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Set Yourself Free

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Their feet landed on the polished wood with a loud pak as they struck their final pose. The sound hung as it echoed inside the four corners of the rehearsal hall.

Nine heads kept their pose, fiercely eyeing their reflections on the mirrored wall. The power in their stance was kept for a second until one of the tallest members stood up straight and bent up his elbow. He started kicking his feet in time with the swinging of his fist. The rest of the eight members dropped their powerful unit and burst into laughter. Johnny, the man who first broke off from their stance, started laughing in the middle while some other members joined him in dancing other Fortnite moves.

Taeyong chuckled as he wiped off the sweat on his forehead under his cap. He walked off to the side of the rehearsal hall and swiftly bent down with one locked knee to pick up his phone from the floor.

He saw several notifications from apps and LINE messages. He scrolled up to scan the notifs. A name caught his eyes and he read through it briefly.

He quickly checked the time on his phone.

He's late. He couldn't miss this one. He already felt guilty for not making it in person, he definitely couldn't miss this.

He pulled off from the wall he was leaning on and bent his knees down to a squat. He hastily put his phone in his duffel bag and quickly gathered his things.

         "Ah—yeorobun, company." He called everyone's attention as he stood and swung the strap of his bag over his shoulder.

His firm command put his members’ after-rehearsal celebration to a halt and everyone quickly gathered into a circle. Taeyong stepped into the spot they left for him and he bent down on his heels without actually sitting. He figured it was easier to stand up that way.

Taeyong quickly rushed over his words, wrapping up the rehearsal, going over some notes and the schedule the next day. Finally he gave his words of encouragement. His members nodded without a pause at the pace Taeyong was going at.

Their leader put his hands together, his members’ heads snapping up at the sound. Taeyong put a fist up.

         “Fighting!” He chimed to finish his spiel.

         “Fighting!!” His members yelled back.

         As the members brought their fists down, Taeyong asked, “anything else?”

The youngest of the group brought his hand up in a very childlike manner.

         “Hyung,”

Taeyong turned his head to Haechan.

         The charming boy brought his hand down, “Are you in a hurry?”

Taeyong felt his eyes widen. He realized he was too obvious, going over everything very quickly. Knowing that he had some kind of privilege for being the sort-of leader, he broke his face into a soft nervous laugh.

Flustered, Taeyong brushed it off.

         “Ne, anyway, eat well tonight and see you tomorrow. Aja!”

         “Ajaaa!! Fighting!!!”

The tall and lanky man was finally able to stand up and step back from the circle. Rehearsals was done and he maybe he might be able to still catch it.

Several members tried calling him over with, “Where are you going, hyung?” and “Don't you want to have dinner?!”

         “I'll catch up with you guys later!!” Taeyong yelled back from outside the door as he ran through the hallway.


The sweat from their training earlier had already dried up, but it was beginning to resurface on his skin once more as he sped through the sidewalks. He wasn’t in his right mind when he tried to read through his messages on his phone as he briskly walked to his destination.

Suddenly a notification came up. It was an app in a bright turquoise color with an outlined peace sign. The notification said there was a vlive that had just started.

His heart raced faster. Even as he was already catching his breath, he shoved his phone in his pocket and ran as fast as he could.

Finally at the doorstep of Dorm B, he tapped his ID at the entrance. It lit up in red and he resorted to knocking at the glass door. The woman at the front desk turned her head up. She found a panting Taeyong outside the door with his face flushed in red and strands of his hair sticking out. She pressed a button from the desk that unlocked the glass door.

In a blink of an eye, Taeyong already stood in front of the desk.

         “Annyeong,” she greeted softly.

         “Annyeong!” Taeyong greeted, his voice ringing inside the empty lobby. It almost made the teller jump. “Ah— mianhaeyo,”

         “Uhh, name?”

         “Taeyong! Ah— Lee, Taeyong.” the man nodded quickly, itching to get to the elevator.

With every second more that the lady took, typing and searching his name, he was losing another second to catch what he promised himself he wouldn't miss.

The lady asked who he was visiting and the name spilled from his lips so quickly and desperately that lady got the message of Taeyong's haste. She stood from her chair and hastily took a registered ID and handed it to Taeyong.

