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     Jihoon’s arms are wrapped tightly around Taeil’s waist, holding him from the back as the older man checks his phone. The maknae leans in a bit closer, resting his head on Taeil’s shoulder and watching him scroll through his emails silently.

     When Jihoon is quiet, it’s a calming, reassuring presence. It’s like Father Time is wrapped around Taeil, making everything else freeze just for a little while. With Jihoon, Taeil can unwind and de-stress from the crowds and the gigs that make him so anxious.

     Taeil reads the words on the screen, fingertips visibly shaking. It’s from his manager, who’s telling him that she managed to get Taeil onto Immortal Songs 2. Taeil feels his chest tighten, and a sinking feeling starts to materialize in his stomach.

     “You should be happy, hyung,” Jihoon finally murmurs, his voice nothing but a calming growl in Taeil’s ear. “It’s your dream to be on that show, right?”

      “Yeah, it is,” Taeil says after a moment of stunned silence, before he puts his phone back in his pocket and takes a moment to run one hand down his face. “I’m just nervous, that’s all.”

     Jihoon gives a slight nod, his grip on Taeil loosening. The younger man slinks away, then appears in front of Taeil with a familiar grin on his face. “You’re going to be great, I promise!”

 

     When Jihoon is enthusiastic, it’s rejuvenating and reassuring. It’s a healthy yet fulfilling meal that keeps Taeil going for hours. Without Jihoon’s smile and energy, Taeil wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.

     “Thanks, Jihoonie. I’ll do my best. It’s just...a lot to take in right about now, you know?”

     He nods again. “Yeah, I know. Why don’t we relax for a bit? You look tired, anyways.”

     Taeil can’t say no to that.

 

     They end up on Jihoon’s bed, the younger man’s long legs tucked to one side to leave a substantial amount of room for Taeil. His eyes show that spark of innocence that Taeil feeds off of, and he can’t help but move himself closer and tuck his head under Jihoon’s chin.

     “Psst.”

    Taeil laughs, glancing up at Jihoon from behind thick-framed glasses. “What?”

    “You’re the cutest. You’ll do great, because you’re so cute.”

     “Heh,” Taeil giggles again, facing Jihoon again to plant a small kiss to his best friend’s forehead. Usually, he would protest against the whole “cute” thing, but at this point anything that comes from Jihoon’s mouth is acceptable. Hell, the maknae could talk about something completely unpleasant, and Taeil wouldn’t mind, so long as he kept his voice in that baritone grumble that Taeil could fall asleep to.

     Jihoon’s cheeks always turn pink when Taeil kisses him, no matter how many times he does it. The maknae dips his head down to nuzzle up against Taeil’s cheek, before reciprocating the small kiss.

     But Jihoon doesn’t stop there.

     He moves downward, gently pushing Taeil’s head upwards so that he can lay more soft kisses against the man’s jaw. Taeil doesn’t realize the tension that lies there until it’s released, and Jihoon pulls away once he feels the muscles there slacken.

     “I’ll go with you, hyung,” he whispers in Taeil’s ear. The older man feels tingles running from the crown of his head down to the small of his back, leaning up closer to whisper back to Jihoon.

     “I’d like that. But you’d get bored if you just sat backstage consoling me all day long…”

     Jihoon grins, white teeth showing from beneath his red lips. “Who said anything about me being backstage? I could go up there with you and do a few rhymes, just to get you settled in. You’d still be the star of the show, of course.”

     Jihoon raises his eyebrows in hopeful anticipation for Taeil’s verdict, and when he sees the older man’s smile, he knows that his idea is a go.

     “That sounds fantastic,” Taeil agrees, reaching up to thread his fingers through Jihoon’s white-blond hair. He likes how outrageous it is, and how it sticks up in all the right places: making Jihoon look like a rock star on the stage, but like a mad scientist in the dorm. Jihoon pulls Taeil closer by the waist, letting their lips press lightly together in a chaste kiss. Taeil’s body relaxes as the heat from Jihoon warms him, letting their foreheads touch as Jihoon pulls back.

     They kiss again, and again, and again, each time pulling away after a few seconds. With each kiss, they start to unravel, opening up like tiny crocuses at the beginning of spring. Jihoon’s hands grasp Taeil’s shirt tighter as the older man’s tongue licks into his mouth, tracing the familiar lines of his teeth. As their tongues wind slowly around each other, Taeil absorbs the taste of expensive cologne that Jihoon wears simply because it was given to him by a relative. He wears it without knowing the status behind it, without having the pretentiousness that often comes with wealth.

     Taeil is so grateful to have Jihoon as his best friend. So grateful to have him for times like this.

     His lips part from Jihoon’s to breathe, then move over the sharp jut of Jihoon’s jaw, the soft skin beneath his ear, down his neck. Jihoon’s sounds are low and rumbling, like the purring of a heavy lap cat.

     “Thanks for being so nice, Jihoonie. I’m so happy to have you.”

     Jihoon doesn’t answer, but Taeil doesn’t mind. The maknae’s slow breaths and tight grip say it all.