He’s is in the middle of filming NCT life in Seoul when it first happens. It’s late, he and Winwin are sandwiching Yuta between them on the flimsy mat meant for two. They’ve been left in a traditional guest house for the night and although Taeyong appreciates the authenticity, his back hurts from where the panelled floor is digging into his skin through the thin sleeping mat he was handed on his way in and he really wishes he was back in the dorm now with the rest of nct. The lights have been off for around an hour now and Taeyong’s pretty sure Yuta is asleep but Winwin is whispering something to himself, voice hushed and gravelly in the silence of the room. Taeyong would find it cute if he wasn’t super tired and suffering from a banging headache.
It had begun earlier this morning. He and his five companions had been saying goodbye to the rest of their bandmates at the entrance of the SM building, joking about about going off to war and not coming back. Taeyong remembers moving to stand by the van and watching Jaehyun flick Ten playfully in the forehead. A prick of pain had settled in the middle of his own forehead, like it had been him that was flicked and then, throughout the day, it had spread and developed into a full blown migraine.
“Winwin,” he whispers but the hushed voice of his dongsaeng doesn’t stop and Taeyong doesn’t get a reply. When Winwin whispers something in Chinese about Kun, Taeyong assumes he’s sleep talking and decides he’ll have to deal with it before sighing and turning over onto his back. He listens to the huge, wooden clock on the wall tick, counts the beats in between. He mind wanders and he finds himself thinking about the person who decided every human would be slave to the complete illusion that is time, who was it that decided their lives spent on earth were going to be completely ruled over by seconds and minutes and hours, trying to outrun it. To some extent, Taeyong envies whoever did it because even though they are no doubt long dead, they still have the world very much in their clutches. Eventually, he falls asleep to the rhythmic ticking.
Ticking, muffled - like someone’s thrown a heavy coat over a clock. Taeyong’s head lolls to the side and he jolts it upwards when it hits his shoulder. The light around him is a dim blue and hazy with smoke. Through the window, he sees large blue bulbs, so close that he can feel the heat on him. It’s a minute later that he realises what he can see through is not a window, he’s in a box. A huge, glass box. Taeyong blinks slowly, brain feeling somewhat detached. He feels like he’s in a zoo, like any second an overexcited child is going to pull his tired looking mother over to gawk at him. He gets to his feet impossibly slowly and begins to assess the situation. The part of Taeyong that is conscious and still in its right mind wonders ‘how did I get in this box?’ ‘who put me here?’ but all present Taeyong has the energy to wonder is ‘how do i get out?’. The box is still hazy, but getting less so and he has a hunch that things are about to get startlingly clearer.
The smoke fades and the blue lights dim some, giving Taeyong the perfect view of what surrounds him. He’s in a large room and he’s struck for a second by the sheer beauty of it. Everything is golden, from the floor to the ceiling. It’s something like a cathedral, the ceiling stretches up into a dome, a huge diamond-strung chandelier floating underneath. There’s a walkway, straight through the middle and lined with thick red cloth. Underneath the chandelier, it branches off three times, a path to the left, a path to the right and one straight ahead. The only one fully visible to Taeyong is the path straight ahead but the building is so murky, he can see only maybe ten metres in front of him. Suddenly, as if it had just appeared, another glass box comes into view. It’s identical as his own except inside of it, looking as confused as Taeyong, is a boy. The boxes look startlingly out of place in the extravagantness of the building they’re inside. The boy is facing away from him but even from the back, it’s obvious to Taeyong that it’s Ten. Questions immediately make their way to the forefront of his mind, pressing forward to be answered and he becomes distressed when he realises he can’t - he can’t answer them. Opposite him, Ten is standing up and gazing around, placing his hands against his own glass confinements, as if pushing against it will magically make it give. Taeyong finds his own hands lifting on their own accord and things aren’t moving so slowly anymore, he feels his mind finally clearing up. In the back of his mind, alarm bells are going off. His mind is shaking off its sleep and he’s realising that this isn’t right at all. He smacks both hands against the glass and calls for Ten. He’s not frantic yet, still has a grasp on at least a shred of his common sense. It’s a bit of a lost cause, considering Ten is ten metres away and they’re separated by two layers of glass but, miraculously, Ten turns around as if sensing him calling for him. Relief floods onto his friend’s face as he registers Taeyong and Ten, too, places his hands against the glass, mouthing something that Taeyong thinks is ‘what’s going on?’. He’s never been the best lip reader. Taeyong shrugs his shoulders and is about to mouth something back when Ten’s head jerks downwards to his feet. The boy looks back up at Taeyong, fear clear in his eyes.
Taeyong jolts forward, fear spiking in his chest and slowly spreading. He shouts at Ten to tell him what’s wrong, hands pressing more persistently at the glass and then he sees it. Water is filling up Ten’s tank, coming slow and teasing. It’s licking at the jut of his ankles now but Taeyong knows it’ll rise further soon if neither of them do anything. Ten is mouthing something, frantic and a dull sort of ache blossoms in Taeyong’s heart at the sight of it, and he doesn’t think to find it strange that seeing ten hurt physically hurts him, too. Ten’s beating at the glass with his hands, trying to crack it with his shoulder but his attempts come up fruitless and he instead turns to Taeyong, eyes wide and pleasing and Taeyong realises that Ten is counting on him now. A tiny part of him is warmed at the thought that Ten trusts him enough to put his life in the fragile shake of Taeyong’s hand but most of him is burdened, one terrifying sentence pounding around his skull, what if I can’t save him?
All he can hear is his own breath, harsh and loud in the confined environment of the box. He begins shoving against the glass with his shoulder, not unlike the way Ten did and it doesn’t even make a single hairline crack. He tries another couple of times, takes a few deep breaths and then leans back, placing two hands on the glass surrounding him. The water is reaching the middle of Ten’s thigh now and they don’t have long before he’ll have to swim. Taeyong brings a foot up and, with all the strength he can muster, smashes it into the glass. Finally, a crack forms and Taeyong almost shouts in relief. He lifts his leg again and readies himself for another kick, ignoring the way it jolts his leg around uncomfortably. It takes three more tries for him to be flying through the glass and onto the red carpet. Clouds of dust plume from where he lands but he fails to register the pain of glass slicing his skin open and pushes himself up quicker than Taeyong thought he could ever move. The water is up to Ten’s waist now and swirling against his navel. A tear escapes his eye and rolls down his cheek - Taeyong’s fingers itch to wipe it away. He runs around Ten’s box, eyes searching everywhere to find the source of the water so he can turn it off and get Ten out of there. A hand- Ten’s hand- presses against the glass suddenly, the water muffling the sound of it. Ten is shaking his head, bottom lip quaking and eyes glassy. This is the wrong time for Taeyong to think he’s handsome.
He knows what Ten is trying to tell him, that there is no source for the water but he continues looking anyway, breathing getting faster and faster and whilst he’s running his hands over the whole container, he decides that he’s have to smash it. He tries the shoulder technique, tries the foot thing, hell, he even looks around the whole room to see if there’s anything he could smash it with. It’s up to Ten’s neck now, and Taeyong can’t even breathe, the fear rushing over him in sickly waves and knotting a string around his neck, tugging. Ten doesn’t thrash, doesn’t even try to save himself and Taeyong finds himself crying out, screaming Ten’s name until his throat is raw, screaming for help, for anything. The grief and the fear and the sadness hits him like a pane of glass, shards scratching at the softness of his skin. Ten can’t breathe anymore, the water having filled the tank to the brim and a part of him knows it’s too late, knows that he can’t save him but he’s still beating his fits against the glass, crying out against the unfairness of the world. The water in the tank is a little too blue to be just water and the conscious part of Taeyong reminds him that this is a dream, that none of this is real. Dream taeyong, however, doesn’t seem to get the message and is still shouting for help, screaming until he can’t anymore. No one comes, no one is coming. Ten presses a hand to the glass again and Taeyong presses his back, so it’s like they’re touching, and it’s so real Taeyong can feel the heat of Ten’s hands through the glass. The weight in Taeyong’s chest is so heavy that he feels like he might fall, let it crush him against this god forsaken tank. He never thought he’d have to watch one of his best friends die. Ten is so tragically beautiful like this and Taeyong cannot understand how the world could kill a boy like this, soft and harmless and good, kind. His adams apple juts outwards from the smooth column of his throat and his jawline casts a shadow against his neck from where his head is thrown back. His face is soft and still, open and reminds Taeyong of silk, of gold and gossamer and the veins of rose petals. His cheeks are still a little rosy, and his eyelashes against the pale of his eyelids look ethereal. Ten’s hand slips from the glass. As he dies, his hair floats around his head like a black halo. If Taeyong was Apollo, then Ten would be Icarus.
Taeyong is shaken awake roughly. When he opens his eyes, it is not with a gasp or a jolt, he just snaps out of the dream and opens them. His heart is still pounding, however, when he registers that all five of the other members are leaning over him, looks ranging from confused to worried on each of their faces.
“Hello?” Taeyong says questioningly, voice hoarse from underuse and perhaps all of the screaming he’d been doing.
“Hello,” Yuta says back but it’s not with his usual cheer and happiness and this is when Taeyong notices it’s still dark out. He sits up, body a little stiff from the floor.
“Why are you all here? It’s still late isn’t it?”
Kun and Winwin exchange worried looks. Slowly, the dream leaks back to him in parts and the image of Ten, suspended in the water brings another wave of panic against his body. He feels the urge to see him, to touch him just to make sure he’s okay. His forehead is covered in a film of sweat.
“Uh, yeah,” Jaehyun murmurs, “I, uh, got a call from Mark so i woke up and I heard you kind of…mumbling? Yeah, mumbling. When I came in, you were thrashing around and then you, um, you started screaming.”
Taeyong feels his cheeks colour but the urgency to see Ten dies down a little bit. The knowledge that the others saw him sleeping solidifies the fact that everything that had happened was simply just a dream.
“Yeah,” he rubs a hand over his face, “Yeah, I’m sorry it was a nightmare.”
“About Ten-hyung?” Winwin perks up, looking strangely apprehensive about Taeyong’s answer.
“…yes?” How did they know? Was he shouting his name?
Taeyong shifts in his bed as Doyoung’s eyebrows furrow.
“Why?” he presses
Jaehyun’s eyes are strangely wide and Taeyong is beginning to get impatient.
“What’s wrong with you all? and why was Mark calling you if it’s as late as I think it is?”
Kun scratches at the back of is his head.
“That’s the thing,” Jaehyun says, “Mark called me because Ten started screaming in his sleep and woke the whole dorm up.”
It’s Taeyong’s turn to furrow his brows.
“Why?” he asks and he realises only then that Jaehyun is brandishing a phone.
“Are they still on the call?”
“Yes,” Mark’s voice, slightly crackly from the speakers, comes through on speaker phone.
Taeyong looks around the room for a second, eyes flitting over his bandmates before he reaches for the phone, turns it off speaker and asks Mark if he can talk to Ten. Mark agrees quietly and all Taeyong can hear for a few seconds is rustling before he can hear the sounds of sharp breaths.
“Hyung?” Ten’s voice filters, tear stricken, through the speaker and Taeyong swings his legs around so they’re planted on the floor. His heart has started pounding again.
“Are you okay?”
His voice, even to his own ears, sounds strained. Ten’s breath hitches as he inhales.
“I… yeah, I’m fine, I just had a dream.”
“What was it about?” Taeyong asks and, somehow, he knows but he needs to have it confirmed.
“I…” Ten begins and his voice is so weak and tiny. Taeyong can imagine his bony fingers rubbing over his face as he tries to sift through his thoughts.
“We were in the glass boxes we were in for the 7th sense, right, and we were trapped, or at least I was and, and like mine just started… like filling with water. And there was no way out and you couldn’t save me and I was,”
“Drowning,” Taeyong interrupts and Ten makes a confused little sound on the other end of the line. Taeyong puts the phone back on speaker, puts it on the bed and begins pacing. Ten is silent on the other end of the line.
“You were drowning. You put your hand on the glass, right?” Taeyong asks him and Ten’s voice is small when he says yes, “And I was shouting right? I put my hand there too?”
“What the fuck is going on?” Ten stutters out and his voice is getting stronger, “Is this a joke, Taeyong? How do you know?”
In the corner, Kun is talking rapid fire Chinese to Sicheng, probably translating, with an arm around his shoulder. Doyoung wraps a hand around Taeyong’s wrist to stop him pacing.
“Breathe,” is the first thing he says and Taeyong tries to quell the heaving of his chest. Doyoung speaks loud enough so that Ten and possibly Mark can still hear.
“How do you know what Ten dreamed?” he asks, eyes boring into Taeyong. Said boy’s fingers drum against his trousers, restless.
“Because I dreamed it too.”
Doyoung drops his wrist. His eyes dart around for a second and Taeyong can see his brain trying to work out what’s happening. The rational part of them knows that this can’t be happening.
“Very funny,” he says and then he spins around, “where are the cameras, then?”
When no one stirs, he laughs but there’s an edge to it, as if he’s afraid.
“C’mon! Out you come, directors.”
The house stays silent and Doyoung’s smile drops.
“Seriously?” he asks Taeyong.
“We need to go home,” he says, “Wake the staff. We need to go home.”
“Ten,” he says, picking up the phone, “Please hold on, I’m coming to you.”
Their manager is groggy when they first wake him up but as soon as he hears Taeyong’s story, he is dragging jeans over his sleep shorts and telling Taeyong to grab anything he might need urgently before ushering him into the car. He tells the other kids to keep on filming. All of them stumble after him, wide eyed and dazed, throwing different questions out there but all the man does is place a heavy hand on Taeyong’s shoulder and says ‘say goodbye, Taeyong. We need to get Ten’.
“Get him?” Taeyong replies, “Where would we go after that?”
Manager is already in the car as he hugs all of his bandmates goodbye. Each one whispers something along the lines of ‘good luck’ and Jaehyun requests Taeyong keeps him updated, to which Taeyong just nods and stumbles into the car. He stares at the same spot on the dashboard the whole way there and all that runs through his head, despite the chaos occurring, is ‘I hope Ten’s hanging on’.
Before the car has even fully stopped, Taeyong undoes his seatbelt and bolts out, neglecting to even shut the door behind him. He flings the door to the apartment complex open so hard it collides against the wall behind and dents, failing to notice the sleek black car parked further down the road. He takes two steps at a time until he reaches their front door. He left his own key to the apartment behind before going to filming so had to settle on knocking impatiently, foot tapping a mile a minute against the tiled floor. A dizzy sense of déjà vu overtakes him as his actions in his dream was over him, for a second, reality altered around him and he was back in the box, watching Ten helplessly. As he runs a shaking hand through his hair, the door swings open and Taeyong does a double take.
“Who are you?” he asks, disregarding the fact that it might seem rude.
The man in front of him is tall and smartly dressed in a crisp looking suit. He’s maybe Taeyong’s age or a little older and handsome - if he didn’t know better, he would have thought he was in the kpop business himslef. The man blinks down at him.
“Where’s Ten?” he asks instead and this makes the man react. He steps away from the door and allows Taeyong to enter. If he wasn’t in such a state, Taeyong would have been angry at the man for having the cheek to give him access to his own home. Instead though, Taeyong doesn’t spare him a glance as he rushes in. He expects all of the members to be awake, sitting in the living room with all the lights on, awaiting his arrival and possible explanation but all he gets instead is one dim lamp flicked on in the living room, another man in a suit standing by the window and the back of a dark head of hair. All the breath leaves Taeyong’s body. He’s so glad to see Ten that he could cry.
“Ten,” he breathes and the boys head whips around so fast Taeyong worries for his neck. He’ll never forget the look on Ten’s face when he set his eyes on him. It’s a mosaic of emotions, each one a different stage of beauty, of realisation. He is frightened, that’s maybe the most obvious emotion, but he’s also glad to see Taeyong, he’s relieved that he’s not going through this alone but confused as to how this happened - vice versa for Taeyong, if he’s honest.
Ten stands slowly and begins walking towards him, only to stop a few steps away. Taeyong keeps his mouth closed, has a feeling that Ten is figuring something out from the way his eyes skitter over Taeyong, as if trying to gauge something. It’s not awkward, even if Taeyong feels like he’s being cross examined. Ten gradually gets closer, taking tiny steps towards him without so much of taking his eyes off of Taeyong once. Questions whirl around the elder’s mind, so many that he has trouble grasping onto them and the only thing keeping him holding on now is Ten, looking small and soft in his sleep shorts and a white t-shirt . Taeyong can see the man in the corner watching them intently but, for now, he has eyes only for Ten. Said boy cautiously reaches a hand out and Taeyong meets him halfway with his own, if only to make sure that he’s real. It’s strange, when their hands touch. For the briefest moment, Taeyong feels like he’s flying and then suddenly, blurs of colour fill his mind.
