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A loud cheer pierces the quiet suite and literally scares Ten awake.

“What!? What’s going on??” He screeches, rolling straight off the couch and onto the floor.

Across the room, Taeil’s door wrenches open and said boy prances forth, dancing around wildly while violently waving a piece of paper. “I’m a finalist for the summer program I applied to!!!”

Doyoung and Ten pause, sharing a blank look, before a wide smile bursts forth on the Thai boy’s face. “Yes bitch!!!!!!” And dragging Doyoung off the armchair, Ten hauls them both into a group hug and twirls them in circles like idiots, to the point where, when Yuta walks in a few minutes later, he find them all collapsed on the ground, giggly and dizzy.

Yuta quirks an eyebrow. “Do I want to know…?” Taeil hands him the paper with a big smile.

“I just need to send a demo with 4 different genres for them to make a final decision.”

And just like that, the grin drops off Taeil’s face. “Oh my god,” He freaks. “What should my program be? Do I go for the Copland or do I toss in that piece from comp that Seulgi and I wrote last semester? Something they’ve never heard before?? Oh god.” The inevitable hyperventilating kicks in.

“Dude, I’m sure whatever you choose will be great.” Yuta offers, and Doyoung and Ten nod in agreement.

“Thanks guys.” He finally replies, heart brimming with nervous excitement.

----------

Done with classes for the day, Taeil wanders up to the annex in search of someone to ask about recording. Admittedly, he doesn’t quite know where to start; he’s never been up here before.

You see, the only real problem with the music building is that all the majors are pretty isolated from each other. Vocal performance and education classes are on the first and second floors. Music therapy has the third. Band is in the left wing, while Orchestra is in the right. So left to the Music business, Sound Technology, and Production majors is the fourth floor and annex.

Lost in thought, Taeil exits the stairwell and immediately hits a solid mass, falling less-than-gracefully on his ass. What a warm welcome, he bitches inwardly.

“Shit, are you okay?” The person asks, and Taeil looks up into a familiar pair of brown eyes. Oh. “Ah, I know you. You’re Doyoung’s suite mate, right?”

He nods dumbly. “I’m so sorry about that.” Taeil sputters, scrambling to help when he sees the mess of cables strewn across the floor. The boy waves him off.

“No worries. I’m Taeyong by the way. Aren’t you vocal performance?” Taeil nods. “So what brought you to the M-Tech annex?” Taeyong ask curiously.

“Um…” He trails off, distracted by the incredibly form fitting black band tee the other is wearing. “Demo!” He finally blurts out. “Er, what I mean is, I applied for a fellowship with a professional choir this summer and as a finalist, I have to submit a demo.”

“Ah, that’s awesome.” Taeil cheeks redden and he murmurs a thank you. “Were you looking for anyone in particular? Dr. Hauser is in her office, but she’ll probably just refer you to the Sound Tech club room…”

“Um… not really?” Anxiety is prevalent in his voice.

Taeyong offers him a soft smile. “That’s okay. I’m actually in charge of the student booth this semester, so if you wanted, I could always sign it out for you and do the session recording?”

“Really!? That would be amazing!” Taeil replies, embarrassed by his own enthusiasm. “I mean, you don't have to. If you’re busy-”

“It’s fine. I’d be happy to do it.” Taeyong promises. Reaching into his backpack, the boy pulls out a pen and sticky note and jots something down before handing it to Taeil. “Just text me when you’re free and we can set something up.”

“Sure…” In a daze, the older watches as Taeyong waves and then disappears into the stairwell.

----------

“Oh god.”

“What is it this time?” Ten moans.

“What do I even wear? If I get cold, my body will lock up and my breath support will suck, but I know if I wear a turtleneck or a scarf, I’ll feel claustrophobic and tight. And I can’t wear my glasses. It’s such an uncomfortable barrier between me and the score. And—wait, would it be weird if I brought slippers? Ugh, all I have are my giant pikachu ones. I’ll look like an idiot in front of him…”

“Him?” Doyoung perks up.

