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shoot to kill (my heart is a smoking gun)

Chapter Text

"I should’ve believed you
When I heard you saying it:
The only time
That love is an easy game
Is when two other people
Are playing it."

- Oh, Marion, Paul Simon

--

 

Sungyeol is coming out of the bathroom as Woohyun’s going in, and Woohyun’s eyes are so dim and his face so set, just as they have been since practice, that the sight knots something up inside Sungyeol until he can’t keep the words from spilling out. “You’re pathetic, you know that?”

(This isn’t who Sungyeol wants to be; he doesn’t want to be cruel, but sometimes when it’s Woohyun he just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because sometimes when he looks at Woohyun the façade cracks and he sees all his own insecurities, and it’s the ugliest view he could ever imagine. Maybe that’s the reason, but he’s never going to examine that, so the thought stays firmly in the realm of the half-formed where he doesn’t have to actually look at it but it eats away at something he can’t name.)

For once Woohyun doesn’t even try to pretend that he doesn’t know what Sungyeol’s talking about. He probably knows just how obvious he was earlier, fighting for Sunggyu’s attention during practice (in all the worst ways: Woohyun knows his charm doesn’t work on the other members like it does on outsiders, and so his attempts to win the other guys over come across as criticism of their dancing and patronizing instructions on their singing and sometimes Sunggyu doesn’t stand for it) and his face going tight when their leader told him to back off. Probably all the other guys noticed, too: Hoya never pays attention to stuff like that, but even he looked a little embarrassed, and Myungsoo, who up until that moment had been totally absorbed in trying to master the new moves, had blinked and watched it all with quiet eyes. Dongwoo had looked troubled—no one hates tension amongst the members like Dongwoo—and Sungjong had rolled his eyes, and Sungyeol had felt sick to his stomach. He’s been angry since then, and he doesn’t know why, and it had only gotten worse watching the way that Woohyun had jerked back and fallen into taut silence for the rest of the practice.

Woohyun looks really, really tired (and yes, Sungyeol’s already regretting saying anything, but there’s nothing he can do it about it now). But Woohyun is still Woohyun, so he scowls and says, “You’re one to talk.” His gaze shoots over his shoulder and out into the living room, and Sungyeol can’t help but follow it to see Myungsoo with his back against the wall, pecking way at his laptop.

Sungyeol’s cheeks definitely don’t burn. “That’s different.” And it is. It is. Because he’s not in love with Myungsoo. Not the way that Woohyun is with Sunggyu. Sungyeol is not in love, he just misses his best friend.

There’s no reason, absolutely none that Sungyeol can put his finger on, that he should feel such a distance between himself and Myungsoo lately. It’s not like they’ve fought or anything like that, and on the surface, nothing at all has changed. Probably Myungsoo would still say that Sungyeol’s his best friend (actually, Sungyeol knows he does, because he’s read the interviews. It’s not he goes seeking them out, and it’s not like he puts much stock in anything any of them say to the public. But sometimes he finds himself reading the words and combing them for secret meanings, and Sungyeol really hates himself lately, even more than usual). But now he feels like Myungsoo is just so far away and he doesn’t know how to bridge that distance anymore. When he tries, all the ways he used to, teasing and kicks from his long legs and stealing his stuff, it feels awkward, like trying to force himself into clothes he’s outgrown.

He hasn’t said anything to anyone, of course. But Sungjong blinked owlishly at Myungsoo’s receding back one day at breakfast after another failed attempt on Sungyeol’s part to push his relationship with Myungsoo back onto familiar tracks and said, “Maybe you’ve outgrown the way you used to interact and haven’t found a new way yet.”

“Nobody asked you.” He meant it to come out harsh, but instead it just sounded kind of weary.

Sungjong, though, just snorted and rose with that strange, graceful dignity he can pull out sometimes, usually when it’s least expected. “Whatever, hyung.” Like Sungyeol wasn’t even worth the bother of getting offended by.

And Sungyeol definitely didn’t sit brooding at the table until Woohyun stuck his head into the room and told him to get his ass in gear before he made them all late.

Sungyeol’s been brooding a lot lately, and maybe that’s why he’s snapping at Woohyun now. Woohyun is usually the one he can count on for a good argument when he needs to lash out, especially now that Sungjong’s gotten all scary when he’s angry. Sungyeol can’t very well lash out at his leader, and Dongwoo’s far too good-natured to argue about nothing, and Hoya’s too laid back, and Myungsoo is Myungsoo. But Woohyun can keep up, can toss the words back as quickly as Sungyeol can serve them, and he’ll have forgotten all about it by tomorrow (or at least he acts like he does).

But Woohyun doesn’t take the bait this time. He narrows his eyes at Sungyeol’s flushed cheeks, then makes a sound that, coming from anyone else but Woohyun, would be a weary sigh. “Sure. Fine. Not the same at all. I’m the only pathetic one here.” And then he shoves past Sungyeol into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Sungyeol stands awkwardly in the hall, cheeks hot and for some reason so angry. He battles the anger back eventually, and he walks to his room without glancing again at Myungsoo.

--

Sungyeol’s exhausted after his schedule the next night, all afternoon and evening filming some stupid variety show where they wanted him to act like a clown, and so he did (sometimes he thinks the only thing he’s good at is acting like an idiot on variety shows. He was training to be an MC at SM, not the serious actor he wanted to be, and years of Infinite can’t make him forget that). But where it used to be so easy when they first debuted—choding Sungyeol, with his animal impressions and his anything-but-graceful dancing—it just leaves him drained now, and he’s fighting a headache as he opens the door to the dorm and stumbles over the piles of shoes that always clog the entry hall, toeing off his own without bothering to untie the laces.

The lights aren’t on in the living room, but the ones in the kitchen are, reaching just far enough for Sungyeol to easily spot the empty soju bottles beside the new couch. There’s a head sticking up over the armrest, but Sungyeol doesn’t figure out who it is until he’s almost right on top of him.

“Where is everybody?” Sungyeol asks.

Woohyun blinks up at him blearily, hugging a half-empty green bottle close to his chest. It takes him a moment to answer. “Bed. Schedules.” He waves his free hand lazily before shutting his eyes.

The bedroom seems an awfully long way from here, though it isn’t at all, and Sungyeol can smell the alcohol a little too sharply, so he lets himself collapse onto Woohyun’s legs at the other end of the sofa. Woohyun makes a noise of protest, yanking his feet back until Sungyeol’s sitting only on couch cushion, then stretching his legs out again until his feet are in Sungyeol’s lap. It’s the kind of casual touching that they’re all used to after years of sharing too little space and too many fan expectations, but right now it feels good to have someone here beside him. Sungyeol isn’t as clingy as Myungsoo or as touchy as Dongwoo, but there are moments when he feels like the only thing that will keep him sane is the bump of Hoya’s arm against his own in the van or Sungjong leaning against him for a photo. It doesn’t matter who it is: just being reminded that there are actually people around him and not just plastic figures constructed for the benefit of ravenous, faceless audiences is enough.

There’s a hole in the toe of Woohyun’s sock, which isn’t like him. Sungyeol finds himself staring at the peep of skin as he reaches out and tugs the bottle away from Woohyun.

They don’t drink to excess very often, managers and CEO always ready to remind them that losing their inhibitions could mean losing everything they’ve worked for, and all of them know their limits (Sungyeol is more than willing to admit that he’s a lightweight, mostly because it’s always been hilarious to him that Myungsoo can hold his alcohol better than anyone). But right now, Woohyun looks like he’s made it past tipsy, and as Sungyeol takes his first swig, he thinks he might be up for joining him.

“How was it?” Woohyun asks after a moment where the droning of the air conditioner is the only sound in the room. God, Sungyeol loves this new dorm: loves the air conditioner. Not as much Myungsoo does, of course, but there’s nothing in the world like heading back from a long practice and knowing that the deliciously cool air of the dorm is waiting for them.

Sungyeol snorts. “The usual.”

“How big of an idiot did you look tonight?”

Sungyeol relishes the burn of the soju and the smoothness of the lip of the bottle before he answers. “Pretty big. No animal impressions, though.”

“Thank God for that.”

There’s a faint slur to his voice, just enough of one that Sungyeol can’t help but ask, “Is there any particular reason for your little impromptu pity-party?” Because he knows what happy drinking looks like, and bored drinking, and even angry drinking. But this, alone in the dark with too many bottles, is drown-your-sorrows drinking.

“The usual,” Woohyun says, and there’s nothing at all Sungyeol can say to that but, “Oh.”

He should let it go, he knows that, because they don’t talk about this. None of them talk about this, at least not in words (sometimes there are lifted eyebrows, pointed glances, choked-off laughs. But they don’t talk about it, not ever). But Woohyun just looks really pathetic in that ridiculous sleeveless white hoodie that’s always made him look a little bit like a kid playing astronaut, peeping out of his helmet. Sungyeol knows he’s not the height of fashion, and he mostly doesn’t care, sticking to cardigans and polos and jeans like he had before he became an idol. And Woohyun’s friends with Key-sunbae, so he probably knows at least something about what’s in style. But Sungyeol mostly thinks he looks like a fool when he dresses himself, and never more so than in that hoodie.

Besides, he’s going to finish this bottle of soju soon—it’s burning just right. So he says it.

“You know, you should probably get over him.”

Woohyun had been shifting a little to get comfortable, toes kneading at Sungyeol’s thighs, but he freezes at Sungyeol’s words.

“I mean,” Sungyeol says, taking another swig, “I used to think he’d come around—or that he already had, and you two just weren’t letting the rest of us know about it. You usually get what you want, after all.”

Woohyun’s breathing is ragged now, and he still hasn’t moved at all, but Sungyeol doesn’t notice. He knows, distantly, that he’s drinking too fast, especially on his empty stomach (when was the last time he ate?), and he also knows that he’s using that as an excuse—even he isn’t this much of a lightweight. But he’s felt so boxed in lately by all the things no one ever says. He would have thought he’d get used to that, after years of being Myungsoo’s best friend. And he’s pretty decent at reading between the lines when he wants to be (except when it comes to Myungsoo, apparently). But right now all he wants, more than he wants to just take a vacation and rest or to get cast in a decent drama or for Myungsoo to act like himself again, is for everyone to just say things. Sure, it’ll probably blow up in their faces, but it’s better than this. Anything’s better than this.

So he keeps talking. Talking back the silence. “But I think he’s been making it pretty clear lately that it’s only for the cameras.”

Sungyeol remembers then, something he hadn’t paid attention to earlier in the day: an appearance, and Sunggyu flung his arm around Woohyun, and Woohyun curled into his chest, and they whispered, their faces a little bit too close together, in that way that makes the fangirls scream. But when they’d all trampled off the stage and down the stairs, Sunggyu had shrugged Woohyun away and put as many members between them as he could. Woohyun’s face hadn’t changed at all, and Sungyeol hadn’t paid any attention to it—his attention was on Dongwoo’s arm around Myungsoo’s waist just ahead of him. But it’s no wonder Woohyun’s drinking in the dark now. It’s bad enough for Sungyeol when it’s just his best friend he can’t quite manage to connect with anymore. It’s got to be so much worse when it’s the person you’re crazy in love with who clings to you in front of the audience and shoves you aside as soon as the curtain drops.

“I think,” Woohyun says very carefully, in that way that only the intoxicated can manage, “That you should shut the fuck up.”

Sungyeol leans his head back, his neck resting on the top of the couch, the top of his head banging softly against the wall and takes another swig. “It’s probably for the best, anyway. What would we do if you two actually got together and then broke up? I’m pretty sure we’d implode with the force of your collapsed ego alone.”

“I said. Shut. The fuck. Up.”

Woohyun’s jerked himself upright, his movement ungraceful, and Sungyeol turns his head to look at him. Woohyun’s eyes are blazing, and it could be alcohol or anger or something else altogether, and Sungyeol knows--knows—he should back off. But there was that variety show, and there was Myungsoo and Dongwoo laughing together, and there’s the soju and he hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks (years?) and sometimes the earrings still irritate him and—

“Infinite is more important than your lonely heart,” he says, and the words aren’t even out of his mouth before Woohyun’s lurched forward and grabbed him by the collar, both hands fisting in the material. Sungyeol drops the soju bottle—just now empty; he’ll be thankful about that tomorrow—and it drops between his hip and the armrest of the couch, a too-hard lump against his hipbone. Not that he’s paying attention to it at all now.

Woohyun’s face is very close, fan-service close, but his eyes are narrowed and his breathing is too much, too hard, especially with the way he reeks of soju.

You’re going to tell me what Infinite is more important than? You? When was the last time you actually tried in a performance? Knowing the moves isn’t enough, you know.” The slurring is gone now, but Sungyeol doesn’t think Woohyun is any more sober than he was before. “If you’re so over the whole idol thing, why don’t you leave? Even Myungsoo wouldn’t miss you anymore.”

Something explodes inside Sungyeol, and he isn’t sure whether it’s fury or hurt, because they both burn the same: so, so, so much hotter than the soju. He’s shaking with it, so even at this distance, his fist misses Woohyun’s smirking mouth, just grazing his cheekbone instead. Woohyn’s hands tighten in the fabric of his shirt, and Sungyeol tries to wrench himself free. Woohyun’s biceps are practically the size of Sungyeol’s thighs (which actually says more about the skinniness of Sungyeol’s legs than it does about Woohyun’s arms, because Woohyun’s pretty slender himself), but Sungyeol’s got more than a head’s height on him, and shouldn’t that count for something?

They struggle for a long moment, their breathing labored and the soju bottle shifting around with their movement to poke Sungyeol in the side again and again and again.

“You think you’re better than me?” Sungyeol grunts out. “Better than me with your voice and your abs and your aegyo?” He almost manages to get Woohyun into a headlock, but Woohyun slips away.

“Yeah,” Woohyun spits. “I am better than you. And everyone knows it, too.” He jerks his leg out, kicks, and his foot connects with Sungyeol’s thigh, just a few inches away from a more painful destination.

“Well, what does that matter? Sunggyu still doesn’t want you.”

“Shut up.”

Later, Sungyeol will wonder how they had the presence of mind not to be louder than they are, to hiss and fling insults in undertones. But in the moment, he isn’t aware he’s doing it, thinking only of his own pain and how to cause the most to Woohyun.

“You just can’t get that through your thick head, can you? Even after all these years.”

Shut up shut up shut up.” Woohyun manages to get an arm free enough to slam an elbow into Sungyeol’s side, and Sungyeol digs his fingernails into Woohyun’s shoulder as hard as he can. It’s a chick move, but he doesn’t care. Anything to make him feel the way Sungyeol is feeling.

But Sungyeol couldn’t stop the words even if he tried. They force their way out, ugly and sharp and everything Sungyeol doesn’t want to be, everything he never was when he was just a kid back in Yongin who had the dream of one day being an actor. “He doesn’t want you, and he’ll never want you, and if the fans knew who you really were behind your grease, they wouldn’t want you either.”

A sound like a growl explodes out of Woohyun’s chest, and then he’s launching himself towards Sungyeol, and Sungyeol thinks he might actually be done for this time, but that’s in the split second before Woohyun’s lips attack his.

It’s not exactly good. It’s not exactly anything, except messy and too harsh and completely unlike anything else Sungyeol has ever experienced. Woohyun’s mouth is too hot and too wet and it takes like soju turned even more bitter, and Woohyun’s yanking on the collar of Sungyeol’s shirt so hard that the back of it is cutting into his neck.

But Sungyeol doesn’t pull away. Instead, he pushes back as much as he can, launching a war on Woohyun’s mouth. Maybe it’s because the last time he actually kissed someone was a peck with Jihyun back when he was filming the sitcom, a kiss so milquetoast it couldn’t possibly count by anyone’s standards, especially when an entire film crew was watching and the PD kept interrupting to shout directions. Maybe it’s the soju and the lack of sleep, though Sungyeol has been strung out on both before and he’s never done anything like this. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s been feeling more and more dispensable these days, like people look right past him (like Myungsoo looks right past him), like he almost isn’t there at all and now all of Woohyun’s attention is focused on him. Mostly, he thinks later, it’s nothing at all that makes any kind of sense.

The why, he’ll decide, really doesn’t matter.

He finally has jerk away to catch his breath, because he’s pretty sure if he doesn’t, Woohyun will keep on kissing him until one of them passes out. “What the fuck?” he manages to sputter as soon as he’s gulped in a huge breath. “What the—“

“Just shut the fuck up,” Woohyun commands, and then his lips are back and he’s shoved Sungyeol back against the couch and now the soju bottle is digging into the side of his neck, but he can’t untangle his fingers from Woohyun’s hair long enough to do anything about it, so he ignores it.

It’s really easy to ignore it, actually. Sungyeol has no idea what kind of a kisser Woohyun is, and this melding of mouths really isn’t giving him the opportunity to find out. It’s too harsh, too close, too much, and Woohyun smells like soju and sweat and that awful cologne he wears and he’s on top of Sunyeol and somehow one of Sungyeol’s hands is gripping his bare shoulder so hard he’s pretty sure he’s going to snap Woohyun’s collarbone right in half.

And that’s before Woohyun starts grinding on him.

Sungyeol just about chokes into the kiss and he would pull away, but Woohyn’s got his fingers tangled up in Sungyeol’s hair and uses the grip to keep him where he wants him. Sungyeol can’t even think about what Woohyun’s tongue feels like in his own mouth because Woohyun has somehow positioned himself so that one of Sungyeol’s thighs is in between his legs and he’s, well, riding it. It may be Sungyeol’s imagination, but he’s pretty sure he can feel the heat of Woohyn’s erection—getting harder by the minute—even through two layers of jeans, and it’s not a good thing to panic when someone else has their tongue in your mouth. Sungyeol thinks about just shoving Woohyun away (and afterwards he’ll never be sure why he didn’t), but somehow that thought never quite turns into a command to his body, and so it doesn’t happen.

Woohyun finally detaches himself from Sungyeol’s mouth, allowing him to gulp down air the way a thirsty man would water. But then he’s gasping again, breathless, because Woohyun’s mouth slides down to his neck, to his collarbones, and Sungyeol hears himself make a sound he’s pretty sure he’s never made before, some kind of moan. It turns into a whine, though, when he feels Woohyun’s hand sliding up under his shirt (his hands are almost as hot as his mouth, or at least that’s the way it feels, and is it even possible for a person to burn that hot?), and then a shriek a moment later when Woohyun grabs one of his nipples and tweaks. The shriek isn’t all that loud, because Sungyeol’s still trying to get enough breath into his lungs to ensure that he won’t pass out from oxygen deprivation, but it doesn’t sound manly at all, and if Sungyeol could pay any attention to anything other than Woohyun’s tongue and his hands and him humping Sungyeol’s leg, then he’d probably be ashamed, but needless to say, he can’t.

His jeans are too tight now, his shirt feels too rough against skin that’s suddenly hypersensitive, and Woohyun’s mouth is back against Sungyeol’s. But it doesn’t attach itself this time, just bumping up against Sungyeol’s for a moment, for a taste, as though Woohyun can’t concentrate enough on anything but his grinding for long enough to actually kiss. Woohyun yanks and yanks on Sungyeol’s too-long hair, and maybe it should hurt, but Sungyeol’s almost oblivious to it.

And then Woohyun makes this kind of strangled moaning sound that’s anything but sexy (which doesn’t explain why Sungyeol feels it in his toes and fingers), and Sungyeol knows, just knows that Woohyun just came in his pants.

And that’s—that’s too much. Too much.

He tries to jerk away, but he’s too tangled up in Woohyun (too tangled up in Woohyun?) to free himself, and so they both end up on the floor. Sungyeol gathers all his limbs back up, scrabbling away and to his knees, slipping more than once in his socks on that marble floor, and finally—finally—he can feel something that isn’t Woohyun’s skin and clothes, even if it’s just the air-conditioned-cold of the floor beneath his hands.

Woohyun scrambles up to his knees from where Sungyeol dumped him, and then he’s staring at Sungyeol, dead on, and his eyes aren’t bleary like they were earlier, or too bright, either. Sungyeol can’t read them at all, as they sit there panting and staring at each other and how on earth have they not woken anyone (even if Dongwoo and Myungsoo sleep like the dead, the others don’t) and then Sungyeol’s eyes drop to Woohyun’s pants and he can see a dark stain and—

He runs.

He doesn’t even change out of his painfully tight jeans, and he definitely doesn’t try to take care of the reason they are so tight. Instead, he climbs into his bed as quickly as he can. Dongwoo is snoring, and Hyoan-hyung is, too, and Sungyeol doesn’t fall asleep for a long, long time.

Chapter Text

The thing about being in an idol group with someone is that it’s both incredibly difficult and incredibly easy to avoid that person. Easy, because they’re so busy that it’s almost impossible for any two members to be alone for any sustained length of time without some serious advance planning and even if they do get a scrap of free time, it’s easy enough to claim you have to do something else and not look like you’re actually avoiding someone. Especially if that someone is a person you’re not overly close to, like Sungyeol has never been overly close to Woohyun.

Difficult because: they’re always together.

Every time Sungyeol turns around, Woohyun is there. And it isn’t like it would be in the real world, where people have normal lives that don’t involve photoshoots and interviews and variety shows. He can’t say that Woohyun is following him or anything, because he isn’t. All of the members are just there, all the time, and Woohyun isn’t any different (it’s just that Sungyeol’s never been so conscious of that there-ness before). Woohyun isn’t doing anything differently at all than he usually does.

But that doesn’t mean that Sungyeol isn’t angry at him. Because he’s really, really angry at him.

The anger starts when he wakes up the next morning with the worst hangover he’s ever had. And that doesn’t even make sense because he didn’t drink all that much and he finally had slept a little bit and he’s young, too young to feel this shitty. But he jolts awake with a start as soon as Sunggyu flings open the door and sets to work at the difficult task of rousing Myungsoo and Dongwoo.

Sungyeol blinks and looks around, and his head is killing him and his mouth feels like it’s stuffed with packing peanuts and his stomach feels like it’s trying to digest rocks or something and how can it possibly be morning already? And what the hell happened last night?

Sunggyu looks over at him when he sits up—Leader’s sitting on the edge of Dongwoo’s bed, elbowing him in the side in an attempt to rouse him. Sunggyu stares at him. “What happened to you?” he says, and Sungyeol can’t blame him. If he looks even one fraction as bad as he feels, he probably looks like shit. Flaming shit.

Sungyeol just groans, bringing a hand up to his temple. “Don’t ask.”

Sunggyu narrows his eyes even further. “Well, get cleaned up. We have a photoshoot today, and if you screw it up because you got drunk last night, I’ll rip your vocal chords out.”

It’s typical Sunggyu talk when he’s stressed out, but Sungyeol feels guilty in a way he usually doesn’t when the leader starts to nag. “I’ll be fine,” he assures him.

“You better be. Ya, Dongwoo! Wake the hell up!”

Someone’s in a crabby mood. Sunggyu is usually only this kind of bossy and threatening during practice, and Sungyeol doesn’t know why Sunggyu’s doing the waking up this morning; usually that’s Woohyun’s—

Sungyeol is halfway down the ladder from his top bunk to the floor when he remembers. For a second, his mind is a blur of soju-breath and bad cologne and Woohyun’s skin and—

He fumbles, ends up on the floor. And just sits there for a moment until Sunggyu stares at him like he’s crazy. Which, he totally must be because there is no way what he thinks happened last night actually happened last night.

“What is your deal? Are you turning into Myungsoo?” Sunggyu demands.

Sungyeol’s head snaps around to look at the bed where Myungsoo is still sleeping, pillow marks on his cheeks and his hair a mess. For some reason, he finds himself caught between the urge to shake Myungsoo awake and demand that his best friend help him figure out how precisely he went insane enough to make out with Woohyun on the couch last night and the equal desire to run far away so that he never has to look Myungsoo in the face again.

He doesn’t get to choose either option, though, because Sunggyu has finally dragged a bleary Dongwoo upright and is turning his attention to Myungsoo, saying over his shoulder, “Take a shower, Sungyeol. Now. You better not look like that in thirty minutes.”

The shower doesn’t help nearly as much as either Sunggyu or Sungyeol hoped it would. If anything, it makes him feel worse, because he can’t even run his hands over his own body to clean it without think of Woohyun’s (Woohyun’s fingers are shorter than Sungyeol’s long, thin ones and wider, too, and even rougher, though Sungyeol doesn’t know how that could be with the amount of hand lotion Woohyun uses and he should absolutely not be thinking about this right now. Or ever).

He stumbles out of the shower and drags on some clothes, shaking his wet hair out of his face as he makes his way to the kitchen. It takes forever to dry now, as long as it is, but the stylist-noonas will just have to pull out their hairdryers or something, because he can’t be assed to deal with it right now.

“Rough night?” Hoya asks from where he’s leaning against the living room wall, raising an eyebrow as Sungyeol staggers into the kitchen and towards his coffee maker. Sungyeol doesn’t respond, just pulls out the coffee grounds from the cabinet. He’s been trying to drink less of it lately—Dongwoo’s been making jokes about it stunting his growth, but really he knows his dependency isn’t good for his body, and Sunggyu’s been stocking lots of different kinds of juice to encourage him—but there’s no way he’s going to bypass it this morning. He’s never needed coffee so much in his life.

“You look terrible,” Sungjong says calmly as he appears in the kitchen doorway, looking immaculate, Myungsoo right behind him.

Myungsoo blinks at him. “You okay?” he asks. He’s rubbing sleep out of his eyes, and Sungyeol feels something inside him clench. Sometimes Myungsoo is so cute he wants to die.

“I just need my coffee,” Sungyeol answers, turning back to the maker. His hands are only shaking a little.

“Did they make you do animal impressions?” Hoya asks. “You should introduce a new one. Like a gorilla in heat or something.”

“Like Sungyeol knows anything about anything being in heat.”

It’s Woohyun. Sungyeol’s hands stop working and he drops the coffee scoop. Sungjong makes a sound of dismay and hurries over, grabbing a paper towel to mop up the grounds that are coating the counter.

Sungyeol sinks to his knees. It probably looks like he’s trying to clean up the coffee that made it to the floor—and his socks—but really his knees just stopped working. He thinks about tucking his head between his knees and taking deep breaths like Daeyeol used to have to do when he got panic attacks back in middle school. But he’s aware enough to know that that would be too obvious, so instead he stares at the wood grain of the cabinet in front of him and tries to remind his lungs that they know how to breathe without him having to consciously tell them how to do it. They don’t seem convinced, though, not when Woohyun is in the room right now and Sungyeol can hear the sound he made when he came echoing inside his skull and—

And Myungsoo is right there crouched beside him now. Sungyeol doesn’t have to look; he knows the way Myungsoo smells—knows the way all the members smell, could recognize any of them in the dark by the pattern of their footsteps or the sound of their breathing. Myungsoo slips a finger under the top of Sungyeol’s sock—his finger is colder than Sungyeol’s skin—and tugs. “You should just change socks,” he says.

Sungyeol stares down at his own foot as Myungsoo removes his finger and starts mopping up the rest of the grounds. Sungyeol’s neck feels terribly old and creaky like an ungreased door hinge as he turns to look at Myungsoo.

“Are you really okay?” Myungsoo asks, and his face is right there and he hasn’t brushed his teeth yet and his eyes actually look concerned instead of blank like they usually do.

“I—don’t—I—yeah.” Sungyeol stumbles over his words as he stumbles over his feet, trying to straighten, and he almost bumps his head against the cabinet doing it, and his hands are still shaking. “I’ll get coffee at the salon.” He thinks about putting the top back on the can, but he knows he won’t be able to do it without making an even bigger mess; one of the other guys will do it. “I’m gonna go—brush my teeth.”

And then he hurries out of the room, his movements feeling so very jerky. It isn’t until he’s collapsed back against the closed bathroom door that he realizes he never actually looked at Woohyun at all. He never actually looked at him, but just knowing he was there turned him into a gibbering mess, and how the hell is he supposed to make it through this day—through his goddamn life—while carrying around the memory of the way that Woohyun’s mouth tastes and the sounds he makes when he comes?

That’s when Sungyeol starts to get angry.

--

The photoshoot is long, and hot, and Sungyeol still doesn’t know how to do this without feeling awkward. “Look sexy,” the photographer will say, and what the hell does that even mean? Isn’t sexy a relative thing? Don’t different people find different things attractive? (Did Woohyun find him attractive or would he have attacked anyone like that?) Whatever it means, Sungyeol’s pretty sure he’s not it. (Soju goggles, isn’t that what they say? People hook up all the time when they’re drunk and then regret it the next morning—that’s normal, right?) He can smile and laugh and act silly easily, but as soon as they want him to be sexy, he starts to feel like he still hasn’t figured out what to do with all of his limbs. (He’d felt that way last night, when Woohyun was trying to gnaw on his tongue, and Sungyeol thinks he might actually go insane.)

But he tries. He’s pretty sure he mostly just comes across as pensive.

He’s gulping down his fifth cup of coffee (don’t tell Sunggyu-hyung) and rounding the corner to go to the bathroom when he hears Dongwoo’s voice.

“What’s up with Sungyeol?”

Dongwoo doesn’t sound worried, he sounds concerned, and the difference is all Dongwoo. Sometimes Sungyeol just loves Dongwoo so much, loves how big his heart is, how much he wants all the members to be happy and okay. They make jokes about Dongwoo being the umma of the group, but those jokes are fond because all of them have, at one point or another, been absolutely sure that they wouldn’t have made it without Dongwoo’s care.

“How the hell should I know?”

The warmth that Sungyeol felt at Dongwoo’s voice melts away like it had never been, because it’s Woohyun again, and he sounds peeved. Or something.

“It was just a question,” Dongwoo says, sounding a little taken aback. “Myungsoo didn’t know; that’s why I’m worried.”

“Because Myungsoo knows everything there is to know about Sungyeol.”

Sungyeol presses his eyes closed; Woohyun’s voice is a little rough, rough like it had been last night and this is not okay.

“Now I’m worried about you,” Dongwoo says, and he sounds it, too, even though he’s laughing that little Dongwoo laugh. “You know they’re best friends, I just thought Myungsoo would have some sort of idea, but he doesn’t. But really, Woohyun, are you okay?”

Woohyun sighs, and it’s just exactly the same sigh he made when he pushed past Sungyeol into the bathroom a couple of days ago and this is not okay. “Yeah, hyung, sorry.” Woohyun almost never calls Dongwoo ‘hyung,’ though Sungyeol’s never been sure why. “I’m just tired. And I drank a little too much last night.”

“Don’t do that again. It’s bad for your skin.”

Woohyun’s laugh doesn’t sound anything like mirth. “Trust me, I’m not planning on doing that any time soon.”

And then there are footsteps and Sungyeol looks up and blinks. He’d slumped against the cool plaster of the wall without even realizing it, but now Woohyun has rounded the corner, Dongwoo just beside him, and Sungyeol almost falls over, even with the wall holding him up.

It’s the first time he’s met Woohyun’s eyes since he fled the night before and Sungyeol feels like his chest is about to explode. There’s this momentary spasm of surprise that jerks its way across Woohyun’s face (has he always had those cheekbones?) and then it’s gone and Woohyun’s face might as well be made out of plastic for all it gives away. And his eyes: Sungyeol can’t read them, not at all, but they’re not like the distant blankness of Myungsoo’s where he looks like his soul has gone somewhere and left his body behind. It’s like a door is closed and Sungyeol can’t see past the wood of it.

He’s kind of desperately grateful for that.

All of that takes about three seconds, and then Dongwoo is sliding past Woohyun, breaking the locked gazes, and laying a hand on Sungyeol’s shoulder—he has to reach up a little, and Sungyeol has always found that endearing, though right now he doesn’t even notice.

“Are you okay?”

It’s like the fifty-sixth time that Sungyeol has been asked that today, but he can’t possibly be annoyed because it’s Dongwoo and his eyes are so very, very kind. And after the shutteredness of Woohyun’s, that’s such a relief.

“Yeah, hyung.” His voice comes out scratchy, and he clears it. “I’m fine. I’m just tired.”

Dongwoo’s eyes still look at a little concerned, but his face stretches into one of those smiles that everyone loves. “Let me know if you need something, okay?”

Sungyeol jerks his head into a nod—why does his neck keep stiffening up like that?—and Dongwoo pats his shoulder before he moves past him.

Woohyun just stands completely still for a moment. Sungyeol isn’t looking at him, he’s staring at the floor, but he can still see the shape of him out of the corner of his eye. Then he starts forward, and Sungyeol looks up at the last moment, and Woohyun’s eyes clash with his, and he passes a little too close and their shoulders bang together—no, Woohyun’s shoulder bangs against Sungyeol’s arm—and Sungyeol thinks he might actually scream.

He manages not to, just barely, and when he’s finally alone in the little hallway he looks down and sees the crumpled Styrofoam coffee cup in his hands, mangled at some point without him even noticing.

This is not okay.

--

Sungyeol is self-aware enough to know that what’s simmering now as anger has its root in confusion and, if he’s honest (which he really doesn’t want to be in this case), fear. The confusion is easy enough to understand: Woohyun’s never shown even the slightest bit of attraction to him before, and Sungyeol doesn’t think about guys like that, and nothing about that night made sense. But the fear is a little harder to map, and Sungyeol isn’t sure he’s brave enough to actually examine it. So he’s glad that there are always dozens of things to do, hundreds of reasons to be distracted and stressed, and that he can shove the fear aside and hold onto the anger and tell himself it doesn’t matter anyway (Sungyeol has never been very good at lying, not even to himself. Maybe especially not to himself).

The anger comes over him at unexpected times. Well, some not-so-unexpected ones, like whenever he sees Woohyun’s face—Woohyun has gotten scarily good at making his eyes go shut-door whenever he looks at Sungyeol and then having them flicker open and back to life whenever he looks away. Obviously Sungyeol gets angry then, jaw set and teeth grinding. But it also just bubbles up sometimes for no reason at all, and he snaps at Dongwoo—and feels terribly, terribly guilty immediately after, of course, especially when Dongwoo’s eyes still look troubled after he apologizes—and once or twice even at Sungjong, whose eyes flash in that terrifying way and who makes it clear that he isn’t going to be treated that way.

After a few days (of not talking to Woohyun at all for any reason), he gets better at reigning the anger and he starts guzzling coffee instead. Hoya makes a joke about just hooking him up to an IV of the stuff, but nobody really laughs.

The coffee leaves Sungyeol even more tense and jittery than his messed up emotions already had, and he hates it, but it’s better that his mind keep moving this quickly so that it doesn’t ever settle on the thing he’s trying to avoid.

Leader Gyu’s brow is furrowed when he catches Sungyeol in the kitchen one day brewing yet another cup of coffee. “I thought you were trying to cut back,” he says, and Sungyeol avoids his gaze.

“I was.” He thinks of all the cans of juice lined up in the cabinets and feels guilty.

“What happened, then?”

Sunggyu is a strange one and always has been. He can be really patient and a bit of a pushover, or he can be a slave driver and a total ass. Sungyeol’s never been very good at predicting which way their leader will react, which used to be a bad thing when he would get in trouble. He knows that he gave Sunggyu ulcers, but he’s calmed down a lot lately and Sunggyu seems to appreciate it, he thinks, even if Sungyeol’s never been good at reading the older boy like Woohyun is. (don’tthinkabouthimdon’tthinkabouthimdon’tthinkabouthim)

Right now, though, Sunggyu doesn’t sound accusing; he sounds like he actually cares. But the last thing Sungyeol could possibly do is talk with Sunggyu about this, so he just shrugs and stirs his coffee.

“I just—need it right now, hyung. I’ll try to cut back again soon, but.” He can’t think of anything else he could possibly say. “Right now I need it,” he finishes lamely, and he knows it isn’t a good enough explanation, but it’s the best he can do right now.

Maybe another leader would say, “If you need to talk about it, I’m here,” but Sunggyu doesn’t say that, and Sungyeol suspects it’s not because he’s an ass but because he can actually tell that Sungyeol very much doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he just says, “Don’t let it affect your performance,” and that’s fair. Sunggyu is, almost always, fair.

If Sunggyu were another leader, maybe Sungyeol could say, “I’m doing my best,” or “I’ll try.” But this is Sunggyu and so he says, “I won’t.”

He just hopes he can live up to that promise.

Chapter Text

It goes on like that for several days: Sungyeol sucking down coffee till he can barely sleep at night, Woohyun only looking at him with those shuttered eyes, everyone giving Sungyeol worried or annoyed looks (the annoyance mostly comes from Sungjong). Sungyeol knows that something’s going to give soon, that it can’t continue like this—that Sunggyu won’t let it continue like this. But he’s mostly been able to keep up at dance practice and if he’s a little strange in interviews, well, he always has been and no one who doesn't know him well would possibly notice the difference in degree. If he can keep this up, he figures he has a few more days until it all falls apart and maybe by that time he’ll have a handle on it.

It doesn’t work like that, though, because of course it never does. His inertia, the status quo he was starting to get comfortable with, ends up being disturbed by the last two things he expected.

The first is that Woohyun—or that bastard, as Sungyeol has taken to calling him in his head—changes the rules of the game with no warning. Oh, he still doesn’t actually say anything to Sungyeol (and it’s a testament to how busy they all are and how noisy they always are and how good of an actor Woohyun is that nobody notices this), still doesn’t show anything at all in his eyes when he looks at Sungyeol. But one day he stops avoiding rooms Sungyeol is in as he’s been doing since that night. That would be enough in itself if that was it, but it’s not. He also starts looking at Sungyeol even more. And even if his eyes are still unreadable, they’re on Sungyeol, and it feels like thousands of ants have climbed up under his clothes and are racing across his skin. Sungyeol turns his back, but he can still feel those eyes on him, resting heavy and sure, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with himself.

Twitchy doesn’t even begin to describe Sungyeol.

And then comes the touching. Or…the closeness, maybe, because most of the time it’s nothing so intentional as to be called touching. Woohyun just snags the seat next to Sungyeol in the van (Sungyeol spends the entire ride with his earbuds in, staring at his shoelaces and trying to convince himself that he can’t feel the heat of Woohyun beside him) or bumps him with his shoulder when he passes, even when there’s plenty of room to avoid him (and Sungyeol remembers the way the skin on that shoulder felt under his hand and he’s having these dreams now). He comes into the bathroom when Sungyeol’s brushing his teeth, and there’s nothing wrong with that, they never lock the door unless they’re getting friendly with their hands because someone else could need to piss while you’re showering and you can’t very well keep him out. But it’s different now when Woohyun snags his own toothbrush and crowds up beside Sungyeol, and all Sungyeol wants to do is put his shirt on but he can’t because that would be admitting something and he’s not going to do that until Woohyun does, he’s absolutely not. (He’s always been self-conscious of his body, of his lack of definition and his flabby belly. It was cute when he was younger, but he knows it’s not anymore, and he feels absolutely sick standing next to Woohyun with his perfect muscles).

And Sungyeol thinks he’s going to kill Woohyun (he imagines it all so clearly in his head: just slamming his fist over and over into that too-attractive, constantly-smirking face till his ridiculous nose is shattered and his full cheeks are streaked with blood) when Woohyun comes up behind him one day while they’re waiting to film an appearance and starts massaging his shoulders.

“Damn, you’re tense,” he says, and his voice is way too close to Sungyeol’s ears, and he wants to fling those hands off of him with as much force as he can, but the others would notice (and he is tense, and he’s been needing a massage for weeks) and so he just sits and waits until they’re called to the stage, feeling Woohyun’s hands move over his shoulders (too hard but it feels so good) and biting his lip until he almost breaks the skin, letting it go and then biting it again.

The second thing is Myungsoo. Frankly, Sungyeol was beginning to think that Myungsoo was just going to ignore Sungyeol’s obvious insanity forever. Myungsoo isn’t really one for heart-to-hearts, and that isn’t what their relationship is built on anyway. It’s more…play-wrestling and pranks and saying ridiculous things. They have moments (or at least they had in the past) where things felt real and close, but those are mostly wordless moments: Myungsoo resting his head on Sungyeol’s shoulder on a long van ride in the dark, the two of them sharing a set of earbuds, connected by a loop of rubber-coated wire and the music; Myungsoo’s hand on his back when Sungyeol can’t keep the tears back after yet another line assignment leaves him with less than the others (always, always less than the others); catching each other’s eyes across the stage, while the adrenaline of a live performance jolts through their veins (those are the moments when Sungyeol gets outside of himself and really feels infinite). Those are the things, really, that let Sungyeol feel confident enough to call Myungsoo his best friend (he’s always been so worried about labels like that: what if he uses them first and the other person doesn’t feel the same way? Myungsoo is the first one who doesn’t make him feel constantly self-conscious about the claim. At least he hadn’t until recently).

But the thing all those moments have in common is the lack of words: Sungyeol’s prattle dies away and there’s just him and Myungsoo. Sungyeol has kind of been counting on things staying that way, glad, for once, that his best friend can be so uncommunicative, that he won’t have to put a voice to what’s really going on with him (and so make it more real). And the fact that Myungsoo seems so distant from him these days just makes Sungyeol feel even more certain that he won’t ever have to hash out any of this out loud.

So when Myungsoo snags his sleeve as they’re climbing out of the van one night and gives it a tug to let him know that he wants them to hang back from the group, Sungyeol doesn’t try to think of an excuse to slip away. Myungsoo just wants someone to go get snacks with or to take a walk or to plan a prank (they haven’t really pranked anyone in a while, but Myungsoo enjoys it almost as much as he does, so he knows that part of their relationship, at least, hasn’t disappeared forever).

It’s a humid night, the air sticky against the back of Sungyeol’s neck under the length of his hair, and he’s dying for a shower. But he stands in the orange light of the streetlamp and waits for whatever it is Myungsoo’s going to say.

Myungsoo shifts a little, a gesture that’s completely unlike him; Myungsoo is physically awkward, of course, but usually not in the ways that other people are. He’s making one of those ridiculous pursed-lip faces, too, the kind that make you forget all about how flawless his face is and just marvel that someone can make an expression like that. Still, Sungyeol waits. He’d normally fill up this silence with some kind of silly joke or something, but he’s tired and knows he’s about to crash from his coffee high so he doesn’t bother.

“What’s going on with you?” Myungsoo blurts finally, and it’s absolutely the last thing Sungyeol expects.

Sungyeol gapes at him for a moment, totally gobsmacked. Then the panic sets in, because Myungsoo’s chin is set in that stubborn way he has, and Sungyeol’s going to have to come up with some convincing lie—and quick—because it’s clear that his friend actually expects an answer.

Sungyeol knows he’s smart, but right now his mind is thrashing about trying to find something to latch onto and it isn’t quite working. “I—nothing! I’m just tired!”

It’s what he’s been telling everyone, and they’ve mostly accepted it (and by accepted he means ‘don’t push for another answer’), even if he knows they don’t believe him. But this is Myungsoo, and Myungsoo scoffs. “Yeah. That explains why you’ve been gulping down all that coffee right before bedtime.”

Well. He’d hoped they hadn’t noticed that; he’d tried to be sneaky. But he also knew that that was a long-shot when they live like they do. Of course they all notice. Myungsoo’s just the only one who’s pointed it out.

But he needs that coffee, needs it more than he needs rest, because when he’s wired on the caffeine, he doesn’t have to actually think. And when he finally falls into exhausted sleep, he doesn’t have the dreams (much). But he can’t tell Myungsoo that. He couldn’t tell anyone that, but especially Myungsoo.

But he also can’t say that nothing’s wrong, because Myungsoo would be annoyed that he’d insult his intelligence that way when clearly something is very, very wrong.

“Okay,” he says finally, a sigh exploding out of him. “Okay, there’s something. There’s something, but I don’t want to talk about it.” Not ever. With anyone. Under any circumstances.

There. He’s been honest for the first time since that night. It’s a relief, actually, to admit out loud that there’s something gnawing away at his insides. Hoya’s been making jokes that Sungyeol’s already-slippery grip on reality is slipping completely, and Sungyeol can’t claim that he doesn’t feel a little bit like he’s losing it for real. So this moment of honesty feels…good. He stands there in the sticky silence and lets it wrap itself around him.

But after a moment, Myungsoo shifts again, and this time he looks away and scratches the back of his neck. “You know you could…talk to me, right?”

Sungyeol doesn’t think he’s ever heard anyone sound more awkward before in his life. Myungsoo’s mouth kind of twists up when he says the words, too, like his lips aren’t used to the taste of them or aren’t sure they’re actually capable of saying that. It would be funny if it weren’t for the reason that Myungsoo’s offering his listening ear.

Still, Sungyeol can’t help but laugh a little. It sounds a little raspier than usual, and he realizes it’s probably the first time he’s laughed since that night—a laugh because he’s actually amused, not because it’s what’s expected in an interview. At least Myungsoo can still give him that.

“I don’t think human speech is capable of emphasizing just how very much I do not want to talk about it.”

Myungsoo can’t hide his relief at that, his shoulders slumping out of the tension that Sungyeol hadn’t noticed until it was gone, and maybe that should sting, but it doesn’t at all. In fact, in this insane-o world that Sungyeol’s been living in for days now, it makes him feel closer to Myungsoo than he has in months.

“Thanks, though,” he adds after a moment, because he feels like he needs to acknowledge that Myungsoo at least tried.

Myungsoo snorts. “You forced me to this, you know. Acting the way you have been. I’m pretty sure you should be locked up.”

And this—this feels right. Sungyeol grins, and it’s weary, but it’s also real in a way it hasn’t been for a while. “Yeah, but didn’t you tell me that after we first met? It’s just now sinking in?”

He starts walking towards the building and Myungsoo falls into step beside him. Sungyeol isn’t that much taller, but his legs are longer, so his paces should be, too, but after years of Myungsoo being always at his side, he’s learned to measure them.

“I’ve thought it every single day. But now I think you wouldn’t just sign yourself over—they’d have to come for you with tranquilizers and a straight-jacket and haul you off.”

“Screaming,” Sungyeol adds, swinging the door open.

“Obviously.”

“Would you visit me on family days?”

“Never. I’d be too relieved to get rid of you. Maybe I’d be able to have a normal life without you in the picture.”

“I wouldn’t count on it. With one less person around, Sunggyu-hyung would just make you practice more to pick up the slack. And I’ll be far away in a nice padded room, resting and being let out in the afternoons to chase butterflies.”

The elevator’s waiting for them, and they slide inside at the ding, still bickering, and Sungyeol can feel the muscles in his face stretching as he really does smile for the first time in days.

“Now that you put it that way, it sounds great: can I come, too?”

“Why do you think I need to go there in the first place? I’ve lost my mind from staring at your ugly face every day.”

Myungsoo looks like such a dork when he laughs, his face scrunching up, and Sungyeol has the ridiculous thought that the way he feels when Myungsoo shoves him away is how a girl probably feels when her best friend hugs her.

The kind of weird giddy feeling it gives him doesn’t last long, though. Sungyeol doesn’t drink coffee that night and actually gets a decent night’s sleep. He knows that things aren’t totally fixed between him and Myungsoo, but it’s a step (and a sign that Myungsoo thinks he’s worth fighting for, which is something he hadn’t been sure of until now), and maybe that’s why he sleeps so well.

He even wakes up feeling not so bad, and he thinks that he might skip the coffee this morning, too (it’ll give him a headache, probably, but he can deal with that), but then Woohyun walks into the bathroom while he’s showering.

Sungyeol tenses up behind the curtain before he forces himself to relax. He had been just about to turn the water off and get out, but he’ll wait now. It’s still hot, anyway: this place almost never runs out of hot water, not the way the old dorm did after just one shower. It’s still a luxury, and Sungyeol will take this excuse to bask in it.

So he waits, the water cascading over his body. He hears Woohyun flush, hears the sink run and then the sound of teeth being brushed. Almost done, then. Sungyeol relaxes a bit more.

Except that the expected sound of Woohyun leaving the room doesn’t follow. Sungyeol waits. And waits. And, still, it doesn’t sound like Woohyun has any intention of leaving anytime soon.

Finally, he can’t help it. His skin’s starting to get pruny and if he wants something to eat before they leave he needs to get dressed now and—

“Are you almost done?”

It’s the first time he’s said anything to Woohyun since that night almost two weeks before. Woohyun doesn’t answer for a moment, and that, more than anything, tells Sungyeol that Woohyun’s still affected by it all, too (which is a relief, because the one thing worse than going out of his mind about this whole stupid thing is going out of his mind alone).

“Oh, don’t mind me.” Woohyun’s voice sounds a little too cheerful, the voice he uses for the fans, the one he never uses for the other members because he knows they won’t stand for it. Sungyeol can feel all that tense anger flooding back into him. “Just taking care of a few things.”

Whatever that means. Sungyeol can’t stand the wondering anymore and peeks his head around the edge of the shower curtain. Woohyun’s standing in front of the mirror, shirtless (all that muscle again and how is that even possible? When Sungyeol thinks of Woohyun, he thinks of him as he was when they first met as trainees: slightly pudgy but in a cute way that made girls sigh, his face rounder than a baby’s, his body narrow as a boy’s always is when it hasn’t developed yet into a man’s. He’s nothing like that now), rubbing something from one of his little vials all over his face. All idols know the importance of moisturizing—they’ll get yelled at by the makeup-noonas if they don’t take care of their skin—but Woohyun takes it to an extreme. That drawer full of cosmetics that Sungyeol giggled over to the camera back during Sesame Player? Not planted. That was all Woohyun.

And now Woohyun catches his eye in the mirror. Sungyeol almost catches a glimpse of some actual human emotion there instead of just the closed-door of the last few days, and it jolts through him hotter than the water. But it’s an almost-moment, not a real one, and Woohyun, at least, carries on like it didn’t actually happen.

“Just ignore me,” Woohyun says, waving a hand. “I might be a few more minutes.”

Ignoring him is exactly what Sungyeol’s been trying to do for days now, but he doesn’t think it’ll be any more possible now that he’s got an explicit invitation. He grits his teeth.

“Other people need the sink, too,” he says, because he can’t think of anything else to say.

“And other people need the shower,” Woohyun agrees. “But that doesn’t keep you from hogging it, does it?”

Sungyeol yanks the curtain shut, closing his eyes in frustration. He’s never really understood Woohyun, and just now he’s reminded forcibly of that fact. There are all these signals, or at least they seem like signals, the mixed kind, but Sungyeol can’t puzzle out what any of them mean: how does Woohyun want him to react to all of this? If he had some idea of that, he could figure out some course of action; he could decide whether to go along with whatever it is that Woohyun’s doing or he could decide not to play by the other’s rules and reject them completely. But nothing about the way Woohyun is acting makes sense to him, and he feels stuck in a holding-pattern, not covering any ground at all.

“Hey. Remember that time we played newly-weds?"

Sungyeol thinks he might actually choke on his tongue when Woohyun’s question connects. Woohyun’s voice is a little too casual (which means not casual at all), but Sungyeol’s too busy freaking out over what he actually said to notice.

“What?” he says. Or tries to say. It comes out strangled and possibly not resembling any human language.

“Oh, you remember. I thought it was one of the best moments of the show, actually. I heard the fans ate it up. Almost as much as Hoya’s We Got Married jokes about him and Dongwoo. But I think we made a cuter couple.”

If Woohyun had been reminiscing like this back before that night, this wouldn’t feel awkward at all. They all joke about things like that all the time, because they’re guys and they’re stupid, and it’s never, ever bothered Sungyeol before.

But now he knows what Woohyun’s face looks like when he’s coming, and nothing is the same as it was before. Nothing at all.

Because right now all he can think about is what Woohyun had said that time.

Yeobo, I can see your silhouette.

Omo, guess where I’m washing.

The place that gets me excited?

Sungyeol cannot handle this. He smacks the water off so hard he almost breaks the handle—his hand will be stinging for a while, but he doesn’t notice at the moment—and reaches out past the curtain to grope for a towel. For a moment he has a terrifying thought: What if that bastard moved them? but then his hand grasps terrycloth, his relief choking him up to the point where he doesn’t even care if it’s still damp from someone else’s shower.

He wraps it around himself quickly with fumbling hands, yanking the curtain open so hard that the top of it rips free from one of the hangers and stumbles his way out of the bathroom as quickly as he can. His feet are still wet, the floor is slippery, but somehow he manages to get out of the steam-filled room without landing flat on his ass or losing his towel. He doesn’t look at Woohyun once, but he can picture the smirk the other guy is giving himself in the mirror.

By the time Sungyeol has made it to the bedroom and yanked on his clothes, all of his panic has crystallized into anger, and he’s right back where he started.

Chapter Text

Something had to give, of course. Sungyeol’s known that all along, he’s just been trying not to think about it. Still, if he had thought about it, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have guessed that he’d be the one to snap first—though, in retrospect he’ll wonder how he didn’t figure out that that’s exactly what would happen.

It’s a rare afternoon almost free, and he’s making (another) cup of coffee in the kitchen—Sungjong passes by and makes a snide comment about just moving the damn thing directly into Sungyeol’s bedroom so he doesn’t have to tramp all the way to the kitchen—when Woohyun appears in the doorway. Sungyeol tenses up even more than he already is. But he keeps his head down, bent over the coffee maker on the counter and hoping that Woohyun will grab whatever he needs quickly and then go away.

The thing about the kitchen is: it’s small. Narrow, actually, and whenever more than one person is there at a time, the occupants end up tripping over and bumping into each other like it’s a comedy routine. Even for people as physically aware of each other as the members of Infinite are, they can’t help but run into one another. So Sungyeol isn’t particularly surprised to feel Woohyun’s elbow jab into his back as he passes. Actually, Woohyun’s elbows are one of the few parts of his body that haven’t become like some sexually charged instruments of torture, so it could be a lot worse. Sungyeol watches the dripdripdripping of the coffee as he listens to the refrigerator door be pulled open and Woohyun fumbling around inside for something. It slams shut a second later, and Woohyun is moving to pass him again, and Sungyeol feels a little tingle of relief because it looks like this time Woohyun might actually just leave.

Except that anything resembling luck seems to have abandoned Sungyeol completely (and has since that night), because all of a sudden an arm is reaching right past his face, opening the cabinet door, and there’s warmth against his back and—

Sungyeol jerks around and Woohyun is right there, so close that it’s worse than if he was actually touching him.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sungyeol’s voice comes out squeaky and not nearly as demanding as he wanted it to.

Woohyun shrugs, one of those butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth looks on his face, and Sungyeol has never wanted so badly to hurt someone (someone named Nam Woohyun). “Just getting a cup.”

And then slowly slowly slowly he brings his arm down and there is indeed a cup from the cabinet in his hand, but Woohyun doesn’t back up at all. They’re not exactly face-to-face because of the height difference, but that doesn’t seem to matter at all.

“And you couldn’t have just asked me to move? Or to hand you one?” Sungyeol’s pretty impressed with himself that he’s managing to remember how language works, because Woohyun seems to be exuding some sort of heat like his insides are filled with lava and he’s close enough that Sungyeol can see each one of his eyelashes, distinct and not nearly as long as Woohyun would like them to be.

“This was just easier,” Woohyun says innocently—except that there’s nothing even remotely innocent about Woohyun and there never has been, and there’s especially nothing innocent about what he’s doing right now.

The anger is churning inside Sungyeol’s stomach, but there’s a thick layer of something close to panic wrapped around it, so he just manages to say, “You’ve got your cup now.”

“Yeah,” Woohyun says, but his eyes are glued on Sungyeol’s face. “I do.”

If there’s anything Sungyeol knows about Woohyun, it’s that he refuses to take a hint. It’s not that the hints fly over his head the way they do Dongwoo’s; Woohyun always recognizes them for what they are. He just refuses to acknowledge them, like life is some sort of power play and he’s winning something when he forces the other person to come right out and say something. No wonder his relationship with Sunggyu is so fucked up.

“So move,” Sungyeol says, and thankfully the squeaking is gone now, but his tone is so close to desperate that it isn’t really any better.

“Okay,” Woohyun says, but he still just stands there, and that isn’t Sungyeol’s imagination, right? He really can feel Woohyun’s breath against his chin? That, combined with that I’m-so-innocent face that Woohyun is pulling finally starts to wear away at the panic that’s been keeping his anger at bay.

“Get. Out. Of. My. Face.” Sungyeol’s voice doesn’t even sound like his own—it’s harsher and rawer—and Woohyun’s eyes are very, very dark right now.

And now—now the bastard has the nerve to smile. Except that it’s closer to a smirk, not the greasy one he gives the fangirls, but something with more of an edge to it, and Sungyeol can feel the anger growing inside him, making him tremble. “Make me,” Woohyun says, and the last of the panic dissipates, and Sungyeol’s vision goes white.

His conscious brain doesn’t make the decision to slam Woohyun against the wall just behind him, but he does it anyway, his palms flat against Woohyun’s chest until the shock of contact with the wall shudders through him, and then Sungyeol’s hands are fisting in Woohyun’s ugly, ugly shirt, and then he’s kissing him, messy and harsh against the wall of the kitchen.

“I knew.” Woohyun’s laugh sounds more like a gasp when they finally pull back, giddy or triumphant or something else Sungyeol isn’t bothering to label right now. “I knew you wanted it.”

Sungyeol isn’t sure if it’s anger or something else that shoots through him at the words (he swears to himself that he won’t evereverever use the word ‘lust’ in reference to Nam Woohyun), but he’s the one to rasp out, “Shut the fuck up,” this time just like Woohyun did last time and he can’t stay away from Woohyun’s mouth (the fact that he has to briefly be quiet when Sungyeol is kissing him is only a side benefit).

Woohyun opens his mouth under his to let Sungyeol’s tongue in, and Sungyeol immediately seizes the opportunity. He’s never explored someone’s mouth like this before (while sober enough for it to count), but he doesn’t have the concentration to notice anything about it. His brain is all foggy (anger or lust) and there’s a part of him just chanting moremoremoremoremore.

“It’s okay,” Woohyun says through that same laugh-gasp when Sungyeol releases him briefly to refill their lungs. His lips are swollen even bigger than usual and too red to be attractive. “I want it, too.”

His words make something shudder through Sungyeol, down to where his fingers are gripping Woohyun’s shirt so hard, but Sungyeol isn’t sure whether it’s terror or relief—they feel the same, like a shock. He can’t face it, whatever it is, so he shoves Woohyun into the wall again and dives back down to Woohyun’s lips.

A door slams open somewhere, but Sungyeol doesn’t even notice until he hears Sungjong’s annoyed voice call, “If you’re going to wrestle, do it in the living room where there’s more room. You’re making too much noise and I’m trying to take a nap, hyungs,” before the door slams shut again.

Sungyeol jerks back, tingling all over like he just plunged into icy water, sputtering and blinking and staring at Woohyun. “What—“ It hits him, then, what he’s doing. What he’s doing and who he’s doing it with and what the others think they’re doing that isn’t remotely close to what they’re really doing and—

“Oh, no you don’t.” Sungyeol doesn’t even realize he’s turned away (to run from whatever this is) until Woohyun speaks, reaching out to grab Sungyeol’s arm and yank him back. “Not this time. Not after how long you made me wait.”

“Made you—what?” Sungyeol sputters, but Woohyun ignores him, dragging him out of the kitchen. Sungyeol should be pulling away, putting up a fight, and he doesn’t understand why he isn’t. Woohyun throws open the door to a bedroom—Sungyeol’s bedroom, and somehow that makes it all so much worse—and throws Sungyeol inside. Sungyeol barely has enough time for his mind to register that the room is empty before Woohyun’s closed the door behind him and is advancing on him.

“God, you’re so slow.” Now Woohyun shoves Sungyeol up against the wall, his hands trailing down Sungyeol’s chest (Sungyeol feels a jolt of self-consciousness about how skinny he is, how not sculpted, but then he gets really distracted and it fades away as quickly as it surfaced). “I thought you were going to lose your mind, I really did.”

“You thought I—ow! What the—“

Woohyun smirks up at him as though he didn’t just bite Sungyeol’s shoulder right through his shirt. “At first I thought I’d just leave you alone, let you figure it out yourself, but you were too busy trying to make coffee have the same effect as alcohol to figure anything out at all, weren’t you? And even when I gave you hints, you got even twitchier.”

Oh. Well.

Sungyeol really only has one question left, but it’s really so many questions rolled up into one. “But—why?” Why me why you why this why wait why aren’t you as scared as I am why am I even scared why can’t I get away from this why why whywhywhy?

Woohyun smirks again and shrugs. “Who cares?”

“But—“

But Woohyun’s fingers are fumbling with the buttons of Sungyeol’s jeans and Sungyeol can’t remember what he was going to say.

--

“I like girls,” Sungyeol informs the showerhead. Not very loudly, because the last thing he needs is for anyone to hear, but just enough that he can make out the sound of the words over the rush of water. They sound true.

“I like girls,” he repeats, and he thinks about the Trouble Maker video. He knows every frame of it by now—anyone would after how many times he and Sungjongie rewatched it and the various live performances so that they could memorize every motion in detail. Sungjong always watched it with eyes narrowed in concentration but gaze totally clinical: he was watching the performance, not the people, and Sungyeol was always a little amazed at how he could switch back and forth so easily. He knows Sungjong likes girls, likes them a lot despite people’s insinuations, but he can also watch a smoking hot girl move her body in ways that should be illegal and be totally unmoved by it if he’s focusing on the dancing. Sungyeol could never quite manage that; his pants were always a little too tight after a viewing. And it was because of Hyuna-sunbae, of course.

He’s never questioned that before, but this moment feels something like a question. He runs through it, the curves of Hyuna’s body, the way she moved, that look on her face—and yes, that still gets him hot. He switches tracks now, thinks about Hyunseung-sunbae slinking around in that stupid leopard print and—nothing.

Okay. So. Hyuna: yes. Hyunseung: no.

That’s a relief, or it should be, but it can’t quite be, not when Woohyun had made him so hard so fast. Not when he’d shoved his own hand down into Woohyun’s pants like he couldn’t get there fast enough, not when he hadn’t been able to tear his eyes away from Woohyun’s gasping, laughing, moaning face while Sungyeol had gotten him off (he gave Nam Woohyun a handjob, and that is so, so much worse than just receiving one).

The whole thing had been nearly as hazy-edged as that night on the couch had been, and Sungyeol doesn’t even have alcohol as an excuse this time. True, the whole coffee/no sleep/losing-his-mind thing had sort of the same effect as alcohol, but somehow he thinks that doesn’t count. One time, while drunk: well, people have done a lot stupider things when intoxicated. Yeah, it nearly made Sungyeol’s brain try to climb right out of his ears, but it was understandable, or at least not the end of the world. This, though? Sober and again? This might well be.

It had been really fast: they hadn’t even taken their clothes off, and Sungyeol hadn’t had any idea of what to do. Woohyun hadn’t seemed to mind, though. He’d been sort of bossy, honestly, without saying much of anything at all (though Sungyeol thinks he might be hearing those fucks and yeahs in his dreams for a long time), his own rough hand wrapping around Sungyeol’s elegant fingers to guide him in the rhythm he wanted. The thought had flitted through Sungyeol’s mind that he probably should have paid more attention while Woohyun was getting him off, because he thinks Woohyun probably has more experience in this department and he might have been able to learn something, but he’d been too caught up in panic and lust—and they seemed to make each other sharper, those two emotions all tangled together like that—to do anything but drop his head against Woohyun’s shoulder and gasp against his collarbone. Woohyun had laughed again when Sungyeol exploded in his hand, that weird triumphant laugh that Sungyeol had never heard before today, and maybe it should have rekindled his anger, but it didn’t, quite; maybe because it didn’t seem mocking like Sungyeol would have thought that it would, maybe because he was too busy trying to recover from one of the most powerful orgasms of his life.

That had been bad enough, of course, letting Woohyun touch him like that (and it was more than a little embarrassing how quickly Sungyeol had come), but what made it so much worse—what’s making Sungyeol’s cheeks flush scarlet now—is the fact that Woohyun hadn’t had to even encourage him for reciprocation. No, Sungyeol’s hands hadn’t even stopped shaking with the aftershocks before he was tugging Woohyun’s zipper down and giving his first sloppy handjob to another guy. It had happened so fast that Woohyun’s eyes had gone wide (he looked totally ridiculous, goggling like that) when Sungyeol first made contact, making these throaty sounds that were a little too close to the way he belts out the songs they perform for Sungyeol’s comfort: he knows he won’t be able to hear Woohyun sing without thinking of the noises he makes when he’s racing towards pleasure. And that was even before Woohyun started guiding him with his bossy hands.

Woohyun hadn’t lasted much longer than Sungyeol had (and a little voice in Sungyeol’s head was whispering something about weeks-long foreplay in the form of Woohyun torturing him since that night), and he made that same sound again when he came, the one that’s been echoing through Sungyeol’s head for days (and again that sound shot through Sungyeol in ways he’d never experienced before). Sungyeol had been clumsily pulling his sticky hand out of Woohyun’s jeans when Woohyun had turned his head and tried to brush his lips across Sungyeol’s—he was laughing again—and that was when Sungyeol knew he had to get out of there. The lust had cleared, leaving only panic behind, and it seemed that panic had grown in the meantime.

Sungyeol had plunged into the bathroom and locked the door for good measure, leaning against it, still panting a little bit, his hand still sticky, desperately hoping that Woohyun wouldn’t chase him (or was he desperately hoping that he would? Sungyeol didn’t know, and that just made the panic bite harder). He didn’t, and after a few long minutes, Sungyeol had straightened and tugged his clothes off, wincing as he wiped his hand on his jeans (he could hardly make a bigger mess than he already had), and climbed into the shower.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been in here, but it’s probably been a while. He’s honestly a bit surprised no one’s come banging on the door to yell at him to get out. They all indulge in a long shower now and then, just because they can; unlike their old dorm, this one doesn’t run out of hot water after the second person’s shower. He’s pretty sure some of the hyungs even take baths, though Sungyeol’s never been much of one for those, and not just because it’s hard to fit all of his long limbs into the bathtub comfortably. Even so, he knows they have some schedule tonight—he can’t think of just what off the top of his head—and surely it’s getting close to time to head to the stylist’s.

He’s never been so grateful for time alone, though. He needs this, needs the only sound to be the water running through the pipes then pounding against his skin and the floor—this dorm has amazing water pressure. Needs to be totally alone in a way he almost never is. He needs time to realize that this is reality: he’s fooled around with Woohyun two times, Woohyun who he doesn’t even really like most of the time, Woohyun who is always performing, Woohyun who is so in love with Sunggyu-hyung that he can’t even see straight, Woohyun who doesn’t know when to stop and so takes the teasing too far sometimes to the point that it becomes cruel and Sungyeol feels attacked (sometimes after Woohyun says something in an interview that’s just a little too pointed, Myungsoo will make sure to sit by Sungyeol in the van and will sit a little closer than he really needs to, and the warmth of him pressed up against Sungyeol’s side has saved him from crying in front of the other members on more than one occasion).

It still feels surreal, that thought, but he can’t deny it anymore. He hasn’t come up with any solution, any explanation while here in the shower. He thinks maybe part of it’s just that he’s a healthy, young guy who hasn’t been alone with a girl in years and years; he has hormones and needs and his own right hand isn’t nearly as satisfying as it used to be when it still felt novel and slightly dangerous to jerk off at all. Maybe it’s like men in prison or ones who are in the army for too long: they turn to other guys not out of any real homosexuality but just because there aren’t any other options. Sungyeol thinks that might be part of it, but if he’s honest, he knows that isn’t all of it. If that were all of it, it wouldn’t have mattered who it was, right? It could have been anyone at all, because it always feels better when someone else is taking care of things for you, or at least that’s what he’s heard. But he knows it couldn’t have been anyone, that this second time wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been Woohyun. If one of the other guys had gotten up in his face like that, if it had been Hoya or Sungjong or even Myungsoo, he would never have reacted like that. But Woohyun has been living in Sungyeol’s head for the past almost two weeks, and it’s so specifically Woohyun that he can’t ignore that.

But it doesn’t make sense. Sungyeol likes girls; he’s always liked girls; he’s known for liking girls. The other guys like to make fun of him for being so obvious about it, for having no shame with the way his eyes linger, for the porn collection on his laptop. But he’s always just had this appreciation for women, for their faces and their bodies and the way they smell and their hair and the way they dress and really just everything about them. He’s never even considered thinking about a guy in the same way, besides a fleeting thought that Yunho-sunbae or Rain-sunbae was really hot. But even that had seemed more like admiration, something to aspire to rather than to desire. He’s never thought of them the way he has Taeyeon-sunbae or BoA-sunbae.

But he’s been thinking of Woohyun like that. Thinking of the hardness of his arm muscles, the fullness of his lips, the sounds he makes when he’s turned on. He can’t deny that now. He also can’t figure out why. Maybe if it was Sungjong’s girl group dances that were getting stuck in his head, it would make a little bit of sense, but those have never been anything but hilarious to Sungyeol. This is different, and it’s confusing, and he’s no closer to figuring out the why of it than he was when he first turned the water on.

He lets out an explosive sigh of frustration, bangs his head against the wall a couple of times for good measure—it hurts—then finally turns the water off. He notes that his fingers are pruney when he reaches for a towel, but that doesn’t quite tell him how long he’s been in here. He’s glad that the mirror is all steamed up, because he isn’t sure that he’d be able to deal with actually looking at himself right now. He’ll pretend to be taking a nap when the stylists work on him later so he won’t have to see his own reflection.

“Gross,” he mutters as he scoops up his clothes from the floor and balls them up to hide the stains. That’s his come and Woohyun’s, too, and that is just not something he can think about if he doesn’t want his brain to melt and start dribbling out of his ears and nose. He cracks the door open, letting some of the steam out, and he isn’t sure whether he’s relieved or nervous that Myungsoo is the only one in the room, sitting cross-legged on his bed.

“I thought maybe you drowned,” Myungsoo says, not looking up from the viewing screen of his camera. Sungyeol’s never been so grateful that Myungsoo doesn’t look at things unless he sees a reason to; they’ve had entire conversations where Myungsoo doesn’t look at him once. It makes things easier somehow right now; he doesn’t want anyone to look at him until he gets his clothes on (he’s never been so conscious of his body before, and since he’s an idol, that’s saying a lot).

“And you didn’t rush in to save me?” He stuffs his soiled clothes down into the bottom of the definitely-dirty clothes pile—as opposed to the “probably dirty” one and the “most likely clean enough” one—and finds a clean pair of boxers and another pair of jeans to tug on. The t-shirt he swipes off the bedstead isn’t his; it’s probably Myungsoo’s, but who cares? It’s not plaid, so he’ll deal with it. Myungsoo can be really touchy about people touching his things, but he mostly doesn’t care when it’s Sungyeol.

“I’m not a certified lifeguard,” Myungsoo replies, clicking through whatever pictures he’s taken. The sound the camera makes as each new picture pops up on the screen is as familiar to Sungyeol as Dongwoo’s snoring or the opening strains of “Dashi Dorawa.” Myungsoo loves that camera.

“When do we leave?” Sungyeol collapses onto Dongwoo’s bed, sweeping aside a couple of bizarre little toys that are digging into his side. His head is still spinning, trying to figure out what’s going on with himself, but he feels boneless somehow. He really just wants to pull the covers over his head and sleep forever.

“Twenty minutes,” Myungsoo answers, and now he looks up from the camera. He blinks when he takes in Sungyeol’s posture. “I guess you really needed that shower.”

“What does that mean?” Sungyeol has no idea what he’s talking about.

Myungsoo shrugs, goes back to his camera. “You just look…relaxed for the first time in a while.”

Myungsoo doesn’t ask why Sungyeol laughs so hard that he almost falls off the bed.

