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Ten stretches out in the grass, peeling his sweaty flip flops off his feet and chucking them a few feet away. He settles back into a more comfortable position, pulling his hat down to completely shield his face from the mid-August sun. He is so used to the incessant whine of cicadas from the nearby woods that the insects are no more than white noise to his ears. He is sure he hears someone calling him, but the heat and humidity have drained the strength from his muscles and the rationality from his brain.

 

“Ten!” Ugh. Someone is definitely calling him. He rolls over onto his side and peers out from under his hat, squinting to try to find the source of the shouting. His eyes are a bit blurry in the strong light, but he can see a figure standing several yards away, hands firmly on hips. Ten groans internally.

 

He rises leisurely from his spot on the grass, taking his time to find his sunglasses and perching them on his nose, just low enough for him to peer judgmentally over them at the speaker in front of him.

 

“Don’t give me that look, you know why I’m bothering you,” Kun says, glaring down from his spot on the back porch.

 

“What look?” Ten drawls, sliding his glasses even lower down his nose and raising his eyebrows.

 

Kun just rolls his eyes. “Just get inside and help.” Kun probably intends to slam the screen door pointedly behind him, but it gets jammed midway and he wiggles it a few times before it fully slides shut.

 

Ten sighs. Of course, he knows why Kun is bothering him (although, when is he not bothering him), but he was rather enjoying his daily mid-afternoon catnap.

 

He gathers up his belongings – discarded flip-flops, a half-empty glass of lemonade and a trashy romance novel he stole from a bed and breakfast – and huffs into the house.

 

The house is easily the nicest place Ten has ever lived. It is some style of a pre-war townhouse, with a secluded backyard connected to the adjacent woods. The house is painted a shade of yellow that was probably bright at some point, but is now somewhat dull, albeit clean. There is even a front and back porch, which Kun had decorated with antique rocking chairs and flowerpots. Inside, there are four bedrooms spaced between three floors, with Kun’s bedroom on the ground floor just past the foyer, and the rest upstairs. Ten’s bedroom faces the backyard from the top floor, and he even has a private bathroom complete with an ancient claw-foot tub.

 

The other two bedrooms sit empty, at least for now. Kun has been in the process of scouting new housemates, which is why he had been hounding Ten all day to help with preparations. Ten only tried to explain to him once that recent college graduates don’t need to be impressed with the house, the landlord, or even the other roommates – just with the rent. This prompted a twenty-minute rant from Kun, which Ten had (mostly successfully) blocked out by popping in his earbuds and lying fully prone on the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, this had not deterred Kun from finishing his speech.

 

Kun – who is the landlord in addition to being Ten’s housemate – had been cleaning like a madman all week for the new tenant, setting out fresh flowers and attempting to enlist Ten’s help in clearing the junk from the various unused rooms in the house. Today, Ten was supposed to have been wiping down the windows, which stretch almost from floor to ceiling and are set with faded stained-glass panels at the top. He had taken one look at the several bottles of cleaning fluid and rags Kun had kindly set out for him, then walked back up to his room, grabbed his sunglasses and book, walked back down into the kitchen, poured himself a glass of lemonade, checked himself out in the reflection of the microwave, stomped out into the backyard, and flopped down in the mercifully Kun-free lawn.

 

Ten doesn’t dislike Kun. He actually has quite a fondness for the older man, which he would rather die before admitting – Kun just cares so much, it is impossible to really hold anything against him – but his undying cheeriness goes against Ten’s whole vibe. Ten always helps him, eventually; he just prefers to complain and waffle for a few hours before caving under Kun’s earnest implorations.

 

Ten rinses out his glass and strolls out of the kitchen. Walking past the foyer, he hears a car starting, and looks out of the front window in time to see Kun peeling out of the driveway in his sedan and careening down the street, trailed by a puff of black smoke. For someone normally so rule bound, Kun is a maniacal driver.

 

His phone dings in his back pocket, and he pulls it out – a text from Kun.

 

 

Going to hardware store to buy more garbage bags and new power saw

Want 2 see sparkly windows when I get back! <3333

p.s. I’m not texting and driving I’m at a stop sign lol you thought

 

Ten doesn’t even want to guess what Kun is doing that involves a power saw and garbage bags, but he hopes it is less sinister than it sounds.

 

Although his legs still feel wobbly from the heat, Ten makes it upstairs to his bedroom. The difference in temperature between the first and third floors is immediately noticeable, and it makes him lightheaded. He throws open the back window and turns on the ceiling fan, hoping the room will cool down by the time he comes back for his early evening nap in a few hours. He changes into his painting shorts –  a pair of denim cut-offs covered in multicolored acrylic splatters – and a tank top, grabs his earbuds, and makes his way to the porch.

 

The cleaning supplies are just where Kun had left them this morning. Ten picks up a bottle of brightly colored fluid, squinting suspiciously at the label. He gets to work spraying and wiping, trying his best not to breathe in any chemicals. It is bad enough that his ex-boyfriend used to smoke around him all the time, and Ten doesn’t want any more reason to be worried about the state of his lungs.

 

Although the porch is mercifully protected from the sun by an overhang, the heat of the day is unavoidable. The humid air sits heavy in every corner, even in the shade. There is no breeze, and the buzzing of cicadas only seems to amplify the oppressive summer feeling. Ten’s floppy blonde hair sticks to the back of his neck and he uses a clean rag to mop up the sweat.

 

He manages to wipe down the bottom halves of all the windows in the front of the house, and now looks dubiously at the top halves of the windows, with the stained-glass panels set nearly two feet above where Ten’s short arms can reach. He bops around for a bit, dancing to the music blasting in his earbuds, as he considers what to do next. His eyes catch on Kun’s rocking chairs and he drags one over to the window he was just cleaning at the far end of the porch. He picks up one bare foot and rests it on the seat, leaning forward to test his weight.

 

It rocks – no surprise there – but not as much as Ten had expected, and it seems relatively sturdy. He grips the arms and clambers all the way on, leaning down to grab his bottle of spray and the grimy rag. The chair wobbles a bit as he stands all the way up, but now he can reach the tops of the windows. Begrudgingly, he realizes that Kun was right to ask him to clean. The tops of the windows are caked with a layer of dirt so thick it was probably blocking a huge portion of light from getting inside. He’s not sure how he never noticed it.  

 

He spends a good fifteen minutes scrubbing furiously at the dirt, which seems to have been fused with the glass. Maybe this is what Kun’s power saw was for.

 

This hopeless endeavor drains him of any energy he has left. He turns around to climb off the chair, then suddenly startles backwards in surprise, heart jumping into his mouth.

 

Standing on the front steps of the porch, duffel bag slung casually over one shoulder, is a man. A tall, handsome man, gaze flicking worriedly between Ten and the rocking chair beneath him.

 

Ten loses his balance on the chair as his back hits the window. His feet swing wildly, and his earbuds dislodge and tangle in one of the arms of the chair, causing him to fall with a loud smack on the hardwood porch, straight onto his butt. A bolt of pain shoots up from his tailbone, and he scrunches up his face, letting out a loud wince and an even louder curse.

 

The other man immediately drops his duffel bag and rushes over to Ten.

