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a momentary brilliance

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The thing about stories is everyone has their own version. Everyone sees it differently — everyone tells it differently. If you asked Jaemin, he would have said it had started when they were trainees. When Renjun first saw Donghyuck in the practice room. To Jeno it started with Don’t Need Your Love. To Jisung it was when Donghyuck and Mark first fought — when Renjun and Donghyuck somehow fell into each other’s orbits.

 

For Renjun it starts right here: in a practice room, the two of them in floppy hoodies and sweatpants. It’s quarter past eleven on a Saturday morning and though the autumn rain falls in sheets outside there's no trace of it inside the building. It’s a typical scene: Chenle clutched to Jeno’s back, cheering him on as the two of them run wildly around the room. They dodge around Jaemin — collapsed on the floor with his legs splayed out and his hat discarded beside him — and Chenle asks Jeno to run him over, to which Jaemin lets out a long whine. In the corner, Jisung picks up the various snacks set at the food table, examining them and then placing them back down while muttering to himself.

 

In the center of the chaos is Renjun and Donghyuck — of course.

 

“I want you to give him a long stare,” the choreographer says. “Something tender, something longing. Make his heart race, Renjun.”

 

Renjun nods and toys with the strings on his mask. It’s not hard to make Donghyuck’s heart race. Telling him to exercise usually seems to do the trick. Lifting a large flat object and threatening to break it over his head is also on the menu.

 

Opposite him, Donghyuck pokes his tongue out.

 

“Can’t I just punch him in the gut instead?” Renjun asks. 

 

“I don’t think the fans would like that, Injunnie,” Donghyuck says.

 

“I don’t think the fans like you, full stop.”

 

“You wound me.”

 

“I’ll do more than wound you in a second.” 

 

He lunges for Donghyuck’s throat, moving at the last second to wrap him into a bear hug, pulling him against his chest and whispering in his ear: “I’ll make you quiver.”

 

Donghyuck’s smirk when he squirms free is a patented one — destruction and determination and a fireball of drive all wrapped up in a perfect face-warping quirk of the lips. It makes Renjun want more. It makes him want to fight, the way he was born to do. It’s a smile that taps into that explosive nature and says:

 

“I’d like to see you try.”

 

They break from the rehearsal thirty minutes later. Donghyuck goes to the bathroom — and Renjun follows. Donghyuck knows he’s following — he casts a look back at him with raised eyebrows. This is all a game — one they’ve played time and time again.

 

In the back of the building Renjun shoves Donghyuck up against the wall, sticks his thigh between his legs and pins his wrists above his head. He’s smaller — objectively — Donghyuck could probably throw him off if he really tried. But it’s the fact that he doesn’t — the fact that he lets Renjun hold his face centimeters from his, the fact that he lets him brush his lips against the crook of his neck and murmur into his skin: “Is this what you had in mind?” 

 

That’s something in and of itself.

 

Donghyuck grins at him with shark’s teeth and hellfire dancing in his eyes. “No, but you do always surprise me.”

 

This is where it starts. Where it ends is entirely somewhere else.

 

*

 

“You’re hot shit, hyung,” Chenle says as they climb into the van. He’s talking to Jaemin, who’s grinning like a loon, the mask covering his chin flecked with red from the ddeokbokki they’d grabbed on the way back.

 

“Who fucking taught you that language?”

 

“Dunno,” Chenle raises his eyebrows and pouts. “Who did?”

 

Renjun snorts as he clambers into the back seat, almost elbowing Donghyuck in the head and earning a look of barely concealed annoyance. It’s past sundown and the autumn chill has descended on Seoul, the sun’s fleeting warmth faded away and only the cold neon lights left reflecting in the puddles on the streets. Renjun had started to shiver violently while they were waiting at a stand for takeout — he’s now swimming in Jisung’s hoodie (pulled over the top of his own). Donghyuck takes the sleeve and sniffs it when he sits beside him — giving him a puzzling look then returning back to staring out the rain streaked window.

 

“You gonna stick around?” Renjun asks, poking Donghyuck in the side. It’s a Saturday, which means they get to go back to the dorms. No journey to the TBS building for Renjun to record tonight, just good friends, good food and exhaustion in his bones. Chenle and Jaemin are still talking up front — Chenle’s doing that thing where he imitates everything Jaemin says in a high pitched voice — and Jisung has his earphones in already, scrolling through his phone without a care for the fact that his best friend is picking a fight with someone who is liable to swallow him whole on a bad day.

 

He’s probably right not to care. Chenle can take care of himself. He’s got a sharper tongue than Renjun, and a disarming smile to back it up. Plus there’s the fact that (and Renjun’s the only one who knows this — he’s taking this to the grave as far as Jaemin is concerned) Jaemin is disgustingly in love with Chenle. He reckons Chenle must have some kind of inkling of it, but it’s not quite enough — and Renjun does draw some amusement from watching the conflicting emotions flash across Jaemin’s face as he takes yet another teasing remark on the nose.

 

“Yeah, I think so,” Donghyuck says. He nudges Renjun back with a tap on the calf, more absent minded than anything with intent. “Unless you wanna come play games with me and Johnny? You can probably borrow Taeyong’s spare laptop again.”

 

Renjun glances to where Jaemin is wincing and screaming at Chenle’s fingers digging into his side. Chenle’s coming back with them. If he’s lucky he’ll be gaming with Jisung. If he’s unlucky he’ll have to watch Jaemin make heart eyes at him for the next six hours.

 

“Sure,” he says. “That sounds good.”

 

*

 

The 127 dorm is deadly quiet, save for the soft thump of music coming from behind Doyoung's door. As they come into the kitchen Taeyong's door opens, and he greets them with a wave and a soft smile. His voice is rough and he sports a wooly bedhead and obvious signs of a late night binge in the recording studio.

 

“Hey Renjun. Hey Donghyuck. Dream dorm too loud?”

 

After all these years Renjun still finds Taeyong intimidating — despite that fact he’s seen him walking around the dorm in his boxer shorts meowing to himself in the middle of the night. Despite the fact they’ve had heart to hearts when Renjun was consumed with homesickness. Despite all the times Taeyong has looked out for him and taken him under his wing — Taeyong is still scary. He just has an aura about him. He'd felt it when he'd first seen the SM Rookies videos and he feels it today — there’s something otherworldly about him. Ethereal. 

 

“Just needed a break,” Donghyuck says. He throws up a peace sign and Taeyong nods. 

 

“Yeah. I know the feeling. Good to see you two again. I watched your radio last night, Renjun, by the way. You look so cool.”

 

“Oh,” Renjun laughs. It’s rare for him to be embarrassed these days, but he feels his cheeks heat up a little bit all the same. “Thank you.”

 

Taeyong smiles, tired eyes sparkling. "Do you guys want my laptop?"

 

"Yeah," Donghyuck nods. "We're gonna play some Overwatch. Do you wanna join?"

 

"Sure. I got up like five minutes ago, though. Let me actually wake up first."

 

"Busy night?"

 

"Mmmm. Tried to be. How did your practice go, eh? How's the concert looking?"

 

"Great," Renjun says. Donghyuck nods. 

 

"Lots of new choreo. We're the fanservice bitches this time."

 

"Don't you love that, Donghyuck?"

 

"Not when it's him. It's awful."

 

"Hey," Renjun says, elbowing him. "I'm right here." 

 

"Unfortunately."

 

Taeyong laughs. It's rough with sleep but it's happy and bright. "I would say don't let him fool you, but I'm sure you already know."

 

Renjun nods. "You would be right." He smacks Donghyuck's butt and Donghyuck barely flinches, though Taeyong lets out another bright laugh.

 

"Alright,” Taeyong says. “There's leftovers and beer in the fridge if you want. I'll grab my laptop for you, yeah?"

 

“Thanks hyung,” Donghyuck says. He nudges Renjun. “C’mon.”

 

Johnny isn't home — apparently he's on the tenth floor (the frat floor, Renjun likes to think of it as). The room is dark and quiet, the only light coming from the various electronics decorating the place. Donghyuck flicks on the light and gestures at his bed.

 

Renjun likes Donghyuck’s room. He doesn’t come here often — it’s usually easier for Donghyuck to come to Dream dorm (and privately — since they don’t get to see him as much — it’s nicer for him to come to the Dream dorm), but sometimes Renjun needs a break. Donghyuck’s room is cool and cozy, filled with warm lights and lots of little trinkets they’ve picked up over the years — things they went shopping for together. Shirts they bought in LA, things he’s collected while on tour with 127. Little Donghyuckisms strewn across the floor and mixed in with Johnny’s decor.

 

Renjun flops down onto the unmade bed and pulls a pillow out, tucking it under his neck. In front of him Donghyuck pulls his shirt over his head, throws it onto the floor and then picks another up and sniffs it — deeming it clean enough to pull on.

 

“You know that's not gonna do much considering how much you sweat today,” Renjun says.

 

“That’s rich coming from someone who sweats the Han river the second he gets on stage.”

 

“It means I’m speaking from experience,” Renjun says. He punches the pillow, adjusting his head slightly and splaying his legs everywhere. “You can change your clothes, but you’re still gonna smell.”

 

Without warning Donghyuck throws himself on top of him, knocking the air out of his lungs. He shoves his hand into Renjun’s face, his fingers almost going up his nose, palm squashing his lips as he leans in and asks: “Do I smell? Tell me Renjun, do I smell?”

 

Renjun knees whatever body part he can reach and shoves at him, causing Donghyuck to laugh.

 

“You don’t stink any more than you usually do,” Renjun says. Donghyuck wiggles on top of him, flailing like a beached whale before he attempts to hug Renjun, legs tangling with his, his body like a dead weight. “Will you get off me?”

 

“Tell me you love me,” Donghyuck says. Renjun groans, kicking up at him again and pulling on the edge of his shirt.

 

“In your dreams.”

 

Donghyuck pulls back and lands a wet kiss on Renjun’s forehead. “Tell me you love me!”

 

“You are so fucking gross!” Renjun says, laughing. He shoves at Donghyuck, who releases his hold on him, not before using his position to plant another kiss on Renjun’s cheek. He rolls off and the weight on his chest releases, air filling his lungs again. Renjun takes a deep breath and Donghyuck laughs, poking a finger into his ribs.

 

“I can’t believe you don’t love me, Injunnie.”

 

“Why would I ever love someone who tries to smother me?”

 

Donghyuck grins and wiggles his eyebrows, sauntering across the room to turn on his computer. Renjun doesn’t budge — he remains on his back, head turned sideways to watch Donghyuck, who flops down in his ridiculous gaming chair and then swivels around to meet Renjun’s gaze like he’s a particularly unassuming Bond villain. He doesn’t speak, just props his elbows on his knees and rests his chin on his hands, staring at Renjun with a glint of something wild in his eyes.

 

“What?” Renjun asks. Donghyuck shrugs, pouting slightly.

 

“Just thinking.”

 

“I know. I can see the steam coming out of your ears.”

 

Donghyuck sighs. “What do you think about it?”

 

“You’re gonna have to be more specific than that,” Renjun says. “I can’t read your mind.”

 

“Aren’t we both thankful for that,” Donghyuck says. “I mean, about the concert? About the whole… Don't Need Your Love thing.”

 

“It’s fanservice,” Renjun shrugs. “I don’t really care. How do you feel?”

 

“I mean, they haven’t really paired us up together before. And it’s a bit…” 

 

“Intense?”

 

“Right. I kept expecting them to ask me to kiss you.”

 

Renjun laughs. “Geeze.” He shares the sentiment. It’s a lot more than anything they’ve ever done — a lot more for something they’re going to do in front of people. Renjun’s kissed Donghyuck before (on a dare, not willingly — because yes Donghyuck is attractive but he’s also Renjun’s best friend, and once upon a time Renjun had a crush on him but that’s long gone now) but doing something like this on stage is different. It’s — well. Renjun is a professional, but he can’t lie and say that it doesn’t make him nervous to be doing this. 

 

"Yeah. I mean — that stuff Taeyong was talking about. The things I do with Taeil are different. He's.. like my big brother. I don't know. I feel like I'm not explaining myself properly. I can't take it seriously when we do it, is all."

 

"It's okay," Renjun shrugs. He gets it. He and Donghyuck are close. He’s heard him call him his soulmate enough times — both on broadcast and off — to get that their relationship is different to, well, really anybody else's. He understands. 

 

Donghyuck nods. He looks faraway, still resting his chin on his fists, eyes gazing off like he’s daydreaming. “Anyway. I guess we’ll just practice. It’s good, right?”

 

“Yeah,”  Renjun says. “It’ll be good.”

 

*

 

They end up gaming until the early morning, Johnny joining them for a few hours when Taeyong drops out — citing the fact that he’s falling asleep at the keyboard. Renjun falls asleep on the couch, wrapped up in Donghyuck’s spare blanket and still wearing Jisung’s hoodie. He wakes up twice during the night — once to Taeyong, his silhouette cut out in the pale glow of the fridge door light, and then to Donghyuck and Doyoung, sitting at the kitchen table together. Their conversation is too quiet for him to hear, and he only catches snatches of it — Jeno’s name, something about the concert. Things that fall from Renjun’s mind as quickly as they enter it, like sand slipping through his fingers. He lets them lull him asleep, and though his dreams are strange and technicolour — full of flashes of faces and cities he’ll never visit — when he wakes he remembers nothing at all.

 

*

 

“You two are completely unconvincing,” Jaemin says. He’s chewing on a sausage, front teeth working like he’s a fucking rabbit, silvery hair poking out from the edge of his cap. Renjun is sitting on Donghyuck’s knee, browsing Twitter on his phone with Donghyuck’s arms wrapped loosely around his waist. 

 

“Unconvincing of what?” Renjun asks. Donghyuck shakes his knee as if he’s trying to get him to stand up and Renjun responds by wiggling against him, leaning his weight against his legs. 

 

“Why is your ass so bony?” Donghyuck asks, ignoring Jaemin entirely and smacking Renjun's hip with his open hand. Renjun snorts.

 

“Why are your thighs so weak?”

 

Donghyuck smacks him again. “Get off me.”

 

“No,” Renjun says, just as Donghyuck makes to stand up. He escapes being dumped onto the ground and lands on his feet somehow, turning around to give Donghyuck a playful shove on the shoulder. Jaemin just rolls his eyes and takes another bite of his snack.

 

“You don’t have any passion. Every single time we do Don't Need Your Love Donghyuck looks like he’s about to start laughing. I told you it should have been me and Renjun, Donghyuck."

 

Donghyuck stutters for a second, mouth opening and closing uselessly before he seems to find his words again. "Hey. Shut the fuck up?" he offers. 

 

He almost looks pissed — like he's taken Jaemin's words to heart. Maybe they know something Renjun doesn't. "You can't say that," Donghyuck continues, "we've got plenty of time to get it right. It’s not my fault I keep expecting him to pinch my cheek or something."

 

Renjun reaches out and does exactly that, grabbing the remnants of Donghyuck's baby fat between his thumb and forefinger and squeezing. Donghyuck just bats him away.

 

"Ah, for real," He says. He turns to Renjun. "I'm being serious. You look at me like you need to pee. What happened to all your promises, hey?"

 

"What promises?" Jaemin asks. They both turn to him. 

 

"Who said you could be here again?" Donghyuck asks. Jaemin bites his lip, his eyes flicking across the room, sourness flashing across his face. Renjun follows his gaze and — oh. He understands. Against the other wall beside the speakers Jeno is sitting on a chair with Chenle in his lap. The two of them are chest to chest, Chenle's chin hooked over Jeno's shoulder and his arms wrapped around him as he reads his phone. 

 

The night before, Jaemin had come into Renjun's room and lay down beside him. Jaemin hadn’t spoken and Renjun hadn't asked — he’d just wrapped his arms around him and held him for a solid couple of hours while he was watching movies on his tablet. Renjun knows now something is up.

 

"Forget it," Renjun says. He's feeling sympathetic. "Don't be mean. He can stay." 

 

He flops back down onto the bench beside Donghyuck and leans against him, sympathy for Jaemin evaporating in a second when he remembers why Donghyuck had been so callous. The fucking concert. The worst part is he knows Jaemin is right — neither of them can contain themselves.

 

"Why is everything so hard? I'd rather sing Dear Dream again than do this right now." 

 

"That's actually traumatising," Donghyuck says. "Don't bring that up."

 

Jaemin seems to agree. He melts against the wall — looking practically boneless — and lets out a long groan. They still have a good ten minutes left on their break and currently Jisung is nowhere to be seen.

 

“Fuck this,” he says. His voice is pitching up, the way it does when he’s trying to clamp down on whatever’s sitting on the tip of his tongue. “I’m gonna go for a walk, or something.”

 

“Take me with you,” Donghyuck says, rising as Jaemin does. He glances back to Renjun as if to extend the offer to him, but Renjun just shakes his head. He doesn’t feel like it. He’s tired.

 

“Go without me,” he says. Donghyuck nods. 

 

“Let’s hit up the vending machines. I’ll get something for you, Renjun.”

 

Renjun gives him a tightlipped smile and wave, then stretches his body out along the length of the bench, tilting his cap down over his face and blowing his fringe out of his eyes with a huff of air. He feels exhausted all of a sudden. It’s literally one tiny bit of choreo in a single song — it’s not even serious. No-one will care if Renjun laughs at Donghyuck. 

 

It still bothers him a lot.

 

*

 

It rains like hell that evening, a chorus of angels stomping their feet on the roof of the cafe Renjun and Donghyuck are currently holed up in. Their manager is on his phone on the table because theirs, and he's relinquished his melon bingsu to a very happy Donghyuck — who is currently picking off the cubes and popping them in his mouth in a way that is not befitting at all of an SM idol. Not that Renjun’s one to talk — but Donghyuck certainly curates his image a lot more than Renjun does. If someone takes a photo of Donghyuck in public with his fingers in his mouth and cheeks full of melon, it’ll probably be a bit more of a loss for him.

 

Renjun stabs his spoon through the bingsu he and Donghyuck were supposed to be sharing and tries to scoop up as much condensed milk as possible. It’s a petty gesture of course — taking out his annoyance on Donghyuck by stealing all the sugar — but Renjun doesn’t really have any drive to actually do anything to leave lasting damage on Donghyuck. Why would he? He really is just being petty — taking out all his annoyance at the concert practice failures on Donghyuck instead of actually dealing with it.

 

“What’re you doing tomorrow?” Donghyuck asks. It sounds sluggish — his tongue no doubt swollen from the amount of shaved ice he’s consumed.

 

“Sleeping,” Renjun says. He has absolutely no plans. Becoming a human rock sounds pretty nice right about now.

 

“Wanna come over?”

 

Renjun narrows his eyes at Donghyuck. They never go over to the 127 dorm — not this much anyway. Another invite back is vaguely suspicious. Donghyuck may be practiced at hiding how much of a fucking schemer he is, but maybe he forgets just how well Renjun knows him — he's got a sharp mind and there's definitely something brewing under there.

 

"Why?" Renjun asks, tentative.

 

"You're my friend and I enjoy your company?" Donghyuck says, an eyebrow cocked. He's twirling his spoon in his bingsu, slowly digging a tunnel towards the center. The way he's been eating it means the entire side facing him is carved out, and Renjun's mildly concerned that if he fidgets anymore he'll just bring the whole thing down. "Why do you sound so suspicious? I'm not going to dismember you or anything."

 

"We never go back to your room."

 

"Maybe it's time for a change of scenery?” he shrugs. “Anyway, Jaemin's been completely insufferable recently. I don't know what his problem is. His moping is a buzzkill. I don't want to go to your dorm."

 

Renjun laughs. He's not sure what's happened — he needs to ask Jaemin about it, surely — but Donghyuck is right — a moping Jaemin is contagious. He's not their moodmaker, but he still seeps out to everyone else. When Donghyuck can't tease him — when even Jeno's positivity isn't affecting him — it's like a blanket is thrown over the dorm, a bad mood that permeates them all.

 

It happens with all of them, actually. One of the effects of spending so long with other people — with all of them becoming a print on your skin — is the strange symbiotic way they all relate to each other. Like some kind of fucked up hivemind. They hurt together, they mourn together.

 

"Fair," Renjun says. He picks up the macaron off the top of his bingsu and chews on it, letting the cinnamon jam sit on his tongue as he thinks. He's still not entirely convinced by Donghyuck — though the Jaemin detour has got his mind whirring in different directions. It's enough to distract him, and he leaves it be. "Yeah. Okay."

 

Donghyuck smiles, and then his whole tower of bingsu comes crumbling down.



*

 

Renjun was right to be cautious. The 5th floor is empty except for Doyoung (the same music playing perpetually from behind his door) and as soon as Donghyuck lets him into his room he flops down on Johnny's bed with a grin.

 

"So," he says. Renjun has to do everything in his willpower to stop himself from smacking his own forehead, because of course. He should know by now to never trust Lee Donghyuck. "I was thinking."

 

"That's a terrifying sentence."

 

Donghyuck doesn't stop smiling, though there's a nervous glint behind his eyes. He's not a good actor — his emotions often play across his face like a movie, and Renjun catches them here, too. Some kind of hesitation. That vulnerability that he would rather pretend doesn't exist

 

"Don't be mean. It's about Don't Need Your Love."

 

Renjun doesn't know why he feels the nerves explode in his stomach. Maybe it's Donghyuck's tone of voice. Maybe it's the way this entire thing has been keeping him up at night. Maybe it's the expectations for him to act so fucking intimate with his best friend on a stage in front of five thousand people. Maybe it's the frustration that for all his idol training and all their fucking flirting and the way the chemistry between him and Donghyuck is electric — that he still can't fucking do this.

 

Maybe it's that hivemind thing. Renjun has an inkling of what goes on in Donghyuck's brain, and suddenly he wants nothing to do with it.

 

"What?" he asks, trying to keep his voice neutral. Donghyuck's still lying on his side on Johnny's bed, staring straight at Renjun. The cool lights of their various electronic appliances wink in the low light of the room behind him, and the fans of his computer hum in a low whirr, white noise that adds to the muffled bass of whatever sad song Doyoung is looping filtering through the wall.

 

"Well. I thought. For the whole getting used to being — you know. Like that with each other. I had an idea."

 

"Again, terrifying sentence."

 

"Ha ha," Donghyuck says. His voice has gone flat but there's still a quiver in it, like the last note of vibrato as he's trying not to burst into tears.

 

Though somehow Renjun is pretty sure Donghyuck isn't going to cry right now.

 

"Okay. Get it over with them. Your great idea that absolutely isn't stupid as fuck"

 

"Why are you so relentlessly mean to me?"

 

"You like it. Keeps you humble."

 

Donghyuck wrinkles his nose and shakes his hair out, reaching up to brush the strands that fall down away from his eyes. "Whatever. Maybe I should have got Jaemin to do it. He'd be better than you."

 

"Hey," Renjun says. He knows it's a bait, but he'll rise to that bait every time. They all work hard to be here, but Renjun's sick of being pushed to the back. Centre time is centre time — especially something as pivotal as this. A song they've never performed live — choreo they've never performed live. "Fuck you. Tell me."

 

"Well—" Donghyuck starts, his tongue darting out to lick at his lips… 

 

*

 

"This is stupid," Renjun says. "Absolutely stupid."

 

"Come on." Donghyuck rolls his eyes and pats the bed beside him. Renjun had been right to be wary of Donghyuck, because frankly the idea he has is ludicrous — like something from one of those seedy videos that Jaemin liked to watch so much. "It's not like we're going to be the first. We're pretty much the last, if you think about it. Everyone watches porn together. SNSD did it. Jeno and Mark share porn all the time. Even Doyoung and Taeyong—"

 

"Please shut up," Renjun says. There's a blush creeping up his neck, a warmth he can feel spreading like a brushfire across his skin. "Please just shut up. This is so stupid. I'm amending my statement. All I'm doing is staring you in the eyes. I don't know why it needs to be sexy. I don't know how this will even help."

 

"Think about it like this," Donghyuck says. He's holding a USB stick in his hand — one apparently filled with videos downloaded from Jeno's hard drive. He really hopes it isn't any of Jaemin's hentai. "Not only can we learn something, but if you can take me seriously while watching porn, then surely it'll work on stage, right?"

 

"This is stupid," Renjun repeats. He thinks if he says it enough then maybe he'll feel a lot less self conscious.

 

It's not like he's never seen porn before. They all have, of course. There's a reason why Jeno's room is so popular, and it's because for a long time he'd been the only one of them with the sense to pay for a damn VPN. Now the entire dorm shares one (the perks being that they're not basically broadcasting to each other when it's time for them to jerk off).

 

He wonders if 127 has the same situation, and then feels sorry for the tenth floor. He's never been up there (Mark won't let him), but Donghyuck has told him it smells like the uncleaned back of an earring and crusty gym socks, and that's enough for him to fill in the rest of the dots.

 

Anyway. Donghyuck has very clearly planned this. He has a USB stick filled with porn to watch with Renjun, like that's completely normal, and he'd brought him here, to his conveniently empty dorm (Doyoung had just left a few minutes ago, the music turning off and not a single goodbye issued). And he'd proposed this.

 

Renjun wonders who had the idea — if Donghyuck had come up with it himself. It reeks of his madcap line of thought, and if it was directed at anyone else Renjun would almost be proud. Right now though? He has very little pride. Mostly just anxiety.

 

"Renjun," Donghyuck says. The nerves are leaking through. He's fidgeting with the sheets, fingers twitching uncontrollably. "We both look like we're being waterboarded when we try it so... just come here? We can turn it off if it's too uncomfortable."

 

Renjun swallows hard.

 

"Fine," he says.

 

*

 

Thankfully they don't use Donghyuck's stupidly large screen. Donghyuck has his old laptop (that's too shitty to run any games on above a slideshow frame rate) and they sit there knee to knee on Donghyuck's bed as they wait for its painfully slow boot time. Donghyuck keeps bouncing his knee and Renjun covers it with his hand eventually, worried a little for how much he's shaking the computer — like its old hard drive might give out at any moment from the earthquake levels of movement he's putting it through.

 

"Sorry," Donghyuck says.

 

"It's okay. Just don't blame me. It was your stupid idea."

 

Donghyuck laughs. "I'm still going to blame you."

 

Renjun digs his fingers into Donghyuck's knee and receives an elbow in the side in return, Donghyuck's leg flailing and almost sending his laptop flying. He lets out a rather unbecoming squeal and it's Renjun's turn to laugh at him. The whole exchange effectively lightens the mood in the room, though by the time Donghyuck has the folder brought up on screen it's turned heavier again. His mouse hovers over a video with a blurry thumbnail and a jumble of numbers and letters as a name.

 

"Please don't judge me," Donghyuck says as he clicks on it. "This is not my usual taste in porn."

 

Renjun thinks to make a snarky remark, but the butterflies in his stomach explode and he swallows it whole.

