“Taemin-ah.” Poke. “Taemin-ah.” Poke. Taemin turns away, burying his face in the couch cushions and curling in on himself. Maybe grinding his heels into Jonghyun’s thigh. Not looking. “Taemin-ah. Taemin-ah~”
“What?” he bursts out, rolling over, into the light.
Jonghyun blinks down at him, as though Taemin didn’t feel his finger in his side fifty fucking times, can’t read the tiny almost-smirk on his face, can’t hear it in his voice when he tells Taemin, “Nothing.”
“I hate you.”
Jonghyun smiles for real. “No, you don’t.”
“Yes I do.” Taemin squeezes his eyes shut so tight he sees red. “Just let me sleep for once.”
“It’s my fault you have to get up early?” Jonghyun says.
“My alarm clock doesn’t pull me out of bed and dump me on the floor. Just let it go next time.”
“You hate it, though.”
“I hate you more,” Taemin says again, in case Jonghyun missed it the first ten times he said it today. On his way to the shower. In the van on the way over to Inkigayo, when Jonghyun sat next to him and sang along to every song on the radio. When Jonghyun asked Taemin if his eyes were red from his contacts instead of looking in the whole fucking wall of mirrors over there. When Jonghyun picked up Taemin’s legs and plopped down on the couch next to him and closed his fingers over Taemin’s ankle, and lied and said, Sleep, Taeminnie. Hyung won’t bother you.
“Fine,” Jonghyun says now, in that voice that says he’s ticked and trying to hide it. “Fine. Next time don’t pretend to sleep and make the rest of us listen to that fucking thing. It carries out into the hallway, ask the others.” Jonghyun pokes Taemin again. Taemin thinks about snapping his finger in half, but makes himself sit up instead, scooting out of reach. “You think I like waking you up? I used to have to chase you out of bed with a fish.”
“Yeah, one time. I remember when I still had to go to school you always snored through my alarm. And you probably kept snoring for hours after I left.”
“I don’t snore,” Jonghyun retorts. “Sometimes you do, you know.”
“At least I don’t come home at two a.m. and walk into everything. Just turn on the light next time.”
“Next time I’ll just stay home with you. Since you’re so much fun to talk to.”
“So don’t talk to me.”
“Are you done?” Minho slumps back in his chair, lowering his phone to throw Taemin a look that’s less stern, more pleading. “Come on, stop it. Really. Think about the rest of us. We have two whole weeks left. Two weeks, and then you can fight all you want.”
Maybe he should try rooming with Jonghyun and see how he likes it. Taemin liked it just fine for two years, but that was before. This is now. He got used to living like a human being at his parents’ house, his own space, his own hours, real food, and he got disused to Jonghyun. His insomnia, his nagging, his cleaning, his breathing when he sleeps, his breathing when he can’t, the faces he only wears at home, his glasses, his voice at night, his bleached hair and his stupid muscles and his stupid laugh, his stupid everything. Just stupid. And weeks into promoting ‘View,’ schedules day and night, Taemin can’t make it home anymore, neither of them can. And neither of them can stop dragging their nights into their days.
“Why are you looking at me?” Taemin says, safest thing he can say out loud. “Tell hyung.”
Kibum laughs out loud. “Aigoo, someone’s crabby.”
“More like someone got used to promoting on his own,” Jinki interjects. “I guess you’re too good for us now~”
It’s not funny, the way Jinki never is. “More like hyung is annoying.”
Jinki just smiles. “Which hyung?”
“All of you.”
Silence. Then Jonghyun laughs, breathless and ragged and just annoying, annoying, annoying.
“Look at your face, you brat,” he says, reaching over to press his thumb into the corner of Taemin’s mouth. “Is that a smile? Hmm?”
Taemin bats his hand away and lies back down, drawing his knees up to his chest instead of driving his feet into Jonghyun until he falls off, the way his muscles are screaming at him to do. His butt is too, still sore from Jonghyun dragging him onto the floor this morning. His everything, because next second he hears a click.
“Did you just take a picture of me?”
“No,” Jonghyun lies, just because.
“Don’t take pictures of me. And don’t lie. I’m not stupid, hyung.”
All that gets him is another laugh, couch creaking, Jonghyun’s finger running over his ear. “You’re cute.”
For fuck’s sake.
Taemin raises himself again, only to find the stupidest smile on Jonghyun’s face. It’s not funny. Taemin’s not funny.
“It’s cute,” Jonghyun insists. “You’ll laugh later, when you see it.”
