glitterburn: (TVXQ: Yunho oh whut)
[personal profile] glitterburn

Week five is a black or white monochrome challenge. Changmin goes all Ferretti and Marchesa with a long, floaty lace-strip skirt and a boxy, military-style jacket. Yunho’s outfit resembles a smashed pavlova on the form, yet miraculously when the model puts it on, the dress takes on a life of its own and looks stylish.

Sungmin really struggles, miserable without the opportunity to work with pink. To cheer him up, Yunho collects together all the pink accessories and piles them onto Sungmin’s workbench. This leads to Sungmin overcompensating at the final hour and loading his model with every single item. Everyone winces when the poor girl comes down the runway, her beautifully-made slip dress and feathered wrap hidden beneath swathes of pink scarves, beads, bangles, and earrings hooked randomly into the fabric.

Jaejoong and Madame Oh look stunned, but Kyuhyun points and laughs. “As Designer Shim would say, that’s ugly, ugly, ugly.”

Changmin feels bad for Sungmin, but he’s also pleased that his catchphrase has caught on amongst the judges, even if it’s only Kyuhyun that said it.

Much to her joy, Jiheun wins with a beaded black cocktail dress. The Estonian guy is sent home with a brisk “allahaısmarladık” from Jaejoong.

* * *

For week six, the brief is to design an outfit suitable for a woman to wear in the countryside. It seems a remarkably vague task, but Zhou Mi refuses to be any more specific as to what, exactly, is meant by ‘the countryside’.

“Designers,” he says, one hand on the door of the workroom, “try to think outside the box. Just a suggestion, take it or leave it.”

At the fabric store, Spoon heads for the waterproof material. Yunho goes straight for the loudest, brightest colours in the shop, never mind that they’re all in nylon. Sungmin scoops up armfuls of pink and sighs happily. Jiheun compares faux leather with zebra print. Milhye ponders an elegant palette of stone, beige and camel. Sabine chooses linen.

Changmin buys yards of tweed and a box of polished leather buttons. While he was doing his degree at St Martin’s, one of his friends had invited him up to Scotland for a spot of grouse-shooting. They’d stayed at an ancient hunting lodge with stuffed animal heads on the walls and casement windows that hadn’t closed properly since the eighteenth century. He didn’t know how to fire a gun and the spaniels put muddy paws all over his satin Paul Smith trousers, so instead of shooting grouse he went for long walks. He thinks of that weekend now as he conjures up a sexy, Regency-esque three-piece riding outfit, severely tailored for practicality yet also ultra-feminine, with pin-tucks and darts emphasising the bust and waist and hips.

Spoon seems to be constructing a tent. Sungmin is making something pink. Jiheun is creating some sort of Goth ensemble. Milhye is frowning at her sketches. Sabine is draping linen over her form and pinning it into place. Yunho is on his mat surrounded by colourful squares of fabric, carefully cutting out shapes and tacking them together.

“Countryside equals summertime equals Summer of Love,” he explains when Changmin goes over to help himself to a pineapple lump. Yunho’s sketch shows a flirty take on a simple 1960s dress; the fine work will not be in the dress itself but the fabric, a riotous explosion of colour like a Pucci print gone mad. It’ll take him all day to cut out and assemble the pieces. “Ooh, I got Biba fever,” he sings.

Everyone laughs except Sabine. Her mouth is full of pins.

*

The workroom is quiet, everyone busy with their garments. Changmin glances up from shaping the riding jacket and looks over at Yunho, who’s just finished pinning and tacking all of the coloured pieces together to make his Mary Quant-type frock. It really shouldn’t work, but the dress looks absolutely stunning, and Changmin is sure that Yunho will win this week’s runway show.

Milhye emerges from the sewing room with a kick-pleated skirt over her arm and a soft, draped blouse over her shoulder. She pauses by Yunho’s form and admires his dress, pointing out her favourite colour combinations. Their conversation moves on, and he ruffles a finger through the pleats on her skirt and offers an opinion on the shape of the blouse.