A green field, bright against the black of a young boy’s hair as he lies with another boy. An old woman’s face, smiling, squeezing the same boy’s cheek. A hand against his lower back, the saltiness of sweat on his tongue, a satisfying ache in his bones, the deep thrum of bass rattling his very heart. Memories. These memories are not his.
Both Taeyong and Ten pull their hands back like they’ve been burnt, confusion settling against Taeyong’s chest. Ten, his face usually so relaxed and carefree, is tense, his shoulders tight. He doesn’t need to ask to know Ten experienced the same thing.
“What’s going on?” the other boy asks, turning to the two men who have regrouped a couple of metres. The one that had let Taeyong in grimaces.
“I think you’d better sit down,” he says.
“Wait,” Ten interrupts, “Taeyong and I, how do we touch without seeing…that?”
Taeyong is strangely touched that out of all the questions Ten could have asked, he asks that one.
“For now, just don’t hold hands. You will be able to in the future, but just don’t right now. Unless the connection is especially strong, you can touch anywhere else.”
Ten nods determinedly before closing the space between them. Just before they touch, however, Ten stops and instead opens his arms a little. He doesn’t just hug Taeyong like he usually would, he waits for him, like he’s asking for permission. Taeyong finds it preposterous that Ten thinks there would ever be a time when Taeyong wouldn’t want to hug Ten. There’s always been something so comforting about feeling the younger boy’s arms around his shoulders, like coming home after a long day. Taeyong breathes out and takes the last few strides over to Ten, quickly gathering him into his arms. Even through clothes, when they touch each other, strange fizzles of electricity prick at Taeyong’s fingertips but he ignores it in favour of rocking Ten side to side, burying his face against the soft skin of his neck. The boy is shaking in his arms, his head buried in his shoulder and Taeyong wants nothing more than to protect him from anything and everything that could be a threat to him. Instead, he closes his eyes and whispers ‘it’s okay’ into Ten’s shoulder before pulling away and tugging him to sit on the sofa, arms still wrapped around his middle. They sit so their legs and arms and shoulders are pressed together and as soon as he sinks into the familiar cushions, fatigue sets in, but is quickly overridden by the sheer desire to get to the bottom of what’s occurring with him and Ten. Never on this earth had Taeyong ever even heard about anything like this and everything had happened so fast. To think that maybe five hours ago, he was sighing about Winwin talking in his sleep. One of the strange men in his living room steps forward and places his hands on his hips.
“There’s no easy way to say this,” he begins, “so we’re going to answer your most urgent questions before we fill you in on everything else so you can listen better afterwards.”
He meets eyes with Taeyong and then Ten.
Taeyong places a hand on Ten’s knee to let him know that he wants to go first and Ten jolts underneath him. The sight of it half excites him, half upsets him. There’s a million questions he wants to ask now but he can only really grasp the one most obvious one.
“This…what is this? The whole, we can see into each other’s mind thing?”
The two men share a look and they seem to make an unspoken decision as to who will speak. It’s a little eery.
“In Plato’s Symposium, when the two main characters discuss love, Aristophanes tells Socrates that human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two faces, and they were happy and complete. But Zeus was jealous of the happiness and love they held and split them in two with his thunderbolt. Now, even though this is just a story and probably sounds like complete bullshit to you, we have reason to believe that at least part of this rings true. In fact we have scientific proof that at least part of this is true. We’re not sure if Zeus really got jealous or even if it had anything to do with Greek Gods - it could be evolution for all we know. But whatever it is, we believe that Plato had the idea right. We have reason to believe people literally do have other halves. That’s what we’ve been researching all of our lives and that’s what… that’s what we think you two are.”
Taeyong splutters indignantly. He and Ten, other halves? There’s a million different emotions he wants to express right now - confusion, mostly. The term ‘other half’ always comes with hidden connotations. He and Ten, as stereotypical ‘other halves’, would have to be in love, wouldn’t they? A small, hidden part of him tells him yes, and grows warm at the thought of it. All the stories he’s ever heard about this kind of thing have said what they’re describing is the person you’re destined to be with for the rest of your life, the person you’re destined to love for the rest of your life.Taeyong can’t lie and say he’s never considered his feelings for Ten being different than the ones he harbours for the other boys but he’s always crushed that down to the very bottom of his mind because you can’t be a boy and date another boy in this kind of business and Ten would never in a million years return his feelings.
“Are you saying we’re soulmates?” Ten asks and his voice sounds part hopeful and part resenting. Taeyong’s chest jumps at the word ‘soulmate’.
“Another word for it, I suppose,” the man says and warmth blossoms in his chest but it feels somewhat detached, as if it’s someone else’s feeling but only in his body. “You and this boy, you were born to be together. It doesn’t matter in what way, doesn’t matter if you’re friends or enemies or lovers but we’re completely, irrevocably positive that somewhere in the makings of the universe, there’s a line that says ‘put these two together’. Whether from Zeus, or an explosion or a dying star, you are half of the same soul.”
“The same soul?” Ten asks disbelievingly, voice shaky, “I’m finding this… hard to believe.”
The man shrugs.
“You don’t have to believe it. It will happen anyway. Anything else?”
“This Symposium you talked about. You said Zeus was jealous of all human beings. If so, why hasn’t this happened to everyone. Do only some people have ‘soulmates’?”
“Good question. As I said before, though, we don’t trust Plato’s sources one hundred percent, we just believe he had his basis of facts right.”
There’s a moment of silence, as if the men are letting the information sink in. Taeyong doesn’t think it’ll ever sink in.
“So…” Taeyong begins cautiously, “what does this mean for us?”
“Well, what happens to your relationship is completely up to you. Usually, after people find out that they’re soulmates, the relationship changes into something romantic but my colleague here and I, are soulmates and we both have wives.”
Again, a jolt in Taeyong’s chest but, again, it doesn’t belong to him.
“Usually, if the relationship doesn’t become romantic, they become known to us as ‘split aparts’”
“And who is us exactly?”
The two men share a look and something passes between them.
“We’re a special branch of the government. We find potential soulmates and monitor them, hence how we found you so quickly. We also, if they consent, train them up to become part of the Korean national services. The soulmate connections can prove very handy for things like that.”
Ten and Taeyong share a look. It burns.
“What does… what will this soulmate business entail? Like, are there side effects?”
“As you’ve already experienced, you and your soulmate can either see each other’s dreams or dream together, always. That is a side effect that won’t stop. You can also access your soulmate’s memories, as you’ve already seen, but this can be controlled. Hands are a thin barrier between you, so whenever you touch there, some memories will leak through the barrier. If you come with us, we’ll teach you how to control when you want to see each other’s memories and select which memories you want your soulmate to see. Right now, though, you have to be cautious. If you choose to touch hands, you can’t control which memories your soulmate will receive. You can also register your soulmate’s pain. It’s like a human voodoo doll really, another one of the important secret service parts. We can teach you how to track each other as well, if you need to. You’ll be able to sense each other’s whereabouts and after a little bit of training, some of the best guys can see through each other’s eyes. We usually don’t have to do that for people that don’t choose to go into the SS. You can also speak telepathically, which is super cool but also kind of creepy at the same time?”
The two men share a laugh and it’s only now that Taeyong really realises just how close they were. He knew, obviously, that there was something weird with how in tune with each other they were but couldn’t put his finger on it. He knows, now and he can’t help but wonder if this is how he and Ten will end up, leading separate lives but always being part of each other. Just the thought of it gives him a sour feeling in the pit of his stomach and Ten glances at him worriedly. Can he feel it?
“That’s… wow, really, wow” Ten says, for lack of better words.
“The dream thing,” Taeyong begins, “We’re still…uh, growing. Will our dreams always be with each other?”
One of the men offers a sympathetic smile whilst Ten looks away, blushing a pretty pink. Taeyong feels the heat of it on his cheeks.
“I can literally feel him blushing on my own face. What is with that?”
“Part of the deal, I’m afraid. You can feel each other’s bodies, too.”
Ten blushes harder and Taeyong can’t help but admire the way the colour looks on him.
“If we were born to be together,” Ten begins and both men turn to look at him, spookily in sink, “Then why are we only just getting all the side effects?”
“Because it takes a lot of energy and mental power to actually stir the connection. When you were kids, you weren’t strong enough to feel it and because you didn’t even know each other, it was too far away. For some, the connection can lie dormant for a long long time. Sometimes there’s a trigger, sometime’s there’s not.”
Both Taeyong and Ten nod. Taeyong bites the inside of his cheek and Ten brings his hand up to press against his own. It’s a hell of a lot to take in and Taeyong can’t stop fidgeting, jogging his leg up and down as he attempts to process the information.
“I can’t even believe this,” he murmurs.
One of the men - Chanyeol - Taeyong learns later, crouches down next to him and pats his arm.
“It’s a lot to take in, I know. You and Ten are going to have to accompany us to our headquarters for a couple of days, just so we can give you the correct training.”
“What if this is all, like, a hoax to get us to come with you so you can murder us?” Ten asks and Taeyong is grateful that he’s always there to lighten the mood.
“Is that what it feels like?” he asks and Taeyong is silenced, “Baekhyun’s clearing it with your manager now. Do you want to go pack or do you need some time?”
Taeyong can feel Ten’s eyes on him. He wants them to ‘go pack’.
“We’ll pack,” he says and Chanyeol nods like he knows exactly what they’re going to be doing.
They both stand. It’s like Taeyong’s in a trance. He doesn’t want to believe this, doesn’t want to think about what this could mean for the band, or he and Ten, or even him in general but he knows, unexplainably, that these men are telling the truth. Taeyong settles a hand against Ten’s lower back to push him along and Ten only jolts slightly this time. He smiles, albeit weakly, and he’s has never ever been so grateful for that smile.
“It tickles,” he says and Taeyong laughs.
“Yeah,” he agrees, “It kinda does.”
Ten shuts the door behind them when they enter their shared room.
“Where are the kids?” Taeyong asks and he can feel Ten’s exasperation from the fact that, even though Taeyong could have said anything about their situation, he asked where the other’s were.
“With the staff. I thought when those guys arrived, that if we were going to get hurt or something, they shouldn’t have to watch.”
Taeyong’s heart skips at the thought of Ten getting hurt and he prays Ten doesn’t notice but it’s easy to tell he does. He looks up at him, slanted eyes wide and still marginally confused.
“This is crazy,” he breathes and Taeyong flops onto his bed.
“I know,” he agrees, yawning, “I haven’t even begun to process any of this yet. I’ll freak out tomorrow.”
Ten pulls out one of their suitcases and starts shoving his and Taeyong’s necessities into it.
“Probably same. I just want to say, though, Like, what the actual fucking hell is fucking going on seriously what the shitting fuck someone just fucking tell me i can literally fucking read your mind I went to sleep thinking about how I wanted to be filming for NCT life and now i have myself a not-really-fucking-soulmate who I’m probably going to have weird dreams about like what the fuck Taeyong are we going to join the secret service? Are we going to become spies?”
Ten quickly reverts into talking rapidly in Thai and he’s freaking out and it’s part freaking Taeyong out, part making him want to laugh. He can tell that for, at least most of the time, he’s going to be the calm one in this pair. Taeyong, without even lifting his head, reaches a hand out, grabs Ten around the waist and pulls him down so they’re lying together on the bed. Ten makes a surprised noise but otherwise relaxes next to him, eyes staring blankly up at the ceiling. There’s a space between them and Taeyong reaches his hand out into the middle, waiting to see if Ten will take his back. This is a big thing, sharing memories, but Taeyong thinks that maybe if Ten realises Taeyong trusts him with something as dear as his memories, then he’ll calm down slightly and realise that the two of them are in this together. Ten reaches out into the gap and Taeyong feels the rough drag of his palm against his own before he’s somewhere else.
Soft lips on his, warm hands in his hair, skitting across his collarbones. The person in front of him has freckles, beautiful ones that cover his whole face and run down his neck. The person has big, strong hands that cup his cheeks ever so gently. A hitching chest, vision white, hands twisted into sheets. A pang of jealousy hits Taeyong in the stomach. The boy and Ten, they’re crying. It hurts Taeyong. They’ve been caught, somehow.
Taeyong lets go first. He feels like that wasn’t something Ten would have wanted him to see. His soulmate is looking at him closely, his breathing a little faster than usual.
“What did you see?” Taeyong asks curiously.
“You, mostly. Dancing. Rapping. You and… I saw you and Winwin, in the practice rooms.”
Taeyong sits up, fast. His vision spins before settling on Ten, still lying back against the bed. He doesn’t really know how to approach this. He knows, to some extent, how Ten is feeling. Taeyong, when seeing those memories of Ten with someone else came to the front of his mind, felt wrong in some way. Seeing Ten under someone, someone other than Taeyong, left a bitter taste in his mouth. Was this just the soulmate thing talking?
“Oh,” Taeyong says eloquently, “How much?”
Taeyong feels something red hot and liquid trickle through Ten’s mind. Jealousy.
“All of it, I think, unless you actually slept together?”
Ten’s voice is bitter and suddenly Taeyong feels ashamed. He knows he shouldn’t, but Ten fixes him with a sort of look. He shakes his head timidly.
“I’m. Sorry,” he mutters quietly because he has nothing else to say.
“Why are you sorry?” Ten snaps and Taeyong is quick to snap back.
“Because you’re jealous and I can tell.” He can’t help but ask. “Why are you jealous, Ten?”
The other boy turns away from him, shoulders rising.
“Maybe I should ask you what you saw in my memories that made you jealous then should I? I can tell, hyung, I can feel it.”
As much as he doesn’t want to answer, there’s something in the back of his mind, forcing him to. He opens his mouth to speak, to tell him when there’s a knock on the door and Chanyeol’s voice filters through the thin wood, asking if they’re ready to go and Ten snaps out of it. He shouts an affirmative before moving to zip up their suitcase. Just before Ten passes him on his way out, he places a hand on Taeyong’s arm, snapping him out of his reverie with the heat of his hand.
“Hyung, I’m sorry. I’m tired and confused. Can we - can we talk about that stuff later?”
The tension visibly leaks off of Taeyong and he pats Ten’s cheek, like he’s a puppy.
“Of course. I’m sorry too. The memory thing was a bad idea.”
Ten smiles his beautiful smile and the world is right again. Just before he turns to leave, Ten looks at him again.
“Hyung?” he asks and Taeyong looks down at him, “Do you like boys?”
It’s obvious that this question was coming but Taeyong is still unsure of how to answer. Does he?
“I like who I like, I guess. I don’t mind who they are.”
Ten nods and fails to conceal how the corner of his lips lift up as he opens the door. Taeyong stares after him.
“What the fuck is going on?” he whispers to himself. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t get an answer.
The car ride is quiet. Chanyeol and Baekhyun sit up front whilst Ten and Taeyong sit in the back. They left the middle seat between them but halfway through, Ten scoots up to him and whispers in his ear.
“I can feel you thinking,” he says, leaning his chin against the sharp point of Taeyong’s shoulder, “Penny for your thoughts?”
“You know what I’m thinking,” he replies and Ten hums, wrapping his hand around the bare skin of Taeyong’s arm. Without the barrier of clothes, the burn is even more prominent. It’s electric, exciting but at the same time, it just feels hot, comforting. Taeyong wonders if it will always feel like this.
“My memories,” Ten says and it’s Taeyong’s turn to nod.
“Do you want to know?”
“I think so,” Ten says. He’s thinking.
“Yes,” he says.
“The boy with the freckles. You and him doing domestic shit, making out,”
Taeyong flails his free arm, “And all that.”
Ten shifts his head and clears his throat awkwardly.
“You were crying. You got caught, didn’t you?”
Ten nods once, looking out of Taeyong’s window, watching the Seoul lights zip past.
“You know that Asia isn’t very accepting with gay relationships. Him and I got caught by his dad and he freaked out. He punched me and then kicked me out. I… don’t really know what happened to him.”
Taeyong’s heart aches for Ten and Ten’s heart aches right back.
“I’m sorry,” Taeyong says, “I could tell you loved him.”
“It’s alright,” Ten replies carefully, “It was a long time ago. I can’t change it now.”
