“Ten, can you get the door?”
The dancer merely gives a little grunt of acknowledgement before rolling off the couch, blanket still wrapped around his shoulders like a cape. It’s around six in the evening, give or take a handful of minutes, and while it’s not uncommon for them to have unannounced guests, neither of them was expecting someone to drop by on a Friday evening. Everyone had a trying few weeks between the kids’ college exams and the older members’ jobs so the unspoken rule was at least one weekend of complete and utter rest before they went back to normal socialization.
Ten likes to blame the mercurial retrograde for all of the sudden intense requests at the studio, the ache that still digs deep into his knee at the end of a series of hard days, and the very few hours of sleep he’s managed between showcases. Kun just thinks it’s the busy season colliding all at once by the universe’s choice.
“Murphy’s law, you know?” The mint haired chef with his newly opened meal prep service had said earlier that week while walking past Ten’s half bent body over his yoga mat toward the kitchen. Their home had smelled so distinctively of something sharp, like the air before a thunderstorm, and burnt sugar. “What can go wrong will go wrong and all that.”
Kun’s words had only garnered a little snort from the dancer as he straightened back up, a series of little crackles and pops sounding as his body snapped back into place. “That’s pretty ironic when your restaurant’s name is “Peaceful Cuisine” and you’re saying it’s probably not going to be peaceful because the world decided you need to suffer.” The narrowed gaze that settled on Ten only got a feigned innocent bat of lashes back.
“I’d like to think I offer a bit of peace with every bite.”
Ten blinks again, lips curled at the ends in a smile, and replies, “I never said that you didn’t.” Kun’s resulting bright smile from over the countertop filled with what looked like endless tupperware wrote essays on how he feels hearing that.
But they had all forgotten about it as soon as the weekend came closer. With all chores done, all appointments made, finished, or scheduled for the next week, Friday was supposed to be the start to 72 hours of rest and Chinese historical drama marathons on the couch. But as the doorbell started chiming incessantly between the two minutes from opening credits of episode one, Ten had a feeling that they weren’t going to be getting any rest that they wanted after all. He opens the door and grins up at a familiar face.
“You know, you’re supposed to call before you drop by.”
A sheepish looking Wong Yukhei stands outside their door, sneakers squeaking slightly as the tips scruffed against the old “Must Be Approved by Cats” doormat that Kun and Ten bought earlier in the year. His ears are red at the tip and Ten has to stop himself from cooing -- or worse, pinching.
“I know, I know, but this is like -- an emergency!” Yukhei dramatically whispers. Ten in his amusement is pretty sure their neighbors, if they were anywhere near their front doors, would have heard the giant baby’s voice anyways. “I really really need advice about something and you and Kun are the only ones that can help!”
“Sounds dangerous,” Ten replies dryly.
“Ten, stop teasing him and let him in!” Kun’s voice carries over between the two walls somehow. The scent of vegetables frying and the sizzle are steady. Yukhei perks up and the dancer doesn’t need to inhale deeply to notice the immediate burst of sweet clementines. Kun’s meals are always greatly loved and appreciated with the younger members of the pack; all for a good reason.
In fact, it just cements it in that there’s no getting Yukhei to leave anytime soon until he’s eaten his fill and had his questions answered. Kun’s food tastes like home, after all. Home and love and Ten will never deny any of the younger boys any of that when home for them is already several thousand miles away.
‘Ah, Wei Wuxian. I’m just going to have to wait to see you kiss Wangji a different night,’ Ten thought to himself as he shuffles to the side and lets Yukhei in. The large duffel bag that he hadn’t even noticed Yukhei was carrying is dropped at the foyer, shoes kicked off in quick succession as the younger man follows his nose deeper into the home. The murmurs begin soon after.
“Hey, Xuxi. Everything alright?”
“Yeah, Kun ge. I was just dropping by. I just have something I want to talk to you about --”
With the expectation that Yukhei will go straight to the kitchen met, Ten shuffles back to his now chilled spot in the living room and sprawls right back onto the couch. He doesn’t start the episode again and insteads looks to his phone for a quick distraction. The group chat he has with Johnny and Mark is silent which means they’re either both busy or they’re asleep.
The other group chat is wilding out about games and Ten joins in only to see if Taeyong will puff up and begin a rant if he pretends he has any idea of what Animal Crossing is about. It doesn’t take long for both Taeyong and Yangyang to comment on conspiracy theories. The notifications ping loud and quickly in succession and Ten doesn’t even notice when the chair next to the wide couch sinks under a new weight.