Chapter Text

“Sungyeol, pay attention!” Sunggyu’s voice snaps louder than the blare of the music they’re practicing to, and it jerks Sungyeol’s shoulders back. Guilt flashes through him for a moment; he knows he’s been sort of slouching through the choreography, his movements loose where everyone else’s are tight. His long limbs will never be able to execute the moves like Hoya’s or Dongwoo’s do, crisp and precise—Hoya told him once that his lankiness makes every move seem less clean than the shorter guys’, and Sungyeol knows that’s true. He has to try harder because of that, the way that Myungsoo has to try harder because of his natural clumsiness, and usually both of them do. But Sungyeol can’t deny that he hasn’t been at his best today.

“Sorry, hyung,” he mutters, bowing slightly. He glances around the room; all of the other guys are avoiding his eyes except for Myungsoo, who has his head tilted just a little. Sungyeol shrugs at him, goes back to scanning the other members. Except that his gaze stops before it can reach Woohyun. He doesn’t want to know what Woohyun’s face looks like right now, because he’s pretty sure there’s some variation on a smirk there (the bastard probably knows that he’s the one still distracting Sungyeol, even if it’s in a different way than before. He’s probably enjoying it).

“You’ve been tense for days and now you look like your bones are made of ramyun.” Sunggyu’s arms are crossed across his chest, his ‘I’m the leader’ look on his face. “You’re dragging us all down. This is not acceptable. Get your head back here from wherever it is, do you hear me?”

Sungyeol has the thought, not for the first time, that Sunggyu would make an amazing general; nobody has a more intimidating voice than Sunggyu when he’s serious. “Yes, hyung,” he says, wiping the sweat from the back of his neck.

That’s when Sungyeol catches a movement from the corner of his eye and knows it’s Woohyun. The others are all taking advantage of the momentary pause to slump over, and Sungjong has even collapsed onto the floor. Only Woohyun would have reason to make some sort of movement that big because only Woohyun has reason to be trying to grab Sungyeol’s attention. Sungyeol knows that, knows he should ignore it, but he finds his neck turning anyway and then there’s Woohyun’s face and yes, the smirk is there, the one that just looks so dirty now, and his eyebrow is cocked and Sungyeol starts coughing and can’t stop.

“Ten minutes,” Sunggyu says, his face tight and eyes even narrower than usual. “Get out of here for ten minutes and then get your ass back in here and ready to work. No excuses.”

Sungyeol barely pauses long enough to mutter, “Yes, hyung,” before he’s practically running out of the room. He really hates it when Sunggyu calls him out. Usually it makes him moody in a petulant, annoyed way; he knows he has a tendency to build himself up as a martyr in his own mind. But today all he feels is shame, because he knows he deserves every one of those words. Sunggyu had been so pleased that they managed to find three whole hours in a row in their schedules today to practice, all of them together; it seems like that’s been happening less and less lately. Everyone had moaned, of course, because that’s what they do when they know they’re going to have to hit the practice room, but it was kind of half-hearted. All the members were just glad that everyone would be there for once; things always seem wrong when someone’s gone. Sungyeol had been almost excited about it himself, sure that the physical exertion would be enough to distract him from his thoughts. He’d been wrong, of course.

Because his thoughts haven’t slowed down on bit since that second encounter with Woohyun. If anything they’ve sped up, it’s just that now his body doesn’t seem to get the message. All the tension seems to have streamed right out of him (and yes, he knows exactly how funny that is in a way that manages not to be funny at all), like his mind has become disconnected from his body. He’s cut down on the coffee, too, because he knows now that that doesn’t work (not that he’s stopped drinking it entirely, because he couldn’t deal with the headache that would give him on top of everything else. But he’s determined to sort of ease it out of his diet again, and he thinks he could actually manage it). He’s slept like the dead with no dreams that he remembers the next morning, and Myungsoo had snorted something in the van this morning about him being even lazier than usual—not that he can talk.

Two days since he and Woohyun fooled around in the bedroom. Two days, and once again he hasn’t exchanged one word with Woohyun. Two days and he still hasn’t figured out what any of this means at all.

It’s cooler out in the hallway, and that’s a relief, but Sungyeol still toys with the idea of heading outside, despite the heat waiting there. Maybe there’ll be some kind of breeze—that would be nice—and even if there are a bunch of squealing fans across the street, it would still be a change to see some actual sky without the filter of glass between him and it. He tugs the tie out of his hair, letting it fall down across his neck for a moment, then starts to sweep it back up into a less messy ponytail.

Except he doesn’t quite finish before there’s a sound of footsteps behind him and then someone grabs his arm (he knows that hand) and propels him down the hall, swinging him into the bathroom. Sungyeol stumbles, righting himself in time to see Woohyun slam the door shut and then flick the lock.

“Can you please learn to be less obviously distracted by me?” Woohyun says as he turns to face Sungyeol. “It’s almost cute, the way you won’t look at me at all for fear of what you’ll do, but if you keep this up, sooner or later Sunggyu-hyung’s going to stop accepting your excuses and he’ll make you tell him, and neither one of us want that, do we? I know I’m too sexy to handle, but you have to learn to be in the same room as me without wanting to rip my clothes off.”

And this is exactly the reason Sungyeol’s been avoiding talking to him. There have been times these past few days when he’s looked at Woohyun when Woohyun was unaware of his gaze, and Woohyun’s eyes looked just as confused as his own. In those moments, Sungyeol had thought that they actually could have a reasonable discussion about what the hell this is and what it means and why, but those thoughts don’t last long. They keep melting away in the heat of Woohyun’s ego, because every time Woohyun is aware that Sungyeol’s in the room, he gets that smirk on his face. Not to mention that he’s been even cockier than usual, and the others have started to notice; Hoya had even called him out on it earlier. Woohyun has been preening lately, smug and something else Sungyeol can’t name, all the things that annoy him most about Woohyun (there’s a small voice in the back of his head telling him that it’s all a front, that Woohyun’s using the vanity as a shield since he doesn’t really have a handle on what’s going on either—and that his way of dealing with it is at least marginally more healthy than Sungyeol’s own. But Sungyeol is still too confused to listen to that voice, not to mention too busy being angry at Woohyun).

“You must love your mirror,” Sungyeol spits back. “Because obviously the only thing I could possibly be distracted by is you. Did it ever occur to your self-obsessed excuse for a brain that there could be something else going on with me that has absolutely nothing to do with you?” He’s kind of impressed that the words don’t come out as weak as they clearly are. He almost sounds like he means them.

Not that Woohyun believes it for a second, of course. He bursts into laughter, and Sungyeol can feel his ears burning. “No wonder they all think you’re the funny one. You tell the best jokes, Sungyeollie.”

Sungyeol feels his face darken; the mockery in Woohyun’s voice is enough to make him angry. “Get the hell out of here, hyung.” It’s always bothered him, how he and Woohyun have the same birth year but Woohyun still doesn't let him use informal language—the difference between Myungsoo and Sungyeol is even bigger than the one between himself and Woohyun, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference to Woohyun. Still, there are times when the right tone paired with the honorific can be as stinging as banmal would be.

“I don’t think so.”

Woohyun never listens. Not that Sungyeol is big on listening himself, but he can when he has to, and at least he doesn’t make his mind up about things before the other person even starts talking. “I said—“

Woohyun cuts him off before he can even get the thought out. “Yeah, that’s the thing. You’re talking. You should probably shut up now.”

Sungyeol really looks at him for the first time, and there’s no mistaking the glint in Woohyun’s eyes now, but Sungyeol can only gape at him. “Are you crazy? Again? Here?” His voice goes shrill, but he can’t help it. “And—ten minutes!” Less than that, really. They’ve wasted at least three with this ridiculous conversation.

Woohyun shrugs, totally unconcerned. “We’ll have to be fast, then, right?”

And then before Sungyeol can launch into a tirade about how monumentally stupid Woohyun is, he does the last thing Sungyeol ever expected him to do. He drops to his knees.

Sungyeol hasn’t even let himself think about this. It’s not that his brain hasn’t wanted to go there, because it definitely has, it’s that he cuts off those thoughts before they can fully develop because this thing has already gone way too far.

“What’re you—“ he sputters as Woohyun unbuckles his belt, unzips his pants and tugs them down.

“You’re not that slow,” Woohyun says. “I know you never thought you’d actually get a blowjob, but with the amount of porn you watch, you have to at least know what it is.”

That’s Woohyun: having to turn everything into an insult. So what if Sungyeol’s not very experienced? So what if he’s gone further with Woohyun just in two encounters than he ever got to with anyone else—with a woman? So what? Woohyun doesn’t have the right to judge him.

“Not all of us are slu—“ Sungyeol starts, but he definitely doesn’t finish his retort because now his boxers are down around his ankles and then there’s Woohyun’s mouth.

It’s good. Really, really good. Better than he’d imagined, and he’s imagined it a lot (before these past few weeks, he’d only ever imagined it with girls, true, but really what’s the difference between one mouth and another when you get right down to it?). It seems like Woohyun must be really talented at this, though it’s got to be pretty hard to mess this up so who knows. It’s so different than a hand, so much better, so good that Sungyeol’s not even embarrassed by the way his fingers are sliding uselessly against the tile of the walls fumbling for something to latch on to or by the sounds he knows he’s making, desperate, greedy sounds that he’s absolutely sure he’s never made before in his life (embarrassment will come later).

He doesn’t look down. He lets his head thump back against the wall instead, his eyes screwed up so tight that he almost sees stars, because he can’t let himself look down. Like this, he can (almost) imagine that it’s a girl doing this for him, her knees bare against the floor because of how short her dress is, her hair hanging down on either side of her mouth. He clings to that image (it’s an old one, familiar, so he can get a good grip on it), and it’s working—he’s not thinking of Woohyun at all, he’s not with Woohyun at all. It’s a girl doing this for him, a beautiful girl who snuck in here and thinks he’s amazing and chose him over all the other idols (a girl who he’s first choice for, not a backup, not someone she settled for because she couldn’t have one of the others, not someone who would do this for just any famous guy: a girl who wants Lee Sungyeol and only him) and yeah, this is a fantasy he’s revisited a lot, but it’s so different when at least the mouth part is real (so much better).

Except that there’s this split second where he thinks of Woohyun’s lips.

Woohyun has big lips. Sungyeol had noticed it back when they were trainees, but only so that he could sneer about them when Woohyun took a dig at Sungyeol’s lack of eyebrows. He pretty much hadn’t thought about that aspect of Woohyun since (there’s more than enough annoying things about Woohyun to catalogue when he’s mad at him to even need to touch the way his face looks). Until, of course, the night when Woohyun fastened them to Sungyeol’s own, and since then Sungyeol has been thinking about them way, way more than he wants to, even if he (mostly) manages to redirect his thoughts to something less disturbing the second the image of them strays into his mind.

He tries that now, as soon as the image of Woohyun’s swollen lips stretching around his erection pops into his head. He grabs hold of that image like the steering wheel of a swerving car, tries to wrench the trajectory of his thoughts back to the gorgeous girl he’s been imagining. He isn’t quite quick enough: there’s that vision of Woohyun’s lips, slick and plump, and then Sungyeol can’t hold back any longer.

It isn’t until he blinks his way back to semi-rational thought and Woohyun stands up that it occurs to Sungyeol that Woohyun actually swallowed. Sungyeol is sure that his eyes must be huge, because he can’t believe that that just happened. He’s still staring when Woohyun wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and then reaches out to tug at a clump of Sungyeol’s sweaty hair.

“The long hair isn’t so bad. I told the stylist-noona that there was no way you’d be able to pull it off, but it could be a lot worse, you know?”

And Sungyeol just has to stare some more because Nam Woohyun just gave him a blowjob and now he’s talking about his hair? In a semi-complimentary way? Seriously?

He’s still staring when Woohyun reaches down and starts to unbutton his own pants. “Do yourself back up first,” he says with a little nod to where Sungyeol’s still hanging out of his pants.

Sungyeol’s face flushes so red that he’s sure there isn’t any blood left in any other part of his body, even as he does as he was told. “You want me to—“ He stops, choking on the words, not able or willing to voice them.

“It’s my turn now, right?” Woohyun shoves his pants and boxers down in one motion, then finally looks up to Sungyeol’s face. Sungyeol isn’t at all surprised that Woohyun starts laughing right away—he knows just exactly how totally gobsmacked he must look at the moment—but he isn’t expecting what Woohyun says next at all. “Just your hand, then, this time. I’ll teach you the other later.”

I’ll teach you the other later. The words bounce around in Sungyeol’s mind like a pinball, gaining momentum each time they zing off the sides. Teach you. Later. Like Woohyun expects this to be a regular thing, like he’s going to invest time in teaching Sungyeol how to be good at something (at giving head of all the things in the world), like he’s taking it totally for granted that sooner or later Sungyeol will use his mouth on him.

He must have zoned out a little, because the next thing he knows Woohyun has his hand wrapped around his wrist and is coaxing Sungyeol’s hand downwards. Sungyeol would probably note that Woohyun is half hard already (which either means it turned him on to blow Sungyeol or he’d been ready before they even came in the bathroom, which Sungyeol doesn’t really want to think about either. The implications, either way, are a little bit more than he can deal with at the moment. Or, okay, a lot more), but he’s still caught up on I’ll teach you the other later.

That doesn’t last long, though, because for some reason Woohyun’s face starts distracting him. The noises are bad enough, but when Sungyeol clumsily gets a rhythm going, Woohyun lets his head drop back and then his neck is stretched out and the look on his face is just so similar to the one he gets on stage when he belts out a note: his eyes screwed up, sweat—probably from practice earlier, but still—sliding down to the hollow of his throat, his mouth dropping open much wider than Sungyeol thinks is necessary. He should be holding a microphone, Sungyeol thinks distantly, even as he’s pumping, tilting it up in the air like the drama queen Woohyun always is on stage (Sungyeol would never, ever admit it, but he’s always been kind of in awe of what a force Woohyun is on stage. Sunggyu might have a better voice, be the better singer, but when Woohyun gets his chance in the spotlight, he always leaves absolutely no doubt that he is a star).

“Faster,” Woohyun gasps out, and Sungyeol obeys, quickening the slide of his hand and wishing desperately that he could drag his eyes away from Woohyun’s face. That face screws up even more when Woohyun comes, to a point where it isn’t even attractive anymore, and then when he finally recovers, he lets his eyes flutter open and his gaze clicks into Sungyeol’s immediately.

“Do something with your hair,” Woohyun commands, but he’s still panting a little too hard to sound really authoritative. “You’re a mess.”

Sungyeol can only imagine. He’s getting ready to stumble away to wash his hand when Woohyun grabs him by the collar and tugs him back, fastening his mouth over Sungyeol’s. The kiss tastes different this time, and it takes Sungyeol’s overwhelmed mind (overwhelmed by the fact that this keeps happening and he hasn’t stopped it yet, overwhelmed by how good it was, overwhelmed by the look on Woohyun’s face and the fact that he wants to keep doing it) a second to realize why. The disgust that shoots through him is accompanied by something that feels dangerously like lust, and he’s not sure which one makes him yank away from Woohyun’s mouth (those thick, too-pink lips).

The cold water feels good against his hands, so he splashes some against his face and very purposefully doesn’t look at himself in the mirror when he ties his hair back. He doesn’t want to know what he looks like right now, and he only hopes that the others weren’t paying too close of attention to him before he left—that they’ll think the flushed cheeks, the sweat, the tousled hair were all because of dance practice.

“Hurry up.” Woohyun is leisurely refastening his own pants now. “You’re late already.”

Anger, now: somehow Woohyun always seems to be able to stir that in him. But Woohyun just sounds so casual about it, like he doesn’t know that this whole thing is completely shaking the foundations of Sungyeol’s world, when he has to know that (everyone in Infinite knows it, even if they don’t know what catalyst is causing Sungyeol’s mental breakdown). “And whose fault is that?”

“You weren’t complaining a few minutes ago,” Woohyun points out, and Sungyeol looks away, because they both know just how much Sungyeol enjoyed himself. He can’t even pretend to deny it, but he also doesn’t want to admit to it either.

“Now you don’t have any excuse to be distracted,” Woohyun continues. “Don’t piss off Leader anymore.”

Something ugly and unnamable twists its way through Sungyeol’s gut at that. So that’s what it was about. Keeping Sunggyu happy and getting a little action himself. That’s why Woohyun dragged him in here. ‘It’s my turn,’ Woohyun had said. And now: ‘Don’t piss off Leader again.’ It feels like it’s smacking Sungyeol in the face: the knowledge that Woohyun is in love with a totally unresponsive Sunggyu, that Sunggyu has been all that Woohyun has wanted for years now. That it’s Sunggyu Woohyun wants to be fooling around in bathrooms with, and if he can’t do that, at least he can keep (useless) choding Sungyeol from annoying their leader and get off at the same time.

It shouldn’t make him feel like this, knowing that. It shouldn’t make him feel like he wants to beat someone to a bloody pulp (he’s not sure whether that someone is Woohyun or Sunggyu or himself. Or all of the above, and when did he become so violent?). Sungyeol doesn’t really want Woohyun to want him; it’s not like he has feelings for Woohyun. Sure, they get along and have fun sometimes, but he’s pretty sure there are more times when they don’t even like each other, their personalities grating like sandpaper. And if he’s just using Woohyun to get off, then why shouldn’t Woohyun do the same? Sungyeol shouldn’t be disturbed by that thought. He shouldn’t be, but he sort of is (he’s always been second-best. When he isn’t third- or fourth- or fifth-. He’s never been the first choice, and the last thing he needs is a reminder of that).

“So this is going to be a thing now?” Sungyeol spits, and he briefly lets himself fantasize about punching Woohyun as hard as he can in his greasy, greasy face.

Woohyun rolls his eyes, flicking the lock and pulling the door open. “Yeah, it’s gonna be a thing. Get your ass out there before Sunggyu-hyung decides to kill you for real.”

Sungyeol is about to retort—to let him know in no uncertain terms that Woohyun can’t just assume that he’ll go along with this, that Sungyeol gets a say in this whole thing, too—except that there’s suddenly a too-familiar voice bellowing down from the practice room.

YA! LEE SUNGYEOL!”

Sungyeol sends Woohyun a disgusted look—Woohyun only laughs—then races out of the bathroom toward where the rest of the members (and a now-pissed off leader, if that shout is any indication) are waiting.

He’ll deal with Woohyun and his assumptions later.

Chapter Text

Woohyun wasn’t lying: it has become a thing, even though Sungyeol still isn’t sure whether he wants it to be.

They still haven’t talked about it. Sungyeol really meant to, and when Woohyun practically strutted back into the practice room, his movements loose and his eyes shining, Sungyeol had inwardly vowed to put his foot down and make it clear to Woohyun that he wasn’t his fucktoy. But there was still two hours worth of practice to make it through, and then afterwards there was an interview to film, and by the time they made it back to the dorm it was almost three and obviously all they all wanted to do—all any of them had the energy to do—was just collapse into bed. The next day had been jammed with schedules, too, and the one after that, never a spare moment for Sungyeol to get Woohyun alone long enough to actually talk about this (or maybe that’s his cowardice making excuses. Maybe he could have found a moment if he really wanted to, if he weren’t so absolutely terrified of what that conversation might actually be like). And as time passes, Sungyeol finds that most of his anger has bled away. The confusion is still there, but without the anger to temper it, he just can’t work up the energy to actually confront Woohyun. He knows he still needs to; it’s just that the need doesn’t feel quite as pressing as it did.

So by the time he finds himself fooling around with Woohyun again, his determination to demand an explanation for everything has petered out. Three days after the practice room bathroom, they’re at the salon getting ready for an appearance, and APink is there at the same time. It’s chaos, stylist-noonas running around, managers barking into phones, not enough seats for all of the idols to be taken care of at once. Myungsoo curls up in a corner to take a nap, and Hoya disappears for a while and though eventually someone notices, no one cares enough to try to find him; anyway, he shows up again well before it’s his turn in front of the mirror.

It’s such a mess that Woohyun is able to haul Sungyeol into a closet in the narrow hall back near the bathrooms when no one is looking. The lightbulb is dim and the close space smells like hairspray and cleaning supplies, and he never even noticed that there was a closet here before.

Sungyeol glances around, taking in just how much room there isn’t; his elbow is already jostling a crate full of hairdryer diffusers. "I thought you were claustrophobic," he says wryly.

"I can get over it when I'm distracted." Woohyun yanks on Sungyeol’s belt, so their hips bump. “So distract me.”

Apparently by ‘distract,’ Woohyun means a dirty makeout session, all teasing hands and sliding tongues. Woohyun seems determined to go slower this time, not pushing him right into the harder stuff. Instead he just yanks the tie out of Sungyeol’s hair, grabs the free locks and pulls Sungyeol down into a kiss.

It’s been a long, long time since Sungyeol made out like this—since before their debut, definitely. He’d only done it with his one girlfriend back in high school, a girl who he hadn’t even known all that well. But she was pretty and liked to hold his hand and call him her boyfriend and seemed more than willing for Sungyeol to get to know the inside of her mouth, and she’d been the one to teach him how to kiss.

Kissing Woohyun is really, really different. Not so much the actual kissing (though he doesn’t remember it feeling this…obscene with Soyu) but just everything else. The skin of Woohyun’s arms and back is smooth instead of soft, and the hardness of the muscle shifting beneath it is something new altogether (it’s disturbingly arousing, not that Sungyeol would ever admit it). The sounds he makes are in a lower octave and somehow more masculine. And the smell of him—no cologne today and he hasn’t had bb cream slathered on yet, either. Instead he smells like a normal person: the laundry detergent of his clothes under a thin veneer of soap and deodorant. And underneath that, just Woohyun: a little musky but clean, masculine and so distinctive. This is the first time they’ve gone slow enough for Sungyeol to really notice things instead of being swept away by sensory overload, and the thought floats up, lazy and half-formed (later, he’ll deny that he ever even thought it at all), that he could get used to this.

As it turns out, Woohyun is a really, really good kisser when he wants to be. (Sungyeol just desperately hopes that he’s not a disappointment himself because he’s not sure his pride could take finding out that he’s bad at yet another thing.)

The sound Sungyeol makes when Woohyun drags his mouth down to Sungyeol’s neck is way too shrill to be anything but embarrassing, but Woohyun doesn’t seem to mind, his lips sliding over tendons and collarbone. He lingers just long enough in one place that Sungyeol almost has to jab him in the ribs to remind him not to leave a mark, but Woohyun moves on just in time.

Sungyeol has the really absurd thought that it’s nice that Woohyun is shorter than him: he has really good access to his neck.

Sungyeol has one hand wrapped around Woohyun’s bicep, the other shoved up underneath the back of his shirt when his phone starts vibrating in his pocket. Woohyun makes a frustrated sound when he pulls back, letting go of Sungyeol’s hair and pouting a little (it’s aegyo, yeah, but it looks less greasy than it usually does. Or maybe that’s just the bad lighting).

Sungyeol has to pause for a moment to make sure he has the breath to answer; the ringtone sounds muffled here in the closet. “Hello?”

“Where are you?” It’s Sunggyu, and he sounds annoyed, though not flat-out angry, which is a very, very good thing.

“Bathroom,” Sungyeol manages to spit out. Woohyun’s wiping his thumb along his own lips in that way that he does, and where before Sungyeol always found it greasy and disgusting, now he just finds it…well, hot, almost. What the fuck is his life?

“Well, get out here,” Sunggyu says, sound mollified. “Sungjong’s almost done and you’re next.”

“Yes, hyung.” He shoves the phone back into his jeans. They’re tight, but not too tight, not so tight that he’ll be uncomfortable for the rest of the day, so it was probably a good thing they got stopped when they did. It would have been a lot worse if they’d already moved on to the unzipping of the pants portion of their activities.

He stares at Woohyun for a minute and Woohyun stares back. He considers opening his mouth to say something, but he can’t think of anything at all, so he just fumbles for the doorknob, cracks the door open wide enough to make sure no one is in the hall, then stumbles out with a quick, “Uh, bye,” over his shoulder.

He’s pretty sure he can hear Woohyun chuckling behind him, but that might just be his imagination.

Honestly, he decides while the stylist-noona fusses with his hair, the making out is even more confusing than the getting off. Kissing like that is what you do either when you’re not ready for heavier things or when you really like someone. Neither of which applies to him and Woohyun. And sure, maybe they were headed for more and just got interrupted, but Woohyun hadn’t been in any kind of hurry and hadn’t even seemed too put out when Sungyeol darted out of there, so once again Sungyeol is stuck with the question: what the fuck does all this mean?

A minute or two later, Hoya pops up from the chair next to Sungyeol’s and Woohyun settles himself in it just as the stylist sprays a lot of hairspray and Sungyeol sneezes. Woohyun laughs, meeting his eyes briefly in the mirror, and that’s the most confusing thing of all.

--

So long story short: Sungyeol still doesn’t know what’s going on or if he wants it to be going on, but his nerves have settled down a lot. He’s had a few moments of what the hell am I doing? panic, but they’ve been brief and relatively easy to jerk himself out of. He still finds himself turning the questions of what all this is over and over in his head, but his body has found its equilibrium again: he’s no longer either too tense or too loose; he feels like Sungyeol again.

The others notice, too, because Myungsoo stops giving him uncomfortable ‘you can talk to me’ looks and Sunggyu stops watching him with hawk-like eyes. One morning he even walks in on Sungyeol drinking juice instead of coffee and gives him a satisfied nod. So other than the whole ‘I occasionally fool around with Woohyun’ thing, life seems to be returning to normal.

Dongwoo drops down onto the floor beside him one morning as they’re getting ready to leave the dorm. Sungyeol is tugging on his shoes, ignoring the way that Sungjong is whining out his frustration at not being able to find the right shoes in the mess of them by the door. But he looks up for a moment to smile at Dongwoo.

“You seem better,” Dongwoo says, his smile wide and sincere. “I was really worried, you know.”

“I know, hyung.” And he has known. He’ll look up sometimes and find Dongwoo watching him with concern, gnawing on his lip as though trying to sort out all of Sungyeol’s problems. He always tries to give Dongwoo a reassuring smile in those moments, but he’s pretty sure Dongwoo hasn’t been convinced by them. “I’m sorry I worried you.”

Dongwoo shrugs the apology away. “I’m just glad you’re not so stressed anymore. I kept telling Leader to talk to you about it, but he said to leave you alone and let you sort it out. And I guess you did.”

“I guess I did,” Sungyeol echoes, but Dongwoo misses the question in his tone entirely, popping back up with that boundless energy of his to go tackle Hoya in a hug.

But the question is there, because, sure, it may seem from the outside like he’s got his shit back together, but on the inside he still feels like as much of a mess as before.

--

That mess gets cycloned around inside him the next time they have an appearance. Woohyun and Sunggyu make hearts for the audience, laugh with their faces too close together, wrap their arms around each others’ shoulders, bump hips and grin at each other. Woohyun gushes over Sunggyu’s leadership abilities when he speaks and is never more than a step away from Sunggyu’s side. Sungyeol’s pretty sure at one point that he sees Woohyun sliding his hand up Sunggyu’s thigh, not quite high enough to be inappropriate (Woohyun has always been the best at knowing right where the lines are and skirting up to them without ever actually crossing over). Watching it makes Sungyeol feel strange, sort of like how he feels when Myungsoo acts like L. Like he’s looking at two images at once, superimposed over each other: who the members really are, who they are for the audience. It’s almost enough to make him dizzy, and he has to focus on Dongwoo for a bit, because the line between Infinite’s-rapper-Dongwoo and Jang-Dongwoo-his-friend is the thinnest. Dongwoo makes him feel more grounded.

But his attention gets dragged back to Woohyun and Sunggyu when they all troop backstage.

“That was too much,” Sunggyu snaps, and Sungyeol looks at Woohyun just in time to see the shutters in Woohyun’s eyes snap shut. Ah. So that’s how Woohyun got so good at that: he’s had a lot of practice, and Sungyeol just hadn’t noticed until it was for his own benefit.

“Oh, come on, hyung, they were eating it up,” Woohyun says lightly, and maybe Sungyeol’s been paying too much attention to Woohyun lately (the thought makes him queasy), but he can hear the tension that wide smile doesn’t quite disguise. He wonders if Sunggyu can hear it too.

The others are at least pretending not to listen (and Myungsoo probably really isn’t: he’s got that zoned-out look on his face again), but Sungyeol just leans back against the wall and watches. It’s not like they’ll notice, not when they’re clashing like this.

“It was ridiculous and you went too far.”

The way Sunggyu is glaring at him would send anyone else cowering, but Woohyun just tries to sling an arm around his shoulder. Sunggyu shoves it away. Sungyeol thinks he sees a flicker of something across Woohyun’s face, but the smile never wavers.

“The Woogyu shippers are going to be freaking out online tonight and—“

Woohyun doesn’t get to finish that thought, because Sunggyu’s face has gone completely stony, and he really does look so much older when he looks like that: older and scary as hell. “I told you to dial it down. Don’t make me say it again.”

And then he storms off and all the other members turn their backs for real this time. But Sungyeol can’t drag his eyes away from Woohyun’s face. The smile is gone now, but there’s a completely casual expression in its place, and there was no moment while one was shifting into the other that anything else showed. Sungyeol would almost be able to admire how Woohyun keeps up the façade, how he doesn’t show how much the rejection has to hurt (his pride, his heart, whatever, Sungyeol doesn’t care, he really doesn’t) if it weren’t for the fact that it makes him sick.

Because Woohyun is pathetic. Pathetic and needy and does he really not know how obvious he is to everyone who really counts? Sungyeol is burning with humiliation for him, and the edges of that humiliation bleed into disgust which bleeds into contempt. How anyone can subject themselves to that sort of thing is beyond Sungyeol; all he knows is that when Woohyun is like this, he really, really hates him.

So when Woohyun’s arm shoots out from behind a door that night and drags him into a supply closet, Sungyeol’s had enough.

He yanks his lips away from Woohyun’s. “We have to be on stage in fifteen minutes—and if you say something about having to be quick, I will end you.”

Woohyun raises an eyebrow at the sharp tone. “Well, look who’s all tetchy tonight. You always get keyed-up before a performance. You don’t want to relax a little?” He slips a few fingers under the waistband of Sungyeol’s pants and tugs at him.

Sungyeol, though, jerks back. “What are you, like, obsessed with me or something? You sure got over Sunggyu quick.”

Something dangerous flashes through Woohyun’s eyes at that, and his smile is anything but pleasant. “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re just convenient.”

Sungyeol can’t name the feeling that shoots through him at that, but he knows it’s sharp, digging into his insides with a bite that threatens to steal his breath away. Whatever it is, it must show on his face because Woohyun laughs a little, unpleasant laugh.

“Come on, you think anyone would choose you if they had other options? But hey, it could be worse—it’s not like you know what you’re doing, but at least you’re willing.”

There’s some kind of roaring in Sungyeol’s years (and he knows he’s going to lay in bed at night and hear those words echoing in his head: ‘You think anyone would choose you if they had other options?’) and he doesn’t even have to fumble around for a retort: it’s just there, ready to be hurled in retaliation. “God, the fans are right: you are such a slut,” Sungyeol says, and his voice is shaking a little, but Woohyun doesn’t even seem to notice. His mouth has gone taut, and it’s an ugly look on him, but he doesn’t hesitate.

“Yeah? What does that make you, then?”

Isn’t that the question?

“At least I’m good for something,” Woohyun continues. “Fuck, if I weren’t desperate, you wouldn’t even be worth letting you suck me off.”

Sungyeol feels himself snarl, a sound he knows he’s never made before, and then he’s slammed Woohyun up against the wall. It’s just like it was before in the kitchen, only even harsher and meaner, like they’re trying to rip each other to shreds with their mouths in a new way. A basket of tangled wires—some kind of microphones, maybe, it really doesn’t matter—on the shelf beside Woohyun’s head tumbles to the floor, but both of them ignore it, grappling with each other, and Sungyeol’s can imagine fights to the death that are less vicious than this. It couldn’t be more different than their languid makeout session a few days ago, and the memory of that—of letting Woohyun explore his mouth like it was something he actually wanted to do—just makes the fury in Sungyeol’s chest burn even brighter.

They’re still idols, though, first and always, and so they aren’t hard on each others’ clothes, bypassing the tugging and ripping to dig nails into skin and twist bruises into flesh, but only where it won’t show. Woohyun pops open the button of Sungyeol’s pants almost gently, but then his hand is inside and there is absolutely nothing gentle about his grip on Sungyeol’s erection. Sungyeol has never really understood the whole thing about the blurry line between pain and pleasure, but he does now: it hurts, but he’s harder than he’s ever been in his life.

“See?” Woohyun’s mouth detatches from his long enough to sneer out the words, his tone raw. “I may be a slut but at least I’m good at what I do, which is more than you can say about anything at all. You’re gagging for it, aren’t you?”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Oh, that’s original.”

Sungyeol manages to get Woohyun’s belt unbuckled, then his pants shoved down without doing any damage to the outfit. But he doesn’t go any gentler on Woohyun than Woohyun is on him. I’m not the only one who’s hard, he thinks as he wraps his hand around Woohyun more tightly than he ever would have thought he’d dare. He’d say something along those lines, something biting, but Woohyun’s teeth are scraping against his tongue and then he’s coming.

Woohyun follows a moment later, and then they’re both on opposite sides of the small space, glaring at each other. Woohyun’s lip is bleeding (did I do that?) and his shirt is only slightly rumpled, his pants around his knees, but somehow Sungyeol had the presence of mind not to mess his hair up too much. The way he looks, the contrast between perfectly polished and sex-rumpled—it’s vulgar and fucking hot and Sungyeol has never hated anyone so much in his life.

Woohyun grabs a roll of toilet paper off a shelf, rips the paper wrapping off, yanks off some of it for himself, then hurls it at Sungyeol, who only barely manages to catch it.

“Clean yourself up. You look disgusting.”

“Where’s your beloved mirror when you need it?” Sungyeol shoots back, and they continue to scowl at each other as they set themselves to rights, silence like hot lead between them until they leave the room to go find the others.

Hoya claps a hand on Sungyeol’s shoulder after the performance that night. “You were great, man! I’ve never seen you like that before!”

Sungyeol thinks about the fury he felt, the way he let it propel each motion, how he would get a new shot of it every time he caught a glimpse of Woohyun’s face (that for-the-fans smile on his face or his performance concentration—no one would ever know what he’d been doing just moments before, no one would ever know but Sungyeol), how his muscles bunched and contracted with it, and for the first time he understands what Hoya and Dongwoo have always said about feeling the dance (he can't quite shove away the thought that he'd really rather not have ever found out).

Chapter Text

And so of course, just when Sungyeol was starting drag his life back into the bounds of normal, things get turned upside down again (just another thing Nam Woohyun is disgustingly good at: ruining Lee Sungyeol’s life). This time the strain between him and Woohyun isn’t subtle like it was before; before, Sungyeol’s tension hadn’t seemed to have any real target so no one connected it to Woohyun, and Woohyun hadn’t given away anything at all. This time, though, everything is glares and stony silences and avoiding each other when at all possible. Woohyun scoffs whenever Sungyeol says anything at all, like he can’t believe how below him Sungyeol is, and Sungyeol rants about Woohyun to anyone who will listen for more than five minutes.

Everyone is on edge around them—except for Sungjong who’s just irritated—and the others start manipulating things so that Sungyeol and Woohyun are rarely in the same room without as many chaperones as possible. When all the members are there, they act like a buffer, absorbing most of the negative feelings, but when it’s only one or two of the others, it isn’t enough, and things get ugly.

Sungyeol almost can’t believe that Woohyun is letting it be this obvious. And it’s got to be because he just doesn’t care enough to hide it, because Sungyeol knows just how good Woohyun can be at hiding things when he wants to be (hiding things without really hiding them at all).

Dongwoo makes a few attempts to get to the bottom of things, or at least he tries with Sungyeol. Sungyeol assumes he tries with Woohyun, too, but he doesn’t seem to have any more luck with Woohyun than he does with Sungyeol. And that seems to sober the others, because if Dongwoo can’t smooth things out between two members, they all know that something is really wrong. Sunggyu gives Sungyeol warning scowls, and who knows what he and Woohyun have or haven’t been talking about in their bedroom at night (Sungyeol will never understand that relationship: he thinks Sunggyu meant it when he said that he trusts Woohyun the most, and sometimes they seem closer than any two people Sungyeol has ever met, but other times he’s almost sure they hate each other and the only reason they haven’t killed each other is because of Infinite. Why is everything so damn complicated with Woohyun?). Myungsoo kicks Sungyeol’s ankle a few times when Sungyeol is being particularly nasty to Woohyun, and he’s seen Hoya put a restraining hand on Woohyun’s shoulder a time or two.

And living in the idol world just seems to magnify everything. They work too hard, sleep too little, eat too unhealthily, never pay attention to the important things. Things are always a hair’s breadth away from just collapsing altogether, but it’s so much worse when members are really fighting. It’s then that it all feels so fragile: idol-hood, Infinite, their friendships. It’s then that Sungyeol remembers just how different they all are, how none of them would have ever met each other if it weren’t for Woollim and the group. Most of the time, that thought is terrifying, but right now it’s almost wistful. Right now, Sungyeol almost wishes he’d never met Nam Woohyun (because maybe then he’d never have heard all of his worst fears about himself confirmed out loud).

--

Sungyeol stomps back into the bedroom after brushing his teeth one night, muttering under his breath about how Woohyun is everything that’s terrible in the world—he’d said something particularly snide in an interview this morning, something about all of them getting recognized except Sungyeol (it isn’t like it isn’t true, but that doesn’t mean Woohyun needed to say it). Myungsoo’s got his headphones on, and Dongwoo is changing into his pajamas. Sungyeol kicks aside a tennis shoe and stalks over to his clothes pile to try to remember what he’s worn this week so he doesn’t wear it again tomorrow (and yes, Woohyun drew attention to that earlier in the week, too. Sungyeol would almost be impressed by how many details of his life Woohyun is paying attention to, except that they’ve lived together for years and it’s not so amazing to know all that at this point).

Myungsoo’s question comes out of nowhere, but honestly, it’s a surprise it took this long for him to voice it.

“What’s going on with you and Woohyun?”

A week ago, that question would have made Sungyeol jump out of his skin, but now he just scowls. “He’s a dick,” is all he says, sniffing at a shirt to see if it’s wearable. It doesn’t smell fresh, but it’s not rank either, so it goes into the to-be-worn pile.

Myungsoo rolls his eyes, his headphones now around his neck. “Well, yeah. But he’s always a dick. Why is he being even more of one than usual and why are you being one back?”

“I’m not doing anything,” Sungyeol replies, and he can hear the petulance in his voice. He hates it, but sometimes he can’t help but be who he is in all the ways he hates most.

Dongwoo sits down slowly on his bed, eyes fixed on Sungyeol, and Sungyeol thinks absently that only a potential insight into the strife between members could keep Dongwoo from sleep right now. Luckily for him, Sungyeol just so happens to be able to provide it.

“You’re being a dick,” Myungsoo repeats.

“He deserves it,” Sungyeol says, and what is it about Woohyun that can turn him into a whiny twelve-year-old?

“Did something happen?” Dongwoo asks quietly, serious in a way he almost never is.

“No.”

Everyone in the room knows it’s a lie, and Myungsoo rolls his eyes again. Sungyeol shoves a hand through his hair, letting out an explosive sigh.

“He was a dick,” he says finally, helplessly. Because what else could he possibly say? We were giving each other amazing orgasms but then we both said the absolute worst things we could ever say to each other and we did it on purpose because we knew how much it would hurt and we wanted to hurt each other and things like that aren’t forgivable? Sungyeol remembers that first night, soju and words not quite so harsh but pointed all the same, and remembers being so annoyed by the way all the things they never say were haunting him. But now he’s beginning to think that some of those things are left in silence for a reason. That some things are just too sharp-edged to actually put into words without destroying something precious, and that it was wisdom, not cowardice, that keep those things wordless.

“We’ve established that.” Myungsoo’s tone is dry, which means he’s close to fed up. And Sungyeol can’t even get defensive about that, because he really can’t blame him.

“I know Woohyun can be a bit...much sometimes," Dongwoo offers, and again his voice is subdued. "He doesn't know when to let things go, and he gets caught up in the moment. He says things he doesn't mean a lot. But he's a good guy underneath all that, he really is. He always comes through when you need him to."

Sungyeol snorts.

Dongwoo's eyes sharpen a bit. "You two should make up. It’s not good, the way you’re treating each other. Even if he’s wrong, too, you should apologize. Somebody has to take the first step.”

Sungyeol notes the dark circles under Dongwoo’s eyes—all of them have them, all the time (how could they not with the lives they live? They’ll pay for this later in life, the years of getting by on adrenaline and exhausting work, but right now they manage to squeak by), but Dongwoo’s seem worse than usual right now. Guilt starts gnawing away at Sungyeol’s insides; Dongwoo is worrying again, fretting about the disharmony in the group. I did that, Sungyeol thinks. No: we did that.

Suddenly he just wants it all to be over. This exhausting whatever-it-is with Woohyun, so many harsh emotions crashing into each other all the time, too many for Sungyeol to know how to handle. He’s tired of being confused and he’s even more tired of being angry, and this whole thing is so monumentally stupid and he hates it. And that’s another thing he’s tired of: hating.

He wishes it was as easy as Dongwoo thinks it is. Making up. But Sungyeol’s never been good at admitting that he’s wrong, and Woohyun’s even worse at it, and they’re both the absolute worst when it comes to each other. Still, it isn’t the apologizing itself that he minds so much—he really does hate himself for saying those things, and he would take them back if he could, because no one deserves that; he’d meant them, in that moment, but he doesn’t anymore, and he suspects that Woohyun feels the same way—it’s that if he apologizes first, he’s surrendering. He’s losing. He’s admitting that Woohyun won.

It hadn’t taken him long after he was first introduced to the other trainees who would become Infinite to figure out that everything was a power struggle to Woohyun. At the beginning, it had mostly just been between him and Sunggyu—they’d named Sunggyu the leader but the competition for main vocalist was still on the table, and Woohyun had wanted that title more than Sungyeol had ever seen anyone want anything in his life. Woohyun had been totally focused on earning that position, so much so that he barely paid attention to any of the other trainees, his entire attention focused on Sunggyu: the only real competition Woohyun had.

No wonder Woohyun ended up falling in that twisted version of love with Sunggyu. You could hardly focus that much of your attention on someone—make someone the center of your sight like that—without developing some sort of feelings towards them. Sungyeol thinks that Woohyun still hates Sunggyu almost as much as he loves him, and Sungyeol could almost feel bad for him except that he’s so obvious about it, needy in a way that makes Sungyeol’s insides shrivel up to see.

Anyway, Woohyun seems to approach life as a war, and he knows what his goals are and what his weapons are and his strategy is almost always flawless (except when his own neediness takes over). Woohyun’s always been like that, it’s just that Sungyeol’s never been the one he’s fighting, not really. Their clashes—either the real ones when they were actually angry at each other or the mock battles when they were just bantering for the heck of it—had been short little skirmishes that didn’t mean anything and didn’t last long, and they hadn’t prepared Sungyeol for actually battling against Nam Woohyun. It’s exhausting, and he doesn’t think he’s very good at it, and the only thing he knows for sure is that he isn’t going to let Woohyun win (he isn’t going to be the one weak enough to surrender).

He couldn’t possibly voice those thoughts, even if he could figure out a way to speak them without giving away what passed between him and Woohyun. But Dongwoo’s eyes are so tired and sometimes Dongwoo just seems to bleed goodness, and Sungyeol feels like he owes him something.

“It’s not that easy, hyung,” is all he can say, and Sungyeol knows just how pathetic it sounds. Myungsoo makes a frustrated noise and flops back onto his bed, pulling a pillow over his face like this whole thing is just too much for him.

But Dongwoo is still looking at him steadily, those kind eyes so sad and tired, and Sungyeol wants to cry.

“It really is, Sungyeol,” Dongwoo says quietly, and then he lays down himself, turning over on his side so that his back faces Sungyeol. Sungyeol is pretty sure he hasn’t ever felt this shitty in his life.

--

But he can’t stop. He can’t stop lashing out at Woohyun in retaliation for passive-aggressive mockery, he can’t stop being moody as hell, and most of all, he can’t stop complaining about every little thing about Nam Woohyun.

“Why does Woohyun still make me treat him like a hyung? He’s not that much older. I’m loads older than you, and we’re still friends,” Sungyeol asks, propping himself up on his elbows so he can see Myungsoo sitting cross-legged on the other end of the bed.

Myungsoo doesn’t look up from his laptop. “It’s enough of a difference, Yeol. What most people would do.”

He can’t actually argue with that, (not unless he wants to say ‘It seems weird to call him hyung when he’s sucked me off in a bathroom,’ which he obviously never will), because Myungsoo is right, but that doesn’t make him feel any less irritated at this characteristic pride of Woohyun’s. “Well—what about Hoya? There’s almost the same difference between Woohyun and Hoya as there is between Woohyun and Dongwoo, and Dongwoo has never made Woohyun call him hyung. Keeping someone only two months younger than you as a dongsaeng? He’s such an ass.”

Myungsoo keeps clicking away. “I guess.”

“Everything’s a power struggle with him, you know? And he’s never going to surrender any ground, ever.” Sungyeol flops back on the bed, scowling up at the bottom of his own bunk. He’s got his legs folded at the knee, but he’s still so long that one of those knees jabs into Myungsoo’s thigh.

“Why are you being pissy about this now?” Myungsoo’s voice is bored, which is actually a different tone than when he’s just apathetic. Most of the time when Sungyeol complains about things, Myungsoo just tunes him out, and Sungyeol can never blame him because he knows he complains a lot. Boredom though, means Myungsoo has grown impatient with the topic at hand. Sungyeol feels like he’s been hearing that tone a lot more lately. “Three years later? It’s a little late.”

“It’s never too late when Woohyun obviously enjoys it as much as he does.” It’s a weak, ridiculous thing to say, but he has to say something.

“This is really getting stupid.” Myungsoo’s voice is flat. He’s not angry, just annoyed in that matter-of-fact way of his, which is honestly almost worse. “You’re mad at each other. Whatever. Be mad. I don’t care. I just don’t want to have to hear one more time about how Woohyun is the cause of every terrible single thing in the world, up to and including genocide and SNSD going on a break.”

Sungyeol feels his stomach drop; if he were standing up, it would have ended up somewhere in the vicinity of his feet, but since he’s lying down it feels like it’s resting against his spine. Myungsoo doesn’t talk to him like this. Ever. It’s what makes Myungsoo his best friend: the other guys may—and do—get annoyed with Sungyeol and all of them except for Dongwoo have told him to shut up about something on more than one occasion (Dongwoo’s too soft-hearted, but Hoya’s usually around to verbalize it for him), but Myungsoo never has. If he’s not interested in something Sungyeol is talking about, he tunes him out, and that’s it. It’s always made Sungyeol feel…well, if it weren’t such a pansy-ass thing to say, he’d say it makes him feel safe, knowing that he can say anything in front of Myungsoo and it’ll be okay. Not that he ever really does talk about important things, but he always felt like he could, if he needed to, and that even if Myungsoo didn’t know what to say, he would at least accept whatever it was in silence.

But now it looks like he’s hit the limits of Myungsoo’s tolerance. He can actually annoy Myungsoo, actually irritate him. Be the choding, when Myungsoo was always the only one who never treated him that way. Sungyeol’s bouts of immaturity, to Myungsoo, were always either something to laugh with—never at—or to ignore. But now. Now it’s too much for Myungsoo.

Sungyeol’s been feeling some profound self-loathing lately, but he never thought that it would reach this point. He never thought that he’d find that Myungsoo would justify that hatred Sungyeol directs at himself.

He rises stiffly from the bed, suddenly feeling every inch of his height to the point where it just feels like there’s too much of him. “I…sorry. I didn’t mean to…sorry.” The words come out rough-edged and awkward; he’s almost never had to apologize to Myungsoo with words. When they piss each other off—and they have, a lot of times over the years—they ignore each other for a while—a few hours, a few days—and then one of them just starts acting normally, like it never even happened, and then it’s over without anyone having to say anything.

Myungsoo looks up in alarm for the first time in the conversation. “What? Yeol, that’s not what I—“

“No, it’s okay.” His voice comes out so calm, it’s almost scaring even him. It doesn’t crack or get shrill like it usually does when he’s emotional. But right now: he’s not emotional. At least not on the outside. Maybe this is what numbness feels like. “I get it. I won’t bother you anymore.”

A part of him, a tiny part that’s easy to ignore, is telling him that he’s being overly sensitive, that his complaints about Woohyun have gone too far. All the other guys have told him that, with varying degrees of bluntness (Hoya: ‘I think you should get over the whole Woohyun thing. It was hilarious at first, but it’s old now. Want to play Mario Kart?’ Sungjong: ‘Hyung, you’re being even more of an immature child than usual. Shut up about this or don’t talk to me anymore, I’m serious.’ Dongwoo: ‘I want to sympathize, but I can’t because you won’t actually tell me what’s wrong. And I really do think you should put this right, Sungyeol.’ Sunggyu: ‘Stop complaining about the other members in front of me or I’ll put you on bathroom cleaning duty from now until your military service, I swear. We do not have time for this.’) and it hadn’t really stung, both because he knew they were right and because it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before.

But this is different. This is Myungsoo. And just when thought they were back on firm ground, too.

His feet feel very, very far from his body as he starts to walk away, like the signal from his brain has to travel even further than usual to reach them and tell them to walk.

“Sungyeol!” Behind him, Myungsoo makes a frustrated sound. “I didn’t mean it like that! Ya, come back! You can complain all you want, I’ll just put my headphones on. Sungyeol!”

But Sungyeol doesn’t stop. He walks, slowly, out of the room, staring straight ahead even as he doesn’t see anything. He can hear Myungsoo calling him, but he can’t make out the words. He walks over to the entrance hall and locates his shoes, shoving his feet in them without undoing the laces. And then he walks right out the door.

--

“The sink in the bathroom’s dripping again,” Woohyun announces as he strolls back into the practice room where the others are either stretching or resting. “Really steady, and a lot.”

“The boss won’t be happy if the water bill gets too high again,” Myungsoo says. He grabs a couple of water bottles off the table and catches Sungyeol’s eyes before Sungyeol can look away, then tosses one of the bottles to him. Sungyeol catches it clumsily but averts his gaze. “Especially since it was our fault it started having problems in the first place,” Myungsoo continues, but his tone is abstract; Sungyeol doesn’t look at him, but he knows Myungsoo is watching him through his eyelashes, his gaze as close to imploring as it’s possible for Myungsoo to be.

Things have been…brittle between them lately, despite the fact that Myungsoo’s tried to mend fences. But Sungyeol just can’t smooth things over, not yet.

How can I feel secure around you anymore when I know you can find me annoying too?

Dongwoo’s voice breaks through Sungyeol’s thoughts. “Ya, it was an accident!” Dongwoo protests, looking abashed. But there hadn’t been anything really pointed in Myungsoo’s tone; nobody really blames Dongwoo because they knew it really was an accident, that time that he messed with the handle on the sink and caused the leak several years before.

Sunggyu looks up from where he was giving Sungjong instructions. “Yes, we’ll need to get that taken care of.” He pauses, then, and a look comes over his face, one Sungyeol recognizes but doesn’t see very often. It’s his ‘an idea has come to me’ face, the one that pops up at the most unexpected times, presenting solutions to some problem or another—half the time, Sungyeol wasn’t even aware there was a problem until Sunggyu comes up with the answer. It always surprises Sungyeol when it happens, because while Sunggyu is smart, he isn’t exactly quick-witted, nor is he that creative in anything that doesn’t involve music. Sungyeol should probably be terrified or at least nervous, but he’s really just glad for the distraction; he can still feel Myungsoo’s gaze on him.

“I’ll tell one of the hyungs on the way out,” Woohyun says with a shrug. “We’re done now, right?”

“We’re done,” Sunggyu says slowly. “We have filming in two hours and twelve minutes.” That’s Sunggyu: he probably knows their schedule down to the second, actually, and just doesn’t voice it because he doesn’t want the rest of them making fun of him. Which they totally would.

Woohyun nods. “Okay, then, let’s head out.” There’s a touch of a question in what he says, but it’s more of a formality than anything; the last thing he expects is for Sunggyu to disagree with him.

“No, Woohyun, you stay here.”

Woohyun, Sungyeol notes in disgust, looks like a dead fish when he gapes like that (if anything, his negative feelings towards Woohyun have only intensified since the not-a-fight with Myungsoo last night). “What?”

“You can fix the sink. Or find someone to fix it. Either way, take care of it.”

Sungyeol transforms the giggling fit that overtakes him into a series of coughs pretty quickly, but not quickly enough for Dongwoo not to jab him in the ribs with his elbow. But this is too good. Sunggyu must be really mad at Woohyun if he’s punishing him like this. Anyone would be able to guess that Woohyun knows absolutely nothing about plumbing.

“Hyung!” Woohyun sounds as much offended as he does angry. “Don’t we have managers for this sort of thing?”

Sunggyu shrugs, nudging a smirking Sungjong towards the door. “You’ll take care of it today. And Sungyeol will help you.”

Sungyeol’s water bottle crashes to the floor with a thud, water spilling out in an arc around it. Dongwoo, biting his lip to hide a smile—it doesn’t really work; nothing can hide a Dongwoo smile—grabs a towel and starts mopping the water up. Sungyeol doesn’t notice.

“What?” His voice comes out squeaky the way it almost always does in times of high emotion, but still manages to sound half-choked. “Hyung, what are you saying?”

Across the room, Woohyun makes some sort of half-shocked, half-infuriated sound that Sungyeol has never heard a human being make before. Hoya’s got a huge grin on his face, and Dongwoo grabs him by the arm and pulls him and Myungsoo out of the room. If Sungyeol weren’t so stunned and horrified, he would be able to hear the burst of barely-suppressed laughter and whispers in the hall that follows, but he’s totally unaware of Myungsoo—much less the other guys—for the first time in a long time.

“I’m saying,” Sunggyu says patiently, “that I’m putting you two in charge of taking care of it, and I’m serious about it. Don’t come back to the dorm till it’s fixed. I don’t care if you do it yourselves or if you find someone else to do it, just make sure it gets done. Do you understand?”

He has on his bull-headed stubborn look now, the one that shows just how serious he is, and without waiting for an answer—because everyone knows there’s only one answer they could possibly give: he’s their leader—he steers Sungjong, who’s openly mocking them with his smirk and raised eyebrow, out of the room, leaving Sungyeol and Woohyun alone for the first time since the closet.

After the members’ footsteps die away, it’s very quiet in the practice room, just the sounds that old buildings make when they’re settling and the hissing of a few pipes. Pipes. Sungyeol has just been left alone with the one person on earth who can make him angriest and most confused and been assigned to fix a dripping sink, which he doesn’t have the first idea how to even start to do.

After a moment, he finds that he and Woohyun have been staring at each other, slack-jawed and round-eyed, for some time now, and he looks away quickly, scowling when he remembers just why he’s still so angry with Woohyun. Woohyun seems to realize it at the same time, and the explosive sigh he lets out sounds more like a growl than anything.

“I hate my life,” Woohyun says, short and bitter, and for once, Sungyeol can only agree with him.

Chapter Text

“What are you doing?”

Woohyun ignores Sungyeol’s question, just poking away at the touchpad on the phone he just pulled out of his pocket. Sungyeol rolls his eyes and crosses his arms, but Woohyun acts like he's not even there. Whoever he’s calling picks up after only a moment.

“Hyoan-hyung!” Woohyun sounds relieved. “We’re having a little trouble with the bathroom sink at the practice room and—what?” A pause, an appalled expression growing on Woohyun’s face. “He said what?” Another pause, and now Woohyun looks angry. “But he’s not actually in charge, you are and—but can’t you—hyung!—no, don’t hang up—don’t—fuck!” He stares down at the phone in his hand, completely aghast.

“Let me guess,” Sungyeol says, and his laugh is as bitter as it is amused. “Sunggyu already called all the managers and told them not to help us.” He laughs again at the look on Woohyun’s face. “You really didn’t realize that that was the first thing he’d do? I could have told you that—that would be too easy, that would defeat the whole point.”

Woohyun’s face is more furious than a thundercloud. “Well, what’s your plan of action, Sherlock? It’s not like we can afford to call a plumber.”

Feeling, he’ll admit it, really damn proud of himself, Sungyeol pulls out his own phone and calls a number of his own.

“Ajumma!” he crows in delight when the receptionist at the company building answers. “This is Lee Sungyeol!” She fusses over him for a few minutes, always glad to hear from one of the boys who, really, pay most of her salary. He keeps eye contact with a glaring Woohyun the whole time; he’d normally be disgusted by the smirk on his own face, but God, it feels so good to show Woohyun up. When she finally gets around to asking him why he called, he feels so smug that he’s almost happy for the first time in days (but this is too ugly around the edges to be really happy). “Can you please give me the number for the janitor from your building? We’re having trouble in the practice room and I need him to come over and fix something.”

Woohyun’s cheeks are flushed red, and Sungyeol takes a moment to appreciate the sight even as he makes note of the number. He’s about to thank the lady profusely and then hang up, but then he catches the tail end of her sentence. “—but I don’t think he’s in yet today.”

Sungyeol chokes. “I’m sorry, ajumma, can you repeat that?” Woohyun raises his eyebrows in interest and Sungyeol turns away.

“I’m so sorry, dear, but I’m not sure when he’ll be available. He had something important to deal with for his daughter, and he probably won’t answer his handphone. But he might be in later, you should certainly leave him a message, you know he’ll be glad to help as soon as he can.”

Sungyeol’s own cheeks are turning red now, and he’s much more subdued when he thanks her for her help.

Woohyun’s obviously figured it out—probably from the look on Sungyeol’s face—and he’s almost crouched in half he's laughing so hard by the time Sungyeol hangs up.

“Don’t even,” Sungyeol growls as he pushes past Woohyun and out into the hall, the sound of mocking laughter following him. He calls anyway, and the receptionist was right: the janitor/handyman from Woollim’s main building doesn’t answer. Sungyeol leaves a message, begging the man to call him back as soon as he can, and ignores Woohyun who has come up beside him.

He’s sobered somewhat, probably remembering they still have to do something to actually fix this, but the remaining trace of his smug smile is enough to make Sungyeol want to hit him (never mind that he’d reacted exactly the same way when Woohyun’s plan fell through).

“What do we do now?” he mutters to himself instead.

--

 

They find the old toolbox in the dank basement, its hinges rusted with disuse. It takes them some real effort to get it open, and it isn’t very encouraging once they do: sure, there are a couple of old tools—hammer and nails, a wrench and a few screwdrivers, plus a lot of other stuff Sungyeol doesn’t even recognize—but what’s the point of having the tools if you don’t even know what to do with them? Sungyeol wishes that Myungsoo was here; even with the strain between them, he’d appreciate L-Gyver’s help.

They sit there on the floor in front of the sink, the toolbox and the sound of the dripping faucet between them, neither of them confident enough to make the first move. If things weren’t so terrible between them, they’d probably be teasing each other about it, but as it is, they ignore each other. Sungyeol shifts on the hard tile of the floor, sticky with sweat from practice and fantasizing about a shower. Woohyun drums his fingers on his knees, humming some song or another under his breath. It’s the first time in forever that Sungyeol’s done absolutely nothing like this; he’d forgotten how much more slowly time passes when you don’t have eighty-six things you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment.

The minutes tick by, and if they were Sunggyu, they’d know that they only have an hour and thirty-seven minutes left until their next schedule.

Finally, Woohyun pushes himself to his feet. He picks up the wrench and stares down at the faucet with a glare. “How hard can it be?” he murmurs, and Sungyeol isn’t sure whether he was meant to hear the words. “Just tighten it, right?”

Squaring his shoulders, he steps forward, brandishing the wrench and bending over the handle of the faucet.

Sungyeol’s getting nervous now, because he wouldn’t be at all surprised if Woohyun finds a way to actually make the mess worse. As much as he doesn’t trust his own fix-it abilities, he trusts Woohyun’s even less. “I’m not sure you should—“

“SHIT.”

There’s a clang of metal against metal, then the sound of bursting water.

“What the hell?” Sungyeol scrambles to his feet, instinctively backing away, then darting forward again. “What did you do?”

“I don’t know!” Woohyun’s fumbling with the wrench again, ignoring the water that’s splashing against his shirt. “I gotta—“

“Don’t—“

Sungyeol lurches forward to stop him, but Woohyun tries again, and this time Sungyeol is close enough to see the handle fly up through the air, propelled by a geyser of water exploding underneath it. They both yelp, instantly drenched by the jet of water, the pressure hard enough to sting even through their shirts.

“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Sungyeol shrieks, uselessly holding his hands out in an attempt to keep the spray of water at bay.

“I can’t, you idiot! The handle is gone!”

“Fuck fuck fuck!” Sungyeol scans the room frantically for anything to dam the flow of water and almost slips on the now-slick floor. Nothing looks promising, so, panicked, he dumps the rest of the tools out of the toolbox onto the floor with a clatter that almost overpowers the sound of the still-gushing water and hurries back to the sink, slipping several times on the wet tile on the way. He slams the metal box down over the spout of water, then has to hold it down against the pressure.

Woohyun’s voice is almost as shrill as Sungyeol’s now. “That’s not going to work!”

“I can see that, thank you very much.” Sungyeol shakes his soaking hair out of his eyes. At least the water’s not spewing up into the air now and drenching them even more. If it’s possible to be even more drenched than they are. “Do you have a better idea?”

He catches a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye and when he turns to look at Woohyun, he’s tugging his shirt off. Wait—tugging his shirt off?

“What the--?”

Woohyun glares at him. “It’s worth a try, right? Thicker is better, though. Give me yours.”

Sungyeol stares blankly at him for a moment, then moves to obey. Woohyun darts forward to hold the toolbox in place when Sungyeol lets it go, and Sungyeol pulls his soaked shirt off. He takes his place back at the box and hands over his shirt to Woohyun. Making an ‘I really hope this works’ face, Woohyun layers them together, then signals for Sungyeol to remove the box. Sungyeol flinches back from the water that immediately sprouts upward, but Woohyun reaches out and wraps the t-shirts over the spewing spout again and again. The water stops spraying with quite so much force, though it’s still gurgling through the waterlogged fabric enough to splash over the sides of the sink and onto the floor.

“It’s not going to stay.” Woohyun’s frustration is thick in his voice.

“Uh, wait a second.” Sungyeol tugs the hair tie out of his hair, then nudges Woohyun aside with his hip so that he can reach the tap. His fingers brush against Woohyun’s as he wraps the rayon-covered elastic band around the spigot, looping it several times low on the metal. Then he grabs the toolbox back up off the floor and nods to Woohyun to let go. Woohyun removes his hands; the t-shirts stay in place, and this time when Sungyeol plops the toolbox over the top of the water, it stays. Sungyeol lets out a sigh of relief, panic jittering its way out of his body now that the immediate problem seems to be relatively under control; water is still pouring out, but it’s all contained in the sink now, not splashing everywhere, and thankfully the drain is in good working order and able to handle the stream.

It takes him a moment to realize that Woohyun is laughing behind him, and when he turns, Woohyun’s shoulders are shaking with the force of it, his eyes crinkling up in that way they do.

“This is funny?” Sungyeol demands. He’s standing shirtless in the grimy bathroom, totally soaked, his jeans doing that chafing, uncomfortable thing jeans do when they’re wet, his hair not even bound back anymore, his toes squishing in his tennis shoes and socks. And it’s cold: now that the adrenaline is fading, he can feel goosebumps rising on his skin.

Woohyun tries to say something in reply, but he’s laughing too hard, so he ends up just flopping his hands around helplessly. Sungyeol glares at him for a second, then feels a giggle rising, and a moment later, he’s laughing almost as hard as Woohyun, the two of them almost doubled over with the force of it.

“Only we could manage to make it worse,” Woohyun manages to gasp.

“What’s this ‘we’ stuff?” Sungyeol demands between guffaws. “That was all your fault!”

“Oh, God, Sunggyu’s going to be so mad.”

“I will absolutely throw you under the bus, don’t think I won’t. You idiot—why did you even try? What were you thinking?”

The laughter dies down slowly, leaving Sungyeol gasping and clutching his slightly-aching ribs. And it’s at that moment that it occurs to him that he’s in the very place where just over a week ago Woohyun gave him his first blowjob, and Woohyun is here, too, and he’s shirtless and he’s shoved his untidy, wet hair from his forehead, and he looks amazing and Sungyeol’s been so frustrated and—

Woohyun must have been having thoughts along the same lines because all of a sudden he hurls himself forward (Sungyeol might or might not meet him halfway) and then they’re kissing, furious and messy like that first time in this bathroom. Woohyun’s fingers tug a bit too hard at Sungyeol’s wet hair (and he’s going to have to think about Woohyun’s seeming fascination with his hair at some point, but not right now) and Sungyeol’s hands are sliding all over wet, chilled skin and he can feel the chill bumps on Woohyun’s arms under his fingers and the inside of Woohyun’s mouth seems even hotter than usual compared to the temperature of their skin and the fact that two hours ago he would have sworn he’d never be back in this position again, well, that just kind of makes this even hotter.

His pride is howling in the back of his mind, reminding him of all of the things that Woohyun said that night in the closet, but he shoves the memories aside: Sungyeol himself said just as many terrible things, and he’s so sick of the grudges they’ve been holding. He’d wanted it to be over for days now, but his cowardice and stung pride wouldn’t let him make the first step. And now he doesn’t have to worry about that step anymore.

He slumps a little in relief, the tension that’s been building over the last few days flowing out of him (different kinds of tension, so many different kinds, including some he hadn’t known about until now), one of his hands sliding down Woohyun’s bare torso to rest at his hip. He slides his thumb underneath the waistband of Woohyun’s jeans to press against the jut of his hipbone, dragging his finger back and forth across the hard bone under the smooth skin. Woohyun shivers against him, not breaking their kiss, and while it could be because of the cold, Sungyeol would rather believe it’s because of him.

Sungyeol’s barely keeping from shivering himself—he’d forgotten how good Woohyun tastes, what a good kisser he is, the inexplicable draw of the firmness and angles of his body. And everything about this moment feels sharper and more intense, whether because of the cold or because it’s been so long, Sungyeol doesn’t know. Woohyun detangles his fingers from Sungyeol’s hair and then his hands are down at Sungyeol’s waist, steering him back towards the wall.

If Sungyeol hadn’t had to pull away to gasp for breath at just that moment, he probably would have bit right through Woohyun’s tongue when they slip on the wet tile and fall into a heap on the floor.

“Ow! That hurt! Get your bony elbow out of my side!” Woohyun demands, trying to shove Sungyeol off of him.

“You’re the one whose knee almost just turned me into a eunuch,” Sungyeol grumbles back, trying to extricate himself enough that he’s not sprawled out on top of Woohyun on the floor. He rolls onto the cold tile himself and into standing water. He knows the room isn’t the cleanest and he’d normally be freaking out about, like, hepatitis or something, but at this point it doesn’t even seem to matter anymore.

“I really don’t think my knee has any interest in pissing off my other body parts that badly.”

Sungyeol gapes at him, but Woohyun starts laughing again, rolling onto his side in the process. “You should see your face!”

Sungyeol looks away, about to fall into a snit, but Woohyun’s hand is suddenly on his neck, jerking him back over to meet Woohyun’s lips, and it’s strange kissing while you laugh with someone: Sungyeol’s never done that before (there are a lot of things he’d never done before Woohyun).

And then they’re making out on the floor, completely oblivious to the chill and to the water, and it occurs to Sungyeol that they’re probably never going to talk about what they said in the closet that night. They’re just going to pretend like it never happened, and while his pride still prickles at the thought, he’s glad. He and Woohyun don’t seem to have much luck with the talking thing.

Sungyeol has always thought that wet jeans were the most uncomfortable things in the world, but it’s quickly becoming apparent, as Woohyun grinds against him (and, okay, he’s totally grinding back) that they’re so, so much worse when you have an erection. He’s about to pull back to take them off, but then he gets distracted by Woohyun’s neck and has to pay it some attention for a while, spurred on by the sounds Woohyun is making (the sounds that he’s been hearing in his dreams, the ones that maybe made him even angrier with Woohyun during these last week of cold war).

Finally he pulls back, shaking his hair out of his eyes and wishing he had another hair tie to keep it from falling in his face this way. Woohyun gives him a quizzical look, but Sungyeol just start to unbutton his pants, peeling them off as quickly as he can—they’re even harder to get off than they are when they’re dry.

“Jumping to conclusions, aren’t you? Who says we’re going to do anything that requires pants removal?” Woohyun teases, and Sungyeol scowls at him.

“Wet jeans are hell,” Sungyeol shoots back.

“That’s what you get for not wearing sweats to practice in,” Woohyun says.

“Like you don’t do it all the time, too,” he grumbles in reply, kicking off his shoes in order to get his jeans off all the way. He’s about to start feeling strange that he’s lying on the floor in his boxers but then Woohyun shrugs and starts shucking off his own pants.

“Now who’s jumping to conclusions?” Sungyeol says, and he hopes he doesn’t sound as awkward as he feels.

Woohyun just rolls his eyes. “Like I’d waste an opportunity like this,” he says, and Sungyeol knows what he means: alone in the building and half-naked and both of them starting to get turned on now.

To be honest, Sungyeol is kind of surprised that Woohyun would ever let him touch him again; Woohyun’s pride is even more tender than Sungyeol’s, and that’s saying something. But if Woohyun’s going to forget about, he’s definitely going to forget about it, too (or at least pretend like he has; if he keeps hearing those words in his nightmares, well, no one else needs to know about that). He rolls onto his side to meet Woohyun’s mouth again.

But then just as Sungyeol’s fingers are creeping down to the tops of Woohyun’s boxers, Woohyun suddenly pulls back and yanks hard on Sungyeol’s hair.

“Ow! What the—stop doing that.”

Woohyun just yanks again, pulling Sungyeol’s face away from his collarbones and up to face him, and Sungyeol finally gets it: Woohyun wants to make sure he has his whole attention.

Woohyun’s voice is still that light, laughing tone, but his eyes bore into Sungyeol’s with complete seriousness as he says, “Don’t call me a slut again.”

It’s weird, looking straight into Woohyun’s eyes for an extended moment like this. He’s never done it before and if Woohyun’s gaze weren’t rock-hard and steel-sharp, Sungyeol’s pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to hold onto it (Woohyun actually sees what he looks at, and that’s the scariest thing about him—Sungyeol doesn’t like it when people really look at him, even if he also hates when they look right past him). Sungyeol kind of wants to swallow hard, but he doesn’t. Instead, matching Woohyun’s tone but with his own expression radiating gravity, he replies, “Don’t tell me I’m worthless again.”

Woohyun nods once, a sharp acknowledgment, and then loosens his grip and shoves his hand into Sungyeol’s underwear. And that, Sungyeol thinks wryly, is all the apology either one of them is going to get.

--

They’re lying side by side on the wet floor, naked and panting in the aftershocks, when Sungyeol’s phone rings. It takes a second for his orgasm-clouded brain to recognize the noise for what it is, and then he remembers that his phone is in his jeans’ pocket, and his jeans ended up getting kicked to the other side of the room at some point. And the other side of the room feels really, really far away. The floor is still cold and damp and, yeah, it’s a bathroom floor, which is just disgusting, but right now all Sungyeol wants is to keep lying here forever.