Taeyong is about to reply when the car draws to a halt. They’re at a huge wire gate, reaching up maybe ten metres in the air. Chanyeol is grabbing his and Baekhyun’s what Taeyong assumes to be IDs and handing them to a security guard. The man, big and burly, checks them before handing them back and requesting to see who’s in the back. Taeyong’s window is rolled down and the man leans in.
“Aren’t you guys the-”
“Kpop dudes?” Baekhyun interrupts, “Yes, they are.”
“Wow, who’d have thought it, huh?”
“Definitely not them,” Chanyeol jokes and Taeyong smiles weakly as the man chuckles and stands up, giving the metal shell of the car a pat before signalling for the gate to be opened.
“Where are we?” Ten asks curiously, leaning so far over Taeyong he almost ends up in his lap.
“You’ve got your own window, you know,” Taeyong remarks, but it’s easy to tell he’s joking.
“You’ve got a better view,” Ten pouts and Taeyong just shakes his head, biting the inside of his cheek to conceal a smile.
“You’re trying not to smile,” Ten says, “Stop biting your cheek, I’m adorable.”
“We’re in our research facility,” Baekhyun says, giving both of them a look, “Welcome to the Green Zone.”
“The Green Zone?” Ten chuckles, tongue wrapping around unfamiliar english pronunciation. Taeyong won’t even attempt to say it.
“Have to admit, the name needs a little bit more work but it’s quite impressive, really.”
And it is. It’s kind of monstrous, really, a twisted mash up of glass and metal. It’s tall and wide, with what looks like floor to ceiling glass windows, wall to wall. It looks like the only part of the building that isn’t glass is the ceiling and the huge metal pillars holding it up. There’s a huge, modern looking door at the front and the building is surrounded by various shrubbery and plants.
“This isn’t very subtle,” Taeyong remarks, “For a base, I mean.”
Next to him, Ten snickers.
“No, I suppose not. We do all the torture in the basement, though,” Chanyeol says.
There’s a moment of stilted silence, where both Ten and Taeyong are attempting to figure out whether
“That was a joke, right?”
Both Chanyeol and Baekhyun bark out a laugh, “Of course it was!”
Ten relaxes against Taeyong’s side and said boy snickers, patting him on the head. The car comes to a stop maybe halfway down the driveway and Taeyong is about to ask what they’re doing when Baekhyun presses a few buttons on the dash and the ground begins rumbling underneath them. Taeyong feels a spark of panic before it smooths out and ebbs away.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ten almost shouts and Taeyong can’t help but laugh, “This shit happens in real life?”
A huge circle of the concrete they were driving on suddenly begins lowering and Taeyong watches in shocked quiet as they literally descend into the ground.
“Underground parking,” Baekhyun says and Ten lets out an excited little giggle that Taeyong can’t help but find cute. Taeyong loses his view of the big building, the sun rising behind it, and turns his focus to what he’s seeing now. They’re in a massive concrete room, not unlike an industrial car park. There’s maybe twenty cars parked in there, each one no doubt expensive. Taeyong just shakes his head and allows Ten to cling to him like an excited child whilst Chanyeol selects a space and slides the car in smoothly.
“Out we get then,” he says whilst Baekhyun murmurs an affirmative that they’ve arrived into his sleeve. Taeyong decides he doesn’t even want to know what’s up with that. He opens his car door and climbs out, automatically placing a hand on the back of Ten’s head so he doesn’t bang it on his way out. The boy smiles tiredly in reply.
“It’s like five in the morning so we’re just gonna take you guys straight to the barracks and you can sleep till… ten, maybe? We’ll start tomorrow.”
“Today,” Chanyeol interrupts cheerfully
Taeyong nods and grabs Ten with one hand and their suitcase with the other, blindly following the other two men and dragging Ten with him.
The barracks are actually just bedrooms. Everything in there is white, there’s a bathroom and, unfortunately/fortunately depending on which way you look at it, there’s only one bed. Both Taeyong and Ten decide that they don’t care. They bow goodnight to Chanyeol and Baekhyun and tumble into their room, not even bothering to turn on the lights. Taeyong shrugs his shirt off and collapses onto the bed whilst Ten kicks out of his jeans and climbs in next to him.
“Together we could dress one person,” Ten remarks and Taeyong snorts a laugh.
“Yeah,” he says drowsily.
“I can’t even believe this. I’m so tired but I don’t want to go to sleep.”
“The dream thing,” Ten says and Taeyong lets out a noncommittal hum.
“Go to sleep, Tenny. We’ll be okay.”
He doesn’t get an answer.
They’re together again and this time, Taeyong knows what’s happening, or is at least awake enough to register the fact that, number one, he and Ten are in this together; number two, he’s dreaming and number three, Ten is not with him. He assesses his surroundings and concludes that he’s outside a night club. The air is cold and frigid against the bare skin of his arms and it’s night. Above him, a purple neon sign reads ‘THE HIT’ in big, glowing letters. The name fills him with subdued suspicion but he shrugs it off and decides that he should go in and find Ten. Something tells him he’s inside. There’s a bouncer at the doorway and Taeyong realises, panicked, that he’s checking people’s hands for stamps. When he lifts his own hand to see if he could maybe find a way to pretend, he sees he already has one. Under the light of the sign, the pattern is visible. It’s simple, a small, round droplet. Taeyong gets past the man easily and immediately feels multiple pairs of eyes on his back, both men and women. He’s not surprised to find that the idol charm works, even in dreams.
It’s swelteringly hot in the club and Taeyong is immediately sweating, his shirt sticking to his back. The club is well furnished and was probably expensive to get into. There’s a huge fountain right in the middle, spouting familiarly blue water. There’s two dance floors either side of it, the floor checked black and white like a huge chess board and two bars to accompany them, each one tended to by sultry looking women and an awful lot of alcohol. There’s various tables and chairs scattered around and tucked into corners so Taeyong decides to check those first, dreading the moment he’s going to have to enter that sweaty throng of bodies. He stumbles upon a lot of couples making out and a couple of passed out drunkards, but no Ten. Of course, Taeyong thinks as he peels his shirt away from his sweaty skin and heads onto the dance floor furthest away from the door. The DJ’s station is suspended on a platform above the dance floor and he’s playing something so bass filled that it shakes Taeyong’s very bones. If he wasn’t so anxious to find Ten, maybe he would have danced, let the music guide his body. He tries to reach out to Ten, somehow, tries to reach him with his mind but it’s clumsy and he hasn’t learnt how to do it yet. Taeyong’s not sure if the soulmate side effects work the same in dreams or not, anyway. There’s a stage in front of the dance floor, and Taeyong can see a single body dancing on it. He pushes forward through the crowd, not caring about being polite anymore. There’s something about the way the dancer moves his body that sets Taeyong’s body alight. The crowd is going wild for him, hands reaching up onto the stage as if they could grab the dancer for themselves. Before he can even get a clear view of him, Taeyong knows that the dancer is Ten and a hot wave of jealousy and possessiveness passes over him when he thinks about Ten choosing someone from the crown, going home with them after this, even if he knows there’s no way he will. The older has to remind himself that this is just a dream, that Ten belongs to him.
As if he heard Taeyong’s thoughts (he probably did), Ten’s eyes flick up to Taeyong’s. There’s a smoke machine, so Taeyong’s view of his soulmate is somewhat obstructed but he can see his eyes, those beautiful eyes, usually full of so much joy and laughter. They’re full of something darker now, more lusting. The crowd lusts for him, too. Taeyong reaches the front just as Ten starts rolling his hips to the music. Taeyong can’t work out if he’s ecstatic to see that there are rips in Ten’s jeans right up his thigh or if he’s extremely upset, all of his emotions blurring into one with the pounding of the music. Ten keeps his eyes right on Taeyong as he does it and something stirs in his stomach, something electric and heady and a little frightening in its intensity. There’s no doubt that Ten is an amazing dancer - Tayeong had always thought that - but there’s something about him now that’s different. It’s like Ten’s body is trying to talk, trying to express something he can’t say with words and Taeyong is definitely listening. A flick of the hips there, a tilt of the head. Every single move is calculated and thought out. A bead of sweat runs down Ten’s slender neck and Taeyong watches it intently, then reaches out a hand to Ten. Despite all the other hands Ten could take, the boy leans down and wraps his slender fingers around Taeyong’s. There are no memories.
“Hyuunggg,” Ten wines and then hiccups cutely, smiling, sloppy. Taeyong wonders how Ten could still dance like that whilst he was plastered.
“Are you wasted?” he asks Ten even though he knows the answer and the younger takes a seat on the side of the stage, kicking his legs against the panels. The crowd boos when Ten stops dancing. Taeyong rolls his eyes and places his hands on Ten’s knees to get him to stop,Ten smiling down at him again, perfectly straight teeth blinding. He’s out of breath, chest heaving and hair tousled. The strobe lighting illuminates the sweat glazed over Ten’s high cheekbones and once again, Taeyong finds himself distracted by the beauty of the other boy.
“Like what you see?” Ten slurs, smiling teasingly, “I can feel your heartbeat, hyung. Did I turn you on?”
Taeyong is too sober for this. He swallows thickly, blatantly ignoring the question and the fact that his stomach had swooped at the crude words.
“How’d you manage to get this drunk this quick?” he asks, instead.
“I came here like this,” he shrugs.
Taeyong blinks up at him, trying to work out if their own thoughts before they go to sleep can influence what happens in their dreams. Ten reaches his hands out to cup Taeyong’s cheeks.
“Ah, you’re pretty,” he says, thumbs rubbing over Taeyong’s cheek bones. He’s blushing, bashful and yet he can’t seem to look away. Ten pulls him closer, between his legs and Taeyong can feel the heat of his thighs around his rib cage.
“Carry me down?” Ten asks him, once again smiling down at him.
Taeyong isn’t sure how much more he can take of this. Sighing sufferingly, he leans forwards and slides his hands under Ten’s thighs, pulling him gently off the stage.
Taeyong fully expects Ten to just put his legs back down and put some distance between them but he instead wraps his arms around Taeyong’s neck, shuffling down until he rests on the other man’s hips, leaving Taeyong no choice but to move his hands to Ten’s ass if he doesn’t want to drop him. His eyes snap to Taeyong’s, shining with mischief.
“Ten, what are you doing?”
“Well I was going to kiss you but I want to know if you’d kiss me back first?”
Taeyong nearly drops Ten.
“You’re drunk, Ten,” he says, shifting his eyes away from the boy in his arms.
“You don’t know what you want.”
“Yes, I do. I want you.”
Ten is already sitting up when Taeyong opens his eyes. His shoulders are heaving but Taeyong doesn’t know if he should reach a hand out to him yet.
“Are you okay?” he asks instead and Ten doesn’t turn to look at him.
“I’m sorry,” he says instead, voice hoarse.
“It’s fine,” Taeyong says. There’s a part of him that’s disappointed and he hopes that Ten can’t feel it, “You were drunk.”
“Yeah, but I still wanted to do it. You and I both know that being drunk doesn’t really influence what you want. You just have an excuse for if you change your mind.”
Taeyong sits up now, presses himself against the curve of Ten’s shoulder. Ten leans into him, trusting. He desperately wants to ask him if he still wants to kiss him now, but even if he did, he wouldn’t know what to do with the answer. Instead, he presses his cheek to the crown of Ten’s head and brushes his hand through his hair.
Chanyeol comes for them at nine in the morning with a sleepy Baekhyun thrown over his shoulder.
“Morning,” Taeyong says warily, Ten still won’t look at him but Taeyong watches him chuckle at the spectacle that is the two men in front of them. Taeyong can’t even begin to comprehend what they dreamt last night, let alone the fact that he and Ten were soulmates. The idea of it hadn’t ever been alien to him, but for all of his life, he’d thought that they were only used in romantic poetries and stories, made purely to make a story better. To find out that not only did they exist, but that he had one had been nothing but a shock to the system but Taeyong is a strong believer in distracting himself when he has a problem so he doesn’t have to think about it.
They’re walking down a huge corridor. Again, all of it’s white and he’s getting a little tired of it. There’s light lining the ceilings in strips that remind Taeyong of hospitals and occasionally, white doors, all evenly placed. He considers asking what’s in there for a few seconds but he has a hunch that neither Chanyeol or Baekhyun will give him a straight answer. He and Ten walk next to each other, but with such a distance between them that Chanyeol notices and glances at both of them with his large eyes, Baekhyun resting his head against his shoulder.
“You guys okay?” he asks them.
Taeyong nods, thinking that Ten would rather not tell these two near-strangers about how he wanted to kiss his bandmate and apparently soulmate whilst intoxicated in a nightclub. Apparently, he was wrong.
“Dream,” Ten mutters, dark hair falling into his eyes. Something in Taeyong’s mind possesses his fingers to reach up and brush the hair away. Ten’s eyes dart to Taeyong for a second but Chanyeol doesn’t even question it.
“Already?” he asks, surprised, “That was quick.”
“Not that kind of dream,” Ten says and, yet again, Taeyong feels a blush that isn’t him. The fact that Ten is so bashful talking about things like this is endearing.
“Oh, what happened then?”
Ten shares a look with Ten and sees he’s reluctant but not unwilling. They silently communicate that Taeyong will be the speaker.
“He tried to kiss me,” Taeyong begins but before he can continue, Baekhyun pokes his head up and interrupts.
“And you didn’t let him?”
“N-no,” he says, “It wasn’t like that. He was drunk.”
Baekhyun makes a prolonged ‘oh’ sound.
“So you would have kissed him if he wasn’t drunk?”
Taeyong is frustrated but he can feel Ten’s eyes on him, knows that Ten is anticipating his answer.
“I-I…haven’t really thought about it,” he says and part of him thinks that was the right thing to say, the rest of him knows that it’s not the truth. Does Ten know too? Taeyong can currently think of at least three times since they’ve met where he’s wanted to kiss Ten and he contemplates whether it would be too much of a risk to reach out and take Ten’s hand right now and make sure he gets the memories, make sure that he knows that Taeyong would have liked to kiss him a long time ago, not just since they found out they were meant to be together. The problem with Taeyong is that he always, always, spends too long trying to weigh out the pros and the cons and the consequences of the things he’s questioning doing and when he finally decides whether or not he wants to do it, it’s always too late. He decides that maybe, just this once, he’ll show Ten what he really wants. After all, they’re always going to be bonded together and always going to be sharing the same dreams, no matter what the state of their relationship is in real life. What else has he got to lose if he can’t lose his most precious thing in life? What else has he got to lose if he can’t lose Ten? When he reaches out his hand in that all white corridor, Ten’s palm is already outstretched.
The first time is coincidentally the time that they first meet. Ten is frightened looking and small. He can’t speak their language, he can’t understand what they say to him. He has come to a completely new country alone to chase a dream that might slip from his fingers before he’s even grabbed a hold of it. Taeyong stands next to the other SM rookies, silently observing Ten as he warms up.
“Shall we introduce ourselves?” Taeyong whispers to Johnny, despite the fact that Ten can definitely not understand him.
“No,” Johnny says but Taeyong leaves his side anyway.
He stands there awkwardly until Ten notices him and turns his way. He’s got that kind of ‘next door boy’ charm about him, shaggy black hair (Taeyong knows the stylists will have a field day with that), sharp cheekbones, an even sharper jaw and the whitest teeth Taeyong has ever seen. When he finally realises Ten is looking at him expectantly, Taeyong folds his still awkward limbs into an almost ninety degree bow and holds out his hand, completely butchering a Thai introduction. Ten smiles and bows too, taking Taeyong’s hand into his own and Taeyong feels a sort of heat under his skin where the pads of Ten’s fingers apply pressure. It’s strange, how even when they first met, there were signs that they missed.
“I can speak some,” Ten says in choppy Korean and Taeyong likes the way his voice is slightly higher than the average teenage boy, the way it lilts around Ten’s accent and the way his lips stumble to pronounce the words that are still unknown to his tongue. By the time they are both upright again, Taeyong is blushing darkly and Ten is laughing, a squeaky little thing that reminds Taeyong, inexplicably, of the summer.
“You could have told me,” Taeyong mutters, eyes trained on the floor but Ten laughs again and Taeyong has to look back up.
When he goes to sleep that night, he thinks about that smile and even dares to think about those lips, even though he is fully aware that the tiny bit of stability that he has finally established in the company is fragile and could break at any moment. A boy liking another boy in such a traditional community could bring the house of cards crashing down. Taeyong contemplates taking the risk. Does he even have a choice?
