Actions

Work Header

One step, two steps

Work Text:

“What do you think about Ten?”

 

Yuta is looking right at the boy’s ass when Youngho raises his head in surprise, although the question shouldn’t have caught him off guard. Spring agitates Yuta’s pants as if he was a dog; literally, he would be capable of chasing boys, not to sniff them, but for sure to flirt like it’s the last day on earth.

 

However, this time is different. Yuta knows his victims can’t be part of their circle of friends, neither should they be brothers, cousins, or someone blood-related to his friends. And it just so happens that Ten has been hanging out with them for three years, since he arrived from Thailand, and he’s also Taeil’s cousin. He’s double forbidden, Youngho thinks, especially for a simple fuck.

 

“Don’t even think about it, pretty boy,” he answers, not minding that Yuta has asked for his opinion and not for a ban. “He doesn’t sleep with guys like you. In fact, he probably doesn’t sleep with anyone at all.”

 

Truth to be told, Youngho has no idea. He doesn’t care. Perhaps he and Ten share the same group of friends, but that doesn’t mean they’re intimate or good friends. It’s natural to not be close with everyone around you, and in this case, he and Ten are just very different. Youngho likes classical books, alternative music and sarcastic remarks. Ten likes spending his time skating (and Youngho thinks that’s pretty immature for a university student), laughs at the stupidest things and plays video games too much. He also likes staring at Taeyong in awe, which wouldn’t piss Youngho off if Taeyong and his beauty weren’t the center of attention everywhere they go.

 

Amused, Yuta raises a brow at him, gaze drifting from Ten to him momentarily, “Are you telling me your blood doesn’t flood to the proper places when you see…” He gestures towards Ten who, not aware of their presence, is currently taking a seat on the opposite side of the library, “that piece of art?”

 

“A piece of art,” Youngho scoffs, incredulous. The book he was reading for his The fundamentals of Poetry class is long forgotten on the table, much to his aggravation. “I’m so going to tell Taeil.”

 

“And what is Taeil going to do exactly?” Yuta leans back on his chair, tone rising despite the looks he receives from other students. “Or how is he going to stop me?”

 

Look, this is the thing: Youngho doesn’t give a shit. He barely has any crushes on people, and has never fallen in love, and even if he has felt sexual attraction before, it means nothing to him. Sex leaves him empty, satisfied only when it’s about the physical side, but that’s all. Taeyong is always telling him that he has high expectations of love and relationships, that real life doesn’t work like Youngho think it does, and that it’s the reason why he’s so bitter and arrogant towards everyone.

 

According to Youngho himself, he isn’t either bitter nor arrogant, just a realist.

 

“You know what? You’re right,” Youngho finally agrees, a slanted grin on his face. “Go and try fuck Ten. Good luck, pretty boy.”

 

 

 

 

Whether it’s because Yuta is weaving one of his complicated plans to conquer, or just because he wasn’t serious, he doesn’t mention Ten during the rest of the week. Or maybe Youngho isn’t paying enough attention, even if Yuta clings to him every afternoon after the lectures, dragging him to watch old movies in their apartment. Sometimes Taeyong joins them, but he always ends up commenting how boring they are and retiring to his bedroom to do whatever except this.

 

Since it’s just the beginning of his second year, Youngho doesn’t have much to do, yet he often visits the library. Taeil frequents the place too, and unlike Yuta, he doesn’t bother him with questions about boys’ asses or about the action Youngho isn’t getting. He’s the perfect company until, two weeks into the school year, he brings someone along with him.

 

“This is Sicheng,” he announces with a little smile. “Our new housemate.”

 

Youngho wouldn’t normally check a stranger out, but for some reason, once he lands eyes on the boy, his brain forces him to make a whole scan from head to toe. Back to his face, Youngho finds a smirk on Sicheng’s face, and Youngho would be pissed –the smirk is frighteningly similar to Yuta’s- if he wasn’t so attractive. He looks like he has been pulled out from one of Youngho’s books, a perfect description of classic beauty, which is unfair for the rest of the normal, average population; Youngho holds a frown back.

 

“Hi,” Youngho greets him, trying to pretend he hasn’t reacted like a teenager in front of his first crush. The next second he’s turning to Taeil, disregarding Sicheng’s existence. “Since when do you need another housemate?”

 

“We have a free room.” Taeil shrugs while Sicheng starts taking his notes out of the backpack. He glances at Youngho one last time, the ghost of a smile when he realizes he has caught him staring once again. Taeil adds, “Ten likes having people around.”

 

Youngho is about to make a joke about how Yuta should have moved in with them then, yet it feels wrong somehow. At least it would be prudent to keep Taeil safe and oblivious of Yuta’s intentions of bedding his younger –and youngest- cousin. And again, does Ten even sleep with boys or girls? Youngho can’t grasp the concept of Ten getting into someone’s bed, but it’s true that Ten doesn’t update him on his life, especially the romantic one. Youngho only knows how incompatible they are.

 

Thankfully, Taeil doesn’t insist on engaging them in a conversation, and opts for putting his headphones on instead. Youngho goes back to his book, but just seconds later, he is annoyed by the drilling sensation of being watched. Of course, upon drifting his eyes off the book, he discovers Sicheng is staring right at him, and the mysterious smile has come back.

 

“Don’t you have anything to do?” Youngho insinuates as softly as he’s able. And, you see, it would have worked except it didn’t because Sicheng doesn’t answer, but his smile expands all over his face. “Enjoy the beauty of the youth or something like that?”

 

Unaltered by the insinuation, Sicheng clears his throat, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

Although confused, Youngho replies with a concise, “Thank you.” Because, is this guy really trying to toy with him? Then, Youngho realizes what Sicheng means, and he can’t help but squint at him as though he has heard wrong. “Wait, finally?”

 

“I heard about you before,” Sicheng replies cheekily, leaning over the table a bit. That catches Taeil’s attention, and even if he sends them an interested look, he doesn’t remove his earphones. “Do you want to know from whom?”

 

Youngho is unimpressed. “Are you five years old?”

 

If they weren’t in the library, Sicheng would have laughed out loud for sure; instead, his laughter is reduced to a choked scoff.

 

“You are rude,” he states, like it’s the revelation of the year. To be honest, Youngho is a bit amazed at Sicheng’s lack of shame, for any other person would have recoiled at his attitude by now. “That explains a lot. But you want to know, right? Who is the one who goes around talking about you?”

 

Youngho does. But it’s stupid, the curiosity that lingers within human nature. As far as he knows, Sicheng could be messing with him for fun, or worse, this could be Yuta’s idea. It would be so typical of him to send a pretty boy to play cupid, or to set a trap for him so that he would find himself in a relationship without even realizing.

 

“I’m going to be clear,” Youngho starts with a sigh. He closes the book, attempting to appear intimidating. However, there’s a glint of mischievousness in Sicheng’s eyes, as if Youngho has just taken the wrong step. “You have a friend who likes me, or something along those lines. So what?”

 

Sicheng shrugs.

 

“My bad.” He pretends to zip his mouth, which is still curled upwards. “I guess you won’t ever know.”

 

Even though this time Sicheng directs his interest on his notes, the discomfort Youngho feels doesn’t fade away. Soon there’s a stinging pain going down Youngho’s back, and he’s aware it isn’t only physical: it’s the psychological tension accumulating in his muscles. He doesn’t last long before leaving the library, excusing himself under Sicheng’s knowing glance.

 

 

 

 

Living with Taeyong and Yuta has its perks, that’s undeniable, but it has a lot of disadvantages as well. The problem isn’t that Yuta brings boys over during finals — the excuse of ‘I will help you with the exam’ has always been effective for him — or that when he’s sad he tends to eat all the food they have for a whole week; the main issue is that while Taeyong is a fusspot, Yuta is a mess. They bickered since day one, all the time, which was an obvious signal of how Youngho should have searched for another flat. He was too innocent and optimistic, or had too much faith in Yuta behaving well around a strikingly beautiful, but helplessly crazy Taeyong.

 

Therefore, Youngho doesn’t bat an eye when he crosses the door and hears the screams. The paradigm has changed though, because he has never witnessed a scene like this: Yuta is on the floor, shouting at his roommate to stop, and Taeyong has him cornered against the back of the couch. One of his hands is keeping Yuta restrained, but the other is trying to undo Yuta’s pants. This is far from what Youngho can understand or expect. This doesn’t have an explanation.

 

He’s pretty sure that a gasp escapes his lips, though his neurons are too burned to recognize it as his. Both Yuta and Taeyong turn their heads towards him, alarmed, forgetting what they were fighting about a second ago.

 

“He- he’s wearing my underwear!” Taeyong shrieks, flushing red.

 

Youngho doesn’t know why his friend thinks that’s an actual justification. “Okay…? So this is what you do when I’m not home? Wear each other’s underwear and play to take it off?”

 

It’s clear Taeyong is divided between answering with an attack or give up and die of embarrassment, yet Yuta starts laughing like a madman. Trust him to always enjoy Taeyong’s frustration.

 

“Why are you making such a fuss over this?!” he whines when Taeyong tries to hit him. “It’s just underwear.”

 

As Youngho removes his jacket, he thinks that if Taeyong was an animal, he would be showing his teeth to Yuta right now. Or perhaps using his fangs to tear his head off his body.“It’s mine. And now you’re wearing it, which is fucking gross.”

 

“I agree,” Youngho chirps in.

 

Very proud of himself, Yuta stands up and stares down at Taeyong, who is still on the floor looking like an angry puppy. He hurries up to get up too, but it happens to be difficult when Yuta keeps pushing his head downwards. Youngho isn’t so happy of living with two adults that act like children.

 

“That’s because you two haven’t touched a dick in months. Except yours,” Yuta reasons. He falls silent for a moment, and then adds, “I hope.”

 

Still with red cheeks, Taeyong glares before scurrying away from the living room. Yuta’s smile disappears within an instant, not because the object of his laughter is gone, but because he immediately notices the judgmental stare Youngho is sending him.

 

“What?” he spits, defensive.