Jiheun picks up the lace and velvet for her Goth dress and heads for the sewing room. Sabine is just leaving the room, and they almost collide. “Watch it, kid,” Sabine snarls. Jiheun sticks out her tongue and flounces past. A few moments later, Yunho carefully takes his dress from the form and carries it into the sewing room. Changmin listens to their chatter above the whirr of the machines, but is soon absorbed in his own task.

He’s almost finished with the back of the jacket when a shriek erupts from the sewing room. A second later, the fire alarm starts shrilling, and then Jiheun screams again and Yunho shouts, and smoke belches out of the little room.

Milhye cries aloud in panic. Changmin, Spoon, and Sungmin all run towards the sewing room while Sabine yells at everyone to get the hell out. There’s a sharp cracking noise, and then a small but violent explosion.

“Yunho! Jiheun!” Changmin peers through the stinking black cloud of smoke and sees them staring in horror at Yunho’s sewing machine. It’s on fire. So is his dress, and the nylon is melting and sticking to everything, and the fumes are disgusting, thick and chemical and noxious and dangerous.

“Yunho!” Keeping a wary distance from the fire, Changmin ducks beneath the oily roll of smoke. He rips off his suit jacket and drops it over the sewing machine in an attempt to smother the flames. Probably not the best plan ever but it’s all he’s got right now. He reaches out to where Yunho and Jiheun are squashed against the back wall, both of them coughing at the fumes. “Come on. Hurry.”

“Jiheun, go,” Yunho urges, pushing her towards Changmin. She’s crying as she stumbles forwards, and Changmin sweeps her into his arms and leads her past the blaze and the melting dress. Sungmin and Spoon wait for them to get out before they charge in with fire blankets and fire extinguishers. Changmin hears Yunho wail, “My dress, my dress,” and then there’s a whoosh as one of the extinguishers is discharged and an exhalation of choking dry foam rolls out of the sewing room.

Changmin hurries Jiheun to the workroom doors and hands her into Milhye’s comforting embrace. “I called Zhou Mi,” she says. “What happened?”

“Yunho’s sewing machine blew up.” Jiheun’s face is streaked with tears and her voice quavers. “We were talking and then his thread tangled and the motor kept jamming, and so I went over to help him and he said we should turn off the power, so I moved to one side so he could duck under the table, and then—and then it just exploded.” She looks up, her wide, shocked gaze suddenly focusing. “If we’d stayed where we were, if he hadn’t said to turn off the power, we could’ve been hurt. We could’ve been seriously injured. Oh shit. Oh my God.”

“It’s okay,” Changmin says, rubbing her arms as she starts shivering. “Jiheun, you’re okay, Yunho’s okay.”

Jiheun stifles a sob. “Oh God, your suit. It’s ruined.”

Changmin goes still as he realises he’s just sacrificed the jacket of his Armani suit. To hell with that. As long as Yunho and Jiheun are safe, that’s the only thing that matters.

All agog at the drama, Zhou Mi arrives and takes charge, playing to the camera and showing a little too much interest in the firemen who turn up five minutes later.

A medic gives Jiheun and Yunho a check-up, and once the fire crew have declared the place safe and they’re allowed to go back to the workroom, Zhou Mi takes Yunho to one side and asks if he has any fabric left.

“Only scraps.” Yunho looks close to tears. Changmin remembers a few weeks ago that he’d wanted to see Yunho cry, but now he’s on the verge of it, Changmin doesn’t want it to happen. It’s making his own eyes mist over, and he hates feeling like that.

Zhou Mi flaps his hands, his expression taut with helpless sympathy. “Designer Jung, you must find some way to use those scraps and make an outfit, you simply must. This is not a suggestion you may take or leave—if you don’t show an outfit on the runway, you’ll be disqualified.”

“I understand.” Yunho pins on a brave smile until Zhou Mi has left the workroom, and then his shoulders slump and he looks tiny and defeated. He gathers together the pieces of cloth left from his cutting-out and sinks down onto his mat, staring in utter despair at the pathetic collection of miniscule scraps.

No one says anything. No one moves.

Then Sungmin sorts through his own scraps of pink chiffon and takes them over to Yunho’s mat. Milhye, Spoon, and Jiheun scramble through the stuff on their workbenches and offer as much as they can afford to give away. Sabine turns up the volume on her iPod and pretends she hasn’t seen what the others are doing.

