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Scam Your Love

Chapter Text

Minghao quickened his pace. The wheels of his suitcase dragged along the cement floor. They echoed loudly in the quiet parking lot. Minghao had grown accustomed to a whirlwind of noise and commotion that whenever he encountered silent, empty spaces, he was always wary of it.

 

He tugged on his face mask and inconspicuously looked around the parking lot in case anyone had followed him from the airport.

 

He knew the chances of bumping into a fan were slim.

 

He had been careful to avoid posting on social networking sites about his return from China, despite that his heart ached to communicate with carats. In fact, he hadn’t posted anything during his three-month vacation in China. He had wanted to post on Instagram and the like—the full storage on his phone proving how many pictures he had taken. However, when he returned to his hometown, his family insisted on traveling to an even smaller village where internet access was practically nonexistent. It was an experience to say the least—not that Minghao complained much since he had enjoyed his parents’ company. But three months without it had left Minghao a bit jittery—he had surprised himself that when he got to the airport, he had listened to his manager and did not post a single picture or tweet.

 

Still, even without any public notification of his arrival, it did not hurt to check his surroundings avidly. One never knew with their fans.

 

His phone vibrated in his left hand, and as he walked, he checked the new message.

 

 broken noodle

 

Minghao looked all around. Then, he saw a few feet away from him, Mingyu exiting his white BMW. Minghao’s smile hurt his cheeks. He sprinted forward, the wheels of his suitcase struggling to catch up.

 

Three feet of Mingyu, Minghao launched himself at his best friend, not caring that his luggage had fallen on its side. Mingyu pretended to grunt at the weight but spun him around as they clung to each other.

 

The hug lasted a while until Mingyu broke it to set Minghao on his feet. The contact shifted from sweet to violent as Mingyu pinched Minghao’s stomach harshly, “Did you finally put on some weight?” He asked.

 

Minghao kneed him in the side to get him away. “Shut up,” He bit out; although, he couldn’t stop giggling. When the laughter died down, he took a good look at Mingyu. He frowned as he saw the way Mingyu’s chest stretched the fabric of his simple faded blue tee. Minghao swore Mingyu had complained three months ago the shirt was too baggy.

 

Minghao groaned, “Please tell me you didn’t spend your vacation at the gym.”

 

“I did,” Mingyu said with an amused smile. Mingyu reached down to grab Minghao’s luggage. With a click of his keys, he popped open the trunk and threw the luggage inside. “With Cheol and Hansol.”

 

“I hate you guys,” Minghao said, already walking to the passenger seat.

 

Mingyu laughed as he climbed into the driver’s side. “It’s not like you aren’t fit.”

 

“I know, but I can’t put on muscle as easily as you and Seungcheol.”

 

Mingyu pulled out of the parking spot, and he began driving them to the apartments. “Well, if you ate more protein... Mingyu chastised like he had several times before. He reached past Minghao and from the compartment drawer pulled out a small snack bar. He tossed it at Minghao, “Look, I bought these new bars filled with protein and good carbs.”

 

Minghao laughed as he read the packaging.

 

“What?” Mingyu asked. He snuck a quick glance at Minghao once he made it onto the highway.

 

“Dude, I read about these, they make you shit like crazy.”

 

“No, they don’t. I’m still pooping a normal three times a day.”

 

“You shit three times a day!”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“That is not normal.”

 

“Of course it is. How much do you poop?”

 

“Three times a week, I think.”

 

“That is not normal at all. Oh my god, give my condolences to your poor constipated intestines.”

 

“Give my condolences to your overused asshole.”

 

“Nice, just a few minutes in Korea and you are already using such language. Did you rejoin your boy scout gang in China? Is that why you’re cursing up a storm in my car?”

 

“Shut up, like you have the cleanest mouth.”

 

“I will have you know; I have not cussed in a little over a month. Wonwoo and I are running a little bet to see who can last longer.”

 

“Who’s winning?”

 

“It’s a tie right now.”

 

Minghao chuckled and marveled at the familiar sights of Seoul. “I bet I can get Wonwoo to curse within an hour.”

 

“You would do that for me?”

 

Minghao snorted. “I’ll do it, so I’m not bored out of my mind. What’s the prize?”

 

“Loser has to pay for groceries for three months.”

 

“Very Nice. Is Jun back yet?”

 

“Yeah, he came back yesterday. Fan cafes were pretty chill, so he kept it on the down-low just like you. Jisoo came back from LA a week ago, but I haven’t seen him yet.”

 

“Of course not, Seungcheol and Jeonghan kidnapped him. I wondered how they survived without their precious Josh.”

 

“They didn’t. The two spent it our place moping. Wonwoo called Seungkwan over, so they hung out with him a lot for most of it.”

 

Minghao hummed. He looked out the window and enjoyed a comfortable silence with his best friend. He found he didn’t mind silences when it was with him.

 

After finally getting off the highway, Mingyu started the conversation again, “Anyway, practice started today.”

 

“Yeah? Why are you picking me up then? I would have called one of the managers.”

 

“I put in extra hours the day before we left for vacation so I could take a free day with just you.”

 

Minghao leaned his elbow against the armrest of the car. He pressed his palm against his mouth to hide his smile. “Really?” He asked in a bored tone.

 

“Yeah. Since mostly everyone is at the company building, I thought we could spend a day to ourselves. We could go to the grocery store together, and you can pick out what you wanted me to make you, then we could chill, watch a movie and then...” His voice rose awkwardly and then there was a strange pause, “...sleep.”

 

Minghao turned toward him. “Why was there a pause?”

Mingyu’s hands tightened against the steering wheel as he stared straight ahead. “There was no pause.”

 

Minghao narrowed his eyes and sunk back into the leather seat. He looked up at the traffic light. “Mingyu, the light’s green.”

 

“Oh.”

 

The car rolled forward again.

 

Minghao let the silence swell, and when they were only five minutes from the apartment, he asked again, “Why was there a pause?”

 

“Why can’t I just take a pause?” Mingyu said quickly.

 

“Because people only take pauses for a few reasons. One reason can be if they are trying to clear snot from their throat, but I haven’t heard you sneeze once, which means you remembered to take your allergy medicine today. Another reason would be if you were trying to be dramatic or crying but the situation didn’t call for that judging by our tones.”

 

“Our tones?”

 

Minghao ignored him. “And the final reason people take pauses is if they are trying to hide something. And examining the way your hands tightened on the steering wheel a minute ago and your voice went up in pitch and...” Minghao leaned forward into Mingyu’s personal space, “...judging by the sweat by your hairline, you got nervous I caught you in a lie.”

 

“Oh my god, why do you always talk so much,” Mingyu groaned out. When they stopped at a red light, Mingyu looked over at him. Minghao smiled and raised both eyebrows.

 

Mingyu groaned one more time and then drove forward as the light changed, “They wanted to throw you a surprise party,” Mingyu finally said in defeat.

 

“Ugh, I hate surprise parties.”

 

“I know; I told them. Jeonghan wanted an excuse to plan something, so he said it’s for you, Jun, and Jisoo.”

 

“Is the party at our place?”

 

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

“You sure? I can’t have them cancel it, but I can have them move it to Jeonghan’s.”

 

“Nah, it’s good.” Minghao frowned and mumbled, “I kind of just wanted it to be us and have it be a chill day like you said. I’m kind of jet-lagged too, so I wanted to nap for a bit, and if they are coming over to our place, we can’t exactly kick them out.”

 

Mingyu stayed silent as he the thought the situation over. Finally, he asked, “How about I drop you off at the apartment so you can rest and I’ll go grocery shopping?”

 

Minghao smiled. “Yeah, sounds good.”

 

They finally reached the apartment building, and Mingyu pulled into the private underground parking structure. He parked the car close to the elevator but kept the car running.

 

“What do you want to eat?” Mingyu asked Minghao as he got out of the car and grabbed his suitcase.

 

Minghao went back to the passenger window and leaned down to speak with Mingyu. He grinned as he said, “Surprise me.”

 

“I thought you didn’t like surprises.”

 

“You're not very surprising.”

 

Mingyu placed both hands over his heart, “Oh, that hurts. I can be very surprising.”

 

Minghao rolled his eyes and snorted, “Idiot.” He patted the car, “But whatever you choose sounds good.”

 

“Alright, I’m gonna hold you to that. Don’t yell at me if I bring back something you don’t like.”

 

Minghao stood straight and began walking to the elevator, “No promises!”

 

He climbed into the elevator and watched Mingyu’s white BMW drive away. He smiled and pressed for the tenth floor.

 

The doors open revealing a nearly empty hallway. Minghao spotted their neighbors, a kind elderly couple, exiting their apartment for their usual morning walk.

 

“Minghao, you’re back!”

 

“I am Mrs. Lee,” Minghao greeted. He bowed and held the elevator open for both of them.

 

“Good, I was tired of hearing Mingyu sulking up and down the hallway.”

 

Minghao chuckled, “I’ll be sure to make fun of him for that.”

 

The couple laughed and bid Minghao farewell before the elevator closed. Minghao happily walked toward his door and pressed his finger on the scanner to open the door.

 

He entered and kicked off his shoes, placing them neatly in the shoe cubby. He looked around inside, trying to spot any differences. Unsurprisingly, it all seemed relatively the same.

 

He spotted several of Wonwoo’s books sitting on the coffee counter with a full open thermos that most likely belonged to Junhui. Minghao passed by the coffee counter and closed the thermos.

 

He walked down the hallway to his shared room with Mingyu.

 

After their fifth album, Jeonghan, Seungcheol, and Jisoo had moved out of the dorms to get their apartment. Junhui had jokingly suggested they move out as well and Mingyu took the suggestion to heart. A month later, Junhui, Mingyu, Wonwoo and he had gotten enough money together and found an apartment of their own. The others remained in the original dorm completely thrilled with the amount of extra space.

 

Minghao couldn’t blame them; it was a blessing having this apartment with only four of them. He threw his luggage by his bed and contemplated putting his stuff away but instead decided he would much rather nap. Cleaning could wait. Without taking off any of his clothes, he collapsed on his bed.

 

Sleep took him quickly.

 

Two hours later, Minghao woke up to a glorious smell. He inhaled deeply, his eyes fluttering open. He followed the scent down the hallway and walked past the living room into the kitchen. Minghao smiled as he saw Mingyu stirring a giant pot while wearing a pink apron.

 

“Spicy fish soup and kimchi ramyun,” Minghao said, taking a peek at the food, “You’re spoiling me.”

 

“I missed you; you deserve to be spoiled,” Mingyu said without any shame.

 

Minghao scoffed, “Shut the fuck up,” but secretly he was pleased.

 

“Sit down; food is almost done.”

 

Minghao sat at the small table and pulled out his phone, waiting for Mingyu to finish cooking. He went on Twitter first and grinned as he saw cellphone pictures of him in the car with Mingyu at a stoplight— seemed the fans knew he was back at least.

 

He put the phone to the side when Mingyu placed a steaming bowl in front of him. Mingyu sat across from him expectantly, waiting for Minghao to take that first bite. Minghao took a generous amount and groaned after he swallowed, “Oh my god, I missed your cooking.”

 

“Ah, just my cooking and not me?” Mingyu teased. Minghao had noticed how much Mingyu kept mentioning how he missed him. Minghao had yet to return the sentiment. If Mingyu didn’t know already, then it was his loss.

 

“Why would I miss you?” Minghao asked. Mingyu already knew the answer. He had missed Mingyu greatly. Three months of limited internet access also meant zero contact with Mingyu. The two had never been separated for more than two weeks; he was surprised they had survived these three months. And it was those thoughts that made Minghao fear that they were worse than their hyungs.

 

Luckily, though, Mingyu saw the teasing glint in his eyes and Mingyu’s smile stretched proudly. Minghao tucked his spoon in his mouth, and for some reason that smile made Minghao want to kick him under the table.

 

After they finished eating, Mingyu asked “So, who’s cooking is better? Mine or your mom’s? I promise I won’t tell.”

 

Minghao didn’t even hesitate. “Yours.”

 

“Oh my god!” Immediately, Mingyu fished out his phone.

 

“What are you doing?” Minghao asked when he heard the familiar Facetime ring.

 

Mingyu only smirked and quickly stood up, the chair squeaking on the hardwood floor.

 

“Hello,” Minghao heard the familiar voice.

 

“You didn’t!” Minghao shouted, chasing after Mingyu after he realized Mingyu Facetimed his mother.

 

“Miss Xu! I have exciting news for you!” Mingyu said, Mandarin accent heavy.

 

Minghao regretted teaching Mingyu Mandarin three years ago. His Mandarin wasn’t that bad; he could speak conversationally with someone despite his heavy accent. However, he still sucked at reading it.

 

“Your boy safely arrived in South Korea,” Mingyu announced.

 

“Thanks for telling me because Minghao failed to notify me he had arrived,” Minghao’s mother said.

Minghao cringed, remembering he had forgotten to call her.

 

“But I have something else to tell you,” Mingyu continued, climbing over the sofa. Minghao followed him, trying to snatch the phone away. “Remember when we were discussing whether HaoHao liked your cooking or mine? Well, he finally announced he likes mine better.”

 

“Minghao!” His mother shouted, scandalized. “Is that why you wouldn’t eat my hot pot?!”

 

“Mom!” Minghao tried to corner Mingyu, but he slipped past him. “Mingyu is lying.”

 

“Hmmm,” He didn’t have to see his mom to know she was thinning her lips in displeasure. Minghao was gonna murder Mingyu.

 

“Thank you for telling me Mingyu. Minghao can be certain that when he comes home next time, he can make his own food.”

 

“Alright, I’ll tell him that too. Nice to see you.”

 

“Nice to see you too. Have a good day son,” She directed at Mingyu then finally to her real son in a blunt tone, “Minghao.”

 

“Bye Bye,” Mingyu waved enthusiastically.

 

He ended the call, and Minghao launched at him. They fell on the rug, nearly missing the coffee table. Minghao pushed Mingyu to the ground not sure what he was trying to accomplish, but he needed to take his anger out somewhere. It didn’t help that Mingyu laughed underneath him. They continued wrestling until Minghao banged his head against the coffee table. He hissed and sat up, rubbing his head.

 

“You cannot Facetime my mom,” Minghao said petulantly.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Cause it’s weird. How did you even get her number?”

 

“She gave it to me during our parent dinner maybe two years ago?”

 

“You’ve been Facetiming mom for two years! I can’t believe it! No, wait…I can.”

 

Mingyu scrunched his nose and looked at his arm, “I can’t believe you bit me.”

 

Minghao rolled his eyes and said the familiar phrase in Chinese that his mother used to always tell him as a child, “Hitting is affection and scolding is love.”

 

Mingyu scoffed, climbing onto the couch. Under his breath, he murmured in Chinese, “You’re so 250, that’s what you are.”

 

“What the hell!” Minghao shouted in Korean. “I didn’t even teach you that one.”

 

“Your mom taught me that. I like it, telling someone you have a quarter of a brain without using any actual curse words. I need to jump more on this Chinese insult bandwagon; she told me a lot of egg ones too by the way.”

 

Minghao groaned and crawled on the couch. He fell face first into Mingyu’s lap. “I’m not even going to respond to that.”

 

Minghao shut his eyes and grunted when Mingyu reached over for the remote. The two lazily watched some dramas, and Minghao began to crack up when the next drama pulled up on screen. It was a year old drama, they were apparently airing reruns, but it was when Mingyu had ventured into his acting career. Mingyu’s acting wasn’t bad, but the plot sure was.

 

Mingyu flicked his cheek, “Stop it.”

 

“I’m sorry. But you have to admit, amnesia storyline?”

 

“I thought it was clever at the time,” Mingyu leaned back comfortably, his hand coming to Minghao’s waist.

 

They continued watching the show, and both of them kept pointing out the lousy plot points and camera direction.

 

When the episode was almost over, they heard the front door open. Immediately, Minghao was met with Wonwoo’s and Junhui’s welcome.

 

He hugged them both and followed them into the kitchen. Minghao’s mind was already whirling and less than subtly, as he was helping them get their dinner, dropped some water on Wonwoo’s shirt.

 

“Fu—” Wonwoo began, and Minghao’s eyes widened. But as Wonwoo saw his grin, Wonwoo halted his speech and shouted in the direction of the living room, “You told him about the bet!”

 

Mingyu came into the kitchen grinning as his answer.

 

Wonwoo reached for a washcloth. “No fair, I’ll sick Jun on you.”

 

“Jun signed a contract that he’s not allowed to interfere. It’s binding and everything. We even went to get it notarized.”

 

“I’ll make Minghao sign it!”

 

“I’ll sign no such thing!” Minghao announced. “I want my best friend back cursing included.”

 

“Well, I’m not going to lose.”

 

“Yeah Minghao,” Junhui spoke as he munched on his food, “That was kind of weak even for you.”

 

Minghao grinned, knowing that his next move was going to shock them all. “Well, I can guess I can always go with…” Minghao reached for his shirt and pulled it overhead.

 

“Son of a bitch!” Came Jun’s first reply.

 

Minghao grinned as he saw both Mingyu and Wonwoo trying to hold in their curses. He wouldn’t blame them. It was a lot to take in. All along his left side, he had gotten a tattoo. Five pink lotus flowers of various sizes ran along his skin and skimmed at his hip bone. The green mixed in with the lotus flowers were Minghao’s favorite part, they hugged his chest and sections of his back. Overall, Minghao felt it was the best thing he had ever gotten, better than the industrial piercing he got two years ago.

 

“What the—” Mingyu began, eyes bugging out of his head.

 

“Holy shit!” Junhui helped Mingyu out, standing up. Junhui touched his side and leaned in close, examining the details of the lotus petals. “Our stylists are going to be pissed. Looks fantastic though.”

 

“Which is why I’m not going to tell them yet,” Minghao grinned and reached for his shirt to put it back on. “And thank you.”

 

“When did you get it?” Wonwoo asked, sitting back down.

 

“About two months ago,” Minghao answered, sitting at the kitchen table. Mingyu sat beside him.

The three of them asked him several questions about his trip to China, and when that was all there was to tell, they used it to catch up other stories. They moved to the living room after Wonwoo and Junhui finished eating, continuing their conversation until the others arrived.

Soonyoung, Jihoon, Seokmin, Seungkwan, Hansol, and Chan arrived first with several bags of junk food and drinks. Seungcheol, Jeonghan, and Jisoo came fifteen minutes later with the alcohol causing Junhui to give Jeonghan a huge hug.

 

Everyone was pleased to see each other again, and they pushed the sofa against the wall to make room.

 

It was more like a gathering than a party, which Minghao was grateful for. He wasn’t in the mood to clean up people’s messes. Although, within two hours the majority of them were drunk.

The only ones who refused to drink were Jihoon, who was driving, and Minghao and Jisoo.

 

Minghao was chatting nicely with Jisoo on the sofa when a drunk Jeonghan came in and planted himself in Jisoo’s lap. Minghao sighed, used to their antics. It had been about five years since Jeonghan, Jisoo, and Seungcheol had gotten together. When the three first announced they were together, the group had been shocked and not very supportive. None of them were against the fact that they liked men, but it was the new idea of three people in a relationship that threw them for a loop. However, when they saw how happy the three were, they all gradually began to respect their decision and come to support them as well. The only thing Minghao hated was that no one was allowed to discuss their relationship outside their group.

 

The three of them were terrified of the repercussions from managers, staff, and most of all their fans. So the three of them were forced to keep their relationship a secret. Minghao knew that must take a toll on their relationship, but they all seemed happy, so Minghao wondered how much it plagued them.

 

Minghao’s attention drew back to the couple as Jeonghan began to mouth along Jisoo’s neck. Minghao snorted, but his eyes pulled to a black mark behind Jisoo’s ear.

 

“Fuck yeah!” Minghao shouted reaching out to touch the tattoo resting on Jisoo’s neck. It was a very simple black cross, but it suited Jisoo well.

 

“What? Oh yeah, I got it in LA.”

 

Mingyu came not a second later. He sat on the armrest, “You got a tattoo too? That’s awesome. You should see Minghao’s. It’s fantastic and gorgeous.”

 

Minghao rolled his eyes at his friend’s compliments. But he pulled up his shirt when Jisoo asked to see it. Junhui and Soonyoung drunkenly catcalled at him. Minghao laughed as soon as the group freaked out. Seungkwan tripped on his way to him. They marveled at the design to the point Minghao began to blush under their stares and attention.

 

Mingyu handed him back his shirt, and Minghao pulled it back on self-consciously.

 

For some reason, his tattoo called for another round of shots, and in less than twenty minutes the group was sufficiently drunk.

 

Jihoon apologized and was responsible for rounding up five drunken men into the elevator. Minghao felt sorry for Jisoo as he tried to get Jeonghan and Seungcheol who were making out on the couch to stop and get out. He had to whisper something in their ears for the two to shoot up and wave them goodbye. Minghao ignored the way both of them cupped Jisoo’s ass on the way out.

 

Finally, everyone was gone, and Minghao sighed looking around. Junhui had collapsed on the ground, and Wonwoo was stumbling drunk toward Junhui. Wonwoo kicked him lightly so they could go to bed.

 

Minghao looked around the apartment for Mingyu and found him in the bathroom splashing cold water on his face. When he turned around and faced him, Minghao chuckled. Mingyu was nowhere near as drunk as the others, but there was this tipsy gleam in his eyes.

 

“C’mon,” Minghao grabbed his wrist and helped him to their room.

 

Mingyu shed down to his boxers while Minghao took his time getting ready for bed, going to the bathroom to wash up and brush his teeth. When he returned to the room, Mingyu was sitting up in his bed, still awake and trying to shove his head through an armhole.

 

Minghao let him struggle for a moment. He sat on his bed across the room taking enjoyment in sight. When Mingyu whined, he finally took pity and walked across the room to help.

 

“I got cold,” Mingyu mumbled, once correctly in his shirt. He reached out toward Minghao and rubbed his face against Minghao’s stomach.

 

Minghao shoved him onto the bed, but Mingyu was insistent even when he was tipsy. He pulled Minghao down with him. “Cuddles!”

 

Minghao rolled his eyes but didn’t even try to fight it. He couldn’t recall the last time had fallen asleep in the same bed as his friend. And only if someone were to ask him at gunpoint, he would kind of admit to liking it. So, the struggle was practically nonexistent as he crawled under the covers with Mingyu.

 

Mingyu immediately tangled his limbs with Minghao. It was a bit uncomfortable, but Minghao did not complain as his friend murmured, “You’re home.”

 

Minghao sighed in contentment. Yeah, he was home.

 

>>>>>>> 

 

Minghao took pride in walking into the company building the first thing in the morning. Plus, it helped that he didn’t have a hangover like the other three trailing behind him. He jumped excitedly and couldn’t wait to get back to work. That vacation had invigorated and refreshed him.

 

“I hate you,” Mingyu mumbled as they headed to the meeting room.

 

As per usual, before they started any preparations for an album, they met with their CEO to discuss concepts and dates. Minghao chuckled as he saw the state of the other members who were already in their seats.

 

Minghao sat beside Jihoon, who was rubbing his head. “Remind me to never let Soonyoung and Seokmin drink in the same place and time.”

 

Minghao giggled, “They streaked naked?”

 

“Yup, all across the dorm. They got Chan involved. It took me an hour to get them to settle down.”

 

“Sorry,” Minghao patted him sympathetically on the back.

 

The group waited for twenty minutes for the CEO to arrive, the man running a few minutes late as usual. However, when he came, everyone sobered up and went straight to business. Their publicist, vocal coach, dance coach, and four managers were all there as well providing input where necessary.

 

Once they got their concept down, and Jihoon discussed what music he had been working on that he wanted to include in the album, their CEO, Han Sung Soo became very pleased.

 

Since their fourth album when they miraculously won Artist of the Year at several award shows, Han Sung Soo had given them more leeway on what they could do. Now with their sixth album coming up in a month and a half, Han Sung Soo and the members became excited and wanted to work on it immediately.

 

They finished up their meeting within four hours, a significant accomplishment when Minghao recalled their second full album meeting had been six hours.

 

The members all stood up and bowed at Han Sung Soo before they took their leave.

 

“Actually,” Han Sung Soo spoke up, “I wanted to discuss one more thing.” The members scrunched their eyes, trying to recall what they forgot to mention. “With Mingyu and Minghao. Alone.”

 

Minghao met eyes with Seungcheol. Seungcheol immediately seemed worried and wanted to stay. But Han Sung Soo kindly dismissed him.

 

Mingyu and Minghao remained sitting, knees bouncing against each other in worry. When they left the CEO looked over at his side, “Youngmin, Hyerim, I need to ask you to leave as well,” He said, dismissing their dance and vocal instructor.

 

They watched them go until only their publicist, three managers, and CEO remained. 

 

“You aren’t in trouble; we just wanted to discuss a few things. If that’s okay with you?” Han Sung Soo addressed.

 

“Sure,” Mingyu spoke up, trying to sound confident.

 

“So Seventeen will be releasing their sixth album in about a month and a half, and we wanted to make sure that Seventeen dominates in not only physical album sales but also digital ones. Furthermore, we fear that with your three-month break you might have lost some fans, so we want to guarantee we regain those fans and bring in new ones.”

 

“Excuse me, sir,” Minghao interrupted, “but this sounds like a conversation we should be having with the whole group.”

 

“Not necessarily because I have a huge favor to ask of you two to help promote the album and bring more publicity to Seventeen. That only you can do. Your publicist has a detailed a plan that both of you can accomplish to bring more recognition to Seventeen.”

 

“That’s great, what do we have to do,” Mingyu asked, leaning forward.

 

“Well, you are allowed to refuse since it is a very sensitive ordeal.”

 

“If it means bringing publicity to Seventeen, I don’t mind doing whatever you’re asking,” Mingyu stated. Minghao agreed.

 

“That’s very good to hear because we need you two to date.”

 

“You want us to what?” Minghao asked in disbelief.

 

The CEO looked between Minghao and Mingyu awkwardly as he repeated himself, “We need you two to date...each other.”

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry what?” Minghao found himself asking again. Because really, he had not just heard that.

“We need you two to date each other.” Their publicist, Jiyeon spoke up bluntly, her voice sounding clip and annoyed with the repeated question.

Minghao leaned forward. “In what world, is us dating the answer to help Seventeen gain popularity?!”

“Minghao,” Mingyu chastised beside him.

“What? I would like to know.”

“Yes, we understand your concern,” Han Sung Soo said, not meeting their eyes. “Jiyeon, would you like to explain?”

Their publicist had an unusual, small cupid shaped lip, but when she smiled, it took over her entire face, outshining her round shaped glasses. “As you all know, fans like to pair people in your group. It’s a normal thing, you feed some fanservice here and there, and you get a small boost in tweets when we need them. However, we want to take it one more step forward. With the recent trend in actors coming out as gay, public approval of the LGBT community has significantly increased. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 39% of people believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society,” She pressed a button on her iPad and then her screen popped on the projector in front of the room. Minghao snorted as the woman brought out a bar graph to this ridiculous discussion. “Compare that to this year’s 2022 Gallup poll 67% of people believe that homosexuality should be accepted. However, even though several actors have come out representing the community, no one has come out within the music industry.”

“And I’m guessing Pledis wants to jump on the bandwagon?” Minghao sighed. He didn’t know how much of this he could take. A quick glance at Mingyu proved Mingyu wanted this conversation to end as well.

“Exactly!” She grinned. “We would make headlines especially with the number of awards won last year. I’m 92% positive we would have a good reaction from fans and increase publicity.” She showed them another graph that Minghao did not want to read.

“I still don’t understand the correlation of why you need us to do this,” Minghao paused and then asked the real question, “Or why us?”

“I’m getting there, be patient,” She adjusted her glasses. “So, as I’ve said no one from the music industry, okay let me rephrase that, no one major from the music industry has come out. If we have two members of our group come out and announce they are together we can gain popularity from the LGBT community, gain international fans; the possibilities are endless. Several articles of you will be written, everyone will be tweeting about you, fan cafes will be filled and what we can do is reach out to several of these sites and ask if we can promote our album on these sites. Fans will see oh gyuhao is real and right next to it, will be linked to buy the album or listen to it on Melon, which frankly we have always been lacking in. This is a way to improve digital sales and make our hit on every medium.”

“And why us again?” Mingyu’s voice rose in pitch, and Minghao knew that was the sign that Mingyu was approaching hysteria.

“Well,” Their CEO spoke, “We considered in having Jeonghan and Jisoo do this...but.”

“But…” Minghao urged.

“We believe that would cause drama and unnecessary rumors and would direct hate toward members. After all Jeonghan, Jisoo, and Seungcheol live together can you imagine the pressure that would be placed on Seungcheol?”

Minghao shared a knowing glance with Mingyu. “Yeah…” They said awkwardly in tandem, knowing the real story.

“And then we considered asking Soonyoung and Jihoon, but Jihoon would never agree to do this.” One of the managers spoke up.

“And that left us?” Minghao asked indecorously.

“Well, you two are very close,” Their CEO continued, trying to placate them, “everyone knows that. You live together; people know you share a room in your new apartment, and…”

“And?”

Their CEO grimaced. “Dispatch secretly followed you out of the airport yesterday and took this picture.” The publicist showed it on the screen, and Minghao stared at it strangely. Someone had taken a picture of him and Mingyu. Minghao’s legs were tight around Mingyu’s waist, and both of them had broad smiles on their faces. At a quick glance, it painted a romantic picture, but because Minghao knew what occurred, he only saw one thing. Just him and Mingyu.

“It hasn’t been made public yet because they believe something weird is happening between you two, so they tried blackmailing us, but we paid them off for the picture. And if dispatch is already willing to believe something that’s not there, can you imagine us putting in the effort?”

Minghao’s lips thinned, “Okay, one tiny problem though.”

“Yes?” Their publicist asked.

“I’m not gay.”
“Yes, we know you both aren’t—”

“I am,” Suddenly, Mingyu’s voice spoke up.

Silence consumed the meeting room. Minghao sighed at Mingyu’s abrupt coming out. He had known Mingyu was gay since predebut. It had been two weeks into his permanent move to the dorms, and he accidentally walked in on Mingyu jacking off to gay porn in the bathroom. Minghao hadn’t cared Mingyu was gay, but he had avoided looking at Mingyu for about two weeks after that incident. Seeing another guy’s dick was hard to erase from his mind. But after they talked it out, Minghao and Mingyu became close. Minghao had been the first to find out Mingyu was gay before Mingyu got the courage to reveal it to the whole group when he was old enough to drink.

“Oh,” Han Sung Soo spoke slowly.