Without a second to lose, he called out a thank you before running straight into the elevator that just opened.


Taeyong burst through the door of the large apartment that was accommodating several other rooms. Luckily the tenants weren't there yet and he quickly threw his bag off his shoulder and sat on the nearest couch in the living room. He didn't even bother to turn on the lights.

He quickly scrolled through his phone to find the app as he tried catching his breath. He was fanning himself when he finally connected to the vlive he'd been trying to catch.

Immediately a big smile was plastered on his face at the sight of the person holding the camera.

He watched him, bewildered at that bright smile that never failed to make his heart flutter. He tried to ignore the fact that he couldn't stop smiling.

         “Now I'm at COEX, preparing for the concert...” he heard him speak in english with a non-korean, but asian accent. “Not my concert! But like uhmm, 'THE STATION' concert.”

Taeyong didn't really understand what the boy he was watching on his phone said. He picked up on words like “preparing” and “concert” from the first phrase; and “Not”, “concert”, “But The Station,”. He just pieced two and two together as the boy paused.

When the boy on his phone fell silent, Taeyong resorted to repeatedly tapping the finger hearts button. He realized he was no match to the stream of comments flowing in, so he decided to just save his words for later.

         “For those who don't know like today...” the boy kept speaking in english, “me and two other artists,”

         “Tennie, I can't understand,” Taeyong quietly snickered to himself as he watched on, giving up on english.

Finally, the boy spoke in korean and Taeyong's ears perked up. They both fell silent as the younger one stared at the stream of comments without a word.

Taeyong suddenly felt a pang of guilt. His chest tightened. He knew what was scheduled today for Ten. He wanted to be there for him. He also knew that none of the other members were able to make it. But he also knew he couldn't just skip rehearsals for NCT 127, knowing he's the usual center. Taeyong sighed and leaned back on the couch in defeat.

         “Joesong haeyo, Tennie.”

He ran his fingers through his hair as he watched on.

At that point, Ten sighed. It was short. Almost as if he choked on his next words.

         “I'm nervous…” He muttered to himself.

Taeyong heard him say in his mother tongue. His heart sank as he watched on. He wished he was there on the other side of the screen, where he can give him words of encouragement in person, where he can watch Ten perform. Taeyong pouted.

         “I'm going to work hard today…”

He heard Ten trail off. He watched as the boy stared off from the side of the screen and up the ceiling.

Taeyong sighed again. He knew Ten was nervous, he could hear it in his voice, the way he trailed off in korean, the way he couldn't say anything to the camera. He just wished there was something he could do to comfort him.

         After a long moment of silence, Ten spoke again, “I have nothing to say, so I'll just eat my jelly snacks.”

Taeyong ran a palm over his face and groaned. Even he was starting to feel the tension in Ten.

As Ten struggled to open his candies, Taeyong shot up from the couch and tried to find the nearest common PC. He spotted iMac near the TV and went to sit in front of it with one hand still on his phone.

He managed to boot up the PC and as he was waiting, he turned his attention back to Ten.

         “These gummy bears remind me of Jeno and Taeyong-hyung.”

Taeyong's eyes and ears sparked up at the sound of his name from Ten's lips. Another ridiculous smile made its way on Taeyong's lips. He planted a bent elbow on the desk and rested his cheek against his palm. He sighed delightfully as he logged on to the user account.

He quickly went to NCT's vlive page and loaded Ten's vlive there. The boy on the screen spoke a little bit more about what he was about to do on stage. As he did, Taeyong immediately busied himself with his phone, scrolling through his contacts.

         He heard Ten speak again and he looked up. “The time... I have 15 minutes left.”

He heard the sound of something that Ten put down beside him off screen. A moment of courage surged through Taeyong. This was his only chance. With fifteen minutes left, he didn't think Ten would still have his phone on him.

Before the boy on the screen could even say good bye, Taeyong already started ringing his phone, just hoping that Ten would look at his phone again. The vlive ended. Taeyong's palms were beginning to sweat as he held his phone over his ear.

         “Pick up Tennie,” he desperately whispered to himself.

