” he rambles, mostly berating himself, but he sees the both of them wince out of the corner of his eye. 

“Jeonghan, you’re making it sound like he just saw us as a bank account,” Joshua says, quietly. Jeonghan scoffs.

And deep down, or maybe, not even so deep, Jeonghan knows it’s not true. Because Kim Mingyu, good, too good, kindhearted, bright Mingyu who fit so seamlessly in between the three of them, couldn’t possibly have a manipulative bone in his body. But it’s easier this way, childish as it may be, it’s always easier to be angry, to let its fire consume and take and grow. 

“Don’t be so naive, Shua, you know I’m right.”

“No, no, we don’t, and you don’t think so either,” Seungcheol says, taking a step forward, his expression turned stony with determination. “It doesn’t have to be like this, Jeonghan, this is fixable, we don’t know the whole story, and there’s no point in jumping to conclusions. Seungcheol lifts a hand to tuck a lock of Jeonghan’s freshly washed hair behind his ear, a soft, albeit still sad, smile creeping up on his face. “This- this isn’t over. Do you want it to be over?”

“No, I don’t,” Jeonghan says, with a deep sigh, resting his forehead on Seungcheol’s shoulder. “I just- what if it doesn’t work out?”

“Then it doesn’t work out, and we still have each other,” Seungcheol replies, reciting Jeonghan’s own words back to him just as Joshua walks over and wraps his arms around Jeonghan’s waist from behind.

“Love can’t always be as easy as it was with us,” Joshua says, sarcastically, and they all laugh together, shuffling their way to the couch, arms still wrapped tightly around each other.

Jeonghan pouts, intertwining his and Joshua’s fingers over his lap, head still resting on Seungcheol’s shoulder. “Boys are so silly, why did we fall for another one?”

“Because he’s as close to perfect as a boy can get, and makes us happier than we’ve been in, well, ever,” Seungcheol replies.

“Touché.”

——

Dejectedly setting his plate down at the table, Mingyu mutters a quiet good morning to his parents and his sister, slowly pulling out a chair to take his seat.

“Mingyu, don’t forget, we have that tour at the building for your internship on Thursday,” his dad says, instead of any sort of real greeting whatsoever. Mingyu just nods, shoveling some eggs into his mouth. 

“Eat slowly,” his mother scolds, tapping at his plate with her fork. Mingyu resists the urge to roll his eyes: the quicker he scarfs this down, the sooner he can meet Minghao and Seokmin at the park. 

He rushes out the door twenty minutes later, camera slung around his neck via the beaded strap Joshua made for him.

“You’re still doing the photo stuff?” his dad asks from the living room, eyes narrowed in suspicion, peering up from his newspaper. Mingyu goes silent, lips pursed in submission. “I suppose it’s good for you to have a hobby. Don’t let it distract you from the real work, though.” Mingyu just nods in response, running out the door and down the street, heart pounding with anxiety. 

Seokmin and Minghao are already there once Mingyu finally finishes the trek down to the creek. He lifts his camera up to take a shot of them laughing by one of the large willow trees before they notice him. They turn around when they hear the shutter go off, grinning widely once they register his presence.

“You’re such a creep,” Minghao says, with a laugh, shoving at Mingyu’s shoulder. Mingyu shrugs.

“Best pictures are always candid.”

When they come down here, by the water, surrounded by towering trees and scuttering wildlife, Mingyu can so easily pretend they’re 17 all over again. 17, the age romanticized in movies and song lyrics, and rightfully so. 17, when it didn’t matter that Mingyu didn’t know what the fuck he wanted to do with his life besides sit right here and capture his two favorite people in the world on film.  

He sits on a fallen branch, playing mindlessly with the strap of his camera, staring out at the creek to the other side. Minghao and Seokmin flank him a few moments later, Seokmin nudging at his shoulder with a small, questioning noise. 

“It’s like you’re putting your thoughts through a loudspeaker, Gyu-ah. What’s on your mind?” Seokmin asks, kindly. 

“Can’t you guess?” Minghao replies, with a snort. Seokmin glares at him.

Mingyu’s established a staunch We-Don’t-Talk-About-It policy. He came home that afternoon from Jeonghan’s with no other explanation other than a shake of his head and a three day self-imposed isolation that basically answered any and all of their questions. 

Looking down at his camera in embarrassment, and also to distract himself from the thoughts that threaten to come with Minghao’s reminder, Mingyu slowly flicks through all the photos he’s taken since the last time he downloaded the roll. Most of the ones at the beginning are from the past week he’s been home, of Seokmin and Minghao, a few of his sister, mostly candids, and he smiles softly at the bright faces of the people he loves so dearly. 

Then, not much later, he reaches the plethora of images he dreads to relive. When the first picture of a tipsy Seungcheol yelling at the Mario Kart game on the TV pops up, Mingyu knows the next three hundred pictures or so are sure to cause him irreparable heart damage. 

He doesn’t know why he keeps scrolling. 

There’s all the pictures from the beach: the ones of Jeonghan against the sunset, Seungcheol driving on the way there with the car’s top down, Joshua on the master bedroom balcony staring out at the cloudless sky. There’s one of his favorite shots: the picture of the three of them curled up on the couch, warmth exuding from the camera from how snugly they’re cuddled together. There’s the dozens of pictures from Tokyo, from Seungcheol’s living room, from San Francisco, from the playground by Mingyu’s apartment, from New York City, from Joshua’s car. 

Each one screams that it was taken by someone who is in love, undoubtedly so. It makes him sick. 

“Mingyu-yah,” Seokmin calls, softly, reaching a hand up to brush at Mingyu’s cheek, and Mingyu realizes only then that he’s started crying. 

Quite suddenly, Minghao snatches the camera out of his hand, causing the strap to pull at his neck, making Mingyu yelp in alarm. The younger aggressively presses the back button, flying through the pictures until he reaches the set from Tokyo, stopping on a photo of Joshua and Mingyu that Jeonghan took, one of the only ones Mingyu was actually in. 

“Look at this,” Minghao commands, putting the camera back in Mingyu’s hands. Mingyu furrows his eyebrows, looking at the image: the two of them sat on a park bench in front of a cherry blossom tree, except, in this one, Joshua isn’t looking at the camera, he’s looking up, and over, ever so slightly, at Mingyu, who’s grinning widely, a tiny smile on his face. 

Mingyu swallows, taking in Joshua’s expression, the fondness he’s come to recognize in the way he looks at his two now-boyfriends unmistakable all over it. He analyzes the way the photo was taken: aesthetically, the best approach would’ve been to focus on the cherry blossoms in the background, to take it a little farther away than Jeonghan had, the two of them closer to the bottom. Yet, the flowers are barely existent in this picture, them taking up the majority of the frame, the warmth behind the shot so palpable that Mingyu’s heart actually stutters in his chest. There’s something there, too much there, that Mingyu doesn’t think he can even put his finger on it.

“You always say people can express their emotions through a camera, so look at this, and tell me what you see,” Minghao says, sternly. 

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Minghao,” Mingyu replies, quietly. Minghao scoffs, standing up with a hand on his hip in exasperation. 

You are a coward,” Minghao says, finger jabbing into Mingyu’s chest. 

Minghao ,” Seokmin chides, squeezing at Mingyu’s hand, who flounders around his words, trying to develop an appropriate insult to shoot back with.

“Why are you so damn passive? You just take all the shit the world throws at you and ignore all chances of happiness that are right in fucking front of you!” Minghao takes the camera out of Mingyu’s hand again, screen still facing Mingyu, flicking back to the photo before: one of Mingyu’s personal favorite shots, Joshua and Jeonghan standing in the middle of a path in the park, the wind blowing a whole branchful of cherry blossom petals all around them. 

“You’re talented, Mingyu, and skilled, and,” he flips back to the picture of Mingyu and Joshua, “you are loved . This image is toothrottingly, disgustingly sweet, I can’t even look at it for more than two fucking seconds. You not being able to see that tells me that you don’t want to see it, which, I just don’t understand. You’re all of these things and yet you’ve been ghosting them for weeks and you’re starting a job in two months that’s basically the manifestation of all your worst nightmares.”

Mingyu doesn’t respond for a while, choosing to stare out at the creek and let Minghao’s harsh, but painfully truthful words wash over him. 

“It doesn’t make sense,” Mingyu eventually says, quietly, so quietly it makes Minghao freeze, eyes narrowed, lips parted around another rebuttal. “ Tell me how it makes sense to reject a stable, entry-level job that aligns with my degree that will have me set for life and go and pursue a precarious career in photography . Tell me how it makes sense that three thirty-two year old celebrities who’ve been in love with each other for longer than I’ve been alive would want me to just… join their relationship. Please, do enlighten me.” 

“It doesn’t have to make sense!” Seokmin cries, startling the both of them, Mingyu nearly falling off of the branch in alarm. “You will never be happy, you’ve never been happy, chasing stability, chasing what makes sense . What you have in front of you is a chance to have things that will make you happy, make you so, so very happy.”

Seokmin sighs, running a hand through his hair. “You’re thinking about the end. You’re thinking about the what ifs and the hardships and the concerns, but what if it all worked out, what if you found the permanence you want in the life you want? Have you considered that possibility? Because it very much is one.” 

“You are in love : with a career that loves you back, with three people, who unequivocally love you back. Love may not be stable but you’ll never need to chase it, because it’ll always latch itself onto you and take you where you need to be, where the joy is,” Minghao adds, sitting back down next to Mingyu. 

Bottom lip trembling, Mingyu curls in on himself, heart pounding as his stomach twists with regret and yearning. 

