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The first time Johnny sees Donghyuck, he immediately identifies him as a tiny psychopath.

It's first thing on a Saturday morning, in the middle of a linoleum-floor hallway at Korean language school, the last year Johnny actually ends up going, as they're all lining up and filtering into individual classrooms.

Donghyuck is impossible not to spot - he's like a black hole, sucking up all the attention in the hallway, rattling off about something or other at an ear-piercing volume. Round face, a smushed up button nose and nest of dark hair, curly or messy, Johnny can't tell. His backpack practically eclipses him, and he struggles to walk steadily under its weight as he traipses through, body twisted to face the boy beside him, considerably quieter. He's poking the other kid in the side, giggling and shoving - evidently not looking where he's going when he crashes directly into Johnny.

"Hey, watch it." Johnny grimaces at the impact, shoving the boy back maybe a little harder than necessary. Objectively, it barely even hurts, Johnny easily has a foot on him, not to mention a couple of years. The kid stumbles back, and his expression is almost unbothered. Maybe annoyed at his rambling being interrupted by the obstacle of Johnny’s body, if anything.

Of course, the other one is clearly freaking out, tripping over multiple apologies at once, looking from Johnny to Donghyuck and back again. The kid is so panicked, shaking like a leaf, and Johnny kind of feels bad for him. The same can't be said for the one who actually bumped into him, still blinking impassively.

People are filing into classrooms now, and the other boy takes the opportunity to drag Donghyuck off with the other ten year olds, stuttering out a few more ‘sorry’s on both their parts, for good measure.

Johnny just rolls his eyes. Whatever. Kids are dicks.

He catches one final glance of Donghyuck before they both duck into their own classes, and the blank expression is gone. Instead, his face is scrunched up in a self-satisfied grin, eyes almost closed, tongue stuck out in mocking.

So really, Johnny’s first assessment is spot on.

***

Johnny knows Donghyuck’s parents - okay, that’s an overstatement. Johnny’s parents know Donghyuck’s parents, and Johnny knows how to answer questions about how it’s going at college and accept the food that is offered to him.

In fact, he barely sees Donghyuck for the next five-odd years. He seems to have developed the preteen habit of hovering in the doorway to say hello (always considerably politer to Johnny’s parents than Johnny himself) and then locking himself in his bedroom to play video games for the rest of the time they’re there.

The only extended periods of time they’re actually in the same space are at the neighbourhood potlucks and bake sales their respective families drag them to. Donghyuck hovers in a corner with his little gaggle of friends, including the one from Korean school (Mark is a much nicer kid than Donghyuck, Johnny comes to learn), and they inevitably disappear halfway through only to come back stinking vaguely of the weed they got overcharged for and Axe body spray to cover up the smell. It doesn’t work, but it does nearly give Mark an asthma attack one time, so there’s that.

The point is, Johnny doesn’t know Donghyuck. Maybe he knows him in the very abstract sense that everybody in their suburb knows each other, but the only real idea he has of him is a little asshole with an enormous mouth and nobody telling him to shut the fuck up.

So when his mom casually drops in the middle of one of his dinners at home that Donghyuck’s parents were looking for a babysitter, and Johnny’s name came up, he’s apprehensive to say the least.

“Isn’t he like, sixteen or something?” Yuta blinks at him from across the table of takeout they’re in the middle of demolishing, when Johnny first tells him about it.

“Nearly seventeen,” Johnny corrects, as though that makes the situation less weird, which it doesn’t, “But he’s a real piece of work, apparently.”

Based on the little he knows about Donghyuck, his parents don’t seem entirely unreasonable in fearing the worst of five hours with no supervision.

“Are you gonna do it?” Yuta asks, and Johnny can sense the barely-concealed hope in his voice. There’s nothing his roommate would love more than Johnny disappearing for one night a week so he can fuck his dates without some kind of convoluted pre-arranged sex rota between the two of them.

“It’s like twenty bucks an hour, y’know.” Johnny sighs. He could really use the money, and the drive home is only forty five minutes. Even if it means putting up with the devil child every Wednesday night.

Yuta shoves another dumpling into his mouth and leans across the table, clearly gearing up to tempt him, “Think of all the records you could buy.”

Which is true. That’s a lot of records. Johnny loves records.

“Fucking fine,” He replies, already regretting his decision, “I’ll do it.”

***

The Lee house looks basically the same as it did the last time Johnny was here, although it has to have been nearly two years. Donghyuck’s mom shepherds him in immediately, rattling off about where the fuse box is and how to use the epipen if by some miracle Donghyuck comes into contact with a bee, and Johnny starts to feel like he’s being prepped for a disaster scenario. At the end of her spiel she squeezes his arm and gives him a warm smile, telling him to call if he needs anything and promising that they’ll be back around midnight.

The front door shuts just as Johnny tentatively enters the living room, and all of a sudden it feels overwhelmingly like he’s being led to his death.

Donghyuck is on the couch. Not doing anything especially cruel or devious, just kind of lying there, holding his phone above his face. He looks sort of bored, actually.

“Hey, I’m Johnny.” He introduces himself, which is stupid, because he’s taken shits in their bathroom before, but he doesn’t know how else to announce his presence.

Donghyuck’s face scrunches up in confusion and he finally tears his eyes away from the screen for long enough to look Johnny up and down, “Dude, I know who you are.”

“Uh, yeah.” Johnny replies, although it hadn’t been a question. He glances at his watch, just past seven - he wonders how much of the next couple of hours will be silence, since Donghyuck looks like he could currently not give less of a shit about Johnny’s existence.

He resolves to make dinner. Make is a strong word, what he really does is take a pot of stew out of the refrigerator and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get the stove to work, it’s one of those stupid fucking electric ones that makes angry beeping noises if he breathes at it the wrong way. Eventually it works though, and he hesitates in front of the kitchen table. Are they supposed to like, eat together? Along with the instructions to heat up the stew, Donghyuck’s mom had made it clear that could be his dinner too, but trying to get Donghyuck to budge from the couch might be a herculean task.

Whatever, he decides, setting the table. He was raised to have manners. Donghyuck comes in just as he’s finished, dragging his feet. He looks painfully teenage, jeans a little too big, shaggy hair his mom has probably begged him to cut, shorter than Johnny by a decent amount.

“Smells good.” He observes half-heartedly as he’s sitting down. He doesn’t seem particularly remorseful about not having helped.

“Yeah, your mom made it. I wouldn’t trust me to cook either.” Johnny tries to keep it friendly. It’s true, actually, Yuta has experienced Johnny’s cooking and somehow lived to tell the tale.

Donghyuck grunts in a way that might be vaguely close to amusement, but doesn’t reply. They eat in only mildly awkward silence, and Johnny tries to cast his mind back to when he was seventeen. Was he this unsociable? Christ, he hopes not. He makes a mental note to apologise to his parents.

Eventually, he tries his luck, “Do you have a bedtime or something?”

Oh. This is obviously not the right thing to say. Donghyuck makes eye contact with him for maybe the second time that entire evening, scowling. His face is so round in the grimace.

“A bedtime?” He echoes back, as if to make Johnny relive the stupidity of the question.

Johnny clears his throat, “Isn’t it like, a school night?”

Donghyuck huffs and goes to rest his elbows on the table, chin in the palm of his hand, “I don’t know man, is it a school night for you?” He asks condescendingly. And yeah, Johnny definitely hopes he was never this much of a dick.

“That’s different,” Johnny says, “I’m in college.”

He’s got four years on the kid, how hard is it to show a little respect?

How is that different?” Donghyuck protests, voice high and whiny.

