Chapter 1: The Gorilla Man
Jiyong is just a boy when he first sees the man with the scary eyebrows. He’s just fallen off his bike and scraped his knee, and now he’s crying wondering why his sister hasn’t come to find him, yet. Big, fat tears roll down his cheeks as blood oozes from the wound.
He sees the man crouching in front of him through the haze of his tears, a little wary at first because he’s not supposed to talk to strangers. The man’s eyes are scary looking, and so are his eyebrows, but then he pulls on his ears and puffs up his cheeks like a gorilla, and Jiyong laughs. The man smiles at the sound, and that smile chases all the scariness away, the scariness of his eyes and the scariness of the blood seeping from Jiyong’s knee. Jiyong decides he likes the man’s dimples.
The man holds out a closed fist toward him, and Jiyong blinks at it. When the man gives him an encouraging look, Jiyong holds up his fist too, and the man bumps them together.
Jiyong whips his head toward the sound of his noona’s voice, and when he looks back again, the man is gone. Dami reaches him and starts fussing over his knee, but Jiyong’s too busy looking for his new friend to care about how much it stings.
“Where’d he go?” Jiyong says.
“Where’d who go?”
“The gorilla man.”
Jiyong looks all around, but he can’t find any sign of him.
Jiyong doesn’t see him again until he’s in elementary school. He’s walking home from school when a couple of his classmates fall into step beside him. Jiyong tenses as they come closer, but he keeps his eyes straight ahead and hopes that if he ignores them, they’ll get bored and leave him alone.
“You’re right,” one boy says to the other. “He is ugly. I didn’t think SM took the ugly ones.”
“He’s just there to be a dancer. They probably figured it would be okay since no one will ever see his face.”
Jiyong feels the urge to lash out rising up inside him, but he keeps his head down and shuffles along. He stumbles in surprise when one of the boys pulls at his jacket.
“Is this a girl’s coat?” The boy grabs hold of Jiyong’s collar so he can get a better look at the embroidery on the lapel. “It is. You’re wearing a girl’s coat.”
Jiyong jerks back, face flushed with embarrassment. “Let go of me!” He stole this jacket from Dami’s closet this morning, and she’ll kill him if anything happens to it.
The boy snickers as he continues to prod and poke, and Jiyong’s face reddens in anger when the two of them start shoving him back and forth between them. “Stop it!”
To Jiyong’s surprise, they stop. He huffs as he tugs his jacket back into place, and then pauses once he realizes the boys aren’t looking at him anymore. They’re staring up over his head, eyes wide. It’s then that Jiyong notices the dark shadow looming over him. He turns around to see what has the boys looking so scared.
A man towers over them, tall and imposing, with the same scary eyebrows Jiyong remembers from when he wrecked his bike. The man narrows his eyes at the other boys, and even Jiyong’s a little afraid of how vicious it makes him look. And then Jiyong hears the man’s voice for the first time.
“Run,” he growls, like the deep rumbling of thunder, and the other boys stumble back before dashing away in fear. The man grins as soon as the boys are gone. Jiyong likes his dimples just as much the second time.
“Don’t worry,” the man says. “One of these days, they’re gonna feel really dumb for being so mean to you.”
Jiyong likes his voice even more than he likes his dimples. “Who are you?”
“Haven’t you guessed, yet? I’m your imaginary friend.”
“There’s no such thing. And if you were imaginary, those other kids wouldn’t have been able to see you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m probably gonna get in trouble for that. I don’t think I’m supposed to let anyone see me but you.”
Jiyong lets that go for the moment. “What’s your name?”
“Seunghyun.” He kneels down to smooth out Jiyong’s rumpled collar. “This jacket looks really pretty on you.”
Seunghyun doesn’t look scary at all, anymore. His eyes are warm and kind, and Jiyong feels his cheeks getting hot without understanding why. He blinks, and Seunghyun is gone.
There’s this new hip hop summer program that teaches kids how to rap, and Jiyong wants to go so bad. He begs and begs until his mom finally agrees, and then he shows up, ready for them to transform him into a rapper.
It’s not that easy, though. The first day doesn’t go very well at all. It’s not that he’s bad, it’s that he’s not that good. And Jiyong’s wants to be good. He wants to be the best.
He shuts himself away in his room when he gets home and wallows in his own self-pity. He listens to his favorite Wu-Tang songs and despairs of ever getting his voice to sound like that.
“Is this pity party just for you, or can anyone join?”
Jiyong’s alone on his bed one moment, and then Seunghyun’s sitting beside him the next. “Go away,” Jiyong tells him.
“Nah, I’m good.” Seunghyun bounces a bit in his seat. “This bed is pretty comfy.”
Jiyong looks away, determined to ignore him if he won’t leave. Seunghyun crops up from time to time, and Jiyong’s given up on trying to figure out why.
“Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
Jiyong stubbornly stays quiet.
“Come on,” Seunghyun cajoles. “I bet I can help.”
Jiyong scoffs. “Not unless you can teach me how to rap.”
Seunghyun’s eyes sparkle. “I might know a thing or two about that.”
“You?” Jiyong gives him a dismissive once-over. This guy doesn’t look like he knows the first thing about rap. If anything, he looks like the lead actor in a drama, with his white dress shirt and tailored slacks, his movie star good looks. He’s probably never even heard of Tupac.
Except then Seunghyun starts beatboxing and breaks out with this really sick flow, and Jiyong’s forced to take back all of his uncharitable thoughts. He’s good, just like Jiyong wants to be, way better than any of the coaches he met today, but then Jiyong figures that makes sense because if he was going to dream up an imaginary friend, he’d surely come up with one who could rap.
Seunghyun coaches him for the rest of the night, on his tone, his vocalization, his gestures, beatboxing tirelessly so Jiyong can practice, and the next day, when Jiyong goes back to wow everyone with what he’s learned, the instructor claps him on the back while the other kids all cheer and fawn over him. Jiyong grins hard enough to split his cheeks open.
When he looks past his new crowd of admirers, he sees Seunghyun leaning casually against the far wall, smiling with something like pride. No one else seems to notice he’s there.
Jiyong’s had crushes before, and he’s long since had his first kiss. But Jinah’s different. She’s beautiful and graceful and everything a girl should be, and she believes him when he says he’s going to be famous one day. They’ve gotten really close this year, and Jiyong likes her.
But she doesn’t like him.
Jiyong sighs. His knees are drawn up to his chest as he sits underneath an overhang waiting for the rain to ease. He looks down at the bouquet he’s still hanging on to, petals drooping under the weight of raindrops. Angrily, he flings it aside.
“Are these for me?” Jiyong looks over to see Seunghyun sitting beside him on the dirty sidewalk, flowers pressed to his nose. “They smell nice.”
Jiyong’s not even surprised to see him anymore. “Why do you always show up when I’m sad?”
“Because that’s when you need me.”
Jiyong used to make Seunghyun pry his problems out of him, but he doesn’t bother anymore. “I just told my friend I like her. She shot me down.”
“I should’ve known better. She has a boyfriend. They’ve been together over a year now. I can’t believe I was stupid enough to think she’d choose me.”
Seunghyun nods like he understands, but Jiyong doesn’t know how he possibly could. Seunghyun’s not even real, and even if he were, he looks like a fucking model. Like he would ever have a problem getting girls.
“There’s not much you can do if she already has a boyfriend,” Seunghyun says.
Jiyong makes a frustrated noise. “I know that. It’s just – he’s so bad for her. He never calls when he says he will, and he almost forgot her birthday. I’d be such a better boyfriend.”
Seunghyun laughs and slings a commiserating arm around Jiyong’s shoulders, surprising him with how solid it feels. “I’m sure you would be.”
How does a figment’s arm feel so real? How does his chest feel so warm? Jiyong hasn’t questioned Seunghyun’s presence in ages; he started cropping up when Jiyong was little enough to take it for granted, and now he’s just there, just another fixture in Jiyong’s life, like his parents or his sister, no matter how impossible he may seem.
But Jiyong considers him now. He can see Seunghyun’s throat bob gently when he swallows, can see the subtle rise and fall of his chest when he breathes, his skin smooth and bronze where it’s exposed by the V of his shirt. Jiyong relaxes into Seunghyun’s side.
“What about you? Do imaginary friends have girlfriends?”
Seunghyun smiles like he has a secret. “Nope.”
Jiyong’s always felt it, the illicit thrill that comes from a cute boy smiling his way. He flirts with it sometimes, just because he can, smiling a bit too sweetly, touch lingering a few seconds too long. But eventually he does more than flirt.
He gives his first blowjob in a dirty stall in the boy’s bathroom, the smell of disinfectant thick in his nose, and afterward, he spits the evidence into the toilet and pulls himself back up to his feet, a tentative smile on his lips. Hojin blushes and averts his gaze, and Jiyong’s smile deepens in something like satisfaction. He leans in for a kiss, but Hojin turns his head to the side before their lips can touch. Jiyong pulls back, frowning.
“Sorry,” Hojin says, “It just feels a little weird after you—”
“Right, sorry.” Jiyong takes a step back to give Hojin some room, rubbing at his mouth self-consciously. “I guess it is kinda gross.”
Hojin nods absently as he does his fly back up.
Jiyong chances a hopeful look. “Do you wanna come over sometime? You could stay the night.”
“Yeah, sure,” Hojin says, cracking open the door so he can check to make sure the bathroom is empty before stepping out. “I’ll get back to you on that.”
Jiyong’s left behind in the stall feeling like one of those girls his hyungs snicker about, the clingy ones who never seem to get the hint. He swallows down the leftover taste of cum and tries not to feel so cheap.
Turns out he’s even more like those girls than he realized. Later that day, he spots Hojin milling about in the hall with his friends. They catch each other’s eyes, and Jiyong smiles and starts to walk over, but Hojin quickly ducks his head and turns away. Jiyong’s smile wilts as he slows to a stop. Embarrassed and hurt, he keeps his head down and keeps on walking.
He hears one of Hojin’s friends whisper as he passes. “I think that guy was staring at you. Do you know him?”
Hojin shrugs. “Not really. He’s from the drama club or something. I think he has a crush on me.”
The others laugh, and Jiyong’s cheeks fill with embarrassed heat as he walks away, steps steady and even so he doesn’t give away that he heard them, but as soon as he rounds the corner, his shoulders fall, and he rushes into the bathroom. He locks himself in the far stall and slumps back against the wall, eyes welling up with humiliated tears. He feels even more pathetic since this is the same fucking bathroom he’d just been in with Hojin.
Warm arms surround him, and Jiyong doesn’t have to open his eyes to know who they belong to. He buries his face in Seunghyun’s chest and clings to him while he cries.
Seunghyun’s hands are both strong and gentle at Jiyong’s back. “Do you want me to kick his ass?”
Jiyong sniffs. “Yes.”
Seunghyun’s quiet for a minute, and then he laughs. “I wasn’t expecting you to say yes to that.”
“Does that mean you’re not gonna?”
Chuckling, Seunghyun wipes the tears from Jiyong’s cheeks. “Don’t cry over him. He’s not worth it.”
Jiyong’s eyes lower down toward the floor. His nose is runny, and his face is all splotchy, and he feels just as pitiful as that day he confessed to Jinah in the rain. “I’m so stupid. I thought he liked me. Why does this keep happening to me? Why doesn’t anyone ever like me back?”
“Probably ‘cause you have horrible taste,” Seunghyun jokes. “Don’t worry, you’ll grow out of it.”
Jiyong tries to pull away because the last thing he wants is to be teased right now, but Seunghyun catches hold of him and keeps him close. “One day, you’re gonna find someone better,” he soothes.
“Better,” Jiyong spits.
“Yes, better. He’ll be good to you, and he’ll do his best to make you happy. And he’ll be way hotter.”
Jiyong’s bottom lip juts out into a pout. “As hot as you?”
“Yeah.” Seunghyun’s mouth crooks. “As hot as me.”
Hojin has a black eye the next day, but he swears up and down he has no idea how he got it.
Seunghyun is such a common name. Jiyong’s met several growing up. He even had a friend back in middle school by that name.
Jiyong bumps into him again by chance. He’s still chubby, just as Jiyong remembers, but his features are much more prominent, so much so that Jiyong can’t help staring at him the entire time they catch up. There’s something niggling at the back of his mind, an elusive thought that scatters each time he tries to catch it, like an answer to a question he’s studied for but is now unable to grasp.
They talk about the underground scene and YG, and Jiyong encourages him to audition because he remembers how good Seunghyun was as a kid. They exchange numbers and part ways, and as Seunghyun’s walking away, Jiyong’s Seunghyun appears. Jiyong doesn’t remember when he started thinking of this Seunghyun as his.
“I like him,” Seunghyun says. “You should keep him around.”
“I’m gonna help him with his demo,” Jiyong responds, and then he gets a good look at his friend and that elusive answer clicks into place. “Wow, you guys look a lot alike. He could be your younger brother.”
Seunghyun’s eyes gleam. “I don’t have a brother.”
Jiyong’s embarrassed at how long it takes him to figure it out. Seunghyun, not the imaginary one, has passed his audition and lost the weight and is now hanging out with Jiyong in their shitty little dorm.
They’re hunkered together on Jiyong’s mattress, music blaring while Jiyong giggles and tries to toss M&Ms into Seunghyun’s mouth. Seunghyun grins each time he catches one, munching happily, and Jiyong’s heart does a strange little flutter at the sight of his dimples. When he gets his phone out to take a picture, Seunghyun tugs on his ears and puffs up his cheeks, and Jiyong’s overcome with déjà vu.
Seunghyun scoots closer to get a look at the picture Jiyong snapped, snickering when he sees how silly he looks. “I look like a gorilla.”
“Yeah,” Jiyong says, voice faint. His heart is pounding like crazy. It’s just a coincidence, right? It has to be a coincidence. The first time he met the other Seunghyun shines brightly in his mind.
Jiyong nearly stumbles getting up from the mattress. “I’ll be right back.” He does his best to act normal as he slips free of the room. The other members are out in the living room, talking and laughing, so he keeps on walking, doesn’t stop till he’s out the front door, out in the cool night air where he can finally breathe. Where he can think.
He’d said they could be brothers. They have the same eyes and the same mouth. The same jaw. But there’s a good ten years separating them.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
The voice comes from behind him, and Jiyong knows that voice. Knows it all too well. It belongs to Seunghyun. To both of them. He can’t believe he didn’t make the connection sooner.
Jiyong slowly turns around. His eyes dart back and forth between Seunghyun’s. The white dress shirt glows almost silver under the streetlights. “How?”
“I guess you finally figured it out.”
“He’s you?” Jiyong asks, just to be sure. Because it still seems too impossible for him to wrap his head around.
“Or I’m him. Whichever.”
“But how? You’re not even real. How did I dream you up before I ever even met you?”
“Life’s funny that way.”
Jiyong wants to choke him because what kind of fucking answer is that? “Would you just tell me?”
“I don’t know, maybe you’re psychic.”
Jiyong snorts. “You’re so useless. Are you really not gonna explain this to me?”
Seunghyun just waggles his eyebrows and grins.
Jiyong can’t remember the last time he was this smitten. With both Seunghyuns if he’s being honest, but since the one is way too old for him and little more than a figment, Jiyong focuses on the other. The younger Seunghyun is handsome and funny and probably the weirdest person he’s ever met, and though he spends more time trying to make Jiyong laugh than he does actually practicing, Jiyong eats it all up. It’s Jiyong’s job as the leader to keep Seunghyun in line, but he lets him get away with murder more often than not.
When Jiyong logs into his Cyworld, he sees that Seunghyun has finally replied to him, something stupid and innocuous – we all know I’m the best dancer YG’s got – but it still makes Jiyong grin hard enough his cheeks ache. He sits there for a good ten minutes drafting reply after reply only to delete each one.
“Someone has a crush.”
Jiyong turns his head to see his Seunghyun lying on the bed, tossing Jiyong’s miniature basketball up into the air. He’s wearing the same white shirt he’s always worn.
“No, I don’t,” Jiyong denies.
“Yes, you do-oo,” Seunghyun sing-songs, still tossing the ball. “You like him.”
“Whatever. So what if I do?”
Seunghyun stops tossing the ball long enough to give Jiyong the most charming smile he’s ever seen. “Then that must mean you like me, too. Since I’m him.”
Jiyong snorts to cover his blush at being caught. “Why would I like you? You’re not even real. And you’re probably old enough to be my dad.”
Seunghyun bolts upright, offended at that. “Am not! I’m only ten years older than you right now. Hardly old enough to be your dad.”
Jiyong snickers. “You’re ancient. I’m gonna start calling you ahjussi.” Seunghyun chucks the ball at Jiyong’s head, and Jiyong ducks it and laughs.
“Ahjussi,” Seunghyun grumbles. He points a finger back at his face. “How many ahjussies do you know with a face like this?”
Jiyong tilts his chin up and smirks. “Just the one.”
“I need another ball to throw at you.”
Jiyong pulls himself up out of his desk chair so he can head over to the bed and soothe Seunghyun’s wounded ego. “Don’t worry, you’re the hottest ahjussi I’ve ever seen.”
“Call me ahjussi one more time and see what happens.”
Jiyong finds himself grinning, eager for Seunghyun to dole out the consequences. “Ahju—”
Seunghyun seizes hold of him before he can even finish the word, tugging him onto the bed and tickling him within an inch of his life. “What was that? I can’t hear you.”
Jiyong’s laughter pours out of him, loud and unrestrained, body squirming under Seunghyun’s fingers in an attempt to get away, but Seunghyun keeps at it, merciless. “Hyung or oppa, those are your choices.”
Jiyong throws his head back, giggling wildly as Seunghyun’s fingers race over his ribs. “Why would I call you oppa?” he pushes out through laugh-bitten breaths.
Seunghyun tickles him all the harder and refrains from telling him what reason there might be. Soon, Jiyong’s crying because he’s laughing so hard, tears streaming down his face, and Seunghyun finally has mercy on him, pulling away so Jiyong can roll onto his side and suck in a much needed breath. Jiyong looks up at Seunghyun with a dopey smile, all wrung out.
“What's it gonna be?” Seunghyun demands. He’s trying to be stern, but Jiyong can see the mischief tugging at his lips.
Like a schoolboy called upon in class, Jiyong answers: "Oppa!"
Something about the response turns Seunghyun's expression wry. “Maybe we should just stick with hyung.”
“What if I like oppa better?” Jiyong teases. He sits up to get a better look at Seunghyun’s face, but by the time he’s fully sitting, Seunghyun has already disappeared. Jiyong looks all around the room, just in case Seunghyun’s moved to another corner, and then slumps when he doesn’t find him.
Once he’s sure Seunghyun isn’t about to show back up, he heads back over to his desk and sinks down in his chair. The other Seunghyun’s message is still open and waiting for Jiyong’s response. Jiyong taps his fingers against the desk, thinking, and then he grins.
He backspaces over the word 'hyung' and types in 'oppa' instead.
The older Seunghyun represents safety and shelter, a warm place for Jiyong to lick his wounds. But Jiyong doesn’t realize how much he depends on that until the day Seunghyun doesn’t come to provide it.
He’s on his way back to the dorm, hands shoved deep in his pockets, when he starts thinking about how different things are going to be once they debut. All these people passing him by on the street, not paying him any mind – one day they’re all going to know who he is. Or so he hopes.
And then he bumps into someone who does know who he is. Seoul is a big place, but not big enough, because Jiyong was sort of hoping he’d never see this particular face again. Hojin is standing there with his mouth twisted in a leer. Jiyong wonders when he started to look so mean.
“Well, now, if it isn’t our Kwon Jiyong.”
Jiyong’s shoulders go rigid. What did he ever see in this guy? He tries to skirt around him, but Hojin blocks his path.
“What’s your hurry? I just wanna catch up. We used to have so much fun together.”
Jiyong’s cheeks flush in remembered humiliation. “Yeah, well, I don’t have time right now. My boyfriend’s waiting on me.” It’s an impulsive lie, a flailing attempt to recoup some meager shred of his dignity, and Hojin sees right through it.
“Boyfriend, huh? Yeah, right.”
Jiyong’s eyes narrow. “Yes, boyfriend.”
“What’s his name?”
“Seunghyun.” It’s the first name that comes to mind.
Jiyong tries to step around him again, but Hojin cuts him off. “What does he look like?”
Jiyong huffs. “He’s hotter than you, and his dick is way bigger. Can I go now?”
When he tries to get away again, Hojin stops him with a sharp grip around his bicep, and Jiyong feels a flash of fear, overshadowed by indignation. “Let go of me.” He tries to jerk away, but Hojin’s grip is firm. Jiyong wishes with everything inside him that his Seunghyun would show up and put this bastard in his place.
Seunghyun does show up, but it’s the wrong one. Not the confident man who always makes Jiyong feel so safe, but the gentle boy who still hasn’t figured out how to pick his dirty clothes up off the floor. He’ll have to do, though.
“Hyung!” Jiyong gives him his sweetest smile. Hojin’s grip loosens at Seunghyun’s appearance, and Jiyong takes the opportunity to break away completely, bounding over to Seunghyun to drape himself along his arm. “Hyung, this is Hojin. We went to school together.”
Seunghyun gives Hojin a polite smile. “Hey. I’m Seunghyun.”
“My boyfriend,” Jiyong adds pointedly, and for all of Seunghyun’s faults, he does a surprisingly good job not reacting to that. Jiyong twirls a finger in a lock of Seunghyun’s hair as he addresses Hojin, “Didn’t I tell you he was hot?”
“Whatever,” Hojin mutters and finally stalks away.
Jiyong lets go of Seunghyun once Hojin is out of sight. “Thanks,” he says.
“No problem. That your ex?”
Jiyong’s stomach does a nervous flip. It’s not that it’s some big secret anymore, his preference for boys; he just never really talks about it because it tends to make people uncomfortable. But Seunghyun doesn’t look uncomfortable or disgusted or any of the things Jiyong’s learned to expect, just vaguely curious, like he’s asking about an ex-girlfriend instead of some asshole Jiyong used to jerk off between classes.
“Sort of,” Jiyong admits. “Not really, though. He’s a dick.”
They fall into step together, a wordless agreement to continue on home. Jiyong feels good walking beside him, content. Not protected the way he does with the other Seunghyun, but still settled somehow.
When they’re nearing the building, Jiyong asks him, “Does it bother you?”
“Does what bother me?”
“Me telling him you’re my boyfriend.”
“Nah.” Seunghyun bumps his shoulder against Jiyong’s. “It was kinda nice. No one’s ever wanted to show me off before.”
Jiyong looks over at him and sees all the scars those words unwittingly unveiled. Seunghyun lets out a laugh, but it’s a breath too late, the damage already done; Jiyong’s already seen the thing he wasn’t supposed to see. He forgets, sometimes, how hard things must’ve been on Seunghyun, that his insecurities didn’t fall away along with the weight.
“If you were my boyfriend, I’d show you off to everyone,” Jiyong says. It comes out a touch too earnest, on the wrong side of desperate, but it makes Seunghyun smile, and Jiyong figures that’s worth any embarrassment. “Seriously,” he says. “You’d never hear the end of it.”
Seunghyun grins and knocks their shoulders together again.
Later that night, once Jiyong finally retires to his room, he sees the other Seunghyun waiting for him, tossing around that same little basketball from before.
Jiyong kicks at one of the shiny loafers that’s dangling over the edge of the bed. “Yah. Where were you today? I needed you.”
Seunghyun kicks him back. “I was there.”
“Why didn’t you step in?”
“Sometimes you have to let Junior play a few rounds. Make sure he knows how.”
Jiyong doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say to that so he focuses on something he does have a comment for. “Why don’t you ever change your shirt?”
Seunghyun looks down at the crisp white shirt he’s wearing. “What’s wrong with it? It’s a nice shirt.”
“Yeah, but not nice enough to wear every single day. Don’t you own anything else?”
“Does it look like I own anything else? I’m an imaginary friend, not an imaginary clothes hoarder.” Seunghyun tosses the ball into the air. “You should’ve imagined me with more shirts.”
Jiyong plops down next to him on the bed. He can smell Seunghyun’s cologne clinging to the white fabric of his shirt, warmed by the heat of his skin. “I guess this one’s not so bad.”
Chapter 2: You and Me
“You’ll see,” Jiyong says. “It’s gonna be you and me.”
When Hyunsuk first mentions the words ‘idol group,’ Jiyong feels angry and betrayed. He’s been working his ass off at this company for six years. The last thing he wants is to be one of those painted robots who sings the same recycled songs over and over again.
He storms out of Hyunsuk’s office as soon as he’s dismissed and doesn’t talk to anyone but Youngbae for days. Youngbae is just as disappointed as he is, though he’s far less vocal about it. They’ve both been working for this for so long, but now they’re stuck in a group they never wanted to be in with a bunch of newbies who only have a fraction of their training. To be idols of all fucking things.
Jiyong even stays away from Seunghyun, but not for the same reasons he stays away from everyone else. He’s not bitter about him being there the way he is about, say, Little Seunghyun – and really, there are enough Seunghyuns in Jiyong’s life; he doesn’t need a third. Especially not one who just got here but already thinks he knows everything.
No, Jiyong keeps his distance because he’s embarrassed. He can’t even meet Seunghyun’s eye. Jiyong brought him into this company with the promise of authenticity and artistic freedom, gushing about how great it would be, how they’d collab one day and make something truly special. But now they’re going to be remodeled to fit some candy-coated image, square pegs shaved to fit round holes, and Jiyong feels horrible about it. This was never supposed to be Seunghyun’s fate.
The next morning, he’s up way earlier than he has to be, down in the practice room hitting the choreo as hard as he can to blow off steam. His blood pumps with each stomp of the bass, frustrations boiling just under his skin. When the verse bridges into the chorus, Jiyong drops toward the floor for this new move they just learned, but then his foot slips and he cracks his elbow against the tile, and the next thing he knows, he’s spread-eagled on the floor, chest heaving as he blinks up at the ceiling. Hissing, he rubs at his elbow. That’s going to leave a nasty bruise.
“Want me to kiss it better?”
Jiyong tilts his head back to see Seunghyun peering down at him. Dressed in his usual slacks and loafers, he looks completely out of place.
Jiyong accepts Seunghyun’s hand when he offers it, rolling up off the floor and dusting off his pants. When he looks back up, he sees the way Seunghyun is watching him and immediately averts his gaze. He feels just as guilty looking at this Seunghyun as he does the other.
“What are you doing here?” Jiyong asks.
“You tell me.”
Jiyong sighs. It’s useless trying to hide things from Seunghyun. “I don’t want to be an idol. And I don’t want you to have to be one, either. The other you.”
“Ah. Is that all?”
“Is that all?” Jiyong repeats in disbelief. Doesn’t Seunghyun get that this is the worst thing that’s ever happened? “This is a disaster.”
Seunghyun grins a little, the way Jiyong’s mom sometimes does when he’s making a big deal out of nothing, when he’s throwing a fit and all she can do is smile, “teenagers,” muttered under her breath. It makes Jiyong want to sit in a corner and sulk.
“It’s not that bad,” Seunghyun tells him. “I know it seems that way now, but you’ll see. This is a good thing.”
Jiyong snorts. “Yeah, right.”
“I’m serious. Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions, and it winds up being the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”
“What would you know? You’re not even real.”
“I know more than you think.”
Jiyong shakes his head, sullen. Be that as it may, he still doesn’t see how anything good could possibly come from this. “No one’s gonna take me seriously.”
“So make them.”
Seunghyun takes hold of Jiyong’s shoulders and turns him gently to face the mirror. “Look,” he says, but Jiyong doesn’t know what he’s supposed to see. His eyes are too small, and his nostrils are too big, and every time he smiles, he worries about his teeth. He feels even more homely dwarfed by Seunghyun, with his perfect face and chiseled jaw, not a single hair out of place.
But then their eyes meet in the mirror, and the light breaks through the clouds, and Jiyong learns what it is to see himself through someone else’s eyes.
“You have no idea,” Seunghyun whispers, a soft spell against his ear. “The things you’ll do. What you’ll become. You’re gonna be more than you ever dreamed.”
A shiver runs through him at the low rumble of Seunghyun’s voice, at the sound of promises falling like prophecies. Seunghyun’s chest is warm against his back.
Jiyong stares at their reflection in fascination, at the picture they make. Seunghyun is tall and broad behind him, hands curled around the delicate bones of Jiyong’s shoulders, and for the first time, Jiyong revels in how small he is. His shadow disappears completely within the outline of Seunghyun’s, but the last thing he feels is invisible.
“What about you?” Jiyong asks, breathless.
“I’ll be right there with you.”
The older Seunghyun is gone by the time the younger one arrives. All the other trainees shuffle into the room for another grueling day of practice. They give Jiyong a wide berth, the way they have all week, and Jiyong knows that’s his fault.
While they wait for their instructor to arrive, they stretch and warm up, Jiyong by himself, a space away from the group. It’s not long before Seunghyun gets restless and bored; he’s never been one to sit still.
It starts with a moonwalk, or what Seunghyun tries to pass off as one. He has a sucker in his mouth and a smile about his lips, feet gliding to an unheard beat. And then he breaks out of that so he can take off toward the mirrors, strutting like a model on the catwalk. “I’ve changed my mind,” he calls back. “I was born to be an idol.”
Hyunseung falls against Daesung, cackling, while Youngbae and Little Seunghyun clutch at each other and laugh. Jiyong watches it all from his own lonely corner of the room.
Jaewook-hyung comes in right in the middle of Seunghyun’s hip thrust, and the other boys all hop to attention and scurry to their spots. A beat late, Seunghyun gives Jaewook a sheepish smile before falling into formation.
Jaewook shakes his head at Seunghyun. “If only you worked as hard on your dancing as you do clowning around.”
“We should all play to our strengths,” Seunghyun jokes, but then zips his lips when Jaewook doesn’t look amused. He tucks in his chin and doesn’t say anything more while Jaewook begins their lesson.
The music starts, and Jiyong starts counting in his head. He loves dancing. He loves the freedom of it and the challenge it offers, a goal he can work toward with results he can see. And he loves the way he feels once he’s done, wrung out and sweaty with euphoria, satisfied with a day’s hard work.
Seunghyun doesn’t share in his love. Most of the time, Jiyong’s focused on himself, on his own training and progress, but it’s no secret Seunghyun is struggling. Jiyong notices it even more today. There’s an added pressure now that Hyunsuk has declared his intentions for them: a group to be selected at the end of a survival competition. Meaning not all of them will make it. If Seunghyun can’t figure out how to improve his dancing, he’ll be the one left out in the cold.
It doesn’t look like he’s going to figure out anything today, though. Seunghyun makes mistake after mistake, his expression crumbling each time Jaewook berates him for it. When he botches the entire first chorus, Jaewook huffs and cuts off the music.
“What are you doing?” he scolds. “How many times do we have to go over this before you get it?”
Seunghyun presses his lips together, shoulders drooping toward the floor.
“It’s step, step, hit,” Jaewook demonstrates. “How are you ever gonna make it in this group if you can’t remember something so basic?”
Seunghyun folds even further in on himself. He doesn’t say a word.
Jaewook lets out a frustrated sigh before starting the music over from the beginning. “Again.”
Jiyong’s distracted for the rest of practice. It doesn’t show since he knows all the moves by heart, but a peek into his brain would show that all his focus is on Seunghyun. He’s never wanted to hug someone so badly in his life.
When they break for lunch, everyone heads for the cafeteria, but once they get there, Jiyong realizes they lost Seunghyun somewhere along the way. After a moment’s deliberation, he sets his empty tray back on the stack and heads out to find him.
It doesn’t take long. Jiyong opens the door to the back alley and sees Seunghyun sitting there, a cigarette turning to ash between his fingers.
“Aren’t you gonna smoke that?”
Seunghyun looks down like he’d forgotten all about it, flicks the ashes and takes another drag. Jiyong scuffs his toe. He’s not sure if his presence is welcome.
“I’m sorry for being such a bastard lately,” Jiyong says after a moment. “I was never upset about being in a group with you. It’s just – you know how annoying the maknae is, and that Daesung kid…why is he always smiling like that? It’s weird.” Jiyong tries for a laugh, but the sound trails off awkwardly when Seunghyun doesn’t so much as crack a smile.
Seunghyun stubs his cigarette out on the sidewalk. “Don’t worry about it. At the rate I’m going, you won’t have to worry about having me in the group anyway.”
Jiyong’s heart gives an awful lurch. At the start of this day, he would’ve done anything to get out of this group, but now he can’t imagine being part of anything else, much less being part of it without Seunghyun. Seunghyun is the one good thing about this whole turn of events.
“Don’t talk like that. You’re gonna make it.” Jiyong slides down into the space beside his hyung. He thinks about all the times he’s been on the other side of this, hopeless and hurt, in need of his Seunghyun to come along and pull him back up on his feet. It’s his turn to return the favor.
“You’ll see,” Jiyong says. “It’s gonna be you and me.”