“Is that going to be a problem?” Minghao threatened.

“No,” Jiyeon said with a smile. “That’s perfect! You can use this moment to come out, and you can have the company’s support. It will make Pledis look extra progressive. We will win brownie points with the LGBT community.”

Minghao watched as Mingyu’s face of disbelief transformed into something more passive. Minghao meanwhile couldn’t believe the company was willing to stoop so low to the point they could pat themselves on the back for pretending to be supportive of the queer community.

“So what do you boys say?” Han Sung Soo questioned with a hopeful smile.

“What will we have to do?” Mingyu asked.

“Are you serious?” Minghao snapped.

“What?! It’s not like they are asking us to murder someone, it’s only dating for a short period. Right?”

“Exactly,” Jiyeon informed, “Just under a year and we will create a fake-break up story and everything. It’s all here in these contracts we’ve drawn out.” She displayed a contract on the projector. Mingyu turned to look at it, but Minghao remained glaring at the woman. “It’s just basic outlines and stuff, but it dictates what we will be able to ask of you. You can read it if you’d like, we don’t need a signature now, but preferably tomorrow. We need to start this as soon as possible.”

“Oh my god, you are actually considering this.” Minghao ignored her and addressed Mingyu instead.

“It doesn't sound bad.”

“Really? They are asking us to lie to our fans.”

“Not that different from when you lied to the fans that you were cute and innocent when you first debuted.”

“I couldn't speak the language! Blame the fans for that mix-up.”

“Yeah, the biggest mix-up of the century right next to when they believed Jeonghan was an angel.”

“That’s completely different this is a deliberate lie.”

Mingyu rolled his eyes and asked their CEO, “What if I do this with Wonwoo?”

“What?” Minghao felt betrayed.

“The thought crossed our minds, but you and Minghao just seem a little more believable.”

“What does that mean?” Minghao snapped again.

“That any fan service Mingyu does with Wonwoo is just that. Outside of concerts or fan meets the two behave like friends, whereas you two…”

Jiyeon helpfully showed the picture again.

“So we fool the fans into thinking we are together?” Mingyu said, “What about our friends? The guys aren't going to believe we've been together this whole time.”

“We agreed that your managers and the group would know.” Jiyeon informed, “Everyone else will need to be fooled in the same way the fans are. It guarantees that the group can cover for you for interview questions and doesn't let the secret slip out and get back to Dispatch. No one can know this is a—”

“A scam?” Minghao added.

The woman smiled. “Exactly.”

>>>

Mingyu and Minghao exited the meeting room in silence. However, once the door shut firmly behind them, two immediately began to bicker with each other.

“I'm not signing that contract,” Minghao spat and crossed his arms over his chest, walking down the hallway.

“They promised us a greater percentage of shares.” Mingyu snorted.

“Yeah, I'm not gonna date you for money.” His thumb harshly pressed against the elevator door. It arrived quickly, and once the doors shut, Mingyu shrugged.

“I would date you for money.”

“I would date me for money too, just not you.”

“Why not?”

“You heaved in my breakfast this morning.”

“I retched into your coffee; I didn’t vomit. And you know what, I revoke my statement. I am not dating you.”

“I am glad we are on the same page then. Let’s go back in there and tell them to fuck off.”

“We are not going to tell the CEO to fu—” Mingyu groaned, and Minghao sighed as Mingyu stopped himself from cursing. “Let’s just think about this a little bit more.”

“Why?”

“Because past the real stupidity of it, they have a strong argument. It would increase our popularity.”

“But asking us to throw away our dignity for a publicity stunt?”

“Pledis has asked worse of us.”

Minghao sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “True.”

Minghao pushed open the door to the practice room and immediately all the other members flew toward them. Their voices came in a flurry that Minghao could not tell who was who.

“What happened?”

“Is something wrong with your contracts?”

“Are you in trouble?”

“Woah slow down, you punks,” Minghao shouted over them.

“I can’t believe you still call us punks,” Mingyu muttered.

“Shut up,” Minghao shot back, but he couldn’t stop the chuckle.

“Minghao, what happened?” Seungcheol questioned with concern.

“You all might want to sit down,” Mingyu said.

The group did, and Mingyu explained the situation to everyone. He finished off awkwardly, and Minghao observed the other’s expressions. The three eldest looked extremely concerned, but the younger ones didn’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation that they all looked close to laughing.

“So are you going to do it?” Junhui asked with a grin.

Minghao glared at him.

“We don’t know yet,” Mingyu said as Minghao said, “No.”

“Have you read the contract yet?” Hansol asked curiously. “The contract might make the situation better.”

“Or worse,” Seungkwan added.

“It’s not like they are asking you to give Mingyu a blow job,” Jihoon snarkily replied, obviously only hearing ‘increased digital sales.’ Minghao was tempted to go back up there and volunteer Jihoon to date Mingyu instead if all he cared about were sales.

Minghao stopped as Jisoo placed a soft hand on Seungcheol’s shoulder. He watched the two interact and then when Jeonghan noticed, the three got lost in their world.

“They considered you two for this scam actually,” Minghao told Jisoo and Jeonghan. “Don’t worry they don’t know. The only reason they wouldn’t ask you is that they thought it would cause drama with the fans.”

Seungcheol forced a smile, “Would have been great drama though.”

“You don’t know how to start drama, Cheol,” Jeonghan grinned, flipping his long hair back. The older had grown it back out over the vacation so his hair reached his shoulders again. “That would have been my job.”

Minghao snorted as he watched the three interact, and instead, he tuned out the others along with their inappropriate remarks.

Soonyoung, bless his leader’s heart yelled at all of them and resumed the gruesome conditioning.

>>>

When Minghao, Mingyu, Wonwoo, and Junhui arrived at their apartment, Mingyu called first dibs on the shower. Soonyoung’s conditioning had worn them out, so no one complained as Mingyu entered the bathroom first. Minghao collapsed on the sofa with Wonwoo.

Wonwoo’s knobby knee dug into the side of his cheek that Minghao decided to roll onto the floor instead. Junhui doted on them. He entered the living room with two cold water bottles and some ibuprofen to relieve the aches and pains already festering inside their muscles and joints.
Minghao shut his eyes for ten minutes. He heard the bathroom door open, and Wonwoo entered next as Minghao was too lazy to move. Another ten minutes passed, and Junhui poked him with his sock-covered toe and told him to shower next.

Minghao thanked him, knowing that Jun would only get cold water. Despite how much he fought with him, Junhui did take care of him well.

Minghao entered the shower and groaned as the warm spray hit him. He could already feel sleep wrapping snugly around his body, but Minghao fought it off. He wanted to leave some warm water for Junhui. He showered quickly and called out to Junhui to take the next one.

Minghao entered his room with a towel wrapped around his waist. He saw Mingyu lying over his sheets with his iPad shoved under his face.

“What are you doing?” Minghao asked him, looking for a fresh pair of pajama pants and underwear. He changed faced away from Mingyu.

“Reading over the contract Jiyeon emailed us.”

“You can’t be serious.” Minghao snorted, tying the string on the waistband of his pants.
“I am, which is why I’m giving this a shot and reading the conditions.”

“Dude.” Minghao approached him and hovered over his bed.

“What, dude?”

“I don’t want to be involved in this PR-stunt.”

“You think I do?”

“You are the one reading the contract.”

“I am taking the group's best interest into consideration. If this stunt does it then, why not? Why are you so against the idea?”

“Because I don’t want to date you.”

“Thanks.”

“It’s not anything against you. I just don’t want to date someone I don’t have any feelings for, sorry if I’m old-fashioned.”

Mingyu slammed his iPad on his lap. “You sleep with girls on one-night stands.”

“Yeah, but I’m not dating them!”

“Well, this is only pretending.”

“I know that! For you, it’s like taking on another acting role. I’m not a good actor. I’m going to fuck this over.”

Mingyu sat up and let his long limbs hang off his twin-sized bed. “Minghao, if they saw that picture of us and thought that we were dating, and that was just us being us, then this thing is going to be mega easy.”

“Mega?” Minghao chuckled.

“Shut up, you know I can’t curse.”

“I’m gonna start using that all the mega time.”

“Shut up.”

“I really mega like this.”

Mingyu pouted like a sad puppy. “That’s it!”

He launched forward, and Minghao grunted as his back met the hardwood floor. He wrapped one of his legs around Mingyu’s twisting him around and the two began rolling all over the floor, trying to get the upper hand.

“Woah, you two!” Came Junhui’s voice. “Are we going to have to sign you up for couple’s counseling already?”

Minghao looked up. He blinked as a water droplet from Junhui’s hair fell on his forehead. “Shut the fuck up, Jun.”

“Or what?” Junhui scoffed, looking down at him.

Minghao shoved Mingyu as he stood. “I’ll shove your one-inch dick down your fucking throat.”

“Oh yeah, well I’ll take the stick out of your ass and smack you across the face.” Minghao fought the urge to twitch. For some reason, Junhui’s threats always seemed scarier—probably since he rarely used them.

“You know,” Wonwoo said from the doorway. “With this whole game, I hadn’t realized how much we actually swear.”

“Right,” Mingyu agreed with a satisfied smile, “It’s really refreshing. I think my vocabulary has improved because of it.”

“Shut the mega up,” Minghao laughed. Mingyu stuck his tongue out.

They laughter was drowned out as a distinct ding come from Mingyu’s iPad. Junhui’s curious nature took control. He went to bed and read the message. Immediately, he began laughing.

“What?” Mingyu asked.

“Jiyeon said if you two decide to become South Korea’s power couple, if you could go over the questions first.” Jun opened the link on Mingyu’s iPad, because of course he knew everyone’s passwords, and began laughing. “Oh my god. She sent you an immigration couple questionnaire.” He read the first question. “When did you two meet?”

“She did not,” Minghao began, but as he sat beside Junhui, Minghao couldn’t fucking believe it. “Oh shit, she did.”

“Wouldn’t hurt going over something like that,” Wonwoo said calmly. “You two are going to be under a lot of interrogation. It would make sense to come up with a solid backstory to your love life.”

Junhui lit up and looked at Mingyu and Minghao expectantly. “Can I help?”

Mingyu narrowed his eyes and shouted in Mandarin, “滚!”

“That’s a wonderful suggestion. Get out, Junhui,” Minghao shoved him up and toward the door.

“But I want to help you save Seventeen with the power of love!”

“C’mon Jun,” Wonwoo laughed, “Let’s leave the newlyweds to discuss their honeymoon.”

Minghao flipped both of them off and then slammed the door.

When he looked back at Mingyu, Mingyu was skimming through the questions. “Wonwoo’s right,” Mingyu muttered.

Minghao sighed, sitting beside him. “I know.”

“So, do you want to do this?”

Minghao bit his bottom lip, and his eyes turned to the screen. His eyes weren’t focused though; he only saw a blur of words. “Tell me why you want to do this.” He met Mingyu’s eyes.

“I already—”

“No, tell me the real reason.”

Mingyu didn’t look away as he said. “They promised me a safe space to come out. That’s kind of the only reason. Once they said that, I was sold.”

“Fuck.” Minghao looked away and clenched his jaw.

“What?”

They met eyes again. “Because now if I reject this stupid stunt, I look like a giant asshole.”

“You already look like one.”

Minghao snorted. “You can do better than that insult, Gyu. What happened to Chinese insults or it’s really improved my vocabulary?”

Mingyu glared half-heartedly. “I can’t believe you’re my best friend.”

“Same. But I’ll do this.”

“Really?” Mingyu’s jaw became slack.

“As you said, it’s a safe space for you. We’ve talked about it in the past before, how you’ve wanted to come out. I always told you to screw what other people think and to do it anyway, but this exactly what you’ve wanted. Support from the company is major for a thing like this, not that you being gay is a thing, but you know what I mean. I’m not going to take that from you.” Minghao was prepared for the hug. He patted Mingyu between the shoulder blades. “Plus, there are worse things than fake dating my best friend.”

Mingyu pulled back. “You’re amazing, and I owe you.”

“Make me some lemon meringue pie from scratch, and we can call it even.”

“Deal. Now, should we come up with an actual background story?” Mingyu crawled to his bed and leaned against the bedpost. Minghao followed him.

“Are we allowed?”

“Yeah, the contract gives us a lot of freedom. I’ve read it over. We decide our background, they basically tell us what places to meet and what to do.”

“That sounds sketch as fuck.”

“It says no sexual stuff.”

“Did they define this sexual stuff?”

“They did. It was half a page long.”

“Yeah, I’m not reading that.” He sighed as he asked, “But you trust it?”

“Yeah,” Mingyu said.

“Then I’ll sign. But I get to make up the story.”

“I’m already making you a pie. I want an equal contribution to this fake love life of ours.”

“Yours would be so dramatic and cheesy.”

“Yours would be boring, which is why we need to collaborate.”

“Fine, but I wasn’t the one to confess first.”

Mingyu laughed. “Are you kidding? You would never confess first, you’re like allergic to emotions. I obviously confessed on a romantic night under the stars.”

“You confessed after dance practice. More believable.”

“Before we went on our three-month vacation.”

“What?” Minghao was confused.

“Yeah, that can work,” Mingyu said more to himself before he faced Minghao, “It was our last practice before we would part ways. I had been crushing on you since…”
“Since I taught you Mandarin?” Minghao added.

“That was three years ago. I’m not going to pine over someone like you for that long.”

Minghao glared at him, and their glaring match lasted a few seconds before Minghao conceded. “Fine, when you could start speaking it. That’s what? A year ago, when you could start having a conversation?”

“Yeah, so I had been crushing on you for a year, so I decided that last day I would confess because if you rejected me, we would have that three-month break to get over any awkwardness.”

“But I accepted your offer because…” Minghao trailed.

“Because you started crushing on me when I began my acting career, you missed your roommate because I would come home late after filming.”

Minghao banged his head against the headrest to laugh. “That’s so corny.”

“But it fits.”

Minghao calmed down enough to say, “Okay, so I accepted your confession and then we were heartbroken because we wouldn’t see each other for three months.”

“Which is why I picked you up at the airport instead of one of the managers and then from there we can start a fresh concept, so Jiyeon doesn’t have us do anything too crazy.”

“I like it. We can work out the details as we go.” Minghao motioned to move, but Mingyu grasped his arm.

“Don’t you want to look over the questions? Like what food do I hate and stuff like that?”

“Anything lemon and you love practically anything else, but it has to be prepared in a specific way and order otherwise you become the pickiest eater in the world and complain that it's too bland.”

Mingyu snorted. “Alright, then what’s my favorite color?”

“Glitter. Even though I’ve told you that is not a color.”

“Sleeping position?”

“Curled on your left side, unless you're drunk then you sleep face down with your feet in your pillow.”

“Birthmarks?”

“None.”

“Favorite movie?”

“You prefer tv.” Minghao chuckled, “Bro, I know everything about you.”

Mingyu snorted.

“What?” Minghao asked.

“This might work.”

“And we are doing this.”

“Yup.”

“Great.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Minghao wanted to kill Mingyu. Minghao would end his life quickly, of course, Mingyu was his best friend, after all, there was no need for pain. But, on those rare occasions in mornings like these, Minghao wanted to drag out Mingyu’s death, nice and slow.

Mingyu had the most annoying ringtone for the Pledis staff. So when he heard the high-pitched squeal of the ringtone way before Minghao’s alarm, Minghao grabbed a shoe by the foot of his bed and threw it across the room. He missed. He heard the harsh thud of his shoe hit the wall instead of Mingyu’s face. The noise shocked Mingyu awake, and he bolted up in a stupor, reaching blindly for his phone.

“Hello,” Mingyu muttered sleepily.

Minghao groaned and turned to face Mingyu, bed sheets resting under Minghao’s glaring eyes.

He couldn't hear the other person on the line, but whoever it was who decided to wake them up an hour before they had to go into practice, deserved to suffer. Because once Minghao was awake, he always found it difficult to go back to sleep.

He took a deep breath before sitting up and turning on his bedside lamp.

Under the light, he could see Mingyu more clearly. Mingyu’s eyebrows drew a straight line on his forehead, and his lips formed a tiny pouting circle in apparent confusion. After a minute, Mingyu hung up and flopped onto his bed with a groan.

“What happened?” Minghao asked.

Mingyu pressed his cheek against his pillow, “We have a breakfast date today.”

The word ‘date’ startled Minghao out of his grumpy, sleepy state. He had nearly forgotten this entire arrangement.

Only a day had passed since he and Mingyu walked into Pledis Entertainment and signed their dignity away for what Minghao could already predict was going to be the mother of all publicity stunts. Their publicist, Jiyeon had squealed and thanked them, and she informed them she would be in touch with them for their first assignment.

And apparently, here it was.

Minghao sighed, “Why couldn’t she make it lunch?”

Mingyu pushed himself up. He rubbed his hair, “We have practice today, that’s why.”

“So where are we going?”

“To the American-style cafe down the street. Someone gave an anonymous tip that we like to go there every week.”

“Every week? We go there maybe once a month.”

“Jiyeon needed a non-suspicious reason to send paparazzi there.”

“Great. I guess I’ll take the bathroom first.”

 

>>>

 

Minghao yawned as he walked into the cafe with Mingyu. The cafe did not house that many customers this early in the morning, because what idiot wanted breakfast at five? Minghao could see two senior men with coffee chatting near the window, a woman by the door suffering most likely through a midlife crisis judging by the state of her hair and papers were thrown over the table, and two employees cleaning tables.

Mingyu and Minghao hovered awkwardly at the door until one of the male employees with bags under his eyes forced a smile and said, “Sit where you like, I’ll be with you shortly.”

Mingyu chose to sit in the back with the booths. Mingyu slid in the booth opposite of the rising sun, the bastard. Minghao sat across from him, flinching when the sunlight shining through the window hit his eyes. He scooched closer to the wall to avoid the light, sending a glare at Mingyu’s smirk as he did so.

They waited patiently for the waiter. Mingyu pulled out his phone checking his Twitter while Minghao stared out the window. His eyes scanned the street, wondering where the paparazzi had situated themselves.

“Good morning guys!” Minghao suddenly heard. He turned to his right and saw a familiar waitress. Minghao enjoyed her company. She knew who they were, and Minghao knew she was a fan because one time, he caught Jisoo’s picture as her phone wallpaper. But she never made a big deal whenever any of them wandered into this cafe. She treated them like people. “What brings you here today?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Minghao answered.

“Still adjusting to the time change?” She asked sweetly, knowing that Minghao had recently come back from China.

“Yeah, and this oaf here didn’t understand that and dragged me here for breakfast anyway.”

“You were already up,” Mingyu said, playing along with the lie. “Don’t blame me when you’re the one who woke me up in the first place.”

“Your snoring woke me up.”

“I don’t snore.”

Mingyu was right. He didn’t, but it was still funny to tease him about even after all these years. “And how do you know that?” Minghao shot back.

“Alright boys, so what will it be?” Their waitress interrupted, pulling out her small notepad.

“I’ll have a black tea with two sugars and a number three,” Minghao replied.

“Okay, black tea with two sugars and a number three. What would you like?”

“I’ll have a coffee with two sugars and a breakfast sandwich, but I’ll like the bread heated not toasted, and I want the eggs runny, not scrambled. And I’ll like some avocado in it if you have it, and if not, then I’ll have extra cheese only if it’s swiss, but if it’s cheddar, then I want nothing.”

Minghao smirked, pressing his palm into his mouth. He glanced out the window to avoid laughing. Mingyu’s very particular orders always made Minghao want to giggle, especially since the waiters never knew what to do with him.

“So...no sandwich?” The waitress asked, her eyebrows drooping down her forehead.

“No, I still want the sandwich just without cheese.”

“Okay,” She wrote something quickly on her notepad and told she would back with their drinks shortly.

“One day the chef is going to come out and kill you,” Minghao said when the waitress left.

Mingyu reached out for the napkin on his table and began to fiddle with the edges. “I’m just trying to help him make a better sandwich.”

“You sound pretentious each time you order.”

“Your face is pretentious.” Mingyu snapped out defensively.

Minghao smiled and watched Mingyu’s shoulders release the tension they had been holding.

The waitress came back and set their drinks in front of them. They thanked her, and she left them alone again.

Minghao reached out for his black tea, swirling the spoon to mix the sugar properly. He took a sip, and at that moment, Mingyu decided to be a jackass.

“Honey?”

Minghao spurted scalding hot tea from his nose. He cried in pain and Mingyu passed him the napkin while laughing. Minghao kicked him under the table as he wiped his face. In a harsh whisper, he told him, “Oh, fuck no! We might be doing this whole thing but—” Minghao’s words cut abruptly as Mingyu held out a honey packet in front of him. “I hate you.”

Mingyu grinned and opened the honey packet. He reached for Minghao’s tea and poured the honey inside, mixing it for him. “Why’s that, honey?” Mingyu teased.

“Oh, you’re hilarious.”

“Come on; I like honey.”

“We aren’t going to use pet names.”

“But if I were dating someone I would use pet names. Haven’t you used pet names for the people you’ve dated before?”

“I’ve never dated before.” Lie. Minghao had two ex-girlfriends, but he hadn’t told Mingyu about that. He hadn’t told anyone, and he preferred to keep it that way. “I’ve slept with people, but I’m not exactly calling the girl bent over my lap honey. It would ruin the mood.”

“Ewww, you’re vulgar. I miss when you used to be shy around girls.”

“I was never shy around girls. Korean girls, yeah maybe for a bit but once I picked up the language, I was okay. You’re the awkward one always stammering and blushing like an idiot in front of cameras and guys you think are hot.”

Mingyu chuckled, “I hope you just realized what you’ve said...I’ve never stammered and blushed around you.”

Minghao’s jaw tensed, and he stated bluntly, “Screw you.”

Mingyu crossed his arms across the table. “I remember acting like an idiot when I first met Seungcheol and Wonwoo. Did I ever tell you I had crushed on them before we debuted? But then I learned Seungcheol was an idiot and Wonwoo was a giant nerd that I got over them pretty quickly, but I never acted like that with you. Guess you’re not hot.”

“You have shit taste,” Minghao said right at the moment the waitress came with their order.

Mingyu didn’t say anything after that; he only bit into his delicious looking sandwich while Minghao was stuck with his limp breakfast burrito. Minghao could just roll his eyes.

 

>>>

 

The group worked on building conditioning. While they enjoyed their well deserved three-month vacation, not all of them had spent it at the gym or working out. Minghao felt terrible for most of the vocal team as they struggled to breathe after ten minutes of dancing. However, no one complained and kept working at it until Soonyoung called a break.

Soonyoung’s definition break wasn’t a break.

The group split into their units to work on songs they wanted to put on the album. Minghao watched the hip-hop and vocal team go while the performance team stayed in the practice room.

Minghao sat in the center of the floor with his other teammates, listening to his leader attentively.

“So for this album, I wanted to have a mature sexy theme.”

“Can Jun pull that off?” Chan jibbed with a snort.

Junhui was mildly offended, “What are you talking about, I’m the sexiest one in this group.”

Chan and Minghao shared a look before saying in tandem, “Soonyoung is the sexy one of this group.”

“Yeah,” Soonyoung laughed, “You do “not safe for public view sexy” and I don’t want our choreography to be banned on every station.”

Junhui stuck his tongue out, while Minghao asked, “What do you mean mature sexy? Like, suit and tie sexy?”

Soonyoung face scrunched deep in thought, “I’m not really sure yet. More like mature graceful sexy. I wanted to incorporate a feminine movement into our choreo to break gender stereotypes, a contrast of sorts.”

Minghao looked at Soonyoung with confusion not sure how a feminine concept correlated with a sexy one, “You mean like what?”

Soonyoung made an annoying noise at the back of his throat. Instead, he pulled out his phone, “I was working on a few beats during the break. Just listen to it, and you will see what I mean.” He hit the play button, and Minghao leaned back, shutting his eyes.

Minghao didn’t expect this type of music at all. Often, Soonyoung liked to play with lively EDM and contrast it with heavy drops and beats for the chorus, but this was on a different level. The heavy beats were still present, but this time Minghao could hear some violin samples and softer instrumentation. It was dramatic almost like a movie score. He couldn’t imagine doing any sort of hip-hop choreography to this.

“It sounds like a theatrical ballet song,” Junhui commented when the sample finished playing.

“That’s kind of the femininity I wanted to incorporate,” Soonyoung said, looking straight at Minghao.

“No,” Minghao said immediately.

“C’mon, you’ve been practicing ballet for three years now. Your expertise would be vital for this.”

“But I’ve never danced ballet publicly before.” Minghao crossed his arms in front of his chest, “I’m still awkward in it. Even my dance coach says so; she says I’m too rough with the movements and lack grace.”

“That’s where Jun and I come in; we can refine the movements. I was already envisioning you being the pillar of the choreography. You are the dramatic drums—the harsh ballet, and the three of us can be the string and wind instruments, the softer side.”

“I don’t know.” Minghao tugged at a piercing on his ear.

“Just think about it, but what do you think so far of the sample?”

“I think it's the best thing you’ve composed.”

Soonyoung’s mouth dropped, and the silence didn’t last long because Junhui and Chan acted quickly to support Minghao’s claim.

Soonyoung beamed with pride, “Okay, well I haven’t thought of any lyrics yet to go with this.”

“What did you have in mind?” Chan asked.

“I think sensual lyrics would work well with the song,” Junhui added as input. “But not a sweet or hormonal sensual, if that makes sense.”

“A realistic sensuality?” Soonyoung asked Junhui.

Junhui nodded, “Yeah like...not a song about how much you long to be with your partner. We’ve heard too many songs like that. Hell, we’ve written too many songs like that, but more along the lines of realism, so intimate lyrics that express how you really feel about a partner like sometimes you love them sometimes you want to tear them apart. I think showing the contrast in the song lyrics would work well with the contrast in the musical elements you’ve built so far.”

“I like it,” Soonyoung said. “Any objections?”

Minghao and Chan shook their heads.

“Great!” Soonyoung clapped. “Let’s get to lyrics building.”

The four of them broke off. Minghao walked to his backpack sitting in the corner of the room, and he picked it up, dragging himself out of the practice room. He found a single empty room on the second floor and claimed it for himself.

He turned on the light and threw his backpack on the small table pressed against the wall. He took out a small notebook and opened it to a clean page.

He wasn’t the best at coming up with lyrics in a forced setting. His best lyrics came from when he least expected it. Still, he had a goal to leave this room with at least four lines he was happy with and wouldn’t mind showing the others.

However, Minghao found it was challenging to concentrate more than usual and he knew it was because of the choreography Soonyoung had planned. Realistically, he knew he should not be worried. The sample Soonyoung had shown them was still in its early stages what it was now might be something completely different by the end, which meant the choreography would change as well--which meant, no ballet.

Minghao did not feel comfortable with ballet.

He had decided to pursue it three years partly on a whim but also because Hyerim had suggested he incorporate more intense stretches into his exercise routine. Four years ago, he had injured his back, partly because he wasn’t keeping up with stretching after doing his flips or more intense dance movements. Going with a physical therapist helped, but it was so dull. Hyerim had a friend who did ballet and recommended Minghao to her just to stretch. Gradually, the woman would introduce him to a ballet move here and there, and now, Minghao was able to make several ballet moves, and his flexibility was practically inhuman.

The group knew he did ballet, it had been the butt of a few jokes mainly from Mingyu, but the jokes didn’t hurt or bother him. Minghao liked ballet—surprisingly, it reminded him of the dances he did when he was younger and participated in Chinese musicals. What bothered him was that he didn’t feel confident whenever he danced it.

When he watched the other ballet dancers, they had this beautiful grace on them and created the most beautiful lines with their legs and arms. Minghao’s lines felt awkward. He didn’t know how to put on the facade of gentleness.

That wasn’t his style of dancing at all.

He was all sharpness and power. It was what drew him to learn how to breakdance. Breakdancing was something he knew how to do well. He had never been self-conscious with it as he was with ballet.

Minghao paused in thought and wrote a small line in his notebook.

Self-conscious in every move I make

The line didn’t feel sensual, but Junhui had said realistic lyrics. Although now that he thought about it, he had no idea how he was going to write honest lyrics.

He tried not to dwell.

He had already come to the fact he was different than anyone else in that department.

Experiencing love and sensuality always felt different to him because well...he couldn’t feel anything.

His phone suddenly rang, and Minghao dropped that depressing thought process.

“Hello,” He mumbled into his phone.

“What the hell was that?”

Minghao scrunched his face and pulled his phone away to look at the caller ID. He rolled his eyes when he saw it was Jiyeon.

“What was what?”

“My friend at Dispatch sent me the pictures they took of you and Mingyu.”

“And?”

“They’re boring. You guys didn’t do anything.”

“It was dead-ass in the morning, and you said just a date.”

“Yeah well, it wasn’t very date-y. Try harder.”

Minghao groaned, and she replied with, “Hey, you signed the contract.”

“I know...what do you want us to do on dates then?”

“Hold hands, look at each other like you like each other. Half of these pictures are of you two glaring at each other—” Minghao laughed. “Minghao, this isn’t a laughing matter. We need to convince the public you two are together.”

“Alright, when do you need us to go out again?”

“What time do you get out of practice?”

“Seungcheol will probably send us home in about three hours.” It was already an hour before midnight.

“Great go out to dinner, but take Seokmin, Hansol, and Seungkwan with you, so it doesn’t look too suspicious.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a date?”

“No, the point is you are going to ignore your friends and only pay attention to Mingyu. Plus, it will give paparazzi the opportunity to take pictures of how you behave differently with Mingyu compared with your friends.”

“And remind me one more time how I’m supposed to behave differently? So that I know I’m having this conversation and I’m not in the middle of a nightmare.”

“Don’t worry about it! I’ll take the lead!”

Minghao pulled his phone away again, wondering when Mingyu joined the conversation and turned this phone call into a three-way.

“Alright, fine. Text me when you are done.” Minghao hung up before anyone could say anything. He slammed his head on the table, lyrics all forgotten.

 

>>>

 

“So we get front seats to the gyuhao show?” Seungkwan teased, butting shoulders with Mingyu.

Mingyu glared at him as he got all his stuff together. He finally said, “I won’t pay for your food if you continue.”

“But, c’mon you have to admit this is hilarious,” Seungkwan continued. Minghao sighed from where he was standing. He saw Mingyu and Hansol packing their things, while Seungkwan, Hansol, Seokmin and he, waited for them patiently in the practice room. Minghao had sent a group message to the others if they wanted to join them for a quick bite to eat. No one wanted to come until Mingyu promised them free food. “Shut up,” Mingyu said in his stilted English.

