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[personal profile] m0ette
Title: an open letter to myself
Author: m0ette
Fandom: NCT
Pairing: Johnny/Ten
Additional tags: Unresolved Romantic Tension, Missing Scene, Standalone
Rating: G
Wordcount: 2,138
Summary: When he catches Ten looking at him through the mirror and smiling, Johnny wonders if Ten understands it, too.



It’s way past their curfew when Ten finally decides that they are in sync enough to finish with the practice for today; with the coach banning them from occupying the studio on Saturdays, he’s been determined to make this Friday night a hell on Earth, repeating the same dance patterns over and over again, until Johnny begins to question his own resolve and Yuta outright regrets not coming back to the dorms with Hansol and the rest of the crew when he had the chance to bail out.

Johnny sprawls over the couch, the remnants of the little strength he had leaving his body. He feels so drained that when Ten lays down across him, he can’t even protest, just letting him do whatever he wants: nothing new here.

Ten seems to not be tired at all. At first he plays something on his phone (that taxi race game he’s been obsessed with recently, judging by the way he shifts from side to side with his whole body), then he not-so-silently discusses something with Yuta, whose voice comes from a distance - Johnny cannot bring himself to pay attention to the conversation. Then he hears the sound of a zipper being fastened, and the next thing he feels are Ten’s hands touching his neck and chest.

Johnny tilts his head, watching Ten through his lashes.

“You’re so cute,” Ten says, noticing his gaze, lips stretching in a mischievous grin. Johnny looks down: the white drawstrings of his hoodie Ten has been fiddling with were now tied in a poor attempt at a bow. It looks ridiculous and very out of place, but Ten seems so proud of himself that Johnny doesn’t have a heart to undo the knot that’s probably a hair too tight on his neck to be comfortable. “What’s that all about,” he asks instead, playing with a bell on the end of the longer string absentmindedly.

He should have known better, really, than to ask for an explanation. Ten doesn’t answer right away, reaching a hand to scratch playfully behind Johnny’s ear. He grazes the bare skin with his nails, and then lets his hand rest deliberately on Johnny’s neck where the skin meets his hairline.

Johnny, shivering from the contact, catches Ten’s hand and draws it off his neck.

“Cute, like a giant cat,” Ten averts his eyes, playing coy, but doesn’t manage to hold the act for long: his feigned bashfulness disappears as he chuckles, hiding his face with the long sleeve of his sweater.

“You’re so full of it,” Johnny tries his best to hold it together, but cannot help the smile of his own when Ten looks back up at him, his cheeks stained red.

“Could you maybe quit flirting while there are children around you?” Yuta shouts across the room, purposely making a scene.

Johnny catches onto his intent: after all, there’s only three of them in the studio with no children to speak of, but he can’t help his heart jumping into his throat with unexpected uneasiness at the sudden comment. He wills himself calm, though, shifting his glance from Yuta back at Ten.

Ten looks back at him, confused. “Flirt? ” he repeats, carefully separating the syllables. “What does that mean?” He scrunches his nose, trying to remember if he’s ever learned this particular Korean word.

Yuta smirks: after all, it was a word he’d learnt from Johnny himself, who used to mock him and Hansol for unashamedly acting out on their affections towards one another. Now was the time for Yuta to get his revenge.

“It means that if you really do like our Youngho-hyung, you’d better confess to him sooner rather than later.”

Ten is still for a second, staring at Yuta blankly, but then his body shudders with a new fit of laughter as realization hits him. “Oh my God, Johnny,” he wheezes, “can you believe that? He thinks I’m flirting with you.”

And truthfully, Johnny wants to laugh too, because Yuta is obviously right, and Ten obviously understands it. It really isn’t the first time someone brings up their “not-quite-thing” in a conversation, and as most of the times it’s really easy to brush the comments aside and laugh it off, holding hands and making kissy faces at each other (because the closeness comes to the both of them naturally, because it feels right, and because there isn’t really a reason it shouldn’t be that way), it should be easy now, too, but Johnny’s suddenly unable to manage even a tiniest of smiles - Yuta’s words weigh him down, making him question his reasoning.

“It doesn’t count as flirting when Johnny already knows I love him, though, does it?” Ten says, the sheer nonchalance of this statement leaving Johnny completely speechless. “Thank you for your concern, though, I do appreciate it.”

Yuta finally gets up from the mat he’s been lying on, moving to stand beside them. “Don’t get it twisted, Chittaphon, it’s not you who I worry about,” he says, his voice suddenly too serious. His eyes narrow, meeting Ten's brazen ones, as he explains himself, “It’s just that it physically pains me to watch this back and forth between the two of you result in absolutely zilch.”

He is just close enough for Ten to reach over and punch him in the shin. Yuta yelps, the sound high-pitched and obviously exaggerated.

“How dare you?” he begins, dramatic, but then stops abruptly, deciding against it for some reason. “Well, I guess that’s what I get for being a great friend,” he exhales instead, apparently having said everything that’s been on his mind anyway, and picks his training bag off the floor near the couch. Yuta searches for his earphones and wallet, stuffing his pockets quickly, as if in a hurry.

“How about I buy you coffee on our way back, great friend of mine,” and where Johnny’s been unknowingly holding his breath in, watching the exchange unfold, Ten answers simply, seemingly completely unaffected.

Yuta checks his phone for time and hums noncommittally, considering Ten’s offer for a second, and then waves his hand dismissively. “We have to be at the train station by midnight, and there’s only an hour left, so I’d better get going. Hansol’s already panicking.”