Seunghyun looks over at him, doubtful. “How? I can’t even dance.”
“Then it’s a good thing I can.” Jiyong nudges their shoulders together. “I’ll help you. Besides, Hyunsuk-hyung needs you.”
“Me?” Seunghyun boggles. “Why would he need me?”
Grinning, Jiyong pinches Seunghyun’s cheek. “‘Cause you’re the only one of us handsome enough to be the visual.”
Seunghyun shakes him off, but he’s smiling as he does it. He looks almost shy. They’re quiet for a while, just enjoying each other’s company. Jiyong props his chin on his knees and lets the wind flutter his hair.
“What changed your mind?” Seunghyun finally asks. “About the whole idol thing.”
Jiyong shrugs before answering him truthfully. “You.”
Seunghyun’s birthday is coming up, and Jiyong has no idea what to get him. Or rather, he has no idea what to get him with what little money he has. He wishes he would hurry up and get famous so he could stop being so broke. They’ve recently debuted and started the rounds on music shows, but Jiyong’s still waiting to earn that first big check.
He wanders from store to store and thumbs through hoodie after hoodie, but all the ones he’s interested in are a bit too expensive, and Jiyong doesn’t want to settle on just anything. He wants it to be special. He wants to see Seunghyun’s eyes light up when he gives it to him.
He’s on his way to the music store to look at headphones when something in a nearby shop window makes him do a double-take. The older Seunghyun is standing on the other side of the glass, like a mannequin on display. He grins when Jiyong spots him and holds out his upturned fist, thumb and forefinger overlapped in a hand signal Jiyong’s never seen before.
Curious, Jiyong heads into the store. It’s a little boutique filled with trinkets and antiques, large oil paintings and quirky furniture sets. There’s a heavy armoire to the left of the entrance and a shelf full of baubles to the right. Seunghyun beckons him over to one of the chairs on display in the window.
“You should get him this,” he says, eyebrows waggling as his finger strokes along the low, wooden back. “Sexy.”
Jiyong stares down at the chair, unimpressed. “What would he do with a moldy old chair?”
Seunghyun slaps his hands over the sides of it like he might do a set of ears. “Don’t listen to him,” he coos. “He hasn’t learned to appreciate you, yet.”
Jiyong doesn’t even know what he’s supposed to say to that. Seunghyun is so weird. “Do I need to leave you two alone?”
“No need. We don’t mind if you join us.” Seunghyun skirts around the chair so he can ease into its cushioned seat. Then he hooks his foot on the leg of its twin and drags it closer to him. “Have a seat,” he gestures.
After a cursory look around, Jiyong does as he says. There’s an employee at the back of the shop, but she’s not paying him any mind. As he settles himself in the chair, he suddenly remembers the hand gesture from before. “What does this mean?” he asks, holding up his hand in a rough estimation of the hand signal Seunghyun had made in the window.
Leaning forward, Seunghyun adjusts Jiyong’s fingers. “It’s a little heart,” he says, outlining the shape.
Oh. Jiyong can see it, now. “Why are you making hearts at people?” he teases.
“Not people,” Seunghyun corrects. “Just you.”
The sudden warmth in his chest takes Jiyong by surprise. He ducks his head, smiling. When he chances a look up through his lashes, he sees that Seunghyun is smiling, too. Watching him and smiling, like Jiyong’s just done something fascinating. He looks like he’d be more than happy to spend the whole day watching Jiyong fidget in his seat.
And fidget, he does. Jiyong starts to chew on the side of his nail before forcing himself to stop. He rocks back and forth in his seat instead, and Seunghyun’s smile deepens.
Jiyong cracks before Seunghyun does. “Why are you looking at me like that?” he laughs.
Seunghyun’s smirk comes lazy and sure. “No reason.” He’s lounged back in his chair with one leg crossed casually over the other, looking like a dark prince from a storybook. His shirt is open just enough for Jiyong to see the notch at the base of his throat.
Jiyong has always known Seunghyun is handsome, and he’s always been drawn to him, even when he was just a boy. But this is the first time he acknowledges his desire for what it is. He has the sudden, crazy image of himself crawling into Seunghyun’s lap and messing up his perfect hair, an image he shakes away before it can take root. Because it’s ridiculous. Seunghyun isn’t even real, and even if he was, what would someone like that want with Jiyong?
Jiyong rubs at the side of his nose as he tries to steer himself back into known waters. “I still don’t know what to get him,” he says.
“I already gave you my vote,” Seunghyun says, fingers curling around the arms of his chair.
Jiyong rolls his eyes. “I’m not getting him a chair. That thing’s probably overpriced anyway. You know, sometimes I can’t believe you two are supposed to be the same person.”
Seunghyun shrugs. “People change as they get older.”
Jiyong guesses that makes sense, but it’s still hard for him to reconcile the differences. The younger Seunghyun is the embodiment of rebellious youth with his snapbacks and hoodies and his disregard for any kind of authority. Jiyong doesn’t understand how that boy would ever trade in his high tops for a pair of loafers.
But then again, the older Seunghyun is just a product of his imagination so maybe those changes are because of Jiyong. Maybe Jiyong has a kink for older men in dress shirts and his Seunghyun is just a reflection of that.
Jiyong decides he might as well just ask. Maybe Seunghyun will give him a clearer answer this time. “Why do you dress like that? I can’t imagine the other you wearing anything like that.”
Seunghyun looks down at his clothes. “Why? Do you not like it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“So you do like it.”
“I didn’t say that, either.”
Seunghyun pouts. “Well, which is it? My ego is fragile.”
Jiyong would believe it if the younger Seunghyun had said it, but this man looks completely at ease in his own skin. “Somehow I doubt that,” Jiyong tells him. Seunghyun gives him another one of those fond looks, and Jiyong’s forced to look away all over again.
“Thanks, by the way,” Seunghyun eventually says. “For helping the other me. It meant a lot to him.”
Jiyong shrugs him off, still somewhat self-conscious from all the attention. “It’s nothing you haven’t done for me.”
“Still. Thank you.”
Jiyong’s about to respond when he’s interrupted by the employee finally coming over to see if he needs help with anything. “No, thanks,” he says. “We’re just—”
He cuts off when he realizes Seunghyun is no longer beside him. The other chair is empty, no sign it was ever occupied at all. Jiyong flushes at what he must look like, sitting in a window display carrying on a conversation all by himself.
“Sorry,” he tells the women, hopping out of his seat. “I was just testing it out.” He gives her a deep bow before hurrying out of the store.
Jiyong doesn’t find a suitable present for Seunghyun that day. Instead, he goes home and wastes his whole night scouring the internet. He even calls Dami to ask if he can borrow some money thinking he’ll be able to find something if he can just increase his price range, but he gives up on that when she refuses to do it without him explaining why he needs it first. Jiyong’s not about to tell her he wants it for a boy. She teases him enough as it is.
Finally, he comes up with an idea. He just hopes it goes over well.
When Seunghyun’s birthday rolls around, Jiyong gives him his present in private. Seunghyun opens it slowly, like he doesn’t want to damage the wrapping paper any more than he has to. Jiyong watches each pluck of Seunghyun fingers. He bounces on the balls of his feet, nervous.
The paper falls away in one taped together piece, and Seunghyun is left holding the notebook within, one of the nice ones with heavy, sepia-colored paper. There’s a likeness of Seunghyun on the cover that Jiyong drew himself, with a handsome set of eyebrows and a microphone in his hands, T.O.P written in block letters over his head.
Seunghyun cracks open the notebook and thumbs through the pages, all blank except for the little doodles Jiyong drew in the corners, things like music notes and boom boxes, the occasional encouraging message. Something different for every page.
“It’s for your raps,” Jiyong says, and then rushes to explain, “Sorry, I didn’t have much money. I’ll get you something better next year, okay?”
Seunghyun stares down at it, dumb. He’s holding it like it’s the most precious thing anyone has ever given him. “No, I – this is perfect. No one’s ever—” His voice is thick in his throat. “Thank you.”
It’s just the reaction Jiyong wanted. A smile tears its way across his face. “You’re welcome.”
Somewhere along the way, Jiyong decides it’s destiny, him and Seunghyun. A love story for the ages. What other explanation is there? A version of Seunghyun exists just for Jiyong, a version he conjured up long before he met the real deal. He just has to wait until the real life Seunghyun figures it out, too.
One night, they’re holed up in Seunghyun’s room listening to music, backs propped up against the wall next to the bed. Seunghyun flicks his ashes into the ashtray he has balanced on his tummy, and Jiyong watches as the smoke curls into the air.
“Youngbae’s gonna be so mad when he finds out you were smoking inside again.”
“He’ll get over it.”
“Can I bum one?”
“Last one,” Seunghyun says, offering it up so they can share.
Jiyong plucks the cigarette from Seunghyun’s fingers before taking a deep drag, his lips pressing where Seunghyun’s lips just were. An indirect kiss, he thinks to himself, and then shakes his head at where his thoughts have taken him. He passes the cigarette back once he’s done, smoke trailing.
“Do you believe in destiny?” Jiyong suddenly asks.
Seunghyun shrugs. “Not really.”
“So us randomly bumping into each other again, becoming part of the same group…you think that was just coincidence?”
“Not coincidence. Just…really good fortune.”
“What about soulmates? Do you believe in those?”
Seunghyun takes another puff of the cigarette, the tip flaring a hot orange as he inhales. “Never really thought about it. You?”
“Maybe? It’s a nice idea, don’t you think? That there’s someone out there just for you?”
“Yeah. I guess that sounds pretty nice.”
Their fingers brush when Seunghyun passes the cigarette back over to him, just the faintest whisper of skin on skin. Jiyong bites down on his lip as he tries to ignore the feeling it sparks inside him. “Who do you think it would be?” he asks, carefully. “If you had one.”
“Who do I think my soulmate would be?”
Seunghyun’s dimples show when he grins. “Lee Hyori.”
Jiyong snorts. “Not her. Someone you actually have a shot with.”
“I don’t know. I’d say my ex-girlfriend, but that obviously didn’t work out. I guess I haven’t met mine, yet. I mean, if I had, we’d be together now, right?”
Seunghyun’s words hurt more than Jiyong thought they would. “Right.”
He feigns being tired soon after that so he has an excuse to get away. So he can go lick his wounds. The other Seunghyun is already waiting for him in his room.
Jiyong looks away when he sees him, embarrassed. “Go away.” Seunghyun doesn’t feel much like shelter right now.
“I’m sorry. He’s not ready, yet.”
“You said I had bad taste. Guess I haven’t grown out of it, yet.”
Seunghyun winces. “You just need to be patient.”
“Patient?” Jiyong repeats, incredulous. “Why should I? Does he even like me?”
Seunghyun’s silence is all the answer Jiyong needs. Jiyong nods his head as he looks up toward the ceiling, lips pressed in a tight line as he fights the ridiculous urge to cry. “Right. Got it.”
He tries to slip by Seunghyun, and Seunghyun sighs. “Jiyong,” he says, stopping him. “It’s complicated.”
“What’s so complicated about liking someone?” Jiyong huffs. “He either does or he doesn’t. Simple as that.”
“But it’s not simple. Not everyone is as brave as you. Not everyone can admit what they want the way you can.”
Jiyong’s never thought of the other Seunghyun as a coward. His bandmate does what he wants, when he wants; he drinks too much and likes what he likes and never asks anyone’s permission for any of it. Why would this be any different?
“What about you?” Jiyong rounds on this Seunghyun. “Do you like me?”
Seunghyun’s lips part. He stares down at Jiyong, frozen, and Jiyong can feel his heart crumbling with each second his hyung doesn’t answer, can feel the pain of it long before it registers on his face. He thinks maybe Seunghyun can feel it too, because the next thing he knows, Seunghyun lets out a curse and gathers Jiyong’s face in his hands.
“I love you,” he says, solemn enough to suck the air right out of Jiyong’s lungs. It throws him for a loop, knocks him into the deep end of the pool before he’s even learned to swim, heart pounding as he tries to stay afloat.
“I love you,” Seunghyun whispers again. “And someday he’s gonna love you, too.”
He disappears before Jiyong can remember how to breathe.
Chapter 3: What Is and What Should Never Be
“You’re not my imaginary friend, are you?”
Chapter title is shamelessly stolen from the Led Zeppelin song. Because I love them.
I love you.
The memory of those words keeps Jiyong up at night. His heart bursts with warmth every time he replays them in his mind.
I love you. And someday he’s gonna love you, too.
It’s the last thought he has before he falls asleep, and the first thought he has the moment he wakes up. And it’s the only thought he has when he sees the younger Seunghyun that day. His hyung grins at him over breakfast, and Jiyong’s heart clatters through its next few beats, and he wonders. Is there any truth to what his Seunghyun had said? Can an imaginary friend even love? Or is that just another product of Jiyong’s imagination?
But wait. Is Seunghyun an imaginary friend? Is that for sure what he is? That’s what he says, but it wouldn’t be the first time his Seunghyun has kept something from him. He left Jiyong to figure out the resemblance between him and the other Seunghyun all on his own.
The more Jiyong thinks about it, the less it makes sense. Whatever Seunghyun says, Jiyong isn’t psychic. He doesn’t think he is, anyway. Yet there Seunghyun is, the spitting image of the younger one, with a few more years under his belt. He knows things he shouldn’t know, things he would only know if he had lived them.
Jiyong looks at the younger Seunghyun over his bowl of steamed rice. “Did you ever have an imaginary friend?”
Seunghyun pauses with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. “I think I once had a pet elephant. She was invisible to everyone but me.”
“Do you still see her sometimes?”
“No?” Seunghyun gives him an odd look. “Why? Are you seeing things?”
Jiyong sucks in his bottom lip and considers telling him the truth, but when he opens his mouth to try, he realizes how completely insane it’ll sound so he covers the start of his explanation with a laugh. “Nah,” Jiyong says. “I’m just messing with you.”
Jiyong can’t think of anything else until he sees his Seunghyun again. It takes a few days though, and during that time, Jiyong thinks about what’s going on, thinks about it in a way he’s never really thought about it before, because Seunghyun has always been a staple in his life, protecting him, comforting him, and Jiyong’s long given up on questioning it. But there are things that don’t add up and questions that need to be asked, and Jiyong thinks it’s time he finally starts asking them.
He gazes around his empty bedroom and hopes Seunghyun will hear him. “You’re not my imaginary friend, are you.”
A beat later, Seunghyun appears, like Jiyong flicked a switch and summoned him into being. Or maybe he was there all along, hiding in the wings, waiting for his cue.
“Sure, I am,” Seunghyun says. “What else would I be?”
That nagging feeling inside Jiyong intensifies. “If not that, then what are you? Some kind of guardian angel?”
Seunghyun snorts. “I’m not an angel.”
“Then what? You disappear and reappear whenever you want. No one can see you but me. Not unless you want them to. And you don’t age. You look exactly the same as the first day I met you.”
“They’ve made remarkable strides in Botox,” Seunghyun jokes.
“This isn’t a joke. Are you some kind of superhero? An alien?”
Seunghyun’s laughter bubbles out of him. “Are you even hearing yourself?”
“Don’t act like I’m crazy,” Jiyong snaps. “Just tell me what’s going on. You once said I dreamt you up ‘cause I’m psychic, but you’re the one who keeps talking about the future. You said someday Seunghyun’s gonna love me. How do you know? What makes you think that? Why do you look just like him?”
“I didn’t realize I was gonna be interrogated today. Maybe I should’ve eaten first.”
“Do you eat?” Jiyong’s never seen him eat. Or drink, or sleep. Where does Seunghyun go when he’s not here? What does he do when he’s not with Jiyong? Why is he always in that same fucking white shirt? “You told me I should’ve imagined you with more shirts, but I didn’t have anything to do with that, did I?”
Seunghyun looks down at the shirt he’s wearing, still as white and fresh as the day Jiyong met him. There’s something mercurial about his eyes. “No. I guess not.”
Jiyong can feel Seunghyun retreating, folding inward at the onslaught of questions. He’ll never get his answers if Seunghyun clams up now. “Please,” he says. “Just tell me who you are.”
Seunghyun’s quiet for so long that Jiyong despairs of ever getting an explanation, but then he shifts where he stands and a burden slides free of his shoulders. He gives Jiyong a helpless look. “I already told you, Jiyong. I’m him. We’re the same person. I’m him, ten years down the road. Or nine years now? I don’t know, it’s hard to keep track.”
“So what, you’re a time traveler?” Jiyong would say it’s impossible except everything about Seunghyun is already impossible.
Seunghyun cracks a humorless grin. “That’s me. A magical Marty McFly sent here to fix things.”
“What things? What needs to be fixed?”
Seunghyun’s jaw tightens, an unreadable expression on his face, and dread wells up in Jiyong’s gut. He thinks about how protective Seunghyun is, how he always shows up when Jiyong cries, as if it’s his sole reason for being. His bottom lip nearly quivers. “Does something happen to me?”
Something flickers in Seunghyun’s eyes, gone before Jiyong can discern it, and then he reaches out so he can brush his thumb along the soft curve of Jiyong’s face. “I’d never let anything happen to you.”
Jiyong can see a world of meaning in Seunghyun’s eyes, but what he can’t see is whether or not it’s a lie.
“If you’re a time traveler, how come you’re invisible? To everyone but me, I mean.”
“You’d be surprised how much technology advances over the next few years. I wasn’t kidding about the Botox thing.”
Jiyong gives him an unimpressed look. Why is Seunghyun being so cagey about this? It’s a simple question.
When Jiyong’s still not satisfied, Seunghyun lets out an exasperated sigh followed by a fond little chuckle. His eyes turn warm as he reels a wooden Jiyong into his arms. “Look, I’ve said all I can. I wasn’t even supposed to say this much. I’m not allowed to get too involved, okay? Can you just trust me on this?”
Trust him? How can Jiyong trust him when all Seunghyun does is distort the truth and pretend to be one thing when he’s really another? How can Jiyong believe a word he says when he has a history of lying? Except, whatever the truth, it doesn’t change the fact that Seunghyun is here. That he’s always been here, looking out for Jiyong, acting as his shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t change the hundreds of ways he’s made Jiyong’s life worth living.
Jiyong presses his face against the soft material of Seunghyun’s shirt. “Yeah. I can do that.” The familiar blend of cologne and tobacco fills his nose. “Do we really get together in the future?”
Seunghyun chuckles. “What don’t you get about ‘I’ve said all I can’?”
“Just tell me this one thing,” Jiyong coaxes. Seunghyun laughs again, and Jiyong lets himself enjoy the quiet, rumbling sound.
“Yeah,” Seunghyun gives in. “We get together.”
Jiyong watches his bandmate more closely after that. For signs. For any hint that his feelings are developing into what they’re sure to become. Seunghyun’s hand brushes against his as he passes him a cigarette, and Jiyong spends the rest of the day trying to figure out whether or not it was intentional. If the older Seunghyun thought giving Jiyong this insight into their future would settle the need inside him, he was vastly mistaken. If anything, Jiyong feels it even more now, like a dying man brought to the river and not allowed to drink.
One day, he and the younger version are huddled together on his bed, a B2K album looped in the background. Seunghyun bounces up and down in his seat, testing the give of the mattress. “Why is your bed so much more comfortable than mine? I’m sleeping here from now on.”
“No way,” Jiyong says. “I’m not giving up my bed.”
“Who said anything about giving it up? I don’t mind sharing.”
Jiyong laughs, his cheeks suddenly warm. “You want us to share a bed? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Why not? You afraid you won’t be able to keep your hands off me?”
Jiyong’s heart flips at the crooked grin on Seunghyun’s lips. Is this flirting? Is Seunghyun flirting with him right now?
“What if I can’t? You’ve gotten even hotter recently. I might not be able to help myself.”
Seunghyun rubs his palm teasingly over the top of Jiyong’s thigh. Jiyong’s eyes flick from Seunghyun’s hand up to his eyes, trying to interpret the gesture.
“Just be gentle with me,” Seunghyun says. “I’m delicate.”
Jiyong gives Seunghyun a playful swat to the shoulder, fingers lingering longer than what's strictly necessary.
“So,” Seunghyun begins after a while, “I have this dilemma.”
“What kind of a dilemma?”
“There’s someone I wanna ask out, but I’m not sure how to do it? I suck at this kind of thing.”
Seunghyun’s arm is warm against Jiyong’s. Jiyong chooses his words carefully, heart thumping against the inside of his ribcage. “You should just do it. It’s not like this person would turn you down.”
“Are you sure about that?” Seunghyun catches his eye, and Jiyong hopes he never looks away.
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
Seunghyun gives Jiyong the tiniest of smiles, followed by a nod, and then he pulls himself up off the bed. Jiyong goes dizzy at the abrupt change. “Where are you going?”
“I’m following your advice. I’m gonna go ask her out. Thanks, Jiyong. You’re a good friend.”
Jiyong’s heart drops as Seunghyun heads for the door.
The next few weeks are some of the roughest of Jiyong’s young life, which is saying something considering how grueling his years as a trainee were. He has to watch as Seunghyun slips in and out of the dorm to meet this new girl in his life, and what makes it worse, Seunghyun constantly wants to talk about it. He asks Jiyong’s advice on where to take her, what she might like, and makes him try on bracelet after bracelet at the mall so he can decide which one to get her. Jiyong's wrist is just delicate enough to pass for a girl's.
He endures it all with a slump to his shoulders and a hitch in his chest. It’s just temporary, he tells himself. It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. Seunghyun’s future self isn’t showing up in her room professing his love.
But then the day comes when Jiyong’s forced to endure too damn much. Seunghyun and his new girlfriend have a date that night, and right before Seunghyun heads out to meet her, he ducks into Jiyong’s room to make a quick request.
Jiyong looks up from the lyrics he’s scribbling and sees Seunghyun shuffling awkwardly in the doorway. “What’s up, Hyung?”
“Hey, um, do you have any condoms? I forgot to ask Manager-hyung to get me some.”
Jiyong tries to breathe around the sudden ache in his chest. “No,” he lies. “I’m all out.” He’s not about to facilitate Seunghyun having sex with someone else.
“Oh, okay. Thanks anyway.”
As soon as Seunghyun closes the door behind him, Jiyong rips out the page in his notebook and crumples it up. He tosses his stupid lovelorn lyrics into the trash on his way over to lock the door, as if doing so will somehow lock Seunghyun out of both his room and his heart. He presses his forehead against the door as the hurt expands and cracks at his ribs.
His eyes fall shut at the sound of his name. The lock might work for the younger Seunghyun, but it’s useless against the other. “Go away.”
“Jiyong, please look at me.”
Jiyong keeps his nose stubbornly toward the door, hot tears threatening to slide over his cheeks. “Just leave. I don’t wanna see you right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Seunghyun says, helpless. “I told you he wasn’t ready.”
Jiyong whips around and shoves an accusing finger against Seunghyun’s chest. “But you didn’t tell me he was about to get a fucking girlfriend! A little warning would’ve been nice!”
Seunghyun’s eyes flicker with sympathy. “I’m not supposed to tell you about the future. You know that.”
Jiyong’s chin trembles. “You were supposed to be different. You said I’d meet someone better. Someone who’d be good to me and make me happy. What bullshit. All you do is hurt me, just like everyone else.”
The effect it has on Seunghyun is devastating. He wavers under the blow. “Don’t say that.”
“Why not? It’s true. All you do is string me along! You don’t give a shit about me!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“He asked me for a condom,” Jiyong snaps. “So he can fuck her. He’s gonna come home in the morning and tell me all about how great it was. How fucking special. And I’ll just have to sit there and take it. I’ll have to listen while he tells me all the goddamn details.” Jiyong jerks his head back when Seunghyun tries to touch him. “It’s not fair. He’s supposed to be mine.”
“He will be,” Seunghyun tries to soothe. “I told you, you just have to be patient.”
“I’m sick of being patient!” Jiyong explodes. “I want you now.” His chest heaves up and down to the angry rhythm of his heart, breaths coming sharp and fast, the scent of Seunghyun’s cologne dragging in with each one, rich like a drug. Jiyong’s gaze dips from Seunghyun’s eyes to his mouth, his beautiful, perfect mouth, and then he pushes up on his toes to capture it.
Seunghyun lets Jiyong kiss him for one brief, delicious moment before pulling back. “What are you doing?”
“You said you love me.”
“Then prove it.”
Jiyong rips his shirt up over his head, spurred on by the hysterical need to push this thing between them further, to play with the fire crackling at his fingertips. The other Seunghyun is out of his reach, but this one is right here, close enough for Jiyong to feel his heat. He’s never considered this a real possibility, not with this Seunghyun – too old, too handsome, too far out of Jiyong’s league – but now he pushes for it anyway, reckless in the face of too much rejection. He lets his shirt fall to the floor, and Seunghyun’s gaze falls along with it.
“This is a bad idea,” Seunghyun says, but his eyes land heavily on Jiyong’s skin, drinking him in. Jiyong feels a dark thrill at the thought that Seunghyun just might give in.
“Don’t you want me?”
Seunghyun gives him an aching look. “You’re so young.”
That’s not the answer Jiyong wants. He doesn’t want Seunghyun to see the boy behind the bravado, both eager and nervous to bite off more than he can chew, doesn’t want him to spot the way he’s quaking in his knee socks. So he pushes down his nervousness and presses his body deliberately against Seunghyun’s, nipples pebbling against the scratch of a white polyester blend.
“I’m old enough,” he whispers.
Seunghyun’s eyes darken the closer Jiyong comes. “Jiyong,” he warns.
“Don’t say no,” Jiyong says. His fingers curl into Seunghyun’s shirt, determined to hang on till his hyung makes him let go.
Seunghyun’s a stone beneath his hands, unmoving, muscles coiled in tight restraint. Jiyong can see the war going on behind his eyes, and he revels in it, half-crazed with the knowledge that this man is struggling over him.
This man. Not a boy like the other Seunghyun, still fumbling to find his way. But a full grown man with laugh lines by his eyes and confidence in his hands and a way of looking at Jiyong that devours him from the inside out.
“Hyung,” Jiyong pleads, and Seunghyun’s nostrils flare. Jiyong says it again, a needy whisper just below Seunghyun’s lips, the invisible string between them winding tighter and tighter with each pit-a-pat of their hearts. Something passes through Seunghyun’s eyes, a sort of longing that ties Jiyong’s stomach up in knots, and then the string snaps.
“Fuck it,” Seunghyun mutters, and crashes their mouths together. Jiyong bows back under the weight of Seunghyun’s frame, groaning at the onslaught, hands scrabbling to undo Seunghyun’s buttons before his hyung can change his mind about this. It takes him three tries to pop open the first one, fingers trembling as he works his way through the rest, and then he parts the curtain of Seunghyun’s shirt.
He expects this Seunghyun to be as shy as the other one, to guard his body from roving eyes, but he sheds his shirt easily, and once Jiyong gets his hands on him, he understands why. He breaks away from Seunghyun’s mouth to look at the spread of muscle under his hands, the upraised pecs and hard-won abs, the sharp V of his hips. He’s fucking perfect.
“This is what you’ve been hiding all this time?”
Seunghyun chuckles, pleased. “Not all this time. It took some effort to get here.” He’s broader than the other Seunghyun, taller, on the other side of a growth spurt his counterpart has yet to have. Different than the boys Jiyong’s fooled around with, for sure. Jiyong trails his eyes down to the front of Seunghyun’s pants and wonders if he’s more grown up there, too.
Seunghyun’s eyes soften at what he perceives as hesitance. “We don’t have to do this. You can back out.”
Jiyong quickly shakes his head, afraid that Seunghyun might take the decision out of his hands and put a stop to this. “No. I want to.”
“I’m going to fuck you,” Seunghyun says, blunt and harsh. “You get that, right?”
Jiyong can see what Seunghyun’s doing, trying to intimidate him into backing down, but whatever fear he feels is lost to the shiver that runs through him at Seunghyun’s words. He tilts his chin up defiantly. “Good. I want you to.”
When Seunghyun doesn’t immediately relent, Jiyong rolls his eyes. “You act like I’ve never done this before.”
It’s little more than a bluff. While Jiyong has done this, it was just the once and hardly anything to write home about, just a drunken hookup at a party with a boy his own age, a boy who entered too fast and came too soon and left Jiyong with no idea what all the fuss was about. Seunghyun’s look says he knows this all too well, but he doesn’t call Jiyong out on it.
“So we’re doing this,” Seunghyun says, just to be sure, and Jiyong nods his head just before Seunghyun descends upon him, mouth slanting over his to kiss him hard and deep. Jiyong melts in Seunghyun’s arms as he offers himself up.
Kissing Seunghyun is like swallowing a piece of the sun, searing his tongue before burning him up from within. Jiyong gasps into the hollow of Seunghyun’s mouth, and Seunghyun drinks up the sound. He doesn’t realize how much he’s writhing about until Seunghyun drags him up against his body to make him be still, but that only works for a second because the moment he feels the hard outline of Seunghyun’s erection, he’s grinding against it and whining for more.
“So eager,” Seunghyun murmurs. His hand slides into the back of Jiyong’s shorts so he can rub his middle finger in between his cheeks. “You want it that much?”
Jiyong can’t form the words necessary to answer; he just tugs Seunghyun’s mouth back down to his to let that do the talking for him. Seunghyun rubs at him more insistently, and Jiyong keens, knees nearly giving out. Seunghyun takes that as his cue to start walking him back toward the bed.
Jiyong finds himself pushed down onto the mattress, large hands splayed over his calves. “Cute,” Seunghyun says when he sees the pink stripes around the cuffs of his socks. Jiyong blushes a little as his hyung pulls them free. He hears the soft sound of them hitting the floor before Seunghyun moves on to his shorts. Jiyong bites down on his lip when Seunghyun hooks his fingers into the waistband, all sorts of nervous thoughts swirling in his head – is he too pudgy, too gangly, does Seunghyun like what he sees at all? – because maybe Seunghyun’s not the only one who goes through a transformation in the future.
But Seunghyun seems to hear those questions without them being asked, and he answers them all with a hot sweep of his gaze. “You’re beautiful,” he whispers, and Jiyong squeezes his eyes shut in response. Beautiful. Not handsome but beautiful. It hits him exactly right. He pushes his hips up off the bed so Seunghyun can drag the rest of his clothes down his legs.
Jiyong starts to roll over onto his stomach to get into position when Seunghyun stops him with a gentle hand on his hip. “Not yet,” he whispers. “Your first time must not have been very good if you think that’s how this is supposed to go.”
Jiyong flushes at that. “It was fine.”
“If you say so.”
Seunghyun pushes him back down against the mattress and fumbles around in the nightstand until he comes up with a bottle of lube. Jiyong doesn’t ask him how he knew it would be there. He watches as Seunghyun warms a generous amount in his palm while using his other hand to fold Jiyong’s leg back against his chest, spreading him open. Jiyong’s cheeks turn pink at the way it exposes him.
Lowering himself down on his elbows, Seunghyun rubs his cheek against the length of Jiyong’s erection before placing a kiss there. “Remember when you asked about calling me oppa?” He sucks a gentle bruise into the skin at the soft juncture of Jiyong’s thigh. “Now would be a good time.”
Jiyong’s mouth rounds into a soundless oh as Seunghyun takes him in his mouth. “Fuck,” he breathes, tossing back his head, hands fisting into the sheets. His heart beats fast as a hummingbird’s wings as Seunghyun swallows him down, eyes clamping shut only to snap right back open when his hyung first breaches him with his finger. He blinks up at the ceiling, unseeing, as Seunghyun eases it in past the second knuckle.
It feels strange, foreign and intrusive and somehow too thick and not nearly thick enough, but Jiyong barely has any time to dwell on it before Seunghyun’s curling the digit up into this delicious spot inside him. Jiyong gasps and thrusts up into Seunghyun’s mouth. Seunghyun answers him with an approving hum, that deep voice of his rumbling over Jiyong’s cock, making him shudder.
Seunghyun pulls off him, his chuckle dark and sweet. “Feel good?” He looks smug, like he already knows the answer. Jiyong can’t be bothered, though. He just nods his head, struck dumb.
Seunghyun gets back to work suckling Jiyong’s cock, the flat of his tongue stroking along the vein on the underside of it. Jiyong watches with wide eyes as Seunghyun’s head bobs over him. Seunghyun’s finger curls up again, and Jiyong’s hips curl up along with it.
“Please,” he whines, and Seunghyun adds another. It’s a tighter fit than just one, and Jiyong feels it, feels it all the way up in his throat and down in his toes, but Seunghyun’s mouth on his cock keeps him from registering it as discomfort, and then Seunghyun finds that sensitive spot again, and that keeps Jiyong from registering anything at all.
He feels Seunghyun’s fingers stroking inside him and stretching him open, and he experiences it all through a half-delirious haze of pleasure, a single coherent thought in his mind: this is nothing like the other time he did this.