 

*

 

In all honesty, it isn't the most awkward thing Renjun's ever done — though it certainly comes very close. Donghyuck keeps glancing nervously towards him and Renjun has to shift slightly to hide the fact that his dick is kind of hard and at one point he sees Donghyuck hasn't even looked at the screen for a full ten seconds — he's just staring at Renjun. Renjun tries to keep his gaze as forward as possible, tries to focus on the very detailed oral sex going on right now — the sound of someone gagging on cock.

 

He wonders what Donghyuck sounds like with a cock in his mouth, then immediately chases the thought out of his brain. Now is really not the fucking time.

 

About five minutes in (five minutes that literally feels like an entire lifetime. God. Renjun is aroused and he's trying not to think about Donghyuck sitting right beside him but it's really god damn hard) and Donghyuck hits pause.

 

"This is weird," he says. He shifts awkwardly, bringing his legs together and drawing his laptop closer to his stomach.

 

"I told you it was a stupid idea," Renjun says. "God forbid you actually listen to me." There's no bite to the words, and he falls silent after.

 

"Shut up," Donghyuck says. "I never have stupid ideas."

 

He's uncomfortably aware of how warm Donghyuck's thigh is where it presses against his own. "Then what was this?"

 

"A good idea. C'mon. The actual choreo can't be more awkward than this, right? It's working."

 

Renjun laughs. "We'll see about that tomorrow."

 

Donghyuck sighs and flops backwards, spreading his arms out above his head and drawing in a big breath. "I hate this," he shouts. "It's so fucking stupid!"

 

Renjun reaches over to poke his cheek and Donghyuck swats him away, then lets out a groan. There's a few seconds of silence that are filled by the whirr of Donghyuck's poor old laptop sounding like it's two seconds away from overheating, and then Donghyuck flops again, like a fish out of water.

 

"Just smother me. Replace me with Jaemin. I don't fucking know. I don't care."

 

"It's okay," Renjun reassures him. He reaches out and places a hand on Donghyuck's chest — feels the rise and fall of his ribcage beneath his touch. "You’re stupid, but we still have time."

 

Donghyuck turns his head and gives him a thin lipped smile. Sure, it seems to say. If you say so.

 

*

 

It doesn't work. Donghyuck cups his cheek and Renjun sees something flash through his eyes — amusement? Fear? Nervousness? He can barely read it before Donghyuck is laughing, turning his face away and blaming Renjun for making a stupid face at him again.

 

It's not really funny anymore.

 

*

 

"Have you guys actually done that right once?" Jaemin asks.

 

"No," Renjun says. They're back in the dorm — Renjun's just come back from the TBS studio, and he's flopped on the couch. Jisung and Chenle have taken over Jaemin's room and Jaemin is sulking — again. He kicks his foot out and Renjun catches it, twisting it around until Jaemin starts to flail like a crocodile in a death roll.

 

"Leave me alone," Jaemin says. He pounces, smothering Renjun in a hug, and Renjun plays it off until Jaemin is actually sitting comfortable — chin tucked against him, arms wrapped around him. He lets out a low whine and rubs his cheek against Renjun's head.

 

"Seems like I'm not the only one with problems."

 

It's really not hard to guess. Chenle and Jeno have all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop — every day it feels like the rest of them are flipping a coin on catching the two of them making out — and of course this just puts Jaemin more on edge. It's like a feedback loop. Jaemin gets snappy. Chenle goes to Jeno for relief. Jaemin sulks — and it all repeats again, Renjun powerless to do anything but watch his best friends' relationship become more and more twisted.

 

"I don't wanna talk about it," Jaemin says. "It's fucking stupid."

 

"And my thing isn't?"

 

"At least yours is about work."

 

Renjun sighs. Jaemin has a point. Renjun, at least, can be justified in his frustrations. But despite what SM wants them to believe, they've learned time and time that the off stage bleeds into the onstage. If Jaemin can't reign himself in — wrap himself in that ironclad persona that honestly sometimes freaks Renjun out — then they're on track for disaster. 

 

Jaemin is a comforting presence against him, at least. Always so cuddly. So warm, ready to cling to him and keep him company. "Sure. It's just that it's Donghyuck."

 

“And what does that mean?”

 

"Would you be able to do it if it was you and Jeno?" Renjun asks.

 

Jaemin scoffs. "Yeah, no problem.”

 

There’s a pause. Jaemin hums, something low that builds to a crescendo then drops off as he digs his chin a little more into Renjun's shoulder. "If it was Chenle though?" he sighs. "I don't know."

 

*

 

The lights have faded and the sun has set — outside the windows sky is inky blue, streaked with the last flames of daylight, traffic lights and office windows dotted across the horizon. The traffic crawls slowly and the blinds are half open, affording Renjun a half and half vista of friday night Seoul.

 

The city is beautiful. She always has been. A rainbow of neon lights reflected in the raindrops sliding down the plastic webbing of school kids' umbrellas, businessmen with bulging briefcases, office workers lighting cigarettes and chatting while they stare at their phones. A car blows through the red light and a chorus of horns sounds and Renjun looks away — back towards the inside of the room, back to where Donghyuck is stretching under the fluorescent lights.

 

Donghyuck and his million reflections — all of them turning to Renjun in that moment. Everyone else has gone elsewhere — to take a break, to eat at the cafe, to fuck around in one of the rec rooms. Jaemin, Jisung and Jeno are on V LIVE and Chenle is god knows where — maybe gone home, but more likely playing video games in one of the music rooms or still practicing.

 

It's just the two of them.

 

They still haven’t gotten the move right. The choreographer has modified it — just their hands on each other’s shoulders now. Just a quick glance. It’s doable — but doable has never been good enough. They're both determined to get it right, like their utter failure is a challenge thrown down, one they both rise to in unspoken agreement. They have to get it right. There’s no other option.

 

The opening notes of the song sound again but neither of them move. Donghyuck is still staring at Renjun — his face carefully schooled into something neutral.

 

"What?" Renjun says. The AC has just kicked in and there's a warm breeze circulating through the room. Donghyuck laughs.

 

"Nothing. Just you gazing out the window like you're some character in a drama."

 

"Oh, ha ha," Renjun says. He slides across the floor, footsteps a dull thud. "Let me be melodramatic for a bit, please."

 

Donghyuck starts to go through the choreography — just a half hearted interpretation. "You're always melodramatic."

 

Renjun joins him with a roll of the eyes.

 

The runthrough is fine. They both know the song to the point of doing it in their sleep, but it's always the end, isn't it? It's the both of them stepping towards each other. Donghyuck's hand comes up and cups his face and Renjun does the same. His skin is hot beneath his palm and his eyes burn a hole in him and — Renjun's thought of this for a while, and maybe it's time. Maybe it's time for him to be stupid.

 

He thinks — and he’ll never admit this — that Donghyuck might have had the right idea with the porn. There’s something lacking there — an it factor. 

 

Renjun takes one more step than he needs to, straight up into Donghyuck’s personal space. He digs his thumb into his cheekbone and then does possibly the stupidest fucking thing of his life: he kisses him.

 

Donghyuck lets out a noise of surprise — a tiny squeak as he stiffens up. His grip on Renjun's face tightens, and for a second Renjun thinks he's made a terrible mistake — that Donghyuck might hate him, that he's ruined everything, that they should just bring Jaemin in instead — before his other hand comes up to wind around the back of Renjun's neck and Donghyuck melts into it.

 

It's nothing like the first time they kissed. The first time they kissed, in turn, had been different from every other person Renjun had kissed (which was admittedly a small amount). The first time they kissed Renjun had been drinking and laughing and Donghyuck had been teasing Jeno all night and it had been kind of messy and more humorous than anything — in the way that kissing your best friend was. There'd been no undercurrent, no need to try to make it anything more than a kiss between friends. A dare at a party, Mark shouting 'oh no', Chenle screaming with his hands over his eyes. Jaemin's raucous laughter.

 

It was funny. It was silly.

 

This is nothing like that. There's a year between then and now — there's no-one else here. There's music playing in the background and they're both sober and sweaty and Donghyuck's lips taste like salt and his hand tightens in his hair and there's an explosion of sparks in Renjun's stomach. Something that comes rushing up through his throat as Donghyuck closes the distance between their bodies — pulling them flush against each other.

 

Every single time Renjun's thought about kissing Donghyuck flashes through his mind. All the absent minded ideas — when Donghyuck gets a little too close to him on camera, when they're play fighting and he breathes in his face. When they're being competitive and Donghyuck shoves him up against a wall — when Renjun does the same back.

 

When Donghyuck is just talking and he looks back at Renjun with that wicked smile on his face — like Renjun is the only thing that ever mattered.

 

It's just the way they are. They're best friends. Donghyuck is kissy and flirty and Renjun likes to play obtuse — likes to pretend he doesn't care — but he knows the best of all of them that he really does. It's the best way to wind Donghyuck up, though. Always has been. When the master flirter flirts with you, you flirt back. When you can't create convincing sexual tension between each other?

 

You kiss him.

 

Donghyuck sighs into the kiss and something molten explodes within Renjun. Something collapsing inside of him — a barrier he'd built up. He fists a hand in Donghyuck's hair and holds him close, deepening the kiss, opening his mouth up and breathing in the gasp Donghyuck lets out. It’s so fucking good — it sears across Renjun’s senses, it makes him want to go feral. Something howls inside of him and he never wants to leave — if this is a dream he never wants to wake up. He chases Donghyuck, drawing a strange sound from his throat, and when they break apart it’s with a disgustingly wet noise. 

 

The ensuing eye contact is charged, crackling like the air before a lightning storm. They’re both panting and the song has looped around once — almost twice.

 

"Well," Donghyuck says. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes have a strange glint in them. Renjun takes a step back and lets go of Donghyuck's face, and Donghyuck does the same. "Well, we are not doing that on stage."

 

Renjun laughs. The dark cloud in his stomach dissipates  "Come on, it'd be fun."

 

Donghyuck grins. "I know you like being the center of attention, but that's a bit too much even for you."

 

"Maybe I've changed. Maybe all this concert practice has done a number on me."

 

"And that's why you kissed me?"

 

Renjun feels his cheeks heat up. "Yeah. Getting delirious."

 

Donghyuck quirks his lips — one of those smug smiles like he's got what he wanted. "We should probably go delete the security footage."

 

Shit. Renjun hadn't thought of that. Sometimes it's useful having the cameras running constantly — they can review their moves if they keep messing something up, they can film videos for the channel easily enough. When it comes to something like this, though...

 

"Though," Donghyuck continues, "if we're gonna go have to get the file deleted, why not put a bit more on there."

 

Renjun doesn't even argue — he just grips Donghyuck’s biceps and pulls their bodies flush together, digging his fingers into his muscles and kissing him again.

 

*

 

"Fucking finally!"

 

Jaemin throws his hands up in the air and starts to cheer, dancing on the spot and spinning in circles as Renjun breaks into a grin. The last few notes of Don't Need Your Love fade out and he drops his hand from Donghyuck's face and turns to Jaemin, ready to beat him with whatever object is nearest (in this hand it's a fold out chair that Jisung has conveniently just vacated).

 

Behind him, Donghyuck starts to laugh.

 

They’d managed to get it right last night — some time after Renjun had ended up backing Donghyuck into the mirrors and kissing him until he was breathless. At that point the sun had fully set and Renjun had pulled the blinds down, wary of any fan who might be trying to peek into the practice room. It took another few run throughs of the song — the first time they’d actually tried to seriously Renjun had abused his newfound power to kiss Donghyuck until they were both gasping. The second time he’d broken out into giggles as Donghyuck had made a kissy face at him — but the third time it had worked. And the fourth. And the fifth. 

 

The relief had been palpable. It had left the both of them giddy and giggling as they’d gone to delete the camera footage. Donghyuck’s touch had burned into the small of his back and they’d crashed the end of the V LIVE in high spirits, interrupting one of Jaemin’s disgustingly aegyo filled rants and causing his persona to crack for just a second as he’d regarded them — eyebrows raised, smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

 

Getting it right then and getting it right now is completely different. 

 

It’s the best feeling in the fucking world. Jeno congratulates them — Chenle hanging off him with his arms around his waist — and Renjun laughs, and when he turns around to see Donghyuck wearing a smug smile he feels something better than a thousand camera flashes, something better than winning all the awards in the industry. He feels a challenge issued. A challenge issued and won.

 

Bet you couldn’t do it, it says. Renjun smirks at him.

 

Watch me try.

 

*

 

Everything comes to fruition where the crowd can see them. It's all choreographed, of course. Something to tantalise — to fill their ears with shrill shrieks and make the fans’ hearts flutter. 

 

Donghyuck cups his cheek and stares directly into his eyes, just as Renjun does the same. His thumb presses into his cheekbone and he sends fire, sees it reflected in Donghyuck's eyes. It's a challenge — the same one in the practice room — and if Renjun's one thing he's a fighter.

 

‘I'll make you quiver,’ he thinks. 

 

They’ve haven’t fucked it up since they first kissed, and they don’t fuck it up here. 

 

The crowd screams and Renjun tries not to smile. He can’t break character — not yet. They still have a concert to perform.

 

*

 

"Come on," Donghyuck says. He puffs out his cheeks and pouts at Renjun — the start of his signature aegyo. Renjun just mimics him.

 

They're backstage between costume changes, all the coordi noonas fluttering around them with makeup brushes and hairspray, trying to fix the birds nest Renjun's hair has become, checking on the plaster above his eye and mopping up the sweat coating his brow. There's at least three hand fans pointed at him and the cool breeze is a welcome distraction from the sheer heat in the arena — on stage it's suffocating, backstage there's nowhere to go and it's even worse.

 

"Come on what?" Renjun asks, pulling his shirt over his head and taking a considerably drier one from a staff member.

 

"What use was all that practice? You're not even trying?"

 

Renjun aims an elbow for his naked ribs, laughing when the blow connects. In retaliation Donghyuck reaches over to pinch his nipple, a move Renjun dodges with a twist, his hip bumping into one of the tables with a loud thud.

 

"Can you two behave for once in your life?" Jaemin asks, practically shouting over the scream of the crowd outside. He looks hilarious — standing in his underwear with his jacket half open and his monitor belt still clipped around his waist, hands on his hips and hair stuck up at weird angles as one of the coordis (far shorter than him) stands on a step stool to fix his fringe.

 

They both answer in unison — a very resounding, very sure 'no'.

 

*

 

It comes to fruition in front of the crowd — but that’s not where this story ends.

 

It's not even close.

 

They do well all three days. Everyone is talking about it (when they're not talking about Jeno ripping his shirt open, anyway). It's a nice little bonus for Renjun's ego — though nothing is as much of a bonus as after the concert when Donghyuck leads him down the hall to a dingy closet that Renjun's pretty sure hasn't been used this century. It's musty and filled with old costume jackets that look like rejects from Power Rangers, and when Donghyuck slips in behind him and shuts the door he plunges the room into a temporary darkness.

 

There's a scrambling sound as Donghyuck fumbles the light switch and then a camera flash burst of white sears across Renjun’s retinas.

 

"Ow," he mumbles, shielding his eyes. He only has a few seconds to think about it — because Donghyuck is on him. He crosses the few steps between them and pushes Renjun into the mess of jackets hanging against the wall. There's a clatter of coat hangers hitting the floor and Donghyuck's hand is in his hair, the stage high singing through his veins.

 

Renjun gasps. He's felt it before, of course — the adrenaline that pumps through his blood like a drug, the giddy high that circles through his senses, the kick of heartbeat, a rhythm set to the roar of the crowd — but it's never been like this. From the second they dropped from the sky to the very last notes of Beautiful Time, and everything in between. It's the culmination of everything that's happened these past few days. This past month. All this prep — these past three years. It all leads up to this.

 

Donghyuck's kisses sear into him and the screams still echo in his ears. His body responds without thought, arching towards him, hands coming up to grasp at Donghyuck's shirt. He's covered in sweat and Renjun is sticky and gross and he doesn't care. He doesn't fucking care — he doesn't care that it would be gross in another circumstance. He's on fire and he's alive — five thousand people had screamed his name, and right now Huang Renjun is on top of the fucking world.

 

There's little finesse in this moment. Anyone could come in at any second — someone is looking for them, surely. But it makes it better. The rush, the thrill that they could be discovered at any moment. Donghyuck drops to his knees and his fingers fumble with Renjun's zipper — and before Renjun can even say anything — before he can tell Donghyuck how hot he looks like this — Donghyuck has his cock in his mouth.

 

The noise Renjun makes is unholy. It's high pitched, sucked through his aching lungs. Donghyuck's mouth is hot and wet and he looks absolutely obscene with his lips wrapped around his cock. He looks absolutely fucking sinful as he stares up at Renjun, bobbing his head, one hand wrapped around Renjun’s thigh and the other circling the base of his cock. Renjun’s pretty sure he’ll never forget it for as long as he lives — not the sight, not the way it feels. 

 

It doesn't take much for Renjun — already so high strung from the performance — to come. For him to gasp, his knees buckling as he spills into Donghyuck's mouth. Donghyuck drinks it all down, but he can still taste it in his mouth when he kisses him — a bitterness that lingers as he fumbles to tuck him back into his jeans.

 

"C'mon," Donghyuck says, tugging his shirt as he pulls him back into the bare concrete hall. Renjun is dizzy, like he's breathing at high altitude, and Donghyuck gives him a coy smile as he walks back towards their dressing rooms. "Before anyone notices."

 

*

 

Someone notices. 

 

Someone always notices. Someone noticed the first time they kissed in the practice room and someone noticed when Donghyuck asked Renjun back to the dorm the second time. It's a different person each time and each of them will think nothing of it — they’ll go on unaware that they hold a single puzzle piece that together might solve this. 

 

This time it's Chenle that notices. He sees the droop of Renjun's eyelids, the way he clings to Donghyuck. His hand on the small of his back. The high flush of his cheeks. He's always been an observant little shit — it's something Renjun understands well. The kind of innate thing you learn when you don't understand the language being spoken around you — you learn to read bodies instead. 

 

Chenle's been doing it since he was a child. As an idol, it's no different. Donghyuck leaves to have his makeup taken off and Chenle bumps into Renjun, knocking him off kilter then grinning at him. They're not as close as they used to be, but Renjun will always be fond of Chenle — he'll always admire him. 

 

Even if he's breaking his best friend's heart.

 

"You're not shaking anymore," Chenle says. He's shirtless, hand fan pointed at his face, cloth and heating pads stuck to his various injuries and aching muscles. He gives Renjun a once over and raises his eyebrows. 

 

"What?" Renjun asks. The high still surges within him, but it seems that his post orgasmic glow is feeding off it, and Chenle is right — his hands are steady. 

 

Chenle smiles at him. "Nothing, hyung," he says. His eyes flick down and he lets out a little laugh. "Your fly is down, though." 

 

*

 

Chenle pulls his shirt back on and they take the end of show pictures and a staff member comes around to check Renjun's plaster on his eyebrow ("I'm fine.") and by the time they're all piled into the van (Chenle and Jeno going separate — holy fuck, Renjun thinks. Holy fuck, no wonder Jaemin is miserable) Donghyuck seems calmer, too. He rests his hand on Renjun's knee but they don't talk on the ride back — no-one does, really. Jisung has his eyes shut and Jaemin's music is so loud that Renjun can hear it bleeding through his earphones. His ears are ringing and tiredness settles at his bones and he doesn't know when he falls asleep — only that they’re at the dorm when Donghyuck shakes him awake.

 

"You look cute when you're asleep, but I don't think manager hyung would appreciate having to wait until you wake up," he says. Renjun chooses to ignore the first half of the sentence, elbowing Donghyuck and shaking off the last shackles of his dreams as he climbs out of the van.

 

"You staying over tonight?" heasks. The light pollution is so strong there's not a single star in the sky, but the moon is bright and clear, the rainclouds from earlier mostly faded. Donghyuck looks pretty in its light — silver and neon cut across his soft cheeks like brushstrokes on a canvas. 

 

"If that's okay?" 

 

Renjun shrugs. "Is Chenle?" 

 

"Yeah. He and Jeno got back a few minutes ago." 

 

Great. Jaemin is going to be intolerable. "Yeah. It's fine." 

 

"Thanks for the permission." 

 

"Pretty sure it's my bed you're sleeping in," Renjun says. "Unless you like the couch." 

 

*

 

Renjun brims with energy and Donghyuck follows, sticking to him like he's a fly caught in honey. Everyone else is in the lounge, and this time it’s Jeno that notices — his eyes meeting Donghyuck’s and his head tilting to the side like a curious puppy as Renjun congratulates them on the concert.

 

"Donghyuck's tired," Renjun says. "We're gonna call an early night."

 

Jaemin looks back at the pair of them and raises his eyebrows. "When did you two get attached at the hip?"

 

"Have you not being paying attention the past two years?" Chenle asks, laughing. He's resting his head on Jeno's shoulder, grasping loosely at the sleeve of his hoodie. There's a casualness to the way they fit together — a softness. Jaemin gives him a glance and his entire face twists — just for a fraction of a second, so small Renjun is pretty sure he's the only one who caught it.

 

"Take care, then," Jaemin says. The words carry a bitter edge, and he turns away, looking back to the TV. "I'll probably sleep soon, too."

 

The ensuing pause settles on them like a heavy blanket, suffocating and thick. They all shift in their seats, eyes dancing around the room — before Chenle (always Chenle. Again, that innate ability to just know when disaster is coming) starts to poke fun at Jisung crying on stage, and everything seems to kick back into motion.

 

"That was awkward," Donghyuck says, as they slip down the hall together.

 

"Trust me," Renjun says. "I know.”

 

Jaemin is clingy at the best of times, but ever since his injury — ever since the fear of losing everything he’d worked for had crept up on his mind like a rising tide — there’s been a desperation to the way he holds onto them all. He hates to be left out — he hates to drag behind — and more than anything he hates the jealousy that comes with it all. He’s already lost them once — there’s a true fear that he’ll lose them again. Combined with his best friend dating the boy he’s loved for the past year — it’s a recipe for disaster. 

 

It’s not Renjun’s job to solve it, but he’s under no illusion that it will knock everything off kilter if they keep ignoring it. 

 

Now, though. It’s not his problem. There’s a twinge in his stomach as he turns the lock of his door behind him, but it’s smoothed over when Donghyuck immediately pushes him up against the wood. His hands are in his hair and his mouth is on his and Renjun has a thousand snarky words he's happy to swallow in favour of kissing him. 

 

God. Every time he kisses Donghyuck he thinks it can’t get better than the last time, and every time he’s proven wrong. They’ve learned so much about each other and it’s still not enough — it’s still barely scratching the surface. When their lips touch it’s like a match has been lit — flames race across Renjun’s skin, and he’ll never get tired of being alight. The door thumps in the frame and Donghyuck laughs, glancing over Renjun’s shoulder like it will somehow reveal if anyone else is looking towards the room right now.

 

It doesn’t matter. They probably think it’s just Renjun — Renjun with a dancer’s grace who still manages to trip over his own feet when he’s pulling his pajama pants on — or Donghyuck play wrestling with him. Nothing of concern. Certainly not this — this escalation of what has always been a relationship of pushing each other’s limits.

 

Now it’s another limit being pushed — a limit that stretches further than any of them could even imagine. They haven’t found the edge yet, and every day they push further and further. That’s what Donghyuck had done backstage — he’d pushed — and now Renjun answers. He fists Donghyuck’s shirt in his hands and pulls at it — pulling it over his head and taking a second to take in the sight of him. It's something he's seen a hundred times, of course. They’ve all seen each other naked — shared a shower or bathed while someone else was brushing their teeth, got changed in the same room because when you live in close quarters with someone for four years you lose any semblance of shame — but as always there's a different energy here. It’s not a moment backstage at Inkigayo — this is Renjun's bedroom. This is something hanging in the air — a flavour Renjun's never tasted. Something newfound crackling between them.

 

Donghyuck isn’t like Jeno — he wasn't always this hot. He certainly hadn’t reached Jisung levels of awkward puberty (god, he’s never going to forgive that awful bowlcut), but there had been a bumbling youth to Donghyuck that had melted away as the years had passed.

 

Not that that had stopped Renjun from crushing on him when they'd first met. But that was neither here nor there. That was something so long ago, something Renjun had snuffed out before it had choked him. 

 

Back when they'd first met, when Donghyuck had seemed unattainable and invincible. Now he knows Donghyuck, knows his ins and outs, and a stupid crush he'd had when he was fifteen is all but forgotten. Now he has him in his hands, and he wants to take it all.

 

“Wait,” Donghyuck says, causing Renjun to pull back from going to attack his neck. 

 

He regards him with a cocked eyebrow. "Hmm?"

 

"Wait. What are — what are we doing?"

 

Something twists in Renjun's stomach, but he ignores it, swallowing his pride and ceasing his attempts to get his mouth on Donghyuck's skin. "I don't know. You're the one who blew me in a dressing closet."

 

Donghyuck makes a face. "You have a point." He steps away from Renjun, freeing him from the cage of his arms. Renjun, sensing this won’t be a quick conversation, takes the opportunity to flop down onto his bed and sprawl out on the covers.

 

"I often do,” he says. It's an odd reversal of the weeks before — Renjun on the bed instead of Donghyuck, though it's still Donghyuck trying to convince him of something. "Now what's so important that you had to blueball me to say it?"

 

"I just think..." he trails off, fiddling with the waistband of his jeans. Renjun thumps the bed beside him, throwing his head to the side and indicating for him to sit down. Donghyuck looks hesitant, but he follows. "I just think we should—” he sighs “—this is happening, right? This is something that's happening?"

 

"Be more specific."

 

"This," Donghyuck gestures between them. Renjun can’t help himself. Donghyuck looks good — hair mussed, eyeliner still lingering below his clear, dark eyes. He sits up and cups his jaw, pressing a long kiss to his lips that Donghyuck deepens with an unconscious ease. His hand threads through Renjun's hair and Renjun melts into him, mapping the expanse of his bare back with his free hand. Donghyuck is so lovely and responsive — there's no stiffness, no hesitation. 

 

It makes sense, he supposes, that if they work so well on the stage they'd work well like this too. 

 

They part with a wet smack, Renjun chasing up another kiss then swiping his fingers across Donghyuck's mouth. They come away wet and he realises how gross it is — but maybe it's worth it to feel Donghyuck's lips beneath his touch. "This?" he asks.

 

"Yeah," Donghyuck says. "This. I don't want to stumble headfirst into it. I want to — I need to know some things."

 

Renjun nods. He thinks he gets it. It’s a confirmation that this is not a one time thing to be forgotten once the stage high no longer sings — this is something enduring.  "So, we're doing this?"

 

"If you want to," Donghyuck swallows. "I know I want to."

 

It's oddly vulnerable. He supposes it has to be. Opening your body up to someone — opening your self up to someone. There has to be a rawness here, or this might never work. "Yeah. Me too."

