lirazel: ([kpop] visual)
[personal profile] lirazel
Title: Celestial Mechanics
Chapter: 21 of undetermined number
Fandom: Kpop: Infinite
Characters/Pairings: Hoya/Myungsoo, Hoya/Sungjong and Myungsoo/Sungyeol bffery, OT7
Rating: R
Warnings: A/B/O verse, so: dubcon (for both parties) and all that’s associated with the omegaverse
Summary: It was as close to perfect as a plan could be. Which is to say: not quite. Myungsoo had plans and Howon had a dream, but the future is never that simple, no matter how certain it had seemed.

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Previous chapter here

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“Are you nervous?”


Howon finishes mentally running through a few more steps before he opens his eyes to look at his mate. Myungsoo’s face is pale, his bottom lip red from where he’s been biting it, and he’s fidgeting nervously with the strap of his camera bag. “Yeah, some,” Howon answers with a grin. “But I think you’re more nervous than I am.”


He is nervous, but he isn’t the type to show it. He hadn’t had time to get nervous last night: after they got back to the hotel, he and Myungsoo had explored the new world of shower sex and then ended up on the bed, fooling around some more and talking about nothing for a while; when they switched out the lights and Howon had pulled Myungsoo to him, he had fallen asleep too fast to even have time to appreciate the novel feeling of Myungsoo in his arms. He’d slept deeply and woke feeling refreshed, but the anticipation started building almost immediately. He did as much of a warm-up as he could do in the hotel room—it actually had a decent amount of space—and then they’d made their way here to the Woollim building to stand in line.


Howon doesn’t fidget when he gets nervous, his hands don’t sweat and his face doesn’t pale or flush. He keeps any anxiety he might feel inside, and it only pops out in the form of terrible jokes—when he talks at all. Myungsoo, in contrast, usually zones out when he’s at his most anxious, as though he thinks he can detach from the world entirely. He isn’t that far gone now, thankfully, but he’s definitely broadcasting his emotions far more than Howon is.


“What if they don’t see how good you are?” Myungsoo demands, and Howon can tell that he doesn’t have any idea that he’s gripping the hem of Howon’s t-shirt.


“If they don’t, they don’t. There will be other tryouts.”


Myungsoo does not seem convinced by this platitude and flops back against the wall he’s sitting against with his arms crossed. “If they don’t, they’re blind and I bet their idols will suck,” he mutters.


Myungsoo is really adorable when he’s fierce, and if they were alone Howon would kiss that fierceness away, make it melt right off Myungsoo’s face, but he doesn’t think this crowded waiting area is the best place for that. He isn’t sure whether there are more wannabe idols with numbers pinned to their shirts than he’d expected for such a small company or if there aren’t as many as he would have thought considering it’s open auditions. Either way, the space feels full: several dozen hopefuls—all male, as the girls’ auditions will be held on a different weekend—running through dance moves at half-speed or singing quietly (or in a few cases, not-so-quietly) and vibrating with tension while waiting for their numbers to be called. A few parents and friends or boyfriends or girlfriends have come along for support, and the room is full of their scents, though it’s significantly different than in school or on a public bus: in those situations, there’s an even mix of alpha and omega smells, even if scentless betas form the majority of the group, but here, though there are definitely a number of betas, the overwhelming musk of alphas fills the room and Howon can only catch a few whiffs of omega-smell other than Myungsoo’s beside him.


Myungsoo must notice, too, because he scowls. “There are only like five omegas here. I bet there are lots of omegas who want to be idols.”


“Yeah,” Howon acknowledges. “But I’m sure some of them don’t think they can compete with alphas at things like this.”


“That’s such bullshit. Just alpha privilege—they aren’t all better at everything than everybody else.” Myungsoo pauses, irritation momentarily falling away. “Well, you are,” he says, and Howon laughs. “But there are lots of betas and omegas who are really good singers or dancers—Dongwoo-hyung is amazing. And the stereotype that alphas are more charismatic is the stupidest thing ever. Woohyun-hyung’s got loads of charisma and he’s a beta!”