Seunghyun pulls his mouth away just as Jiyong thinks he might come. “Yeah,” he mutters to himself. “That should do.”
His fingers retreat just like his mouth, and Jiyong whimpers at the loss. He feels so empty now, unbearably empty, inner muscles clamping down on nothing. When Seunghyun moves even further away, Jiyong nearly protests, but then he sees the reason for it: Seunghyun’s hands on his belt, undoing the buckle.
Jiyong’s throat bobs as Seunghyun shucks his pants, and he nearly falls apart altogether when Seunghyun peels off his underwear after that. Seunghyun’s cock is heavy between his thighs, bobbing under its own weight, and Jiyong swallows at the sight of it, unsure how it’s supposed to fit.
“You still wanna do this?” Seunghyun rumbles, and Jiyong’s eyes snap up to his. He nods his head.
Jiyong’s eyes widen when Seunghyun manhandles his hips up off the bed so he can shove a pillow underneath them. “What are you—”
Seunghyun shushes him. “I wanna see your face.”
Liquid heat coats the inside of his gut. He shivers at the dark look in Seunghyun’s eyes, and when Seunghyun starts to move over him, his heart clatters to a halt.
“Don’t we need a condom?” he asks, more to stall than anything. He needs a minute to get himself back under control, to quiet his frazzled nerves. Everything’s moving so fast.
Seunghyun pauses like he hadn’t thought of that, hunched halfway over Jiyong’s naked form. “Your call,” he says. “I haven’t slept with anyone else in years.”
Those nerves turn into satisfied tendrils, possessive and smug. Seunghyun’s been faithful to him for years. Jiyong lets his thighs fall the rest of the way open and welcomes him in. His heart pounds as Seunghyun takes him up on the invitation, settling over his upturned hips and making a home for himself there. Jiyong feels tiny beneath him, and young, so very young, like a boy in his father’s suit, leaving the kiddie table for the first time.
“Relax,” Seunghyun says. “I’m gonna make you feel so good.”
Jiyong believes him, and as nervous as he is, his anticipation is all the sweeter for it, bare legs sliding against Seunghyun’s sides, eager to draw him in. Seunghyun kisses him then, mouth opening against his so their tongues can twine together, hot and sensual. Jiyong feels Seunghyun shift against him, a slight retreat of his hips, and then he’s pushing back in, feeding his cock into Jiyong’s body bit by aching bit. Jiyong moans around Seunghyun’s tongue as the pressure threatens to split him open.
His breath seizes up inside him as Seunghyun continues to push, bearing down on him till he’s all the way inside, pelvis flush with Jiyong’s ass. Jiyong tears his mouth away, panting, eyes darting between Seunghyun’s in flushed bewilderment. They’re actually doing this. Seunghyun is inside him, hot and pulsing and thick.
Seunghyun drops his head into the crook of Jiyong’s shoulder so he can nuzzle there. “I love you,” he whispers, and Jiyong feels like he could cry. “I’ll go slow, okay?”
Jiyong slides his hands under Seunghyun’s arms and over his back, curling around him in approval, hips tipping up when Seunghyun starts grinding into him, slow and gentle, just like he promised. Seunghyun feels just as good as he looks, shoulders broad and solid under Jiyong’s hands, his back one slick curve. Jiyong’s eyes fall shut as Seunghyun rocks into him, the bedsprings creaking with each careful thrust.
Seunghyun breathes hot against Jiyong’s throat. “This okay?”
“Yeah,” Jiyong pants as he clutches harder at Seunghyun’s back, fingers digging indentations into the flesh. He draws his legs up higher around Seunghyun’s waist as they move together, the burn of it growing and radiating out, but it’s the delicious kind, the kind he hopes will endure long after the last of him is consumed. Jiyong bucks up on a particularly well-aimed thrust, and Seunghyun rewards him for it with a kiss.
Groaning against Seunghyun’s mouth, he whispers, “Hyung,” and then tentatively corrects himself, “Oppa.” He flushes the moment it’s out of his mouth, heat unfurling low in his belly, thick with arousal. Seunghyun catches the word on Jiyong’s tongue, delving in so he can lap up the remaining traces of it.
“So much for not getting involved,” Seunghyun says, but Jiyong’s thoughts are breaking apart faster than they can form, and he can’t even begin to think about what that might mean.
Seunghyun’s thrusts are almost lazy. He pulls almost the entire way out before slowly pushing back in, one hand pinning Jiyong’s stuttering hips to the pillow to control the pace.
“I’m a bad man,” he mutters and kisses Jiyong’s cheek. Jiyong twists uselessly against the mattress.
It seems to last forever, this torturous ebb and flow. Jiyong lives and dies with each thrust. He aches when Seunghyun’s cock retreats and aches even more when it pushes back in. And Seunghyun watches it all, their faces so close together they might as well be kissing, so close they are kissing. Seunghyun’s lips drag over his in a mirror of what the rest of their bodies are doing, and Jiyong sighs.
And that’s when it hits him. He’s in love with Seunghyun. With this Seunghyun. The thought comes to him like a crash of lighting, fully formed and irrefutable. He’s completely and whole-heartedly in love with him. Probably has been for years.
“Hyung,” he whispers, but Seunghyun shushes him with a kiss.
Soon, Jiyong’s thighs are trembling against Seunghyun’s sides, muscles burning, but Seunghyun’s movements are still slow and languid, no sign of becoming anything but. Jiyong suddenly grows frantic with it. He undulates against the press of Seunghyun’s hand, a harried plea for him to go faster, harder, anything as long as it’s more. The gentle thrusts were welcome before, but now they’re maddening, like an itch under Jiyong’s skin he desperately needs to scratch.
“Please,” Jiyong tries again. “I need—”
Except he doesn’t know what he needs, wouldn’t know how to ask for it even if he did, but Seunghyun seems to understand where Jiyong doesn’t, his hips falling into a new rhythm that drives Jiyong out of his mind with lust.
“Oh god.” He clings even harder as Seunghyun fucks him, ankles locked tight over the swell of his ass, face buried in the crook of Seunghyun’s neck to keep himself from crying out any louder than he already has.
Jiyong writhes beneath him, baring his throat when he feels Seunghyun’s lips there, hissing when he feels Seunghyun’s teeth. It’s all so overwhelming. The heated puffs against his skin, the give and take of their bodies, slick with sweat. The eyebrows Jiyong used to think were so scary, furrowed in concentration. And Seunghyun’s cock, his thick beautiful cock, pumping in and out of him with almost religious fervor.
And Jiyong’s own cock, straining between them, desperate for attention. He tries to slip his hand between them to relieve the ache, but Seunghyun catches him before he can so much as brush his fingers over the tip. He presses Jiyong’s hand into the mattress beside his head and holds it there.
Squirming in protest, Jiyong pleads, “Please. I need to—” The need to touch himself is unbearable now.
“You will,” Seunghyun pants, sweat beading above his lip from all the exertion. “But not like that.”
Jiyong’s about to protest again when Seunghyun snaps his hips forward and the whole world breaks apart into tiny little stars. His mouth falls open as Seunghyun keeps going, driving into him with frenzied slaps of his pelvis, a calculated exploitation of the throbbing pressure inside him. Seunghyun seeks out his mouth again, but the kisses are little more than shared breaths, lips grazing together without ever fully meeting. Jiyong clamps his eyes shut when it gets to be too much, consumed by the pleasure of Seunghyun’s body rolling into his.
“Come on,” Seunghyun coaxes as he thrusts. “You can do it. I know you can.”
The squeak of the bedsprings is frantic now. Jiyong’s legs fasten harder around Seunghyun’s waist, his whole body tensing up, muscles bunching so tight they just might snap. Seunghyun’s full weight is on him, driving him down into the bed.
When it happens, it takes him by surprise, a pleasure deeper than he’s ever known crashing through his entire body. He scrabbles at Seunghyun’s back as it rocks through him, mouth caught open on a soundless gasp. Seunghyun clutches at him just as hard, gathering him to his chest as his hips stutter and break.
Jiyong’s heart keeps pounding long after his body stops trembling. He comes back to himself eventually, led by the sound of soft whispers in his hair, words like 'beautiful' and 'baby' calling him home.
“What was that?” he asks, breathless.
Seunghyun smirks down at him, unbelievably smug. “Prostate orgasm.”
Jiyong blinks a bit as he takes that in. “Do it again.”
Seunghyun snickers against his cheek.
Jiyong starts to untwine his legs from Seunghyun’s waist – he’s sticky and worn out and already starting to feel tomorrow’s aches – but Seunghyun stops him from retreating too far.
“Wait,” he breathes.
Jiyong goes still at the urgency in his voice. Seunghyun’s eyes bore down into his, open and raw, with enough intensity to power an entire sea of lights. Jiyong swallows in the face of it, out of his depth. When Seunghyun starts to lean in, Jiyong tilts his mouth up for a kiss, but Seunghyun presses their foreheads together instead, and it’s somehow the most intimate thing that’s transpired between them this night.
“I wanna steal you away,” Seunghyun whispers, wistful as a twilight breeze. The thought rolls unbidden through Jiyong’s mind - what did you come back to fix? – but the same dread from before keeps him from asking a second time.
“Then do it,” Jiyong says, instead.
Seunghyun sighs into the space between their lips. “You’re not meant for me. You’re meant for him.”
Jiyong would scoff if the mood was anything but what it is. He’s tired of always chasing after people. He wants someone else to be the devoted one for a change, and who could possibly be more devoted than the man in his arms? The one who shows up to soothe Jiyong’s every hurt?
“I don’t even want him anymore,” Jiyong says. “I want you.”
Seunghyun pulls back, with his body and his heart. “You’re not meant to do that, either.” He’s already fading along the edges.
“Stay,” Jiyong whispers, fingers digging in.
Seunghyun’s eyes turn sad. “I wish I could.”
Jiyong closes his eyes as Seunghyun brushes one last kiss over his brow, and when he opens them again, his hyung is gone. He sits up and sees that Seunghyun’s discarded clothes have disappeared along with him. Jiyong falls back against the bed, alone.
Chapter 4: Junior
Jiyong wakes up the next morning with the acute feeling that something is missing, like the faded magic of a concert just after its close.
Wow, it's been so long. I normally don't take this long between updates, but I've been traveling for Bigbang concerts, and then I had to come back home and catch up on the work I'd neglected while doing said traveling. I've just now been able to sit down and write again. Sorry for the wait, but not too sorry because I finally got to meet so many amazing people irl, and Jiyong gave me his towel so yeah.
Jiyong wakes up the next morning with the acute feeling that something is missing, like the faded magic of a concert just after its close. There’s not a cloud in the sky, but the sun is barely shining.
He looks around his room, at his rumpled sheets and underwear on the floor, evidence of an ordinary one night stand, not the world-altering experience he’d had last night. He can see the bottle of lube still sitting on the nightstand, but what he can’t see is Seunghyun. He’s nowhere to be found; even his scent has faded from Jiyong’s sheets.
Although the world feels empty, Jiyong’s heart is full. It’s bursting with warmth and light and the memory of Seunghyun’s hands thrumming against his skin. He closes his eyes just so he can relive it in his mind.
Last night was perfect. So perfect Jiyong can’t quite believe it happened. He and Seunghyun made love. There’s no other name for it. Seunghyun held him in his arms and made love to him, and Jiyong’s heart is fluttering like mad just thinking about it.
The only problem is he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do now. How is he supposed to get up and go about his day? How can he possibly live with such a secret inside him? He’s been changed. Fundamentally and irreparably changed. He’s not the same person he was before Seunghyun took him to bed. He feels awake for the first time, like Seunghyun reached deep inside him and stoked the fires to life. He doesn’t know how to turn his eyes from that now that they’ve been opened.
Despite all that, Jiyong does eventually get up. He has responsibilities and a schedule to keep, and those mundanities draw him out of bed. Wincing, he pulls on his shorts. He can still feel the sensation of Seunghyun inside him and all the soreness that comes with it. He puts his hands on his hips and gives his aching back a much needed stretch and then shuffles out to the bathroom. What he wouldn’t give for a shower.
The bathroom is locked when he tries the knob, so Jiyong waits for its occupant to finish. He hears the flush of the toilet followed by the sound of water rushing from the tap, and then the door opens. The younger Seunghyun steps out, and Jiyong freezes at the sight of him.
Seunghyun looks him over from head to foot, eyes narrowing, and Jiyong shifts awkwardly under his scrutiny. He can only imagine how he must look right now.
Clearing his throat, he asks, “Hey, Hyung, did you have a good night?” It feels like a lifetime has passed since this Seunghyun came to his room in search of condoms.
Seunghyun’s eyes zone in somewhere around Jiyong’s throat, and Jiyong remembers the way the other Seunghyun’s teeth had scraped there.
“Not as good as yours,” Seunghyun says pointedly.
“So who’s the lucky guy?” Seunghyun asks him.
“No one,” Jiyong says. He starts to chew on the side of his nail before realizing how guilty that makes him look. He forces his hand back down to his side.
“It was someone. Did he already leave?”
“Why are you so interested?”
“Just curious. Is it someone I know?”
“Does it matter?”
“I guess not. You’ve just never brought anyone back to the dorm before.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a first time for everything.” Jiyong tries to skirt by him to get to the bathroom, but a subtle movement from Seunghyun blocks his path. What is this? An interrogation?
“He must be pretty special then,” Seunghyun says. “Why won’t you tell me about him?”
Jiyong laughs a little, exasperation bleeding through the cracks. “Fine, whatever. He’s about ten years older than me and probably the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. Satisfied?”
Seunghyun frowns. “You always say I’m the hottest guy you’ve ever seen.”
Jiyong flicks him on the cheek. “What’s the matter? Jealous?”
Seunghyun rubs his hand over the place Jiyong just touched. “Are you sure you wanna be messing around with someone that much older than you?”
“After the sex I just had? Trust me, I’m sure.”
Jiyong sashays past him feeling like he’s just won something.
He spends the whole day with his head up in the clouds. He’s a professional so he manages to keep it together in front of the cameras, but the moment he’s tucked back away in the company van, his thoughts are right back on the night before, Seunghyun’s naked body draped over him in bed, their fingers interlaced. Jiyong can still feel the warm press of Seunghyun’s palm.
“Are you seeing that guy again tonight?” the younger Seunghyun asks, and Jiyong startles for a moment because that’s the exact same voice he remembers from last night. I’m going to fuck you, Seunghyun had said. The words slip down Jiyong’s spine as heat rushes up into his cheeks.
“I don’t know,” he says. He never knows when his Seunghyun will show up. “Maybe.”
“Well, if you don’t, let me know. I thought maybe we could see a movie or something.”
“Aren’t you busy with your girlfriend?”
A slight shrug. “One night apart won’t kill her.”
Jiyong picks at the cuticle along the side of his nail. It feels weird to agree to this. It feels weird to hang out with this Seunghyun after having sex with the other. He’s having trouble keeping the two men separate in his head. This Seunghyun is sitting there waiting for a response, mouth slightly parted, and all Jiyong can think about is how he knows what that mouth feels like on his cock, knows the shape it makes at the height of pleasure. He knows what Seunghyun sounds like when he comes.
Jiyong tears his eyes away from Seunghyun’s mouth. He told the older Seunghyun that he no longer wanted the younger, and some stubborn part of him is determined to stick to that.
“Yeah,” he says, albeit hesitantly. “I’ll let you know.”
He’s not intending to say yes. He’s hoping he won’t have to. He’s hoping he’ll find his Seunghyun waiting for him when he gets home rendering the whole thing moot. But his room is just as empty as it was that morning, the light slating through the window just as dull.
“Hyung?” Jiyong tries, but if Seunghyun is listening, he’s not answering.
Instead of a movie, they wind up at the club. Jiyong doesn’t really feel up to going, but a bunch of their friends are already there, and he doesn’t have anything better to do. Nothing besides sitting alone in his room, waiting on someone who may or may not show up, though he might as well have stayed home for how lively he’s being. The music is blaring around their table, bodies writhing in a chaotic mass just two short meters away. Soohyuk laughs at something Seungho says, but the sound barely registers; Jiyong’s too distracted by his own thoughts. He runs his thumb over the label of his beer, watching as the corner peels back and curls.
A slight movement from his left draws his attention. Seunghyun’s hand wraps around the neck of his beer before bringing it up to his lips. His head tilts back along with the bottle, throat working as he swallows, and Jiyong’s mouth goes dry. He’s suddenly back inside last night, flushed and straining, his face buried against that same throat, warm and slick with sweat—
Jiyong snaps back to himself at the sound of his name. Seunghyun is staring at him, caught somewhere between amused and exasperated. No telling how long he was trying to get Jiyong’s attention.
“Sorry,” Jiyong says, looking away to hide his blush. “I zoned out there for a minute.”
“Daydreaming about your sugar daddy?”
Soohyuk’s ears perk up at that. “Sugar daddy?”
Jiyong rolls his eyes. “He’s not my sugar daddy.”
But Soohyuk ignores him, focusing on Seunghyun instead. “Tell us more.”
“Yeah,” Seungho pitches in, eyes gleaming, “tell us.”
Seunghyun doesn’t even give the pretense of being apologetic before selling Jiyong out. “He just hooked up with some ahjussi. In our dorm, of all places.”
Jiyong nearly chokes at the word ahjussi, remembering how offended his Seunghyun got when Jiyong was the one who called him that. He’s probably off somewhere sulking as they speak.
“He’s not that old,” Jiyong says. “He’s only like ten years older than me.” Or nine, whatever. Seunghyun never did give him an exact number.
Soohyuk lets out a low whistle as Seungho gazes at him in something like pride.
“Our baby’s all grown up,” Seungho says, pretending to wipe away a tear.
“What was it like?” The question comes from Soohyuk.
Jiyong tamps down a smile, hiding his shyness behind a slow pull from his beer. “It was alright,” he says, and Soohyuk stares at him, keeps staring until Jiyong finally laughs and gives up the goods. “Fine, whatever, it was amazing. What they say about wine is true, you know. It really does get better with age.”
Soohyuk and Seungho snicker and laugh, tossing up their hands for a round of high fives, and Jiyong hangs his head before slowly obliging, feigning reluctance when deep down he’s reveling in all the attention. He’s never been able to talk about his Seunghyun to anyone, but now he finally has the chance.
“Ever had a prostate orgasm?” he says, just to egg them on. “If not, you’re missing out…”
Soohyuk and Seungho launch into an eager barrage of questions, and Jiyong grins while he tries to answer them: Yes, it was better than a regular orgasm. No, his partner didn’t have to touch his cock at all.
He’s in the middle of an answer about fingering when a sudden comment from Seunghyun sucks all the fun away.
“Am I the only one who thinks this is creepy? What’s a grown man doing messing around with some kid?”
Jiyong feels like he’s just been slapped. “I’m not a kid,” he snaps. “And since when have you been so judgmental about age gaps? All your girlfriends have been older than you.”
“Yeah, but not that much older. I just don’t get it. You keep talking about how great he is; the hottest guy you’ve ever seen, right? So then why isn’t he with someone his own age? What does he want with—”
Seunghyun abruptly cuts off, but the damage is already done. Soohyuk and Seungho share a look on the other side of the table.
“With me,” Jiyong finishes, heart sinking like lead. “Right, ‘cause what would someone like that possibly see in me.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Save it.” Jiyong shoves away from the table, the legs of his chair screeching across the floor. “I’ll see you guys later."
When he gets home, he storms into his room and throws himself onto the bed. He lets out a loud, frustrated groan, the sound just barely muffled by his pillow. He stays like that for ages, waiting. He stays like that until he realizes what he’s waiting for.
His Seunghyun. This is his cue. Jiyong’s alone and upset, which is usually right when Seunghyun decides to show up. Jiyong lifts his head up from the pillow and peers around, but the space next to him is empty. He’s still all by himself.
“Where are you?”
He nearly drops his head back down to the pillow when something small and orange catches his eye. The tiny little basketball Seunghyun likes to play with is lying there on the floor. Jiyong scoops it up and cuddles it up under his chin. It’s only been a day, but Jiyong misses him horribly.
He closes his eyes and conjures up Seunghyun’s face. The older one, with the faint lines at the corners of his eyes, the white dress shirt stretched across his chest. If he tries hard enough, he can almost smell the scent of cologne and cigarettes.
He knows Seunghyun said they’re not meant for each other, but in this moment, Jiyong can’t see how he could ever be meant for anyone else.
Jiyong keeps waiting for his Seunghyun to pop up again, but weeks go by without even a glimpse. He tells himself that Seunghyun would be with him if he could, that maybe he just fixed whatever he’s been trying to fix and is now back in his own time. That doesn’t stop Jiyong from looking for him everywhere he goes, though. On every sidewalk, on every stage, he looks out into the crowd and hopes to see Seunghyun’s face.
He even tries to draw him out with a fake bout of tears. It doesn’t work, though. Jiyong’s left alone with splotchy eyes and a cutting board covered with chopped up onions. It was a stupid idea, now that he thinks about it.
The younger Seunghyun walks in just as Jiyong is cleaning up the mess. “Are you okay?” he asks, seeing Jiyong’s red-rimmed eyes. Jiyong gestures at the chunks of onion in answer, and Seunghyun’s brows shoot up. “You’re cooking?” Everyone knows Jiyong doesn’t cook.
“I thought I’d give it a try,” Jiyong lies. “I don’t think it’s working out very well.” He sniffs a little and wipes the back of his hand over his eyes. When he looks up again, he sees the way Seunghyun’s own eyes have softened, and Jiyong’s lip trembles. It’s the wrong Seunghyun looking at him like that, and for some irrational reason, it pushes him over the edge. He covers his face with his hands as his tears become real.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Seunghyun approaches him cautiously, as if Jiyong’s a baby deer about to spook. He looks even more horrified about what’s happening than Jiyong is.
Jiyong rubs at his eyes, frustrated with himself. Why the fuck is he crying?
“Hey,” Seunghyun soothes, hands hovering over Jiyong’s shoulders like he’s not sure where he’s supposed to touch. “What’s going on?”
What’s he even supposed to say to that? I’m in love with your future self, and we slept together, and now I don’t know where he is? There’s no way he can say any of that.
“I can’t cook,” Jiyong blubbers, instead.
“It’s okay.” Seunghyun pats lightly at Jiyong’s shoulders. “That’s what moms are for.”
Jiyong chokes on a laugh. He pulls away, shaking his head, his secret lodged high in his throat. Seunghyun is watching him with wide eyes. Jiyong doesn’t know who wants to bolt more, him or Seunghyun.
“I’m fine,” Jiyong says, grabbing a paper towel to blot at his eyes. “Sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Do you want a hug?”
Snickering into the paper towel, Jiyong finishes dabbing at his nose before tossing the wadded up ball into the trash. He and Seunghyun have been on shaky ground ever since that night at the club, but Jiyong figures it’s time to put that behind them. “Sure.”
Seunghyun smiles a little, the barest tug at the corner of his mouth, and then he slides his arms around Jiyong’s waist, and though they're not as strong as they will be in the future, they’re just as warm, and Jiyong finds himself relaxing within their hold.
“I’m sorry about what I said that night,” Seunghyun eventually says. “I really didn’t mean it like that. Of course he’d like you. Anyone would.”
Except you, Jiyong thinks bitterly.
Seunghyun goes on, “I was just worried about you, that’s all. You’re young, and…” his hand waves behind Jiyong’s back as he tries to come up with the proper word, “pretty. A lot of guys might try to take advantage.”
Jiyong snorts into the worn fabric of Seunghyun’s hoodie. “He wasn’t taking advantage. I seduced him.”
Seunghyun is quiet at that. His hands flatten reflexively over Jiyong’s back. “Are you gonna see him again?”
“I dunno. I’m beginning to think it was just a one-time thing.” His heart aches at never being with his Seunghyun again even as it pounds at being so close to this one.
“Sorry,” Seunghyun murmurs, “that it didn’t work out.”
“Yeah.” Jiyong doesn’t know what else to say to that so he doesn’t say anything. He breathes in and thinks, Marlboros. That’s what this Seunghyun smokes. That’s what his Seunghyun smells like. Jiyong’s never made the connection till just now.
And then Seunghyun’s earlier words catch up to his ears. “Do you really think I’m pretty?”
“Shut up,” Seunghyun says, pulling away so he can flick Jiyong on the nose. “Don’t let it go to your head.”
Jiyong does the math, sometimes. If his Seunghyun is ten years older than him, that means he’s from the year 2016. Nine years makes it 2015. The clock starts ticking down in Jiyong’s head.
But then, Seunghyun also said that he hadn’t slept with anyone else in years so that puts them getting together before then. But how long before? Two years, three years? Eight years? How long until the present Seunghyun becomes the future one?
Those aren’t the only thoughts that occupy Jiyong’s mind. He thinks a lot about why his Seunghyun has gone missing, why he no longer appears. He hopes it’s because everything is good now and Seunghyun is living happily in his own time, hopefully with his own Jiyong, but the pessimistic side of his brain thinks it might not be that simple. He remembers conversations they had, things Seunghyun had mentioned, about how he’s not supposed to get too involved, how he might get in trouble for letting people besides Jiyong see him. But get in trouble with whom? Whoever helped send him back, Jiyong guesses. Maybe time machines are common in the future and part of the price of admission is agreeing not to muck up the timeline.
Which makes him think: maybe Seunghyun got in trouble for sleeping with him. Maybe they crossed a line they were never meant to cross and now they’re being punished for it. Jiyong doesn’t know. He doesn’t know anything, really. He’s helpless under the weight of questions he cannot answer. The only thing for him to do is wait.
So that’s what he does. He waits. And waits. Like a new bride whose husband has gone off to war, he waits for Seunghyun to return, heart growing sicker and sicker each day he doesn’t appear. He watches the younger Seunghyun all the time, for signs of the older bleeding through. He can see him in the way this Seunghyun laughs, in the crook of his mouth when he smiles. The quick flash of his dimples. And Jiyong aches, because it’s so close but not close enough.
And at night, when the lights are out and Jiyong’s all alone in his bed, his hand will wander inside his briefs, fingers curling around himself as he slowly starts to stroke, spurred on by memories of his Seunghyun and their night together. He’ll remember the way it felt, the strength in Seunghyun’s hands, the tenderness of his mouth. He’ll remember the sight of a white dress shirt parting under his hands, only sometimes it’s not a dress shirt he sees, sometimes it’s a well-worn hoodie he’s pulling over Seunghyun’s head.
Mouth caught open in bliss, he screws his eyes shut and tosses back his head. The two versions flicker back and forth till he no longer knows which one he’s fantasizing about, till he no longer cares, hand gliding over his cock till he’s flushed and gasping and spent.
It’s been over a year since Bigbang debuted, and at the year-end ceremonies, they win their first major award for best song, and Jiyong smiles so hard he nearly cries. Because it’s his song. His music and his lyrics. His late nights without sleep.
He goes up on stage with the other members to accept the award, eyes immediately scanning over the audience. He hopes with everything inside him that his Seunghyun will be there, that he’ll be leaning against some far off wall just like the first time he came to see Jiyong rap. Jiyong searches every corner for that familiar look of pride, but he doesn’t find it. He does his best to keep smiling through his disappointment.
Spring turns into summer, and summer turns into fall. Time creeps by, and Jiyong stops looking. He figures the only way he’ll ever see his Seunghyun again is when the present one finally becomes him. It doesn’t feel like that’s likely to happen anytime soon, though. The younger Seunghyun recently moved out of the dorm and into his own place, and lately, Jiyong only ever sees him for work.
The timer inside his head now reads 2009. Six or seven more years to go. It feels like an eternity.
And right now, Jiyong has bigger problems on his hands. The hate messages have started rolling in. Plagiarizer, they say. Overrated. Fraud. It feels like the whole world has turned against him. He gets phone call after phone call, from managers and friends, his mom, but he doesn’t answer a single one, too numb from what he’s seeing on the message boards: die, kill yourself, we don’t want you.
Jiyong curls his arms protectively around himself. He’s long since given up on ever seeing his Seunghyun again, but there’s still a childlike part of him that hopes that he will, a part that’s praying for him to show up right now and make everything better.
Drawing his knees up to his chest, he whispers hopefully into the empty room, “Hyung? Are you there?”
He waits in vain for Seunghyun to appear, his shoulders sinking along with his heart. If Seunghyun loves him at all, he should be here. Jiyong’s never needed him more than at this moment.
His hopelessness is pierced by the buzzing of his phone. Another caller. He looks down expecting it to be his mom again, or maybe Dami – she’s already called three times – but instead, he finds Seunghyun’s name stamped across the screen. His eyes close at the unfairness of it. He prays for his Seunghyun, and the universe gives him this one. The one who doesn’t yet know how much Jiyong needs to be held.
But he’s not exactly in a position to be picky. With a pained breath, he answers. “Hey, Hyung.”
“How are you?” Seunghyun’s voice sounds tender across the line. Jiyong can almost trick himself into believing he’s talking to the older version instead of the younger.
“I think Soohyuk left his copy of Titanic here. Why don’t you come over?”
Jiyong worries at his lip. That actually sounds nice right now. And it’s probably the only time Seunghyun will willingly watch a movie like that with him. “Do you have alcohol?”
“Who do you think you’re talking to? Of course I have alcohol.”
Jiyong laughs into the phone. “Okay. I’ll see you in a bit.”
Spending time with this Seunghyun winds up being exactly what he needs. They drink too much, and barely watch the movie, and then fall asleep slumped together on the sofa. Jiyong wakes up sometime in the middle of the night snuggled against Seunghyun’s side, hazy words ghosting through his mind: Sometimes you have to let Junior play a few rounds. Make sure he knows how.
Jiyong presses his cheek into Seunghyun’s shoulder and drifts back off to sleep.
Chapter 5: Waiting
“What about time travel?” Seunghyun says. “Ever think about that?”
“Come on,” Jiyong whines. “Hurry up.”
He knocks on the dressing room door to spur things along, huffing when Seunghyun responds from the other side of it: “Patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
“You’re not Rome. Come on. You take longer than a girl.”
They’ve just finished with a show, and now they’re getting ready to go out. Soohyuk and the others are already waiting for them at the club. All Jiyong bothered doing was changing his clothes, but Seunghyun has been primping in his private dressing room for what feels like hours.
“Okay,” Seunghyun says, opening the door. “I’m ready.”
Jiyong’s breath hitches the moment he sees him. Seunghyun is standing in the open door, body limned in a soft halo of light. The light skates along the sharpness of his cheekbones, making him appear even more devastatingly handsome than he normally does. But that’s not what’s caught Jiyong’s attention.
Seunghyun is wearing a pair of dark tailored slacks and a well-fitted shirt, held together at the front with a long strip of buttons. He’s in the middle of buttoning one of his cuffs. It’s not the white shirt Jiyong’s grown to love so much – this one has pinstripes – but it still sends a rush of longing through him so strong it roots him to the spot.
2010, Jiyong’s internal timer reads. Please. Let it be time.
He can’t help reaching out to feel the fabric for himself. He’s seen this Seunghyun in suits before, of course he has, for events and award shows, but it’s never been like this, Seunghyun willingly donning one just to go out. Jiyong aches at what it might mean.
“You look so good,” he breathes, fingering the crisp material of Seunghyun’s sleeve.
“Thanks.” Seunghyun looks shy at the praise, but also incredibly pleased. “I’m trying something new.”
“I like it.”
“Really? I wasn’t sure.” He rolls his shoulders back, not quite adjusted to this new skin.
“No, it’s…it’s good. The girls will be all over you tonight. Your girlfriend’s gonna be so jealous.”
A cloud passes over Seunghyun’s face. “Actually, we broke up.”
Jiyong’s fingers curl reflexively into Seunghyun’s sleeve. He has to force himself to let go. “Oh?” he says, feigning nonchalance. “What happened?”
“You know how it is. We were both so busy; we never got to see each other. It just wasn’t working out anymore.”
“Sorry,” Jiyong says, even though he’s not sorry at all. This girl was never going to last. Seunghyun belongs with him.
“It’s okay. It’s probably for the best. We didn’t really have that much in common, anyway.”
Jiyong automatically thinks of ten things he and Seunghyun have in common without even trying. He swallows before he speaks again, afraid his eagerness will bleed into his voice if he doesn’t. “So wow, T.O.P’s back on the market.”
Laughing, Seunghyun ruffles Jiyong’s hair. “I wouldn’t go that far. I think I just wanna be single for a while. See what that’s like.”
Jiyong watches as all his fragile little dreams crumble at his feet. “Right,” he says, scuffing his toe against the tile. He has to look down so Seunghyun won’t see the slight quiver in his chin. “Take your time.”
The studio is much quieter than what Jiyong’s used to. Teddy-hyung has long since gone home for the night, and now it’s just Jiyong and Seunghyun, holed up together, trying to finish the song they’ve been working on. Seunghyun’s been busy with his first major film, but now he finally has some free time.
