It’s a weird time to be alive.
A weird time to live, the world is a weird place to live, and the general happenings of everyone living is just goddamn weird.
Everything happens all of the time.
Everything is always happening at the same time.
Sometimes it’s fine.
Ten thinks about it and is like, yeah, this is how the world is.
Then sometime he thinks about it, about everything moving forward around him, about progress and stagnation and regression and oppression and insurrection, and he thinks, impossibly, no.
Impossibly, because the world won’t stop.
Just because he’s scared, the world won’t pause for him to take a breath.
The people won’t stop moving because he’s tripped and is falling behind.
The water won’t stop rising just because he’s losing the energy to keep swimming towards the surface.
It fucks him up.
It really fucks him up.
Taeyong always knows it before he does, which is somehow worse.
The big, lost, sympathetic puppy eyes turn his way.
A cup of green tea is placed on his desk.
“Tennie,” is said in the softest, most gentle voice.
And Ten looks up, somewhat blindly, and feels his heart kick somewhere in his chest, but it’s not the usual love he feels looking at Taeyong, and it hurts him to acknowledge that it’s something darker, something writhing and thorny and cruel that tightens around his lungs and writhes around his heart.
Lee Taeyong, with his beautiful face and beautiful character. His full time job, his inner peace. His healthy diet and strict but gentle workout routine.
He’s neurotic about cleaning to the point of obsession, but flaws are forgotten when Ten’s festering in his own mind and wondering, why is everyone better than me?
“Tennie,” is repeated, impossibly softer. “Tennie, I can see you falling again.”
He pushes away from his desk and grabs his coat. “I’m going out.”
“I don’t know. Wherever Jaeho is.”
“Jaeho?” Taeyong’s voice colours slightly. “Jaeho isn’t very nice to you, Ten.”
“He fucks well and that’s all I care about right now,” Ten says, rummaging through his stuff for his wallet, checking himself briefly in the mirror, acknowledging that he’ll never do much to change what he sees when he meets his eyes. He’s hot. Pretty, maybe, with a good smile. It’s what he knows how to use, why Jaeho has fucked around with him for this long. “Don’t wait up for me. Thanks for the tea.”
“Ten,” Taeyong says, not so soft this time. More cautious. More a warning. “Don’t do this to yourself again.”
“It never helps.”
He laughs and pretends it doesn’t hurt his throat. “I don’t know what you mean. Sex always helps.”
And of course Taeyong is right.
It doesn’t help.
It’s never helped.
Jaeho isn’t very nice to Ten.
He never has been, but the bruises feel good when Ten closes his eyes and pretends that the words whispered into his neck while they fuck are something nice. Maybe about his eyes, about his sense of humour. About how hard he’s trying to stay above water.
“You like that?” Jaeho asks, voice rough. He threats a hand into Ten’s hair and pulls his head back to bite over his adam’s apple. “Stupid whore.”
It feels good, so Ten nods, as much as he can with his hair being pulled in one direction, sending pricks of pain to his scalp that just seems to haze and evaporate in comparison to the pleasure elsewhere, everywhere.
Jaeho rocks into him and groans, and Ten closes his eyes again and arches up, sighing out a noise that’s a little too vulnerable, but it’s okay.
It’s okay, because Jaeho isn’t listening anyway.
He sees Kun all the time.
The cafe window is always bright and shining, and every morning that Ten wakes up and makes a tea for himself, Kun is opening his little store with an even brighter smile, ready for the working day.
He’s beautiful in a way that few people are.
Ten watches, some mornings, while Kun ushers customers into his cafe and he watches as they all fall a little in love with him, day after day after hot, summer day.
When Jaeho breaks things off with crueller words than usual, and Ten loses his keys in his misery, he watches Kun some more.
It becomes something of an obsession. What else does he have to do when his ankle is too swollen to support the climb into his apartment? So he watches Kun clean up after his army of shitty teenage workers, and he watches Kun smile like the sun, and he watches everyone else gravitate around him and his stupid yellow apron.
Then Kun comes outside one day, approaching Ten in the harsh morning light, and offers, “You can... just come and sit in the cafe while you wait, if you’d like.”
He goes into the cafe for the first time, eats a free lunch and listens to Kun berate the teenagers for spilling something behind the cash register, and laughs when the tallest one slips and throws a cookie onto an old woman.
It’s not the moment he falls in love, but when he hangs himself over Kun, speaking in his breathiest voice, “Thank you so much for being so kind to me,”
When Kun goes an alarming shade of purple and begins stuttering out objections –
When Ten leaves, laughing, and lands on Taeyong, who is staring at him, kind of concerned and kind of curious –
He decides he likes the way Kun says his name.
He decides he wants to hear it more.
Kun’s glow is so much warmer up close.
It takes them ages to have sex, which is out of the normal for Ten. He doesn’t think of himself as a slut or whatever, but he likes sex, and he likes it fast.
Kun wants to know Ten first. He wants to take him to dinner and buy him flowers and go on walks in the evening.