“No I won’t, because you’re deleting it right now.” Jonghyun’s smile widens, then some more when Taemin tries snatching his phone away. “Hyuuuung.”
Taemin grabs his wrist instead, but Jonghyun jerks out of his grip like it’s nothing. Like Taemin is. He tries again. Again. Again again again, until he has Jonghyun crushed up against the armrest, trapped between his knees, struggling against him, weak with suppressed laughter. Warm and solid. Flushed and out of breath. Hair a mess, staring up at Taemin, not the dark eyes he knows, the odd ones he can’t get used to, blue and brown and.
Next thing Taemin knows Jonghyun’s phone shoots out of his hand. It lands with a clatter sharper than Kibum’s, “Yah!”
Instead of fighting him off Jonghyun goes still under Taemin, but he doesn’t hold onto him when he clambers to his feet jerkily, blood pounding in his ears. Good. Taemin’s not sorry. It’s not his fault. It’s just a phone, with the money they make Jonghyun’s good for like five hundred of them. He’s not sorry.
He’s sorry that he is. He’s sorry that he has to say it. He has to.
When he goes for the door no one stops him.
All Taemin wants, all he’s wanted for the last month, is to be alone. Bathroom? No. It’s always crowded, nerves make people pee. Van. Too hot. The back lot. Okay, yeah. Fresh air. As long as no one’s gone for a smoke it should be okay. Taemin weaves his way through the hallway and bursts through the doors. The stars wink at him and the morning clings to his skin and the wall is rough against his back, catching on his T-shirt. The one the coordi noonas gave him to wear this morning. Taemin stops himself before he can slide onto his butt and stain his five bajillion won pants.
Jonghyun really needs to stop being annoying. He needs to stop living under Taemin’s skin. He needs to stop doing every little thing he always does, every single fucking day. Stop staying out late and waking Taemin up, dragging him out of bed in the morning, saying he doesn’t want breakfast, No rice for me, Taemin-ah, then picking off Taemin’s plate. Using up Taemin’s shampoo and lying and saying he hasn’t, accusing Taemin of using his toothbrush when he’s the one who changes who has what color every other day. Getting dressed in their room. Getting undressed. Changing. Whatever. Sleeping naked. Cleaning up after Taemin when no one even asked him to, putting his stuff where Taemin won’t know to find it, touching things Taemin never said he could. Like Taemin’s underwear for example. Laughing at Taemin every single time he messes up their choreo, then squeezing his shoulder and patting his back and petting his hair whenever Taemin goes off key or forgets the lyrics or fucks up his lines. Treating Taemin like he’s a fucking baby. Taking stupid pictures of him no one ever said he could take and dropping his phone and making Taemin into a bad person, because he’s not sorry.
Taemin’s eyes shoot up to find one of the cameramen in the doorway. The hot one. Stud in his ear, undercut, cute crinkly-eyed smile, shoulders and biceps and yeah. Too bad Taemin’s not in the mood to look at anyone right now.
“It’s fine,” he lies.
Hot Camera Guy hunkers down next to him. Taemin hugs his knees and buries his face in his arms.
“Is it still fine if I smoke? Taemin-ssi?”
Not Taeminnie, Taemin-ah, maknae. Taemin-ssi. When Taemin sneaks a glance at him he gives Taemin half a smile, lips curling around his cigarette, and somehow that has Taemin nodding. Smiling back, like an idiot.
Instead of hiding in his arms again he tries, “Sihoon-ssi.”
“Oh,” Taemin says stupidly. “Sorry.”
“Nah, it’s okay. There’re only five of you, but there are twenty of us.”
He means Taemin can shut up now. Which he probably should, but instead he’s saying, “It’s just me, I’m bad with names. Sorry.”
Sihoo regards him over his cigarette. Two quick puffs, and then he passes it over to Taemin.
“I don’t smoke.”
So stupid. If only the sun would hurry up and rise and burn Taemin to ash or melt him into the cement or something. But somehow Jonghyun is still in one piece after twenty-five years of bitching about summer, so Taemin’s only hope is to go back inside and pretend he doesn’t exist.
Before he can climb to his feet, though, Sihoo says normally, “Guess it would ruin your voice.” He smiles at the look on Taemin’s face. “You want to know something weird? You’re the only boy group where I can put names to faces. Well, actually, just yours.”
Sihoo laughs. “Why not?”
How is Taemin supposed to know?
“Do you dance?”
“What? No. I’m a cameraman. I wanted to make dramas but SBS put me here instead.” Taemin opens his mouth to reply, but Sihoo beats him to it. “You think I didn’t answer your question, right? I did, though.”