Jiyong finished his part a good twenty minutes ago, but Seunghyun is still hunched over his workspace, pen flowing over paper. Jiyong gets up and stretches his legs before wandering over to check out his hyung’s progress.
“How’s it coming?” he asks. He peers down over Seunghyun’s shoulder and groans when all he sees is a crude drawing of a T-rex. Seunghyun blinks up at him innocently.
“Are you kidding me? You’ve been working on this for over an hour!”
“I’m waiting to be inspired.”
“We don’t have time for you to wait! It’s been two years since we put out an album! Fans are tired of waiting.”
“You can’t rush art.”
“Two years. How is that rushing?”
Seunghyun just keeps looking at him with that innocent look, completely unfazed. Jiyong huffs and tears the dinosaur drawing out of the notebook and smacks at the fresh page he’s just exposed. “Write,” he orders.
Seunghyun pouts, but he does as Jiyong says. His pen starts moving across the page again, and Jiyong starts to back off, but then he sees that instead of words, Seunghyun is drawing a fresh set of dino teeth.
Seunghyun snickers. Jiyong tries to rip out that page too, but Seunghyun is ready for him this time. Seunghyun grabs the notebook just as Jiyong does, and there’s a quick tussle, the scuff of a chair, and when Jiyong pulls just a little bit too hard, the notebook yanks free, sending him stumbling back into Teddy’s shelf of figurines. A Bearbrick topples to the floor, its head separating from its body and rolling off into the corner.
Jiyong stares down in horror at the headless toy. He watches as Seunghyun leans over and retrieves the little bag that’s spilling out of its neck hole.
Holding it up so Jiyong can see the finely ground leaves, Seunghyun smirks. “Are you sure we don’t have time?”
Jiyong looks from Seunghyun to the bag and back again. “Fine. But I’m blaming you if Teddy-hyung finds out.”
They wind up on the sofa together as Seunghyun packs the weed into the paper, a steady stream of Pink Floyd playing in the background. Seunghyun’s a curious case of coordination and ineptitude. He turned all their socks pink the one time he tried to do the laundry, and he somehow always manages to forget an eight-count piece of choreo five minutes after learning it, but Jiyong’s never seen anyone better at rolling a joint.
Digging his lighter out of his pocket, Seunghyun lights up and takes the first hit. His lips purse around the tightly rolled end, chest expanding on a slow inhale. Jiyong stares at the way his muscles are starting to fill out his shirts. Smoke curls enticingly around Seunghyun’s lips as he passes over the joint.
Jiyong’s such a lightweight. He’s so fucking high by the time he takes his last drag. And he really wants a pizza. “Hey.” He nudges Seunghyun’s tummy with the back of his hand. “Get me a pizza.”
Seunghyun just giggles. “Pizza.”
Jiyong stares at him for a long moment before breaking into giggles himself. He slumps down in his seat, feet wheeling in the air as he tries to set them on a coffee table that isn’t there. He finally gives up and lets them fall back to the floor.
“We should write a song about this, don’t you think?”
Seunghyun nods along to the opening bars of “Wish You Were Here.” That’s a yes. Probably.
Jiyong thinks about what their song should sound like. It should be cool and fun, the kind of song that gets played in the club, preferably a club that serves pizza because Jiyong still wants one.
“You should buy me a club that sells pizza,” he says. Seunghyun keeps bobbing his head lazily to the beat, and Jiyong decides it definitely means yes this time.
He really thinks he’s on to something with this whole club thing. “Just think, if we own it we could make them play whatever we want. No more shitty Super Junior remixes. And we wouldn’t have to worry about ordering pizza ‘cause it would already be there.” It’s genius.
Seunghyun’s head lulls back against the couch. “Do you ever think about what it would be like to have superpowers?”
What does that have to do with pizza?
“Sure,” Jiyong answers. “All the time. Like what if I could fly? I’d be so fast. Like a cat. Like a flying cat.” He skates one hand against the other and makes a whooshing noise to illustrate his point.
Seunghyun snickers. His eyes are bloodshot, but they’re still the prettiest set Jiyong’s ever seen. He knows he’s not supposed to stare at them, but he can’t remember why that is.
“What about time travel?” Seunghyun says. “Ever think about that?”
Jiyong’s heart does a funny little lurch. “Maybe?”
“I think about it sometimes. Traveling to the future. I wanna know what I’m gonna be like."
No. This is all wrong. “You gotta go to the past,” Jiyong whines. Little Jiyong is gonna scrape his knee, and he needs Seunghyun to be there.
Seunghyun gives a languid shake of his head. “Why do that? I already know what’s back that way. I wanna see how things end up. Do I get married? Do I keep doing music? I wanna see how much I change.”
Jiyong’s most treasured memory comes alive in his chest, dusty after being packed away for so long – his Seunghyun pressing him sweetly into the mattress, I love you on his lips. “You change a lot.”
“What about you? Don’t you wanna see if you ever find your soulmate?”
Jiyong looks out at the colored buttons still lit up on the switchboard. They look just as lonely as he feels. He thinks about how badly he wants to see his Seunghyun again.
“Yeah. That’d be nice.”
Heartsick, Jiyong stirs his straw around in his drink. He watches as girl after girl clambers for Seunghyun’s attention on the other side of the room. The club is crowded and dimly lit, but he can still make out the unguarded grin on Seunghyun’s face.
Jiyong tears his eyes away. Waiting sucks. Especially when there’s no telling when the waiting will end. He takes another sip of his drink, sullen.
“Is this seat taken?”
Jiyong's eyes flit up to the man who’s just entered into his space, scanning him over from head to toe. He remembers seeing him at the bar earlier if he’s not mistaken. The man isn’t quite as hot up close as he was from a distance, but he’s got a handful of years on Jiyong, which makes up for it. Daddy issues, Seungho would tell him, but Jiyong’s too buzzed to put much thought into that right now.
Even so, Jiyong’s not really interested. He knows what he wants, and this man isn’t it. He’s just about to dismiss the guy when the sound of Seunghyun’s laughter reaches his ears and makes him change his mind.
“Be my guest,” he says, gesturing to one of the empty cushions. If Seunghyun can flirt, so can Jiyong. He thinks it might do him some good to finally feel wanted again.
Jiyong lets the tip of his straw drag enticingly over his bottom lip as the man takes a seat. “What’s your name?”
It’s then that a sudden weight plops down next to them. Jiyong’s annoyed at the interruption until he sees who it is. Seunghyun is sitting on the other side of him with a panicked look on his face, the look of a man caught in a bought of drunken paranoia. His eyes are wide as an owl's.
It's all Jiyong can do not to smile. “What’s up, Hyung?”
“You gotta help me! This girl wants to eat me!”
“What girl? What happened?”
“That one!” Seunghyun points accusingly across the room, and Jiyong quickly yanks his hand back down.
“You can’t just point at people. It’s rude.”
“She’s rude! She wants to eat me!”
A lewd smirk crawls its way across Jiyong’s face. “Are you sure it wasn’t the other way around? Maybe she wants you to eat her.”
Seunghyun whips his head back and forth. “No. That’s not what she said.”
Jiyong giggles at how worked up Seunghyun is. “Don’t knock it till you try it. I hear it feels pretty good.”
The sound of chuckling on the other side of Jiyong gets Seunghyun’s attention. “Who are you?” Seunghyun demands.
“He’s my new friend,” Jiyong answers for him.
“I’m your friend.”
Jiyong rolls his eyes. “You can have more than one friend.”
“Are you gonna let him eat you?”
Jiyong smacks Seunghyun’s shoulder before burying his face there. “Shut up.”
He’s about to scold him some more when Seunghyun spots a passing waiter and throws his hand in the air. “Shots! We need shots!”
Jiyong tries to drag his arm down, but Seunghyun is too strong for him. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
“Shots!” he bellows again.
Sometime between the first shot and the second, Jiyong’s new friend wanders off, having given up on scoring any time alone with him. Jiyong barely notices him leaving, hands too full with keeping an oversized toddler in line.
After the third shot, which Jiyong only pretends to drink, Seunghyun announces he has to piss and takes two stumbling steps toward the bathroom before careening into an unsuspecting barstool. Jiyong ducks under his arm and helps him along.
When they reach the bathroom, Seunghyun slumps over one of the urinals and somehow manages to undo his pants. Jiyong waits awkwardly beside the sink for his hyung to do his business. The steady sound of Seunghyun relieving himself is overly loud in the otherwise quiet room. Jiyong can hear the squeak of rubber soles each time Seunghyun shifts his weight.
It’s not until Seunghyun tries to do his pants back up that the real trouble starts. Jiyong watches Seunghyun’s shoulder blades shift under his shirt as he fights with his zipper.
“Everything okay over there?” Jiyong asks.
Seunghyun turns around with a pout on his face. He’s managed to tuck himself away, but his zip is snagged on his shirttail. Seunghyun yanks ineffectually at it, pout deepening. Jiyong’s expression changes to mirror the sudden fondness he feels, a small smile blooming on his cheeks. He heads over to help Seunghyun with his predicament.
Pulling the shirt free, he pushes it out of his way so he can gently slide up the zipper. Seunghyun is warm through the material of his briefs. Jiyong tries not to think about what’s putting off the heat. He finishes by slipping the button through the buttonhole and smoothing the shirt back into place.
Seunghyun gives him a dopey look. “Thanks.”
Jiyong leads him over to the sink where he eases Seunghyun’s hands under the warm stream of the tap. Docile, Seunghyun lets Jiyong soap his hands and rinse them clean. Once Jiyong’s satisfied, he turns the water off and reaches for the paper towels.
As he’s reaching for them, Seunghyun flicks his hands at Jiyong’s face, giggling when water droplets spatter over his cheek.
“Hyung!” Jiyong twists his head to the side.
Laughing, Seunghyun tries to do it again, but Jiyong catches his hands before he can, holding them prisoner against his stomach so Seunghyun can’t get up to any more mischief. Or so he thinks. He lets out an exasperated sigh when Seunghyun dries his hands off on Jiyong’s shirt.
“Why do I put up with you?”
Seunghyun just grins. His dimples are pretty enough to make Jiyong’s heart ache.
“Whatever,” Jiyong mutters. “Let’s get back out there.”
He starts to pull away and head for the door when Seunghyun’s grip on his wrist stops him. Seunghyun gives him a little tug, and Jiyong stumbles face first into Seunghyun’s chest. His heart flutters at their sudden closeness, his face tilting up as he nervously licks his lips.
Seunghyun's eyes narrow in on the motion. His own lips curl into a lazy grin, eyes hazy and droopy from all the alcohol. He slurs a little when he speaks. “You’re pretty, you know that? You’re the prettiest girl in the club.”
Jiyong’s heart is beating too fast to take much issue with that. “I’m not a girl.”
“I know,” Seunghyun says, frowning. “S’why it’s so confusing.”
“Why what’s confusing?”
A deep furrow forms between Seunghyun’s brows. Jiyong can practically hear the neurons straining to fire through the slosh of booze.
“What’s confusing?” Jiyong says again.
Swaying further into his space, Seunghyun’s voice slides over Jiyong’s ear like silk. “You are.”
That’s all Jiyong gets, though, because the next thing he knows, the door flings open and a newcomer enters the room. Jiyong tears himself away, and whatever spell they’re under is broken. He tries to ask Seunghyun about it on the way back over to their seats, but his hyung dashes off like an excitable puppy and doesn’t say anything more about it.
Jiyong’s the one who drinks too much the next time. It becomes a sort of game: drink each time a girl simpers Seunghyun’s way, and before he knows it, he’s trashed. He should really consider falling in love with someone less attractive next time. His ego can’t take all the competition.
They’re at a party instead of a club tonight, and Seunghyun’s been busy showing off his way around a cocktail. He has a flock of admirers around him, all waiting for him to make them a drink. Jiyong sulks from his vantage on the couch.
When some pretty little model lays her hand on Seunghyun’s arm, Jiyong’s finally had enough. He brings his empty cocktail glass to the island in the kitchen and sets it down right in front of Seunghyun.
“I need a refill.”
It comes out brattier than he intends, and maybe a little slurred, but oh well; Seunghyun doesn’t seem to mind. He abandons the drink he’s working on to focus on Jiyong’s.
The model Jiyong was so annoyed with tugs on Seunghyun’s arm. “Oppa. You didn’t finish mine.”
Seunghyun shrugs her off so he can reach for the rum. “I’ll get it after Jiyong’s.” Jiyong’s too drunk to censor the smug look he sends her way.
Seunghyun hands him the drink once he’s done with the garnish, and Jiyong immediately brings it up to his lips. He moves a bit too fast, and the red liquid sloshes around the glass and some of it over the rim, splashing the counter as well as his hand.
Seunghyun chuckles at him. “Easy there. Maybe I should take that back.”
Jiyong guards his drink jealously against his chest. “No. You can’t.” There’s a bead of cranberry juice working its way down his wrist, and he ducks his head to lap it up. When he looks up again, Seunghyun is grinning at him.
Until the annoying girl starts tugging on him again, that is. She pulls on Seunghyun’s arm and simpers up at him. “Oppa. My drink.”
Jiyong rolls his eyes and takes a big fat gulp. Because those are the rules. “I’m leaving now,” he announces. “This isn’t fun anymore.” Seunghyun snickers as Jiyong clutches his drink and totters off.
Jiyong doesn’t remember finishing his drink or ditching his glass, but somehow he’s managed to do both. He’s been hanging out with Seungho and Soohyuk for the last little while, but now he’s back up on his feet, wandering around.
On his way down the hall, he sways too far to the left and stumbles into a passing body. Two hands grab hold of his shoulders and help right him, and Jiyong giggles up at a muddy pair of eyes. “Thanks.”
The owner of those eyes smiles. “No problem.”
“I don’t know you,” Jiyong tells him, and the guy’s smile deepens.
“Would you like to?”
It’s a stupid line, but Jiyong’s just lonely enough to be taken in by it, and the next thing he knows, they’re making out in the bathroom, the edge of the counter digging into Jiyong’s back.
“You’re so hot,” the guy pants. Jiyong never did get his name.
Jiyong’s just managed to work his hand down the front of the guy’s pants when the door slams open and Seunghyun comes barging in.
Seunghyun grabs hold of the guy’s collar and yanks him away. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Can’t you see he’s wasted?” He doesn’t wait for the guy to answer; he just pushes him out the door. “Get the hell out.”
Jiyong’s jaw hangs open in shock, but once the shock wears off, his face flushes in indignation. “What did you do that for?”
Seunghyun turns back to him, still fuming. “Are you kidding me? He was trying to take advantage of you!”
“Maybe I wanted him to take advantage! Did you ever think of that?”
A muscle slides along Seunghyun’s jaw. “You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re saying. You’ll thank me in the morning.”
“Thank you? For what? For getting in the way?”
“Getting in the – do you even know that guy?”
“What’s it matter? I can do whatever I want!” Jiyong feels himself getting more and more agitated with each word. He’s waited for so long, and for what? Nothing but a broken heart that refuses to mend and a throat full of bitterness he just can't swallow. Seunghyun can get over himself. “If I wanna fuck some stranger in the bathroom, I can! It’s none of your business!”
“I’m just looking out for you!”
“Well, stop! You’re not my boyfriend, okay? So unless you want the job, stay the fuck out of it!”
Seunghyun’s jaw wires shut. After a beat: “Okay.”
“Good. Now that we’ve got that settled—”
“No. I meant okay. I’ll be your boyfriend.”
Jiyong’s mouth falls open. He’s too stunned to say anything at first. The gears in his mind clatter and clank as he tries to figure out how to speak.
“What?” he finally pushes out. “You can’t just be my boyfriend.”
Jiyong shakes his head in disbelief. Seunghyun’s so fucking dumb. “Because you can’t. That’s not how it works. You don’t even like me.”
Seunghyun gives him a pained look. “Is that what you think? You think I’d get this worked up over just anyone?”
Jiyong’s mouth opens and closes back shut. Because what? He’s so confused right now, even with the alcohol metabolizing out of his system.
“Why are you so surprised?” Seunghyun asks. “I basically told you this the other night.”
Jiyong’s brows shoot up, dubious. “What? When? You got drunk and called me a pretty girl. You call that a confession?”
Seunghyun hangs his head, snickering softly. “Well, when you put it like that…”
Jiyong could throttle him. “When did this happen? When did you even start liking me?”
“I dunno, it’s been creeping up on me for a while now. Haven’t you ever thought about it?”
Jiyong bites off a sharp laugh, half-crazed at Seunghyun’s obliviousness.
“What’s so funny?” Seunghyun asks.
“You have no idea, do you? You really don’t get it.”
Jiyong shakes his head. He doesn’t even know what to say right now. His confession feels so much bigger than Seunghyun’s, so big that he can’t possibly fit it into words. He doesn’t know how its weight has gone unnoticed.
Seunghyun takes Jiyong’s pause for reluctance. He looks like a puppy begging to come in from the rain. “Just give me a shot,” he pleads. “Please? I promise you won’t regret it.” And what kind of world is it that Seunghyun is the one begging Jiyong for a chance?
Seunghyun’s eyes are warm and tender, just like the hand he’s using to touch lightly at Jiyong’s arm, and for the first time, the younger Seunghyun melts seamlessly into the older. Jiyong can see exactly how one might become the other. It makes him believe in soulmates all over again.
“Okay,” Jiyong whispers. “You can be my boyfriend.”
Seunghyun’s eyes light up. “Yeah?”
Jiyong wonders if his own eyes are just as bright. “Yeah.”
He suddenly realizes how close they’re standing, Seunghyun crowding him gently against the counter. Heat pulses in the space between them. Jiyong can feel every breath Seunghyun takes.
The mood shifts, just as it did before, when Jiyong was four years younger and standing in front of a Seunghyun who was a good deal older, and he remembers. Remembers how Seunghyun’s eyes darkened at his touch, the same way this Seunghyun’s eyes are darkening now. Jiyong slides his hand over Seunghyun’s chest, up to his shoulder and into the silky hair at his nape, and Seunghyun watches its path with those ever darkening eyes.
When Jiyong applies a gentle pressure to guide him in, Seunghyun resists, just for a moment. “What do you think you’re doing?” he teases. “You have douche cooties. I’m gonna need you to brush your teeth first.”
“Shut up.” Jiyong tugs him the rest of the way down. Seunghyun comes easily after that, lips parting at the first brush of Jiyong’s tongue. Electricity hums everywhere they touch, and Jiyong remembers again what he’s been searching for in every other guy he’s been with, this elusive heat he’s only ever found in one.
Seunghyun’s lips are just as Jiyong remembers, soft and full and lush. The tilt of his head is the same; Seunghyun has finally reached his full height. Jiyong deepens the kiss, lips and hands seeking out more similarities, but all he finds now are differences. Seunghyun’s shoulders aren’t quite as broad, the muscles in his chest not nearly as defined. Though the feel of his lips is familiar, the pressure behind them is all new. He yields where the other wouldn’t, mouth giving way to Jiyong’s lead. It’s different, but not unwelcome. Jiyong loses himself in the sweetness of it.
Finally pulling away, Seunghyun chuckles a little, breathless. Jiyong’s charmed by how bashful he looks.
“We should probably stop for now,” Seunghyun says. “I almost kicked some guy’s ass for taking advantage of you. I’m not about to do the same thing.”
Jiyong doesn’t bother protesting. He doesn’t feel the need to. His eyes are alight with possibility, and there’s no room for anything else.
“What about hugs?” he says, instead. “Are hugs okay?”
Seunghyun’s lips are red from use, and his answering grin is all the sweeter for it. “I like hugs.”
So Jiyong wraps Seunghyun up in his arms, and they stay like that, pressed together in the bathroom for longer than either of them can say. Jiyong breathes in against the collar of Seunghyun’s shirt and feels like things are finally slotting into place.
When Jiyong gets back to the dorm that night, he doesn’t bother turning on the lights. He just shuffles down the hall in the dark, steps light and soft so he won’t wake up the other members. Once he reaches his room, he shuts the door behind him and heads over to his nightstand, sense memory guiding him through the dark. He flicks on the lamp that’s sitting there before dumping the contents of his pockets at its base.
Jiyong feels it, then. The change in the air. The cool prickle gathering at the top of his spine.
“Congratulations,” he hears. “I hear you got a new boyfriend.”
Jiyong freezes at the voice. The bitter scent of tobacco turns sweet in the air. He slowly turns around.
Seunghyun is leaning casually against the wall, the ever-present white shirt falling in attractive lines over his chest. His Seunghyun, except Jiyong supposes they’re both his now. He has an easy smile on his face, like he just stepped out for a cigarette instead of disappearing for the last four years.
“I told you we’d get together,” Seunghyun says. He holds out a closed fist for a bump. When Jiyong makes no move toward him, he shakes it a little, prodding, “Come on. Don’t leave me hanging.”
It’s enough to break Jiyong out of stasis. He strides across the room, knocking Seunghyun’s fist out of the way and throwing himself against his chest. “Hyung.”
Seunghyun folds Jiyong up in his arms. “Did you miss me?”
Chapter 6: Love Is a Verb
This is the most complicated love triangle he could ever dream up.
Did you miss me?
Seunghyun is just as solid as Jiyong remembers, his shirt under Jiyong’s cheek just as soft. Jiyong breathes in, reveling in the warm feel of him, before remembering just how pissed he is and smacking him hard in the ribs. “You bastard. Where have you been? I needed you.”
Seunghyun just hugs him that much tighter. “I know. I would’ve been here if I could.”
“Then why weren’t you? Huh? I waited for you. Four fucking years, Hyung! No goodbye, no note. How could you? Didn’t you hear me calling for you? Why didn’t you come?”
Seunghyun lets Jiyong rail against him, lets him count out all the ways Seunghyun has failed him, never interrupting once. He accepts it all as his rightful punishment.
“Have you just been watching me? All this time? Giving ‘Junior’ his turn?” Jiyong spits. “Did you get a kick out of it? Watching me miss you?”
Jiyong tears him down, brick by brick, and by the time he’s done, he’s a shaking, crying mess. His hands are hooked into Seunghyun’s shirt like talons, determined to hold on despite the overwhelming urge to let go, to shove him out of the room and slam the door in his face. It would feel beyond satisfying, but Jiyong can’t bring himself to do it, because then Seunghyun might actually leave, and that’s the worst thing he can think of, losing this man all over again.
When the words stop coming and all that’s left are quiet sniffles and growing tearstains on Seunghyun’s shirt, Seunghyun finally tries to soothe him. “Jiyong—”
“Fuck off,” Jiyong snaps, even as he tightens his grip.
Seunghyun’s sigh whispers over the top of Jiyong’s head, gently fluttering his hair. “Do you really think so little of me?” he says. His hands are on Jiyong’s face then, tipping it up so he can finally meet his eyes. “I would never leave you willingly. Don’t you know that?”
Jiyong tears himself away before he can be won over by the sincerity in Seunghyun’s eyes. “I don’t know anything!” he huffs, throwing his hands out in frustration. “How could I? You never tell me anything. You just expect me to go along with whatever you say.”
“No. I’m tired of this! I’m tired of all the secrets! First, you lie about being my imaginary friend, and then you neglect to tell me that you and the other Seunghyun are the same fucking person. Everything I know, I’ve had to drag out of you! I let it slide because it’s you, and I trusted you, but now—”
“You can still trust me.”
Jiyong looks at him in disbelief. “Can I? I trusted you not to fucking abandon me, but look how well that worked out.”
Seunghyun winces. “That wasn’t up to me.”
“Then who the fuck was it up to?”
Seunghyun presses his lips together, not answering, and Jiyong nearly throws something. Why the fuck won’t Seunghyun just explain? If Jiyong means so much to him, why won’t he just answer the fucking question?
Jiyong looks away. He needs a moment to gather his thoughts. “I thought…when you didn’t show up again, I thought maybe you’d fixed whatever you came back to fix. But now you’re back, and I don’t get why. I don’t get any of it. Not why you traveled back in the first place, or why you left, or why you’re back now. None of it makes sense to me. Are you still trying to fix something?”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Let you – this is my life. Don’t you get that? It’s my life, and this affects me. I have a right to know.”
“I’m sorry,” Seunghyun says, helpless. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
It’s too much. Jiyong buries his face in his hands, beyond frustrated. He’s so done with this. He’s spent years trusting Seunghyun, believing in him, accepting his words as truth, and he’s spent just as long not acknowledging the elephant in the room. He said that none of this makes sense to him, but that’s a lie, isn’t it? Deep down, he knows what’s going on; he’s just always been too scared to admit it. The answer has been there all along, in that feeling of dread that lives inside his heart, that feeling he’s always been so quick to smother.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Jiyong whispers, and Seunghyun’s eyes flash right to his. “I know something happens to me.”
Seunghyun swallows. “Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
It doesn’t feel as reassuring as the last time Seunghyun said it. Jiyong believed it wholeheartedly back then, like a child trusting a father’s reassurance that monsters don’t exist. He doesn’t know what to believe now, though. Is this a promise Seunghyun can actually make? Or is it just wishful thinking? Something Seunghyun wants to believe just as much as Jiyong does?
“But that’s it, right? That’s why you came back? To stop it?” His heart knocks twice, and his hands ball up at his sides. His voice is steady, but deep down he’s terrified. He wishes he could borrow Seunghyun’s ability, wishes he could go back to a simpler time, back to when he was naïve enough to take Seunghyun’s promises for granted. Back to when the monsters were trapped safely under the bed.
Something flickers across Seunghyun’s face, some kind of emotion that’s just as quickly repressed. He reaches out to touch Jiyong’s cheek, and this time, Jiyong lets him. Jiyong’s anger and frustration have gone quiet, replaced by the chattering of fear, and though Seunghyun’s cape has a few holes in it now, he’s still the closest thing to a hero Jiyong’s ever had. He’s still the one thing that makes Jiyong feel safe.
“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” Seunghyun says again, lower this time, just barely a whisper, but it’s enough to take up all the space in Jiyong’s heart.
Jiyong squeezes his eyes shut and tries to will away his doubts. “You’ve lied to me before. How do I know you’re not lying now? How do I know you’re not just trying to make me feel better?”
“I’m not lying.”
Jiyong shakes his head against Seunghyun’s palm because that isn’t good enough, not even remotely good enough. What good is a liar who claims he’s not lying?
“Jiyong, I promise—”
“You left me,” Jiyong says, cutting him off, the break in the moment a harsh bitten edge. Seunghyun left him. That’s not even what they’re talking about anymore, but maybe it’s what they should be talking about, maybe that’s what Jiyong’s really hung up on. Maybe he could trust in all the rest if only Seunghyun hadn’t went away. “You slept with me, and then you left. And you won’t even tell me why.”
Seunghyun reacts to the pain in Jiyong’s voice with pain of his own. “It’s because I slept with you that I had to go.”
Seunghyun sighs before taking a step back, his hand carding through his hair as he seems to mull over how he’s going to respond. There’s a good meter between them now, but it feels like a chasm, and though Jiyong’s the one who initiated the distance, he’s already regretting it. He wishes he’d just kept his mouth shut and stayed buried in Seunghyun’s arms.
Finally, a sort of resolve comes over Seunghyun. He looks back up at Jiyong, face inscrutable. “That night, if I’d asked you to forget about him, to be with me instead, would you have?”
Jiyong’s taken off guard by the question. “What does that have to do with anything?”
The answer comes easily; Jiyong doesn’t even have to think about it. “Yes.” He would’ve given anything to be with this man.
Seunghyun closes his eyes at the word, as if the feelings it inspires are far too much for him to absorb all at once. “What about now?” he breathes.
Jiyong opens his mouth to respond, but this time the answer doesn’t come so readily. He’s spent the last four years growing more and more attached to the younger Seunghyun, and now they’re together. Newly together, but still. They kissed just a few short hours ago, and Jiyong can’t deny how good it felt. How right.
“You see?” this Seunghyun whispers, as if all the explanation Jiyong needs can be found in his own hesitation. “You were falling in love with the wrong me.”
“And that’s bad? You don’t want me to love you?”
“It’s not about what I want. Things have to happen a certain way or else I—” Seunghyun mashes his lips together and looks away, still unwilling to say too much. He tries again. “I told you before, I’m not allowed to get too involved. There are certain things I’m allowed to do, and stealing you away from my past self definitely isn’t one of them.”
I want to steal you away – words his Seunghyun had said that night. The memory of them resurfaces in Jiyong’s mind, along with the tender way Seunghyun had said them and the wistful look in his eyes. It had felt so romantic back then. Jiyong had wanted so badly to be stolen, and despite everything – the distance and absence and damaged trust – there’s a huge part of him that still does. The part that isn’t back in the bathroom at tonight’s party, kissing the younger Seunghyun for the first time.
“I would’ve let you,” Jiyong says and means it, and this aching look comes over Seunghyun’s face.
“I know. That’s why I had to stay away.”
Jiyong feels a pang at that. I would still let you, he wants to say, but he’s not entirely sure he’d mean it. Not sure he could go through with it even if he did. The younger Seunghyun was so happy when Jiyong agreed to be with him. His eyes had lit up and his ears had turned red, and Jiyong’s heart feels warm just thinking about it. How can he walk away from that?
This is the most complicated love triangle he could ever dream up.
“But you’re back now,” Jiyong says.
“Why?” Except Jiyong thinks he knows why. It’s no coincidence that his Seunghyun appeared again tonight, on the very night his younger self’s relationship with Jiyong was cemented. He stepped aside so Jiyong and the younger Seunghyun could get together, and now that they have, he has no more reason to stay away.
“Because I was finally able to. Anyway,” Seunghyun says upon clearing his throat. “It’s all good now. The future’s back on track, and I can go back to doing what I do best.” He gestures down at the smudges on his shirt where Jiyong just cried on him.
Jiyong cracks a smile at the streak of eyeliner on Seunghyun’s chest. “What, getting cried on?”
“It seems to happen a lot.”
Jiyong ignores the implication that he’s a cry-baby. “So that’s it then? Everything just goes back to normal?” Strange that ‘normal’ to Jiyong is having a man from the future pop in and out of his life to dry his eyes.
“I guess so. Unless you’d rather I stay away.”
Jiyong quickly shakes his head. That’s the last thing he wants.
For the first time tonight, Seunghyun smiles. His eyes shine from behind thick, sooty lashes, and it hits Jiyong then, just how fucked he is. If the goal was to make Jiyong fall out of love with him, then his Seunghyun has surely failed. Jiyong is still just as in love with him as he was the night Seunghyun took him to bed. He just happens to be falling for the other version just as hard.
“Come on,” Seunghyun says, moving over toward the bed and flopping back on it with a heavy bounce. He pats the spot next to him and rubs inviting circles over the mattress. “I wanna hear all the details.”
Jiyong’s lost at the sudden change in mood. “Details?”
“Of how we got together.”
“Why? You already know, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but I wanna hear you tell it.” Seunghyun folds his hands behind his head and throws a crooked grin Jiyong’s way. “Come on. Come tell me how dreamy I was.”
Jiyong snorts before taking his place at Seunghyun’s side, lying back with his legs crossed at the ankles. “Dreamy? You told me I had douche cooties.”
“Serves you right for kissing someone else.”
Jiyong digs his elbow into Seunghyun’s side. “I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t taken so long to get your head out of your ass.”
“Yeah, well, don’t let it happen again. I have a fragile heart.”
Seunghyun is almost too tall for the bed; his heels rest at the very edge. He looks beautiful lying there, rumpled and soft, his bottom lip in a relaxed pout.
Jiyong wants to kiss that pout. He shakes away the thought as soon as it comes. The last time they kissed, Seunghyun disappeared for four years, and Jiyong’s not looking for a repeat of that. He doesn’t want his Seunghyun going anywhere.
Is that what would happen? They get too intimate and Seunghyun disappears? What are the rules to this? Jiyong looks at where his hand is grazing Seunghyun’s hip and wonders if he should pull it away. And then he thinks of the younger Seunghyun and wonders if he shouldn’t have touched this one in the first place.
“This is so weird,” Jiyong groans.
“This. All of it. I’m dating you, but not you you. A different you. And…don’t you think it’s weird? I feel like any time I’m with one of you, I’m cheating on the other.”
Seunghyun laughs, the low sound almost a purr. Jiyong can feel it slink inside him and tug at the bottom of his gut. “I can see how that would be weird.”
“Isn’t it weird for you, too? Like, do you ever get jealous of yourself?”
Seunghyun seems to consider that for a moment, and then he says, “Not in the way you’re thinking. I’m not jealous that you have feelings for him. He’s me. Whatever feelings you have for him are feelings you’ve had for me. I like being able to see it from this perspective. I know how it was for me back then, but now I get to see how it was for you.”
Jiyong takes that in. He tries to put himself in Seunghyun’s shoes. If the roles were reversed, if he had to watch the person he loves with another version of himself, how would that make him feel? Would he be as encouraging? He’s not so sure. He thinks he might be too selfish for that.
