Every Christmas Eve up until Doyoung was eight years old, he and his brothers would hide under their dining room table, carefully making dalgona, giggling and telling each other to keep quiet.
They’d bring it, wrapped in red and green glittery ribbon and equally bright cellophane, to the chapel a few houses down and leave it by the life size nativity scene, right by newborn baby Jesus’ feet and pray for another good year.
Before Yuta was born, Ten and Taeyong would pray for another baby brother, and when Yuta was finally old enough to join them, they asked for another. By the time they learned how to sneak Doyoung out in his stroller, they were asking for another baby brother. Then by the time Doyoung was five and they couldn’t sneak Mark out yet because he was sleeping in their parents’ room, they prayed for their family to stay together because their mother and father’s arguments were only worsening day by day.
Well, Doyoung might have been a little selfish. When Mark turned seven and swore up and down that this was the last time they were all doing this because I’m getting too old for this baby stuff, hyungs, a fifteen-year old Ten had flicked him on the forehead, grumbling about showing him what old looked like. Doyoung silently prayed for their next door neighbor and his forever best friend, Jung Jaehyun, to be, well, more than his best friend. What his brothers don’t know won’t hurt them, right?
Doyoung loves Mark. Mark is great, he’s sweet, stupidly loyal and brave. He’s smart and talented and has so much love to give to the world. Mark is their little golden boy, their little miracle from heaven, their dream come true. But this isn’t about how much of a good little brother Mark is. This is about how Doyoung needs Mark to keep needing him in order to use Mark as an effective and oblivious excuse to stay home, to stay in Korea, without Mark knowing he’s being used as an excuse. What Mark doesn’t know won’t hurt him, obviously.
Their mother sees right through it, without a doubt, but when Mark still asks his Doie hyung if he knows where his formal event shoes are and begs him to make him lunch to bring to work, who is Doyoung to say no to those baby browns? Not Doyoung, that’s for sure.
Besides, who will remind Jeno to get home before midnight and buy new garden shears because the old ones are starting to get rusty? Who will make sure Renjun eats breakfast and remind him what groceries to buy? God, who’s going to remind their mother to drink her meds and that their van needs to be repaired? Not Mark, definitely.
So Doyoung wants to know why, on their ever loving god why, his mother insists on him taking up a job abroad just like his Ten and Taeyongie hyung. God, just thinking about what New York had done to Taeyong sends shivers down Doyoung’s spine. He’d rather stay here in Korea, thank you very much.
Speaking of using Mark as an excuse—
“Mom, we’re going to take some money out of your retirement fund for the van repairs,” Doyoung says, already writing up a cheque from his mother’s chequebook. “Ten hyung can’t send his share this month because he’s looking for a new apartment, but Yongie hyung said he’ll send enough to cover Ten hyung’s share.”
His mother barely spares a glance when Doyoung slides the book back to her. Instead, she brightens at the mention of her eldest son. “That’s good for Tennie! Speaking of, why don’t you ask him to put in a good word for you at his school? You—”
Doyoung sighs, preparing Mark’s lunch and his mom’s medicine, ever busy. “Mom, we’ve been over this. I’m fine here, I like it here. Who’s going to take care of you? Of Minhyungie and Junnie and Jeno?” he slides a saucer of her morning dose without batting an eye, turning back to the bento box he’s preparing for Mark. He looks over his shoulder at her and grins. “Wouldn’t you miss your favorite child too much?”
His mother snorts and rolls her eyes. “Brat. You make it seem like your dongsaengs are helpless without you.”
“Doie hyung! Have you seen my umbrella?” Renjun calls up from upstairs. Doyoung smiles at his mom, point proven. Doyoung calls back out, “I left it out to dry, Jun-ah!”
Jaehyun appears from Doyoung’s room, hair still wet but looking so damn good in his grey button up and slacks, greeting both him and Doyoung’s mom with a kiss on the cheek before settling on the dining table. “Honestly, mom, it’s like Renjun and Jeno don’t act like we’re cousins, they act like we came out of the same womb.”
Renjun appears in a flurry of smudged eyeliner and growing mullet, huffing at Doyoung’s statement. “You act like I’m ungrateful, that’s Jeno’s job.”
Doyoung chuckles and serves breakfast, packing Mark’s lunch neatly before he joins the table, patting Jaehyun’s thigh as he sits next to him. “I’ll pick you up today, babe.” Jaehyun tells him and proceeds to shove an egg roll in Doyoung’s mouth. Renjun rolls his eyes at them.
Once Doyoung’s recovered his ability to breathe, his mother doesn’t waste time and brings up the topic again. “Doyoung-ah, it’ll do you good to take a job abroad. You’re smart, and—”
Doyoung needs an excuse.
“—very well qualified for it, I don’t—”
“—Kwon Doyoung, will you quit interrupting me?” his mother scolds.
Doyoung doesn’t need Jaehyun to feed him when he shoves another egg roll into his mouth and sheepishly avoids his mother’s gaze. Finally, Mark appears in all his bubble gum pink polo and khaki shorts glory, smile rivaling the morning sun. If Yuta were there, he would have made fun of Mark’s attire to no end.
Their mother asks, “You’re wearing shorts to work?” at the same time Doyoung asks, “Is Jeno awake yet?” Well, it’s nice to know what their priorities are.
Mark hums, still smiling. “I’m not going to work.”
The whole table stares at him. Mark is buzzing at the attention, he’s got something to tell and can’t wait to say it judging by how much he’s vibrating into another dimension in his chair. Doyoung only dejectedly thinks about the bento box he packed for Mark when he takes the bait with a sigh. “Why aren’t you going to work, Mark?”
Mark tries to act casual, like he just wasn’t about to explode if they didn’t ask him, pretending like he’s interested in his food. Rude, Doyoung thinks. “Because me and my boyfriend have a lot of things to do today,” Mark says and pauses, a grin splitting his face as his eyes shift to each person present. “I mean, fiancé.”
Doyoung can’t believe he’s only twenty-five and he’s about to die from an aneurysm. Renjun and Jaehyun are staring at Mark slack jawed, their mother—their poor, poor mother—swallows her Aspirin with an audible gulp, eyes shut tight and forehead creasing. Mark continues to smile as he grabs Doyoung and their mother’s hands.
“Mom, Doie hyung—I’m getting married!”
This does not sit well with Mark’s hyungs.
“What,” Ten says over the din in the background. “Markie’s getting married?”
“That’s what I just said, hyung,” Doyoung whines. “Where the hell are you? Is the reception in Bangkok that terrible?”
Ten makes an appeasing noise. They can all imagine him waving his hand off. “I’m at a bar. My colleagues and I have had a long day.”
“Right,” Taeyong says, the rolling of his eyes heard loud and clear. “So he and Daniel got back together?”
Doyoung kisses Jaehyun on the cheek as a goodbye, getting out of the car and bowing to the security at the entrance. “I wish it was Daniel. But no,” someone greets Doyoung good morning in passing. “It’s the new one. Donghyuck.”
Yuta screams. “Oh. My. God. The one he met on that singles cruise?! But he looks like a clown!”
Ten massages his ears, coming out of the bar’s bathroom and starts cleaning a nearby table, phone balanced between his shoulder and cheek. “What? Who is this Donghyuck, anyway?”
Doyoung rolls his eyes, exasperated. “Hyung did you not read my updates in our KaTalk group chat?” he passes by his own students still lingering about and sends them a sharp look, making them scurry to their classroom.
“Ah,” Ten says along with a nervous chuckle and rambles along. “I’ve just been busy, you know? Seminars and planning and whatnot, anyways who is this Donghyuck again?”
Yuta laughs. “The delusional, wannabe Broadway singer.” He stage whispers, as if someone is listening in. “He’s already short on looks, he’s also short on talent.”
“And short on words,” Doyoung gripes. “When Minhyungie introduced him, he barely uttered a word but clung onto him so hard you’d think he was a leech.”
“I haven’t seen this Donghyuck yet but I already don’t like him.” Ten drawls, unimpressed.
The click clack of Taeyong’s patent heels against the marble tiles are loud and clear as he rushes to his office. “Do you think he put some sort of spell in Markie’s food or something?” in passing, he tells off an employee to send him an email and then gasps. “Does mom know? How did she react?”
Doyoung snorts. “Of course she’s not happy. Minhyung-ah barely knows the guy, they’ve only just met.”
Ten makes an inquiring noise. “What? When did they meet?”
“Hyung,” Doyoung tuts. “Four months ago. On the singles cruise Yuta mentioned. Remember?”
“Ah, yes, yes.” There’s a clinking of glasses and Ten’s murmur of khàawp-khun. “Wait a minute. So it’s your fault Mark even met him. You let him go to that stupid cruise!”
Doyoung gasps, offended and affronted, and throws the blame to someone else. “It was Yuta hyung who came up with that idea!”
“Ya!” Yuta barks back. “You agreed to the plan! Besides, who was the one who bought the ticket?”
Taeyong smacks his lips together. The hum of his office’s AC is loud. “Oh. So it’s my fault now? Had I known that our dear brother was the genius behind it I wouldn’t have agreed to that stupid idea.”
Doyoung senses a fight coming along. Nope. No, not gonna happen. “By the way, the wedding’s happening in two weeks.”
“Two weeks.” Taeyong deadpans.
“Is Donghyuck pregnant?!” Yuta says after he recovers from choking on his drink.
“A shotgun wedding?” Ten follows up, voice raising to another octave in disbelief. It’s like Pete Wentz and Ashley Simpson’s wedding all over again. Ten has goosebumps.
“No,” Doyoung replies, as disappointed and shocked as they are.
“Fucking hell,” Taeyong murmurs. “Then what’s the rush?”
“He said why wait if it’s ‘true love’.” Doyoung drops his bag at the faculty and speedwalks to his classroom.
“Yeah, right.” Yuta says.
“True love my ass,” Taeyong says.
Ten says some very colorful Thai words that Doyoung is sure he doesn’t need to google translate to understand.
Suddenly, Ten shrieks and the sound of glass shatters and Doyoung stops his speed walking and jumps in place. Before any of them can ask, Ten soothes their worries with a rushed, “I dropped my friends’ drinks. Don’t mind me.” He chuckles, as if that would pacify them. “Doie, continue.”
Doyoung begrudgingly continues. “Anyway, whatever opinions you have, you all have to come home for the wedding.”
Ten bristles. “What? Go home? Even me?’’
Doyoung enters his classroom and is met with a simultaneous good morning. “Yes, it’s Mark’s wish and mother’s orders.” He raises one hand to silence them. “Mom wants us to be complete, so we all have to be there.”
“All of us…” Yuta drawls. “Even Ten hyung?
“Now wait a minute, I have to check my schedule. It’s packed, I’ve got teacher seminars and meetings and—wait.” Someone interrupts Ten, sounding angry and talking in rapidfire Thai. Ten tries to placate them. “Ah, see, more friends arrived. I’ll check my sched, okay? I gotta go, bye.”
He hangs up unceremoniously and Doyoung rolls his eyes.
“...What about Taeyong?” Yuta brings up hesitantly.
Silence, for the first time on the line. Doyoung doesn’t breathe.
“I’ll check my schedule.” Taeyong finally says. Doyoung inhales, relieved.
“Alright, I’ll check mine, too.” Yuta also sounds relieved. Someone calls for him. “Oh! Gotta go, my director’s calling me.”
New York, 8:41 P.M.
There is nothing Kwon Taeyong cannot do. That is a fact.
Ever since the age of six, he had never left the honor roll. At the age of seventeen, he graduated valedictorian. At twenty-two, he graduated summa cum laude. At twenty-three, he broke Dong Sicheng’s heart (a bitter tale for another day). At twenty-three he moved to New York and was declared the most promising intern his company ever had. At twenty-seven he finished his masters from Columbia. And now here he is, twenty-eight years old, one of the most successful and youngest music producers in the scene.
He also comes second after Doyoung when it comes to cooking, and that is one of his proudest achievements and a feat in itself. There’s nothing Taeyong can’t do when he sets his mind to it.
Except here he is, Thursday night, royally fucking up the bulgogi that he was supposed to surprise Johnny with as a welcome back home gift.
Taeyong’s not sure if the news of his baby brother getting married is the cause of his clammy hands, or if it’s Johnny coming back home after a week long business trip in Shanghai. Either way, Taeyong is on the verge of tears as he accidentally burns his finger in frustration.
Johnny’s arms wrap around Taeyong’s small, apron-clad waist, resting his head on Taeyong’s shoulder and surveys the mess his boyfriend just made with a hum. Taeyong quickly turns around in his hold, holding Johnny’s face between his hands.
There’s a delay in what Taeyong was about to say as he takes his time to stare at Johnny’s stupidly handsome face. “You’re here…!”
Johnny just laughs and kisses Taeyong, short and sweet. “Hi,” Taeyong says eloquently. Johnny kisses him once more. And once more. And once more. Taeyong has to remember the injury on his finger, the stove that is still turned on, Mark’s getting married, to come up to breathe again, drowning and love drunk in Johnny’s hold. “Hi,” Taeyong dumbly says again. Johnny laughs and lets Taeyong break away from his hold, watching him scurry around the kitchen fondly.
“Looks like you escaped Chenle a little too early, hm?” Taeyong notes, checking the recipe and his cooking to see if he can still salvage it. He can’t. He groans as he turns the stove off and thinks to get ice for his finger. Johnny hugs him from behind again.
“What can I say? I was excited to see you again.” Johnny’s tone is flirty and Taeyong feels like a little schoolgirl with how Johnny is doting on him. “And I missed you… and your snoring.”
Taeyong glares at him and discards the pan onto the sink. “How was Shanghai?”
“It was lonely without you.” Taeyong rolls his eyes and grabs an ice pack from the fridge. Johnny quickly snatches it and leads Taeyong to his small dining table, kneeling in front of him and gently massaging the ice pack on Taeyong’s finger, kissing it better afterwards, eyes dripping like honey. Taeyong melts and melts and melts.
“Pretty hands,” Johnny says softly. He pulls out a ring, one Taeyong is all too familiar with, rose gold band with a big, bright moonstone in the middle. Johnny once saw Taeyong staring at it on Etsy and had it bookmarked about a year ago and bought it immediately. “Would look prettier with this on it.”
Kwon Taeyong can do anything once he sets his mind on it. The one thing he cannot do is marry Johnny Seo.
This never deters Johnny. Just makes him all the more persistent in the loveliest way. Taeyong is endeared. Really, he is. Johnny’s so different from all the other guys Taeyong’s dated and fooled around with. Johnny is sweet and understanding, he knows what Taeyong wants without Taeyong even needing to say anything. He just gets him.
“Are you sure you’re still not ready to wear this?”
Taeyong smiles sadly. “Are you sure you want to marry me? I can’t even cook.”
“Ya, you only failed to cook just this once,” Johnny kisses Taeyong’s ring finger, still holding the ring. “I’ll cook for you everyday. Just…be my husband everyday. That’s all I need.”
Taeyong is endeared. So, so endeared. Except, “Chenle wouldn’t want that.” At Johnny’s incredulous look, Taeyong follows up with an exasperated, “Chenle hates me!”
Johnny laughs like it’s absurd, like this is the first time he’s hearing this, like Taeyong hasn’t been complaining about Johnny’s kid hating him for four years now. “Babe, Chenle doesn’t hate you.”
Taeyong raises a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Well I definitely didn’t get a hundred dollar haircut due to all the bubblegum and slime he stuck to my hair because he loves me.”
At least Johnny has the decency to look sheepish. “Okay, maybe Chenle hates you just a little bit. Just give him time. You just need to bond with him, you know? Let him warm up to you.”
Taeyong sighs and stands up, removing the apron around his waist. Johnny tails after him, like an eager Golden Retriever. It’s cute. He grabs a Pepero box from the care package Doyoung had sent him a few days ago and puts in Johnny’s hands. “That’s not gonna happen, so just give this to him, tell him it’s from me and maybe he’ll hate me less!”
Johnny pulls him in with a hand on his lower back and his hip. Taeyong flushes. “And then we can get married?”
Taeyong wants to say yes. Taeyong wants to say they can go storm city hall and get married right now. Taeyong wants to say he’d take up Chenle hating him forever if he gets to spend forever with Johnny. Instead, he says, “Mark first.”
Johnny pulls away, confused. “What?”
Taeyong laughs, running a hand through his hair. “The little brat’s trying to kill me, I think. He’s getting married in two weeks.”
A beat of silence. Johnny says, “What.”
Bangkok, 7:30 A.M.
There is nothing on god’s green earth that is quite like Ten’s puppy dog eyes and sulking, and that is something Kun can attest to.
After being dismissed by their maybe, probably pissed off boss, Ten plops down on the micro-brick white tiled stairs leading to the pool and pouts aggressively. Kun is a strong man but sometimes, sometimes, men as strong as Kun are broken down by boys like Ten with pretty noses and prettier smiles and shining, irresistible eyes.
Kun sighs and continues to trim the shrubbery. “I said no, Ten.”
He isn’t even looking but he’s sure Ten is squirming and wiggling around, protesting, cutely at that, huffing and whining. “We could go home together, Kun! Please? Kun please please please please,” a deep inhale. “Pleaseeeeee—”
“Ten, shush!” Kun worriedly looks around. He knows Ten is the oldest of five, as he’s proudly mentioned the fact multiple times. Kun wants to know how as Ten is currently glaring at him, pout on full force. “You know I can’t, I’m saving up for something really important. I can’t lend you the money, okay? I’m sorry.”
Kun drops his loppers when Ten is suddenly there beside him, clinging onto his arm. Ten squeezes his bicep and Kun would preen under the touch if he wasn’t so distressed. “Even more important than me?” Ten’s talking in pout. God, Kun didn’t even know that was possible.
Kun twists back to look at him, folding his arms across his chest. Ten is undeterred, gazing up at him sweetly.
In the end, Kun breaks. “Why can’t you just tell your family the truth? That you got laid off of your teaching job and that you’re juggling three jobs and it’s still not paying enough. They’re your family, they’ll understand, Ten-ah.”
Ten’s face sours. He throws his frilly maid apron to the ground and sits back down on the steps. “Forget it. You don’t know my family at all.”
Kun gently sits next to him, as if approaching a ticking bomb—which is, essentially, what Ten is most of the time. He puts an arm around Ten and rubs his shoulder comfortingly. “Ten-ah, don’t sulk.” Ten sulks harder, curling into a ball and fitting himself into Kun’s side.
There have been stronger men, but those men have not met the force to be reckoned with that is Kwon Ten. Kun sighs.
“Okay. We’ll go home together, yeah? I’ll lend you the money.”
Ten’s face lights up in the prettiest smile and he tackles Kun with a big bear hug, squealing. “I knew you’d understand, you’re the best!” He pulls away, smile reaching his eyes. “Because of your generosity, I will do whatever you want.”
“Okay, I want to be your escort at the wedding.”
Ten shoves him away, mouth pulled down in disgust. “Don’t be gross, Kun,” he blenches. “I don’t want to. My family might think you’re my boyfriend.”
“Even better!” Kun exclaims, rubbing his palms together. “Introduce me as your boyfriend!”
Ten could say no, because honestly he’d rather die than bring Kun home as his boyfriend, even if it was fake. But Kun is the one with the money. Kun is his ticket home. (Ten ignores the fact that Kun is also always so nice and sweet to him, always looking out for him.)
Ten huffs. “Fine.”
Kun kisses his cheek and Ten feels like he’s five years old again, being pushed by his father on the swing set in their backyard, the tingly, bubbly swoop in his stomach making itself known and never leaving.
Yuta wakes up to Taeil making breakfast. Sicheng is on the other end of the couch, stroking his exposed ankle.
Sicheng smiles, tired. “Morning, sunshine.”