The second time is a few months in, winter just melting into spring. Debut groups have been chosen and miraculously, Ten and Taeyong are picked. It’s strange really, they spend so much time together, know so much about each other that Taeyong can definitely pick up Ten’s emotions, eerily well in fact - Jaehyun has forever made jokes about how Ten and Taeyong must be telepathic- so it’s a bit of a surprise when he walks into the practice studio at two in the morning and finds Ten, leaning against the back wall, shoulders shaking. Taeyong’s not really sure how to go about comforting Ten as he’s never really had to before. For as long as Taeyong’s known him, he’s never seen Ten so upset.
“Are you okay?” Taeyong asks and his voice reverberates around the practice room. Ten turns around for a second then hides his face, as if he’s ashamed for crying. Taeyong approaches him and places a hand on his arm.
“Why are you crying, Ten?”
Ten breathes in, shaky and then pushes a hand through his knotted hair.
“Because I- god Taeyong, this is gonna sound stupid but I’m pretty sure I like someone I’m not supposed to like and it’s really frustrating because, like, I know that we couldn’t be together even if it wasn’t looked down upon because of the whole idol thing but,” Ten chokes on a short sob and Taeyong places a comforting hand on the back of his neck, “It’s really hard because I see them all the time and it’s so so wrong for me to feel this way.”
Taeyong runs through all the possible explanations for why Ten and this girl can’t be together but can’t really pin a realistic one down and Ten is looking at him, lost and searching as if Taeyong can provide an answer to all the secrets in the universe and it makes Taeyong feel strangely burdensome, to have someone so strong like Ten look at him like that.
“Why can’t you be with her, Tenny? is it your family?”
Ten looks away at that.
“You’re going to think I’m disgusting. I am disgusting, I can’t even-“
“God, Ten, I could never. I could never think wrong of you.”
A single tear slips down Ten’s face and, even like this, with Ten’s eyes puffy and wet and he’s totally ugly crying, Taeyong still finds him as beautiful as he did the day they first met. He places both hands on Ten’s shoulders and turns him to face him and when Ten tries to look at the floor instead of Taeyong, he puts a hand under his chin and brings it up so that they’re eye level.
“I could never. Okay? So tell me, I can help.”
“It’s a boy,” Ten says, ashamed and Taeyong is selfish and thinks that maybe he has a chance with Ten now but then remembers that Ten likes someone else.
“Oh,” Taeyong says and it’s not condescending in any way, more relieved but Ten still pulls back, breathing hard.
“See?” he cries, “You hate me now, I’m terrible.”
“No, no I don’t,” Taeyong chuckles in disbelief, reaching out for Ten, “You can’t help who you like, Ten and I don’t care who you like. Nothing’s changed, we’re still friends. So, you like boys, it’s whatever.”
Ten stops his worrying and looks up at Taeyong through his hair.
Taeyong wraps Ten in a hug and suddenly everything is right again.
“I don’t care, Ten. Seriously.”
3. Ten and Johnny have a strange sort of relationship. On camera, they’re sweet to each other, always complimenting and smiling secretive little smiles but off camera, they’re more teasing, more taking jabs with hidden little eye smiles and Taeyong watches it all happen with something akin to jealousy settled like a stone in his stomach.
Ten and Johnny stand shoulder to shoulder at the kitchen counter, peeling vegetables for their meal for tonight whilst Taeyong sits at the little breakfast bar, pretending to talk to Jaehyun whilst watching the other two. Ten glances at Johnny when he’s not looking and it’s look of strange longing. Taeyong thinks he might know who Ten likes when Jaehyun snaps two fingers in front of his face.
“You okay, loverboy?” he asks him, smirking as he looks between the three in the room.
“You and Ten, isn’t it? Or did I misread you staring daggers into Johnny’s back?”
Taeyong stands abruptly.
“Ten’s my friend. What are you talking about?”
When Taeyong leaves, Ten turns around.
Taeyong’s jealous, incredibly so and feels like grabbing Ten and taking him far away from Johnny or maybe kissing him when Johnny’s right there so he knows that Ten is his. But he’s not, not at all, and he likes someone else and it’s all messed up. Taeyong goes to the practice room and dances the scenario that Ten likes him back out of his system.
When the memories have been shared, neither of them let go. He’s staring at Taeyong, eyes running over the whole of his face and Taeyong stares back, fixedly. He’s not backing down now, he’s spent too long hiding things. Before anything could be said, however, they come to two doors at the end of the corridor. Chanyeol finally sets Baekhyun down and they both turn to the other two, smiles on their faces.
“We’re going to separate the two of you, now,” Baekhyun says and, seeing the identical looks of fear on Ten and Taeyong’s faces and the way Ten grasps Taeyong tighter, continues, “Just to run some tests and make sure you’ve got all the side effects working. Ten, I’ll grab you, Taeyong, you’re with Chanyeol.”
Ten and Taeyong exchange uneasy looks again, hands still intertwined. Baekhyun rolls his eyes even though it’s easy to tell he’s not actually annoyed.
“There’s glass in the middle of them, seriously. You’ll be able to see each other, promise.”
They share a final look before finally letting go of each other and following the respective men into the rooms. Taeyong’s, like Ten’s, is like a police interrogation room. The walls, ceilings and floor are all the same colour, there are no windows to the outside and the only things in there are a metal table and two chairs. There is, like Baekhyun said, a window between the two rooms and Taeyong watches both Baekhyun and Ten take their seats before he takes his opposite Chanyeol.
“I feel like I’m about to be interrogated,” he says and Chanyeol chuckles warmly.
“We’re just going to make sure you and Ten have all the connections right and then talk you through using some of the more intricate ones.”
Taeyong nods and shifts in the chair, the metal cold against his thighs. When he looks, he sees Ten and Baekhyun are talking.
“You said before that soulmates can talk telepathically. Is that what you and Baekhyun are doing now?” Taeyong asks and Chanyeol raises a surprised eyebrow.
“Uh, yeah, it actually is. How’d you know?”
“You look at each other.”
“We do?” And he looks at Baekhyun again, catches himself and then turns again. Taeyong wonders if he and Ten will do this when they learn and there’s suddenly a feeling in the back of his mind, like someone’s pushing a button that hasn’t been pushed before.
“So you and Ten have already covered the dream thing and also some of the memory thing. I think you’ve learnt that you can select memories and push them out to each other. Ninety percent of the time, it can only be done through points of physical contact, mostly hands.”
“What about the other ten percent?” Taeyong asks and he knows that Ten has just asked the same question on the other side of that glass.
“Well, apparently, if you or your soulmate are in danger or in desperate need to share something but can’t reach each other, you can push the memories through your mind.”
“Let’s hope we don’t need that one. How do I stop the memories from coming through every time we hold hands?”
“You will it not to happen. There’s a part of your brain that you can gain access to when you present as soulmates. Beforehand you wouldn’t have been able to do it but, with this new part of your brain, as long as you don’t think ‘I want to share this memory’, it won’t do anything.”
Taeyong finds himself staring at Ten as Chanyeol talks. The boy is so easy to read it should be criminal. He’s smiling his beautiful smile up at Baekhyun now and Taeyong can tell his soulmate has some description of feelings for him, but can also tell that he’s still overwhelmed about what’s happening. There’s a warm feeling in his stomach when he realises that what Ten really wants is to be with Taeyong right now.
“Taeyong?” Chanyeol regains his attention, “Are you listening?”
Taeyong finds it hard to look away from Ten but forces himself to.
“Y-yeah. What else is there?”
“This is going to seem a little weird and a little sudden but we, uh, we need to punch one of you in the face.”
Taeyong blinks. That wasn’t what he was expecting.
Taeyong can feel alarm spike in the part of his mind that belongs to Ten.
“We need to test the pain thing. Voodoo?”
The idea of getting punched in the face doesn’t sound very nice to Taeyong but the idea of Ten getting punched in the face is a thousand times worse.
“I’ll do it,” Taeyong says and a couple of seconds after Chanyeol announces that Ten says he would too but Taeyong knows that Ten has a low pain tolerance. They look at each other through the glass and Taeyong can see the fear in his eyes.
“Just do it,” Taeyong says.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” and he is, “Just do it before Ten figures something out.”
“Taeyong, he’s your soulmate. He already has.”
Pain explodes on the underside of Taeyong’s jaw and he sees white as his head snaps back.
“Are you fucking kidding me, dude, you didn’t even give me any warning!”
Chanyeol at least has the decency to look sheepish.
“Sorry,” he says, “I think it worked though.”
Taeyong turns to Ten to find him already looking back, hand on his jaw, eyes shiny with unshed tears but he’s laughing and even though there’s a whole wall separating them, Taeyong can hear his laugh at full volume, echoing around his head. Everything seems to blur until all he can see is the other boy, head thrown back in laughter. It’s all he ever wants to see. Chanyeol’s smiling too, and so is Baekhyun when he sees it. It must be a really rewarding job, pulling people together.
“Well,” Chanyeol begins after their laughters died down, “we only have one last thing to test for you now. Telepathy.”
“This is the part where it get weird and sci-fi, right?”
“That wasn’t weird and sci-fi to you?” he asks and Taeyong laughs despite the confusion, the bewilderment.
“Right.” Chanyeol says, suddenly serious, “Okay, I want you to just clear your mind for a second, make sure you’re not thinking about anything.”
It’s difficult with how much is going and how does someone not think about anything? He tries and fails a couple times before he finally manages to do it.
“Now imagine a dark tunnel with Ten at the end.”
Taeyong nods. Easy.
“Now just shout something down the tunnel, but in your mind of course.”
Taeyong tries with Ten’s name but he can’t tell if Ten has received it or not. The look on Chanyeol’s face tells him no. He tries again, straining his mind hard and something in Chanyeol’s face changes. Suddenly, Ten’s voice bounces around the caverns of Taeyong’s mind. It’s weak at first, just a whisper but gradually gets stronger and Taeyong can eventually hear him as clear as he does when they’re talking in real life.
Taeyongie, this is cool, huh?
Yeah, it’s cool. It’ll freak the kids out for sure
Taeyong can feel that Ten’s smiling and his laugh echoes around his skull.
“You got it?” Chanyeol asks him even though he already knows from the amazed little smile on Taeyong’s face.
“I think so?” he says, “I can hear him fine and it’s getting a little easier to do it.”
Chanyeol nods and chuckles, shoulders rising as he does so, “Yeah, it’ll get a lot easier. Your brain isn’t used to using this new part of your brain, so it’s a strain to, at first, but you’ll get used to it and, soon, it’ll be as easy as breathing.”
Taeyong nods, and he’s suddenly extremely grateful for both Chanyeol and Baekhyun for helping him and Ten through this. They definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this on their own, wouldn’t have been able to sift through their thoughts together without a helping hand.
“Thank you,” Taeyong blurts out and Chanyeol tilts his head questioningly.
“For what?” he asks, another bright smile on his face.
“Helping me - us, through this. We really couldn’t have done this without you.”
Chanyeol’s smile widens and he reaches over to pat Taeyong gently on the hand. A touch that won’t spark or somehow reveal memories is both disappointing and comforting at the same time.
“A word of advice,” Chanyeol says, “If you have feelings for Ten, it’s likely that he already knows. You just have to decide whether you want to let it go, or whether you want to man up and let him know yourself.”
Taeyong nods and glances through the glass splitting the rooms apart to look at Ten. He’s somehow not surprised to see him already looking back at him, as if sensing his inner turmoil. Even though the conflict is about Ten, just seeing him calms him down, clears his head and lets him think logically. even being soulmates with Ten is complicated enough but pursuing a relationship with him? Especially in Korea when you’re two very prominent public figures. Taeyong knows that if he’s learnt anything these last two days, it’s that fate is a very real thing. He knows that if he and Ten are meant to be together (and he has a strange hunch, a feeling that they are), then they can’t do anything to stop it. He can’t deny that he has feelings there and he can feel that Ten does too but is it too much of a risk? He lets out a tense sigh, wiping a hand across the back of his eyes as he realises only now how tired and hungry he is.
“Well,” he says, “We have forever, right?”
Chanyeol chuckles, automatically turning to look at Baekhyun.
“Yeah,” he says, “You’ve got forever.”
When Taeyong and Ten emerge from their separate rooms, Ten immediately throws himself against Taeyong, the force of it pushing him back a couple steps. He chuckles and it feels natural when he turns to speak in his head instead of out loud, arms wrapping around Ten’s waist to lift him off the ground and spin him around playfully. Chanyeol and Baekhyun share a knowing smile.
We’ve only been away from each other for a little while, Taeyong says teasingly and Ten giggles against his shoulder as he puts him down gently.
I know, Ten replies and then his laugh echoes around Taeyong’s head, warmth that he knows Ten can feel filling his body. God I can’t wait to scare the kids with this.
Taeyong laughs, out loud this time however before turning to Chanyeol and Baekhyun.
“I don’t want to be rude,” he begins, “But is there any chance we could get something to eat?”
“Of course,” he says, “Follow me.”
They end up in one of the rooms they’d seen into before they’d descended into the car park. It’s a huge long room, spanning what looks like the whole length of The Green Zone and it’s entire front wall is made from glass, letting the yellow morning sunlight filter in and bounce off of the metal benches lined up against huge sturdy tables. The immediate smell of fresh kimchi fills Taeyong’s nose and his mouth begins watering. Next to him, Ten chuckles and he can feel the other boy’s fondness.
“Are you that hungry?” he asks, nudging Taeyong’s side as they move to join the line, Baekhyun and Chanyeol obviously in deep telepathic-conversation.
Taeyong nods, laughing a little sheepishly but Ten just coos and moves to twine their fingers together. Taeyong’s almost surprised when no memories come through. He and Ten share a look, just a glance, and Taeyong squeezes his hand a little. The other people in here seem to come in pairs, too, and the room is quiet considering how many people are in here. Taeyong assumes that they’re all talking telepathically.
Do you think these are the agents Chanyeol and Baekhyun have been talking about? Ten asks him and Taeyong thinks maybe he might be right. He shrugs because he doesn’t really know how to convey a shrug telepathically and Ten chuckles as if he knows exactly what he’s thinking - Taeyong keeps having to remind himself that he probably does.
It only takes a couple minutes more till they reach the line and a woman with a round, kind face serves them extra kimchi because ‘you boys are awful skinny’ to which Taeyong laughs and Ten blushes bashfully. Taeyong doesn’t even have to turn to know that, the telltale heat on his own cheeks being enough. He bows his head to the lady and turns to find an empty table, Ten trailing along with a hand twisted into the back of his t-shirt and Chanyeol and Baekhyun not far behind. They all sit, Taeyong and Ten next to each other, their shoulders touching. There’s still a little fizzle of heat and electricity every time they touch but underneath that, it’s warm, comforting. He and Ten make eye contact for a second and Ten’s eyes are soft, relaxed. He gives Taeyong a gentle smile, knocking their ankles together under the table before turning to dig into his kimchi. Taeyong continues to watch him for a second and when he turns to face forward again, both Chanyeol and Baekhyun are looking at him knowingly. He ignores it in favour of stuffing his face - he’ll worry about all that later.
They get to go back to the room for a while after breakfast to rest more, considering they got less than four hours sleep last night and then strained their minds attempting to talk telepathically. The four of them walk back to the door of their room together and stop outside.
“You guys get to sleep for a few hours, we’ll probably be back about four so you have, like, five hours to sleep?” Baekhyun says and Ten smiles gratefully. They both bow before retreating back into their bedroom. The moment the door closes is the first moment they’re alone when they’re not frantic or half delirious with fatigue and it’s a little tense to say the least. Taeyong closes the door behind him carefully, so as not to startle Ten. He can hear Ten flop down onto the bed from where he’s still facing the door, hand poised on the handle as if staying in the same position will freeze the moment and mean he doesn’t have to face Ten. He doesn’t know why but there’s something that makes him apprehensive about rounding the corner and seeing the other boy, splayed out face down on their shared mattress. He thinks maybe it’s to do with the newly acknowledged feelings between them, that neither of them have had the courage to talk about out loud or maybe it’s the newfound knowledge that they are half of the same soul, destined to be together no matter the situation, no matter what happens between them. He moves, finally, straightening out and walking quietly towards the bed. Ten’s clicking around on his phone, one of his legs dangling over the edge, swinging just barely. Taeyong is reminded of Ten sitting on the edge of the stage, swinging his legs and then, rather embarrassingly, he thinks of Ten’s legs wrapped tight around his waist, his hands over the back pockets of Ten’s jeans. It’s suddenly too hot in the room and Ten stops swinging his leg to look at Taeyong over the top of his phone, eyes suddenly a little darker than before.
“I-” Taeyong begins, “didn’t mean to think of that.”