Even when Ten didn't pick up during the first time, Taeyong kept ringing him. Was his phone on silent mode? Did he not take his phone anymore after the vlive? What if he wasn't able to talk to him anymore before he went on stage? Taeyong pouted at the thought. He couldn't be where Ten was right now, this was really the only thing he was asking for. This was his only way to reach out and show some support.

His eyes squeezed shut and sighed. A light groan emitted from his lips. The automated voice message picked up again for a second time. Taeyong let out a sigh of frustration before dialing Ten's number again. Maybe he should call Ten's managers? Who was looking after Ten right now? Who else from SM was there? 

He pulled the phone from his ear to drop the call, but then—

         “Ten!” Taeyong said too brightly.

His heart skipped and he slapped his phone back to his ear once he saw the call timer start. He was too relieved and surprised at the fact that the boy did pick-up.

         “Tennie, anyooong!!”

         “Hyung?” Ten's voice was small and shaky. “Taeyong-hyung??”

         “Ne!” Taeyong's hair bounced as he nodded in relief. “Ne, Tennie, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come to—”

         “Aahhh Taeyong-hyung!” Ten's voice grew louder as he groaned loudly. The next words came out in such a haste. “I'm so nervous, I keep freezing up. Hyung, I'm performing alone for the first time!”

         Taeyong chuckled softly, feeling warmth spread across his chest, “Ten, tennie. Calm down. Breathe.”

He heard Ten attempting to even out his breathing from the other end of the line.

         “Tennie, remember hit the stage?”

         “Ne…” He could almost see Ten nodding as he tried to compose himself. “Ne..”

         “You performed all of those without the other members remember?”

         Another whine is heard from the boy, “That was a long time ago! The last time I went up stage was with you and that was just this year!”

He could feel Ten vibrating with anxiety.

         “Hyung what if I mess up? What if things go bad again?”

         “Tennie ssshh. Calm down. Listen to me,” Taeyong kept his voice as even and soothing as possible. He heard Ten swallow to keep his mouth shut, “You've worked hard for this. What we did together wouldn't have worked if it weren't for your greatness.”

Taeyong allowed a pause to let his special friend take in his words. He briefly smiled at the memory of them performing together. He remembered the power and energy that radiated between them when they danced together on stage in front of the crowd.

         “Ten, you deserve to show the world how great and passionate you are. The world needs to see how beautiful you are.”

From the other end of the line, Ten's lashes dipped and heat rose to his cheeks. A cute smile couldn't be helped.

         “This is your time to take the spotlight, Tennie. You won't mess up, okay? you never did. You're the best dancer in NCT.”

Taeyong nodded to himself, comforted in the silence they shared.

         “Okay?” Taeyong assured him.

         “Ne.”

It was soft, but firm.

         “Let go of your worries. Set yourself free out there, Tennie. I believe in you.”

         “Ne... Ne.”

From the other end of the line, Ten had to place his palm over the center of his chest. Somehow his breath began to even out. His nerves were beginning to subside.

 

         A serene smile found Ten's lips. “Gamsahamnida Taeyong-hyung, gamsahamnida.”

Taeyong's eyes disappeared in his bright smile.

         “Ch-Chok di khrab, Ten-ssi.” He said in his aegyo voice. He was thankful he remembered some of the phrases Ten taught him.

Ten's eyes slowly widened and his smile grew bigger. He pulled the phone away to stupidly giggle to himself. He couldn't help it when Taeyong did stupid things like speak to him in Thai. 

         “Please keep your phones, we are starting in five minutes!” One of the stage managers shouted in the distance.

         “Khob-khun khrab, pêe Taeyong. I'll speak to you later—”

         “Fighting!!” Taeyong interrupted.

         Ten nodded once. Everything was going to be fine. “Fighting.”

         “Annyeong,Ten-ssi!! I'll see you later!” 

Ten smiled once again before ending the call.

 

Warmth radiated across every inch of Taeyong's skin. He leaned back on the chair and stared at nothing on the screen. At that moment there was nothing more he wanted to do than to fall in the same trance he did when he was made to witness Ten's dancing. He sighed somberly knowing that the concert wasn't going to be televised.

Taeyong shook his head lightly with a pleased smile. Maybe one day he'd be able to see it again. For now, he had other work to do.