Changmin goes over to the mat and looks down. Yunho has perked up a little, determination sparking in his movements as he sorts through the oddments of fabric and starts sketching anew. Even with everyone else’s off-cuts, there’s scarcely enough cloth for Yunho to make a bikini. It’s so monstrously unfair that Changmin marches back to his workstation. Stripping off the riding jacket, he unbuttons the waistcoat, yanks it free of the form, then strides back to Yunho and holds it out.

“You’ll have to unpick it,” he says, as if it’s not obvious.

Yunho stares up at him in astonishment. “Changminnie, you can’t give me this. It’s a finished piece.”

“Take it.” Changmin waves it under Yunho’s nose, and then when he still doesn’t accept it, Changmin grabs a pair of scissors and snips at one seam. “There. It’s ruined. I don’t want it. You can have it.”

“Changmin. I don’t know what to say. You...” Yunho’s expression goes all soft and his eyes get suspiciously watery.

“Just take it, you stupid git.” Changmin throws the waistcoat at him.

Yunho catches it, hugs it to his chest. “Thank you.”

*

Yunho’s model looks horrified when she turns up to the final fitting to find not a gorgeous dress of many colours but a pair of tweed hotpants with pink chiffon panels on the sides and a bandeau made of a poorly hand-stitched patchwork of random fabrics, including the canvas scraps donated by Spoon. She’s even more horrified when Yunho tells her about the exploding sewing machine, and she insists on giving him a big hug.

“You shouldn’t be hugging me,” he says. “You should hug everyone else. Thanks to their generosity, you’re not going to be walking down the runway naked.” His smile looks wobbly, but he’s pale with relief. “Thank you, guys. Thank you so much.”

Milhye sniffles. “I just wish I’d had more fabric for you.”

“It’s okay.” Deciding to take his own advice, Yunho goes around the workroom hugging everyone.

Changmin takes an involuntary step back when Yunho comes towards him. Maybe they can do something manly and safe like shake hands or nod stiffly to one another instead. Yunho’s smile brightens as he moves closer, and then he kisses Changmin on the cheek. His lips are soft and his breath smells of pineapple lumps. “Thank you, Changminnie.”

“Shut up.” Changmin squirms where he stands. He ruined a perfectly good three-piece riding outfit for a kiss on the cheek. The awful thing is he’d do it again. Now he wishes he’d gone for the hug after all.

The usual chaos ensues as they hurry their models through hair and makeup and dressing, and then they all take their places for the runway show. Over the last few weeks, Changmin has looked forward to seeing his designs on the catwalk, but today he’s anxious. His attention keeps slipping from the runway to Yunho, who’s curled up on his chair nibbling on his thumbnail, shoulders set and his body language defensive. He knows his outfit is awful. What makes it worse is that Sabine’s look is the first down the runway. It’s immaculate and beautiful, and the judges all smile and make little ticking motions on their score cards.

During the question and answer session, the judges rip into Changmin’s riding outfit. “The line is all wrong,” Madame Oh says, gesturing with a bejewelled hand. “The jacket is not flattering and it sits at a strange place on the skirt. Don’t you agree, Kyuhyun?”

Kyuhyun nods. “It looks ugly, ugly, ugly.”

Changmin wishes he’d never come up with that stupid catchphrase.

“The problem as I see it,” Madame Oh continues, “is that there needs to be a waistcoat beneath the jacket. One would never expect such an unassuming garment to have such structural importance, but there it is. Without the waistcoat, this look is simply—”

“Ugly,” Kyuhyun says again, smiling and nodding.

“Excuse me.” Yunho steps forward. “I just want to say that Changmin did make a waistcoat. Ask anyone here and they’ll tell you. Play back the footage of us in the workroom and you’ll see. He finished the entire look and it was fantastic and amazing, and then he very kindly gave the waistcoat to me after my sewing machine blew up and my dress melted. I had almost no fabric left and everyone was so generous, giving me what they could spare from their own outfits, but Changmin actually sacrificed an item from his finished look so my model wouldn’t be naked.”

