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we must be fireproof

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jongdae’s first instinct as soon as he gets to the building is to head straight to his office, find baekhyun and tell him everything that happened. for probably the first time in his entire life though, he knows this would not be the best idea. not yet. he’s gonna have to tell him eventually, because it’s baekhyun and jongdae’s never kept anything from him, but he could use some help with figuring out /how/ to tell him.

luckily for him, the cosmology department is right by the entrance so he doesn’t have to sneak past his office to avoid seeing baekhyun. he still takes a deep breath to ready himself before knocking on the door because considering baekhyun and chanyeol have been by themselves for a whole four days, he wouldn’t be shocked to find them camping in here.

minseok’s voice tells him to come inside, and jongdae waits for another second, preparing himself for the worst.

“ah, jongdae, you’re back!” minseok says as he gets up from his chair to come give him a hug. lu han is sitting on the desk with a book on his lap like he doesn’t have an office of his own, and there’s no baekhyun or chanyeol in sight so jongdae lets out the breath he’d been holding.

“how was the trip? did you discover anything exciting?” lu han asks, kicking his feet up in the air like he’s trying to beckon jongdae with them. jongdae walks up to him to hug him too, pretending he doesn’t see lu han’s eyes searching him for presents.

“that’s not really how it works,” jongdae says rolling his eyes at him, but lu han isn’t paying attention. he’s using the hug to feel around in jongdae’s bag, and he’s not even trying to be subtle about it. “hyung,” jongdae whines out loudly, pulling away and taking his bag off his shoulders.

“aw, how sweet,” lu han grins when jongdae gives him his box of chocolates. “you didn’t have to bring me anything, you know, i’m just happy to have you back.”

“you texted me fifteen times per day to remind me your favorite brand of swiss chocolate was sold at the airport, i’m not that bad at catching hints,” jongdae huffs, but the look of absolute joy in lu han’s face as he unwraps the dumb chocolate makes him smile a little despite himself.

“so, how was it?” minseok says, already sitting back down in front of his computer again, eyes fixed on some code he’s running. “i heard the weather was shit, sorry about that.

“yeah, we got a lot of clouds, we only had one good night and the rest we had to just, stay inside,” jongdae says. neither minseok nor lu han are looking at him right now, and he’s glad because he’s pretty sure there’s a lot more than he’s planning on telling them right now spelled out all over his face. “it was, uh. it was nice, though. got to spend a lot of time with kyungsoo.”

at this, minseok stops clicking his mouse and turns to look at him, eyebrows raised.

“oh?” he asks, and the way he says it makes lu han stop admiring his chocolates and actually look up at jongdae. “that was nice then, bonding with kyungsoo?”

“oh my god,” lu han says, and jongdae is going to kick him if he doesn’t stop looking so stupidly delighted about this. “oh my god, you hooked up with him, didn’t you?”

“how could you possibly know that, if it had happened?” jongdae says, voice gone a solid octave higher than his usual tone, and he knows that’s a dead giveaway but he still holds lu han’s gaze for another three seconds. he doesn’t like it when lu han sees through jongdae that easily, and he especially hates it when he looks so smug about it.

“i thought you guys didn’t, uh. that you didn’t do that,” minseok says quietly, eyebrows scrunched up because he’s a good friend who does indeed realize the situation is serious and not something to be grinning about maniacally like lu han is doing right now.

“we don’t,” jongdae shakes his head, and he’s starting to feel a bit dizzy. lu han pats a spot next to him on the desk like minseok’s pile of papers makes a good place for jongdae to sit on. instead, jongdae lets himself drop down to the floor with as much grace as a rock falling from a tall building. “i may have fucked up,” he adds, staring at his own fingers because lu han’s not smiling so much anymore and nothing is as disturbing as lu han getting serious and caring. jongdae doesn’t want that. it means this is bad, and it can’t be that bad.

“you haven’t told baekhyun then?” minseok asks, and jongdae shakes his head. “or chanyeol, i imagine.”

“woah, you really did get yourself into some serious trouble,” lu han says, coming down from the desk to sit with jongdae on the floor.

“thanks, han, that’s really helpful,” jongdae elbows him softly, but lu han still scoots up closer, dropping his head on jongdae’s shoulder. “i have no idea how i’m gonna tell them, and i don’t think kyungsoo does either.”

“is it, uh. are you,” minseok starts, then stops himself, and jongdae looks at him, sees the wheels in his brain trying to form the question in a way that doesn’t sound terrible, but he already knows what he’s going to ask.