 

Perhaps it’s a perfect moment to scold him and warn him to treat Taeyong better (after all, he’s the regular cook in the apartment. Youngho doesn’t want to die poisoned), but he says instead, “I met Sicheng.”

 

Yuta arches a brow. “Oh.”

 

“So you know him.”

 

“We all know him.” Youngho can tell Yuta is keeping part of the information, and that just supports his theory about how Yuta could be using Sicheng as his partner in crime. “Ten and Taeil introduced him to us two weeks ago. That time you preferred to stay here and sleep?”

 

It’s not unusual he rejects plans to go out, at least not when his friends have certain intentions for the night. When Youngho finds evidence that Yuta expects them to get shitfaced, he changes his mind, since that means he will have to nurse a drunk friend all the way home. Taeyong has never been disposed to help Yuta when he’s intoxicated either, not after the first time when he tried to get into Taeyong’s pants.

 

Yuta’s lips part in fake amazement. “Why, do you like him?” he teases, and then he walks up to Youngho and grips his arm, cutely batting his eyes just to be annoying. “You have blood in your veins?”

 

“Of course not. He’s like you but in an actually pretty version.”

 

“A pretty version?” he repeats, before breaking into a fit of laughter.

 

 

 

When Ten arrived three years ago, the boys used to say that Youngho had a puppy crush on him. Ten, who was a year younger, was everything he wasn’t, and that was about how much Youngho could admit. He talked nonstop, talked over his friends’ words as if that was perfectly polite, and grew a habit of pinching Yuta’s sides too soon to be socially acceptable. Youngho didn’t like him, but in some aspects, he would have liked to be him. To try for a day how it felt to not care about what others would think of him if he decided to act stupid and be childish. Ten’s excessive confidence wouldn’t allow him to worry, and even if Youngho was far from insecure, he would still forbid himself to laugh at lame jokes, to kiss a friend to show platonic love, or to have a round of confessing embarrassing secrets. He was closed up.

 

However, there are things about Ten, that first day they met, that Youngho remembers with a tingle of tenderness. The leather jacket, over his fifteen year old frame, that contrasted notably with his baby like face. The wide smile and the spark of his eyes, and the way he would observe everything in admiration. Youngho recalls in detail that time they hung out alone, still unaware that they wouldn’t be close friends; Youngho still lived with his parents, but they watched a movie on Youngho’s Ipad, both of them curled up on the bed, before his parents arrived. Ten forgot the leather jacket when he left. He forgot other things, like a spot of warmth on Youngho’s bed, or the smell of his clothes and the overwhelming realization that he had passed the day tangled in Youngho’s sheets.

 

Anyhow, Youngho doubts Ten can remember anything of that.

 

1.00 p.m. From: Hansol

We’re all eating in the Law’s faculty.

1.03 p.m. From: Hansol

The chinese kid asked about you

1.10 p.m. From: Hansol

Hey, you got a boyfriend and didn’t tell me?

 

Youngho rolls his eyes although his best friend can’t see him, and decides it’s better to deal with Sicheng and Yuta than eating by himself in boredom. When he enters the cafeteria, he doesn’t have any problem with identifying his friends: Yuta’s loud voice and Ten’s laughter are helpful enough to guide him.

 

“Look who is here,” Yuta announces as soon as he spots him. While Sicheng waves at him like a kid, Yuta forces Taeyong to move and change chairs so that Youngho can sit between them, which Taeyong grudgingly does. “Come and sit with daddy.”

 

Used to this kind of jokes, Youngho doesn’t comment on it, but Ten, who is next to Yuta, chokes on his food. Within an instant, Taeil is panicking and patting his cousin’s back hard enough for him to have his bones broken.

 

“What the fuck,” Ten tells Yuta as he cleans himself up with a napkin, scrunching his face in disgust. “Can you not? I’m eating.”

 

“You aren’t into daddies? Do you want me to get you into daddies?” Yuta teases back, bold.

 

Even if Youngho isn’t paying much attention to the conversation, Ten looks at him for a brief moment. Taeyong gives him a tap on the leg, under the table, and it’s just then that Youngho realizes he has been staring at Ten too intensely, for too long, almost as if he intended to memorize every inch of his face. There’s a faint blush on Ten’s cheeks, yet Youngho knows that’s because Yuta is going overboard with his jokes.

 

Ten breaks, finally smiling, but turns to Hansol and Taeil, “Why did you let Yuta sit with us again?”

 

Taeil shrugs, “He doesn’t have any friends.”

 

“I have lots of fr-“

 

“The ones you have fucked don’t count,” Ten interrupts, eyeing him up and down. It’s obvious everyone around their table agree, except Sicheng, who raises a brow at them in protest. “You friendly guy.”

 

At that point, Youngho wholeheartedly believes that Yuta isn’t going to convince Ten to have sex with him. He isn’t his type. Not that Youngho is sure of what type of guy Ten likes, but the way he looks at Yuta is exactly to how mothers look at their children when they screw up. The most Yuta will be getting from him is a hug and advice, which wouldn’t be too appealing either.

 

However, Yuta takes advantage of the moment to plant a kiss on Ten’s cheek. The boy looks stunned for a second, then traumatized, but he doesn’t fight back, speechless; everyone but Youngho laughs at his expression.

 

“Don’t slut shame me. I’m a shameless slut,” Yuta concludes with a smile.

 

Since his friends carry on with the same topic, Youngho loses interest. His eyes wander around, now that not even Sicheng is looking at him; he feels comfortable when he’s a fly on the wall, and that doesn’t happen often. Youngho is actually an extrovert, but sometimes his ability to attract introverts exhaust him, for that means he has to lead most of the conversation. That’s why he gets on so well with someone like Yuta, tireless and unstoppable, because he lifts the weight off his shoulders.

 

“Are you coming with us on Friday?” Taeyong whispers to him out of the blue, so quietly that Youngho has to lean towards him.

 

Right then, he realizes Taeyong has been silent until now, and probably even before Youngho made his appearance. He seems to be out of it, almost excluded from the group by own will. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last, but Youngho has always known when Taeyong needs his help. There are periods in which he would walk around the apartment like a ghost until Youngho forces him out of the house to have friendly dates in which Taeyong vents for hours straight, deflating as the rage comes out.

 

“What are you doing on Friday?” Youngho says, accommodating to Taeyong’s soft voice.

 

“Ten is playing on some gaming tournament,” Taeyong explains. Youngho immediately groans in despair; both of them are aware that it’s the kind of plan he always avoids, so Taeyong is grabbing his arm in no time, pupils dilating in a subtle plea. “Please, don’t ditch me. I promised him I would go, but Yuta and Sicheng are going too. I don’t want to be alone all night.”

 

There are questions on the tip of Youngho’s tongue, like why would Taeyong feel alone if Yuta will be there, or why wouldn’t he if Youngho was by his side, yet he bites them back. Discreetly, he takes a peek at Ten, whose current smile would dazzle even the toughest man on earth, and thinks how stupid that is. Ten is so stupid, he and the fact that he wants to compete in a gaming tournament; he’s so different, so unattainable, and Youngho kinda hates it.

 

 

 

 

“Hyung.”

 

Behind him, Ten’s voice flows in the cold night, but Youngho barely turns around at the call. He plays with his car’s keys, not acknowledging Ten, yet there is no need either way. The rest of their friends are inside, in Taeil, Ten and now Sicheng’s apartment, and even if Youngho senses the nervousness creeping up through his throat, he wishes to retain this moment of privacy. Ten approaches him with small steps. He’s wearing a dark blue jacket, bigger than it should be, just like most of his clothes; he also sports one of his smiles, wide and sincere and able to leave Youngho voiceless. He doesn’t know how Ten can overwhelm him just with a smile.

 

“Taeyong said you will come to the tournament, is it true?” Ten asks. And though he touches Youngho’s shoulder amicably, his eyes are overflowing with an emotion that Youngho doesn’t recognize.

 

He takes a deep breath before answering a mere, “Yes.”

 

Ten falls silent, and Youngho concedes him two long seconds before facing him. He’s lighting a cigarette up, holding it in his mouth as he stares up at Youngho in interest. Honest or fake, it’s impossible to tell. Ten isn’t a smoker, at least not a habitual ne: there are months during which he would drop the compulsion only when he runs out of money, and others in which he doesn’t even remember what smoking is.

 

“How is that so?” he insists, inquisitive, as if both of them weren’t thinking about other million things except that. The smoke escapes slowly, momentarily clouding Ten’s pretty face, and then he jokes, “Were you drunk when you accepted?”

 

“Don’t smoke in front of me.” Youngho reaches for the cigarette and softly pulls it out from between Ten’s lips. He snubbes out the fire against the bricks of the building, observing how Ten’s lips are slightly parted, as if the cigarette was still there. He tries not to frown. Ten isn’t smiling anymore. “Don’t you want me to go?”

 

“I do. It’s you who doesn’t like that stuff, so I was surprised.” Ten gifts him a glacial look, and then a small smile (that one is fake, but Youngho would never point it out). If the silence wasn’t so deep, Ten’s sigh would have gone unnoticed. “Always hard to read, hyung.”

 

There is no emotion in Ten’s voice, but it overthrows Youngho regardless. He can’t hold his gaze for long, not when those dark, stirring eyes are trying to crack his heart open, and he ends up looking away, breathless. Ten takes a step forward, and Youngho doesn’t step back. Ten’s hand brushes down his arm, a delicate touch that fades away as fast as it appeared.

 

“Good night,” Ten mutters. Only that. Then he walks back into the building.

 

 

 

 

The next day, during his first lecture, Youngho discovers that Sicheng is in his major. And not only that, but he’s also in some of his classes. He spots him striding toward him, expressionless, as if he has been partying the night before, which would be odd given that he was at the apartment at 2 a.m. when Youngho and the rest left.

 

“You aren’t a student from this class, are you?” Youngho asks him, reticent.

 

As he sits beside him, Sicheng can’t help but snicker. “It’s the first time I attend this one.”

 

“Incredible. You are hopeless.”