“Dancing doesn’t have to be a job, it can just be a thing you do,” Taemin says anyway, because it’s the only thing he can think of. “If I hadn’t debuted I would’ve kept it up somehow.”
“Dance instructor?” Sihoo guesses, dark eyes lingering on Taemin’s face like he’s trying to read it. Maybe Taemin should be trying to read Sihoo’s too through the smoke, but it’s all he can do to remember how to talk, with his heart skipping every other beat. Which, Taemin sees hot guys all the time, it’s in his job description. He saw Jonghyun naked this morning. He used to see him almost every day, so much he was immune. Is immune.
But anyway. Dance instructor. “Maybe? Jonghyun hyung’s always saying I’m the slowest learner. I don’t know if I could teach people.”
Sihoo just smiles at him some more. “People wouldn’t take your classes to learn, anyway.”
Is he hitting on Taemin, is that what this is?
“The camera loves you,” Sihoo goes on. You’re cute. You’ll laugh, when you see it later. Something in Taemin’s face makes his lips curve. Which, what something? Does Taemin look as stupid as he feels? His ears are burning, red probably. “You don’t love cameras, huh.”
“I don’t know, it’s part of the job,” Taemin gets out. “Just…I feel awkward. And then I feel dumb watching myself.”
“You shouldn’t,” Sihoo tells him. “Dumb is the last thing I feel when I’m watching you.”
Heart in his throat, eyes unseeing, Taemin slides his hand across the moon-kissed pavement until his fingertips meet Sihoo’s, warm and electric.
How do you feel?
“You’re not just an artist,” Sihoo goes on, like he can’t feel a thing, “you’re like art.”
“Not like. He is.”
Jonghyun. Oh. Standing over them with his hands stuffed in his pockets and his eyes on the ground between them, where their fingers are still pressed together. Oh. Before Taemin can break contact, Sihoo’s scrambling to his feet, grinding his cigarette under his shoe.
“Shit. Do you need him, is it time? Shit, shit, shit.”
“Ten minutes,” Jonghyun says. It’s all he has to. That might be an eternity in television, but Sihoo doesn’t care. The door slams behind him, so loud it rattles Taemin’s bones as he struggles to his feet.
“I wasn’t smoking.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I don’t know why I did. It’s none of your business if I smoke. And don’t say I am your business, I’m twenty-three.”
Sorry about your phone. Sorry the screen cracked. Sorry I cracked it.
Except what shoots out of Taemin is, “And I have a watch. I know how to read it.” He should shut up. He should go back to breathing. He should swallow everything before it comes out, his voice shouldn’t be rising, he shouldn’t be telling Jonghyun, “I don’t need you to come looking for me and I don’t need ten minutes to walk like thirty feet.” Jonghyun just looks at him. Opens his mouth to reply, maybe tell Taemin how childish he’s being. Reaches for him, fingertips skimming his shoulder before Taemin jerks away. “Just don’t talk to me, okay? Whenever you open your mouth I can see what you’re going to say, and it’s all annoying.”
He keeps his head down and pushes past Jonghyun, into the cool and dark again. Van. No time. Bathroom. No, waiting room. It’s not like he’s going to cry or something, who would over that, and his ears and his face won’t burn off. They didn’t the last time he thought something might happen.
Nothing ever does.
Lunch was nothing, just Taemin’s stomach growling at him and his head trying to convince his body that one meal won’t kill him, he’s been getting too fat anyway. Dinner is fifteen minutes at a convenience store between Schedule Five Million and Schedule Five Million and One, and Jonghyun following Taemin around with a basket, testing his self-control with each aisle they go down. Banana milk. Choco pies. Sausages. Ramyun.
“Stuff we can eat in the van,” Taemin reminds him, even though there’s no we. At least there shouldn’t be.
“Tuna kimchi, Taemin-ah.”
Kimbap. Taemin makes a grab for it, but Jonghyun beats him to it, so he ends up grabbing Jonghyun’s hand instead, big and warm and kinda soft, kinda rough, and Taemin should probably be letting go.
“I’m not sharing with you, go get your own,” he blusters, but all that makes him feel is bad, so he goes back for tuna mayo. Jonghyun’s favorite. “Seriously, worry about yourself. You’re losing weight.”
Jonghyun shoots him a look Taemin can’t read. Did he just make it worse? Again? But then all Jonghyun says is, “You can tell?” Which, how could Taemin not, with Jonghyun dressing and undressing in front of him morning and night and smiling at him all day, cheekbones sharp as glass. “It’s just muscle, I haven’t worked out in forever.” His eyes find Taemin’s. “I look better on TV when I get like this, but not in person, huh.”
