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fic, 2013/01/09, exo, i of ii

  • Jan. 9th, 2013 at 2:55 PM
curledupkitten: (suho)
raise your expectations, r, joonmyun + chanyeol, au, 47500w
in the heat of summer, chanyeol walks in, and joonmyun starts to wake up

a/n: so. exo. for [ profile] loudestoflove ([personal profile] riots ), because this is how one wins (or loses) friendship these days. thank you to h, t, and n, without whom this feat would have been impossible.

"So. The asshole is here again," Jongdae says, as Joonmyun comes out of the staff-room, tucking his striped short-sleeved button-up into his jeans. "I nudged him toward table seven."

"That's the table with the leak above it, Jongdae." It's a sunny day, but the weather report had predicted rain as Joonmyun had wriggled into his jeans this morning. He bets if he were to look out the window, he'd see slowly encroaching storm clouds.

Jongdae grins wolfishly, and Joonmyun tries not to smile back, because a customer is a customer, but the guy really is an asshole.

"Maybe he won't come back," Jongin says optimistically, tossing glasses and barely catching them, and Joonmyun puts both hands on his hips and purses his mouth. "What? Like you weren't thinking it."

"Last week he left his gum stuck to the credit-card tray," Jongdae says. "I want to set him on fire." Jongdae is eyeing the guy up with the kind of malice that means hot-sauce in the raspberry sauce of the chocolate cake he orders every Thursday when he comes in.

"Just… Be polite," Joonmyun says, as he notes a couple walking in the front door with two small children. "Jongin, I'm going to need a high chair at table nine."

"On it, leader," Jongin says, and disappears around the corner. Joonmyun picks up a couple of their kids' coloring menus and walks toward the family with a smile.

"Welcome to the 'Black Pearl'," Joonmyun says. "Table for four?"

Joonmyun has been working at the 'Black Pearl' ever since he'd needed to pick up some part-time work to pay for his textbooks during his fourth year of university.

'I'll just do this for six months' had turned into three years, and now Joonmyun is the manager of the small frozen yogurt shop, and his graduate studies are just as much on the backburner as the rest of his life.

"Jongin, can you pick up an extra shift this weekend?" Joonmyun asks as he looks down at his clipboard, glaring at the blank space in the scheduling. "I know you have your summer class, but…"

"Sorry, hyung," Jongin says. "You'll have to ask Jongdae. I have an exam on Monday morning and Sehun and I are devoting the weekend to rote memorization. I have to pass this class." He sprays the counter with cleaner, and then mops up the solution with a clean cloth. "I have to pass this semester or my dad will kill me."

"Jongdae is out of town this weekend," Joonmyun says. His roommate is headed to Jeju with his most recent girlfriend, and that means it's Jongin or nothing. "Your dad won't kill you."

"That's what you think." Jongin slams the spray bottle down on the counter, startling the high school girl reading at the end of the main counter into looking up in mild fear before she catches sight of him, flushes, and then looks quickly down at her book. "Then you'll read about me in the newspaper. 'Second year university student found dismembered in Gwanak! He had a bright future, but he was completely incapable of passing his math class. He'll be fondly remembered by about forty percent of those who knew him—'"

"You're overreacting," Joonmyun says, reaching up to ruffle Jongin's hair. Jongin huffs and pulls away, and Joonmyun laughs, not offended. "I'm sure you'll pass this time. Second time's the charm?"

"Sehun says he'll help me," Jongin says. "That's why I can't come in on Saturday. Sorry."

"That's okay, Jongin. I'm sure I can manage it."

"Hyung, we really need to hire someone else." Jongin pushes his hair back from his forehead. "It's been way too hectic since Minseok-hyung left in March."

Ideally, Joonmyun should have sought a new employee as soon as he'd found out Minseok was graduating. It had been easier to live in denial, up until Minseok's last day when Minseok had patted him on the shoulder and said "good luck with everything" before walking in the direction of the subway and leaving Joonmyun with the sinking realization that you can't run a shop with only three people.

Well, you can. It just really sucks, and weekends feel just like weekdays. It’s also impossible to find time to do his laundry or clean his kitchen or learn the names of Jongdae's rotating cast of girlfriends that seem to come and go as frequently as customers at their yogurt shop.

"I know," Joonmyun says. "You know that I know that."

"Well," Jongin says. The high school girl is still surreptitiously watching Jongin. Joonmyun finds it adorable. "If I know that you know that I know that-- fuck, this is too hard. Can we just hire someone?"

"I'll get to it," Joonmyun says. "Go ask your secret admirer over there if she'd like another soda, on the house."

"Stop trying to set me up with jailbait," Jongin hisses. "You are the one that needs dates. Go on your own dates. Whatever happened to that girl Jongdae introduced you to? Luna?"

"She's not my type," Joonmyun replies, as Jongdae pushes open the shop door with his back, arms laden with summer fruits. "Let me help you!"

"I've got it, I've got it." Jongdae's shirt sticks to his back with sweat. "This is my last day for, like, five days, so I can afford to throw my back out."

Joonmyun grabs a case of berries from the top of the pile and takes them back toward the refrigerators. "Don't be ridiculous."

"I'm worried about your back," Jongdae says, giving Joonmyun the once over. "The supply truck is coming Sunday morning and no offense, hyung, but there's a reason we hired Jongin even though his head is basically filled with ground hamburger."

"Hey!" Jongin throws the wet cloth at Jongdae's face, and it is only Joonmyun's quick thinking that keeps the other two boxes of fresh berries from hitting the floor. "I'm bad at math. Give me a break."

"I don't give breaks," Jongdae says. "I give truth." Jongin throws the spray bottle next, and the high school girl giggles. Jongin flushes red, straightening his back and leaning onto the counter like he hadn't just thrown the spray bottle like an angry toddler. "Worried your little friend over there won't think you're cool anymore?"

"Shut up," Jongin says, and then he's smiling charmingly as two college girls walk in. "I'll go show them to a table."

"No, allow me," Jongdae says. "Help leader here with the berries."

"You're not that much older than me," Jongin says with irritation, but he takes the boxes from Joonmyun anyway, stacking them on top of the other one next to the sink. "So, hyung, I'll come in for an hour on Sunday morning to help with the truck unload." Joonmyun is about to express his thanks, but then Jongin wags his finger. "Ah, ah, ah. On one condition. You start looking for someone to hire."

"It's a deal," Joonmyun says, and Jongin smiles at him triumphantly before filling up an empty glass with Coke to take over to the high school girl in the corner.

Jongdae leaves for Jeju on Friday afternoon. Joonmyun is heading out of their apartment at the same time, only he's going to work, and Jongdae looks at him a tad mournfully as he hefts his full travel bag down the stairs.

"We should take a vacation together sometime."

"Yes, it is my most secret desire to be third wheel on one of your romantic getaways."

"Just me and you," Jongdae says, looping an arm around Joonmyun's shoulder. "We can go to Gyeongju and look at all those temples and shit. I know you're into that, future history professor."

"I'd actually have to go back to school to become a history professor," Joonmyun says. "And that's not financially feasible at the moment."

"You'll be back in next semester," Jongdae says. "You know you can't just give it up."

"I'm not giving it up," Joonmyun says. "It's just until things are better at home, you know?"

"Yeah," Jongdae says. There is a heavy silence between them for a few moments. It's not awkward, because Joonmyun has seen Jongdae in women's underwear and Jongdae has seen Joonmyun cry, but it is heavy. "I have to go. Min will be angry if I'm late."

"Go, go," Joonmyun says. "Have a safe flight."

"I'll call you when I get there," Jongdae vows, even though they both know he'll forget until he's in the shower tonight and then he'll text Joonmyun a message filled with typos that says something like not dead yet so don't get excited111!!!!!!

"I hope you have a great time," Joonmyun says, spinning around to lock the door as Jongdae stomps down the stairs in 173 centimeters of uncoordinated glory, and then he follows, heading to the shop.

It is with trepidation that Joonmyun fixes the 'Now Hiring' sign in the window. He should put something online, but he'll try this first, because he'd like a local. Preferably a student at Seoul-dae that comes in this direction on their own.

To say that he is surprised when a tall, lanky guy walks in on that Saturday afternoon, less than twenty-four hours after he's put up the sign, with a mop of curly hair and sunglasses perched low on his nose, would be an understatement. He has a backpack on his shoulders, but it looks empty, and Joonmyun pauses from mixing a banana smoothie to grab a table menu when the man hesitates at the edge of the counter.

"Can I help you?" Joonmyun asks. "A table or something to go…?" He takes a moment to study him. He's wearing a tank shirt and a pair of jeans so tight Joonmyun worries for his circulation, and he has a full mouth. The lower lip is dry, like he chews on it constantly.

"Actually," the man says, and Joonmyun startles at his voice. It's low and soothing, and nothing like what Joonmyun expects. "I'm here about the sign in the window?"

Joonmyun startles again, and feels kind of silly and flustered. "R-right," he says. "The hiring thing? Are you looking for a job?"

"Maybe," the man says. "I was wondering if I could talk to the manager?"

"That's me," Joonmyun says, turning back to the mixer and letting it run for another ten seconds as he collects himself. He pours the smoothie into a yellow glass, and sticks two cute swirly straws in it for the couple that ordered it at table five. "Just give me one second."

He takes the smoothie to the table, and when he comes back, the man is watching him with curious eyes. "You don't look old enough to be the manager." Joonmyun thinks he's teasing, with the way one side of his mouth lifts. Joonmyun is relatively used to being teased, about all manner of things, so he takes it in stride.

"Trust me, I am." He scrunches his nose. "Are you over eighteen?" The man's arms flex. He looks strong. It would be nice, to have someone else strong around besides Jongin, who is constantly showing off, lifting his shirt just enough to tease and saying oops unconvincingly when Jongdae glares at him.

"Yes," the man says. "My name is Chanyeol. I'm a student at Seoul National."

"Can you work evening shifts, Chanyeol?" Joonmyun busies himself with rinsing out the blender, and Chanyeol's voice is low and clear enough that he can hear it despite the running water.

"Yes," Chanyeol says. "I do an internship for half the day for the next two months, some boring business thing, but I'm free after five in the afternoon, and—"

"The pay isn't terrific," Joonmyun continues, and he peeks at Chanyeol out of the corner of his eye. Chanyeol is smiling at him, and his sunglasses have slipped lower on the bridge of his nose, revealing an enormous pair of eyes framed with long, thick lashes. "And it's not particularly exciting." He turns to look at Chanyeol completely, and he's struck, suddenly, by how tall the other man is. "Jongin is grumpy and Jongdae is a strung-out med student and I'm—"

Chanyeol's grin just gets wider. "Cute," he says, and Joonmyun doesn't know what to say to that. "You're very cute. Can I have the job?"

"You start on Monday," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol sighs happily and slides onto a stool. His long arms stretch across the counter as he settles.

"Great," Chanyeol says. "I'll be here at five." He looks up at the menu for a moment, and just as Joonmyun had suspected, his lower lip is captured for gnawing by his big, square teeth. "Can I have a chocolate and strawberry smoothie to celebrate?"

He sounds adorably excited, and Joonmyun likes the way Chanyeol seems to be tapping his feet to an inaudible beat, head bobbing along as he looks around the shop. Joonmyun likes happy people, but he's pretty sure Chanyeol will drive Jongin up the wall.

"Coming right up," Joonmyun says, and he definitely doesn't feel a strange spark when their fingertips brush as he hands Chanyeol the full glass.

"I hired someone," Joonmyun says, halfway through unloading heavy boxes from the supply truck early Sunday morning. Jongin is huffing as he tries to show off and lift two boxes at once. Joonmyun's knees are glad he's grown out of that already.

"What?" Jongin pants, as he pushes in through the side door with his shoulder, Joonmyun at his heels.

"I hired someone. He starts tomorrow afternoon."

"Another guy?" Jongin sets the boxes down and pouts. "I was hoping for a hot girl." He wipes his hands on his dirty sweatpants and pulls down on his baseball cap. "At least tell me he's painfully mediocre looking. I don't need competition."

"He's…" Joonmyun's not sure how to describe Chanyeol to Jongin. He's pretty sure Jongin is not interested in Chanyeol's large hands or Chanyeol's pretty lips. Half model, half Labrador might work, but Joonmyun doesn't want to give Jongin any weird preconceptions. "Tall."

"Taller than me?"

"Most definitely," Joonmyun says, and Jongin swears. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll still get about half of the teenage girl hearts." He gingerly pats Jongin's shoulder, and Jongin pouts, briefly, before beginning an intense and involved inspection of his Pumas that seems to preclude meeting Joonmyun's gaze.

"If it means you'll take more days off," Jongin says, still averting his eyes, "you could hire a trained circus animal and I wouldn't complain."

Ahhh, Joonmyun thinks. Feelings.

Jongin's never the sort to admit to emotions, but he's obviously (unnecessarily) concerned for Joonmyun, and that makes Joonmyun smile at him reassuringly, even if Jongin is kind of refusing to look at him.

Sometimes, Jongin can be pretty adorable.

"He's not quite a trained circus animal." He thinks about the way Chanyeol had laughed, as Joonmyun had explained the shifts, using his usual silly jokes, the ones Jongdae describes as 'heartbreakingly lame' and that Jongin refuses to acknowledge as having been uttered. Chanyeol had clapped his hands really loudly and laughed with his whole body like they were the funniest things he'd heard all day. Then he'd sloshed smoothie all over his arm and sheepishly mopped it up as Joonmyun watched with trepidation. "I'm really on the fence about the trained part."

"The look on your face right now worries me," Jongin says, and Joonmyun smiles.

"It'll be fine," Joonmyun says. "I hope."

"I'm glad that we have a future doctor on staff," Jongin says, as Chanyeol slices his hand open on a piece of broken glass. Three attractive twenty-something women immediately produce bandages from their purses, and Jongin's scowl deepens. "And this is immensely unfair. All he does is trip, giggle, and bounce around the shop getting people's orders wrong. How is this possible?"

"Don't be jealous, Jongin," Joonmyun says with a smile, straightening the collar of Jongin's shirt. "It's not the 'tall, dark, and brooding' thing you've got going on, but you must admit his cheerfulness is rather contagious."

"I'm sure the low 'sex-me' voice doesn't hurt," Jongin says grudgingly, and Joonmyun shakes his head, either to clear the thought or to chide Jongin for mentioning it.

"Don't kill him while I'm not here," Joonmyun tells him, and Jongin spins his baseball cap sideways, until the Kia Tigers logo turns into nothing more than a set of teeth from the front view. "And for goodness' sake, don't let him use the blender again."

Even if Chanyeol had enthusiastically insisted on doing the entire cleanup by himself, Joonmyun still doesn't want a repeat of the strawberry smoothie incident from last Wednesday.

"He's only been here two weeks and the girls have figured out his schedule. This is ridiculous. He walks like a newborn deer, all wobbly bow-legs and bumping into everything."

"Goodbye, Jongin."

"His hair is stupid!" Jongin says desperately, as Joonmyun walks away. "Don't leave me alone with him!"

The door cuts off Jongin's protests, and Joonmyun is hit with a wave of dreadful Seoul humidity as he steps out onto the street.

It's nice, Joonmyun thinks, to be able to leave the shop on a weekday afternoon. It's a luxury he hasn't had since Minseok left at the beginning of March. He hadn't realized how big the difference between four employees and three would be, when Minseok had first announced he was leaving, but having Chanyeol on staff, even if Chanyeol is an accident that is constantly happening, is a load off Joonmyun's shoulders.

The walk is sweltering so when he enters the hospital, the air conditioning sends a shiver down his spine. He jams his hands into the pockets of his shorts after he self-consciously brushes his sweaty bangs off of his forehead.

He is headed to the third floor. His sneakers squeak on the clean linoleum, and he nods to the nurses and goes to room 315.

"Joonmyun," says the woman in the bed, and Joonmyun rushes to her side, pushing back her hair from her brow. "You're here."

"Yes, yes," Joonmyun says. "We got a new guy at work, so I was able to come during the day before the end of visiting hours."

"It's good to see you," she says, as Joonmyun slides a chair up next to her bedside, before taking her hand between his own. It's cold, so he rubs up and down her fingers in a gentle massage to improve the circulation.

"You too, mom." He smiles at her. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," she says. "I know you're working hard." She laughs, and it turns into a cough. "The nurses say you call everyday to check on me. They all want to know how old you are and if you're available."

"Mom," Joonmyun squeezes her hand, and she laughs again. They favor each other, in that smile. Joonmyun has a picture of them both, with fading colors and worn edges, that he keeps in the left pocket of his wallet along with his social security card and his student ID, just to remind himself of that fact.

"You're going back to school next semester, aren't you, dear?" she asks, and Joonmyun nods.

"If I can, I will," he says. "But don't worry about that." The air in the hospital is thick. "You should focus on your health. I can take care of myself."