“Aren’t you going to get that?” Woohyun asks, pointedly. “The world’s most annoying ringtone is kind of ruining my afterglow.”

“It’s probably just Leader, calling to yell some more.” But he props himself up on his elbows and, not moving his position, stretches out his leg as far as it will go. His toes brush against the soggy fabric of the jeans, but it takes a couple of minutes of wiggling his foot around to get the leg of the pants to flop over his ankle.

“I’m pretty sure it would take less energy to just stand up and walk over to it,” Woohyun points out, and he suddenly sounds tetchy. Probably because Sungyeol mentioned Sunggyu; he’s got to remember not to do that around Woohyun anymore.

“Ha!” Sungyeol shoots back in triumph as he brings his leg back up, now with the jeans draped over his foot. He does a weird almost-half-a-lotus move to bring his foot close enough for his hand to snag the jeans, and then he’s falling back onto the floor, fumbling in the pocket for his insistent phone.

“Yeboseyo?”

As it turns out, it isn’t Sunggyu; it’s the handyman calling him back. Sungyeol flails a little in excitement as he tells the man what the problem is, and Woohyun stares at him like he suddenly turned into a performing bear. Sungyeol doesn’t care: having Woohyun jerk him off had been a nice distraction, but they still have to actually get the sink fixed and now they’ve got a shot at it.

Sungyeol wishes he still had one of those flip-top phones so that he could snap it closed in triumph when the call is over—pushing the touchpad just isn’t the same. “He’s on his way. He said he can take care of it no problem and that we don’t even need to wait around for him to get here.”

“Seriously?” Woohyun’s face lights up, former touchiness regarding Sunggyu completely forgotten, and he bounces to his feet. Sungyeol immediately averts his eyes; yeah, he was getting friendly with Woohyun’s junk just a few minutes ago, but that doesn’t mean he actually wants to look at naked Woohyun. That would just be…well, gay. And while Sungyeol may have no idea what he is anymore, he’s pretty sure he’s not that, as evidenced by the fact that the vast porn collection on his laptop—all of it featuring women, thank you very much—still does the job (yeah, he’s done multiple experiments to make sure).

Pulling his wet jeans back on is probably one of the least comfortable things Sungyeol’s ever had to do, but it’s better than being naked in front of Woohyun, so he doesn’t complain much. Once Woohyun is pants-ed, too, they find themselves with a new problem.

“We have no shirts,” Sungyeol says, pointing to the sink. “We can’t walk home like this.” There are always at least a few fans outside the practice room and even more across the street from the dorm, and the last thing Infinite needs is pictures all over the internet of shirtless idols with wet hair walking down the street.

Woohyun runs his eyes over Sungyeol’s body and snorts back a laugh. Sungyeol knows he must make a pretty ridiculous sight—Woohyun looks pretty ridiculous himself—but the last thing he wants is someone with a body like Woohyun’s (and yes, in the darkest part of his mind he can admit that Woohyun has a really great body) laughing while looking at him shirtless.

“I’ll call for one of the hyungs to bring the van back,” Woohyun says, and does just that. While he’s making the call, Sungyeol searches the practice rooms and finds a sweat-stained t-shirt he’s pretty sure used to be Hoya’s and an abandoned sweatshirt that looks so old he’s pretty sure it predates any of them completely—maybe it belonged to one of the Epik High guys. It’s too hot outside for that, but he tugs it on anyway and tosses the t-shirt to Woohyun.

It’s Jungryoul-hyung who shows up with the van, and he doesn’t say anything at all when they climb inside, just rolls his eyes. Woohyun flops himself down, stretching across the back seat, and Sungyeol sits down on the row in front of him. Jungryoul cranks the music up front, and Sungyeol glances back at Woohyun as the van pulls out onto the street. Woohyun is sprawled out across the whole seat, an arm thrown over half his face. A part of himself that Sungyeol would never admit to kind of wants to reach out and tug that arm down, make Woohyun look him in the eye, and ask if they’re really okay now.

Instead, he just picks up Sungjong’s water bottle from where it’s rolling around down near his feet and chucks it back at Woohyun’s stomach, telling him not to snore. When Woohyun hurls it back, insisting that he does not snore, it almost feels like they really are okay (Sungyeol doesn’t think about why that makes him feel so relieved).

Chapter Text

“So you finally made up with Sungyeol?”

Sungyeol freezes when he hears his name, his hand pausing where it was about to knock on the door to Sunggyu and Woohyun’s room. The door is cracked enough that he can hear Sunggyu’s voice clearly but not so much that anyone inside would think they’d be overheard.

“It would seem so,” Woohyun answers, and his tone is so flat that for a moment Sungyeol doesn’t even recognize it—there are a lot of things you could call Nam Woohyun, probably as many insulting as complimentary, but ‘flat’ has never been one of them.

“It’s about time. That was ridiculous, how long you let that drag on.”

“I know, hyung.”

Sungyeol shouldn’t be listening. He really, really shouldn’t be listening. The members have had so little privacy for so long that they guard what’s left to them fiercely. There’s the don’t-touch-anyone-else’s-phone rule, which all of them had agreed to, but there are also unspoken ones that they never violate. Like eavesdropping on anyone else. Sungyeol can be nosy, but even he follows that rule, mostly because he wants everyone else to follow it for him.

He should walk away now, he knows that, that or go ahead and knock and announce his presence, but he can’t bring himself to do either one. Not just because they’re talking about him—sort of—but because their tones are so different from any Sungyeol is used to hearing from them. After years living and working in each others’ pockets like they have, he’d almost thought that none of the other members have anything new to offer (well, Woohyun randomly deciding to suck his face off aside). He should have known how wrong he is.

“It’s immature, letting your little spats go that far. They start to affect the group and—“

“It wasn’t just some little spat, hyung.”

Sungyeol’s eyebrows fly up to his hairline; he’s never heard Woohyun interrupt like that before. His tone isn’t particularly disrespectful, but the fact that he interrupted at all….Sungyeol half expects Sunggyu to yell now, to chew him out for his tone, but Sunggyu just continues as if he hadn’t heard Woohyun at all.

“I don’t care if he ran over your brother. Infinite is more important than whatever you were mad at him about.” Sunggyu resorts to hyperbole a lot when he lectures.

“I know that. It’s over now, okay? We’re fine. It won’t happen again.”

Sungyeol pivots on his socked feet to press his back against the wall beside the door, trying to get a handle on what he’s hearing. He’d known, of course, that Sunggyu had probably given Woohyun a talking to about their recent cold war—he’d given Sungyeol one, too. And Sungyeol had respected that, because Sunggyu had been serious but fair, and every word he said about group dynamics and the importance of their dreams and entangled fates had been true. Sungyeol had assumed that the lecture he’d given Woohyun had been pretty much the same, only perhaps with some embellishment about hyungs setting good examples for their dongsaengs and the main vocalist having more responsibility or something.

But now Sungyeol thinks that the talk wasn’t nearly that innocuous, not if what he’d just heard was any indication. This Sunggyu, the one who he’d just heard talking to Woohyun, is emotionless and sounds like he’s talking to a complete stranger—except that he’d be more polite to a stranger more than that. And Sungyeol can’t quite wrap his mind around that.

Because the thing is, Sunggyu isn’t like this with any of the rest of them. Sungyeol has seen him grumpy and impatient, has seen him boss Sungjong around for the cameras, has seen him refuse to let the exhausted members quit practicing until they get this move perfect. He’s seen a lot of hard sides to Sunggyu, prickly ones, too, but that’s nothing like this, like how he’s talking to Woohyun right now. There’s no emotion in his voice whatsoever, like he’s talking to someone he has no relationship with instead of someone who’s been his closest member since the beginning. He’s not cruel or patronizing or even cold—he’s just blank, detached almost. He doesn’t talk to any of the members like that, not ever.

And Woohyun—Sungyeol has never heard him this disrespectful, either. Woohyun can take things too far, not know when to stop, but he’s never purposefully insolent, especially not to Sunggyu. Woohyun has always been the first to jump on the other members for the slightest hint of insubordination; most of the time Sunggyu doesn’t even have to warn them that they’re straying too close to the line because Woohyun gets there first.

He thinks back to the little incidents he’s noticed after appearances, Sunggyu telling Woohyun to back off. The leader had been angry, then, but angry in a way that Sungyeol had understood and recognized, because Woohyun had been trying too hard, but now he thinks maybe there was some sort of undercurrent to even those interactions that he hadn’t been aware of but that Woohyun certainly was.

He doesn’t want you, and he’ll never want you, and if the fans knew who you really were behind your grease, they wouldn’t want you either.

Sungyeol isn’t used to feeling guilty about things he says to Woohyun, but now he’s beginning to regret that comment.

He hears a sound like someone flopping onto a bed, then Woohyun’s voice again. “Is that all you have to say to me?”

Woohyun’s tone has shifted, but it’s still strange, and it takes Sungyeol a minute to figure it out. On the surface, it’s a little angry where it’s not nonchalant, but underneath that Sungyeol can hear something completely different, something that makes him want to shrivel up in second-hand humiliation. Don’t be so obvious, you idiot. Don’t let him hear how much you want him when he obviously doesn’t want you back. You’re giving him permission to hurt you, don’t you know that? If there’s one thing Sungyeol has always hated, it’s people who don’t know how to protect themselves (maybe mostly because when he’s honest with himself he knows he hasn’t always been so good at it himself). It’s the last thing he would have expected from Woohyun, who knows the values of masks and is a better actor than any of the rest of them when he wants to be (and Sungyeol can admit that with only minimal bitterness). Maybe that’s what makes it so uncomfortable to hear.

“Is there something else I need to say?” Sunggyu sounds almost weary now. It makes something in Sungyeol’s chest ache.

“You used to talk to me, you know. You used to tell me things.”

Sungyeol knows that’s true. Everyone knew that Woohyun was the one Sunggyu talked things out with, the one he confided in—when they weren’t fighting, that is (Sungyeol has never seen anyone fight the way Woohyun and Sunggyu used to fight; it was like watching fireworks from way too close: fascinating but deadly dangerous. But now that he thinks about it, they haven’t fought straight-out like that in a long, long time. Instead, they either walk away or—ocassionally—lob passive-aggressive one-liners at each other. Somehow that is much, much worse). Even Dongwoo, who had a claim to second-in-command by virtue of his age, hadn’t ever tried to take that position away from Woohyun. It had belonged to him completely, and while it still does in public, Sungyeol wonders when that stopped being true behind their closed bedroom door.

Sunggyu is quiet for a long, long time. When he speaks, his tone is still as flat as it has been all along. “Well, maybe I just ran out of things to say.”

Sungyeol sucks in his breath at that; does Sunggyu even realize how cruel he’s being? Woohyun isn’t stupid, he has to know that that’s total bullshit, but Sunggyu doesn’t even bother to make up a believable explanation.

Suddenly sick to his stomach, Sungyeol pushes off the wall and wanders out into the common room. Sungjong is coming out of the kitchen with a cup in his hand, and Sungyeol grabs his arm. “Can you go tell leader that Hyoan-hyung said for us to be ready to leave at 7?”

Sungjong flips his hair out of his eyes defiantly; no wonder he likes that haircut so much: it lets him communicate attitude without having to verbalize it. Not that Sungjong ever passes by the chance to verbalize it. “And why can’t you do it yourself?”

“I just—please, Sungjong. Just do it.” Sungyeol knows for a fact that he wouldn’t be able to look at either Sunggyu or Woohyun right now. No wonder the no-eavesdropping rule is so sacrosanct. No wonder.

Sungjong narrows his eyes and studies Sungyeol for a moment. Sungyeol doesn’t even want to know what Sungjong sees in his face, but whatever it is seems to convince him, because he sighs. “Fine. I’ll run your errand for you. This time.”

Sungyeol makes a mental note to go easy on Sungjong this week, then heads back to his bedroom. He makes a noncommittal noise when Dongwoo tries to say something to him, changing quickly and climbing into his bed, pulling the covers up over his face. Dongwoo and Myungsoo are talking quietly below him, but he doesn’t even hear them. He’s too busy listening to the recordings of Woohyun and Sunggyu’s voices in his head, their tones so much more important than any of the words they actually said.

Sungyeol knows he won’t sleep well tonight.

--

Sungyeol actually starts feeling sorry for Woohyun after that, especially since he seems so moody over the next few days (it’s weird for Sungyeol, knowing why Woohyun is moody this time instead of just seeing that he is), so much so that a couple of days later when they have a bit of free time, he doesn’t even pretend to put up a fight when Woohyun grabs him by the arm and drags him into his and Sunggyu’s empty room.

“You’re learning how to give head now.” Woohyun announces it like he might announce that he’s making kimchi fried rice for dinner tonight, and even though Sungyeol can’t actually claim to be surprised (he’d told him before, after all), that doesn’t mean he’s really prepared for this.

“Who says?” he demands, his voice cracking.

“The one who’s already blown you and hasn’t gotten any in return,” Woohyun shoots back. And then he starts stripping.

It isn’t until Woohyun’s shirt is already off and he’s dropped his pants that Sungyeol remembers to look away. “Oh, yeah,” Woohyun laughs, “Hide your innocent eyes, Mr. I-Admit-in-Interviews-That-I-Watch-Porn.”

“Porn usually involves naked women,” Sungyeol points out without thinking.

“Depends on the porn.” Woohyun’s totally naked now and grabbing a towel from the pile in the corner—Woohyun and Sunggyu’s piles are much tidier than the ones in any room that contains Kim Myungsoo. “Besides, you might as well put that giant mouth of yours to use,” he adds, spreading the towel out on the bed behind him.

And then he plops down on it—on Sunggyu’s bed—and a couple of things click into place in Sungyeol’s head.

Now, admittedly, Sunggyu’s bed is a whole lot more convenient than Woohyun’s top bunk. That would be reason enough for choosing it. But somehow Sungyeol thinks that might not be all of it.

Since that night with the soju on the couch, Sungyeol has mostly been concerned with his own series of crises—with figuring out why he keeps letting this happen, with loathing Woohyun for the things he said in the closet that night, with Myungsoo being fucking Myungsoo. But he has had time to wonder now and then why the hell Woohyun is acting the way he is. It’s not like he’s got a thing for Sungyeol, he knows that, and anyone with eyes can see how in love he is with Sunggyu—even if he hates how much he loves him. So it makes very little sense that he keeps dragging Sungyeol into small spaces (claustrophobic, Sungyeol’s ass) and shoving his hand into Sungyeol’s pants.

Except that maybe it makes a lot of sense. Maybe it makes too much sense: maybe there are too many reasons he could be doing this, not too few, and it’s the surplus of them that makes it so hard for Sungyeol to figure him out.

Maybe it’s his way of sticking it to Sunggyu, even if Sunggyu doesn’t know about it. Maybe it’s his way of proving to himself that he’s not as stuck on Sunggyu as everyone thinks he is (as he really is). Maybe it’s his way of forgetting about everything else for just a little while. Maybe it’s the only way he thinks he can get some kind of comfort without having to admit that anything is wrong. Maybe it’s some weird form of self-loathing punishment. Maybe it’s some combination of the above, or all of them, even, and Woohyun himself doesn’t even know.

And maybe it’s also just about the fact that it feels really fucking good, and God knows they need the stress release. Woohyun hadn’t been lying when he’d told Sungyeol he was convenient: Sungyeol is certain that if it hadn’t been him that night on the couch with the soju, Woohyun still would have reacted exactly the way he had: if it had been Hoya or Myungsoo or Sunjong—maybe not Dongwoo, because Woohyun treats Dongwoo differently than he does anyone else, like Dongwoo is special, and he really is—Woohyun would still have ended up making out (and more) with his couchmate. Of course, any of the others probably would have pushed him away before it went beyond that first kiss, and Hoya and Myungsoo probably wouldn’t have said the things that Sungyeol had said that unleashed the anger in Woohyun that made him snap. Sungjong might have, but he might have done it in such a cold, matter-of-fact way that Woohyun might not have gotten riled up, or he might have diffused that anger in that deft way of his before things got that far.

That’s irrelevant, really. What it means is it’s not about Sungyeol at all: it’s about another human body—a willing one, Woohyun had pointed out, even if inexperienced. And whether Woohyun is using that body for escape or revenge or self-flagellation, it doesn’t really matter.

‘Why?’ Sungyeol had asked.

‘Does it matter?’ Woohyun had said.

Sungyeol isn’t sure whether it does or not, but he knows he isn’t going to figure it out right now. Not with Woohyun leaning back on his elbows, naked and soft (it’s the first time Sungyeol’s seen him when he’s not at least half-hard), eyebrow crooked expectantly.

Sungyeol swallows, pushes all the questions away. “I never agreed to this,” he says.

Woohyun rolls his eyes. “Do you want me to blow you ever again or not?”

Well, when he puts it like that.

“I’m not swallowing,” Sungyeol says, because he can’t let Woohyun win completely.

Woohyun rolls his eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”

“I’m serious,” Sungyeol says. “You warn me, okay?”

Woohyun cocks an eyebrow. “Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you? Who says you’ll be good enough that we’ll get far enough that I need to warn you?”

Now it’s Sungyeol’s turn to roll his eyes, even though that thought hadn’t occurred to him. That would probably make him nervous(er), but he knows he can always get him off with his hand if need be. Getting Woohyun to that point isn’t what’s making him so nervous—it’s what Woohyun might say while he’s getting there.

Woohyun laughs again and hits the bed beside him. “Hurry up! We haven’t got all day!”

Sungyeol isn’t too thrilled about the idea of going down on his knees on the ground for Woohyun. Yeah, Woohyun had done it for him, but that doesn’t mean that Sungyeol has to reciprocate. So instead of settling on the floor, he climbs onto the bed, too, Woohyun shifting around to face him, then leaning back again.

Sungyeol isn’t sure how to start. Because soft like this, Woohyun just looks awkward (sure, Sungyeol’s seen other guys, of course he has: in bathrooms, at the spa, even changing backstage on occasion. But you don’t look, that’s the first rule of guy-hood, other than a kick glance to assess relative size. So Sungyeol’s never really examined another guy’s equipment before, and it’s weird). He hesitates for long enough that Woohyun lets out a sigh, and then reaches out to grab Sungyeol’s hand. “You can start like this,” he says, wrapping Sungyeol’s hand around his length. “It never hurts to have more practice.”

Sungyeol feels at least marginally more confident in jerking him off, but it’s different like this. Standing up—in closets, in the bathroom—or sprawled out together—on the couch, on the slick tile—was okay: they were pretty much all tangled up together, and it was hot and pretty rushed, and Sungyeol didn’t have to actually look at him. This is…not like that. It feels almost clinical, just going right to the handjob, especially with Woohyun spread out and naked this way.

Figuring out where to look—that’s a problem, too. Because he can’t look into Woohyun’s eyes: there’s no way he could keep this up if he did that. He doesn’t want to look at what his hand is doing, either. He focuses for a moment on Woohyun’s abs, but the chiseled muscles are taunting him, reminding him of the ways he’ll never measure up as an idol, so he can’t rest his gaze there, either. He finally settles on Woohyun’s throat, a pretty innocuous body part usually, except that Sungyeol now knows what it looks like craned back and sweaty while he chases after pleasure, so it’s become almost sexy. But whatever. It’s better than any of the other options.

Woohyun starts to get hard fast enough once Sungyeol starts working, wriggling a bit and making little pleased noises—and yes, Sungyeol does feel some pride at that; obviously he’s getting better at this—but that’s when the opposite-of-fun starts. He lets his hand fall away from Woohyun’s erection and leans forward a little bit, then pauses. And pauses.

“Stop wrinkling your nose,” Woohyun says, “People do it all the time.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s not weird when you think about it,” Sungyeol points out, because suddenly it seems so, so weird—putting your mouth there and the hair and it’s some other guy’s junk and this is honestly the strangest thing that has ever happened to Sungyeol ever in his life.

“So don’t think about it,” Woohyun says flippantly.

That’s probably pretty good advice, but Sungyeol doesn’t seem capable of following it, not when he’s now so aware of the moment he’s in. He still hesitates, his eyes darting to Woohyun’s erection and then away again, his fingers twitching with nervousness.

“For fuck’s sake, just stick it in your mouth!” Woohyun suddenly blurts out in frustration. Sungyeol jolts in surprise at the volume and shoots him a glare, but then he does.

Woohyun lets out a low groan and flops back on the bed, and it instantly becomes easier, knowing that Woohyun isn’t looking at him anymore. But it’s still weird: the taste and the smell are so much, muskier and more intense than any other part of Woohyun, like Woohyun-concentrate, and the hair tickling his nose isn’t silky like the hair on Woohyun’s head (Sungyeol’s fingers have become really familiar with Woohyun’s hair, and with as often as their hair is treated, it’s a wonder Woohyun’s is still as smooth as it is). And it doesn’t feel like, say, sucking a finger, though the taste isn’t that far off of that: it’s hard and smooth and throbbing a little but he’s also aware of how easily it can be hurt and there are veins and it’s just completely unlike anything he’s ever had in his mouth.

Sungyeol just sucks for a few minutes until he feels Woohyun’s hand grabbing his. His eyes shoot up to meet Woohyun’s for a second—he seems to have recovered enough to prop himself back up on his elbows—before he has to look away again. Woohyun brings his hand up to wrap around the base that won’t fit in Sungyeol’s mouth, and Sungyeol catches on quickly.

“Next,” Woohyun says, sounding strained. “Tongue.”

Sungyeol experiments for a while, guided mostly by the sounds Woohyun makes but sometimes by explicit instructions—some that make Sungyeol’s cheeks flush red—but they’re so much more matter-of-fact than Sungyeol would have thought. He’d been worried that Woohyun would be snarky even about this, but he seems to have left that behind (Sungyeol is pathetically grateful). He doesn’t compliment—there’s ‘fuck’s and ‘yeah’s but no ‘good’s, but Sungyeol really doesn’t mind—Woohyun’s not like that, and he doesn’t expect him to be (he isn’t comfortable admitting just how good Woohyun can make him feel, either, so he understands). It starts to feel a little less awkward after a few minutes, as does breathing through his nose, and when Woohyun starts squirming, it’s almost endearing, how helpless he seems, the little noises he’s making—except that Sungyeol doesn’t think about him like that, of course.

Perched between Woohyun’s legs, he can’t actually see Woohyun’s feet when they start sliding around on the sheets, but his thighs and knees are brushing against Sungyeol’s hips and side (and he suddenly wishes he had a lot less clothes on, to feel that skin sliding against his instead of against his jeans). The muscles in Woohyun’s abs are jumping, too, and it’s kind of fascinating, actually, enough so that Sungyeol can ignore the salt of the liquid that’s now lining his mouth. Woohyun’s vocalizations have shifted from grunts to whines, and then Sungyeol feels Woohyun yank at his hair.

“This is your—“ a gasp interrupts his words “—warning.”

Sungyeol releases him immediately, pulling back and upright, his mouth feeling strange in its emptiness and his jaw already aching, but he doesn’t need Woohyun’s instructions to wrap his hand around his length and finish him off in a few deft pumps.

Sungyeol just so happens to be looking at Woohyun’s face when he comes, and it’s that moment that he realizes he’s starting to get turned on himself. Woohyun’s back bows and he moans, and then he’s done, collapsing back onto the bed, a panting mess.

“God, you’ve been wasting that mouth—it’s huge,” Woohyun gasps when he can finally speak again, cleaning himself off with a corner of the towel. “I think you could fly a 747 right into it.”

Sungyeol had felt the weirdness creeping up again, sitting there between Woohyun’s legs, but it fades away at Woohyun’s words. Because Sungyeol has known Woohyun long enough to see that comment for what it is—a compliment, Woohyun’s way of telling him that it was good without actually telling him.

He might be smiling a little bit when Woohyun suddenly sits up and makes a grab for the hem of his t-shirt. “Off,” Woohyun commands, and Sungyeol finds he’s happy to be obedient when he knows what’s coming next.

It isn’t long till he’s naked too, flat on his back with Woohyun sprawled out on top of him. And this is new, too: so much skin touching skin. They’d made it all the way to naked in the bathroom last time, but they’d been more side-by-side—this feels different, Woohyun on top of him as they explore each others’ mouths, and Woohyun’s hands are just everywhere. It feels like the whole world is Woohyun’s skin, the muscles underneath, the slide of his tongue into Sungyeol’s mouth, the smell of his sweat and sex, just everything. Sungyeol is pretty sure his hands are shaking, and that’s before Woohyun starts sliding down his body.

If anything, it’s even more overwhelming this time without the shock of the first time and here on a bed instead of trying to stay upright in a grimy bathroom. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping his legs underneath him, he can let his limbs go to jelly as much as they want to (which is very). Woohyun’s mouth feels so hot and wet and perfect, and Sungyeol thinks that if he ever gets used to this, he could actually pay attention and learn a few things, because he may not be clear-minded enough to actually figure out what Woohyun is doing, exactly, but he knows it’s more skilled than what he just did for Woohyun.

But that time isn’t now, because it’s all too overwhelming, and though it makes him blush every time, he keeps glancing down to see Woohyun’s (obscene) lips stretched around him, and though he lasts longer than he did last time, it still isn’t nearly as long as he’d like (he’s pretty sure he could happily spend the rest of his life just like this: flat on his back on a soft bed with Woohyun’s mouth on him).

He arches up off the bed when he comes, and thankfully he’d had the presence of mind to grab a pillow and smother his face in it so that he doesn’t make any noises loud enough for the other guys to hear (the thought of someone coming in to investigate and finding them like this—it’s horrifying). Woohyun releases him and flops down onto the bed beside him while he’s still trying to remember how to breathe and think and things like that.

So that’s how he finds himself lying side-by-side with Woohyun, naked on Sunggyu’s bed. The bed isn’t really big enough for the both of them unless they want to do some cuddling—which obviously they don’t. Sungyeol’s arm is dangling off the edge, and his other shoulder is still pressed right up against Woohyun’s, and Woohyun’s half propped up against the wall. Sungyeol knows he should get up and drag himself to the shower, but he feels so wrung out at the moment that he can’t quite convince himself to do it.

“What’s up with you and Myungsoo?” Woohyun asks suddenly.

Sungyeol stares blankly at the bottom of Woohyun’s bed above him and tries to figure out what’s going on. “What?”

“You’re, like, ignoring him, and he keeps giving you these puppy eyes like he’s Sungjong flirting with the camera.”

The very last thing in the world Sungyeol wants to do is to talk to Woohyun about Myungsoo. Well, maybe the second-last—it might actually be worse to talk to Myungsoo about Woohyun. “I’m sorry, did I miss the memo? Did we become talking buddies at some point?”

Woohyun’s eyebrows shoot up and he whistles softly. “Touchy. Excuse me for asking.”

Sungyeol knows he’s being too snappy, but this is just all so bizarre—they’re on Sunggyu’s bed, and he just gave Woohyun a blowjob, and now Woohyun wants to talk about Myungsoo like they’re snuggly boyfriends or friends who haven’t given each other orgasms or something? He doesn’t like not knowing where he stands, and Woohyun is tossing mixed signals around like he does hearts at fanmeetings.

He sits up, just barely managing not to hit his head on the bunk above. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he says, and he feels like he’s been saying that a lot these days.

“Okay, whatever,” Woohyun says as Sungyeol starts tugging his clothes back on. Damn, he wants a shower, but it would raise too many eyebrows to take one in Sunggyu and Woohyun’s bathroom—he’ll have to just hope he doesn’t run into anyone on the way back to his own room.

He pulls his shirt back on and turns to see that Woohyun is still sprawled out on the bed, seemingly totally unconcerned by his nakedness. Sungyeol flushes, then scowls, turning away. “You should get dressed before somebody sees you,” he says, and he doesn’t need to say ‘Sunggyu’ for Woohyun to know what he means. Now it’s Woohyun’s turn to scowl, sitting up himself.

Sungyeol leaves him there, slipping out of the room and feeling really, really awkward. The thing is, he’s not sure how he’s supposed to end something like this. These encounters always begin easily enough, but how is he supposed to act once it’s over? Most of the time they have to run back to join the others or a phone rings to interrupt them, but what about when they don’t? What’s he supposed to do, say, “Thanks for the sex?” and walk out? He growls in frustration, shoving a hand through his unkempt hair and stomping off to take a shower. His life seems one endless stream of questions these days, ninety percent of them about Woohyun.

He wishes he could give up searching for answers and just go with it, but he doesn’t seem any more capable of that than he does of actually putting an end to his weird situation with Woohyun. He considers that next time he’ll see if he can just ask without actually asking—he and Woohyun are good with verbal play, maybe they’ll be able to communicate something that will help him figure this out. Sungyeol isn’t entirely satisfied with that plan, but he settles on it for the moment as he steps into the shower. He’ll figure something out next time.

Of course that doesn’t end up happening, because Sungyeol’s plans never go the way they’re supposed to: the next time they fool around just so happens to be the time that Sungjong walks in on them, mid-makeout session, both of them shirtless and Woohyun’s hand in a place that can’t possibly be explained away.

Chapter Text

In retrospect, Sungyeol will actually find it kind of funny. Sungjong’s whole thing lately has been being completely unimpressed by anything and everything his hyungs do, his nose stuck up in the air and his eyes perpetually rolling. Sungyeol knows it’s because he’s trying to make that transition from ‘adorable girly child’ to ‘attractive and respected man,’ and honestly he’s doing a pretty good job of it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get annoying at times, so seeing Sungjong’s eyes go that wide and his mouth drop open like that—well, it’s kind of satisfying.

Or it is afterwards. Long, long afterwards. Because in the moment, Sungyeol is pretty convinced that he’s actually having a heart attack.

He and Woohyun stare at Sungjong, Sungjong stares back at them, nobody moves, and everything is complete incredulity and gaping stupidly. And then Sungjong makes this sound like a squeak—the girliest thing Sungyeol has heard out of him in months—and backs out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Sungyeol’s chest feels like his ribs are trying to braid themselves together and he’s practically choking for breath. Woohyun looks like someone who’s always adored him just smacked him in the face. Obviously it takes them a minute to recover.

“I can talk to him,” Woohyun says after they manage to get themselves reasonably under control (and Sungyeol would never admit this, but it honestly makes him feel a little better to know that Woohyun can have a reaction to their thing that isn’t smug or matter-of-fact. There was something reassuring about how he looked just as shocked as Sungyeol felt. At least they’re on the same page in something).

“NO!” The only thing Sungyeol can possibly imagine that’s worse than Sungjong finding out—finding out like that—is Woohyun being the one to talk to him about it. “You—stay here. I’ll go.”

He pulls his shirt on, stumbling out of the room, his chest still a little bit tight. He searches the whole apartment for Sungjong, probably flushing a little too much whenever he makes eye contact with the other members (the ones who have absolutely no idea what Sungyeol and Woohyun get up to whenever they’re alone). After coming up maknae-less, it finally occurs to him that Sungjong would know that at least one of them would want to talk to him and that he’d have gone to the one place they all go when they most need privacy.

Sungjong has recovered himself by the time Sungyeol opens the door to the roof. He’s leaning against the balustrade, his arms crossed and his superior expression back firmly in place. He looks like a model posing for a magazine, a beautiful boy with the sun setting behind him. It irritates Sungyeol sometimes, how cool Sungjong always looks these days. He glares at the maknae, who flicks his hair out of his eyes with a swing of his neck as Sungyeol approaches.

“Took you long enough. Had to finish what you started?”

Sungyeol is usually the last one—perhaps after Woohyun—to let Sungjong talk to him like that. But he’s very, very aware at the moment that Sungjong is the one with all the power here, and judging by the expression on Sungjong’s face, the maknae is, too.

“I couldn’t find you,” Sungyeol says instead.

“Why did the fans vote you the smartest again?”

Sungyeol, for once, ignores the snark. “So about what you saw downstairs—“

“If you even think about insulting my intelligence by lying to me—“

Sungyeol cuts him off. “I wasn’t going to.”

Sungjong sniffs. “You better not.”

But the thing is, Sungyeol can’t figure out what to say next. How can he possibly explain to someone else what’s going on with him and Woohyun if he doesn’t know himself?

Apparently something of this shows on his face because Sungjong sighs the sigh of the long-suffering and uncrosses his arms. “Okay, hyung, the way I see it, it could be a couple of different things.”

Oh, this is going to be good.

“Either you two are secretly in love or like or whatever and are dating behind our backs—“

“That’s not it!”

Sungjong ignores his complete horror and continues. “Or this was the first time it’s happened....” He pauses, and the look on Sungyeol’s face must give him away because Sungjong nods as if his suspicions were confirmed and continues, “...or it’s a friends with benefits thing.”

Sungyeol shifts, feel as though his limbs are too long. “I guess...the last one?” It’s the closest, he guesses, but it still seems really far away from the truth. He and Woohyun don’t feel much like friends nowadays, even if they (mostly) were before all of this started.

Sungjong hums quietly. “And how long has this been going on?”

Sungyeol thinks back to that first night on the couch and tries to determine just how long ago that was. Time moves in weird ways for idols, and he’s really bad at keeping up with its passage. “A couple of months?” he offers finally. It’s not lost on him that his answers keep coming out more like questions.

Sungjong purses his lips. “Well, I guess I don’t need to ask what the truth behind your big cold war a couple of weeks ago was, then. I can only imagine how much worse your fights must be now. This does explain a lot, though.”

Sungyeol really doesn’t want to know what Sungjong thinks this explains. “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just fooling around.” It’s true, so very true, but it sounds pathetic when he says it out loud like that.

“Does Myungsoo know?”

“What? No!” Sungyeol sputters

Sungjong just nods his head thoughtfully. “I thought maybe he did. That maybe he found out and that’s why things between you two have been so tense lately.”

“No!” And then a thought, one Sungyeol absolutely doesn’t want to voice but somehow ends up speaking anyway after a strained pause: “You don’t think he’d be like that, do you?” You don’t think he’d think I’m gross and disgusting? You don’t think he’d pull away even more?

Sungjong shrugs. “I wouldn’t think so, but you never know with people. They surprise you.”

They certainly do.

Sungjong laughs now, a wry twist to his lips. “And everyone thinks I’m the gay one in Infinite.”

Sungyeol chokes at that. Sputters, “I’m not gay!” Off Sungjong’s skeptically-raised eyebrow, he amends, “I still like girls. I still like girls more.” The first part is definitely true, and he thinks the second part is, too: that if a hot girl was into him and he could actually get five minutes alone with her, he’d drop Woohyun faster than Myungsoo can turn up the air conditioning when it’s hot outside. He’d understood what Woohyun meant when he said Sungyeol was just convenient—there probably were willing girls out there (less for him than for Woohyun, maybe, but girls all the same) and probably a lot of them were hot, but it wasn’t like they actually had access to them. They weren’t American rock stars in the seventies or something.

Sungjong is nodding thoughtfully, as if this is all a very interesting experiment he’s viewing in a laboratory. It should probably annoy Sungyeol, being treated like that, but instead it makes him feel better: Sungjong isn’t freaking out, he’s going with it. Maybe this whole thing isn’t as messed-up as he thought it was.

“It’s a really bad idea, you know.”

“Yeah, I—what?”

Sungjong narrows his eyes. “Woohyun is in love with Sunggyu.”

Sungyeol knows that. “I know that.”

“It’s really not a good idea to get involved with someone who’s in love with someone else.”

“We’re not ‘involved.’” Sungyeol practically shudders at the thought. “I told you it doesn’t mean anything.”

“Hyung, whatever happened between you two resulted in two weeks’ worth of stomping around and glaring at each other like you were planning the most painful possible ways to kill each other. If it didn’t mean anything, that wouldn’t have happened.”

Well. There’s truth in there, somewhere, though probably not where Sungong thinks it is. “That wasn’t about our—“ He flaps his hand around, trying to come up with a label. “—thing. That was about us saying really awful things to each other. Which we’ve done before.”

“You’ve never been that angry with each other for that long before,” Sungjong points out.

“We’d never said anything quite that awful.” Sungyeol’s voice isn’t very loud, and he doesn’t like the note of sheepishness there. Though probably anyone would be sheepish under the force of Sungjong’s gaze, or at least that’s what he tells himself.

“Whatever. What I’m saying is, you two are friends. Or you are when you aren’t fighting. I mean, your personalities clash a lot, but you really enjoy each other when you’re both in good moods, don’t you?”

Sungyeol hasn’t been in a ‘good mood’ for so long that he barely remembers what one feels like. But yeah, he remembers making Woohyun laugh a lot and enjoying doing it. He remembers asking him for fashion advice and then making fun of the ridiculous things he said, both of them grinning while tossing insults back and forth. He remembers throwing hearts and lessons in grease from Nam-trainer. He remembers all the times they joked around and plotted ways to torture the other members—Myungsoo's been his pranking partner in the past, but Woohyun's the only one who can actually keep up with his deviousness. They did used to enjoy each other. It just seems like that’s all dried up completely now that they’ve started messing around. Or not completely—they had laughed together in the bathroom, soaking wet and ridiculous (and honestly, that’s the closest Sungyeol has felt to Woohyun since the beginning). It isn’t gone, it’s just weirder, and rougher around the edges and harder to get to, like the secret they’re carrying around is building up around it, thick and gunky.

“I guess,” is all Sungyeol says, because it’s not like he can say any of that to Sungjong.

“And I’m willing to bet, knowing you two, that you haven’t actually sat down and negotiated what all this means and where it is or isn’t headed, have you?”

Sungyeol has to look away at that, but he’s bristling a bit at the way Sungjong is speaking to him. Not as patronizing as usual, he’s really matter-of-fact, actually. But it grates. Sungjong is the youngest, even if he doesn’t act that way when the cameras aren’t around.

“These things always end up messy, because when you assume the other person is on the same page, he never is. You’re both making assumptions left and right, especially you—don’t look at me like that, hyung, I know you—and you’re going to find out that most of them are wrong. And it’s just a million times more complicated since he has feelings for someone else.”

“And you’d know this how, all-knowing one?” Sungyeol’s voice isn’t nearly as dry as he wants it to be, probably because his throat is. Most of what Sungjong is saying isn’t new to him, it’s just that hearing someone else saying it is rougher than he imagined it would be.

“I’ve had girlfriends,” Sungjong replies. “And I pay attention, which is more than you’ve been doing lately.”

“So that’s what makes you fit to judge, I guess,” Sungyeol says bitterly.

“I’m not judging, hyung. If you and Woohyun had really talked about it and decided this is what you both want, then I wouldn’t care at all. It’s the fact that you both clearly have no idea what you’re doing that worries me.” He sighs again. “Look, hyung. Have you asked yourself why you’re doing this and why Woohyun is?”

Sungyeol can’t keep the hysterical note out of his laughter. “Have I done anything else for the past two months?”

Sungjong’s mouth twitches. “So you’ve asked, but you don’t have an answer.”

Sungyeol raises his hands, empty.

Sungjong lifts his eyes to the sky, like this is going to be harder than he thought. He plops down on the ground. “Okay. Let’s start with you, then, since hopefully you’re the one you know better.”

Sungyeol snorts, folding his legs up as he sits down beside his friend.

“Why are you doing this?” Sungjong asks.

“Because I’m sexually frustrated and there aren’t any other options?” Sungyeol offers sarcastically. The rough ground beneath him is warm with the late afternoon sun, and there’s something strangely comforting about it. It’s probably why he hasn’t already fled from this conversation already.

“Oh, please. We’re all sexually frustrated and don’t have any options, but you won’t walk in on me making out with Hoya-hyung.” Sungyeol shudders at that mental picture and Sungjong smirks before continuing, “Because the rest of us just deal with it because we have to, seeing as we don’t like other guys.” Sungyeol opens his mouth to argue, but Sungjong cuts him off before he can start. “Please, hyung. I saw the way you two were kissing. You may not be in love or anything, but the attraction at least is there. So what if you also like girls? Clearly a guy can do it for you, too.”

Sungyeol scowls. “So we do it for each other.” (And this is the first time he’s ever really confronted the truth that he does it for Woohyun just as much as Woohyun does it for him. It’s a big thought, bigger than he can deal with right now, so he just shivers and sets it aside.) “We’re hormonal young guys, we’re in close proximity, we aren’t allowed to date and we’re too tightly controlled to go out and have one-night stands. Doesn’t it make sense that we’re fooling around together?”

“Sure,” Sungjong acknowledges. “Except that you were apparently so freaked out about it you acted like a zombie kept alive purely on the power of caffeine for weeks. And then you and Woohyun obviously said such terrible things to each other that you generated enough resentment to fuel a mid-sized city. And yet you’re still fooling around. People don’t put up with that much angst just for a lay, not unless they’re getting something else out of it. You just stick with your hand instead.”

“I don’t know, okay?” The words burst out of him. “It really weirded me out! It came out of nowhere and then it kept happening and I was really confused—I’m still confused!—but I can’t actually make it all stop!” He shoves his hand through his hair, then yanks on it for good measure (the pain makes him think of Woohyun, and oh, God, his brain did not just go there).

Sungjong sits in thoughtful silence for a moment. “Well, you could if you wanted to. Woohyun’s pride wouldn’t let him pressure anyone if they weren’t willing. If you haven’t stopped it, that must mean you don’t want to.”

Sungyeol props his elbows up on his knees, rubbing his eyelids with the heels of his hands. It’s true. It’s all true, and it’s all stuff he’s said to himself before, but that doesn’t help.

Sungjong makes an exasperated sound. “Okay, let’s start from a different angle. How did it start? You said it came out of nowhere, but that can’t be true. Nothing comes from nothing.”

Sungyeol trips over his words a lot, trying to explain that soju-soaked night on the couch without actually sharing too much information. When he’s done, Sungjong is resting his cheek on his palm, examining him closely.

“He was already drunk when you got home?” Sungjong asked.

“Well, not drunk, maybe. But he wasn’t completely sober.”

“And why did he say he was drinking?”

“’The usual.’ That’s what he said.” Sungyeol remembers that clearly.

“And you assumed ‘the usual’ meant—“

“Him and Sunggyu-hyung, yeah.”

“Hmmm. And why did you start drinking, too? Why didn’t you go to bed? It was late—you must have been exhausted.”

Sungyeol looks away, leaning back against the still-warm wall behind him. The sun has dipped down below the heights of the city now, but the air is still pleasantly warm. “I’d had a variety show. And acted like an idiot. I wanted to forget.”

Sungjong doesn’t say anything for a while, the two of them listening to the sounds of the city below them, traffic and wind and someone’s music, distorted by distance till the notes are almost pixilated into static. When Sungjong finally speaks, his voice is softer than it’s been so far. “So maybe you were both feeling unwanted?”

Okay, that’s a little too much. “Uh—what?”

Sungjong shrugs. “Sunggyu-hyung doesn’t want Woohyun-hyung, no matter how hard Woohyun tries to win him over. And you feel like the variety shows want you for all the wrong reasons, not for any of the reasons you’d like to be wanted. And you were both drunk and tense and—“

Sungyeol isn’t stupid. “You’re saying this is some sort of validation?” He shifts restlessly at the thought. “Like, ‘well, at least this person wants me’?”

Sungjong meets his eyes levelly. “Why do you want Woohyun to be doing it?” Sungyeol makes a startled noise, jerking back a bit, but Sungjong just holds his gaze. “I’m serious. What would be the best of all possible scenarios—if you were to ask him flat-out and he had to tell the truth, what do you hope he would say?

Sungyeol is so not used to thinking like this. It chafes. He resorts to sarcasm as always. “That I’m the sexiest thing on the planet and he couldn’t resist me?”

Sungjong rolls his eyes again, but the flippancy doesn’t distract him. “Be serious, hyung.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know!” Everything he can think of is a nightmare, some worse than others. That Woohyun is bored and is just playing with Sungyeol and that he runs back to Sunggyu so they can laugh about it afterwards. That Woohyun is trying to get back at Sunggyu and actually really wants him to find out. That Woohyun is punishing himself because Sungyeol is the lowest of the low and he thinks Sungyeol is all he deserves.

Think about it, hyung,” Sungjong presses.

“I don’t want to!” He doesn’t want to think about this. He wants to think about anything but this. Why is he letting Sungjong push him into this? Why does he keep letting himself get pushed around into things he doesn’t want?

“Stop being a baby! This is getting ridiculous! If you really want to get a handle on why you’re both behaving this way, you have to be honest.”

Sungyeol shakes his head, burying his face in his hands and moaning. Sungjong swats the back of his head, but he just pouts.

“You are so frustrating! Fine! Let’s do it another way: if you asked him, which would you rather him say: that he’d be doing this with absolutely any other marginally attractive guy who was available and willing or that there is something special about you?”

Sungyeol’s face screws up like he’s just tasted a lemon at the word ‘special,’ but underneath that he’s starting to feel slightly sick. Because he knows what he wants the answer to that question to be and he also knows what the answer really is. He must look stricken, because Sungjong leans forward and puts a hand on his shoulder. Sungyeol tenses a little bit; this isn’t their way. Neither of them are demonstrative; they both do fanservice because they have to, but away from the fans’ eyes, both of them merely tolerate the rest of the members’ touchier ways. Neither of them are the type to initiate any kind of physical contact.

“You want him to want you, don’t you.” It isn’t a question.

Sungyeol’s laugh cracks. “You must be loving this, right? One of your hyungs is a complete mess and you get to see him all vulnerable.”

“Actually,” Sungjong says, voice dry, letting his hand fall from Sungyeol’s shoulder, “it’s really annoying and a total waste of my incredibly valuable time. I don’t know why I’m putting up with you.”

That makes him feel better; he’s never liked when things get too serious (too vulnerable). A Sungjong who can be dry and superior is a Sungjong he can actually talk to. “It’s not so much that I want him to want me—“

“You just want someone to,” Sungjong finishes. “Yes, hyung, this is the problem. Because it’s not about Woohyun for you or even about you being horny. It’s about you.”

He can’t handle this, all this honesty, not like this. “Isn’t everything?” he jokes.

Sungjong ignores him. “And Woohyun has to be reminded all of the time that Sunggyu doesn’t want him.”

“You’re telling me that that’s it? That Woohyun keeps dragging me into closets and ripping my clothes off because he wants to prove to himself that someone wants him even if Sunggyu doesn’t?”

Sungjong grimaces at the ripping of clothes part, but he shakes his head. “Of course I’m not telling you that. There could be a million reasons why he’s doing it—for all I know, he lost a bet with Hoya. I’m just saying that that seems the most reasonable explanation, considering what you’ve reluctantly and completely not-eloquently told me.”

Well. That doesn’t seem so bad. And after Sungjong had gone on and on about them being on different pages. “If we’re doing it for the same reason, then—“

“No, no, no, no, no.” Sungjong cuts him off, holding up a pale hand. “Don’t go thinking that that makes everything okay. Did you miss the part where I told you straight-out that that’s just the most reasonable explanation and that it could be one of the others? You’re assuming again, and that’s bad. If you really want to know, you have to talk to him.”

But Sungyeol is starting to feel giddy at the idea of having an answer and it being way less complicated than he’d originally thought. “But it doesn’t matter, right? It’s not about Woohyun—it’s about me. For me, at least. So what if he’s still in love with Sunggyu? That’s better, right? Because that way we can both feel wanted without actual emotions entering it! Where’s the downside to all this?”

Sungjong looks appalled. “Um, the fact that you’re using each other?”

“But it’s mutual using-ness!” Sungyeol reorts, hands flying all over the place. “I make him feel wanted, he makes me feel wanted, we both get off, it doesn’t mean anything!”

If Sungjong was standing up, he’d probably be stomping his foot by now, newfound masculinity be damned. “How many times have I told you that there might be another reason he’s doing it? And even if there isn’t, this will still probably end badly—you don’t use your friends, not for something like this. You don’t do that. You might if it was just for sex, but it’s not just for sex. It’s not like you two are strangers, you’re bandmates and you live together and you’re friends—emotions are going to get all tangled up and doing anything this serious out of neediness is a horrible idea and—hyung, are you listening to me at all?”

Because Sungyeol has jumped to his feet, feeling lighter than he has in weeks. Okay, so it’s totally pathetic that he feels so terrible about himself that he’s using Nam Woohyun’s mouth to make himself feel better. So what? It could be a lot worse. This is an explanation he can live with, and that’s what he’s been looking for all along.

“Thanks, Sungjongie!” He reaches out and grabs Sungjong by the upper arms, pulling the startled maknae to his feet. “I feel a lot better now.”

“Hyung! You’re not listening—“

“I really needed that. You’re really the best, has anyone told you that?”

He pats Sungjong on the head (in his excitement he’s forgotten that Sungjong hates that more than anything, but even if he’d remembered, he’d probably still have done it) and scampers off in the direction of the door to the staircase, not even hearing Sungjong's exasperated protests behind him.

--

Sungyeol is in a great mood for the rest of the night. He’s well aware that he took away exactly what Sungjong didn’t want him to take from that conversation, but he doesn’t care. He finally has some answers and license not to keep killing himself over this, and he can almost taste his own relief.

Dinner’s ready by the time he reaches the apartment, and he grabs his chopsticks with a grin for the rest of the members. Woohyun keeps shooting him significant glances, but Sungyeol just smiles back cheerily. The others shoot him strange looks as he clowns his way through dinner—and he notices Myungsoo especially keeps looking at him strangely—but his high spirits are contagious to everyone but Sungjong, who joins them soon after and of course spends the entire meal scowling. It isn’t until Sunggyu and Dongwoo are doing the dishes and the rest of the members have scattered that Woohyun grabs Sungyeol by the sleeve and tugs him into his bedroom.

"Oookay," Woohyun says, as soon as the door is closed. "I can't say exactly what I was expecting you to be like after talking with Sungjong, but this is definitely not it."

Sungyeol laughs. “Sungjong is awesome, you know that?”

The look Woohyun gives him suggests that he’s gone insane. "So he’s not going to tell anyone?"

Oh. Huh. "We...didn't actually talk about that."

What? How could you not talk about that? What the hell did you talk about?”

Sungyeol shrugs, pretty unconcerned. “Stuff. But I don’t think he’ll say anything. I wouldn’t worry.” And then he claps a gaping Woohyun on the shoulder and strolls back out into the living room, plopping down beside Hoya to play video games. This has been a good day.

Chapter Text

If there’s one thing that Sungyeol hates, it’s the gym. He’s always had loads of energy, so he enjoyed sports well enough as a kid; even if he wasn’t particularly good at most of them, he also wasn’t bad enough that he embarrassed himself (much). Being active is fine with him, but the structure of the gym grates on him: running on a treadmill without covering any actual distance is pointless, lifting weights is boring, and there’s the constant comparison of your own body to whoever else is working out beside you. He knows he needs to visit more, needs to get his arms, at least, back to the way they were when he was filming While You Were Sleeping and the PD kept insisting on putting him in tank tops. He’s never going to have a six-pack, but working away a little bit of the tummy flab wouldn’t hurt, either. But he just can’t make himself go very often, not with as much as it annoys him.

Still, when Dongwoo’s the one inviting him along to the gym around the corner, he finds it difficult to say no, not only because Dongwoo makes everything ten times more fun than it would be otherwise but also because Sungyeol is aware of the fact that Myungsoo’s been trying to corner him for the last day or two. Honestly, most of his irritation has evaporated in the wake of the good mood he’s been in since his talk with Sungjong, but he’s just not ready to actually talk about anything yet, and Myungsoo’s got a look on his face like that’s what he wants. Not to mention the fact that Sungjong himself keeps giving him these furious looks like he’d like to lecture him again, and Sungyeol isn’t keen at all on giving him the opportunity. So when Dongwoo suggests Sungyeol join him for his workout since Hoya’s busy with schedules, Sungyeol agrees to tag along.

It’s not as bad as it usually is, mostly because Dongwoo keeps him entertained but also because they’re the only two there at this time of night, which means that they can goof off as much as they want and crank the stereo instead of listening with their headphones and basically be as loud as the two of them are capable of being, which is very. Plus, Sungyeol doesn’t have to feel self-conscious about his body for once. Dongwoo’s actually pretty ripped, but he’s so small that it isn’t quite so intimidating and besides, he never draws attention to it, ever. So Sungyeol ends up feeling more comfortable than he has in a long time. If every gym visit could be like this, he might just get chocolate abs after all (except that he’s long since figured out that no matter how hard he works, that won’t ever be possibility. His body seems to resist that sort of musculature).

In between acting silly, they actually do get some exercise in, Sungyeol mostly focusing on working his arms because at least he knows he can make progress there. The burn of worked muscles is almost pleasant for once, and the time passes quickly enough with the sound of Donngwoo singing along to the American rap song blaring from the speakers as he uses the elliptical. Sungyeol is sweaty and loose, the kind of tired that means he’s going to get a great night’s sleep, when the door opens.

“Nam-goon!” Dongwoo crows in greeting, throwing his arms up in his enthusiasm at the new arrival. “I missed you!”

All the endorphins in Sungyeol’s brain seemed to have disappeared without a trace at the sight of Woohyun strolling into the room. It’s not that he’s so opposed to seeing him—he’s mostly over that since his talk with Sungjong—it’s just the fact that he’s seeing him here. “Hyung, you saw him two hours ago and spent all day with him,” he points out Dongwoo, whose grin doesn’t waver at all, of course.

But Woohyun isn’t phased either, going over to Dongwoo and throwing his arms around him. “You are disgusting,” he says, recoiling. “I’ve never smelled a smell that bad in my life.”

Dongwoo sniffs at his armpit. “I smell like a man!”

“You smell like a garbage heap is what you smell like. How long have you been here?”

Dongwoo shrugs, still grinning. “Couple hours.”

Woohyun glances over at Sungyeol, who keeps bench pressing as though he’s completely unconcerned. “How’d you convince this one to drag his lazy ass over here?” Woohyun asks, jerking a thumb in Sungyeol’s direction.

“He’s been working really hard, Woohyun. He’ll be able to bench press more than Hoya soon!”

Woohyun laughs, and it really is a ridiculous thing to say, so normally Sungyeol wouldn’t mind, but they’re in a gym and it’s Woohyun. Woohyun of the chocolate abs and the outfits that never have any sleeves because their stylists love to show off his biceps. It’s Woohyun, and so he feels a prick of annoyance (that might actually be inferiority).

Dongwoo hops down off the elliptical seat, grabbing his towel and water bottle. “I’m glad you’re here, Nam-goon, because I have to go. So now you can keep Sungyeol company!”

Sungyeol almost drops the barbell at that, but manages it to get back into the uprights without killing himself. “No, hyung, it’s cool, I’ll go back with you, I’m done here anyway,” he says, sitting up on the bench.

Dongwoo waves his hand dismissively. “No, you stay here—you’re making really good progress and you can entertain Woohyun. Hoya should be free now and Infinite H has to practice. You’ll probably be asleep by the time I get back, so I’ll see you in the morning, okay?” And then just like that he’s bouncing over to the door and out of the room.

Sungyeol lies back down, swallowing his panic. The fake leather of the bench sticks to his sweaty skin, and despite the song still playing, it feels uncomfortably quiet now that Dongwoo is gone. He braces himself again, feet flat on the floor, and raises the bar once again. He can feel Woohyun’s eyes on him from across the room—he’s very aware that the other man hasn’t said anything since Dongwoo left—and his arms are shaking a little bit as he lifts the weights, and not only from tiredness. He tries to focus on only the weights and the bunch and pull of his muscles, pumping steadily and blowing a strand of sweaty hair out of his eyes. Focus on the weights.

It works well enough—out of the corner of his eye, he watches Woohyun stretch for a while to warm up before he makes his way over to the weight machine. Sungyeol averts his eyes, focusing again on his exercise, and for a while they both work out in silence—well, silence except for the bass-driven pounding of the music still playing. Woohyun doesn’t seem inclined to say anything, and Sungyeol’s thankful for that; another comment about his lazy ass and he’d probably blow up at him. He’s always irritable when he’s most aware of Woohyun’s idol body, and he’s never more aware of it than when they’re in a gym together.

But he tries to ignore Woohyun’s presence altogether, and he must do a pretty good job of it, because he doesn’t realize that Woohyun has abandoned the weight machine and moved closer—that he is, in fact, standing just feet away—until he speaks.

“You know, that’s actually kind of hot.”

Once again it’s a miracle he manages to get the barbell back into the uprights without killing himself. “What?” he chokes. Is Woohyun coming on to him now?

“You should come to the gym more often.”

Sungyeol nearly bangs his forehead on the bar as he shoots upright, fueled by fury. “Well you’ll just have to forgive me for not looking like a Greek statue.”

Woohyun laughs at that—laughing again—and rests a knee on the edge of the bench in between Sungyeol’s spread legs. “That’s not what I meant,” he says, and then his hands are gliding up the length of Sungyeol’s bare arms.

“What?” Oh. Oh.

“The stylist might put you in the sleeveless shirts next time,” Woohyun says, leaning closer, and now the backs of his knuckles are brushing Sungyeol’s biceps.

“You seriously want to do this here?” The question comes out a little breathy, and while he tells himself it’s from the past however long of exercise, he knows it’s probably got more to do with the way Woohyun is looming over him. And the way Woohyun’s knee is sliding closer and closer to his crotch. “It’d be like a gay porno.”

Woohyun laughs again, throatier this time. “And you suddenly know so much about gay porn, do you, Mr. All-Porn-Has-Women?”

Sungyeol rolls his eyes; you don’t actually have to have seen any gay porn in order to know what most of it’s like, and he opens his mouth to tell Woohyun that, only he doesn’t get to, because Woohyun closes in, hands grasping Sungyeol’s shoulders, mouth hot and insistent against his, and knee, yes, now firmly pressed against Sungyeol’s crotch. Sungyeol thinks about shoving him away—isn’t this really trashy?—but gives in instead: despite how overheated he is, goosebumps rise on his skin as Woohyun runs his hands up and down Sungyeol’s arms, and okay, he might start rocking against Woohyun’s knee as they devour each others’ mouths.

As hot as it is—and, yeah, it’s really hot—neither of them are stupid enough to do this near so many dangerous heavy things, so they end up stumbling over to a pile of mats in the corner, collapsing onto it as Woohyun attacks Sungyeol’s collarbones. Maybe it’s the heat of the room or maybe it’s the fact that he’s been exercising so hard for a couple of hours now, but everything feels steamy and sticky and, yeah, like porn. The bass of the music seems to thrum through the floor, up through the mats and into Sungyeol’s bones. Honestly, he’d think by this time that the novelty of doing this with Woohyun would have worn off, but it really, really hasn’t. He flinches, though, when Woohyun tries to tug his shirt off.

“Okay, what’s that?” Woohyun demands, pulling back and panting enough to not hurt Sungyeol’s pride.

Sungyeol stares at him blankly. “What’s what?”

“You’ve been all jumpy since I walked through the door. And after you’ve been in such a good mood the past couple of days, too. What’s with you? I thought we were past this stage.”

Sungyeol looks away, trying to focus on the faded motivational posters across the room, but he can feel Woohyun’s gaze on him, sharp and seeing way too much. After a moment Woohyun laughs again, but there’s no mirth in the sound, not with an edge like that. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Sungyeol’s head whips back around to glare at him. “Excuse me?”

“This is about your body issues?” Woohyun demands.

Sungyeol’s pretty sure his cheeks have never flushed this much in his life, and that’s saying something. “Do you seriously want to start this with me?”

Woohyun’s eyes narrow. “No, do you want to start it with me?”

Sungyeol makes a disbelieving sound. “Um, who’s the one here who doesn’t have the body of an action star and fangirls screaming at him to show off his abs?”

“Fuck that shit!” Woohyun’s eyes flash dangerously. “Do you know how hard I work to look like this? Do you have any idea?”

Sungyeol does have some idea, actually; Woohyun spends more time in the gym than Hoya, even. Whatever else you can say about Nam Woohyun, no one could ever say he doesn’t work hard at being an idol. But he’s too angry to acknowledge that. “At least you can, even if it takes hard work. It doesn’t matter how much I do, I’m never going to look like you.”

Woohyun’s eyes are practically bugging now. “You’re the one who looks like an idol! You’ve got eyes like a manhwa character! You’re twenty feet tall and thin like the girls like, you beanpole!”

“My face is huge and I’ve got cheeks like a bulldog and nobody would ever want to see me flash my abs,” Sungyeol argues stubbornly.

“You’re kidding me, right? You think this is so great for me?” Woohyun pushes away from him, standing upright and glaring down at Sungyeol. “Do you know the last time I got to eat as much as I actually wanted in a meal? My birthday. And I know it was my birthday, because that’s the only day I actually let myself do that. The only times I’ve been full since I became a trainee were on my birthdays. I’ve seen you eat—you don’t scarf down everything in sight like Myungsoo does, but you don’t have to eat half as much as you’d like and then hope you don’t pass out the next time you have to dance because you’re going to pay for every calorie you take in.”

The back of Sungyeol’s throat is stinging now, and he can’t keep the words in. “I’ve starved myself for the concept, too, you know.”

“But you don’t have to. If you eat everything in the whole damn world, you might get a tummy and your cheeks might come back, but the fangirls think that’s cute on you, and with half-decent styling you’re still going to look like a model. And you have a choice whether or not to work out. If you don’t, no one cares. If I don’t, then I can’t ‘flash my abs,’” he spits out the words like they’re bitter, “and the fangirls get restless. The only things I’ve got are my stupid fucking greasy hearts and my stupid fucking chocolate abs. I work fucking hard to look like this because I have to.”

That last is honestly the most ridiculous thing Sungyeol has ever heard in his life. “Are you fucking serious? You’re Nam Woohyun, Power Vocals! You can out-sing anyone but Sunggyu!”

Woohyun is practically pacing in his frustration. “Do you know how many idols there are who can’t sing a note? And how many more amazing singers there are out there who are never, ever, ever going to be idols because they don’t look the part? It doesn’t matter how well I sing, if I stop looking like that, how long do you think it’ll be before they replace me with someone better-looking?”

That is such bullshit; Woohyun is gorgeous and everyone knows it. And even when he had more of his babyfat and cheeks as big as Sungyeol’s, the girls all still thought he was adorable. “Yeah, well, I can’t dance or sing and they won’t fucking let me act and everyone sits around and asks what I’m even good for! They call me a deadweight! If I had muscles to show off at least I’d be contributing something!

Woohyun’s face is turning red now. “That’s bullshit! You made Sesame Player, and you know it! That show was the ‘Lee Sungyeol Variety Hour’ and we were all just guest-stars. You always make everyone laugh, and you don’t have to worry about what you say in interviews because everyone knows you’re crazy so it doesn’t matter if you say something stupid, and you’ve got all the fangirls sighing over your relationship with Myungsoo—“

“Like they don’t sigh over you and Sunggyu!”

Sungyeol can almost see the words tumbling end over end out of his mouth and he has the desperate, ridiculous wish that he could reach out and pluck them out of the air and shove them back inside his mouth and never let them out again. Number one rule for whatever-this-is with Woohyun: never, ever mention Sunggyu.

Woohyun’s face snaps shut like a door slamming, and he spins away to leave. Before Sungyeol can even think about it, though, his hand shoots out and grabs Woohyun by the arm, jerking him back. Not again. I am not going through this again. He can put an end to this if he wants to, but he’s not going to be angry like this again.

He can’t say that, though. So he just slings Woohyun around—it probably only works because Woohyun is startled—and shoves him back down onto the mats, straddling him and pulling him into a furious kiss.

It feels different, being the one in control like this. Before, either they were one in their enthusiasm, fighting for dominance maybe, but neither one of them actually winning, or Woohyun was the one taking the lead. Sungyeol’s never done it before (and maybe part of him had been scared to, had thought that if he actually instigated, he’d be admitting something he wasn’t ready to admit), but he finds that he likes it just as much as he does when Woohyun’s the one manhandling him. Woohyun tries to push back a bit, struggling beneath Sungyeol’s hands, but he’s kissing back just as hard as Sungyeol is, and if he really wanted to, he could probably shove Sungyeol away easily (Sungyeol doesn’t like to admit that, but it’s true). After a second, Woohyun stops trying to pretend he wants to get away and shoves his hands into Sungyeol’s hair, wrapping it around his fingers a little too tightly. Sungyeol thinks about stopping him, but the bite actually seems to intensify the heat between them.

Woohyun has to let go, anyway, when Sungyeol goes to drag his shirt off, and Sungyeol rips off his own with only the slightest bit of hesitation. And then another first for Sungyeol: he’s the one who goes for Woohyun’s pants first, tugging the sweats down off his hips and slipping his hand into his boxers. Woohyun’s hands are fumbling and sliding over his shoulders and arms, like he’s trying to find purchase on something, and Sungyeol maps the lines of Woohyun’s neck with his lips, teeth, tongue while Woohyun whines and wriggles. Minutes later he finds himself on his knees on the floor, and Woohyun’s head keeps thumping against the mats as he writhes in pleasure, and maybe this blowjob thing gets a little less weird each time you do it.

He’s still not going to swallow, though, so he finishes Woohyun off with his hand, then, while Woohyun is still gasping in the wake of his orgasm, Sungyeol mops off Woohyun’s stomach. Then he quickly removes his own pants and underwear, and climbs back onto the mats, smacking Woohyun’s shoulder with the back of his hand. “My turn,” he says, and Woohyun, still recovering, just gapes at him for a minute. “My turn,” Sungyeol says, more insistently, and he’s not sure where the words are coming from, but he feels this need to keep this going, to not let it lag for a moment, because if they slow down, Woohyun might remember what he’d said about Sunggyu and then everything will be a mess again. Sungyeol isn’t going to let that happen, and that certainty lends him a kind of confidence he might not otherwise have.

Woohyun obeys this time, and Sungyeol lets himself flop back against the mats as Woohyun moves between his legs, his mouth hot and wet first against his thighs, then his stomach, then—finally, the fucking tease—where he really wants it to be.

Woohyun grabs his shirt and cleans Sungyeol off after he’s done, and then kind of stares at Sungyeol for a while. Sungyeol can’t quite read his expression, but he knows he sees surprise in there somewhere.

“Where did that come from?” Woohyun asks finally and maybe he sounds (and looks) a little dazed.

Now that the heat has passed, Sungyeol’s beginning to feel a bit awkward again. He jerks his shoulder in a quick shrug and looks away.

But then Woohyun laughs, and while it’s not as free a sound as his laughter usually is—there’s still a note of something that Sungyeol only hears in his tone when Sunggyu is hanging over the conversation—it isn’t mocking. “I did not expect that,” he says. “Who knew you had that in you?”

Sungyeol still doesn’t look at him, but Woohyun rises and gathers up his clothes, and punches him in the shoulder as he passes. “It was pretty hot,” he says, and Sungyeol feels a ghost of a smile cross his lips.

--

When he gets back to the dorm, Sungyeol feels completely wrung out, like all the emotions and any energy he might have had have been squeezed out by that last encounter with Woohyun. All he really wants is a long, hot shower and then to fall on his face on his bed and not to get up for several weeks.

So of course Myungsoo looks up from his laptop as soon as Sungyeol walks into the room, then practically falls off the bed in his haste to get up, tripping over some abandoned clothes as he hurries over to Sungyeol.

“Sungyeol, about what I said, I really didn’t mean it that way and—“

Sungyeol doesn’t really want to deal with now, so he holds up a hand and interrupts. “Let’s just forget about it, okay?”

Myungsoo’s eyes light up a little at that. “Seriously?”

“I was just being touchy,” Sungyeol says wearily, interrupting again. “It didn’t happen, okay?”

“Okay,” Myungsoo says, but Sungyeol has already turned towards the bathroom and doesn’t see the happy smile that spreads across his best friend’s face. He’s so tired and drained that in that moment, he absolutely means what he just said. He had been too sensitive, and it was just one little slip, and Sungyeol has figured out over the last couple of months that holding grudges actually end up costing him more emotional energy than he can spare. Better to try to forget about it, to only think about it late at night when he can’t sleep, to otherwise act like it never happened at all.

He ends up taking a shorter shower than he’d planned, though he cranks the water over to scalding hot; he’s just too tired to remain upright for long. He tugs on some pajamas, stumbles out of the bathroom, manages not to kill himself while climbing up to his bed, and he’s out as soon as he closes his eyes. He doesn’t dream at all.

Chapter Text

“You know, if you’re going to avoid someone, you should probably be more subtle about it.”

Sungyeol looks up from where he’s sprawled out on the living room floor drinking iced coffee. Sungjong looks really, really tall and even skinnier than usual from this angle. It’s kind of intimidating, especially when Sungjong's eyebrow is crooked in that sardonic way, so Sungyeol sits up. That’s only a little bit better. “I’m not avoiding anybody,” he says, taking an obnoxiously loud suck through his straw.

“Don’t lie to me, hyung,” Sungjong says, crossing his arms. “I’m not stupid. You’ve been avoiding me since we talked on the roof because you don’t want me to give you another lecture about how wrong you are.”

Sungyeol shrugs easily. “Okay, so I’ve been avoiding you. I get enough lectures from Leader without needing any more from my dongsaeng.”

Sungjong sits down beside him, the movement graceful and precise, and Sungyeol is struck once again by how fast Sungjong is growing up. He used to be so much more casual with his movements—graceful, sure, but in a loose, adolescent sort of way. Nowadays he seems to be trying to prove his maturity through control. It makes Sungyeol feel gauche, honestly.

“I’m not going to give you another lecture,” Sungjong says.

“Well, that’s a relief.”

Sungjong ignores Sungyeol’s snideness. “I told you what I thought the other day. I will just say once and for all so that it’s on record: this is a monumentally stupid idea, everything’s going to end up in a giant mess unless you two actually talk, but since you’re both too stubborn and dense to do that, I’m just going to say ‘I told you so’ when it all blows up in your face.”

“That’s nice,” Sungyeol says, distracted.

“Are you even listening to me, hyung?” Sungjong follows his gaze to where Sunggyu and Woohyun are in the kitchen, both of them getting dinner, moving around each other without acknowledging each others’ presence at all. Sungyeol’s seen this a thousand times before, but it suddenly strikes him as kind of sad. Kind of sad and really pathetic.

Sungjong sighs. “See what I mean? Not talking about things just makes everything more awkward.”

Sungyeol drags his eyes away from the kitchen. “Well, yeah. But even if they don’t talk about it, that doesn’t mean Sunggyu has to be so cold to Woohyun all the time,” he says, remembering that conversation he’d overheard outside his hyungs’ bedroom. “It’s not very professional.”

Sungjong stares at him like he can’t contemplate Sungyeol’s stupidity. “Are you serious?” he asks, voice sharp even in an undertone so he won’t be overheard. “He knows Woohyun’s in love with him—everyone knows. How awkward does it have to be to have to live every day of your life with a guy who’s in love with you when you don’t love him back? How awkward does it have to be to be all lovey-dovey for the fans?”

Sungyeol pulls back a little. “You don’t think Woohyun’s trying to force himself on him?” Woohyun can be…a lot, and he doesn’t always listen when other people tell him to stop, but this is different. Woohyun would never do that, try to push someone into something they didn’t want, not only because his pride wouldn’t let him, but also because he is, Sungyeol can admit, a good guy when it comes down to it. If Woohyun is making Sunggyu uncomfortable, he doesn’t mean to.

Sungjong rolls his eyes. “No, of course not. He never touches him at all when the cameras aren’t around. And he takes the fanservice really seriously with all of us when he feels like it’s necessary, but he’s so aware of the ‘Woogyu couple’ responsibilities that I don’t think he realizes how far he takes it—he gets caught up in the moment, you know how he is. But Sunggyu-hyung’s got to feel awkward when he thinks that Woohyun might enjoy the fanservice a little too much, don’t you think?”