He only looks up when Kun is placing out three bowls of rice and a plate of fried beef and broccoli. He moves his legs from the other end of the couch as soon as the chopsticks and spoons are handed out. Kun takes a seat next to him and Ten nudges half the blanket onto his roommate’s lap. It’s summer which means the AC is cranked up high. While the dancer is thankful that they don’t have to worry about usage and it’s all part of their rent already, it still means it can get a little chilly unless they want to play the game of turn on and turn off the AC.
“Eat first and then we’ll talk. Xuxi, make sure you eat a lot of broccoli. Your instagram has been nothing but carbs and grease lately,” Kun says while nudging a few large broccoli pieces onto Ten’s bowl before he puts some on his own. They balance carefully on top of the mound of white rice and Ten has to practice stable hands to bring it closer to his mouth to eat without dropping either grains of rice or a vegetable.
“Your food always tastes so good, Kun ge!”
Ten’s hum of agreement is muffled between swallows and Yukhei’s enthusiastic loud chewing. He senses more than sees Kun’s pride, pine and fir surrounding them subtly like warmth against Ten. More than seeing his food being eaten, he knows that Kun is happiest when he’s part of a reason why someone is satisfied after a meal.
It’s a heavy responsibility, wanting to take care of someone in such a way, but Ten thinks it fits Kun to a tee.
“So,” Yukhei clears his throat as the clinking of utensils and bowls are piled together in the center of the living room’s table. “I have a problem and I didn’t know who else to go to but the two of you. Promise you guys won’t laugh?”
“No promises,” Ten quips back quickly as he leans back against the couch now that dinner is over. He grunts out of surprise when Kun swats at his knee. Even if it had barely any force behind it, Ten sends a pout and a little huff at his roommate anyway.
“Don’t listen to Ten,” Kun says softly, “You know that he doesn’t mean it.” The dancer only chooses to say nothing to argue when the chef’s hand settles on the knee he had just swatted, fingers squeezing gently with little circular presses of his thumb against the little dip that always aches on rainy days.
“Yeah yeah, what Kun said. Now what’s going on? Don’t tell me you quit college or something? If you need someone to hide you until Jungwoo comes and drags you back, you can stay in the living room. But if it’s a dead body –”
“No, I’m not – I didn’t quit school! But it does have something to do with Jungwoo!”
The flush that blooms right on top of Yukhei’s cheeks travel quickly across his nose, up his ears, and down his neck. Needless to say, both Kun and Ten are shifting a little closer with a little grin on both of their lips. Ten nudges Kun subtly with his elbow, quenching the growing urge to whisper ‘ I told you so . ’
“What about Jungwoo, Xuxi?” Kun squeezes at his knee in warning but he can’t hide the slight quirk of his smile from the peripheral of Ten’s gaze. “You can talk to us.”
“Well, I’m thinking, I kind of want to ask him out?” The stutter and darkening blush has them cooing this time, both their features softening. No teasing, it seems. Not when Yukhei actually looks so flustered and nervous, large hands wringing together between his knees. He must have been thinking about this for a while.
“But the thing is,” he continues, “I don’t know how to? Like, everyone else just kind of said that I should go for it and do it but it doesn’t feel right. We’ve been friends for so long and we’re even planning to apply for the same frat house next year! It doesn’t feel right to just drop a line like it’s just another day, you know?”
“Well, before we say anything, take a moment to calm down, puppy.” Ten gently reminds him. “We can both smell your anxiety.”
The scent of sweet oranges inches toward something more tangy and Ten briefly wonders if they still had any of the marmalade left from their last trip to the farmers’ market. Kun nods beside him and Ten wonders, albeit rather distractedly, if Kun is wondering about the very same thing he was.
“Right, right, sorry.”
Yukhei runs a hand through his hair and messy looks become even messier, sticking up here and there. The silence that follows feels a little awkward, a little heavy, and so Ten shifts and nudges at Kun once more. He’s the fatherhen for their little group of international friends anyways.
‘ Share some wisdom, Kun! ’ Ten mentally whispers in between waggling his eyebrows.
‘ What wisdom? I haven’t even been on a date for almost three years! ’ Kun rolls his eyes in response before turning his body to Yukhei, wordlessly giving him his full attention. Kun removes his hand from Ten’s knee and settles it on Yukhei’s jumping one instead.
Ten pretends not to miss that touch and simply tucks himself underneath his blanket again to focus on listening instead.
“So, what are you planning to do now, Xuxi? If you have any ideas, let us know and we can talk about it if you’re not sure. Saying it out loud can help a lot.”
Ten only nods, blond bangs bouncing on his forehead comically. “We can go through scenarios,” the dancer adds, leaning onto Kun simply because he can. “Let you know which dates are horrible ideas and which dates will get you your man.”
The relief on Yukhei’s face speaks volumes and the three of them are quick to share all sorts of scenarios. By the time the youngest was getting ready to leave, shrugging on his jacket and stuffing his feet into his shoes, it was late enough to warrant a cab back instead of taking public transportation.