The judges stare at him. Jaejoong blinks and turns to Changmin. “Is this true?”

Changmin nods. “Yes.”

“Why does no one see fit to inform me about these things?” Jaejoong complains, flicking at his bleached blond hair. He glances at the other judges, who shrug, and then he faces the runway and heaves a sigh. “Whatever. We can only judge what’s in front of us and we don’t care about the backroom angst. The rules are the rules, no exceptions.”

He goes on to declare Sabine the winner. She struts from the runway with a smile of triumph.

“Yunho, Changmin.” Jaejoong looks stern, a difficult expression to maintain whilst wearing lime green flares and an orange and pink batwing jumper. “You have the two lowest scores. One of you will be safe; the other will be going home.”

Yunho scoots closer to Changmin and holds his hand. Presumably it’s meant to be a gesture of solidarity, but all Changmin can focus on is the warm brush of Yunho’s calloused fingers.

“Yunho,” Jaejoong says, “your look is really crappy and it’s obvious that you can’t sew anything by hand. Your model looked like a skanky ho instead of a lady. We appreciate that you were almost blown up and set on fire, but these are the kind of setbacks all designers must face at one time or another.”

He turns. “Changmin. Usually your outfits are superbly tailored, but we were all deeply disappointed with this one. Everyone knows that neo-Regency clothing of this type should include a waistcoat. Never mind that you did actually make a waistcoat—you then chose to donate it to Yunho, who made those ugly shorts out of it. We applaud such selfless behaviour, but think carefully about these decisions in the future. You could have won this challenge. Instead you’re in the bottom two.”

Yunho squeezes Changmin’s hand.

“Changmin.” There’s a dramatic pause. Jaejoong’s eyes gleam. “You’re in.”

Yunho’s grip tightens fractionally around Changmin’s hand, then he lets go.

“That means,” Jaejoong continues, sashaying over to the runway, “Yunho, you’re out.” He stretches up as Yunho leans down for the air kisses. “Hyvästi.”

* * *

The apartment is empty without Yunho. Dirty dishes teeter in the sink and the kitchen counter overflows with takeaway containers, and that’s after just one day. Jiheun and Milhye come over to mope and bitch about Sabine.

“I keep thinking about it,” Jiheun says, twisting her fingers around and around. She rests her head against the sofa, looking much younger than her nineteen years. “Sabine was on her own in the sewing room for at least ten minutes after Milhye left and before I went in. She had plenty of time to do something to Yunho’s sewing machine. I think she did it on purpose. I think she sabotaged him.”

Silence creeps around the room.

“That’s a serious accusation to make,” Sungmin says, softly, carefully.

Jiheun’s face crumples. “She did it. I know she did. It could’ve been really awful, but instead she gets rewarded and Yunho gets sent home!”

Everyone looks awkward as Jiheun starts sobbing. Milhye hugs her and Spoon pats her arm sympathetically.

Changmin gets to his feet. “Excuse me,” he mutters, and goes downstairs before he can regret his decision. Steeling himself, he bangs on the door of the girls’ apartment.

Sabine answers it, her gaze cool. “Had enough of the Yunho fan club mewling and whining over his unfair dismissal?”

“Shut up.” Changmin’s temper spikes and he pushes inside, closing the door behind him. He puts his back to it and stares down at her. “Tell me you had nothing to do with Yunho’s sewing machine blowing up.”

She looks at him without flinching and folds her arms. She stays silent.

“Oh my God.” He reads the truth in the defiant tilt of her head. “Shit. Sabine, what were you thinking? Yunho and Jiheun could have been seriously injured!”

“I’m not saying anything.” Her face is blank, but her eyes glitter like chips of obsidian. “You can’t prove a damn thing.”

“I don’t need to.” Changmin gives a harsh laugh. “Zhou Mi took the sewing machine away. They’ll run tests on it and if you did something, they’ll find out. You were the only one in the sewing room right before it happened—the footage will show that beyond all doubt. You won’t get away with this, don’t think you can!”

Sabine snaps. “Oh, come on, Changmin, don’t be so naive! You know what it’s like out there—you know we have to be ruthless if we want to win! You and me are the only real contenders in this show. The rest are fillers. Milhye’s too old, Jiheun’s a kid, Spoon is fat and Sungmin is obsessed with pink!”