The thought makes Sungyeol feel nauseous. Bad for Sunggyu, bad for Woohyun (bad for himself). He’s always felt a little awkward and stiff when Myungsoo plasters himself on him; he’s never been good with physical affection and he thinks he’ll never be as comfortable with it as some of the other guys. But Myungsoo is his best friend, and he doesn’t mind the fact that the touching is from Myungsoo, just that it’s touching at all. How much worse does it have to be for Sunggyu? And what kind of a mess is Woohyun that he can’t even see that? Still….

“Yeah, but they were friends. Best friends, or something.” Sungyeol isn’t sure that ‘friends’ is a complicated enough word to encompass what Sunggyu and Woohyun were. “And now Sunggyu treats him like they’re strangers.”

Sungjong shrugs. “Maybe he thinks that if he treats him like this for a while, eventually Woohyun will get over him and they can go back to the way they were. I bet Leader-hyung doesn’t want to hurt him. He probably thinks it’s for the greater good.”

Sungyeol makes a humming noise that isn’t actually agreement. Sunggyu is the kind to think in those terms—‘greater good.’ It’s still all really, really sad.

Sungjong pokes his finger into Sungyeol’s side. “See, and this is why things would be better with them if they talked.”

“You said you weren’t going to lecture anymore,” Sungyeol points out.

“I was talking about them, not about you,” Sungjong says, and sticks his nose in the air like the little snob he is (Sungyeol loves Sungjong in roughly the same way he loves Daeyeol, which means that he’d probably die for him even if he’d never say that, but also means that he’s more than aware of how annoying he can be at times).

“Look, I appreciate the fact that you’re keeping our…secret,” Sungyeol says fumbling with the words because he’s not used to being sincere in expressions of gratitude. “And for talking with me the other day. But I kind of don’t want to talk about it anymore at all, actually.”

“That’s fine,” Sungjong says. “I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to avoid me anymore. It was getting tiring.”

Sungyeol snorts. He’s been through phases of avoiding so many different people over the last couple of months that he doesn’t even have to think about it anymore. “Fine, I won’t. I’ll make sure to yell for you to bring me a towel next time I’m in the shower without one and to bring me the new roll when the toilet paper runs out and—“

“Don’t even think about it, hyung,” Sungjong shoots at him, standing again and glaring down through the hair that flops over one eye. “Remember that I can make your life a living hell if I want to.” And then he flounces away, leaving Sungyeol behind to lapse back into his thoughts and his coffee.

--

Sungyeol comes out of makeup in time to see Sunggyu corner Woohyun down the hall. They’re too far away for Sungyeol to make out what they’re saying, but from the stern look on Sunggyu’s face and the blank one on Woohyun’s, Sungyeol can figure it out. This interview is a big one, not just an idol show targeting people who are already pop fans, but on a show with a much wider audience, the kind they’re always trying to win over, the kind Sunggyu sets most stock by. There’s no doubt in Sungyeol’s mind that Sunggyu is letting Woohyun know that he won’t tolerate ‘going too far’ again with the fanservice, and he isn’t surprised. Woohyun’s jaw, already sharply defined, is set, and though Sungyeol is too far away to see it, he knows there’s a muscle jumping in the hollow above his jawbone. Woohyun keeps his eyes fixed on the wall in front of him as Sunggyu lectures, not saying a word until Sunggyu finally stops, then giving some sort of terse acknowledgment.

Sunggyu rushes away after that, shooting down the hall with that hassled look on his face that lets Sungyeol know that he’s got thirty-seven things to do in the twenty minutes before the cameras roll; he barely acknowledges Sungyeol as he passes him after sweeping his eyes over him to make sure everything is presentable. He barges into the makeup room behind Sungyeol, shouting for Sungjong, and Sungyeol is just really glad he’s ready.

Turning away from the hurricane that is Sunggyu in leader-mode, he sees Woohyun slip out the door out of the corner of his eye. Sungyeol doesn’t know what makes him follow—the instinct is probably really stupid (and may or may not have anything to do with the conversation with Sungjong the other day)—but he does it anyway.

When Sungyeol emerges onto the balcony, Woohyun’s sitting on the steps, elbows on his knees but arms dangling loosely, staring at the sky that’s the only thing visible over the high wall. He glances up to see who’s interrupted him, then turns back to his sky contemplation. Suddenly wishing he’d just stayed inside, Sungyeol nudges him with his foot and clears his throat.

“You know how he gets before something important. He’s totally freaking out because he’s stressed and he thinks if any tiny thing goes wrong, it’s entirely his fault for not being a good enough leader.”

“I do not want to talk about this,” Woohyun says flatly, but there’s something in his tone that makes him sound almost weary.

Sungyeol toes the step, still standing over him. Woohyun looks really small like this, his bright personality that can easily fill a room set on dim and tucked away. His shoulders are hunched over like he’s trying to curl up into a ball without really doing it. It makes Sungyeol feel strange to look at him. “Besides, I think maybe he just feels uncomfortable and guilty having to do fanservice with you when he knows—well, you know.”

“Are you deaf?” Woohyun barks at him. “Did you not hear what I just said?”

Sungyeol tucks his hands behind his back, bouncing forward on his toes. He really can’t believe he’s about to say what he’s about to say, but the words are pressing forward in his mouth with the force of a steamroller behind them, and he knows he won’t be able to stop them. Someone needs to say this to Woohyun; maybe things with him will be better if he actually hears it. “You shouldn’t feel like he’s really rejecting you, anyway. I mean, it’s probably not got anything to do with you, really. Maybe he’s just not gay.”

Woohyun shoots up, his face twisted with anger, and grabs Sungyeol by the collar. Sungyeol, who had still been rocking forward onto his toes, almost falls over at the sudden disruption of his balance. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you trying to piss me off?” Woohyun snarls.

“No, that’s not what I—“

Woohyun shakes him once, hard. “What gave you the idea that you could fucking say these things to me? You don’t fucking have the right to talk about this!”

Sungyeol has never seen Woohyun like this. Ever. But then he’s never seen anyone actually talk to him about his feelings for Sunggyu, so that probably shouldn’t be surprising. “I just thought—“

“What? That because I’ve let you stick your dick in my mouth that you get to talk about my life?” There’s something about the tightness around Woohyun’s eyes that makes him look desperate, and the thought occurs to Sungyeol that Woohyun might be trying to keep from crying. Panic bubbles up inside Sungyeol; the very last thing he’d ever be able to handle is a crying Woohyun.

“Is this your idea of comforting me?” Woohyun demands, his voice grating over the words.

“Uh. Yeah?” Because that’s exactly what this is.

Woohyun just stares at him blankly for a minute. And then he starts to laugh. A real laugh, too, not a bitter one, that helpless kind of laugh that often makes him half-collapse into someone else’s lap with the force of it, though there's a note of desperation in it that makes Sungyeol feel a little strange. Sungyeol joins in a little nervously, but this is honestly rating pretty high on his list of ‘weirdest conversations he’s ever had,’ so he’s still a little tense. Woohyun laughs so hard that he has to wipe away some tears at the corners of his eyes, and he smacks Sungyeol in the stomach with the back of his hand.

After a moment of Sungyeol smiling uncertainly, Woohyun, still laughing, grabs him by the arm. “Come on, you giant gorilla. We’re gonna be late.” And then he drags him inside, still laughing like that weird-ass conversation never even happened.

Sometimes Nam Woohyun really makes Sungyeol’s head spin.

--

After their performance (one in which Sungyeol probably looks like he has no idea what he’s doing—he’s still reeling from what happened out on the balcony), as they settle themselves on the seats for the interview, Woohyun grabs his arm again and pulls him down beside him. Hoya, who’d been headed for that seat, just shrugs and moves to sit next to Myungsoo. Sometimes they have seat assignments, carefully orchestrated by managers and production crews in order to create some specific image, but not this time. Still, Sungyeol hadn’t been planning, necessarily, on sitting next to Woohyun, but he goes with it (even if he isn’t sure he wants to be sitting next to someone who can switch emotional tracks as quickly as Woohyun does. He’s like an emotional time-bomb, and Sungyeol isn’t ever sure whether he’s going to blow up in anger or explode into laughter). He has no idea why Woohyun wants him beside him, but maybe he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have to sit next to Sunggyu or something.

Sungyeol figures it out pretty quickly. Woohyun seems to be in as good a mood now as he was in a bad one earlier (and maybe it’s a little fake, because Woohyun is always a little fake for the cameras, but Sungyeol doesn’t hate that quite as much as he used to, and he can understand that Woohyun wants to show off his happy side instead of the one that’s bruised and raw from loving Sunggyu. Better to be fake than to let anyone see his pain. Sungyeol can respect that), and he wants a playmate.

Because Woohyun is ridiculous during this interview. He laughs more than Dongwoo, greasy—but always charming—and grinning, and he nudges Sungyeol until Sungyeol obliges him by making hearts with him. “Sungyeol is my apprentice,” Woohyun says, winking at the pretty MC. “I’m training him in the ways of fanservice. And fashion.” Sungyeol is a little taken aback by the performance at first, but soon enough he’s caught up in the fun, the two of them teaming up to tease the other guys (telling stories the others will probably kill them for sharing later), Sungyeol imitating Woohyun’s aegyo and making Woohyun laugh so hard that he collapses onto Sungyeol’s shoulder. Dongwoo laughs along and Hoya keeps grinning (probably about Dongwoo’s laughter, honestly), but the others look a little surprised by how chummy Sungyeol and Woohyun are being, even if they’re pretty good at hiding that. Sungyeol’s practically tingling from the adrenaline rush he gets when he’s making an audience laugh, and it feels like Woohyun is caught up in the wave beside him.

But it’s Woohyun, and he’s nothing if not professional, so it doesn’t go so far as to take over the whole interview. Sunggyu still does his leader-spiel, Myungsoo sits quietly until the MCs turn their attention to him (the same script every single time: exclaiming over how handsome he is, then a question about why he doesn’t talk—which has always struck Sungyeol as stupid because anyone who pays attention knows that it’s Hoya who’s the silent one in interviews—then prompting him to be less mysterious and speak with them. Myungsoo must get so sick of it, but he always goes along politely), Sungjong does a girl group dance (Sungyeol thinks they might stop asking him soon, since he’s stopped doing the cute over the top ones and started in with the real sexy ones and he actually looks really sexual when he does them), Dongwoo raps in English, Hoya talks about his new acting career (and for once Sungyeol doesn’t even feel a pang of jealousy), everyone has their moment.

But there’s no doubt that Woohyun and Sungyeol are the darlings of the interview, and Sungyeol can’t keep the grin off of his face. He’d forgotten how fun Woohyun can be, how they can slip so easily into the partners-in-crime roles, how good it feels to make Woohyun laugh that hard (and it’s different, somehow, than it was before: Woohyun’s arm brushing against his feels like more now, and at one point he finds that he’s been playing with Woohyun’s fingers for some time now and hadn’t even realized it). Sungyeol hasn’t enjoyed an interview (or anything else, really) like this in so long, and he and Woohyun are still giggling when they troop offstage after the PD yells ‘cut.’

Back in the greenroom, Woohyun grabs a tissue and wipes away the sweat on Sungyeol’s face, and Sungyeol hands over a water bottle to him after he takes a swig himself. Dongwoo, who’d enjoyed the interview almost as much as they had, bounces up and tackles Woohyun in a Dongwoo-sized hug. Sungyeol laughs to see them horsing around, and goes to collapse into a chair in the corner, jittery in the aftermath of the interview high.

“Well, you two seemed like you were having fun,” Sungjong says wryly, moving over to lean against the wall at Sungyeol’s shoulder.

Sungyeol shrugs. “Yeah.” Because they were.

“It doesn’t mean anything at all, right?”

There’s something in Sungjong’s voice that makes Sungyeol look up at him. “What?”

Sungjong shoots him a warning look that somehow seems even more serious when the fall of his hair is sweeping over one eye. “Don’t start to like him more than you should,” he says, then sweeps away, leaving Sungyeol gaping behind him.

Because the thought had never even occurred to him—he likes Woohyun sometimes, sure, and that whole interview had been one long reminder of just how good of friends they can be when their personalities aren’t clashing. But liking him more than that? Sungyeol can’t imagine what that would even be like. No, this is good: he and Woohyun as friends who fool around because they can’t get any anywhere else. Besides, shouldn’t Sungjong be glad they’re getting along, especially after their meltdowns not so long ago?

He doesn’t have much time to think about that, because Myungsoo sits down in the chair beside him. He’s sweating, of course—it had been hot on the stage, and Myungsoo is more susceptible to heat than anyone Sungyeol has ever met. But Myungsoo looks good even when he sweats, the dampness of his hair and the sheen of his skin only highlight his attractiveness instead of making him look like a tired mess like a normal person.

Myungsoo smiles at him, his eyes crinkling up. “You’d make a really good MC, you know.”

“Where did that come from?” Sungyeol asks, laughing.

“You were really good out there,” Myungsoo says, nodding his head towards the door. “I know you were training to be one at SM.”

“So I should give up trying to convince anyone I can sing or act?”

Myungsoo rolls his eyes. “You know that’s not what I meant. Just—if you decide that you want to try it, you should, because you’re good at it.”

And then he stops talking, the conversation over. Conversations with Myungsoo are often like that—he says what he wants to say and then stops. Sungyeol leans back in his chair and smiles himself; he’s always liked compliments, probably because he doesn’t feel like he gets very many of them, and even fewer sincere ones (ones he deserves).

Sungyeol sits next to his best friend in comfortable silence and scans the room. Sungjong’s half-laying across Hoya’s lap on the sofa now, and of course they’re both laughing at Woohyun and Dongwoo, who are still being silly across the room (even though Sungjong’s face is screwed up in that way that lets Sungyeol know that he’s trying to pretend like he’s not amused. Someone needs to tell that kid that laughing once in a while won’t make him any less manly). Even Sunggyu is grinning at their antics, and the look on his face makes something catch inside Sungyeol’s chest. The smile isn’t a big surprise: the interview had gone amazingly well, really, and the MCs and the audience had seemed charmed by them. Good PR, the kind that Sunggyu is always working for.

But Sungyeol kind of can’t believe that Sunggyu is looking straight at Woohyun and smiling like that (Woohyun, for once, seems oblivious, too caught up in romping with Dongwoo. Dongwoo is really good for him, Sungyeol notes absently, but then Dongwoo is really good for everyone). He looks almost…fond.

The room is suddenly too hot, and Sungyeol feels like he wants to throw up. He grabs another water bottle off the table and slips out into the relatively cooler hallway, nodding to Jungryoul-hyung, who’s sitting on a bench nearby, doing something with his phone. Sungyeol leans against the wall, letting his head thump back against it, then slides down onto the floor. The adrenaline is leaking out of his system, leaving weariness behind, and he can’t get the look on Sunggyu’s face out of his head. That’s the way Sunggyu used to look at Woohyun, the way Sungyeol has caught Myungsoo looking at him sometimes. It’s okay for Myungsoo to look at him that way (even if Sungyeol can’t acknowledge it because it feels like too much—God, he really is so bad at emotions), because they’re best friends. But he’s caught between being furious that Sunggyu would look at Woohyun like that after how he’s hurt him (how dare he, when Woohyun’s in such pain because of him?) and feeling sad at the thought that Sunggyu thinks that he can’t show that to Woohyun because it’ll encourage him in his crush (or whatever it is. It’s not as simple as any crush Sungyeol has ever had, and he’s had a lot).

All of Sungyeol’s giddiness from the interview has leached away by the time the other guys tumble out into the hallway and they all head home. He spends the ride trying to sort through his feelings, through his theories on Sunggyu and Woohyun, on how he himself is reacting to them (on why he’s reacting to them at all). He doesn’t arrive at any conclusions, but then, what else is new?

He catches Sungjong in the kitchen that night when the Sungjong is pouring himself a glass of juice.

“You really think that Sunggyu-hyung is being cold to Woohyun because he wants him to get over him? Like, he still thinks of Woohyun as his best friend in the group, he just doesn’t want to show him in case it encourages Woohyun?” Sungyeol asks without preamble, like he’s not trying to pick back up in the middle of a conversation they’d ended over a day before.

Sungjong eyes him for a moment, taking a cool sip of his drink. “It could be. That sounds like Sunggyu-hyung, don’t you think?”

Sungyeol’s not sure; Sunggyu’s always operated on a completely different level than he does. And God, this whole situation is so fucked up he can’t make heads or tails of it. “Maybe.”

“The only way anyone would know is if someone talked to him,” Sungjong offers, then saunters out of the room, leaving Sungyeol leaning against the counter and trying to figure out his hyungs.

Chapter Text

Sungyeol tries to be more understanding of Sunggyu after that, though he’s not very good at it. It’s easier to understand Woohyun, once he actually takes the time to think about it—Woohyun had been really angry at him for bringing up the topic of Sunggyu, and if he hadn’t found it genuinely funny, in a sad and pathetic and wrong sort of way (Sungyeol can still hear that desperate edge to his laughter, and he recognized it: that was how you laugh when your life is so ridiculous you can’t even recognize it yet you feel the pain of it completely), Sungyeol has no doubts that that conversation would have ended with Woohyun’s fist in his face. He still can’t believe he actually said that stuff to Woohyun, even if he’d been thinking it, but in the moment he couldn’t stop himself. He’s incredibly grateful that it ended the way it had instead of in a much more painful way.

And then Woohyun had gone and done that thing he often does where he pretends to be in a good mood and pretends so well that soon enough he’s actually in one—for a little while. Sungyeol had figured that out about Woohyun a long time ago—that Woohyun’s emotions sort of snowball, so that when he’s in a bad mood, it’s really bad, much worse than it needs to be sometimes, but that he can turn around and fake happiness until it becomes real, at least for a moment. Probably Woohyun went home after the interview and fell face-down onto his bed and into a funk again; that sounds like Woohyun to Sungyeol. But for that moment, on stage, he had felt great, and he had pulled Sungyeol into that happiness right alongside him. It’s weird, and not something Sungyeol can do himself, but it’s Woohyun, and he’s sort of stopped questioning it.

As for Sunggyu, the whole thing is just too fucked up for him to see in straightforward terms (and if he’s honest with himself, he’s biased in Woohyun’s favor—he’s always been closer to Woohyun than to Sunggyu to begin with, and Woohyun is the one who’s clearly in the most pain, after all), and besides, even if Sunggyu thinks what he’s doing is for the best, Sungyeol is pretty sure he’s completely wrong (Sungyeol has no idea what the right way to handle this situation is, but he knows it’s not the way Sunggyu’s chosen). Still, it really isn’t any of his business, so he tries not to notice all the small moments when Sunggyu ignores Woohyun’s presence in a room or answers him a little too shortly.

That works well enough for a while. They’re busy, anyway, even busier than usual, and every spare minute he’s got that overlaps with a spare minute of Woohyun’s is spent pressed up against each other somewhere (one day when an interviewer asks the members what they do in their spare time, he’s smacked in the face with the realization that Woohyun is his hobby now. But he doesn’t think answering, ‘Nam Woohyun,’ in response to that question would be the best PR decision, so he sputters a laugh to himself and lets everyone think the choding’s gone crazy again. When it’s his turn to answer the question, he says something about sleeping and dramas and almost manages to keep a straight face). Sometimes they have time to get each other off (and yes: giving head does get a bit less awkward each time you do it), sometimes they just make out until they have to scurry to whatever schedule is looming next, but sneaking off to meet up with Woohyun and planning how to sneak off to meet up with Woohyun end up absorbing enough of Sungyeol’s time that he doesn’t have much left to be mad at Sunggyu.

That is until a moment arises that even he can’t ignore.

They’re in the practice room again, but it’s only the six of them because Hoya is filming his drama. Everyone is off, cranky as they always are when someone’s missing—it isn’t just that the choreography is so lacking when the numbers aren’t right or even that the energy is lower without their main dancer. It’s more than that. It’s that things seem wrong (if Sungyeol were the type, he’d say on an almost existential level) when there’s only six of them: they are seven, and anything less (or more—sometimes Sungyeol hears about new members being added to other groups and shudders) is just not the way things are supposed to be.

They usually cut each other some slack in these situations, because they’re all aware of this. But today Woohyun, who had been filming some CF or something until late last night and hadn’t gotten any sleep at all (Dongwoo had told Sungyeol that, it’s not like Sungyeol had been spying on Woohyun or something. Dongwoo always knows how much sleep the others are getting, though how he manages to keep track when he spends every spare moment he can asleep himself is something Sungyeol will never be able to figure out), keeps messing up in ways that are totally not like him. Myungsoo and, to a lesser extent, Sungjong are the ones who always make mistakes, the ones who are used to Sunggyu correcting them. Each of the members have had their off days (yeah, even Hoya once in a while), but Woohyun’s are so few and far between that his mistakes seem even more glaring today.

Which must be why Sunggyu is riding him so hard. His voice is sharp each time he points out one of Woohyun’s slip ups, his face hard each time he starts the music over again. Woohyun looks exhausted, the combination of the exercise, which has all of them panting and sweaty and achy, and his lack of sleep making his face look all stretched out. Sungyeol feels jumpy as he keeps one eye on him, and he recognizes the feeling from back when Myungsoo used to mess up even more than he does now. Sungyeol really hates it when someone is harsh on his friends’ mistakes.

“Wrong, Woohyun, that’s wrong. It’s the left foot, not the right. Again! We’ll start over,” Sunggyu says, hitting the button on the stereo remote so hard Sungyeol thinks he might just break it. Nobody sighs in frustration at having to start over again, which is proof of just how aware the other members are of Woohyun’s exhaustion, because they’re usually not reluctant to be vocal about their exasperation with things like that (Sungjong, especially. And sometimes Sungyeol himself).

Woohyun bites his lip and breathes deep, face setting in concentration as the other members silently move through the choreography again. They all take practice seriously and when they’re dancing it’s time to dance, but today they aren’t joking around in between run-throughs and not even Dongwoo is laughing or throwing around silly, encouraging comments. The tension is too much.

“What the hell, Woohyun!” Sunggyu bursts out before another minute passes. “That was terrible! Have you ever danced before in your life? Why are you even here if you can’t go three steps without making a mistake like that?”

Woohyun’s eyes flash in that specific sort of anger that always comes when his pride is stung, but he takes the words in silence even if he’s scowling, and he looks away, moving immediately back into starting position and nodding (a short, sharp gesture) for Sunggyu to start the music again.

But Sunggyu doesn’t get a chance to abuse the remote again, because suddenly Sungyeol is calling out to him in a voice that’s light but tinged with disdain. “Stop being an asshole, hyung. You know he didn’t sleep any last night; he’s trying as hard as he can. God, you don’t have to be such a prick about it.”

Sungyeol doesn’t think he’s ever heard such total silence from the members before. Well, total silence except for the drumming of his own heart as it catches up to him just what he said and who he said it to. Panic surges up inside him; he had not meant to say that, not at all; he uses his wit sometimes to slide sly comments by that are a little more disrespectful than he really should get away with, but this is crossing the line entirely. He can’t believe those words just came out of his mouth.

Sunggyu, Sungyeol thinks uncharitably-if-nervously, looks even more like a hamster when his mouth is gaping open like that. Sungjong’s hand is over his mouth and Myungsoo’s eyes have never been that wide before, Sungyeol is sure. Dongwoo looks like he might cry at any moment. As for Woohyun, Sungyeol can’t bring himself to look at him. What the fuck had he just said?

“What did you just say to me?” Sunggyu’s shock is so apparent that it almost covers up the dangerous note in his tone.

“I—nothing! I mean—I’m sorry, hyung, that was totally out of line, I didn’t mean—“ He stops, because there isn’t any excuse he could possibly offer. Instead, he just bows, ninety-degrees, and stays down for longer than he ever has when he’s bowed to Sunggyu.

Everything is very, very still for a long moment. Dongwoo’s breathing speeds up; he’s really close to tears now. Sungyeol thinks he’s going to throw up at any moment.

“We’re done for the day,” Sunggyu finally says, and there are so many things in his voice that Sungyeol can’t sort them all out (exhaustion, maybe, and anger, and something that sounds like regret, even. Or maybe none of that, maybe other things that Sungyeol doesn’t have names for). “We weren’t making any progress anyway.” He stomps towards the door, pausing only to jab a finger in Sungyeol’s direction. “You’ve got dishes, laundry, and bathroom-cleaning duty for the next three months.”

And then he’s gone.

Sungyeol kind of wants to collapse onto the floor, but he manages to stay upright somehow. Dongwoo takes a shuddering breath, then hurries out after Sunggyu—to soothe him, no doubt (Dongwoo always thinks that’s his job, taking care of the other members emotionally. Sungyeol has no idea how he does it). Sungjong turns very slowly to look at Sungyeol, arches an eyebrow at him, then saunters out of the room himself, probably to go to the bathroom or something. Myungsoo stares at Sungyeol, giving him a “What the fuck, bro?” look that Sungyeol can only respond to with a shrug.

“Hey, Myungsoo,” Woohyun says suddenly. “Let Leader know that I’m going to stick around here for a while and Sungyeol’s going to stay with me. We’ll come back later.”

“I can stay—“ Myungsoo starts, but Woohyun cuts him off.

“Nah, you’ve got that thing tonight, don’t you? You don’t want to be exhausted for that. Sungyeol owes me, anyway.”

Sungyeol has no idea what thing Myungsoo has tonight, and he has even less idea what he himself owes Woohyun for (all the things he can think of are dirty), so he just shrugs helplessly when Myungsoo turns to look at him. Myungsoo makes a face, then heads out of the room after the others.

It’s quiet for a moment after Myungsoo’s footsteps disappear down the hall, then Sungyeol slowly pivots to face Woohyun. Woohyun’s eyebrows are high, but his face is almost unreadable as he stalks towards Sungyeol.

“What. The fuck. Was that?” he asks, emphasizing each word, and Sungyeol winces. Woohyun reaches out as if to grab him or something, but just as soon as he’s near enough, his face splits into a ridiculous grin and he shoves Sungyeol a bit.

“What the fuck was that?” he repeats. “You were defending me!”

Sungyeol groans, burying his face in his hands, but Woohyun is practically dancing in delight. He even claps his hands, that grin so wide it looks like it’s going to split his face right in half. “I can’t believe you said that!”

Sungyeol turns to walk away, but Woohyun dances along beside him, keeping up easily. “You rode to my rescue! You’re my knight-in-shining-fucking-armor!”

“Shut up,” Sungyeol moans. So he’s going to be like this about it; Sungyeol should have known. He’s starting to regret this more than he did when Sunggyu told him about his new chore load.

“You just couldn’t stand to see me in trouble,” Woohyun laughs, and he’s still dancing. “That was so beautiful!” He wipes a fake tear from his eyes, sniffing dramatically, and Sungyeol shoves him.

“It wasn’t like that, he was just out of line. Shut up.”

“Oh, no, I’m never letting you forget this! My hero!”

There’s only one way to shut Woohyun up when he’s like this, and, besides, what other reason could Woohyun have for telling Myungsoo Sungyeol was staying with him for a while? So Sungyeol rolls his eyes and hauls Woohyun in for a kiss.

“You know,” Woohyun says after, when they’re both tugging their clothes back on and trying to make themselves look presentable enough to walk home. “You really have absolutely no conception of what’s your business and what isn’t.”

Sungyeol pauses in the middle of pulling on his shirt. He really had thought, earlier, that Woohyun would punch him in the face for butting into his relationship with Sunggyu, and it had sort of spun his head around that he just thought it was hilarious instead.

He opens his mouth to say something—what, he has no clue—but Woohyun continues. “The look on hyung’s face was hilarious. I bet no one’s called him that once since he became an idol.”

And then he lightly punches Sungyeol on the arm and walks out of the room. Sungyeol slumps against the mirror and tries to sort out what Woohyun had just said, and after a few minutes he thinks he’s figured it out: that Woohyun doesn’t want him getting into his business and the only reason he let it go this time was because it was funny. But the unspoken implication is that he should probably butt out in the future.

“Trust me, I know,” Sungyeol mutters, pushing off of the mirrored wall and heading out after him. “I know.”

--

When they get back to the dorm—an hour or so after the others—Sunggyu rises as soon as they walk through the door. He bows to Woohyun and, as all the rest of the members stare at him, says stiffly, “I was too harsh. It was unfair. I apologize.” And then without waiting for a response, he walks into his room and closes the door.

Sungyeol looks over at Woohyun and sees him blink, face blank. Then he smiles (not very convincingly) at the other members and follows Sunggyu.

Sungyeol watches him go, watches the door close again, and he isn’t sure how to feel.

Dongwoo lets out a long sigh, and Sungyeol knows that it’s because he’d tried to talk Sunggyu into apologizing but hadn’t been sure whether he would. Hoya, obviously just home from filming, whistles softly, because seeing Sunggyu humble himself like that is always a surprise—Sunggyu is a fair guy (except when his best friend is in love with him, apparently), but he doesn’t have to apologize often. It’s strange seeing him do it.

Sungjong is staring at Sungyeol with narrowed, knowing eyes, but Sungyeol ignores him. He’s about to plop down on the floor next to Myungsoo, but he doesn’t get the opportunity.

“Let’s go get coffee,” Myungsoo says, standing suddenly.

Sungyeol stares at him. “What?”

“We haven’t gotten coffee in a long time—don’t you miss that little shop around the corner? It was always your favorite.”

“I thought you had a thing tonight?”

Myungsoo shrugs. “I’ve got another hour before I have to go. We have time.”

Sungyeol is really worn out, not just by practice and his subsequent…activities with Woohyun on the floor of the practice room, but also from the emotional drama that’s played out (he’d really thought he was going to throw up all over Sunggyu’s shoes. And then he thought he might have to punch Woohyun in the face to shut him up). He’s sweaty and sticky, and he probably looks like a mess, and he really is trying to cut back on his coffee intake. But Myungsoo looks so hopeful that he can’t say no.

So ten minutes later, they’re sneaking out the back of the apartment building to avoid the fans across the street, Sungyeol with a hat pulled down low over his eyes, Myungsoo with the hood of his sweatshirt up (it’s too hot for sweatshirts, really, but nothing keeps Myungsoo from his hoodies). It feels like it always has, the two of them sneaking off and trying not to get caught—only this time it’s the fans and not the managers they’re trying to slip. It’s always a little bit of an adrenaline rush, and Myungsoo grins his crooked grin as they round the corner. Sungyeol has missed this.

At the shop, they both order iced coffees—it’s too hot for anything else—and settle themselves in a back corner. Myungsoo snags several of the menus and sets them up on the table like a barrier between them and everyone else, blocking the view of leering fans and their cameras. It almost feels like they’re normal people whose every move won’t be reported all over the internet.

They sit in silence for a few minutes because it’s Myungsoo, who sips away with the straw tucked in the corner of his mouth. Myungsoo always looks like a little kid when he’s drinking with a straw. Sungyeol stretches out his legs, propping them up on the chair across from him, feeling loose and languid after what he and Woohyun got up to back at the practice room. It’s cool here in the coffee shop, the air redolent with Sungyeol’s favorite smell in the world, and the music that’s playing is quiet and unobtrusive. Sometimes Sungyeol thinks heaven is a coffee shop.

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Woohyun,” Myungsoo says suddenly.

Sungyeol fiddles with his cup. There’s no way Myungsoo knows anything; if he did, he’d be way more awkward than this. He sounds casual, and he can’t play casual to save his life—Myungsoo can be a really sucky actor sometimes (most of the time). Still, skirting this close to the topic of just what Sungyeol has been doing with Woohyun does make him a little nervous.

“Yeah,” Sungyeol confirms, because there’s no reason to lie about it, and also because he isn’t sure what else to say.

“I’m glad you two are okay again. And I really am sorry about telling you to shut up about him.”

Sungyeol pokes at the ice in the bottom of his cup with his straw. “I meant it when I said let’s forget about that. I know I overreacted. I was in a really bad place.”

Myungsoo cocks his head to the side, still sipping out of the corner of his mouth. “Yeah. You were. I still don’t know what the deal was.”

Sungyeol sighs. “We said some really stupid things to each other.”

“You two?” Myungsoo says, and it’s always been one of his most endearing qualities, the way he grins when he’s sarcastic. He can’t do deadpan very well, either.

Sungyeol rolls his eyes. “Not just stupid. Like, bad. Really bad.”

Myungsoo looks thoughtful for a moment—or maybe he’s zoned out again; it’s really hard to tell with him. “Did you call him a whore or something?”

Sungyeol’s mouth drops open. “What?”

Myungsoo makes a face. “He’s really sensitive about that, you know. He hears it all the time from everyone else and he has to grin and bear it. He shouldn’t have to hear it from one of us, especially since it’s not true.”

Sungyeol’s been dealing pretty well with the heartburn feeling of guilt he gets when he thinks about the things he’s said to Woohyun since that night on the couch. But it’s a little stronger now. “I know,” he says hollowly, and he does know. And that’s the worst thing of all—he’d said it because he knew how much it would hurt Woohyun. He wasn’t innocent at all.

“Everybody calls him that, but that’s stupid, because he’s just doing his job. If he stopped, they’d be angry. They expect him to do all those greasy things and then when he does, they call him names.”

“Yeah.”

Silence again, except for Myungsoo’s sucking. Then, “What did he say to you?”

Sungyeol looks up at him, then away. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Another Myungsoo-pause. “It’s not true, either. Infinite needs you. We’re not Infinite without you.”

Sungyeol jerks, and it’s a good thing there’s a top on his coffee or the icy brown remnants would have gone everywhere. “What the hell, man?” When did you get so insightful? Myungsoo isn’t the observant type, mostly because he’s always zoning out and forgetting to pay attention to what’s going on around him. Most of the time he doesn’t even hear the things that people say to him straight out. And all of a sudden he’s figuring out that Woohyun told Sungyeol that he was useless and is trying to say that he isn’t? Seriously: what the hell?

Myungsoo shrugs. “I’ve thought a lot about why you might have fought.”

And there’s that guilt again, burning the back of his throat. Though this time it’s not about Woohyun; it’s about Myungsoo. All during the Cold War: Woohyun and Sungyeol Edition, as Hoya had called it, Myungsoo had made it clear—all without saying much, but that’s Myungsoo for you (honestly, this is the longest conversation they’ve ever had about anything real, and it’s kind of freaking Sungyeol out) that he’d be willing to talk. And Sungyeol had shrugged him off, again and again, for a thousand different reasons—because he was scared he’d slip up and say something about what they’d been doing before they fought, because he’s never been good at heart-to-hearts, because he’d felt a distance from Myungsoo for so long now that he wasn’t sure whether Myungsoo really cared anymore or whether he was just going through the motions. In retrospect, all of those reasons were pretty stupid, and it might have helped his mood at least a little bit to talk with his best friend even if he didn’t tell him the details.

Sungyeol’s straw makes a squeaking noise as he pumps it up and down through the hole in the plastic top. “Yeah, that was pretty much it.”

Myungsoo is done with his coffee, but he’s still gnawing on the straw. “You two are both such dicks sometimes.”

Sungyeol snorts a laugh. “Yeah. We really are.”

“But everything’s cool now, right?”

“Yeah, everything’s cool now,” he confirms.

Myungsoo nods, satisfied with the answer, and that’s the end of the conversation. He zones out after that, staring at a colorful print of a flower on the far wall, but Sungyeol knows he isn’t seeing it. It’s just Myungsoo’s way. Eventually, he drags his eyes away from it and speaks again, and this time they talk about the things they usually talk about—the new choreography, how ridiculous their schedules are, what hilarious thing Dongwoo did yesterday, that sort of thing.

Sungyeol sees a couple of giggling girls taking pictures of “each other” as he and Myungsoo leave—pictures that just so happen to capture him and Myungsoo walking in the background—but he’s so used to that sort of thing by this point that he almost doesn’t even care. They have to hurry back to the dorm so that Myungsoo can get ready to go to his thing—Sungyeol still doesn’t know what it is, and he still really doesn’t care; Myungsoo would have mentioned it if it were important, probably—and then they have to sneak back inside past the fangirls again.

Dongwoo, Hoya, and Sungjong are sprawled out in front of the TV when they get back, and Sungyeol joins them as Myungsoo disappears into their bedroom to get ready.

“Are they still in there?” he asks, nodding his head towards the door to Sunggyu and Woohyun’s bedroom, hoping he doesn’t sound too interested. Sungjong shoots him a look, and Sungyeol makes one of his stupider faces back at him.

“Hyung came out not long after you left and went to the studio. Woohyun got some dinner and then said he was going to bed early,” Dongwoo answers, looking half-worried, half-hopeful. It’s such a Dongwoo expression that Sungyeol leans over and wraps his arm around him. Dongwoo makes a happy noise and snuggles closer to him—he loves cuddling, and while Sungyeol doesn’t do it very often, when he does, he mostly wants to do it with Dongwoo. They all baby Dongwoo sometimes because he’s just so lovable and sweet that they can’t help it, and nothing makes Dongwoo happier. And all of them love to make Dongwoo happy.

“Did they yell or anything?” Sungyeol hasn’t heard Woohyun and Sunggyu yell in ages—not since Sunggyu started freezing Woohyun out. But still, he asks.

“Nah, it was really quiet,” Hoya says.

“They seemed very mature about it,” Sungjong adds suddenly. “I think they might have actually talked.” And then he smirks at Sungyeol, who raises a joking fist towards him.

“I think they seem okay,” Dongwoo says hopefully. “Maybe things will be better now.” He leans his head against Sungyeol’s shoulder, and Sungyeol realizes that Dongwoo’s probably been even more worried over Sunggyu and Woohyun’s rift than he was before about the one between Woohyun and Sungyeol. Dongwoo’s so very sensitive to the groups’ dynamics, always wanting everyone to be in harmony; the coldness between the two main vocalists is probably killing him.

“We should all just get along all the time so that we don’t worry Dongwoo-hyung,” Sungyeol says. “We should all feel guilty whenever we do.”

Dongwoo laughs at that, of course, and Hoya grins to see Dongwoo laugh, but Sungyeol is actually pretty serious. There are lots of reasons why the members should work through their issues, ranging from the way it affects their performances to just how annoying it is to live with someone you’re holding a grudge against. But maybe setting Dongwoo’s mind at rest is the most important reason.

“Does that mean you and Woohyun aren’t going to fight anymore?” Hoya asks. “Because that was ridiculous. I thought hyung was going to get ulcers,” he adds, nudging a still-giggling Dongwoo with his foot.

“I think we’re okay now,” Sungyeol says wryly, thinking of how he’d reassured Myungsoo earlier.

Sungjong snorts. “We’ll see about that.”

Sungyeol bares his teeth—probably it’s not very threatening when it shows more gums than teeth, but whatever—and Sungjong merely crosses his arms in response.

Myungsoo emerges from the bedroom and tells them all goodbye, a smile on his face for Sungyeol. And, feeling tentatively hopeful himself, Sungyeol settles in to spend the rest of the evening with the members.

(He doesn’t even look at Woohyun’s door. Much.)

Chapter Text

“No,” he thinks he hears Woohyun say from very far away. “No, you are not doing this.”

He’s pretty sure that’s Woohyun, anyway, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him away from where the other guys have gathered just off-stage now that the performance is over. He’s pretty sure that’s Sunggyu-hyung asking where they’re going, pretty sure Woohyun answers with something like, “I’m taking care of this. We’ll be back in a minute.” Pretty sure that the others are either looking at him in concern or taking extra care not to look at him at all. Pretty sure that he keeps almost stumbling as Woohyun pulls him along behind him down a side hall in the studio and around corners.

But he’s not entirely certain, because his mind isn’t here at all, it’s back on the stage.

He’s messed up the choreography before, fucked up his few lines in their songs pretty severely. But he’s never done both during the same performance. The shame was sharp after the first, but he’s not sure how he made it through the rest of the show after the latter, because everything after that is sort of hazy.

And yet it keeps playing in his head, over and over again, just all soft around the edges like it’s painted in watercolor instead of captured on film. He sees himself go the wrong direction, pull his arm up at the wrong time. Hears his voice crack and miss the note entirely. Over and over again. Over and over again.

“Are you listening to me? I said no.”

Woohyun flings a door open with a bang that shakes Sungyeol back into the present just long enough to be aware of Woohyun shoving him into a small conference room, flipping the light on, closing the door, and sticking a chair under the doorknob so that no one can get in. But then he gets pulled back in by the riptide of his own humiliation and there are his mistakes again. Over and over again.

“Wake the fuck up, Lee Sungyeol!”

Sungyeol slams down onto the top of the conference table and that brings him back to awareness pretty quick. He stares up at Woohyun, who has just thrown him down on the table and who is now looking down at him and scowling.

“What the fuck?” Sungyeol manages to stutter.

“You are not going to fall into your little black hole of self-pity, do you hear me?” Woohyun jabs a finger towards Sungyeol’s face. “You aren’t. You aren’t going to think about it ever again. It’s done and it’s over and you are going to forget about it, got it?”

The hysterical note to his laughter is so pronounced that Sungyeol can hear it himself. “Yeah, sure.”

“I’m serious. Do you want me to beat some sense into you? You cannot think about this. You have to keep your head here. Infinite needs you to do that.”

“Oh, please. Like I have anything to give Infinite. You’d be better off without me.”

Sungyeol is a crier. He’s always been a crier, tearing up at sentimental television commercials and moving moments—even if they’re other people’s moving moments that don’t have anything to do with him. He cries, too, sometimes, when he’s homesick and is reminded of how rarely he gets to see his mom and his dad and Daeyeol. But he almost never cries when he’s feeling worthless, as he is right now. It’s like his self-esteem is so low that it pulls him right down past the place where he might find some sort of release in tears and drags him into self-torture instead. Right now, he’s nowhere near tears. And now that the haze has gone, he sees his own failings all too clearly. Why the fuck do they keep him around?

Woohyun slams his hand against the table top, his voice cracking in frustration. “Stop saying things like that! Stop thinking it!”

“How can I not when I fuck things up like that?” Sungyeol shouts back.

“Everyone fucks up sometimes! We’ve all done it! Myungsoo falls flat on his ass all the time! I’ve missed notes before! It’s called being human! You’re not some sort of god that you get to act like a martyr when you make a mistake! No one will remember it tomorrow! And none of us care!”

“They wouldn’t remember it tomorrow if it was you or Myungsoo,” Sungyeol shoots back. “Because you’re hot and you can sing and Myungsoo is handsome and his name is L, and everyone will get distracted by that. But it’s me, and I don’t make up for it, so they’ll remember it. They always remember it when it’s me.”

“Well then they need to fucking get lives.”

Sungyeol has never, ever heard Woohyun say something like that about the fans. Not once. They all may call him greasy and label him as fake, but Woohyun’s gratitude towards their fans is absolutely sincere, even if the way he shows it doesn’t always come across that way. To hear him say something like that…well, in any other situation it would leave Sungyeol gobsmacked.

But not right now, when all he can see are his own failings. “I don’t blame them. I’d remember it too.”

Woohyun growls low in his throat and then his hands shoot out and he grabs Sungyeol by the collar, yanking him up close. “I told you to stop thinking about it,” he hisses, and before Sungyeol can retort, Woohyun’s lips are on his.

This is monumentally stupid. Maybe the stupidest they’ve ever been, and that’s saying something. Because that chair might be under the door, but they’re in a studio with hundreds of people wandering around just outside the door and the rest of the members know they’re together and—

“You’re thinking again,” Woohyun pants when they break apart to catch their breaths. “I told you to stop that.” More kissing then, tongue and teeth and heat, and Woohyun’s hands are sliding all over his body and Sungyeol knows he’s making those noises again.

“Someone’s going to find out—“ Sungyeol sputters when they come up for breath again, but Woohyun cuts him off again.

“No one’s going to find out.” And then Woohyun unbuckles Sungyeol’s belt and tugs down his pants.

There’s no teasing this time, just Woohyun’s mouth immediately, and Sungyeol’s head falls back against the table, hard enough to hurt, but he doesn’t even care because Woohyun’s mouth.

“What the fuck, Woohyun?” Sungyeol gasps, because did he mention that this is stupid? Hot, but stupid.

Woohyun lets him go with a wet plop. “You are not going to think about what happened on stage ever again, do you hear me?”

And then his mouth is back, sucking hard than before, and it’s so good Sungyeol’s pretty sure he’s gone cross-eyed. It takes him a moment to gather enough breath to ask, “This is you trying to distract me?”

Woohyun hums an acknowledgment, and the vibration is amazing. Sungyeol feels like the top of his head has fallen off and his brain is dribbling out. His fingers slide against the slick top of the table, searching desperately for something to hold onto, but there isn’t anything. Eventually his hands find their way to Woohyun’s hair, sliding through the sleek locks, and later he’ll be thankful that the stylist didn’t gel up his hair today. Now, though, all there is is the heat of Woohyun’s mouth and the texture of his hair under Sungyeol’s hands.

“Woohyun,” he hears himself whining, and Woohyun hums again, and it feels so fucking good that Sungyeol never wants him to stop, so he says his name again. “Woohyun!”

Later, he’ll realize he’s never said Woohyun’s name when they’re doing this. Because of course he hasn’t: if he did, he’d have to admit that this is a man, not a girl, getting him off, and that that man is Nam Woohyun, and he’s always been way too freaked out by that to actually face it. But it just doesn’t seem to matter right now, because it is Woohyun and it feels amazing and who cares about things like sexual orientation and relationships between bandmates when Woohyun can do this with his mouth?

Sungyeol stuffs his hand into his mouth and bites down hard when he comes. He can still feel Woohyun’s mouth around him, which means he must be swallowing, and just the thought makes his orgasm that much better. He lets his hand fall away as Woohyun climbs up onto the table beside him, and he makes some sort of strangled sound that makes Woohyun chuckle.

“Better?” Woohyun asks, stretching out beside him, their legs dangling off the end of the table.

“Huh?” Sungyeol’s brain isn’t working too well yet.

“Nothing else seems to matter as much right now, does it?” Woohyun asks, and it takes Sungyeol’s pleasure-clouded mind a moment to realize what he’s talking about.

But he’s right. He can still feel the burn of shame and inferiority, but it’s lost its edge, dulled now, whether because of how exhausted he always feels after Woohyun makes him come like that or because the memory of how good it felt hangs like a veil between this moment and the ones on stage. Either way, it isn’t as bad as it was, and Sungyeol thinks he might actually be able to sleep tonight.

“I—you’re a genius,” he manages to pant, and Woohyun laughs again.

“A genius who’s going to be walking funny for the rest of the night.”

Oh, that’s right. Sungyeol rolls over onto his side and reaches for the button of Woohyun’s pants, but Woohyun shoves his hands away. “We don’t have time for that. We have to get back right now.” He hops down onto the floor and grabs Sungyeol’s hand to drag him up beside him. Sungyeol feels guilty and a little awkward: they’ve always returned the favor for each other; if one of them gets off, the other does, too. That’s how this works. But Woohyun is smoothing his hair down and though he winces when he moves, he doesn’t look angry or upset or anything. Sungyeol bites his lip as he straightens himself up.

“Some idiot couldn’t keep his hands away from my hair,” Woohyun says, glaring, but his tone is light and not at all angry. “Do I look presentable?” he demands.

His lips are a little more swollen than usual, and Sungyeol opens his mouth to say so, but then he realizes his fingers are brushing against those lips and Woohyun is looking up at him with unreadable eyes. Sungyeol jerks his hand back, flushing. “Yeah,” he squeaks. “You look okay.”

“Well, you don’t,” Woohyun says, the moment shattered. “Re-tie your ponytail, you’re a mess. And tuck your shirt back in.”

Sungyeol hurries to obey, and then Woohyun removes the chair from under the doorknob, and they slip out into the hall.

Sungyeol feels more than a little bit dazed as he follows Woohyun back to the green room where the others are waiting, but it’s much better than that self-loathing haze he’d been floating in just a few minutes before. He wants to grab Woohyun by the shoulder, spin him around and demand that he tell him just why he’d think that ‘distracting’ him in that way was a good idea, but he doesn’t. Woohyun was right, as weird as that is, and Sungyeol feels a thousand times less tense than he did before.

“That took long enough,” Sunggyu says when they push the door open and walk into the room, but he turns his sharp gaze to Sungyeol. “Are you done falling apart now?”

Sungyeol jerks his shoulder in a shrug. “I’m fine,” he says, and the weird thing is, it’s pretty close to being true.

Sunggyu holds his gaze for a long moment, studying him with intensity as if gauging his honesty, then nods sharply as if satisfied. “Good. Work harder tomorrow,” he says, then turns to the others. “Let’s go, then.”

And that, Sungyeol realizes, is all Sunggyu is going to say to him. He feels pathetically grateful; he’s feeling much better than he was before thanks to Woohyun’s magical mouth, but he knows that he’d tumble right back into the black hole of his self-pity if Sunggyu tore into him.

Dongwoo sidles up to Sungyeol as they all start to file out of the room, and starts, “Are you—“

But then Woohyun takes a half-step forward and when Dongwoo glances at him, his eyes go wide and he immediately snaps his mouth shut. Looking a little flustered, he pats Sungyeol on the back and scurries away. Sungyeol blinks at him, confused, and then it registers that Woohyun must have shot their hyung some sort of warning look to get him to back off because he knew that the last thing Sungyeol needs right now is comfort.

Sungyeol turns to Woohyun to stare at him, but Woohyun just cocks an eyebrow. “What?”

Sungyeol shakes his head. “Nothing.” But it isn’t nothing. That was Woohyun being protective, and even though Sungyeol knows that it was probably just in repayment for his own protective moment against Sunggyu at practice a couple of days before, it still makes him feel strange—that Woohyun knew what he needed and stepped up.

He doesn’t have much time to dwell on that, though, because Myungsoo falls into step beside him as they head toward the van.

“Sungjong wants to get ice cream,” he says. “You should come too.”

Sungyeol doesn’t really feel like ice cream at the moment; really all he wants to do is shower and sleep. He’s about to open his mouth to say just that, but Woohyun cuts him off. “That sounds great. Let’s all go. I bet leader will treat.”

Dongwoo, who’d apparently overheard, perks up at the idea and bounces up to slide his arm into Sunggyu’s. “Hyung, can we?” he asks, and it never fails to make Sungyeol smile, how Dongwoo can sound like an eager little boy sometimes.

Sunggyu rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t pull away from Dongwoo—nobody ever pulls away from Dongwoo. “Fine,” he says. “I guess we could all use it. But it’s Namu’s turn to treat next time, and I won’t forget.”

There isn’t an ice cream shop where they can all go without creating a scene, so they stop by a convenience store on the way home and end up on the dark playground, abandoned this time of night. Geonam-hyung takes himself over to a bench to give them some alone time—within sight, but out of hearing. He’s good about that.

Dongwoo immediately clambers on top of the monkey bars and sits there perched with his legs dangling down, eating his ice cream messily while Hoya leans against the upright bars below. Sungyeol laughs to see him, then sits down on the merry-go-round, scooting back between the hand-bars to lean against the pole in the center. Myungsoo makes himself comfortable on another slice of the toy, and his arm brushes against Sungyeol’s.

“You seem pretty good,” Myungsoo says, licking his ice cream.

“Mmmm,” Sungyeol answers, savoring the coffee flavor of his own treat.

“What did Woohyun say to you?”

It’s nice here, in the dark, the sound of Dongwoo laughing not far away and traffic far away beyond that, the heat sticky but in that pleasant summer evening way, the ice cream so cold it makes his teeth ache. Myungsoo is close beside him and he’s still loose from earlier. “Stuff,” he says.

Myungsoo just absorbs that for a moment—or zones out, you never know with Myungsoo—then says, “Well, whatever it was, it must have been good.”

Sungyeol laughs, catching a drop of melting ice cream that’s sliding down his chin. “Yeah. It was good.”

And then Myungsoo drops it, and Sungyeol remembers all over again why Myungsoo is the greatest best friend ever. He isn’t afraid to ask, but he doesn’t pry either, and they can sit like this, comfortable in silence, and everything is okay.

Until, of course, Dongwoo finishes his ice cream, swings himself down from the monkey bars, and runs over to start pushing the merry-go-round around in circles. By the time Sungyeol manages to stumble off of it, he’s dizzy and has almost as much ice cream on his hand as he does on his cone, but it’s impossible to be mad at Dongwoo. Especially when he drags Sunggyu onto the merry-go-round beside him and demands that Hoya push them. Sungyeol watches as a very grumpy Sunggyu tolerates Dongwoo’s shrieks while Myungsoo holds on with a death grip to the bar.

It’s then that Sungyeol realizes that Woohyun and Sungjong haven’t joined in the fun, and something starts knotting up his stomach. It hadn’t even occurred to him to think about whether Sungjong had had a similar conversation with Woohyun as he had with Sungyeol after he found them together, but of course it makes sense that he would. If there’s anything Sungjong likes, it’s telling his hyungs that they’re wrong. But he also really does care about them, so if he’s as worried about the whole situation as he’s hinted, he probably would seek out Woohyun to try to ‘talk some sense into him’ since Sungyeol refuses to listen to him.

With a glance over his shoulder to make sure that the others are too caught up in playing around to notice he’s gone, he sneaks off to locate the two missing members. Since it’s so dark—there aren’t lights here in the park, since it isn’t supposed to be used at night, so the closest illumination is from the nearby streetlamps—he ends up hearing them instead of seeing them. They’re up in the little playhouse above the slide, it seems, and Sungyeol inches himself close to it, making sure to stay in the shadows so they won’t catch sight of him. He leans against a nearby tree, and though he still can’t see them, he can hear each word clearly.

“…please tell me you didn’t drag Sungyeol off earlier so that the two of you could do whatever it is you two do.” That’s Sungjong’s voice, disdainful as it usually is lately but with notes of actual worry and chastisement underneath that.

“Somebody had to distract him somehow. You know how he gets when he makes a mistake. It’s just confirmation to him that he’s worthless. You have to give him something else to focus on.”

Sungyeol shifts; Woohyun’s tone is straightforward enough, but it feels weird hearing himself talked about in those terms. Like he needs to be handled or something. He knows he talks like that about others himself—he’s had conversations with Hoya and Sunggyu about how to keep Dongwoo from getting hurt, and all of the hyungs have talked about how to keep from pissing off Sungjong. They use the exact same kinds of phrases, and it just means that they care. But Sungyeol had never realized that when people are saying those things about you, it almost makes you sound like you’re a pet to be trained or something.

Woohyun says, “Ow!” suddenly, and Sungyeol knows that means Sungjong hit him—probably upside the head.

“Hyung, that was incredibly stupid and irresponsible. We were at work. It’s on your own heads if you get caught by one of the others or the manager-hyungs when we’re at the dorm. But this was entirely different. You cannot put Infinite in danger like that. What if you’d been caught?”

“We weren’t going to get caught! I was very careful! God, Sungjong, don’t you have any respect for your elders? Going around hitting your hyung?”

Sungjong isn’t derailed by Woohyun’s teasing. “I’ll show respect when you stop acting like an idiot. I can’t believe you would do something like that. I know you can be immature, but you never are when it comes to Infinite. What were you thinking?”

There’s silence for a moment. “You saw his face,” Woohyun says. “You know what he was thinking, what he was doing to himself.”

“Yes, hyung, I know. We all know.”

“And you know comforting him doesn’t help, no matter how hard Dongwoo tries, and Sunggyu-hyung’s lectures just make it worse. Did you want to see him walk around like a zombie for the next two days? I swear his self-esteem gets lower every time he makes a mistake.”

Sungyeol can feel heat rising in his cheeks. He really shouldn’t be listening. He really, really shouldn’t be. He’s going to hate himself for this later (he kind of hates himself now).

“I know that, hyung, but—“

“No, Sungjongie, we can’t just let him do that to himself, and nothing we’ve ever tried to make him feel better has worked. You know how hard Myungsoo and Dongwoo work at figuring out a solution, but they’ve never come up with anything.”

Sungyeol almost gives himself away when he hears that, surprise making him almost trip over his feet despite the fact that he’d been standing still. But he hadn’t known that, about Myungsoo. That Myungsoo would try to figure out ways to make him feel better, and that he’d do it enough that the others knew about it. God, he isn’t good enough to his best friend. Even if they are awkward sometimes now, Myungsoo is really the best.

“So you thought, what, making out with him would distract him?” Sungjong’s tone is dry.

“No, that wouldn’t have been enough. But a blowjob sure did the job, didn’t it?”

“Hyung!” Sungjong’s voice goes shrill in his indignation, and Sungyeol can hear Woohyun chuckling even over the sounds the others are making back at the merry-go-round. “I do not need details! Never give me details!” Sungyeol wants to storm up there and stuff something in Woohyun’s mouth so that he never says anything like that again. God, he’s never felt so awkward in his life.

Once Sungjong settles down, he’s tone is back to sharp and preachy again. “It doesn’t matter that it worked, hyung. You should have waited till we got home.”

“Oh, yeah, that would have worked. I could have asked Dongwoo and Myungsoo if they’d kindly clear the room so that I could suck off Sungyeol to distract him from his mistakes because he thinks he’s useless. You’re totally right, Sungjongie, I should have tried that.”

And the awkwardness keeps intensifying. Sungyeol rubs a hand over his face, trying to convince himself to walk away, but not quite able to do it.

“Well, maybe if you two weren’t sneaking around—“

“Nobody needs to know about this.” Woohyun’s voice is sharp now. “This is between the two of us. And you now, apparently.”

Sungjong sighs. “Look, hyung, I appreciate the fact that you were trying to help him. I don’t blame you for trying—we’d all like to help him, even if none of the rest of us are willing to go…that far to do it.” The wryness of Sungjong’s voice makes Sungyeol feel like he’s going to melt in awkward embarrassment. “But you can’t do that in a public place again.”

“I know that,” Woohyun says, and he sounds more serious than he has in a long time. Sungyeol isn’t used to this tone—Woohyun usually veers between lighthearted and greasily sincere, with occasional stop-offs in anger, though Sungyeol knows there’s a lot more to his feelings than that. He just doesn’t like to show it. “I know it was stupid. It put Infinite at risk, and you’re right that we can’t do that anymore.”

“Good,” Sungjong says, sounding satisfied. “Now, if we can talk about you two talking—“

“Hey! Where did you three go?” It’s Hoya’s voice, sudden and loud from the direction of the merry-go-round, and it shocks Sungyeol into tripping over a tree root. He rights himself, only to realize that the last of his ice cream has melted all over his hand, leaving it sticky and gross. He staggers back towards the others, throwing his cone in the trash can, feeling the awkwardness and embarrassment choke him up. Fuck. He knew there was a reason he hated hearing people talk about him.

“There you are,” Dongwoo says, when Sungyeol nears the merry-go-round. “You missed all the fun! I thought hyung was going to throw up all over his shoes!”

“Oh, yeah,” Sungyeol says under his breath. “That sounds like loads of fun.”

“Where’d you go?” Myungsoo asks.

“Walk,” Sungyeol answers shortly, moving to sit down on the edge of the platform. His legs are a bit wobbly.

“What’s with your hand? How could you make such a big mess?” Myungsoo’s voice is amused, though, as he turns back to look at Sunggyu. “Hyung, do you have any napkins?”

“I told you kids to get some while we were at the store, but do you ever listen to me?” Sunggyu grumbles, but he hands over a few napkins. Myungsoo pulls out his water bottle and wets one of them, handing it over to Sungyeol. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Sungyeol mutters, cleaning off his hand as best he can.

“Did you see the other two?” Hoya asks. “Woohyun loves merry-go-rounds.”

“No,” Sungyeol answers shortly, and it isn’t a lie. He never actually saw them.

“Let’s go find them!” Dongwoo suggests, once again grabbing Sunggyu’s arm and dragging him off behind them, Hoya trailing with a laugh.

Sungyeol sighs once they’re gone, wiping at his now-damp hand with the dry napkin.

“I think more of that ended up on your hand than it did in your stomach,” Myungsoo observes.

“Yeah,” Sungyeol sighs, crumpling the napkin in his hand. He’s suddenly exhausted—it’s been a really long night. He lets his head fall onto Myungsoo’s shoulder, closing his eyes and trying to block things out.

“You okay?” Myungsoo still sounds amused, but also surprised, and Sungyeol can’t blame him; he isn’t one for skinship, usually. If anybody’s head ends up on anybody’s shoulder, it’s usually Myungsoo’s on Sungyeol’s, never the other way around. But right now Sungyeol feels such a weird tangle of emotions—the dulled but not disappeared shame about his performance earlier, the loose and satisfied feeling he always gets after Woohyun gets him off, embarrassment and self-consciousness and confusion from overhearing Woohyun and Sungjong’s conversation. Why is everything so complicated these days?

But he can’t talk about all that (even if, sometimes in his weaker moments, like this one, he kind of thinks it might be such a relief to just tell Myungsoo everything and beg him to help him figure everything out), so he just says, “Yeah,” and keeps his head on Myungsoo’s shoulder. He doesn’t even shrug Myungsoo’s arm off when it comes up around him. It’s nice, like this, the darkness and the quiet and Myungsoo. For once Myungsoo seems right here instead of so far away, and the emotional hurricane inside Sungyeol seems to die down just a little in this moment.

“Are you ready to go, or are you two having a moment?”

Sungyeol shoots upright at the sound of Woohyun’s voice. It’s dry and a little amused and a little something else Sungyeol can’t name, and at the sound of it, the hurricane kicks up to full power again.

His heart is pounding and his cheeks are red as he rises, but Myungsoo just says, “Is everyone else waiting? Yeah, we’re ready,” and walks over to Woohyun, falling into step beside him and starting a conversation about something else.

Sungyeol follows in their wake; he could catch up easily, but he doesn’t want Woohyun to look at him right now. Not when he’s feeling this strange. When the van is in sight, he shoots around them, and jumps in to squeeze himself into the first bench seat with Hoya and Sungjong, and he makes sure to be looking away when Woohyun and Myungsoo climb in to join Dongwoo in the back.

Sungjong reaches across Hoya to jab a finger into Sungyeol’s side. “You good?” he asks when Sungyeol looks over at him.

“Uh. Yeah,” Sungyeol says. Sungjong raises a skeptical eyebrow, but Sungyeol looks away. He stares out the window and tries not to think for the rest of the ride home.

Chapter Text

Sungyeol isn’t fully awake when he shuffles into the kitchen, mopping a hand over his face. He’s still in his pajamas, he has no clue what his hair is doing, but he’s not alert enough to care. He still feels like his head is stuffed full of cotton, but he isn’t going to fall asleep again, so he might as well be up.

Woohyun’s busy with pots and pans, slicing and dicing, and the smell coming from whatever he’s simmering (or boiling or sautéing whatever—Sungyeol doesn’t cook) is mouthwatering. He doesn’t look up when Sungyeol enters.

“What’re you making?” Sungyeol asks, voice sleep-roughened, and reaches out to pull the top off the pan to see what’s inside.

Woohyn smacks his hand away. “Don’t touch that. Why are you awake? You said last night when hyung told us we had the morning off that you were going to sleep till noon.”

Sungyeol leans back against the counter to watch Woohyun pour something into a pan without measuring, just eyeing it closely. “Hoya woke me up when he went out.”

Woohyun snorts, picking up a knife to chop up a tomato. “You are the lightest sleeper in the world. How could you hear the front door?”

“Dunno.” He snags a piece of tomato right out from under Woohyun’s hand, and Woohyun raises his fist in warning, looking up at Sungyeol for the first time since he entered.

“Stop stealing the food. It won’t be long till it’s done. And fix yourself, you’re hanging out of your shirt.”

Sungyeol looks down to see that his t-shirt, its neck huge from so many rewashings that it’s lost its shape, is hanging down so that his shoulder is totally bare. He adjusts the neckline, and when he glances up, Woohyun looks away hurriedly, bending over his cutting board and chopping diligently.

“It smells good,” Sungyeol offers.

“Of course it does, it smells amazing. Go get me the milk out of the fridge.”

Sungyeol obediently heads to the fridge and pulls out the milk jug, hands it over, then returns to his leaning position against the counter.

“Are you going to just watch me?” Woohyun asks, pouring the milk into another pan.

“Everyone else is still asleep.”

Woohyun sighs. “You can set up the table in a minute. But you might as well watch, you might learn something.”

Sungyeol doesn’t think he learns anything, not when Woohyun seems to be following no pattern he can discern. No recipe, no measuring of anything, just eyeing everything, tasting and adjusting, like the chefs do on TV. But there’s something really absorbing about watching someone who does something well do it well, Sungyeol has found. He likes to watch Hoya and Dongwoo dance, he’s always enjoyed watching Sungjong on the piano, and even Myungsoo with his nunchucks, as dorky as they are. And now Woohyun and cooking—because Woohyun does this really, really well, his hands moving confident and competent (and somehow just watching him reminds Sungyeol of what else those hands can do, and honestly the whole fooling around thing has ruined everything about Woohyun so that his brain automatically goes there no matter what Woohyun is doing), his face set with concentration. He asks Sungyeol to hand him things when he needs them, he shows off a few flourishes with his knives—“my hyung taught me that”—and he even lets Sungyeol taste and tell him if the flavor is right, holding the spoon to Sungyeol’s mouth, his other hand below it to catch any spills. It tastes as good as it smells.

By the time Woohyun sends him to set up the tables, the others have started stirring—well, at least Sungjong and Sunggyu have. Sungjong comes out fully dressed and put-together-looking, but he smiles widely when he sees Woohyun cooking, his cheeks creasing adorably.

“You should smile more, little boy,” Sungyeol says as he passes. His hands are full of glasses, so he kicks out lightly with his foot. “It won’t make anyone think you’re less manly.”

Sungong shoots him a glare, but grabs some glasses himself to help set the table. Sunggyu appears next, dressed in hideous pajamas and with his eyes even narrower than usual, as they always are right after he wakes up. He pauses in the kitchen doorway.

“That smells great,” he says. Woohyun glances up, nods sharply, then turns back to his cooking. Sunggyu watches him, though, for a long minute, and Sungyeol see something wistful in his eyes. It gives him that weird feeling again—like he’s seeing something he shouldn’t be seeing, but also because he doesn’t know how he feels about Sunggyu and how he treats Woohyun anymore.

Sunggyu finally turns away from Woohyun, and he catches Sungyeol watching him. Sungyeol jumps a little when their eyes make contact, flushing when Sunggyu holds his gaze, his eyes unreadable again. “Go wake up the sleeping princesses, Sungyeol,” the leader says after a moment, and though Sungyeol would usually protest being sent on an errand, he scurries off immediately, glad to escape having to think about Woohyun and Sunggyu’s relationship any longer.

He jumps on top of Myungsoo to wake him up, then drags Dongwoo off of the bed and onto the floor—it always takes something drastic to rouse those two. Neither of them is too thrilled about the idea of waking up, but when Sungyeol mentions that Woohyun’s been cooking and opens the door to let the smell in, they finally haul themselves upright.

Fifteen minutes later, they’re all around the tables in the living room, the food spread out in front of them and looking every bit as good as it smells.

“Hoya will be sad he missed this,” Dongwoo says, his eyes barely open even as he shovels food onto his plate.

“It’s his fault for deciding he wants to be a TV star,” Woohyun replies.

“He can have the leftovers,” Sungjong suggests.

“If there are any when this human garbage disposal is done,” Sunggyu says with a snort, watching as Myungsoo piles his plate high.

Sungyeol is too busy eating, because it tastes even better than it looks. He hasn’t had a meal like this in forever, and he’d say it’s like his mom’s home cooking, except it’s honestly even better than what she makes.

“This is the best food I’ve ever had,” Dongwoo says around a mouthful. “Nam-goon, you’re a genius.”

Woohyun is eating slowly, seeming to enjoy watching them scarf everything down more than he does eating himself. “Sungyeol helped.”

Sungyeol snorts. “I did not. I just handed him stuff.”

“That’s how I used to help Boohyun,” Woohyun points out.

Sungyeol laughs. “I bet you had to stand on a stool to reach the counter.”

Woohyun pouts. “He’s only two years older.”

“That was a joke about your height, shorty, not your age.”

“And here I was trying to give you credit. Do you ever want to eat anything I cook again?”

You cook? I thought you said I helped. Are you trying to take that back?”

“I was being overly generous. Let me rephrase: Sungyeol got in my way and annoyed me while I was cooking.”

“You were getting too proud of yourself. Someone has to remind you that you’re only human.”

“My cooking skills are like my abs and my voice: supernatural.”

“Oh, God, you’ve been reading too much about UFOs again, haven’t you?”

“Whatever, you believe in aliens, too!”

“How can I not, when I live with evidence of inhuman lifeforms right in front of my eyes every day? What planet did you say you were from?”

“The one that’s furthest from whichever one you’re from.”

“Are you two going to do this through the whole meal?” Sungjong interrupts suddenly, arching a brow.

Sungyeol blinks at him, then realizes he’s stopped eating and has been grinning at Woohyun as the two of them bantered. Sungjong has a very knowing look on his face, so Sungyeol scowls at him and turns back to his meal.

He eats in silence for the rest of the meal, only glancing up once at Woohyun, who just grins at him around a mouthful of food. It makes his cheeks look bigger than usual; it’s kind of endearing.

After they’re finished eating—and Sunggyu was right; there aren’t any leftovers—they all pitch in to help clean up. Except for Woohyun, who insists that as the chef he doesn’t to help. No one argues with him, of course, but Sungyeol rolls his eyes at him as he lays back on the couch, arms behind his head, occasionally shouting instructions.

“Are we doing this to your satisfaction, your majesty?” Sungyeol asks, walking into the kitchen with an armful of plates.

“Everything should be spotless and shining when you’re done, slaves. Get to it!”

“Aish!” Sungyeol raises a threatening fist, but goes back to cleaning while Woohyun laughs behind him.

Soon enough it’s just Sungyeol and Sunggyu in the kitchen, and even Woohyun has wandered off to take a shower or something. The two of them finish up in silence; Sungyeol finds it even harder than usual to talk to Sunggyu these days.

“Do you have something you want to say to me, Sungyeol?”

The question comes out of nowhere and leaves Sungyeol blinking. “Uh. What?”

Sunggyu puts the last clean glass in the cabinet and crosses his arms as he faces him. “You’ve been giving me looks a lot, like you have something to say to me. If you do, you should get it out now.”

Sungyeol honestly hadn’t noticed that he was doing that, though he supposes he has been. He’s certainly been paying more attention to Sunggyu than usual, at least in how he treats Woohyun. And probably his confusion has made him make faces, yeah. But it’s not like he can come right out and ask what he’s wondering.

“Why are you such a jerk to Woohyun all the time?”

And yet, there come the words. He snaps his mouth shut as soon as they’re out, wincing a bit; he hadn’t meant to say that.

Sunggyu’s face goes stony, but he doesn’t flare in anger. “And how is that any of your business?”

He’s right, though somehow it feels like Sungyeol’s business, even if it isn’t. “Group dynamics, and all that,” he says lamely and shrugs awkwardly when Sunggyu gives him a skeptical look.

“I apologized to him for being too harsh the other day, and I did in front of all you on purpose, since you’d all seen me cross the line. When else have I been unfair to him?”

Sungyeol wants nothing more than to run far away from this conversation, but Sunggyu isn’t the type to let things go once he’s started, so he racks his brain. And the truth is, Sunggyu really hasn’t been unfair to him, except when he gets mad about too much fanservice, and that isn’t exactly unfair, not when Woohyun really does take things too far. “Not unfair, exactly,” he says, the words feeling strange in his mouth. “Just cold. Really cold.”