Standing here under bright white light, surrounded by junk food and half-crazy from the day they’ve had, bags under his eyes, white hair greasy from sweat and too much product, lips bitten and raw, all he looks like is himself. Not the Jonghyun oppa the rest of the world sees, but the Jonghyun hyung that belongs to Taemin. The one person Taemin can yell at and pick on and cry in front of, show all his ugly sides, and know he won’t look away.
It would be nice if there were a non-weird way to tell him that. It’d be nice if Taemin were nicer.
“You look fine, hyung,” Taemin tries. And when that doesn’t work, “At least your cheeks don’t get fat.”
No good. Whatever. Taemin can just add this to the list of things he should be feeling bad about.
Except the next thing out of Jonghyun’s mouth is, “Short rib flavored chips, Taemin-ah. The next best thing~”
“You should be mad at me.”
Jonghyun throws the bag into his basket, saying over its rustling, “What?”
How come you never get mad? How come you never leave me alone, no matter how awful I’m being? Why you make me feel this way all the time?
“What’s nothing? Hmm?” Jonghyun nudges Taemin, then again when Taemin doesn’t answer. “Get whatever you want. Hyung will pay for it.”
“I’m not thirteen anymore, I can pay for myself.”
Taemin pries the basket from Jonghyun’s hand. It’s so heavy he needs both of his to lug it up to the front, and heaving it onto the counter leaves him breathless and dizzy. He hasn’t worked out since he went shirtless at SM Town last summer and he hasn’t eaten since five this morning, but the clerk doesn’t give him a second look, scanning and bagging their haul on automatic. Oh. Yeah. Wallet. As he digs in his pocket Jonghyun steadies him with a hand at the small of his back, big and warm. Wallet. Wallet, wallet…wallet? Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
Jonghyun pulls his out. At Taemin’s look he says, “You can pay me back.”
“I left it in the van.” Or any of the other ten places they’ve been today. Taemin swallows, pushing his hair out of his face, trying to think. Jonghyun always makes that so hard.
And now he’s shaking his head at Taemin, mouth hitching into a lopsided smile that curls in Taemin’s stomach, this close to a smirk. “Not with money. Show hyung something.” Taemin would rather die. Jonghyun guesses as much, eyeing him. “I can’t buy aegyo with chips? The real thing, then.”
“Forget it. We have another schedule after this.”
“First night we have off,” Jonghyun promises him.
There’s this thing fighting its way onto Taemin’s face from deep inside him, sending his ears hot and hooking in the corners of his mouth, like nothing he’s ever seen in the mirror. If he wants to know he’ll have to ask Jonghyun what it looks like, because Jonghyun’s the only one who knows, staring and staring at Taemin, willing him to break into the smile he’s spent all day working for. He’s the only one who ever does.
The clerk reads out the total. Then again, louder.
The clerk takes Jonghyun’s money with a nod and a thank you, then freezes when their eyes meet. Just for a second, before she turns back to the register.
“Contacts?” she says.
“Mm. What do you think, do I look cool~?”
“You look weird,” Taemin says, before Jonghyun can read it in her face. When Jonghyun turns on him Taemin’s ready with his mouth scrunched and his cheeks blown up and his finger pressing into one. Jonghyun asked for it, but he gets the other with his thumb, pushing until the air pops out of Taemin’s mouth.
Taemin goes back to breathing.
It’s after twelve and somehow the humidity has gone up instead of down, and he’d rather wait around in air-conditioning while Jonghyun pees than wait for him out there with the others, growing a second skin. And besides, “You’re like a girl, you can’t go to the bathroom alone.”
His voice comes out all weird, hoarse from spending the last hour and half on air. TV is one thing, but with radio there’s nothing to see, nothing to do but talk. Taemin can’t get away with sitting there and looking pretty.
Anyway, he looks like shit right now. Taemin’s Not Looking, but Jonghyun is. He can feel his eyes on his skin. “Uh huh. I guess we’ll have to shower together from now on.”
Taemin takes everything back. Is it too late to go outside?
“Fine with me. You hog all the hot water,” he manages. If he turned away or went to hide in one of the stalls, that’d be more obvious than the fire rising up his cheeks and ears, even.
“We did once, remember?” Jonghyun reminds him, as if Taemin needs another wet and naked Jonghyun in his head, after waking up to one every single morning for the past month. “Don’t act like you don’t, you’re the one who brought it up on Blue Night.”