 

"But," Donghyuck starts. He wraps his arms around his torso and Renjun tugs his blanket out from under him and throws it at him. Donghyuck laughs, shrugging it over his shoulders — though his face turns somber quickly. "Renjun, I'm serious about this. You know what happened with Mark, right?” 

 

Renjun knows the basics. Donghyuck and Mark had slept together. Mark had liked him. Something had happened, and their entire relationship had splintered down the center — breaking into a million tiny pieces that they’d never quite managed to repair. 

 

“Sort of,” Renjun says. Donghyuck sighs, looking up to the ceiling then giving him a tight-lipped smile.

 

“This happened. This happened, and there were feelings, and we kept going and I — I can’t have that happen again, Renjun. You're my best friend. I can't lose you. If there's feelings you have to tell me, okay? We have to stop this. If either of us gets feelings."

 

There’s an anguish in Donghyuck’s voice — mourning of the first true friend he’d ever had. Of the first boy who’d loved him. 

 

Renjun nods, swallowing around the lump in his throat. "Of course."

 

"Okay." Donghyuck lets out a long breath, his shoulders relaxing, a smile blooming across his face. It turns wicked as he shuffles up the bed, and when he deposits himself in Renjun's lap it’s devilish, so searing he can taste it in the kiss he plants on his lips. Donghyuck draws back, only a few centimeters, still so close that Renjun can feel his breath against his skin. "Now, where were we?"

 

“Kissing, I believe?”

 

“Mm, did you have anything else in mind?”

 

Renjun freezes. His heart thuds, and he thinks of the feeling of Donghyuck’s mouth around his cock again. “What were you thinking?”

 

See, here’s the thing — Renjun’s a virgin. Renjun’s never done anything more than kiss anyone. Donghyuck’s the first person that isn’t himself to touch his cock, and he’d be absolutely lying if he said he wasn’t completely out of his depth right now.

 

Lucky for him, then, that Donghyuck seems happy to lead. He kisses Renjun again, cupping one hand around the back of his head and reaching down to palm at his crotch with the other. “How’s this?” he murmurs. 

 

“Good.” 

 

Good god is it good. Donghyuck applies just enough pressure, gives just enough friction that it’s enough to not quite drive Renjun insane, that it’s enough to placate him while he explores his mouth. When he pulls back — again — his hands tag at Renjun’s clothes, and he undresses him, throwing his shirt on the floor, laughing when Renjun struggles with the belt of his jeans. When Renjun’s left sitting on the mattress in his underwear Donghyuck runs appraising eyes over him, and Renjun’s not sure if it’s the air — cool despite the underfloor heating running — or the fact that he’s being checked out by Donghyuck that causes goosebumps to spring up all over his skin. 

 

“God, you’re hot.”

 

The stage high is still there — a red hot heat in his blood — but there’s something else, too. Something new. Donghyuck’s eyes on him are better than all the spotlights in the world, and Renjun feels it roar within him. The way with which Donghyuck says it is nothing coy — nothing sly — just a raw want, and he can’t take it for long. He feels too exposed.  

 

“Come here,” Renjun says. Donghyuck laughs, just a puff of breath, but he listens. He drops back into Renjun’s lap and covers his mouth with his, and this time it sears. This time it’s hot and heavy. Renjun’s cock is so fucking hard that he’s absolutely sure he’s leaking precum all over his underwear — and maybe he should be ashamed considering he just came in Donghyuck’s mouth less than two hours ago — but he figures it’s not the time for shame. 

 

“Do you have lube?” Donghyuck says into his mouth. Renjun’s cheeks heat up and he shivers, bristling at the thought. 

 

“No,” he says, because why would he? 

 

“Suppose you’re not up for a special mission to steal Jeno’s?”

 

He’s not even going to question how Donghyuck knows Jeno has lube — now is really not the time. “I’m not going out there with a boner to get lube.”

 

Donghyuck chuckles. “It’s okay. I’ll still make it good.”

 

Renjun can’t help but feel shy when Donghyuck takes him out of his underwear — when he looks directly at Renjun’s cock as he circles his hand around it. Good god, Renjun’s so fucking hard it almost hurts, and the relief Donghyuck provides is enough that he can’t help but whimper. He knows he fucking shouldn’t — the walls in their dorm are stupid fucking thin — but he really can’t help himself.

 

Donghyuck removes his hand to spit on his palm, and then he’s back. He’s working at Renjun, swiping his thumb over the head of his dick, cupping his balls with his other hand, leaning in to press a kiss to his mouth. “How’s this?” he asks, and Renjun just gurgles. How does he even answer that? How can he — not past the sparks that are swarming in his mouth or the white roar in his ears. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

 

Renjun comes quickly — again. He stutters and gasps, watching the stroke of Donghyuck’s hand around him, aware of the tent in the front of Donghyuck’s pants. He looks up and meets his eyes and he can’t take it anymore — he tightens his fists in the sheets and spills all over Donghyuck’s hand, trying to bite back his moans the best he can.

 

Holy fuck. Holy fuck. The blowjob in the closet had seemed a dream, but this is searingly real. This is him in his bed, this is him in their dorm, everyone else a few doors away watching TV together. This is Donghyuck kissing him and then wiping Renjun’s cum on a tissue and throwing it away. 

 

“Good?” he asks. Renjun nods, not sure if his words will suffice. 

 

This is just the start.

 

Chapter Text

"What did you do yesterday?" 

 

Renjun almost yelps, before he realises he's on camera and he can't choke Chenle or balk or look panicked at all — and actually it's a perfectly normal question to ask your friend. 

 

Renjun had absolutely done other things yesterday that weren't giving Donghyuck a handjob in his bed. Absolutely.

 

He stumbles through an answer about seeing his family, all while Donghyuck elbows him in the side, undoubtedly thinking the same thing Renjun had been. Probably thinking about repeating it again, too — and Renjun would be a liar if he said he wasn't excited.

 

It’s been two days since the last concert — since Donghyuck had blown him in the closet and jerked him off back in the dorm. Three weeks since they’d first kissed. There’s still a lot of awkwardness present — often Donghyuck will pull back and start to laugh, or Renjun will go to kiss him and instead pinch his side, not able to fully commit. It’s not bad, because they’re close enough that they can just laugh about it — but there’s a tinge of frustration that permeates it. Renjun just wants to kiss Donghyuck without feeling stupid. Without feeling like he wants it too much. It’s a delicate battle. 

 

It’s not like he’d even thought of kissing Donghyuck until a couple of months ago — but now he has it’s like it consumes him. Just the same thought going round and round his head like a toy train on a track.

 

Once they get into it it’s good, though. Once the initial hesitation fades they fall into a rhythm — something that’s as easy as breathing for Renjun and makes him wonder why they hadn’t tried this sooner.

 

Why hadn’t they tried this sooner? Why would they have? It’s a silly thought, replaced as Donghyuck fits his mouth against his and grasps the back of his neck to keep him pinned against the kitchen bench. His hips push up against his and the fridge hums beside him and there’s a gentle ambience of the rest of the group in the dorm — music pouring from behind Jaemin’s door, Chenle’s laughter from Jeno’s room. Life around them — warmth in Donghyuck’s kisses. 

 

It’s the easiest thing, and once Renjun gives himself into it he forgets there was ever an awkwardness at all.



*



"Fuck," Donghyuck mutters. The slick slide of Renjun's hand on his cock is mostly muffled by the music crooning from his speakers, but even so just him speaking is enough to make Renjun's heart pound. They're back after practicing and Renjun has about an hour before he needs to leave for the TBS studio. Everyone else is home, too — and there's no doubt that at any second anyone could hear them, though maybe it's part of the thrill of it all.

 

"You're so good," Renjun whispers. Donghyuck presses a kiss to his lips, open mouthed and panting. His breath is hot and wet and Renjun doesn't think he'll ever tire of having Donghyuck like this.

 

“I’m the best,” Donghyuck says.

 

“Don’t get cocky.”

 

“Says the guy with a cock in his hand.”

 

Renjun quickens his strokes, smirking at the sight of Donghyuck’s face scrunching up in an effort not to moan. Right now this is all they can really do. They’ve quickly discovered that Donghyuck is ridiculously noisy when he’s getting blown, and no amount of pillows over the face or fists in the mouth will mask the breathy gasps he lets out when Renjun's lips touch his cock. 

 

Which is a shame, really, because Renjun had really wanted to suck his dick.

 

But it's just the first few weeks, and they have so much longer to go. It's just the start of this thing. Donghyuck can still suck Renjun’s dick — they can still jerk each other off. They can still spend all the time they used to spend together together — eating takeout, watching movies, standing on the roadside in their boots and coats with their umbrellas splattered in raindrops, Donghyuck leaning in and whispering into Renjun’s ear about how he can’t wait to get his dick in his mouth, causing Renjun’s entire face to burn underneath his mask. 

 

When they sit on the couch together in the Dream dorm Donghyuck gets a little handsy — slipping his hand underneath Renjun’s shirt to place it against the small of his back, then dipping down when Renjun doesn’t protest. He remains like that throughout the whole TV episode they’re watching together, playing with Renjun’s waistband, forcing him to completely disregard the storyline of the show in favour of willing his cock not to get hard. 

 

Renjun almost physically drags him to his room — pushes him down into the sheets of his bed and kisses him through all of Donghyuck’s laughter. 

 

“What’s this about?” Donghyuck asks, despite Renjun’s best efforts to steal the breath from his lungs.

 

“Fuck you,” Renjun spits. “You’re such a tease.”

 

“Only because you’re easy,” Donghyuck coos.

 

He is easy. He doesn’t like to admit it, but Donghyuck has always known how to get him. The exact points to dig his fingers into, the exact words to sharpen into weapons. Of course it runs both ways — like a tug of war, both of them yanking at the end of the rope, this push and pull they’ve perfected. A battle where they both strike at the same time. 

 

“Like you’re not,” Renjun says. He rubs at Donghyuck’s nipple with the heel of his palm and Donghyuck’s lashes flutter, his entire body arching up at the single gesture. 

 

Donghyuck is sensitive all over — Renjun has known this for years, from tickle fights and fingers jabbed into ribs — but his nipples are particularly sensitive, and this is something entirely new. Something Renjun will abuse. A few days ago he’d spent a good twenty minutes teasing and sucking at Donghyuck’s nipples, turning him into a breathless mess and capping it all off with a sloppy handjob. Afterwards they’d just lay in bed together, kissing each other aimlessly, hands roaming over bodies. 

 

So many of their days are like this — wake up. A kiss good morning. Renjun in the shower while Donghyuck brushes his teeth. Donghyuck in the shower while Renjun cleans his face. Piling into the van together, Donghyuck’s hand on the small of his back as he pushes him into the seat. Playing with the rips in his jeans, throwing his shoes at him. Arguing with Jeno over what his favourite flavour of iced coffee was, his voice rising until Renjun sticks his fingers in Donghyuck’s mouth to shut him up. 

 

They jostle each other in the elevator, making bets on which choreo Jaemin will forget this time. Practicing for hours on end, feet heavy on the hardwood. Jaemin throws his cue cards at them while Donghyuck squirms and laughs, his joy like bells ringing in the sunrise light. The two of them chase each other around the practice room as Renjun slumps on the bench and Jeno sits down beside him, a fond smile on his face as Donghyuck manages to wrestle Jaemin to the floor and get him in a headlock. Chenle and Jisung are chattering in the corner and there’s a warm light coming from the overhead lights, turning everything a shade of gentle yellow. 

 

There’s a stiffness in Jeno’s shoulders, his fingers restless as they drum against the bench. Some kind of energy that needs to be released. He’d suggest his newfound way of wicking off steam to Jeno, but judging by the noises that come from his room he’s already getting plenty of that.

 

God. Chenle and Jeno. Of all the couples to get together they were low on Renjun’s list of guesses. They’ve always been friends — always this cat and puppy (or more recently cat and cat) sort of friendship — but for them to be together is something else. Renjun is still not sure he believes it, to be honest — but it’s so painfully obvious there can’t be any other conclusion. They’re so touchy with each other — arms wrapped around waists, Chenle resting his head on Jeno’s shoulder as he snoozes on the couch. Sometimes he’ll catch them holding hands — something the both of them try to hide so hard that it might as well be a neon sign pointing down at them, screaming out to the world that these two like each other.

 

And then there’s Chenle’s increased presence at the dorms. Both him and Donghyuck staying over would usually mean one of them would sleep on the floor (or Jisung would sleep on the floor and someone else would take his bunk), but Chenle just smiles and tells Donghyuck he’ll sleep on the floor of Jeno’s room. Like he thinks he’s fooling anyone.

 

God, is that what he and Donghyuck look like? He sure hopes not. For one: Donghyuck still sleeps on the couch more often than not — but honestly Renjun hates that. It’s not just their early morning makeout sessions he loves — it’s the lazy handjobs, the one memorable time where they’d both been dazed with sleep and Donghyuck had ducked under the covers and given Renjun a blowjob that had made him feel like his brain was boiling in his skull. It’s so much more. 

 

Having Donghyuck is his bed is like a comfort, a big warm blanket thrown over him. Sure it’s a little cramped, sure their limbs sometimes jam into each other, sure it’ll probably be hell in summer because Donghyuck’s body heat is like that of a miniature furnace — sure, it’s all these and worse, but it’s also just nice. Renjun sleeps better with Donghyuck in his bed. 

 

He supposes it’s for the best they don’t share the bed so much. They don’t need questions. 

 

They’re not together

 

“Renjun,” Jeno says. Here it comes. “Do you know what’s up with Jaemin?”

 

Ah. He should have guessed, to be honest. He wonders how long it’s going to take Jaemin to reach breaking point. He’s so good at holding himself together — at locking away the rougher parts of himself under the armour of his image — that it could be months. It could be never. Renjun doubts that, though. Jaemin has a fire in his heart, and it doesn’t matter what happens, eventually someone will throw gunpowder at him — eventually it will consume him. 

 

Renjun shrugs, watching Jaemin where he curses Donghyuck out from the floor. “What’s wrong?”

 

“He’s just being weird. Quiet.”

 

“Jaemin is always quiet.”

 

“Yeah, but more than usual. It’s like I’ve done something wrong.”

 

"You haven't," Renjun says. He knows that for sure — and he knows Jaemin wouldn't want Jeno to be blamed. It's not his fault. It's not anyone's fault — Jaemin would blame himself. Blame himself for having feelings, for falling for someone not doing anything about it. He always puts on this big show — this face that's so strong, this unbreakable will — but it's like he forgets they all know him. They know the acne riddled kid sitting on the practice room floor who'd dropped his tray in the cafeteria — who'd had a voice crack during evaluations, who'd cried in the bathrooms twice a week because he was so sure he wouldn't make it. They knew the Jaemin with a heart so soft it bruised like the skin of a fruit.

 

Too open, too kind.

 

None of them would ever want to see him hurt, yet somehow they've found themselves in trouble all the same. Na Jaemin and his dumb, big heart.

 

"You sure?"

 

Renjun nods and gives Jeno a smile. The looks he gets back is worrying — Jeno's eyes tinged with sadness. He sighs, slumping against the wall and reaching for his drink bottle.

 

"It's not your fault, Jeno," Renjun says. Carefully, not wanting to betray Jaemin's privacy. A secret he'll take to the grave — thought it might kill him, it might kill Jaemin.

 

Jaemin and Donghyuck are done wrestling — Donghyuck is helping him to his feet, and the both of them are chatting, something Renjun can't quite pick up as it echoes around the practice room walls, mixed with Chenle and Jisung's conversation.

 

"I don't like seeing him like this."

 

So they have all noticed. He always forgets Jeno's more perceptive than they give him credit for, but even then, for him to mention it must be serious.

 

"I know," Renjun says. "Me neither. It'll pass, though."

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Everything passes."

 

The conversation in the room has lulled — Donghyuck and Jaemin are on their phones and Jisung has left, probably for a bathroom break or food before they have to reconvene. Chenle has his airpods in and as he makes eye contact with Renjun he waves, then his eyes slide to Jeno and a beaming smile crosses his face — something like the sun cresting over the horizon.

 

"I suppose," Jeno says. "I just don't want him to be hurt. Just because it passes doesn't mean it won't leave a scar."

 

Renjun glances at him. He thinks of Mark and Donghyuck — two best friends wedged apart — and realises the reality of Jeno's fear. Something he's powerless to stop.

 

You can't make someone fall out of love — you can only hope they learn to accept it.



*



Their next concert is in Thailand. It's fucking freezing when they leave for the airport, and on account of Donghyuck forgetting to bring clothes to the Dream dorm Renjun has to lend him a hoodie.

 

"This smells like you," Donghyuck says, lifting the collar to his nose and sniffing it.

 

"It belongs to me, so yes," Renjun says, raising an eyebrow as he shrugs his coat on. Donghyuck looks up at him and his eyes are curious — tinged with softness.

 

"You get new perfume?"

 

"No?"

 

He forgets to put on perfume half the time, to be honest — too preoccupied with the other aspects of his appearance. No-one recently has been close enough to smell him — but he really hasn't bought anything new. He just uses the same herbal body wash and conditioner their stylist had suggested, and that's it.

 

"Huh," Donghyuck says. He sniffs it once more than lets it drop down. "Smells nice."

 

Renjun pauses where he's straightening out his coat and blinks, staring at Donghyuck. There's no bite in his words — no teasing remark. It's something open and honest — something oddly domestic that makes a warm feeling bloom inside his chest. "Alright," he says.

 

The way Donghyuck stares at him is strange — it’s something defiant. Something that on any other day Renjun might challenge but here — tired, dark bags under his eyes, preparing for another flight — he just lets it happen. He lets it wash over him, a tide of golden light that warms even the deepest crevices of his bones.



*



"Wonder if they'll notice you're wearing my clothes," Renjun says, as they climb out of the van together. The sun is setting and its .rays are weak, painting long pale stripes of yellow against the cold concrete of Incheon airport. Across the road hovering around the doors is a sea of cameras, all pointed directly at them. At this point Renjun is used to ignoring them, and as he hooks his hand around Donghyuck's waist he turns his face into the sun and tries to absorb at least some of the faint warmth that breaks through the biting winter air.

 

"Oh, someone will," Donghyuck says. He's smirking, and as Renjun turns to him he sees his eyebrows raise slightly behind his sunglasses, up into his mess of hair. "But will they care? Jaemin and Jeno wear each other's underwear all the time."

 

"Please don't remind me."

 

"What, you don't want to think about them sharing ball sweat?"

 

"We're in public," Renjun says, trying his best to be serious and not laugh his head off. A gust of wind comes barrelling through the carpark and nearly knocks his glasses off his face, chill carried over the sea biting at his bare cheeks.

 

Donghyuck just laughs. "Exactly. Now you can't choke me."

 

"Bastard," Renjun says. He digs his fingers into Donghyuck's waist, pinching his skin until Donghyuck winces away from him with a squeak.

 

"Okay, okay," he says, pouting as their managers start to herd them across the road. As they push through the crowd of fans Donghyuck grabs onto the back of his coat, trailing behind him until they line up for customs.

 

"You know I kind of like this hoodie," Donghyuck says, stepping up beside him with a hum. When Renjun catches his eye he grins. "I might keep it."

 

"What are you, a drama boyfriend?"

 

Renjun realises what he's said the second he says it and has to restrain himself from panicking — because what the fuck? What kind of appropriate thing is that to say?

 

Sure, he might have daydreamed Donghyuck as a drama lead when he was sixteen (and stupid as fuck), but calling him his boyfriend? Renjun balks. He's not falling in love with the first boy to touch his dick — and he's certainly not going to scare Donghyuck off with feelings.

 

There are no feelings. He's not Mark Lee, and he would never hurt their friendship like that. He made a promise to Donghyuck and he intends to keep it.

 

If Donghyuck is bothered by the words he doesn't show it — he just laughs. "I'm coming for Jaemin's job. Watch out or I'll be kissing you in the snow next."

 

Renjun's heart thunders in his chest, but instead of showing it he turns ahead and smiles, moving forward in the queue. Chenle rests his head on Jaemin's shoulder, and behind them he can hear Jisung mumbling something, he and Jeno conversing in low tones. The airport hums with the whir of the heaters and all around them are tired business people — heads down, shiny shoes shuffling against the carpet. There's a tug at his coat again and he looks back to see Donghyuck smiling at him.

 

"Got a surprise for you on the plane," he says, leaning up to whisper in his ear. There's something molten in the words, and although Donghyuck's face is carefully schooled into something neutral he can see the smirk behind it.

 

"I'll hold you to that."



*



The plane bathroom is cramped and awkward and there's not much room for grand gestures. Donghyuck grabs Renjun's bicep and pulls him in with him and when he turns him to push him up against the sink their knees bang together and Renjun curses loudly, though half of it is swallowed by the kiss Donghyuck plants on his lips. The floor is wet beneath his sneakers and the air smells like dollar store hand soap and parts of Donghyuck that shouldn't be pushing up against him are digging into him and as he goes to gasp again Donghyuck sticks his fingers in his mouth, working hard at a spot under his ear with his tongue, undoing Renjun's jeans clumsily with his free hand and slipping it into his boxers.

 

"Thought we could join the mile high club," Donghyuck says, lips warm against his throat. "God, you look so good."

 

It's disgusting — filthy, the two of them rutting against each other, Donghyuck barely able to move his hand with how cramped they are. It's gross and grimy and Renjun is so fucking turned on he feels like he's going to explode — he comes so quickly he'd be embarrassed were he still not banking on the virgin excuse. Donghyuck's fingers hold his tongue down and he moans so loud he's absolutely sure someone must have heard — but when he leaves the bathroom everyone is asleep.

 

Jeno's splayed out across his seat, pushing into Jisung's personal space, and Jaemin is in a similar position. It's only when Donghyuck comes out of the bathroom — a few minutes after and wringing his hands — that one of Chenle's eyes opens and looks straight at Renjun. They hold eye contact for a second and Chenle smiles — something that might look innocent to a bystander, but to Renjun is as damning as being caught red handed.

 

Renjun just stares back, defiant as he puts his earphones in and pulls his blanket over his legs. He invites the question, but Chenle just shuts his eyes again and readjusts in his seat. Donghyuck sits down beside Renjun and flags down the stewardess for wine, and by the time Renjun's picked a podcast and is settling down to sleep he has a travel sized bottle in hand — which he offers to Renjun with a suggestion to take a sip.

 

"I'm fine," Renjun says. Donghyuck shrugs and — forgoing the plastic cup that had been delivered turned upside down over the top — takes a swig straight from the bottle.

 

"Suit yourself."



*



Donghyuck ends up rooming with Jaemin, which isn't terrible considering it means Renjun ends up with Jeno. The room is lovely — walls the colour of the deep ocean, plush beds that Renjun flops down on the second he drops his bag. He lets out a groan and Jeno laughs at him, tapping his leg with his toes as he goes to unpack his things onto his bedside table.

 

"Already tired?"

 

"I hate flying," Renjun says.

 

"That much?"

 

Renjun shakes his head. "Just feels like a hell of a long day."

 

Jeno nods. "Yeah." He yawns in agreement, prompting Renjun to do the same, splaying his arms across the sheets. There's a knock at the door and they both look up, then back at each other, as if to ask ' are you getting that? '

 

"Fine," Jeno says.

 

It's Donghyuck. He's already changed out of what he wore on the plane to something more casual. "The kids wanna go out for dinner. You guys wanna come?"

 

Jeno glances back at Renjun then shrugs. "Sure. I didn't really eat on the plane."

 

"What about you, Renjun?" Donghyuck asks. He makes eye contact with Renjun and tilts his head as he says it. "I'll be staying behind, though. Too tired."

 

Oh. 

 

Renjun gets it.

 

"I think I'll dial it in. Bring me something back, Jeno?"

 

"Yeah, sure," Jeno says. He stands up and goes to open his suitcase before looking up at Donghyuck, then picking up his phone. "What's it like out there?"

 

"Warm. You'll be fine in that."

 

"Are they leaving now?"

 

"As soon as Jaemin finds his jacket, yeah."

 

"Don't tell me he forgot to pack it," Jeno says, laughing. The last time they'd gone overseas Jaemin had grabbed completely the wrong bag and brought a collection of Jisung's dirty towels and socks with him instead. A trip to the mall by their manager had saved them, but he's hoping there's not another repeat.

 

"No, I think he packed too much this time. You know how he is."

 

"Over-prepared, yeah."

 

"Exactly," Donghyuck says. He rolls his eyes but it's fond — they've all been saved at one point or another by Jaemin's tendency to plan for the worst case disaster. He knows Jaemin only does it out of love — a desire to make sure they're all safe and sound. "They said to meet them outside Chenle and Jisung's room when you're ready."

 

"Alright," Jeno says, pulling his laptop out of his bag and setting it down on his bed. "Thanks. Is there anything you want me to bring back?"

 

"A masseuse would be nice right about now," Renjun says. When Jeno turns to him, an incredulous look on his face, he starts laughing. "Kidding. Just bring me back some extra of whatever you're having."

 

"I think Jisung was talking about pizza," Donghyuck says, and Renjun feels his mouth start watering. Pizza sounds fucking great. He has some snacks in his bag he'd bought in Incheon, but with the way Donghyuck is looking at him right now he thinks he might be about to become the snack.

 

"Pizza is good," he says, clearing his throat.

 

There's an awkward pause — Jeno going through his bag, Donghyuck hovering in the doorway, staring down Renjun with something molten in his eyes — before Donghyuck takes his leave. Jeno mumbles a goodbye then pulls out a shirt — a black turtleneck that Renjun's pretty sure Jaemin got him for his birthday this year — and turns to show it to Renjun.

 

"What do you think of this?"

 

"You'll look good no matter what, Jeno. He's kind of smitten with you."

 

"Wh—" Jeno stutters, eyes going wide. He looks kind of comical — like a bug eyed fish in a tank. "What? Who?"

 

"You aren't as subtle as you think you are."

 

He realises the irony in the statement — the fact that he's absolutely sure that in about ten minutes he's going to have Donghyuck's tongue down his throat — but he also likes to think that unlike Jeno and Chenle he's a bit better at hiding it.

 

"Oh," Jeno says. The tips of his ears have turned bright red and he clutches the shirt to his chest. "Is it really that obvious?"

 

"Oh my god Jeno," Renjun laughs. "Yes. Yes it is."

 

"Shit," he says. "Shit." He sits down on the bed and lets out a sigh, looking up at Renjun. "I really like him."

 

"You don't need to justify it to me, Jeno. It's okay."

 

There's a visible slump in his shoulders — a relieved smile that's at odds with the strange way Renjun's gut twists in sympathy for Jaemin. He buries the second part of that feeling — because it's not his problem. He should be happy for Jeno. He is happy for Jeno.

