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Vintage shopping is an underrated brand of art. Scavenging through piles and piles of stained pieces that were probably worn by more than three people from different decades; salvaging Halston, getting lucky with barely out of season Valentino. Ten is proud to say he’s some kind of wizard when it comes to vintage shopping. No matter how high on the couture scale the market he waltzes in is, there’s always something worth his while. Like the shirt he’s wearing tonight.

It’s Burberry, something he wouldn’t have been able to afford if the person who previously owned it hadn’t been thoughtful enough to pass it forward. The shirt itself is nothing much, just simple dress white, blue buttons, and nice fabric. The appeal comes from knowing it probably cost too much when new, and Ten managed to acquire it for less than half the original price.

The person Ten is meeting tonight is a friend of Taeyong’s cousin. Or something like that. A man who, according to his Instagram photos, likes to work out and goes surfing during the weekends. No idea why Taeyong thought they might be a good match; Ten would much rather spend the night at home finishing the painting he started working on this week.

Suffering through a bitter meal with a stranger is better than being on the receiving end of Taeyong’s lectures, though. He’s been going on endless tirades about how Ten needs to go out and meet people more often than not and being the great friend he is, Ten just sits and listens. He knows Taeyong cares about him.

Ten pats down invisible dust from his vintage Burberry and logs out of his station, making a quick stop by the restroom before leaving the building. Perhaps he should call off the date and Skype his mom. She’s been trying to get a hold of him the whole week, usually when Ten is busy.

He greets Sooyoung from Poison Magazine in the elevator and bids a cheerful goodbye to the front desk ladies.

Maybe trying to be friendly and neighborly was his first mistake.

Perhaps he should have stopped walking to answer Jennie when she asked about his shirt. But he didn’t. Which is probably what caused him to bump into a random dude and get coffee all over his shirt.

His vintage Burberry shirt, which took him two hours of shopping to discover.

“Fuck!” Ten can’t help but curse, looking down at the mess of brown liquid tainting his clothes.

“Oh… My God, I am so sorry,” random dude is saying. He keeps talking, but Ten can’t stop gaping at his ruined shirt.

“My fucking shirt!”

The lobby is packed with workers exiting the building, and most of them are people Ten has crossed paths with. He’s got to come back here on Monday morning and ignore the fact that Chanwoo, senior associate at Harrow & Barristan Law has heard him curse twice. All because of this asshole.

Ten glares at Random Dude, frowning when he cuts his useless string of apologies off.

“Were you not looking while you walked?” Kind of ironic that Ten is now asking this dude if he was watching his way, considering it was Ten who had his attention elsewhere.

Somehow, this guy looks sort of intimidated, clutching his empty coffee cup, blinking owlishly at Ten. “N-No, I wasn’t. I’m sorry.”

Ten snorts, “Sorry won’t cut it, will it chief? You ruined my shirt.” My vintage Burberry, mind you.

“I’m sorry,” Random Dude takes out a business card from the pocket of his jacket (a nice one, Ten notices, a dark and kinda sexy shade of blue) and offers it. “Please, send me the bill. I’ll cover the laundry costs.”

Well, that’s a nice gesture. Still, this guy ruined Ten’s night, so he folds his arms over his chest and gives him a very annoyed once-over.

“Damn right you will,” he says, snatching the business card. “I was on my way to a date, you know. Now I gotta go home and change.”

Arching his eyebrows high, Random Dude says, “I could give you a ride. Where do you live?”

As if Ten’s about to hop into a stranger’s car. No matter how clean they look. Random Dude looks clean. And not only soap-scrubbed; he looks like he soaks in a bath full of money. That suit is definitely designer, mid-weight, looks like something Ten would see window shopping at Armani. And the business card? People don’t usually hand those over unless they’re important, Ten’s learned. Random Dude is probably an investor at Billiard Finances on the fifteenth floor.

“Not happening, Harvey,” Ten says absently.

“Johnny.”

“Huh?”

“It’s Johnny,” Random Dude -- Johnny -- smiles at Ten, then pockets one of his hands, lowering the other one still holding the empty coffee cup. “Not Harvey.”

Somehow the way he sounds when he corrects Ten paired with his whole… Everything (including his face, which Ten noticed is quite pleasing) turns out to be a bit much. Gone is the flash of intimidation, a hint of smugness in its place as he watches Ten, the smile on his face growing when Ten’s face heats up. Which is silly. Pathetic. Who does this Johnny guy think he is?

Ten huffs and rolls his eyes in a weak attempt at bringing his face back to normal. “Whatever. I’m late. Thanks for ruining my night, asshole.”

He’s already turned on his heels and is ready to march out when Johnny calls, “Wait, wait!”

Facing Johnny with the most boring face he can muster, Ten cocks his hip and crosses his arms. “What?”

“I might have a spare shirt in my car,” Johnny says, jerking a thumb in the direction of the double doors Ten knows lead to the parking lot. “It might not be as nice as this one, but it could help you save some time? And maybe not be late for your date?”

Ten should be suspicious of this guy wanting to get him back to his car. What if he’s trying to lure Ten into a slaughter van or something?

Yet, he looks clean. And rich as fuck, so whatever shirt he’s got back there must be good quality, and Ten is intrigued. There are lots of people taking their cars out at the moment, so a ton of witnesses. Ten gives Johnny another once-over (damn, he’s tall).

“Fine,” he acquiesces. “I’ll take the shirt.”

Johnny nods, taking his car keys from his pocket. “Alright, follow me.”

Unsurprisingly, his car looks expensive. The odd element comes from the fact that it’s one of those wrangler models, not often the choice for investors with expensive clothes. At least it’s not a slaughter van.

“Nice ride,” Ten says.

Johnny mumbles a quick ‘thanks’, and gets it open, pulling a duffel bag from it. He rummages through the items inside and yanks a real wrinkled dress shirt out. Ten gapes.

“That needs to be ironed.”

Taking a quick look at the shirt, Johnny asks, “Does it?”

It’s a shame because the soft peach tone of the fabric is pretty cute, and Ten can see the Tom Ford tag inside.

“Ugh, forget about it.” Ten runs both hands through his hair in resignation, knowing he’s gonna have to cancel this date. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be after all.

“What if I get you a new one?” Johnny asks. “There’s a shop across the street, we could head over there and get you a shirt.”

Okay, that’s just too nice. As far as courtesy goes, getting the dry cleaner’s bill would have sufficed. Ten squints at Johnny, wondering if there’s anything past this overcompensation.

Maybe Ten’s reaction to having a coffee stain on his (new) shirt heightened Johnny’s sense of righteousness. He probably guesses either this shirt or the date is really important to Ten. Neither is, honestly. Ten was pretty much fulfilling a request made by Taeyong, who thinks he’s been single too long (not true, Ten dated Kun’s friend Yukhei two years ago). As for the shirt, yes, he was quite pleased with it. But at the end of the day, it’s just a dress shirt. He could get another just like that at Zara.

Trying to ease the tension on the lines of his face, Ten shakes his head.

“There’s no need,” he says, offering Johnny a tight smile. “Thank you, though.”

Johnny chews on his lower lip, lifting the shirt in his hand. “Are you sure you can’t make do with this one?”

“No, I think I’m going home for the night,” he shrugs.

“What if we do the following: you take my shirt and I take yours. I get it nice and cleaned and on Monday we meet here to exchange them. Do you work here?”

Ten nods. “Yeah.”

“Okay, good. What do you think?”

It’s a reasonable plan. Ten isn’t keen on taking the train in a wet, stained shirt reeking of coffee.

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Johnny smiles, handing Ten his shirt. “I’m sorry again. I should have been watching.”

“It’s okay.” The initial outrage has passed, and now it feels like he overreacted. “Sorry I called you an asshole.”

Chuckling, Johnny tosses his duffel bag back into the car. “No problem.” He halts, watching Ten attentively. “I didn’t get your name.”

Oh, right. “Ten.”

“Ten,” Johnny repeats. Again there’s that weird vibe, a hint of pretension disguised as amusement or something Ten is maybe too aloof to identify. “Where do you work?”

“M Tech.”

“Okay, Ten from M Tech. I’ll be here on Monday.”

It’s only when Ten is one stop away from his home that he realizes he never asked where Johnny works.

 

 

Taeyong vows to never again try to set him up. It’s a good thing. Ten will be able to bask in his solitude without a nagging parent-figure of a friend who believes to know what’s best for him. Well, when it comes to what flavor of vodka Ten would prefer, Taeyong does know best, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.

So on Monday, they meet at the train station as usual and head to work together. Taeyong works at Poison Magazine only three floors below M Tech, which makes it possible for them to meet for lunch almost every day. Sometimes Taeyong’s meddling comments on Ten’s life affairs are particularly cutting, so meeting every day feels more like a curse than a blessing. Overall, Ten guesses he should be glad they’ve managed to keep in touch after college. He got used to Taeyong’s presence in his life, and Ten dares to say he wouldn’t be able to live any other way.

“What time did you say the shirt guy is stopping by?” Taeyong asks as they make their way into the building lobby.

“We’re meeting at five. I think he works here.” They both greet Jennie and Lisa at the front desk and line up at the elevators.

Taeyong hums. “Will that affect our dinner plans?”

Monday nights are ramen nights at Heavy Bowl, and their tonkatsu is the best they’ve ever tried. Ten and Taeyong have made a habit of eating there every Monday.

“I don’t think so,” Ten says. “We’re just giving each other’s shirts back, it’ll be super quick.”

“Cool. Meet you down here at half-past five, then.”

 

They don’t.

At five, Ten clocks out, bids everyone goodbye, and rides the elevator down. He sits at one of the super comfortable armchairs in the lobby and does his monthly Instagram check while waiting. Yuta’s most recent story shows that Sicheng is in town. That means they’ll definitely gather everyone; Ten makes a mental note to clear his schedule this weekend. Renjun designed yet another stunning gown; Ten likes his photo and leaves him a comment about making some time for a shopping trip.

Occasionally, Ten will look up from his phone and try to locate Johnny amongst the crowd leaving the building.

When Johnny shows up he’s making his way in instead of out. Mildly confusing, but Ten brushes it off in favor of standing and picking up the brown bag containing Johnny’s shirt from the coffee table.

“Hello Ten,” Johnny says. He’s carrying a bigger and much fancier bag, and his clothes are simpler today, basic long-sleeved shirt and jeans. Doesn’t look like he was working.

“Hi,” Ten replies, wasting no time and offering Johnny the bag. “Here. I washed it.”

“Thanks,” Johnny takes the bag and smiles. He passes over the fancy bag Ten assumes contains his shirt. “Good as new.”

Ten peeks inside the bag and indeed finds his shirt neatly folded. It smells fresh like it just came out of the store. He looks up at Johnny. “Thanks for doing this.”

“It was the least I could do after ruining your date night,” Johnny says apologetically.

Ten waves at him, “Don’t worry about that, it wasn’t important.”

“If you say so.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that people stop and stare at him, not even bothering to be discreet. Ten watches as this one guy he often rides the elevator with gapes at Johnny.

Johnny, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be aware of the attention. He blinks at Ten, hands in pockets, an expensive-looking watch on his wrist. That’s the end of their exchange, there’s nothing more for them to talk about, silence is all that’s left. They watch each other awkwardly for a beat -- enough for Ten to notice how nicely the cotton of Johnny’s shirt hugs his body.

Ten is about to say his goodbyes when Johnny asks:

“Are you hungry?”

“Um.” It’s completely out of the blue, but Ten still replies, “Yeah. I guess.”

Johnny looks satisfied, “I know a really good place. Would you… Like to accompany me?”

They’re not flirting, there hasn’t been a single indication that Johnny is interested in Ten that way. However, the entire atmosphere surrounding his invitation feels like it’s a date proposal or something. The way he’s looking at Ten in expectation, how great his dark hair looks, his basic yet posh outfit. Maybe Ten is just not used to hanging around rich people, maybe that’s how they ask you for dinner company. There’s a chance that Ten looks famished and Johnny just so happens to be a charitable guy.

That feeling Ten got when they first met, the amusement on Johnny’s face, pride on his eyes; the way it made Ten flush. It’s all still here making it hard to believe this is all just a friendly exchange.

Ten is projecting. It’s a bad habit of his, to assume guys want him a certain way when they just think he hasn’t got enough money to feed himself. Johnny is just nice, and for sure he still feels guilty about the shirt. He almost got Ten a new one, so overcompensation is a thing in this scenario.

Well, if anything Ten’s getting a free meal.

“Okay,” he ends up saying, clearing his throat and looking away when Johnny grins. “Let me just text my friend real quick.”

Change of plans. Going out for dinner with shirt guy. If I don't text you in an hour call the police, my gps is on.

He looks up, pocketing his phone. “Okay, we’re good.”

Johnny smiles, and asks, “Shall we, then?”

Ten nods, ready to turn around and head towards the parking lot. Johnny, however, is indicating the direction of the front gate. Frowning, Ten questions, “Is it nearby? Are we walking?”

“The restaurant? Oh, no, my driver is up there.” He jerks a thumb towards the huge doors.

So Johnny (Seo, according to his business card, which Ten seems to have lost somewhere in his living room) has got a driver. Ten was positive he was rich, but this solidifies the theory once and for all. Johnny is certainly loaded.

His driver, a man he calls Choi, only talks once the entire ride to the restaurant, which lasts about fifteen minutes.

The Queen Regent is an old-style pub, dim lights, brick walls and wooden furniture bringing that classic, London vibe to it. There aren’t many people inside, the clientele all scattered around. Johnny leads Ten further inside, past the pool tables and into a more secluded area. They get a table by the wall.

“Hey Johnny,” says the waitress who brings them menus. “How are you doing?”

Johnny offers her a bright smile, accepting the menus and passing one over to Ten. “Hi, Kay. Just fine. Longing for scones, have you got any?”

“Fresh out of the oven, I’ll bring them right over.” The waitress, Kay, glances at Ten, pulling out a notepad from her apron pocket. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Ten isn’t sure who she’s addressing, so he just expects Johnny to reply.

“Iced tea?” Johnny looks at Ten in question. “They have amazing blends here. Do you like spiced tea?”

“I prefer herbal,” Ten says.

“Then may I suggest the Summer Nights blend?” Kay asks. She jerks her pen in Johnny’s direction. “Johnny’s had pretty much every single combination on the menu, he can vouch for it.”

“It’s pretty good,” Johnny nods. When Ten shrugs, Johnny looks up at Kay. “Get me the Taj Mahal, please, Kay? And the dinner menu.”

“Okie Dokie,” she smiles, walking away.

Ten watches her retreat, then arches his eyebrows at Johnny. “Do you come here a lot?”

“Probably more than I should. Food’s good, the staff is nice, there’s never too many people on weeknights.”

“You don’t like crowded spaces?”

Johnny blinks at him, “Not my cup of tea.”

“I can relate to that,” Ten shrugs. “My idea of fun sums up to some quiet time, a sketchpad and maybe an audiobook.”

Kay stops by with the scones and dinner menus, says she’ll be right back with their drinks.

While he splits a scone with his fingers, Johnny asks, “A sketchpad?”

“Yeah, it’s just a hobby. I draw sometimes.”

Johnny seems surprised. “That’s cool. When you said you worked for M Tech, I just assumed you were one of those bunker hacker types.”

“I'm offended, Johnny. Do I look sleazy to you?” Ten gets a scone for himself, giving Johnny a pointed look.

“Not really. You don't look sleazy at all.”

“There's a misconception that IT people are lazy folk who bury themselves in flaming hot Cheetos dust and avoid the shower for days. I'll have you know I hate flaming hot Cheetos.”

With an elbow on the table, Johnny rests his chin on his palm. “Then what kind of IT person are you?”

And Ten tells him all about work, the boring hours of monitoring and securing client information, the brief excitement that comes with a firewall breach and how absolutely no one says 'I'm in’ in what Johnny called a hacker's voice. He mentions spending weekends marathoning Terrace House and listening to The Fault In Our Stars while cooking and painting.

While Ten's talking about his last vintage shopping trip with Renjun, Johnny asks:

“So, Ten. Do you wanna make out?”

It's somewhat rude because Johnny cut short Ten's amazing story about arguing with a middle-aged man for a pair of Versace pants to proposition him out of the blue.

Ten is unsure of how to react at first.

“What?!”

Johnny repeats himself, not looking regretful in the least. “Do you want to go somewhere and make out?”

He's looking at Ten with resolution.

Ten squints. “Why would I do that? I don’t even know you.”

“Of course you do,” Johnny shrugs. “I’m Johnny.”

Snorting, Ten says, “Yeah, Johnny, we just spent a little over an hour talking and you managed to tell me a total of zero things about yourself. I mean, where do you work? What do you do? Are you a murderer?”

Johnny chuckles. He doesn't look perturbed, but there’s a tiny crease in his brow. “I’m not a murderer.”

“How do you expect me to believe that? You’ve been cryptic the whole night, dodging all my questions. I told you everything about myself, like, even my aunt Mai's joint problems were discussed at some point.”

“I really hope she recovers soon.”

“Me too, but that’s not the point.”

“What’s the point, then?”

Ten huffs, exasperated. “The point is that I don’t even know how old you are.”

“Twenty-five.”

“See, I was expecting you to be a little older.”

Johnny squints. “That doesn’t sound like a compliment.”

Ten rolls his eyes, “Do you work in the building?”

It takes Johnny a beat too long to answer. He watches Ten carefully, something akin to disbelief painting his features.

“No,” Johnny replies, slowly. “I was there to meet a friend who works at Poison Magazine.”

“Oh,” Ten settles back against his chair. “I know someone from Poison.”

Johnny takes a deep breath and nods. “So I don’t work in the building.”

“Where do you work, then?”

“I work… Um… With production.” That's vague, to say the least.

“Production?” Ten pushes.

“Yeah. Entertainment stuff. TV and Radio.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah.”

Ten squints. “That why you’re rich?” Johnny opens his mouth, and Ten insists, “Don’t try to deny it, you smell expensive.”