“I’ve showered with Minho hyung, too,” isn’t the best thing Taemin can think to say, it’s the just the first.
“You used to be so shy. Whenever I took you to the bathhouse you wouldn’t even take a bath.”
Taemin follows Jonghyun over to the sinks because he’s dumb. Because now when Jonghyun raises his eyes to Taemin’s face, Taemin has no excuse not to meet them.
“I got used to seeing you naked.”
You guys, Taemin should have said. You and the other hyungs.
Jonghyun looks away first, down at his hands as he scrubs them clean. And then he says in a weird voice, “Is that something you can get used to?”
“You don’t have to. I don’t even change in our room, unlike you,” Taemin blurts out, so loud his words aren’t lost as the door swings open and someone’s shoes squeak across the floor. Jonghyun goes still before Taemin swings around and sees Sihoo the Hot Cameraman.
Which, why? Inkigayo wrapped up like ten hours ago. Taemin hid from him when they returned for the encore, he stayed nailed to the couch in the waiting room until the last second, then found the tallest group on stage and hid behind them, away from the cameras. And now that Taemin’s washed the makeup off his face, here he is again.
Sihoo gives him a smile. It’s just as cute as it was this morning. “You remembered.”
“Jonghyun-ssi,” Jonghyun cuts in. Like there’s anyone who works in this industry who doesn’t know who he is. “What are you doing here this late?”
“Borrowing equipment from the radio department. Long story.”
“Do you sleep at all?”
Jonghyun laughs at his own joke, that breathless, ragged one that means he’s on edge. And he says Taemin is shy.
Sihoo just smiles some more. “Do you?” he replies, stepping up to the urinal and unzipping his fly and okay, Taemin’s not a creep, he’s back to Not Looking.
“We’re going home now.”
Jonghyun throws his paper towels in the trash and reaches for Taemin, guiding him with a hand on the small of his back. Taemin follows his lead, eyes on his feet, everything gone clumsy and stupid.
“I was pulling for you guys to win. Good luck tomorrow. Today. Whatever.”
“You too,” Jonghyun says, so Taemin doesn’t have to. If he opens his mouth he doesn’t know what will come out. Not his heart, but maybe the big fluttering thing trapped inside his stomach, some kind of monster butterfly. And that’s the bathroom door right there. Should he say goodbye? He’s being stupid. Shinee will go on Inkigayo again. Or maybe Sihoo will film Minho in a drama. And if SM ever gives Taemin a concert, maybe Sihoo will show up as his fan. “You think they left without us? Hmm? Taeminnie?”
What? Oh. The others. Jonghyun. As their footsteps echo down the hall his hand lingers on Taemin’s back, big and warm and firm. When Taemin turns his eyes to him Jonghyun gives him a stupid smile.
…A cute smile.
“If they did I’m just sleeping here,” Taemin says out loud.
“Aigoo.” Jonghyun’s hand slips down his spine and off him, leaving Taemin to focus on putting one foot in front of the other again. “Just make sure you don’t steal my bed again, or I’m stealing yours.”
It’s not stealing if it’s not on purpose, and it was only one time and Taemin was just too fucking tired. And anyway, “They’re the same.”
Jonghyun shakes his head. “Yours smells like you. Mine smells like me. Except when you sleep in it, then it smells like you too.”
Jonghyun’s smell thing. Taemin decided a long time ago that either Jonghyun’s nose isn’t human or it’s all in his head. And besides, it’s not like Taemin smells bad. Why else would Jonghyun sniff his hair all the time, on top of all the other ways he chooses to annoy Taemin and Taemin only.
“You’re so weird, hyung.”
Jonghyun shoots him a look, another one Taemin can’t read.
“You keep on saying that like it’s a bad thing. It’s not, Taeminnie.”
And now out of nowhere Taemin’s throat is kind of closing up. What is with him today?
“I know,” he gets out. “I’m weirder.”
Jonghyun reaches for him again, taking Taemin’s wrist in his hand. And somehow all Taemin wants to do is turn in his grip and lace their fingers together. Even more when Jonghyun smiles at him again, bigger and brighter and stupider than before. Cuter.
“You’re you,” Jonghyun tells him.