 

"He's wonderful," Jeno says. He gives Renjun a lovesick grin and butterflies explode in his stomach — because of course Jeno is sappy. Of course he adores Chenle with all his heart. He's always been so soft inside — hesitantly asking to hold their hands, nudging his face against their shoulders like an overgrown cat. Just a big bundle of limbs and love — their Lee Jeno.

 

Renjun grins. "Go out there and get him, tiger.”



*



"What're you smiling about?" Donghyuck asks, raising his eyebrows as he lets Renjun into his room.

 

"I'm smiling?"

 

"Yes," Donghyuck laughs. The door thuds behind them, electronic clatter of the lock audible as Renjun pads across the carpet. The layout is the same as he and Jeno's room, only flipped — same blue walls, same white curtains hiding the rather impressive vista of nighttime downtown Bangkok. Jaemin's charger is already plugged into the wall, his airpods on his bedside table, and his suitcase is open at the foot of his bed, a beautiful monochrome display of all black and white clothing spilling out of the edges. When he turns back to answer Donghyuck he finds his lips on his — hand sliding to cup the back of his neck.

 

It feels like it's been an age since they've kissed each other — even though it's really been 4 hours at most. Renjun just misses Donghyuck's lips.

 

He's also glad to kiss him in somewhere that isn't where people piss, but that's neither here nor there.

 

"You look cute, though," Donghyuck says. He presses a peck to his lips. "God, do you know hard it was to convince manager hyung that we shouldn't just get takeout? Lucky the kids were being rowdy."

 

"Jisung is always restless after we fly."

 

"Don't I know it."

 

"Oh?"

 

"You really don't give me enough credit, do you?" Donghyuck asks, pulling back to give him an incredulous look.

 

"Are you telling me you do have a brain inside that skull?" Renjun taps his fingers against the side of Donghyuck's head, earning himself another peck on the lips.

 

"A beautiful big brilliant brain that's gotten us at least an hour of uninterrupted time alone."

 

"There was no sarcasm in that statement," Renjun says, laughing against Donghyuck's mouth. Donghyuck cups his jaw, pressing deeper into the kiss.

 

“If you say so.”

 

There’s silence after that — just the two of them kissing, just the slide of their lips and soft gasps. Donghyuck's hands splay themselves across Renjun's stomach and sparks explode inside of him, something that burst up his throat as a moan — a very real anticipation of what's about to happen.

 

Holy fuck. They have time. They can make noise. It's just the two of them, and something absolutely is about to happen.

 

A million thoughts flash through Renjun's mind. Does Donghyuck have anything planned? Surely he does, right? Are they going to fuck? Can he finally get his mouth around Donghyuck's cock?

 

Renjun shudders, digging his fingers into Donghyuck's hair as Donghyuck's hands roam higher, brushing over and then teasing his nipples.

 

"Donghyuck," he says. Donghyuck breaks away, kissing across his jaw, each press of his lips causing a flare inside of him.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"I—" he starts, then swallows the words. They seem to get stuck in his throat — a question he doesn't know how to ask. There's a heavy haze of lust lingering in his senses and every place Donghyuck touches him seems to be alight, and then he realises maybe he doesn't need to talk. Maybe it's okay to just let it happen — to go with where the tide takes them.

 

He tugs Donghyuck down, pulling a little too forcefully and causing them both to crash onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Donghyuck lands on top of him, knocking the breath out of him, his chin smacking against his shoulder and causing him to burst into laughter.

 

"Watch it," Donghyuck says, giggling as he cups Renjun's jaw. "You don't know your own strength."

 

"I know perfectly well I can kick your ass."

 

He lets his arms drop to his sides as Donghyuck presses a kiss to his lips. "Is that so?"

 

The blow he directs to Donghyuck's side isn't hard, but even so it makes a solid noise — a thump that echoes in the silence of the room. Donghyuck eyes flash and the next kiss he presses to Renjun's lips is deeper — it's more vicious. His hips grind down against Renjun's and Renjun groans, reaching up to fist his hands in Donghyuck's shirt and pull it over his head. Donghyuck does the same to him, throwing both their shirts to the floor over the side of the bed.

 

There's something addictive about skin on skin contact. The raw heat of Donghyuck's body against his, the way his entire self reacts to their chests being together. His heartbeat thunders and his kisses sear and he wants more . He wants to drag Donghyuck down with him, wants him to never leave. He wants to drown in him.

 

"Renjun," Donghyuck says, gasping against his neck, nipping at his skin with no real intent. He knows Donghyuck can't bite — knows if he leaves bruises their stylists will kill Renjun (though honestly he wouldn't put it past Donghyuck to do it just to get him in trouble, conniving bastard that he is) — but god he wishes he would. It's a strange desire: to be marked by someone. To have their teeth on his skin. But then again, Renjun finds his brain does strange things when he's like this.

 

It does strange things when he's with Donghyuck.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"What do you want to do?"



*



An hour is actually a very short amount of time. Renjun should know this by now — between trying to catch naps in the dressing rooms of music shows and in airport waiting lounges — yet somehow it still surprises him. It's probably partially his fault for wasting most of the time with his tongue in Donghyuck's mouth but hey — Renjun likes kissing him. He likes kissing Donghyuck a lot, and when he doesn't have the fear of Jisung busting down the fucking door to ask for snacks he finds he likes it even more.

 

An hour is still enough. It's enough for Renjun to suck Donghyuck’s cock until he's shuddering and gasping in his mouth. And it's especially enough for Donghyuck to do this. To have Renjun on his stomach, legs spread, Donghyuck's hand wrapped around his cock as he spreads him open on his fingers.

 

"You're so good," Donghyuck murmurs. Renjun pants, trying to bite down on his whines and ultimately giving up, burying his face in the pillows and clenching down around Donghyuck's fingers. "Look at you, Renjun. So good. So beautiful."

 

Renjun gasps. He won't beg — he tells himself this — but the way Donghyuck is working him is torturous. It's slow and precise, the circle of his hand on his cock not quite tight enough, the slide of his fingers an aching stretch. He has three inside of him and he's moving methodically, like there's not a care in the world for him. Like Renjun isn't so hard he can feel it — the ache in his dick, the wet slide of Donghyuck's hand as more and more precum leaks from the head of his cock. Donghyuck thumbs at him, fingers twisting, and Renjun feels something red hot shoot through him — a bolt of pleasure that causes him to cry out, hips twitching up, thighs tensing.

 

"Donghyuck," Renjun says. "Fuck. Could you be any more slow?"

 

"Just savouring our time together," Donghyuck says. He laughs, running his thumb over the head of Renjun's cock again.

 

"Fuck you," Renjun spits.

 

"Oh you will," Donghyuck says.

 

Renjun doesn't have the bite in him to respond, because at that moment Donghyuck moves, and god Renjun didn't realise how close he was. After so much torture it's like an explosion of heat all over his body — it's like scratching an itch he didn't even know he had. Donghyuck's hand twists inside of him again, fingers brushing up against something and Renjun sees stars . He gasps and whines, bucking into his hand, trying to get more friction, burning up all over.

 

"You look so fucking good," Donghyuck says, and it feels like it’s coming from outer space. "So fucking hot. Holy shit Renjun."

 

Renjun loses it. Every part of him locks up and he's mildly worried he might break Donghyuck's fingers with how hard he clenches around him, but it's not something he can control. His legs shake and he cries out as he comes, spilling all over Donghyuck's hand, gasping, whining, not even sure what's coming out of his mouth are words — only that he never wants this to stop.



*



Maybe Renjun is actually a fucking genius.

 

Well — he already knows he's a genius, but when it comes to Don't Need Your Love it's kind of a different thing. There's the nagging reminder that the porn idea was actually Donghyuck's madcap idea, but Renjun can at least take credit for choosing to make it physical.

 

And making it physical worked. There's a spark between them that hadn't been there before — a kind of electricity like they're both a livewire. When they smile at each other on stage — when Donghyuck flirts with him, when Renjun flirts back — the crowd screams, and he knows they must see it too.

 

When it comes to Don't Need Your Love it's like a bass drum kick in his chest. Thousands of eyes on him, and he has to do all he can not to grin as he trails his hand down Donghyuck's face. They make eye contact and it's like a flame is lit in his gut — it's the same challenge they've always issued to each other. The same challenge they issued in the practice room, in the autumn rain, in the SM building, in the cramped airplane bathroom. It's always a fight between them — always trying to one up each other. It's the only way Renjun can live — constantly at war. His heart jumps and Donghyuck's eyes sparkle, and the moment breaks — song ending, both of them going back to their positions

 

He makes sure to try to trip Donghyuck as they're running around at the end of the stage, and when they collapse together on the couch in the dressing room — managers corralling them all together and correcting Jeno where he holds the paper slogan upside down — Donghyuck leans in and breathes into his ear, telling him how good he'd looked on his fingers.

 

Renjun, somehow, manages not to turn bright red.



*



Dinner is at the hotel restaurant — the same view as from their rooms, except here it's live and in stereo. They can hear the car horns and the rush of the wind, all the birds circling through the trees of the park below and a party happening somewhere in the distance, music piping through speakers and the thud of a bassline. Renjun leans on the glass of the railing, letting the wind card through his hair, and breathes it all in — the warm night air, the restaurant bustle behind him — Chenle laughing so hard it sounds like he might bust a lung.

 

He feels good. God, he really does. The post concert high is like a drug in his veins and he feels dopey and warm — the best he's done for months. There's the nagging worry of what the future will hold — what Dream might become — but it's not enough to sour his mood, or to cause anything more than a small flare of anxiety that he swallows whole with his next breath.

 

"Injunnie..."

 

He turns to see Donghyuck sliding up next to him, some kind of fancy cocktail in each hand. He pushes one towards Renjun and he takes it, holding it up before taking a sip.

 

The drink is pink but the taste is not — it's light, something sparkling with a slight sugary kick of alcohol.

 

"Don't ask what it is," Donghyuck says, like he's reading his mind. "Because I have no fucking clue. Jeno ordered."

 

Renjun laughs. Jeno has a penchant for picking the fruitiest drink then blaming it on not reading the menu at all — he doesn't doubt it'll be his excuse again.

 

They both lean their arms over the railing, staring out at the city. The silence that passes between them is comfortable — the kind that comes from years of knowing someone, from trusting their heart. A strange kind of safety.

 

Their relationship has changed so much over the past month and a half, and the weird thing is that to Renjun it almost feels like nothing has happened. There's no monumental shift. No real difference in the way they interact. Just the slightest sear to their touches. A little bit more flirtation. It’s like they were always supposed to be like this — like it’s so natural. Donghyuck reaches out to play with his hand and Renjun doesn’t pull away — he just lets him. He tangles their fingers together and when Renjun turns to look at him he’s smiling.

 

The city lights in his eyes look like stars.



*



The second concert goes as good as the first. Better, maybe. There’s always an anxiety the first time, but the second is like flying. The second is like the screams carry them up. Renjun picks out all the banners with his name on them and it feels like he’s on top of the world. Nothing can stop him, and when he runs across stage to jump into Jeno’s arms, when he shoves at Jaemin, when he smacks Donghyuck’s ass during the ment — it’s with nothing but happiness in his heart. 

 

They collapse together on the couch backstage, Chenle elbowing Jisung until he bites back a curse word and glares at him, putting on a smile for the photo as they hold up the banners. They get changed amid an argument over dinner for the night — Korean or Chinese — Renjun watching from the sidelines as Jaemin employs his age old tactic of talking really fast and loud on an exasperated Jeno. They begin to file out the door and — as Renjun’s pulling on his jacket and checking to make sure he’s left nothing behind — Donghyuck slides up to him and presses his hotel keycard into his palm.

 

There’s no words exchanged. Just a glance between them — something heated and dark. Something that reads like a promise to Renjun, molten lava trickling down his spine.

 

This time it's Jisung who notices. This time it's Jisung who goes to shake Chenle's shoulder and ask what's happening, but when he turns around there's no-one there — and when he looks back Renjun is gone, too.



*



"What?" Renjun asks. Everyone else has gone out for dinner — Renjun had faked needing a nap, and he’s not sure what Donghyuck’s excuse was, but he’s sure it was something devious delivered with a sweet smile to one of their beleaguered managers. Donghyuck is an expert in getting what he wants, and even Renjun has taken notes from him a few times before. 

 

“What’s what?” Donghyuck asks, smiling at him from where he’s lying on his bed, then giving Renjun a look that makes him think that Donghyuck wants to devour him whole. It's the same dance. A challenge issued — a rise to the bait. 

 

Is it even bait if Renjun wants it? If he’s been thinking about this for weeks? The logistics don’t matter, but Donghyuck is often picky. He knows Donghyuck will try to take credit for all these madcap thoughts — like he somehow had to convince Renjun this was a good idea.

 

Like Renjun hasn’t been rolling his words around in his head since he said them on their first night here.

 

Renjun climbs onto the bed and covers Donghyuck's lips with his own, groaning as Donghyuck surges up to meet him. There’s no pretense. Nothing coy about it. 

 

"What?" Donghyuck repeats, as Renjun breaks off to kiss down his jaw. "What were you asking?"

 

"Shut up," Renjun says. Donghyuck laughs, a little mad, tapering into a moan as Renjun nips at the spot under his ear — a spot he knows by now is enough to make Donghyuck stiffen underneath him.

 

“You’re gonna have to make me.”

 

Renjun just works harder at him, nibbling at his lobe, licking a long stripe up the side of his neck and grinding down onto his crotch. Donghyuck gasps — and it seems like it works. He shuts him up, he replaces his snark with a long moan, and it tastes so fucking good.

 

Renjun knows what’s going to happen. They strip each other down — Donghyuck taking him out of his jeans, Renjun pushing his hotel robe from his shoulders. They’re both left in their underwear, Renjun kissing all over Donghyuck’s chest, just taking him in.

 

God, he’s fucking gorgeous. Sunkissed and soft, smooth lines of his chest, a waist that looks like it was made to fit Renjun’s hands. Has always fit them — for as long as he’s known him. Dark nipples that when Renjun teases them cause Donghyuck to moan and whine — god, he’s so fucking sensitive. So fucking loud . Hot lust surges up Renjun’s throat and he leans over and presses a kiss to his lips, something that gets wet and messy fast . Donghyuck’s tongue finds its way into his mouth and by the time he pulls back — panting and breathless — his lips are slick with spit, his eyes glazed over, his very much hard cock rubbing against Renjun’s ass.

 

"Renjun," Donghyuck starts. He looks obscene. Hair messy, lips kiss bitten, so beautiful underneath Renjun. A bolt of possessiveness — from god knows where — bursts through Renjun’s chest, and he wants to take it all. Turn Donghyuck inside out, find every part of him. 

 

God, is this what sex feels like? Is this what having someone feels like? It’s terrifying and all encompassing, and most of all it’s addictive.

 

“Yeah?” Renjun says. He dives down to cover Donghyuck’s jaw in kisses, moving without direction — only with raw want. The part of his brain that’s precise has switched off, and he’s going on instinct now. He needs this — he fucking needs Donghyuck.

 

"Renjun,” Donghyuck gasps. His hands come up to thread in Renjun’s hair, holding his mouth against his neck, and he lets out a groan. “I want you to fuck me."

 

The words are like a lightning bolt on a midnight horizon — a searing clarity brought to the room, to the movements between them — something that sears itself across Renjun's consciousness. It tattoos itself into the marrow of Renjun's bones and he takes a sharp breath, heart thundering in his chest.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Please.”



*



It's awkward and weird, but of all the people to lose his virginity to, he figures Donghyuck is probably the best. 

 

Not even figures — he knows. There’s something between them he’s never examined before — something he finds he’s unable to hide when he crouches between Donghyuck’s legs, the both of them naked as the day they were born. Donghyuck’s cock is hard and red and as Renjun squirts the lube onto his fingers he strokes at himself, letting out tiny whimpers as he tells Renjun what to do. 

 

There’s something there. Renjun doesn’t know what it is, but he can feel it — a current that runs between them. Some unspoken promise. I’ve got you, it says. I’ll look after you. Five years they’ve known each other, and it all seems to coalesce here in this room. Something delicate, like a baby bird held in the cage of his hands. Something precious.

 

It’s awkward and weird and it’s like all that is forgotten because Donghyuck is his best friend. Because he trusts him. They trust each other — and it doesn’t matter that Renjun's hands shake and his voice cracks and he almost hits Donghyuck in the face multiple times. It doesn’t matter that there's a moment where Renjun's wrist cramps while he's fingering Donghyuck and Donghyuck laughs so fucking hard there's tears in his eyes, then kisses him silly while he massages his wrist for him. None of it matters — it’s just water under the bridge. An understanding that there will be a next time — and a time after that. Times to get it right — if there’s even a way to get it right. 

 

It’s awkward and weird and despite all the times Renjun has had Donghyuck's mouth on his cock he almost comes the second he pushes into him. Another imperfection, another moment where Renjun’s brain just fills with TV static. He curses and gasps and squeezes the base of his cock so hard he's vaguely concerned about hurting himself, and then Donghyuck makes a joke about his ass just being that good. Renjun tells him to shut the fuck up.

 

It's awkward and weird — and it's the best Renjun's ever felt in his life. Donghyuck is unbearably hot around him and he can feel every shift of his body — every clench of his muscles, vice tight around Renjun's cock. Renjun feels like he's going to break — his entire focus narrowing down to Donghyuck, like there might be nothing else in the world except for them. All the snark dies on Donghyuck's tongue and he meets his eyes and Renjun's heart leaps, and then Donghyuck throws his head back and moans.

 

Good god. There's something in that moment he's never felt before. Donghyuck's neck is bared and his eyes are screwed shut and he's gasping, whining, high pitched noises wrung from the back of his throat with every thrust of Renjun's cock inside him. His fingers scramble at the sheets until he finds Renjun's, and when he joins their hands together Donghyuck squeezes tight, holding him like he's a lifeline. It's something warm amongst all the arousal — amongst all the lust that floods him like bellows breath. To have someone this vulnerable — to be allowed to see them like this. 

 

"Renjun," Donghyuck says. "Oh god."

 

He doesn't have time to examine it. Something spears through Renjun — something like pure sunlight that explodes out of his mouth, something he can't even process because in that second his orgasm hits him, slamming into him and causing his entire body to lock up. His hips stutter and he gasps, spilling inside of Donghyuck, squeezing his hand so tight he leaves the crescent mark of his fingernails in his skin.

 

It’s incredible. It’s like nothing Renjun has ever felt before, melting all over him, gold flake on his skin. He’s sticky and sore and he has to jerk Donghyuck off afterwards and Renjun knows before the sweat has cooled on his skin that he wants to do this again and again — he wants to do this until he knows every part of Donghyuck inside out.

 

He kisses him and kisses him — wet and sticky, lazy and slow, the two of them stumbling into the shower together. Renjun forgets entirely what he’s supposed to be doing in favour of pressing Donghyuck up against the glass. He silences his protests about how cold it is on his bare ass with a hundred kisses, running his hands through his hair, holding their bodies together and letting it all drip from him like molten gold.



*



The first time is awkward and weird, but it gets better. It gets better with practice, and good god do they have a lot of practice. There's the end of year shows to rehearse for and Donghyuck goes to America to film the music video for Coming Home (which results in some very interesting phone sex and Renjun sending the first nude of his life and then panicking about someone somehow intercepting the message and broadcasting his dick to the world), and rightfully they should all be exhausted, but it doesn't stop them.

 

Donghyuck starts to become a permanent fixture underneath Renjun, so much so that when he closes his eyes he can see him there — can see the way he looks when Renjun is inside him, when Renjun fucks into him with such a fierceness that Donghyuck's head starts to loll and his jaw goes slack. He jerks him off in a closet at one of the Gayos — receives a soul sucking blowjob in the bathroom on Christmas Eve, Donghyuck’s lips like ice where they wrap around his cock. 



*



Here’s the other thing. All this practice? All these blowjobs and handjobs and all the times Donghyuck has Renjun finger him amongst the sheets of his bed? All the times they kiss each other — all the times they fuck?

 

It’s fun . It's the most unexpected thing, because no-one had ever told Renjun sex could be fun (only pleasurable, only the best his dick has ever felt in his life), but by god it really is fucking fun. He enjoys himself — he laughs between the moans, between the muffled whines and the slick slide of his hand on Donghyuck’s cock. They lie in bed together and Donghyuck tells him about how Doyoung and Taeyong cooked dinner for the dorm last night and the story derails into an argument about the worst dish they could make from the leftovers in the fridge. Donghyuck has no real reasoning — he just sticks his fingers in Renjun’s mouth when he tries to argue — and it ends with Renjun pinning him to the bed and kissing him silly, the two of them rutting together and laughing in the comedown. 

 

They go through a metric shit ton of lube and his lips get chapped from how much he and Donghyuck kiss and they make jokes about their blood becoming 5% cum and it's just... 

 

Renjun is happy. He’s spending time with his best friend — he’s clinging to him, he’s kissing him. He’s tangling his hands in his hair and finding out what he looks like when he wakes in the morning light. He’s sharing his bed with him — sharing his body with him — and it makes him warm. It makes him happier than he’s been in a long time and really — what more could he ask for?



*



The door of his room opens with a slam and Renjun looks up over the top of his phone, expecting to see Jaemin and instead finding Donghyuck grinning at him.

 

“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asks. He had thought Donghyuck was with 127 — by all rights he should be with 127 considering their upcoming comeback — though it’s not an unwelcome surprise to find him in the Dream dorm.

 

“Wow, I’m glad to see you too,” Donghyuck says. He walks into the room and shuts the door behind him — not even waiting for Renjun’s invitation before he sits down onto the bed.

 

"Don't you have dance practice?"

 

"It was this morning. I have free time. Too much energy." He wiggles his fingers. "C'mon, you like hanging out with me."

 

"Hardly," Renjun says, though he tucks his legs against his chest to allow room for Donghyuck to spread out. He does so, flopping down onto his back and splaying his arms everywhere. “Why are you here?”

 

Donghyuck frowns and looks over at him. “I missed you,” he says, and it’s maybe a little quieter — the edge of the words a little softer. “Isn’t that reason enough?”

 

Renjun doesn’t examine the feeling the words give him. He just reaches down and hauls Donghyuck into his lap — he kisses him silly and drowns all thoughts in the shape of his mouth against him.



*



"C'mon!"

 

Renjun groans, shielding his eyes from the sudden explosion of light that no doubt has resulted from Donghyuck pulling open the curtains of their shared hotel room. They're in Tokyo — on the second day of their shows. They'd called an early night last night, and when Donghyuck had whined about wanting to go out in the morning, Renjun had indulged him — he'd figured it was just a random flight of fancy, nothing Donghyuck would put into action.

 

Now he's facing the consequences of said indulgence.

 

"Donghyuck," Renjun groans. He rolls over, instinctively covering up his naked chest with the covers, disregarding the fact that his dick has literally been in Donghyuck's ass. "What time is it?"

 

"It is nine am and we are in Tokyo, Japan," he says. The tone of his voice makes Renjun jump — and when he turns over he realises Donghyuck is recording. "This is Haechan cam with 37.5% viewer rating," he continues. "Welcome to the room of Haechan and—" he swings over and points the camera at Renjun, who pulls the covers up and over his head, not wanting to show even an inch of skin "—Renjunnie!"

 

"Go away," Renjun says. The light filtering through the sheets is weak, but even so he can still see the bruises Donghyuck has left on his skin — red bites and hickeys from where he'd kissed all over his stomach before sucking him off last night.

 

"Nope. We're going out. C'mon Injunnie!"

 

"Can I at least get dressed?"

 

"Don't you wanna show czennies your abs?"

 

"Fuck off!"

 

"Whoops," Donghyuck says with a laugh. "Injunnie's grumpy. Let's come back later."

 

There's a scuffing sound outside his blanket cave, Donghyuck's laughter, then he calls out. "Camera's off. You can come out."

 

"Why didn't you tell me you were vlogging?" Renjun says, wincing as the daylight floods his senses again.

 

"More fun this way." Donghyuck shrugs. The camera he has is a handheld camcorder, and on the table beside him is one of the selfie stick mounted go-pros — no doubt for Renjun's use. "Forgot you didn't put a shirt on last night."

 

Renjun groans, throwing the covers off and swinging his feet onto the floor. "You're the worst. I thought Jisung was supposed to be recording?"

 

"He's doing Kobe. It's director—" he drums his fingers on the table "—Haechan! For Tokyo."

 

"How did I miss that?"

 

"I'm good at keeping secrets, babe," Donghyuck says. The use of the pet name makes Renjun's stomach lurch, and he mimes throwing up as he stands up and shuffles over to his suitcase. He's noticed they've started to slip in — just the littlest things, the tiniest flourishes of aegyo in his sentences, little coos over Renjun when they're together. Donghyuck's always been sickeningly sweet, and he doesn't know if it's a product of closeness that he's started to flirt a little more with Donghyuck.

 

The problem is, too, that Renjun kind of likes it.

 

"C'mon, you love me."

 

"Keep saying that," Renjun says. "Maybe it'll come true one day." He pulls out a change of clothes from his suitcase and dumps them on his bed, not waiting for Donghyuck's response before he proceeds to get changed.

 

"You're lucky I really did turn the camera off," Donghyuck says, setting it down on the dresser.

 

"Good, because we're not quite at the stage of recording a sex tape," Renjun says with a snort, pulling his shirt over his head. "Maybe try later."

 

"Less a sex tape, more of a strip tease," Donghyuck says. Renjun pauses where he's pulling his jeans on and sticks his ass out, gyrating his hips and turning back to rest his finger on his lower lip and give Donghyuck his best bedroom eyes.

 

"Like this?" he asks, dropping his jeans to the floor and stepping out of them. He feels kind of ridiculous — to be honest — but when Donghyuck looks at him with something molten in his eyes the embarrassment drains out of him.

 

"Holy shit," Donghyuck says. His Adam's Apple bobs as he swallows, and his hands flex — clenching into fists then relaxing as he takes a shuddering breath.

 

"Like this?" Renjun repeats, tugging at the collar of his shirt — feeling absolutely fucking ridiculous again but enjoying the sheer effect his movements are clearly having on Donghyuck.

 

He'd never thought Donghyuck was this easy — but here he is. His breath is audible and his chest shakes and this is a newfound power — something that Renjun tucks away in the back of his brain for later.

 

He saunters into Donghyuck's space — cupping his hand around his jaw and leaning in to press a kiss to his lips. Donghyuck groans in response, his hands coming up to dig into Renjun's ass, hitching up his boxers as he pulls him closer.

 

"Yeah," Donghyuck pants. "Holy fuck, like that. You're so hot, Renjun. Fuck."

 

Renjun hooks his arms around his neck as he kisses him, pressing his body flat against Donghyuck and relishing the way he responds to him. His fingers dig into his muscles and Renjun slips his tongue into his mouth, reaching down to cup at Donghyuck's cock in his jeans and swallowing the moan he lets out.