“I’m an adult.” Johnny says definitively. Nevermind that he spent the majority of last night blind drunk, trying to prove to Taeyong that he could put every pair of underwear he owns on at the same time. Donghyuck doesn’t have to know that.

Donghyuck rolls his eyes, “You couldn’t turn our stove on.”

Fuck, he apparently overheard Johnny’s battle with the machine. That can’t be good for establishing dominance.

“Yeah well, I’m still more of a grown-up than you.” He retorts, which is weak, but he makes up for it by trying to sound assertive, “Help me clear the table.”

Donghyuck huffs and rolls his eyes again, but helps nevertheless. He sticks things in the dishwasher loudly, and the plates clatter together, but Johnny doesn’t bother picking a fight over it.

The second Johnny is done wiping the kitchen counter, Donghyuck disappears up the stairs, bedroom door shutting noisily behind him. Johnny would think it was aggressive, if it didn’t roughly match up with every other action Donghyuck has taken so far - all a little too harsh, a little too forced. He wants to be tough, so does every teenager. Donghyuck is about as intimidating as the average pubestache.

Johnny fills the hours idly, flicking through TV channels and opening every app on his phone in succession. He feels kind of like he’s ripping the Lee family off, does he really need to be paid to make a dent in the couch whilst Donghyuck is locked away in his bedroom? Did they expect him to entertain the kid? He envisions himself offering to hang out with Donghyuck, and it doesn’t look promising, on either of their parts.

At quarter to midnight, like some kind of corduroy-clad Cinderella, he goes to warn Donghyuck that his parents will be home soon and Johnny will be leaving after that. He knocks on the door hesitantly, only opening it after a muffled, and slightly disgruntled, invite.

Donghyuck’s bedroom smells like sweat and hormones. It’s dark, the blinds shut tight, mostly illuminated by the ridiculous PC setup Donghyuck is sitting hunched in front of. He doesn’t even turn around when Johnny comes in.

“I’ll see you next week.” He says, trying to keep his voice light, although he’s dreading the prospect a little.

“Yeah.” Donghyuck replies vaguely, and Johnny wonders if he’d even registered what Johnny said.

When Donghyuck’s parents get home, two minutes before midnight, they thank him profusely, and he assures them that Donghyuck wasn’t too much trouble, that he’s happy to come again. Date night is becoming a regular thing for them, apparently.

On the drive home, even though he doesn’t believe in God, he sends out a little prayer that Yuta got laid tonight. At least then somebody is winning out of this arrangement.

***

Next Wednesday comes both arduously slowly and way too fucking soon.

The front door shuts and Johnny slowly goes into the living room, just like the first time round. Donghyuck is still sitting right there on the couch, only this time the TV is on, and some show is on too loud, a lot of people walking around in medieval getups and talking about their fathers. It takes him longer than he’s proud of to realise that Donghyuck is watching Game of Thrones, which Johnny has thankfully managed to avoid thus far in life.

Donghyuck juts his chin out in a nod when he sees Johnny, but doesn’t say anything, going straight back to the television.

This is when Johnny makes an executive decision - to change his approach.

“Budge up.” He says, tapping on a socked foot, as Donghyuck is currently sprawled across the entire length of the couch.

Donghyuck looks sort of taken aback, like he hadn’t expected Johnny to stay in the room, let alone try to engage in an activity with him. If he’s being honest, Johnny didn’t plan on it either. Donghyuck slowly tucks his knees into his chest, eyes glued on Johnny as he plonks down next to him, taking up a significant amount of room. Johnny’s limbs look kind of ridiculous next to Donghyuck’s relatively small form.

Game of Thrones, Johnny learns over the course of the next forty minutes, is shit.

“I don’t get it, why doesn’t Tyrion just tell Shae that Cersei wants to kill her instead of making her hate him?” He protests, interrupting Peter Dinklage’s monologue.

Donghyuck groans, “Because she wouldn’t go, ‘cause she’s not scared of Cersei!”

“That’s so dumb, Tyrion’s betting her life on the fact that breaking her heart is the only way to get her to leave King’s Landing.” Johnny gesticulates at the screen with the remote. Even though the show’s logic makes little to no sense, it gets Donghyuck talking to him, even if it is frustration at Johnny’s complaints. For some reason, he’s oddly pleased with himself.

They eat dinner while still watching - it actually makes for far more conversation than last week’s silent meal at the kitchen table. It appears that the only way to match Donghyuck’s bitching is with his own bitching. Sitting next to one another is still a little awkward, Johnny hyper-aware of how much space he takes up, but the talking is easier.

As he’s coming back from dumping their plates in the sink, Donghyuck looks up at him and squints, “You’re twenty-one, right?”

“I am.” Johnny replies hesitantly. He folds his arms, trying to figure out Donghyuck’s game - the kid may be getting easier, but he’s still a little shit.

"Can I have a beer?" He chances.

Johnny snorts back a laugh, “No.” Although he kind of admires Donghyuck’s boldness. He’s got balls, Johnny will give him that.

Donghyuck raises the flat of his palm up in rejection, looking away melodramatically, "Then I do not want your company."

“That’s too bad,” Johnny shoves Donghyuck’s legs to one side, gently enough that it’s basically a nudge for Donghyuck to move them himself, “You’re stuck with me.”

Donghyuck laughs, his gaze dips just a little, breaking eye contact, “No, you’re stuck with me.”

Johnny sits back down and watches the episode, in fact, he doesn’t think about what Donghyuck said until he’s behind the wheel later that night. It had been strangely self-deprecating, even if Donghyuck was still talking in that usual cocky drawl.

As he’s pulling into his parking space, he lets himself entertain the idea that the kid might not be that bad. Sort of annoying and needing to be taken down a couple of pegs, but kind of alright, actually.

***

Babysitting - a very loose word for what is essentially hanging out at the Lee house and heating up food - almost starts becoming something to look forward to. Johnny gets a free dinner, light years better than what he and Yuta manage most days, an extortionate amount of money given how low-effort the job is, and access to the approximately million streaming subscriptions they have.

Oh, and Donghyuck.

It feels kind of like he finally has the younger brother he always wanted, in that Donghyuck is irritating and sarcastic and moody for no reason, like every teenage boy on earth, but he doesn’t actually make for bad company.

One evening he’s sitting on the kitchen countertop, swinging his legs back and forth and watching Johnny try to figure out how to use the oven timer, when he asks, completely out of the blue, “What’s college like? Aside from the classes I mean.”

Johnny keeps fiddling with the appliance, “Uh, it’s pretty great, y’know. Easier to make friends than in high school.”

The truth is, Johnny’s always been pretty popular, even before college, but the answer feels like a vague kind of reassurance. He wonders how Donghyuck’s abrasiveness fares in a school environment; he's never really asked before. Donghyuck is kind of a smartass, toeing the line with obnoxiousness, it could go either way.

“You have a lot of friends?” Donghyuck asks, just as Johnny manages to set the timer to twenty minutes.

He straightens up and turns to Donghyuck, shrugs, “Some.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

Johnny doesn’t know what’s brought on this sudden line of questioning, he narrows his eyes, “I don’t.”

Donghyuck’s legs stop swinging, but the tone of his voice doesn’t change, “But you do like them? Girls, I mean.”

Johnny freezes, mostly out of surprise. He’s just never been asked that before. Sure, he doesn’t have a girlfriend this exact second, but he’s dated plenty of them.

“Um, yes?” He replies.

Donghyuck nods a couple of times, but Johnny can’t read his expression. “Cool.” He says, which tells Johnny nothing, really.

Donghyuck doesn’t mention college, or girls, or Johnny’s opinion on girls again for the rest of the night - everything else is completely normal. Donghyuck begs to watch one of the Fast & Furious movies over dinner, Johnny complains that he didn’t even know sequels went that high, Donghyuck calls him old.