Yuta yawns and stretches his arms above his head, sitting up and sleepily pecks the corner of Sicheng’s mouth. From his peripheral, he can see Taeil stopping his cooking to watch them. Something hot spikes in Yuta. “Morning,” he mumbles against his boyfriend’s mouth. “When’d you get here?”
Sicheng snorts, caressing Yuta’s cheekbone. “I could ask you the same thing. We came back home from the gig and you were already here sleeping on the couch,” he leans forward to whisper, a concerned look on his face. “Were you kicked out by your landlady?”
Yuta frowns, remembering how he came back home from set to find his landlady lugging all his belongings out into the street, refusing to wait for his delayed rent. She had asked for his car in exchange for getting the apartment back, but Yuta would rather die than give away the car his dad passed onto him. Yuta had squeezed all his stuff into his car and drove to Sicheng’s shared apartment with Taeil, using the extra key Sicheng had made for him around the third time Yuta tried to pick the lock to surprise him with dinner.
The look on his face answers Sicheng’s question. He kisses him once more. “Missed you."
Yuta smiles. “Missed you more."
“I missed not being a third wheel,” Taeil quips. Yuta laughs, embarrassed, hiding in the crook of Sicheng’s shoulder. “Come on, you two. I made breakfast.”
Yuta does not know what to call his relationship with his boyfriend’s bandmate and best friend, mostly because he also does not know what to call his boyfriend’s relationship with his bandmate and best friend. Taeil is sweet, he’s a hard worker who puts Sicheng in line and is always so kind and soft spoken. Taeil is also very, very handsome—high cheekbones and choppy bangs, eyes often decorated with smudged kohl. Yuta catches himself staring at Taeil a little too long sometimes, but he’s not the only one as he’s caught Taeil staring at him a little too long for it to not mean something. They’ve shared long nights together, waiting for Sicheng to finish up at the studio, bonding over stories and dreams.
Sicheng is also a little too clingy with Taeil, obsessed with his opinion and always coddling him. It used to make Yuta jealous until he realized he wanted to be part of it, to cuddle with Taeil as Sicheng kisses along the stretch of his neck, to praise Sicheng after a great gig with Taeil pinching his cheek a little too hard and kissing it better.
But no, it’s already been five years since Sicheng and Yuta have been together, five years of Yuta pining after Taeil, yearning for him to be part of what he and Sicheng have, and Yuta’s still too cowardly to bring it up, too scared of losing Sicheng like how he lost Taeyong.
(Yuta’s fought tooth and nail to be with Sicheng, and he really thought it was worth destroying his relationship with his hyung, his best friend, at the time, until Taeyong had stopped pestering him for updates on his life and Yuta was left with something hollow in his chest, feeling so, so empty.)
“Babe?” Sicheng’s voice snaps Yuta out of his very sad and devastating train of thoughts. He looks up to find both Sicheng and Taeil (oh, what a lovely sight that was) staring at him.
“Ah, god, sorry. I dozed off. What was the question again?” Yuta digs into the cheesy kimbap Taeil served as Sicheng reiterates. “I asked where you were gonna stay? Because as much as I’d let you stay here, our landlord would flip if he found out we have another person with us.”
Yuta waves him off. “It’s fine. I’ll just stay at home, everyone’s coming back home anyways.”
“For what?” Taeil questions, eyebrows furrowed.
“Markie’s getting married,” Yuta says with a wry smile. “Who knew Mark needed to get married for everyone to drop everything and come home?”
“Everyone…” Sicheng says, voice small and pretending like he isn’t interested at all. “Everyone, even…?”
Taeyong’s name is left unsaid, the air suddenly turning cold and tense. Yuta purses his lips. “Yeah. You excited?” Yuta’s voice drips with venom as he stares unfalteringly at Sicheng.
Taeil murmurs his name, chiding as Sicheng’s mouth tightens into a line. “For you, yes.”
Yuta feels bad but he’s too tense and on edge right now to apologize. He stands up to gather his bag and phone. “I’m gonna get going now. Thank you for breakfast, hyung,” he bows to Taeil who ruffles his hair and lets his hand linger on Yuta’s nape. Yuta turns to Sicheng, kissing him on the cheek and mumbling a goodbye. Sicheng sees him out to his car, pressing him against the door with a hand by his head.
“I’m sorry. I hope you can make things right with him during his stay.”
Yuta smiles sadly, playing with Sicheng’s ear. “I’m sorry, too.” He kisses Sicheng one last time before climbing in and driving away.
A brief rundown on each Kwon sibling’s morning ahead of The Grand Reunion, from oldest to youngest:
On the five hour flight home with Kun dozing off with his head on Ten’s shoulder, Ten could barely sleep, too eager to finally, finally, come home (even if the circumstances to how he was able to afford going home are confidential and the relationship he had to the very man who was his ticket home even more confidential, nay extremely hush hush) and see his family and siblings again.
Fast forward to them arriving at Incheon, Ten almost cries, almost, as he walks past customs, wanting to fall on his knees and kiss the sweet Korean soil except there is nothing sweet about it and he would die of embarrassment. He’s on cloud nine, on an absolute high because he’s home after four long suffering years of not being able to go home. Nothing can go wrong, nothing can make his stay terrible—
“Baby, wait up!”
Ten’s left Kun to push their luggage, left a good five feet between them as Kun hurries to catch up with him. Ten quickens his pace. “I am not your baby. I do not associate with you.”
“Ah, ah, ah! But I associate with you, remember?”
Ten feels a migraine (as well as a blush) coming. “Taxi!”
“Quick, quick, quick,” Ten urgently pats Kun’s thigh, nervous and already sweating through his silk button up, on the taxi home. “Review time.”
Kun counts each of Ten’s family members on his fingers. “Your mom used to be a vocal coach at the academy where she met your late father, a choreographer. Taeyong is the New Yorker who works as a producer. Yuta’s the assistant film director who used to be a rising soccer star. Doyoung is a teacher and the sole voice of reason. Mark works as a writer at his dream job and…Doyoung was the one who stole Taeyong’s ex-boyfriend?”
“Yuta stole Taeyong’s ex,” Kun ahhs, Ten tsks. “Focus Kun, it’s like you don’t even want to be my fake boyfriend.”
“Okay, can we review about us?”
Ten glares at him but relents.
“We’ve been together for two years—”
Ten squeezes his thigh, digging his nails into the muscle. Kun squeaks. “Two. Weeks.”
“Ouch! Fine, fine,” Ten removes his hand, satisfied with himself. “You’re not a housekeeper or a waiter or whatever that other job you have that you refuse to tell anyone about.”
“And I’m still not telling you.”
“You are an English tutor and one of your top students is the king’s godson’s cousin?”
Ten shakes his head, lips pursed, patting Kun on the head. “My sweet, sweet Kun. It’s the godson of the king’s cousin.”
Kun still doesn’t know the difference but nods like he understands anyways.
By the time Chenle almost closes the car door on Taeyong’s hand (deliberately at that!), Taeyong’s just about to give up and hop on a flight back to New York. Johnny smiles soothingly and runs a hand through Taeyong’s hair. “You did it, babe, you’re finally home!”
“And Chenle still hates me.”
Johnny laughs and affectionately rubs Taeyong’s nape. “I’m here, you don’t have to worry about dealing with him.”
“But you’re flying to Singapore next week, right? I know I agreed to it but your kid is probably trying to think up of ways on how to kill me from inside the car as we speak.” Johnny winces and rubs his arm.
“I’ll be back for the wedding, promise.”
Taeyong glances at Chenle who is glaring at both of them, at Taeyong mostly, from inside the taxi. “That’s no problem…but, Johnny, please, can’t you take Chenle with you?”
Johnny brightens suddenly and laughs, kissing Taeyong’s nose and crossing over to the other side of the car as the driver finishes lugging their baggage inside the trunk. “This is the opportunity I was telling you about! You can finally bond with Chenle, babe!”
Taeyong wants to protest, he really, really does, but Johnny trusts him so much and Taeyong really wants to make this work. “You’re right,” he says sweetly, climbing into the passenger seat. Looking into the rearview and seeing Johnny and Chenle are preoccupied, Taeyong turns to the driver.
“Step on it,” he mutters, slipping down into his seat and pulling his shades down. “Please.”
Yuta, with no apartment and a little too scared and sorry to see Sicheng, washes up at a gasoline station’s bathroom. He hangs his loofah outside to announce it’s occupied. As he’s drying his hair and avoiding the loose tile where a rat lives underneath according to Jisung, his phone rings in his bag, Adele’s soft vocals permeating through the bathroom, indicating Doyoung is calling.
“Doie! What’s up!” Yuta greets.
“What’s up?” Doyoung practically snarls and Yuta is paralyzed in fear. “What’s up? You wanna know what’s up, hyung?”
Trick question. “...No?”
“Tennie hyung is already on his way from a five hour flight. Yongie hyung is literally fifteen minutes away and he was on an eighteen hour flight. You, Yuta hyung, live thirty minutes away and yet I don’t see you or your sorry excuse of a truck anywhere. Mind explaining that to me?”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Yuta has so many questions that will never be answered. “Just get here and help or so help me god, Kwon Yuta, I will rip you a new—” there’s scuffling and shouting and then someone who is definitely not Doyoung says, “Hi, Yuta hyung! Sorry about Doie. He’s just a little stressed,” saying Doyoung is a little stressed is like saying Yuta and Taeyong are on very good terms. “I would say take your time, but I’d encourage you to, uhm, move faster?”
Yuta bolts right out of there, grabbing his loofah on the way out and waving to Jisung who’s behind the register at the station’s convenience store, fumbling for his car keys. “Alright, getting in my car right now. See you Jae!”
Yuta breaks a couple of laws on his way. The law does not scare Yuta, but Doyoung does.
Being Doyoung’s best friend for almost all his life (and his boyfriend for a decade now!), Jaehyun is smart enough to know when to keep his mouth shut and just do what Doyoung tells him to do. Case in point when:
Doyoung’s already explained to Jeno (through gritted teeth because his mother was watching) that, “No, I don’t know when Ten hyung got a boyfriend I just know he’s bringing him home and he obviously needs to sit next to hyung so Jeno will you please get another chair?”
Doyoung’s also already explained to Renjun that, “Taeyong hyung is bringing his nightmare of a future stepchild with him so he’s staying at the guest room with his boyfriend please bring his sheets down there because Yuta will throw a fit if he sees Yongie hyung’s sheets in his room with Ten hyung.”
He’s also snapped at Mark too many times to count because he forgot to pull out the mattress for Ten hyung’s boyfriend who’s staying in his room and he hasn’t started on the grill and Jaehyun’s taken to silently following Doyoung around in case someone (Jeno) starts crying (again).
Jaehyun intervenes when Renjun forgets whose plate is whose, gets it all mixed up, and Doyoung looks seconds away from making sure Renjun ceases to exist. Jaehyun pulls him into the nearest room, the bathroom, and gets Doyoung to look at him. “Doie, babe, breathe in and out with me, okay? Inhale,” Doyoung inhales, eyes rolling to the back of his head. “Exhale, good. One more time—”
“Jae, I don’t have the time for this.” Doyoung moves to open the door but Jaehyun blocks it.
“No, Doyoung-ah, you promised not to make anyone cry today. Jeno’s been trimming the bushes while wailing all morning!”
Jaehyun sits on the covered toilet seat and pats his lap. Doyoung grimaces, muttering about how unsanitary and gross it was but sits down nonetheless, one hand on Jaehyun’s chest and the other on his shoulder. Jaehyun preens and Doyoung cannot resist his dimples, never could resist it since they were kids, and slumps into his embrace.
“Okay, okay, yeah, I need to calm down. It’s supposed to be a happy day! I finally get to see my brothers again.”
Jaehyun strokes Doyoung’s side. “That’s right! You always work hard for everyone, but they’re your brothers, Doie, I’m sure they don’t expect the house to be looking like a five star hotel with a whole feast prepared. You’ve got a lot of hands helping you already, just take a breather.”
Jaehyun kisses his forehead and Doyoung melts, smiling dumbly. “Love you,”
Doyoung hums, eyes closed, basking in Jaehyun’s hold. “I love you, too.”
The doorbell rings. Renjun shouts. Doyoung can hear Mark thundering down the stairs and racing Jeno to the front door. Doyoung and Jaehyun look at each other before Doyoung shoves out of his hold and runs out of the bathroom. Jaehyun sighs and follows behind.
Mark does not expect to be greeted by Johnny, who Mark’s never met in the flesh and only through multiple FaceTimes and Facebook posts, who shakes his and Jeno’s hands with a bright smile. He takes his shades off and Jeno looks completely enraptured. Mark elbows him.
“Hi, so nice to meet you, you must be Mark! I need scissors.”
“Scissors!” Jeno perks, already running back into the house. “Sure, I’ll get you some!”
“Why do you need scissors?” Mark asks. He follows Johnny out into the taxi to find his Taeyong hyung struggling to get up, even sit up, hair somehow stuck to the car seat’s headrest.
Taeyong turns, Gucci shades still on and smiles despite looking exhausted and minutes away from either screaming or committing a crime. “Markie! Hi!”
Doyoung snatches the scissors from Jeno’s hands as he comes out, their mother and Jaehyun following behind. He shoves his way in between Johnny and Mark, pinning Taeyong down and assessing the damage of his hair. The taxi driver warily side eyes them. “Why is there gum in your hair? Who the hell did this to you?”
Taeyong chuckles and Johnny coughs nervously. Doyoung looks up and right there, in the backseat, he meets eyes with the actual devil, one eyebrow raised and arms crossed in front of his chest, a purple teddy bear in his lap. He cocks his head to the side, shrugging and pretending to be innocent.
“What?” Chenle snaps.
“Hyung, stop moving,” Taeyong whimpers when Doyoung tugs at the hair stuck to the gum. Doyoung hisses. “It’s only gonna hurt worse if you keep moving.”
Taeyong grabs Doyoung’s arms and squeezes them, gritting his teeth. “Doie, I love you but I’m gonna kill you if you give me a bald spot.”
While Doyoung does some serious damage to Taeyong’s hundred dollar haircut, Johnny takes it upon himself to introduce himself. Their mom nudges Jaehyun in the side as Johnny goes back to watching Doyoung and Taeyong with an approving look on her face. “Taeyong-ah really hit the jackpot with this one.”
Jaehyun wants to ask what about him and how Doyoung also hit the jackpot with him when another taxi pulls up behind. Ten steps out in all his silk button up and velvet blazer glory, hands up in the air and bright smile on his face as he poses next to the taxi. “What’s all this about?”
Mark launches himself at Ten who stumbles back but carries him nonetheless. Doyoung peeps out of the car and Taeyong pulls him back in by the ear. Their mother pulls Ten in with a bone crushing hug, as Renjun and Jeno join them to greet Ten.
Once Taeyong’s hair is ruined for life, Johnny offers him a hand and helps him out of the taxi. Taeyong presses himself into Doyoung’s side and kisses his cheek, joining the others.
“Ahh, right. Well, everyone, meet…” Ten inhales deeply. “My boyfriend, Kun.”
Kun animatedly shakes everyone's hands and bows 45 degrees when he gets to their mother. Renjun eyes him suspiciously. To distract himself from hurting Kun in front of his family, Ten spots Taeyong and screams. “Yongie!”
Taeyong laughs and hugs his hyung close. Ten brings a hand to caress his hair and stops short when he feels the spot where the chewing gum was a few moments ago. “Wait, what the hell happened here?”
“Everyone,” Johnny starts. “I’d like you to meet my son, Chenle.”
They all turn their gaze downwards to look at him but it feels as if Chenle’s the one looking down on them. He rolls his eyes and unenthusiastically greets them. Ten meets Taeyong’s eyes that are screaming yes that is my future step child who came from the depths of hell, I love his dad too much to break things off, please save me.
Yuta arrives in his beat up truck, spotting Taeyong and falters. Mark runs to open his door and usher him out while Doyoung gets locked into a noogie for shouting at his hyung a while ago. Mark is given the same treatment for his attire consisting of a Spiderman suit shirt and cargo shorts.
“Is that…?” Kun trails off.
“Yes, keep quiet.” Ten elbows his side and smiles at Yuta approaching. Right behind them, Johnny glances at Taeyong, interlacing their fingers and squeezing. Taeyong shoots him a small smile and tucks his shades away.
“Ya! Who are you and what have you done to my hyung?” Yuta laughs, pulling Ten in for a hug who purrs at the affection. “You clean up so well, how are you?” Yuta then notices Kun and stares.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Ten’s boyfriend.” he says sunnily.
“Are you serious?” Yuta asks.
“Yup,” Ten says almost regretfully.
Yuta greets their mother with a wet smack of lips to her cheek, apologizing for being the last one to arrive, bringing Jaehyun into a playful chokehold, and Jeno and Renjun with big bear hugs until he finally faces,
“Taeyong,” he says, voice small. Taeyong smiles, hesitant but so, so sincere. “Hi, Yuta.”
They hug briefly, tense and Johnny continues to glance nervously. Jaehyun and Doyoung share a look. Mark, Renjun, and Jeno share a similar look. Kun stares wide-eyed. Yuta and Taeyong pull away but continue to stare at each other.
Ten fake coughs and their mother claps her hands together. “Let’s get inside, shall we?”
Come dinner time, Kun wins over Ten’s entire family with his lively storytelling and magic tricks that make Chenle look actually interested for once.
Kun’s particularly a hit with their mother, who’s wiping tears from her eyes. “You are so funny, Kun-ah,” she calms down for a bit. “What did you say you do for a living again?”
“I’m a gardener, ma—”
Ten kicks him underneath the table and laughs, wrapping an arm around Kun’s shoulder and booping his nose. “Ah! So humble, what a joker, am I right? Kun-ah, is a landscape architect. He’s just trying to be humble,” Ten squeezes his cheeks a little too tightly. “Isn’t that right, babe?”
Kun nods, fear in his eyes. Their mother turns to Johnny who is feeding Chenle. “What about you, Johnny? What do you for a living?”
Johnny wipes his mouth and he tries to stay humble but his eyes show how proud he is of his work. “I’m a freelance photographer, eomeonim.”
Everyone oohs and aahs and Taeyong is so, so proud of Johnny, interlocking their legs underneath the table like a bunch of teenagers and trying to suppress his smile. Ten kicks his foot under the table, making kissy faces.
“That’s so interesting, so do you travel often?”
Johnny ducks his head, shy. “Well, it’s one of the perks. I get to meet a lot of people, stay in amazing places, discover new things. It’s a very fulfilling job, eomeonim.”
Their mother smiles knowingly, glancing at Taeyong and, surprisingly, at Doyoung and Jaehyun. “Do you find your job exciting?”
“Yes, ma’am I do. Recently, I’ve started getting a lot more clients here in Asia, so I’m quite excited about it,” Johnny glances at Taeyong and Taeyong pretends he doesn’t see it. “I might relocate soon, actually, seeing as there’s such a high demand.”
Taeyong finally finds it in himself to glance at Johnny, who’s looking at him so fondly and yet so wistfully. Their mother, once again, turns back to Ten. “Ten-ah, is there an opening in your school? Maybe you can get Doie a spot, he really should be—”
“Mom,” Doyoung says, ever so patient, avoiding Jaehyun’s eyes. “I told you, I’m fine here. I like it here.”
The others half nervously glance at Jaehyun and half at their mother, gauging their reactions, sensing the tension.
“See, mom,” Ten says, stuffing his mouth with food. “Doie likes it here. He wants to stay. Let him be.”
“Doie can do better.” Despite Renjun pointedly looking at Jaehyun, waiting for him to falter or stumble or look nervous whatsoever, Jaehyun continues filling Doyoung’s plate with more rice, calmly ignoring Rejun. “We all,” a pointed look at Yuta, “could do better.”
“Why are you looking at me?” Yuta spits rice everywhere as he speaks. “One of my films got into Gwangju International Film Festival last year.”
“Ah! Yeah, that one, hyung!” Mark says excitedly. “What was the name again?”