“Then if I’m your only competition, why did you want to get rid of Yunho?”

“Because he was good!” Sabine shouts, venom in her tone and hatred flashing through her expression. “Because he had ideas, and because he had ideas, the other losers got ideas, too, and losers should know their place and they should stay there! He was a threat, can’t you see that? A fucking market trader from Gwangju! My God, just imagine if he won, he’d spend the hundred thousand dollars on cheap denim and nylon and make more of those shitty Evisu knock-offs! If you or I won, we’d do something with the money, we’d develop our brand and we’d—”

Changmin takes a step back, shaking his head. “No. No, Sabine. You listen to me. Pack your bags and get ready to leave. You have ten minutes to do that, and then you’re going to call Zhou Mi and admit what you’ve done and you’re going to ask to be disqualified. Otherwise, I’m doing it for you.”

Sabine stares. “You can’t be serious.”

“Oh,” Changmin says, cold and fierce, “I’m serious.”

There’s a long moment of vicious silence, and then Sabine pulls her gaze away. She laughs, loud and mocking. “You’re in love with him.”

Changmin frowns. “What?”

“You’re in love with a common little market trader. God, you’re pathetic.” She whirls away from him, her mouth stretched into a sneer of disgust. Outside her bedroom door, she turns and shoots him a look barbed with hatred.

“All right. I’ll come clean and tell Zhou Mi. But first I’ll tell you something, Shim Changmin—even if you win this crappy contest, I’ll use all my influence and I’ll make sure every door in the fashion world is closed to you. No matter what you do or where you go, even if you change your name, no one will work with you, no one will even look at your designs—Mama and I will make sure of it.”

*

That evening, Zhou Mi calls an emergency meeting in the boys’ apartment. He looks harried and less refined than usual. “Designers,” he says, hands fluttering, “something untoward has occurred. Sabine called me earlier today and admitted that she sabotaged Yunho’s sewing machine.”

Jiheun gasps and looks at Changmin, mouths Thank you at him. Changmin shuffles his feet and stares at Zhou Mi’s hideous grey polka dot suit.

“She said she only intended for it to ruin the outfit he was making for this week’s challenge,” Zhou Mi continues, “and she apologises for the distress the fire and explosion caused to the other contestants. As a result of her confession, we had no choice but to disqualify her from Stitched Up.”

The cameraman swings around to get everyone’s reactions.

Spoon raises his hand. “Does that mean Yunho will be coming back?”

The camera circles around in time to catch Zhou Mi’s troubled frown. “I’m not sure. We haven’t been able to get hold of him, and with the schedule... Well, we simply can’t afford to fall behind... It may have to be a double elimination week.”

“But that’s not fair!” Jiheun roars, launching herself from the sofa to stand in the middle of the room, her hands bunched into fists. “He worked really hard and he could’ve died because of that bitch and now she’s admitted it and he’s still being punished! This show sucks! It’s total shit!”

“Language,” Zhou Mi says, looking bemused. “Just a suggestion, but—”

“Screw your suggestions!” Jiheun shouts, and stamps out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her.

“That went well.” Milhye gets up with a sigh. “I’d better go after her.”

The meeting breaks up in confusion, with Zhou Mi apparently the most confused of all. “I’ll let you know the producer’s decision just as soon as I hear something,” he calls as everyone heads out of the room muttering and grumbling.

Changmin can’t stand it. He marches down the corridor and comes to a halt outside his bedroom door. He hasn’t been able to bring himself to wipe Yunho’s name off the whiteboard, and he’s not about to do it now, either. Chest tight with a flurry of nonsensical emotion, he goes inside and gets changed into his pyjamas, flinging his clothes onto the floor and making the deliberate decision to just leave them there. Fuck it all, he’ll have an early night and maybe he’ll feel better in the morning.

He gets into bed and turns out the light.

He’s been there less than five minutes when the draught tickles at his neck.

