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Dy(e)ing to Tie You Up

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As far as losing bets to Baekhyun went, the Year of Yes ( why was Baek always reading self-help books, it was a mystery for the ages), had so far not been horrible. When Morocco won the World Cup ( how ), Minseok had worried that he would end the Year of Yes pierced, unemployed, and possibly addicted to Albanian heavy metal or wherever. He sincerely wished that he’d been as wise as Joonmyun, who had bet dinner at the fancy restaurant of Baek’s choice, or Sehun, who just paid up 100,000 won without complaint.  

But in January, he and Baekhyun had learned how to make kombucha. Baek’s mushroom had died within days, but Minseok had kept his burbling along in the fridge for almost 2 months before it finally expired – owing to the March Yes Project (snowboarding, which meant 4 days away from home). They’d learned to knit in February and to de-bone poultry in April.  

Minseok thought he was going to get to skip May, since by that time Baekhyun had been dating their knife-skills instructor, Kyungsoo, for all of 3 weeks, which usually meant a medium-term disappearance while Baek got banged hither and yon. But no. He emerged from his bedroom long enough to have Minseok over for a lesson in bread baking. Kyungsoo was opposed to PDA, much to Minseok’s relief, and the sourdough part made perfect sense after their kombucha adventure.  

June was surfing, which was super fun until the next day, when Minseok was reminded that he was no longer in his 20s by every muscle in his body. Baekhyun must’ve felt the same way, because their July project was a massage class. August was ice cream making – again with Kyungsoo, but also Joon and Hunnie, for a late-summer barbecue.  

It really hadn’t been bad at all.  

This September one, though.   

It wasn’t as if Minseok would judge a person for a kink or two. He was open-minded. He was small enough to be underestimated and fit enough to outlast most people, which made for fun times in the bedroom, occasionally with props.  

But did Soo know about this one? Was he going to be okay with his boyfriend going to a rope-tying class with his best friend? Minseok felt a little weird about it. He liked Kyungsoo – and he liked Baekhyun with Kyungsoo.   

On the other hand, it wasn’t like Baek ever kept any secrets ever. So Soo must know about it. It was probably going to be pretty tame, being a public class held in the middle of a Saturday afternoon at a library, for pity’s sake.  

That line on the flyer, though: “wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind making a mess in.”  

That seemed a little. Concerning. For a library. In the afternoon. It wasn’t Minseok’s usual choice for erections and associated messes.  

Still. Honor dictated that he had to meet the terms of the bet. So Minseok suited up in dark track pants, a muddy brown t-shirt, and a light jacket and went off to the library to learn how to kinkily tie folks up in fancy rope patterns.  

He was pretty surprised at the proportion of middle-aged ladies entering the library at the same time.   

“Have you … taken this class before?” he asked one lady, who had a giant tote bag in each hand and seemed to know where she was going.  

“Oh yes, twice!” she said. “The instructor is a dreamboat . My husband is a little jealous of my crush on Jongdae-ssi.”  

Minseok found himself having to revise his assumptions about het people in middle age.   

The classroom at the back of the library was brightly lit, with rubber gloves and buckets and single cooking burners and plastic tarps everywhere.  

Minseok stopped in the doorway and found himself unable to move forward. This was. This was really alarming! What the heck were they going to do that required so much plastic sheeting??   

“Are you here for the shibari class?” a voice said behind him – male, tenor, lovely.  

Pronounced it a little strangely, though.  

“Yes?” Minseok said.  

He turned to gaze at the face of an angel – or, as the lady had said, a dreamboat . The man had cheekbones for days. Minseok knew he had it going on in the face, but cheekbones were never his strong suit. This guy, however: all the acute angles of his face were definitely a-cute.  

Minseok’s pocket buzzed, and he shook his head.  

“Welcome!” the dreamboat said, bowing but also patting Minseok on the arm and speaking casually. “I don’t get guys in class very often, please be prepared for all of us to make a fuss over you.”  

That increased Minseok’s alarm by at least double, and he would’ve turned to run, except his pocket buzzed again, and somehow in the business of fumbling for his phone and four more ladies bustling in, Teacher Dreamboat herded Minseok into the room and to a table near the front, with its own bucket and tarp.  

“Min, I’m possibly dying,” Baekhyun croaked into the phone.  

“What??”  

“You’re not dying, you have a cold,” Kyungsoo fussed in the background. “Stop pushing the covers off, you’ll get a chill.”  

“I’m so sorry,” Baekhyun said. “You’re yesing without me.”  

“Oh god, you’re not coming?” Minseok asked.  

Teacher Dreamboat went around the room, laying handfuls of cotton cord and large rubber bands on all the tables, and Minseok’s brain screeched at him.  

Baekhyun coughed into the phone. He really did sound terrible.  