 

“Hey, man, are you okay?” The man asks, right hand hovering hesitantly above Ten’s shoulder. “That sounded pretty painful.” Ten un-scrunches his eyes to glare into the tall man’s face, hands clenched around his bottom. Luckily, the pain is quickly fading, but Ten is so embarrassed that he shoots back,

 

“Well, maybe if you didn’t sneak up on me like that, I wouldn’t have fallen! What were you doing, just waiting for it to happen? Staring at me like a creep?”

 

The other man just looks confused, eyes searching Ten’s face.

 

“I just … what do you mean, staring? I just got here.” He nods over his shoulder at the driveway, and now Ten sees a shiny black pick-up parked where Kun’s sedan had been. The truck bed is piled high with cardboard boxes, and a large mattress is lashed to the cab. His music must have covered the sound of the car pulling in. “Are you Kun? He said he has my keys. I’m the new housemate, Johnny.”

 

Ten smacks himself internally.

 

“But … it’s Friday,” he sputters. “You’re not supposed to be here until tomorrow!” All Kun had told him two days earlier was that the new tenant was moving in on Saturday and that Ten should be on his best behavior. Ten hadn’t cared enough at the time to inquire further, but now he desperately wishes that Kun had at least given him the man’s name so Ten have could social media-stalked the hell out of him.

 

The other man – Johnny, apparently – laughs sheepishly, scratching the back of his head with a large hand. “So, I’m guessing you’re not Kun, then?” He laughs again at the revolted look on Ten’s face. “Yeah, I asked Kun if I could come a day early, and he said it was fine. I guess he didn’t tell you.”

 

He certainly did not. Ten’s going to kill that smiley bastard.

 

Instead, he gives Johnny his most charming smile. Johnny is even more handsome up close, with an angular face, light eyes, and full lips. His dark brown hair is styled like he’s some ‘90s heartthrob, parted down the middle and cut just above the ears.

 

Johnny rises out of his squat, offering Ten his hand as he gets up. Ten ignores this gesture, instead leaning on the cursed chair to pull himself upright. He hobbles dramatically over to the front door, then stops and gives Johnny a pointed look.

 

“It’s unlocked.”

 

Johnny takes the hint, striding forward quickly to hold the door open for Ten, whom he follows into the kitchen. Ten sinks into a wooden chair, face pulling into a grimace. Johnny looks at him, concerned, then glances around the airy room. “Can I get you something? Like an icepack?”

 

“Freezer,” Ten grits out, quickly smoothing down his hair and wiping off his sweat as soon as Johnny turns to the fridge to fish around for the icepack. The best Johnny can find is a bag of frozen peas, which he wraps in a paper towel and hands to Ten. Ten presses the bag into his hip; although he is not in pain anymore, the cold vegetables feel incredible in the summer heat.

 

Johnny leans back against the fridge, hands placed casually in his pockets. He looks around the kitchen appraisingly, peering out the screen door to the backyard and the woods beyond. Ten pretends to focus on his icepack while his eyes flit over Johnny’s long frame and wide shoulders. He is wearing a fitted white t-shirt and basketball shorts. Although the get-up is casual and athletic, he somehow looks fashionable.   

 

Johnny, finished his scan of the room, turns back to Ten.

 

“You never told me your name.” He grins, taking his hands out of his pockets and crossing them over his chest, his muscular biceps and forearms now on full display.

 

“It’s Ten.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Ten.”

 

“Likewise.”

 

They share silent eye contact for a few moments before Johnny reaches into his shorts pocket and pulls out his phone. He glances at the screen and frowns almost imperceptibly before clearing his throat and scratching the back of his head again.

 

“All good?” Ten asks, switching the frozen peas to his other hip.

 

“Me? Oh yeah, great. Excited to be moving in.” He looks past Ten into the hallway beyond the kitchen and brushes some invisible dirt off his shorts. “Care to give me the grand tour?”

 

Ten raises an eyebrow. “How do you even know I live here? I could be the groundskeeper or something.”

 

Johnny snorts at this. “Groundskeeper? What is this, Hogwarts?” Ten scowls, and when Johnny just returns his scowl with a grin, Ten rolls his eyes.

 

“Okay, fine. But only because you asked nicely and I’m in a good mood today.” The corner of Johnny’s mouth twitches. Ten gets up off the chair, now tired of the damsel in distress act. He tosses the peas back into the freezer and strides to the kitchen door, turning back and waiting expectantly for Johnny. If Johnny is thrown off by this miraculous recovery, he doesn’t comment, instead following Ten out of the kitchen.

 

Ten shows Johnny around the house, pointing out fascinating landmarks like the row of loose nails next to the TV and the antique portraits of Kun’s family that line the stairwell. They make their way up to the second floor and Johnny peeks into the rooms here. There is only one bedroom on this floor, which is stuffed so full of old furniture that they can barely open the door. The house has been in Kun’s family for over three generations and now acts as a de facto storage facility for the Qian family relics.

 

Ten walks Johnny up to the third floor and points to the room at the end of the hall. “That’s you. My room is down at the other end. And your bathroom’s out here, in the hallway.”

 

Johnny walks into the bedroom, turning on the light and glancing around. The room is spacious and clean, if a little sparse on furniture, with a picture window looking out onto the large oak tree that sits next to the house. Ten is a bit jealous; he probably would have taken this room for himself, had it not been filled with junk when he had moved in two years ago. “Sick,” Johnny says, scanning the room. “It actually looks just like the pictures. I’m a bit surprised, honestly.”

 

Ten hums. “Well, Kun is honest, if nothing else.”

 

                                                       


 

Ten offers to help Johnny move his belongings inside. He regrets it as soon as Johnny unties the mattress from his truck and lets it slip into Ten’s waiting noodle arms. Johnny does most of the heavy lifting, but they are both soaked with sweat by the time they manage to jam the mattress through the door and schlep it up to the third floor. Ten gives a silent apology to Kun’s lovely grandparents, whose portrait they knock off the wall on the way up.

 

When they return downstairs, Kun has just pulled in, and he is nearly vibrating with excitement as he hops out of his car to greet Johnny, alarmingly huge power saw in tow. The three of them carry the boxes and furniture from Johnny’s truck inside in several trips, helping him unpack and settle in upstairs. Ten keeps trying to catch Kun’s eye with a meaningful tilt of the head, but Kun is in full host-slash-cool-landlord mode and pays Ten no mind the rest of the afternoon. When Kun and Johnny move to the coffee table in the living room to sort out some finances, Ten slinks upstairs for a quick shower to clear his head.

             

                                                       


 

As evening falls, the humidity settles deep and heavy, and soon the sky clouds over and a steady rain begins to fall. The three of them settle into the kitchen. Kun only leaves on the light above the sink, leaving them shrouded in the dusky blue light, listening to the rain falling in sheets from the gutter onto the porch. The mugginess from the day is persistent, making Ten’s shirt stick to his back and sweat pool at his upper lip. He rolls up his shirt and knots it just under his rib cage, exposing his long, pale stomach. He sneaks a glance across the table at Johnny, who is absorbed in his phone. His eyelashes cast long shadows in its soft white light.