"You've always been able to do that," his mother says. "You're far too hard on yourself, Joonmyun." She closes her eyes. "I wish you'd find someone to take care of you."

"Everything is fine, mom," Joonmyun says. Most of the time, he truly believes that, but his mother has a way of making him question whether or not everything really is fine, which makes him feel guilty, which then makes him more resolute to work harder and be stronger.

Joonmyun might not be able to lift two heavy boxes at a time from the supply truck like Jongin, but in the past seven years he's figured out how to be strong in a million other ways.

"If you say so," she says, and she smiles again, only this time the ends are brittle, like Joonmyun's when there are a bunch of things he wants to say but he knows he never will. They favor each other, in that smile, too.

Joonmyun, in a perfect world, would be three-quarters of the way to a PhD in the early history of Western civilizations. Instead of making sure there are enough chocolate chips in the refrigerator to refill the trays, he'd be sitting, bespectacled and sleep-deprived, in the basement of a library, writing about the battles with the druids for control of the British Isles.

This is not a perfect world. Joonmyun rolls up his sleeves, putting aside thoughts of the first aqueducts and successions of Caesars.

It is not so much that Joonmyun chose history, as that history, with its memorizable dates and systematic timelines and cause-and-effect ratios, calls out to him like the siren-song that sends Odysseus crashing into the rocks.

"When you say it like that," Jongdae says, "it's kind of like how I was drawn to medicine with the promise of seeing a lot of boobs."

"Jongdae," Joonmyun says, as he tries to sort the trash so they can take it outside for the first time in a week, "you don't become a doctor to look at boobs."

"I'm sure that some people don't," Jongdae says. "But I am not one of those people."

"I bet you see more of blood and guts in lab than you see of breasts." Joonmyun pulls out another aluminum can from the regular trash and looks between it and Jongdae before dropping it into the recycling.

"Well, I know that now," Jongdae says. "When I was a first year in undergrad, though, I wanted to be a plastic surgeon." He winks at Joonmyun, before walking over to help knot the trash bags. "Hindsight is twenty-twenty. The truth is, I should have gone into Italian Renaissance art if I wanted to look at naked ladies all day."

"I think you see enough naked ladies in your personal life." Joonmyun sighs. "The bag with the green writing is for trash, not cans, Jongdae."

"When it is five in the morning and you have an organic chemistry test that you are completely unprepared for in three hours," Jongdae says, "somehow all the bags become the same color." He lifts one bag. "Besides, I'm a changed man. I have settled down. Min is the only girl for me."

"If you say so," Joonmyun teases, lifting the recycling and food trash. Joonmyun actually does believe him. While he's, understandably, a firm proponent of 'history repeats itself', he has also seen the way Jongdae looks at Min, and thinks she might be his Helen. (Jongdae's grades, of course, are his Troy.)

"You could afford to see a few more naked ladies." Jongdae moves toward the front door of their apartment, the hem of his pants dragging along the kitchen floor. Joonmyun doesn't have the energy to protest, today.

"Mmm," Joonmyun says, and they don't talk again until the trash is safely out at the dumpsters and they're back into the fan-cooled living room, Jongdae pulling off his tee and leaving himself in only an undershirt.

"You're quiet," Jongdae says. "Jongin says you took off this afternoon?"

"I went to see my mother." Joonmyun washes his hands as Jongdae lurks behind him. He turns around to his best friend's stare.

"How is she doing?" Jongdae asks.

"Well," Joonmyun says, and he doesn't want to worry Jongdae, so he doesn't mention the furrow between the doctor's brows or the way his mother's eyes hadn't quite focused. He will keep those worries for himself. "How was your day?"

"The new kid," Jongdae says. "Joonymun, I went into work, and the new kid."

Even thinking about Chanyeol makes Joonmyun smile. When he'd left work that afternoon, Chanyeol had just learned how to mix the yogurts in the stainless steel machines. Joonmyun hasn't laughed that hard in a long time.

Chanyeol isn't clumsy in everything, but it always seems like his limbs are longer than he expects them to be when he's trying to learn something new. This makes him more menace than aid sometimes, but Joonmyun has plenty of patience, and he's always liked teaching. "Like this," he'd told Chanyeol, and Chanyeol had carefully copied his posture, adjusting for the height difference as he poured milk into the industrial mixer. The smile Chanyeol had given him when he'd said "good job" had sent tingles all the way down to Joonmyun's toes.

"You're smiling. You probably think his chaos is delightful, or something ridiculous like that."

"I do," Joonmyun says, his smile only growing wider as he thinks about all the strawberry pulp on Chanyeol's face last Wednesday, and the way Chanyeol had silently cleaned up after Jongdae, too, because he had noticed that Joonmyun was constantly wiping down the counters.

"Then I like him," Jongdae says. "I may even deign to learn his name."

"Just like that?"

"You don't smile as much as you used to, Joonmyun. I'm a big fan of anything that makes you happy." Jongdae shrugs as Joonmyun flushes. "If that means accepting a sasquatch into my work life, well, there are some sacrifices I am willing to make."

"He's not a sasquatch," Joonmyun says. "He's… Chanyeol." There's a flutter in his stomach, but it is a simple enough thing to ignore.

It is a quiet day at the 'Black Pearl'. It always is on Mondays, which is why Joonmyun has never hated going into work on the first day of the week.

Chanyeol is frowning into a book. Joonmyun hadn't caught the title, earlier, when Chanyeol had first fished it out of his backpack, but he knows it's for school by the way Chanyeol occasionally narrows his eyes and rereads sections, or turns back to previously finished sections with a searching gaze. Not that Joonmyun is watching him.

Chanyeol looks so big in the small chairs of the shop, which were designed more for teenage girls than larger than average men. His glasses are sliding down his nose and his lower lip juts out in a pout.

"Do you need me to do something?" Chanyeol asks, setting his book down and looking in Joonmyun's direction.

"No," Joonmyun says. "It's fine." He sets down the last of the clean glasses and walks over, sinking easily into the chair opposite Chanyeol. Chanyeol looks mystified at how easily Joonmyun fits into the seat, before he grins in welcome.

"I know he's like, one of the classics," Chanyeol says, stretching his arms above his head and revealing a slice of belly, "but it's really hard to read Kim Manjung." He crosses his arms. "I identify with the theme of this novel, you know? The transience of pleasure and wealth. But not so much with the thick, winding prose. It actually reminds me of my best friend. He switches from one topic to another without even taking a breath."

"Are you reading it for a class assignment?"

"Yeah," Chanyeol says. "I'm a Korean Literature major. Third year." He pushes his thick fingers into his hair, knuckles immediately swallowed by the bouncy curls. "I regret my decision very rarely but Kim Manjung is always one of those times." His face is twisted up in that lopsided smile that Joonmyun is growing increasingly fond of, and his other hand comes out to land on top of Joonmyun's. Chanyeol's hand makes his own look so tiny.

"Is another 'Lady Hyegyeong'?" Joonmyun teases, careful not to let his surprise at Chanyeol's touch show, and Chanyeol's eyes light up with pleasure.

"You know about—"

The door jingles, and Joonmyun springs up, pulling his hand free, already making a lunge toward the menus. "Hello, welcome to 'Black Pearl'… Oh, Zitao!"

"Hyung," Zitao says. He looks over at Chanyeol curiously, and Chanyeol waves. "New?"

"Yes," Joonmyun says. "Chanyeol." Zitao blinks, and then his lips twitch. He studies Chanyeol for another moment before shrugging, turning his attention back to Joonmyun and switching to his native language.

"You didn't come to registration."

Joonmyun takes a moment to catch up, but then he nibbles lightly on his top lip. "I'm not coming back next semester."

"We were all expecting you to," Zitao says, and Joonmyun licks his teeth. Expecting is a word that Joonmyun carries heavy on his back, because he feels constantly inadequate beneath it.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," Joonmyun murmurs, looking down, careful not to let his shoulders drop, because he knows Chanyeol is watching.

"No," Zitao says quickly, "that's not what I meant. I meant that we missed you. Professor Lee asked after you."

"I can't spare the time yet," Joonmyun says.

"Will you ever be able to?" Zitao asks, and he doesn't mean it cruelly. His face is open and he's looking at Joonmyun like he wants Joonmyun to reassure him that of course he will, so Joonmyun does.

"Yes, yes, Zitao," Joonmyun says, and Zitao smiles. "Make sure you volunteer to TA my favorite undergrads."

"You got it, hyung," Zitao reassures him, before pulling him into a hug that mashes Joonmyun's nose into his chest.

When Zitao has left, Chanyeol is still watching him. "What?"

"I didn't know you spoke Mandarin."

"You don't know a lot about me," Joonmyun replies, going being the counter to get himself some water. "Zitao is a classmate of mine."

"You go to school?" Chanyeol stands up, and walks over to Joonmyun, before sitting down on the same stool he'd perched on that very first day. "What do you study?"

"History," Joonmyun says. "And I'm on leave. For personal reasons."

"You're so full of secrets," Chanyeol says, leaning across the counter until his face is way too close to Joonmyun's. Chanyeol has no concept of personal space. Joonmyun's stomach does a somersault.

"Not really," Joonmyun replies, but it's not exactly true. Chanyeol's eyelashes are even longer when he can see them up close. "You just don't know me yet."

"Joonmyun-ssi," Chanyeol says, catching Joonmyun's forearm in his hand. His thumb and middle finger almost touch, making a ring around his thin bone. "Can you get me a glass too?"

Joonmyun takes a shaky gulp of air. "Sure." He pulls free to grab a second clean glass.

"I'd like to," Chanyeol says, when Joonmyun is facing him again, pressing the glass against the water dispenser tab. "Get to know you." His eyes are so bright. The only thing brighter is his smile. Joonmyun has to blink to clear the dancing lights from his eyes.

"You can call me hyung," Joonmyun says, and then he hands Chanyeol his water.

Chanyeol claps his hands delightedly. "You're the cutest hyung I've ever had," he says, and Joonmyun has to cover his mouth with his palm to hide his own laughter as a customer enters the shop.

Minseok comes to town in the middle of September. It isn't hard for Joonmyun to be talked into lunch with him, Zitao, and Lu Han at a restaurant right outside campus that they used to frequent as undergrads.

Joonmyun does think he should have worn a warmer jacket. Every year, he forgets the way autumn slips right between his fingers and turns to early winter before he can close his fist to hold onto it. He settles for tightening his scarf and curling forward into himself as he gets off the bus.

"Hyung!" he hears, and he looks left to see Chanyeol, waving wildly at him from the other side of the street. Joonmyun can't control the way his cheeks pull whenever he hears Chanyeol's low voice. It's like reflex. See Chanyeol, smile.

As soon as the crosswalk light turns blue, Chanyeol bounds across the street, dragging a friend.

"Good afternoon, Chanyeol."

"What are you doing on campus, hyung?" Chanyeol's coat is completely unbuttoned. Joonmyun immediately steps closer and starts to fasten them.

"It's cold today, Chanyeol, and exam week is coming." Chanyeol laughs and lets Joonmyun do up all the buttons, and it is only when Joonmyun is finished that he sees Chanyeol's companion's incredulous gaze.

"I didn't think of it," Chanyeol says, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "This is my best friend, Baekhyun. Baekhyun, this is Joonmyun-hyung." Joonmyun figures he'd meet the infamous Baekhyun while dressed inappropriately for the weather and treating his friend like a toddler.

"It's nice to meet you," Joonmyun says, hoping the red in his cheeks gets blamed on the wind instead of his embarrassment. He realizes his hands are still smoothing out the collar of Chanyeol's coat and hastily drops them to his sides, hiding them in the pockets of his jacket. "I'm on my way to meet some friends for lunch, and um, I didn't think I'd run into you."

"The world is always smaller than you'd think!" Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun shivers even as he laughs. Chanyeol's hair is hidden away under a baseball cap, but curly pieces have snuck out onto his forehead and in front of his ears.

"No wonder Chanyeol always talks about how cute you are," Baekhyun says, slugging Chanyeol in the arm. "Chanyeol, you should have told me you weren't exaggerating." Joonmyun wonders if Chanyeol just collects small people to boss him around, or if he and Baekhyun are exceptions and not the rule. "Are you sure you're older than us?"

"Most definitely," Joonmyun says, over Chanyeol's indignant squawking. He tries not to dwell on the fact that Chanyeol has told his best friend that he thinks Joonmyun is cute. Chanyeol tells him that to his face all the time, and it means just as little in this context as it means in the other.

"I don't always--" Chanyeol starts, but Baekhyun snorts.

"Chanyeol's girlfriend keeps joking with him that maybe she should be jealous," Baekhyun says.

Joonmyun hadn't known Chanyeol has a girlfriend. It makes sense that he does. Chanyeol is tall and confident and smart and good-looking. Guys like that usually have girlfriends. Joonmyun hadn't really thought about it.

"There's no need for that," Joonmyun says. "It was nice to meet you, Baekhyun, but I've got to go." He shivers again, because it's so cold. Chanyeol frowns at him, before swinging his backpack in front of him and digging in the front pocket until he emerges with a pair of gloves.

Joonmyun is already opening his mouth to protest but Chanyeol snatches his wrist and shoves them into his hand, using his other hand to curl Joonmyun's fingers around them. "Give them back to me tomorrow," Chanyeol says, before hugging him quickly and bouncing backwards. "Have a good lunch, hyung!"

Joonmyun puts the gloves on. They're far too big for his hands, and that, too, makes him smile. Maybe Chanyeol's girlfriend has small hands too.

By the time he gets to lunch his smile has faded, but seeing his friends brings it right back. "Sorry I'm late," Joonmyun says. "I ran into a friend."

"Whose gloves are these?" Jongdae asks when he gets home.

"Chanyeol's," Joonmyun says. "I ran into him on campus when I was meeting Minseok, Zitao, and Lu Han." Lu Han had laughed and told Joonmyun that with his big gloves and blue lips, he looked like a Smurf.

"You always forget how quickly it turns cold," Jongdae says.

"Did you know Chanyeol has a girlfriend?"

"There are people attracted to men who look more like ostriches?" Jongdae laughs at his own joke. "No, but I did. She even came into the shop once. Her name is Sooyoung. She's a bit stiff, but she seems sweet enough."

"I didn't know," Joonmyun says. "I mean, I didn't even think to ask."

"Are you finally ready to take the leap?" Jongdae is gleeful. "I know a girl-"

"No," Joonmyun says. "This is not an invitation to set me up with someone."

"You'll want someone someday," Jongdae says. "Even human ostriches have girlfriends, and you're falling behind."

Joonmyun makes himself a cup of cocoa and tries to warm up his chest. His hands are already warm enough.

"Go out with her once," Jongdae says. "It's not going to hurt you."

"Yes it is," Joonmyun says automatically. "I don't want to go out with anyone." He puts his hands on his hips and glares down at Jongdae, who is sprawled legs-spread on the couch of their living room with a huge bag of cookies between his thighs.

"Your glare is completely ineffective on me," Jongdae says. "We both know you aren't going to stay mad."

"I'm serious, Jongdae. You have to stop with this." He picks up Jongdae's coat off the floor and sets it over the arm of the sofa. "Don't you have enough work, between first year med classes and the shop, to keep you too busy to meddle?"

Jongdae looks at him as if to say obviously not, and Joonmyun sighs.

"Do it for me?" Jongdae pleads, doing that thing with his eyebrows that makes Joonmyun want to give in every single time. "One date, Joonmyun. That's all I'm asking."

"Fine," Joonmyun agrees. "But this is the last time, Jongdae." He finds himself wearing 'one of his less repulsive shirts' and sitting across from a college junior named Jinri at a popular Japanese shabu shabu restaurant just outside of Gangnam exit 7.

She's nice. Pretty, with short nails and full lips and stylish boy-cut hair. Joonmyun likes her dress, with its puffy sleeves and full skirt. Joonmyun likes her laugh, too.

She would have been a good pick, if he were interested.

"No, it's not anything about you…" Joonmyun sighs. "I'm not really trying to date right now, and Jongdae keeps…" He shrugs uncomfortably, and puts a bite of radish into his mouth stop himself from rambling.

"I see," Jinri says, looking at him carefully. "I understand."

There's a knowing look in her eyes that makes Joonmyun want to go home and curl up under his covers until morning. "You probably do," Joonmyun replies.

"You should tell your friend," Jinri says, tightening her coat around her shoulders as they walk out of the restaurant. The air is brisk with encroaching winter. "So he stops… doing this."

"I know," Joonmyun says, and she smiles at him again, implying that there are no hard feelings, before she walks away toward the bus stop. Joonmyun watches her go, then heads down in the opposite direction to the train.

Joonmyun realizes that he's actually gay, and that it's not just a phase, when he's in his third year of high school. His mother's only beginning to get sick, spending more time in the hospital than at home, and Joonmyun drowns himself in school work and extra music classes and anything he can to keep from thinking about it.