Sunggyu shifts his jaw, and though his face is still set, the gesture looks uncomfortable. “And again I ask: how is that any of your business?”

“I’m just concerned, okay?” Sungyeol answers helplessly. He didn’t want to have this conversation in the first place. “It really hurts him.”

Sunggyu studies him again for a long moment, and Sungyeol has to look away under the force of his gaze. “You and Woohyun have gotten pretty close, haven’t you?”

Well, Sungyeol definitely wouldn’t phrase it like that. And yet he can’t exactly argue, not with as much time as they’ve been spending together, even if they’re too busy fooling around to bond. “I guess.”

“Have you noticed me being particularly cold to him since I apologized the other day?”

Sungyeol thinks about it, and oh. Well, no he hasn’t. He hasn’t been friendly and close the way he used to be when he and Woohyun seemed to be in their own little world that they carried around that didn’t have room for anyone else. But he hasn’t seemed particularly cold, either. Still. “But you used to be best friends, hyung.”

“Friendships change. They can’t always stay the same even if we want them to.” Sunggyu’s voice is flat, but once again he has that wistful, longing look in his eyes for just the briefest of moments. Then it’s gone. “Woohyun gives everything to this group. Infinite can only hope to one day deserve all he gives it. He works hard and makes sacrifices and turns himself into what the fans want him to be. He’s the only person I would ever trust to lead you if I couldn’t. But he is also immature in a lot of ways, and he doesn’t always know how to protect himself. You know what I mean?”

Struck dumb by his hyung’s words, Sungyeol can only nod. Because yes, he knows exactly what Sunggyu means.

Sunggyu nods, too. “So sometimes we have to protect him ourselves, even when it hurts him, because we know it will hurt him less in the long run.”

Sungyeol feels tears welling up inside him, accompanied by an urge to scream. No. It doesn’t have to be this way. There has to be another way. “But, hyung—“

“This is the way it is,” Sunggyu interrupts. “I will try always to be fair to him, and if I’m not, I hope you all will tell me. Just not the way you told me before.”

A few tears slip out at Sunggyu’s flash of humor, and Sungyeol wipes them away. “But hyung—“

“We’ll have this conversation again when this is really your business, okay, Sungyeol? Until then, remember that it isn’t.” And then he pats Sungyeol on the shoulder and leaves. Sungyeol leans against the counter just as he had earlier when he watched Woohyun, but now he’s not feeling relaxed and at home like he did earlier. Now he just feels crushed inside.

Dongwoo shoots up off the bed when he sees Sungyeol’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, hyung. It’s nothing.”

Dongwoo doesn’t look like he believes him, and Myungsoo, who’s sorting through clothes in the corner, looks at him worriedly, too.

“Are you sure?” Dongwoo asks. “You’re crying, Sungyeol.”

“I was crying,” Sungyeol corrects. “I’m not anymore. And it’s nothing. I’m going to take a shower, okay?”

He can feel their eyes on him as he turns away, but what could he possibly say to them? He feels like his heart has been scraped over a rocky place, leaving it raw and throbbing. Why is everything so fucked up? Why do people have to hurt the people they care about all the time? Why does life have to be so fucking hard?

He cranks the heat on the water up until it’s so hot he can barely stand it. The sting of it doesn’t do nearly as much as he’d like to distract him, but he stays in there until the room fills up with steam, bracing his arms against the wall with his head bowed, but not crying, wet hair plastered to his face and neck, trying not to think about everything.

Maybe Sungjong is right. Maybe if Sunggyu sat Woohyun down and actually said, “I know you have feelings for me, and I don’t return them, so maybe we should stay apart from each other for a while until they go away,” maybe if he had just said that to him from the beginning, things wouldn’t be like they are now. But it’s too late for that, and all that’s left is everybody being in pain.

He doesn’t want to stay in the bedroom with Dongwoo and Myungsoo’s concerned eyes, so after he quickly pulls on some clothes, he emerges out into the living room.

Woohyun is there, sprawled out on the sofa again, this time with the TV on. “You look like a lobster,” he says when he looks up to see Sungyeol. “Were you trying to scald your skin off?”

Sungyeol just shrugs, heading to the entry hall to grab a pair of shoes from the pile.

“Where are you going?” Woohyun asks, sounding only half-interested.

“Walk,” Sungyeol answers shortly, suddenly wishing the puppies were still with them. It would be nice to have them with him, tugging at the end of the leash, being adorable and carefree and reminding him that there are some creatures in this world that aren’t all tangled up in stupid fucking heartbreak.

He hears Woohyun flipping through the channels behind him, and before he can let himself think about it, he asks, “You coming?”

He doesn’t look back over his shoulder, but somehow he knows that Woohyun is blinking at him in surprise. Sungyeol can’t really blame him; it’s the first time since they started their thing that he’s made a move to spend time with Woohyun that doesn’t involve clothes removal. He doesn’t know why exactly he asked, feels kind of stupid for doing it, but he remembers how Woohyun avoided Sunggyu’s eyes this morning even when their hyung was complimenting him, and the memory makes something clench inside him. Sungyeol keeps his head bent over the shoes he’s tying—taking more time than is strictly necessary to complete the task—his hair still damp against his cheeks. After a long moment, he hears the TV click off, then Woohyun walking over to the shoe pile.

Woohyun pulls on his own shoes in silence, and they take the elevator down the same way. It isn’t till they’ve slipped out the back door and out of the range of fangirls that Woohyun reaches out and tugs on Sungyeol’s hair where it’s hanging loose.

“You seem down all of a sudden.” It isn’t a question, and it just sounds mildly curious, but honestly Sungyeol appreciates that. It’s better than the weight of Myungsoo and Dongwoo’s concern.

He just shrugs, shoving his hands into his pockets. “You want coffee?”

“Not really,” Woohyun answers. “But I’ll sit there while you drink it.”

They end up at the same table where Sungyeol had sat with Myungsoo a few days before, Sungyeol slouched down in his chair, Woohyun playing with his phone. Sungyeol downs his coffee quickly, relishing the heat of it against his mouth and throat, then playing with the to-go cup it came in. He rips it to small pieces, turns the lip into a bracelet, and is extracting the perfect circle of the bottom when Woohyun speaks.

“So did you invite me to come with you just so I could watch you destroy that cup? Because I gotta say—there’s not much on TV this time of day, but it’s probably at least mildly more entertaining than this.”

Sungyeol doesn’t look up, still shredding the cup. “Did you and Sunggyu-hyung talk after he apologized to you last week?”

Woohyun is quiet for so long that Sungyeol ends up glancing up at him. He looks a little confused, a lot taken aback. “This really isn’t any of your business,” Woohyun says finally, but his voice isn’t sharp at all, more perplexed, really.

“I know that.” He rips off another piece of cup. “Did you?”

Silence again. Then: “Yeah.” But he sounds guarded this time, like he’s not sure how much he wants to give away.

“So he’s been…better to you since then?”

Again he glances up through his eyelashes, just for a second. Woohyun has his head cocked to the side, and he looks like he’s tensing up. “Remember how I just said this wasn’t any of your business?”

“Because earlier hyung said that—“

“Wait.” Woohyun’s voice snaps like a whip, jerking Sungyeol’s head up to look at him. “You talked to him?”

Sungyeol swallows; he does not like the look in Woohyun’s eyes right now. “Not really. Just how he keeps being a jerk to you and—“

Woohyun’s fist smashes down onto the tabletop. “Are you completely incapable of minding your own business?”

He’s loud, too loud, and Sungyeol can see the other patrons glancing over at them, and a few staring outright. They can’t do this here. He jumps to his feet, reaches out and grabs Woohyun by the arm. Woohyun tries to jerk away, but Sungyeol digs his fingernails into his skin and starts dragging him towards the door. They only get a few steps before Woohyun gets himself under control enough to put an attempt at a pleasant expression on his face, and this time when he pulls away, Sungyeol lets him go. They walk side by side out of the shop, Woohyun smiling a really fake smile, and as soon as the door is closed behind them, Woohyun grabs Sungyeol and swings him around the corner into a narrow alley.

“What the fuck makes you think you can go around butting into other people’s business!” Woohyun explodes.

“He started it!” Sungyeol’s voice cracks as he tries to defend himself. “He was the one who wanted to talk to me!”

“What the fuck does that matter? Can’t you ever learn to keep your giant mouth closed?”

“You didn’t seem to mind so much the other day when I called him a prick in front of all the others!”

Woohyun’s hands are all knotted up in fists, and he’s leaning forward with tension, like he’s going to punch Sungyeol at any moment. “That was completely different! You could have done that for any of the members! And I told you after—“

“No, you didn’t tell me anything at all! You just said something cryptic! Like you always do!”

“Well, excuse me for assuming that you might actually be smart enough to figure out what I was talking about!”

“I never have any idea of what you’re talking about! You never actually say anything!”

“What on earth would make me think that I actually needed to tell you that you needed to butt out of my business? Are you that thick that you can’t figure that out for yourself?”

“I was trying to help!”

“I don’t give a fuck! I don’t need your help!”

“But you think I needed yours after I messed up the other day?”

They stare at each other, panting for a few moments. Woohyun’s anger doesn’t disappear, but something in his eyes shift. “That was different.” His voice is still harsh. “You could have left at any time. You can always leave at any time. You always have a choice. I don’t have one when you go behind my back.”

Well. That’s…actually a really good point. Sungyeol has no idea how to react to it, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because Woohyun continues. “Besides, that was just you and me.”

And suddenly all of Sungyeol’s fury is back. “Yeah, you treating me like I’m a pathetic baby who needs someone to take care of him.” The conversation with Sungjong is back in his head, blaring in surround-sound.

“That’s because you act like a pathetic baby whenever you mess up.”

Sungyeol is a half a second away from punching him now. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. You are so fucking blind—you can’t even see that the thing that’s holding you back is your own lack of confidence.”

“I don’t have any confidence because I don’t have any talent, you idiot.”

“I have told you before that you’re not nearly as bad as you think you are, and confidence totally doesn’t have to have anything to do with talent.”

“So where does it come from, then? It just appears out of thin air?”

“You fake it, idiot! You fake it until you start to believe it yourself! If you pretend long enough, you’ll start to believe it yourself! And even if you don’t, you call yourself an actor—make other people believe it!”

“Oh, you’d know all about being fake, wouldn’t you?”

It’s a low-blow, but Sungyeol can’t help it, and Woohyun just rolls his eyes. “Don’t even start that with me. A few weeks ago you were all, ‘Oh, Woohyun, you’re the best idol ever, everyone loves you!’”

If Sungyeol’s cheeks hadn’t already been flushed with anger, they would be turning red now. “I didn’t say anything like that!”

Woohyun scoffs. “Sure you didn’t.”

“Oh, like you didn’t say that I look way more like an idol and that my life is so easy!” And then Sungyeol’s mouth snaps shut, because he hadn’t realized until this moment what that argument had really been about. He hadn’t thought much about it afterwards, both because what came afterwards was way more enjoyable to think about (they’ve had some pretty hot encounters, but that was one of the hottest) and also because Woohyun had touched on too many of his tender spots. But now it hits him that that argument had been totally ridiculous: that they’d been basically yelling out loud all the things they admired about each other, and tearing themselves down at the same time, trying to make each other look better in comparison. He’d said right out loud things he’d only ever thought, about Woohyun’s body, about his talent. And Woohyun had hurled compliments right back with all the intensity of insults.

Woohyun thinks I look like a model. And that I’m funny.

Something almost too hot to stand—but that has nothing to do with lust at all—starts climbing up through his torso at the thought, but it doesn’t make it far because Woohyun is still caught up in the current argument, not remembering the old one like Sungyeol is.

“Because it could be, you idiot, if you’d only let it!”

Wait, what? Oh, his life could be easy. Sungyeol can’t believe he’s going there. Pot, kettle, all that. The hypocrisy tugs him back into the fight. “Well, yours could be a lot easier if you and Sunggyu ever actually talked to each other!”

“And again I say—that is absolutely none of your business!”

“Well, excuse me for looking out for a friend!”

“Don’t even try to turn it around like that! Do you want me going and talking to Myungsoo about why you two can’t ever seem to decide whether you’re as close as ever or super awkward together?”

No!” The thought makes his chest tighten in panic.

“Then don’t you dare talk to Sunggyu about me ever again!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

The sound of their heavy breathing mixes with the sound of traffic in the street beyond, and Sungyeol slumps back against the rough brick of the building, avoiding Wohoyun’s eyes. Woohyun stares out to the open end of the alley, body still tense, and they stay like that for a while, not looking at each other, hearts slowing to a normal pace, the sounds of the city filling the alleyway. Sungyeol can still smell the scent of coffee from the shop, but it’s accompanied by the stale garbage-y smell of the alley, and the mixture is terrible.

“I’m going back,” Woohyun finally says shortly, and maybe he shoots a glance at Sungyeol as he does. There’s this weird moment of hesitation and then he’s gone, striding down the alley and disappearing around the corner.

Sungyeol pushes himself off the wall after a moment, not straightening to his full height but sort of slouching the way he does when he feels like shit like this. He wanders around the neighborhood for a while, trying not to think about all the things he can’t help but think about, putting off going home for as long as he can.

Chapter Text

He and Woohyun don’t really talk much for a while after that. It isn’t avoiding, exactly, and it’s nothing like the tense, cold fury that sparked between them after their fight in the closet. It’s just…not talking. And also not fooling around together, either. Sungyeol starts to feel a bit on edge again, jumpy, and maybe it’s because he’s not getting off anymore, and maybe it’s because he has no idea what to do with his scraps of free time (what did he used to do before he’d sneak off with Woohyun? He can’t even remember, finding himself just standing in the middle of the room, bored and unsure of what to do next. It kind of freaks him out, honestly—they haven’t even been doing this for that long, how could it have become such a part of his schedule? And yet it undeniably is), or maybe it’s because he—weirdly—misses Woohyun. Not just the physical stuff, though of course he misses that—going from getting off every few days to absolutely no sexual contact, cold turkey, isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world—but just Woohyun. It’s close to the way he misses Myungsoo whenever they’re being awkward with each other, like things aren’t quite right without his best friend. He isn’t used to feeling that way about Woohyun, isn’t used to feeling that way about anyone who isn’t Myungsoo. But the feeling is there.

“Did you two fight again?” Myungsoo kicks his ankle as they’re waiting to go on stage (it doesn’t occur to Sungyeol until much later that Myungsoo doesn’t actually specify who he thinks that Sungyeol has fought with and yet there was only one person he could possibly mean. When he does realize that, he tries not to think about it, because he doesn’t like the idea that Woohyun is taking up that much space in his life). “You said you weren’t going to do that anymore.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Sungyeol protests, because it wasn’t. They weren’t trying to be cruel to each other this time. This was the kind of fight friends have, except that it has consequences that fights between friends never do (Sungyeol misses Woohyun’s mouth and hates himself for it. Misses the feeling of skin on skin and the way his mind goes blank with pleasure. His own hand just isn’t the same anymore, no matter how much porn he watches).

“Dongwoo-hyung would say you should just apologize and get it over with,” Myungsoo says, tugging at the hem of his shirt.

“I know.” Dongwoo doesn’t seem to have noticed the rift this time, probably because they’re both acting like adults instead of angry children. Frankly, Sungyeol is a little surprised that Myungsoo noticed.

Myungsoo doesn’t say anything else after that, because of course he doesn’t, but Sungyeol sulks a bit as he waits. He will apologize, he really means to this time, because, yeah, it was probably stupid to have that conversation with Sunggyu, especially considering he wouldn’t want Woohyun to talk to Myungsoo about him. Not that Woohyun wasn’t a jerk about it, because he totally was. But this isn’t like before; it doesn’t feel like a battle someone’s going to win. Sungyeol hates awkward things, and so he’s definitely going to apologize. He just…hasn’t found the right time to do it yet.

As they climb up the steps to the stage, he accidentally meets Woohyun’s eyes. He doesn’t glare or scowl, nor does he look away immediately. Instead, he just looks at Sungyeol for a moment, then turns away. Sungyeol doesn’t remember much of the performance afterwards.

--

That night, Dongwoo treats them to chicken, and they sit around in the living room eating too much and drinking soju. Sungyeol can’t help it; he watches Woohyun while trying to look like he’s not watching, and notices that Woohyun only eats one piece and that he’s drinking slower than any of the rest of them. The memory of their fight in the gym— Do you know the last time I got to eat as much as I actually wanted in a meal?—burns more than the soju, and he guiltily eyes the box. He’s already had three pieces, but he really wants another. But Woohyun is sitting there chewing on his chopsticks, and he can’t possibly have eaten as much as he’d like and—

A foot kicks the box closer to him. He’d been staring at it, and the movement jars him out of his thoughts. He looks up to find that Woohyun is looking at him with exasperation on his face. When their gazes meet, Woohyun rolls his eyes and kicks the box again. Sungyeol flushes as it bumps against his knee, but Woohyun obviously knew exactly what he was thinking. Sungyeol ducks his head and takes another piece of chicken. When he glances up again through his eyelashes, Woohyun just shakes his head at him and Sungyeol’s blush darkens.

“Well, that was one of our more awkward interviews,” Hoya says, punctuating the comment with a burp.

Sungyeol can’t help but laugh around his mouthful of chicken. He swallows and nudges Sungjong, sitting beside him, with his elbow. “No kidding. I think that MC was in love with Sungjong. She really enjoyed your dance, kid. I thought she was going to start drooling right there.”

The others all laugh, but Sungjong just rolls his eyes. “Noonas always love me,” he says.

“Not as much as they love me,” Woohyun interjects around his chopsticks.

“In your dreams, greasy one,” Sungjong says, and this is going to devolve into a fight over whose aegyo is better in about two seconds, so Sungyeol interrupts.

“She wasn’t so much a noona as she was an ahjumma.”

Dongwoo dissolves into giggles, slumping against a grinning Hoya’s shoulder. Sungjong’s porcelain skin takes on a decidedly rosy hue, whether from embarrassment or anger Sungyeol doesn’t care. “That’s not even true, hyung.”

“It totally is!” Woohyun crows. Sungyeol glances over at him again and sees that he’s laughing almost as hard as Dongwoo, his chopsticks now removed from his mouth and tapping against his lips.

Sungyeol feels his own grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I think she wanted to take you home.” He slides closer to Sungjong, raises his voice and octave and tries for breathy. “’Oh, Sungjongie-baby, you’re so precious. I want to pinch your flawless little cheeks and do dirty things with you!’” All the guys are laughing now, except for Sunggyu, whose mouth is twitching even as he shakes his head in his typical grumpy way, but Woohyun’s laughing the loudest (or maybe it’s just that he’s the one Sungyeol’s listening for). He bats his eyelashes and makes some feminine gestures. “’Come live with me and be my boy toy!’”

Sungjong shoves him away. “That’s not funny, hyung!” His face is knotted up in fury, but Sungyeol can’t stop now.

“You should really look into it, you know. I bet she’s pretty loaded. I’m sure she could keep you in the manner to which you’re accustomed. I mean, you might have to wear a little outfit or something, but it might not be a bad gig for you if we ever disband. I bet she’d just love to spoil you.”

Woohyun is laughing so hard now that he’s doubled over, his eyes practically disappearing. The chopsticks have dropped to the floor. Sungyeol’s grin is so wide that it almost makes his face muscles ache.

“God, hyung, I said that’s not funny.” Sungjong shoots to his feet, and it’s clear to anyone that he’s about to stomp off, but Sunggyu grabs the hem of his cardigan.

“Okay, that’s enough of that,” the leader says, tugging Sungjong back down. “Who can blame her for admiring our Sungjongie? She’ll never see anyone prettier. But he’ll be in great demand if he ever needs to look for a different job, everyone in the entertainment industry loves him; he won’t need to stoop to that. He’ll be raking in money while the rest of us are begging on the streets.”

Sungjong crosses his arms as he sits down beside their leader, and his face is all screwed up, almost like he’s thinking of crying. Sungyeol would feel bad, maybe, except that he can’t hear his own conscience over the sound of Woohyun still laughing.

Sungjong sulks through the rest of the meal, despite Myungsoo grabbing his face to try to coax him to smile, but Sungyeol is too busy goofing off to care much. By the time they rise to throw away the boxes and the empty soju bottles, Sungyeol feels keyed up (and he’s stopped even trying to pretend like he wasn’t just trying to make Woohyun laugh). Myungsoo drags Sungjong off somewhere to take pictures of him—Sungjong loves being admired, and that’ll cheer him up, Sungyeol knows. Sunggyu decides to go over to the studio, and Hoya and Dongwoo head to the practice rooms, talking about some new choreography they’re developing.

Woohyun ties up the garbage bag and takes it over to sit by the front door so that the next person going out can dispose of it. Sungyeol stands in the middle of the floor, shifting nervously. When Woohyun makes to pass him by, he reaches out and grabs his sleeve. Woohyun looks up at him expectantly, and Sungyeol swallows hard.

“I’m sorry,” he says, the words feeling too big to squeeze out of his throat. “I won’t—“ I won’t intrude anymore, I won’t stick my nose in your business, I won’t worry about things that aren’t my concern. “I won’t.”

Woohyun just looks at him for a moment (and maybe Sungyeol’s throat keeps getting tighter and tighter), then he rolls his eyes and grabs Sungyeol by the arm. “Come on.”

Woohyun locks the door to his bedroom behind them, and then pushes Sungyeol up against the door—not hard; Sungyeol’s back just barely bumps against the wood. And then Woohyun’s hands are back in Sungyeol’s hair (where they belong) and Woohyun’s lips are under Sungyeol’s, and yes.

Sungyeol sighs into Woohyun’s mouth (he can still taste the soju), his hands gripping Woohyun’s hips. They aren’t kissing fast and desperate like they do most of the time, but it isn’t exactly slow and tender, either (which is a good thing, because that would freak Sungyeol the fuck out). It’s just…comfortable but still good, still hot, and Sungyeol decides to try something, something that has been lurking in the back of his mind for a while now.

This is my friend Woohyun. This isn’t a girl, or an anonymous body. This is Woohyun, who sings in the shower even if it’s five in the morning and who loves to cook but doesn’t get to do it very often and who can seem like a bully when he gets too caught up in the moment and who thinks it’s his responsibility to make each and every fan happy. This is Woohyun, who seems so much bigger than he really is and who wears lifts because he’s insecure about his height and who forces his body to look the way it does because he thinks he has to. This is Woohyun, who can’t show his pain or tiredness or impatience when anyone outside the band could possibly see it, not ever, because he thinks it’s his job to always smile.

The thoughts don’t make him feel panicked or disgusted as he thought they might—as they definitely would have once. They’re just there.

Sungyeol whimpers a little as Woohyun presses closer, his body pinning Sungyeol the door. The height difference is enough that Sungyeol’s neck is craned a little uncomfortably, but not enough that he wants to pull back. He slides his hands up Woohyun’s bare arms, taking in the warm skin and the hardness of his biceps, bumping over the cotton of his t-shirt sleeves and then up to his shoulders. Under Sungyeol’s hands, Woohyun feels strangely small: not delicate, of course, because he’s not that. It’s just that from a distance (even just a few feet away, much less through a camera lens), his sculpted body seems to take up so much more room than Sungyeol is discovering it really does—there’s not as much of him as you’d expect, though what there is is muscle, angled and masculine. There’s just so much packed into such a small body. A question drifts up lazily: if Woohyun stopped killing himself working out, what would his body be like? Even smaller than it is now, maybe.

Woohyun’s lips slide down from Sungyeol’s to mouth at his collarbones and Sungyeol makes some sounds he should probably be embarrassed by but somehow isn’t. It’s all so much, sharp and here and now (and fucking hell he’s missed this). He finds himself yanking at the bottom of Woohyun’s shirt, and Woohyun makes an amused noise as Sungyeol drags it off. He pulls off his own shirt immediately, too, and in the split second before his lips seek out Woohyun’s again, their eyes catch. Woohyun’s are hazy but bright at the same time, his eyelids somehow seem thicker, and the sight sends a fresh bolt of lust through Sungyeol. He pushes Woohyun towards the bed (and right now it doesn’t seem to matter at all that it’s Sunggyu’s bed. It’s just a bed, it could be any bed in the world).

They kiss for a long time, tangled up on the bed, and it’s the first time that this hasn’t felt rushed. Always before there was this driving need to go fasterfasterfaster, whether it was because they didn’t have but a few minutes or because they thought they’d get caught or just because of the tsunami heat of lust dragging them along. This isn’t lazy, exactly, not like they have all the time in the world, but more like they have just enough. And the jittery energy Sungyeol has always felt whenever Woohyun touches him (that he suspects has been more about self-consciousness than anything else) has slipped away too.

They finally strip away the last of their clothes, and after that it’s hands and tongues and taking turns.

They get dressed pretty quickly afterwards, because the others could come back at any moment, but even after he’s pulled his shirt back on and tied his hair back again, Sungyeol doesn’t feel any pull to leave. This would be the moment—was the moment, every time before this—where he’d feel the need to awkwardly get away as soon as possible, unsure of just how to end this encounter (because it’s always felt, in the past, that his fooling around with Woohyun has nothing to do with the rest of their lives, that it’s something apart and different, and he’s never sure how to transition back into regular life afterwards). Woohyun settles back onto the bed, pulling out his laptop and opening it. For the first time, Sungyeol starts to feel a bit awkward—is that his cue to leave? But he doesn’t really want to. So he sits down on the bed, too, not quite next to Woohyun, but their knees are touching and Sungyeol doesn’t pull away.

“Have you seen this video yet?” Woohyun asks suddenly. “Kibum sent it to me last night—it’s hilarious. It’s gonna go viral, I’m telling you.”

It’s an invitation, sort of, and Sungyeol takes it, scooting over so he can see the screen. The video is really funny, in that stupid-video-on-the-internet way, and Key is usually right about things taking off, so probably it will have twenty-three million hits by next week. Sungyeol laughs with Woohyun, but maybe that laughter has as much to do with the fact that things finally seem sort of right between them. For the first time it really does feel like they’re friends who just happen to be fooling around, like Sungjong had said, instead of bandmates who were caught up in something confusing. It’s such a relief.

They lounge around for a while, trading off showing ridiculous videos they remember seeing, and it just feels so normal. When they hear Sungjong’s voice call out in the entry way, Woohyun closes the computer. “I’m going to take a shower,” he says, and that’s that.

Myungsoo smiles when he sees Sungyeol coming out of the bedroom. “What were you two doing?”

“Watching stupid videos. Get him to show you the one Key sent him, it’s great,” Sungyeol answers. Myungsoo grins and nods and then heads into their own room to put away his camera.

Sungyeol stops Sungjong before he can head off to his own room. “Uh, about earlier,” he starts, scratching at his neck.

Sungjong cocks his hip, crossing his arms and looking expectant. “When you were being a jerk?” he asks archly.

Sungyeol snorts. “Yeah. I know it pissed you off. Sorry. I wasn’t really thinking about it making you uncomfortable.”

Sungjong rolls his eyes. “Of course you weren’t,” he says tartly. “You weren’t thinking of me at all. You were only thinking of Woohyun.”

Sungyeol’s mouth drops open at that, because—what?

“Oh, don’t even try to deny it, hyung. You could have been making a six-year-old girl cry her eyes out and you wouldn’t have stopped, not once you saw Woohyun laughing like that.”

Sungyeol sputters, but Sungjong holds up a hand. “I’m glad you two are friends or whatever, but you should really remember what I said about liking him too much.” And then he spins on his heel and flounces off.

“Are you trying to catch flies?”

At Myungsoo’s voice, Sungyeol’s mouth snaps shut. He looks over at where his friend is emerging from the bedroom, his face amused.

“What?”

“Your mouth was hanging open like one of those clowns whose mouth you try to throw a ball into at the fair,” Myungsoo says, dropping down onto the floor and grabbing the remote. “Did you see a ghost?” Sungyeol is about to answer, but Myungsoo just grins wider. “No, you’d have screamed if that was it.”

Sungyeol shakes his head, trying to jar his thoughts loose. Sungjong is way off-based, for once, and it would be stupid to dwell on what he said. “I’m going to take a shower,” he says instead.

“Okay. I recorded 2 Days 1 Night. Want to watch it after?”

“Sure.”

“Make some popcorn before you come back!” Myungsoo calls as Sungyeol heads to the bathroom. Sungyeol showers quickly, and he definitely doesn’t think about what Sungjong had said. Definitely not.

Chapter Text

“Do these ever still hurt?”

Sungyeol shifts where he’s sitting on the floor in front of the TV and glances over his shoulder. Woohyun is stretched out on the couch behind him where he’s been since Dongwoo left them a half hour ago to head to the practice room with Hoya, and he’s playing with the earrings in Sungyeol’s cartilage. His fingers are cool from the dewy water bottle that’s sitting in his lap (no soda for Woohyun; he won’t allow the calories, not even diet), and the temperature keeps making Sungyeol shiver. It’s really distracting. Sungyeol turns up the volume on the TV.

“Uh, not really hurt, not anymore. But they irritate me sometimes and they get caught on things and they’re no fun to sleep on. And if I don’t keep them clean, they get all red and achy. It’s different from the lobe holes.”

“Huh.” Woohyun fiddles with them a bit more, and Sungyeol kind of wants to tell him to let go—that touching them just increases the likelihood that they’ll get infected and when was the last time he washed his hands anyway—but he doesn’t. “You’re still really proud of them, aren’t you?” Woohyun asks.

“No,” Sungyeol answers stubbornly.

Woohyun laughs, and the sound is really close to Sungyeol’s ear. “Sure you are! You went on and on about them after you first got them!”

“I did not!”

“You did too! ‘He’s going to tell the neighborhood!’” Woohyun starts crooning in a ridiculous voice, and it kind of pisses Sungyeol off that he sounds better joke-singing than Sungyeol does when he’s trying his hardest.

“Shut up, I’m trying to watch this,” Sungyeol says, now smacking Woohyun’s hands away. Woohyun leans back onto the couch, still chuckling, and turns his attention to the screen.

“SNSD? You still have a crush on Taeyon?” Woohyun actually sounds halfway interested.

“She’s hot.”

“I guess. Jessica’s hotter, though.”

That catches Sungyeol’s attention, and he turns around to look at Woohyun. “You like—I mean, you—?” He can’t quite figure out how to ask what he wants to ask, stumbling over his words.

Woohyun rolls his eyes, his face a little stony. “You still think Taeyon’s hot, right?”

“Well, yeah, but I—“

“Still got all that porn on your laptop?”

Everyone knows about that; Sungyeol’s long since stopped feeling embarrassed when the other guys bring it up. “I do, but—“

“Why are you acting all surprised, then? Jessica’s hot. And so is BoA and Yoon Eun Hye and Shin Min Ah and—“

“Okay, I get it!” Sungyeol interrupts Woohyun’s testy list. Well, that answers that question: Woohyun still likes girls, too. Sungyeol hadn’t been sure.

It makes him feel a little bit better, actually, knowing that someone else has this weird “both” thing going on. He hasn’t been spending much time pondering his own sexual orientation and what it means, but the question is always there, kind of hanging in the back of his mind.

“Joo Won is pretty hot, too,” he says suddenly, feeling his ears burn as soon as the words are out of his mouth. He screws his lips up, tensing up, and waits. He’d noticed that the other night, watching 2 Days 1 Night with Myungsoo, and it had been weird, noticing that about a guy when he’s only used to thinking of women that way. He’s pondered that a few times since then, turning the TV on to Gaksital a couple of times when they have spare minutes, and yeah: Joo Won is officially hot. Sungyeol still hasn’t jerked off while thinking about a guy, though. Well, any guy but Woohyun, and okay, he can admit (though never out loud) that he does that sometimes now. But every single one of his hottest memories are with Woohyun; what do you expect? He feels strange when he does even that, though, and so he mostly sticks to girls. And he also hasn’t let himself consider whether he could ever be attracted to guys he actually knows, hasn’t let himself think about whether Hoya and Dongwoo’s dancing is sexy or whether he’d ever want to touch Niel or something. That would just be too, too strange, and he isn’t ready for it.

“Lee Min Ho is hotter,” Woohyun says after a minute, his voice low but not soft, and something inside Sungyeol relaxes.

“Yeah, he kicked a lot of ass in City Hunter,” Sungyeol agrees, a wide grin spreading across his face. He’s glad he has his back turned to Woohyun so the other can’t see it.

They sit in silence for a minute, watching Yoona giggle onscreen. Then, before Sungyeol can stop himself: “When did you first—“

“I don’t want to talk about this with you,” Woohyun cuts him off.

Sungyeol sinks into silence, fingers tightening around the remote. Behind them, someone’s door bangs open, making Sungyeol tense up a bit and then he hears Sungjong’s footsteps—yeah, he can recognize any of the guys by their footsteps now, they’ve been living together for so long—heading into the kitchen and then the sound of him opening the fridge. A minute later he passes back through again, and then the door closes.

“A couple of years ago.”

Woohyun’s voice is so quiet and tense that it makes Sungyeol jump and it takes a second for what Woohyun said to connect. When it does, it’s the tone that lets Sungyeol figure it out, that tension in his voice.

It must have been Sunggyu. Of course. A couple of years ago, when Infinite was new. And Woohyun had focused all of his competitive attention on Sunggyu, vying with him to be the main vocalist, barely even seeing any of the rest of them because Sunggyu was his only real rival and they all knew it. That must have been weird, Sungyeol realizes, maybe even weirder for Woohyun than it has been for Sungyeol.

Because this thing hadn’t snuck up on Sungyeol: it had hit him like a freight train instead. One minute he’d never actually been attracted to guys, the next he was sucking face with Woohyun. And sure, that did a number on him, but it hadn’t exactly been subtle: there was Woohyun and it was always hot and Sungyeol always got off. Like, absolute proof, right there in his face, that—what was it Sungjong had said?—guys do it for him, too.

It must have been different for Woohyun. If he’d really never known, it must have freaked him out even more than it did Sungyeol, sudden feelings and things like that. And unlike Sungyeol, he couldn’t actually act on them, those feelings weren’t returned (because Sungyeol is beginning to realize that Woohyun is attracted to him, too. He doesn’t like to think about it much, because it’s too big and he’s not sure what to do with it, but the knowledge is always there). If he was just wondering at first, he wouldn’t have been able to fool around with the object of his possible attraction for a while to know for sure the way Sungyeol did. And maybe he hadn’t had a Sungjong to talk to either—Sungyeol can freely admit that, as annoying as he can be (mostly in his rightness), talking with Sungjong has really helped keep him sane.

And then Woohyun’s feelings had run away with him, to the point where Sunggyu—and everyone else in the group—had noticed and then Sunggyu had started pulling away, and, shit. It must have felt like knowing that he liked guys made him lose his best friend. Sungyeol is suddenly so, so grateful that this hadn’t happened with Myungsoo. Myungsoo is handsome, of course, one of the handsomest guys Sungyeol’s ever seen. But he doesn’t feel that pull towards him, and he’s so glad. Because he can’t imagine how confusing that would make their relationship, how much worse that would make those moments when they feel so far apart. How much it would hurt to see Myungsoo turn on him.

Sungyeol brings his knees up to his chest and presses his closed eyes against them. God, this is too much. He’s not used to this, thinking about things from Woohyun’s perspective. No wonder Woohyun is such a mess sometimes. And Sungyeol had thought that his own life sucked.

Woohyun’s voice interrupts his thoughts. “What’re you doing? If you’re that tired, go to bed.”

“I’m not tired,” Sungyeol mumbles, voice muffled by his knees. It’s not exactly true—they’re always tired. But he’s learned since joining Infinite that these things are relative, and right now he’s no more tired than he usually is.

“Whatever, just go to bed.” Woohyun bumps his knee into Sungyeol’s back. “And give me the remote, I’m going to watch something different.”

Sungyeol isn’t really watching anymore, and honestly he doesn’t think he’d be able to concentrate on whatever Woohyun changes the station to. So he rises, handing the remote over, and starts towards the bedroom. A few steps and he pauses, turning back to look at Woohyun.

He feels like he should say something, but he doesn’t know what. Something about how he feels bad for Woohyun, having to deal with his sexuality crisis alone, and how he could talk to Sungyeol about it now, even if it’s a bit late for that. But Woohyun hates pity, and you always have to be careful of the ways you comfort him so as not to hurt his pride. Sungyeol isn’t very good at that, really, and at least he knows that much. He can’t imagine that anything he would say now would come out as something that doesn’t piss Woohyun off.

“What?” Woohyun does that one-eyebrow-raise thing, giving him an expectant look.

Sungyeol realizes he’s been standing there with his mouth open as if he’s about to speak, so he closes it. “Nothing,” he says hurriedly. “Good night.”

He turns away fast so he can’t see the weird look Woohyun is no doubt giving him.

“’Night, Yeol.”

--

“What do you do out here?”

Sungyeol looks up from his juice when he hears the van door open and Woohyun’s question. Woohyun is perched on the step up, his hands braced on the top of the van, peering in at Sungyeol.

“What’s that look?” Woohyun asks before Sungyeol can answer the first question. He nods his head towards the bottle in Sungyeol’s hands. “Is it that bad?”

Sungyeol realizes he must still have the grimace he’d been making at his beverage on his face. He lets it fall away. “Yeah, it is.”

Woohyun snorts, finally entering the van completely and flopping down on the seat beside Sungyeol. “I doubt it. You’re probably just mourning the fact that it isn’t coffee.”

Sungyeol makes a skeptical face, holding out the bottle. Woohyun shrugs, grabs it, and takes a swig. The face he makes has Sungyeol laughing immediately.

“Told you!” he crows as Woohyun wipes his mouth and shoves the bottle back at him.

“What is that stuff?”

“Whatever Sunggyu-hyung buys. He says it’s really healthy. Energizing and detoxing and all that shit.”

“It’s foul,” Woohyun says. “You should try something else instead. Even if you stay away from all the really sugary drinks, you should be able to find some half-decent fruit juice, you know. You don’t have to drink that sludge.”

Sungyeol shrugs. “Hyung bought like twelve boxes of it or something. He’s trying to help.”

Woohyun shakes his head. “I can’t believe you’ve actually been drinking that. You complain about everything and eat every fattening snack in the world, but you’ve been sucking that stuff down without whining? You make no sense sometimes.”

Sungyeol shifts a little, uncomfortable. Because he can’t exactly tell Woohyun that he’s been drinking it as a sort of penance. After his coffee benders back right after their first time together on the couch, he’d felt really, really guilty for the amount of coffee he’d been drinking. Not really because it was bad for him, because he’s never really cared about stuff like that. But because Sunggyu had seemed so concerned about it and also because he’d been causing so much trouble for the band with his shitty moods. So he’d started drinking the juice as a way of apologizing to Sunggyu, a way of showing that he could actually put forth effort on Infinite’s behalf when he needed to. The thoughts hadn’t been that clear in his head, though he can see them now. But they’d kept him drinking even when he didn’t want to, and honestly, at this point it’s become a habit.

“Come on,” Woohyun says suddenly.

“Huh? Where?”

“To the store around the corner. The rest of them will be forever, we have plenty of time to grab something that tastes better.”

Sungyeol blinks at him for a moment, but when Woohyun turns to climb out of the van, he follows.

“Why are you out here so early, anyway?” he asks, as he and Woohyun start down the street. There are a couple of fangirls with cameras across the way, but Sungyeol ignores them.

“Got ready fast,” Woohyun says, then tilts his head. “And hyung was in a bad mood.”

Ah. So Woohyun had been fleeing Leader, then. Sungyeol isn’t sure how he feels about that. “Was he yelling at Maknae?”

Woohyun snorts. “I think Sungjong was about ready to tear his teddy bear to bits.”

Sungyeol laughs. “Poor kid. We’re all too hard on him.”

“Yeah.”

They walk in silence for a moment, then Woohyun says, “You didn’t answer me earlier. What do you do out there in the van every morning?”

Sungyeol shrugs. “I used to drink my coffee. Now I drink this stuff—“ he shakes the bottle for emphasis “—or nap.”

“Why don’t you just sleep later?” Woohyun demands.

“I don’t know. I like the quiet. And being alone. We don’t get a lot of alone time, really.”

Woohyun laughs shortly. “You can say that again. I wouldn’t think you’d be one of the ones who need alone time, though.”

Sungyeol looks over at him in surprise. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Like, you’re not Myungsoo or even Hoya. They’re quiet and everything, so when they disappear it makes sense. But you like people. And being loud. And being the center of attention.”

Sungyeol shifts his shoulders. “I don’t always like that.”

“Coulda fooled me,” Woohyun says. He’s not serious; his voice is light, but Sungyeol stops and pivots to face him, forcing Woohyun to stop, too.

“I’m not really an elementary schooler, you know.”

Woohyun gives him a strange look. “I…know?”

Sungyeol makes an impatient gesture with his hands. “I’m not always the class clown. I mean, I like to make people laugh.” His mind goes, fleetingly, to the way Myungsoo’s face scrunches up when he finds something funny, to the way Woohyun had doubled-over in mirth the other night with the chicken. “And that’s what we’re supposed to do, keep people entertained, right? Idols are entertainers first and foremost.”

“Sure,” Woohyun says slowly.

“Well, you don’t like it when everyone thinks you’re really a heart-throwing greasy-freak even though you never do aegyo except for the fans. Just because I’m a moodmaker doesn’t mean I don’t know how to be serious.”

“I know that,” Woohyun says, his forehead wrinkled.

“So don’t act all surprised when I’m a way that’s different than that image,” Sungyeol finishes and starts walking, quickly this time.

Woohyun has to hurry to catch up, both because Sungyeol got a head start and because his legs are a lot longer than Woohyun’s. “I didn’t mean it like that,” Woohyun says. “I just meant you’re not obviously an introvert like Myungsoo and even Leader.”

“People act like I’m a clown all the time,” Sungyeol says, and he knows he sounds petulant, but he doesn’t really care. He does slow shorten his strides a bit, though, so that Woohyun won’t have to try so hard.

“Maybe you’re just a really good actor,” Woohyun suggests in a light voice.

“That’s not funny,” Sungyeol spits.

“I wasn’t joking.” Woohyun’s face, when Sungyeol glances at him, is surprised. “I wasn’t making fun of you.”

Sungyeol knows he’s sensitive about his acting—or lack thereof, lately—but he can’t help it. “It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m shit at that, too, just like everything.”

“If you start that again, I’m going to beat the shit out of you,” Woohyun says, and Sungyeol doesn’t have to look at him to know he’s rolling his eyes. “You’re better at it than Myungsoo. You’re just not….”

He trails off, but Sungyeol finishes for him; he knew what Woohyun was going to say. “I’m just not as handsome as him.”

Woohyun shrugs. “The world’s unfair.”

Sungyeol is silent for a moment, but then the words burst out: “He didn’t even want it, though. He didn’t even have to go looking for it. It just landed in his lap because he just happened to be born with a perfect face.”

“Are you mad at him about it?” Woohyun asks.

“No!” And he’s not, not really. Not mad at Myungsoo, anyway. Mad at the world, maybe. “It’s just not fair. I want it so bad and—“ He stops suddenly, biting his lip. He shoots Woohyun a glance out of the corner of his eyes, just a quick flick, then focuses on the convenience store they’ve just reached. “Never mind,” he mutters, hurrying into the store, feeling irritated with himself for saying any of that out loud. He hadn’t meant to. He doesn’t talk to Woohyun about things like this. He doesn’t really talk to anyone about things like this, but especially not Woohyun.

He finds the juice aisle quickly, and he’s staring blankly at all the options when Woohyun catches up to him. He can feel Woohyun’s eyes on his face, but he stares stubbornly at the juice. Not that he’s really seeing it, but he’s not going to look at Woohyun. Not after just spilling one of his secrets like that. Even if it wasn’t much of a secret in the first place.

After a second, Woohyun looks away. “You’ve got a lot of options,” he says, reaching out and picking up a bottle. “What flavor do you like?”

Sungyeol squirms in surprise, but he’s really thankful that Woohyun is pretending like nothing just happened. “I don’t know.”

Woohyun peers at the label on the bottle he’s holding for a moment, then shakes his head and puts it back, snagging a different one. “You like bananas, right?”

Sungyeol just looks at him. “Yeah.”

“This is strawberry banana. All-natural. Try it.” He smacks the bottle into Sungyeol’s chest, and Sungyeol’s hands come up to fumblingly catch it. “If you don’t like it, try a different one tomorrow. You’ll find one eventually.”

And then he’s gone, heading towards the door. Sungyeol pays for the drink silently and then joins Woohyun where he’s waiting outside. Sungyeol opens the bottle and takes a swig. It’s not that bad. Certainly better than what Sunggyu’s been providing. And he can try a different one tomorrow.

They walk back towards the building without saying anything for a while, and then Woohyun sighs.

“Look,” he says, sounding resigned. “Sunggyu-hyung really, really wanted to be on Immortal Song 2.”

Sungyeol stares at him blankly, bottle paused halfway to his mouth. “Why are you saying this to me?”

Woohyun gives him a frustrated look. “I knew that. He’d told me. He’d said it in interviews, even. And when the company got the call, they wanted me instead.”

Oh.

“He feels like they’re pushing me as main vocalist instead of him.”

“He told you that?”

Woohyun shakes his head. “He didn’t have to. I felt really guilty, even though I was excited. But he told me—“ Woohyun stops suddenly, and there’s such a wistful look on his face for a moment that it makes Sungyeol feel sick. Then it’s gone. “He told me that it was stupid of me to feel guilty because it wasn’t like I went out and tried to get what he wanted and took it away from him on purpose. It wasn’t my fault they offered it to me. He said he wasn’t mad at me, just mad at the situation. And then he shoved me and told me to get over myself.”

Woohyun looks down, and it makes something ache in Sungyeol’s chest. This must have been back when they were still close, still okay with each other. Back when they still talked. Because Sungyeol can’t imagine them having a conversation like that now, but once upon a time it would have been the most natural thing in the world.

“I didn’t want to hurt him, but I did anyway. That’s the worst.”

Sungyeol thinks about Myungsoo, the look on his face when he told him about Shut Up Flower Boy Band. It was so careful, so tentative, and that look had hurt Sungyeol almost as much as Myungsoo’s news had. It had been different with Jiu, because Sungyeol was still riding on While You Were Sleeping. But when the TvN show came around, Sungyeol had already started to feel like he’d never act again. And he could see how much Myungsoo didn’t want to tell him that he now had what Sungyeol wanted. How much it hurt him to hurt Sungyeol. Just like it had hurt Woohyun to hurt Sunggyu.

Just like it must hurt Sunggyu to hurt Woohyun now. God. Why are they all so fucked up? Why do they all end up hurting each other even when they don’t want to? Even when that’s the very last thing they want?

“You must have been really relieved when they finally asked him to do it,” he says hollowly.

Woohyun laughs, but it isn’t quite a happy sound. “Relieved, yeah. But not just relieved.”

Sungyeol knows. Knows that Woohyun was really happy for his friend, excited that he got what he wanted. Just like Sungyeol absolutely knows Myungsoo would be for him if ever got cast again. But maybe relieved most of all, because then he didn’t have to feel guilty anymore. Because Sungyeol knows that even after Sunggyu told him to get over himself, Woohyun would have kept feeling guilty. That’s what friends do.

They don’t talk anymore after that, and when they reach the van, Myungsoo and Hoya and Dongwoo are waiting.

“Where’d you go?” Myungsoo asks. “You weren’t in your seat.”

“Just to the store,” Sungyeol answers, holding up the bottle.

Just at that moment, Sunggyu walks up to them, and his arm is thrown around Sungjong’s shoulder. It looks a little funny, with Sungjong being taller than him, but neither of them look angry or upset. Sungyeol and Woohyun exchange glances. They must have made up.

“All right, ladies, time to go,” Sunggyu says, shepherding them all into the van. Sungyeol ends up sitting between Myungsoo and Woohyun, and he drinks his juice in silence, thinking about friendship and guilt and wondering why the two always have to be so tangled up together.

Chapter Text

“Airport fashion sucks,” Sungyeol complains, tossing things into his overnight bag. “Why does it matter what we wear? Shouldn’t we be as comfortable as possible for the flight? Shouldn’t our fans want that for us? What if I just wear that bathrobe again?”

Dongwoo laughs at the thought, stuffing the most random collection of things Sungyeol could ever imagine into his own bag. He’ll never need any of that stuff, but you can’t tell that to Dongwoo. “That was brilliant.”

“Have you seen my phone charger?” Myungsoo asks.

“Over there,” Dongwoo points.

“People judge you by what you wear to the airport. They think it tells them about what your style is really like when your clothes aren’t picked by a stylist,” Myungsoo says, snagging his charger out of the wall outlet. The way he says it tells Sungyeol that he’s repeating something he had explained to him. Myungsoo isn’t really into fashion any more than Sungyeol is.

“Well, that’s stupid,” Sungyeol sulks, zipping his bag up and tossing it over by the door.

“That’s being an idol,” Myungsoo says, and he sounds pretty matter of fact about it. “Don’t bother packing toothpaste, I’ve got a tube.”

Sungyeol sighs at the thought of another flight, another night in another hotel room, another two days talking through interpreters. That’s being an idol.

He sits between Myungsoo and Sungjong on the plane and spends most of it dozing with his earbuds in. The flight isn’t very long, of course, but he gets really sick of planes sometimes. Once they’ve touched down, Myungsoo does that thing where he acts like it’s some sort of game to try to get through the lines of fans without having to take any fangifts—he always looks so pleased when he reaches the other side empty-handed—but someone shoves a box of chocolate into Sungyeol’s hands. He splits them with Myungsoo in the van.

“Room assignments,” Sunggyu says once their manager has checked them in at the hotel and handed him their key cards. “Hoya, Dongwoo, one of you doesn’t mind sharing a bed, right? Sungjong’s with you.”

Hoya shrugs, taking the offered key card, and Dongwoo throws an excited arm around Sungjong’s neck.

“Myungsoo, you’re with me.”

Sungyeol’s jaw drops. Myungsoo just blinks at their leader. “With you?”

“What, is that some sort of punishment for you?” Sunggyu asks with a hint of sarcasm, but some humor as well. “Rooming with the old man?”

“Oh, no!” Myungsoo assures him, but he still sounds confused. “I just usually—with Sungyeol, you know and you and—“ He stops, forehead wrinkling in confusion.

Sungyeol still hasn’t closed his mouth.

“Well, it’s different today, okay? You and I can bond.”

Myungsoo still looks a bit mystified, but he agrees easily enough. Sungyeol’s about to protest himself—he and Myungsoo always room together on trips—but then it hits him just who he’s rooming with. He didn’t. He wouldn’t. When his eyes fly up to look at Woohyun, who’s lounging against a pillar nearby, Woohyun has a smug look on his face. Oh, he did, that fucker. Sungyeol flushes, but it’s less embarrassment and more anger and—is he serious? Asking Sunggyu if they can room together? Does he want to get caught?

He’s sure that all of that must show on his face, but Woohyun’s smile just widens and he saunters past Sungyeol towards the elevators. Sungyeol swallows his fury and wrestles himself back under control before he hurries after Myungsoo.

Since with their managers in tow there’s too many of them to fit in just one elevator, Sungyeol and Myungsoo end up in one alone. Myungsoo cocks his head. “Do you think Woohyun’s making Sunggyu-hyung uncomfortable again?”

Sungyeol shrugs, not meeting his eyes. Because he knows exactly why the rooms are divided up the way they are, and he is going to kill Woohyun. “Maybe they’re just fighting today.”

“Maybe.” A beat, then. “Well, you’re fine with Woohyun, aren’t you? You two are really close these days.”

Sungyeol’s head shoots up. He knows Myungsoo doesn’t suspect anything, but there’s something about his tone that makes him sound…well, Sungyeol isn’t sure, but there’s some definite emotion there. “Uh, yeah,” he answers, voice cracking.

Myungsoo just looks at him for a long moment, and it’s with that look that’s so much that it makes Sungyeol feel uncomfortable sometimes. Like now. Myungsoo is really, really bad at hiding how he feels about people. Sungyeol’s never understood what he did to make Myungsoo look at him like that, but he never feels like he deserves it.

“I’m really glad that Woohyun has someone to talk to now,” Myungsoo says. “I think he really needs it.”

And then the elevator dings to alert them to their arrival on the proper floor, and Sungyeol follows Myungsoo out of it, feeling guilty and grateful and just really fond of Myungsoo all at once. God, he’s such a good friend, and not just to Sungyeol either. Sungyeol makes a mental note to buy Myungsoo something nice soon, maybe a particularly hard-to-find manga or something photography-related. Sungyeol’s not so good at showing Myungsoo what he means to him—he’s not good at saying sincere things out loud and he’s not easy with hugs and physical affection like Myungsoo is—but he does know how to make gestures. Sometimes.

Down the hall, Myungsoo looks over at him and shrugs as he waits for Sunggyu to get the door to their room open, and Sungyeol smiles awkwardly back. Then he pulls out his own key card and heads into his room to confront Woohyun.

“Are you crazy?” he demands as soon as the door bangs shut behind him. Sungyeol knows his voice is shrill and cracking, but he can’t stop himself. Woohyun looks up from where he’s tossed his suitcase on his bed and is already unzipping it. He looks totally unconcerned and that just pisses Sungyeol off more. “I almost always room with Myungsoo when we’re on trips. You and I’ve never roomed together just the two of us, not once. Someone’s going to notice something!”

Woohyun rolls his eyes. “Calm down. Nobody’s going to notice. I doubt Gyu even realizes what happened.”

“What?” Sometimes he just doesn’t understand anything about Woohyun at all.

A smug smile starts to tug at the corners of Woohyun’s lips. “I told him something earlier this week about Sungjong missing Hoya since he started filming so it might be nice to put him in with Hoya and Dongwoo. So that took care of that. And then this morning, I pissed him off.”

“What did you do?” Sungyeol is curious and a bit appalled; he can’t imagine Woohyun purposefully pissing off Sunggyu in a serious way instead of a teasing one. Woohyun’s always been the patient one in that relationship, true, and while there have been times when his teasing or immaturity drives Sunggyu crazy, Sungyeol doesn’t think he’s ever actually tried to make their leader angry.

Woohyun waves a hand dismissively. “Doesn’t matter. What matters is that he told me he wasn’t going to room with me and that he’d take Myungsoo and I’d have to put up with you.”

Sungyeol stares at him, disbelieving. He forgets, sometimes, just what a manipulative bastard Woohyun can be, but at the same time he admires him a little for it. Woohyun can get what he wants without other people even realizing they’ve handed it over to him. That must be a useful skill; Sungyeol wishes he had it.

It’s weird, though, Woohyun using it to get time to spend with him. It makes Sungyeol feel antsy. They’ve never done that before: like, planning time together. Always before they’ve just seized the moment, and it was easy to act like it was just a heat-of-the-moment thing, little breaks from reality. This, though, is asking reality to bend around their thing, asking their lives to accommodate it, and that freaks Sungyeol out more than a little. Absurdly, he suddenly remembers his parents booking a hotel at their anniversary every year while his mom’s mother took care of him and Daeyeol. Booking hotel rooms together? That’s what married couples do. Or people having affairs.

Sungyeol shoves that thought as far away as he possibly can. “This is monumentally stupid,” he says. “We’re all in and out of each others’ rooms all the time anyway.”

Woohyun shrugs. “Before bed, sure.”

“You expect me to sacrifice my sleep for your libido?”

“I’m really impressed you even know what that word means. And it’s not just my libido, you know.”

Sungyeol does know. It actually sounds amazing: a locked door, no real threat of getting caught, an actual bed (one that doesn’t have ties to anyone else). Amazing, but also really, really weird.

But then there’s a bang on the door before he can think anything more about it, and when he opens it Dongwoo bounds into the room.

“Guess what?” he announces, bouncing onto Woohyun’s bed and jarring Woohyun’s suitcase. “Our room has a pull-out couch so even though there’s three of us we won’t have to share beds!”

Woohyun shakes his head and laughs at Dongwoo’s happiness, and Sungyeol turns to start unpacking his own stuff, trying not to look at the beds or think about what’s coming tonight. He heads to the bathroom while Dongwoo chatters to Woohyun, pulling out his toiletries, ready to get rid of the gunk that built up in his mouth over the flight. When he opens the bag, he stops. Shit.

It’s just a simple thing, it shouldn’t feel this awkward, but it does. He leaves the bathroom, and just stands there for a minute, waiting, until Woohyun notices him and holds up a hand for Dongwoo to stop talking.

“Do you need something?”

“Can I borrow your toothpaste?” It feels like there are ants trooping up his spine.

Woohyun looks at him halfway between confusion and amusement. “You forgot yours?”

“Myungsoo was bringing it this time.”

Something flits across Woohyun’s face, but he opens his mouth to reply.

“I can call room service to send some up!” Dongwoo suggests, leaning towards the phone in between the beds.

“That’s okay,” Woohyun says quickly. “Just use mine.”

Their gazes snag on each other for a suspended moment, then Sungyeol hurries back into the bathroom, feeling like his skin is a little too tight.

It’s not an intimate thing. It’s not. They all share toiletries all the time—someone’s forever yelling at someone else for using their shampoo or their shaving cream, but no one ever really gets mad because it’s like living with siblings: sooner or later you’re going to run out of something and need to use someone else’s. Besides, he was planning on using Myungsoo’s and he didn’t think for a second about that. They take turns when they travel, trading off so they don’t have to lug around twice as much stuff.

But somehow this feels different. It shouldn’t. But it does.

Sungyeol’s hands maybe tremble just a little bit as he squeezes the tube.

--

They have an interview during dinner, and it’s all just the same stuff as it ever was before. The random “if you were a food what would you be?” kinds of questions they tag onto the end are always juvenile, yes, but at least the interviewers are acknowledging that they’ve answered the other questions thousands of times and are trying to make the process a little more entertaining for them.

After that, they have dance practice for a while—the hotel was chosen precisely because of its proximity to a practice room they could rent, one that’s way nicer than theirs at home—and then it’s back to the hotel for a (relatively) early night.

They end up all packed into the rapper line’s room, eating snacks they shouldn’t be eating and watching TV they don’t understand. Woohyun and Sungjong get into a snippy faux-argument about whose aegyo is better again—and Sungyeol will never understand how they never seem to get tired of that topic—and Dongwoo and Hoya are playing some sort of card game Sungyeol doesn’t know the rules of on Hoya’s bed.

“Myungsoo’s sleep-talking is going to keep you up, hyung,” Sungyeol says lazily to Sunggyu, who’s lying on the bed beside the dancers. “It’s really severe.”

“Not as severe as your awake talking,” Myungsoo says, and tosses a pillow at Sungyeol’s face. Sungyeol is lying on the floor on his back, his legs up on the end of Dongwoo’s bed, so he’s not in the best position to defend himself. He just grabs the pillow and hugs it to himself again.

“Don’t worry,” Sunggyu says. “I brought my duct tape with me.”

Sungyeol laughs at the idea of Sunggyu taping Myungsoo’s mouth closed. Myungsoo scrunches up his face and opens his mouth to say something, but Woohyun, apparently done squabbling with Sungjong, stands up from his chair in the corner and starts heading toward the door.

“I think I’m going to turn in early. Get a good night’s sleep for once,” he says. He kicks Sungyeol in the ribs before stepping over him, and honestly any of the other members would do exactly the same—Hoya had done the same a few minutes ago when he got up to take out his contacts—but Sungyeol knows there isn’t anything casual about it. He can feel his cheeks starting to turn pink and hugs the pillow tighter as the other shout goodnight.

Woohyun pauses at the door and turns to glare at Sungyeol. “If you wake me up stumbling in at three in the morning, I will kill you.” And then he’s gone.

Sunggyu snorts. “He’s serious, too. You should probably just head to bed now, too, Sungyeol. He will not be happy if he’s already asleep when you come in and you wake him up.”

Sungyeol freezes; did his leader just provide him with a suspicion-free way of immediately following Woohyun? Did that just happen?

“Yeah, I’m tired, too,” Myungsoo says, rising. “You ready?” he asks, looking down at Sungyeol and holding out his hands.

Hoping that the others can’t hear his pounding heartbeat and won’t notice his flushed cheeks, he allows Myungsoo to pull him to his feet and somehow manages to reply to everyone’s goodnights. It’s warmer out in the hall without the air conditioner blaring, and Sungyeol follows Myungsoo, doing his best to keep his mind blank.

“If Woohyun-hyung nags you too much you can come crash with us,” Myungsoo says with a grin that says he’s teasing.

Sungyeol makes himself roll his eyes. “I’ll be fine. I can handle that jerk.” I hope.

“Okay. Night, Yeollie.”

After Myungsoo’s door closes, Sungyeol collapses against his own door, leaning against the wood and trying to slow his racing heart. Woohyun is on the other side of that door, waiting for him, and though part of him is excited because he always gets excited when he knows he’s going to get to fool around with Woohyun, a bigger part of him is freaking out because he just doesn’t know how to act. This feels so different than anything before.

Finally he pushes off the door, swallowing hard and opening it. He hears the water running; Woohyun’s in the bathroom, removing the remnants of the days’ makeup and applying the sixteen different types of moisturizers, toners, lotions, whatever that he uses to keep his skin under control. Sungyeol makes sure not to look through the open bathroom door as he passes, hurrying over to his suitcase and sorting through it for pajamas. He scrunches his nose in disgust when he sees what he brought: a t-shirt that’s almost more holes than shirt—but it’s the most comfortable thing he owns—and a pair of ragged, really ugly pajama pants. He’s suddenly struck with dismay at the idea of Woohyun seeing him in them, Woohyun who values appearances so much.

That’s fucking stupid, he reminds himself. It’s not like Woohyun’s not seen him in worse, and what the fuck does he care what Woohyun thinks anyway? He grabs them and turns just as Woohyun exits the bathroom.

Sungyeol avoids his eyes. “I’m going to take a shower,” he mutters, then hurries into the bathroom, tossing his pajamas on the sink counter and cranking on the water as hot as it will go.

The shower doesn’t relax him—if anything it leaves him more keyed up than before. He stays in it until his skin is red and tingling, then pulls out one of the big plushy towels—Woohyun always says you can judge a hotel’s luxury by how nice their towels are—and dries every inch of his body. He combs his hair, and towels it as dry as he can, and then he takes a long time washing his face and brushing his teeth, activities he usually completes quickly. He puts on some deodorant, brushes his teeth again, and then there’s really nothing more to do. But he still isn’t ready to walk out the door yet, so he pokes around at Woohyun’s bottles and wonders absently if he doesn’t get annoyed with himself, having to lug all of them around whenever they go anywhere. They’re all different colors and sizes and—Sungyeol sniffs a few—scents, some more pleasant than others. Woohyun is nothing like a girl at all, despite his aegyo, but he uses even more skin products than most girls Sungyeol has known. Well, girls who aren’t idols.

He puts down a bottle full of blue liquid and glances up at the mirror. It’s still all steamed over from his shower despite the fact that the fan is going. He hesitates, then wipes his hand across it, and winces as his face is revealed. The heat-flush from his shower has faded, and he looks pale and big-eyed and young. Sungyeol is never sure how he feels about his face; sometimes he thinks he’s really handsome, other times he doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to look at him. He knows he doesn’t have flawless bone structure like Myungsoo or even a face as interesting as Dongwoo’s. There are times when he thinks his features are too soft and his face too big, and then there’s the whole lack-of-eyebrows thing, which he’s really noticing right now. He thinks about pulling out his eyebrow pencil and filling them out, but immediately rejects the idea, feeling disgusted with himself. What’s he doing, brooding over his looks? He’s an idol, he has to be attractive by definition, and there are plenty of girls out there who think he is (and Woohyun must think he is, right? He seems to enjoy what they do as much as Sungyeol does, and even if he’s desperate or wanting to forget Sunggyu or something, he wouldn’t be as enthusiastic when they fool around if he didn’t want Sungyeol. Right? And why the fuck is he thinking about this?).

He growls at himself, smacking one of Woohyun’s bottles over and marching over to wrench open the door. He halts so suddenly that he almost sways when he emerges, though, the cold air from the air conditioner smacking him in the face. Woohyun looks up from where he’s sprawled out on his bed, the comforter pulled down almost to the end of the bed, fooling with his phone.

“I thought you drowned or something. What were you doing in there for so long?”

Sungyeol flushes, taking his clothes from earlier over to toss them in the corner, the new dirty pile.

“No, but really,” Woohyun says sounding amused. “Were you freaking out or something? You’re acting like a blushing virgin bride on her wedding night!”

That pricks a little too close to home. Sungyeol grabs a pillow off his bed and hurls it at Woohyun. “Shut the fuck up.”

Woohyun laughs, throwing his head back as he bats the pillow away. “You were, weren’t you? You were having a meltdown in there!”

“I said shut the fuck up!” He grabs another pillow and jumps on top of Woohyun, shoving it in his face. “Shut up, you prick!”

And that launches an all-out war, fumbling around on the bed, trying to force pillows into each others’ faces, smacking each other around. Woohyun never stops laughing, and soon enough Sungyeol’s blush has died away and he’s laughing, too. When his lips meet Woohyun’s, he almost pulls back in surprise when he realizes that he had been the one to pull Woohyun to him, but Woohyun makes a half-laugh, half-moan sound into his mouth so he abandons the idea. The pillow battle becomes kissing and touching and groping and Sungyeol’s tension starts to bleed away drip by drip.

It’s different, knowing that no one’s going to open the door, that no one can open the door. That they don’t have to be quiet if they don’t want to, because this is a nice hotel so of course the walls are soundproof. The sheets are nicer than the ones in the dorm, and this bed is bigger and softer and there’s so much room. And they’re in pajamas, and Woohyun’s are just normal pajamas like everyone else’s, and he smells like a mix of all those face-wash things, except that it doesn’t smell bad like you’d think it would.

“Ow!” Sungyeol jerks back from Woohyun’s mouth when he feels a pinch in the soft flesh just below his ribs. He stares at Woohyun, incredulous, and Woohyun laughs.

“You’re asking for it, wearing this shirt. All this skin peeking through the holes? It’s just asking to be pinched.”

Sungyeol blinks and glances down, remembering the holes in this shirt. He thinks it might be from, like, middle school, and there are holes everywhere, it’s true. The shirt is dark blue, and his skin looks even paler than usual where it shows through. Woohyun’s fingers dip into the holes, poking and prodding (and maybe stroking). Sungyeol takes longer than he should to smack Woohyun’s hands away.

“You’ll leave bruises!”

“It’s not my fault you bruise so easily! Has your skin ever seen the light of day? You’re like one of those fish who live so deep in the ocean that they’re transparent!”

Sungyeol does bruise really easily; from the beginning, he’s had to be careful to make sure that Woohyun doesn’t leave any marks when they fool around, giving them away. Woohyun’s a quick learner, though; he’s learned just exactly how long he can suck on a given place before it will leave an actual mark.

“I’m going to look young forever. I’ll never wrinkle.”

“I always suspected you were a vampire,” Woohyun says. “Do you vant to suck my blood?” he asks in English.

“Trust me, if I were a vampire, you’re the last person I would eat.”

“I thought I was the first person you ever ate.”

Sungyeol doesn’t have enough time to blush or screechingly protest that, because Woohyun tugs him back down and bickering turns into kisses again, and Sungyeol thinks that the last bit of tension that has been building since he found out their room assignments has finally leaked way.

That is, until Woohyun detaches from his mouth, leans over the edge of the bed, fumbles around in his bag and emerges with a small bottle.

It takes Sungyeol a second or two to realize what it is.

No fucking way!

Chapter Text

“What the fuck? There’s no way in hell you’re putting anything anywhere near my ass.”

Sungyeol stares in horror at the bottle of lube Woohyun is holding up, sure his cheeks are redder than they’ve ever been. God, just when he’d thought he was getting comfortable.

Woohyun does that one-eyebrow lift thing at him. “Who said you’re gonna bottom?”

Sungyeol grits his teeth. “Because I know you, and there’s no way you’d ever let anything near your precious ass. You’re assuming I’m just gonna roll over for you, aren’t you? Well, you can shove that stuff up yours, because I’m not letting you anywhere near mine.”

Woohyun grins a little at that, but he rolls his eyes, too. “Come on. People do it all the time. Women, even. I know you’ve got some anal stuff in your porn collection.”

That is not the point. It’s one thing to watch other people do it and think it’s hot in theory. It’s another thing entirely when it’s his ass on the line. Literally.

“Forget it.”

Woohyun flops back against the pillows. “I should have known you’d be like this.”

Sungyeol isn’t sure he likes the implications of that, but he likes the idea of something getting shoved up his ass even less. “Yeah, you should have known.”

“You’ve liked everything else we’ve done,” Woohyun points out.

Sungyeol doesn’t respond; they both know it’s true, but that doesn’t mean he needs to admit it.

“Don’t you trust me?”

“No,” Sungyeol answers stubbornly without any hesitation at all. I don’t trust anyone with my ass, you bastard.

Woohyun actually looks a little hurt at that, sitting up with his back against the headboard. “If you do it right it doesn’t hurt. I mean, it’s uncomfortable at first, but it won’t hurt.”

A question, one that’s been lurking half-formed in the back of Sungyeol’s mind since this whole thing between them started, coalesces suddenly and is out of his mouth before he can even weigh the wisdom of voicing it. “Have you done this before?”

Woohyun makes a strange face, one Sungyeol can’t interpret. “Not this, no.” Something in Sungyeol relaxes while something else knots up even tighter. There’s been no doubt since the beginning that Woohyun has more experience than he does, but the question of just how much has never been answered. So he’s never gone this far before. Okay. But he’s done other stuff? With who? Sungyeol isn’t sure he wants to know. “But I’ve done a lot of research,” Woohyun continues.

Sungyeol looks away from him, leaning forward and hooking his arms around his knees. The thought of Woohyun looking up how to have gay sex so that he can have gay sex with Sungyeol is just...too much. “Forgive me for not being reassured,” Sungyeol says dryly.

“Come on!” Sungyeol feels a poke against his back, one of Woohyun’s fingers through another hole in his shirt.

“No.”

“Come on!” Another poke, this time through a hole in his shoulder. Sungyeol smacks Woohyun’s hand away.

“No. Fucking. Way.”

“I swear you’ll like it and if you don’t, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll even wear a bathrobe to the airport on the way home!”

So, yeah, the thought of image-conscious Woohyun showing up at the airport in a bathrobe is pretty appealing. He must be pretty serious about this if he’s laying his pride on the line. But Sungyeol still shakes his head. “No.”

“You are so fucking stubborn. Fine. If you let me this time, next time I’ll let you.”

Okay, that might possibly maybe tempt Sungyeol just a little tiny bit. He actually pauses before he says, “No.”

All of a sudden a hand slides between him and the mattress, grabs hold of Sungyeol’s ass and squeezes. Sungyeol half jumps, half falls out of the bed. “What the fuck, Woohyun?”

“You should be flattered I even want this scrawny ass,” Woohyun says with a grin.

Sungyeol rights himself and scowls down at Woohyun’s smiling face. He looks a lot younger, innocent almost, without makeup on, but the sight doesn’t make Sungyeol any less irritated with him. Prick. “Well, if it’s that unappealing, you won’t be too disappointed to miss out on it. And since you’re so awesome that anyone would be flattered by your attention, I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding a better one anyway.”

With that, he flips off the light and climbs into bed. Into his own bed.

Woohyun sighs. “Sungyeol, that’s not what I meant. Come on, Yeol, I was just playing around. Your ass is awesome.”

Sungyeol flips over onto his side, his back turned towards Woohyun. Bastard. So he should be flattered he’s got Woohyun’s attention at all? Whatever. If Woohyun’s so irresistible, he can find someone else’s ass to stick it in.