 

Ten’s stomach growls loudly; he realizes he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. The heat usually kills his appetite, but he is suddenly ravenous. Kun looks up from his seat on the floor under the window and laughs at the sudden noise. Johnny looks up from his phone at Ten, chuckling from across the table.

 

“Should I go get pizza?” Kun asks, still smiling.

 

“You’re an angel, baby,” Ten sighs at the same time Johnny says, “hell yes.”

 

So Kun grabs an umbrella from the vase in the foyer and runs out to his car. Ten and Johnny are left alone in the darkening kitchen. Johnny’s phone sits on the table and buzzes occasionally, but he ignores it now, instead staring out the rain-slicked window at the disappearing form of Kun’s red sedan.

 

Ten breaks the silence. “We have beer. Do you want one?”

 

Johnny turns to him and nods, grinning appreciatively. Ten gets up and grabs two cold bottles from the fridge, then makes his way to the screen door and slides it open with a bare foot. He nods over his shoulder, indicating to the back porch. Johnny hops up, sliding his phone in his pocket, and follows him outside.

 

Even though the rain is louder out here, the sound magnified by the trees in the nearby woods, the air is cooler and fresher than it was inside. They sink side-by-side into the porch swing; Johnny’s feet reach the floor with room to spare, while Ten’s hover a few inches above. He feels a little silly like that, so he crosses his legs instead. This position causes his left knee to press up against Johnny’s right thigh.

 

Johnny gestures to Ten’s hands, and Ten hands him a beer. Johnny keeps his hand out, and Ten hands him the other one. Johnny pulls a coin from his shorts pocket and uses it to easily pop the caps off both bottles. He hands the second bottle back, and they clink them with a murmured “cheers.”

 

Johnny takes a long swig from his beer, tilting back his head. Ten watches out of the corner of his eye, noting his long, muscular neck and the way his Adam’s apple bobs deeply as he swallows.

 

Why did Kun have to find such an attractive tenant? Ten has enough boy problems as it is; he doesn’t need another one sharing a roof with him. If the phrase “boy problems” had a face, it would definitely look like Johnny’s. To make matters worse, Johnny had pulled on a baseball hat before joining them in the kitchen, and Ten doesn’t trust himself around cute boys in baseball caps.

 

Ten takes a sip himself, savoring the bittersweet, bubbly liquid that cools his throat. The condensation from the bottle pools in his hand, and without thinking, he wipes it on Johnny’s shorts.

 

Johnny snorts at this, playfully shoving Ten’s hand away. “Hey! If you wanted a napkin you could’ve asked, I would have gotten you one.”

 

Ten just bats his eyelashes. “No, it’s okay. You’re much more convenient.”

 

“That’s no way to treat your new roommate,” he retorts.

 

“Oh?” Ten raises an eyebrow. “How should I treat you, then?”

 

Johnny has no reply to this, just twists his lips into an expression that sets Ten’s ears on fire.

 

The moment is interrupted by an incessant buzzing in Johnny’s pocket. Johnny lets out an exasperated sigh, pulling out his phone and looking at the screen.

 

“Sorry, I really should take this. It’ll just be a minute.” He gets off the swing, walking back into the kitchen and flicking on the light. He peeks his head back out, phone held against his shoulder, whispering loudly at Ten, “don’t go anywhere.” Ten sticks out his tongue, then sighs as he stretches his legs out along the bench. It’s none of his business, but he can’t help but strain his ears towards the conversation inside. But the thrum of rain is too loud, so he settles back into the damp wood of the bench, sipping his beer and slapping the mosquitoes that land on his exposed thighs.

 

Johnny is gone for longer than one minute. Not that Ten is counting, but it is probably closer to fifteen. By the time Johnny comes back out, night has fully fallen. Johnny flops back onto the bench, setting it swinging, and Ten grips the armrest to keep himself from getting shaken off.

 

Johnny pinches the bridge of his nose and blows out loudly through his mouth.

 

“God. Sorry about that.” He grabs his beer (which is surely warm by now) off the porch railing and downs it in one go, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Just my ex. I left some furniture and other stuff at her house when we broke up, and she keeps hounding me about it.” A blank look from Ten prompts Johnny to continue. “I just moved out a few days ago. That’s why I came here. I’m trying to give her space right now, so I don’t want to go back and get anything. I actually left her some of the stuff on purpose as a nice gesture, but I guess she took it the wrong way. I’m not mad at her for bothering me about it, and I know it’s a big change, it’s just frustrating for me to deal with right now.”

 

Ten doesn’t know why Johnny is suddenly sharing all this with him, but he usually prefers to stay out of other people’s relationship drama, so he doesn’t say anything. He gets the feeling that Johnny just wants to vent, anyway, so he lets him.

 

Over the crickets and rain, Ten hears the familiar rumbling of Kun’s old sedan pulling into the driveway. They both stand, and Johnny grabs the empty bottles, following Ten back inside.

 

The three of them enjoy the pizza (half pepperoni for Johnny, half mushroom and spinach for Kun and Ten) and a few more beers while sitting on the sagging couch in the living room, watching reality TV reruns.

 

                                                       


 

Johnny heads upstairs early, and Ten can tell how tired he is by the way his eyes keep glazing over mid-bite.

 

Once Johnny is safely out of earshot, Ten smacks Kun on the arm.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me he was hot, you asshole!” he whines. “I looked like such a mess when he got here.” Kun gingerly rubs his arm.

 

“Gee, sorry Ten. I didn’t realize you were the landlord too! I forgot I have to run all decisions by you first,” he deadpans. Sarcasm is so not a good look for him, and Ten threatens him with a pinch for his insolence. Kun jerks away from Ten instinctually. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry, but it was such short notice. He just signed on Wednesday, and I didn’t have time to fill you in. Chill!”

 

“Oh, I’m chill. So chill. I invented chill,” Ten hisses, sinking deeper onto his back so only his head is propped up by the cushions on the couch, lower body slumping onto the floor. For any normal person this would be very uncomfortable, but Ten’s body is practically made of rubber, so it is actually quite relaxing. “He’s probably straight, anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

 


 

Later that night, Ten lays in bed with the window and bedroom door open, and the cross breeze is mercifully cool on his bare stomach. He hears the shower shut off and listens to Johnny moving around between the bathroom and his bedroom, presumably getting ready for bed. He watches the shadows cast by Johnny’s tall form on the hallway opposite his room, trying to ignore the pounding in his chest.

                                                         


 

The next morning, Ten wanders into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes and pulling up the hood of his sweatshirt to cover his bedhead. Kun is sitting cross-legged at the kitchen table, working on his laptop while nursing a steaming cup of tea. Ten sits across from him, grabbing the mug and taking a grateful sip. Kun looks up from his computer, gives Ten a disappointed look, then returns to his work. 

 

“Morning,” Ten yawns, voice scratchy from sleep. “Where’s Johnny?” Kun nods over in the direction of the backyard, and Ten swivels in his chair to peer through the screen. He almost loses his mind right then and there. 

 

Johnny is standing in the backyard fully shirtless, with a headband pushing his silky hair off his face. As he bends down to pick up a large dumbbell from the grass, his tanned, sweat-slicked muscles strain and reflect the bright morning sunlight. 