That's when he meets Kyungsoo, who giggles when he laughs and kisses Joonmyun like he's scared Joonmyun is going to run away if he's too insistent. Kyungsoo is probably right about that, so Joonmyun doesn't blame him.

There are so many things about Kyungsoo that Joonmyun finds delightful, and no girl has ever made his heart trip like this, running and stumbling out in front of him as he tries to keep it from falling and splintering on the ground.

"I don't know what this is," Joonmyun says, and Kyungsoo shakes his head and smiles.

"Me neither," he replies, and they hold hands, and Joonmyun does know that he's never, ever wanted to kiss any girl as much as he wants to kiss Kyungsoo.

In the end, it doesn't work out. Joonmyun is too scared to go to college with a boyfriend, and Kyungsoo doesn't fight him when he says he wants to break up. "We're in high school," Kyungsoo says. "High school isn't supposed to be forever anyway. I hope you learn to be happy with yourself, though, Joonmyun. I really do."

Joonmyun hopes that too, but it's so low on his list of priorities that he doesn't have the time to devote to it.

When Jongdae starts setting Joonmyun up on dates, it's on the tip of his tongue. Theoretically, "I don't like girls," is not a lot of words, but in practice, Joonmyun finds them impossible to say to his best friend. The longer he waits, the more impossible it seems.

"How was the date?" Jongdae asks as soon as he walks in the door.

"She was nice," Joonmyun says, slipping out of his shoes and stepping into the living room.

"Nice?" Jongdae frowns. "You're not going to go out with her again, are you?" He looks so disappointed. Joonmyun guiltily sits down at the kitchen table in the chair next to Jongdae's.

"It's enough, Jongdae." Jongdae opens his mouth to protest. "No more dates."

"I don't get it," Jongdae says. "She's into history, and she's got legs like a model and she likes all the same foods as you. Why didn't you like her?"

Joonmyun grips the edge of the table, and contemplates telling Jongdae right here and right now that his type is a little less Jinri and a little more, well, Chanyeol, but courage fails him, and instead he stares down at the tabletop.

"Good night, Jongdae," he says, and retreats to bed. It takes him awhile to fall asleep.

Fall strikes with a vengeance. No one wants to eat frozen yogurt in the fall, but plenty of people still come for Joonmyun's hot chocolate recipe and Jongdae's coffee. They also still come for Chanyeol's over the top cheer and Jongin's lack of common sense—he's still wearing shirts that slide off his shoulders to reveal stretches of his collarbones.

Today, the shop is bustling. In between carrying orders to tables and mopping, Chanyeol is pleading with Baekhyun.

"But I need your help," Chanyeol says. Baekhyun looks at Chanyeol through slit eyes as he sips on his favorite—Joonmyun had mixed it up especially for Baekhyun, the first time he'd come into the shop late at night 'just to see Chanyeol's cute boss.' Joonmyun is pretty sure that Baekhyun is a sadist who enjoys making people blush, but he's equal opportunity with his harmless jibes so Joonmyun doesn't mind. He likes the way Jongin gets flustered, too, when Baekhyun asks him when he's going to start dressing for the weather.

"You've been dating Sooyoung for almost two years now, Chanyeol. Are you telling me you can't find anything she'd like?"

"You know I'm hopeless with gifts," Chanyeol says, and Jongin, who is walking by with a tray of empty mugs from table three, laughs.

"Don't you mean hopeless with everything?" Jongin says, and Chanyeol grins.

"How's math coming along, Jongin?" He tilts his head, and opens his eyes as wide as they'll go while Joonmyun keeps himself out of the conversation by helping a little girl choose flavors for her yogurt while her older brother holds her high enough to see beyond the glass. "I hear you're passing now that you've corralled your first-year roommate into helping you out."

"Oooh, he bites," Jongdae says, before walking past Joonmyun to pick up the two chocolates that Joonmyun had just finished preparing. "Jongin, you'd better scurry on over to the sink and get those cups clean before the four o'clock rush." He smirks, and Jongin pouts before he keeps walking.

"I'm really sorry, Chanyeol, but you should know how important my family business dinners are. I can't get out of it. You should have asked me last week. Did you forget?"

"No, I've been busy." Every spare moment for the past few weeks, Chanyeol's had his head buried in books. Joonmyun had been amused to see that one of them had been 'Lady Hyegyeong'. "Essays, some essays, and, oh right, more essays." Chanyeol sighs, heavy enough that his bangs blow up with the force of it, and Joonmyun's chest clenches.

"I can help you," Joonmyun says. He's doing that thing where his urge to be helpful overpowers his reticence. "I'm not so bad at shopping for girls." He's helped Jongdae do it enough that he should be able to at least offer a solid second opinion. It's better than nothing, probably. "We both get off at five today."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Chanyeol chants. He waits until Joonmyun hands the young girl her yogurt with a smile before he pulls him into an embrace. Joonmyun wriggles a little, to free his face so he can breathe more than the scent of Chanyeol's cologne, which smells like the high-end side of the first floor perfume counter at the 'Shinsegae' in Chungmuro.

"Sure," Joonmyun says, when Chanyeol steps back to give him enough room to breathe. "It's no problem."

Baekhyun looks distantly amused as he readies himself to leave. "Have fun," he says to Joonmyun like he knows something Joonmyun doesn't, and Joonmyun wonders if Chanyeol's actually as horrible a shopper as he thinks he is.

At five, he slips into the back to put on his coat, and Jongdae gives him one of those looks.

"You're going to go shopping with Chanyeol?" He feigns a heart palpitation. "Who are you, and where is the Joonmyun I thought I knew?"

"He needs help," Joonmyun says, counting the cracks in the tile beneath his feet instead of meeting Jongdae's stare.

"Interesting," Jongdae says. "Foolish ostrich needing help ranks above 'but-Jongdae-I-haven't-done-my-laundry' and 'I-need-to-go-to-the-grocery-store-or-we'll-starve.'"

Joonmyun wraps his scarf twice around his neck and searches for his umbrella. He finds it tucked beneath Jongin's sweatshirt. "He does bring clothes!" Joonmyun says, to distract Jongdae. It works, and Jongdae stares incredulously at the article of clothing.

"That little tramp," Jongdae says. "'Hyung, I was in a hurry this morning so I had no choice but to wear this blouse I bought from the little girls' section at Lotte' my ass."

"I'll see you tonight, Jongdae," Joonmyun says, slipping out as Jongdae clutches the sweatshirt with a combination of fury and mirth.

Chanyeol is waiting at the entrance to the shop, peering outside with dismay etched on his face. Joonmyun likes the way that Chanyeol's face is so open, like a child's. Joonmyun is often unsure where he stands with people, or if he's saying the right thing, but he never feels that fear with Chanyeol, whose emotions are so plain on his countenance. "What's wrong?"

"I forgot my umbrella," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun nudges Chanyeol with his elbow.

"Mine is pretty big," he says, and Chanyeol looks down at him, eyes confused. "You lent me your gloves. I'm sure I can share my umbrella."

They barely fit beneath it. Chanyeol ends up holding the umbrella, wrapping his arm around Joonmyun's shoulders and pulling him into his side. Joonmyun's right arm is soaked in seconds, but he barely notices in the warmth of being held in so close.

"You're so tiny," Chanyeol says. "A baby bird."

"I'm your hyung," Joonmyun says firmly, and Chanyeol's chuckle is loud enough to be audible above the rain.

"My tiny hyung," Chanyeol amends. "You're really endearing."

"So you keep saying."

"I mean it." Joonmyun tilts his head back to look at Chanyeol, who is scanning street signs even as he speeds up his steps, forcing Joonmyun to take twice as many to keep up.

"I can't walk that fast!" Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol grins.

"We're almost there," he says, pointing to the bus stop. "This bus is the fastest way to get to where we're going."

"I forgot to ask where we're going," Joonmyun says, after they've ducked under the bus stop. "I know you're picking an anniversary present but…"

"She has a charm bracelet," Chanyeol says. "From a specific designer. I need to pick, I don't know, a good charm." He sighs. "Or three."

"Or three," Joonmyun muses. "Is it that hard to pick a charm?"

"You don't understand," Chanyeol says. "I have excellent taste for myself. But as soon as it's for Sooyoung, I pick out the most hideous things." Chanyeol shakes out the umbrella, and gets his jeans even wetter in the process. Joonmyun holds out his hand for it and expertly gets the water off as Chanyeol sheepishly grins. "I'm a mess?"

"You are," Joonmyun says, and it's Chanyeol, he thinks, that is endearing. "I'll help." He might still be able to make it to the market when they're done, after all.

On the bus, Joonmyun takes the window seat, and Chanyeol leans into him, resting his head on top of Joonmyun's as Joonmyun watches the rain-slick streets out the window. He feels damp, but he's not cold. Not with Chanyeol's arm on his thigh and Chanyeol's breath in his hair.

No, Joonmyun tells himself, when his pulse quickens. He has always been very good at telling himself no, and this is not the time for an exception.

"This is our stop," Chanyeol says, into his bangs, and Joonmyun swallows and follows Chanyeol off the bus. He puts his umbrella up, but Chanyeol just shakes his head and gestures toward a small shop about five meters away, and they make a run for it. Once they're in the doorway, Chanyeol runs a hand through his sopping hair and smiles. "I know the owner of this boutique. He helped me pick the bracelet out for Sooyoung in the first place."

"I'm sure he could have helped you," Joonmyun says. "Not that I mind. At all." His tongue is thick.

"I was really happy you offered," Chanyeol says. "It's also just nice to talk to you like this, without the interruptions from the customers. And you're always so busy…"

"You never come out with me and Jongdae and Jongin," Joonmyun says. "We always invite you."

"The timing is… I have things I have to do, on the weekends. Family stuff." Chanyeol pushes open the door. "After you."

The owner does, indeed, know Chanyeol. He leaves them alone to look at the charms beneath glass, and Joonmyun quizzes Chanyeol about Sooyoung's hobbies and interests. Chanyeol has plenty of answers, and no price limit, (which has Joonmyun raising his eyebrows) and eventually they settle on two charms that Joonmyun, from Chanyeol's lengthy descriptions of her, thinks she'll love.

Chanyeol points them out to the boutique owner, and the man wraps them up as Chanyeol hums under his breath, a soft pop tune that reminds Joonmyun of being in high school. It also reminds him of Kyungsoo, and other times he had had to push down unfortunate feelings.

When Chanyeol takes the wrapped packages, Joonmyun having missed the transaction entirely, Joonmyun assumes that the smile on Chanyeol's face is in anticipation of Sooyoung's delight.

The girlfriend is someone Joonmyun's known about for a while now. Buying her a gift makes her no more or less real.

"Thanks for everything, hyung," Chanyeol says, when they get back to the bus stop they'd left from two hours ago. Night has fallen and Joonmyun will walk home quickly in hopes of catching his favorite fruit vendor before she closes up shop. "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Any-" thing for you is strangely on the tip of his tongue. "Anytime," he says instead, and Joonmyun knows it is night but for a second, Chanyeol's bright smile makes him forget it isn't dawn.

"You're so kind," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun likes that word. Wants to keep it. "And handsome, too, but when I think of you, I think of kindness."

"You're kind, though." Joonmyun has seen Chanyeol drop to his knees with a fresh bowl of yogurt when a little boy has dropped his, carefully wiping the mess from the little boy's face and hands and smiling the whole time. Among other things.

"Not like you are," Chanyeol says. "Not so selflessly."

"I picked up vegetables," Joonmyun calls out when he gets home, but Jongdae's shoes aren't in the doorway and the apartment is empty.

Sooyoung comes into the shop that Friday. She finds Chanyeol immediately with her eyes and they have a hushed conversation that Joonmyun can't make out over the sound of the five college girl hearts breaking in the back of the shop. He sends Jongin over with a complimentary bowl of small donuts, and takes Chanyeol's place behind the yogurt counter while he talks.

He can't stop staring.

Joonmyun doesn't like the way their hands fit so well together, or how pretty she looks when she's smiling at Chanyeol. It makes him… well, he's not sure. There are dishes to be done.

"So she's your type?" Jongin says, and Joonmyun snaps his attention away from Chanyeol and Sooyoung to look at his friend.

"No," Joonmyun says, licking his lips, hand coming up to comb through his bangs. "Definitely not."

"Then why do you look so jealous?" Jealousy is an ugly word. Joonmyun does his best not to do things associated with it.

"I'm not jealous," Joonmyun says. "Don't be silly." He rubs his hands together. "Help me take all these dishes to the sink."

"Then why are you staring at her like that?" Jongin says. "She is awfully pretty."

"She is," Joonmyun says, because that's true. "She's not my type." That's true too.

"Something is off," Jongin says. "It's really like you're…"

"Everything is fine," Joonmyun snaps, and Jongin is bewildered. Joonmyun softens his tone. "You're reading something into nothing."

"If you say so," Jongin says, and lets it go. Jongdae wouldn't have let it go, but Jongin is private enough himself that he never pushes on the rare occasions Joonmyun puts his foot down.

Joonmyun feels like more of a liar than usual as he stops himself from looking up at Chanyeol's laugh and not-so-selflessly wishing he could have it all to himself.

"Happy Thursday!" Chanyeol says when he comes in at four, and Jongdae growls.

"You're only saying that because you've never worked a Thursday before."

"What's… wrong with Thursdays?" Chanyeol asks, and Jongdae sighs as Joonmyun tries to hold back his laughter.

"The asshole," Jongdae hisses, and Joonmyun can't stop the peal of laughter that escapes before he schools his face into an innocent smile. "I bet Jongin switched with you this week solely to have a break from the lord of misery."

"Jongin switched shifts because he has a math exam tomorrow," Joonmyun says. "He's studying with Sehun."

"Studying," Jongdae snarks. "Is that what the kids are calling it these days." He stacks a few laminated menus that had been abandoned on the counter and returns them to the larger pile at the end. "Back when I was an undergrad, we called it 'let's skip class and play video games'."

"The asshole," Chanyeol prompts, as he returns from the back, stripped down to his sweatshirt and too-tight jeans, and Jongdae grimaces.

"Yeah," Jongdae says. "The guy we put at table seven."

"The table with the leak? He can't be that bad." Joonmyun fiddles with the cash register and decides not to involve himself in this conversation.

Jongdae gives Chanyeol a sweet grin. "Why don't you handle him today, then?"

"All right," Chanyeol says. "I will." Chanyeol grabs a menu and heads for table seven.

The asshole looks up just as Chanyeol approaches, and they both freeze.

"Changmin-hyung," Chanyeol says haltingly, as the asshole raises one impeccably arched eyebrow to take in Chanyeol's hands around the menu.

"Is this what you've been doing with your free time lately?" The asshole, Changmin as Chanyeol had called him, is clearly amused. "My, my, won't your daddy be surprised."

"Stop it," Chanyeol says. He's visibly ruffled, and Joonmyun doesn't think he's ever seen Chanyeol's mouth drawn so tight, the corners turning down with displeasure and his muscles taut. "Not here."

"Aren't you going to take my order, Chanyeol?"

Chanyeol nods, stiffly. "What can I get for you today, sir?"

Joonmyun doesn't want to see Chanyeol like this. It feels too personal, and Chanyeol hasn't welcomed anyone into this part of his life. Jongdae seems to have no such qualms, enraptured with the mini-drama unfolding at table seven.

Chanyeol comes back and bites out an order. "You were right," Chanyeol tells Jongdae, after a moment, "an asshole at table seven." Chanyeol's shoulders slowly ease. "One that's a… family friend, of sorts."

"Chanyeol, why don't you do the dishes for me," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol nods. "I'll take over table seven."

"Thank you, hyung," Chanyeol says, and even though Joonmyun takes over, Chanyeol keeps sending nervous glances in the direction of the asshole until he leaves, stopping by the counter to pay and waving a personal, smirking goodbye to Chanyeol. Chanyeol visibly deflates when he's gone.

"Not close to him?" Joonmyun murmurs later, as they dry dishes side by side in the late afternoon lull, while Jongdae flirts shamelessly with a fifty-year-old woman who stops by at least three times a week for coffee.

"He works for my father," Chanyeol says. "Which is not something that I want to do. Literature major and all." Chanyeol tosses his dyed hair. "I'm not cut out for a cookie-cutter job. I'm too pretty and too fun to staple myself into a gray suit day after day. Changmin-hyung doesn't really… agree with my choices."

"I see," Joonmyun says, and he doesn't ask any more questions. Chanyeol seems grateful for that.

"I'm reading Kim Manjung again," Chanyeol says, after five minutes of easy silence, Joonmyun catching two dropped glasses before they hit the floor. Chanyeol doesn't like the quiet, but Joonmyun doesn't mind his noise. "'Lady Sa's Trip to the South.'"