“I don’t want to do all this, I don’t want to leave them, and I don’t want this fucking job,” Mingyu admits, softly. Seokmin hums. 

“We know you don’t,” he replies, pressing a chaste kiss to the side of Mingyu’s head. “And you don’t have to.”

“I don’t know if I’m brave enough to not.”

“You are. You may not believe it, but we do. You are so brave, and you’ll always have us, no matter what,” Minghao says, head against Mingyu’s shoulder. And Mingyu has no choice, nothing else left to do, other than trust him. 

When the sun starts to set, the three of them head out of the park, and down to the diner they frequented as high schoolers. They giggle and bicker over breakfast-for-dinner before going to the convenience store next door, picking up two six packs of beer and three armfuls worth of snacks which they devour at the curb between Minghao and Seokmin’s houses. 

“I should probably go home, now, guys,” Mingyu says, with a nervous glance at his phone. “Um, have to help my sister with, um, chores.”

Seokmin rolls his eyes. “You’ve been checking your phone for the time for the past hour, and you so specifically try to head out at 11:45 on a Thursday evening. If there’s a Trauma release you want to listen to, just say so.” 

“It’s the mixtape, isn’t it?” Minghao asks, sluggishly slinging an arm around Seokmin’s shoulder, empty beer bottle clinking against the asphalt. 

“How-”

“You must realize by now that they’re still like half of what you ever talk about. It’s been that way since high school , even though one of them is your sugar daddy and the other has walked in on you showering twice which is two times too many,” Seokmin says.

“My god, imagine if we told 15 year old Mingyu that in seven years he’d be getting paid to fuck Choi Seungcheol,” Minghao interjects, throwing his head back in full-bodied laughter.

“I’m not getting paid to fu-”

“Probably would come in his pants on the spot.”

“Okay, fuck you guys, I’m going to miss the drop.” 

“It’s a compliment!” Seokmin calls.

“And you realize the album isn’t going to just disappear at 12:01, right?” Minghao adds.

Mingyu shakes his head in exasperation as he hurriedly continues in the other direction, down the street towards his house, offering nothing but his middle finger raised in the air in goodbye. 

He makes it back up to his room at exactly 11:59, changing into sweatpants and his Ideal Cut Finale t-shirt before crawling under his covers, excitedly shoving his headphones on and rapidly refreshing Seungcheol’s Twitter. 

Despite everything, despite literally having not spoken to him in weeks, Mingyu is beyond excited for the release of the mixtape. He’s gotten the privilege of seeing firsthand how hard Seungcheol has worked on this: how much energy, dedication, diligence, and heart he’s put into every single song. It’s not too difficult for Mingyu to put his personal feelings aside and put all of himself into appreciating Seungcheol’s artistry. 

Heart nearly jumping out of his chest, Mingyu fumbles to press play when the album finally loads, the intro promptly flowing into his ears. In accordance with the little snippets Seungcheol had given him all those months ago, the album is largely R&B, and more surprisingly, vocal heavy. 

It’s really all so romantic , the sounds, the lyrics, and if Mingyu were any other ordinary Trauma fan, if this were just a year ago, he would’ve been utterly taken aback. Except, he’s seen the real behind the scenes, all the moments Seungcheol must have derived inspiration from, and of course, it all makes sense. 

Mingyu can’t help but smile as he listens, closing his eyes, listening to the odes of Seungcheol’s love wash over him. And perhaps, he shouldn’t have to put his personal feelings aside, because, it makes him feel good : hearing affection so wholly authentic only serves to reignite the elation that used to come with the near overwhelming love he keeps so deep in his own heart. He lets himself pull it out of its hiding place, for the first time in forever, just for a little bit. It doesn’t feel so wrong, anymore. 

Seungcheol raps and sings mostly of the fear that comes with love, and of accepting it, instead of simply overcoming it. That love is forever terrifying, because of how expansive it is in nature, but what’s important, what signifies a true love is inventing your own space, your language, for you and the ones you love. Defying limitations, settling afloat, adrift like a cloud in an endless sky. It strikes something in Mingyu’s chest, everything twisting tight as he takes in the lyrics of each song. 

His heart nearly stops all together, however, when he reaches the interlude towards the end of the album. It starts off simply, a simple acoustic instrumental that betrays nothing out of the ordinary. Then the instrumental fades out, almost completely, and the sound of a phone crackling fades in. And nothing could prepare Mingyu for what he hears next.

Mm, that one is a butterfly. I think,” Mingyu’s own voice says, flowing through his headphones. “ See the wings and…” Pause. “ Fuck, it’s gone. ” 

Just like a real butterfly, I guess. Fragile ,” Seungcheol responds. 

Isn’t it sad? They’re so beautiful but they can break, just like that, between your fingers. You can look as much as you’d like but you can never touch .”

How did you manage to make cloud watching so deep? ” 

The Mingyu on the song then laughs loudly, his voice fading back into the instrumental, which transitions seamlessly into the next song. The Mingyu who is currently caught in a new level of shock swallows, turning his phone back on to nervously check the title, which is, sure enough, Butterfly.

And he’d have to be truly, wholly oblivious, to not realize this song is about him. It’s a direct reflection of all the turbulent emotions Mingyu’s held for the past few months, the fear that the relationship between him and the three of them was concretely temporary. The realization that an expiry date had been tagged on from the start, and the foolish desire to never let go, to stop time and let a hopeless dream become reality. 

Perhaps, it was never so foolish, never so hopeless after all. 

And once the final chorus finishes and the same instrumental plays again, Mingyu has another startling realization: that this was the exact same sentiment relayed in the picture Minghao had shoved in his face earlier that he had then failed to recognize, despite it being so terribly familiar. 

Perhaps, Mingyu’s made a terrible, terrible mistake. 

Mingyu pauses, waiting for the next song to start before eventually recognizing that was, in fact, the outro. And just on cue, the Do Not Disturb he had set for the hour turns off, a series of notifications flowing in. 

 

jeongguk

bro…. WTF????

fix it now before i do it for you

 

Trauma Updates (@traumaupdates) just Tweeted:

WHO TF WAS THAT ON THE INTERLUDE??????

 

cheollie hyung

did you listen? i hope you enjoyed it.

i guess when we were taking pictures at the beach, i had accidentally started to take a video. it ended up being like fifteen minutes long, but that was caught towards the end. i hope you don’t mind me using it.

i shouldn’t say this but i miss you. you’re the only thing i can think about right now

take your time, we’re not going anywhere, yeah?

 

He knows. Mingyu knows they’re not.

——

Mingyu’s second meeting with Soonyoung goes arguably better than the first. 

“Um, need help, Soonyoung-ssi?” Mingyu asks, him and Seokmin having their necks craned to see Soonyoung fumbling with five flower bouquets as he stumbles through the double glass doors of the building.

“Hyung is fine!” Soonyoung calls back. Mingyu and Seokmin exchange a glance before hurrying over to take two bouquets each out of Soonyoung’s hands alongside the ones they bought themselves. Soonyoung gives them a shy, grateful smile in response. 

Tonight is Minghao’s senior dance showcase, the day he’s been tirelessly preparing for for months, and months, and months . Mingyu and Seokmin have spent the last three weeks forcibly picking him up from the studio at 3 am, shoving actual food down his throat a few times a day, and trying to get him to sleep for more than two hours a night. It’s the culmination of everything he’s worked for, all the practice he’s put in since he was just a kid, and Mingyu couldn’t be more proud. 

They make small talk with Soonyoung (they being Seokmin, mostly) as they hand their tickets up at the booth, and retrieve a program from the side table. Once they reach the doors of the theater itself, however, Soonyoung places a hand on Mingyu’s shoulder, prompting the younger to turn around.

Soonyoung’s quite literally sweating bullets, whole expression twisted in anxiety. “Do you, fuck , do you think they’re going to like me?” 

Mingyu furrows his eyebrows in confusion before eventually, finally registering the context behind Soonyoung’s question, eyes widening against his own accord. He had completely forgotten until then that this would also be the first meeting for Soonyoung and Minghao’s parents. Minghao had mentioned it a few times in passing, but he was so concerned with the dancing that it was never an imminent concern to him, which just shows how important this showcase really is. 

Fixing Soonyoung the most reassuring smile he can muster, Mingyu reaches a hand up to place it on top of his, squeezing it a little. “Hyung, I am sure they’ll love you. They take a liking to most people, you’d have to do something pretty terrible to get on their bad side.”

“Like telling them I’m their son’s boyfriend who’s nearly 8 years older than him?” 

“Maybe you could warm up to that.”

Following the usher, they make their way to the second row, where Minghao’s parents are already seated, just beside the three seats reserved for them. With the way Soonyoung is practically cowering behind him, Mingyu could never had guessed that he was a world class dancer with more recognitions and awards than he could count. 

Minghao’s parents light up when they see Mingyu and Seokmin, immediately standing up to envelop them in warmth with the kind of hug that only a parent can give. Mingyu can’t deny he’s missed that kind of incomparable gentleness. 

“Oh, who’s this?” Minghao’s mother asks, smiling warmly at Soonyoung, whose eyes widen in alarm. Mingyu decides he might need a helping hand. 

“Ah, this is Soonyoung, Minghao’s, um…” 

“Friend,” Soonyoung finishes, holding a hand out to Minghao’s father, politely bowing his head. Mingyu feels a pang of pity for him. 

“Kwon Soonyoung! You were Minghao’s phone background when he was in high school! How did you two meet?” Minghao’s father asks, eagerly clasping Soonyoung’s hand. 