 

~~~~~

 

It was around eight in the evening when the dreamies arrived, everyone apart from Jisung was suprised to see Taeyong going around their kitchen. They all greeted him in bright chorus.

         “Aahh!! Taeyong-hyung!! You're here!!!”

         “Annyeooong,” 

A light laugh came from Taeyong as he continued to work on the sauce he was making. They all went over surrounding him but only Jungwoo, Jaemin and Chenle had the guts to wrap their arms around him. Taeyong had to lift his foot to keep balance as he giggled. Jisung hopped on the counter a few inches from the stove that Taeyong was using. Renjun stood close by, while Jeno and Lucas looked around the kitchen trying to figure out what Taeyong was cooking.

The boys started cooing at him with high pitched voices and started bombarding him with questions.

         “What are you doing here Taeyong-hyung?”

         “Is this dinner for us?!”

         “Did we forget someone's birthday?”

         “Where are our other hyungs?”

Taeyong only giggled more. He put them at ease with a soft voice and one hand waving at them.

         “Ne, this is gonna be your dinner tonight,” he answered one or the questions. “I texted Jisung to stop you kids from eating dinner.”

         “Aaahh!” Said Chenle, “that's why he kept pulling us back.”

         “I was so hungry already!” Jaemin whined, "after rehearsals I was like, 'Ah I really want to have some ramen, I'm starviiing. Then Jisung comes in like, 'Nooo let's not eat yet!!'”

Everyone started laughing.

         “Why you stopping me from eating?!” Jaemin finished with his arms raised.

         “Aahh!! Tae-Taeyong-hyung—” he pointed at the eldest in the kitchen.

         “Jisung-ah, get down from the counter.” Taeyong lightly scolded.

         “He said it was a surprise!!” Jisung said defensively as he hopped off.

Taeyong snickered to himself as he poured in the sauce into the pot he was boiling. The dreamies started lightly bickering again.

         “Well we can eat now,” Taeyong announced in a calm voice, “Set the table please?”

         “Ne!!” They all answered in chorus.

The boys scrambled off going around the kitchen, opening up cupboards and drawers for mats and cutlery. Taeyong smiled lightly, coming to a realization that this would be the first time he was cooking at the dreamies' dorm, for the dreamies.

The dreamies sat around the long table being loud and rowdy just how kids should be. Taeyong plated his dishes and went back and forth from the kitchen to the dining table to serve them. Jisung stood up from the table to assist Taeyong. The eldest thanked his maknae.

Finally the table was assembled but before Taeyong could sit, Jisung held on to his shirt.

         “Taeyong-hyung, your apron is still on.”

Taeyong and the other boys laughed as Jisung untied the apron and quickly ran into the kitchen to toss it there somewhere.

They all finally sat around the table. They put their hands together.

         “Jal meokgesseumnida!!!” They all said together.

They began slurping at their bowls. And the dining room was filled with bright faces and loud praises, especially from Lucas, who had the biggest and loudest reactions.

Taeyong laughed and appreciated all of them. By that time, he started feeding the dreamies one by one of dishes they haven't tasted yet using his own chopsticks. Conversation went on about how their rehearsals went, how they were doing. Taeyong listened in with a pleased smile.

After a while of banter and Chenle's dolphin laughs, the dreamies slowly turned their heads to Taeyong in unison. Overwhelmed, he began to internally panic.

         “Mwo?!?”

         “So Taeyong-hyung,” it was Jungwoo, and he placed his laced fingers under his chin. "Why did you come here tonight?"

A lump on Taeyong’s throat suddenly appeared, he really didn't want to admit anything to the dreamies, or himself of the reason for his visit.

         “I uhh... Wanted to have dinner with you guys.” He said hesitantly.

         It was Kun who said, “Well you could have had dinner with us outside.”

         “I wanted to cook for you boys.”

         “Aahhh…”

Taeyong began to feel a sheen of sweat on his the back of his neck. He was terrible at lying and he knew the dreamies weren't buying it. It seemed that Jungwoo was eyeing him, like he was trying to find a different angle to make Taeyong spill.

Renjun suddenly had the need to ask, “Taeyong-hyung!” he called, “what's this dish again?” he picked up a leftover noodle from his bowl with his chopsticks to show Taeyong.

         “Umm... Seaweed Ramen..”

         “Aaaaahhhh!!” The dreamies’ eyes glistened with knowing chorus as they glanced at each other.

         “Waeee???” Taeyong started to feel his heart race in his chest. He knew these kids were drawing closer to a conclusion.

         “But isn't this…” Jisung said quietly with all the innocence in his voice. “Ten-hyung's favorite?”

Another chorus of affirmation sounded from the other boys. Taeyong immediately shot Jisung a look. The boy ducked his head from his hyung, snickering to himself.

         It was Jaemin once vocally pieced two and two together, “So if Ten-hyung's favorite is Seaweed Ramen and Taeyong-hyung came here to cook Seaweed Ramen…”

         “And Ten-hyung isn't here yet—” it was Renjun once again.

         “Then this just means that!” Jaemin placed both hands on the table while everyone hung on to his every word. “Taeyong-hyung is here for T—”

         “Oooo-kaaaaay!!” Taeyong shot up from his chair almost sounding like Mark Lee. Everyone looked up at him as he spoke quickly, “this means it's time for all of you to get ready for bed.”

The older of the dreamies started snickering while the others whined at Taeyong.

         “Come on, come on. I cooked dinner, you kids handle the dishes.”

On command, even while the others whined, Jisung already stood up and began clearing the table with his head down, avoiding Taeyong's eyes. While the others got up and started cleaning as well, Taeyong stood next to Jisung and swung an arm around his shoulder.

         “Jisung-aaah,” he lightly pinches his cheek.

         “Aahh Taeyong-hyung!” Jisung whined, half laughing as well.

         Taeyong snickered and leaned it closer to Jisung's ear. “Did you get what I asked you to pick-up?”

         Jisung nodded with a bright smile. “Yeah, it wasn't easy though, hiding it from all of them.”

         “Hmmm... Where'd you hide it?”

         “In one of the cupboards in the mini library.”

         Taeyong nodded. “Ne. Gamsahamnidaaa.” he pulled away and ruffled Jisung's hair before stepping away to help clean up.

Everything was going to plan, he hasn't been figured out yet by the dreamies, apart from Jisung who had already known from the start anyway. Now, he just needed to keep the dreamies oblivious until they go to bed, and he could carry through with his plan smoothly.

 