Doubt flashes through Johnny's eyes as if he's pondering what to say next.

“I got some cash.”

“Cool. See? That wasn’t so bad.”

A tiny smile pops in Johnny’s face, and he leans forward, resting his forearms on the table. “No, it wasn’t. Let’s keep it up.”

Ten arches his eyebrows, bites on his lower lip. He notices Johnny’s eyes following the movement. “Alright. Have you got any siblings?”

“Nope. Only child.”

“That explains why you’re spoiled.”

That makes Johnny frown. “I’m spoiled? How did you reach that conclusion?”

“Excuse me?” Ten clears his throat and drops his voice an octave lower. “Uh, do you wanna make out?

Johnny throws his head back in laughter, but Ten can still see a nice, rose flush spreading down his neck. “Okay, that was a little presumptuous. In my defense, I’ve been attracted to you since the moment you cursed at me.”

Trying his hardest to ignore the way Johnny is watching him for a reaction, Ten asks, “Did I curse at you?”

“You sure did. Called me an asshole.”

“Ah, yes. Can’t say I regret that. You ruined my--”

“Vintage Burberry, I know. I wanted to pay for it, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Ten sighs; sips at his Summer Nights blend. “Well, John, now that I’m positive you’re loaded I’m not completely opposed to that.”

This time when he smiles, Johnny looks quite soft. “I’m sorry I asked if you wanted to make out.”

“Sorry I said no.”

“That’s okay. Not your fault you’re not attracted to me.”

Tilting his head to the side, Ten gazes at Johnny. “Who said I’m not attracted to you?”

Johnny’s whole countenance changes. His brow creases just a bit, and his lips part in surprise. “You are?”

Ten gives his drink another sip. “You must know you’re good-looking.”

“Of course I do, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically attracted to me. I thought that was the lesson learned here tonight.”

“No, the lesson learned here tonight is that I don’t go around kissing people I barely know. That might be a thing for you, but I operate differently.”

They hold each other’s gazes for a moment, Johnny’s eyes squinting slightly as he runs them all over Ten’s face. As if he’s looking for something.

“Fair enough,” he cedes. “I’ll just ignore the urge to kiss you and ask if you’d like to hang out again sometime.”

The corner or Ten's mouth quirks in amusement. The tips of his ears tingle, and once again he ignores it. “You are bold.”

“Can I have your number?”

“So you can try and convince me to let you have your way with me?”

Johnny hums, blinking at him. “That’s tempting. But no. I actually enjoyed spending time with you. You’re funny and smart, and cute.”

“Keyword being cute, right?”

Johnny chuckles, shaking his head. “I promise I won’t try to woo you. We’d be just hanging out as friends.”

“As friends,” Ten repeats, skeptical.

“Friends,” Johnny confirms. “Besides, I haven’t told you about the time I fell from my bike and broke my leg yet.”

“Ah, yes. Many bases to cover.”

“Exactly. So, what do you say?”

Ten sighs, putting a hand out. Johnny smiles and gives his phone over. Ten punches in his number and returns the device.

“Please don’t send me any memes.”

“Are selfies okay, though?”

“I think so.”

“Then we’re good.”

 

 

Johnny
do i look cute?
(IMAGE ATTACHED)

When Johnny mentioned sending selfies, Ten thought he meant occasionally, not daily. On a very weird twist of fate, Ten finds himself battling a Polish hacker while simultaneously admiring the line of Johnny’s upper lip. Judging by the clothes he’s wearing, Johnny seems to be working out, face damp and hair sticking to his forehead.

The thing is, Johnny knows he’s cute. It’s not reassurance he’s after. It’s Ten’s peace of mind.

Cursing when the hacker makes a particularly strong move towards breaking his defense line, Ten chooses to ignore Johnny in favor of doing his goddamn job. He’s getting paid to stop these fuckers from stealing information from his clients, not to flirt with rich men who are up to absolutely no good at all.

Except that Johnny doesn’t like being ignored (spoiled), and when Ten doesn’t immediately reply to his text, he sends another.

Johnny
wyd?

Ten manages to bring one firewall back up and snatches his phone from the desk.

Me
working, im working

He drops it next to the keyboard and resumes furiously typing in codes. He can see the hacker is losing strength, their attacks quite slug and amateurish.

Johnny
can we meet? i have something for you

He frowns at the phone.

Me
something? what something?

Polish hacker writes jesteś małą dziwką between two lines of code.

“What in God’s name,” Ten drops the phone, using his translation feature to acknowledge this dude (or chick, really) just called him a little bitch. “Oh, hell no.”

He’s been saving this move for a critical situation since it’s pretty effective and he’d like to keep it a secret from cyber criminals for a while longer. Hacker people are quite fast at figuring out how to destroy firewalls. However, Polish Hacker pissed him off with his schoolyard cursing, so Ten’s going all in.

The phone pings as he types, glaring at the computer screen as if he can picture every single pimple in Polish Hacker’s face popping gruesomely.

Ten hits ‘return’ with a flourish and Polish Hacker is gone.

“Who’s the little bitch now, bitch?” He yells at the screen, letting out a breath of relief. That was a good one; it’s been a while no one threatens to take him down. He’s gotta give it to Polish Hacker.

Ten is fortifying his client’s defense lines when Taeil comes in.

“Were you arguing with an offender? Again?” He asks, one of his eyebrows arched.

“They insulted me, Boss,” Ten explains, pointing an accusing finger at the screen.

Taeil lets out a heavy sigh, leveling Ten with his Disappointed Look. “You cannot get personal with pirates, Ten. You know it gets sloppy.”

Okay, that’s unfair. It was one time that the hacker figured out their IP and managed to erase all their secured databases. And Ten apologized.

Still, he puts on his best apologetic look. “Sorry. It won’t happen again.”

Taeil sighs again and walks out. Ten makes sure he’s really gone before grabbing his phone from the table.

Johnny
it’s a surprise, but you’ll like it, i promise
so. we meeting? i’ll be free after 9 tonight

Me
9 is pretty late, i’ll probably be home ready for bed.

Johnny
i promise i won’t take too much of your time. i’ll give you the thing and go.

Ten can’t say he’s not curious. Whatever Johnny’s got for him must be good, since he’s insisting on giving it tonight.

Johnny
i won’t have any free time on the next few days, if I don’t get this to you tonight, it’ll only happen in two weeks!!!!!!!

The excess of exclamation marks makes Ten chuckle.

Me
you absolutely cannot wait to see me again, can you?

The ellipsis indicating that Johnny is typing blink on the bottom of the chat window for a bit.

Johnny
i literally can’t. i miss your pretty face.

Ten snorts. He thanks the heavens there’s no one around to watch his cheeks get pink.

Me
fine, i’ll text you my address

Johnny
sweet. be there @ 9
;)

Smiling down at his phone, Ten locks, and places it on the table. He checks the time on the computer. It’s only half past eleven in the morning, a little less than ten hours until he meets Johnny. Ten will be able to figure out what to wear until then. He could even go shopping for new pajamas during his lunch break, his are a bit ragged. Not that he has to wear pajamas when Johnny comes over, but Ten said he’d be ready for bed, and it’s important that Johnny understands Ten didn’t change his plans for him.

In all honesty, Ten wasn’t planning on letting Johnny get too close. Sure, he’s hot, rich, and seemingly interested. However, Ten’s got an inkling that Johnny is the type of guy who’s used to getting what he wants, and something is thrilling about putting him on edge, watching him get riled while knowing he’s not gonna get any.

So new pajamas, maybe.

Ten looks up at his screen and starts cleaning up the aftermath of his battle with Polish Hacker.

 

At twenty past nine, the doorman buzzes him to let him know there’s someone downstairs. Ten gives him the okay and checks the mirror one last time. Everything looks okay. Hair: artfully disheveled. Lips: tinted. New pajamas: cute (the fried eggs pattern made Ten laugh). When the doorbell rings, Ten is ready.

Nope.

Not really, he’s not ready. The moment he swings the door open, Ten learns how fatefully wrong he was to ever assume he’d be ready for Johnny.

There he stands, tall, shiny, glorious as if he’s just jumped out of a shoujo manga. Impeccably dressed in what appears to be the most expensive outfit that’s ever been in Ten’s presence; fitted pants and a black, loose blouse that’s probably worth way more than the apartment Ten lives in. And the silver chain around Johnny’s neck — the silver chain? — His hair is styled to look effortlessly perfect. Yeah, that’s the word. Effortless, that’s how Johnny looks right now, he’s… fucking—

Suddenly, Ten feels extremely self-conscious in his stupid egg pajamas.

“Hi,” Johnny says, a huge smile on his face. His perfect fucking face. “Can I come in?”

It then occurs to Ten that he’s just standing still like an idiot, staring at Johnny as if he’s an apparition. He clears his throat, moving out of the way.

“Yeah, sure.”

It’s annoying. Who the fuck does Johnny think he is to come in here, in Ten’s home looking like that? There’s no way it hasn’t been planned, Johnny must have spent hours putting that outfit together, calculating what would best knock the air out of Ten’s lungs.

Johnny waltzes into the apartment as if he’s got absolutely no clue of what he’s doing, the heartstopping effect of his existence. It’s frustrating, Ten wants to murder him.

He turns around, hair flopping and huge smile still going, stretches out his arm to offer a bag Ten didn’t even realize he was carrying.

“Here. Your surprise.”

It’s a sleek black bag, fancy and smelling like new stuff. Ten accepts it, wary of its contents.

“What is it?” He asks, squinting at the smug smile on Johnny’s face. “Will it bite me?”

Johnny snorts, stepping closer. “Just open.”

Ten sighs, ripping up the seal. Inside is a piece of clothing. Not just any piece of clothing, though. It’s a leather jacket, brand new, still tagged. Upon reading the name printed on the tag, Ten gasps dramatically.

“Valentino?” He asks in a weak voice.

“Vintage Valentino,” corrects Johnny. He looks pretty proud of himself. “It’s a limited edition. You seemed to like vintage clothing, so.”

It’s less about it being vintage, and more about being able to afford it. Ten doesn’t tell Johnny that, he just clutches the jacket fearing that it’ll sprout legs and walk away from him.

“I—” Is it fair? Even if it’s vintage, this is an expensive gift to give someone you’ve known a little over two weeks. Ten loves it, his brain is already working to pair it up with several of his clothes. He’d look so cute wearing it over that turtleneck…

Taking a deep breath, Ten puts the jacket back into the bag and thrusts it in Johnny’s direction. “I can’t accept this.”

The frown on Johnny’s face indicates he wasn’t expecting Ten to refuse his gift. “What? Why?”

“It looks super expensive, Johnny,” Ten reasons.

Johnny just blinks at him. “And? I thought you knew I can afford it.”

“We barely know each other.”

“This is me trying to get to know you,” Johnny says.

Ten huffs, folding his arms on his chest. “How is expensive clothing going to help you get to know me? Besides, this feels an awful lot like you’re trying to woo me, and you said you wouldn’t.”

It’s all a bit strange and confusing because Ten got new pajamas in a pathetic attempt to impress Johnny, now he’s borderline offended Johnny tried to do the same.

For a second, it looks like Johnny is going to rebut. He shakes his head, runs both hands through his hair, and lets out a breath.

“Sorry.” He looks up at Ten, actually looking remorseful. “I wanted to see you again and thought this could be used as an excuse.”

Irritation gives place to the warmth inside Ten, and he snorts, playfully touching his fist to Johnny’s arm. “You could have just asked me out.”

Tension melts out of Johnny’s shoulders, and he exhales. A tiny smile tugs on his lips. “That would still seem like I’m trying to woo you.”

“And you’re not?” Ten teases.

Johnny studies him carefully. “This is a trick question, isn’t it?”

Ten laughs and the air feels light and clear of any tension, which is good.

They stand in silence for a moment.

“I should probably go,” Johnny points out, giving Ten a quick once-over. “You’re ready for bed and I said it wouldn’t take long, so.”

Yes, Ten is ready for bed (theoretically), and yes, Johnny said this would be quick. Yet, Ten doesn’t want him to go.

Quick, come up with a reason to make him stay.

“There’s iced tea!” Blurts Ten.

Johnny tilts his head in confusion.

“Would you… like some?”

Johnny is quiet for a few seconds, looking at Ten as if he’s trying to figure him out. Then, he smiles. “Yeah. Yeah, why not?”

 

Ten doesn’t tell him the tea he’s got is a simple Lipton, and Johnny doesn’t mention anything about it either. They just sit on the couch, side by side, and drink.

Johnny looks around. He says, “I like the paintings. Are they yours?”

The fact that Johnny remembers has Ten feeling giddy. “Some of them. That one, the bear holding the flag, is my friend Renjun’s. Others I got on Society6.”

Johnny hums. “Your place is nice. There’s a lot of personality.”

Ten rolls his eyes. “That’s something people say when the furniture doesn’t match.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Johnny chuckles.

“I know you’re probably used to designer stuff, sorry my cushions are from Walmart.”

“Jesus Christ, Ten, I wasn’t—“

Ten laughs into his iced tea. “I’m messing with you.”

Johnny sighs, playfully tugging on Ten’s earlobe. “You can be insufferable, do you know that?”

“Oh, I do,” Ten ignores the heat spreading all over his face. “I take pride in it.”

“Makes me wanna dig deeper,” Johnny says, draping his arm over the back of the couch, behind Ten’s head. It brings him a tad closer.

The proximity makes it easier for Ten to take a whiff of his cologne, something clean and citrusy. “That sounds dangerous.”

“Saturday, eight-fifteen at night, what will you be doing?” Johnny asks without wasting a beat.

Nothing according to his memory calendar. “I’m free, I think.”

“Good. I’ll have thirty minutes to spare. Wanna meet me? I can send a car to pick you up and then bring you back home.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, why only thirty minutes? On a Saturday night of all days? Couldn’t Ten make his way there by himself? Must Johnny send a driver over? Are they meeting in a super-secret location or does he just want to show off?

“Thirty minutes? Busy man.” Ten tilts his head.

“I work a lot,” Johnny brushes it aside, averting his eyes for a second before he reiterates. “So, can we meet?”

Usually, Ten spends Saturdays watching artsy, 80s French movies with Taeyong and coming up with absurd ideas for new apps that’ll never see the light of day. There’s absolutely nothing he’d rather do that night.

So, he says, “Okay.”

 

 

The day’s been pretty uneventful so far; no major attempts to their firewalls. Taeil also appears to be in a good mood, if the string of Disney songs he’s been playing all day in his office is anything to go by. Everyone knows Disney songs are Taeil’s happy songs. Toni Braxton is for wallowing in self-pity and Eye of the Tiger is for random bursts of anger.

When the first chords of ‘I’ll Make a Man out of You’ escaped the confines of Taeil’s office, Ten pulled his phone out and asked Taeyong out for lunch.

“He’s been acting weird,” Taeyong says, stabbing his ravioli with a tad more strength than Ten deems necessary.

Ten frowns, “Who? Jaehyun?”

“It’s like nothing even happened,” Taeyong sighs, dropping his fork. It clunks loudly against the plate. “Two days ago we were flirting in the break room and giggling by the water cooler. It’s like the magic has… Fizzled out after the date.”

Ah. Ten sees what’s going on. After weeks of exchanged glances and subtle touches, Jaehyun asked Taeyong out last Monday. Taeyong had great expectations, since Jaehyun had been nothing but kind and sweet to him, but ended up coming home afterward extremely disappointed over not being kissed.

It’s a surprise. Ten has met Jaehyun before, and he looked at Taeyong as if the sun was shining right out of his ass. It doesn’t make sense for Jaehyun to have abruptly changed his mind about dating Taeyong.

“Did anything happen during the date?” Ten inquires. “I mean, did you… Say something?”

Taeyong pauses and looks up at him. “What do you mean?”

Ten plays around with his food, shrugs. “Something could have happened.”

“Nothing happened!” Taeyong whines. “It was the perfect date! But then he didn’t kiss me when we parted ways at the station and things have been awkward!”

“Why didn’t you kiss him?” Ten asks.

Taeyong is taken aback. “Why? Well… I didn’t… I don’t…” He heaves a sigh, making a face at Ten. “I don’t kiss people, okay? They kiss me.”

“What makes you think Jaehyun kisses people? He could have been waiting for you to kiss him, and when you didn’t he assumed you weren’t interested anymore.”

Taeyong stares at his ravioli for a moment, probably processing Ten’s words. Then, he shakes his head.

“I don’t wanna talk about Jaehyun anymore,” he says. “Tell me about shirt guy. Johnny, was it?”

Ten could press him for more details and find out what happened at the date, but he allows Taeyong to take the easy way out. He’ll come back to that later.

“Yeah,” Ten wiggles his eyebrows. “We’re having a thirty-minute meeting next Saturday.”

Taeyong frowns, “Thirty minutes?”

“Johnny is busy.”

“Does Billiard Finances operate on Saturdays?” Taeyong questions, which reminds Ten that he never clarified Johnny doesn’t work in the building.

“Oh, he doesn’t work for Billiard.”

“No? Where does he work? You said he’s loaded.”

“Oh, he is. He says he works with production. TV and Radio.”

Taeyong gasps, “Is he a TV producer? Does he know a bunch of idols and actors?”

“I don’t know,” Ten shrugs. “Didn’t ask him much about his job.”

Dropping his fork again, Taeyong leans forward, both forearms on the table. “You should ask him next time you guys meet.”

Interrogating Johnny about his work seemed… Out of line at the time. Especially because he must know idols and actors and he must have people asking him about it all the time. Ten wasn’t keen on being seen as one of them.

“I don’t want him to think I’m interested in that aspect of his life.” Ten blinks at his food. “The fact that he’s rich and knows people… It shouldn’t matter. I mean, it does matter, but he should be the one to decide what to tell me. I’m not going to ask.”

Taeyong watches him for a bit, chews on his ravioli.

“Just make sure he pays the bill whenever you go out.”

Ten snorts, and shovels pasta into his mouth.