It makes Ten uncomfortable at first, because unlearning that he’s only worth a night in a stranger’s bed is more difficult than he could have imagined, but Kun is steady. He’s steady and present, and when Ten puts his hands to his eyes and hyperventilates on his couch and chants, “I’m gonna fuck this up I’m gonna fuck this up I’m gonna fuck this up-“
Taeyong lets Kun into their apartment and locks himself in his bedroom so that Kun has the privacy to crouch down in front of Ten and carefully pull his hands away from his eyes to meet his gaze and say, “You can’t fuck up a dinner, Ten, unless you shit yourself at the table and I have to walk you home with your pants full.”
It’s cruder language than Kun would usually use, and it pulls a reluctant laugh from Ten even as he feels his face crumpling because Kun shouldn’t be seeing him like this. “Why are you inside my apartment?”
“Taeyong let me in. You were meant to meet me outside almost twenty minutes ago and I was wondering what had happened so I rang him and came up.” He sighs and holds Ten’s hands tighter. “I’m glad I did. We don’t want to miss our reservation because you’re nervous about getting food on yourself, do we?”
Ten laughs again, weakly. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
Kun presses his lips together and looks up at Ten with that way he has, all deep eyes full of sweet, comforting light, features soft and ever patient. “I know that, honey, but I’m not going to leave unless it’s what you really want. You’re not going to fuck this up, because I don’t think you can. Even if you did shit yourself at the table, I’d probably forgive you. I’m already pretty smitten.”
You’re not going to fuck this up.
God, he wants so desperately to believe that.
“What if I do?”
Kun looks up again. “Hm?”
“What if I do fuck it up?”
“Worst case scenario, Ten, is that we decide that we don’t work as a couple. Very worst case scenario, we have a breakup full of passionate hatred and can’t stand to ever look at each other again. Considering we’re both reasonable adults, however, the chance of that is quite slim. Are you going to live your whole life wondering what will happen if you fuck something up?”
“If I think of the worst case scenario I can never be disappointed by the result, right?”
“You can, honey, you can. And if you’re so focused on the worst version of yourself, you bring it that much closer to reality. I’m not telling you to ignore your emotions and what you’re feeling, but take try and take things one step at a time, okay? Come to dinner with me. If you hate it I’ll take you back home, and we can watch a movie or something else. If you want to be alone, I can deal with that too. I’m not going to be angry at you for feeling a certain way, or leave you because you don’t behave the way I want you to. I’d like you to come for dinner with me and see if you have a good time. I’d like to show you that you’re worth a little effort.”
“And you?” Ten asks tightly. “What about your worth?”
“I know exactly what I’m worth,” Kun replies, smiling slightly. “And if you think you’re going to be able to persuade me that you’re not good enough, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“I’ll tell you what. If you’re so intent on telling me I’m not worth your time, I’ll give you a shot, okay? Persuade me over dinner.”
“I can see what you’re doing.”
The smile widens. “Of course you can, you’re far too intelligent for my sanity. Come to dinner with me, Ten. Hold my hand on the way and let me pull out your chair for you at the table. Argue over the bill with me. Let me walk you home and kiss you at the door.”
The world keeps moving.
The world keeps moving, but this time, Kun has a tight hold on his hand and pulls him forward.
He’s still struggling, but it feels a little less like he’s fighting against the tide.
He doesn’t fuck up dinner.
They eat and laugh, and yeah, they argue about the bill, but Ten manages to persuade Kun to split the cost down the middle. It’s fun, maybe the most fun Ten has ever had while wearing a tie, because they go to an Asian fusion restaurant and Kun picks out some Chinese food for Ten and lets Ten pick him something Thai. It’s weirdly exciting, and Ten enjoys his spicy pork. Kun chokes on the first mouthful of curry, but once the chilli settles as a duller warmth in the back of his throat, he seems to enjoy his meal too.
“Do you think I’m boring?” Kun asks at the foot of Ten’s apartment building.
In the low evening light, his head looks kind of huge. He’s charming, with a beautiful smile and endlessly kind eyes. Ten feels like when he’s around Kun, his pulse rate settles into something calmer than the mania he usually lives with. It isn’t boredom, it’s just... comfort.
“No,” Ten says. “I don’t think you’re boring. Why?”
“We all have insecurities. We all have aspects of ourselves that we wish we could change, and when someone is important, I think it’s natural to worry about what they see when they look at you. You don’t see me as boring?”
“No,” Ten repeats, earnest. “Not at all.”
Kun nods, small softening to only a slight twist of his lips, and he strokes a thumb over Ten’s cheek before stepping back. “I don’t see a fuck up when I look at you, Ten. I see a guy that’s trying really hard to make himself the best he can be. I think that’s wonderful. I think you’re wonderful.”
“Then why are you stepping back?” Ten asks through numb lips. “Why are you leaving?”
“Because this doesn’t start and end with a kiss at the door and us falling into bed together. This starts somewhere else. Maybe on the next date you can walk me home and ask to kiss me, but it depends on where you take me first.” Kun winks and laughs slightly at Ten’s shocked expression. “Go inside, Ten. Get some rest. Have sweet dreams.”
“You too,” he whispers.
Kun leaves him with a lingering smile and walks off into the evening, whistling.
After a long moment of uncomprehending silence, Ten unlocks his door with slow, clumsy fingers, and walks into the living room. Taeyong looks up at his entry and smiles. “How was the date?”
“Weird? How so?”
“We went for dinner and talked. He didn’t even kiss me.”
“Maybe he just wants to take it slow.”
“Taking it slow is for people over thirty with thinning hair.”