Seunghyun grins when he sees how hard Jiyong’s mulling this over. He shifts onto his side so he can brush the hair back from Jiyong’s face. “Jiyong…you don’t need to feel guilty for being with him. It’s how things are supposed to be.”
Seunghyun is so close now, their heads sharing the same pillow. Just one small shift and Jiyong could be in his arms. It makes him think about the last time he was in his arms, in this very bed, naked and pressed together, makes him think about all the lonely nights spent fantasizing about being there again. “Yeah, but…should I feel guilty for being with you?”
“Why feel guilty? We’re not even doing anything.”
Maybe not, but still, this moment hardly feels innocent. Their clothes are on, and they’re not even touching, but Jiyong’s eyes are fixed on Seunghyun’s lips. Seunghyun sees where Jiyong’s gaze has gone.
“I should probably go,” Seunghyun says, sitting up. Jiyong scrambles to sit up beside him.
Seunghyun makes an affirmative noise. “For now.”
Jiyong doesn’t want him to go; he’s scared to let him out of his sight. He just now got him back. “Hyung…” His fingers curl into the sleeve of Seunghyun’s shirt in an attempt to keep him from going anywhere. He thinks maybe if he holds on this time, Seunghyun won’t be able to disappear.
Seunghyun covers Jiyong’s hand with his own and gently removes it from his arm. “I’ll see you soon.”
How soon? Jiyong tries to ask, but Seunghyun is already gone. Jiyong stares at the spot Seunghyun just occupied for ages before finally flopping back against the bed. His eyes dart over the ceiling as his thoughts race through his mind.
So…that’s that. His Seunghyun is back.
That night, Jiyong dreams he’s a ping pong ball volleyed endlessly back and forth over the net, but instead of white, he’s orange in color, like the mini basketball Seunghyun likes to toss about. Jiyong sails through the air, but his trajectory is too low – he doesn’t quite clear the net. That’s a point for the other side, but when he looks up there’s only one scoreboard.
Jiyong expects there to be a marked change between them the next time he sees his new boyfriend, like a neon sign over their heads declaring to everyone that they’re together now, but by the time Seunghyun enters the studio, Teddy and Kush are there and ready to work, and the only thing Jiyong gets is a quick smile, gone before he can return it.
His mind immediately goes into panic mode. Maybe Seunghyun is having second thoughts; maybe he doesn’t want to date Jiyong after all. Maybe he was drunk last night when he agreed to it and now can’t figure out how to take it back. Seunghyun didn’t seem drunk, but then, he’s always been good at holding his liquor.
It’s in moments like this that Jiyong really misses the other Seunghyun. Despite his mysterious nature and refusal to give straight answers, he’s so much easier to read. He wears his affection right on his face.
Jiyong watches as Kush tries to corral Seunghyun into the sound booth, Seunghyun attempting to break free at every turn. He dodges left, then right, then beats his chest like a gorilla once Kush finally gets his hands on him. Kush laughs and shoves Seunghyun into the booth.
It’s a scene that would normally have Jiyong in hysterics, but his head is too full of uncertainty for him to enjoy it just now. Seunghyun has barely spared him a glance. To be fair, they haven’t discussed when they’re going to tell people, or even if they’re going to tell people, so it makes sense for Seunghyun not to show his hand, but is it so wrong to want something?
Maybe Jiyong’s just being needy.
The hours creep by, and the evening continues much the same, Jiyong fumbling to find even ground while Seunghyun seems wholly unaffected. Jiyong dies a little each time Seunghyun’s gaze slides over him without settling.
Once they’re done recording, Teddy and Kush wave them off so they can start mixing, and Seunghyun finally slips into the empty chair at Jiyong’s side, but then Jiyong sees that it’s just so he can make use of the computer there, and his heart sinks a little further. Sullen, Jiyong focuses back on his notebook. He has a chorus to write, and moping about Seunghyun certainly isn’t going to help with that.
And then it happens. Seunghyun is still staring intently at the computer screen, but his hand has crept underneath the desk and over to Jiyong’s thigh so his thumb can trace tiny patterns there. Jiyong’s heart is instantly on high alert. It pounds inside his chest, rhythm at odds with the slower tempo of the song Teddy and Kush are working on. He stays very still so Seunghyun won’t move his hand. When he chances a look out of the corner of his eye, he sees the grin Seunghyun is trying to hide, and finally, that awful feeling in his stomach begins to settle. He spends the rest of their session trying not to smile like a fool.
When they’re done for the night, Jiyong lingers awkwardly near the door as he waits for Seunghyun to gather his things. He’s not ready for the night to end, but he’s trying to feel Seunghyun out before he says anything. He feels like a kid all over again, like he’s back in middle school trying to orchestrate some alone time with his crush.
Teddy pulls his hood up and shoves his phone in his pocket. “What are you guys doing tonight? My friend’s spinning at this club if you wanna come.”
Jiyong looks to Seunghyun to answer first.
“Nah,” Seunghyun says, stretching the corded muscles in his neck. “I’m beat. I think I’m just gonna head home.”
“Yeah, same,” Jiyong says.
Teddy shrugs. “Suit yourselves.”
Jiyong follows Seunghyun out of the studio, falling in step with him as they make their way down the quiet hall. There was no consensus about them leaving together, but Seunghyun shortens his stride so Jiyong can more easily keep up.
The elevator dings as the doors open, and Seunghyun gestures for Jiyong to enter first, so he does, shivering a little when he feels a hand low on his back ushering him in. He turns around once he’s inside, and they ride the elevator down together.
Jiyong’s mind is racing. He thinks they’re on the same page. Seunghyun isn’t really tired, is he? He just said it to get out of hanging out with Teddy. He’s angling to be alone with Jiyong the same way Jiyong is angling to be alone with him, right?
The elevator descends. Carefully, Jiyong says, “I can give you a ride home if you want. So you don’t have to get one of the managers to.” Seunghyun still hasn’t learned to drive.
“Thanks,” Seunghyun says. “I’d appreciate it.” And then, just as carefully, “I picked up a new bottle of wine the other day. If you’re interested.”
Jiyong swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. Looks like he was right about Seunghyun’s intentions. “Sounds good. But, um, if we’re gonna be drinking, I probably shouldn’t drive home tonight…”
Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Seunghyun’s throat bob. Heat floods Jiyong’s chest at the idea that Seunghyun wants him in his bed just as badly as Jiyong wants to be there.
“Smart,” Seunghyun says once he’s found his voice.
The drive to Seunghyun’s place is just as fraught as their time spent in the elevator. They barely say a word, but there’s a whole conversation happening in the way they breathe, in the tap of Jiyong’s fingers against the steering wheel and the nervous bounce of Seunghyun’s knee.
I don’t have any lube, Jiyong thinks, but then figures they probably won't need any. They just got together, and Seunghyun has never even been with a guy – they have plenty of time to work up to that. Jiyong just wants to kiss him. He doesn’t care if they do anything beyond that. He'd be more than happy if they spent the whole night making out on Seunghyun’s couch.
When they arrive at Seunghyun’s villa, they both wordlessly get out of the car. Jiyong follows a step behind until they reach the door. Seunghyun fishes around a minute for his key and then, hand shaking a bit, tries to fit it into the lock. It’s only then that Jiyong realizes just how nervous Seunghyun is. It’s such a heady thought, that his hyung is this affected.
Finally, Seunghyun manages to get the door open, and they both slip inside, toeing their shoes off in the entryway so that they line up nicely against the wall. Jiyong looks curiously at his surroundings, at the Spongebob painting on the wall and the sentry of Bearbricks lining the hall. He’s been here several times before, but tonight feels like it’s the first, probably because in a lot of ways it is. It’s the first time Jiyong is here as Seunghyun’s boyfriend. The first time he’s spending the night as such.
But it’ll hardly be the last, right? Jiyong will likely come here all the time, now. It’s secluded and private, and his Seunghyun alluded to their relationship lasting for years, so it makes sense for this place to become like a second home. How long before Jiyong has his own toothbrush here? How long before he has his own drawer?
Jiyong shakes his head at himself. He and Seunghyun have barely started dating, and he’s already trying to move in.
His thoughts are interrupted by the sound of Seunghyun clearing his throat. “Um, I guess I’ll go get that bottle of wine.”
Before he knows what he’s doing, Jiyong catches Seunghyun by the wrist, stopping him. Seunghyun looks down at Jiyong’s hand and then up at his eyes in askance. It takes all Jiyong’s courage to do what he does next. He takes in a deep, steadying breath and steps into Seunghyun’s space, in so close that their chests are nearly touching – Jiyong has to tilt his chin nearly all the way up just to be able to look Seunghyun in the eye. “I didn’t come here for the wine.”
Seunghyun breathes in sharply and his pupils blow wide, and that’s all the encouragement Jiyong needs to sink his fingers into Seunghyun’s hair and draw their mouths together. Seunghyun doesn’t resist this time, not even for a joke. His chapped lips brush over Jiyong’s as nervousness continues to buzz in his hands. Jiyong can’t help wondering why Seunghyun is so much more nervous this time, but then chalks it up to the lack of alcohol. They’d both been drinking last night when they’d kissed, and booze has a way of putting people at ease.
This kiss is much like the last one had been, gentle and sweet and everything a first kiss should be, but then Jiyong licks into Seunghyun’s mouth and Seunghyun groans in the back of his throat, and any semblance of gentle or sweet falls away. They crash together, like water crashing over a dam, and Jiyong keens at the first stirrings of Seunghyun’s erection against his belly. Jiyong rubs himself against it.
Seunghyun takes that as his cue to start working his way down Jiyong’s throat, lips and tongue branding hot, feverish skin. He finds a spot he likes on the side of Jiyong’s neck and suckles there, and that might turn into a hickey later, but Jiyong really can’t bring himself to care. His hand fists into Seunghyun’s hair to hold him there.
Seunghyun’s own hand roves over Jiyong’s chest, over top of his rumpled shirt, and he lets out a chuckle. “This is different,” he muses.
Jiyong looks down at where Seunghyun’s flattened hand is emphasizing a lack of boob. “I saw your last girlfriend. It’s not that different.”
Seunghyun snickers. “That’s not nice.”
“Well, it’s true.” As far as Jiyong’s concerned, his days being nice to that girl are over. She’s out of the picture now, and she can stay out. “Does it bother you? That I’m a guy?”
Seunghyun pushes his hips forward in a slow grind, and Jiyong bites down on his lip, half-delirious at the feel of Seunghyun’s cock prodding insistently at his hip. “Does it feel like it bothers me?”
Jiyong absently shakes his head. He’s already lost interest in the question, much more focused on the spell Seunghyun is weaving with his hips. Instead, he says, “Remember when we were kids and you used to try to steal my bed? ‘Cause you said it was more comfortable?”
“It was more comfortable, and the way I remember it, I just wanted you to share.”
Jiyong presses a giggle into Seunghyun’s shirt collar. “Is that offer still available?
It takes a minute for what Jiyong’s suggesting to sink in, but when it does, Seunghyun licks his lips and nods his head.
“Then lead the way.”
They spill into the bed fully clothed, kissing like horny teenagers who have yet to see the other side of second base. They rut around in the bed like wild things, clawing at clothes without removing them, grinding together with no other aim but friction. Jiyong goes for the hem of Seunghyun’s shirt at one point, but Seunghyun catches his hand and pins it down to the mattress, and really, that’s just as good. Jiyong finds he likes it when Seunghyun gets a little forceful. He hooks a leg over Seunghyun’s hip and undulates beneath him, enjoying the way Seunghyun’s weight presses him down into the bed.
Last night when they’d kissed, Jiyong’s mind had been just as much on the other Seunghyun as this one, cataloguing the differences, trying to find where his Seunghyun was bleeding through. But there’s none of that now. Jiyong is definitely and most fervently kissing this Seunghyun. The younger one. The boy who spent endless nights catching M&Ms in his mouth and making Jiyong laugh. The one who pretended to be Jiyong’s boyfriend that one time to help him save face. Jiyong’s kissing the man who watched Titanic with him and held him when he was bawling over onions.
And Jiyong loves him. It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. He loves him, not for what he’ll become, but for what he already is. Jiyong feels it now, just how much.
When they break away, panting, Seunghyun nuzzles at the base of his ear. “Did you ever think we’d be doing this?”
Jiyong has to bite his tongue at that. If Seunghyun only knew.
“Yeah,” he whispers, pulling Seunghyun into another kiss. “I had a hunch.”
Chapter 7: The Hottest Guy on the Planet
"I’ve got the hottest guy on the planet for a boyfriend, but I can’t do anything about it!”
“Why doesn’t he want to fuck me?” Jiyong whines.
The older Seunghyun snickers. There’s a lapse in his ministrations, long enough for him to squeeze fondly at Jiyong’s ankle, before resuming again, thumbs working firm little circles into the tender arch of Jiyong’s foot. He’d appeared less than an hour ago, taken one look at Jiyong’s tired face, and wordlessly pulled Jiyong’s feet into his lap, and that’s where they’ve been ever since, Jiyong lazing around in his boxers while Seunghyun massages his feet, the morning sun filtering in softly through the window.
“I’m serious!” Jiyong huffs up toward the ceiling. “It’s been three whole weeks. Isn’t he horny? Why hasn’t he tried anything? I don’t remember you being nearly this hard to seduce.”
Seunghyun’s lips twitch. “Are you calling me easy?”
“Your words, not mine.” Jiyong pushes the hair back from his face. “I just don’t get it. What’s he waiting for? I’ve practically been throwing myself at him.”
“Pervert,” Seunghyun teases.
“Well, what do you expect? I’ve got the hottest guy on the planet for a boyfriend, but I can’t do anything about it!”
“Hottest guy on the planet, hmm?”
Jiyong narrows his eyes at the pleased smirk on Seunghyun’s face. “Don’t look so smug.”
But really, why doesn’t his boyfriend want him? Is it some kind of delayed crisis of sexuality? The younger Seunghyun said it didn’t bother him, and it certainly didn’t feel like it did, not when they spent half the night dry humping in Seunghyun’s bed, nor when Jiyong shoved his hand against the front of Seunghyun’s pants and finally finished him off.
But Jiyong hasn’t been back to Seunghyun’s place since. He drops hints when they’re in the studio together, but Seunghyun is either too clueless to pick up on them or not interested enough to bother. Jiyong even ambushed him in the elevator the other night, hitting the emergency stop before pushing him up against the wall, biting at his lips and whispering needy words in his ear. Seunghyun had responded just as enthusiastically as he had at his villa, but when Jiyong had offered to drive him home again, Seunghyun had politely declined, citing an early schedule and a need for sleep. The excuse was real enough – they did have to be up super early – but since when did a man let a pesky thing like sleep get in the way of him getting his cock sucked?
“The universe hates me,” Jiyong moans, and his Seunghyun smiles, indulgent.
“I don’t think the universe has much to do with it.”
Jiyong opens his mouth to argue about karma and punishment for crimes undoubtedly committed in a past life when the obvious strikes him. “Hey, wait!” He quickly sits up. “You’re him! You used to be him!” His bottom lip juts out in a pout. “Why didn’t you want to fuck me?”
Instead of answering, Seunghyun holds up both hands in a sign of neutrality. Leave me out of it, they seem to say.
“Hyung,” Jiyong whines, prodding at Seunghyun’s shoulder, trying to get him to crack. “I even waxed my legs, see?” He lifts up one smooth, hairless leg for Seunghyun to inspect. “Do you really want it to go to waste?”
All that gets him is a flick to the forehead, and Jiyong scowls, rubbing his hand over the spot Seunghyun just thumped. “Hyung. This isn’t funny! Do you want me to die from blue balls?”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Seunghyun says, but he’s smiling as he does it, as if Jiyong’s the most adorable thing he’s ever seen. “You’re not gonna die. Why don’t you just go talk to him?”
Jiyong flops back against the mattress with an audible sigh. “This is hopeless. I’m never gonna have sex again.” He starts planning out his new life as a monk, but then remembers just how pretty his boyfriend is and lets out a long, pathetic groan. “I hate this,” he says, kicking his feet to demonstrate just how much he hates it, and Seunghyun quickly recaptures them before Jiyong can accidentally kick him in the groin.
“Why is he so confusing?” Jiyong huffs. “He’s hot one moment and cold the next. And he keeps dodging me. I know that’s what he’s doing, but I don’t get why. Am I coming on too strong?”
Probably, Jiyong thinks. He’s never been very good at concealing what he wants. Maybe he needs to back off. The last thing he wants is for Seunghyun to feel pressured into doing something he doesn’t want or isn’t ready for.
“Is that it?” Jiyong asks, newly subdued. “Should I back off?”
Seunghyun is quiet for a long while, just stroking his thumb over the ball of Jiyong’s ankle. And then he says, “You guys are going out to eat tonight, right?”
Jiyong frowns at the change in topic. “Yeah, we’re having dinner with the rest of the members. Not sure where yet. I wanted to go to this barbeque place, but Seunghyun-hyung’s really cracked down on his diet lately, so—” Jiyong’s mouth rounds in sudden understanding, the realization hitting him like a sack of bricks. Oh.
The older Seunghyun is sitting with his back propped up against the wall, the top two buttons of his shirt casually undone, such a sharp contrast to the way the younger Seunghyun always keeps himself covered. They even hold themselves differently. The older version has an easy confidence about him that Jiyong’s never seen in the younger.
God, Jiyong’s such an idiot. Why didn’t he realize sooner? The younger Seunghyun is so self-conscious about his body; of course that would carry over to sex. So many things make sense now, a light cast over a darkened landscape, illuminating all the details. Jiyong remembers how he’d went for the hem of Seunghyun’s shirt the other night and how Seunghyun had caught his hand and redirected it back against the bed. He remembers not thinking anything of it, but it’s so obvious in hindsight, just how deliberate that maneuver had been.
Jiyong had thought it was sexy at the time, that they never got around to peeling off their clothes, unable to break away from each other for even the second it would’ve taken to disperse with them. He hadn’t considered the alternative, that Seunghyun had subtly manipulated things so that they never made it that far.
Is that why Seunghyun keeps making excuses not to be alone with him? Is he afraid of things escalating between them? Is this another maneuver to keep things from progressing too far?
“You’re thinking awfully hard over there.”
Jiyong’s eyes snap up at the sound of Seunghyun’s voice. He finds his Seunghyun watching him patiently, like he knows exactly where Jiyong’s thoughts have taken him and has been waiting for him to get there.
Slowly, Jiyong sits up, his eyes never leaving Seunghyun’s face. He pulls his feet out of Seunghyun’s lap so they can curl up beneath him, and his hand reaches out – to touch, to reassure, to connect – but he stops just a hairsbreadth away, so close he can feel the warmth radiating from Seunghyun’s cheek.
Is Jiyong allowed to touch him this way? It feels intimate, like the touch of a lover. Would such a touch send Seunghyun away? Would it make him disappear for another four years? What are the rules to this? Where is the line? Seunghyun has been massaging Jiyong’s feet all morning, so does that mean it’s okay?
Jiyong won’t risk it. He pulls away, leaving Seunghyun untouched. His fingers curl in toward his palm so he won’t be tempted to reach for Seunghyun again. Instead, he redirects his reassurance into his voice. “You really are the hottest guy on the planet,” Jiyong tells him, and Seunghyun’s mouth curves just enough to be called a smile.
“Thanks,” he says. “But I’m not the one who needs to hear that.”
Jiyong takes those words to heart. He’s not supposed to meet up with the younger Seunghyun until later tonight, but he just can’t wait until then. He needs to see him now. He needs to tell him how amazing and handsome and wonderful he is right fucking now.
Jiyong unleashes a series of rapid knocks on Seunghyun’s door and waits impatiently for him to answer. He rocks back on his heels while he waits, trying to figure out what he’s going to say and how he’s going to say it, but all those thoughts fly out the window the moment Seunghyun pulls open the door.
Seunghyun looks surprised to see him, and maybe a little cornered. “Hey, Jiyong. What are you doing here?”
But that’s not what’s caught Jiyong’s attention. Seunghyun is dressed in a plaid pajama shirt, Adidas track pants, and a pair of running shoes, and there’s a fine sheen of sweat over his brow, the damp strands of his hair curling softly there.
“Have you been working out?” Jiyong asks.
Seunghyun looks down at himself, self-conscious. “Uh, yeah,” he says, stepping aside to let Jiyong in before pushing the door shut behind them. “Just…trying to stay healthy.”
Only now that Jiyong thinks about it, Seunghyun’s been working out a lot lately. He’s normally lazy with his workouts, but he’s had his gym bag with him at the studio every day this week – he must’ve been coming in early to train. The workouts, the added dieting...the pieces finish coming together, and by the time the picture reveals itself, Jiyong feels a little faint. Is Seunghyun – has he been working so hard for Jiyong? To look good for him? Is he trying to get in shape for when they inevitably take things to the next level? For when they have sex?
Doesn’t Seunghyun know he’s already perfect? Doesn’t he know Jiyong’s so crazy about him that none of that even matters?
Seunghyun’s shirt fits him a little looser than usual, and the angles are sharp in his face. Jiyong’s heart aches at just how sharp. He can see now that his Seunghyun was right, this younger one does need to hear those words; he needs to hear them over and over again until he believes them, only now that Jiyong’s here, he can’t figure out how to say them. They’re all odd and misshapen in his mouth, and whatever knack he has for lyrics has failed him. All he can think about is how Seunghyun doesn’t even wear short sleeves to work out in his own home.
“So…” Seunghyun begins, his hand rubbing over the back of his neck. “Did you just wanna hang out or…?”
Jiyong’s tongue still won’t work, and when words fail, the only thing left to do is act. He wordlessly takes Seunghyun by the hand and starts leading him down the hall, and Seunghyun hesitates for half a second before allowing himself to be led. The nervousness from the last time they did this is back; Jiyong can feel it in the rigid grip of Seunghyun’s hand. Only now he gets why. It’s one more thing he didn’t understand but now does.
Once they make it to the bedroom, Jiyong reverses their positions, turning them about so he can push Seunghyun gently down onto the bed. Seunghyun’s eyes go wide and his lips part, but he allows this too, using his hands to push himself further up the bed until he’s more or less in the center. Jiyong pulls Seunghyun’s shoes off next, along with his socks, and Seunghyun’s toes curl up like they’re trying to hide, like even this tiny bit of exposure is too much. Jiyong rubs a soothing circle into the arch of his foot just like the older Seunghyun had done for him, and when he finally feels Seunghyun start to relax, he lets go and follows him up onto the bed.
Seunghyun is waiting for him, his weight supported behind him on his elbows. He looks rumpled and soft and surprisingly vulnerable, or maybe not so surprisingly. If Jiyong had been paying better attention, he wouldn’t be surprised by this at all. Seunghyun’s mouth is slightly parted, his breathing already gone shallow, and as Jiyong slides one leg over Seunghyun’s middle to straddle him, his breathing grows shallower yet.
Jiyong pushes Seunghyun the rest of the way down, the back of his head sinking into one of the soft, downy pillows, and Jiyong follows after, chapped lips sliding along that sharp, beautiful jaw.
He finally finds his voice. “Remember back when we were kids? When I told that asshole you were my boyfriend and you played along?”
At Seunghyun’s nod, Jiyong nuzzles in further, suckling at the tender spot below the hinge of Seunghyun’s jaw, tasting the slight tang there, still sweat-slick from his time spent working out.
“Do you remember what else I said that day?” Jiyong asks. He doubts Seunghyun will. It’s been more than four years since then. The memory has likely long since faded, if it was even important enough to store at all.
But Seunghyun surprises him. “You said you’d show me off.”
“You remember that?”
Seunghyun turns his head to the side, the tips of his ears stained pink. “It made an impression.”
Jiyong smiles against Seunghyun’s throat, slow and pleased. Let’s see if he can make another one.
His lips rove over the new patch of skin Seunghyun has inadvertently exposed by turning his head, trailing down to the folded over collar, nipping and suckling, slow kisses designed to tease, but when he tries to push the material aside, Seunghyun’s hand shoots up to keep it in place.
Seunghyun seems to realize what he’s done a beat too late, and his eyes screw shut knowing he’s given himself away. “Sorry, I—”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t trying to take it off. I don’t care if you keep it on.”
And he doesn’t, not really. He just wants to make Seunghyun feel good, and if that means keeping their clothes on, that’s fine with him. They can work up to the rest.
He presses another kiss to Seunghyun’s throat before continuing his way down, this time over the shirt instead of under. He mouths his way down, hot and wet enough for Seunghyun to feel it through the fabric, and when he reaches the pebbled nub poking up underneath the shirt pocket, Jiyong wraps his lips around it and sucks. The shirt is surprisingly thin for all it covers, a fine cotton blend that’s held together by a long row of buttons down the front, and Jiyong makes the most of it, the point of his tongue flicking back and forth over Seunghyun’s nipple so the scrape of fabric will create sweet friction. Seunghyun tips his head back and lets out a hiss.
Jiyong can’t believe how sensitive Seunghyun is. Seunghyun responds to each touch as if there’s no barrier between them at all, no shirt protecting his skin, as if the shirt is his skin, the outermost layer, with nerves and veins and a crippling sensitivity to touch. It might as well be for the way Seunghyun refuses to part with it.
Jiyong kneads at Seunghyun’s hip as his mouth seeks out the other nipple, and when the shirt starts to ride up, Jiyong carefully smooths it back down, unwilling to take anything before it’s expressly given.
“You can take it off if you want.”
Jiyong looks up, surprised. Seunghyun is looking decidedly to the side, not meeting Jiyong’s eyes. There’s a deep tension in his jaw, the same tension that’s knotted throughout his muscles and limbs, and his whole body is held carefully still. Jiyong can tell how much it cost him to put that out there, can tell he’s already warring with himself on whether or not to take it back.
“Only if you want me to,” Jiyong whispers.
Seunghyun shrugs and leaves Jiyong to decide what exactly that shrug means. Jiyong doesn’t know, though. Is it the kind of shrug that says, No, I definitely don’t want you to take it off, but I can tell that’s what you want so I guess I’ll let you? Or is it more: Yes, I want you to do this, but I’m nervous and scared, and really, I’d just like you to take the decision out of my hands?
Jiyong takes a chance on the latter. Carefully, he slips the topmost button through the buttonhole and lets the fabric part into a soft V, and Seunghyun’s breath shudders out of him in a rush – Jiyong hadn’t even realized he’d been holding it. Jiyong hesitates for just a moment before deliberately moving on to the next button.
It’s a slow kind of torture, for the both of them, Jiyong’s slender fingers working their way down Seunghyun’s front, Seunghyun’s breaths rattling around in his chest, quick and shallow so his tummy will stay perfectly flat. Everything around them is still. Still and quiet. The bed creaks when Jiyong shifts his knee. A car horn sounds somewhere off in the distance.
One by one, the buttons come undone. Seunghyun’s heart is beating so fast Jiyong’s sure it’s going to beat its way right out of his chest.
“Did you not do this with your girlfriends?” Jiyong asks.
“Yeah, but…” Seunghyun looks away, embarrassed. “We kept the lights off. And we mostly stayed under the covers.”
“If you don’t wanna do this, we don’t have to.”
Seunghyun still isn’t looking at him. Softly, as if the words have to be pulled out of him, “I want to.”
Jiyong nods, having reached the last button. Fabric whispers over warm, coveted skin as he parts the halves of Seunghyun’s shirt. His eyes drink in the sight before him, so fucking humbled that he’s being trusted with this. Seunghyun is beautiful, long and lean with narrow hips. He lacks the breadth and definition he’ll have in the future, but he’s still lovely and sleek, dusky nipples drawn into two tight peaks. He shivers like a frail autumn leaf as Jiyong reaches out to touch him.
“I’m so lame,” Seunghyun laughs, throwing an arm up to cover his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m this nervous.”
“Me neither. You’re perfect.”
“You are,” Jiyong insists, leaning back in to make his case with lips and tongue and teeth. He retraces all the ground he’s just covered now that the shirt is out of the way. If he thought Seunghyun was sensitive before, it’s nothing compared to how he is now. Seunghyun’s skin prickles with goosebumps at the slightest caress.
Jiyong can’t get enough. He’s a pious man come to worship, devotion dripping from his lips. Every touch is a chance to tell Seunghyun how perfect he is. "You’re so hot," he says as he kisses Seunghyun’s once chubby tummy. "So sexy," he whispers along the faint stretchmarks that still trace his hips. He remembers how readily the older Seunghyun had cast off his shirt and decides he wants to be the reason for that. He wants to be the reason Seunghyun is so confident in the future. He wants to be the one who makes him that way. Screw music. This is going to be his new life’s work.
“You really are the hottest guy on the planet,” Jiyong murmurs, words he’d said to the older Seunghyun just this morning, but a sentiment he means for both.
“Second hottest,” Seunghyun corrects, and Jiyong smiles at first, thinking his hyung is being sweet and reserving the top spot for Jiyong, but then he notices the bitter quality of his voice and realizes that’s not it at all.
“I’m the second hottest, remember?”
Jiyong stares at him, uncomprehending, because he’s never ranked anyone above Seunghyun.
“After that guy you slept with. Your sugar daddy.”
Jiyong’s mouth falls open. “He’s not my sugar daddy. And that was a long time ago. What even made you think of it?”
Seunghyun mashes his lips together and looks away, and Jiyong realizes that probably wasn’t how he was supposed to respond. He was supposed to tell Seunghyun that he’s first, that he’s always been first – it’s obvious now that that’s what Seunghyun had been looking for. By not giving it to him, Jiyong’s basically confirmed the opposite, that there is someone who ranks higher.
“You’re just as hot as he is,” Jiyong rushes to reassure, but then immediately winces. That wasn’t right either if the tick in Seunghyun’s jaw is anything to go by. Why can’t Jiyong stop putting his foot in his mouth?
The mood broken, Jiyong sits back up, hands splayed out over his thighs. He can feel Seunghyun’s erection pressing up into him through their clothes, but he does his best to ignore it. He has to fix the mess he’s made before they can get back to that. He came over here to soothe Seunghyun’s insecurities, but now he’s just making them worse. Seunghyun tugs one half of his shirt back into place, and Jiyong frowns.
“I hated him,” Seunghyun says, and then he chuckles, a dark, jagged sound. “I really hated him.”
“Why?” Jiyong knows that Seunghyun hadn’t exactly been thrilled with the idea of Jiyong sleeping with an older man, but he’d thought that was just Seunghyun being protective. The piercing look Seunghyun gives him tells him otherwise.
“Why do you think? I was jealous. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I told myself it was ‘cause the guy was a dick, that I didn’t wanna see some bastard taking advantage of you. But looking back…”
This is news to Jiyong. But then, this Seunghyun has always been difficult to read. Jiyong’s never been able to tell what exactly he’s feeling. “None of the other guys I dated ever seemed to bother you,” Jiyong points out.
“This one was different. I could tell. We all could. Remember when you were telling us about him that night at the club? Seungho and Soohyuk kept teasing you, and you just smiled. I’d never seen you smile like that.”
Jiyong sucks in his bottom lip. That was right after he and the other Seunghyun had made love, right after Jiyong had realized that he was in love. He can only imagine how besotted he must’ve appeared that night.
“And then, I don’t know what happened with you guys, if he blew you off or what, but I watched you mope around for months after that. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought somebody died.”
Jiyong’s gaze falls down toward his lap. That’s what it had felt like. His Seunghyun had been such a huge part of his life, and then he was just gone. And Jiyong couldn’t even mourn him because he’d had no idea what had happened to him.
Jiyong chooses his next words carefully. “I did like him. I liked him a lot. But…” What’s he even supposed to say here? He can’t tell the truth, can’t tell Seunghyun that his future self just happens to pop in from time to time whenever Jiyong’s in need of a hanky, can’t tell him there’s no reason to be jealous because that’s only being jealous of himself.
Finally, Jiyong settles on the closest thing to the truth he can come up with. “I liked him ‘cause he reminded me of you.”
Seunghyun looks doubtful. “Of me? How so?”
“Just…everything. You have the same sense of humor, the same taste in music. And you look just like him. Seriously, you’d freak out if you saw him.”
That doesn’t seem to make Seunghyun any less unhappy. “So he’s an older, hotter version of me. Great.”
A grin tugs at Jiyong's cheeks. “That’s not what I said.”
“At least tell me he has wrinkles or something.”
“Not really, maybe some faint ones by his eyes – I mean, yes, he has wrinkles. Lots and lots of wrinkles. And warts. Big, hairy ones.”
Seunghyun claps his hand over Jiyong’s mouth to shut him up, but he’s chuckling as he does it and the light is back in his eyes, and Jiyong knows that they’re gonna be okay.
Now that the edges between them feel somewhat smooth again, Jiyong lowers himself back down, stretching out his legs and fitting himself along Seunghyun’s side. His hand slips under the fabric of Seunghyun’s shirt so it can curl over his steadily beating heart.
“Seriously, though,” Jiyong says, “he slept with me and then spent the next few years ignoring me, so you’ve got that on him.”
