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Kyungsoo was shaking. He’d been shaking all afternoon. He still had his eyeliner on and hair styled even though the costume came off two hours ago. He couldn’t stop shaking. Oh my god.
He’d met with the creator of Prince of Tennis. The man himself, in the flesh. Kyungsoo had introduced himself, bowed politely, watched his words and stood as straight as he could while the actual real creator of Prince of Tennis holy shit looked him up and down, hummed, clucked his tongue a little.
“You look a lot like him. It’s not a stretch to imagine you as Kaneda at all.” He had said. Kyungsoo practically vibrated at the praise. “I heard Kaneda’s solo song is finally appearing in this musical? Give me a preview, then. Acapella is fine. I want to hear you. Then we can sit down and talk about the details.”
And Kyungsoo did. He sang as well as he could and prayed he wouldn’t mess up and Mr Konomi had watched quietly and nodded. They had sat together and talked about Kaneda, about Kyungsoo, for a good half an hour. Kyungsoo had shown him his notes, hoping he wasn’t flushing as Konomi flicked through the pages, zeroing in on the little details. There was something amazing about being able to share his thoughts about Kaneda, about any of the characters with people, and having those people care. Konomi had some words of wisdom for him, too.
“Don’t be afraid of your accent slipping,” he told Kyungsoo firmly, as if it had been written all over his face, “we’ve had Tezukas with lisps, and nobody said a thing about that. If anything, the idea of a part-Korean Kaneda will make you more memorable to people. Don’t be afraid of letting yourself become a part of Kaneda, like he’s become part of you.”
When Kyungsoo left the studio, passing Tsubasa who was shaking like a leaf on the way out, he clutched his parting gift from Konomi close to his chest. A drawing of Kaneda, with his name written on it. It was just for him.
He put it on the wall next to the Saint Rudolph group photo that Rikuto had printed for him. It was looking a lot more cheery now, with doodles and mementos from the rest of the cast stuck all over. Polaroids, taken with Sora’s camera that he brought into rehearsals, outnumbered everything else by a wide margin. Right in the middle was one with Kyungsoo and Tsubasa in their matching fruit shirts.
Matching shirts really aren’t so bad. Kyungsoo smiled, thinking back to his last trip to Shibuya. They’re pretty nice, actually.
‘Kyungsoo: How are you doing today?’
‘Jonginnie: I’m. Yeah. Apparently Manager wants to see me later. Hopefully he’s not kicking me out of EXO or anything.’
Had it been anyone else, Kyungsoo would have laughed, but reading the message in Jongin’s shaky, almost broken voice from before made his heart hurt. ‘Kyungsoo: Good luck! Hopefully it’s good news.’
‘DO.Soo: Met with Konomi yet?’
‘Hibi-tan: HELL TO THE YEAH’
‘DO.Soo: Nice. He liked my ideas for Kaneda, so I’m going to rewatch basically every DVD I have and smother my headcanons all over everything.’
‘Hibi-tan: ROOM FOR ONE MORE’
‘DO.Soo: Sure. I’m out of melon soda, though, so if you want some you’re bringing it.’
‘Hibi-tan: ON IT LIKE SONIC’
By the time the sun began to set, the two of them were once again on Kyungsoo’s apartment floor, surrounded by snacks and waiting for the DVD to load. They were watching Dream Live 2011 again, cheering and whooping when Saint Rudolph appeared in the intro song. They sang along with the second season’s Saint Rudolph song, but by the time the skit came around, Kyungsoo could tell Hibiki’s heart wasn’t in it.
He wasn’t obsessively checking his phone anymore, but Hibiki seemed...kinda spaced out. Like he was watching and not watching, on autopilot as he took another handful of potato chips.
“Captain...I love you.”
“‘Soo.” Kyungsoo flinched, glancing over to Hibiki immediately. The taller actor wasn’t looking at him, nor at anything else in particular. He was just...looking into space. “Mind if I drop a major truth bomb on you?”
The Kaneda and Akazawa on screen hugged tightly. “Hit me.”
Yamabuki started singing, their cheering lost on Hibiki. “Do you follow any Japanese entertainment news?”
“Nope.” He really should have, but it always slipped his mind. He kind of liked being free of that kind of thing while in Japan. Hibiki’s shoulders seemed to relax.
“Good. I didn’t wanna name any names so...well, there’s this guy in my agency. Huge star, part of an idol group, they’re huge.” He sighed. “They were huge. This one guy, my senior...he got outed a little while back.”
“Ouch.” It was an understatement. Kyungsoo couldn’t imagine anything worse. It was his worst nightmare. Not that he would ever tell anybody that because. Implications.
“Yeah...he got booted from the group, the agency basically disowned him, it was awful. I...I’d really looked up to him since I joined, you know, maybe even before that. I wasn’t supposed to, but I tried to reach out to him, let him know he wasn’t alone.”
He paused for a while, gaze falling to the floor. Kyungsoo reached out a little, hesitantly, to tap him on the arm. “What happened.”
