glitterburn: (TVXQ: HoMin airport runway)
[personal profile] glitterburn
Title: For Fashion’s Sake
Fandom: TVXQ
Pairing: Yunho/Changmin
Rating: R
Summary: Designer Shim is back on TV for All Stars Stitched Up. Changmin sees the competition as the chance for a bit of peace and quiet away from Yunho, but nothing ever works out as planned.
Notes: AU. For the prompt ‘reunion’ in [ profile] diagon’s Twelve Months of HoMin challenge. Six related ficlets, and a sequel of sorts to Perfect Fit. Ridiculous fluffy crack to cheer myself up whilst recovering from glandular fever.

For Fashion’s Sake

i. The Invitation

The invitation arrives the old-fashioned way, by letter in an envelope emblazoned with the Stitched Up logo.

As is their habit, Yunho brings the post to Changmin in bed before he potters off, the dogs trailing after him, to prepare Changmin’s morning coffee.

Ever since he started working for Versace, Changmin has been very particular about his coffee. Even though he’d mostly worked from the home he and Yunho share in Seoul, he’d often had to travel to Milan to consult with colleagues, to source materials, to attend fashion weeks and generally to mingle and show his face as and when the house required.

His extended time in Italy had developed his taste for proper Italian coffee, served at the correct hour of the day—no cappuccino after breakfast time, please—and he’d spent an obscene amount of money on a proper Italian coffee machine and an even more ridiculous sum shipping it back to Korea and having it installed. After a few weeks of training and a couple of accidents and new plaster on the ceiling, Yunho got the hang of making coffee the exact way Changmin likes it.

With the delicious scent of roasted beans drifting through their sunny apartment, and with the gentle sputter of the machine a counterpoint to Yunho’s foolish babbling at their dogs Lagerfeld and Pucci, Changmin relaxes back against the heaped pillows and opens the letter.

Dear Designer Shim, it says. We would just love for you to join us as part of the all new All Stars Stitched Up! This will be the first in an occasional series whereby previous contestants from the top five (or lower, if they were particularly contentious, aggressive, or bitchy) will be gathered together to take part in an intensive ten-week challenge that’ll be filmed over the course of three weeks. The top three finalists will battle it out for a prize so fabulous we haven’t decided what it’ll be yet, but it’ll be so fabulous Zhou Mi won’t have the vocabulary to describe it, but here’s what we’ve got on offer for now...

Changmin reads the rest of the letter then touches it to his lips, considering the invitation. The timing is ideal. It’s still a few months before he can start working for Chanel, who bought out his contract with Versace. Technically he can’t sell any of his designs until the original term of contract ends, and he’s been bumming around offering constructive criticism on Yunho’s pieces for the Gwangju Skank and Posh Boy lines. Although Yunho seems very happy to receive this valuable input, Changmin has yet to see any of his advice applied to the garments. In fact, since Changmin has had to stop working, Yunho’s production has significantly tailed off as they spend a good part of the day in bed without any attention to clothes and with only a minor interest in lengths of leather and silk.

Quite aside from that, the ban on freelancing means that technically he can’t win All Stars Stitched Up, since part of the prize is to sell a concise collection through, and Changmin doesn’t like the idea that he won’t be a winner.

The rattle of bone china heralds Yunho’s triumphant procession with the cup of coffee. Lagerfeld trots along in his wake, little pink tongue lolling out in comical mimicry of his master. Changmin sits up in bed and hands Yunho the invitation in exchange for the coffee. “Tell me, what’s the point in doing this?”

Yunho skims the letter. “Fun?”

“Oh, that.” Changmin rolls his eyes and takes a sip of the coffee. It’s strong and sweet and has just a hint of cardamom, which isn’t very Italian but it tastes good all the same. “Right. Because I enjoyed it so much last time.”

“You did.” Yunho places the letter on the nightstand then sits on the side of the bed, picks up Lagerfeld, and cuddles the pug until it’s a dribbling, squirming ball of canine adoration. “You had a great time. Especially after Sabine was kicked out and I was reinstated. You loved it then.”