Yuta glances at Chenle and Jeno. “There are children here. Can’t say it.”
The table erupts in laughter, Taeyong jokingly covering Chenle’s ears, Ten egging him on to reveal the name and Mark slapping Jeno in the back, tears in his eyes. Their mother smiles, a far away look in her eyes. “It’s so nice seeing you all together again.”
“And all it took was for Mark to get married. Thanks, Mark!” Renjun quips.
“That’s right, Injunnie, so you should all thank me for getting married!” Mark excitedly says, earning a chuckle from Johnny. Kun smiles while stuffing his face with more food. Jaehyun stays mum, getting nervous next to Doyoung who shares very terrifying glances with his hyungs.
“Ya, Minhyung-ah,” Ten says. He sits next to their mother, as both the oldest and one of her favorites, and Mark takes up their dad’s seat at the opposite end, right in front of their mother where she can see him, her other favorite. “Are you sure about this whole getting married thing?”
“Why wouldn’t I be, hyung?”
Ten nods over at Yuta. “Because Yukkuri said your fiancé looks like a clown.”
Taeyong snickers and Yuta shares a high-five with Ten. Doyoung shakes his head, smiling. Mark looks confused. “A clown? I mean, Hyuck is pretty funny…”
Yuta murmurs something that sounds a lot like, “Oh, you poor thing,” but Mark isn’t sure.
“Hyungs, what do you mean by Hyuck looks like a clown?”
Taeyong licks his lips, trying to find the nicest word. “Donghyuck-ssi is… unattractive.”
Ten tuts. “Don’t sugarcoat it,” he turns to Mark, eyebrows raised as if to say what can you do? “Clown. A whole circus. He’s ugly.”
Kun shakes his head disapprovingly at Ten and their mother glares at him. Ten shrinks in his seat. “What? That’s what Yuta said…”
“Regardless of how he looks, that is not the point.” Taeyong says. “You’re still too young, Markie. Do you even know what you’re getting into? You’re only twenty-one!”
Mark pouts. “What about mom? She was young when she and dad got married.”
Their mother looks at him, smiling gently. “That was back then, Minhyung-ah. Times have changed.”
“And she and dad were in love.” Doyoung adds
Mark laughs, a little confused at this point. “Hyuck and I are in love, too. What are you saying, hyung?” Mark looks to Jaehyun for help, always being able to count on him.
Doyoung looks at Jaehyun, challenging. Jaehyun shakes his head. Doyoung clears his throat and turns back to Mark. “In love? Only after four months? Markie, come on.”
“Love isn’t measured by how long you’ve been together,” Mark says. “I know a lot of couples who’ve been together for a long time but end up breaking it off. Just because Hyuckie and I have only known each other for a while doesn’t mean we’re not as in love with each other like Doie and Jae hyung. Hyuckie’s special, he understands me.”
“Fine, but why the rush?” Taeyong questions. “Why do you want to get married so fast?”
“Because Donghyuck’s grandfather is old, he’s practically a fossil. He wants to see a grandchild from his grandchildren before he dies. Hyuckie’s got a brother but he’s too young to even get married.”
Ten and Taeyong share one look and start snickering. Mark frowns.
Doyoung hides his smile behind his hand but continues to talk. “What if one of you is infertile? I’m sure his grandfather would want a grandchild with Donghyuck’s actual DNA instead of you two adopting one.”
“Ya! Or maybe it’s just,” Ten waggles his eyebrows suggestively. “A quick cum and dump.”
Kun chokes on his drink and Doyoung hides his giggles behind Jaehyun. Their mother slaps his arm, stern while Taeyong tells him to shut it through his giggles, covering Chenle’s ears. Renjun looks absolutely mortified.
Mark scowls. “Is that how lowly you think of me? That all I want from him is a quick fuck?”
“Or maybe that’s what he wants from you?” Ten giggles, bringing another round of laughter from the table. Chenle has brought it upon himself to cover his ears.
“What if they actually love each other?” Yuta speaks up for the first time since they’ve started interrogating Mark. “Markie’s not a kid anymore, he can make his own decisions. Let him be.”
Yuta avoids everyone’s eyes by continuing to eat. Doyoung cocks his head to the side. “Ya, hyung, just the other day you were also against the idea of Markie getting married.”
“That was the other day,” Yuta says passively. “The kid’s decided already, lets stop meddling with his damn life.”
Ten squints his eyes at Yuta. “Then what’s the—excuse me for this, mom—fucking point of us being his hyungs and him having parents if we don’t guide him when he makes wrong decisions? He has a family, and we, as his family, are here to make sure he makes the right choices."
Yuta shakes his head. “Why are you all so convinced he’s made the wrong decision in the first place?”
“Because it’s already happened. Because we’ve heard him say it about Daniel before,” Taeyong speaks up. “That he was so sure about Daniel and how he was making the right decision and when he proposed, look what happened: Daniel dumped him!”
Yuta continues to avoid everyone’s eyes. “That was Daniel. This is Donghyuck, he’s a different person. Let them be happy,” he murmurs.
Taeyong purses his lips. “So you’re saying we should just let him make decisions without thinking it through, without planning ahead. Is that what you want?”
“Why does everything need to be planned?” Yuta scoffs, rolling his eyes. “When you find a love like that—”
“—When you find a love like that, just go ahead and forget about family, yeah?” Taeyong snarks, a twisted smile curling in the corner of his mouth.
Everyone stops, all eyes flickering back and forth between Taeyong and Yuta.
Yuta finally looks up from his food, meeting Taeyong’s unnerving stare with a vicious glare of his own. “Yes,” he says slowly. “If that love makes you so happy.”
“So happy? How can you call that love when it hurts other people?” Taeyong implores. Yuta’s heart drops.
“Now hold on,” their mother says. While Taeyong might be cold and cutthroat and Yuta aggressive and vicious, it is nothing compared to Kwon Boa when she slowly looks up at all of them, voice so steady that it’s dangerous . ‘I’m not mad, just disappointed’ reaches a whole other level with her. The room goes silent. “Are we still talking about Minhyung here?”
Yuta drops his stare. Taeyong coughs. “Yes, mom.”
Their mother glances at the rest. Ten and Doyoung blink. “I think so?” they ask more than say.
“You all have your points,” she sighs. “But the one who should be hearing them has just walked out.”
There, at the other end of the table, opposite their mother, their father’s seat is empty, Mark getting up to leave when Yuta and Taeyong’s argument took a sour and personal turn.
Their mother nods at the direction of the backyard. “Make sure you fix this.”
The swing set in the Kwon household’s backyard is holy ground to the kids.
When Ten was four, he fell off the swing midair and lost his two front teeth, Taeyong crying as their dad rushed a smiley and bloody Ten to the ER. Ten came home victorious with two lollipops, one for him and one for Taeyong.
It’s where Doyoung and Jaehyun kissed for the first time, aged eleven, when Doyoung came home from school complaining about Kim Jaehwan bragging about playing seven minutes in heaven with Kim Chungha over the summer and Doyoung didn’t understand what the big deal with kissing was until Jaehyun had smiled at him, dimples and all, offering to show him.
It was where Yuta and Taeyong had their falling out, fighting about Sicheng, about their dad, about Yuta’s soccer career, their mother’s medical bills. That was the last time they had talked before Taeyong left for New York the next morning.
When Mark was six, his hyungs snuck him out past his bedtime and there he wished on a shooting star. It came true, eventually, in the form of Donghyuck.
That’s where his hyungs find him, swinging idly, eyes downcast and head hung low. He glances up when he hears them arrive but looks away as they stand in front of him.
He’s too big to fit in the seat, Ten notes, knees knocked together as he’s curled up to fit in it. When Ten looks at Mark, he sees his baby brother, their little miracle from heaven, their dream come true, not the twenty-one year old who’s getting married. He’s taller than Ten, has been since he turned fourteen and still tried to sneak into Ten and Doyoung’s room for cuddles after a nightmare. The Mark whose eyes are red and jaw clenched angrily is the Mark Ten is not familiar with, the one Ten left for Thailand and came back to him calling all the shots and not needing his Ten hyung to scare away the monsters from his nightmares anymore. Mark’s all grown up and doesn’t need Ten anymore and that’s what scares Ten the most.
“We’re sorry,” Ten and Doyoung apologise at the same time. Ten holds a hand up, official oldest hyung mode on.
“We’re really sorry, Minhyungie. We’re your hyungs, of course we’ll be protective of you. You’re our baby.”
Mark turns to Doyoung who looks so much like their mother when he disapprovingly shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Mark, I just really don’t think he’s good for you. But, I’ll try to get to know him, we all will, so we can see what you saw in him, why he makes you happy.”
Eyes on Taeyong. “I’m sorry. I just want to make sure you’re not making a big mistake. It’s your whole life we’re talking about! I don’t want you to ruin it.”
And finally Yuta, who frowns. “What? Why are you looking at me, I was the only one on your side earlier.”
“You said Donghyuck looked like a clown.”
“Ah,” Yuta realizes. “Sorry.”
“So?” Ten asks, a smile creeping on his face, exchanging looks with the others. “You still mad?”
They take a step, hands out to tickle and pinch him but Mark puts his hands up to stop them.
“Hyungs, can you promise me one thing?” At their collective nods he continues. “Can you please behave when you meet Donghyuck’s family tomorrow? Please?”
They hesitate and he presses on. “Just be on your best behavior for a few hours. Please? That’s all I ask.”
They turn to look at Ten, who struggles under the weight of Mark’s pleading stare. The swingset in the Kwon household’s backyard is holy ground to them, not kids anymore, far from it. Ten knows if he promises to behave right there, then it’d be impossible for any one of them to meddle. But when Ten looks back at Mark, he sees Mark in his Ninja Turtle pajamas at twelve years old, crying because of a nightmare and asking if he can sleep with his hyung in his bed tonight. He sees Mark, the night of his graduation, sneaking into Ten’s room, crying because he dreamt of dad and asking for his hyung to hold him.
Ten knows Mark needs them now more than ever.
“We will. Promise.”
The Wongs live in a unique blend of traditional and modern, Hanok-style roofs and floor to ceiling glass windows, right in the heart (and hill!) of one of Seoul’s richest communities. It’s safe to say everyone feels incredibly indecent and dirty to even step foot on.
They’re greeted by multiple maids wearing peculiar fluorescent green and pink uniforms who guide them inside the house, reminding them to leave their shoes by the front door and to wear the house slippers—Gucci ones, Ten and Kun are having simultaneous heart attacks as one pair equals a whole month’s paycheck for them—provided for them.
The view they have overlooking the community and Seoul’s industrial beauty is stunning. The Wongs are filthy rich. Yuta voices this exact thought out to Renjun. “Let’s hope they’re not up their own asses,” Renjun remarks.
One of the maids picks up the antique style telephone, floral embroidery and frilled edges. It gets curiouser and curiouser. “The guests have arrived, cue in the master in three, two, one—”
Unfortunately, the Wongs are very up their own asses.
“Hello!” From atop the gigantic carpeted wooden staircase with metal pillars and railings, Mr. Wong, who is unfairly handsome with big, round eyes, plump lips and mile long legs, greets them, dressed in what seems to be a pastel blazer with sequin embroidery, partnered with flared neon blue pants and a fedora. Yuta feels himself going feral. “The Kwon family! Finally we meet! Welcome to our home.”
They greet him back and Mark steps up, a plate of Doyoung’s jajangmyeon in his hands which he offers to Mr. Wong. “Good morning, sir!”
Mr. Wong accepts the plate and hands it off to another maid before he gathers Mark into his arms, laughing. “What did I tell you about calling me ‘sir’, Minhyung-ah? I’d rather you call me abeonim!”
The other maids come and take the other dishes they brought and Mr. Wong looks around. “You look just like your hyungs, Mark-ah, so handsome!” He then turns to their mother who stands next to Mark and tilts his head. “But you never told me you had a sister?”
Their mother chuckles and shakes Mr. Wong’s hand. “I’m Kwon Boa, Mark’s mother.”
Mr. Wong laughs like they’re sharing a joke. “Oh come on, you must be kidding!” he nudges Mark’s arm. “You’re playing with me, son, she looks like she could be your sister.”
“Welcome, Boa-ssi,” Mr. Wong and their mother share a brief hug. “I’m Wong Yukhei. You can call me Xuxi, but my wife would prefer you call me Lucas. Just call me Yukhei!”
Their mother halts, waiting for the punchline but there is no punchline and Yukhei is completely serious. Doyoung squints behind his glasses and Chenle tilts his head in confusion. “Okay… Yukhei-ssi.”
“Ah, abeonim,” Mark interjects. “Let me introduce my hyungs. This is Doyoung hyung.”
Doyoung steps forward to greet him with a bow and shakes his hand. “Good morning, sir.”
“Ah! The old maid.” Yukhei says with a smile. The punchline never comes. Doyoung’s smile drops and Jaehyun raises an eyebrow. Yuta snickers.
Mark hurriedly pulls Jaehyun forward. “This is Jung Jaehyun, Doyoung hyung’s boyfriend.”
Yukhei stays silent when Jaehyun shakes his hand but maybe it’s how he’s squeezing the life out of Yukhei’s hand that prevents him from saying anything to Jaehyun’s face. Yuta is still smiling and reaches to high five Yukhei. “Hi, I’m Yuta.”
“Oh,” Yukhei turns to Mark. “The black sheep of the family!” Unsurprisingly, Yuta’s hand and smile drops. Mark intervenes and brings him to the other side before Yuta or Jaehyun can harm Yukhei.
“Here, abeonim, this is my oldest brother, Ten hyung.”
Yukhei smiles charmingly and Ten thinks he’s not going to make any debatable remarks about him as they shake hands but the world works in a very funny way.
“The maid in Thailand!”
Ten feels his soul leave his body at the same time he sees red. “Excuse me?”
“That is absurd!” Kun interjects from behind Ten. “Ten is an English tutor directly affiliated with the king himself!”
Ten leans back onto Kun, smug smile on his face and shares a lowkey low five with him. Yukhei just looks taken aback. “I’m sorry, I meant made. M-A-D-E, you know, like the past tense of make?”
Ten and Kun share a look and both laugh awkwardly. Yukhei smiles, pleased and turns to Taeyong when Kun sticks his hand out to introduce himself. Ten is utterly embarrassed and retracts Kun’s hand back for him.
“The New Yorker! Let me guess, you’re a nanny?”
Taeyong keeps the smile on his face and that makes it even scarier. “I am an award-winning music producer of a highly coveted company. I learned English by myself in under a year to be able to connect and communicate with my clients who come from all around the world. I am required to have an extensive vocabulary so I never have to use inane or poorly worded language such as ‘black sheep’ or ‘old maid’ to describe the people I just met, because God knows what my superiors and inferiors would think of me if I had done just that.”
Silence. Taeyong pulls his hand back and smiles, close-lipped and absolutely cold. “Taeyong-ah,” their mother hisses.
Yukhei just laughs, wide-eyed. “Your accent,” he replies in English. “Wow, I feel a nosebleed coming. But you’re very intelligent, Taeyong-ah."
He moves to Johnny who decides to introduce himself in English as well. “I’m Johnny Seo, Taeyong’s boyfriend. And this is my son, Chenle.” Chenle just stares, menacing in his argyle sweater and purple teddy bear companion.
Yukhei can’t do anything but laugh. “Wow, your accent! Can someone get a tissue?”
Their mother directs him to Renjun and Jeno who have been silent but red in the face from both withholding their laughter and horror with how Yukhei is addressing their family. “This is Jeno-ah, and this is Renjun-ah. They’re Mark’s cousins and—”
The haughty maid from earlier picks up the phone once again. “Introductions are over,” Jeno holds Renjun back with one hand. “Cue in the mistress and the mini-master.”
A boy, presumably the mini-master who is around Jeno and Renjun’s age, appears, and he’s… dressed normally, wearing a flashy designer coat and crisp slacks that hug his long and lean legs, and he’s cute, with pink hair and shimmer on his eyelids. Jeno freezes in his spot and Renjun rolls his eyes.
He kisses his father on the cheek and hugs Mark. “Hello, hyungnim,” he turns to the rest of the family and smiles and it’s so cute how it lights up his entire face even Ten wants to keep him in his pocket. “I’m the youngest of the family, Wong Jaemin. It’s nice to meet you all!”
Before he takes place by his father’s side, he eyes Jeno, a sudden heat in his eyes and winks at him. Jeno almost faints.
Mrs. Wong is wearing a sparkly mini dress, complete with broken disco ball and CD parts, the actual disco ball dangling from her ears, that catches on the light and temporarily blinds Kun. Her hair is a dyed grey that is swept up into a complicated bun and the outer corner of her eyes are dotted with little golden stars. Mark and the Wongs are the only ones smiling as she climbs down the stairs in her very expensive heels.
“Hello, hello, hello!” Mrs. Wong greets in a faux French-Russian child hybrid accent, laughing as she kisses her son, husband, and Mark’s cheeks. “Welcome to my humble home!”
Taeyong clutches his Hermes belt in horror as he eyes Mrs. Wong from head to toe.
She turns to their mother and has to bend down to hug her in greeting. “You must be Boa-ssi! Hello, I’m Jeangwôo.”
Their mother smiles, a little scared and a little wary. “Hello, Jungwoo-ssi.”
“No!” Jungwoo exclaims. “It’s pronounced Jeangwôo. It’s different, you see.”
None of them see it.
“Ah, eomeonim,” Mark peeps, breaking the awkward silence. “Where’s Donghyuck-ah?”
“Speaking of the devil!” Jungwoo says in her very off putting French-Russian accent. Donghyuck appears at the top of the stairs, wearing what looks to be a PVC red jumpsuit akin to what Britney wore in her ‘Oops!... I Did It Again’ video, and just like the rest of his family, it’s equally flashy with sequins and shiny CD parts stitched on. They have a theme going on today, it seems. His hair is dyed orange and he’s wearing red creepers and he looks like a walking gigantic warning sign which seems fit.
His face, on the other hand, is nowhere near unattractive, compared to what Yuta claimed. Donghyuck is very, very pretty, honey skinned, sparkling eyes and a smile that can put the sun to shame. Mark must have only saw his face and ignored the rest of what he was wearing when they first met. That’s the only explanation.
“My shining, shimmering, splendid Full Sun. The one and only Wong Donghyuck!”
Kun, Ten, Doyoung and Yuta are on the verge of hysterics. Jaehyun’s barely holding it in. Johnny and Taeyong smile like they can’t believe it. Jeno is still distracted by Jaemin but Renjun is red, tears streaming down his face. Even their mother smiles incredulously, corners of her mouth twitching up as Jungwoo presents Donghyuck like a showpony. Mark frowns at them.
“Hi, love,” Donghyuck whispers, fitting himself into Mark’s embrace. Mark kisses his forehead, smiling as if the world finally makes sense with Donghyuck in his arms.
“Hello, my love,” Mark greets back and Donghyuck goes as red as his jumpsuit.
Donghyuck steps forward to kiss Mark’s mother on the cheek, greeting her shyly. “Hello, eomeonim.”
Their mother delicately hugs him back, careful of the protruding CD parts. Donghyuck shifts to look at Mark’s hyungs who try to get a hold of themselves. Doyoung and Yuta’s ears are both red. Taeyong bows, shoulders still shaking. Kun bows for Ten. Chenle is hiding behind Johnny in fear.
Mark’s eyebrows are pinched and he frowns at his family but smiles once Donghyuck looks back at him, resting his hands on Donghyuck’s waist. Silence falls over them once again.
Mark breaks the silence. “Is dinner ready yet, eomeonim?”
Dinner does not go as well as Mark had hoped.
