glitterburn: (TVXQ: HoMin necktie)
[personal profile] glitterburn

At the close of the penultimate show, Changmin wins the challenge and Milhye is eliminated with a flouncy ‘Saħħa’ from Jaejoong. She comes backstage and hugs Yunho, then Sungmin, and finally Changmin. She wipes the tears from her eyes and smiles at them all. “Good luck, guys.”

Zhou Mi sails in, long fingers steepled. “Our three finalists! Congratulations, designers. You now have twelve weeks in which to create a collection of twelve pieces. Your budget is three million won, and you may outsource, but the majority of work must be done by yourselves and you must keep detailed receipts. I’ll be visiting each of you at your studios in due course, so—just a suggestion—don’t go too far, okay?”

He sweeps back out, the cameraman trailing after him.

“Oh.” Yunho sinks onto the couch, an expression of disbelief on his face. “Oh crap. I made the final.”

Sungmin gives him a puzzled look. “But that’s a good thing.”

“Yes,” Changmin echoes. “It’s a good thing.”

“If you say so.” Yunho smiles weakly, but doesn’t look convinced.

* * *

Changmin returns home and spends a couple of days going through his post and his email. He doesn’t know why he’s bothering; the contest has essentially begun afresh, but now he’s on his own, and he really shouldn’t be wasting precious time dealing with mundane realities when he should keep himself in the mindset of a winner.

He wanders around his apartment, staring at the minimalist decor and elegant furnishings, the light and space and the subtle scent of orchids, and he misses the cramped floor, the smell of pineapple lumps, and the draughty window of his Stitched Up bedroom.

The ban on outside contact has been lifted, and he scrolls through his phone looking at the numbers, wondering who to call. He should go out, go drinking with his friends. He spends a long time looking at Yunho’s number, then calls a bunch of people and arranges to meet up for dinner.

Except he feels out of sorts amongst his friends, and even though he says he can’t talk about the show, they still ask him. He wants to tell them about Yunho, but he can’t, because there’s nothing to tell. Or rather, there’s too much to tell and he’d look stupid, because he was the one who called a halt to it and now he’s starting to think it was the worst decision he’s ever made.

After a few days of doing nothing, Changmin packs his bags again and moves into his studio. It’s the size of the entire Stitched Up apartment and has two rooms filled with fabrics. There’s a pull-out sofa-bed in the main workroom and he spends most of his time sprawled upon it, cushions scattered everywhere and his hand down the front of his jeans as he spins fantasies around Yunho.

Yunho’s thighs. Yunho’s hands on him. Yunho in the week seven outfit with those gloves. Yunho’s mouth on him. Yunho’s fingers working inside him. Yunho’s cock, huge and hard and oh, the taste of him, hot and musky on Changmin’s tongue...

Changmin wants. He wants so bad, and it’s destroying his focus, it’s killed his concentration, and he is totally and utterly without inspiration.

Five weeks in, he’s ready to climb the walls. He’s started his collection three times and he hates everything he’s designed. He spends his mornings drinking too much coffee and playing Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ on repeat just because Yunho once said it was his favourite song. The day comes when Changmin knows he has to do something about his obsession, because this morning he tried to sharpen his mechanical pencil.

He does what he should have done weeks ago. He sends Yunho a text, brief and polite: How are you? How’s your collection going?

Yunho texts back: Gwangju skank missed his posh boy

Changmin smiles. Posh boy missed you, too, he wants to say, but instead he contents himself with the reply: Idiot. Now tell me how your collection is going.

I love it when ur demanding, Yunho writes. Clothes OK & u?

Inspiration just struck, Changmin replies, and he closes his phone, jumps off the sofa-bed and hurries over to his workbench, fingers itching with the need to sketch.

* * *

One week after that, Changmin is much happier with his designs and he’s made excellent progress on his collection. He has seven pieces finished and another two are taking shape, thanks mainly to the fact that he hasn’t really slept in days. He and Yunho have texted back and forth for the past week, and all his pent-up lust has finally rerouted itself and poured into his work.

All the same, on Monday he takes the train to Gwangju. He knows this is potentially stupid, but he has to see Yunho. Not that Yunho knows he’s coming. Changmin wants to surprise him. It’s a spontaneous and romantic thing to do, and although Changmin considers himself neither of those things, he’s making the effort.

Yunho better appreciate it.

It’s raining when Changmin arrives. Not polite drizzling rain, either, but great sheets of water pouring out of the sky, and Changmin’s blurry first impression of the city is of a place covered in cloud and smelling of damp earth. It’s also humid, and by the time he’s found a taxi, he’s slick with sweat as well as drenched with rain. He oozes into the car and gives the driver Yunho’s address, and then he spends ten minutes outside Yunho’s apartment block pressing every buzzer in the desperate hope that someone will let him in.