 

 

Johnny texts Ten at 6 on Saturday confirming when the driver will be there to pick him up. The place he’s at is far from Ten’s apartment, which means they need to depart at 7:20 if they mean to make it there by 8:15.

Making sure not to overdress, Ten wears dark jeans and a tucked-in t-shirt, paired with a long black coat. He video chats his mom to get her input, knowing she’ll be nothing but honest as always, and is pleased when her verdict is:

“Perfect! You look like you put that together in five minutes,” she gestures with her cigarette holding hand, smoke swirling around her. “We don’t want him to think you broke a sweat over what to wear now, do we?”

At 7:15 the doorman buzzes to let him know the driver has pulled up, and Ten gives his hair a couple more pointed ruffles and retouches his lip taint.

Choi bows in greeting once Ten shows up, promptly getting the door open for him. “Good evening, sir,” he says. “Mr. Seo will be waiting by the time we get there.”

“Hi,” Ten replies, feeling kinda bashful at being spoken to in such a formal manner. “Where are we going?”

“X District,” Choi says. “Without traffic, we’ll take about 45 minutes to get there.” He checks his watch. “We should get going, sir.”

“Ten,” he says, clearing his throat when Choi frowns in confusion. Ten chuckles sheepishly. “It’s weird that you keep calling me sir. Just call me Ten.”

Choi, who appears to be a bit older than Ten, watches him for a second too long. “Ten? Like the number?”

“Exactly,” Ten smiles, and finally hops into the car.

 

Traffic doesn’t help and they make the journey in fifty minutes, considering Choi is a very careful driver. They don’t talk much, despite Ten’s best efforts.

“How long have you been working with Johnny?” He asks.

Choi glances at him through the rearview mirror. “Couple of years.”

Ten hums. “Do you always drive him around?”

“Yes.”

“Even when he’s abroad?”

“Not when he’s abroad.”

“Does he travel a lot?”

Choi pauses. “Perhaps you should direct those questions to Mr. Seo.”

Feeling suddenly ashamed, Ten bows in quiet apology and stares out the window. What was he even expecting, that Choi would be able to disclose the sordid details of Johnny’s private life? Wasn’t Ten, just two days ago, discoursing on waiting for Johnny to tell him stuff? Cornering his driver is hardly waiting.

Sure, Ten is curious. Everything Johnny’s fed him so far has been awfully vague and somewhat mysterious. Maybe if Ten Googles Johnny’s name he'll be able to find something.

Pulling out his phone, Ten ponders. What is he hoping to find, anyway? Johnny’s net worth? A scandal? If he works with production, he’s not that famous, just rich. And Ten doesn’t need to know his numbers. It shouldn’t matter.

He unlocks his phone hoping to find a distraction and is happy to find a new text.

Yuta
Taeyong told me you have a date tonight! I’m happy for you bc honestly it’s been ages but I can’t help it: I’m upset you didn’t tell me you were seeing someone :’(

Rolling his eyes, Ten replies.

Me
The drama… jeez, it’s not really a date. we’re just meeting as friends i guess

Yuta
You guess?

Truth is Ten doesn’t know exactly what to make of this meeting. Johnny’s initial motive was to make out, maybe a one night stand if he lucked out. Ten got his hopes shattered, but Johnny kept coming — which is confusing, to say the least. He has no idea what Johnny wants.

Me
We’re just getting to know each other.

“We’re here,” Choi announces, and Ten looks up, locking his phone and pocketing it.

He doesn’t recognize the place. Looks like they’re in front of a tall building. The street is dark and empty; it sends a shiver down Ten’s spine.

“Here?” He asks just for good measure.

“You can go ahead and identify yourself at the reception,” Choi says. “Mr. Seo is waiting for you.”

“Does he live here?” Ten looks out the window and tries to catch any sort of indication that this building is residential, but the only thing he sees is a dimly lit lobby and a neon sign above the front desk.

Choi’s snort catches him by surprise. “He might as well. Go on. He’s waiting.”

Ten exits the car, murmuring a quick thanks, to which Choi only responds with a curt nod. The air is quite chilly. Ten tightens the coat around himself, making his way into the building.

The man at the front desk is young, blonde hair and dark eyebrows adorned with a piercing. Behind him, the neon sign reads The Last Solace.

“Good evening,” the young man says.

“Good evening,” says Ten. “I believe someone is expecting me.”

“What’s your name?”

“Uh. Ten? Like the number?”

Recognition flashes through the man’s eyes, his dark eyebrows arching up. “You’re right on time, sir. He’s just arrived. Follow me.”

He leads Ten down a corridor, pressing the button to the elevator at the end of it. The doors open and Ten steps in. Blonde Man presses RT on the panel and offers Ten one last smile before he walks out. It’s funny, but Ten was hoping he wouldn’t have to ride his lift by himself. The lights flicker as it goes up and it’s kinda ominous that he’s God Knows Where riding an elevator with faulty lights to meet a man he knows nothing about. Aside from the fact that he’s rich, which doesn’t exclude the possibility of him being a serial killer. Dammit, Ten should have Googled him.

The elevator halts with a shake and the doors slide open.

Ten is on a rooftop. A rooftop garden, to be precise. The space is lit by fairy lights and floor lighting, tall plants on every corner. There’s a bar to the right, tables scattered all around. Besides the bartender, there’s a man by the counter and two women occupying a table nearby. None of them pays Ten any mind.

Johnny. He’s supposed to be here, according to both Choi and the front desk guy. Ten looks around but doesn’t immediately spot Johnny. He walks for a bit, checking all the hidden corners and discovers the rooftop goes around the building. He walks to the other side, which has considerably fewer plants and brighter lighting. It's where he finds Johnny, leaning against the back of a bench that overlooks the city.

He looks delectable, as usual. Not as dressed up as a Ten would have expected, which puts him at ease about his jeans and t-shirt. It’s amazing, though, Johnny’s ability to look expensive in a cardigan.

He grins the moment he sees Ten, stretching his arms to grab at Ten’s hands when he steps closer.

“Hey,” Johnny says. “How was the trip?”

“Long,” Ten says. “I feel like I was brought into Bruce Wayne’s cave or something.”

Johnny chuckles, bringing Ten even closer. He looks down at their joined hands, thumbs absently rubbing onto Ten’s knuckles.

“I’m glad you came.”

There’s a new sort of weight to his words, to the way he meets Ten’s eyes, how he stands. Last time they talked Johnny mentioned wanting to dig deeper. He looks ready to do just that.

The scent of Johnny’s cologne assaults Ten’s senses. Putting a bit of space between them would probably do him some good, but the thing is that Ten finds himself stuck, pinned in place by Johnny’s whole presence, the density of the air around them, the softness of his hands around Ten’s.

Blinking, Ten asks, “What is this place, anyway?”

Johnny’s eyes never avert from his. “It’s The Last Solace. A Rooftop Bar.”

“Empty on a Saturday night,” Ten tries looking around, forgetful of the fact that they're on the other side of the rooftop, far away from the bar. “Are the drinks that bad?”

“The clientele is… Select.” Johnny’s voice is low, velvety. Ten shudders.

At that moment, Johnny sees something in Ten’s eyes, something substantial enough to push him into placing a tentative hand on Ten’s hip. He eyes Ten carefully, assessing like he's waiting for a reaction, for Ten to step away. This right here is the perfect moment for Ten to excuse himself, to remind Johnny that they're here as friends.

Are they, though? Here as friends?

Ten feels like he’s being conquered. It’s felt that way since the moment he came out of the lift to this gorgeous place. A Rooftop Bar with a select clientele, and Ten. Who’s definitely not select. What is he even doing here? Ten is not looking for a boyfriend, but that piece of information seems to have escaped Johnny’s understanding. Or his own.

“See,” Ten huffs, looking away, into the cityscape. “That’s what I don’t get. This feels like you’re trying to woo me, and I thought we had already gone over that.”

Johnny doesn’t move. He watches Ten in silence until Ten returns his glance. This time when their eyes meet it’s like the air is being punched out of Ten’s chest. Johnny’s eyes are darker, focused as they roam over Ten’s face. Searching.

“I’m sorry,” Johnny says. “I promised I wouldn't.”

“Why did you bring me here, Johnny?” Ten asks. He’s aware of how drained and weak he sounds, maybe that’s why Johnny slides his arm around his waist; because he felt Ten would collapse without support.

“I wanted to see you,” Johnny answers easily.

It’s hard, though, to wrap his mind around the fact that Johnny is interested in him. Johnny is young and beautiful, and filthy rich. He’s got options, why would he go for Ten, a plain, boring tech security guy who spends most of his free time listening to They Might Be Giants, watching old movies no one wants to watch, and painting weird images no one would want to see?

All of a sudden, Ten thinks back to Taeyong, who would give him a hard time for having such an attitude. He goes on and on about Ten needing to be more confident when it comes to his love affairs, believing in himself and all that crap best friends say to make you believe you’re not as shitty as you seem.

When Johnny laces both of his hands on Ten’s lower back it brings them closer.

“You’re right, you know?” Johnny says. “I am trying to woo you. Please tell me it’s working.”

Johnny looks at him like the plants surrounding them and the moon and the stars and the 7.53 billion people living on this planet don’t exist. Like there’s nothing else but Ten. It’s intoxicating. Also confusing — questions are swirling around in Ten’s head, but it feels good. He likes the way Johnny’s eyes follow the movement of his tongue when he licks at his lips. Ten likes feeling Johnny’s heartbeat on the palms of his hands. It’s been a while since it felt this good to be close to someone; since Ten wanted to touch someone this bad. He does. He does want to touch Johnny, and kiss him, and allow himself to be wooed six ways to fucking Sunday.

It doesn’t matter if there are better fish in Johnny’s sea. Ten’s here right now, and Johnny seems to want him. He might be a mere plankton, but he’ll swim this ocean like a damned sailfish.

Hooking both arms around Johnny’s neck, Ten says, “Kiss me.”

And Johnny obliges.

He takes his sweet time, though, nosing at Ten’s cheek, pressing his lips to Ten’s jaw. His eyes fall closed, and Ten puts himself at Johnny’s mercy, lets himself be touched and explored and kissed.

“You’re beautiful,” Johnny whispers, mouth too close to Ten’s ear. He kisses down Ten’s neck for a brief moment — long enough to draw a long sigh from Ten — before lightly biting at his chin.

Both of Ten’s hands find their way into Johnny’s hair. The strands are kind of stiff, gelled up, so Ten smooths them out. Johnny catches his chin, pecks at Ten’s open mouth once, twice, and then finally, finally kisses him.

Johnny’s lips are plump, soft. His tongue is warm and wet against Ten’s, the pads of his thumbs gently pushing at Ten’s cheekbones, the rest of his fingers curled around Ten’s neck. Johnny is a good kisser. He shifts the angle at the right time and knows the best way of doing so to deepen the kiss. The sound of their mouths catching is soothing, Ten realizes, unable to avoid a moan when Johnny nips at his lips.

“This is good,” he mumbles when they part for air. “I love it.”

“You do?” Johnny asks.

Ten chances his eyes open and catches red all over Johnny’s face, lips a bit rosier than they were a minute ago. He looks as out of breath as Ten is, but in a good way. In a way that suggests he wants more.

Ten nods, nudging Johnny’s leg with a knee. When Johnny catches the hint and spreads his legs further apart, Ten slides closer, fitting in between.

“Can we keep doing it, then?” Johnny questions.

Ten kisses him instead of responding.

 

When Johnny’s phone rings signaling the thirty minutes are up, they’re still attached. This is probably the longest Ten’s ever kissed someone, and he’d gladly keep it going throughout the night. There’s something different in the way Johnny kisses that makes it feel special. Like this is something Ten will long for when they part ways.

Groaning in protest, Ten leans his forehead onto Johnny’s shoulder. Johnny speaks into his phone, short answers assuring the person on the other side that he won't be late to whatever it is he's doing next. At the same time, the arm he's got around Ten tightens, keeping them close.

Johnny hangs up with a sigh, pockets his phone, and leans back. He peeks at Ten’s face, smiles.

“We got to go.” Ten groans again, and Johnny chuckles. “It sucks, I know.”

“Can’t you, like, ditch?” Ten looks up at him, making sure his lips are extra pouty.

Johnny thumbs his lower lip, smiling gently, “Unfortunately, I can’t. I promised my mom I’d do this thing for her.”

Ten leans back, straightening his face. “You can’t back down on your mom, dude, we got to go.”

“I know!” Johnny agrees, disentangling himself from Ten and linking their hands together instead, pulling him in the direction of the lift. “I feel awful because I’m always pressed on time. We text every day, but I still don’t feel like it’s enough.”

“We never do when it comes to our moms,” Ten says. Johnny calls the lift and looks back at Ten.

“Thank you for coming,” he says, squeezing Ten’s hand.

“Thank you for having me in your batcave.”

Johnny smiles like Ten’s lame joke was funny. What a weirdo.

The elevator pings and the doors slide open. Both of them hop in. Ten watches the elevator panel, the numbers go down as they descend from the rooftop.

The blonde guy at the front desk smiles at them, and Ten nods at him. Outside, Choi already has a door open. Johnny claps his shoulder, and Choi bows, promptly walking to his seat behind the wheel.

“Are you free any time next week?” Johnny asks, turning to face Ten.

Well, Ten is always free after work. He’s not in high demand.

“Sure,” he shrugs. “What for?”

“We could… Meet.” There’s a different quality to Johnny’s voice. It’s laced with resolve as if he’s got a not-so-secret agenda if the way the corner of his mouth lifts in suggestion means anything.

Ten knows exactly what he wants to meet for.

“Yeah, we could,” Ten responds, which honestly surprises him. This entire night has been a show of revelations, starting with this place then sliding into how quick and gladly Ten fell into Johnny’s web, finishing up with setting a new meeting and a flourish.

Smiling big, Johnny asks, “Thursday good for you? 8 at night?”

Nodding, Ten says, “Sure. Yeah, that’s fine.”

“Great. Choi will take you home.”

Ten didn’t expect Johnny to accompany him, but disappointment still pangs in his chest. He nods, hopping into the car. Johnny closes the door and waves at Ten seconds before Choi ignites the engine and drives away. The car takes a turn and Ten catches a glimpse of Johnny, still standing in front of the building, looking after them.

Sighing, Ten looks out the window. If he closes his eyes, he can feel the ghost of Johnny’s lips on him.

His lips stretch into a smile, and Ten pulls out his phone. He notices there are texts from a group chat he doesn’t remember creating.

TEN’S GRAPEVINE

Yuta
Here we are!

Sicheng
☺️

Taeyong
Ten, report to this group chat after your date.

It’s a little sad — kind of amazing — that this chat hosts ¾ of Ten’s friend group.

Me
You got nothing better to do on a Saturday evening?

Yuta
FINALLY! How was it?

Taeyong
Did it really last thirty minutes?

Yuta
Thirty minutes? What do you mean?

Taeyong
Ten’s guy is really busy, can’t meet for longer than thirty minutes.

Sicheng
Lol that sucks

Yuta
Who is this guy anyways?

Ten looks up, gathering his thoughts to answer that question. He could just say that Johnny is a TV producer, which is the simple truth. Leave out the filthy rich part and, obviously, the part that Ten doesn’t know much about him.

It hits him. Ten made out with a guy about whom he knows the bare minimum. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Ten doesn’t just make out with people, he’s got standards. It was hard to resist Johnny back there, the certainty of his hands, the reassurance in his eyes, the softness of his lips. Ten doesn’t remember Yukhei having such an appealing presence. Maybe that’s why. Ten was weak; he was too weak, his defenses weren’t ready for Johnny.

Leaning his forehead against the window, Ten keeps his eyes on the empty roads as they drive. The closer they get to the center, more people roam the streets. Ten looks at the lone figures stepping down into subway stations making their way home after a night out, or even on their way to a night out. They’re all out after some kind of fun, and Ten is not any different. Why shouldn’t he make out with a hot guy? People do it all the time, the fact that Ten hasn’t gotten around to figuring out Johnny’s entire family history doesn’t mean shit.

It shouldn’t mean shit, but that’s not how Ten works. Ten operates on a much noisier frequency. He has the annoying tendency of overthinking, definitely a product of the anxiety that buzzes throughout his body.

He gets home and thinks about calling his mom, but ends up shooting a quick text to the group chat before climbing into bed. The thoughts crowding his mind make his toss and turn, keeping him awake longer than he would have liked.

 

 

On Sunday, Ten wakes up to a moral headache and a text from Renjun asking to meet.

Hypera is Renjun’s favorite brunch spot. They don’t always find time amidst their busy schedules (Renjun’s busy schedule) to meet up, and usually, opt for vintage shopping. This morning, however, Renjun wasn’t feeling inspired enough to go clothes hunting.

Despite being younger than most people Ten knows, Renjun is one of his favorites. Earnest, talented, and lacking a brain-to-mouth filter.

Also with a cutting ability to find trendy, expensive cafés.

“God, I’d forgotten how overpriced everything is in here,” Ten says as he inspects the menu.

Renjun snorts. “It’s not like you haven’t got the money to afford any of it.” He folds the menu and places it back on the table, looking up at the waiter. “I’ll have the farmer’s casserole and egg stuffed tomatoes.”

The waiter smiles, turning to face Ten.

Ten coughs, glancing back down at the menu. “The spinach frittata? And, um, french toast please.”

“Of course,” the waiter collects their menus and retreats. Ten stares after him.

“So,” he gazes back at Renjun. “Is this where the kids are hanging out these days?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Renjun catches the straw in his drink with his lips, lifting his eyes to look at Ten. “Since I always befriend sad and old people.”

Ten chuckles, sipping his iced tea. “How have you been?”

“Good. My thesis has been okayed, I’ll start preparing to present soon.”

Ten’s chest swells with pride. “That’s amazing, Injunnie, congratulations. Will you tell me when you have a date set for the presentation? I wanna go watch.”

“And repeat your performance from my graduation day?” Renjun huffs, shaking his head in blatant disapproval. “I’ve never been so embarrassed in my whole life.”