 

After a few breathless moments, Ten whips around to glare at Kun. “Excuse me, but what is he doing. Like, is that even allowed?” He pulls on the drawstrings of his hoodie until only his nose is visible. “It’s not even 9 am and I’m already dead.” 

 

“Stop being so dramatic,” Kun responds, but he is smiling into his laptop screen. “I made coffee earlier, why don’t you bring him a cup? I don’t think he’s had anything since he woke up.” 

 

Ten just huffs, sending furtive glances out back. He accidentally catches Johnny’s eye mid-bicep curl, and Johnny lifts his free hand in a wave, flashing a wide smile before returning to his satanic activities. Kun just smirks, and Ten blows in his face for good measure. 

 

He gets up and walks to the coffee maker, pouring two lukewarm cups and carrying them outside. The rain must have let up sometime late last night because the air is fresh and cool, with no trace of the stifling humidity from the day before. 

 

Johnny carefully drops his weights when he sees Ten and jogs over the back steps to take the mug from his outstretched hand. 

 

“Awesome, thanks!” He pants, slightly out of breath. Not trusting himself not to say anything snarky, Ten just hums instead, placing his mug on the porch and sitting on the top step. Johnny folds down next to him and they sit in comfortable silence over sips of warm black coffee, listening to the cacophony of birds and cicadas coming from the nearby woods.

 

Johnny slips off his headband and ruffles his hair. His skin is flushed from the sun and he smells musky yet sweet, a heady mixture of sweat and grass and Old Spice. His body radiates heat, and Ten fights the sudden urge to crawl into his lap and curl up like a cat. 

 

“What are you up to today?” 

 

Ten tilts his head. “Me?”

 

Johnny snorts. “Yes, you. Got any plans?” He gets up off the step and settles into the grass below, laying back and bending his knees. 

 

“That depends.”

 

“Great. Want to help me, then?”

 

“With what?”

 

He cranes his neck up at Ten. “Well, to start, you can help me with crunches. I need a spotter to hold down my ankles.” He wiggles his feet, clad in bright white sneakers. “And I need to pick up the rest of my things from my old place later, and it’d be easier with a friend.” At this, Ten raises his eyebrows. 

 

“What about your girlfriend?”

 

Johnny stretches out a knee and rubs his shin. “Ex-girlfriend. She decided to visit her parents this weekend so it’s safe to go. I’m tight with her roommate, he can let us in.” 

 

Ten considers this. He had been planning to work on his painting today, and maybe drop into the gym later to pick up an extra shift at the check-in desk. But the prospect of spending the day with Johnny is too good to pass up, especially when Johnny is stretched out in front of him like an Adonis in nylon running shorts.  

 

“Hmm... alright. But what’s in it for me?”

 

“I’ll buy you breakfast on the way.” Ten remains stoic. “Okay... and I’ll let you snoop around my ex’s room.”

 

Ten agrees to this immediately. “Deal.”

 

“Sick. Now what about those crunches?”

 


 

Johnny’s truck is cleaner than Ten had anticipated. Not that Johnny seems like a slob, by any means, but most of the pick-ups that Ten has been in have usually been littered with fast food wrappers, decades-old atlases, and other miscellaneous junk. Instead, Johnny’s truck is nearly spotless and smells like pine. 

 

And, Ten has to admit, Johnny looks great in the driver’s seat. One hand guides the wheel, with his other elbow slung casually out of the open window, the wind whipping through his heartthrob hair. Ten half watches the road ahead and half watches Johnny, who only catches him staring twice. 

 

They drive into town, pulling into a small parking lot behind the main commercial street. Johnny leaves on the radio for Ten, then hops down and begins striding to the coffee shop next to the lot. 

 

“Hey!” Ten shouts after him, and Johnny turns mid-step.

 

“What?”

 

“You never asked me what I wanted!”

 

“Oh, my bad. Just text it to me.”

 

Ten is about to nod, then realizes, “wait, I don’t have your number, though.”

 

“Oh yeah, I guess not.” Johnny jogs back to the car and reaches his hand through the passenger window to where Ten is seated. 

 

Ten looks warily at his hand, then unlocks his phone and places it hesitantly into Johnny’s palm. At the look on his face, Johnny laughs. 

 

“Don’t you trust me?”

 

“No.”

 

Ten’s mind races through every incriminating thing he has ever had on his phone. Johnny continues to laugh as he types in his number, then hands the phone back. Ten cradles it possessively. 

 

“Now that you’re here, I want an iced vanilla latte and a scone.” 

 

Johnny ignores him, heading back to the cafe and whistling off-key. 

 

“Johnny!”

 

Johnny spins, walking backwards into the shop. “Just text it to me, bro!”

 

Jackass. But Ten picks up his phone anyways, heart beating just slightly faster than normal when he sees Johnny’s name in his contact list. 

 


 

Johnny’s old apartment is not far from downtown, so Ten is only a few bites into his scone by the time they roll into the driveway. They linger in the car, not wanting to leave the air-conditioned interior, while Johnny makes the call to his old roommate.

 

“Dude! We’re here, let us in. ” There is too much static for Ten to make out exact words, but the voice on the other end comes through loud and excitable. Johnny hangs up and turns to Ten. “He’ll be back in five minutes. He and his boyfriend are just out on a run.” Ten nods coolly, although his ears prick up at this last bit of information. 

 

Johnny shuts off the engine and rolls down the windows. Although it had been unseasonably cool earlier that morning on the lawn, the August heat has grown steadily as the day progressed. With the AC turned off, the black paint of the truck quickly absorbs the heat and they are left sweating in their seats.

 

Ten unbuckles his seatbelt and stretches his legs onto the dash. He rolls up the cuffs of his white shorts and fans himself with the paper bag that came with his scone. 

 

“Want to get out?” Johnny asks. “It’s kind of an oven in here.”

 

“It’s not so bad,” Ten responds. “At least we’re in the shade. And anyway, I like the heat.” He takes his iced drink from the cup holder and, before he can lose his nerve, places it on the exposed side of Johnny’s neck. “How’s that?”

 

For an imperceptible moment, Johnny pauses. Ten notices that his cheeks and ears are pink (probably from the heat). But he relaxes almost immediately, face slipping into his characteristic grin. “Not bad, Ten, not bad. I should pay you to follow me around all day like this.”

 

“Should I feed you grapes, too, sir?” 

 

Johnny ignores the sarcasm. “Well, that would go without saying.”

 

Ten pulls the drink back to take a sip, causing Johnny to give a mocking whine. A bead of condensation from where the cup had been rolls down the side of his neck, down into the loose neck of his tank top. Ten swallows. 

 

They chat mindlessly while they wait, Ten occasionally stopping to flick drops of condensation at Johnny’s smugly satisfied face. 

 

Finally, Johnny’s eyes catch on something out of the passenger side window. 

 

“They’re back! Took long enough.” He hops out of the truck, and Ten follows. 

 

Two men, equally matched in height, come jogging down the street towards them. One, wearing a sweat-soaked grey t-shirt, has messy, short black hair and a handsome, friendly face. The other, wearing a bright tie-dye tank top that shows off his tan arms, is just as good-looking, with floppy purple hair that almost covers his eyes. When they get to where Johnny and Ten are standing, they come to a stop, panting, and the man with the black hair takes a deep gulp from his water bottle, spilling a little down his front. The purple-haired man glances at Ten.