He’s soaked to the skin, his replacement Armani suit black with running water rather than its usual soft dove grey. His hair is plastered to his skull. He must look like a drowned rat. Fuck romantic spontaneity, he is never doing something like this ever again.

Fishing out his phone, he dials Yunho’s number. “Where are you?” he roars when Yunho picks up. “I thought it was supposed to be hot in the south but it’s raining and I’m soaking wet and I’m standing on your doorstep and I need to see you right now and where are you?”

“In my studio,” Yunho says. “You’re here? In Gwangju?”

“Standing in the fucking rain!” Changmin shouts.

“Five minutes,” Yunho promises. “Five minutes and I’ll be there.” He hangs up before Changmin can yell at him some more.

Three and a half minutes later, a car pulls up. Yunho spills out of it and races towards him through the puddles. “Changminnie, what happened? Why are you—”

Changmin grabs hold and kisses him.

“Okay,” Yunho says when they break free, “okay, I can get behind that reason.”

“I’ll give you another reason,” Changmin snarls, rain spiking his eyelashes and trickling down his face, “I want you to fuck me.”

“Oh yeah.” Yunho kisses him again, mouth hot and greedy. He takes the keys from his jeans pocket and unlocks the door, dragging Changmin inside. They snatch at each other’s clothes, garments heavy and unwieldy with water, and stumble from one side of the hallway to the next.

“Ground floor apartment,” Yunho says between kisses as they fall through another door.

“Love them.” Changmin tears at Yunho’s white shirt, which has turned almost completely transparent in the rain. It’s almost a shame to take it off, but Changmin wants Yunho naked. He yanks at the front of the shirt and half the buttons fly off. Either he’s channelling someone much stronger than himself or Yunho’s shirt was really crap quality. Changmin doesn’t think he cares. He gets the rest of the shirt off and scores his nails all the way down Yunho’s chest.

“Oh, posh boy is on heat,” Yunho gasps, hauling Changmin’s jacket off and flinging it to the floor.

“Yes. Yes, I am,” Changmin growls and puts his mouth over the scratches, licks them one by one. Yunho tastes of rain and need, and Changmin gets rougher and rougher.

“Fuck. Fuck.” Yunho claws his hands into Changmin’s shoulders and shudders against him, grinds his stiff cock nice and hard against Changmin’s thighs. “Oh, baby. I love it when you’re wild. C’mon, this way.”

“No. Carry me.” Changmin can’t believe he’s being so demanding. “Carry me like you did before and throw me on the bed and take me.”

“You really like the caveman approach, huh.” There’s a gleam in Yunho’s eyes, and then he tackles Changmin, swings him up over his shoulder and carries him into the bedroom. Changmin cuts loose with all the things he wasn’t able to say last time, shouts filthy dirty things about how much he wants Yunho’s cock and how hard and how fast, and then Yunho drops him onto the mattress and pounces on him.

“Naked!” Changmin snaps. “Too many clothes!”

“I agree.” Yunho strips them both out of what’s left of their wet garments then climbs on top of him, heat against chilled, rain-dampened skin.

“Oh yes, oh yes, that’s good,” Changmin moans, squirming.

“I missed you, too, baby.” Yunho pins him to the bed, hands circling Changmin’s wrists in a tight grip. Changmin bucks up, struggles a little just for the thrill of it, because this time he’s not restrained by silk charmeuse and pins, it’s just Yunho’s strength keeping him there, and fuck, it’s turning him on.

“Take me,” Changmin babbles, wrenching one hand free. He spreads his legs and curls his knees up, frantically trying to direct Yunho into position. “Let me feel you inside me. Here, right here, hurry.”

Yunho looks tense and feral, but he holds back enough to grab at the nightstand, hauling out a drawer almost all the way and rooting through it until he comes up with a bottle of lube.

“I’d take you without that,” Changmin says, but it’s still a relief when Yunho slicks up his heavy, thick length and then works slippery fingers into Changmin’s hole, opening him, readying him. Yunho holds steady, and Changmin rubs against him, moaning at the feel of the swollen head of Yunho’s cock sliding along his ass-crack.

“Fuck me,” Changmin begs, orders, undulating against Yunho again and watching him go taut and shuddery. “I want it. Give it to me. Hard. Fast. Come on.”

“I want to make this last,” Yunho gasps. “Slow down. Oh, here. Get on me.”

Changmin yelps as Yunho rolls them over, sliding an arm around his waist and lifting him up on top. Changmin laughs, jubilant. “I’m going to fuck you. I’m going to ride you.”

Yunho groans and grabs at Changmin’s wrists. “Yeah, sit on me. Like that. Oh God, Changminnie, just like that.”

It’s easy after that, so easy to slide on down, inch by inch, all of it slick and wet and hard, all of it just for him. Changmin shivers, mouth opening on a sigh of pleasure to finally have Yunho seated inside him, thick and huge and demanding. He rocks his hips, taking Yunho deeper, then hisses at the stretch of it, at the faint burn of pain and effort. Changmin shimmies, moves back and forth in tiny, spiralling circles, taking a little more each time.