 

It's a nice makeout session. Donghyuck ends up panting and red faced before Renjun releases him — whining when he reminds him that they need to go out, and a twenty minute break in recording is probably a bit suspicious.

 

"I'll suck your dick after the concert," Renjun says as he pulls on his jeans. "Deal?"

 

Donghyuck pouts. "C'mon, you gotta make it sweeter than that."

 

"What's sweeter than my mouth?" Renjun laughs.

 

"What if you let me fuck you?”

 

Renjun pauses halfway through putting his belt on and looks up at Donghyuck, raising his eyebrows. His heart thunders in his ribcage and a hot flush spreads across his chest — something that as it drips down into his gut turns molten. The thought has crossed his mind once or twice — but if he's honest, it scares him. It's being vulnerable — it’s being open. Renjun doesn’t like that. 

 

He’s so used to living hidden. He cages his heart, he wraps it up tight. He doesn’t let it bleed out — even around Donghyuck. In fact, Donghyuck might be worse. Donghyuck knows him — he knows all the little parts of him. Renjun doesn’t even know what he’s hiding — but the thought of being seen terrifies him.

 

But if there’s one thing Renjun hopes he is — it’s brave.

 

“Okay,” he says. 

 

“Wait, really?”

 

Renjun shrugs, tightening his belt and hitching his jeans up over his hips. “Sure,” he says. He tries to make it sound as casual as possible — though there’s still a slight tremble in his voice — and he hopes Donghyuck is turned on enough to believe him. “We have a free day tomorrow, right? How about then?” He pulls his jacket off the back of the seat and shrugs it on.

 

“I—” Donghyuck stutters. His pupils are still blown wide with lust and his chest still heaves and Renjun sends him a wink, sparks of lust dancing in his stomach. 

 

“Deal?”

 

Donghyuck swallows. “Deal.”



*



It must have rained overnight, because the streets of Tokyo are slick with water when they step out of the front door of their hotel. Donghyuck is waving the camcorder around and talking into it and Renjun has to pull him back by the back of his coat to stop him from smacking a pedestrian in the face.

 

“Whoops,” Donghyuck says, laughing. “You’ll have to edit that out.”

 

The sky is grey and the traffic is thick and the two of them move on foot, walking through the throng of the crowd to head down to the subway station. There’s an advert for Jisung’s birthday down on the platform and when they’re posing in front of it a passerby offers to take photos for them — much to Donghyuck’s amusement. 

 

“She had no idea who we were,” Renjun says into his camera as they squeeze onto the train. “Probably thought we were really enthusiastic fans.”

 

“Are you saying you’re not Jisung’s biggest fan?” Donghyuck says with a pout. There’s a single free seat that he slides into, and Renjun stands in front of him, gripping the railing with one hand and holding the camera close to him with the other. 

 

“I am Jisung’s biggest fan, thank you,” Renjun laughs. He hopes this footage is usable. Donghyuck is pointing the camcorder right at him and the train isn’t that crowded — and it’s a hilarious occurrence. It’s nice to not be recognised — nice to pretend they’re normal for once.

 

“I think you’ll have to fight Jaemin for that title.”

“Won’t be the first time we’ve fought.”

 

They chat the entire train ride over — about the concert, about where they’re going, maintaining an easy air of friendliness. It’s not too intense — not too co-workers — the right amount of titillating that their searches will probably increase. Renjun doesn’t pay too much attention to brand rankings or search popularity these days (he’s long learned that fixation on numbers only leads to misery), but ever since the first concert — hell, ever since Mark’s graduation — there’s been a steady uptick in his and Donghyuck’s popularity on social media. 

 

The fact SM has allowed them a bit more content on camera surely helps — he’s no longer being pushed to the side for Mark and Donghyuck to sit together (funny, considering how stiff they had been back then). They’re marketable, he supposes. Either way, it’s nice to do his job and spend time with his best friend.

 

They get off at Shibuya Station and push through the crowd, jostled around by tourists and businessmen alike, by schoolgirls and office workers, by a bunch of girls in costume and a group of Americans conversing loudly in English about the maid cafe they’re going to. Renjun considers suggesting to Donghyuck that they go to one before he remembers that their manager would probably tear his hair out if anyone caught them — and that it certainly wouldn’t make for a good video. So much for that brand ranking, really.

 

Instead they head to the mall. Donghyuck’s idea had been for them to go clothes shopping — for the both of them to pick out outfits for each other on account of their constant bickering about fashion sense. Privately Renjun thinks Donghyuck is stupid as fuck, because half the time he dresses like he doesn’t have the legs of a god, and really that’s just a god damn shame. Donghyuck’s legs are stupid long — and Renjun knows that he knows they’re his best feature — yet he still catches him in sweatpants and baggy cargo pants all the time. He’d agreed with the idea only because it furthered his agenda of revamping Donghyuck’s wardrobe. 

 

Shibuya is crowded — it’s like Seoul Station during rush hour, when all he can see is a sea of bodies, thousands of cellphone screens and glasses lenses reflecting the traffic lights overhead as they pass by. The windows of the cafes overhead glow gold in the mid morning gloom and the traffic is busy but smooth, cars gliding through with each change of the lights, barely any horns sounding (a sharp contrast to the symphony of honks that was the background noise for any major intersection in Seoul). 

 

“Welcome back to Haechan cam, with a viewer rating of 37.5%. I’m here with Renjunnie again and we’re in Shibuya. What are we doing in Shibuya?” Donghyuck pushes the camera in Renjun’s face as they wait to cross the road, and Renjun laughs. 

 

“We’re going shopping.”

 

“And what are we going shopping for?”

 

“Clothes!” There’s music pumping from the department store behind them and it forces Renjun to raise his voice, attracting the attention of a passing couple. “Haechan has been kind enough to let me pick his clothes for once, so czennies you should look forward to seeing him in a nice outfit. Remember to take lots of screenshots, because it’s the only—”

 

“Alright, that’s enough of that,” Donghyuck says, grinning as he turns the camera back towards himself. “Renjunnie is still tired and grumpy. Czennies, you’re going to see what Renjun looks like in Haechan style. Please anticipate it.” 

 

The lights buzz and all around them people start to move. Renjun’s swept up in the tide — he thinks even if he didn’t move they might carry him along anyway, and Donghyuck grabs his elbow as they cross the road together, ensuring they don’t lose each other as they stumble across the rain slick crossing. Though he can’t feel his body heat on account of the thickness of his jacket he imagines Donghyuck’s touch to be warm, and when he lets go of him — when they’re well out of the flow of pedestrian traffic, standing outside a convenience store and staring up at the rainclouds in the sky — the shape of his fingers still lingers. 

 

Renjun wonders if he peeled back his sleeve if he’d be able to see it — a gentle glow seeping into his skin like starshine. A tattoo soon to fade — soon to be forgotten, but beautiful in this moment.

 

There’s something special about being in the middle of the city with someone you care about. The world rushes around you like a river in a storm and your ears are filled with a hundred different songs — with a thousand different tongues. Voices and languages you don’t know, snapshots of lives that pass you by. You’re just one of millions and there’s so much at your fingertips — you feel free. The lights wink behind Donghyuck’s head and he grins at him, camera held at his side, bodies floating around them like ships on the ocean of life. 

 

Renjun breathes in the chilly air, lets it settle in his lungs, then exhales in the breath that frosts in front of him. He feels light. He feels like he’s floating. Everything is beautiful in this moment, and he feels a weightlessness in his chest he hasn’t experienced in a very long time.



*

 

 

The store attendant doesn’t speak Korean — only Chinese — and Renjun plays translator as he goes through the racks, relaying all Donghyuck’s stupid questions with a patience that’s quickly drained. Eventually he tells him to shut up and threatens to choke him, and the two of them browse in silence — stealing glances as they take clothes off the racks and size them up on each other.

 

The shop they go into isn’t a luxury brand — Renjun had wanted to take Donghyuck to the Saint Laurent Paris store, if only to get his legs in their ridiculously tight jeans — but it is high end enough that they’re basically alone as they shop. It’s wide and open, lights cool, a kind of sundown softness on their skin as Renjun picks a jacket and holds it up against his torso, turning around and checking in the mirror if it matches the shirt he’d picked out for Donghyuck. 

 

When he turns back he finds Donghyuck is filming him — they make eye contact and Donghyuck gives him a little wave, the coathangers slung over his arm rattling.

 

“What are you doing?” Renjun asks.

 

“Filming our fashion model. Everyone meet Huang Renjun, the hottest new model from China.”

 

“Shut up ,” Renjun says, rolling his eyes and going back to picking out a jacket for Donghyuck.

 

“Ah, Huang Renjun. You know he’s famed for how cold he is. Like right now, how he’s breaking my heart. That’s his signature. Our icy man with the shoulders of a mountain range.”

 

Renjun just shoots him another unimpressed look, maintaining eye contact until Donghyuck bursts into laughter. 

 

“Such a cold city man,” Donghyuck says, trying to bite down on his giggles as his hand shakes. “Did you feel that in your hearts czennies?”

 

"Do you have my outfit ready?" Renjun asks, ignoring him. He tugs a jacket off the rack — a black piece with a sleek design embroidered down the sleeves — and turns it around before deciding it won't quite fit the look he has planned.

 

"Yeah," Donghyuck says. He rattles the coathangers again. "I wanna see what you got for me first, though."

 

Renjun huffs out a breath of air. He's not finished yet, though he supposes he can just give Donghyuck what he has now. It's certainly not an appropriate outfit for the Japanese winter, but damn if he won't look good in it. "Fine," he says. He hands over the clothes he'd picked out to Donghyuck and takes the camera from him in return, setting it down on the table outside the dressing rooms.

 

Though Donghyuck makes a lot of fuss about squeezing into the jeans Renjun had picked out for him he actually gets changed fairly quickly, calling out for Renjun to film him and then bursting out of the changing room with his jacket thrown over his shoulder.

 

He looks — oh god, he looks hot. Legs for miles, shirt accentuating the spread of his broad shoulders, collarbones peeking out. It's simple but it's good, and Renjun takes satisfaction in a job well done, but his mouth also goes dry because holy shit. Holy shit. Donghyuck is hot.

 

"Looking good," Renjun says. He holds up the camera and stalks closer to him, joking as he films Donghyuck from multiple different angles, zooming in on his nose, on his neck, almost hitting him in the cheek as he tries to capture his moles.

 

"Film my body, c'mon," Donghyuck says, taking a step back and pirouetting like he's on a runway. He arches his arms above his head, his shirt riding up slightly, and Renjun reaches down to yank it back down so his stomach doesn't show on camera. Donghyuck bats him away and drops his arms, then turns again, sticking his ass out slightly as he starts to walk down the length of the room.

 

Renjun can't help it. He's lucky he's the one holding the camera, because he's just being openly thirsty. He's ogling Donghyuck, staring at him like he's a whole meal — something to be devoured. When Donghyuck turns around again, hand on his hip, they make eye contact and Donghyuck grins at him, a wicked glint in his eye.

 

"You like what you see?" he asks.

 

"Just admiring my handiwork," Renjun says. He licks his lips and traces the line of Donghyuck's body with his eyes, following his gaze with the camera then snapping back up to his face.

 

"You didn't do too bad," Donghyuck says. "As expected from our model, Renjun." There's a lightness in the words — a joking tone that Donghyuck is so good at holding. Light enough to disguise his intent — to hide the heat that burns through. "You should try my outfit on."

 

Renjun glances down at the clothes on his arm, then looks back up and raises his eyebrows. "Oh?"

 

"You'll like it."

 

Donghyuck blows a kiss to him as he hands over the camera, grinning when Renjun smacks his shoulder in retaliation. He's already trying to resist kissing him then and there — they're in public for god's sakes, trying to film a fucking video. But Donghyuck is just — he doesn't know if it's the lighting of the store or just the lingering happiness that always seems to settle in his stomach when he spends time with Donghyuck or the post concert high still somewhere in his veins or just the whole atmosphere of this outing — Donghyuck is just wonderful. It's hard to resist him. There's something shining about him. Renjun thinks he could do this — spending time with him, laughing with him, all the little things that make him smile — for the rest of his life.





"What the fuck is this?" Renjun asks, out loud, holding up the shirt Donghyuck had picked for him. Everything he'd chosen was from the women's section (he doesn't care about that, to be honest — plenty of the things they've worn on stage have been on the feminine side), and he's pretty sure what he's looking at is a crop top.

 

The curtain of the dressing room opens and Renjun almost screams before he realises it's just Donghyuck — who gives him an incredulous look as he squeezes into the room.

 

"Camera's off," he says. He glances behind him then sets it on the bench — where Renjun's boots are currently sitting. "What the fuck is what?"

 

Renjun holds up the shirt. "Is this a crop top?"

 

Donghyuck snorts. The room isn't incredibly small — there's breathing room for both of them — but it doesn't stop Donghyuck from basically draping himself all over Renjun. He slips a hand under his shirt and flattens it against his stomach, grinning as he speaks into the shell of Renjun's ear. "C'mon, you'll look good."

 

"I am not wearing this," Renjun says. He hangs it up on the wall and instead picks up the jacket Donghyuck had picked out for him. "Absolutely no way."

 

"Oh, so you'll go up on stage with your stomach out but you won't do it for czennies here?"

 

"Fuck off," Renjun says, trying to keep his voice neutral even as Donghyuck's tongue darts out to trace the shell of his ear. He shivers despite the warmth of the room and one of Donghyuck's hands dips down, cupping his ass.

 

"That's not very nice. Do you want me to pick someone else out? Or maybe you could wear nothing."

 

"Get out of here," Renjun says, even though he absolutely very much wants the opposite. If he had his way he'd push Donghyuck up against the wall and kiss him until he was red and breathless, but they're in public, for fuck’s sake. He doesn't need a rumour starting about how some store attendant in Japan saw NCT's Renjun and Haechan spend ten minutes in a dressing room together.

 

"Fine," Donghyuck pouts.





They finish up the rest of the trip without trouble. Renjun wears his sweater instead of the ridiculous crop top Donghyuck had picked out for him, they eat a ramen bar for lunch, and by the time they get back to the hotel he figures they have plenty of footage for the video. Donghyuck carries the camera around with him while they're getting changed for rehearsals, and Renjun makes sure to give him absolute hell — tickling him constantly, singing in his ear, interrupting his monologues by asking Chenle what he's going to do tomorrow.

 

Donghyuck gives him a glare and Renjun smiles back — schooling his features into his best innocent face and earning an exasperated sigh and a 'really, this guy' from Donghyuck.

 

The concert is good. The second venue is smaller, but the crowd is just as loud, and Renjun knows he'll never tire of this. Of singing, of performing, of hearing them chant his name as he flies across the stage. The screams still echo in his ears when they collapse backstage and when he turns to Donghyuck he finds a smile as wide as his own — something beautiful. Something sparkling. Something else that lights a fire in his belly — though this one is tempered.

 

If being on stage is like a bonfire — something communal, something that makes him feel a part of the crowd — then the way Donghyuck smiles at him is like a lit hearth. Something cosy, something warm. Something that feels like home.



*



"Do you think anyone's going to question the fact that you're constantly staying back at the hotel?" Donghyuck asks. He's lying on his bed, tossing an empty bottle into the air and catching it while he stares at the muted TV. The sky outside is a soft, pale blue, streaked with weak grey clouds. There's still a few raindrops on the glass, streaking horizontally by the occasional gust of strong wind that whistles around the seal of the window.

 

"Why would they? We went out yesterday, anyway. And Jaemin stayed back, too."

 

"Jaemin stayed back so he didn't have to go out with Chenle and Jeno."

 

Renjun frowns. "He said he was sleeping in," he says, even though he knows Donghyuck is probably right on the money. They'd talked about it last night — him and Jaemin — sitting on his bed while Jeno was off playing games with Jisung and Chenle. About the ache in Jaemin's heart, about how he felt like he was being slowly unravelled.

 

"Don't fall in love," Jaemin had said, picking at the threads of his covers. "It's not worth it, Renjun."

 

"And you believed him?" Donghyuck says, laughing.

 

"Not in the slightest. Why are we talking about Jaemin again, anyway?"

 

"Hmm," Donghyuck hums, shooting the bottle across the room and turning to Renjun with a smirk. "Got something on your mind?"

 

"I might."

 

"Wanna come over here and talk to me about it?"

 

Renjun slides off his bed, taking the few steps to reach Donghyuck and climbing up onto the mattress to straddle him. Donghyuck's hands come up to rest on his hips and his heartbeat kicks in his chest because oh god — this is where it starts. This is happening. Renjun leans over and slots their lips together, bracketing Donghyuck's head with his arms, grinding down against him in lieu of saying anything more.

 

He's not sure he can say anything more. He's nervous, but more than anything he's excited, and he's afraid his voice might betray it. He's afraid it might jump out of his throat and spill across the bed — he's afraid his heart might show.

 

God, that was the fear all along, wasn't it? Renjun can't hide. He can't hide from Donghyuck, no matter how hard he tries, so instead he has to distract him. He threads his hands through his hair and rubs his ass against him, kissing down his jaw, fitting his fingers into Donghyuck's mouth and letting him suck on them as Renjun sucks spots against his neck. They're so good to each other — so used to each other by now. It's like they were meant to be together — then the few months they've already learned each other's bodies so well.

 

Renjun knows how to take him apart. Where to take him apart. He's kissed so much of Donghyuck — run his hands over his skin so many times. He knows the map of his freckles, the dips of his bones. He knows the shape of his ribs and it's like he's barely only scratched the surface. He wants to take time to kiss every inch of him — to learn every part of him. All the valleys and hills, all the imperfections and stories behind his scars. It's all beautiful, it's all a part of him — all a part of a neverending story that's written across his skin. A language Renjun doesn't know, but somehow comes to him intrinsically anyway — somehow he's learned it without trying, and he's begun to unravel him.

 

"God, Renjun," Donghyuck says. "You're so good. Fuck."

 

Renjun brushes his fingers over the bud of his nipple again, kissing across his collarbone. "Yeah?" he asks, the praise lighting up inside him. Donghyuck's hand fists in his hair and he groans.

 

"Really, truly." His hips buck up, half hard cock rubbing against Renjun's thigh, and Renjun grins.

 

"What are you thinking about?" Renjun asks. Donghyuck pants, hands playing with the collar of Renjun's shirt, exposing the small of his back to the cool air.

 

"Your fucking mouth," he says. "Renjun. I love your mouth so fucking much."

 

"Not my ass?" Renjun says. He's the one speaking and it still causes his heart to skip a beat — because this is it, isn't it? This is happening. Donghyuck groans, eyes flashing in the light, turning his head to press a kiss to the hand Renjun is gripping his cheek with.

 

"Yeah," he says. "That too. Are you still — are you still okay with this?" he asks. 

 

Renjun nods. He is. He's more than okay. He's afraid but he's fucking ready — he's here with Donghyuck and he wants this so fucking much.

 

"More than ready."

 

"Okay," Donghyuck says. He takes a deep breath. "Okay."






It's gentle. More gentle than the first time. Renjun isn't a bumbling virgin, and when Donghyuck settles between his legs with a bottle of lube and a soft smile, he takes a deep breath and tries to stop the starshine from leaking out of his mouth.

 

God, Donghyuck is beautiful.

 

"Let me know if it's too much, okay?" he says.

 

It doesn't matter that he fingered him that first time in Bangkok — that he's done it a couple of times more. This is different. This is something more.

 

"I will," Renjun says. Donghyuck reaches out and takes his hand and squeezes — just for a second — before returning to squirt lube onto his fingers and circle them around Renjun's hole. "Hey," Renjun says, voice pitching up. "That's fucking cold."

 

Donghyuck laughs. "Now you know what it feels like."

 

"I already knew what it felt like," Renjun protests, even as Donghyuck continues to rub his fingers back and forth. The movements themselves are enough that he can already feel pleasure sparking all through him — he hasn't even put anything inside him yet and Renjun's already ready to go.

 

Donghyuck huffs. "Yeah, yeah. You don't have to deal with it as much as I do."

 

"And who's fault is that?"

 

Donghyuck presses a kiss to Renjun's knee and makes eye contact with him in lieu of answering — his gaze gentle as he slips a finger inside of him.

 

It's the same as it was the first few times. It feels the same — there's nothing different. There should be nothing different. And yet...

 

Renjun doesn't know what it is. Donghyuck works him open, slowly, gently, kissing his thighs, wrapping his hand around his cock and whispering words to him.

 

"You're so good," he says. "Look at you Renjun. So good. You feel so good."

 

Renjun is enchanted. He's enthralled. There's a heavy haze on his senses, heat like the heart of the volcano, like a meteorite cradled against his chest. Something visceral and primal and yet delicate all the same — a thin string connecting the two of them. Donghyuck fits another finger inside him, still moving slowly, and the stretch is divine. Pleasure courses through his veins and his cock leaks against his stomach, gasps spilling from his lips as Donghyuck's fingers brush up against something inside of him. 

 

Donghyuck is so fucking good. It's not just the pleasure, not just his fingers. It's not the way he purrs at Renjun — telling him how good he is. It's something more. Something he can't quite name. It starts in his chest and spreads outwards, like pure light injected into his veins. Something to guide him home — though he thinks all roads might lead to Donghyuck. 

 

"I can't wait to fuck you," Donghyuck says. He has three fingers inside him now and it's still not enough. "You're so gorgeous, Renjun."

 

"You been thinking about it?" Renjun doesn't know how he manages to keep his words stable, but he does. There's only the slightest shift in pitch — the slightest betrayal that he's falling apart.

 

"You don't even know, Renjun."

 

He adds another finger and Renjun bites down on the inside of his cheek, letting out a whine. He feels so full and open, spread out on Donghyuck's fingers, so fucking close to just begging for him.

 

And then maybe Donghyuck knows. Maybe he looks at Renjun and just knows — the way he always does. There's a tenderness in his voice when he speaks, his hand caressing the inside of Renjun's thigh, reaching up to caress his balls as he meets Renjun's eyes.

 

"How do you want me?" Donghyuck asks.

 

It shoots through Renjun like a lightning strike on an open lake, lighting up the surface just for a second. He bites back a moan and stares into Donghyuck's eyes, and he realises how much power he holds. How much Donghyuck trusts him — and maybe this is why he feels okay.

 

"I—" Renjun starts. He thinks of all the times he's fucked Donghyuck — how he's had him on his back, in his lap, pushed up against a wall, on all fours like a dog in heat. How he's fingered him in his lap, sucked him off in a bathroom. He wants him in every way possible — in all the ways Donghyuck will let him. 

 

But that’s not what Donghyuck’s asking — what he’s asking is something more practical. Renjun swallows the sentiment — tucks it against his heart where it glows like a warm coal — and instead says: "On my back. I want to kiss you."

 

"Okay," Donghyuck says. He takes a deep breath and withdraws his hand with a nod. "Okay."

 

There's little adjustment for them to do. Renjun props up his head on the pillows and Donghyuck shuffles up the bed, picking up the lube from where it had been almost lost in the sheets, squirting more over his cock and spreading it with the stroke of his hand.

 

"Okay," Donghyuck repeats. He takes a deep breath, chest expanding, and Renjun mimics him, trying to calm the rabbit's run kick of his heartbeat. "Just. Are you sure about this?"

 

"Donghyuck," Renjun says. He's done with being slow — with being hesitant. He wants this. God, he wants it so badly. He wants Donghyuck so badly. This beautiful boy — dark eyes, full cheeks, smattering of moles across his chest, his beautiful smooth waist, his chubby tummy. The curve of his thighs, his hand wrapped around his cock — glistening with lube where he pushes it down and lines up with Renjun. He wants all of him, and he has no room to wait anymore. "Donghyuck, please. Fuck me ."

 

How many times have they fucked? Renjun doesn't know. He doesn't count. How many times have they kissed? Hundreds. Thousands. Dark corridors, the bathroom of the Dream dorm, pressed up against doors and windows and in hotel sheets. Sharing food with each other, pulled into a closet in the SM building. Tasting the sugar on each other's tongues, tasting the exhaustion in their bones. A kiss as a goodbye, as a hello. As a reminder they're both real. As a reminder they're both here. Promises laid onto promises — things that they no longer need to speak out loud. They have their own language, in their bodies and in their glances, in the little noises they make, the way their fingers rest in the crooks of each other's skin. In the way they search each other out — how they can find each other. How they know each other.

 

Renjun takes that knowledge. He takes that language and he swallows it whole and he feels it swell inside his chest — something that bursts like a firecracker in a tin can as Donghyuck leans over and kisses him. He can't contain it — it's what he's feared. Donghyuck pushes inside of him and their eyes meet and he knows Donghyuck sees straight through him — he sees inside of him to something Renjun isn't sure of. Something that blazes like a signal beacon — that Renjun can't even put a name to.

 

Maybe he should be afraid. But somehow he isn't.

 

"I trust you," Renjun says. He doesn't know if it's to Donghyuck or himself, but Donghyuck responds anyway. He brushes the hair from his forehead and presses another kiss to his lips, rolling his hips against him.

 

"I know," Donghyuck says. And isn't that terrifying? "I trust you, too."

 

There's more words said, though if you asked Renjun later he wouldn't remember them. What he remembers is this:

 

The shape of Donghyuck's mouth. The stroke of his hand on his cock. He remembers Donghyuck kissing him. He remembers putting his hands on Donghyuck’s back, holding onto him as he fucked him. He remembers how warm his touch is — how his body blazes against him. He remembers the colour of his eyes — that same deep brown, filled with something that sparkled like all the stars in the northern sky. 

 

The hotel sheets are soft and Donghyuck's name tastes sweet in his mouth.

 

He remembers a white roar in his ears. He remembers letting go. Donghyuck holding him, kissing him. Skin on skin and something all encompassing. That same fire in his heart. Falling into it and knowing, somehow, that it'll all be okay.



*



They return to Korea. They win the grand prize at the Seoul Music Awards and Renjun can't take his eyes off the trophy the whole way home. They go back to Japan to perform in Kobe, and when they're back in Korea again he and Donghyuck settle into an easy rhythm.

 

There's always a degree of carefulness, of course. Renjun locks the door. Donghyuck makes sure Johnny is out (or on the occasion kicks him out — not often enough that he notices, but enough that they slip in a few more fucks than maybe they should have been allowed). They leave room for plausible deniability — even as 127 goes through their comeback and there should be no reason for Renjun to be in Donghyuck’s room this much.

 

They've been close for a long time now, and it’s enough of an excuse for him. Maybe it's why they can get away with this. Just a little bit more touchiness. Just a few more lingering stares. Donghyuck walks into the room while he’s doing a V LIVE and Renjun can't help it — he's never worn his persona well, he can play the cute and innocent boy but sometimes his emotions burst out of him, like his skin can't contain them — and he breaks into a grin.