Changmin puts down his coffee and folds his arms. “That was different. It had nothing to do with fashion.”

“It did.” Yunho drops a kiss onto Lagerfeld’s head and shoots Changmin a mock-offended look. “Have you forgotten the night I had you on that PVC? You said it was a fabric only slappers and hookers would ever use, and I totally managed to change your mind.”

“Not really.” Changmin sniffs. He picks dog hair from the duvet. “I still think it’s for slappers and hookers. I also happen to think that role play is an essential part of a loving relationship.”

Yunho laughs and sprawls back on the bed, holding Lagerfeld up in the air. The pug yips and scrabbles excitedly, little paws kicking open Yunho’s towelling bathrobe and scratching his bare chest.

“Put that disgusting cur down,” Changmin snaps. No one is allowed to scratch Yunho’s chest like that. It’s a pleasure Changmin reserves entirely for himself. Maybe it’s a bit sad to be jealous of his own pet, but some things are off-limits, and Yunho’s chest is all for him.

“Aww Feldie, Changminnie didn’t mean it, Changminnie loves puppies really,” Yunho baby-talks to the pug, cuddling the animal closer. Lagerfeld yaps and licks Yunho’s face.

Changmin tries not to melt at how adorable they both look. “I wonder why they asked me and not you.”

“Maybe they liked your design aesthetic more.” Sitting up again, Yunho sets Lagerfeld on the polished wooden floorboards. The pug turns in a circle, scratches at his hindquarters, then wanders off into the living room.

The thought pleases Changmin. “Yes, that must be it.”

Yunho leans back and adjusts his gaping bathrobe. “Milhye is going to be on the show. Did they tell you that in the letter? And I had an email from Spoon just yesterday. He’ll be there, too.”

“Oh?” Changmin narrows his eyes as he evaluates this news. It won’t be a problem. He’s beaten both of them before and he can do it again. “I wonder who else has signed up for it.”

“You’re the fan of the show, not me. There’s probably a forum or something online that’s taking odds on it.” Yunho stops fiddling with the belt of his bathrobe as Pucci comes nosing into the bedroom. “Pucci, Pucci, come to daddy!”

Changmin wrinkles his nose as Yunho makes a fuss of the gigantic golden-brown Leonberger. “Must you encourage him? I don’t like it when the animals climb all over the bed. Especially Pucci. He’s huge and he moults. Look, his hair is everywhere after only thirty seconds. It’s gross. Lagerfeld is just as bad, he comes in here with his dirty paws and deliberately treads all over my favourite bed linen, and every time I scold them, they give me this woebegone look and I know it’s because you’re too soft with them.”

Yunho gazes at him, eyes all wide and sad. “You’re so mean to the puppies.”

“Jung, they are not puppies. Pucci is four years old.”

“Don’t listen to him, Pucci-pup! Changminnie is ageist.”

Suddenly the opportunity to take part in All Stars Stitched Up seems like a really good idea. It seems like an even better idea when Pucci gives Yunho a sloppy doggy kiss and leaps up onto the bed, shifting it sideways by a good five centimetres. He wags his huge, fluffy tail, knocking over Changmin’s coffee at the same time. The coffee splashes across Changmin’s favourite cream and blue silk Persian rug. The cup shatters. Startled by the noise, Pucci jumps and starts barking.

Lagerfeld comes tearing in from the living room, yapping, and skids on the spilt coffee. He goes rolling across the floor, yelping piteously, and clunks into the full-length bevelled mirror. Though the mirror wobbles, it stays upright—but a succession of Changmin’s scarves tumble from their carefully draped perch on the frame and fall on top of Lagerfeld, who whines and fights off the attack until the swathes of delicate fabrics are rendered into rags and the more robust knits are covered in dog drool.

Yunho falls off the bed laughing.

Changmin clutches his head. “Oh, for fu—”

“For fashion’s sake, Changminnie!” Yunho scrambles up and kisses his nose.