“That’s—that’s... Don’t stop, don’t ever stop,” Yunho begs, breathless.

Changmin is glad that he’s on top controlling this, because if he was underneath he’s pretty sure he’d be folded in two by now and Yunho would be ramming that massive thing into him until he was half dead with ecstasy. Just the thought of it is making pleasure swell inside him, and Changmin moans, long and loud, and grinds down.

Yunho grabs at him, both hands curving over Changmin’s ass, pulling him further onto his dick. Changmin chokes out a cry and lifts up, slams down, and then Yunho is right with him, thrusting up hard. Changmin squirms, impaled, and he claws at Yunho’s chest, scratches fresh marks across the ones he’d scored earlier.

“Yes, baby, yes,” Yunho snarls, and he fucks into Changmin fast and wild.

Orgasm coils, tight, tense. Pleasure surges, thick and hot, and Changmin works his cock, pre-come sliding down over his fist as he tugs and tugs. Yunho holds onto Changmin’s hips, onto his ass, and pounds into him, and Changmin squeezes, clenches around him so tight that Yunho gasps and moans at the same time and then blurts out, “Changminnie, oh, I’m—”

“Me too,” Changmin gasps, and they go over within seconds of one another, orgasm hard and unstoppable, breaking through them to leave Changmin a shuddering, helpless mess as Yunho thrusts and thrusts and empties hot and sweet inside him.

“I’m only here for the sex,” Changmin says when he can catch his breath. “That’s all. I just want your body.”

“I have no problem with that at all.” Yunho flicks his tongue over Changmin’s nape, laps up the glistening of sweat. “How long are you staying?”

“Twenty-four hours,” Changmin decides. “That should do it. We should be able to fuck each other out of our systems by then, shouldn’t we?”

* * *

Changmin is still in Gwangju come Wednesday. He doesn’t ask to see any of Yunho’s designs or finished pieces, and Yunho doesn’t offer to show them to him. They spend all their time in bed or hanging out with Yunho’s friends. Donghae tries to sell Changmin a dishwasher, a flat-screen television, several pairs of Evisu jeans with a limited edition Kyuhyun t-shirt thrown in, and a Tag Heuer watch.

For the first time in forever, Changmin feels free, far removed from the worries of the contest and what winning would mean. It’s like a holiday, and he revels in it, takes everything Yunho is offering and rolls around with it in glorious abandon.

“Tell me what went on with your father,” Yunho says on Wednesday evening. They’re sitting on the couch, beer and pizza on the coffee table, and they’ve found season two of Stitched Up on TV.

Changmin looks at him. “Am I still talking in my sleep?”

“Not so much. I think you’re too tired for nocturnal chats these days.” Yunho smiles and runs a hand along Changmin’s thigh, then his humour fades. “Seriously. Those first few weeks, you mentioned him almost every night. You looked so unhappy and you kept saying things like ‘no, I won’t, I don’t want to, I’ll show you’. You were...” He pauses, considering, then says, “You were so angry back then.”

“Angry?” The idea is startling, but when Changmin thinks about it, he realises it’s true. He was angry, and he’d turned it into the cold determination necessary to get him through the contest. Relaxing back against the couch, he takes a sip of beer. “I was angry because I didn’t want to go on Stitched Up. I was... manipulated into it.”

“By your father?” Yunho picks up his drink and takes a swig.

“Kind of.” Changmin stares at the TV. He remembers this episode. It’s the one where the designers have to create a look out of sweets. Contestant Heechul had eaten all the sweets then presented himself on the runway with chocolate smeared around his mouth and wrappers stuck to his body with gum. He declared himself to be installation art and was eliminated.

An ad break comes on. Changmin agitates his beer and exhales. “You know East Coast/West Coast hotels? It’s my grandfather’s company.” He pauses, not sure what to say after that.

Yunho blinks. “Really? Wow. I knew you were expensive.”

“Elegant,” Changmin says, managing to dredge up a laugh. “Sophisticated. Poised. In control.”

“Posh boy,” Yunho says softly. “Like a gentleman.”

“Don’t.” The television burbles in the background. Changmin picks at the label on the beer bottle. “My father wanted me to follow him into the business. I refused. I have two sisters who are more than capable and more than keen to take on the hotel industry, but I’m the only son and...”

“Yeah. I know.” Yunho gives him a sympathetic look. “Sometimes it sucks to come from money.”

Changmin laughs again, waves a hand around the apartment. Though it’s messy and cluttered, it’s easily the size of his place in Seoul. “You don’t seem to do too badly for a market trader.”

Yunho raises his eyebrows. “I have quite a lot of stalls. I just choose to work on one of the clothing stalls because it’s fun and that way, I get to know the needs of my client base.”

“How many stalls?”

