glitterburn: (TVXQ: HoMin suited up)
[personal profile] glitterburn

iv. Some Day My Prints Will Come

Zhou Mi wanders into the workroom one morning and asks the designers to gather round, then announces the print challenge.

Changmin cringes. He hates prints. He much prefers the clean simplicity of solid colour. Perhaps he’ll use a little ombré if he really wants to go wild, but generally he goes out of his way to avoid prints.

Today though, that isn’t going to happen. Today they’re supposed to be creating a print based on something meaningful from their past. Henry, a previous challenge winner from season six, comes to give them a motivational speech. Changmin recalls that Henry’s winning print involved red maple leaves against a white background. The maple leaves had badly drawn smiley faces and sported baseball caps, and the phrase YO WASS HAPPENIN DUDES was written underneath. Henry had made a pair of MC Hammer-style pants and teamed them with a black tank top bearing the slogan I ♥ the 80s in case nobody had worked out the reference already.

To this day Changmin still hasn’t worked out why Henry won that challenge, but after watching seven seasons of Stitched Up and ten seasons of Project Runway, he’s come to terms with the fact that sometimes the judges have absolutely no taste and are in fact complete idiots.

Zhou Mi thanks Henry for his insight and then says that they’ll all be given dossiers of inspirational images from their past, and that someone special is going to deliver them. Changmin sits at his bench and hopes Yunho is his special someone. The workroom doors open and in come a succession of designers’ mothers. Changmin cranes his head, looking for Yunho’s bright, beaming sunshine face, but his hopes are dashed when his father’s secretary, Hanna, approaches him with an embarrassed smile.

“Here’s your dossier,” she says, handing it to him. “Your mother had a charity tennis match to attend and your father and sisters are in the middle of a board meeting. This is all they could find at such short notice.”

Right at that moment, Changmin overhears Spoon’s mother exclaiming that three weeks just hadn’t been long enough for her to get together all the pictures she’d wanted to include in his dossier.

Hanna looks even more embarrassed. Changmin’s eyes burn. He bites his lip and gestures for her to sit down.

“I can’t stay,” she says, glancing at the clock. “I need to get back to work.” She hesitates, twisting her hands together. “Good luck, Changmin. I hope you win.”

“Thanks,” he croaks. He watches her leave, escorted out by a puzzled Zhou Mi, and then he bows his head so his hair falls into his eyes, takes a deep breath, and opens the dossier.

It’s almost empty. There’s a photocopy of a picture of him in his graduate’s robes in Trafalgar Square. He looks annoyed and amused at the same time, and there’s a pigeon perched on his mortarboard. His university friends surround him, similarly attired, and they’re all laughing and joyful.

Underneath that picture is a snapshot of him at school. He has a bowl haircut that makes his ears stick out and he stares solemnly into the camera lens.

Finally there’s one of the original contact prints from the photo shoot he and Yunho had done for the Posh Boy line. They’re standing close together in an expensive boutique hotel, Yunho in a severe black suit with a white and blue diagonal-striped tie, Changmin much more casual, leaning on the back of a chair and wearing cream trousers and a striped shirt beneath a white-on-red grid-patterned blazer. They’re looking at one another, Yunho all haughty and Changmin just about to smile, and it’s immediately clear to anyone with eyes to see that they want to rip each other’s clothes off and have rampant sex on the floor.

For all the subtextual filth in that photo, it’s actually very classy. Changmin’s mother had admired it, so Yunho had presented it to her in an elegant silver frame. Changmin hadn’t seen it again until this moment, and he wonders where the frame went. Probably it’s housing a picture of his father’s latest acquisition, a hot springs complex somewhere on Shikoku.

He glances at Spoon’s overflowing dossier, at the way Amber is cuddled against her mother as they reminisce, at Milhye and her mum sitting side by side, talking quietly. Though neither of Siwon’s parents are here, his sister is with him, giggling as she flicks through his sketchbook.