“i don’t know,” jongdae answers truthfully, shrugging one shoulder so he doesn’t bother lu han. “if it wasn’t like this, if we weren’t in the middle of all this, i wouldn’t want this to be like a, what happened at the observatory stays in the observatory kind of thing. but i don’t know how it could ever work with -- with everything else. and i’m not sure kyungsoo -- well, i’m not sure about anything that has to do with him right now,” he chuckles but it’s bitter and it makes minseok wince at the sound. lu han nuzzles his neck with his nose and it’s oddly comforting.

“you’ve always been good at talking things out,” minseok says softly, rolling his chair towards them a little so he can reach jongdae and pat his hair. “just, talk to them. talk to kyungsoo first, i’d say, so you know exactly what you have to talk to the others about, and you’ll work it out.”

jongdae makes a pained sound, leaning into minseok’s touch. it’s nice, being comforted like this, and he counts to ten to give himself just a little bit longer. he dug his own grave and all that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t look for a little sympathy.

“you traitor!” someone yells as the door is thrown open, and when jongdae sees it’s baekhyun, his blood runs cold. he can’t know. there’s no way. “you came here first? instead of coming to see me, your best friend since birth, the person who loves you the most in the entire world?”

jongdae lets out a sigh as he gets to his feet, ignoring lu han’s offended gasp at being shaken off so easily.

“it’s my fault,” minseok intervenes, looking sheepish. “i saw jongdae walk past and called him, he was on his way to your office, surely.”

“of course he was,” baekhyun says, glaring at minseok with exactly zero heat in it. “come on, we have missed you dearly and there’s a bunch of papers you need to sign,” he says, wrapping a possessive arm around jongdae’s shoulders and pulling him close as he leads him out of the office. jongdae shoots one last look at minseok and lu han as he’s walking away, but lu han giving him a thumbs up doesn’t help much. it’s alright. jongdae can deal with this, or he can postpone dealing with this and just lean into baekhyun’s touch for a little instead.

(they are thirteen, and jongdae is sad like he’s never been before. it’s such a heavy weight in his chest, he’s never had a feeling as dark and imposing as this one, and baekhyun curled up by his side on the bed is the only thing keeping him anchored. the only light that hasn’t even blinked ever since his dad left two days ago. jongdae holds on tight to baekhyun, like he always has, because he knows baekhyun won’t let go no matter what he does or says. baekhyun won’t leave, unlike other people.

they are thirteen, and baekhyun kisses him in the dark of his room and jongdae doesn’t know what to do with that. so he doesn’t do anything, and maybe that’s the first crack in their story, the first of many tiny little cracks that one day might end up making everything that they are shatter.)

jongdae thinks a lot about how to have this conversation, and by the end of the day, he realizes there’s only one way for him to do this. kyungsoo hasn’t showed up at the office yet, and though he claimed he was still a bit jetlagged, jongdae is pretty sure he’s just avoiding confrontation until he sorts himself out. he gets it.

still, he needs him to be there when he tells baekhyun and chanyeol, because as ridiculous as it sounds, this concerns all of them. he doesn’t need to say much in his texts for kyungsoo to agree to come over, and that alone is enough for jongdae to know kyungsoo is on board with his plan of telling them when the four of them are together. or at least, that’s what he hopes. baekhyun suggests going out for a beer to celebrate their return, but jongdae says something about kyungsoo not feeling so great and maybe they can hang out at home.

they still buy some beers, and jongdae’s already had half of one by the time kyungsoo shows up. it’s weird, seeing him again in this context. the entire stay at the observatory had felt like something otherworldly. they were supposed to gather data for their first project together, and the first night had been great. it had been so clear, with absolutely no moonlight at all, that they’d gotten ridiculously encouraged and they’d spent a lot of their time on calibrations that weren’t strictly necessary, trusting they would have the other two nights to finish up the observations. they’d woken up to rain, and by the time the sun fell down it was cloudy, humid, and the path to the telescope was entirely blocked by mud.

they’d ended up losing both nights, which meant they’d spent two nights locked up in the observatory, because the weather was so bad not even the engineers were going up. they hadn’t been alone for more than an hour since -- well, jongdae couldn’t actually remember. maybe they never had been on their own. maybe that was why he’d never noticed how soft kyungsoo’s lips looked in the kitchen’s dim light. he’d thought about kissing kyungsoo, obviously, because everyone who knew kyungsoo had probably thought about kissing him at least once, but it had never been this intense. and maybe because they’d never been by themselves, jongdae hadn’t noticed sometimes, kyungsoo looked at him like maybe he wouldn’t mind kissing him too.

now, watching chanyeol hug kyungsoo like he’s just come back from war or something even though they were only gone for like four days, jongdae remembers all the reasons his brain had never informed him of whatever stupid thing his heart had developed for kyungsoo.

baekhyun bumps his shoulder against his to get his attention. he’s got a smile on his lips that doesn’t quite reach his eyes, like he can tell jongdae’s not doing as peachy as he seems.