“Yeah, I know,” Howon says, sitting down beside his mate. Myungsoo can be quite sensitive about stereotypes about mating roles, and Howon had been reminded of that the night before. “But old beliefs die hard. Think about how few omegas become CEOs or whatever. It isn’t because they wouldn’t be just as good at it as an alpha is. It’s just taking people a while to get over all that shit.”


Myungsoo still has a sullen look on his face and he looks like he’s about to say more when his phone dings. He fishes it out of his pocket and looks surprised when he sees the text.


“Your mom?” Howon asks. They’d texted both their moms the night before when they got into Seoul to let them know they were safe, and he’d had a sweet good-luck message from his own this morning, but probably Mrs. Kim is just wanting to check in again.


“No, it’s Yeol. Look.”


what does it mean when a girl punches your shoulder and calls you a dumbass but then makes you buy her lunch?


Even as Howon’s looking at the message, another arrives with a ping. never mind it’s not like you know anything about girls anyway why did i even ask you? i’ll ask jjongie.


Howon laughs. “Sounds like things are developing with Minyoung.”


“Yeah, I—” Myungsoo bites his lip and looks conflicted. “I know we said we wouldn’t be talking with everybody at home all weekend but—”


“Go call Sungyeol,” Howon interrupts him with a wave. “I’m not up for a while anyway.”


Myungsoo grins as he scrambles to his feet. “I bet he’ll say something stupid and she’ll dump her ddeokbokki on his head and then make him buy more. Hey—did you ever call Dongwoo-hyung?”


Howon had forgotten all about his promise to Sungjong at the bus station. “I’ll do it when you come back, okay?”


Myungsoo nods and heads out the door, already dialing Sungyeol, and Howon has a moment to look around the room and take in the competition. He’d been trying not to do that earlier; he isn’t one to compare himself to others, and the only person he’s ever really cared about competing with is himself, pushing himself to do more, to be better. But he can’t help scanning the others now. He doesn’t know how many trainees Woollim is looking to take on, but it’s possible he’ll be good but not quite as good as someone else and a spot won’t be offered to him. There are some guys whose half-formed moves make it clear that they know what they’re doing, and he’s heard a few really good singers, too, as well as a couple of rappers who don’t sound half-bad. The majority in the room are clearly out of their league, and he feels bad for them: their voices aren’t as good as they think they are, their dancing is awkward or their looks are all wrong. There’s at least one or two really good dancers and singers who Howon knows will never make it because of how they look. It’s bullshit, like Myungsoo would say, but it’s not a soft industry. The demands are ridiculous, but they are what they are.


Howon thinks he’ll do okay as far as looks go; he’s on the short side, yeah, but he keeps his body well enough and Sungjong had flat-out told him that he’s handsome enough to make it, so he’s not too worried in that regard. It does strike him as amusing that his omega mate is more handsome than anyone else in the room, though.


“He’s trying to pretend he’s not totally freaking out about having lunch with her,” Myungsoo announces as he returns, dropping to the floor beside Howon. “He’s going to make such an ass of himself.”


“How is that any different than usual?”


“I hope he doesn’t totally screw it up. Minyoung’s just about the only girl I can imagine who could actually put up with him.” Myungsoo shoves his phone back into his pocket. “I’ll keep your spot, you go call Dongwoo-hyung now.”


Howon runs his hand over Myungsoo’s shoulder as he rises and heads out of the room, pulling his phone out on his way to the front door. He really hasn’t spent much time wondering what Dongwoo’s going to say; because of the way Sungjong reacted, he’s sure it’s got something to do with mating, but Howon’s happy enough with the way things are that he doesn’t really care to think about mating rules and that sort of thing. He and Myungsoo work, and he doesn’t want to bring unnecessary shit to worry about into their relationship. He doesn’t really want to have this conversation right before his audition, either, but he’d promised Sungjong, and at least it will distract him so he doesn’t get too tense. He steps out into the spring sunshine and leans against the wall of the building, phone pressed to his ear.