Changmin lays his pathetic dossier to one side and gets up. He walks out of the workroom, aware of the cameraman scurrying after him. He stands in the corridor. Probably he should do something dramatic for the sake of the TV audience. He should run into the toilets crying or he should punch the wall, but in all honesty he doesn’t know what to do. All he knows is that he misses Yunho so much it hurts.

He even misses those stupid mutts that Yunho had insisted on bringing to live with them. Those mangy curs with their ridiculous names. Pucci should be the name of a small dog, not an enormous beast like the Leonberger. And Lagerfeld is a noble name, not something to be given to a squashed-face pug.

The thought of Yunho and the dogs makes him smile a little. The cameraman wheels around him, whispers, “Are you okay?”

Changmin nods. “I’m fine. Thank you. I’m... I’ll go back inside.”

He returns to the workroom. Milhye and Spoon look up, but he waves away their concern. Opening his sketchbook, he doodles random shapes before sliding over to the touch-screen computer upon which he’s supposed to unleash his creativity. He plays around with the colour wheel for a while, writes his name and Yunho’s name and draws flowers and hearts around them, and then dismisses the screen.

He has absolutely no inspiration.

Picking up the dossier again, he studies the three pictures. He supposes they all represent a moment of freedom, for all that they might seem to suggest the opposite. He’d enjoyed his time at school. He was clever and bright and the teachers paid attention to him. Going to St Martin’s had been a different kind of freedom. He’d thought he’d beaten his father and got his own way by going to fashion college on the other side of the world, and when he’d graduated he’d felt nervous and excited at the prospect of returning home.

And then there’s the picture with Yunho. Apart from that very slight suggestion of a smile on Changmin’s face, they both look buttoned-up and proper. No one would ever know that, at the end of the photo shoot, he and Yunho had almost totally trashed that hotel suite shagging like bunnies across every available surface.

Changmin sighs and puts his head down on his sketchbook. He closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep, the sound of conversation gentle around him.

He wakes with a start to the smell of damp paper. Eww, he’s drooled on his sketchpad. Changmin sits bolt upright, blinking, shaking off the memory of a horrible dream in which Siwon was eliminated from the show and decided to call around to visit Yunho, who allowed himself to be seduced by Siwon’s washboard abs and stupid chiffon outfits.

“It’s just a dream,” Changmin mutters to himself. He’d fallen asleep on his mechanical pencil and now he has a really unflattering line imprinted into his forehead. He pulls his fringe forwards to hide it, even though the mothers and Siwon’s sister have gone home and no one cares what he looks like, and then he glances at the clock and realises he has five minutes left to design his print and send it off to the fabric printers.

“Oh crap,” he breathes. “Oh, for fu—fashion’s sake.”

“Girl, I love your new catchphrase,” Spoon calls out.

“Fuuuu fashion fashion fashion,” Changmin squawks, scribbling his finger across the touch-screen in a panicked, random design. He duplicates the image to fill the available space and then presses send before he can even do a test print on paper. Whatever happens tomorrow, he’ll just have to make it work.

After a restless night spent worrying about exactly what kind of subliminal Rorschach test he’ll be sending down the runway, Changmin arrives at the workroom to find the print on his bench. The other designers are ecstatic about seeing their creations brought to life, but Changmin just stares at his, then shrugs and starts cutting out a cute, flirtatious summer dress. He has no idea if the design fits the aesthetic of the print, and frankly he doesn’t care.

The runway show is a confusion of interpretations. Jaejoong, Kyuhyun, Madame Oh, and guest judge Henry look baffled by everything that walks in front of them.

Siwon’s print is a violent mess of contradictory colours overlaid with weird animal shapes, flames, and obscure Biblical passages. He says his inspiration was the Book of Revelation. Kyuhyun says the only revelation he can see is in the use of chiffon to make a pair of dungarees. Amber has made what Madame Oh describes as ‘a prom dress tripping on acid’ from her print of boot prints and tyre tracks, which symbolises her childhood growing up as the only girl amongst a family of eleven guys. Milhye’s print features horses, and Spoon’s print is, surprisingly, of forks.