Ten flushes pink again, as if reminded of his actions in their dream. He shakes his head, as if trying to remove the memory.
“I’m sorry,” he says, his speech awkward and stilted as if he suddenly forgot how to speak korean, “For that whole thing. We didn’t really get to talk about it a lot and I…I don’t know. I’m sorry. I know you probably weren’t into that.”
“No!” Taeyong exclaims far too loudly and far too quickly. Ten seems taken aback so Taeyong places a hand on his arm in silent apology, “It wasn’t that, it’s not that. It was just at the wrong time, and you were drunk and everything so I…” he trails off and Ten places his phone at his side, sits himself up on his forearms.
“So, if I kissed you now?” he questions, cautious and Taeyong gulps, throat going dry as he moves to sit on the edge of the bed, his thigh pressed against Ten’s calf. He twists the ring on his finger round and round, trying to make his heart not go at a thousand miles an hour before Ten feels it. He has a feeling that by the way Ten’s smirking, he already has.
“Do I really make your heart beat that fast, hyung-ie?” Ten asks, finally sitting up to press his chest to Taeyong’s shoulder, body angled to face him as he reaches a hand across to place a hand against Taeyong’s chest, right where his heart is. Taeyong’s stomach swoops at the honorific, it feels like it’s been years since Ten’s called him hyung, although it’s probably only a matter of barely a few days. He chokes out an answer.
“If you kissed me now…” he says, “I’d kiss you back.”
He can barely even move except to place a hand against the thin skin of Ten’s jaw. He can feel Ten’s heart beating too, now. Both physically, against the jut of his shoulder and telepathically, like a shadow over his own. It’s intense, feeling so many things at once. Ten’s so close, it’s suffocating and he can’t help it when he tilts Ten’s chin up and leans forward to press their lips together. It’s gentle - they’re both too tired for it to be anything else but there’s electricity bubbling under Taeyong’s skin anyway, as if it’s the worlds way of saying, we’ve done it, they’re meant to be together. It’s comforting and thrilling and frightening all at once and Ten shuffles forward until he can throw a leg over Taeyong’s lap, pulling himself to sit with his legs either side of Taeyong’s hips. There’s something that feels entirely right with the way Ten’s mouth moves languidly against his, the way their bodies press together perfectly. Ten topples him backwards until his back is pressed against the bed, hands tight on Ten’s waist. They pull away to breathe, foreheads pressed together. It’s ridiculously easy to get lost in Ten’s eyes, the sheer depth and kindness and goodness in them.
I’m glad it’s you, Ten says suddenly, voice lapping gently at the corners of his mind. Taeyong smiles up at him, nodding lazily.
Ten falls asleep soon after, one of his legs still thrown over Taeyong’s hips and his head tucked underneath his chin. Taeyong can’t sleep, mind working too fast to rest so he takes the opportunity to reach for his phone on the nightstand, turning it on. He hasn’t checked it since before the first dream so he’s fully prepared for the onslaught of notifications he receives from every single one of his members, even Lucas and Jungwoo who weren’t even confirmed members of NCT yet had sent him multiple messages. He taps open the group chat and types a confirmation message that yes, both he and Ten are alive and that he’ll explain everything when he gets back. Mere moments after he sends the message, every single members icon appears at the bottom of the group chat screen, signalling they’re online. An onslaught of messages come through, varying from Jisung’s worried where are you, hyungs? are you okay? to donghyuck’s they’re alive!!! Taeyong can’t help but smile at the sight of the messages, realising just how much he’d missed the rest of his members. After all, it had been a long time since he’d spent a night away from them all and he proceeds to type another message.
i miss u guys. hopefully back by tomorrow. will explain then, love u.
He receives a lot of other replies but chooses to ignore them, deciding they can wait until he sees them all face to face. He’s about to click his phone off and try and get a few hours of sleep, absentmindedly wondering whether Ten is still dreaming of him even when he’s not asleep when the phone in his hands begins vibrating, a goofy picture of Jaehyun appearing on the screen. He slides his thumb across the screen to answer and immediately turns the volume down to minimum, expecting the high pitched shout from Jaehyun as his face appears on the screen.
“Hey,” Taeyong murmurs, careful to keep his voice down. Ten doesn’t stir.
“Hey?” Jaehyun exclaims, “That’s all you can say after you and Ten literally have the same dream and then get abducted by two handsome men in suits!”
Taeyong lets him say what he needs to, watching as Jaehyun works himself up and then calms down again. When Jaehyun realises he’s not going to reply, he speaks again, voice a lot quieter and hushed.
“What happened?” he practically hisses. They’d finished filming for NCT life in Seoul this morning and were now back at the dorms, the rest of the members probably resting or at practice.
“I told you I’d tell you when we get back,” Taeyong says, “You’d never believe it if I told you without showing you.”
Jaehyun’s silent for a second before he shakes his head in disbelief.
“That did nothing to ease my worries, Taeyong you dick.”
Taeyong chuckles despite himself and then becomes worried when he jostles Ten’s head a bit. Luckily, the boy seems tired enough to not be woken.
“You’ll find out tomorrow,” he says, “I need Ten with me and well,” he trails off, flipping his camera round to show the back of Ten’s head where it’s rested on Taeyong’s chest. Jaehyun’s silent again for a second.
“Is he asleep on you?” he asks, face purely curious, no judgement or prejudice.
Taeyong shrugs, “Yeah, he was tired.”
“Did you tell him?” Jaehyun presses.
“Tell him what?” He already knows.
“That you like him? That you’ve had the biggest crush on him for forever and really want to make out with him?”
Taeyong shakes his head slowly.
“I think he has a feeling,” he finds himself saying, “I don’t need to tell him for him to know.”
Jaehyun’s grainy image on his phone looks at him weirdly, “O-kay” he murmurs, “why are you being so weird?”
“We kissed,” Taeyong suddenly blurts out, “Ten and I.”
“You kissed? Taeyong that’s great!”
“Yeah,” he says honestly, “It is, it was. But a few months ago, Ten told me he liked someone else. He was really upset about it and…I don’t know he seemed like he really loved them. It was the kind of thing that seemed hard to get over.”
He can’t hide the dejectedness in his voice and he knows that Ten kissed him, that he has feelings for him, he can feel it. But there’s a nagging feeling at the back of his head that keeps replaying the memory of it, of Ten’s tear streaked face and his shaking voice “I like someone.” The image of him and Johnny standing together, shoulders pressed together at the kitchen like some domestic couple. Jealousy rises quick and fast in his chest.
“Just…maybe the person you think he likes isn’t the person he likes at all,”Jaehyun says.
Taeyong furrows his eyebrows.
“What does that mean?” he questions, but Jaehyun is already telling him he has to go ‘unless you want the others to mob you, as well’ and then hanging up as the voices of the other members returning from where they’d been filters through the speakers. He clicks his phone off and places it back on the table, moving to stare up at the ceiling for a while, fingers threading through Ten’s hair. Like this, he falls asleep.
Ten’s hands against his bare chest, the unfamiliar weight of him in his lap. Hot breath and sweat slicked bodies and the vibrations of Ten’s throat against his mouth when he bites down. A feeling, hot and heady and addicting in his stomach, Ten’s head thrown back in bliss.
Taeyong wakes up to the sound of a knock on the door, Ten jolting awake on top of him. He’s blushing again, this time a deeper, darker pink and his hair is stuck to his forehead with sweat. It’s beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful he’s ever seen Ten look and Taeyong’s stomach grows warm with want. He wonders, vaguely, whether he looks as wrecked as Ten does. They look at each other, mildly panicked before Taeyong finally jolts into action, darting out from under Ten to answer the door, silently praying he isn’t as hot and sweaty as he feels. The look both Chanyeol and Baekhyun give him says otherwise.
“Are we interrupting something?” Chanyeol says, a shit-eating grin on his face. Taeyong almost rolls his eyes in exasperation.
“Dream,” he says and Baekhyun sighs.
“Again?” he asks.
“Yeah but it was, uh…you know.”
“Oh,” Baekhyun says, “Do you need a minute?”
Yes, Ten’s voice in his head supplies helpfully.
“Just one,” Taeyong says and he’s shutting the door. He turns to Ten questioningly and when he does, the boy is surprisingly close. His heart stutters in his chest and Ten can feel it, he knows it. He’s close enough that he can feel Ten’s breath on his face, fanning against his lips and he can see his eyes blown a little wider than usual. Ten cages him in between his arms and leans forward to lock their lips together. It’s a lot more…intense than their last kiss, and Taeyong would have let it continue if it weren’t for the nagging of Chanyeol and Baekhyun outside and the thought of Ten liking someone else. It doesn’t stop him from tugging on Ten’s bottom lip when they pull away, though. It’s safe to say that when they emerge they’re a little more dishevelled than they had been a moment ago.
“Ready?” Chanyeol asks.
Taeyong and Ten nod simultaneously.
“We’re going to play hide and seek,” Baekhyun announces as they wander down one of the white corridors and emerge into a huge window lit room, bathed with an afternoon glow that lights Ten’s irises on fire. Taeyong can’t look away.
Like what you see? Ten’s voice bounces teasingly into his head and he has to look away, a pink hue dusting his cheeks to which Ten coos at.
“Hide and seek?” Taeyong questions.
“Like the kids game?”
“Exactly,” Chanyeol says, “We’re just gonna make sure you can work your location thing, so you’ll be able to know where the other is, and stuff.”
Taeyong’s sort of just grown numb to all of this stuff, filing it away to deal with when they get home and instead just nodding, squeezing Ten’s hand against his as Chanyeol and Baekhyun explain that they’ll split into twos again and hide around the building, attempting to locate each other every time they do. Taeyong thinks it sounds fine enough and agrees, turning his back on Ten with Chanyeol’s arm linked through his. They decide to hide in his and Ten’s room, first, an easy place considering he and Ten have spent time in it together so it’ll be easy for Ten to picture him there. He and Chanyeol stand around for a bit, the two older soulmates obviously communicating by the way Chanyeol closes his eyes as if to picture Baekhyun with him, next to him. It’s endearing.
“Okay,” Chanyeol says and Taeyong jumps at his deep voice crashing through the silence, “You’re gonna try and find Ten first, okay? I just want you to picture Ten standing somewhere, anywhere. Don’t focus on the place, just focus on Ten, okay?”
It’s easy to picture Ten, leaning up against a non-descript wall, head lolled backwards with a casual leg bent halfway to the knee. He nods in confirmation.
“Okay and now reach out to Ten, not in a way that you want to talk to him just in a way that you want to see him.”
It’s a little harder, this time, but he does it, like casting a fishing rod so Ten can catch it and then reeling him in. Slowly, a vision begins appearing. It’s Ten and he’s standing in a room flooded with light, surrounded by chatter not loud enough to level with the amount of people in the room - there’s the smell of kimchi.
“The canteen,” Taeyong says, “They’re in the canteen.”
The vision finally fully materialises and then there’s Ten, he and Baekhyun making casual conversation about the idol life. Chanyeol claps his hands together like an oversized puppy, eyes lighting up.
“Well done!” he exclaims and then closes his eyes again, probably letting Baekhyun know he’d done it, “It’s Ten’s turn now, so we just have to stay put for a little while.”
Taeyong nods in confirmation and there’s a slight silence before Chanyeol begins talking.
“So you and Ten, huh?” he asks.
Taeyong can’t help but laugh a little at the classic conversation starter and he shrugs, eyes downturned towards his shoes.
“C’mon Taeyong, even if I didn’t know you guys were soulmates I’d think there was something going on.”
Taeyong just shrugs again.
“I don’t know,” he says, “It feels like it’s been forever that we found out about this whole soulmate thing, but it was literally yesterday? So many things have happened in such a short period of time I - I don’t know, I just feel like I need to just slow down and think about things. I mean, Ten and I haven’t talked about it at all.”
“You haven’t?” Chanyeol asks, surprised.
“We just haven’t had time like, at all. Last night we went straight to sleep and then you woke us up and we spent the morning with you and then we slept and then we - uh, we…”
Chanyeol raises an expectant eyebrow.
“We kissed,” Taeyong says awkwardly, “And stuff.”
“Oh. That’s cool. What do you have to talk about, then?”
Taeyong’s about to tell him when there’s a strange tugging feeling in the back of his mind, like someone’s pulling on a certain part of his brain.
“I think Ten found us,” he says, instead of telling Chanyeol what happened between him and Ten. There’s something private about it, something Taeyong wants to keep special and even if Chanyeol is a nice guy, he’s not sure he wants to give him the details of all of his insecurities.
Found you, Ten says in his head and Taeyong wonders whether he’ll ever get used to the sound of Ten’s voice inside of his head. It’s mildly invasive.
You been talking about me? Ten continues and Taeyong laughs a little. Chanyeol doesn’t even bat an eyelash.
Something like that, he replies.
They reunite in the room they started in and then head off to find locations they haven’t been to yet. Chanyeol explains as he leads him down yet another white corridor that this is the final thing he and Ten have to do and that they’re leaving tomorrow after they sign all the paperwork to let the agency know they’ve been trained and are under control (Taeyong doesn’t even want to know about soulmates that have been out of control). Taeyong nods along all the way, mind still too busy processing the happenings of the last twenty four hours, the fact that he and Ten are literal soulmates, destined to spend the rest of their lives together in whatever way they choose. He’s so busy thinking about it that he almost walks into a wall after he sees Chanyeol take a sharp turn right. They end up in a room, all white except for the back wall, made up of a huge glass window. From it, a view of endless rolling hills and lush green grass is visible and Taeyong really wishes he was outside in that now instead of confined in some strange little room. Unexplainably, his heart aches for Ten and the rest of their members, suddenly wishing they were either here with him or that he wasn’t here at all, instead in the dorm or practice or at a fansign or on stage. Things have been so hectic that he hasn’t even managed to think about that part of his life at all, his stage persona, the flashing lights, the screaming fans. Part of him is grateful for these past few days because they’ve given him a break from the idol life and the routine of it and instead given him countless priceless moments with Ten but another part knows that these couple of days have changed his life completely, forever and that when he steps out of the building, he will never be the same. Behind him, Chanyeol clears his throat.
“You okay, champ?” he asks and Taeyong turns away from the window to face him. The suns setting, now, and golden hour lights the ends of Chanyeol’s hair a honey colour.
“It’s scary, right?” the older man continues saying, “The couple of days after Baekhyun and I found out are some of the best and worst of my life. It’s just so hectic - you never get time alone to think or to process. It usually hits a couple of days after, honestly and then after the initial freak out, it’s a lot easier to bear.”
Taeyong nods and takes a deep breath through his nose.
“I just feel like this is all some sort of dream and that I’m gonna wake up back at the dorm and none of this will have ever happened. I’ve been on autopilot this whole time and I haven’t had time to stop and think through things."
Chanyeol smiles sympathetically.
“I know,” he says, a gentle smile on his face and his voice is soothing to Taeyong, as if from a parent or an older brother, “You’re through the hard part, now, though. It’s all a lot easier from here.”
Taeyong smiles back appreciatively, hoping his smile conveys his gratitude.
“You ready?” Chanyeol asks and he nods in response, “it should be exactly the same process, but you’re just going to have to focus a little harder considering you’ve never been in this place before so it’ll take your brain a little while to pull the picture together.”
He pictures the same Ten leaning against the wall, heart warming at the mere sight of it and it’s kind of pathetic how even picturing Ten in his mind has him turning into a big softy. Slowly, like last time, an image materialises in his mind’s eye. Ten and Baekhyun are standing in this huge, domed room, not unlike the one he and Ten were trapped in the first dream they had together but it’s a lot less extravagant and there’s a lot more people, most of them lounging across sofas.
“They’re in, like, a domed building?” Taeyong begins, “Looks kinda like a big common room.”
Chanyeol pushes himself off of the wall he’d been leaning on and claps Taeyong lightly on the shoulder.
“Congrats,” he says, “You’re all fully trained to be a soulmate.”
He smiles back and wonders if they’ll ever have to renew their training or anything or whether it’s like riding a bike. He can’t ever imagine there being a time where he forgets how to speak into Ten’s mind. As if sensing him thinking about him, he feels a little tug against the back of his mind letting him know that Ten’s found them.
I can think of better ones, he says, to which Ten replies a teasing oh, yeah? like what?
Taeyong just laughs and Chanyeol coughs, a gentle reminder that he and Ten aren’t alone - they aren’t even together in the first place. Taeyong smiles sheepishly and ducks his head, allowing the taller man to lead him back to Ten and Baekhyun.