“I was simply expressing my happiness over you being finally done with college! And so young too!”

Renjun rolls his eyes. “Thanks, but no. You can express your happiness by giving me a gift card this time around.”

“Ingrate,” Ten says, but it holds no actual bite. To be fair, Ten didn’t see the harm in bringing glittery signs to cheer Renjun on as he received his diploma. Till this day he finds the way that security lady removed him from the premises to have been over dramatic and unnecessary.

Sighing, Renjun rests his cup on the table. “And how are you? We’ve been so out of touch I have to rely on Sicheng’s tweets to get updated on your whereabouts.”

Ten squints. “What has Sicheng been tweeting?”

“That you met someone?”

Fucking Sicheng. He lives far but his presence transcends the limits of space. Ten also blames this on Yuta and Taeyong, who made sure to treat the Ten’s Grapevine group chat as some kind of meeting minutes.

“I met someone,” Ten confirms.

Renjun regards him appreciatively. “Tell me about this person.”

The first thing that crosses Ten’s mind is that Johnny is a great kisser. Renjun would probably wanna hear about it.

“He’s a TV producer,” Ten resigns into saying, drinking some more iced tea in hope that it will wash down the weird feeling at the back of his throat. “TV and radio.”

“Oh.” Renjun’s eyebrow raises just a bit. “Is he rich?”

“He’s got some money,” Ten says. “Not too much, I guess.”

“You can’t possibly be dating this guy for long, we met last month and you weren’t seeing anyone.” Renjun points out.

“No, we met a couple of weeks ago.”

“How did you meet?”

“He,” Ten thinks back to their first meeting. “He spilled coffee on my shirt.”

Renjun smiles, satisfied. He raises his cup. “Meet cute.”

Ten wouldn’t call the episode that brought on the demise of his Vintage Burberry a ‘Meet Cute’. Renjun of all people would not find it amusing if he learned the details. Ten doesn’t tell him. Instead, he says:

“He’s got great lips.” It’s so fucking lame it makes his close his eyes and wince.

The sound of coughing indicates that a Renjun has choked on his courtesy water. Ten opens his eyes, watching his friend closely.

“He’s got what?” Renjun wipes his mouth with a napkin. “You slept with him?”

Ten starts panicking. “No! We just… Made out, which is already too much. We haven’t known each other long.”

“You don’t have to wine and dine someone before it gets freaky.” Renjun shrugs.

“I do,” Ten says, feeling very much inadequate.

The waiter returns with their food. The plate is quite artful, french toast and frittata placed beautifully next to each other. The fragrance emanating from it hints at it being delicious, too.

“I can tell you’re worrying too much about this,” Renjun says, pulling Ten’s attention back to him. “It’s done. You could keep thinking about it and work yourself into an anxiety episode about something you won’t be able to change, or you could focus on this delicious food we paid too much for.”

See, this is why Ten loves Renjun. He’s great at seeing reason where Ten has previously seen chaos and putting ease into his head.

Ten snorts, chuckling when Renjun raises an eyebrow at him. “The food looks good,” He deviates.

“Of course it does,” Renjun says. “Eat up.”

They eat in silence for a minute, giving themselves time to appreciate expensive, delicious food. Then Ten asks about Renjun’s designs and the latter is off about a party dress he designed with Meghan Markle in mind.

 

 

After going through most of Sunday without a single text from Johnny, Ten gets a “goodnight” text along with an apology for being too busy to text and a cute bed selfie. Ten stares at it for two whole minutes.

On Monday morning Johnny sends him a “have a nice day”, paired with yet another cute selfie, to which Ten briefly responds — “thanks, you too” — and doesn’t try to engage him much. Ten doesn’t want to sound desperate by seeking his attention.

It appears to be a stressful day for Taeil. More than once, Ten spots him sitting at his desk exploiting one of the technicians, Jungwoo, for neck massages as ‘Eye of the Tiger’ plays on repeat. Jungwoo is usually Taeil’s first pick when it comes to neck massages and Ten is starting to question their relationship.

Nevertheless, the neck massage and Eye of the Tiger combo means that Taeil is pissed about something and should not be fucked with. Ten texts Taeyong about being unable to meet him for lunch, but confirms dinner later at Heavy Bowl.

So Monday goes by like that. The ramen is great as usual, and Taeyong tells all about his latest Jaehyun drama, which revolves around the fact that pistachio is Taeyong’s favorite donut and everyone knows, so they let Taeyong claim the pistachio one whenever someone brings donuts over. Except that this morning Jaehyun took the only pistachio donut and made sure to hold Taeyong’s gaze as he ate it. They conclude that Jaehyun is trying to get Taeyong’s attention by being annoying, and Taeyong weeps about Jaehyun looking delicious with frosting smeared on his cheek.

When it’s time for them to go home, Taeyong asks Ten to keep him company while grocery shopping, but Ten is exhausted and heads to the subway station by himself only to find out all lines are down due to some kind of problem in their systems.

Ten curses himself and takes the bus.

He’s been on the bus for a little over five minutes, and so far Ten has seen several different billboards on his way. None of them catch his interest.

Until.

It’s the first billboard he spots when they leave downtown. There might be a couple more scattered around, but this one has a bunch of spotlights working to call people’s attention, so it’s easy for everyone to see exactly what they’re selling, and who’s promoting the product. This one billboard catches Ten’s interest for three main reasons:

1. It’s near a stop sign, so it’s pretty much impossible to avoid seeing it.
2.The colors are soothing, and the design is pretty spot on. They’re advertising a skincare product, so there are cucumber slices near the cream jar. The font chosen is neat and clean.
3.The man smiling on the billboard is definitely Johnny.

Ten makes a double-take just in case he’s hallucinating. Rubs his eyes, opens them real wide. Yep. That’s Johnny. On that billboard. Selling… Cucumber cream.

Sooner than Ten would have liked, the bus moves, leaving the billboard (and Johnny’s clean face) behind. Ten’s got many questions.

What was Johnny doing in that ad? Does he work as a model on top of his production thing? Or… Does he own the company? Why wouldn’t he say anything, then? It doesn’t make sense.

In lieu of figuring out this mystery by himself, Ten unlocks his phone and does what he should have done the minute coffee got spilled onto his shirt. He googles Johnny’s name.

The gasp he lets out would have been embarrassing if Ten didn’t find himself in a state of complete shock. He scrolls down the results, and cannot believe his own dumbassery.

Johnny Seo - Wikipedia.

News: Check the first sneak peek into Prince Seo’s new feature!

Production starring Johnny Seo and Wendy Son to premiere in late October.

Vogue - Johnny Seo, November 2018 Pictorial.

Singing Prince? Johnny Seo reportedly in talks to star in the new Star Museum musical.

Ten taps the Wikipedia link, and feels his stomach drop as a small picture of Johnny pops up next to the article.

Johnny Seo (born John Suh, February 9, 1995) is an actor, model, and producer best known for his breakout role as Prince Andrew in the 2014 film ‘Honest Beauty’. Ever since his debut, Seo has starred in major productions such as ‘History of Us’ (Seokmin) and ‘Warrior Descendant’ (Lieutenant Kim). In December 2018, Seo was nominated for a Golden Statue for his role as Steve Ahn in the famous director Heechul Kim’s most recent title, ‘Don’t, Don’. His performance received critical acclaim, granting him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

So. Johnny is famous. He is a famous person who engages in famous people activities, such as modeling and… Attending secret Rooftop Bars located in remote areas of the city. He is a famous, rich person who wears Tom Ford and is driven around by a man who’s awfully silent most of the time.

He’s an actor.

“He’s an actor,” Ten repeats, out loud.

He wonders if that’s why Lisa and Jennie from the front desk kept giving him curious glances when he came to work the following day of exiting the building in Johnny’s company. Everyone saw them together that day, people kept staring at Johnny… Just like puzzle pieces fitting together, everything makes sense.

Ten feels utterly, helplessly stupid. What’s the explanation he’s got for this? The fact that he doesn’t pay for cable TV? That he doesn’t have a Netflix account? That despite Taeyong's best efforts, Ten’s social media presence is near to nonexistent? Or would it be that what he understands as a ‘movie’ are French short films starring actors that he presumes as dead or too old to even function properly? Are those even good excuses? According to this Google search, Johnny doesn’t only advertise for skincare companies, he advertises for everything. His face is on a computer ad and Ten works with motherfucking computers! How didn’t he fucking know?

“I am an actual idiot,” Ten marvels at himself, glancing down at his phone and finding Johnny’s perfect, smiling face mocking his idiocy. “Lois Lane wouldn’t be this dumb.”

Closing the Google search, Ten opens the group chat.

TEN’S GRAPEVINE

Me
Code red. Meet me in my apartment in ten minutes if possible.

Sicheng
I’ll only be in town next week D:

Taeyong
Ten? What’s wrong?

Yuta
Fuck, I’m nearby. Was on my way to a get-together, but I can bail. Is it important?

Me
I don’t know, do you consider the fact that I’m dating Johnny Seo important?

Sicheng
i don’t follow

Me
I’m dating Johnny Seo, sicheng. The actor.

Yuta
O n mu way

Taeyong
Wait, aren’t you dating a producer?

Me
Please, I cannot do this over text. Bring vodka. That one you know gets me +drunker +faster.

 

Ten gulps down pure vodka like water; a true feat if he’d stop and consider it. He’s aware of Yuta’s and Taeyong’s eyes on him, equal parts concerned and incredulous, but Ten doesn’t return their gaze. He pours himself another and downs it again.

“Take it easy, love,” Taeyong softly says, discreetly pulling the bottle out of Ten’s reach. The three of them are sitting on the floor of Ten's apartment, around the coffee table. There's a forgotten bowl of peanuts on it.

“Wait, so you didn’t know he was an actor?” Yuta asks again.

“I didn’t,” Ten smiles humorlessly. “He didn’t clarify it either.”

“How…” Yuta’s eyes fall shut, he heaves a sigh. “How did you not know? He’s not a little famous, he’s… really famous.”

“I know that now, Yuta!” Ten bemoans, reaching for the bottle. Taeyong hides it behind his own back, and Ten lifts his chin in defiance. “You give me that bottle or so help me God I will shred all of your clothes.”

Taeyong gives him a horrified look. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Try me, bitch.”

Taeyong cowers, clearly pondering.

“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” Yuta says. “You’re dating Prince Seo. He’s rich and hot as fuck. We should be celebrating, not comforting.”

Ten groans, falling back onto the floor. He throws an arm over his eyes. “He must think I’m such a loser.”

“If anything, your move might have made him like you even more,” Yuta shrugs.

Springing back to life, Ten frowns at him. “What do you mean?”

“It’s a popular trope. The oblivious peasant and the rich public figure.” Grabbing the bottle from Taeyong’s hands, Yuta pours himself another glass. Ten eyes it wistfully. “The peasant’s obliviousness always appears endearing to the rich public figure. It reminds them of when they were treated as a normal person.”

Ten blinks at him. “What a load of crap.”

“It’s how the trope works,” Yuta winces as he drinks. “Johnny probably thought it was cute that you didn’t know who he was.”

“He shouldn’t have let it go on, though. That’s just mean.” Taeyong points out.

The screen of Ten’s phone lights up on the coffee table. It’s a message. Ironically or not, it’s from Johnny.

Ten ignores both the text and the way his stomach somersaults.

“You ain’t gonna get that?” Yuta asks, one eyebrow arched at Ten.

“Nope, not now.” Ten stands up rather graceless. He wavers, braces himself on the coffee table. “Now I’m gonna take a shower. And then I’m gonna subscribe to Netflix.”

 

It’s almost midnight and Ten is holding back tears as Prince Andrew slays the villain-turned-dragon Evil King and saves Eunji, handmaiden-turned-lost-princess. By the time Prince Andrew carries Eunji’s lifeless body into the ruined castle and sheds tears as he kisses her, Ten is sobbing. Yuta, sitting next to him in a state of similar disgruntlement, offers him tissues. Ten thanks him, and blows his nose.

“He is so good,” Ten wobbles. “Look at how he carried her.”

“He loved her so much,” Taeyong cries.

“Wait, guys, she’s not dead!” Yuta shrieks, eyes glued to Ten’s small TV.

Prince Andrew’s tears turn joyful once Eunji wakes. Her memory is gone, but he doesn’t care. They can make more memories together. They get married and combine their kingdoms to rule together.

Ten is devastated.

“Which one should we watch next?” Yuta asks, shoving a handful of french fries in his mouth. Halfway through Honest Beauty they got hungry and had food delivered.

“The one with the award nomination,” Ten suggests.

Taeyong perks up. “Oh, Don’t Don! I haven’t seen that one yet!”

And so they watch newbie detective Steve Ahn get kidnapped and tortured by ruthless gangster Don.

The main conflict involves Don being seen as some kind of benefactor to the community while simultaneously commanding a human trafficking ring. Steve, someone who grew up looking up to the gangster completely oblivious to his life of crime, is assigned to investigate a couple of disappearances that are linked to Don and his associates.

Despite playing a secondary character, the climax of the movie is certainly Johnny’s. In a thrilling action sequence, Steve tries to escape the compound he’s being held at, beats a bunch of people to death and manages to make it out of the building. Only to be discovered by Don’s youngest daughter, who shoots him in the head.

Ten is rendered completely speechless.

“He’s… Like a completely different person."

“Damn, that was powerful,” Taeyong sighs. “That monologue about Don never believing in the community nor anything but himself?”

“He deserved that award,” Yuta says. “Johnny got snubbed.”

"He wasn't even the lead actor and completely stole the scene." Taeyong smirks at Ten. "Your boyfriend is a real talent, baby."

Warmth spreads on Ten's cheeks. He mumbles, "He's not my boyfriend."

"Keeps texting you, though." Yuta points his chin towards Ten's phone.

Johnny has sent him a total of four texts, all of which Ten is not in any hurry to reply.

"He can wait," he shrugs.

"Are you seriously gonna ghost him?" Yuta questions, learning forward with urgency in his voice. "Ten, you've hit the jackpot. Don't let this opportunity escape through your fingers."

"Opportunity to what?" Ten clenches his jaw.

"To hook up with someone rich and famous!" His friend replies, rolling his eyes as if Ten is indeed stupid.

Ten examines his nails. "That ship has sailed, pal." He lifts his eyes just in time to see surprise overtake both Yuta's and Taeyong's faces. "We spent the entirety of those thirty minutes making out last Saturday."

Taeyong launches himself into Ten, holding both of his hands in expectation. "How was it?"

"I thought that, as a hermit, you didn't put out on the first date, Ten," Yuta says. "I'm surprised."

"I am not a hermit!" Ten retorts in indignation. He pulls his hands out of Taeyong's grasp. "It didn't go beyond kissing. It was… pretty intense kissing, but just kissing. Nothing else. Besides, it's not the fact that he's rich and famous that's gonna make me wanna sleep with him."

"Ten is right," Taeyong acquiesces, turning to look at Ten. "But tell us, what is gonna make you sleep with him?"

Ten's got two pairs of eyes staring at him, waiting, and suddenly he's got no answer to give.

He kissed Johnny because he felt some kind of urge, an unstoppable pull to him, almost magnetic. An undeniable attraction.

It took Ten a little over a month of dating to have sex with Yukhei. They knew each other well enough already, Ten had met with Yukhei's friends, they'd traveled together. It wasn't just a casual thing. How well does he know Johnny, if everything he knows he's learned from a Wikipedia page?

"Tennie?" Taeyong pokes him, breaking Ten out of his thoughts.

"Yeah? Sorry. I was just…" Ten looks down at his phone, noticing there's another text from Johnny. Five now.

"Hey, why don't we… Watch something else?" Yuta suggests.

"Yeah," Ten latches himself to his cue like a lifeline. "Which one?"

Taeyong goes through the catalog, halting when he finds 'History of Us'. He faces Yuta, then Ten.

Ten nods, settling back against his couch.

 

--

 

Pulling an all-nighter to watch Johnny’s movies takes a toll on Ten when Tuesday comes and he’s forced to go to work despite wishing to stay in bed and slowly disintegrate.

When they meet at the station Taeyong doesn’t look that much better. They ride the train in silence.

Throughout the day, Ten recalls the events of Monday in his head (which almost causes a small scale security breach because he’s not paying attention to his work). The billboard; Prince Andrew; the sex scene in History of Us. It’s all existing within one big question Ten is still having trouble answering: why didn’t Johnny tell him?

Some theories have popped up in his head, but he hasn’t entertained many of them because they leave something like bitterness in their wake. They’re there, though, permeating Ten’s mood. Tuesday is a shitty day because he won’t stop wondering.

When night falls, Ten’s got about eight unopened texts from Johnny. They’re starting to pile up, which riles his curiosity. He doesn’t check them, still.

On Wednesday there are fifteen unopened texts from Johnny, and Ten wakes up to a voice note.

Sometime around three in the afternoon on that same day Taeil comes over to Ten’s workstation and says someone was looking for him.

Ten, in the middle of a boring battle with a low tier offender, perks up in interest. “What?”

His stomach clenches and his heart skips a traitorous beat as he waits for Taeil’s answer.

“Some guy came over wanting to know if you’re around? He seemed shady, so we didn’t tell him anything.” Taeil frowns. “He’s a Poison employee, Jisoo saw his ID card but we couldn’t catch his name and he wouldn’t tell us.”

“And it wasn’t Taeyong?” Ten asks, suspicion creeping up his sides.

Taeil rolls his eyes, “I know Taeyong.”

“And you’ve never seen this guy in the building?”

“Jisoo says she has, but no names.” He scratches his neck and sighs, “It’s a mystery I’ll gladly bestow upon you. Just— be careful.”

Ten nods at him and watches his boss walk away. It couldn’t have been Johnny, no one is allowed up here without an ID card. Ten doesn’t know anyone in Poison aside from Taeyong.

He glares at the computer screen, finishing with the mediocre hacker and programming a short bathroom break. Ten strides towards the elevator, curtly greeting people on his way there.