Sodding window. Sodding draught. Changmin wrenches himself up from his bed and crawls into Yunho’s bed against the wall. Even though the cleaners stripped the linen and changed the sheets, Changmin still fancies he can smell Yunho’s scent imprinted in the pillows, sunshine and spice and sweetness.

If he was more of a sappy, emotional kind of guy, Changmin might cry now. But he doesn’t, because he’s determined and driven and he’s a winner, and now he has the whole room to himself and he doesn’t have to sleep in a draught anymore.

* * *

Changmin spends Sunday morning curled up snug in Yunho’s bed. At around eleven o’clock, Sungmin knocks on the door and asks if he wants to go out for brunch with the rest of them. Changmin turns down the invitation; he doesn’t want to hear another rehash of the events of this week. He’s sick and tired of this contest, and even though Sabine’s elimination has left him in a strong position, he wonders if it’s worth it.

He naps for a little while. The apartment telephone rings, but he can’t be bothered to go into the hall and pick it up, and neither can he be bothered to get out of bed and listen to the voicemail message after. He turns and faces the wall and dozes again, waking a little later when he hears the door to his room click open.

“Changminnie?”

Changmin rolls over so fast he almost falls off the bed. He tries to sit up at the same time, tangling himself in the duvet. “Yunho? Yunho!”

“Hi.” Yunho stands in the doorway clutching his suitcase and smiling. “Zhou Mi asked me to come back. He said Sabine sabotaged my sewing machine. I called about an hour ago but no one picked up, so...”

“Yunho!” Changmin really has to stop saying his name like that, all excited and... excited. He doesn’t want Yunho to get the wrong idea. Changmin thinks of something witty and sophisticated to say, then opens his mouth and says, “Yunho!” again.

“Yes, it’s me.” Yunho kicks his case to one side and comes over to pull Changmin up. Probably he means to give him a hug, since Yunho is so fond of hugging people, but as soon as Changmin is on his feet, it’s like they both realise how narrow the space is between the beds, and they’re sort of pressed together, and from there it’s easy, so very easy, for Changmin to lean against Yunho and sort of... kiss him.

“Oh, Changminnie,” Yunho says, breath hot and sweet, and he slides one hand into Changmin’s hair and the other goes around his neck and they’re kissing again.

There’s nothing hesitant about it this time. It’s full-on, all tongues and the clash of teeth, saliva wet across lips and chin. Yunho’s fingers tighten in his hair and Changmin makes a guttural sound right into Yunho’s mouth. He puts both arms up Yunho’s back and grabs onto his shoulders, shoves against him in urgent demand.

They devour one another, their kisses getting hotter, wilder, less controlled. Changmin is floored by how much he wants Yunho. It’s embarrassing, really; embarrassing and obvious. He supposes it’s been obvious from day one. It just took him a while to realise it.

Yunho slides his hands down to cup Changmin’s ass, pulling him in close. They’re both hard, and Changmin moans into Yunho’s mouth, moans and rubs his erection against the stiff, proud thrust of Yunho’s cock.

“Oh, you’re sexy, you’re beautiful, you’re glorious,” Yunho tells him, hot and hungry, and Changmin wonders why the hell they waited so long to do this.

“You’re trashy, you’re cheap, you’re dirty,” Changmin says in return, then realises those don’t sound like compliments.

Yunho doesn’t seem to mind. He chuckles, bites Changmin’s earlobe. “Posh boy wants his Gwangju skank, huh?”

“Don’t talk. Just don’t talk,” Changmin begs, quivering with lust.

“Give my mouth something to do, then,” Yunho murmurs, kissing all over Changmin’s face.

“Oh God. Oh God.” Changmin grabs at him, pulls him down onto the bed. They tangle together, bump and grind and kiss some more, breaths getting faster, skin hot and slick to the touch. Yunho rocks his hips and Changmin arches up to meet him, mewling in frustration. He’s waited weeks for this and now they’ve got too many layers on. Stupid clothes, they’re completely unnecessary.

“Oh baby, yeah,” Yunho breathes, licking Changmin’s neck and creeping a hand up beneath his pyjama top.

“Get yourself naked right now,” Changmin snaps.