"Tell me about it," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol does, his low voice gaining enthusiasm as he spins the tale out to Joonmyun's welcoming ears.

They close the shop early for Chuseok. Joonmyun volunteers to take everyone out to dinner. He's surprised when Chanyeol agrees, considering a previously mentioned dinner with his father.

"He cancelled," Chanyeol explains as they walk, and something in the set of his shoulders doesn't invite further questions.

They end up at a western style restaurant, ordering giant hamburgers and laughing at Jongdae, who cuts his into pieces so he can eat it with a fork. Chanyeol takes massive bites out of his and gets the sauce all over his face. Joonmyun resists the urge to wipe it off.

"Did your girlfriend like her present?" Jongin asks, and Chanyeol nods.

"She did, she did. It's all because Joonmyun-hyung practically held my hand through the selection." A warm smile that has butterflies coming out of their cocoons in the wrong season to fly around in his stomach. "I'm glad he came to help."

Jongdae grins. "If only he'd stop rejecting the girls I pick out for him, and actually go steady with one of them." Jongdae eats an onion ring. "He'd be such a good whipped boyfriend."

Jongin snorts into his soda. "I totally agree," he says. "He should have a noona, like Chanyeol. 'Noona, let me do everything for you. Noona~'."

"I know just the girl, too!" Jongdae puts his hands flat on the table.

"Jongdae, we agreed—"

"But, Joonmyun, you'll love her!"

"What if I don't want to date anyone?" Joonmyun asks. It's almost rhetorical, at this point. Fending off Jongin and Jongdae is not a battle worth fighting, because it's two against one.

"I think Joonmyun-hyung should do whatever he wants," Chanyeol says. "Date if he wants, not date if he wants." Chanyeol is drawing a smiley face with ketchup on the remains of his hamburger bun, but he looks up to smile at Joonmyun, whose chest feels heavy with the warmth, now.

"Thank you, Chanyeol. It's funny how you've only known me a fraction of the time that these guys have, but it is you alone who can see I'm an adult capable of dating or not dating on my own."

"It's because he doesn't know you that well yet," Jongdae says. "He hasn't seen your depressing hermit-like tendencies or your even more depressing collection of winter sweaters—"

"There's nothing wrong with my sartorial choices," Joonmyun says stiffly, and Jongin chokes on his sandwich. "And even if they were, Jongin would be the last person to talk."

"Fair enough," Jongdae says. "But that doesn't mean you aren't tragically anti-social—"

"I'm here right now!"

"With your co-workers!"

"With my friends," Joonmyun corrects, and Chanyeol's hand comes to rest on Joonmyun's knee for a moment beneath the table, squeezing. Joonmyun's throat goes dry.

"Joonmyun-hyung is able to choose for himself," Chanyeol says firmly. "It's not up to you guys what he does with his time. He's really nice, and good-looking," and Joonmyun blushes, "so I'm sure if he wanted a date, he could get one."

Joonmyun fusses with his bangs and keeps his eyes fixed on the table until Jongdae coughs, breaking the moment. When he glances up, Jongdae looks… chastised, which Joonmyun isn't used to. "You're right," he says, and Jongin looks at him, betrayed.


"Let it go, Jongin," Jongdae says. "Or I'm going to start talking about your boyfriend Sehun—"

"Roommate," Jongin says insistently. "No one accuses you and Joonmyun-hyung of dating just because you guys spend a ton of time together—"

"Because I actually have girlfriends instead of fruitlessly parading half-clothed around my place of employment," Jongdae retorts.

"Thanks," Joonmyun says, quiet beneath the sound of Jongin and Jongdae's bickering, to Chanyeol, whose hand has retreated from Joonmyun's knee to his own lap, his other hand stabbing at his french fries with a fork. He chews with his mouth open. It's not attractive. "For sticking up for me. Minseok used to just laugh and let them set me up on dates."

"You didn't seem very excited to meet this girl." Chanyeol leans forward to sip at his soda through his straw, before leaning back and looking at Joonmyun pensively. Joonmyun doesn't think he's ever seen such a serious expression on his face. "Plus, I know what it's like to not be able to make your own decisions." His lips pull downward.

Joonmyun wants to ask, but something tells him Chanyeol wouldn't answer.

Joonmyun silently lifts up his plate and dumps the rest of his fries onto Chanyeol's. "Guess you were a good hire, after all."

That prompts the return of Chanyeol's signature smile, and Joonmyun doesn't bother to suppress the wobble of his heart in his chest.

Joonmyun tries to pay the bill on the way out, but the hostess is surprised. "It's already been taken care of," she says, and Chanyeol is grinning at him when he turns to look at his friends.

"Didn't I say it was on me?"

Chanyeol shrugs. "Should have been faster, then," he says, and he pulls down on his baseball cap and winks. At least, Joonmyun thinks he's winking, because sometimes Chanyeol's left eye squints when he smiles.

"Thank you," Joonmyun says. "Again."

"Anytime," Chanyeol says, echoing Joonmyun's words from Wednesday, and he ushers Joonmyun out the door with a hand to the small of his back.

"I made a new friend," Joonmyun tells his mother as she strokes his cheek. "His name is Chanyeol."

"Is he a nice boy?" she asks, like Joonmyun is in primary school, still, and not twenty-three years old. Joonmyun's father, who lurks behind him, laughs tiredly as Joonmyun nods.

"Very," Joonmyun says.

"Meet a nice girl, Joonmyun," she says, and the lump in Joonmyun's throat makes it hard to breathe. "I want to know you'll be happy before…"

"Before what?" Joonmyun says with false optimism, and he redirects the conversation to the Chuseok decorations up at Gyeongbeokgung.

As he's leaving the hospital, his father grabs his arm. "Come home for dinner next week," he says. "It's been a long time since you did. Bring Jongdae."

"I'll see if he's free," Joonmyun says, and he hopes he is, otherwise it will be Joonmyun and his father and his mother's empty chair.

The first snow of the year finds Baekhyun and Zitao hunched together over Baekhyun's tablet, watching a drama. They can't understand each other, but they've struck up an odd friendship composed mostly of laughter and hand motions and Korean dramas with Chinese subtitles.

Joonmyun watches them bemusedly. Chanyeol comes up behind him and rests his chin on Joonmyun's head. "I've never heard Baekhyun say so few words."

"Friendship isn't always in the things you say. Sometimes it's in the things you don't say."

"You sound like a children's afternoon special." Chanyeol's hands squeeze Joonmyun's shoulders. "I wish you'd say more, sometimes."

"What do you mean?" He shifts free of Chanyeol's grip and shuffles down to check the trays. They're low on sprinkles.

"You're so full of secrets," Chanyeol says. "Everything I learn about you is by accident. Like that you're a history student on leave, or that you're good at choosing gifts for other people's girlfriends."

"Isn't that how it's supposed to work? I think you have more secrets than I do."

"You know the important things," Chanyeol says. "The rest of my life is stuff even I'm not that interested in."

"What is it, that you want to know?"

"I'm not sure," Chanyeol says. "What if you tell me everything?"

Joonmyun goes under the cabinet and pulls out the big bag of sprinkles, refilling the tray with careful pouring. Chanyeol is watching instead of helping, since the last time Chanyeol had turned the whole counter into a rainbow spectacle. "You wouldn't want to know."

Chanyeol is about to say something else, but then Jongin walks over and clings to his shoulders. "Chanyeol, help me with the supply boxes."

"Yeah, yeah," Chanyeol says, and when he's gone, Joonmyun takes a deep breath.

Joonmyun never used to keep secrets. He learned how to do it during high school, between stolen kisses with Kyungsoo and trying to avoid telling his teachers or friends about his mother. After that, it became second nature for Joonmyun to keep his worries to himself.

As he sets the stew to boil on the stove, Jongdae walks in and sits at their kitchen table. There's the thunk of a book. "Exam?"

"Always," Jongdae says, and Joonmyun nods. "I'll do the cooking next week, since you've been taking care of me this week."

"I don't mind," Joonmyun says.

"You never do," Jongdae says. "But that doesn't mean I'll take advantage of you."

Joonmyun silently continues stirring the stew.

A few minutes pass comfortably, and Joonmyun breaks the quiet. "Am I secretive?"

"Yes," Jongdae says quickly. "I don't know why, but you always have been."

Joonmyun turns down the heat and looks at Jongdae, who is looking at him quizzically. "Chanyeol told me I was secretive."

"He's one to talk," Jongdae says. "Look, I don't know what has made you think you have to take care of everything on your own. Maybe it's your mom, or maybe you've always been like this, long before we met."

Joonmyun leans back against the counter.

"But…" Jongdae scratches at his cheeks. "I guess you're entitled to your closet skeletons, even if I wish you'd let me in."

"I'm sorry," Joonmyun says. "It's not that I don't trust you, it's…"

Jongdae scoots his chair back. It scratches along the tile. Joonmyun should put pads on the feet of the chair.

Jongdae comes to stand next to Joonmyun. "I'll watch this. Why don't you go take a shower. You haven't stopped moving since you got home."

"Your exams—" Joonmyun says, and Jongdae snorts.

"Can wait twenty minutes. Let me worry about myself. You don't have to hold everyone's worries on your own shoulders. We have shoulders too." Jongdae bumps him with a hip. "Shoo."

In the shower, Joonmyun lets the day run off him and down the drain, and tries to imagine telling anyone the things he thinks about every day. It is impossible, so he balls his secrets up and hides them in between his ribs, behind his heart.

Most of them manage to find time on a Tuesday to catch a film at the local theater. It's predominantly empty seats, which is fortunate because his friends are loud. Lu Han calls to beg off at the last moment, which disappoints Sehun, who harbors a bad case of hero worship for the older man.

Sehun is sitting on his right and Zitao is sitting on his left. "I can't remember the last time I came to see a movie," Joonmyun says, and Jongdae nods sagely.

"Ah, yes, Joonmyun, we call this 'having fun'," Jongdae says. "People do this when they aren't constantly worrying about anything and everything."

Baekhyun laughs. "Poor Joonmyun-hyung," Baekhyun says. "So cute even his status as oldest can't protect him."

"I have fun," Joonmyun says. "I might worry too much but you don't worry enough!"

Jongin, who is half curled onto Sehun and looking at the blank movie screen with sleepy eyes, scoffs. "I hear Jongdae is having trouble with school. Does this mean I'll stop being teased about math?"

Jongdae grins, about to fire off a quip, and Min puts a calming hand on his arm.

"No," Baekhyun says, and then he's turning his attention back to Zitao. Joonmyun feels really bizarrely alone, even though he's in the center of their line of friends.

Even more bizarrely, he thinks it is Chanyeol that he misses. Joonmyun needs to stop thinking about Chanyeol so much.

The theater lights start to dim, and Baekhyun leans across Zitao's lap.

"I'm sure Chanyeol will make it next time, so stop moping," Baekhyun whispers, and Joonmyun flushes like a teenager and tugs at the sleeves of his sweater until his hands disappear beneath the knit. "Chanyeol was disappointed too."


"He likes you more than he likes me," Baekhyun says, and Joonmyun can't see his eyes. "I'm getting as jealous as Sooyoung."

"It's really unnecessary," Joonmyun says, as the previews start. "I'm no one."

"You're someone all right," Baekhyun says, as Zitao pushes him back and gestures for quiet.

Joonmyun has trouble focusing on the movie. He would very much like to be someone to Chanyeol, and that, he thinks, is a problem.

The fact of the matter is, Joonmyun knows better than to crush on straight boys. His first year of undergrad, Joonmyun had looked at Lu Han and known he was in trouble. Lu Han had the kind of careless ease in himself that Joonmyun had envied.

Since Lu Han, Joonmyun has managed to avoid letting himself get caught up in feelings that will never amount to anything. Until Chanyeol, who wants to know all of Joonmyun's secrets and tells him at least once a day how adorable he is.

Joonmyun has always liked people who really like themselves, and Chanyeol is everything that he finds appealing, all in one warm and affectionate package, sunshine despite the gray winter skies.

It's early December, and they're importing their fruit now. Jongdae has claimed a box of blueberries for himself.

"Chanyeol, do you want to go ice-skating with us this weekend?" Jongdae tosses a blueberry up into the air and catches it with his mouth.

"What?" Chanyeol looks up from where he's diligently organizing salad forks and dessert forks into separate piles.

"You've been here for six months, and you've begged out of almost everything," Jongin says. "That is deeply and intrinsically unfair, as I'm never allowed to beg out of anything."

Jongdae cuffs him on the ear and grabs another handful of blueberries. "Bring your boyfriend-"

"Roommate," Jongin corrects, viciously tugging the blueberries back toward himself. "He's my roommate, and if you say that to his face-"

"He'll laugh awkwardly, and I'll be so very sorry," Jongdae says, and Joonmyun sighs, running a hand through his bangs.

"Guys, are you really-"

"I can come," Chanyeol says, and all three of them turn to look at him. He's grinning, and Joonmyun likes the way his hair falls curling into his eyes today. "If you're going on Sunday, I can come. Saturday, I have a date with my girlfriend and her parents, but Sunday is free."

"Sunday is fine," Joonmyun says. "We hadn't picked a day, yet, but Sunday is just as good as Saturday, and-" It is unfortunate that the mention of Chanyeol's girlfriend makes him a bit queasy.

"You're rambling," Jongdae says. "Sunday is fine. Okay, Jongin?"

"Yeah, it's fine," Jongin says, nodding at Chanyeol. "As long as Chanyeol is finally coming along to 'bond'."

"You act like this is an mandatory employee get-together instead of a group of friends having fun on the weekend." Joonmyun gently slings an arm around Jongin's shoulders, and he's gratified when Jongin doesn't shrug him off, too busy shoving as many blueberries as he can into his mouth so Jongdae can't eat them.

Chanyeol finishes up with the forks and then adjusts his glasses, still grinning. "I'm sorry I couldn't come before, Jongin," Chanyeol says. "I know you missed my beautiful face lighting up your free days as much as it does your work days—"

Jongin's mouth is too full to speak, but he grabs a handful of blueberries and slips off his stool, walking up to Chanyeol and mashing the blueberries into his face. "Now you're as pretty as a picture," Jongin says sweetly, after he swallows, as Chanyeol and Joonmyun stare at him with wide eyes as he retreats back to his stool.

"Picasso's Blueberry Period," Jongdae says, and then Chanyeol shudders once, twice, before exploding with laughter, eye twitching and teeth gleaming. Joonmyun, torn between amused and scandalized, finds himself laughing along too, and Jongdae is slapping his knees.

"Is this what I have to look forward to on Sunday?" He's got purple streaked across his pale cheek, and there are blueberry skins in his hair and blueberry drips on his white button down. Joonmyun thinks, in a strange way, it suits him.

"I would say no," Joonmyun says, smoothing his shirt out of habit, "but I would be blatantly lying."

Chanyeol walks over to the counter and grabs a napkin, wiping at his face, and Joonmyun hurriedly shuffles back behind the bar to wet a paper towel.

He means to hand Chanyeol the towel, but instead, he reaches up and grabs Chanyeol's neck, pulling him down closer, and dabs at the mess. Chanyeol's eyes are wide with surprise, but then he smiles and shrugs, leaning into it.

Joonmyun's brain only catches up with him when he's almost finished. "Sorry," he murmurs. "I can't help it." Chanyeol's neck is warm under his palm, and his hair is soft. Chanyeol's lips are still stretched in that increasingly familiar grin, and Joonmyun's stomach is tied into knots so big they're stretching out his insides.

"I know," Chanyeol says. "The first time we ran into each other outside of work you were buttoning my coat up even as you shivered."

Jongdae ineffectively hides his laughter behind his hand, and Jongin shakes his head. "Mama Bird taking care of his hatchlings," Jongin says, and Joonmyun drops the hand holding the paper towel away from Chanyeol's now mostly blueberry-free face.


"It's fine," Chanyeol says. "You probably cleaned it up better than I could have." Joonmyun lets his hand slide away from Chanyeol's neck. The skin is silky beneath his fingertips as he withdraws. "And it was cold, that day."

Joonmyun flushes, and looks down at the counter in time to see Chanyeol quickly grab his own handful of blueberries. Before Joonmyun can blink, Chanyeol's pulled out the collar of Jongin's shirt and dropped them down into the gap between skin and material. Jongin yelps and shifts forward, and Chanyeol follows him with a fist, mashing his knuckles into the small of Jongin's back right above his belt. They all hear the berries squelch.

"See you guys on Sunday," Chanyeol says, stepping back and waving jauntily.

The door chimes as he leaves, and Joonmyun can still feel the heat of Chanyeol's neck on his palm. He feels silly, and he squeezes the now-blue paper towel in his fist.

"I like that ostrich," Jongdae says, as Jongin pulls his white shirt and undershirt over his head, getting caught in it as berries fall to the floor and presumably down his pants.