Soonyoung flushes a deep red, spluttering for an answer, because, really, how does he say through Mingyu’s sugar daddy. One of three . But Minghao’s mom merely tuts at her husband, stepping in front of Seokmin to rest her hand on Soonyoung’s shoulder. “Oh, don’t interrogate him. Any friend of Minghao’s gets a hug from me,” she says, proceeding to pull Soonyoung into her arms. Soonyoung looks over her shoulder at Mingyu and Seokmin in bewilderment, and Mingyu just shoots him back a look that says I told you so

The lights dim before Minghao’s parents have the chance to ask Soonyoung any further questions that would surely have some incriminating answers. Minghao’s one of the last ones to go on, so Mingyu spends most of his show holding his breath, waiting to watch his best friend do what he loves the most. 

Mingyu has to literally hold back Seokmin from screaming his ass off when Minghao finally takes the stage, the older pouting at him for a fraction of a second before looking back over at the stage. The music then fades in, a drum heavy instrumental that’s quite intense, slightly unnerving. 

There’s no coherent way, Mingyu thinks, to describe the way Minghao dances. His movements are clearly so carefully calculated, but they connect together so naturally that it looks like he’s not even trying while also clearly putting all of his heart and soul into every single movement. Mingyu’s heart soars with pride and awe, and, mostly, admiration. 

The performance ends before he knows it, and Mingyu’s first instinct, after getting to his feet and clapping so hard his hands turn red, is to glance over at Soonyoung, who, to Mingyu’s surprise actually has tears in his eyes, face shining with something Mingyu knows all too well. Mingyu smiles to himself, biting his lip to keep it down. 

Only one person goes on after Minghao, and as soon as they’re done, the five of them run closer to the front of the stage, near where Minghao emerges a few minutes later. Seokmin and Mingyu let Minghao’s parents go first before nearly knocking him down to the floor with the force of their own bear hug, hearing Soonyoung and Minghao’s parents laugh behind them. 

“You’re the greatest,” Mingyu says. 

“Ever!” Seokmin adds.

“We’re so proud of you.”

“More than you could know!” 

Minghao’s lip trembles, burying his face in Mingyu’s neck, who just laughs, going to pet his hair. “There’s someone else here to see you,” Mingyu whispers to him. Minghao’s head jolts up in response, looking over Mingyu’s shoulder to see Soonyoung, his five bouquets in his arms, smiling shyly over at him. 

“Hyung,” Minghao breathes out. 

He peels himself off of Mingyu’s body, feet picking up into a run, throws his arms around Soonyoung’s neck and eagerly presses their lips together. 

The silence that follows is far from dramatic, as Soonyoung and Minghao part, a bright smile on Minghao’s face and a disoriented, dopey one on Soonyoung’s. Mingyu then looks over at Minghao’s parents, who don’t look surprised in the slightest and instead, exchange a knowing, and fond smile. 

He finally skews his gaze over to Seokmin, who meets his eyes instantly, and the joy they both clearly share fills his heart with warmth. He walks over to sling an arm around Seokmin’s shoulder, resting his head on the other one. 

Reality then, inevitably, hits Minghao, as he looks over at his parents with his eyes wide, hesitantly pulling away from Soonyoung, lip worrying under his teeth. “Um, Mom, Dad, I-” 

Minghao’s mother shakes her head in amusement, turning to Soonyoung. “His friend ? Sweetheart, you didn’t have to say all that. We’re his parents, didn’t you think we would find out eventually?” she asks, with a wink. 

Despite Minghao’s insistence otherwise, Mingyu and Seokmin decide to forgo the dinner plans to give Soonyoung, Minghao, and Minghao’s parents some privacy for the evening. 

Staring out the car window, Mingyu replays Minghao’s performance in his head over, and over, and over, recalling the small smile that crept up on Minghao’s face just before the stage went black. The way he glowed from the inside out, his satisfaction so palpable, written all over his face. And, as happy as it makes Mingyu feel, he can’t help but let some envy seep in behind it. 

Mingyu can’t even fathom the type of genuine gratification that comes with excelling, or finding success, in something you so wholly love. He longs for it, suddenly, he longs for it with such fervor that if he closes his eyes, he thinks he can feels his blood thrumming through his veins at the thought of it all.

It’s that sudden desire, sparked by just enough jealousy, that overwhelms him to the point where, the second he gets home, Mingyu opens his laptop and goes straight to the application he has bookmarked. The nearly complete application, the only thing left being to submit the portfolio. The application for the renowned magazine Mingyu’s admired for as long as he can remember. The position that his photography professor, the one class Mingyu allowed himself to indulge in throughout his mission for stability, personally recommended him for. 

It’s that desire that’s starting to not feel all so sudden, quite familiar, really, that causes him to pull up the folder of all the downloaded pictures from his camera that he truly considers his best work and drag it into the submission box. 

It’s that deep, aged yearning for a future he knows he has the chance to conceive that allows him to hit submit without a second thought. He pushes the laptop back on the desk, staring at the confirmation page with wide eyes, and yet, he feels not even a trace of regret, a newfound anticipation being the only thing he allows himself to focus on. 

A few minutes later, or perhaps, even a few hours, Mingyu truthfully could not say, his phone goes off. He glances down at it, the caller ID reading shua hyung back to him, Joshua smiling up at him from the screen, and for the first time in weeks, he has half a mind to pick it up. 

He stares at it for too long though, because the ringtone cuts out and his phone fades back to black, and Mingyu is left staring at his own reflection, turbulence clear in his eyes. 

One step at a time. 

——

It’s not until halfway through getting ready for the tour that Mingyu finally forces himself to take another step. Applying is one thing, but he hasn’t told anyone except for Seokmin and Minghao, and he still has his father convinced that he’s taking the internship in the fall. 

It’s now or never , he’s been telling himself for the past four days. Now, it’s officially almost never. 

Minseo, his sister, hums to herself as she musses his hair into place, and then helps him with his tie. He glances down at her fingers, tips of them callused from hours of practicing the violin in the sanctuary of her bedroom for as long as she can, before she’s inevitably scolded by their mother for not devoting that time to SAT prep instead. Something that she has absolutely no interest in, Mingyu knows, because he was the one who found the acceptance letter offering her a full ride to her dream conservatory while sifting through the mail, only to have it snatched out of his hands by a tearful Minseo who begged him not to say anything. 

“I applied to be a photographer’s assistant at Serenity. The magazine,” he blurts out. Minseo stops her movements, looking up at him in shock. 

“You- you did? Mingyu, that’s amazing!” she exclaims, but her excitement dissolves once she registers his reluctance. “That… is amazing, right?” 

“I haven’t told Mom and Dad yet.”

“Well, obviously. You’re going to have to, like, now.”

“I don’t know if I should. I don’t even know if I’m going to get the job, and is it even worth pissing Dad off for life?” 

“Yes, because you and I both know very well that you could do everything right and he’d still find something to be pissed over. And, if you don’t get the job, you find another one. This isn’t the only opportunity in the world,” she reasons. 

Mingyu smiles fondly down at her, ruffling her short brown hair. “When’d you get so smart?” 

“Always have been. You’re just too dumb to notice.” He snorts back, proceeding to flick her forehead in rebuttal. 

A soft knock comes on his door, swinging open before he can even open his mouth to respond. “Son, we’ll be leaving in five minutes,” his dad says, adjusting his own tie. Mingyu and Minseo exchange a glance, reassurement in her eyes, before she excuses herself out of Mingyu’s room. 

“Dad, um,” he starts, before shaking his head to himself, in attempts to eliminate all anxiety to the best of his ability. “I’m not going. To the tour. And I’m not going to take the internship either. I’m sorry for telling you now.” 

Mingyu’s father doesn’t even look angry, just stands in front of him in absolute disbelief. “Excuse me?” he finally croaks out. 

“It’s not the job I want, Dad,” Mingyu says, with a deep sigh. “Or the life I want.” 

“The job you want ? Have you lost it? It’s not about what you want , it’s about what will keep a roof over your head! Be in the car in five minutes, I don’t want to hear anything like this once we reach the office,” he says, sternly. 

“Dad, I’m not -” He’s interrupted by another knock on the door, his mother’s timid face poking in through the frame. 

She forces a shaky smile, hesitantly looking back and forth between her equally incensed husband and son. “Mingyu, sweetheart, there’s a few people here to see you.” Mingyu furrows his eyebrows in confusion, but nods to her anyway.

“Tell them to come back later, we have to leave, now,” Mingyu’s dad snaps back, without so much as a glance over at his wife. Mingyu shakes his head. 

“No, I’ll be right down, Mom,” he says, stepping past his father to leave his room, and head down the stairs, drowning out the loud complaints of his father behind him as he yells about Mingyu’s ungratefulness to his helpless mother. 

And, as if things couldn’t possibly get anymore complicated, Mingyu heads down to the foyer to see Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua standing anxiously in the doorway of his childhood home. 

Despite the obvious bags underneath their eyes, the clear absence of the usual brightness to their faces, they still look beautiful, so good that Mingyu nearly feels compelled to hold his hands out in front of him to catch his heart that’s sure to fall out of his chest any minute now. His lips part around a sentence that could range anywhere from a hurried goodbye followed by the slamming of the door in their faces to a long overdue love confession followed by him launching himself into their arms. 

“Hey,” Seungcheol says, plainly, accompanied by a soft smile that makes him look ten years younger. 

And another step. 

“There’s a park down the street. You can’t miss it. Can I meet you there in 30 minutes?” Mingyu asks, abruptly, in lieu of greeting. 