“I employ about sixty people.” A small smile curves Yunho’s mouth. “And that doesn’t include the online side of the business.”

Changmin stares, beer halfway to his lips. “Wait. Let me get my head around that. I thought...”

“I know what you thought.” Yunho looks gently amused. “But we were talking about you.”

“Yes.” Remembering his beer, Changmin takes a pull. “I’ve wanted to be a fashion designer since I was ten years old. I won contests, awards. As I got older, my mother’s friends paid me to design daywear and evening gowns for them. My father could see I was good at it, but still he wanted me to put it aside and go to business school. We had a fight. Huge and terrible, the kind of fight that’s hard to forgive or forget, and I swore that if he didn’t let me go to St Martin’s, I’d never come home again.”

He glances at Yunho, a little embarrassed at the recollection of his teenage posturing. “It was fabulously dramatic and over the top. My sisters were crying, my mother was crying, and I was ready to walk out there and then when he backed down. He said I could go to London. He told me I could do my degree, but when I came back we’d have a serious talk about the future.”

Yunho picks up a slice of pizza and nibbles at one end. “So you went to England, you did your internship at Chanel...”

“I got a First. Nothing else would have done.” Changmin leans over and steals some of the topping from Yunho’s pizza. “I came back home and he said now that I’d got the rebellious phase over and done with, perhaps I was ready to do what was expected of me. Now it was time for business school. I said no. Again. My sisters were doing business studies. They had the aptitude and interest, not me. But he wouldn’t listen, and we kept fighting, and...”

“Sounds like a stalemate,” Yunho says around a mouthful of food.

“That’s exactly what it was.” Changmin helps himself to more pizza. “It was one of my mother’s friends who broke it. She’d seen the call for contestants for this season of Stitched Up and she said I should try it. I’d never wanted to do reality television, it’s common and embarrassing and... Anyway, my father agreed. He said this would be the way to settle things once and for all.

“We made a bet. If I made it into the final three, he’d admit defeat and allow me to pursue a career as a fashion designer. If I didn’t make the cut, I’d put my dreams aside and go into the family business with my sisters.” Changmin hugs his beer and stares at the TV again as, on screen, Jaejoong, Kyuhyun, and Madame Oh get ready to judge the sweet challenge. “I told him I’d show him. I told him I’d win.”

“Huh. Let me get this straight.” Yunho tilts his head, gaze quizzical. “Your father only wanted you to make the final three?”

“Yes.” Changmin drains his beer and sets the bottle on the table with a thud. “I was the one who said I’d win.”

They’re silent for a while, and then Yunho moves. “It seems to me,” he says, uncurling and stretching his legs out in front of him, “that your father accepted your decision even before you made the bet. It’s just you who hasn’t realised it yet.”

Changmin turns to stare at him. “What?”

Yunho smiles. “Think about it. As far as saving face goes, I have to hand it to your father. It’s a stroke of genius.” He collects up the empty bottles and heads for the kitchen. “Want another?”

“Sure,” Changmin says, his mind whirling, his perceptions shifting on their axis to present him with another version of the truth, one he was too damn stubborn to contemplate before. “Bring two. No, three. I think I’ll need them.”

* * *

On Thursday night they go out for dinner, tease one another into a frenzy, and barely make it home before they’re clawing at each other’s clothes. Garments get scattered along the hallway and around the living room. “Why are you wearing so many layers?” Yunho complains, desperately trying to unfasten Changmin’s waistcoat.

“To frustrate you,” Changmin says, giggling. “Do all the buttons confuse my Gwangju skank?”

“Yes.” Yunho whines and scrabbles at Changmin’s chest like an overexcited puppy. “I’m going to rip them off. I promise I’ll sew them back on tomorrow, but I have to have you naked right now—”

“Let me, let me.” Changmin tears at his waistcoat with even less patience than Yunho demonstrated, but at least if he rips the buttons off he can do a better job of fixing them in the morning.

They stagger into the bedroom and fall across the bed. “Changminnie, oh baby, how I want you,” Yunho says, pulling him down.

They kiss, and Changmin can’t get enough. He’s helpless in the face of his need, Yunho’s taste and scent driving everything else right out of his head. He climbs on top, slicking himself up, and sinks onto Yunho’s cock, quivering with tension. “Yun,” he gasps, joy coiled tight and explosive inside him, “oh fuck, I love you.”

Yunho goes wide-eyed and holds still beneath him. “Tell me again when you don’t have my dick inside you.”

Changmin does so when they’re bathed in sweat, the bed sheets scrumpled on the floor and the lazy whirl of the fan cooling their bodies. He’s blushing this time, and he’s glad of the darkness as he shoves his face half into a pillow and mumbles, “I love you.”

He can hear Yunho smile. “Tell me again when you’re not coming down from a post-orgasmic high.”

Changmin wakes him up and tells him again first thing on Friday morning.