Hansol tried to deflate the situation, but like Seungkwan was curious about the situation. Hansol asked, “So what are you guys going to do? Hold hands under the table?”

“You should play footsie,” Seungkwan suggested.

“Oh god no!” Seokmin interrupted.  “Have you ever sat between them when they play footsie?”

“You guys play footsie?” Hansol asked with a slight chuckle of amusement.

Seokmin continued to whine, “It’s more like they kick each other with all they got to see who wins.”

“That sounds painful,” Hansol said.

“You just got weak shins,” Mingyu teased.

Seungkwan upturned his nose and let his stomach speak for him. “Anyway, where are we going?”

“Jiyeon said we have to go to this hole in the wall restaurant,” Minghao replied. “They mainly serve fried curry balls.”

“That sounds good at least,” Hansol added, standing up with his backpack. “Makes the situation less awkward.”

Minghao and Mingyu shared a glance, both knowing this was more than just awkward. “Ready?” Minghao asked when Mingyu was the last one to pack up. Mingyu nodded.

The five of them exited the practice room and made their way down the hallway to the elevators. Once the lifts descended into the parking basement, Seungkwan asked with utmost sincerity, “Wait, how are we supposed to act? I want to make sure I’m in character.”

“You don’t have to act at all,” Minghao snapped, fighting a yawn.

“But what if you guys start making out in front of me? Do I sit and stare? Make fun of you? Tell you to quit it? Ignore you? C’mon, what role am I playing?”

“How about the shut up role?” Minghao volunteered.

“Will you pay for my food?” Seungkwan asked.

“No.”

“Then I won’t shut up.”

Seokmin laughed warmly and told the younger, “I’ll pay for your food.”

“See, Seokmin is a good hyung.”

Hansol, who had been on his phone, stopped to input, “He’s the hyung who broke your headphones.”

“That was you!” Seungkwan accused Seokmin.

“Ah, Hansol way to throw me under the bus.”

Hansol smirked and continued to stare at the screen on his phone.

“Anyway,” Minghao nearly shouted over Seungkwan, “I would really like to go and get this over with. I’m tired, it’s three fucking a.m., and Soonyoung wants us back here at six.”

The elevator chime wasn’t loud enough to drown out the synchronized groan from the others. When Soonyoung said six, he meant six. Not a minute later and god forbid if you were ten minutes late. You did not mess with Soonyoung when his mission was to get everyone back to their previous condition.

They walked over to Mingyu’s car. Minghao took shotgun, while Seungkwan was left in the middle of the backseat with Seokmin and Hansol on both sides. Mingyu fiddled with his phone for a few minutes, inputting the address before driving to their destination.

Gratefully, it wasn’t that long of a drive, only fifteen minutes. And because of the crazy hour, they were able to find street parking across the small restaurant.

When they opened the car door, all of them were hit with the smell of fried food. Those in the backseat scrambled outside and jaywalked across the street. Minghao was about to follow them, the smell of food too hard to ignore. But before he could get very far, Mingyu grasped his wrist and pulled him back to the car.

Minghao grunted as he was shoved a little against the driver’s side. Mingyu stepped in front of him, a respectable foot away.

“Okay,” Mingyu began, “I’m going to do some stuff, and you have to promise me you won’t freak out.”

“It’s not kissing, is it?” Minghao asked in all seriousness.

“Eww, no. Just stuff we’ve done before, but this time I’m going to do it in public.”

Minghao tried to recall what he and Mingyu did in public and drew a blank, but he didn’t want to appear like he was scared so he said, “Okay, I can do that.”

“I’m going to need you to smile and really stop glaring at me because that’s not convincing me you are okay with what we are doing.”

“Sorry, just,” Minghao hung his head and played with the baseball cap over his head. He looked back up with a pout, “I can’t really act…”

“I know, which is why I’m telling you to let me take the lead.”

Minghao locked eyes with Mingyu. His eyes were difficult to read in this light, but Minghao pretended he saw Mingyu’s pupils expand. Mingyu only got like that when he was determined to do something, and Minghao needed to trust in him. Minghao let out a final shaky breath and smiled, “Got it.”

They jogged across the street and met the other three outside. Although most of the road was empty, the restaurant wasn’t. They shoved their way inside until they reached the hostess. The hostess squealed when she saw Hansol’s face and immediately took them to a table.

Sometimes Minghao hated when that happened. He knew there were others in front of him who had probably been waiting a long time to be seated, but in cases like these when all he wanted to was to curl up in his bed, he didn’t exactly mind.

The hostess apologized for not getting them a table with stools, and Seokmin and Seungkwan both eased her worries by thanking her for her quick service. The five of them huddled around the table that reached just below their chest. Luckily, due to the restaurant’s packed nature, not many people noticed their presence, and if they did, they just took pictures from afar.

Ordering and receiving food didn’t take that long. Each of them received cardboard boxes with fried curry or potato balls with an assortment of dipping sauce.

Minghao ate for the most part in silence, as he listened to the vocal’s team progress. He wanted to jump into the conversation, but he was a little distracted by Mingyu’s hand. Mingyu’s fingers kept brushing against the back of his hand that laid on his thigh. Minghao had flinched when he had first done it. But, he remembered quickly why they were here in the first place and let Mingyu do as he pleased.

“Do you want to try mine?” Mingyu asked him, holding out the fried ball in front of him.

“Ha! There’s a hidden innuendo in there,” Seokmin giggled. Mingyu and Minghao both glared at him.

“You can walk home!” Mingyu barked out at him, causing Seokmin to giggle even louder.

Mingyu ignored him and continued to hold the offered food in front of him. “I got the fried potato; I know you got the curry one.”

Minghao opened his mouth, knowing that’s what Mingyu wanted. Mingyu smiled softly and placed the food in his mouth. Immediately, he heard a camera flash, but he wasn’t sure where it came from. He didn’t care much; he just hoped that he wasn’t blushing. Because this is what Mingyu had meant. Mingyu sometimes fed him at home when he was cooking a new dish, but it had never been this level of domesticity where they shared food. This was a whole new meaning of the word awkward.

“Okay, that’s cute,” Seungkwan commented.

Both of them ignored him and faced each other. “It’s good, did you let me try some so I can say your fried potato balls are better?” Minghao asked.

“Of course,” Mingyu pushed his hips a little in his direction. Minghao fought the urge to snort and ruin the moment by laughing. He remembered Mingyu practicing that move with Junhui back at the dorm when the director told Mingyu he needed to work a little more on his body language. “Come on, lay it on me thick.”

Minghao sighed, feigning exasperation. “They aren’t fried enough, the breaded part is a little soggy, but good sauce though.”

“Yeah, you got it all over your face.” Mingyu reached out and wiped imaginary sauce at the corner of his lips.

Minghao couldn’t stop laughing at that. He nudged Mingyu away.“That was a lame pick-up move, and I hope you don’t use that with all the pretty boys you meet.”

Mingyu came back to him like a lost puppy. “Just the ones who like to violently harass me.”

“Ah, so I’ll behave then. You want to try the curry ones?” Minghao held out the food to him.

“Are they any better?”

“Nope.”

Mingyu shook his head, and Minghao forced it in his mouth anyway. Mingyu chewed happily and reached under the table to grab Minghao’s hand again. Minghao successfully ignored it and the camera flash that happened a few seconds after.

“I can’t believe the hype this place gets,” Minghao commented, finishing his last fried curry ball.

“It’s because it’s Instagram worthy,” Mingyu stated with a frown, obviously displeased with his food. Minghao couldn’t help but smirk at his reaction.

“But they have cute little panda and bear drawings on them!” Seungkwan said with a pout.

Hansol added, “My panda looks like a hippo.”

They all laughed more at Hansol’s reaction than at the failed drawing on the puffball. Once their laughter settled down, they continued with the normal conversation. Minghao did his best to ignore the other three as per Jiyeon’s orders and only pay attention to Mingyu. It was a lot harder than it looked and Minghao was happy when everyone was finished eating and ready to leave.

“Alright, I gotta go pee,” Hansol told them.

“Seriously dude, can’t you hold it?” Minghao asked.

“Just a second,” He looked at least apologetic.

They told Hansol they would wait outside so they wouldn’t have to be caught in the crowd. Minghao jerked in surprise as he felt Mingyu’s hand curl around his and drag him out. Once outside, Mingyu let go, and Minghao thought that was the end of it as Mingyu let go of his hand. But he only did that, to manhandle Minghao so they could face each other.

The respectable foot distance they had been keeping suddenly decreased by half. “How was practice for you today?” Mingyu questioned casually.

Minghao bit his tongue and was proud he didn’t jerk away not even when Mingyu’s hand found its place back to his again.

“Just going over ideas and brainstorming, nothing big.”

Mingyu hummed and held onto his pointer finger. Minghao felt awkward and met Mingyu’s eyes so he wouldn’t do something stupid. To be honest, though, he and Mingyu sometimes did this. But only in the privacy of their home when watching a movie or binge watching a show if they had the time. But they had never done this in public because both of them knew how the action would be constructed in the public’s eye, although that’s precisely what they were going for.

Minghao suddenly yelped as Mingyu tugged on his finger, causing his knuckle to crack.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” Mingyu whispered, “Acting sweet tires me out.”

Minghao realized Mingyu had been carrying the weight of this fake relationship the whole night. He decided to help Mingyu out—but also to avoid any of Mingyu’s complaints that were sure to come if he didn’t do anything.

“In that case,” Minghao mumbled. He stepped closer and wrapped his arms around Mingyu’s neck. Mingyu impressed Minghao by only wrapping his arms at the small of Minghao’s back.  

“Oh no, I’m getting sleepier.”

Minghao felt Mingyu’s laugh against his entire body. Minghao tucked his chin on Minghao’s shoulder as he replied, “Good. I won’t get your stupid middle of the night questions then.”

“But who's going to drive us back if I fall asleep?”

“I can drive.”

“I’m not letting you touch Stacy,” Mingyu whined referring to his white BMW. Minghao couldn’t even remember why Mingyu named his car Stacy in the first place, but the very Western name always made him chuckle.

“Stacy needs someone else’s touch. She’s getting bored.”

“Are you implying I’m a boring lover?”

“Mmm.” Minghao yawned against Mingyu’s neck. The hands at the small of his back tightened.

“Umm...ready?” Hansol’s voice asked hesitantly.

The two broke apart slowly and smiled in Hansol’s direction. They walked to the car and as soon as the door shut everyone released a collective sigh.

“Oh my god, I’m so impressed with you guys!” Seokmin snorted from the back seat.

“That was difficult to watch,” Seungkwan commented with a little frown.

“Are you kidding? They were so natural. Next thing you know they are going to have to be in We Got Married.”

Minghao heard a loud groan from the backseat coming from Hansol. The youngest was probably recalling when he had gone on the show with Kyla.

“It’s okay, Vernonie, it wasn’t that bad,” Seungkwan tried to comfort.

Mingyu started the car and began to drive back to their dorms. The conversation moved away from Mingyu and Minghao to Hansol’s unfortunate time on the show. Minghao pitied the poor guy but did nothing to stop the teasing coming from the back of the car.

They arrived at the dorm and dropped the three off. Mingyu then began to head toward their apartment. The ride became silent mostly because the two just wanted to sleep.

Minghao smiled softly when Mingyu finally parked in the basement.  

“Hey,” Mingyu said, turning off the ignition.

“What?”

“I think paparazzi followed us into the garage—don’t look,” Mingyu said quickly when Minghao was about to turn around.

“How did they get in?”

“I don’t know.”

Mingyu glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a man in a black hoodie with a poorly concealed camera.

“Okay,” Mingyu spoke. “I’m going to get out and open the door for you.”

“Hell no, I’m opening the door for you.”

“I’m the driver, why does that make sense?”

“Maybe the driver deserves some chivalry too.”

“Just let me…”

Minghao interrupted him. “We both open our doors, and I throw my arm around you. Sound good?”

“I think so.”

“Okay.”

They exited the car as naturally as they could, ignoring the man who ducked behind another parked car. Minghao reached out to Mingyu and wrapped his arm around Mingyu’s shoulder. It was the most natural thing the two had done the whole night. They heard a camera flash and then a guy cursing.

They ignored it, walked into the elevator, and groaned when the doors finally closed.

“Oh my god!” Mingyu cried out in English.

“Can we honestly do this for a year?”

“I don’t know. Let’s go to bed. I don’t want to think about this anymore.”

“Sounds like a perfect idea.”  

 

Chapter Text

Minghao woke up with a nagging migraine stabbing his right temple. He already knew that his lack of sleep caused the pounding headache, and he immediately regretted going out last night. He opened his eyes and saw Mingyu turn off their alarm.

Mingyu seemed a little more awake than he did, so he ventured first to the bathroom, while Minghao remained on his back flat on the bed. He contemplated whether he could sneak in another five minutes and in his contemplation already drifted further under his warm blankets.

Before he could truly cross that border into deep sleep, he heard a ping on his left. Startled, he sucked in a breath. He blindly reached for his phone on his nightstand, and he only opened his eyes when his phone hovered over his face.

He saw he had a text from BamBam. It wasn’t unusual to receive messages from him, but it was strange to receive a private one. All his same aged friends mostly used the group chat when they wanted to share something. He unlocked his phone and read the message.

BamBam: Ummm...care to explain.

Below was a link. Minghao opened the link and sighed.

one

He completely expected the public to fall under this swindling façade, but he forgot his friends would be involved in this mess, and he would have to lie to them as well. Minghao licked his lips, wondering what to reply.

In his indecision, he received another message from him. It was another link and Minghao really did not want to click it, but his thumb already pressed the underlined blue message.

He dropped his phone to his chest as he felt the migraine push more sharply against his temple. He moaned and threw the covers over his face.

“What happened?” Mingyu asked, coming back into the room.

“I hate everything.” He pulled down the covers and showed Mingyu the messages. Mingyu snorted and went around looking for some sweats.

“What do I reply with?” Minghao whined, continuing to stare at the foreboding links.

“I don’t know.”

“Dude,” Minghao whined again.

Mingyu threw a sweater over his body. Once his head popped out of the hole he said, “Reply with what you would reply if you were trying to hide a relationship.”

Minghao’s face scrunched. “I thought we were trying to send the public clues that we are dating.”

“We are raising suspicion, not confirming anything yet, which adds to all the like dumb social media stuff”

“Sooo…”

“Act like nothing's happening.”

Minghao whined in distaste but only replied back with:

Fans are always exaggerating everything it’s nothing.

>>

Minghao, Junhui, and Chan hovered behind Soonyoung. Soonyoung sat in the rolling chair in front of the computer. The computer’s screen made his paler skin seem sickly translucent and Minghao swore he saw a dry booger hanging on the tip of Soonyoung’s nose. The others were kind enough to keep quiet about it; Minghao was cruel enough to have a laugh about it inside his head.

“What the hell?” Junhui said slowly behind Soonyoung.

“What?” Soonyoung fidgeted with the computer screen in front of him. Soonyoung’s finger twitched strangely before he could successfully click the mouse.  

“The song’s almost done,” Chan commented.

Soonyoung shifted in his seat, “Well, I still need to clean it up.”

“Did you even sleep?” Junhui snapped when his eyes fell on the track and saw the number of minutes.

“A little yeah,” Soonyoung wiped his nose, successfully knocking the dry booger off. Minghao sighed. “I slept here.” He vaguely pointed to the makeshift couch pushed to the side of the studio. “I just needed to get the song out of my head. So while you were having fun on your little date with Mingyu, I was stuck here.”

Minghao never quite understood how Soonyoung always managed to nearly always fall into the cusp of unconsciousness and still be a little shit. It must have been Jihoon’s influence. Or was it Soonyoung’s influence on Jihoon’s personality? Minghao couldn't keep track. All of them had been living out of each other’s pockets for so long, some personality traits naturally rubbed off on one another.

Minghao belatedly sent Soonyoung a glare but Soonyoung didn’t see it. Minghao resorted to pushing his shoulder, “So let’s hear it.”

Soonyoung nodded a little too enthusiastically and that’s when Minghao saw the four empty coffee cups by the desk. Well that explained his fidgeting. He turned away from the cups and looked at the track once the studio filled with noise.

The way the song flowed still had the same vibe as from the sample but the most noticeable difference was the electrical guitar in the background. It gave the song and even darker edge, but it wasn’t overbearing enough to venture into the rock genre. It carried a very dramatic ballad to it.

“I think Jihoon is going to have some complaint over the transition into the chorus,” Minghao said, after the song finished playing.

Junhui nodded and added, “And the way you resolve after the tension toward the last verse.”

“What about it?” Soonyoung questioned, his fingers already taking him to that portion of the song. He played it again and all of them paid closer attention.

“It’s too sudden,” Junhui said.

“Well if we are going for a dramatic effect that’s something we are going to want right?” Chan questioned.

“I’m with Jun,” Minghao agreed, “It sounds a little awkward.”

“Okay, I’ll make notes on that.” Soonyoung stood up and stretched. “I still need to clean it up before I show Jihoon but I wanted to establish something so we can start working on choreography. If we are going to do a ballet theme we are going to have to do some major training.” He walked over to the couch and face planted into it.

“Ummm...Soonyoung?” Chan asked.

The cushion muffled Soonyoung’s reply.

“What are you doing?”

“Going to sleep,” Soonyoung groaned out.

Junhui glared at him as he reprimanded, “I thought you said you did.”

“I lied. I haven’t slept in over 24 hours, so I’m gonna knock out for about three hours while you guys get the group back into shape.”

Chan lit up at the prospect. “Can I be in charge?”

Soonyoung lifted his thumb in response.

The three looked at each other and quietly left the studio to give Soonyoung some time to rest.

“Please don’t pick on Jeonghan,” Junhui said as they walked down the hallway.

“I’m not going to pick on him,” Chan said with a smile, making Minghao snort. “By the way, how was your date?”

All cheer of watching Chan torture Jeonghan, fled Minghao’s head. “It wasn’t a date.”

“Are you sure?” Jun teased. “You came back pretty late. DoI need set a curfew for you two younglings?”

Minghao reached behind Chan to shove him. “Shut up.”

“No, but really how was it?” Chan asked again.

Minghao stared at him from the corner of his eye. There didn’t appear to be any malice in his features so Minghao took a deep breath and gave into Chan’s very, very heavy interrogation.

“Weird and awkward. There are pictures out already. BamBam sent them.”

“Well that’s good right. People are already talking about us?” Minghao appreciated Chan’s efforts to keep his tone hopeful. He did however, ignore Junhui immediately pulling out his phone to search for such pictures.

Minghao sighed loudly and his voice came out more despondent than he would like. “I don’t know. I just want it to be over.”

“It’s just a year, it will fly by.”

“That’s what I’m hoping.”

He heard Junhui giggle and saw him pocket his phone. With a large smile he stated, “Then let’s get dancing and get your mind off it.”

They entered the dance practice room where Chan commenced leading the conditioning routines. Somehow, the second day was worse. Vocal team complained about sore muscles and many of them couldn’t get their arms over their heads. Chan pushed them through encouragingly, except Jeonghan. Chan loved to mess with Jeonghan given the opportunity, and the group would be massive liars if they said they didn’t enjoy watching the show.

Finally, after a few hours, Seungcheol called a break so they could continue working on their songs. Jihoon gave them a quick update and said he would be finished with the title song in about three days and he had already spoken to Soonyoung about choreography.

They all liked the quick progress and split up once more.

Minghao, Chan, and Jun returned to one of the studios. Soonyoung was still dead to the world, sleeping away on the couch. Junhui told them to let Soonyoung lie, so they went to the computer and started fiddling with the track as much as they knew how.

After an hour though, their stomachs started rumbling and Chan offered to bring them food. When he left the room, Junhui snuck a glance at Soonyoung to make sure he was still sleeping.

“Hey, Mingyu’s birthday is coming. Seungcheol told me to ask you where Mingyu wants to eat.”

“He hasn’t said anything but I’m sure he won’t mind Korean BBQ,” Minghao leaned back in his chair, until he could look at the ceiling.

There was a long moments silence until Junhui asked. “Hey, if you’re so bothered by this entire thing with Mingyu, why did you agree to do this?” Minghao hated how Junhui could read all of them with little effort. When Minghao wasn’t in the mood to talk, it was goddamn annoying.

He sighed and looked over at Soonyoung. He couldn’t tell if the other was sleeping anymore so to be safe, he switched to his native tongue. “Cause Mingyu needed a safe space to come out. So, I’m going to put up with this for him.”

“But that’s not fair for you.”

“I’ll deal with it. It’s not too much of a hardship.”

“Yeah, but even if Mingyu is getting a safe space, why should that infringe on your space?”

“What space? I don't have a space. I'm not the one being discriminated against by society.”

“I get that, but I mean your space. The company is forcing you to be something you’re not. That's not okay, no matter which way you look at it.”

“They aren't forcing me. They asked. And I signed the contract.”

“Yeah but, obviously you aren't okay with all this. You've been mopey since this morning.”

“I've been mopey because I'm overthinking things.”

“Overthinking what?”

“It’s hard to put into words and I would rather not talk about it. I mean it.

“Fair enough. I’m here if you want to talk though.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

And it that moment, Chan came rushing into the studio demanding for a pen and paper because he just came up with the best lyrics for the song.

>>

 

“So where are we going again?” Hansol asked with a bright smile as Minghao climbed into his car.

Minghao buckled his seatbelt. “The central plaza.”

Hansol began to drive out from Minghao’s apartment and into the street. “Please don't tell me you woke me up at six in the morning for shopping.”

“You wake up at six to go to the gym.”

“That's different this is shopping ,” Hansol groaned out.

“You love shopping.”

“I did not say that.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I did not say that. When did I say that?”

“When you started letting me choose clothes for you.”

“I did not say, I love shopping then. On the other hand, you love shopping only really to dress me up.”

“You can't wear ripped shirts and shorts every day.”

“Of course I can.”

“Not on my watch.”

Hansol snorted and changed the conversation, “Are we shopping for Mingyu’s gift?”

“Yeah we just need to pick it up. I was gonna have them mail it but Mingyu is a nosy ass fucker. I wouldn't put it past him to snoop.” Minghao pulled out his phone to double check he had the confirmation number saved in his email to pick up the gift.

“What you get him?” Hansol asked curiously. Minghao groaned and banged his head against the side window. Hansol chuckled, “What?

Minghao placed his phone in his lap and stared out the side window. “It's a pair of rings one for him and me. We had bought a pair years ago and I wanted to replace them.”

Hansol glanced at him quickly before turning back to the road. Minghao was glad by that and was glad he asked Hansol for a ride instead of Chan. Chan had like zero depth perception and he was never going to ride in the same car with him. “You don't sound excited by that,” Hansol said.

“Oh, I’m plenty excited.”

“Alright,” Hansol smiled and continued driving.

Minghao let the silence eat him inside until he was exploding, “Like who does Jiyeon think she is that she can ruin my gift. I buy the rings weeks ago because there was a waiting list and then Jiyeon thinks she can just randomly message me last night and say that I need to buy a dumb couple gift for his birthday.”

“Well it's good you got the rings then right? You don't have to buy a second gift.”

“But the point is she ruined this one. The one that mattered.”

Hansol followed his outburst, an expert in following Minghao’s ramblings. “How did she ruin it?”

“She just did,” Minghao said, not wanting to explain. It was only supposed to be a gift between friends, but she had to involve this stupid publicity stunt and now it was going to be misconstrued by everyone and mean more than what it actually was.

Hansol narrowed his eyes. “And that bothers you?”

“Yes.”

“Since when do you care what other people think?”

“Since people decided to get involved in my non-existent love life.”

“I can see why that would bother you,” Hansol said sincerely and that was the primary difference between Hansol and Jun. He cared for both of them, but Junhui sometimes mothered him while talking to him, whereas Hansol, only wanted to be an ear without any judgement. And most importantly, he always let things go without asking.

They drove to the mall plaza a few blocks from Minghao’s apartment and then picked up the gift. Minghao tried to ignore the paparazzi that followed him. Hansol seemed slightly amused by the situation, but he did walk faster beside Minghao, sensing that Minghao wanted to get the hell out of there. Minghao arrived at the shop, quickly paid, and left with the gift inside his large hoodie.

They climbed back into Hansol’s van. The door shut and once the paparazzi didn’t have a clear shot of them, Minghao groaned.

“Did Jiyeon plan this?” Hansol questioned.

“Yup, sorry I forgot to tell you.”

“It’s okay, I think they were all taking pictures of you anyway.”

“Great, let’s take pictures of the freak.” Minghao shut his eyes and sighed, not meaning to add that last part.

He could not help it. It had been exactly two weeks since Pledis announced that they wanted them to pretend to date to gain publicity. At first, Minghao just felt awkward with the amount of paparazzi following them. But now whenever he was alone with Mingyu he just felt uncomfortable.

“Why are you calling yourself a freak?”

Minghao shrugged and pulled out his phone, pretending to scroll through it.

“You aren’t,” Hansol said.

“Yeah I am. The whole word will say I am.”

Hansol stopped at a red light and while still looking ahead, asked with uncertainty, “You’re not gay, are you?”

“I’m not gay.”

“Then what are you?”

Minghao shrugged.

Hansol smiled then, “Bi?”

Minghao rolled his eyes, “Nope.”

“Then…” Hansol trailed off as the light turned green. Hansol sighed and then said seriously, “Don’t get stuck on the labels. Whatever you are, you’re normal.”

“How do you know?” Minghao asked with a small snort, because that was just like him to try to frame everything in the perfect light.

“Because you’re human. It’s ridiculous to think we are built the same way in which we process emotions and because there’s billions of us all over the world it's ridiculous to think we all fit into these molds of gay straight or bi. Sometimes labels don’t fit. I mean I identify as straight but if a man came into my life and we formed this really deep connection I would be possibly open to being in a relationship with him even if I’m solely attracted to women.”

Minghao grinned, “Like Seungkwan, you mean?”

“Eww, he’s like my brother.”

“I know, I’m just teasing.”

“Is that why you feel weird doing this with Mingyu, cause you think of him like a brother?”

“Not really...I see him more as…” Minghao had the word for it. He just didn’t feel like telling Hansol because he feared it would be misconstructed into something else. He was tired of things being constructed as something else . Why couldn’t people just value a friendship for what it was.

“What?” Hansol asked.

“Nothing.”

“Okay, but I really do want you to know whatever you’re feeling is normal and you shouldn’t care what others think. You go out with Mingyu all the time enjoy that and don’t focus on what others are saying about you.”

Minghao smiled softly, “Okay.”

>>

Minghao wanted to throw something at Mingyu. So all in all, it was a normal day. The only thing stopping him from throwing the nearest object in his best friend’s face was because it was Mingyu’s birthday.

“Please?” Mingyu whined. He even had the audacity to raise his voice in pitch.

“It’s not like I can say no,” Minghao sighed, reaching over for his cell phone he left on the kitchen counter. Mingyu smiled and hugged him tightly from the side.

Minghao rolled his eyes, dialing the number. Mingyu waited patiently as Minghao heard the ringtone on the other side.

“Kim’s Zury Curry House.”

“Hi, I had a reservation for today at seven p.m.,” Minghao answered. “I was wondering if it was too late to cancel.”

“Name please.”

“Xu Minghao.”

“And that was a reservation for sixteen people?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes we can still cancel,” The man said on the line. Minghao pressed his lips together to stop from laughing as he heard the obvious sigh of relief.

“Great, thanks and sorry for any inconvenience.” Minghao hung up and met Mingyu’s large eyes.

“I can’t believe you made me cancel the reservation” Minghao chastised Mingyu.

“I wanted to cook.”

“But it’s your birthday, you shouldn’t have to do anything.”

“But I want to. So let’s go then, yeah?”

“Let me grab my wallet.”

Minghao sat in Mingyu’s car sending a message in the group chat that Mingyu’s dinner was going to be moved to their place because Mingyu wanted to make his own food. Mingyu drove them quickly to the supermarket.

When they parked, Minghao noticed a weird card near the entrance of the market. Inside, was a man with an obvious camera strapped to his neck. Minghao’s jaw clenched. “Please tell me you didn’t cancel the reservation because Jiyeon told you too.”

“Well…”

Minghao got the sudden urge to storm out of the car but he knew that wouldn’t look so good on camera.

“Well what?”

“She did say she wanted us to do an outing on my birthday,” Minghao’s glare appeared at full force, “But I chose the place and the event! And I really did want to make the food.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I pinky promise and everything.”

Mingyu’s ridiculous answer pulled an exasperated smile from Minghao’s mouth. “Okay.”

“So you aren’t mad?”

“I’m always mad.”

“I mean about this situation.”

“As long as you chose it. I’m good.”

He reached to exit the car but Mingyu caught his wrist.

“Minghao?” Minghao stopped abruptly and waited for Mingyu to share his thoughts. “I know this has been a burden for you but I’m really glad it’s you I’m doing this with.”

Minghao felt every stiff muscle in his face suddenly relax. Fuck. While, he had been self-absorbed in his own frustration, he had completely forgotten what Mingyu must have been feeling. His best friend must have been terrified and needed this to go perfect so he would receive support from the company. If Minghao fucked this up, just because he felt uncomfortable, he could ruin Mingyu in more ways than one.

He looked down at the large hand wrapped around his bony wrist. He gently pulled his arm back and smiled, “Me too.”

Mingyu broke into a toothy grin.

They exited the car and Minghao did his best to remember Hansol’s words. He wasn't broken or a freak. He just needed to believe that and he could get through this year.

They approached the shopping carts and Mingyu grinned at him.

“What?”

Mingyu held onto the shopping cart and looked at Minghao expectantly.

Minghao scrunched his face and wiped his nose, “What? Do I have something on my face?”

“Get in the cart.”

What? No.”

“Get. In. The. Cart.” Mingyu challenged, eyes scrunching almost double daring him without actually using the words.

Minghao glared back at him with a small grin to his face and climbed into the cart. His long limbs pressed uncomfortably against the metal. He shifted until his long limbs hung outside the cart. He laughed as he saw Mingyu take out his phone.

Minghao rolled his eyes but let his best friend snap the picture. Minghao waited patiently as Mingyu typed a few things on his phone. He pocketed the device then pushed Minghao inside the market.

“So what were you thinking of making?” Minghao asked, taking out his phone immediately to see what Mingyu had posted.

He grinned and liked the photo.

“You can choose the side dishes but I really wanted to try this new sauce to marinate grilled short ribs.”