“come on, let’s sit down,” jongdae says, and he does his best effort to put on a smile, but he’s not sure it works out too well.

they sit on the floor, and jongdae looks at kyungsoo looking for encouragement, but kyungsoo is staring at his hands. that’s fine, jongdae can do this on his own. he just has to avoid looking at baekhyun, who keeps shooting him concerned glances, and tell them what happened. suddenly he remembers minseok advising him to talk to kyungsoo alone first, and that had sounded like such a good idea at the moment but seeing baekhyun had made it impossible for jongdae to even think about passing another second without telling him everything. so here they are, and they’re all looking at jongdae because it’s become rather obvious he’s got something to say.

“not that i can’t relate to finding both of you hard to resist, but you two were definitely the last i expected to break our promise,” baekhyun says conversationally as he opens up his second beer, and jongdae looks up at him so fast he fears for his neck.

chanyeol drops his can, but luckily it was almost empty and he doesn’t spill much on jongdae’s floor. not that he wouldn’t deserve it, but jongdae is still a little relieved. this isn’t how he wanted to bring it up, but he should have known better. for better or for worse, baekhyun’s always had a sort of sex radar that tells him when someone’s gotten laid.

“it was a mistake,” jongdae says, glancing at kyungsoo, but his face stays expressionless.

“was it?” is all he asks, and it would take a much stronger man than kim jongdae to look at kyungsoo in the eye and pretend he regrets any of what happened.

“no,” he sighs, and he doesn’t dare look at the other two right now, but holding kyungsoo’s gaze is hard too. he’s staring at him so intensely, like he’s trying to read everything jongdae hasn’t said yet, everything jongdae hasn’t figured out himself.

“i don’t understand,” chanyeol says, and it’s funny how quiet his voice can go, for someone who’s so loud. “you two, i didn’t -- i don’t understand.”

“you’re gonna give yourself a headache, stop thinking so much,” baekhyun rolls his eyes at him, and he sounds so off jongdae is starting to feel hopeless. “deep down, we all knew the only reason it hadn’t happened already was because we put up the ban before they had the time.”

jongdae doesn’t say anything, because he hadn’t thought about it like that but he knows baekhyun is right, and he has no idea what to make of it. it’s been so long since they took that stupid oath, and as much as he hates to admit it, things had been going pretty well for the four of them -- except his heart hadn’t really stopped hurting. maybe finally breaking it was for the best. maybe now they can stop pretending they were all meant to be the absolute best friends and absolutely nothing else.


(they are twenty four and they have hurt each other in such ridiculous ways over the past few years -- jongdae used to try and make it sound like it was funny somehow, telling the stories of how he’d walked in on baekhyun and kyungsoo, how chanyeol had forgotten kyungsoo was sleeping in his bed when he’d brought jongdae back to their shared room after a party.

but baekhyun had been jongdae’s first everything, and chanyeol had been so in love with kyungsoo when he’d first transferred, and baekhyun still looked at chanyeol like he’d hung the moon, and somewhere along the line, it had gotten too messy. it had become obvious the only way their friendship could survive was if they stopped this. all of it.

“no hooking up within the gang,” baekhyun had said, solemn as he pulled out his tattered copy of their galactic astronomy textbook, the closest thing he had to a bible. it had sounded silly when they all repeated it out loud, but looking at each other, they’d known it was the right thing to do. or at least, it felt like it was the only thing left for them to do.)

“i guess we were wrong, and the one thing that was left was jongdae doing kyungsoo,” baekhyun finishes his story trying to chuckle but it doesn’t really work, and yixing looks at him with a pained expression. it’s fine, baekhyun’s fine. this just caught him off guard, but he has no right to say anything about who jongdae or kyungsoo hook up with. it’s not like he has feelings for any of them or anything, obviously.

“i’m sorry,” yixing says in his usual gentle tone, and baekhyun really doesn’t need to be comforted. he avoids yixing’s gaze as he buttons up his shirt, focusing on how weird it is that his fingers are trembling a little.

yixing transferred unis a year ago on a scholarship, and baekhyun’s been hooking up with him for a solid five months now. if it had been up to him, they would’ve started hooking up the second yixing entered the astrophysics department, but it had taken him some time to convince yixing he honestly wasn’t in love with jongdae. not anymore, at least.

it’s easy to keep it casual with yixing. for starters, baekhyun could never have a serious relationship with someone working on supernovae -- you never know when they might get an alert something’s exploded in the sky and take off. not that anyone’s ever left baekhyun mid anything to go email people about some lame star going off, but if it had happened, baekhyun’s learned from it. would have. it didn’t happen.