A sad smile as Hibiki closed his eyes. “I was all he had. His parents weren’t speaking to him, the agency had dumped him, his group weren’t allowed to talk to him even if they wanted to...it’s been rough on him. He might never have a career ever again. I’m..scared, ‘Soo.”
“For him. For me. For...everybody like me. Do you know what I’m saying?”
Kyungsoo knew exactly what he was saying. It hit him like a sack of bricks. People like his senior, people like Hibiki, people like Kyungsoo, and an idol to boot. It made him feel a little bit sick, but he held the feeling down, swallowing hard. He didn’t want it to show that he was thinking too hard, because as awesome as Hibiki was, there were some things he just couldn’t admit yet, not even to himself, really. All he could do was smile at Hibiki as brightly as he could, even if that wasn’t very bright at all. He had to try.
“I kinda like him, ‘Soo.”
There was an ensemble song playing on the laptop. Neither of them were watching it, it may have well been radio static.
“‘Soo? Be honest - will this change anything?”
“Well...are you still wanting to make Kaneda and Akazawa in love with each other? Because I mean, I’m still down for that, but-”
He was interrupted by a pillow to the face, and a booming laugh he hadn’t realised he had missed as much as he had. “You ass! Don’t you dare change.”
In the snack fight that followed, Kyungsoo completely missed his phone beeping, over and over again. He found it just as he was getting into bed, the device sitting innocently on his pillow as if to say ‘how could you forget me? You’re sleeping on the couch.’ At least, if phones could talk, and if Kyungsoo had a couch. He unlocked it.
‘Kyungsoo: omg i;m sorry what happened?’
‘Jonginnie: I’m going to be doing a collaboration mini-album with Taemin!! After SHINee’s tour finishes in September!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA’
He had dropped the phone on the pillow, flapping his hands at his sides with no idea what to do with them. Everything was going to be alright! Jongin was going to be alright! Jongin! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
‘Jonginnie: OMG hyung it gets!! Better!!!!!!’
‘Jonginnie: since my schedule is open until SHINee’s tour wraps up, Manager says I’m allowed to have a little vacation!! Guess where I’m gonna go????’
‘Kyungsoo: to see your dogs????”
‘Jonginnie: to see my FAVOURITE HYUNG! I’m coming to Japan in August!!’
It took him at least another two hours to go to bed properly after that, the sudden adrenaline making him entirely unable to sleep. He had to check the entire apartment immediately. Was it clean enough? Would Jongin be allowed to stay with him? Where would Jongin sleep? When should he buy all the snacks and stuff that Jongin liked? When should he give Jongin that thing he bought him? Would Jongin be busy every day? Would he be able to go to the summer fireworks with him and Saint Rudolph? Would he be able to meet Saint Rudolph? Tsubasa would probably die.
By the time Kyungsoo got to bed, for real this time, there was another message waiting for him. Just one.
☆Catholic School Boys Run Wild☆
‘☆Hinata☆: Does everyone have a yukata for the fireworks festival? I have a spare, if anyone needs one.’
‘Hibi-tan: IM FINE THANK’
‘♥Wings♥: Me too. Kyungsoo, do you have one?’
‘DO.Soo: Buying one tomorrow. Thanks though. :)’
‘rUirUi: my old one doesn’t fit anymore so i’m stuck wearing my brother’s :C lame’
‘Hibi-tan: YOU LOOK BETTER IN IT THAN HIM’
‘rUirUi: you’ve never seen it?? you didn’t know I have a brother until right now??’
‘Hibi-tan: IM THE CAPTAIN OK I JUST KNOW’
‘DO.Soo: Hey, would be okay to bring a friend? He’ll be in Japan at the time and I wouldn’t want to ditch him.’
‘☆Hinata☆: That’s very sweet of you - by all means, bring him along.’
‘Hibi-tan: THE MORE THE MERRIER’
“Whoa whoa whoa, calm down there, tiger! I can’t make the train come any faster.”
“I can’t help it.” Kyungsoo really couldn’t, he’d been fidgeting from the moment he woke up, almost nauseous and dizzy with excitement. Today was the day. “I keep feeling like I should have gone to meet him at the airport or something instead. What if he doesn’t get here? What if he gets lost in the airport or misses his train or misses his stop what will he do?!”
“The Narita Express has announcements in Korean, too, y’know.” Rikuto elbowed him, grinning. “Well, I guess you don’t know, since I’m always picking you up, but you do now. He’ll be fine - are you that excited to speak Korean? You could have just asked me.”
“I keep forgetting you can. I’ve never heard it - oh! Is this next train his?”
“One after it.” When Kyungsoo visibly deflated, Rikuto just laughed at him. Kyungsoo wondered if having two people named Asshole in his phone would make life too complicated. “Okay, so you guys are just chilling together for the week? No official SM Entertainment business?”
Kyungsoo was only half listening to him, waiting eagerly for the next train to come. He could barely take his eyes off the announcement board aside from to check the ticket gates for any arrivals. “If it was official SME business, you of all people would know everything.”
The train was only five minutes away, but it felt like absolutely forever. Kyungsoo didn’t want to be wearing sunglasses and a mask and a hat in the middle of a busy station; he didn’t want to be hovering awkwardly by the ticket gates in said busy station, he didn’t like the bustle, the chatter, the clattering and rumbling of trains overhead.