“I love you too,” Yunho says, and they cuddle together all blissful and happy.

The doorbell rings.

Yunho groans and gets up. He’s wearing Changmin’s tie and nothing else. Pulling on a clean pair of boxer-briefs, he runs a hand through his hair and goes to answer the door. “Probably just Donghae. Won’t be a minute.”

Changmin smiles and stretches out in bed with a sigh. He can’t remember the last time he felt so utterly content. His body aches with satisfaction, and then he thinks maybe he’s not that satisfied because he could absolutely go for a repeat of last night just as soon as Yunho gets rid of the unwanted caller.

With this in mind, Changmin rolls out of bed. He picks up his dress shirt and puts it on, then goes to take a piss. He glances at the bathroom mirror and smiles at himself, all bright-eyed and glowing. “Shim Changmin,” he says to his reflection, “you’re a winner.”

He’s cleaning his teeth when he hears Yunho, loud and panicked, saying, “I’m so sorry, I’d completely forgotten it was today! Please give me a moment to get dressed. I won’t be long. No, really—two minutes. One minute if you wait outside. No, don’t—don’t come in, don’t—”

Puzzled, Changmin opens the bathroom door and goes out into the hallway.

The toothbrush falls from his mouth and bounces off his foot. Now he’s glad he’s wearing the shirt. It’s just about long enough to protect his modesty as the Stitched Up cameraman focuses on him, saying, “Isn’t that...?”

Yunho looks appalled. “No! It isn’t! It’s not Changmin, it’s... an optical illusion! An astral projection! Changmin is in Seoul. He’s not here. Why would he be here?”

And then Zhou Mi steps over the threshold. He studies Yunho’s lack of attire, smiles a little, then looks past him and stares at Changmin. There’s a pause, hideous and humiliating, and Zhou Mi’s eyebrows climb skywards.

“Well now,” he drawls. “Designer Shim. What an unexpected pleasure.”

* * *

On a scale of one to ten of embarrassing incidents, this probably ranks as a seventeen. Or maybe an eighteen. Changmin can’t decide if it’s worse that he was caught on film with toothpaste around his mouth or that he was caught on film wearing only a dress shirt and nothing else. On the plus side, at least he’s demonstrating to viewers that he has good oral hygiene as well as spectacularly long legs. On the minus side...

“Designer Jung, Designer Shim.” Zhou Mi looks between them as they sit, fully dressed, on the couch. “This is a very serious situation. I can’t recall anything like this ever happening on Stitched Up before.”

Changmin elbows Yunho. “I can’t believe you forgot that today was the day Zhou Mi came to visit you.”

Yunho looks woebegone. “I’m so sorry, Changminnie. I marked it on the calendar in my studio but since you’ve been here, I haven’t thought of anything else but you.”

Despite his trepidation, Changmin melts a little at this. “That’s really sweet, but now we’re in trouble and—and this is a disaster.”

“Hello,” Zhou Mi says, waving his hands. “Designers, could I have your attention just for five minutes, please? Thank you. Now, as I was saying...”

Yunho bolts up from the couch. “Eliminate me. Throw me out of the contest. It’s all my fault.”

Zhou Mi stares. “As I was saying: I’ve spoken with the producer and I actually made the suggestion already that one of you be eliminated, but it was just a suggestion and he could take it or leave it, and he quite rightly pointed out that we need three finalists. He also said it’s almost the end of week seven, which means it’s far too late now to contact Milhye. We have a strict schedule, and it’s not like she could just throw together a collection at the last minute. Therefore...”

“Keep me in the competition,” Yunho interrupts, “but arrange it with the judges so I come third, and therefore the only real contest is between Changmin and Sungmin.”

“The problem I’m facing,” Zhou Mi says, looking irritated, “is that you could both be accused of collaboration, which is strictly against the Stitched Up rules, apart from within the parameters of a team challenge. Which this clearly isn’t.”

“There’s been no collaboration,” Changmin says.

“Really.” Zhou Mi gives him a pointed look.

Yunho sits back down on the sofa. “I admit we’ve been fucking like bunnies since Monday afternoon, but I swear on everything holy that we have not collaborated in any other way, and certainly not in a fashion design way. We haven’t, we simply haven’t.”

Zhou Mi seems affected by Yunho’s passionate, earnest tone. He sniffs and dabs at his eyes. “I see. But do you have any proof of non-collaboration?”

Changmin looks up. “All of my work is in Seoul.”

“And all of my work is...” Yunho stops, his eyes going wide and excitement lighting his features. He bounces on the couch. “All of my work is in my studio! All of it, including sketches and swatches and my notes and receipts—it’s all in my studio!”

“That’s right,” Changmin says. “You haven’t let me see your studio. I don’t even know where it is.”

Zhou Mi frowns. “So?”