(it totally did) 

it’s easier with yixing because he’s more of a theoretical models kinda guy so all he does is stare at some numbers on his screen, but baekhyun refuses to be fooled twice by massive stars fans.

“how’s the new kid doing?” baekhyun asks once he’s finally fully dressed again, yixing still looking at him carefully from the bed. he doesn’t look like he’s planning on getting up anytime soon, and it’s terribly tempting to have him lying there only half covered by a sheet, but baekhyun should go to work at some point. eventually.

“he’s alright,” yixing says and suddenly baekhyun isn’t the only one avoiding eye contact. interesting. “he’s -- he’s really young,” yixing adds after a moment, sitting up on the bed, “he’s very kind.”

in yixing’s language, that means he’s already three quarters in love with the kid, but he hasn’t realized it yet. baekhyun can’t help but smile a little. as far as he knows, kim jongin can’t be that much younger than they are if he’s on his last year as a grad student, but he’s gonna let yixing figure that out on his own.

“i’m glad,” baekhyun chooses to say after weighing his options, because yixing looks confused but also so, so oblivious it’s almost endearing. “i should go now, i have to run some codes and other boring stuff, and you could use some sleep.”

yixing yawns in response, dropping back down on the bed.

“if you see jongin around, tell him i’ll try to drop by in the afternoon? i promised i’d help him with the introduction he’s writing,” he says, eyes closed already. baekhyun didn’t ask how late he’d stayed up the night before, checking up on his calculations, but he’s starting to think he may have not slept at all. it would explain why he’d responded to baekhyun texting him about breakfast at half past six in the morning.

“will do,” baekhyun says, grabbing his phone from the nightstand. yixing doesn’t say anything else, and he might actually have fallen asleep already. “okay then, i’ll let myself out,” he chuckles quietly, and yixing doesn’t even flinch, not even when baekhyun drops a goodbye kiss on his forehead before he leaves.

he’s been avoiding the office a little bit, he can’t deny that. he’s not avoiding jongdae, that would be impossible because they live together and they see each other at all times. but he’s been doing his best to have his nose buried in his computer at all times, and jongdae’s been tiptoeing around him. it’s better like this, baekhyun’s not ready to talk about this thing that’s happened, and jongdae doesn’t seem to be too eager either, but it would be weird to try and talk about anything else with that gigantic elephant in the room.

he’s been getting a lot of work done, because pretending to be busy is easier if he’s actually doing things, and because he hasn’t been sleeping much, so he’s had a lot of time to write his paper. trying to be up and out of the house before jongdae starts making his stupidly delicious pancakes means baekhyun has been getting out of bed at ridiculous hours, and he’s been spending a lot of time at chanyeol’s, whose complete unawareness of time being a concept and all that seems to be contagious.

there’s also the fact that this whole thing has given him a lot to think about, and though baekhyun is usually very good at pushing thoughts to the very back of his head, burying them in dark corners where he never goes unless he’s asleep or drunk, this is too big for him to ignore. things this gigantic tend to lounge around in baekhyun’s brain no matter how hard he tries to push them away, and all the struggling ends up giving him headaches and making him a bit nervous. anxious, that’s how jongdae would describe it, but baekhyun feels it’s too big a word for him being a little jumpy.

there’s no one at the office when he opens the door, but jongdae’s coat is hanging on his chair so he must be somewhere around here. baekhyun sighs, and sits on his chair, turning on his computer screen. it doesn’t take long before jongdae’s walking past him to get to his own chair, a cup of tea in his hand. he doesn’t look like he’s been sleeping much either, and baekhyun doesn’t know at this point if he should feel bad for him or not.  

jongdae keeps sending glances his way, and baekhyun is just gonna drop his face on his keyboard and wait for death, because that would be a much easier way to deal with his life than actually staying alive and having to ignore jongdae. they’ve been sitting in silence for hours now, he’s sure of it, and baekhyun isn’t as tough as everyone thinks he is so eventually he groans and turns around in his chair to face jongdae.

“i can’t do this anymore,” he says, pained, and jongdae’s eyebrows knit up in confusion for an instant, but then immediately proceeds to cackle at him.