At the reception at Poison Magazine, he asks for Taeyong, who appears to be mildly confused by Ten’s sudden visit.

“Hey, is everything okay?” His friend asks.

Ten takes a deep breath. “Taeil says someone from Poison came over asking for me.”

“It wasn’t me, I’ve been holed up here all day. Haven’t even had lunch.” Taeyong replies.

“I don’t know anyone else from Poison, Taeyong,” Ten says. “Taeil said this guy looked shady and wouldn’t tell them his name.”

Taeyong’s brow creases and he taps his chin in thought.

Ten goes on, “At first I thought it could be Johnny…”

“No one is allowed up here without an ID card,” Taeyong shakes his head.

“Exactly,” Ten exhales in frustration. “But who?”

Taeyong’s face suddenly lights up, as if he just recalled something utterly important.

“What?” Ten urges. “What is it?”

Gaping at Ten, Taeyong whispers, “Jaehyun!”

Ten is completely lost.

“Jaehyun is friends with Johnny!”

Ten gasps, covering his mouth with both hands before checking his surroundings for possible eavesdroppers. He pulls Taeyong to a more reserved corner of the reception. “Wait, are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” Taeyong nods enthusiastically. “Jaehyun once posted an Instagram story saying they were frat buddies or something. I never asked him about it because I didn’t want to give him ground to brag about being friends with a celebrity. He was making a bunch of weird questions about you earlier this morning!”

“Jaehyun was?”

“Yes! Asking if I’d met you over the weekend, if I’d seen you yesterday, if we came here together,” Taeyong looks frantic. “I was really confused and brushed him off, but it’s clear now!”

They hold each other’s gaze for a couple of seconds, probably thinking about the same thing.

“Johnny put him up to it?”

Taeyong snaps his fingers and makes little guns at Ten. “Yes! Have you replied to any of his texts?”

All fifteen of them remain unanswered in Ten’s inbox. “Nope,” he says. “He tried calling last night, but I was asleep. He left me a voice note.”

The look in Taeyong’s eyes softens a little. “Are you going to talk to him any time soon?”

The plan was that Ten would reach out to Johnny once he came to a conclusion as to why Johnny let him believe he was just a TV producer. However, Ten is pretty sure he knows the answer. He’s known since laying eyes on that billboard.

“Soon,” he tells Taeyong and means it. “I’ll do it soon.”

Taeyong nods. “Do that. I’ll interrogate Jaehyun in the meantime.”

“Keep me posted,” Ten requests, already retreating.

“Check the group chat,” Taeyong winks, and walks away.

Thoughts are running through his head a thousand miles per hour. So Johnny had someone spy on Ten? Johnny is a stalker now? That’s… Kind of scary. If Ten didn’t want to talk, shouldn’t have Johnny just… Respected that? Even if he was worried about Ten’s lack of response, he had other ways of knowing Ten was alive and breathing. And if Ten was in some sort of a life or death situation, Jaehyun would have heard it from Taeyong. There was no reason for Johnny to have him climb upstairs and get the receptionist and Ten’s poor boss alarmed. Johnny doesn’t know that, but Taeil suffers from high blood pressure. That little stunt of theirs could have ended in the hospital.

Ten ignores Jisoo’s questioning glance and stomps towards his workstation, plopping down on his chair and pulling his phone. He finally opens Johnny’s messages.

Johnny
wyd?

Johnny
did you have a good day?

Johnny
my day was pretty busy.
wanna video chat?

Johnny
[IMAGE ATTACHED]

Johnny
[IMAGE ATTACHED]

Johnny
are you home from work already?
are you asleep?

Johnny
hey, happy tuesday. i have a lot of work to do, but i feel that today is going to be a good day.

Johnny
i have some time. do you want to video chat?

Johnny
hey

Johnny
are you okay? you haven’t replied in a day.

Johnny
ten?

Johnny
did you lose your phone or anything?

Johnny
i suddenly regret not getting your social media details

Johnny
Im starting to get worried, please reply if you can

Johnny
Whenever you can

He exits the chat, calling his mailbox to listen to the voice note Johnny left him.

Hey, Ten. It’s Johnny. I’m only calling because it’s been a couple of days since we last spoke and you haven’t replied to my messages. I know I should wait for you to contact me, but I have no other way of knowing you’re okay. Uh. Text me when you get this. Bye.

Ten lowers his phone, blinking down at his desk. Johnny sounded a bit tired, the voice note was timed one fifteen in the morning. He was probably up working on something.

Despite knowing he’s entitled to pull out whenever he feels like it (especially when he’s been lied to), Ten still senses a wave of guilt wash over him. He’d feel pretty shitty if someone he was hooking up with ghosted on him for two days.

Ten is not used to hooking up with people, though. Johnny probably is.

His resolve settles, and Ten types up a reply.

Me
Did you send your friend over to spy on me?

He’s not expecting a quick reply. Johnny is a superstar, he’s probably not even looking at his phone.

It comes immediately.

Johnny
I’m sorry, I know it was awful.

Me
If you know, why did you do it?

Johnny
I wanted to know you were okay. It was still out of line. My apologies.

Suddenly, a text from Taeyong comes in saying ‘Jaehyun confessed to his crimes. He’s Johnny’s accomplice.’

Watching the bouncing ellipsis on Johnny’s chat window, Ten finally asks him.

Me
Why did you tell me you were only a TV producer?

The ellipsis disappears. Then return. Then disappear again.

Johnny doesn’t ask what Ten means. He knows.

Johnny
Can we meet? I’ll explain

Johnny
I can be at your place tonight at eleven.

Not on his terms, nope. That won’t work.

Me
Tomorrow at 6. That café we went the first time. That seems to be a safe place for you.

Johnny
It is. Thank you.

Johnny
I don’t think I can do 6pm. Can it be 8?

The time of their previously arranged meeting. Ten squints. Johnny is probably working at 6.

Me
I have a thing at 8.
6 or 7.

The ellipsis bounce again.

Johnny
I can do 7.

A compromise. Ten will take it.

Me
See you then.

 

 

The girl who served them last time — Kay, If Ten recalls correctly — addresses Ten by name when he gets there and leads him to a reserved table in the back. She smiles at him and informs that Johnny will arrive soon and wants Ten to feel comfortable to order whatever he feels like in the meantime.

Ten checks his phone. It’s ten past seven.

He could be upset that Johnny wasn’t able to make it on time, but the truth is that getting upset is tiresome. It was a slow day at work, Ten had a lot of time to think. He's not here to corner Johnny against a wall, he's here to listen.

His phone keeps chiming with new texts from ‘Ten’s Grapevine’. He checks them absently but doesn’t reply. There’s also one from Johnny saying he’ll be right over. Ten doesn’t respond to that one either.

When Johnny comes in he looks distraught. His hair is smooth and he’s wearing makeup, but underneath his long brown coat, he seems to be wearing… A diving suit?

“I’m so sorry, traffic was insane,” Johnny looks apologetic, eyebrows furrowed and mouth pursed. “I tried to make it at seven, I—”

Ten didn’t expect him to make it anyway. It was a petty decision not to agree to Johnny’s preferred time.

“Were you working?” Ten asks. It’s deliberate, a lead-in so they can start talking about what they’re here to discuss.

Johnny shifts in his seat, nods. The tips of his ears are red, and Ten hates the fact that despite looking so out of it, he’s still beautiful.

“Yeah,” Johnny says. “We’re almost wrapping up shooting for this thriller about a robot shark that hunts people down.”

Ten frowns, “Like a combination of Blade Runner and Jaws?”

Johnny blinks at him, and some of the tension on his face fades away. “Right on.”

Ten smiles, hoping that will be enough to put Johnny at ease. It does. Johnny smiles back, although still restrained. They just sit there for a beat, gazing at each other unsure of how to even begin.

“So,” Johnny speaks first, eyes flitting between the table and Ten.

“So,” Ten repeats.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. It wasn’t my intention to keep it a secret, it just… Kinda unfolded that way and I did nothing to stop it.”

“I was really upset at first,” Ten says, folding his arms over his chest.

Johnny lowers his head. “I can imagine.”

“I was upset at myself, though,” Ten clarifies, which prompts Johnny to look up at him in confusion. “Because your face is literally everywhere. I think I saw you on two different billboards and three bus stops on my way here. And I took the subway.”

Snorting, Johnny shakes his head. Ten’s seen him blush before, but this is the first time it actually feels like he’s shy. He can’t help but think the way Johnny pulls on his earlobe is kind of endearing.

“Seriously,” Ten insists. “You’re super famous and I’m super dumb.”

“Nah, don't talk about yourself like that,” Johnny says. “I was supposed to have told you.”

“Why didn’t you, though?” Ten asks, making it sound flippant.

Johnny sighs. “I don’t know. I just… You didn’t recognize me and I thought you could be messing with me.”

“And then you told me you were a TV producer."

“Technically, it wasn't a lie,” Johnny says in a rush. “I was credited as a producer for History of Us.”

“But mainly you’re an actor,” Ten points out. “That’s how you get your bread.”

Nodding, Johnny says, “Yes.” He blinks at Ten, eyes glinting with something that looks like regret. “I’m sorry, Ten. I didn’t mean to fool you. I guess some twisted part of me thought it was cute that you didn’t know who I was.”

Ten downcasts his eyes, doesn’t question Johnny’s excuse. “Yuta said that.”

“Huh?”

“My friend Yuta. He said something about the peasant and the public figure?”

“Ah!” Johnny says. “The popular trope, yes. Like in ‘The Prince and Me’ with Julia Stiles and Luke Mably.”

“Is that a movie?” Ten asks, and Johnny nods. “Sorry, I didn’t watch any blockbusters made after the 80’s.”

Johnny smiles, mischievous. “That sounds a bit pretentious, Ten.”

Ten shrugs, stretching his lips into a smirk. “I’m unbothered.”

Johnny looks at him, an easy smile on his lips. He takes a deep breath, averting his eyes for a split-second before his whole countenance changes.

“I’m sorry I asked Jaehyun to check on you. That was shitty, I…” he ruffles his hair with both hands. “I don’t go around spying on people, please believe me.”

Ten doesn’t mean to hold that against Johnny. He doesn’t mean to excuse him, though.

“It was shitty,” he agrees. Johnny’s eyes fall to the table. “It doesn’t matter if I didn’t reply to your texts when you expected me to, you had no right to send someone over to my workplace and talk to my boss.”

Johnny recoils, looking genuinely remorseful. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right, I have no excuse.”

Folding his arms on his chest, Ten continues, “I think you have here an opportunity to grow and not repeat the same mistake ever again. To anyone.”

It’s almost comical how fast Johnny nods. “I won’t, I promise you.”

Ten smiles, nodding back in acknowledgment.

When comfortable silence installs between them it’s a testament that the air has cleared out. Ten holds Johnny’s gaze, wondering if he should stand up and leave, tell him it was great meeting him, wish him success in his future endeavors.

An ugly feeling has sprouted inside Ten that Monday and it’s still here, going strong with no signs of impending uprooting. Ten couldn’t tell it apart from the shock of finding out he’s been flirting with a celebrity, but after three days of consideration, everything turned crystal clear.

So maybe this is it for them. They met, hooked up, and are now ready to go their separate ways. It’s not like Ten wants to break up (if they can call it like that). He’d gladly sit in this café and listen to the complete story of Johnny’s life. However, he’s not sure if Johnny feels the same way.

Heaving a sigh, Ten says, “I guess I should go now.” The way Johnny’s brow furrows and his lips part in surprise tugs at Ten’s heart. “Thanks for meeting with me, I know you’re probably busy.”

“Wait,” Johnny says, urgency in his voice. “You’re going? I— But I just got here.”

“I don’t want to keep you,” Ten says. His throat feels tight like it’s clogged up and it’s hard to swallow, to breathe. He stands up.

Johnny stands up as well. He looks as distressed as he was when he first came in, and Ten feels just a bit bad about it.

“I thought we were going to talk,” Johnny says, eyes searching. “Isn’t that’s why we’re here?”

“We just talked,” Ten reasons, even though none of it feels right. The words coming out of his mouth feel foreign like he’s speaking in a completely different language.

“I don’t think we did, no,” Johnny lets out a dry chuckle. “Uhhhhh,” he scratches the back of his hair, gets the strands a bit messy. “Remember the first time we came here and you wanted me to talk—”

Ten knows. He doesn’t even need to finish listening to what Johnny is saying, he understands. Ten wanted to know more, but Johnny wasn’t inclined to talk.

It might have taken Ten a couple of days to get it together, but he knows now. He knows that the reason why Johnny didn’t tell him the truth was that he never saw them being anything at all. He wanted a casual hook up, he got it, end of story. Johnny probably saw it as a plus that Ten was dumb enough not to recognize him; that way he wouldn’t be able to go around spreading the word about whatever happened between them.

"Hey, Johnny, you don't have to tell me anything," Ten says. Sadly, he's resigned into accepting the sour truth. Ten can't even blame Johnny for being careful. He must have been through some real messy situations, being famous and all that. “It’s okay.”

Johnny watches him owlishly, his lips parted as if he still wants to talk, but doesn’t know what to say. Eventually, he sighs and he drops his head into his hands.

"I messed up, didn't I?" Johnny’s palms rub over his face. "Shit."

It doesn’t feel good having Johnny look and sound so upset. This is not what Ten intended. He doesn’t want payback. Just a clean break so he can go on with his happy-go-lucky, hermit life in peace.

"You didn't mess up. This just… Wasn't meant to happen."

"I disagree,” Johnny is quick to say. He’s not looking at Ten as he speaks. “I think it was meant to happen. I think we had to meet, somehow in the grand scheme of things.

“Is it because I wasn't truthful or… You don't feel that way about me?"

Ten frowns.

"Because I think I like you, Ten, but I'll understand if you tell me you don't feel the same. Hell, I don't even think I gave you enough reasons to like me."

Sitting back on the chair, Ten blinks at Johnny.

"You… You like me?"

Now it’s Johnny’s turn to frown. He takes his seat back as well, places both forearms on the table.

"Sure I do. Why do you look so surprised? I thought it was obvious with how I pretty much abducted you last Saturday.”

"I thought…"

"At first… At first, I wasn’t sure if this could go anywhere beyond a casual fling, but you,” Johnny studies Ten’s face, from the expanse of his forehead to his chin. “You. There’s something intriguing about you. You entice me, make me curious. I think we could mean something to each other, Ten.”

It’s like the entire world that built itself inside Ten’s head flips upside down. He doesn’t know what to think anymore. So Johnny likes him? He wasn’t just nurturing a casual hook up for stress relief?

Ten recalls the way Johnny looked at him last Saturday, the way he was kissed and held. He remembers how Johnny told him he’d like to dig deeper, how he kept telling Ten he’d like to see him…

So Johnny likes him?

Johnny likes him.

Well, this changes everything. Ten clears his throat and looks up.

“So tell me.”

“Tell you?”

“Yep. Tell me.” Johnny looks confused, so Ten elaborates. “You fell from your bike and busted your knee. Tell me about it.”

Slowly, a smile spreads across Johnny’s face. “It was my leg, actually. I broke my leg.”

Leaning forward, Ten props his elbow on the table and sets his chin on his palm. “Sounds like a fascinating story.”

 

Johnny tells him about the bike accident and how he had a cast for about two months or so. He mentions a scar, which Ten makes him promise he’ll let him see someday. Johnny talks about growing up and wanting to be an astronaut, a doctor, a teacher, a singer, and then realizing he could be all that. He speaks about his father wanting him to be an engineer and taking a while to come to terms with Johnny pursuing acting. He talks about his mom being extra supportive and traveling everywhere with him while he auditioned.

Johnny recalls auditioning for Prince Andrew, tells Ten about not being nervous at all for the first couple of calls, but crying on his mom’s shoulder when he got it. Johnny met Heechul Kim on a talk show where both of them were guests once. He laughs at how he overheard Mr. Kim talk about his newest project to the host backstage, and how he ran to his agent and they worked to get him an audition. Johnny tells Ten about how surreal it felt to get nominated for a Golden Statue.

“That’s great,” Ten says at some point. “Awesome.”

Something in his voice catches Johnny’s attention. Perhaps the faint disappointment. Ten can’t help it, but he also can’t explain. This is what he wanted, he wanted Johnny to be truthful. To come clean. He has come clean. Why is Ten disappointed, then?

“What’s up?” Johnny asks. “You seem… Down.”

Well, he is. Johnny went on and on about his life as an actor, but Wikipedia had already taught Ten all that. Acting cannot be the only part of him, can it?

Ten blinks at his hands, thinking. An idea pops into his head, and he looks up at Johnny resolutely. “Tell me something no one knows.”

“No one knows?” Johnny questions.

Ten nods.

When he understands what Ten means, Johnny agrees. “Okay. Something no one knows. Uh… I… My favorite band is Metallica.”

Ten is unable to hold back the gasp. “What?! You’re a headbanger?!”

Johnny laughs, scratching the side of his nose. “Yeah. Well, I used to be when I was a teenager. I had a collection of band tees and combat boots. My favorite movie was Detroit Rock City.”

“Do you still listen to them?”

“Oh yeah. Although now is less about making a statement and more about the music.”

Satisfied, Ten smiles at him.

“Should I tell you another one?” Johnny asks.

Then he proceeds to tell about the time he brought in a stray cat against his mother’s wishes and it ended up destroying one of her favorite plants. He was grounded for a whole month.

Johnny is not the only one who shares, Ten offers a piece of himself as well. He tells Johnny about Yukhei and never having watched a single Transformers movie.

It’s nice. They talk until their food is gone and Kay comes over to inform that the café is closing soon. It’s almost midnight.

“Already?” Johnny checks his phone and lets out a gasp. “Damn. We should get going.” He stops abruptly, turning to squint at Ten. “Didn’t you say you had a thing at eight?”

Fuck. Swallowing down the remnants of his drink, Ten is rather loud when he says, “We should go! Are you going to take me home?”