Still, Johnny finds it lingering at the back of his mind. Had he been too dismissive, made out like him being straight was obvious? What if Donghyuck is going through a sexuality crisis of some kind and Johnny only made it worse? He tries to think back to if Donghyuck has ever mentioned a girl before, but honestly, Donghyuck doesn’t speak all that much about anybody he knows. He talks a lot, sure, but the kid is surprisingly cagey about his internal life

And yet when they speak, sometimes he catches glimpses of something - a tiny spark of trust. He can’t help but feel proud of it.

***

“Do you think your parents like you?” Donghyuck asks over dinner one night. They’ve reverted back to eating at the kitchen table, no longer needing the buffer of a television to make conversation flow.

Johnny blinks at him, that’s a loaded question, “What?”

“I mean,” Donghyuck puts down his fork and uses both hands for emphasis, “You know they love you, duh, ‘cause they have to, but if you weren’t their kid, what would they think of you?”

Johnny has never really considered his relationship with his parents like that - he hopes they would think he was decent, even if they weren’t related. He’s hardworking, and sociable, and helpful.

‘I think so,” He decides eventually, “Like, they raised me to be this person, right?”

Donghyuck looks down at his half-eaten lasagna, contemplating. He’s hard to read when he wants to be.

“Why are you asking?” Johnny prompts him.

He huffs in response, a low, frustrated sound. “I don’t know. I guess it’s just that a lot of the time, I feel like they wish I was different, y’know? They don’t hate me, they don’t wanna replace me with Mark or whatever, they just don’t... like me.”

Donghyuck has refused to meet his eyes, staring intently into his own lap. This moment is delicate, Johnny has to be careful.

“Hey,” He reaches over to rub Donghyuck’s shoulder, thumb making small, comforting circles, “Just because your parents are mad at you sometimes, or they don’t always get you, doesn’t mean they don’t like you. The people taking care of you aren’t just doing it ‘cause they have to.”

Maybe it’s stupid, but Johnny lists himself in that category - he does take care of Donghyuck, he realises. He looks out for him, he worries when he doesn’t eat much or is quiet all evening. It’s strange - only a couple of months ago Johnny was rolling his eyes at the mere mention of the kid, now he finds himself oddly protective, like he’s been personally tasked with keeping Donghyuck safe.

Donghyuck raises his eyebrows but still cracks a smile, “You don’t count, y’know. You get paid to watch me.”

“Nah, I get paid to heat up dinner and make sure the house doesn’t burn down, the rest is free.” Johnny squeezes his arm one final time before pulling away.

Donghyuck groans, cringing dramatically, “Don’t get all cheesy on me, dude.”

“This is what happens when you get old, see. It’s terrifying.” Johnny grins, relishing in Donghyuck’s embarrassment, how he squirms in his seat.

“Oh my actual god, you’re so embarrassing.”

***

It’s the little things that remind Johnny of the gap between them - four formative years that he existed and Donghyuck didn’t.

Their choice of TV, for one thing, although maybe that’s just a byproduct of Donghyuck being seventeen and thus, like a cosmic law, being required to have terrible taste. He insists that they watch The Vampire Diaries one evening (“No, you don’t get it, the fact that they all look thirty makes it infinitely better.”) but Johnny can’t stomach more than a couple of episodes before he wants to tear his eyes out

It’s a Saturday night, actually - Donghyuck’s parents are at a midnight screening of some 80s romcom, apparently having a weekly date night has really reignited their relationship, which - good for them. Weird that Johnny was somehow involved in that, but still.

The only show they can agree on to marathon is Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the second season, obviously, but Donghyuck doesn’t make it to 1AM before dozing off, which isn’t really a surprise given that the kid relies entirely on energy drinks to keep him awake most of the time. He ends up with his knees dangling off the arm of the couch and his head near Johnny’s thighs, throw cushion still in his arms, tucked under his chin.

Donghyuck looks less devious when he’s asleep, with the possibility of mocking Johnny removed. He’s snoring a little, mouth open dumbly, two front teeth slightly visible. Johnny knows that if they were in opposite positions, Donghyuck would stick something in his mouth just to fuck with him, but he can’t quite bring himself to. His hair is a mess as well, static from rubbing against the couch cushions, and it’s kind of cute, reminds Johnny of what Donghyuck looked like as a kid - when he was still a little asshole, but was also marginally shorter.

“Hng...” Donghyuck mumbles, because of course he talks in his sleep, even if it’s gibberish. When does he not.

“Hng?” Johnny echoes back to him, amused even if Donghyuck isn’t conscious enough to be in on the joke.

Donghyuck shifts a little, rolling to one side so his face is half-pressed into the couch. He exhales softly, arms tightening around the cushion. And then, so quietly Johnny thinks he must have imagined it -

“John.”

It’s light, barely there, cut off before the second syllable, but that’s his name. Donghyuck just whispered his name.

He frowns down at Donghyuck’s face. People say all kinds of random shit in their sleep, it’s not completely absurd for Donghyuck to recite a name he says so often - he’d also said hng, and that didn’t mean anything.

Johnny gives him a light shake and Donghyuck’s eyes flicker open almost immediately. He must not have been that deep in sleep.

“Johnny?” He asks, disorientated, probably wondering why Johnny’s face is upside down right now.

“That’s me,” Johnny laughs at his confusion, “I think it’s time for bed, kiddo.”

Donghyuck just kind of blinks up at him for a couple of seconds, still surprised at having been wrenched from his sleep like that.

“Um, yeah.” He manages eventually, sitting up. The back of his head looks ridiculous, wild hair flattened out. Johnny ruffles it on impulse, and that’s what wakes Donghyuck up properly, arm twisting back to slap Johnny’s hand away, not hard enough to hurt.

Just as Donghyuck reaches the door, he turns back to look at Johnny. He still seems a little hazy, eyes unfocused, and when he yawns, a sweater-covered hand comes up to muffle it.

“Night, John.” He forces through the yawn.

Johnny leans back into the couch, readjusting in all the freed up space, “Night, Hyuck.”

***

One night, the unbelievable happens - Donghyuck is completely quiet.

Johnny thinks it’s his imagination at first, because Donghyuck is moody a lot of the time, but that usually translates to twenty minutes of short, curt answers immediately followed by a prolonged rant the moment Johnny points out that something is up.

“Are you feeling okay?” He asks when they’re halfway through an episode of Arrested Development and Donghyuck hasn’t interrupted a single time yet. The prompt is usually all he needs to let out however he’s feeling, some indication that Johnny is willing to sit and listen to him.

“Yeah.” Donghyuck just shrugs, turning back to the television, and Johnny is left kind of dumbstruck.

All throughout dinner it’s like that, Donghyuck avoiding eye contact, Johnny scrambling to figure out if there’s any reason for this. Has he fucked up somehow? He doesn’t think he has, but he must have missed something, judging by how quickly Donghyuck loads his plate into the dishwasher and bolts out of the kitchen the second they’re done eating.

When Johnny follows him into the living room several minutes later, to find Donghyuck idly toying with the remote, flicking through channels on mute, he doesn’t take his normal seat on the couch. Instead he settles on the armchair; if Donghyuck is really pissed at him, maybe it’s better to keep his distance.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about something?” He asks hesitantly. He doesn’t want to push, but Donghyuck isn’t the type to give up his emotions freely, not when he’s always convinced he can deal with them by himself.

“What’s it like,” Donghyuck says eventually, sounding more hesitant than he ever has before, “Fucking girls?”

Johnny blinks at him. He had not expected that. The question is completely out of left field, he feels like he has to tread lightly, “I don’t really think that’s appropriate to talk about.”