Dongwoo answers on the second ring. “Hoya! I’ve been waiting for you to call me—but shouldn’t you be at auditions now?”


Howon is, as always, amazed at the level of enthusiasm Dongwoo can bring to anything. “I’m waiting right now. There are still some guys in front of me, though, so I came outside.”


“How do you feel? Nervous? How’re the rest of them? You’re going to kick ass.”


“I’m feeling okay,” Howon answers with a chuckle; Dongwoo’s excitement is endearing. “Some of the other guys are good, but I didn’t see any that are too much better than me. I think my chances are decent.”


“You worked hard and your routine is really strong.” Dongwoo sounds so sure. “You’re going to kick ass.”


“Thanks, hyung.” The encouragement is nice, but there hadn’t been that many more guys in front of him in line, so he wants to get to the point. “But why did Sungjong tell me to call you?”


“Oh, yeah.” Dongwoo’s quiet for a beat. “Sungjongie came over to my house right after he left you at the bus station. He was pretty worked up.”


Howon winces as he picks at the brick of the building. He knows Sungjong wasn’t angry with him and they’ll be fine, but he doesn’t like it when there’s any kind of tension between them. “Yeah, I know. He wasn’t too happy about some of the stuff I was saying.”


“He told me. About what you said. And he was right to be upset, Hoya.”


Howon rolls his eyes to the sky. “Not you too, hyung. Look, it’s sweet that you two are all concerned about my relationship, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for how much help you gave us at the beginning when things were rough. But we’re okay now. We’re good, me and Myungsoo. So you don’t need to worry, okay?”


Howon’s words don’t seem to soothe Dongwoo; if anything he just sounds more concerned. “That’s just it, Hoya. He told me what you were saying about feeling like you’re in love but it just being the mating bond and how that’s good enough and—”


Fuck, why did Sungjong have to run off and tell all this to Dongwoo? Sungjong never tells anyone about what he and Howon talk about, so why did he have to go and do it now? “It is good enough, hyung. Myungsoo is….” He trails off, not finding a word that fits. Something like ‘amazing’ sounds trite, and he knows Myungsoo isn’t perfect, but just saying ‘great’ or ‘good for me’ would be understating too much. Better to head in a different direction. “We’re happy. And we’re going to stay happy. I mean, I know we’ll have fights and stuff and we still have to decide about whether to stay in school, we can work through that, because he’s such a good person and I care about him. We’ll make it, hyung. That’s all I can ask, and that’s what I’ve got. So I’m good.”


Somehow the beat of silence that follows sounds incredulous. Then: “Lee Howon, you’re an idiot.”


“What?” Howon pulls back his phone to stare at it; he almost can’t believe he’s still talking to Dongwoo. Sure, Dongwoo calls his friends names for fun when they’re goofing off, just like most guys. It’s not the first time he’s called Howon an idiot. But he’s never done it in seriousness before, and Howon wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told him that it would happen.


Something about Dongwoo’s tone makes Howon picturing him yanking at his hair. “Have you done any research at all into the mating bond? Like, anything? Run a basic internet search, talked to the counselor at school for ten minutes? Even asked your mom?”


Howon hasn’t. At first the whole thing had seemed too huge and unbelievable; he’d needed to disengage from the gravity of what he was going through as much as he could, and finding out more details would have just increased the pressure. And once he got more comfortable with the idea, he figured that between what he remembered from health class and talking with Yejin sometimes, he knew all the basics, and the basics are all he’s interested in anyway. He hasn’t run into any problems so far. “Hyung—”


“Because if you had, you’d know what you just told me isn’t even true. Anyone who’s read a book about mating would know, Howon—you didn’t even ask Sungjong?”