“Stay safe, okay, Xuxi?” Kun says as he holds the door open for him while Ten leans against the wall, blanket trailing on the floor. “Text us when you get home.” The customary roll of eyes from Ten and the obedient nod from Yukhei garners each of them narrowed eyes and a tight smile.
“Hey, wait, before you go -- how come you decided to come talk to us? As much as it’s really flattering, I thought you’d have gone to Yuta and Sicheng first with how long they’ve been dating on and off,” Ten asks curiously.
“Well, that’s ‘cause you guys have been dating since I’ve met you! And Sicheng and Yuta have arguments all the time and I didn’t want to accidentally barge in while they, you know, battled it out and stuff.”
There’s a blinding grin and a tight hug to both of them before Yukhei steps out the door, hand waving energetically. Ten and Kun are both left to stare after him, his words hovering like a seed that hasn’t quite taken root.
It takes about halfway into the week for Ten to realize that a sense of awkwardness has settled into his and Kun’s routine. After what Yukhei said, it almost feels like a light is shining over them -- and not in a great way. What seemed like the normalcy of settling into a friendship of almost two years suddenly looks a little too vivid and strange.
The way Kun always makes Ten his coffee at the start of the day (one teaspoon of cream, three spoonfuls of sugar) suddenly tastes a little too sweet, affection heavy in each swallow followed by Ten’s reluctant want for more. Ten’s own choice of switching out both their towels for a new pair Monday morning settles like an invasion of privacy, rather than a good act from a good friend even though Kun murmurs his thanks and blushes into the shower.
At first the dancer had thought that maybe he was just overreacting and overthinking everything, a habit that he knows comes from being raised rather independently in a world where dependency is a symbol of happiness. But it’s not hard to see the way Kun suddenly begins stumbling around him, walking on metaphorical eggshells with hesitant hands and abortive glances.
How ironic that one week ago, Ten would have no problem leaning on Kun with his chin on his shoulder, scenting away at a neck still empty of a bond mark, and Kun would without hesitation place his hand on Ten’s back as they walked down the stairs just in case Ten’s old injury acted up. Now, they feel like strangers living together in their own home.
It was as if they were meeting again for the first time like two years ago.
It takes Kun nearly dropping the knife on his own foot when Ten shuffles into the kitchen one evening to talk and grab a bottle of wine right behind him that they decide they needed to sit down and talk. The single glass Ten had been aiming for gets a partner and the bottle of wine is split between the two of them. Before, they would sit together, side to side, thigh pressed up against thigh with not a worry between them.
Now Kun sits on the armchair, stiff as a board, next to the couch where Ten is pressed tightly to one side. The blanket they shared stays folded in the center, a quiet reminder of the last time it was used and how they can no longer do so without feeling like something dirty has gone unmentioned.
“So,” Kun starts. Ten nudges the cork out of the wine bottom and pretends it’s not nervousness that makes him dig his thumbnail into the edge. A bit of it crumbles and falls to the ground. For once, Kun doesn’t chide him playfully but merely clears his throat and looks away.
“So,” Ten continues. He pours them both a glass of wine and waits.
“I don’t want to - to make things awkward,” Kun says awkwardly. His gaze doesn’t stray anywhere close to Ten’s face. Ten can’t blame him when his own is rather focused on the other man’s shoulder. “But I think we need to talk before we start running away from each other like kids, you know?”
He wants to argue with Kun that he hasn’t run away even once. Ten has merely chosen to pick the times to show his presence carefully is all. In truth, the knowledge that others thought they were dating doesn’t feel bad. In fact, Ten likes it.
He likes the idea that maybe they found each other without knowing and learned to be with each other naturally. The possibility of it truly being more now doesn’t worry him even though he knows it probably should.
Right now, Ten was being careful for Kun, not for himself, so the dancer bites his tongue and waits.
Kun does not disappoint even if his voice pauses with little bursts of hesitation.
“Did you realize that everyone thought we were dating? Or been dating?”
“Of course not,” Ten murmurs into the edge of the wine glass. His brow arches upwards. “If I did, you know that I would have teased them for admitting it. I mean, really? Us, dating, and not telling the world? You know I wouldn’t keep it quiet.”
There’s nothing to be ashamed of if he’s dating Kun. The man loved cooking, loved taking care of those around him, and most importantly, worked hard and diligently for the things he believed in. Why would Ten be ashamed of any of those qualities?
If he was dating Kun.
Kun nods and slumps forward. “That’s what I thought. Which means that we probably haven’t been very mindful of boundaries and etiquette. Which isn’t really that bad? But it gives off the wrong impression to other people.”