There were many things that had surely put Mark’s family off, rubbed them the wrong way, but he is very sure these were the top contenders:
- Finding out the theme for the wedding was ‘Under the Sea’. Taeyong was already very wary when Jungwoo had said the motif was rainbow but Ten lost it when the theme was announced, thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t. The Wongs thought it was brilliant and fitting as Mark and Donghyuck met and fell in love on the infamous singles cruise and that Mark’s hyungs would be wearing sea creature themed suits, with Chenle shrieking in laughter upon seeing Ten’s chosen creature was a jellyfish with a matching hat.
- Learning there was no difference between Jungwoo’s serious face and laughing face.
- The Wongs would be paying for everything, meaning there would be no room for Mark’s family to butt in or have their say or even contribute because it would be embarrassing and rude, because, to quote Jungwoo: “Money is not an issue, Ten darling! At least… not for us.” Which did not sit well with Mark’s hyungs. Anyone could tell what Jungwoo was implying and yet, they couldn’t do anything about it.
- Making Mark sign a fucking prenup that even Donghyuck didn’t know about was just the cherry on top of their very tall, offended sundae. With Yukhei trying to explain it was for Donghyuck’s safety and he didn’t want Donghyuck to lose in this union, and Yuta biting back that Mark had already lost, Mark tried very hard to calm them down, agreeing to sign it.
- And finally, Donghyuck’s grandfather, who got around in an electric wheelchair, threatening to haunt Mark if he ever hurt Donghyuck. He then started to convulse, having difficulty breathing which sent the room into a frenzy, Taeyong with shaky fingers trying to call 119 and everyone screaming for someone to do something. Donghyuck’s grandfather then perked up, screaming “Gotcha!” with the biggest toothless smile they had seen. Renjun’s glare could have actually killed him.
Donghyuck’s voice snaps Mark out of his thoughts. Mark is staying over at the Wongs because he feels a tiny bit guilty about his family’s reactions earlier at dinner but mostly because he doesn’t want to see or hear or experience the warzone that will most likely occur back home. They’re at the front garden, relaxing in one of the hammock chairs by the koi pond. Donghyuck’s in Mark’s arms and Mark forgets about the disaster that was dinner, forgets about his family and Donghyuck’s family and it’s just them, Donghyuck counting Mark’s heartbeat and Mark feeling like everything is finally right, like his wish on that shooting star when he was six years old finally came true.
“Earlier at dinner,” Donghyuck starts, voice quiet and worry settling heavy in his body. “Do your hyungs… do you think they like me?”
Mark could tell him the truth, that his hyungs dislike him and his entire family and they don’t want him getting married. Mark could also just, not tell him the truth, that this is just how they are and they totally love him. But Mark’s only got two constants in his life, his family and Donghyuck. He can never choose between the two.
“They will, Hyuck… eventually,” Donghyuck pouts and Mark kisses his forehead. “They just need some time to get used to you, to us. I swear they like you.”
Donghyuck hums and closes his eyes. “I love you,”
Mark feels sunkissed, every inch of him drowning and burning in this slow haziness, basking in Donghyuck’s warmth, legs and hearts intertwining.
“I love you, too. I can’t wait to get married to you.”
Under the night sky, wrapped up in Donghyuck’s arms, Mark thinks he sees a shooting star or two.
Taeyong is wearing one of Johnny’s t-shirts, silk pajama bottoms, and a blazer when Doyoung arrives a little past midnight in their kitchen.
After they arrived home and started talking trash about the Wongs and everything they stand for, their mother had chided them, saying the Wongs were good people, just different from them. Ten watched her leave and clicked his tongue, corners of his mouth curling up and eyes gleaming in mischief, the very same look he had when he thought of something tremendously stupid when they were kids. Some things never change.
“Well, I’m wiped out,” Yuta muttered, splayed out on the couch. “Night everyone.”
Ten had raised his hand and put his hands on his hips, already in his official oldest hyung mode. “Nope, nope, nope. You saw what Markie’s getting married into. We have to stop this wedding.”
Doyoung had sighed and raked a hand through his hair, wanting to take a long hot shower and cuddle up in bed with Jaehyun. “Okay, how are we gonna do that?”
Ten smirked and wagged his index finger teasingly as he walked away. “Wash up, kiddos. We reconvene at twelve. We have a wedding to stop.”
And that’s where Doyoung is now, staring at Taeyong who is focused on his MacBook and muttering to himself. Ten enters the kitchen, floating along in a bathrobe and holding a cup of tea close to his chest. Yuta arrives right after, yawning and stealing Ten’s mug, ignoring his hyung’s glare when he finishes it all.
“So what’s the plan?” Doyoung asks.
“Yes, the plan,” Ten says, much to Doyoung’s confusion. “Ideas, we need ideas. Anyone?”
Ten pointedly stares at Taeyong. “Hey, Columbia. You with us or what? What’s up with the blazer?”
“I am. But I’m running on New York time and I need to finish this sample track before my boss calls me for a Skype meeting,” Taeyong barely glances up from his laptop. “But go on. I’m listening.”
Ten hums and accepts the new cup Doyoung makes him. “Doie, sit down. We need ideas, quick.”
“My brain’s short circuited with all the rich-people bullshit they were saying earlier,” Yuta groans. “God, they’re so up their asses.”
“I’m sure their asses weren’t born rich. I bet they did something dirty to afford Jeangwôo’s boobs.” Ten gripes.
“Hyung!” Doyoung scolds, scandalised.
“What? You don’t like it when I talk about Jungwoo’s obvious boob job?”
Doyoung recoils. “Hyung!”
Ten raises an eyebrow. “It’s not my fault you’ve only ever been sniffing Jaehyun’s balls your whole life.”
Taeyong and Yuta snicker and Doyoung glares, flushed red.
“But seriously,” Yuta starts. “What businesses do the Wongs even have for them to be filthy rich?”
“Several,” Taeyong pipes up, no longer frenziedly fiddling with his laptop. “Their most profitable one is a chain of men-only spas.”
They crowd around Taeyong and his laptop, staring at the glitzy and bright homepage of the Highway to Heaven spa, their specialized “happy ending” highlighted and bolded.
“‘We guarantee you a happy ending’?” Ten reads aloud and then huffs, triumphant. “Told you guys, the Wongs are fishy. I knew it!”
“No, you don’t,” Taeyong shoots him down. “You don’t know it. You have no evidence, Ten.”
“What’s not suspicious about a men-only spa? Not to mention a guaranteed ‘happy ending’ after every session? That just screams illegal to me, Yongie.”
Taeyong levels him with a look. “I’m just saying. Don’t go claiming they’re suspicious because your perv of a brain thinks their happy ending means something else. That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“Superstition!” Yuta butts in suddenly. “What if we beat him to it? Mark prays before watching a horror movie, I’m pretty sure he’d be afraid to push through with the wedding if one of us gets married before he does.”
“He did avoid stepping on cracks until he was, like, eleven years old,” Ten muses and then smiles brilliantly. “I can’t get married because Kun and I have only been together for two weeks. So which one of my lovely dongsaengs is gonna get hitched?”
Yuta, Doyoung, and Taeyong avoid his eyes and he chuckles.
“What about you, old maid,” Ten nods toward Doyoung. “You and Jae have been together for half of Mark’s life. I think it’s time.”
“No it is not!” Doyoung says, disgruntled.
Doyoung’s always avoided the topic of marriage whenever his family brought it up even though everyone including Doyoung himself is well aware of the ring Jaehyun bought when they graduated from college. Yes, they’ve been together for a decade, but with his mother constantly pushing him to take up a job abroad and how happy Jaehyun is with his job in Korea (not to mention the fact that Doyoung just can’t do long distance, with that one episode that no one likes to bring up of Jaehyun going back to the States for a month the summer before college started and Doyoung had a panic attack in the middle of the airport when he sent him off), Doyoung just isn’t sure he’s ready for it.
Ten knows not to push it, just hums and turns to Yuta with pursed lips. “You should do it.”
Yuta scoffs. “Why me?”
“After Doie, you’re the one who’s been in a relationship the longest.”
Yuta nods over at Taeyong. “So is Taeyong. Why not him?”
“Because it’s a stupid idea,” Taeyong simply says. “Unless you can plan and stage a wedding by tomorrow you might be able to stop him. I love Markie, but I’m not going to rush into a wedding just to stop him from rushing into his.”
Taeyong then looks up, eyes a little uncertain. “Unless Yuta is willing to do it.”
Yuta holds Taeyong’s stare even when Ten turns to him. “Well, are you?”
There’s a lot to decipher from the look in Taeyong’s eyes, a lot of words and feelings to be interpreted but Yuta just can’t tell what Taeyong’s trying to say.
Finally, he says, “I’ll ask Sicheng.”
“We all know Doyoung’s not getting married any time soon, so that’s option one out. And if he says no,” Taeyong types away at his laptop and looks back up to see his brothers waiting for him to continue. “Yet another reason why it won’t work. Let’s not put any of our chances on Sicheng.”
Taeyong clears his throat and returns to his work, ignoring how intensely Yuta is staring at him.
“Oh. My. God. He’s bringing up the past!” Ten says a little too gleefully, smug smirk on his face. “When we bring up the past, the present is ruined. Hm, who’s the present? Donghyuck. And who’s the past?”
“Daniel,” Doyoung supplies.
Ten snaps his fingers, satisfied. “Yongie, contact Mr. Kang Daniel on Facebook immediately, for he will be the star of this wedding. When the priest asks if anyone has any objections, Daniel will enter the scene and say ‘I object!’—”
“And I object to that idea,” Taeyong shoots down. “Number one, Daniel is not here, he’s in France. Number two, why would Mark want to go back to the very person who broke his heart? The very reason why he met Donghyuck in the first place?”
Doyoung sighs. “So we’re stuck. We still haven’t come up with any solutions.”
Ten tuts. “What do you think we should do then, smartass?”
Taeyong hums thoughtfully. “Have you heard about the optimal stopping rule?”
He’s met with blank stares. “I’m sorry, we don’t speak masters from Columbia,” Ten says.
“You have to pick someone to be your mate and in this case, it’s Donghyuck, thinking that that person has the highest weighted average of desirable qualities among a pool of diminishing options. In short, we have to expand Mark’s—”
A Skype call cuts Taeyong short. “Shit, it’s my boss,” he says, rushing to stand up. “I gotta take this.”
“What’d he say?” Ten says, still confused. “Expand Mark’s whatawhata? Options?”
“Isn’t that it? Expand Mark’s options?” Doyoung asks. Ten shakes his head, still utterly confused.
“Well, Yongie hyung’s gonna take forever with that meeting, so I guess we’re done for today,” Doyoung says, getting up to clean up after them.
Ten is still muttering on his way out with Yuta and Taeyong is talking away in the living room, voice distant and small. Doyoung can hear the track he was fixing earlier being played, Taeyong’s English bare of any accent.
Doyoung turns around to see Jaehyun, hair wet and wearing the pajama set Doyoung got him for his birthday, Doyoung himself wearing its matching pair. He’s probably come down to get his nightly glass of milk, cheeks red and eyes droopy and he looks so damn good Doyoung wants to drop everything and melt into him until no one knows where either of them start or end.
“Jae,” Doyoung breathes out, smiling softly. “Did you fall asleep already?”
Jaehyun skips the fridge and instead hugs Doyoung from behind, resting his chin on his shoulder while Doyoung washes the dishes. “A little bit. I came to get milk, but more importantly, to come fetch you.”
Something’s off in his tone, Doyoung’s been with him for so long that he knows the slightest shift in his mood from the way he breathes. Doyoung stops, nervous all of a sudden. “How much did you hear?”
Jaehyun stays silent, clenching and unclenching his fingers where they rest intertwined on Doyoung’s stomach. “I came down when you guys were talking about the spa,” he says guiltily.
Doyoung says fuck it and decides he’ll dry the dishes tomorrow morning and turns around in Jaehyun’s embrace. Jaehyun bites his lips, nervous.
“Jae, babe, I—” Doyoung can’t find the right words to say, mouth opening and closing. In the end, he doesn’t say anything.
Jaehyun sighs and kisses Doyoung’s shoulder, resting his head there. “I can never force you. Ever. You know that, right? I’d follow you to the ends of the earth.”
He says this so earnestly, sincerity dripping in each vowel, in each roll of his tongue, so honey-like that Doyoung wants to cry, because how did he deserve Jaehyun? How could his best friend, his first ever friend that wasn’t one of his siblings, who has never left his side, or failed to look at anyone else, love him back so much like he knows how Doyoung feels?
“I know, Jae, I know,” Doyoung whispers, tears forming in his eyes. “But you don’t deserve to wait for my answer. You don’t deserve that, Jae. We both know I can’t do long distance, that’ll break me.”
Jaehyun shushes him, wiping his eyes with his thumb and kissing the corner of his mouth. “But don’t you think your mom is right? You can do so much better, you’re so smart and amazing, Doie, any job would kill to have you.”
“You’re so happy here,” Doyoung’s bottom lip wobbles dangerously, fingers shaking where his arms are thrown around Jaehyun’s neck. “You love your job, you love your colleagues. I can’t do that to you. I’d put everything on the line for you, Jae. I want to get married to you, so bad, there’s nothing more I’d like to be than your husband but…if it means you—”
“I told you, right?” Jaehyun says, smiling. He wipes Doyoung’s steadily falling tears. “I’d follow you to the ends of the earth.”
“I know, but…” it hits Doyoung, that there’s something else Jaehyun is implying. “What do you mean?”
Jaehyun’s eyes crinkle and he smiles so big, dimples out on full display. “You’re my future, Doie. Your mom wants you to take up that teaching job in Japan, right? I’ve been looking up jobs there since, like, last year.”
Doyoung’s full on sobbing now. He covers his face with his hands, his whole body shaking.
“And I know what you’re going to say, but I’m not doing this for you.” of course Jaehyun knows what Doyoung’s thinking, they’re always on the same train of thought, always on the same step. “I mean, you’re part of the reason why, but I want this, too. I want to see what else the world has for me. And I want to see it with you.”
My world goes unsaid but Doyoung hears it, loud and clear, knows what Jaehyun never even has to say. Jaehyun’s words soothe the ache that’s settled deep in Doyoung’s bones, his being, for the longest time. He holds Jaehyun’s face in between his wet hands and Jaehyun laughs at how cold his palms are but he melts into his touch, slow and sweet, his gaze making Doyoung feel all kinds of things in his stomach, longing, love, home. Looking at Jaehyun and his dimples and his smile and hearing his voice ignites all kinds of flames and triggers a Pavlovian response in Doyoung where he thinks of home and forever.
“God, I love you,” Doyoung laughs, and distantly, he’s aware Taeyong is done with his meeting and that he’s packing up, and it’s confirmed when he makes eye contact with him from over Jaehyun’s shoulder when Taeyong pokes his head in the entryway, eyes widening at the scene before him, mouthing sorry and rushing back upstairs.
Jaehyun brings Doyoung’s right hand up to press a small kiss to his ring finger, brushing his thumb along the veins in his wrist.
Doyoung feels his heart flutter, thinking about how he saw the ring for the first time in its black velvet case, shiny rose gold band and an even shinier pear shaped diamond sitting snug and prettily in the center, hidden inside Jaehyun’s nightstand drawer back in his parents’ home. When Jaehyun started unofficially living with them, he had hidden it inside one his socks even though he knew Doyoung had already known about it. Sometimes, when Jaehyun would be dead asleep, Doyoung would pick it up and fit it on his finger, stare at the DxJ engraved inside, thinking of someday and one day.
“I love you, too,” Jaehyun says, their kiss saccharine and slow and so right even if they’re in the middle of the kitchen with Doyoung pressed against the sink and the dishes still aren’t dry but that can wait, everything can wait. Anywhere feels like the right moment with Jaehyun by his side.
Yuta is awoken when he is unceremoniously shoved out of his bed.
“Yuta get up, I finally figured it out!” Ten shouts, running around the room in a frenzy.
Yuta doesn’t move from his spot on the floor, falling asleep again. “Figured what out?”
“What Taeyong was trying to say last night, ugh, I am a genius!” Ten ignores the fact that Yuta is deadweight and dead to the world and drags him down the hall to Doyoung and Jaehyun’s bedroom, banging on the door and not waiting for a response when he comes in. “You two better be decent!”
“I’ll show you decent,” Doyoung growls loud enough for Ten to hear him from where he’s disappeared in a mountain of pillows and blankets. Jaehyun’s big toe is peeking out but he was nowhere to be seen. Ten almost warrants a search and rescue. Yuta crawls up onto the bed and collapses on top of what is presumably their bodies.
“Alright, remember when Yongie was being a smartass last night, going off about some math shit?”
“Because he is smart, hyung,” Doyoung says from somewhere. “We’re just dumb.”
“Well, I’m not and I figured out what he meant! We need to give Mark options to choose from!” Jaehyun pokes his head out, Yuta’s foot near his face. “Maybe there weren’t any cute people on that cruise and Donghyuck was last resort, so we need to show Mark that there are tons of fish in the sea that don’t wear leather bodysuits and disco ball earrings.”
“May I interject?” Jaehyun asks.
“No you may not, you are not one of my brothers,” Ten says.
“I think that’s a terrible plan,” Jaehyun says anyways, earning a glare from Ten. “How could you do that to both Mark and Donghyuck?”
“I can do this because it’s for the sake of Mark’s future that doesn’t involve offkey Broadway performances everyday! Shut the fuck up, Jaehyun, I can’t believe Doyoung wants to even be with you.”
“Options, right?” Doyoung finally speaks up, having managed to get out of the bed. “How do we do that?”
“We can take him to a bar? Like, a decent bar? Filled with decent people?” Yuta adds.
“Impossible to even find a decent man nowadays,” Ten scoffs. “But I know someone who can help, be right back.”
Ten comes back in, dragging Jeno who is half asleep and wearing Pororo pajamas into the room, sitting him down the bed and shaking him awake by the shoulders. “Jeno-yah, listen to me. You need to take Mark and the boys to a bar, okay?”
“A bar?” Jeno repeats drowsily.
Ten pinches his neck and he squeaks, jolting awake. “Yes, a bar. A club. Whatever you kids go to nowadays. I need you to take him to a decent bar, okay? Where he’ll find a decent partner. Give him a good time, but not too much of a good time.”
Doyoung pulls a robe over his pajamas, standing intimidatingly next to Ten. “A club where people who’ve graduated college go to, who have jobs and don’t look like criminals, Jeno, got it?”
“And don’t tell Mark we put you up to this, or I will make sure you never see the light of day again.” Ten threatens and Jeno gulps.
“I still think this is a bad idea,” Jaehyun says, rubbing his face.
“I can ask Sicheng for some recommendations?” Yuta offers. “He plays at a different bar every night.”
“I’m sorry, Yukkuri, but we all know WinWin and the Vision don’t make music for employed people.”
Yuta shrugs, he doesn’t even deny it. “None taken,”
“I trust you, Jeno,” Doyoung leans down so he’s at eye level with a very scared Jeno. “Decent bar, remember that. You’ll take Jae, Johnny, and Kun along, alright? No funny business.”
Jeno’s eyes flicker down to Doyoung’s crossed arms. “Is that an engagement ring?”
Doyoung squawks, panicked, hastily hiding his hands behind him when Ten turns to him, eyes wild. “YOU—”
“What’s going on?” Taeyong barges in. “Why is everyone here?”
“Ah, just in time!” Ten totally forgets about Doyoung’s engagement ring and pulls Taeyong in. “You’re going to give Jeno a budget, this is your idea after all.”
“What idea?” Taeyong asks, bewildered.
“I’m gonna take Mark to a decent bar to meet a decent person whose mother doesn’t have a boob job and give them a good time.” Jeno recites, smiling. Taeyong stares.
“This is a terrible, stupid idea,” Taeyong hisses. “Did Jaehyun agree to this?”
It is well known in the Kwon household that Jaehyun greenlights all of the ideas as he is the only unbiased, sole voice of reason. If Jaehyun thinks it’s a terrible idea, then it is scrapped, burned, trash .