“For fashion’s sake,” Changmin repeats slowly. That sounds like a catchphrase. A good catchphrase—no, a great one. Much better than the one he’d devised for season five, the one that Cho Kyuhyun has used ever since.

“For fashion’s sake!” Changmin bounces out of bed, filled with buoyant enthusiasm. “I’ll do it. I’ll go on All Stars Stitched Up and I’ll win it!”

“Except for the bit where you can’t win it because of your contract battle,” Yunho reminds him, picking up the broken pieces of the cup. “But you can come second!”

“I hate coming second,” Changmin grumbles.

“I know,” Yunho says with a sigh. “But sometimes I just can’t control myself.”

Changmin stares at his weird boyfriend and decides that the separation imposed by the TV show can only be a good thing.

* * *

ii. Bedding Down

This time when Changmin turns up at the apartment-hotel, he doesn’t care whether he’s the first or the last designer to arrive. He’s full of confidence, most of which comes from the memory of Yunho fucking him last night and gasping, “You’re a winner, you’re a winner, Shim Changmin!” which was all kinds of idiotic, and Changmin had been put off his stroke at one point because he was laughing so hard. Nevertheless, Yunho’s brand of motivational thinking seems to have worked, because Changmin strides into the boys’ apartment with a big smile on his face and a bag of pineapple lumps in his hand.

By late evening, the pineapple lumps have been eaten and all the designers are lounging around the boys’ kitchen/living area. Changmin sits on the sofa, Spoon on one side and Milhye on the other, and sizes up the rest of the competition under the guise of friendly conversation and a few glasses of champagne. There’s Han Geng from season four, a quiet Chinese who looks permanently haunted and occasionally blurts out disjointed Korean sentences; an American guy, Chip, of the ChipSkip&Hank urban collective from season three, who grins a lot and says ‘y’all’ every time he opens his mouth, and—to Changmin’s great displeasure—Siwon from season seven.

Changmin had missed a number of episodes from season seven due to work commitments in Milan, and although Yunho had recorded the shows for him, somehow Changmin had managed to delete them and hadn’t had time to catch up with the episodes illegally online. The fact that Siwon—or Chiffonie Wonnie, as he’d become known—made it through to the final four is something that Changmin finds inconceivable. Top male models know nothing about fashion. They wear clothes, they don’t design them; and yet Siwon has managed to start a new career making crappy sportswear.

Alongside Milhye, the girls are: Go Ara from season one, who’s still making ugly LBDs from felt and jersey; Victoria from season six, a specialist in menswear who takes all measurements by groping her clients rather than using a tape measure; Amber from season seven, who looks like a tomboy but makes beautiful, ultra-feminine gowns; and finally, Heechul from season two, who now goes by the name of Lady HeeHee and declares that art transcends gender and for the duration of the show he’s going to be a woman, so respect it, bitches.

Changmin knows he can out-design and out-sew everyone in the room. With his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Stitched Up, he tries to work out who would come second to him—in other words, who’s going to win just because he can’t. He refuses to countenance the idea that Chiffonie Wonnie might do well, so he decides that either Spoon or Milhye would make acceptable replacement winners.

The evening ends when the champagne runs out, and the girls return to their apartment and the guys meander around getting ready for bed. Changmin shares a room with Spoon and Han Geng. Spoon keeps Changmin awake half the night asking for graphic details of his love life and squealing with indignation when Changmin refuses to say anything, especially regarding the size of Yunho’s dick.

They’re woken at four o’clock in the morning by Zhou Mi, who instructs them not to get changed out of their nightwear and also to bring a sheet from their bed with them to the workroom. He has to deliver this instruction several times to Siwon, who must be very tired because Zhou Mi also needs to stand really close and help him with the bed sheet. They leave the apartment-hotel and traipse through downtown Seoul just as dawn is breaking. There’s a chill in the air, the suggestion of a spring breeze, and Changmin breathes in the cool, complex scent of the city and feels glad that he agreed to this contest.