Minghao hummed and pressed his head against the back of the shopping cart. Mingyu pushed him through the different aisles and piled food in Minghao’s lap. Minghao only complained once when Mingyu purposefully threw the cold meat against his crotch. Along the way, Minghao reached for junk food and organized the food neatly by his thighs and lap.

They talked about the progress of their own individual units and joked about their crazy leaders. It was a very enjoyable outing even if it was only picking up food.

When they were heading to the produce aisle, they saw a verly burly man with a blue apron marching toward them.

“Oh no, manager alert!” Mingyu hissed. “Get out.”

Minghao saw the older man and tried to get out of cart as Mingyu continued pushing the shopping cart to a safer location. The man pursued them.

Minghao dropped cans, bags of chips, and drinks as he fell out of the cart. Minghao and Mingyu both reached for them and threw them back into the cart right on time as the man showed up.

“No riding in the carts,” The older man scorned.

“Sorry,” Both of them apologized. They bowed and when the man left them, both of them broke out into a fit of giggles.

 

>>

 

As Mingyu cooked the meat, Minghao, Jun, and Wonwoo helped around the kitchen for the side dishes. It wasn’t anything fancy a few salads, mixtures of kimchi, and seaweed soup. The three of them weren’t the best cooks compared to Mingyu, but they had learned a lot living with him.

Minghao chopped the zucchini while he spoke with Wonwoo.

“Jihoon said he’s cutting your rapping lines,” Minghao told him.

Wonwoo smiled softly, stirring the soup. “Really? That’s nice of him.”

Minghao pouted, “Seungcheol said you’re a talentless hack.”

“I’m sure he did.”

Minghao groaned, “How are you not cursing yet?”

Wonwoo shrugged, “Because I’m not going to lose to Mingyu.”

Minghao watched Junhui lean over Wonwoo’s shoulder before asking Minghao, “Hey, Hao, have you ever given oral to a stranger?”

Minghao scoffed, “Never.”

Junhui grinned, “Wonwoo says you’re a shit liar.”

Mingyu moved the cooked meat into a container before grabbing another piece. “What are you talking about?” Mingyu asked him. “You give oral to strangers all the time.”

“It’s not a stranger if you go on a date.”

“A date to the bedroom,” Wonwoo scoffed. “You know, when we’ve been on tour, I’ve seen girls crawl out the side window looking like the chick from the ring.”

Minghao grimaced and flipped him off. The others warmly laughed.

“Very funny. Mingyu are you going to let him talk to me like that.”

“Yup!”

 

>>

 

Mingyu’s birthday dinner went smoothly. Everyone ate on their living room floor, had way too much to drink as usual, and Mingyu got to open his presents in the comfort of his own home. Minghao had been thrilled when Mingyu opened his gift. The second he saw the rings he squealed and put it on. He grabbed the blue one and placed it on his middle finger without a second thought. When he saw the silver one he reached over the discarded plates of food to tug at Minghao’s hand and place it on his finger as well.

When the other gifts had been opened and Junhui made sure there were designated drivers, the others left. The only one who remained was Seokmin, who helped Mingyu set up the camera for Mingyu’s Birthday V Live.

It had steadily become tradition that whenever it was their birthday the three of them would do one together. Minghao watched them start the Vlive without him, while he cleaned around the kitchen.

He let them chatter loudly for a bit before he came into the living room. He stood out of frame for a moment and smiled when Mingyu looked up at him.

He continued watching them for a bit as they both tried to impersonate a starfish. Seokmin laid himself out completely on the couch, accidentally slapping Mingyu across the face. Minghao took pity and chose that moment to enter.

Mingyu grinned when he saw him. Despite that there was plenty of room on the couch, Mingyu grabbed his wrist and dragged him onto his lap. Minghao felt his body tense but a warm hand to his waist calmed and relaxed him.

He recalled Hansol’s words. Don’t worry about what other’s think.

He leaned back against Mingyu’s chest while actively avoiding looking at the flurry of comments on the side.

“Minghao here made me some really good seaweed soup,” Mingyu said, informing the viewers of the meal he had enjoyed.

“Wonwoo made it.”

“I thought you did.”

“No.”

“Then what did you make?”

“The anchovy side dish.”

Mingyu’s face scrunched. “That was kind of gross.”

Minghao flicked his forehead. “Shut up, you ate all of it.”

Seokmin laughed at their display and added, “Mingyu’s short ribs were the best! He should be on cooking shows.”

“I’m not that good,” Mingyu bashfully replied.

Minghao smiled, “He really isn’t.” He got a pinch to his hip at that remark. Minghao winced, but calmed as he felt Mingyu’s finger subtly reach under the hem of his shirt and rub the skin.

Minghao pressed his lips together and then leaned back to whisper in Mingyu’s ear, “Your breath smells like the inside of a dead fish.”

Mingyu laughed loudly, startling Seokmin midway through his story. Mingyu tickled Minghao in retaliation and Minghao had nowhere to go trapped in Mingyu’s lap.

“Aww guys, c’mon quit it,” Seokmin whined.

They did after a rowdy minute in which ended, because Minghao “accidentally” elbowed Mingyu’s gut. They settled facing the camera with Mingyu’s arms coming around Minghao’s waist and tucking his head on his shoulder.

“Hey this is your vlive. Why aren’t you participating?” Minghao chastised.

“I’m tired. I’m sorry carats. I’ll do better next year,” He said and winked cheekily. Minghao elbowed him again. “Why are you hurting me, it’s my birthday.”

“It’s now a minute after your birthday. I can do whatever I want,” Minghao stated.

“Oh is that so.”

Seokmin’s eyes widened comically. “And that’s the end of our show guys. Check in later. We promise we will continue working hard!” And without any warning he shut off the Vlive.

Minghao immediately got off Mingyu’s lap and stretched. While it was fun to pretend, it had been way too much contact for Minghao. He looked down at Seokmin as he asked, “Can I crash on your couch?”

Mingyu nodded and went to get Seokmin some blankets.

When he left, Seokmin said, “You guys really have this natural couple thing down to perfection. Huh?”

“Yeah.”

Minghao passed Mingyu down the hallway and did not look back.

Chapter Text

Minghao scrolled through his Instagram feed, munching on leftovers. Blindly, he guided his chopsticks to his mouth, successfully delivering more food. Mingyu, Junhui, Wonwoo, and Seokmin mimicked him as they all ate breakfast around the table, phones propped up on napkin holders or condiment bottles.

Junhui, Seokmin, and Wonwoo shared the posts they found with each other. Minghao heard irritating snickers from all three of them. He shot them annoyed stares in hopes they would quiet down, but they weren't even paying attention to him. It grated on Minghao’s nerves. He looked to his left. Mingyu hadn't noticed the gossip right in front of him. Mingyu’s eyes wouldn’t leave his phone screen as he watched some Twitter video on mute. Minghao pouted. As inconspicuous as possible, he tried to lean over to catch something on their screens.

Junhui saw his attempts and began to laugh aloud.

“We aren’t hiding anything,” Junhui said. Junhui let Minghao see his phone which resulted in Minghao sighing.  A fan had posted several screenshots of Mingyu and him from last night’s vlive. The screenshots mainly consisted of the pair staring longingly at each other. Minghao knew the fan had distorted the pictures, as those moments could not have lasted more than a second.

He felt a great urge to reach forward, yank Junhui’s phone from his hand, and reply to the fan to say she was delusional.

However, a sudden loud bang on the door made everyone turn away from their phones.

Wonwoo frowned after looking through the peephole. “It’s Rou,” He said and opened the door.  

A 155 cm woman with long lilac hair, stormed into the kitchen. Minghao did not understand why the company's head hair and makeup stylist barged into their apartment. Minghao only managed to slide his chair backward before she came at him with a phone in hand and a perfectly manicured finger at Minghao. “You!” She screamed.

Minghao’s eyes widened. Behind her, Kyungwon and Xiyeon followed behind looking slightly amused.  

“What is this?!” Ruo screamed, shoving her phone in Minghao’s face.

“What’s what?” Minghao shouted in return.

“Don’t play coy with me!”

“Hey Yuyu, Xiyeon,” Seokmin greeted both women. Kyungwon ignored him momentarily to reach for his plate of food. She picked a grilled mushroom and stuffed it into her mouth before returning the greeting.

“What’s going on?” Junhui questioned the women.

Xiyeon crossed her arms over her chest, sighing with amusement.  “So Yuyu and I were on Twitter watching the fan's reactions to Mingyu's birthday. Then Ruo saw some of the pictures fans screenshotted. She freaked out and asked our manager to drop us off here. Oh, by the way, we also came for the gold eyeliner you might have borrowed?”

“I don’t think I have it here—”

She smiled and grabbed Kyungwon by the hand. “Yeah, I saw it last week; we’ll find it,” She said going into Junhui’s and Wonwoo’s room without permission.

“I don’t understand!” Minghao shouted again.

Ruo pouted and pulled Minghao to his feet. Without warning, she pulled up his shirt and pointed to the tattoo. “Oh my god, Minghao! It’s huge!” She shrieked. “I thought it was a mistake on the vlive and it was just a smudge on your hip.”

“We can cover it with makeup and shirts,” Minghao said, trying to console her.

“Do you know how long that takes? You are going to have to wear shirts for life!”

“But it looks cool,” Junhui inputted.  Minghao appreciated his efforts.

“Cool?! Why do you do this to me? First, the industrial piercing now this! Next thing you know, you are going to get a septum piercing—Don’t get any ideas!” She shouted when Minghao opened his mouth.

“I guess you haven’t seen Joshua’s tattoo then?” Mingyu spoke up.

“Joshua!” She shrieked. “Oh god, where did he get it?”

“Behind his ear.”

The woman shut her eyes and took a deep breath. “I swear to god, all of you are here to ruin my life.” Her eyes went to Xiyeon’s and Kyungwon’s arrival. Xiyeon had a tiny stick in her hand. “You are lucky I have to go to Pristin's fan sign, otherwise I would murder you here and now. Remember, I studied WuShu too, and a lot longer than you.”

Minghao gulped. There were very few people who genuinely terrified him and he still couldn’t believe this tiny little woman was one of them.

Ruo sighed at the eyeliner in Xiyeon’s hand. “No, that’s the bronze. I need the gold one for Nayoung’s eyes.” She marched away from Minghao and walked down the hallway to the boy’s room. She shouted loudly, “Jun, remember to please return my makeup!”

Junhui looked sheepish.

Meanwhile, Minghao pulled down his shirt in a huff. Mingyu stood up and adjusted the shirt for him, snickering while doing so.

“Don’t,” Minghao warned.

“What? It’s cute that you’re scared of her.”

“She’s terrifying.”

“She fits in my palm.”

“Oh, I wish she could hear you so she can take you down.”

“She would never take me down.”

“Of course she would.” Minghao stepped forward and pushed his fists on either side of Mingyu’s cheeks, pressing them into Mingyu’s skin until his face was squished.

Minghao flinched back when he heard the familiar iPhone camera click. He turned to Xiyeon who had her phone out.

“Oops,” She giggled alongside Kyungwon.

He glared at both of them, but both women were too busy sharing the picture with Junhui to care.

“Alright girls, I got it. Let’s go,” Their stylist said returning to the kitchen. The three of them gave their goodbyes and left the apartment.

As soon as the door shut, Junhui began to chuckle. “This picture is adorable,” He showed Minghao and Mingyu. “Can I post it on Twitter?”

“No,” Mingyu and Minghao said in tandem.

“At least they are jumping on the gyuhao bandwagon,” Seokmin said, finishing his plate. “They are probably going to send it to the rest of the girls.”

“We weren’t doing anything though,” Mingyu said in confusion.

Wonwoo snorted, “You guys were doing that weird giggly cute thing you do.”

Mingyu and Minghao shared a look. “What giggly thing?” Minghao asked.

The three men ignored him and began to clean the table. “Hey,” Wonwoo said from the sink. “You know how everyone likes to barge in our apartment and rooms?”

“Yeah,” Mingyu pouted. Minghao smirked, remembering how irked he was when Nayoung had snuck into their apartment to get back at Mingyu for some reason neither of them could remember. “What about it?”

Junhui’s eyes lit up, “Oh my god!”

“What?” Minghao stared at his friend strangely.

Junhui clung to the kitchen counter to avoid falling over.

“Wait for a second,” Seokmin said, starting to laugh as well. “You can’t mean—”

“What?!” Minghao shouted.

“Well once you to come out to the public,” Wonwoo smirked. “Our friends are going to find it odd you two have different beds considering Minghao’s track record.”

Minghao frowned, “Are you calling me a slut?”

Wonwoo grinned and Minghao wanted to punch him. He only stopped because Junhui suddenly got quiet as he fiddled suspiciously with his phone.

“No,” He told Junhui.

Junhui rolled his eyes, “I’m not doing anything!”

Minghao glared at him and he was pleased when Mingyu protested, “C’mon Jun, that’s a little too far. Bed space is sacred.”

“Sheesh. I’m not doing anything.”

Frankly, Minghao did not believe him.

 

>>>

 

The group finished their album and Jihoon and higher-ups were giving the album it’s final touches before it would be packaged for tomorrow. They also finished filming their music video for their title song last night, which Minghao felt grateful for. While filming at the beach at night had been fun, getting rid of all the sand sure hadn’t. He and Mingyu had vacuumed the whole dorm last night and they both still found traces of sand sticking to some of their clothes.

Usually Minghao would be bubbling with excitement like the others at their comeback date nearing, but this time Minghao felt like running. Fast. And in the opposite direction.

When Jihoon had finished the title song, all other song preparations had been placed on hold, so Minghao and the rest of the performance unit couldn’t do much choreography for their song on the album.

But once the music video was all done, Minghao and the others were going to Minghao’s ballet studio. And wasn’t that dandy. Minghao had briefly considered burning the studio down, but he respected Mina, his ballet instructor, too much to do that.

Plus, firemen always caught arsonists and he wasn’t looking to spend the comeback rotting in prison.

So Minghao climbed into Chan’s car—secretly hoping they would crash (wouldn’t be the first time) just to delay going to ballet class. But they got there safely and Chan managed to find meter parking spot two buildings down. They exited the car and a few people on the street recognized them immediately.

Luckily, the crazed fans had enough tact to not follow them into the building.

The door closed behind them and Minghao saw the familiar face of a thirty-something old man with a kind smile behind the receptionist desk.

“Hey Hao!” The man greeted. “Mina’s on her break, should give you enough time to change.”

“Thanks.”

Minghao walked down a hallway to the locker room while the other three lagged behind and observed the various ballet photos hung in the hallway.

In the locker room, Minghao dropped his heavy gym bag on the bench. He unzipped it and pulled out several tights and slippers. He threw a pair to each one of them.

“Put this on,” He told them.

Soonyoung unrolled the black pants. “Tights?”

“She’ll murder you if you don’t.”

“Really?” Chan questioned, always a little too gullible.

“No, but she might cancel session. I had to beg her to give us a private dance class.”

“Is that expensive?” Junhui asked, already pulling the tights on. He lost his balance and found it safer to roll the tights up while sitting down.

“No, she’s best friends with Hyerim so she didn’t ask for money or anything. But she does have a life outside of ballet, so we are taking her free time.”

Soonyoung frowned at the slippers as they fit awkwardly on his feet. “We could have danced with the other dancers,” He said, once he figured out he had the slippers on backwards.

“You would have been intimidated,” Minghao said. He reached inside his bag again and threw them his older black stretch v-necks.

Minghao put on his clothes with ease and when he popped his head out, Soonyoung asked, “You wear this each time you come?”

“Yup. It’s so your clothes don’t get in the way, but it makes it easier for her to correct your form.”

Junhui smiled and squatted a few times, “It’s actually really comfortable.”

Minghao huffed out a laugh. Seeing the other three actually joking about the outfits, eased his nervousness. Plus, they looked ridiculous in them.

Once they stashed their stuff in their lockers, the four them went into the dance room. It looked like any other dance room, except there was a portable barre in the center of the room.

In the front of the room was a woman, in her mid thirties with a tight bun sitting at the top of her head.

“Minghao!” She greeted with a smile. She looked to the others and they all bowed. She smiled at their attire as Minghao introduced them.

“Alright, so what are we doing?” She asked.

Minghao introduced the concept, “We had an idea for our next song that we were going to do ballet. It fits the musicality of the song but realistically we only have two weeks to prepare for our showcase and they aren’t going to learn ballet in that time so I was thinking more along the lines of choreographing a contemporary dance. I just wanted them to come here because they need to start getting used to the basic stretches and movements and you would be better in correcting their form than I would,” He paused when she gave him a blank look. “What?”

“Two weeks? Minghao, that’s not enough time.”

“I know it isn’t,” Soonyoung interrupted. “But all of us are dancers, not trained in this style of dance, but we are quick learners.”

Mina looked at Minghao and while Minghao did not want to do this. He knew how important it was for the group. “Just basic barre work and positions.”

Mina sighed. “Alright. Everyone show me a first position.”

Minghao immediately turned his toes, knees, and hips, and curved his arms. The other three were startled at the immediate request and tried to mimic Minghao’s position.

Mina went past Minghao and immediately to Junhui as he held the position. She bent down and placed her hands on his thigh and knee. “Are you serious?”

“Umm..” Minghao caught Junhui’s cry for help in the mirror.

“Is this your first time doing ballet?” Mina asked.

“Yes.”

“Your turn-out is gorgeous.”

“Thank you?”

She stood up and corrected Soonyoung’s posture and then made sure Chan wasn’t turning out more than he could. She stared at them for a moment before nodding and took them through a fifteen minute warm-up. Minghao normally blanked during this part of ballet. However, with the other three there he felt strangely more alert. He looked at their expressions in the mirror and the three of them couldn’t stop their grins. Minghao scoffed, knowing that Mina was purposefully luring them into a false sense of security.

Once their joints were loose and warmed up, Mina lead them to the barre. She had her own portable barre a little to the side and showed them the sequence they would be doing. Minghao looked at her footwork and once she handed the reigns to them, Minghao lead the other three.

Minghao could hear the others grunting, their bodies unaccustomed to the stretches. Although, they kept their professionalism and didn’t complain aloud.

He turned to Mina as she watched them intently. She circled around them and correct the three’s posture with gentle hands.

“Eyes up front,” Mina told Minghao when she caught his stare.

Minghao immediately looked back to the mirror, staring at his form to make sure he was doing everything correctly.

After the first sequence, she took them through another. Minghao tensed as she scrutinized his form. He took deep breaths. Was he off?

“Wow Junhui, I’m impressed with your flexibility!” Mina commented.

Minghao looked through the mirror to watch Junhui. Mina smiled, “Eyes front.” Minghao exhaled. His stomach felt tight.

And from there everything started falling apart. Mina kept complimenting Jun’s flexibility, Chan’s balance and posture, Soonyoung’s near perfect lines. And in between each compliment, she found the time to criticize Minghao.

“Pull those knee caps.”

“Don’t slam it.”

“Where is your first!”

“Elbows!”

“Pull up!”

Normally, she did correct him during dance practice with the other ballet dancers but her criticisms were more spread out than now. It made Minghao want to storm out of the class.

And this was exactly why Minghao didn’t want to bring the others. He knew he wasn’t a good ballet dancer and now it was in the open for the others to see. It didn’t help that each time he brought his leg up over his waist the others awed at him while his dance instructor frowned, and said, “Heel up, don’t bend.”

He nodded and corrected as much as he could. But slowly his stomach started irking him more and he felt a sour taste in his mouth. Barre work and the criticism continued for another excruciating thirty minutes.

Up next, she wanted to show them a basic pique turn and pirouette.

And absolutely fuck his life.

Minghao wanted to throw the barre at his dance teacher. Did she really have to call out every single one of his mistakes? He glared at Mina when she went over to help Chan during his pirouette turn. It’s not like he wanted her to chew out the others, but it would have been nice to hear a compliment thrown his way as well.

Plus, the others were starting to notice and kept shooting him odd glances.

During his triple pirouette turn, Mina stood in front of him. “You are too wide in your starting fourth position. Make it a little smaller. Try again.”

Minghao frowned but nodded. He succeeded in making his triple pirouette turn into a fourth. He smiled and expected the praise but she gave him a blank look and said, “Remember hold your passe a little tighter.

“Right.”

Dance practice continued for another hour and when Mina announced they were finally going to cool down, Minghao excused himself to go to the bathroom. Mina didn’t even look at him. Minghao thinned his lips and headed to the lockers.

In the safety of the empty rooms, Minghao tightened his fists and bared his teeth, wanting to scream and punch the locker in front of him. He wasn’t a kid anymore so he took giant breaths to calm himself. But still, he felt high strung. He didn’t know what came over him but he reached for his phone inside his gym bag.

He pulled open his messages and before he could even process his actions, he had hit send.

Minghao felt his skin run cold at the accidental text message sent. Oh fuck. He didn’t mean to send that. He was about to shove his phone back in his gym bag when it vibrated in his hand.

Cautiously, he checked the message.

Minghao sat down on the bench reading over the text. He felt bad for making Mingyu worry so he texted back quickly.

He was going to leave it at that and tell Mingyu he sent a text by mistake, but he could clearly hear laughing from the practice room. He heard Mina make a comment about Soonyoung’s incredible curved arms. He frowned and typed quickly.

He knew with that message alone, Mingyu would complain and never come get his ass. So he stooped low, like really low, where he could probably give the devil a high five.

It sounded needy as hell, but it did just the trick.

Minghao sighed and stuffed his phone back in the gym bag returning to the practice room. He finished up his cool down and stretches without looking at anyone. He kept to himself and pushed his stretches past his comfort level.

Twenty minutes later, everyone gave their thanks to Mina and promised to meet her at the same time tomorrow. The four of them returned to the locker room and Soonyoung was too enthusiastic right now for him.

“I can’t wait to take this back to the studio. I feel so limber!” Soonyoung reached down to touch his toes.

Minghao ignored them and didn’t bother changing as he saw he got a text message from Mingyu.

“Alright guys, I’m going to go,” Minghao told them.

“Where?” Chan asked.

“Mingyu is picking me up.”

“Ah, is it that thing?” Soonyoung questioned with a slight chuckle and wiggle of his eyebrows.  

“Yeah,” Minghao lied, not meeting Junhui’s eyes. If Junhui saw him, Junhui would see right through him and call him out on it. He felt his phone vibrate and bolted. He sped walked out of the hallway and the studio, relieved to see Mingyu parking right up front. Mingyu exited the car, wearing a face mask and hat. Their eyes locked as Minghao pushed open the door.

Minghao’s heart sunk as he saw the amount of fans that had gathered outside. Fans held their phones right in Mingyu’s face and started screaming.The fans screamed louder when they saw him. Minghao felt his heart speed up and he suddenly felt very anxious.

A hand grasped his and he was pulled to the car. The fan’s screams got louder at that little action. But Mingyu ignored each one of them and dragged Minghao back to his car. Fans stood by his passenger door so Mingyu hauled him into the backseat.

Minghao flinched as the door slammed shut. Thankfully, the screaming became muffled inside the car, but Minghao could still feel his heart beating quickly. The door opened as Mingyu got into the driver's side and finally pulled away from the fans.

For the most part, they drove in silence. But once Mingyu parked the car and the silence of the parking lot engulfed his skin, Minghao began to cry. He scoffed as he felt his eyes well up and he tried to wipe away the tears before they could fall. He tried holding it, but that only made it worse. A choking noise caught in the back of his throat alerting Mingyu to his distress.

Fuck, he didn’t want Mingyu to see him cry. He hated it. He felt heat gathering in his cheeks making him more aware of the situation. He tried to pretend he wasn’t crying and hold it in but as he did, hiccups began to push out of his mouth. Fuck.

He heard a door close and he hoped Mingyu had left him alone to cry.

But of course, Mingyu pulled open the door to the backseat and sat beside him.

Minghao looked at Mingyu with unveiled disgust.

“Just leave me alone,” Minghao stated.

“No.”

Mingyu reached out for him and tried to drag him toward the center. Minghao shrugged off his arms, “Dude, back off.”

“You called me to pick you up, c’mon,” Mingyu said sternly.

Mingyu bravely reached out and pulled him close. Minghao snorted, “I’m purposefully going to leave snot on your shirt, just so you know.” He always pulled through with his threats, so he wiped his nose on Mingyu’s shoulder.

“It’s okay. I have a spare shirt in my bag.” Mingyu’s arms cradled his back and head.

Minghao tried to laugh but it got lodged as he cried even more. He felt Mingyu’s arm squeeze his shoulder. Minghao tried to stop really, but the built up stress in the ballet studio really got to him. It kept coming out pathetically.

“It’s okay, let it out,” Mingyu murmured, stroking his back up and down.

The motion was soft, soothing, and reassuring. It reminded him of home. When bruised knees and scraped arms littered his body after a b-boy session, he came home trying to hide the pain. His mother always saw through him though. Even through his protests and kicks, his mother always dragged him into her lap, whispering soothing words as he cried.

He realized Mingyu was providing him that same comfort. It let him calm down faster until he was able to take several long breaths.

“Good?” Mingyu asked.

Minghao nodded, wiping away his tears and finally calming down.

Mingyu smiled and was about to let go of him, but Minghao unconsciously reached out before Mingyu could dislodge himself completely.

Mingyu looked at him with horror.

Minghao was sure he had that same look. Terror pricked under his ribcage and made his heart beat erratically without any rhythm. It hurt. More than the crying did.

Minghao pressed his lips together, realizing what he was about to do was so out of the norm for them...

“I’m nervous.”

...Minghao expressed how he felt.

It wasn’t news to either of them how their friendship worked. They considered each other best friends. They had similar tastes, temperaments, shared each other their hopes and dreams, but they never took their friendship that next step. There were thirteen of them in a group. Both of them had unconsciously decided that emptying everything to one person was unfair to the group. They were all brothers. So Minghao and Mingyu never discussed their fears. They each had different people for that. Mingyu turned to Seungcheol or Wonwoo while Minghao turned to Hansol or Jun.

Neither of them felt left out by it.

It was just both of them felt highly uncomfortable talking about something so deep within them. It wasn’t to single each other out.

It was just how they worked.

But now, Minghao realized on the car ride home. He couldn’t talk to Hansol or Junhui about this situation. Jun because he was part of the situation and Hansol, Hansol wouldn’t understand. He was the star of his unit. He never knew what it felt like to be thrown off the stage when all he wanted was to be in that limelight.

Minghao belatedly noticed Mingyu’s stiff posture. He feared he made a mistake in opening up.

Mingyu relaxed slightly and licked his lips before saying, “Nervous about what?”

Minghao saw his effort so he tried as well. “Our unit’s choreography.”

“What about it makes you nervous?” Mingyu questioned almost robotically.

“That I suck.”

Mingyu fully relaxed at that statement, except this time he had a giant frown on his face.“That’s impossible.”

“It is. I suck at ballet and I understand it’s because I started late in the game. I get it. So I don’t really let it get to me when I’m in a room with other ballet dancers. But today dancing with Soonyoung and them, fuck .”

“What happened?”

“She kept complimenting them, Oh, Junhui, such beautiful feet and flexibility! Chan, are you sure you don’t want to take ballet, I could always use a sturdy lifter. Ah, Hoshi, you have a perfect ballet built. And you know what she did to me? She criticized me the whole time and right in front of them. Not a single compliment or smile my way. It was humiliating. I’ve never not been good at something, usually shaky but this time she really brought it out for everyone to see. And oh my god, saying this out loud makes me realize how stupid and childish this sounds.”

Mingyu let him go completely, but let their thighs stay pressed together. “But it isn’t. It’s a legitimate concern you have.”

“A concern that I suck, yeah thanks.”

“I feel like that’s not what has you wound up.”

“Oh then why am I crying like some idiot in the back of your car?”

“It’s for the same reason of why I’m terrified for this album too. Did I tell you I wrote the entire hip hop’s unit’s song?” Minghao looked up at him. “I’m so fucking nervous that people are going to hate it and tear it apart. They are going to see me as what I really am as a fake rapper. You’re terrified because I’m going to assume they are going to have you choreograph for the song. And if it sucks the blames going to be placed on you. That’s why you’re nervous. You don’t think you are good enough to choreograph something like this.”

Minghao glared at him. “Is this supposed to make me feel better?”

“It was, sorry. Is this the reason we don’t talk to each other about stuff like this?”

“Probably,” Minghao tried to chuckle but it sounded forced to his ears. He didn’t let the silence settle and added, “You aren’t a fake rapper by the way.”

“And you aren’t a sucky dancer.”

“Oh I know that,” Minghao said cockily, which earned him a pinch to his arm. He swatted Mingyu’s hands and sighed, “I just fail miserably at ballet. So one dance.”

“Do you think she was so harsh on you because she expects more of you?”

“Doubt it. I can see I suck. And I don’t know how to choreograph something that I’m not good at.”

“Well first of all, you aren’t going to help yourself by thinking like that and worrying about it too much.

“Then what am I supposed to do.”

“Honestly?” Mingyu asked.

Minghao looked up at him. Mingyu’s eyes were dark but warm. Something had changed within Mingyu, but Minghao wasn’t sure what. “Yeah.”

“Work at it. You aren’t going to churn out great choreography by sitting here crying about it.”

And despite that wasn’t what Minghao wanted to hear, it made perfect sense.

He looked away from Mingyu as someone tapped against the window.

“Hey guys, stop making out.”

MInghao groaned hearing Jeonghan’s voice. He pulled away from Mingyu and exited the car. Jeonghan was standing there with a stupid grin that made Minghao want to push him down. The only thing stopping him were Seungcheol’s and Jisoo’s reprimands.

“We’re not like you,” Mingyu told Jeonghan. “We don’t have an exhibitionist kink.”

“Oh my god Mingyu, that was one time and I told you that in secret.”

Minghao groaned in disgust. He did not need to be privy of the sex lives of his eldest teammates.

“If you wanted it in secret, you wouldn’t have had sex in—”

Jeonghan made a strange noise as he covered Mingyu’s mouth.

Minghao glared at him and told Mingyu, “Don’t you dare say it out loud. I really do not want to know.”  

“Yeah, Mingyu.”

Mingyu rolled his eyes and was released from Jeonghan’s hold. They finally entered the company’s building, making idle conversation. Minghao barely paid attention, his mind was still tied around Mingyu’s words.

He barely noticed the three of them go their separate ways. He kept walking down the hallway until he reached the practice room. He expected to see the others there, but it appeared they hadn’t arrived yet. They probably went to get lunch.

Minghao was starving himself, now that he thought about it. But once more he heard Mingyu’s words echoing in his head.

Work hard.

So he pulled out his phone and played the performance unit song. He toed off his shoes and stretched out his feet as he listened to the song.