The wrong impression? The tip of Ten’s tongue presses against his inner cheek.
“What do you mean the wrong impression?” He asks Kun, gaze now inching up properly to where they should be during a conversation. Kun still doesn’t meet his eyes. Ten wonders if it’s his tone or if it’s just him. He knows he can be somewhat confrontational.
But he thought Kun never minded it.
“That we’re not available. I mean, I haven’t had much time to socialize but we are getting older, you know? Most people our age are already looking for stability. A partner.”
Ten isn’t sure why the words sting, only that they do and the pain is light but irritating in the worst ways. It’s no different from a papercut between the web of his fingers - constantly reminding him that something is sliced open but it’s too small to have a bandaid placed on and soothed.
Maybe Ten should have been looking but he supposed he had gotten too used to having something just perfectly comfortable for himself without having to intentionally search for it.
“I mean, I know that I do some things that most people might not like if they’re searching for a partner, but it’s not like you ever said you were interested in finding one,” Ten replies. He wishes he didn’t sound as passive aggressive as he does. He wishes it didn’t sound as if he’s a little hurt. He’s not. He’s just a little ruffled.
But Kun knows. Of course he does.
“I’m not blaming you,” Kun retorts calmly. The way the man runs his fingers through his hair says otherwise about his calmness. “I’m just saying that maybe we need to put some space between each other and really think about the future. What we want, who we want, and see, you know? I don’t want you to feel obligated to do anything.”
The sting grows to become something throbbing, squirming alive up his hand and over his shoulder until it settles like a weight over his chest. There’s no reason to be hurt, Ten tells himself in between sips. Kun is still refusing to meet his eyes and it’s a sharp reminder that he has no right to be hurt either. It’s not like they were dating in the first place. It was miscommunication.
It was getting too used to something that wasn’t his. He knows his words will sound forced but he says it anyways because he has to. Because Kun deserves to hear it.
“Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s about time, right? Like you said, everyone is out there looking for a partner. You should be too. This can’t last forever.”
The bottle being poured can’t drown out the weight of the silence that follows Ten’s words. This time, it is his gaze that’s dropped to the table when Kun turns to look at him properly. Ten wonders if he feels as lost as he does.
Or if it’s just him wondering why it feels like they’re ungrounded, loose and unsure but drifting anyways.
“Yeah,” Kun finally breathes out. He hasn’t touched his glass of wine the entire conversation. “I think that’s what we need to do. Go out and see. I’m sure we’ll find someone we like, you know?”
Ten has nothing to say in response and while the tension doesn’t quite dissipate, it feels rather anti-climatic. Kun gives one little soft sigh, the type that would usually prompt Ten to tease him, ask if he wants a shoulder massage. Now, it goes unanswered.
Kun gets up with a quiet little “goodnight, Ten” and heads to his room. The door shuts quietly and Ten --
Ten picks up Kun’s glass and decides that perhaps Yukhei was right. Maybe they did get too comfortable with each other.
Ten turns off the light and leaves both glasses in the sink for the next day.
Maybe it is time to see if he can find someone too after all.
Someone else if the one he wants doesn’t want him.
Kun wakes up feeling like not only has a truck managed to hit him square in the chest, but he also must have flown head first into the car right behind it. The ache that pulses behind his ribs feels like regret and a lot of guilt.
He’s just not quite sure over what.
Sure, the conversation on Wednesday had been rather awkward to have, especially since he couldn’t help but avoid Ten’s eyes the entire time. But can he be blamed for being uncomfortable? He was raised to be a proper adult, courtship rules and wooing steps all ingrained into him by the age of being a teenager. Now he was a little past a young adult, in his mid twenties and only just realizing he’s been messing up for the last two years.
It’s one thing to be close to a roommate and it’s another thing to have your entire social network think the two of you have been dating.
As Kun stumbles to the bathroom to wash the grime of last night away, he wonders just why no one thought to ask him. Did they really think he was someone who would date another person and not make it official after so long? Did Kun really act so unsociable, so stiff that no one could see him as a person who would properly scent his partner?
Yes, he wouldn’t do it publicly or to a degree like Doyoung and Taeyong do but he wouldn’t just let his partner walk around without the comfort of knowing they’re together even when they’re apart. And if he had been dating Ten --
Well. He isn’t dating Ten. That’s the problem, isn’t it? If he had been dating Ten, nothing would be a problem. He wouldn’t feel so guilty of unknowingly putting Ten in a situation and position where he couldn’t go out and find someone.
All because Kun had gotten so comfortable he started treating Ten like a partner instead of a roommate.
So yes, it’s better not to think too much in that direction unless Kun wanted to feel heartache all over again before the day even started.