Then they get to Changmin’s look. There’s a long silence as they stare at the dress. They all tilt their heads sideways.

“It’s a pretty dress,” Jaejoong says, rubbing his fake pregnancy belly thoughtfully. “But what about the print? It’s somewhat odd. I guess if you squint a bit and lie on your side, it kind of looks like the Chinese character for ‘wind’.”

Kyuhyun snorts with laughter, then stops and resumes his serious judging face.

“Isn’t ‘wind’ a synonym for ‘crazy’?” Madame Oh asks.

Changmin has no idea how to explain his print. Maybe he should be honest and admit that he drew it at the last minute, but that would suggest he wasn’t taking the competition seriously. “Uh,” he says, groping for something, anything, to say. “I... This is... It represents...”

His mind has gone completely blank. Oh God, he’s going to lose this challenge. Maybe he should do what every other Stitched Up designer does at one time or another and fake a crying fit on the runway.

Milhye steps forward. “What Changmin is trying to say is that this print reflects his home life over the last couple of years since he first appeared on Stitched Up.”

The judges all say ‘ahhh’ and nod in a sagacious manner.

“Um,” says Changmin. “Uh?”

“I see it now.” Madame Oh gestures at the dress, her bracelets jangling. “The lines, the vertical and the horizontals—it’s a house. Those lines represent a foundation and a wall and a roof.”

“Oh yes!” Jaejoong exclaims, leaning forward. “I see it, too. The foundation is not totally solid yet, you can see the wobbly bit there, but just look at the line of the roof—it’s almost as if it’s protecting the chaos inside.”

“Er,” Changmin says.

“It’s so simple, yet it tells such a story,” Kyuhyun enthuses. “You could read it either way. The chaos inside the house could represent Yunho, with Changmin being the floor and wall and roof, or you could spin it right around and say Changmin is the muddled blob in the middle of Yunho’s protective embrace. Really, it’s so romantic.”

“Yes,” Changmin says, humbled by this display of uninformed opinion. “That’s exactly right.”

* * *

v. Conjugal Rights

Halfway through the unconventional materials challenge—making couture from supplies purchased at a DIY store—one of the producers comes into the workroom to tell Changmin that it’s time for his video chat with Yunho.

Barring an emergency situation, the designers are only permitted one video chat with their loved ones during the filming of the show. Accustomed to being apart from Yunho for a good fifty percent of the time over the last two years when work took him overseas, Changmin had thought that three weeks without his boyfriend would be easy to bear.

Except it’s been unbearable. At least when he was abroad for work, he could call Yunho, hear him and see him and have lots of phone sex, and one time when he was in Milan for his birthday, Yunho had surprised him by turning up and whisking him away to Rome for a few days, where they’d stayed at a former convent with walls three feet thick and with eighteenth century stuccoed roses on the ceiling. The bed was huge and antique and piled high with the softest quilts, and Yunho had taken him to the Pantheon and kissed him beneath the glimmer of light from the oculus even though it was pouring with rain.

Over the past couple of weeks, the other designers have come back from their video chats with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks, except for Siwon, who came back quoting from the Apocrypha. Changmin is determined not to get all sappy and emotional. He’s far too sophisticated and in control for such things, and besides, the cameraman will be lurking nearby.

He forces himself not to hurry from the workroom. Milhye asks him to send Yunho her love. Amber asks him to tell Yunho that she’s a big fan of Gwangju Skank clothes. Siwon also wants to send his love, but Changmin ignores that.

The cameraman follows him into the designer’s lounge. He weaves past the couches and the table towards the bench at the back of the room. A chair is placed in front of a touch-screen computer, and beside it is a box of tissues for the inevitable meltdown of designer sobbing.

The screen is in sleep mode. Changmin taps it—Tap This, ugh—and Yunho comes into view. He’s sitting barefoot on the floor at the end of their bed, wearing a khaki shirt unbuttoned over a soft stone-coloured vest and streaked grey jeans. He’s had his hair cut, and now it’s dyed a warm brown with glimmers of red. It looks soft and touchable, and Changmin has to stop himself from reaching out.