They all blink rapidly, before nodding slowly in agreement, and Mingyu lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Of course. Is everything okay?” Jeonghan asks. 

Mingyu looks over his shoulder over to the staircase, where his father has started to angrily descend, heart picking up in pace. “No. But it will be, I think.”

The confrontation, predictably, does not go well. Mingyu can admit it’s mostly him and his father forgoing any sort of attempt at a mutual understanding to scream at each other, knowing compromise was a far off dream. He doesn’t cry, truthfully, he doesn’t even feel that angry, he’s just done: reached and crossed his breaking point. 

Mingyu’s father doesn’t even have to command him to leave, because eventually Mingyu just throws his hands up in exasperation and turns on his heel, storms up the stairs to his bedroom. He throws as much of his belongings that he can fit into the suitcase he brought while his mother stands in the doorway, silently crying to herself. 

“He just wants what’s best for you,” she croaks, when he moves to exit the room. “I know now, that, that this wasn’t it. I just want you to be happy, promise me you’ll be happy.” 

He looks at her, holds her eye contact for a significant moment, hoping the shine of hope in his eyes is more of a promise than his words. “You’re stronger than you think you are, Mom,” is what he replies with verbally instead, softly, brushing a stray strand of her hair away from her face. Her voice breaks on another sob when he squeezes past her into the hallway. 

Minseo is standing by the stairs, stoic expression on her face, but her melancholy is betrayed by the unmistakable tears that have welled up in her eyes.

“My door’s open for you anytime, you know that, right?” he says. 

She laughs, wetly, swatting him on the shoulder. “You say that like I won’t be at your apartment eating your ramen this time next week. Don’t be so dramatic, I’ll see you soon.” Mingyu rolls his eyes, but pulls her into a hug anyway, hooking his chin over her shoulder.

“Go to the conservatory, Minseo-ah.” She nods when they part, small smile on her face telling him she really means it. 

Mingyu looks back over his shoulder at his mother, who’s still longingly staring into his bedroom from the doorway, before heading down the stairs and straight out the door. 

Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua are seated next to each other on a swinging bench by the playground when Mingyu pulls into the parking lot of the park. He approaches them with confidence, and they look at up at him with matching smiles once he reaches them. 

“How’d everything go?” Joshua asks, nervously. Mingyu shrugs. 

“Let’s just say I have a fully packed suitcase in my trunk and my name’s probably been burnt off of the family tree. Don’t sweat it, though,” Mingyu replies, earnestly. 

Seungcheol’s expression twists in worry. “Mingyu, that’s a pretty big deal. Would you like us to take you back to your apartment? Or to Seokmin or Minghao’s, maybe? We can always do this later.” 

“No, no, hyung. They’re, he’s my family, it’ll come around in the end, I- I actually feel quite free, for the first time in, ever, I think. And if I don’t do this now, I don’t know if I ever will. Actually, can you- can I take you somewhere else? It’s not far from here, just a little bit down the trail.”

When they all agree, Mingyu leads them through the park and down into the forest, stopping right at the clearing by the creek where he’d been with Seokmin and Minghao a few days prior. “I used to come down here all the time with Seokmin and Minghao, when we were in high school. Fuck around, drink cheap alcohol, catch frogs that would always piss in our hands. Take pictures. It’s just… tranquil, a little pocket of space for the three of us,” Mingyu explains, facing away from them to look out at the creek.

“It’s beautiful,” Joshua agrees, looking up at the trees. “Reminds me more of where we grew up.” 

“I want to share it with you. I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else,” Mingyu starts, taking a deep breath before he continues. “I think I’ve done too much talking and not enough listening, but, fuck, sorry, I need to do some more talking.” 

His hands tremble, gaze trained to the grass beneath him, his body begging him to run far away from the precarious tension he’s found himself in, but his heart implores him to stay. For once, Mingyu thinks, he’ll listen to it. 

“I don’t know what you wanted to say to me that day, but I don’t- I don’t think it was what I thought you were trying to say. I think, actually, maybe , I have some idea. I might have known for a really long time, but I didn’t want to mess things up, or just make a fool out of myself. I may be doing that now, but, I realized I needed to be brave and be honest with myself, be honest with you. I need to say it, I might explode, I can’t, fuck , I-” 

“I’m in love with you. All three of you. For the longest time now, and if I’m wrong about every assumption I’ve been making, then I know how fucked up this is to say to three people who’re in a relationship with each other, who I wasn’t supposed to love. If that’s the case, then you can forget about everything, and we can just part ways, and I won’t take it personally. I know I’m immature, I’m sorry for ghosting you for so long, but I just love you so much. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I didn’t know if you’d want me, I’m so sorry.”

Someone then takes a step forward, a leaf crinkling underneath his foot, stopping right in front of Mingyu, who hates that he can tell it’s Seungcheol just by the shoes he’s wearing. “ Baby , will you look at me?” Mingyu shakes his head, lips down turned in a pout, embarrassed by the tears profusely streaming down his cheeks. 

“Mm, can I tell you what we were going to tell you that day, then?” he asks, carding his fingers through Mingyu’s bangs. Mingyu nods slowly at that, stomach twisting in anxiety.

“We wanted to tell you,” Jeonghan starts, walking over to Mingyu’s other side. “That we talked more, then, after we decided to try things. And we realized, that there was plenty of room in between us for one more. For someone we all have quite strong, strong feelings for,” he says, brushing a tear away from Mingyu’s cheek with a knuckle, before going to encircle Mingyu’s wrist with his fingers. 

“Wonwoo hyung?” Mingyu jokes, smiling wetly, finally looking up from the ground at Seungcheol, who rolls his eyes. 

“You’re so silly,” Joshua says, tears pricking at the corners of his own eyes. “How could you ever think we wouldn’t want you when you’re just so impossibly loveable? It’s like you have no idea, the effect you have on everyone around you. It was almost too easy, falling in love with you.”

“L-love? You love me, too?” Jeonghan laughs good-naturedly, caressing the underside of Mingyu’s jaw. 

“Silly boy. Of course, of course we love you. A little too much, maybe,” he says, fondly. Mingyu looks over to Seungcheol, who’s still smiling, hand squeezing at the nape of Mingyu’s neck. They’re all over him, all around him, their touches, their words, and now, their love . And he does feel quite silly, that he couldn’t perceive it before. 

Bottom lip quivering, Mingyu breathes out a soft Hyung , before practically falling into Seungcheol’s arms, the older catching him with a little oof and a small laugh. He presses a kiss to the side of Mingyu’s head and rubs soothingly at his back as Mingyu sniffs into his shoulder. 

“Missed you, hyungs,” he says, softly, against Seungcheol’s neck. Jeonghan coos.

“We missed you more, baby. Thought I was going to explode,” Seungcheol responds, with another kiss to Mingyu’s neck. 

He allows himself to bask in the warmth for a few moments longer, nuzzling into Seungcheol’s shoulder blade as the older continues his ministrations. Knowing that the conversation wasn’t quite over just yet, Mingyu eventually peels himself off, turning to face all three of them, bottom lip worried under his teeth.

“So, um, what now?” Mingyu asks, curling in on himself. 

“Well,” Jeonghan replies, thumb rubbing against Mingyu’s cheek. They really are touchy, almost as if it pains them to keep their hands off of him for more than a breath. “What do you want, baby?”

Mingyu doesn’t even need a second to think about it. “You, I want you. I want to be yours, please.”

“Since you asked so nicely,” Joshua says, softly, closing the gap to, finally, meet Mingyu halfway. 

The kiss is unhurried, unlike the ones before it, merely a stepping stone to something else. This kiss takes its time, warmth continuously seeping in with every next moment it lasts. It’s been waiting for them: sending Mingyu afloat, the door opening for him to begin to search for a space in the expanse of love. Joshua’s body exudes light and warmth, and Mingyu takes, and takes, and takes, every kiss reminding him that yes, this is real

He kisses him the way he’s wanted to all along, the way he wanted to at the light festival, in the car in Tokyo, sitting on the sand at the beach, sitting across from him at Jeonghan’s before everything fell apart around them. He wants, he yearns, he has

“Us too,” Seungcheol whines, and Mingyu giggles as he and Jeonghan step forward to press loud smacking kisses to Mingyu’s cheeks. Seungcheol turns Mingyu’s cheek towards him with a knuckle before Jeonghan can beat him to it, pulling Mingyu into a kiss for himself. 

Jeonghan dramatically huffs, impatiently tapping his feet against the ground until Mingyu pulls away from Seungcheol to turn to him with a laugh. 

“I’ll get you back for that,” Seungcheol calls, but Jeonghan merely smiles into the kiss. 

Once they deem Mingyu sufficiently kissed, they walk hand in hand (they being Joshua, Mingyu, and Seungcheol, Jeonghan pouting as he trudges behind them) back down the trail and to the parking lot. 

“It’s been a pretty tough day for you, baby, why don’t you go back home and take some rest? We’ll call you later,” Jeonghan says, softly, once they’ve reached Mingyu’s car. 

“Or maybe you can stay with Seokmin or Minghao? Don’t really want you to be alone tonight,” Joshua suggests. 

Mingyu hums, he definitely doesn’t want to be alone right now, and the thought of leaving their side for longer than a second today makes his stomach ache. “Actually, can I come back with you? If you’re not busy,” he asks, shyly. 

Seungcheol smiles, so, so fond and Mingyu’s never felt so loved. “Nope, all free. We’re all yours, babe.” 

And they are, it’s almost impossible to believe.