 

Sicheng doesn’t oppose him, but proceeds to pass the whole lecture talking about his life. Soon Youngho has loads of information about him, most of them useless, like how he has a crush on another Chinese student that is a master at ignoring him, or how that seems to be the excuse for him to miss his lectures. Either way, Sicheng also tells him the disturbing story of how he slept with Yuta three days ago.

 

“I don’t believe you,” Youngho spits back at him, trying to muffle his laughter. However, he’s conscious that yes, Yuta has probably slept with Sicheng. It’s not like Yuta talks about all of his achievements. “He’s chasing after Ten.”

 

The name grabs Sicheng’s attention, though he limits himself to gaze at Youngho with prying eyes. Youngho feels the urge to sink in his seat.

 

“I live with Ten, dude. He’s not interested,” he declares. And Youngho thinks that’s a pretty idiotic conclusion, because sharing a flat for three weeks doesn’t mean he can predict what’s on Ten’s mind. He is more complicated than that, and Youngho would love to correct him, but this isn’t something he wants to discuss with him.

 

“I know he isn’t.”

 

Sicheng’s grin is so wide that Youngho fears they’re going to be scolded for laughing in class. “You do? The all-knowing Seo Youngho?” he mocks him, twirling a finger around a lock of hair. “You know nothing.”

 

 

 

 

 

The funny thing is that Ten is the same person he was three years ago. Or at least his facade, his looks and the part of him that he displays, haven’t changed even a bit. Although maybe behind closed doors Ten isn’t the same person. Youngho himself surely isn’t.

 

And despite the inertia of Ten’s life and personality, Youngho still feels like he is a stranger to him. Every glance towards Youngho is like a new amazing event, every smile sends a foreign nervousness right to his chest; sweaty palms, racing heart, a knot within him that grows daily. And look, Youngho shouldn’t care, he shouldn’t give a fuck, but he does.

 

“Thank you,” Taeyong whispers to him Friday night, standing at the door. Yuta is still in his bedroom, humming to some EDM song that makes him sound like a cat in heat, and it’s obvious Taeyong is in a hurry to talk to Youngho before their other roommate shows up. “It has been a long time since you went out, unless Taeil and Hansol came with us.”

 

Youngho has never thought about it, yet it makes sense. When Taeil and Hansol are around, they are the ones who take care of everyone else. They give Youngho safe vibes. Unlike them, Yuta and Ten are dangerous territory, the type to get into trouble -either willingly or not - and be in constant need of salvation. Now that Sicheng has joined them, Youngho wonders how Taeyong plans to manage the situation when the oldest pair isn’t there to aid them.

 

“You made a promise,” Youngho replies at last. “I had to back you up, right? It’s not a big deal.”

 

Taeyong’s gaze screams the contrary, but he calms down the moment Youngho puts an arm around his shoulders. “Still,” he murmurs, head down.

 

After verifying that Yuta is too preoccupied to spy on them, Youngho dares to ask, “What is wrong? What’s happening?”

 

Even if Youngho isn’t the most sensitive person in the world, Taeyong is his friend. He has a deep knowledge of the signs that alerts him when Taeyong isn’t in a good mood, and also when the problem is beyond a bad day. It hurts Youngho to think that Taeyong has been accumulating his issues until this moment, in which his eyes shine with the beginning of tears.

 

And the answer is a single word, a single name, but Youngho has always predicted this would happen someday. He’s upset when Taeyong finally confirms with a whisper, “Yuta.”

 

 

 

 

The image of Ten’s car, parked in front of their apartment, speeds up Youngho’s pulse. The boy is outside, comfortably joking around with Sicheng. As soon as Youngho crosses the door, both of them cut the conversation. Sicheng’s arm is around Ten, embracing his waist in a familiar gesture, and judging how Sicheng smirks at Youngho, it’s on purpose. He doesn’t understand what Sicheng gains by playing with Youngho this way, but Ten seems completely oblivious of the game.

 

“You’re really coming?” an astounded Ten asks. Youngho observes how Ten has to bite his lower lip to contain a smile, and though he’s consenting because of Taeyong, he’s satisfied of having obtained such a reaction from him.

 

“Of course he is.” Sicheng waves the keys as he opens the passenger door, signaling him to get in. “What’s better than hanging out with the most handsome guy he knows?”

 

Youngho grimaces, “You mean you?”

 

The flirting might have happened before, because Ten recoils right away, madly blushing, and Sicheng laughs, “I mean Ten.”

 

Of course, Sicheng is expecting Youngho to give any clue of annoyance, to receive backlash for the comment, and the truth is that it would have been effective if Youngho hadn’t caught himself in time. Youngho doesn’t like the way Sicheng acts, like he has the right to talk about how attractive Ten is just because he can, but falling for the bait would uncover secrets that Youngho prefers to keep hidden.

 

“Just get in the car,” Youngho grunts, giving Sicheng a push, which only results in mocking remarks from Sicheng.

 

It just so happens that Ten is the one driving, and it’s a bit hard for Youngho not to gaze at him while he grips the steering wheel. Yuta, Taeyong and Sicheng are in the back of the car, which means there’s a big difference between the noise in their part, and the absolute silence between Ten and Youngho. It would be awkward but it isn’t because Ten conveys sweet smiles from time to time, as if he’s aware Youngho needs the reassurance. Youngho simply wants to stare at him.

 

“What’s the tournament about?” Youngho questions minutes later, while Sicheng tries to convince Taeyong of going to drink later in the night.

 

The boy considers the reply for several seconds, fleetly tapping his fingers over the leather. “Call of Duty.”

 

“Oh, fuck.”

 

His complaint has an effect on Ten that Youngho barely has witnessed before. He guffaws so hard that he steers the wheel in the wrong way and the car stumbles sideways, inducing a ruckus in the back of the car. Youngho catches himself laughing as well, puzzled. He doesn’t remember the last time someone made him forget, loosen up.

 

“You didn’t really have to come,” Ten adds in the end, hands shaking after the fit of laughter.

 

“It’s okay, it’s okay. I can handle it.”

 

Four hours later, Youngho has changed his mind.

 

 

 

 

They are forced, in fact, to go drinking later at a bar. Anything to shut Yuta up, Taeyong murmurs into Youngho’s ear as they walk down the street. If Youngho is honest with himself, he doesn’t want to leave, and not because he liked the tournament (he would have fallen asleep if it wasn’t for the continuous gunshots), or because Ten looks extremely pretty in a simple tee with the logo of his gaming team; maybe he doesn’t leave because he’s at ease when Ten intertwines their arms together, smiling up at him as if skinship was usual between them. The mere presence of Ten by his side sets off all the alarms in Youngho’s brain, the ones that tell him to shake him off and block any advances. He’s conscious of how Ten can slip into his life all too easy, just with a flutter of his eyelashes or with a couple of pretty words. Perhaps he doesn’t even have to do anything at all.

 

And it’s when they are around a table and they have lost count of how many drinks have been emptied, that Ten decides to start playing with the hem of Youngho’s jacket. He doesn’t even notice at first, but then Ten’s hand travels to his thigh, and breathless, Youngho looks at Ten, just to meet expectant eyes. He doesn’t have to ask Ten to speak.

 

“Give me a massage,” Ten pleads, serious.

 

He’s lucky the rest of the boys are too busy minding their own business, for they would have ruined any chance of him talking to Ten, all jokes aside.

 

“What?” Youngho mutters, although he doesn’t hesitate to take Ten’s hand into his, both of them finding each other’s stares in the middle of the smoke and the haze created by the alcohol.

 

“My hands hurt,” Ten explains, giggling a little. And it’s a raspy laughter, as if the touch of Youngho’s fingers had robbed all the oxygen from his lungs. His pupils wander over Youngho’s face until they run into his lips, where they stop for an ephemeral second. “Make it better.”

 

The request might have been out of place if Youngho hadn’t been drinking. Right now, it sounds natural, perfect, and a voice in the back of his head whispers to him that the comfort that Ten’s eyes gives him has always been there; he has just been obstructing it.

 

Without considering it twice, Youngho leads Ten outside the bar while holding hands. Their friends have enough time to spit some innuendos at them, and though Ten laughs and trips, Youngho doesn’t pay them any attention. They wouldn’t understand that Ten will never be a one night stand, a summer fling or a fuck buddy. Not to Youngho, at least.

 

Ten doesn’t let go once they’re outside. In fact, he moves closer, holds Youngho’s fingers like he will fade away otherwise. “Where are we going?”

 

“Nowhere. I just needed some air.”

 

Youngho is aware he isn’t being himself, or that he’s actually being himself in an excessive way. Ten’s smile disorients him, makes him feel so lost that he needs to close his eyes and lean back against one of the parked cars by the sidewalk.

 

However, Youngho pulls Ten into his embrace, and the other boy consents as if he had foreseen what was going to happen. The difference in size allows Youngho to enclose him completely, and Ten’s little arms respond by trying the same. They stay pressed against each other, wordless.

 

Then Ten looks up with shining eyes, and Youngho senses all the logic sliding away from his body. Ten begs, “Can you pass the night with me?”

 

“Ten,” Youngho says, confused. His insides burn when Ten grips the back of his jacket with a note of desperation. “How drunk are you?”

 

“Just a bit,” he shyly admits, almost like being sober is a reason to be ashamed. And it might be, since he’s hugging Youngho with too much will. “I don’t mean pass the night… not like that. You know we aren’t like that.”

 

This time, Youngho has to be a bit bold, fighting his words to say, “How are we?”

 

“Important.”

 

Ten’s voice doesn’t waver: he’s not stating an opinion, but a fact. It contrasts greatly with the doubt in his gaze, and it unsettles Youngho that his words and actions are this different. It could be a consequence of Youngho’s own behavior, so a strong guilt is born in the pit of his stomach. Did he do this to Ten?

 

“I’m going to call a taxi,” Youngho announces. He lifts a hand to brush away Ten’s bangs out of his forehead, resisting the urge to do more, much more. “And send you home.”