“Didn’t he tell you, Taeyong is doing the recording and somebody has a crushhh.” Ten singsongs, a cheeky smirk taking over his face.

“Taeyong as in Lee Taeyong?” Doyoung deadpans. “As in, my childhood ‘best friend’ Taeyong?” He emphasizes with dramatic air quotes.

“That’s the one!” Ten chirps and Taeil’s cheeks redden.

“Well, you know what they say,” Doyoung drawls. “Talent does not account for taste.” Taeil huffs in offense. Ten, on the other hand, cackles so heartily that he accidentally rolls off the couch. Again.

-----------

“Let me know when you’re ready and we’ll start.”

Taeil nods, chugging the last of his water. Despite his nerves—partially over the condition of his vocal chords, but mostly because of the person outside the booth—Taeil skims over the lyrics in front of him and smiles.

This must be a dream
Just like from my memory
You stopped right in front of me…

He nods and the soft trill of a piano fades in and Taeil closes his eyes.

---

On the other side of the glass, Taeyong’s jaw drops.

He’d heard from Doyoung that Taeil was really talented. In fact, he’d even meant to go to the singer's recital last semester, but he’d been bogged down by a project for Music Copyrights and ended up falling asleep in a practice room.

So to hear it in person now is… dazzling.

In fact, he’s so mesmerized that he forgets he’s supposed to be monitoring the sound quality till halfway through; panicking, he frantically turns knobs and adjusts levels until everything is absolutely perfect. Taeil is pretty easy to work with though. His emotional dynamics could cut through even the shittiest recording quality, Taeyong thinks, lamenting as the song comes to an end.

Inside the booth, Taeil removes one earphone, earnestly asking, “How was it?” and Taeyong is floored by how genuinely unaware Taeil is of his own power—of the fact that he’s just broken and pieced Taeyong’s heart back together again in under 5 minutes.

“G-great.” Taeyong inwardly cringes at the stutter. “Maybe run through one more time and then we should be set to record.”

Taeil nods with an appreciative smile and Taeyong’s heart goes into overdrive. He’s already most definitely whipped.

-----------

“Doyoung, I swear to god, I will never ask you for anything else for the rest of our lives.” Taeyong whines into the receiver, taking the annex stairs two at a time towards his next class.

The muffled scoff in reply puts a smile on Tae’s face.

“That’s what you said the last time when I kindly lent you my Aural Skills binder. Which you promptly lost. For three months. I had to recreate and then reorganize all of my tutoring materials.”

“But your kids still passed and I found it in the end, so no harm, no foul!” He chirps, checking his watch. 7 minutes, good, he can definitely beat Dr. Templeton.

“Maybe for you!” Doyoung screeches through the phone.

“Look.” Taeyong sighs. “I know Taeil is your friend. I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t serious, ok?”

The line is silent for a moment, until the other breathes a huge, acquiescent sigh and Taeyong barely manages to contain his whoop of victory as he barges into his classroom.

“Do-Do, you are the best!”

“DON’T CALL ME THAT YOU CONNIVING—”

Taeyong hangs up and drops into his seat next to Sooyoung, shrugging at her raised eyebrow and amused smirk.

-----------

“Hi.”

Taeil startles, dropping his pen. When he looks up, Taeyong’s shoulders are shaking with laughter.

“H-hi.” The older mumbles, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “How did you find me? Er, know I was here? I mean I’m always here. I mean—” Taeil takes a sharp breath, trying to pull himself together; he can feel his cheeks warming under Taeyong’s gaze. “What I mean is, not too many people know there’s a way up to the clock tower.”

“Doyoung.” Taeyong replies shyly.

“Oh!” The younger pipes up, suddenly remembering the coffee in hand. “Here. I figured you might need this with midterms coming up.” Taeyong holds out the to-go cup and feels the skip in his pulse when Taeil’s eyes light up at the sight of caffeine.

“Thanks.” He takes a long sip. “You can sit if you want.” The older suggests, motioning to the other end of the window seat.

As a freshman, getting lost in the music building was inevitable. After leaving the practice rooms, Taeil stumbled upon some stairs at the back of the percussion wing. So with curiosity piqued and no one around to stop him, he’d followed the dimly lit flights to their end and looked in awe upon what he found.