Yunho’s face lights up when he sees Changmin. “Puppies, look, it’s Grumpy Daddy!”

Lagerfeld and Pucci appear in the screen. Pucci licks the tiny camera lens and starts barking with excitement. In the background, Changmin hears Lagerfeld yapping. Yunho scolds Pucci for being a bad puppy, and then he holds Lagerfeld up to the screen and the pug wags his tail so hard that he almost wriggles his way out of Yunho’s grasp.

“Jung! Have you been letting the dogs sleep on the bed?” Perhaps this isn’t the most romantic greeting, but it’s a valid and important question.

A shadow of guilt flicks through Yunho’s expression. “Maybe?”

“Oh my God.” Changmin covers his face with his hands. “I swear it should be you that goes to doggy training, not those mutts.”

This conversation is getting more romantic by the minute. Changmin hears the cameraman laugh and shift around behind him to get a better shot of the screen.

“They’re not mutts, they’re pedigrees.” Yunho cuddles Lagerfeld against his chest and hauls Pucci away from the computer. The Leonberger’s massive tail almost sweeps the laptop off the armchair or whatever it’s balanced upon. “Wait just a moment,” Yunho says, then to the dogs, “Come on, puppies, Happy Daddy will give you treats!”

“Just lock them in the kitchen,” Changmin shouts as Yunho and the dogs trail out of shot. “Don’t feed them treats for no reason or they’ll expect it all the time! Jung, are you listening? You’re feeding them between meals, aren’t you? I told you—”

There’s nothing for a couple of minutes. Changmin looks carefully at the shot of their room. A chew-toy lies mostly destroyed beneath the bed. He must remember to remove it when he gets home, because Yunho probably won’t notice. Faintly he can hear barking and yapping and the murmur of Yunho’s voice, and then a door closes, and then another door.

Yunho comes back into shot, sitting himself down on the floor and smiling into the camera. “I’m back,” he says unnecessarily.

“I miss you.” The words blurt out. Changmin looks away, embarrassed that sappiness has managed to override his common sense. He’d written down a bunch of things he’d wanted to say, but he’d left the list in the workroom. He’d meant to complain about the whole Tap This fiasco, and also he has an opinion about the recent revelation, let slip accidentally by Milhye, that the producers had actually asked Yunho to go on the show first, but Yunho had told them they shouldn’t be afraid of asking Changmin instead because obviously they should have asked Changmin first since he’s the better designer.

Changmin really wants to discuss these matters in a loud voice and with a hectoring tone, but now he can see Yunho, he doesn’t want to spoil the moment. He lets out a quivering breath and looks back at the screen.

Yunho’s expression has gone all soft. “I miss you, too. The puppies miss you.”

“Stop calling them puppies!”

Yunho smiles, says, “Oh, you’re so grumpy, Changminnie,” and then his smile intensifies, turns a little wicked. “Can I make you feel better?”

Changmin is hard in an instant. Embarrassed and squirmy, he hunches down. “Can’t. The cameraman...”

“Huh.” Yunho comes closer to the lens and tilts his head as if looking for the Stitched Up cameraman. “Hey, Taejoon!” he calls out. “How’s your lovely daughter Sojeong? She must be running rings around you and your wife by now!”

The cameraman shuffles over, all smiles. Changmin glowers, conscious of the uncomfortable ache of desire and the slip of time passing. Of course Yunho would remember their cameraman’s name from two years ago. Of course he’d remember that Taejoon’s wife gave birth to their first child midway through the filming of season five.

They chat away like old friends for a few minutes, and then Taejoon says, “Great talking to you, Designer Jung. I’ll let you and Designer Shim have some quiet time now.” Giving Changmin a knowing grin and a wink, Taejoon and his camera leave the room.

Changmin has the designer’s lounge all to himself.

“Now,” Yunho purrs, “it’s just you and me.”

Excitement spikes. Changmin lets out a shuddery breath. “Are you suggesting...”