"I hate him," Jongin says, voice barely intelligible through the fabric of his shirt.

"That's what you get for wasting my blueberries," Jongdae says, grabbing the last few and popping them into his mouth. Then he looks at Joonmyun, eyes gleaming with curiosity at Joonmyun's still red cheeks.

Joonmyun spins around and throws the dirty paper towel in the trash.

Jongin is staring at him, when he turns around, with a pensive look on his face, and something in his expression makes Joonmyun feel exposed.

The skating rink is cold. "Of course it's cold," Jongdae says as he laces up his skates, angrily tightening the tangled strings. "It's a rink. Made of ice."

"There's Chanyeol," Jongin says, already gracefully easing out onto the ice. "Joonmyun-hyung, go hover."

"I don't hover," Joonmyun says to himself, watching as Chanyeol leans forward to joke with the girl behind the counter as she looks for a pair of skates big enough for him. He's wearing a stupid furry hat, with fleece on the insides and ear flaps. "I just…"

"Do you prefer the term lurk?" Jongdae sits up straight, moving his feet in circles to test the ties, and then setting his feet back on the ground with a sigh. "I wonder if Chanyeol's any good at skating."

"You're hoping he isn't, aren't you?" Joonmyun says, and Jongdae is looking out on the ice, to where Jongin is effortlessly circling the rink. "Poor 'skating machine' Jongdae…"

"It was a joke!" Jongdae is flushed. "That was three years ago, give me a break!"

"The sound of your tailbone hitting the ice was no joke, Jongdae," Joonmyun teases, before he jumps as a big, warm hand lands on his shoulder.

"Chanyeol, Joonmyun is picking on me," Jongdae says, batting his eyelashes.

"I can't really imagine Joonmyun-hyung picking on anyone," Chanyeol rumbles, and his hand slides down Joonmyun's arm before falling away from him completely. "Jongin, on the other hand…" He says the second bit louder, because Jongin is stepping off the ice with an impatient look on his face.

"Are we going to skate, or what?" He shakes his hair out of his eyes. Joonmyun stuffs back the urge to remind him it needs cutting. "I wish Sehun could have come."

"Boyfriends," Jongdae says, and Jongin rolls his eyes.

"You two go ahead," Chanyeol says, pushing at Joonmyun's back as Jongdae stands on wobbling legs, and Joonmyun should really be used to Chanyeol's touchiness by now. "I'll catch up."

"But," Joonmyun starts, but Jongdae gestures him toward the rink.

"I'll wait with Chanyeol," Jongdae says. "I'm sure delaying my humiliation a few more minutes won't hurt anything."

Joonmyun wants to protest, but instead he lets Chanyeol shove him toward Jongin.

The two of them skate around slowly as Joonmyun warms up, talking about Jongin's physics professor and about how Sehun had blown up the kitchen at their hasukjib again last night trying to make popcorn. Joonmyun's eyes keep shifting over to Chanyeol and Jongdae. Jongdae is frowning at the ice like it's going to bite, and Chanyeol is bouncing at his side, excited as always.

"You're weird about Chanyeol," Jongin says. "Always watching him." He slows, so he and Joonmyun are skating closer to each other, side by side.

"He's clumsy," Joonmyun says. "What if he hurts himself on the ice?"

"He's not being clumsy right now," Jongin replies, and he isn't. Joonmyun tucks his hands deeper into his coat pockets as Chanyeol's large hands wrap around Jongdae's small, thin wrists. He's skating backwards with considerable skill, pulling Jongdae along carefully. They're laughing at something together, and Jongdae doesn't look nearly as nervous as he'd looked the last time they'd all gone ice-skating together last year. "But I don't just mean today."

"Chanyeol's different," Joonmyun says, and even that is too much, so he stops more words from tumbling out of his mouth. "I mean…"

Jongin looks uncomfortable. "Hyung," he says, and Joonmyun looks down at his toes, where the blades of his skates scar the ice beneath him, "I've been wondering."

"Wondering what?"

"Before, when I thought you liked Sooyoung…" Jongin halts, and Joonmyun laughs awkwardly.

"I told you I didn't."

"I believe you, now," Jongin says. "I think I might have been a little off."

"Off?" This isn't good. The word 'off' is another of those words Joonmyun doesn't want to be connected with.

"Hyung, are you…"

"Am I what?" Joonmyun asks. His ears are too cold. He should have worn a hat, too. His face, though, is hot, and if he's shaking, it's not from the chill in the air. The reality that Jongin might suspect--

"Hey!" Jongdae says from behind them, and then laughs as Chanyeol tugs him past them. "Chanyeol is way better than you two at this. Next time, I may even let him hug me." Jongdae's eyes are lit up with pleasure at not being ass-to-ice, and Chanyeol's smile is eating his whole face.

"A small victory," Chanyeol says. "I'll take them as they come." His face screws up with amusement. "What's wrong?"

"Joonmyun is surprised you're not eating rink," Jongin says, avoiding Joonmyun's gaze.

"I'm not always clumsy," Chanyeol says, mysteriously, and Joonmyun swallows and skates ahead.

"Follow me if you can," he shouts behind him, and Jongdae squawks as Chanyeol pulls him along faster and Jongin swears and tries to keep up.

They lose themselves in games of cat and mouse. Chanyeol catches Joonmyun once by throwing an arm about his waist, laughing too loud into his ear, and Joonmyun relishes the warmth of him for only brief seconds before he slips free, chasing after Jongin and ignoring the heat pooling in his stomach.

Jongdae retires to the sidelines with a coffee and shouts obscenities at Jongin every time he's in earshot until they all stumble off the ice laughing and tired. "Can we get something to eat?" Jongdae whines, and Chanyeol digs into his pocket for his phone.

"I have another hour before I have to go," Chanyeol says, hat sliding down on his forehead. Joonmyun itches to straighten it.

Jongdae ends up pulling down on the back of it, mussing Chanyeol's curls, and he raises his fingers to comb through them. It must be nice, Joonmyun thinks, remembering the way his heart beat faster at the warmth of Chanyeol's arm around his waist, to take simple touches like that for exactly what they mean and nothing more.

Chanyeol scooting over until their elbows brush is unexpected. "Are you sure you're all right?" he whispers.


"You've looked out of it since Jongdae and I interrupted your conversation with Jongin." He leans his head on Joonmyun's shoulder. The fur of his hat tickles Joonmyun's cheek and jaw. "I just wondered…"

"It's really nothing," Joonmyun says.

"Then smile," Chanyeol says. "I really like your smile, hyung."

Joonmyun pats Chanyeol's knee gingerly, not allowing himself to linger. "Not as much as I like yours."

They end up buying sausage on sticks from street vendors, Jongdae and Chanyeol debating over whose sausage is bigger until Jongin slyly interrupts with "mine has more girth," and Joonmyun just laughs and eats.

"You've got a bit of mustard-" Chanyeol says, and reaches up with his thumb to wipe it off; Joonmyun steps back, out of the range of Chanyeol's long arms.

"I've got it," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol blinks at him owlishly a couple of times before shrugging and checking his phone again.

"I should really head out," he says, waving goodbye to all of them. His eyes hold onto Joonmyun's for a moment, and then he's walking away.

"I should go too," Jongin says. "But as always, this was fun." He seems to realize he's admitted to liking something. "Like going to the dentist."

"We won't tell anyone you can feel true happiness, Jongin," Jongdae says. "Your secret's safe with us." Jongin makes a rude gesture with his hand before taking off toward the subway, leaving Jongdae and Joonmyun standing at the crosswalk. "Ready to go home?"

Joonmyun's phone beeps. It's Chanyeol. 'I had a blast today', the text says, and Joonmyun's heart thuds loud enough that he's sure Jongdae can hear it. 'we should do it again sometime. ❤ maybe just me and you?'

"Yes," Joonmyun says, clicking off his phone. "It's cold out here."

"Come to my parents' Christmas party," Baekhyun says. "Chanyeol will be there, anyway, but the rest of you should come."

"When is it?" Jongin asks.

"Christmas Eve." He grins. "The dress is semi-formal and no one should drive."

"Sounds interesting," Jongdae says.

"And as a bonus, Chanyeol's parents won't be around," Baekhyun says. "They're going on holiday, and Chanyeol has declined to attend."

"On holiday?" Jongin asks. "You make it sound like they're super rich."

"Um," Baekhyun says, "of course they are?" He shrugs, and turns his attention to his phone. "Don't you know what they do?"

"Chanyeol's a man of mystery around here," Jongdae says, and Joonmyun suddenly finds the beds of his nails more interesting than Baekhyun's face.

"I see," Baekhyun says. "Well, you can meet some of our friends from high school if you come. Say yes."

"Yes," Jongdae says, and Jongin quickly agrees too.

"I'll pass," Joonmyun says.

"He'll come," Jongdae says. "I'll convince him."

At home, later, Jongdae catches Joonmyun halfway through brushing his teeth.

"Why don't you want to go to the party?" His hands are on his hips. Joonmyun rinses his mouth and takes his time answering.

"It's not somewhere I belong," Joonmyun says.

"Why not? You're friends with at least six of the people there. Baekhyun is sure to ask Zitao, and Jongin is bringing Sehun. Baekhyun and Chanyeol and me… Why wouldn't you belong there?"

"It's…" Joonmyun plays with the hair in front of his ears. "I don't expect you to get it," Joonmyun says, "but I feel like I don't belong even on normal days. Putting myself in a situation where I'll be surrounded by people who know what they're doing with their lives or don't have worries like mine is…"

Jongdae shakes his head. "Money isn't—"

"It's not just money," Joonmyun says, and then looks down at the sink bowl. "It's… other things." He tries on a smile in the mirror, and when it doesn't fall, he looks at Jongdae. "Don't worry about it."

"It wouldn't kill you to let me worry about you," Jongdae says. "This is why you need a girlfriend. To pry these things out of you. Also I know I'm more talkative after sex, so maybe you are too."


"I know, I know. No more matchmaking." He clicks his tongue against the back of his teeth. "In other news, don't you wonder what a rich kid is doing with a yogurt shop job? It's not like he has a ton of free time to kill."

Joonmyun does wonder. "He's entitled to his secrets," he says, and starts spreading facial moisturizer across his cheeks.

The tale of how they end up in a cabin in the woods the week before Christmas is one that starts with Chanyeol's unexpected invitation and ends with Joonmyun looking incredulously at a massive lodge house in the middle of nowhere.

"Chanyeol," Joonmyun says, "is this your family's property?" Chanyeol climbs quickly out of the car, and Joonmyun out of the passenger seat. ("Ride with me, hyung," Chanyeol had said, and Joonmyun had complied, even as Jongdae had gotten into Baekhyun's car with Jongin, Zitao, and Sehun.)

"Hmmm," Chanyeol says. "Not exactly." He offers no more information, and Joonmyun follows him to the trunk to grab their bags.

"I can't believe you got me to take three days off work to come to this abandoned mansion in the forest," Joonmyun says. "This is a horror movie waiting to happen."

Chanyeol had looked directly at Joonmyun when he'd asked them, and Joonmyun had been too busy trying not to melt to say no. Now he's here. When he'd called his father to let him know he'd be out of town, his father had seemed pleasantly surprised. "You've got the rest of your life to be an old man," he'd said. "Nothing is going to fall apart in three days."

"It's not abandoned," Chanyeol says. "There are a few guys that live here year round. Think of this as like, I don't know, an MT."

Joonmyun hasn't been on a bonding retreat since he was a third year undergrad. He doesn't remember it though the haze of alcohol. "Hopefully a little more sober than that."

"I don't know," Chanyeol says. "Baekhyun can be a little hard to tame."

"Color me surprised," Joonmyun says.

"Relax," Chanyeol says, as he leads the way up to the lodge door. The other car isn't here yet, so it's just them and their bags. "For three days. Relax. The shop is closed, so nothing's going to go wrong there. Why is your brain still back in Seoul?"

Joonmyun considers telling Chanyeol about his mom.

"I'm relaxed," he says. "Let's get inside, it's cold."

Ryeowook is waiting inside, waiting to show them to their rooms. He's funny, and clearly an old friend of Chanyeol's, the way they banter. Joonmyun expects Chanyeol to get caught up in conversation, but he sticks to Joonmyun like glue, sprawling out on Joonmyun's bed and asking him random questions about anything and everything.

"What's with the inquisition?"

"I want to know you," Chanyeol says. "And we rarely spend time, just the two of us."

Joonmyun finds himself answering questions about his elementary school uniforms and his favorite foods, and Chanyeol vows to cook fish soup for him one day.

When the others arrive, the lodge is filled with noise, and Joonmyun forgets to be worried and enjoys the playful atmosphere of their holiday respite.

Joonmyun is cooking dinner when Jongin and Sehun come into the kitchen, rooting through the cabinets until they find the chips. They pour them into a bowl and throw the bag on the counter. Chip crumbs scatter everywhere. Joonmyun sighs.

Chanyeol's head comes up from his book at the sound. His glasses are sliding down his nose. "Don't leave that there," he snaps at Jongin. "You're creating more work for Joonmyun-hyung."

"It's okay, Chanyeol—" Joonmyun watches in awe as Jongin picks up the bag and carefully pushes the crumbs into his hand, throwing them away. "Thank you, Jongin?"

"Sorry, hyung," Jongin says, and Baekhyun is cackling while Jongdae whistles low.

"We should start calling Chanyeol 'shadow leader'," Jongdae says, and Jongin crosses his arms. "Getting all riled up on leader's behalf."

"I'm not listening to Chanyeol," Jongin grouses. "I don't want to make more work for Joonmyun-hyung."

"I appreciate that." He goes back to cutting the carrots.

"Cute-hyung is Chanyeol's favorite," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol balks, chasing Baekhyun out of the kitchen as Joonmyun focuses on cutting even sized pieces.

"Aww," Jongdae says. "Chanyeol likes you as much as you like him. That's so adorable."

Joonmyun is pretty sure he doesn't, but it's a nice thought.

Chanyeol comes back into the kitchen, winded and smiley, and Joonmyun is a little winded himself. "Can I help?" Chanyeol asks, and Joonmyun directs Chanyeol to separating the spinach, because that doesn't require any knives.

Late nights, when he's alone, are when Joonmyun allows himself to think about the things he loves. He curls up into the end of the couch, and in the warm overhead light, the pages of the book are a gentle cream.

Joonmyun had read the first part of this book to his mother, last week. She hadn't been able to stay awake through most of it. Joonmyun had kept reading anyway, letting his voice fill the hospital room until it had been time to leave. He'd kissed her on the forehead and tucked the book under his arm. "You'll be a good professor someday," she'd said, startling him, and he'd smiled down on her. "Goodnight, Mom."

Julius Caesar has just named Augustus his successor, but Augustus still must fight for his position. History is better than fiction.

"What are you reading?" Joonmyun almost drops the book as Chanyeol's low voice cuts through the room.

"Nothing," Joonmyun says, moving to slide it under one of the cushions as Chanyeol approaches. Chanyeol sinks onto the couch, close, close.

"You don't have to be embarrassed about doing something indulgent, Joonmyun-hyung." Chanyeol laughs. His eye twitches. Joonmyun likes that so much. "No one is going to tell you you're wasting time."

"I should be going to bed, though." Joonmyun says.

"Stay up with me, a little while?" Joonmyun can't say 'no' to the hopeful look on his face. "I can't sleep."

"All right," Joonmyun says.

"Tell me about your book," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun does, one great battle at a time, until Chanyeol's gentle snores interrupt the flow of his words. Joonmyun pushes the hair out of Chanyeol's face, and his heart feels laden with a lot of feelings that he fears putting into words.

Chanyeol's face is angelic in sleep. Joonmyun doesn't want to disturb him, so he leans his head back on the sofa, and sleeps sitting up.

Joonmyun wakes up in his bed. He's under the covers, trapped there. There is an arm around his waist, and he traces it to a long lanky figure on top of the covers. "Chanyeol?"

Eyelashes flutter. "Hyung," he says. His voice is lower than usual, rough with sleep. "I didn't want your neck to hurt, so I carried you in here." Chanyeol laughs, and finally opens his eyes. "But then I was too lazy to go find my own bed."

"That's all right," Joonmyun says, feeling the morning stickiness of his mouth and the weight of Chanyeol's arm.

"You're even cuter when you sleep," Chanyeol says. "And you're so light."

"I'm not light," Joonmyun says, sitting up. "You're just so big."

"My tiny hyung," Chanyeol hums, before rolling onto his back and sitting up himself. "Do you want to take a walk with me today?"

"Sure?" Joonmyun doesn't mind keeping all of Chanyeol's attention today. They're only here for three days. It can be a break from denying how much he enjoys Chanyeol's company, too. "That sounds nice."

