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In A World Like This

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Jaehyo slid out of bed, not without difficulty, turning his back from the smoke curling around Jiho’s lips as the younger watched him pick his clothes up, all long limbs and smooth white skin displayed for him to see. He struggled to pull his legs up, and even if Jiho can’t see his face he knew that he was wincing in pain, with the way that the muscles in his shoulders tensed as he groped around for support, his hand grasping at nothing but air. It made Jiho smile, not the least bit sorry, because Jaehyo had an innocent face but he was very demanding in bed, making Jiho wonder why a top is called a top when he doesn’t even call the shots. Jiho cursed softly under his breath, but the apartment was too quiet and Jaehyo turned around to see what’s wrong, and watched as the blonde flicked away the ashes from his white blanket.

“Told you not to smoke in bed” Jaehyo drawled out as loud as his throat could handle. Jiho had been extra rough tonight, and in turn Jaehyo had been extra vocal, and he’s pretty sure he’s fucked for tomorrow’s rehearsals but getting thrown against the wall and taken there was so hot he didn’t think of the repercussions. Well, with Jiho, he never really bothered to think about them in the first place.

“Your fault” Jiho answered back, crushing his cigarette on the ashtray above the bedside table, getting up to hurriedly stuff the blanket on the washer. Those fleece blankets cost him around a hundred thousand won, but lately he was too distracted watching Jaehyo get dressed, he keeps forgetting he has a lighted cigarette on his hand. Even from behind the pretty boy looks positively heavenly, and no matter how much Jiho had been pulling at his hair in the heat of the moment, the strands still fall perfectly around his perfect head. Next to him Jiho looks like a homeless hobo.

Not that he would ever tell Jaehyo that.

The older boy snorted, jumping up and down as he tried to put on the ridiculously tight black jeans that drove Jiho mad with lust. “Fuck, I hate these pants” he groaned, eyes closing in pain. “It’s all because of that damned cake. I hate you, Woo Jiho.”

Jiho chuckled in amusement, leaning stark naked against the frame of the bathroom door with arms crossed and entertaining himself at how adorable Jaehyo’s suffering is. “Shut up, you only ate two mouthfuls. Need help with that?”

“What I need is to go on a diet again” he mused, zipping up as he held his breath in, and releasing his breath with a sharp pain.

“How much skinnier can you possibly get?” Jiho frowned, walking forward and tugging the zipper back down. Jaehyo looked at him in surprise. “Take those pants off” he answered simply, gaze looking almost feral.  

But his ferocity is something always lost on Jaehyo, and he rolled his eyes. “If you didn’t notice, I can barely walk, heathen. Besides, I need to get back to the dorm before ten, or my manager will kill me.”

“I know, stupid” Jiho huffed. “That’s not what I meant. Those jeans are cutting off your circulation and you have to drive. I love how your ass looks in them, but they’re going to be the death of you.”

“Aww, I knew it. Contrary to popular belief, you do have a heart of gold” Jaehyo cooed at him with a mocking smile. And yes, Jiho knew it was a mocking smile, but it was a beautiful mocking smile, and for some reason it made his heart race.

“Shut up before I force-feed you with the rest of the cake” he said before his brain could start to analyze and explain to him exactly what that some reason is. He fumbled through his closet for one of his newer jeans, the ones he didn’t rip yet. “One of my pants should be able to fit you, you’re only two centimetres shorter than me.”

“Mmmm... wearing Jiho’s pants. I like that” Jaehyo teased, laughing when Jiho turned around with a fake shocked expression.

“Please don’t jack off on these, yeah, hyung?” he managed to counter without stuttering or trembling, throwing the blue jeans to Jaehyo’s direction none-too-gently. “Those kinds of stains don’t come off easy.”

Jaehyo grinned, slipping the denim on without much trouble. He located his shirt on Jiho’s hideous green sofa, the one Jaehyo helped him carry up to his apartment when one of his neighbours took it out on the street to discard it. “Thanks for coming to the concert, by the way.” Jiho froze, but only for a second, before turning and pretending to look for his boxers. He was putting them on when Jaehyo spoke again.

“Seeing your dumb face gaping up at me on stage was so funny.” Jiho turned his head to frown at him. “What? Those huge sunglasses really made you look like an idiot.”

“I looked up how much your ticket cost on the internet. Seemed like such a waste if I didn’t go” he shrugged. “Thinking ‘bout it now, I should’ve sold them. Could have fed me authentic ramen for a week.”

“Well I kept giving you free tickets but you wouldn’t come. And then suddenly I spot your dumb sunglasses on stage. It was so hilarious I almost messed up my lyrics.”

That made Jiho’s insides warm, again for some reason, but he ducked his head and scoffed. “I’d rather die than be recognized within a hundred feet of an idol’s concert.”

“Of course you would, you tough little cookie” It was a reference to the title of his latest single, and it made Jiho frown. Jaehyo went around the room looking for his socks, and only when he spotted the pair did he resume talking. “So, what did you think?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes, and Jiho groaned. He only had one opinion about idol concerts.

“Why do you find the need to kiss each other and grope each others’ asses on stage?”

Jaehyo burst out laughing, bending his stomach a little. It looked even more comical with the way he had both socks clutched on his hands. “Is that why you texted me to come? Did Minhyuk kneading my ass on stage get you hot and bothered?”

Of course Jiho was not going to respond to that. He wasn’t exactly hot and bothered, more like... “Minhyuk?” He didn’t know it was possible to interrupt one’s own brain, but he’s doing it, and so far he’s been successful.

“B-bomb. Oh come on, you’ve known the guy for two years” Jaehyo frowned at him while putting on his socks. “Mino is Mino, Yukwon is Yukwon, Taeil-hyung is Taeil, you know Hanhae-hyung, but P.O. is Jihoon—”

“I know, I know. Your group’s one of the few with half-decent rappers so yeah, I do remember who they are.”

“Wow. Half decent. If only Jihoon could hear you now, he’d be ecstatic.” There wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “You know how much he idolizes you. I had to stop myself from telling him I know you, the way he talks about how much of a god you are, oh Zico-sin, Zico-phracea, Zico Kami-sama. Every time we go to a foreign place he asks the translation of the word god so he can attach it to your name, which I’m pretty sure is blasphemy. He’s converting Mino to his religion, too. Oh, if only I could tell them what you’re really like.”

Jiho rolled his eyes. “I’m fabulous. I have a nice ass and an even nicer dick, and you love all of it.” He chuckled at Jaehyo’s scandalized expression. “And by the way, that kid, Jihoon, comes to my shows with ridiculous banners. Make him stop, please.”

It was Jaehyo’s turn to frown. “I thought we’re supposed to keep...” he paused, searching for the right words. Two years and he still doesn’t know what to call them. Whatever they have. He was about to say ‘relationship’ but he knows that Jiho wouldn’t take kindly to that. “... us... this, whatever this is, secret.”

“Don’t start” Jiho warned him. “I fuck you, you fuck me, simple, clean. God knows how hard this is to come by. Especially for you.”

Jaehyo grinned at him. Fine. They haven’t talked about their... situation... for two years. He wasn’t about to start now. This is fine, he mused, whatever this is, really, it was the perfect setup. If somebody is going to come out from this... whatever this is... broken, it wouldn’t be him. Besides, he’s two years older than Jiho and more mature. “Oh my sweet pea. You have no idea what happens backstage in music shows. And have you seen this face? All it takes is one look.”

“And yet you always come running to this sorry ass” Jiho said mockingly, standing up and moving towards him with a playful glint in his eyes. He licked the corner of his lips just like he knows Jaehyo likes, and smirked as the latter’s breath hitched. He has him trapped against the wall, now, hands on his hips, and Jaehyo was not making any move to protest. “You sure you’re not gay?”

The elder snorted at him, pushing him away a little. “You sure you’re not?”

Jiho sneered mysteriously at him.

“Anyway, I have to go. It’s late” Jaehyo tilted Jiho’s chin up with a finger and gave him a soft kiss on the lips, before moving away to the door.

And Jiho stood there, staring at nothing, his fingers coming up unconsciously to his lips.

There it goes again. That’s the fifth time Jaehyo had kissed him after sex. He usually just stumbles out without a word a few minutes after he’s caught his breath, going straight to the bathroom to clean himself up, toss a wet cloth to Jiho, get dressed, get the fuck out of there. Now, he stays to chat, asks stupid questions, making Jiho wonder, making Jiho think, making Jiho look at him in a non-sexual way.

Jaehyo is fucking oblivious, and so the task is left to Jiho to interpret what that means.