Anxiously, cautiously, he took off the hat first, then the sunglasses, and with a final glance at Rikuto, the mask. And so the wait began anew.
Honestly, Kyungsoo had worried about not being able to find Jongin in the crowd. It was just one of those odd fears at the back of his mind, that he wouldn’t be able to find Jongin and Jongin wouldn’t find him and it’d be a big mess. But as usual, his anxiety was completely unfounded; he spotted a shock of dark hair and familiar, searching eyes above a white mask, there behind the ticket gate, and his heart stuttered. He couldn’t even react. He just stared, vibrating, and waited for Jongin’s gaze to meet his.
He didn’t need to see Jongin’s mouth to see the way he grinned as soon as he found Kyungsoo. The way his eyes curved up, achingly familiar, was more than enough, and the way he stumbled along towards the gate, unable as usual to watch where he was going when he got distracted. Kyungsoo wasn’t sure what his face was doing, but Jongin’s looked ready to break with the force of his childish excitement. Kyungsoo had...god, he had missed it so much. He made a small sound, and then was immediately embarrassed about it.
He would have laughed, usually, at the way Jongin fumbled to get his ticket into the slot at the gate. But he didn’t. He didn’t do anything. He was just a few feet away, and Kyungsoo felt frozen to the spot, waiting, breathless. Virtually vibrating out of his skin. And then Jongin finally managed to get the ticket in, and he practically fell through the gate as it opened, only just remembering to grab hold of his suitcase again before he ran forwards, the case clattering behind him.
Kyungsoo barely knew what he was doing before he was opening his arms and they were immediately filled with a warm body. Jongin wrapped around him, pressing close, smushing his face into the crook of Kyungsoo’s neck, and honestly, Kyungsoo wasn’t much of a hugger, but in that moment all he could do was cling back and breathe Jongin in. A familiar body, familiar warmth, the familiar scent of Jongin’s cologne. He could feed Jongin’s heartbeat against his own ribs, even in the hustle and bustle of the train station, and the steady sound of his breathing. Neither of them said anything, which was probably weird, but Kyungsoo could probably stand there all day, getting the life squeezed out of him in front of the ticket gates. For a second, he thought he felt the bizarre urge to cry.
“Aww, how adorable.” Kyungsoo froze in Jongin’s arms, pulling away just a little bit to look around in panic for the source of the unfamiliar voice. Had they been recognised? Were they just being called out by a random stranger? Why would there be a random stranger speaking Korean in the station? The laugh that followed snapped him back to reality in an instant. “Much as I hate to break up this lovely reunion, we need to get our esteemed guest back to Chez Kyungsoo as soon as possible and let him rest. Nice to meet you at long last, Kai - or Jongin, either or - I’m Rikuto, Kyungsoo’s babysitter.”
“I didn’t expect you to sound so different in Korean.” Kyungsoo muttered, still a little reluctant to let go of Jongin. A curious little noise from somewhere above him clued Kyungsoo in that he’d replied in Japanese. Oops. he said it again.
“Heard you the first time, champ.” Rikuto winked. Stupid smug bilingual- “Come on now, come on, our chariot awaits! Have you had a smooth journey? Don’t worry about putting your super subtle celebrity disguises back on for now, the area Kyungsoo lives in is pretty quiet for Tokyo standards, he can go out wearing basically anything he wants!”
“The chariot is several years old and has a Sailor Moon GPS system,” He finally released Jongin from the hug (or was it Jongin who had held on for so long? He couldn’t be sure) and started to walk on. Jongin’s arm immediately linked with his, and Kyungsoo suddenly wished he had his mask back on to hide the stupid grin that would inevitably make its way across his face. “Just warning you. If you thought me or Joonmyun were embarrassing about anime, wait until you get a load of this.”
“I’ve missed you.” Jongin whispered back. “So much.” and Kyungsoo felt that bizarre urge to cry coming back.
“You can ask Kyungsoo if you need anything, Kai.” Rikuto leaned against the frame of the front door with a smile, either not knowing or not caring that Jongin was too occupied looking around the apartment to actually listen to him. “But if there’s trouble, you can always contact me, alright? Make sure he looks after you; I hear he has a terrible habit of throwing popcorn at his house guests.”
“O-okay. Thank you.”
Jongin wandered away to put his belongings somewhere less obstructive than the doorway, and once he was out of earshot, Rikuto gestured for Kyungsoo to come closer.
“I’m surprised they let him stay with you, you know.” He murmured, in Japanese for good measure.
Kyungsoo winced. “Why? What would be wrong with that?” A thousand different possibilities ran through his mind. None of them were particularly desirable.
“I wondered if they might think it too distracting to have someone living with you right now, considering your big-time rehearsals start soon.” Oh. Kyungsoo breathed a heavy sigh of relief. That could have been really, really awkward. Rikuto didn’t seem to notice, or if he did, he was very subtle about it, which didn’t really sound like him. “Still, maybe the break will be good for both of you. Look after him, now!” Rikuto quickly switched into Korean again at the end, raising his voice as if deliberately aiming for Jongin to hear him. “Have fun, boys!”