“it’s been ten minutes, baek,” jongdae manages to say, and baekhyun turns to check his computer’s clock, letting out an indignant squeak. it’s been literally eight minutes, and baekhyun is an absolute disgrace for having given in so quickly.

“stop laughing at me, we’re in a fight,” baekhyun says, making good use of the wheels in his chair to roll up to jongdae so he can swat at his shoulder. jongdae doesn’t stop laughing, and baekhyun’s secretly relieved because he didn’t actually think they were in a fight but they had left things in such an awkward position that one time they actually talked about things, he wasn’t sure what jongdae had made of all that.

they’d finished their beers, and then they’d opened a couple more and chanyeol had asked if this meant the deal was over. they’d all sort of stared at each other, but baekhyun had been smart enough to know this wasn’t something they could just sort out right now, not when they were all a bit hurt and a lot confused, so they’d just put it all on hold, and turned on the tv. except they’d never clarified what it was they were putting on hold, and jongdae had fallen asleep halfway through die hard 2 so there hadn’t been much of a chance to get things straight.

“we’re not in a fight,” jongdae says, and he’s still smiling but he’s being particularly emphatic. “unless you’re mad at me and want to be in a fight, i don’t think -- i’d rather not be in a fight.”

“i don’t wanna be in a fight with you,” baekhyun is quick to assure him, because he’s been distant for enough time and it’s clearly not going to solve anything. plus, he misses jongdae. “i just, it’s still a bit awkward, i think. but we can not talk about it for a while, until we’ve all figured out where we stand with this.”

“sure,” jongdae says, though he sounds doubtful. “if that’s what you want, we can talk about other stuff.”

“i can fill you in on everything that happened while you were gone,” baekhyun shrugs his shoulders, rolling his chair back to his desk. “or i can show you these stupid graphics that make no sense, maybe you can figure them out.”

“let’s do both,” jongdae nods, scooting up closer and resting his elbows on baekhyun’s armrest.

they could talk about why they’re both at the office at such ridiculous hours, or why jongdae’s got so much stuff around his desk baekhyun is starting to suspect he may be avoiding going back home by all possible means, including possibly sleeping here every now and then. but all those things would probably lead to talking about the thing they’re pretending didn’t happen, so baekhyun doesn’t mention it. he tries not to think about any of it, or about how close jongdae is, and how pretty he looks when he puts his glasses on and leans over baekhyun’s shoulder like this. it’s not as hard anymore -- he’s been pushing away so many feelings for so many years, it’s almost second nature to him by now.

(they are sixteen when jongdae kisses him, and baekhyun’s been waiting for three years but he would have waited an entire lifetime. they’re cleaning up baekhyun’s house after his first house party, because of course that’s what he did on the first night his parents left him alone for a whole weekend, and jongdae is still holding a broom when he leans in to press his lips to baekhyun’s mouth.

they’re sober but tired and so happy, so pleased with themselves, and apparently feeling on top of the world is what it takes for jongdae to look at him in the eyes and realize what baekhyun’s known all along. he kisses him gently, and then he drops the broom to put an arm around baekhyun’s waist and suddenly he’s licking behind baekhyun’s teeth like it’s his only purpose in life.

three whole years baekhyun’s waited for jongdae to love him back, and when he pushes him against the wall, he knows it must be love. it’s gotta be. jongdae pulls away breathless, looking like he’s got something to say, but they can’t waste time with words, not when baekhyun’s got the house to himself. considering the mess they’ve made, this may never happen again -- it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so he cuts jongdae off before he says anything.

“let’s go upstairs,” baekhyun says, and jongdae looks caught off guard but he doesn’t hesitate. they have time. they can talk later.

except when baekhyun wakes up the following morning, instead of a boy pressed to his chest he finds a note that says “it was fun” with smiley faces, and baekhyun realizes they’re not gonna talk about it.)

since jongdae’s plan of talking it all out among the four of them like the good group of best friends forever they’re supposed to be had failed catastrophically, kyungsoo’s gone back to his original plan, which is based on never talking about anything to anyone ever again. he’s not usually one for avoiding things, but the second he’d opened the door to his and chanyeol’s flat, he’d known he was never gonna be able to properly talk to chanyeol about this. he knows how chanyeol feels about jongdae. there’s nothing he can say that will make this less shitty for any of them, so he might as well not say anything and avoid getting caught in awkward situations.

except it isn’t all that easy, because he still lives with chanyeol, and he still works in the same office as him and jongdae, and baekhyun too, as if it wasn’t messy enough with just the three of them. he’s not sure what’s going on between baekhyun and jongdae -- he’s never really understood them, all he knows is sometimes jongdae makes asking baekhyun to help him fit a function to his data sound filthy, and it feels like it may have been the hardest for them to keep the stupid promise.

chanyeol doesn’t seem to be on board with kyungsoo’s plan of never opening his mouth to speak as long as he lives, or so it would seem from how he keeps looking at him expectantly. it’s been three days since they had those beers and those unnecessary confessions, and kyungsoo had done his best to not say a word to chanyeol, but now they’re cooking dinner together and it’s so quiet, he can almost hear chanyeol thinking about it.