The room, though in depth was small, had soaring ceilings to accommodate the size of the clock, and its windowed face left the room bright and airy. It was dusty from disuse, but nothing a good clean and some pillows couldn’t solve Taeil wagered.

He’d casually asked a few upperclassmen about it afterward, but it seemed no one knew or really cared about the clock. So naturally, it had become his personal hideout—a place to study, practice, and more often than not, escape from the hectic corridors and practice rooms below. And until now, as a junior, he’d never shared this place with anyone else.

Taeil pulls his legs up to give Taeyong space, admiring the younger face as he marvels at the view of the campus below.

“Damn. If I’d known this was here, I would’ve commandeered it a long time ago.”

“Which is exactly why,” Taeil quips with a smile, “I’ve never told anyone about it. Doyoung only knows because he knows everything. And he’s scarily good at Hide & Seek.” Taeil ponders dryly. His heart flutters at the sound of Taeyong’s soft chuckle.

“Youngie was always good at games. I spent our entire childhood being a sore loser.” The younger jokes, and they share a good laugh. “And, um, speaking of being a loser,” Taeyong wrings his hands nervously. “I wanted to ask you, um…”

The innocent quirk of Taeil’s head sends Taeyong’s heart into his throat.

“... if you wanted to maybe go out sometime? We kind of don’t really know each other, but you have a beautiful voice and you’re really handsome and if you willingly hang out with Doyoung then you’re probably a saint too, or like really patient so…yeah.”

Taeyong feels like throwing up, but just as quickly, the happiness that spreads across the older’s face puts him at ease.

“Really?”

In Taeyong’s ears the other’s voice, full of surprise, fucking twinkles. He nods and Taeil beams.

“Sure. I’d like that.”

Taeyong takes a shaky breath of disbelief.

“Great. Wow.” He smiles back and they spend the next few minutes grinning at each other like idiots. Happy, blissful idiots.

-----------

“Hyung, open the door.” Taeyong begs, knocking once more.

No reply.

Sighing, he goes back to pacing and avoids Doyoung and Ten’s looks of concern.

“He’s going on 48 hours in there… Like, if he didn’t have a stash of protein bars and a case of water, I would’ve had Johnny kick down the door by now.” Ten laments from the armchair, replying to his boyfriend's latest text.

“I’m tempted to call in the gentle giant to do just that.” Doyoung bemoans. “Not even the promise of my triple chocolate cake got him to open that door. If he stays in there much longer, I’m going to ask Chanyeol for the master key.”

Suddenly, said door creaks open.

“Hyu—”

Before Taeyong can even form a sentence, a warm bundle of sweats is cradled in his arms; the younger automatically swaddles him close and breathes in the scent of his boyfriend. Taeil grabs at the boy’s hoodie, hugging back tightly for a few more seconds before pulling back and smiling.

“Hi.”

He addresses the room and both Doyoung and Ten snort.

“Seriously? That’s all you have to say for yourself hyung?” Doyoung chides him before throwing himself at the older. Taeil giggles and accepts his friend’s embrace with a glazed smile.

“I know. I just… needed to work through it myself. But I’m ok now. Even though it was my dream, there will be other fellowships in the future. I’m sorry if I worried you…”

“Hyung,” Ten whines, “never again!”

“At the very least,” Doyoung interjects, “let Taeyong know you’re alive. He’s deep-cleaned our entire suite twice and he doesn’t even live here. It’s a miracle we haven’t gotten high off Febreze yet.”

Taeyong glares in reply, but softens when Taeil runs a thumb between his furrowed brows.

“I’m sorry.” He mumbles softly. “I promise I won’t shut you out next time.”

Taeyong nods. He holds his boyfriend’s gaze for a moment before burying his face into Taeil’s neck. The older rubs comforting circles on his back and sends his suite mates an appreciative look as they retreat to their rooms.

Relishing the feeling of Taeyong in his arms, the rejection letter slips Taeil’s mind completely.