Taeyong laughs. “Ten, you sound like an ass. Taking it slow is for whoever wants to do it. It sounds like he wants you to know that he doesn’t just want sex.”
“What else would he want?”
Taeyong’s smile dims. “I love you, don’t I? And we don’t have sex.”
“You’re different. We have an apartment together, so you’re stuck with me.”
“What about Johnny?”
“He’s just dumb.”
“Maybe you’re just being stubborn.” Taeyong stands and walks over to where Ten is hovering in the doorway. He puts his hands on Ten’s shoulders and squeezes. “Kun’s a great guy, and he’s a pushover, but he’s not weak. If you weren’t worth the effort of courtship, he wouldn’t be doing it.”
“You’ve never courted me, you wouldn’t know.”
“Shut up and go to bed. Jisung will be expecting you early in the dance studio tomorrow.”
“Did he ring?”
“Yeah. He’s worried about his contemporary piece, so I said you’d meet him at ten.”
Taeyong smiles again. “Sleep well!”
Ten rolls his eyes but squeezes Taeyong’s hand before it lifts away entirely. “Thanks. As always.”
“You’re welcome, as always.”
He kind of panics about youth and being an adult, but smoking in a tree with Johnny definitely helps.
“I thought you’d given up bad habits?” Johnny asks, passing Ten another cigarette from the branch below. As long as he is, he’s never felt the need to climb as high as Ten. He’s never been so desperately reaching for what’s just out of reach.
“I thought you’d given up calling me out on bad behaviour.”
“If I don’t, who will?”
“Taeyong. Literally all of the time.”
“Maybe, but I doubt he enjoys nagging you as much as I do.”
Ten takes a long drag. “I don’t doubt that.”
“So? What’s up this fine evening?”
“I have my fifth date with Kun tomorrow.”
“Cool. How’s that going?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m here.”
“We haven’t fucked.”
“It’s been what, almost a month? Congratulations, I guess you’re an adult now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Grown ups don’t put out on the first date. Slut.”
Ten snorts and starts coughing on the smoke, and it’s a while before he can breathe enough to swing his leg and kick Johnny in the head. “Fuck off.”
“I mean it though, that’s really cool. Like, I’m glad you’ve found someone that likes you for, you know. Being more than a hole.”
“You’re so disgusting sometimes.”
“You don’t get to say that to me, I’ve seen parts of you I don’t want to remember but will never forget. Disgusting isn’t a word between us now.”
Ten sighs. “I guess.” He stubs the remainder of the cigarette out on the branch he’s sat on. “I just don’t remember what it’s like to date properly. I was on and off with Jaeho for god knows how long and we never fucking dated, we just messed around. How long are you meant to wait for stuff? I’ve kissed his cheek but nothing else.”
“Do you want more?”
“Yeah,” he says, looking out into the canopy of leaves.
“No. I don’t know.”
“You always think about things too much. Do you like spending time with him?”
“And you’re attracted to him?”
“Then keep dating him and see what happens. You don’t have to have the rise and fall of the whole relationship planned out before you hold his hand, Ten.”
“Isn’t it the way though?” he asks. “You end up together forever, or you split up. Fucking doesn’t necessarily have a start or a finish.”
“So you’re scared of losing him?”
“I don’t know, Johnny.”
“You’re human, you can’t know everything. You’ll just have to decide if it’s worth the risk.”
He’s comfortable around Kun, which is the most worrying thing.
He’s comfortable enough to take the piss out of the way Kun greets people, and every time they meet Ten bats his lashes and puts on a breathy falsetto of a voice and says, “Hi there, I’m Kun, it’s great to meet you!” and Kun smacks his arm, trying to scowl past his laughter.
Kun doesn’t care that Ten is a majority snide remarks and a minority a functioning person.
They go for meals.
They go to movies.
They go skating.
Ten doesn’t know when to breach the level of comfort they have, because he’s almost too scared to risk it. Kun must like him for his personality or something right? As opposed to his body. So where does his body, his overt sexuality come into play? What if one taints the other?
Sometimes Kun will look at him, over the table of food or during a stupidly hetero action sequence or between their held hands on the ice rink –
Sometimes Kun will look at him, and he feels like he should lean over and press their lips together, soft and gentle, as Kun had that very first time they’d talked about dating, in his small, cosy apartment with stomach’s full of the pasta Kun had made for lunch.
Sometimes Kun will look at him, and Ten wonders what the hell he’s doing, treading water in such a fathomless sea of uncertainty. Kun is beautiful and charming and kind, the kind of guy made for families and a life of gentle happiness. He should be with someone like Taeyong, who yeah, has issues, but has a heart of gold and hands that are made for cradling life as opposed to cracking porcelain between fingers.
Ten is comfortable around Kun, but sometimes Kun will look at Ten and make him wonder if he has a right to be comfortable. If he has a right to find happiness in a man that deserves so much more.
They go for another meal.
Ten picks the restaurant, thinking that it’s probably somewhere Kun would like with it’s modern elegance and pale decor. The menu is full of sweet, herbal dishes, and everything tastes fresh.
Midway through his fish, Kun puts down his chopsticks. “Ten, we’ve gone for meals like this almost every date.”
Ten’s stomach drops. “You – you don’t like going for meals?”