 

“Didn’t think you’d be coming around,” Renjun says. He glances at the camera and waves. “Guess who just showed up?”

 

Donghyuck raises his eyebrows at him, his smile warm. He’s wearing the same old Adidas bucket hat that’s practically an NCT uniform, a loose pair of joggers and a puffer jacket over his hoodie. His hair is freshly dyed — a deep warm brown — and it looks so silky that Renjun just wants to run his hands through it.

 

Busy ? Donghyuck mouths. Renjun shakes his head and holds up his hand, reading the comments and then pouting in fake annoyance. “No, it’s not Jeno!” He picks up the camera and swings it around, trying not to laugh as their manager runs out of frame. “It’s Haechan!”

 

Donghyuck waves at the camera and gives it a grin. “Hello everyone! Did you miss me? Our Injunnie certainly did.”

 

Renjun shakes his head rapidly, bursting into laughter as Donghyuck dives on top of him on the couch, pinching his cheeks and cooing at him in the most sickening way.

 

Well, if it was anyone else it would be sickening. If it was Jaemin — saccharine, bubblegum sweet as he is with that pink hair — Renjun would be trying to punch him in the gut right now. But it’s Donghyuck — and Renjun can play annoyed, he can fight back, but he doesn’t really mean it.

 

There’s something softer about the way he is with Donghyuck these days. They still playfight like they always do — with sharp tongues and barbed remarks — but it’s like there’s a glow inside of him that tempers it all. Something like the early dawn — something that’s been so easy to fall into.

 

They sit up again and Donghyuck introduces himself — talks about how he's been practicing hard and to please anticipate NCT 127's comeback. Renjun reminds him whose V LIVE he's crashing, to which Donghyuck just turns the camera away and starts to talk about the bingsu date he and Jaehyun had had last week.

 

It’s like — for Renjun — he’s seeing him for the first time again. His eyes seem to glitter and his cheeks are rosy and when he laughs it seems to ring out — it’s like Renjun can see it. Something floods through his chest — something warm and viscous that expands through his ribcage, that flows out from his heart — something that he thinks if he looked down he would see glowing inside of him.

 

Oh.

 

Donghyuck turns to him and his smile gets bigger — it softens at the edge, like a fogged up window, like the way everything shimmers in a heat haze.

 

Oh fuck.



*



Renjun knows he made a promise. Really, he does. He knows the promise he’d made with Donghyuck wrapped in his blanket — with Donghyuck telling him this couldn’t happen again. He couldn’t lose him like he’d lost Mark.

 

If there were feelings, they had to stop.

 

But Renjun isn’t Mark Lee. He isn’t as open as him — as unfettered and free. He hasn’t liked Donghyuck since they were trainees — he’s just developed a side effect that came with kissing and fucking your very attractive best friend. Sure, there was a flutter in heart when Donghyuck smiled at him — but that was normal.

 

He sure as fuck isn’t in love with him. That’s where the complications would be — and Renjun knows he’s not that far gone. He likes fucking Donghyuck. He likes kissing him and being around him and riding him in his bed — he likes the way he looks when he comes underneath him. He likes how he looks with his mouth around Renjun’s dick — and Renjun won’t ever deny it’s a pretty mouth.

 

He’s attracted to Donghyuck. He can say that much. Maybe a little bit in love — but it’s nothing serious. It’s nothing he can’t handle.

 

Renjun has feelings but they're not serious. They're not enough to end this. And if he needs to end this, that would be fine, too. But he doesn't want to let go — he's enjoying himself too much. He'll miss Donghyuck — miss his body and his cock and his mouth.

 

He'll miss waking up with his body curled around his and kissing him awake. Those hazy mornings in the dorm — when their eyes are still lidded and they wait for the eggs to fry and he gives up on breakfast and pushes Donghyuck up against the counter and kisses him silly. When everything feels like a dream, and then it hits him hours later as he reminisces that no — this is real. Donghyuck is real.

 

He doesn't want to lose that.

 

Renjun makes a choice he can’t go back on. He texts Donghyuck ‘wanna fuck?’ and thirty minutes later he’s punching in the door code for the fifth floor 127 dorm.

 

He climbs into Donghyuck’s bed — he pulls his hoodie and his shirt over his head in one go and throws them on top of one of Johnny’s jackets. The stereo plays the kind of soft sappy pop Donghyuck loves and Donghyuck’s hands come to rest on his waist. He looks up at him with a wicked glint in his eyes, tongue darting out to wet his lips and shakes his head.

 

“God,” Donghyuck says. “You’re unreal, Renjun.” His hands slip down and around to cup at Renjun’s ass — fingers digging into the muscle, massaging him. It lights something up inside Renjun and Renjun doesn’t dwell — he just leans forward and kisses him. One hand on Donghyuck’s face, the other pulling him out of his gym shorts.

 

Renjun kisses him and he forgets everything else. He lets himself drift in the storm and knows Donghyuck will carry him safely to shore.



*



Someone notices. Someone always notices.

 

And for the first time: someone says something.

 

“You know,” Jaemin says, breezily, sitting with his back to Renjun as he edits the photos he'd taken at their last show in Jakarta. “The walls in our hotel were very thin.”

 

"What?" Renjun says, looking up from his phone. His heart pounds, even though he has no reason to be nervous. He'd roomed with Chenle in Jakarta and with Jaemin in Manila. Unless Jaemin was talking about Tokyo? But that was a month ago. Surely not.

 

"Renjun," he moans, then laughs. "God, I can't believe you're fucking Donghyuck."

 

Renjun feels like his entire world has been turned upside down. It's like his stomach drops out of his chest — falls straight through the floor. Sweat breaks out on the back of his neck and he's sure his heartbeat must be audible — the kick of a thousand horses running from a cannon boom. He glances at the door, panicked, as if their manager might burst through at any moment, then hisses at Jaemin. "Shut up! I'm not fucking Donghyuck."

 

"Oh, what were you doing in Japan then? Lifting couches."

 

Fuck. Fuck. Of course it fucking was. Jaemin had stayed back — he'd remembered joking about it with Donghyuck. Jaemin had been in his room the entire time.

 

He'd heard them. The entire thing. Oh god.

 

Fuck.

 

"You can't tell anyone," Renjun says. Jaemin stops what he's doing on his computer and turns around to face him with a toothy grin.

 

"So you are?"

 

There's no point lying, he realises. There's no point and honestly Renjun's kind of tired of keeping it secret — of keeping it locked up inside of him. The secrecy had been fun at first — sneaking off for quick handjobs in whatever room they could find with a locking door — but there's a part of him now that wants to tell everyone about Donghyuck. He doesn't want to hide anymore. He wants to be able to tell Jaemin about the swooping in his stomach every time he sees Donghyuck — he wants to be able to hold his hand in public. He doesn’t want to have an excuse to kiss him — he just wants to kiss him because he can.

 

Fuck. Renjun’s stomach drops, his heart fluttering. 

 

He wants them to be together. 

 

"Yes," he says, small.

 

"Wow," Jaemin says. He whistles. "Damn. Since when?"

 

Renjun bites the inside of his cheek and flops down on the bed, staring up at the bottom of Jisung's bunk. "November."

 

"What!?" Jaemin slaps his hand over his mouth in an almost comic manner, then uncovers it again. "Sorry, what? Since the concert?"

 

Renjun nods. "Yeah."

 

"No wonder you got Don't Need Your Love right."

 

"Funny story about that, actually..."

 

"No way." Jaemin's eyebrows have shot up so high they're almost in his hairline. "For real?"

 

Renjun sighs. "Yeah. It was."

 

"Holy shit. This is unreal. Are you serious?"

 

"Why would I lie about sleeping with Donghyuck?" Renjun says, trying to grumble despite the butterflies exploding in his stomach. He feels like he's swallowed a mouthful of sugar — there's something sweet and sparkling inside of him. "Especially something as stupid as that."

 

"I don't know," Jaemin says. "Good point. If you were going to lie you'd have picked someone way better."

 

"Shut the fuck up," Renjun says. Jaemin snorts.

 

"Really, though. I can't even believe he'd do it in the first place. Not after Mark, anyway."

 

Renjun's heart does something funny at that. It's like someone's reached into his chest and squeezed , something tight that leaves him breathless for a second. "Yeah,” he says, working past the sudden lack of air. “It's no strings attached. No feelings. We talked about it."

 

Here is where he lies. Here is where he strikes out his feelings — where he doesn't assure Jaemin he can handle this. He doesn't need to know that Renjun has slipped up, he doesn't need to doubt him.

 

And yet Jaemin looks him in the eye and gives him a smile that makes him think that maybe he doesn't need to voice it. Donghyuck's not the only person he's known for five years, and there's parts of Renjun only Jaemin knows, too. The childishness shyness, the boy who had fought to debut with every part of him. Stubborn determination and the fire of the sun packed into his limbs.

 

"Yeah?" Jaemin says. "How's that going?"

 

"It's fine." He's not making eye contact with him. He thinks if he did Jaemin would see right through him.

 

"Alright." The mood has shifted. Renjun glances at Jaemin and finds he's still watching him, something sad in his eyes. "If you say so. God, I can’t believe everyone in this fucking dorm is getting laid except me.” 

 

“Jisung isn’t,” Renjun says. Well. He’s pretty sure Jisung isn’t.

 

Jaemin groans. “Sure. Not anymore. Did I ever tell you him and Chenle fucked in my bed?”

 

Renjun’s eyes go wide and he coughs. “What? Oh god. Jaemin. I did not need to know that.” 

 

It’s the thought alone of Jisung having sex that’s enough to make Renjun feel weird — because Jisung’s never really been the type to seem like he was interested in anyone. Add to that the idea that he wasn’t the only person fucking in the dorms on the regular — god, Chenle probably had it down to an art. He didn’t even live in the dorms anymore. 

 

He scrubs the thought from his mind, then realises how much it must have hurt for Jaemin to find out the boy he liked had fucked someone else in his bed. Christ. He forgets how strong Jaemin is, sometimes. How his ironclad persona isn’t just for the audience — but for himself, too. Another consequence of this complex web he’d tangled himself in — armour for his bleeding heart.

 

“I wish I could delete the memory too, trust me.” Jaemin sighs, slumping in his seat. He lets out a defeated laugh, then smiles at Renjun. “You and Donghyuck though. You make sure you take care of him, okay? 

 

“He can take care of himself,” Renjun says, because he knows for all his aegyo and childish acts and the tantrums he throws Donghyuck hates to be actually babied. 

 

“Yeah. I know, but — look out for him. He’s got a good heart."

 

"I know," Renjun says. He swallows, fighting against the lump that seems to have suddenly lodged itself in his throat. "Trust me, Jaemin. I know."



*



"Town meeting," Chenle says. He's dragging a very sheepish Jeno behind him, the both of them looking a little ragged from the early April wind that's been howling around the streets of Seoul. "I have an announcement to make. Where's Jisung?"

 

"In his room," Jaemin says. He glances up, smiling at Chenle in a way that makes Renjun's heart do a flip. "Do you want me to get him?"

 

"I've got it," Chenle says, pulling his phone out of his pocket, waiting for Jisung to pick up, then shouting "Come out of your room," and hanging up. He beams at them, tugging Jeno closer by the wrist and then releasing him like he's a particularly large puppy. Which he is, Renjun supposes.

 

There's a minute of awkward silence where Renjun goes back to his phone and has a half hearted game of footsie with Donghyuck (who's sitting on the couch with him, both of them on opposite ends with their legs lying on top of each other), and then Jisung comes out of his room. 

 

“What?” he asks, taking them all in with only one open eye. Renjun is pretty sure he hadn’t been napping but he sure as hell looks like he was — he’s clad in a vaguely grey sleeveless shirt and sweatpants, his freshly dyed hair sticking up. “Oh, geeze. Everyone’s here. What’s happening?”

 

“I have an announcement to make,” Chenle repeats.

 

“You don’t need to tell us you’re gay,” Donghyuck interrupts, snickering. “We already know.”

 

“Fuck off,” Chenle says. He gives Donghyuck a sarcastic smile. “You’d know.”

 

“Fuck off, ” Donghyuck says. He kicks rather aggressively at Renjun’s foot and Renjun responds by doing the same back to him, raising his fist and mouthing ‘ I’ll kill you ’ at him when they make eye contact. Donghyuck just smirks, satisfied — like he’d forgotten it was Chenle he was arguing with. 

 

“Anyway,” Chenle says. “Yes, I’m gay. What a surprise.”

 

“Do you know you’re regularly voted the straightest member of NCT Dream?” Renjun says. 

 

“Is he?” Donghyuck asks. “Wow, that’s hilarious.”

 

“Wonder which stereotype he’s failing.” 

 

“It’s not the ‘sucks dick on the daily’ one, that’s for sure.”

 

“Jeno and I are together,” Chenle says, almost shouting over the top of them. Jisung lets out a squeak and Renjun turns to see Jaemin’s face melt — turn to dust before he stitches it back up with a stage perfect smile. Something explodes within him and he’s struck with a sudden urge to kiss Donghyuck — to grab him by the collar of his shirt and hold him close.

 

“What?” Donghyuck says. He looks at Renjun as if to ask ‘Did you know?’, then back at Chenle — at Jeno, who’s hiding behind Chenle at this point. “Really?”

 

“Yes,” Chenle says. He turns to the side and grabs Jeno by the collar of his jacket, tugging him closer and pressing a kiss to his lips, then turning back to them all and giving them a tight lipped, wide eyed smile. “Since last August. We thought we should tell you. Be honest with it.”

 

Renjun swallows. He’s happy for them — of course he is. He remembers Jeno’s sickeningly lovestruck smile when he’d talked about Chenle — remembers the way Chenle had seemed at peace every time he’d leaned his head on Jeno's shoulder. All their little moments stolen in the dressing rooms, all their smiles shared. They weren’t afraid to be open. Not like Renjun and Donghyuck.

 

He’s happy for them and he realises he’s a little jealous, too.

 

“Thanks.”

 

Jaemin’s voice cuts through the silence. Renjun draws in a sharp breath when he sees him — his fake plastic smile that barely fits over his features, heartbreak almost bleeding out of him. The tiny red crescents of his nails mark his palms and everything about him is terrifying — like he’s about to break apart at any moment.

 

“Thanks, Chenle,” he continues. “Thanks, Jeno. I appreciate your honesty.” Chenle winces, and in that moment he sees Jaemin break — he sees his mask fall, sees it all shatter on the floor. “Really, truly. It means so much to me.” 

 

He stands up and leaves — almost running to his room, the door shutting with a thud that sounds like a thunderclap.

 

The silence in the room is thick, and as they all sit there, stunned, it thickens. It rolls over the floor like fog in a forest, creeping up their bodies and choking them. Chenle is wide-eyed and shocked and Jisung looks like he’s about to cry — he looks shell shocked, like someone had dropped a bomb on him. 

 

Fuck .

 

“It’s fine,” Renjun says. He glances at Donghyuck, who tilts his head in question. Renjun shakes his head. Not now. “I’ll deal with it. Congratulations, by the way, both of you.” He flashes them a smile. “I’m happy for you two.”

 

There’s no lock on Jaemin’s door, and Renjun calls out before he turns the handle — giving Jaemin a few seconds before he slips in and shuts the door behind him.

 

Jaemin is sitting on the bedside, slumped over and holding his face in his hands — though he looks up at the sound of the door closing. 

 

“Hey,” Renjun says. Jaemin lets out a hiccuping sob and tries to smile at him — though it comes out twisted, broken in a way that sends something red hot knifing into Renjun’s gut.

 

“Hi.” 

 

He crosses the room and sits beside him and he doesn’t even need to offer — Jaemin throws his arms around him, he buries his face in Renjun’s shoulder and shakes.

 

“It’s alright,” Renjun says. “You can cry, it’s okay. I’m so sorry Jaemin.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Jaemin says. “Sorry for making a scene.”

 

“You’re fine,” Renjun says. He won’t lie and tell Jaemin he didn’t make a scene — because he did, and he’ll have to clean up the mess later — but it’s a natural reaction. Even for someone like Jaemin — someone who holds his anguish so close to his heart — sometimes it bursts out.

 

“It hurts,” Jaemin says. This is what it’s always been about. The pain of wanting something you know you can’t have. “I feel like I can’t breathe. God, Renjun. I knew it and it still hurts so fucking much.” He clutches Renjun like he’s a lifeline — like if he lets go he might drift into nothingness. Fade away, a balloon in the cold spring night.

 

“It’s okay,” Renjun repeats. He rubs circles into Jaemin’s back, kneading his fingers into his muscles. Jaemin is sobbing openly now — not trying to hide it, his tears wetting the flimsy t-shirt Renjun is wearing and leaving his skin damp. It doesn’t bother him. If anything it hurts even more, because seeing Jaemin like this — seeing the physical effects of heartbreak — it’s like something shatters inside Renjun. 

 

Is this how Mark had felt? 

 

Maybe. The difference was Mark had had Donghyuck — he had known him. There was no someone else for Mark — just the loss of a relationship that had once bloomed into something more.

 

Is this what it’s like to love someone who won’t love you back? Does your whole body betray you — does it all crumble away? Are you forever stained by them, a permanent mark on your heart like a wound that won’t ever heal?

 

Is this what it’s like to have your entire being sing for someone and realise they might never feel the same way? The thought lodges itself between Renjun’s ribs like an assassin’s dagger — something treacherous, something he doesn’t want to examine for too long.

 

It doesn’t matter, anyway. He won't ever be like this. He's stronger than this.

 

“Why can’t I just be happy for them?” Jaemin says, voice thick. “Jeno’s my best friend, he shouldn’t have to worry about me being in love with his boyfriend.”

 

“He doesn’t have to worry,” Renjun says. “There’s nothing to worry about. You can’t help your feelings, Jaemin.”

 

“I don’t want to be in love.” He sniffles, taking a deep breath and then bursting into tears again. “Love hurts.”

 

Renjun squeezes him, resting his chin in Jaemin’s hair, then moving to press a kiss to the crown of his head. “It’s okay,” he repeats. “None of us choose to fall in love.”






It takes almost thirty minutes for Jaemin to calm down to the point where Renjun feels okay with taking out his phone and sending Donghyuck a message to confirm that he isn’t dying. Apparently, despite their best efforts, his crying was audible throughout the dorms (Renjun curses those stupid fucking thin walls again), and Chenle and Jeno had left again.

 

“He’s gone,” Renjun says. He’s propped up on Jaemin’s pillows with Jaemin curled up in the fetal position in his lap. “Is it okay if Donghyuck comes in? You need some water.”

 

Jaemin sniffles, but he nods. “Yeah. It’s okay. God. I’m a mess.”

 

“It’s alright,” Renjun reassures him, carding his hand through his hair as he texts Donghyuck to tell him to come in — and to bring water.

 

“It’s not, but I appreciate your efforts.” He takes a deep shuddering breath, picking at the loose threads on Renjun’s track pants. “Renjun,” he says.

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Don’t fall in love.”

 

His stomach twists, tying itself into knots. It feels like his lungs are being crushed, and he has to take a deep breath and force air into them before he responds.

 

“Didn’t we just talk about how we don’t choose that?” Renjun says, trying to play it off casually.

 

“I know,” Jaemin says. He sniffs. “Just stop it before it starts. It’s not worth it.” There’s a knock on the door. “Promise?”

 

The door opens and Donghyuck slips in, carrying a bottle of water in one hand and a brightly coloured bag of snacks in the other.

 

“Yeah,” Renjun says. He smiles at Donghyuck, though he’s still talking to Jaemin. “I promise.”



*



The comeback looms upon them, and it comes with Donghyuck being exhausted every day. If he’s not practicing with Dream then he’s with 127 — morning and evenings spent perpetually in the SM building, only a small break between practices with each group giving him breathing room. All the preparations for the comeback go into overdrive — between the stages, the jacket shoots and all the track videos they’re constantly in front of the cameras — and it gives no break for them to dwell on their feelings. Jaemin puts his mask up and Renjun doesn’t address the strange ache in his chest — not for too long, anyway. The second he hits the mattress he’s often asleep — there’s certainly no time for him and Donghyuck to hookup beyond a few blowjobs in closets and stolen kisses whenever they manage to get a moment for themselves. 

 

Yet there’s still moments. Moments when he’s lying in bed — moments when he misses the shape of Donghyuck’s body. When he’s in the shower and he wraps a hand around himself and wishes it was Donghyuck instead. Moments still when it’s not about sex — when he’s alone and he misses his laugh. They film NCT life together and he misses Donghyuck so much it hurts. He misses telling jokes to him — sharing food with him, bickering over the dinner table and ganging up on Jeno when he acts like he’s never heard of the word humour in his life.

 

It had taken Donghyuck leaving for him to notice just how used to Donghyuck’s presence he’d become — and now it worries him. Is he too familiar? Too close? It’s been weeks since they’ve had sex and he misses it like a drug — but it’s only physical, isn’t it? It’s only lust. 

 

He thinks of all the promises he’s made and swallows them whole. 

 

He is not Mark Lee. 

 

He is not Na Jaemin.



*



The comeback goes well. Donghyuck is back and equilibrium is restored. He still has practice with 127, of course, but they steal moments here and there. The dorm is never empty enough for them to fuck, but they get to kiss again. He gets to jerk him off without his wrist cramping. He gets all the little things like eating takeout with him at the dining table and cooking for the dorm together, watching with pride as Jisung inhales a plateful of the dish they’d slaved over. 

 

“Where does he put all that food?” Donghyuck muses, watching as Jisung ladles another serving of jjigae into his bowl and sits back down at the table.

 

“Why do you think he’s so tall,” Renjun says, laughing as Jisung practically inhales his food, orange flecked all over the sides of his mouth. “Did we eat that much when we were his age?”

 

“You clearly didn’t,” Donghyuck says, eyes raking his body. “If your height is anything to say.”

 

“Yeah?” Renjun says. He reaches out and pinches Donghyuck’s stomach fat. “And your baby tummy says you ate more.”

 

Donghyuck smacks his wrist and tries to pinch his cheek in retaliation, a move which Renjun dodges with ease. When that fails he dives on top of him, wrestling his hands away from his face and blowing raspberries far too close to his lips. It takes all of Renjun’s strength not to kiss him right then and there — he has to remember Jisung is within earshot, that they’re right in the middle of the dorm together. 

 

“Get off me,” he says, though he’s laughing even as he tries to shake Donghyuck off him. “You’re so fucking gross.”

 

“Ah, but you love me,” Donghyuck says. There’s a sparkle in his eyes and Renjun feels something shift inside him. It’s not something monumental — not even something he can really put his finger on. It’s more like that in that moment, all of a sudden, he knows .

 

He's in too deep. He's in far too deep. It all rushes up his throat — it explodes throughout him. He's in too deep and he's been in too deep for far too long — for longer than he can remember.

 

Had he ever even stopped liking Donghyuck? God. He looks back — he tries to find a time when he didn’t feel like this about him — when he didn’t look forward to seeing him. When he didn’t get giddy in his presence. When his touch didn’t make him warm. It’s all the little things — all the things he’s missed because they’ve become so ingrained to him, but it’s like he’s shone a light upon them all of a sudden.

 

He stares at Donghyuck with wide eyes, the laughter fading from his lips, and Donghyuck’s face scrunches up in confusion. 

 

“Renjun?” he asks. He climbs off him and Renjun kicks him in the knee, trying to catch his breath — trying to catch all the thoughts that are scattering like leaves in the wind.

 

“You’re gross,” he mumbles. 

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

It’s soft. Tender. It’s like the way they talk to each other in the middle of the night — the way they talk to each other in dark closets and waiting room bathrooms, down phone calls in seperate countries. 

 

“I’m fine,” Renjun says. He swallows, looking away to where Jisung is bopping to the music in his headphones, completely unaware that someone’s world is shifting just a few meters away from him. It’s like all the moments they’ve shared haved coalesced into one, a flickering flame that burns at the core of his heart. “I’m fine,” he repeats. “Just remembered something.”

 

It’s like he’s always been in love with Donghyuck. 



*



He doesn’t really have time to process it. The thought rolls around in his head like loose change in a washer, but they have to prepare for their concert. Even with the pandemic they’re still performing — though Renjun’s a little worried about how fucking awkward it might be after watching SuperM’s broadcast. 

 

Still, as long as no-one starts screaming on video he figures it’ll probably be okay. He harrasses Donghyuck in the dressing room — threatens to push him into the mirrors and relishes the way he goes pliant beneath his hands. He finds a second to kiss him when they duck into a closet to grab jackets for Jeno and Jaemin, and Donghyuck cups his cheek and gives him a grin — a promise of something more. 

 

“You’re so fucking hot,” Donghyuck says. “I know I tell you that all the time, but it’s true.”

 

Renjun presses another kiss to his lips, wanting to ruck his hands through his hair but knowing their stylists will throw an absolute fit if he does. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he says. “Wish we had more time.

 

Donghyuck picks up one of the jackets off the rack and then glances towards the shut door. “Later,” he says. 

 

His smile is devilish, and as they slip back out he gives Renjun’s ass a squeeze and blows him a kiss. An act. A promise.



*



The second he walks out onto stage it’s like it all falls into place. 

 

It’s not like they haven’t been performing. They’ve been on music shows of course — but that was to an empty studio. One or two songs, some of them not even live. But this — this is what he lives for. This is back where he belongs. The opening notes of GO sound and he feels the music take hold of his limbs — he feels the song in every part of him.

 

This is what he was born to do. What all of them were born to do. Everything is painted in shades of blue — deep cyan and turquoise, water flooding the screens around them — and then the lights come on. Donghyuck’s voice sounds, and Renjun moves. 

 

He doesn't just move. He fucking flies. His voice rings true and he feels weightless as they perform. He knows he's not the only one — all around him the rest of the members are the same. Jisung is on fire. Jeno moves like he's possessed. Every grin Jaemin flashes the camera sparkles. Chenle drips in charisma, like his dark hair has transformed him.

 

And then there's Donghyuck. 

 

Holy shit. He's glowing like he's made from pure stardust, a mote of the sun infused into the heart of a boy. He's always looked best when he sings — like the passion bleeds from his skin — but it's like here there's so much more. It's like he's from another world. It's the boy Renjun loves living out his dream — the way he was always meant to.

 

The concert is a whirlwind of music and sound — of laughter and cheers. Golden lights and voices in his ears. The sweat pools on the small of his back and he laughs, and he throws quips during the ment. He sees banners with his name on them and he smiles so wide his cheeks hurt.

 

Don't Need Your Love starts and it's another rung on the ladder — another step higher. Renjun is on top of the fucking world — this is their song. It's all wrapped tight within him and he knows he has to hold it there, but it doesn't mean that he can't acknowledge that this was where it started. This is where he and Donghyuck had begun things.