Chan’s lyrics had been brilliant although Minghao could not relate to them. It was about feeling self-conscious with a long-time lover. Even though they had been with that lover for a long time, they still felt the need to impress them but every time, it went wrong. The lover would be upset and the person couldn’t understand when all they wanted to do was show their passion and devotion toward them. Yet, the lover took them back.

The song played a third time and Minghao began to connect to certain pieces. Maybe the lover didn’t have to be a person. It could just be his relationship to dance.

After all him and dancing had the longest relationship he could think of. He constantly felt the need to use dancing as a way to impress others, but it didn’t always turn out the way he wanted. He was imperfect in it—and perhaps that was the beauty.

 

Minghao started dancing.

 

>>>  

 

The others arrived an hour later saying they had been caught up eating and then dragged off by other members for different stages. No one brought up of why he had left so quickly and Minghao thanked them by showing them the choreography so far.

The others struggled with the first move. They had to be in grand plie with their heels up and the others didn’t have the strength or balance to hold that movement without looking like they were about to take a shit. Minghao was adamant about keeping that move when Chan complained about trying something else. He needed that position in there. It explained his whole relationship with ballet. He constantly had to be on his toes for it using his entire concentration and balance. When he explained this to Soonyoung, Soonyoung went back into the position and did his best to maintain the position.

Minghao made a mental note to have them do more barre work so they could build strength. From this position, Minghao had them move in an illusion split and sway their legs back until they were lying on their fronts.

It was only on their sixth count of their first eight but it took them thirty minutes to get through. No one complained as Minghao guided their bodies in unnatural positions, but he needed this to be perfect. Not for Mina. Not for the fans. But for him.

Finally when it was ten p.m. Minghao called it a night, refusing to put a strain on their bodies. There was a huge difference in strain when dancing ballet and hip hop and Minghao didn’t want to cause any damage.

“You coming?” Soonyoung asked, already at the door.

“Nah, I want to stay and choreograph a little more.”

“Do you need help?”

“No, I’m good.”

Before, Soonyoung would have been miffed about handing the reins of choreography to someone else, but Soonyoung had grown. So he smiled, wished him luck, and left.

Minghao was a sweating mess without his shirt on and twisted into a weird position on the floor when Mingyu came into the practice room an hour later.

Mingyu lit up. “Are you dancing?”

It was a stupid rhetorical question that meant are you dancing something other than hip hop? Minghao twisted and sat on his knees, “No,” Although, he was blushing. He used his bare arm to wipe at the sweat.

Mingyu snorted and went to one of the practice room mirrors to lean against it. He pulled out his phone and said, “Jiyeon sent me a text today of how happy she was that I picked you up today from your dance class. It’s all over the web.”

“Great.”

“Most people are talking about you doing ballet though since the fans researched the place.”

Minghao groaned and got up to sit next to Mingyu. Mingyu scooted away from him and Minghao couldn’t blame him. He reeked.

“What are they saying?” Minghao asked.

“Many of the fans are supportive. And they are already piecing together it's for the new album.”

“And those that aren’t?” Minghao asked with worry.

“Are gushing about me and you.”

Minghao let out a deep sigh and let his sweaty hair smear against the mirror.

“I want to see you,” Mingyu said suddenly.

Minghao turned to him. “No.”

“Please,” Mingyu pouted and clasped his hands.

Minghao kicked him lightly. “Ew, don’t act cute.”

“But I want to see you.”

“No.”

“You’re going to have to show me sooner or later.”

“Nope.”

“Dude, I’m going to see you dance during the showcase.”

“I’ll have Jihoon lock you in a broom closet. He wouldn’t even ask me why. He would just do it.”

“You’re so mean.”

Mingyu pouted and turned back to scrolling on his phone. Minghao watched him for a moment and groaned out a. “Fine.”

Mingyu’s smile returned too quickly, but Minghao didn’t let it phase him. He looked to the door making sure it was closed before he went to his phone to turn on the song.

He let it settle in the room and began to dance contemporary for the first time in front of his best friend.

He went into the first movement feeling overwhelmed with ballet. It crushed him to the ground and twisted his body unnaturally, forcing him to conform into a rigid style. He tried to stretch out and be free but it knocked him down again. He sagged under the weight and finally took a breath, letting it guide him until he was back on his feet. Spinning. Strong.

Showing that he could do this.

He let it consume him in every means, in every stretch of his body, in every jump. He needed to prove he was good enough, because even though he struggled. He really did love it.

He finished in the same position from the start.

He stood straight, panting and sweating. Tiny drops of sweat were audible as they hit the wooden floor and were drowned out as the song repeated.

Mingyu reached over and turned it off.  

“So?” Minghao asked.

“I think I’m going to cry,” Mingyu said, faking a sob.

Minghao scrunched his face. The little fucker! He came at him and kicked him on his side.

Mingyu went down and grabbed Minghao’s ankle pulling him down. Minghao groaned as he hit the ground. Mingyu got up and rushed to the other side of the practice room.

Minghao got up ready to chase him and murder him, but he stopped when he saw Mingyu’s eyes staring intently.

“You were amazing,” Mingyu said sincerely.

Minghao collapsed back on the ground with a huff. He shut his eyes, listening to Mingyu’s footsteps approaching. He flinched as a towel fell on his face. Minghao mumbled a thank you and began to wipe at his face and the rest of his body.

As he wiped himself down, he heard Mingyu’s phone ring.

Mingyu rolled his eyes, “It’s Jiyeon.” He said, answering the phone.

“Hello,” He said putting her on speaker.

“Where are you?” She said rudely.

Minghao snorted, standing up.

“Still at Pledis with Minghao.”

“Great! You two should go on a date.”

“Where?”

“Han River. Wear dark clothes to look suspicious.”

Minghao looked at Mingyu strangely and said, “Suspicious for what? Robbing someone’s bike?”

“No, like you don’t want to get caught suspicious. I want to see--wait hold on I have a list.”

“A list?” Mingyu asked.

“Yeah of how the relationship should advance. You guys jumped a little with today’s stunt, I’m not mad about it since you’re still trending but—ah here it is, hand holding, cuddling, and walking very intimately.”

Minghao wanted to laugh as Mingyu made gagging noises.

“Guys?” Jiyeon asked when they were trying to hold in their giggles.

“Yeah we got it. You have to give us a few minutes to get ready.” Minghao sighed but grabbed his shirt to head to the showers. “At what time do you want us there?”

“An hour and I expect you guys there for an hour too, then you can head back home.”

“Cool. Thanks Jiyeon.”

“Bye, have fun!”  

Mingyu hung up on her and looked at Minghao, “Well you heard her.”

“Sadly.”

 

>>>

 

Minghao ignored Mingyu’s clammy hand as held it in his. He had done this before. Hand holding was probably the least awkward thing they have ever done. So they walked side by side along the Han River. They spotted a few people, mostly couples, but their outfits and the darkness hid them from public eye. However, if Jiyeon was anything to go by there was paparazzi probably following them somewhere.

Minghao looked out to the river, enjoying the serenity and peace until Mingyu spoke. “You should let me watch you dance like that more often?” Mingyu said it like a question, afraid to be overbearing.

“Why?” Minghao asked.

“Cause I liked it and I could tell you enjoyed dancing it.” Minghao didn’t say anything. Still unsure about his comfort level regarding that style of dance. So Mingyu kept speaking, “What does it feel like? Dancing that?”

“Like I’m suffocating.”

“That’s not very appealing.”

“I don’t know how to explain it. It makes me aware of my body in the ways hip hop can’t. Every single detail down to my fingers has to be perfect.”

“Fingers?” Mingyu asked in disbelief.

“Yeah. They can't be too far apart or too together. It needs to look rigid but free.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Nothing about ballet makes sense. The way ballet dancers move doesn’t make sense.”

“So it's perfect for you then?”

Minghao stopped walking and shot him a look. “Are you trying to sound smart and philosophical?”

Mingyu butted shoulder with him. “Maybe.”

“You sound pretentious.”

Minghao faked a gasp and then cooed. “Look at you using big words. Your Korean is improving so much!”

“Fuck off,” Minghao laughed, shoving Mingyu away.

Mingyu held onto Minghao’s hand to pull himself back like a boomerang. He got super close to say something equally as stupid, but only managed to sneeze into Minghao’s face.

Minghao jumped back and wiped at his face.

“Dude, seriously!”

“Sorry. Allergies.”

“You did it on purpose! I saw you take your allergy medicine today.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I reminded you before we left.”

“You must have reminded someone else to take their medicine.”

“You’re the only one in our apartment who takes medicine.”

“Okay you got me there, but allergy medicine isn’t 100 percent effective.”

“Yours is.” Minghao scrunched his face still feeling the ghost of Mingyu’s germs. “After I convinced you to go to the doctors and they gave you a prescription for it, your sneezing has been kept to a minimum.”

“And look at what you’ve done,” Mingyu frowned. “Forced me to take a pill every single day for the rest of my life.”

“Somewhere out there millions of women are screaming their lungs out at you.”

“Why?”

Minghao scoffed. “You’re so dumb when it comes to women.”

“Yeah, I think it’s the gay thing.” Mingyu said. Minghao smiled, liking the ease Mingyu said that. It was starting to get easier for him to say he was gay out in public and Minghao wondered if it was because he was preparing himself for when he would have to come out to the world.

“Aren’t gay men supposed to be super in tune with women?”

“That is a stereotype I’m not even going to reply to because who’s the one taking ballet again?”

Minghao narrowed his eyes and reached to strangle Mingyu. Mingyu jumped away. “Aw, look at your cute little glare. What are you going to do?  Plie at me?” Mingyu did a ridiculous and terrible plie. “Chassé? Sashay? Shante?” Mingyu danced around him striking ridiculous poses that Mingyu probably thought resembled ballet.  

Minghao laughed until it shook his body. “Fucking hell what are you doing?”

“Ballet!” Mingyu continued to dance around him. He stretched an arm over his head and a leg behind him. He nearly fell over but caught himself at the last second and struck another stupid pose.“You think we will do a special stage for the performance song where all of us will do it? Like in Highlight? Can I be front and center. I’m sure, I will look better than you.”

Minghao laughed again and tried to wrestle Mingyu into the pavement. He swore one of these days one of them was going to crack their head onto the concrete, cry, laugh, call the ambulance, and cry some more. Mingyu pushed upwards to avoid both of them from crashing so they tried to get each other into a headlock instead.

Minghao succeeded and was about to push Mingyu’s nose straight to the ground, but Mingyu’s arms came straight around his thighs and hoisted him up. Minghao shouted in surprise and excitement. He let go of Mingyu as Mingyu spun them around.

He spun them faster. And faster.

Trying to get him dizzy.

Minghao laughed and kept his arms overhead, telling Mingyu to do his worst.

So Mingyu did. Both of their laughter took over their bodies. They turned into ridiculous giggling messes, so much so that Mingyu lost his balance and nearly tripped over his feet. Minghao panicked and brought his arms down on Mingyu’s shoulders, bracing for the impact.

However, Mingyu managed to guide them to river. Minghao’s back collided with the railing separating the sidewalk from the river.

Minghao wheezed through the pain. “Oh fuck, there’s going to be a bruise there.”

Mingyu panicked, lowering him gently. His hands immediately snuck under his shirt and pressed on his lower back, “Are you okay? Are you in pain?”

Minghao pretended to struggle against Mingyu’s gentle hands.

“I’m good.”

“You sure?” Mingyu whined, the pads of his fingers pressing insistently on his back now.

“Actually,” Minghao said, arms coming to rest on Mingyu’s shoulders. “I think you might have injured me. I won’t be able to perform now. Shame, now that I was looking forward to the performance song.”

Mingyu pouted, “That’s not funny.”

Minghao hummed, “It is a little.”

They stayed like that for a moment. Mingyu’s hands continuing to stroke Minghao’s lower back while Minghao pressed his face into Mingyu’s shoulder.

“We should get home,” Mingyu whispered in his ear.

“Yeah,” Minghao whispered back sleepily.

Mingyu stepped away from him and Minghao stretched his arms overhead, really hoping he hadn’t bruised his back. When he didn’t feel a twinge of pain, he began walking hand in hand with Mingyu again.

“Hey,” Mingyu conspiratorially whispered.

“What?”

“I see a paparazzi by the bike racks.”

Minghao tightened his hand around Mingyu’s. “Ugh.”

“Aww they were doing such a good job at hiding. Want to mess around with them?”

Minghao looked at Mingyu and saw he was sporting a toothy mischievous grin. Minghao couldn’t really say no when Mingyu looked so earnest.

“Sure?”

“Get in front of me.” Mingyu manhandled him until his back was pressed against Mingyu’s chest. Mingyu then wrapped his arms around his waist and tucked his head on Minghao’s shoulder. “And now we walk,” Mingyu said, trying to get Minghao to move his right leg.

“Ow! You stepped on the back of my foot.”

“Not my fault you have such short legs.” Mingyu continued to try to get them to walk.

“Our legs are the same length. You have a freakishly long torso.”

“They’re called model proportions, Hao.”

“If that’s what makes you feel better.” He yelped when Mingyu pinched his waist, “Ow! You dick.”

“My dick is model proportion too.”

Minghao elbowed him in the gut for that one, but still followed Mingyu’s strange game.  

“Okay, right foot. Left foot,” Mingyu said into his ear, trying to get them into a rhythm. After a minute both of them cheered as they walked with ease.

“Ah! We got it!” Minghao exclaimed, trying to get them to pick up the pace just to see if they could do it.

Mingyu held on tight to him. They walked for another five minutes until they spotted Mingyu’s car. They separated and Mingyu returned to holding his hand. It was silent for a bit and halfway, Minghao stopped. Mingyu looked at him strangely as Minghao wiped his hand against his black pants. “You’re hands are sweaty,” He said. Once he was dry, he took Mingyu’s hand again.

 

>>>

 

When they returned home all the lights were off. Junhui and Wonwoo were obviously sleeping, so they did their best to be silent. They tiptoed to their bedroom and when Mingyu turned on the light both of them froze.

“What the actual fuck?” Minghao stated.

“Ummm….”

“Where’s my bed?!”

“Minghao, keep it down.”

“Keep it down. Someone stole our beds!”

“And gave us a bed.”

Minghao frowned, looking at the queen sized bed in the center of their room. Someone had folded their blankets in a neat pile on top of the mattress. Minghao didn’t like it one bit and suddenly he recalled— “I’m going to murder Wen Junhui.”

“It’s too late for murder,” Mingyu whined, stopping Minghao from going into the hallway. He dragged him into the room.

“It’s never too late for murder.”

“It is when I have to clean up your mess. Remember we agreed that if you were to ever kill someone, I wouldn’t help you kill them but will help you hide the body?”

“Yeah…”

“So as your accomplice, I am telling you wait till morning so I can properly destroy all evidence.”

“Fine.”

Minghao went over to the closet and began to strip out his clothes and into his pajamas. Mingyu who hadn’t gotten the chance to shower earlier, went to the bathroom. They both went through their nightly routines until they had to return to the bed.

Minghao did not let it phase him. He grabbed the blankets and started extending them on the bed.

“Hao no,” Mingyu whined like a child.

“I need to sleep with three blankets.”

“It's too hot for blankets.”

“Pshh you’re acting like I’m going to share.”

“You just need one blanket,” Mingyu said. He pulled his own blanket and threw it over his body as he got comfortable on the left side of the bed.

“Again, I’m not sharing mine, so I don’t see the problem.” Minghao crawled onto the right side and threw all three blankets over his body until they were tucked under his nose. He shifted until his back was to Mingyu. “If you kick me in your sleep, I’ll suffocate you with a pillow.”

“If your blankets touch me, I’ll do the same.”

“Deal. Goodnight.”

“Night.”

Minghao shut his eyes. He took deep breaths, trying to regulate his breathing and go to bed. But as the minutes dragged on, he started to become more and more stuffy. He didn’t understand. He always slept with three blankets. He turned to his side and caught Mingyu slowly falling asleep. He realized the heat was coming from him.

“Oh my god you’re like a furnace,” Minghao murmured aloud.

Mingyu made a small noise in the back of his throat as Minghao prevented him from falling asleep. “Then ditch the blankets,” Mingyu groaned.

“No.”

“You’re going to be gross and sweaty.”

“You’re gross and sweaty,” Minghao shot out like a child.

He tried switching positions so he was now facing Mingyu. But the heat remained. He sighed and kicked off two blankets. He felt immediately better and was about to go to sleep, but his stupid body betrayed him. He began to shiver. What the fuck? He sat up to reach for the blankets, but before he could reach them he looked to Mingyu.

He eyed him for a moment deducing that he was fast asleep.

He looked to the blankets to Mingyu then back again. If he put the blankets on again, he would be back at square one. Slowly, he lowered his back to the mattress and as slowly as he could, inched himself closer to Mingyu.

He gasped as an arm snuck under his single blanket and pulled him close. “If you wanted to cuddle, you could have just said so,” Mingyu said, very much awake.

Minghao huffed, upset he could no longer tell when Mingyu was sleeping or not. He blamed his acting.

“I didn’t want to cuddle.”

“Really?”  Mingyu asked teasingly, pulling him even closer.

Minghao sighed as warm heat seeped into his bones at Mingyu’s close proximity.

“I hate cuddling.”

“Of course you do,” Mingyu yawned. “Now, go to sleep please.”

“Don’t order me around.”

“I’m sorry, forgive me. Stay awake all night if you please.”

Minghao shot him a glare, but Mingyu didn’t see it with his eyes closed. “You’re lucky you’re warm.”

“Mmmm. Night Hao.”

Minghao finally relaxed and pressed his forehead on Mingyu’s chest. “Night.”



Chapter Text

So Minghao might have been pushing his band mates, specifically one Wen Junhui, a little more roughly than usual during today’s practice. Although, Minghao felt completely justified seeing as his bed of all things had gone missing.

When the four had woken up, Minghao had hauled his ass toward Junhui’s room. He flung the door open and jumped onto Junhui’s bed. Within a few seconds, Junhui had his foot in Minghao’s ear and Minghao had his head digging into Junhui’s ribs. Wonwoo had woken up in a daze, and when he saw the commotion, he sighed and stepped over their tirade. Mingyu had shown up to break up the fight mainly out of courtesy to their neighbors on the floor below them.

So while Minghao couldn’t actually murder his friend, putting him through hell during practice would have to do.

Soonyoung and Chan had noticed immediately, and unlike Wonwoo, they were unable to ignore the tension for long.

“What has you wound up this morning?” Chan asked with a slight laugh, hoping his question wouldn’t be misconstrued as offensive.

Junhui snorted and then groaned in pain as Minghao pushed his chest further to the ground during their stretches. Junhui laughed through the ache and revealed to the others Minghao’s frustration.

“HaoHao is sharing a bed with Mingyu.”

“What?” Soonyoung laughed.

Minghao’s jaw tensed and found the need to clarify. “Junhui stole our beds and bought Mingyu and I a queen sized bed.”

That made the two laugh their heads off so Minghao became unforgiving to all of them. Unfortunately, the torture quickly bored Minghao and after a gruesome four hours of non-stop dancing and showing them the choreography he had worked on last night, Minghao let them take a break.

They all parted ways and Minghao decided to clear his head by walking around the company building. He passed by a room and saw Pristin dancing and perfecting their title song despite that this was their last week of promotions. He smiled at their hard work and waved when Jieqiong caught his eye. She waved back and fell back into choreography without missing a step.

Minghao continued walking until he heard Seokmin’s soothing tone fill the hallway. He followed the noise and saw Seokmin and Seungkwan rehearsing through the small window on the door. He wanted to step inside but he didn’t want to ruin their practice, so he wandered the rest of the building. He considered looking for Mingyu, but before he could even take another step two sets of arms grabbed him and hauled him toward the elevator.

“Hey Jisoo,” Minghao greeted, purposefully ignoring the other on his left.

“I don’t get a hello?” Jeonghan pouted, releasing Minghao’s arm.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think I can look at you after what Mingyu spilled about you,” Minghao said.

Jisoo let go of Minghao and looked over at Jeonghan. “What did he spill?”

“The time I gave you and Cheol a—”

“Don’t overshare,” Minghao cut him off.

“Oh! That, ” Jisoo teased. He leaned into Minghao’s space and poked him on the cheek. “You would think with all the sex you get up to, you would be less shy about this.” Whoever still believed Jisoo was an innocent flower had never seen him in Jeonghan’s company. The two together were like scheming Siamese cats.

“I just don’t want to know.”

“Shame, I have so many wonderful stories.”

“I have no idea how Seungcheol puts up with both of you,” Minghao remarked.

Jeonghan and Jisoo both shrugged with giant smirks on their faces. Minghao rolled his eyes and followed them into the lobby once the elevator opened. “Where are we going?” Minghao questioned, presuming the two wouldn’t abruptly kidnap him without reason.

“We were going to get some lunch to bring back,” Jisoo said. “There’s this good Thai place two blocks down but they always get our order wrong when we get delivery.”

“And we needed an extra set of arms to help us carry the food back,” Jeonghan said without shame, taking out his phone. He quickly typed on his phone and stuffed it back into his pocket.

“Do I get free food?” Minghao asked, following them outside.

Jisoo smiled, “Of course you do.”

Minghao could always trust Jisoo’s sincerity so he had no qualms about going with them.  

The bell overhead chimed as they stepped inside the restaurant. A few couples sat together in random areas of the restaurant and thankfully no one seemed to recognize them as Jeonghan and Minghao took a table closest to the door. Jisoo meanwhile, picked up the menus from the register’s desk. He returned with three plain brown menus and handed them out.

Minghao looked through the selection of curry, paying idle attention to his eldest bandmates’ conversation.

Jeonghan huffed in annoyance when he scrolled through his phone, and Jisoo replied without looking away from his menu.

“Just get him the usual,” Jisoo said, as if he they had this conversation before.

“It’s going to get cold—”

“Then we will have Cheol take it to Jihoon.”

“You’re right. Have you gotten a text from—”

“Nope. On it.” Jisoo took out his phone and dialed Seungkwan’s number.

Minghao felt out of the loop with the conversation. Minghao frowned, as there was always something demoralizing about being in the company of two people who shifted between conversation without saying anything at all.

Jeonghan must have noticed his demeanor because his mouth curved into a sneer. Not a nasty sneer, but an amused, mysterious sneer, as if all the people around him were pretty silly and he could tell some good jokes on them if he wanted to.

Minghao refused to be made fun of so he went back to his menu with a scowl while Jisoo talked to Seungkwan.

“Got it?” Jeonghan asked, when Jisoo was done.

“Yeah. Minghao, you know what you want?”

Minghao nodded and slid out of the table to the woman at the register. Jeonghan pulled out his phone and listed off different dishes. Minghao belatedly realized Jeonghan and Jisoo had texted everyone for their order earlier.

It would be almost kind of them, if Jeonghan didn’t fish out what Minghao knew with certainty was Seungcheol’s wallet and credit card.

They returned to the company building and made camp in their old dance practice room. Jeonghan and Jisoo separated all the orders and slowly the other members came pouring inside. Seungcheol came in with a large smile at the food, but sighed when Jeonghan silently dangled a plastic bag with a carry out box inside.

Seungcheol took the bag and left the room.

Minghao’s attention changed in Seungkwan’s direction, who poked him in the arm. “Is that all you’re eating?” He asked worriedly.

Minghao thinned his lips, “We are heading back to the ballet studio later today, we have to keep it light.” He then proceeded to lean over Seokmin’s plate to take Soonyoung’s chicken piece away and dump it in Wonwoo’s.

Soonyoung pouted and turned back to his plain food. He didn’t complain—much.

The room filled with idle chatter and returned to its boisterous self when Seungcheol returned. Jisoo and Jeonghan had been the only two not eating, waiting for their boyfriend to return.

“That’s sweet,” Mingyu remarked, when the three opened their boxes.

Jeonghan snorted as Seungcheol immediately followed that up with, “Peanut poop contest.”

“You’re on,” Jisoo challenged.

Wonwoo laughed in confusion and asked for clarification.

Jeonghan rolled his eyes and explained to the group, “It’s something they’ve gotten into recently. Whoever poops their food first wins. They make me play referee.”

“That’s disgusting,” Chan commented.

Jisoo finished chewing before saying, “Got to keep the romance alive somehow.”

“I don't think I'll ever hear of love so true,” Seungkwan muttered sarcastically.

Minghao had no idea how poop equated to romance, but Minghao was going to take their word for it. He always had a terribly hard time trying to explain what romance was let alone imagine any people together romantically. Minghao just didn’t care for it, although secretly he wished he would...but he could leave the poop conversations behind.

After a few minutes, Minghao could see how the three looked perfect together. Jeonghan was spooning up the hunks of sauce at the bottom of his takeout box, and Seungcheol was grunting each time he lifted the spoon into his mouth. Seungcheol snapped and pretended to be a dog or something, trying to get the sauce off the spoon. Jisoo laughed and kept spooning from Jeonghan’s box each time the other two got caught in those inescapable giggles.

They were really the perfect relationship.

It made him that much aware how much he and Mingyu’s relationship was a scam.

How would they fool the public? They were nowhere near that level of natural, despite everyone else’s opinions.  

“Oh my god,” Jun muttered, once everyone’s plates had been stuffed in two plastic bags. He was scrolling through his phone, eyes wide but filled with mirth.

“What?” Jisoo commented from where he was resting on Seungcheol’s stomach.

Junhui turned to Mingyu and Minghao, “There’s a full official article about you two now.”

“No,” Seungkwan laughed, rushing to Junhui’s side.

Junhui elbowed him and stood up with his phone to read the article allowed to everyone.

 

THE TOP KPOP DATING SCANDAL OF 2022

It appears a new kpop idol power couple has been born. Although this time, it appears to be two idols from not only the same company but the same group.

No, we aren’t talking about KARD.

Just a few hours ago, Dispatch has released photos of Kim Mingyu and Xu Minghao from popular group SEVENTEEN under Pledis Entertainment, that allegedly prove their romantic relationship!

The two fashion iconic pair have been caught cuddling outside restaurants, holding hands under tables, picking each other up from practice, and taking long midnight strolls along the Han River.

Since late March, rumors of the two dating has been circulating the forums. Dispatch released a photo of Mingyu discreetly picking up Minghao from the airport. The two from the picture could be seen in a locked embrace before they entered the car.

Over the past few months, several actors have come out as gay. Will SEVENTEEN’s Mingyu and Minghao be the first to come out in the music industry? Several fans hope so as they have been “shipping” the pair as early as their first album.

Pledis has yet to confirm or deny the rumors of these two hot idols, but we think the pictures say it all.

What do you think? Do you ship the new couple? 

 

 

By the end of the article, Junhui was reading with such gusto and high-pitched voice, Minghao wasn’t sure whether to be amused or hit him. He definitely wanted to hit Jeonghan though, as he snorted and played along with Junhui’s fake reporter voice.

“Oh why Wen Junhui, who can’t ship this wonderful couple. Look at them wearing matching rings! They are a perfect match-made in heaven!”

The group laughed except for Mingyu and Minghao who only pouted in Jeonghan’s direction.

“This is so great,” Junhui snorted, scrolling further on his phone and reading several fan comments in that girlish voice again. “Ah! I’m telling you our oppas have been dating since they were 19!” “Of course they are in love!”

Minghao snorted and stood up, snatching the phone from Junhui. “Shut up, it doesn’t say that.”

He thumbed through his phone and read several fan comments in response.

@were1993: Shipped them since 2015!

@jeonghans-hair-extensions: I’m glad minghao got himself a hot dad

@mac-fullyloaded: there are two types of fans

@yaboyjeonghan: im glad meanie’s weird half assed yaoi romance is dead and gyuhao is ass to ass again

 

“What the fuck? Half-assed!” Wonwoo shouted, who had been reading behind him. “I am not a half-assed lover.”

“The fans apparently think you are,” Mingyu said, who had found the article on his own phone.

Minghao groaned and shoved the phone into Junhui’s chest. He stomped toward Mingyu and sat beside him. Mingyu continued to scroll the comments snorting loudly at a few. He pointed them out to Minghao in which Minghao couldn’t help but laugh himself.

As Minghao sat there, he found himself unable to decide how he felt about this situation. On one hand, the entire situation was burdensome to him. He didn’t want people to misconstruct his friendship with Mingyu, he cherished it too much to let fans have their sick fantasies from it. Mingyu was his best friend. That’s it.

On the other hand, Minghao could not ignore how his friendship with Mingyu felt stronger after yesterday. The need to constantly cuddle and be in each other’s company gave Minghao that extra push and confidence to allow Mingyu to watch him dance. He did not regret in the slightest letting Mingyu watch him dance, in fact he cherished the moment.  

So, this entire charade was not that bad.

Because really?

While the company asked them to fake a relationship that wasn’t there, it wasn’t completely off base from his and Mingyu’s own antics.

All Minghao had to do was let go of his worries about the misconceptions the fans and the public would make. He knew if he kept lingering on what other people thought about it, this year long scam would be unbearable and might strain his relationship with Mingyu, which he didn’t want at all.

Minghao became aware that he had to put on his big boy pants and make a very quick decision of how he was going to react to his from now on, because all that article did was solidify to him that this fake relationship was going to get out to the public soon. There couldn’t be any doubts.

Minghao looked to Mingyu. The man was still laughing at the comments.

Minghao sighed, realizing he had been so stupid.

After all, he knew Mingyu and he were friends. Minghao didn’t have to worry about what others thought.

And perhaps, this is what Hansol had meant after their conversation a few weeks ago.

He nudged Mingyu in the ribs with his finger, searing his resolve in Mingyu’s rib cage. Minghao asked, “Should we post a picture?”

Mingyu looked at him quizzically.“Of what?”

“Us.”

“Why?”

“To tease the fans a bit more.”

“I thought you weren’t okay with this.”

Minghao shrugged in response and pulled out his phone. “Want to go for something casual?” Minghao asked, turning on his camera.

Mingyu stared him down in the way one stared down a bright coin at the bottom of a deep well, his eyes lifted and Minghao tried not to fidget. Minghao watched him in return with a dumb look until his eyes turned glossy.

Mingyu sat up straight and leaned into him, “Sure,” He said, the moment shifting. “I’m impressed you are going to put up with this now without much complaint,” Mingyu said flatly, reading him perfectly. As the years went on, Mingyu did this near to perfection so now nearly everything Mingyu said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of Minghao’s bones.

It was a blessing and a curse.

“Ah, don’t fuck with carats like that,” Soonyoung said, when the others noticed what they were doing.

“It’s the point,” Mingyu teased.