When Taemin wakes up he pretends he didn’t. It works on Jonghyun, dressing in silence across the room, but it doesn’t work on himself, or the clock, or the sunlight slanting across their wall, glistening in Jonghyun’s wet hair, kissing Jonghyun’s skin, rippling over the muscles in Jonghyun’s back as he steps into his pants. His shirt is next. Good. Taemin can’t have a heart attack today, he has things to do. Like maybe jerk off in the shower. Fuck. He buries his face in his pillow. Jonghyun’s wallet, his phone, his watch. All that’s left is Taemin. Get up, we have to go. Yah, Taemin-ah. Yah! But then the mattress dips and Jonghyun’s hand lands in his hair instead of on his shoulder, stroking it, playing with it, melting Taemin’s muscles when he should be shaking him awake.
“I’m up, hyung,” Taemin says into his pillow.
Jonghyun’s hand falters, before his fingers wind into Taemin’s hair, tugging gently. “Did you sleep at all?”
Another tug. “Did hyung wake you up just now?”
“Mm.” That’s a lie. “I just need a minute, then I’ll go shower.”
Another lie, because Jonghyun passes his hand down Taemin’s spine and swats Taemin’s ass on the way out and says, “Hurry up, the bathroom’s still hot from mine,” and Taemin is going to need so much more than that.
Music Core today. It goes well. Better. They get there early as always, but the staff isn’t running behind, so they get out early too for once, which leaves just enough time for lunch. Not real food, but food. Manager hyung finds the nearest convenience store and tells them to go crazy. Maybe he’s missed the part where Taemin already has.
Jonghyun doesn’t start when Kibum asks Taemin loudly, “You sure you don’t want to come in? Otherwise I’m just getting whatever,” or when Minho shakes his head and slams the door to the van, probably because he’s been awake the whole time. Head propped against his window, eyes closed, arms folded over his chest, Taemin sees through it all. Maybe Jonghyun wants him to.
Jonghyun doesn’t move, just grunts at him, “Mm.”
“I can’t even remember why we’re fighting.”
“You got mad at me.”
“You made me mad,” Taemin starts up, but then he bites the rest back. That’s not the point. “Forget who started it, can you remember what did?”
Jonghyun opens his eyes to meet Taemin’s, brown and blue. Taemin should be used to it by now. No. Jonghyun should take his contacts out between their stage and the encore instead of whining about how his eyes itch in between doing these things to Taemin.
“You’re saying you forgive me.” What? Oh. Jonghyun doesn’t wait for him to catch up, rattling off, “You’re done ignoring me and yelling at me and taking everything out on me.”
Is Taemin supposed to say he’s sorry or something?
Before he can, Jonghyun slips his phone out of his pocket, flicks through it, then passes it to Taemin. His own face stares back up at him, eyes scrunched shut, brow furrowed, mouth small and angry, shattered into pieces. Thanks to the waiting room floor. No. Thanks to Taemin.
You’ll laugh, when you see it later.
The camera loves you.
Jonghyun does, at least.
“It wasn’t just you. It’s just. It was a lot of other shit, too,” Taemin says. He props his head up on his fist, staring out into the street as the trees sigh and girls laugh and traffic grinds to a halt. Another red light. “I’m sorry I cracked your screen.” I’m sorry I was so mean to you. “I can pay to get it fixed.”
For the longest moment Jonghyun has nothing to say to that. Then, “That guy yesterday. Did you like him?”
“I didn’t know him, even.”
When Taemin sneaks a glance at him Jonghyun gives him half a smile. “You thought he was hot, though?”
Jonghyun saw him, he should know.
“I thought he thought I was,” Taemin admits dully.
Jonghyun brushes his fingers over Taemin’s cheek, sudden and warm. Taemin barely catches himself leaning into his touch instead of ducking away.
“You don’t need guys like that to tell you, Taemin-ah. You know how beautiful you are. I know you know.”
“You don’t get it, hyung,” Taemin tells him, because he really doesn’t. Jonghyun’s been dumped before, girls have broken his heart, he’s been rejected, but never because he was a man. “If I liked girls it’d be simpler. I got confessed to a lot in school, you know. I was the most popular boy in my class.”
“Before I debuted,” Taemin adds, before Jonghyun’s smile can curl into a smirk. “They gave me chocolates, too. And cards. And someone left a love letter in my desk once.”
Jonghyun just nods. Adjusts his hat. Takes it off, white hair falling into his face. He sweeps it back, like moonlight through his fingers, shooting Taemin a secret look. If Taemin wasn’t supposed to catch him maybe he should stop making Taemin stare.
“Do you want that kind of thing?” Jonghyun says finally. “I always thought you thought it was pointless.”
Whatever. Pointless doesn’t mean bad. And anyway…
“It’s different with men. They never mean it, or they’re joking, and then stuff like that happens. It doesn’t make me feel ugly, it just makes me feel shitty.”