His brain comes up with one conclusion, and he doesn’t like it.

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

The look on Jihoon’s face was priceless when Jaehyo slid two black tickets to him across the table. The tall redhead squinted at the gold print, and when his sleep-addled brain finally registered the information, he looked up to Jaehyo in wide-eyes shock, half euphoric and half amazed. This expression is only pulled in the presence of Woo Jiho, that look you give to someone you consider a god among men, and Jaehyo can now understand why it made Jiho uncomfortable.

“Happy Birthday, maknae” he said flatly.

Jihoon blinked, looking as if he forgot he was a creature of the Earth, time and space seemingly lost on him, as if right there and then he had found salvation, and it came in the form of a tall pretty boy with huge eyes. “Hyung... it’s not my birthday.”

Jaehyo laughed. “Yes, I know. But you were crying about the tickets being sold out. Real tears. Got me worried.”

“Hyung... my angel hyung...” Jihoon’s mouth was still open. “Who... how... how’d you get these? It’s... impossible.”

Woo Jiho himself. That was the answer. But of course Jaehyo can’t say that. It was a name he could only say against the mouth of the man himself, in enclosed spaces in a semi-dark illumination, where no one can see and no one can hear, only to be spoken between them, between hushed breaths and throaty moans. So Jaehyo just shrugged. “Now you can stop calling me lame. You have no idea what I had to go through to get those.”

Really. Jihoon had no idea. He had no idea how many bananas Jaehyo had to swallow whole to loosen his throat, and even then it was not enough. Jiho had cheekily asked for a blowjob in return, and yes a few times Jaehyo had sucked on his cock, but only lightly, never too long, and he’d gone down three inches the most. Between the two of them Jiho was ten times better at giving head, and yes Jaehyo can see the logic behind why Jiho wanted him to do that, because fuck it did feel good, those thick lips and flexible tongue that could spit the word ‘acromegaly’ without twisting on itself. When Jiho had asked a proper blowjob before, Jaehyo had rolled his eyes and said he takes it up the ass most of the time anyways, so why should he have to take it up the mouth is beyond him.

This time, Jaehyo had been able to down at least five, pumping his lube-sleeked hand and twisting his wrist on what his mouth could not cover, tonguing on the slit while looking up hungrily at Jiho because sex is as much psychological as it is physical. He knows he looks pretty, all long, dark eyelashes and big eyes, lips red and stretched wide. Jiho had propped himself on his elbows on the mattress to look at Jaehyo, forcing his eyes open to take in the sight below him, even if all he wants to do is throw his head back and scream as the head of his cock hit the back of Jaehyo’s throat.

“Fuck, don’t force yourself, angel” Jiho breathed when he saw tears forming at the edge of Jaehyo’s eyes.

Jaehyo’s only response was to take him in even deeper, thumbs squeezing on Jiho’s thighs as his nose nuzzled closer and closer to the patch of black hair, pulling out and then going down again, and again, until Jiho pulled at his hair to stop him. “Stop, stop, I’m close... I’m coming.” But Jaehyo refused to acknowledge the hand grasping harshly at his hair, and continued to suck.  And Jiho didn’t mean it, really, but he was so close and he didn’t have time to force Jaehyo’s mouth off his dick, before he was shooting down Jaehyo’s throat. He was about to say sorry but he saw Jaehyo swallow, lick his lips, and grin mischievously at him.

Oh god.

If this, whatever this is, is a psychological warfare, Jiho would gladly admit defeat. Jaehyo swallowing his cum, and oh dear, is he licking cum off his fingers? The younger groaned and his mind is a goner. He could really die right now and be happy, he’s contented, and yes people say that all the time but none of them mean it more than Woo Jiho right now, looking up at his lover suck his cum off his own fingers. Jiho pulled him down by the neck and gave him a ruthless open-mouthed kiss, sucking on Jaehyo’s tongue and tasting himself, and he moaned again because Jaehyo was fast to respond, biting on his lower lip and sucking on it roughly before running his tongue over slowly on his lips as if to apologize.

“Is this how much you want the tickets?” Jiho broke the kiss. He was too tired, too spent. He used to be able to go three or four rounds but that single, simple blowjob sent him off the edge and his knees feel weak. He feels as if all of his blood is rushing to his heart with how fast it was beating, and he actually feared for his health because this is how people get heart attacks. News about old people dying during sex now makes sense to him.

“Was it really any good?” Jaehyo’s voice was tentative, uneasy. He was still looking down at the younger, legs on either side of Jiho’s thighs, the fabric of his jeans scratching lightly against his skin, his ass resting lightly on Jiho’s knees, looking unsure of himself. His abs were defined and his biceps were straining muscle, his face a beautiful soft contrast to his hard body, and he still always looks half unsure about everything.

“Angel. Hyung. Did you not hear how hard I screamed?” Jiho chuckled.

“Hmmm well...” Jaehyo got off him, then, and settled himself on Jiho’s side, head on his chest, eyes on the ceiling. “How many tickets did I earn for that?”

It took a moment for Jiho to answer, and Jaehyo didn’t know why. “I’m not paying you for the blowjob. I’m sorry if it sounded like that.”

It also took a moment for Jaehyo to respond, and Jiho didn’t know why. “Okay. It’s just that Jihoon lined up to buy tickets and within four hours everything was sold out. He got to the line so early, like I think four in the morning, but he found out that people had camped out for the night just to buy your tickets. Amazing. I didn’t think the underground is this popular.” Before Jiho could respond, Jaehyo found himself apologizing. “I don’t mean that they’re not popular, I just mean...”

But he was met with Jiho’s chuckle, and he relaxed. “I know what you mean, hyung. I used to rap for free, you know. I was just happy to be put on stage, starting out with four people as my audience, making my mom suffer to pay for my mixtapes and handing them out for free on the streets.” He’s able to laugh at the memory now. “Now I can charge fifty thousand won for a single ticket and people would line up all night to buy them. Seems funny.”

“Fifty thousand, geez. You could rack it up to a hundred and people would still line up.”

“No they won’t hyung” Jiho said with finality. “They’d rather go...”

... to an idol’s concert. Jiho did not say the words, but Jaehyo understood.

“I would, though. After hearing your first album. I don’t even like rap that much, and I still think most of you are a bunch of resentful adolescents, you included...” he earned a light slap on the stomach for that. “... ouch, it’s true. I read the lyrics to your angry raps, I’m not dumb. Being called an empty flower in highfaluting words with sick rhymes does not make the insult any less harsh—”

“You’re getting off-topic.”

Jaehyo laughed, turning his body and his head towards the crook of Jiho’s neck. Jiho stopped himself from asking what he’s doing because that would lead to another discussion, and lately all they’re doing is talk. Yes, sex, too, but they’d go one round and then talk. And it’s all so foreign and dangerous and...

“I forgot what I was going to say.”

“You were praising me” Jiho teased him.

“I’ll praise you only when you stop being a shy virgin and do a collab with us.”

“Like I said before, I’d rather die.”

“You said we have half-decent rappers.”

“Yeah, half-decent. I don’t settle for anything less than perfection.”

Jaehyo was silent again for a moment. Jiho does not dare to break the silence himself.

“Your skin is perfect” Jaehyo was saying, and the next he was running his lips softly against Jiho’s collarbone, his fingers running down Jiho’s chest, to his stomach, down his navel, stopping right before the mass of black curly hair, and he began to rub at the area. Jiho groaned. This Jaehyo, is the Jaehyo he is familiar with, comfortable with, and he is thankful that Jaehyo chose to run a flurry of kisses down his neck than continue the conversation, because Jiho knew that if they were getting dangerously close to crossing the line they had set in the beginning of, this, whatever this was, he’d end it.

He feels himself hardening again, and he turns his head to give Jaehyo a proper kiss, almost forgetting where Jaehyo’s mouth has been, finding himself not caring.

He’s not gay. He’s horny, he’s cautious, and he’d rather spend his nights with a guy who will keep his mouth shut than a girl who will possibly spread the news to her friends or expect more than what he can deliver. An idol will never talk. An idol will never demand. They will keep being single until they can to protect their popularity, to protect their innocent image, especially those who have been in the business less than a decade. Most, if not all, of his crew would rip an idol’s throat to shreds, bunch of talentless dimwits who knew how to bat their eyes and shake their booties on camera.

With that logic, maybe Jiho should have charmed an idol from a girl group.

But that logic was one he never dared to address, because he knew the answer and the answer is something he will never be able to accept.