Minghao pulled his phone in front of them, but the weird lights grated on his nerves. He forced Mingyu to stand and moved to a pair of chairs pushed on the other side of the practice room.

They took several pictures on Minghao’s phone, not a single one pleasing Minghao.

“Guys, you’ve been at it for ten minutes,” Chan whined inside the practice room.

At this point, the others had left the room and only the performance team remained with him and Mingyu.

“Just a few more minutes,” Minghao complained.

Finally, he hunched over Mingyu and blew a kiss into the camera, snapping a picture.

The room bursted out in laughter at his cheesiness, but Minghao was actually pleased with the picture.

He sent the picture to Mingyu. When Mingyu gave him a strange look, Minghao rolled his eyes. “I’m good with pictures, you’re better with captions.”

Mingyu shrugged and placed his phone in his joggers.

“Do you think you can give us a ride to the ballet studio?” Minghao asked him.

“Can’t Chan drive?”

The others got silent. Soonyoung grinned broadly and threw himself over Mingyu’s shoulder, “Ah c’mon, it’s practically your fake boyfriend duty to carry around your fake boyfriend and his friends.”

Mingyu shot Minghao a look and Minghao snorted, “All of us are dead terrified or Chan’s driving skills, no offense.”

Chan only smiled in response.

Mingyu sighed, standing up. “Alright, then.”

 

>>>

 

Minghao thanked Mingyu with a broad grin as they parked in front of the ballet dance studio. Junhui, Soonyoung, and Chan in the backseat began to shuffle out and pour into the sidewalk. Minghao took a moment to collect himself, eyes roaming the street cautiously.

He almost expected to see the swarm of fans from yesterday’s fiasco, but the street was practically empty. The tense feeling he hadn’t realized he had been carrying the whole drive suddenly eased.

His hand reached for the door handle at the same time Mingyu asked, “Do you need me to pick you up after?”

Minghao angled his body toward him, noting Mingyu absent mindedly typing something on his phone.

“Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“For what?”

“I just realized you are going to have to drive to the dorm first then our place.”

Mingyu shrugged, turning his phone off with a click. A casual smile crossed his face. “It’s fine. I don’t mind. Text me when you get out.”

Minghao smiled in return, “Cool. Thanks” He reached by his feet for the gym bag before sliding out of the car.

He shut the door behind him and looked up at the dance studio. His stomach tightened and nausea bubbled in his gut as he remembered clearly his dance instructor’s criticisms. Normally, Minghao did not allow criticism to pierce him so severely, he knew criticism and critique was embedded in his career’s description. But yesterday, was something different that he could not describe and he worried he would break down and cry again.

Suddenly, he flinched as Mingyu called out for him.

“Hey!” Mingyu shouted from the lowered window. “Check your twitter!”

“What?” Minghao asked in disbelief.

“Check your twitter.”

Minghao dug inside his jogging pants for his phone and opened up the app. A giant stupid smile ghosted over his lips.

 

 

Immediately, he began to type back a reply.

He waited for a moment to look at Mingyu’s face.

Mingyu laughed in his pitched breathy tone. He waved Minghao goodbye and Minghao found it much easier to walk into the studio.

 

>>>

 

When the four of them stepped inside the room, Mina was already working through her warm ups. They wasted no time in joining her and pulled up to the barre. Minghao fought a snort as he heard three collective groans behind him. With yesterday’s barre work, Minghao’s over training from last night and this morning, the three of them were in obvious states of strain.

Minghao continued along on the barre focusing on straight ahead and correcting his posture each time Mina made a comment. She didn’t let up on her critiques and this time Minghao did not let them affect him so strongly.

After warm up, Minghao volunteered to show her the choreography to offer suggestions and improvements. She stepped to the back of the studio and grabbed a stool to stand upon. Soonyoung began the music and they went through the first third of the song.

When the last beat of the first chorus hit, the four of them were panting and close to sweating. Slowly, Minghao looked up at the mirror and caught Mina staring intently at him. He turned around to face her as she got off her stool.

“So?” He asked, trying to keep the shakiness out of his voice.

“You came up with all of that last night?”

“Yes.”

She slowly walked to him, “I think a pique turn would go great before the chorus.” And that was only critique she gave as she asked Minghao to turn around and demonstrate a pique turn.

Minghao spun on a diagonal and after three turns, faced Mina.

“Look how he perfectly moved and timed his arms from a second position into a closed first position. Don’t close them too soon,” She told the other three.

The three nodded and attempted to do the turns under Mina’s guidance, meanwhile Minghao was still floored Mina had given him a compliment. He stayed rooted in place for a moment basking in it.

He took a long deep contented breath before going to help Chan on his arms.

The performance team spent another four hours in the studio, adding more moves to the choreography. Soonyoung while not very knowledgeable in contemporary began to offer a few suggestions and play with the levels. Minghao took the suggestions and added them to the piece, watching as Mina stepped back and let them choreograph on their own.

Her only suggestions and remarks came to help them in their moves or modify them if Minghao wanted to try something too difficult for the others.

After four hours of intense dancing, the choreography was finished in just two days, but still needed major cleanups. But the skeleton was there and that was all that mattered because they could work on perfecting it for the remaining twelve days before their showcase.

They got to cooling down their bodies. The other tree were in a modified version of a middle split, while Minghao was in a middle split with his entire stomach on the ground with Mina in front of him mirroring him.

“I’m proud of you,” She said in a small voice.

Minghao placed his chin on the ground and met her eyes.

“Thank you.”

She smiled softly, “The choreography is beautiful.”

“Do you really think so?”

Her smile widened, “It’s completely you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you put that much of yourself in this dance style.”

“Is that why you are always yelling at me? I don’t put myself out there?”

“Partly the reason. You have to admit your hip hop training has ruined your chances to ever become a principal dancer in a ballet,” She grinned and pushed herself up. She stretched her body over her right leg and Minghao did the same.

“Oh, the absolute grief!”

She glared at him for a bit. “Anyway, I am very strict with you because you are my student. They aren’t.”

Minghao nodded, now understanding a little better. While his body ached, it brought him satisfaction enough to say, “I’ll come back to your classes after promotions.”

“Are you sure you are going to want to?”

“What do you mean?”

She sat up and switched to the other leg. Her cheeks pinked and Minghao had never seen the sight before, making him lean in when she whispered, “Aren’t you dating the tall one from your group? If I was you, I would rather spend time with my significant other than spend all my time training.”

Minghao blinked. His body told him to laugh, but when he saw the other three in the room give him a cautious look, Minghao refrained from laughing. He thought quickly of what to say to seem convincing and finally said, “Don’t tell anyone.”

She smiled, “I won’t.” She stood to her feet and looked at the other three. “Okay guys! Back stretches!” She went to the wall and made her back face it. Slowly she brought her arms back to the wall and went down the wall into a bridge. She climbed back like it was nothing. “Your turn.”

“What the hell?” Chan complained, the least flexible out of all of them. “Minghao, that’s impossible.”

Minghao stood up and did the exact same thing and decided to show off a little more and when he was in his bridge brought his hands to wrap around his ankles.

He let go and came back smoothly with a large smile. “Your turn, c’mon. Junhui, you first.”

Junhui glowered and stood up, “You are never letting the bed thing go are you?”

“Nope. Bend over.”

Everyone chuckled.

 

>>>

 

Minghao and the others were changing out of their ballet outfits and into their comfortable sweats and sweaters, when Minghao opened up his phone. He barked out laughing, startling the others. He assured them it was nothing as he grinned at Mingyu’s twitter message. He licked his lips and thought of the perfect reply, knowing it would end the conversation.

 

He hit reply and opened up his text messages to text Mingyu that they were ready to be picked up.

They finished changing and headed down into the waiting room. Chan was nestled under Soonyoung’s arm, already sleeping and Soonyoung seemed ready to drift as well. Minghao wanted to take a quick nap as well, but he had to be ready for Mingyu’s message to alert them he was outside.

He heard a snort from his right and looked at Junhui. Junhui waved his phone showing him his twitter conversation with Mingyu, “Nice.”

Minghao smiled, pleased as well.

 

>>>

 

While Jiyeon would have liked Minghao and Mingyu to spend more time together, she was aware that they needed to perfect all their performances. So for the next twelve days, Mingyu and Minghao only interacted regarding the group’s performances and got a small break from their fake relationship.

Although, both of them joked that it didn’t feel like a break as they had to wake up to each other’s stupid mugs every morning. Normally, the two would wake up tangled. At first, they laughed and grumbled about the other being too clingy. But the novelty wore off quickly, and now when they woke in each other’s arms, they just calmly detangled from each other and went about dragging themselves to the practice room.

When it was the night before their showcase, they did their usual v live to countdown to their music video to tease the fans.

Mingyu and Minghao took their usual places at the back of the group and stood next to each other. Throughout the entire v live, the two kept playing with each other’s hands and found any excuse to touch as per Jiyeon’s orders.

Mingyu and Minghao decided to make a game out of it, keeping a mental tally of how many times they touched each other. There wasn’t ever a clear winner, but it made this part of their job more enjoyable.

 

By the time it was finally the night of their showcase, Minghao felt the urge to puke. He examined his purple hair in the mirror, pulling at the roots.

“Our stylist is going to murder you if you keep poking at it,” Wonwoo said beside him, who was getting his makeup done.

Minghao dropped his hands to his side and clenched them, taking deep breaths. Mingyu was by his side in seconds and attempted to fix the mess Minghao had made of his hair. He pulled delicately at the strands, dropping them in the right place.

“They will like your dance. Don’t worry.”

Minghao looked up at him and let out another breath. He wanted to believe him but his anxiety was yelling over Mingyu’s comforting words.

He found Joshua sprawled over his back a second later, telling him the same thing.

Minghao nodded and decided to pace around to get rid of the tension. Mingyu followed him and tripped over the air, making Minghao laugh obnoxiously and forget everything for a moment.

During the showcase, it became a whirlwind of stimulation. The fans’ screams urged Minghao through it all, no matter if it was for the title song or for fanservice with Mingyu that resulted in louder screams than usual, the fans kept him going. After all, it was all for their fans.

The last performance of the showcase was performance team and Minghao felt his heart punching him from the inside. He shut his eyes, trying to regulate his breath and when he opened them and looked out into the crowd of calming blues and pinks, he finally could think clearly.

He went into position and let the music break over his body like a rainstorm. He moved without any will or knowledge of his own, every limb riveted to the beat and disconnected but connected to him.

When the song finished and Minghao was on the ground, the fans yelled impossibly loud that it shook Minghao’s core. He stood to his feet, nearly crying. He felt his friends hug him from all sides, telling him he did so well and Minghao could not stop the hysterical laughter bubbling inside him. The other members came out and he felt another pair of familiar arms wrap around him. The other three pulled away and Minghao sunk into Mingyu’s embrace. A friendly kiss was pressed to his temple and Minghao let the gesture add to the fulfillment he filled on the fact that the fans loved it.

They loved the dance.

And because the fans loved the dance, Minghao felt loved as well.

 

>>>

 

After the showcase, the CEO took them to eat and like after every showcase regretted each time he offered to pay. All of them were monsters as they kept asking for thirds and fourths, piling even more meat and rice on the table. But the dinner was filled with so much laughter and joy, the CEO couldn’t complain too much about the dent in his wallet.

And after the showcase, Minghao, Mingyu, Junhui, and Wonwoo finally arrived to their apartments. They were deadbeat tired so they retired to their rooms without much preamble.

Minghao knew he should take off his makeup as he collapsed onto the bed, but the comfort of his pillow and Mingyu’s warmth crashing beside him only made him want to nestle further in the warm buzz.

He toed off his shoes, the thunk of them hitting the wooden floor strangely satisfying. He debated about taking off his jeans as well, but that seemed like too much work.

Minghao buried his face deeper in his pillow, smearing his foundation along the cotton.

“You did so well tonight,” Mingyu yawned.

Minghao hummed and wrinkled his nose as he heard Mingyu remove his belt and shuck off his jeans. Mingyu’s legs fell onto the mattress with another thump as he successfully removed them.

“I can’t wait to see what the fans posted about us,” Mingyu said, snuggling close to his side.

“It’s not like we did much.”

Mingyu gasped, “You slapped my ass on stage.”

“You deserved it, you pulled at my shirt.”

Minghao opened his eyes in time to see Mingyu’s grin. It brought Minghao into a fit of giggles which caused a chain reaction in Mingyu.

Their laughter was interrupted by a ping from Mingyu’s phone. Mingyu groaned realizing his phone was in his jeans. He climbed out of bed and searched for his phone in his pockets. Minghao saw the smile immediately vanish from his lips.

“What?”

Mingyu’s lips thinned and his jaw tensed. Minghao considered reaching for his phone, but Mingyu spoke first, “Jiyeon wants me to come out...today.”

“Oh.”

Minghao sat up on his knees and looked carefully at Mingyu. The brightness that had seeped in his face evaporated like the tail end of a sweet dream.

Minghao debated on what to say and finally, “Are you going to post it on Twitter.”

“She would like me to, yes.” The frown remained.

Minghao sighed and flicked his friend’s forehead to get him to look up, “This is what you wanted, remember? I mean not like this. But you have company support, the fans seem to be okay with us and…” Minghao paused to lick his lips, “You have me.”

Mingyu nodded and reached for his phone again. Minghao gave him a moment and watched Mingyu type.

“How does this sound?” Mingyu asked before he posted anything. His hand trembled as he passed the phone.

Minghao took it cautiously and read over the tweet.

 

 

Minghao scoffed and flicked Mingyu’s forehead even harder.

“Ow! Why are you hurting me!”

“Because!” Minghao snapped, erasing Mingyu’s tweet. “Why are you apologizing? You have nothing to apologize for.” Minghao threw the phone at him; Mingyu caught it clumsily. “Try again.”

Mingyu gave him a tight jawed glare, but went back to typing. Minghao was half tempted to write the tweet himself, but this was Mingyu’s moment. He didn’t want to take that from him.

So to remove some of the pressure, Minghao grudgingly got out of bed and took off his jeans. He grabbed his and Mingyu’s placing them properly in the hamper. He walked around the room grabbing his pajama pants and a small hand towel to head to the bathroom.

He took his time washing his face and brushing his teeth, before emerging back into his room. He frowned as he noticed Mingyu was still sitting in the same position as before. He thought Mingyu hadn’t written anything, but he noticed that both his and Mingyu’s phones were going crazy with notifications.

Minghao threw the hand towel over the dresser and rushed to his own phone. The first thing he did was ignore all the texts from his friends and immediately went to Mingyu’s twitter page.

Minghao smiled at the string of tweets, reading each one with pride.

 

 

When he finished reading, he sucked in a harsh breath.

It was out there. No turning back.

And god, was it terrifying.

But seeing Mingyu, dear god Mingyu sitting here with the weight of the world’s judgement on his shoulder, made Minghao push all his own fears aside. He reached out to Mingyu and embraced him.

He didn’t say anything, but he put his hand at the root of Mingyu’s hair and ran his fingers slowly out to the tip ends like a comb.

A little electric shock flared through Mingyu’s body before the brightness returned and he was laughing in joy.

Minghao couldn’t have felt more proud.

Chapter Text

Jungkook’s eyes gleamed ominously in the dark hallway as he bypassed the touchpad security with very little trouble. Slowly, he pushed open the door, peeking inside.

“The coast is clear, over,” Jungkook whispered into his phone. The door groaned as he opened the door further. He squeezed into the small entrance, immediately dropping to the ground and hiding in the shadows. Jungkook continued to give a play by play of his surroundings, “Four civilians inside, over,”

Jungkook flattened against the wall, moving inch by inch until he reached a corner. He peeked.

In the middle of the hallway, Jungkook saw the bathroom door thrown wide open. The bathroom's harsh fluorescent light illuminated the hall.

Jungkook sucked in a breath. “I’m going to try to get through, over."

He shoved his phone into his back pocket and crouched to the ground.  He then tucked his head in between his knees and rolled down the hallway.

Little did Jungkook know, Wonwoo, who was brushing his teeth in the bathroom, saw Jungkook rolling like a domesticated raccoon. Wonwoo sighed and completely ignored him.

Jungkook wiped the sweat from his brow as he made it down the hallway. He grabbed his phone, “Made it through over,”

He slowly rose to his feet, tiptoed to the door, and pressed his ear against it. He sucked in a deep breath.

 

A small vibration by Minghao's head caused him to stir. He opened his eyes, noticing Mingyu's proximity. He could see Mingyu's cheek pressed uncomfortably against the pillow, and he could see Mingyu's mouth hung open. Minghao wanted to stick his finger in Mingyu's mouth to disturb his sleep, but he suddenly remembered last night's events.

He gawked at Mingyu without any indiscretion.

He noticed the furrow in between his brows and the deep frown line settled deeply into his forehead. Minghao wiggled his arm free from in between both their bodies to reach out with a finger and smooth the crease. Mingyu squirmed, but, a second later, his face relaxed. Minghao smiled, smoothing out Mingyu's bangs.

Mingyu looked drained. He had every reason to be.

Mingyu had told the world he was gay.

Last night, they had scrolled through their Twitter feed and read the world's response. Luckily, most of the comments had been positive, but there were a few that...well...Minghao didn’t let Mingyu linger too long on those.

They had shifted their focus to friends' private messages. Thankfully, all of those had been supportive. However, they had not replied to anyone—Jiyeon ordered them not to respond to anyone until Pledis released an official statement.

His phone vibrated again.

He craned his neck and twisted his body to reach for it, but Mingyu's tight hold on his waist prevented him from moving. He grunted as Mingyu dragged him closer. He sighed in defeat. He then heard another phone vibrate and realized that Mingyu's phone had been left over their heads. He reached for it, inputting Mingyu’s password.

He saw a random text from Kim Namjoon from BTS. That was strange. Minghao was not aware Mingyu even talked to him. He opened up Mingyu’s messages. He frowned when all he saw was Kim Namjoon’s text: I’m sorry. I tried.

—And then Minghao jumped out of his skin as the door slammed open.

Mingyu shrieked and nearly fell off the bed.

Minghao sat up to examine the commotion and groaned when he saw Jungkook standing in their doorway, pointing a finger at both of them.

“Oh my god, it’s true!” Jungkook shouted.

Minghao groaned and plopped back onto his pillows. Mingyu on the other hand sat up and wiped his sleepy eyes.

“What! Let me see!”

Minghao gasped, hearing another familiar voice. With hesitation, he sat properly on his bed.

Jungkook had his arm outstretched, holding tightly onto his phone. Minghao could see on the screen that he was Facetiming BamBam and Yugyeom, who Minghao knew, were both in Japan.

“Aww, they have one bed!” BamBam cooed excitedly.

Minghao kicked off the sheet, ignoring Yugyeom’s innocent—but inappropriately timed—question. “Oh, those are some nice black sweats. Where did you get them?”  

He marched toward Jungkook and leaned down toward the phone. He glared at both men at the screen, who greeted him enthusiastically.

“You said it was nothing!” BamBam pouted.

“I lied,” Minghao said. He smirked and pushed his finger harshly on the red button.

Minghao stood straight and glared at Jungkook, “Who let you in?”

“I let myself in,” Jungkook said proudly.

Minghao grimaced and turned to Mingyu, “You gave him an access key?”

Mingyu who had been shirtless reached over and pulled over a sweater—which probably helped/worsened the situation, depending which way one looked at it. “I didn’t because you told me, no. Like thirty times.”

“Ah, that’s sweet. You know it makes a lot more sense why Hao has you around his finger now. All those times the others and I thought you two were just weird. Not that I’m saying your relationship is weird! I am thrilled you two are together! Like a lot! I’m just upset you never told your best friend!”

“Mingyu’s my best friend,” Minghao said possessively.

“He’s your boyfriend; there’s a difference. So now the best friend title goes to me as it should have been from the start.”

Minghao’s eye twitched, and he asked again, “How did you get into our apartment?”

“I asked Yoongi,” He smiled proudly.

Minghao and Mingyu shared a confused stare. “I’m going to go take a shower.” Minghao decided, letting Mingyu deal with Jungkook on his own.

As he walked down the hallway, the last thing he heard was Jungkook shutting the door, probably to have a serious conversation with Mingyu.

Minghao hoped Mingyu would be able to handle it on his own.

When he walked into the bathroom, he saw Wonwoo doing his best to style his hair. He bumped into him to acknowledge his presence and reached around him to turn on the shower.

“Jungkook’s here,” Minghao said, waiting for the water to heat up.

“I know, I saw him rolling down the hallway. I mean that literally by the way.”

Minghao scoffed, and Wonwoo laughed. “Is he talking with Mingyu?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think he’s going to keep up the act?”

“He has to; it’s part of the contract.”

“Even so, Mingyu isn’t the best liar, and Jungkook is his best friend.” Minghao shot him a glare, “He’s Mingyu’s best friend—after you—sheesh. You always get so touchy with him.”

“He started it,” Minghao said, wincing when he realized how childish he sounded.

“Did you two come up with a backstory, so Mingyu has something to fall back on?”

“Yeah.”

Wonwoo frowned, “You okay? You sound upset.”

Minghao sighed and started shedding his clothes. “It just hit me that we have to lie to our friends about this. It’s no biggie. I’ll get over it.”

“Alright,” Wonwoo said. “Don’t take too long; we have to go film Show Champion.”

“I know.” Minghao climbed into the shower as he heard Wonwoo leave and shut the door.

He was only in the shower for five minutes before anxiety settled in his gut. As he poured shampoo into his hair, he began to immediately worry what Mingyu and Jungkook were talking about. Should he have stayed and helped?

Minghao jumped out of his skin as the bathroom door opened abruptly. And then lock. They never locked the bathroom.

He peeked from behind the shower curtain and gasped as the shower curtain was pulled from the opposite side.

Mingyu exclaimed, “Don’t kill me, but I told Jungkook we had sex! Why are you screaming? I’ve seen you naked plenty of times? Oh, this is probably why he thought we'd had sex a bunch of times.”

Minghao glared at him as much as one could look like a wet dog.

“I’m screaming because you’re an idiot!” Minghao hissed, watching as Mingyu shed his clothes. “Why would you tell him we’ve had sex!”

“I’m the idiot?!” Mingyu shot back, climbing into the shower. Minghao moved to the side to make room. “He’s the one coming up with these like ridiculous assumptions!”

“Both of you are idiots. You should have had this dating scandal with him.” Minghao handed him the soap.

“Ewwww. He’s my—”

“—if you say best friend, I’m going to wring your neck with the shower nozzle.”

“And leave yourself as the obvious murder suspect? C’mon Hao, you wouldn’t be that messy if you committed a crime.”

“I can make it look like an accident. You’re clumsy enough, everyone would believe it.”

They traded places under the spray so now Mingyu looked like a giant wet puppy as he glowered at Minghao. “I hate you,” Mingyu pouted.

“So do I.”

Minghao grabbed a towel on the shelf by the shower and climbed out, wiping himself dry. He wrapped the towel around his waist and then walked to the sink to brush his teeth.

“Hey!” Minghao turned his attention to the door as he heard Wonwoo from the other side. “Stop having sex in the shower! We’ve got to be downstairs in ten minutes!”

And then Minghao rolled his eyes as he heard Jungkook question, “They have shower sex?”

“I hope not; I just bought a new shower curtain,” Wonwoo answered. Minghao heard their voices drift down the hallway until he couldn't hear them anymore. He sighed. Great, another thing to lie about.

“Why did you tell him we have sex?” Minghao asked when he finished brushing his teeth. He reached for the comb in the sink drawer and started brushing away the knots in his hair.

“He asked,” Mingyu replied.

“You could have lied.”

“We share a bed.”

Mingyu turned off the shower and grabbed a towel. He followed Minghao’s routine and went to brush his teeth after wrapping the towel around his waist.

Minghao watched him as Mingyu murmured with the toothbrush in his mouth, “I hate this.”

“You do?” Minghao asked curiously. This was a first for Minghao hearing Mingyu voice his displeasure over this situation.

“Yeah! I haven’t even had sex yet, and now the whole world will think I have sex with you on the regular.”

Minghao chuckled, “I’m a great lover,” He teased.

“Ewwww,” Mingyu gagged on the toothpaste, resulting in Minghao doubling over in laughter.

Mingyu rinsed his mouth, and both of them left the bathroom, heading toward their room to go change.

As they changed, Minghao kept making random kissy faces and noises. Minghao knew he was being annoying, but it was fun to tease Mingyu just to watch the way his face would contort in displeasure and disgust.

They left the room and headed toward the living room. They saw Jun and Wonwoo already waiting by the door, but Jungkook as well, who had made himself at home on the couch.  

“Alright, Kook you gotta go,” Mingyu said.

Jungkook pouted, “But it’s comfy here.”

“We can’t leave you in here.”

“Yeah, I don’t trust you,” Minghao said.

“But!” Jungkook whined.

“Sorry Jungkook, you can come over later,” Jun tried to console.

“No you can’t,” Minghao said.

Mingyu glared at Minghao.

“I can go with you guys for recording! You won’t even know I’m there!” Jungkook implored.

Minghao rolled his eyes, knowing that to be a complete lie. Their hyung line completely coddled Jungkook whenever they saw him. It would only cause distractions and put their stylists through hell.

Apparently, Mingyu thought the same, but the giant oaf was too polite to really tell Jungkook no.  Mingyu looked at Minghao imploringly—then something shifted. Minghao didn’t like it one bit. Mingyu approached him and before Minghao could react, Mingyu gripped the back of his head and brought him in close. Minghao wanted to whine and groan in displeasure as Mingyu planted a sickeningly loud wet kiss to the corner of his mouth.

From Jungkook’s perspective, it looked like the two were making out—which was just what Mingyu wanted him to think.

Jungkook balked, and when Mingyu pulled away, Minghao could see Jungkook’s face and ears flushed a deep red.

“I’ll go!” Jungkook announced, getting up from his seat and leaving promptly out the door.

As the door clicked shut, Jun and Wonwoo toppled to the ground in hysterics.

“Oh god!” Jun cried. “Do you know how hard it was not to laugh?”

“I’m half tempted to bring him in here again just to see his reaction again. That was great.”

Minghao wiped the corner of his mouth with his sleeve, “Great for you, yeah.”

He wanted to scream at Mingyu, but Mingyu looked at least somewhat apologetic. Minghao dealt with Wonwoo’s and Jun’s teasing all the way down the elevator and into the parking garage.

They climbed into Mingyu’s car to drive to Pledis and get into the vans to go to Show Champion. However, as they exited their parking structure, Mingyu was forced to hit the brakes. In front of the exit, several paparazzi were stationed. When they saw Mingyu’s car, they jumped in front.

Some of them, from what Minghao could see, were reporters. Large cameras were jammed on all sides of the car, begging them to lower their windows and give them a minute of their time.

Minghao looked quickly over to Mingyu.

His body was tense as he gripped the steering wheel harshly.

“Just drive,” Minghao told him.

“I’m not going to run them over,”

“Run them over,” Wonwoo and Minghao said in tandem.

“Just drive really slowly,” Junhui said from the back seat.

Mingyu nodded, trembling in his seat. He slowly pressed on the accelerator. The crowds slowly dispersed from the front of the car, allowing Mingyu to safely pull away and speed away.

When they got on the road, Minghao felt the tension in the entire car. He knew the others wanted to say something to Mingyu, but no one knew how to start. He looked over his shoulder and saw Wonwoo urge him on.

Minghao narrowed his lips and said, “You should have run them over.”

“That would have been messy,” Jun replied. “Imagine cleaning all the gunk from under the tires.”

His response sparked laughter out of Mingyu easing the tension in the vehicle.

Minghao looked over at Mingyu again and firmly clasped his shoulder, “We knew this would happen after your post, remember that. This entire gimmick is to produce this kind of reaction.”

Mingyu nodded only looking ahead. “You’re doing good, Gyu,” Minghao continued. “If there weren’t a swarm outside our apartment, I would have been disappointed.”

“Of course the camera hoe would think that.”

“Ha!” Wonwoo called from the backseat. “I win the bet!”

“Is hoe a bad word?” Jun questioned.

“I don’t think it’s a bad word,” Minghao said.

“But it’s not an appropriate thing to say on television which makes it a bad word,” Wonwoo tried to reason.

“Doesn’t mean it’s a bad word. There are lots of things we shouldn’t say on television,” Minghao continued.

“Yeah, like I’m gay!” Mingyu announced proudly. “Although, it’s starting to seem like I’m going to be able to say that all the time.”

Minghao looked over his shoulder, “Three against one Wonwoo. Mingyu is free from elimination.”

Wonwoo sulked and crossed his arms over his chest, “You’re only siding with him because he’s your boyfriend.”

Both Minghao and Mingyu gagged from the seat, “Ugh, don’t say that!” Minghao cried.

“Yeah, it sounds so weird!” Mingyu shouted.

“You’re going to have to get used to it. The world now believes you two are the most lovey-dovey boyfriends in the world,” Wonwoo laughed with Junhui in the back.

“I can’t wait till we get out the car,” Junhui declared. “Everyone is going to be gushing about gyuhao.”

“Jun, don’t ever bring up our shipping name again. Please,” Minghao urged.

“But it sounds so cute!”

Mingyu shivered in the front seat. Minghao looked over at him again, “If you call me your boyfriend, I’m jumping out of the car.”

At a red light, Mingyu finally looked to him. “But you are my boy—”

Minghao held a single finger in the air, “Ah!”

“--Friend!”

“Mingyu, stop trying to murder your fake boyfriend,” Wonwoo announced.

“Better,” Minghao said. “I like that. Fake boyfriend.”

The light turned green. “The worst fake boyfriend in the world,” Mingyu muttered under his breath.

“I’m right here! I can hear you!” Minghao announced loudly.

“So sweet!” Jun singsonged in the backseat.

 

Minghao had his head against the window when he spotted the others waiting inside Pledis’ parking basement. Mingyu parked the car by the three beige colored vans. The four of them emerged, greeting the others.

Seungkwan was the first to run up to Mingyu and give him a big hug.

“Are you ok? Jun texted us what happened when you left the apartment,” Seungkwan asked.

Mingyu shot a look at Jun, who was already slinking away to hide behind Seokmin.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Mingyu forced a smile. “Where are the hyungs?”

“They said their only five minutes away, but with Seungcheol driving that will probably take ten minutes.”

Mingyu snorted and looked to Minghao.

Minghao did his best to give him a comforting smile, but for some reason, he felt awkward. The others kept shooting glances at them, doing their best to pretend they weren’t looking. They were all bad at it—especially Jihoon who Minghao caught staring.   