“Of course I like going for meals, but somewhere like this... it’s lovely, but it doesn’t seem very you.”
“I like it.”
Kun smiles and shakes his head ruefully. “I’m sure you do. But you’ve never been here before, have you? And can you tell me honestly that you would have come without me?”
Slowly, Ten shakes his head. He puts his chopsticks down before his hands start to visibly shake. “Is there a problem?”
“When you pick the date, I’m kind of hoping to learn something about you, you know? Meals are lovely, but I want to do something you enjoy, I want to see what’s in your life, if you’re comfortable enough to show me.”
If you’re comfortable enough to show me. “What do you have in mind?”
Kun shrugs. “Whatever you like, anything in the world. I promise I won’t judge, I just want to learn more about you.”
Ten picks up his chopsticks again, focusing down at his bowl as he thinks. “Alright,” he says after a minute or so of thinking. “We can go somewhere after the meal. If you like.”
“I’d like that very much,” Kun says warmly, eyes twinkling. “As long as you let me pay for the food.”
He isn’t dressed for where they’re going, and neither is Kun. They’re both in formal clothes, not quite suits, but smart jeans and polished shoes. Ten’s outfit is a little more subdued, but Kun looks ready for a job interview.
He’d asked, right?
Ten links their fingers together, and when Kun doesn’t object, he drags him half way across the city, speeding up slightly as panic begins to set as a fizzing in his bones.
“How far are we going?” Kun asks as they dart across a busy road, voice close to Ten’s ear, soft and kind as always.
“Not too far now,” Ten replies, too nervous to turn around. “We’re almost there. Do you have your ID?”
“Yes. Will I need it?”
“Yeah,” Ten says. They reach a dark doorway and he stops, pulling his wallet out of his pocket and hammering on the door with his fist. “Johnny, are you on the doors tonight?”
After a moment’s pause, the door swings open and Johnny grins, his black shirt and nametag level with Ten’s eyes as he’s swept into a hug. “Ten, it’s been a while since you’ve come. What’s the occasion?”
He pulls away and smiles, hoping it doesn’t come out as full of dread as he feels. “Uh, this is Kun. He wants to know what I like to do in my spare time, I guess.”
Johnny offers Kun a friendly handshake. “Nice to meet you, dude. Ten raves about you.”
Kun laughs, delighted. “He does? Not to my face, anyway.”
“He’s one of those, you know? The ones that are only mean on the surface, but are as soft as butter beneath,” Johnny says in a conspirator’s voice. “Anyway, come in. Admission fee isn’t anything big, but don’t worry about it. I’ll steal it off Ten in the not so distant future anyway, so just come in and enjoy your night.”
“Thank you,” Kun says. “A pleasure to meet you.”
“You too,” Johnny says, slapping Ten’s ass as he passes. “Have a good night, boys.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Ten says quietly, but Johnny just shoves him forward into the club and then disappears into the security booth.
Inside, it’s almost as dark as outside. The music is loud, live, from a variety of bands that take turns performing from the stage at the other side of the hall, and lining the way are bars on both sides, drinks served from both ends of the dancefloor. For a club it isn’t particularly well known, but it’s always full to bursting. It’s one of the only places in the city that Ten knows he can go and be himself. It probably speaks more for his personality than anything else could, when he pulls Kun to the bar and is immediately dwarfed in an embrace from a group of people, all laughing and cheering and welcoming. Ten greets them, kind of awkward because with Kun here it feels like a performance – until he turns back to him and Kun is stood at the bar, having ordered them both drinks, and is smiling like he’s looking at a painting or something equal in beauty.
“You’re well known here,” he says, passing Ten a drink.
“I am. I used to come here a lot. I still visit, but not as often.”
“I’m trying to mature, or something.”
“There’s nothing immature about enjoying yourself.”
He feels himself smiling, despite his nerves. “You just here as my life coach or something, Kun?”
“Just to remind you that being yourself isn’t wrong. Unless you’re like. A murderer. That wouldn’t be cool.”
Ten sips his drink. “You wouldn’t like me if I were a murderer?”
“I mean, I don’t like to generalise, but I’ll be honest with you and say it would probably put a damper on things. Unless it was a kind of batman scenario, where you’re fighting crime and saving kids and stuff.”
“You’d accept murder for the greater good?”
“It’s called the greater good for a reason, right?”
What had he been worried about?
Kun taking a look at the seedy old club, turning on his heel, and walking right out of Ten’s life? Maybe that’s it. Or closer to the vulnerable target on his heart, Kun taking a look at Ten against the backdrop of the seedy old club, looking at Ten, really looking, and deciding that he doesn’t want a part of this world. Deciding that it isn’t worth his time or effort.
Kun finishes his drink and passes the empty glass back to the guy behind the bar, then holds out a hand for Ten. “May I have this dance?”
The music isn’t what couples dance to.
It isn’t romantic; it’s some kind of hammering techno beat that sounds like a panic attack compressed into a song, but Kun’s hand doesn’t waver when Ten hesitates to take it.
“Ten,” Kun says, barely audible above the music, “Stop thinking so hard. Enjoy yourself. Show me who you are.”
He’s come this far.
Kun hasn’t left yet.
Ten finishes his drink and puts the glass on the bar, then takes Kun’s hand.