The cold water feels a little jarring but he rather be startled awake than left in some odd limbo about what-ifs and silly fantasies. He’s a realist and it’s about time Kun took a step back out into the social circles and updated himself on the dating scene. In fact, the earlier the better after this mishap.
That way, at least Kun wouldn’t be distracted by the thoughts of what life would be like if he really was dating Ten like everyone imagined and the desire and guilt wouldn’t try to eat him whole. He’d do it for the other man.
Ten deserves to be treated better and to be courted properly. Not just thrown into a position of a lover without even the token rose before the first date.
It’s an attempt to find a new perspective when Kun decides to send a quick text to Sicheng before jumping into the shower knowing that the other man isn’t going to wake up for another fifteen minutes. While Kun may be early to sleep and early to rise, the rest of his friends tend to be the type to relax and sleep in on the weekends. He pretends to not notice how his first thought while washing his hair is how Ten is the same type to want to relax languidly until he has to get up on Saturdays.
It vaguely burns knowing that they haven’t spoken properly since Wednesday.
The guilt returns like the aftertaste of bitter medicine. Kun closes his eyes and takes the opportunity to gargle. His voice echoes in the shower but doesn’t do much to make him feel anymore distracted. There’s no music, no happy cheer in the air, and definitely no humming outside his bedroom door.
By the time he’s clean and toweling off, there’s a new notification blinking on his cellphone’s screen. He flicks it open with a damp thumb and the weight on his chest eases.
“See you soon,” the text says. “Noon at our favorite restaurant by Hongdae. Your treat!” Kun just sends back a little thumbs up before heading to his room to get dressed. The apartment is still quiet half an hour later when he’s tapping the front of his sneakers to the floor to get them on. He tries to strain his ears to check if Ten is still sleeping but --
He hears nothing. And he wonders for the first time in the morning if Ten actually woke up early and for what. Saturdays were meant to be lazy days with morning cartoons, messy pancakes and soft singing in the kitchen, and relaxation on the couch. He inhales and Kun realizes with almost immediate clarity that the scent of mangos is nowhere to be found. Ten wasn’t home.
He’s left early without even telling Kun. That’s --
He doesn’t own Ten. Ten doesn’t have to tell him anything. They weren’t together. He shouldn’t think about that anymore.
Not when it wasn’t for Kun to think about to begin with.
“So, you finally realized that everyone has been thinking you and Ten ge been getting it on?” Sicheng asks between slurps of jajangmyeon, the black bean sauce splattering onto the edges of the bowl with a few stray droplets on the table. “Took you long enough. I was wondering when you were going to do something about it.”
Kun does his best not to succumb to the urge of cleaning up, his fingers twitching at the side of his own bowl of noodles next to the pile of napkins the waiter had so nicely given them. “I have no idea what you mean by that, Sicheng.”
The chopsticks that get pointed his way get a narrowed gaze. Sicheng lowers it, albeit with pursed lips and the stubbornness that comes from dating one Yuta Nakamoto. Kun regrets. Sicheng does not.
“I mean, it’s about time that you do something about it. You’ve been alone for so long and even a workaholic like you deserve some peace and happiness. Haven’t you thought about it, ge? Dating?”
Kun can feel his brow furrowing tightly, the same way he can feel the ends of his lips turning down into a slight frown. “Not really?” He admits. “I mean, it’s been good so far. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything the last few years. I’ve been busy.”
Sicheng’s knowing look falls a little too short and Kun can’t place the meaning behind it. But he’s learned to accept that if he doesn’t understand and Sicheng hasn’t said it out loud, he’s not going to know until he finds out on his own. So he focuses instead on his bowl of noodles, slurping a little more gracefully and chewing a little quieter.
“Exactly. You’ve had everything you needed but now you can actually get what you want and what you need.”
The way Sicheng says it, slow and steady but sure, makes the weight on his chest come back into existence and Kun is startled by it. A hand presses over his front, thumb and knuckles digging over his shirt as if it would soothe it. Kun is not surprised that it doesn’t. Just like he isn’t surprised that Sicheng knows how he feels. Still, he’s stubborn.
Confessing now isn’t an answer. Ten deserves better.
“So you’re saying I should do what most people my age should do?”
“Probably. You’ve been wanting it for a long time but you just never knew, right? This is a chance to make yourself happy.”
It’s a nice thought, making himself happy. And Sicheng is right. Kun is a workaholic.
But that didn’t mean that he couldn’t find love. He just needed to go search for it, even if it’s not the one that he’s come to understand he almost desperately wants.
“Yeah, I think you’re right.” Sicheng immediately smiles, wide and proud. “I think I’ll go to a club tonight. Maybe see if I can just get a feel about how things are now.”