~~~~~

 

It was around eleven in the evening when the man in front of him tapped his ID on the scanner and held the glass door open for him. He stepped in as a different song played through his wireless headphones.

Once he stepped into the elevator, he leaned his side against the mirror. His shut his eyes. Exhaustion was getting to him after the two shows he'd finished today. It was a hectic day that started early and ended late. All he wanted to do now was to wash up and slip into bed.

The elevator doors parted and he and his manager stepped out silently. At the door of his shared dorm, his manager greeted him good bye. He thanked him and turned to tap his ID at scanner.

Ten smiled to himself briefly going over the day's events. He couldn't even remember what exactly he did on stage, he just knew that he was free. The smile grew bigger when his thoughts landed on Taeyong... Taeyong. He wasn't there earlier, but it still felt like he was, even when all he did was just call him.

Ten had not realized that he'd stood there unmoving, holding the door knob without opening it. He snickered to himself and he tapped his ID once more. His day had been fantastic and it was only going to get better with a good night's rest.

Or that's what he thought.

 

The creak from the door's hinges echoed the empty common room. The lights were dimmed as they always were when the whole apartment already called in for the night. Ten's delicate fingers lightly pushed the door until it clicked. As he took in a breath, he caught the strong smell of boiled soy sauce and chicken stock. It smelled strongly of spices that he was familiar with. It was a scent that made his stomach grumble despite having eaten just a few hours ago.

Ten wet his lips before crossing the hallway and turning to a corner towards the kitchen area.

         “Mmm…”

Ten went straight to the stove and carefully lifted the lid to not burn himself incase the handle was heated. His eyes widened as his mouth watered. He put the lid back on. He looked out to the hallway hesitantly. Was this leftover food that the dreamies cooked up? Was he allowed to eat some?

He peeked under the lid again. It seemed as if it was more than enough for one serving... Maybe it wouldn't hurt to have a taste.