Yunho glances at the clock at the bottom right of the screen. “We have about ten minutes before our allotted chat time is up. D’you reckon you can make me come before then?”

Lust hazes Changmin’s vision. “Yes,” he says, his voice husky. “Yes. But wait. Don’t start without me.” He bolts out of the chair.

There’s no lock, so Changmin shoves every movable piece of furniture in front of the door before he makes his way back to the screen. He struts a little, one hand up to unfasten his tie, but Yunho shakes his head.

“Uh-huh, baby. Keep your suit on. You know how much I love you in a suit.”

Changmin sinks down onto the hard plastic chair, arousal thrumming inside him. “You mean...”

“Yeah.” Yunho shrugs out of his shirt and flings it aside. He’s breathing fast, eyes glittering, face flushed. “C’mon, posh boy. Tell me what I should lose next.”

“The vest.” Changmin sits forward on the chair, both feet planted flat on the floor to steady himself. He holds onto the edge of the bench with his left hand. For now, his right hand rests across his knee, even though he wants to cup his erection through his Armani suit and give himself a rub.

Yunho takes off his vest, managing to make it sexy despite the fact that he’s rushing because of the time constraints. Changmin feasts his gaze on the long, lean body exposed to his view, and he moans when Yunho strokes a hand across his chest, shuddering as he teases at his nipples.

“Wish you were here to do this, baby,” Yunho says, gazing straight into the camera. “I love your hands on me.”

“Unh.” In lieu of getting his hands all over Yunho’s sexy body, Changmin has to be content with touching himself. He sits back and unzips his trousers, frees his dick from his underwear.

“Oh, let me see.” Yunho crawls towards the screen, eyes wide. He sounds breathless. “Oh, your beautiful big cock. Look how hard you are. So wet and silky-luscious.” He licks his lips. “Taste it, baby, taste it for me.”

“Fuck, Yunho, don’t.” Changmin is blushing, trembling, but does it anyway. He strokes himself, runs his fingertips over the head of his cock, then lifts his hand to his mouth and dabs at the slick of pre-come with his tongue.

“God, I love you,” Yunho says, heartfelt and desperate.

Time is passing, going too fast. Changmin feels jittery. “Get your trousers off,” he snaps, squeezing the base of his dick to slow things down.

“Yes, sir!”

Changmin groans, watching as Yunho lies on the floor and performs one of his weird yoga moves, feet flat and his hips lifting, back arching. He yanks at the button and zipper, then pushes the jeans down over his thighs. He does it incrementally, and as soon as Changmin glimpses the dark patch of pubic hair, he starts to work his cock hard, gasping out, “Bad boy, Jung, going commando.”

“Somebody stole my underwear,” Yunho says, relaxing out of his arched pose and kicking off his jeans. He kneels up on the floor, completely naked and very aroused.

Changmin can barely concentrate. “You have more than one pair!”

“Yeah,” Yunho says, wrapping a hand around his lovely huge cock and giving it a nice long stroke, “but you took my favourite. And if I wear yours, you’ll only complain.”

“I won’t,” Changmin promises, tugging at himself faster and faster. “I really won’t. Wear some of mine. Please.”

Yunho starts jerking off in earnest. He licks his lips again, brow furrowing slightly in concentration as he stares at Changmin through the computer screen. “I don’t want to wear anything right now. God, you look so sexy, Changminnie. Your hair grows so fast. Look how long it is. Wish I could feel it over my skin, all silky and soft. I love it when you go down on me, when you do it really slow and your hair drags all the way down my chest and across my belly and then it tickles, it tickles when you’re sucking me, and God, baby, it drives me wild.”

Changmin makes a few frantic, incoherent noises and grips his cock tighter, thrusts harder into his hand. The chair squeaks across the floor and he jams his feet down, holds onto the bench with everything he has and then tosses back his head, gasping for breath, sweat trickling and heat rising and rising. He can smell himself, clean and musky, and he misses Yunho’s scent, his cologne, the smell of his skin, the scent they make together.