 

It's all wrapped tight within him yet Renjun can’t help it — he lets out a smile. Something small at the end of Jaemin’s rap, something Jisung sees and returns to him. They’re all so happy to be here. 

 

Renjun’s in love. He’s in love with Donghyuck and he’s in love with the stage and he’s in love with performing — with the music, with the way it possesses his body. He forgets that this is forbidden — that he shouldn’t be like this. 

 

He isn’t allowed to love Donghyuck, but it doesn’t stop him. They move to the ends of the stage and turn to face each other, and something iridescent — something visceral — sparks in his chest at the sight of Donghyuck.

 

God, Donghyuck. This brilliant, brilliant boy. Glow of the stage lights pooling on his cheeks, sweat shining on his skin. Dark eyeshadow and pink lips, a steely gaze as their eyes meet. All these little parts that make up this incredible force of a boy. Not just any boy — his boy.

 

He sees Donghyuck and he feels something force it's way up his throat. The gates that lead to his heart fly open and Renjun feels it all expand within him — silent, like a detonation in space, like a depth charge at the bottom of the ocean. He's on stage and he's moving towards Donghyuck — he's still playing his part — and inside he's falling apart. It's like a box of fireworks falling into a fire, a thousand explosions going off, a beacon that everyone must be able to see.

 

Renjun's never been able to hide his feelings well. He wears his heart on his sleeve — he bleeds so easily that everyone can see it. He knows who he is and he can't help but enact it. Deep down he can't help but be true — and Donghyuck knows this, too. Donghyuck knows him. He’s always known him. He can read it in his gaze — see straight through him like he had the first time he’d fucked him. His hand comes up to cup the back of his neck, and Renjun feels naked.

 

He can't hide. He's never been able to hide. He's opened a box that can't be shut again and the contents are spilling everywhere — light is spilling everywhere. It's leaking from every pore — like if he touched Donghyuck's cheek he might leave a glowing set of fingerprints, something to link him to the scene of the crime. Like if he opened his mouth bloodied diamonds would spill out — five years of love hardened into something precious.

 

He panics. His brain gives him a thousand options and he latches onto the first like it's a rope thrown into a whirlpool. He can't look Donghyuck in the eyes. He can't cup his cheek — not like he's done a thousand times before. It's too much — too tender. Too soft for a moment like this. When he's on stage he wears his mask — he slips into his persona as easily as changing costumes — but the problem has always been that it's never really fit. The problem is his heart is open and free, and no matter how he tries to hide it he simply can't. He's lit up and glowing and he feels the panic rush through him like a flash flood.

 

He runs on autopilot, pressing his finger to his cheek and doing what he always does to Donghyuck. Teasing him. Mocking him. He turns to the camera and smiles — doing fucking aegyo . To Donghyuck’s credit he adapts too — he mimics him, his face falling, his hand dropping to rest against Renjun’s chest, palm flat against his thundering heart.



*



Renjun can't dwell. The show must go on, and by the time they're partway through We Young the nervousness has shook itself from his veins, only left in lingering aftershocks that run tremors through his hands as he tips water into his mouth between songs. Donghyuck flashes him a smile and Renjun grins back — when they run backstage to change costumes it's with Donghyuck's hand fit to the small of his back. He makes a kissy face to Renjun as he's trying to pull on his jeans and Renjun aims a kick at him in retaliation, laughing as he almost falls over. 

 

By the time the concert is over it’s gone — a flash in the pan, an anxiety about nothing. A moment of weakness. In its place comes the post performance high — and by god has Renjun missed that, too. The burn in his lungs, the ache in his limbs. The feeling like he’s unstoppable — like he’s on top of the world. He’s flying, he’s soaring — the love is just compounded on top of that. They all laugh in the dressing room and the staff congratulate them and Chenle has his hand around Jeno's waist, he's clinging to him, laughing. Jaemin picks up Jisung like he's a big baby and coos at him, and in the chaos Donghyuck tugs his wrist and pulls him out of the room. Out of the noise and into the air conditioned hall, something unreadable in his gaze.

 

Renjun's cock stirs and he rounds on Donghyuck — he steals a kiss from him. They're out in the open — in a corridor that anyone could walk through at any second — but Renjun doesn't care.

 

God, he's in love . He's so in love with Donghyuck he's trembling — his lips are trembling as he presses them against Donghyuck's. When he pulls back Donghyuck gives him a smile — something shaky, something that lights a flame inside of him. He's so giddy he feels dizzy, and now it's his turn to drag Donghyuck to the same closet he's been in so many times before. His heart thumps and the door shuts behind them and there's a beat of silence — something that pulses out in the shadows.

 

The light flickers on, and it's like a bucket of cold water is dropped on his head. Donghyuck is frowning and it cuts through the haze around Renjun, sobering him in an instant.

 

“Donghyuck?” he asks. His hands — which had been raised, ready to grab at the collar of Donghyuck's shirt and pull him against him — drop to his sides awkwardly.

 

“We need to stop,” Donghyuck says. His voice shakes and Renjun feels his heart swell — except it’s no longer elastic. It’s made of glass, and it’s dangerously close to shattering. Their eyes meet, and Donghyuck swallows. “You promised me, right? We need to stop.”

 

In an instant it's like they're on stage again. It's like Don't Need Your Love — all that anxiety bursting through him. Does Donghyuck know? Has Renjun been that transparent? Does he know he lied to him — that he broke his promise?

 

He’s not Mark Lee. He swears he’s not. He can handle this — he can explain it, surely. He’s in love with Donghyuck but it won’t ruin him. He opens his mouth, but Donghyuck cuts him off.

 

“I—” Donghyuck starts. He stutters, looking around the room and then pressing a kiss to Renjun’s lips. It’s fierce and harsh — a bittersweet taste that’s gone in a second as Donghyuck pulls away. “We had to stop if there were feelings, right? Shit, Renjun, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t — I can’t do this.”

 

Before he can say anything Donghyuck turns away. Renjun reaches out — as if he can stop him — but his fingers barely find purchase on the sleeve of Donghyuck's jacket before he's gone. The door slams behind him and it's like a hammer to stained glass. His heart shatters, and Renjun is left all alone to pick up the pieces.



*



There are consequences. There are things that Renjun doesn't realise — all the little things he misses. It's tempered by 127's comeback — the fact that Renjun was preparing to lose Donghyuck anyway — but there's so much more he's lost. Their good morning texts are stiff and he doesn't call Donghyuck in the evenings. He doesn't lie in his bed and fall asleep to the sound of Donghyuck’s voice — and wake up because he’s yelling at him for snoring. He doesn't ask him to sneak out of the dorm and meet him halfway to grab coffee together. There's no cheeky texts during his radio broadcasts  — there's nothing.

 

Renjun presses his face into his pillow and takes a deep breath, and then he remembers that he'd switched his conditioner to the same one Donghyuck used, and now everything smells like him.

 

God, everything reminds him of him. It's like the same realisation he'd had during Kick It promotions, but a thousand times worse. There's no light at the end of the tunnel — there's nothing to look forward to.

 

He'd flown too high. Burned too fast, too brilliant. He'd forgotten his wings were made of wax, and now he was tumbling — sinking into the murky blackness of the ocean. All around him is a crushing silence and everything tastes like salt. It lingers in the back of his throat — a black bitterness like bile, the taste of all the lies he'd told himself.

 

All the lies he'd told Donghyuck.

 

He'd lied. Over and over, selfishly. He'd lied because he didn't want to lose him. He was only human. He’d only wanted — he’d only loved and hoped to hold onto that love — and in the end it had fallen away from him.

 

He goes through stages. He wallows in self pity. He wonders how he could be such a fool? God, the Troye Sivan cover seemed ironic now. Maybe past Renjun was trying to tell him something. Teach him a lesson.

 

After the pity comes the determination. He rolls out of bed and purges all thoughts of Donghyuck from his mind — washing them clean as he opens the fridge and starts to cook the angriest meal of his life. The oil sizzles as he throws the kimchi in the pan and scoops the last of the rice from the cooker, and he gets to shredding the seaweed before he stops and goes to put it away, because Donghyuck doesn't like it — and then when he realises what he's doing it's like it hits him all again. It's like all the air is punched out of his lungs, like an invisible hand has picked him up and squeezed. He leans over the bench and gasps, biting back on the wetness at the back of his throat.

 

"Renjun?" It's Jaemin. He looks tired, red rings around his eyes. The two of them make eye contact and his entire face falls — a soft openness dawning over his features. "Are you okay?"

 

What can Renjun even say? No, of course he's not okay. He's in love with his best friend — he's been in love with him for god knows how long, though he'd only just realised it. He'd promised him he wasn't in love with him, because if he was he didn't want to lose their friendship — and exactly what he'd feared had come true.

 

He was a liar. A liar and a promise breaker, and a fucking awful friend to boot. Setting himself on fire and praying for rain.

 

There's a lump in his throat and his hands grip the edge of the bench so tight he's worried he'll break his nails. The rice frying in the saucepan should smell delicious, but it's like the second the scent hits his tongue it turns to ash. He reaches over to turn the gas off and takes a shaky breath.

 

"No," he says. "I suppose I'm not."



*



Renjun pushes the rice around the edge of his bowl with his chopsticks, trying to clamp down on the nausea in his stomach. Opposite him, sitting with his legs folded and his empty bowl resting in his lap, Jaemin is watching him, his brows knit together and bottom lip jutting out.

 

“You gotta eat,” he says.

 

“I can’t.”

 

It’s true. Renjun has tried to eat but it’s not even like he has no appetite. It’s like any hunger is fleeting — it leaves him as soon as he even thinks of food. It’s like his body is shutting down — actively rejecting it. 

 

“C’mon. You can do this.”

 

“I really can’t Jaemin.”

 

Jaemin sighs. He shuffles up the mattress, until their knees are touching, a determined look on his face. He picks up a piece of kimchi from his bowl and lifts it to Renjun’s mouth. “Eat,” he says.

 

“You’re not feeding me like a baby.”

 

“Eat,” Jaemin repeats, shaking his chopsticks in Renjun's face. “C’mon. I’ve been through this. I know how much it hurts. I know how you feel like there’s no point, but trust me. You’ll feel better if you eat.”

 

Renjun frowns. Of course Jaemin knows what this feels like. He'd curse him out, but he feels like Jaemin doesn't need the bad luck. It takes a few seconds of internal debate before Renjun's self preservation beats out his shame (and his stubbornness) and he opens his mouth, reluctantly.

 

"There you go," Jaemin says, smiling softly. "There we go. No-one likes being hungry." He picks up a clump of rice and Renjun would feel humiliated if he actually had the emotional energy to feel something that wasn't the crushing pain in his ribcage. He chews slowly and swallows — and it's like once the food hits his stomach suddenly Renjun realises he hasn't eaten in almost 24 hours.

 

He's watched by a very fond Jaemin as he wolfs down the rest of his bowl — and though when he finishes it off there's still a pain in his chest, he does find he feels a little bit better.

 

It's like saying the buckets are helping bail a sinking ship, though. It's a momentary distraction, and when he sets his bowl on the floor and takes a deep breath the situation hits him again, a wave that crashes over his head and leaves him dripping in it all.

 

He'd lied to Donghyuck. He'd fucked this up. When they'd talked in the closet (that fucking closet. Had Donghyuck planned it all along? He'd wanted him to come back, had promised him later. If he had then Renjun can't even find himself to be angry at him — the dynamite he'd felt before is now too damp for the flame to catch the wick) Donghyuck had seemed terrified — white knuckled, shaking.

 

He supposes it's a natural reaction. Knowing someone so close to you had betrayed you does that to a person. Renjun's sure he'd feel the same about his own damn heart if he wasn't so fucking numb. His own treacherous, stupid heart. Why couldn't he keep it locked up? Keep the realisations for later.

 

He lets out a shaky sigh, sniffing. The spice in the food is making his nose run — it doesn't help that he's about five seconds from crying at any moment, either.

 

"Better?" Jaemin asks. He rests his hand on Renjun's knee and Renjun nods. He doesn't want to ask for comfort, but he forgets Jaemin understands him anyway. He forgets he doesn't need to ask for it — that Jaemin will give it. He shuffles closer and puts his arms out, and the second they wrap around Renjun's back Renjun just melts. It's like all his muscles go limp and he falls into Jaemin. He tucks his head under his chin and tries to make himself as small as possible — tries to surround himself in Jaemin.

 

"It's okay," Jaemin says. "No-one takes my advice, anyway."

 

Renjun laughs, though it's wet. "Shut up."

 

"It was probably bad advice," he continues, though it's not aimed at anyone in particular.

 

Renjun sniffles again, fisting his hands in Jaemin's shirt, shaking with the effort of holding back his tears. "I miss him so much," he says.

 

"It's okay," Jaemin repeats, and it's so much softer this time. It's so gentle — like a hand extended to pull him to sanctuary. Renjun leans against his chest, and he can hear his heartbeat — a steady thud, a reminder that he's alive.

 

God, Jaemin is warm. He's warm and he's been here for Renjun for so long — something constant. Somewhere Renjun knows he'll always be safe. He makes a soft noise and his hand comes up to cradle Renjun's head, fingers threading through his hair.

 

Renjun trusts him and he relaxes. The last walls he’d built up crumble and he can't hold himself together anymore. He presses his face into Jaemin's chest and starts to cry.



*



“Get up.”

 

It’s Jeno. Wrong person to send if they want Renjun to actually leave his room. Unless he physically carries him he doesn’t have the bite to force Renjun to move — to break him out of the state of pure misery that's taken permanent residence in his brain.

 

“No,” Renjun says, not moving from where he’s splayed out on his bed. Though Jaemin had given him an emotional release, it's still like his battery is drained. All he can do is sleep, drink and eat in the middle of the night when he doesn’t have to deal with everyone else’s comments on his disheveled appearance. All his energy goes into putting on a happy face for the radio, and every other waking moment is dedicated to how fucking miserable he feels. It's like his heart has been ground into paste. Like all his insides have been liquified. He feels like his body has stopped working — like Donghyuck had stolen the missing piece to the machine, and everything has ground to a halt without it.

 

“Jaemin says if you don’t get up he’ll come and do it himself.”

 

“Then he can come and do it himself.”

 

"Renjun." The mattress dips and Jeno pokes at his calf. Renjun groans, turning his face and burying it in his pillow.

 

"Seriously Jeno. Go away."

 

"Renjun," Jeno says. "C'mon. It's two o'clock."

 

"What's your point?"

 

"Donghyuck and Mark will be here in a bit."

 

He can almost physically feel the 'woosh' in his ears — the jump his heart makes at the mention of Donghyuck's name. Of course. It's the sixth of June. It's Donghyuck's birthday. They're supposed to be going out for dinner later, but first they're having drinks in the dorm.

 

Renjun groans. He doesn't know if he can face Donghyuck to be honest. There's a petty part of him that wants to throw it all away and not even show up, but he realises that wouldn't be fair. It's no-one else's fault that he caught feelings — only his own — and he doesn't want to ruin Donghyuck's day, either. No-one deserves to be punished. It's not an ugly breakup — it's just a consequence of his own actions.

 

"Fine," he says.

 

"Really?"

 

Renjun kicks his legs and huffs. "Yeah."

 

"It's a miracle," Jeno says.

 

"Don't get your hopes up," Renjun says. Jeno laughs, patting him rather forcefully on the butt before he gets up and leaves.

 

Renjun lets out a long yawn and splays out across the bed. God, Donghyuck's birthday. Three months ago he'd been looking forward to it — he'd bought him a present. He'd daydreamed about what it would be like. They’d go out with Dream and have lunch together. Him and Donghyuck would sit beside each other and Donghyuck would rest his hand on his knee, his touch a warm comfort. Sometimes Renjun would allow himself to imagine that he and Donghyuck were together — that they weren’t hiding it. That when they got back to the Dream dorm he’d be allowed to kiss him in the open — hold his hand and hug him. 

 

Pulling himself out of the thought is like dragging an anchor up from the ocean floor. It’s a monumental effort, but Renjun does it. He throws his covers off and swings his feet onto the floor, squeezing his eyes shut and hoping for the strength to face the day.



*



“Wait. Come here Renjun. You go there.”

 

“Are you serious?” Renjun groans.

 

“It’s not my fault half this group has fucked each other,” Jaemin mumbles. “Here.” He gestures at the booth. “You go at the end. Jisung, come here.”

 

Renjun takes his seat, flopping onto the cushion of the bench. They’re in a restaurant in Gangnam, one of Donghyuck’s favourite joints — a place they ate at a couple of times when they were rookies — where their managers had taken them when they’d gotten their first win for My First and Last. Just being here brings back memories for Renjun — the giddiness they’d felt, letting the trophy sit at the head of the table while they’d all forced Jisung to cut up the pork belly then laughing when he’d failed and Donghyuck had had to take over.

 

It leaves a strange taste in his throat. 

 

They all file in. Jaemin is to his left, Donghyuck beside him and Jisung on the end. Chenle, Jeno and Mark are on the other side of the table, and they’re all a little tipsy. The lights are warm and the grill fires up and Jeno starts cutting up the meat, not even bothering to ask anyone else for help. Chenle pours them a round of shots (citing Jisung’s poop hands as reason for him to not even touch the bottle) and as the fat pops and sizzles their faces turn redder and redder. 

 

As Renjun gets drunker and drunker, arguing over Chenle for the last piece of radish, he gets bolder and bolder. He gets stupider.

 

God. Donghyuck is so fucking beautiful. They’d drank at the dorm and by now he’s steadily drunk. He’s laughing loudly — openly — and Renjun can’t help but feel like every part of him being turned to cinder when he looks at him. He misses him so fucking much. He can’t help it. Being around him is like suffocating and the first breath of the new morning simultaneously — like every time he breathes his lungs fill with blood, and every time he exhales he remembers it’s all just his imagination. 

 

“Stop staring at him,” Jaemin says. “C’mon.” He elbows Renjun’s side and Renjun blinks, turning to Jaemin. “You’re so fucking obvious.”

 

“Leave me alone,” Renjun says.

 

“You can’t keep pining. C’mon Renjun. Here.” He picks up Renjun’s glass and grabs the soju bottle, pouring another shot for him then handing the bottle to Renjun and tapping his own glass. “Drink. You’re pathetic.”

 

“You’d know,” Renjun says. It’s a low blow, and Jaemin knows him well enough to not take it seriously, but even so he feels bad the second it leaves his mouth. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

 

“It’s fine.” Jaemin gives him a smile. “I know how much it hurts. But you can’t dwell on it. It’s just gonna eat you up.” He takes his cup back from Renjun with a minute bow of the head. Beside them Chenle is resting his head on Jeno’s shoulder, chatting to Donghyuck about something lost over the crack of Mark’s laughter.

 

“I know,” Renjun sighs. Jaemin gives him a smile. “We fucked up, didn’t we?”

 

“Yeah,” Jaemin says. He sighs. “What was it you told me? No-one ever chooses to fall in love.” Jaemin lifts his glass up to his lips and shrugs. “Guess we just keep going.”

 

Donghyuck starts to laugh and Renjun tips his glass up, swallowing hastily and replacing the bitterness in his mouth with the burn of the alcohol. When it goes down it’s like a lit match, a trail of cinders that lights him up. It hurts. It hurts, but — when he looks at Donghyuck with his head thrown back and his laughter ringing out — he knows he’ll keep burning up for as long as he can.



*



Two days later Renjun gets a KakaoTalk message.

 

haechan-ah

hey

do you want to come over?



He blinks. He checks the number. He checks the previous conversations. It’s Donghyuck. It’s not Jaemin playing a prank on him. It’s actually Donghyuck. His heart lodges itself in his throat and he types and deletes the message three times before he sends what he thinks is a casual enough message.

 

you:

to the dorm?



haechan-ah:

??

where else?



“Jaemin!” Renjun shouts. Of course there’s no answer. 



you:

yeah ok?



He finds Jaemin in his room, fast asleep, face down on his pillow with his sheets thrown everywhere. The rest of the dorm is empty — Jeno’s door is locked and there’s no sign of Jisung (or Chenle, who’d stayed over last night). He’s not particularly interested in dealing with a cranky sleepy Jaemin, but also his heart is beating so fast it feels like it’s about to explode and there’s a million butterflies in his guts and what the fuck does Donghyuck want? 127 have just finished their promotions — he supposes he must have free time now. Is he asking Renjun over so he can break up with him in person? Like he hadn’t already.

 

Does he want to see him again? Grill him? Ask Renjun why he’d betrayed him? 

 

It all runs around in his head as he pulls on his clothes — as he tries to decide what the best balance of casual and good looking is. He doesn’t want to scare Donghyuck but he wants to look nice too — he doesn’t want Donghyuck to worry. No-one outside of Dream needs to know he’s been a pathetic mess of a human being for the past month.

 

He goes to pick up his jacket from the floor and his foot hits something solid. He pauses.

 

It’s Donghyuck’s birthday gift. A big bulky LP player he’d bought back in March. It’s still wrapped in the tacky Christmas paper he’d grabbed from Jeno’s closet, and as he picks it up and opens the card his heart jumps, sticking in his throat at the words he’d written.

 

There’s a second of internal debate before he picks up his messenger bag and stuffs it inside.

 

Fuck it. Donghyuck still deserves it. It’s Renjun’s stupidity that has driven a wedge between them — Donghyuck doesn’t need to be punished.

 

Maybe this is a chance for redemption. Maybe not. But Renjun loves Donghyuck, and he still wants to give him his gift. It was something he’d bought to make Donghyuck happy, and he still wants to be warm to him — take those last few chances before the strings between them turn to crystal and stiffen. Before he becomes like Mark — always held at arm’s length.



*



Renjun takes a deep breath. He’s run over this conversation in his head a thousand times by now — waiting in the dorm for their manager to come pick him up, in the car ride over, while he was going up the elevator. 

 

He can do this. He can do this. It’s fine. He’s known Donghyuck for five years. They’ve fought before. This is nothing. He can face this. He can mend this. He can look the boy he’d betrayed in the eye and give him his fucking birthday gift.

 

His hands are trembling and he gets the code wrong on the first try. There’s a brief moment of panic where he wonders if it’s been changed, but he tries again and is greeted with the familiar beep and thud of the lock undoing.

 

There’s nowhere for him to go now. He has to go forward.

 

The dorm is silent. There’s dirty dishes on the table and a blanket thrown over the back of the couch. Donghyuck is standing at the kitchen bench, spooning rice out of the cooker, and it’s not until the door shuts behind Renjun that he turns around to face him. 

 

In that instant it all melts away. All the pain in Renjun’s heart, all the nervousness. Donghyuck gives him a small smile and it’s like the sun coming up — like seeing the light for the first time in a month. 

 

“Hey,” Donghyuck says. He holds up his bowl. “Have you eaten? I was gonna make some bibimbap.”

 

“I—” Renjun stutters. He’d grabbed food from the fridge before he’d left the dorm, but the prospect of something made by Donghyuck sounds a million times better. “I’d love that.”

 

“Cool.” He gives him another smile and pulls another bowl out of the draw. “Everyone’s out,” he adds. “Post promotion celebrations.”

 

“You didn’t go?”

 

He shrugs. “Didn’t feel like it.”

 

The smile Donghyuck gives him is soft and shy — none of the awkwardness Renjun had expected. They hold eye contact for a second before he looks and clears his throat, scratching the back of his neck. 

 

“I bought your birthday gift,” Renjun blurts out, not wanting the moment to break — like his peace is in illusion, something that relies on motion to keep it going. Like if he stops it won’t be real anymore.

 

He pulls his bag over his head and sets it on the table, unzipping it and pulling out the box. When Donghyuck sees the wrapping paper he starts to laugh. 

 

“I thought you didn’t get me anything.”

 

“I—I wasn’t sure if you wanted it,” Renjun says. “You don’t have to take it. I can give it to Jeno or something.”

 

“No way,” Donghyuck says. “I love Jeno, but he is not getting my birthday gift.” He reaches out and rests his hand on the top of the box, then looks up at Renjun. “You could buy me anything and I’d still want it if it was from you.”

 

The moment seems to stretch between them — visible, glittering, like gossamer coated in morning dew. There’s a delicacy in it that Renjun doesn’t want to ruin, and it seems Donghyuck doesn’t either — because when he moves it’s careful. It’s gentle, a brush of his fingers against the back of Renjun’s hand. 

 

It’s a tiny gesture, but it feels like everything.

 

“Can’t believe you used Christmas paper.”

 

“There was nothing else in the dorm.”

 

Donghyuck snorts, pulling the gift out from under Renjun’s hand and bringing it over to his side of the table. He picks it up and makes a face of surprise. “Oh, it’s heavy.”

 

“Filled it with rocks.”

 

“Hope they’re pretty rocks,” he says, laughing. He goes to tear at the paper and stops, and Renjun’s heart jumps when he realises why. Donghyuck reaches for the card he’d taped to the top and opens it up, pushing the edges flat against the box.

 

Happy birthday ,” he reads, “ love from your Renjun.

 

Something is lodged in Renjun’s throat. His heart, maybe, fluttering like a caged bird. Donghyuck looks up at him and the look he gives him is so open — so soft — that Renjun almost crumbles. The table between them is the only thing that stops him from kissing Donghyuck — and even then he almost moves towards him, though he catches himself at the last second — and instead he aches

 

“When did you write this?” Donghyuck asks.

 

“March.”

 

Donghyuck laughs, something tiny. A puff of air. “Let’s see what you got me, then.”

 

He tears open the wrapping paper with no regard for the amount of time it had taken Renjun to wrap it (a lot, combined with a follow along Youtube tutorial), his brow creasing as he looks at the box.

 

“Please don’t tell me you already have one,” Renjun says, worry starting to gnaw at him as the silence stretches on. 

 

“No. Oh my god.” Donghyuck picks up the box and then looks up at Renjun with a grin. “Holy shit.”

 

“You said you were sick of using Doyoung’s so I thought you might want one. I got Minghao to help me out. He said that was a good brand,” Renjun says, feeling stupider by the second.

 

“It is,” Donghyuck says. “This is really good. Oh my god. Renjun.”

 

Donghyuck is beaming. His smile is infectious and Renjun returns it, happiness unfurling inside his ribcage like the petals of a flower — something delicate but bright.

 

“It’s no problem,” he says. “Sorry it’s late.”

 

“Don’t be sorry. Oh my god.” 

 

He puts the box down and before Renjun can process it Donghyuck’s body is slamming into his — a great bear hug, arms wrapped around him, face buried in his shoulder. 

 

He’s warm. A star wrapped up in the body of a boy — one Renjun has always orbited.

 

“Thank you,” Donghyuck says. “Thank you so much.”



*



It’s so easy to forget the past month. To forget what Donghyuck had said to him. To forget this was all supposed to over — that the both of them were supposed to be keeping their distance.