Entering the workroom is like greeting an old acquaintance, one that you can’t quite remember if you liked or not. The designers find their allotted benches and investigate the sewing room, exchanging stories about their experiences on the main show. The cameraman trails after them. Changmin notices a couple of CCTV-type cameras mounted in the workroom. He’s glad that season five was filmed so cheaply, otherwise the after-hours activities he and Yunho engaged in would have been if not impossible then at the very least exhibitionist.

“Designers,” Zhou Mi drawls, placing his hands in a reverse steeple and looking around the room, “it’s your first challenge—are you excited? I’m excited. Just see how excited I am, I can barely contain myself. Your first challenge is to create a look from your bed sheet and your nightwear. Dyes and notions are provided, and over here we have a charming selection of discarded items from Jaejoong’s wardrobe for you to wear in place of your sleeping garments. You have until two o’clock this afternoon, and then we’ll be going directly to the runway. So just a suggestion—”

Changmin interrupts. “Do we have to use all of our nightwear?”

Zhou Mi scans him up and down. “A significant part of your nightwear should form part of the look. It’s entirely up to you what you choose. Just a suggestion—use the t-shirt. It has more potential than your boxer-briefs. Just a suggestion, take it or leave it!”

“Right. Thanks.” Now Changmin wishes he’d packed the gorgeous midnight blue silk-satin pyjamas Yunho had given him especially to wear on the show. He’d thought they were too nice to wear in public, as it were, so he’s wearing a Gwangju Skank t-shirt custom-made for him—on the front in graffiti-style writing it says Gwangju Skank loves his Posh Boy—and his boxer-briefs are actually Yunho’s, taken deliberately and not by accident.

He is not giving up Yunho’s underwear in the name of fashion. He’ll have to rely on the bed sheet and the Gwangju Skank t-shirt.

Go Ara and Victoria fight over Jaejoong’s cast-off silver lamé jumpsuit. Spoon has to rip the seams of a number of Jaejoong’s paisley shirts and pin them into a kind of toga, muttering all the while about skinny TV show hosts and how unhealthy it is to be a size two. Siwon announces that he’s just going to wear his tiny jockey shorts because God gave him his amazing body with its ripped abs and sexy chest and it would be a sin to cover it up. Milhye offers Chip several thousand won to swap workbenches so she can stare at Siwon.

Changmin sneers at Siwon’s pathetic posing and roots through the box of Jaejoong’s unwanted clothing, finally pulling out a purple PVC jacket. It’s the only thing that’s remotely suitable for him to wear, but still he hesitates, because it’s PVC, and as he told Yunho only the other day, PVC is a fabric for slappers and hookers. Changmin puts on the jacket, a blush climbing to his face as he thinks about the last time he pretended to be a hooker for Yunho.

“Hey girlfriend, you look like you escaped from a boyband!” Spoon shrieks across the room.

Changmin hunches down in the jacket, which squeaks and creaks, reminding him of how Yunho had coaxed him into wearing a short, tight PVC skirt that laced up the back and a pair of thigh-high boots and the silk charmeuse vest from season five. “Structure and flow,” Yunho had said, sliding greedy hands all over Changmin’s chest and down over his thighs. “You’re so architectural, baby. How much do you charge? I want your mouth, I want your ass, I want your everything.”

Ignoring the other designers and trying to stifle unwanted arousal, Changmin picks up his sketchbook and gets to work. He studies the note giving his model’s measurements, makes a few calculations, then cuts the bed sheet into two unequal pieces. He dyes the Gwangju Skank t-shirt and one piece of the sheet black, and the other piece he dyes a deep, intense violet.

Once the fabric is dry, he cuts the neck of the t-shirt right down into a wide, deep vee. The black cotton of the bed sheet he tailors into a pair of cigarette pants, and from the violet cloth he makes a short jacket with splits along the side and back seams to create movement.

Zhou Mi’s critique and the model fitting both go well. Changmin glances at the clock on the wall of the workroom. He still has a lot to do, and he barely registers any of the other designers or their looks. He keeps on working, then when the finished pieces are draped on the form, he steps back to edit.