The smile dims but Kun is too focused on searching up the hours and times and ways to get to a safe but well reviewed nightclub. It’s not something he usually does but it’s new enough that maybe it’ll give him a breath of fresh air in life. He only looks up when he hears Sicheng grumble something.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Good luck, ge, because you’ll need it.”
“So you’re telling me that you feel like you haven’t been given a chance?”
“Exactly!” Ten replies, voice pitched a little high from annoyance or frustration or both. He waves his cup of coffee, the plastic lid being the only thing that keeps most of it from spilling out at the edges and onto the table between Johnny and him. “I mean, do I look that undateable to you?”
Johnny purses his lips and feigns a moment of thinking. It gets him what he expects: Ten letting out a dramatic gasp and reaching over with a free hand to slap at his shoulder.
The beta only laughs as he rubs at the spot Ten hit. His own coffee, americano with extra ice, clinks in the cup on the table untouched for the last half an hour. It’s a friend to friend chill date, a bro date. Ten wonders why Johnny is his best friend when all the other man does is tease him relentlessly when all Ten wants to do is complain and be doted on.
“You’re not undateable. You know very well that most people would fight to have a chance with you, Ten,” Johnny finally relents and says with a soft smile.
“Easy for you to say, mister ‘I’m getting married next year.’ You met your partner in university and somehow managed to bag someone five years younger than you.”
Johnny snorts as he leans forward, cheek resting on a propped curled fist. One brow arches upwards while the beta’s blond hair (now longer because of a little experiment) juts out behind him in a ponytail. Ten wishes he could look that good despite rolling out of bed before meeting up at the local Java and Cuppa. But Johnny was the kind of beta that drew anyone and everyone to him.
It didn’t help that he was playful and charming, the type of charming that made it feel like the world was a hundred times more fun than it actually was.
“Duckie was the one who found me. All I did was invite him to the photography club. I didn’t expect him to stay and then court me for the next four semesters.” Lee Donghyuck, Johnny’s alpha boyfriend of two years, had been a tornado of surprises into their lives. They had met in college when Donghyuck had just entered as a new biology major and Johnny was just starting his graduate program in the arts. One meeting was apparently all it took before the courting started.
Johnny likes to say that he didn’t even realize he was being courted until Donghyuck had tried to fight another alpha vying for his attention by winning an amateur photo contest. The way the alpha had sulked after winning the second prize despite still beating his rival still will make Johnny laugh to this day. Donghyuck likes to say that Johnny always knew he was being courted but he found it cute that the older man was willing to play hard to catch. “It’s not alpha posturing if your type of partner is one that likes to tease back, you know?”
Needless to say, in Ten’s entire group of friends, Johnny and Donghyuck are the only ones that seem to have a rather stable and healthy relationship. They’re also the ones that Ten feels the most envious of when he allows himself to be. Hence why he called Johnny over for a chat about Kun.
“So back to the main point: why don’t you just tell him to give you a chance?”
Now that’s a good question.
“I don’t know,” Ten admits quietly. “I shouldn’t have to, should I? I scent him for god’s sake. Doesn’t that say something?”
“Kun may be really good at knowing what other people need but it’s not the same as knowing what he needs, y’know? It’s not fair to assume that he should make all the decisions because he’s usually the one who takes lead.” Ten purses his lips at that but can’t refute, knowing that Johnny was right. His sip of coffee tastes just a little bitter.
“Besides, he might not know if you want it either. Who knows? Maybe he’s afraid,” Johnny adds.
“Afraid of what?”
Johnny doesn’t answer but the arch of his brow speaks volumes. Ten doesn’t want to try thinking about what his friend means. It’ll only give him a false sense of hope and most of what he has was already dashed during the conversation he had with Kun on Wednesday.
Ten decides then and there what he’ll do. He throws back the rest of his coffee to Johnny’s amusement before declaring his thoughts.
“I’m going to get laid tonight if that’s the last thing I fucking do.”
“This is a terrible idea.” Johnny nudges the fourth shot of hard whiskey at Ten’s direction. Donghyuck’s hands are attempting to interfere but Johnny’s own hand squeezing at his fiance’s hip is a good distraction. The glass safely settles in Ten’s palm before he lifts it and takes it in one go. Donghyuck whistles, adequately impressed, while Johnny merely shakes his head. Between the three of them, only Ten has any plans in getting roaring drunk.
They’re mainly here to make sure he doesn’t end up falling asleep in a ditch or going home alone if he doesn’t get someone to spend the night with.
“You really sure about this, Ten?” He can’t help try one more time but Ten is feeling vindictive. And when Ten is vindictive, he’s stubborn. The dancer shakes his head and waggles a finger before motioning that he’s going to go dance.