It’s an answer nobody would be able to accept.

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

“Park Fucking Kyung.”

The older man glanced up from the magazine he was reading, and snorted.

“Park Kyuuuuung.”

He’s whining, Kyung mused, smiling widely with the magazine covering half his face. Troubled Jiho gives him a chance to indulge in his misery, reversing their roles for once, but Troubled Jiho is a rare type of Jiho and Kyung really needs some form of entertainment right now. So he lets Jiho simmer in his despair as he watches over from his bed in their shared apartment, Jiho slumped over the study table a few feet in front of him.

“Pay attention to me, goddamnit.”

Kyung only smiled wider.

“Yah, I know you can hear me, you bastard!”

At that outburst, Kyung laughed and set the magazine on his side, cocking an eyebrow at Jiho. “So? Why are you suddenly being so needy?”

“I’m not being needy!” He pouts, lower lip sticking out adorably, and this makes Kyung laugh even louder.

He leaps from the bed enthusiastically and made his way to his best friend who is now glaring sharply at him. “Whoever thinks you’re scary is an idiot. You’re like a little lamb. Koochie-koochie, Jiho-chi, my big baby, what’s troubling you?” he proceeds to torment him while stroking his shin with his fingers.

Jiho swats his hand away. “Shut up. You’re the cause of all my sufferings. At least help me solve the problems you’ve created you shrunken miscreant.”

Kyung frowns, throws his hands up in the air and stands up a little farther from Jiho. “Okay, I didn’t think you’d find out, I cleaned up everything after, but I guess all that mess I’d have missed a spot, right? I mean, I did scrub the floor clean with two litres of Mr. Muscle so it shouldn’t be a problem, and really, I can’t smell anything anymore but if you—”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You mean... this is not about the...” Kyung stammers, laughs. “Ah, forget it, forget it, forget about everything I just said! Let’s focus on your issues, shall we?”

Jiho’s features took a darker turn. It’s not the first time Kyung had been the direct cause of their eviction, and he really, really likes this apartment, okay? “What did you do again?” He starts to stand up, and Kyung panicked because Jiho is taller and bigger than him and he hasn’t really paid much attention in karate class as a kid. So he rushed over behind Jiho to sit him down, and probably start winning this match using his brain.

“Is this about Jaehyo-hyung?” he fires immediately before Jiho can say anything. Kyung knows he won when he felt Jiho’s shoulder’s stiffen at the mention of the name. “I heard they’re going to Thailand.”

“It’s not about that. It’s...” and Jiho’s voice trailed off, which got Kyung worried. So he went over to sit on the chair opposite Jiho, the small plastic table separating them, so he could look at Jiho properly. There are pens and papers scattered over the table but Kyung did not hesitate to reach for Jiho’s hands.

“What is it? You know you can tell me.”

Jiho’s eyes lifted up at him, eyes looking vulnerable, and if it was anybody else they’d be shocked, the man spitting angry raps on stage with foul language and even fouler diss lines seemed far away. But Kyung is not anybody else, and he has seen this side of Jiho, those rare times he lets his guard down and breaks apart. These times were rare, but they were always so intense. “Jaehyo-hyung... I... I think he likes me?”

In another time, if Jiho wasn’t so scared and crestfallen, Kyung would’ve scoffed. Because duh, anybody with a pair of eyes would have known that, it’s so obvious that there is no think about it, and maybe like is even an understatement. He tries to avoid them when they’re getting it on, but he had met the guy three times, and had seen how he looks at Jiho. But Jiho looked so disturbed and confused with the idea, so Kyung turned his ‘kind, patient friend mode’ on. “Is that so bad?” he asked simply.

The younger boy’s eyes widened, his expression aghast. “What... of course it’s bad! He’s a fucking idol!”

Kyung sighed before answering. He’s been way over that phase now, but Jiho had good cause to hate, so he squeezed his hand instead. “Is that your only objection?”

Jiho looked shocked again, seemed to deliberate on the question. “I don’t dig dicks, Kyung, I dig chicks, I don’t do relationships, I just do. He knows that. I told him that, explicitly, many, many times. He knows that, Kyung, he fucking knows.”

“Yes, he does” Kyung nodded absentmindedly. “That’s why he has never done anything about it.”

“He made me pancakes this morning. Bought maple syrup. Kissed me goodbye five times. Talks to me all the time instead of leaving. Yes, he’s doing something about it.”

“And you let him?”

Kyung’s question cut like a sharp katana on Jiho’s mind, and he froze.

“Jiho-yah... what do you really want from him?”

“I don’t... I don’t know.” Really, he doesn’t know. He knows he is averse to the idea of being in a relationship with a) a guy, b) an idol, and c)... well... being in a relationship at all. But yeah, fuck, he let Jaehyo disrupt his FWB routine, lets him wander around the apartment after sex, lets him drink from his own mug, lets him raid his fridge, lets him ask his stupid questions, lets him stay the night. “Kyung, I have to break up with him. This is getting out of hand.”

“Let’s not go into that yet, okay?” Kyung was quick to caution him. “Why don’t you find out what you want first, before breaking up?”

“He’s a fucking guy!”

“Yeah, you did notice the dong hanging between his legs while you were fucking him, didn’t you?” For a moment, the only thing Jiho can do is gape at him. “Because, you know, I happened to get an eyeful—”

“Yeah, alright, stop, stop!” Jiho waved his hands in front of Kyung’s face to shush him, eyes squeezing shut from embarrassment. When he looked at his friend again, he looked so small. “It’s just... nobody can know.”

Kyung clucks his tongue, pulls Jiho into a hug and was surprised when Jiho just leaned into him. He meant to hug him as a joke, knowing full well that Jiho will hurl him to the ground. But he didn’t, and so Kyung hugged him tighter. “But if you break up with him, will that make it any better?”

“We’re not even together” Jiho mumbled into his shirt, and Kyung can only sigh.

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

The next time Jiho sees him was after a month. Block B was promoting, doing an Asian tour. Jaehyo texts him the minute they landed back in Seoul. His band mates said nothing when he waved them goodbye after a hasty shower. Why should they, when all of them are also going to sneak out the dorm afterwards.

“I have something to tell you” was the first thing Jiho says, and he knows everything’s over.

“Yes?” he still asks, feigning ignorance, brushing past Jiho and flinging his bag over at the sofa. He could feel the tears coming, but he’s not going to give Jiho the satisfaction of seeing him cry.

“We can’t... we can’t do this anymore, hyung”

Jaehyo faces him, his eyes dry. He smiles and wishes he couldn’t feel his face crack. “At least let me fuck you one last time, yeah?”

Jiho rarely bottoms, but he nods.

And so Jaehyo shrugs off his sweater as he makes his way to him, sliding his arms around the younger’s waist as he kisses him softly first, and when Jiho opens his mouth for the second kiss Jaehyo slides his tongue in. One of his hands travels up Jiho’s back to entwine at the blonde locks, finding them surprisingly silky to the touch. Jaehyo angles his head for better access, tongue melting into the sweetness of Jiho’s warmth as he dives into his mouth deeper. Jiho snakes his arms around Jaehyo’s neck to draw him in closer, pulling free from the kiss so he could suck on the other’s lower lip, hears him moan in pleasure. Jaehyo recaptures his lips, and proceeds to lick into his mouth. Jiho feels something wet and warm against his cheek, tastes something salty against his tongue, and he opens his eyes in surprise.

Jaehyo was crying.

Jiho breaks the kiss, rests his forehead against Jaehyo’s as the latter sobs louder. He wipes the tears with his thumbs and gives him a kiss on each eyelid. “Hyung, I’m sorry.”

“Fuck you, Woo Jiho, you fucking sadist” the elder whispers against the column of his throat. He rests his head against Jiho’s shoulder as the younger runs a hand against his back gently, as if that would comfort him. “You shouldn’t—” he sniffs, tries to calm himself down, even if all he wanted to do was leave tear stains on the white canvass of Jiho’s shirt, to leave a mark, leave something of himself on Jiho. Maybe he should be sucking Jiho’s skin red and purple right now, bruise him everywhere until he can’t walk straight, but he doesn’t feel angry enough for breakup sex. He just feels... sad.

“You... you shouldn’t have... been so nice to m-- me” he managed to say, a wave of bitterness crashing over him, making the tears flow easily and his voice to stutter. “You shouldn’t have bought me that fucking blue rose” he continues, trying to make himself angry by cursing. “You shouldn’t have bought me that fucking cake, cooked me that fucking porridge that tasted fucking awful, shouldn’t have told me... shouldn’t have told me I was fucking perfect.”