The rest of the evening bleeds like ink in water, becoming one long dark sequence that starts in Kun’s arms on the dancefloor and ends when Ten falls asleep on Kun’s shoulder in the back of a cab, the fingers running through his hair sending him into sweet dreams of being half awake while Kun directs the driver to his apartment.
Ten’s shaken awake gently when they stop. “Ten, we’re at my place.”
He makes a rough noise in his throat and pries his eyes open. “Why’m I here?”
Kun’s voice comes out sheepish. “I, uh, only had enough money to take us to one place, so I figured you could stay in the spare room.”
The spare room.
Ten has a weird relationship with Kun’s spare room, considering he spent exactly one night in it, drunk and crying miserably into the sweet smelling sheets, dressed in Kun’s old clothes with a pint of water and an empty waste basket beside the bed.
He’s not fond of that room.
They leave the cab and walk up to the apartment quietly while Ten thinks of an excuse to walk himself home instead of staying in the room of shame, but when they enter Kun’s cosy apartment all he says is, “I don’t wanna stay in your spare room. It makes me sad.”
Kun locks his door and looks over at Ten with an unreadable expression. “You don’t like the spare room?”
“No,” he says, “I don’t.”
“Okay. You can stay in my room then.”
Ten blinks. “With you?”
“Unless you’d rather have it to yourself. I don’t mind taking the spare room.”
“No,” Ten says quickly. “Not alone.”
They get ready in different rooms, and once Ten has cleaned himself in Kun’s bathroom, brushed his teeth and dressed in an old shirt and boxers Kun had passed to him, Kun is already in bed.
Ten stares at him, at the painfully domestic scene he makes with a table lamp on, reading something on his phone with his glasses slipping down his nose.
He looks up when he realises Ten is staring. “Are you coming to bed?”
“I had fun tonight,” Ten says, out of nowhere. “Did you?”
“I did.” Kun put’s down his phone and pulls back the sheets beside him. “Come to bed, Ten.”
So he does.
The sheets smell just as sweet, the clothes just as comfortable, but this time when Ten rests his head against Kun’s pillow, he isn’t drunk. He isn’t crying. He isn’t sad.
Kun turns off the light, puts his phone and his glasses on the table, and settles down into the blankets with the sigh of an eighty year old in a sadly youthful body. “Well, goodnight.”
Ten clears his throat. “Can we...”
“This sounds so fucking stupid. Can we cuddle?”
He feels Kun shift in the darkness, and then a hand is on his waist, pulling him closer, and Kun is wrapped around him like a warm, weighted blanket, smelling of toothpaste and lavender. “We can cuddle as much as you want.” He presses a light kiss to Ten’s forehead. “Goodnight, Ten. Sweet dreams.”
Ten noses into Kun’s neck as his heart pounds and his pulse flutters. Without sex, without emotional venting and late night hysteria and all of the darker shit that comes with life –
This is the closest he’s ever felt to someone.
Like he could rest here in Kun’s arms and remain there forever, comfortable. Safe.
“Goodnight Kun,” he says, closing his eyes. “Thanks for the date.”
“You organised everything, don’t thank me,” Kun murmurs, squeezing him tighter for a second. “I had a good time. I like knowing you, Ten.”
“I like knowing you too,” Ten whispers.
He wakes up the next morning, alone.
The sun is shining through the curtains, and he can hear Kun whistling from the kitchen, the smell of food drifting through the open bedroom door.
After a minute of lying there, trying to comprehend what’s happening, Ten gets up and heads into the bathroom to steal Kun’s hot water for a brief but thorough shower. Clean and minty, smelling faintly of grapefruit, Ten rummages through Kun’s closet and steals another shirt, and a pair of shorts that reach his knees in a weirdly comical way.
He brushes his hair with Kun’s brush.
Moisturises his face with Kun’s moisturiser.
Heads into the kitchen, where Kun is serving up two plates of fried breakfast. He smiles brightly when he sees Ten. “Good morning! I thought we deserved a treat, so absolutely none of this is healthy or low in cholesterol. Is that okay?”
Ten takes the pan out of Kun’s hand, drops it in the sink, then puts both of his hands on Kun’s chest, pushing him back until he’s braced against the countertop, and then he leans forward and kisses him.
There’s a fraction of a second where he fears Kun’s hands will come up to his shoulders, gently push him back with kind, pitying eyes and say, “Ten, what are you doing?”
That same fraction of a second, Kun doesn’t move.
Then he does.
His hands come up to frame Ten’s face like he’s something fragile, something special, something worth treasuring –
And then he kisses Ten back.
It’s sad to admit, but Ten hasn’t kissed like this in years.
Kissing is a means to an end, a prelude to something more, but this feels like a joy of it’s own, an activity for the sake of it. Kun kisses too slowly, with too much soft tongue, and it’s perfect. It makes Ten’s toes curl against the cold tile flooring of the kitchen, because each wet drag of their lips winds him up tighter even as his heart melts into a puddle, dripping like wax in his chest, coating his lungs and his ribs as his hands thread into Kun’s hair and tug, pulling him impossibly closer.
Kun obliges with a smile Ten can feel against his lips, and suddenly his hands aren’t on Ten’s face anymore, they’re on his waist, tight, and Ten is being lifted onto the counter and Kun is stepping into the space between his legs to align their bodies together.