It looks too severe; not playful enough. Changmin wonders what Yunho would do. Not that Yunho would make something as elegant and sophisticated as this, but still. Colour, Changmin thinks; Yunho would make it pop with a splash of contrast colour. He finds some bright yellow fabric paint, dials it down with a dab of orange to push it more towards gold, and spatters it over the cuffs of the jacket.

The door opens and Zhou Mi comes back in. “Designers,” he says, “you have forty minutes to send your models to hair and makeup. Use the Gangnam Style accessory wall thoughtfully. So let’s go! I’m sending in your models!”

Everyone runs around grabbing shoes and bags and jewellery. Changmin decides that less is more and settles on a pair of gold high heels for his girl and a chunky necklace to accentuate the dramatic cut of the vest and jacket.

Finally they all hustle downstairs to the runway. It’s been a long day and they’re all drooping with tiredness, except Siwon, who claims that God has given him the gift of wakefulness, and Amber, who says Red Bull gave her a similar gift.

Jaejoong waddles onto the runway, wearing a purple leopard print jumpsuit with pink zebra print boots and clutching his artificial baby bump.

Over the last couple of seasons of Stitched Up, Jaejoong has landed himself a glowering, hunky pop star with bulging muscles, a penchant for leather, and interesting facial scars that people have variously interpreted as ritual scarification, tribal markings, or just bad acne. Last seen in the charts in the early 1990s, Porpoise keeps on attempting comebacks but no one seems to care. Nevertheless, Jaejoong and Porpoise have been in a serious relationship for nineteen months, according to the gossip columns, and as a symbol of their love they’re in the process of adopting a baby from Malawi.

“Welcome to the runway!” Jaejoong chirrups. “This is the first ever All Stars Stitched Up, and I’m excited to see what free gifts I can blag from our advertisers. Your challenge today was to create a look out of your nightwear and a bed sheet. I hope none of you did anything disgusting in your beds last night, otherwise I pity your poor models. Now let’s meet the judges! First, top Korean fashion designer Cho Kyuhyun...”

Kyuhyun grins. “Hi guys.”

Changmin scowls. He still hasn’t forgiven Kyuhyun for ripping off the banana jumper he’d made for his final runway collection in season five. It wasn’t his fault that Versace had poached him before he could return Kyuhyun’s phone calls. It certainly wasn’t very professional of Kyuhyun to put out a spring/summer collection of separates entirely designed around exotic fruit.

“Fashion director for ClothesLine magazine, Madame Oh...”

“Hellooooo.” Madame Oh has ditched Vivienne Westwood in favour of Betsey Johnson, and is wearing a t-shirt with a skeleton screenprint over a bright yellow calf-length dress with tyre tracks up the middle of the skirt. Some things never change, though, and there’s still the heavy sickly-sweet stink of Oscar de la Renta wafting across the runway.

“And our guest judge this week is some actress who needs the exposure because her next TV show is sure to be a flop,” Jaejoong says, adding, “I’ve forgotten her name already so don’t bother listening to her critique. Let’s start the show!”

Even though Changmin knows he’s a winner, the old nerves return full force and he sits on his chair, arms crossed and one foot jigging up and down as he waits for his model to walk. He studies the other looks, disregarding most of them but turning to smile and praise Milhye, Han Geng, Spoon, Amber, and Lady HeeHee. Siwon’s look is also very cohesive and shows a definite point of view, but Changmin ignores him out of principle.

Changmin, Milhye, and Lady HeeHee are in the top three. Go Ara, Siwon, and Victoria are in the bottom three.

“I think this would look much nicer in chiffon,” Jaejoong says of Siwon’s look. “But since you only had cotton to work with, we’ll let you off this time. Also, we all appreciate the fact that you’re standing there in a really small pair of jockeys. I think we’ll use that image as part of our pre-season advertising campaign.”

Madame Oh leans forward, holding her scorecard up to shield her eyes from the glare of the runway lights. “Designer Shim, is that a Gwangju Skank t-shirt?”

“Yes,” Changmin says. “A one-of-a-kind garment, too.”

“Then I wonder that you dyed it and cut it up like that, regardless of the rules of this show. You could have used your underwear.”