“I’m so mad, you have to tell me all about it afterward.”  

“Give me that,” Kyungsoo said.  

“This pain in my ass has been saying up until ten minutes ago that he was going to meet you,” Soo said into the phone. “Even though I explicitly told him yesterday that he was too sick to get out of bed.”  

That, at least, was a comfort in the middle of this mess Minseok found himself in.  

“That’s on brand,” he said, and Kyungsoo laughed.  

“Yeah. I’m going to try to not catch his germ. Bring us a t-shirt!”  

Minseok stared at his phone when Kyungsoo hung up. They were going to get t-shirts? What were they going to say, “I got tied up at the library”?  

“Okay, everyone, welcome to shibori tie-dyeing,” Teacher Dreamboat said.  

“Hold up,” Minseok thought.  

Teacher Dreamboat, who introduced himself as Kim Jongdae, asked everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves. Thankfully he started on the other side of the room, so Minseok had time to do a quick Naver search.  

And then to knock his bucket over.  

And then to feel incredibly stupid.  

And then to feel incredibly relieved. Maybe a little disappointed, given the whole dreamboat thing, but mostly very, very relieved.  

“And today’s class maknae!” Dreamboat Jongdae said, gesturing toward Minseok.  

Minseok kept his eyeroll to himself and became slightly glad Baekhyun wasn’t there. He told the class his name.  

“Where do you study, sweetie?” the lady who had walked in with him asked.  

“I graduated ten years ago,” Minseok said in a deadpan voice. “I’m a structural engineer.”  

The room paused.  

“A structural engineer with a great skincare regimen,” one of the ladies muttered.  

Minseok laughed, and they all laughed with him, which made some of his awkwardness drain away.  

“Well, I might be the youngest person in the room after all as usual ,” Jongdae said, clapping his hands, “but I’m the one with the expertise, so your attention please.”   

But he was grinning at Minseok – a broad, bright grin that made him even cuter. He pulled out a stack of textiles, most dyed in shades of blue and white, but some brightly colored, in all kinds of pattern, and talked about the history of the dye method.  

Now that he knew what was actually going on, Minseok relaxed into the whole “yes” thing and leaned against his table to listen to the lecture. Minseok mostly associated tie dye with lurid shirts one bought at cheap beachside shops, but he liked the dark blue ones and the way they shaded to white in regular patterns.  

It helped that Dreamboat Jongde was so enthusiastic about his topic. He waved his hands around a lot, and got so excited talking about the different ways to fold and tie the cloth that he yelled for a while. It was adorable. Baekhyun would’ve loved him.  

There was a whole lecture about indigo plants, and how (a) smelly and (b) tenacious that dye was, so they weren’t going to use it. A couple of the ladies grumbled, so Jongdae went around to show everyone his hands.  

Minseok didn’t intend to take Jongdae’s hand – he just kind of reached out by instinct before he bent over to see how Jongdae’s cuticles were a terrible greyish-blue. Then Minseok registered that he was holding Jongdae’s (warm) hand, standing close enough to smell Jongdae's (citrus) shampoo, and stepped back.  

Dreamboat Jongdae’s ears were bright red. Minseok figured by the temperature of his own that they were too. Thankfully, none of the ladies seemed to notice.  

When it was time to dye their own lengths of cloth, Minseok picked out two patterns he particularly liked: one each for himself and Baekhyun.  

“Those are kind of advanced folds, hyu – Minseok-ssi,” Jongdae said.  

“Humor me. I’m a structural engineer who's done a bit of origami," Minseok said through an involuntary grin at that cutoff word.  

And it was nice to stand close to Jongdae, watching his clever, stained hands move, trying to copy his motions, until Minseok’s folded packets looked almost as tidy as Jongdae’s.  

“A prodigy, huh?” Jongdae murmured at him.  

“People always say I’m a quick study.”  

Minseok always enjoyed flirting back. Especially when it made the object of his flirtation flustered enough to, say, drop a folded piece of fabric onto their own foot. Especially-especially when Baekhyun wasn’t around to tease him about it.  

So in all, the afternoon was much less nerve-wracking than tying up strangers at the library, and unexpectedly fun. They ate snacks and had another lecture about the history of textiles in pre-industrial trade between Korea and Japan while their packets soaked up dye. Several of Minseok’s classmates teased him about his skincare regimen – though he noted that they wrote down his answers when he told them what products he used. Jongdae even asked whether he thought any of it would remove the indigo from his fingernails. That set the ladies off onto approximately two thousand suggestions of things to try, which took them all the way until the timer went off.  

Everyone made a huge mess rinsing the dye out, then took turns in front of fans and with irons to dry their cloths and praise each other’s work. Minseok was pretty satisfied with how his pieces came out. He liked his own well enough to hang it on the wall at home: a reminder of a hilarious day.  