Jiho stilled. For an FWB with self-proclaimed knowledge of etiquette, he’d been breaking too many of his own rules. He realizes that now, now that Jaehyo is telling him, now it’s becoming apparent why Jaehyo started becoming attached. It’s all his fault. He has to fix this, he has to... “Maybe I did all that to get in your pants, yeah? Why do you have to be so sentimental about it? And now you’re crying like a little fucking baby. Grow up and get over it, hyung.”

It was Jaehyo’s turn to freeze. Hearing those words, the tears automatically stopped. He saw red. In that moment of haziness, he felt himself push Jiho away, felt his hand grip on Jiho’s wrist tightly, felt the outrage in his voice as he hissed on Jiho’s ear, “Then let me fuck you to get over you, Woo Jiho.”

He slams Jiho on the wall hard, making the younger scream in pain, but he doesn’t protest. Jiho is strong enough to resist him, but he knows he deserves to be treated like this, in a twisted, depraved retribution of all his offenses. Jaehyo grabs the lube from the nightstand and turns Jiho around, twisting Jiho’s arm and making him cry out. The pain was momentarily replaced with a wave of pleasure when Jaehyo releases his arm to reach around in front of him and rub his clothed cock. Jiho thought he was too conflicted to get hard, but Jaehyo is working on him diligently, the other hand snaking up his shirt to play with a nipple while simultaneously licking and sucking on his earlobe. Jiho shivered in satisfaction. 

Suddenly Jaehyo was tugging on his sweatpants, and he felt two fingers slide up his entrance none-too-gently as slender fingers forces their way inside him, knuckle-deep, probing and scissoring him open. He feels the tears slide down his cheeks from the sudden onslaught of pain, but Jaehyo was still pumping him, and fuck was he really good in multi-tasking. His fingers were long and it had been a while since Jiho had taken anything up the ass, anticipation curling in his stomach as the fingers slide in and out of him, stretching him open for the addition of a third one. Jaehyo went in even deeper, and Jiho could not see but Jaehyo had smirked before twisting his digits in another angle, hitting a spot inside of him that made him jump in a sudden wave of pleasure.

“Fuck” he hissed against the concrete. “Fuck, please... please do that again” he begged, because, yes, it had been too long. And for all of Jiho’s talks about long legs and thick thighs he had not been with a single woman ever since Jaehyo, hadn’t even jacked off much because a) he was too busy and b) he wants to last three or four rounds when Jaehyo comes and c)... is an explanation to b... he only gets one night out of thirty to be with Jaehyo.

“Stop” Jiho breathes, feeling himself get closer to the edge. “Stop that and fuck me now.”

Jaehyo responds by slamming his shoulder against the wall, and Jiho cries out in pain. It’s going to bruise tomorrow, Jiho knows. He crooks one arm up to cushion his forehead, as Jaehyo grabs the shoulder he just damaged and yanks on it. “So bossy” snarls, and Jiho feels himself about to cry, but Jaehyo continues to harass his prostate with his fingers. “Hyung, no... don’t... no more” he sobs into the wall and tries to twist away. The elder presses him roughly on the concrete again, fingers deepening in contact.

“This is what fuck buddies are for” Jaehyo hisses at him with gritted teeth. He releases Jiho’s shoulder to pump him, and in spite of himself Jiho was coming after a few seconds, crying out for a different reason. Jaehyo immediately withdraws his fingers, tugs on the tissue from the nightstand to wipe off the lube, grabs his things from the sofa and says, before leaving, “You’re the one who needs to grow up, Jiho. You are so pitiful.”

Jiho sinks on his knees, tears flowing from his tightly-shut eyes, hands pressing tightly over his mouth.

He hears the door click shut, and that’s the only time he allows the sound of pain to escape his lips.

The next day, he receives an unsigned envelope with free massage coupons, with a small note that read: I'm sorry. Jaehyo should not have done that, because Jiho sped up to his room to cry some more.

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

Jiho’s show gets cancelled.

Jihoon was literally crying about it, Minhyuk bought him pizza because he wouldn’t stop crying and it was getting on the elder’s nerves, but instead of keeping him quiet Jihoon was eating while bawling and complaining at the same time (“Hyung, this pizza is too salty”, to which Minhyuk replied, “Those are your tears, idiot”). Mino was patting him on the back and teasing him about being a big baby, trying to make him laugh by tickling him but to no avail, seemingly unaffected but Jaehyo was pretty sure those were tears glistening in the corner of his eyes. Taeil was hugging him from behind and kissing the top of his head (“There, there, he’s not retiring, Jihoon. One missed show does not mean he’s retiring, and if he’s dead we would have heard about it on the news, so no need to be paranoid” Jihoon cries even harder at the word ‘dead’, and Minhyuk glares at Taeil).

Yukwon sighs and goes out the building, but comes back in after a few minutes with a Hello Kitty stuffed toy to cheer him up (“Didn’t you say Zico secretly has a Hello Kitty stuffed toy in his car from when you stalked him?” and Jihoon snatched the plushie, hugged it with one arm and cried even harder. While biting into the pizza and chewing. Minhyuk shifted his glare at Yukwon).

Jaehyo stood there and looked at him helplessly, because the show being cancelled was partly his fault.

Hanhae was laughing at the spectacle, but was the only one successful in calming Jihoon down. “I’ll let you borrow Jiho’s mixtapes if you stop crying.” The tears stopped in an instant. Those were the mixtapes when Zico was still fifteen years old and recording under the name ‘Nacseo’, and Hanhae had gotten hold of one because Jiho was a gutsy kid and he was distributing them outside the building of BN Inc. where he had first auditioned to become an idol. Then Nacseo disappeared for a while, returned as Zico and released another mixtape, and Hanhae holds a copy because the mixtape was brilliant and it caused a wave of excitement and every music company wanted to get their hands on him. Zico did one stint with BN but took one look at the contract and bailed. Later on, he got recruited in the same hiphop crew as Hanhae, and sometimes they see each other. They were never particularly close, though, so despite Jihoon’s whining he could not really help him with his obsession.

This was all before Block B was formed, before the lawsuit with BN and Hanhae moved his group to another smaller label, and yeah they’re not as popular as they should be coming from a small fledgling company with three idol groups under its wing but they get to produce all their songs and write their own lyrics and didn’t have to force themselves to do fanservice (well, because Jihoon and Taeil and the occasional Mino don’t need to be forced).

“What’s he like, Zico?” Jaehyo finds himself asking Hanhae when Jihoon dragged everybody to the dance studio to hear how brilliant Emperor Zico is. He shouldn’t be asking this, but he’s too conflicted about what to feel for the rascal, and he needed to write down the pros and cons.

The elder deliberated on the question for a while, and then frowned. “Hey, you’ve met him once right?”

Jaehyo is not particularly fond of that memory. “He yelled at me.” He finds himself growing angry over that fact. He should have seen the signs! “He yelled at me in my own studio.” One point to the cons.

Hanhae laughs. “He just doesn’t like being distracted when he’s working. We were recording a song. But hey, he bought you a smoothie to make up for it” Okay, that’s one point to the pros.

No, he’s really not fond of that memory. “Yeah, like after a week. The little fucker. Why is Jihoon even obsessed with him?”

“I don’t know. He’s a little... difficult.”

“Difficult?”

“Like... an adult-kid?” Hanhae frowns again at the description. “He’s a perfectionist, even as a teenager. Which is why people are scared of him. He is ruthless when it comes to music, and doesn’t really have a filter on his mouth when he criticizes. But...” he shrugs, unsure of how to continue. “... well he has this... child-like attitude? I mean, Jihoon says he saw a Hello Kitty toy in his car, right? That’s not pubic knowledge but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true.”

“How so?” Jaehyo is digging his own grave, because a guy who likes Hello Kitty is impossible to hate.

“Why are you suddenly curious?”

“Our baby is crying because of him, why shouldn’t I be?”

Hanhae seems to accept the answer, because he’s spilling more information. “Well, I shouldn’t be saying this, but seeing how he made Jihoon cry...” The elder crinkled his nose, seemingly uncomfortable talking about a person who isn’t there; in short, gossiping. “Let’s just say that I’d rather be his friend than be his enemy.”

Jaehyo’s heart soared. He actually grinned. One point to the cons again. “Oh... yeah he gives that aura.”

Hanhae raised an eyebrow at his response, but Jaehyo feigned ignorance. “Well...” he said, standing up. “... he’s talented, and he’s best friends with Park Kyung and anyone who’s best friends with Park Kyung can’t be all that bad, you know?”