 

Hurt, Ten’s attempts to break the hug, expression finally cracking, “Youngho…”

 

But Youngho knows better. If he carries Ten home, they will sleep together, no matter how much Ten intends to make him think otherwise. It has always been like this, ignoring each other to avoid the inevitable. They weren’t friends because they couldn’t be only friends.

 

“It’s not the moment,” Youngho insists, letting Ten to put distance between themselves. He wishes an explanation would be enough, but Ten isn’t the logical type; he’s stubborn, always ambitious, getting mad if he doesn’t achieve what he wishes. While Ten has always been out of his reach, so was Youngho out of Ten’s, and he can notice the other’s frustration now that the cards are on the table. “I promise you.”

 

 

 

 

There is no hangover next morning, yet there is a giant load of remorse. The sheets are strangely heavy on Youngho’s body and the bed is too big for himself. However, the worst are the memories, how he can still feel Ten’s sad eyes staring at him and the sensation of skin against skin, fingers interlaced.

 

Given the unusual silence in the house, Youngho decides to get up and check if his roommates are still alive. He finds Yuta sleeping with Sicheng in his bedroom (with clothes on, thankfully), though they apparently fell asleep cuddling, but Taeyong is awake. The moment Youngho spots him, Taeyong forgets his breakfast, not bothering to hide his distress. With his dark circles and the worry plastered all over his face, it would be hard to do so.

 

“Did they fuck?” Taeyong asks right away, and although he doesn’t say it out loud, his eyes are screaming lie to me if they did.

 

“No.” Youngho sits on the other side of the table, gazing at Taeyong with a frown. He wishes he could erase all the traces of Taeyong’s anxiety, but he has no idea how to do it; he kinda hates Yuta a bit right now, always disregarding and oblivious of people’s feelings. “I think you need to talk?”

 

Taeyong pushes his hair back, pensive, and ends up nodding, “You first.”

 

Since Taeyong was quite drunk last night, Youngho is surprised he can remember or note Youngho’s uneasiness. Of course, he can read Youngho without any effort; this skill is mutual.

 

“Ten proposed to go home together,” Youngho confesses at last, embarrassed. It’s odd to speak about it, the thought of what could have happened tickling him, but it’s a relief to let it out.

 

Taeyong’s shock would have been funny in any other situation. “Whoa.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You made the right decision, dude.” Taeyong shakes his head, as if he couldn’t believe it yet. And it’s understandable, since Ten barely talks about sex or boys, and the guys even had suspected before that Ten has had boyfriends and hidden them from them.

 

Youngho clears his throat, “So… about Yuta.”

 

Right away, the fire reflects in Taeyong’s eyes, half sad and half enraged. “He’s a fucking liar,” he spits, accidentally hitting his plate with the elbow in the process. “Remember the day we met Sicheng but you weren’t there? We were drinking at Taeil and Ten’s apartment, but Yuta wasn’t really in the mood, I don’t know why. He kept bothering me all night, not like… teasing me, but he would be around me in silence, trying to hug me, all that.”

 

At this point, Youngho is already expecting the worst outcome. The pieces don’t fit, not when Yuta hasn’t changed his conduct a bit  when he’s with Taeyong at the apartment.

 

Taeyong sighs. “Then we were left alone and out of the blue he went I would stop sleeping around if you dated me.” Youngho exchanges a confused look with Taeyong, but he shrugs, as if signaling that he doesn’t understand it either. “I asked him what the fuck he was saying? And he just answered, the truth.”

 

Silence settles in the kitchen again, and Youngho realizes that’s all. Yuta either dropped a confession or he tried to manipulate Taeyong, and Youngho wants to believe it’s the first, but he can’t be so sure. Yuta is one of his best friends, yet that’s why Youngho hesitates about his intentions: he has always had a need to be loved that has driven him to play with people’s hearts.

 

“And then he slept with Sicheng,” Youngho finishes, aware that Taeyong isn’t going to point out the real problem. “What a fucking…”

 

“It’s okay,” Taeyong cuts him off, eyes traveling downwards. “I didn’t believe him anyway.”

 

It’s evident he’s only trying not to antagonize Youngho and Yuta, for Taeyong is scared of creating problems, or perhaps of losing Yuta if he takes the wrong step. Still, Youngho offers, “Do you want me to talk with him? As in, without telling him that I know this.”

 

Taeyong hurries to refuse and then, under his breath, he adds, “I don’t want to be pathetic.”

 

 

 

 

Coincidence or not, only Hansol and Yuta meet Youngho that afternoon, although all the boys have agreed days ago to play basketball together. Some of them have excuses ready, but others, like Ten, plainly ditch them. And even if it might not be Youngho’s fault, he has a hunch that it’s the case and he should have called Ten by now to make sure he is okay.

 

But they’re not friends, and he’s afraid Ten won’t answer his calls. He’s afraid of Ten answering, too.

 

“So what do we do now?” Hansol asks after half an hour, in which they conclude that they need more people for the game to be entertaining.

 

Yuta, who is still trying to score a basket from midfield without results, drive his eyes directly into Hansol’s, like sending a signal. And Youngho wouldn’t worry about it, except because Hansol seems to understand him, and he realizes right away that his friends have set up a trap for him.

 

“I think we should talk about Ten,” Yuta declares, momentarily serious, and Hansol nods.

 

However, there is zero receptiveness in Youngho: the simple mention of Ten’s name strains the little mental strength that there was left. And before his friends approach him, he wonders what he’s doing wrong, because isn’t love supposed to bring joy? Not that infinite bundle of nerves in the pit of his stomach.

 

He’s about to walk away, but then Hansol is staring at him with one of his soft, tender gazes, and Youngho gives up.

 

“So the moment I say I want to fuck Ten, you decide you want him for yourself?” Yuta questions him, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Youngho shrugs, indifferent, “You can fuck him if you want to.”

 

Yet if they’re in the verge of starting a fight (Youngho is mad at Yuta for several reasons, Taeyong included), both of them are interrupted by what sounds like a shriek and a groan at once. And in no time Hansol is gripping Yuta by the back of his neck with so much force that Yuta can’t even emit a sound.

 

“You want to fuck Ten?” Hansol exclaims, indignant. “Are you stupid?”

 

Youngho thinks about stepping in, mostly because Yuta seems to be having a real hard time, and also because Hansol can be very scary the few times he gets angry. However, that thought evaporates as Yuta defends himself with a, “He was available until Youngho got in the way!”

 

“He wasn’t! We applied the bro code!” Hansol retorts.

 

Youngho’s mouth dries at the revelation, and he’s torn between his curiosity and displeasure. “Why are you applying the bro code on Ten, anyways? We have never been together.”

 

Those are the magic words for Hansol to free Yuta, who rubs his neck in pain with a grunt and steps back just in case. Youngho throws him a you deserved it look, and Yuta flips him off behind Hansol’s back.

 

“Don’t ask stupid questions, Youngho,” Hansol replies, exasperated. He picks up the ball, retaining it in a way that implies a threat for Youngho’s well being. “I have never understood why you behave like an asshole to Ten. Well, yes, I get it. You like him. So what’s the fucking problem?”

 

Youngho doesn’t know what to answer. He isn’t mean to Ten, not in the literal sense of the adjective, but he ignores most of his advances and then opens the path for a moment, just to push him away. He’s aware of that. There’s a voice within that prevents him from accepting Ten, and sometimes he wishes it wouldn’t be there.

 

However, Youngho can’t stop the words that come out: they weren’t in his head, but they definitely were somewhere inside him, and once they’re out, the reality comes too clear and painful.

 

“Ten deserves better.”

 

After a long silence, Yuta and Hansol have opposite reactions than Youngho would expect. While Yuta stares at him in shock, mouth open, Hansol decides to throw the ball at him, merciless. Youngho can barely cover his crotch in time, yet Hansol doesn’t seem a bit apologetic about it; he goes blind because of the pain, for a few seconds, as Yuta bends over with laughter, all drama rapidly forgotten.

 

“I bet he deserves better than blue balls though,” Yuta screams, sinking his face onto Hansol’s back.

 

“This isn’t even about sex, shut up,” Hansol bickers, attempting to get him off his back. Yuta clings to him like a leech, and at this point Youngho isn’t sure if he should be laughing or crying. “You have no idea of how much you hurt him, right? Because you don’t talk to him. But I do. And I would have kicked your ass if you weren’t my friend. In fact, I might still do it if you don’t man up for once.”

 

“Or I will man up instead,” Yuta warns, raising a brow. “You have no idea how easy is to lure a broken hearted guy to open his legs.”

 

The image settles in Youngho’s imagination, hence he senses a headache coming, except because he could halt it by punching Yuta in the face instead. “Say that again,” he challenges, moving forward.

 

Much to his surprise, it’s Hansol who smirks in satisfaction, putting his arm around Yuta as a protective gesture and telling him, “Oh, I think you touched a nerve?” Both of them snicker, and Youngho doesn’t get why his friends are torturing him this way. Why are they treating this as a joke? “Good job. Maybe I shouldn’t have been mad at you, your ridiculous seducing skills rile Youngho up.”

 

 

 

 

Youngho makes a promise to Yuta and Hansol that he will talk to Ten the next time he sees him. It’s a promise to himself as well, though he agrees because Hansol is disposed to hit him again if he dares to refuse. However, intentions mean nothing when he has to confront the actual situation. It’s obvious Ten is keeping his distance: he doesn’t have lunch with them anymore, but with a boy called Doyoung from his major, and he doesn’t even appear in the lunch room; he rejects the plans to go out, and unintentionally forgets to invite anyone to the next gaming tournament.

 

But then Youngho catches glimpses of him in the halls, discovers that Ten isn’t affected at all, laughing and joking with his other friends. And it’s then when Youngho should be bold and reach out to him, yet Ten looks so complete, so beautiful, and Youngho shrinks back to the place he belongs: away from Ten. This cowardice will have consequences, but Ten doesn’t look all that troubled outside, and Youngho fears that he doesn’t care and he’s just embarrassed for his drunken conduct the other night.

 

“You’re impossible,” Yuta tells him on a Friday, as soon as he gets in the flat.

