It was strange, being part of an audience. Gyu-hyuk had got Do-yoon tickets for the Buried Stars season finale, and it was the first time Do-yoon had been in an auditorium since what they’d been through. He couldn’t help but feel on edge as the minutes stretched out waiting for things to start. It was as if his body were anticipating another collapse. Do-yoon tried to put the memories to one side, but it wasn’t easy. He knew too well what goes on backstage – he couldn’t even imagine Gyu-hyuk waiting in the dressing room without imagining finding Seil’s body there. Any imagined backstage became the building that had fallen down around them.
Do-yoon didn’t even last until the MC came on; he had to excuse himself, stepping sideways past the other audience members, hoping they didn’t recognise him, didn’t pity him –
He made it outside, to the cold fresh air, where he could breathe more easily. His heart rates slowed. Maybe he was like Juyoung now – except Juyoung had overcome her own illness. Do-yoon was the one who still hasn’t recovered.
Because it was Gyu-hyuk who had got him the ticket, Do-yoon didn’t go home. There was a late-night coffee shop across the road from the venue, and he settled in there to wait.
He didn’t know what he was thinking. Even if Gyu-hyuk did want to meet him afterwards – if Gyu-hyuk didn’t have better things to do – it would make more sense to go and come back. But the thought of leaving made Do-yoon uneasy. Maybe it was the same fear: if the building did collapse, at least here he would know.
As if knowing would make a difference to anything. It wasn’t like he could run in while everyone else was running out.
Still, he sat where he could keep the building in view.
Instead of being in the audience, Do-yoon watched the show on his phone, flicking back and forth between the video stream and the Phater commentary. He felt vaguely as if he was letting them down by not being there in person – not just Gyu-hyuk but Juyoung who was his competitor.
He wondered if Inha was watching too. Surely Juyoung had invited her. Inha was coping better than he was, Do-yoon thought.
He wondered about her, sometimes. Wondered about the back door to the dressing room. He always forced the thoughts away. He didn’t want to doubt people any more. He wanted to accept the same story everyone else had.
He watched the show on his phone, and it was nothing like being inside, and for that he was grateful.
Afterwards, Gyu-hyuk messaged him: Might be a while. See you at the apartment?
‘The apartment’ was Gyu-hyuk’s apartment, not Do-yoon’s flat that he shared with four others.
Sure, Do-yoon wrote back. Congratulate noona for me?
Do it yourself >:(, Gyu-hyuk wrote, and Do-yoon smiled.
You were cool too, hyung, he wrote, although he knew why Juyoung won. Ever since she had spoken out about what happened with Beloved, she had somehow been radiant. She’d had a lot of criticism, yes. But people had also been impressed.
Maybe Hyesung had been half-right. It was important to get people’s attention. But Juyoung was able to back it up too. That was why she’d made such an impression. The new season’s contestants had never stood a chance.
Do-yoon put his phone away, to take the subway with the rest of the audience filtering out after the show. He could hear their happy buzz – even those who might have been disappointed by the result were high off seeing the performers live.
It made him feel a little lonely. He didn’t know if that was not having been in the audience with them, or because he missed having an audience. He’d done some session work since what happened, but he hadn’t performed. He didn’t know if he ever would be up to performing again. Maybe he’d just watch from the sidelines, not even an audience member but only a viewer.
He couldn’t think that would be the case.
He let himself into Gyu-hyuk’s apartment – Gyu-hyuk had given him his spare keycard, a gesture Do-yoon had hardly known what to do with.
‘Well, I might need you to water my plants sometimes,’ Gyu-hyuk had said, but it had meant more than that to Do-yoon. He still didn’t know how he felt about it. That he could let himself in, that he pulled down the blinds like he were arriving home. Like he weren’t just a guest.
Gyu-hyuk had a better stereo than he did, and Do-yoon liked to take advantage of it. He picked out a couple of CDs, and then he lay down on the floor between the speakers with the lights on low, letting the music wash over him.
The other nice thing about Gyu-hyuk’s apartment was that he didn’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbours. The walls were more soundproof than in his own flat.
The second album was almost over and done by the time Gyu-hyuk got home. Do-yoon was not asleep, but drifting, when Gyu-hyuk called out a greeting. Do-yoon covered his eyes and squinted when Gyu-hyuk turned on one of the brighter lights.