Jaehyo nodded but blushed at the mention of the name. He’s only met Kyung thrice, and in two of those times he was in... compromising positions... and couldn’t really talk. “Yeah, he’s quite a character, isn’t he? Total goofball.”

“Besides...” the elder adds before leaving him. “... a guy who can compose love songs like that can’t be a total dickhead. Why don’t you go to one of their shows if you’re so concerned? Cover your face, though. You wouldn’t want to incur any damage.”

Jaehyo sighs.

That’s how he found himself standing in front of a crowd of five hundred, maybe a thousand if people actually were willing to sacrifice breathing space just so they could see their beloved Zico on stage.

The show was resumed after two months.

Jaehyo didn’t want to read too much into it.

Block B was in the middle of their Latin America tour, but Jihoon refused to miss one of Zico’s biggest shows so far, and whined and whined until Hanhae got so tired he actually dared to ask a one-day rest so that Jihoon could go to the fucking concert (“I’m a rapper, hyung, a growing rapper. I’m like a plant in need of water, sunshine, fertilizer and lots of love. Zico-sama is the bright light at the end of my tunnel, and I need him to photosynthesize. Hyung. Are you listening to me?” “Are you saying I’m not enough?” “Hyung, do I really have to spell it out to you?”).

And Jaehyo convinces himself that he’s looking for reasons to hate Jiho, so he may or may not have been monitoring Zico’s activities, and when he caught wind of the re-scheduling and the news that they’d be performing in a different, bigger venue, which means more ticket sales, he may or may not have bought a VIP ticket the minute the news broke.

Which is why he was standing in front, baggy jeans, gym shoes, white hoodie covering his hair, big round sunglasses taking over half of his face, making him look ridiculous. He looks like a giant douche, he knows it, but Jihoon and Mino were there, a few people away from him, the fans taking pictures of the two jump up and down with that ridiculous banner which made even Jaehyo blush.

Woo fucking Jiho, though, was Woo fucking good.

For a six-footer he looks really small, and he wears this stupid snapback that Jaehyo hated with burning passion, and hates twice as much because it has fake braided hair attached to the sides making Jiho look like an imbecile. Jaehyo smirked. He’s on the verge of being thankful he was dumped. But then the heavy bass beat began reverberating in the bar, Zico starts spitting rhymes so fast with alternating high and low drawl, and Jaehyo was left in awe. Kyung comes in for the third verse after the chorus, his playful off-beat rapping a melodic contrast to Zico’s, but they do the fifth verse together and it sounds... really beautiful.

Zico moves around the stage with hand and feet movements that emphasize his lyrics, and people were screaming at his witty lines and comebacks, because no matter how fast he raps the words do not drown out and again, Jaehyo was left in awe.

The first two songs end, and Kyung leaves the stage. Zico is out of breath, gasping at the mike, “This is a new song that I’ve composed with my dear Paloalto, and I’ve asked him to perform on stage for this but he says he wants to see me cry for once.” A few laugh. “No, I’m not going to cry. For those who struggle to find love.”

He stood there like a dead fish with mouth gaping open because he can understand the words, and Zico was rapping about being dead inside with all the hate that I am forced to take, as a kid, fifteen of age and all I see are people smiling when they’re facing, each other then they turn their backs and all I see are shadows with their hidden claws; so tell me how do you expect me, to believe in the light of the moon; I am a rose standing proud and tall but my veins and thorns are all poisoned, poisoned by the ground you made me grow on; bite me and I’ll bite you back, kill me and I’ll kill you back; darling that’s how the world works and eight years has got me proving that; so tell me how do you expect me, to believe in the light of the moon...

Jaehyo drops his gaze.

He walks out of the venue.

The thoughts were so loud in his head he didn’t hear the Almighty Zico stutter over one line in his lyrics.

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

Getting recruited for Buckwilds had been a dream come true for Jiho.

They are one of the most prestigious hiphop crew in all of Korea, and when he got a call from JTong, head crew, he coolly gave his consent and jumped and screamed all over Kyung when Jtong hung up, before remembering that Kyung is also a rapper.

“Sorry” he apologized, got off him, but Kyung pulled him back in a headlock and ruffled his hair. Which was an awkward position because Jiho is a lot taller.

“This kid. No need to be sensitive, I am at peace with myself” he said as he brought his hands together, releasing Jiho from his grip. “So? Where are you taking me out to celebrate?”

Jiho grinned at him, all teeth bared. “This is why I hate you the least of all people.”

“Lesser than your mom?”

“I love my mom. I just hate you less than I hate everybody else.”

“So you love me second best?”

Jiho screamed while tackling him on the floor again, and they land with a loud thud.

“That hurt!” Kyung yelled at his ear, wincing in pain. “I swear, if you damaged any part of this temple of a body, I will burn that Jay Park album you secretly love!”

Jiho paused from torturing Kyung. “You went through my closet?!”

“To dig some dirt on you!” Kyung admitted proudly, beaming up at him newly-fluorinated teeth. “You’re getting cocky and disrespecting me!”

“Well for your information I do not secretly love that album, he gave it to me, and what am I supposed to say?”

“Fuck you, you talentless dipshit?”

Jiho swats his arm. “He’s an idol but I hate lying just because he is. Guy’s good, just... misled.”

“Woooo!” Kyung shrieks. They hear a loud banging at the other side of the wall with an angry, ‘Tone it down, you freaks!’, which they tuned out because they’re so used to it. “Underground rapper Zico praises idol rapper Jay Park and they’re getting married next week because one of them is pregnant!”

“What? Shut up, you alien!”

“In related news, I’m going to be an uncle!”

“Kyung—”

“I’m naming my niece ‘Angelica’ so we could go to heaven together!”

“What—”

“Pyo Jihoon hangs himself from despair!”

“Hey, that’s not funny!” Jiho was frowning now, for real, and Kyung mumbles an apology.

“Sorry, sorry. It’s just... he made you a banner.”

Jiho snorts. “Tell me about it.”

“So?” Kyung says, shoving him off so that he could sit upright. “Whatcha plan to do?”

The words remained unspoken, but Jiho knew that even though Kyung means well, joining Buckwilds also means abandoning their duo team. He shifted uncomfortably and leaned his whole weight on Kyung’s. The other boy does not budge, frozen rock solid in anticipation. “What should I do, Kyung? Should I say yes?”

“You already said yes, moron” Kyung laughed. “I mean, are you moving out? Because you can’t be commuting two hours just to get in their studio. I don’t want you coming home all grumpy and complaining about traffic and air pollution, your lungs and my ears have suffered enough.”

“I’m not moving out” Jiho answered back quietly. “Like I said, you’re the person I hate the least.”

“Hmmm... maybe Jtong-hyung is as charming as you conjured him in your head.”

Jiho laughed and smacked his thigh. “I respect him for his skills, not his charm.”

“And me?”

“Jesus, are you my clingy girlfriend? Did I unknowingly enter into a relationship with you? Can we break up now?”

Kyung stuck his tongue out at him in retaliation. “Fine, be an asshole.”

Jiho went quiet for a moment, and sighed. “Oh Kyung-god, you are the Adonis among mere mortals, you’re good-looking and you’re funny and the stars worship your fine eyes. May you live long to sire the earth with wonder, as the heavens bask on your sweet scent.”

His best friend clapped like a seal. “You still remember!”

“How the fuck could I forget that? You made me say it before and after I borrow your notes! Since elementary school!”

“Very good. You’ve proven your worth. And because of that I’m giving you permission.”

Jiho turned his head to look at him properly. The joking atmosphere is gone. “Permission to what?”

“To leave me.”

Instead of answering, Jiho pushed him down hard until he hit the floor. Kyung did not laugh, nor did he complain. He just stayed there, motionless.

“Nobody’s leaving, okay? You’re the bad tumor I can’t get rid of, and I’m going to die because of you, but we’ll die together.” Jiho blushed as he said the words. That did not sound right, but Kyung is an emotional sap and he needs to become an emotional sap if he wants to placate him.

Kyung was quiet for a moment. “We’re like a gay couple.”

Jiho laughed and slapped his ass. “No way, man. Your butt isn’t even perky. I would not be able to enjoy it.”

At that, Kyung stood up and gave glared at him. “Who says you’re going to top? The more handsome gets to do the drilling!”

“Whoever made that rule is an asshole, and who says you’re more handsome than me?”

“I have bigger eyes!”

In a moment of panic, Jiho blurted out, “And I have a bigger mouth!”