Donghyuck rolls his eyes so forcefully it must hurt, “Come on, just answer the question. I’m not gonna tell on you.” He teases.

Johnny bites his lip - it feels wrong, to talk to the kid about sex, but at the same time he doesn’t think Donghyuck will let him get out of this that easily. He’s stubborn like that.

He exhales deeply, starts tugging at a loose thread on his jeans, “It’s good, y’know. I like it. Everyone likes it,” He pauses, quickly correcting himself, “Well, not everyone but… You know what I mean.”

The reply is garbled and unhelpful but Donghyuck nods along nevertheless.

“I don’t think I do,” He says eventually, looking at his shoelaces, “Not the fucking part, the girls part.”

Johnny’s not really all that surprised - he’s been quietly wondering about it ever since Donghyuck asked if he liked girls. It doesn’t make a difference in his mind, if Donghyuck is gay.

“That’s okay.” He shrugs, cracking a smile he hopes is reassuring, but Donghyuck’s expression remains solemn.

“Although I’ve never fucked anyone, so I guess I don’t even know if I like that.” Donghyuck continues, and suddenly it feels like the room is far too small and they are sitting far too close together.

“Uh.” Says Johnny. He is very quickly losing his grip on this conversation, spiralling into territory he has no idea how to navigate.

Donghyuck runs a hand through his hair, “I’ve never even been kissed before, is that sad or what.”

“It’s not sad, things happen differently for everyone. Just wait until you’re ready.” Johnny says quickly. This feels like too much power, like this kid is looking to him for guidance when Johnny barely has any idea of how to steer his own life.

“I am ready.” Donghyuck laughs bitterly, but Johnny doesn’t see anything funny about the situation.

He doesn’t reply, doesn’t trust himself to. Seconds pass, first ten, then twenty, and neither of them move. And then, very slowly, like he’s trying not to scare off an animal, Donghyuck crosses over to him. For a horrifying moment Johnny thinks he’s about to set up camp in his lap, but instead he just stands above him, caging him in, and for the first time around Donghyuck, Johnny feels small.

“Could you kiss me?”

And there it is. Said aloud and tangible, as real as the both of them and the house they’re in.

Johnny swallows hard. He hasn’t even done anything, doesn’t even want this, and he still feels shameful and disgusting, like this is somehow his fault. He wonders if it is.

Was the teasing too far? Did it seem like flirting from where Donghyuck was sitting, did he read Johnny’s affection as attraction?

“Donghyuck, I - I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t trying to.” The sentences each collapse under their own weights, Johnny trying to explain away something he doesn’t even understand.

Donghyuck’s brows furrow in confusion, like he can’t quite believe the rejection.

“Why not?” His voice hitches a little, words fast with desperation, “I’m not a girl, but it’ll be the same if you close your eyes.”

He’s bartering, of course he is, that’s what Donghyuck does. He tries to get what he wants.

“You’re a kid, Donghyuck.” Johnny says softly, feeling more disgusted by the second - by the situation, by himself, he doesn’t even know. Above him, Donghyuck is shrinking, confidence disappearing.

“I don’t feel like a kid,” Donghyuck says, but his voice cracks, betraying him, “I’m mature for my age.”

Everybody thinks that when they’re seventeen. Johnny’s heart feels like it’s made of lead.

Donghyuck’s face is flushed and screwed up with emotion, eyes dark. He really believed that Johnny would kiss him, Johnny realises. This fucking kid, this child, that has done nothing but hide behind sarcasm and teasing and bitchiness, has just placed all of his sincerity at Johnny’s feet. Nothing but pure hope and trust that Johnny wouldn’t stomp on it.

Because Johnny made him think he could.

But isn’t that what he’s doing right now, he thinks, as one by one, tears squeeze past Donghyuck’s eyelashes and down his face - stomping on it?

He feels useless, helpless, watching Donghyuck’s expression collapse, shoulders starting to jerk violently up and down. Johnny stands up and envelops him into a hug, maybe it’s the wrong move but it’s also the only one he can fathom right now. Donghyuck’s arms cling around his waist, so tight it kind of hurts to breathe, and he buries his face in Johnny’s chest. The sobs are muffled but still audible, and each one is like a punch to the gut.

“It just wouldn’t be okay for me to do that to you.” Johnny manages to say. He cares about Donghyuck, he wants to protect him and loves him like a little brother. And right now, that means crushing him.

Donghyuck hiccups softly, and when he speaks, his voice is weak and detached.

“But I like you more than anyone.”

Johnny can only close his eyes when Donghyuck looks up at him, he can’t take it. Maybe that makes him a coward, but so be it - Donghyuck is staring up at him like he trusts Johnny more than anybody else in the entire world, like he’s offering himself up. The fact that Johnny could have him is like a punch of self-loathing, even though he doesn’t want it.

“I know,” He whispers, “I’m sorry.”

***

Johnny does not see much of Donghyuck after that night.

It’s not that he stops coming - he goes to the Lee house religiously every Wednesday evening, between seven and twelve, just like he always has, but nothing is the same anymore.

Donghyuck is in his bedroom when Johnny arrives, and that’s where he stays until Johnny leaves.

“Dinner’s ready.” Johnny tells him from behind the door, cracked open just enough that Donghyuck will be able to hear him.

“I’ll have it in here.” Donghyuck replies, voice completely neutral and unassuming, but Johnny recognises it as a demand, not a suggestion. So Donghyuck eats in his bedroom and Johnny eats in front of the TV and they don’t cross paths in the kitchen because Donghyuck waits an hour before loading his plate into the dishwasher.

Johnny doesn’t fight it - he gives him space and keeps to the first floor of the house. It’s the least he can do, after screwing the kid up like that, but just knowing that Donghyuck is sitting in his room a couple of feet above him makes him feel dirty.

Donghyuck doesn’t seem particularly sad or angry or betrayed the times they are forced to interact, but he doesn’t act like he normally would either. There’s no teasing, no jokes at Johnny’s expense, no ranting about whoever pissed him off that day, he’s just… not there. Every question is met with a short, inoffensive answer, and he doesn’t ask any of his own. He’s entirely closed up.

His parents don’t notice the change, or if they do, they don’t mention it to Johnny. They’re as friendly and approachable as always, and Johnny constantly finds himself overcome with the intense need to confess to these nice people that he’s done something terrible to their son, even if he didn’t mean to.

Eventually he does the inevitable thing; he just quits.

It’s his schedule, that’s what he tells them - his Friday mornings got switched to Wednesday nights and he won’t be able to make it on time from class. They’re disappointed, but don’t question it - they have no reason to believe it’s a lie.

On his last night he goes up to Donghyuck’s room and knocks gently on the door. Donghyuck tells him to come in.

“I’m not going to be coming over anymore,” He explains to the back of Donghyuck’s chair, the back of his head, “I just think it’s for the best if you get some space from me.”

It’s such an oddly formal goodbye, feels unnatural coming out of his mouth, but he knows it has to be done. He needs to cut this problem off at the root, which just so happens to be himself.

“Okay.” Donghyuck says, still facing away. Johnny detects nothing in his voice. Absolutely nothing.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t like, tell your folks. About anything.” He hurries, fidgeting with the sleeves of his sweatshirt.

Donghyuck is silent for a few beats and then repeats, with the exact same tone, “Okay.”

So Johnny goes downstairs again, and when the time comes he gets into his car and turns on the engine and drives away. He decides to seal up this chapter of his life behind a wall in the back of his mind, and that’s where he puts Donghyuck, too.

***

The next three years of Johnny’s life are decidedly normal; he graduates, lucks out and gets a job at the bottom rung of the career ladder at a music studio. He has a girlfriend for two of them, and then he stops having a girlfriend, because, to quote - he’s a workaholic with commitment issues.