“Ooh, posh boy likes giving orders.” Yunho rises up onto his knees and crosses his arms at the waist, taking hold of the hem of his t-shirt. He’s smiling, eyes bright with playful desire and his face flushed with excitement, and then they both freeze as the apartment door bangs open and Sungmin and Spoon arrive back home.

In a heartbeat, Yunho pulls away from Changmin. He hurls the duvet over him and retreats, making rapid adjustments to his clothes and smoothing down his hair. When he’s safely on the other side of the tiny room, Yunho throws him an apologetic look. “Can we continue this later?”

Changmin wants to punch the wall, but instead he manages to smile. “Sure.”

Sungmin and Spoon have obviously listened to the voice message on the machine, because suddenly there’s a whoop and footsteps come charging down the hall, and then Spoon hammers on the door. “Yunho! Yunho!”

Yunho takes a steadying breath and flings open the door. “Spoon! Sungmin! I’m back!”

“Darlin’ boy!” Spoon barrels into the room and envelops Yunho in a huge hug. Sungmin joins in, chattering excitedly, then says he’s going to tell the girls.

Feeling oddly adrift and cut off from the sudden carnival atmosphere, Changmin folds the duvet over his lap and sits up, watching as Spoon and Yunho jump up and down. A few minutes later, Jiheun and Milhye run in with Sungmin, and they’re all squealing. Everyone bounces around and hugs, and the noise just gets louder and louder.

“Get out!” Changmin shouts, his nerves shot to hell.

They all stop and stare at him.

Shit. He sounds like a grumpy asshole. “I’m glad Yunho’s back, but maybe if we take the celebrations into the living room?”

“Okay, girlfriend,” Spoon says, giving him a hard, suspicious look. “I guess you’re right. There’s not much space in here. Also, no booze! C’mon, let’s open that bottle of vodka the Estonian guy left and have a party!”

“I’ll be right there,” Yunho calls after them as they all run along the hall. “Just let me unpack.”

Another whoop, and then comes the sound of the living room door slamming.

In the sudden hush, Yunho smiles at Changmin.

“I really am glad you’re back,” Changmin says.

Yunho touches his fingertips to his mouth and gives him a wicked look. “I know.”

Oh God, he can’t deal with this. Changmin gets up and grabs for his dressing gown. He puts it on, ready to sidle past and make a break for the living room, but then he pauses, waits awhile.

Yunho unfastens his suitcase. Out of it he pulls an overstuffed six-foot long snake made of bright green felt with googly eyes and a lolling red tongue. He holds it near the top of its neck and darts it towards Changmin, making a silly hissing sound.

Changmin backs away and wonders why the fuck he was just kissing this weirdo.

Yunho beams, kneeling on Changmin’s bed to arrange the snake along the sill close to the window. “It’s a draught excluder,” he says. “I brought it from home so you’d be able to sleep better.”

Oh.

Changmin thinks he’s in love.

* * *

Week seven is the team challenge. Each pair has three days to make an outfit for one another. Everyone is excited about the task, except for Changmin, who waits for Zhou Mi to assign them their pairs with mingled anticipation and dread.

“Designers,” Zhou Mi drawls as he enters the workroom, “come to me and learn your fate.” He shakes a velvet bag as he goes over to Milhye. “Ladies first. Take a name and find out who you’ll be working with.”

Milhye draws Spoon, which causes laughter and no small amount of consternation at the mismatch of their aesthetics. Jiheun rootles around in the bag for a long time, then pulls out Sungmin’s name. She looks a little disappointed, but Sungmin is excited, bobbing up and down on his toes and exclaiming that Jiheun’s youthfulness is the perfect foil for pink.

“Which means,” Zhou Mi trills, tipping the last two names onto the workbench, “Yunho and Changmin get to be a pair!”

Everyone applauds. Yunho’s smile could power half of downtown Seoul. He turns to Changmin, his face full of joy. Changmin blushes and tips his head forward to hide behind his fringe, unsure whether his expression is registering foolish gooey delight or scowling annoyance.

He’s been awkward around Yunho ever since That Kiss. Perhaps more correctly it was A Series of Kisses, but either way, it’s become an Issue, and one that Changmin doesn’t know how to resolve without looking like a complete twat.