With a quiet click, the door closed, and they were alone.
Kyungsoo took a moment to breathe, close his eyes, and catch up to what was happening. Jongin was here, in his apartment. He was right here and real and amazing and...quiet. He headed down to the end of the hall to see where his guest had gone.
Jongin hadn’t gotten far, leaning against his suitcase by the wall, next to the futons. A couple of the polaroids had fallen off, but Jongin didn’t seem bothered by the empty spaces, studying each photograph in turn. Kyungsoo stood beside him, not sure if he should reach out or give Jongin his space. It had been so long since he had the option.
“Akazawa.” Jongin announced suddenly, and Kyungsoo followed Jongin’s arm to his fingertip, hovering by the photo of Saint Rudolph in their costumes. Specifically, by Hibiki. “Your doubles partner, right?”
“I-yeah! Yeah, that’s Akazawa alright. You remembered?” Kyungsoo hadn’t said anything to Jongin about character names since they found out he had been cast, when they watched the musicals together.
“Mizuki.” The finger moved. Hinata. “He wasn’t the captain, right? That was Akazawa. Wasn’t Mizuki the manager?”
Kyungsoo didn’t know what to say, but Jongin went on. Rui. “Yuuta?” Tsubasa. “Oh crap. I’ve forgotten this one’s name. There’s two though, aren’t there? Twins.” Haru. “Yana...gi? No, not that. There probably isn’t a Yanagi in Prince of Tennis. Yanagi...sawa? Yanagisawa?” There was a Yanagi in Prince of Tennis, but Kyungsoo couldn’t find the words to tell Jongin that. Jongin’s lips pursed a little bit in concentration as his finger hovered over Sora. “...Ah, I give up. I only remember six members of Saint Rudolph.”
“Nomura.” His voice came back all of a sudden. “But he was only introduced to the musical this season, so you wouldn’t have seen him before. But...why do you remember all that? Rikuto never gets the fact they’re in middle school right.”
Jongin smiled, looking away from Kyungsoo in a way that Kyungsoo’s teenage-girl heart dared to think was embarrassed, maybe even nervous. “I dunno, just me being lame I guess. I really wanted something that would make you smile, but I couldn’t think of anything better, so I watched the musical you showed me a bunch of times and googled some stuff and-”
“You’re dumb. I’m hugging you now.” And he did, though a little less...clingy than it had been at the train station, it was nice to hold Jongin close to him again. He’d take any excuse he could to do just that. “Thank you.”
Jongin just laughed, arms wrapped tightly around Kyungsoo. As he took a step back to steady himself, a small rustling sound made him pause. “Oh, um, I almost stood on that bag there, sorry.”
Oh shit I forgot. “It’s cool. It’s actually for you.” Reluctantly letting go of Jongin for the second time that day, Kyungsoo quickly reached down to pick up the bag before pushing it into Jongin’s hands. “It’s nothing special, but still.”
“Aw man, hyung,” Jongin bit his lip. “You didn’t have to.”
“I wanted to.” He also wanted to hug Jongin again immediately. “It’s okay if you don’t like it or anything.” He would have gone on, but Jongin shushed him and immediately opened the plastic bag, taking out the small roll of fabric inside. Kyungsoo could see the light of recognition in Jongin’s eyes as he ran his thumbs over what could only be the neckline of a t shirt, and on receiving an approving nod from his senior, Jongin unrolled the shirt.
“Oh my gosh! Hyung, I love it!”
Sweet. Soft. Hides from Everything.
“Yeah! I want to try it on right now, but I’m kind of gross from the journey.” Jongin laughed, and it was like the most beautiful, dorky music. “Could I use your shower? Maybe I’ll wear it tomorrow? What are we even doing tomorrow? This is going to be awesome!”
It was the start of an all too short, and indeed awesome, week for Kyungsoo. They went to Disneyland, and to Jongin’s delight, they wore their matching fruit t shirts and complemented them with matching headgear, too. (Kyungsoo won the rock-paper-scissors for the Mickey ears, but Jongin looked so cute in the Minnie Mouse bow, Kyungsoo didn’t even have the heart to tease him for his loss.) Jongin bought souvenirs for everybody there, even more at the Pokêmon Center, then bought even more for Joonmyun when they visited Akihabara. (I don’t know who this anime girl is but leader will probably like it anyway, right?) They did Obligatory Temple Visits, went to Shibuya to see the huge men’s apparel mall, and in the last few days, fed ducks in the small park close to Kyungsoo’s apartment building, enjoying the luxury of not having to wear masks for a change. On every one of those days, they would find a secluded spot to remove their masks and take photos together - Kyungsoo couldn’t help it, his snap-happy castmates had gotten him into the damn habit, too, and he couldn’t let a single enjoyable moment pass without the urge to take out his phone to capture the memory of not only the day, but of having Jongin with him again.
Not only the days, the nights were fun too, in their own way. Jongin would inevitably be wiped by early evening, so he would nap while Kyungsoo showered, then he would shower while Kyungsoo made dinner, and then they would sit together, watching musical tennis or messing around on the internet or just doing nothing together. It was an amazing feeling.