He and Yuta keep living together, but the new apartment is marginally bigger and nicer, they christen it by taking turns puking into the new toilet the morning after their housewarming party. He still lives close enough to visit his parents a couple of times a month for dinner, but in a nicer car, the ride is less bumpy.

Life is life. It’s fine.

He doesn’t think about Donghyuck often, much less talk about him. He considers telling his girlfriend once, whilst they’re still together, as a token that he’s trying to open up, but he doesn’t even know how to begin to format it.

There was a kid once, and Johnny let him get the wrong idea. That’s all there is to it.

They break up before Johnny can confess this.

He knows vaguely how Donghyuck has progressed - snippets from his parents the way he gets updated on everybody in their neighbourhood. Donghyuck is in college, majoring in computer science, because he’s good with logic and coding like that. He’s got friends, he seems happy, no indication that Johnny caused any long-lasting damage.

Straightened up his act. That’s the phrasing his mother uses to say that Donghyuck is different now, although Johnny doesn’t know what it actually specifies. He thought Donghyuck was fine how he was.

The Friday night his dad's 60th birthday rolls around, Johnny finds himself driving home with a bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers in the passenger's seat, fingers digging a little too hard into the steering wheel. Dinner parties mean guests and smalltalk and explaining to boomers what his job is and frankly, all of that fills him with dread.

It's strange, seeing all of these faces he vaguely remembers from garage sales and piano recitals, but hasn't thought about in years, milling around in his living room. He stumbles over names and his mom has to swoop in to save him from a couple of awkward encounters, but he eventually ends up on the patio, crammed into a wicker chair, nursing a glass of wine, when the sliding glass door opens.

He sees Donghyuck a split second before Donghyuck sees him - he’s thankful for this, it gives him the barest moment to take in the situation before eye contact is sprung onto him.

He looks the same, even though he’s objectively different. He looks like Donghyuck.

His hair has changed for one thing, it’s shorter and a couple of shades lighter, no more stupid overgrown bangs because there’s no more hormonal acne to hide. His clothes fit him better too, like he’s finally made it past an awkward lanky phase. There are vague attempts at accessorizing as well, a necklace, a couple of rings; Johnny thinks he can even spot a piercing on his helix.

His face is sort of surreal looking - like Johnny had this image in his mind of what Donghyuck looked like, and this is that person, but also isn’t. The baby fat has drained from it, and now his bone structure is actually visible. It’s odd, because in spite of being more angular, it looks somehow softer than it did three years ago, no more hard lines of frustration, tensed up from scowling.

That's the moment Donghyuck turns ever so slightly, and their eyes catch. Something flashes in them, a moment of confusion, as if Donghyuck is trying to figure out if Johnny is real. And then, a spark of recognition, and his face shifts, settling into something self-assured, like he'd expected Johnny to be sitting here, on the other side of the patio, after three years of radio silence.

Donghyuck crosses over to him slowly, feet trailing, the sort of thing that looked disinterested and moody when he was a kid, now actually makes him seem cool. Johnny stands up to greet him - he doesn't know what else to do.

"Hey," Donghyuck says - is his voice deeper now? Or just more confident?

Johnny swallows around nothing, his mouth is so dry.

"Hey." He echoes back.

A couple of beats of silence pass, just the sounds of people milling about inside, somebody laughing too loudly, but between the two of them, nothing. Johnny trawls through his brain for something to say, but it's blank, wiped entirely clean.

Donghyuck laughs, vaguely uncomfortable, "Time flies, huh?"

"It sure does." He replies, shifting between his feet, trying his best to keep his knees from buckling right there. It's like whiplash, the shock of seeing Donghyuck again, all at once. He hasn't even seen a picture of him in the last three years, he realises, no indication that he could look so much more adult.

Donghyuck smiles warmly, and Johnny can't tell if he's really that much less awkward or just better at covering it up, "What's it like being a real life grown-up then?"

What does Donghyuck expect from him now? How has Johnny's life even evolved, beyond the obvious? Suddenly he feels oddly stagnant.

"It's okay. Fun. Boring. What you'd expect it to be," He says, "How's college treating you?"

"The same." Donghyuck shrugs.

They fall quiet again, nothing but the sound of cicadas in the distance. It's strange, Johnny thinks, that there was a time conversation flowed so naturally between them, hours could pass by as they were shooting the shit, and Johnny wouldn't even notice until Donghyuck's parents got home. Now, they can exchange what, thirty words before running dry? Maybe for the first time in three years Johnny realises how much he's actually missed Donghyuck. They had been friends. Johnny had never thought about it like that before, too focused on how sour it had all turned, but before that, Donghyuck was his friend.

Behind him, the sliding glass door opens and his mom's head sticks out, asking Johnny to help with bringing out the food, and he follows quietly, not saying anything else. Donghyuck nods and shoots him a little smile, and then Johnny is back in the warm light of his living room, people perched on armchairs, chatting to one another.

He and Donghyuck don't speak for the rest of the evening, seated far away from one another, but despite Johnny's best efforts, their eyes still end up meeting several times. He tells the same reliable story about getting locked in a sound booth three separate times, asks about nephews and nieces, passes dishes down the table when he's asked, and watches the clock like a hawk. He keeps on expecting every eye in the room to turn to him, start asking questions about what happened between him and Donghyuck, but nobody does. Of course they don't. Nobody even knows, but the paranoia remains nonetheless.

At eleven thirty, he's about to make a run for it, having passed off some excuse about how he actually has work on Saturdays (none of these people know how recording studios work, he's sure), nearly at the front door, home free, when a hand clamps down on his shoulder from behind.

"Can we go somewhere and talk?" Donghyuck asks him, before Johnny's even fully turned around, "I mean, actually talk."

He should've known it was coming, really. It was naive to think he could get away without ever having to confront the obvious. He looks down at the car keys in his hand, around at the empty hallway, nobody but the two of them. They can't talk here, and his apartment is certainly off limits.

"Okay," He clears his throat, working up as much courage as possible, “But I don't know what's still open tonight.”

***

They both order Americanos - Johnny gets decaf, Donghyuck does not.

The diner’s fluorescent lighting kind of hurts his eyes, painfully bright compared to the darkened roads and broken street lamps, and everything feels more real in the starkness. Donghyuck had felt like a vision all night, a ghost floating around the house in dimmer corners, but now he’s sitting across from Johnny, unmistakably there.

“I would’ve gotten all dressed up if you’d told me we were going to a nice place like this.” He says, a smirk playing on the corners of his mouth. Maybe he’s right, the place is a little on the greasy side, smelling of old oil and dust lining the tops of the napkin dispensers, but it’s empty. There are only two other patrons, each sitting alone, filling out crossword puzzles or with headphones plugged in. For some reason, Johnny is afraid of being seen together, like any stranger could figure out why things are the way they are.

“Tell me you haven’t been to worse.” He shoots back. This probably isn’t even the grossest place Donghyuck has been this week alone.

Donghyuck raises his eyebrows and smiles, for real this time, “You got me there.”

Their Americanos come. The waitress asks if they want creamer, and they both say no at the same time. Johnny watches Donghyuck wipe a cloudy metal teaspoon against the hem of his t-shirt and stir in two whole packs of Splenda. He comments that it’s a lot, Donghyuck laughs. The waitress comes back again to ask if they want anything else and they don’t, so she leaves, and nobody talks.

It’s tense.

Not hostile - just tense. A lot of things that they should be saying, and aren’t. Neither of them attempt to crack a joke to fill the silence, just observe it with a kind of holy sincerity.