Ten offers him a bright smile when they set eyes on each other, all teeth and crinkled eyes and Taeyong can’t help it when he thinks cute to himself, can’t help it when the word echoes around Ten’s head as well. The other boy smiles and a faint dusting of pink coats the apples of his cheeks and Taeyong wants nothing more than to reach forward and brush his hand over them.
“You alright?” he murmurs because sometimes it’s nice to see Ten’s eyes brighten with conversation, nice to watch his lips move. It’s more normal, more comforting and Taeyong finds it hurts his head less to form the words and let them throw through his mouth than through the connection in their minds. Ten nods his head as Chanyeol and Baekhyun begin to lead them down yet another hallway towards the dining room, a couple of locks of black hair falling over his forehead. Taeyong doesn’t even try to prevent himself from doing it, just reaches forward to brush the hair back, out of Ten’s eyes and back towards his hairline. He feels a warm melty feeling against his chest, but just the shadow of it that lets him know it’s Ten feeling it and not him. It doesn’t matter though, because as soon as the he realises that his actions made Ten feel all warm and melty has him feeling all warm and melty too. They’re soon both blushing messes, like high school sweethearts with the way they can’t even look at each other, smiling gently at the ground even though their fingers intertwine together in between them, swinging slightly as they walk.
They eat dinner and then say goodbye to Chanyeol and Baekhyun at the door, allowed to return to their room to sleep and shower and get ready to return back to the dorm the following day and no likely get thrown back into practice as soon as possible. He and Ten keep their hands together as they walk back from the canteen even though Taeyong knows they can both feel Chanyeol and Baekhyun’s calculating stares on their backs. When they enter the room, it’s silent but not the same kind of tense silence from earlier. It’s comfortable, a lot more like ‘I don’t really know what’s going on but I’m willing to work it out and things are going to be fine as long as we’re together’ kind of silence, one that Ten can smile gently over at Taeyong in and his heart will speed up against his ribcage.
“Wow,” Ten breathes out, leaning over to flop onto their bed, not unlike the other three times Taeyong has seen him do it within the past twenty four hours, “It hasn’t even been twenty four hours since all of this started and so much has happened.”
Taeyong lets out a little snort of a laugh moving over to lie next to Ten. He mirrors Ten’s own sigh of disbelief.
“I know, right?” he replies, voice already tainted at the edges with sleep. He didn’t realise just how tired he really was before his head hit the pillow, Ten’s presence next to him comforting and warm.
Had he felt like this the whole time him and Ten have known each other, even before they found out they were soulmates? Or was it just the bond talking? He casts his mind back to meeting Ten, to the first time they laughed together, the first time they fell asleep on the cramped bunkbeds of their trainee dorm a few months before debut, Ten’s back pressed tight against his chest (they’d woken up and laughed it off, but they’d both flinched away when their hands had accidentally touched over the dinner table later that day). He thinks of all the times they’d fallen asleep next to each other in vans on the way back from schedules, heads resting on each other’s shoulders and he’s always felt comfortable around Ten, even when he embarrassed himself in front of him the first day they met. He remembers Johnny telling him not to go and introduce himself but doing so anyway and he knows that he wouldn’t have normally done that (back then he was an intimidating introverted jerk), can remember the peaked feeling of attraction he’d felt when his eyes had fallen on Ten from across the room that he had written down to pure curiosity and interest for the boy with the strange accent and slanted cat eyes. He thinks about all the times along the line when he and Ten have been a little too close for friends, and his heart had beaten a little too hard for it to be purely platonic. Thinking about it now, it was obvious that he and Ten were different, were special to each other. He wonders how the others didn’t notice it, didn’t notice the way they looked out for each other constantly, purposeful or not. Thinking of Jaehyun’s words from earlier, maybe they did.
“Whatcha thinking about?” Ten asks, propping himself up onto his elbow and Taeyong realises that he’s been staring at the ceiling for a good three minutes. He sighs, crossing his hands together over his stomach.
“Just thinking about how… you’ve been different since the beginning,” he says, voice lowering. He decides it’s better to be honest and not try to hide his true thoughts. Ten can read him better than anyone else now, after all. The boy in question hums, letting his head fall back against the pillows with a soft whump.
“I know what you mean…before this I never really knew what was going on…I mean, from the moment we met I was drawn to you and even became… attached to you but that’s what everyone does, because you’re so kind and handsome, I thought that it was just normal to feel so happy and comfortable around you but…I don’t know, I guess it was you.”
Taeyong shifts a little so his body is angled more towards Ten. Their eyes meet.
“Yeah,” he whispers, “I guess it’s just you.”
They stare at each other for a few seconds and Taeyong has to take a second just to think about the fact that Ten is the other half of his soul. Even the thought of it takes his breath away. Ten knows what he’s thinking.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” he murmurs, reaching out to play with the folds in Taeyong’s shirt, “I don’t think I’ve quite accepted it yet. I don’t know if I ever will. I grew up thinking the idea of soulmates was like a story so to find out I have one and it’s you, of all people. I just never knew I’d ever be this close to someone.”
Ten finishes, smiling gently up at Taeyong, eyes creasing up into happy little crescents.
“Me of all people?” Taeyong questions teasingly, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
It’s a good thing, Ten says inside of his head, I promise.
He’s half asleep when he feels a gentle press of lips against his forehead, and decides that he’s dreaming (he forgets that he can’t dream alone, anymore.)
They dream of nothing in particular, walking through endless fields in the summer, hands intertwined between them as they talk and talk and talk about nothing in particular. It’s exactly how they would talk in real life, so it’s comforting to have this time in this place, away from everyone else just to talk and laugh and be the carefree boys they’re supposed to be. When he wakes up, Taeyong feels the most refreshed he has in a while. Ten is curled into his side, one hand pressed into the curve of his hip and his face smushed up against the side of his neck. They wake up at the same time, of course, but Taeyong recovers faster and he decides that watching Ten wake up, eyes blinking blearily around him, is something he wants to do for the rest of his life. Ten smiles at him when he notices him looking, murmuring a tired ‘what’ as he attempts to flatten his bed hair down. Taeyong just smiles right back fondly and eventually reduces Ten to a blushing mess, making him whine and cover his face with the white duvet.
“Stop!” Taeyong tells him, reaching forward to tug the duvet off of his head, “I want to see your face!”
Ten doesn’t bother replying and just laughs as he finally allows Taeyong to tug the cover off of him.
Chanyeol and Baekhyun come for them half an hour later and, when they do, both Ten and Taeyong’s cheeks are flushed a healthy pink from laughter.
“Good morning!” Baekhyun says brightly when he opens the door, Ten pressed against his back and this is the first time Taeyong’s felt lively enough to reply with the same vigour. Chanyeol grins down at him too and Taeyong thinks with a disappointed pang that this may as well be one of the last times he sees the two older soulmates. Even though it’s only been a couple of days that they’ve been together, he thinks that, in a way, he might miss this place a little. After all, it’s the place that he and Ten found out how to use perhaps the most important instruments they’d ever have at their disposal. It was here that Taeyong realised so many things, the extent of his feelings for Ten, his love for his members, how Ten’s lips feel against his. It’s only been two days and yet he’s had so many firsts here. It’s a little bittersweet for him to be saying goodbye so soon. He and Ten grab their bags and he takes a last wistful glance at their spacious double bed as he knows tonight he’ll be returning to cramped dorm rooms with no privacy and single beds - Taeyong has no idea how he and Ten are ever going to be able to be alone together. Ten seems to share his sympathies because they share a look, half pleading in a jokey way and Ten turns to Baekhyun asking him jokingly if they can stay.
“Why?” Baekhyun asks a little surprised but humouring them anyway.
“We share a dorm with sixteen other boys,” Taeyong butts in, “This has been like a breath of fresh air.”
Chanyeol and Baekhyun stutter in disbelief.
“Sixteen?” Chanyeol repeats, “How did you guys even cope together beforehand?”
“Together?” Ten questions, walking a little further forward until he and Chanyeol are within the same stride.
“Soulmates gravitate naturally towards each other, whether the bond is realised or not. Usually they prefer to be alone, as well. How did you guys manage that with sixteen other boys there?”
“We didn’t, really, I guess. We never had that much alone time before this, did we Taeyong-ie?”
Baekhyun coos at the nickname whilst Taeyong shrugs.
“A little, I suppose,” he says, lips pursed in thought, “I guess, consciously, we never really knew why we needed alone time so we didn’t actively search for it.”
Ten nods in agreement, also obviously in thought.
“Yeah. I mean, if we got the alone time I remember being really relieved for it, but I just wrote that down to having a breath of fresh air from the others. Thinking about it now, it really was obvious that we’re soulmates."
Chanyeol hums as they turn another corner and emerge into one of the corridors at the front of the building, one of the ones at the front of the building judging by the long window covering the right wall of the corridor. He switches his bag to another hand as Chanyeol begins to speak.
“Yeah, once you find out you’re soulmates you always wonder how you missed it, but soulmates aren’t exactly a world recognised trait, are they? Like, you don’t want to spend time with someone and then think, ‘oh my god, we must be soulmates’, right? I mean, I definitely didn’t with Baekhyun-ie here.”
Ten laughs again as Baekhyun brings them to a halt outside of a huge wooden door.
“No,” Taeyong says, eyeing the door with wariness, “I guess not.”
The room inside is a huge oval office, walls made up completely of mahogany shelves filled with huge, old looking novels. He can feel Ten’s amazement as they enter and can’t help but smile fondly at his open-mouthed awe. In the middle of the room, there’s a huge wooden desk with a large leather chair. In it sits a man, he’s small in stature and probably only ten or so years older than Taeyong and Ten but there’s something about the way he holds himself, the way he sits behind this desk in this obviously expensive office that makes him seem huge, that makes Taeyong feel small. Despite his intimidating appearance, when they enter, he gives them both a warm smile. He, Chanyeol and Baekhyun exchange some hushed words whilst Taeyong and Ten stand awkwardly by the door until they finish and stand up from where they were stooped over. Both Ten and Taeyong automatically straighten up.
“Right!” Chanyeol exclaims loudly and his voice after a long minute of almost complete silence makes Ten jump next to him, Taeyong reaches out to slide their hands together automatically, the feeling having become familiar and comforting after holding hands so often the past few days. It feels almost natural, the way their hands slipped together so easily - as if they’d been doing it their whole lives.
“We’re going to leave you guys to sign your papers and find out what happens next,” Baekhyun continues for them after he smiles at their intertwined fingers, “We’ll come and say goodbye to you when you’re done.”
Taeyong nods and smiles gratefully as they make their way towards the door. The huge slab of wood closes shut loudly.
There’s a moment of strange, tense silence where the man at the desk stares at them for a while and they just stare uncomfortably at their hands but it’s broken when he lets out a gentle smile and gestures with his hands for them to sit down. They do, after a beat, and the screech the wooden chair lets out when Taeyong scoots his chair a little closer to Ten makes him wince. The mans smile doesn’t falter. There’s something about him, the way he doesn’t seem to blink often enough, that makes Taeyong feel as if he’s being scrutinised, examined as if an interesting specimen under a microscope.
What’s this guy’s deal, Ten asks and Taeyong can’t help but look at him in amusement and perhaps relief that Ten picks up something strange about him too.
I don’t know, he replies as subtly as he can but something tells him he’s given himself away. The man’s smile widens and he leans back in his chair, shoulders relaxing.
“Sorry for this formal meeting,” he says and his voice is deeper than Taeyong was expecting, “Unfortunately we have to hold the discharge in rooms like this, just to give it an official feeling.”
He pauses, laying his forearms on the desk. The sleeves of his white dress shirt are rolled up to the elbow, “How have you found it here?”
Taeyong feels a little comforted by the fact that he seems genuinely interested in what they have to say and not just faux like a lot of the authoritative figures in the k-pop business. Taeyong knows that Ten has something to say, so stays silent in the hopes that he’ll get the message. Unsurprisingly, he does.
“It’s been,” he lets out a slow breath, and he’s running through all the things that have happened these past few days, their hands pressed together conveying all of the memories to Taeyong as well. It’s refreshing to see all of these happenings from Ten’s point of view as well as his own.
“Overwhelming,” he announces finally and the man chuckles, a warm sound, like honey on a summer day.
“I understand that,” he says, “Everyone on these premises have been through it. Everyone goes through these first few days a little lost, a little vulnerable, but I can tell you from experience that it gets a lot better and a lot easier to understand as time goes by.”
Taeyong nods, although it doesn’t do a lot to calm the chaos his mind has descended into the past few days. He supposes he has to wait.
“Everyone?” he hears Ten ask, “Even the cook has a soulmate?”
The man laughs again and Taeyong feels a little protective over the way that he’s gazing at Ten with something akin to fond exasperation in his eyes.
“Yes,” he says, “In fact, you remind me a little of my own soulmate.”
Taeyong feels a pang of jealousy, and Ten tightens his grip on his hand a little bit.
Calm down, he says, amusement clear in his voice.
“Oh really? Are they here?”
Suddenly, the mans face becomes a little more closed off, and his smile drops, just a fraction enough to notice.
“Ah,” he says, as if he doesn’t know where to start, “My soulmate actually passed away a few years ago.”
Ten makes a shocked sound.
“I- I’m sorry,” he stutters out and Taeyong can’t even say anything, too busy torturing himself with scenarios where one of them dies, a world without Ten. He wonders, horribly, what it feels like to lose half of your soul.
“It’s fine,” the man says, finally recovering from his lapse in happiness, “These things happen, I suppose. Speaking from experience, however, please make sure you cherish all the time you have with your soulmate. Hold onto each other.”
Taeyong nods, his first attempt at involving himself in their conversation.
“Isn’t it torture,” he blurts out, unable to stop himself, “Working here? Surrounded by soulmates?”
“Taeyong,” Ten hisses and Taeyong is about to apologise but the man just continues smiling, a little gentler than before.
“Of course it is,” he says honestly, “It reminds me of him, and it makes me jealous and sad that we couldn’t carry on our lives together as most of you will be able to but mostly, more importantly, it makes me happy. I’m glad that, just because our relationship was doomed, most soulmates aren’t. He and I founded this company about ten years ago, a couple of years after we muddled through our own soulmate bond without the help or the training. If I gave up on this now, if I just walked away from this building and never looked back, it would be like giving up on him, walking away from him. And I could never do that. ”
Taeyong swallows, unconsciously bringing Ten’s hand into his lap.
“That’s…I’m so sorry for your loss, sir. And, I don't know how much it's worth to you but we’d really like to say thank you for all of the time and effort you’ve put in to help us get through this. We never would have got through it if it weren’t for this place and Chanyeol and Baekhyun.”
“You’re welcome, kid,” the man says, “It’s what we’re here for.”
There’s a moment, where they all smile at each other and it’s nice, a moment of calm and understanding before they’re plunged back into the world of life changing decisions.
“Okay,” the man says, gently easing them out of their little moment, “We should probably talk about what you’re here for, don’t you think?”
Ten laughs a little and nods, adjusting himself in his chair.
“I think Chanyeol and Baekhyun have mentioned to you that every single soulmate pair has the option to go into the secret service as a duo?”
Taeyong nods and his breath catches in his throat.
“Well, you, too, have that option if you really want it but we’re aware of your status as public figures and your band so, it would be very difficult to have you as special agents if you’re almost constantly in the public eye.”
“Yes, we understand that,” Taeyong responds and glances at Ten a second to gauge his opinion, “We don’t have any desire to go down that road. In fact, we’d really like to continue our careers as they left off, as close to normal as we possibly can be.”
The man nods and leans back in his chair again.
“Of course, that’s perfectly fine. Obviously, with your status, it’s likely that you’re going to be asked to not shout about your bond, or…” he pauses, “The nature of your relationship?”
The man’s eyes dart to their hands, clasped together on Taeyong’s thigh. He feels heat flood his face, although he feels no reason to let go.
“O-oh,” he stutters out, “We haven’t really talked about that yet.”
He can feel Ten blushing as well, and he both wants to look and never look again.
“Oh,” he replies, understanding, “Well if you decide that’s the road you want to go down, I imagine you’ll have to keep it hidden anyway but we’d like you to keep it strictly hush-hush. As you know, not many people are aware of soulmates past fairytales and myths and we’d like to keep it that way, if possible. It’s not hard to hide a soulbond, of course, you’ll just have to avoid explicitly saying it.”