“I wasn’t making fun of you! I was just saying—your ass is pretty flat—you have to have noticed.”

Sungyeol continues to ignore him.

“But it suits you! I mean, you’re lean all over, so—come on, Sungyeol, don’t be like that!”

Silence.

Finally Sungyeol hears a frustrated sigh and a sound that has to be Woohyun flopping back onto his bed. And then, in the darkness over the sound of the air conditioner, he hears Woohyun mutter, “You think I’d want do this with just anyone?”

Sungyeol lays very, very still, but nothing inside him is still at all. Because Woohyun can’t have meant what he just said—that he wants to do it not just to do it, but to do it with Sungyeol and not anybody else. Or at least not anybody else he can actually have (Sungyeol tries really, really hard not to think of Sunggyu, who’s probably getting ready for bed in the room right next door). He can’t have meant that. Suddenly he remembers that Woohyun had looked a little hurt when he’d said he didn’t trust him.

It’s cool in the room, in a specific way only hotel rooms ever are, and the sheets are silky and the duvet is thick and fluffy—not like the scratchy sheets and thin blankets in the rooms his family used to stay in when they went on vacation, him sharing a bed with Daeyeol—who kicked and whose legs were almost as long as Sungyeol’s—and trying to find a soft place on the lumpy mattress or get comfortable with the hard floor against his hip bones. His eyes are adjusting to the darkness, too; it’s not pitch black because he left the bathroom light on when he came out and hadn’t closed the door all the way behind him. But there’s nothing to see even now that his pupils have dilated; the wall he’s staring at is blank. He can hear Woohyun breathing and shifting in the other bed, and he knows if he flips over, the red numbers of the clock on the table between their beds will tell him the time.

The carpet is soft under his feet when he stands and takes a few jerky steps till he’s standing over Woohyun’s bed. Woohyun had been turned with his back to Sungyeol, but he must have heard Sungyeol’s movements, because he turns over onto his back and looks up at him. It’s dark, Sungyeol can barely make out Woohyun’s face, but they stay like that for a long moment, and Sungyeol can see the light from the bathroom behind him glinting off of Woohyun’s eyes.

Sungyeol isn’t sure what he feels when Woohyun reaches out and takes his hand and pulls him down onto the bed beside him, kicking the sheets back as Sungyeol settles down. He isn’t sure what he feels when Woohyun cups his neck and pulls him down to his lips.

“It won’t hurt, I swear,” Woohyun says quietly right before their lips meet.

It doesn’t. It’s weird, really weird at first, and Sungyeol is as much emotionally uncomfortable as he is physically. Woohyun had made sure the foreplay was really, really good—Woohyun stripping away Sungyeol clothes and running hands all over his body, Woohyun’s mouth hot and warm and wet all the places Sungyeol likes it most—and that helped a little bit with the nerves. But as soon as he feels Woohyun’s finger, slick with lube, brushing against him, he tenses up.

“Relax,” Woohyun says, mouthing at Sungyeol’s collarbones as his finger starts to prod a bit. “It’ll be better if you relax.”

That’s easier said than done, though. This is all completely new for Sungyeol, and he knows his fingernails are digging into the skin of Woohyun’s biceps. Woohyun doesn’t complain, though, or try to shrug him off. He goes slow, sliding in bit by bit, adding another finger and more lube after a minute or two, and then another. Sungyeol tightens his grip on Woohyun’s upper arm—it feels so weird—and tries to relax.

“You okay?”

Sungyeol just nods instead of speaking. Woohyun’s right; as weird as it feels, it doesn’t hurt.

“Tell me to stop if you need me to.”

Sungyeol doesn’t reply to that either, screwing his eyes up closed. He hears a fumbling of foil that has to be him opening the condom, a sound he knows is Woohyun slathering more lube, and then he feels Woohyun’s fingers slip out of him—leaving a strange new emptiness behind—before something is back at his entrance.

It takes a while for Woohyun to ease himself in. Sungyeol, still clutching him, can feel the tension in Woohyun’s body, hear the sharp intake of breath. Sungyeol buries his face in Woohyun’s neck, breathing in the smell of all those face-maintenance chemicals and the scent of sweat that’s springing up on Woohyun’s skin. The sound of Woohyun panting against his ear is as loud as a train rushing by, and the tension seems to have steeled Woohyun from head to toe.

“It doesn’t hurt, right?” Woohyun’s voice sounds really strained.

Sungyeol shakes his head, knowing Woohyun can feel the motion against his neck. He drags his nose up a bit so that it’s in Woohyun’s hair. It’s silky now, without product, a bit damp from sweat, and it smells like his shampoo, a clean rainwater smell.

When Woohyun is all the way in, he pauses, his arms almost shaking with strain where they’re holding him above Sungyeol. “Tell me when—“ Woohyun’s voice cracks. Woohyun’s voice never cracks. Sungyeol bumps his nose into the hollows of Woohyun’s collarbones. “Tell me.”

Sungyeol breaths deep, a ragged sound even to his own ears, and lets himself adjust. The fullness of it where he’d never noticed a lack before—it’s so strange. It isn’t bad or good; it’s just different. He finally forces his fingers to relax, his nails slipping out of Woohyun’s arms. But he isn’t sure what to do with his hands now, so he just rests them awkwardly on Woohyun’s shoulders while he listens to the sound of Woohyun’s raspy breathing.

“Okay,” Sungyeol breaths after a moment, barely audible, but Woohyun must have heard it because he pulls up and starts to move.

“It doesn’t hurt?”

Sungyeol shakes his head again, but he realizes belatedly that that probably isn’t the most reassuring, so he says, “No.” He doesn’t want to speak out loud for some reason, not because he’s afraid of shattering the moment, but because he isn’t sure he’s really here, that this is really happening, and he doesn’t know how he feels about it and words seem like too much.

Woohyun moves into a rhythm, his body moving above Sungyeol’s, and Sungyeol can feel Woohyun’s skin sliding against his, Woohyun’s hips against the inside of Sungyeol’s thighs. He feels spread-out, open, like this with Woohyun between his legs, and he keeps his eyes closed because he’s not sure what he’ll do if he opens them and sees Woohyun looking down at him. After a moment, Sungyeol gets used to the new feeling (of being so full) and the friction starts to be pleasant if not as pleasurable as the other things they’ve done. Woohyun’s breathing is speeding up, becoming more ragged with each intake.

Then Woohyun lets out this moan that shoots lightning through Sungyeol’s veins to his toes and fingertips—he can almost feel it in his hair. It’s different than the moans Sungyeol is used to now, a little more helpless, a little more desperate. Sungyeol’s hands tighten on Woohyun’s shoulders.

And then one of Woohyun’s hands slides between them, grasping Sungyeol firmly, and he gasps. Fuck, Woohyun knows just how to touch him now, and Sungyeol thinks maybe he’s extra-sensitive at the moment, because Woohyun’s hand around him feels even better than it usually does.

“Hey.”

Sungyeol opens his eyes just in time to see Woohyun swoop down on him, his mouth capturing Sungyeol’s. The kiss is sloppier than usual, less controlled, and the way Woohyun gasps into it makes Sungyeol’s skin tingle. His hands slide up and down the smooth skin of Woohyun’s arms, across his back.

“‘S okay?”

Woohyun is moving faster now, surer, and Sungyeol starts to rock with him. Woohyun was right about relaxing. It’s good now, Woohyun’s hand stroking him, Woohyun’s mouth against his. “Yeah.” Skin on skin and sweat and deep kisses and Sungyeol’s fingers working their way into Woohyun’s hair—that’s usually Woohyun’s thing, but both of his hands are busy right now. Heat coils in the pit of Sungyeol’s stomach, snaking out through the rest of his body till he’s trembling with it. He rocks faster and Woohyun speeds up, too, and the fullness seems to be spreading, not just from the place where Woohyun actually is, but through Sungyeol’s whole body. That’s Woohyun, he thinks. His skin is starting to seem too small to contain his body (both his and Woohyun’s).

“Yeol,” Woohyun says after pulling back from another kiss. His voice is gravelly and really, really sexy. “You’re really going to want to try this.”

Sungyeol laughs and Woohyun moans again. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Woohyun pants. “Really.”

“You promised,” Sungyeol says, his lips sliding up Woohyun’s cheekbone to his ear. “Remember?”

Another moan. Then: “I remember.”

And then they don’t say anything else, because everything is harsh breathing and skin on skin and gasping into each others’ mouths. Woohyun’s hand starts to move faster as the motion of his hips speeds up, and the friction combined with the fullness is really fucking good, and Sungyeol makes a kind of strangled whine sound when he comes in Woohyun’s hand. It’s nothing compared to the sound that Woohyun makes a moment later before he collapses on top of Sungyeol.

Sungyeol lets him stay there for a moment, and he tells himself it’s because he’s too wrung out to push him away. The scent of Woohyun’s sweat fills his lungs, the brush of Woohyun’s hair is smooth and soft against his neck and chin. Woohyun’s skin is warm and slick and he’s heavy in a way that will be too much in a minute or two but that’s just right at this moment. He’s panting hard and helpless against Sungyeol’s shoulder, and once he even makes this barely-audible whining whimper that makes Sungyeol feel like he’s going to dissolve right here.

“Was it okay?” Woohyun asks after a moment, and Sungyeol’s never heard his voice sound that raw before.

“Yeah,” Sungyeol says, voice cracking. “It was okay.” Woohyun’s breath is hot against his shoulder. “For you, too?”

Woohyun laughs a ragged laugh, and Sungyeol feels the sound through his whole body. “Yeah. Pretty okay.”

It’s his tone, not the words, that let Sungyeol know Woohyun really, really liked it, and Sungyeol feels hot all over as Woohyun pushes himself up. Sungyeol winces as Woohyun slides out of him and lets his legs fall back together as Woohyun rises to his knees, removing the condom and tying it up with fumbling fingers. Then Woohyun climbs off the bed and tosses it into the trash. “Remind me to get that in the morning,” he says.

The words don’t make any sense to Sungyeol. “What?”

“I’ll throw it away somewhere else. We can’t let housekeeping see it, you know?”

Sungyeol would never have even thought of that, but of course Woohyun would. Woohyun is the best idol in Korea. “Uh, yeah. Okay.”

Sungyeol shifts around on the damp sheets, amazed at how they can feel clammy and dank like this when just a little while ago they were so fresh and crisp. Should he get up and go back to his own bed?

Woohyun bends over and searches through his bag again—Sungyeol can see the light from the bathroom glinting along the curving line of his spine—while Sungyeol tries to decide whether he should stay where he is or not. When Woohyun straightens and climbs back onto the bed, he’s got a thing of wet wipes in his hand. “Here,” he says, pulling one out. “You’re a mess.”

Sungyeol takes it and starts mopping himself off. “You, too.” When Woohyun had fallen on him, Sungyeol’s come had gotten all over him, too. He sees the white flash of Woohyun’s grin as he pulls out another wipe and starts to clean himself up.

“You’ll have to take another shower in the morning,” Woohyun says, sounding amused. “Want me to set my alarm?”

“Sure,” Sungyeol says. He’s still scrubbing away, even though he’s clean now. But what else is he going to do?

He starts when Woohyun reaches out and takes the wipe from him, his hand warm against Sungyeol’s. “6:30 alright with you?”

It’s actually a little earlier than Sungyeol would normally get up; he doesn’t need as much time as Woohyun to get ready. “Yeah, that’s fine.”

Woohyun balls up the wipes and tosses them towards the trash can in the corner, yawning as he does; the bottom of the bed is blocking Sungyeol’s view so he can’t see whether Woohyun makes the shot or not. Sungyeol’s fingers twitch, and he tenses, turning to get out of bed.

“Where’re you going?”

Sungyeol freezes at the question. “Uh…to my bed?”

“Oh, so you’re one of those bang-and-run types, then?” Woohuyn’s voice is amused, and Sungyeol is really glad he isn’t looking his face. “You should have warned me you’d run off immediately.”

Sungyeol’s head is carouseling now, and he makes a confused noise because he can’t think of a thing to say.

“Shut up and lay down,” Woohyun commands, flopping onto his stomach. Feeling unsure, Sungyeol slides down, stretching out onto his back. Woohyun grabs the sheets and pulls them up over them, then drops his arm across Sungyeol’s waist. He doesn’t wrap it around him, it just lays there, warm and heavy and Sungyeol doesn’t think he’s ever going to be able to fall asleep.

“Quit thinking and sleep, idiot.” Woohyun’s voice sounds sleepy now, and if Sungyeol were to turn his head just a little to the left, he’d see Woohyun’s face, his cheek pressed against the pillow. He doesn’t turn his head. “They’ll expect us to be wide awake in the morning, with us heading to bed so early, right?”

Sungyeol makes a sound that might be agreement.

“Night, Yeol.”

Woohyun’s breath evens out quickly, but Sungyeol just lays there, staring at the ceiling—well, at the shadows that obscure the ceiling. He’s never been so conscious of anything in his life as he is of Woohyun’s arm across his waist. He’s a little achy in various places, some he would have suspected, others he might not have, and he clenches his butt cheeks, aware of his ass in a way he’s never been before. He just had sex. With Woohyun.

His face heats up and he wants to bury it in a pillow, but he feels pinned flat by Woohyun’s arm. He could move it easily—it probably wouldn’t even wake Woohyun up—but he can’t bring himself to do it. He should have seen this coming, but he really, really didn’t. He hadn’t even considered it. Which was probably naïve of him, since their physical interactions have been heavy since that first night, and there’s been nothing slow-moving about them, either, so it probably should have occurred to him that Woohyun might want to do this eventually. But actual sex has always seemed different to Sungyeol. He knows it really isn’t, but that doesn’t keep him from thinking it is. It seems more serious. He’s never been committed to waiting till he was married or even till he fell in love; he’d always thought he’d take sex as soon as he could get it. But he’d never thought about doing it with a guy, and he’d never thought about doing it with Woohyun, always sort of assuming that once Woohyun got tired of him that he’d go back to girls and lose his virginity to one of them. What he and Woohyun have been doing hasn’t seemed like actual sex, somehow. He could handwave the handjobs pretty easily, and he got used to the blowing fairly quickly. But this is like a whole new realm, one he hadn’t even taken the time to really acknowledge existed.

And the thing is, he has no idea why he actually did it. What the fuck made him get out of bed and go over to Woohyun? And maybe just as much as that—what made Woohyun even suggest it in the first place? He’d said he wouldn’t do it with just anyone, but why did he want to do it with Sungyeol? Did he think that it was sort of inevitable after what they’d been doing? What the fuck was going on inside his head? And how can he fall asleep so easily?

Sungyeol doesn’t know, doesn’t know the answers to any of it, and maybe that’s the thing that’s freaking him out most of all. He’s not panicking, though that would be in character, he knows. Instead he’s just laying here, feeling the knowledge of what he’s just done weighing down on him like Woohyun’s arm. He doesn’t regret it. But he doesn’t understand it, either.

He dozes on and off but spends probably just as much time awake as asleep, thoughts yo-yoing and bouncing around like a pinball. By the time Woohyun’s alarm goes off, he still has no answers to any of his questions.

Chapter Text

Sungyeol has never been a big fan of Shinee’s “Sherlock,” but it sounds even more annoying as a tinny ringtone stirring him from sleep way earlier than he wants to be awake. He doesn’t remember changing his ringtone, but whatever, that’s not important now. What’s important is turning the damn thing off.

Sungyeol flings an arm over his face and across his eyes, reaching out with the other hand and groping to find the phone. When his hand touches warm skin instead, he jolts awake, shooting upright.

Woohyun’s arm slides down Sungyeol’s body as he moves, landing in a place Sungyeol really isn’t comfortable with this early in the morning. He throws it off, jerking the sheets over as much of him as he can. Woohyun is stirring beside him, stretching a little and making sleepy noises, and Sungyeol’s heart is pounding. He tries to convince it to slow down; he doesn’t want to be this much of a cliché, panicking when he realizes what he did the night before. And he’s not panicking, exactly. He’s just surprised to wake up in the same bed as Woohyun, both of them naked and Sungyeol’s body aching a bit in some interesting places. His heart starts to listen to him after a moment, and by the time Woohyun gets around to actually opening his eyes, Sungyeol feels like he has himself under control.

“Fucking Kibum,” Woohyun mutters, grabbing his phone and thumbing the alarm off. The room seems really, really quiet once the music stops. “Never put your best friend’s singing as your alarm.” Woohyun’s voice is thick with sleep. Sungyeol’s heard it that way before, of course, but he’s so much more aware of it this time. “It makes you want to punch him in the face whenever you see him.”

Sungyeol smiles wanly at the joke. Woohyun drags himself into a sitting position and grins at him. His hair is a mess and there are lines on his face from the wrinkled pillowcase. This close, Sungyeol can see the gunk in the corners of his eyes. “You didn’t sleep at all, did you?”

“I did too!” Off Woohyun’s amused skepticism, he concedes. “Some.”

Woohyun laughs, the sound huskier than usual. “You’re so predictable.” The smile doesn’t fall away, but he sounds more serious when he asks, “But you’re not hurting or anything, right?”

He’s a bit achy, but there’s no real pain. Apparently Woohyun’s research had paid off. “I’m fine.”

Woohyun’s eyes search his face as if trying to discern his honesty, and after a moment his smile widens again. “Shower time,” he announces, climbing out of bed. He grabs Sungyeol’s hand and tugs him up beside him. “We’re both rank. Come on.”

They’re showering together? Isn’t that awfully couple-y? Sungyeol allows Woohyun to drag him towards the bathroom, not sure whether he feels uncomfortable or not with his own nudity. Yet another thing he’d never really thought about doing with Woohyun, but after last night, why not?

In the bathroom, Woohyun shoves him toward the sink. “Brush your teeth first.”

Sungyeol snorts. “What about you? It’s not like your morning breath smells like daisies.”

Woohyun cranks on the water in the shower and heads over to join him at the sink. “What are you talking about? I even fart beautiful smells.”

Sungyeol snorts, squeezing toothpaste onto his toothbrush then passing the tube to Woohyun. “Yeah, and you sweat holy water,” he says, before sticking the toothbrush in his mouth.

“And I shit rainbows!”

It’s kind of weird, standing there in front of the big mirror, side by side, both of them naked and brushing their teeth. Sungyeol tries to avoid looking at their reflections, but his eyes keep creeping back to the mirror anyway. The differences between their bodies are so much more obvious this way, the contrast drawing his eyes. His skin is so much paler than Woohyun’s and softer-looking. He looks long and lean, Woohyun shorter and compact in comparison. Woohyun’s muscles make him look more angled, harder than Sungyeol, and Sungyeol’s gaze bumps over the ridges of Woohyun’s abs before looking back at his own flat-but-not-taut stomach. He doesn’t hate what he sees or anything, but for once he isn’t even frustrated by it; the contrast is too interesting for that. He’s always thought of girls’ bodies as so very different than guys’; he’d never thought much about the differences between guys themselves, but Woohyun makes him notice.

When he glances up at Woohyun’s face, there’s toothpaste foam dribbling down his chin. Woohyun grins at him around his toothbrush, then leans down to spit and clean off his face.

“If we hurry we can get breakfast downstairs before we meet up with the others,” he says after he swishes some water around in his mouth.

Sungyeol spits and rinses his mouth, taking the plastic cup of water Woohyun offers him. “Are you really planning on hurrying?” he asks when he straightens, arching a brow.

Woohyun laughs. “Not really.”

The water is almost too hot to bear when they step into the shower. It’s roomy enough that they aren’t jostling each other, but Woohyun pulls him down for a kiss almost immediately. The water slides down Sungyeol’s nose and cheeks, slipping in between their lips as they kiss. He has to keep pushing his hair away from their mouths; the force of the water keeps plastering it against his cheeks. Woohyun snorts when he notices and takes over the task, braiding his fingers into the wet locks.

He keeps one hand in Sungyeol’s hair, but the other starts sliding over Sungyeol’s shoulders and chest. “Your skin turns red really fast, doesn’t it?” he notes.

Sungyeol glances down at himself, and sure enough, his usual paleness has turned pink with the heat of the water. “Yeah.”

“You look like you’re sunburnt. It doesn’t hurt, does it?”

Sungyeol shakes his head at Woohyun’s curiosity. “No. But watch this.” He rakes his fingernails across his upper chest and long red welts immediately rise in response.

“What the fuck?” Woohyun demands, grabbing his hand and wrenching it away. “Why are you hurting yourself?”

Sungyeol can’t help but laugh at Woohyun’s angry concern. “It didn’t hurt at all, idiot. I barely touched myself. That’s just what happens. It’ll take forever for them to fade.”

Woohyun looks a bit sheepish, but covers it with indignance. “You look like a werewolf attacked you!”

“Oh, so last night it was vampires and this morning it’s werewolves?”

“Need I remind you about your obsession with aliens?”

“Yours, too!”

They’re both laughing when Woohyun reaches down and wraps his hand around Sungyeol. Sungyeol bucks up into his hand as Woohyun reaches out with his free hand and drags his fingers, feather-light, across the red streaks on Sungyeol’s chest. The contrast between that softness and the roughness of the hand jerking him off makes Sungyeol moan, laughter ending abruptly. He lets his head fall back, eyes closed and neck arching, the water pounding down on him and now pushing his wet hair away from his face. When he opens his eyes again, Woohyun is staring at him with an intensity that makes Sungyeol feels like his bones are liquefying. “What?” he gasps, glad of the hot water; his blush won’t show this way.

“You’re really fucking sexy right now.”

Sungyeol almost comes at his words, but Woohyun’s hand tightens around his tip, stopping him. Sungyeol whimpers. Holy fuck, Woohyun just said that to him. Holy fuck.

Woohyun keeps his hand still until he’s sure Sungyeol isn’t going to come, and only then does he start stroking him again. At some point Sungyeol’s hands have found their way to Woohyun’s shoulders and he’s gripping him tight to keep himself upright.

“I probably have marks there from last night,” Woohyun says, his eyes still glued on Sungyeol’s face. It takes a second for his words to connect.

“You do not!” He knows he sounds whiny, but, God, Woohyun’s hand.

A smile twitches across Woohyun’s lips. “Well, small price to pay, either way.”

Fuck, he has got to stop saying things like that. Sucking in a deep, shuddering breath, Sungyeol tries to get the conversation back to their usual banter. “Oh, please. Even if I bruised you, it’s not like you can complain—” White-hot heat shoots through him at a particular flick of Woohyun’s wrist, cauterizing his words. It takes him a moment to be able to speak again. “My ass will never be the same again.”

Woohyun laughs outright, reaching around with his free hand to squeeze Sungyeol’s ass. “Poor thing.”

Sungyeol would roll his eyes, if he were able to, but Woohyun’s pressing up closer to him again, and he knows it’s impossible to feel the heat of his body when the water is this hot, but Sungyeol swears he can. “You better keep your promise, you jerk.” He hasn’t forgotten that Woohyun said they’d trade places next time.

“I will.”

The thought of how tight Woohyun might be pushes Sungyeol close to the edge again, but, again, Woohyun squeezes him to stop him from coming.

“What is your problem, you bastard!” Sungyeol demands—or squeaks, more like, but who’s keeping track?—pounding his fists against Woohyun’s chest. “Stop torturing me!”

“But it’s fun,” Woohyun protests with a grin. “You keep going practically cross-eyed.”

Sungyeol is getting really frustrated now, in more ways than one. “Are you trying to make me beg or something?”

Woohyun cocks his head. “I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing that.”

“Not gonna happen—“ Gasp. “Dumbass.”

“My ass is brilliant. Fine. You want to come?”

When Woohyun starts stroking again it’s so rough it’s almost painful except that it’s too good to be painful, so good that Sungyeol feels his legs almost buckle, but then Woohyun’s free arm is around his waist and Sungyeol clings even more desperately to his shoulders and when he finally comes, it’s long and so intense it almost hurts. Almost.

Woohyun looks really fucking proud of himself when Sungyeol recovers, panting and dragging himself upright. The water is still hot; one of the benefits of being in a hotel instead of at home; it would have long run to cold by now.

“Bastard,” Sungyeol mutters, running a trembling hand over his face.

“You liked it,” Woohyun smirks.

“Fuck you, Woohyun.”

“Not yet, you haven’t.” Woohyun is laughing when Sungyeol reaches out and grabs him, making sure to be just exactly as rough as Woohyun had been with him. Woohyun’s laugh turns into a strangled moan. Now it’s Woohyun’s turn to reach out blindly and latch onto Sungyeol’s forearms to brace himself. His mouth has dropped open, his eyes closed tight, and Sungyeol kind of wants to tell him that he looks fucking sexy right now, because he does, the sexiest thing Sungyeol has ever seen. God, no wonder fangirls cream themselves over him. Sungyeol’s never seen anything like Woohyun.

He thinks about teasing him the way he had teased Sungyeol earlier, but he doesn’t. Instead he pumps hard and rough, staring at Woohyun’s face and watching each response flicker across it, getting a glimpse of his eyes rolling back as they flutter open as he comes. If Sungyeol hadn’t just come so hard, the sight—not to mention the sound Woohyun makes—would have been enough to make him hard as he’s ever been. He releases Wooyun and lets the hard-pounding water clean his hand. Woohyun stumbles towards him as he recovers, face raised for a kiss, and Sungyeol obliges.

They finally pull apart to actually wash up, not touching each other as they do—probably a good idea, or else they’ll never leave the shower—but Sungyeol keeps stealing glances at Woohyun, at the way his muscles flex as he scrubs himself, the way the foam-laced water looks running over his abs. He thinks he catches Woohyun looking at him a few times, too, especially when he washes his hair, using Woohyun’s shampoo that Woohyun had tossed to him after squeezing out some for himself.

Sungyeol’s fingers are pruney when they climb out of the shower, grabbing towels and frictioning themselves dry.

“You know,” Woohyun says thoughtfully as they head out to the main room to get dressed. “You haven’t been calling me hyung lately.”

Sungyeol glares at him. “Seriously? You’ve had your dick in my ass. Are you really going to make a fuss about this?”

“Well, it’s not very respectful,” Woohyun says, pulling on his underwear.

“You’re not even all that much older than me! We’re the same birth year, anyway.”

“Oh, but that doesn’t account for the vast difference in maturity between us. Didn’t you know? I could tell right away what a choding you were.”

“Right. I was standing there in front of you all with my knees knocking in nervousness and didn’t say a word for the entirety of the first day because I thought you’d hate me for being added so late and for not being able to sing, but you could tell I was a choding.” Sungyeol pulls on a t-shirt, one of his grey v-necks.

“I’m clairvoyant,” Woohyun says, sorting through his suitcase to pick out a shirt of his own.

There’s a knock on the door, and Sungyeol grabs a towel to dry his hair as he heads towards the door. “Sure you are. This is probably just some kink thing for you. Are you sure you don’t want me to call you oppa?”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Woohyun is laughing hard and Sungyeol is rolling his eyes and toweling his hair dry when he opens the door. Myungsoo is standing on the other side, all in black and wearing one of his fedoras. A pillow slams into Sungyeol’s back and makes Myungsoo blink.

“Uh, hey,” he says.

“Hey,” Sungyeol answers, reaching down to grab the pillow and hurl it back at a still-laughing Woohyun. “Sleep good?”

“Yeah,” Myungsoo answers, still staring.

“What’s up?” Sungyeol asks, draping the towel around his neck now.

“Oh. I just wanted to see if you wanted to go get breakfast.” His eyes flicker over Sungyeol’s shoulder to where Woohyun is pulling on a shirt. “Uh, you too, hyung, if you want,” he adds.

Sungyeol glances back in time to see Woohyun smooth his shirt down and give Myungsoo a long look. “No, I’m fine,” he says after a moment. “You two go ahead. I’m gonna call my brother.”

“Lemme get some shoes,” Sungyeol says, heading over to where he left his. When he looks back, Myungsoo is still standing awkwardly in the door. “You can come in, you know,” he says, sitting down on the bed to pull his shoes on.

Myungsoo takes a few steps in. He looks at the bed Sungyeol is sitting on, and Sungyeol has a brief moment of panic before realizing that he actually had gotten into bed last night, even if he hadn’t stayed there long. His bed isn’t nearly as much of a mess as the tangle of sheets that is Woohyun’s, but Sungyeol’s always stayed in one position as he sleeps, motionless as a corpse. The others used to stick mirrors under his nose to make sure he was still alive when he first moved into the dorm. There’s nothing to give them away, especially not to someone as typically unobservant as Myungsoo.

“Want me to bring you something back?” Sungyeol asks, pulling his towel from around his shoulders and snapping it at Woohyun, who’s starting on his hair.

Woohyun bats the towel away. “Grab me a piece of fruit or two, will you?”

“Sure. You coming?”

Myungsoo starts, then follows Sungyeol towards the door. They walk towards the elevator in silence that Sungyeol barely notices. Apparently shower sex is a great way to start the morning, because while he has that pleasant post-orgasm looseness he knows so well now, he doesn’t feel nearly as exhausted as he would have expected.

“Woohyun-hyung seems happier lately,” Myungsoo says suddenly as the elevator doors close behind them.

Sungyeol glances over at him. “What?”

Myungsoo purses his lips. “Not as tense, you know? Not as…” He pauses to consider the word he wants to use. “Brittle.”

Sungyeol’s eyebrows raise; that’s actually a really good way to describe the way Woohyun has been since Sunggyu started pulling away from him. Or had been, anyway, till lately. Because Myungsoo’s right: he does seem less brittle.

If it were Woohyun beside him, Sungyeol would make a joke about sexual frustration getting relieved, but instead he just nods. “Yeah, maybe.”

“You’re being a really good friend to him,” Myungsoo says. “I think you’re helping him a lot.” A wry smile briefly creases his face. “When you two aren’t fighting.”

Sungyeol swallows hard as the elevator doors ding open and they start down the hall towards the breakfast room. “I think he just needed someone to distract him,” he says, voice a little rough. “You know. From Sunggyu-hyung.” He inwardly winces at his own words; he doesn’t like to think of himself that way, as a distraction. And he doesn’t think that’s all he is, at least not in his more confident moments. They’re friends again, aren’t they? Closer than they were before? Not just a distraction?

“Probably,” Myungsoo agrees. “He doesn’t seem to watch him so much anymore.”

Sungyeol looks at him. “Does he not?”

“No.”

“Huh. I’m surprised you noticed.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t. It’s kind of obvious.”

It would probably have to be, for Myungsoo to notice. It is strange that he himself didn’t notice. He had observed that Sunggyu seemed less obviously cold to Woohyun, but he hadn’t paid much attention to how Woohyun reacted to their leader. Hearing that he’s paying less attention to Sunggyu, that stirs something inside Sungyeol. He must be happy for his friend, moving on a bit from his unrequited love.

“I’m glad you’re there for him,” Myungsoo says, and while he sounds like he means it, he also sort of sounds like he’s trying to convince himself. Weird.

Sungyeol shrugs. “We’re just hanging out. It’s not like we’ve talked a lot or anything.” Well, they’ve talked some. But not the way Dongwoo-hyung wants to get them to talk when they have problems, all revealing and honest about their feelings and stuff. Or, okay, maybe they have a bit. But not a lot. Mostly they’ve just fooled around. And had sex.

“Still.”

Sungyeol is trying to think of what he needs to say next when they spy the rappers and Sungjong over at a table. Hoya waves at them in greeting—Dongwoo clearly hasn’t finished waking up yet, judging by the blankness of his normally-expressive face—and Sungyeol waves back before following Myungsoo over to the buffet.

They grab some breakfast, Sungyeol making sure to slip a banana and a couple of tangerines into his bag for Woohyun, and settle at the table with the others.

“There’s coffee, you know,” Hoya says, eyeing Sungyeol’s glass of juice.

“I know,” Sungyeol answers. Usually even when he’s trying to cut back, he lets himself drink at least one cup while they’re out of the country. He claims it’s to fight jet lag, and Sungjong is usually the one who points out that they haven’t even changed time zones so he couldn’t possibly be jetlagged. But today he doesn’t feel like he needs the caffeine. “How was the sofa bed, Sungjong?”

Sungjong takes a bite of pastry. “Very comfortable. I slept incredibly well. How did you sleep, hyung?” The look he gives Sungyeol is sly and knowing and superior and disinterested all at once—a classic Sungjong. Sungyeol rolls his eyes; he knows exactly what the maknae is insinuating, but he won’t give them away, he knows that much. Sungjong can be annoying, but he’s a good guy.

“Fine,” is all Sungyeol says.

“Where’s Woohyun-hyung?” Now Sungjong’s expression is pure butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth.

Sungyeol just shrugs. “In the room. Where’s leader?” he asks.

“He went with Hyoan-hyung earlier. He had some things to go over,” Myungsoo answers.

For the thousandth time, Sungyeol realizes how glad he is that he isn’t the leader. He’d never want to have that kind of responsibility. “Did you get a look at the schedule today?” he asks Myungsoo.

Myungsoo is shoveling through his food like he always does. Sungyeol’s never known anyone who can eat as much as he can and not gain much weight at all. “It’s a lot.”

Everyone groans. “What’s the fun of travelling when we never actually get to see any of the countries we visit except for the TV studios and the performance halls?” Sungyeol asks.

“One day we’re going to get a real vacation and I’m going to travel with my family,” Sungjong says. “And actually see everything. Every single thing in the guidebook.”

“Yeah, the whole tourist thing,” Hoya agrees. “Obnoxiously taking pictures every place we visit.”

“Making sure to get an actual tour guide,” Dongwoo adds, awake enough now to join the conversation. “The ones with the little flags that you follow around.”

“Yeah, and eating where the locals do,” Myungsoo contributes.

“And buying kitschy souvenirs for way too much money,” Sungyeol laughs.

Dongwoo glances down at his phone sitting on the table next to him. “Time to go, kids.”

The members finish taking sips or popping the last bits of whatever they have left into their mouths and rise to go to the lobby. Sunggyu is standing there with their managers and translator, flipping through a few pieces of paper. Sungyeol doesn’t even want to know what’s on that paper. He looks up when they join him, blinking as he mentally takes roll.

“Where’s Woohyun?”

“Here.” Woohyun jogs up from the direction of the elevator, stopping next to Sungyeol.

“Good,” Sunggyu says. “Here’s the schedule for the day….”

Sungyeol half-listens as Sunggyu runs through their day; he’s never really paid close attention when Sunggyu goes over their obligations because he knows Sunggyu will get them to where they need to be when they need to be there. He reaches into his bag and hands Woohyun the banana and makes to give him the tangerines, too.

“Hold onto those for later,” Woohyun whispers, peeling the banana, so Sungyeol stuffs them back into his bag.

“You could have gotten something that would make less of a mess, though,” Woohyun continues in an undertone. Sungjong’s standing in front of him, so Sunggyu can’t see him. “Tangerine juice gets everywhere. The noonas will get pissed if it gets on my clothes.”

“Well, at least you won’t be able to understand them when they yell at you. Sometimes the language barrier is nice,” Sungyeol mutters back.

“Are you kidding? The first words I learn in any language are the curses. I can cuss in Japanese, Thai, and English. I’ll understand every insult.”

“Don’t ever tell the fans that. It’ll ruin your reputation. Don’t you know they all think that the first words you learn in any language are ‘Inspirits are my girlfriends, I love you, I never look at anyone else!’?”

Woohyun snorts and Sungyeol bites his lip to keep from laughing. When he glances up, Myungsoo is watching them, a strange look Sungyeol can’t quite place on his face. He makes a ‘What?’ face at his best friend, and Myungsoo just shakes his head and turns his attention back to Sunggyu.

“I don’t have to bother with that,” Woohyun whispers. “They understand heart-throwing in any country.”

“God, you are the worst, you greasy ass.”

“Greasy ass? Me? Wasn’t yours the ass that was greasy last night?”

Sungyeol can’t help but shove him at that, and Woohyun laughs as he goes slamming into Dongwoo.

“Are you two done?” Sunggyu’s got in his grumpy leader voice out again, but with a sharper edge to it.

Sungyeol nods quickly, but Woohyun just rights himself, still smiling. “Sorry, hyung. Please continue.”

Sunggyu gives them both a warning look before starting to speak again, and Sungyeol makes sure not to look at Woohyun when he should be paying attention after that, no matter how hard it is to keep his eyes away.

Chapter Text

“My turn tonight, right?” Sungyeol says, flopping down onto Woohyun’s bed as soon as they get in the door. Housekeeping has clearly been here while they were gone; the bed is perfectly made, not a single wrinkle in sight: no one would ever guess what they’d gotten up to last night. Or are about to get up to now, Sungyeol hopes.

Woohyun laughs, kicking off his shoes and tossing his phone and wallet onto the bedside table. “You seem pretty eager.”

Sungyeol can feel the tips of his ears turning red, but he ignores them. “You seemed to like it,” he points out.

“Fair enough.” Woohyun shucks off his shirt, tossing it onto the back of the desk chair; Sungyeol lets himself admire the view. “It was a long day, and it’s late. You’re not too tired?”

Sungyeol drags his eyes away from Woohyun’s torso to give him a skeptical look. “I’ll sleep on the plane tomorrow.”

“Well, who said I’m in the mood?” Woohyun demands, shoving Sungyeol over a bit so that he can sit down on the bed beside him, resting his back against the backboard. Fuck, he looks good: shirtless, jeans riding a little low, barefoot, hair a bit rumpled from the long day.

“Right, because not being in the mood is so like you.” Sungyeol reaches out without thinking and traces the line of Woohyun’s hipbone emerging from the waistband of his pants. When he looks up at Woohyun’s face, Woohyun is watching his face, eyes dark.

“I guess I could sacrifice a little bit of sleep,” he says, and the way his lips move gives Sungyeol no other option but to push himself up onto his hands and knees, lean forward, and kiss him.

There’s still a hint of the tempura Woohyun had for dinner lingering in the corners of his mouth, but Sungyeol doesn’t care. He’s had a hard time keeping his hands off of Woohyun all day long, and Woohyun seems to have had the same problem—he threw his arm over Sungyeol’s shoulder a couple of times, sat closer than was strictly necessary in the van, let Sungyeol fiddle with his fingers while they waited to perform. It’s all small stuff, stuff they did even before they started fooling around, stuff that nobody seems to notice. Woohyun does the same with Dongwoo—more often, even. But it felt different today.

Without breaking the kiss, Sungyeol shuffles up so that he’s closer to Woohyun and can get a better angle, moving to straddle him as they make out. He lets his eager fingers drift to the ridges of Woohyun’s abs, feeling the muscles jump and flex under his touch—that’s really fucking hot. Woohyun’s hands are gliding up and down Sungyeol’s arms, and when Sungyeol tries to slide his lips down to Woohyun’s neck, Woohyun’s mouth chases his down and coaxes him back into a kiss.

After a few minutes, Woohyun tugs at the bottom of Sungyeol’s shirt and Sungyeol pulls back long enough to rip it off and toss it aside. When their mouths meet again, his fingers dip lower, to tease at the top of Woohyun’s waistband. Woohyun squirms, hand moving up to tug at Sungyeol’s hair. “Hold on a sec,” he says huskily when they come up for air. Sungyeol allows Woohyun to take his hips and steer him off of him, and then Woohyun’s off the bed and rummaging around in his bag. He emerges after a moment with the bottle of lube and a couple of condoms and tosses them onto the bedside table. “Hop up,” he commands, and Sungyeol moves off the bed, letting him pull back the duvet and the sheets. Sungyeol edges closer to him while he’s doing it, and as soon as he straightens, Sungyeol bends down to kiss him again, fingers once more playing with the top of Woohyun’s waistband. He half expects Woohyun to pull back and shoot him some smart-ass comment about being eager, but Woohyun just reaches down to unbutton his pants, shucking them and his underwear off while Sungyeol does the same.

He’s getting more used to actual nakedness, Sungyeol realizes as he and Woohyun kiss their way onto the bed. At first when they actually started shedding clothes instead of just pushing them aside, it had felt too much, too vulnerable, maybe. But now he doesn’t even think about it except in a mindless sort of less clothes is better way. Because less clothes is so much better: the way Woohyun’s skin feels against his is just depraved in the hottest way possible, and Sungyeol just wants to get closerclosercloser till their skin grafts together or something he doesn’t even know but he knows he wants more.

He’s getting tingly now, thinking of sliding into Woohyun, and nervous too, but not enough that it overwhelms the hotness of that thought. But Woohyun had been really careful with him, making sure that he didn’t hurt at all, and he’s determined to return the favor. The actual penetration hadn’t been fantastic for Sungyeol—it hadn’t been bad, either, but he thinks they have things to learn and figure out before it’s enough to really get him hot and probably it will be the same way for Woohyun. But as long as it doesn’t hurt him, Sungyeol thinks he’ll be okay with that.

The one thing he picked up on last night was that it was better for him because he was so turned on before Woohyun even bothered to open the lube, so he concentrates on doing the same for Woohyun. He lets his hands and mouth slide over Woohyun’s body, coaxing the heat to build, touching him absolutely every place he can imagine might feel good (and a few places that might not feel particularly good but that Sungyeol can’t resist touching). He hadn’t realized till just now how much he knows about what Woohyun likes, but he sees that he does: he knows just where to suck or stroke to make Woohyun squirm and gasp, knows how hard or soft to be, knows when to linger and when to move on quickly. Woohyun has his fingers in Sungyeol’s hair again, but other than that, he’s just letting Sungyeol touch him. It’s not what Sungyeol is used to, but it feels right, and, after all, it’s Woohyun’s turn to feel this way.

Besides, Sungyeol can’t say he’s not enjoying it: he’s fascinated by the way Woohyun’s skin feels different on his hipbone than it does where his shoulder meets his arm than it does just beneath his ribcage. He smells different, too, in different places: muskier down by his thighs, like some sort of face-cream behind his ear, sharper with sweat on his chest. And so many different kinds of sounds he makes: shallow gasps and deep groans and whimpers and whines and moans. Sungyeol has the hazy thought that you could fill up a book with all the things Woohyun is.

When Woohyun’s panting turns helpless and a sheen of sweat is coating him all over, Sungyeol sits back and looks down at him. Woohyun’s eyes are heavy-lidded as he looks back up at him, and Sungyeol can’t quite bring himself to ask, What now? Maybe he should have done research himself, like Woohyun did for him—but he hasn’t had time, and Woohyun can—will—tell him what to do.

And Woohyun apparently knows what he’s thinking, because he raises a lazy hand and points at the lube. “You’ll probably need to do three fingers, since yours are so thin,” he says, voice raspy.

Sungyeol looks down at his hands, both of them still resting on Woohyun’s body. “They are, aren’t they?” He hadn’t really thought much about it before. But his hands are big, his fingers long, and he’s glad, because he can touch so much more of Woohyun than he would be able to otherwise.

“Mmm.”

Sungyeol watches Woohyun watching him with his dark, dark eyes as he slicks up his fingers. The liquid is a bit cool, so he rubs his fingers a bit, hoping to heat it up. Taking a deep breath, he slides his hand around to Woohyun’s entrance and hesitates for a moment. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt at all. Just do what he did. Woohyun lets out a sharp intake of breath when Sungyeol pushes the tip of his finger in, and Sungyeol’s eyes fly to his face for reassurance that he’s okay. But though Woohyun has tensed up, his eyes are still steady, despite being almost foggy, and he gives Sungyeol a tiny nod, so Sungyeol starts working his finger in (inside Woohyun. He can’t wrap his mind around that). Better to be too slow than too fast—fast would hurt.

Inside, Woohyun is tight and hot and strange. Sungyeol bites his lip, trying not to let himself think too much about what it’s going to feel like to push into him and instead focusing on making sure to take his time (he thinks his fingers might be trembling). He can see from Woohyun’s face that he’s trying to relax, but he’s not doing much of a better job of it than Sungyeol did the night before, one of his hands fisting the bed sheets, the other gripping Sungyeol’s free hand. “It’s a good thing you’re keeping your damn hands away from my hair,” Sungyeol says, trying to distract him. “You’d be ripping it out of my head by this point.”

“Shut up,” Woohyun grunts. “I can still feel where your fingernails were digging into my arms.”

Sungyeol laughs shakily, pausing to make sure Woohyun seems okay with one finger before slowly adding a second. “You see why now, right?”

“It feels like I’m reverse-shitting.”

Sungyeol laughs again at the crudity. “It kinda does. Doesn’t smell so bad, though. Except yours smells like roses or something, right?” Woohyun is still so tense, though Sungyeol can’t see any sign of pain on his face. Still, he doesn’t like seeing Woohyun like that, so he shifts positions, releasing Woohyun’s hand and bringing it up to rest on his shoulder as he stretches out beside him. Woohyun latches on, gripping him hard, his thumb against Sungyeol’s collarbone, and Sungyeol leans down to nibble on his neck, wanting him to feel something good again even as he continues to work with his fingers.

“Shut up. The lube’s unscented,” Woohyun gasps as Sungyeol mouths at his collarbones.

“I’d be pretty freaked out if it smelled like strawberries or something,” Sungyeol says against the skin of Woohyun’s neck. He lets his teeth brush just a little against the spot where Woohyun is extra sensitive, then immediately soothes it with a sweep of his tongue and a brush of his lips. Woohyun groans.

“I think they had bubblegum flavor,” Woohyun grits through his teeth.

It’s okay, Woohyun. We’re almost there.

Sungyeol thinks his voice might be wavering, even as he tries to keep up the banter. “Oh, that’s sexy; you should definitely pick that next time.”

As they talk, Sungyeol keeps pulling back for a moment here and there to take a look at Woohyun’s face, searching it for any indication that Woohyun is hurting. Whenever he hesitates, Woohyun nods in encouragement and Sungyeol continues, till finally he’s got all three fingers in, and Woohyun nods once, sharply. “That should be okay.”

Sungyeol eases his fingers out, wiping them on the sheet and reaching for the condom, fumbling with the slick wrapper before finally getting it out. He’s never used one before, but it’s simple enough to figure out, as is remembering to use a whole lot of lube, making sure the bottle’s close at hand if he needs more as positions himself over Woohyun. Don’t hurt him. Whatever you do, don’t hurt him.

Woohyun’s eyes are still on Sungyeol’s face, cloudy and dark, as Sungyeol stretches out above him, and Sungyeol feels like he should hold his gaze, but he drops his head to Woohyun’s shoulder as soon as he’s the slightest bit inside. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. It’s more intense than he thought it would be, and it’s going to be torture working his way in, but he braces himself, screwing his eyes shut, breathing hard, and focusing on evening out his breath.

Slowslowslowslowslowslowslow. He chants the word over and over inside his head, focusing on it, trying to convince himself that it’s the only thing in the world.

By the time he’s fully inside, he’s sweating all over and panting hard. Fuck, how did Woohyun keep from hurting him last night? “Woohyun. You okay?” he rasps, muscles straining from trying not to move. Have to give him time. He needs a minute.

“Yeah.” His voice sounds a little strained, but when Sungyeol raises his head to look down at him, he can’t see any pain on his face, just those steady, dark eyes. Woohyun licks his lips (fuck, he has amazing lips), whispers, “C’mere.”

Sungyeol knows what he’s asking for, and he lowers his lips to Woohyun’s immediately, kissing him long and deep. He focuses on the lips under his, on Woohyun’s tongue and mouth and teeth, familiar now but no less compelling, focuses on them so he won’t think of how much he wants to move, to thrust into Woohyun likes his body wants, like Woohyun’s body seems to be telling him to do. But he can’t do that yet, because Woohyun needs time, like the time he gave Sungyeol last night, and he needs other things, like Sungyeol’s mouth on his, like Sungyeol’s hand slipping between their bodies and seeking him out. He gasps into Sungyeol’s mouth when Sungyeol’s hand closes around him.

He feels familiar in Sungyeol’s hand, and it makes Sungyeol’s head swim to think that just a few months ago, he’d never touched Woohyun like this, hadn’t even thought of it. But now he knows what Woohyun likes, what makes him moan, what will distract him from the strangeness of this new thing.

“Okay,” Woohyun says after a moment, and Sungyeol starts to move.

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. It’s so much, the friction and the heat of it, so much that he almost forgets that he needs to keep stroking Woohyun, and he’s sure the rhythm of his hand is anything but steady. The rhythm of his hips doesn’t seem quite right at first, either; he has to shift it a couple of times to get comfortable. But then it’s amazing, and, fuck, if Woohyun felt like this last night no wonder he knew Sungyeol would want to try it. Sungyeol kind of never wants to stop trying it, wants to keep doing this forever, moving inside Woohyun, with him so close and him making those familiar noises and everything feeling so good.

A lock of sweaty hair has pulled loose from his ponytail as Sungyeol moves and is brushing against his neck with every motion; it itches, but Sungyeol doesn’t have a free hand to move it. It’s just enough of an annoyance that it manages to distract him a bit from the way Woohyun feels around him—but that’s honestly a good thing, it’s keeping him from coming.

“Here,” Woohyun says suddenly, reaching up and tucking the hair back. It’s such a relief Sungyeol could almost cry.

“You just wanted an excuse,” Sungyeol pants. This guy and his obsession with Sungyeol’s hair.

“Maybe.” Woohyun shoves his fingers into Sungyeol’s hair, then uses it to pull him down for a kiss. Sungyeol can’t concentrate on it, not when he’s also trying to take care of Woohyun and also keep from collapsing onto him at the same time, so he doesn’t participate much, but Woohyun doesn’t seem to care that he’s doing all the kissing himself. Sungyeol wishes he was better at this, wishes that he could make it awesome for Woohyun. But they’re just starting out; maybe they’ll figure that out later.

And then Woohyun’s hand joins his. “I’ve got this,” he says against Sungyeol’s lips.

Fuck, he meant to do better, to be able to make it good for Woohyun at the same time, but— “I can—“

“Sungyeol. It’s okay,” Woohyun repeats, and Sungyeol lets his own hand fall away, lets Woohyun take over, and props himself up better.

“It’s okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Woohyun answers before his lips capture Sungyeol’s again for a brief, deep kiss. “It’s okay.”

It’s so fucking past ‘okay’ for Sungyeol that he doesn’t even know how to describe it. His arms are trembling, the muscles burning, he’s sweating like he’s in a sauna, he doesn’t even know what kinds of sounds he’s making and how embarrassing they might be—but he doesn’t care. Now that he’s not having to split his attention, he can let himself fall into the sensations, focus on the hot electricity that’s building inside him, starting where Woohyun is so tight around him and tingling out throughout his body till he can feel it in his eyelids and toenails. His breath is coming harder than it does when he exercises, rasping its way out of his lungs, and each time he inhales he gets a lungful of a smell that’s too musky for pleasantness but so, so hot.

“Woohyun.” He can feel a little dot of coolness—Woohyun’s earring—against his lip as he gasps out his name. “Woohyun.”

He’s not sure what he’s saying, what he’s asking, but he can feel Woohyun’s fingers in his damp hair, the nails brushing against his scalp. And then he feels lips against his cheek—Woohyun must have turned his head—and Woohyun says, quiet against his ear, “It’s okay, Yeol.”

Sungyeol doesn’t—quite—let himself lose control, but it’s a near thing, his hips moving faster, eyes screwing up tight, panting and gasping and moving into Woohyun and out again and fuck it feels good and he really could keep doing this forever except that that heat is burning brighter and hotter until it explodes into fireworks that shoot out through him, bright against the backdrop of his eyelids and hot and good through all the rest of him. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

He manages—barely—to keep himself from collapsing onto Woohyun and just drops his forehead to rest on Woohyun’s, gasping so harsh that his lungs burn and trying to figure out if he still has all his fingers and toes and holy fuck that was good.

His heart is starting to slow when he realizes that Woohyun’s hand has stopped moving, that he’s still hard, and Woohyun notices that he notices.

“It’s okay—“ Woohyun starts to say, but Sungyeol interrupts him.

“No, it’s not.” Sungyeol barely remembers to ease out slowly instead of just jerking back, but does just in time, and then he’s pulling off the condom and trying to tie it up with fingers that are still shaky from aftershocks.

“Here.” Woohyun takes it from him, ties it up, and Sungyeol grabs it back, throwing it blindly in the general direction of the trashcan before sliding down Woohyun’s body and taking him into his mouth.

Woohyun moans immediately, and this, Sungyeol knows he’s gotten good at. It isn’t long before Woohyun tenses up and lets out a moan. And this time Sungyeol swallows.

It isn’t a pleasant taste, too salty by far, though it isn’t the worst thing he’s ever tasted either. He probably grimaces as he wipes at his mouth, but Woohyun is still panting and probably doesn’t notice. Sungyeol climbs back up to lean over Woohyun so he can see his face. Woohyun blinks up at him, still breathing hard.

“Was it okay?” Sungyeol asks, swallowing to try to get rid of the saltiness still in his mouth.

“Yeah,” Woohyun says, tugging limply on a lock of Sungyeol’s hair that’s hanging sweaty and loose by his cheek. “It was okay.” His eyes are smiling even if his mouth isn’t. “For you, too?”

Sungyeol pants a laugh, remembering when they’d had the reverse of this conversation the night before. “Yeah, pretty okay. Woohyun.”

“Yeah?”

“You were right. I really did want to try that.”

Woohyun laughs at that, hard, his eyes crinkling up and that dimple appearing down below his mouth, and Sungyeol has to laugh, too. They’re both still laughing when Woohyun tugs him down for a kiss, laughing when they pull apart and Woohyun reaches over to flick off the lights, laughing when Woohyun throws an arm around his waist again, maybe even still laughing when they fall asleep.

Because this time? Sungyeol sleeps right through the night.

Chapter Text

Previous chapter

--

“…but of course we’re always glad to come home to Korea,” Sunggyu finishes with a nod. It’s the typical idol line when asked about their overseas travels, and usually it’s true enough for all the members. It isn’t like travelling for work is much fun; it’s just like being at home—photoshoots, interviews, performances, practice all jammed together into too little time—except with the added stress of airport security and not understanding the language. Sungyeol is always glad to get back to his own bed, to the dorm that smells familiar, to his favorite takeout places. He likes travel, in theory, but travel as an idol is nothing like travel for regular people. Coming home is better.

This time, though, he’s not so glad the trip was so short. Two nights in that hotel room with Woohyun, and it sort of feels like everything has changed. After locked doors and a bed to themselves and time, he’s not thrilled about having to go back to stealing random moments and sneaking around again. And it’ll probably be forever before they can have sex again, too, which sucks because Sungyeol is eager to try it some more, to figure it out and get good at it.

He’s thinking about that as the MC turns his attention to Myungsoo—“Omo! So handsome! But you should talk more; don’t you have something to say?”—and he lets his eyes wander over to Woohyun. The outfit he’s wearing reveals quite a bit of his chest, and it’s distracting Sungyeol. Woohyun notices he’s checking him out, raises an eyebrow at him with the slightest of grins, and Sungyeol rolls his eyes in reply. Jerk.

Sungyeol tries to drag his focus away from Woohyun as the members move into position on the stage to start the performance. It works for a time, as the music starts and they fall into the rhythm of the choreography, Sungyeol counting beats in his head. He may whine and groan whenever it’s time to practice, complain to Myungsoo about Sunggyu being a slave driver, but once the cameras are on and the music starts, he’s always grateful for how many times they’ve gone over each move.

And then Woohyun is center stage, power vocals and hitting every beat, and Sungyeol has never been so thankful for muscle memory. Because he can’t drag his eyes away from Woohyun, not when he’s like this. His hair is spiked off his forehead, his skin shiny with sweat, and he keeps tipping his head back, drawing attention to his neck (the things Sungyeol has done to that neck. The things he wants to do to it right now). But it’s not so much that that captivates Sungyeol. It’s the way Woohyun seems totally in his element, completely oblivious to anything but the performance, giving himself over to it. Woohyun doesn’t own the stage, exuding power and confidence like Dongwoo or Hoya. Normally he’s not nearly as compelling to watch as some of the other members, not radiating charisma or anything. But right now Sungyeol realizes he looks so comfortable when he’s singing, and Sungyeol is sure he’s never been sexier. Sungyeol’s brain totally checks out, and it’s only those long hours of practice—till he felt like the instructions for the dance were engraved on his bones—that gets him through the performance.

They’re all giddy with their post-performance high when they troop off the stage—Dongwoo keeps trying to jump on Myungsoo’s back for a piggyback ride, and even Sunggyu is smiling widely. There are back slaps and confirmations of a job well done from their managers and the show staff, and then they’re directed toward the green room to cool down, passing the APink girls, who are next on the roster, on the way.

But Sungyeol grabs the back of Woohyun’s shirt as the others file into the room and pulls him down the hall and around a corner into a little corridor that’s silent and dark. He has Woohyun pressed up against the wall, mouths melding together, before Woohyun even knows what’s happening. Finally. Sungyeol had wanted to rush across the stage and touch any part of Woohyun that he could reach through that entire performance, and having to delay that only makes this moment better.

At least until Woohyun pulls away. “We can’t do this here!” he hisses, but his arms are still around Sungyeol’s waist, so Sungyeol doesn’t think he’s really that serious. He lowers his face for another kiss. “I’m serious!” Woohyun isn’t anywhere close to angry, but he does sound like he means it. “It was really fucking stupid doing it before. We can’t do this to Infinite.”

Sungyeol whines. “But you were driving me crazy out there.”

Woohyun’s firmness dissolves, a smile twitching his mouth. Those lips. They should really be illegal. “Yeah?”

“I thought I was going to trip over Dongwoo and fall flat on my face. You kept distracting me, you bastard.” Sungyeol kind of can’t believe he’s saying these things out loud; he’s thought them before, lots of times, though maybe not this intense (everything seems more intense since those two nights in the hotel room), but he’d never felt confident enough to say them. Even now his ears are turning a bit red, but he thinks of that morning in the shower and You’re really fucking sexy right now whispered in Woohyun’s raspy voice, and somehow the words come out.

Woohyun’s wide smile only has a hint of a smirk. “I can’t believe you’re actually admitting it.”

“Shut up.”

This time Woohyun kisses him back, long and deep, and Sungyeol knows Woohyun is right, knows this is stupid and irresponsible and a thousand other things that he can’t help but be but that Woohyun never is when it comes to Infinite, but Woohyun is so fucking hot and Sungyeol wants him so bad and—

A throat clears nearby and they both spring apart, Sungyeol’s heart slamming against his ribs with the force of a jackhammer.

Key is standing not far away, his eyebrows up at his hairline. Sungyeol can’t decide whether he looks amused or horrified, but he definitely looks surprised. Sungyeol thinks he’s going to throw up or melt into a puddle of goo; this isn’t like with Sungjong. That had been bad enough, but Sungjong is his brother, his annoying, wise little brother who would do anything for him and Woohyun, just like he and Woohyun would do anything for Sungjong. This is different. Sure, he knows Key and likes him—even if he has a way of making Sungyeol feel like he’s hopelessly uncool, but that’s not really his fault, just the aura he gives off—and he knows he and Woohyun are close. Plus, he’s an idol, too, a bigger one than even they are; he’s got to value privacy. But he’s still an outsider. He’s not Infinite. Shit.

“You really shouldn’t be doing this here,” Key says, and though the surprise and amusement are still in his eyes, he sounds serious. “You really, really shouldn’t.”

Sungyeol glances at Woohyun and sees his shock falling away, abashed relief taking its place. Oh, sure, he’s relieved. Sungyeol is mortified. “Hey, Kibum. What’s up?”

Sungyeol gapes at Woohyun’s casual tone. Key smirks, then looks over at Sungyeol, his eyes sliding over his body in a way that makes Sungyeol shift uncomfortably. It’s not like he’s checking him out, it’s not sexual. He just looks...assessing. It’s almost worse.

Cheeks scarlet, Sungyeol makes a few jerky movements. “I’m gonna—I’ll—yeah—“ And then he glances back at an amused Woohyun, who just grins at him, and stumbles away, making sure not to touch Key at all as he hurries past him. He makes it around the corner without throwing up or collapsing onto his face, but as soon as he’s out of sight of the other two he falls back against the wall and presses a hand against his jackhammering heart.

“You are fucking lucky, Nam Woohyun.” Key’s pitched his voice low, but Sungyeol can still hear it from around the corner. “If I’d been anyone else—“

“I know, I know. It was fucking stupid,” Woohyun answers. Sungyeol lets his head thump gently back against the wall behind him.

“It was fucking imbecilic, you moron.” Key’s voice is harsh, but Sungyeol thinks he can hear the concern behind it. He and Woohyun are really good friends, after all. “What were you thinking, doing that here?”

“I don’t need a lecture, Kibum.”

“I think you do. I thought you were smarter than this.”

“I know, okay? It won’t happen again.” Woohyun sounds impatient and annoyed and apologetic all at once. “I know how to be careful.”

“Well, make sure you are. Fuck, Woohyun, if someone else caught you—“

“I know.”

They’re quiet for a moment, and Sungyeol’s pulse starts to return to normal. He’s about to push off the wall and walk away when Key’s next words catch his ear.

“Sungyeol? Really?”

Oh, fuck. Sungyeol knows, he absolutely knows that he should walk away right now. He learned his lesson listening to Woohyun and Sungjong talk on the playground; it had made him feel antsy and wrong for hours. He doesn’t want to hear what Key—and, more importantly, Woohyun—might say.

And yet.

“What’s wrong with Sungyeol?” Sungyeol’s cheeks heat up; he’s probably imagining the defensive hint of anger in Woohyun’s tone.

Except maybe not, because Key hurries to reassure him. “Nothing. I like him and everything. I just didn’t expect that.”

Woohyun snorts. “Yeah, well, me neither.”

Walk away walk away walk away.

“How long?”

Woohyun sounds amused. “Three or four months.”

“You bastard. You didn’t even tell me.” Key’s tone has become a lot lighter, completely losing any chastising edge it held before.

“It’s not like we haven’t both been busy, and I could hardly just text you about it. Isn’t your phone forever getting hacked?”

“I didn’t know that about Sungyeol. He’s always seemed so hung up on girls.”

“Oh, he always has been.”

See? This is exactly what you don’t want to hear.

It’s Key’s turn to sound amused. “He didn’t know? How’d it start then?”

Woohyun sounds almost sheepish, except Woohyun doesn’t do sheepish. And maybe he also sounds a little proud, too. “I jumped him when I was drunk.”

Sungyeol doesn’t have to be looking at them to know that Key’s laughing so hard his head’s thrown back and he’s probably slapping Woohyun in his mirth. “Oh, that’s classic. Did he freak out?”

“Completely. He was a wreck for the longest time. It drove me crazy waiting for him to get himself back together.”

Fucker. Who wouldn’t go crazy after something like that, out of nowhere?

“I’ll bet. He overreacts a lot.”

Fuck you, Kim Kibum.

“You can say that again.”

You, too, Nam Woohyun.

“Not that you’re not a drama queen, too, sometimes.”

That’s better.

“Shut the fuck up, Kibum. It’s not like you can say anything, Mr. Diva of Hallyu.”

Seriously.

“I embrace it,” Key says dismissively; he’s probably used to hearing stuff like that. “Well, is it at least good?”

Sungyeol thinks he’s going to die from the question. Or maybe from waiting for the answer. Though he doesn’t have to wait long.

“Yeah. Yeah, it’s good.”

Sungyeol isn’t sure what the feeling is that surges up through him at Woohyun’s words, but it’s intense and leaves him tingling. He thinks it’s good. And said so.

“With Sungyeol?”

Hey.

“Yes, with Sungyeol,” Woohyun answers, impatient, annoyed again. “You think it couldn’t be good with Sungyeol?”

Key probably shrugs. “It’s not like I don’t believe it or anything. I just wouldn’t think he’d be your type.”

Sungyeol suddenly sees Sunggyu in his mind, full-color digital quality. They’re nothing alike, not in looks and most certainly not in personality; there’s a reason they’re probably the least close out of all the Infinite members. He and Sunggyu have never had anything in common at all except for Infinite. Except for Woohyun.

“I don’t know what my type is. But it’s good. With Sungyeol.”

Sunggyu’s image disappears immediately. Fuck.

“I guess he’s kind of hot. A little on the pretty side, maybe. And he’s funny. I know he makes you laugh.”

“He’s fun. And okay to talk to, you know? And a fast learner.”

“You taught him well, yeah?” Key sounds like he’s going to burst into laughter again at any moment. Sungyeol’s cheeks are heating again, for a different reason now.

Woohyun laughs, too, but it doesn’t sound mocking or anything. More…fond. “Yeah. And he’s really…long. All over. Like he just goes on and on.”

Sungyeol’s pretty sure his blush is so intense that it would blind anyone who looked at him. And Key laughing like that doesn’t help anything.

“Yeah, I noticed when he did ‘Trouble Maker.’ He’s got some legs on him.”

“Fuck, yeah,” Woohyun says, and Sungyeol thinks he might spontaneously combust. He spins around, pressing his burning cheek against the cool plaster of the wall. Holy fuck. “And his mouth is unreal.”

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Is Woohyun trying to kill him?

“That’s certainly a plus,” Key laughs. “Well, I’m glad you’re finally getting some experience with a guy. I told you to find someone, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, you did, almighty one. You’re never wrong, you infallible god, you.”

“Glad you noticed. Convenient, too, him being one of your members. But you’re not just using him, are you? To distract you when you still have feelings for Sunggyu? That would be a dick move.”

Sungyeol lowers himself shakily to the floor. Not this. You fucking idiot, Lee Sungyeol. You should have just walked away.

Woohyun sounds pissed now. “I’m not some sort of jackass predator, Kibum. He’s my friend. Maybe it was a little like that at the start, for both of us, but it’s not like that now.”

“No? You two have talked about it, then?”

“Well, no, but—“

“Then you’ve got feelings for him?”

Sungyeol’s head starts spinning so hard he has to plant his hands flat on the floor to make sure he doesn’t fall over. Feelings?

“There you are.”

Sungyeol’s head shoots up. Myungsoo is coming towards him down the hall, and Sungyeol isn’t sure whether he wants to kiss him or kill him. He jumps to his feet, shakily, rushes towards him and grabs his arm, steering him away. He can’t let Myungsoo know he was eavesdropping. He’d want to know why.

“Yeah, just taking a break.” He knows his voice is cracking, but it does that. Myungsoo examines him closely with a furrowed brow even as he lets Sungyeol guide him down the hall.

“I thought maybe you were with Woohyun-hyung.”

Sungyeol starts coughing and can’t stop for a moment, not even when Myungsoo reaches over and pounds his back. “Uh, no,” he manages when he recovers. “I think I saw him head off with Key somewhere.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Is Leader looking for us?” Distract. Distract distract distract. Distract Myungsoo from wondering about him and Woohyun; distract yourself from wondering what Woohyun was about to say. Distract yourself from figuring out what you’d want him to say.

“He’s starting to get annoyed,” Myungsoo confirms. “I thought I’d better catch you before he gets pissed.”

“Thanks.” Yeah, thanks. Or damn you. I haven’t decided which one yet.

“Sure. Shouldn’t we go look for Woohyun-hyung?”

“No.” He maybe answers a bit too sharply, bites his lip and swallows. “I’m sure he’ll be back any minute. We don’t need to worry about him.”

“Okay,” Myungsoo agrees readily enough. “Hey, you were good today,” he adds after a second.

“Huh?” Sungyeol gapes at him.

“When we were dancing,” Myungsoo clarifies. “You looked...less self-conscious. Like you weren’t thinking about it too hard.”

Damn his fair skin. Apparently all he’s capable of doing today is blushing. “Oh?”

“Yeah, Leader noticed it, too. He and Dongwoo-hyung were talking about it. What was different about today?”

Oh, I was just picturing shoving Woohyun up against the wall and screwing him silly. “Uh. I don’t know.”

“Well, whatever it was, you should try it again. It worked.”

Sungyeol half-swallows, half-chokes. “Sure.” Like I’ll be able to help it.

Sunggyu hasn’t quite made it past annoyed to upset by the time they get back to the others, but he’s clearly ready to go. He’s just about to go off about Woohyun’s absence—Sungyeol can tell—when Woohyun skids up to them.

“Sorry, hyung,” he says. “I was talking to Kibum. I haven’t seen him in forever.”

Sunggyu, whose eyes had been sharp up till that moment, seems to soften a bit. “Don’t wander off again like that,” is all he says in warning, and Sungyeol flashes back to that morning in the kitchen when he promised to try to be more fair. This is a little bit more than fair—he’d have every right to tell Woohyun off for disappearing like that—and while Sungyeol is glad, it also makes him a bit uncomfortable for reasons he can’t figure out.

Woohyun pokes him in the side as they climb into the van. “Don’t worry,” he says in an undertone. “We’re cool.”

It takes Sungyeol a second to realize what he’s reassuring him about. Oh. Right. Key. He won’t tell on them. Well, that’s good. Now if Sungyeol can only stop wondering why on earth Key would bring up the idea of ‘feelings’ at all.

He wanders into the kitchen later when Woohyun is making ramyun. Woohyun looks up at him and smiles in greeting, but Sungyeol avoids his eyes, drawing patterns on the countertop with a few drops of water that splashed over the edge of the pot.

“So. Um. Key knew….?” He trails off, not sure how to phrase it. This could be really awkward. He sways a little in nervousness, hipbones bumping against the counter.

But Woohyun just stirs the noodles. “He knew I was into guys, too, yeah.”

They’re both being quiet; no one needs to overhear. Sungyeol drags a drop of water into the shape of an infinity symbol, liking the way it stands up above the surface of the counter. “Oh. Yeah, he didn’t seem as shocked as I would have thought.”

“Nah, we’ve talked about things like that before.”

Sungyeol is quiet for a moment, thinking about what that means. Maybe Woohyun wasn’t quite as alone in his crisis as Sungyeol had assumed. Maybe he’s at least had Key to talk to and help him figure things out, even if they don’t get to see each other as often as they’d like. Sungyeol is really glad: he hasn’t liked to think about the way Woohyun must have suffered alone.

“I think he was pretty surprised it was you, though,” Woohyun says suddenly.

Sungyeol keeps his eyes on the countertop; the infinity symbol has evaporated away. “Yeah?”

“He likes you, though,” Woohyun assures him. “I mean, I know you two aren’t close or anything. But he thinks you’re cool.”

Sungyeol snorts softly; he’s pretty sure that the Almighty Key doesn’t think he’s ‘cool’ at all, but at least he knows now that he also doesn’t think he’s the lowest of the low or anything. “Why?” He glances up and sees Woohyun’s confused look, then clears his throat and tries again. “Uh, why was he so surprised it was me?” He can’t quite bring himself to ask what he really wants to ask, maybe mostly because he isn’t entirely sure what that question actually is.

Woohyun shrugs. “He didn’t know you’d be into m—guys.”

Sungyeol just nods. There’s nothing else to be staring at on the countertop, but he keeps his gaze there anyway. “Oh. Yeah.”

Woohyun sounds a little awkward, clearing his throat and putting the lid back on the pan. “He thinks it’s good, though. You know, because he knows we’re good friends.”

“Good friends,” Sungyeol echoes. Why doesn’t he know what it is those words make him feel? They are friends, good friends again, and he can see now that somehow, in some mind-blowing, logic-defying way, he’s become closer to Woohyun than just about anyone. He’s talked about things with him he’s never talked about with anyone, and he trusts him enough to do what they did in that hotel room, and he just likes him, likes being around him and spending time with him and stuff. They’re friends. Definitely.

“Aren’t we?” Woohyun isn’t looking at him either, studying the cabinet door in front of his eyes, and Sungyeol can hear that he’s trying to sound casual, but he thinks he hears a note of real anxiety in that question.