"Do you think the others will mind that I'm monopolizing you?" Chanyeol has a bit of drool dried on his cheek, and his hair is flat on one side. He is still incredibly handsome, with his bright white teeth and shining eyes.

"Why would they?" Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol grabs his arm.

"Then let's get ready to go, before we miss the afternoon warmth."

"We're lost, I think." Chanyeol doesn't seem very bothered, but Joonmyun is a natural worrier. "Completely lost."

"I can't get any signal on my phone." Joonmyun shivers. It's getting dark, and his coat, which had been almost too warm at three in the afternoon, is now not warm enough. The cold is seeping into his chest, through his sweater, and Joonmyun wishes he had worn a second sweater over it after all.

"Are you okay?" Chanyeol asks, and Joonmyun nods quickly.

"F-fine," he says. In the fading light, he can see Chanyeol frown. "It is a bit chilly," he adds, and then looks down at his sneakers. At least there isn't any snow on the ground.

Suddenly, a pair of long arms wrap around him, pulling him back into Chanyeol's chest. Chanyeol's breath is hot on his ear, and Joonmyun isn't sure, for a moment, that he can even remember the cold. "I'm sorry," Chanyeol says. "I'll keep you warm."

They find a large tree to block the wind, and sit beneath it, Chanyeol's back to the tree and Joonmyun between his legs. "You'll get cold," Joonmyun protests, and Chanyeol shakes his head, moving his whole body with the force of it.

"You're so small," Chanyeol says. "Let me take care of you." Chanyeol's arms around him do keep the evening ice bearable, but Joonmyun is painfully aware of Chanyeol's legs pressing against his outer thighs and Chanyeol's cheek smushed against his own.

To distract them both, Joonmyun starts asking questions of Chanyeol this time. About Chanyeol's father's business and about Baekhyun. Even questions about Sooyoung, and how Chanyeol's father had introduced them when Chanyeol was still in high school. "My parents love her," Chanyeol says. "Her father is a business associate of my father. It's nice to date someone I've chosen." There is an implied or they would have chosen someone for me in that.

"She seems like the perfect match," Joonmyun says. It is not what he wants to say, but it is true.

Chanyeol doesn't respond immediately. When he does, it is quietly. "Do you ever think to yourself 'man, I've gotten everything wrong'?" he says, and Joonmyun laughs.

"Often enough," Joonmyun says into the fabric of his scarf. His voice is muffled, but he's sure Chanyeol hears him.

"I think it a lot," Chanyeol admits. Joonmyun closes his eyes.


"I have moments of rebellion," Chanyeol says. "But in the end, I'm still living a lie."

"What's the lie?" Joonmyun says. "Rich boy with an inexplicable yogurt shop job and a beautiful girlfriend, who is studying what he loves."

"The lie…" Chanyeol says. "The lie is—"

"Hyung! Hyung, can you hear me?" It's Jongdae's voice, and then he sees a light. He pulls himself free of Chanyeol's arms, and the sudden rush of cold is secondary to his relief.

"We're here, we're here!"

"Jongin is pretty sure you're dead and I think Zitao gave him a cigarette and an Ambien in the hopes that you'd be back before he wakes." Jongdae sounds relieved.

"I hope you gave him the Ambien after he'd finished the cigarette," Chanyeol says. "Otherwise the lodging house is probably on fire." His hands are back on Joonmyun's shoulders.

"I think we have it under control, shadow leader," Jongdae says. Next to him, Ryeowook is looking at them both, bemused.

"This is all good, but we should head back."

"How did you know to look for us?" Joonmyun asks. "My phone doesn't get any reception, so when I realized we were lost—"

"It was your turn to cook dinner," Jongdae says. "And you're never late for responsibility. So I called Ryeowook-hyung because he knows these woods best, and we tracked you down."

As they walk back to the lodge house, Chanyeol grabs Joonmyun's wrist and holds on. "What were you saying earlier?" Joonmyun asks. "About lies?"

"Nothing," Chanyeol says, and for the first time, Joonmyun thinks Chanyeol's grin is a little dim. He blames it on the shadows.

The ride home is quiet. Chanyeol raps along with the radio, and Joonmyun puts his walls back up, brick by brick.

By the time they get back to Seoul, he's already thinking about work.

"Do you think I'm honest?" Joonmyun asks his mother, and she frowns up at him.

"I think you lie to yourself a lot," she says. "You're just like your father."

Joonmyun's father still thinks Joonmyun's mother is getting better, and that they'll have Christmas at home next year. Joonmyun isn't quite so bad.

"I think if I tell the truth to myself it will hurt more," Joonmyun says. He thinks about the acceptance in Kyungsoo's face when Joonmyun had said "this is the end of the line for us."

"It might," she says, and then she coughs. Her thin, gaunt body shakes.. "But the lies hurt too."

Baekhyun's parents' Christmas party is fun. Joonmyun is shocked at the opulence of the apartment, but Jongdae just raises both eyebrows and gives a low whistle as they walk in. Baekhyun and Chanyeol are bickering about something as they walk into the main room after hanging up their coats, but they stop when Jongdae pokes Baekhyun in the stomach and Baekhyun's too busy slapping Jongdae's hand away to bother with whatever they were arguing about.

"You made it!" Chanyeol's grin stretches from ear to ear. His blazer is well fitted, sitting nicely on his broad shoulders, and his hair is combed straight, so his ears stick out. "I thought you'd find a way to back out last minute. You look nice, hyung."

"So do you," Joonmyun says, before turning to greet Baekhyun.

"Let me introduce you to my parents," Baekhyun says, and Chanyeol's hand wraps around Joonmyun's bicep to drag him deeper into the room.

"We're being herded," Jongdae whispers to him, and Joonmyun chuckles even as he's pulled along.

The atmosphere is relaxed despite the stuffy dress code, and it is easy to see where Baekhyun gets his gregarious personality from when his parents are teasing both him and Chanyeol until they're laughing so hard they cry.

"My parents are old-fashioned," Baekhyun says. "They think people should have the opportunity to get dressed up every once in a while." He shrugs. "The girls in the family always like it." He winks. "And Chanyeol, too, because he's as vain as a show-pony."

"I've never..." It's such a foreign concept, Joonmyun thinks, to see a wall lined with champagne bottles that altogether probably cost as much as his mother's medical bills. "My parents are a different kind of old-fashioned than yours are."

He tugs at his tie, and thinks about his dad, who is probably at home right now eating a convenience store dinner.

"Lighten up," Jongdae says, straightening Joonmyun's lapels, "it's just a party." He slips away to talk to someone he knows from his med-school class, a tall, severe-looking man Joonmyun thinks is named Kris. At Kris's side is a smaller boy that Joonmyun definitely knows, because he's a friend of Lu Han's, but he can't remember his name. He thinks it's Yixing.

Joonmyun uses the opportunity to check up on everyone else.

Jongin, who'd gotten here a little after Joonmyun and Jongdae, is already drunk, halfway to sleep on one of the couches in the corner. Sehun is watching him with a contemplative expression, and Joonmyun guesses there will be embarrassing pictures on me2day tomorrow when he checks his timeline.

There are a lot of strangers at this party. Chanyeol seems to know everyone, though, fluttering from guest to guest, looking more comfortable in his suit than Joonmyun would have expected. He's still himself, face contorting in laughter as he downs glass after glass of red wine, his hands far steadier than they are in the shop. He grins whenever he catches Joonmyun's eye, and Joonmyun smiles back, pleasantly buzzed.

"Look at him," Jongdae says. "It's like he suddenly developed grace."

"What?" Joonmyun tears his gaze away from Chanyeol to study his roommate. Jongdae hands him another glass of champagne when he has Joonmyun's attention.

"Chanyeol. He looks like he's in his element. It's weird." He laughs, and loosens his tie. "And look, Sooyoung just got here."

She's already making her way to Chanyeol. Her long black hair hangs loose down her back, and the skirt of her dress brushes just below the knee. When they stand side by side, they look like one of those celebrity couples in gossip magazines. His arm fits perfectly around her waist.

"I have to go to the restroom," Joonmyun says, handing the full flute back to Jongdae.

Down the hallway, a little past the restroom, is an empty parlor room. Joonmyun sits down on a loveseat that looks like no one ever sits on it, hunching in on himself.

He takes a deep breath and tries to make sense of his thoughts.

He calls his father, but there's no answer. He checks the time on the phone, and he realizes it's already past midnight. "Merry Christmas," he says to no one.

"You don't look so happy." Chanyeol is leaning heavily on the doorframe. The outward curve of his legs is less pronounced in his dress slacks. "It's a Christmas party. Turn that frown upside down."

He walks into the room. He doesn't close the door, the way Joonmyun had. He sits next to Joonmyun on the loveseat, and Joonmyun stares at his knees. "You didn't leave your pretty girlfriend alone out there, did you?"

"Sooyoung's known Baekhyun as long as I have," Chanyeol says. "We all went to high school together." Joonmyun files that away, for later. "That is not the answer to my question."

Joonmyun isn't drunk, but he's had enough alcohol to loosen his tongue. "Then no, I'm not happy."

"At the party, or in general?" Chanyeol is talking with his hands again. It's always dangerous, but more so when Chanyeol's hand-eye coordination is lowered. He hits Joonmyun's arm with his elbow when he sweeps out his arm.

Hesitating, Joonmyun runs his tongue along the back of his teeth. "In general."

"Why?" Chanyeol's doing that thing he does, where he devotes a hundred percent of his attention to Joonmyun, like Joonmyun is the only person that matters in that moment. It's not something Joonmyun is used to, and it's one of the many things he likes about Chanyeol.

"There are lots of reasons." He would like to explain it like a history textbook, and tell Chanyeol that like the Spartans at Thermopylae, Joonmyun is fighting a valiant battle but the odds are so against him that eventually, he'll fall.

"If you aren't happy with your life," Chanyeol says, "you should change it." He hiccups, and Joonmyun doesn't have to look up to see the red of alcohol across Chanyeol's cheeks or the glassiness of his eyes.

"It's not so easy." Joonmyun mashes his face into his hands. "I have responsibilities, and other people that are depending on me."

Chanyeol falls into him more than sits down next to him, but either way, Chanyeol's lips are brushing Joonmyun's ear and his arms are tightly hugging. "Jongdae said family problems?"

The curl of inescapable attraction sends Joonmyun's stomach into fits. "Yes," Joonmyun says. "My mother is…" Chanyeol's breaths are hot and sloppy, and Joonmyun doesn't know how to put distance between them when Chanyeol is clinging like a baby koala. "Ill." Dying. "I'm helping to pay the…" impossible "bills."

"I didn't know that," Chanyeol says. His nose presses into the skin just under Joonmyun's jawbone, and Joonmyun's hard-pressed to remember the thread of conversation. "I... might not know that, again. Tomorrow."

"That's okay," Joonmyun says. The smell of expensive aftershave is more intoxicating than the champagne had been. "I don't expect--"

"No, I mean... Joonmyun-hyung, you should raise your expectations of people. You should tell me again. You should tell me lots of things. I always want to know more about you, but I don't want to ask." His words are slightly slurred. "Because I can't offer you very many truths in return."

"What do you mean?"

Chanyeol makes a low, disagreeable sound, between a grunt and a hiss, and clutches Joonmyun even closer.

"I've never had anyone depend on me," Chanyeol says. "And my life has only been hard when I didn't fall in line." He moves his head away, and Joonmyun wishes he were more drunk, so he wouldn't notice his own too-shaky breaths and the hammering of his heart as he turns to look at Chanyeol directly. "But you could depend on me. If you wanted to."

In the dark room, Chanyeol's eyes gleam. His mouth is plush. Joonmyun swallows and looks away. "I'm not used to depending on other people."

"I can tell," Chanyeol says, and he releases Joonmyun from his embrace. Joonmyun closes his eyes and tries to calm his rapidly beating heart. Chanyeol stands up, wobbling, and holds out his hand. "We should go back to the party."

"Yes," Joonmyun says. "We should."

Chanyeol smiles, and Joonmyun wants to shout out to the world how unfair that smile is. Instead, he takes Chanyeol's hand, and together, they walk back out into the noise.

Chanyeol lets go of his hand at the end of the hallway. "I could be dependable for you," he says, and maybe it's the liquor, but Joonmyun lets himself float.

When Joonmyun sees Chanyeol at work on Monday, he doesn't mention anything at all. Joonmyun assumes Chanyeol's recollection of their encounter in the parlor room is fuzzy at best, and though he's disappointed, he thinks it is for the better.

"I'm surprised you agreed to come with me," Joonmyun says. He's straightening his bow tie as Chanyeol checks his hair in the compact mirror. "I can't believe you carry make-up."

"I want my face to look nice in pictures," Chanyeol says. "Even if they are a stranger's pictures."

It's just after the new year. Jongin's oldest sister is getting married, and Joonmyun hadn't really wanted to come to the wedding, but social obligations. He had asked Chanyeol to accompany him on a whim, and Chanyeol had agreed. "You're giving me plenty of notice," Chanyeol had said. "I'd love to keep you company."

Chanyeol has. Chanyeol's much better at not being completely awkward than Joonmyun is, and he charms a lot of the older women with classical Korean poetry and large smiles. Jongin is too busy to hang out with them, but he and Chanyeol do pull faces at each other at any given opportunity, and Joonmyun wishes he could have pictures of that.

"This isn't so bad," Joonmyun says. "Because of you."

"Happy to be of service, hyung," Chanyeol replies. "Wouldn't miss the chance to see you being so cute in a bow tie."


Chanyeol laughs, and smoothes an imaginary wrinkle from Joonmyun's jacket with a flat palm.

"I'm only teasing," he says, but his smile is soft and sincere.

"Joonmyun?" It's a voice that cuts straight through Joonmyun's laughter and has him spinning around to face its owner. "I didn't expect to run into you here."

"Kyungsoo," Joonmyun says. "Hi." He grips his glass of spring water tighter as Chanyeol puts a hand at the small of his back. He glances up quickly at Chanyeol in surprise. Chanyeol is smiling at Kyungsoo, but it's tight at the edges. "I'm a good friend of Jongin's. The bride's younger brother."

"I'm a friend of the groom's," Kyungsoo says. He licks his lips and smiles at Joonmyun. "Is this…?"

"No," Joonmyun says quickly. "This is a friend of mine. Chanyeol. Chanyeol, this is Kyungsoo. He's a friend of mine from high school."

Kyungsoo's wide eyes are even rounder, and his smile, Joonmyun thinks, is a little sad. "Yes," Kyungsoo says, "a friend."

"Chanyeol," Joonmyun says, "can you get me a glass of wine?"

"Of course," Chanyeol says. He hesitates, looking between Joonmyun and Kyungsoo for a moment, before stopping on Joonmyun.

"You still haven't…"

"No," Joonmyun says. "I… tried, but my mom, and then…" He fixes his hair.

"You still have the same nervous habits," Kyungsoo says. "The hair thing. Messing with your sleeves." Kyungsoo tilts his head. "You're still not being fair to yourself, either."

"What do you mean?"

"You deserve to like yourself," Kyungsoo says. "Let him like you, too." He nods behind Joonmyun, and Joonmyun looks over his shoulder to see Chanyeol weaving his way back through the crowd, precariously holding red wine in both hands. His suit is white, so Joonmyun hopes he doesn't spill it.

"He has a girlfriend. He'll probably propose to her soon." Baekhyun had mentioned it. That he'd overheard his parents talking about preparations for Chanyeol's engagement at the Park household. Joonmyun had turned on the blender to drown it out.

"Oh really?" Kyungsoo says. "Hmm." Chanyeol is pressing the wine into his hand, and Joonmyun thanks him with a smile. "Well, I have to pay my respects to the family, so…"

"It was nice to see you," Joonmyun says quickly, and Kyungsoo grins, so Joonmyun can see the pink of his gums and the sparkle in his eyes. "I mean… yes. It was nice to see you."

"It was nice to see you, as well." Kyungsoo pulls on his lapels. "Be happy, Joonmyun. Whatever that means for you."

"I'll try," Joonmyun says, and he turns to Chanyeol as Kyungsoo walks away. "Wanna get out of here?"

"Okay," Chanyeol says, still looking between Joonmyun and Kyungsoo's retreating figure. "Where to?"

"We can go to my place," Joonmyun says. "If that's all right. I'm sure it's not—"

"If you say anything about it not being good enough because I come from money," Chanyeol says, "I won't be held responsible for my actions."

"Then let's go," Joonmyun says.

Chanyeol's shoes look like they could swallow Joonmyun's shoes whole in the doorway to the apartment. They are white leather, and they look like sharks. "You're so big," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol snickers, which has Joonmyun shoving Chanyeol as they step into the apartment.

"So this is home," Joonmyun says. "Sorry for the mess, but…"

"But you live with Jongdae," Chanyeol finishes, and they both laugh. This isn't so bad. "This apartment is as cute as you."

"Do you want to watch a movie?"