“you know i’m sorry, yeah?” kyungsoo says eventually, because chanyeol’s giving him that look where his eyes go all puppy like, and kyungsoo doesn’t want to cause the puppy eyes to go sad. he can’t believe his brain just formed a sentence as ridiculous as that, but chanyeol has that effect, he makes him go dumb. “it was a dumb mistake, i know about you and jongdae, so i shouldn’t have -- uh,” he trails off, wiping his hands on his apron and looking at the kitchen counter top like it can give him the words he needs to make this apology sound clearer and more heartfelt. it’s hard to feel sorry for doing something he wanted so badly, even if he is sorry he hurt people he loves by doing it.

“it’s okay,” chanyeol says rather conversationally, and kyungsoo looks up, taken aback. chanyeol had looked so miserable when he’d found out, kyungsoo didn’t expect him to be this nonchalant about it now. “i mean, it was kind of shitty since we all promised and all that, but baekhyun’s right.”

“what,” kyungsoo gapes at him, and chanyeol chuckles awkwardly, still moving his hands as he chops onions or whatever it is he’s doing, kyungsoo’s lost track of their dinner already.

“it was the missing piece, y’know,” chanyeol shrugs his shoulders. “and i don’t -- i’m not sure what you mean about me and jongdae, but i’m not so upset about that. i think. i mean, i think if what we were trying to avoid with the promise was to get mixed up feelings, then it was way too late for that by the time we swore,” chanyeol keeps on talking like it’s all so obvious and kyungsoo’s forgotten how to make words because he’s never heard him sound so coldly logical about something like this. “i never could look at poor binney’s the same way after we used it for the oath, and now i know it’s because deep down i knew it was a promise meant to be broken. we’d already made a mess, this just stalled things or something.”

“right,” kyungsoo nods numbly. he’s entirely right, and kyungsoo hates it. he hates that it was obvious and he still denied it, because it feels like there’s something thoroughly fucked up about knowing for a fact he wouldn’t be able to keep himself from wanting to kiss his best friends eventually. any of them. it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it was just a matter of circumstances that it had ended up being him and jongdae, maybe because they really were the only ones who’d never even kissed before, or maybe because the time was up and they were all really on their breaking point. either way, kyungsoo feels something heavy stirring in his stomach, and he doesn’t like it one bit. “so we’re good, you and me?”

“sure,” chanyeol beams at him like it’s no big deal. “really, kyungsoo, don’t worry about it. if anyone knows about jongdae being tempting, that would be me.”

kyungsoo doesn’t mean to shudder, and he’s never gonna forget the mental image his brain helpfully provided him of jongdae being tempting around chanyeol. he can’t tell if he wants to forget it or not, but he’s not ready to dive into those waters yet.

(they are eighteen, and chanyeol is ecstatic about /everything/. college is amazing. he’s super excited about classes starting, and about all the parties he’s gonna attend, and about sharing a dorm with the two super cool guys who are currently helping him move in. they’re as loud as chanyeol, and though they seem to be very close already, it doesn’t feel like it’s gonna be hard to fit in. the one with the pink hair had pointed at chanyeol and demanded to know if he was planning on using his stupid height and handsomeness to steal the pretty boys, which had been a little weird. he’d seemed relieved when chanyeol had explained he was as heterosexual as he could be, laughing and informing jongdae, the one with the pretty mouth, that he would have to deal with the threat then.

chanyeol looks at jongdae and his pretty mouth as he chews on his thumb, eyeing the wall to figure out where to hang baekhyun’s girl group poster, and wonders if it’s normal to be thinking of his mouth as pretty. he can’t stop staring at the curl on the corner of his lips, and when he manages to tear his gaze away and look up, he finds jongdae staring back at him. he smirks when their eyes meet, and baekhyun is saying something in the background about jongdae having to face a challenging life since he has to fight him for the boys and chanyeol for the girls, but chanyeol isn’t listening. jongdae’s tongue peeks out of his mouth, and he runs it over his bottom lip ever so slowly, and chanyeol feels something funny in his stomach. right now, jongdae doesn’t look so much threatened as an actual threat himself, and chanyeol is curious, to say the least.)