Almost, because Mingyu spends the remainder of the evening practically drowning in kisses and soft touches, always so gentle, so full of affection, that he isn’t given a second to consider otherwise. 

With his head in Joshua’s lap, torso in Seungcheol’s, and legs in Jeonghan’s, blanket draped over his lower body, Mingyu smiles to himself in contentment, closing his eyes to relish the pure, incomparable comfort. Seungcheol and Jeonghan have their fingers intertwined over Mingyu’s hip, and Joshua’s head rests on Seungcheol’s shoulder as Cars 2 plays in the background for the fifth time in the past two months. Not that they could ever get tired of it. 

“Hyungs?” Mingyu asks, softly. They all hum in response, encouraging him to continue. “When did you, um, when did you know?” He flushes, aware of the vagueness of his words but far too shy to elaborate. 

Joshua coos, leaning down to press a kiss into Mingyu’s hair. “Know what, baby? That we loved you?” Mingyu whines, burying his head in Joshua’s lap.

“I don’t think there was a definable moment,” Jeonghan answers. “When you know already what genuine love looks like, it’s not too difficult to recognize it. One day it’s just there and you wonder if perhaps it’s existed all along.”

He hums, before continuing. “Think I’ve loved you since you accused us of being a catfish. Or when you gave us a list of all the sex things you’d be willing to try, which, we still haven’t gotten through. How long did it take you to make that?”

“An embarrassingly short amount of time,” Mingyu responds. “You guys do wonders for my imagination. There’s probably a lot more things I need to add.”

“We have all the time in the world,” Seungcheol says, softly. A little too soft in when he’s talking about tackling a Sex List, but, Mingyu’s chest swells with warmth nonetheless. 

Jeonghan’s bed is enormous, but even then, it’s a tight fit for four grown men. They make it work by curling up quite close together, but Mingyu doesn’t think any of them mind. Seungcheol has his arms wrapped around Jeonghan’s waist, Joshua’s around Mingyu’s, and Mingyu’s head is buried under Jeonghan’s neck, the older’s hands in hair and on the side of the neck. It’s maybe a little too warm, especially in the heat of July.

Mingyu wouldn’t want it any other way.

Once they’ve all fallen silent, breathing slowed, hands stilled, Mingyu cracks an eye open to look up at Jeonghan’s sleeping face, a certain youthfulness in the soft lines. He’s hit with a swift rush of awe, because, at least for quite a long time, forever if it were solely up to him, he gets to fall asleep and wake up to that breathtaking face belonging to someone with an equally golden personality, alongside two other people who are just the same. 

They had each other and still , their hearts were big enough for one more. Mingyu has the pleasure, the absolute privilege of being the one more. They loved him, they waited for him, and they have him. He hopes they know they have his entire heart: still beating and whole, just for them.

Nothing matters anymore, and everything feels possible. Nothing is daunting, and everything is bright. He smiles, again, just to himself, letting his eyes flutter shut again as Joshua leaves a chaste kiss to the back of his neck, tightening his grip around Mingyu’s waist ever so slightly, the warmth growing steadily by the minute. 

——

The call comes late on a Thursday afternoon.

Mingyu, Minghao and Seokmin have abruptly decided to redecorate their living room after a week long HGTV binge together that left them all sorts of discontent with how their apartment looks. 

(“This trash dump looks like college kids lived here, we have to up our game!” Minghao cries, staring with disgust at the pile of pizza boxes that is currently serving as their end table.

“To be fair, Hao, up until four weeks ago, college kids did live here,” Seokmin responds.)

Just as him and Seokmin are pushing the couch back into place (for the third time), his phone goes off from the kitchen counter. He glances up at Minghao  lounging comfortably on the loveseat), who just nods, walking over to pick it up.

“Hello? Um, no, he’s, um, a little occupied, but I can- what? Seriously? Fu- hold on, just a second, please!” Minghao runs over with his hand out stretched, eyes wide as he holds it out to Mingyu, practically bouncing on his toes. “Serenity! Mingyu, it’s Serenity!”

Mingyu nearly drops the couch on Seokmin’s feet, ignoring the way it hits the ground with a large thud, yanking the phone out of Minghao’s hand and fumbling it up to his ear. “Hello?” 

Once the initial congratulations is delivered, Mingyu goes through the rest of the call in a legitimate daze. He nods when he needs to, hums in response, tries his best to remember any key information, but mostly, just stares at the wall and resists the urge to pinch himself. “Thank you so much, yes, yes, I’ll be sure to check my email. Thank you, thank you .” 

He sets the phone on the stack of pizza boxes, letting out a deep, shaky breath. “I got the job.”

He got the job

Mingyu lets himself be hugged, giggles along as they scream choruses of We told you and Of course you did! He wants to cry, he wants to scream, he wants to go back in time and tell his sixteen year old self that everything is worth it and he’s good enough to be who he wants, to do what he wants. Everything is worth is and he wants to be just one place right now, and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to catch his breath until he’s there. 

 

mingyu

WHERE AREYOU

ALL

cheollie hyung

shuas !! ^^

hannie hyung

Is everything okay??

shua hyung

where r u do you need us to come get you

mingyu

IMCOMING RN

Mingyu’s breathless by the time he reaches Joshua’s place, forgoing the elevator in favor for the stairs. He insistently rings the doorbell, too excited to trust himself to be able to successfully unlock the door with his own key.  

Seungcheol opens the door with a bewildered half smile, and Mingyu immediately falls into his arms, wrapping his own arms around the older’s waist to lift him right off the ground and spin him in about ten consecutive circles. Seungcheol just squeaks in surprise, and finally swats at Mingyu’s shoulder to make him let him down. 

“What happened?” Joshua asks, excitedly, amusement in his eyes at seeing Seungcheol’s stunned state. Mingyu doesn’t even know what to do, where to go, so he just stands there, hand squeezing Seungcheol’s, eyes light with pure, unbridled joy, looking down at the way their fingers fit so perfectly together.

“I love you,” Mingyu blurts out, and wait, no, that wasn’t it.

Jeonghan giggles, going to brush Mingyu’s sweat matted bangs away from his face. “And you came all this way acting like you’ve just guzzled a gallon of coffee just to tell us that, huh?” 

No , well, I would definitely do that, but no, I- I got a call, from Serenity, and fuck , I got the job! The job!” Mingyu exclaims, and it feels that much more real now that he’s telling the three most important people to him. The reality of it all, the pipe dream turned tangible. 

Once again, Mingyu lets himself be hugged, lets himself get slathered with praises like it’s the only thing the three of them know how to do. They kiss every single part of his face, squeeze at his arms, his neck, hug him over and over and tell him how proud they are of him. 

Every day Mingyu doesn’t think it’s possible for him to ever feel more loved than he does now, and they always manage to prove him wrong the very next day. Except, this time he really doesn’t think it could get any better than this, it’s pure euphoria. 

“What do you want for dinner? Anything your talented little heart desires,” Seungcheol says, poking at his chest, guiding Mingyu with Joshua to the couch while Jeonghan disappears somewhere down the hallway. 

Mingyu pretends to think about it for no more than a second. “Pizza,” he says, decisively, with a smug little smile because he knows his answer pisses them off. 

Before either of them can scold him for his choice, Jeonghan emerges again with a box in his hands that just looks expensive: matte white exterior with a light pastel purple, silky ribbon tied around it. He places it on the coffee table in front of Mingyu with a soft smile. 

“This is for you. A little congratulatory gift,” Jeonghan explains. Mingyu furrows his eyebrows in confusion, looking back and forth between the box and Jeonghan’s kind face.

“When did you buy this? You just found out. I don’t- I don’t understand,” Mingyu says, voice tapering off into a whisper. 

“Just a few weeks ago,” Joshua answers, tucking a lock of Mingyu’s hair behind his ear. “We had no doubt that you’d get the job, love.” 

Mingyu absolutely refuses to look at any of their faces, still staring down at this box that for sure has something obscenely expensive in it that they bought for him in advance for a job he hadn’t even gotten yet . He wills down the embarrassing tears, reaching out to pull the box slowly towards him. 

He sniffs a little, toying with the bow on top, loop slipping through his index finger. “You believe in me that much?” he asks, softly. 

“‘Course we do,” Seungcheol responds, pulling Mingyu’s head towards him with one hand to kiss at his temple. Just as Mingyu begins to undo the ribbon, Seungcheol rests a hand on top of his. “You can open it now, if you’d like, or later in the evening, or even another day,” he says, with a small twinkle in his eyes. Mingyu swallows, but nods, implication understood, something swirling in his gut at merely the thought of what could lie within the packaging. 

“Um, can we have dinner first?” Mingyu asks, shyly. 

“We ordered the pizza when you texted you were coming over,” Jeonghan says, stepping around the coffee table to press a kiss to the top of Mingyu’s nose. 

“I love you. More than you could ever know,” Mingyu says, so seriously that it makes them laugh. 

After showering quickly in Joshua’s room, Mingyu nearly devours half the pizza by himself, driven by adrenaline, exhaustion from lifting furniture for three days straight, and the knowledge that he’s most likely going to need a lot of energy for whatever’s in store for him tonight. 

He’s genuinely surprised he can stay focused enough to eat at all, what, with all the stray, purposeful, so calculated touches each one of them practically drowns him in throughout dinner on the couch. Little brushes against his hips turn into fingers teasing at the hem of his shirt to actually slipping under his shirt and kneading at the skin right at his waist. Little brushes against his thigh turn into a hand snaking its way closer, and closer, and closer to the inner portion of his leg, moving back and forth with significant pressure. Little brushes of lips against his cheek turn into much more insistent kisses trailing down his jaw, behind his ear, down his neck, accompanied by small nips and bites that sure serve their purpose to rile him up.