“Jiyeon is probably going to want us to ride in the same van,” Mingyu said, stealing his attention.

“It’s not like we don’t do that already.”

“True.”

Minghao observed Mingyu’s face carefully. The crease between his brows was back. He sighed and tried to lighten the mood. “Are you going to need me to hold your hand when we get to the filming?”

“Would you make fun of me if I said yes?” Mingyu asked quickly.

“I would have made fun of you if you lied.”

“Then yes, please.” Minghao smiled, watching Mingyu’s gigartun form shift to something so small.

Minghao smirked and guided Mingyu toward one of the vans. “C’mon, let's get inside the vans before you pee yourself out here.”

 

>>>

 

As soon as they exited the van, the number of screams from reporters and fans were deafening. Minghao placed his foot on the walkway, holding onto Mingyu's hand as requested. All his bravery had been squeezed out of his body from the number of people at the walkway. He had never seen it like this before. Unconsciously, he tightened his hand around Mingyu’s.

Minghao looked over his shoulder. Mingyu seemed utterly breathless, staring at the crowd with an absolute look of horror.

While Minghao couldn’t be brave himself, he certainly could for Mingyu. He dug his nails into Mingyu’s knuckles. Mingyu yelped, looking down at their linked hands and then at Minghao.

Minghao wanted to offer some words of comfort—he was most often quick of mind for them—but at this moment, his mind felt blank.   

Instead, Minghao’s own look of terror did little to ease Mingyu’s nerves. Minghao watched as Mingyu’s mouth parted. Mingyu took a step back to the vans, wanting to hide.  

However, one of their managers and Seungcheol sensed the immediate tension. Their manager and Seungcheol herded them through the walkway, ignoring the shouts of reporters demanding to know whether Mingyu's post was true. Mingyu and Minghao practically sprinted into the building with the rest of Seventeen behind them.

Once the doors shut, Minghao let out of an uneasy breath. He caught his heartbeat pulsating in his throat. He swallowed it and let it plunk down into his stomach.

He saw Seungcheol and Jeonghan standing in front of him and Mingyu, asking them something but neither of them had any words. They nodded stupidly, which seemed to offer some reassurance to the eldest.

Someone from behind guided them to keep walking down the long hallway until they reached the dressing room.

Minghao believed that he would have felt a lot better being in the company of familiar people. But as soon as the stylists saw them, they all paused and directed their eyesight toward Minghao and Mingyu. Minghao flushed. He realized he was still holding onto Mingyu's hand. He loosened his grip and was forced to pull away as their manager shouted at the stylist to quit their gawking and get to work.

Minghao pressed his lips together as a stylist apprehended Mingyu to an empty seat. Minghao stood in the middle of the dressing room as the stylist began to immediately apply a primer to Mingyu’s face as another worked on his hair. Their eyes locked in the mirror. While Minghao’s face displayed exasperation and terror, Mingyu's expression seemed apologetic. Minghao didn't know how to react to it.

A stylist bumped into Minghao trying to move the portable clothes hangers across the room. When he looked back to Mingyu, the other was already speaking to one of the stylists. Minghao exhaled a breath and moved out of the way.

He dragged his feet toward a couch in the corner of the room, sitting with Wonwoo and Seungkwan. Wonwoo typed away at his phone, but Seungkwan leaned into his personal space. Minghao knew the younger wanted to talk with him, but Minghao did not want that—at least not right now.  

He pulled out his phone to play on some stupid app to distract himself from the current situation, but when he unlocked his phone, he balked at the number of notifications on both his Instagram and Twitter accounts. He licked his lips debating whether he should even open them and the lack of better judgment caused him to open up Twitter first.

He knew that it had been several hours since Mingyu posted that message on Twitter, so at this point all their fans and the entire country had seen the message.

 

So the posts now were less than supporting and a lot more vile.

 

these fags should be kicked out of the group

 

men shouldn’t be with men

 

this is so disrespectful to their fans mingyu should have handled this a lot better

 

I can’t believe he didn’t think about the rest of the group. Poor svt >:

 

ugh and i thought seventeen was a good group im unstanning now

 

this is disgusting! they should have kept it to themselves!!!

 

how could you have gay people in a group? it must suck for the rest of seventeen

 

Minghao huffed out in anger at that one. Why would anyone have a problem over their friend being gay? The group had known Mingyu was gay for years and there was never an awkward instance with him in the dorms. The audacity of these people.

He continued scrolling through the comments, unable to stop reading them. Once he read one, his mind prompted him to read another hateful comment.

Some commentators denied that he and Mingyu were in a relationship in the first place. Some thought that they were looking to much into Mingyu’s post and had misinterpreted his words. Others believed they were doing this as a publicity stunt—which was true. However, that comment terrified him when they were supposed to prove to the world that they were a happy couple.

If the fans figured out this was a scam, this could become a lot worse. Hell, that would become the biggest scandal of the century and it would bring forth the worst type of publicity to Seventeen.

Minghao suddenly couldn’t breathe.

His head snapped to the side as he felt the couch dip. He saw Jisoo by his side smiling at him.

Jisoo calmly took the phone away from him. As he scrolled through the phone, Minghao was momentarily distracted from his panic as he saw that Jisoo was already in full makeup and hair but he was still strutting a simple tee and jeans.

"I could hear you stressing from across the room,” Jisoo said.

"Some people think this is already a scam," Minghao whispered, wary of the stylist from overhearing them. "And others are thinking that Mingyu is this horrible being and want him out of the group."

"Did you even read the positive messages?"

"What?"

"Sometimes with events like this, people only focus on the negative—but here," He switched to Instagram. "Look at all the support you’re getting. Everyone is rooting for you two."

Minghao read through the messages. There were a few negative ones in their but they were heavily outweighed by the more supportive ones.

 

i love you so much!!! you inspire me every day to be the best gay i can be

 

I just saw Mingyu’s post and i salute him. It takes a lot of courage to do something like that

 

I am so proud of Mingyu for having the courage to post something like this! I love you! Thank you for sharing this with us!

 

can we all please take a moment and support & appreciate mingyu? He is the first openly gay idol in a massively popular group. I think that's so important in a country like Korea, where it isn't even accepted to talk about it in public. He's brave & beautiful and we should support his courage.

 

Massive respect for Mingyu hopefully this means that he and Minghao will no longer hide behind ambiguous art or symbolism. Their courage shouldn't be underestimated. I wish them luck!

 

Every single message he read, eased the tightness in his body little by little. He screenshotted a few and sent them as text messages to Mingyu, who he saw was scrolling through his own phone with a frown.

Hopefully, Mingyu would understand that these supportive messages were from true fans—not those that were already petitioning to kick them out of the group.

Minghao shut off his phone and leaned his head on Jisoo's shoulder, "Thank you."

Jisoo wrapped his arm around Minghao’s shoulder, “Don’t thank me. Thank our fans.”

Minghao nodded. “I just don’t want this to be a terrible experience for Mingyu.”

“I understand,” Jisoo said. “All of us are going to do our best to protect him...and you.”

“Really, thank you.”

Jisoo grinned and pulled away from Minghao, “Although when this whole controversial business dies down I hope you know that Hannie and me have an arsenal of stories about you two being cute that we are going to reveal in every interview.”

Minghao puckered his lips in a pout, “I’ll tell Seungcheol you two are being mean again.”

Jisoo gave him a pointed look that clearly read, ‘please.’ Jisoo then looked over at the others and sat up straight, “I think one of the stylist is almost done with Soonyoung.” Jisoo pulled Minghao to his feet and lightly pushed him in the direction of one of the stylist.

Minghao reached the stylist’s chair and climbed onto the higher stool. He settled himself on the cushion before the stylist was attacking his face with several different primers and color correctors. Minghao shut his eyes, letting her get to work.

As she let the primer settle into his face, she began to work on his hair. He hissed as she pulled on it a little too tightly. However, Minghao knew better than to make a sound, otherwise he knew it would be very simple to get burned by the straightener on "accident."

He only opened his eyes when he felt a hand on his thigh. He jumped a little in place and hissed again as the straightener passed a little too close to his ear.

"Mingyu," Minghao ground out.

Mingyu looked a little apologetic.

"I'm so sorry," Mingyu replied. The desperation in his voice told Minghao that it was more than just an apology for almost getting burned.

"You don't have to be sorry."

"But I dragged you into this. They are going to hate you. Did you see the messages all over SNS? They are terrible. You shouldn't have to deal with that hate when it's not even about you."

"First of all," Minghao began, closing his eyes as the stylist brought out the eyeshadow. "This is about me. It's about both of us. So get off your martyr horse and accept that we are both in this together. I'm not backing out."

"But!"

"No buts! I don't regret this. Okay?"

"You sure?"

"I am most definitely sure. Now, stop acting like an idiot. Did you even read those messages I sent you?"

Their stylist snorted beside them, "I don't think it's very kind to call your boyfriend an idiot."

"He is one though."

"You two are cute. Congratulations by the way. The others and I had a running bet whether you guys were actually in a relationship."

"You can't be serious."

At that exact moment, a stylist passed by and stuffed a wad of bills into her back pocket. There was a scatter of high-pitched giggles. Minghao knew this was going to be the start of an insufferable year from their stylists.

 

>>>

 

Everyone got finished with their hair and makeup and were now in their appropriate attire, heading toward the stage to start their filming. When they got to the stage, the crowd as usual went crazy.

Minghao noticed several phones pointed in his and Mingyu's direction. Minghao knew he had to sell their relationship in a positive way without being too forward. So, like usual, he pounced on Mingyu's back. Mingyu groaned in annoyance, trying to shove him off.

Minghao laughed, clinging to Mingyu as tightly as he could. He reached his hands around Mingyu's sides and tickled him. Mingyu couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled out of his throat. He twisted around and Minghao finally let go, letting Mingyu's smile wash over him.

He needed to show the others that even though they were in a relationship—a fake one—they were still the same. He needed the fans to support Mingyu as much as they could.




Filming took as long as usual that by the time they were finished, all of them wanted to head back home. However, during promotions their schedules were never that kind, and all of them were changing back into their regular clothes to head to a radio interview.

Thankfully, they entered through a private entrance in the building so there weren’t any crazy reporters fans to accost them.

They entered and Minghao watched as two of their managers headed straight for the head radio announcer to discuss which topics were appropriate to be talked about on the radio.

Minghao could already guess what the managers wanted the radio hosts to address first. They all got together trying to fit thirteen people, plus the radio host, in a cramped room. Scripts were passed around and Minghao wanted to sigh as he saw on the first page: Relationships!

Minghao placed the script on his lap and tried to look calm as commercials were playing around them. Jisoo and Jeonghan had their phones out and were taking selfies of each other.

The others were chatting. Minghao tried to chat with Hansol on his left, but the conversation felt very stilted. So Minghao decided to suffer in silence and sit awkwardly.

Finally, the radio host, Gukjoo, saw the cues from the producer and commenced the long interview.

“Ah, our studio is really full now! Seventeen has visited today. Shall we clap till our hands ache? Today we’re together with 13 warm boys! Seventeen!”

Everyone smiled, clapped, and cheered loudly.

The radio host continued, “This is the second time Seventeen has come to Young Street Radio! It’s such an honor to welcome these 13 boys! Even though everyone knows you, can you please do a self-introduction?”

Seungkwan sitting closest to the radio host, began the introductions and they all naturally went in a circle. Minghao didn’t even remember opening his mouth but before he knew it, Hansol was already introducing himself.

When they finished the radio host cooed, “Ah just like last time, I don’t know who to make eye contact with!”

Seungkwan without any shame and on full radio mode replied smoothly, “How do you feel with 13 handsome men looking at you?”

Across from him, Minghao had to fight the snort at seeing Chan groan and roll his eyes.

“Oh, I feel flustered!” Gukjoo replied. “But I know two of you only have eyes for each other!”

The group went into a forced unison cheer of acknowledgment.

“So you’ve already heard about it Gukjoo?” Seungkwan asked teasingly, stealing an apologetic glance at Minghao and Mingyu.  

“Of course who hasn’t!” She turned her eyes to Mingyu. “So Mingyu, is it true?”

Minghao looked to his right as Mingyu tried to keep a light tone to his voice, “Yes, it is true.”

“And is it true are you dating The8 from your group?”

“Yes.”

“If you don’t mind me asking how does it feel about being an openly gay idol. We have a few from smaller companies but no one from the large extent as your group and no one from the same group!”

Mingyu took a deep breath. “Honestly? At first I felt very scared sharing my feelings but Carats have always been very supportive and I knew that they would show that same support regardless if I was gay. So I’m feeling a lot better and hoping that I can be an inspiration for others.”

“Ah, that’s very courageous of you. You are very brave to do this. What about you Minghao? How does it feel being a gay idol?”

Minghao answered before thinking. “I’m not gay.”

“Oh, bisexual then? Your fans might still think you have a chance with them.”

Minghao laughed awkwardly. “No, Carats are my friends,” Minghao said tensely. He took a deep breath wondering how best to phrase this. He didn’t want to stoop low and identify with something he wasn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to the gay community. “I don’t identify with being gay or bi. I just know that I have really strong feelings for Mingyu and Mingyu only.”

The group broke into ‘aw’s’ and some of them complained of how cheesy he was being. It brought a smile over Minghao’s face.

“That’s very sweet,” The radio announcer cooed. She looked to the producer room and Minghao spotted their managers crossing their arms to end the conversation and move on with the rest of the group. Minghao saw Gukjoo thin her lips and ignore them.

“So you wouldn’t say your relationship has interfered with your work at all?” She asked them.

“No,” Minghao answered comfortably. He smiled at Mingyu and decided to sell it, since the cameras were rolling. He reached out and placed his hand on Mingyu’s. They linked hands on Mingyu’s thigh. “I feel like I have a stronger support system to keep going with my work. It was Mingyu who motivated me to choreograph our performance team’s dance.” Minghao gave her an opening to change the conversation smoothly and ask them about their album, but she ignored it and kept pressing.

“And how long have you two been together?” She interrogated.

Mingyu answered quickly, “A little over 5 months.”

“Although it feels like longer,” Minghao grinned.

“It does!” Seungkwan exclaimed, looking over the managers, who were begging him to jump in. “Working on this album has been are most tedious. Right Woozi? Can you tell us what inspired this composition?”

Everyone sighed in relief as Seungkwan took over the reigns and changed the conversation. Gukjoo narrowed her eyes, but she did let the conversation slip past her fingers as Jihoon began speaking.

Still, the woman kept sneaking glances at him and Mingyu. Minghao felt a little wary, wondering if she was calling on their bluff, so Minghao made a point to lean into Mingyu whenever he got the chance. Mingyu, although an idiot most of the time, caught on very quickly. Whenever someone else was telling a funny story they had told a dozen times before, Mingyu would lean in close and whisper in his ear. It made the scene look very coupley. But really, Mingyu would whisper random lines from the latest meme, making Minghao giggle or he would ask him what food he was craving and what they should grab for take-out back home leading them to have a very serious whispered conversation to themselves.

When the hour long interview finished, Minghao was finding it a lot easier to act.

 

Mingyu, Minghao, Wonwoo, and Jun arrived back to their apartment ready to crash. The only thing keeping them awake was the steaming noodles they had ordered in Wonwoo’s hand. Wonwoo placed them on the kitchen island while Jun went to grab plates and utensils for them to share.

Minghao leaned against the kitchen island waiting for his share. He pulled out his phone and turned it on—having turned it off for the interview.

He nearly choked on air as he saw he had 38 missed calls from his parents.

“Shit,” Minghao hissed.

Mingyu looked over his shoulder. His eyes grew wide. He pulled out his own phone and groaned and saw that he had nearly double as many missing calls from his own parents.

“I’ll take the bathroom,” Mingyu said, waving his phone.

Minghao nodded and they walked down the hallway, separating at the corner.

Minghao sat on his bed and dialed his mother.

His mother picked up on the first ring.

“Minghao!”

“Hi mom,” Minghao forced out.

“Minghao!” He heard his father next, from the echo, Minghao deduced he was on speaker.

“Minghao what is this?”

Minghao decided to play dumb, “What do you mean?”

“All the news articles! Everyone is saying you are dating Mingyu.”

Minghao thinned his lips, looking at a random spot in his room. He spotted a hat he had misplaced a week ago hiding in the corner of the room. He walked across the room and picked it up, placing it in the closet.

“Minghao?” His mom pleaded for him to answer, when he was silent for so long.

“Its—” Minghao began. Should he lie? Tell the truth? Would his parents even begin to understand why he was doing this in the first place?

Minghao decided to take the route of least disappointment. “I didn’t want you to worry,” Minghao finally said. “I did mean to tell you.”

“Really?” His mom chastised.

His father cut in, “You never tell us anything.”

Minghao picked at his jeans, “I didn’t want you to worry. I told you.”

“We’re worrying now,” His mom said.

“I know I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I didn’t know how you would react.”

“How long have you been hiding this from us?”

“It hasn’t been that long…”

“Minghao,” His mother’s stern voice came through.

“Five months.”

He heard two sighs come through the phone. Minghao waited for his parents to say something. The silence twisted his insides. But finally he heard his mom’s voice, “Just know that we don’t want you hiding things from us anymore, okay?”

Minghao hummed into the phone, not quite understanding why the knot in his stomach was still twisting. Did he want more of a positive reaction from his parents?

“I won’t.”

“Good, I’ll let you rest.”

“Okay, goodnight.”

His mother hung up first and Minghao finally let out a breath. He clutched his phone in his lap for a few minutes, letting his parents’ response sink in. He didn’t know how to react to it...so he didn’t. He threw his phone on the bed and went into the kitchen.

He saw that Wonwoo or Jun had already prepared his plate. He sat at the table with them, noting Mingyu was still missing.

“How did it go?” Jun asked softly.

Minghao shrugged, “Good as it’s going to get.”

He dug into his food, not wanting to speak on it further. The others understood and started eating as well.

By the time Mingyu came out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, his food was already cold and Jun had already retired to bed. Wonwoo was in the living room, watching something on the television.

When Minghao saw Mingyu, he grabbed his plate and poured the contents into a pot and started boiling Mingyu’s food.

Mingyu leaned against the counter, both of them waiting for the soup to boil.

“Everything okay?” Minghao asked, noticing Mingyu’s red rimmed eyes.

“Everything’s perfect,” Mingyu replied. “My parents are supportive of this. Like a lot. I didn’t think they would be.”

Minghao smirked, “Your parents treat you like a king of course they would be supportive.”

Mingyu nodded, sniffing loudly. A smile rested on Mingyu’s face. It suited him well.

“Oh!” Mingyu announced loudly. He pulled out his phone. “My sister is going to be a little shit.”

“What are you talking about? She’s the best.”

“You only like her cause both of you gang up on me.”

Minghao shrugged, grabbing a spoon and swirling the pot. “I don’t know why you’re complaining. At this point, you should be used to it.”

Mingyu groaned. “I wish I could be,” Mingyu said, showing the single text he had received from his sister.

It was a link of Pledis’ official statement of his and Mingyu’s relationship and right under it was Mingyu’s sister’s comment.

Hahahaha fake. Don’t worry I won’t tell mom or dad ;) wouldn’t wanna crush their hearts <3

Chapter Text

Sometimes Soonyoung had too much of a knack for identifying other people's mistakes.

Soonyoung had reviewed their dance performance the day before and said he felt a little underwhelmed by their presentation. He was kind not to mention who was half a second offbeat, so he made everyone practice until he was happy with the synchronization.

Minghao wanted to kick Soonyoung for his perfectionist tendencies that always emerged when promotions came around, but he did not complain aloud, and he pushed through the choreography like his other bandmates.

They practiced for hours in the early morning, until everyone had a gross pungent sweat attached to them.

“Okay, guys!” Soonyoung chirped to the group of twelve passed out on the floor. “I guess that’s as a good as it’s going to get. Rest up we have to film for M Countdown. I hope we can put on a spectacular…” his speech trailed off awkwardly as Jihoon sent him a murderous glare from below. “Right...rest well everyone!” Soonyoung left the practice room to go carbo-load for their performance—something the rest of them should do as well, but all of them were struggling to move their limbs.

Minghao, in particular, couldn’t move if he wanted. He had Mingyu and Seokmin on either side of him. The three had tank tops on so the sweat clung to their bodies and stuck their skin together like glue. Mingyu had somehow managed to trap his armpit in Minghao's face. Minghao groaned at the smell, but pushing him took too much effort.

“Mingyu,” Minghao whined, tilting his voice in a high-pitched tone, (he only used aegyo in dire situations) “Move.”

Mingyu replied with a grunt.

“Please,” Minghao whined again. “You reek like dirty socks.”

"Good, I would be concerned I smelled like daisies after that."

"Soonyoung is trying to kill us," Seokmin chimed into the conversation. Minghao tilted his head to look at Seokmin. "I’ve been telling you all he’s been replaced by an evil clone this year, but none of you believe me.”

"He just wants it to be perfect," Minghao said, yawning wanting nothing more than to take a short nap.

His stomach rumbled.

Well, maybe eat, then nap.

The two on either side of him laughed. Seokmin rolled and stood up. "Want me to get snacks?" Seokmin offered sweetly.

"Would you?" Minghao cooed.

Seokmin smiled. He grabbed his backpack in the corner of the room and left the practice room in search of food. Without Seokmin squishing him, Minghao realized he could break free of Mingyu’s sweaty armpit. He rolled to the other side and smashed his face against the cold wood floor.

He was already drifting into a short nap, when Seokmin emerged into the room fifteen minutes later with Xiyeon, Yehana, Rena, and Kyulkyung. As soon as the girls entered, their loud voices startled everyone awake.

Seokmin looked slightly apologetic and spread his apologies by handing snacks around the room that everyone took with glee. The girls immediately went toward Mingyu and Minghao and sat beside them.

Minghao groaned, forcing himself to sit up. He grunted as Mingyu’s lazy ass leaned against him.

“Hey,” Minghao greeted politely.

The girls giggled, “So it is true?” Rena asked, raising a coy brow.

Mingyu and Minghao shared a look.

“Absolutely not,” Minghao said, sarcastically.

Rena shot him a glare and punched his arm. “Shut up, you two have been all over each other for years now.”

“C’mon guys,” Kyulkyung said sweetly, giving Minghao her best sympathetic look. “We came here to wish them luck at their recording today.”

Minghao didn’t believe her, and he was glad Rena called her out on her bullshit, “You were the one who wanted to accost them.”

Kyulkyung still attempted to look innocent. Minghao snorted and told her, “Don’t do that, it doesn’t suit you.”

“Please, you don’t know what suits me or doesn’t.”

“I know that you love to play little games and make people think you’re an angel.”

“You make people think you’re a badass; when I know for a fact, your skincare routine is more extensive than mine. You love being pampered with a face mask, a bathrobe, and wine. That’s not badass HaoHao.”

Yehana looked at them strangely, “How do you know that?” She asked Kyulkyung.

Minghao and Kyulkyung flushed, neither knowing how to respond. It’s not like they ever told anyone… “Cause Mingyu spills everything about Hao here,” Kyulkyung said quickly. She was always the better liar between them.

“I never said anything about Minghao to you,” Mingyu said with confusion.

“Yeah, you did, when we went out for drinks during the break remember? You got drunk and started crying about how much you missed Minghao,” Kyulkyung said. Minghao now wondered how much of her lie had truth in it. “At least now I know you were crying over your boyfriend. That’s sweet.”

Rena laughed and reached over to pull at Mingyu’s cheeks. “Mingyu is so cute when it comes to Minghao.”

"What do you find about Minghao attractive?" Xiyeon shouted suddenly.

"Xiyeon!" Yehana chastised, looking a little embarrassed but the lack of a blush indicated she was curious too.

The other guys, who had heard her outburst, started laughing. Minghao glared at everyone while the girls argued.

"What? They share a bed?!” Xiyeon cried out. “They are obviously sleeping with each other!"

"Yes, but that's not polite to ask,” Yehana said.

"Yeah,” Minghao agreed and glared over his shoulder to tell Mingyu, “And I rather you not answer."

Mingyu gave him a smug grin. His arms wrapped around Minghao’s waist and he pressed their cheeks together. "But HaoHao! I have lots of favorite things about you!"

"Yeah, but what's your favorite?” Xiyeon questioned.

Minghao glared harder. "If you slap my ass like Hansol did to Seungkwan, don't bother breathing, I’ll end your life right this second.”

"Your ass?” Mingyu asked, pulling away. “Your ass isn't my favorite. It's concave."

The entire room burst into hysterics at that. Minghao felt his cheeks flush. He wanted to murder Mingyu. Somewhere in the corner, Jihoon was clapping like a seal, and Seungkwan was holding onto Hansol muttering “Oh my god” over and over again.

He glared at both, but neither of them cared. Everyone was too busy laughing, that Minghao almost missed Mingyu now seriously answering to Xiyeon. "Hmmmm....his nose?"

"Nose?" Yehana questioned.

"It's cute."

The girls all looked at him, studying his face. Minghao sat up straight. They all nodded sagely.

"His eyes aren't that bad either,” Mingyu continued.

Minghao didn’t know how to react to the sudden compliments, so he kept silent.

"Mingyu's so sweet to his boyfriend. Why are you so mean?" Xiyeon said the last part in Mandarin causing Mingyu and Junhui to laugh aloud. Apparently, Kyulkyung had taught her a few phrases.

"I'm only mean to him when he's an idiot, who happens to be one most of the time,” Minghao replied.

She poked his stomach. "See. Mean."

"C'mon, just say one nice thing,” Kyulkyung said. “What's your favorite part about Mingyu?" She raised both eyebrows at him. Minghao wanted to murder her.

"I'm not going to answer.

Yehana pouted, "Please?"

Minghao was forced to concede defeat. He had no chance against that pout. "I guess...his skin tone."

Mingyu looked at him with a little bit of awe. Minghao knew how Mingyu felt about his tan skin, and he had told him repeatedly it was nothing to be ashamed. "I like it; it suits him. It makes him look handsome.

The girls cooed.

“See,” Kyulkyung said knowingly, “I always knew you had the potential to like someone.”

Minghao knew she didn’t mean any harm in it, but he still felt terrible after her comment. The girls stayed in the practice room with them for a few more minutes chatting with the others into the room until Nayoung came to pick them up. They trailed after her like little demonic ducklings.

The practice room settled peacefully soon after. Minghao ate his snack that Seokmin brought, chatting with Seokmin.

Their conversation began to dwindle, and before both of them could do anything about it, they started napping on the practice room floor, curling into each other.

When Minghao woke up, he was feeling a bit blearily eyed and groggy. He took a moment to examine Seokmin, who was still sleeping beside him.

Seokmin was breathing softly. Minghao smiled at Seokmin’s relaxed state. He didn’t see any lines of worry or tense shoulders; instead, he could only see Seokmin’s plump lips and sharp, straight nose. They complimented his face structure well and his sharp jaw. Everything about Seokmin suited him, even his body and his thighs—and wow Minghao was now definitely awake.

Oh shit.

He did not just check out Seokmin. What the actual fuck?

He blamed the girls who had barged in a few minutes ago asking him what he found attractive. Shit. He glanced down at Seokmin’s thighs again—and felt his cock give a twitch in his sweatpants.

Fuck.

He forced himself to look away and stare pointedly over Seokmin’s shoulder toward the door. This unexpected situation in his pants made him realize that—wow—he found men attractive. Surprisingly, he wasn’t shocked by the revelation.

As he stared over Seokmin’s shoulder, he began to contemplate all the women he had found attractive. Truthfully, and a bit, ashamedly, he always noticed a woman’s physical features first. It made him feel shallow. He recognized women were important and he loved talking to them. They had a different mindset on life that was a refreshing change of pace when he lived with all men. But, Minghao realized he could never get himself to fall for a woman. As his eyes crept back to Seokmin, he realized he could not fall for a man either.

What was the hell wrong with him?

What kind of person felt that way? Saw others as sexual beings but not romantic ones? He was going straight to Chinese hell, as Kyulkyung used to always put it when dated her. She said it as a jest, of course, but as Minghao dwelled on the thought that Seokmin truly was attractive—more than that, he was hot—it made it feel like he was going to descend into Chinese hell.

He belatedly realized that he was still checking Seokmin out, particularly his thighs. Minghao groaned as he felt the uncomfortable weight between his legs. He knew he would have to go jack off if he wanted to have a peace of mind and concentrate for their performance later today, but he wished he could just repress his sexual energy. He lay motionless, willing his hard-on to go away. After a minute, he sighed. Fuck it.

He hadn’t had sex in months. He couldn’t. He had not had the mind to note he would not be able to have sex with anyone for nearly a year because of this scam. He couldn’t pick up a random girl—or guy now that he was feeling a little curious about it—unless he wanted it to leak out to dispatch or another terrible tabloid network that he was cheating on Mingyu. It wouldn’t be fair to Mingyu. Plus, Minghao was loyal.

He calmly stood up, noticing the others were still asleep or groggily looking at their phones. Minghao pulled out his cellphone, hovering it awkwardly in front of his crotch as he grabbed his duffel bag. He quietly exited the practice room and headed to the showers they had in the building.

He only had about thirty minutes before the others would have to start waking up and heading to the practice room to shower as well.

Minghao was glad that he got to the motivation to do so as well, despite that his intentions weren't that positive.

He entered the locker room area and went past the benches toward the shower stalls. There were six tiny shower stalls, each with a flimsy curtain to give someone their privacy. Minghao chose the farthest on the left.

He dumped his bag on the floor and hung a towel outside the shower curtain. Minghao then turned on the shower before he quickly shed his clothes, wincing when his sweatpants snagged on his cock. He ignored it and jumped into the shower, not bothering to check the temperature.
He felt a sick elation that the water was perfectly warm. For a moment, Minghao stood against the shower spray. The warm water massaged the knots and tension in his body. He nearly forgot how tense his body had become as a result of dance practice. He shuffled to face the tile and groaned as the warm water hit his lower back. He reached back and daringly turned on the heat. The water soon warmed and the steam circled him. The water against the his lower back felt fucking magnificent. He groaned again as his hand mindlessly trailed down to his stomach, to his pubic hair, to his cock.

With a loose fist, he tugged gently, his shaft already engorged from the heat. His closed fist tightened a fraction as he smoothed his hand up and down.

He did not know how much time he had left before the others entered the locker room.

So, Minghao ceased his teasing and used his other hand to grip his balls firmly. He rolled them around his palm, pressing thumb against his perineum. A moan escaped his lips in the form of steam, rising up and out of his shower stall.