‘I thought you’d fallen asleep there,’ Gyu-hyuk said. He seemed amused that Do-yoon was lying on his living room rug.
‘No,’ Do-yoon said. ‘I was waiting.’ He sat up cross-legged.
‘Do you want a drink?’ Gyu-hyuk asked, putting his coat away. ‘You could have got yourself something.’
‘It’s too sad to drink alone.’
‘Then you’ll have one now,’ Gyu-hyuk said. He grabbed them each a bottle from the fridge. ‘I’ll admit, if it weren’t for you, I would be drinking alone right now.’ He popped the caps off the beers, and handed Do-yoon’s to him.
‘Drowning your sorrows?’
‘Something like that.’ Gyu-hyuk sat on the couch, one person on the three-seater. Do-yoon stayed on the floor.
‘You would’ve found someone to go out with.’
‘Oh, sure. And that would have been miserable too.’
Do-yoon didn’t say anything, but maybe his expression gave something away, because Gyu-hyuk went on. ‘Not that I begrudge Youngi-noona her win. She earned it.’ He sounded a little wistful. ‘But I can’t imagine having fun, going out after a night like this. Even if I’m fine, people still want to complain on your behalf.’ His eyes settled back on Do-yoon’s. ‘Did you enjoy yourself, at least?’
‘Uh, I have an admission to make. I actually watched it on my phone. From the coffee shop over the road.’
Gyu-hyuk’s eyes widened. ‘You did?’
Do-yoon brushed his hair over his eyes. ‘It’s the first time I’d been back in any kind of audience since then. I guess I got freaked out.’
‘I didn’t think.’
‘You couldn’t have known.’
Gyu-hyuk continued to look guiltstruck.
‘It’s alright,’ Do-yoon said. ‘It’s not like I can’t hear you live anyway – I just have to come over while you’re cooking.’
Gyu-hyuk laughed then, embarrassed but not unhappy.
‘Maybe we should try something more low key,’ he said. ‘I know some people who do amateur theatre, and those venues are pretty small …’
‘Exposure therapy?’ Do-yoon said, with a lifted eyebrow. The guilt returned to Gyu-hyuk’s face.
‘Sorry, I don’t mean to pressure you.’
‘It’s a nice idea,’ Do-yoon said. He took a long draught of the beer. ‘I haven’t been to a play since school.’
‘Not your thing?’
Do-yoon shrugged. ‘Hard to know. I had a pretty one-track mind back then.’
Gyu-hyuk laughed. It was a relief; Do-yoon didn’t want him feeling guilty just because Do-yoon had freaked out at being in an audience.
‘I’ll see what’s on,’ Gyu-hyuk said. ‘Now that I’ve got some free time.’
‘Maybe it’s just as well you didn’t win,’ Do-yoon said, ‘or you wouldn’t have time for things like going to the theatre.’
Gyu-hyuk pulled a face, and finished his own beer. ‘We’ll see,’ he said. ‘Do you want another drink?’ He was already getting up to grab Do-yoon’s empty bottle.
Was it really okay for Gyu-hyuk to be spending this sort of time with him? Runner-up or no, Gyu-hyuk was on the verge of the sort of success that didn’t leave time for things like drinks with your buddies.
If that was what they were.
Coming back to the lounge, Gyu-hyuk paused by the couch. ‘You know, you don’t have to sit on the floor.’ He didn’t quite meet Do-yoon’s eyes.
If that was what they were.
Do-yoon nodded, and he got to his feet. The CD had finished playing already, so he put on another one before he went to take the seat next to Gyu-hyuk’s on the couch. Gyu-hyuk had left his beer on the coffee table, and drinking provided a cover for uncertainty. Just because Gyu-hyuk had told him not to sit on the floor didn’t mean Do-yoon had to sit right next to him.
He was probably misinterpreting everything anyway. Every time Gyu-hyuk said we; being given access to his apartment. Do-yoon didn’t mind waiting up for him. Wouldn’t mind waiting up for him all the time.
Hyung, when you said you’d always be there –
Gyu-hyuk sighed. Do-yoon looked at him sideways, at his handsome profile, the pensive expression.
‘You coming down?’