Minseok thought about hanging around to see whether he could cadge the phone number of a certain textiles instructor, but Jongdae was surrounded by a knot of ladies that showed no sign of letting up even when Minseok had taken twice as long as necessary to clean up his table and fold his cloths.   

What a shame.  

The library had a coffee shop. Minseok fortified himself and found a bench outside under a tree to check in with Baek.  

“How was it?” Baekhyun croaked into the phone, sounding even worse than he had three hours earlier.  

“It was fun,” Minseok said. “I made you a little banner.”  

“I’m so bummed,” Baekhyun said. “I was going to make a big mess and dye your face blue.”  

Minseok laughed.  

“I guess I’m glad for germs, then. But you know I totally read the flyer wrong. Having my face dyed blue would’ve been better than what I thought we were doing today.”  

“What was that?”  

“Shibari.”  

In his illness-addled state, it took Baekhyun a moment. Then he laughed himself into a coughing fit and Kyungsoo took his phone away from him. Minseok was still laughing when someone said behind him,  

“Seriously?”  

Minseok whipped around to see Dreamboat Jongdae, his blue fingers wrapped around a sweating cup of milk tea, mouth hanging open and ears, again, bright red.  

Minseok rubbed his nose.  

“Yeah,” he said.  

“You thought you were coming to the library to learn how to tie people up.”  

Minseok nodded. Jongdae shook his cup.  

“At the library in the middle of the afternoon?”  

“That’s why it was so surprising!”  

For a second, Jongdae only looked outraged. Then he snickered. Then he laughed hard enough to have to sit on the bench next to Minseok and put his cup down.  

“Oh god, can you imagine that whole class of middle-aged moms in a rope-tying class?”  

Minseok had already worked through that with himself, and here was this dreamboat sitting next to him, so he figured it was a great time to restart the flirting, in case it took this time.  

“I assure you that people still have needs, even as we grow older,” he said.  

But he did so in an exaggerated, snooty voice, just in case it needed to be a joke.  

Jongdae stopped laughing and pursed his lips. They were good lips. Had a little curve at each end and a nice, traceable shape.  

“What kind of needs, hyung?” Jongdae said after a pause, in a low voice that Minseok approved of wholeheartedly.  

But it was still the middle of a Saturday afternoon at the library, and who knew how many of those ladies were still wandering around, waiting to pounce? So Minseok merely shrugged and stretched his legs out long in front of him.  

“Oh, you know,” he said. “All kinds of things. Phone numbers. Knowing what kind of restaurant you might like to go to. Finding out whether you’re free later. That kind of thing.”  

“I don’t know,” Jongdae said.  

Minseok was about ready to kick himself, when he looked over to see the mischief in Jongdae’s expression.  

“I’m just a part-time studio singer and crafts teacher. How am I supposed to keep up with moves that smooth?”  

Minseok laughed.  

“I did knock my bucket over at the beginning of class out of pure relief that we weren’t actually going to be tying each other up today,” he said.  

“True,” Jongdae mused. “And you showed up to what you thought was a kinky knots class, which suggests a certain – I don’t even know what.”  

So then Minseok had to explain the lost bet and the Year of Yes, by the end of which both of their drinks were long gone, the sun was starting to set, and Jongdae was sitting sideways on the bench, cross-legged, his knee touching Minseok’s thigh.  

“I don’t think I know anybody who’d actually go through with all of that,” Jongdae said. “A whole year? My roommate might say he would, but then he’d whine so much about being never being able to choose what to learn that it would stop being fun.”  

Minseok waved one hand.  

“Yeah, I definitely complain about it – especially when I’m too focused on freaking out to actually read the flyer correctly. But Baekhyun makes things fun, and he’s known me long enough to know what I would hate too much to get past.”  

“You’re loyal,” Jongdae said in a softer voice that made Minseok blush.  

“I guess.”  

“In that case, I guess I can fulfill your need for my phone number,” Jongdae said. “Unless you want to skip straight to the restaurant part, since I’m starving.”  

This was, after all, the Year of Yes. And what a great year it was turning out to be.  

“How about we exchange numbers on the way? I know a terrific little curry place not too far away.”  

“Deal,” Jongdae said.  

And then, once they were settled into the back of a taxi, he added,  

“Besides, between you being a structural engineer and me teaching textile arts, I bet we can figure out how to tie knots on our own.”  

Minseok met Jongdae’s smile with his own.  

"It’s a year for learning new things, after all,” Minseok said.  

He felt Jongdae’s warm fingers twine with his own.  

“Sounds great to me. Start by telling me all about yourself.”  

“That could take a while.”  

“Here’s hoping,” Jongdae said.