The question colors Johnny’s cheeks in a light shade of pink. It also works to distract him for Ten’s earlier deception.

“Choi is waiting outside, I’ll bring you home.”

Kay thanks them, wishes a good night, and they stand up. Ten admires how pretty pink looks down Johnny’s neck.

“Lead the way, Your Majesty,” he says, biting back a smirk.

Johnny squints at him, appraising, considering. He says, “You’re going to be insufferable, aren’t you?”

Ten shrugs. “You like me.”

Despite not saying anything in return, the way Johnny beams back feels like compliance.

 

 

They video chat more often. Johnny walks around the set, shows Ten the huge robot shark they use as a prop, promises to bring Ten over to see it for himself.

Jaehyun stops by M Tech to apologize for his role in the stalking incident. Ten tells him not to worry since Johnny is already paying their fines by purchasing Ten a coffee a day. He does make Jaehyun swear he’ll never stalk anyone ever again.

Since they cannot see each other every day, Johnny has his poor driver Choi bring Ten coffee every morning. There’s always a little note at the cup sleeve, which is cute and heart-warming.

The next time they see each other is on a Friday night, eight days after their last meeting. It’s Johnny’s last day shooting for the robot shark thing (the film is called ‘Megalotron’, Johnny informs looking slightly ashamed) and Ten asks if it’s okay for him to visit the studio.

According to Johnny, shooting will go up to 9 pm with chances of stretching further into the night. Ten is thrilled, wears the Valentino Johnny gifted him and his best pants. He might end up crossing paths with other famous people after all.

Choi picks him up from work at 5 sharp. They drop Taeyong home on their way there because he was pouting too hard about not being able to accompany Ten in his movie set adventure.

It takes them a little over an hour to get there. Ten’s last meal was around midday, so he’s hungry by the time they reach the site. It’s this huge studio that he had no idea existed in the outskirts of the city. Choi nods at the gatekeeper, who allows him to go through without any problems. They drive between two lines of trailers, and suddenly Ten really feels like he’s in a movie studio.

After parking near to a couple of white vans, Choi looks back at Ten and says, “They’re all ready for you. That van over there will take you to set. When you get there, look for Mark.”

White van. Arrive on set. Look for Mark. Ten nods at him, mumbles a quick ‘thanks’ and hops off the car. A man is leaning against one of the white vans, smoking. As soon as he spots Ten he drops the cigarette and steps on it.

“You Ten?”

“Yep,” Ten says.

The guy nods and points a thumb at the van. “Come on, not a long drive to set.”

He’s right, it takes about five minutes to get from where the trailers are parked to this large construction that’s probably where the film is being shot. It’s pretty dark outside but not dark enough that Ten misses the person stationed in front of the door.

“Hi, can I help you?” The man asks promptly. He’s got some sort of utility belt around his hip and a hand around a cord connecting an earpiece to his utility belt.

“Hi. My name is Ten. I’m looking for Mark.”

Without diverting his eyes from Ten, the man presses something in the cord and brings what appears to be a small microphone closer to his mouth. “Mark? There’s someone named Ten looking for you outside.” He blinks at Ten and releases the cord. “Mark is on his way.”

“Thanks.”

The man gives Ten a not-so-subtle once over. “Are you wardrobe?”

“What?”

“Extra?”

And right before Ten can embarrass himself by admitting he has no idea what this guy is talking about, someone bursts through the door.

“Oh my God,” the newcomer says. He’s got blonde hair and a young face that looks kinda shaken. “Hey Jake run back inside, Yangyang is 10-1.”

“Copy,” Door Guy, Jake, walks back in.

Blondie smiles really big at Ten. “Hey! Name’s Mark! Ten, right?”

Ten can't help but smile back. “Yeah. Nice to meet you.”

“You too, man. Although you’re shorter than I expected. Wow, great. Okay, let's go back in. Picture’s wrapping up today so we’re all running like headless chickens. You’re a friend of Johnny’s, right?”

Mark is so fast-paced he might as well have his own set of batteries powering his every move. Ten follows him inside, humming in response to his question.

“Johnny is great. Not every talent makes an effort to get to know the assistants, but Johnny knows everyone. Even grips and sparks and everyone loves him.”

Ten wasn’t expecting to get fed Johnny info so early in the outing, but he’s glad.

On set, there’s so much going on. People running back and forth, machines being rolled around, several miniature robot sharks scattered everywhere. The center of everything seems to be the makeshift lab ahead of them, wooden walls propped up to resemble the interior of a ship. There’s water everywhere, the windows are cracked and some people seem to be trying to emulate sparks in broken wires. The whole scenario is encircled by these lime green walls.

Ten looks around trying to locate Johnny, but he’s nowhere to be seen. A man is sitting on a chair saying “DIRECTOR” on the back, and standing next to him is another man speaking hurriedly into a walkie talkie.

“Okay, Johnny is probably in the green room, we’re on last looks,” Mark says casually as if Ten is supposed to understand everything. Suddenly, Mark swirls around, holds out a hand to prevent Ten from bumping into him. He presses his mic button, exactly like Jake had done, and brings it closer to his mouth as he speaks. “Hey, Kun? Ten is here.” Mark releases the microphone and looks at Ten. “Kun wanted to meet you.”

Frowning, Ten asks, “Me? Who’s Kun?”

“The First AD. Well, the only AD really, but he’s good friends with Johnny. Asked me to shout when you got here.” Mark’s eyes get lost yet again when he speaks to someone in his ear. “Right to your left. Here, I’m waving at you. Copy.”

Ten follows Mark’s line of sight and watches as the man who was previously standing next to the director jogs up to them. He’d ask Mark what’s an AD but Kun catches up real quick.

“Hi!” He says, smiling at Ten. “My God, you’re pretty. I’m Kun.”

It’s all so unexpected that Ten hasn’t got a clue of how to respond. He just smiles back. “Hey. I’m Ten.”

“Johnny’s been keeping you under wraps, I’m glad we got a chance to meet.” Kun glances over his own shoulder, then back at Ten. “It’s a shame you caught us on last day, everything is crazy right now so we won’t be able to sit and chat.” He looks at Mark. “Give him over to Kunhang if he doesn’t want to watch this take. We’ll call him back when Johnny’s up.”

There’s so much to explore in everything Kun just said. First of all, Johnny’s been keeping Ten under wraps? What does that mean? Second, who’s Kunhang and why is Ten being handed over?

Mark nods, “Copy that.”

Kun grins at Ten once more, claps his shoulder with a heavy hand. Ten tries his best not to flinch. Luckily, Kun runs back to the director’s side and misses when Ten rolls his shoulder.

Next to Ten, Mark speaks into his walkie. “Anyone’s got eyes on Kunhang? Hey, man. Okay, copy.” To Ten, he says, “Alright, Johnny is getting prepped for his last take right now, so they’re shooting a different scene. It’s cool if you wanna watch it, just keep it down once we roll. Alternatively, you can head over to Kunhang in craft services? You hungry?”

Marks says all that so fast Ten gets lost for a second. “Uh… Yes.”

“Great, so follow the glowing arrows on the floor and it’ll take you to a door where it says ‘crafties’. You can’t miss it. Kunhang will be waiting for you there. We’ll let you know once Johnny is up for blocking.”

Ten, once again, has questions, but Mark takes off before he has a chance to ask them. So he just does as instructed and follows the glowing arrows.

The ‘crafties’ room is the Wonderland of snacks. There’s a huge table filled with all kinds of chips and little cakes and drinks. Ten’s belly rumbles.

“Hi!” The guy standing next to the table with a broom — Ten hadn’t even seen him in his hunger-induced blindness — chirps. “Mark said you were coming. I’m just finishing up cleaning this space real quick. Feel free to grab anything you like.”

Ten watches him sweep underneath the table and steps closer, grabbing a bag of chips. “Are you Kunhang?”

The boy grins, and Ten thinks he’s kinda cute. “Yep! I’m a PA just like Mark. Not like Mark because he’s First PA, but yeah.”

Ten takes a seat at the small couch against the wall. “What’s a PA? And AD? I met some guy named Kun, Mark said he’s AD.”

“PA, Production Assistant. We do pretty much everything we’re told. Kun is The Assistant Director, though. He’s our boss on set.” Kunhang leans down to fetch an empty water bottle off the floor. “I heard you’re friends with Johnny Seo? He’s really cool.”

“Yeah,” Ten munches on his chips. “They said they’ll call me once Johnny is up… for… Clocking?”

Kunhang chuckles, “Blocking. It’s like rehearsing the movements with the cameras and stuff.” He squints at Ten. “This your first time on set?”

Ten winces, “That obvious?”

“You’re cool,” Kunhang resumes sweeping. “Most visitors are aspiring actors or students, they know a thing or two.”

Studying Kunhang carefully, Ten notices he’s quite handsome. Could be an actor himself. “Do you like this gig?”

He shrugs, “It’s alright. Exhausting, but I get to make connections and meet awesome people like Johnny and Wendy.”

Ten bites on a chip. “Wendy?”

“Yeah, the female lead? She’s debuting, but crazy talented.”

“Ah.”

“How long have you known Johnny?”

Ten chews. “About two months.”

Kunhang then stops, holds his broom while he stares at Ten. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah, shoot.”

“Are you his boyfriend?”

A coughing fit afflicts Ten at that moment, small particles of potato chips flying out of his mouth. Kunhang hurries to push a bottle of water into his hands and Ten drinks half of it out of sheer desperation.

“Sorry,” the other says sheepishly. “I shouldn’t be making any assumptions. He’s not officially out to the public, but most people know he’s bi.” Kunhang’s eyes grow wide as saucers. “Shit, did you know?”

Ten drinks some more water. “I had a clue.”

Kunhang exhales and shakes his head. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer that.”

It’s not even a tricky question, Ten could just tell Kunhang that he’s not Johnny’s boyfriend and kill the suspicions right off the bat. Yet, something holds him back. He just sits there and eats his chips while Kunhang cleans until someone speaks into Kunhang’s earpiece and he tells Ten Johnny is up for blocking.

Outside, the production is in full swing. There are men and women carrying ladders from one corner to the other, and more men and women holding pieces of clothing and makeup brushes and water bottles and giant robot sharks. Ten doesn’t know where to go, but lucky for him Mark is with him in no time.

“Hey Ten, Johnny is blocking right now. Once he’s done we’ll be on last looks I think, so he’ll be able to talk to you.” He speaks too fast, of course, but Ten thinks he’s starting to follow his pace.

“You’re efficient, aren’t you?” Ten is sure Mark can hear the hint of admiration in his voice, which has the young PA’s entire facing flushing red.

“I try to be attentive to everything,” he says timidly.

Ten pats his head; he couldn’t stop himself. “You’re doing a good job.”

Mark lowers his eyes, smile still in place. Then his spine goes ramrod straight and his hand hovers the speaker button. “LAST LOOKS EVERYBODY,” he yells.

A girl walks past them holding a makeup palette and saying, “Alright, I’m stepping in.”

Mark throws Ten an anxious look and says, “I gotta run, but Johnny is around!” He vanishes.

Just when Ten moves to look back at the lab structure, he catches sight of Johnny.

It’s so stupid, but his chest gets tighter, and he’s pretty sure his heart skips a beat. Johnny doesn’t even look posh. His hair is wet and dripping all over his face. There are some bleeding gashes on his cheeks and the diving suit he’s wearing is ripped around his ribcage to show a long cut.

Still, Ten is hit by this wave of feelings inside him.

The girl with the palette touches his face here and there, adds more blood to his cut. That’s when his eyes lift and he sees Ten. Johnny speaks to the girl, who steps aside and allows him to walk away from her, towards Ten.

“I was texting you nonstop!” Johnny goes for a hug, something Ten was absolutely not expecting but welcomes nonetheless, arms circling Johnny’s torso.

“Sorry, I was eating some chips at this room called ‘crafties’ with a PA called Kunhang,” Ten wiggles his eyebrows. “I’m learning a bunch of stuff about movie sets. You can ask me what a block is and I'll tell you!”

Johnny chuckles, stepping away. “You mean blocking.”

Ten waves his hand in dismissal, “Yeah. So. This is all pretty cool.”

“I know, right?” Johnny looks around in delight. “This isn’t even the biggest set I’ve ever worked at.”

“Brag much,” Ten jokes. Johnny rolls his eyes.

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

Nearby, someone shouts, “PA nation stand by for lock-up!”

Then Kun is calling for Johnny.

“I gotta go,” he says. “You have to be real quiet, okay? Once they roll, it’s all game.”

Ten salutes him. “Aye, captain”

Johnny blows him a kiss and walks towards Kun. Ten acts cool and pretends that single gesture doesn’t set his guts on fire.

There are a couple of crew members standing closer to the director’s chair, so Ten steps forward and gets a better spot to watch.

“All departments standby,” Kun says into his earpiece and pretty much every PA repeats his words out loud.

Johnny takes his position at one of the only working computers at the lab as broken wires crackle and spark, lights flickering ominously.

The director nods at Kun, who says in a slightly louder voice, “Quiet all around. Picture’s up. Rolling.”

The whole set falls into complete and utter silence as Kun continues, “Slated and... roll sound.”

“Sound speed.”

“Call it.”

“24 Lab ruins, take 4.”

“Camera,” Kun says. “Mark it.”

Someone holding a clapboard steps into the frame and says, “Megalotron, 24 Lab ruins, take 4.”

“Speed.”

Kun looks at the director, who only then says, “Action.”

 

Johnny’s performance is undeniably great. Despite this being a potentially ridiculous movie — Ten is not gonna judge until he watches it in its entirety —, he makes it all seem real. Ten is slack-jawed the whole time as Johnny tries to send a rescue signal to whoever is out there only to yell in frustration when the computer dies on him. Then Johnny tries the radio to no effect. A pretty girl walks in (that’s probably the one Kunhang was talking about, Wendy) in a similar state of distress screaming about the submarine sinking. Johnny looks about ready to cry. He approaches Wendy, leans his forehead onto hers and cups her face with both of his hands. He apologizes to her, and Ten’s breath hitches.

“Cut!” Comes the sudden call, and then the whole scene is falling apart. Johnny and Wendy go opposite ways and several people walk into the picture. The makeup girl runs up to Wendy and the director (Kim Junmyeon, his chair reads) pulls Johnny to the side.

“Special effects department, can we get the windows going?” Kun asks.

A group of people run towards the windows and start working on them.

“Can we get Wendy some water?”

“On it,” a girl walks off.

It’s all so functional. Everyone knows their places and what they’re supposed to be doing. Ten wonders if his work is ever gonna feel like this.

“Two minutes,” Kun says, and once again all the PAs repeat his words.

And then two minutes later everyone is getting out of the frame and standing by as ordered.

“Special effects stand by,” Kun says. “Picture’s up and rolling.”

Now in a different position, Johnny and Wendy say their goodbyes just seconds before the windows burst and water invades the lab. They look around, Wendy says every other room is already flooded. Maybe they can swim out through the window. She’s not making any sense, it seems, Johnny just holds her and they back to a corner of the room.

“Cut!” The Director says. “That’s a picture wrap, everybody!”

Cheers and celebrations happen all around the set. Johnny and Wendy hug each other, then Junmyeon and Kun. Johnny goes around greeting the other crew members. The special effects guys who were hiding behind the window in order to make it blow up, the makeup girl still holding her palette, Mark the PA. And everyone looks so pleased with him. Being nice to people in your workplace sounds like bare minimum behavior, but Ten has the impression it doesn’t happen so often in places like these. Especially not coming from people like Johnny.

The little space reserved for Johnny in Ten’s heart doubles in size, and he grins as he comes over.

“That was amazing!” Ten says, squeezing Johnny’s arm. “Did they die?”

“It’s an open ending,” Johnny says. “That’s the last we see of them, but the picture ends with the robot shark swimming towards the beach.”

“Ahhhhh. Sequel lead-in.”

Johnny winks at him, “You learn fast.”

Someone walks by and pats Johnny’s shoulder. “Great stuff, Johnny.”

“You too, buddy,” Johnny tells him before gazing back at Ten. “Are you tired? Want me to take you home or should we do something else?”

Ten checks the time on his phone. Five past nine, around the estimated time. “Nope, not tired. Are you tired?”

“Yeah, I’m kinda beat. Eighteen hours shooting, it’s always something.” Johnny looks down at where his fingers are slowly entwining with Ten’s. “I want to spend time with you, though.”

“You can come home with me.”

Johnny glances at Ten from behind his eyelashes, blinks at him. They both know what that invitation implies. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Ten responds before he regrets the decision.

“Will you just wait a second? I gotta wash up and change.”

“No problem.”

Ten follows him into the “green room” and makes idle conversation with Wendy, who appears to be much more tired than Johnny. Kun also comes in at some point and they chat while Johnny gathers his stuff. Kun makes Ten promise they’ll meet for drinks right as Johnny drags him out to catch the van.

In his trailer, Johnny takes a quick shower and comes out dressed in jeans and a jumper, the most casual Ten’s ever seen him.

The car ride to Ten’s apartment is filled with Ten’s impressions on the movie set. Johnny listens to everything with a smile on his face.

There’s something Ten was meaning to mention, and the opportunity of doing so presents when Johnny gets distracted with Ten’s fingers, playing with them.

“Kunhang asked if I was your boyfriend.”

Johnny doesn’t look surprised. He just sighs and continues fiddling with Ten’s fingers. “What a nosey kid,” he sounds amused rather than annoyed. “What did you tell him?”

“Nothing,” Ten shrugs, watches him closely. “He said most people know you’re bisexual.”

Johnny releases his hold on Ten’s hand and meets his eyes. He leans his head back on the headrest, blinks.

“He’s right. Most people know. My manager has seen a couple of articles about me going out with boys and stuff, but he wasn’t worried. It appears that my following is composed of millennials and gays anyways.”

Ten snorts. “Millennials and gays.”

Johnny beams at him. “Yep.” He lifts his hand to rest a palm on Ten’s nape, thumb rubbing gently on the side of his neck. For a moment too long, Johnny just stares at Ten, a serene expression on his face.