Donghyuck is the first person to speak, which is good, because Johnny doesn’t even know if he’d be capable of it. It makes him feel strangely incompetent, the way he’s relying on Donghyuck to force it out of him, unable to make his mouth move on its own.

“I was an asshole when I was a kid,” He says matter-of-factly, like he’s reading a newspaper headline, “I think I still am, a little bit.”

It’s odd, the way the protectiveness rushes back to him, even though it’s been years, even though Donghyuck doesn’t need it anymore. Maybe it’s like riding a bike, it’ll stay baked into his nature forever.

“You’re complicated, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Johnny says softly. He doesn’t lie, tell him that he was an angel, because Donghyuck is too smart for that. But this is the truth.

Donghyuck clicks his tongue and tilts his head to one side, “Assholes can be complicated. Not mutually exclusive.” he reasons.

This whole time, he’s been dragging his finger across the table, tracing little lines in the remnants of spilt salt and sugar absentmindedly. Johnny watches his own hand come up to still it, Donghyuck’s knuckles under his fingertips. He hadn’t meant to do that. He hadn't even realised his arm was moving.

“You’re not an asshole.” He means it. Maybe time has passed, they’re close to strangers now, but for some reason he believes it like a fact of life.

Donghyuck is looking down at their hands, but he doesn’t retract his own. Johnny doesn’t either, and they just lay there, limp across the table.

“You can tell me the truth now, y’know. Were you just putting up with me? ‘Cause you had to?” Donghyuck asks, and Johnny can hear the forced impassivity in his voice.

Johnny thinks back to those first few weeks of the job, when he’d resigned Donghyuck to ‘annoying, but not that bad sometimes’ - and then he thinks about later on, how hurting him had broken Johnny too.

“When I said I cared about you,” He remembers that conversation clear as day, “I meant it.”

“Then why did you leave me?” Donghyuck’s answer is quick and sharp, like a switchblade, a question he’s been holding back for years. His voice is louder than anything else they’ve said so far, slicing through the stale air. He fixes Johnny with his gaze, hard and defensive, even his hand feels tighter; but beneath it all, hurt. It sounds like betrayal. The same way it had that night.

Johnny doesn’t look away, doesn’t close his eyes. This time he forces himself to look at Donghyuck and take in the stare, “What was I supposed to do?” He asks.

Because that’s the thing, right? There was nothing he could do, there was no right way to navigate out of that situation, once they had shipwrecked themselves there. It had been doomed to implode the way it did. Donghyuck seems to realise the same, something like defeat in his eyes.

“I don’t know.” He says quietly. Because there is no answer.

They fall silent again, and when the waitress brings the cheque Johnny puts down a couple of bills and stands up wordlessly, Donghyuck’s eyes stick on him the entire time.

“Do you need a ride home?” He asks. He drove them both here and doesn’t plan on leaving Donghyuck stranded.

But Donghyuck just shakes his head, “I can get the train.”

Johnny hesitates, brain prompting him to ask again, it’s the least he can do, but somehow he knows that Donghyuck isn’t going to let up.

“Goodnight then.” His nails dig into the palms of his hands, an anxious habit he’s never learnt to shake. When he turns to leave, Donghyuck still hasn’t replied. He leaves the diner in resounding silence, no goodbye, nothing. Why did he have to agree to come here? Why are they picking at old scabs, ones he thought had healed over?

That night, just as Johnny is spitting out a mouthful of toothpaste, his phone buzzes. It’s an unknown number, but it may as well not be, the answer is so obvious.

got your number from my mom

Johnny stares at the notification in the middle of his lockscreen, obscuring the photo of him and Taeyong doing a love shot. He flicks the screen open, but doesn’t tap his messages app, just locks it again, wills it to disappear from his mind.

He flosses for longer than necessary, waiting for the time on his phone to change. Is two minutes enough? He waits for an extra to pass, just in case.

You could’ve asked me.

It’s stupid, the way he obsesses over the semantics of it - deleting the period and then putting it back, staring at the unsent message for an obscenely long time. Eventually he just taps the little send button and slams his phone back down. Donghyuck apparently does not believe in waiting for a minute to reply, the texts appearing immediately, in quick succession.

you wouldn’t have given it to me

can we see each other again

?

Johnny doesn’t reply at once - he doesn’t reply at all, actually. He nearly deletes the entire conversation, that’s what he should do, he knows, but he can’t bring himself to. It just sits there, the little red circle in the corner of his messages app, taunting him.

When Johnny goes to sleep that night, it’s deep and overpowering. His body feels like it weighs a thousand tons, pinned to the mattress beneath his comforter. He doesn’t dream either, and is grateful for it - he sees his subconscious and what it wants. He has to run as far as possible in the other direction.

***

Coffee?

Johnny regrets the message before he’s even sent it, but he does anyway, dropping his phone onto the other pillow and rolling back over. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, upsetting the delicate balance of his life by inviting Donghyuck back into it. But this isn’t the kid he knew years ago, this is another person, someone that makes Johnny’s stomach tighten up and his mind jittery with anxiety.

Over the course of the morning, and a series of texts, all curt and to the point, they eventually settle on a coffee shop halfway between Johnny’s apartment and Donghyuck’s college campus. That’s where Johnny finds himself, perched at a high table, trying to go slow with his espresso and keep from glancing at the door every fifteen seconds. Both tasks prove to be equally difficult. He should leave. He should stand Donghyuck up and block his number and try to turn back to forty eight hours ago when things were normal.

Donghyuck gets there five minutes late, but Johnny is too embarrassed to explain he was fifteen minutes early, so just waves off the apology.

The conversation takes a bit to get going, awkward in the painful light of day. Donghyuck’s never been here before, Johnny only twice. Beats of silence. Johnny drove, Donghyuck took the bus. More silence.

Johnny wishes they had the haze of alcohol to make things flow a little easier, so he would sit up less straight and clear his head - until he remembers that Donghyuck isn’t even fucking old enough to get into a bar. He’s going to hell.

“How long did you like me for?” Johnny asks eventually, nearly half an hour in, once they’ve skirted around the smalltalk until it’s been completely exhausted.

Donghyuck snorts out a small laugh, taking a sip of his coffee, “From the start, basically. A little after we met, I mean, when we really met.”

Johnny nods, biting his lip, “And for how long after?” He asks tentatively, by which he means after I crushed you.

He doesn't know what he wants Donghyuck to tell him - that he got over it in a week, that by the time his senior year rolled around Donghyuck would have laughed at the idea that he could have ever harbored a crush on Johnny.

“I still like you.” Donghyuck shrugs, like he’s completely resigned to the fact, and Johnny’s heart sinks. Three years. Three years too long.

“You don’t know me anymore, Hyuck.” He says softly, but the nickname feels stilted coming out of his mouth, out of practice. How can Donghyuck still like him, when so much time has passed? They’re both different people now.

Donghyuck’s expression hardens ever so slightly, like he’s coming up on the defensive, “So what’s happening right now? Does this look like two people who don’t know each other to you?” He gestures at the space between them.

His logic is flawed, immature, but Johnny still bites, voice lowering like he’s afraid of being overheard, “I don’t know what this is, and something tells me if I think about it for too long I might not like the answer.”

“Why are you acting like it’s such a bad thing?” Donghyuck laughs bitterly, almost in disbelief.

“Because you were a kid!” He manages to splutter out, “Anything that happened, that I did, to make you like me, shouldn’t have happened.”

Donghyuck rolls his eyes, “You didn’t do anything, stop blaming yourself for my crush. It’s normal, it happens all the time.”

And maybe he’s right - Johnny had crushes on music teachers and friends of his mom’s when he was a teenager, but they’d always been so hypothetical, firmly within the realm of fantasy; he’d never told them, let alone try to kiss one.