"I'd love to," Chanyeol says.

When Jongdae comes home later, finding Joonmyun with Chanyeol's head in his lap on the couch and looking bewildered as the younger boy snores, he cackles.

"Cute-hyung is his favorite," Jongdae says. "His legs don't even fit on the couch."

Chanyeol stays the night, and when he leaves the next morning, hair askew and dress pants wrinkled, he takes another piece of Joonmyun's heart with him.

He gets sick at the end of every February, as predictable as clockwork.

In the haze of his fever, he slides in and out of awareness. "Hyung," he hears, and he forces his eyes open.

"Why?" is all he can say, and Chanyeol laughs.

"I heard you were sick, and Jongdae sounded so tired on the phone, so I'm going to look after you for a little while."

"No," Joonmuyun says, even as Chanyeol reaches for the history book on Joonmyun's bedside dresser. "I'm sure you…"

"I have nothing more important to do right now than read you…" He opens the book to where Joonmyun's stuck a post-it, "chapter seven of this book. As long as it's not Kim Manjung, we won't have any problems."

"I like Kim Manjung's writing," Joonmyun admits. "I really do."

"All this time, you've been holding back secret favorable opinions of 'Lady Sa's Trip to the South'? I'm scandalized."

"Full of secrets," Joonmyun teases, before he's beset with shivers.

"I know you are," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun tries to focus on his face but he can't. Chanyeol is pulling Joonmyun's blanket up until it tickles under his chin.

"Do you remember?" Joonmyun asks. The words are hard to get out. Joonmyun is so cold but he knows he's hot to the touch. Chanyeol's hand is still touching his cheek, and it feels good. "That time we talked in the parlor?"

"I do," Chanyeol says. "I do remember." He laughs, carefully, like he doesn't want to hurt Joonmyun with the force of it. "You were drunk, so I didn't want to bring it up, in case…"

"You make me want to tell you things," Joonmyun says. "Things I've never told anyone else." It feels like he's underwater.

"Tell me when you aren't sick," Chanyeol says. "Please tell me."

"I don't know if I can," Joonmyun says, and he drifts to sleep.

When he wakes, it is Jongdae at his bedside. "Hey, sleepyhead. Feeling better?"

"Much," Joonmyun croaks. "Did I imagine…"

"No," Jongdae says. "Your favorite person was here until about an hour ago, when his girlfriend called. She sounded pretty angry, and he left in a hurry."

"I hope he's not in trouble because of me," Joonmyun says. He's still hoarse. He never should have brought Chanyeol to his apartment because now Chanyeol can come and waste his time.

"That's not your problem," Jongdae says. "Get well, and then worry."

Joonmyun is exhausted enough that he agrees. He sits through Jongin and Sehun doing math assignments at the foot of his bed while Jongdae is at the shop, and Zitao dropping off library books and making it through an entire conversation in Korean, using all the Mapo-gu slang that Baekhyun is so fond of.

Chanyeol comes back later, with rice-cake soup, and Joonmyun eats it slowly as Chanyeol reads, and this time, he can see every expression on Chanyeol's face.

"I don't know why you're all coming here," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol closes the book.

"I can't speak for anyone but me, but… I think we're all here because we want to be. I want to be," he says, and Joonmyun feels a surge of heat that is nothing like his fever, and everything like an emotion he isn't supposed to know.

"You're…" Really important to me, he concludes in his head, but Chanyeol beams like he's said it aloud.

"Me too," Chanyeol says.

Joonmyun is greeted with a solemn atmosphere at work a few weeks later when he comes in to take over for Jongin. "What's wrong?" he asks Jongdae, who is frowning down at the counter like it has personally offended him.

"I don't know," Jongdae says. "All I know is that Jongin and Chanyeol just finished midterms but it feels like finals week in this place."

"I think it's even going to rain outside in sympathy," Jongin says. "To match Mr. Doom and Gloom back there." He points to the rear of the shop, where Chanyeol is slowly and unenthusiastically wiping down a recently vacated table. "I hope not though, because I don't want to be soaked when I get home. It's not quite warm enough for me to wish for rain."

"Should I…"

"He's more likely to talk to you than either of us," Jongin says. "Besides, I do not want to venture into the darker corners of Chanyeol's psyche." He waves a jaunty goodbye, leaving Jongdae still staring at the counter and Joonmyun to figure out what's wrong with the man that their customers have nicknamed 'sunshine.'

Joonmyun sidles up to Chanyeol, bumping his hip against the other man's, and Chanyeol snaps his head up in surprise. "Hyung." The skin beneath his expressive eyes is a bruise-colored purple, and his usually bouncy hair is limp.

"Are you…"

"I'm fine," he says curtly, which has Joonmyun taking a step back, before he gathers himself and sets a hand on the small of Chanyeol's back, the way Chanyeol had for him at the wedding, when Kyungsoo had appeared. Chanyeol freezes, and for a sickening moment, he wonders if Chanyeol's figured it out. About Joonmyun, and that Joonmyun might like him, or something like that. Then Chanyeol is sighing and the tension drains out of him, leaving him limp as he rests both hands on the counter and hangs his head.

"I am allowed to have a bad day," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun's stomach twists.

"You are, but I'm—"

"That's all," he says. "I'm going to go help that couple at the door to a table."

"Right," Joonmyun says.

He calls Baekhyun, slipping out front and pretending to take a call from his father. "Chanyeol and Sooyoung broke up," Baekhyun tells him. "That's all I know. He's being very tight-lipped about it." Baekhyun hums in the back of his throat. "I thought he was going to marry her." Baekhyun sounds as confused and worried as Joonmyun is.

"I'll try to talk to him," Joonmyun promises, and Baekhyun gives a relieved sigh.

"Chanyeol is my best friend," Baekhyun says. "But I still find him very confusing. He trusts you, though. I know that."

When Chanyeol goes onto his break, he doesn't stop to talk to anyone on his way out the side door to the alleyway.

Joonmyun steels himself and walks out after him. Chanyeol is squatting down, back against the dirty brick, elbows on his knees and the heels of his palms pressing into his eyes. He drops his hands onto his knees and leans back as the door shuts behind Joonmyun.

"Chanyeol." It's a nervous greeting. He wishes he could turn off the butterflies in his stomach for a few minutes. Chanyeol's hand pressing against his hot cheek is still fresh in his mind.

"Hyung," he says, and it's disconcerting how Chanyeol won't smile at him. He clenches his hands nervously in his loose jeans, but pushes on. He'd practised this speech in his head since his talk with Baekhyun.

"Baekhyun told me what happened," he starts, and Chanyeol laughs, low in his throat. It's a pleasant sound.

"The only person who talks more than I do," Chanyeol says. "I don't know why I tell him my secrets anymore. He's been spilling them since middle school."

"He's worried about you," Joonmyun says. So am I, he mentally adds, but he thinks that's obvious, since he’s always worried about something.

"He shouldn't be." Chanyeol leans back, and Joonmyun goes to squat next to him, close enough that their arms brush.

"Everyone gets dumped, Chanyeol-"

"I didn't get dumped. I broke up with her," Chanyeol admits, interrupting Joonmyun's hastily prepared consolation speech. "She threw things. She's got a better arm than I do."


"I don't love her," Chanyeol says. "We've been dating for two and a half years and I still don't love her." Joonmyun rests his hand on top of Chanyeol's larger one.

"You're still young," Joonmyun says carefully. "Maybe you need-"

"No," Chanyeol replies. "You don't understand."

"What don't I understand?" Chanyeol's skin is so warm, and Joonmyun thinks he would like to slip his fingers in between. He doesn't, because Chanyeol needs his hyung and not Joonmyun-who-sometimes-thinks-about-how-soft-Chanyeol's-mouth-looks, or Joonmyun-who-would-very-much-like-to-wake-up-to-Chanyeol's-wide-grin-every-morning.

"I know for certain that I don't love her." Chanyeol is staring down at the asphalt, and now Joonmyun can see the dark circles under his eyes and the faint shadow of stubble that Chanyeol gets when he's woken up too late to shave. "I never will."

"How can you know that?" Joonmyun rests his chin on Chanyeol's shoulder, and waits for Chanyeol to sling an arm around him and pull him closer. He doesn't.

"Because I'm in love with someone else," Chanyeol says quietly, and Joonmyun hears it as well as if Chanyeol had shouted it across the empty shop, hands around a mop and headphones in his ears.

It doesn't feel good, Joonmyun decides, to be so hopelessly hung up on Chanyeol that every word Chanyeol says feels like another loaded weight dropped straight down into his stomach. "Oh," he says. "Yes, that is a good reason to break up with someone." He smiles, and sits up straight, putting space between himself and Chanyeol's addictingly warm side. "You should, you know, be honest about your feelings."

Chanyeol finally looks at him, and Joonmyun can't read his expression. Chanyeol is always so easy to understand, but he has no idea what to make of the look in Chanyeol's eyes. "I can't," Chanyeol says, and he opens his mouth to say something else before swallowing it back down. "I have to go." He stands up quickly, and Joonmyun has to crane his neck to see his face. "Thank you for listening, hyung."

"Anything for you," Joonmyun says, and hopes he doesn't sound as hopeless as he feels.

There are few things as disconcerting as being watched. Joonmyun knows that Chanyeol stares at him when he isn't looking, but as soon as he turns in Chanyeol's direction, Chanyeol pretends like he'd never been studying Joonmyun at all.

It's disconcerting, and also frustrating. "I must have said something wrong," Joonmyun says to Jongin, and Jongin puckers his mouth like a goldfish.

"But you never say anything wrong," Jongin says. "Sometimes you're oblivious, but you never say cruel things, and Chanyeol would never suspect you of that because as far as he's concerned, you walk on water."

"Don't be absurd," Joonmyun says. "He does not think that." He tugs at the collar of his sweater. "Right now, he won't even look at me unless he assumes I'm not paying attention."

It has been three weeks since their chat in the alleyway, and now Chanyeol treats Joonmyun like he's afraid to touch him. Joonmyun should view this as a relief from the ceaseless downpour of feelings that follow every errant stroke of the back of Chanyeol's hand across his arm or press into his side, but he doesn't. Instead, he finds himself feeling unbearably cold even as winter thaws into spring.

Jongin sighs. "I can barely even understand the things Chanyeol does talk about. Do you think I understand, magically, the things he doesn't?"

"What if—"

"I am not a Buddha," Jongin says. "I have no answers for you, and no helpful clues."

"You look like you're going to snap," Jongdae says later, when he comes into replace Jongin. "Do you want me to kick Chanyeol in the head?" Joonmyun stops wiping at the same clean patch of counter and looks at Jongdae. "Or in the kneecaps. Don't look at me like that, you're as short as I am."


"Chanyeol's alone in the back right now," Jongdae says. "If you were wanting to corner him and make him talk about his feelings again."

Chanyeol is alone. He's putting the rice flour that Joonmyun uses for ddeok on the top shelf of the food locker, where only he can reach. His T-shirt, thick white cotton with the word SWAGGER emblazoned across the front, rides up to reveal the Calvin Klein logo on his briefs. "Chanyeol?"

Chanyeol almost drops the flour, and Joonmyun rushes forward to steady him. His skin feels hot under Joonmyun’s palms, and Chanyeol stills. Joonmyun looks up to see Chanyeol's Adam's apple bob, before he sucks his lower lip into his mouth to bite it. "Did you need something, hyung?"

"I'm sorry," Joonmyun says in a rush. "Whatever I said, I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me anymore."

He stops talking, to catch his breath, and Chanyeol's arms wind around him in one of those bear hugs that Joonmyun has come to savor. "Hyung, no," Chanyeol says. "I'm not mad at you. Not at all."


"I'm kind of confused right now," Chanyeol says, into Joonmyun's hair. Joonmyun will never admit it aloud, but he loves the way he fits right under Chanyeol's chin. "I'm not sure what to do. I'm scared you'll stop being my friend."

"It would take a lot for that to happen, Chanyeol," Joonmyun says. "So don't push me away."

"I'm the one who's sorry," Chanyeol says. "I can't believe you apologized to me for my behavior."

"I didn't know what else to do," Joonmyun says. "You're acting so strange."

Chanyeol releases him, and Joonmyun moves out of Chanyeol's space, hoping his cheeks aren't stained red with the mix of pleasure and embarrassment he feels. "I know," Chanyeol says. "I'm…" He takes a visible inhale. His curls bounce. "Can we talk about this later?"

"Of course," Joonmyun agrees. "Take your time." He steps toward the door. "I'll leave you to finish up back here."

"Did you…" Joonmyun stops in the doorway. "Did you miss me?"

"Tons," Joonmyun says, and Chanyeol smiles like he did on that very first day, eyes hidden with sunglasses and yet already one of the most beautiful people Joonmyun had ever seen. "You're one of my favorite people." There's nothing dangerous in admitting that.

"You're one of mine," Chanyeol says, and there's an invisible hand wrapped around Joonmyun's heart that squeezes and squeezes until it's wrung him completely out.

Can we talk about this later means Chanyeol inviting himself over for dinner.

"I'm going out with Min tonight," Jongdae says, pulling on his jacket and waving goodbye. "I'm going to miss dinner so don't cook for me."

"Have fun!" Joonmyun says, as he wraps his scarf around his neck. It's a powder blue one that Sehun had given him for his birthday last year.

"You're going to eat dinner alone?" Chanyeol asks, and Joonmyun nods.

"I do it often enough. I might call my dad and see if he wants to come over. I might not."

"Would… it be okay if I came over, instead? To talk."

Joonmyun watches Chanyeol fuss with his hair and with his glasses, and smiles. "Yes, that's fine. I'd love to have you over."

"Oh good," Jongdae says, "I was worried Joonmyun was going to go stir crazy with no one to take care of. Crisis averted."

Chanyeol laughs, dropping an arm around Joonmyun's shoulders. "What if I take care of Joonmyun, instead?"

"Even better," Jongdae says with a wink.

They've been preparing dinner for over forty minutes before Joonmyun ventures onto shakier ground.

"You wanted to talk about something?"

"Do you remember, when we were in the woods?" It seems off-topic, but Joonmyun is patient.

"How could I forget? We were so lost."

"Do you remember what we talked about?"

Joonmyun pulls out a carrot and rinses it under the faucet. "We talked about a lot of things." He smiles. "Baekhyun's underwear preferences included."

"We had an unfinished conversation." It's been four months since then. Joonmyun knows exactly what Chanyeol is talking about.

"About lies?"

"I knew you'd remember," Chanyeol says. His voice is so smooth and low. It's the kind of voice destined to tell bedtime stories. He can imagine Chanyeol with a child on his knee, whispering adventures into avidly listening ears. The image makes his chest hurt. "You have a good memory."

"So do you," Joonmyun says. Chop, chop, chop.

"You never asked me again."

"I don't like to push." Another carrot rinsed. "I think you know how often I've been on the other side of that."

He waits for Chanyeol's answer. "I want to push you," Chanyeol says.

That's not something Joonmyun had been prepared to hear. "What?

"I want to push you," Chanyeol says more firmly. "I keep thinking…" Chanyeol trails off, and Joonmyun looks up from his chopping board to see what's stopped him, only to find Chanyeol right behind him, trapping him against the counter. He sets down the knife and turns to face him, ignoring the heat that rushes to his cheeks.

Chanyeol smells so good. "You keep thinking about what?"

Chanyeol is chewing on his bottom lip again, and he is so close that Joonmyun can feel the warmth emanating from his body. Chanyeol is always so warm. Joonmyun can recall the way Chanyeol's arms had fit perfectly around him that day in the woods.

Joonmyun knows better than to think about things like that when Chanyeol is right here in front of him.

Chanyeol's knees bump his thighs. They don't fit like this at all. "You," Chanyeol admits, and Joonmyun laughs lightly and pushes at Chanyeol's chest. "Joonmyun-hyung, why don't you date?"

"Look at what it did to you," Joonmyun jokes. "Turned the sunshine into a rain cloud."

"I'm serious," Chanyeol says, and one of his hands drops down to settle on Joonmyun's waist. His fingertips are like fire, and Joonmyun has nowhere to run because he's stuck between his friend and the counter. "Why?"

"I thought you were on my side about this, Chanyeol. The 'Joonmyun-is-an-adult' side." Joonmyun shifts, and his elbow knocks the dish of kimchi off the counter. "Shoot," he says, and he tries to push past Chanyeol, to where he keeps the cleaning cloths, but Chanyeol doesn't move. "Let me—"

Chanyeol's other hand, the one not firmly holding on to Joonmyun's waist, comes up to cup his jaw. "I think I…"

"What are you doing?" Joonmyun's voice cracks. Chanyeol's thumb brushes the hair in front of Joonmyun's ear, and ventures out toward his cheek. The touch is light, but it sears. "Chanyeol, what--"

"I think you…" Chanyeol swallows, and Joonmyun's heart stops beating at the look in Chanyeol's eyes. "Hyung, I'm so…"

It's not a real kiss. It's more like a gentle brushing of lips, a bare press of flesh that is still enough to make Joonmyun feel so lightheaded he might faint. It is only seconds before Chanyeol is jumping right back out of it, eyes round like 500won coins and face flushed so red that Joonmyun thinks he's going to pass out.