Ten links his ankles behind Kun’s back and kisses him again, deep and filthy as a noise rises from his throat, high and shamefully needy, but Kun just laughs, breathlessly, and kisses him again, and again, and again.
It’s not even ten o’clock on a Saturday morning.
Ten had woken up sober, showered, even brushed his teeth. Kun had made them breakfast. The sun is shining and he’s being kissed on the kitchen countertop in Kun’s apartment, and Kun is smiling against his mouth.
Ten pulls back just far enough to gasp, “Can we have sex? Can we? I’m not above begging right now.”
Kun’s smile widens and his eyes open ever so slowly. He presses a kiss to the tip of Ten’s nose. “You understand now, right? If we have sex I’m not going anywhere afterwards.”
“I understand,” Ten says. And he does.
Kun’s hands slip to Ten’s thighs and he lifts him off the counter with an ease that sends Ten into another plain of arousal as he’s carried back to the bedroom. “What a waste of all that food I made,” Kun says, happiness brimming through his voice in waves. “It’s a good job all of it is fine to reheat.”
“We’re gonna need it,” Ten says, smiling as he presses his face into Kun’s neck. “I’m gonna make a point of exhausting you until you can’t move, so that’s gotta be our lunch.”
“Demanding,” Kun says, looking towards the ceiling as he dumps Ten unceremoniously on the bed. “Somehow I knew you’d be bratty.”
Ten spreads his legs and lies back, smiling, because this is his territory, this he knows. His whole life has been putting on a show, and he knows how to excel. He waits until Kun’s gaze has focused back on him and then slowly, deliberately, puts one of his hands around his throat. Kun’s eyes widen and he watches as Ten drags his hand from his throat, down the soft surface of the borrowed shirt, down to the shorts that are too big and sat too low on his lips. His hand pauses over his growing erection, but then he pulls it back up, dragging the front of his shirt up to show off the plains of his stomach. Kun’s eyes track each movement and the humour falls away from his face.
“You’re so skinny,” he murmurs, hands twitching by his side. “You’re gorgeous Ten, but I think I might go bald from how much I worry about you.”
“Don’t go bald,” Ten says, breathless from the intensity of Kun’s eyes. “You’d look stupid in wigs.”
Kun laughs, and the weird little moment passes as he climbs on the bed and straddles Ten’s hips to lean down and kiss him again, mostly tongue with little else, which is exactly what Ten likes, what he feels like he needs.
As they kiss he scrambles with the edges of Kun’s shirt, trying to pull it over his head, but Kun is resolute in kissing, which means the shirt goes no further than his arms, despite how much Ten tugs. Eventually he finds the inner strength to push Kun’s face back and say, looking up through his lashes, “Don’t you want to fuck me?”
The physical reaction in the dilation of Kun’s pupils and the tensing of his shoulders sends Ten back into that soft plain of living, where he feels like he’s floating somewhere else as Kun sits back and pulls his shirt off, then pulls Ten up to manhandle him out of his shirt too, and then Ten can barely think at all beyond Kun’s body, because he’s so beautiful that it takes all of Ten’s focus to just look.
He’s broad and firm but somehow so impossibly soft, and Ten has never felt this full of... tenderness. Not during sex. Not like this.
He shimmies out of his shorts and sits up to watch as Kun steps out of his sweatpants, opening the draw of his bedside cabinet to rummage around. He pulls out a box of condoms and a bottle of lube, looking at Ten with pink cheeks. “I, uh.” He clears his throat. “I’ll just need to check the date on these.”
Ten puts his hand over his mouth and tries not to laugh. “It’s been a while, huh?”
“My life isn’t so perfect,” Kun grumbles. The overall effect is ruined by the fact he’s naked and his erection is very visible, and it makes Ten laugh harder, until Kun throws the box of condoms at his face and the cardboard bounces off his forehead. “Everything is in date, we’re in luck.”
“Then come here, Mister Qian, and prove that luck.”
Kun scoffs and shakes his head, but he climbs back onto the bed, and soon enough they’re too busy kissing to laugh at each other again.
Ten is pressed into the mattress, and he’s giddy with happiness.
He pulls Kun closer and rolls up his hips, rubbing their cocks together, basking in the resulting moan that vibrates from Kun’s chest and up into Ten’s mouth, and he’s giddy with happiness.
He separates their mouths just long enough to say, “Stretch me open, Kun,” and giggles when Kun goes red from his cheeks to his chest, fumbling with the lube with clumsy hands. And he’s giddy with happiness.
Kun works him over with a steady, confident pace, and it takes a matter of minutes to reduce Ten to a moaning wreck as he grasps at the sheets and Kun rubs at his entrance with his lubed fingers before pushing back in and rubbing in what must be every single sensitive place Ten could possibly have.
“If this is you out of practice I’m almost scared to see what you’re like once you’ve been broken in properly,” Ten says, laughing a little when Kun splutters something about Ten being ‘naughty and just plain rude’ –
And then he stops laughing, and he stops feeling happy, because all he can feel is pleasure. His eyes squeeze shut as Kun’s fingers graze his prostate, and he groans loud enough to disturb any nearby neighbours that might have enjoyed a lie in on a sleepy Saturday morning.