 

“What’s up! I missed you guys, ” Johnny says, grinning broadly.

 

The black-haired man lets out a ballistic laugh that catches Ten fully off-guard. “Dude, what’s it been, like two days?” They grasp hands and bump shoulders, slapping each other on the back. When Johnny holds his hand out to the purple-haired man, they fist bump, then engage in a strange series of wiggles, hops and spins, which ends with the purple-haired man giving Johnny a very tight, probably very sweaty, bear hug.

 

Johnny, now laughing and slightly damp, turns to Ten and gestures to the other two. “This is my old roommate, Mark, ” he says, pointing to the black-haired man, who grins and gives a little wave. “And this is Donghyuck, his boyfriend.” Donghyuck wiggles his eyebrows and slings his arm over Mark’s broad shoulder. Johnny points his thumb at Ten. “This is Ten, one of the guys who lives in my new place.”

 

Donghyuck pushes his bangs out of his eyes to peer at Ten more closely. “Oooh, so this is Ten! You’re shorter than I thought you’d be.”

 

Huh? Shorter than he thought? But before Ten can wrap his mind around the implications of this statement, Johnny clears his throat and slaps his hand loudly on the metal hood of the truck. “So, are you gonna let us in or not? I probably have heat stroke from how long we were out here waiting for you guys.”

 

Donghyuck, now starting to smirk, grabs Mark’s bottle and chugs the rest of the water. “C’mon, it’s not that hot,” Mark protests good-naturedly, while he fishes around in his pocket for his keys. He frowns slightly, then pulls them out triumphantly, dropping a few coins on the ground in the process.

 

Ten follows them up the stairs to the apartment, which is thankfully only on the second floor. The apartment is clean and air-conditioned, if a bit small, with several cardboard boxes marked with a “J” stacked up in the inner vestibule. Donghyuck peels off his tank top as soon as they get inside, tossing it onto an armchair and loudly announcing that he is headed to the shower. Mark heads into the kitchen to refill his water, while Johnny flops onto the couch like he lives there. Which he did, Ten reminds himself, up until a few days ago.  

 

Ten hovers awkwardly in the vestibule. He is not normally timid in new situations like this, but there is something about being around Johnny’s friends, in a space in which Johnny appears so comfortable, that makes his stomach flip nervously. Looking around the apartment from his place by the door, he spots a pair of high-heeled booties against the wall and a tasseled handbag hanging from the coatrack. Johnny must have just realized that he hadn’t moved from the entrance, because he turns around towards Ten and pats the space on the couch next to him. “Step into my office, Ten.” Ten snorts, then walks over to perch on the couch next to Johnny.

 

“So …” Ten begins, feeling some of his usual confidence returning.

 

“So?” Johnny repeats.

 

“So … you said I could snoop, remember?” Ten says, raising an eyebrow expectantly. Johnny smacks his forehead with an exaggerated grimace.

 

“Damn, I thought you’d have forgotten about that,” he groans. “ … Alright, fine. But no touching. And then you help me move those boxes.”

 

“Yay!” Ten hops off the couch. “I mean, not about the boxes, but still yay.”

 

Johnny leads them down the short hallway. As they pass the bathroom, Ten pauses as he hears a high and surprisingly angelic voice crooning over the sound of the running water. “Is that Donghyuck?” he asks Johnny incredulously. Johnny nods as he pushes open the door at the end of the hall. “Yeah, he sounds good now, but it gets pretty annoying when you hear it every day. Especially since he doesn’t even live here,” Johnny responds, though as he is talking, Ten notices his eyes flicking through the door he has just opened.

 

“Okay, this is my room. My old room,” he corrects himself, indicating through the threshold. Ten shuffles past him, although Johnny remains at the door.

 

The room is small and well-kept, with a queen-size bed taking up most of the space. Ten walks over to sit on the blue floral-patterned comforter, looking around at the decorations and furnishings, all of which seem to have been carefully coordinated in a matching blue and white theme. His eyes catch on a picture frame on the nightstand, so he scoots up the bed to take a closer look, acutely aware of Johnny’s eyes following him. His heart skips a beat when he sees Johnny beaming up at him from the photograph, his arms around a tiny woman easily a foot shorter than him, with a round, very pretty face, and shoulder-length black hair. The woman stands on her tiptoes to press a smiley kiss into Johnny’s cheek. At the bottom of the frame is an inscription: “J & Y, happy 3 years!”

 

Ten is suddenly self-conscious of Johnny’s eyes on him and places the picture back on the nightstand, fumbling it slightly. He feels an overwhelming sense of something – a feeling almost like claustrophobia – wash over him. He climbs quickly off the bed, smoothing down the space left by his body on the perfectly made duvet, hoping that Johnny doesn’t notice the insistent flush creeping up his neck.

 

He looks around the room, placing his hands on his hips in a motion he hopes seems nonchalant. “Alright, I think I get the idea. It’s a pretty boring room, anyway,” he says to the room at large, carefully avoiding looking at Johnny, voice cracking slightly on the last word.

 

“She still has my picture?” Johnny sighs quietly, looking past Ten, finally leaving his post by the doorframe to walk over to the nightstand. He reaches out a hand as if to pick up the picture, then seems to change his mind at the last moment and lets his arm fall back by his side. He sighs again, frowning slightly at the portrait. He doesn’t say anything though, just keeps looking at it as though deep in thought.

 

That feeling of claustrophobia grips Ten again, made worse by Johnny’s strong yet unreadable presence next to him. Heart pounding, Ten becomes suddenly aware of how close they are, bodies nearly touching in the cramped space between the bed and the wall, but Johnny seems far away, somehow.

 

“Hi guys!” They both startle at the loud voice behind them. Mark is standing in the door, now wearing a clean black shirt and glasses, holding up a blender in one hand. “I made a smoothie; do either of you want some?” Grateful for the sudden distraction, Ten makes a beeline for the door.

 

“No thanks, I ate on the way here,” he mumbles, nudging past a confused-looking Mark into the hallway and walking quickly to the living room. Johnny and Mark soon follow him. Mark pours himself and Johnny glasses of the pink smoothie, which they drink while sitting at the small table in the living room, catching up. Ten hovers by the couch, looking distractedly through his phone.

 

Finally, they get around to loading Johnny’s remaining belongings into the car. On their way out of the door for the last time, Donghyuck lets out a high-pitched wail and grabs Johnny from behind, clinging on as though for dear life. “Don’t go, Johnny, don’t leave me alone with Mark, Johnny please,” he whines, causing Johnny to bust out laughing. Mark hits Donghyuck on the arm, but he looks more amused than offended.

 

“It was nice to meet you, man!” Mark says to Ten, over the sounds of Johnny trying to wrestle Donghyuck off his back. Ten likes Mark; he isn’t so sure about Donghyuck, though. “Nice to meet you, too,” he responds, one foot out the door. Johnny and Donghyuck are still involved in a loud power struggle of some kind, so he mutters in their direction, “I’ll just wait outside,” and heads downstairs, out of the building.