so they’re okay, or at least it feels like that. on monday morning, a week after jongdae and kyungsoo’s return, they all find themselves at the office again. chanyeol’s got his face on the desk and is muttering about chi squared values while baekhyun pats his back gently with one hand, trying to fix whatever’s wrong with his code with the other one. on the other side, kyungsoo and jongdae download the images from their trip which they’d been cautiously avoiding bringing up until now, jongdae loudly whining every time kyungsoo opens up one that looks particularly unusable. baekhyun finds the line that’s causing chanyeol’s code to give him messy results and he shrieks with joy, making kyungsoo groan because it’s nine am and they’re gonna get kicked out of the building one day.

it’s loud as always, and it’s back to being comfortable and feeling more like home than any of their apartments, and kyungsoo knows he wouldn’t change it for the world. jongdae leans his head on his shoulder with a yawn as he finishes checking the standard stars they observed, and kyungsoo can feel someone watching them, but he doesn’t turn around. it’s fine, they’ve all set boundaries again, it’s all good again. jongdae scoots up closer, and kyungsoo worries if anyone could hear his heart beating when jongdae breathes right against his skin, they would realize just how far from fine he is, but they can’t, and they don’t need to ever know. kyungsoo will get over this without anyone ever knowing there was something for him to get over to begin with.

he doesn’t think about whoever’s eyes were burning holes in his neck until hours after, when he offers to go with baekhyun to get everyone’s lunch from the kitchen. baekhyun sets chanyeol’s plate in the microwave, presses the buttons and turns around with an unreadable expression on his face, and kyungsoo isn’t used to baekhyun being anything but obvious so this is unsettling.

he watches baekhyun open his mouth, then close it, then repeat it again like he’s got words he wants to say but he keeps regretting them before they’re out.

“i don’t wanna be obvious and tell you not to hurt him because i know you’re also his best friend, but i feel like as his oldest best friend, it’s sort of my duty to do it,” baekhyun says at last, and it’s so far from whatever kyungsoo was expecting him to say that for a whole half a minute he just sort of gapes back at him.

“you mean jongdae,” kyungsoo says slowly.

the microwave beeps, and baekhyun diligently replaces chanyeol’s lunch with jongdae’s.

“what, are you seeing anyone else?” he asks, crossing his arms.

“i’m not seeing jongdae,” kyungsoo frowns. it’s so ridiculous that baekhyun would even think that, that he doesn’t even know how to answer it.

“but you’d like to,” baekyhun carries on like it’s the same thing, glancing back at jongdae’s lunch going round and round inside the microwave. “same difference, i still want you to know it’s okay if you two are, you know, whatever it is you wanna be doing. the oath was stupid, we were kids, and if anyone’s gonna date jongdae, it better be you.”

kyungsoo watches baekhyun switch jongdae’s lunch for his own, and realizes they’re all gonna be heated up soon and they’ll have to go back to the office, which means he’s running out of time if he wants to clear things up.

“i’m not dating jongdae, and i don’t think i’m gonna be dating him ever,” he starts out. baekhyun doesn’t seem surprised, or expectant, he just looks -- a little tired, really. “i haven’t even talked to him since we got back from the observatory, and though i guess whatever happened may have made it look like there’s something going on, it’s just, it’s not as easy as that.”

baekhyun stares at him long after the microwave’s beeped, chewing on his bottom lip. kyungsoo’s always teased him for being easy to read, but right now, he has no idea what’s on his mind. all he knows is baekhyun’s wearing an old shirt kyungsoo had brought with him when he’d first transferred here, and baekhyun had stolen the second time they’d hooked up, and maybe he’d been wrong thinking baekhyun was mad at him for trying to steal his first love. maybe it isn’t jongdae he’s not gotten over. kyungsoo is as lost for ideas of how to handle this hypothetical fact as he was when he thought this was about jongdae, because his own feelings are so intricate he can’t even begin to think about figuring out anyone else’s.

“oh, lunch,” baekhyun suddenly remembers, finally putting kyungsoo’s lunch in the microwave. the other three are probably cold by now, but kyungsoo isn’t about to mention it. they stay silent for a moment, until baekhyun chuckles, and it’s somewhere between bitter and sad, leaning towards the most awful sound kyungsoo’s ever heard. “ignoring it was easier, but i have no idea how to kick it back under the carpet now.”

“i know,” kyungsoo sighs, and he’s never been happier to hear the microwave beeping.