‘You know what it’s like,’ Gyu-hyuk said. After a performance, when you lost the high that had kept you going. ‘I told myself after all this was over …’ He paused. Do-yoon shifted position, so that he was facing toward Gyu-hyuk, his legs pulled up on the couch. ‘I have something to tell you.’
Gyu-hyuk glanced at him, and he bit his lip. Something about that expression pulled at Do-yoon’s heart. He tried to tamp down on the feeling; Gyu-hyuk could make anyone feel that way. It wasn’t like he was doing it intentionally.
Then Gyu-hyuk looked at him directly, and it didn’t feel like something anyone could feel any more.
‘I want you to move in,’ Gyu-hyuk said.
That wasn’t what Do-yoon had been expecting. ‘Here?’
‘I can’t afford the rent on a place like this,’ Do-yoon said, his mind whirling.
‘I’m not asking you to pay rent,’ Gyu-hyuk said.
‘Hyung.’ It was a one bedroom apartment. ‘I think you might need to be specific. What you’re asking.’
Gyu-hyuk reached out and took one of Do-yoon’s hands, holding it in both of his. ‘I’m asking you to live with me,’ Gyu-hyuk said. ‘I know it might not be a very good deal …’
Sometimes Gyu-hyuk said things like that – self-deprecating things – and he wore that expression as if they were back in the rubble and he were thanking Do-yoon for saving his life. Do-yoon didn’t know what to do with it.
‘I want you to be here to come home to,’ Gyu-hyuk said. ‘That’s all I could think about, after the show.’ He rubbed his thumb over Do-yoon’s skin.
You didn’t hold someone’s hand like that, when you were asking them to be your flatmate. If that were all it were, it could have been a casual question and Gyu-hyuk wouldn’t have looked at Do-yoon that way. As if he were trying to see into his soul.
‘I know,’ Gyu-hyuk went on, ‘that you could have a normal life. You deserve to have a normal life.’
Do-yoon swallowed. ‘I’ve never been trying to have a normal life. That’s not something that matters to me.’
Gyu-hyuk smiled at him, that smile that was slightly sardonic. ‘So say you’ll move in.’
‘I’ll move in,’ Do-yoon said. Gyu-hyuk’s smile brightened so instantly that it was impossible to put any caveats on it.
Gyu-hyuk surprised him by hugging him then, pulling him close with an arm around Do-yoon’s shoulders. Gingerly, Do-yoon returned the hug – there was a part of Do-yoon that felt like he must be misunderstanding still. If Gyu-hyuk hugged him because he was pleased, it didn’t mean he was embracing him. But Gyu-hyuk didn’t let go.
He had such broad shoulders. Do-yoon found himself feeling reassured, even though there wasn’t anything he should have needed reassurance from. He laid his head on Gyu-hyuk’s shoulder, breathing in his cologne, and, that easily, felt like all the bad things in the world were somewhere else. It was only the two of them in the whole world.
Gyu-hyuk rubbed his hand on Do-yoon’s back, and he tilted his head as if to lay a kiss in Do-yoon’s hair.
Do-yoon lifted his head first, and Gyu-hyuk hesitated. Slowly, as if Gyu-hyuk were at risk of getting spooked, Do-yoon pressed his lips to Gyu-hyuk’s. If Gyu-hyuk couldn’t bring himself to confess to Do-yoon directly, he still took the kiss Do-yoon gave him – and return it. He pulled closer to him, his hand on Do-yoon’s nape, fingers stroking the hair there. Do-yoon was aware of the blood going to his groin, of his own desire that he had always been able to turn away from in the past.
Gyu-hyuk slipped his hand under the back of Do-yoon’s collar; Do-yoon shivered. Gyu-hyuk must be able to feel that. He kept stroking Do-yoon’s skin, as if that small connection were the sum totality of all the touch in the world. But it wouldn’t be enough.
Do-yoon moved then, so that he straddled Gyu-hyuk on the couch. The way Gyu-hyuk looked at him, with such open adoration, Do-yoon almost felt shy. But that was why they’d put themselves into this position, wasn’t it? It was easy to avoid saying the things that mattered – but the way you touched a person could still reveal everything.
Gyu-hyuk moved his hand between them, up the front of Do-yoon’s shirt, caressing his stomach, his chest. Unhurriedly, he began to peel Do-yoon’s shirt off, until Do-yoon took over, pulling it over his head and casting it down on the floor. Gyu-hyuk kept running his hands over him; he bent to kiss his shoulder, his neck, sucking on the skin and marking him.