“I think you’re ready now, baby,” Jeonghan whispers against the shell of Mingyu’s ear, taking the long empty plate out of his hands and setting it on the coffee table. 

Joshua picks the box up, setting it in Mingyu’s lap. “Why don’t you go open your gift in my room and we’ll meet you there in fifteen minutes, or so?” Mingyu nods, dumbly, wondering why it would take him fifteen minutes to open a gift. But he relents, getting up off the couch and moving down the hallway to Joshua’s bedroom, not taking his eyes off the box held tightly in his hands. 

He sets it down on the bed with a gulp, lightly undoing the ribbon and setting it slowly on the bedside table. Lifting the top off, Mingyu squints, as if a blinding light is going to emerge or perhaps a dozen bats. Thankfully, it’s neither, just some neatly folded tissue paper, which is worse, to Mingyu, because he just wants to know

With the utmost hesitance, Mingyu lifts the tissue paper, to be met with a few, equally neatly, folded garments, in the same exact lavender, silk fabric as the ribbon. It isn’t until Mingyu actually takes them out of the box, does he realize, eyes wide, what they are , and why he was given so much time to unwrap the gift in the first place. 

He remembers, then, what Jeonghan had said to him the very first night, only to never bring it up again. Looks like he hadn’t forgotten entirely. 

You’d look very good in some lingerie.

The gift, which is more of a gift for them , Mingyu thinks, is a set of lingerie, which he mindlessly throws on, gulping as he takes stock of himself in the floor length mirror of Joshua’s bathroom, a little awe-struck at how well everything fits him. 

The bottoms are nearly entirely mesh, a delicate lacy design on the front, frills all around the waistline, with just the lining and the tie ribbons to the side being the silk. It hangs low on his waist, dipping down to expose the greater part of his v-line. The matching babydoll is also mesh and ties in the front with the silk ribbon. It’s quite short on him, which is expected, and has the same lacy design stitched near the bottom hem. Finally, the stockings are sheer, lined by the silk, and hug his built calves snugly, but comfortably enough. 

This is definitely quite new for him, considering the most lingerie he’s ever worn was a cheap, black lacy pair of underwear his ex boyfriend bought for him years ago. But, he doesn’t hate it, feels the opposite, actually. It makes him feel dainty, something he seldom considers himself to be. 

More than that, though, he feels pretty : pretty for himself, pretty for his hyungs. He hopes they think the same. 

Making his way back to the bed, Mingyu lifts the box to set it in the corner of them room, out of the way, when he notices a slight glint towards the bottom. He reaches back into the box, fumbling around, before his fingers graze against something metal, pulling out a long, silver chain.

Upon inspection, Mingyu deems it too long to be a bracelet, an anklet, or a necklace. Merely acting on a hunch, he walks back over to the mirror, wrapping it around his bare stomach, eyes widening when he easily, perfectly, clasps it into place. 

There’s a small plate attached onto it that rests on his back, but, before he can take a look at it, he hears footsteps heading down the hallway. He yelps, hurrying away from the mirror to launch himself on the bed, unsure how he’s supposed to position himself, settling on kneeling, facing the door, hands on his thighs with his fingers brushing against the tops of the stockings. With his head tilted to the side, eyes wide, Mingyu puts on the most demure expression he can muster. 

Something works, because, it’s really almost comical the way they walk in, expressions startlingly similar: jaws grazing the floor, eyes impossibly wide. He wants, needs , them to say something, needs the praise to fill him and give him that final gratification he’s desperately seeking. 

Jeonghan breaks first, breathing out a soft baby , before walking towards him, hands already outstretched, ready to cup Mingyu’s cheeks. “You’re perfect, baby, look so good. Knew you’d look amazing like this,” he says, softly, lifting Mingyu’s head up to pull him into a deep kiss. Mingyu whines into it, satisfaction blooming through his chest. 

“C’mere,” Jeonghan whispers, against his lips, sitting down on the sheets and pulling Mingyu on top of him, toying with the chain as he leans back into press their lips together again. 

Moments later, there’s another set of hands on his waist, one of them on top of Jeonghan’s, and Mingyu can immediately tell it’s Seungcheol by the cold rings pressed into his warm skin. “Mm, the prettiest, my pretty baby. Will you let us show you how pretty we think you are?” he asks. And all Mingyu can do is whine, and nod. 

Just as Mingyu begins to wonder where he went, Joshua appears next to Jeonghan; lube, condoms, and, strangely enough, the silk ribbon from the box in hand. He hands the ribbon over to Seungcheol, who runs his hands slowly down Mingyu’s arms. 

“Baby, how would you feel if we tied you up a little? Just your wrists behind your back,” Joshua asks. Mingyu nods, eagerly, accepting without even really thinking about. It’s something he’s wanted since Jeonghan brought it up the night in Tokyo. He wonders what other suggestions from that night will come to fruition today. 

“Words, baby,” Jeonghan reminds him, pushing Mingyu’s bangs away from his face. 

“Yes, please, hyung, I’d like that,” Mingyu replies, blushing a little. Jeonghan presses a kiss to his cheek in reward. “And, um, would-” He cuts off his own request, suddenly feeling quite shy, tucking his chin into his neck. 

“Go on, honey, don’t be shy,” Seungcheol encourages. Mingyu bites his lip. 

“Would you be a little… um, mean , maybe? Not too much, you know, just-” 

Joshua nods, kissing Mingyu’s shoulder. “Of course, baby, we got you. Whatever you want.” 

“You’ve just given him something dangerous,” Jeonghan says, lightly, with a little laugh. 

“And, um… I’m clean,” Mingyu says, slowly. “And I haven’t slept with anyone else since we met.” 

Everything goes silent: Seungcheol freezes behind him, and Joshua and Jeonghan glance at each other, and then over at Mingyu with wide eyes. Mingyu feels like recoiling, wants to retract himself, feeling as if he’s proposed something far too intimate. And this is always the reality, isn’t it? He always wants more, always loves more, always-

“Us too, baby, but, are you sure? Please don’t feel like you have to do something you’re not comfortable with,” Joshua says, softly. 

Mingyu should’ve realized by now that they are forever the exception to the always

“I’m sure, I’m so sure.” 

Seungcheol makes quick work of pulling Mingyu’s arms gently behind his back, tying his wrists together with the ribbon, not too tight, but just tight enough where he can’t quite break free. “Let us know if it’s too tight, or if you want us to untie you at any point. We won’t be mad, or upset with you, okay?” 

“Got it,” Mingyu says, looking over his shoulder at Seungcheol with a reassuring smile, who takes the opportunity to lean down and steal a kiss. 

Joshua walks around to the foot of the bed as Seungcheol crawls on it, which Jeonghan takes as his cue to gently lift Mingyu off his lap, guiding him to kneel right in front of where Joshua is standing, back facing Jeonghan who kneels right behind him.

“Go on then, baby, you know what to do,” Joshua says, running his fingers through the strands of hair at the top of Mingyu’s head. Mingyu resists the urge to whine at the humiliation of not even being asked , just expected to serve . And he’d be lying if he said his body didn’t heat up at the thought. 

Mingyu leans in ever so slightly, waiting for Joshua to undo his sweatpants since Mingyu is clearly unable to, but the older makes no movement whatsoever, just looks down at Mingyu expectantly, huffs when Mingyu looks back cluelessly. “You have a mouth, don’t you, sweetheart?” Seungcheol asks, mockingly. 

Mingyu nods, utterly humiliated, but still manages to undo the drawstring of Joshua’s sweatpants with just his teeth. His problem, however, comes in pulling them down. After a few minutes of significant effort, Joshua pushes his head away and pulls down his sweatpants himself with an eye roll that makes Mingyu pout. 

Surprisingly, or, maybe not at all, Joshua’s not wearing anything under his sweats, already half hard cock popping out. Mingyu doesn’t waste any time, too eager to tease, sucking at the tip for a moment before swallowing him down as far as he can go. 

Just as he begins to set a decent pace, Mingyu feels a hand, Jeonghan’s, rub at his lower back, just under where his hands are tied, in warning, and he reflexively rocks back against it in response. As expected, a moment later, his panties are being pushed to the side, and there’s a lube slicked finger teasing at his rim. Jeonghan pushes it in slowly, causing Mingyu to moan, sound muffled around the cock in his mouth.

Jeonghan gets three fingers snug inside of him rather quickly, pads of his fingers teasingly brushing against his prostate ever so often. Joshua’s given up on relying on Mingyu’s distracted ministrations and has the younger’s cheeks between his palms, earnestly fucking Mingyu’s throat. 

And if that weren’t enough, Seungcheol has his body pressed to Mingyu’s side, running his hands all down Mingyu’s exposed torso under the babydoll, whispering absolutely filthy things right into his ear. 

“Don’t you feel dirty like this, love? Getting fucked from both sides? Mm, take it so well though,” he croons, hand dragging up Mingyu’s chest, right up to his throat, squeezing lightly where Joshua’s cock pushes in, just as Jeonghan slips in his pinky alongside his three other fingers. It really is absolutely dirty. Mingyu just moans again in response. 

Joshua’s moans start to get increasingly louder, his thrusts more, and more erratic, and Mingyu knows he’s close. He lets his eyes, which are surely glistening with tears, flutter open, looking up at the older, who soon meets his gaze. Joshua then pulls out, jerking himself off with fervor, and Mingyu lets his mouth loll open simply on reflex, just in time for the older to spill all over his tongue. It’s so much that it spills out, down his bottom lip, down his chin, even trailing down his throat. And damn, if things weren’t dirty enough before. 