“Forget him. It’s not your fault he was blind.” Taemin laughs, but Jonghyun doesn’t, staring into Taemin’s face, unblinking, until Taemin’s smile fades under his eyes. “You think I’m joking too, but I’m not.” He reaches for Taemin again, tucking his hair behind his ear, leaving it tingling. “Never about you.”
“He was just straight, is all,” tumbles out of Taemin, which is how he finds out he can still talk. “Like ninety-five percent of men are.”
Jonghyun shakes his head. Wrong. “He was an idiot. They’re all idiots. How can they not see you?”
Jonghyun’s lips crook, tiny, self-ironic smile that hooks in Taemin’s chest and steals the air from his lungs. “It’s even cute when you play dumb.”
Taemin leans in and kisses it off his face.
Which, what. Soft lips, low cut off sound, Taemin’s heart hammering in his ears like it wants out, like it’s going to leave him to die right here. Except he doesn’t, and then Jonghyun groans and pulls Taemin in, kissing him back, and it’s everything at once. Jonghyun’s teeth digging into Taemin’s bottom lip, his tongue in Taemin’s mouth, so hot and wet, his hands burning into Taemin’s skin, fingers closing around the nape of Taemin’s neck, spread wide over the small of his back. And his hair is like silk and his skin is so soft and smooth and his stubble prickles Taemin’s palm, and Jonghyun’s probably going to have to shave before they go on air again, because they have to go on air again. Because this has to end, Taemin has to breathe, he has to wake up, anything but climb into Jonghyun’s lap and tell him, “You’re the one who’s being stupid, with your stupid contacts and your stupid hair.”
Jonghyun doesn’t tell Taemin he’s the one saying such stupid things, just leans up for a kiss and gasps when Taemin bites him instead, then moans when Taemin licks it better. His finger hooks into Taemin’s belt loop.
“My hair?” he says. Taemin winds his fingers in it and tugs his head back, just to see the smile in his voice. “It never worked on you before, I was blond for a whole year, almost.”
“I got used to you like that or something, I don’t know.”
“I thought it would be my body. I know you have a type, I know I’m it, I just didn’t know if you knew anything. But I could feel you looking every morning,” Jonghyun says, then adds, “I didn’t wake you up on purpose, Taeminnie. I know you think I always do, but I don’t, not until I have to. Your breathing changes, is all.” He almost smiles at the look on Taemin’s face. “But then you told me I’m too skinny.”
What is he even talking about?
“I didn’t mean it like that.” And anyway, “I’m not the only one who has a type. And I’m not yours.”
“Had.” What? Jonghyun kisses down his neck, wet and hot, sliding his hand down until the very tips of his fingers meet the cleft of Taemin’s ass, hot through Taemin’s pants. “Now it’s just you. I don’t even look at anyone else anymore, I stopped trying to make myself.”
Why are they even talking? Taemin presses in for another kiss and falls into it, slow and open-mouthed, tongues meeting, teasing, flirting, until Jonghyun draws Taemin’s into his mouth, so deep, so good he’s dizzy with it.
“Taeminnie.” Jonghyun pulls away. Tries to, nudging Taemin’s nose with his own, letting Taemin keep his bottom lip between his teeth, letting him suck on it. Finally his hands come up to cup Taemin’s face. “Taeminnie. This is real, right? You’re not playing with me?”
What? Is he sure it’s not the other way around? Taemin could have gone his whole life without knowing what Jonghyun hyung tastes like, without even wanting to, if Jonghyun never learned to smirk just like that, if he’d never read Inuyasha or whatever convinced him white hair is cooler than bleaching it is painful, if he just hated Taemin back whenever Taemin felt like hating him. If Jonghyun weren’t Jonghyun. But he is, so now Taemin’s sitting in his lap, feeling his dick grow hard against his thigh, and he doesn’t get how it took him so long to get right here.
“Don’t play with me,” Jonghyun breathes into his mouth, hand sneaking up Taemin’s shirt. “I’ll be so good for you, I’ll do everything, whatever you want, so don’t.”
Taemin opens his eyes. “How long has it been for you?”
Jonghyun doesn’t blink. “Longer than it’s been for you.”
His words are a pang in Taemin’s heart, but his hands are warm and firm, pressing Taemin closer. Instead of sliding off him, giving him space, giving himself time, Taemin settles in, putting all his weight on Jonghyun, trapping him. Crushing him, maybe. And when he still can’t think of the right thing to say, he goes with the first. “You know I’m bad at this stuff.”