On Jongin’s last full day, they spent the daylight hours doing absolutely nothing at all, just lazing on the floor of the apartment with the air con on full blast, idly chatting about...absolutely nothing, actually. There was plenty of time at the festival that evening to talk about anything that mattered.
Kyungsoo’s new yukata, a somber black with white koi outlines swimming around the hemline, hung on the door of his closet. He didn’t actually know how to put the thing on, but that was fine, Hibiki would be coming over to help him before they left for the fireworks together. It crossed his mind, idly toying with Jongin’s fingers while the younger told him how progress on Chanyeol’s album was going, that none of the Saint Rudolph members actually spoke any Korean that he knew of, and Jongin could say hello and goodbye in Japanese but little else, but these things had a way of sorting themselves out.
They were half asleep on the floor, just as the sun set, when the doorbell rang.
“‘Soo! My man!” Hibiki had a hand up ready to high five Kyungsoo from the moment the door opened. “Mind if I come in? Is your friend here? Oh, there he is! Hi, Kyungsoo’s friend!”
“He, uh, doesn’t speak Japanese.” Kyungsoo did his best not to roll his eyes at his doubles partner’s choice in footwear - crocs with a yukata? Really? - and figured Hibiki’s outfit looked far better without the obnoxious things. Of course Hibiki’s yukata would be brightly coloured, a vivid blue with red koi and technicolour flower motifs all over it. He was almost a little disappointed that it wasn’t some hideous neon. The crocs were, which had to count for...something. Kyungsoo meant to add something to that last statement, but he didn’t have to as Jongin appeared in the hallway, clearly curious as to why somebody was shouting very loudly in a language he didn’t understand. Maybe he’d thought Kyungsoo was being threatened? It probably sounded that way.
“Oh man! He’s from your band? Why didn’t you say so?! He’s the one I liked! Just a sec, I can totally do this…” Hibiki cleared his throat dramatically before holding a hand out to Jongin. Just as Jongin approached, he brought the hand up into a thumbs up. “Hello! English?” He beamed. “I’m Hibiki. Kyungsoo, same musical. Teammate!”
Jongin looked almost adorably confused for a moment. “Kai.” He gestured to himself. Manager would be proud, how well he was keeping up using his stage name. “Kyungsoo’s band.”
“Nice to meet you.” Hibiki held his arm out again, against Jongin’s. “Same.” He then gestured from the top of his head to Jongin’s. “Same.” Finally he turned to Kyungsoo, switching to Japanese with a cheeky upturn of the mouth. “You seem to have a thing going with tall, dark and handsome dudes, huh?” If he noticed Kyungsoo’s cheeks flaming, he didn’t say anything, which Kyungsoo definitely appreciated. “Come on, let’s wrangle you into your yukata. What does it look like? You didn’t tell me! Kai, I help him wear yukata. Okay?”
“Okay.” Jongin followed them back to the living area, where Kyungsoo’s yukata waited for them. He didn’t say much, just quietly watching as Hibiki assisted an increasingly frustrated Kyungsoo into his yukata. Kyungsoo was pretty sure the stupid thing could have been perfectly adequately on his person in about ten minutes, max, but Hibiki was just a sadist who wanted to watch him suffer, instead.
“Yo, ‘Soo, you shoulda said he was basically my size. I could have brought a spare yukata over. We’re pretty similar, so it would have totally suited him! Don’t make that face, my taste in yukatas is just as amazing as my taste in general clothing.”
“You showed up to rehearsal one day in a solid fluorescent green tracksuit. Forgive me for not fully trusting your taste.”
Hibiki snorted. “Yeah, well, you guys dance around in skinny jeans all day and probably can’t feel your legs on stage ever, so forgive me for disregarding anything you say about workout gear.” He patted Kyungsoo’s shoulders. “I think you’re done, buddy! Looking sharp. Nice choice going with black, by the way - Hinata’s paranoid that somebody else will show up in a purple one and somehow that will end the world as we know it.”
“Hyung…” Jongin mumbled, “what’s happening at this festival exactly? Is it just fireworks?”
Kyungsoo relayed the question to Hibiki, who was in the middle of ‘artfully’ messing up Kyungsoo’s hair.
“Oh, it’s gonna be great. We’ll get to the riverside a while before the show starts so we can get some decent photos, buy festival food, maybe try out some of the games if all the little kids aren’t crowding the stalls! Hey, ‘Soo, do you think Saint Rudolph go to any festivals together? Do you think Akazawa and Kaneda go to any festivals together? Hmmmmmm?”
“Of course they do. That’s what friends do. You know, totally ordinary, regular friends do that kind of thing all the time. I don’t know what on Earth you’re humming about.”
Jongin didn’t speak again until it was time to leave, taking the back of Kyungsoo’s yukata sleeve in hand while he locked the front door. “Don’t leave me behind, hyung.”
“I won’t. I’d be a bad hyung if I let you get lost.”
“Come on you guys, hurry up! We must go fast!”
“Hibiki! Oh, and Kyungsoo! I didn’t recognise you with the mask on.”