 

For some reason, the ride back to the house feels longer than it did on the way there. Johnny has the radio on high, while Ten scrolls through his phone, mindlessly checking his notifications. They don’t talk much on the way back, not until they pull into the driveway next to Kun’s car.

 

“I can carry the boxes inside, so don’t worry about it,” Johnny says. Ten just nods, sending a “’kay” over his shoulder as he jumps out of the truck and walks into the house. Kun tries to catch him on the way up the stairs, but he brushes him off, citing the need for a shower and a nap. He forgoes the shower, though, instead crashing into his bed and trying to ignore the confusing thoughts that tumble around his brain.

 


 

Ten’s room is dark when he comes home from work later that week. Usually Kun leaves on the hallway light for him, but today, the entire upstairs is bathed in blackness. The house must be empty; all he heard when he walked in was the hum of the refrigerator and the peaceful buzzing of crickets from outside.

 

He switches on his desk lamp and throws open the window to guide the breeze in. As he begins to peel off his shirt, he hears a knock from behind him. Heart thudding, he spins around breathlessly.

 

“Jesus, John, you scared the shit out of me!” Ten breathes, clutching at his chest just above his heart. Johnny is leaning against his doorframe, arms crossed, face lit by the gentle, orange glow of the desk lamp.

 

“Sorry.” But Johnny doesn’t look that sorry. He crosses through the dim room, sitting heavy on Ten’s bed. Ten had instinctively clutched his shirt over his chest when he heard the knocking, but now he lets it fall to the floor. He has nothing to hide in front of Johnny. Johnny watches him, eyes black and impenetrable.

 

Ten walks quietly over to sit on the mattress next to him. He scoots back to lean up against the wall, and Johnny moves back to join him.

 

He looks sideways at Johnny. “Is everything, um, okay?”

 

Johnny meets his eyes. “Sure.” But he looks distracted, almost like he is looking right through him. His gaze is so intense, it catches Ten off guard. But what comes out of his mouth next has Ten’s head spinning.

 

“I was thinking about you.”

 

Ten’s mouth is dry. “ … Me? Oh… why?” he whispers hoarsely. Johnny breaks their eye contact, tilting back his head to gaze at the ceiling instead.

 

He pauses, taking a deep breath, then looks back at Ten. “Well, for one, I never thanked you properly for helping me move all my stuff. And for listening to me talk about my problems, even when we just met. Like, I was just ranting without asking you anything about yourself or your thoughts. And for … yeah. ”

 

That’s it? “That’s what’s bothering you? It’s not a big deal, really. We’re roommates, you don’t really owe me much of anything beyond that,” Ten says, voice low, hating how nonchalant he sounds.

 

Johnny frowns slightly. “Well, I think we’re a little more than just roommates, don’t you? I’d say we’re at least friends.” Ten nods. At least friends. At most … what? He cracks a weak smile. “Alright, if you’re so torn up about it, then thank me properly.” Johnny gives a ghost of a smile, a twinkle of something dangerous in his eye. Ten’s heart is beating so loudly that he is sure Johnny must be able to hear it. He feels suddenly exposed and moves to cross his arms over his bare chest. As he does this, Johnny catches hold of his wrist.

 

Ten’s whole body feels hot and his thoughts are a jumbled mess.

 

“Ten,” Johnny breathes, leaning close, breath warm and sweet on his face. Ten tries to organize his thoughts to say something back, but it doesn’t matter because suddenly Johnny is pressing his closed mouth against his. They stay like this for an infinite second, then Ten realizes that Johnny is shaking. He pulls away and looks at Johnny properly. Johnny, who is normally so cool and composed, all smug confidence and broad shoulders and easy smiles, is looking at him with a face so full of … nervousness. And longing.

 

Johnny, eyes widening, searches Ten’s face, and blurts out, “oh god, I’m s - ” but before he can finish his sentence, Ten is grasping the back of Johnny’s neck and pulling their mouths back together. Johnny is so solid against him, and he responds immediately to Ten’s touch. Johnny kisses him back so desperately, pulling at Ten’s lower lip with his teeth and licking into his warm and waiting mouth. Johnny’s lips are wet and soft and Ten can’t get enough. He lets out a low whine, and Johnny murmurs, “shit, Ten,” with a shaky voice, before wrapping his long fingers through Ten’s hair and running his nails along his scalp. Ten shifts his weight onto Johnny’s lap, straddling him and pushing him into the wall, and Johnny slides one hand to grab roughly at Ten’s ass. Ten can barely catch his breath, but he doesn’t care, because Johnny’s hands are on his waist, under the back of his shorts, insistent and strong and maddening.

 

They can’t get close enough. Johnny breaks his mouth away long enough to grab Ten by the hips and flip him onto his back, and then dives back in. He pushes their bodies together into the mattress and Ten is clawing at his back, pulling at the hem of his shirt, desperate to feel skin on his skin. Panting heavily, Johnny tears his own shirt off, throwing it somewhere near the foot of the bed. Johnny feels so good, up against him, all hard muscle and blazing hot skin. He tilts his head down to nuzzle at Ten’s chest and gives a tentative lick to an exposed nipple.

 

In response, Ten whines again, lacing his fingers tightly through Johnny’s hair and wrapping his legs around his waist. “Damn, I guess you really liked that,” Johnny mumbles into his chest, then does it again, this time watching the reaction in Ten’s face with a look of pure, unabashed hunger. He pushes himself back up to Ten’s face and lets Ten licks at him with messy, open-mouthed kisses. Ten moves his mouth lower, biting Johnny’s sharp jaw, then lower again to his neck, sucking and scraping his teeth against his skin. He feels Johnny’s wild heartbeat in his neck under his oversensitive lips, and it nearly drives him mad with want.

 

Johnny shifts so their thighs are slotted together. Ten pushes up his hips to press them even closer, grinding erratically, desperate for friction against the arousal he knows Johnny can feel through the thin fabric of his shorts. Johnny lets out a deep groan into his mouth. Ten, breathing hot and heavy in response, moves his thigh more firmly between Johnny’s legs, and they grapple mindlessly at each other’s bodies, chasing release.

 

 

Afterwards, Ten feels overheated and sticky, slick with both his and Johnny’s sweat on his chest. But Johnny is lying next to him, pressed up against his side in the small bed, running his fingers absently over Ten’s open palm, and any discomfort he feels evaporates into the warm night air. Johnny is still catching his breath, muscular chest rising and falling with a rapid yet steady rhythm. In the moonlight he seems carved of marble, abdominal muscles casting deep shadows on the long stretch of his stomach.

 

“So, you were thinking about me, huh?” Ten asks, giving Johnny a cheeky sideways glance. Johnny looks back at him with dusky eyes and a lazy smile, and his stomach flips with something more than just desire.

 

He tries to ignore it, though; although his heart is skipping in circles, high on that warm, giddy feeling still pulsing through his body, something in his brain nags at him to tread lightly. He has been through something similar many times – mistaking men’s attention for true affection, confusing lust for love. All leading to heartbreak but laughing and pretending like he is unbothered (no, really, it’s fine! Don’t worry about me!), holding in his tears until he can run home and bury his face in his pillow.

 

I was thinking about you. That could mean anything.