They were really doing this, Do-yoon though. His mind was outside of him; his heart was in his flesh, surrendering everything. He was hard, and Gyu-hyuk hadn’t even touched his cock. He didn’t have to. Do-yoon was the one who had to be touched; he rolled his hips against Gyu-hyuk’s, and Gyu-hyuk’s hands tightened on his skin.
He dipped his head so that his forehead rested against Do-yoon’s shoulder. ‘Do-yoon, I really don’t deserve you,’ he said.
‘Deserving’s got nothing to do with it,’ Do-yoon said. And then, because his cock was making it evident anyway, ‘I want you.’
Gyu-hyuk took a shuddering breath. ‘I love you.’
Do-yoon kissed him. He kissed him, with both his hands in Gyu-hyuk’s hair, giving himself leverage, and pressing closer. Gyu-hyuk made a little sound in the back of his throat; then he picked Do-yoon up and tumbled him over, so that Do-yoon was on his back on the couch, and Gyu-hyuk was pulling his pants off him. And when he’d done that, he pressed his face against Do-yoon’s crotch, his mouth separated from Do-yoon’s cock by the thin fabric of his underwear. Do-yoon was leaking through the fabric and Gyu-hyuk put his mouth there too, till the fabric was wet with that and saliva too, and Do-yoon was bucking against his mouth. Only then did Gyu-hyuk peel Do-yoon’s underwear down, and undress him completely.
Gyu-hyuk was still fully dressed, and Do-yoon couldn’t stand for that; he sat up, so that he could pull Gyu-hyuk’s jumper off, and then his shirt; stripping him layer by layer in an attempt to equalise the situation.
‘You know,’ Gyu-hyuk said suddenly, ‘I’ve never done this before.’
Do-yoon stopped fumbling with Gyu-hyuk’s belt to say, ‘Really?’
Gyu-hyuk gave a little nod.
‘Do you mean with a guy or, like, at all?’
‘At all,’ Gyu-hyuk said, his gaze slipping away. ‘I’m not very good at pretending.’
Do-yoon cupped his hand over Gyu-hyuk’s erection that was already evident through his trousers.
‘Then I’m flattered,’ Do-yoon said, completely serious. Gyu-hyuk was too sincere for him not to be serious. Gyu-hyuk hadn’t needed to share that with Do-yoon – it wasn’t like Do-yoon would have known.
‘Have you?’ Gyu-hyuk said. ‘Slept with a guy before.’
Do-yoon hesitated. ‘Depends what you count.’ He gave Gyu-hyuk’s cock a squeeze. ‘I’m not sure now’s the right time to be thinking about that.’ Whether or not a handjob counted as gay when you didn’t otherwise have your hands over each other and you made sure to only talk about girls; it was better not to think about that right now.
Do-yoon finished getting Gyu-hyuk’s pants off, then pushed him back onto the couch again. It was ridiculous, how good-looking Gyu-hyuk was, but Do-yoon didn’t want to simply admire him.
He hadn’t ever sucked a guy off before. But now he dropped to the floor in front of Gyu-hyuk, fitting himself between his legs, and he considered the matter. Gyu-hyuk watched with a slightly stunned expression.
Do-yoon wrapped one hand around the shaft of Gyu-hyuk’s cock. He kept his eyes on Gyu-hyuk’s. Ran his tongue over Gyu-hyuk’s slit.
Was Do-yoon meant to reply? He took Gyu-hyuk’s cock into his mouth, pumping his fist as he licked and sucked at him.
Gyu-hyuk stopped trying to watch Do-yoon and tipped his head back, so that Do-yoon could only see the line of his neck and his jaw – not the face he was making. Do-yoon sat back. He kept stroking Gyu-hyuk, but he moved to sit on the couch beside him. When Gyu-hyuk turned his head, some question on his lips, Do-yoon kissed him. Do-yoon had never thought he was particularly into kissing, but the way Gyu-hyuk responded to him made it difficult not to be.