Jiyong’s giggle bubbles out of him, and he nods his head, tongue curling behind his teeth. “I’m glad you think so. You should remember this.”
“And you know, you weren’t the only one who was jealous back then. I hated your girlfriend just as much. I wanted to rip her hair out every time I saw her.”
“What? You liked me back then?”
Jiyong looks up at him in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? I had the biggest crush on you ever. It was embarrassing.”
“That notebook I got you for your birthday? I spent hours on that thing. Did you think I’d do that for just anybody?”
“I still have that. It’s in my drawer.” Seunghyun uses his chin to gesture toward one of the nightstands. “I never even used it. I didn’t want to mess up any of the pages.”
"What do you mean you never used it? It was supposed to be for your raps!"
"I didn't want to mess it up!"
Jiyong sighs, feigning annoyance, but in reality it makes him feel good that his gift was so treasured. He cuddles in closer, resting his cheek against Seunghyun’s chest. The room is noticeably darker than it was when they first entered, and Jiyong pulls his phone out to check the time.
“We’re supposed to meet the others soon.”
Seunghyun’s arm comes up around him, the side of his thumb stroking the bare skin of Jiyong’s hip where his shirt has ridden up. “Yeah.”
“We could always cancel.”
“Why? So you can get back to defiling me?”
“I did leave it a bit unfinished.”
Jiyong raises up to give Seunghyun a deep, heated kiss, his hand snaking its way down to cup Seunghyun through his pants. Seunghyun is mostly soft now, but Jiyong quickly fondles him back to hardness before sliding down Seunghyun's body to resume his earlier mission. Jiyong wonders if Seunghyun will be just as sensitive through his pants as he was through his shirt. There’s a small, wet circle where the precome has leaked through, and Jiyong presses his tongue there.
“Fuck,” Seunghyun breathes.
“You like that?” Like a cat, Jiyong rubs his cheek against the bulge in Seunghyun’s pants. “I like it.”
Seunghyun lets out another curse, and Jiyong laughs as his hyung fumbles around for his cellphone to let the others know they’re not coming.
Chapter 8: The Rules
Seunghyun gives him a disbelieving look. “I’ve already told you way more than I should have. I’m lucky I haven’t blown up the planet.”
Jiyong smiles to himself as he crosses out another day. He has a calendar hanging on his wall, and every day he makes another slash, counting the days he and Seunghyun have been together. He has a big red circle marking what will be their hundredth day as a couple, and Jiyong’s beyond excited to get there. It’s been a while since he’s been in a real relationship, and he wants to do everything right. He wants chocolates on Valentine’s Day and chapped kisses on Christmas Eve. He wants to celebrate every milestone they reach. It’s tradition for a couple to celebrate their first hundred days, and Jiyong doesn’t want to be left out.
His Seunghyun appears just as Jiyong is recapping his marker, Day 31 having just been crossed out.
“Warts, huh?” Seunghyun complains from his new perch on Jiyong’s bed. “You couldn’t come up with anything better than warts?”
Jiyong grins at the mention of his words to the younger Seunghyun. “What else should I have told him? That my so-called ‘sugar daddy’ really is just as hot? That would’ve made him feel bad.”
After tossing the marker onto his desk, Jiyong takes his customary spot next to Seunghyun on the bed, relishing in the smell of nice, clean sheets. They’re still warm from where he’s just retrieved them from the dryer.
Speaking of laundry, Seunghyun’s shirt looks just as fresh, white as newly fallen snow. There’s not a mark on it, which is amazing considering the way Jiyong bawled all over him the night Seunghyun reappeared. Now that he thinks about it, it was just as clean the last time Jiyong saw him; he just hadn’t paid it any mind then.
“Good to know you at least wash it,” Jiyong points out.
“Your shirt. The last time I cried on you I got eyeliner all over you. There were these huge black smudges right in the center of your chest. Two of them.”
Seunghyun looks down at where Jiyong’s gesturing with his finger. “Oh. Yeah, I took care of it.”
“So…has this all been the same day for you? Is that why you’re always wearing that? Do you just skip from one moment to the next in the past? Did you come straight here from the last time I saw you?”
“You’re full of questions today.”
“Maybe ‘cause you’re always so short on answers.”
Instead of rectifying this, Seunghyun leans over the side of the bed and scoops up the little orange ball that’s rolled just under the nightstand. He tosses it back and forth between his hands.
“What about your time machine?” Jiyong asks. “What does it look like? Or do you even have one?” It’s not like Jiyong’s ever seen Seunghyun stepping out of a DeLorean. “Is it more like Star Trek? Does someone just beam you wherever you want to go?”
Seunghyun doesn’t answer. It doesn’t even look like he’s listening. He just keeps tossing that little ball from one hand to the other – left, right, left, right – the sound of rubber smacking against meaty palms. It’s not long before a slight miscalculation has him fumbling the ball, sending it rolling over to Jiyong’s side of the bed where Jiyong grabs hold of it before Seunghyun can.
Holding the ball hostage, “Come on, there has to be something you can tell me.”
Seunghyun gives him a disbelieving look. “I’ve already told you way more than I should have. I’m lucky I haven’t blown up the planet.”
“How do you know when to show up?” Jiyong presses. “You always seem to know just when I need you.”
“Oh. That’s the easy part. It doesn’t matter when I show up; you always seem to need me. I think you’re just needy.”
Indignant, Jiyong chucks the ball right at Seunghyun’s chest where it rebounds and bounces harmlessly to the floor, skittering off toward the closet while Seunghyun laughs.
Jiyong pouts. “You suck. I want a new future boyfriend. Mine is deficient.”
Seunghyun’s laugh is so happy it’s almost a giggle, this low, contented rumble that makes his eyes crinkle up. Jiyong loves that sound. He feels just as happy listening to it.
After a few moments, Seunghyun holds up his wrist. "My watch," he says.
Jiyong’s never paid much attention to his watch. Most of the time it’s covered by the cuff of Seunghyun’s shirt. But he has noticed it. “Your Rolex?”
“It’s a special Rolex. It’s been altered just for my use.” He tilts his wrist so Jiyong can examine the face. “Look. Different numbers mean different things. When the hour hand is on the nine, I know tears are on the way. Ten means my shirt is about to get soaked.” His eyes twinkle. “I don’t wanna know what twelve looks like.”
Jiyong shoves at Seunghyun’s shoulder. “Shut up. You ass.”
Laughing, Seunghyun rocks with Jiyong’s shove. “What?” he blinks back innocently. “You don’t believe me? It’s even how I’m able to turn invisible.” His finger taps against the little button on the side that’s usually reserved for setting the time. “I push this button here, and no one can see me but you.”
Jiyong gives him a shrewd look. He can’t tell whether or not Seunghyun is having him on. “Why just me? How does that work?”
“Don’t ask me. Do I look like a scientist to you? It’s tuned into you somehow. Other people can see me if I want them to, but I’m not really supposed to do that.”
“You let those boys see you when I was little, the ones who were bullying me.”
“I couldn’t help it. I just got so mad. I chased them off before I even realized what I was doing.”
“Did you wind up getting in trouble?”
“No. I guess it didn’t have that much of an effect on things.”
“And that’s bad? Effecting things?” But of course, it’s bad. His Seunghyun always says he’s not allowed to get too involved.
Seunghyun hesitates before answering. The words stall somewhere on the back of his tongue, and then he lets them out, one by one, arranged carefully to his liking. “If I effect things too much, if I change them, other things might change, too. Things I don’t want to change. I know what I need to fix, and I know how I need to fix it, but I can only do that if things go the way they’re supposed to go.”
“Right,” Jiyong says. “‘Cause that’s not vague or anything.”
“Think about it. If I’d stayed with you that night all those years ago and you really had given up on the other me, then the two of you never would’ve gotten together, which means we wouldn’t’ve gotten together, and he never would’ve become me, and I never would’ve traveled back, and then I couldn’t…” Seunghyun cuts off, something heavy lodged in his throat. He swallows. “And then I couldn’t fix what I need to fix.”
Jiyong presses his lips together and looks down at his own lap. That heavy thing Seunghyun just tried to expel feels like it’s found a new home on Jiyong’s shoulders. Or maybe they’re just sharing the weight, now. Jiyong doesn’t bother asking Seunghyun to clarify what needs fixing because he knows Seunghyun won’t and because he’s pretty sure he already knows the answer.
Seunghyun’s voice is softer when he speaks next. “What we did nearly changed things. It nearly derailed our entire future together. That’s why I had to stay away. It’s why I couldn’t come back till I was sure things were back on track.”
“When the other Seunghyun and I got together,” Jiyong clarifies.
“Did you know? When we slept together, did you know you’d have to stay away afterwards?”
“I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I knew it was a bad idea. I knew I shouldn’t do it, that it could wreck everything, but…I did it anyway.”
“Because I wanted you.”
Jiyong’s lips part at Seunghyun’s simple honesty. It’s enough to take his breath away, enough to stir up all the little butterflies that live inside his tummy. He sits up a little straighter, the weight of his burden gone or forgotten or just not that heavy now that Seunghyun is looking at him with those warm, chocolate eyes.
“I was selfish,” Seunghyun says. “I don’t know what to say other than that.”
Jiyong doesn’t think it’s quite that simple. The last thing Seunghyun had felt that night was selfish. Jiyong had been desperate and hurting, and he doesn’t think Seunghyun would’ve given in if that hadn’t been the case.
“I was really young, then," Jiyong says.
“Dirty old man.”
Seunghyun’s jaw drops. And then he laughs, “Shut up.” He shoves at Jiyong the same way Jiyong had shoved at him. “You were legal.”
Seunghyun shoves at him again, and Jiyong takes it with a smile, grinning so hard his cheeks ache. He giggles when Seunghyun’s hand darts in to tickle at his ribs.
Soon, Seunghyun gives up on that and relaxes back against the wall, one leg slightly bent, the other stretched out in front of him. He looks serene now, the golden rays of the sun filtering in through the window to catch on the tips of his eyelashes, making him even more beautiful than he normally is, so beautiful Jiyong aches. If Jiyong didn’t know better, he’d wonder if maybe this man was imaginary after all, because he seems far too perfect to be real.
A stray lock of hair has fallen over Seunghyun’s forehead, and Jiyong wants so badly to touch it, to smooth the inky tendril back into place. His hand clenches against the urge. Seunghyun catches the motion and sends him a questioning look, and Jiyong sighs.
“I’m so afraid to even touch you. I’m afraid one wrong move is gonna send you away again.”
Seunghyun slides his hand across the covers so he can touch his pinky to the side of Jiyong’s balled up hand, and then he smiles, slow and tender. “I’m still here.”
Jiyong relaxes his hand and lets his pinky curl over Seunghyun’s. It’s something, but it’s not nearly enough. “What if I hugged you? Would you still be here then?”
Seunghyun grins. “I like hugs.”
Jiyong’s hit with a sudden bout of déjà vu. The younger Seunghyun had said the same thing the night they got together, had flashed those same dimples when he’d said it. Jiyong sees his Seunghyun in the younger one all the time, but this is the first time he’s seen the younger so clearly in the older.
“What if I kissed you?” Jiyong whispers, cheeks tinged pink at his own boldness.
Seunghyun’s eyes flicker with something that might be interest, but then, it could just as easily be amusement. “Why would you want to? You have a boyfriend now. I don’t think he’d like it if you cheated on him.”
“How can it be cheating if it’s with you? And I’m not saying I want to kiss you; I’m just asking what would happen if I did. I wanna know where the line is. I wanna know the rules.”
He would feel so much better if he could just get a handle on this. He hates always being left in the dark, hates feeling like he has no control. If he knew the rules, he could be sure to follow them, and then Seunghyun would never have to leave.
Jiyong tells him as much. “I don’t want you to go away again.”
Something in Seunghyun’s face softens. He looks away. He looks away for a long time before rubbing his lips together and wetting them with his tongue. “We can be close,” Seunghyun finally says, “just not too close. I can be there for you, but that’s all I can be. The main rule is this: don’t disrupt the timeline. That means I can’t do anything to disrupt your relationship with my past self. Last time I left before any real damage could be done, but I don’t know if we’d be so lucky a second time. If you kiss me again, I could disappear for good.”
“Oh.” Jiyong puffs up his cheeks before letting the air out in a rush. “So I shouldn’t kiss you then.”
“I know it’ll be a struggle,” Seunghyun says, adopting a magnanimous air, “but you’ll just have to restrain yourself. Settle for Junior.”
“Settle?” Jiyong can’t help laughing. “You’re so full of yourself.”
With that same air, “It’s not my fault I’m clearly the superior version.”
“Full of yourself,” Jiyong repeats, just in case Seunghyun didn’t hear it the first time.
“Facts are facts. Don’t you think you’re better now than you used to be? More experienced? Older? Wiser? Don’t you think you know more now than you did a year ago? Or the year before that? We’re constantly growing and bettering ourselves. Is it really that narcissistic for me to think that this version of myself is better than the one that existed six years ago?”
Seunghyun hangs his head and grins. “Well, okay then. Maybe I’m a narcissist.”
Jiyong had answered yes, but that was just to take Seunghyun down a peg or two. He very much understands the point. Sometimes he cringes looking back on the things he did when he was younger. He was so naïve, and painfully eager. He thinks he likes himself more now, too.
“What about me?” Jiyong asks. “Would you pick this me over four-years-ago me?”
That gives Seunghyun pause. “Only ‘cause I’d feel less like I was taking advantage.”
“Whatever. I’m on to you now. You liked innocent, teenage Jiyong. Admit it.”
“He did have cute knees,” Seunghyun teases, but then he snorts, “though you were hardly innocent.”
Jiyong feigns a wide-eyed look full of all the innocence Seunghyun claims he doesn’t have. “Who me?”
“Yes, you. Don’t think I forgot who seduced who.”
Jiyong can’t help grinning and even offering himself a mental pat on the back, more than pleased with himself, but then a new thought occurs to him, one he can’t believe he's never before entertained. “What about future me? Would you pick him over me?”
It catches Seunghyun off guard; Jiyong can tell by his quick parting of lips, by the unnamable look that flares up in his eyes and disappears again just as quickly, and Jiyong wishes he’d never asked. Because, if Jiyong’s right, there is no future him. He’s gone. Seunghyun lost him. Jiyong had been jealous at the idea of his future self, at the idea that maybe there was a better version of himself that this Seunghyun would rather be with, given the choice, but that seems paltry compared to what Seunghyun must be going through, losing the one he loves, fighting to get him back.
“Never mind,” Jiyong says. “Don’t answer that.”
He feels Seunghyun’s hand in his hair, then, fingers sliding through the silky strands so he can cradle the back of Jiyong’s skull in his palm. Everything about him is tender: his eyes, his touch, the shape of his mouth. Jiyong can’t remember why he ever thought this man looked scary.
“You’re just Jiyong,” Seunghyun whispers. “Past, future…I’ve been watching you your whole life, and there’s never been a version of you I don’t love.”
Tears prickle at the back of Jiyong’s eyes. Their eyes hold, even as Jiyong’s start to well up, and his heart has never felt so full, so full it hurts, like a physical thing. Seunghyun is looking at him like he never wants to look anywhere else, and Jiyong doesn’t know what he’s ever done to deserve such a look.
And then Seunghyun pulls away to look down at his watch, cuffed below the hand that was just cradling the back of Jiyong’s head. “Would you look at that?” he teases. “The hour hand’s on the nine. Tears are on the way.”
Jiyong gives a watery laugh and scrubs his eyes with the back of his hand, wiping any potential tears away. “Bastard,” he grumbles, and Seunghyun grins.
Sometimes Jiyong feels weird going from one Seunghyun to the other, like he’s living a double life. When he goes to hang out with the younger one, it’s with a heart full of secrets and memories he can’t share. He has to pretend like this is all there is, the here and now, like deep down he doesn’t know that the clock is ticking down.
They do a lot of normal things together. Seunghyun is a bit of a hermit, so they spend a large chunk of their time camped out on Seunghyun’s sofa watching movies.
Seunghyun grins over at him and offers up the bag of chips on his lap, and Jiyong can’t help thinking how lovely that grin is, how young and carefree. The bag makes a crinkling sound as Jiyong reaches in to pluck out a chip. The chip crunches between his teeth, and Jiyong does his best to push aside all thoughts of the future, to focus all his attention on the movie.
Seunghyun picked out the movie this time: The Butterfly Effect. Jiyong wishes he would’ve picked anything else. He watches scene after scene with an ever-sinking feeling in his gut, watches as the main character goes back in time over and over again, desperately trying to right the things that have gone wrong, but each attempt only leads to more failure.
The longer Jiyong watches, the more anxious he feels. What if…what if this isn’t the first time his Seunghyun has come back? What if he’s tried before? What if he’s failed before? What if Jiyong’s just not meant to survive?
And then Jiyong thinks of something else, a question he’s never even thought to ask.
Why did Seunghyun travel so far back? Why didn’t he just go directly to the moment where it all goes wrong? If he needs to fix something, why doesn’t he just go fix it? Why does he spend all this time at Jiyong’s side? Sometimes he shows up when Jiyong isn’t even upset, like he’s bored and has nothing better to do than sit with Jiyong on his bed. Seunghyun made it clear that he was trying not to shape events with his visits, so he must just be visiting for visiting’s sake.
And Jiyong can only think of one explanation for why Seunghyun would do that: he wants to spend time with Jiyong while he still can. Which means Seunghyun must not be that confident in his ability to fix things.
Maybe he’s already tried and failed; maybe this is his only shot and he’s afraid he’ll cock it up.
Maybe he just misses Jiyong.
The younger Seunghyun cracks up at something that just happened on the screen, but Jiyong’s too weighed down with dread to laugh. Six years, he thinks. Probably closer to five, now. Five years until whatever bad thing happens. Not very much time at all.
No, Jiyong thinks. He can’t think that way. His Seunghyun is gonna fix things. He will. He promised Jiyong he wouldn’t let anything happen to him. It’s all gonna be fine.
Jiyong cuddles up against Seunghyun’s side and laces their fingers together. There’s an orange, powdery residue on Seunghyun’s fingertips from the chips, but Jiyong doesn’t care. He’s not going anywhere.
It’s finally here. Jiyong makes his hundredth slash on the calendar first thing in the morning.
He’s been planning this night for weeks, gathering supplies, seeing to each and every detail with careful precision, and now it’s finally time to put it all in motion. Jiyong ropes Seungho into helping him for the day, weighing his arms down with bags and ducking behind his back as they head up to the penthouse that way no one will see his face.
“Suck it in,” Seungho orders, pulling hard at the laces trailing down Jiyong’s back. Jiyong sucks in his tummy as much as he can and feels the corset cinch his waist that much tighter.
“How do people breathe in these things?” Jiyong laughs. It was so embarrassing asking Seungho for help getting into this, but there was no way he could’ve done it himself.
Jiyong straightens up to his full height and nearly totters over on his heels. He grabs hold of Seungho’s shoulder to keep himself up. “Maybe I should’ve went with the shorter ones.”
He has on a set of sleek black pumps over a pair of dark silk stockings. The stockings are latched onto his corset with a set of delicate looking garter belts. Jiyong pivots around to get a better look at himself in the floor-length bathroom mirror. Not too shabby. The corset accentuates his waist, making it even tinier than it normally is, which in turn sets off his ass. His ass looks nice and pert in a pair of black lacy underwear.
“Well?” Jiyong asks. “What do you think?”
“You look like a stripper.”
"Yeah, but, in a good way? Do you think he’ll like it?”
Seungho flicks at one of the long steel bones holding the shape of Jiyong’s waist and nods. “What time is he supposed to get here?”
“I haven’t given him a time, yet,” Jiyong answers, shrugging on the satin robe he brought and tying it at the waist. “I didn’t know how long it would take me to get set up. I just told him to keep the night open.”
Seungho helps him finish setting up. He has room service bring up nearly every dessert on the menu to satisfy Seunghyun’s sweet tooth, only passing on the ones that include ice-cream because Jiyong doesn’t want them to melt. They bring up a bottle of wine and a set of wineglasses, as well. It takes forever for Jiyong to decide on which kind, one of the hazards of dating a wine snob.
The last thing they do is light all the candles Jiyong has scattered around the room. There are tons of them, thick off-white cylinders that smell of coconut and vanilla. Seungho wrinkles his nose at one.
“Do you think you brought enough candles?”
“Shut up,” Jiyong says, “or I’ll send you out for some more.”
All the candles lit, Seungho tosses Jiyong a lewd wink and finally heads for the door. “Be safe,” he calls back over his shoulder. “Have good orgasms.”
Jiyong can’t believe how giddy he is, or how nervous. He and Seunghyun are going to have sex tonight. Real, full on sex. It’ll be their first time. They’ve spent the last couple months learning each other’s bodies with lips and hands, but this’ll be the first time they take things further than that. Jiyong’s got it all worked out. He brought condoms and lube and wore a pair of fuck-me heels to set the mood.
And it’s their hundredth day together. It’s special.
All he needs is his boyfriend, and it’ll be perfect.
Seunghyun doesn’t answer the first time Jiyong calls. Jiyong frowns and immediately tries again. Surely Seunghyun is expecting him. Jiyong reminded him just last week to keep tonight open. He didn’t say explicitly what for, but still.
The phone rings and rings, and Seunghyun finally picks up.
“Hey, Hyung!” Jiyong gushes. “I have a surprise for you.”
“What kind of surprise?”
“Come and find out.”
“I can’t right now,” Seunghyun says, and it’s then that Jiyong notices the bustling sounds in the background. “I’m out at dinner.”
“Oh.” But Jiyong told him not to make plans. “Come after.”
“I can’t. We’re going to see a movie. Sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted to hang out.”
“What do you mean you didn’t realize? I told you not to make plans tonight.”
“That was tonight? Oh. Sorry. Well, is it cool if we hang out tomorrow instead?”
Jiyong’s heart sinks. “But it’s—”
It’s our hundredth day as a couple.
“Nothing,” Jiyong says. “Have fun at the movies.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
Jiyong hangs up the phone. The hand holding it falls uselessly to his lap. Candles twinkle all around the otherwise darkened room, and Jiyong feels lonely in the sea of them. Lonely and unwanted. Like he did back in high school when Hojin gave him the brush off. A clingy idiot who never learned how to take a hint. It was stupid of him to think Seunghyun would be as excited about today as Jiyong.
The candles burn lower, and the food remains untouched. The corset digs into his flesh, and Jiyong sniffs. He might as well clean all this up.
He moves from one candle to the next, blowing them out one by one. Less than halfway through, he feels a gentle touch to his hip followed by warm arms sliding around his waist. Jiyong relaxes back against a familiar chest.
“I’m an idiot,” his Seunghyun says.
Jiyong nods. His chin wobbles as he tries to keep himself from crying.
“No, it’s not. I can’t believe you did all this for me.”
Jiyong doesn’t have anything to say to that, or maybe he doesn’t want to say anything. Maybe he doesn’t want to draw any more attention to how pitiful he feels, dressed up in a pair of silk stockings for a man who has better things to do than come take them off him.
“Turn around,” Seunghyun says. “I want to look at you.”
Jiyong closes his eyes before slowly doing as Seunghyun says. He stands there as Seunghyun drinks him in, dark eyes roving over him from head to foot and back again. Seunghyun reaches for the belt of his robe and gives it a little tug, and the fabric parts under his hands, satin slithering over Jiyong’s shoulders and pooling at his feet. Jiyong does his best not to fidget under the heat of Seunghyun’s gaze.
“I’m so fucking dumb,” Seunghyun mutters. His fingers slip down to trace along one of the garters. “You look incredible.”
Heat flares under Seunghyun’s touch. “Is that not against the rules?” Jiyong asks, and Seunghyun tears his hand away as if burned.
“Right.” But then he trades the weight of his touch for the weight of his gaze and gives Jiyong another scrolling look. “But there’s no rule against me looking.”
Jiyong looks down, suddenly bashful. He runs the toe of one heel along the back of his calf. “You like it?”
“I love it.”
“Do you think I look pretty?”
“I think you look beautiful.”
That’s the second time his Seunghyun has used that word for him, and it hits Jiyong just as hard now as it did before.
The next thing Jiyong knows, Seunghyun is headed over toward the corner desk and fiddling with the radio, and after a few aborted stations, it’s playing an old Otis Redding song, something soft and slow and achingly tender. Seunghyun comes back to him and holds out his hand.
“Come on,” he says. “Dance with me.”
Jiyong stares down at Seunghyun’s hand, wondering if he’s allowed to take it, wondering if it’s really okay. Seunghyun seems to register the problem.
“Dancing’s just one long hug, right? There’s no rule against hugging.” When Jiyong still seems hesitant, Seunghyun leans in and offers him a gentle smile. “It’s our hundredth day,” he says. “We can’t let that pass without celebrating.”
That’s enough to make Jiyong give in. He takes Seunghyun’s hand, and Seunghyun reels him in.
The next day, the younger Seunghyun calls him just as promised, but Jiyong doesn’t answer. He ignores Seunghyun’s texts for the rest of the day and sends all his calls to voicemail. He makes plans to hit the club with Seungho, but when he gets there, Seunghyun’s already there with Soohyuk and Kyungil. That’s the problem with sharing a group of friends. It’s hard to avoid each other.
The only free seat is next to Seunghyun because that’s where everyone assumed Jiyong would want to sit, so Jiyong steels himself before sinking into the chair.
“Hey,” Seunghyun says, but Jiyong doesn’t so much as glance his way. He’s still hurt and disappointed, and he’s not quite willing to let go of that, yet.
Seunghyun leans over to whisper in his ear. “Is this about last night? I told you already, I'm sorry I made other plans. Are you seriously pissed at me for this?”
Blood simmers under Jiyong’s skin, hot and thick. He’s seething where he sits. “Don’t talk to me,” he snaps. Seunghyun huffs and sits back in his seat.
Halfway through their first round, Seungho sends a lewd smirk their way. “So how did last night go? I thought the candles were a little overkill, but I’m such a sucker for stockings.”
Jiyong glares across the table at him, willing him to shut the fuck up, and Seunghyun looks back and forth between them, confused.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jiyong sniffs. “It obviously wasn’t important.”
Seungho lets out a low whistle, and he and Soohyuk share a look.
“Someone’s in trouble,” Soohyuk snickers.
Seunghyun looks helplessly around the table, at a loss, but Jiyong doesn’t help him out. If Seunghyun’s too stupid to figure it out, that’s his own problem.
It’s Seungho who throws Seunghyun a bone. “You idiot. It was your hundredth day as a couple. Jiyong spent all day putting together a surprise for you.”
Seunghyun’s mouth rounds in slowly dawning horror. His gaze swings Jiyong’s way. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Jiyong’s hands ball angrily at his sides. “I shouldn’t have to. You should know. You should care. I’m so stupid. I’ve been counting down every single day, and you didn’t even give a shit.” The chair legs screech against the floor as Jiyong pushes away from the table and stalks away.
Seunghyun soon catches up to him. “Jiyong? Jiyong, wait! I’m sorry.”
“Jiyong, I am so sorry. Please, let me fix it.”
Jiyong whirls to a stop. “You can’t fix it,” he hisses, shoving one angry finger into the center of Seunghyun’s chest. “It’s done. You don’t get to do it over.” His traitorous chin is quivering so he mashes his lips together in hopes of putting a stop to it. He’ll be damned if he’s gonna go and do something stupid like cry.
“Fuck,” Seunghyun breathes. He shoves a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I didn’t think. My girlfriends were always into that sort of thing, but I didn’t realize you would be, too.”
“Why?” Jiyong scoffs. “‘Cause I’m not a girl? Would you have paid more attention if I was?”
“No! That’s not what I meant! It’s just—” Seunghyun closes his mouth around this noise of frustration, probably trying to figure out how to step without inserting his foot directly into his mouth. “Tell me what to do,” he tries instead. “Tell me how to make it up to you. I’ll do anything you want.”
Jiyong lifts his chin. “I got you a present. But I’m not gonna give it to you, now. You don’t deserve it.”
Seunghyun swallows. He looks every bit the scolded puppy. “Okay.”
“I even put on lingerie for you. You don’t get to see that, either.”
Seunghyun’s shoulders droop even more. “I’m sorry.” His hand reaches out and curls around the delicate bones of Jiyong’s wrist, and Jiyong finally starts to feel himself thaw. He knows Seunghyun’s remorse is real. He can see it in this Seunghyun. He saw it last night in the other.
“Fine,” Jiyong sniffs, his chin still tilted up. “You wanna make it up to me? Next time you come up with the surprise.”
“Okay,” Seunghyun agrees, and then his brow quirks. “Does this mean I’m supposed to wear the lingerie next time?”
Jiyong laughs in spite of himself. “I don’t think you’ll fit into my corset, but you’re welcome to try.”
Seunghyun does his best to keep his promise.
The next time Jiyong goes over to his house, there’s a calendar tacked to his bathroom wall, right beside the sink where Seunghyun brushes his teeth, counting down to their next milestone. When they wake up in the morning, Jiyong watches Seunghyun diligently cross out another day.
Chapter 9: Sway
“Threesome,” Jiyong says gravely from behind his hands. “It’s the only solution.”
Long time no see.
The club is packed tonight, including the VIP area. It sits up on the second level of the building and overlooks the main dance floor, a long black balustrade separating it from the throng of revelers below. Oversized booths line the walls, each covered in dark leather upholstery. Jiyong and his crew have claimed their usual spot, the booth furthest from the staircase and incidentally the one with the most privacy.
Rows of black lights glow purple and hazy through all the smoke. They light up the pinstripes on Seunghyun’s shirt like white lines on a highway. Jiyong bats away a stray thought about how much brighter the older Seunghyun’s shirt would glow in this light.
“I dunno,” he hears Soohyuk say. “I could see it.” Jiyong looks over to see Soohyuk eyeing Seunghyun like he’s some prized stallion at the fair.
Hyunjong, who has somehow managed to outdrink all of them tonight, dismisses the notion with a drunken wave of his hand. “His name’s Top.” Duh, he might as well add.
Oh my god. Are they talking about…?
“I’m sitting right here,” Seunghyun deadpans, and Jiyong nearly loses it. His shoulders shake with silent laughter, ice cubes clinking merrily in the glass he’s holding.
Seungho stares over at Hyunjong like he’s an idiot, cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth. “That’s the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard. What if I start calling you Bottom? Does that mean you can only take it up the ass then?” Flicks his ashes, “Let me know if you wanna give it a go. I can break you in.”
Hyunjong recoils at the suggestion and then launches into a scathing tirade of all the reasons that will not be happening, most of which having less to do with his sexuality and more to do with, bizarrely, Seungho’s eyebrows: “One of these days I’m gonna fill those fuckers in!”
Halfway through, Seunghyun taps Jiyong on the thigh and gestures over at the VIP bar. “I’m gonna get another beer,” he says, just loud enough for Jiyong to hear. “Want anything?” Jiyong holds up his barely touched cocktail in answer, and Seunghyun nods and slides out of the booth.
Honestly, Jiyong’s surprised Seunghyun hasn’t tried to escape before now. Their friends have spent the last hour openly speculating about their sex life, everything from the size of Seunghyun’s dick to the current topic of whether or not Seunghyun lets Jiyong fuck him. Jiyong doesn’t bother to correct them, doesn’t tell them that he and Seunghyun are still planted firmly on third base, doesn’t tell them that he has half a mind to keep them there, to make Seunghyun wait till their next milestone after the way he bungled the last one.
So Jiyong’s petty. So what.
“Yeah,” Soohyuk says, more decidedly this time. He’s got his head cocked, eyes trained on Seunghyun’s ass, watching as Seunghyun strides the rest of the way to the bar. “I can see it.”
Jiyong scowls. “Get your own.”
Soohyuk holds his hands up in surrender and turns back to his Jack and Coke.
Jiyong tries to focus on his own drink, but it’s no use. Like the needle of a compass, his eyes are drawn unerringly back to his true north. Seunghyun has finally made it to the bar; he’s bent slightly forward, one sturdy elbow braced on the counter, patiently waiting for his turn to order. The lines on his shirt glow, lines that draw the eye down, down, down to his perfect ass. And it is perfect. So perfect Jiyong wonders if Soohyuk might be on to something. He’s never really given it much thought, but he tries to imagine it now, slipping in behind Seunghyun, bending him the rest of the way over the bar, pushing his pants down just far enough…
But then he thinks about how skittish Seunghyun gets at anything that leaves him feeling exposed or vulnerable and figures it’ll probably be a while before Seunghyun is comfortable enough to try anything like that. For fuck’s sake, he barely lets Jiyong go down on him unless the lights are out.
That’s okay, though. Jiyong’s more interested in the reverse, anyway. Bottoming is his preference, has been ever since his Seunghyun showed him how good it could be, when he took Jiyong to bed and fucked him like he’d been doing it every night for years.
Jiyong swallows heavily at the memory. His Seunghyun and this one are looking more and more alike every day.