Ten slid the strap of his bag off his shoulder stood on his toes to reach for a bowl from the cupboard above. He scooped up two ladles full of ramen and other toppings. So much for resting, he thought. He held the bowl up to his lips and sipped a bit of the soup.

It was salty, spicy and hearty all in one sip. Ten nearly melted on the spot. He moaned delightfully and leaned his full weight on the counter. His hand patted on the surface of the shelf next to him for some chopsticks. 

He couldn't get enough of the taste that he just had to slurp up a string of noodles while walking to the dining area. Ten sat next to the boy topped with light brown hair who had fallen asleep on the dining table.

Ten eyed him and pulled away from his bowl. He gently placed his small palm at the center of the boy's back. He gently rubbed on the area.

         “Jungwoo,” Ten called out softly as he continued to draw patterns on his back, “Wake up... You can't sleep here Jungwoo.”

The boy stirred and groaned. Ten smiled and started on his ramen again. He left his hand on the boy's back as he ate. The boy's head slowly lifted and his body straightened. One hand quickly rose to his face to rub his eyes as he woke up from his nap.

Ten was slurping up noodles when he turned to look at the boy— Ten jerked back on his chair and choked on the noodles— he started coughing—

         “Tennie!!” Taeyong, in surprise immediately jumped up his seat to get some water.

He handed it to Ten and the boy desperately chugged it down. Taeyong patted Ten's back as the boy cleared his throat. He let out one last rough cough before catching his breath.

         “Uhh... Mianhae…” Taeyong muttered.

Slowly, Ten turned to him and he was greeted with Ten's sounded laugh. Ten's fingers went up to his eyes to wipe off the tears that formed from coughing and laughing.

Taeyong himself started giggling as he watched how Ten's eyes disappeared in his laugh. Taeyong rested his chin on his palm and watched the boy quietly.

Ten lightly hit Taeyong's shoulder as his laugh subsided.

         “Taeyong-hyung! Mianhaeyooo,” Ten cried out brightly.

         “Waeee?”

         “I thought you were Jungwoo!"

Taeyong giggled again. He couldn't stop staring at Ten. He couldn't take the stupid smile off his face either.

         “Aahh Tennie, mianhae.”

         “What are you doing here?!”

Their eyes finally met. Both were equally tired, but it were completely outweighed by the brightness in them as well. Taeyong felt like he was seeing the sun at this time of the night.

Taeyong suddenly realized that they'd been staring at each other for god knows how long in silence. He was the first to look away. He shifted in his seat before remembering that Ten asked him a question.

         “Well... I…”

He glanced back at Ten hesitantly, but the boy's easy gaze had him internally panicking. He bit his lip and turned away again before answering.

         “I figured I wasn't able to come to your concert... So…”

Ten peeled his eyes away from the evidently flustered man beside him. He snickered contentedly and started on his bowl again.

Silence waved over them. It wasn't the comfortable kind of silence. It was the silence that was awkwardly filled in by Ten's casual slurping of his midnight snack while Taeyong tried to find a way to say the things he wanted to. It was easier over the phone, at least he didn't have to see Ten's reactions, just hear him. But now Taeyong was beginning to panic again, scanning the ceiling and the walls for answers. Thankfully he didn't have to suffer longer when Ten spoke again.

         “Did you make this?” His voice was soft with the corners of his mouth turned up.

The ends of Taeyong’s lips instantly curled up.

         “Mhmm!!” He nodded cheerfully. “I made like a whole dinner with sides for the dreamies earlier.”

Ten turned to him again with the warmest smile.

         “You made them dinner?”

         “Ne. I got here early so... Might as well cook for them.”

Ten gave it some thought before coming to a realization. He eyed Taeyong who was avoiding his eyes.

         “... Taeyong-hyung…”

Taeyong twisted his neck immediately. He raised his eyebrows in question. He didn't really know why he said his name. He looked up to see Taeyong's eyes. He stared at him quietly, unable to form words. Unable to remember why he was there, why Taeyong was there. He felt himself becoming lost in those eyes. The world around them began to disappear. Somehow time had slowed, and there was only Taeyong. And there was only now.

         “... Ten..”