“Yes,” Ten says at the same time Jaehyun says, “No,” quite firmly, earning another glare from Ten.
Taeyong sighs. “Fine. But when this backfires, this is all on you.”
Sicheng and the rest of the band are taking a break when Yuta arrives.
Guanheng is sitting on Dejun’s lap, feeding Dejun fries while they watch a new drama on his phone. Guanheng looks up when the bell above the door jingles, smiling and waving at Yuta, Dejun soon following.
“Sicheng! Yuta’s here!” Guanheng announces, returning to the drama and giggling when Dejun kisses his neck.
Sicheng and Taeil sit at a table near the stage, heads huddled close together where they’re going through sheet music and Sicheng’s lyrics notebook. Sicheng looks up, startled and eyes wide and smiles so big when he sees Yuta. Taeil turns around, too, smiling and eyes crinkling and Yuta’s heart is in shambles.
There’s an empty seat left at Sicheng and Taeil’s table but Sicheng pulls Yuta down on his lap, nuzzling his face into Yuta’s nape. Taeil watches them fondly and Yuta delusionally lets himself imagine how lovely this would be, how lovely they would be, a universe where Yuta visits his boyfriends who play in a band together and after the afterparty they all fall together in one bed, drunk and in love.
“Babe?” Yuta is snapped out of his reverie when Sicheng calls his name for the third time, squeezing his waist.
“Oh, sorry,” Yuta quickly apologizes. “What did you say?”
“Are you staying for the gig?”
Yuta bites his bottom lip, remembering how Jeno’s gonna take Mark and the rest of the boys out later and how, surely, one of them is going to wind up dead. Sicheng sees the hesitation in his face and pouts.
“Come on, please? I haven’t seen you in forever. I miss you,” Sicheng glances nervously at Taeil unbeknownst to Yuta, and quietly adds, “We’ve missed you.”
Yuta freezes up, and looks up at Taeil as if to confirm. Taeil nods, a red flush dusting his cheeks. “Yeah, we have.”
Yuta knows he should ask, knows they should talk about what’s going on between them because no one is stupid or blind to the tension between the three of them that Guanheng and Dejun have named the band’s group chat ‘WINWIN HAS TWO HOLES FOR A REASON’.
“Stay?” Taeil says.
Yuta takes the cowards way out, deciding not to confront or talk about it like adults. Instead, he nods and swallows the rising lump in his throat. “Sure.”
“Doyoung, I’m not ready to take custody of Chenle. He’s gonna kill me in his sleep.”
“You’d have to be married to his father first to be that little monster’s legal guardian.” Doyoung mutters and then groans in frustration. “Come on, Jaehyun, pick up!”
“Ten said he’s already tried calling Kun, but no luck. Goddamnit, what even happened to them?” Taeyong tries to call Johnny’s number again and is sent right to voicemail. He closes his eyes, eyebrows pinched together. “What time does mom wake up?”
“She gets up at seven for breakfast,” Doyoung replies, distracted as he tries calling Jeno’s number again,
“Well, let’s fucking go to the police station before mother dearest wakes up,” Ten says, suddenly appearing and already power walking to the gate.
“Hyung, don’t you think it’s too much to go to the police station?” Taeyong asks but follows nonetheless.
“I wouldn’t put it past Jeno to get them all arrested.” Ten shoots back. “There’s so many bars in Seoul, how are we gonna find them?”
Doyoung follows behind, finally noticing his outfit. “Why are you wearing a silk suit?”
“We obviously don’t have the money to bail them out, seduction is the only way.” Ten replies simply and Doyoung is sure he’s gonna have an aneurysm right then and there. Ten opens the gate and then yelps in shock, the family van parked haphazardly in the driveway with Jeno asleep by the steering wheel.
“What. The. Fuck.” Doyoung grits, marching up to the driver’s side and knocking on the window, jolting Jeno awake, staring at Doyoung with red-shot eyes and dried up saliva by his chin. “Open the door, Jeno!”
Jeno fumbles to unlock the van, groaning when the sunlight hits his eyes. Taeyong slides the van door open to find Jaehyun, Johnny, and Kun cuddling together in the backseat, Jaehyun’s legs propped on both of their laps and Kun’s face pressed into the space between Johnny’s neck and shoulder.
Ten sniffs. “Well, well, well,” he shoves Kun, resulting in the other two men groaning. “I would have expected you to hook up with a stripper, not my brother’s boyfriend!”
Taeyong reaches over and slaps Johnny’s arm. “Johnny wake up before your son sees you.”
Doyoung is by the passenger seat, cradling Mark’s head to his chest and eyes Jaehyun struggling to sit up in the backseat. “What the hell happened to you guys?”
The three in the back point at Jeno. Ten shoves his way in and hits Jeno upside the head. “Where the hell did you take them, Jeno-yah!”
Jeno groans. “I took them to a strip club!”
“What? Why would you do that?” Taeyong barks.
“Because!” Jeno whines, rubbing his forehead. “You told me to give them a good time, give him options!”
“We said decent bar, with decent people! Clubs college kids go to! Why would you think Mark’s going to find a partner mother would approve of in a strip club?” Doyoung hisses.
“It was decent! They were even wearing school uniforms!”
Ten stares at him. “I’m actually going to kill you right now.”
“Calm down,” Jeno tries to placate. “We just went window shopping! Look, no touch.”
Doyoung takes deep breaths, eyes closed. “Babe?” Jaehyun calls but Doyoung ignores him, trying to think happy, calming thoughts. Anything to prevent him from killing Jeno.
“Everyone get out before mom wakes up.” Doyoung grits and shakes Mark awake. They stumble up the driveway, with Ten hunched over from trying to pull Kun along and Taeyong struggling under Johnny’s weight, Doyoung grunting as he carries Jaehyun who is mumbling apologies and Jeno carrying Mark over his shoulder.
“Ten, I can't believe you came up with such a stupid idea.” Taeyong gripes.
“Ya, this wasn’t my idea. And you’re the one who said the only reason why Mark only got with Donghyuck was because he lacked options,” Kun almost falls over and Ten yelps. “So I gave him options.”
“By bringing him to a strip club?”
“Hey, I didn’t tell Jeno to bring him there, that was his own stupidity.”
Taeyong rolls his eyes. “Based on your misinterpretation of what I had said!”
“Well, then, next time, shut your mouth if you don’t want to be misinterpreted.” Ten growls.
“If you don’t want my opinion, then stop asking me for it.” They manage to get them all to the steps of the front porch, Jeno flopping down and falling asleep again. Jaehyun helps himself as Doyoung perches Mark upright, leaning his upper body against the bannister as his head lols, on the verge of falling asleep once again. Johnny sits down on the steps, cradling his head between his hands. Ten is still carrying Kun.
“And Doie,” Taeyong continues, turning to Doyoung. “You agreed to this?”
“Because we had the same interpretation of what you said.” Ten says, frowning.
“Why? What did you guys even think? That Minhyung would drop his boyfriend just because he saw some other guy’s dick?“ Taeyong says, laughing in disbelief. “Maybe Minhyungie was right, maybe you do think so little of him.” He then turns back to Johnny.
“Ya,” Ten snaps. “You’re crossing the line now.”
Taeyong raises an eyebrow, turning to look at him. “What? Why? When I say the truth, I’m an asshole, but when you make a joke that starts to get hurtful, it’s nothing personal.”
“That’s why they’re jokes, they shouldn’t hurt.” Ten stresses.
Taeyong smiles, and it’s not pretty at all. “But you seem to mean them when it comes to me?”
“You got an answer for everything smartass?” Ten retorts, obviously annoyed.
They’ve left the gate open as their hands were full but someone still rings the doorbell. Doyoung stands up to check and Donghyuck peeps in and smiles when he sees them.
“Hyungnim! Good morning!” Donghyuck greets, bowing and letting himself in. He’s dressed in what can only be called normal according to his standards, an oversized garish sweater, loud in color and too many damn ruffles and tassels attached, and boots that sparkle. He walks over, smiling brightly. “Thank god, you’re all here, hyungs… but where’s Mark?”
He finally notices Mark who looks, quite frankly, dead. Ten smiles smugly, drops Kun, who groans, and turns to watch in amusement, argument forgotten.
“What happened to Mark?”
Doyoung purses his lips. “He got drunk. Boys night out.”
Ten expects Donghyuck to burst, to show them all the more reason that marrying him is a terrible idea. But instead, he just laughs, relieved.
“No wonder I had a feeling I should come over! It’s to take care of Markie’s hangover!” Donghyuck coos, kneeling down and squishing Mark’s cheeks. “Markie, we’re so meant to be!”
Mark just snores.
Donghyuck observes the scene and turns back to Doyoung. “Hyungnim, you all look exhausted from your bonding last night, but don’t worry, I brought food!”
He calls for his staff who bring in boxes and plastic bags full of food and ingredients. Donghyuck squeals. “I can’t wait to make breakfast for you all!”
Doyoung’s jaw clenches, nostrils flaring. “In my kitchen?”
Doyoung never once leaves the kitchen while Donghyuck cooks, hovering in the corner, mouth pressed into a thin line and smoke coming out of his ears.
Donghyuck’s a good cook, his food looking like it came from a hotel buffet, mouth-watering pancakes, fluffy omelettes, strawberry sides, the works. It all smells so good. Doyoung seethes by himself in the corner.
Renjun comes in to grab the plates and set the table, eyes wide in awe at the food.
“Mark’s boyfriend made so much food!” Renjun whispers when he makes a detour to Doyoung’s sulky corner. “What are we gonna do with all of your food?”
Doyoung snaps his head towards him, frowning. “We’re still gonna fucking eat it, Injun-ah.”
Renjun recoils, frightened and leaves for the dining room. Donghyuck turns to Doyoung, smiling and sees the food he prepared on the kitchen counter.
“Wow, hyungnim!” Donghyuck claps his hands together in glee. “You cook Korean food so well! It looks so good.”
Jaehyun appears, clean and a lot more sober now, leaning against the entryway and smiling softly at Doyoung. “That’s because it is,” he grumbles and begrudgingly leaves his kitchen, dragging Jaehyun along.
They sit down for breakfast and Chenle marvels at the food Donghyuck and his staff bring out.
“Wow! Something I can finally eat around here!” Chenle exclaims and Donghyuck preens, serving him pancakes. Doyoung meets eyes with Taeyong and they nod in solidarity.
“Oh, you like continental food I see,” Donghyuck notes, giggling, and sets a plate of pancakes in front of Mark. “For you, Markiepoo.”
Ten gags but Mark doesn’t take notice, smiling serenely up at Donghyuck. “I love you, Hyuckie.”
“I love you, too, Markie.” Donghyuck holds up two fingers and kisses Mark’s cheek.
“Hyuck-ah,” their mother says, all heads turning towards her. “These pancakes are really good!”
Donghyuck bows, beaming at the praise. “Thank you, eomeonim!”
“Here, Tennie, try some,” Ten tries to decline, standing in solidarity with a pissed off Doyoung but a forkful of pancake is shoved into his mouth and he has no other option but to chew. His eyes go wide, literal stars in his eyes and is about to compliment Donghyuck but he feels Doyoung’s very angry and very scary eyes on him and backtracks.
Taeyong also tries to decline their mother’s offer but in the end, he’s chewing through a mouthful of pancakes and meets Doyoung’s eyes with apologetic ones of his own. The doorbell rings and Renjun hurries to get it.
Jaehyun shoves Doyoung’s food into his mouth to avoid being their mother’s next target when Yuta arrives… with Sicheng following behind. Johnny glances at Taeyong. Sicheng also glances at Taeyong.
“Hi, morning,” Yuta greets, kissing their mother’s cheek. “Gig ran late.”
Sicheng bows awkwardly and Kun chokes on his food once he sees Sicheng and Ten shoves him.
“Oh. My. God.” Donghyuck gasps, eyes twinkling. “WinWin from WinWin and the Vision?”
Sicheng nods and Donghyuck squeals, jumping up and down and running to hug him. Sicheng awkwardly hugs him back.
“I love your songs! I’ve been a fan of you since high school, your songs are the soundtrack to my life,” Donghyuck squeezes him a little too tight and Yuta just laughs at the look for help Sicheng throws at him. “I used to think I’d get married to you, you were, like, my number one crush! Markie don’t get jealous. Oh, can you please play my favorite song? Pretty please, I’m getting married soon, this would be a wonderful wedding gift.”
Sicheng laughs awkwardly. “Um, sure, what song?”
“‘Let Me Love U’ is my absolute favorite!”
Sicheng stops. “I’m sorry, I don’t…I don’t sing that song anymore.”
“Oh,” Donghyuck deflates. “Nevermind, then. Thank you anyways—”
“Please, Sicheng hyung?” Mark says. Everyone stares at him. “It would make my fiancé so happy.”
So Sicheng cracks under the pressure and grabs his guitar from Yuta’s car and sings the song in the living room, perched on one of the couch’s arms and Donghyuck sitting in a chair opposite, singing along.
“K-I-S-S-I-N-G, I can’t live without my Y-O-N-G-I-E,” Sicheng had stopped singing before the name was spelled out but Donghyuck sings it, loud and clear, for the entire family to hear.
“OMG,” Chenle actually says. “That spells Uncle Taeyong’s name.”
Up until that point, Johnny was smiling, confident in his and Taeyong’s relationship, confident that he knows Taeyong more, that he’s told him everything about Sicheng, his college boyfriend who he broke up with before he went to the States, but hearing the song and seeing Taeyong look anywhere but at Sicheng, he’s not so sure.
“Lele? Let’s get you washed up,” Johnny says before Chenle can say anything more scandalous.
“But daddy!” Chenle protests and Johnny shushes him, leaving a quick peck on Taeyong’s cheek and carrying Chenle to their room.
Yuta freezes, too, looking up to find Sicheng staring at him, eyes apologetic and eyebrows pinched together in worry.
“You’re so fucking insesitive, Mark,” Doyoung hisses.
“What? Do you think I’d tell Hyuck about Sicheng and Taeyong hyung’s past? Who am I to tell him that?”
“Donghyuck’s gonna be part of the family, might as well tell him about the time Jaehyun had to accompany you when you got circumcised because you gave us food poisoning the night before.”
Mark groans. “I’m sorry, okay? Please stop reminding me of that time.”
The song ends and Donghyuck squeals again, hugging and thanking Sicheng. Sicheng packs up his guitar and bows to everyone, Yuta seeing him out.
“Wow, great performance,” Yuta gripes. “Donghyuck was really into it.”
“Drop it, please,” Sicheng pleads. “You were there. I said no but your brother insisted.”
“Oh, so it’s Mark’s fault now?”
“No. It’s no one’s fault, Yuta. Stop trying to pick a fight, it’s like you don’t want us to get along. I told you, didn’t I? I’m over your brother. Please believe me when I say that. I want to make this work, Yuta, but it’s getting really hard now.”
Instead of being sorry, Yuta pushes on, his jealousy and insecurity getting the best of him. “You still could have suggested a different song. I bet you liked it that Taeyong hyung was there.”
Yuta knows he’s crossed the line when Sicheng shakes his head, frowning. Yuta starts to apologize but Dejun arrives to pick Sicheng up, waving at Yuta. Yuta halfheartedly waves back. Sicheng lugs his guitar and bag into the trunk and goes back to Yuta.
“Next time,” Sicheng says before Yuta can say anything. “Next time, try not to get caught kissing my bandmate.”
Yuta feels paralyzed. Frozen in his spot, like ice was just dumped on him. He feels his world actually shattering. Sicheng waves goodbye and leaves. Yuta stays there, stock still and thinking how and when.
(The gig was amazing
Sicheng and the band get the entire place off their feet and banging their heads along. Yuta dances among the crowd, smiling and laughing. Sicheng and Taeil can’t take their eyes off of him the entire night.
Yuta buys the band drinks and Sicheng pulls him into his lap, kissing him wetly and laughing. Taeil sits across them on the bar, smiling sweetly.
“You guys were amazing,” Yuta shouts over the music playing. He hasn’t felt this good in a long time, has forgotten how good Sicheng’s band is with how busy he’s been lately.
“I think this was our best gig so far,” Taeil replies and sips his drink.
Sicheng kisses Yuta’s neck, smiling from ear to ear. “Because you were here. Our little good luck charm."
Yuta blushes and Taeil hums in agreement. Before Yuta can reply, Guanheng appears, already flushed and sweating. “Dude, that casting director is here again. He brought along one of their producers and he wants to talk to you.”
“Holy shit, the one from SM? Sicheng go.” Taeil gasps and gets up to shove Sicheng out of his seat. Yuta stumbles, laughing and Taeil grabs him by the wrist and pulls him close to stabilize him. Sicheng smirks and points at his cheek. Yuta rolls his eyes and leans in to kiss him but Sicheng turns in the last minute, a wet smack of lips. Yuta yelps and Sicheng winks.
“Thank you for the good luck!” Sicheng says before he and Guanheng run back to the agent.
Taeil is still holding onto Yuta’s wrist and he pulls him close. Yuta is hesitant but complies, looking down at Taeil who is looking up right back at him, a small, secretive smile on his face. He tilts his head to the side and he looks so damn pretty under the fluorescent lights, hair dyed a dark red, smokey shadow on his eyes and glitter on his lips. Yuta remembers how Taeil had asked him to stay earlier, how Sicheng said that they both missed him. Yuta doesn’t have any more chances but now.
“Did you mean it?” Yuta asks. “What you said earlier. Did you mean it?”
Taeil doesn’t pretend like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “I did. Sicheng missed you. I missed you. We both did.”
There are so many questions Yuta wants to ask. “During your set, you kept looking at me. Why?”
Taeil just smiles again, coy and so lovely Yuta wants to cave in. “I think you know why.”
“No,” Yuta gulps. “I don’t.”
“I think you do,” Taeil says, and he’s pointedly staring at Yuta’s lips. “You’re not dumb, Yuta.”
“No, I’m not,” Yuta agrees and he can feel himself leaning in, until there’s barely any distance between their lips. “But I don’t cheat on my boyfriend.”
Taeil considers him, amusement written across his face, eyes half-lidded. “No, you don’t. But your boyfriend wants you to do this.”
Yuta stops and stands right up, puzzled. “What?”
“I kept looking at you during our set because I wanted to, because Sicheng knew and wanted me to,” Taeil explains.
“Knew? What does Sicheng know?”
Taeil gently cradles Yuta’s cheek, his other hand coming up to pull him back down by the wrist. “This,” he whispers, glancing at Yuta’s lips. “This, Yuta.”
Yuta shudders, and this could change everything, the intent behind Taeil’s words sparks a flame of hope in him and he’s buzzing with excitement. “Taeil hyung,”
“Yuta,” Taeil says right back, smiling. “Do you want this?”
Yes, yes, yes, Yuta wants this. Has been wanting it for years, has had dreams and daydreams and plans about it. How he, Taeil, and Sicheng could be amazing together, how they could rule the world. He caves.
“Yes,” Yuta whispers.
“I do, too,” Taeil says and leans in.)
Yuta runs back into the house, tears in his eyes, and runs upstairs before his brothers can ask him anything.
Doyoung and Ten watch him from where they’re cleaning up the dining table. Doyoung tuts. “Told him he shouldn’t have brought Sicheng over.” he shakes his head. “I feel bad for Johnny hyung, he and Yongie hyung might fight over this.”
Ten scoffs and finally turns to Doyoung once he hears Yuta slam their door closed. “So what? Let them, he’s so smart after all. He’ll know how to fix things, anyways. He’s perfect, he doesn’t fuck up.”
Doyoung sets a cup of tea in front of him and he settles down in Mark’s chair. “Hyung…” Doyoung warns.
“What? Isn’t that why he keeps blaming us? Because he knows everything?”
“He was just speaking his mind, like you do.” Doyoung reasons. “I don’t think he meant to offend you.”