“So!” Yunho leaps up, then knots his hands together and rocks on his feet. “My studio is in the roof of the warehouse where the goods for the market are stored, and because the stock has a value of hundreds of millions of won, we installed CCTV all through the warehouse. We keep the tapes for three months before they’re wiped, so I can prove indisputably that Changmin hasn’t been anywhere near my studio or my designs, and he hasn’t influenced my collection in any way!”

“Smart,” Changmin says, impressed.

Yunho sighs. “The insurance company insisted.”

Zhou Mi nods as he considers this new information. “Let me see the CCTV footage, and the producer and I will discuss the matter further.”

Yunho calls Donghae and asks him to let Zhou Mi see the tapes from the warehouse, and then he and Changmin spend the rest of the day in the apartment under virtual house arrest, awaiting the decision.

“Even if they do kick us out,” Yunho tells Changmin, “you still made it into the final three, so you still won the bet with your father. Just remember that.”

“Yeah,” Changmin says, but it seems like a hollow victory.

It’s mid-afternoon when Zhou Mi comes back, his face wreathed in smiles and a new Tag Heuer watch strapped around his wrist. When he opens his notebook, a couple of scraps of paper fall out. One has Donghae’s phone number on it and the other is a receipt for a dishwasher and a flat-screen television.

“Designers!” he chirps, shoving the pieces of paper into his pocket, “I bring fabulous news! After exhaustive discussion, the producer has decided to allow you both to remain in the contest. Let me repeat that—you will both be going forward to the final runway show with Sungmin.”

Changmin clutches the back of the sofa, weak with relief. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“You really bought one of those dishwashers?” Yunho asks, wrinkling his nose.

Zhou Mi ignores him. “And because you are both still in the contest, I must emphasise that you are, in fact, competitors. Therefore, from today you may not see one another, speak to one another, or contact one another by any means until the day of the final runway show. No telephoning, texting, video conferencing, emailing, letter-writing, no nothing, understood?”

Yunho moves closer to Changmin and takes his hand. “I understand.”

“Me, too,” Changmin says, giving Yunho’s hand a squeeze.

“Good.” Zhou Mi sighs, looking much happier. “Now that’s sorted, Designer Jung, I need you to do your piece to camera and talk me through some of your finished garments. Designer Shim, we’re returning to Seoul within the hour and there’s room in the van, so, just a suggestion, we could give you a lift back. Just a suggestion—”

“I’ll take it,” Changmin says, smiling. “Thank you.”

An hour and a half later, Zhou Mi and the Stitched Up crew are waiting in the van, all of them studiously gazing at something on the other side of the road as Yunho and Changmin say their goodbyes.

“I love you, I love you,” Yunho says, covering Changmin’s face with kisses.

“You’re such an idiot,” Changmin tells him, then kisses his mouth and holds on for a long, long time. When they part, Changmin says, “I’ll see you on the runway.”

“Yes, you will.” Yunho beams and waves as Changmin hurries across the pavement and clambers into the van.

The Stitched Up driver starts the engine.

“Go, Changminnie fighting!” Yunho shouts, jumping up and down as the van pulls away.

Changmin cringes and laughs at the same time. He can do this. He can make it work. All of it.

* * *

They obey Zhou Mi’s instructions and have no contact for the next few weeks. Changmin is so busy finishing his collection he tells himself he doesn’t have time to miss Yunho, but still he finds the odd few minutes to flick through the photos on his phone, and when he gets himself off, he has a nice selection of dirty pictures to help him along. Now he wishes he’d let Yunho keep some dirty photos of him, too, rather than prissily demanding that they all be deleted.

The last few days before the runway show are a mad rush of booking the models, arranging hair and makeup, and doing final alterations. Zhou Mi pops by to let him know that Sungmin and Yunho are in town and are engaged in the selfsame activities.

“It’s going to be such an interesting runway,” Zhou Mi says, his expression giving away nothing.

“Sungmin’s collection is pink?” Changmin guesses.

Zhou Mi’s lips twitch and he almost smiles. “Now that would be telling. You’ll see for yourself soon enough.”

The night before the runway show, Changmin can’t sleep. He clutches his phone and stares at Yunho’s number, but he doesn’t break the rules, doesn’t call him. Tomorrow will be soon enough. Tomorrow he’ll know.

The morning wakes a chaos of nervous butterflies inside him. Changmin dresses in his Gieves & Hawkes suit teamed with a pale blue silk shirt. He doesn’t bother with a tie. He shaves and tries to do something with his hair, but in the end he can’t decide what he’s trying to say with his appearance and so he just runs his wet hands through his hair and lets it fall where it will.

When he arrives backstage, his nerves are strung so tight he can barely nod to the staff and camera crew. He greets his models and tries to think of something motivational to say to them, but the words dry up and stick in his throat. One of the models takes pity on him and cries, “Changmin to win! Let’s work it, girls!”