“Which would look good sucking my dick!”

Jiho’s mouth hung open. Yeah, he brought this on himself. Kyung jumped up and down laughing. “I won! I won! I’ma drill Jiho’s ass! I’ma drill Jiho’s ass” he keeps shouting until they heard a loud knocking on their door, like a battering ram.

“Do you really need to scream about it?” came the angry voice at the door.

The two could not help but laugh.

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

“Call him, please, he’s a miserable fuck.”

“What?”

“At this rate he’s going to get kicked out, and he’ll be even more miserable.”

Jaehyo was surprised to see Kyung sliding down into one of the benches in the dance studio, watching them rehearse. He thought it had something to do with Hanhae, maybe at last Kyung made it to Buckwilds, or Do’main, or whatever crew Hanhae talks about with Jihoon and Mino, not that Jaehyo cares. Maybe he had been too distracted, because a few seconds after he could feel Minhyuk’s hand make contact with his head. It was painful.

“Concentrate!” he scolded him, making Yukwon laugh.

They had been given a fifteen-minute break, and Jaehyo’s whole body was sore, his mind was numb from memorizing all the dance steps, and so he collapsed on the floor the minute Minhyuk clapped his hands. The next thing he knows Kyung is pulling him upright, dragging him outside and he didn’t even protest because he’s too tired to think right now.

So when the words tumbled out of Kyung’s mouth he really, really could not process the meaning.

“What are you talking about?”

Kyung sighed. “Do you really, really need me to spell out everything for you? I’m talking about Jiho.”

Right. Jiho. Fancy hearing that name after four months. “Are you his messenger boy now, Kyung?”

“I’m his friend” Kyung glared up at him.

“In case you forgot, your friend was the one who broke it off. He’s an asshole, and I’m sorry but I love myself enough.”

Jaehyo turned on his heel to leave, but Kyung sidestepped him and blocked the door. “Look, I don’t know what he said to you, but I’m sure it was hurtful. I’m not going to make any excuses, because I know how he can be. I’m just... he’s not doing well. He’s not eating, not sleeping—”

“He held a show. He’s fine. And I don’t see why I have to care.”

“He saw you” Kyung continued, gripping at the door handles. “And I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you care about him, too. You went to the showcase, right? You heard what he said? You heard him mess up his lines? Because that night he drank and cried himself to sleep, and he hasn’t been well since. Even before the show. When you broke up. That’s why he couldn’t continue and we had to delay. You know that right? You must know that, because you were there. He kept crying and laughing about how you think he looks stupid with his sun glasses but you came and wore the same sun glasses, and I don’t know how he recognized you with all the lights and the sea of people but he did, and that must mean something, right?” Kyung knows he is running his mouth off, and his thoughts are not exactly arranged, but he didn’t have time and he was so sick seeing his friend mope around.

Jaehyo visibly shrunk. “What do you want me to do, Kyung? He’s never going to change. He’s never going to accept that he likes fucking men, that I’m an idol and I like to shake my ass on national TV. Yeah, the first time we fought that was his exact phrasing” he said at the look in Kyung’s face. “Unlike him I want something more stable. He’s married to hiphop, and I’m his mistress. I don’t want to be the mistress, Kyung.”

“But he’s changed a lot for you, didn’t he? That’s why you stayed.”

“For his dick.” Jaehyo tried to appear nonchalant, but his cheeks turned red.

“You know that’s not true” Kyung pressed on, noticing the blush. “He must have done something right to make you stay two years. He’s horrible with emotions and takes a long time to warm up to people because he’s always suspicious of their motives, and he really doesn’t sugarcoat his words. But hey, he spent a week looking for blue roses, and I assume they were for you, and when he couldn’t find any he bought white roses and experimented on dyeing them just to get the right color. That counts for something, doesn’t it?”

Jaehyo was listening, and if he was listening he knew he was fucked. He’s going to call, he knows that, but he had to at least resist a lot more than this to save his pride. It was never going to work out, anyway. They’d never gone on dates because they can’t be seen in public together, and when they see each other they always, always fuck. Jiho pointing out the nature of their relationship to him, that night, was the last straw. As the months progressed there were episodes before and after the fucking, but sex had always taken ninety per cent of their time together. And after two years together, Jiho still talks shit about idols, in his songs, on interviews, and when he calls idols gay as if being gay is offensive, Jaehyo couldn’t look at him without anger.

“He hates himself, Kyung. There’s nothing I can do about it. Whenever he talks about gays he gets defensive and angry.”

“But he’s getting over it. I mean, he managed to come out to me.”

“Voluntarily?”

Kyung bit his lip. “Well...” he looked away, and Jaehyo knew.

“See? You’re his best friend. You’ve known each other since elementary school, and he can’t even come out to you on his own. Do you get me now? I can’t be with someone like that. I’m twenty-six, Kyung, I can’t play around. I don’t have the energy. I want something more stable and permanent, and he won’t be ready for that, ever. I’m sorry, I really am. I like him, a lot, and he can be really sweet and caring but he also hurt me so much. I also have to think of myself, alright? I already did my best in trying to make him comfortable about us but the moment I got too obvious about my feelings he breaks up with me.”

“I...” the shorter man heaved a defeated sigh. “Okay. I’m sorry for burdening you. It’s just... he’s spiralling down and as a friend I can’t just... watch.”

Maybe Jaehyo has a kind heart, or maybe he’s just a masochist. But the look on Kyung’s face, his downcast eyes and the slight trembling of his lips as if he’s on the verge of crying made Jaehyo add, “If he comes to me first, I’ll consider it.” Kyung’s head perked up after hearing that. “But Kyung, you have to promise me that you won’t pressure him or manipulate him or influence him in any way possible. If you do it will all be meaningless. We’ll fight and we’ll break up again and it’ll be worse.”

“Alright” Kyung conceded, offering him a small smile. “Thank you, really, hyung. Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

Jiho sort of came out to Kyung only because the latter keeps calling them a gay couple.

“You’re not even gay” Jiho growled, accidentally, one night when he had to walk three miles before he was able to hail a taxi home because the trains aren’t running anymore, and stopped the driver when the meter registered him to two thousand yen, which is like, all the money he had left, and so he was forced to walk again. His voice is hoarse from practice, his feet are tired from walking, and his ego is bruised from all the criticism he had received. So safe to say that his mind wasn’t really in the right state to hide his sexuality.

“Oh” Kyung said, leaning in closer to him. “That’s interesting.”

“What’s interesting?” Jiho pushed him aside as he toed off his shoes.

“Jiho, are you gay?”

That definitely got him awake. “What the fuck—”

“Yes or no, Jiho, and it’s no use lying to me.”

The taller man groaned in frustration, slapped both hands on his face and screamed. Whenever he was with Kyung there’s a lot of screaming going on, which drives their neighbours crazy. Little did they know it’s just a side-effect of Kyung making him crazy. “Fine, goddamnit! I like guys! I like girls but sometimes I like guys! You happy now?”

“So are we going to have sex now?”

Jiho whipped his head so violently to look at him he swears he heard some bones crack. “What the fuck, no! No, Kyung! We’re not going to have sex, what is wrong with you? You’re fucking crazy!”

Again, the neighbours are going to get an earful tonight, but nobody in this room particularly cares. Jiho can feel their eviction notice coming, but Kyung had to be a bastard. “What, I’m hot, right? And we’re already married. If you ask me, this is long overdue.” Kyung frowned and batted his eyes at him. “Am I ugly, Jiho? Do you think I’m ugly?”

Jiho grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to shake him to regain his senses, but Kyung had already started in his second job, which is annoying Jiho, and has already slid into character. “Kyung, you’re cute and all, but you’re like my brother. Fucking you is like fucking Jiseok-hyung, and that’s disgusting. Even thinking about it is disgusting. And now you made me think about it, and I hate you, and I feel disgusting. I need a shower to purify myself. Plus you’re not even gay! Why are you making my life difficult?”

Kyung collapsed into laughter, then, patting him on the shoulders. Of course Jiho gave him a smack on the head. “The look on your face, hahaha!” he keeps repeating. “Ahh, I wish I installed a hidden camera. You even called me cute! Awww!” He reached up to pinch Jiho on the cheeks. “I knew even you can’t resist me!”

Jiho threw himself on the sofa in exhaustion. His four-mile walk is nothing compared to how much energy he loses from Kyung’s antics. “I hate you, Kyung.”

“I love you, too, Jiho” Kyung grinned down at him, but his eyes were closed. “For the record, you should have told me that a long time ago. You made me resort to dirty tactics.”

