Sweeter Things
by Rana Eros

Written for Eliza as her Halloween treat for the ongoing gift of the Sweet Harmony series. Yes, the caramel apple contest is something people do, but it seems to be regional (benefits of a military lifestyle, you pick up these things). "66" and "You Are My Joy" provided the soundtrack.

Yoochun doesn't miss the U. S. He misses his brother and his parents, but in that way that means he wants to bring them here, where he can see them at least occasionally. The others have asked him about the U. S., about the luxuries and size and how it's different from Korea. They stopped asking when they saw it made him sad; now, when he thinks he can bear it, he offers them little tidbits. Things that don't hurt too much, because there are no particular memories attached.

They like sweets, so he tells them about the alien celebration of Halloween when Yunho gets out of the hospital. They probably know as much as he does from school, but he tells it anyway, just to hear Junsu's incredulous laughter, just to see Jaejoong's bemusedly disbelieving eyes.

"They really do that?" Yunho asks after Yoochun describes bobbing for apples.

"They really do."

"Okay, but why?" Changmin's got that line between his eyebrows that means he's thinking hard about something he's already decided makes no sense. Yoochun smiles, reaches out to smooth the skin with his index finger.

"Because it's fun."

"It doesn't sound very fun to me."

Jaejoong glances at Changmin sideways. "It involves eating and you don't think it sounds fun?"

"It doesn't involve eating. It involves not eating. And getting wet."

That makes Junsu laugh again. "You and being wet."

Changmin frowns and Yoochun thinks he might say something about dolphins that could border on unkind, but apparently Changmin's in a sweet mood tonight, because he shrugs and says, "You look better wet than I do, hyung."

Junsu blushes, still laughing, which makes them all grin. In that mood, Yoochun decides to expand their education. "Of course, if you don't like water, there are always caramel apple contests."

He waggles his brows as he says it, and Jaejoong takes the bait. "What are those?"

"Two people, one caramel apple suspended above them. The one who can eat the most apple without touching the other's lips wins." He waits an appropriate interval before adding, "Of course, most people play that game to lose."

Changmin snorts derisively after a moment, though his cheeks are a little red. "That's even sillier than bobbing for apples. Why not just kiss someone if that's what you want?"

"Sometimes the tease can be fun," Yunho offers thoughtfully, and here in their apartment, he looks at Jaejoong and touches his hand as he says it.

"Only if you follow it up later with what you promise," Jaejoong says boldly back, and Yunho smiles.

"Yes, but there's later and then there's later."

"It's getting later," Changmin says slyly, moving closer to Jaejoong on the sofa and claiming his free hand. Jaejoong says nothing, but his lips curl as he looks down, and he turns his hands up to catch at Yunho and Changmin's fingers.

"So it is," Yoochun murmurs, watching them, before sliding his gaze toward Junsu. Junsu's watching them too, his blush faded but a glow remaining, his mouth quirked in the precursor to a dazzling smile. He seems to sense Yoochun's eyes, and turns his head, the smile breaking free.

"Does that mean our bedtime story is over?"

"Except for the part where they lived happily ever after."

"How happy can they be purposely avoiding the point?"

Yoochun looks back at Changmin and gives him his own full-wattage grin. "Well, eventually they always end up kissing. It's the nature of the game."

Changmin returns the grin with the sort of look the media's started to notice as he sheds his "group baby" image. "I can think of better games. And they're good for groups."

"Only close groups, I'd imagine," Yunho says, after a moment when the room grows unseasonably warm. Changmin untangles his fingers from Jaejoong's, stands and stretches until his whole long body is backlit by the kitchen light, then settles back on the soles of his feet and casts a half-lidded glance at all of them.

"The closest. I'm going to bed."

"And dream of apples?" Jaejoong asks before Changmin's rounded the corner.

Changmin doesn't even pause, just calls back over his shoulder, "Not if sweeter dreams present themselves."

"I believe that's our cue." And Yunho stands, bringing Jaejoong up with him, reaches down to grab Junsu, who's got a hold on Yoochun.

Yoochun doesn't miss the U. S. It's got nothing to offer him to compare with this.


Dong Bang Shin Ki
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