For some reason, the idea of hiding his bond with Ten, hiding who they are, produces a bitter taste in his mouth. The feeling seems to be reciprocated with the other boy. Taeyong nods all the same, accepting that some things must be kept hidden. His mind darts to Lucas and Jungwoo, who seem attached at the hip lately, who Jaehyun had quietly murmured to him that he’d caught them kissing in the practice rooms. He knows he and Ten aren’t the only ones that are going to have to keep things hidden.
“We know that,” he says, “It’s in the company contract that we can’t date at all, especially bandmates, especially of the same sex but we’ve seen all three done, and being soulmates and dating is within the same realm, I suppose.”
He chuckles and shakes his head.
“I suppose,” he mocks before leaning over his desk and pulling open a draw. He produces two identical wads of paper and hands one to Ten and the other to Taeyong.
“You need to read through these and sign them to be fully discharged,” he explains as the other two begin flipping through the paper, “You’re pretty much rid of us. Every five years both of you are expected to come in and be examined to make sure all of your abilities are still intact.”
Taeyong’s head jerks up.
“That can happen?” he asks sharply, “The bond can fade?”
Ten’s hand is on his arm, rubbing soothing circles into the skin to ease his panic.
“No,” the man says then corrects himself, “Well, we don’t really know. The soul bond has only really been discovered recently and, as you know, it’s top secret unless you actually have a soulmate so the researchers we have on it are few and far between. We don’t really know what could happen. We used to have monthly checkups but when nothing changed between them we changed them to a year and so on. We don’t really think anything will happen but it’s good to be on the safe side, right?”
Taeyong lets out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.
“Yeah,” Ten breathes, finally letting go of his arm.
The document tells them the requirements of their re-visits (it’s mandatory to come back once every five years unless something extenuating happens. It strikes fear into Taeyong’s heart just seeing the example given. Soulmate death). Other than that, it’s quite straight forward. It details their abilities, and they have to tick through all of the abilities they’ve mastered. They go through it quickly and soon it just comes to the final page, the dotted line of the ‘sign here’ and… a final question. The printed words ‘What is the nature of you and your soulmate’s relationship?’ mock him on the paper and he turns to Ten to see that he, too, is staring down at the paper, his bottom lip between his teeth. There’s four options: romantic, platonic, dislike or strangers. Taeyong would have found the ‘dislike’ option quite amusing in any other circumstance but he’s too busy trying to work out what he should tick. Are they romantic? Or did they just kiss because they were confused and the term soulmate sounds awfully romantic? He and Ten catch each other’s gazes.
What do we write? Ten asks him, still looking. Taeyong considers it, he knows what he wants to write but somehow, he can’t read Ten’s own feelings on this. Can Ten read his?
What do you want to write?
I think you know what I want to write.
When Taeyong just blinks owlishly up at him, Ten sighs, sounding a little frustrated before leaning over him and ticking at Taeyong’s document himself. When Taeyong follows the action, he sees a neat little tick being drawn in the ‘romantic’ box. When Ten leans back, he gives him this little smile - it’s barely there, barely a lift of lips but there’s something in it, something toeing the line past affection and into love. The sight of it, of this smile reserved exactly for Taeyong, for moments like these provokes such a strong feeling of affection that he can’t work out whether he wants to lean forward and press his lips against Ten’s right here or squeal and bury his face in something soft.
The man (they still don’t know his name) coughs awkwardly and they both blink, eerily in sync and move back, shaking themselves out of whatever tense moment they’d descended into. Briefly, Taeyong thinks of a few nights ago, in their apartment and watching Chanyeol and Baekhyun together. He had found it perhaps a bit strange that they seemed be so in tune with each other, so aware of each other’s actions and thoughts but in a matter of just a few days, he and Ten have begun to act that way too. It isn’t strange anymore, luckily, it’s more comforting. Taeyong signs his own paper and then leans over to print his signature on the ‘soulmate’ line, some strange sort of proud feeling rising in his chest as he does so, smiling happily as he watches Ten lean over and do the same. In his mind, he knows that them being overly sappy might be hurting the man opposite them after what happened to his own soulmate but he can’t help how happy he is right now because somehow, seeing their names together on paper under the word ‘soulmate’ just solidifies their whole experience, their whole relationship. The man picks up their papers and places them back in the draw before standing up and gesturing for them to as well, a signal that their meeting is over .
“Well,” he says kindly (everything about this man is kind), “Your experience here for now is over, you guys will be driven back home now and you’re free to continue with your everyday lives. Obviously, adjustments will have to be made but we as an organisation have no more influence over how you do things. On behalf of everyone here, we sincerely wish you the best.”
Ten and Taeyong bow deeply and the man simply bats them off, reaching forward to clasp their hands in a firm handshake, one that feels sincere.
Taeyong and Ten back out of the office, bowing all the while because they’re both so grateful. If they thought going through the stress of discovering their bond was hard now, Taeyong can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to go through it without the organisation’s help. The man smiles at them one last time before the door closes and Taeyong tries his best to communicate his gratitude with his gaze because he’s never been good with words. The door shuts with a resounding click, and he and Ten are left alone in the too-white corridors of The Green Zone. Both of them stare at the wood of the door a second and then there’s a hand on Taeyong’s shoulder, gently manoeuvring him to face Ten. They don’t say anything but Taeyong thinks he understands when Ten leans forward to press his lips against his own, pressure not painful but definitely present and he knows that the insistent press of his lips is him trying to say something. He knows what this means, knows the way Ten walks him backwards to crowd him into the wall, wind his hands into the fabric of his shirt as if he’s going to disappear if he doesn’t keep him as close as possible. Their frantic breathing and movements is the unsaid words the bond we have is precious, the desperation, the press of their bodies says please don’t ever leave me, the tug of Ten’s hands in his shirt communicating something he can’t allow himself to read into right now, something he can’t even begin to think about in fear it’ll be the end of him. Pressing back, Taeyong’s hands on the sharp jut of Ten’s hipbones, gathering him as close as humanly possible practically screams I promise. And somewhere, under a thousand layers of fear and hesitation, the tenderness of his movements echoes I love you. But he can’t let himself read into that right now.
They’re split apart when a deliberate sounding cough echoes from their right. They both jump apart, their cheeks immediately flushing red when they turn to see Chanyeol and Baekhyun standing in identical positions, a hip cocked outwards and a smirk on their faces.
“All done?” Baekhyun asks patronisingly and, although Ten is embarrassed, he starts laughing because, honestly, this whole situation is so ludicrous that it’s difficult not to laugh and the four of them, who shouldn’t even know each other in the first place, must look crazy with the way that they all crack up, clutching at each other’s shoulders in the middle of a too-white corridor. By the time they stop laughing, Taeyong can’t even remember what they were laughing at to begin with. In fact, all he knows is that it feels amazing to laugh so much his stomach hurts and his mind is kind of mushy anyway because Ten laughing is another one of his favourite thing to look at. After a few sharp drags of breath to control their laugher, Baekhyun wipes his hands on the trousers of his suit and straightens up, a trace of sadness on his face.
“Are you guys ready to go?” he asks and Chanyeol’s kilo-watt smile dims a little. The change in mood is palpable but Taeyong supposes he and Ten have to leave at some point, even if his mind is half torn between aching to get home and scrambling to stay in this little bubble where he and Ten don’t have to hide who they are forever.
“Yes,” Ten says, making the decision for them. Taeyong simply nods, expression unreadable.
Saying goodbye is sad, in a strange sort of way. Chanyeol hugs the both of them, one huge hand on each of their backs, patting a little too hard. Baekhyun hugs them separately, whispers them each some words of encouragement. On the way to the car, they had both explained that they weren’t able to accompany them back home because they were expecting more arrivals to come in and be led through the soulmate process. Taeyong and Ten had understood, of course, and both of them had nodded although each felt a pang of sadness. He and Ten turn from Chanyeol and Baekhyun and Taeyong tugs the heavy door to the car park open, allowing Ten through before he heaves their bag through after him, looking back at Chanyeol and Baekhyun, both smiling, one last time before the door slams shut behind them. There’s a clear change in temperature and Ten, clad in only a t-shirt and jeans, springs goosebumps immediately. Absentmindedly, Taeyong uses his free hand to reach over and pull Ten flush to his side, rubbing his hand up and down Ten’s bare arms in an attempt to make him a little warmer as they wait for their car to arrive. Taeyong is surprised to feel Ten’s face flushing and he finds himself glancing down at him, a little bewildered at how, after all they’d done the past few days, such an innocent act as this could make Ten flush (a very pretty) pink.
“Okay?” Taeyong asks, just to check that the last few days weren’t some strange elaborate dream and now he’s stepped out of The Green Zone, he and Ten aren’t soulmates. His worries dissipate when Ten turns to him and smiles bashfully, eyes crinkling at the edges as he looks down shyly. His lips are so pink and soft-looking that Taeyong can’t help but want to kiss him and, unsurprisingly, that’s what he does. He leans forward and presses their lips together softly, gently, lovingly and Ten, rather endearingly, squeaks a little in surprise. Ten turns under the arm Taeyong had around him anyway to get a better angle, to press his hands against the flat of Taeyong’s stomach. In order to reach his lips fully, Ten has to stand up a little on his tiptoes and Taeyong finds it so cute he feels like crying and smothering Ten in a thousand more kisses all at once.
Once again, they’re interrupted but this time by the sound of a car horn. They break apart, a little reluctant, to find a car that’s painstakingly familiar. In it, sits their manager, looking slightly stunned at the sight of two of his band members sucking face in the middle of a public car park.
“Oh shit,” Ten says but Taeyong is too busy blushing so hard he feels like his heads going to explode. It’s kind of like your parents walking in on you making out with someone, that uncomfortable feeling like the embarrassment is a physical thing, like it’s crawling under your skin. The only thing different with that distant feeling, though, is that Taeyong feels no need to jerk away from Ten, no need to hide their intimacy. Maybe it’s the soulmate bond, the closeness that will bind them together for the rest of their life or maybe it’s just how Taeyong has wanted this for so long, has been starved of romantic attention from Ten that he can’t make himself pull away. In fact, thinking about it, he never has been able to pull away, even back then when he wasn’t aware of his own feelings and just thought Ten had some strange irresistible charm about him. Their manager jerks a hand backwards in reference to the trunk and Taeyong winds his hand away from Ten’s waist reluctantly to press the button on the trunk and shove their bag in. Ten follows behind at his heels, like a little lost puppy and Taeyong suddenly can’t take his eyes off of him. For some reason, Ten looks more beautiful today than he does usually (and that’s a difficult thing to beat), with his messy black locks tumbling down against his forehead, cheeks and lips a healthy pink colour. He slams the trunk shut but doesn’t make an attempt to move anywhere, even though he knows their managers probably getting a little annoyed at having to wait.
Why are you staring at me? Ten asks and, in his dazed state, it takes him a second to realise that he’s asked in his head and not aloud. He briefly wonders why Ten would ask that way when there’s no one around to hear them anyway but he knows the answer when he and Ten make eye contact. It’s more meaningful, makes them closer when they do it in a way they know no one else can. He doesn’t even think about how cheesy his next words are going to be.
You’re beautiful, he replies and watches Ten flush darker, watches him tug his bottom lip between his teeth and flutter his lashes downward bashfully. Taeyong winds a hand around his waist and tugs him into him, pressing his lips against the side of Ten’s forehead.
“You’re just,” he breathes, “Really, really beautiful.”
Their manager huffs, irritated when they finally get in the car, both of them sitting in the back even though before all this any of them would have jumped to get to sit up front. Taeyong knows he’s not really angry, though, when he sees his affectionate smile reflected in the rear-view mirror. It’s a bittersweet moment, seeing the strange metal hulk of a building Baekhyun had so affectionately named The Green Zone disappearing in the distance, the orange of the sun glinting off of the huge glass windows. He and Ten glance at each other but Taeyong feels like it’s not the right time to reach out and grab his hand on the middle seat. Their manager stays silent for a few minutes, the click of the indicator as they turn right back onto the motorway into Seoul the only thing really audible in the car.
Should we say something? Ten asks him.
Taeyong glances at him briefly.
“Quit talking about me,” their manager says, eyes glancing back at them through the rear-view for a second before they return to the road. Both of them are stunned into silence.
“…how do you know we’re…talking about you?” Taeyong asks, swallowing a little nervously. Had they honestly failed to keep the secret of their soulmates in a matter of minutes? Manager chuckles.
“Don’t look so worried,” he says, “My brother has a soulmate, too. Why do you think I rushed you back home so quick when I found out you were sharing dreams?”
Now that Taeyong thinks about it, that does seem kind of weird.
“Your…brother,” Ten states, obviously a little stunned.
Their manager smiles.
“Yeah, they found each other about ten years ago, been inseparable ever since.”
“They’re together?” Taeyong asks, honestly curious about the kind of relationships other soulmates have with each other.
“Yeah, they are. A lot of our family looked down on it at first, you know with them being two men and all but they sort of learnt that they were meant to be together and accepted it anyway.”
Taeyong feels a sort of sinking feeling in his stomach. Things have been so hectic these past couple of days that he hasn’t even thought about breaking things to his family, about how to tell them that he has a soulmate and he’s a boy and it’s Ten of all people. They’ve never talked about gay people in their household so Taeyong has absolutely no idea how they’ll take it. As if sensing his discomfort, Ten reaches over and grasps his hand in his own except his vision blurs when their hands join together and he suddenly isn’t in the car anymore.
He’s in an unfamiliar house. It’s bright and hot. He’s sitting at a table in what looks like a dining room, the lighting warm and pink - intimate. He’s next to a girl and after a couple of seconds of looking, Taeyong recognises her as Ten’s sister. Across from him is Ten’s mother and although he’s never met him, the man next to the older woman is most likely Ten’s father. Although it’s silly of him, there’s a pang of nervousness he feels when he sees his father - as if he’s meeting him for the first time and not just living one of Ten’s memories. Someone begins speaking and it takes him a second to realise that it’s Ten.
“Mum, dad, I have something to tell you,” he says and his voice is shaking. When Taeyong glances down, he sees that Ten’s hands are, too. His parents look up from what they’re doing and the sheer love and care in their eyes breaks Taeyong’s heart. There’s a moment of tense silence and Taeyong can feel Ten’s uncertainty, the fear palpable like it’s replaced the blood in his veins.
“I’m…” he says slowly, “Gay.”
The last word is forced out quickly and then Ten’s eyes are cast as far down as he can get them, fists clenched into the fabric of his t-shirt. There’s another tense moment of silence before Ten’s mother breaks it.
“Oh, Ten,” she says slowly and Ten looks up into her beaming face, “That’s fine, darling.”
Ten’s father, too, is smiling.
“We still love you the same.”
The last thing Taeyong feels before he opens his eyes to the car is a warm hug and a tear running down Ten’s cheek. There’s a thousand different emotions in his mind right now. Happiness, pride, sadness, jealousy. He turns to Ten when he snaps out of it and is surprised to see Ten’s eyes a little watery. He smiles gently and reaches out to thumb away a stray tear that had escaped Ten’s eye.
You came out? he asks him and Ten smiles back, leaning his face into Taeyong’s hand.
Ten nods, smiling at the memory.
I don’t want to rub it in your face if you haven’t come out to your parents or whatever, he says, I just want you to know that if you do come out and your parents don’t…they don’t accept you, my parents will always be willing to.
Emotion rises thick and fast in Taeyong’s chest and it takes all he has not to tear up. He settles on bringing his and Ten’s intertwined hands up to his mouth and pressing a kiss to the back of Ten’s knuckle. He doesn’t have to say it for Ten to know what it means. Thank you.
When they arrive at the dorm, Taeyong is strangely nervous and he can feel that Ten is too. He doesn’t know why, the other members are practically their family, they would surely accept them. It wasn’t a question whether or not they were going to tell them. For one, they deserved to know such a secret as this, they deserve to know such a large development because Taeyong and Ten can’t just pretend it isn’t happening. It’s going to affect their group dynamic as well as who they are as people. Taeyong feels guilty just thinking about not telling them. As well as that, it’s would be too way too difficult to be soulmatey in the dorm without the others getting suspicious of what happened to them after they shared a dream and then disappeared for three days. He doesn’t even know why he’s thinking this out so elaborately, he knows they have to tell them, he knows they want to know but perhaps it’s better thinking about this than thinking about all of the scenarios where it could go wrong, where they could get kicked out of the band, lose all of their respect in the industry and from their fans. Taeyong is frightened, suddenly, and the elevator up to the apartment seems too small, pushing in on him from all angles. He starts fidgeting and Ten sends him a worried glance.
Taeyong looks at him and then looks away again, nodding jerkily. He doesn’t have the brainpower to reply in their heads.