“Are you kidding me? What if you decide that I’m disgusting? Then I wouldn’t have anybody who would willingly lend me their notes. No, scratch that. You’re not willing, you’re evil. On second thought I should have told you so you would have left me alone. Or not. You have a big mouth and after a half day the whole school would know.”

“Shut up. You have little faith. Besides, you keep scaring the neighbourhood kids. They’d be too afraid to tease you anyway.”

Jiho scratched at the fading green color of the fiber of the sofa, opening his eyes a little. “Aren’t you disgusted?”

Kyung snorted. “Years of going after you in the comfort room after you’ve taken a dump? Are you kidding me?”

“Kyung, I’m serious.”

“No. Okay? After that fake girlfriend fiasco I kinda figured it out.”

“Fake girlfriend fiasco?” Jiho’s eyes opened a little wider to look up at his friend.

“Yeah, the one who threw herself at you and you didn’t... uhh... react as expected?”

“Oh my God. And you never said anything?”

“Maybe I was shocked for a few weeks? And how am I supposed to bring it up? ‘Hey so I found your girlfriend crying and she told me stuff and are you gay?’ You would have punched me.”

“Why am I not punching you now?” Jiho groaned, burying his head on a pillow.

“You love me better now!” the other exclaimed excitedly.

Jiho peeked one eye from the pillow. “So, Kyung. No one should ever know, yeah? I don’t want to be kicked out of Buckwilds just because of that. I’d jump into the Han River. I’m serious.”

The shorter man scowled at him. “Of course I would never tell anybody. Not until you’re fine with it and you get so lonely you’d ask me to set you up.”

“Like that will ever happen. I’m not gay. Like, not totally. I still like girls.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say.”

“I’m serious.”

“I’m not saying you’re not.”

Jiho threw a pillow on his face, ending the argument.

 

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

 

It had been three days since Jiho had last taken a bath, lying on his bed facedown had consumed most of his free time when Jtong pulled him outside of the studio some weeks ago. Well that, and increasing his alcohol tolerance, which is really related to him spending most of his time facedown on his bed.

“Dude, my boy, go home, and I don’t want to see your face anywhere here for two weeks.”

“Are you... kicking me out? I’m sorry. I know I keep messing up but—”

Jtong had laughed. “I’m not kicking you out. You’re burned out, though. Rest.”

“But—”

“Rest. Two weeks. You’re a mess. I don’t know what personal shit you have going, but you’re not being really helpful as of late. I watched you commit rookie mistakes for a month. You’re not fine. You look like an amateur on stage and you know how I feel about amateurs.”

So it had been a month already but Jiho had not shown up in the studio. He did not receive any calls from any of his crew members asking him to come back. Just a few sporadic texts about the new MNET show called Show Me The Money where they feature rappers all around Korea, telling him to look it up, but please don’t fucking join I’ll kill you if you do, Jtong had added. And one text about Paloalto being a judge. And one about a collab with Vasco of the Jiggy Fellaz crew. But he wasn’t ready. No.

Everything had just felt... empty.

He hadn’t written anything in days and it made him sick.

He called his mom once, told her he loved her, itching to tell her about this person he really, really likes, but holding his tongue because he didn’t want to disappoint her any further than he already has. Why he had to be plagued by this curse, of all people, was beyond him. Jiseok is normal, his father is normal, Kyung is also normal, and basically these are the three men who had surrounded him the most all his life. Or is it because he’s always with his mom? But Kyung grew up with an older sister, and is also close with his mom, but he turned out to be normal. So what is wrong, what is wrong with him?

In highschool he’s had these feelings for his male classmates before, but he was able to keep them down before it caused him too much damage. But ever since he met Jaehyo everything had overwhelmed him so much and he can’t suppress all his feelings for him. He’s an idol and he’s supposed to hate him, but every time he sees Jaehyo he feels warm and happy and contented— and at first Jiho kept thinking it’s because Jaehyo was hot, and liking him doesn’t mean he’s gay, because man look at that face. One night when Jaehyo started getting dressed to go, his eyes bloodshot and his muscles sore from practice, Jiho had this overwhelming desire to take care of him that he actually pulled him down and cuddled with him until they slept. He woke up to the smell of fresh coffee, and it made him so happy, he pins Jaehyo down with his limbs in the pretence of being sleepy just so he’d stayed over. They see each other only twice or once a month, but those days, he finds, are the happiest he’s ever been.

He always had faith in his resilience, and had never thought that he, of all people, would be paralyzed this long because of, well, a person he dearly cared for. He thought he would start feeling better, because now there’s nothing to be guilty about, nothing to hide, he can start bringing girls home now that they’ve moved to a better apartment with actual divisions and all. One party he tried getting it on with a girl, had started kissing against a wall and grinding, but her tongue tasted like ash in his mouth and he pulled away and got drunk instead. Maybe it really is time to admit that he doesn’t really find girls sexually attractive.

Kyung watches him like a hawk from his door, five minutes every morning and five minutes every night. He didn’t say anything about it, thank God. He’d probably punch him, and that would be the end of their friendship, and frankly he’s an annoying brat but Jiho didn’t want to lose anybody else.

“I’m going out for groceries” was the first thing Kyung had said to him all week. “Wanna come?”

Jiho shook his head, staring up the ceiling of his bedroom. “We’re out of soju. Get me some bottles.”

“No. But I’ll get you flavored chicken. Been a while.”

“Soju.”

“If you want to kill yourself, don’t make me an accessory to it. I love you too much to join in whatever self-destructive activity you have going right now.”

“I’m not self-destructive.”

“No. You’re depressed. And we both know why. So? What flavour shall I get?”

Jiho sat up and turned to look at his friend fully. “Why are you not nagging me?”

Kyung’s face was unreadable. “Why would I nag you?”

“You would usually ask me what’s going on until I get tired and tell you, and you’d usually scream at me what to do, or to do something, and come up with a stupid plan and convince me to do it using all your dirty secrets about me. So why haven’t you done any of that? It’s been a month, and you never said anything yet. Frankly you’re getting me worried.”

Kyung leaned against the frame of the door, ran a hand over his hair. “Some things you gotta figure out on your own, man. I mean, I bailed out from a wonderful econ career because rapping is what makes me happy. I’m not sending money home and I can’t look my mom in the eye. I was twenty-two when I got recruited into a crew, and before that I was miserable and penniless and sponged off your money and frankly I wanted to just go back to school and retire from rapping, but I know I’m not going to be happy. All I’m saying is, the things you suffered for are the things worth having. I know what I want, I went and got it. I almost died getting there, though.” He sighed, crossed his arms against his chest. “I promised I wouldn’t do this, so I’m stopping now. Sort yourself out, Jiho.”

It took a few seconds before Jiho could respond. “Alright. Get me the watermelon flavour, then.”

“Seriously?” Really, Kyung was shocked.

Jiho laughed at his expression. “Need a change, right?”

And Kyung felt relieved, because that’s the first time Jiho had laughed in months. “So are you going to shower now? Because you really stink.”

“Fuck you” he said but there was humor in his voice. “Go get me lots of food, I have lots of things to do.”

“About damn time, then.”

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

It was two in the morning when Jaehyo and his group had returned to their dorms after practice.

Jaehyo had almost suffered from a heart attack when he saw who was standing there, by their door, pacing back and forth and mumbling something incoherent.

Jiho?

He stood there, frozen, and the noise of seven people had made Jiho turn around and look up. He offered a shy smile, and if Jaehyo had stopped the heart attack the first time, he couldn’t stop it the second time. Kyung was right. Jiho’s hair was gelled and brushed up and he was wearing a black hoodie that accentuated the slender form of his body, but his skin was sallow and he had visible eye bags and rings around his eyes. But boy the sight of him makes Jaehyo’s stomach tumble.

In a moment of confusion Jaehyo forgot that he lives with six other boys he calls his members, and when Hanhae brushed past him to greet Jiho, he panicked.

“What are you doing here?” Hanhae said, but he was wrapping him up in a big hug and lifting him off the ground, making Jiho laugh. “Jtong-hyung said you were sick. How are you?”

This time, it was Jihoon who shoved him to the corner so he could get on in the action, and Jaehyo made a point to grab him back but Mino stopped him. “Let him have this moment, hyung.”

Really, he has so many rivals.

“Isn’t that Zico?” Yukwon whispered beside him. “What’s he doing here?”

“I don’t...”

“Let’s go meet Jihoon’s god” Minhyuk said and headed towards the door, grinning.