 

It’s so easy to be with Donghyuck. It’s so fucking natural. Renjun sits on his bed and watches Donghyuck set up the LP player and the whole time he feels like he’s glowing. He feels so fucking happy. Donghyuck chatters away about the records he can’t wait to play — about their promotions, about how every time he showers the drain turns purple. He talks about their stage outfits and how they all teased Jaehyun at Inkigayo. There’s a moment of confusion where he can’t work out how to align the arm of the player but — with the help of multiple tutorial videos — eventually Donghyuck sits down beside him on the bed, his prized Bruno Mars vinyl spinning on the plate.

 

“I can’t believe you got me a record player,” Donghyuck says. He looks back at Renjun with a grin that makes him giddy. 

 

“You wanted one.”

 

“I made an offhand comment and you actually went and bought me one.”

 

“I figured I’d please two people at once. Now Doyoung won’t get pissed at you using his all the time.”

 

Donghyuck laughs. “Ah. You’re such a charmer. You know Doyoung-ie likes you, right? After you came back from the concert he came to me and said: ‘Haechan. Renjun is such an interesting person.’ I was very proud.”

 

“You were proud.” Renjun says, incredulous. “Really?”

 

“Of course. It reflects well on me, you know. When you act well.”

 

“I can’t believe people associate me with you.” 

 

It’s a risky move, joking like this. Teasing about their closeness when they’ve been so far apart. He hopes he’s read it right — that Donghyuck is comfortable enough to take the blow.

 

“Of course they do,” Donghyuck says. It’s soft. So fucking soft. Renjun’s sitting up against the headboard and Donghyuck is turned sideways to look at him, and as he speaks he reaches out, laying his hand on top of Renjun’s. “You’re my best friend.”

 

Renjun doesn’t even think. He just turns his hand over, fitting their palms together and curling his fingers against Donghyuck’s wrist. When he looks up Donghyuck is still staring at him, and something melts within Renjun.

 

He’s missed him. He’s missed him so fucking much. “You’re my best friend, too,” Renjun says. 

 

The sheets rustle. Donghyuck shifts, letting go of Renjun’s hand to turn around and bring his legs up onto the bed. 

 

“I really was proud of you,” he says. The mattress dips where he leans towards Renjun, and Renjun’s breath turns shallow. “It was like. It’s like your happiness is mine. And you were making friends. So I was happy, too. Does that make sense?”

 

“Yeah,” Renjun breathes out. “God, yes. You—”

 

What does he say? Your joy is like a supernova. You make me happy just by existing. It’s the symbiotic link we all share, and then more. It’s the way you know what I’m going to say before I say it. How you fit so perfectly with me. How your laugh feels like it lifts me up. How just being here with you is the best I’ve felt in weeks.

 

I love you, Donghyuck. For so fucking long. I love you and I can’t tell you but I think you know anyway. 

 

I hope you can feel it because you deserve to be loved. 

 

Donghyuck leans in and Renjun knows. He knows he doesn’t need to speak — that somehow Donghyuck understands him. In some way or another he gets him. It’s that secret language again. Something only they know how to speak, passed in glances and body language, in the stars in his eyes and the curve of his smile.

 

He can feel his breath on his skin and Renjun doesn’t need to look at him anymore. His hand comes up to slide around the back of Donghyuck’s neck and he can feel the tremble in his muscles as Donghyuck closes the distance between them and kisses him.

 

Donghyuck’s lips are soft. The kiss is soft — almost unbearably so. After a month of being apart it’s almost nothing, like a gentle wind on a spring morning. Like the first patter of rain. The moment before dawn — when the sun hasn’t crested the horizon but the first streaks of gold have broken the skyline.

 

It’s almost nothing, but nothing leads to something. 

 

They don’t speak. They’ve never needed to. Donghyuck threads his hand through Renjun’s hair, propping himself up on his elbow, never breaking the kiss. Never moving to speak, like if they stopped the moment might shatter. Renjun can hear the rush of his blood in his ears — feel the warmth of Donghyuck’s skin beneath his touch. The soft hair at the nape of his neck, the fabric of his shirt as he fists it in his hand. He smells like conditioner and fabric softener and everything comes flooding back. 

 

It’s like he never left. The past month was nothing. Renjun didn’t betray Donghyuck — Donghyuck didn’t leave him in that closet. 

 

The ache is still there — sitting in his side like a battle wound, still raw and painful — but it’s like every kiss is medicine. It’s like Donghyuck’s presence is healing. 

 

Maybe Renjun shouldn’t forgive, but he can’t help it. He breathes Donghyuck in and he pulls him close, until Donghyuck swings his leg over him and straddles him — still kissing him. Until they’re both breathing deep, ribcage to ribcage. Something hot twists in Renjun’s gut and he digs his fingers into Donghyuck’s skin, and it takes him a while to realise he can hear the sound of their kisses. He can hear the wet slide of their lips, the tiny noises Donghyuck is making. There’s a soft static coming from the speakers, along with a rhythmic thump, like someone tapping a pillow against the wall over and over.

 

“Shit,” Donghyuck says. “Need to turn the record over.”

 

He’s red faced, panting. He stares at Renjun and it’s like he can see the strings that tie them together — all the places they’ve become connected. Where they share breath, share blood. Share all the parts of them, the two of them become one.

 

Donghyuck gets off him and Renjun shivers at the loss of body heat, despite the fact it’s the middle of June and warm as hell. 

 

God. He feels fucking dizzy. His brain feels like it’s just turned to television static, one thought spinning round and round in circles like Donghyuck’s vinyl.

 

Donghyuck had kissed him.

 

There’s a click and the speakers go silent, and Donghyuck turns back to him with a strange look on his face. 

 

The next kiss is not soft. It’s vicious. It’s open mouthed, Donghyuck almost pouncing on him, his body weight crashing into him. Renjun gasps and arches up into him, and it’s like all his inhibitions fade. It’s like all hell breaks loose, all the promises he’d made to himself shattered in an instant. 

 

It’s like — it’s like Renjun remembers how much he needs Donghyuck. He’s like an addict coming back to the source, and maybe he’ll always need this. Maybe he’ll take it any way he can. Even if Donghyuck doesn’t love him — not the way he does. Maybe this is still enough.

 

“Renjun,” Donghyuck says. His mouth is on Renjun’s neck, and Renjun tries to shut that box again. Lock all his feelings up, stop the light from streaming out of his mouth — scrub the glow from his fingerprints. He can’t remind Donghyuck of it — he can only take this. “Renjun. I want you to fuck me.”

 

It’s a downpour. The two of them caught in the rain together, Donghyuck’s words soaking him to the bone. The ‘I love you’ stays on the tip of Renjun’s tongue even as he kisses him, and he hopes the taste isn’t too bitter.

 

It’s like charcoal in his throat. A black stain on his breath. He knows his touches must be an admission of guilt, but Renjun accepts his fate. If this is how it is, then so be it. He knows in this moment — in this bed, in the silence, Donghyuck’s body held against his — he knows he’ll face whatever judgement is handed down. It’s worth it. He’ll take it for Donghyuck. To have him. To hold him. He can’t lose him again.

 

When he pushes in to Donghyuck it’s like being speared through the chest — Renjun can taste blood. He wonders if he’ll make a mess of Donghyuck’s sheets — stain them crimson in a permanent reminder. 

 

He hopes Donghyuck doesn’t hate him. 

 

Donghyuck’s head falls forward to rest on his shoulder and he shifts in Renjun’s lap, a gasp escaping from his lips as Renjun rolls his hips. 

 

“Renjun,” he says. Renjun wraps his arms around him, mapping the planes of his back, counting the knobs of his spine like he’s done so many times before. 

 

“Yeah?”

 

His voice is raw, and he can feel the tears in the back of his throat. It’s stupid. Ten minutes ago he’d been so happy, and now the gravity of the situation is hitting him. 

 

At least he can have Donghyuck like this. At least he’s with him. It’s something. It’s something when briefly he had nothing. 

 

“I missed you.”

 

It’s like swallowing a blade — the words cut him from the inside out. A thousand tiny wounds, and Renjun covers his gasp with a kiss to Donghyuck’s shoulder. “Me too,” he says. Nothing more. He moves in lieu of words — he wraps one hand around Donghyuck’s cock and starts to stroke at him as he fucks into him. 

 

Donghyuck is still vocal. He’s still sensitive. He’s still the Donghyuck he remembers — and then more. It’s like somehow Renjun had forgotten how good Donghyuck felt — he’d forgotten just how he affected him. Every movement sends sparks arcing over his skin and every moan is a hot bolt of lust inside him. He clenches around Renjun and it’s like pure ecstasy, something that sears like a heated brand across his nerves. Renjun clutches onto him and fucks into him and Donghyuck lets out the smallest gasps, little whimpers and whines, broken fragments of words that don’t make sense. Among them are Renjun’s name, and as he speeds up his pace — as Donghyuck’s fingers dig into his back — they become more frequent. Like a mantra, a chant. A prayer.

 

“Renjun,” Donghyuck says.

 

I’m sorry, Renjun wants to say, but instead he just kisses Donghyuck.

 

“Renjun,” Donghyuck repeats. “Renjun. Ah.” He gasps, a long keening moan following on it’s heel. Lips brushing against his, breath hot. “You’re the best I’ve ever had.”

 

Renjun never figures out how he doesn’t cry.



*



It’s something. It’s something where there was nothing. When he’s with Donghyuck it’s strange, this swirling mixture of giddiness and sadness. Being with someone he loves so much — knowing Donghyuck wants his body, but nothing else. Renjun had shown his heart — he’d torn it from his chest and offered it to him — and it was rejected. There’s a great gaping wound in his chest, but it’s okay. At least he has him. He jerks Donghyuck off in his bed — again — and Donghyuck leaves afterwards, not sticking around for dinner like he has so many times before.

 

Renjun lies down on the couch and curls up, not bothering to put his headphones in as he opens up Jeno’s favourite YouTube channel to watch mindless animal videos. 

 

The distraction works for a while, though their videos slowly start to crop up in the recommended section. First it’s Ridin’, then Jaemin’s Weekly Idol Fancam. The Dream Show video Jisung had recorded in Bangkok. When his and Donghyuck’s Dream vs Dream turns up, Renjun just turns off his phone. 

 

It’s hopeless. 

 

He drags his feet into the kitchen and frowns at the mess in the sink. Jisung and Chenle had cooked in the morning, and there’s enough oil sitting on the stainless steel to grease up a small child. He makes a mental note to scold Jisung and opens the cupboards, searching for something vaguely edible — hoping that Jeno hadn’t eaten the last of the instant ramen again. 

 

There’s a brand new five pack hidden behind a bag of rice someone had forgotten to seal shut, and he pulls them both out, fixing the rice then tearing open the plastic packaging, filling up a pot and pausing as he watches Jaemin shuffle into the kitchen.

 

There’s something about him Renjun can’t quite put his finger on. His hair is flat and grey and he’s only wearing his boxers — a pair that might have once been Jisung’s. There’s a red mark on the junction of his shoulder and as Renjun watches he yawns and stretches his arms above his head, muscles standing out for a brief second.

 

“Mmmm,” he says, glancing over at Renjun, like he’d just noticed his presence. “Good morning.”

 

“It’s five pm.”

 

“Good afternoon,” Jaemin amends. He blinks, still sleepy, and that’s when it clicks. 

 

Jaemin is practically fucking glowing. He’s smiling at Renjun, something lazy and easy — something that manages to be both awe inspiring and disgusting at the same time in only a way Jaemin could achieve.

 

“Late night?” Renjun asks. He can’t think of what Jaemin had been doing. Chenle had been over last night — maybe they were up playing games again. 

 

“Mmhm,” Jaemin says. He doesn’t elaborate, he just sits down at the table, phone in hand — though he doesn’t turn it on. 

 

“Okay, spill already,” Renjun says, feeling impatient. He doesn’t have the time to play the run around with Jaemin. 

 

He dumps his ramen into the pot and turns the gas on, then turns back to face Jaemin while he waits for it to boil. Despite what he pretends, he really is — deep down — just a gossiping auntie. The both of them are.

 

"You want the gossip?" Jaemin says. His grin is huge — almost to the point of being creepy. 

 

"I want the gossip. C'mon Jaemin."

 

Jaemin sighs, leaning back in his seat, bringing his arms behind the back of it and stretching again, lines of his abs standing out in a way that reminds Renjun of a peacock showing its feathers.

 

God, Jaemin is one of a kind.

 

“Let me see,” Jaemin says. “Chenle has fucked my brains out not once, not twice, but three times now.”

 

Renjun blinks.

 

There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence.

 

Chenle is cheating on Jeno? Surely not, Jaemin wouldn’t have announced it so freely. Jeno is okay with Chenle sleeping with Jaemin? Maybe more likely. Does Jaemin like Jeno? Does Jeno watch? 

 

“What?” Renjun says, in the end. It’s succinct enough.

 

Jaemin grins at him. It’s less creepy, more dreamy. Warm. It’s like he’s standing in the sunlight, surrounded by a faint golden outline. Happier than Renjun has seen him in a long time. 

 

“Jeno said it was okay. He came and talked to me after Donghyuck’s birthday. We all talked about it. It’s. Yeah. Kissing Jeno is weird but. I actually kind of like him. Remember that dumb crush I had on him when we were sixteen? I think it never really went away.”

 

“Shit,” Renjun says. The water starts to boil beside him, a steady bubble setting the background music to the otherwise silent dorm. “Holy shit, Jaemin.”

 

“I know. Trust me it sounds weird but I think it works.”

 

“Jaemin,” Renjun says. He laughs. “We’re idols. Nothing about our lives is normal.”

 

“Okay, but the whole incestuous thing this group has going on is kind of weird, right?”

 

Renjun shrugs. “Probably. But are you happy?”

 

“Yeah,” Jaemin says. “It’s scary. But I’m happy.”

 

“Then maybe that’s all that matters.”





Renjun is alone. 

 

He doesn’t wish for Jaemin to be miserable again, because seeing Jaemin happy — seeing him wrap his arms around Chenle’s waist and try to plant a kiss on his cheek, seeing him laughing with Jeno like they’re trainees again, seeing how much love he has to give — is beautiful. 

 

But god does he wish he had someone else with him. Someone else who understood — who wasn’t giddy with love. He doesn’t want to rain on Jaemin’s parade — or Jeno’s, for that matter. Jisung is sympathetic, but it’s not the same. He’s a good distraction — he’ll play games with Renjun, stay up all night with him talking — but it isn’t enough. Renjun’s still bleeding. Still aching. Still ruining himself for Donghyuck. 

 

Summer lurches forward. The rain falls in sheets and Renjun’s breath fogs the window as he rides back from another schedule without Donghyuck. When they meet it’s messy and sweet, hot kisses, hurried touches, and when they part Renjun is reminded of the hole in his chest.

 

It’s worth it. It’s something, isn’t it? Donghyuck wants him, and that’s what should matter. Yet every time they kiss — every time they fuck — it’s not enough. Every time their eyes meet it’s like he bleeds a little more, and he wonders when he’ll dry up. When he won’t be good enough for Donghyuck. 

 

Better to savour what he has.



*



It rains the next morning. Jisung leaves the window open and by the time Renjun is awake there’s a puddle on the floor he’s forced to clean up with all the towels he can find — though they don’t do shit for the humidity leaking all through their room. 

 

Maybe it’s a boon. It forces him out of the room at least. He puts on clothes and a bucket hat and takes a walk around the block, grabbing kimbap from the convenience store and eating it in the park. The branches of the trees are laden heavy with raindrops and as he eats they drop to the brickwork around him, a steady tap amongst the birdsong and far off traffic. The air smells wet and fresh and the leaves are brilliant green, and as he stands under the shelter a woman with her dog passes him, her voice fond where she talks on her phone.

 

It leaves a weird taste in Renjun’s mouth. A little twist in his stomach. He swallows the last of his kimbap and licks his fingers, taking a deep breath before heading back towards the dorm.

 

It’s fine. The ache is becoming familiar. Becoming something he’s used to. In time he’ll live with it. He keeps reminding himself this is better than nothing.





Chenle is at the dorm when he gets back. He’s lying on the couch, arms wrapped around Jaemin, and when Renjun unlocks the door he jumps, relaxing only when he realises it’s Renjun getting back — not a manager or someone else who would incriminate them.

 

“Hey,” he says. “Nice weather, right?”

 

“If you’re a duck, sure.”

 

Chenle snorts. “Good point. Guess I’ll get my flippers on.”

 

“Hmm? You going out?” Renjun asks. He drops his hat on the table and groans, rolling his shoulders. There’s still an ache in his back — he thinks he might have slept funny. 

 

“We were going to go for a bike ride.”

 

Renjun laughs. The idea of Chenle doing exercise is hilarious — though, he supposes, the bike rides were like Jeno and Jaemin’s dates. It’s probably natural for him to want to accompany his boyfriends.

 

Boyfriends. What a strange concept. All of them thrived on undefined relationships — it was the way to keep yourself safe in this industry — and yet here were the three of them. Putting a name on it, growing with each other. Doing what so many of them couldn’t.

 

Jaemin is tucked against Chenle’s chest, and as Renjun watches him he sees him reach up to tangle his hand with Chenle’s, squeezing tight before letting go and going back to his phone. 

 

“What were you doing?” Chenle asks, and Renjun comes crashing back down to Earth. His chest hurts. His stomach hurts. He feels like he’s been scooped out and rearranged.

 

“I think I’m gonna go out again,” Renjun says. There’s a splatter of rain against the window. Chenle glances back at him and shrugs. 

 

“Don’t forget your flippers,” he says. 

 

Renjun nods, though he’s already not listening.



*



He’s dripping in rainwater when he opens the door of the fifth floor dorm, shirt clinging to his skin, droplets falling off the end of his nose. He hadn’t bothered one of their managers for a ride — he’d caught the subway — and when he’d climbed the steps to the street the sky had opened up, dumping the Han river’s worth of water on his head in the five minutes it took to walk to 127’s apartment building. He’d flooded the elevator, but he doesn’t really care right now. He figures it’s probably penance. One last punishment, for all the stupid things he’s done.

 

It’s okay. He won’t need it anymore. He’s come here to make it right. To face his crimes and receive judgement. He can’t lie — he can’t give himself up. Not anymore.

 

Taeyong is in the kitchen, and when he sees Renjun his eyes go wide. “Oh shit!” he says. “Renjun?”

 

Inside it’s cool, the AC whirr audible, gentle gusts of air like the breath of a lover that causes goosebumps to spring up on his skin. Renjun stands in the entranceway, dripping like a fool while Taeyong runs around grabbing towels and a change of clothes for him.

 

“Sorry,” he says, handing him a white shirt and exercise shorts. “These are probably a bit too big.”

 

“It’s fine,” Renjun says, already peeling off his shirt. “Can I use your hairdryer?”

 

“Yeah, no, that’s fine. It should still be in the bathroom.”

 

When he comes out of the bathroom — wearing clothes which he realises now are not Taeyong’s but Donghyuck’s — Taeyong is sitting at the kitchen table, sketching something with a lot of red and purple that Renjun can’t make head or tails.

 

“Hey,” he says, looking up when he hears the sound of the bathroom door close. He’s still scary. Still so fucking good looking — even with the immense softness his eyes currently carry. “I called him. He was out with Jaehyun, but they’re on their way back now. I figured his clothes would fit you best. He never picks up his laundry, anyway — he won’t miss them.”

 

He’s not sure what it is about it. Maybe the simpleness of the statement. The assumption that Renjun was here for Donghyuck. How it feels to stand in the kitchen of his home wearing his clothes. How water still clings to his skin. How this past year weighs so strangely on his mind. 

 

How this might be his last time to be this close with Donghyuck. 

 

“Renjun?” Taeyong says. He puts down his pencil and shifts in his seat, turning towards him. “Is everything okay?”

 

“It’s fine,” Renjun says. He bites back the tears in the back of his throat, cursing again — because why does he cry so fucking much? Why can’t he be like Chenle — like Jeno. Clear eyed even in the strongest storms. Why does his heart always have to betray him like this? “Can I go into his room?”

 

“Johnny isn’t home,” Taeyong says. Renjun nods. There’s enough unsaid that he gets it.

 

“Thanks, hyung.”

 

“Yeah,” Taeyong says. He’s still staring at him, eyes wide and a slight frown on his face. “Any time.”



*



Donghyuck is beautiful. His hair is slightly messed up from the bucket hat he’d been wearing and there’s flecks of raindrops on the sleeves of his shirt and when he sees Renjun he smiles, something warm and familiar — something only for the two of them. 

 

“Hey,” Donghyuck says. He puts his hat on the bedside table and sits down beside Renjun, swinging his legs up and tilting his head at him. “Missed me that much you had to run through the rain to get here?”

 

Renjun stares at him. For a second, two. Not long in reality, but something that feels like an eternity. He can feel everything stretching between them — feel both of their hearts beating. They’re not touching, but they might as well be. They’ve always run in tandem. They always will, he thinks. 

 

He doesn’t answer. He just brings a hand up to cup Donghyuck’s cheek and presses a kiss to his lips, something lingering and sweet. 

 

Like Donghyuck is the sun and Renjun is caught in his orbit

 

That’s what it is, isn’t it? He’ll always be drawn to him. It’s one of the laws of the universe — etched into his very bones. He can’t help it. Donghyuck is just like that. 

 

"Donghyuck," Renjun starts. He can’t hold it in. He can’t linger here. If he waits too long he might back down — forget all about it, close up the walls of his heart and continue to be besieged. No, he has to do this. "Donghyuck,” he repeats, and his voice shakes. “I'm sorry.”

 

“For what?” Donghyuck says. His eyes glitter and Renjun feels something burst within him, like a wave breaking against the rocks.

 

“I lied to you,” Renjun says, and that’s it. That’s enough for everything else to come, the shout before the avalanche. “I broke our promise and I'm sorry and I didn't know and I know you were afraid of losing me — of losing me the way you lost Mark. But I was so afraid of losing you. And I thought I could take it. I really thought I could. That I could have you and keep it seperate — that I wouldn't fall for you. But I was wrong. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I lied. I should have told you as soon as I knew but — god. Some stupid part of me thought I could have you. And then when you found out — after the concert. God. I thought it was my penance for all the lies I’d told but then you came back but — I don’t know if I can do this anymore. I don’t want to be Mark, but maybe I am. I just can’t keep having you like this without having all of you. ”

 

The rain bursts against the window — an explosion of tiny drum beats like a thousand little feet marching over the glass, setting the rhythm of Renjun’s errant heartbeat. Donghyuck’s eyes go wide and his mouth drops open. 

 

“You—” he starts. “Oh my god, Renjun?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Renjun repeats. He feels so fucking stupid. A stupid boy with too many feelings.

 

“For what?”

 

“For — for falling for you, I guess. For lying to you. I kept sleeping with you and I knew I liked you and some stupid part of me thought I could keep it seperate. That’s why you left me, right? After the Beyond Live?”

 

“Oh my god,” Donghyuck repeats. Another shattering burst of rain, lashing the side of the building. “You're so fucking stupid," he says. 

 

You’re fucking stupid,” Renjun retorts, doing it without thinking. Donghyuck laughs and reaches out to take his hands, and it’s then that Renjun realises that Donghyuck is shaking. The most minute tremor, but Renjun can see it. 

 

“Yeah,” Donghyuck says with a smile. “I am. When I made that promise I was terrified of losing you, Renjun. I still am, to be honest. But things changed. I realised—" he takes a deep breath, shaking his head. He squeezes Renjun's hands, almost to the point of crushing them, and Renjun winces, causing Donghyuck to laugh. "God, sorry. I realised that I didn't want to ruin our friendship but I also realised that this year, in all this time since we kissed. I realised I didn't think of you as a friend anymore. It was something more. And honestly, I scared myself for a while there. I scared myself a lot. The way you looked at me… I realised I was in too deep. That's why I broke it off.” His voice shakes and he swallows, letting out a laugh. “But then I was with 127 and I missed you. Every single day. Every single day I wanted to call you. I got back to the dorm and you were all I could think about. And then when you came back it was like everything fell back into place, but I was still so scared you didn’t feel the same way. That it was only about the sex for you. So yeah, you lied. But so did I."

 

Renjun takes a deep breath — something shaky, something that expands through every part of him, warm and gold, flooding through his chest as the levee breaks. He can see Donghyuck psyching himself up, like a speaker at a podium. Except he’s not speaking to a crowd — he’s not singing in a stadium. It’s just the two of them, and somehow that’s infinitely more terrifying.

 

"I love you," Donghyuck says. It's plain as day. "I can't lose you. I know I'm stupid, and by all rights I should lose you but—" He shrugs. "That's it, I guess."

 

He's beautiful. That's all Renjun can think as he stares at him. He's so fucking beautiful — this boy he's known for so long, this boy who's seared himself across his heart. This boy he's known inside and out — who's torn him to pieces and stitched him together. He'd go to the ends of the Earth to him — chase him through rain and snow. Through the hail and the storms, through the sunlight and the darkness. He'd do anything for him.

 

He loves him.

 

Renjun kisses him. He kisses him and he doesn't even realise he's crying — he doesn't even realise they're his tears until he tastes them on his lips — hot and wet, spilling down his cheeks as the rain thunders down outside. He kisses him with all he can muster, hands shaking, heart thundering, every part of him aglow. It's like the first time again — like the practice room, like the hotel bed in Bangkok. It's sunlight flooding through him, bursting from his pores, starshine and moondust — his best fucking friend in the universe. He's picked up his heart and mended it and he's held him in his arms and as he kisses him he melts into him.

 

When they pull apart he rests their foreheads together. Donghyuck's eyes are wet and full of lights — a galaxy for him to chart.

 

"I love you," Renjun says. He smiles, hiccuping as he sobs. "I have for a very, very long time."

 

Donghyuck laughs, something watery, something brilliant. "Who's the fool now?" he says.

 

"We both are, aren’t we? The pair of us.”

 

Donghyuck kisses him again. His lips are soft and he clutches Renjun like he never wants to lose him — like he never wants to let go. Renjun thinks if he had his way he’d let him.

 

He’d keep him by his side for as long as he’d let him. Until they were both old and grey, all their beauty faded, bodies weak and aging. A lifetime together — still holding hands even after the stage lights went down and the music faded.

 

It doesn't start with Don't Need Your Love. It starts when Renjun meets Donghyuck. It starts in the cafeteria and in the practice room — in their dorm rooms together. There are a thousand places where it starts, really, but what matters is this: Renjun loves Donghyuck, and Donghyuck loves Renjun. What matters is this — there's no end to this story.

 

And here — the two of them in Renjun's room, Donghyuck making a joke about Renjun crying again, Renjun smacking him on the shoulder and cursing at him, bringing his hands up to wipe the tears from his cheeks with his thumbs — he knows, somehow, that it'll all be okay.