“W-what if they don’t accept us? What if the company can’t deal with it and they kick us out?” he rushes out, pushing a shaking hand through his hair. Deep down he knows he’s freaking out over nothing, that they’ll most likely be fine but the prospect of it, of losing all he’s worked for, of losing the chance of doing all this with Ten, his soulmate, strikes fear into his very being. Ten and their manager exchange a look and then, just after, the elevator door pings to let them know they’ve arrived. Their manager pries Taeyong’s hands off of their bag and lifts it out, disappearing round the corner. Ten takes Taeyong’s now empty hands in his own and pulls him gently out of the elevator before it descends back down with them in it.
“We’re going to be fine, Taeyong,” Ten says, a gentle smile on his face, “They’re our family, Tae, the people we love most in the world. They will accept us, if not now then later. We’re stuck like this, forever, whether we like it or not. They have to accept us. And the company, well, fuck them, honestly.”
Taeyong laughs despite his frazzled, frightened state.
“Right,” he says slowly, “Fuck them.”
Ten smiles right back at him, squeezing his hands between them.
“Okay, we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to sit with them and we’re going to explain everything to them and explain it again until they get it, okay?”
Taeyong feels the nerves Ten had managed to make disappear start right back up again. The younger boy notices.
“And we’re going to do it together, alright Taeyongie? Whatever happens, we’re going to do it together.”
Taeyong nods, takes a deep breath and pushes himself back off the wall, allowing Ten to lead him back to their front door.
Ten gives his hand a final squeeze before dropping it and Taeyong reels for a second before gathering himself.
We should probably ease them in gently, Ten tells him and Taeyong just nods in understanding, helplessly attempting to ignore the coldness of his hand now Ten’s fingers aren’t between his. Ten doesn’t even hesitate when he leans forward and pushes the door open and Taeyong can’t help but admire his bravery, can’t help but seem silly that he freaked out so much. It’s weirdly quiet in the dorm when they step inside and kick their shoes off by the rack in the doorway. Taeyong has only just kicked his last converse off when their dorm erupts into noise and madness and the other sixteen members of NCT are throwing themselves bodily at them. Despite being practically body slammed against the door, Taeyong is extremely happy to see them again, wrapping an arm around whoever is nearest to him (Doyoung and Mark) and they end up forming some strange sort of hug-circle, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders in their cramped entry hall.
“You’re home,” Mark says quietly in his ear and when Taeyong looks at him, he has the softest, kindest smile on his face and Taeyong realises, yeah, we’re going to be fine.
When their impromptu hug session is over, Ten and Taeyong push them all back into their cramped sitting room, telling them all to sit down. Half of them end up on the floor, backs against the sofa whilst Lucas, Jungwoo and Winwin squish up on the sofa. Ten and Taeyong take the chair in the corner, Ten sitting in it whilst Taeyong sits on the arm. There’s a quiet hum of chatter whilst they all settle down and Taeyong can hear his heart beating in his chest. He wants nothing more than to reach out and hide his face in the crook between Ten’s neck and shoulder or even just curl their fingers together. Everyone has fallen silent now and Taeyong can’t pretend it’s not thick with tension.
How do we start? Ten asks him and Taeyong tries as hard as he can not to look at him. It doesn’t work.
“So…” Jaehyun says, from where he’s folded awkwardly between the coffee table and sofa, “Where have you been?”
They look at each other again.
“Um…” Taeyong says, and he feels a little weird with sixteen pairs of eyes on him, even if he can perform under thousands, “This is gonna sound really unbelievable but I’m just gonna cut to the point and, um, me and Ten are…soulmates?”
The final word goes upwards like it’s a question. There’s another silence and Taeyong feels like he’s on a rollercoaster that’s about to go over the edge, wants to close his eyes.
“Soulmates?” Johnny asks them in disbelief. Next to him, Mark is murmuring the word over and over in English as if it’ll make any more sense to him than in Korean.
“I know,” Ten jumps in, “It sounds fuckin’ crazy right? That was our reaction.”
Taeyong, on reflex, scolds him for the language but it’s more fond than angry and Taeyong knows that he’s probably given himself away as ‘biggest-fool-for-ten’. Jaehyun laughs.
“Sorry,” Ten tells him, “Listen, I don’t know what else to say. We had the dream, and those two guys in suits you saw came down to us and told us what we’re going to tell you now. Apparently, the reason we can share dreams and do some other stuff is because we…we have the same soul.”
It sounds so stupid said aloud. Everyone stays in stunned silence.
“Is this a joke?” Jaemin suddenly says, and then he begins looking around as if for cameras. Jaehyun shakes his head for them and both Ten and Taeyong look at him in surprise.
“It’s not,” he says, “My cousin has a soulmate.”
“What?” practically all of NCT echo.
Jaehyun shrugs and nods.
“The same men that came for Ten and Taeyong came for my cousin, too.”
“I-” Lucas stutters and then stops again, “Are you seriously saying this is for real? You guys are - are soulmates? Soulmates - they don’t even exist, right? They’re a story.”
“We thought so, too,” Ten tells him matter-of-factly, “In fact we thought so too up to the point where we found out that whenever we held hands, we saw each other’s memories.”
Doyoung practically gasps.
“You can do that?” he asks, “For real?”
They both nod.
“We can do other things, as well,” Taeyong tells them.
“Like what?” Haechan pipes up.
“Uh, we dream together, like you’ve seen. We can do the memory thing. We, uh, kind of have a voodoo doll thing? Like if one of us feels some extreme physical sensation like getting punched-”
“Or like-” Haechan cuts him off, a crude grin on his face but he doesn’t get to finish before Doyoung slaps a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t say it,” he says but he still looks at him expectantly, silently asking do you feel that? Ten and Taeyong look at each other again.
“Uh, I don’t exactly know? We haven’t really been… I mean, possibly?”
Jisung begins giggling but Johnny prompts them to continue.
“And? What else? Or is that it?”
“We can…talk telepathically.”
Johnny lets out a hoot of laughter, a little too loud.
“Right, now you’re just pulling my leg, right? This is a joke, yes?”
Taeyong sighs, he knows that it sounds incredulous but he hoped at least that the rest of the members would have faith in them, would believe them just because it was them that told them.
They don’t believe us, Taeyong tells Ten.
So let’s show them, Ten replies. Taeyong looks at him, confused but Ten just turns away from him to face the rest of the members.
“Okay,” he says, “I know it’s difficult to believe so we’re going to show you. We’re going to try and make you understand.” He turns to face Taeyong now and he tries not to jump when Ten’s hand comes to settle on the joint of his knee, the bottom of his thigh. It sends an inexplicable tendril of electricity up his spine.
“Taeyong, I’ll stay in here and you go in the other room but take someone with you. The members will decide on something to say, the only people that won’t know what they want us to say is me and you. You’ll go in the other room and this person will tell you what to say, you’ll say it through the telepathy and I’ll repeat it back to them.”
Everyone seems to think this is an alright idea, and Ten proposes that he and Taeyong leave the room whilst they decide on what they want to say.
They end up in his and Ten’s shared room, Taeyong sitting on the edge of his bed whilst jogging his leg up and down. Ten sits next to him.
“Do you have to do that?” Ten asks him, reaching out a hand to stop his leg. He just jogs the other one.
“God, Taeyong,” Ten says but he’s laughing and suddenly Taeyong’s got a lapful of the younger boy, pushing him backwards until his back hits the softness of his comforter. He can’t move his legs anymore because Ten’s weight is balanced on his thighs and he’s too distracted by the younger boy giggling on top of him, hands either side of his head. His hands grip at Ten’s hips as if to anchor himself, a little too hard to be playful.
“This is what you wanted all along, right?” Ten asks him teasingly.
“Are you guys - oh.”
Both of them look up to find Jaehyun standing at the door, a hand still raised as if to knock. Ten scrambles off of him.
“It’s not what it looks like,” he manages to say but Jaehyun just laughs and shakes his head, telling them that they’re ready for them.
“We may as well stay in here,” Jaehyun tells Taeyong and Ten slides a hand against his shoulder before walking out, closing the door behind him. Taeyong shuffles to the end of the bed and Jaehyun comes to sit beside him.
“So, you and Ten are together, or?” Jaehyun starts instead of a greeting. Taeyong splutters.
“N-no, we’re not together?”
“Really? Because that looked pretty together to me and you told me you guys kissed!”
“Yeah but we haven’t really had time to talk about it and, I don’t know, there’s that guy he liked.”
Jaehyun clicks his tongue in what appears to be frustration.
Are you guys ready?
“Ten wants to know if we’re ready?”
“Damn, that’s really some freaky shit,” Jaehyun comments, “But, yeah, ready when you are. Code’s, ‘ten has a seventh sense’.”
Taeyong snorts and relays the phrase back to Ten. A few seconds after, the room next to theirs erupts into shouts of awe and perhaps fear. Taeyong takes that as a queue to leave his room, Jaehyun at his heels.
“How did you do that?” Jisung exclaims as he enters the living room, making a beeline for his perch on the arm of the chair. He shrugs, smiling a little bashfully.
“Do you believe us now?” Ten asks, not unkindly.
“But…” Mark pipes up, “How come only you guys are soulmates? How come we don’t all have soulmates?”
“We don’t know,” Taeyong replies, “They don’t know either. There’s the possibility that we all have soulmates but some of the things you can do with your soulmate lie dormant so you never really know.”
Mark makes an ‘ah’ing noise as if he understands when in reality, none of them do.
“But why now? Surely if you’re soulmates you’ve been soulmates since you were born?”
“Yeah, we have but I guess we only really realised when we started having the dream thing. I don’t know why we didn’t beforehand either.”
Ten clears his throat.
“I know this is a lot to take in, I know it might take a while but we’re going to be like this forever. Not many things will have to change but you guys aren’t allowed to say anything to fans or your other friends. Government are still doing trials, so…” he trails off.
Jeno exhales a breath from where he’s lying across the back of the sofa.
“Wow,” he says, “So this is, this is real? This is really happening?”
Taeyong shrugs at the same time Ten gives an affirmative.
“Soulmates,” Johnny says, “Fuckin’ soulmates. That’s crazy.”
Taeyong can’t find it in himself to scold him for the language.
“So if you guys are soulmates,” Doyoung begins and Taeyong knows what’s coming before he even finishes his sentence, feels Ten tensing beside him, “Does that mean you guys are…together?”
Everyone moves to stare at them and Taeyong tries his hardest to identify any disapproving stares. He’s extremely relieved to find simple, unadulterated curiosity.
“Uh…we don’t know yet,” Ten supplies, spinning the silver ring Taeyong bought him for his birthday last year against his finger. Taeyong had been so caught up in things that he hadn’t noticed Ten had taken to wearing it again. There had been a period around the time of comeback when he had stopped wearing it. He feels the weight of it against his own finger, now.
“If we were…if we did decide to be together like, uh, like that, how would you all feel about it?” Taeyong asks the rest of the members, head lowered and gaze set on a stain on their coffee table.
“Fine,” Mark says after looking around and having a silent agreement with the rest of the members, “If you’re soulmates, it’s expected of you, anyway but even if you weren’t and decided to be together, we’d support you anyway.”
Taeyong breathes a sigh of relief. His hands are shaking when he leans and kneels down to wrap Mark up in possibly one of the tightest hugs he’s ever given him.
“Thank you,” he murmurs.
“Aw,” Jaehyun mocks, but the crinkle in his eyes let’s Taeyong know he’s joking, “Our Taeyong-ie’s gone soft.” Taeyong bats at him playfully and releases Mark, who becomes flustered when any sort of raw emotion is shown.
Mental note, don’t fraternise in front of Mark, Ten says and Taeyong glances back to see him with his feet kicked up against the arm of the chair, watching their interactions with a smile on their face.
“They’re doing it now, aren’t they?” Jaemin murmurs to Jeno, who’s watching both Ten and Taeyong with intense interest. Taeyong is reminded of them watching some sort of documentary, slack jawed with fascination.
Taeyong finds himself blushing, knocking Jeno gently upside the head because are we really that obvious?
The smile Ten gives him in response to him asking tells him everything he needs to know. Yes, they are that obvious. Taeyong can’t find it in himself to mind, though. The moment he stands up, he’s being pulled down onto the sofa, lying lengthways across Winwin, Jungwoo and Lucas. Everyone takes that as a cue to become a pile-on, all eighteen of them attempting, in some way, to join the chaos and at some point, amongst all the madness, he catches Ten’s gaze. He smiles. Taeyong would do anything for him.
They’re in their room later that evening, Taeyong lying back on his elbows, eyes trailing over Ten’s back as he watches him fold their clothes and place them in their drawers. He’s had time to think, finally and he has a lot he wants to say.
“Ten,” he begins, so quiet but Ten hears him anyway. He always does. Humming in response, the other boy turns around, leaning back against their dresser. Taeyong sits up.
“I…I’ve been thinking about things. I know we haven’t had a lot of time to talk about this, about us and I know it still feels weird that we’re - that we’re soulmates, that we’re literally meant to be together and all that but,” he takes a deep breath, “Being close with you like this, it’s meant a lot to me, it really has and I want you to know that it isn’t just because of the soulmate thing. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised you haven’t noticed this before but I - I’ve had kind of a crush? Yeah, a crush, on you for a really long time and, I don’t know. I just wanted you to know that even if weren’t soulmates, I would have still enjoyed y’know, kissing you and, uh, stuff.”
“Oh, Taeyong,” Ten breathes out and Taeyong looks up to find the other boy with a flush high on his cheeks, a little smile on his face. He rushes to continue.
“But, I know that you really liked that boy a few months back when you were upset about it and it seemed like you really like him so,” he’s talking really fast now, jogging his legs up and down again. Ten is shaking his head, obviously about to come to Taeyong but he holds a hand up to signal that he’s not done yet, “No, just listen to me. I - I love you, Ten and it’s not just because you’re my soulmate it’s because you’re so good and kind and wonderful and beautiful and I’ve loved you for a really long time and I lied when I told you it was a crush because it’s not, it’s not a crush and I love you but even though we’re soulmates, if you want to be with that boy, if you don’t like me too, I just - I want you to be happy.”
Ten rushes to him and completely ignores the concept of personal space, instead crowding himself into Taeyong, pushing himself into his lap so close their chests are flush together. Ten’s hands are shaking when one of them winds itself into his hair. He’s breathing like he’s just ran a marathon, chest bumping against his own and his spare hand reaches down to intertwine their fingers together.
He’s in the practice room and Jaehyun sits on the floor next to him.
“So have you told him?”
“Who?” Ten asks, “Taeyong? Of course not.”
“But you told him you liked someone?”
“Yeah but I couldn’t tell him it was him, he doesn’t like me back.”
Jaehyun sits up, eyes wide.
“Are you sure about that? Haven’t you seen the way he looks at you, the way he acts around you? He doesn’t even make you call him hyung!”
Ten just shakes his head, hand fiddling with the laces on his shoes.
“You love him, right?” Jaehyun asks, suddenly, “You don’t just like Taeyong do you?”
“No,” Ten replies, and then takes a deep breath “I- I didn’t let myself see it before but you’re right, I love him.”
Taeyong is too stunned to speak, all he can do is curl his hands around Ten’s waist, hold him as close as physically possible. His breathing is laboured now, too and his heart is beating out of his chest.
“The boy…” he begins slowly, “The boy you liked was - was me?"
Ten nods and brings up both his hands to cup his cheeks, to press their foreheads flush together.
“See? It’s you, it’s always been you.”
A tear slips down Taeyong’s cheek and Ten thumbs it away even though he’s crying too and the notion is so touching that it makes Taeyong cry more.
“I’m so happy it’s you,” he says, and Ten presses their lips together in response, frantic fingers moving to pull his shirt over his head. It’s a little messy and kind of gross from their tears but Taeyong wouldn’t have it any way.
“Me too,” Ten says, and then again in their heads.
Later on, when it’s fully dark and they’re lying together in Taeyong’s bed, Ten’s leg thrown over his hip, Ten presses a gentle kiss to his bare shoulder.
“Thank you, Zeus,” he says, the laughter Taeyong loves so much tugging at his voice and Taeyong laughs so hard his stomach hurts.
“Yeah, thank you zeus.”
They’re at a fan meeting a year down the line when Taeyong receives a little post-it note from a fan.
What is Ten-oppa to you?
- band member
He nudges Ten next to him, who looks over at the post-it and then him, smiling.
So which one are you gonna choose? he asks him.
He doesn’t even have to think about it.