“Yeah. Yeah, of course we are.”

When he looks up, Woohyun is looking at him, smiling widely. “Good,” Woohyun says, taking the pot off the stove. “Grab some chopsticks. Want the lid?”

The two of them sit on the floor of the living room, eating the ramyun in silence. Woohyun seems to find it comfortable, even humming under his breath as he eats, but Sungyeol’s mind is still churning, and he grips the handle of the lid so hard it hurts his hand.

“Hyung, I’m hungry, aren’t you going to share?” Sungjong whines when he comes in a few minutes later. He’s wearing shorter shorts than the ones he usually does, and his legs are so skinny and from here they look hairless, like a girl’s. He’s gotten so good at exuding confident masculinity on stage, but sometimes he looks like such a little boy. “Hyung!” He also still gets whiny when he’s hungry.

“There’s not enough,” Woohyun answers.

“Won’t you make me some, then?”

“Go make your own; it only takes a few minutes.”

Sungjong rolls his eyes, but he’s used to this, so he heads into the kitchen, making far more noise with the pot than he really needs to. When the water set to boil and he comes back out, he shoots Sungyeol a knowing look, but Sungyeol barely notices.

He does notice, however, when Sunggyu emerges from his bedroom. “You’re making ramyun?” he says to Woohyun. “Great. I’m starving.”

“No,” Woohyun answers, glancing up only briefly before returning his attention to his food. “I’m not making anything.”

Sunggyu stares at him, eyebrows dipping in confusion. “You’re eating it right now. I’m looking at you eating it.”

“Right,” Woohyun confirms, spearing an egg with his chopstick. “I made ramyun. But I’m not making any more. Ask Maknae to share his pot with you, his should be almost done now.”

Sunggyu’s eyebrows dip even lower, but after a second he heads into the kitchen. “Ya, Lee Sungjong! Did you leave this boiling pot on the stove? How many times have I told you not to leave the kitchen while the stove is on!”

Sungjong comes hurrying back out from wherever he’s been. “Sorry, hyung!” he apologizes as he slides around the corner on his socks and into the kitchen.

The two of them bicker in the kitchen about something—whether Sungjong added enough eggs or whatever—but Sungyeol’s looking at Woohyun.

“What?” Woohyun asks, once he notices that he has Sungyeol’s attention.

Sungyeol just shakes his head. “Nothing.”

Myungsoo was right. Woohyun had barely looked up at Sunggyu when he’d come in the room, but he also hadn’t specifically avoided looking at him, either. How had Sungyeol not noticed things like that? Has he really been doing this for a while? Suddenly feeling more cheerful, Sungyeol leans over the pot and searches out the last egg. Just as he’s about to grab it, Woohyun’s chopsticks clash up against his.

“Ya! I was going to eat that! Didn’t you see me go for it first?”

Woohyun just smirks. “And who made it?”

“What’s that matter? You’ve had more than me anyway. I want it!”

“Well, you can't have it! I made you dinner, you should be grateful and let me have the last one.”

“No way!”

And that’s how the chopstick duel starts, the two of them jabbing so much with their utensils that soon the poor egg is riddled with holes, chunks of the white falling off and the yolk peeking out.

“Fine,” Woohyun sighs finally, looking at the sad little egg. “We’ll half it.”

He bites off half of the egg, then holds the rest out with his chopsticks. Sungyeol glances from the offered egg up to Woohyun’s face, and Woohyun nods, his eyes intent on Sungyeol’s face. Slowly, Sungyeol opens his mouth, letting Woohyun feed him the last of the egg. He doesn’t even taste it as he chews and swallows, too mesmerized by the way one of Woohyun’s eyebrows raises and the way his lips are a little shiny from the noodles.

Fuck, Sungyeol really wants to kiss him right now, shove him down onto the floor and crawl all over him. But just then Sunggyu comes out of the kitchen with his own pot of ramyun in his hands, Sungjong trailing after him.

“Want to play video games before bed?” Woohyun asks Sungyeol as the other two seat themselves.

“Sure,” Sungyeol says.

“I’m going to beat your ass so bad you’ll never be able to show your face in public again out of shame.”

Sungyeol bites his tongue to keep from making a joke about what they’ve done to each other’s asses already, rising to follow Woohyun as he tosses the pan in the sink and then heads over to the television. They play for a while, loudly swapping insults and groaning and cheering in frustration or triumph, till Sunggyu yells at them to go to bed. Woohyun shoves him as they head back to their rooms, and Sungyeol shoves him back before they split to go their separate ways.

Friends. Yeah. We definitely are.

So why does the thought of that word still make Sungyeol’s skin itch?

Chapter Text

“And what are you going to say if they ask you about your relationship again?”

Sungyeol’s head flies up to stare at Sunggyu, all the blood draining from his face. “Huh?” What does he know?

The leader sighs impatiently. “If they ask you about how close you’ve seemed lately. You know they’ve been doing that a lot.”

“Oh.” Sungyeol lets his gaze fall back down, his heart slowing to a normal rhythm in his chest. That’s all. For a moment there he’d thought….But he banishes that horrifying thought quickly.

“Yeah, and no wonder,” Hoya snorts. “You two have been joined at the hip lately. Like conjoined twins who look nothing alike.”

“You jealous?” Woohyun asks from where he’s lying beside Sungyeol, the two of them on their stomachs on the living room floor with Woohyun’s laptop open in front of them again. They’d been hanging out, looking at ridiculous humor sites and laughing about stupid stuff as they wasted time before their next schedule until Sunggyu came into the room and started lecturing them about appropriate behavior at their radio show visit today. “I know you can’t get enough of the Nam-man, no one can.”

Sungyeol rolls his eyes as Hoya laughs. “Yeah. That’s it. I’m just burning with envy about how Sungyeol’s dominating your greasy self.”

Sungyeol keeps his eyes down, glued on the keyboard in front of him. Woohyun’s arm feels warm where it’s brushing against his.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Sunggyu interrupts before Woohyun and Hoya can get too distracted.

“Oh my God, hyung,” Woohyun says in exasperation. “I’ll say that Sungyeol is one of my best friends and I’m training him in fanservice, the way I always do. You can trust us with one radio interview. Do you think we’re completely incompetent?”

Sungyeol doesn’t have to look up to know that Sunggyu’s eyes are flickering towards him; he knows that Sunggyu does in fact think he’s pretty incompetent. But their leader has always trusted Woohyun, so he just sighs again.

“Fine. Just doesn’t embarrass us, okay?”

“Don’t worry, hyung,” Sungjong says, walking into the room. “I’ll look after them.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Sunggyu says, and while his voice is a bit dry, it’s also really fond. “Take care of them well, Sungjongie.”

“I will.”

“Come on, hyung,” Hoya says. “Dongwoo and Myungsoo are already in the van. We should get going.”

Sunggyu just looks at Woohyun and Sungyeol again, clearly not thrilled at the idea of the two of them and Sungjong being left on their own. “Okay, fine, let’s go.”

Once the door is closed behind him and Hoya, Sungjong cocks his hip and crosses his arms, looking down at the two on the floor. “Well, this is going to be fun.”

--

“Oh my God, hyungs, stop flirting!”

Sungyeol and Woohyun look up at exactly the same time to stare at Sungjong. The maknae has his arms crossed again and his annoyed face on, and when he sees he actually has their attention, he rolls his eyes.

“Uh. What?” Sungyeol says, the words coming out kind of strangled.

Sungjong flops down onto his seat in the green room where the three of them are waiting for their cue. “I know you two are all lovey-dovey or whatever, but that doesn’t mean that I need to see it. It’s annoying. Not to mention you’re completely ignoring the fact that I’m here, too.”

Sungyeol can feel his cheeks burning, and he avoids looking at Woohyun. “We’re not flirting,” he says weakly. Lovey-dovey?

“Oh, whatever, hyung.”

Sungyeol focuses on picking at the edges of a frayed hole in his jeans, all too aware of Woohyun on the sofa next to him. Sure, okay, they may have felt more comfortable with just Sungjong here—he may have let himself touch Woohyun a little more than he would if the other members were around—and they’ve been bantering back and forth for the past fifteen minutes or so as they wait for their cue, seeing whose wittiness will run out first, but they don’t flirt. They’re friends who like to hang out, and when they’re alone they fool around. That’s it. There’s certainly no flirting involved, because flirting involves more than just physical attraction. Right?

He’s beginning to feel really uncomfortable with these thoughts, but thankfully it’s just that moment when the producer sticks her head in the room and instructs them to follow her to the studio. He hangs back a bit, letting Woohyun and Sungjong move ahead of him, but when they enter the room and are greeted by the DJs, Sungjong smirks at him and heads right to the chair on the far left—ensuring that Sungyeol will absolutely have to sit next to Woohyun. That little bastard.

His embarrassment dies away soon enough as they fall into the pattern of the interview. Sungyeol likes radio interviews more than TV ones; they’re more casual, with everyone in street clothes and no makeup, and for some reason they feel less high-pressure, like if you mess up or say something stupid that it doesn’t matter quite as much. That’s probably not even true, but it’s the way it feels to Sungyeol. And the DJs today are pretty cool, going out of their way to ask questions the members haven’t heard three million times before and joking around with them in a way that’s neither stupid nor condescending.

Which is why Sungyeol feels completely whiplashed when they take audience questions from online and the very first one is aimed at him. And of course it’s just his very favorite question in the world: “Sungyeol-sshi, besides being tall, what do you offer Infinite?” The female DJ gives him a sheepish look even as she reads it off, apology in her eyes, but Sungyeol’s high from the interview starts to leech away anyway.

Sungyeol hears that question in his nightmares. He knows it makes the others uncomfortable too; they may joke themselves about his lack of singing ability, but they don’t like it when outsiders do. Myungsoo has told him more than once that he thinks that every person who asks that question ought to be caned. Sungyeol thinks he should be used to it by now, the impertinence of it, the implications of worthlessness, but there are moments when it catches him off guard and slams into him with the force of a freight train.

But of course he can’t show that. And this time, even if he’s surprised, it’s not so much that he’s hurt by it—more just really, really tired of this question. Really tired. “Oh, isn’t height enough?” He makes sure that his voice lilts with humor, even if all he feels is weariness. “Do you know what the average height of this group would be without me? It would be embarrassing.”

The male DJ chuckles. “It’s true, Infinite does skew shorter, doesn’t it?”

“You’re certainly no 2AM or SS501,” the female DJ agrees, laughing a bit. She gives him a smile across the table, and Sungyeol can see she’s about to move on to the next question, lovely woman.

But then, out of nowhere, Woohyun leans close to his mic. “Anybody who asks that question clearly hasn’t seen one of our variety shows,” he says.

The DJs both stare at him for a moment, surprised by the comment they weren’t expecting. Sungjong’s eyebrows have leapt up so far they’re practically above his head.

As for Sungyeol, well, his mouth is hanging open. What the fuck?

But then the female DJ smiles. “Is that right?” she asks, prompting Woohyun to continue.

“Yes,” Woohyun says. He’s looking at the DJ like he’s answering her question, not looking at Sungyeol at all, but he suddenly feels really, really close to Sungyeol, like they’re sitting way too close together. “Sungyeol brings a lot of the fun to our shows. And not just to our shows—he’s the one who reminds us to have fun every day and not to forget that we’re still young. We work hard, all of us, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to do anything else. But Sungyeol is always looking for ways to squeeze in some fun into our schedules. Without him, we would have a much more serious image and I think our fans would like us less.” Woohyun finishes decisively and leans back in his chair, a satisfied look on his face. When he looks over at a still-gaping Sungyeol, he doesn’t smile or anything, just holds his gaze steadily. Sungyeol is still too gobsmacked to even look away in embarrassment.

What the fuck was that?

“Well, that sounds like a really big contribution, doesn’t it?” the female DJ says, smiling widely. “Now, Sungjong-ssi, here is the question for you.”

It’s a really good thing that there aren’t any more questions directed at Sungyeol for the remainder of the interview that would actually require him to think, because his brain’s gone sort of blank. Sungjong and Woohyun both answer their audience questions with ease and charm, and then it’s time to wrap up, the DJs thanking them for being here and the members responding politely—Sungyeol manages to do that, at least. As they rise to leave the room, Sungjong smirks at Sungyeol in a superior way, and Sungyeol swallows hard before he follows Woohyun out of the room.

“What the fuck was that?” he hisses as soon as they’re out in the hall.

Woohyun glances over him and replies casually. “What? It was true, wasn’t it?”

Sungyeol feels a jolt of heat. He never knew that any of the others saw him that way. Myungsoo, maybe, with the way he laughs at Sungyeol’s silliness. And the others have made sure to let him know that they want him there and that Infinite isn’t Infinite without him. But he’s never heard any of them say out loud that there’s something specific he offers besides ‘being funny for audiences.’ The thought that Woohyun considers him that way…fuck.

“That’s not usually the way we answer that question,” Sungyeol says finally, a bit lamely because he has no idea what else to say.

“Well, maybe we should.” And then Woohyun turns and walks down the hall back towards the green room. Sungyeol follows, still a bit overwhelmed, and Sungjong falls into step beside him, elbowing him in the ribs and giving him a significant look, looking like he’s going to burst into laughter at any moment.

“Shut up, Sungjong,” Sungyeol mutters.

“I didn’t say anything, hyung.”

They gather their things in the green room and head back out to wait for the van, the three of them settling on a bench and pulling out their phones to see if they missed anything while they were recording. Sungyeol’s finally stopped feeling quite so awkward and is beginning to relax again when he hears a voice from around the corner.

“So who was it today?”

A different voice answers, sounding bored. “Infinite, apparently. The ones with the super-synchronized dancing?”

Must be staff here at the building. Yeah, that’s usually how Sungyeol hears them described. Honestly, they better be known for their synchronization after all the hours of practice they put in.

“Oh, right. The trend-dols.” The first speaker seems to have some idea of who they are, which is nice, Sungyeol notes absently, scrolling through his contacts. “All of them?”

“Nah, just three of them. Uh, Woohyun and Sung—“

“Oh, come on, you know the names don’t mean anything to me.”

Sungyeol almost laughs at that, catching Sungjong’s eye. That’s about what they expect from middle-aged men, as these two obviously are. Honestly, if they know any of their names, it’s probably just L, who doesn’t even actually exist. And Sungyeol’s okay with that, with them not being known specifically. He’d prefer Infinite to be known as a group anyway; if they had the kind of recognition from average people that some of the bigger groups do, that would be too much. He’s not sure he ever wants to be that famous. Better to be the trend-dols with 99.9% synchronization. He can live with that.

“Right, right,” the other guy answers. “Uh, the clown, the girl, and the whore.”

Sungyeol’s phone clatters to the ground. It’s a new model and up until this moment he’s been incredibly careful not to even scratch it, but now he doesn’t even notice he’s dropped it. His eyes fly to meet Sungjong’s, and they’re huge as he stares back.

“Ah, okay,” the first guy answers as they move on.

Sungyeol doesn’t hear anything they say after that, still doesn’t notice that his phone is no longer in his hand, because now his eyes are on Woohyun’s face and fuck. For just one second, so brief that if Sungyeol didn’t know him he’d be able to believe he hadn’t even seen it, Woohyun’s feelings are all right there, so raw that it makes Sungyeol want to scream. And then it’s all gone as though it had never been there at all, and Woohyun’s back to smiling again.

“Hear that, Sungjongie?” he says, voice light, as he nudges the maknae. “I guess your new concept hasn’t totally caught on after all. Still calling you a girl? You’ll have to work harder at showing your masculine image.”

Sungjong’s reactions lately to the guys’ teasing about his effeminacy have ranged from mild annoyance of the eye-rolling variety to full-on rage. But now he just blinks, still looking closely at Woohyun. “You’re probably right, hyung.”

Woohyun’s brow creases for a moment at the lack of response at his teasing, but then he brightens. “Look, hyung’s here with the van,” he says cheerily, starting towards the door.

Sungyeol and Sungjong just look at each other. Then: “Fuck,” Sungyeol curses quietly, reaching down to pick up his phone.

“Yeah,” Sungjong says. The two of them hurry after Woohyun, climbing into the van. They could all have a seat to themselves if one of them had sat up front by Geonam-hyung, but Sungjong heads to the back after a glance at Sungyeol while Sungyeol sits down on the same bench seat as Woohyun. He wants to sit closer, right next to him (wants to take his hand), but he thinks Woohyun wouldn’t react well to that.

“Hyung,” he says softly, not even realizing he’s reverted to the honorific. He’s not sure what he wants to say, but he wants to do something. Fuck that ahjussi in the hallway—Woohyun’s the furthest thing from a whore. He doesn’t do anything he does for money, only to make the fans happy, and besides, up until he and Sungyeol started fooling around, Sungyeol’s pretty sure he’d been living like a monk, just like the rest of them. ‘Whore’ doesn’t have anything to do with who Nam Woohyun is. Fuck that ahjussi.

Woohyun acts like he hasn’t even heard him. “That was a pretty decent interview, hyung,” he says, leaning forward to talk to their manager.

“Yeah?” Geonam says, grinning into the rearview. “Sunggyu was fretting earlier about not being there. I told him you three would be fine on your own.”

Woohyun continues to chatter away with their manager, like it’s just a normal day. Sungyeol can’t take his eyes off of him, at the way his face looks so calm, like someone didn’t call him the worst thing they could call him just minutes ago. Woohyun ignores his gaze—ignores both him and Sungjong—but it doesn’t rattle Sungyeol. His fingers are twitching to reach out and touch Woohyun, but he can’t do that, not only because Geonam is in the car with them but also because he’s certain Woohyun would lash out at him if he tries, so he knots them together in his lap, jiggling his leg and staring at Woohyun through the whole car ride. Fuck that ahjussi.

“Are you guys hungry?” Woohyun asks, bouncing out of the van once they reach their building. “I think I’ll cook us something for dinner since we have some time before the others get back—what do you guys want?”

Sungyeol and Sungjong exchange looks. “Whatever you want, hyung,” Sungjong says after a moment.

Woohyun takes this in stride, nodding and still talking as he heads into the apartment. Sungyeol grabs Sungjong’s sleeve to keep him out in the hallway.

“Fuck, hyung,” Sungjong says looking up at him, his eyes troubled. “He heard that.”

“I know.” Sungyeol shoves a hand through his hair. “I know.”

“I wanted to rip that ahjussi’s head off,” Sungjong continues, face creasing with anger. “Who says that about people they don’t know?”

“I don’t know.” Sungyeol feels exactly the same way. “Assholes, I guess. Listen, Sungjong, could you maybe—?” He stops abruptly.

Sungjong studies him closely. “Yeah, sure, hyung. Are you going to—?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know what yet, but…yeah.”

Sungjong nods after a moment. “Okay. I’ll go to the coffee shop for a while.”

“Thanks, Sungjongie.”

“Remember that the others will be back at 5:00, okay, hyung?”

“Yeah. I’ll remember.”

Sungjong just looks at him for a long moment, then reaches out and pats his shoulder. “Good luck, hyung.”

Sungyeol’s laugh doesn’t contain any joy. “Thanks.”

Sungjong is almost to the elevator when Sungyeol calls out to him on impulse. “Hey, Sungjong?”

Sungjong pauses and turns to look at him. “Yeah, hyung?”

“You’re a really good man.” The words feel awkward in his mouth, the sincerity a flavor he’s not used to, but he means it. Anyone who can’t see what a mature young man Sungjong is now is just blind.

But for all his maturity, Sungjong still looks absolutely adorable when he smiles. “Thanks, hyung. You are, too, you know. Woohyun-hyung is lucky to have you.” And then he pushes the button and the elevator doors ding open, and Sungyeol is left standing in the hall alone. He takes a deep, shuddering breath before he turns to open the door.

Woohyun is riffling through the contents of the fridge when Sungyeol steps into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Woohyun says without turning around. “Ask Sungjong if he’d run to the store and get some more rice, won’t you?”

“Sungjong’s gone out for a while,” Sungyeol says.

Woohyun freezes, just for a moment, then goes back to opening containers and shuffling things around. “Yeah? Where’d he go?”

“The coffee shop or something.”

“I guess it’s just you and me, then. Unless I want to make something that will heat up well when the others get back. What do you think?”

“Hyung.”

“But then they might stop and get something on the way home, so maybe not.”

“Hyung.”

“But we can always eat it tomorrow, so I might as well make a lot now that we have some time, you know?”

“Hyung.”

Woohyun spins around so violently that Sungyeol takes a step back. “Why the fuck are you calling me that? You haven’t called me that in weeks!”

Sungyeol’s throat is so dry he thinks he could drain every river in Korea and it wouldn’t help at all, and clearing it certainly doesn’t. “I just—can we talk?”

Woohyun’s eyes go dark, but not in the way Sungyeol is familiar with, the way Sungyeol loves. This darkness is a different kind altogether. “Talk about what?” he says, turning back to the refrigerator.

Fuck. Okay. How does he say this without pissing him off? God, he’s so bad at comfort, especially when the other person wants to pretend like nothing’s wrong. He wishes fiercely that Dongwoo-hyung were here or Sunggyu-hyung or someone who knows how to handle Woohyun when he’s like this because Sungyeol knows he doesn’t. But he has to do something. He has to.

“I know you heard what that ahjussi in the hallway said.”

Woohyun braces his hands against the side and the open door of the fridge, but he doesn’t say anything. The line of his shoulders is taut.

“We all heard it,” Sungyeol continues, forcing each word out. “And it wasn’t true, hyung. It really wasn’t true and—“

Woohyun turns again, slower but no less violently. “What the fuck do I care about what some random person says? Do you really think I care?” It’s like he’s trying to be lighthearted and angry at the same time, and the combination makes Sungyeol feel like there are rocks in his stomach.

Yes. I know you care. I know you care about every single thing everyone says about you. I know you do. “I just wanted to—“

“Look, this is not a conversation that needs to happen, okay? Now tell me what you want for dinner.”

Sungyeol takes a step closer to him. “Are you—“

“Sungyeol. Drop it. I’m fine.”

This guy. Why is he like this? “You’re not fine.”

Woohyun’s eyes narrow. “Excuse me?”

“You’re not fine!” Sungyeol repeats. “You’re going to think about that forever. I know, because I do it, too. But it’s bullshit, hyung, it wasn’t true. That guy can go fuck himself because—“

Woohyun slams the door of the fridge closed. “I told you this is not a conversation we need to have. Do you ever listen?”

Sungyeol’s had those words thrown at him a million times—from his mom, from teachers back in school, from the managers, from Sunggyu (maybe the most from Sunggyu). And sometimes he deserves them, not because he doesn’t listen, because most of the time he does. It’s just that after he listens, if he doesn’t agree, he doesn’t obey. He’s never been great with authority, and while his mom had held on to the hope that he might learn more obedience by becoming a trainee, he really, really hasn’t.

And right now, he’s glad. He’s glad, because any of the other guys would probably respect the fact that Woohyun doesn’t want to talk about this and they’d walk away. But Sungyeol’s not going to do that. Sungyeol has no intention of doing that. Not when that word spoken by a stranger has to have ploughed its way through Woohyun’s armor and straight into his heart, hooking into it so that it can’t be shaken away. Fuck that ahjussi.

When he reaches out and grabs Woohyun but the arm and starts dragging him towards the bedroom, Woohyun is so startled that he doesn’t even fight at first, and by the time he gets around to doing so, Sungyeol has dug his nails in, pulling him with all his strength, absolutely determined that he won’t get away.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Woohyun sputters.

Sungyeol still doesn’t know, not really, but he does know that he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Woohyun forget all about what that fucker said. He closes the door and locks it behind them, and then he turns to Woohyun.

When he does, Woohyun is staring at him like he’s crazy. Well, maybe he is. He’s certainly been accused of that often enough, and right now he feels unhinged enough to do something completely insane, like go find that ahjussi and beat him to a bloody pulp. Or follow through on the idea that’s just popped into his head.

But he can’t very well do the former, so he goes with the latter, barreling over to Woohyun, grabbing his shoulders, and wrenching him in for a kiss. Woohyun stiffens in surprise for just a moment, but then immediately melts into him, letting Sungyeol deepen the kiss right away. Sungyeol kisses him thoroughly, wanting every single nerve ending in Woohyun’s mouth and tongue and lips to know that Sungyeol is there. His hands slide up to cup Woohyun’s face, and that’s not something he’s ever really done before, but it feels right, his hands soft but firm as they hold as much of Woohyun’s face as he possibly can.

For all he’s panting hard, Woohyun looks relieved when they pull back. “If that’s what you wanted, why didn’t you just say so?” he asks with a short laugh. “Not that I don’t like the caveman thing sometimes, if you’re in the mood.”

But that’s not what this is and Sungyeol wants him to know. “You’re not a whore.”

Woohyun blinks, and then his face twists up, just for a moment, in anger and something that looks a lot like pain before it smoothes out and the anger is all that’s left. “I told you to drop that.”

Sungyeol lets one hand slide down Woohyun’s cheek, his neck, shoulder, arm, down all the way to his hand, where he twines their fingers together (like he’d wanted to do as soon as he heard that ahjussi’s words, like he’d wanted to do the whole car ride home). He drags the tips of the fingers of his other hand across Woohyun’s lips (fuck, those lips, always those lips), his cheekbones, up around to his eyebrows. The light touch seems to dissolve Woohyun’s anger, leaving only confusion in his eyes.

“Sungyeol. What—?”

“You’re not a whore,” Sungyeol repeats, voice throaty, tightening his grip on Woohyun’s hand. There’s only the slightest flicker of anger in Woohyun’s eyes at the words; he’s watching Sungyeol so steadily, his puzzlement clear even as Sungyeol leans forward and presses a kiss to the corner of Woohyun’s mouth. Woohyun inhales sharply, a sound Sungyeol usually only hears when Sungyeol’s hand first touches his erection; the reaction doesn’t make much sense to Sungyeol, but it doesn’t matter right now.

“You’re not a whore.” Sungyeol releases Woohyun’s hand just long enough to slowly pull Woohyun’s shirt off his body. Woohyun lets him, but he’s still so confused.

“Sungyeol, what are you doing?”

Don’t you see what this is?

Sungyeol leans down and presses a kiss to Woohyun’s shoulder, then one to the place where his neck meets his shoulder, then to his collarbone, then the hollow at the base of his throat. Woohyun’s breath is ragged now, his hands stealing up to grasp Sungyeol a little too hard at his hipbones, but Sungyeol doesn’t care.

“You’re not a whore.” He sweeps his hands over Woohyun’s chest, Woohyun tensing as he brushes over his nipples, quivering as Sungyeol’s hands brush over his abs.

“Sungyeol—“

“Anyone who would say that about you doesn’t know anything about you at all.” He doesn’t recognize the sound of his own voice, but the words are exactly what he wants to say (so much less than what he wants to say). He grabs Woohyun by the hips and steers him back towards the bed. Woohyun lets him push him (gently, more gentle than Sungyeol has ever been with him) down onto the bed, then raises his hips so Sungyeol can strip him of his jeans and underwear. When Sungyeol climbs back up him, hovering above him, he still has that confused look on his face. “Sungyeol—“

“Woohyun.” He presses another kiss to Woohyun’s lips, just a brief one, and though he’s going to pull away after that Woohyun raises his head to chase his lips and recapture them, so Sungyeol lets him. If that’s what he needs. Sungyeol stretches out beside him, reaching out to pull Woohyun into his arms, and then they kiss for a long, long time. It reminds him of that day in the closet at the salon, except that it’s nothing like that at all (it’s so much more than that). One of Woohyun’s hands is wrapped around Sungyeol’s neck, but Sungyeol catches the other and interlocks their fingers again. Woohyun Woohyun Woohyun.

Sungyeol is breathing hard and trembling when he finally pulls away from Woohyun, but Woohyun is, too, so that’s okay. Those dark, dark eyes stare up at him (dark the way he likes them, not dark with anger or pain or anything else, but dark the way only Sungyeol can make them, and Sungyeol’s heart stutters in his chest), and Sungyeol takes a moment just to stare back before he slides down Woohyun’s body.

Sungyeol has heard the phrase ‘worshipping someone’s body’ before, and it always sounded at best hopelessly cheesy and at worse really stupid. But now he thinks he understands it, because that’s what he’s trying to do. Or not quite; the worship isn’t really about Woohyun’s body at all, but his body is what Sungyeol knows how to speak to, and he doesn’t have the words for anything else, so for this moment his body will have to do (he just hopes Woohyun will understand).

The sounds Woohyun makes are so familiar now, if a bit more ragged around the edges (a bit more helpless and raw), but they seem louder than they usually do, more. The taste of him under Sungyeol’s tongue is more too, the smell of him as Sungyeol brushes his nose across skin, the feel of him warmer. “You’re not a whore.” You are so, so much. Sungyeol whispers the words against Woohyun’s collarbone, against his ribs, against his belly, against his hips, his thighs, his ankles. Raises one of Woohyun’s hands to press a kiss to his palm, to tongue between his fingers, to rasp the words against his wrist. He wants to open Woohyun up and imprint the words onto every surface of every organ and bone and inch of skin, inside and out, and then sew him back up again, the stitches forming the letters. Don’t believe what they say. Don’t let them touch you.

He whispers it again right before he takes Woohyun in his mouth, and he thinks by this time Woohyun isn’t even aware of the words anymore, not with the way he’s shaking and whimpering, but maybe they’ll creep into his consciousness, burrow their way inside and take up residence. Sungyeol hopes.

Woohyun is familiar in his mouth, and they’ve done this so many times before now, but Sungyeol has never really let himself really feel it, really notice each little detail, study and catalogue and file each one away. He does now, down to the way Woohyun’s toes twitch and the precise note of the whine Woohyun makes as Sungyeol reaches up to cup him (Sungyeol could name that note, pick it out on a scale—Sungyeol isn’t tone deaf, and as he listens to Woohyun he knows it).

“Sungyeol,” Woohyun gasps, and Sungyeol hums around him in acknowledgment, remembering how good it felt when Woohyun did that for him. Woohyun’s fingers are tangled in his hair again, pulling just a little too tight, but that feels right, too.

Sungyeol does a long, thorough job, not the slightest bit interested in hurrying this along. He’s throbbing in his pants, they feel too tight when he can taste Woohyun and hear him and feel him and smell him, but that doesn’t matter now. Woohyun is moaning and gasping attempts at his name and is warm all over. That’s right. Don’t think about anything else. Just you and me here. They don’t understand what you’re trying to give, that’s why they call you names. They don’t understand how you just want to make people happy and how amazing that is. Don’t listen to them, don’t ever listen to them.

When Woohyun comes, making a long, high sound that sounds like it’s been pulled out of his toes and all the way up through his body before it escapes, Sungyeol swallows again. He doesn’t like the taste any better this time, and he chokes a bit on it, but he’s determined, so he gets it down, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and letting his forehead fall to rest against Woohyun’s thigh. He doesn’t stay there long, though, because Woohyun tugs at his hair and whines out his name—and since when does Woohyun whine?—and so Sungyeol drags himself up to face Woohyun, getting just a glimpse of the blissed-out slackness of his face, his eyes still so dark, before their lips are falling together in a kiss.

When he feels Woohyun’s hand sliding down to cup him through his jeans—he must have felt Sungyeol hard against his thigh—he pushes the hand away. “No,” he says stubbornly. Woohyun blinks at him, reaches out again. Again, Sungyeol shoves his hand away. “No.”

“Yeol—“

“No.”

Woohyun finally relents and rolls his eyes, flopping over so that he’s half on top of Sungyeol, his cheek against Sungyeol’s chest. Sungyeol is shaking, just the slightest bit (he’s fighting to control even that), as he wraps his arms around Woohyun (maybe too tight for Woohyun to be comfortable, but he can’t help it), burying his face his the sweaty hair. Woohyun’s arms tighten, too, and Sungyeol thinks this should feel strange, himself fully clothed, Woohyun naked against him, but it doesn’t, he barely even notices. He’s still hard in his jeans, but that seems so irrelevant when he can hear Woohyun breathing hard, feel each breath he takes even through the fabric of his t-shirt.

They lay there for a while, Woohyun fiddling with the chain of the necklace around Sungyeol’s neck, Sungyeol breathing in the scent of Woohyun’s hair. Finally Woohyun stirs, and Sungyeol reluctantly loosens his arms enough that Woohyun can prop himself up on one elbow and look down into his face.

“What?” Sungyeol asks after a moment, squirming a bit under his gaze.

“Nothing.” But he just keeps looking at Sungyeol, just looking, so Sungyeol sits up.

“You should get a shower.” He’s not sure what time it is, but the others will probably be home soon. “I’ll heat up a curry or something, okay?”

“Sungyeol.”

“What?”

Woohyun leans down, his hand warm and just the slightest bit (pleasantly) rough against Sungyeol’s jaw as he kisses him. Sungyeol presses his eyes closed, trying to control the minute shivering that’s been shaking him for some time now. Eventually he takes Woohyun by the shoulders and moves him away, and then he climbs off the bed, feeling stiff except in the places where he feels boneless. Woohyun watches him.

“Shower now, okay?” Sungyeol says, because what else is he going to say?

“Okay,” Woohyun agrees, his gaze still steady on Sungyeol. Sungyeol looks back for a moment, then hurries as fast as his uncooperative joints will carry him to the door. As soon as he closes it behind him, he collapses against it, letting the shivering overtake him till he can barely keep upright. He squeezes his eyes closed, trying to get control of himself, but it doesn’t work (it might never work again). He ends up sinking down, crouching and wrapping his arms tight around his legs and burying his face against his knees. It doesn’t stop the shaking.

“Fuck,” he whispers raggedly.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Eavesdropping has gotten to be a bad habit of his, Sungyeol thinks as he sits with his back against the wall and listens to Sunggyu and Dongwoo talking around the corner. A bad, bad habit, but one he doesn’t have the strength at the moment to break.

“What’s wrong with Sungyeollie, hyung, do you know?” Dongwoo’s voice is worried, so compassionate, and Sungyeol kind of wants to stumble to his feet and stagger over to collapse into Dongwoo’s arms and let him hold him for a while. Dongwoo would do it, too, without question, because that’s who he is, but Sungyeol can’t even bring himself to rise.

“Has he said anything to you?” Sunggyu asks.

“No. No, but he won’t talk to anyone almost at all, and he’s not laughing anymore, and whenever any of us try to talk with him he slips away. Even Myungsoo doesn’t know. And Woohyun doesn’t either.”

“Yes, I’d noticed they weren’t talking,” Sunggyu says, and there’s a tone in his voice that Sungyeol doesn’t understand. He pulls his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them and resting his cheek on his knee.

“Woohyun keeps trying, though, like all the time, but it’s like Sungyeol doesn’t even want to be in the same room as him. I don’t understand it—they’ve seemed so close lately.”

“They have, haven’t they.” There’s no question in Sunggyu’s voice.

“Until just now,” Dongwoo agrees. “I talked to him about it, hyung.”

“Did you? That’s good; I’m glad. What did he say?”

“He doesn’t know anything at all, but it’s really bothering him, hyung, I can tell. He looks so tired and I’m not sure he’s eating much, and he doesn’t understand.”

Fuck. Sungyeol hates himself, hates himself so much. Because Dongwoo is right: Sungyeol’s been watching Woohyun every moment he can while pretending not to acknowledge him at all, and it’s true Woohyun's not eating, barely picking at even the little bit of food he normally allows himself. And Sungyeol doesn’t have to share a room with Woohyun to know Woohyun’s not getting much sleep: one look at his face could tell anyone as much. It’s my fault. He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t know why, and I can’t tell him. The thing Sungyeol wants most in the whole world is to go to Woohyun and pull him close and hold him while he makes sure that he eats and sleeps enough. The thing he wants most is to make Woohyun laugh again. But he can’t. He can’t.

“He looks just as bad as Sungyeol does, really,” Dongwoo continues, and Sungyeol knows that’s true, too. He’s stopped looking in mirrors if he doesn’t have to. His own weariness and pain is stamped too clearly on his face.

“They’re both in bad shape,” Sunggyu says, and he sounds really tired but not cold, and Sungyeol knows it’s giving him ulcers again. I always was the one who caused the most trouble for leader. I still am.

“It’s got to do with each other, doesn’t it? But what is it? Have they said awful things to each other again? Myungsoo said something about that being why they fought last time. But when I asked Woohyun about it, he said that they’d both promised not to say things like that anymore and that they haven’t. So I just don’t know.”

God, why does Dongwoo have to take all this on? He sounds so helpless, and Sungyeol knows he’s worrying about it every bit as much as he would if he were directly involved, and that doesn’t surprise Sungyeol at all (even if it makes him feel terribly, terribly guilty), because that’s what Dongwoo does. It’s like he’s incapable of not feeling the pain of those he loves just as acutely as his own, like he’s incapable of distancing himself from it.

“Should we make them talk to each other, hyung? It’s not good, them being in so much pain like this. I don’t understand at all.”

Sunggyu is silent for a moment, giving Sungyeol enough time to desperately hope they won’t get involved. He barely has the energy to avoid everyone, much less figure out a way to extricate himself from the situation if they do try to force some sort of intervention. Then Sunggyu says, “I don’t think we should, not yet. This is private, Dongwoo, or one of them would have talked to one of us. We should let them alone for a little while.”

Dongwoo clearly doesn’t like this idea at all. “Even when they’re both hurting so much?”

Fuck, Woohyun. Please don’t hurt. Especially not over me.

“Even so,” Sunggyu confirms. “We’ll give it a little time, okay? Give them a chance to work it out themselves. They’re both managing just fine in performances, so we can give them that.”

“Okay, hyung,” Dongwoo answers, reluctant but obedient. And then they’re gone, headed off to wherever, and Sungyeol lets his head thump back against the wall behind him. I really, really hate myself. But what could I possibly do now?

--

It’s almost a week before Sungjong finally gets him alone. Sungyeol can be surprisingly evasive when he wants to be, and he’s proud of that (or he usually is, when he can feel things like pride), so when Sungjong finally corners him and drags him up to the roof, he tells himself it’s just because he’s weak at the moment. He hasn’t slept more than a few hours in days, after all, and his appetite is gone, too; he’s been having headaches on and off for days and aching all over like he does when he has a fever. Sunggyu’s been frustrated with him for days and Myungsoo keeps giving him sad puppy eyes, but Sungyeol’s been surly and snappish, and that’s not helping group dynamics any. So while he tells himself he’s just weak at the moment and that he wouldn’t let Sungjong get the best of him if he were feeling better, maybe he knows deep down that he’s really just reached the point where he wants someone to talk to.

“Okay,” Sungjong says, finally releasing Sungyeol’s arm where he’d been dragging him behind him up to the roof and turning to face him. “You’re going to tell me what the hell is going on with you right now, do you hear me? I’m not going to stand for any lies or evasions or your pathetic attempts at humor. Tell me. The truth.”

Sungyeol stares at him, at Sungjong’s pretty face that right now is set in determination with concern lurking around the edges. He really cares, Sungyeol knows that, knows they all really care. Dongwoo’s been fretting over him all week, Myungsoo always looks so sad and pleading whenever he looks at him, Sunggyu has been more patient than usual each time he gives Sungyeol one of his lectures, and even Hoya has asked him a few times whether he’s okay. And Woohyun—

No. No, don’t think about him. Don’t think about him.

“Woohyun-hyung is freaking the hell out.”

So much for not thinking about him. Just hearing his name sends a bolt of pain shooting through Sungyeol, conducted by the bones of his skeleton. Woohyun.

“I’m serious, hyung, he keeps begging all the rest of us to talk to you, since you won’t talk to him. And what is up with that? You two were so happy and lovey-dovey it was gross, and now you won’t even talk to him? You won’t even look at him, hyung, can’t you see how much it’s hurting him?”

Sungyeol sees. Sungyeol knows. That just makes it all worse. It isn’t enough that he’s so weary he feels like each one of his individual cells are tired. It isn’t enough that he’s carrying around this huge scary thing inside him. Now he has to feel guilty, too, because he feels Woohyun flinch every time he pulls away from him, sees the dark circles that swallow his eyes growing larger and larger with each day that passes with Sungyeol avoiding him. Shit yes, he knows he’s hurting Woohyun, and the thought makes him sick, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He doesn’t know what to do. God, he’s so tired.

“Hyung!”

Oh, yeah. Sungjong is still here. Still here and waiting and demanding answers. Sungyeol focuses his eyes again, and this time he sees the worry in Sungjong’s eyes, so much worry, and the sight makes something inside him crumple.

“Fuck, Sungjong, fuck.” He stumbles towards the maknae, grasping his upper arms and letting his head fall to Sungjong’s shoulder. “Fuck.”

“Hyung! What’s going on?” Sungjong sounds absolutely terrified now, and Sungyeol can’t blame him.

“Fuck, Sungjong, how did this happen?” His voice is barely audible, but the question is everything he is right now. Everything he is except the sight of Woohyun’s hurt, confused eyes every time Sungyeol turns his back on him. Woohyun keeps trying to talk to him, trying to be near him, but Sungyeol has been putting that evasiveness to work like it’s his calling. He fakes being okay well enough for the cameras, gets all the moves of the dances right even if his energy is lacking. The fans might think he looks tired, but that’s all. It’s only the members and the managers who see what misery Sungyeol is in, and despite all of them asking what’s wrong and whether they can help, Sungyeol hasn’t said one word to any of them. All he wants to do is climb into bed, pull the covers over his head, let his mind go blank, and never come out again. Ever.

“Hyung!” Sungjong still sounds so alarmed as his thin arms close around Sungyeol. He’s lowering them to the ground, and it isn’t until Sungyeol wonders why that he realizes he’s crying. Or something like that, anyway: it’s mostly dry, like the tears can’t squeeze out of his gritty eyes, but he’s shuddering with sobs that rattle around in his throat, and he’s so, so glad Sungjong has let him rest on the floor, on Sungjong’s shoulder.

Wait. He’s not crying. That’s not what this is. This is laughter, actually, and why not? It’s fucking hilarious, after all. There’s never been a funnier joke, and Sungyeol should know.

Sungjong shakes him, hard. “Hyung, stop this, you’re scaring me!”

“You warned me, Sungjongie. You warned me, and I just laughed you off. But you were right, weren’t you? You’re always right.”

Sungjong just stares at him as he laughs. “Hyung…”

“I should have believed you. I should have listened.”

And then understanding dawns on Sungjong’s face, and Sungyeol can practically see the puzzle pieces being assembled in his head, like Sungjong’s eyes are windows into his brain. “Oh. Oh, hyung, is that what this is?” Sungjong breathes.

“What am I going to do, Sungjong?”

Sungjong laughs suddenly, in relief. “Hyung, if that’s all! Why were you acting like the world’s come to an end? So you have feelings for Woohyun-hyung, that’s okay. Why are you dragging yourself through hell over this?”

Sungjong doesn’t understand, he makes it sound like this is all okay, that this isn’t a catastrophe. “It’s not okay, idiot. It’s not okay at all! I love him!” So fucking much it scares him. Every time his mind drifts, it goes straight to how dark Woohyun’s eyes were as he watched him walk away that afternoon in the bedroom, that afternoon when Sungyeol could barely keep upright because the realization of what he felt for Woohyun was just too much.

Again, Sungjong laughs, but this time he sounds half-exasperated. “I know that, hyung. You think it wasn’t obvious?”

Oh, great, that’s just exactly what Sungyeol needed to hear. He can feel the beginnings of a headache thrumming in his temples again. “Well, what the fuck am I going to do?”

The face Sungjong makes says clearly that he thinks this is the stupidest question he’s ever heard. “Tell him, of course!”

Sungyeol stares at him. The fuck?

“Well, why wouldn’t you? He’ll probably be mad that you acted like such a jerk to him this week and no one could blame him, but he’ll get over that pretty quick once he hears that.”

“I can’t—I can’t tell him, are you insane?”

Sungjong looks honestly baffled. “Why not?”

“Because that would ruin everything!”

Again, Sungjong’s confusion appears completely genuine. “How could it possibly ruin anything, hyung? He loves you back.”

Fuck. For a second he can’t breathe, and then oxygen slams its way back through his lungs so hard it hurts, and he’s shaking his head. “He said we’re friends. I heard him, he said it to me, that’s what he said.” Each word slices its way out of his throat, almost as painful as the memory. Woohyun had stood there in the kitchen and called Sungyeol his ‘good friend,’ and then he’d smiled so wide when Sungyeol confirmed that that was what they were. Good friends. No wonder Sungyeol had felt uncomfortable with those words. No wonder.

The look in Sungjong’s eyes is close to pity. “If that’s what he said, hyung, that’s not what he meant. Trust me, he loves you, too.”

Sungyeol shakes his head, harder, as though he can jar the words loose from his brain so that they won’t torture him anymore. “No. No, he said. And Sunggyu—“

“Oh, don’t even start that.” Now Sungjong sounds irritated. “Everyone knows he’s over Sunggyu-hyung. He barely even glances his way anymore. Are you completely blind? Even you can’t have missed that.”

Okay. Okay, so that much might be true. Woohyun does seem to have finally let go of his feelings for Sunggyu. But there’s no way he feels for Sungyeol what Sungyeol feels for him. Woohyun is fond of him, he knows, really does think of him as one of his best friends. Woohyun likes spending time with him—he’d told Key—and is attracted to him and everything. But that’s different. That isn’t what Sungyeol feels, what Sungyeol wants.

“But he still doesn’t—he doesn’t.”

Sungjong’s eyes go narrow. “Hyung. Stop being a drama queen. This is stupid, epically stupid. Woohyun-hyung is totally gone for you.” He continues as though he doesn’t even see Sungyeol shaking his head in denial. “And even if he weren’t, you two are still really close. So you’re in love with him, so what? Even if he somehow didn’t want you back, you two are still friends, and you shoving him away isn’t going to do you any good. Quit being such a dick to him. You don’t have to tell him if you don’t want to, though you’d think you’d trust me this time since you learned your lesson the hard way before. But you don’t have to. Just be his friend again. He won’t make you keep up with the physical stuff if you’re uncomfortable with it now. He’s a good guy, hyung.”

Sungyeol can’t even think about the physical stuff, can’t even jerk off in the shower anymore thinking of Woohyun’s skin and hands and mouth (and eyes). It hurts too much, wanting him so bad but not being able to touch him. Because he can’t touch him, not when he feels this way. It was okay when they were—what was it Sungjong had called it? Oh, yeah—friends with benefits, but it’s not okay anymore.

“I can’t.”

“Hyung!” Sungjong’s face is stony, his eyes flashing. “This is beyond stupid, even for you. Get off your ass and quit feeling sorry for yourself. It might hurt to be in unrequited love—even if yours is anything but unrequited—but people go through it every day and still manage not to be total and complete bastards to all the people around them. Stop wallowing in your own misery and taking it out on everyone else, or I’ll tell him, do you hear me? I’ll tell everyone.”

“What?” Sungyeol can’t believe he’s hearing this.

“I’m serious, hyung, this is completely unacceptable.” Sungjong sounds disturbingly like Sunggyu-hyung when he says that. “You can keep away from Woohyun if that’s what you need to do, but stop being a dick to him and to everybody else. Do you understand me?”

Sungyeol just stares at him for a long, long moment. And then guilt bubbles up inside him, acid-hot, because, fuck it: Sungjong is right. This is big and scary and overwhelming, and he has absolutely no idea what to do, but he has been an ass, taking it out on the other members, snapping and pulling away whenever they try to reach out to him. That isn’t fair of him; it’s weak and immature and all the things people think he is but that he doesn’t want to be. And he’s hurting Woohyun, when that’s the last thing he wants.

“You’re right,” he says hollowly. “You’re right.”

Sungjong’s face softens. “Of course I am. I always am. Now, tell me what I’m right about.”

“I’ve been a dick,” Sungyeol says. “I’ve been a whiny baby.”

“You have,” Sungjong agrees with a nod. “So stop it.”

“I will. I will.”

Sungjong hops to his feet, then pulls Sungyeol to his. “Good. Time to go apologize.”

Something in Sungyeol’s head swirls. “Uh—what?”

“The others should all be downstairs. Go apologize for being such a jerk, and then I’ll take you out for coffee. My treat.”

Sungyeol isn’t so thrilled about the idea of apologizing, but he knows he needs to, so he lets Sungjong drag him downstairs and to the dorm. Sunggyu, Dongwoo, and Hoya are watching TV when Sungyeol enters, and Woohyun wanders in from the kitchen when Sungyeol clears his throat. Myungsoo is nowhere to be seen, but honestly that’s probably better: Sungyeol should apologize to him one-on-one anyway. Sungyeol doesn’t let himself take more than one glance at Woohyun (fuck, he’s so gorgeous and he looks so tired and that’s my fault, what kind of a bastard am I?) before he bows ninety-degrees, and the others all stop watching TV to stare at him.

“Um. I’m sorry.” His voice cracks. “I’ve been a real dick lately, and there’s no excuse for the way I’ve acted. I’ll do better, okay? Please forgive me.”

Dongwoo, looking equal parts baffled and thrilled, pops up and throws his arms around Sungyeol. “Of course we forgive you, idiot. We were just worried about you. And we’re here to talk if you want to talk about it, you know that, right?”

“I know.”

Sunggyu is looking at him steadily, something contemplative that Sungyeol doesn’t understand in his eyes. “Thank you for the apology,” he says, and Sungyeol ducks his head. Hoya just shrugs, says, “It was about time. Act like a person again, won’t you?” and turns back to the TV. Dongwoo finally releases Sungyeol from his stranglehold, and Sungyeol turns away quickly, avoiding Woohyun’s eyes, hurrying back towards the door.

But then there’s Woohyun’s hand on his elbow, pulling him to a stop, and they haven’t touched in a week, and fuckfuckfuck Sungyeol has missed any part of Woohyun touching any part of him. He turns a little, but doesn’t look at Woohyun's face (he couldn't bear that right now).

“Yeol, can we talk?” Woohyun’s voice sounds raw, and Sungyeol can’t bear it. But all his courage has run out. So he stares at Woohyun's hand on his arm (that hand that's touched every single part of his body, that hand he misses so much, that hand he wants to take in his own, lacing his fingers through Woohyun's and pulling him to him and wrapping himself around him until a new layer of skin grows around them and they’re one person), and maybe his eyes blur a little bit as he does.

“I’m sorry, hyung, but Sungjong’s waiting for me. I—I’m really sorry for being such a jerk.”

And then he pulls away, Woohyun’s hand slipping from his arm, and rushes out to the hallway, blinking rapidly and trying to convince his heart to slow down a little bit. Sungjong is waiting with his arms crossed, lounging against the wall like a fashion model, and he straightens when he sees Sungyeol.

“Well?”

“I apologized.”

“And?”

“They forgave me.”

“Good.” Sungjong purses his lips. “I was kind of hoping Woohyun-hyung would want to talk to you, though.”

“I—“ Sungyeol chokes. “I couldn’t. Not yet.”

Sungjong looks less than impressed, but he just rolls his eyes. “Fine. But the longer you drag this out, the more you’ll hurt him.”

“I know.”

Sungjong shrugs, then turns towards the elevator, Sungyeol following him. “You’re really going to have to come to a decision about him soon.”

“I know. I just…I need a day or two to get under control. Then I can go back to being friends again. And—“ He takes a deep breath. "You don't think he'll be mad when I say we can't...fool around anymore, do you?" Because as much as he’ll miss touching Woohyun, kissing Woohyun, being close to Woohyun—and he does miss it already, every moment it seems—the thought of doing that when he loves Woohyun and Woohyun doesn’t love him back is even worse. It would feel like a lie, or something, and he couldn't handle that being between them.

Sungjong snorts as they enter the elevator, reaching out to press the button for the ground floor. "Well, he probably won't be happy about it, but he's not a jerk, hyung. He's not going to force you or anything."

“Good. Because I can’t lose him as a friend, even if I know things will be weird because of the whole having sex thing and—“

“WHAT?” Sungjong’s voice rises two octaves, his face going paper-white. “You had sex with Woohyun-hyung?”

And of course that’s the moment that the elevator doors slide open, just in time for Myungsoo, who’s standing on the other side, to hear Sungjong’s shrieks and drop the bag he was holding, his face totally blank.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

“I thought you were replacing me.”

Myungsoo’s voice is quiet, but it’s the first thing either of them have said in almost an hour, the silence thick between them as they walked toward the coffee shop, as they stood in line and placed their orders, as they made their way to the nearby playground where Sungyeol had eavesdropped on Woohyun and Sungjong weeks before. They didn’t actually discuss what they were going to do after Sungjong left them, red faced and apologetic-eyed, but it just sort of happened, and then Sungyeol found himself sitting beside Myungsoo on the merry-go-round, the ice in his coffee melting without him having taken a single sip.

So when Myungsoo says that, out of nowhere, it takes Sungyeol a moment to process it. And then it connects, and he still doesn’t understand. “You thought what?”

Myungsoo fiddles with his empty cup—he’d gulped his drink down almost before they made it out of the door of the coffee shop—and looks out over to where a group of kids are playing in a sandbox. “You were spending all this time with Woohyun and laughing and everything—and it felt really private, somehow. Like no one else was in on the joke or something.” He shrugs, an awkward motion, and Sungyeol’s heart twists.

“That’s not it at all. That’s not it.”

“I know I can get annoying sometimes; everybody says I’m too clingy, but I’m not good at pretending not to be and—“ Myungsoo stops abruptly, looking down at his lap. “I thought maybe you’d found someone you like better than me.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Sungyeol can’t believe what he’s hearing. Myungsoo looks up at him dolefully, but he still can’t believe it. “It has nothing to do with you at all! What Woohyun and I do is…it’s a different thing all together! It’s not about replacing anyone!” Where is Myungsoo getting this?

“Oh.” Myungsoo doesn’t sound too convinced. “I—“ Again, he halts before finishing his sentence. When he speaks, his voice is quieter than ever, and Sungyeol thinks he can see a flush on his cheeks. “What you and Woohyun-hyung do….”

He says the words without allowing himself time to think about them. “We’ve been fooling around for a few months now.” God, it’s terrifying and strange acknowledging this, yet at the same time it’s such a relief to say it, and to Myungsoo. Talking to Sungjong has kept him from losing his sanity altogether, but it’s different with Myungsoo. Myungsoo is his best friend, the one he was always closest to, and keeping this from him has always felt wrong even as he knew he couldn’t confide in him. The chance that Myungsoo might turn on him was just too great—not because Myungsoo is a bad person or a judgmental one, but because any chance of that at all was a risk Sungyeol wasn’t willing to take. But now the words are coming out and it feels like it was all such a long time coming. “And those nights when we roomed together at the hotel—we had sex.”

Myungsoo listens to this in silence, still not looking up at Sungyeol. There is a pair of little girls—sisters, probably, from their identical bows—on the other side of the playground having a competition to see who can swing highest. Sungyeol used to play that with Daeyeol, and his longer legs always let him win. Then they’d let go, flying off of the swing at the highest point in its trajectory, hurtling through the air for a brief moment before the ground rushed up to meet them, always a bit too hard. He’d sprained his wrist that way once, and his mom had been furious. That seems like a really long time ago.

“He got Sunggyu-hyung to put you two together on purpose, didn’t he?”

Sungyeol snorts because Woohyun is nothing if not ridiculous. “Yeah.”

“I thought maybe he did, but I didn’t really know why. I mean, I was really happy that he was getting better and talking to you and stuff, but—“ Myungsoo can’t seem to finish any of his sentences anymore, probably he’s got too many thoughts he’s trying to process: Sungyeol knows the feeling. “I just don’t understand. I thought you liked girls. I mean really, really liked girls.”

So did I. “I did. I mean, I still do.”

“Girls and Woohyun,” Myungsoo says, sounding as though he doesn’t understand.

And it’s just so succinct a summation that Sungyeol has to laugh shortly. “A few other guys, too. But yeah, mostly girls and Woohyun.”

Myungsoo’s nose wrinkles—in curiosity, not disgust—and then he sounds like he can’t keep the next question in. “What’s it like? Being that way, with a guy?”

Myungsoo isn’t blushing anymore, too focused on his own question, and now that this one is out he doesn’t look like he regrets asking it. Sungyeol tries to think of what to say, but it’ll be hard to explain it, at least to Myungsoo, who loves to read romance manhwas but hasn’t had his first kiss yet and has been weirded out by Sungyeol’s porn on the few occasions he’s seen it--the kind Myungsoo watches is animated. Myungsoo is really so innocent in some ways, and even though the difference in their ages is only a couple of months, Sungyeol suddenly feels so much older than Myungsoo. “It’s probably different depending on the guy,” he says finally. “Just like it’s different with each different girl.”

That doesn’t seem to help Myungsoo any; his brow is all creased, and he’s looking at Sungyeol questioningly now. Sungyeol tries again. “I didn’t plan for it to happen, you know.” Myungsoo cocks his head to the side, and Sungyeol recognizes it for the question it is. “One night we had too much to drink and started making out and—“ Well, that’s all anyone else needs to know. “And it freaked me out, like, a lot.”

“I remember,” Myungsoo says seriously. “I didn’t know why, but I remember.”

“Yeah. I’ll bet,” Sungyeol laughs. “And then it just kept happening, and it was really…really hot.”

Again, Myungsoo looks a little weirded out at the thought of his bandmates together and Sungyeol finding it so hot. “Hot,” he repeats, as though he’d never heard the word before.

“Like…any moment I’m not touching him is wasted, you know?”

“No,” Myungsoo says, shaking his head. He’s so very solemn, but he doesn’t seem disgusted, and that’s a really good thing.

Sungyeol blushes. “I…that’s what it feels like.”

“But you don’t like people touching you.”

Sungyeol winces; Myungsoo probably doesn’t mean for it to show, but he looks a little hurt. No doubt he’s thinking of all those times when he latched onto Sungyeol’s back or tried to hug him and Sungyeol stiffened up or only tolerated him for the sake of fanservice. Sungyeol knows Myungsoo tries not to take that personally because he knows Sungyeol isn’t a touchy person, but hearing that Sungyeol wants to touch someone else must feel like a rejection of him personally. “I don’t, usually,” he says. “But it’s different. It’s not cuddling—“ He stops, because what would you possibly call him holding Woohyun on the bed after he got him off the other day if not cuddling? “Or, not much. Different touching is different.” How can he explain this to naïve Myungsoo? “It’s just him,” he says finally, lamely, and it is. No one else has ever made him feel the way Woohyun makes him feel, not even close.

“Oh.” It’s clear that Myungsoo still doesn’t understand, but he isn’t going to press it. Sungyeol can’t help but feel guilty.

Silence again, except for the passing of nearby traffic and the shouts and laughter of the kids in the other sections of the playground. The little sisters are on the see-saw now, and the bows on their heads jerk like dying birds every time one of their seats hits the ground.

“And you two had…sex? Like…sex?”

Myungsoo sounds so curious, so honestly baffled but kind of intrigued that Sungyeol doesn’t even resent the question. “Yeah. We did.”

“Does it hurt?” Myungsoo’s eyes are so wide, he looks even younger than he usually does.

“No.”

“Does it feel good?”

Well, he’s already told Myungsoo just about everything, might as well go all the way. “It depends on which part of it you’re doing,” Sungyeol answers honestly.

Myungsoo gives him a puzzled look, and then his eyes go even wider as he understands. “Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Sungyeol takes a sip of his coffee, but it tastes too watery, the ice all melted and diluting the coffee. He grimaces and waits for the next question.

He has to wait a bit. “And is it just physical or…?”

Ah. There it is. The big one. Sungyeol pulls the straw out of his cup and jabs at a piece of gravel on the merry-go-round beside him. “Not for me, it’s not. For him I think it is.”

“Really?” Now Myungsoo sounds more surprised than he has for the entire conversation.

Sungyeol swallows hard; it hurts because his throat is dry. “Yeah.”

“But he’s not in love with Sunggyu-hyung anymore. He’s not.”

Everyone keeps saying that like it’s the answer to all of Sungyeol’s problems, but he knows that that doesn’t mean anything. “No. But that doesn’t mean he’s in love with me.”

“But you are? In love with him?”

Sungyeol looks at his best friend, at that familiar face with the eyes that can seem so empty or frighteningly intense but that right now are just curious and concerned. “Yeah,” he says.

“Oh.”

“You aren’t going to hate me now or anything?” Sungyeol asks abruptly into the silence growing between them, and though his tone is joking, there’s a real question behind it. Please don’t turn away now.

“No,” Myungsoo says, and Sungyeol can tell he means it. “I mean, I don’t really understand. It’s weird to me, especially because it’s you and Woohyun-hyung. But it doesn’t bother me like that.”

Sungyeol’s relief is probably stamped all over his face, but Myungsoo doesn’t acknowledge it, because Myungsoo is awesome like that. “Okay. You just seem….” He doesn’t know the right word. Troubled, maybe?

“You didn’t tell me,” Myungsoo says after a moment, and his voice is quiet again, but he just looks uncomfortable all of a sudden. And then it clicks: Myungsoo cares a lot less about the how and the why of it all than he does about the fact that Sungyeol didn’t tell him.

Sungyeol shrugs, feeling strangely defensive. He knows deep down it’s because Myungsoo has every right to feel hurt about this, but he doesn’t like that—it makes him feel guilty, and with as guilty as he’s feeling about how he’s treating Woohyun at the moment, he just can’t deal with that right now. “What was I supposed to do? Sit down on your bed one night and say, ‘Um, Woohyun and I are fooling around even though Woohyun is in love with Sunggyu and I like girls’? Who says stuff like that out loud?”

Myungsoo shifts. “I just…it’s kind of big. I would have thought you’d let me know something like that.” And he sounds so tentative, like Sungyeol has all this power over him, and it kind of pisses Sungyeol off (in a way he knows is completely unfair, even if he doesn’t want to admit it right now), maybe because up until this weird tension rose between them, Sungyeol did seem to have all the power—Myungsoo was so clearly more invested in their friendship and Sungyeol was the one who decided how much of that actually got to show. Sungyeol never thought about it much, has never considered that maybe Myungsoo felt as insecure in their friendship as he has lately. The thought kind of shakes him.

To cover that up, he reverts to accusations of his own. “You know good and well that things have been weird with us for months before that. I thought you were tired of me or something!”

He’s never seen Myungsoo look more shocked. “Tired of you?” he echoes, disbelieving.

“What else was I supposed to think when you kept making everything so awkward?” Now it’s Sungyeol’s turn to feel uncomfortable; he doesn’t talk about stuff like this, not in so many words. And Myungsoo is still staring at him like he’s crazy.

“How could I ever get tired of you?” Myungsoo asks, and the way he say it is so matter-of-fact, so not emotional, like the idea is one that couldn’t possibly ever occur to him, that Sungyeol almost wants to punch him.

“I don’t know. But you kept pulling away and—“

“I thought you’d want me to!” His face crumples up when Sungyeol gives him an incredulous look. “I thought it would be easier for you, with my drama and all. And I hated seeing the way you looked every time anyone mentioned it and….” He trails off, his emotions petering out.

“Are you serious right now?”

Myungsoo blinks at Sungyeol’s strident tone. “I—what?”

Incredulity sharpens Sungyeol’s voice till it cracks. “All this—this—bullshit—for months!—is because you feel guilty?”

Myungsoo purses his lips in an extremely unattractive way. For a guy with such a flawless face, he sure doesn’t know what to do with it. How does he keep getting opportunities to act? “I got what you wanted and I didn’t even have to try.” He shifts, showing his discomfort. “You go to all these auditions and—when I told you about Shut Up Flower Boy Band, you got this look on your face—“

“Of course I did! I was fucking jealous! And I was even more jealous when it turned out to actually be good!”

Now Myungsoo looks pained, except it actually looks more like he’s constipated. “Exactly, so—“

“So nothing! I was jealous, and I’m still jealous, but that’s got nothing to do with us, you complete idiot.”

Silence. Myungsoo blinks. Finally: “Um. What?”

“I’m jealous, but I’m happy for you because it’s you. Are you seriously that dense? Just because I want something like that too doesn’t mean I’d ever take it away from you.” Myungsoo is staring at him now with eyes bigger and rounder than Sungyeol has ever seen on him. He lets out an explosive sigh and flaps a hand. “That’s about out there. Where we’re idols and entertainers and you get callbacks and I don’t. That’s got nothing to do with who we were here. Did you really think that meant that I didn’t still want you to be my best friend?”

This pathetic look starts creeping up on Myungsoo’s face, soft and almost grateful or something, and Sungyeol knows it’s because he just called him his best friend. Sungyeol doesn’t say stuff like that and never has, except in interviews which aren’t real and don’t count. He knows that he doesn’t always show Myungsoo how much he means to him—he’s not good at that. He isn’t good at touching (unless it’s Woohyun), he isn’t good at voicing his feelings (and isn’t that what all his problems stem from?)—those things make him uncomfortable. He’s only good at joking around, and so he knows that most of his affection comes out through teasing and shoving. Myungsoo always seemed to understand that, before, just like Sungyeol had always tolerated Myungsoo draping his body over Sungyeol’s for no apparent reason. But until now, Sungyeol hadn’t had any idea of just how much it would mean to Myungsoo to actually hear what Sungyeol feels about him. It makes him feel guilty and also a little annoyed. Why do they never seem to be on the same page anymore?

But mostly he just feels relieved. Because this is small and this doesn’t matter and, above all, this is something they can put behind them and get back to how things used to be, when they were easy and comfortable and they could take their friendship for granted. Thank God.

“Just. Stop with the assuming, okay? Just be how we were before,” he says, and Myungsoo’s face breaks out into one of those crinkly, derpy grins. God, Myungsoo is such a dork. And maybe that’s one of Sungyeol’s favorite things about him, even if he’d never say that out loud. Ice prince his ass.

“Okay, yeah,” Myungsoo says, and Sungyeol wouldn’t be surprised if he started wiggling his body around like an excited puppy.

“Yeah?” Sungyeol echoes. Is this stupid drama really over?

“Yeah,” Myungsoo confirms, and then shoves him, and Sungyeol kicks out with his long leg, and sometimes, as Dongwoo would say, it really is just that easy.

--

It isn’t until they’re making their way back home, dragging their feet to make the walk last longer, that Myungsoo brings up Woohyun again. “I still don’t understand. If you’re in love with him, why are you acting like you hate Woohyun-hyung all of a sudden?”

Sungyeol sighs, tired just at the idea of trying to explain it. “I can’t be near him right now. It’ll show.”

“What?”

“It’ll show, how I feel about him. And then it’ll ruin everything. The whole point of what we were doing was that it wasn’t serious. But now I’m serious and if he isn’t, that’ll freak him out, and it’ll ruin our friendship.”

“It kind of looks like you’re ruining your friendship right now anyway,” Myungsoo points out dryly.

Well. “It’s just for a little bit,” Sungyeol protests. “Just for a few days, until I can get myself under control to be around him again. And then we can go back to being friends.” Friends. The word strikes this bittersweet pain through him, because he wants that so much—Woohyun to be his friend again, laughing together and eating together and even awkwardly talking about serious things together. But he also wants so much more than that. So much more. Everything.

“That’s stupid,” Myungsoo says, and his bluntness is so him. It’s not superior like Sungjong’s would be, it’s just a statement, an observation. And it’s true.

“Yeah. It’s stupid. But I don’t know what else to do.”

“You should at least tell him that you need a little bit of time and don’t hate him. I think he really thinks you hate him, and he doesn’t know what he did. He even asked me.”

Sungyeol’s head whips around to stare at Myungsoo. “He did?”

“Yeah. He seemed really broken up about it, too, especially when I told him that I didn’t have any idea.”

Fuck,” Sungyeol curses.

“Yeah,” Myungsoo agrees.

His thoughts start churning, but he can’t address them right now, so he asks the question that’s still niggling away at him. “But…you’re okay? With me and the Woohyun thing?”

“I told you I am. I was just jealous because I thought you’d found a new best friend.”

“You’re always going to be my best friend,” Sungyeol reminds him, and the way Myungsoo smiles and looks down at his feet makes him glad he said the words.

“It doesn’t bother me, no. He seemed to make you really happy.”

“He does.” ‘Happy’ is too small a word for what Woohyun makes him, but it will have to do.

“You seem to make him really happy, too.”

Again, that bittersweet pain. Because that’s true, as far as it goes: he can make Woohyun laugh and enjoy himself and stuff like that. If only he could make him feel all the things he makes Sungyeol feel. If only.

“You should really, really talk to him. I’m serious. Even if all you do is tell him that you don’t hate him.”

Just the thought makes the acid in Sungyeol’s stomach cyclone around, but he knows Myungsoo is right. And Sungjong has been saying the same thing, and Dongwoo seems to agree, and so, yeah, there’s no way they’re all wrong. If only he could be sure he’d be able to actually look at Woohyun without falling to his knees and begging him to love him back. Fuck, he’s so messed up. Woohyun has completely ruined him, and he doesn’t even know it.

Myungsoo drops the topic after that, because he’s never been one to harp on things, and instead starts talking about the new choreography. Sungyeol follows along gratefully enough, and by the time they reach home, he’s feeling a little more lighthearted, mostly because he’s distracted. Myungsoo can be good at distractions.

“You’re pretty great, you know?” he says as they enter the elevator.

Myungsoo looks so pleased, face red and crumpled into a smile. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. I was a dick for not talking to you. I wanted to, but I was just scared of how you’d react.” That, and what he had with Woohyun felt so private, so theirs that he’d been worried if anyone else found out about it it would pop like a soap bubble.

The smile fades away a bit. “Did you really think I’d judge you or something?”

Sungyeol shrugs, looking away. “You do still think it’s weird.”

“Just because it’s you!” Myungsoo protests. “With more porn on your computer than anyone in Korea, and all of it with girls!”

Sungyeol has to laugh at that. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

“But I don’t care, Yeol. I really don’t. I just want you to be happy.” Myungsoo bites his lip. “And for us to still be friends.”

“Dumbass. We’ll always be friends.” Sungyeol slings his arm around Myungsoo’s shoulder and Myungsoo smiles so wide it looks like his face is about to split right in half. Can’t have that. What would the fangirls do? “I can’t get away from you even if I tried.”

They’re both laughing as they enter the dorm, and of course the first person they see is Woohyun, who freezes as soon as he sees them, his eyes glued on Sungyeol’s arm around Myungsoo’s shoulder, his face completely blank (and haggard. Fuck, he really hasn’t been sleeping at all, has he?). Sungyeol removes it immediately, feeling so guilty (which is stupid, kind of, because Myungsoo is his best friend and—), and lowers it awkwardly to his side. Myungsoo glances between them, then hurries off to his bedroom, tossing a look over his shoulder before he closes the door behind him.

“I thought you were with Sungjong,” Woohyun says after a moment, his tone an attempt at carelessness, but Sungyeol can hear the strain in it.

“I was. And then I ran into Myungsoo and—“ This isn’t helping. He can see that so clearly, because Woohyun’s face is really taut. He takes a deep breath. “I…let’s talk, okay?”

Woohyun’s eyes fly to his face, and the look in them is part relieved, part ecstatic, part terrified. Fuck, Woohyun, I’m sorry.

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Sungyeol sits stiffly on the bed, and Woohyun is sitting stiffly beside him, except not beside him, because when they’d taken their seats, they’d left a big hole gaping between them. A big hole that’s way more than Sungyeol would leave with any of the other members, because when it comes to them he doesn’t think about how far apart or close together they are, doesn’t notice it at all. But it’s all he can think about right now, that he and Woohyun had made sure to keep this distance, so intentional about it, in ways they never have been. It makes Sungyeol’s stomach roil.