Finger on his jaw, Seungcheol turns Mingyu’s hand to the side, swiping the come on his skin up with the same finger, then pushing it, along with another one, into his mouth to scoop up the pool in his tongue. He then reaches behind Mingyu and suddenly pushes the two fingers inside alongside Jeonghan’s, fucking them deeply to push Joshua’s come inside. Mingyu moans, unable to form a coherent sentence, or a thought, really, to explain how that makes him feel. 

“Filthy, Cheol-ah,” Joshua admonishes with a laugh. Seungcheol grins back up at him with a shrug. 

Jeonghan then leans forward to place a gentle kiss right between Mingyu’s shoulder blades, fingers slowing their movements. “Ready, honey?” he asks, softly. Mingyu nods, resisting the urge to keen back into the vestiges of the kiss. 

They all move in sync, almost in a practiced way as they maneuver around each other with ease. Seungcheol and Jeonghan switch places, Seungcheol manhandling Mingyu to pull him back a little, so Joshua can kneel in front of him. 

Except, they don’t do anything. At least, not really, to him. Seungcheol just kneels behind him, sitting back on his heels, runs his hands slowly down Mingyu’s back as if he’s just ogling his figure, which makes Mingyu feel that much more debauched. And Joshua and Jeonghan take the opportunity to lean forward and messily make out right in front of Mingyu, who’s starting to get increasingly impatient, whining a little as he writhes under Seungcheol’s chaste ministrations. 

“Did you need something?” Seungcheol asks, against the back of Mingyu’s shoulder, and Mingyu can literally feel him grinning on his skin. Mingyu looks over his shoulder at that, wants to reach a hand out to hold Seungcheol’s wrist, whines a little when he realizes he can’t. 

Seungcheol leans in to press gentle kisses all over the expanse of Mingyu’s back. Mingyu presses into his hold, pushing back against Seungcheol’s hold, giving the older the opportunity to kiss at the side of his neck, to the underside of his jaw, hard cock insistently pressed against his back. He then begins to grinds ever so slowly into the cleft of Mingyu’s ass, eliciting soft, needy whines from the younger as he tries to fuck back. 

Joshua groans a little, scooting forward closer to Mingyu. He cups his cheeks in his palms, same way as before, except with much more tenderness, and the contrast makes Mingyu blush. “You’re so hot, baby, look the best like this. Shame you’re going to be behind the camera, with your pretty face,” he says, against Mingyu’s lips, just a hair away from his own. 

Jeonghan hums in assent, continuing to play with the chain, as if he’s mesmerized with the way it looks. “Isn’t it? Feels like a dream. Pretty thing like you is all ours.” He then pulls at the chain, moving it around his waist so that the plate rests right above his navel.

“Did you read it?” Jeonghan asks, the plate on his index and middle fingers, held forward so Mingyu can lean down easily and finally get a good look at it. 

Inscripted in small font towards the middle of the bottom is Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Joshua’s names in Hangul, and it’s something of a symbol, a definition. Mingyu swallows, blush traveling down his entire body at the implications, the intimacy laced in between the filthiness of it all. He loves it. 

“I’m all yours,” Mingyu agrees, falling readily into the kiss Joshua pulls him into, eagerly arches his back the way Seungcheol’s hand guides him to, tilting his head into Jeonghan’s hand that runs through his hair.

Mingyu lets out an involuntary gasp when he finally feels the tip of Seungcheol’s cock graze against his hole, reflexively pushing back into it until he’s stopped by a hand right above his ass. Seungcheol kisses his shoulder again, then pushes in, just the tip, then stops, holding himself there as he continues the ministrations of his hands against Mingyu’s waist. 

He doesn’t mind the wait, content with spending some time putting him all of himself into kissing and letting himself be kissed. It’s really more of the latter, Joshua seemingly having an intent to consume and devour , every kiss filthy and passionate. One of Joshua’s hands is flat on his bare chest, under the babydoll, the other in his hair, tugging hard at the strands the way he knows Mingyu likes. It’s easy to get lost in the kissing, until, it isn’t, the weight of just the tip of Seungcheol’s cock inside of him becoming unbearable.

Hyung ,” Mingyu whines, against Joshua’s lips, knowing better than to sink down onto Seungcheol’s cock himself, but desperately needing to be filled. Seungcheol hums in question. 

“Ask for it,” Jeonghan commands, so low that Mingyu feels the vibrations of his voice against his neck, causing a shiver to travel from head to toe. “Be good, and ask for what you want.” 

Every ounce of Mingyu’s decency and dignity was thrown far out the window quite a long time ago, which is why it’s not too difficult for him to whine, more like beg : “Please fuck me, please , please . I want it, I need it, please, please, please .”

Seungcheol snorts, mockingly, and leans forward to kiss behind Mingyu’s ear. “Cockslut,” he whispers, and then bottoms out, first thrust hard .

Mingyu yelps at the intrusion, probably would lose his balance if it weren’t for Seungcheol’s arm snaking around his body to hold tightly onto his waist. Seungcheol wastes no more time after that, groaning right into Mingyu’s ear as he fucks into him with the same vigor put into each movement of his hips, hitting Mingyu’s prostate dead on every time. 

Eventually, Seungcheol’s grip loosens and Mingyu finds himself falling into the mattress, cheek helplessly pressed into the cheeks as he can quite literally do nothing else other than take it. He whines at the sight next to him, Joshua and Jeonghan making out again , Joshua’s hand tight around Jeonghan’s leaking cock, and Mingyu genuinely resists the urge to part his lips in invitation. Maybe Seungcheol was right. 

He then feels a ring adorned hand on the back of his neck, pushing his head further into the mattress, and Mingyu lets out a loud moan at the feeling of being literally held down, bound, and fucked into like a toy. Owned , is probably the right word for it. He feels owned; the engravings of their names pressed into his skin by Seungcheol’s hand right above the plate. He really, really loves it. 

Pulling apart, Jeonghan then coos derisively, playing with Mingyu’s hair as Joshua reaches out to pinch at his cheek. “Bet the three of us aren’t even enough for you, baby, you’re desperate for it,” Jeonghan chides. 

“So pretty on Cheollie’s cock, honey. Do you feel good?” Joshua asks. Mingyu, as always, just moans, blushing when he feels some drool slip down his chin. 

“Have you been fucked dumb, baby? Can’t even speak?” Seungcheol asks, more like growls

Without giving Mingyu any time to answer (not that he’d be able to,) the oldest curls his hand around Mingyu’s neck to grip at his throat, pulling him back up flush to his chest just like that. The display of pure strength has Mingyu dissolving into moans, more so when Seungcheol’s other hand goes down to his cock, tugging at it in time with his thrusts, tightening his grip on each upstroke. 

“Gonna come soon,” Seungcheol warns, and Mingyu can tell, just from the way his pace increases and his breaths get more raspy. “Come with me, yeah? Come for us as I fill you up all nice, just the way you asked for.” 

That seals the deal for Mingyu, who can barely hold back anymore, purposefully clenching around Seungcheol who squeaks in surprise before coming with a deep groan. Mingyu follows suit, spilling all over Seungcheol’s hand and wrist with a series of embarrassingly high pitched whines. Seungcheol fucks them both through their orgasms, still kissing at Mingyu’s neck as Joshua leans in to kiss all over his face and whisper soft praises to him. 

“Clean up your mess, love,” Seungcheol says, cock still deep inside Mingyu. He lifts his hand off of Mingyu’s cock up to the younger’s mouth, and Mingyu promptly leans in without further elaboration, coyly licking up his own come and letting it gather on his tongue. 

Once he’s done, Jeonghan uses a finger to guide Mingyu’s face towards him, pulling him into a kiss, more tongue than anything, licking into his mouth, sucking at the cum on his tongue. “Good boy,” Jeonghan says, once they part, a little drool at the corner of his mouth. “Let’s get you untied now, yeah?”

Mingyu tilts his head to the side in confusion, and the only two things he can really think of are Jeonghan and dick . “But, hyung?” he asks, plainly. Jeonghan just laughs, chastely kissing Mingyu’s cheek. 

“You’re too cute. Don’t worry, baby, I’ll get my turn. Just want to switch things up a little,” he explains, reaching around to tug at the knot, pulling the ribbon free and letting it fall to the bed. Mingyu takes the opportunity of newfound freedom to cup Jeonghan’s cheeks and pull him into a fervent kiss, which the olr returns with a cute, little giggle. 

They reposition themselves once more. Mingyu whimpers when Seungcheol finally pulls out, his come slowly beginning to spill out, the loss seeming devastating. But Jeonghan quickly pushes two fingers back into his hole, plugging it up as he pulls Mingyu onto his lap, hard cock digging into the younger’s thigh. 

“How are you feeling, sweetheart? Good for one more?” Jeonghan asks, brushing at Mingyu’s sweat matted bangs with a fond smile. 

Mingyu nods, hooking his arms around Jeonghan’s neck and settling into his lap, Jeonghan’s cock now nestled under his ass. “‘M good, hyung, want more.”

“I know you do, baby. Why don’t you ride me a little, hm? Put those soccer thighs to use,” Jeonghan suggests, punctuating his sentence with a pointed squeeze to Mingyu’s bare thighs.

Reaching behind himself, Mingyu fumbles a little before eventually grabbing ahold of Jeonghan’s cock, teasingly rubbing it against his hole. Jeonghan tuts, and his slight brattiness is immediately replaced with an urge to be good. He slips Jeonghan’s cock inside of him, Seungcheol’s come slicking up the slide, with one smooth motion and a deep, prolonged moan. 