The boy felt Taeyong's breath on his lips. He hadn't realized they had already inched closer. Their eyes were lidded, easily drawn to the other's. Ten could almost feel Taeyong's lips on his.

But before they could seal their kiss, Taeyong's eyes slid to the side, behind Ten's features and widened. His breath hitched and just like that he pulled away and face the wall on the other side.

Ten's lids dipped once in disappointment. He ran his tongue over his lip before slowly turning his head to peer over his shoulder.

         “Jisung-ah,” he almost whispered softly with a small smile on his lips.

         “Ah— mianhaeyo…” Jisung awkwardly bowed at he held his glass full of water not knowing what to do. “I interupted you... I didn't umm..”

It was Ten who giggled at him. He shifted in his seat to face Jisung and splayed out his arms.

         “Iliwa!” Ten let in such welcoming warmth.

         “A-aniyo—”

         “Come here, jisung-ah!”

Ten flicked his fingers and beckoned Jisung. By this time, Taeyong had composed himself and settled to lean his head on the dining table as he stared at the two.

Jisung hesitantly walked over. And before he could make any more protests, Ten wrapped his arms around Jisung's waist and pulled him to sit on his lap.

         “Ten-hyung!” the maknae giggled. “How was your show?!”

         “Ne, it was great! I had so much fun.” Ten smiled brightly.

         “Didn’t make any mistakes?” Taeyong softly chimed, still flustered from what could have happened just a few seconds ago.

         Ten shook his head, “Well... I guess I didn’t, I don’t really remember what happened,”

Taeyong’s smile softed and he kept his eyes on the boy.

         “That’s when you know,” he paused to wait for Ten to look at him, “when you’ve given it your all.”

No one has ever seen Ten blush. Except maybe the only two witnesses; Jisung and Taeyong who watched as Ten pursed his lips to try and fight a fleeting smile and looked away from Taeyong’s eyes to bury his face on Jisung’s sleeve.

Jisung perks up at Ten to his side, marveling at this new sight. He points a finger at Ten.

         “Taeyong-hyung what did you do!?”

Taeyong chuckled as he stared at Ten who was now whining at the fabric of Jisung’s sleeve.

         “Taeyong-hyung is right though. I don’t think you’re capable of making a mistake when you dance, because I think your body just moves that way...” Jisung sweetly patted Ten’s back.

         “Aniyoooo!!” The dancer protested with his muffled whining. “Stop iiiit!!”

         “But it’s true Ten-hyung!!”

From Ten’s side, Taeyong chuckled again.

         “It’s fine Jisung, he doesn’t know how to deal with compliments about his greatness.”

Ten flicked his head, knitting his eyebrows and pouting angrily at Taeyong. Taeyong knew he put a nail on Ten’s weakness and both the eldest and the youngest of the three snickered.

         “Learn to accept them, okay?” Taeyong said kindly.

Ten huffed and distracted himself by hugging Jisung closely. The maknae patted Ten’s arm lightly before his eyes lit up once more.

         “Oh did you like the flowers?!” he chimed.

         “Flowers?...”

         Jisung turned to Taeyong. “Taeyong-hyung?!”

Taeyong muttered a series of apologies about how he forgot as he bent down and reached beneath the table. Ten sat between them with knitted eyebrows, looking back from Jisung to Taeyong. And then the crease in Ten’s forehead melted away once he laid his eyes on the lavish bouquet of assorted flowers, wrapped in a sheet of black paper; Roses were in blues, Carnations in white, mums and baby’s breaths to fill in the spaces that created an orchestra of flowers in a sophisticated color palette. Needless to say, it took Ten’s breath away.

The eldest just sat there beside him, awed at how the boy ogled at the flowers he picked out for him. Ten’s eyes finally met Taeyong’s.

         “For me?” Ten mouthed in silence.

There was nothing more that Taeyong could say or do, so he only nodded. Ten carefully reached out for the bouquet, he kept his fingers light as if to not create so much as a tear or disarrange it. Jisung took it as a cue to slide off Ten’s lap and pull a seat next to him instead.

Ten cradled the flowers and stared at them with soft and sparkling eyes.

 

         “Do you like it?” Taeyong asked beside him.