The cheers of his models still ringing in his ears, Changmin stumbles into the green room. Sungmin jumps up from the leather couch and comes over to give him a hug. “Changmin, hi! How are you, are you happy with your collection? I think you’ll be surprised by the way I’ve developed my aesthetic. I’ve really listened to what the judges said, and to what you guys said, and I’ve taken it all on board and...”

Changmin tunes him out, panic whining around his head. He’s still standing up, and Sungmin has sat down again as he continues talking. Changmin thinks maybe he should sit down, too, and perhaps he should pay attention to what Sungmin is saying, if only to be polite.

He sits down. Stands up again. Paces around.

Sungmin gives him a sympathetic look. “I’m nervous, too.”

“It’s not that,” Changmin says. “I mean, it is. But it isn’t.”

“Oh?” Sungmin’s expression wrinkles into confusion, and then he says, “Ah,” in a tone of comprehension just as the door opens and Yunho strides in, all bright and cheerful and wearing clothes that probably fell off the back of a lorry.

“Yunho!” Changmin bolts across the room and flings himself into Yunho’s arms. Okay, maybe he didn’t actually fling himself, because that would be overly dramatic, but his enthusiasm is noted nonetheless, and Yunho grabs hold of him and exclaims “Changminnie!” at the same time, and then they’re kissing, hot and hungry and desperate.

“Hi Yunho,” Sungmin says.

Changmin breaks the kiss and lifts his head. “Oh yeah, Sungmin is here.”

“Hi Sungmin.” Yunho slides out of the embrace and bounces over to give Sungmin a hug. “How much pink did you use in your collection?”

“I was just telling Changmin, I—” Sungmin comes to a halt as the door opens again and Zhou Mi meanders in with the cameraman.

“Designers,” Zhou Mi says, “it’s time for your final runway show. Are you excited? I know I am, even though I look incredibly bored. And as a special treat, we’ve gathered together all of the other designers from this season, with the exception of Sabine, of course. Let’s not keep them waiting, shall we?”

They go out and take their seats beside the runway. Yunho sits in the middle and holds hands with both Changmin and Sungmin. The former contestants are a little way off, waving and calling out their support. The judges are ready, pens poised and expectation on their faces.

“I’m going to be sick,” Sungmin whimpers.

“No, you’re not,” Yunho tells him. “You’re going to be awesome.”

Changmin leans closer. “I kind of feel sick, too.”

Yunho smiles at him. “And you, Shim Changmin, are going to be fabulous.”

“And what are you going to be?” Changmin asks. Usually by this point in the show, Yunho is a nervous wreck and/or a ball of hyperactive energy. Today he’s cool and calm and collected, and Changmin wonders why.

“I am going to be me,” Yunho says.

Changmin has little time to ponder this cryptic remark. The house lights go down, the spotlights shine along the runway, music blasts out, and the first model emerges and begins to walk.

Everything passes in a blur. Three models have walked before Changmin realises his collection is showing first. He relaxes his death grip on Yunho’s hand and eases some of the tension from his shoulders, then pays attention to the steady march of his looks along the runway.

The outfits he designed in the early part of the twelve-week period are clearly not as good as the ones he made later. His distraction and lack of attention seem to glare at him from the hems and detailing of the gowns, and he wonders why the hell he’d chosen that awful floral print for those shorts, and why the fuck did he think it was a good idea to team it with that weird jumper with the banana on the front.

Then Sungmin’s models emerge, and Changmin straightens up. These outfits are good. No, they’re amazing. Competitive pride rears its head and Changmin studies each look as it passes him, scrutinising the stitching and choice of fabrics and the overall feel of the piece.

In all honesty, Sungmin’s collection is better than his, not least because Sungmin has indeed listened to everyone’s advice and toned down the pink. It’s still there—baby pink, hot pink, salmon pink, powder pink—but it’s been integrated into the colour schemes or used as accents to make an outfit really pop, and the use of pink provides a cohesive thread tying together Sungmin’s collection as a whole.

“That’s incredible,” he tells Sungmin, leaning across Yunho. “Genuinely, your collection is superb. You should win.”

Sungmin blushes. “Thank you, that’s—” He stops, gaze fixed to the runway as the first of Yunho’s models steps out. Sungmin gasps. “Oh my God.”

Changmin turns his head and stares.

The model isn’t a woman. It’s a man. In a suit. A seriously sexy suit that manages to mix elegance with street style, but nevertheless, it’s a man in a suit, and Changmin starts to flail.

“Yunho,” he whispers. “Yunho, what—”

“Watch,” Yunho says. He still looks calm and composed, even though his next model, and the next, and the one after that, all of his models, in fact, they’re all men and they’re all wearing menswear.

“Yunho!” Changmin can’t believe what he’s seeing. “You threw the contest! Deliberately on purpose, you threw it away!”

“Changminnie.” Yunho smiles at him. “I told you weeks ago, the competition didn’t matter. It wasn’t the prize I wanted.”