“I’ll catch you two later!” he says while nudging the table aside. Dressed in a sheer white shirt and tight leather pants, he knows he makes a vision when he steps into the mass of people dancing. Finding a partner isn’t going to be a problem.
The music is a deep beat that reverberates through the room no matter where a person stands. The closer they are to the speakers, the harder it is to think and Ten rather likes that. Tonight is going to be a night of epic proportions, absolutely no thinking, and maybe a nice good long fuck. He’s not looking for a boyfriend here since what he wants, he won’t get in a nightclub.
He’s just looking to work some stress out.
And in fact, as Ten slides his hands through his hair to mess it loose, tracing the bare lines of his neck down over the slight curve of his chest and lower, lower, lower - he knows he won’t be going home alone tonight. Not if he can help it.
The beat kicks up and he bounces, eyes at half lid and heated. Someone settles a hand on his hip and grinds forward. Ten decides, yes , and grinds back. Regret pings like a flag in the back of his mind but he pushes it away. It feels like heartbreak and that can’t be right. He didn’t even have a chance to give his heart away yet.
What he needs now is a stranger and if one decides they like him enough to flirt back, he’s not going to say no.
At least not tonight.
Unbeknownst to him, on the other side of the room is a familiar face that’s contorting into something akin to confusion and discomfort. Nostrils flare and Kun tries to catch that scent of sweet mangos and summer heat, the spices that tickle at the back of his throat more familiar than his own stormy, mountain fresh scent.
But the club is too full of people and their scents are all mingling. He can’t catch Ten’s scent at all from the distance that’s between them. All Kun can smell is perfume and musk and bodies grinding against each other and moans muffled in between . But as if in response to being unable to tell from one sense, the others go into overdrive.
Suddenly the dim lights aren’t enough to hide the way another man’s hands are tugging the hem of Ten’s shirt up from where they’re tucked into his pants. Nor are they low enough to overshadow the way the dancer’s throat swallows, adam’s apple bobbing as his hips are pulled back.
It’s enough for Kun to feel on edge, the hair at the back of his standing. Jealousy is an ugly sensation and he hates the way it unfurls behind his rib cage, stretching claws out until they threaten to rip through his skin. He doesn’t realize that he’s had his fists clenched at his sides tightly until someone is trying to ease them. He turns, eyes wide with both guilt and growing dismay.
It’s not his right.
“Hey,” Sicheng says with a quirk of his brow. Neither of them expected Ten to be there at the same club at the same night with probably the same goals as Kun but Sicheng can’t say that this isn’t something like fate. “What are you thinking about right now?”
The music isn’t loud enough to drown out his friend’s voice, Kun realizes with a drop in his stomach. Even if there’s people whimpering next to them with arousal in the air, they’re about to have a heart-to-heart. He’s not sure if he can take it.
“What do you mean?”
Attempt one at avoiding the topic. Sicheng pretends he didn’t even say anything.
“You’ve spent the last hour politely declining anyone single and interested in your time, ge. No matter if they’re a pretty omega, alpha, or beta. You just kept telling them you weren’t interested.”
Kun’s jaw locks but he says nothing.
“You know why you weren’t interested. You know why they didn’t even make you think of a possible future or even a first date.” Kun’s gaze strays back to the dance floor where Ten is now flanked by two people, the same person behind and someone new in front. He writhes between them, beautiful and stunning and dangerous .
Sicheng continues speaking even if Kun is looking elsewhere.
“It’s because you already had everything you wanted, even if you didn’t know it.”
“So what am I supposed to do, Sicheng? He’s here to probably find someone, just like me.”
The slap that hits the center of his back feels like lightning and sounds like a thunderclap. Sicheng’s smile is wide.
“Obviously, you should go get him!”
Kun inhales sharply and wonders if he can. Wonders if he will be allowed -- and decides he’ll leave it to Ten, like he had before. It doesn’t take much for Kun to move from that point onwards.
The beats almost match the thrum of his heart and Ten finds it almost exhilarating to be able to move and not hear himself think. It’s a bit self destructive as well but everyone deserves a little moment or two. The worry and regret can come tomorrow along with the hangover and migraine. For now, the world is just him and two men on the dance floor.
The slide of fingers pressing against his belly has his breath hitching and Ten doesn’t bother muffling the quiet little moan he makes. The music swallows it up anyways and his voice melds with the rest of the dancers around him. Another hand pushes into the space between him and the man behind him, settling like a vice inside his pocket. Ten squirms.
He knows they’ll kiss him soon, one or the other or both. They’re aroused and he’s -- he’s interested and willing. It will only take one move before they head out. He feels the moment begin when someone tilts his head back and Ten lets them, bangs falling over his eyes as he parts his lips.