 

It’s not surprising he sounds aggravated, since he finds Youngho reading on the couch, with Taeyong resting his head on Youngho’s stomach and playing with his phone. It would be a cute scene except both boys glare at him for the interruption.

 

“You go hang out with your boyfriend,” Taeyong shoots back, defending Youngho before he can do it himself. “The adults are having their time alone here.”

 

To be honest, Youngho has been quite agitated due to how his roommates are behaving lately. If they used to argue even because of the most insignificant subjects, now they act like a subdued version of themselves, including awkward ‘sorry’s and ‘thank you’s that make Youngho want to yell at them. It’s the calm before the storm, and he’s not ready for this to blow up.

 

Yuta drops his bag on the floor, next to Youngho’s, and walks towards them with his hands on his hips. He’s peculiarly earnest today, which nearly makes Youngho smirk at him.

 

“Taeyong, be a good friend and don’t allow him to confine himself at home,” he says, not acknowledging the immediate frown on Youngho’s face.

 

“I’m not his mom,” Taeyong complains, his eyes fixed on his phone screen, probably on purpose to annoy Yuta. “Also, Ten could stop being a chicken too and come to suck his dick. I don’t get why it has to be Youngho.”

 

“Because he’s the one who always ruins everything?”

 

“I’m still here, thank you,” Youngho protests, shocked. Not only because Taeyong has suddenly talked about his dick, but because Yuta is badmouthing him without batting an eyelash. He has the sensation this happens more often than he thought.

 

Yuta casts a fakely sweet smile in his direction, “I don’t care, you see, because you are accompanying me tonight.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

“You don’t even know what I’m doing tonight.”

 

“I bet Sicheng,” Taeyong mutters, and both Youngho and he laugh at Yuta’s irritated expression.

 

Even though Youngho is positive Yuta hasn’t touched Sicheng since the first time they slept together, they are attached at the hip anyhow. He guesses it’s one of those friendships in which everyone assumes they are boyfriends but they would never be. Either way, it’s obvious Yuta wants to move on from the incident, and that’s the exact reason why Taeyong keeps mentioning it.

 

“I’m meeting Ten and, yes, Sicheng too,” Yuta announces, licking his lips in nervousness. He doesn’t glance at Taeyong while he talks, aware that he isn’t going to see a nice grimace. “And you’re coming with me because I took your laptop, with all your uni papers and books and everything, and I’m not giving it back unless you obey.”

 

“You robbed me?!” Youngho gasps, sitting up so fast that Taeyong yelps in pain for the sudden position.

 

He wishes Yuta was joking, but judging how proud of himself he is, he’s not lying. “Yes. So pretty up, meet your precious boy, and you will get your laptop back.”

 

The panic floats in the living room once Yuta disappears into his bedroom, and it takes Youngho a whole minute to process what has just happened. Then, it hits him so hard that he wants to cry, because he has to meet Ten, talk to him, look into his eyes tonight, and he would rather make out with Yuta than having to face Ten again.

 

“Shit,” he concludes at last, breathy. “Taeyong, remember I went to the tournament because of you?”

 

Taeyong whines pitifully at the emotional blackmail, and he isn’t to blame, since this is a total betrayal of their friendship. “Okay, but you know what? Fuck you, Seo Youngho.”

 

 

 

 

Tonight, Ten is in a sleeveless t-shirt; he’s wearing all black, metal piercings and a perfect, white smile shining in contrast. He’s sitting with Sicheng in one of the most isolated tables, absorbed in whatever the other is telling him. Youngho feels a sting in his chest, maybe because there is admiration in Ten’s eyes as he listens to Sicheng, or maybe because he’s going to break that little, precious moment of happiness.

 

“You’re already acting weird,” Taeyong murmurs, kneading the tension on his back with his fist. “Loosen up.”

 

Youngho tries, but all his effort decomposes the moment Ten notices him, smile evaporating. He remains frozen in the seat as they walk up to them, and Youngho forces himself to think that Ten isn’t disappointed, just confused. Just confused.

 

The guys greet each other with excessive enthusiasm, and Sicheng wins Youngho’s smile by reaching over the table to kiss him on the forehead. Ten, who was visibly uncomfortable a second ago, has to tear his gaze away to not laugh at Youngho’s annoyance.

 

“Can you stop being nasty,” Youngho cries out, wiping the kiss off his cheek.

 

Sicheng isn’t offended, but he pouts as cutely as he’s able. “Any other guy would pay me to kiss him.”

 

“Man, that’s like,” Ten chimes in, playing with one of his piercings. He can’t help but to glance at Youngho discreetly from time to time: Ten has never been very skillful when it comes to hide his thoughts. Youngho just hopes that means he’s not angry at him. “Prostitution.”

 

“Geez, it’s just a kiss, what a prude,” Yuta mocks him, leaning back on the seat.

 

Due to the bad lighting of the bar, Youngho isn’t sure, but he would swear Ten’s cheeks are tainted with a bit of red.

 

“Shut up. I’m not a prude,” he disagrees, bothered. His childish tone humors them, and Youngho finds himself smiling widely as he stares at Ten. That’s it, of course, until Ten catches glimpse of his grin and, with a mischievous shine in his eyes, he says, “What are you even laughing at? Should we talk about the amount of people you haven’t dated?”

 

Everyone around the table is astonished for a moment at Ten’s attack. It’s odd because Ten sounds playful, not resentful. Youngho’s brain doesn’t compute that he should be answering instead of looking like a deer caught in headlights. “What would you know about how many guys I’ve dated?”

 

Ten smirks, and Youngho imagines that if they were alone right now, he would erase that smirk with a kiss. “Oh, I do know.”

 

“What…? How many have you dated anyways?” Youngho huffs, ruffling his own hair. “One and a half or…?”

 

“Do you really want to know?”

 

“You’re going to lie anyways, aren’t you?”

 

Ten looks around, stopping at each one of his friends, who are pretty much amused by the weird exchange between Youngho and Ten. It’s a signal for them to leave, but when they don’t, Ten just shrugs, “The most recent was Doyoung. We broke up two months ago.”

 

That falls like cold water over Youngho. Two months ago. Nearly a month ago, Ten wanted Youngho to sleep with him. And during the last days, Ten has been hanging out with Doyoung all the time, and that’s actually Youngho’s fault.

 

“What the actual fuck?” Yuta explodes, hitting himself with the table because of the surprise. “Why don’t you ever tell us anything, you stupid-?”

 

“For how long?” Youngho interrupts, careless.

 

He isn’t able to control the envy in his voice, the tension, the regret of having asked. But right now, ruining the mood isn’t among his concerns: Ten’s confession irks him bit by bit, because he was dating another boy not that long, and feelings don’t change from night to morning. He would run away in another situation, but the pain in his chest doesn’t allow him to do it, almost like it’s searching the way to be alleviated.

 

Ten gazes at him with a frown, dubious. “Does it matter?”

 

“It does.”

 

Taeyong coughs, uneasy, and says, “Guys, I think we should… leave them alone.”

 

However, Ten stands up before anyone can agree, waving his hand so that Taeyong stays. He jumps over Sicheng to get out of the zone, and tilting his head to the side, he says, “Come on, Youngho.”

 

Youngho follows.

 

 

 

 

Despite his heavy heart, the only thing Youngho wonders when they are outside is if Ten will be cold with those clothes. He observes Ten’s bare skin, and remembers the few times he has felt it, the few times Ten was in his embrace.

 

At first, no one speaks. Ten interlaces their hands together and guides him through the crowded street, though he always glances back to slowly steal Youngho’s attention, as if he was hauling the thread between them, pulling them closer. Youngho supposes that the bar and the entrance weren’t the right places to talk, not with people passing by and bursting their bubble of intimacy. But, anyhow, Youngho can’t see anyone else when Ten is around.

 

They walk until the packed streets become empty streets, yet Ten doesn’t stop, feet heading somewhere. Minutes later, Youngho realizes they’re going to the skating park, where Ten spends too much time for his own good. The truth is that every time Youngho passes by, Ten comes to his mind; all over the city, there are places that remind Youngho of him, and he doesn’t know what he would do if someday he had to forget Ten.

 

“Sit with me,” Ten finally tells him, jumping onto the edge of a ramp, dangling legs that are too short to reach the ground.

 

Youngho doesn’t hesitate to join him, thighs pressed against each other, side to side. Even if this has happened before, a thousand times, it always feels like it’s the first time. The atmosphere is filled with something that prevents them from looking at each other, both of them staring at Ten’s Converse instead.

 

“Hyung, are you jealous?” Ten mutters, voice devoid of confidence.

 

Youngho could say the truth, but they both already know it. Ten asks questions that are obvious when he intends to ask something more important. And Youngho wouldn’t ever miss out on that.

 

With trembling hands, Youngho gathers the courage to hold Ten’s chin, to direct gaze into gaze. This time, he discovers emotions that weren’t there before; Ten’s pupils tremble from the fear of a rejection, another one, and there is no plea in them tonight, as if he could accept it.

 

“Did you like Doyoung?” Youngho asks back, ignoring the first question. When Ten parts his lips to answer, Youngho corrects himself, “No, did you love him?”

 

Ten doesn’t even consider it, as though he has pondered over that same issue for too long. “I didn’t love any of the guys I’ve been with.”

 

Youngho lets go, opting for not staring at Ten, and rubs his own thighs with his knuckles. He’s aware he should be filling the silence, especially after receiving the answer he was hoping for, but the knot in his throat blocks him from doing anything.

 

“What is the problem? I don’t understand you, Youngho.” Ten talks softly, cautious. He’s so timid and prudent that Youngho can’t recognize him, misses a bit the way Ten would smile and make all the troubles disappear. “Please, talk to me.”

 

In the end, taking a deep breath, Youngho confesses, “You’re capable of being with someone you don’t love.”

 

Aware of how that can affect Ten, Youngho fixes his eyes on anywhere except him. However, Ten sounds broken the next time he speaks, and Youngho feels breathless.