“But if you still feel that way, it would still be taking advantage of you.” He sighs.

“Well unless you plan on fucking me it doesn’t matter, does it?” Donghyuck argues, voice sharp.

Johnny blinks at him. He hadn’t even realised he was implying that. Why is he so concerned about taking advantage of Donghyuck, if he doesn’t want it?

Because he does. Because as much as he hates himself for it, he can’t help but feel as though he’s seeing Donghyuck again for the first time, this brand new person.

He feels disorientated, with the way Donghyuck’s eyes stay on him, gaze heavy and loaded. Everything about him is like that, so intense, impossible to ignore, it makes Johnny want to squirm.

“I guess not.” He says.

***

Three whole weeks pass, and they dance around the issue like it doesn't exist, when it so obviously does.

It's like kismet, the way every couple of days, one of them is drawn into texting the other, and they plan to meet up for an hour, and that hour turns into six. Donghyuck tells Johnny about college, how statistics is kicking his ass but everything in algebra makes perfect sense to him, and as he explains it all Johnny realises just how smart the kid is for the first time. He talks about his roommates and how they'd hated each other's guts for most of the first semester, but by the time Christmas had rolled around they could practically communicate without even opening their mouths. He talks about parties after football matches and dorm rooms getting trashed and living off of pizza and pot brownies, and normally Johnny wouldn't care about these stupid college stories, but everything Donghyuck says is interesting for him.

He returns the favour as well - he tells Donghyuck about sadistic bosses and landlords, how disposable income means wasting it all on records for his collection, a girl from his high school class who just had her first baby meanwhile he and Yuta still run out of toilet paper every other month and don't realise until the worst possible moment. They trade stories like that, and Johnny catches up on the three years he spent pretending Donghyuck didn't exist.

The night Yuta flies home to visit his family is the same night Donghyuck comes to his apartment for the first time.

Johnny hadn’t planned it like that, for them to be alone, it had mostly been a coincidence born of trying to maneuver around a busy schedule, but he trips over his words trying to explain this to Donghyuck, standing in his doorway, hands in his pockets.

“Dude, your place is like, exactly how I thought it would look.” Donghyuck says as he slumps down on the couch, glancing around the living room at the vague attempts at decorating, framed posters and half-dead plants, his record table in one corner. There are only so many ways a broke twenty-something’s apartment can look, after all.

“Yeah, sorry for the, uh.” He gestures vaguely around at the mess. It’s not even that bad, Donghyuck’s own dorm room is probably worse, but for some reason he’s self-conscious about the state of the place.

“So do you want something to drink?” He asks, hovering in the open doorway to the kitchen - he feels like he has to be doing something, making himself useful, rather than just standing here with his hands in his pockets.

Donghyuck shrugs, “Beer?”

Johnny can feel eyes boring into him like lasers the entire time he’s fishing two beers out of the refrigerator, an intense awareness of the tension between them. It’s been bubbling up just beneath the surface, every exchange so impossibly loaded, but they haven’t actually acknowledged it since that afternoon in the coffee shop together. When he turns back around, Donghyuck is indeed watching him, eyes alert.

“You’re still too young to drink.” Johnny observes, but he hands him the beer anyway.

“I’m afraid that ship has already sailed.” Donghyuck easily pops off the bottle cap and takes a sip. He leans back, spreads his legs a little, and if he’s anxious it isn’t showing - nothing like how Johnny feels right now. He wishes he’d picked something stronger.

He’s never seen Donghyuck like this before, on his home turf, amongst all his things. He looks out of place on Johnny’s cracked leather couch, and every time Johnny looks away for a moment, he expects him to vanish.

“I can’t do anything with you, even now.” He blurts out, completely unplanned, breaking the stillness of the room.

“Is it because you don’t want to? Or because you won’t let yourself?” The line of Donghyuck’s jaw is hard.

“We just can’t.” He protests weakly, but he knows it’s a lost cause. Why else would Donghyuck be on his couch, drinking his beer, in his life - if Johnny didn’t want him? He looks so confident, full of answers where Johnny comes up empty-handed.

Donghyuck stands up then, beer abandoned on the coffee table, and crosses over to him. Despite Johnny’s larger frame, Donghyuck manages to box him in, so impossibly close, enough so that with every shaky breath he lets out, Donghyuck’s hair flutters.

“I wanted you to be the one to take my virginity back then,” Donghyuck says, and Johnny can feel his breath, hot against his ear, “But I’m not a virgin anymore.”

This can’t be real life. “You’re not?” Johnny asks, clinging to his words. He feels like clay in Donghyuck’s hands, being weighed up.

Donghyuck laughs softly, “Not by a long shot.”

A hand comes up to cup the side of Johnny’s face, the cool, metallic press of rings on his cheek. He looks down at Donghyuck’s face, this face which he knows, but doesn’t know, because Johnny isn’t sure if he knows anything anymore. It’s so pretty. No one could blame him for melting like this, not when that face was engineered to make him so weak.

“Could you kiss me?” Johnny asks, and he doesn’t even register it, all he feels is Donghyuck’s lips coming up slowly and planting the smallest kiss against his own. It’s so harmless. It tastes nothing like guilt, the horror he’d been preparing himself for.

He finds himself leaning forward into the kiss, chasing after it, and he can swear he feels Donghyuck smile at his desperation. Their lips have barely parted for a split second before Johnny is pushing back again, deeper this time. Donghyuck’s arms wrap loosely around his neck, tugging his face down, and Johnny goes willingly.

Eventually Donghyuck pulls away, but keeps their faces close together.

“Look at that,” He says, widening his eyes slightly, “No cops.”

It breaks the moment completely, Johnny rolling his eyes with fondness and trying to refrain from laughing, “God, you really are a little shit.”

Donghyuck’s tongue flicks over his canines, clearly biting back a self-satisfied grin, “That’s how you like me.”

Johnny lets himself be kissed again and again, properly now, with Donghyuck’s tongue sliding into his mouth, breaking some invisible barrier, but it’s all so gentle. Donghyuck moves slowly, no sudden movements, and maybe it’s for the best. He keeps waiting for the moment reality will slap him in the face, but it never comes. Donghyuck pulls him forward, laying back on the couch, and Johnny goes with him.

Johnny has never made out with a man before, and it takes some getting used to. Every time his hands run down Donghyuck’s body, he keeps expecting soft curves that slope outwards, long hair for his fingers to tangle in, and is only met with the sharp outline of bones and muscle. It’s unfamiliar, but it’s good.

Donghyuck takes the lead, and Johnny is thankful for it, his hands seem oversized and clumsy, grasping unceremoniously at Donghyuck to feel him as much as possible. A hand finds its way to his ass, feeling it through his jeans, and Johnny sort of wants to laugh. Nobody has ever grabbed at his ass like this before, not seriously.

This is a day of firsts.

Donghyuck pulls his shirt off for him, and Johnny hears it land somewhere on the other side of the room. He leans back to sit on his haunches, effectively straddling Donghyuck beneath him, and just looks down breathlessly. It’s almost overwhelming, he doesn’t know what to do with himself.

His breaths only grow more shallow as Donghyuck reaches up to trace a hand down Johnny’s chest, achingly slow, like he’s trying to take in what he’s seeing.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Johnny asks quietly, constantly in need of reassurance. Donghyuck may be younger, but Johnny feels inexperienced, all of this territory so new to him.

“I’m sure,” Donghyuck replies, fingers still trailing on Johnny’s skin, mouth open slightly, and fuck, he looks perfect, “Want you so bad, Johnny.”