“Text me when you arrive, okay?” Ten asks him, expression shifting to a softer one. He gets up and turns in Johnny’s lap just in time to see Yuta blowing him a kiss goodbye. Ten pretends to catch it in his hands and presses the palm to his lips, successfully receiving the kiss.

Their laughter fills the room, lifting the uneasiness and slight awkwardness of the previous conversation off Johnny’s shoulders.

With Yuta now gone, leaving them alone, they sit like this for a little bit more: Johnny leaning back on the leather couch, Ten pressed to his right side. The silence feels pleasant, and after a while Johnny feels Ten’s body relax some more, his breathing getting deep and even. He wonders if Ten has fallen asleep, but doesn’t dare to check.

He looks at the reflection of them in the mirror on the other side of the room, and the new angle allows him to take them in from a new perspective. He notices just how vulnerable Ten looks with his head tilted like this to rest it in the crook of Johnny’s neck; he's suddenly very aware of his hand laying on Ten's shoulders where he's probably subconsciously put it earlier; even the stupid bow around his neck doesn’t seem so odd anymore. Johnny feels his heart grow in his chest.

He is generally very good at managing this infatuation of his, and truthfully, sometimes it's very easy to simply forget about it in their hectic day to day life because of how comfortable and natural feels whatever it is building between them, because, well.. they are close.

Maybe it has something to do with Johnny being in the company for seven years already, which made him whittle his sharp edges away with all kinds of people coming and going, and making him too soft for his own good now; maybe it has something to do with Ten having an innate ability to be liked by anyone and everyone, and Johnny was no exception; or maybe it has something to do with them fitting together like cliched puzzle pieces - these are the things Johnny doesn’t have an answer to just yet. But maybe these questions are not meant to be answered at all.

It is in that moment that he understands that the way they blend into each other so willingly and effortlessly cannot possibly be a mere coincidence.

When he catches Ten looking at him through the mirror and smiling, Johnny wonders if Ten understands it, too.

 

Johnny enters Ten’s room without knocking. He closes the door silently and leans against it, staying like that for a couple minutes more, watching Ten.

Ten is sitting cross legged on his bed amongst piles of textbooks and printouts and, balancing a giant dictionary on one of his knees, is diligently taking notes. Everything about his posture screams discomfort and at least a sore neck: without anything supporting his back he has to slouch to keep himself from falling from the bed; his shadow falls onto his notes, making Ten squint and bending down even lower. He doesn’t have his glasses on, too; it’s a strange sight all over.

“You should sit up straight,” Johnny tells him, finally breaking the silence.

Ten throws a pencil in his general direction, not looking up from the textbook in his lap. “If you’re planning on staying the night, you really should leave those comments to yourself,” he says, his tone casual but the threat nonetheless real.

Johnny laughs at that, raising his hands up in defeat, and comes forward to sit down beside the bed. He reclines against the soft mattress and, propping his head with his hand, looks into Ten’s notes. Straight rows of hangul interchange with almost calligraphic English, and you could almost say those were the notes of an exemplary student if it weren’t for Ten being Ten and him filling all the spaces up with doodles, like a preschooler.

Ten writes until there’s a full stop required and, putting everything to the side, allows himself to stretch, warming up sore shoulders and neck. His t-shirt lifts up, exposing the bronze skin of his stomach, and Johnny cannot help but touch the bare hipbone; he’s acutely aware of the movement of the taut muscle under his fingertips when he brushes against Ten’s waist up, to graze at the protruding ribs, and back down.

It catches Ten off-guard: he thrashes, losing the balance, and almost topples over, but Johnny’s quick to catch him, supporting the small of his back with his free hand to avoid falling. He holds Ten like this for a couple of seconds until he’s sure that Ten’s not gonna fall anymore, and only then releasing him.

“What are you doing,” Ten turns to face him, whispering, his voice strangely hoarse. It’s not a real question, so Johnny doesn’t bother answering him, but doesn't take his hands off Ten, either.

“You should really get some sleep, you know,” he says instead, matching Ten's low voice.

Ten looks at him for a long minute, his eyebrows furrowed. It seems like he wants to say something, but then decides against it. Johnny doesn’t pry.

In the end, they decide that they are too tired to move Hansol's bed, and Ten's one is just fine. It’s a narrow fit for the two of them, but snug nonetheless. Ten falls asleep almost instantly, the harsh training hours finally catching up with him. It leaves Johnny alone, watching the dark shadows move along the ceiling, until Ten’s even breathing and the sound of wind blowing outside lulls him to sleep, too.

Johnny dreams of Chicago covered in snow, of biting cold and of Ten kissing him, and none of it feels real, but for some reason he finds himself unable to escape.

He's woken up by the buzzing of someone's phone under the pillow they share; it's Ten's, and when Johnny checks it the text is from Yuta, who announced their arrival in Busan with tons of those weird Japanese emoticons in a typical Yuta fashion. Johnny mindlessly replies with a Muzi hugging Con emoticon and, having turned the sound of notifications down, puts the phone away.

Johnny shivers, the remnants of sleep still chilling him to the bone; he instinctively holds onto Ten, pulling him closer by the waist. Ten feels hot all over, and the heat of the exposed skin he’s touching sets Johnny ablaze. He wonders if he's ever going to feel warm without Ten, but falls asleep, the thought never fully forming to become a fear.



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November 2016

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