Seunghyun must sense he’s being watched, or maybe there’s a little compass needle behind his eyes too, because in the next moment, he looks back over his shoulder and catches Jiyong’s eye and smiles. His smile is half-naughty, half-shy, and wholly, entirely heart-stopping, and after all this time, that little flash of dimple is still enough to make something deep inside Jiyong clench.
Fuck it. Pettiness is overrated.
Jiyong downs the rest of his glass before getting up from the booth, patting down his pockets to make sure his phone and keys are all in order.
“Where are you going?” Seungho asks.
Breezily, “To fuck my boyfriend.”
Soohyuk blinks once, twice, and then a lascivious smile slides its way across his face. “And by ‘fuck’, do you mean you’re gonna fuck him or he’s gonna—”
“Quit obsessing over my sex life.”
Seungho snorts. “It’s not like he’s got one of his own to obsess over.”
“Hey! I’ll have you know—”
Jiyong saunters off without sticking around to hear the rest. He has a boyfriend to seduce.
It’s easy enough to convince Seunghyun to leave the club and easier still to tug him down onto the bed once they get back to the villa. Their clothes come off almost as easily. In the darkened room, Seunghyun doesn’t feel the need to hide.
It’s only when Jiyong pulls out the lube and condoms that Seunghyun’s nerves start to show. They’re pressed naked together on the bed, Seunghyun braced over Jiyong on his forearms where he stares at the bottle of lube for a long moment and then nervously licks his lips.
“Look,” he begins, voice deeper and rougher than it normally is. “I know what Soohyuk said back there, but—”
Jiyong cuts him off with a shake of his head, already anticipating where this is going. “I don’t expect you to - not that I would say no, I’m down for whatever - but we don’t have to do anything you don’t want.”
“I’m not saying never, I just—”
“It’s okay, I get it,” Jiyong says, fingers winding in Seunghyun’s hair. “Actually…I thought we’d do it the other way around. If you want to, that is. We don’t have to.”
Seunghyun’s eyes flare, and his mouth goes a little slack. His erection prods even more insistently at Jiyong’s hip. “Do you want to?”
Chuckling, Jiyong draws his knees up along Seunghyun’s sides, all the way up till they’re pressed nearly flat against his chest, making his desire and intentions all too clear. Seunghyun’s hips settle into the cradle Jiyong’s body has made for him, hot and eager.
“I want to,” Jiyong says. “I was gonna let you on our hundredth day, but…” He shrugs a little. They both know how that night turned out.
“When you wore stockings for me?”
Jiyong grins a little and lowers his gaze. “Yeah.”
“It was a corset.”
Seunghyun traces his thumb down Jiyong’s belly where a strip of steel boning might’ve lain. “Shame I missed that.” And then, “I don’t have any candles.”
Jiyong lets out a short laugh. “It’s okay. They were a pain in the ass to clean up anyway.”
Grinning a little, Seunghyun leans in like he means to kiss him but then abruptly changes course, leaning over the edge of the bed to fish around for something before coming back up with his phone. A few swipes of his finger, and then he’s showing Jiyong a painting of two long-stemmed candles against a greenish-grey background.
“Here,” Seunghyun says, proudly, “Candles.”
Jiyong looks back and forth between the lit up screen and Seunghyun’s pleased face before stealing the phone away and dropping it back over the edge of the bed, changing Seunghyun’s pleasure into mild offense. “Hey! That’s Richter.”
But then they’re kissing, Jiyong’s hands fisted tightly in Seunghyun’s hair, Seunghyun rutting eagerly between Jiyong’s thighs. The phone screen dims, dims, and eventually goes dark.
It takes a couple tries for Seunghyun to get the condom on, his hands are shaking so badly. Jiyong almost tells him to forget about it, to leave it off – he knows from his experience with the other Seunghyun that they won’t always use them in the future – but then Seunghyun finally gets it rolled on and lubes himself up, and Jiyong writhes impatiently against the mattress, so fucking ready for what he knows comes next. He can feel the blunt head of Seunghyun’s cock sliding between his cheeks, nudging, seeking out his entrance, and Seunghyun laughs a little when he can’t quite find it.
“Sorry,” he says, sheepish.
Jiyong can’t be bothered, though. He just wants him in, wants it so bad he’s out of his mind with it. So he reaches down between them, takes Seunghyun’s cock in hand, and lines them up himself. His hips tilt up as Seunghyun pushes in, and then Jiyong’s whole body seizes up at the intense wave of pain.
Seunghyun immediately stops. “You okay?”
Jiyong grits his teeth. “Yeah,” he says, but it might be a lie. “Just...give me a minute.”
So Seunghyun does. He stays perfectly still while Jiyong attempts to adjust to the intrusion. He stays still until the pain finally recedes into a bearable ache. Jiyong relaxes his fingers a little; he didn’t realize he’d been digging so hard into Seunghyun’s back.
“Okay?” Seunghyun says again, brows furrowed in concern.
“Yeah,” Jiyong says, meaning it this time. “Just go slow.”
Seunghyun nods before easing them into a careful rhythm.
That’s it then. They’ve finally had sex.
It’s the next day, and Jiyong’s back in his own room now, sitting cross-legged on his bed in a pair of boxers and a vintage Nirvana shirt. He’s focused intently on the laptop open in front of him.
“Interesting reading material.”
Jiyong jolts to see his Seunghyun sitting beside him on the bed, leaned in close so he can get a better look at the article pulled up on the screen.
“‘How to Tell Your Man What You Want in Bed,’” Seunghyun reads aloud, and Jiyong rushes to minimize the browser window, embarrassed.
Seunghyun’s mouth twists into something like a grimace. “That bad, huh?”
“No! It was – it was nice. It just—”
“Could’ve been better,” Seunghyun finishes.
Jiyong’s eyes scan awkwardly over his keyboard, finger tapping at the edge. “Yeah…” He feels bad as soon as he says it; he doesn’t want to hurt Seunghyun’s feelings. So he adds, “But you were really good.”
“Was I?” Seunghyun’s voice radiates pleasure. “That’s good to know.”
Jiyong ducks his head in an attempt to hide his blush, and Seunghyun chuckles next to him.
“So what kind of advice does this thing have?” Seunghyun asks, drawing the laptop over toward him. Jiyong yelps and tries to grab it back, but Seunghyun’s too fast for him; he’s already pulled it up high above Jiyong’s head.
Jiyong scrambles up on his knees to extend his reach, and there’s a struggle, Jiyong yanking at Seunghyun’s arm while Seunghyun darts in with his free hand to tickle at Jiyong’s ribs. Giggling, Jiyong squirms and tries to twist out of reach, but it’s no use; Seunghyun just presses in all the more, dimples flashing as Jiyong tries to get away.
Jiyong finally makes one last mad lunge for the laptop, but he overdoes it and tips squarely into Seunghyun’s lap, but not before managing to knock the laptop out of Seunghyun’s hand. It lands over near the edge of the bed, forgotten.
It’s like a scene from a drama, Jiyong straddling Seunghyun’s thighs, eyes wide at their sudden intimacy. Seunghyun’s brow quirks at where their hips are notched tightly together. “You always did like being on top.”
Jiyong’s blush hits him hard and fast. His eyes instinctively dip to Seunghyun’s mouth before he catches himself and scrambles out of Seunghyun’s lap. He slumps back against the wall a safe distance away, heart fluttering in spite of himself.
“We can’t,” Seunghyun says, needlessly, apologetically. Jiyong knows very well they can’t do anything.
“Right. Nothing that disrupts the timeline.”
“Nothing that sways you from him.”
But Jiyong is swayed. He’s a pendulum swinging to and fro, unable to stick to one direction. He wonders if he’s really that fickle, and then he wonders the opposite, if he’s just so gone on Seunghyun that he’s powerless to resist him no matter what form he takes. He scrubs his hands over his face, trying to regain his head. This whole thing is so messed up.
“Threesome,” Jiyong says gravely from behind his hands. “It’s the only solution.”
The sound of Seunghyun’s chuckle is rich and warm like a handful of sunbaked earth. “Pervert.”
If at first you don’t succeed…
Most of the nervousness is gone this time, though plenty of the awkwardness remains. Jiyong at least learned his lesson, though. He spent ages fingering himself before he came over so that when Seunghyun finally pushes into him, there’s very little pain. But nor is there very much pleasure.
Jiyong’s determined not to let that deter him, though. Sex only gets better with practice, right?
The bedsprings creak gently as Seunghyun fucks into him, and Jiyong undulates beneath him, rolling his hips in search of that elusive something he knows will light his nerves on fire. But it’s no good. They’re like a couple of out of sync gears, rolling against one another without ever properly meeting. Jiyong groans in frustration when they just can’t get it right.
You always did like to be on top.
His eyes snap open, and then he pushes at Seunghyun’s chest. “Hang on. I wanna try something.”
Seunghyun is panting hard, and he looks like he might be on the verge of coming, but he does as Jiyong says, readily pulling out and sitting back up on his heels. His cock looks flushed and angry even through the condom, and Jiyong climbs swiftly into his lap, eager to have it back inside him, hands latching onto Seunghyun’s shoulders as he swoops in for a messy kiss, sucking on his tongue as Seunghyun groans and pulls him in.
It takes both of them to get into position. Jiyong raises up on his knees, keeps one hand braced on Seunghyun’s shoulder as he reaches behind himself to spread his cheeks, and Seunghyun holds his cock in place so that Jiyong can slowly start to sink down on it. Jiyong feels something give, and then the head slips in. His muscles flutter frantically at the intrusion, clenching and unclenching around the thick girth, but Jiyong takes in a steadying breath and slides the rest of the way down, all the way until he’s fully seated in Seunghyun’s lap.
“God,” Seunghyun says, hands sweeping over Jiyong’s sides and settling possessively over his thighs. “You feel incredible.”
Jiyong nods a little. It does feel incredible, except now that he’s here, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. For all his bravado, Jiyong’s never actually done this before, never been the one in control. Not like this. He shifts his hips experimentally, trying to feel out how he’s supposed to move, and then laughs into Seunghyun’s shoulder when he can’t quite figure it out.
“I don’t know what to do,” Jiyong admits.
Seunghyun grins against Jiyong’s ear. “Don’t look at me. You’re the expert.”
Jiyong doesn’t feel like much of an expert right now. He feels clumsy and ineffectual, out of touch with his own body, like his limbs are no longer connected to his brain. Maybe Seunghyun isn’t the only one who needs practice at this, Jiyong thinks. Maybe he has just as much to learn. He tries again, tentatively rocking his hips.
He’s just about to give up and suggest they try something else when a strong pair of hands takes hold of his hips from behind – “Like this,” his Seunghyun whispers – and guides him seamlessly into a proper grind. Jiyong gasps in both surprise and pleasure. Oh god. What is he doing here?
In front of him, the younger Seunghyun half-groans, “Fuck, Jiyong. I thought you didn’t know what you were doing,” while the one kneeling behind him murmurs, “Relax. He can’t see me. He has no idea I’m here.”
Jiyong’s eyes dart over the younger Seunghyun’s face just to be sure, because how can he not know? Doesn’t he feel the added heat? The new distribution of weight on the bed? But there’s nothing amiss in Seunghyun’s eyes. They’re focused solely on Jiyong, on the slivered space between their bellies, watching dark and half-lidded as Jiyong rides him.
“You did say you wanted a threesome,” his Seunghyun teases, and then, “I didn’t want you to be disappointed again. My pride can only take so much.” He chuckles then, and the sound ripples down Jiyong’s spine, making him shiver. “Unless you’re uncomfortable. If you want me to leave, I will. Just say the word.”
The word. How is Jiyong supposed to form words when he can’t even think? The younger Seunghyun is still watching him, oblivious, breaths rough and uneven as Jiyong rocks in his lap, bottom lip glossy from where he keeps raking it between his teeth only to release it again, and it all feels so good, just like Jiyong knew it could, just like he remembers, and he doesn’t want his Seunghyun to leave, never wants him to leave, so he presses his lips together in a hard line so no sound can escape that might be mistaken for a word.
Jiyong hears the smile in his Seunghyun’s voice when he says, “That’s my boy,” and nearly whimpers.
But the rules.
The thought hits him like a bucket of ice cold water, and Jiyong’s hips falter – there’s no way this isn’t against the rules, no way it’s not crossing the line – but the older Seunghyun is already there, rubbing soothingly over the swell of his hips, urging him to keep moving.
“It’s okay,” his Seunghyun says, somehow inferring exactly what the problem is. “How can I be disrupting if I’m helping? Just think of me as a guide. I bet I’m a better one than some article you found on Naver. ” He leans in like he means to place a reassuring kiss beneath Jiyong’s ear but thinks better of it and nuzzles there instead. “I won’t do any more than this,” he says, squeezing Jiyong’s hips to show where his hands intend to stay glued.
God, this is a bad idea. Jiyong knows it’s a bad idea. So many things could go wrong. One wrong move and his Seunghyun could be discovered; one wrong move and his Seunghyun could disappear for good.
Fuck. Jiyong should tell him to go. He should, but—
“I promise I won’t do something stupid like kiss you.”
Jiyong nearly groans, because all that does is remind him how much he wants to be kissed, and then he doesn’t have to want it anymore, because the younger Seunghyun is fitting their mouths together and pushing his tongue into Jiyong’s mouth, kissing him good and hard and deep, until Jiyong breaks away gasping and lets their foreheads fall together, bodies still moving together like cresting waves.
“Promise me you won’t disappear,” Jiyong says.
The present Seunghyun sniggers a little, “Where would I go?” But the future presses in warmly against Jiyong’s back. “I promise. I’m not going anywhere. Not today.”
What about tomorrow?
But Jiyong’s not gonna think about that right now, not gonna think about the day when Seunghyun might leave, not gonna think about the future where Jiyong is already gone.
He lets go.
Jiyong melts in their arms like warm clay, surrendering, and his Seunghyun reforms him with a potter’s hands, teaching him how to move, showing him what he likes, and when he tilts Jiyong’s hips just so, Jiyong chokes at the difference it makes. “There. Right there. Oppa.”
It’s like tossing a match into a barrel of gasoline, the fire it awakens. As soon as the moniker is out, the younger Seunghyun is on him, head tilting to better plunder Jiyong’s mouth.
“Say it again,” the older Seunghyun urges, and Jiyong does so almost mindlessly, “Oppa,” then moans when the younger Seunghyun takes his mouth all over again.
Distantly, Jiyong hears, “I should probably feel embarrassed at how much I like that.”
The younger Seunghyun is pushing up into him now, no longer content to be a passive player. He thrusts up to meet each downward grind of Jiyong’s hips, and the older Seunghyun hums approvingly when Jiyong falls into the new rhythm, “That’s it. Just like that.”
Jiyong suddenly wishes he had a mirror, one that spans the entire wall. He wants to see the picture they make, wants to see what he looks like caught between the men he loves, to see the contrast of it: one naked and debauched, bronze chest gleaming with sweat; the other perfectly composed, white shirt starched and pressed, calmly and methodically guiding Jiyong to ecstasy.
“Beautiful,” Jiyong hears, and then again, like an echo, only this time in his other ear, and he can’t help the shudder that rocks through him. Their voices are the same, as is the shape of their hands. They bleed together until Jiyong no longer knows who he’s crying out for.
The older Seunghyun finds Jiyong’s hand and guides it into the younger’s hair, and together they tug his head down to Jiyong’s nipple where he obediently takes it in his mouth and sucks, and Jiyong moans, his head falling back onto his hyung’s shoulder, mouth slackening at just how good it all feels. His cock rubs against the younger Seunghyun’s belly, leaving behind a slick trail of precome.
God, he’s so close. He just…he needs—
“Tell him what you want,” the older Seunghyun says roughly in Jiyong’s ear. “He wants to please you. Tell him how.”
Jiyong bites down on his lip, hard. His cock is aching. “Touch me,” he begs. The younger Seunghyun raises his head to attention. “Touch me,” Jiyong says again, a demand this time, and warm fingers curl around him, stroking, a thumb swiping over the head, and that’s all it takes. Jiyong’s breath catches, back arching as his mouth rounds in a soundless moan. He shakes apart in their arms.
That’s enough to break whatever vestige of control the younger Seunghyun has left. His jaw squares, and he gathers Jiyong up in his arms and fucks into him with single-minded purpose, and Jiyong lets him, utterly boneless, so damn sensitive he can barely take it. His teeth close over Seunghyun’s bare shoulder as he rides it out. The older Seunghyun pets his flank and murmurs praise after praise into his ear.
And then, because he can’t not, because the words have been trapped inside him now for far too long, Jiyong whispers, “I love you.”
The younger Seunghyun jerks against him and finally comes, slumping in Jiyong’s arms, and Jiyong waits, heart in his throat. Maybe Seunghyun didn’t hear him. Maybe he’s just not ready to say it back.
…Maybe he doesn’t feel the same way.
But then it comes, softly and against the back of Jiyong’s neck.
“I love you, too.”
Chapter 10: Convergence
Jiyong gives Seunghyun’s shoulder an admiring squeeze. “You’re getting all manly.”
So I'm not going to make any more promises about updates since I broke the last one, but the recent gtop photos have given me a much needed kick in the ass. We're in the home stretch, and I'd really like to see this story done.
This chapter picks up immediately after the last one. I won't judge if you need to click back and refresh your memory about where we left off. It's been a while.
Jiyong wakes slowly, coaxed from sleep by the warm morning sun, by the sound of songbirds chirping distantly outside the window. It’s early enough that everything still feels soft around the edges, that hazy time when memories bleed into dreams and dreams bleed back into memories. Memories of the night before, caught between two chests, slick muscle bunching under his hands, the buttons of a white dress shirt scraping along his spine.
Memories of him saying I love you for the first time. Memories of only one Seunghyun saying it back.
Jiyong opens his eyes, and Seunghyun is the first thing he sees. It takes him a moment to realize it’s the future one; they look so much alike now, only four or so years separating them. He’s sitting over in the chair beside the window, one long leg crossed casually over the other, the side of his face bathed in morning light. He looks soft and rumpled, like he’s been sitting there all night. Jiyong glances back over his shoulder and sees the younger Seunghyun still sound asleep, cheek pressed to the pillow as he breathes softly in and out of his mouth.
Jiyong looks back to the man in the chair. “You’re still here,” he says, quietly, so as not to wake the sleeping body next to him. A knot somewhere deep inside him loosens and gives way to relief. His Seunghyun is still here. He hasn’t disappeared.
“I’ve been told it’s bad etiquette to disappear right after sex,” Seunghyun says, wry and a touch self-deprecating, and then his expression softens into something that can only be described as tender. “I told you I wasn’t going anywhere.”
Yet, Jiyong thinks and immediately pushes the thought away. He promised himself last night he wasn’t going to think about that. “Have you been here all night?” Jiyong asks.
“I like watching you sleep.”
“Creepy,” Jiyong teases.
That earns him a grin. “I wanted to be here when you woke up. I didn’t want you to think that I’d gone.”
Jiyong’s glad his Seunghyun stayed. Otherwise he’d probably be freaking out right now, wondering if they’d crossed a line last night and sent his Seunghyun away for good.
Yawning, Jiyong rolls onto his back and stretches out along the mattress, back arching to work out all the kinks, sheet slipping down around his waist. He winces when he feels just how sore he is. His whole body aches in the best possible way. The older Seunghyun gives him a smug, satisfied leer, and Jiyong blushes.
“I take it last night was an improvement?”
“Shut up,” Jiyong mutters, hands covering his face to hide his embarrassed grin.
“I’m a good teacher,” Seunghyun boasts.
“Shut up,” Jiyong says again, wishing he had something to throw at him.
“Come on, admit it. Last night was hot.” Seunghyun waggles his eyebrows suggestively. “The only thing better than one Top is two.”
Jiyong groans at the pun, and Seunghyun snickers.
“You know you love me.”
Jiyong’s mood immediately darkens at the mention of the word love. It makes him think about his own recent use of it. And the other Seunghyun’s non-use. Jiyong didn’t push the subject last night, didn’t repeat himself, didn’t draw any attention to it. He just curled up in the younger Seunghyun’s arms and let the whole thing lie.
But he’s got to know.
“Hyung,” he whispers, pushing himself up onto one elbow to better face his Seunghyun. “Did he hear me? Last night? When I – did he hear?”
The older Seunghyun averts his gaze, and that’s all the answer Jiyong needs. He nods to himself and tries not to feel like his heart is breaking.
“Jiyong,” Seunghyun begins, gaze still averted, voice full of something that might be pity but could just as easily be shame, but then there’s a snuffling sound at Jiyong’s back, followed by a yawn, and then the beautiful man in the chair is gone.
It’s a false alarm. The younger Seunghyun pushes his cheek deeper into his pillow and remains fast asleep.
But Jiyong has his answer now. The younger Seunghyun heard him. He heard him and didn’t say it back. Jiyong’s chest feels unbearably tight. He rolls back onto his back and stares up at the ceiling with dry, hot eyes.
Just be patient, he tells himself. Jiyong’s been in this for years, practically his entire life. He’s had plenty of time to come to terms with his feelings. But for the younger Seunghyun, it’s only been a matter of months. It’s no wonder he’s not ready to say it yet. To him, they’ve only just started dating.
Jiyong can wait a bit more. The gap between the two Seunghyuns grows smaller and smaller with each day. Only four or five more years until there’s no gap between them at all.
Time passes. It used to creep by slowly, but now it flies. The months stretch out behind Jiyong, endless days of toiling away in the studio; of rehearsals, interviews, and photoshoots; of crowded airports and fans screaming his name. Jiyong loves it. He hardly has a moment to catch his breath, but he wouldn’t trade it for any other life.
He finally moves out of the apartment he shares with the other members and gets a place of his own. Well, mostly his own. He shares the new place with his sister, but she’s rarely home, so it’s like it’s his own. But then, he’s rarely home either. If he’s not working, he’s out with Seunghyun, drinking and laughing the night away in the most exclusive clubs, falling into bed together just before the night is done.
Jiyong’s never been so happy. It’s like he’s finally living the life the future Seunghyun always promised him he’d one day live. He’s so happy it takes him a while to realize that the visits from his Seunghyun are getting further and further apart.
Jiyong asks him about it the next time he shows up. His Seunghyun shrugs and says, “You haven’t needed me much lately.”
The words prickle at Jiyong’s mind, an old memory resurfacing.
Why do you always show up when I’m sad?
Because that’s when you need me.
“I’m not sad right now,” Jiyong says, wondering why his Seunghyun has picked this moment to make an appearance.
Seunghyun gives a noncommittal hum. He’s looking out the window, chin lifted slightly, setting off the elegant cut of his jaw. His thoughts look like they could be anywhere. “Maybe I’m the one who needs you today,” he says eventually.
“Why? Are you sad?”
There’s a beat. It lasts long enough for Jiyong to feel the ache of it before Seunghyun finally turns to him and smiles. “How can I be sad if I’m with you?”
Jiyong used to wonder how the younger Seunghyun could ever grow into the older one, unable to reconcile all the differences between them. But it happens gradually. The SpongeBob painting on the wall is replaced with a Francis Bacon triptych. The Bearbricks are boxed up and hauled away, traded out for a host of vintage furniture and an Alexander Caldwell mobile. Each change is like finding a clue on a treasure hunt, reassuring Jiyong that he’s on the right path.
And then Jiyong gets one of the biggest clues yet.
When Jiyong comes over, Seunghyun is like an excitable puppy, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, eagerly leading Jiyong to the living room. His tail would be wagging if he had one. And then Jiyong sees it, the thing that has Seunghyun so excited.
A chair. The chair. It looks exactly like the one from the antique shop all those years ago, the one the future Seunghyun tried to talk Jiyong into buying his younger self as a birthday present.
“Pierre Jeanneret,” Seunghyun says almost reverently. “What do you think?”
It looks just as homely now as it did back then, Jiyong thinks, but Seunghyun is watching him expectantly, like the world hinges on the next words that come out of Jiyong’s mouth, and Jiyong can’t bear to disappoint him. Instead, he gives Seunghyun his sweetest smile and says, “I love it.”
It’s the right choice. Seunghyun smiles back just as wide and starts gushing about the craftmanship, rattling off obscure details about the artist and the year it was made. It reminds Jiyong of the other Seunghyun, cooing at the chair as if it could hear.
Do I need to leave you two alone?
No need. We don’t mind if you join us.
With the memory of that day bright in his mind, Jiyong asks, “Are we allowed to sit on it or is it just for show?”
Seunghyun cuts off mid-sentence and blinks at him. “Furniture is meant to be used.”
Jiyong pushes him down in the chair and lowers himself into his lap, grinding down as he kisses him good and hard and deep. “Then let’s use it.”
When he pulls back, Seunghyun is breathing hard, pupils already blown wide. “I knew this was a good purchase.”
Before Jiyong knows it, they’re celebrating their first anniversary. The younger Seunghyun doesn’t forget this milestone the way he did the last one.
Unfortunately, they’re currently on tour so their options for celebrating are limited. They make do with ordering up a luxurious spread from room service with Seunghyun taking special care to pair each dish with an appropriate wine. Jiyong can’t really tell the difference, but he likes listening to Seunghyun explain his reasoning, like an eager pupil captivated by a charismatic professor’s lecture.
Seunghyun dabs at his mouth with a napkin once he’s done eating. “I got you something,” he says. He reaches into his breast pocket to pull out a small rectangular box. “I hope you like it. I wasn’t sure what to get you, so…”
Jewelry, Jiyong automatically thinks, and sure enough, inside is a delicate Chanel bracelet. Jiyong runs his finger over the small golden clasp.
“Here,” Seunghyun says, reaching over to pluck the bracelet out of the box. “Let me.”
Jiyong holds out his wrist so Seunghyun can put the bracelet on him, and once it’s on, he holds it up to admire the way the gold glints in the light. “Hyung, I love it.”
Seunghyun actually looks bashful at that. “Good. I’m glad.”
Jiyong has his own box to present. Seunghyun opens it and pulls out the watch that’s nestled inside. He looks pleased with what he sees.
“It just seemed like you should have it,” Jiyong says. His heart had nearly stopped when he’d come across it in the department store. He’d seen it on the older Seunghyun so many times; it seemed only right that Jiyong be the one to get it for him. Like fate in motion. He’d tried to find the white shirt after that, but he couldn’t find the exact one.
Seunghyun slips the Rolex onto his wrist, and another piece of the puzzle slots into place. Jiyong loves him so fucking much.
“Hyung, I —” The words are on the tip of his tongue just waiting to burst out, but Jiyong swallows them back down. He remembers the last time he said them and what a disaster that had been. No, he won’t say them again, not until this Seunghyun does.
Instead, Jiyong covers with a smile. “Happy Anniversary.”
“Happy Anniversary,” Seunghyun says, and then he takes Jiyong to bed.
The sex gets better and better.
The younger Seunghyun grows more confident and learns just what Jiyong likes. He studies it all with the same obsession he does everything else in his life, whether it be music, art, or acting. Instead of dirty magazines under his bed, Seunghyun has books like The Joy of Gay Sex and the Kama Sutra. Jiyong finds them there one morning while Seunghyun is getting dressed.
“What’s this?” Jiyong says, pulling them out, scanning each of the titles.
Seunghyun flushes at once. He’s standing by his closet door in nothing but his trousers, tiny beads of water slipping down his neck and chest from where his hair is still wet from their shower. “I’ve never seen those in my life,” Seunghyun says.
“No?” Jiyong begins thumbing through one. “So this page that’s bookmarked here. You wouldn’t be interested in trying it?”
A few minutes later, Seunghyun has Jiyong naked and face down on the bed, cheeks spread wide apart as he licks and tongues at Jiyong’s hole. Jiyong pushes his ass back against Seunghyun’s face, practically sobbing when Seunghyun spears into him with his tongue.
“Oppa,” Jiyong whimpers, clawing blindly at the sheets.
Seunghyun keeps at it for ages, until Jiyong’s a writhing, shuddering mess, and then he pulls back just far enough to slip in two lubed up fingers, twisting them till he finds that spot that makes Jiyong’s vision go white. Jiyong rolls his hips and spreads his thighs wide, fucking himself on Seunghyun’s fingers, and that’s when Seunghyun starts talking to him, filthy words in that low voice of his, words that Jiyong never knew this Seunghyun had the confidence to say.
“That’s it. Take it. I’m gonna fuck you so good.”
Just when Jiyong thinks he might come, Seunghyun flips him over, wedges himself between Jiyong’s thighs, and pushes in without preamble. Jiyong gasps when the fat head of Seunghyun’s cock pushes past his rim, eyes flying open at the sudden way he’s filled. Once Seunghyun is all the way in, he dips in to give Jiyong a heated kiss, and then he’s fucking him in earnest, Jiyong’s legs tossed over Seunghyun’s shoulders, the headboard tapping against the wall with each thrust. Jiyong sinks his fingers in Seunghyun’s damp hair and pulls.
“Fuck me,” he says, as if Seunghyun isn’t doing it already. He tosses his head back and forth against the mattress and nearly wails when Seunghyun hits his prostate. “Fuck, yes. Oppa.” Seunghyun immediately adjusts so his thrusts hit that spot again and again.
Jiyong’s cock is leaking from the slit. It slaps against his belly each time Seunghyun rocks into him, and he can’t take it anymore. He has to come. He reaches down to touch himself, but Seunghyun bats his hand away and gives him a single stern shake of the head. “Not like that.”
You will, Jiyong remembers the older Seunghyun saying in a sudden burst of déjà vu. But not like that.
“Please,” Jiyong whines. “Do it. Make me come. I wanna come on your cock.”
It’s the younger Seunghyun fucking him, but it could just as easily be the older, and Jiyong’s overcome by the overwhelming rightness of it, of these two men bleeding into each other till Jiyong can barely tell them apart. It takes everything in him not to blurt it out – I love you – but he swore he wouldn’t say it again until this Seunghyun does. He doesn’t feel like getting burnt again.
Seunghyun doesn’t say it. But the way he looks at Jiyong as he fucks him is the next best thing.
Jiyong cries out when he comes. He feels Seunghyun rutting frantically between his thighs, pushing them impossibly wide, but he’s too far gone to do more than clutch at him and whimper encouragingly in his ear. Seunghyun grinds into him one last time and collapses in Jiyong’s arms.
When Jiyong finally catches his breath, he opens his eyes to see Seunghyun watching him with a smug look.
“Prostate orgasm,” Seunghyun says. “Your sugar daddy can suck it.”
Laughing, Jiyong tugs him down and shuts him up with a kiss.
A week later, they’re fooling around in bed when Jiyong pulls out the lube and goes to hand it over to Seunghyun. Seunghyun looks down at it for a long moment before finally looking away, heat creeping up into his cheeks. “We can do it the other way. If you want.”
For a blistering second, Jiyong thinks Seunghyun is asking him to take it dry, but then his real meaning dawns.
“Are you sure?”
In answer, Seunghyun rolls onto his belly and ever so slightly parts his thighs.
Jiyong strokes reverent hands up the back of Seunghyun’s thighs and over his firm ass cheeks, kneading and separating them to see the tight pucker hidden between.
Seunghyun tenses up. He takes a deep breath and then slowly, slowly lets it back out. He forces his whole body to relax. “Keep going.”
Jiyong can hardly believe Seunghyun is letting him do this, that he’s trusting him with this. They’ve come so far together. It seems like only yesterday that Seunghyun could barely be coaxed out of his clothes.
Swallowing heavily, Jiyong uncaps the bottle of lube.
Mostly, Jiyong tries not to think too much about the future and whatever awful fate awaits. He figures there’s not much he can do other than trust in his Seunghyun’s ability to avert it.
But as time goes by, and they get closer and closer to the day, Jiyong finds himself getting antsy. He’s gotten good at waiting, but sometimes, he just needs to do something.
He starts wearing his seatbelt. He gets a full body checkup, including every medical test he can convince the doctor to administer. He’s a little low on vitamin D, but otherwise, everything comes out fine. He even quits smoking for three days before deciding it can’t be lung cancer that does him in since the doctor just gave him a clean bill of health.
He starts researching time travel. Or at least he tries to. He can’t find mention of any groundbreaking new discoveries, and all the articles on the topic make his head hurt. Paradoxes, causal loops, wormholes – he doesn’t understand any of it. He especially doesn’t understand how any of it will be possible in a few short years, but then figures that all the really neat experiments are probably happening in some secret government lab somewhere, so who knows.
Jiyong still wonders why his Seunghyun traveled so far back in time.
He finally books an appointment with a psychiatrist. Maybe he’s just crazy. Maybe he had it right to begin with. Maybe his Seunghyun really is just a figment of his imagination. There’s so much evidence to the contrary, but at this point, Jiyong feels like he can’t write anything off.
On the day of his appointment, Jiyong walks down the hall toward the psychiatrist’s office, and the future Seunghyun falls in step beside him.