“You guys made it!”
“Oh thank goodness, nobody else wearing purple. You two look gre- oh Hibiki, crocs, really?”
A small group of young men, all wearing colourful yukata, greeted the three of them at the riverbank. They’d arrived in a funny sort of chain - Hibiki practically pulling Kyungsoo along by the wrist while Jongin kept a firm, but gentle hold on Kyungsoo’s arm. By the time they came to a stop in front of the remaining Saint Rudolph members, Jongin had almost completely hidden behind Kyungsoo, watching Kyungsoo’s face closely in what was probably an attempt to gauge the atmosphere of the conversation without understanding a single word of it.
“Hey, sorry we got held up. Hibiki lost a croc.”
“Those things have no merit whatsoever…”
“Excuse you, I don’t see you winning your match in prefecturals.” Hibiki sniffed. “If you’re going to be mean, I can just take my doubles partner and enjoy the festival without you.”
“Not so fast! In doubles, three’s a crowd.” Haru poked out his tongue cheerfully, ignoring Hibiki’s protest of three-man doubles worked in the Hyoutei matches. “Who’s this with you?”
“Ah, Jongin, don’t be so shy…” Kyungsoo only realised he’d spoken in Japanese a moment later, when Jongin stared at him looking hopelessly lost. After repeating himself in Korean, he turned back to the group. “This is my friend, Kai. He doesn’t speak Japanese, though.” Tsubasa gasped, looking almost as star-struck as he had that day back in January. “We’re not actually sick, we just uh…”
“Appreciate subtlety. It’s a good quality.” Hinata didn’t exactly bow, but did give a polite nod. “Tell him it’s very nice to meet him.”
“Ohhhh my god.” Tsubasa was flushing almost as red as his yukata in the evening twilight. “Oh my god.”
Kyungsoo turned to Jongin, gesturing to Tsubasa quickly. “He’s a fan of ours. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine, there’s just a little initial shock.”
“Oh my god.”
“Tsubasa, please, you’ll make Kai feel awkward.”
Hibiki clapped Jongin on the back, the latter freezing in panic with likely no idea why he was suddenly under a bro-assault. “He’s immune to awkward. He dealt with me shoving Kyungsoo into a yukata just fine, and ‘Soo was whining like a sad puppy the entire time-”
“-because you were practically trying to bisect me at the waist-”
“-so honestly, I’d say he can take anything tonight throws at him. Now come on, we passed at least three shaved ice stalls and tornado dogs on the way here, and if I don’t eat at least a thousand calories before the night is over I will have to consider this festival a failure. Let’s go!”
It was busy. As the sun slipped down, the lights on the stands, along the riverside glowed brighter, the crowd bustled and chattered and set down plastic sheets and blankets ready to watch the fireworks. Dizzying arrays of food and drink, fried and iced and everything in between, were sold all the way down the street, between stalls of games, hand fans and glowsticks for the kids. Hibiki did, in the end, win a goldfish from one of the game stalls, and he gave it to Sora, who apparently kept fish. Kyungsoo, hoping there would be no photographic evidence of what was eaten that day, bought two tornado dogs, giving one to Jongin, as well as picking up some fried soba noodles and shaved ice for them to share during the fireworks proper. He didn’t want to think about it too hard, and quietly scolded himself as he watched a couple wandering by, sharing crepes. Crepes are the couple food, not shaved ice or fried noodles. Cool yourself. Everything is fine. Nothing will look weird.
Saint Rudolph, and Jongin, eventually gathered on a blanket of their own, thoughtfully provided by Tsubasa. Cameras and phones were immediately produced, and Jongin, via Kyungsoo, offered to take the photos so that everybody in a yukata could be in the shot together.
“Okay…” He handed the last phone back to Kyungsoo to give to its rightful owner. “All taken.”
“Wait! You can’t just miss the pictures! ‘Soo, tell him he has to be in one of the pictures.” Hibiki protested, shaking Kyungsoo’s shoulder.
A long-haired stranger approached them, then, even taller than Hibiki and face obscured by a mask exactly like the ones Jongin and Kyungsoo were wearing. “Hey there, do you want me to take some photos for you, so you can all be together?”
“Jin!” The rest of the group quietened (aside from Jongin, who had been in a confused silence since the man appeared. Hibiki shot up immediately and launched himself at their new company with a hug. “Guys, this is my friend Jin! He’s from the same agency as me. What a coincidence! Would you really be okay taking photos for us?”
Jin nodded, giving a thumbs up since his smile was hidden. “No problem. I’m not keen on photos myself, anyway. Don’t want to ruin everybody’s pictures with my sorry, flu-wracked face.” He laughed then, Hibiki clapping his hands together like a seal.
Kyungsoo decided he liked Jin already, pulling Jongin close to his side for the photos. Anyone who helped this scenario unfold couldn’t be too bad, right?
“‘Soo,” Hibiki hissed later on, nudging Kyungsoo with his elbow. Kyungsoo didn’t turn to face him, too occupied with watching the fireworks and pretending he wasn’t internally freaking out at the proximity of he and Jongin’s hands on the blanket. “Listen, his name isn’t actually Jin, him showing up here isn’t actually a coincidence, and he’s not actually sick. He just can’t take his mask off in public. Kind of in a sensitive situation lately, if you know what I mean.”