 

“How much time should I wait for you, then? Maybe until the day you decide you don’t want me?”

 

“That’s not going to happen,” Youngho murmurs right away, loud enough for Ten to hear. It’s the first time he admits it out loud, and it should be a relief, yet numbness takes over him when he notices the tears in Ten’s eyes. “Don’t cry, please.”

 

Of course, Ten is unable to fulfill the request. Still, he hurriedly wipes the tears with the back of his hand, and Youngho feels how something dies inside of him. Now he doesn’t vacillate before bringing Ten closer, arm around his waist, and Ten hides his face on his chest for a whole minute, accepting the gesture. When Ten withdraws, Youngho doesn’t let go.

 

“Ten, don’t smoke. Ten, don’t cry. Ten, don’t date,” Ten grunts, half joking. The corner of his lips stretch in the beginning of a smile, and Youngho’s will of consoling him falters. Ten can mend himself without help, and that’s what mesmerizes Youngho so much. “Something more?”

 

It’s hard for Youngho not to respond with only a smile, not when all he can process is Ten’s lips, Ten’s dark eyes, Ten’s breathing cadence, Ten and the way he makes him feel.

 

“I have to think about it,” he says, playing along.

 

As if both suspected this extraordinary peace won’t last forever, they don’t add anything else. The warmth of Ten’s body against his makes Youngho complete, safe, and he wishes it would always be like this, without words and expectations. Without any thought at all.

 

But then Ten’s mouth hovers over his neck, breath stroking his skin. It’s intimate, as if Ten is undressing him, and the invasion gets deeper once he asks, “Come home with me.”

 

Tonight, Youngho doesn’t have the heart to push Ten away. He doesn’t want to. Indeed, the proximity doesn’t seem enough, and Youngho wants him closer and closer. He’s not afraid to admit it to himself, for once.

 

 “To do what?”

 

Ten chuckles, pressing a kiss on Youngho’s neck. A vein pulses under his lips, heart beating faster. “Nothing. Just stay with me.”

 

It happens within a second, so fast that Youngho isn’t conscious of what drives him, of the consequences. Whatever that was drew him to Ten the first day they met each other, works once more; it’s an invisible thread inside of him getting released, attaching itself to Ten because that’s the person it belongs to.

 

Youngho doesn’t remember when the last time he kissed someone was. Maybe last year during New Year’s Eve, or maybe in the summer. It doesn’t matter. When he leans in to kiss Ten, it feels like it’s the first time all over again. Ten faintly gasps at first, unprepared, but soon he’s grasping the back of Youngho’s head, leading him until the path to his lips is comfortable. Youngho melts against his mouth, wishes they wouldn’t pull apart, wishes and wishes that Ten doesn’t abandon him. They kiss slowly, like they have all the time in the world, and Youngho forgets about everything except how Ten responds to him. Like he has been waiting for Youngho to do this, but also like he would have never expected it. And Youngho feels so fragile against Ten’s lips, blissful but knowing that he loves Ten, and that’s the most dangerous feeling he could have.

 

It’s Ten who breaks the kiss, still only an inch away from Youngho’s mouth. He hums, “Okay?”

 

And Youngho wants reply that yes, he will stay with him, he will go home with him if that means Ten will never leave, he won’t lie about his feelings or hide his thoughts from him. He will never love anyone else except him. However, he just answers, “Okay.”

 

 

 

 

They don’t turn on the lights once they arrive at the apartment. When Youngho confesses he’s afraid Taeil will catch them, Ten snorts so hard that he might have woken up his cousin anyway. However, they giggle and kiss all the way to the bedroom, and Youngho trips several times in the darkness, following mockery included. Ten doesn’t fail to whisper again and again that they won’t do anything tonight, remember? and Youngho has to restrain himself from pushing him against a wall and shut him up.

 

After reaching the bedroom, Ten realizes he doesn’t have clothes for him, not of his size, so he runs to Sicheng’s room, barefoot and loudly laughing. Youngho waits inside, half worried and half amused at such behavior, but a part of him thinks that if Taeil finds them now, he doesn’t really give a fuck. When Ten comes back, both of them forget the clothes, mainly because Ten straddles him and demands another kiss. Youngho doesn’t care about the clothes either. Lights still off, they get as far as stripping everything off except their underwear, and they fall asleep facing each other in a hug, Ten’s head against his chest.

 

 

 

 

In the morning, Youngho wakes up alone. Dread invades him like a wave, Ten’s absence hitting him so hard in the throat that he can’t breathe. It takes him several seconds to make out the sound of the shower running, but he still fists the sheets to release the accumulated anxiety somehow. Ten wouldn’t leave. That’s absurd. It’s his home, it was his decision to bring Youngho here, and Ten isn’t a coward, unlike him.

 

Youngho forces himself out of the bed and into the bathroom. Though he can see the silhouette of his body inside the shower, Youngho still calls, “Ten?”

 

Immediately, the boy turns around and pulls the sliding doors to peek out, and Youngho is overwhelmed by the view of that smile of his again. With blinding honesty, Ten intensely stares at him for too long through his wet bangs.

 

“Good morning. Wanna join?” he proposes, cheeky, and then he’s moving the door again, going back to his shower.

 

It’s not like Youngho hasn’t seen Ten naked before. Well, it happened once, when they went to a public pool and Ten didn’t have enough shame to bath in his house rather than in the public pool bathrooms. But they were all over each other last night, and Youngho’s hands have already touched every inch of Ten, so he shouldn’t be embarrassed. Really.

 

“Oh my god,” Ten gasps as soon as he spots him actually getting into the shower. His eyes wander from Youngho’s head to toe without a hint of shyness, and end up going up to his face after a while. “I didn’t think you would do it.”

 

Youngho laughs, surprised. “What? What does that even mean?” 

 

There’s a pout, almost indiscernible, on Ten’s face. He approaches Youngho, covering the little distance they had, and tiptoes to plant a chaste kiss on Youngho’s lips. “Do you remember the last thing you told me yesterday?”

 

Did they talk at all? Youngho becomes pale. He can remember how Ten’s skin felt under his touch, and that’s all. “I don’t.”

 

Ten raises a brow, delighted.

 

“You told me I think Yuta is right, we are prudes.”

 

Youngho would suspect Ten is coming up with that just now, only not because he seems to find it too funny to be a lie. Youngho grunts, “Well, I mean. We were making out. Probably my subconscious was troubled by the prudery.”

 

“Fuck, you are talking weird again.” The smirk Ten flashes at him doesn’t foretell anything good. He sweeps Youngho’s drenched hair out of his forehead, an intimate gesture that makes him lose touch with the reality. “I kinda like it.”

 

Though about to answer, Youngho is interrupted by another voice coming from the hall. He almost slips down for the surprise, and Ten has to help him to regain the balance, giggling. That isn’t a solution, however, to the fact that Taeil’s steps can be heard, striding through the hall’s carpet and, much to Youngho’s horror, into Ten’s bedroom.

 

“Don’t panic, Youngho,” Ten whispers as soft as he can.

 

 “Kid, why are you up so early?” Taeil questions, shuffling around the bedroom. He stops right by the bathroom door. “Do you have a hangover? Are you puking or something?”

 

And then, without previous notice, Taeil nonchalantly storms into the bathroom. Of course, he immediately realizes that it isn’t only Ten inside, and Youngho is sure Taeil has never shouted so many curses in his life, one after another.

 

By the time his cousin is out, yelling Why the fuck you didn’t tell me you were with someone?, Ten is laughing like crazy. On the other hand, Youngho is utterly mortified, because if Taeil doesn’t know who he is now, he will know as soon as he leaves Ten’s bedroom.

 

 

 

 

“He isn’t going to scold you or something like that,” Ten assures him minutes later, when both of them are clean and dressed. Youngho smells of Ten’s shampoo and shower gel. “Why are you so scared of Taeil though? He’s my cousin, not my keeper.”

 

Even if he has a point, Ten wouldn’t understand the explanation no matter what. It isn’t because they are siblings, not even because Taeil is older than Ten and treats him like a baby. Youngho has had Taeil watching him very closely since day one, ready to ruin Youngho if he dared to hurt Ten. Needless to say, Youngho doesn’t plan to harm Ten in any way, but he remembers a specific occasion in which Taeil took revenge on him for getting Ten drunk when he was too young. Which was ridiculous, since they were only a year apart and Ten had already drunk before, but Taeil had no idea.

 

“You’re right,” Youngho admits, however. “Let’s go.”

 

Taeil is in the living room, almost by the entrance, and like Ten predicted, he doesn’t say a word. As Youngho appears on his radar, his expression changes from indifference to shock within a second, mouth open. Ten greets him good morning but Taeil, petrified on his spot, can’t tear his eyes off Youngho.

 

Although Youngho intends to run away as fast as he can, Ten forces him to give him a kiss before leaving. The last thing he processes is Taeil’s gasp and Ten’s laughter, and he has never been more thankful of having Yuta and Taeyong as his housemates instead of Taeil. However, to be honest, not even that could make the bubble of hope inside his chest explode.

 

 

 

 

Given the amount of messages in his phone, Youngho assumes that Ten has already texted either Yuta or Sicheng about what happened last night. Youngho wasn’t expecting discretion, taking into account that their friends know that they disappeared together from the bar and never came back. It makes no sense to hide it, except because he’s afraid they will be pressured into the relationship when both of them clearly prefer to take it slow.

 

Even if Youngho doesn’t check his messages, Taeyong is awake and at home. He has dark circles under his eyes, but as soon as Youngho crosses the door, a huge grin overshadows any clue of tiredness. Reading his friend’s expression, Youngho blushes automatically; he has never been the type to give details, yet it’s obvious Taeyong is going to extract all the information out of him.

 

“What did you do?” he asks, jumping off the couch. Seconds ago, he was writing on a notebook, but it’s left forgotten on the table. Youngho is glad Taeyong doesn’t take the pen as he approaches him with a maniacal gaze, since that would count as a mortal weapon in his hands.  “Are you dating now? Getting married? When is the wedding?”