Contrary to how they usually are in bed, neither Jeonghan nor Mingyu does much talking, or makes very many noises, too completely wrapped up in insistently pressing their lips together in ardent kiss after kiss. 

It’s a culmination point, of sorts, an exposure of the stark difference between then and now. Then being the first night in the hotel, when everything was beyond uncertain and every genuine feeling having to be concealed, deemed forbidden and assumed to be unreciprocated. Now, everything is whole , everything is right: the bright, promising warmth of summer after a fragile, ephemeral spring. 

Mingyu quite easily lifts himself up and down Jeonghan’s cock, swivels his hips and clenches ever so often. Jeonghan joins him in motion, meeting his movements with slow thrusts of his own, arms tight around Mingyu’s waist. Quiet moans escape the both of them periodically, but they’re usually swallowed up by the other, followed by the sucking of a bottom lip, or the graze of lips against a neck. 

Soon enough, there’s another set of hands on his sides, rubbing slowly, appreciatively. Then, another, in his hair, cupping his jaw. He feels absolutely adored, taken care of, loved, and so safe

“I love you,” Mingyu says, against Jeonghan’s lips, but the confession is addressed to all of them, and he’s sure they know it. There’s a kiss to his hair, one to his shoulder, and another to his lips, and he knows they know it. 

Jeonghan responds by thrusting up in earnest, setting a consistent pace as he looks up at Mingyu, who throws his head back, eyes fluttering shut, lips parted in a silent moan. “You’re gorgeous,” Jeonghan says, almost incredulously, so quiet that Mingyu almost misses it. Mingyu swallows, praise going straight to his gut. 

“Sweetheart. Sweet baby,” Jeonghan adds, punctuating each endearment with a kiss to Mingyu’s cheek and a languid roll of his hips upwards. 

Biting his lip, Mingyu looks down to meet his eyes, resisting the urge to burst into tears upon seeing the look of pure adoration he finds there. Loved might’ve been an understatement: perhaps there’s no word that can fully encapsulate the way they’re making him feel right now.

“Come on, Hannie-yah,” Seungcheol starts, crawling around the bed to kneel behind Jeonghan and kiss at his neck, nipping at his milky skin, “Make baby come, don’t you think he deserves it? Looking so pretty in the color you picked out.” 

Joshua hums in assent, pressing his chest to Mingyu’s back and reaching around in between Jeonghan and Mingyu’s bodies to get a hand on Mingyu’s cock, letting Mingyu fuck slowly into his fist as he pushes back on Jeonghan’s cock in tandem. His other hand travels up Mingyu’s chest, squeezing at his sides in reassurance. 

In response to Seungcheol’s goading, Jeonghan grits his teeth and picks up his pace, hands tight on Mingyu’s waist, leaning forward to rest his forehead on Mingyu’s shoulder. Mingyu moans a little to himself at the quiet sound of Jeonghan’s heavy breaths, the grunts he lets out in between every few. 

Closing his eyes, Mingyu loses himself in the sensations: Joshua’s lithe fingers now earnestly jerking him off, Jeonghan’s cock grazing at his prostate with each thrust, Seungcheol’s deep voice whispering the filthiest of words to the both of them. 

“Look at you two,” he croons, “so good, so hot together, you have no idea. This would make an excellent home photoshoot.”

“Another time,” Joshua replies, with a grin, against the nape of Mingyu’s neck. 

And it’s that thought — the debauched thought of being on display like this, all fucked out and desperate, not only for the three of them, but for a camera — that pushes Mingyu over the edge, coming hard in between his and Jeonghan’s bodies with a loud, high pitched cry. It’s all quite intense, continuing to hit him in waves, Joshua and Seungcheol whispering soft words of reassurance and praise as he slowly starts to come down. 

Mingyu eventually, finally , slumps forward into Jeonghan’s chest, letting out a quiet breath, and is met with a gentle hand in his hair and a kiss to his neck. “Good boy, so good,” Jeonghan whispers, holding Mingyu tighter as he chases his own release. 

Resting his cheek against Jeonghan’s shoulder, Mingyu whines at the pleasurable overstimulation, doing his best to rock back to help Jeonghan along. “Come, please, hyung. Come for me, fill me up, I wan- ah -”

He’s cut off by a groan from Jeonghan, who bottoms out completely and comes inside Mingyu with a few more grunts, hips stuttering as he fucks his come alongside Seungcheol and Joshua’s. 

The second Jeonghan pulls out, Mingyu collapses completely into his chest, barely caught by the older who then holds him tightly, guiding him backward to rest on the bed. Mingyu then merely lays there as the three of them gently pull the lingerie off of him, cleaning him up before helping him into a pair of basketball shorts because they know how much he hates to sleep naked. 

“Love you, hyungs,” Mingyu slurs out, curling into the warmth of the blanket that’s being draped over him. Joshua coos, brushing his hair aside to press a kiss to his forehead, continuing to card his fingers through Mingyu’s hair once he pulls away. 

“Love you more. So proud of you, sweetheart, for everything,” he says, softly, sidling next to Mingyu. 

Behind them, Seungcheol makes a noise of disgust, tugging at the sheets. “Fuck, we have to wash these, like now .”

“Who’s this we ? You’re the only one still standing,” Jeonghan says, just as he crawls under the comforter and wraps his arms around Mingyu’s waist. 

“So, you’re going to make me do the labor and sleep on the end? I fucking hate this household,” Seungcheol grumbles, giving up his cleaning pursuit once he realizes none of them are even going to get up for long enough to allow him to actually pull the sheet off the bed. 

“After we just gave you the best sex of your life?” Joshua chides. “Ungrateful.” 

Mingyu giggles at their bickering, nuzzling into the hand in his hair and resting his own hand on Seungcheol’s that’s traveled over Jeonghan’s waist to rest lightly at his hip. Utterly sated and beyond satisfied, he falls asleep just like that, the three of them all around him, occupying every corner of his heart, rightfully so. 

——

one year later

“And that’s a wrap!” the director calls. 

Mingyu puts his camera down with a grin, glancing over at the monitor to survey the shots he’s just gotten, nodding in satisfaction as each one flicks by. 

“Looks great, sweetheart,” Jeonghan says, padding out from the set with Joshua right behind him. “Or, should I say, lead photographer Kim.”

“I had great material to work with,” Mingyu replies, eyeing the one shot of the two of them facing each other, heads turned toward the camera, Jeonghan’s arm thrown over Joshua’s shoulder, their faces not even a hair away. And only a careful eye can tell that neither of them are looking directly at the camera, but rather just above, right into the photographer’s, Mingyu’s , eyes. 

He’ll get them back for that one. 

Joshua pats at his ass before they both turn back to the dressing rooms to get changed. Mingyu takes the opportunity to sit back in his chair and thoroughly look through his camera, chest swelling with pride as he takes in his hard work. It’s a feat, to be promoted to lead photographer on a shoot only a year after joining the magazine. He put a lot of work into the concept, the styling, the everything , and is immensely pleased with the results. 

He pulls out his phone to snap some of the previews to show Seungcheol later, and to send to Minghao and Seokmin. 

mingyu

[Attachment: 5 images]

all done!!!!!

seokmin

they look like they wanna fuck u 

mingyu

that’s their Job

minghao

disgusting we didn’t need to hear that

mingyu

that’s not what i meant and u know that asshole

you know what /i/ didn't have to hear? what you sound like when you’re getting your dick sucked

and guess what happened exactly five miserable days ago 

so fuck you

seokmin

the man makes a point, minghao

anyway the pictures look so good gyu-ah!!! i’m just teasing you ^^ couldn’t b more proud <3 

mingyu

ily you’re the only real friend i have left

minghao

he’s only saying all that because he just spilled orange juice all over your laptop

seokmin

you actually do fucking suck 

 

“Hey there, superstar.” Mingyu looks up from his phone to see Seungcheol walking towards him, a few takeout bags in hand, and a wide grin on his face, which Mingyu readily returns. He hops up from his chair and practically runs to envelop Seungcheol in a tight hug, hooking his chin over the older’s shoulder with a sigh. 

Seungcheol kisses behind his ear, returning the hug, before suddenly cursing under his breath. Mingyu pulls away with his eyebrows furrowed in confusion, following Seungcheol’s line of vision, realizing he’s looking dazedly over at the monitor where the one picture Mingyu was looking at before is still on display. 

“This looks… amazing,” he says, breathlessly. “You did so well, love.” Mingyu bites his lip, blushing upon receiving the praise he craved. 

“Thank you, hyung. I’m so glad you think so,” Mingyu replies, earnestly, with a shy smile. 

Jeonghan and Joshua emerge moments later, faces lighting up when they see Seungcheol standing beside Mingyu. “What’d you think, Cheollie?” Joshua asks. 

“You both look gorgeous, per usual,” Seungcheol replies, leaning in to allow Jeonghan to kiss him on the cheek in greeting. “I brought Chinese, if you guys were hungry.”

Joshua nods. “Very. Should we eat at home?”

Home is now officially Jeonghan’s place, the two of them moving in with him just a few weeks after they all got together. Mingyu still does live with Seokmin and Minghao, but he sees that changing soon, with Minghao and Soonyoung inching towards that milestone themselves, and Seokmin slowly getting serious with Seungkwan (finally, after years of dancing around each other). 

“Yeah, home,” Mingyu agrees, intertwining his fingers with Joshua’s, allowing the warmth to guide him there.