Changmin thinks he might melt into goo and become a puddle on the floor. “But,” he protests, “but...”

Yunho squeezes his hand. “Hush. Here’s the bit where we have to talk bollocks and impress the judges.”

Changmin’s legs are wobbly as he slides out of his chair and steps up onto the runway alongside his first model. Jaejoong starts the discussion by noting that a few of the garments hadn’t been finished particularly well.

“We found that disappointing,” he says, frowning and flicking at his hair. “Throughout the many long, endless weeks of the show, you’ve been the one designer who always finishes magnificently—”

“Oh, he does, he does,” Yunho murmurs.

Changmin blushes and tries to stifle his laughter.

Jaejoong glares at them both then turns to the other judges. “Kyu, what do you think of Changmin’s collection?”

“I really liked the banana jumper,” Kyuhyun says. “That was the stand-out piece for me. And those floral shorts, I would totally wear them. Hey Changmin, call me later, I think we can do business.”

“Great!” Changmin polite-smiles and hopes he looks enthusiastic. A contact is a contact, even if it’s Cho Kyuhyun.

Madame Oh agrees with Jaejoong. “A little more attention was needed just on those few pieces,” she says, “but your skill and talent is plain for anyone to see. You are an extremely gifted designer. You’ll go far, Shim Changmin. You’ll be a star.”

Jaejoong taps his foot. “Now let’s move on to Sungmin.”

Everyone is vocal in their praise of Sungmin’s collection.

“It’s exquisite,” Madame Oh says, waving her hands. “Divine.”

Jaejoong nods. “I would wear every single item in this collection.”

“Pink is the new black,” Kyuhyun says. “That’s what I really appreciate about Sungmin’s work. Pink is so fashion-forward. You can wear it with anything and always look stylish.”

“Wonderful.” Jaejoong smiles at the camera. “What did we think of Yunho’s collection? Personally I found it rather weird. It was just menswear. Nice menswear, some might even say amazing menswear, and some of it looked on-trend, too, but still—it’s menswear. Not a single cocktail dress or evening gown. Not even a kaftan, and every collection should include a kaftan. Or a jumpsuit, I like those, too.”

“I agree with what Jaejoong said,” Kyuhyun says. “Also, I liked the shoes. I guess you didn’t make those, though. That’s a shame.”

Madame Oh perches forward on her seat. “Designer Jung, would you like to tell us what led to your decision to show only menswear?”

Yunho beams. “It’s quite simple. Over the course of the show, I came to realise that I really, really like designing menswear. And also I came to realise that I really, really like designing for Changmin. All of the looks you saw today were created for him, although I couldn’t find twelve models with the exact same proportions as Changminnie so I had to do quite a lot of alterations. And I know he won’t wear half of them because they’re not his style, but I made them for him anyway because he’s my perfect fit.”

“Oh, that’s so cheesy. I cannot believe you just said that.” Changmin hides his face in his hands, mortified and ecstatic at the same time. “You stupid romantic idiot, that’s all on camera.”

“Hello, ratings,” Madame Oh says with a big grin.

“You two are together?” Spoon yells. “Girlfriend, I want all the nasty details!”

“Wait!” Jaejoong snaps, trying to restore some semblance of authority to the proceedings. “Judges, are we decided on the winner?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kyuhyun says. “Sungmin, you’re the winner of season five of Stitched Up, yada yada, where’s the champagne?”

The cameraman does a close-up of Sungmin smiling and looking delighted, then it swivels to get a shot of Changmin wrapped in Yunho’s arms while the former contestants pile onto the runway squealing and clapping and randomly hugging one another.

“Sungmin won! Sungmin won!” Changmin shouts, and everyone cheers.

“But why are you so happy?” Jaejoong asks, frowning. “You lost.”

Changmin grins and looks at Yunho, who gazes back at him with adoration and joy. “Oh,” Changmin says, “I don’t know about that. I rather think I won after all.”

* * * * * *

Four of the pieces from Changmin’s final collection were picked up and adapted by Versace. He spent two years designing for the Italian house before being poached by Chanel on the advice of the supermodel Isabelle de la Tour, who described Changmin as a stylist ‘par excellence et sans pareil’.

Yunho spent one year working for Evisu before launching his own range of urban clothing, Gwangju Skank. Following its success, he designed an affordable menswear collection, Posh Boy, for a well-known high street store before collaborating with Spoon on a range of practical yet fashionable waterproof festival wear. The collection sold out across Western Europe and luminaries such as Kate Moss, Jessie J and Nicole Scherzinger were all papped wearing the outfits at Glastonbury and T in the Park.

Together, Yunho and Changmin masterminded a menswear line called HoMin pour Homme. Changmin complained about the placement of their names until Yunho pointed out that MinHo pour Homme didn’t sound quite as catchy. Their first fragrance, [b.u.t], will be launched this autumn.

They live in Seoul with their dogs Lagerfeld and Pucci.

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