If it had been anyone else, Ten would have ignored the little call out. After all, it’s a club. Who is going to be polite in a club other than for formality? Just shove through or find a different way around. But that voice, calm and a little deep when it wants to be and oh so familiar , cuts through the sound in his head to the very center of him.
Ten sobers up almost immediately and his head snaps forward, away from the hold under his chin. He’s gaping, surprise evident, but undeniably pleased to see Kun even if he wants to hide it.
“I’m going to need to borrow him.” And Ten has never seen Kun step close to confront anyone before but something about the way his jaw is clenched, his back straight, and his arms swinging low that tells Ten he’s serious.
He doesn’t wait for the people he’s dancing with to answer and he doesn't care about them enough to risk the opportunity he sees. His heart is a traitor, beating quickly in its cavity like it already knows the future while Ten is fumbling with the present.
In the end, it's him that pulls Kun away, fingers wrapping around his wrist and tugging him out of the dance floor and toward an empty corner. The scent of discontent that follows him from behind is ignored but the quiet rumble he can feel vibrating off Kun’s chest sparks something that had been uncertain and dwindling in his own body. His heart murmurs an agreement. Ten chooses not to shush it this time around.
By the time Kun is pushed against the wall with one of Ten's palm pressed against the flaking red wallpaper beside him, they've crossed to the other end of the nightclub. There are empty and half filled cups of soju and other alcohol scattered around them. The same goes for people and yet Ten feels like Kun finally sees him and only him for the first time in weeks. The world is silent until one of them speaks.
“I didn’t know you’d be here.”
Kun swallows. Ten’s eyes follow the movement and he licks his lips. When he glances back up, Kun’s ears are a little red and his own eyes are focused on Ten’s mouth. The man may be chivalrous but unbridled desire is hard to ignore once it's unleashed. Ten fares no differently.
“I know. I didn’t know you’d be here either but I’m glad I found you.”
It’s cheesy but Ten can’t help the little flair of satisfaction. He thinks about what he can do next, chewing on his inner cheek, and decides Johnny is right. Maybe Ten should just ask Kun to give him a chance. What does he have to lose when Kun is looking at him like a man who just realized he’s fallen just as deep as him?
“Are you really?”
This time, the hand that curls around his hip -- gently, with care, with fondness that doesn’t come from alcohol and momentary arousal -- is one that he wouldn’t mind having on him for the rest of his life and the thought says what Ten didn't want to admit before. Kun’s voice is soft when he answers but Ten hears him loud and clear.
“I am. I think I’ve always wanted to find you, not just someone like you. I just never knew I was searching and already got what I wanted when you were right beside me. I hadn't meant to let you go. I thought I was forcing it without your consent.”
A very small part of him tells him that this is a conversation that they should be having at home. Ten tells that part to shut the fuck up and let him live for a moment because this is a moment he thinks he can’t go without. Not now.
He pulls away from the wall, catches sight of Kun’s immediate forlorn look, before closing the distance between them. Ten’s fingers curl tightly around Kun’s crop top, wrinkling the collar of his black shirt. The suit jacket might feel stifling between them with the heat of the nightclub but he doubts that Kun cares at the moment. Ten knows he doesn’t.
“Prove it then." It's not the words he wants to say, sweet and coy and beautiful, but they're still honest, blazing, and desperate. "Right here, right now, Kun.”
There’s barely an inch between their lips and now he can see how Kun’s gaze is dilating. His own is no doubt mirroring it, focus laser pointed and gaze heated. He breathes in.
Pine tree and lightning, the heat of something new, something brilliant. Kun’s own inhale is filled with the hot promise of sunny weather and sweet delight, pepper and spice swirling to put that edge into something that some may consider mundane. Together, they're a dream too good to be true but just plausible enough to make a reality.
They lean in to kiss each other at the same time.
“Told you it’d work.” Sicheng sips at his cup of soju. Johnny is nursing a little cocktail mix that tastes a lot like pineapple juice and not a lot of alcohol. Donghyuck is already prepared to be the one driving home.
“I’m surprised they both decided to go to a nightclub,” Johnny quips while the three of them watch Kun and Ten make out against the wall like two young pups seeing their first love.
“It’s fate, you know? Fate,” Donghyuck adds while sneaking a photo on his cellphone. It’s sent to Yukhei who replies immediately with a series of emojis. Donghyuck’s tongue sticks as he types something back. Neither Johnny or Sicheng bother to steal a glance, both still making sure nothing goes wrong (against all odds, you know?) during the make out.
“I can’t believe we get to tell Yukhei that it’s because of his gay panic over Jungwoo that we actually got Kun and Ten together after two years! Imagine what would have happened if he didn’t say anything that one time? They might have never gotten together until a decade after!”