Changmin blushes. “The underwear belongs to Yunho.”

Madame Oh nods in understanding and turns to the forgettable guest judge. “They’re so sweet together. Such a shame we couldn’t get Designer Jung back on the show, too. Top ratings would’ve been guaranteed, but instead we just had to settle for whoever we could get.”

“Let’s move onto Designer Go!” Jaejoong says loudly. “What is this repulsive outfit? It looks like a sack. I would not wear such a hideous garment.”

Kyuhyun grins. “It’s ugly, ugly, ugly!”

The decision is unanimous. Changmin wins, and Go Ara is sent home after Jaejoong sways over and gives her the air kisses, declaring, “Go Ara—go away.”

* * *

iii. Tap This

It’s challenge three, and they’re on their way to Bias Designer Fabrics when Spoon grabs at Changmin’s arm. “Girlfriend! Are my eyes deceiving me or is that your ass plastered all over a forty-foot billboard?”

Changmin jolts out of thoughts of circle skirts versus princess-cut dresses and stops on the street, allowing Spoon to swing him around in the correct direction.

The other designers are staring and pointing. Then they turn en masse and stare at Changmin’s bum before returning their gazes to the huge advertising hoarding on the other side of the road. Then they look back at him, as if they don’t quite believe that it’s his ass on display in those tight, tight jeans.

Changmin stares. His mouth drops open. Shock runs through him, hot then cold, and he gets a fuzzy feeling in his head and a tingling in his feet and he wants to kill Yunho, wants to kill him right now, that stupid bastard, because just look what he’s done.

The advert shows Changmin wearing a plain white dress shirt half tucked into a pair of faded blue jeans. Yunho had made those jeans for him. They’re cut snug and sexy, the denim pliant and comfortable. They’re the best pair of jeans Changmin has ever worn, and over the last few months he’s almost lived in them.

In the picture, Changmin is lying across their rumpled bed reading the Sunday newspaper supplements, one leg kicking in the air in a relaxed, flirtatious manner. His face isn’t fully visible; it’s just the back of his head, his hair tousled and sexy, and the side of his face, just enough that it’s obvious he’s smiling at the man seated in the leather armchair on the far side of the room. The man is out of focus, deliberately blurred to become suggestions of shape and colour, but Changmin—and everyone else who sees the advert—knows it’s Yunho.

Changmin draws in a breath. He remembers that day, the sunlight across the bed and the crumbs from the croissants they’d eaten for breakfast spilled over the sheets. He’d been engrossed in an article about the historic windmills of Mykonos when Yunho said let me take photos of you, baby, you look so sexy, and Changmin—stupid, stupid—had agreed, and he’d rolled and stretched and posed for his—moronic, deserves to be dumped—boyfriend.

Later, Yunho had put the camera on the dresser and programmed it to take pictures of them sprawled across the duvet together, just looking at one another and smiling. Changmin knows there was a photograph of them kissing, because he really likes it and it’s tucked into the inside pocket of his suitcase for when he’s feeling lonely, but this... This picture must’ve been taken right after without him even knowing, because he remembers Yunho picking up the main part of the newspaper and sitting in that chair, and Changmin remembers how he’d smiled at Yunho, happy and content and wanting him to come back to bed so they could make love.

Never mind that those jeans are really hot and his ass looks fantastic in them. Never mind that a filter has been applied across most of the image, sharpening over Changmin’s legs and bum and slightly fading everywhere else in order to focus the viewer’s attention on the jeans. Forget all that. The worst part, the absolute worst part, is the tag line.

Tap This, it says in huge bold letters—and oh God, now Changmin understands why Yunho was so delighted when he sourced those cute little stainless steel rivets in the shape of old-fashioned taps.

Tap This.

This is not happening. Except it is. In public. And the Stitched Up cameraman is right there capturing his look of horror, and this will be edited every which way to get the full hilarious effect for broadcast on national television.

Jung Yunho is a dead man.

Spoon is dragging on his sleeve in a froth of excitement. “Oh my gawd, girlfriend, your honeypie sure loves you!”