Kyungsoo could almost feel his eyebrows leaving his face, they rose so high. “Is this who I think it is?”
“Yeah, probably, you’re a smart cookie. Hey, uh, Jin?” ‘Jin’, who had been seated a little ways in front of Hibiki and Kyungsoo, turned around, tilting his head a little questioningly. “This is my doubles partner, ‘Soo.”
“Yes, yes, I know who he is. You’re the one he told, then?” Kyungsoo could tell that Jin was smiling just by his eyes. “I feel better now, that someone who knows just how vital industry secrecy can be is the one who’s in on my secret. Ah, but it’s not really a secret, is it? Not now the whole country’s talking about it. The only secret I have left is Hibiki, here.”
“I won’t tell anyone.” Kyungsoo replied quickly. Maybe too quickly. He was still a little on edge about the hand thing. “Not even Jo- Kai. He doesn’t speak Japanese, so he can’t listen in or anything.”
He chuckled. “You can tell him, if you like. He’ll understand too, I’m sure.” Kyungsoo chanced a glance over at Jongin, who was quietly watching the fireworks with such...childlike wonder on his face, it made Kyungsoo want to do something that would get him in a lot of trouble. Trouble that Jin was currently in the middle of. It didn’t sound too appealing, put that way. “You’re a lucky one, being matched up with him. Hibiki, I mean. You can take it from someone who’s been in this business even longer than you have...he’s a good egg. You could do anything short of murder and he’d support you through it.”
Kyungsoo looked over at his other side. Hibiki’s eyes, too, were suddenly trained on the fireworks, but a telltale flush across his face and the obvious attempt at hiding a smile showed where his attention really was. “I like to think I could do the same for him, if anything came up.”
“You’re a good kid. Keep your friends close, and ignore that shit about enemies, you don’t need that in your life. Surround yourself with the ones who matter.” Jin patted Kyungsoo’s ankle, since it was closest, then nudged Hibiki. “Hey, Hibi, I’m going to grab some more shaved ice - I’ll pick you up a banana one, since you were saying you wished you’d tried that.”
And then he was gone.
“Lovely.” Hinata sighed as a large, cat-shaped firework burst in the sky above them, dazzling orange. “I love fireworks. They’re so romantic, don’t you think?”
In the laughter that followed, Kyungsoo allowed himself to look at Jongin again, everything tinged a soft pink as a heart shape exploded in the air. Jongin didn’t have anything to say, he wouldn’t have even heard Hinata’s question, but the way the light shone in those brown eyes, almost black in the nighttime, answered it for Kyungsoo. He kind of wanted the fireworks to never end. He also kind of wanted them to be over already so he could have Jongin to himself again.
It was almost midnight when the two of them collapsed onto the futons on Kyungsoo’s apartment floor, Kyungsoo wriggling out of his yukata as quickly as he could without damaging it and Jongin kicking off his jeans at some point on the way. It had been the same sleeping arrangement all week, with an extra futon right next to Kyungsoo’s usual one. He had excused it by insisting it was to maximise floorspace in the apartment, but Jongin probably knew that was a terrible lie. Or not. Jongin was very trusting.
“I don’t wanna go back to Korea tomorrow.” The younger sighed later, when the lights were out. Kyungsoo rolled over to face him, still able to see Jongin perfectly clearly with how the moonlight shone through the blinds.
“Everything okay?” He chanced. “Something wrong back in Korea?”
“Nah, things are fine there. I’m more worried about here.” Jongin retreated under his blanket, even though it was almost certainly too hot to be under that thing even in the middle of the night. Kyungsoo didn’t want to push it. He was willing to wait.
It took a little while of waiting before Jongin finally spoke up again. “Things are good here. Too good. You probably won’t want to come back once your musical is over. What if you don’t come back? I’d die.”
He couldn’t help but laugh a little, but when Jongin didn’t join in, Kyungsoo realised he’d been serious. “Jongin...of course I’ll be back.”
“Maybe because the contract says you have to.” It was muffled by the blanket. “But your heart won’t be in it...you were so comfortable with your team today. Talking in Japanese, hanging out with them, doing Japanese stuff. It makes me...kinda worry about losing you.”
The odd late cicada chirped outside the window.
“...Jongin. I’m going to hug you now. You’re not going to lose me, not now, and not ever. Now get out from under that blanket because I’m going to hug you and it would probably keep you cool if you got out of that thing.”
Jongin didn’t protest as Kyungsoo shuffled closer, slipping his arms around the younger and doing his best to keep them steady. This is totally not weird. He told himself firmly, distracting himself as Jongin held him close. Not weird at all.
It was quiet, as Kyungsoo’s apparent lack of immediate neighbours meant all he could hear was Jongin’s soft breathing, steady and relaxed and punctuated by gentle heartbeats. He closed his eyes with a little sigh.
“I don’t want to lose you, hyung.” A whisper.