“let’s just go back,” baekhyun shakes his head, grabbing his and chanyeol’s lunch, and kyungsoo can’t do anything but follow him out of the kitchen, taking jongdae’s lunch and his own with him.

(kyungsoo’s got a new city to get used to, a new advisor, and a masters thesis ahead of him that seems impossible to take on, so when they put him in the same room as chanyeol, who’s loud and has a thousand friends that keep coming over, it feels like the worst possible thing that could’ve happened. but chanyeol’s nice, and his friends are nicer, and they’re all on the same boat as he is. it doesn’t take him long to figure out it’s better if he doesn’t resist when they aggressively try to befriend him, because they know where to get the best and cheapest food and they know who to ask when something in his computer stops working, and they keep him company when he’s got long nights of work to pull through. chanyeol plays quiet songs on his piano, or jongdae comes over and makes kyungsoo something closer to real food than all the take out he’s grown used to having.

baekhyun brings his laptop and works quietly next to kyungsoo, elbows knocking because his desk is too small, and kyungsoo would never have expected baekhyun to be able to stay quiet for such long periods of time. he seems to go softer when it’s just the two of them, and sometimes when they both get too tired to keep on working, they talk and baekhyun is more open, more vulnerable. kyungsoo lives for those moments, as much as he also enjoys hanging out with baekhyun when he’s in full beagle mode.

they’re in baekhyun’s room for once when it happens, because he texted him saying jongdae wasn’t gonna be around tonight, and kyungsoo doesn’t ask when it gets late and he hasn’t come back yet. he stays until it’s way too late for them to keep on working, and baekhyun tells him about his brother taking on his father’s business, about how he chose astronomy because it sounded difficult and maybe if he achieved something big, someone would be proud of him. he talks, and kyungsoo listens.

eventually, kyungsoo tells him he’s always dreamed of the stars in the most poetic of ways, and baekhyun doesn’t laugh at him, but the truth is kyungsoo wasn’t scared he would. he trusts baekhyun. baekhyun doesn’t laugh at all, he reaches out and touches his face and tells him dreamy is a good look on him, and kyungsoo would blush except he has no time because baekhyun kisses him before he can even process it.

jongdae gets back when baekhyun’s on kyungsoo’s lap, and he makes a pained sound that kyungsoo isn’t sure how to interpret. he tries to slip away so they can talk about it or whatever, but baekhyun follows him outside and kisses him against the closed door, and kyungsoo melts into it, forgetting about jongdae, and chanyeol, and everything that isn’t the promises to pick up where they left off that baekhyun’s pressing against his lips.)

it takes baekhyun and kyungsoo fifteen minutes to get back from the kitchen, and jongdae spends the first five considering a trip to minseok’s office, just so he doesn’t have to sit here alone with chanyeol who’s very obviously glancing at him every fifteen seconds. it would be a coward move, he decides in the end, and if he talked about this with baekhyun, he might as well give chanyeol the same explanation so they can all go back to their respective jobs in peace.

“it’s fine,” chanyeol beats him to it, and leaves jongdae with his mouth open, ready to start a speech.

“really?” jongdae asks, blinking at him.

“yeah, dude, it’s fine,” chanyeol shrugs, giving jongdae one of those blinding grins that always leave him a little breathless. “you’re really good at opening cans of worms, and we were gonna have to deal with this one eventually, so yeah, i’m sure in the end we’ll be glad we finally, like, dealt with it.”

jongdae isn’t sure what chanyeol means, but he doesn’t really want to ask either. he lets out a breath, nodding as if he gets it, whatever chanyeol is trying to say.

“good, good,” he nods, and chanyeol laughs at him, clearly aware jongdae’s just going along with what he’s saying. “i just don’t want things to be awkward, you’re all my best friends and i hate feeling like i fucked that up.”

“bro, we’ve been fucking up our chances at all being friends since forever,” chanyeol snorts. “i don’t think that’s what’s meant to happen here, and it’s nice that we made it last but we were forcing it, so yeah. it had to blow up at some point, it happens when you keep something bottled up for too long, but if it blows up then maybe we can figure out what’s the thing we actually want.”

chanyeol says it so casually, like it isn’t exactly what jongdae’s been trying not to think about for the past six years. what he actually wants. chanyeol smiles sheepishly at him, and jongdae wants. kyungsoo opens the door, running his fingers through his short hair, and jongdae wants. he hears baekhyun yelling about carrying hot plates from the hallway, and he fucking wants.

“yeah,” he mumbles, though chanyeol’s not looking at him anymore, too focused on his lunch. he’s right. maybe it’s time they figure out what they want, so jongdae can know what it is that he’ll have to sacrifice.