Ten rolls his eyes and stirs his tea. “Well, he should learn to keep his trap shut if he doesn’t want to go around offending anybody, should learn when to stop talking. He talks to us like we’re his inferiors, like we’re beneath him,” he huffs. “I’m still the oldest here, where’s the respect he used to show me?”
Doyoung bites his lip. “Look, are we really going to fight over this? We all want the same thing and that’s to stop Mark from getting married to Donghyuck.” He shakes his head. “What are we going to do now? We’re one week away from the wedding, hyung.”
Ten considers. “What about…the spa. There, I’ll look into it. I have a gut feeling that some shady shit goes on there.”
“Taeyong hyung said that will never work, we don’t have evidence. It’s too risky.”
“Look, Taeyong again! He’s right again!” Ten laughs but he’s not happy at all. He gets up and downs his tea. “Fine. I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about a thing, Doie, because if I make a mistake, it’s all on me. I’ll save Taeyong the trouble of saying ‘I told you so’ because I’ll take the fucking blame. No fucking worries.” Ten bites and walks away. Doyoung sighs.
Upstairs, Yuta faces the wall, Sicheng’s words replaying over and over again in his head.
There’s a knock and their mother doesn’t wait for an answer and just comes right in. At least she knocked. “Why did you bring Sicheng here?”
Yuta blinks in surprise. “Mom, how many times do I have to bring him over for you to like him?”
“Until you and Taeyong fix what you have,” she says firmly.
Ah, so it’s about Taeyong.
“You know I’ve apologized countless times, mom. Even now, ever since he came home, I’ve tried to reach out, I’ve tried to talk to him—like you wanted me to do, right? But he just brushes me off, he always snubs me.” Yuta swallows when his voice gets shaky, a tremor of unease making itself known within him. “Mom, it’s not fair that I’m the only one who’s trying to reach out, that I’m always the one who has to make it up to him. When will he do the same?” he looks up to meet her eyes. “Will you always think I’m wrong?”
His mother sighs, regarding him quietly. “Your timing is wrong, Yuta. What you did was so insensitive,” she goes to close the door. “I don’t blame you like you think I do, but please, while you’re all here, while you’re still brothers, make things right again.”
She leaves, and Yuta lets himself cry again.
Taeyong packs Johnny’s luggage while Johnny edits photos on the bed next to Chenle who’s already asleep.
“Your passport isn’t in here yet, so don’t forget to pack it,” Taeyong reminds, folding Johnny’s sweater on his lap. “Do you want us to bring you to the airport tomorrow?”
“You never told me he wrote you a song,” Johnny says, looking up from his laptop.
Taeyong chuckles sitting on Johnny’s actual bed and packs more clothes into his bag. “I’d forgotten it even existed,”
Johnny stares, trying to read Taeyong. In the end, he huffs, a note of laughter in his voice. “Well, it’s not a very good song.”
“It really isn’t,” Taeyong laughs. “It’s super stupid.”
“So you just had to listen to that everyday?
“I only heard it once,” Taeyong looks up and Johnny isn’t smiling anymore, a look on his face Taeyong can’t decipher. “I only heard it once. When he was still broke but wanted to take me out for our anniversary, so he made it up on the spot in the middle of the restaurant and pretended to propose so we could get free food.”
Johnny finds it a little amusing. “Did he try to propose to you for real after?”
“No, I made it very known that I didn’t want that any time soon.”
Taeyong realizes that he said something wrong and looks away, grateful that he can pretend to be busy and not see the look on Johnny’s face while he packs. Johnny goes through a number of emotions, but at the forefront is disbelief and something just sad.
“Well, at least now I know that you’re not allergic to marriage,” Johnny stares at his laptop, mind going a mile a minute. “Do I have to write you a song, too, for you to say yes?”
Taeyong pouts and kneels down by the bed, cradling Johnny’s face in his hands. “Hey,” he says softly. “I love you.”
Johnny tries to turn away but Taeyong makes him face him, determined. “I love you. Seo Youngho, I love you.”
Johnny pulls him in, hugging him tight, a hand tight around his waist and another on his nape, not letting him go. Taeyong squeezes him back just as hard. Johnny kisses him on the cheek and squeezes his waist three times, as if to say ‘I do, too’.
Johnny carries him in his arms as Chenle sobs, refusing to let his dad leave.
“I can’t take you with me, Chenle,” Johnny whispers, rubbing his son’s back. “You have to stay here with Uncle Taeyong.”
Taeyong takes Johnny’s bag from him so he can carry Chenle better. They pass by Jeno trimming the hedges and Jeno gives him a sympathetic look.
“No! Take me with you!” Chenle whines. Johnny shushes him and shares a glance with Taeyong. “Baby, I have to meet with clients, I won’t be able to be with you.”
“Don’t leave me with him, he’s evil! He doesn’t like me!” Chenle cries, burrowing further into his dad’s chest. Johnny tries to console him. “No he doesn’t, Lele.”
“Yes he does! He’s evil, he hates me, I know it!”
They’re out by the gate, waiting for the taxi they called prior. Chenle continues to sob even when Johnny sets him down on the ground and kneels in front of him. “Honey, he doesn’t hate you,” Johnny says, like it’s the most ridiculous thing he’s heard.
Chenle wipes his eyes. “Yes, he does.”
Taeyong is hurt when Johnny looks up at him. “He loves you. Uncle Taeyong loves you, Lele.”
The taxi arrives just in time and Taeyong calls for Jeno to put Johnny’s bags in for him while Chenle wails even more, clutching onto his dad.
“Be a good boy, okay?” Johnny coos, kissing Chenle’s forehead.
Johnny stands up and brings Taeyong in for a hug. “Hopefully while I’m away, you and Chenle will get along.”
Taeyong glances over Johnny’s shoulder, sees Chenle glaring at him, cheeks wet and eyes red with his purple teddy bear clutched between his crossed arms. “I think your son and I are a hopeless case.”
Johnny pulls away but keeps his hands on him. “Look, babe, just try. Please? For me? For us? I want us to be a family.” that gets Taeyong, who sharply looks up at him, eyes questioning. Johnny contemplates, reading him back and reaches for his back pocket. It’s the ring. “When I get back, this should be on your finger.”
He grabs Taeyong’s hand and places it in his palm, holding his own hand above it. Taeyong laughs. “Is this an ultimatum, Mr. Seo?” Taeyong jokes but he’s just about ready to cry, warmth flowing through his veins.
Johnny laughs as well. “This is me… saying I love you, Taeyong-ah.”
So many words left unsaid but Taeyong gets it. He leans up to kiss Johnny, hopes that all he wants to say is translated through it. Taeyong’s free hand curls around Johnny’s neck, squeezes it three times and Johnny smiles, eyes a little teary. They pull away and Taeyong lets go. “Bye, babe,” Johnny whispers.
“Okay, buddy, one last hug.” Johnny turns to Chenle who sniffles and holds him close. “You be good, okay?”
Johnny waves one last time and gets in the passenger seat. They watch the taxi drive off and Jeno walks back, a hand stretched out for Chenle. “Chenle-yah, let’s go back in.”
Chenle doesn’t listen, turns and glares up at Taeyong, who is lost in thought as he fiddles with the ring. He looks absolutely terrifying, Power Rangers shirt and purple teddy bear and all. “Stop hurting my dad.”
Taeyong stops, blood having run cold. “What?”
“Stop making him like you to marry you if you’re just going to keep saying no.” Chenle blubbers through tears. Jeno hurriedly rushes him in, casting a worried glance at Taeyong before leaving.
“Kid’s got a point.”
Taeyong doesn’t jump, just turns around to find Yuta who’s been listening in the entire time, leaning against the gate.
“How long are you going to make him wait? Will you make him wait if it just ends up with nothing?” Yuta pushes the gate open and Taeyong moves aside, his face suddenly steely. “You could just end it, you know.”
“He looks like a good guy,” Yuta continues, opening the other gate. “He looks like he loves you.” Taeyong clutches onto the ring. “Looks like you love him, too. Why don’t you just get married already? You’ve been together for so long, anyways.”
“I could say the same for you and Sicheng,” Taeyong responds. “You love him. He loves you. Why don’t you two get married, then?”
Yuta loses the smirk on his face. Taeyong walks closer, so that they’re face to face, eye to eye. “You don’t know how I feel, you don’t have an inch of an idea about what I feel. Don’t give comments about my personal life because I don’t give comments about yours. You’ve made it very clear that you don’t wanna go back to how we used to be, which is fine by me. Just act like it, alright?”
Taeyong walks away and Yuta. Yuta regrets even trying anymore.
Yuta knows Sicheng might still be mad but lets himself in their studio anyway, greeting Guanheng and Dejun who are fixing their instruments along the way and they tell him where Sicheng, and by extension, Taeil is.
In the control room, Sicheng and Taeil are laughing, heads close together, noses almost touching. Sicheng’s got his legs up on Taeil’s lap and Taeil has a hand resting on his ankle, caressing the bone with his thumb. It looks so intimate, like Yuta shouldn’t be there, but they also look so good together, fitting so lovely against each other. Yuta has to remember which one really is his boyfriend and knocks on the door.
“Hey,” Yuta says when they look to see. They separate in a flash, going red in the face.
“Babe, hi,” Sicheng murmurs and hastily gets up to greet him. Taeil bites his lips, looking torn between joining them or staying in his place. In the end, he turns his back, talking to their producer instead.
“Hi,” Yuta repeats once Sicheng is in front of him. “About the other day, I’m sorry. I’m really sorry about not believing you and always picking a fight. I’m working on it, I really am. I just don’t want us to stop talking like we used to.”
Sicheng smiles. “I’m sorry, too. I really shouldn’t have agreed to Mark’s request, I knew I had the power to. I guess I just wanted to get on his good side, but in doing so I got on the rest of your family’s bad side.”
“No worries,” Yuta whispers, hugging him. “What’s done is done.”
“No, I’m still sorry about one other thing. I’m sorry about mentioning seeing you and Taeil kiss.” Yuta stands stock still but Sicheng continues like he doesn’t notice. “You know I don’t like being petty, I really hate being petty, but I was just so mad at that moment that I blurted it out. But, babe,” Sicheng holds Yuta an arms length away, smiling a little unsure but his confidence outpowers it. “I liked it. I liked that you two kissed. You don’t know how long I’ve been wanting this with you two.”
Yuta blinks. He’s most probably dreaming, because this isn’t real. Because this is not the universe where Sicheng and Taeil like him back, where all three of them are allowed to be together. This can’t be it, Yuta’s probably been knocked out and dreaming.
“Come again?” Yuta asks.
Sicheng laughs and kisses him sweetly. “I could tell. We both could tell. And I know you did, too. There’s a lot to talk about but this is my say: I really want to do this. What about you?”
“Sicheng-ah,” Taeil cuts them off, looking very apologetic and blushing. He probably listened in. “Minho hyung wants to talk about the contract and the upcoming album with the rest of the band.” Taeil glances nervously at Yuta. “He doesn’t want anyone else here.”
“Babe,” Sicheng starts but Yuta shushes him, an index finger against his lips.
“I get it. I’ll text you later, yeah?” Sicheng nods and Yuta kisses him on the lips, fondness swelling in him when he pulls away and sees Sicheng with his eyes still closed, lips still puckered out. Yuta glances at Taeil and nods curtly and Taeil returns it. He takes his leave, has much to think about for the day.
How Kwon Ten’s Grand Plan of Exposing The Wongs Royally Goes to Shit: an act in four, nightmarish, humiliating parts. Dramatization, do not try at home.
1. ACT I - SIERRA
Ten and Kun pin down the nearest branch of Highway to Heaven, both dressed as if they are undercover policemen. Upon entering, they immediately discover all the staff are women whose uniform’s necklines are cut very, very low, which just further fuels Ten’s suspicion (and not his jealousy, no sir, Kun not so subtly drooling at the endless expanse of cleavage definitely does not make Ten hesitant to pull through with the plan—which should have been the very first strike). Ten insists that they won’t be doing a couple massage and Kun should get the special “happy ending” package they’re most known for. Ten has to remind Kun to call him when the “happy ending” starts so they can call the police. Ten is sure Kun barely hears him once he follows the masseuse inside.
2. ACT II - HOTEL
An hour passes and Ten is getting antsy in the lobby. He calls Kun’s cell and is met with a very loopy sounding Kun, who moans rather than talk properly and Ten’s nostrils flare with how the evidence is right there, speaking dumbly to him. The masseuse asks Kun loud enough that the happy ending is about to start and Ten flips, immediately calling Yuta’s reliable (read: not at all) police contact who arrive not two seconds later. Ten is actually excited he gets to tell the receptionist to shut the fuck up and that they were doing this for the better good. They find Kun’s room through his very loud, very uncomfortable moaning, burst through the door expecting something illegal, something shady and something worth the law’s time but the only thing illegal is how good Kun looks, oiled up and sweating with only a towel on and that’s the only good thing about the entire thing because Highway to Heaven’s “happy ending” package involves the masseuse holding the client’s hand and getting them to think happy thoughts. It was embarrassing, absolutely mortifying, and to top it all off, how undoubtedly right Taeyong was the entire time.
3. ACT III - INDIA
Ten didn’t mind the two policemen telling him off for calling them in for something bogus. No, Ten couldn’t care less. It was until the receptionist had called in Jungwoo herself, whose eyebrows reached to heaven (heh) upon seeing Ten, sulking on the bench while the policemen continue to scold him like an actual child. She had threatened him, of course. Told him how he couldn’t believe Ten would do such a thing, how he would think of her family so lowly. There seems to be a running theme here. Ten had apologized once again but said that he was only protecting Mark and that they shouldn’t have advertised something called a happy ending. Well, boo fucking hoo, Ten learns they got rich because of that stupid happy ending, with all the customers comfortable and happy with them. Jungwoo pointed right at him, told him off for actively trying to find dirt on their family as if the Kwons were any better themselves. Ten had looked bewildered, told her how clean and innocent they were, but then Jungwoo had gotten a look on her face, one that terrified him to his very core, her smirk menacing and Ten knew his life was over. She saw right through him, said his family might be clean but he might not be, had asked for any dirty little secrets, any skeletons in the closet he was hiding. She knew.
4. ACT IV - TANGO
Now, Ten? Ten was scared. Ten was scared shitless. He rushed out of the spa feeling dizzy and panicked, bile rising up in his throat. He couldn’t afford for his family to find out about Ten not being a teacher anymore, couldn’t afford to tell them he was a failure, how stupid he actually is, how he isn’t what they thought he was, how he’s the worst big brother ever and how Jungwoo could easily investigate him, everything, his entire life to his career in Thailand, and expose him. Kun had tried to comfort him, tried to tell him how spending the last few days with his family convinced him enough that there was no way they could hate Ten for it, but Ten lashed out, let his panic and fear get the best of him and had called Kun things he never was, blamed him for everything, told him to stop being stupid. Kun is patient. That’s the kind of guy he’s always been. But Kun was hurt and he left. Kun left and somehow, with a looming lawsuit and investigation over his head and the threat of exposure to the people he loved, Kun leaving him alone in the middle of the street and knowing he was the reason why he left, hurt and scared him the most.
Ten knows he’s in for it. Dear god, is he in for it
Ten takes the blame like he promised he would.
The thing about Mark is that there is no bad bone in his body. While his hyungs are firecrackers, explosive, just about ready to burst, Mark’s never been the type to blow his top off when angry. He always keeps his voice level, tries to hear it out first. Ten doesn’t think Mark’s ever been capable of screaming or shouting aside from the day he was born and when he used to run around avoiding bath time. Mark’s their little miracle like that, their wish come true.
The thing about Mark is that he cannot raise his voice, never could. He’s always been too nice and sweet and patient and understanding to ever raise his voice. Mark is shy, he’s quiet and sweet and charming and never, ever angry. But here he is, red in the face and furious beyond belief, venom dripping from every word he says, from when he tells Ten not to touch him, to when he shouts at Doyoung in disbelief when he learns they’ve all been planning against him, to offending Yuta and Taeyong in one blow by bringing Sicheng up. Ten has never seen Mark like this and it hurts him that he’s the cause of it, that he blew everything because he was too stubborn and has fucked up not only his family, but Mark’s future family as well.
“I know you think you’re trying to protect me, that I’m your baby brother and you prayed to god for me. But just in case you missed it, I’m a grown up now making grown up decisions and I hope you all do the same and accept the fact that the wedding will be happening whether you like it or not.” Mark had hissed before he walked away, slamming the door to his room shut.
“God!” Taeyong groans. “You really went through with that stupid plan, Ten?”
“Yongie…” Ten reaches out to him but Taeyong sharply turns away.
“No! No, Ten, that plan was really stupid! God, didn’t you even think before going through with it?” Taeyong continues, voice reaching another level of hysterics.
“I get it.” Ten bites. “What I did was wrong, it was stupid, you don’t have to keep pointing it out.”
“Well, look what happened! Instead of stopping him from getting married to the boy, he’s even more committed to do so! It’s just really fucking stupid, Ten.” Taeyong shakes his head and turns his back on him.
“I was in the wrong but I’m not an idiot.” Ten snaps, on edge.
Taeyong is thrown off and turns back around. “What? I didn’t say you were stupid.”
“You just said it, didn’t you?”
“Because you misinterpreted what I said once again!” Taeyong shouts and Doyoung and Yuta rush in to stop them, talking over one another. Taeyong raises his voice and glares at them. “I hope you let me finish whatever I say before you speak or start to assume because you always misinterpret what I say and make me the bad guy!”
“You know what, you’re making up excuses.” Yuta snarls and lunges forward, Ten hurriedly getting between them while Doyoung holds Taeyong back.
“You think you’re the shit just because you’re some hotshot in New York! You’re just as arrogant as the fucking Wongs, you think you’re so better than everybody else in here and speak to us like we’re fucking—”
“Oh, so this is about me now!” Taeyong says in disbelief. They continue to argue and try to speak over each other when Jeno comes rushing in, shushing them. They ignore him up until he shouts that their mother is home.
Silence. Kwon Boa walks in and sets her leather purse onto the nearest available armchair. She raises an eyebrow at them, regarding them and the scene coldly. “Are you guys fighting?” She asks but it’s a trick question. She knows they’re fighting, knows they haven’t gotten along well ever since they all came home, but it gets them to shut right up.
“No, mom,” Yuta stutters, glancing at his brothers trying to think of an excuse. “We were just playing…”
“Charades,” Doyoung immediately adds on, ever the smart one. “We were just playing… charades.”
The others murmur in agreement and no one believes it at all. Their mother walks away, disappointed and so, so upset. They continue to pretend playing, as if they could get along anymore.
Jaehyun leaves the kitchen with his nightly glass of milk when he notices the light in the living room is turned on.
He walks closer to find Boa already in her nightgown and robe, gazing up at the wall adorned with her sons’ achievements, the medals catching the light. Below the wall is a table lined up with family pictures, their graduation photos, a picture of Mark’s hyungs before he was born, their father holding Mark, their first family picture without their father, without Taeyong. There’s one of all of them as kids with their arms wrapped around each other, Jaehyun and his chubby, red cheeks cheesing at the very end of the line. Jaehyun is particularly fond of that one.
“Eomeonim,” Jaehyun calls. Boa turns around and greets him with a small smile on her face. “Aren’t you going to sleep yet?”
Boa hums and gazes forlornly at the pictures once more, fingers grazing on a photo of Mark’s hyungs crowded around a two day old Mark. “In a bit, Jaehyun-ah. I’ve just been thinking.”
Jaehyun’s eyebrows furrow. He knows what that means. “Eomeonim, you know the doctor said not to stress so much. You might have to go and get an operation again.”