In the end Jaehyo was left standing in the hallway, looking at them fifteen feet away while they laugh and shake hands. They were gathered up in a circle talking for a while and Jaehyo couldn’t hear them, but suddenly Jiho was making his way to him and the guys were going inside the dorm but not without sparing him a glance.

“I’m sorry for coming in this late hour, I know you’re tired.”

Tired. Tired is an understatement. Minhyuk could be a slave-driver sometimes. “What are you doing here?” Really, that’s the most appropriate question at this hour of the night, or day, whichever.

“I came to see you.”

And maybe Jaehyo is not used to Jiho being straightforward, so he can’t help but blush even just a little. He curses his body for betraying him, because he really, really wants to get angry with Jiho. “Why? What do you need?”

“I need you.”

Jaehyo raised an eyebrow. Jiho is looking straight at him, and he felt like it was a challenge, and hecan’t lose this. Whatever this is. He does remember the promise he made with Kyung around a month ago, but he never really thought it would be possible. So Jaehyo smirked. Because all of this is too unreal. “Is it really that hard for you to find another piece of ass, or are you just too afraid you’d get discovered?”

But Jiho was not taking the bait. He just smiled softly at the allegation. “I’m sorry for hurting you. You know you’re not just a fuck buddy to me, right? I like you, sex or no sex, but there aren’t too many perks in being with me, that’s why I said all those things. It’s not because you’re an idol and I’m ashamed of you. What I hate are people getting famous because they look good and they strip naked for the camera while pretending they can sing or, God forbid, rap.” He frowned a bit. “I know you hate me now, and I know you have other options. I made you sad and...” his gaze dropped to the ground, but he looked back up again. “I just want to tell you, Ahn Jaehyo, that you’re the most important person in my life” he paused, shrugged, “... well, after my mom.” He looked panicked for a moment, there, and he stuttered, “... but I swear, she’s a wonderful woman and it doesn’t hurt to rank next to her, not that I’m ranking but... oh, God, what am I saying?” and Jaehyo suppressed the urge to laugh.

Jiho regained some of his composure, so he cleared his throat and tried to continue. “Even if you don’t want me back, I just want you to know.”

Jaehyo’s heart softened, and he felt his chest constrict with warmth, but he stood up straighter and asked, “Jiho, do you think I’m wonderful?”

“What?”

“Do I have to repeat that question again?” Jaehyo was scowling at him, now.

“No, I... hyung, of course I think you’re wonderful. Would I be chasing you if I didn’t think so?”

Jaehyo frowns even deeper. “Is it because of my face? Is it because I’m pretty? Because I look like a girl? Do you like me because when you close your eyes you can pretend for a moment that I’m a girl?”

“Hyung, how can I ever pretend that you’re a girl? How many times have I sucked your dick? And really, you shouldn’t be too confident of your face, there are lots of people more attractive than you!”

Uh-oh.

“I mean— hyung you’re handsome, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to insult you I just—”

But Jaehyo was firing one question after another, and cut him off. “So why are you ashamed of me?”

“I’m not” Jiho answers automatically. “I’m not...”

“I love you, you know.”

Jiho’s mouth parts in surprise.

“And I’m painfully aware that you’re a guy. Do you think I’m a bad person? For loving you?”

An uncomfortable silence settles between them. Jaehyo shifts his weight back and forth on both feet, waiting for Jiho to compose himself.

“You came to the showcase.”

The elder lifted his gaze. “Yeah. You were good. Great, even.”

Jiho smiled. “I saw you during the second song, so I changed the order of the set list and... did you... did you hear what I said in the new song? Because you left and...”

The younger sounded so unsure of himself, which was rare. “Yes” Jaehyo answered simply. “But Jiho. Sometimes you have to tell me things, too. This won’t work if you don’t trust me. There’s only so much I can do for you, though, the rest you have to do by yourself.”

“Yeah, I... I’m growing up now, hyung. The last four months... I had time to think.”

Jaehyo smiled, at last, and reached over to caress Jiho’s cheek. “I’m glad. Keep growing, my little Jiho.”

The other took this opportunity to touch his hand. “I’m really sorry.”

“Go get some sleep, okay? Call Kyung to pick you up.”

“Hyung I’m not a baby.”

Jaehyo laughed and patted his cheek. “You’re one adorable but scary baby. My little Chucky.”

And yeah, Jiho may really, really like him, but that was not enough to save him from a swat on the arm.

 

 

 

 

-----

 

 

 

 

“You looked like a fucking tool”

“I’m sorry?”

“This is Jaehyo, by the way, if you have deleted my number.”

Jiho heaved a sigh at the other end of the line. “Of course not, hyung.”

“So should I hang up?”

“No, don’t” the words were out of Jiho’s mouth before he can stop himself. He sounded so fucking eager, and desperate, and that’s not really a good thing.

Jaehyo laughs. “So? It’s been weeks and you haven’t called me.”

“I texted you to come backstage but you didn’t, so it’s your fault” Jiho scoffs. “And you called me a fucking tool. What do you mean I looked like a fucking tool?”

“Your hair was awful, and I hated your pants. Who are you trying to look like?” Jaehyo snorted at him in disgust, and Jiho was about to respond but he was saying, “But you said at the end that being blinded by prejudice is stupid, and that people have different talents and Korea can only progress if we celebrate these differences. Aww, my little Chucky... can I come over and give you a kiss?”

Jiho’s breath got caught on his throat and he choked. He coughed, and Jaehyo laughed at him again. And Jiho really, really, wants to shout out a Yes! But his pride would not be able to live it down. “I’m eating dinner tonight with Kyung, you wanna come?”

“Ah, so this is when I meet your friends?”

“I mean, only if you want.”

“Right.” The elder chuckled, but in truth his heart is pounding from anticipation. Jiho had said he was growing up, and this is an important proof of it.

Kyung was an ass all night, which is nothing unusual for Jiho, but he kept glancing at Jaehyo to watch for his reactions. If Jiho’s snarkiness actually survives the first date, his best friend’s outrageousness can prevent a second. It has happened before, it can happen again. But Jaehyo laughs at everything he says and supplements his green jokes, to Jiho’s horror, and by the end of the night he feared he was going to date two Kyungs, and the idea is actually so appalling he regrets having the two meet.

But when Kyung told them he was going to crash at a friend’s place, and wouldn’t divulge who, but not without giving them a lewd wink (or a series of winks, but Jiho had turned his head away for the sake of his soul), he saw a blush settle on Jaehyo’s cheeks. And Kyung doesn’t blush. He makes people blush. Jiho actually heaved a sigh of relief.

“He’s quite a handful, isn’t he?”

“But you’re... so alike.”

The elder rolled his eyes and gave him a light slap on the arm. “Oh God no. That, my dear little Chucky, is me being an adult. I sense that it’s important for you that he approves of me.”

It was Jiho’s turn to scowl at him, but more because of the nickname, because the second is kind of true. “No. I’m more worried if you’d approve of him.

“So... you introduced me as your boyfriend.”

Jiho looked like he was about to panic. “Was that too much? Am I going too fast? Wait, was I assuming things? Oh God I—”

Jaehyo leaned in and gave him a chaste kiss on the lips. “Does that answer your questions?”

“I don’t know, hyung. Maybe repeat it again so I can be sure?”

Jaehyo laughs, “We’re in the middle of the street. There are people around.”

“Maybe I don’t care.”

“You should—”

This time, it was Jiho who silenced him with a kiss. Jaehyo giggles. “Chucky.”

“Stop calling me that, seriously. I’m not that scary.” He walks ahead in fake anger.

“Jiho.”

The younger boy turns around, scowling, but Jaehyo’s face was serious. “What, hyung?”

“You’re wonderful.”

Jiho feels the blush creep up his cheeks and he began speed-walking to where he parked. He hears Jaehyo’s laughter from the distance, feet running up to catch up to him.

“Hey, it’s true. Learn to accept compliments. Just say, thank you, hyung, and maybe I’ll kiss you again.”

Jiho leans on his car and smiles at him. “Thank you, hyung.”

“Chucky” Jaehyo murmurs with a small laugh before closing the gap between their lips.

 

-----

 

“Anyone who realises what Love is, the dedication of the heart, so profound, so absorbing, so mysterious, so imperative, and always just in the noblest natures so strong, cannot fail to see how difficult, how tragic even, must often be the fate of those whose deepest feelings are destined from the earliest days to be a riddle and a stumbling-block, unexplained to themselves, passed over in silence by others.” 


― Edward Carpenter, The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women