“Oh God,” Changmin babbles, sensation cresting, orgasm building. “Oh God.”

“You want me, baby?”

“Yes.” Changmin closes his eyes, helpless with lust. He can’t watch any more, he can’t bear to see Yunho naked and desperate for him, jacking off because of him; he can’t bear being apart from him a second longer. Emotion chokes him and he gasps, crushed by the force of his need. “Yes, oh fuck, yes.”

“Tell me, baby, tell me what you are,” Yunho urges.

“Oh,” Changmin mews, flicking his damp hair from his eyes, fixing his gaze feverishly on Yunho, “I’m a winner, oh fuck, oh Yun, I’m a winner.”

Yunho comes so hard he shoots all the way up to his chin. It startles him, and he gives a strangled gasp-laugh that sounds so hot that Changmin goes over a second later, spreading his legs wide and aiming the thick, hot jets of seed at the wall and the floor, shaking with the force of his climax.

“Damn, baby, you came second,” Yunho says, drawing a hand down his chest and smearing his spunk across his body. “I really have to work on my control.”

“And I really wish I could lick you clean,” Changmin says, still panting for breath. “You look delicious, all sweaty and dirty like a proper little skank.”

Yunho laughs, his hair flopping into his eyes as he leans forward. “Whereas you still look like a gentleman, albeit a gentleman with his hand wrapped around his dick.”

“Yun,” Changmin begins, but then a pop-up appears on the screen—10 seconds remaining—and he feels tongue-tied.

“I love you,” Yunho says, obviously having received the same message. He puts his hands up to the camera, his expression serious and warm. “I love you, Changminnie, I love you, I—”

The screen goes blank.

“I love you, too,” Changmin whispers. He leans forward, rests his head on the bench and blows out a long sigh, then puts himself to rights and cleans up with a handful of tissues.

A couple of minutes later, after rearranging the furniture, Changmin emerges from the designer’s lounge flushed but happy.

The producer sidles up to him, red-faced. “Designer Shim, er, how shall I say this... uh, your microphone pack was on the whole time you were, uh, while you were... communicating with Mr Jung just now.”

Horror drenches Changmin. “What!”

“But don’t worry,” the producer continues, his smile the very definition of unconvincing, “we’ll edit it out!”

And that’s when Changmin knows that for the rest of his life, in every interview he gives and every TV show he goes on, he’s going to be haunted by the sound clip of himself sobbing I’m a winner, I’m a winner in a desperate, frantic-to-come voice.

He is going to kill Yunho for this.

* * *

vi. Hello, Ratings!

In an effort to stretch out All Stars Stitched Up for as long as possible, Jaejoong announces a pre-finale challenge for the final three.

“Designers,” he chirps, arms protectively around the fake baby bump that’s so huge now that Changmin wonders if he and Porpoise are expecting twins, “this is a very exciting challenge today. It’s a team challenge.” He puts a hand into the oversize coat he’s wearing and pulls out the velvet button bag.

“I bet you’re all wondering how it can be a team challenge when there’s only three of you. Well, you’re going to have a little bit of help from some familiar faces.” Jaejoong snaps his fingers, and three figures emerge from behind the backdrop.

Changmin squirms when Yunho strides onto the runway, mega-watt smile beaming out at everyone. Following him are Ryeowook from season three and Joohyun from season six.

“Welcome back!” Jaejoong says. “So, designers, you’ll be randomly paired up with these losers who refused to take part in the full show because they had better things to do, and each team will create a head to toe look for one of their rival designers. Let’s see what the button bag has in store for you.”

Changmin doesn’t want to be paired with Yunho. Except he does. But he doesn’t, because they wouldn’t get anything done. Except maybe he should rise to the challenge, embrace it, just to prove to himself that he can focus despite such a glorious, sexy distraction. Although he shouldn’t think of words like ‘rise’ and ‘embrace’. It leads his mind on the wrong path, and he almost misses it when Jaejoong says, “Milhye, you will be working with Yunho.”