Do-yoon hooked a leg over Gyu-hyuk’s, so that he could rub his own cock against Gyu-hyuk’s thigh. Gyu-hyuk moved his hands to Do-yoon’s waist, his neck – and that was what Do-yoon really wanted, for Gyu-hyuk to touch him all over, their bodies wrapped in each other.
‘Do-yoon. I’m going to –’
Gyu-hyuk didn’t say anything more, but he came in Do-yoon’s hand, spilling over his own stomach and panting. He was gorgeous. Do-yoon could hardly believe this was real, that Gyu-hyuk, who was so upright and well-mannered, looked like this now, because of him. That Gyu-hyuk had wanted it enough that he had asked Do-yoon to live with him. Even though it would have ruined his reputation if it got out.
His breath steadying, Gyu-hyuk bent his head to kiss Do-yoon again, and he pulled Do-yoon onto his lap. He wrapped his hand around Do-yoon’s cock, his grip firm as he pumped it.
‘Don’t go home tonight,’ Gyu-hyuk said.
‘You know I was planning to crash on your couch anyway.’ It didn’t sound like a normal sentence, with the way his breath was coming.
‘This couch?’ Gyu-hyuk said, and he twisted and pushed Do-yoon down onto his back. Do-yoon had never before considered the benefits of Gyu-hyuk’s strength in terms of being able to manhandle him, but he was learning.
‘It’s a nice couch,’ Do-yoon said dumbly. Gyu-hyuk stayed on top of him, his grip looser now as he stroked Do-yoon’s cock in an almost leisurely fashion. Do-yoon lifted his hips, which didn’t help. ‘Hyung, you could …’
‘Hm?’ Gyu-hyuk moved his hand to fondle Do-yoon’s balls; he was being coy on purpose, Do-yoon thought. He ran his fingers back up along Do-yoon’s cock; Do-yoon lifted his hips again.
Gyu-hyuk smiled. ‘But I like seeing you like this,’ he said. Still, he adjusted his grip again, stroking with more urgency, and that was satisfying; it unknotted something inside of Do-yoon, to be touched in the way that he wanted.
Gyu-hyuk buried his head in Do-yoon’s neck, and he licked at the skin that was more sensitive than it should have been, so that Do-yoon shuddered. Gyu-hyuk kept up the rhythm of his strokes, so that the pressure of Do-yoon’s arousal built inside him.
‘Don’t stop,’ Do-yoon said. Gyu-hyuk didn’t answer, but he kissed up behind Do-yoon’s ear, tugging Do-yoon’s earlobe in his teeth. That shouldn’t have even been sexy.
‘You don’t have to sleep on the couch,’ Gyu-hyuk said.
‘I know, hyung.’
‘Tell me you’ll never leave.’
‘What is this,’ Do-yoon said, ‘blackmail?’
‘Bribery.’ Gyu-hyuk spoke into his skin; he didn’t slow down. Do-yoon laughed, or he felt like he laughed; maybe that wasn’t the sound that came out.
‘I won’t leave,’ Do-yoon said. ‘You’ll have to kick me out, if you want me to.’
Gyu-hyuk put his mouth over his his, licking his tongue against Do-yoon’s; he tightened his grip, and then it was Do-yoon who was coming, the whole world reduced to just Gyu-hyuk and him, and Do-yoon’s skin that could scarcely encompass him in that moment.
And then the feeling passed, and it was just the two of them, and the couch they’d got sweaty with their bodies, and Gyu-hyuk looking down at him with an expression so tender, which Do-yoon couldn’t possibly have earned.
‘Thank you for waiting for me,’ Gyu-hyuk said. He traced his fingers along Do-yoon’s chest, as if he couldn’t bear to stop touching him. Do-yoon reached up and grabbed Gyu-hyuk’s hand in his.
‘You know I wanted to,’ he said. ‘To be there for you.’
‘I know,’ Gyu-hyuk said, squeezing Do-yoon’s hand. ‘I’m saying I’m grateful.’
Their sweat was going cold and he would have spunk drying on his stomach and they should probably move, but Do-yoon didn’t want to pull himself away just yet. As if their time together was limited, even they had the whole rest of their lives ahead of them. Whatever it was they decided to do with them.
‘I’m glad I met you, hyung,’ Do-yoon mumbled.
Gyu-hyuk smiled, and if the smile was a little sad, well, given what they’d been through, that was only natural.
They were still here together. That was the thing that mattered.