Ten looked from the flowers to Taeyong, back and forth teasingly. The eldest felt his heart flutter and he lightly hit Ten’s shoulder.

         “Mwooo?” He asked as he giggled.

Ten threw his head back in a light laugh. It was a sight that Taeyong wanted to imprint in his mind forever. His eyes disappeared in his laugh, his hair bounced, and his earrings sparkled as the light from the ceiling bounced on its silver. His eyes landed on Taeyong once more. Taeyong noticed how his cheeks had gone a shade darker. But even so, Ten had a ridiculous smile on his face.

 

         “Gamsahamnida, Taeyong-hyung.” He whispered almost inaudibly. As if only the flowers heard the flutters of in his chest.

 

Jisung sat there beside the two, uncertain whether he should leave already or stay to witness his two hyungs bask in each other’s presence more.

 

~~~~~

 

All three of them chatted a bit more as Ten finished his second serving of Taeyong’s Seaweed Ramen. As time passed, with Jisung unable to keep his eyes any longer, Taeyong announced that they should already get some rest at nearly one in the morning. 

Once they stood, Ten cleared up the table and tucked away the leftovers while Taeyong washed the dishes. He finally let Jisung sit at the counter beside him. Ten stood between Jisung’s legs and leaned on the maknae’s shoulder while he cradled his flowers.

Taeyong placed the final utensil on the drying rack and the three of them took leave from the kitchen then quietly padded across the hallways to Jisung’s door. The rest of the apartment was already dark save for the few dimmed lights to lead the paths. Ten walked close by Taeyong’s side that they could already feel the other’s body heat on their skin, while they let Jisung walk ahead of them.

As they reached Jisung’s door, the youngest of the three sleepily greeted the two goodnight with heavy eyelids. Taeyong ruffled the boy’s hair and Ten slightly bowed to thank him for the flowers. A weak and sleepy smile slipped onto Jisung’s features before he quietly closed the door.

 

Suddenly it was just the two of them.

Their eyes met for a brief second.

 

Taeyong stood, frozen. All at once he realized that the day was ending. He’d have greet the next day as if this night didn’t happen for others to not suspect.

 

Ten saw it all and he snickered. He took a step and passed Taeyong’s frame. Ten headed to his door. Taeyong’s chin dipped, dreadful of the night’s end. It was getting loud in Taeyong’s head.

He was in the middle of going through every sort of reason to be anxious in his clouded mind, when he felt a smaller set of soft fingers slide through his. The voices in Taeyong’s head muted and he looked up to see Ten with easy eyes. Taeyong curled his fingers around Ten’s. The boy’s hand felt small under his, and soft, and warm. Taeyong never felt so safe.

 

The boy lightly smiled at him.

 

         “Taeyong-hyung,”

It was soft, almost like a whisper. Just like how he said it earlier in the kitchen, before Jisung found them.

         “Mwo?” he whispered back.

         “You’re still gonna go back to your dorm?”

 

Ten looked away as he spoke, lightly tugging on their fingers when he took more steps nearing his door. Unable to think, Taeyong’s feet involuntarily took a step as Ten did. He'd somehow forgotten that he was asked a question. When he didn’t answer, the boy spoke again.

 

         “It’s late...”

 

He let the words spill between his lips, even softer than before.

They reached his door. Ten struggled to keep the bouquet intact with one arm while opening the door and keeping their fingers linked.

 

Taeyong remained afloat. He held on Ten’s fingers like it was the only thing that occupied his mind. Like the rest of the world was pushed out from his senses.

 

The boy looked back at him once. They caught each other’s eyes under the dimmed light.

 

There was a beat before the corner of Ten’s lip turned up and looked away to gently pull Taeyong through the door.

 

All that was left in Taeyong was to giggle.

 

Ten’s hyung closed the door to his room once they were both inside.

 

~~~~~

Stillness settled inside darkened room as they wrapped themselves in each other’s limbs. Their breaths fanned each other’s skin as they met in each other’s dreams. As soon as the sun rises, their days would turn back to normal, Ten would just be another good friend; Taeyong would be just another hyung. But until the sun woke up another morning, this was what they were to each other: wrapped around each other’s skin in their most vulnerable state of rest. This is what they were; whatever it may be.