His grip tightened, and as he continued to stroke himself, his thighs began to shake. Minghao spun around and pressed his back against the tile. His back made contact with the cold tile, and his back arched, pushing his fist tighter around his shaft. He groaned louder.

He brought his back slowly against the tile, squeezing the base of his cock. He twisted his fist upward, drawing out the precum, He repeated the movement several times, until, he could see precum dribbling down his member and hitting the shower floor.

Minghao reached a point between coherence and dizziness. His mind wandered and conjured the image of a tall, muscular figure looming around him. The steam around him allowed him to imagine a warm breath against his neck and kiss down his clavicles.

He kept up the fantasy.

The figure pulled at his cock and fondled his balls. It wasn’t enough. His mind helpfully provided him with the image of a person dropping to their knees.

Minghao swallowed his grunt.

The figure slowly began to take more shape without Minghao's discretion. He saw a sharp nose, jaw, beautiful dark eyes, a large silly smile that could rival the sun. Before Minghao could stop his mind for forming such a sinful image, his mouth was already releasing a high pitched whine at just imaging Seokmin between his legs. God. That would be perfect. Seokmin with his perfectly shaped mouth, tongue coming between his lips and licking up his entire cock. His mouth taking him whole without gagging.

Minghao groaned and banged his head against the shower tile as he began to stroke himself faster. He pictured Seokmin's plump lips sucking at the tip and then going back down to press his tongue and play with a prominent vein at the bottom of his cock.

Minghao’s breath hitched. His eyebrows furrowed and he licked his bottom lip.

He then pictured Seokmin deep throating him and reaching his hand to stroke himself as Minghao fucked his throat—Seokmin's thick muscular thighs spread out against the shower tile. His hand moved furiously between them. Minghao hissed as that image finally made him come all over his hand.

Minghao took several deep breaths, his mind unable to process pretty much anything with orgasmic haze swirling around his entire conscious.

When he finally came to, he panicked and felt like an utter prick for masturbating to thoughts of Seokmin.

Suddenly, he heard Seokmin’s unmistakable laugh as he chatted with Jeonghan. The two entered the locker room, heading toward the shower stalls.

Minghao panicked and began to wipe away the evidence. He heard the showers start while Minghao turned his off. Minghao grabbed one of the towels by the shower rack and dried himself behind the shower curtain. He listened carefully to make sure Jeonghan and Seokmin entered their separate showers before he could escape his stall. When he heard the curtain slide again the rack and then once more, Minghao gripped his towel firmly around his waist and sprinted out of the shower stall. He grabbed his bag and dashed to the benches.

Okay, he just needed to throw on a shirt and a clean pair of underwear and sweats.

That’s it.

Thirty seconds max.

Then he could cry over his action.

“What’s wrong with you?” Minghao heard. He glanced toward the voice and saw Mingyu three feet away from them.

Minghao almost fell to the side as he was pulling on his sweats.

“Nothing!” Minghao squeaked out.

Mingyu raised a brow as Minghao put on his shirt backward without noticing.

“You sure?” Mingyu asked slowly.

“Yup!” Minghao shouted, leaving the locker room without glancing back.

>>>>

Avoiding Seokmin or anyone for that matter was a lot easier than expected. With them prepping for the music show—and thankfully arriving early before a crowd could gather in the walkway—they had little time for small chit chat.

The group ran through the choreography several times on stage before the official recording began. Minghao felt the ease in every single movement, and he confidently turned on stage as he heard their fans chant in unison to their title song.

When they finally got a breather, the assistants ushered them off the stage for the other groups to perform. Minghao was barely catching his breath when Jeonghan accosted him in the dressing room.

A firm grip on his forearm startled Minghao. Jeonghan dragged him to a corner of the room.

“Why are you acting weird?” There was a tiny accusatory remark in Jeonghan’s tone, but Minghao could tell that it mostly stemmed from concern.

“What are you talking about?” Minghao lied smoothly.

How had Jeonghan noticed anyway? It hadn’t even been a full five hours since the shower incident.

“You screamed at Junnie when he hugged you half-naked,” Jeonghan said.

Which yeah that was weird behavior—Jun always did that. Everyone was used to it at this point.

“He caught me off guard. You would have screamed too.”

“I guess? I think I would have laughed. We all laugh with Junnie, and we most certainly don’t curse at him.”

“Okay, that was a mistake, and I already apologized to him. That doesn’t mean I’m acting weird. I’m always yelling at him.”

Minghao’s attention was caught to Seokmin and Mingyu giggling together.

“Is it about Mingyu?”

“Oh god no!” That was an easy one—but he should have lied and said yes.

“Seokmin?”

“No, most definitely not.”

Jeonghan frowned and put his hand on his shoulder. “You know you can talk to me, right?”

Minghao scuffed his shoes against the ground. “Yeah.”

“Then?”

“It’s embarrassing, and I feel terrible about it.”

“Is this about you masturbating in the shower. What? Seokmin and I heard you, and we waited patiently outside for you to finish.”

“Oh my god, Jeonghan. Why do you always do this?”

“Do what?”

“I just--how do Seungcheol and Joshua put up with you?”

“Cause they love me.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

Jeonghan shoved him. “You’re just lashing out as a response to me questioning you. But really, what’s going? I don’t want you to be this nervous and tense especially with what the company is having you do. I know you’re under a lot of stress as it is. Let me help. Tell me what’s wrong, please?”

“ImasturbatedwhilepicturingSeokmin.”

“Oh. That’s it?”

“What do you mean that’s it? That’s not something friends do!”

“What are you talking about? Of course, it is. Well, it doesn’t happen purposefully, of course, now that would be weird. Did you do it purposefully?”

“No.”

“See, you shouldn’t worry then. You can’t blame what Horny Hao thinks while he has fun times.”

“But it’s Seokmin.”

Jeonghan shrugged, “So? I’ve thought about almost all of you at one accidental point or another.”

“Ewwww….”

“Don’t be such a prude. God, you’re worse than Cheol sometimes. Wait—I thought you weren’t gay.”

“I’m not.”

“Bi?”

“I don’t think so?”

“Huh, maybe I should ask Shua to talk to you then. He’s better with this sexuality talk...”

“Please, don’t tell him. It’s bad enough that you know.”

“Okay, my lips are sealed. But you like Seokmin?”

“I definitely do not like Seokmin.”

“Ok, just checking, that would be awkward if you’re dating Mingyu but have a crush on Seokmin.”

“Fake dating.”

“Eh, if you want to get technical. But just to be clear you’re not freaking out about masturbating over a guy, it’s just masturbating over Seokmin?”

“Please, stop saying that word, but yeah. I think men are hot? I don’t know. This was a first for me.”

Jeonghan smiled, “My advice then would be not to think too hard on it. Just let yourself go with the flow. If guys are your thing that’s great and you know I’m here along with Shua and Cheol to talk to you about it if you have questions on it.

“Yeah, thanks," Hao said genuinely.

“Hey Hao?”

“Hmm.”

“Don’t freak out, okay.”

“Yeah.”

The group got called back to the stage to announce the winners. Minghao and the rest of the group huddled close together as they waited for the results. On his left, he gripped tight on Mingyu’s hand. Despite, the dozens of times doing this, it still felt nerve-wracking every single time. His breath caught in his throat as they announced each group member.

Then their song was playing on the loudspeakers.

Seventeen shot up into the air, laughing in joy. Some members still hadn’t processed the win—which Minghao took with delight as Mingyu stood motionless. Minghao jumped up and down and let go of Mingyu to wrap his arms around him. The touch triggered Mingyu back to consciousness. His arms encircled Minghao’s shoulder, and Mingyu’s laughter got buried deep in his neck. They broke apart for a moment, Minghao’s cheeks burning in delight.

Seungcheol had the microphone and began to deliver a small speech.

Mingyu’s hand found his again, and Minghao let his fingers tangle with Mingyu’s.

Mingyu leaned down to press his forehead against the side of Minghao’s head. “This thing is really paying off, huh?”

Minghao titled his head to the side, and he felt the same feeling as before—the trapped breath caught in his throat when he had looked at Seokmin. Mingyu’s eyes were shining. Minghao didn’t know what to make of it.

So he replied with a smile.

Chapter Text

They had to celebrate the little things, like waking up at 5 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. as they usually did during promotions. It was especially necessary to do so when the majority of them had to nurse their hangovers after a too celebratory dinner. It never got old when they won an award, and as always, they had to go out for food and drinks. Minghao, who typically only drank small sips out of Jun's offerings, could not help but knock down a few shots with the rest of the group. After all, they had an all-kill week.

 

In the morning, Minghao had a small migraine pushing against his temples, but he knew ibuprofen and two bottles of water could cure that no problem. He kicked off the covers, noting that the left side of the bed was empty.

 

Minghao's bare feet padded their way over to the bathroom. He pressed his ear against the door as he knocked, "You okay in there?"

 

He heard Mingyu retch into the toilet. Minghao snorted, clearly remembering Mingyu attempting to challenge their leader into a drinking game—and losing again. Jeonghan had come close to beating Seungcheol last night, but his motherly instincts had kicked in when he saw Seokmin passed out on one of the tables. Therefore, he put down the drink and went to care for Seokmin.

 

"Mingyu?" Minghao tried again. He didn't hear a response. "If you don't give me a signal you're alive, I'm going to call the coroner's to come to pick up a dead body."

 

"Over your dead body!" Mingyu cried out pathetically, before retching again.

 

"I'll come back later," decided Minghao.

 

He walked down the hallway, turned the corner past the living room, and entered the kitchen. He laughed as he saw Wonwoo's body sprawled on top of their kitchen table. By the counter, Minghao saw Jun humming happily while throwing things into a blender. Jun was a particular case of drunk. He was neither a lightweight nor a heavy drinker like Seungcheol, he was a happy medium, but no matter how much alcohol they poured down his throat, he never got a hampering hangover. Blessed face and genetics, Jun called it.

 

Minghao went to the fridge, pulling out two water bottles before hopping onto the counter by Jun. "That for Wonwoo and Mingyu?"

 

Jun nodded, throwing in some sriracha sauce, "Yeah, Jeonghan taught me his miracle cure." Minghao opened the water bottle and began chugging it, which was a mistake when he caught Jun emptying an unmarked black bottle into the blender. Minghao nearly choked, "That smells disgusting. Is that Drano?"

 

"I don't know. Jeonghan gave me this bottle and said to ask him when I run out. I don't know what it is."

 

"You're gonna feed them something that came from an unmarked bottle?"

 

Jun hummed. "Jeonghan's been feeding Seungcheol this for years."

 

Minghao wiped his mouth and proceeded to open the second water bottle, "Yeah, but Jeonghan's been trying to kill Seungcheol secretly for years too."

 

"Not a secret if everyone knows, Joshua on the other hand..."

 

"Those three are weird," Minghao sighed, now drinking the water again.

 

"They're in love," Jun grinned. He shut the cap on the blender and turned it on. Both of them turned to Wonwoo to see if he would wake up, but he didn't even twitch.

 

Minghao crushed both water bottles and threw them in the recycle bin under the sink, "I hope you made the drink right, we can't have those two go to the summer festival like that. But maybe that will teach them a lesson."

 

Jun snorted, and so did Minghao.

 

"Yeah, they never learn," Minghao said. "I'm going to go shower and kick Mingyu out of the bathroom."

 

"Don't be mean. Mingyu's throwing up."

 

"He can throw up in a trash can."

 

Minghao returned to the bathroom, not bothering to knock this time. He opened the door, saw Mingyu in his tattered pajama bottoms without a shirt, and wrapped around the toilet on the floor. Sympathy overrode Minghao's instincts.

 

"Let me die!" Mingyu cried out dramatically.

 

Minghao kneeled down and dragged Mingyu into a sitting position. "Aww, is the poor puppy sick?" Minghao cooed. He reached up and pulled on both of Mingyu's cheeks. Mingyu pouted, making Minghao fill the bathroom with laughter.

 

"Fuck off," Mingyu grunted, trying to bat his hands away.

 

"You're such a baby," Minghao said, standing. He grabbed a hand towel and ran it under the sink with cold water.

 

When he got back on his knees, Mingyu's eyes were drooping closed. Minghao slapped the wet towel onto Mingyu's face with a loud smack. Mingyu gasped loudly.

 

"You little—" Mingyu started but was cut off, as Minghao began to clean his mouth gently.

 

Mingyu's shoulders drooped away from his ears. 

 

Minghao, a bit characteristically like Jun, began to hum with a small smile on his face. Mingyu made no protest. He was excessively easy, and this was routine for them whenever Mingyu woke up with a hangover like this. He saw some crust by Mingyu's eyes, and he gently wiped it away, being as careful as he could.

 

"Do you feel better after emptying your stomach?" Minghao asked, standing up to run the cloth under the sink again.

 

He looked over his shoulder to see Mingyu nodding.

 

"Jun is making Jeonghan's special hangover cure. You'll feel better after it."

 

"The one with Tide?" Mingyu asked.

 

"I thought the smell was Drano?"

 

"No, that Joshua's special hangovers drink when Jeonghan's doesn't work."

 

"Joshua has a special hangover drink too? God, our hyungs are alcoholics."

 

Minghao walked over to the shower and hung the hand cloth on the rack to let it dry. He then went back to Mingyu and helped him to his feet. "Go to the kitchen and get some. Don't die drinking it, please."

 

"If only."

 

Minghao giggled, "I love seeing you hungover. Nasty Mingyu always comes out." Mingyu's face contorted like he was not impressed. It only made Minghao's smile even broader. "Wonwoo died on the kitchen table, by the way, Jun might need help moving him."

 

"Eh, Wonwoo can rot there."

 

Minghao shook his head in disbelief, "Go be moody in the kitchen; I need to shower."

 

He watched Mingyu exit the bathroom a little shaky on his long legs; it made Minghao giggle. He peeked down the hallway, just double checking Mingyu got safely to the kitchen, and when he was sure Mingyu wasn't going to crash into anything, he hopped into the shower.

 

He freshened up as much as he could and self-indulged in a more extended shower than usual. After several minutes, he returned to his room and saw Mingyu looking a lot better.

 

"Still an asshole?" Minghao asked, just to make sure.

 

"Hilarious Hao," Mingyu grimaced.

 

Minghao laughed, looking for a change of clothes as Mingyu left to shower as well.

 

When they finished getting ready, the four of them still had an hour to themselves before they would have to drive to the company and board the bus to the summer venue.

 

Mingyu and Minghao were chilling in their room while Jun hogged the television in the living room. It was one of his Chinese dramas that Minghao absolutely refused to get into. It was not as if he didn't like them, but each time he got into one, he would obsess over them more than Jun did, and that was bad for the whole household.

 

Both of them were lying on the bed, scrolling through their Twitter feed, when Mingyu received a call.

 

Minghao looked over at him.

 

"It's Jiyeon," Mingyu said.

 

Minghao sighed. He nearly forgot about her. It had been a few days since she last contacted them.

 

"Hello," Mingyu answered politely.

 

"Is Minghao there?" Jiyeon asked, ignoring his greeting.

 

"Yeah, he's right next to—"

 

"Great! Put me on speaker."

 

Mingyu did and sat up a bit, Minghao leaned on his elbows.

 

"So what's going on?" Mingyu asked hesitantly.

 

"I need you two to kiss today," She said calmly.

 

"What?" Mingyu hollered, choking on his spit.

 

"No way!" Minghao shouted at the same time. 

 

"Yes way," Jiyeon commented. "It's the natural next step."

 

Minghao mimicked her voice causing Mingyu to snort.

 

"Are we talking about a kiss kiss or like?" Mingyu questioned.

 

"Yes, kiss kiss, Mingyu."

 

Mingyu then tried his luck once more. "Can it be a cheek kiss?"

 

"Please let it be a cheek kiss," Minghao begged Jiyeon. "I'll even do it. Mingyu gives the wettest and grossest cheek kisses."

 

Mingyu snapped his head toward him in disbelief. Minghao shrugged.

 

"That's not what you said last night," Jiyeon stated. "You looked very fond of Mingyu's kisses."

 

"What are you talking about?" Minghao then questioned, sitting up.

 

"Hmmm, I knew you were drunk," Jiyeon sighed, "Check Mingyu's Instagram story."

 

Both their eyes opened wide. Minghao pulled up Mingyu's Instagram profile, and they both leaned in close to examine the damage.

 

Mingyu and Minghao were sitting side by side in the restaurant from last night. Both of their cheeks had a reddish glow, and Mingyu's eyes had that faraway look he usually had when he was drunk. Their heads were leaned in close together to fit into the picture frame, smiling like idiots. Mingyu kept chanting softly, "All kill. All kill."

 

The next story flipped again. It was a video of tipsy drunk Seungkwan having a rap battle with a completely sober Jisoo. Seokmin was there as well trying to rile up Seungkwan.

 

Finally, the next video flipped to him and Mingyu again, where Minghao was clearly on Mingyu's lap. Minghao sucked in a breath suddenly remembering everything from last night. Oh no. He knew exactly where this was going. Out of the video frame, he heard Jeonghan shout, "You should give him a celebratory kiss!"

 

And there it was. Mingyu gave a sleazy grin to the camera, planting a wet kiss on Minghao's cheek. Minghao's face scrunched, but there was a giggle escaping his mouth shortly after. 

 

Both of their cheeks turned red when the stories finished.

 

"You both finished watching it?" Jiyeon asked, startling them both. They had forgotten she was on the other side of the line.

 

"Uh huh," Mingyu said carefully.

 

"Thank god both of you are clingy drunks. I didn't even have to ask you to do anything," she said. "I also downloaded the story and sent it to a friend from Dispatch and AllKpop. Both of them have the video on their website with a link to your Instagram page and a link where they can digitally stream the album. The video caused a surge increase in not only your title song but also performance unit's song too."

 

"That's good?" Mingyu choked out again.

 

Minghao was still struggling to find his words. His mind was still stuck on last night, recalling how he ended up in that situation. Mingyu was halfway to challenging Seungcheol when Minghao noticed Mingyu nearly getting ready to topple forwards onto the table in defeat. Chan had half-heartedly suggested Minghao help his fake boyfriend out, and Minghao, past the point of tipsy but not quite drunk, decided to be a literal beam of support. He planted himself on Mingyu's lap, and Mingyu responded by wrapping his arms around Minghao's waist and leaning his weight on Minghao's back.

 

Minghao recalled Seungcheol saying it was cheating, in which Minghao pointed out he had his two boyfriends supporting him on either side. They reached a truce and continued the game.

At first, Minghao amusedly watched the game but quickly grew bored. He found Mingyu's phone poking his thigh. He had taken the phone out of his pocket, unlocked it, and had gone straight to Mingyu's Instagram.

 

He had intended to record Mingyu being an idiot, but once Mingyu saw the camera pointing their way, he had gone into full sleaze mode and planted the kiss.

 

He jumped back into reality when Mingyu asked, "Minghao, what do you think?"

 

He took a while to respond, but finally, "You know what I think."

 

"Minghao," Jiyeon whined. It didn't suit her. "I need you two to kiss. It doesn't have to be making out, just a cute peck when you guys arrive outside the stadium. There will be lots of fansites and paparazzi. Plus, two new fansites came up yesterday because of you two. Oh, and most importantly, our digital sales overall have shown an increase in eight percent because of this charade. I'm predicting that I can increase it by two more percent with this kiss."

 

Two percent didn't sound a lot, but in sales, it meant everything.

 

"We'll do it," Mingyu said.

 

"We will?"

 

"Great!" Jiyeon preened. "I'll know whether you two kissed or not, make it believable! Have a great day!"

 

She hung up on them.

 

For three seconds they were left with her name flashing on Mingyu's phone. When it returned to Mingyu's lock screen, Minghao glared at Mingyu.

 

"It's in our contracts," Mingyu plainly said before Minghao could even think of protesting. "I don't want to do this either, you know?"

 

Mingyu got up from the bed, and Minghao watched him like a cat as he paced back and forth. Minghao groaned and dragged himself to sit at the foot of the bed. He examined how Mingyu's shoulders were tightly pulled up toward his ears and how his hands were making clear clenching and unclenching motions.

 

Minghao waited until Mingyu passed by him, to poke at his thigh with a sock covered toe.

 

"Why are you freaking out?" Minghao asked him.

 

"I'm not freaking out."

 

"You are clearly freaking out."

 

"I'm just letting out energy. I'm excited about our performance later tonight," Mingyu tried to pace again, but Minghao trapped one of Mingyu's legs with both his feet, preventing him from moving.

 

"Mingyu."

 

"Okay! I'm freaking out!"

 

"You're the one who agreed to this."

 

"I know I did, don't remind me. It only hit me a second later what I agreed to!"

 

"We don't have to do it."

 

"It's in our contracts, Minghao!" Mingyu began to shout hysterically.

 

"We could fake it as you forced me into faking with Jungkook."

 

"Oh, man I forgot about that. Sorry."

 

"Apology accepted but action not forgotten. But, why are you freaking out? You've kissed for pretend before. You had a kissing scene in your drama."

 

"Yeah….um that took about forty takes to get it."

 

Minghao switched between feeling sympathy to wanting to burst into hysterics. He wanted to laugh aloud even more so when Mingyu muttered, "I just have a bad history of kissing."

 

Minghao rolled his eyes, understanding Mingyu's dilemma. "Everyone has a bad history when they kiss someone for the first time. I can't think of anyone who had a good first kiss."

 

Mingyu looked up at him expectantly, "Really?"

 

Minghao nodded slowly. "Yeah, my first kiss was terrible, and I'm pretty sure if you ask Jun or Wonwoo they'll agree with me. Although, Jihoon said he had a fucking fantastic first kiss, and frankly I think he's bullshitting."

 

Mingyu stood awkwardly in front of Minghao for a tense quarter of a minute. "What if we practice?" Mingyu questioned.

 

Minghao shoulders drooped. He didn't have to ask what Mingyu meant by practice. "You have got to be kidding me," Minghao replied.

 

"I don't have much experience with kissing, and they are going to expect us to be pretty comfortable doing it, and I don't think I'm comfortable with kissing anyone let alone you. So I think practice is important if we want to fool someone."

 

Minghao pressed the bridge of his nose against a knuckle. "Fine."

 

When Mingyu didn't move, Minghao patted the bed next to him. Mingyu sat awkwardly beside him. There was an unreasonable two feet distance between them.

 

"You know we can't kiss when you're all the way over there."

 

Mingyu's eyes were wide. When he didn't move, Minghao shook his head and decided to move. 

 

Minghao looked at Mingyu. He could do this. It was Mingyu and kissing meant nothing. He had done it several times before. It would be the same thing. "Okay, just show me where you are at with kissing."

 

Mingyu nodded frantically. Before Minghao could register anything, he found Mingyu suddenly in his space. Minghao sucked in a breath at the press of their lips. He shoved Mingyu away with two firm hands. "God! What the fuck Mingyu! You don't go in straight with tongue!"

 

Minghao made a show of wiping his mouth with his sleeve. "No wonder your kiss took forty takes. You probably traumatized the girl."

 

When he looked at Mingyu's reaction, all disgust fled from Minghao's body. Mingyu's face had dropped, and he had a small pout on his lips.

 

Minghao pressed a hand on Mingyu's shoulder. He felt like an asshole when Mingyu flinched at his touch. He didn't know why Mingyu was so touchy about this subject, but he knew that he felt like an insensitive idiot and he needed to apologize for his actions.

 

“I think," Minghao slowly said when he had Mingyu's attention. "We should wing the kissing. We don’t want it to seem staged. When it comes down to it, let me do all the work."

 

Mingyu still sported a sad pout. Minghao decided a different approach, "After all, I'm the master in kissing."

 

His over-confidence resulted in a chuckle from Mingyu. Finally, the laugh evolved into a giggle when Minghao joined. "It's not going to be bad. Trust me. I'm not a big fan that we have to do this, but I'm not going to half-ass it either. You got to trust me on this."

 

Mingyu hummed in agreement. He then released a huff of air. "I can't believe in a few hours we are going to be kissing in public."

 

"You're going to what?" Jun suddenly interrupted. Minghao's neck snapped to their doorway. Jun stood smirking in their open door. Wonwoo stood behind him, laughing like a hyena.

 

"Nothing," Mingyu and Minghao replied in tandem.

 

"It sounds like kissing," Jun teased.

 

"Jiyeon asked us to," Minghao brushed off the teasing by standing to his feet.

 

"Sure," Jun said, elongating the word.

 

Minghao rolled his eyes, shoving both of them to get through the doorway. "Shut up."

 

When Minghao was down the hallway, he shouted, "C'mon we have to get going now!"

 

>>> 

 

Green traffic signs and cars passed by the tour bus in a lulling repetitive movement. It calmed Minghao's nerves as the group traveled to the summer venue arena. The arena was host to the early summer festival, and Minghao always felt anxious for special events such as these.

 

He turned away from the mirror and to his phone, scrolling through his photo albums. He wasn't looking for anything in particular, but he was growing bored with the long drive.

 

According to the signs they passed by, they still had about another hour before they arrived.

 

His thumb clicked the button on the side of his phone turning it off and looking around the bus. Mingyu beside him was sleeping with his mouth hung open, and neck leaned uncomfortably backward on the seat.

 

On the pair of seats beside them, Seokmin and Vernon tapped idly on their phone while they played some puppy version of Neko Atsume. Their obsession with the game immediately appeared after Jihoon told them they couldn't buy a puppy for the dorms. Minghao watched their screen for a moment before a lingering presence above him made him look away.

 

He turned to the seat in front of him where Jun was sitting back and leaning his chin against the head of the chair.

 

Minghao patiently asked, "What are you staring at?"

 

"You two," Jun smiled. "I don't want to miss it."

 

Minghao sat up straight and looked calculatingly around the tour bus. They hadn't told anyone other than Jun or Wonwoo that they would be kissing today, and he refused to make a big deal of the situation.

 

"Were you two practicing in your room?" Jun whispered, pressing his stomach now against the seat in attempts to get closer to Minghao. "Wonwoo and I heard you were shouting something about tongue, so we went to check up on you two."

 

Minghao turned in the direction of the window, cheeks heating his skin. "No," Minghao immediately denied.

 

Jun giggled, "So cute!"

 

Minghao leaned back into his seat, digging around the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out his headphones and plugged them into his phone, "I'm going to ignore you now, okay?"

 

Jun pouted but fell back into his seat with a dull thunk. He heard Jihoon, sitting beside Jun, wake up with a start. Minghao rolled his eyes at Jun's immediate apology and his shushing, trying to coax Jihoon back to sleep.

 

The last thing he heard was Jihoon knocking Jun's hands away before Minghao played some music.

 

Minghao's eyes flew open when someone tapped his shoulder. He whined as he saw Jeonghan above him, waking him and Mingyu.

 

"We just arrived, you have about five minutes to wake up fully. Okay?" Jeonghan said, watching as the staff left the bus first to start their setup.

 

Minghao stretched his arms overhead, softly giggling as Mingyu made a fuss.

 

"You're such a baby," Minghao cooed, dropping his arms.

 

Mingyu stretched next but to the side, knocking Minghao in the chest. Minghao tried to trap his arm, but Mingyu scrambled from his grasp. It then became an impromptu game of Minghao trying to snatch Mingyu's arm all while Mingyu pretended to bite his hands and neck. Minghao couldn't even take the game seriously because he was struggling to catch his breath with his uncontrollable laughter. Mingyu didn't seem any better, but their game came to an end when one of their managers called the attention of the entire bus.

 

Their manager informed them that they would spend about seven minutes on the walkway for photos in which promptly after they needed to head over to rehearsal.

 

Everyone nodded in understanding. The members got to their feet and slowly trickled down the small walkway. Minghao somehow ended up sandwiched between Jun and Chan when they exited the bus; however, he quickly found Mingyu. Both of them reached out for each other, linking hands—the action soon becoming familiar.

 

Security guided them in the direction of the walkway outside the venue. The fans, who had been waiting all night, saw them and immediately began to scream. Minghao saw a few familiar faces from their fansites. He waved at them, distracted for a moment with the thrill of the cameras.

 

He didn’t remember the task ahead until he felt Mingyu let go of his hand and pull on the sleeve of his jacket. Minghao faced him curiously.

 

“How are we making this look natural?” Mingyu asked, hunching a bit to whisper in his ear.

 

“By not sticking your tongue down my throat,” Minghao replied immediately.

 

Mingyu’s brows lowered, and a creased appeared between them. Minghao reached up and poked him on the furrowed part of his skin. “Hey, are you still eating your protein bars?” Minghao questioned. His change of conversation resulted in Mingyu’s face twisting in confusion.

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

“Cause I think I’m constipated.”

 

Mingyu looked at him indecorously, as if he couldn’t believe he just said that aloud. Then a second later, he broke out into giggles. Minghao took that moment to lean in and press a kiss to Mingyu’s mouth. Mingyu froze against him, but Minghao reached out for his hand so he wouldn’t pull back.

 

Like Minghao planned, the kiss didn’t last longer than four seconds. He pulled back slowly to gauge Mingyu’s reaction. He was pleased to see him still giggling like an idiot. Suddenly, Minghao felt someone tug him backward. He landed into Jun’s arms. The other cooed at him, muttering stupid things like how cute they looked.

 

The others—thankfully—reacted quickly. Some of them were gushing like Jun, but the majority of them had looks of exasperation, telling them not to do such things in public. Wonwoo complained loud enough that he got plenty of that stuff in the dorms.

 

All of it made Minghao laugh loudly—even though the entire situation was a scam. He caught eyes with Mingyu over Jun’s shoulder, and both of them smiled.

 

The rest of the time on the walkway passed by quickly. Seventeen finally made it inside the venue, and all cheer left them replaced only with determination with the reminder they had a show later that night. They all quickly hurried for rehearsals just getting a few minutes to prepare their showcase before they would have to go get ready and then do one final dress rehearsal.

 

>>> 

 

The members sat together once more on the tour bus. Minghao’s body felt heavy, and all he wanted was to sleep. He sat slumped in the same seat as from before next to Mingyu. His eyes were drooping closed when Minghao suddenly felt pressure against his lips. Sleepiness made him part his lips instinctively, fitting his lips more comfortably against the other. It took him a few seconds to realize Mingyu was kissing him and by the time he realized it, Mingyu was already pulling away.

 

Minghao sat up sleepily to give Mingyu a curious stare.

 

“You deserved a better kiss,” Mingyu said, trying to appear nonchalant. Mingyu leaned back in his seat and shut his eyes.

 

Minghao stared at him for a while, his cheeks heating. He didn’t know how to react. So he didn’t. He mimicked Mingyu’s movements and sat back on his own chair, shutting his eyes.