Boa chuckles and tears her gaze away from the photos, eyes misty which takes Jaehyun aback. “I know. I just can’t help but think how easier it was when they were kids, when you guys were kids. When they’d get in a fight, one would just apologize and then they’d get along again. It was so much easier for them then.” She sighs, exhausted and tired. “When everyone came home I thought it would be the same, that they’d get along well but all they’ve been doing is fight and fight. What do I do, Jaehyun-ah?”
“We’re all grown-up now, eomeonim. If I may be frank, I know that they’ll all solve this in their own time. They love each other too much to let this completely ruin everything they have, I know it. That’s why they’re all here even if they’re fighting most of the time. Because love is effort, not magic.” Jaehyun realizes he went on a rant, eyes widening and blushing and bows. “Sorry if I overstepped anything, eomeonim.”
Boa just laughs, looking a lot more relieved than she was previously. “When did little Jung Jaehyun get so smart?” she teases, making Jaehyun flustered even more. “It’s fine, Jaehyun-ah. You’re right, I shouldn’t stress about this, don’t want to worry them even more now do we?”
She starts walking away, nodding her head. Jaehyun bows in return. “Goodnight, eomeonim. Sleep well.”
“Goodnight, Jaehyun,” an ever-knowing smirk makes its way onto her face. “Nice ring.”
She laughs at Jaehyun who gapes after her, hurrying to cover his left ring finger.
A whole day passes and Ten and Yuta have avoided Taeyong like the plague, not speaking to him and leaving the room when he enters.
Doyoung’s the only one who’s managed to talk to everyone, ever the peacemaker, and is just plain tired of their dumbassery that he retired to bed early, begging them to clean up after themselves.
That’s how Taeyong knows how much they fucked up.
He works in the kitchen, running on New York time once again, going through all of his emails and fingers flying over the keys. There’s a harsh tug on his shirt for the sixth time that night and Taeyong prepares himself for what nonsense Chenle’s going to demand from him.
“Taeyong,” not even calling him uncle or something, great. “I’m hungry.”
Taeyong purses his lips and grabs a Pepero box from the snack stack next to him and hands it to Chenle who stares at it coldly. “I want juice.”
The little brat sits in Taeyong’s chair, pretending to play around with his laptop while Taeyong grabs the orange juice from the fridge. “I hate orange juice. I want grape.” Chenle sasses and he really must have been put here on this earth to test Taeyong’s patience. He’s dealt with impossible clients and very stupid representatives, frustratingly dense superiors and bumbling inferiors, but there is no one quite like Chenle, with his purple teddy bear and apple hair that Jeno did for him, who strips away at least ten years off Taeyong’s life every time he says something.
“Chenle, where am I going to get grape juice?”
It was a ruse, it was all a ruse to get Taeyong to take him outside.
He happily skips into the 7/11, getting chocolate milk even though the juice section is right next to it, excitedly running off into the next aisle to look for junk food and chocolate even though they only agreed to get grape juice, for god’s sake.
“Oh, yummy!” Chenle squeals as he hovers over the selection of chocolate bars and Taeyong exasperatedly follows, looking around the store to get himself to calm down when he spots something and quickly ducks down, peeking over the aisle.
Taeil is sipping away at a slurpee while Sicheng sits across from him, chin resting on a hand propped onto the table, gaze almost loving and something lurches in Taeyong. Taeil looks up and laughs, smacking Sicheng’s arm and shoving him away only for him to come right back, even closer than before. Taeil swoops down to sip at the slurpee but Sicheng ducks in and steals a kiss, a short, quick peck that leaves both blushing and shy, and Taeyong is about to blow his fuse because how fucking dare they.
Taeyong knows Taeil, of course, he was already Sicheng’s bandmate and best friend long before Taeyong was Sicheng’s boyfriend, and was kind of sad when he and Sicheng broke up because Taeil was such a fun person to hang out with, was so funny and nice and understanding. He had always known Taeil and Sicheng had something going on, their dynamic too sweet and too flirty to be platonic, and he had always thought they’d end up together after he left the picture but to his surprise, Sicheng went for Taeyong’s own brother, Yuta. Taeyong wouldn’t know jackshit about what went on with Yuta’s life after he went to New York and he just wants answers because as far as he’s aware, Sicheng and Yuta are still very much together.
“Taeyong, I’m done, come onnnn,” Chenle whines and pulls Taeyong over to the counter to pay for his stuff.
When the food is all paid for, Taeyong carries the bag while Chenle talks his ear off on how he doesn’t know or understand why his dad would like him. You’re not the only one, Taeyong wants to say back but keeps his mouth shut and is about to apologize to the person he bumped into when he realizes that it’s Taeil and thinks he doesn’t deserve an apology at all.
“Oh, Taeyong-ah?” Taeil says, the surprise in face melting into a bright smile. “Heard you were back for Mark’s wedding, how have you been!”
“Great. Just great.” Taeyong says primly and he sees Sicheng approaching, though he hasn’t seen Taeyong yet and tenses up. “And what about you, hyung? How’s the band?”
“Oh, we might be signing with a company soon. Fingers crossed!” Taeil says and oh, how Taeyong wants to be mean to him, wants to hurt him for getting involved with his very own bandmate, Yuta’s boyfriend, his own ex, but how can anyone ever be mad at Moon Taeil?
“Hyung? Ready to go...oh, hi, uh, Taeyong.” Sicheng stutters when he finally stands next to Taeil and sees Taeyong. Chenle gasps and clutches onto his teddy bear. “Uncle Taeyong, that’s the guy who sang that song with your name!”
Sicheng flushes and Taeil looks confused. “Is that... do you have another sibling?”
“What? No, this is my boyfriend’s son, what the hell.” Taeyong came here to tell them off but now he’s just confused. Chenle blows a raspberry up at them and tugs on Taeyong’s shirt again. “Can I go buy candy again?”
“No, you can only look. Don’t try to steal.” Taeyong warns and Chenle goes off to probably stare at the gummy worms shaped as fast food.
“Alright, I won’t pretend I’m here because I like that we’re talking. No, fuck you both to hell and back.” Taeyong sharply turns to Sicheng. “Does my brother and your bandmate taste different, or the same? Just curious.”
Sicheng freezes up and shakes his head fervently. “No, Taeyong, it’s not what you think—”
“What else is there to think about? That you’re still a piece of shit who’s cheating on my brother?” Taeyong snaps and glares at Taeil who tries to calm them down. “Hyung, I thought you were better than this. I seriously thought you weren’t that kind of guy but I guess not.”
“Taeyong-ah, we can explain—” Taeil tries but Taeyong doesn’t think there’s any other explanation. Unless…
“Taeyong! I’m bored now, can we go home?” Chenle shouts at the top of his lungs and the guy at the counter just looks dead on his feet but Taeyong is still embarrassed, so he grabs Chenle and shoots Sicheng and Taeil a look that could kill and runs out.
Chenle plays well by himself in the front garden, actually behaving and being somewhat nice to Taeyong for once. Taeyong watches him from the front porch, working once again, but his mind keeps replaying the scene from last night, Taeil and Sicheng kissing each other, how devastated Yuta would be.
He doesn’t know if he should tell Yuta or not. It’s none of his business anyway, but the guilt is eating him alive, it’s his brother that’s involved, he’d go to the ends of the earth to keep him safe even if they’re not talking as of now or anytime soon.
Yuta is about to leave, completely ignoring Taeyong’s presence, but their mother catches up with Renjun in tow, presumably to go grocery shopping. “Yuta, come here for a while.”
He groans but walks back towards the porch, still ignoring Taeyong. “What’s up, mom?”
“If you two have any plans of going out today, just make sure to be back by six because the Wongs are visiting.”
“But I have to be on set.” Yuta pouts.
Their mother tuts and pats him gently on the head. “It’s a small sacrifice you can make for your baby brother. Behave later, alright?” she ends with pointed looks at both of them. Yuta watches her leave with Renjun and whines to himself, stomping back out the gate.
“Yuta, wait,” Taeyong chases him down the steps of the porch. “Can I talk to you?”
Yuta pauses, casting a practiced careless glance at him and smiles dryly, all teeth and all bite. “Nah,” he says and starts to walk away again but Taeyong really needs him to know.
“I saw Sicheng and Taeil kissing last night.” Taeyong blurts.
It gets him to stop but it’s obvious in his stance that he’s getting frustrated now, turning around slowly. “So what?”
“So what?” Taeyong repeats, incredulous. “Your boyfriend is cheating on you with his bandmate. He’s playing with you.”
“Okay, now why did you feel the need to tell me this?” Yuta questions, narrowing his eyes.
“Just so you know.” Taeyong says.
“Wow, someone’s concerned.” Yuta’s says sardonically. “But, like you said, you don’t have an inch of an idea about how I feel, no giving comments about each other’s personal lives right?”
“Okay. But just know that I've done my part as your brother.” Taeyong says and walks back to the porch, knowing Yuta will follow right behind him. Unstoppable force meets immovable object.
“Wow, well I haven’t heard that in five fucking years!” He gets up in Taeyong’s space, anger radiating off of him. “I’m your brother now? Since when? I haven’t noticed from the five years you’ve spent ignoring me just because my boyfriend is your ex.”
Taeyong turns around and the look on his face makes Yuta flinch backwards. “My god, Yuta. After all the things you did to me did you really think I’d still talk to you?”
“You guys were broken up when I came into the picture—”
“You came into the picture and that’s why we broke up.” Taeyong snaps.
“You broke up because you left him, you left him for your job in America.” Yuta bites back. Taeyong wavers, jaw clenching and mouth opening and closing in disbelief.
“That was for our future—”
“Future my ass!” Yuta says, poking a finger at his chest. “Just admit you wanted to get ahead because you think you’re better than us. Sicheng almost lost his damn mind when you left him.”
“Ah, so that’s why you swooped in? So that’s why you’re letting some other guy, your very own friend no less, hang all over him? I thought you were tough. Seems pathetic to me.” Taeyong says coldly. If he weren’t in over his head, if they weren’t screaming at each other, he’d instantly regret it, tell Yuta he doesn’t mean it and it was in the heat of the moment but right now, the look on Yuta’s face clearly shows he believes it and is pissed.
“I don’t owe it to you to explain what I feel—”
“Then I guess I’ll just believe you fought hard for Sicheng and just let some other guy swoop in like you did. God, doesn’t that sound pathetic?”
“Because I want him to, okay?” Yuta admits. “I want Taeil to be all over Sicheng because I like him. I like them both.”
So Taeyong’s suspicion was right. Yuta’s always been the rebel in the family, louder and tougher than the others. Has always been more open-minded, a risk taker, totally unconventional and unapologetic about it. He was the first to come out to their parents, after all, was the one who brought Ji Hansol back home because he was his prom date. And Taeyong’s always been too perceptive, knew when one of them came back home after curfew to meet with their partner, when one of them got in trouble and decided to keep it from their mother. He just didn’t expect this.
What comes out of Taeyong’s mouth are the words he’ll regret the most for the rest of his life. “Wow? Both of them? Was stealing my ex not enough for you that you’re that much of a desperate bitch to resort to his own bandmate? God, Yuta, it’s like I don’t know you anymore.”
Yuta is taken aback, bottom lip quivering dangerously and he’s not mad anymore, just hurt. Clear as day hurt and the damage has been done. “Yeah,” Yuta tries to say without his voice giving away how hurt he is. “Yeah, you don’t know me anymore. Not at all. You lost the privilege of knowing how I was doing when you went to New York. You stopped being my brother when you left.”
“Like that was a loss for me.” Taeyong bites.
It’s the exact opposite. It was a loss, the biggest loss Taeyong had felt, even after he broke up with Sicheng, even after he left his family. New York was big and cold and scary and Taeyong was so, so lonely that he had to stop himself every time he reached for his phone to call Yuta, to call someone who’d understand him, who wouldn’t be scared of New York for him. It’s true, when Taeyong left for New York he had stopped being Yuta’s brother and that’s what hurts the most, not knowing what his brother, his best friend before anyone else, was doing because he lost that privilege very quickly.
But Yuta doesn’t know that.
“Why are you guys fighting?” Chenle asks, having appeared when he heard the shouting all the way from the fountain.
Yuta has tears running down his face as he glares at Taeyong, having lost his defensive stance when Taeyong berated him, shoulders sagged and exhaustion taking over his body. Taeyong doesn’t drop his stare, breathing heavily.
“Chenle let’s go inside.” Taeyong says sharply.
“But Taeyong!” Chenle protests.
Taeyong huffs, already walking inside. “Chenle. Please.” There must have been some finality in his voice, or his exhaustion taking over that makes Chenle actually obey and follows him inside, getting ready to wash up without Taeyong even telling him to, casting a worried glance at him before he goes into the bathroom.
Taeyong’s back hits the door and he slides down, finally letting himself cry and cry and cry. He hasn’t cried this much ever since their dad died, never even had the time to cry when he was in New York, everyone stone cold and tough so he had to put up pretense as well.
“Taeyong are you crying?” Chenle asks. With Taeyong curled up in himself, he’s eye level with Chenle who’s carrying his toothbrush. Taeyong hastily wipes his eyes and stands.
“I’m not. What did you need? Toothpaste?”
“Yes, please,” Chenle mutters.
Taeyong goes to get it and doesn’t catch the worried glance Chenle casts.
Qian Kun has been with the Star of the Sea orphanage since he was six years old. This is what the sister tells Ten when he asks for Kun’s whereabouts as she tours him around the orphanage.
When Kun hadn’t come home after their fight and didn’t pick up any of his calls, Ten panicked and went to Mark’s room to check Kun’s luggage for any information on where he could be when he noticed the address on the tag of his luggage: 183-6 Yonghyeon 15 Inha-ro 91-gil, Nam-gu, Incheon, Star of the Sea Children's Home.
“Kun is such a sweet kid, a hard worker. All the sisters here love him, he’s their favorite. The younger ones, too. They ask him for gifts and such all the time,” the sister tells him. “But he never got visitors, no one ever wanted to check him out. I’m glad you’re here to see him, dear.”
Ten is speechless for the first time in a long time. He tries for a smile, feeling his heart breaking. “Me too.”
“You work with him, right? The kids were so sad when they found out he didn’t get to buy the things they asked for because he helped one of your coworkers out. That’s nice of him, isn’t it? I hope that coworker of yours is doing well.”
Talk about shooting Ten right in the heart.
In the playground of the orphanage, Kun is swarmed by kids, all laughing and begging for his attention. They’re so affectionate, hugging him and stealing kisses to his cheeks. He’s well loved here and Ten sees it now, understands everything.
“Oh, there he is by the playground! He plays so well with the other kids,” the sister waves and calls for him. “Kun-ah, your friend is here!”
Kun sees Ten and his smile drops a little and he’s scared, Ten can tell from the fear in his eyes but he gives him a weak smile and a wave.
Later, when the sister gathers all the kids to go back in, Ten takes a seat next to Kun and reaches for his hand.
“I’m sorry about what happened the other day. I’m sorry I lashed out at you when I was the one who dragged you into that mess, who has been dragging you into all of my messes. I’m really sorry, Kun, I didn’t mean it. I made you feel the very thing I don’t want others to make me feel.”
“It’s okay,” Kun squeezes his hand back and settles it on his thigh, smiling sadly. “Well, actually, it’s not. Because the longer we put up this act, the more the people around us get hurt.”
“I know, god, I know. But I’m just... so scared? That they’ll think I’m stupid, that they’ll realize I’m not as good as I said I was.” Ten tears up and Kun gently pulls his head down to lay on his shoulder, rubbing his back in comfort. “It’s been so hard, all I wanted was to go home but I couldn’t, I couldn’t let them down like that.”
“From the time I’ve spent this past week with you and your family, I can honestly tell you I have never seen a more loving family than you guys. You’re lucky, Ten. So, so lucky. No matter what happens, just know they will only have love for you.”
Ten is still unsure, still afraid and uncertain, but Kun reassures him that everything will be alright.
Ten is late to arrive and is horrified to find four things:
- The Wongs have arrived, Jungwoo wearing what seems to be a prom dress with flashy, gradient lining and cut out sides with confetti actually attached to her poofed up hair and Donghyuck is wearing what looks like an exact replica of Zayn Malik’s 2016 Met Gala outfit. Jaemin just looks cute, standing there in the corner making eyes at Jeno who looks like he’s about to faint and Yukhei wearing yet another fedora.
- The entourage’s outfits are ready and they’re hideous. Ten’s neon jellyfish ruched suit has thin tassels hanging along the underside of the arms and a matching, gigantic hat to go along with it. Their mother has to carry a fake pearl around because she’s mother pearl. It would have been funnier on anyone that wasn’t them. Even Chenle doesn’t find it in himself to laugh at their misfortune.
- Jungwoo immediately has it out for him even though he tries to agree with everything the Wongs say so as not to get that lawsuit, but his sweet, sweet dongsaengs don’t have a potential lawsuit against them and they blatantly tell Jungwoo the outfits are ugly (stick to the never mentioned plan and save my ass guys! Ten wants to say). Jungwoo complains, of course, but Yukhei suggests to play for it through a game of charades and if the Wongs win, they all have to wear Ariel’s sea creature friends entourage but if the Kwons win, they don’t have to. So there it is, a neck and neck match with the Wongs, particularly Jungwoo, making fun of Ten the entire night and everyone notices. It’s almost embarrassing and Ten wants to hide behind Kun when he hears Renjun and Yuta muttering behind them about Jungwoo’s shady behavior.
- Ah, yes, speaking of Yuta. Yuta and Taeyong are at each other’s throats the entire night. They’re not even playing along, shooting jabs at each other under the guise of trying to guess the answer. Doyoung looks like he wants to strangle them both. The Wongs notice and look smug about the inner turmoil going on and it’s honestly just a shit show up until one of the Wongs’ maids point at Ten as a hint for the answer and Jungwoo guesses “Maid in Manhattan” correct and that’s the last straw apparently because—
Their mother stands up and she’s literally a whole foot smaller than their entire family but she’s terrifying . “What’s so funny, Jungwoo?”
Mark rushes over and tries to pull her away. “Come on, mom, let’s just continue the game—”
“No, Minhyung-ah. It’s not a game anymore, it’s not funny. They’ve been making fun of your Ten hyung since they got here,” she cocks an eyebrow at them. “Why have you been making fun of my kid?”
“Boa-ssi,” Yukhei says, hands spread out to try and placate the situation. “We don’t mean to have any ill intentions—”
“No,” their mother snaps. “Your jabs are getting too personal, you’re being too obvious. Tell me why you’ve been making fun of my kid the entire night.”
“Because he is a joke,” Jungwoo says like she’s Regina George and it’s close, scarily close.
“Oh, my son is a joke?”
“Yes!” Jungwoo exclaims, laughing again.
“Look who’s talking,” this shuts Jungwoo right up. “With your phoney Russian accent,” a gasp, “plastic face,” a gasp, “and your fake boobs!”
Renjun and Yuta have collapsed onto each other from laughing. “Boa-ssi,” Yukhei says in horror.
“You are in my house, you have no right to make fun of or insult any one of my kids. You better leave.”
Donghyuck and Jaemin pull on Jungwoo’s arms to get her to comply. Jaehyun and Taeyong urge them on, telling them to never come back.
“Fine! We wanted to, anyway. But just so you know, these,” she holds her breasts and they make a very curious sound. “Are very real. They have feelings and they are not fake! Not unlike your son. Not according to my investigation.” Jungwoo pointedly glares at Ten. Kun stands in front of him to shield him.
“Why did you get my son investigated?” their mother hisses and Taeyong shakes her arm but she brushes him off.
“Why don’t you ask the maid in Thailand over there?” Jungwoo says and makes a grand exit. Jaemin has to pull Donghyuck away from Mark when they leave.
So here’s the thing: Ten’s family often forgets that he’s not as tough or strong as he makes himself out to be.