They aren’t looking at each other, either, and they haven’t since they entered Woohyun’s room and closed the door. Woohyun has his head down, is picking at his cuticles (the stylist noonas are going to be mad tomorrow), and Sungyeol is staring at the wall in front of him, and the sound of whatever TV show the rest of the guys are watching out in the living room is pushing through the walls (Sungyeol thinks Sunggyu turned the volume up as Sungyeol and Woohyun headed for the bedroom, and Sungyeol wishes he could thank him for looking after their privacy like that).

Sungyeol’s eyes feel too dry, and his skin does too as he rubs his face and takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

Woohyun starts a bit beside him. “For what?” he asks after a pause, voice very quiet.

Sungyeol shifts. “I know I’m being a dick. I didn’t mean to be. I’m really, really sorry.”

“You said that earlier,” Woohyun points out hollowly.

“Yeah.” But what else am I going to say?

They’re silent again, and Sungyeol can hear the plastic-edged rise and fall of audience laughter from the TV and then Dongwoo’s joining it, and Sungyeol’s throat is dry, too.

Finally, Woohyun speaks again, and when he does, his voice doesn’t sound like his at all. It’s so, so tired. “Yeol. What did I do?”

Fuck. Sungyeol panics, because no. Woohyun can’t possibly think that, he’s not allowed to think that, not allowed to blame himself for the fact that Sungyeol’s a giant dick and is destroying everything. Sungyeol is across the bed and pressed up against Woohyun before he even thinks about moving, and then Woohyun is blinking up at him, confused.

“You didn’t do anything,” Sungyeol swears, harsh, voice cracking. “Don’t think that.”

Irritation flickers across Woohyun’s face, even though he doesn’t pull away. “What am I supposed to think? You won’t talk to me, you won’t hardly be in the same room as me.”

What the fuck is Sungyeol supposed to say? “I. Look. I’m going through something right now, and I’m not handling it very well.”

Woohyun laughs, but it’s the opposite of a happy sound, like it’s scraped its way out of his throat. “That’s obvious.”

“Yeah.” Sungyeol has never hated himself as much as he does at this moment. “It’s just me, though,” he says, and he wants to laugh at himself and also shoot himself in the face for being so cliché: It’s not you, it’s me. But it’s the truth, isn’t it? It’s a cliché for a reason.

“It’s not just you when you’re being a prick to everyone,” Woohyun says, and Sungyeol bows his head because he’s right.

“I know. I know.” He screws his hands up into fists, fingernails biting into his palms. “I’m going to try harder, I swear. Taking it out on you is like the stupidest thing I could ever do.”

“Well, at least you know that.” Woohyun’s voice is dry, and, fuck, Sungyeol loves him so much.

“I do.”

They fall into silence again, and then Woohyun sighs and says, “Why don’t you just tell me what it is?”

Sungyeol shakes his head. “I can’t.”

“You don’t trust me, do you.” It’s not a question, and Sungyeol can’t believe that just came out of his mouth.

“What the fuck? Of course I trust you! Don’t you remember me letting you stick your dick up my ass? Do you not remember that that happened?” Do you not remember how it all was, in that hotel room?

Woohyun’s on his feet now, and his hands are fisting up. “Don’t start that with me. That’s not what I mean and you know it.” Then he cocks his head, his eyes narrowing. “Unless that’s what this is about. It finally caught up to you that you had sex with a guy and now you’re freaking the fuck out about like you freak out about everything.”

Sungyeol jumps to his feet to face him, suddenly furious. “That’s not it.” How can he think that? After what’s passed between them?

“And again I ask you—what am I supposed to think, when you jerk away every time I touch you like you think I’m going to give you some incurable disease?” Woohyun is angry, so angry, Sungyeol can see it on his face, in the set of his shoulders, but he can see the hurt in his eyes, too, and Sungyeol really, really hates himself.

“I just needed some time, okay? I just need that right now!”

“Well, why don’t you just tell me that? Do you think I’m going to tie you down and force you or something?”

Fuck, Sungyeol is so glad that Sunggyu turned up the volume so loud because otherwise the others would be able to hear and—no. “Don’t joke about things like that! Of course I don’t think that!”

“Then why didn’t you just tell me? Why won’t you tell me what’s going on? You say you trust me, but you won’t talk to me and—“

I can’t, okay?” The words rip themselves out, and, shit, there’s no way the others didn’t hear that, even over the blare of the TV. Woohyun’s face has gone perfectly blank, and Sungyeol’s hands have started to shake. “I can’t tell you,” he whispers again.

Woohyun looks away, and the silence is so taut, and the line of his neck is so perfect, and what Sungyeol really wants to be doing is kissing that neck, running his tongue along it and whispering things against it—he’s not even sure what, but if Woohyun was up against him and the taste of his skin was on Sungyeol’s tongue, the words would come.

“It’s Myungsoo, isn’t it.”

The words are so ridiculous that it takes them a moment to connect. Then: “What the fuck?” No other words are possible, not when Sungyeol is feeling like something just slammed into the back of his head.

Woohyun’s tone is flat, but he’s still not looking at Sungyeol. “You figured out you’re in love with him or something and—“

No. No. No no no no no. What the fuck? No!” Sungyeol can’t believe this is happening. It’s almost hilarious except it’s so very not, it’s nightmarish, it’s hellish. “No!”

Woohyun looks slowly back at him, and Sungyeol has never been so impressed at the way he keeps his eyes so perfectly shuttered. He has no idea what Woohyun is thinking because he’s not giving anything away. “Sungjong, then.”

Sungyeol wants to scream and rip all his hair out of his head because this just keeps getting more and more ludicrous and he’d be sure he was dreaming it except even his demented subconscious couldn’t come up with something like this. “No! It’s not anyone else! It’s not anyone at all except me, okay? It’s not something you did and it’s not me freaking out about the sex and it isn’t someone else, so stop thinking these fucking stupid things, because you’re wrong, okay? It isn’t any of those things!”

“Then what is it?” Woohyun’s voice has risen again, and for a moment Sungyeol thinks he’s going to hit him. “I’m your friend, damn it, tell me what’s bothering you!”

And Sungyeol wants to. He wants to so, so badly, maybe more than he’s ever wanted anything before (except Woohyun). But there’s that word again—‘friend’—and he’s so terrified of…just…everything: of ruining his friendship with Woohyun, of never being close to Woohyun again, of how kind in a not at all soft way he knows Woohyun would be as he rejected Sungyeol’s confession, of the intensity of his own feelings, of the whole big world that’s just so much more than Sungyeol had ever known it was. Everything is so scary and Woohyun is right here and he wants to know and Sungyeol can’t tell him.

But he’s weak, stupidly weak, so he lets himself stumble forward till he’s leaning against Woohyun, just leaning against his body, and it’s so warm and it’s been so long, and fuck. “I can’t tell you.” The words come out in a half-mumble, half-rasp. “Please don’t ask me again, Woohyun. Please.”

They just stand there like that for a minute, and Sungyeol is rising and falling with each breath Woohyun takes, and he can feel the drumming of Woohyun’s heart against his own chest.

And then Woohyun’s hand brushes against his, and he doesn’t take his hand, but their hands are touching, and Sungyeol wants to cry.

“Will you ever tell me?” Woohyun asks, voice low, and there’s really only one answer Sungyeol can give.

“Yeah.” Because he knows it’s true. He can’t carry this with him forever; one day it’s going to crack him wide open and come howling out, because the force of it is too large. Sungyeol isn’t going to let himself think about what that day will be like, of how Woohyun will react, but he knows it’s coming. “Sometime I’ll tell you.”

Woohyun raises his face to look at him and Sungyeol looks down at him, at his eyes that are dark in a way Sungyeol hasn’t ever seen before (a way that makes his heart ache), at his perfect lips. He would kiss Woohyun right now, knows somehow that Woohyun wants a kiss, but he can’t let himself do that (it would hurt too much). So he just lets his forehead drop until it’s pressed against Woohyun’s, eyes falling closed.

“Sungyeol.”

“Yeah.”

But Woohyun doesn’t say anything else.

--

Sungyeol spends the next few days feeling wrung out and too tender, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. He’s stopped snapping at the other members, at least, though Dongwoo’s eyes aren’t any less worried, probably because Sungyeol’s moody silence isn’t any more characteristic than his previous touchiness. But nobody says anything else, not even Sungjong (though he keeps giving Sungyeol significant glances that are all too easy to read), and that’s good. Sungyeol stopped trying to avoid Woohyun, though Woohyun hasn’t tried to touch him since Sungyeol pulled away from him and walked out of his bedroom several days before (Sungyeol misses Woohyun’s heat against him every moment) and they don’t talk about anything serious again. Still, it’s nice to have Woohyun beside him again (even if it’s also agonizing), and it’s restful to not have to evade him.

The only times he really feels like himself are when he’s with Myungsoo. Myungsoo is clearly still concerned about him and has said more than once that he’s there to talk, but Sungyeol is all talked out and he has no further interest in hashing this out, not with anyone. Besides, Myungsoo’s concern is overshadowed by his obvious happiness that he’s got his best friend back, and his smiles are just about the only thing that feels right anymore.

Sungyeol throws himself into working, spending more of his spare time than he ever has in the practice rooms, going over and over every move till he thinks his corpse could perform them after he dies. Hoya grins every time Sungyeol appears in the practice room door, waving him over to join him, and Dongwoo is surprised by his enthusiasm but pleased also, ready with encouragement and invitations to the gym, which Sungyeol often takes. He tries harder than he usually does in vocal practice, too, and though he doesn’t make much progress, he thinks he might be a tiny bit more confident than he was before. He’s been promising the fans left and right that he’ll build more self-esteem, and he really does want to deliver on that. It just takes a lot of work.

The only sign of his misery, other than how subdued he is, is that he’s taken to drinking more coffee again. He’d eventually found a juice he really likes, but right now every time he tastes it, he thinks of Woohyun (not that he isn’t always thinking of Woohyun anyway), so he relapses back into his caffeine habit. He doesn’t drink as much as before, when it left him wired and jittery all the time, but he definitely has at least one cup every morning and usually another one or two throughout the day. It’s a way of letting himself be as weak as he feels—it’s better than refusing to get out of bed, which he kind of wants to do.

He’s just filled up the pitcher of water and is getting ready to pour it into the coffee machine when Sunggyu enters the kitchen and says, “Why did you break up with Woohyun?”

The water goes everywhere, spreading out over the countertop and dripping down onto the floor; Sungyeol’s socks are soaked. The pitcher clatters from his hand onto the counter—thank God it’s plastic—and for a moment Sungyeol doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to move again.

But Sunggyu doesn’t say anything else, just waits patiently, and eventually Sungyeol swallows hard and reaches out with a stiff hand to grab a hand towel. He starts wiping up the water mechanically, not sure if his brain has frozen or if it’s spinning too fast. Finally he manages to choke out, “You knew?”

“I suspected,” Sunggyu corrects, grabbing a hand towel himself and helping Sungyeol with the drying. “Now I know.”

“Oh.” Sungyeol realizes he’s been wiping the same spot over and over and moves on to another.

“It wasn’t a rhetorical question,” Sunggyu says after a moment, straightening from where he’d been wiping the floor. “I want to know why you two broke up when it’s making you both so obviously miserable. Normally I’d say it’s none of my business, but Woohyun’s performance is suffering, so it’s become my business.”

Sungyeol thinks about that; it’s true that Woohyun’s heart hasn’t been in the music lately. And yet he’s trying so very hard not to let it affect his job that he comes across as too much: his eyes too bright, his motions too big, almost straining his voice each performance. The danger with Woohyun has always been that he’ll work himself to death, all of them know that, but up until now it hasn’t been such a big worry. Now, though, it must be even worse than Sungyeol thought, if Sunggyu is asking him about it.

“We didn’t break up,” he finally says, and it’s not quite a lie. “We weren’t ever really together.”

Sunggyu snorts at that. “You don’t have to say the words to actually be together, idiot.”

Oh. Sungyeol bunches up the wet hand towel and throws it in the sink. “Why are you asking me and not him? How do you know that he hasn’t broken up with me?”

“Because you refuse to look at him but he won’t stop looking at you,” Sunggyu says, all his longsufferingness in his tone.

Typical Sunggyu: taking the wind out of Sungyeol’s sails without half-trying. Sungyeol half-turns away; of course he can’t turn his back on his leader, but this is as close as he can get—and it’s skirting scarily close to outright disrespectful anyways—and he really doesn’t want to feel Sunggyu’s eyes boring into him. “I think it’s probably still none of your business, hyung. Woohyun’s trying really hard, and there’s nothing you can do to make him better, so I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation.”

Hands grab Sungyeol’s shoulders and spin him around so fast that Sungyeol almost loses his balance and ends up on the ground, and he has to grab onto the counter to prevent it. Sunggyu doesn’t notice. “He was happy, you idiot. You were both happy. God knows what he sees in you, but after you two finished being jerks to each other a couple of months ago, you clearly were good for each other. And I know you have feelings for him, so why the fuck are you doing this to him?”

Sungyeol’s feels his eyes growing huge; he hasn’t seen Sunggyu this angry in a long, long time, and certainly not over something that doesn’t have to do with Infinite. Not that this doesn’t have to do with Infinite: everything has to do with Infinite as far as Sunggyu is concerned. But he usually only gets angry about more tangible things, like when he doesn’t think Sungyeol is taking everything seriously enough. He’s never been like this over their personal relationships, not that Sungyeol can remember.

For a moment he’s so surprised that he just stares, but then anger slams into him and he jerks his shoulders out of Sunggyu’s hands. “Like you can say anything at all about that! Since when are you concerned over his happiness? You’re the one who was making him miserable to begin with!”

Sunggyu flinches like Sungyeol actually hit him, and God, Sungyeol wants to kill Sunggyu in this moment—he remembers so clearly the way Woohyun kept his plastic smile on his face whenever Sunggyu pulled away from him. How dare he? How dare he?

“What was I supposed to do?” Sunggyu’s voice is raw, shockingly so, and Sungyeol has never seen him this close to losing control. Ever. It’s kind of terrifying. “I couldn’t give him what he wanted! I couldn’t! The best way was for him to get over me—fast, as fast as possible so he wouldn’t have to hurt for so long. And then you came and made him happy and now he’s right back where he started except even worse and—fuck you, Lee Sungyeol! How can you do this to him again?”

All of Sungyeol’s anger dissipates in the space of a heartbeat, and he’s left with only weary self-loathing and misery and so much longing for Woohyun. “I don’t want to hurt him,” he whispers, his voice cracking as he slumps against the counter, his bones suddenly feeling old and so brittle. “I don’t ever want to hurt him.”

Sunggyu’s face is hard, but his eyes aren’t cruel. “Well, you are. So stop.”

Sungyeol laughs bitterly. “Right. It’s that easy.”

“It is.” Sunggyu takes a step towards him and somehow even though Sungyeol has a half a head’s height on him, he manages to look intimidating. “Do not fuck this up, Lee Sungyeol. I can forgive you for any of your other fuckups, anything but you doing this to him, so do not fuck this up. Make things right with him, do you hear me? That’s an order from your leader.”

And then he’s gone and Sungyeol is alone.

--

Sungyeol has finally managed to drop off into shallow sleep when he’s pulled awake by the shifting of his mattress. He blinks awake, heart speeding up as he figures out what’s going on.

“Woohyun—what the—?”

But Woohyun doesn’t answer, just slides under the covers beside him. Sungyeol is so surprised, his mind streaky with tiredness, that he can barely wrap his mind around this. It’s the middle of the night and he can hear Myungsoo breathing in the bunk below him and Donwgoo snoring lightly across the room, and Woohyun is climbing into bed with him.

“Woohyun—“

“Shhhh.” Woohyun turns on his side to face him, and there’s just enough light that Sungyeol can make out his face, his eyes glittering.

“But—but the hyungs—“ Dongwoo could sleep through anything, but he’ll wake up eventually, and Sunggyu knows, but Woohyun doesn’t know that and there’s always the off-chance that one of their managers will come in super early and wake them up for one reason or another and—

“I’ll set my alarm and be back in my bed before anyone else is awake. Go to sleep, Sungyeol.”

Sungyeol shouldn’t do this. True, everyone in the band knows about them now except Dongwoo and Hoya, and it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they found out—Sungyeol has thought about it, and he knows that Dongwoo will be shocked but primarily concerned about their happiness and Hoya just won’t care because things like that never faze him—but it’s just too much. And he’s trying to get himself under control about Woohyun, trying to wean himself off of the physical side of their relationship, and this will not help him accomplish that at all.

But Woohyun is right here, so warm wherever he’s touching Sungyeol that he’s almost hot, wearing that stupid sleeveless hoodie with his arms bare, and his feet are tangling with Sungyeol’s, and Sungyeol thinks he can see a little tentativeness in his face as he waits for Sungyeol’s reply, as though he’s not sure whether he’ll be rejected or not, and Sungyeol can’t hurt him any more, and fuck it: he wants Woohyun beside him, wants this moment in the dark, just the two of them.

“I snore,” he says, slowly, carefully, like Woohyun doesn’t know that already, like he hasn't complained about it countless times before.

“I’ll deal.”

So Sungyeol lowers his head back to the pillow, laying on his side so that he and Woohyun are face-to-face, and after a moment he relaxes, and Woohyun’s arms reach out slowly and slip around his waist.

When Woohyun’s alarm goes off just before dawn—set quiet enough that it will wake them but not Sungyeol’s roommates, who fortunately sleep like the dead—it tugs Sungyeol to wakefulness. He and Woohyun are pressed up against each other, the sheets tangling as if determined to keep them as close together as possible, one of Woohyun’s arms still around his waist, and Sungyeol is sort of unpleasantly warm, and he opens his eyes in time to see Woohyun blink awake. There’s sleep gunk in the corners of his eyes, and Sungyeol’s fingers clear it away without his mind ordering them to.

Woohyun thumbs off the alarm, but he doesn’t stir otherwise, just lays there, looking into Sungyeol’s eyes. Sungyeol thinks maybe he should squirm in discomfort or look away or something, but it’s dark still and they’re both only half-awake; probably Woohyun wouldn’t be able to see all the emotions in Sungyeol’s eyes even if what he feels is showing. After a moment, Woohyun pushes himself up on his elbow and Sungyeol does the same, because it seems the thing to do. And then Woohyun presses a kiss to Sungyeol’s lips. It’s short, the least passionate kiss they’ve ever shared, and even just from that brief meeting of lips, Sungyeol can tell how bad Woohyun’s morning breath is. But Woohyun is already climbing down the ladder, then padding to the door, his footsteps so very quiet, and Sungyeol collapses back onto the bed, breathing hard.

Chapter Text

“Ah, it’s the sexy one!”

Woohyun’s mouth twitches (whether with humor or irritation, Sungyeol can’t tell) at the photographer’s cheerful words and he bows low. “Take care of me well, please.”

This photographer has worked with them before, several times, and he knows all the members and likes them. He grins at Woohyun and gestures for him to move into the light before taking his place behind his camera. Sungyeol shifts where he’s standing with the assistants just behind the photographer, knowing he should walk away. He’d been watching Sungjong’s turn in front of the camera and pulling faces at him, trying to make him laugh—and almost succeeding a time or two, but not nearly as much as he’d like because Sungjong can be so fiercely serious when he wants to be—or at least smile, and that was fun, and a distraction, but now it’s Woohyun and the last thing Sungyeol needs is to watch this. But he can’t bring himself to walk away or even look away from Woohyun for a moment.

Usually the clothes they wear in photoshoots are kind of ridiculous and over-the-top or just plain ugly, reminding Sungyeol that he will never understand fashion, because shouldn’t the point be to make you look good? (When he thinks that, he remembers Woohyun’s grin when he said, ‘If you want to dress well, you have to wear clothes that don’t suit you and be able to look good wearing them.’ Dongwoo says fashion isn’t about attractiveness, it’s about self-expression—which certainly explains all of his clashing bright patterns—but it’s not a form of self-expression that Sungyeol really understands.) But this time, by some miracle, they’re in well-cut menswear, and Woohyun is wearing a suit, and it hugs and skims all the right places, and he looks fucking amazing, gorgeous and mature and comfortable in what he’s wearing, and Sungyeol can’t look away. He can’t.

The photographer is clicking away already, even though Woohyun hasn’t really gotten warmed-up yet, but then Woohyun looks right at Sungyeol and rolls his neck, stretching it, and when he finishes he tilts his head to the side, exposing the length of that neck, and if Sungyeol thought he looked amazing before, he’s bypassed that entirely and passed straight into unbelievable. One of the assistant noonas beside Sungyeol squeals and the photographer compliments, but Woohyun doesn’t seem to notice—every moment the photographer isn’t telling him to look at the camera, he’s looking at Sungyeol. He changes poses as the photographer instructs, and each one is hotter than the one before: subtle, to suit the concept, but Woohyun is just exuding sexiness, and Sungyeol feels the heat of his gaze every time Woohyun looks at him. Woohyun holds his gaze again, eyes sliding away slowly only when the photographer demands his attention, and when he gives the camera a smug smile, Sungyeol feels a flash of fire all over. But it’s nothing compared to when the photographer instructs Woohyun to look happy and carefree, and Woohyun just looks at Sungyeol steadily for a moment. Then a big grin breaks out on his face, totally sincere and not his idol-smile at all, and Sungyeol feels himself smiling back even if his legs suddenly feel like ramyun.

The assistants and photo technicians and whatever are all exclaiming over Woohyun’s shots and the photographer is still shouting out directions, but Sungyeol doesn’t even notice. Woohyun is smiling.

The photographer is grinning even wider when he announces that that’s enough, praising Woohyun, and Woohyun bows again, thanking everyone for their hard work. Sungyeol is frozen as Woohyun walks toward him, his eyes flickering away now and then to smile as all the people around offer him compliments but always so steady when they come back to Sungyeol. When he passes, Sungyeol feels the brush of Woohyun’s pinky against the very edge of his own hand.

“Okay, our tall prince next!”

It takes Sungyeol a moment to realize that that’s the photographer calling for him, but he defrosts his joints and hurries over to stand in front of the backdrop, blinking a bit at the brightness of the lights before he bows. The photographer says something funny, and Sungyeol laughs even if he instantly forgets the joke. Because Woohyun has settled himself in one of the director’s chairs nearby, his jacket off and slung over the back of the chair—the stylist noonas will probably be horrified, but they’ll forgive Woohyun because they all adore him—and he’s rolling his sleeves up as he watches Sungyeol.

Sungyeol usually hates photoshoots. The heat and glare of the lights is just too much, the eyes that stare at him seem too critical, the clothes are almost always uncomfortable, full of pins to make them fit right and sometimes chafing against Sungyeol ultra-sensitive skin (the stylist noonas always refuse to let him rip out the tags, no matter how much he begs). All of it combines to make him feel as though he has too many limbs, as many as an octopus, and all of them far too long for him to keep under control. He usually fakes it pretty well, though; Myungsoo says that he should be a model because of his height and his build and his face, and Dongwoo agrees and says he’d be good at it. But even if his discomfort never really shows, it’s always there.

But not right now. Not when Woohyun is watching and Sungyeol is stretching his body the way the photographer directs—the man is telling him to use his height to his advantage, to use every centimeter he has to show off the clothes (and all Sungyeol can hear in his head is Woohyun’s voice: ‘And he’s really…long. All over. Like he just goes on and on’), and somehow Sungyeol is doing it, not hesitating or even needing to think about how to do it. It feels so natural.

“You look really good in a suit, hyung. It really suits you,” Sungjong had said after Sungyeol had emerged from behind the dressing curtain, and Sungjong takes fashion so seriously and never, ever gives compliments unless he means them, so Sungyeol knows he must look good. And even if Sungjong hadn’t said that to him, the way Woohyun is looking at him would convince him. It’s hot, but not heated, and his eyes never waver as Sungyeol poses and pouts and displays himself. The time passes quickly, each moment suffused with awareness of Woohyun, and the photographer is beaming again when he announces that Sungyeol is done. Sungyeol bows and offers his gratitude, and the photographer slaps him on the back as he passes. “That was the best I’ve ever seen you, Sungyeol-ssi,” he says, and Sungyeol smiles.

He makes his way slowly towards Woohyun, who is still sitting in his chair, eyes on Sungyeol and waiting for him. If this were several weeks ago, they’d be racing off to find a closet or a bathroom somewhere, bent on tearing each others’ clothes off and touching every inch of each other, but that delirious desperation isn’t here now. Not that Sungyeol wouldn’t love to have some alone time with Woohyun—not that it wouldn’t be so easy to get so very turned on by the way he looks in that suit—but there’s something just about looking (about looking and thinking: ‘that’s mine because he wants to be’—even if Woohyun doesn’t want to be his in the way that Sungyeol wants, Sungyeol knows that Woohyun has given him things he hasn’t given anyone else, and that means something. It does.).

“Hi,” Sungyeol says once he’s standing in front of Woohyun (and maybe the word comes out a little breathlessly, but he’s not at all ashamed—Woohyun is breathtaking).

“Hi,” Woohyun says back, looking up at him.

Sungyeol opens his mouth to say something—he isn’t sure what, but that’s never stopped him before—when suddenly out of nowhere a hand clamps around his arm and he’s jerked away.

His legs go everywhere and it takes him a second to get them back under him and once he finally rights himself, he’s being dragged away from Woohyun. “Sungjong—what the hell?” Sungyeol glances over his shoulder, and Woohyun is looking after him, his expression halfway between amused and baffled. Sungyeol tries to pull away from Sungjong, but the maknae is so much stronger than he looks.

“I need to talk to you, hyung,” Sungjong says stiffly, and he sounds serious—even more so than usual—so Sungyeol lets himself be pulled (away from Woohyun) over to the hallway with all the dressing rooms. Sungjong releases him and turns to him, crossing his arms, and Sungyeol has no idea what this is about.

But because this is Sungjong, he doesn’t have to wait for an explanation for long.

“What the hell were you doing?” Sungjong demands, glaring.

Sungyeol’s mouth falls open. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” For once it’s totally true.

Sungjong’s eyes narrow, and he looks like he’s this close to stomping his foot. “You were teasing him, hyung!”

“I—what?” Sometimes when Sungjong talks, Sungyeol has to question whether they speak the same language.

“Woohyun-hyung! You were showing off all sexy and I’ve never seen you like that and you were looking at him the whole time and it was totally obvious what you were doing and that’s just an asshole thing to do when you’re cutting him off and, God, what kind of jerk are you?”

Is that what this is about? Seriously? “I wasn’t teasing!” he protests, because he wasn’t. He wasn’t, and neither was Woohyun. But how can he possibly make Sungjong understand what they were doing? It wasn’t about sex, not really, and yeah, it made them hot, but that wasn’t the point. It was about offering themselves up for the other to admire, letting the other take pleasure in looking, and Woohyun’s eyes had told Sungyeol as clearly as any words ever could that what he meant was, These pictures may be for everyone else to see, strangers and everyone we’ve ever met, but I’m just for you. Sungyeol had tried to show the same thing, to send the same message back to Woohyun, and he thinks maybe he succeeded. But he can’t explain that to Sungjong—not only because he doesn’t think Sungjong would understand, but also because those moments were theirs, his and Woohyun’s, even if there were so many other people watching, even if thousands of pairs of eyes will see those pictures eventually.

“Hyung, you totally were!”

“I wasn’t!”

“That’s what it looked like, Yeol.”

The two of them spin around and Myungsoo is standing there, back in his street clothes, all black of course—he’d been the first up in front of the camera and is long done by now. He takes a step closer and looks at Sungyeol steadily. “It really did look that way,” he repeats.

Sungyeol wants to rip his hair out because, God, he should have realized how terrible it would be with both of them knowing, should have known they’d gang up on him. Sungjong is hard enough to handle on his own, but with Myungsoo beside him?

Sungyeol makes a noise of frustration, then presses his eyes closed and takes a deep breath. “Okay,” he says, fighting for control when he opens them. “I know you’re not going to understand this, but that was not teasing.” Off their skeptical looks, he hurries on. “It wasn’t—you can ask Woohyun.” He really hopes they don’t; that would be incredibly awkward. “It wasn’t about that at all.”

Sungjong arches a brow, making it clear that he isn’t convinced. “Well, even if it wasn’t, it was still really inappropriate—and mean—for you to do whatever it was when you’re trying to break things off with him.” Myungsoo nods in agreement.

Well. Okay, that’s fair, even if it’s the last thing Sungyeol wants to hear (he had needed that, needed to feel close to Woohyun even if he was across the room, and he thinks maybe Woohyun needed it too). He looks away.

A hand lands on either one of his shoulders. “Hey,” Myungsoo says, and Sungyeol turns his face back to look at him. “I’ve tried to let you deal with this yourself, but I want to say this as your best friend.”

Sungyeol inwardly groans; Myungsoo doesn’t pull that card very often, but when he does it’s almost never pleasant. “What?”

Myungsoo purses his lips, glances at the ground, then looks back up at him. “You need to tell him, and you need to tell him soon.” When Sungyeol tries to jerk away, Myungsoo’s hands just clamp down tighter. “Hey—listen to me.” And Sungyeol can’t not listen, because this is Myungsoo, and he’s his best friend, and they almost never talk about serious things, so when they do Sungyeol can’t help but listen. “This is a really bad place for both of you to be. And maybe if you tell him he’ll want to pull away from you or something—“ Sungjong snorts, but Myungsoo just continues, “—but I really don’t think he will, and it’s better for you to be honest with him. You’re hurting him and yourself, and the only way to stop that is to tell the truth.”

Myungsoo’s face is so solemn, and it almost always is unless he’s laughing, but there’s a kind of seriousness in his eyes that Sungyeol has rarely seen before. Myungsoo so often seems as though he’s tethered to the earth by only the thinnest of threads—that his real nature is to float off into space somewhere, and even when he’s paying attention, he mostly seems like he’s a split second away from zoning out (except when he’s laughing—he’s always there when he’s laughing, and maybe that’s why Sungyeol likes to make him laugh so much). But right now he’s all focused, in that weirdly intense way that he sometimes is, and Sungyeol can feel his words pressing into him till he can’t ignore them.

“But….” He trails off because there’s no ‘but’ that’s good enough when Myungsoo is right.

“He’s right, hyung,” Sungjong adds, but his voice is gentler than Sungyeol has heard it in a long time. “It may be scary, but you have to do this, and you should do it as soon as possible.”

“Fuck,” Sungyeol whispers fiercely, raising a shuddering hand to pass it over his face. “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Myungsoo agrees with a nod, letting his hands fall from Sungyeol’s shoulders. “But you have to.”

“I know. I know.”

The other two wait in silence for a moment, and then Sungjong speaks up again. “And you can’t half-ass it, either. It wouldn’t be fair just to throw it at him between schedules when there’s no time for you both to deal. You need to make sure you treat it seriously.”

“Yeah.”

Sungjong and Myungsoo exchange glances, and as they move away, Sungjong elbows him. “He loves you back, hyung, I know he does.”

Sungyeol smiles weakly, trying not to show how much it hurts him to hear those words (hope and pain hurt so much more when they’re tangled up together). Sometimes when Woohyun is looking at him (like earlier, eyes so steady and dark, gaze intimate and unwavering) or touching him (like last night in bed, his arms almost too warm around Sungyeol’s waist and his face just inches away on the pillow), Sungyeol can almost believe them. But every time he starts to let himself, Woohyun's voice echoes in his head: Come on, you think anyone would choose you if they had other options?. Sungyeol knows he didn't mean that, knows Woohyun regrets the words as much as Sungyeol regrets the ones he fired back in return. He knows Woohyun cares about him and likes him and is even attracted to him. Add all those things up and it should be love or at least something close. But whenever Sungyeol lets himself consider the possibility, those sharp, acid-hot words wriggle out of the depths of his memory and brand themselves onto his mind, and, fuck, Woohyun wouldn't have thought to say them at all if they weren't at least a little bit true, right? And hadn’t those words just confirmed what Sungyeol has felt all along, what he feels like the whole world is telling him every day? And it’s no coincidence that even though he’s heard variations on ‘useless’ and ‘deadweight’ before, it’s the ones that Woohyun spoke that stick with him. Woohyun, who seems to see right through Sungyeol as though all his defenses are made of glass. Woohyun who was in love for so long with Sunggyu, who is nothing like Sungyeol at all, who couldn't be less like Sungyeol. It doesn't make sense, Woohyun being in love with Sungyeol. It defies all logic, and so Sungyeol can't let himself believe it no matter how much he aches to.

He's jerked out of the cycle of his thoughts when Sungjong suddenly raises his fists, his face breaking out into a big smile of the kind he rarely shows anymore. “Hyung fighting!”

Myungsoo bursts out laughing and even Sungyeol has to smile as he watches them walk away, but it doesn’t last long, because it can’t hold up under the weight of knowing what he has to do. They’re right. I got in trouble before when I didn’t listen to Sungjong, when I didn’t trust Myunngsoo enough to talk. I have to listen to them this time. I have to.

He knows all that. It’s just that knowing it is really terrifying.

--

“Hyung?”

Sunggyu looks up from his phone, a surprised expression on his face. Sungyeol know it’s because of how tentative his own voice sounds—he’s never like that, especially not with Sunggyu.

“What’s up, Sungyeol?”

Sungyeol glances back across the room where Hoya is posing in front of the backdrop. He’s the last of them in front of the camera; they’ll be leaving soon. Sungyeol tugs at the hem of his t-shirt—he likes how he looks in the suit, but it’s good to be back in his own clothes—and looks back at Sunggyu. There’s no one in this corner of the room; that’s probably why Sunggyu picked it, so he can go through schedules and plans and whatever without being distracted. There’s no one to hear what Sungyeol has to say.

“Can I ask a favor of you?”

Sunggyu blinks; Sungyeol doesn’t humbly ask for favors from him. Sometimes he makes ridiculous demands, but that’s another thing. He and Sunggyu really actually avoid each other as much as possible, because they both knew if it weren’t for Infinite they wouldn’t have any interest in each other at all. It’s not that he dislikes Sunggyu, exactly, or that he thinks Sunggyu dislikes him. It’s just that they’ve figured out that their personalities and outlooks clash enough that teamwork is the most they can hope for. Honestly, Sungyeol is okay with that, though right now he isn’t sure if it’s making this conversation easier or harder. “What is it?”

“If I need a little bit of…time. To talk to Woohyun. Alone. At home, probably. Can you make that happen?”

Sunggyu’s eyes widen, and it’s almost funny, but then he bites his lip, looking serious. “You’re going to talk to him?”

“I’m going to tell him the truth. That I—“ No, he can’t say that in front of Sunggyu. It’s one thing to say it with Myungsoo and Sungjong, but this is their leader, the member Sungyeol is least close to. He can’t say that. “How I feel about him,” he finishes instead.

“You know I don’t have control over our schedules.” Sunggyu doesn’t sound like he’s trying to be discouraging, just honest.

“I know. But the hyungs listen to you, and since this is important to Infinite, I thought maybe—“

“You don’t have to sell the idea to me, Sungyeol. Wasn’t I the one who told you to do it in the first place?” Sunggyu’s eyebrows dip in that way they do when he’s thinking hard. After a moment he says, “I can carve out a bit tomorrow, I think. About an hour, maybe.”

In this life, that’s as much as Sungyeol can ask for. Relief and terror smash him between them, but he manages a smile and a slight bow. “Thank you, hyung.”

“I’ll talk to the managers. I should be able to swing it.”

Again, a bow. “Thank you. Thank you, hyung.” He’s turning to go, but Sunggyu stops him.

“Sungyeol.”

Sungyeol turns back to him and looks at him expectantly.

Sunggyu presses his lips together, as though weighing what he’s about to say. Finally he nods as if to himself, and says, “I don’t think you need to worry so much.”

Sungyeol isn’t sure what that means. “Uh. What?”

But Sunggyu just waves his hand dismissively. “Never mind.”

Sungyeol walks away, his mingled anticipation and anxiety tinged with a bit of confusion at Sunggyu’s last words, a confusion that is washed away by a bittersweet ache when he thinks of what's to come. He's so busy thinking about tomorrow that he doesn't even hear his leader mutter, “It’s about time. Make each other happy again.”

--

Sungyeol doesn’t sleep much that night, which isn’t any surprise, and he unplugs the coffee machine as soon as he wakes up, taking it to Hoya and instructing him to not give it back today even if Sungyeol begs. Hoya jus accepts it in his usual unquestioning way, even if he looks a bit like he thinks Sungyeol is crazy, and Sungyeol downs three bottles of the juice he likes (his bladder will have something to say about that later, but it’s better than being too wired on caffeine.)

They start the morning with dance practice, and Sungyeol is really grateful, pouring all his nervous energy into the choreography. He thinks his moves look a bit too over the top and desperate, and once he catches Sunggyu’s gaze and the leader rolls his eyes and snorts before turning away, but it’s better than too little enthusiasm, isn’t it?

They head to the salon after they’ve cleaned up, and after that it’s one of those interminable appearances to film, one of the ones where they have to be ready at a moment’s notice but then spend more time waiting around for their cue than they do actually filming. Sungyeol paces so much that Myungsoo finally pushes him down onto a couch in the green room and sits on top of him till he promises to sit still for five minutes (he doesn’t quite keep that promise—his leg is jiggling the whole time).

When it’s finally over, it’s mid-afternoon, and they’re all pretty worn out as they head to the van. Sungyeol falls into line behind Woohyun; Woohyun is wearing one of Sungyeol’s cardigans, the red one, over his t-shirt; he’d grabbed it out of the clean laundry basket this morning and held Sungyeol’s eyes as he pulled it on. It shouldn’t mean anything—they all wear each others’ clothes all the time, especially him and Woohyun and him and Myungsoo—but when Woohyun is looking at him like that it does. As he waits for Woohyun to climb into the van, Sungyeol stares at the small hole at the collar where he ripped out the tag a little too impatiently, the hole that marks the clothes as his. Woohyun buckles himself in, and when Sungyeol sits down beside him, he looks up with a surprised little smile on his face. They haven’t had time to say much of anything to each other since Sungjong pulled him away yesterday, and it feels really good to be back beside him, Sungyeol notices.

Woohyun pulls out his earbuds and plugs them into his phone. “Hey, listen to this—it’s new.” He puts one of the buds in Sungyeo’s ear, brushing his hair out of the way to do it, then inserts the other into his own ear and presses play on the song.

It’s a nice enough song, Sungyeol supposes, but he’s not really paying attention to it. Instead he’s looking at Woohyun, and Woohyun is looking back. For the first time all day, Sungyeol relaxes.

It isn’t until they pull into the parking garage at their building that Woohyun looks away, his brow wrinkling in confusion. “Hyung, what are we doing back here? I thought we still had stuff?” he asks Hyoan-hyung, who’s driving the van.

But it’s Sunggyu who turns around in the passenger seat to answer. “Schedules changed,” he says. “You and Sungyeol have some free time until the thing tonight.” His gaze flickers over to Sungyeol. “Use it well.”

Sungyeol gives Sunggyu what he hopes is a grateful look as he gets out of the van—the leader just looks back at him blank-faced—and doesn’t look over his shoulder at where the maknaes are in the back seat—the last thing he needs is to see Myungsoo and Sungjong’s undoubtedly smug faces.

Woohyun still looks a little confused as the van pulls away. “He must want us to practice the choreo or vocals or something.”

Sungyeol looks over at him. “What?”

“You know, what he said about using the time well? What else could he mean?”

Sungyeol opens his mouth, then closes it again. “Uh, let’s go upstairs, okay?”

“Okay,” Woohyun agrees. “We should change anyway.”

“Actually—“ Sungyeol takes a breath. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”

Chapter Text

Woohyun’s eyes are questioning as he follows Sungyeol up to the dorm and then into Woohyun and Sunggyu’s room. Sungyeol heads there automatically, but once he thinks about it, it makes sense: this is where they’ve spent almost all their time together here in the dorm, it’s Woohyun's space: it's safe, somehow. And when they end up sitting on Sunggyu’s bed, that makes sense, too, especially because it isn’t Sunggyu’s bed anymore, not in Sungyeol’s mind, where it once had this huge symbolic presence. Instead, it’s just a bed—it could be any bed in the world—because at least Sunggyu doesn’t hold that power over Woohyun anymore.

Woohyun sits down right beside him, no awkward distance like before, and, fuck, that’s a relief. This is how that talk should have been, Sungyeol thinks. Mom always says you don’t get do-overs in life, but this is a do-over; I should have been honest with him before. I have to do it right this time.

He knows he does. Myungsoo’s told him, and Sungjong, and Sunggyu ordered him, and Dongwoo would definitely agree and if Hoya cared enough he probably would to, and Woohyun deserves the truth. He does. Sungyeol breathes deep, and the room smells like Woohyun (his scent overpowers Sunggyu’s till it’s all Sungyeol can smell).

“Okay,” Woohyun says, poking him in the side. “What’s up now? Are you going to tell me what you wouldn’t tell me before?”

“I—yes. Yes,” Sungyeol repeats emphatically, and okay, he’s half trying to convince himself, but the words are true nonetheless.

Woohyun’s eyes light up a bit at his answer. “Really?”

It makes Sungyeol feel a bit calmer to see his pleasure. “Yeah, really.” I should trust him more. Even if Woohyun doesn’t love him back, he really does care enough to want to know what’s going on with Sungyeol, and Sungyeol knows that. I should have trusted him already.

But the thing is, it’s hard to know where to start, which words to select. That’s not a problem Sungyeol usually has, flying on impulse and secure in his wit. He isn’t thoughtful about his words the way some people are, spews them about too carelessly sometimes, and yeah, sometimes he regrets them, but his way of doing things has worked out okay for him thus far. His mom and Sunggyu both despair of getting him ever to be more careful about the things he says, but he’s never been bothered. Not until now, when he realizes how big and scary words can be, not because of what they are, but because of all the things behind them.

He and Woohyun aren’t so good at words. Or maybe they’re sometimes too good at them: they both know what to say to slice each other to shreds, and even if they don’t do that anymore—even if they would never do that again—that power is always there. And there have been a few good conversations between them, times when they talked about things that were real, in ways Sungyeol isn’t used to talking to anyone. But more often than that, they bypass words entirely, and that seems to serve them well, or at least it has up until now.

Sungyeol kind of just wants to shove Woohyun back on the bed and let the way he’d touch and kiss Woohyun do all the talking for him. It would be good, and it would heal something in Woohyun, he knows that. But it wouldn’t be enough. Now it has to be words. It has to be.

Woohyun is looking at him expectantly—maybe even a bit excited at the thought of Sungyeol confiding in him—and it makes it both easier and harder for Sungyeol to start.

“When we started our—thing,” Sungyeol begins, his voice cracking just a bit, a little higher than usual. He’s knotting his fingers around the hem of his cardigan again and again. “I was really freaked out.”

When Sungyeol glances up at him, Woohyun looks a bit confused as to why Sungyeol is telling him this, but he laughs anyway. “No kidding. You were trying to come right out of your skin.”

Sungyeol’s mouth twists wryly. “Yeah.”

“Like, seriously, it looked like you thought that if you drank enough coffee you’d be able to shed it just like a snake and slither away to a place where things made sense.”

Sungyeol can’t help but laugh shortly at that. “I guess I kind of did think that.”

“You’re a dumbass,” Woohyun says.

“A freaked-out dumbass,” Sungyeol corrects. “Because then we kept doing it, and I had a really hard time figuring out why I was doing it.” He winces a bit, eyes falling closed; God, this is so not like him. But again when he looks up from where he’s playing with his cardigan, Woohyun’s eyes are steady on him, patient and waiting. “I—I didn’t really figure it out until I talked to Sungjong.”

One of Woohyun’s eyebrows does that quirk it does. “You better not ever tell him that. He already thinks he’s some kind of super-genius life-coach guru for the rest of us.” Woohyun’s voice rises in a breathy imitation of their maknae. “‘If you’d all only listen to me, hyung, your lives would all be so much better! I could save you from your own stupidity if you’d only listen to me!’”

Sungyeol laughs. “That’s exactly how he’d be.”

“Would be?” Woohyun echoes. “That’s how he already is! He’s said that to me, word for word!”

Sungyeol laughs with him until he remembers that he can't get distracted from what he needs to say, and then he looks back down at his hands. “He had to push me, because I kind of just wanted to leave it at ‘it feels good.’ I wanted to figure it out, but I didn’t really want to, too, you know?”

“Yeah,” Woohyun says calmly, and Sungyeol blinks at him, because he’d never really thought much about Woohyun feeling the same way. Idiot. Of course he did. It was new for him, too. The thought occurs to him that he should have thought more about what Woohyun was thinking from the beginning, not allowed himself to be held prisoner by his own mind. It’s too late for regrets, though; he’ll have to do better in the future.

“And Sungjong made me see that what I really wanted was for someone to want me. For someone to choose me.” Even though saying that out loud makes him feel as exposed and raw as if all his skin has been peeled away, Sungyeol makes himself look at Woohyun as he says the words, so he sees the flicker of some emotion he can’t name as it lightning-flashes across Woohyun’s face. “Shit, I was just so sick of feeling like everyone’s last choice, and when we were—“ He wants to say, ‘You know,’ or something like that, wants to take the easy way. But he’s an adult, even if he mostly feels like an immature child, and he needs to get over this juvenile embarrassment, and Woohyun deserves everything, so he says, “—when you were touching me, I felt like someone was choosing me.”

“Someone was,” Woohyun says, looking a bit confused and also something Sungyeol can’t name. “I was.”

Heat floods through Sungyeol’s veins, staining his skin red. Woohyun. “And I mean, you said I was just convenient, but—“ His voice shakes, and Woohyun cuts him off.

“That was only at first. You know that, right? Only at the start.”

Sungyeol does know that, yeah. One of the threads in the hem of his cardigan has come loose, and he picks at it. “Yeah.”

“At the start we were using each other,” Woohyun says, and he’s serious about this, and Sungyeol thinks about how rarely anyone gets to see Woohyun be serious about something other than working hard. He doesn’t show this side of himself often, and Sungyeol understands why: that kind of vulnerability is scary. But he trusts me. “You were using me to figure out how you could feel about a guy—and to make you feel wanted, I guess—and I was using you to….” He trails off, looks away for a moment, then turns back to Sungyeol, face set with determination. “To forget about how much it hurt when Sunggyu wouldn’t look at me.”

The words feel like a blow. Sungyeol had known that, it had been so obvious, but Woohyun has never once voiced that, has never, ever said anything out loud about how he felt about Sunggyu, and it feels so overwhelming to hear it now. It’s because he trusts you, you idiot, he reminds himself. He trusts you enough to say that when he’s probably never said it to anyone except Key, his best friend in the world. That means something. And maybe he can say it now because it doesn't hurt anymore. That means something, too.

Sungyeol clears his throat a couple of times—not good for him, he knows, Sunggyu would be mad—before he continues. “I was really…scared. That’s why I said the things I said to you in that closet.”

Woohyun’s face is very calm, but his eyes tell Sungyeol clearly enough that he’s remembering. “Yeah. Me, too.”

What? “You were scared?” Sungyeol thinks of how Woohyun smirked and taunted him, about how every touch seemed so sure and confident. And yet: Woohyun had been scared?

“Well, yeah,” Woohyun says, with a look on his face like Sungyeol is an idiot. “I didn’t mean to get involved with you, you know. And you were really erratic—it seemed like you could freak out at any moment and be disgusted with me and tell someone that I was preying on you or—“ He shrugs.

“What? Preying on me? What the fuck?” Sungyeol had never once thought of that. Never once.

Woohyun laughs a little, but it doesn’t sound very happy. “You could have seen in that way. You’d never thought of a guy like that, and I jumped you, and if you got scared enough, you could have spun it like that.”

"What the fuck, Woohyun? You think I would ever do that to you? Ever?"

"Well, no, not really, but since when has fear ever been logical?"

Since when indeed. “I wanted it, too!” Sungyeol can’t believe this. “I wanted everything we’ve ever done.”

Woohyun smiles, and now it actually does look happy. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Sungyeol repeats firmly.

“Sometimes I felt like I rushed you too much,” Woohyun says. “Like I was pressuring you or—“

No. You weren’t. Everything we ever did, I wanted it, and you didn’t pressure me.” Woohyun has to understand this. He has to.

But then Woohyun’s lips twitch, and Sungyeol can’t read his tone when he says, “‘Did’?”

Oh, fuck. The tense. Sungyeol’s getting everything out of order. “I just—I’m not sure you’re going to want to do anything anymore when you hear what I have to say.”

Woohyun’s eyebrows fly up. “I really can’t imagine a universe in which that would be true,” he says, voice dry. “Haven’t you noticed that you’re the one pulling away from me?”

Sungyeol laughs a little, bitter-edged. “Yeah. But it’s partly because I really think you won’t want to do anything with me once I tell you the truth.”

Woohyun’s eyebrows dive back down, his brow furrowed. “Sungyeol. You’re freaking me out here. Tell me what it is.”

“Yeah. Right, right.” He takes a big breath, shoves his hand through his hair, and tries to calm his heart that’s speeding up again. “It started out with us using each other, right? And it was okay because we were both doing it and both getting something out of it, right?”

Woohyun cocks his head to the side. “Okay….?”

“But then we were friends again. And it stopped being about using and became about….” Fuck, he’s so bad with words. How can he possibly explain this? “We just enjoyed each other,” he finishes lamely, and it’s not quite right, not quite enough, but it will have to do.

Woohyun smiles. “Yeah.” His smile widens into a grin. “I know you really enjoyed it when I let you fuck me.”

Nervousness dissipating a little, Sungyeol shoves him away. “Whatever, dumbass. You enjoyed fucking me just as much.”

Woohyun’s eyes are twinkling. “I really did.”

“Even if my ass is flat.”

Woohyun laughs. “You’ve got the greatest ass in the world.”

Sungyeol rolls his eyes. “You’re only saying that because it’s the only one you’ve ever been allowed to fuck.”

“Well, duh. That’s the only criteria that really matters, isn’t it?” Woohyun laughs, and then Sungyeol is laughing, too, and suddenly the words just pop out and he doesn’t even think them before they do, it’s like they just sprang off his tongue fully-formed, like someone else had set them there and then they dived off of their own volition.

“I have feelings for you.”

Fuck.

Woohyun stops laughing abruptly, his face going totally blank. And it isn’t the practiced kind of shuttered Sungyeol has seen him perfect in the past, the kind where he’s protecting himself and is determined not to give anything away. This is something completely new, something Sungyeol doesn’t recognize, and that freaks him out. So he starts babbling.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen—I didn’t even know it was happening, I thought I just thought of you as a friend, but then the other day after that ahjussi said that about you and we—and I—I realized, and it was just so much and I didn’t know what to do and—“

Woohyun’s tone is perfectly flat, his volume not raised at all when he cuts Sungyeol off. “That’s why you’ve been pulling away? That’s what’s been going on with you?”

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it.” He hurries on again. “I felt really bad because I knew you were worried about it, but I was so overwhelmed and scared and I didn’t know what to say and—“

“That’s the thing you couldn’t tell me.” Woohyun’s tone hasn’t changed at all, and it isn’t a question.

“Uh. Yeah?”

The silence is weird between them, in a way it’s never been, and Sungyeol isn’t sure if it’s tense or expectant or something else altogether. Woohyun’s staring straight at him, but he almost doesn’t look like he’s seeing him at all. When he finally speaks, it’s only one word. “Why?”

Sungyeol feels whiplashed. “What—‘why’ what?”

“Why couldn’t you tell me?”

The total lack of inflection in his voice—so different from his usual expressiveness—is making Sungyeol feel jumpy. “Because—because I was scared.”

“You said that already.”

“I know….”

“Why were you scared?”

This is just exactly as awful as Sungyeol had imagined this conversation being. Actually, it’s worse. He’d kind of thought that Woohyun would reject him immediately and do it in a way that didn’t make him feel completely shattered because Woohyun is somehow clairvoyant or something when it comes to knowing what Sungyeol needs. But this…this is not what he expected at all. Shaking a bit, he looks down at his hands. “I—“ Even his whisper cracks. “Because I knew I would die if I had to hear you say that you don’t feel the same way.”

Silence for a moment, again with that strange quality, and Sungyeol mentally runs through a list of ways to kill himself, ranging from throwing himself out the nearest window to pissing off Sungjong. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

But then: “You complete fucking idiot.”

Sungyeol’s head flies up, vertigo crashing through him and, “What?”

Woohyun suddenly tackles him, slamming him down onto the bed, hovering above him and pinning him down, his hands on Sungyeol’s shoulders. His face is less than a foot away from Sungyeol’s, his eyes bright again and Sungyeol blinks up at him, not pulling away even though this is so strange and so not what he’d imagined and because nothing makes sense, he has no idea what’s going on and is Woohyun grinning?

“Are you really that dense? Haven’t you been paying any attention at all? You fucking idiot!”

Sungyeol’s mouth opens and closes; he isn’t sure he could think of a thing to say if his life was on the line.

“Only you could be so stupid,” Woohyun says, but his voice is really…fond? And his eyes are still shining, and he brushes some hair out of Sungyeol’s eyes with a gentle hand. A half-second later, said hand is anything but gentle as it tugs—hard—on that same strand of hair.

“Ow!” Apparently pain on his sensitive scalp is all it takes to remind Sungyeol of how to speak. “That hurt, you jerk!”

Woohyun is totally unperturbed by Sungyeol’s shout and glare. “You’re actually the stupidest person on the planet, aren’t you? You’ve got this giant brain, but you’re so, so stupid,” he says, like it’s the highest praise.

“Hey!” This is going too far now, and Sungyeol tries to bat Woohyun’s hand away as it slides into the hair he just pulled.

“You can’t even see what’s right in front of your eyes, you pathetic little boy.”

Okay, that is quite enough. Sungyeol starts struggling to get away, which isn’t that easy when Woohyun is actually sitting on his lower body, but Sungyeol’s going to try anyway. “‘Pathetic little’—you asshole! I’m gonna—“

But Woohyun keeps grinning and sliding his fingers through Sungyeol’s hair like Sungyeol isn’t fighting him, isn’t spitting mad beneath him. “There really never has been a bigger idiot. Can’t you see? I’m crazy about you! You’re all I fucking think about! God, I didn’t even know it was possible to feel about a person this way and you—you really thought—and that’s why you—you fucking idiot!”

Sungyeol freezes, the vertigo back and more intense than ever and it’s a good thing he’s lying down because if he weren’t he’d have fallen to the ground and it’s a good thing Woohyun is on top of him because if he weren’t he’d have floated off into space and it’s a good thing that his heart beats on its own because if Sungyeol had to remind it it would have stopped and he’d be dead right now. Dead underneath Woohyun, who’s speaking words Sungyeol can’t quite let himself believe.

“You—I—“ he gasps, and Woohyun rolls his eyes.

“Yeah. I—you,” he mocks. “Stick the word ‘love’ into that sentence, okay?”

And then Woohyun is kissing him, kissing him like they haven’t kissed in days, except they’ve never kissed like this before, this is something new entirely, and it’s got something to do with the words being out there and glowing in the air between them and God, that’s got to be the sappiest thought Sungyeol has ever had, but fuck it Woohyun loves him and he just said so and Woohyun doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to stop kissing him and that is completely fine with Sungyeol.

Only of course sooner or later he does have to stop kissing him, if only because they need air. He doesn’t move back, though, his lips almost touching Sungyeol as he stares down into his eyes. “You could say it back, you know,” Woohyun says, breathless, and his eyes are so dark that Sungyeol couldn’t look away if he wanted to.

So dark that it takes him a moment to process the words. Then: “I—you. Stick the word ‘love’ into that sentence, okay?”

Woohyun’s grin looks like it’s going to split his face in half. “Dumbass,” he says, diving back down for Sungyeol’s lips. Sungyeol wraps his arms around Woohyun’s waist and gives him a good jerk till Woohyun collapses onto him, then rolls them onto their sides so they’re facing each other.

“Asshole,” Sungyeol whispers before kissing him again, and Woohyun yanks at his hair.

“Ow!”

Probably a good part of the time Sunggyu has given them is up, and the others will probably be back any minute, and Dongwoo and Hoya still don’t know, and one of the managers might come in with them, but Sungyeol just doesn’t care. Because Woohyun is up against him again, and the two of them are kissing their lips raw, and Woohyun loves him and fuck, the world is really a crazy place.

But really, really amazing.

--

- Four Months Later -

 

Sungyeol feels like crap as he lets himself into the dorm, toeing off his shoes without bothering to untie them—that would take energy he doesn’t have—and kicking them into the snarled pile before stumbling down the hall and into the living room.

Myungsoo and Woohyun are on the floor watching TV, and they look up when they hear Sungyeol. “Hey!” Myungsoo says.

“Hey,” Sungyeol mutters.

Myungsoo and Woohyun exchange glances. “Uh, how’d it go?” Myungsoo asks carefully. Woohyun doesn’t say anything, just looks up at Sungyeol with waiting eyes.

“Awful.” Sungyeol collapses onto the floor, wriggling till he can drop his head into Woohyun’s lap. He doesn’t often do this where the other guys can see, being ‘all newlywed’ as Sungjong likes to say, because the last thing he wants to do is make any of them uncomfortable (or, really, start another round of teasing). Besides, if he touched Woohyun as much as he wants to, Woohyun would get even more fucking smug than he already is, and that’s the last thing Sungyeol needs. It’s hard enough dealing with his boyfriend’s ego as it is (or at least that’s what he says, even if he knows that Woohyun isn’t really ego-driven at all). Still, right now all he wants to do is drag Woohyun off to the bedroom and let him make Sungyeol forget all about how shitty this day has been. Or at least get Woohyun to kiss him senseless. But the former is an impossibility and the latter is inappropriate with Myungsoo in the room, so Sungyeol settles for head-in-lap. He almost feels like purring when he feels Woohyun’s fingers slip into his hair. Myungsoo is probably looking at them all amused, but the head massage feels too good for Sungyeol to care. Woohyun has fucking amazing hands.

“That bad, huh?” Myungsoo says.

“I could tell from the minute I walked in that the PD didn’t like me. He barely looked at me the whole audition. And then when I was leaving he said they’re ‘trying to go in a different direction’ with the character. Fuck.” Sungyeol rubs his cheek against Woohyun’s sweatpants; they’re worn and soft and smell like laundry detergent. He must have taken a shower since Sungyeol left for the audition: when he’d pulled Sungyeol around the corner away from the others to wish him luck and kiss him deep, murmuring something about knowing he'll do an awesome job against Sungyeol’s ear—followed by an ‘and fuck them if they don’t want you; they’re the ones missing out’—he’d smelled like bb cream and sweat. Now his scent is clean and tinged with soap, and the freshness of it feels like it’s wiping away the crud from Sungyeol’s mind.

“That sucks,” Myungsoo says sympathetically. “What an asshole.”

Sungyeol can’t help but laugh. “Don’t judge so quickly—he asked me for your number as I was leaving. Said he thought you’d be perfect in the part.”

Myungsoo blinks, then his face wrinkles with fury. “Like I’d work with him after he was such an ass to my best friend!”

Sungyeol closes his eyes as Woohyun keeps massaging his head. “If you refuse to work with every PD who’s turned me down, you’ll never work again.”

Woohyun snorts, but Myungsoo is still angry. “That’s not even true! And they’re idiots if they don’t want you anyway—why would I want to work with an idiot?”

“You work with five of them,” Sunggyu points out, entering the room and crossing towards the kitchen. His footsteps pause for a moment behind Woohyun and Sungyeol thinks the leader is going to ask about how the audition went—and Sungyeol really, really doesn’t want to talk about it anymore—but apparently he’s smarter than he looks and manages to figure it out himself, because after a second he continues on his way.

“Only five, hyung?” Woohyun says. “I think you’re forgetting one.” His hands stop moving—at least until Sungyeol whines, and then they’re back to the massaging again.

“No, only five. Sungjong is a genius,” Sunggyu says, and as though his name conjured him up, Sungjong chooses that moment to come out of his room.

“That’s right, hyung! I’m glad someone appreciates me!” he says, kicking Sungyeol in the side as he moves to join Sunggyu in the kitchen.

“You’ll get it when the time is right,” Myungsoo says suddenly, and it takes a moment for Sungyeol to remember what they were talking about. Oh, the audition. That’s right.

“Sure,” he replies, burrowing further into Woohyun’s lap. Fuck, he smells good.

It’s nice of Myungsoo to say, a good best friend-like reassurance, but Sungyeol knows that, doesn’t need to hear it. What he needs is Woohyun touching him, preferably all over, but for the moment Woohyun’s hands in his hair are enough.

“What do you want for dinner?” Woohyun asks, taking advantage of everyone’s momentarily turned backs—Myungsoo is craning around to see what the other two are up to in the kitchen—to lean down and press a brief kiss to Sungyeol’s lips, and Sungyeol wants to reach up and wrap his hands in the collar of Woohyun’s shirt and hold him in place and keep kissing him forever, but that’s not an option. Besides, something to eat sounds really awesome (he’d been too nervous about the audition to choke down much at lunch). Especially if it’s something Woohyun makes; somehow he makes even a frozen curry taste better than it has any right to. ‘It’s all about the spices,’ he says whenever anyone asks. ‘You can add them to anything, if you pick the right ones. My hyung taught me that.’ Sungyeol mostly doesn’t care how he does it, just that he does.

“I wish I had a wifey to come home to who’ll make me whatever I want to eat.” That’s Hoya, grinning wide as he and Dongwoo arrive back from the practice room, making Dongwoo laugh.

Sungyeol snorts. “‘Wifey’ my ass. He can’t even pull off a lady’s hanbok.”

"You do look way better in a dress, hyung," Sungjong agrees from the kitchen.

Woohyun makes a face of agreement, then shoots a glare at Hoya. “He just says that because he’s jealous he’s not getting any,” Woohyun points out to Sungyeol, jerking his head in Hoya's direction. He doesn’t get bothered when Hoya teases them, and Sungyeol doesn’t either anymore. “When I have all the ass I want,” Woohyun continues, reaching down to smack Sungyeol’s butt. Normally Sungyeol would get upset about both the implication and the action, starting a bickering fight and shouting insults he doesn’t really mean, but right now he’s too tired to care. Besides, he gets all the ass he wants, too. Well, not all they want, actually, nowhere near; they don’t have nearly as much time together as they’d like. But some. Sometimes, when they can steal the time. More than all the other guys combined, anyway, though that’s not saying much.

“Hyung, what have I told you about making jokes like that?” Sungjong’s voice floating out from the kitchen is deceptively sweet.

“Rusted knife, I know, I know,” Woohyun sighs. “You,” he adds, looking down at Sungyeol. “If you don’t get your head out of my lap in the next two seconds, I’m going to drop it on the floor and you’ll get another concussion.”

Sungyeol raises his head long enough for Woohyun to stand, laying it back down on the cold marble and rolling his eyes as he hears Woohyun rush into the kitchen. “Don’t touch that, hyung, you’ll set the building on fire—you have no idea what you’re doing, do you? How are you twenty-four years old? Give me that.” The kitchen devolves into a mess of insults and clanging pans and Woohyun’s frustration, but Sungyeol can hear just how much Woohyun and Sunggyu are enjoying picking at each other. They’re piecing their relationship back together, figuring out how to be friends again, and it’s maybe easier than either one of them expected. Despite his headache, Sungyeol has to smile a little.

“That movie you wanted to see is coming out tomorrow, and Jungryoul-hyung said we might have some free time. Want to go?” Myungsoo asks, ignoring the clamor in the kitchen.

“Sure.” They almost never see movies in the theater, only catching them on late-night TV sometimes months after they’ve stopped being buzzed about, so it’ll be nice to see one with everyone else for once. Besides, he and Myungsoo haven’t had any time together in the past couple of weeks, and Sungyeol misses him. Things aren’t right when he and Myungsoo are apart.

“Great,” Myungsoo says, smile-crinkled, and Sungyeol smiles back--before kicking out with his long legs and starting a half-hearted kick-fight that Myungsoo eventually wins simply because Sungyeol is too tired to take advantage of his longer limbs.

Woohyun ends up cooking for everyone and it’s just as good as Sungyeol had hoped, if not particularly elaborate. He’s still feeling wrung-out, though, so he leans against Woohyun during the meal as they all sit on the living room floor together, and the gesture is subtle enough that the others don’t rib them much—or maybe they all can see just how tired Sungyeol is and are showing him some mercy. Sungyeol considers heading to bed early tonight since he’s not feeling so hot, but he lets Dongwoo talk him into watching something with them, and he’s glad he did when Sunggyu looks over at him for a long moment, then rises and disappears into his bedroom, returning in his pajamas with his pillow in hand and an announcement that he’s going to sleep in Dongwoo’s room tonight.

Sungyeol perks up immediately; Sunggyu has done that once or twice, giving Woohyun and Sungyeol some time to themselves, but not very often. The leader had explained that it wasn’t fair to the rest of the members who weren’t dating their bandmates if the two of them got to canoodle (yes, he actually used that word and Sungyeol and Woohyun had laughed so hard about it—sometimes Sungyeol thinks he really is a grandpa stuck in a youngish body) whenever they want, and Sungyeol understands that, even if he doesn’t like it. Woohyun climbs into his bed on occasion, sneaking out again before first light, but they don’t do anything more than exchange a couple of kisses (and hold each other), because even if Dongwoo and Myungsoo would probably sleep through it, the thought of doing anything more than that with the other two guys in the room is just too much for Sungyeol. So the couple of times when Sunggyu hands over the room to them for the night are even more important.

Hoya wolf whistles at Sunggyu’s pronouncement, and Sungyeol and Woohyun flip him off in unison, causing Dongwoo and Myungsoo to laugh. Sungjong just looks smug when Sungyeol lets Woohyun pull him to his feet so they can head to bed; the maknae has been even more self-satisfied than usual since finding out that he was right about Sungyeol and Woohyun’s feelings being mutual—Sungyeol has never met a guy who enjoys being right more than Lee Sungjong. Sungyeol hadn’t even had to tell Sungjong that Woohyun loves him back (which he’s glad about, because it wouldn’t have been comfortable for him to say something like that out loud): Sungjong had known as soon as the two of them emerged from the bedroom that day (clothed again and satisfied and grinning and maybe a little starry-eyed, though Sungyeol will never admit that last), and he hasn’t stopped gloating since. Myungsoo had been happy that Sungyeol was happy, Sunggyu had seemed satisfied, and after it was all explained—more or less—to Dongwoo and Hoya, Hoya had shrugged and made a couple of crude comments about their sex life that showed he wasn’t bothered, and Dongwoo had been worried about what this meant for all of them but glad they were happy. Most of his worry has eased since then, and now he grins and laughs whenever he sees them being coupley, which isn’t so often because Sungyeol is still Sungyeol.

Really, things haven’t changed so very much. The other guys make fun of them sometimes when no one else is around, but that’s the only difference with the members. As for himself and Woohyun, they still have to sneak around to get any time to themselves—though not in places where outsiders could discover them, of course (“Kibum says if he hears so much as a rumor about us, he’s going to castrate me, and I believe him. He’s probably done it before. You won’t believe this, but he can be even scarier than Sungjong.”). And it’s not like the two of them are being all sappy and pet-name-calling, either: just the thought makes Sungyeol shudder.

But it’s nice to have Woohyun (to really, really have him, and to know it). Really, really nice.

Woohyun presses him up against the door as soon as it’s closed, the TV blaring outside (“Use your indoor voices, kiddies!” Hoya had instructed. “If I hear anything, hyungs,” Sungjong had added meaningfully. “I have my knife ready.”), and all the tension and discouragement of the day starts to flow out of Sungyeol now that Woohyun’s touching him, now that they’re kissing. Yeah. This is what he needed.

“Do you need to talk about it?” Woohyun asks, pulling away from the kiss for a moment.

Sungyeol knows he means it, knows he’d listen quietly at the right moments and snark when Sungyeol needed him to (sometimes Sungyeol is aware that Woohyun is a way better boyfriend than he is, but he’s trying, he’s learning, and he thinks sometimes he gives Woohyun at least a little bit in return, even if Sungyeol wants to give him so much more but isn’t comfortable enough yet to do it and isn’t quite sure how. But he’ll get there. He knows he will, because this is Woohyun), but Sungyeol really, really doesn’t want to talk about it. He shakes his head, tilts his head down for another kiss. “Just need you.”

Sungyeol has been trying to get more used to saying things like that, even if it doesn't come naturally. He may talk a lot, but he still finds it hard to verbalize things that really matter. But it's easier with Woohyun (easiest when they’re in bed together in the dark and Sungyeol can breathe the words on Woohyun’s skin, easiest when they’re pressed up against each other in a corner somewhere and Sungyeol can whisper between kisses, easiest when Woohyun says them first: heated, intimate words that Sungyeol can’t quite believe anyone would ever say about him but that Woohyun believes so completely that Sungyeol can almost believe them himself), because he never mocks Sungyeol's sincerity (they bicker and tease all the time, insult each other and call each other names, but that’s not when they’re being serious. When they’re alone and together, they may banter to round off the edges of awkwardness, but they never, ever make each other feel uncomfortable for being sincere and honest) and because, fuck, Sungyeol loves it when Woohyun’s eyes go all dark in response, like they do now. Just like he loves it when Woohyun jerks him closer, their bodies running into each other just everywhere, Woohyun’s mouth against his. They stumble over to the bed, falling down onto it, pulling off their shirts and then settling down to kiss some more. Fuck, yeah, this is what Sungyeol has needed all day (weekmonthlife): Woohyun’s skin and tongue and moans and lips and scent and everything. Fuck yeah.

Sungyeol lets out a little moan of frustration himself when Woohyun pulls back and cranes to reach the drawer in the bedside cabinet, but he’s mollified when he sees the bottle in Woohyun’s hand. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect end to this night: sliding into Woohyun’s heat—or, honestly, even letting Woohyun into him. Woohyun will make him feel good either way, and really, he just wants to be as close to Woohyun as he can, till all the asshole directors and failed auditions in the world are the last thing in his mind. He doesn’t really care who tops tonight, honestly.

Or at least he doesn’t think he does until Woohyun grabs his ass and says, “Yeah, get ready, flat-ass. I’m coming for you.”

Oh, no. Sungyeol’s not going to roll over that easily, not if Woohyun’s going to be a jerk about it. “Excuse you, dickhead. I’m pretty sure it’s my turn.”

Woohyun glares at him. “No, it isn’t.”

Sungyeol really doesn’t remember who went last time, though if he tried to he probably could. He doesn’t let that stop him. “Yes, it is. You were last time. It’s my turn now.”

“Like hell it is.”

“Fuck you! It’s totally my turn.”

“Wrong again, like the idiot you are. No one will be doing any fucking of me tonight. Just of you. So prepare yourself for some serious fucking.”

“Oh, that’s nice. I had the shittiest day ever and you won’t even let me top? Some boyfriend you are.”

They bicker even as they strip each other, as they ease into foreplay. Sungyeol thinks he’ll probably relent in a little while, let Woohyun press him into the mattress and thrust inside him, their eyes locked on each other as they move in rhythm, trying to show each other through touch just how much they feel for each other, maybe even say it in words, words that shoot a thrill through Sungyeol’s body and make Woohyun’s eyes darken even more, and all of that before they wrap themselves around each other and fall into sleep. Later, they’ll do that. But for now this is fun: fighting just because there’s no real need to fight, tossing around words because they can trust the other to volley them back, making a little place (through words, through skin on skin) where there are no idol responsibilities or failed auditions or fan expectations, where it’s only the two of them alone and together.

For now this is enough.