Defensiveness sharpens Howon’s voice; he doesn’t usually get worked up at things other people say to him, but this is starting to get to him. “What did I need to ask him, hyung? What was he going to tell me that would actually make my life better instead of just making things more awkward? I know what I need to know, and Myungsoo and I are doing fine. So what could he possibly have told me—”


“That the bond can’t make you fall in love, you idiot!”


Howon freezes, mouth open, and has to remind himself to close it again. “What?” Where the hell is Dongwoo getting this? He’d never said it could.

Dongwoo sighs deeply. “The bond exists to try to keep you from taking off before a baby is born. To ensure that the baby will grow up with two parents because that makes it more likely for the baby to survive. It’s nature.”


Howon has to grit his teeth. Dongwoo had thrown him for a moment, but this is just basic human biology you learn in middle school. “I know that, hyung.”


“So the bond sends certain hormones through your body that trigger reactions that will foster bonding,” Dongwoo continues as though Howon hadn’t said anything at all. “Possessiveness and protectiveness on your side, more neediness on Myungsoo’s. And it heightens your sexual attraction, too, of course. But the point is the same: it wants you to feel like you need to stay with him, that you can’t possibly live without him, that everything is good when you’re with him.”


Howon can still feel all of that when he thinks about it, the sense of rightness he felt at the beginning when he was with Myungsoo, touching him, just standing near him; the overwhelming fury whenever anyone was threatening his mate. Those emotions have mostly faded now that the bond has settled, like his body knows he doesn’t need those feelings anymore. He still feels right when he’s with Myungsoo, still feels angry at the thought of someone hurting him, but those reactions are natural, like how he’d feel about Sungjong or his little brother, only more so. “I know that, too, hyung. I lived that.”


Again, Dongwoo continues like Howon hadn’t interrupted him. “But that’s really just at the beginning. Once your bodies have time to figure out that you aren’t going to take off, the bond is secure and it doesn’t freak out anymore. It really only shows itself if one of you were to cheat on the other or if you’re separated for too long. Otherwise, it doesn’t do much.”


Again, all stuff Howon knows. Why the fuck is Dongwoo insisting on giving him a biology lesson now? “Okay, hyung. Are you going to get to the point anytime soon?”


“Hoya, the point is that that, yeah, the bond makes you feel a lot of things at first. And it was probably hard to tell what was the bond from what you would have been feeling anyway—like you end up wondering if you really want him so much you can hardly stand it or if that’s all just the bond. It’s confusing. At first. But then it settles.”


Howon is so sick of this conversation. All he wants is to go back inside and feel Myungsoo’s eyes watching him as he warms up for his audition. He can’t believe Dongwoo is making him talk about this now. “Hyung, I’m going to hang up on you if you don’t tell me something I don’t know soon.”


“You can’t hang up, you promised Sungjong.” Dongwoo doesn’t wait for Howon to concede the point, just continues talking, voice low and almost pleading in its seriousness. “It’s settled now, Howon. Anything you’re feeling now, that’s just you. And that’s the other thing—the bond may make you feel like you need your mate or like you’ll die if you can’t touch him...but it can’t make you feel like you’re in love.”


Howon goes very still. His throat feels like it’s closing up, and he has to swallow hard to be able to croak, “Hyung?”


Dongwoo’s voice is gentle now, soothing. “Hoya, anything you feel right now? That’s not the bond. That’s you. The bond can’t make you love anyone. It can’t even make you feel like you love him. Even before it settled, the bond has never been about love, only connection. Any love you feel, that’s just from you. And if you feel like you’re in love with Myungsoo...Howon, you really are.”


When Howon remembers to breathe again, he finds that he’s braced one arm against the wall, his forehead pressed to the brick, and he’s clutching his phone so hard it cuts into his hand. It’s too much—it’s too much to process. He’d been so sure that at least some of what he felt was just hormones and the bond all tangling up together with how much he likes Myungsoo, how fucking fond of him he is. He’d made his peace with the idea that he would never truly know what he would have felt for Myungsoo if they hadn’t mated, if they’d just been introduced by their friends and dated like regular people, if they lived in a world without alphas and omegas. He’d told himself not to dwell too much on that question, just to embrace what he felt without worry about what its roots are. He’d decided he could live with not knowing.