On the one hand, their mother is on edge and is demanding to know what Jungwoo said. On the other hand, Taeyong and Doyoung are gently telling him to confess because they’ve known about it for a whole year now so Ten’s lying and pretending was all for nothing because his two most observant siblings have already caught him so what’s even the use anymore. And there’s Yuta, who puts himself between Ten and the rest, defending him and just as clueless as the others.
“Remember when I was supposed to go to Bangkok for my birthday but you told me not to go because you said you had a teacher’s conference in Hong Kong? I went anyway, and I saw you at the bar.” Taeyong admits, gently, almost as if he’s speaking to a startled animal. “I didn’t want to go up to you because I knew you’d be embarrassed, and I wouldn’t do that to you unless I knew you weren’t ready to tell the truth. I told Doyoung because I didn’t know what to do.”
“What truth?” Yuta says. “What do you all know that I don’t?”
“Hyung, stay out of this,” Doyoung replies.
Yuta turns to him. “Stay out of this? Ten is also my brother and you’re pressuring him right now.”
“We’re not pressuring him—”
“Will someone answer me?” their mother is on the verge of hysterics. “One of you, just tell me.”
“Hyung,” Taeyong says and wow, no one’s heard that come from him in a long time. “Just tell her. We’re your family. If there’s anyone who should know the real you, it’s us. You don’t have to lie anymore, hyung, we get it.”
“No, you don’t, Taeyong-ah, you don’t,” Ten says, already crying. He turns to their mother, sniffling. “Mom, I’m sorry. Oh god, I’m so sorry. When the school I was teaching in back in Thailand had a crisis, I was one of the teachers sacked, because I’m stupid, because I’m not good enough. I lied about my Master’s, my scholarship. I lied about it all. I started working three jobs so I could send you money. I’m a waiter at the bar Taeyongie saw me in. I’m also a housekeeper, I wear an apron and headband everything. That’s where I met Kun,” Ten hesitantly glances at him and he nods in support. “The truth is I borrowed money from him just so I could come back home. I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry.”
“Did you really think I wouldn’t understand you?”
“No, of course not,” Ten hurries to say, wiping his tears. “I know now that you’ll love and accept me, I just couldn’t stop blaming myself. I was too ashamed and embarrassed. I couldn’t accept that I couldn’t achieve all the things you dreamed for me, that I’m a fucking loser, that no matter how hard I worked, I can’t be as good as Taeyong.”
“Me?” Taeyong asks, voice wavering. Chenle doesn’t quite understand what’s going on but he holds onto one of Taeyong’s hands.
“Yes, yes you, Taeyong-ah. You’re perfect, you were always the best. It’s true, right? Our little golden child. I love you, Taeyong, you’re my brother, when you came along I was a little less lonely, but I’ve always hated the fact that you were always better than me, even when we were kids. I’m so fucking jealous of you.”
Now here’s the thing: Ten might put up the pretense of being strong and tough that they all forget about it until he breaks, but they also completely forget and ignore the fact that just because Taeyong’s even tougher than his hyung, doesn’t mean he has feelings.
So Taeyong spills.
He tells them about how he wished he had what each one of them had, Mark’s innocence and charm, Yuta’s adventurousness, Doyoung’s attentiveness, Ten’s humor, because maybe that’s why their mother’s attention is always on him, maybe that’s why growing up, their mother always thought about Ten first.
He tells them about how their mother has her favorites, Ten and Mark, and how their father had his favorites, Yuta and Doyoung, and how he was no one’s, he was no one’s favorite except Yuta's, Yuta who never wanted to leave his side, Yuta who always thought he was amazing. He was Yuta’s favorite up until they fought and Taeyong left for New York, alone and afraid and back to square one.
He tells them about how ever since he came home, all he heard from them was how arrogant or rude he was when all he wanted was to be with them again, but maybe they’re right, maybe he is cold and cruel but he did this to himself when he chose his career, when he did it for his family. How he had to be cold and cutthroat in a country he didn’t speak the language of, in a room full of people who want to make him feel bad, how his rise to the top wasn’t as easy as they think.
He tells them how lonely and sad he was at New York but he had to continue working, not for himself but for them, his family, because someone needed to pay for their mother’s hospital bills, Mark’s student loans, Jeno and Renjun’s tuition, how Ten needed money to go to Thailand, how Yuta quit soccer after the accident and wanted to do film because that’s what made him happy, because Doyoung’s salary wasn’t enough. How he couldn’t afford to give up for them.
He tells them all of this. Taeyong tells them of all of this and finally feels like he can breathe.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you felt like that.” their mother says. “I’m sorry if I lacked as your mother. But I love you all, one in the same. You’re my kids, that’s all I could ask for.”
They all hug. Jeno and Renjun are in Jaehyun’s arms, sobbing their eyes out. Yuta rests his forehead against Taeyong’s temple and Mark, their little miracle, not so baby brother Mark, manages to wrap his arms around all of them and Doyoung carries Chenle so he can join in and Kun kisses Ten’s forehead and finally, finally. Everything feels right again.
“You okay?” Taeyong asks as he tucks Chenle in for the night. ”You miss your dad?”
“Do you?” Chenle whispers and Taeyong cocks his head to the side, smiling.
“I do. A lot.”
Chenle whimpers and sits up, hugging Taeyong and crying softly. “I’m sorry, Taeyong, I’m sorry for being so mean to you. Please don’t hate me.”
“Hey, no, no,” Taeyong shushes him, pulling away and wiping Chenle’s tears. “I don’t hate you.”
“Really?” Chenle pouts. Taeyong chuckles and kisses the top of his head, hair still wet from the shower.
“No, I love your dad too much too ever hate the person he loves the most,” he taps Chenle’s nose, earning a giggle from him, eyes still misty. “And that’s you.”
Chenle smiles, a big, bright one and Taeyong feels so, so happy. “But we have to share now, because dad loves you, too. And you have to marry him, alright?”
Taeyong laughs and hugs Chenle tight, rubbing his back and stroking his hair. “I promise.”
The next morning, Taeyong gets up early and finds Yuta already awake, gazing up at the wall filled with all of their achievements, Yuta’s slot a lot emptier than the rest.
“Hey, morning,” Taeyong greets. Yuta hums in acknowledgement, still peering at the wall, at all the certificates and medals and diplomas, in thought.
“What Ten hyung said last night,” he starts. “About him being the loser in this family. I couldn’t help but think how wrong he was. Because it’s obviously me. Yukhei was right, I am the black sheep of the family. Look at that wall, I’ve achieved nothing compared to you guys.” Yuta turns to Taeyong, eyebrows furrowed and a sad look on his face. “Yongie hyung,” and oh, Taeyong hasn’t heard that in a long, long time.
When they were kids, Taeyong would go around introducing himself as “Yong”, so he and Yuta could have matching names. After their falling out, Yuta had stopped calling him hyung and especially stopped calling him Yong, their relationship already torn and unfixable. Taeyong’s missed his best friend, missed his favorite person calling for him.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was a gigantic asshole to you. I missed you, I missed you so much but I couldn’t tell you that and it hurt. I’m sorry I hurt you so much, I didn’t know how much you suffered by yourself in New York, if I had known, I would have just stopped putting up my stupid front. Yongie hyung, I’m sorry.”
Taeyong pulls him to his side, kissing his forehead as Yuta cries. “No, no, it’s okay. You didn’t know, I didn’t let you know. We were both hurting. I missed you so much, too,” he pulls away and wipes Yuta’s tears with his thumb, cupping his face. “And you’re not a loser. You are so far from it. Who cares about some dumb medals and paper? You’re way cooler than all of us already. All of your small victories are just as important as your big ones. I’m so proud of you, I’ve been waiting to tell you that for five years now.”
Yuta laughs as more tears fall and Taeyong laughs with him and he’s so happy that he doesn’t have to hurt his best friend anymore, doesn’t have to act like he doesn’t miss him anymore.
“I’m sorry, too, by the way,” Taeyong continues. “I’m sorry about calling you those really stupid things. Even when you were mad at me you trusted me enough to tell me about Sicheng and Taeil and I just stomped all over it like some asshole. Listen, our entire family likes boys. It’s not a big deal if you like more than one. Taeil's a good guy, and so is Sicheng, I know that now. Hopefully you bring both of them as your date at Mark’s wedding."
Yuta laughs, hides his face in Taeyong’s chest, his sleep shirt getting wet from Yuta’s tears but Taeyong doesn't mind one bit. “Are you sure? I feel like I’ve been pushing my luck too much lately.”
“Yuta, after all that you’ve been through you deserve to be just as happy as everyone else.” Taeyong says so sincerely Yuta might start crying again. “The universe is letting you have this. Go get it."
Yuta strides with confidence on the way to Sicheng’s apartment.
He’s even more confident knowing his brothers and Jaehyun are waiting by the street in front of the building, his family who’s got his back no matter what (he’s pretty sure Jaehyun tagged along just so he could threaten them in case this all backfires, and Mark too, judging by how he was a little hesitant when Yuta told them at first but Mark is a sweetheart and brightly told him he’d kick their ass if he hurt him because that’s double the pain, but Yuta’s not here for any negative thoughts, has kicked all his insecurity and fear to the curb).
Even though he brought the key Sicheng got for him, he decides to ring the doorbell, buzzing with excitement and adrenaline and fear, because that’s never going to go away, but it’s okay to be scared of things, Yuta realizes. It’s all going to be okay, anyways.
“Babe? Oh my god, hi,” Sicheng says when he opens the door, enveloping Yuta in a tight hug and kisses his jawline. “Hey, how have you been?”
“I’m good. I’m really, really good,” Yuta replies, smiling widely. “Can I come in?”
Sicheng lets him in and there’s Taeil, literally ironing Sicheng’s underwear by the window and Yuta thinks he’s never looked better. Sicheng steers him over to the couch and wraps himself around him, and it’s so cute and Yuta can’t wait anymore but he has to. He kisses Sicheng’s ear and takes to silently watching Taeil folding the rest of their laundry.
Yuta gestures for Taeil to come over with the hand that’s not holding Sicheng close. Taeil complies, pressed flush to Yuta’s side and Yuta thinks there’s no better time than now.
“I’m in love with you both,” he blurts and he thinks Sicheng has stopped breathing. Taeil, ever composed though currently tense, calmly turns to look at Yuta. “Do you mean that?” he asks.
Yuta nods. “I’ve been in love with the both of you for five years now. Sicheng,” he turns to face him, holding his chin to get him to look at him. “There’s a universe out there where we may have never worked out, where I may never have met you, where you didn’t love me back. But I’m tired of second guessing and thinking about all the other possibilities when I already have you. There’s a universe out there where we might have just made it work, just the two of us. I want to be with you for as long as you let me, but I don’t want to have a future without Taeil hyung in it.” he turns to Taeil, interlacing their fingers and squeezing his hand in his. “This is the universe where I get to have you both, if you let me.”
“I want this. I’ve been wanting this for a long time but I couldn’t,” Taeil confesses. “I couldn’t because even when I knew I wasn’t reading the signs wrong, I still felt like I was trespassing, like I shouldn’t even be allowed around you guys. Because seeing you two hurt, it hurt that I had to love you both from afar and I couldn’t do anything about it.” Taeil blinks, slow and careful and so, so beautiful. “But I’d do it all again. If it means I get to have you both, even if it’s not in the way I want, I’d do it all again.”
“You have us now, hyung,” Sicheng says, head propped on Yuta’s shoulder, gaze soft and sweet and warm. “You don’t have to watch from afar anymore. We’re yours.”
“I’m yours, Sichengie,” Taeil says. He turns to Yuta, cups his face, his fingertips brush Sicheng’s nose and his mouth hovers over Yuta’s. “I’m yours, too, Yuta.”
Then Taeil captures his mouth in a kiss, slow and tender and so full of loving, all the years of wanting and yearning translated so earnestly through it, and even when they have to pull apart to breathe, Taeil refuses to, like he doesn’t want it to end, like it’s too good to be true.
They finally do break apart, mouths red and cheeks flushed and Sicheng chuckles, causing them to turn to him. He’s smirking, eyes half-lidded and he looks so content and happy. “No, don’t mind me. I’m just enjoying the view.”
Yuta has half a mind to text his siblings to not wait up for him, to assure them that everything’s fine—more than fine, really—but Sicheng leans over him to kiss Taeil and suddenly, it’s the last thing on his mind.
Donghyuck ends his rendition of Shinee’s “Replay” with a surprising score of 99 and Mark claps the loudest out of all of his siblings.
He bows and thanks Mark’s hyungs shyly, sitting down and immediately being fed by an over enthusiastic Mark. Ten chuckles at Mark’s eagerness and meets Taeyong and Yuta’s very pointed looks. He scoots forward, gently placing a hand on Donghyuck’s forearm.
“Donghyuck-ah, since you’re going to be part of the family…” he casts his gaze over to Mark, checking his reaction before continuing. “Would you mind if we, uhm, how do I put this? Pull a Queer Eye on your stylistic choices?”
When the hyungs had approached Mark to ask him to invite Donghyuck to a noraebang so they could give their blessing, Mark was ecstatic, thanking his hyungs for finally giving Donghyuck a chance. Ten almost regrets letting it happen when he sees them come in wearing a couple look: matching tie-dye shirts with ‘His’ and ‘His’ written on them and white overalls with a heart patch on the left knee. Doyoung gives him a look, as if to say he knows what Ten is thinking, and shakes his head.
Donghyuck keeps quiet, letting the information sink in. Mark squeezes his shoulders, looking anxious and the other hyungs lean forward as well, anticipating his answer.
“You mean…” Donghyuck says slowly. “My wardrobe?”
“Yes,” Ten confirms, nodding. “Like, revamp it, you know?”
Donghyuck keeps quiet again, gauging everyone’s reaction. And then he screams, hands thrown up in the air. “Yes, please! I hate looking like a clown all the damn time.”
They let out a sigh of relief and cheer. “Hey, even if you did look like a clown, I think you’re the only one who could pull any of those outfits off.” Yuta says and Donghyuck giggles in response.
“Yes, and I’m sorry if I doubted your love for each other,” Taeyong adds, smiling at both of them. “But now you have my blessing.” Taeyong raises his drink in the air, Yuta follows and raises his own drink. Ten downs his first before joining, murmuring in assent.
Doyoung finishes his martini and grabs a soju shot.
Ten smirks, nodding at Mark. “Looks like your other mom doesn’t want to let go of you just yet.”
Mark tuts, getting up to smother Doyoung. “Hyungie, there’s no need to sulk. I’ll go home every weekend just for your cooking. Will you continue to make me breakfast and pack my lunch?”
Doyoung smacks his arm but holds him tighter, stroking Mark’s hair. “As if, brat. I’m finally getting you off my back,” he jokes. His expression melts into a warm smile, reaching and to hold Donghyuck’s hand. “I’m not quite ready to give my baby brother away, but if you guys are ready, there’s nothing else I can do.” he grabs a new soju shot, raising it. “You have my blessing.”
They clink their drinks and cheer, Mark messily kissing Doyoung’s cheek with a force that knocks him backwards. Ten laughs at his expense and helps him up, rolling his eyes at Mark and Donghyuck who are already lost in their own little world.
“Let them be,” Doyoung says, smirking. “They finally got what they wanted.”
The wedding is called off when Johnny finally arrives back home.
He’s steered out of the driveway and into the family van and is given no time for questions after he’s informed about the wedding being called off. Taeyong stares straight ahead solemnly, a hand on Johnny’s thigh, a familiar ring on his finger.
Mark is waiting for them outside the building and leads them in, head hung low as their mother comforts him on the way in.
Donghyuck’s grandfather was eighty-eight years old when he passed away the night before.
“Yukhei-ssi, my condolences,” their mother says, sharing a brief hug with Yukhei. He hums and looks over at the coffin, Jaemin and Donghyuck joined by Mark hovering next to it. “It’s better this way. He doesn’t have to hurt anymore.”
Jungwoo hovers behind Yukhei and Doyoung grabs for Jaehyun’s hand, anticipating another fight.
“Boa-ssi,” Jungwoo starts. She raises an eyebrow, tough and cold and they all expect for her to start bitching again but her expression melts into a pout. “I’m sorry. My family and I sincerely apologize for the night before.”
Their mother laughs, relieved. “I’m sorry, too, Jungwoo-ssi. We both said some bad things. Let's put this past us?”
Jungwoo nods and then turns to Ten who freezes up but bows. “I’m sorry, Jungwoo-ssi. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just looking out for my brother.”
She unexpectedly hugs Ten, who doesn’t know what to do but awkwardly pat her back. “I know, Ten-ah. We were just hurt you would doubt us like that,” she pulls away and joins Yukhei, pouting again. “But now the wedding’s cancelled! We already paid for the church and the suits and everything.”
Taeyong notices Johnny’s look of confusion and saves him the trouble of asking. “It’s superstition that if someone from the bride or groom’s family dies, you can’t go through with the wedding. What are we gonna do?”
Ten glances at Doyoung and Jaehyun and their intertwined hands and the matching bands that glint under the lights and steps forward. “Actually, the wedding is back on.”
They all turn their heads to stare at him. “What?”
Jaehyun doesn’t think he could fall more in love with Doyoung, especially when he’s walking down the aisle wearing a purple suit with actual octopus legs poking out from under the jacket and framing his legs like a skirt, but there’s really nothing that could surprise him anymore.
It’s a small ceremony consisting of the Kwons, Jaehyun’s parents, Donghyuck, Jaemin and Jaemin’s boyfriend YangYang, much to Jeno’s surprise and disappointment.
Doyoung’s only halfway down the aisle, white and pink flowers falling from the overhead archway and he’s gorgeous and Ten’s already crying and using one of the tassels from his massive hat to wipe his tears. Kun and Renjun use his hat, too. Yuta brings Sicheng and Taeil, who don’t know what to say about his seahorse suit with ridges on the sleeves and spine and vulva looking pants but they comfortably stand behind Yuta with no qualms. Taeyong manages to make his bright red starfish suit, with five protruding points and all, actually look good. Mark and Donghyuck are the only decent ones around, Mark in a Prince Eric-esque suit and Donghyuck, with his bright red hair, looking like Ariel in a sparkly white suit.
But Doyoung. Doyoung in his octopus suit who Jaehyun’s only got eyes for.
He makes it to the altar and Jaehyun bites back a smile but it’s no use, not when Doyoung’s right there in front of him, about to be his husband.
Oh god, Doyoung’s about to become his husband.
“Jaehyun-ah. The moment you moved next door, I knew I was done for. The year you arrived, my hyungs were praying for another brother for Christmas but I was praying for you to like me back. I guess it came true,” Doyoung grins when Jaehyun sniffles. “I’d hate myself if I didn’t let you know how much I’d hate it if you didn’t love me as much as you did, but you do. You love me so much and I’m so, so grateful for you. I let my fears get in between us but now I know that I don’t need to worry about those kinds of things when I got you. Ends of the earth, right?”
He slips the engagement ring onto Jaehyun’s finger and it’s like everything slides into place, like it always does. He can imagine the DxJ pressing into his skin, just like his is, can imagine so much just by looking at him, his first and last, can imagine seeing the world with him, doesn’t need to see the rest of the world when he’s got his very his own looking back at him, can’t imagine having a better wedding than one where he’s dressed as an octopus and Jaehyun looks illegally good in his plain suit.
“Right,” Jaehyun says but it means so much more, transcends lifetimes and galaxies. Jaehyun says “right,” but it sounds a lot like “I love you,” and it sounds a lot like home, like forever. Jaehyun kisses him, his husband, and Doyoung swallows everything he couldn’t say because they don’t need words, they don’t need to wait to say anything.
They don’t need to wait at all.
(Doyoung throws the bouquet towards Donghyuck’s direction but it ends up in their mother’s hands who throws it away from her.
“Kun, what the fuck, go get it—”
There are a lot more pictures of Taeyong, Donghyuck, and Ten squabbling over the bouquet than there are of the actual married couple, but Doyoung is more than fine with it.)