“If you don’t get in me right now we’re both gonna be disappointed,” he gasps past the waves of honeyed euphoria threading through his body, reaching out to his fingertips. He’s close to coming already, without any touch on his cock, but that might scare off Kun the first time, so he kind of needs to move things along before he embarrasses himself.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Kun asks, eyes wide and full of genuine concern and – affection.
Ten scoffs. “I know my ass better than anyone else, thanks. Put on a condom so I can sit on your dick.”
Which, coincidentally, gets Kun moving very fast as he fumbles for the box he’d bludgeoned Ten with and rips open one of the packets with his teeth. It shouldn’t be hot, but Ten could watch Kun iron a sock and it would probably turn him on at this point. He’s pretty fucking far gone for him.
Kun almost misses his dick with the condom, then flushes red again. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Nerves. I made a big deal out of the sex thing and now all I can think about is fucking it up.”
As soon as the condom is on, Ten sits up and pushes Kun backwards so that he falls onto the blanket with a quiet noise, blinking up at Ten with his pretty, dark eyes. Ten kisses his way down Kun’s chest, paying special attention to the faint moles, because they’re fucking cute. “What is it you keep saying to me?” he asks, working his way down. “You can’t fuck it up. You could have come on my face half an hour ago and I’d have been happy with that, Kun. You can’t fuck this up, as long as we both have fun. Right?”
“Right,” Kun repeats. He drags a thumb across Ten’s cheekbone. “God, I’m lucky.”
And Ten wants to laugh, right in his handsome charming stupidly charismatic and kind face. ‘You’re lucky?’ He wants to yell. ‘I’ve never been so lucky in my entire fucking life. I’m gonna spend the rest of my life proving to you that I’ll one day deserve you.’
But he doesn’t say that, because he’s selfish, and he knows that if he gets all emotional then Kun will stop the sex and make them talk about their feelings, and he really needs to get fucked.
So instead, he just laughs a little, then rises up to press a brief kiss to Kun’s lips before sitting back on his knees and reaching down to guide Kun’s cock to his entrance. “Maybe we’re both lucky,” he gasps.
Kun groans when he’s fully inside, hands reaching out to dig bruises into Ten’s hips as he tentatively rises, testing the tightness, head cloudy with pleasure. He braces his hands on Kun’s chest and lowers himself, and this time they both moan.
“Have you missed this?” Ten asks, finding a rhythm, looking down at the way Kun’s face is scrunched kind of silly, but also kind of beautifully. “Have you, Kun?”
He nods, jaw clenching as he lifts one leg and fucks into Ten, and they both groan again, loud and animalistic as the pace picks up.
“I’ll give it to you whenever you want it,” Ten says, leaning down over Kun as he rolls his hips, entirely overcome, body singing as nerve to nerve lights up like a chain of fireworks in his bloodstream. “Whatever you want, however you want it I’ll make sure you have it baby, I’ll treat you so well like you deserve I swear-“
Kun kisses him hard and rolls them over so that he’s above Ten, hand pushing one of Ten’s legs up and to the side, stretching him so nicely that he squeaks a little as the muscle strains and Kun starts moving again, fast and hard.
Ten looks up at the ceiling and tries to breathe (and not come all over himself).
He’s given up trying not to fall in love with Kun.
Who, noticing Ten’s sudden silence, slows his pace and props himself up higher so that he can look down at Ten. “Ten? Are you alright?”
It makes him want to laugh in a painful, vulnerable way. Jaeho hadn’t listened when Ten had spoken, but Kun notices the times he goes completely quiet.
“Ten?” Kun repeats, stopping completely, dread as thick as molasses in his voice. “Oh god, am I really bad at this? It’s been like a year and a half since I did anal.”
Ten bursts out laughing and puts both hands over his face to hide his expression and the fact that he’s crying a little.
He rubs his eyes and blinks up at Kun’s concerned face. “Sorry, sorry. I’m fine, I swear. You’re not bad at this, you’re good. You’re so good, Kun. You make me really happy.”
Kun’s expression softens into a light smile. “You make me happy too.”
“Can you like, move your dick then?”
Kun laughs loudly and he leans down to smatter kisses all over Ten’s face. “Yes, you demanding little shit.”
And maybe another time it would be embarrassing how little time it takes for them to get worked up again, lost in each other’s bodies, but Ten isn’t embarrassed. Kun doesn’t make him feel self conscious, and he doesn’t mind laughing at himself when Kun puts a hand around his dick and Ten immediately comes all over both of their stomachs. He doesn’t mind laughing, and he laughs too when Kun comes almost immediately after and then flops down onto Ten like he’ll never be able to move again.
After what feels like minutes but could be any length of time (Ten’s kind of too out of it to think about the passage of time) he pokes Kun’s shoulder and asks, “Don’t you have to open your cafe?”
Kun groans and squeezes him tighter. “Sicheng’s opening for me today. I rang him this morning while you were still sleeping.”
“Ah,” Ten says, revoking his poking finger and threading his hands into Kun’s hair. His ass is pleasantly sore, and while come cooling on his stomach is nasty, he’s too comfortable to care about it just yet.
“They miss you, you know.”
Kun lifts his head slightly to meet Ten’s eyes. “All the kids at the cafe. Since we’ve started dating you haven’t really been in the cafe at all, and they miss you.”