Changmin is still trying to process the sight of the advert without the added complication of working out that ‘honeypie’ somehow equals ‘Yunho’.

“He’s not my honeypie,” Changmin snarls. “He’s—he’s a devious, underhand skank and I’m going to kill him.”

Instead of being impressed by Changmin’s flash of temper, Spoon giggles. “Darlin’, if I had an ass as cute as yours I’d get everyone to photograph it!”

This is unbearable. Changmin starts across the road with some half-baked notion of tearing down the billboard poster, although he has no idea how he’d actually manage to do such a thing. The situation is not improved by his fellow designers hooting and calling out supportive phrases such as “Mmm, yeah, work it, Designer Shim! Can’t bear to see you leave but I love watching you go!”

Changmin reaches the traffic island in the middle of the road just as a bus goes past with another Tap This advert emblazoned along its side. This picture shows him bending over to fuss Pucci. Not that either the dog or Changmin is identifiable—like the photo on the billboard, the angles are so careful and discreet as to be anonymous, except for the fact that it’s immediately fucking obvious that it’s him.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Changmin turns around. The traffic lights have changed, and a taxi slows to a halt beside him. Of course it has a Tap This advertising banner on its roof, a picture of Changmin leaning against the door of their balcony at sunset. Yunho is standing outside, his hair and part of his face visible in the shot. His head is tilted towards Changmin and his eyes shine with happiness, and he’s got one hand tucked into the back pocket of Changmin’s jeans.

It’s an intimate and loving picture, one that brings a lump to Changmin’s throat. He recalls that evening with perfect clarity. He’d just flown in from a five-week job in Milan. He was jetlagged before he’d even got off the plane. Chanel and Versace had just started their legal squabble over his services, and he was sick to death of the fashion world and just wanted to be held.

Of all the images to use, this one hurts the most. He also knows beyond any doubt that this is the image that will sell truckloads of those jeans.

“Oh,” he says, beyond flustered. “Oh, for fu—uh, fashion’s sake!”

The taxi moves on, and Changmin sprints back across the road to rejoin his fellow designers. They cluster around him, swooning and cooing. For some reason they all see the adverts as some kind of hugely romantic gesture of love and devotion rather than the gross invasion of privacy it so obviously is.

“Stop it,” Changmin snaps, his emotions too rattled for him to think straight. “Don’t talk about it anymore. This isn’t funny. This is—this is...”

“Flattering?” suggests Milhye.

Changmin scrunches a hand into the back of his hair. “He did this on purpose.”

“Duh, yeah.” Siwon taps the side of his head. “Can you blame him? The whole country knows you’re on this show. The producers told me they expect the ratings to be higher than the usual Stitched Up. Any businessman with sense is going to cash in on the opportunity.”

“You can’t blame a market trader for exploiting his best assets,” Amber says.

“Yeah, especially when his own assets in that department are kinda lacking,” Spoon adds.

Changmin is incoherent.

Zhou Mi has finally noticed that no one followed him to the fabric shop. Wandering back, he asks, “Designers, why are you all dawdling randomly on the pavement?” Then he notices the billboard. He stands there, puts one arm across his chest, rests his other elbow on his wrist and crooks his index finger against his lips as he studies the gigantic advert. “Oh, my. Is that you, Designer Shim? What a well-made pair of jeans. They fit so lovingly over your posterior. Did Yunho make those?”

Grinding his teeth, Changmin answers, “Yes.”

“Well, that’s marvellous. They’re just so adorable.” Zhou Mi tilts his head and looks down at Changmin’s ass. “Even if we don’t have cute bubble butts like you, the cut of those jeans would flatter any man’s behind. When you next talk to Yunho, tell him I’d like to order fourteen, and ask him if he can make a pair in red.”

Changmin stares at him.

“One thing, though.” Zhou Mi gestures at the billboard and grimaces a little. “The logo on the back pocket. A tap for Tap This. It’s too much. Tell him from me, it’s just too literal. Just a suggestion, take it or leave it.”

* * *

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