 

But Johnny seems different. Johnny is different. He remembers the look on Johnny’s face right before he kissed him. He had seemed so tentative, almost fragile, so unlike his usual self. That is not the face of someone driven purely by physical desire. Or so he hopes.

 

When Ten wakes up in the early hours of the morning, the sky still a dark, silky blue, Johnny is gone from his bed.

 


 

Ten sneaks into Johnny’s room the next night, and the night after, and the night after that. They share secretive glances over breakfast, and once, when Kun gets up from the table to re-heat his tea in the microwave, Johnny slides a wandering hand between Ten’s thighs, watching with lust-filled eyes as Ten’s face goes bright red and his lips part in surprise. By the time Kun returns, mug in hand, Johnny is innocently shoveling eggs into his mouth, while Ten stares into his cereal like he has just discovered the lost city of Atlantis at the bottom of the bowl.

 


 

Ten sits on the floor of his bedroom, paintbrush in hand. He mixes the colors in his palette, regarding his half-finished canvas with disdain. The swirl of blues and purples in front of him, which he had painted one night in a flash of inspiration (or was it intoxication?), now looks dull and childlike. He drops the brushes back into the water, lying back on the hardwood floor with a defeated sigh and a wince. His hips and shoulders are still a bit sore from the previous night when Johnny had pressed him roughly up against the closed door of his bedroom. He stretches out his thighs and hips, massaging his muscles and going slightly pink at the memory.

 

He hears the shower in the hallway bathroom turn on. Johnny has been in his room for the past several hours playing a game online with Donghyuck, and he hadn’t responded to any of Ten’s texts. Ten is sure he hasn’t left his room once all evening, not even to use the bathroom.

 

Ten rolls off the floor and walks into the hallway. He tiptoes silently over to the bathroom door and hesitates for a moment with his hand on the doorknob, heart pounding, before pushing it open and slipping inside.

 

The room is filled with steam and smells like Johnny’s body wash. He can see Johnny’s silhouette, tall and statuesque through the translucent plastic shower curtain, and he feels a tug in his lower abdomen. He slips out of his clothes, letting them fall in a messy pile at his feet. Then, taking a shaky breath, he pulls the curtain back. Johnny whips his head around in surprise as Ten steps into the shower behind him.

 

Ten doesn’t say anything, just snakes his arms around Johnny’s long waist from behind and runs his hands along his muscular stomach. Johnny sighs and leans back into the touch. The heat and steam are making him lightheaded, though his skin prickles in the cold air out of the water. He rubs his forehead into Johnny’s shoulder, letting the water run over his face and into his parted mouth.

 

Johnny places his own hands on Ten’s, guiding them lower. He lets out a deep moan as Ten’s hands grip him where he wants it, Ten biting and sucking at the wet skin of Johnny’s shoulder, dragging his hands over him with slow, firm movements.

 

Ten pushes his body against the back of Johnny’s legs, letting out a needy whine as he slips himself between the gap of Johnny’s soap-slicked thighs. In response, Johnny arches his long back to push into Ten, bracing himself on his forearms against the tiled wall, his low panting almost muffled by the sound of the water.

 

They move together, at first with slow, languid movements, savoring the feeling of each other, then more frantically, Johnny reaching one hand behind him to claw at Ten’s hair. He can feel Johnny start to twitch under his hands, abs tensing. When Ten breathes Johnny’s name into his ear and bites the back of his neck, Johnny lets out a loud, rough groan and pushes into Ten’s grip with erratic thrusts, shuddering from the release. He reflexively squeezes his legs around Ten, sending waves of pleasure through Ten’s body from the sudden increase of pressure.

 

But with his sudden movement, Johnny loses his balance, feet sliding on the soapy floor of the shower.

 

Alarmed, Ten tries to grab at his waist to keep him up. Instead, Johnny just lets himself fall, landing heavy on his knees and turning around to look up at Ten with the steaming water pouring over his face, into his eyes and mouth. He looks magnificent and erotic, with dripping, heavy-lidded eyes and flushed lips. He is almost unrecognizable, like this, if not for that familiar, dangerous glint in his eye. Smirking now, he grips Ten by the hips, fingers pressed into the thick muscle, guiding his body firmly to the tiled wall. When he slips his mouth around him, Ten buckles against the wall, legs shaking and numb with pleasure, but Johnny’s strong grip keeps him upright as he works him over the edge.

 

Ten collapses into Johnny’s kneeling body, grabbing Johnny’s broad shoulders for support. They stay there for a long moment, Ten mouthing at Johnny’s wet skin as Johnny runs his hands up and down his back, fingers tenderly tracing his spine, still tingling and seeing stars.

 


 

 

Ten and Kun lounge side-by-side on the couch in the living room, listening to music from Kun’s phone speaker. Ten flips idly through a magazine while Kun types away at a spreadsheet on his laptop. Kun stirs next to him, and Ten glances up. He is surprised to find Kun staring at him with an unreadable expression.  

 

“What? Is there something on my face?” he asks casually, looking back down at his magazine.

 

“Are you fucking my tenant?”

 

Ten nearly chokes on air. “F – what –  Kun, watch your mouth!” This might be the first time he has ever heard Kun curse.

 

“You are, aren’t you? I’m not oblivious, you know,” Kun sighs, pausing the music. “I don’t care if you are, really, but if you are living under my roof, sleeping with my paying tenant, then you shouldn’t be hiding it from me.” 

 

“We are not fucking!” Ten protests, cheeks burning. Kun just raises his eyebrows with a knowing look. “Really, we’re not! Okay, I mean, we may have hooked up a few times, but we haven’t technically fucked,” Ten concedes, slumping into the couch cushions.

 

Kun sets his laptop on the coffee table, then sits back on the couch, turning to face Ten. “Since when?” he asks.

 

“It’s only been about a month,” Ten mumbles. “Since about the week after he moved in.”

 

“Oh, okay,” Kun responds, then picks up his laptop and resumes his typing. Ten stares at him, mouth open. “That’s it?” he asks Kun, thoroughly confused by the direction of this conversation.

 

Kun glances back at him. “Well, yeah. As I said, it doesn’t bother me, I just wanted to know for sure.”  

 

“Hmph,” Ten responds, glaring suspiciously at Kun, who is now busy keying an algorithm into his spreadsheet. “Like I said, we’re just hooking up.” Kun nods, not looking up. “It’s not like we’re dating or anything.” Another nod. “And even if I wanted to date him, which I don’t, I think his ex-girlfriend is probably still in love with him, and his friends are really annoying, so there’s that.”

 

Kun finally looks up, but Ten doesn’t even notice, instead feeling like the cork that has been plugging up his thoughts has been suddenly pulled out, and he is powerless to try to stop the words from flowing out. “And let’s just say that I did want to date him, for some reason, I don’t even think he likes me like that. Even though he initiated it – I mean, he came into my room and kissed me first, but that could just be because he thinks I’m hot, which I am, and not because he actually has feelings for me. Or maybe it’s just because I’m convenient. Like, he wanted someone to kiss and I happened to be down the hall.” Kun places a gently hand on his shoulder; Ten’s head feels heavy and this mouth feels dry. He tries to continue but finds that his voice catches in his throat.