 

“Oh, god,” Youngho groans, though he can’t feel that annoyed at the teasing. It would have bothered him days ago, but not after a whole night of Ten snuggled against him. “You are going to be worse than Yuta with this, aren’t you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

However, Taeyong behaves during the rest of the day. He drags Youngho out of the house, claiming that they have to enjoy such a good Saturday, and bans him from using his phone. It’s just to irk Youngho, since they know Ten is going to be the first to text, and Youngho is going to lose interest in Taeyong the moment that happens. So, after lunch, Youngho has two things very clear: that this was worth it because Taeyong paid for the food and for the ice-cream he’s licking right now, and that Ten must be confused by the lack of response.

 

“You have to get used to paying attention to me even if Ten is talking to you,” Taeyong justifies himself. He’s oddly animated today, but it may be because he’s the kind of person to be happy for other people’s happiness. It cheers Youngho up, too, to know that Taeyong isn’t so bitter about Yuta, even if it’s just for a day. “What if you become one of those couples who brush off their friends forever?”

 

Youngho would laugh if not for the fact Taeyong is actually worried. He hooks their arms together, Taeyong’s ice-cream in danger for the sudden swaying, and reminds him, “We aren’t even dating. Yet. Or… I don’t know.”

 

Taeyong shrugs. “Technically, kissing doesn’t equal dating. But it’s you and Ten, so I have no fucking idea.”

 

“What does that mean? What equals dating though?” Youngho insists, troubled. “Please, don’t say sleeping with him.”

 

Much to his surprise, Taeyong falls completely silent. Youngho imagined he would comment on how stupid is to make Ten wait when none of them are inexperienced, or when it took them an eternity to share a simple kiss. Instead, Taeyong pales, all the blood drained from his face.

 

Horrified, Youngho halts his steps. There’s a feeling in his gut, the reason why Taeyong is acting too enthusiastic and also why he keeps directing the topic to Youngho’s issues.

 

“What’s up?” Youngho asks, very low, fearing the answer. His friend dares to throw him a quick look, and then he draws back, as though Youngho is going to read the truth from his eyes. Nevertheless, Youngho does discover enough, for he has a gift to sense anything that Taeyong intends to conceal. “Taeyong, you’re not serious.”

 

Taeyong goes from white to red within a second. He doesn’t bother to deny it, but he hits Youngho so hard with his palm that both of them drop their ice-creams.

 

“You weren’t home! You abandoned me!” he childishly screams. “Yuta is too convincing and I…I…”

 

Perplexed, Youngho gapes like a fish. Considering that Yuta, Sicheng and Taeyong were left alone last night, he supposed they would fight, that Taeyong would be isolated and grumpy. Besides, Sicheng usually ends up in Yuta’s room, drunk or not, even after they decided not to sleep together anymore. Youngho should have realized that if Taeyong wasn’t upset today, it was because of Yuta, and not for the lack of Yuta screwing things up again.

 

“Okay.” Youngho breathes in and out, slowly. All of a sudden, the instinct of protection towards Taeyong makes him understand Taeil’s reaction when he saw Youngho and Ten together. “Call him. I’m going to break his nose.”

 

Taeyong pouts, eyes shining with concern. “Why are you acting like you’re my boyfriend?”

 

Youngho rubs his temples in distress. Though Yuta is his friend too, he can’t anticipate his thoughts like he does with Taeyong. He’s restricted, because Yuta is often unpredictable, and his decisions startle people for better and for worse.

 

“Because you’re not supposed to be a name on a list with dozens of other names.”

 

“He said…”

 

“He said what,” Youngho grunts, annoyed. Taeyong looks like a fool in love, excusing Yuta. He isn’t sure of his intentions either, Youngho can tell that much, because no one would be. “I’m going to kill him anyway.”

 

Lowering his head, Taeyong confesses, “It’s complicated. He asked me to give him a chance. To trust him.”

 

So what if he only did that to get you into his bed? Youngho is about to ask. But that’s the same doubt Taeyong must be going through. When it comes to Yuta, it’s inevitable to wonder if he’s able to fall in love, romantically, with all the compromise a serious relationship implies. It’s most likely that not even Yuta knows. And those doubts are something that Taeyong and Youngho have in common, because Youngho’s faith in Ten, in his ability to commit, falters just as easily.

 

 

 

 

5.00 p.m. To: Ten

Wanna have dinner together?

 

5.30 p.m. From: Ten

Group project with Doyoung right now.

I’ll go see you later.

 

 

“With Doyoung?” Yuta repeats, scrunching his nose. “You have to beat his ass.”

 

Days ago, Youngho wouldn’t have even acknowledged Yuta’s presence, opting for ignoring him instead or responding with a “don’t you have to sleep with Taeyong or something?” However, he should have predicted that Yuta would become as clingy as a koala as soon as he realized Youngho was mad at him. At this point, pretending he doesn’t exist is useless. Hence, he has had to deal with him all day, every day, Yuta following him to the kitchen, to the living room, bringing him breakfast to the bedroom, acting cringe-worthy cute, and kissing him on the cheek with the worst excuses. Taeyong has simply watched them from afar, and Youngho guesses that the situation must be somewhat adorable unless you’re the one suffering Yuta’s antics.

 

So of course, when Youngho is trying to text Ten calmly and not to freak out over the fact that Ten is with his ex-boyfriend, Yuta has to pitch in his options with his opinion. As if having him draped over his frame, bed invaded, wasn’t enough.

 

“Don’t be immature,” Youngho scolds him. “Also, if I’m not mistaken, I told you a thousand times I’m not talking to you.”

 

Yuta dismisses him, still looking at the phone screen. Youngho swears that it’s not normal to cuddle with Yuta like this –shouldn’t he be doing this with another person?-, but his friend refuses to be logical.

 

“It’s not my fault Taeyong wants my dick and also to date me, why are you so bitter about it?” he brags, flashing a satisfied smile.

 

To be honest, Youngho hasn’t bothered to ask if Taeyong and Yuta are dating. They aren’t. He was aware that Taeyong would be difficult to crack, and therefore he’s going to make Yuta prove himself before allowing any intimate contact. Yuta is sulky, not understanding why Taeyong slept with him if he wasn’t sure about them.

 

“He’s going to change his mind if you talk about him like that,” Youngho warns him.

 

It’s evident he doesn’t have a reply, because he stares at Youngho with an indecipherable expression. If they weren’t friends, Youngho’s words could have hurt him. However, Yuta seems to ponder over the statement for a while, as if he has just received an advice he couldn’t have come up with by himself. Resting his head over Youngho’s chest, he allows his friend a moment of peace.

 

“Youngho,” Yuta calls at last, and if he’s uneasy, his voice doesn’t show it.

 

“What.”

 

“Do you think I don’t like Taeyong?”

 

It catches Youngho completely off guard. Truth to be told, he expects Yuta to ask some frivolous question and then laugh it off. But this, Yuta being worried over the fact that Youngho, his own friend, might assume he’s playing with Taeyong, makes Youngho feel like a shitty person. He’s not in the place to judge others, and he should be giving Yuta his support. Maybe, to be the person he wants to be, Yuta needs someone who believes in him, someone who doesn’t wait for him to fulfill his quota of broken hearts every month.

 

“It’s not that,” Youngho softly breathes out. Yuta is still looking at his phone, perhaps aware that Youngho has trouble with having this kind of conversation face to face, looking into another person’s eyes. “I’m scared.”

 

Not for Taeyong only, but there’s no need to add a name. Yuta understands.

 

“Me too.”

 

Pensive, Yuta sits up. He glances down at Youngho, who raises a brow at him, a silent question. Before he realizes, Yuta has snatched his phone and is typing with a resolution that should scare Youngho at least a bit.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Resolving your life?” Yuta guarantees, not focused on the screen. His lips quirk in a small smile. After a few seconds, he throws the phone right beside Youngho, laughing when his first instinct is to check what mess Yuta may have made.

 

To: Ten

Where are you? I’ll pick you up, we can have dinner out

From: Ten

Really??? :)

I’m at the Arts Library.

 

Youngho is about to scold Yuta for meddling, but the huge grin on his friend’s face stops him. “Okay, don’t be immature and get jealous of Doyoung. But dude, Ten will be happy to know that you prefer him to spend time with you instead of his ex. Don’t be a noob.”

 

 

 

 

Youngho has never talked with Doyoung before, not beyond a few greetings and awkward smiles. After all, Doyoung was only Ten’s friend, and he never brought him anywhere near the group. Youngho knows the reason now. It unsettles him to realize that Ten has been logical enough to keep his boyfriends hidden from Youngho, as if he felt remorse for dating. Youngho wonders if he was the only one who thought Ten and he wouldn’t have any future together, not even a chance. He had accepted long ago that Ten would find someone else, and so would Youngho himself, and whatever they had would be remembered as a sweet, forgotten memory. A story they would laugh over in twenty years.

 

However, reality hits him once he arrives at the library and spots Doyoung and Ten in the entrance, peacefully chatting. Ten is smoking, and usually Youngho has the urge to take the cigarette away from him, but the scene troubles him. Despite of how cold he looks on the outside, is Ten anxious, trying to relieve the stress by smoking? Because of Doyoung? Because of Youngho?

 

And it’s kind of funny, you see, because Youngho might have been jealous of how friendly Doyoung and Ten are after the break-up. But he’s not. He’s only worried about Ten’s indifference, about his ability to act like he has never liked Doyoung, kissed him, shared an intimacy that Youngho can’t even imagine right now. Ten can heal himself so fast that it frightens Youngho, because he isn’t sure he would ever get over Ten if he decided to leave him one day. Ten only needs a cigarette, but Youngho would need him.

 

“Hi!” Ten exclaims as soon as Youngho gets off the car, putting the fire off. He’s wearing a blue jumper that he has had for two years; Taeil gave it to him as a present, after a whole afternoon of bugging Youngho to get his opinion over the gift. “Could you drop off Doyoung by the center? We’re going there, right?”

 

To be fair, Doyoung looks mortified, like he accidentally mentioned his plans and Ten dragged him into this mess. If this is more uncomfortable for him than for Youngho, that remains a mystery.