It has Ten going slightly flustered, unable to hold Johnny’s gaze. “Why are you looking at me like this?”

“Can’t stop,” Johnny responds promptly, scooting closer to Ten. His eyes fall to Ten’s mouth. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since The Last Solace. When you didn’t respond to my texts it felt like torture. I just… Couldn’t stop.”

The tips of Ten’s ears burn, but the rhythm of Johnny’s fingers on his skin almost feels like soothing ointment. “Couldn’t stop thinking about me?”

Johnny hums, moving his other hand. It cups the other side of Ten’s face, thumb lining under Ten’s lips, pinching his chin.

They just come together naturally; Ten’s hands on Johnny’s chest, his lips on Johnny’s cheek. Johnny inhales like he’s breathing Ten in, pushing Ten’s face upward, aligning him to be kissed. It’s soft at first, just a quick peck. Their lips are kinda dry, so Ten licks his own then turns to press them against Johnny’s.

“You smell so good,” Johnny whispers as he tugs on Ten’s lower lip and licks his upper, coaxing them apart. Johnny’s tongue teases Ten’s, curls against it.

Ten swallows back a moan, leaning back and away from Johnny, who looks mildly offended at being denied. Ten shoots a glance at the front seat where Choi is pretending not to know what’s going on.

Johnny asks, “How long till we get there, Choi?”

Choi doesn’t waste a single breath. “Five minutes, sir.”

Johnny turns to face Ten and grins wickedly. “Excellent.”

 

They’re barely inside Ten’s apartment when Johnny snatches him, both arms tight around Ten’s waist bringing his back flush against Johnny’s chest. Johnny’s nose is cold on Ten’s cheek, but his lips are warm as they pepper kisses over the side of Ten’s neck, bite gently at his jaw. Ten squeezes at his forearms, angling his head to give Johnny better access. The way Johnny kisses him, the wetness of his tongue over Ten’s jaw -- it sends a shiver down Ten’s spine, makes him shudder.

Johnny chuckles, a thumb pushing Ten’s head towards him so they can face each other. “Does it make you shiver?”

One of Johnny’s hands sneaks underneath Ten’s shirt, settles onto his bare stomach, and Ten is unable to utter anything but a pathetic “Uh-huh”, his head leaning back against Johnny’s shoulder, eyes falling shut.

His mind goes completely blank, like he’s resetting. The only thing Ten can think about right now is how nimble Johnny’s hands are when they twist Ten’s entire frame in their hold, bringing them chest to chest. How quick they are to slide from Ten’s waist to the back of his thighs, the strength it might take to just lift Ten off the floor like this. And it doesn’t even look like it takes much effort.

Ten hooks an arm around Johnny’s neck, the other bracing against his chest as Johnny guides both of Ten’s legs around his waist. From this position, it feels like Ten’s got leverage. He gets to see the darkness in Johnny’s eyes, the glint of lust dancing in them, how they just expand when Ten looks at him.

And then they’re moving to the couch. Johnny just plops on it, Ten straddling his legs.His crotch rubs on Johnny’s thigh and Ten is moaning before he even acknowledges the effect it has on his body. Johnny clutches at his waist with both hands, brings them even closer.

“You look so good, baby,” Johnny says, nosing at Ten’s cheek, pressing open-mouthed kisses to his chin. No one’s ever called Ten ‘baby’ like this before. It’s thrilling, exciting. Makes him want to hear it again.

Leaning forward, Ten props both forearms on the back of the couch on either side of Johnny’s head. Johnny, who can’t seem to look away from Ten like he’s in some kind of trance, just relaxes against the couch, hands settling onto Ten’s thighs. When Ten presses a kiss to Johnny’s mouth, he takes in a shaky breath, mouth falling open in invitation.

Ten rolls his hips down as his tongue sweeps over Johnny’s lips, teasing. Johnny lets out a moan, and his hand grips Ten’s thighs just a bit more. It feels good. Everything about Johnny feels electric; Ten is plugged to him like a power outlet, unable to function if disconnected.

He licks at Johnny’s lips, spreads them further apart with his tongue. Johnny’s hand comes up to the back of Ten’s head and pulls him in.

It’s slow-paced and sensual. Johnny’s tongue sliding against him, saliva pooling at the corner of their mouths with how wet everything is, how it grows hotter by the minute. Ten feels short on breath, but unwilling to part from Johnny. Somehow in this pleasure-induced stupor, he thinks getting rid of their shirts might help. So he tugs the hem of Johnny’s hoodie up. Johnny is happy to oblige, obediently lifting his arms and allowing Ten to get it off him.

For a second, Ten rakes his eyes down Johnny’s chest, his abdomen. His abs. It’s impossible not to reach out and touch, the pads of his fingers running in between the divisions of Johnny’s flexed stomach.

Ten’s attention is mainly on Johnny’s body when he comes forward and catches Ten’s mouth in his. Ten whines, pressing his hands on both sides of Johnny’s face.

“I wasn’t done,” he breathes into Johnny’s mouth.

Instead of letting Ten explore, Johnny fits both hands under Ten’s shirt. He holds Ten’s eyes. “I love that you wore what I gave you, but this has to go.” Ten is given absolutely no time to dwell over the fact that Johnny noticed he wore the Valentino before he’s positively stripped off his shirt.

Ten feels the urge to cover himself, but Johnny moves fast. His mouth attaches itself to Ten’s collarbone, kissing, nipping. His hands are free to roam over the expanse of Ten’s back, sliding up the front, thumbs brushing over Ten’s nipples. It’s all much more than Ten can take, hitched breath probably giving him away.

Johnny halts and looks up at Ten with hooded eyes. “Are you okay, baby? Need me to slow down?”

There it is again. Baby. It’s cheesy and so out of his character, but Ten loves it. He loves the way Johnny can’t stop touching and kissing him, as if Ten messes up with him just as much. It’s so amazing that Ten can’t -- won’t stop and think about being half-naked on Johnny’s lap in a heated make-out session that could potentially lead into something much naughtier. Overthinking could make him pull out. Ten doesn’t want to pull out.

“No,” he mumbles, trembling when Johnny thumbs at his nipples yet again, an embarrassing kind of noise escaping his mouth. “No. Keep going.”

Johnny obeys. He thrusts his hips up, eliciting another moan from Ten. Johnny is getting hard. Ten surprises himself by wanting to reach down, fondle with him.

You, a hermit? a voice that sounds suspiciously like Yuta’s echoes in his brain. Well, despite not often being in the presence of any other dick but his own, Ten is really into it. Dick, that is. And right now he can feel Johnny’s growing against his thigh, and it’s alluring.

“You’re hard,” Ten points out.

Johnny bites at Ten’s mouth, licks over it afterward. “You get me hard.”

“Can I touch you?”

It’s clear that Johnny wasn’t expecting Ten to be so forward. His eyes widen for a second, he visibly shakes under Ten’s weight. “Fuck. Yeah, Ten. Touch me.”

It’s been a while, but Ten thinks he still got it. He scoots a bit back on Johnny’s legs, unbuttoning his pants and dragging the zipper down. The minute he drags Johnny’s underwear down, his dick springs free, half-hard and gorgeous. Ten doesn’t think he’s seen a prettier dick in his entire life. Not even porn actors look like that.

“Wow,” Ten marvels, petting it, poking at the tip and laughing delightfully when his hand comes out sticky with precome. “It’s pretty.”

Johnny groans. “You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?”

Ten looks up at him, smiles covertly and closes a hand around Johnny’s length. He gives a tentative pump looking out for Johnny’s reaction. Johnny goes lax under him and Ten sees that as a sign.

He gets into a rhythm, bringing his hand up and down, occasionally teasing at the underside, spreading precome all the way from the tip to the base. Johnny appreciates it all, his hands touching Ten in a nearly reverent manner, careful. His dick flexes in Ten’s hand, flushed and stiff, and Ten wants to feel it in his mouth.

Pressing a gentle kiss to Johnny’s lips, Ten announces, “I’m gonna blow you.”

Johnny moans, long and loud as Ten slides off him. His legs spread voluntarily apart so Ten can fit in between, a hand running through Ten’s hair.

Ten gives him one last look before he licks at the head of Johnny’s dick.

“Oh my God, Ten,” Johnny breathes, his fingers tightening into Ten’s hair strands.

Giggling at Johnny’s reaction, Ten licks again, holding it at the base. His thumb caresses at a vein and he mouths the underside, catching the head of Johnny’s dick in his mouth just to let it out with a pop. He tastes salty like a regular dick, but somehow it doesn’t. It doesn’t feel like when Ten sucked Yukhei off, a weird feeling that just made him wanna finish quickly. This is nice, the weight of Johnny’s dick on his tongue is comfortable.

Ten runs his open mouth up and down the shaft, lapping at the tip when he gets there. He feels Johnny’s contractions against his tongue when he touches his balls, licking and sucking at them.

“Fuck,” Johnny curses. “I’m gonna come.”

Making sure to pump him faster, Ten watches in fascination as white spurts out of Johnny’s dick and through Ten’s fingers, dripping down his length.

Kneeling on the floor, Ten rubs his clean palm over Johnny’s clothed thigh, keeps his eyes on him as he comes down from it.

Then Johnny is pulling him to his feet and back into his lap. He kisses Ten hungrily.

“Let me do you, now,” Johnny says in a near whisper, palming Ten through his pants. Ten hasn’t gone soft and Johnny can certainly tell. “Can I blow you, now?”

“Please,” Ten mutters, and Johnny pops his buttons open in no time, shifting their position so Ten is lying back to the couch. The sudden movement draws a gasp from Ten, whose shoes, socks, and pants soon join the discarded Valentino on the floor.

Johnny runs both hands all over Ten’s body, placing one of Ten’s legs over his shoulder. He takes his sweet time kissing the inside of Ten’s thighs, drawing it out until Ten is tipping over the edge, his neglected dick twitching rock hard on his stomach. Johnny hasn’t even touched him and Ten is already going crazy.

Naturally, Johnny notices. “Do you want me to touch you?” It’s almost as if he’s being mean on purpose. Ten flicks his forehead in annoyance and Johnny laughs. “Come on, Ten, you gotta ask me.”

“W-what?” Ten tries to kick him this time, but Johnny catches him by the ankle just in time. “You fucker.”

“Come on, baby.”

Mortified and deprived of his dignity, Ten licks his lips, and asks, “Please put me in your mouth, Johnny.”

The moment Johnny takes him, Ten forgets all about shame and dignity. All he cares about is Johnny’s plump, velvety lips around him, taking him deep enough that Ten feels wet and warm all over. Johnny’s hand grips at the base so he can surface for air before going back in. Ten feels he’s not gonna last long pretty early on, licking his own fingers so he can play with his nipples, thrusting into Johnny’s mouth. It feels so fucking good he doesn’t even care he’s being loud and shameless, a lot more interested in chasing the pleasure Johnny offers him.

Ten tugs at Johnny’s hair, trying to tell him he’s about to come, but Johnny doesn’t stop.

“J-Johnny, I--” Ten stutters, gripping at the back of the sofa when it hits him. His toes curl in, mouth ajar. He’s frozen in his spot. Ten comes in Johnny’s mouth.

Johnny’s mouth is sticky when he kisses Ten’s thigh. He surges forward to kiss Ten’s mouth and he tastes like come; like salt and Ten.

For a couple of minutes, they just lie there; Johnny on top of Ten, running a hand through Ten’s hair, kissing his face.

Ten feels drained.

“Spend the night,” Ten suggests, eyes closed as Johnny’s caresses lull him into peace. “I would love some cuddles.”

“Yeah,” Johnny answers. “I’ll send Choi home.”

They move to the bed after Johnny cleans them (and the couch that got dirty when Ten gripped at it with his come-dirty fingers, which sucks because that stain is never coming off now). Ten takes possession of Johnny’s hoodie because it’s much bigger than himself and he thinks it’ll look cute on him. He falls asleep on Johnny’s shoulder, a long arm around his torso.

 

With morning comes the realization that Ten fell asleep in Johnny’s hoodie and nothing else. Johnny pumps him through morning wood and Ten sucks him off in the shower.

They get dressed and go out for breakfast. Since Johnny sent Choi home last night, he asks for a car to be sent over for the day. Ten ends up riding in the passenger seat of a fancy sports car he wouldn't be able to name if he tried.

Johnny doesn’t appear to know the area so well, so Ten takes him to Hypera.

“Are you sure it’s safe?” Ten asks, checking their surroundings as they settle on the corner that’s the furthest from the windows.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?” Johnny asks nonchalantly. He’s got his hood up and one of Ten’s sunglasses, but people would be able to recognize him if they tried.

“Just a guess. I thought you were choosing hidden spots so people wouldn’t bother you.” Ten gestures at space around them. “This is a pretty open place.”

Johnny glances at the other two occupied tables. A couple and a group of three guys. Johnny nods. “It’s okay.”

Ten still isn’t sure. “But what if we get photographed?”

“Then we get photographed.”

“But--”

“Ten, what are you afraid of?” Johnny asks him. It’s not confrontational, just a simple question. “I’m not worried, okay? Kunhang was right, people know about me. If we did get photographed it wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve been spotted with men before in much more compromising situations.” Johnny places his hand over Ten’s on the table, searches for his eyes. “I’m not worried about being seen with you.”

Ten’s stomach flutters, and he feels a rush of fondness reach him.

“Are you still trying to woo me?” He asks, the corner of his mouth lifting in mirth.

Johnny seems taken aback. “Haven't I already accomplished that?”

Ten shrugs, “Jury is still out.”

Johnny pulls his hand back and appraises him. “You are trying to kill me.”

Ten cackles. He thinks he might hold onto the truth for a bit longer.

 

“When you didn’t recognize me I felt like a loser.”

They’ve been sitting at Hypera for the past hour. The food came and went, and now they're just sipping on their drinks, enjoying each other’s company.

The revelation confuses Ten, who frowns at Johnny. “Really?”

“Yep. I guess I was waiting for you to realize on your own. You were bound to, eventually. But more than that, I didn’t know if you were interested in Johnny Seo or Johnny Suh. They’re quite different, you know?”

Ten leans forward, studying him.

He continues, “Whenever I meet someone knew my career is often the main topic of conversation. Johnny Seo is good for hookups; a boost to your Instagram followers count.”

Somehow, Ten didn’t think Johnny would second-guess himself like that. Silly. Johnny is made of flesh and bones just like Ten himself.

“Yeah, Johnny Suh is not perfect. He makes mistakes as we all do and he learns. Anyone who protects small defenseless creatures is worth it. I like him just as much as the other one.”

With the sunglasses resting right next to the potted plant on the table, Ten can see the exact moment something shifts in Johnny’s eyes. The way he looks at Ten is tranquil, at ease, the edges of his face soft.

“You should watch that mouth of yours,” he says quite seriously. “Gonna make me fall for you.”

Ten throws his head back in laughter, feeling dizzy and overflowing with happiness.

“Oh no,” he makes a face at Johnny. “We don’t want that, don’t we?”

Johnny balls up a napkin and tosses at him. Ten dodges it. “Such a menace.”

“Don’t litter, Mr. Suh!”

 

--

 

“It’s a musical about a man who goes through a mirror into another world. Inspired by Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

“Why don’t you want it?”

“Sounds a lot like Honest Beauty. I’ve barely made out of Prince Andrew alive, I don’t want to have to do it again.”

They’re lying on the floor of Ten’s apartment, Metallica playing quietly in the background as they talk. Johnny sucks on a lollipop, its aroma wafting into Ten’s nose given their proximity.

“What role would you like to play next? Something gritty like Steve Ahn?”

Johnny props himself up on his elbow, holds his lollipop out for Ten to grab. “You watched Don’t Don?”

Taking the lollipop, Ten suckles on it. Tastes like artificial cherry. “Of course. The day I found out about you I met up with Yuta and Taeyong, got drunk, and watched your most famous movies. Prince Andrew made me cry, not gonna lie. Steve Ahn was badass.”

Johnny smiles down at him before he settles back next to Ten on the floor. “Don’t Don was the most challenging thing I’ve ever tried. Would love to get another one like that.”

“Raw and real?”

“Different. Challenging. The musical would be different just because, well, it's a musical, but… It’s Prince Andrew all over again. The casting director told me he thought about me the minute he read the script. It’s a typecast.”

“What’s a typecast?” Ten passes the lollipop back to him.

“When an actor gets cast into a role similar to a previous one because they appropriated that character or was super successful in it. Many actors don’t mind being typecast. It’s work. Some even prefer.”

“Not you, though.”

“Not me. I don’t feel like it offers me much room for growth.”

“I see.”

Johnny turns on his stomach, throws an arm over Ten, brings him closer. “What about you?”

Ten faces him. “Me?”

“Yeah. Your job. Last time I heard about it was at that first failed date where I tried to get you to make out with me.”

Snorting, Ten hands him the lollipop. “Was that a date? I wasn’t aware.”

“It wasn’t.”

“There’s not much to say about my job,” Ten says absently. “I get to fight hackers on a daily basis. There’s no career plan because the company is small. I’m good over there.”

“Don’t you feel the need to get more out of it? Improve your practice?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I earn enough to support myself and I get a lot of experience coding. For now, I’m alright.” Ten looks at Johnny, admires the slope of his nose and how pretty his upper lip is. He rests a hand on the back of Johnny’s neck. “I try not to freak out about my professional future. I quite enjoy the slow pacing of my life.”

Johnny nods at him, brushing a knuckle over his cheek.

After a moment, he says, “I just realized you’ve never been to my apartment.”

Ten blinks. “I haven’t.”

“You can come home with me.”

It’s the same thing Ten told him last night. It makes them both laugh. Ten steals the lollipop from Johnny’s mouth. “Yeah. Take me home.”

 

Johnny’s apartment is, naturally, much bigger than Ten’s. There are giant glass windows in the living room overlooking the entire city, and his furniture is all very modern and designer-looking. It’s a bachelor pad, a bar to the side and a very clean and open kitchen.