Instead of feeling relieved, Changmin is annoyed. He tries not to show it, turning to Milhye and saying, “Good luck, you’ll need it.”

“Milhye and Yunho, you will be designing a look for...” Jaejoong scoops a name from the button bag and dramatic-pauses, “Changmin.”

“Oh fu—fashion,” Changmin says.

Jaejoong pulls out more names. Amber and Joohyun will design for Milhye, while Changmin and Ryeowook will design for Amber.

“To make things fair, you must all design menswear or womenswear that closely mimics menswear,” Jaejoong tells them. “We want to see fashion-forward trouser-suits or separates, but no dresses or skirts. I know we’ve had some strange individuals on the show who enjoy cross-dressing but I’m not one of them, and—”

Ryeowook casts a pointed look at Jaejoong. “That is such a blatant untruth. I’ve seen you out shopping in those pregnancy smocks.”

Jaejoong ignores him. “Zhou Mi will meet you in the workroom and I’ll see you on the runway!”

After the obligatory hugging and squealing as the three teams gather in the workroom, Changmin leads Yunho out into the corridor and spends five minutes of precious sketching time kissing him. It would have gone on for the full thirty minutes if Milhye hadn’t come out and tapped Changmin on the shoulder, enquiring when she could have her tailor back.

“He’s not a tailor,” Changmin says, stung.

“Today I am.” Yunho gives him another kiss. “I know all your measurements, but I think I’ll want to take them again later. Just to ensure a perfect fit.”

Ryeowook comes out to see what’s going on. “Designer Shim, this is a poor way to win a competition.”

“Technically I can’t win anyway,” Changmin says, “but that’s not an excuse not to do my best, so...”

“Changminnie, fighting!” Yunho calls as they head back into the workroom.

They have the rest of the day to create their looks. The time passes in a blur, a frenzy of cutting and sewing and pressing and unpicking and swearing and coffee and more sewing.

For Amber, Changmin designs a pair of low-waisted skinny trousers with narrow stripes of neoprene running the full length of the leg, and a structured, off the shoulder top of metallic pale blue fabric, plus a flirty little capelet.

Over on the other side of the room, Amber’s look for Milhye involves a print that resembles a picnic blanket. Ryeowook studies it and whispers to Changmin, “It’s so Henry Holland, don’t you think? I’d have pegged Milhye as more of a John Rocha girl.”

Milhye has made a suit for Changmin that manages to be both hard and soft at the same time. Yunho is working on the fit of the jacket. “I’m sewing in love with every stitch!” he announces in a really loud and embarrassing voice, and Changmin cringes.

Finally it’s time for the runway. Even though this isn’t actually the finale, all of the previous contestants are seated to one side of the catwalk. Jaejoong, Kyuhyun, and Madame Oh look slightly more animated than usual.

Because the designers are also modelling this challenge, there’s a bit of confusion as they try to tidy their looks last minute. Milhye says that a button has fallen off Changmin’s suit jacket. Changmin is walking last, so he takes off the jacket and hands it to Yunho to fix while Milhye takes to the runway to open the show.

Then Amber walks. Changmin thinks she looks great. He’s studying his and Ryeowook’s work with a critical eye when Yunho slides the jacket onto him. “Good to go, baby,” Yunho says in his ear, and Changmin struts out along the runway.

He’s halfway down the catwalk when he realises there’s something spoiling the line of the jacket. When he passes the judges and does the stop-pose-turn for the cameras at the end of the runway, he lifts a hand and pats himself down. Yes, there’s definitely something stuffed into the jacket pocket. Probably the small pair of scissors he’d seen Yunho wielding earlier when he’d sewn the button back on. Regardless, it does make the jacket sit oddly. It’s unfortunate. Milhye will lose points for that.

All three designers return to the runway with their assistants in tow, and the judges make their comments.

“This print,” Kyuhyun says of Amber’s design, “it’s so weird. I love it—but is it fashion-forward?”

“I have seen this before,” Jaejoong adds. “It looks very House of Holland to me.”

“Told you so,” Ryeowook mutters to no one in particular.