Johnny’s hands feel like they’re not attached to him, shaking slightly as he fumbles with Donghyuck’s belt. Once it’s unbuckled Donghyuck lifts his hips slightly so that Johnny can tug his jeans down to his mid thigh. He shifts down the couch, until his face is hovering above Donghyuck’s crotch. It’s daunting, looking down at the beginnings of a tent forming beneath tartan boxers, and then up at Donghyuck’s face again.

“You’ve never sucked a guy off before.” Donghyuck tells him, guessing correctly.

Johnny nods, biting his lip. He’s been on the receiving end plenty of times, just never thought he’d find himself in this position, having to actually talk himself through the logistics of it.

“If you don’t want to, I could -” Donghyuck starts, cut off with a gasp when Johnny cups a hand around his cock, palming at it through the fabric. Donghyuck is only just starting to get hard, but he’s still sensitive, and Johnny feels the outline twitch beneath his fingertips.

Above him, Donghyuck’s eyes are fluttering closed. Johnny wants this, he decides. He wants Donghyuck to fill up his mouth, fitting into that empty space. Completing him, in a way.

The boxers come down in one motion, and then Johnny is looking at another man’s dick, Donghyuck’s dick. It’s bigger than he’d expected, although he’s never seen one other than his own this up close before.

He wraps a tentative hand around the base, and Donghyuck makes a stifled sound. Johnny just decides to do what feels natural, licking long and flat stripes up with his tongue, silently willing for it to harden.

“Fuck, yeah, just keep, yeah.” Donghyuck stutters out, hips jerking forward involuntarily, and Johnny takes the encouragement, wetting his cock even more, until it’s flushed and hard against his tongue. Maybe it’s a little sloppy, ungainly, but he hopes his enthusiasm makes up for it. He just wants Donghyuck to see how much he’s trying, how much he wants to make him feel good.

He flicks his tongue over the cockhead, where a bead of precome has formed, and the taste is weakly bitter, but the animal noise Donghyuck lets out more than makes up for it. At some point his hands find their way into Johnny’s hair, winding through it for purchase.

Eventually Johnny realises that it’s time to take the plunge, and ever so slowly, he lowers his mouth down over the cock. It’s hot, that’s the first thing he notices. The second is just how much space it takes up, and he opens his jaw wider to accommodate it, inch by inch.

Beneath him, Donghyuck’s hips are shaking from tension, the effort of trying to keep from bucking up into his mouth. He’s muttering little praises and expletives of so fucking good, Johnny, and each one spurs him on to take him deeper.

He starts bobbing his head up and down, and the hands in his hair only tighten when he hollows his cheeks out and wet popping sounds escape with every movement.

It’s difficult, trying to keep from gagging whilst simultaneously remembering to use his tongue with the right amount of pressure, but Johnny likes it. He can feel himself starting to get hard, awkwardly groping at his own crotch, and Donghyuck is all he needs. The broken whines, the blush high on his cheekbones, mouth dropping open and sweat on his jawline.

Donghyuck coming completely undone for him.

“Mm, Johnny - I’m close,” Donghyuck mumbles, punctuated with a loud groan, and Johnny slides his mouth off of the cock, strings of saliva following. He instead uses his hand, keeping a steady rhythm, thumbing over Donghyuck’s tip to hear him mewl.

He looks so good like this, and Johnny finds his eyes being drawn to Donghyuck’s inner thigh - smooth, tanned skin, and something just comes over him. He has no idea what draws him in, but follows his instincts. He ducks his head down and bites.

A small nip, just wet teeth and tongue digging into the soft flesh, and that’s what Donghyuck needs, he cries out and his hips stutter forward.

Johnny works him through it, movements steady on his cock as he comes, translucent spurts that shoot right onto those smooth thighs, marked with red where a bruise will eventually form. They keep going until the last pitiful dribble, that runs down Johnny’s knuckles, hot and sticky.

He glances up again to see Donghyuck’s face, craned to look at him, eyes half-closed and blissed out, chest visibly heaving.

“Your fucking mouth.” Donghyuck groans, head falling back dramatically to expose the sharp lines of his neck and jaw, and Johnny laughs, slowly pulling his hand off of Donghyuck’s cock. He can’t help but feel oddly proud of himself, seeing the payoff of his efforts in the form of Donghyuck’s laboured breathing.

Donghyuck shoves himself up onto his elbows, trying to pull his boxers back on, an awkward feat given how Johnny is still mostly laying on top of his legs on the small couch. Johnny sits up too then, hissing a little at the readjustment.

“Let me,” Donghyuck says vaguely, clearly also noticing how hard Johnny has gotten, cock straining against denim. He gets off of the couch, legs still a little shaky, and in a matter of seconds he’s on his knees between Johnny’s legs, unzipping him with care.

He wastes no time once Johnny’s underwear is off, swirling his tongue around his slit, down the shaft, against his balls, and Johnny’s eyes probably roll back in his head. Donghyuck takes him in his mouth with confidence, until Johnny hits the back of his throat, Johnny scrambling to grab hold of something - the arm of the couch, Donghyuck’s hair, anything to keep himself from losing it completely.

He’s almost embarrassed, firstly by how amateurish he’d probably been in comparison to the experienced way Donghyuck takes him, secondly when he realises just how little time he’s going to last. He’s been grinding against the couch and his own fumbling palms for so long, and now with the tight heat of Donghyuck’s mouth around him, the end is clearly near.

Donghyuck’s slides off of him for just long enough to glance up, eyes dark, lips wet and seductive, and say, “You can come in my mouth.”

But it doesn’t even matter, the suggestion alone is enough, and Johnny is coming right there, onto Donghyuck’s half-open mouth and across his cheeks, dripping down his chin, and oh fuck.

Johnny sees white. His vision is all fuzz and static, nothing but DonghyuckDonghyuckDonghyuck racing through his brain, and he’s dying, he’s actually dying right here in his living room with his dick out.

When he comes to, Donghyuck is sitting back on his haunches, wiping at his face with the back of his hand.

“Sorry,” Johnny smiles sheepishly, carefully pulling his jeans back on. He can feel the blush creeping up his neck and onto his cheeks, “I didn’t mean to, uh.”

Donghyuck laughs and crawls back up Johnny’s lap, until they’re sitting face to face, Donghyuck practically straddling him. His expression is so open, like he’s dropped whatever barriers made him so indecipherable before, and now it’s just him.

“Don’t worry about it.” He says, pressing another kiss onto Johnny’s mouth, featherlight. He’s quiet for a moment, gnawing at his bottom lip, and Johnny tilts his face up a little.

“What is it?” He asks, the worry evident in Donghyuck’s expression.

He takes a deep breath, “I just need you to know - the way I like you now is so different from how it used to be. Before it was like, you were the only guy who had ever really noticed me, y’know? And you were older and hotter and I just… I thought you were so cool.”

He pauses for a moment, like he’s trying to find the right words to match up with how he’s feeling, before continuing.

“But now, it’s for real. Not some idealised version of you, not ‘cause I like the attention or because I want to feel more mature, just because of you. I just want you, Johnny.”

And with that, he presses his face into the crook of Johnny’s neck, nuzzled into the fabric of his shirt.

Johnny slowly cards a hand through Donghyuck’s hair, trying to take all of that in. Things are different now, aren’t they? And not just for Donghyuck - Johnny realises that he’s changed as well.

“Hyuck, look at me,” He nudges his lips against Donghyuck’s forehead, prompting him out of his hiding place, “I like you too. So fucking much.”

Donghyuck looks like something out of a dream, so beautiful it kind of makes Johnny’s heart hurt. He connects their lips again, tongue licking against the roof of Donghyuck’s mouth. He lets out a squeak of surprise before kissing him back, fingers finding the nape of Johnny’s neck.

This time, Johnny wants to tell him, things will be different. This time Johnny isn’t going to leave him.