Ten lets out a low whistle. “Nice.”

According to Architectural Digest on YouTube, most actors own huge hillside mansions. Compared to those, Johnny’s apartment is quite modest. A penthouse, nonetheless, but modest.

“I can’t remember the last time I used that kitchen,” Johnny says, which gives them the wonderful idea of preparing dinner.

Ten is not the best cook and Johnny reveals himself to be atrocious. After watching several videos and failing a couple of times (Johnny has to step aside for a moment because the onions did a number on him), dinner is ready.

It’s simple and not the best thing either of them has ever tried, but they made it work.

 

--

 

A week goes blissfully by in a way Ten doesn’t even feel the days passing. Johnny’s officially done with shooting for robot shark and it’s going into post-production, which means he’s got a couple of days (maybe weeks) before diving into a new project. According to him, his agent has been trying to convince him into taking up the musical role, despite Johnny being adamantly against it.

At work, Taeil seems pleased with Ten’s performance. He claims Ten has been wandering off into his own thoughts (or phone, occasionally) a lot less, and their databases have been more secure than ever.

Johnny uses his free time to watch some French films Ten recommends. He swears none of them are as good as Detroit Rock City, but their effort is appreciated. Ten takes offense and leaves him on read for a few hours.

Taeyong won’t stop complaining about Jaehyun’s lack of workplace sportsmanship — whatever that means —, so Ten decides to file that together with Yuta’s complaints of not yet being introduced to Johnny (“I can't accept the fact that you’ve been dating a famous guy and I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him yet! I thought we were friends! You know what, I’m taking you off my will”).

When he is no longer able to endure Yuta’s extremely vocal dissatisfaction, Ten asks if Johnny is okay with getting their friends together — he mentions The Jaeyong Situation as they’ve called it, and Johnny is totally on board. They set a Sicheng-friendly date.

 

Ten sleeps over one night before the get-together, which is happening in Johnny’s apartment for space reasons. And Yuta, who wants to see what the home of a celebrity looks like.

They wake up earlier than either would have liked on a Saturday and head to the grocery store. Johnny’s manager, Doyoung, is cooking, so all they gotta do is buy the stuff. Meat, vegetables, snacks, and drinks. What people usually eat functions like those. Not that Ten has been to many.

Taeyong brings Ten’s favorite vodka, and Renjun brings a friend, who coincidentally happens to be the blonde guy at the front desk at that Rooftop Bar. Johnny recognizes him immediately, bounding over to him like an overly excited golden retriever.

“What a pleasant surprise!” He says.

“I’ll say. Renjun insisted that I come because he said he didn’t want to be alone amongst the old people.”

Jeno, Renjun’s plus one, is an angel. Renjun, on the other hand.

“You brat,” Ten curses. “See if I call you ever again.”

It’s their usual banter, except that this time a Renjun makes a point to mention he’s only joking, considering Johnny is watching everything unfold very closely and Renjun cares too much about what people think of him to let Johnny misunderstand the situation.

Yuta and Sicheng arrive together. Sicheng’s hair is different, and Ten is surprised to realize he’s missed him. He hugs Sicheng for a second too long.

Yuta doesn’t disappoint and embarrasses them all to death by fawning over Johnny and never shutting up about how he’s been watching his movies since he was a child, never minding the fact that they’re the same age. Johnny looks lightly offended for a second, but the force of Yuta’s smile blindsides him as it does every human being on this planet.

Doyoung is the first of Johnny’s friends to arrive. He looks calm, collected, and very formal in his slacks and button-up combo. He greets Ten with a bow and walks straight into the kitchen.

“He’s cool, I promise,” Johnny feels the need to say as they watch Doyoung over the counter.

Taeyong offers Doyoung help in the kitchen, and they get along pretty well. None of them struggle with the onions and Doyoung even cracks a smile!

“Don’t they look cozy,” Yuta says suggestively, eyes trained on the duo dragging everyone’s attention.

Kun, who arrived about twenty minutes after Doyoung, shares a pointed look with Johnny. Ten is kinda suspicious but doesn’t ask.

He’d get an answer soon enough anyway with Jaehyun’s arrival.

He walks in and everyone greets him. Everyone but Doyoung and Taeyong in their little culinary world. It’s like time halts as Jaehyun notices them. His face falls and he looks torn.

“Oh, boy,” Johnny mutters.

Ten squeezes his thigh. “What is going on?”

“Doyoung is Jae’s ex.”

Oh. Shit. Well.

“Hey. Jaehyun,” Ten calls, a bit louder than necessary. “Come sit.”

It has the desired effect. Doyoung and Taeyong look up at the same time. Nobody moves in the living room, although someone shifts in the leather couch, causing it to squeak and break the atmosphere.

Jaehyun takes a seat next to Ten, going right past Kun and Johnny like he’s not paying much attention,

“Hey,” Ten says. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Jaehyun responds, seemingly realizing he’d been going in slow-motion. He shakes his head. “You good?”

“Good.”

Yuta introduces himself, then Sicheng. Jaehyun already knows Jeno but greets Renjun with a smile. He’s pleasant as per usual, and Ten just can’t understand why do they (Jaeyong) feel the need to antagonize each other.

Johnny drapes an arm over the back of the couch, around Ten’s head, and pokes Jaehyun.

“Hey. What took you so long?” He asks.

Jaehyun blinks at him. “Oh. I was. Doing some stuff at home.” He’s talking to Johnny, but his attention keeps flitting between the living room group and the chef duo in the kitchen. “I didn’t know they were friends.”

No one replies to him. Everyone just looks at each other at a loss until Jeno and Renjun, amongst themselves, start a conversation about Renjun’s Meghan Markle design that somehow got all over Instagram and Pinterest. The topic picks Kun’s interest, who asks what it is that Renjun does for a living. Slowly but surely, the focus deviates from Jaehyun.

Ten takes this chance to approach Taeyong in the kitchen. Pulling his friend to the side, Ten says, “Did you know that Doyoung is Jaehyun’s ex?”

Taeyong’s eyes go wide. “For real?” Ten nods. Taeyong looks over Ten’s shoulder in the direction of the living room. “Does he look jealous?”

There’s an excited glint in Taeyong’s eyes. Ten feels entitled to slap his arm, not even fazed when Taeyong hisses. “Stop right now. This cat and mouse game you’ve been playing with Jaehyun has its limitations, okay?”

“I’m not playing with him! He’s the one who didn’t kiss me when he should have and now walks around the office like I’ve offended him or something!”

Rolling his eyes so hard they might as well have done a full 360°, Ten says, “You could have gone and talked to him about it.”

Taeyong folds his arms in his chest looking very much like the petulant child he’s being. “Why should I? I’m not the one acting like an asshole.”

“Well, one of you needs to take the first step!” Ten whisper-yells out of frustration.

“Uh, excuse me.” Doyoung steps closer to them looking a bit cautious, and Ten mildly panics about having spoken too loud. “I couldn’t help but overhear. Jaehyun is not going to tell you what he’s thinking. If you’re curious you should go and ask.”

When neither Ten not Taeyong respond, Doyoung hurries, “Sorry for intruding. I just… Jae and I broke up almost a year ago because we realized we were better off as friends. He’s one of the best ones I’ve got, and I worry about him. I know Jae really likes you, but it’s like he doesn’t know how to translate his feelings and thoughts into words on his own? You gotta help him with that.”

That’s really nice of Doyoung, but Ten can’t help but wonder. “If you knew Jaehyun likes Taeyong why have you been flirting with him since you got here?”

Doyoung and Taeyong then frown at him in confusion.

“We were not flirting!”

“Absolutely not!”

“Taeyong was helping me cook and we realized we have a similar way of navigating the kitchen,” Doyoung says, shooting a friendly smile at Taeyong.

“Yeah, we are kitchen compatible.”

Then, they proceed to glance at each other in this really intimate way that makes Ten feel like he’s third-wheeling.

“Yep. That’s flirting right there. Y’all are flirting with each other.”

Doyoung lowers his eyes in what Ten interprets as an admission of guilt and goes back to stirring the pot on the burner.

“Taeyong, you should talk to Jaehyun. And stop flirting with his ex-boyfriend.”

Taeyong sighs tiredly. “I was not flirting with him, we just… Got along.”

“Kitchen compatible, yeah I got it. Jaehyun saw everything and he looked pretty bummed.”

“He did?” Taeyong once again looks over Ten’s shoulder. “Fuck, he’s watching us.”

Figures. “At least go say hi?”

Taeyong clears his throat. “No need. He’s coming over.”

“What?” Ten turns around and is met with Jaehyun’s figure approaching them.

“Taeyong.” Jaehyun says. His eyes are glued to Taeyong, like Ten is completely invisible.

“Hey,” Taeyong says softly, and that's definitely Ten’s cue to go. He sees that Doyoung is also retreating into the living room on his tip toes, so Ten follows him.

As soon as Doyoung plops on an armchair next to Kun, the latter elbows him, asking, “What in God’s name were you doing?”

Doyoung shrugs, mumbling something about kitchen compatibility and letting his head hang low.

Ten is about to retake his spot next to Johnny but is abruptly intercepted by hands on his hips guiding him into Johnny’s lap. He gasps in surprise, holding onto Johnny’s shoulders.

“Why, Mr. Suh, there’s a lot of room on this couch,” Ten taunts, settling himself on Johnny’s thighs.

With both hands entwined over Ten’s ribs, Johnny blinks up at him. “I wanted to be closer to you.”

Feeling more absolutely enamored (Ten didn’t even know it was possible for feelings to grow this big this fast), Ten caresses the back of Johnny’s neck.

“In this case, you should be sitting on my lap,” he says matter of factly.

Johnny chuckles, “I should. Let’s switch.”

It's awkward, Johnny’s legs are too long and he’s too big, but Ten is so fucking taken by him he doesn’t even care. They just exchange kisses and giggle at each other until someone breaks into their moment and reminds them they’re not alone.

“I’ve never been more disgusted in my entire life,” Sicheng deadpans.

“So embarrassing,” Renjun says, his whole face contorted in repulse.

It all turns into a good-natured argument and Ten’s heart is too small for everything he’s currently feeling. His legs start aching from Johnny’s weight, which prompts Yuta into reminding him to drink that horrible concoction of orange and beetroot paired with all the greens and superfood powders he recommended to strengthen Ten’s bones.

Once the food is ready everyone grabs their portion and eats where they are sitting.

As he picks at his bowl of rice, Ten takes a moment to runs his eyes across the living room. This might be the most crowded get together he’s ever organized. It’s always Ten, Taeyong, Yuta and Sicheng whenever he’s in town (ever since he moved back to his hometown it’s been harder to get a hold of him), Renjun sometimes if he’s feeling charitable enough to grace the oldies with his youthful presence. Now, thanks to Johnny and his friends, there’s a full house brimming with chatter and life. He likes it. He likes it so much it threatens to put a damper on his mood when he realizes he’s not sure if it’s going to last.

Being who he is, Johnny certainly meets loads of new people daily, and they’re probably much more interesting than boring tech security engineer Ten.

It’s not a concern for today, though. Today, he’ll let himself enjoy the company of friends and bask into the warmth permeating the room.

 

Towards the end of the day, Ten catches sight of Taeyong and Jaehyun standing in the balcony with their heads knocked together, whispering to each other.

Later that night, Taeyong explains that Ten had been right all along. Because Taeyong hadn’t kissed him on their first date, Jaehyun thought he had messed up and made Taeyong regret going out with him. Instead of asking Taeyong about it, Jaehyun decided to act like an idiot. Meanwhile, Taeyong, who also hadn’t been kissed guessed that something had actually gone wrong during the date, unaware of the fact that Jaehyun, much like himself, doesn’t kiss on first dates — he waits and gets kissed instead.

Ten is honestly amazed by the amount of dumbassery needed to make all that mess happen, but happy to hear they’ve agreed to try again.

 

 

On their Saturday get together, Doyoung mentioned a new project Johnny’s been offered that features an antagonist role. It’s a modern fantasy picture centered around a young man who finds out his mom used to be a witch after his house is broken into and something invaluable taken away. It’s to be shot in New Zealand and Johnny would be playing the lead’s older brother, a powerful wizard with nefarious intentions.

Johnny explains everything one evening a couple of weeks after. They’re at Kay’s café as Ten is used to call, and Ten splits a scone apart as Johnny tells him about Zren, the evil older brother who’s out to ruin the male lead’s life. He sounds interested in it, even though it’s not a lead role, which is what his agent was hoping he’d go for. Johnny sounds excited about his first villain. Ten thinks he’s going to take it.

A few days later Johnny texts him a picture of what appears to be Zren concept art, and Ten is thrilled for him. So much he even attempts his rendition of the art, texting Johnny back a couple of hours later as Taeil scolds him for letting an offender break one of their defenses while he sketched in his workstation.

Johnny tells him production will take place in New Zealand three months from now, and it will last about a month and a half. Ten pouts at the thought of not seeing Johnny for a month and a half.

The question comes the following weekend.

They’re attempting breakfast at Johnny’s kitchen, Ten clinging to Johnny’s back as he cooks. Ten feels extremely comfortable where he is, dressed in one of Johnny’s old Metallica shirts and sweatpants, cheek against the back of Johnny’s shoulder.

All of a sudden, Johnny stops scrambling the eggs.

“Hey. What do you think about coming with me?”

“Coming with you where?” Ten asks.

“To New Zealand.”

Oh. To New Zealand. Ten thought he was gonna say the market or even the pet shop because Johnny’s been dropping hints about wanting to adopt a pet. But New Zealand? He’s rendered speechless.

Johnny turns around, running both hands up and down Ten’s arms.

“The first week is going to be chill, mostly rehearsals and readings. I think we’d have time to explore and hang out.”

Johnny watches Ten with apprehension. He’s not joking. He really wants Ten to come to New Zealand with him.

And Ten is not sure.

“I don’t know,” he says, chewing on his lip.

His answer doesn’t freak Johnny out. He just nods, averts his eyes for a second before saying, “Okay. Have some days to think about it, see if it’s feasible and fits your schedule. Then tell me. Okay?”

Ten doesn’t know what to do.

So he calls his mom.

“He sounds like a really good boy,” she says over the phone. Ten is sitting on his bedroom floor leaning back against the bed, knees to his chest, an arm around his legs as the other hand holds the phone. Johnny brought him home before it got dark, and Ten hasn’t been able to think about anything but the proposition.

“Yes, that’s not what we’re debating here, mom,” he huffs. “He asked me on a trip that’s only supposed to happen three months from now. What if we’re not… Seeing each other anymore by then?”

“If you’re not together, you mean?”

Ten shuts his eyes, leans his forehead on his knees. “We’re not together now. We’re just… Dating, maybe? He’s not my boyfriend, I have no means of knowing we’ll still be doing this three months from now.”

“Ah, so complicated, Chittaphon,” his mom sounds annoyed, and Ten winces when she drops his given name. “When did you get this clueless? I sure as hell didn’t raise you stupid!”

Ten gasps, cheeks burning tinted even though there’s no one around to hear his own mother crushing him. “Mother!”

“If he asked you it means he expects you to still be together three months from now!” She yells, catching the attention of someone next to her, probably Ten’s father. His mom speaks to the person, voice sounding distant. “Nah, he’s just acting silly, but I’m working on it.”

Ten groans, rubbing a fist over his eyes. “So you think I should go?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think, do you want to go?”

He does. Ten really does. Johnny is so nice, and caring, and hard around the edges but so soft inside. Ten loves the way he gives people his undivided attention when they’re speaking, and he absolutely adores how big Johnny smiles whenever he's surrounded by the people he loves. Ten likes that there’s not a single human capable of speaking ill about Johnny. He's so good at learning Ten; like he’s read a Ten Instructions Manual or something.

Ten really wants to be with him three months from now.

“Yeah,” he whispers into the phone. “Yeah, I do.”

“Then go. Simple as that. And bring me one of those decorative plates for my kitchen cabinet.”

 

 

Taeil promises to arrange Ten’s week off with the HR people in exchange for a Lord of the Rings souvenir Ten is supposed to find in a very specific place located somewhere Johnny vows to know (Ten is not buying it, by the way. Google says the access to Taeil's souvenir thing is rough).

Speaking of Johnny, he happens to be even more excited than Ten. His trip preparations include a Pinterest board containing all the tourist destinations they could visit and a google doc with several addresses to restaurants.

Sicheng, surprisingly a big fan of modern fantasies, casually asks if Johnny would be able to sneak Zren’s costume home so he could wear it on Halloween. Johnny promises to try.

Taeyong and Jaehyun seem to be slowly getting back into their budding romance. The kiss conundrum was resolved when Taeyong finally took it upon himself to kiss Jaehyun in the middle of their workplace, which was risky and could have gotten both of them in huge trouble but ultimately worked. Neither of them appears to be worried about Taeyong and Doyoung’s ‘kitchen compatibility’, although the high frequency of Doyoung’s features in both of their Instagram accounts might suggest why.

Things are going well, but Ten will still get small pangs of doubt on occasion.

They’re lying in Johnny’s bed one morning, too lazy to get up and start their day when Ten finally asks.

“Do you really think we’ll be together three months from now?”

Johnny turns on his side, a crease between his brows. Ten avoids his eyes by facing the ceiling, but he can feel Johnny’s attentive gaze on him.

“Why? You don’t?”

Ten wants to say yes, that he does believe they’ll be together. Truth is that he still doesn’t know if Johnny means everything; if he’s serious about Ten.

“I—” Ten halts, sighs.

Johnny, sensible Johnny who can feel Ten’s inner turmoil, places a hand on Ten’s cheek, tilting his head so they can face each other.

“Ten,” he says, steadfast. True. “I’m sure I’ll want to be with you three months from now. I’m sure I want you to come to New Zealand with me.”

It’s like the weight of a freighter is lifted from Ten’s shoulders. Johnny smiles at him and kisses his mouth once, twice, catches Ten in his arms, and he feels his body relaxing against Johnny, doubts seeping out of him. Ten finally understands.