“But you want me,” Jonghyun says, this close to a question. “Not just right now. Tomorrow, the day after that, next month—“
“I like you,” Taemin blurts out.
“Look at me. Look in my eyes and say it.”
Somehow it’s ten times harder to forget about Jonghyun’s mouth for a second and raise his eyes to Jonghyun’s. He finally has Jonghyun right where he wants him, stupid hair, stupid contacts, and now he’d give anything to see Jonghyun as he first knew him, dark eyes, black hair his mom cut, no makeup, just him.
“I like you, hyung,” Taemin says again. “I want you. I want to be with you.”
“Even if I annoy you?”
“And I’m too much?”
“You’re annoying me right now,” Taemin says. “Stop asking. You don’t need to.”
Jonghyun’s expression shifts ever so slightly, body going boneless under Taemin. He reaches up to frame Taemin’s face with his hands, thumb pressing into his lips. Taemin kisses it and Jonghyun’s breathing sharpens. Takes it into his mouth and Jonghyun’s face splits into this strange half smile.
“I tried to lie to myself for a long time, and then for a long time after that, I just lied to everyone else. To you.” Jonghyun stares into his face. Taemin stares back. Stares and stares. Maybe shifts his weight a little, then a little more, until he’s sitting on Jonghyun’s dick and Jonghyun lets out this noise, tiny and bit-off. Taemin’s legs go weak and his face flames and he can’t remember what words are even, but somehow Jonghyun still can. “There’s no one else like you.”
Is this really happening? They’re parked in the middle of a street in broad daylight and the others are probably at check out by now, and Jonghyun just said he’s in love with him. At least that’s what he meant. And Taemin’s dick is straining in his pants and he wants to fuck so badly he can taste it.
“Not now, hyung,” Taemin gets out. “Later. Tonight. Make sure you get some sleep in here or the waiting room or wherever.”
He should get off Jonghyun next. No. Jonghyun should let go first. Stop fucking Taemin with his eyes, stop making that sexy face. Stop smiling up at him, shy and dirty sweet. “Uh huh. Think about what you’re going to do with me.”
“Anything, you said.”
Jonghyun’s laugh breaks into a groan when Taemin grinds against him, fingers biting into Taemin’s hips. “Everything.”
“Whatever I want.”
“As long as you want me.”
That again. Taemin’s said it three times, his body has said nothing else all month, but he’ll say it again, leaning in for a kiss. I want you. Running his fingers through Jonghyun’s hair. I want you. Pressing into Jonghyun’s touch, moving with him, eating all the sounds he makes. I want you. Closing his eyes to everything else. I want you, hyung. I really, really, really—
The door flies open as Taemin’s eyes do. Before he can even think he’s twisted around to find Kibum standing there, teetering on the edge between murder and…murder? Seconds tick by before his heart restarts and his muscles kick in, screaming at him to move, get to safety, scramble back into his seat, nope, nothing to see here. And then he just doesn’t, hiding in Jonghyun’s neck.
“Get in, already.” Jinki. The van dips and groans under their weight, one after the other. Not looking not looking not looking. “You guys made up, huh. About time.”
“Do it somewhere the whole world can’t fucking see next time,” Kibum says loudly. “Do you want to die? It won’t be me killing you, either.”
“Where we can’t see, at least,” Minho amends. He laughs at his own joke, and then somehow Kibum does too, shaky, a little crazy, he’s laughing.
Next thing he’s thrown a bag into the back, told Taemin, “I got what I got. It’s your fault for not coming in.”
Two seconds’ silence.
“So you two are a thing now,” Minho says, like he’s testing the words out. “You’re dating.”
“Yeah,” Jonghyun gets out, breath tickling Taemin’s ear. “Yes.”
“You could’ve just told us.”
“It just happened, Minho-yah.”
“We’re dating. I like Taeminnie, I’ve liked him for years.” Jonghyun rubs Taemin’s back, hand so warm and gentle Taemin might just evaporate. “And he likes me back. He said so.”
“Back when he could still talk?” Jinki cuts in. “Don’t be embarrassed, Taemin-ah. Hyung didn’t see anything.”
The seat creaks and that’s all the warning gets before Kibum swats him on the back. “Yah. Quick, before Manager hyung gets back. I’m not explaining it to him. If you have a boner no one cares.”
No one cares about the crazy smile on Taemin’s face, either. No one but Jonghyun. Taemin slides his hand over the seat between them until their fingers meet, and when Jonghyun laces them together, holds on tight, Jonghyun’s smile is even crazier.