Last night, everyone had got pissed on Estonian vodka and some weird fizzy guava drink Yunho had brought off the back of a lorry. Changmin had gone to bed just before midnight, his nerves jangled, lust restless and wanting inside him. And yet ten minutes later when Yunho announced very loudly in the hallway that he was really, really tired and he was going to bed now, Changmin scrunched beneath the duvet and pretended to be asleep.

“Changminnie,” Yunho had whispered, leaning over him. “Baby?”

Changmin had bitten down on his little finger to keep silent. He’d forced himself not to move even when Yunho kissed the top of his head, which was the only part of him not swathed in duvet.

If only Sabine hadn’t made that comment about him being in love with Yunho. If only she’d said You fancy the pants off him or You want to suck his dick or even You want to ride him up and down until you pass out with ecstasy. Those comments would have been absolutely fine. He could’ve acknowledged them as true and then brushed them to one side, but this ‘in love’ thing is more problematic. It’s okay to be in lust with someone, but it’s something else to actually have feelings for them. Tender, mushy, idiotic feelings, at that.

He remembers his father’s favourite saying: You won’t succeed in life if you allow your feelings to get in the way of your goal. He’d defied his father to go into fashion design, arguing that fashion had nothing to do with whimsy and emotion and everything to do with cold, hard logic. Spotting trends wasn’t about creativity; it was about studying every trend that had gone before it and evaluating the chances of a revival. It wasn’t about unleashing something new and fun in the hope that people would buy it; it was about forcing your decision upon the market.

At the time, Changmin had managed to convince himself that what he’d said was true. But now he’s not so sure. Now that conviction is crumbling, and he thinks it’s all Yunho’s fault.

Maybe.

Either way, he doesn’t want to be paired with Yunho for this challenge. He doesn’t want to have to take his inside leg measurement and design garments to cover that gorgeous body when all he wants to do is rip Yunho’s clothes off and—and—

“Changminnie.” Yunho waves a hand in front of his face and smiles, bright and enthusiastic. “You looked like you were miles away just then. Come on, we’ve got half an hour for measuring and sketching.”

“Right.” Changmin hates the fact that he’s blushing again. He grabs his pencil and starts drawing.

After fifteen minutes, Yunho picks himself up from his mat and comes over to study the sketch. He’s silent for a long time, and Changmin’s stomach knots itself into hard, tight shapes of anxiety. It’s kind of pathetic that he’s more worried about getting Yunho’s approval for this look than he is about winning the task.

Straight-faced and wide-eyed, Yunho gazes at Changmin and taps the sketch. “D’you think maybe you could give me a bustle or something so it looks like I got some boom in the back?”

Changmin smiles, tries to suppress a sputter of laughter. “That’s false advertising, Designer Jung.”

“No, it’s just like a push-up bra. But in reverse, and for my ass. Oh, that sounds weird. Forget it.”

“I’m making you a tailcoat. The movement will emphasise your legs and take attention away from your lack of ass. I’ll just be looking at your thighs and your shoulders. I mean,” Changmin corrects himself, flustered, “the judges will just be looking. I mean, no. They’ll be looking at the tailcoat, that’s what I meant.”

Yunho laughs. “I knew what you meant.”

Better to quit while he’s ahead. Changmin coughs and says, “So what are you making for me?”

Yunho shows him the deranged stick drawing that depicts a smiling Changmin with mop hair and a bunch of lines that could represent anything from shorts and a t-shirt to the chemical equation for turning lead into gold.

“For the trousers, I was thinking—you know those bandage dresses?”

“Azzedine Alaïa?” Changmin says.

“Whatever, but I want to make you a pair of trousers out of strips of satin that climb your endless long legs, around and around. And some sort of draped vest top maybe in silver, something shimmery, and it should dip quite low and be unstructured, because your chest—uh, your chest is...”

Yunho tails off, lifting his head to stare first at Changmin’s chest and then at his mouth and finally into his eyes. They freeze, both of them gazing at each other, and Changmin feels hot and cold and squirmy and tense.

The workroom door opens and Zhou Mi comes back in. “Designers,” he drawls, “it’s time to go shopping.”

* * *

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