“You’ve been busy lately,” Seunghyun says. “If you had questions, you could’ve just asked.”
Jiyong snorts. “Like you would’ve answered.”
Once they enter the main office, the young woman at the front desk greets him and helps him sign in. He sees her eyes light up when she sees him, but to her credit, she manages to remain professional. The only autograph she asks for is the one needed for the forms. Once she’s done with him, she looks to the space beside him expectantly.
The space where his Seunghyun is standing.
“Sir,” she prods, “will you be accompanying him for his session today or…?”
Jiyong does a double take. “Wait, you can see him?”
The woman gives him a funny look. “…Yes?”
Jiyong looks over to see Seunghyun smirking back at him. Seunghyun holds up his wrist so Jiyong can see the Rolex gleaming there.
Jiyong cancels his appointment.
One anniversary becomes two. Two becomes three. Jiyong is still happy, but now he’s hungry. Hungry for more, hungry for what comes next. He wants to hear the words, wants the younger Seunghyun to finally catch up to where Jiyong has been now for years.
He starts thinking about the future more and more. Not just about his Seunghyun’s time, but after. He dreams of a future where he doesn’t die, where they get married and have kids and everything works out just fine. He homes in on it like a laser; the only weapon he has in all this is hope.
Jiyong’s mostly okay with not being able to come out just yet. Even if he were dating a woman, as an idol, he’d still have to keep it a secret. But sometimes his longing still manages to seep out.
He and the other members are in the middle of an interview when the question comes: “Which member is most likely to get married first?”
Everyone else picks Youngbae, but Jiyong’s own hand shoots up.
The woman interviewing them laughs. “You seem eager. What about kids? You want those, too?”
“I want all of it.”
“All of it?”
“All of it. I’m gonna have a little girl.”
The interviewer’s eyes sparkle as she gives him a onceover. “You can dress her up just like you.”
Jiyong looks down at the skirt he’s wearing over his jeans and grins. “That’s right. We can wear couple outfits.”
“What about the rest of you?” she asks. “Are you looking forward to having kids, too?”
“I am a kid,” Seunghyun jokes, and everybody laughs.
Everybody but Jiyong.
Bigbang gets bigger and bigger. They win award after award and break record after record. Just when Jiyong thinks they’ve reached their peak, they manage to climb even higher. It’s more than Jiyong ever thought possible.
Then comes this year’s MAMAs. They win every award they’re nominated for, and at the end of the night, when they’re backstage getting ready for the final performance, Jiyong feels like a king.
Daesung is off in the corner doing yoga while Seunghyun and Youngbae are busy teasing the maknae. Dressed and ready, Jiyong stands before a full-length mirror and soaks it all in.
The older Seunghyun steps in behind him, invisible to everyone but Jiyong. The chaos of the room fades away until all that’s left is the two of them. “See?” his Seunghyun whispers, low and seductive, right next to Jiyong’s ear. “What did I tell you?”
Jiyong swallows, remembering the last time they stood like this, back when he was little more than a boy, before he fixed his teeth and got his first round of fillers.
You have no idea. The things you’ll do. What you’ll become. You’re gonna be more than you ever dreamed.
Jiyong’s not that boy anymore. He looks every bit the rock star he always wanted to be. And while Seunghyun still dwarfs him, they now look like they belong in the same frame. Like they were designed with each other in mind.
Seunghyun gives his shoulders an encouraging squeeze. “Knock ‘em dead.”
A few short minutes later, Bigbang does just that, blessing the night with the performance of their lives, and at the end, when the fans are screaming and they take their last bow, Jiyong finds his Seunghyun out in the crowd. He’s gazing back at Jiyong with pride shining in his eyes. He raises one hand and forms a little finger-heart. Jiyong smiles wide and sends him back a pair of them.
“What’s that?” The younger Seunghyun nods toward Jiyong’s hands. Jiyong can barely hear him over all the cheering.
“They’re little hearts,” Jiyong calls back, turning so Seunghyun can better see their shape.
The younger Seunghyun copies the gesture. Satisfied he’s gotten it right, he holds up his hands for the fans to see. The crowd goes wild.
Seunghyun doesn’t take as well to fame as Jiyong does. The more famous they get, the less Seunghyun goes out, until it’s an ongoing joke with their friends that he’s become a hermit. It’s like pulling teeth just to get him to go out for a drink. Most of the time, Jiyong’s okay with it. Seunghyun’s villa has become like a second home to him; he doesn’t mind spending most of his free time there. He just wishes his boyfriend was willing to compromise a little more.
He’s been especially reclusive lately. He’s preparing to film a new movie, so the only thing he has time for is working out and studying his lines. Jiyong has no interest in the latter, but he’s particularly keen on the former. Watching Seunghyun work out has quickly become his new favorite pastime.
Today, he’s doing more than watching. He has a prime spot on Seunghyun’s back while Seunghyun does his pushups. Seunghyun lowers his chest toward the floor and then grunts when he pushes himself back up. From this angle, Jiyong can see how much Seunghyun’s back and arms are filling out. He gives Seunghyun’s shoulder an admiring squeeze. “You’re getting all manly.”
Seunghyun snickers and lowers back down, arms shaking as he levers himself back up.
“Come on,” Jiyong coos. “You can do it. Two more and I’ll suck your cock.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that.” Seunghyun churns out another one.
“I bet Daesung could do this one-handed,” Jiyong taunts. He digs in with the backs of his heels like a cowboy with a pair of spurs. “Giddy-up!”
Seunghyun just manages the last pushup before collapsing with Jiyong on top of him. Giggling, Jiyong rolls off to lie beside him.
“You owe me a blowjob,” Seunghyun mutters from where his cheek is pressed against the floor.
“I sure do,” Jiyong says. “When do you want it?”
“Just as soon as I can feel my arms again.”
Jiyong laughs. He scoots in closer and pushes the sweat-slick hair back from Seunghyun’s forehead. “So…I’m going to Paris next week.”
“For fashion week, right?”
“Yeah,” Jiyong says, still toying with Seunghyun’s hair. “You know, there’s a Pierre Jeanneret exhibit there. And I think one of the museums is showing some of Richter’s work this month.”
Seunghyun leans into Jiyong’s touch. “Be sure to take lots of pictures.”
“Actually…I thought maybe you could take your own pictures.”
“Why don’t you come? It’s not like you have a schedule next week. It’ll be fun.”
“Can’t,” Seunghyun says.
Seunghyun cracks a grin. “Because I’m a hermit.”
Jiyong pulls his hand away from Seunghyun’s hair. He sits up and pulls his knees in toward his chest. Seunghyun sighs and sits up, too.
“Jiyong…” Seunghyun pauses long enough to run a hand through his hair. “It’s not like you’d have any time for me. Between all the shows and the photoshoots I’m sure you’ve got planned, you’ll barely have a spare minute. Plus, it’s an eleven-hour flight. We’d be cooped up on a plane for half the trip.”
“So? At least we’d be cooped up together.”
“Fine. Whatever. Forget I said anything. I’ll just ask Seungho.” Jiyong gets up and starts collecting his things. He needs to get out of here before he starts crying or worse.
“Jiyong, please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad. I just need to go home and pack.” And doesn’t it just burn, that Jiyong has to go home, that he doesn’t even have a drawer here at Seunghyun’s place. They’ve been together for years now, and they’ve never even talked about moving in together.
Seunghyun calls out his name as Jiyong makes his way to the door, but Jiyong ignores him. “I’ll see you when I get back.”
Paris. The City of Love. Except Jiyong doesn’t feel very loved right now. Seungho is hardly a replacement for Seunghyun.
“Since I’m filling in for the boyfriend, I expect regular blowjobs and an allowance for the trip.”
Jiyong snorts but hands over a credit card anyway. “You’re on your own for the blowjobs.”
Seungho shrugs and pockets it.
The Chanel show isn’t until tomorrow, so they take today to see the sights. Soojoo is in town to walk in the show, so they pick her up along the way. They catch lunch at a cute little café with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, and Jiyong takes selfies with the occasional fan who recognizes him despite his beanie and sunglasses.
They spend most of the day bouncing back and forth between shopping and museums. Jiyong drags them to the Pierre Jeanneret exhibit and then to a private showing at the venue where the Richter is displayed. He’d made the appointment back when he thought he stood a chance at convincing Seunghyun to come along with him.
It’s so quiet, like stepping foot into an empty church. The whole room is stark white but for the floor and the paintings decorating the walls. It feels like they’ve come to worship. They stop at each and every painting, taking them all in, as if it would somehow be disrespectful not to give each one its full due.
They finally come to it. Jiyong doesn’t need to see the label to know this one was done by Gerhard Richter’s hand. After all the time he’s spent with Seunghyun, Jiyong is practically an expert now. The painting spans nearly the entire wall.
Now, Jiyong’s always loved art. He’s always had a knack for it – fashion, doodling, painting his nails – but he’s never fully understood Seunghyun’s obsession with modern art until now. It’s breathtaking. The bright blues and the daring reds, the way the brushstrokes make the painting feel alive. Jiyong’s left in awe.
He wishes Seunghyun were here to see it.
Once it gets dark, his friends want to hit the clubs, so Jiyong reluctantly tags along, but after an hour of sulking in a corner booth, Jiyong finally calls it a night. His heart just isn’t in it tonight. It’s back in Korea with a man who didn’t care enough about Jiyong’s feelings to come here with him, a man who still hasn’t told Jiyong he loves him.
Jiyong sighs before entering his hotel suite and toeing off his shoes. He doesn’t bother turning on the lights. He just wants to go to bed. He has to be up early in the morning anyway.
But then he notices that the French doors leading out to the balcony are wide open, the sheer curtains billowing in the breeze. There’s a man standing out by the railing, haloed in the moonlight. Jiyong moves toward him as if compelled.
He knows it’s the future Seunghyun by the white shirt, that and the fact that the other Seunghyun would never show up in Paris just to surprise him. Otherwise, they look exactly alike now – the same build, the same scars, the same haircut – at most, there’s a few months separating them. Not long at all now.
“You’re here,” he says once he steps out on the balcony.
Seunghyun’s head turns just enough to meet Jiyong’s eyes. “I told you I was the superior version.” He’s smiling, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. His hands are wrapped around the railing.
“You’re not wearing a ring,” Jiyong says. It’s the first time he’s given it much thought.
Seunghyun looks down at where his left ring finger is decidedly empty. “No.”
“So we’re not married in the future.”
Seunghyun doesn’t say anything at first, but eventually he shakes his head.
It hurts more than Jiyong thought it would. It shouldn’t – there’s not much future separating them anymore, so he should’ve seen it coming – but it still does all the same. Jiyong always thought there would be more by now, that once he caught up to the future Seunghyun’s time, everything would be perfect. He thought they’d be sending out wedding invitations and bickering over the seating arrangements by now.
“Are we—” Jiyong sucks in a breath, swallows past the lump in his throat. “Are we ever gonna get married?”
“Is that a proposal?”
Jiyong sniffs and wipes away a stray tear. “It’s not like you’re ever gonna propose to me. The other you won’t even tell me he loves me. Who knows? Maybe he doesn’t.”
Pain flashes across Seunghyun’s face. “Don’t say that.” He reaches out and cups Jiyong’s cheek with his bare, ring-free hand. “Is it really so bad? Are you really that miserable?”
“No, it’s not – I’m not miserable. Most of the time I’m really happy. I just wish—”
Seunghyun tilts Jiyong’s chin up so he can get a better look at his face. “What? What do you wish?”
“I wish he was more like you.”
Seunghyun’s eyes turn sad. “He is like me.”
Jiyong shakes his head but doesn’t argue. Instead, he presses his face into Seunghyun’s chest and finally allows himself to cry. He cries more than he means to. Once he starts, he just can’t seem to stop. He didn’t even realize he’d been holding so much back. Seunghyun gathers him close and does his best to soothe him through it.
Jiyong grips him tight. “I don’t wanna die.”
Seunghyun lets out a choked sound and pulls Jiyong even harder against his chest. “You’re not gonna die. I’d never let that happen.”
They stand there for ages like that, wrapped up in each other, casting dark shadows across the balcony. They stand there until Jiyong’s eyes finally start to dry. By the time Jiyong speaks next, their embrace has changed from desperate to tender.
“If…if you do manage to save me, then can we get married?”
Seunghyun’s arms tighten around him. His voice is full of barely restrained emotion when he answers back, “I’d like that.”
Chapter 11: Fault Lines
Things aren’t the same after Paris.
*throws chapter into the void*
Jiyong’s just made it home from Paris when Seunghyun calls. They’ve barely spoken since he left Seunghyun’s villa upset that day. Seunghyun called him a few times when he was away, but Jiyong always found a reason to get off the phone, if he even answered at all.
Jiyong almost doesn’t answer now. “Hello?”
“Hey.” Seunghyun sounds relieved Jiyong picked up. “You back?”
Jiyong hums in affirmation, not giving him anything more than that.
“How was it? You have fun?”
Jiyong doesn’t even hum this time. He just drops his luggage on the floor of his room and falls back onto his bed. It bounces a little under his weight. He can hear Seunghyun sigh on the other end of the phone.
“You’re still mad at me.”
Jiyong doesn’t deny it the way he had at the villa. Instead, he presses his lips together and lets Seunghyun interpret the silence however he wants.
“I’m sorry,” Seunghyun says eventually. “I didn’t realize it meant that much to you. I’ll go next year, okay?”
Jiyong has to bite his tongue against the urge to snap back that there might not be a next year. He might not even be alive then. What good are promises if Jiyong doesn’t live long enough for Seunghyun to make good on them?
But Jiyong doesn’t say any of that. He just stares up at the ceiling and says, “Okay.”
Things aren’t the same after Paris.
Jiyong and Seunghyun have had their fair share of fights over the years, but they’ve always been able to rebound. But this time Jiyong just can’t. He can feel the clock ticking down. He can feel the seconds sifting through his hands too fast for him to grasp. And it’s taking its toll on him. He clings to Seunghyun every chance he gets, holding him close and breathing him in, only to snap and bite his head off the moment something rubs him the wrong way. And everything seems to rub him the wrong way. Jiyong's been waiting for years now, and his patience is all used up.
One night, they’re cuddled up on the sofa together watching a movie, and when the credits roll, Jiyong yawns and lifts his head from Seunghyun’s shoulder, slowly eases himself to his feet, pats himself down to make sure he has his phone and keys. “It’s late,” he says. “I better get going.”
Seunghyun’s hands snake out to grip Jiyong’s hips, tugging him close so he can press his face against Jiyong's tummy. Jiyong's hands instinctively find their way into Seunghyun’s hair.
“Stay,” Seunghyun says. Jiyong can feel the heat of Seunghyun’s breath through the soft, worn fabric of his shirt.
“Can’t,” Jiyong says, smiling fondly down at the top of Seunghyun’s head. “I gotta be at the studio first thing in the morning.”
Seunghyun presses a kiss to his belly through his shirt. “So?”
“So I don’t have any clothes here.”
Seunghyun’s kisses trail lower, past the waistband of Jiyong’s pants, his hands slipping further around to knead at Jiyong’s ass. “You can wear something of mine.”
“Your clothes don’t fit me,” Jiyong says, eyes falling shut, head lolling back, caught between pulsing forward against Seunghyun’s questing mouth and pushing back into his hands.
“I’ll get you a belt,” Seunghyun coaxes. “Or I could wash the clothes you’re wearing now? So they’ll be clean for tomorrow?”
Jiyong opens his eyes and scoffs. “I can’t wear the same thing two days in a row. Dispatch would crucify me.”
Seunghyun pulls back slightly so he can look up at him. “Since when do you care about that? If you really don’t want to stay, you don’t have to. I won’t make you.”
Jiyong bites down on his lip and looks away. He does want to stay. He always wants to stay. He wants Seunghyun to work to convince him. It’s just that...he’s so sick of half-measures. He’s sick of always being the one who has to compromise or make concessions. If they lived together, this wouldn't be an issue. Jiyong’s stuff would already be here. But he still doesn’t have so much as his own drawer.
“It’s just inconvenient, is all,” Jiyong finally says.
“I don’t get why you don’t just keep extra clothes here. It would make things so much easier.”
Jiyong’s chin snaps toward him, righteous hysteria clawing its way up inside him. “You never told me I could!”
Seunghyun looks up at him incredulously. “Since when do you need permission? When we lived in the dorm, you used to store your extra shit in my closet. Even when I told you not to.”
“How’s it different?”
“It just is!” When Seunghyun continues to stare up at him like he’s lost his mind, Jiyong huffs and backs out of his reach. “Just forget it.”
In a right snit, Jiyong starts heading for the door, but when Seunghyun calls out to him – “Where are you going?” – he spins on his heel and heads for Seunghyun’s bedroom instead. He throws open the door of the over-sized closet, flicks on the light, and storms inside, riled up without fully being able to articulate why, pacing back and forth along the rows of slacks and dress shirts, of blazers and the remnants of Seunghyun’s hip hop youth.
He wants to break things. He wants to rage against the world, at how unfair it is. He wants to fall down to the floor and cry.
With shaky hands, Jiyong sets upon every white dress shirt he can find, eyes darting over them one by one, dismissing them just as fast. The hangers scrape against the rod as he callously roots through them – wrong, wrong, wrong. Seunghyun has a seemingly endless supply of white shirts but none of them are the right one.
Jiyong can feel when Seunghyun approaches behind him, but he doesn’t slow his search.
“Jiyong?” Seunghyun says, cautiously, as if Jiyong’s made of delicate glass, poised to shatter at one wrong word.
Jiyong wipes angrily at his face, unsure when exactly he started crying. He reaches the end of the row, only one shirt left to check. His heart leaps up in his throat when he sees the stitching on the breast pocket only to plummet again at the cut of the lapel. Wrong. All wrong. It’s not here.
Jiyong stares at the cluster of white dress shirts, feeling betrayed. It’s so stupid. What would a shirt have proven anyway?
Seunghyun’s hand closes over his shoulder. “Jiyong, please talk to me.”
And say what? Why don’t you love me? Why don’t you wanna marry me? Do you even want a future with me at all? Jiyong doesn’t know how to say any of that, not to this Seunghyun. And he’s not sure he’d want to hear the answers even if he could.
“There’s no room in here for my stuff,” Jiyong huffs, and Seunghyun’s brows shoot up, clearly not expecting that.
“Then I’ll make room.”
Jiyong lifts his chin and looks stubbornly ahead, still not meeting Seunghyun’s eyes. “I want a drawer.”
“Then I’ll clear you out a drawer. Baby, you can have whatever you want.”
“That’s not true,” Jiyong says. “I wanted Paris.”
Seunghyun looks appropriately abashed at that, and Jiyong swallows and looks away, all his hot righteousness leaving him in a rush, until he’s left with nothing but the hollow where it once lived, cold and empty and dark.
“I said I was sorry,” Seunghyun says.
“I know.” Jiyong doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. He feels stupid and silly for making such a big scene in the first place. “Let’s just leave it.”
Jiyong walks past him, out back into the main bedroom, shedding his clothes as he goes. He slips in between the sheets on his side of the bed and pulls the covers up to his chin. He’s beyond weary, head sinking heavily into the pillow.
Minutes later, the lights go out, and the bed dips as Seunghyun comes in to join him. Neither of them say anything; Seunghyun just spoons in behind him and presses an apologetic kiss to the back of Jiyong's neck. Jiyong closes his eyes and tries to relax into something soft enough for Seunghyun to hold.
The visits from the future Seunghyun are increasingly rare, until suddenly, they’re not. His Seunghyun shows up nearly every day now, especially on those nights when Jiyong goes home instead of staying over at the villa, when the quiet hours can be theirs and theirs alone.
He slides in behind Jiyong in the dark, much the way the younger Seunghyun did after their last fight. “Can I hold you?” he whispers.
There’s no hesitation in this. Jiyong relaxes into the cradle Seunghyun’s body has shaped for him without any second thoughts. This Seunghyun doesn’t kiss his nape the way the other had, but he nuzzles there, and it’s all so familiar Jiyong wants to cry. Everything makes him want to cry these days.
“How long?” Jiyong asks, but of course, Seunghyun doesn’t answer. Jiyong doesn’t really need him too, though. He knows it won’t be long now. The end is coming, and the only question left is whether or not Jiyong will survive it.
Things between Jiyong and the younger Seunghyun splinter even further. Every day is like walking along a knife’s edge, every conversation carries the potential for a fight. Jiyong has long since discovered all of Seunghyun’s sharp edges, but he keeps finding new ways to cut himself on them.
When Seunghyun’s nephew comes down with a bad case of pneumonia, Jiyong is the one who takes Seunghyun to the hospital and waits with him while the doctor runs a panel of tests. He’s the one who reaches for Seunghyun’s hand when Seunghyun’s knee starts bouncing like a nervous wreck.
Seunghyun’s knee falls still. His eyes dart over to where his mom and sister are talking quietly to each other before slipping his hand out from under Jiyong's as discretely as he can. Jiyong tries not to feel hurt as he clasps his hands back together in his own lap.
After several more minutes of no news, Seunghyun’s mom and sister head to the cafeteria to get themselves something to drink. Seunghyun asks for a cup of coffee while Jiyong politely declines. Once they’re gone, Jiyong can’t stop himself from asking, “Are you ever gonna tell them about us?”
It’s a sore point between them. All of their friends know, as do their band members and most of the staff. Jiyong’s family has known for years. But Seunghyun never even talks about coming out to his own family. Jiyong tries not to push – he knows how hard it can be – but he’s beginning to wonder how they’re ever going to have a future together when Seunghyun insists on hiding him away.
Seunghyun shrugs at Jiyong’s question. “It’s never come up.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Seunghyun’s knee starts bouncing again. “I’m already the black sheep of the family,” he jokes. “No telling what this would make me.”
New ways to cut himself, indeed. Jiyong snaps his mouth shut, jaw clenching with the effort it takes to hold back all the vitriol that wants to pour out. He stares out at the open room with dry, hot eyes.
Seunghyun eventually lets out a sigh. “Sorry. That was a bad joke.” When Jiyong doesn’t say anything, Seunghyun sighs again. “Look, can we talk about this later? My nephew is sick, and I’m really freaked out, and this isn’t exactly the best place to get into this.”
Later. More waiting. All Jiyong ever does is wait.
I might die, Jiyong wants to say. I might die, and then you’ll regret always making me wait. But he holds his tongue because Seunghyun has a point: Yeonjun is sick, and today is about him, not Jiyong.
So Jiyong swallows the bitterness in his throat and lets the subject drop.
One night things finally come to a head.
Jiyong and the younger Seunghyun are huddled together on the sofa watching the finale of some drama that’s currently airing, and Jiyong is enthralled. The main character has traveled back in time to coach his younger self so that he can win over their true love and change the future before it’s too late. It hits all too close to home.
“Time travel makes my head hurt,” Seunghyun says. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The romantic music swells in the background as the two young lovers gaze at each other before leaning in to share their first kiss. “What do you mean?” Jiyong asks, not looking away.
“Let’s say this guy succeeds, right? He travels back in time, fixes his relationship, and succeeds in changing the future. But if he changes the future, and his girlfriend never dumps him, how will he know he needs to go back in time in the first place? How will he know he needs to fix things? And if he doesn’t know that, he won’t go back, and then he won’t be able to fix their relationship, and then his girlfriend will just dump him like she did the first time around!”
“Wait, what?” Jiyong's brain hurts trying to follow all of that.
“If she doesn’t dump him, he has no reason to go back. But if he doesn’t goes back, he can’t stop her from dumping him. See? Makes no sense.”
“I dunno,” Jiyong says. “Maybe it’s magic.”
If anything, Seunghyun seems even less satisfied with that explanation. “Maybe.” He falls quiet and focuses back on the show, and Jiyong rests his head on Seunghyun’s shoulder, thinking the matter closed.
But it has Jiyong thinking. The future Seunghyun traveled back to save Jiyong, but if Jiyong doesn’t die, then Seunghyun will have no reason to travel back, but if he doesn’t travel back, then he won’t be there to save Jiyong, and then...what, exactly? How does this even work? His mind flashes back to that article he read on paradoxes and causal loops that made no sense at the time, and dread pools in the pit of his stomach, or maybe it’s the same dread that’s always lived there and Jiyong’s just been especially good at tamping it down.
They keep watching as the man succeeds in his mission, as he fixes the future and sets right the past, and kisses the love of his life one last time. And then he fades away before her very eyes, leaving her in the loving care of his younger self, ready to embark on their happily ever after in this newly created timeline. Jiyong’s crying by the time the credits roll.
Is that what’s going to happen to his Seunghyun? Is losing him the price Jiyong has to pay for his own happily ever after? Is sacrificing himself the price his Seunghyun has to pay for Jiyong's life?
He can feel the dread inside him rising ever higher, tinged with the new edge of panic. He’s always thought his Seunghyun would go back to the future, that he’d be waiting there for Jiyong when this was all said and done, that the younger Seunghyun would fully become him.
But what if that’s not what happens? What if he…?
“I have to go.” Jiyong scrambles to his feet and rushes for the door, haphazardly patting himself down to make sure he has his phone and keys in order. He needs to see his Seunghyun. He needs to see him right now. He needs to put his hands on him and make sure he’s not going anywhere.
“Hey, what’s the rush?” The younger Seunghyun trails after him. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Jiyong says, hand closing around the doorknob, so fucking frazzled he can barely hold still. “I just remembered there’s something I was supposed to do. With Teddy-hyung.”
“Oh. Are you coming back tonight?”
“I dunno,” Jiyong says, fiddling with the doorknob. He needs to go. “Maybe.”
“Well, here then. I was going to give it to you later, but...” Seunghyun slips his hand into his pants pocket and pulls out a shiny silver key. “I figured it was time you had your own.”
Jiyong takes the key and holds it delicately in his hand. It looks brand new, freshly cut. It’s to the villa; Jiyong can tell by its shape.He’s wanted this for so long, to move in, to share a home, to start their life together.
But at what cost?
Is that why his Seunghyun traveled so far back? To spend as much time with Jiyong as he could? Before he and the original timeline were overwritten?
Jiyong's so lost in his thoughts he almost misses what Seunghyun says next.
“...so now when you stay over you can just—”
“Wait, what?” Stay over? “You mean this isn’t…?”
Jiyong lets his hand drop, the key a dull weight in his hand. “I thought you were asking me to move in with you.” Seunghyun’s mouth rounds in surprise, and that’s all the answer Jiyong needs. He lets out an ugly sounding laugh. “Right. Of course not. How stupid of me.”
“Why won’t you tell your family about us?”
Seunghyun sighs, mutters, “Here we go.”
“Are you ashamed of me? Why don’t you want them to know?”
“I just don’t see the point, okay?” Seunghyun snaps. “Why go through all that for something that’s not even going to last?”
Jiyong staggers under the blow. His chest feels like it’s cracking open. “You don’t think we’re gonna last?”
“You’re already planning for your life after you dump me!”
“What?” Jiyong looks around like this is some sort of cosmic joke because, seriously, what? “What are you even talking about?”
“You,” Seunghyun says, waving his hand over Jiyong as if the point is self-evident. “You’re always talking about it. Going on about how you can’t wait to get married. How much you want kids. How else am I supposed to take that? You practically rub my face in it!”
Jiyong blinks at him several times, so fucking lost, and then he gets it, angry exasperation filling his voice, “You fucking idiot. I want to get married to you. I want to have kids with you. Jesus, Seunghyun. What the hell did you think we’ve been doing all this time?”
Seunghyun couldn’t look more shocked if Jiyong had hit him. He stares at Jiyong, mouth open. Jiyong can tell from his expression that none of this has ever even occurred to him.
“How could we get married?” Seunghyun asks. “It’s not even legal here.”
“We could go somewhere it is!”
“I thought we’d adopt. Or get a surrogate, whatever. Haven’t you ever thought about it?”
Seunghyun’s mouth works a few times, and it’s clear that he hasn’t.
Jiyong presses his lips together and tries to hold back his hurt. “All this time. I’ve been planning a future together, and you’ve been, what, biding your time? Waiting on the end?”
“It’s not like I wanted it to end. I just didn’t know that you—”
Jiyong cuts him off. “How could you not know? I told you I loved you. Years ago. I know you heard me. Did you think I was lying?”
“It was in the heat of the moment! I wasn’t sure you meant it! And you never said it again!”
“Well, why would I? You didn’t say it back. Do you have any idea how that felt?”
Seunghyun looks away. He stays silent for so long that Jiyong’s palms start to itch. He stay silent until Jiyong just can’t stand it anymore.
“What about now?” Jiyong asks.
Seunghyun looks back at him. “Now?”
Jiyong's chest aches, but he forces the words out. “I love you,” he says, helpless and true. The truest thing he’s ever said. The only thing he can be sure of in this crazy, fucked up world.
Seunghyun’s mouth opens but nothing comes out, and Jiyong has officially reached his limit. His chin trembles, but he quickly steels himself, letting anger rise up to replace the hurt. This is what he’s spent his life waiting for? This is all he gets?
No more. He’s done.
Jiyong tears out the door and lets it slam hard behind him, never looking back as he rushes to his car. It’s pouring outside, the sky as black as Jiyong's mood. A bolt of lighting rips through the dark. He thinks he hears Seunghyun calling out to him, but he can’t be sure, and he’s not about to turn back.
The future Seunghyun is already waiting for him in the passenger seat. Jiyong ignores him, starting the car and throwing it into drive, tires squealing as he speeds away.
That tone of voice. He sounds exactly like the younger Seunghyun, the one who keeps breaking Jiyong's heart.
“Stop apologizing for him!” Jiyong snaps. “If he wants to apologize, he can do it himself! You can’t keep fixing everything for him!”
Seunghyun’s eyes shutter at that. “I have to try.”
Jiyong shakes his head, lips mashed together in a hard line, anger and adrenaline spiking through his veins, to the fingers curled tightly around the steering wheel. His foot presses harder on the gas as the car races around a tight corner.
“Jiyong. Slow down.”
“Why?” Jiyong demands, speeding up even more. The streetlights whip by in a blur of light, rain falling so hard he can barely see the road. “Is this it then?” he asks, half-crazed and beyond reckless. He pushes the gas pedal all the way down. “Is this how it happens?”
“Baby, please slow down.”
Jiyong chokes out a sob, but he slows down. He pulls the car off onto the shoulder and shuts it off, presses his face against the steering wheel and cries. “Why doesn’t he love me?”
Seunghyun’s hands are on him immediately, cradling his face, stroking his hair. He looks just as wretched as Jiyong feels. “He does. I do.”
Jiyong shakes his head against it. “He doesn’t say it. He doesn’t show it. Not like you do.”
But Jiyong doesn’t want to hear his excuses. He crawls over the middle console and into Seunghyun’s lap, fingers sinking into his inky black hair. Seunghyun’s hands curl around Jiyong's hips like they’re meant to be there.
He remembers words Seunghyun once said: If you kiss me again, I could disappear for good. But isn’t that going to happen anyway? The end of that fucking drama plays over and over in his head.
Jiyong pushes closer, seeking out Seunghyun’s mouth.
“We can’t,” Seunghyun says, but his fingers dig hard into Jiyong’s hips, keeping him close.
Jiyong lets his forehead fall against Seunghyun’s instead, closes his eyes and grinds down hard in Seunghyun’s lap. Demands, “Tell me you love me.”
“I love you,” Seunghyun answers helplessly.
“Again.” Jiyong grinds down again, an urgent punctuation to the word, and Seunghyun pushes up to meet him, already hard and straining against his slacks.
“I love you,” Seunghyun chokes. “I love you so fucking much.”
They move together, pushing and pulling, hands fisted in each other’s clothes, and Jiyong imagines how good it would feel to sink down on Seunghyun’s cock and sit on it until he comes. Seunghyun’s thoughts must be lost down a similar track; he’s biting down hard on his bottom lip, rutting up into him as hard as the layers between them will allow. Jiyong thinks, surely if kissing is against the rules then this is too, but he doesn’t voice the thought, unwilling to let it stop them.
They gaze at one another as they move, and all their shared history comes alive in the space between them, in the space around them, filling up every spare centimeter of the car. This is the man who soothed him when he crashed his first bike. The man who chased off his bullies and sat with him through his first heartbreak. This is the man who’s been with him nearly every step of his life.
And this may be one of the last times Jiyong ever sees him. Maybe the last time.
He feels the tears coming, sees that Seunghyun’s eyes are suspiciously wet. He opens his mouth to say something – what, he doesn’t know – but Seunghyun cuts him off, gathering him close so their faces are buried in each other’s necks. Their movements turn slow and lewd, a deliberate friction that soon has them gasping and coming in each other’s arms.
Once it’s over, Jiyong doesn’t pull away. He keeps his face pressed to Seunghyun’s neck and breathes in the scent of rain and sex and cigarettes. “I don’t want you to go,” he whispers.
A long time passes before Seunghyun whispers back, “Neither do I.”