“I like this look,” Madame Oh says, gesturing with her scorecard at the outfit Changmin designed. “It’s chic and modern. I know this girl, what she’s doing, where she’s going. It’s very editorial. I like it a lot.”

“And what about Milhye’s look?” Jaejoong chirrups. “Changmin, do you like the suit Milhye and Yunho made for you?”

“It’s beautiful,” Changmin says honestly, “but I’m not sure it showed to best advantage, because there’s something in here,” he pats the jacket pocket, “that spoils the line.”

Exchanging a look with Yunho, Milhye says, “Why don’t you take it out and see what it is?”

“Um, okay.” Puzzled and slightly anxious because of the way the judges all lean forward, their gazes intent upon him, Changmin slips a hand into the pocket and brings out a tiny box. Not a square box, but narrow, almost flat, just big enough to contain...

“Oh God,” he says, a hideous, joyful suspicion sharpening. His hands are shaking as he pops the lid and reveals a simple, unadorned platinum ring.

The other contestants draw in their collective breaths. The judges look smug.

Yunho drops down onto one knee. “Changminnie,” he begins, looking nervous, “I know we can’t get married here but if we go to Spain or Iceland or somewhere like that, we can get married and it’ll be legal and everything, and—and—Changmin, I’d be really honoured if... I mean, would you, could you... Oh, I really want to marry you. Will you marry me?”

Changmin flails.

“If he says no, I’m right here waiting!” Spoon calls out.

“No,” Changmin snaps, and then as Yunho’s hopeful expression dies a horrible death, Changmin waves his hands and shouts, “Yes. Yes! I was saying no to Spoon, no Spoon can’t have you because you’re mine, even though you’re an idiot and you should have asked me properly and not on a stupid TV show, and you’d better take me to Spain because I’ve always wanted to go there and we can wear sunflowers and lie on the beach and you can collect seashells for me and oh God, I love you but you are such an idiot.”

Yunho bounces up, his smile utterly dazzling. “Yes? You said yes?”

“Why do you sound so surprised, you stupid Gwangju skank! Ugh, oh my God, this is so embarrassing.” Changmin hides his face against Yunho’s neck.

“Oh, Changminnie. You said yes.” Yunho hugs him, tucks his head in close and whispers, “I love you, I love you.”

“Shut up,” Changmin snuffles. “I never wanted to cry on the runway. Oh, fashion.”

Zhou Mi meanders out onto the catwalk. “Designer Shim, Designer Jung, may I be amongst the first to congratulate you? And now let’s see the VTR of the moment Designer Jung asked Designer Shim’s father for permission to marry his son...”

Everyone turns to face the screen projected onto the Stitched Up backdrop.

“What?” Changmin jerks his head up but doesn’t step out of Yunho’s embrace. “Oh no. You didn’t. Yun, you didn’t.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Yunho says calmly. “Watch.”

The video starts. A camera follows Yunho along a corridor to a door marked Shim Dongsik, CEO, East Coast/West Coast Hotels. Yunho knocks, looking excited and hopeful. He goes inside. The cameraman lingers in the hallway. A muffled conversation is audible from within, and then comes a roar of fury. The door is yanked open and Yunho runs out. A heavy paperweight arcs through the air after him and bounces off the wall. Yunho flees down the corridor.

Changmin stares at the screen in horror. “My father really did that?”

Yunho nuzzles against Changmin. “Don’t worry, I managed to convince him.”

On the VTR, Yunho comes back into shot. This time the cameraman follows him into the office. Yunho prostrates himself, begging for Changmin’s hand. Changmin’s father looks very stern, and then he starts to crack up until he’s laughing too hard to continue the charade. He helps Yunho to his feet and gives him a manly slap on the back, and then they both face the camera and grin and do stupid thumbs up and victory signs.

Changmin can’t believe what he’s seeing. “This is,” he says, completely without the words to describe it, “this is...”

“All massively contrived?” Kyuhyun suggests with a grin. “Of course it is. Shim Changmin, you’ve been stitched up!”



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