 

Kun squeezes his shoulder reassuringly. “Have you talked to Johnny about any of this?” he asks quietly.

 

“Of course not,” Ten whispers roughly, dropping his head in his hands, ignoring the prickling in his eyes.  

 

Kun hesitates a moment before saying, “Ten, I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but maybe you should. Talk to him, I mean. Especially if it’s bothering you this much.” Ten groans and buries his face deeper in his hands.

 

He hears Kun sigh gently. “Like I said, Ten, I’m not oblivious. I’ve seen how Johnny looks at you.” Ten can feel his heart beating in his eardrums. “He … look, I’ve known you long enough to know that you would rather push him away – heck, even move to another city – than talk about this kind of thing. But I’ve also known you long enough to see how much pain you put yourself in over people who aren’t worth the energy. I really don’t think Johnny is like any of those people. You’re really yourself around him, you know? As your friend, it’s nice to see. If it were me, I wouldn’t want to lose someone like that.”

 

Ten stares at the floor through his fingers. Kun is right, of course. He is always right.

 

A rectangle of light pans across the floor as an engine suddenly rumbles loud outside. The light disappears, along with the sound of the engine. Ten hears a car door slamming, followed by footsteps on the porch. The lock clicks, and in walks Johnny, dressed in his white button-up and slacks from work. He toes off his shoes and gives a quick wave through the open door of the living room to Kun and Ten, then heads into the kitchen to rifle through the fridge.

 

Watching Johnny move around the kitchen, Ten feels like his heart is going to break through his ribcage. He hadn’t realized until this moment just how strongly he felt, but now it is almost unbearable.

 

Johnny walks out of the kitchen holding two cans of soda. He directs another wave and a smile into the living room, then heads up the stairs, humming under his breath.

 

Kun looks at him meaningfully. Ten pulls a face in response. “Do I have to?” he whines. Kun chuckles and nudges his shoulder before returning to his work. Ten, screaming internally, pulls himself off the couch and up the stairs after Johnny.

 


 

Ten steels himself, then knocks quietly on the partially closed door with a shaking hand.

 

“Come in!” Johnny calls from inside.

 

Ten pushes open the door all the way. Johnny is reclining on his bed, now wearing sweatpants and a black tank top that shows off his wide shoulders, sipping from his can of soda. Only his closet light is on, and it casts a warm glow through the room. Ten can’t meet Johnny’s eyes. He walks tentatively over to sit in the desk chair, looking distractedly at the items scattered on the desk.

 

“Here,” Johnny says, his voice deep. Ten works up the nerve to turn around, and sees Johnny holding out the other soda can towards him, the ghost of a smile on his lips.

 

“You brought that for me?” he asks in surprise.

 

Johnny’s smile grows. “Well, yeah, did you expect me to drink two whole cans of soda by myself?”

 

“I guess not,” Ten mumbles. He gets off the chair to grab the can, but Johnny moves his arm back, eyes teasing. Despite Ten’s nerves, the corner of his lip twitches. He rests one knee on the bed to lean closer, reaching out, but Johnny moves the can to the other side of his lap, away from Ten.

 

“Oh, you little – ” Ten hisses, when Johnny grabs his outstretched arm and pulls him onto the bed. Johnny helps Ten steady himself, then pops the cap and hands him the open can.  

 

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” Johnny says, laughing. Ten just huffs in response, his arm tingling where Johnny touched him. He takes a sip, then sets the can on the nightstand. As he looks out at the room, Johnny’s gaze burning into his profile, he gets a sudden flashback to the first time Johnny had kissed him. They had been sitting close on his own bed, like this, with something unspoken lingering in the air. Although he is more familiar with Johnny’s bed now, Ten can’t help but feel dizzy with nerves.

 

“Um,” he begins lamely. Johnny moves closer to him, close enough for Ten to feel the heat of his skin. Although his body is pulsing with anxiety, stomach churning and heart pounding, his mind suddenly feels oddly calm and at ease. Kun really was right about him: Ten is comfortable around Johnny. He takes a deep breath, then takes Johnny’s hand in his own. Johnny squeezes his hand back. He rests his head on Ten’s shoulder, his breath warming Ten’s neck.

 

“Johnny?” Johnny hums in response, running his thumb over the back of Ten’s small hand. “So … do you remember the first time you kissed me?”

 

Johnny chuckles softly. “You mean, like, a month ago? Yes, I remember.”

 

Ten continues, letting out a shaky breath. “Well, even before you kissed me, actually, you said that – ”

 

Johnny cuts him off. “ – That I was thinking about you.”

 

Ten startles. “Um, oh! Yeah. You … you said that you were thinking about me. And, well, I was just wondering if … what you really meant by that,” he rushes out. Johnny lifts his head off his shoulder, and Ten meets his eyes. They are filled with that same look of longing he saw on their first night together. Ten also sees something that he hadn’t recognized the first time – tenderness.

 

“What I really meant …” Johnny repeats. “Well, I said what I meant. I was thinking about you. Even though we had just met the day before, I could not stop thinking about you, for some reason. Actually,” he continues, flashing Ten a heart-stopping, world-ending smile, “that hasn’t changed in the weeks that I’ve been here. I still think about you. A lot. Maybe all the time.”

 

Ten is having a hard time breathing. “Oh,” he whispers. He looks down at their intertwined hands, Johnny’s much larger one encasing his own.  

 

Johnny lifts his free hand and rests it on Ten’s jaw, pulling it up gently so their faces are tilted together. He presses a gentle kiss to Ten’s lips, then pulls away slightly so their foreheads rest together. Before he can let himself get swept up in another kiss, Ten says, voice low, “Johnny, I … I like you. I like kissing you, and all the other stuff too – I think about that stuff a lot –  but I need you to know that it is more meaningful to me than that.”  

 

Johnny kisses him again, a little firmer this time, but still with that same, soft tenderness. “Good. Because I like you too,” he breathes, through an irrepressible smile.

 

Ten can’t quite wrap his logical brain around what is happening, but he feels a swell of giddiness blooming in his chest. “Oh,” he says again, before Johnny wrestles him down onto the bed to press happy kisses all over his face and neck.

 

                                                          


 

Ten shifts in the grass, relishing in the rays of sun that warm his face. He rolls over, wrapping his arms and legs around Johnny’s long limbs. Johnny pulls him closer, running his hands absently through Ten’s hair. Though the late September sun is still bright, the imminent chill of autumn is palpable in the air. Ten snuggles under the fleece blanket they had brought out to the yard, savoring the heat from Johnny’s body.

 

Johnny says something, but Ten doesn’t hear it because is busy rubbing his head into Johnny’s warm chest. Johnny laughs, shaking his shoulder to get his attention. Ten looks up with a playful scowl, his hair all mussed up.

 

“I said, are you hungry? I can make you something for lunch if you want.” Ten shakes his head, burying his face back in Johnny’s shirt. “No, don’t get up. Don’t go anywhere,” he says, voice muffled by the fabric.

 

“Okay, okay,” Johnny chuckles, giving Ten a tight hug. They stay wrapped up like this for a long moment that seems to stretch on forever, listening to the muted humming of the last cicadas of the season. Johnny’s breath tickles Ten’s neck. “Don’t worry, I’m staying right here.”