But this—this is rewriting everything he’s believed about his relationship with Myungsoo from day one. This is—


This is too much to process right now.


“Hoya—Howon are you okay?”


Dongwoo’s voice sounds far away and worried, and Howon shakes himself back to the moment. “Yeah, hyung, I’m okay.” He knows what he heard Dongwoo say, he knows what it means. But he still needs to…. “The bond never makes you feel in love at all? Ever?”


Worry turns to eagerness in Dongwoo’s voice. “Not love, Hoya, no. Possessiveness or attraction or a sense of belonging. But not love.”


Howon pushes himself off the wall, very aware of each shift of muscle and ligament, and stands straight. “Hyung, I need to go now.” He doesn’t have time for this now. Not now. Not when the audition that could decide his future is just moments away.


“What?” Dongwoo sounds taken off-guard. “Hoya, what—”


“They should be calling my number soon. Thank you for telling me this, hyung. I’ll talk to you when I get home tomorrow, okay?”


“But Hoya—”


Hoya ends the call and shoves his phone into his pocket. He flexes his hands, shifts his shoulders, rolls his neck and listens to it pop. Takes a deep breath of warm air and listens to the passing traffic for a moment. And then he walks back inside.


Myungsoo meets him at the door, bouncing on his toes with anxiousness. “They just called number twenty-eight, you’re up next, I thought you were going to be out here forever—” He breaks off suddenly, eyes going worried. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”


Howon allows himself a moment to look at his mate, to take in the familiar face with its perfect features and intense eyes that always display so much emotion when they’re looking at Howon. Affection surges up inside him, but that’s nothing new. He feels exactly the way he’s felt for a while now whenever he looks at Myungsoo. Nothing’s changed. “I’m fine, Myungsoo.” Myungsoo’s name still tastes the same on his tongue, and Myungsoo’s hand grabbing his feels just how it always has.


“Are you sure? Is Dongwoo-hyung okay? And Yejin-noona?”


Howon steers Myungsoo down the hall back into the waiting room. “They’re fine, everybody’s okay. Everything’s okay.”


Myungsoo shakes his head slightly, unconvinced. “But you look—”


Howon squeezes his hand. “I’ll tell you after, okay? Don’t worry about it.” But Myungsoo still looks troubled and the sight tightens something in Howon’s chest just like it has for the past however long. Fuck that they’re in a public place; Howon kisses him, trying to soothe his mate’s worries away. And just like they have since that first time on Howon’s bed, Myungsoo’s lips go pliant under his, but eager and warm and better than any kiss Howon’s ever had.


He distantly hears someone yelling, “Number twenty-nine!” and so he pulls back, giving Myungsoo a smile. “That’s me.”



Myungsoo’s face transforms from the worry of a moment before to tense excitement. “Kick ass,” he says urgently, and Howon’s smile widens.


“I will.” He squeezes Myungsoo’s hand and then releases it, striding over to where the staff member is standing by the open door.


“I’m twenty-nine.”


“Lee Howon?”


“Yes.”


“Music?”


Howon hands her the CD he’d brought along.


The woman takes it, running her eyes over Howon briefly, and then waves him inside. “Go to the center of the room.”


Howon hears the door click closed as he walks to the center of the large empty room, then the sound of the staff member heading over to the player and putting his CD in. There are three men sitting at the table in front of him, younger-looking than he expected. He bows and greets them formally.


“I’m number twenty-nine, Lee Howon.”


The man in the center is looking at the paperwork Howon had filled out earlier with all his information and the headshot he’d clipped to it so they could remember his face even if they didn’t remember his name.


“Eighteen, alpha?” the man asks.


Howon feels a pulse of annoyance—what does his alpha status have to do with anything?—but puts it away. “Yes.”