Joonmyun lifts a shaking hand up to his still tingling lips and stares at Chanyeol. His heart still hasn't started beating again, and it doesn't take a med student like Jongdae to tell him that that is probably a very dangerous thing.

"Oh my god," Chanyeol says. "I'm such an idiot. I'm such a huge fucking idiot." He scrubs at his face. "I'm so sorry, hyung. I'm—" Chanyeol's disappearing around the corner, but it's like Joonmyun has been struck by Medusa, and his whole body has turned to stone.

The slamming of the front door of his apartment has Joonmyun sinking to his knees, heart lurching back into frantic motion, as he replays the last minute over and over again in his head.

He doesn't know how long he's been sitting there, fingers pressed to his mouth, when Jongdae comes home, but it can't have been that long. Nothing's burning.

"I thought Chanyeol was going to be here for dinner?" Jongdae queries. He has a lipstick mark on his cheek. Joonmyun is glad to see things are still going well between Jongdae and Min. "Did something come up?" A pause. "Why's the kitchen such a mess?"

"Chanyeol kissed me," Joonmyun says numbly. Tension thick enough to choke them both.

"That's… something coming up, I guess."

A seemingly interminable silence descends.

"I didn't know he was… like that," Jongdae says finally, dropping down to his knees to gather Joonmyun into a hug. "That he's into boys, I mean. But why are you so upset? Are you mad? I know you wouldn't judge him for something like that. Are you afraid things are going to be too weird to stay friends?"

"He's not…" Joonmyun says. "I mean, I don't know if he likes…" Joonmyun buries his face in Jongdae's neck for a moment, letting himself find comfort in Jongdae's soothing hand rubbing circles on his back. "But…"

"But what?" Jongdae asks, and Joonmyun thinks he might throw up all over everything, so he pulls out of Jongdae's embrace. He stares at the linoleum tiles, absentmindedly taking in the spilled kimchi juice that's settling into the grout and the fact that the stove might still be on.

There's the sound of water rushing in Joonmyun's ears, and he doesn't think he’s left the faucet on. "But I do."

"You do what?" Jongdae asks slowly, carefully, and Joonmyun looks up at him with bright eyes. Jongdae doesn't look angry. He just looks surprised, and he's staring at Joonmyun with no small amount of disbelief.

"Like boys," Joonmyun says, and then he presses his hands to his cheeks and laughs, or maybe sobs. "I've never actually told anyone that before." He sounds ridiculous. "Everyone else who's ever known figured it out."

"Oh great," Jongdae says, and for a moment, Joonmyun doesn't know how Jongdae will react. What if-- There are a thousand what ifs, and they all rush by in a single moment. "Now I feel like a dick for trying to set you up with all those girls." And then he's throwing his arms back around Joonmyun and whispering "You didn't think you'd lose your best friend over something like this, did you?" into his hair, and yes, Joonmyun had thought exactly that.

Joonmyun concentrates on Jongdae now, and tries to forget about the brief warm slide of Chanyeol's lips across his own.

"Chanyeol called me and said he was sick," Jongin says, when Joonmyun frowns at him as he shrugs off his jacket. "So I'm trading shifts with him. He'll take my morning shift tomorrow." When Joonmyun is off. Relief twines with misery in Joonmyun's gut.

"Well that's convenient," Jongdae says, before Joonmyun can stop him with a glare, and Jongin pouts.

"What happened?" Joonmyun shakes his head.

"Nothing," he replies quickly.

"It's not fair that everyone knows but me."

"Life isn't fair," Jongdae says sagely.

"You sound like Sehun," Jongin says. "One Sehun is more than enough."

"Boyfriends," Jongdae says, and then he slaps a hand over his mouth guiltily, shooting a quick glance at Joonmyun before grabbing a spray bottle. "I'm going to go wipe down the tables."

Joonmyun has just done that, but now Jongin looks even more curious so Joonmyun isn't going to complain about it.

Joonmyun's shift ends in an awkward silence. He's pulling on a knit cap to cover his ears when Jongdae stops him. Jongin is flirting with a cute girl in knee socks. Joonmyun's seen her around before, with her older sister, usually, and he thinks Jongin might have a crush on her.

"I feel really terrible," Jongdae says. "Not that it's your problem that I feel terrible. But I do."

"I'm sorry," Joonmyun says. "I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't…" He thinks it is only shock that allowed him to spill it out last night. He doesn't think he can do it again.

"I never thought that making jokes about Sehun and Jongin would be… Was I constantly making you feel bad about yourself?"

"I do that well enough on my own," Joonmyun says. He zips his windbreaker up.

"It looks silly when you zip it all the way up," Jongdae says. "But I guess I don't have to look at your denim shirt anymore."

"Jongin gave me this shirt."

"As a joke," Jongdae says. "You weren't supposed to actually wear it." Forced lightness is better than the grimness that had laced Jongdae's previous questions, and Joonmyun latches on.

"What a waste of a good shirt that would have been," Joonmyun says, undoing the zip just enough that he can no longer feel it pressing against his throat. "I'm going to visit my mom. I'll see you at home."

"Sounds good." He walks through the shop, waving goodbye to Jongin, who is chewing on a piece of licorice and playing on his phone.

Baekhyun is just outside the shop, leaning against the window with his hands in his pockets. "I thought you got off around now."

Baekhyun, whose face is usually set in an impish smile, looks uncharacteristically serious, his eyes wide and his forehead wrinkled in thought. "I'm headed south," Joonmyun says. "You want to walk and talk?"

"You're not going home?" Baekhyun nods in the other direction, and Joonmyun shakes his head. "You look exhausted."

"No," Joonmyun says. "I'm going to visit my mother." He swallows. "I didn't sleep well last night."

"Neither did Chanyeol," Baekhyun says. "He called me at three in the morning talking about how he'd 'ruined everything' and that you 'probably would never talk to him again'."

"I kind of thought it would be the other way around, what with the shift changing and all."

"Chanyeol seems to think you'll never forgive him."

"Do you…" Joonmyun keeps his eyes straight ahead. It's a familiar walk to the hospital. He's been making it for too many years. Unfortunately, it allows him to focus more carefully on Baekhyun, whose hands are still in his pockets. "Do you know…"

"Chanyeol told me." Baekhyun coughs. "It wasn't really a surprise for me, to be honest."

That does make Joonmyun miss a step. He almost trips, but Baekhyun grabs the back of his jacket and yanks backward. "What?"

"He likes you so much," Baekhyun says. "Since the first time he met you, all he could talk about was you. How cute you are, how kind you are, and how much he admires you… And even if he doesn't advertise it, I've always known Chanyeol isn't… completely straight."

Joonmyun thinks back to the woods, Chanyeol's breath on his cheek. "The lie is—" Chanyeol had started, and Joonmyun had never heard the end of that sentence.

Joonmyun hides his hands in his sleeves. "I didn't know that. I don't know anything. I'm just confused." He sighs. "And anxious, but that's not an unusual feeling for me."

"Chanyeol seemed to think you'd be upset." Baekhyun shrugs. "I'd be upset if Chanyeol up and kissed me with no warning."

"I am," Joonmyun says. "Not about…" He can't say it. "Not about what he did but that he ran away before I even knew what had happened." He looks down. "I hope he's okay. I wish I had been less surprised; I could have—"

"Cute-hyung, really?" Baekhyun grabs his arm, forcing him to stop and face him. They're in the middle of the sidewalk, and people thread around them, annoyed. Joonmyun looks into Baekhyun's eyes and sees incredulity. "It's not your fault, it's Chanyeol's. Chanyeol should face up to his actions."

Joonmyun averts his gaze. "I know how hard it is to be honest about your feelings," he says. "I don't really blame Chanyeol for finding it difficult." He can see the beginnings of weeds peeking out from the cracks in the sidewalk. "I can't help but hope he doesn't avoid me forever though."

"I doubt he could," Baekhyun says. "Can you do me a favor and go easy on him?" A note of pleading. Joonmyun's chest is so very tight. "You're too kind to hurt him on purpose, but—"

"Chanyeol is very important to me," Joonmyun says. It is chillier when they aren't walking, so he resumes his stride. It's easier not to look at Baekhyun, like this, and in turn, it is easier to speak. "And Chanyeol is not the only person with secrets."

"Do you…" Baekhyun pauses. "That's none of my business. Thanks for being patient, hyung. I'm sure Chanyeol will get his act together soon." There's steel in his voice, an unspoken or else, that makes Joonmyun laugh, despite the nervous tension like a rope around his neck, because he'd known Baekhyun was the bossy type since he first laid eyes on him.

"I hope so," Joonmyun says. He looks up, and the hospital is to their right. "This is me."

"The hospital?" Baekhyun licks his lips. "I thought you said you were visiting your mother?"

"I am," Joonmyun says, and he's waving goodbye and crossing the street before Baekhyun has a chance to say anything. Joonmyun's the same type of coward as Chanyeol is.

"Sometimes I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you," Joonmyun says, and his mother doesn't open her eyes. She’s been asleep since he arrived, and he hadn't wanted to wake her. "Mom, there are so many things I've never been able to tell you."

It is four days later, and Joonmyun hasn't really slept. Jongin is less fussy than usual because of the circles under his eyes, and Jongdae does the dishes before Joonmyun can panic about them piling up. Chanyeol doesn't come to work, which is both a reprieve and a constant source of soul-sucking despair.

"Grow up," he hears Jongdae hissing into the phone on Friday morning. "I'm not taking your shift so you had best suck it up and come in."

Chanyeol finally comes in for his shift on Friday afternoon. He looks tired too. His hair hangs into his eyes and he's wearing his overpriced sunglasses. Joonmyun tries not to let his eyes linger, because every time he does he remembers how close Chanyeol had been.

"I'm heading out," Jongin says, at seven. Chanyeol is mopping up, and the quiet is so obvious even Jongin has noticed. "Is that… okay?" He looks between Chanyeol and Joonmyun, and Joonmyun nods, pasting a smile onto his face.

"Why wouldn't it be?" Joonmyun asks, and Jongin gives him a look, like he’s just announced that the sky is green and the grass is purple.

"I'll stay and help Joonmyun-hyung close up," Chanyeol says, leaning the mop against the wall.

"All right, then, I'm off," Jongin says.

Then it's just the two of them.

"I wanted to apologize."

"I forgive you," Joonmyun says immediately.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that," Joonmyun says. "I was never angry at you in the first place."

"You're never angry," Chanyeol says. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you like a normal person. That I…"

"I hadn't realized you…" Joonmyun rubs his hands on his jeans. He leaves wet handprints behind. "Well."

"I tried to tell you before," Chanyeol says.

"I realize that, now." Joonmyun closes his eyes, so he can think. When he opens them, Chanyeol is still staring at him directly. He looks so sad. It's a horrible expression that Joonmyun doesn't want to see again. "What were you thinking? When you did that. In the kitchen."

"I thought, maybe…" Chanyeol runs a hand through his hair, "I don't know, actually. I have no idea what I was thinking. Or I do. I was thinking about how hard you work. How much you try to make other people happy. How you smile, and how much I wish you'd do it more. How much I like making you smile. I was thinking about how much I like how your head tucks just under my chin. How warm you feel in my arms. How much I want to be the one person you let look out for you." Chanyeol laughs. His eye twitches, and his grin is so big and sincere. "I was thinking that."

"Oh," Joonmyun says. "I… Oh."

"I was also thinking about how much I wanted to kiss you." Chanyeol is chewing on his lip. "I know I'm a guy, and that it might be weird for you—"

"Kyungsoo," Joonmyun says. "Do you remember when you met Kyungsoo?"

"At the wedding?" Chanyeol is clearly confused. He looks young, with his mouth open and eyes focused completely on Joonmyun.

"He was…" Joonmyun isn't sure if he's going to pass out, because he's so dizzy. "He was my boyfriend, in high school."

"Your… boyfriend?" Joonmyun watches it dawn on Chanyeol. His heart is beating so fast. He can't breathe.

"Jongin thought I was jealous of you," Joonmyun says. It's quiet enough in the empty shop that his voice is clearly audible even though he's whispering. "That you had a girlfriend like Sooyoung. The truth is, I was jealous of Sooyoung, that she had a boyfriend like you—"

The wind is knocked out of him as Chanyeol clumsily knocks him back into the glass in front of the counter. His hands grab Joonmyun's jaw, and this time, it is not gentle.

Chanyeol's lips are definitely as soft as Joonmyun had imagined, in weaker moments. His lower lip is chapped, but it still feels so nice against Joonmyun's that it doesn't matter. Joonmyun holds Chanyeol's hips, not for balance, but to remind himself that this is real. That Chanyeol is actually kissing him and Chanyeol actually wants him and Chanyeol is here, right now, large hands cradling Joonmyun's jaw and nose brushing Joonmyun's every time he breathes.

Chanyeol's tongue slides insistently across the seam of Joonmyun's lips, and he parts them so Chanyeol can steal his way inside. It’s been a long time since he’s been kissed, but somehow he remembers to tilt his head, to fit their mouths more closely together.

"Why does a rich boy get a job at a yogurt shop?" Chanyeol says into Joonmyun's cheek.

"I always wondered," Joonmyun replies, daringly catching Chanyeol's lip between his teeth. Chanyeol sighs, and kisses him again.

"He looks in the window and sees a guy behind the counter that makes his heart skip a beat," Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun's fingers dig into Chanyeol's sides.

"You're so…" Chanyeol sounds like a girls' comic.

Chanyeol laughs. "So what?" he asks.

Joonmyun doesn't trust this kind of happiness. Things are too good to doubt them, now, so he stands up on his toes to garner Chanyeol's mouth again. That elicits a pleased exhale from Chanyeol, who seems intent on learning all the tiny things that make Joonmyun's toes curl and send shivers down his spine. Chanyeol likes it when Joonmyun runs his tongue along his wide teeth.

The bell on the shop door jingles, and Joonmyun breaks their kiss. Chanyeol whines in disagreement. "I forgot my hat—" Jongin stops, and Joonmyun doesn't know what to do. There's no way Jongin can mistake the way Chanyeol's hand has worked itself into Joonmyun's hair, or the way Joonmyun's mouth is swollen, or the way Joonmyun's fingers have slipped under Chanyeol's shirt. "Wow, okay."

"Problem?" Chanyeol asks, and Joonmyun waits for Chanyeol to pull away. He doesn't. Instead, he gathers Joonmyun in closer, and Joonmyun holds on tighter in response. He looks up to see Jongin staring, pole-axed, at them both.

It's an agonizing thirty seconds of Jongin organizing his thoughts before he speaks. "You're going to Windex that glass, right?" he says, and Chanyeol explodes with laughter, letting his head drop to Joonmyun's shoulder. His hiccupping chuckles are hot on Joonmyun's neck, and Joonmyun is so embarrassed he must be glowing, but he's relieved and joyous, because in this brief, wondrous moment, everything is perfect.

"Of course I am," Joonmyun sputters, and Jongin rolls his eyes, and this, Joonmyun thinks… This is good.

"You mean 'we are', right?" Chanyeol says, and Joonmyun can still taste Chanyeol when he licks his own lips.

"Yes," Joonmyun agrees. "We are."

go to ii


beastlyshine: (Default)
[personal profile] beastlyshine wrote:
Jun. 26th, 2013 07:37 am (UTC)
will never be okay
someone just recommended this fic to me and i start sobbing xoxo first class
acatwhowrites: (Daehyun♡love)
[personal profile] acatwhowrites wrote:
Jul. 5th, 2014 02:35 am (UTC)
This is so perfect. I love it.

"...I hope you learn to be happy with yourself, though, Joonmyun. I really do."

Joonmyun hopes that too, but it's so low on his list of priorities that he doesn't have the time to devote to it.
That had my gut twisting. Quite a few parts did that, but Kyungsoo's bits in particular had me kind of writhing. Excellent writing.

pineapplelungs: bias (Default)
[personal profile] pineapplelungs wrote:
Jun. 23rd, 2015 07:30 am (UTC)
yo fic
this is the number one cutest fic ive ever read in my life ohmygosh im squealing over my suho feels 10/10 would recommend <3 chanyeol is a perfect cinnamon rolls
[personal profile] faereh wrote:
Jan. 17th, 2017 03:45 am (UTC)
this is seriously everything i don't even know what to say this is amazing you're amazing...especially the whole "let's pretend..." aspect that was carried throughout the fic really hit home... just everything was so good!!! thanks so much for sharing your brilliance <3

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