“I didn’t wanna... you know. Encroach on your space.”
Kun smacks him lightly. “What a stupid thought. Come to the cafe with me after lunch, Chenle will make you some cookies if you ask him nicely.”
“Can we fuck again before we go?”
Kun laughs. “I’m twenty four, not seventeen. You might have to give me a couple of minutes.”
Ten rolls them over so that Kun is pressed against the pillows, smiling up at Ten with an indulgent expression Ten isn’t morally above exploiting. He trains his hands down Kun’s chest, his stomach, and then lingers around his hips as he bows down to lick off some of the drying come, as gross as it tastes, just to watch Kun’s eyes widen. “Are you sure I can’t persuade you, honey?”
Kun goes pink. “I mean... I won’t stop you from trying.”
Like a week later, Jaeho rings Ten, and he steps onto Doyoung’s balcony while Kun argues with Yuta about something to answer his phone. “Hello?”
“Yeah. Haven’t changed my number, so... yeah. It’s me.”
There’s a breath. “I miss you.”
He can’t help but laugh. “You’re kidding, right?” He looks through to where Kun is still arguing and catches Taeyong’s concerned eye, though he waves it away. ‘It’s fine,’ Ten mouths to him before focusing back on whatever it is Jaeho is saying.
“- and I know I wasn’t good to you, and I should have been. I was scared of how you made me feel so I pushed you away, and I can’t apologise enough for that. You deserved better, and you still do, but I can’t help my feelings. I can’t change the way I feel about you.”
Ten leans against the railing on the balcony and watches in as Kun gets the upper hand in his fight and tries to smother Yuta with a pillow. He’d been nervous when he’d first arrived, worried that Kun’s friends would all be in suits and dine on fancy china plates and look down their noses, but it had been for nothing. Doyoung had been in a suit when he’d opened the door, but it was rumpled and the sleeves were rolled, and there was a red wine stain on the collar. He’d looked at Ten, snorted, and said, “You’re already better than the last one Kun brought here. She had this collection of weird old dolls and brought some to show us. Taeil didn’t sleep for like a week after that.”
Kun had spluttered some kind of denial, his face going a deep red as his hand squeezed Ten’s fingers, but Ten had already been laughing, and had barely stopped since. He’d spent his evening sat on Kun’s knee, drinking wine and eating snacks and laughing about stupid things with people he barely knew but couldn’t wait to know more of. He’d giggled with Kun about how obviously Jaehyun had been watching Taeyong the whole evening, and how obliviously Taeyong had sat, eyes on the spreadsheets Doyoung had fished out to complain about.
And now this? This somehow feels symbolic. This feels like the cathartic moment when he can finally say, “I’m healing, I’m better without you, I’m happy now.”
Ten’s too petty for that.
He laughs directly into the speaker instead. “You can’t help your feelings? You can’t help your tiny dick either, right? Or the way you went on your stupid power trips, calling me names and humiliating me because it’s the only way you felt even a semblance of control over me? Right? Or how about the way you left me covered in bruises and crying and then ignored the very principle of aftercare because real men don’t coddle or what the fuck ever, you giant sack of steaming shit. You think you can treat me like a whore and then months later when you miss the feeling of my ass I’ll just come crawling back? You think I’m that weak? You’re as stupid as you are helpless then, because I don’t want you, I don’t care about how you feel, and I don’t want you to ever contact me again. I’ll fuck you up, Jaeho, and I mean it.”
Jaeho’s voice comes out faint, shocked to the point of no inflection. “Ten...”
Kun meets his eyes through the glass, and Ten doesnt know what it is Kun sees in his face but one minute he’s suffocating Yuta against the couch and the next he’s opening the sliding doors and closing them behind him, putting one hand on Ten’s and squeezing his fingers reassuringly, eyes concerned and kind.
Ten blows him a kiss and focuses back on his phone. “I’m happy now, asshole, and I know what I’m worth. I’m living my life and I’m enjoying waking up each morning, and sometimes I get dicked down by the love of my life, and sometimes we cuddle instead. We never cuddled, Jaeho, because you said it made you look like a pussy. If there’s one piece of advice I have for you, it’s for you to go get some counselling. God forbid you make another guy feel like you made me feel, because no one deserves that. Go to counselling, delete my number, and forget my face. If you ever come near me or the people I care about I’ll shove my fist so far down your throat that you shit out your own teeth, do you understand me?” He hangs up before he gets an answer, then pockets his phone and sends a blinding smile towards Kun. “Hi baby, you okay?”
Kun blinks. “I’m fine. Are you okay?”
“I’m great.” He kisses Kun. Kisses him again. Puts both hands on Kun’s beautiful peachy ass and pulls him closer, then kisses him again, deep, with tongue and all the contentedness in his body and soul. “I’m so fucking in love with you, Qian Kun.”
“I’m so fucking in love with you too, Chittaphon Lee-“
Kun laughs. “Sorry. I’m so fucking in love with you too, Ten.”
Yuta shouts something from inside, and Doyoung pulls the sliding doors open to glare. “Kun, you got marinara sauce on my fucking couch cushions.”
Kun shoves Ten though the doors first. “It was Ten.”
He laughs, falling through, and drags Kun with him.
He doesn't have to climb through windows anymore, because Kun makes sure that all the doors are wide open.