 

“I guess…?” Youngho answers, disoriented. Doyoung avoids his stare, although Youngho didn’t intend to look at him for long anyway, and he realizes too late that he should have come up with an excuse. That Doyoung was silently asking him to refuse.

 

“Great,” Ten claps just once, contented, and hurries into the car. He mumbles a sweet ‘thank you’ when he passes by Youngho, but he doesn’t give any more signs of affection.

 

If it was possible, Youngho would take a break. If it was a game, he would press pause and breathe deeply. He and Ten haven’t talked about what they are, not even after the only night they have spent together. So sometimes, Ten kisses him in the mouth to greet him, and sometimes, he waves his hand as if they were just acquaintances. And this hasn’t bothered Youngho that much, because he had assumed they would have to discuss it before following the couple rules –like Yuta calls it. Until this moment, when Doyoung notices the way Ten behaves, how he jumps straight into the car without minding Youngho, and his eyes scan over Youngho for a moment, confused.

 

“Are you going to get in or…?” Youngho pushes, hardly controlling his irritation.

 

“That’s not my fault,” Doyoung replies, ignoring the question. He doesn’t seem ashamed of commenting on what has just happened, but Youngho wants him to shut up. “Confront him.”

 

The car ride would be deathly quiet but it wasn’t because Ten talks nonstop. He tells Youngho about the project, with too much enthusiasm considering it’s university work, and then proceeds to relayhalf of Doyoung’s life while the boy just adds a sarcastic remark from time to time. Youngho doesn’t dislike Doyoung. He would enjoy his jokes if they were in another situation, and not interfering in what was supposed to be a date. Or maybe, if Youngho wasn’t sure two months ago he was all over Ten.

 

Doyoung leaves fifteen minutes later, thanking Youngho and dealing with Ten’s teasing because “he’s not that polite, he’s just faking”. And even though his absence should soothe the atmosphere, it has the contrary effect. Youngho could have believed he was imagining the problems, but the fact that Ten runs out of topics to babble about as soon as they’re alone, proves his theory.

 

However, when he’s about to start the engine again, Ten grabs his wrist. And before he’s able to question Ten’s actions, the boy is lifting from the seat, hands on Youngho’s thigh to support himself, lips meeting lips. Youngho forgets all his fears in that instant, understands why he deals with all that insecurity just to have this piece of happiness, a piece of Ten.

 

But that lasts until the kiss is over, and though Ten smiles at him, plopping down back on his seat, the taste of bitterness remains.

 

“Couldn’t you have kissed me before?” Youngho blurts out, not able to contemplate if it’s a good idea or not.

 

It feels like he has just slapped Ten in the face. His tongue itches as Ten’s smile vanishes, transforming into a grimace, and the boy becomes smaller and smaller in front of Youngho’s stare, like a cornered animal.

 

“I…I d-didn’t know…” he stutters, confused.

 

Perhaps Youngho shouldn’t be mad, not at Ten, for it’s the frustration of his own uncertainty what riles him. But Ten is lying: he’s smart enough to have done it on purpose not to hurt Doyoung. And that’s okay, but Youngho’s trust is too fragile, and when he looks into Ten’s eyes, he reads the same fragility in them. It would be so easy to break each other, that they have no option but be careful every single word, every single act.

 

Youngho sighs, releasing the steering wheel. “Did you tell him we are dating?”

 

There’s an odd shine in Ten’s pupils as he blinks. He gazes at Youngho like he’s seeing him for the first time, and Youngho swears Ten has never shown this nervousness before.

 

And then, in astonishment, he mutters, “We are dating?”

 

According to Yuta, Youngho is supposed to bring the dating thing up, but it isn’t his intention. It’s a mistake, and he’s not prepared to cope with the consequences if the possibility hasn’t crossed Ten’s mind.

 

“I thought so.” Youngho finds it easier to avert his eyes outside. The stillness inside the car has him on the edge, the reality of how he won’t find a escape. “Now I’m not that sure. I shouldn’t ha-”

 

“Youngho,” Ten cuts him off. Jittery, he spins until he’s facing Youngho, searching to make eye contact. He settles his hand again on Youngho’s legs, always attempting to give him physical comfort when he feels emotionally isolated, like he knows Youngho’s needs better than his own. “It’s not that. You’ve pushed me away so many times that I’m afraid of taking a step and making you regret your decision. I’m afraid I will ruin everything.”

 

With his firm words and lulling voice, it’s easy to believe Ten. Youngho has to. He has to make the effort, for once, to rely on another person without feeling like he will crumble down.

 

“Of course I want us to be official,” Ten continues, visibly appeased when Youngho stares back at him. “The others keep telling me to give you space. They say you will get overwhelmed otherwise.”

 

It’s understandable that, whoever that has recommended Ten to be cautious, assumes Youngho will have a problem to get into a relationship with Ten so soon. But this is the proof that judging from the outside doesn’t always work, because Youngho yearns to jump into the danger without any other thought except Ten, Ten, Ten. The fear that restrains him is the one that whispers Ten will forsake him later.

 

“Fuck them, then.”

 

Puzzlement invades Ten’s face for a moment, but then he comprehends and nods, lips twitching at Youngho’s seriousness. “Fuck them.”

 

 

 

 

Right before the Christmas break, and after the exams, Ten announces he will be spending the holidays with his family in Thailand. Youngho is expecting it, since Ten disappears every year around this time, but that doesn’t console him. The moment he realizes he’s going to pass almost a whole month without Ten, he becomes grouchy.

 

Given that he lives with Yuta and Taeyong, they are the first ones who consider throwing Youngho out of a window. Especially because now that they’re on a break, they intend to put their time to good use, without having to nurse their friend and his loneliness. Hansol has to come to the rescue, pulling Youngho out of the apartment even if he insists he should stay and crash Yuta and Taeyong’s happiness.

 

“Is Ten calling you often?” Hansol pries one day, ruffling Youngho’s hair like he’s his youngest son, while they stroll to Taeil’s apartment.

 

“It’s not like he left for the rest of his life,” Youngho complains, not realizing it should be Hansol saying that. Then he gives a small smile, not for Hansol, but for himself, and adds, “He sends me a lot of selfies though. My phone is running out of memory.”

 

Hansol scrunches his nose to warn that Youngho shouldn’t give more details. Youngho doesn’t understand why he thinks selfies could be a rated topic, though Ten gifted him some selfies in bed that he wouldn’t show to anyone else.

 

“Maybe you should have told him you wanted to go to Thailand with him,” Hansol nonchalantly comments, as if he didn’t need Youngho to confirm it.

 

“I don’t want t-“

 

“Youngho, please.”

 

The other huffs, resigned. “Okay. But his family is there. It would be weird.”

 

“I’m pretty sure his family knows. Taeil told me he wouldn’t shut up about you when he first met you.” Hansol shrugs, but the fleeting smirk doesn’t go unnoticed. Youngho wonders how much information Hansol actually has, and how far Taeil has gone in revealing the way Ten and Youngho behave when they are together in the apartment. Youngho admits there is a bunch of embarrassing, cheesy facts. Hansol pats him on the back, “So, next time, ask him.”

 

Bothered by the fact that Hansol is giving him a lesson, Youngho decides this is his chance to get back at him.

 

“So Taeil told you? How much time are you two spending together and alone, exactly?”

 

Hansol is speechless.

 

 

 

 

Youngho is responsible of picking up Ten at the airport when he comes back. There is only one day left for the classes to begin again, and he laments that they won’t enjoy a bit of the holidays without obligations. However, that dissatisfaction vanishes when he hugs Ten again, all smiles and pecks until they reach the car. It’s times like these that Youngho is glad their friends haven’t accompanied him, because it takes them half an hour to take their hands off of each other, and even so Ten playfully stares at him during all the ride to his home.

 

Both Sicheng and Taeil are waiting for Ten in the apartment, so Youngho tries to be patient even if he’s just wishing to have Ten for himself. Still, he listens to the family news Ten tells Taeil, and since Sicheng immediately recognizes they’re intruding what should be a private day, Youngho has to cope with Sicheng’s irritating teasing.

 

It isn’t until Ten gets tired of his cousin’s endless questions, that in an attempt to be tactful, he says with an awkward smile, “Don’t you have anything to do? I mean, something that implies not being here.”

 

Comprehending the insinuation, Taeil winces. “Gross. You aren’t as discreet as you think.”

 

Ten rolls his eyes at his cousin and waves his hand dismissively, “Just leave.”

 

Even though Taeil vacillates, like he would rather watch over them as if they were teenagers, Sicheng convinces him by promising he will buy him lunch. Youngho is curious of how both of them get on so well when they are so different, or of how Taeil, who is so reserved and quiet, lives with two of the noisiest persons he knows.

 

Youngho doesn’t waste a second to wrap his arms around Ten, who just chuckles and welcomes him. He’s the first to initiate the kiss, and if in the car they were clumsy and rushed, teeth clacking and dangerous bites, now they kiss slowly and sweetly, aware that they have all time in the world.

 

“You can’t live without me now?” Ten manages to murmur between kisses. His fingers get lost in Youngho’s hair, bringing him down, and he tiptoes to reach his lips more comfortably. “You were doing fine on your own for years.”

 

If it was another person pointing it out, Youngho would feel ashamed. But Ten is right, and given that Youngho isn’t ever going to be very vocal about his feelings, he can concede him this.

 

“Obviously, I didn’t know what I was missing,” he confesses. Ten’s laugh reverberates against his chest, and Youngho has never felt so warm before, knowing that he has provoked this. That Ten can feel happy because of him, too. “You spoiled me.”

 

Ten’s lips travel from his chest to his neck, where they stop, breath hitching. Youngho has the urge to lean against him when Ten deliberately presses on a sensitive spot, and his lips draw a smile against his skin as Youngho tenses up. Then, as a promise, Ten whispers, “Let me spoil you a bit more.”

 

 

 

 

Twitter (hit me up! I need more NCT friends ^^)