The man is silent for a moment and Howon thinks his eyes are lingering on the paper, but then he looks up and sets it aside. “All right, Lee Howon-ssi. Let’s see what you can do.”


Howon glances over at the woman at the CD player to let her know he’s ready, and she nods. In the moment before she presses the button, Howon moves into his starting position and looks down at the ground and thinks about two days before in the gym, standing just like this right before showing Myungsoo his routine. He’d felt so much for Myungsoo then, but no different than what he feels for him. He feels the way he’s felt for weeks now, without ever having—or needing—a word to describe it.


I love him. I love him so fucking much and that’s just me. That’s not the bond. It’s just me.


And then the music starts.


Howon’s breathing hard when the music stops and he hits his final position, right on beat, sweating lightly in the too-warm room. But he barely notices; all he can feel is the energy surging through him, the white-hot memory of the way it had felt to dance in front of Myungsoo and the lightning-strike moment of looking up and see Myungsoo staring at him, his eyes intense with more than Howon would be able to name. Time had seemed to blur just now as he danced, like he was here in front of the panel but also dancing just for Myungsoo in the old gym at the same time, the smell of this room mixing with the smell of the gym and of Myungsoo, and threaded through the music Dongwoo’s voice saying, The bond can’t make you love anyone….Any love you feel, that’s just from you. And if you feel like you’re in love with Myungsoo...Howon, you really are. And weirdly, in the time it took to dance his routine, he's processed that and made his peace with it. He's in love with Myungsoo. And he has been for longer than he knew.


Howon raises his eyes to the panel and brushes some sweat off of his hairline, feeling more insistently than usual the beat of his heart as it slowly returns to its resting rhythm. The adrenaline is seeping slowly out of him, and anticipation is streaming in to take its place, fueled by the knowledge that he’s about to be judged by people who could offer him everything he’s worked so hard for all these years. And even if they don’t want to make him a trainee, just knowing that they think he has the talent, the skills, would be an affirmation of a kind he’s never had before.


But Howon is realistic, so he also knows they could also just nod and say, ‘Thank you for your time,’ and direct him out of the room. He’s prepared himself for that. That won’t break him. If that’s what he gets, it will just make him more determined to succeed, just fuel his desire to work harder. He’s ready for whatever they say to him.


At least, that’s what he thinks. But he wasn’t ready at all for what the man in the middle says.


“It says on your form that you’re mated?”


Howon hadn’t been worried about his own ability to be cool and professional. He’s always been able to stay calm in the moment when he needs to. But as the words connect, his jaw drops open and he ends up gaping at the man. When the man raises both his eyebrows, Howon quickly shuts his mouth. “Uh. Yes.”


“Does your mate have any interest in becoming a trainee as well?”


Howon’s mind is spinning at the unexpectedness of the conversation, but he still has to bite back a laugh at the thought of his clumsy, introverted terrible-dancer of a mate in an idol group. “He really doesn’t.


Howon isn’t sure why he thinks the man’s answering, “Hmmm,” could be translated, “Too bad.” The man glances at the two men on either side of him. “Is he supportive of your wish to be a trainee, your mate?”


What the fuck? Why won’t these people just tell him whether his dancing was any good or not? Why the hell do they care about Myungsoo? “Yes, very supportive.”


Again the man exchanges looks with the other two. “Is he here with you today?”


Howon is half a second from just demanding that they tell him what they thought of his dancing and why they’re asking him this. But he forces himself to answer politely. “Yes.”


“Well, why don’t you invite him to join us?”


What? “Uh. Why?”


The man looks amused. “You’re mated, Howon-ssi. You had to know that that would be a disadvantage in seeking to join a company unless you can spin your mating status as a plus for a potential group. We’re a small company, Howon-ssi, and we’ve never had an idol group before. Taking on a mated trainee, no matter how talented, will almost certainly be more trouble than it’s worth for us. But the ‘almost’ is key. I want to give you a fair shot. So, again, why don’t you invite him to join us?”

--

TBC
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