“You won’t.” And Jongin held him closer, his words muffled against Jongin’s shirt.
“I just...it’s like you belong here, with all your friends and your new fans, all connected by your favourite thing...and then there’s just me. At the side.”
Jongin ran his fingers gently through Kyungsoo’s hair and it was all he could do to not shake and not die. “Only because of the language barrier - everyone was excited to meet you, Tsubasa looked like he was going to cry, even. You belong here too, Jonginnie. You’re loved here too.” You belong with me was left unsaid.
Jongin didn’t answer, looking away from Kyungsoo and instead focusing on something, maybe nothing, in the darkness down the hallway.
“Jongin…” Kyungsoo began, pulling a little bit on Jongin’s shirt. “Hey, you know I worry when you go all quiet like that. You’re going tomorrow, and I want to see you smile again.” Jongin remained silent. “Don’t make me take drastic measures.”
Before Jongin could say anything else, Kyungsoo began his attack, slipping his hand under the hem of Jongin’s shirt to squeeze his side. Jongin yelped immediately, squirming away, and Kyungsoo grinned as he followed, wiggling his fingers farther up Jongin’s torso, to the side of his ribs and under his arms, and Jongin started snorting and giggling.
“Soo!” he protested, snickering, but there was no bite to it; he hunched up, away from Kyungsoo’s hands, but made no move to retaliate. “Stop, aaaaaah!”
“No more moping,” Kyungsoo told him, trying to bite back his own smile.
“I’m not!” Jongin cried, but it quickly dissolved into whining laughter, batting at Kyungsoo’s hands ineffectually as he twitched and wiggled.
Kyungsoo laughed as well, unable to help himself, reaching up to tickle under Jongin’s chin. The younger made a croaking ack! sound, and Kyungsoo grinned, looking down at him as Jongin looked up. His smile was bright even in the semi-darkness of Kyungsoo’s room, his hair mussed above shining eyes. Kyungsoo’s chest felt like it was exploding, and his hands faltered.
“Hyung!” Jongin whined, still smiling, and flailed his arm hard enough to knock out the one Kyungsoo was using to prop himself up. He toppled, half on top of Jongin, who instantly used this new advantage to push him over onto his back, shoving warm hands under Kyungsoo’s arms to retaliate.
But then he froze.
The only sound in the room at that moment was the call of cicadas outside, and Kyungsoo’s heart pounding in his ears. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Jongin’s face, then, illuminated by the moonlight and honestly, absolutely stunning. God, Kyungsoo had missed this. He’d somehow missed something he’d never had before, and he’d missed it badly.
Jongin’s arms shook just a little at his sides, the younger not taking his eyes off Kyungsoo, either. The silence was deafening, the sudden tension closing in on them like a rubber band, seemingly pulling them closer to each other. Jongin’s forehead pressed against Kyungsoo’s and he was pretty sure his heart had exploded in his chest, leaving only remnants of Kyungsoo’s embarrassing feelings in its wake.
Time seemed to stop around them the moment their lips touched.
Oh my god. Kyungsoo wasn’t sure if this was really happening or if he’d fallen asleep at some point and having one of those really realistic dreams again. Those usually took place at home in Korea, though...was it really happening? Really? Oh my god.
Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around Jongin to pull him close, his eyes slipping closed as he willed himself to relax. It was soft, almost chaste, but the painful silence and total secrecy of it all, in Kyungsoo’s apartment with nobody to catch them, it added a forbidden element that did nothing to help save raising Kyungsoo’s temperature several degrees. A shaky hand came to rest on Kyungsoo’s cheek, Jongin supporting himself with the other, thumb brushing over Kyungsoo’s cheekbones when they briefly separated.
Without words, Jongin leaned in to connect their lips again. Maybe this isn’t a dream. Maybe I’ve just flat out died.
When they parted again, Jongin pulled back with a soft gasp.
Oh my god.
What did they just do?!
Jongin was staring at him again, eyes wide in what was almost definitely fear. Kyungsoo knew it had to be, because he knew that the very same thing was showing in his own eyes, large and panicked. God, he’d always imagined this happening, but he never imagined what would happen next. His heart missed a beat, more, as though it had stopped right there. Maybe he was dead. He would be if anybody found out.
“I-I’m sorry.” Jongin stuttered, unsure of where to look. He was biting his lip again, which only drew Kyungsoo’s attention to it. Oh no. He wanted to kiss him again. He couldn’t. “I didn’t- I- D-don’t hate me, please.”
“I won’t.” Kyungsoo found himself reaching out, taking Jongin’s arm. “I...maybe we should get some sleep.”
“Okay.” Jongin closed his eyes a moment, breathing deeply. “Okay.” he moved back to his own futon, pulling the blanket over himself almost defensively. Kyungsoo took his hand again.
“I really, really don’t hate you.” he forced a smile. “I couldn’t. Not ever. I won’t hate you, and you won’t lose me.”
They stayed in their own beds that night, but kept their backs pressed together as they drifted uneasily into sleep. As he began to doze off, Kyungsoo put a hand behind himself, reaching out to take Jongin’s hand in his own.
He held tight, only loosening as he too fell into slumber.